Tally’s Gift is the third in a series set in the small fictional town of Quartzton. The first two books in the series are Saving Sophie and Grace on Fire. The books follow three best friends, Sophie, Grace and Tally, as they fall in love with each other’s older (and way smokin’ hot) brothers, Jake, Wyatt and Brett, who have also been best of friends their whole lives. In the series, there are a few punches are thrown and some guilt over sleeping with each other’s siblings, but I’m a sappy romantic, so trust in love as you read these books. Love won’t ever fail.
When I’d started on Tally’s Gift, I had just finished Grace on Fire and was exhausted. I gave myself a week to recuperate, and then I plunged back in to the story, thinking that seven weeks would be stretching it. I forgot to calculate in Christmas! Making Christmas presents is always an important part of my year, and I lost another week to baking and sewing, leaving me with six weeks in which to write a book. But, I’ve found that if I have enough alone time, I can whip out up to five thousand words a day. The key for me is to dream out the scene enough times in my mind until it’s almost written in my brain, even down to the tags and beats. Then I unplug the phone, lock my door, and gather all available frozen Jr. Mints and get to writing!
I’d originally thought that the Quartzton series would end with Tally’s Gift. However, one of the antagonists, Doris, from Saving Sophie and Grace on Fire, is actually quite a sympathetic character and has an intriguing story to tell, especially when the daughter she gave up for adoption shows up in town. Also, sex hound Don Marshall, from Grace on Fire, has a lot to learn about being a good man. He has integrity, but had been such a nerd as a kid and teenager that he covers it up with sexual bravado. I’d like to see what happens to Don when he’s faced with a strong and sensual woman who can both take him down a peg and build him up at the same time. Keep an eye out for future books in the Quartzton series!
Brett always gets what he wants, and he wants sex with Tally. But a sex fest with lush, earthy Tally affects Brett in a way he never saw coming, and he’s just discovered the one thing money can’t buy-Tally’s heart. Can a self-centered rich boy and a self-made country girl come to learn the true meaning of giving before their differences rip them apart?
After reading Elle Amery’s first two Quartzton series novels, Saving Sophie and Grace on Fire which introduced Tally Bennett and Brett Huntsman, I was really looking forward to reading more about Tally and Brett who finally have their own love story told after their best friends and siblings hook up. We get an introduction to Tally and Brett in the first two novels but now we get to know them so much better as their love story gets told at last. Tally is a really intriguing character because she seems so very different from her best friends Sophie and Grace since she is not at all concerned with her wardrobe and is a very carefree woman that some people might categorize as a hippie. Since Tally was a child and met Brett they have always had a sort of friendly acquaintance kind of relationship because they had nothing in common especially since Tally was and still is Brett’s younger sister Sophie’s best friend. Tally is not one of your typical heroines you usually read about in romance novels and that made her so much more relatable as a character. Brett was raised like a little prince who got whatever he wanted and was taught that money could buy you anything no matter what. But that changed once he really got to know Tally after his accident, which was caused because he was flirting with a woman. I think that Brett is one hot man who is really in need of a reality check to kick him in the pants because though he seems like a self-centered rich playboy I can see that there is a really loving man underneath.
Brett’s accident is probably the best thing to have happen to both Brett and Tally because it gave them a chance to see that they were meant for one another. I had a really wonderful time reading this novel because it was pretty steamy yet it had such a character development that I really thought followed with the first two novels very nicely. Now Tally and Brett may really seem like complete opposites while you read Tally’s Gift but I knew they were meant to be with each other because they have that intense spark that just really gets to you. I was a bit sad yet happy again when I finish this third and last novel in Elle Amery’s Quartzton series. I was sad to have come to the end of the novel but I was happy because I have heard that Elle might be working on another book for her Quartzton series. Elle Amery delivers a wonderfully deliciously hot, sexy and thrilling conclusion to her amazing Quartzton series that will have you panting from the start with steamy scenes that will keep you reading until the very end to find the happily ever after.
