Goodreads Giveaway

Harlequin is giving away fifty copies of To Tempt a Viking and the giveaway ends January 17. Check out the details below:

Goodreads Book Giveaway

To Tempt a Viking by Michelle Willingham

To Tempt a Viking

by Michelle Willingham

Giveaway ends January 17, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Good luck to all!

Harlequin Historical Advent Calendar

Congratulations to Heidi Howard, winner of my cookie giveaway yesterday and Charlotte McFall, winner of the international giveaway of a free book!

For those of you visiting for the first time, the Harlequin Historical Authors Holiday Giveaway is back! In the spirit of an Advent calendar, authors are giving away daily prizes and a Grand Prize of a Kindle Fire HDX Wi-Fi (or equivalent tablet depending on your location). Play every day for more chances to win.

The Rules:

Each participating author will have an activity planned on their website for their special day. You may be asked to comment on a blog, find an ornament, or visit a Facebook page. For each day you participate, your name will be entered into the Grand Prize drawing. For the official rules, click here.

At the end of the month on December 23, one day from the calendar will be randomly selected. One of the entrants from that day will then be randomly selected to win the Kindle. The more days you visit, the better your chances!

Although my individual contest has ended, you may still enter for a chance toward the grand prize. Here’s what you have to do:

To enter my giveaway, please do BOTH of the following:
1. Sign up for my newsletter below by typing your e-mail address in the Newsletter box at the bottom of this page. Your e-mail address will never be shared and you may unsubscribe at any time. If you are already a subscriber, you can skip this step.

2. Send an e-mail to me by clicking this link (contest AT michellewillingham.com). Then in the body of the e-mail, tell me your full name and address. Entrants who do not provide their address will be ineligible, so don’t forget!

Happy Holidays and click on the calendar to visit each author!

Participating Authors

Cheryl St. John Elizabeth Rolls Michelle Willingham Annie Burrows Ann Lethbridge Marguerite Kaye Barbara Monajem Amanda McCabe Louise Allen Blythe Gifford Kate Bridges Michelle Styles Georgie Lee Jeannie Lin Diane Gaston Terri Brisbin Julia Justiss Lynna Banning Grand Prize - Harlequin Historical blog

Cheryl St. John – November 27

Elizabeth Rolls – November 28

Michelle Willingham – November 29

Annie Burrows – December 2

Ann Lethbridge – December 3

Marguerite Kaye – December 4

Barbara Monajem – December 5

Amanda McCabe – December 6

Louise Allen – December 9

Blythe Gifford – December 10

Kate Bridges – December 11

Michelle Styles – December 12

Georgie Lee – December 13

Jeannie Lin – December 16

Diane Gaston – December 17

Terri Brisbin – December 18

Julia Justiss – December 19

Lynna Banning – December 20

Grand Prize Drawing – December 23

Black Friday Giveaway

Happy Black Friday!

Today is my giveaway for the Harlequin Historical Advent Calendar. To celebrate a day of great bargains, I’m offering several prizes, and of course, when you enter my giveaway, your name will automatically be entered for a chance to win an Kindle Fire HDX!

A Wish to Build a Dream OnFirst, for folks in every country around the world, enjoy a free download of my novella “A Wish to Build a Dream On” with an extended excerpt of my August title To Sin with a Viking. Just click here to choose your e-book format (Nook readers can get the epub format for free from the Smashwords link on that page or from All Romance E-books–Barnes & Noble has not yet price-matched the title).

Cheryl's CookiesNow for my raffle giveaway. One of the holiday traditions in my household is baking cookies. We LOVE gourmet cookies (especially those with frosting), and so I’m going to give you a chance to win gourmet frosted cookies from Cheryl’s. (This one is for U.S. residents only). See details below on how to enter.

Don’t worry–I also have a giveaway for my international readers, too! For you, I’m offering up a chance to win a copy of my latest book, Unraveled by the Rebel.

To enter my giveaway, please do BOTH of the following:
1. Sign up for my newsletter below by typing your e-mail address in the Newsletter box at the bottom of this page. Your e-mail address will never be shared and you may unsubscribe at any time. If you are already a subscriber, you can skip this step.

2. Send an e-mail to me by clicking this link (contest AT michellewillingham.com). Then in the body of the e-mail, tell me your full name and address. Entrants who do not provide their address will be ineligible, so don’t forget!

I’ll choose one U.S. winner and one international winner at the end of the day. Winners will be posted on this website on November 30. Even if you miss the deadline for this giveaway, you can still sign up for my newsletter and send me a note to be eligible toward the grand prize.

Michelle WillinghamGood luck! Please read the official rules here and check out my upcoming book from Harlequin Historical, To Tempt a Viking, available February 1, 2014.

Diary of a Photoshoot – Part 5

This is part 5 of my Diary of a Photoshoot, where I’ll take you behind the scenes of making the cover for To Tempt a Viking, book 2 in the Forbidden Vikings series. You can read part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4 first, if you like. (photos courtesy of Jon Wayne Brown)

After more than six hundred photographs were taken, the art director, Krista Oliver, begins flagging the best photos to potentially be used for the cover image.
Michelle Willingham

I’ll admit that there were so many good ones, it was difficult to choose! I had several that I liked, but Krista chose one that was more evocative of a Viking warrior after a shipwreck.
Michelle Willingham

After the final photograph is selected for the cover, it’s sent to an illustrator who will fill in the background details of setting and so on. Robert Papp created the background (He was also the illustrator for Tempted by the Highland Warrior and Taylor David was the model on that cover as well). Robert chose to create a shipwreck scene, after the hero is on shore. Here is the final illustration before the cover details are laid over it. Notice that Taylor’s left arm band was adjusted to fully encircle the bicep, whereas in the first photograph, the arm band was tied on.
Michelle Willingham

To me, this is gorgeous art. Honestly, I would be happy with this as my cover and nothing else! But after the illustration is approved, the publisher’s branding and imprint are overlaid on top of that (e.g. the purple band across the top that says Harlequin Historical), as well as the title and author name. Harlequin chose a Viking-style font to be used for my name.

The back cover copy is also placed on the art file, and the cover goes through more rounds of proofing and image-checking to be sure it fits the correct specifications for both digital and print publication. Colors are checked, measurements are checked—everything goes through several levels of approval before the final cover is ready to go.

Would you like to see the final cover? Here it is! To Tempt a Viking (Available now!). (You can buy it here)

To Tempt a Viking

I hope you’ve enjoyed the behind-the-scenes process of how cover art is made!

To Sin with a VikingEnjoy book 1 in the Forbidden Viking series – To Sin with a Viking (Get it in e-book form for $1.99, right now for a limited time!) Want to ask questions or comment? Join me on Facebook or Twitter and ask whatever you’d like!

Diary of a Photoshoot Part 4

This is part 4 of my Diary of a Photoshoot, where I’ll take you behind the scenes of making the cover for To Tempt a Viking, book 2 in the Forbidden Vikings series. You can read part 1, part 2, and part 3 first, if you like. (photos courtesy of Jon Wayne Brown)

Midway through the shoot, I was invited to play dress-up. I went with the stylist, Marie-Eve, back to the costume rack. While earlier we had talked about whether I would try on a Regency gown, I’m well aware that most of the gowns are fitted to size two models! After having three children, let’s just say that a size two was NOT going to happen for me. Instead, we picked out a rough-textured beige tunic that resembled a potato sack with arm and head openings.
Michelle Willingham

Over that came a brown leather tunic and a broad belt to hold it together. Then she put on brown leggings over my knees and calves. Since I had worn heels, I had to borrow a pair of flip flops to wear on set.

To Tempt a Viking

She also gave me two rings to wear. I have very small fingers (my rings are a size 5) but some of these rings would hardly fit at all, which told me how thin a model’s hands are.
Michelle Willingham

Here I am, ready for my modeling photo shoot!
Michelle Willingham

We had some fun and I posed a bit with Taylor.
Michelle Willingham

I was asked to look up and not to smile. Easier said than done!
To Tempt a Viking

After modeling a little, I now have a tremendous respect for models. It’s about being able to convey emotion in your eyes and in your face while keeping your body in an awkward position. The way you stand and the way you bend your back can make all the difference in proportion to the camera. I had to bend back a little, since Taylor was much taller than me, but looking back on the photos, it might have been better to bend my knees, since I looked a bit like I was caught in a trap and trying to get away! It was also quite an experience to have a cover model staring at you with such intensity.
Michelle Willingham

After the mini-photoshoot with Taylor, I changed out of my costume and Marie-Eve used the same leather tunic on Taylor, but this time showing a little more of his chest and abs in the shoot. More of the shots were taken, some with him holding a sword and a helmet.
Michelle Willingham

The photo shoot lasted about three hours or so. After an exhausting day of posing, here’s Taylor David kicking back with some brownies–Viking style!
To Tempt a Viking

Next week, I’ll talk about how the cover is put together, after the final photograph is chosen. Then you’ll get to see my final book cover!

To Sin with a VikingRead part 5 of my Diary of a Photo shoot here. Enjoy book 1 in the Forbidden Viking series – To Sin with a Viking (Get it in e-book form on Kindle or Nook.) Want to ask questions or comment? Join me on Facebook or Twitter and ask whatever you’d like!

Last, click on the link at the bottom of this post to enjoy a video of the photo shoot!

Diary of a Photoshoot Part 3

This is part 3 of my Diary of a Photoshoot, where I’ll take you behind the scenes of making the cover for To Tempt a Viking, book 2 in the Forbidden Vikings series. You can read part 1 here, if you’re just joining in, followed by part 2 here. (photos courtesy of Jon Wayne Brown)

When an author finishes a manuscript for Harlequin, we have to fill out an online questionnaire about the art that includes character information, a brief synopsis, and descriptive detail about the setting. The art director, Krista Oliver, then compiles a mock-up sheet to generate ideas of what the cover will look like. Here’s a sample mock-up of images and layouts she was considering for To Tempt a Viking.

cover shoot

From there, a model is chosen for the cover, and in this instance, Taylor David became the Viking. To Tempt a Viking

Here’s a shot of the studio before the action takes place.
To Tempt a Viking

There are photography assistants who help with the lighting and special effects like wind and water. Here are the brave heroes behind the set (left, Bryan Ulrich and right, Peter Olsen):
Photoshoot

Even when the photo shoot was about to start, the stylist, Marie-Eve, was adding last minute details like leather arm bracelets and lace-up leggings. The make-up artist, Jukka, used a palette of different make-up colors to add details like battle wounds and scrapes to Taylor’s arm.
Photo shoot

Here’s a shot of the studio from above, where you can see the photographer Nikki Ormerod and the entire crew.
cover shoot

When the photo shoot began, Taylor did several poses where he was squatting down with the shield. The intensity on his face was striking.
Photo shoot

Many of the facial expressions went beyond the fierce warrior and then became more similar to a wounded hero or a tormented man.
Cover shoot

There was also a wind and water machine, to help create the illusion of a shipwreck. One of the assistants operated the wind machine and he periodically misted water in the air to drift down upon the model (the misting machine was like a handheld weed sprayer that you’d find at any hardware store).
photo shoot

All of the images showed up on a high definition computer screen where the art director, Krista Oliver, looked at the various shots and determined when the poses needed to change. Throughout the shoot, the photographer, Nikki, was calling out how she wanted him to turn his face or his body.
Photo shoot

During the shoot, the art director, Krista, flagged several that she liked. I learned that often over 600 photographs are taken during a single session. 95 might make it to the next round. From there, it’s a matter of determining which ones evoke the strongest visual reaction. Even the slightest change in angle or a costume detail can make the difference on whether a photograph makes the final cut.

Here’s one of my favorite shots:
Cover shoot

Next week, I’ll share the last few details about the photo shoot . . . and how I got to become a Viking warrior woman and do a little bit of modeling myself!

sinwithavikingRead about part 4 of the photo shoot here. Enjoy book 1 in the Forbidden Viking series – To Sin with a Viking (Get it in e-book form) Want to ask questions or comment? Join me on Facebook or Twitter and ask whatever you’d like!

To Sin with a Viking excerpt and Sale!

sinwithaviking
Styr Hardrata stood, eager to escape the confines of this place. He struggled to open the door, but when he stepped outside, he breathed in the scent of freedom. All was quiet, the night cloaking the sky with darkened clouds. In the distance, he spied the flare of a single torch.
Caragh.

He gripped the chains to hold his silence as he tiptoed into the night. Soundlessly, he made his way towards the beach where he saw her staring intently at the sand. Alone, with no one to help her.

In her face, he saw the dogged determination to survive. It was breaking her down, but she kept searching. He’d known men who were quicker to give up than her.

She walked alongside the water, the torch casting shadows upon the sand. In the faint light, her face held a steady patience. Her skin was golden in the light, her brown hair falling over her shoulders in untamed waves.

She was far too gentle for her own good. What kind of a woman would capture a Norseman and then give up her own food? Why would she bother treating his wounds, when he’d threatened her?

And why was there no man to take care of her? No husband or a lover . . .

Styr remained in the shadows, even knowing that he shouldn’t be here. He ought to be studying the perimeter of the ring fort, searching for hidden supplies or information about these people.

Instead, he couldn’t take his eyes off Caragh, as if she were the vision of Freya, sent to tempt him. Like the women of his homeland, she possessed an inner strength he admired. Though Fate had cast her a bitter lot, she’d faced the grimness of her future.

Taking him prisoner was the action of a desperate woman, not a cruel one. He knew within his blood, that if he left her now, she would starve to death.

He shouldn’t care. He owed her nothing.

And yet, he couldn’t bring himself to walk away.

Look for To Sin with a Viking, available July 23rd, 2013, from Harlequin® Historical. You can read more about the book and find pre-order links here or join the discussion on Facebook. (P.S.–it’s on sale for $1.99, starting July 17, for a limited time).

Diary of a Photoshoot – Part 2

This is part 2 of my Diary of a Photoshoot, where I’ll take you behind the scenes of making the cover for To Tempt a Viking, book 2 in the Forbidden Vikings series. You can read part 1 here, if you’re just joining in. (photos courtesy of Jon Wayne Brown)

The model, Taylor David, arrived in his street clothes. I talked with the make-up artist Jukka about what we wanted for the Viking. He asked if I wanted Taylor to shave, and honestly—-I wasn’t sure.
To Tempt a Viking

I liked the grittiness of an unshaved hero, but I didn’t want a strong beard and mustache. We opted to trim down some of the beard to make it more like stubble but keep the raw quality.
To Tempt a Viking

To ensure that the book cover didn’t resemble Tempted by the Highland Warrior too much, we had to make some changes to the model’s hair. Jukka asked me what I wanted him to do, after the art director, Krista Oliver, thought we should pull part of the hair back. I agreed with Krista and also suggested a few war braids, which he added.
To Tempt a Viking

Taylor has some tattoos, and we opted to cover one of them and leave the other uncovered, in case we wanted to use it in the photo.
post12

We talked about how the hero was shipwrecked, and Jukka added a scar to Taylor’s forehead, giving him a bit more character. He also added eyeliner and light make-up to define his features.
photo shoot

Then it was time to dress the Viking! Taylor put on a pair of leather leggings and an amber-colored shirt that looked as if it was made of a fishing net.
Michelle Willingham

Marie-Eve then put a grayish apron on him. I teased him that he looked like he was about to bake cookies in that apron. But again, this was part of the optical illusion of layering.
post15

Next, Marie-Eve put him in a black leather tunic with red embossed cross studs.
Michelle Willingham

Once she had him belted in the outfit, it started to come together. She added metal arm bands and gave him a helmet as a prop.
Michelle Willingham

To Sin with a VikingEnjoy book 1 in the Forbidden Viking series – To Sin with a Viking.

Next week, find out what other props were added, and you’ll see the actual photoshoot! Read about part 3 of the photo shoot here.

If you would like to comment or ask questions, join me on Facebook or Twitter.

Diary of a Photoshoot Part 1

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On June 24, I had the experience of a lifetime. I was invited to watch the photo shoot of Book #2 in my Forbidden Vikings series, To Tempt a Viking (February 2014). I never expected to have an opportunity like this, and it was an unforgettable day. I thought I’d share a series of blog posts so you could get a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into a book’s cover shoot (Photos courtesy of Jon Wayne Brown).

I walked into Westside Studio on June 24th, and at first glance, it’s like any other office. When you walk to the back, there’s a long hallway with framed photographs along the left wall. On the right side is the hair and make-up room, which is fairly small (you can cross the room in about three paces).

post3
When you step inside the make-up room, there’s a chair for the model with a large lighted mirror, make-up pots and brushes on the counter, a collection of hair extensions, and plastic compartments (almost like an artist’s palette) with various make-up colors. (Shown above is Jukka, the make-up artist.)

Beyond the make-up room, through another door, is a costume room. It’s a smaller space, perhaps two paces wide and three paces long. A large mirror hangs on the left wall, and a long rack of costumes stands against the wall opposite the door. Swords, helmets, and shields are there for the medieval/Viking books, and on the counter there are plastic divided containers filled with jewelry. The stylist, Marie-Eve(shown in the photo below), labeled one of them “Wedding bling.” The costumes are divided on the rack by the title of the book being shot and with the model’s name and measurements.
To Tempt a Viking

What struck me about the costume room is how many accessories there are. Scarves, tunics, arm bands, weapons—you name it, it’s there.
To Tempt a Viking photo shoot
Sometimes opera costumes are repurposed for the photo shoots. When you look at the dresses on the rack, some of them seem frayed or not that attractive, but for photo shoots, it’s about layering texture and fabric. A brocade that looks worn down on the hanger might appear lustrous with all the lighting on set.
photo shoot
A shirt that appears as if it’s made of fishing net has a raw texture that resembles chainmail. Sometimes the stylist will add a lace ruffle to add texture to a gown or take it away to make it appear more medieval. Marie-Eve bought a ladies’ turtleneck and cut it apart to make a neck piece that resembles a cowl. Anything with a texture or an imprint on the fabric works well for photography.

They say that the clothes make the man. Next week, we’ll talk about how the clothes (and the make-up, and the photographer) make the Viking . . .

To Sin with a VikingEnjoy book 1 in the Forbidden Viking series – To Sin with a Viking.

You can read about part 2 of the photoshoot here. Want to ask questions or comment? Join me on Facebook or Twitter and ask whatever you’d like!

Behind The Book – The Warrior’s Touch

warrior's touchDuring the long wait on Her Irish Warrior, I received revision requests on the complete manuscript. After making the revisions and sending them back, I was left with nothing to do except write another book. I found that Connor MacEgan was one of my favorite MacEgan characters. He was a flirt, had a devilish smile, and could win the heart of any woman. He was a perfect man.

Which meant, in order for him to grow as a character, he had to be broken down. Literally, I had one of his flirtations go too far and the angry father tortured Connor by crushing his hands and breaking his wrists. For a warrior who depended upon his sword to protect himself and his family, this was a horrifying fate. Fortunately for Connor, he was found by a beautiful healer . . . and a woman who holds secrets of her own.

Aileen O’Duinne lost her heart–and her innocence–to Connor as a young maiden. He was her first love, and she never forgot him. When she finds Connor injured, she heals his wounds, but he’s angry about having lost his ability to fight. He wants to heal faster and despite Aileen’s skill, he lashes out at her when his hands aren’t recovering quick enough. He falls into despair and doesn’t know how to become a different man when he can no longer use his hands.

My brother doesn’t have the use of his hands. Born with physical disabilities, he cannot hold a pencil or write well. He can’t cup his hands or tie shoes. But it doesn’t make him less of a person. Instead, I admire him more for what he can do, in spite of his problems. His strengths are far different from ordinary people, and his memory is astounding.

I wanted to explore a character in fiction who suffers the same troubles but who overcomes them in his own way. Not only that, but he learns to love a woman who sees beyond his broken hands to the man beneath it all.

You can read more about The Warrior’s Touch here or join the discussion on Facebook. (P.S.–it’s on sale for 99 cents, for a limited time on Amazon).

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