Tuesday, August 30, 2016

I Is For Intimacy

Jennifer talks about showing affection between characters...

Romance novels are not all about sex. Sure, many romances have sex scenes, but plenty others don’t. Yet, it’s still possible to show affection between characters. Intimate moments can be as simple as grasping a hand, caressing a cheek or exchanging a look. Here’s one from my WIP:

They walked the rocky beach, waves on their right, cliffs on their left and seagulls overhead. This time, the salty briny smell combined with Simon’s scent and her lungs expanded, her breathing slowed and she became hyper aware of him next to her. His legs made longer strides than hers and after they’d gone a few feet, he shortened his to better match hers.
She appreciated the consideration, but it only made her more aware of his muscular thighs bunching next to her. Their hands brushed as they walked and tingles shot up her arm. It was an accident, wasn’t it? He stepped away slightly, as if to prevent it from happening again, but a few strides later with the uneven ground, they moved closer and his hand brushed hers again. This time, he didn’t move away and she listened to his breath hitch at the contact.
Nervous laughter bubbled in her chest. This was silly. They’d held hands before. Granted, he’d been covering hers when they were hammering, but still. It wasn’t the first time their hands had touched. So why was this so different? She remembered the sensations she’d felt when he’d covered hers on the roof—warmth and roughness and safety. Okay, maybe this wasn’t any different. She bumped her hand against his again, on purpose this time, just to feel his skin against hers. His skin wasn’t smooth like hers, and his texture, unique to him, fascinated her. A moment later, he did the same.
Was that accidental too? She snuck a glance at his profile. Although his hair blocked his face, she’d swear she saw a ghost of a smile hovering, like they shared a private joke. Her belly warmed and the air between their knuckles, where they almost touched, crackled with electricity.
The next time their fingers touched, she pressed hers against his and they walked to the curve of the shore connected, yet not.

Many, but not all, of my books have sex scenes. And those scenes fit within the context of the story. But sometimes, it is the scene that shows true intimacy without the sex that conveys the most feeling.

Monday, August 29, 2016

I is for Isotopes

Ana muses about the physics of best friend secondary characters.

Back in my teens, I wanted to be an astronomer. In college, I tried to major in physics but lacked adequate proficiency in calculus. I still devour scientific articles about scientific discoveries. Did you hear about the recent sighting of an earth-like planet in a galaxy far, far away?

Yesterday, I free-associated the letter I with Isotopes. Isotopes are variations of atomic elements with the same number of protons but different numbers of neutrons in the nucleus. And because I am writing Act 1of my WIP and have introduced my main characters, I segued to secondary characters.

Secondary character friends serve a similar purpose. They interact regularly with the main character. They point out holes in the main character's reasoning, question his choices, and prod her into taking action.

The best friend is like Carbon-12, which makes up nearly all of the carbon on earth. Best friend characters are stalwart, dependable, always there to lend a hand or a shoulder. They are quick to counter the heroine's faulty reasoning about the hero.

Carbon-13 is much more rare. Marine researchers use this element to help determine which plants different sea creatures eat. It's like the mentor who offers insight and advice at critical moments in a story.

Then there's Carbon-14, the rare cosmically-generated radioactive isotope, whose half-life is used for dating fossils and bones millions of years old. In writing, the prescient herald announces something is about to happen, so get ready.

Others carbon isotopes are allies, ready to play bit parts that propel a scene forward. The wry doorman. Blunt bartender. Caring co-worker. Supportive sister. Isotopic variations of the secondary character.


