Saturday, December 31, 2016

M.A. Grant's Top Books of 2016

Despite the struggles of 2016, my "favorites" bookshelf grew a lot heavier. For a number of reasons, this year became a breather for me, a chance to recharge. Most of that came through reading. The books listed below may not have a lot of detail in my reviews/descriptions, but I can assure you that all of these have left a huge impression on me.

The Soldier's Scoundrel by Cat Sebastian - The book is addictive and a perfect historical. The audiobook is even better. I've listened to it at least five times and go back to it over and over.

The Captive Prince trilogy by C.S. Pacat - The series (Captive Prince, Prince's Gambit, Kings Rising) engrossed me completely. I couldn't read them fast enough. I couldn't reread them enough. They're going to be classics of the fantasy genre. Full stop.

Wolfsong by TJ Klune - For the record, pretty much every book I've read by TJ Klune is amazeballs. His BOATK series made me cry multiple times, which rarely happens. But Wolfsong is something else. It's one of the best shifter stories I've ever read. And again, the audiobook is damn good too.

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell - This book was probably the single most important text I read all year. It prompted me to return to writing with a story that I'd never thought myself brave enough to write; that same story is what landed me an agent, a new group of fans and friends, and reminded me why I started writing in the first place. This is one of the most beautiful fantasy novels ever and its audiobook is magical.

For Real by Alexis Hall - There's a reason this book won the RITA. Full disclosure, it's erotica, but unlike any erotica book I've ever read before. The whole point is that those heated sexual moments drive the character and plot arcs; this is one of the rawest, most emotional books I read this year and I finally gave in to get the audiobook and have been very impressed with the dueling narration and how right it sounds.

Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds: The Guaranteed Way to Get Your Screenplay or Novel Read by Michael Hauge - Hauge's a legend in his own right and when I was nervous about going to the RWA conference and pitching my story, I decided to throw in and see if his methods could help me. They apparently did since I used his techniques during the Twitter pitch that helped me catch the attention of Deidre Knight, who now represents me. Novelists and screenwriters will likely get different things from this book, but it offers quick, understandable advice about how to make your work shine when pitching.

Obviously, there were tons of other books I've read that could have easily made this list, but I wanted to keep it short and simple. Since I've kept returning to these, I'll proudly announce them as my top books of 2016. Now to see what 2017 brings!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Cover Reveal: Wild Card Undercover

It is my great pleasure to be able to share the details of my incredible CP Kari Lemor's first release. I've been fortunate enough to read the drafts of this book and know that it's just the start of an incredible series. If you're a fan of romance with a hint of suspense, be sure to jump in with the series. Pre-orders are available now and the book will be out in March 2017. Congrats Kari!!!

#1 in the Love on the Line series
By Kari Lemor
Published by Kensington Lyrical Underground – March 2017

 All that glitters in Miami is not gold…
Lured in by a bad ex-boyfriend and the moonlight of Miami, Meg O’Hara is trapped in a nightmare situation, waiting tables for a crime boss and fearing for her life. When undercover FBI agent Christopher Shaunessy offers her a way out, she seizes it. Getting the goods on Salazar Moreno might not be easy, but she’ll do anything to be freed from her servitude and Moreno’s sexual advances, even if it means moving in with the charismatic agent.
Chris Shaunessy pretends to be Meg’s lover in order to keep her safe, but he steels his heart against further involvement. Passion has no place in the sordid world of organized crime. And yet, the closer they get to cracking the case, the stronger his feelings for the spirited waitress shine. It’s a dangerous game he’s playing, and taking Meg in his arms for real could prove a fatal misstep . . .

