From minor breakdown to Golden Heart finalist, with horses thrown in.

Introducing Colette Auclair and her wonderful, witty writing. Thanks for being on my blog today!

I hope you enjoy this new author. Please leave a comment for Colette. I will pick a random comment and that contributor will receive an e-book copy of one of my novels.

Colette and her mare, Brooke

First off, I’d like to thank Clare for my first guest blog post! It’s an honor to play in this happy blog habitat.

My first book, Thrown, recently finaled in this year’s RWA Golden Heart contest in the Contemporary Single Title category. You might think it’s about a sport involving a ball or discus, or perhaps a WWF smackdown. But no, it’s about two characters who are (forgive me for this) thrown together because of horses and then (ready?) thrown for a loop when they fall in love. Does someone get thrown from a horse? You’ll have to wait until it’s published to find out.

This all started because I wanted to write a screenplay and I wasn’t. After having a minor breakdown on the couch one morning that caused my husband to offer to send me to a screenwriting workshop, seminar, conference, cruise, Ph.D. program or a year of private lessons in Tahiti with Nora Ephron–anything, just so I’d please stop crying–I took an online screenwriting class. I ended up with a fifteen-page outline, or treatment, for a romantic comedy based on The Sound of Music–only mine had horses instead of music, a grand prix jumper rider instead of a governess/almost-nun, a hottie movie star instead of Christopher Plummer’s sea captain, Aspen instead of Austria and a manipulative grandmother instead of Nazis. (Although the Nazis would have been happy to have her.)

Treatment completed, class completed, it was time to write the script. Problem was, I couldn’t get the scene after the closing credits–something I’d never use–out of my head. So I wrote it in prose so my characters would pipe down and let me write their movie for them.

And I’ve never had more fun writing anything. Which is saying something, because I’ve been privileged to write some outlandishly fun things like TV commercials in my day job as a copywriter.

I told myself I’d write the story as a novel merely so I could get to know my characters better. The words flowed, I hated leaving my computer, and voila, four months later I had inadvertently written a full-blown romance novel. All thoughts of screenwriting vanished. I found my calling.

It was like finding all the “buttons” on a horse you’re riding. Ride after ride, you get to know the horse, you discover that if you’ll just keep your left hand still, the horse stays straight, and if you don’t “yell” with your outside leg, the canter transition will be smooth instead of a buck. Then one day, everything clicks. You only have to think of what you want and the horse does it, happily. The two of you become one. That’s how if felt as I wrote Thrown. My writing had found its dream horse.

Now I’m fully committed to getting published, no matter what. I’m polishing my second book, Love in the Time of Colic, and have scads more story ideas–all involving horses somewhere, somehow. I hope romance (and horse) fans will enjoy reading my books as much as I love writing them.

Excerpt from Thrown

Setup: Amanda, the riding instructor, slipped on the poorly designed barn floor and hurt her back. Grady, her movie-star employer, feels guilty that she got hurt and has brought her dinner in bed.

