A Cover Tease

Charmed at Christmas, a Regency romance anthology set at Castle KeyvnorI’ve hinted at this upcoming project but will tell you a little more today. (There’s more in my May newsletter, too.)

We’re returning to Castle Keyvnor for Christmas!

There will be four new anthologies published this fall, each including three Regency romance novellas, revisiting the characters at Castle Keyvnor as they assemble for a wedding at Christmas. (Twelve novellas in all!)

My novella is Daphne’s story, and will be book#2 of the Brides of North Barrows when released on its own next spring. Daphne will get her duke – plus a lot more than she’s bargained for. My story will be in the anthology Charmed at Christmas.

The cover reveals will be in my June newsletter, along with pre-order links. The books will go on sale in September.

If you haven’t visited Castle Keyvnor, the four Regency romance anthologies of the Haunting of Castle Keyvnor remain available.

If you want to stalk the new series, it has a landing page right here.

Tempted at Christmas, a Regency romance anthology set at Castle KeyvnorKissed at Christmas, a Regency romance anthology set at Castle Keyvnor Enchanted at Christmas, a Regency romance anthology set at Castle Keyvnor


Guest Author Elizabeth Essex on the Haunting of Castle Keyvnor

It’s time for another guest blog post about the creation of The Haunting of Castle Keyvnor collection. Today, my guest is Elizabeth Essex, whose story is included in Vexed.

Don’t miss the other posts in our “behind the scenes” series:
Ava Stone
Claire Delacroix
and more to come!

The Haunting of Castle Keyvnor, a Regency romance collection

It all began with an email from Deb Marlowe, whom I like to think of as my personal Fairy Godmother in Romancelandia—she has been a trusted mentor from the very beginning of my writing career. I even named the hero of my debut novel, The Pursuit of Pleasure, Marlowe in her honor!

Regency romance author Elizabeth Essex“Would you like to be part of a collection of Regency novellas set along the coast of Cornwall?” she asked. “They would all be set in and around a haunted castle—”

I didn’t even hear the rest. My mind was already off and running along the fog-shrouded coast and windy clifftop paths, looking for strong-jawed seafarers and shifty-eyed smugglers, thinking up all sorts of nefarious and adventurous goings-on.

Oh, yes, please!

The Haunting of Castle Keyvnor is unlike anything I’d ever done, with twelve inter-related, but entirely different spooky stories. I’d never written a ghost story before, but Between the Devil & the Deep Blue Sea feels more like a homecoming than anything new, because I was able to write what I love best—tales of the sea, with heroic sea captains and the irrepressible young women who love them.

In Between the Devil & the Deep Blue Sea that irrepressible, shyly adventurous young woman is Nessa Teague, the vicar’s forgotten middle daughter. She has pined for Captain Lord Harry Beck and worshiped him from afar for twelve long years. But when he comes back to Bocka Morrow with his family for the reading of his uncle’s will, Nessa decides that there is nothing—absolutely nothing—she won’t do to make him her one and only true love. Even if it means resorting to forbidden magic!

Elizabeth Essex is the award-winning author of critically acclaimed historical romance. Her three Brides Series (Dartmouth Brides, Reckless Brides and her new Highland Brides) have been nominated for numerous awards, including the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award and Seal of Excellence Award, and RWA’s prestigious RITA Award. The Reckless Brides Series has also made Top-Ten lists from Romantic Times, The Romance Reviews and Affaire de Coeur Magazine, and Desert Isle Keeper status at All About Romance. Her fifth book, A BREATH OF SCANDAL, was awarded Best Historical in the Reader’s Crown 2013.

When not rereading Jane Austen, mucking about in her garden, or simply messing about with boats, Elizabeth can be always be found with her laptop, making up stories about heroes and heroines who live far more exciting lives than she.  It wasn’t always so.  Long before she ever set pen to paper, Elizabeth graduated from Hollins College with a BA in Classics and Art History, and then earned her MA in Nautical Archaeology from Texas A&M University.  While she loved the life of an underwater archaeologist, she has found her true calling writing lush, lyrical historical romance full of passion, daring and adventure.

Elizabeth lives in Texas with her husband, the Indispensable Mr. Essex, and her active and exuberant family in an old house filled to the brim with books.

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Vexed, an anthology of Regency romance novellas by Erica Ridley, Ava Stone and Erica Monroe

Between the Devil & the Deep Blue Sea by Elizabeth Essex
Nessa Teague has never believed in the magic that swirls around her village like a fine Cornish mist. She’s never had need of it. Until the day Lord Harry Beck returns to Bocka Morrow and Nessa realizes there is nothing, including the blackest of magic, she won’t do to have him for her own.