Elle Amery: I’ve wanted to be a writer since I could read. Romance is one of the genres in which I write. I also write children’s fiction and am working on two YA novels and a contemporary novel that has some sex in it but is mostly about friendship. Those will be published under a different name. But I love romance—it’s where my heart lies!
Phoebe: Did you know what type of romance you wanted to write about or did you experiment with different genres before you chose the one that you felt was for you?
Elle: I’m a sappy romantic! Although I’d originally targeted contemporary romance, I found that many of the storylines I had in my head had too much of a sexual basis to them. In Tally’s Gift, the entire book wraps itself around the six-week sex-fest in which Tally and Brett indulge. In addition to the overtly sexual nature of the stories roaming about in my head, I found that when I wrote sex scenes, they went on for pages and pages—not exactly what traditional romance publishers had in mind!
Phoebe: What was the first fiction you ever wrote? And do you still have it with you?
Elle: The first full story I ever wrote was in sixth grade. I gave it to my best friend as a present—and yes, she still has it! It wasn’t a romance (in sixth grade I still thought kissing was disgusting!); it was a story about a girl and a horse.
Phoebe: How much research do you have to do for your novels and does it take you a long time to gather that research?
Elle: I research as I write, using the Internet. I tend to write what I know, and since I write contemporary there isn’t a whole lot of need for research. But, there are moments when I do need to get online and start digging around. In Tally’s Gift, for example, I did some research into how to prepare bath and body products using green products. And in Grace on Fire I did some research into anger management techniques.
Phoebe: How did you come up with the concept for your latest novel Tally’s Gift, with is part of your Quartzton series?
Elle: Many years ago a male friend of mine had injured both hands and wasn’t able to do the same thing Brett Huntsman wasn’t able to do *wink wink*. All of his friends teased him mercilessly about his towering condition. One of the nurses at the hospital had been flirting with him and, like Brett, neither his pain nor his pain killers managed to keep that good man down! I teased him I would write a story about his “problem,” and several years later, Tally’s Gift was created.
Phoebe: How did you come up with the concept for your Quartzton series and how many more books do you think you will be writing for that series?
Elle: The Quartzton series came about when I thought up the storyline of Tally’s Gift. Although it was the last book in the series, it was the first story I thought up. As I would dream about Tally, her friends Sophie and Grace became more clearly formed. It was obvious each had a story to tell. I’d originally thought that the Quartzton series would end with Tally’s Gift. However, one of the antagonists, Doris, from Saving Sophie and Grace on Fire, is actually quite a sympathetic character and has an intriguing story to tell, especially when the daughter she gave up for adoption shows up in town. Her story, Doris’s Choice, should be out this summer with Ravenous Romance. Also, sex hound Don Marshall, from Grace on Fire, has a lot to learn about being a good man. What the readers don’t know is that he was a total loser nerd in high school and college and has tried to cover it up with sexual bravado. I expect to see these two other books in the Quartzton series coming out by autumn 2009.
Phoebe: How do you come up with each of your characters for your novels? How do you choose their names out of so many names out there?
Elle: I made the mistake of naming the antagonist in Saving Sophie “Doris”, after a girl in high school who had been nothing but mean to me. The mistake came when I realized that Doris had an intriguing story to tell—my character Doris, that is. But that realization brought up something—what if Doris from high school had experienced a similar tough life? Just that thought alone helped me form the character of Doris in a more multi-layered way. With my other characters I tend to give them names I like that would fit with their family’s socio-economic status.
Phoebe: Do you have a process of how you start to write your novels?
Elle: I first dream up a story, or a particular character. I spend a lot of zoning out my couch, imagining scenes, plot, characterization, and more. Once I get a scene fully developed in my head, I sit down and write. I need to have absolute silence, no TV, no telephone, no emails, and no interruptions besides my adorable pets. My bunny, Beatrix the Bad, provides the only amusing (and not so amusing) distractions I can take.
Phoebe: Which do you like best, writing a series or writing stand alone novels? How is writing each different for you?