Chapter 1

“Does that man never have a day off?” Margaret Kathleen O’Hara grumbled, grabbing her tote bag and sarong to move surreptitiously along the chairs by the pool. If the hotel manager saw her here again she’d be toast. He’d more than toss her out. Threats to call the police had been thrown at her for months now. Although in her case, that might be a better deal.
With her eyes trained on his location and the Miami sun beating down on her exposed skin, Meg backed along the water’s edge attempting to leave the area before he spotted her. She needed to shower the chlorine out of her tangled hair and change for work soon. He looked in her direction and she rushed behind the closest object. It was six-foot-plus of blond-haired gorgeousness. The man’s eyes were glued to something on the upper deck. Her boss was sitting there with one of his expensive bimbos. Did Blondie like that type? Maybe he wouldn’t notice her little game of Hide and Seek.              
She leaned around him, ducking back when she saw the Pool Nazi still present. Getting caught was not an option. She already owed more than she could ever repay.
“Are you okay?” Forest green eyes stared down at her, puzzled. Would he buy that she was simply looking for shade? He was big enough to provide it.
With strong hands, he reached for her shoulders and Meg reflexively batted them away. She got enough of people groping her at work. Scorching curses froze before erupting from her mouth as the hotel manager moved, staring in their direction. Her mind kicked into overdrive, scrambling for a way to hide in plain sight.
“Sorry,” she squeaked. Grabbing the man’s head, she planted her mouth solidly on his. Short, thick strands of hair tickled her fingers. Firm lips yielded no resistance to the increased pressure of her mouth. Better make this look good.
An electric current skittered over her skin causing her heart to race. Maybe too good? Slowly he pulled her closer with his muscular arms. Her eyes flew open and she broke the connection. His hair-covered chest was too close for comfort. And much too tempting. Distance, she needed distance.
Her eyes darted around, seeing no signs of the manager. A sigh escaped. Time to make her exit as well.
“Sorry,” she mumbled again, looking up. Big mistake. The stranger’s curious eyes captivated her. They were soft and tender and filled with something she could…trust? If she still had any of that left in her. His hands were gentle as they held her. A tiny smile played about the full lips she’d brazenly kissed. She couldn’t believe she’d done it. Her mother would be appalled. But it had worked.
The chlorine scent from the pool faded into the background as sweat and suntan lotion wafted off the man’s damp skin. Her stomach did cartwheels followed by a few back flips. Dangerous.
“Let me go,” she hissed as reality returned. She gave a swift shove at his well-defined pectorals, rushing to get past, to escape from this distraction and the possibility of being caught. Her head whipped around at the sound of a splash and water droplets from behind. Gorgeous was just breaking the surface of the pool. Had she pushed him that hard?
“Oops.” No time for apologies. He looked like the forgiving type. She had to blow this joint before the Pool Nazi came back. Grabbing her fallen sarong, she ran across the deck to hustle inside the luxury hotel.
The manager stood sentry near the front door. A crowd appeared at her back making that way impossible. The stairwell to the left would have to do. She’d go up a few floors then down to the side entrance. She wrapped her sarong around her as she carried out her plan to avoid being seen…and caught.
Meg should stop coming here to use the pool: this proved it. Sneaking in was adding to her already hellish life but swimming always helped work out the stress and the pool here was more accessible than any other on the strip. Pretending she had money to stay in a place like this, rubbing elbows with all the beautiful people, yeah, that got her through too. She’d learned the best times to come and not be seen. Well, for the most part. It was well worth the risk to get away from her dump of a room and its enchanting neighborhood. She’d leave this all behind her soon. She kept telling herself that. Had to believe it for her own sanity.
Footsteps behind her pushed those thoughts away. Her bare feet padded silently along the lushly carpeted hallway. Heart racing, she ducked into the ice machine alcove, her sigh echoing in the silence. She glanced down. Her bag? She must have dropped it as she rushed off. How had she not realized? It couldn’t have been the threat of being arrested. Or the crooked smile of the handsome stranger she’d kissed. The one with the kind eyes and gentle hands. No, she couldn’t allow herself to be led astray by a pretty face. Not again.
She continued down the hall, her trip cut short when someone grabbed her by the arm and spun her around.
* * * *

Links to all pre-order retailers can be accessed on the Kensington site

For more information on Kari Lemor or her Love on the Line series from Kensington Lyrical Underground, follow her on social media:

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Developing character

One of my favorite jobs as an author is to tease out who my characters are. I mean, they're so busy yammering at me that it makes sense that I should get to know them. Sometimes this process is easy, other times it's like pulling teeth. And sometimes I want to get a different view of the character because I know the truth may not be fully there.

