Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Disconnecting from Overconnection


**As seen on LadyScribes today**

Ahhh – the internet.  That great nameless, faceless void in the sky that simultaneously keeps us all connected while keeping us apart.  It is almost impossible to assimilate the fact that children born in the last decade have never known a world without this sort of technology.
And really, not just the internet. Cell phones have completely revolutionized the world as we know it. In many, many senses, that is a great thing. No more being stranded on the side of the road, hoping a stranger will stop and help. No more wondering if you need to buy milk, or if there is already some at the house. No more angst about whether a loved one is alright when they are a bit late. For this worrywart, those are all good things.
But in my opinion, we will never again have a true notion of solitude. We are connected to the rest of the world in a way that goes beyond a healthy relationship, into the obsessive, all up in each other’s business sort of way, where you are never alone.  People can’t even end a conversation before going to the bathroom! (Oh, don’t get me started on that). I think the result is, we have forgotten how to be alone. How to be quite, and still, and patient. 
With our smartphones in our hands, we have the internet, games, messaging, email—enough instant entertainment to keep a person occupied for decades.  Do we even remember the days when waiting in the doctor’s office meant exactly that—waiting? Or when we left the house, and we wouldn’t know who called until later that evening, when the red light was blinking on the answering machine?
When I think of life before cell phones, I think of the bliss of living in the moment. Multi-tasking was rubbing your belly while patting your head (which actually works out better than juggling emails, writing, and all the other tasks we try to cram into the same moment in time), and messaging was sitting down to write a letter using pen, paper, and *gasp* cursive.  There was no glow of electronic screens constantly bathing my face, no pings and beeps and wooshing punctuating the day.
Yes, I was young and with less responsibilities, but I know life was slower for everyone back then. And quieter. And less chaotic.  I realized recently that my cell phone is almost never out of my sight. Ever. It’s the last thing I look at before I go to bed, the first thing when I wake up, and my constant companion as I navigate the 50 million tasks of the day.
And you know what? I don’t like that anymore.  I’ve decided that I want to be out of contact a bit. I want to walk away from that siren device, cutting the invisible string that ties us.  I want to be unavailable for a few hours, and out of touch on occasion.
I want to remember what solitude feels like. Not loneliness—just privacy. Holding a few things to myself instead of sharing so much on a constant basis. I want to have something to talk about with friends when I see them that they haven’t already read on my Facebook page or on Twitter.  I miss sharing good news in person—don’t you?
So, for a little while, I’m going to try to take a step back. I’m going to leave my cell phone on the kitchen hours and walk away when I’m in the house. I’m going to turn off the notifications, choosing instead to check on things in my own time.
Who knows—maybe I’ll relearn what it feels like to not instantly know what tomorrow’s weather is, or when Genghis Khan roamed, or how many movies Clint Eastwood has directed. Crazy, huh?

So tell me—how attached are you to your cell phone? Are you ever more than a stones’ throw from it? Do you remember what it was like before they were invented?  I’ll warn you in advance that I’m working the day job today during the Christmas rush, so I won’t get back here until this evening. Fitting, no? ;)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Learning to be Gracious


This weekend, I had the honor of signing beside Nora Roberts at her husband’s book store in Boonsboro, Maryland – Turn the Page. In all, there were about eight authors present for a signing that was meant to be from noon to 2pm. I say ‘meant’ because we stayed until after 4:30, when the last person waiting in line finally got her books signed and left.
Just look at all those people! That line was steady for 4.5 hours!

For me, an author who is still learning the ropes, I couldn’t ask for a better role model than Nora.  Even though she was feeling under the weather, she was there early, dressed to the nines and looking fabulous. She sat there for the entire 4 and a half hours, only getting up once for a very short break.  She smiled at each and every fan, patiently signed their stacks of books, and posed with a bright smile with absolutely everyone who asked.
Y’all, Nora is a super star. She definitely didn’t have to do the signing. Yes, it was wonderful for her family’s business, but truly she could never write another book again and still enjoy a successful career. But she did it because she seems to genuinely love and respect her fans. It’s that respect that made an impression.

And Nora isn’t the only example of graciousness in my business. There is Sabrina Jeffries, who always makes time for fans and fellow authors alike. Even before we became friends, she was happy to offer up her knowledge of the business to us newbies in hopes of helping her fellow writer get ahead. She is incredibly busy, yet she took the time to write a cover quote for me. That’s a big deal, and it is a kindness I will never forget. 
There is also another author, who shall remain nameless (since I don’t want her inundated with requests!) who went way above and beyond for me. My friend was turning 40, and this author was her very favorite. When I appealed to her for a signed book for her birthday, offering to send the book or money, the author instead sent a big package including several signed books for my friend, an actual birthday card, and even a few signed books for me! I mean, how incredibly generous and awesome is that?
I’m so blessed to have these incredible women as role models. It is my hope to emulate them in their graciousness, kindness, and even their work ethic. I hope to always give my readers a warm fuzzy so they know just how important they are to me. I am grateful for each and every one of you! Just as a reminder, I am always happy to send a free signed bookmark and swag to my fans – just email a request to erin@erinknightley.com. 
And if you, as a reader, ever want to give back to your favorite authors, I hope that you will take a moment to post a nice review or tell your friends about them. Spreading the word is the very best thing you can do for the authors you love :-)
 
So tell me—who has been a role model to you (no matter what you do in life)? A teacher? A parent? A fellow coworker? 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Taste for Scandal... and Chocolate Puffs!

As seen on Lady Scribes today

Psst. Hey you.
Yes, you—the one staring at the computer screen.  Do you know what today is?

It’s Release Day for A TASTE FOR SCANDAL!

And as thrilled as I am to have my 2nd book finally available,  I am determined to celebrate in as genteel a fashion as possible. You see, in the six months since my debut, I have matured leaps and bounds as an author, in more ways than one.  I mean, you’ll no longer find me running through the aisles of a certain large bookstore, dancing like a fool.