Saturday, August 27, 2016

Guest Amie Denman

How theater brings people together, at Christmas and anytime
By Amie Denman
In the spring semester of my senior in college, I had finished all the requirements for my major, so I had the luxury of being able to choose any elective course I wanted. I chose a delightful class from the drama department called “American Musical Theater.” Our assignment every week was to read the libretto and listen to several musicals. If a film version was available, we would gather and watch it so we could analyze structure, theme, set design, staging, and context. Of course, this would be easier now with the internet, but I finished college right before the world wide web was a real thing.
For a serious double major like me (English Literature and Political Science), analyzing musical theater was like having ice cream instead of green beans for dinner. I’ve always been in love with musicals. The eight-track player in my parents’ car played The Sound of Music, Oklahoma, The King and I, and The Music Man over and over. I still know every single word of those songs. And so do a whole lot of other people. (Admit it, you know where the wind comes sweeping down the plain and how many trombones led the big parade). It’s part of our cultural lexicon.
Theater has the power to examine the human experience and bring us together. In our group of stories for A Heartwarming Christmas, a local production of The Nutcracker Ballet brings residents of Christmas Town, Maine, together. Roz Denny Fox, Dana Mentink, and I have each taken an aspect of theater—music and dance in their novellas, and costume and set design in mine—and shown how people come together and even fall in love.
Perhaps the holidays and theater are alike. In both cases, we suspend our disbelief for a while, put on our finery, and engage in the magic that is life.
Amie’s links:
Website: www.amiedenman.com
Email: author@amiedenman.com
Twitter: @amiedenman
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Amie-Denman-893221967452334/
***


This holiday season, warm your heart with 15 connected sweet, clean & wholesome holiday romances set in Christmas Town from 15 Harlequin Heartwarming authors who are USA Today, national bestselling, and award-winning authors.

There are five connected books in A Heartwarming Holiday. That means each set of three novellas shares characters and storylines! This collection of PG-rated holiday romances are all set in Christmas Town, Maine, a location introduced in the 2014 Harlequin Heartwarming release Christmas, Actually.

 A Heartwarming Holiday will bring you laughter, tears, and happily-ever-afters.

Book 1: Once Upon a Holiday by Anna Adams, Anna J Stewart & Melinda Curtis: Three former college roommates start a business to bring the magic of the holidays to everyone in Christmas Town.  
Once Upon a Thanksgiving by Anna Adams, award-winning, USA Today bestselling, Harlequin Heartwarming author.

Once Upon a Christmas by Anna J Stewart, award-winning, USA Today bestselling, Harlequin Heartwarming author.

Once Upon a New Year’s Eve by Melinda Curtis, award-winning, USA Today bestselling, Harlequin Heartwarming author.

Book 2: Holiday Heroes by Leigh Riker, Tara Randel & Cari Lynn Webb: Three former Navy SEALs come together to restore an outdated resort.

Thankfully Yours by Leigh Riker, award-winning, USA Today bestselling, Harlequin Heartwarming author.

Cooking Up Christmas by Tara Randel, Barnes and Noble bestselling, USA Today bestselling, Harlequin Heartwarming author.

Countdown to Romance by Cari Lynn Webb, USA Today bestselling, Harlequin Heartwarming author.

Book 3: 24 North Pole Lane by Carol Ross, Amy Vastine & Cheryl Harper: Romance is being delivered to 24 North Pole Lane this holiday season.

Hers by Thanksgiving by Carol Ross, USA Today bestselling, Harlequin Heartwarming author.

Peace, Love, and Baby Joy by Amy Vastine, USA Today bestselling, Harlequin Heartwarming author.

Never Say Never on New Year’s by Cheryl Harper, USA Today bestselling, Harlequin Heartwarming author.

Book 4: Magic Moments by Tara Taylor Quinn, Shirley Hailstock & Liz Flaherty: Three different times, three different stories. They all bring magic to Christmas Town.

Christmas Past by Tara Taylor Quinn, USA Today bestselling, Harlequin Heartwarming author.

It Only Happens in Christmas Town by Shirley Hailstock, Harlequin Heartwarming author.

The Magic Stocking by Liz Flaherty, USA Today bestselling, Harlequin Heartwarming author.

Book 5: Nutcracker Sweethearts by Dana Mentink, Roz Denny Fox, & Amie Denman: As the stage production of the Nutcracker unfolds in Christmas Town, three couples find love with the help of a little holiday magic!

Thanksgiving Duet by Dana Mentink, Harlequin Heartwarming author.

Christmas Curtain Call by Roz Denny Fox, Harlequin Heartwarming author.

Set for New Year’s by Amie Denman, Harlequin Heartwarming author.

If this boxed set appeals to you, look for our previous holiday anthology: A Heartwarming Christmas.


And don't forget, included in A HEARTWARMING HOLIDAY is an exclusive coupon worth $1.00 off any Heartwarming title from Harlequin.com. Who doesn't love heartwarming romances?





