Tuesday, January 8, 2013

William the Conqueror SexyBack

Here's a reprise of one of my favourite "tongue in cheek" videos - I was writing my first series about the Norman Conquest when I came across it!
Enjoy!  Anna Markland
P.S. One of my books about the Conquest is FREE on Kindle Jan. 9th and 10th. Defiant Passion

Friday, December 28, 2012

A Hero with a Secret Identity

My newest digital release, Promise Me, features a hero with an interesting secret life. Everyone in Willow Creek Montana believes he’s a prosperous businessman, the owner of a successful sawmill.

But one other man, his partner – knows the truth. They’re in town to investigate a consortium of mine owners who are plotting to control the supply of silver and undermine the fragile post-Civil War economy.

Sam is a Secret Service agent, and that raises some questions from folks who have heard me talk about the book or read the excerpt on my website. Because most people know the Secret Service as the agency entrusted with one of the most important jobs in government, to keep the President, his family and other government leaders safe.

But on July 5, 1865, the first head of the agency, William P. Wood, was sworn in by the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury. The agency was given one main objective, to track down counterfeiters in order to help restore faith in the currency of the newly reunited United States of America.

 That’s right, as much as we value our political leaders, everyone in the country also values money. And protecting it has been the key mission of the Secret Service. Much like our financial problems today, the country faced a banking crisis. This one was due to the tremendous amount of counterfeit money circulating. Unlike today, with the Treasury responsible for printing all the money, at the time of the Civil War, state banks designed and printed their own currency. Imagine several thousands of currency printed and the opportunities for criminals to step in and print their own.

In 1862, Congress passed the Legal Tender Act, setting up a national currency system. The “coney” men, or counterfeiters, still found many ways to create and circulate fakes.

Wood recruited ex-soldiers, police officers, or detectives to serve as agents who were expected to on duty 24 hours a day, with no days off. They were required to maintain peak physical fitness and swear utter, unquestioning obedience to the agencies directives. In other words, if you were a Secret Service agent, your job was your life.

I loved the idea of putting a man devoted to his job and mission in circumstances that made him question those ideals when faced with a woman who melted his heart and made him wish for the comforts of a home and family.

Have you ever encountered a counterfeit bill? I’d love to hear about your experience!
Learn more about books by Deborah Schneider at www.debschneider.com and www.sibellestone.com

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Game of Hazard by Vivienne Westlake

In writing my recent novel, A Marquess for Christmas, I needed to find a game that the hero and heroine could play while the hero was mostly on bed rest. I wanted something that might surprise a jaded hero and increase the sexual tension in the story.

Games of chance and gambling were very popular during the Regency era. There were card games like whist, which was a game for two couples that is similar to spades, and faro, which involved a special machine to pop up cards. They also played black jack, but it was called vingt-et-un.

I decided not to use a card game because most games were so popular that everyone played them. I thought a dice game represented pure chance and likely appealed to those with a strong penchant for gambling. I figured it might also appeal more to men than to women, though I admit I took a bit of license in having the hero make that assumption.

Hazard - which is where we get the term for peril and the expression "hazarding a guess" - was a dice game very similar to craps. Players would choose a number and keep playing until they got that number, another winning number, or they lost.

In hazard, the main is a number between 5 and 9. If you roll a 2 or a 3, you are automatically out, no matter which number you chose. 11 and 12 can be a win or a loss, depending on what your main number is. Players basically keep rolling until they hit a winning or a losing number. I've heard that players should always chose 7 if they have a choice because that has the greatest statistical probability of winning. This may be the reason that hazard evolved into craps.

For the specific rules, try the Wikipedia article or see A Regency Primer on How to Play Hazard.

There is a fun online game that simulates hazard play. http://drakonlady.deviantart.com/art/Hazard-Dice-Game-Demo-187814264

Here is a snippet from my new release, A Marquess for Christmas:
*Edited to be suitable for a PG-13 audience*

When Violet popped open the box, he saw a plain wooden cup, four wooden dice, and two decks of cards. She took out the cup and dropped two dice inside.
“Shall we roll for the main or do you want to choose?” Kit asked.
“A lady always loves to have a choice.” She smiled. “I could be cordial and offer you the first pick, but since considerate players rarely prosper, I shan’t feel too poorly about it. I will play sevens.”
“Then I will play six.”
“Do you wish to go first?” She asked, shaking the cup. The mere sound of the dice rolling around in the holder was enough to get his blood pumping and his fingers tingling.
As he grabbed the cup, the tips of his fingers stroked hers. He let them linger as he eased the cup from her hand.
They were both quiet as he shook the dice. His gaze lingered over the exposed skin of her neck. The dressing gown was loose enough that he got a glimpse of her cleavage, but no more. He looked forward to peeling the fabric off of her and sliding his hands under her chemise.
Kit turned over the cup and let the dice fall. Seven. If he’d chosen seven as his main, he would have won, but now he had to roll again.
Do not pull a six. Do not pull a six. He slipped the dice back into the holder, saying his prayers for a win. A seven would guarantee a win.
After a strong shake of the cup, he threw the dice down. Two. He’d lost. Now it was Violet’s turn.
Her long, slender fingers took hold of the cup as her other hand grabbed the dice. She pressed them to her lips, closing her eyes, then plopping each one into the cup. Something about watching her mouth touch the die or perhaps the way she lowered her lashes in a silent prayer made his mouth water and his cock harden.
She loosed the dice . Eleven. How had she managed that? He had to blink a few times to be sure of what he saw. But sure enough, one die read five and the other six. Violet had won the first round.
“Should I have checked that the dice weren’t loaded?”
“Do not be a petulant loser.”
“Perhaps your fingers are magic?” he asked, taking hold of her hand and kissing the tip of each finger. He teethed her index finger. When he pulled her arm closer so that he could kiss her wrist, she stopped him.
“Do not attempt to distract me. You seek to throw off my guard so that you will win.”
“What I seek is another taste of your delectable skin.”
“Roll the dice. Do you wish to keep your main?” she asked.
“I think I shall switch to five,” he said before giving two fast shakes and tossing. Six. Like it or not, he was stuck with it again. He stared at the dice, wondering at the chances of that happening when he heard a tapping sound on the table.
“Do not give up so easily,” she said. “Though perhaps I should encourage you to acquiesce now.”
He rolled the dice. Eight. He neither won nor lost. The third time, he rolled a twelve. Two sixes, but not the one he needed.
As he picked up the dice and dropped them in the cup, he felt a firm pressure against his thigh. He groaned and dropped the cup when he felt it move to his groin.
A glance at Violet’s face revealed nothing, though there was a twinkle in her eye.
“God’s blood woman, what are you doing?”
“Hmmm?” She rested her head on her hand. “What do you mean?”
She massaged him, pressing her heel against his privates. Gripping the table, he closed his eyes, unable to move. How could he possibly concentrate when she did such devilish things to him?

A Marquess for Christmas is now available at Amazon, All Romance eBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

History of the Panama Canal by Anna Markland

Almost two years ago, my husband and I visited Panama on vacation. We didn’t do the Canal trip - in fact to this day we haven’t travelled along the Canal, though we have driven over and beside it.

During that first visit, we stumbled upon a sleepy little community called Las Lajas in Chiriqui province. About 10 km from there is the world’s best kept secret - an unbelievably beautiful beach. To cut a long story short, we decided to build a vacation condo there. We’ve been back several times since, and find the people and the country greatly to our liking. Gazing at the ocean and walking along an endless, deserted beach is very inspiring! 

One day I intend to pen a novel based in Panama, but on the last trip I spent most of my time putting the finishing touches to my latest medieval romance, Dance of Love. This story is set partially in Spain. Panama celebrated the anniversary of its independence from Spain on November 28th, so there is a bit of a connection!

Dance of Love is set in 1107 AD. It wasn’t until the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V held sway in 1534 (400 years later) that we find the earliest mention of a canal across the Isthmus of Panama.

Charles V
Charles was also King of Spain, and he ordered a survey for a route through the Americas that would ease the voyage for ships traveling between Spain and Peru. Such a route would have given the Spanish a military advantage over the Portuguese. During an expedition from 1788 to 1793, Alessandro Malaspina outlined plans for its construction.
Alessandro Malaspina

Given the strategic location of Panama and the potential offered by its narrow isthmus separating two great oceans, other trade links in the area were attempted over the years. An ill-fated Darien scheme was launched by the Kingdom of Scotland in 1698 to set up an overland trade route, but generally inhospitable conditions thwarted the effort, and it was abandoned in July, 1699. To this day, the Darien jungle remains an inhospitable place.

In 1849, the discovery of gold in California created great interest in a crossing between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Eventually, the Panama Railway was built to cross the isthmus, opening in 1855. This overland link became a vital piece of Western Hemisphere infrastructure, greatly facilitating trade and largely determining the later canal route.

An all-water route between the oceans was still seen as the ideal solution, and in 1855 William Kennish, a Manx-born engineer working for the United States government, surveyed the isthmus and issued a report on a route for a proposed Panama Canal. His report was published in a book entitled The Practicality and Importance of a Ship Canal to Connect the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Encouragement for the idea of a canal was provided by the French success in building the Suez Canal.