Oh no, this time around, I shall be all that is graceful and refined. 

With that in mind, I have created a little video for your viewing pleasure. In it, I’ll show you a super quick and oh-so easy recipe that I found while researching late eighteenth and early nineteenth century cookbooks.  

This particular recipe happens to be special, since it is the very first one that my baker heroine teaches her rakish earl hero. (PS – I didn’t set out to write a Regency foodie romance, but somehow that’s exactly what happened!)

So, from the Duchess of Delight, Her Grace Erin Knightley (who steadfastly promises not to make a cake of herself), I hope you enjoy:



(Okay, so maybe I make a bit of a cake of myself after all, lol)

Now, don't forget to enter my Historical Romance Palooza giveaway!! 36 signed books from all different authors are waiting for their new home ;) Click HERE!

 Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Walmart  |  iTunes

Monday, November 26, 2012

First the Good News... and then the Other Good News!

It's been a long time in the making, my friends, but with exactly one week until the release of A TASTE FOR SCANDAL (squee!!), I am finally revealing the single greatest giveaway in the history of giveaways! (Seriously-the $450 million powerball has nothing on this!) 
Take a deep breath, rub those hands together with anticipation, and prepare to be blown away:

Click HERE for the Historical Romance Palooza page!


Now, on with today's blog.

When I was growing up, there was one of those old school Walmarts on the outskirts of town, relegated to the back corner of the sparsely populated shopping center.  In those days, there were no gleaming, towering Super Walmart behemoths, stocked with every food and sundry imaginable. No crisp-screened televisions lined the back, and the food section was comprised of peanut butter, Russell Stover assorted chocolate boxes, and enough Cheetos and Doritos to turn stain the fingers of half the population of Oldham County.

In short, it was kind of a dump.

Not that I cared. As an awkward, frizzy-haired girl with hand-me-down clothes and a gap between her front teeth big enough to store a popsicle stick, I never felt particularly out of place. In fact, I liked the prospect of exploring the toy section, skirting the odds and ends in the hardware department, and smelling the many scents of White Rain shampoos and conditioner.  The yellow-hued lights and dingy floor tiles were no matter to me—the prices there were such that I actually had a prayer of ending up with a new sweatshirt or small toy. 

My sister, on the other hand, experienced shame and humiliation on an epic scale anytime Mom stopped in. She hated Walmart, despising the prospect of being seen by someone of consequence. Never mind the fact that, in order to be seen, the seer would also have to be at Walmart. It was social ruin in her head, and that was reason enough to remain slumped in the backseat of our car while Mom and I shopped.

I didn't get it. Why wouldn't you want to pay low prices and get most everything you needed in one trip? Those excursions with my mother would lead to trips there on my own. When I actually started buying books, as opposed to just getting them from the library, it was my first stop. By then, the stores had transitioned to the bright and airy places we know today, with happy-face signs and miles of aisles to peruse. The prices were unbeatable, and the selection tended towards the authors I liked to read. Even when I was an Environmental Specialist and I used to make supply runs for twine, duct tape, and the odd tarp or folding knife, I'd always pause by the books to to pick up a good read for my hotel room.

Well it appears, my dear readers, that my long time loyalty has come around. I am thrilled to announce that I will not only just be in Walmart as a shopper—I'll soon be on their shelves! That's right—A Taste for Scandal will be in Walmart this December (as well as Barnes & Noble and Books-a-Million, and all the online retailers.).  I don't know if I can properly convey my excitement about this—it has been a long held dream to see my books grace those shelves. Hopefully it will make it easier for readers to discover me *fingers crossed*.
My only question is... will I be able to get my sister to join me in our local store to giggle over it? ;)

So tell me - where do you tend to buy your books these days?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Ghosts of Thanksgiving Day Past

-->As posted on Lady Scribes today <-->

This year, my hubby and I will be avoiding the Thanksgiving traffic jams, and are opting to stay home for Turkey day.  We’re thrilled to avoid the nearly ten hour drive to our hometown, even if it does mean missing out on time with our loved ones. And it’s not like we won’t see them—the world is a better place through the magic of Skype and FaceTime :)
When I was young, however, staying home wasn’t an option.  Oh no, every year we would pack up the car and take the 800 mile trek up to see my mother’s family in the suburbs of Chicago.
This was in the days before minivans, personal game devices, and that miracle known as the DVD/TV combo. It was just me, my older siblings, and my parents jammed into a car like the poor schmucks we were, pretending to like travel Yatzie minus two die and lap-top card games of War and Go Fish.
The trip seemed utterly interminable, but eventually we would pull into my grandparents short driveway, not even coming to a full stop before the doors were thrown open and we exploded from the car like popped corn.
Once inside, the familiar sound of football was the soundtrack to our reunion as everyone hugged Nana and Papa, and us kids covertly scouted out the ever-present candy dishes. There, sugar coated gumdrops and forbidden mini candy bars languished, calling to us like the sirens they were.  To us, the consumers of whole wheat bread and all natural peanut butter, my grandparent’s house was the Mecca of all things deliciously bad for us.
Wildwood cream soda would soon appear, blue and red striped bendy straws poking from their open tops. Salami sandwiches were next, complete with Italian dressing and insanely delicious white bread.  Even as we ate these sinful treats, my sister and I would already be focused on the next morning—Thanksgiving!—when we’d wake up to a box of Dunkin Donuts, procured by our Papa and complete with the cream filled powdered donuts that were surely the most wonderful things on the planet.
With powdery lips, full bellies, and the waning sounds of the Macy’s parade in the background, we’d get ready to head to my uncle’s house, where even more family awaited. There, the aroma of turkey greeted us before we even opened the door, as did the whirl of a hand mixer and the din of laughter. Our cousins, seen once a year like clockwork, would greet us at the door, and the rest of the afternoon would be a game of dodging responsibilities, namely setting the table and carrying folding chairs from the basement.
The food would be plentiful, the conversation boisterous, and the passage of time inevitable.  This yearly ritual, repeated for at least a decade, would set the bar for Thanksgivings for the rest of my life.  It’s been years since I’ve made it back to Chicago, and even longer since I was a carefree kid, happy to enjoy the moments that would linger in my memories for the rest of my life, but I’ll never forget those trips of yesteryear.
This year, I may not repeat the traditions of my childhood, but I’ll certainly be thinking about them. As my husband and dear friend join me at my own dining room table, I’ll be happy to make more memories to look back on years from now. Although. . . just for fun, I may see if I can talk my husband into an early morning Dunkin Donuts run ;)

What are your favorite Thanksgiving memories? Do you have a certain food or dish that takes you back? And are you planning on braving the holiday traffic to visit others this year?