Sebastian and Sláine from Prince of Earth and Ice, the sequel of Prince of Air and Darkness, are two such characters. Sebastian is a prodigal Seelie prince and Sláine is the Unseelie high prince who defected and became a traitor to his people. Neither of them is good at letting down their guards; if they did, survival would be impossible. Writing their love story is a true challenge and I'm enjoying myself immensely.

One of my favorite ways to tease out more meaning behind characters is to draw them a quick tarot spread. It's only three cards -- past, present, and future -- and recognizing threads throughout the cards often gives me great ideas of what to enfold later in the manuscript.

The deck I used for these spreads (and my favorite deck in general) is the Llewellyn deck. The focus on Welsh mythology and the soft and detailed watercolor designs are perfect for a story of warring faerie courts and the political intrigue and romance that come with them.


Seb's spread was drawn first.

  • Ace of Wands - A perfect card to suit Seb, the ace of wands is about rising to a challenge, becoming self-reliant, and learning to use reasoning and ideas to their fullest. The ace of any suit indicates the start of a journey; Seb's past, which comes back to haunt him in PEI, followed the call of this card and that adventure made him strong enough to face the events of the story I'm writing for him.
  • Six of Swords - The suit of swords is a natural fit for the present. It's the suit of action, where good and bad can balance on the edge of a blade and a person's actions determine the course of the future. I love the ambiguity of the six of swords. A card indicating movement or a journey, it can also be interpreted as a declaration of love. Knowing where Seb starts and where he ends, I smiled as soon as this one made its appearance. 
  • Ten of Cups - As a romance writer, any time the suit of cups appears I know that I need to delve deeper into the emotions of my character. In this case, the ten of cups is one of the sweetest and most rewarding cards to have appear. The symbolism of a full life, of true love, of emotional fulfillment...This card is a happily ever after and knowing that Seb will journey there gives me even greater joy when writing his story.


Sláine's spread was drawn second.
  • Four of Wands - To see Sláine's past as this card of peace and balance was painful. He's a wounded man and the reminder of how much he's lost was perfect as I plot out how to show that part of his life. In order for anyone to fall to their lowest point, they must start at great heights and Sláine is no different.
  • Three of Swords - Every time I draw this card I'm instantly on guard. Traditionally, the three of swords is a card associated with loss and sorrow. For Sláine, there are few cards in the deck that could better sum up his life at the present. But this suffering and misery is necessary for him to find his way out of hell. 
  • Queen of Pentacles - I didn't expect this card to show up for Sláine, but the longer I thought about it, the more it seemed to fit. His story is about the struggle of being an unwanted prince and his rash actions early on need to mature in order for his story to come to balance. The card was a reminder to me that no matter how far he seems to have fallen, in the end he will emerge calm, steady, and secure.

While the process of drawing a simple spread is fun for me, it also helps me better understand my characters. Bits and pieces of this spread will probably show up in PEI, so now you know what to watch for when it comes out!

Do you have any other methods you enjoy using for writing out characters. If you enjoy tarot, are there any particular spreads you enjoy using that I should learn more about?

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Chin Lift

When I was preparing to go to San Diego, I commissioned an art piece for Prince of Air and Darkness from a graphic designer I found through DeviantArt. After giving her a brief description of Finny and Roark, this is what she produced:

Yes, I am in love.

Cut to this month. The fangirl-worthy Kelsey (a.k.a. Hootsweets) has done it again! This time around, I gave her the snippet of Prince of Air and Darkness I've included below and she gave me another lovely commission in exchange.

* * * * *
I glance behind me, adjusting my speed so the ball will land just over my shoulder. It hits my hands and I clutch it to my side, spinning around another guy and heading at a diagonal toward the end zone. Gumba thunders toward me, but I may be just able to beat him there—

A familiar form, partially obscured by the sun’s beams, walks by the sideline. I stumble a bit when I recognize the laconic gait.