Elle: Writing a series isn’t easy because you have to layer characters into each novel in a way that’s gripping enough to make a reader want to come back and read the next story but that doesn’t overshadow the main character. But I love the theme of Quartzton, that tiny little speck on the map where so much goes on behind closed doors—and sometimes out in the open! However, writing a stand-alone novel allows me the opportunity to really bond with the main characters, and flesh their storylines out fully without spending any mental energy on connecting that novel to any others.
Phoebe: What process did you have to go through to get your first book published and did it take you long?
Elle: I was lucky in getting the Quartzton series published. In January of 2008, I finally got over my fear-of-publishing block and joined RWA. I attended their conference in July and met with Holly Schmidt of Ravenous Romance. She requested I send in a partial for Saving Sophie, which I did. I also sent in an overview of the other two books as well. Within a couple of weeks I had signed a three-book contract, which has been extended to five!
Phoebe: Do you ever get writers block? What do you do to get rid of it so you can get back to writing your novels?
Elle: This is where my couch comes in handy. Any time I get stuck while writing a scene, I take an hour or two and snuggle up with my cat and allow myself to dream. As long as I’ve fully connected with the characters, the scene unfolds in my head.
Phoebe: What is your biggest reader pet peeve, if you have any? (stock characters, unresolved endings, predictability, everything wrapped up hurriedly in the end, etc.)
Elle: As a reader, I detest stupid heroines. I don’t mind if a heroine is a little blind, because we all can be blind and we often do make bad decisions when it comes to love, but I hate it when they stay that way throughout the course of the novel. I want to see a character grow during the course of a story, and grow in a realistic way. I want a woman to find her strength, not rely on a man to be her strength.
Phoebe: Which aspects of writing do you enjoy the most and why? And what is your biggest writing pet peeve? (overuse of exclamation points, adverbs, bad guys named Wayne, etc.), if you have any?
Elle: My biggest writing pet peeve is incorrect use of punctuation. I will stop reading a book if there are too many typos. I edit and critique manuscripts, so it’s like fingernails down a chalkboard for me. My favorite aspect of writing is how I create these characters I fall in love with.
Phoebe: What is the one writing tool can you not live without?
Elle: I have several: 1) my laptop; 2) frozen Jr. Mints; 3) my couch; and, 4) my pets.
Phoebe: How do you handle your writing schedule and your personal life without going insane?
Elle: I don’t. There are days I end up staring blankly at my dog, wondering why I’m standing in that particular room staring at him. The fact that he’s salivating all over the floor while sitting next to an empty food bowl doesn’t seem to even click in.
Phoebe: What do you do to relax after having spent a long while writing? Do you have any hobbies?
Elle: Hobbies? Free time? Oh, yes, I dimly remember something like that…I read, of course, and I love to scrapbook, but haven’t in a year. I also like to hike in the woods, ride horses, go to the gym, and practice yoga. All of which I rarely seem to do these days. The one way I do tend to relax is to take a long, soaky bubble bath with a glass of excellent old-vine California zinfandel and a good book.
Phoebe: Is there any advice that you would give to an aspiring romance writer that you wish someone had given you?
Elle: Leave plenty of room for promotional work. Ask for advice from writing partners you can trust. Read and re-read all books on writing. Subscribe to Chicago Manual of Style on-line. And mostly, don’t be afraid to submit!
Phoebe: Is there any writing tips, research tips, promotion and marketing tips that you would give to an aspiring romance writer that you wish someone had given you?
Elle: Get a blog. Join reader’s group, like Shelfari and Goodreads. Connect with other authors, especially authors from your own publishing firm. Read and re-read books on writing and publishing. Find an excellent writing partner who isn’t afraid to rip through your work with a fine-tooth comb.
Phoebe: Do you have a favorite genre you like to read? Who is your favorite author(s)?
Elle: My favorite author is Jane Austin, followed closely by Kate Chopin, Virginia Woolf, Elizabeth Peters, Heather Graham, and Saskia Walker. Now that I’m published with Ravenous Romance, I’m reading some great erotic romance by their authors, including Keta Diablo, Angela Cameron, and many, many others.