Monday, November 12, 2012

A House is a House is a ...


Growing up in suburban America, my idea of what constitutes a mansion was formed mainly by the Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Dallas. Big, airy houses with fluted, two-story pillars framing fancy double doors. They had vaulted ceilings and pools out back and extra room for a long suffering servant or two.
That’s not to say that I didn’t know about castles and manor houses in lands far, far away, but my brain simply couldn’t imagine the true scale of these places.  Corridors so long and winding one could become lost? Preposterous. Wings so far apart that you could have a ball in one wing and sleep soundly in the other? Crazy talk.  I honestly couldn’t picture these things when reading my beloved historical romances, set in the sprawling country homes and massive townhouses of England.
But a few years ago, I got my first glimpse of just such a home when my mom and I decided to visit the Biltmore House in Asheville North Carolina.  And my, oh my, did it open my eyes! The scale? Beyond massive. The house and furnishings? Spectacular does not begin to describe it. Walls covered in hand tooled leather? Check. A dining hall with its own pipe organ? Check. A huge, ten-foot deep indoor pool? Check. Servant’s quarters large enough to house thirty-five permanent servants and another thirty visiting servants? Check.  
In a word? Magical :) Visiting America’s largest private home is an event, one that I hope you have the chance to participate in some day.  This time around, I got to enjoy a day with my friend, critique partner, and fellow Regency writer Catherine Gayle.  It was her first time there, which made it doubly fun for me.  We were there for almost six hours, and I swear we only sat down once, and that was for lunch (in the refurbished stables, mind you!). The rest of the time we were walking, walking, walking—and even then, we only saw the public parts of the house! 
This trip was a total blast, and I am feeling all kinds of inspired.  I think, perhaps, my heroine may get lost on the way back to her room on a dark and stormy night... ;)
For a little treat, here are some of the pictures I took while on our trip. Oh, and the best part? Totally a tax write off! Gotta love research, baby!

So tell me - have you been to the Biltmore? Or any other truly massive old home? If not, where would you like to visit?





Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Woohoo - Today's the Day!!

Guess what today is...

(No, not election day well. Well, yes, it is that, but that's not nearly as exciting as....)

The release day for MISS MISTLETOE!!!

I'm so excited about my very first novella :-)) Miss Mistletoe picks up where More Than a Stranger left off—at Evie and Benedict's wedding! Evie's cousin Cece has come to witness the nuptials, only to be confronted with the one man she had hoped to never see again . . . 

-->
Cece’s heart slammed abruptly against her ribs. Dear Lord, it couldn’t be! Stifling a gasp, she jumped around the corner into the drawing room. She pressed herself against the wall, keeping out of sight as she tried to breathe past the tightness of her throat.
Her eyes were playing tricks on her, surely. She blinked several times, then rubbed them for good measure. Holding her breath, she leaned cautiously forward until she could just make out the people in the hall. There he was—Finn!
She ducked back out of view, pressing both hands to her face in horror. What was he even doing here? He was good friends with Richard, of course, but had more of a passing acquaintance with Evie. . . . Cece dropped her hands. Of course—he had gone to Eton with Richard. Mr. Hastings was a friend from Eton. She nearly groaned. Yes, wouldn’t it be just her luck that they were all perfectly delightful friends with one another.
Mercy be—how was she going to face him?
She closed her eyes against the fresh wave of mortification that washed through her. She didn’t want to think on that night five years ago, didn’t even want to conjure the memories of the scent of cinnamon flavoring the air, the swirling snow outside the windows, the glossy green bough of Viscum album hanging above her. . . . It was over, in the past—she had practically been a child, for heaven’s sake!
The sounds of the group began to recede as they made their way outside. She had to get herself together; she couldn’t very well miss the wedding just because the man who represented the single most awful moment of her entire life just happened to be party to the festivities. She was a grown woman. She had matured leaps and bounds since that embarrassing, ill-advised indiscretion five years ago.
Although not so much, apparently, that she could face him. No matter how sternly she told herself to leave her hiding place and make her way to the carriage, she could not seem to separate herself from the wall.
“Miss McCrea?”
Cece sucked in a startled breath. She’d know that smooth, dark timbre anywhere. It had haunted her dreams for half a decade, after all. Why, oh, why was he the one looking for her? She shook her head. It didn’t matter.
“Miss McCrea?” he said again, much closer this time.
She couldn’t just stand there, cowering in the drawing room like some sort of criminal. She was a proper woman now, and she had to act as one. Straightening her spine, she took two swift breaths, licked her lips, and emerged from her hiding spot.

***

 I hope you enjoy this light, sweet Christmas read—it's specially written to make you smile during the rush of the Christmas season :-)  Have you ever kissed anyone special under the mistletoe? Fess up!  Or better yet, if there is someone you wish you could find beneath the mistletoe?

And on a side note... am I the only one who is reeling about the fact that it is already November??

 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Don't Diss a Decade!