Vexed goes on sale September 20. Pre-order your copy at these online portals:

Buy at iBooks Buy at Amazon.com Buy at Barnes&Noble Buy at Kobo Buy at GooglePlay

A Dark and Stormy Night

This is a first of a series of guest blog posts from some of the authors participating in the Haunting of Castle Keyvnor series. There are twelve Regency romance novellas in this series, all of which take place during the same week at a haunted estate in Cornwall, while the characters await the reading of the late Earl’s will. I was invited to participate in this project by Ava Stone, and I’ll talk about that a bit more tomorrow.

Today, please welcome Ava Stone herself, to explain how the idea was born…

The Haunting of Castle Keyvnor, a Regency Romance novella collection

It was a dark and stormy night…

It really was. Dark AND Stormy. Jerrica Knight-Catania, Jane Charles, Deb Marlowe, Claudia Dain and I were in New Orleans for the Romantic Times Convention, and we were taking a haunted history walking tour at night and darting in and out of bars, trying to stay dry while we waited for the storm to let up a bit. And we might have sampled a Hurricane or two…That part is a big foggy.

Regency romance author Ava StoneBut that’s when inspiration hit, between Hurricanes in one of the most haunted cities in America. You can’t be in the French Quarter at night and not feel like you’re stepping back into another era. There is something seriously magical about New Orleans, and something seriously spooky at night under the gas lamps while you listen to tale after tale of the city’s haunted past.

One of us said, “What if we did a collection of haunted Regency stories?” That autumn, Jane, Jerrica and I published One Haunted Evening, which we followed up with One More Haunted Evening the next year.

But this year we wanted to do something new, something different, something BIGGER….

“What if an earl died and the vast majority of his estate was unentailed?”

“And what if he lived in a haunted castle, and his distant relatives had to stay there while they waited for the reading of his will?”

“And what if there were more than just ghosts there?”

“More than just ghosts?”

“Like witches! Cornwall is famous for witches!”

“Oh, and their rocky coast! There could be smugglers! And—”

“Maybe some Cornish Pixies!”

“And a dead wife in an attic à la Jane Eyre!”

“Attic? How ’bout turret, instead?”

“Let’s make this BIGGER than what we’ve done before.”


“More authors. More stories. More hauntings.”

And so, The Haunting of Castle Keyvnor was born.

With four anthologies, VEXED, BEDEVILED, MYSTIFIED, and SPELLBOUND we’ll bring you more authors, more stories, more hauntings as the distant relatives of the late-Earl of Banfield converge upon haunted Castle Keyvnor to await the reading of his lordship’s will. We hope you will fall in love with Castle Keyvnor just like we did.

USA Today Bestselling Author Ava Stone first fell in love with Mr. Darcy, Jane Austen, and Regency England at the age of twelve. And in the years since, that love has never diminished. If she isn’t writing Regency Era romance, she can be found reading it.

Her bestselling Scandalous Series is filled with witty humor and centers around the friends and family of the Machiavellian-like Lady Staveley, exploring deep themes but with a light touch. A single mother, Ava lives outside Raleigh NC, but she travels extensively, always looking for inspiration for new stories and characters in the various locales she visits.

Ava can be found regularly at Red Door Reads, on Facebook, Twitter and at Lady Jane’s Salon Raleigh-Durham, where she is one of the salon’s directors. Visit her website at http://www.AvaStoneAuthor.com

Vexed, an anthology of Regency romance novellas by Erica Ridley, Ava Stone and Erica MonroeOnce Upon a Moonlit Path by Ava Stone
Lady Cassandra Priske sees dead people…not all the time, but occasionally. When her family is summoned to Castle Keyvnor for the reading of the late Earl of Banfield’s will, Cassy is more than terrified. After all, the castle is famous for its hauntings. But the very last person, dead or alive, she expects to see at the castle is the rakish Lord. St. Giles. After all, he’s not even a distant relation to the late-earl.

Vexed goes on sale September 20. Pre-order your copy at these portals:

Buy at iBooks Buy at Amazon.com Buy at Barnes&Noble Buy at Kobo Buy at GooglePlay

Downloadable Samples of Something Wicked

Spellbound, a Regency romance anthology by Claire Delacroix, Jane Charles and Claudia DainSomething Wicked This Way Comes, my Regency romance novella, is included in the anthology Spellbound. Spellbound is one of four anthologies of Regency romance novellas which together comprise The Haunting of Castle Keyvnor.