Phoebe: What are you reading now? And what do you plan to read after that?
Elle: I just finished Fault Line by Barry Eisler. Not a romance, but there is a strong romantic element to the story! I have a number of e-books on my to-read list, including Ripping the Bodice by Inara Lavey and Land of Falling Stars by Keta Diablo. I also have three Elizabeth Peters books, two by Joan Hess, three by Heather Graham, three by Lori King, and Reckless by Saskia Walker piled by my bed.
Saturday, April 18—Zhadi’s Den—Intro Stop
Sunday, April 19—Jennifer’s Random Musings—Elle Amery
Monday, April 20—Unbound—Lisa Lane
Tuesday, April 21—Talk About My Favorite Authors—Angela Cameron
Wednesday, April 22—Kissa Starling—Em Lynley
Thursday, April 23—The Countess—Jamaica Layne
Friday, April 24—PNR Inklings Blog at ParaNormal Romance—Sèphera Girón
Saturday, April 25—Wicked Thorn and Roses—Isabel Roman
Monday, April 27—Sia’s Thoughts On…—Neve Black
Wednesday, April 29—Bryn Greenwood—C. Margery Kempe
Thursday, April 30—Bookwenches—Savannah Chase
Friday, May 1—Neve Black—Inara LaVey
Saturday, May 2—Night Owl Romances—Final Stop
“What do you feel is the most important thing that you can bring to your readers?”
Angela Cameron: For me, other than a well-written story, I think that the most important thing that I can bring my readers is fun. Stories are daydreams that we share with our readers, escapes. Personally, I want to escape to a place where there’s action, suspense, romance, and so many other things that are not in the humdrum life of laundry and work. I want to visit another world, be seduced by a hottie, and still have time to catch a bad guy. My readers aren’t much different. So, if they’re spending their hard-earned money on one of my books, I think that they should get their money’s worth.
Let’s hear what the other my friends from Ravenous have to say about this, and then I want to know what you think is the most important.
Isabel Roman: Solid plot with believable characters and a steamy romantic story. Also, emotional involvement with the characters. I love to make someone feel something—whether it’s hatred toward a villain, sadness for the black moments, or infatuation with the hero, it’s about eliciting a reaction.
Neve Black: I want the reader to identify with the character or the situation.
Lisa Lane: It is my hope that my readers experience the same magic I feel when writing a passage that has taken on a depth and life of its own. My muses have a fascination with profundity, which can make for some disturbing plot twists, but also some interesting insights.
EM Lynley: My main goal is to entertain readers. I want to give people a little something outside of their everyday life to come to that’s just pure enjoyment. I like introducing them to a set of characters that they can love and think about, maybe even after they’re done reading the book.
Jamaica Layne: I want them to be entertained and to have a good time while reading. If I haven’t done that, then I haven’t done my job.
Inara LaVey: Entertainment! And hopefully what good books give me—a pocket of time transported away from reality into another world.
C. Margery Kempe: I have a lot of esoteric knowledge that I like to make accessible to a wide audience. I guess it’s the teacher in me.
Savannah Chase: For me the most important thing would have to be characters they can fall in love with, even relate to. I want my books to take them away if it is only for a few pages. I want readers to be able to care about the characters.
Elle Amery: The most important thing that I can bring to my readers is the chance to let go of all their own troubles and enter into another world—a world where difficulties and challenges may exist, but all absolutely will come out well in the end. And when the reader is done with one of my stories, I hope they have a strengthened sense of self and of the belief that good things do happen, the girl does get the prince, the good guy is out there, life can be wonderful.
Sèphera Girón: I always say I live to entertain. I want my stories to be read and enjoyed and not take a lot of work to understand what I’m trying to say.
* * * * * *
Here’s the EXCERPT from the book prize, Blood & Sex, Vol. 1: Michael by me, Angela Cameron. It’s in the beginning of the book and should give you a little taste of what you can expect. Enjoy!