That was a bad idea.

Gumba takes me down on the sideline. Even he’s surprised by how hard the hit was. He pokes my ribs and I make a noise to let him know I’m alive. It’s easiest to hand over the ball so the next play can start. I groan a little when I shift my head, spitting out grass and dirt. Right onto a shining pair of Oxfords mere inches from my face.

My eyes travel up from the shoes to the straight, pressed lines of the wool slacks. The thin leather belt I could never afford. The buttons of the dress shirt. And there, like a freaking cherry on an evil sundae, the sharp twist of the lips that’s the closest he ever gets to smiling. Apparently, super-powered magickal villains don’t need to smile.

“Wool in this weather, Roark? Isn’t that a bit douchey, even for you?” I snark.

He looks like crap. His cheeks are hollowed, the hint of dark circles under his eyes. He’s always been pale, but this time there’s an edge of sickness to it, like he hasn’t seen the sun all summer. Although … Unseelie court. Not sure if they’re allowed aboveground.

The toe of his Oxford stretches out and presses against the underside of my jaw, tilting my face up just enough for my eyes to meet his.

Roark’s eyes are the freakiest thing I’ve ever seen. Ice blue, pale as fuck. Thanks to his dark, nearly black hair, they appear even lighter. Worse, he never glamours them. Which pisses me off to no end, since my own eyes are some muddy, unremarkable blue.

Girls swoon over Roark’s eyes. They don’t swoon over mine.

Right now, that glacial gaze skims over me, dissecting me with the brisk efficiency wealthy aristocrats seem born to use against their underlings.

“Farmer’s tan and athletic shorts.” The edges of his mouth tighten. “Some things never change.”
* * * * *
As you can see, she outdid herself again.

Next month I'll post whatever my next commission from her is. In the meantime though, if you're interested in seeing more of Kelsey's work, you can find her through these sites: - Her original webcomic - Pledge page for updates on in-progress work and commissions - DeviantArt collection - Tumblr collection

Thursday, June 30, 2016


F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, "Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat."

Sometimes I forget that. It's easy in today's world, with how closely connected we all are and how easy it is for jealousy to take us when we witness others' successes. It takes effort to practice gratitude and it's a battle I've constantly fought since my first book was published.

There's always another author who's made it big, who's a best-seller now, who got optioned for film, who is smarter and more beautiful and more talented and generally damn better than you. And comparing yourself to others and their success only destroys your own sense of worth.

So I avoid social media often. I keep a small company of good, devoted, hard working friends who focus on bolstering each other instead of tearing each other down. I work my ass off and pray every night that God will give me a chance to get a little better.

Because that is my greatest fear. That one day the words will peter out and I'll be left with blank pages, or worse, pages filled with something akin to vomit.

Don't get me wrong; I still pray for bigger deals, for landing an agent, for my friends to get big deals or important agents, for some actor to read my book and decide it must become a movie (hear that Luke Evans, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hiddleston, Tom Hardy, or anyone else on my Pinterest boards???), and for me to someday be good enough at this writing gig that I can do it full time.

But most of all, I pray that this strange ability to string words together into a shifting tale doesn't go away. I don't know if I could survive that.

Sometimes, in the midst of the fear and panic and general anarchy that makes up a writer's life, courage makes an appearance. It's rare and I've found that it often doesn't come in the guise we expect. Courage has never shown up on my doorstep with a battle axe and plate armor, roaring about quests and grabbing the balls of life, while quaffing mead. In my experience, courage is the tiny voice whispering right behind my shoulder when I'm exhausted and sleep-deprived and emotionally drained and ready to call it quits forever because surely, quitting would be easier than experiencing the misery and self-loathing of missing my daily word count or not getting my phrasing correct or putzing 8 of my 12 work hours away on the Internet.