Grady let out a huge sigh and switched on the lamp on the bedside table. This guest room was closest to the kitchen and the front door. It had a king-size bed, a wall-mounted flat screen TV, a full bathroom, and a sage-and-purple color scheme.
Amanda’s hair was tousled and her eyes were drowsy. The tank top rode up to reveal a couple inches of a toned stomach, which he ordered himself not to look at.
“Hiiii!” she said again. The word rose and fell over several roller-coaster syllables. “These muscle relaxers are awesome.”
“You don’t say.”
“I’m not gonna pull a Rush Limbaugh or anything. I just feel all floaty. You brought me dinner?”
“Soup, courtesy of Harris.”
“Harris. I love Harris. He’s so cute. And he cooks. If only he weren’t gay…Where is he?”
“He came by, but you were sleeping. How’re you feeling?”
“You’re pretty cute too.” She bit her lower lip.
He ignored this. “I told Jacqueline everything you told me about taking care of the horses, so between the two of us and the girls, we should be fine. And,” he said sheepishly, “I promise I’ll replace that floor as soon as possible. I had Jacqueline call for estimates.”
“Good.” She nodded vehemently, then stopped. “Whoa. Dizzy.”
“Want some soup?”
“You’re so nice to bring me dinner. So nice and soo cute!”
“Let’s see.” He presented the tray so she could see the food. “You’ve got lobster bisque, a fresh fruit salad and a hunk of what I believe he called ‘crusty artisan bread’—Tuscan, to be precise. Sparkling water. Dark chocolate—it’s Vosges.” He pronounced it correctly, vohj. “The good stuff. I had to talk him out of sending a get-well martini.”
“Look at you—always thinking of my liver.” She smiled.
“Among other parts,” he muttered. “Voila.” He unfolded the little legs on the tray, placed it on her lap and unfurled a light green linen napkin for her.
“Come sit with me.” She patted the mattress beside her.
“I should be going.”
“I could fall asleep and drown in the bisque.”
He sighed. “All right. But just for a minute.” He moved around the bed and sat next to her. Amanda smiled brightly as though he had just given her a Hanoverian stallion and custom-made saddle. She dipped her spoon into the soup and frowned, then slowly lifted the spoon to her lips and slurped. She looked like it was her first day working with spoons, bowls and soup. She was silent for several forays, then spoke.
“Your kids like the push-ups.”
He looked at her. “That’s the drugs talking.”
She took another spoonful. “Not the push-ups per se—push-ups per se, thass funny! What I mean is, they like riding, right?”
“Okay?”
“So I’ve solved the mystery of the nannies.”
“What mystery of the nannies?”
“Why they don’t like their nannies. They like riding. You know why?”
“Wild guess, but because it’s fun? And by the way, if you hadn’t noticed, you are really high right now.”
“Partly because it’s fun. But they behave for me. I gotta say, I was worried at firss.
“Did you know Harris called me the shit? I’m the shit, Grady.” She waved a hand at him. “Kids beg their parents to get me as their trainer. And I come here and I get, ‘My horse is ugly! I’ll die if I have to brush my horse.’” She whined to bolster her imitation. “So I said to myself, Amanda, you’re the shit. You teach them like you’d teach anyone else. No special treatment, even though their dad is all dreamy and a big fat star.
“Did you know I haven’t taught raw beginners since, like, college?”
Grady was staring at her, mouth open. Watching her was like watching a member of a newly discovered tribe on a remote island. He realized she was waiting for his response, so he said, “No, I didn’t.”
“I made an exception for you. For them. And they’re coming around now. But at first I thought they were spoiled rotten brats. But now I like them—they’re fun. They tried to pull stuff on me but I didn’t put up with it. And do you know why?”
Again, it took him a second to realize she expected an answer. “Because you’re the shit?”
“Damn straight! You can be the shit too, you know. Juss set some rules. Makes ’em feel like you care. When they came into my barn—and don’t get me wrong, I know it’s your barn, but you know what I mean—I told them no swearing and now they don’t swear. I juss tole them. And I carry through on the push-ups. Oh sure, I had to groom their horses—well, Rainy, because Wave was down with the grooming right away—but Solstice came around. I bored her into it.” She paused to slip a spoonful of bisque into her hard-working mouth.
“I mean, come on, who wants to watch someone brush a horse?” She poked his arm with her spoon. “It’s freakin’ dull. Now they’re happy to groom their own horses. It’s basic horse training, psychological stuff. You make the thing you want the animal to do seem like it’s the animal’s idea.”
“And my daughters are the animals?” He didn’t like this, but she was so funny right now, he wasn’t all that bothered.
“Grady, we’re all animals. It’s how our brains work. We’re all about survival. Maslow’s Ladder. We’re hardwired to want safety. Food. Sex. All that.”
She had to mention sex. He was grateful the tray hid her midriff.
She continued. “And what’s with their names? Were you guys hippies or something?” She slurped more bisque. “Oops!” She giggled as lobster bisque dribbled down her chin.
“Here.” He dabbed at her chin with the napkin. “I think Annie did it to bug my mom.”
Amanda looked dreamy and sultry all at once, even though she just called his girls brats and animals.
She stared at him, blinked in slow motion, and continued. “Thanks. Yeah, all you have to do is do what I did and make ’em do stuff. Rules. Response…responsblitty. Responsibility,” she finally managed, crinkling her brows in concentration. “Give ’em choices.” Looking back at the bowl, she carefully slid a bisque-laden spoon into her mouth. “Mmm. This is deliss…delshish…good.”
“So you don’t think I’m a good father?”
“I think you’re a hot father.”
Suddenly, Amanda set her spoon down and wonderingly, gently touched his hair. She looked at it with the queerest expression of awe, like a Woodstock attendee after the acid kicked in.
“Mmm, nice,” she said softly, and furrowed her fingers through the thick mass of dark wavy hair, then pulled his head to hers as though gearing up for a kiss. “Sexy.” Her traveling fingers landed at the nape of his neck and tickled him. Grady found this extremely arousing and thoroughly unnerving, so he took her hand and guided it back down to the vicinity of the spoon and tried to ignore his body’s response.
“More soup?” he asked quickly.
She picked up the spoon absently. “Nah. Nap. Sleepy,” she murmured as her eyes closed.

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Got Cowboy?

Please welcome Helen Hardt to Clare’s Blog today. Helen is a multi-published author of romance fiction with a knack when it comes to scratching the dusty surface of a cowboy and finding the lover hidden there.
Helen is offering a free copy of her novel to one of you, so be sure to leave a comment or ask Helen a question.
Double click on the book cover to go to the publisher’s site and view Ivy League Cowboy and Helen Hardt’s other books.

Got Cowboy?

Who doesn’t love a hot cowboy? Especially one with an Ivy League brain to go with all that brawny hotness? Zach McCray is a cowboy first, though, and he stops at nothing to rope in his cowgirl. Zach stars in Ivy League Cowboy, the first in my McCray Brothers Series at Musa Publishing. If Zach leaves you panting and wanting more, check out his brothers, Dallas and Chad, in A Cowboy and a Gentleman and Rodeo Queen, respectively, also available at Musa. Enjoy the excerpt, and leave a comment to win your own copy of Ivy League Cowboy!

Dusty doesn’t fear the feisty bull…but his owner’s another story.

Dusty O’Donovan, an accomplished bull rider, isn’t afraid to ride El Diablo, a feisty stud whose owner, Zach McCray, is offering $500,000 to anyone who can stay on him for a full eight seconds. Though Zach refuses to let a woman ride his bull, he’s intrigued by the headstrong Dusty, who he last saw when he was thirteen and she was six. Sparks fly when they’re together, but will Dusty’s secrets tear them apart?

Excerpt:

Infuriating. Sexist Pig. Idiot genius who didn’t care about proper English usage.
But oh, could the man kiss.

From the first second, refusing wasn’t an option. The unimaginable sensation of his mouth pressed to hers overrode the rational part of Dusty’s brain. His lips were warm, unexpectedly soft, and laced with the robust boldness of his after dinner Irish coffee. The bewitching friction as he nibbled at her mouth enticed her lips to open.

And then it was magic. The woodsy spiciness of the coffee, the tangy storm of the Irish Whiskey, and something else… Something unique and indescribable. Zach. His tongue danced around hers, and her legs trembled beneath her. As if on cue, one strong arm wrapped around her waist and pulled her to him. Every cell in her body screamed at her to drive into him, to deepen the kiss, but she was frightened. She barely knew him. So she began to pull away.

His strength defeated hers. “Kiss me back, darlin’,” he whispered against her chin. “Please.”

It was the please that did it. Somehow, she knew instinctively that Zach McCray didn’t utter that word very often, if at all. Weak-kneed and aroused, she thrust her tongue into the moist warmth of his mouth, and she was lost.

She’d done her share of kissing in the past, but never had she felt such an adventurous surge of need and desire. The frantic necking in parked cars, the careless goodnight kisses, the lazy exploration—nothing compared to this urgency, this demand. As their tongues tangled together, she moved her hands upward, framing his face. Her fingers toyed with the roughness of his night beard, the sleekness of his jaw line. Part of her was barely cognizant of him cupping her cheeks, his thumbs caressing her, yet another part was hyper-aware of his touch, his mastery of her.

When the frenzy between them slackened slightly, he removed his lips from hers and trailed them across her cheek, down her neck, then to her ear, tracing it with his tongue, nipping the soft lobe. She kissed his neck and inhaled his scent. Cloves. And pine. The outdoors. Heavenly. Faint moans met her ears, and she realized they were coming from her throat.
“Dusty.” Zach’s voice was husky, smoke-filled.

She moaned again as his mouth found hers. Unrestrained desire took her over, and she thrust her hips against him, feeling the strength of his arousal. She imagined him inside her, filling her, pleasuring her with that gorgeous body. She had never wanted a man like this. She imagined him naked, on top of her, doing things no man had ever done to her.
She let out a disappointed rasp as he broke the kiss and headed for her ear again. “God, you’re beautiful,” he whispered. “Let’s go inside.”

“Oh yes, yes.” Dusty tunneled her fingers through his silky hair, leading him back to her mouth.

His tongue pushed into her again, then retreated. “Now, darlin’. Or I take you right here.”

What’s your pleasure?

Kilted highlanders, Pirates from the high seas, cowboys? What kind of hero do you long for in your next romantic read?
If your fantasy hero wears chaps and says “yes, ma’am”, mark your calendar for April 16. Author Helen Hardt will be here to share her fun and steamy romance series.