Here’s more about Something Wicked This Way Comes:

Seven years ago, Sophia Brisbane lost everything—her father, her brother, her family fortune—but worse, was rejected by the man she loved. She’s determined not to yearn for the past and its pleasures—until she encounters Lucien de Roye again. Although he knew Sophia could never be his own, Lucien vowed to retrieve her squandered inheritance—even wagering his very soul to a demon. When Sophia learns what he has done, no force on heaven or earth will convince her to let him pay the demon’s due, no matter what the cost to herself.

You can read more about this series of twelve novellas right here, or read a short excerpt from Something Wicked This Way Comes right here.

Download the whole prologue free from my online store in either EPUB or MOBI.

Buy Spellbound Now!
Buy at iBooks Buy at Amazon.com Buy at Barnes&Noble Buy at Kobo


I’ve been struck lately by how prolific many indie authors are. That, in turn, makes me think about changing expectations from readers and publishers.

Let’s start off with the publication schedule. There are authors who publish works monthly, even biweekly, which is a truly amazing feat. In an ideal universe, the next work in a series would be available to a reader as soon as he or she finished reading the current work. In the past, this meant having the next book available for pre-order, but now it’s often for sale. This rapid publication might be ideal, but there are few authors who can write as fast as readers can read – but many are getting closer.

Once upon a time, it was believed that authors should have a new book published once a year, or at most, once every 8 months. This was believed to be the way to build audience among readers, and was the prevailing wisdom when I sold my first book in 1992. The issue with this is that it’s very hard to make a living in traditional publishing with only one genre fiction release per year. Publishers, though, were convinced that more frequent publication would mean that the author “cannibalized” his or her own sales. (Really. That was the verb of choice.)

In series romance, however, it was possible to have more frequent publication, which was one of the reasons I was glad to sell first to Harlequin. Harlequin and Silhouette authors might get two or even three publication slots per year. I was considered a prolific writer in those days, being capable of writing three to four books a year. And I was the first Harlequin Historical author to be given four slots in one year. That was in 1994 and it was considered to be radical. (I suspect, actually, that they had some issues with empty slots in the publication schedule: my books were delivered early and there, so I got lucky.)

Even then, authors like Nora Roberts were beginning to prove that more frequent publication did not diminish sales. Fans could read faster than authors could write, and having more books available faster meant building sales. It seems so self-evident now, but it required a big change in the thinking at publishing houses for authors to be given more frequent publication slots. Many authors wrote under two names, so that they could have more books published. When I moved to Dell, they scheduled the Bride Quest trilogy at six month intervals, which was considered audacious. It worked. Roughly ten years later, NAL used the same six-month-publication strategy for the initial three Dragonfire books, and it was still considered to be a bold sign of support from the house.

There were authors who had back-to-back release schedules in that era, with each book in a trilogy published in consecutive months. April, May and June, for example. There was mixed thinking about the success of this: one reason for skepticism is that readers often stash print books in their TBR pile, so might not read book #1 before book #2 was available for sale. (This happens in digital, too.) The other issue is that the rapid publication comes at a cost – the books were still produced at a rate of 2 per year, so clustering three together for publication often meant a big gap in the author’s publication schedule both before and after that promotional push. On the other side of the argument, though, some readers won’t buy a trilogy until all three books are available. This is a newer wrinkle, and the result of pubilshers pulling the plug on linked series, and never publishing the completion of the series.

But then there is digital. In the digital market, where indie authors don’t have any publisher to control their release schedule, many are publishing very very quickly. There are two variables at work here—one is how quickly these authors write, but the other influencing variable is that many write shorter works than tend to be published in traditional print publishing. In traditional publishing, the 100,000 word mass market paperback is the standard. In digital, a work can be any size, and actually, pricing skews very well for 25,000 word novellas. Some authors can write novellas at double or triple the rate of writing books, while others take the same amount of time to write a story no matter how long the finished work is.

Also, in this new world of digital books and online book portals, frequent publication is one very good way to build sales and visibility. So, these very prolific authors are becoming terrific success stories, because they’re listening to readers and publishing new works very frequently. I do find it rather funny to be considered a slow-poke now, with my 3-to-4-books-a-year writing speed, after being called prolific (and maybe even TOO prolific LOL) for so long, but there’s the reality of the new market.

How does this reality change my future plans? Well, I’m still working that out. It’s possible that I will write more novellas and shorter works in the year ahead, and structure new projects to be linked novellas instead of linked books. It’s possible that I’ll just carry on with linked full-length books and have four releases per year. (I do like how big and chewy a 100K book can be.) It’s likely that I’ll mix it up. 🙂 But the change in the marketplace certainly bears some consideration.

How about you? Have your reading habits changed? Do you like to read books by a single author in succession, or do you prefer to alternate between favourites? Do you think you read more than before? Faster than before?