My courage is shy. It's no bigger than a thimble and often gives the same illusion of solidness. My courage only comes out when I forget about it. It's never around when I desperately need it, no matter how hard I look, how loudly I cajole, how furiously I threaten.

My courage believes in karma and divine justice. It has an unhealthy devotion to the concept that if you are a good person who works hard, you will be rewarded. It's never been wrong about that, so I can't really argue the point, no matter how often I grumble about it.

It likes to peek its head around corners and inspect the situation before giving in to peer pressure, although it sometimes caves and skips along for a while before figuring out that it's made a horrible, terrible, no good, very bad mistake. It prefers to make choices about which loose leaf tea I'll drink than which direction my life is taking (although I suppose tea choices are important life decisions). It agonizes over whether I want to buy the 12 pack or 24 pack of colored pencils and then parades around with its chest puffed out over that extra $0.70 I spent to get the fancy set. It considers anything but clear nail polish to be a coup; it collapses in exhaustion after I get a pedicure. It sometimes scrapes together $5 so I can buy a bargain bouquet of flowers at the store simply because they'll look pretty on my kitchen table.

I'm blessed with the Ferdinand of courage.

Monday, May 23, 2016

2016 Prism Awards

This past Sunday my husband and I were out working in our garden, a common practice since it's summer in Alaska. I'd just finished staining my new raised beds when my phone rang. Normally I never answer if it's a number I don't recognize, but that instinct was dead like the mosquitoes on my arm. I'm so glad I picked up.

Turns out I was receiving a call to let me know that Honour Bound is a finalist in the Fantasy, Futuristic, & Paranormal Romance Writers annual Prism contest. The Prism contest is for published books and if you take a chance to look at the lists of past winners, it's clear that there is serious talent in every year's list of entries. To be have been chosen among this group is an incredible blessing and I am so grateful.

So, this July when I go to San Diego for the RWA conference, I'll also be attending the FF&P's awards ceremony The Gathering and learning how Honour Bound did in the contest. More importantly, I'll be meeting other authors and readers in the genre and learning from them and their success stories.

Part of the reason for this post is to squee about the news, but the other reason is that I feel it's important to mention that Honour Bound was a risky book. Kate Cuthbert, my dream of an editor at Escape Publishing, is the one who suggested I expand the universe from Lace & Lead. Neither of us expected the expansion to result in this sprawling story that's turned into a new series.

I know that at its core Honour Bound is a romance; all my stories are. When I think of conflict, of what people are willing to die or live for, love and hope are often at the top of that list. But Honour Bound also allowed me to explore my love of dystopian societies, history, religious ethics, and a darkness I'm beginning to understand is a strangely inherent shadow side of my normally optimistic self. This is the series I've always been dying to read, so (as per Toni Morrison's excellent advice) it was time to get off my butt and write it.

Sunday's phone call just confirmed to me that there are others out there who are equally willing to take those risks and are searching for the same story as me. It makes the world a smaller, more beautiful place when that happens. Readers, thank you for your support and love of reading and fearlessness. You made this author's summer.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Big Three-Oh

Well, it's official. I'm an adult.

In age perhaps, but not in frame of mind. See, that's the beautiful thing about writing...It keeps you young.

On a strange side note, last year I was convinced that I was turning thirty, not twenty-nine. I prepared all year for that moment. And then a few weeks before my birthday, I mentioned to my husband how I couldn't believe I was almost thirty. He kindly corrected me.

This year I'm actually thirty. And while some small Peter Pan-esque part of me screams in terror at the relentless onslaught of years, most of me is able to sit back on the couch and relax because I've done pretty well so far.

Loving family and friends. Fantastic marriage to a man I adore. Books published and slews of ideas bouncing around my head and Pinterest boards. A life I love to lead up here in Alaska.

It's not the New York City loft apartment, single life, and best-seller's list life I'd imagined for myself at the age of 15 (nor is it the life of a single, sheepherder living in a tiny thatched-roof cottage in Ireland), but it's my life and it's damn good.

Best of all, I feel so grateful for the life God's granted me. That realization of how fortunate I am is the greatest present of all.