More to come...
If you would like to sample one of my books, If Love Dares Enough is available FREE for two days only on kindle. December 12th & 13th. 

Friday, December 7, 2012

A clan is welcomed back into the fold, a man returns home, and a murder.

How does a woman tell her betrothed she murdered her first husband?

Elise Kingston is a wanted woman. Nothing, not even Highlander Marcus MacGregor, will stop her from returning home to ensure that the man responsible for her daughter's death hangs.

Until she must choose between his life and her revenge.

The MacGregors ("Children of the Mist") are one of the most ancient Scottish clans, tracing their ancestry back to the time of Malcolm Canmore. They fought for Bruce at Bannockburn and have remained staunch warriors for Scotland and the Highlands ever since. Indeed, their proud spirits and boundless courage have caused the clan much grief over the centuries, not least due to the enmity and greed of Clan Campbell. King David II, Bruce's son, gave Glenorchy, ancient seat of the MacGregors, to the Campbells. The MacGregors were loathe to leave, but by 1400 the Gregor chiefship had moved to Glenstrae. However, their troubles were only beginning. The Campbells were great ones for using the law against those whose lands they coveted. Their method was to provoke the MacGregors to acts of violence and then invoke the law to put them down and take their lands. By this method, the Campbells stripped Clan Gregor of their Glenlyon holdings in 1502.

In 1589, the MacGregors killed a royal forester - an offence against the crown, which promptly issued letters of "fire and sword" against the clan, making it illegal to shelter or have any dealings with clan members. Various "fire and sword" orders were continually proclaimed against the MacGregors for the better part of two hundred years. In 1603, an Act was passed proscribing the very name MacGregor. This meant any member of Clan Gregor could be beaten, robbed or killed without fear of punishment. Anyone with the name MacGregor was banned from the church (no marriages, burials, communion, etc.). It was complete ostracism for the entire clan.

Finally, in 1775, John Murray (later MacGregor) of Lanrick was recognised as the MacGregor chief, and the MacGregor name was reinstated.

Move forward to 1822, three years before the story begins in My Highland Love, the MacGregor chief, Sir Evan MacGregor and his clansmen, guarded the honours of Scotland when King George IV visited Scotland. Sir Evan even had the honor of proposing the toast to the "chief of chiefs" King George, at the royal banquet in Edinburgh. Marcus MacGregor, clan leader, Marquess of Ashlund, and the hero of My Highland Love, marched alongside Sir Evan in the procession guarding the honours of Scotland.

The Honours of Scotland, also known as the Scottish regalia and the Scottish Crown Jewels, dating from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, are the oldest set of crown jewels in the British Isles. The existing set were used for the coronation of Scottish monarchs from 1543 (Mary I) to 1651 (Charles II). Since then, they have been used to represent Royal Assent to legislation in both the Parliament of Scotland and Scottish Parliament, and have also been used at State occasions, including the first visit to Scotland as sovereign by King George IV in 1822 and the first visit to Scotland as sovereign by Queen Elizabeth in 1953.

As you can well imagine, being a part of this procession filled Marcus with pride and gave him hope that the centuries' old emnity between the MacGregors and Campbells might be at an end. Alas, no such luck. Marcus returns home to discover that one of his clansmen has been murdered by their old enemy, the Campbells.

Here's a snippet of that scene--

A tingling sensation crept up Marcus's back. "What happened?"
"We found him just over the border in Montal Cove with his skull bashed in."
"Any idea who did it?"
"Aye," Cameron said. "Campbells."
Marcus surged to his feet. He strode to the wall, where hung the claymore belonging to his ancestor Ryan MacGregor, the man who saved their clan from annihilation. Marcus ran a finger along the blade, the cold, hard steel heating his blood as nothing else could. Except… Campbells.
Had two centuries of bloodshed not been enough?
Fifty years ago, King George finally proclaimed the MacGregors no longer outlaws and restored their Highland name. General John Murray, Marcus's great uncle, was named clan chief. Only recently, the MacGregors were given a place of honor in the escort, which carried the "Honors of Scotland" before the sovereign. Marcus had been there, marching alongside his clansmen.
Too many dark years had passed under this cloud. Would the hunted feeling Ryan MacGregor experienced ever fade from the clan? Perhaps it would have been better if Helena hadn't saved Ryan that fateful day so long ago. But Ryan had lived, and his clan thrived, not by the sword, but by the timeless power of gold. Aye, the Ashlund name Helena gave Ryan saved them. Yet, Ryan MacGregor's soul demanded recompense.
How could Ryan rest while his people still perished?
Marcus removed his hand from the sword and faced his father. "It's time the MacGregors brought down the Campbell dogs."

My Highland Love is available at your favorite distributor.