(as seen on Lady Scribes today)

Whenever ‘outsiders’ ask about what period my historical romances are set in, they are always fascinated to learn that the Regency was such a short period of time. “Only 1811 to 1820? What makes such a short span of time so special?”
And I have to admit, I am tempted to respond:
What makes a ten year span of time so special? Look at it this way. I am a child of the eighties. I lived in the last great era before cell phones came on the scene, or even call waiting. I knew my parents wanted me home because the sun touched the horizon—not because I got a text.
My days were filled with CareBears, My Little Pony, and She-Ra. I traded Garbage Pail Kid cards and friendship bracelets, listened to New Kids on the Block and wore enough neon to light a skating rink. And I did—light a skating rink, that is. I rocked the side ponytail and teased my bangs to stand straight up on end.
I can, to this day, recite every word of Ice, Ice, Baby, and can pull a Hammer Time like nobody’s business. I thought my brother was the coolest person ever for wearing parachute pants—not that I would have EVER told him as much. 


I cried at ET, stared in wide-eyed wonder at The Goonies (STILL want to go down that water slide into the cavern that held the pirate ship!), and nodded sagely at the wisdom of wax on, wax off. I lived for the trips to my grandparents, where their magical cable box tuned into the glory of MTV, and the Dukes of Hazard came through with crystal clear clarity. 
I can clearly recall the moment my father brought home the Atari, then later the VCR, and greatest of all, the Nintendo. To this day, I will go into 10 year old game addict mode when I hear the Super Mario Brothers theme song.  Back then, if you had a monstrous big screen TV—and the living room space to dedicate to it—you had made it in life.
Neon, scrunchie, & a hoola hoop? I am awesome!

As a child of the eighties, I still wonder who shot JR (I was way too young to watch the show, and no one ever told me!), where’s the beef, and where the heck Waldo got off to. I do, however, know exactly what Willis was talking about, and how to walk like an Egyptian (on roller skates – how rad is that?)
So, as far as I’m concerned, it’s easy to see how a decade can be a Big Deal. A lot can happen in that short amount of time—just look at the thousands of books that have been set in that golden moment in history. When manners were king, the prince regent had a taste for decadence, and the waltz was nearly as scandalous as it was titillating.  The tensions with France gave rise to the possibility of sexy spies and deadly intrigue, and provided endless possibilities for tortured war heroes returning home. It was Britain in its heyday, with opulence like we can hardly imagine—glittering balls, gorgeous gowns, sporty conveyances, and just enough darkened alcoves to get into a bit trouble.
So what do you think—can a decade make all the difference?  Which decade do you consider ‘home’ – either in real life, or in your reading preference?

And on a side note, if you are a fan of the magical time that was the Regency, I hope you'll check out my Christmas novella, Miss Mistletoe, which goes on sale on election day! If you ask me, there will be no better day to escape into a fun, happy read ;)  

Finn, Viscount Edgerton, has avoided the London scene to focus solely on digging out from under the pile of debt his father left behind. A decent dowry could make things a hell of a lot easier for the estate, but he hasn’t met the right woman. And he never would have expected her to come in the form of “Miss Mistletoe”—the young woman who stole a kiss at a ball in front of the ton and caused a scandal.

On the eve of her cousin’s wedding, Cece McCrea hardly expects to run into the man who inspired her indiscretion five years ago. This time, she resolves to put aside her childish crush and avoid him altogether. Her will is tested, however, when he pursues her….

Friday, October 5, 2012

Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho...

It's off to work I go!

My big, bad deadline for Book 3, Flirting with Fortune, is nearly at hand.  Time for me to buckle down and get it done!  To that end, I'll be out of pocket for the next couple of weeks.

See you all on the flip side!



Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Belle - A Regency Sampler

Though I am late publishing my blog this weekend (I'm under deadline, people!), I am thrilled to be able to present you with the fabulous except book I put together with six other fab Regency Authors:

Sabrina Jeffries
Valerie Bowman
Heather Snow
Leigh LaValle
Darcy Burke
and Sara Ramsey

So without further ado... TADA!
Click Here to download the booklet in its entirety!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Romance Readers Do It All Night!

Hello everyone!

Today I'm at LadyScribes talking about books that keep us up all night. Stop by and share your favs, and you could win my "Romance Readers Do It All Night" Giveaway, complete with coffee mug, a Starbucks gift card, swag, and your choice of my first or second book!

Won't you come join us? Click HERE


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Name That Title!!

*Cue game show music*


Welcome to Name That Title! The game show where YOU get to take part in naming a book!  Today, we are finding the perfect title for the third in the Sealed With a Kiss Series by Erin Knightley.  

*pauses for applause*


First, let’s take a look at the first two in the series:

So here's your chance to be part of the fun! We are looking for a title that has a similar look and feel, that best matches Beatrice and Colin's story.  Below is a description of the book: 

Lady Beatrice Moore is an accomplished painter, the privileged daughter of a marquis, and a woman with a secret. As a debutant in possession of a sizable dowry, she hates fortune hunters—especially after her friend is duped by one.  She’s bound and determined to teach the unsuspecting ladies of the ton how to recognize the lowlifes who look at an heiress and see only the size of her dowry—and the plan she comes up with will raise more than a few eyebrows.

Six months after his father’s death, aspiring barrister and newly titled baronet, Sir Colin Tate, arrives in town for a memorial exhibit of his father’s most celebrated paintings. But there are more pressing issues on his mind than simply making his entrance into society. With only a short window of time to find a bride before the world knows of his father’s massive business debts, Colin must become what he never imagined he’d be: a fortune hunter.

When Beatrice learns that the son of Britain’s most celebrated painter is in town, she can hardly wait to meet him. His striking looks make her long to put brush to canvas, while his sharp mind and unique, Scottish-tinged accent make him impossible to forget. Colin never expected to find a woman who would pursue him, but that seems to be exactly the case with the lovely and talented Lady Beatrice seeks him out. On the surface, they seem to be the perfect match, but if their respective secrets are discovered, not only could they destroy their perception of each other, but their future prospects as well.

Alright, so here are the titles we have come up with so far. Vote for your favorite or favorites, or add your own in the comments section below.  If yours is chosen, you’ll get a shout out in the Acknowledgements of the book, as well as a personalized advance copy! 

Regardless of which title is ultimately chosen, one lucky commenter will receive an advance reader copy of Book 2 – A TASTE FOR SCANDAL! A winner will be decided by the evening of Monday, Sept 24th.  Good luck and THANK YOU!!



(If you are on a smart phone and can't see the poll, here are the options: A Brush with Fortune, Flirting with Fortune, To Foil a Fortune Hunter, Falling for a Fortune Hunter, In Search of Miss Fortune, Charming a Fortune Hunter, Engaging an Heiress, Portrait of a Fortune Hunter, and the Art of Fortune Hunting. Vote in the comments section or come up with one of your own!)
 

As a special treat, here is a sneak peek at Book #3 – coming, September 2013!

Lady Beatrice Moore was in heaven.
As she walked down Lady Churly’s portrait gallery, accompanied by nothing but the muted whisper of the distant orchestra from the ball and the slightest sense of accomplishment, Bea couldn’t help the sigh of pleasure that escaped her.
Finally, she was away from the crowd, far from the eyes of fortune hunters who watched her as a hawk eyed a field mouse, and beyond the earshot of the gossipmongers looking to snap up the latest on-dit.  It was just Bea, the soft glow of the turned-back lamps lining the hall, and an entire wall full of some of the greatest masterpieces England had ever produced.
In no hurry now that she had escaped the crush, she clasped her hands behind her back and strolled across the narrow hall, her slippers silent on the herringbone-patterned wood floors. Lady Churly possessed the single largest collection of Sir Frederick Tate’s work: four spectacular portraits that were so much more than the sum of their subjects.  His true genius had been in the play of light, particularly the incredibly life-like shadows that always gave his pieces such moody brilliance. Dark yet full of life, each portrait was an absolute masterpiece.
Even more so now that he was gone.
At least, as an artist, his legacy was preserved. She paused, studying a painting of a small boy.  His dark hair fell across his forehead while challenging gray eyes stared directly at her. Impossibly, Beatrice felt as though she could see the life within him, almost pull the thoughts from his mind.
The tap of approaching footsteps broke through her study. Drat—had someone followed her after all? She scowled, glancing around for someplace to slip out of view—not the easiest thing to do when one was draped in yards and yards of snowy white lutestring.
Even if it wasn’t some fortune hunter trying to get her alone, or her mother come to chide her, the company was still most unwelcome. And really, she did not want to be caught snooping.  Where was a decent potted palm when a person needed one, anyway? There were few places to hide, with only one viable option: behind one of the heavy gold curtains that fell in generous velvet waves from the high ceiling to the floor. 
Feeling like a thief in the night, she gathered her skirts and slipped behind the nearest fabric panel, pressing her back against the freezing cold glass of the window.  She gritted her teeth against the chill as she flattened herself as much as she could.  She almost grinned—who would have thought she would discover a situation where her small bosom was actually a good thing?
Whoever was out there certainly wasn’t in any hurry. Beatrice willed the person to move faster as the cold seeped through her and raised gooseflesh on her arms. Still, she didn’t dare move a muscle. It was all so very undignified. She hadn’t found herself in a position like this since she was a child.  She was nineteen, no longer a silly twelve-year-old listening at key holes, for heaven’s sake.
The footsteps slowed further as they drew closer and closer, and Bea held her breath when they stopped mere feet away. 
And then, nothing.  The person just stood there, unintentionally pinning her in place like a trapped mouse. She waited, her lungs burning more with every passing second.
Move, for heaven’s sake, move!
Just when she thought her lungs would explode, the person stepped away.  As quietly as humanly possible, Beatrice released her breath and sucked in a fresh supply of air. No matter that it tasted of musty velvet and dust motes—it was the sweetest breath she had ever taken.
The intruder seemed to have stopped again, this time close to the opposite wall. Blast it all. Was it their plan to hold her hostage all night? Never mind that they had no idea she was even there—it was still annoying.
Wait a second. Had not the footsteps come from the opposite direction of the ballroom? Her eyes rounded suddenly. What if this was the mystery guest the entire ton had been atwitter about for the past week?  Lady Churly had promised to reveal the special guest’s identity at midnight, which was only half an hour away.
The old, familiar itch of curiosity flared to life deep within her.  She knew it well. It had gotten her into plenty of trouble with her siblings over the years.  Of course, it has also resulted in her discovering all kinds of secrets—all of which she had kept to herself, of course. She had scruples.  
Without even making a conscious decision to do so, she started sliding sideways a quarter inch at a time. The edge of the drape was tantalizingly close, and if she could only make it over far enough to peek out with one eye, the burning curiosity would be satiated.
She barely breathed as she moved, pacing herself to about the speed of paint drying.  At this rate, it would probably strike midnight before she could catch a glimpse of the mystery person in the room with her. For the thousandth time, she wondered who Lady Churly had secured for the ball. The woman was well-respected and in all the best circles, so Beatrice knew it wouldn’t be anyone scandalous or improper, which didn’t leave much in the way of interesting people. She had pondered the topic all week—along with the rest of the ton, from what she had heard—and hadn’t been able to come up with a single plausible candidate for the surprise guest.
Which annoyed her to no end.
Now was her chance. She could be the first to know who it was, a thought so tantalizing, she moved the slightest bit faster the last two inches toward freedom—more like the speed of grass growing.  The gold velvet brushed across her hair, then her temple, and finally slid past her right eye.
Success!
The flash of triumph was immediately trumped by something else altogether as she focused on a man leaning against the opposite wall, his arms folded and amusement lifting the corners of his mouth. Her stomach flopped to the floor with an almost audible thump.
He was staring directly back at her.

***
“So this is the lady who belongs to the scent of lilacs. How lovely of you to come out and join me.”
He was amused. 
She was not.
Never mind that the almost musical lilt of his Scottish-tinged accent sent a shiver down the back of Bea’s already chilled neck. If he knew she was there, he should have had the decency to say as much. Embarrassment stiffened her spine—Lord she must look a fool. With as much dignity as one in her position could muster, she extracted herself from the heavy drapes and shook out her skirts. “Yes, well, since you wouldn’t leave like a proper gentleman, it seems as though I had little choice.”
He lifted a dark eyebrow, tilting his head just enough so that a lock of midnight black hair fell across his temple. “I do beg your pardon. I should have left the moment I realized there was a debutant-shaped lump behind the curtains.”
Well, when he said it like that. She lifted her chin regally. “Pardon granted, Mr…?”
She waited, but he didn’t take the bait. Instead, he pushed away from the wall, closing the distance between them with measured, unhurried steps. He wasn’t overly tall, but he had a certain presence about him, as if he could command an army, if so inclined. She couldn’t have taken her eyes from him if she wanted to.
With every step he took, her heart seemed to increase, until it fluttered like a caged bird beneath her breast.  He wasn’t traditionally handsome, not like her brother or even her brother-in-law.  His appeal was much more intense than that. His jaw looked as sharp as if it were carved from granite, and already possessed the slightest hint of dark stubble. His cheeks angled high, almost like a woman’s, but his bold, masculine brow provided exactly enough counterbalance to give his features exquisite symmetry and depth.  Such unique beauty made her fingers itched to take up her brushes and commit his visage to canvas. 
Her gaze was too bold by half, but he didn’t seem to mind her inspection. In fact, he watched her right back, his flint-colored eyes seeming to take in everything about her, leaving her feeling quite exposed. “Now, now, we haven’a been introduced. I wouldn’a want to break protocol at my very first ball.  Unless, of course, it is your wish, Miss…?”
Beatrice almost smiled. She’d as soon walk naked through the ballroom than tell him who she was. A lady did not get caught hiding behind curtains.  “Yes, well…I suppose rules are rules.” 
She realized then the importance of what he had said: This was his first ball.  There was no doubt in her mind that he was the mystery guest Lady Churly was so eager to present. Who was this man? Beatrice’s curiosity rebelled with an almost physical force, but she firmly tamped it down. She was dying to know who he was, this man with the lyrical voice, compelling features, and the unmistakable air of mystery, but not at the price of revealing her own identity.
 “Indeed.” He paused at exactly the proper distance away and folded his arms, considering her. “Although I suspect that you doona always play by the rules.” He nodded to the curtains behind her.
This time she did smile. “My character exposed in two minutes or less.  Alas, I cannot deny it. Following the rules will gain you naught but a stellar reputation and a tremendously boring life.” Her older siblings, Evie and Richard, had taught her that much.
His answering smile was nearly as delicious as his accent, his perfectly bowed upper lip curving up to reveal beautiful white teeth. Beatrice unconsciously pressed her lips together.  She hated the crooked front tooth that marred her own smile.
“Then you’d think me very tedious, indeed, I’m afraid,” he said, mock regret weighting his tone. “I must admit, I am a rule follower to a fault.”
She very nearly rolled her eyes. Any man with a face like that couldn’t possibly be boring. “I don’t believe you. If you were a rule follower, you would never have waited for me to emerge. Speaking alone with a strange female in a darkened gallery is not exactly perfect protocol.”
Lifting a shoulder in a sort of half shrug, his grin widened. “Than it is a very good thing that you donna know my name. I’d hate to have it bandied about that I was anything less than a perfect gentleman upon my entrance into society.”
“And if we encounter each other by chance?”
“Than I’ll throw myself upon your mercy to protect my reputation. In fact, perhaps I should do so now. Preemptively, so as I know I’m safe.”
She crossed her arms and nodded, unable to resist playing along.  There was something about the anonymity of the moment that was almost intoxicating, like a first sip of champagne.  “Very well—you may commence groveling.”
He dipped his head gravely. “As you wish. Though I wonder, how should I address you?” He took in her elegant gown and the emeralds decorating her ears and neck. “A stór, I think. It suits you.”
“A story? How on earth does that suit me?”
“Not a story,” he said, pantomiming opening a book. “A stór. My treasure.”
She sucked in a surprised breath, warmth infusing her whole body before flooding her face. Her heart shuddered within her. There was something shockingly intimate about being called such a thing by a near complete stranger. 
Before she could think of a response, he chuckled.  “As in buried treasure. Unearthed from the depths of the curtains. I didna mean to imply anything else.”
“Of course not,” she replied, nodding as though her mind hadn’t gone directly to that ‘something else’.  “You may call me whatever you wish. Now, on with the groveling, if you please—I’ll be missed if I remain much longer.” Hopefully, the soft sounds of the music from the ballroom disguised the breathlessness of her voice.
He stepped forward, bringing them closer than even the most liberal of hosts would have deemed proper.  He put a hand to his heart and dipped his head to hers. Mischief lit his eyes, subtly challenging her. “I beg you, a stór, from the very depths of me—could you find it in your heart to have mercy on my depraved soul? Could you carry this encounter close to your breast, not to be revealed under threat of death, or worse—gossip?”
She discretely drew in a breath, trying to calm her rioting senses. Good heavens, he was positively mesmerizing when he put his mind to it. The soft, lilting tones of his voice washed over her like warm silk, and she only just suppressed the shiver that flitted down her spine. Doing her best to sound lightly amused, she said, “Very well, you have my mercy. It was a pleasure not to meet you, sir.  I do hope you enjoy the ball.”
With a reluctance that surprised her, she started to turn.
“Perhaps,” he said, drawing her attention to him once more, “you’d save a dance for me.”
She lifted her brow. “Ah, but that would require an introduction, would it not?” Even so, the offer was absurdly tempting. The idea of being pulled into his arms was almost enough to make her forget that dancing wasn’t her forte.
“An excellent point, to which I offer this solution: If by the end of the night, you wish to take me up on my offer, then I leave it to you to seek an introduction to me. Seeing how I now have assurance of your mercy, of course.”
Beatrice drew back in surprise. “Seek an introduction to you? I do hate to disabuse you of whatever opinion you have formed of me in these past few minutes, but I am not a desperate woman. I assure you, I will be seeking an introduction to no one.”
He didn’t look the least bit disappointed, or the slightest bit offended.  Instead, the corners of his eyes crinkled in an almost imperceptible smile. Dipping his head in the approximation of a bow, he said, “Your prerogative.  I of course shall respect your decision.”
Was it the accent or his sentiment that muddled her brain and had her leaning the slightest bit forward? “Er, thank you.” Already she was feeling like a ninny for having reacted as she did.
“But just so you know,” he said, slipping a gloved hand beneath hers and lifting her fingers to his lips for a feather soft kiss that had her holding her breath. “I’ll be keeping the last dance free.”


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

About Last Night…


 
Last night, shortly after my husband had left for an overnight job and I had settled in on the back porch with the dogs to write, the power for the entire neighborhood went out.
Now, first of all, it was a crisp, cool, cloudless evening, so I was a bit surprised it went out in the first place.  Second, we live in the boonies, so the sudden quiet and darkness was utterly complete.
There wasn’t a pinprick of light anywhere to be seen, and even the nocturnal creatures seemed stunned into momentary silence.  Me?  I couldn’t help but grin. 
Grabbing my flipflops, I headed out into the cul-de-sac, laid on my back, and gazed at the stars.  My friends, it was magnificent. Incredible in a way that is impossible to describe.  Absolutely no man-made light could be seen, not even a flashlight or car headlight.  Above me, the blanket of stars was so spectacular, so complete, I felt as though I were in a planetarium, looking up at a projected image.
From one end of the horizon to the other, what seemed like billions of stars peppered the sky, their normally muted splendor seeming to shout their glory.
Sad that Kirk couldn’t be there to share it, I decided to get Darcy—aka the dog that stays by my side without a leash. Popping back inside, I snap on her collar, grab the lantern, and at the last second snag my little hand-held pepper spray (we are in the sticks, after all) and head back out.
With the lantern on low, I led us back up the driveway and into the cul-de-sac, Darcy happily trotting along beside me.  Once at our destination, I snapped off the light and started to sit back down.
And that’s when Darcy decided to have a panic attack.
With the suddenness of a cobra strike, she completely spazzed, launching into a freaked out barking fit as if the Swamp Thing himself had risen up in front of us.  The abrupt eruption of noise was so heart-stopping, it scared the absolute bejesus out of me. In that moment, my whole body jerked, including the hand that was holding the pepper spray.
More accurately, I should say the finger resting on the trigger.
Ppphht!
To my horror, a cloud of pepper spray instantly surged from the can, and now Darcy really does think something’s attacking us and starts running in erratic circles, apparently employing a move taught at the doggie school of evasive maneuvering in case of alien attack.
Meanwhile, I’m jumping away from the pepper cloud (have I mentioned I’ve been pepper sprayed in the face before? I’m eager to not repeat the experience) and trying to snap the lantern back on. For all I know, a rabid mountain lion is still poised to attack (based on Darcy’s initial reaction). In my heightened state of adrenalin–induced panic, turning on the light seems like a good idea.
Darcy does not agree.
The moment the light snaps on, her panic hits DefCon 6, complete with Kujo sound effects, as she decides that the lines of shadow the lantern casts on the ground are all black lines of death, there to destroy us both.  Now the crazed dog circles have widened and increased in speed, and I start to think that maybe Sasquach really was out there, and she’s actually saving our lives.
With a new surge of adrenaline shooting through my body, we both sprint for the house. Darcy’s growling has stopped as she tries to outrun the death eaters, and I’m just trying to not be slower than whatever crazed wildebeest may or may not be behind us. I almost make it to the front walk when a whooshing sound next door to stop me in my tracks.
My neighbor’s head pokes out of his window, and he offers a calm and collected, “S’up?”
My heart is pounding so hard in my ears I am lightheaded, and Darcy is still racing through the yard, but my own, much more useful instincts of ego-preservation kicks in, and I slow and offer a negligent. “Nothing. Just looking at stars.  You?”
Never mind that my fingers are tingling with residual pepper spray and my dog is running around like Underdog on crack, I refuse to look like a paranoid fool. 
“Going to bed early, I guess,” he responds. “Night.”
“Night.”
I wait for the second whooshing, indicating the window has been closed, before bolting for the front door, corralling my Captain Spazoid dog in with me. I lock the door, wash my peppered hands, and collapse on the couch.
Yeah.
Moral of the story? Your dog is not an appropriate replacement for your husband for power outage stargazing.  Trust me.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A Labor Day (Make that Week!) Giveaway!!

Forget Labor Day, my friends. Here on this blog, I am celebrating Labor Week!! And what better way to celebrate than to give away the fruits of my labor?

That's right—last week a small, inconspicuous box showed up on my doorstep. Curious, I sliced through the tape, pulled back the cardboard flaps, and discovered...

Advanced Reader Copies of A TASTE FOR SCANDAL!!!



Woohoo! I'm soooo excited to hold this book, the second in the Sealed with a Kiss series, in my hot little hands. There is so much of me in this book, especially since the heroine, Jane Bunting, is a baker.  You'll find this novel filled with the warmth and smells of her bakery, your mouth watering right along with the hero, Richard's.  There are scones, and biscuits (that's cookies for you non-Anglophiles), and breads, and cake—all the things that define Jane's talent and passion.

I have to admit, I gained a few pounds while writing this one.  Not only did I test each and every one of the Regency-appropriate recipes Jane and Richard made together, but it all just sounded so delicious as I wrote and revised, that inevitably I'd run upstairs and filch a sweet or two (or ten).

The release date for this book isn't until December 4th, 2012, but one lucky commenter will win one of the ARCs and be one of the very first to read of Richard and Jane's romance :) Contest is open to US, Canada, and Mexico.