Tori stared at him. If there was one vampire that everyone seemed to think remotely resembled an honest person, it was Michael. Of course, all of the vampiro played the power games and did what best suited their interests. Plus, he was the most powerful in the area. He was right; she couldn’t do it without him.
She sighed and nodded. “Only if you swear you won’t molest me or some shit.”
He chuckled. “Every time we meet, you act as though I can’t resist you. I assure you that I have plenty of female companions.”
“That’s not a promise.”
He laughed harder, and with a nod, added, “I swear to you, I won’t do anything while you are enthralled that you don’t ask for.”
Tori grumbled, “Still not good enough.” She pointed at him. “You could suggest it, or have me begging through bl—your influences.”
His smile faded. “You’re beginning to annoy me.”
“You’ll get over it.”
He placed a hand over his heart, as if that gave the words more validity. “I promise that I will not do anything that you truly do not wish me to do, and I will not bite you. Even when you beg.”
She refused to play his game. “Alright. I’ll be by tomorrow to get started.”
With one last gulp that drained the margarita, she slid from the chair.
“I expect my payment tonight.”
“You have your promise, which puts me immediately in danger. So I expect payment tonight.”
“You’re out of your mind.”
“Then you have no deal.” Michael stood and walked toward the door that she knew lead to the V.I.P. section of the club that was reserved for vampires.
Shit. If she let him bite her and mess with her head, she probably wouldn’t think straight for days. But she needed him. It wasn’t an option.
“Michael.” She caught up to him as he moved into the other room. “I’ll give you half. Just a nibble. No mind games.”
He turned to her and a slow grin crept across his face. “I thought you might.” He motioned toward a dark booth in the corner. “It will only take a moment.”
Tori’s heart beat a little faster and her palms grew moist as she reached the table.
“Don’t be afraid.”
“Liar.” Michael slid into the booth and motioned to the seat beside him.
She slipped in, but kept a little space between them. “How do I know you’re going to stop?”
“I want a witness.”
He gave her a slight nod, then slipped one arm up on the back of her seat. “Jonas will be here in just a moment.”
Dammit. Just what she needed: a witness who wanted her blood as much as he did.
Before she could argue, Jonas entered the room. He was even more gorgeous than he had been on stage. The man was pure sex on legs and he stalked toward her with a devious grin. “So, you’re ready to admit how much you want me?”
Tori rolled her eyes. “Let’s just get this over with.”
Jonas slid in beside her. “What am I going to witness?”
Michael spoke before she did. “She agreed to let me feed once, but she doesn’t trust me to stop.”
He laughed. “Smart woman.”
Michael let out a soft growl.
“Alright.” Tori angled herself toward Michael and arched her neck. “Go ahead.”
“I was going for the arm, but if you insist.” He slid a warm hand behind her neck and pulled her closer.
When Tori closed her eyes, she inhaled him in one long breath that made her mind feel light and dizzy. He smelled wonderful. The scent of him took her back to that light place where her body wanted him naked against her. Somewhere inside her alarms were going off, but she didn’t care. The only thing she cared about was the fact that his other hand was wrapped around her waist, but she wanted it between her legs, massaging the growing throb that made her skin moisten. Her heart thumped and the image of him going down on her filled her mind.
She opened her eyes to expel the vision. “I think I don’t—”
The pinprick of fangs hit her skin.
Then his teeth pushed in with a pop that made her gasp. Her mind focused on the mouth and the feel of Michael’s waist in her hands. She gripped him, feeling the pull of his mouth on her neck, along with the heat from her blood as it moved into him. Time seemed irrelevant as she melted into his grasp.
Jonas made a gasping noise that reminded her that he was watching. She felt him scoot closer and could feel his eyes on them. His hand went to her wrist. She knew he was checking her pulse, but it gave her the feeling that he wanted to join them.
She heard Jonas say something, but she couldn’t make out the words.
Thanks so much for stopping by and thank you, Phoebe, for hosting us! And also thanks to Phoebe who created the newRavenous Romance Authors blog and the nice badges for blogs and banners for websites/message boards that you can find the codes for on the blog as well. You can get the codes for both below: