Monday, June 30, 2008

Why Not? ~~ Nancy Haddock

Cowabunga! Hello, and cyber welcome to the “old coast” of sunny northeast Florida!

First, many thanks to Leena Hyat for not only inviting me here, but for rescheduling me. Yep, a cyber black hole ate communications, and I missed my original blog date. Argh! I hate to be late for anything – never mind missing an appointment entirely! – but Leena was gracious and understanding, and I appreciated her all the more.

Soooo, belatedly but with joy, I’m here today to answer some of the questions I get, both from readers and fellow writers. (Not to mention my mother!)

Why did I create a Gidget with fangs, a surfing vampire in my debut book La Vida Vampire?

Why did I kill off the werecreatures?

Why did I make vamps a protected species?

And, perhaps the biggest question: Why did I write a vampire book at all, especially when the market seems saturated with them?

The answer to “why a vampire book” is easy. The idea of a Princess Vampire character grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. Nope, not even after the fabulous Mary Janice Davidson’s first Bitsy novel was published and I got my hot little hands on it.

Here was a vampire book packed with humor – something I loved, and knew that my story would also hold. Yet I also knew my main character was a different breed. Cesca was made vampire of the past rather than the present, but one who’d been out of circulation and would need to catch up with the modern world. Cesca is old in a world new to her, and her wonders of discovery ranged from shopping, to surfing, to the discovery of herself.

As for “why a surfing vampire,” that was Cesca’s idea. She reminded me that she had been a rather rebellious young woman for her time, and athletic to boot. She escaped to the beaches of Anastasia Island as a human to frolic in the surf and simply to enjoy the peace. Since she’s a part day-walker, she insisted I let her learn to surf. My answer to that logic? Why not?

“Why Not” can be as important to a writer as playing “What If.” Why not have vamps declared a protected species and create a Vampire Protection Agency? Why not “tag” them in a similar way we tag other endangered and protected species to keep track of them? Why not kill off the werecreatures and have only magical shifters instead? Throw in a wizened wizard as the “father” of the shifters – why not?

This is not to say that I don’t like werewolves … or werelions, weretigers, werebears. Oh, my, no! I love ‘em! In fact, who’s to say a formerly secluded enclave of weres that escaped extermination won’t show up in Cesca’s world? I guarantee other magical and preternatural characters will make an appearance. When, where and how?

I don’t know, but then not knowing is one of the delights of writing fiction – particularly of writing in the paranormal genre. When you build your world, the most amazing surprises can happen!

Is there a surprising or unexpected event that’s happened – or a character who showed up -- in a book you wrote / read? Please share! Inquiring minds, you know!


Saturday, June 28, 2008

Where would you go...?

Available July 21 - Aug 3, Osprey Island, Maine:
Quaint island cottage with splendid ocean view. Two
bedrooms, full bath, eat-in kitchen, fireplace, BBQ.
Enjoy kayaking, hiking, birding, boating and much
more in isolated splendor, sixteen miles off the
ruggedly picturesque Maine coast. Motivated owner
particularly willing to swap with Sun Belt location.

No, I'm not offering up my house to the internet. The above is the beginning of my new book from Harlequin SuperRomance, NOBODY'S HERO, on shelves now. A Massachusetts state trooper named Sean Rafferty swaps a condo at an Arizona resort for what he hopes will be a quiet stay on Osprey Island. Being a romance novel, we know things don't work out that way, thanks to a little redheaded girl who thinks she's Trixie Belden. There's also a mystery in the maze, a stolen diamond, a widowed garden designer named Connemara and blueberry pie. Some vacation!

I'm currently working on the sequel to NOBODY'S HERO (working title NOBODY'S BRIDE but that will probably change before the book's out in 2009--sorry for the long wait!), which is set during the other swapper's stay at an Arizona resort. What was fun about writing these books is immersing myself in research of the two locations. Which got me thinking. If I swapped my house, where would I choose to go?

A number of overseas destinations sound extremely appealing, but sticking to the U.S. or Canada for now, there are still endless places I'd like to visit. Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island (I'm an Anne of Green Gables fan and have always wanted to see P.E.I.), Victoria Island. Banff would be gorgeous. Anywhere along the Northern California coast, right up to Washington to explore their many islands. Or the east coast--the Outer Banks, Nantucket, the Hamptons. Anyone seeing a theme here? I'm clearly a northern tier water person!

If you were swapping your house for a vacation far from home, where would you go? Somewhere hot and beachy? Cool and forested? Would you choose the familiar, or try an exotic location for the sheer adventure of it?

Friday, June 27, 2008


Doesn't your heart beat just a little faster when you pass a wedding car, gussied up with ribbons, with the bride in back? Pass a church, or the town hall, where guests are gathering? The start of something new, in this ritual forging an enduring link between two people, two families whether it be a union held with the enormous pomp and ceremony of a royal wedding, or the simplest of ceremonies before a Registrar in his office.

No matter what traditions, religious beliefs, ceremony is involved there is, at its heart, a conjugation as ancient as civilisation.

I was in Italy last year, visiting a beautiful abbey church, when a bride arrived for her wedding. In England, the protocol is that all guests should be in the church before the bride arrives, but even while the bride lifted her dress as she hurried up the steps of the church -- lovely to see such impatience! -- the guests were milling around inside and outside the church, mingling with visitors while everyone applauded her arrival, applauding her as she walked up the aisle to where her husband to be was waiting for her. She was the star of the day and was treated as such. It was informal, slightly chaotic, utterly delightful.

When writing CHOSEN AS THE SHEIKH’S WIFE, I read a wonderful book, Mother Without a Mask: A Westerner's Story of Her Arab Family written by, Patricia Holton, an Englishwoman who gave a home to a young sheikh while he was studying in England. She spent much time with him and his family in Abu Dhabi and when the young man married, he sent for her to help him prepare the house he’d designed and had built for his bride, anxious that it should be quite perfect in every way. (He also had her bake the kind of rich fruit cake that is the traditional British “wedding cake”!)

Her description of wedding preparations was like something out of 1001 Arabian Nights. The dowry for the bride needed a fleet of lorries to transport it and the sets of jewels for the bride were worth a king’s ransom. Tribes gathered from all across the desert to set up camp outside the bride’s family home for the weeks of celebration.

Inside the bride’s home her family, friends, honoured guests – all women -- gathered in their finest clothes, talked, feasted, while the bride herself remained in an inner sanctum, wrapped in black veils, in utter seclusion.

But it was the excitement of the young man who was marrying a girl he hadn’t seen since childhood that was supremely touching, as was his care and concern for her after he had fought his way into the house to claim his desperately young bride. Once the marriage had been consummated, the bride was, for seven days, displayed wearing a fabulous bridal cap (pure gold and weighing many pounds), each day donning a different gown – seven wedding dresses! -- so that all the women of her tribe could see her and marvel at how much her new husband treasured her. Seeing how tired she was, her -- equally young -- husband summarily dismissed them all so that she could rest.

Alien as the concept of an arranged marriage is to modern western eyes, it was impossible to doubt that these two young people were truly a “match”.

Here, in CHOSEN AS THE SHEIKH’S WIFE, Sheikh Fayad explains these rituals to Violet Hamilton.

‘First the engagement jewels are sent. Not just a ring, but a matching set of bracelets, necklace, earrings in stones chosen by the groom’s mother to perfectly complement his bride. At the same time the groom prepares a house for her, furnishing it with the best he can afford. And the dowry is gathered – gold, jewellery, bolts of every kind of cloth, carpets, money, all designed to demonstrate his ability to provide for her – ready to be delivered to the bride’s home to be displayed at the maksar. The formal gathering of women to celebrate the marriage, although the bride herself will not take part in that.’


Violet, who had been thinking it all sounded rather cold, began to see it from a different point of view. Began to imagine the trembling excitement of a secluded virgin bride as the day grew nearer. As her groom’s dowry gifts arrived proving to the world, her family, to her, just how much he valued her, wanted her above all other women.

‘There is more than one way to rouse the passions,’ she said.
‘Her weight in gold?’

Her eyes widened at the idea of just how much that would be worth, but then she shook her head. ‘No. It’s not the gold. It’s what it represents,’ she said. And Sheikh Fayad responded with a look of admiration for her understanding. A look that sent her own heart spinning up into her mouth, that suggested passion would not be in short supply for the woman who won his heart.

Drawn in, totally fascinated, she said, ‘Tell me about the wedding.’
‘When everything is ready, there will be a vast celebration. In the old days tribes would come in from desert and set up camp and the feasting would go on for weeks until finally the time comes for the groom to demand entrance to the bride’s home, fight his way through her family to claim his bride who will be waiting, wrapped in layer upon layer of veils, sitting on a white sheet.’

Even as he described the scene her heart rate was spiralling out of control and she only managed to hold back the exclamation that sprung to her lips by holding her hand over her mouth. Cold? No way…

‘Is something wrong?’ Sheikh Fayad asked.

‘No,’ she managed, resisting the urge to fan her cheeks at the thought of him removing layer after layer of veils, unwrapping her… ‘I’m fine. Really,’ she said, when he reached forward, poured her a glass of iced water that seemed to evaporate on her tongue. ‘You did this? When you married?’

He didn’t immediately answer and she back-peddled, madly. ‘Oh, lord, please forget I asked that. I can’t believe I was so rude. I didn’t mean --’
‘The bride is expected to fight, too. To bite and kick, protect her virtue with all her strength so that her husband will respect her.’

‘And do they?’

Did Hasna fight? she wondered. Could she have looked at this beautiful man and not have fallen instantly and whole-heartedly in love with him? Could any woman?
And if, because his respect would be something unbelievably precious, she fought him with ever fibre of her being, how did he overwhelm her?

Even as the question welled up in her mind, she knew the answer. She’d lashed out him this morning, angry, hurting and he’d sat with her on her grandmother’s bed, just holding her, taking the blows, whispering soft words of comfort, his lips against her hair, her temple, gentling her, calming her. In her head she saw how that scene might eventually unfold with his bride. There would be no force, but patience, a soft voice, quiet kisses, caresses that would open her to him as a flower opens to the light and warmth of the sun.

And she understood exactly what he’d meant when he’d said that he’d done “much more”. It wasn’t the fact that he’d kissed her. His kiss had been the least of it…
She swallowed, took another sip of water. And in a desperate attempt to blot out what was happening in her head she said, ‘Having showered her with jewels, fought her entire family the groom then has to overcome his bride, too? He doesn’t exactly get it easy, does he?’

Making light of it.

He smiled. ‘Interesting. I had assumed your sympathies would be with the bride.’

‘Oh, please,’ she said, quickly. ‘It doesn’t take a psychologist to work out that this is a well-thought out strategy to overcome those initial awkward moments.’ Then, ‘I imagine any bride worth her weight in gold knows exactly the right moment to go all weak and swoony.’

To surrender to his strength, his power and in doing so, claim it for her own.

* * *

100 Arabian Nights containing not just Chosen As the Sheikh’s Wife, but stories by Meredith Webber and Kim Lawrence is now on sale in the UK in June (no news on a US release as yet) as part of the Centenary Celebrations of Mills & Boon.

I have a copy to give away. For a chance to win, share your own special wedding traditions or memories.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Wet towels have become the bane of my existence. I’m practically drowning in wet towels. I find them everywhere. Damp towels on the bathroom floor, saturated swimming pool towels on the hardwood floors. Dripping hair towels soaking into the carpets.

With my three kids home all summer, the soggy towel factor has increased exponentially. It’s almost out of control. By my calculations I am faced with at the very least nine wet towels a day, and that’s if the kids only go to the pool once. If they go to swim team practice in the morning, that’s three more soaking wet towels. Don’t even get me started on swim meet days: two to three more sodden towels per kid (that is if they don’t lose them at the meet), bringing me to a grand total of six thousand four hundred and twenty four soggy towels per week, give or take a few.

I try to encourage the kids to hang up the towels, give them a chance to air dry. But they’re just so darned wet. The towels, not the kids. So even assuming the kids did hang their towels regularly, which they’re not, the damp towel dilemma has taken over my life.

I’m washing, and drying, drying and washing. But I don’t seem to make any headway.

And supposing I do get all my wet towels washed, there’s the other problem of the towels in the closet. Every day, I wash those towels. Fold them neatly. Place them in an orderly manner on the shelves of the linen closet. And every day I find the clean towel pile overturned. In an effort to get to their favorite towels, the kids pull from the bottom of the pile, allowing the stack to tumble. Dead soldier towels, strewn about the floor. At least they’re not wet.

My husband came up with a solution to our towel problem. Unfortunately he announced it at 11 o’clock at night to an audience of overly tired kids.

The idea was this: pit each kid against the other. Whoever finds a wet towel on the floor can confront the towel offender, and force a payment of 25 cents. My teen-aged son, who never met a get-rich-quick scheme he didn’t like, started to gleefully calculate how much money he could make annually off of his sisters by merely busting them violating the towel rule.

My older daughter, our number one towel offender--but aside from that all-around wonderful helper--burst into tears, feeling persecuted. We couldn’t calm her down for thirty minutes.

My other daughter, another towel violator, stomped off to her room, slamming the door shut.

Today, my son, the mercenary, happened into his sister’s room in search of our kitten, when what did he come upon, but a wet towel. Now mind you, at least it wasn’t heaped on the carpet. It was draped across a chair. But nevertheless, it was not in its designated spot on the towel rack. Excitedly he thrust the towel in his sister’s face. She shrieked at him, accusing him of sneaking into her room, her private space. He leered at her, that ire-inducing smirk that every brother in the world knows will elicit hatred, venom, retribution from a sister. Usually in the form of a slap, smack, pinch, punch or kick.

There’s a lot more noise in my house today. Whereas yesterday, I spent the day in relative peace, stooping to pick up the myriad of wet towels laying about, today, I had to don my striped shirt, secure my whistle over my neck, and adopt the role of referee. It hasn’t allowed me much time for washing towels.

I think my life was easier when all I had to worry about was picking up wet towels off of every horizontal surface in my house. Excuse me while I go run interference with my kids, I think it’s getting violent.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Hot City Nights - Sandra Marton

Hello, hello, hello! I’m thrilled to be here to see all of you again. It seems like forever but it’s been a busy winter and spring for me. I did a lot of writing: the final book in my brand new SHEIKH TYCOONS trilogy, coming in October, November and December. The launch novel for Harlequin Presents exciting new mini-series series, THE KAREDES LEGACY, which debuts a year from now with my book, BILLIONAIRE PRINCE, PREGNANT MISTRESS. And, of course, I completed work on the lead novella for HOT CITY NIGHTS, a collection of brand-new, sexy stories which has just hit the stands.

Isn’t the cover spectacular? Everyone loves the picture of the guy. His hair. His shoulders. The angle of his head. “He just looks gorgeous, and like somebody I think I should know,” a friend told me the other day. I looked at the cover again and thought, yes, she’s right. He does look like someone I might know, but who? The answer hit a couple of hours later. I phoned my friend and said, “The guy on the cover of my book. Does he look like—“ “George Clooney!” she said before I could, and both of us sighed and said, yeah, that was exactly right.

So there’s George, on the cover of my book. Well, maybe not—but you have to admit, it’s a cool idea.

The book, on the other hand, is hot. Extremely so.

As I mentioned, HOT CITY NIGHTS is an anthology from Harlequin, featuring three novellas guaranteed to turn up the summer heat. That’s the general idea behind it. It’s the kind of book you tuck into your beach tote, or curl up with on the terrace or the deck. Sip something cold and read something, um, something warm. The back cover blurb says it all.
“Love rules the night,” says, ‘but what will the daylight bring? Three sizzling reads in HOT CITY NIGHTS!”

My novella is titled SUMMER IN THE CITY. It’s the story of sexy bachelor Lincoln Aldridge and fiery Brazilian beauty Ana Maria Marques. Linc and Ana almost literally run into each other in the garden of Ana’s father’s sumptuous estate in Brazil. One thing leads to another and they end up in a passionate kiss. The outside world intrudes and there’s no reason these two should ever see each other again… until Fate steps in.

Linc’s beloved sister dies in a plane crash and Linc, the perennial bachelor, is jolted by the news that he’s now the guardian of a tiny baby. He tries to do the right thing by hiring the best nannies he can find to care for Jennifer but one after another, the nannies turn out to be bad news. Linc is desperate. That’s where Fate shows itself for a second time.

Ana turns up on his doorstep.

You’ll have to read the novella to find out why she’s come to New York and to Lincoln’s offices but, trust me, it isn’t because she’s hot for his body. If anything, she’d just as soon never seen him again. Still, Ana doesn’t want to go back to Brazil. She wants a shot at independence. Employment. Not just employment. A career. Manager? Administrator? Administrative Assistant?

What Linc offers her is a job as his niece’s nanny.

It’s not what Ana’s trained to do. It’s not what she wants to do. Add the fact that she absolutely doesn’t want to deal with Linc, much less move into a guest suite in his penthouse, and her answer surely will be “No.” But one look at baby Jennifer changes everything. Ana loses her heart to the child, grits her teeth and says “Yes.”

The problem is, she’s eventually going to lose her heart not just to Jenny but to Lincoln. And he… well, he’s going to have to do whatever it takes to gain custody of his niece. And if that means marrying Ana, even though he doesn’t want a wife, he’ll just have to do it.

I hope you enjoy SUMMER IN THE CITY and the other two novellas in HOT CITY NIGHTS. They’re by Sarah Mayberry and Emilie Rose, two wonderful writers, and I can honestly tell you that the three of us did our very best to bring you a collection of heart-touching, pulse-stirring, sexy and romantic stories for an enjoyable summertime read.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

On Continuities....

by Christine Rimmer

That's right. Continuities. Plural of "continuity," which the American Heritage Dictionary defines as:

1.The state or quality of being continuous.
2. An uninterrupted succession or flow; a coherent whole.

a.A detailed script or scenario consulted to avoid discrepancies from shot to shot in a film, allowing the various scenes to be shot out of order.
b. Spoken matter serving to link parts of a radio or television program so that no break occurs.

Well, sort of....

In this case, as I'm using the word, a continuity is a series of related books, each complete in itself, but each sharing a part of an overarching plot. While a continuity could be and often is a series conceived and written by a single author, in category romance terms, continuity is a series conceived by the publisher and written by various authors.

The fabulously popular Montana Mavericks and Fortune's Children stories are all continuities. In a continuity, a house editor writes the "bible," which is a ten- to fifty-page guide for the authors, giving them the characters and the main plot and the basic elements of each individual plot. The authors take it from there, turning in their manuscripts to a single supervising editor, who reads and edits them all, checking as she goes to be certain the books all "fit" together, in terms of setting and story and character description.

I actually enjoy writing continuities. For a little variety in my working life, I mean. Not all authors like doing them. Some would prefer root canal or perhaps hitting themselves in the head with a ball peen hammer. Continuities are not for everyone. But I work well with others--on occasion--and I like taking the basic information the publisher gives me and trying to make it my "own," figuring out a way that the story can work for me as the writer.

My most recent foray into continuity land is on the shelves as we speak, my July release, In Bed with the Boss, which launches a six-book continuity in Silhouette Special Edition called Back in Business. Was In Bed with the Boss fun to write? At times. Was it challenging? You bet. It always is. The launch book in a continuity bears the burden of setting up the overarching plot. It can be tricky. To set the ongoing story that will develop through all the books in motion--but to make sure that the romance in my book is the central focus, the strongest element, satisfying and complete in its own right.

A girl could tear her hair out. I often do--but really, there's hair-tearing with every book. So that's not news. And the launch book is certainly "easier" than the final book, where you get to tie up all the loose ends and bring all the happy couples of the previous books back on stage for a final bow. I would never do the final book. I don't have that much hair to tear out. I so admire the authors who do--and do it well.

In Back in Business, the Taka-Hanson company, a media giant based in Kyoto and Chicago, is going into the hospitality business. That means hotels. Luxury hotels on a grand scale. My hero, Tom Holloway, is chief financial officer of the new project. Tom is a man with a past. He's been in prison, as a matter of fact. And the guy who put him there is still around, and determined to make sure that Tom never leaves his past behind. Enter Tom's new executive assistant, Shelly Winston, who has a secret she's forced to keep and insists she'll never get involved with her hunky boss...

I hope you'll give this new continuity a look. For more info, including a list of the other books in the series, go here.

And now, I have to ask. Have you tried continuties? Do you like them?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Coming Home

Me at The Smithsonian Air & Space.
..and missing my dogs

Last week, my family was on vacation in DC and Williamsburg, VA. Both are beautiful cities. I loved all the museums and monuments. And I especially loved going through the residential areas. I love seeing how other people live. Their homes, their gardens. Seriously, both cities are gorgeous.

But I was so glad to get home on Friday.

I missed my dogs. I missed my house. I missed my own coffee at breakfast, and leisurely reading the paper as I sip it. I missed my own bed.

I missed Erie.

As I walked the dogs Saturday morning, through the quiet neighborhoods, I couldn’t help reflecting about how much I love my house, my city. Other cities are great to visit. Beautiful, hospitable, historic... They’re nice. But Erie’s home.

When we were in Williamsburg, we had a chance to talk to the hotel’s manager. He was born in Michigan, spent most of his childhood in Alaska, and now lives and works in Virginia. He was a history major who found his true home in Williamsburg, in the midst of all the history that area is steeped in. I was born here in Erie, and despite seeing more and more of the country and being able to admire those region’s assets, I’ve never felt the slightest inclination to live anywhere else. Erie is my home.

I recently wrote an essay for The Erie Times newspaper that will be out sometime in July talking about how much I love Erie. And as I worked on it, I realized that Erie’s been the setting for more than thirty of my books. I guess the fact I like Erie shows! LOL

What about you? Were you born in your true home, or did you have to go look for it? Or, are you still looking–trying on different cities, looking for the right fit? If you’ve found your true home, what is it that delights you about it?


PS. I’m leaving in a few minutes for Toronto on business, but I’ll be back this evening and will check the board! (That’s another great thing about Erie...I can be in Toronto, Buffalo, Cleveland or Pittsburgh in just a few hours.)

Sunday, June 22, 2008

What's in a Name? -- Anne McAllister

We've all heard the "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet," maxim. And no doubt it would.

But the problem for writers is rarely roses. It's usually what to name our heroine or our hero.

Is a Charles the same as a Charley or a Chuck? I don't think so.

Is a Sarah no different from a Sally or a Sadie? Not the ones I know.

Even spelling counts in my world. I just wrote about a Sara in One-Night Love Child who is quite different from a Sarah I have in mind for a future book. And there was no similarity between my Cait and my Kate. None at all.

Are all writers as obsessed with names as I am?

Did they all have their children named when they were in fifth grade? I did. Though I won't tell you what I intended to name them -- and I certainly won't tell them because they'd be horrified.

Still, it mattered.

And why did I need to wait until the last one was born to decide if he was an Ian or a James? Looking at him, both my husband and I knew instantly which he was.

Ask any writer and chances are good she will tell you that without a name, the character won't come to life. And woe betide the author who uses "search and replace" and discovers that as soon as she does, the character dies on the page. Some don't, but it's a chance I wouldn't dare take.

The only time I would dare to do it is if I were the one who got the name wrong to begin with. It happens. Sometimes the character comes along and tells me that I'm wrong. Sometimes my fingers know I'm wrong before I do.

There is a heroine taking shape in my head right now and I wrote about her, calling her Sylvie. At least I've been trying to call her Sylvie. My fingers, however, have been typing Sophy every time they write her name.

Her name is still (I think) up for debate, but I'm beginning to suspect my fingers are going to win.

Suffice to say, for me, naming characters is incredibly important. Knowing their names somehow helps shape the book. And I realized this importance even more clearly when I began to write more linked books.

When I knew ahead of time they were going to be linked, I was careful. But once, writing about a hero named Jack and a heroine named Frances, I gave them friends named Carter and Annabel. They sounded like good supporting-cast names.

How was I to know that Carter and Annabel would start demanding their own book? Worse, that they would demand a book together! I had no idea what an Annabel was like -- but boy, did I find out. And Carter took three books to grow into heroism (in the first all he did was drink beer and eat junk food and make crap out of the hero, in the second, he proposed to the heroine and she said no, and finally, with hard-won maturity he carried the day and got the girl). In the end, he turned into one of my favorites, but it was tricky. And Annabel was no picnic, either!

Lots of authors have stacks of "name" books they pour through for names. I have a few. But mostly I find myself looking in phone books and old census records and diaries and newspaper and magazine articles. Names in lists with meanings don't seem to have much context. I like reading them, but I don't often get a sense of who a person is from a list.

I like it best when names -- and their people -- come in context for me. Then they speak to me, tease me with just enough tantalizing information that I want to know more about.

But it doesn't always happen that way. Originally I began writing books because I wanted to name a son Brendan and my husband, The Prof, didn't.

After enough sons to be convinced I wasn't ever going to budge The Prof on that point, I decided if I was ever going to get a Brendan, I'd have to have him in a book.

I figure I probably owe my career to that Brendan -- and I never had to put up with him as a teenager or put him through college. What a deal!

Do you have favorite names that you picked for kids long before you had any? Or do you now if you're still anticipating?

What about names for characters? Do you have characters in search of names or names in search of characters?

Friday, June 20, 2008

In Defense of Romance!

Hi, All.

My name is Jessica Barksdale Inclan, and I've been lucky enough to blog here a little today. I regularly blog at, but today I am very happy and honored to be here amongst romance readers, the readers near and dear to my heart.

I have been thinking a great deal about romance readers since I returned from BookExpo in Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago. When I was there and signing at the Romance Writers of America booth, there was a long line of very happy readers, all glad that RWA had sponsored a day of writers at their booth. One of the last people in line was a man who asked for my book in a paper bag. I was taken aback a bit, truly hoping that he was joking, maybe trying to emphasize how hot the cover of my latest novel, Being With Him, actually is. And yes, the cover does show very sultry embrace on the front.

But what I also found in his request was embarrassment. He was literally shifting his eyes back and forth, as if his best buddy from high school was about to come upon him and give him grief for reading a "girlie" book! To him, this was a book to hide from the “real” readers out there in the world. This was a book he didn’t want his friends or neighbors to see, not when they were reading War and Peace or The Complete Works of William Shakespeare.

As I writer and a reader, I have a feeling (when my self esteem is low) that other writers imagine that romance writers sit in their offices dictating stories into a microphone. I know, I know. Barbara Cartland did that and I think a very famous San Francisco writer supposedly does that. And maybe other writers do, but my feeling is that people have this idea that we just throw a story down, type it up, and send it in. That's it. No other work. There's this structure see--boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back--and all we have to do is fill in the spine. Nothing to it! Three or four books a year, presto! A career.

We're hacks, by god. It's almost criminal.

And then because it is so easy for us--we simple yarn spinners--we can be made fun of. Everything is formulaic. It's not art; it's not hard work. It's barely a story. It's something to be sold only in Wal Mart or at the airport. Somewhere, anywhere but a "good" bookstore. Please, keep that schlock out of there. And god forbid any of it should be reviewed in the newspaper or More or O magazines. No one really admits to reading that stuff, do they?

Now I know I'm being a bit defensive, but I feel I am in a good position to defend romance writers and readers because I've written around the genres. I started as a poet, worked my way into short stories, and then contemporary/literary novels. I've tried my hand at screenplays (and I will admit that they were not very good). I write essays--and I can pull a wicked synopsis out of my writing hat. I've taken classes, seminars, workshops on just about every writing topic you can imagine. I've sat with the serious folk who believe writing is the thing nearest to whatever god it is you might believe in. I've studied the "great writers" while finishing my graduate studies in English literature. I've taught in writer's workshops, read at many readings, worked in writing groups. And here's the truth: any writing that is good is good. The heavy lifting is the heavy lifting.

So--there is bad writing everywhere. It doesn't just pool up in the genre sections at Barnes and Noble like spilled oil. I have thrown many a "fine" 20 dollar hardback against the wall in frustration. I have rolled my eyeballs at phrases in mysteries, romances, and historical fiction. I have closed up the cover of Harper's, The New Yorker, and The Atlantic Monthly because I just couldn't read one more sentence of an essay.

And I have read a romance novel in one day because I couldn't put it down. In fact, romance novels got me through some hard times, one of the first--The Flame and the Flower--saving me from high school in general! I've re-read Pride and Prejudice (and yes, P and P is a romance. Sorry, lit folks. It's true. Read it closely) about 400 times. Other types of writing move me, too, of course. I think Beloved is the best novel ever written--that and The Great Gatsby. I finished Into the Forest by Jean Hegland in two days because I wanted to know what happened to the two girls and couldn't stop until I did. Sometimes, I can't believe that The New Yorker isn't read by everyone, each and every essay and article and poem and cartoon perfect. Juno is an amazing screenplay, sharp and mordant and funny.

All of it. The Flame and the Flower and Juno. Heavy lifting.

Romance fills a need, just as literary fiction such as Beloved fills a need. Certainly, you could say that Beloved is doing more heavy lifting than Nora Roberts' latest book, but I have a feeling there are Nora fans out there who would say that her latest has fulfilled something for them.

And why make fun of love, of the need to believe that it can be found? Has it touched a sore spot in you? Have you built up a shell around that need in yourself? Are you scared to read a story where love does happen because you aren't sure you will ever find it yourself?

It's not funny, this need we have, and we all have it. Romance just takes us there in 300 pages. Kind of handy, I think.

And along the way, you can have a blast. And you can be moved and maybe turned on. There are some wonderful practitioners of the language, too, working that old love story. So why not give it a go?

When I wanted to learn how to write a romance, I spent a summer reading romances. I think I read more than 100. I found writers I've never heard about--Christine Feehan and Sherilyn Kenyon, for two, writers who created amazing worlds in their books, and knew how to tell their tales.

Some of the 100 novels I read weren't all that great, but some were absolutely wonderful. As a reader, I'd forgotten how I could be surprised. Some writers created new worlds I hadn't imagined and wouldn't in a million years. Some nailed that chemistry thing, that thing we all are amazed at, no matter our age. Like all the stories I'd read in my literary lifetime, some were good, some were bad, some were amazing. Some were kind of ordinary.

But all weren't trash. All weren't a waste of bookshelf space.

And can I say this last thing? Romance is a huge business, bringing people into the stores, keeping them on, where they just might pick up Beloved on their way out the door. Like Harry Potter brought them in, so does Nora.

The women (mostly women) who read romance are also avid, critical, intense readers. They can spot a plot error a mile away. They can find the flaw in the chemistry by smell. After reading many romance writing blogs, I can tell you that I’d be more afraid of being excoriated by the reviewers on than The New York Times.

So thank you all, bestsellers out there! thank you romance writers who paved the way for me, who wrote the books that helped me get through hard times. Thank you Danielle and Stephen and Nora and John and Tom and J.K.! Keep writing! Keep bringing in the readers, who buy the books, who make it possible for me, the mid list girl, who just wants to write a story or two, a story about love.

I'm sure many of you have experienced someone question what you are reading or writing. What do you say to people who find out you like to read and/or write romance? What is your explanation (and I know you have to have one sometimes?)

Jessica Barksdale Inclan

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Five years down the track... Trish Morey on the anniversary of *that* call

It's my anniversary tonight - five year's since getting the call from Harlequin Mills & Boon's Richmond office, five years since discovering that after 11 years in the unpublished wilderness, I was going to achieve my dream of being a published author. And what a five years it's been!

Much to my delight (and surprise) they took another book after that first, and then another. Since that fateful evening, I've written another thirteen books for Harlequin Presents and every single sale is a pure celebration. I don't think that thrill ever goes - at least I hope it doesn't because it sure makes up for all the worrying while I'm waiting to hear from my editor!:-)

Five years on and life is a little different in the Morey household. The day job is gone (mine at least - hubby is still waiting for his turn and methinks he might be waiting a little while more. He lives in hope:) The kids are five years older too. Not such little kids anymore and getting more independent by the day. Though more demanding in other ways - I'm sure my tween age social life wasn't a patch on theirs!

And there's all sorts of wonderful and wondrous things about being a published author, from the sheer joy of seeing your book on the shelves, to the fun of receiving translations through the post and the uplifting emails from readers who've loved your books.

But one of the very, very best things about being a romance writer is the friends you make, in the writing group in your home town, the people you meet at conferences interstate, the friends you make on line in writing and reading communities and blogs like this one, the friends you make overseas, in countries so far flung that you would never have met these people otherwise.

Romance writing does that. It brings people with a love of reading and writing romance together and it forms bonds stronger than supaglue.

It's been a great five years of reading and writing and making and meeting friends. Here's to friends everywhere and here's to making many more!

Watch out for Trish's next release, The Italian Boss's Mistress of Revenge, out in North America this coming August!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Did you know that I'm a serial killer? - Anne Gracie


It's true. I've killed off at least 10 - 12 people.

"Ten or twelve?" I hear you say. "Don't you even know how many people you've killed?"

I shrug my shoulders carelessly. There are at least a dozen. (And a puppy, but that's another story. It was on the first page of a book, but some people still haven't forgiven me for it , she says with a guilty glance at Anne McAllister.

But I'm not the only serial killer -- most romance writers are serial killers.

So many of us kill off our hero or heroine's parents. Often both. I think romances star the highest proportion of orphans than any other genre.

Certainly most of my heroines are orphans. I do it not for any deep-seated hatred of parents, but because I want my heroines to have nobody to turn to except the hero. I want them standing on their own two feet, battling against the odds, and just when a girl most needs a hero, along comes one of my gorgeous men, and whether she wants help or not, he's there for her.
I love it, and if I have to kill off their parents before the story starts, so be it.

Sometimes I haven't completely orphaned them -- in several of my books my heroines have had fathers, at least for a time. Mostly they're not very good fathers -- they're sometimes cold and unforgiving types, or weak men, remittance men, gamblers, and they've usually left the heroine in a difficult situation.

And this brings me to the point of this blog. People often wonder if I take my characters from life at all, and I've written so many rotten fathers than I've had a few comments from people asking if my father was A Bad Man. LOL.

So this is Dad's birthday and I'm here to set the record straight, as he's not here to defend himself. He died five years ago, and I still miss him heaps.

He was strict but fair, an affectionate and loving father, and he and my mother fell in love at first sight and stayed that way until the day he died. I was the baby of the family by a long way, and my friends were amazed to wander into our kitchen to get a drink or a snack, only to find my parents kissing -- even though by then they were OLD! LOL. Even when they really were old, they still kissed and held hands like teenagers.

I always loved to watch him and my mother dance together. They loved to dance and they moved as one person. One of my last memories was helping Dad to his feet so he could have one last dance with Mum.

Dad was sick for a long time before he died, and the night after he died, I made a book of his life, to be given out at the funeral, putting together a heap of photos from recent ones to when he was a boy. Making that book renewed so many memories and gave me back the dad I'd grown up with, and the dad of my adulthood, as well as the old, sick dad I'd known for the last years. It was a gift to me and my family, as well as a tribute to him and his life.
Not long after that I wrote this piece [] on my website.

So I'd hate you to think the fathers of my heroines had any relation to my actual father. And I'd love to hear about your father: what's a special memory you'll treasure?


Sunday, June 15, 2008

Missing: Where are the Men in Kilts?

Just who I need to tell about the missing men-in-kilts in Scotland? Does one call the police about something as horrible as an entire group of people who went missing during my recent trip to Scotland? Scotland Yard, perhaps? (sorry – couldn’t help myself there!)

I had the wonderful and exhausting opportunity to travel to England and Scotland over the Easter holidays with a group of students and faculty (and a couple of parents) from my youngest son and my oldest son and daughter-in-law’s high school. The original plan was for me to go with them and do things on my own, since I had things to do on my own....a list of them leftover from my trip four years ago. But, plans changed and I ended up with them for seven days, in London for five more and then north to Scotland . . . in search of the elusive man-in-a-kilt. Like this one >>>>

Now, I’d seen them before – on my last trip to Scotland in 2004, there were bunches. On my first trip to Scotland in 2002, they were everywhere and even included American men in a wedding there. What could have happened to them? I decided a thorough search was necessary before reaching any conclusions that might panic the women of the world. So, I visited lots of places in Scotland:

Edinburgh – a tip to toe search of Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood House and everywhere in between on the Royal Mile was fruitless.

Robert and William are wearing something medieval – but not kilts!

I looked up and down the alleys, closes and kilts there either!

Found this. . . . What the heck is this?

Are the real Scottish Hairy-coos missing, too?

I decided to widen my search and left Edinburgh for Stirling Castle, Dunfermline Abbey, the fields of Bannockburn , and finally Rosslyn Chapel and Castle....Found what looks like a palm tree here at Stirling Castle . . .

I even searched high up on the scaffolding that surrounds Rosslyn Chapel – found some old cup that’s supposed to be the answer to some historical mysteries, but alas, no men in kilts!

It wasn’t until my last day when I took a bus trip out to the Highlands that I think I discovered the reason for their absence. . . The weather which had been kind of wet the whole I’d been there turned to something worse – as we left Edinburgh and traveled north and then west,

these were some of the sights....

Hey wait! That's SNOW!

I suddenly realized that, most likely, the cause of this lack of men in kilts

could be weather-related! I mean, we all know what a Scottish man wears under his kilt, right? Or doesn’t? Confused and concerned, I sought the advice of my tourguide –

-- a wonderfully-knowledgeable man named Ali (short for Alistair) who was so experienced in Highland lore and tradition that he managed to teach a bunch of outlanders a Scottish country dance in a parking lot near Fort William. And he had the answer. He looked up at the snow falling around us and said the one word that explained it all. . . .


So, my next trip will definitely be during the warmer months. Wanna come with me?

Terri Brisbin invites you all to visit her newly-designed website ( ) to find out more about her books and her unfailing fascination with Scottish men, kilts optional!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

How I Write, by Lori Borrill

This June marks the 4th anniversary of the day I sat down and decided to write a romance novel. When I think about where I was when I started and where I am now, a lot has changed. For one, I no longer think writing a romance novel is easy. Yes, that's right. When I first started out, I was one of those idiots who completely underestimated the complexity behind the seemingly simple stories I was reading. And in reality, my assumption wasn't technically wrong. Writing a romance novel IS easy. It's writing a good one that people would want to read and a publisher would buy that's hard.

And the longer I write, the harder it gets.

A side of me misses the old days when I wrote in ignorant bliss. I used to crack myself up writing outrageously funny and completely ridiculous tales. I didn't know about things like conflict or tension or POV. I just wrote. And had a blast.

But the more I wrote, the more I learned. And the more I learned, the more intent I was at trading in the fun for the serious craft of writing. No more do I sit down and pantst my way through a book, laughing hysterically over my completely over-the-top scenes, having no clue what I'm doing or where my story's going. Now my process is meticulous and involves careful thought, planning--and agony.

For me, writing has become a very distinct 4-step process:

Step 1: I think up a premise. In my upcoming Blaze, "Unleashed", that premise was this: A guy has a one-night-stand, wakes up the next morning to find his lover gone and his house robbed. That's it. Just a simple situation that would be the seed for my novel.

Step 2: The seed is exciting. My mind rushes through all the possibilities. And in my giddy excitement, I send it to my CPs who both encourage me, but also usually point out some flaw. In this case it was "How can you have a heroine rip the hero off and still make the reader like her?"

HYSTERIA PHASE I: You see, this is the kind of technical detail that ruins all my fun. In the olden days, I knew nothing about sympathetic characters. It never occurred to me how a reader might actually FEEL about my characters. Now, instead of running with it, I've got to spend days twisting the idea over in my mind trying to get it to work, all the time fearing that I'll have to throw out my exciting fun premise if I can't come up with a plan. This is where I lose about 70% of my ideas. Either through one of those technical details or the dreaded recurring response, "Ooh, I love that idea! And Nora Roberts did it beautifully when she wrote that exact same book two years ago!"


In the case of Unleashed, I managed to get past those two hurdles, firstly because no one could recall a book with that exact premise, and two I decided that it would be someone else who robbed the hero, he just assumed the heroine did it.

Step 3: Happy to have passed the first hurdle, I send the blurb to my editor. She loves it and tells me to write it into a full synopsis. So I sit down and begin to plot out the entire story.

HYSTERIA PHASE II: I realize that beyond the initial premise, there's really nothing that can be done with this plot. It would make a great novella, but anything beyond five chapters is completely out of the question. Unfortunately, now I'm stuck, because there's no way I can call up my editor and say "Never mind. I couldn't get that one to work."

I've officially screwed myself and must come up with a thorough plot or give up writing professionally.

Step 4: I somehow manage to bleed a plot out of my veins, send it to my editor and get the basic idea approved. I'm then assigned the task of writing the actual book. Usually for me, the first three or four chapters come pretty easily. Sometimes I'll struggle with where the book should open, but usually I come up with that pretty fast and am happy with the result. For me, it's not until I get through the first third that I run into...

HYSTERIA PHASE III: I don't know why, but 1/3 of the way through every book I've ever written, my entire story comes to a screeching halt. I've plotted the general idea and know what's coming and how the story will end. But at this point, I am always completely certain that my book will run at least 20,000 words short. And unlike the olden days, now that I'm a pro, I know better than to fill the middle with lots of crap no one cares about.

I get over it by doing a chapter by chapter outline. Before this point, I know too little about the details to get that granular. But now an outline is the security blanket I create that lets me sleep at night. This is when I go back to my original synopsis and remind myself what I was thinking, and I'm able to plot out enough content to make my way through this book.

From this point on, life becomes pretty good. I usually end up rewriting what's left of my outline two or three times, adjusting the plan as I trod through the story and things change. But from there on out, it's just a matter of getting the words on the page in a way that is fun and interesting, which isn't as easy as I'm making it sound, but at least the major panic moments are gone.

Or maybe it's simply exhaustion.

That's not to say there isn't more to agonize over. Once the book is done, I go through the typical process of being convinced it's garbage, that it will tank, that the reviewers will shred it. I fret over all the scenes I'm not sure about. I'll wake up on occasion at 2:00 a.m. fearing my editor will hate it and I'll have a meager two days to rewrite the whole book. (I've heard those stories--they're real). And by the time the fun part comes around and I get my cover or a good review or reader mail comes in, I'm in one of the hysteria phases of my next book, so the ups on the last one are somewhat diminished. But that's okay. I write anyway see it's....well....

Crap! Why do I write again?

Look for Lori's next Harlequin Blaze, "UNLEASHED", on shelves November, 2008. And for more info on Lori and all her books, visit

Friday, June 13, 2008

From Foreign Climes!

by Anna Campbell

One of the fun bits about writing romance is that it's a worldwide industry. That means an author gradually starts to see foreign translations of her books. So far, I've sold books to Germany, Australia, Italy, Russia and Japan, apart from my U.S. editions. I wanted to share some of the lovely European covers with you (nothing as yet for Japan!).

What prompted this column is that I've only just seen my German cover for the book that comes out in the U.S. next January as TEMPT THE DEVIL. VERBOTENE UMARMUNG translates as "Forbidden Embrace" which I rather like. And I just adore this cover with its gorgeous aubergine and that breathtakingly sexy clinch. The picture looks exactly like my characters too! AKA The Earl of Erith is a handsome devil like this guy!

Here are my other two German covers. I'd say, at a guess, the Germans really like a sexy bedroom scene! Or perhaps that's just what they do for my books! I love the solid colors under the pictures. REBELLISCHE KUSSE translates as "Rebellious Kisses" and ZART WIE DIE NACHT translates as "Tender as the Night." Wonder what F. Scott Fitzgerald thinks of that! Finding out what the foreign titles are is always a fun part of this particular game too!

This month, CLAIMING THE COURTESAN comes out in Russia and Italy. Someone told me that the Russian title translates as WINNING THE HIGH-CLASS PROSTITUTE which made me laugh. I guess you could say that's "claiming the courtesan"! I love the Russian cover. It's so exotic and fairytale-looking. Although the Scottish Highlands suddenly look VERY Swiss in their white jagged iciness! Is that the Matterhorn in the background? I also like the idea of being AHHA. Not sure why! Perhaps Aha sounds like I know what I'm talking about!

IL CUORE DI UNA CORTIGIANA translates as "The Heart of a Courtesan" which is marvellously romantic! This cover makes me smile, not just because it's so pretty, but also because my heroine is kissing my hero and he's turning away. If any of you have read CTC, you'll know that's not precisely the plot!

So let's talk about covers. What sort of covers do you like? We've seen so many fashions over the years. There's the classic clinch (all of my covers so far fall into this category and I must say I love them!). These divide into the dressed and undressed category in my mind! There's the girl on her own. There's the hero on his own. There's a 'bit' of somebody - a torso or a shot from the chin down or some bare legs sliding out of a bed. There's the non-person cover. You know, champagne glasses or a locket or some other object of significance to the story. There's the landscape covers - often with a country house in the distance. Are you embarrassed to be seen reading a romance in public, because of the covers? I used to be. Must say I'm over that now! Are there any covers you'd like to see more of?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

12 Points on the 12th - with Kate Walker

Are you writing in the right century ? Or even in the right decade?

No, I’m not talking about writing historical novels here, I thinking about the way that some would-be authors ruin their chances by writing the sort of dated novel that might have been wanted, even very popular, some years- some decades ago. But now time has moved on and this is the last sort of thing that an editor is looking for.

I was thinking about this last week when I was lucky enough to be invited to the opening of the Mills & Boon Centenary Exhibition – “And then He Kissed her” - in Manchester Central Library. The exhibtion covers, obviously, the history of the company from 1908 when it was founded right up to the present day. And nothing showed more clearly and more strikingly how far the company, the books, and the writing styles have come than the different styles of the covers on display in the big glass cases.

There were books from the 1930s and 40s and 50s, obviously meant to appeal to fans of Cary Grant, Douglas Fairbanks with tall, conservatively dressed heroes with , short dark hair brushed back and Brylcreemed into glossy, (greasy) waves. There were the first paperbacks of the 1960s onwards, with chiselled jawed heroes and elegant heroines in evening gowns . On Call Sister was a typical title – or perhaps Five Shilling Holiday or even Mystery at Butlins. And then there was the case that showed the modern romance novel – with titles like Mission to Seduce or 91/2 Days.

So many critics look at the masses of romances on the shelves and see the way that they are all produced in such a similar format and they jump to the wrong conclusion that these books must all be the same inside. In the same way some uniformed people will claim that romance writing hasn’t changed since 1908. That all the books are just the same as they were in their grandmother’s day, with a demure kiss and perhaps a crushing hug being the only demonstration of affection. They are stunned to find that romance writers have ‘discovered’ sex and that we actually are prepared to go well beyond that bedroom door.
But would-be writers know better – don’t they? They know what the up to date romance is like. They read it and enjoy it and learn from it - or do they?

I was once at a romance writers’ conference where an unpublished writer came up to me and asked if she could discuss the plot she had for what she hoped would be her first published Mills & Boon /Harlequin novel. She was convinced that she had the most amazing, unusual, original plot. One that no one else would have thought of. One that would surely win her a lot of acclaim from the editors.
So she was shocked when I had to say that this plot had been written before - lots of times.
Did she read romances? I asked her. Oh yes, she told me – lots. But closer questioning showed that what she were rather elderly novels – book that were more than ten years old. When I pointed this out to her she frowned then said, ‘Well how have they changed in the last ten years?’ Read the books I said.

I’ll be willing to bet she didn’t. She was not only one of the people who believes that romances haven’t changed with the times, she had also stopped reading at the point she liked them best, and she was trying to recreate the books from the late 80s. And that just didn’t work in 2000+

The 1970s/80s were also the times when every perfume was named, when the designer of the dress or the handbag would be mentioned. I remember using one afternoon of a holiday in the duty-free shop doing research for the designer fragrance my next heroine would be wearing. Then almost everything the heroine wore was described in precise detail right down to the last stitch in the hem. But fashions change so quickly and what would have been a very glamorous and fabulous outfit could very soon become a dated frock-horror from the decade that time forgot.

It’s not just the fashions in clothes and hairstyles that date a book. It’s social behaviour, the types of heroes who are popular, relationships between men and women, jobs . . .

My second book, Game of Hazard, had a hero who smoked. In fact those cigarettes were fairly important in the plot as his initials were etched into his lighter (he had amnesia and didn’t know who he was) and when he went to find his car where it was crashed, he brought back several packs of cigarette with him. I don’t think I could get away with that now – nor would I want to because I’ve long since given up smoking. But I think I’d have a hard time creating a hero who regularly smoked. And the aristocratic hero, with his family stately home somewhere in the green hills of the UK is no longer the immediate pull he used to be. Princes yes – but perhaps even they are starting to have had their day.
So when you are reading, remember to read as a writer. I’m not saying don’t read the older books – there are some fantastic stories by fabulous authors. But always think about whether these stories will still work today. Once upon a time the hero always had a friendly, motherly housekeeper who looked after him – or perhaps a butler. Does anyone actually have a ‘faithful retainer’ these days?

And what about language? Will the slang phrase you want your heroine to use still be popular when someone reads her story? Will ‘awesome!’ have the right effect when the book is published or will it be strange and out of place - as ‘swinging’ or ‘fab’ or ‘most excellent, dude’ might have been when out of the time in which they were so popular.

So when you’re reading keep the present popular fiction market in mind. And when you’re writing, remember that you hope that readers will be buying you book for years to come. My Alcolar Family Trilogy (2004) is being reprinted in both book and ebook form this summer and just yesterday I received a reprint of a book that had originally been published in 1995 Don’t date your books with very topical references or mentions of a very fashionable trend of the time. You can be sure that would sound so ‘old hat’ to a reader, possibly even just after the book is published.

Remember that every book you buy this week was probably written months, possibly even a year ago, My current title, Spanish Billionaire, Innocent Wife was written in March-May 2007 so it was already a year old by the time it was released.

In some ways, a romance writer needs to be something of a fortune teller, writing a book now that they hope will be popular 12 months in the future – or even more. So be careful and keep alert for all the little points of style, of fashion, of character – even the perfume your heroine wears. You want your book to be every bit as appealing in the future as it is now when you’re writing it.
And don’t date it before it’s even been bought by following the trends and styles of bygone days. Not if you’re writing contemporary romance anyway – historical stories are a very different matter.
What about you? Did you love the older books and think the latest ttiles are just not the same? Who were your favourite authors - and would you stillread them today?

Or what about the sort of things in a story that 'date' it for you? Are there fashions right now that you think are on their way out? Things that just won't be around - or shouldn't be around by this time next year? Have you ever thought bout the tiny clues by which a book gives away the decade, maybe even the year in which it was written?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

How the Magic trilogy came to be ...

I love reading history books. I'm particularly fascinated by anything written about Medieval or Victorian England, or about the U.S. Civil War or Old West. Which means I can as easily curl up with a book by Francis and Joseph Gies or Peter Cross as I can with an historical romance.

My interests have made it very easy for friends and family to buy me gifts. If they don't know exactly what book to buy, they know I'll be thrilled with a gift card from any of the local bookstores. On one such buying binge I found a couple of books on King Arthur, then spent the next couple of weeks delightedly immersed in the ancient legends.

I know you've all heard of Arthur and Merlin, and probably saw Camelot or one of the other movies about their adventures. You likely know that after Arthur was mortally wounded he was carried off to the magical Isle of Avalon. Merlin, that wonderful sorcerer, then proclaims that at Britain's time of most dire need, King Arthur will return – presumably to set things right.

This is where I scoffed. Think about it. Arthur is off on this magical isle, probably seated in a comfy chair and being waited on hand and foot. By the mid-1100's, he's been enjoying the cushy life for several hundred years and hasn't given Britain a thought for an eon. I figure this man is going to need a nudge. But by whom and how?

Thus was born Gwendolyn, the heroine of Midnight Magic. She's the guardian of a spell, fashioned by Merlin and handed down through the female line of Pendragon, to call King Arthur from Avalon at the time of Britain's most dire need. Naturally, there are a few complications!

Gwendolyn has two sisters who have nothing to do with her problem with the spell. The thing was, I figured that since both Emma (Twilight Magic) and Nicole (Magic In His Kiss) were also princesses of Pendragon they should have some special abilities of their own. More on that in my July blog.

Is there a particular period in history that fascinates you? If we had a time machine, where and when would like to visit?

Shari Anton
Visit my web site

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Executing the Hook

I was recently doing an interview and I was asked about my upcoming books. I said I had one set in Alberta that was the third in a series. And then the one after that is an Alberta rancher and a Mediterranean Princess.

There was a discernible pause.

It does sound unlikely, doesn't it. A quarterhorse rancher. A Princess. Yeah, right.

Category romances depend on the hook. They are themes that run through all the stories. Kind of that tag line...what's your book about. It's a marriage of convenience, or a secret baby, or reluctant royalty, old sweethearts, marriage in know the drill.

That hook is part of what tells the reader what they are getting. But that hook also has to be executed correctly for it to be plausible. I've had different hooks in each of my books so far. The first one was an inheritance/marriage of convenience story. My second old sweethearts, and one with a secret. My third was a soldier and a secret baby. The fourth - the one coming in August - has law enforcement and a widow. And the fifth is the rancher and Princess.

For some reason this one is the one that gives the most pause.

It's all in the execution. So what worked for me was that (and you find this out pretty early on) Lucy didn't know she was a Princess her whole life (oops, did I accidentally fit a secret baby into it as well? She was one!). She is resentful of it now and is using this trip to Prairie Rose Ranch as an escape. She resents her father, the King, and feels like she doesn't fit anywhere.

Only she encounters Brody Hamilton and he DOES remind her of where she came from. She grew up with horses and the ranch feels like home. Only Brody has issues of his own. And so it goes.

I did like the idea of the fairy tale, though, so writing the ending of the book was a real treat. I hope it reads as magically as it felt writing it. And I can't wait to write another "out there" hook and have fun making it all plausible!

Monday, June 09, 2008

What a Difference a Year Makes!

Wow, when I think about my life a year ago and I look at where I am now, sometimes it's pretty hard to believe. A year ago I wasn't recovering from a very bad case of the flu (as I am now) but I was battling illness after illness in my precious, premature baby's life. In between going to five different specialists for him and staying up most of the night just listening to make sure he was still breathing, I was trying to sell a novel, trying to land an agent, trying to make the writing career for myself that I'd always wanted. Not to mention trying to take care of my oldest two children and not let my day job of English professor suffer. I was more exhausted than I'd ever been in my life.

So exhausted, in fact, that when I got the call that my very first novel-- A Christmas Wedding-- had sold, I did something completely out of character. I broke down on the phone with my brand-new editor and started to cry. She was perfectly charming about the whole thing and I hung up the phone with a huge smile on my face. I had sold a book!

And as of that moment, I expected everything to change right away. What I found out was that absolutely everything and absolutely nothing had. Yes, I was a "published" author now, but I was still a newbie with a lot to learn. And I ended up learning a lot of it the hard way. I lost a line and an editor within three months of each other, went to my first conference as a published writer and learned just how incredibly ignorant I was about the world of publishing.

So, this year-- on top of everything else-- has been an incredible teacher. I've met amazing people, made a number of friends-- and lost some I'd expected to keep, learned more than I can say about this business of writing books, got the agent of my dreams, and-- most importantly-- have watched my baby grow into a healthy, happy toddler who rarely so much as sneezes.

And today, as I think back to where I was a year ago, I realize I wouldn't trade a thing. Not the steep learning curve or the closed line, not the sleepless nights or the days when I could barely keep my eyes open as I walked into my classroom to teach. Because everything that happened in this past year has brought me to where I am now. A place where my children are healthy, my friendships are solid, and God willing, my career is on the rise.

So, tell me, how is your life different today than it was a year or two ago? What have you learned?

Sunday, June 08, 2008

OPPOSITES ATTRACT…* - Christina Hollis

…that’s certainly true in the case of romance readers and their heroes. I wouldn’t fancy going on a walking holiday with Heathcliff, but his towering presence has kept Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights at the top of reading lists for generations. Real life can be equally surprising. My career as a night-owl and party animal came to a heart-stopping halt the moment I was introduced to my next-door-neighbour’s strong, silent brother. The guys I’d been dating up until then had all been loud, proud – and shallow. One blind date with Mr Wonderful, and I was hooked. My other half is the Alpha male to top them all. He’s a man who doesn’t need to advertise, or make a fuss. He just is. We couldn’t be more dissimilar, but luckily the differences in our characters fit together like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.

Contrasts are certainly exciting to write. I live in the folds of the English countryside. While my heart will always be there, I love writing about busy places such as Florence or Venice. There’s such a buzz around cities, and exotic locations almost guarantee good weather. Mind you, there is a downpour in my latest book, Her Ruthless Italian Boss. It happens in Venice. You might think that city has plenty of water already, but the weather is reflecting English heroine Beth’s unhappiness at the strange change in hero Luca’s attitude toward her. Beth has grown up in a culture where the definition of summer is ‘two fine days and a thunderstorm’.

At least Italian rain can be warm!

* ‘Ah, the cry of the truly desperate!’ can anyone remember in which American sitcom a not very helpful marriage counsellor (played by Englishman John Cleese) said this to a pair of his hopelessly mismatched clients? That line still makes me laugh!

…that’s certainly true in the case of romance readers and their heroes. I wouldn’t fancy going on a walking holiday with Heathcliff, but his towering presence has kept Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights at the top of reading lists for generations. Real life can be equally surprising. My career as a night-owl and party animal came to a heart-stopping halt the moment I was introduced to my next-door-neighbour’s strong, silent brother. The guys I’d been dating up until then had all been loud, proud – and shallow. One blind date with Mr Wonderful, and I was hooked. My other half is the Alpha male to top them all. He’s a man who doesn’t need to advertise, or make a fuss. He just is. We couldn’t be more dissimilar, but luckily the differences in our characters fit together like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.

Contrasts are certainly exciting to write. I live in the folds of the English countryside. While my heart will always be there, I love writing about busy places such as Florence or Venice. There’s such a buzz around cities, and exotic locations almost guarantee good weather. Mind you, there is a downpour in my latest book, Her Ruthless Italian Boss. It happens in Venice. You might think that city has plenty of water already, but the weather is reflecting English heroine Beth’s unhappiness at the strange change in hero Luca’s attitude toward her. Beth has grown up in a culture where the definition of summer is ‘two fine days and a thunderstorm’.
At least Italian rain can be warm!

* ‘Ah, the cry of the truly desperate!’ can anyone remember in which American sitcom a not very helpful marriage counsellor (played by Englishman John Cleese) said this to a pair of his hopelessly mismatched clients? That line still makes me laugh!