To win:
1) Leave a comment below with your email address (if you don't wish to leave it publicly, leave a comment then email me at erin@erinknightley.com so I know where to find you if you win)
2) Spread the word! No, I'm not going to check up on you, but I'd really appreciate any tweets, Facebook posts, 'liking' the book on Amazon, or even recommendations to your friends about this book :-)

*Winner will be selected on Monday, September 10 at 8PM EST*

Click HERE for an excerpt
A TEMPTING DIVERSION
Things have always fallen into place for Richard Moore, Earl of Raleigh. His good looks, abundance of charm, and the small matter of being heir to a marquisate make him quite the catch. So when a delectable young woman wants nothing to do with him, he can't help but seize the irresistible challenge.

AN UNLIKELY COURTSHIP
Jane Bunting knows all about responsibility—she has managed to support herself and her brother with their bakery—but she knows nothing of excitement or passion. When dashing Lord Raleigh crosses the threshold of her shop, she has no idea of the potential danger to her reputation . . . or to her heart.

AN IMPOSSIBLE MATCH
Neither imagined things would go so far—until the night their worlds collide, irrevocably changing both their lives. But when duty calls for Richard, and with everything Jane has worked for suddenly at stake, will their taste for scandal be their downfall?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Simple Pleasures- Summer Nights

Today I'm over at Lady Scribes talking about the divine pleasure of a quiet summer evening. I hope you'll stop by and join me :)

Click here

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Simple Pleasures - Popcorn!


 
Okay, to many of you, that may sound like too simple of a simple pleasure. “Yeah, yeah, toss a bag in the microwave – what’s the big deal.” First of all – yuck! Don’t you dare equate microwave popcorn to real popcorn. That’s like comparing an iPod Touch to a Sony Walkman circa 1989. So wrong.
Anywho, for me, popcorn is so much more than that.  Growing up, there were two things that were not to be had in my home: junk food and superfluous piles of money. That meant that Friday nights would involve the family gathering around the old, wooden-box TV in the living room and watching whatever programming the networks deemed worthy that night.  Dad would get to work in the kitchen, popping up a gigantic bowl of oil-popped popcorn, topping with a drizzle of melted butter and a dash of salt, and divvying up the bounty between the five of us.
At something like 30 cents a bowl and only two ingredients, it flew under the radar with my health-food loving mom and budget conscious dad. And so, the tradition endured. 
Through the years, many things changed in our lives. Friends over for sleepovers, a shiny new VCR, my sister going off to college—but still there was the ever present Friday night treat.  
To this day, I can hardly go a week without raiding the pantry for the popping corn and oil. It is the embodiment of comfort food for me, a delicious constant that has followed me through all phases of my life.  It’s the perfect start to a weekend, a yummy end to a long day, and exactly the tradition that I plan to adhere to for a long time to come.
I know, I know—who has an ode to popcorn for a blog? Well…I do :) It’s a wonderful, simple pleasure that I can really sink my teeth into!

So what’s your simple pleasure food? What where your family’s weekend rituals?

As for today’s recipe . . . did you even have to ask??
Take any pan. Add enough oil to coat bottom of pan. Add 3 kernels of popcorn and cover with lid. Heat on medium high until the three kernels pop.  Immediately add enough kernels to cover the bottom of the pan with a single layer. Cover with lid. As popcorn pops, shake the pan to evenly heat. Once popping has slowed to less than1 or 2 pops per second, remove from heat, pour in bowl, top with salt and ENJOY!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Starry Starry Night


For the next month, I'm going to be doing a series of blogs centering around simple pleasures :)  I hope you enjoy my first one:
Simple joys in life: Just look up
My whole life, with the notable exception of college, I have lived out in the boonies. I relish the distance between neighbors, the uncluttered roads and complete lack of traffic lights. I enjoy the sounds of nature, and more than anything, I adore the blanket of stars that are always so visible from my home.
To this day, I can clearly recall being roused by my father in the early morning hours in February of 1986, when Halley’s Comet last streaked by the Earth. We bundled up against the frigid night air and headed outside, the pebbly concrete walkway starkly cold against my bare feet.  My dad had a special handheld telescope for just that occasion, and we passed it between us, taking turns looking up into the inky darkness, speckled with a million pinpricks of light.
I was tired, and a bit groggy, and I don’t remember whether I actually saw the comet or not, but I remember my father’s excitement at sharing a once in a lifetime experience with us. I remember the vastness of the heavens stretching above us, and the instinctive knowledge that it was an important moment, to be remembered forever.
Throughout my childhood, our trusty old white telescope regularly made appearances on the back deck, pointed to the moon, to Saturn, to the North Star—whatever Dad could pick out.  We lived on a sprawling, treeless, 2 acre lot in the rolling hills of Kentucky. Our view of the heavens was unspoiled, unobstructed, and unlimited.  Orion’s Belt, The Big Dipper, The Little Dipper—these are the things I was taught to find, and to this day I still look for them.  After all these years, I never stopped looking up.
Every night, I take the dogs out right before bed, and as they wander around and take their time, so to do I. My view is much more obstructed than it once was, with towering pine trees on all sides, but directly above the driveway, I can still see it. The vast carpet of the heavens, like a handful of pixie dust scattered across the finest indigo velvet.  It draws me, a tugging deep in my soul that can’t be set aside.  And I don’t want to set it aside.  The stars that I see are the same that have been seen by my ancestors, the exact same ones that my friends and family around the world see, and the same ones that our descendents will see. 
I love the consistency of that. I love the common tie, one that has nothing to do with geography, or time, or privilege.  In this, the privilege is equal. 
So, as we all shake our heads in wonder as man puts one of the most advanced vehicles ever conceived on Mars—and records the experience in 3-D HD!—I just hope we don’t stay too glued to our computer screens and TVs.  Don’t forget to go outside and just… look up.

Feeling a bit whimsical today, can you tell?  :) Tell me—are you a fan of the night sky? Can you recognize any constellations? And dude - how cool was the engineering for the Curiosity??

Now, it's late and I haven't made this recipe yet, but holy cow, how perfect is this:
MOON PIES!!  I can't *wait* to try this :-)