H is for Husband


The opening paragraphs from Margaret’s book Her Husband’s Christmas Bargain


It wasn’t! It was! It was Megan. Luigi Costanzo had overheard a child telling Santa that all she wanted for Christmas was a daddy. It had aroused his curiosity, even caused a faint stir somewhere within him, and he’d watched her as she returned to her mother. She was a pretty little girl with long blonde hair and big blue eyes, but it was the shock of seeing who her parent was that caused him to do a double take.

Megan!

His Megan

Megan, whom he hadn’t seen for almost four years.

What the hell?

Luigi looked from mother to daughter and his eyes narrowed. Megan still had the same shoulder-length blonde hair, the same slender figure; nothing about her had changed. She didn’t even look any older. He swung on his heel, snapping his fingers at his nearest employee. “Please follow that woman and report back to me with her address.”

“Yes, sir.”

If the young man was surprised he didn’t show it. He spurted into immediate action. There was no arguing with the new owner of Gerards. He’d had everyone on their toes ever since he took over a few months ago.


“Sweetheart, what did you ask for?” Megan looked down at her beloved daughter, who was skipping happily along at her side. There hadn’t really been time to visit Santa’s grotto but Charlotte had pleaded so eloquently that Megan couldn’t find it in her heart to refuse. There was always another train, even if it meant travelling home at the height of the rush hour.

“For a daddy.”

Megan hid her surprise, smiling indulgently instead. “I don’t think Santa supplies daddies. You were supposed to ask for a toy.” Her heart felt heavy as she spoke. Charlotte was right, she did need a father, and if Luigi had been different…


Friday, August 26, 2016

H is for Husband

The opening paragraphs from Margaret’s book Her Husband’s Christmas Bargain


It wasn’t! It was! It was Megan. Luigi Costanzo had overheard a child telling Santa that all she wanted for Christmas was a daddy. It had aroused his curiosity, even caused a faint stir somewhere within him, and he’d watched her as she returned to her mother. She was a pretty little girl with long blonde hair and big blue eyes, but it was the shock of seeing who her parent was that caused him to do a double take.
Megan!

His Megan

Megan, whom he hadn’t seen for almost four years.

What the hell?

Luigi looked from mother to daughter and his eyes narrowed. Megan still had the same shoulder-length blonde hair, the same slender figure; nothing about her had changed. She didn’t even look any older. He swung on his heel, snapping his fingers at his nearest employee. “Please follow that woman and report back to me with her address.”

“Yes, sir.”

If the young man was surprised he didn’t show it. He spurted into immediate action. There was no arguing with the new owner of Gerards. He’d had everyone on their toes ever since he took over a few months ago.

 

“Sweetheart, what did you ask for?” Megan looked down at her beloved daughter, who was skipping happily along at her side. There hadn’t really been time to visit Santa’s grotto but Charlotte had pleaded so eloquently that Megan couldn’t find it in her heart to refuse. There was always another train, even if it meant travelling home at the height of the rush hour.

“For a daddy.”

Megan hid her surprise, smiling indulgently instead. “I don’t think Santa supplies daddies. You were supposed to ask for a toy.” Her heart felt heavy as she spoke. Charlotte was right, she did need a father, and if Luigi had been different…

 

 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

H = Happy Ending

Paula looks at happy endings.  

Most (all?) romance publishers insist that a romance must have a happy ending. Many romance readers read this genre to be entertained and also as a kind of escapism, knowing that all will end happily for the main characters even though, sadly, this may not happen in ‘real’ life.

It’s interesting to note that romance in the ‘grand tradition’, like Tristan and Isolde, Romeo & Juliet, Wuthering Heights, Gone With the Wind, Love Story, didn’t have happy endings. It’s the tragedy in these stories which make them memorable.

However, women (and yes, it is mainly women) pick up a paperback or download a romance e-book, and expect it to have a happy ending. But is a happy ending the same as a ‘happy ever after’ ending? 

Happy-ever-after conjures up an image of the hero and heroine living on Cloud Nine for the rest of their lives, with a perfect marriage, a perfect house and perfect children. I don’t think romance readers necessarily want or visualise this. Romance authors don’t write ‘fairy-tales’. They don’t wave a magic wand so that Cinderella and Prince Charming, after just one evening at a Palace Ball, are reunited and live ‘happily-ever-after’. I never did hold out much hope for that couple’s future together anyway!

Instead, readers of romance want the hero and heroine to work through their problems and conflicts and, in the process learn more about themselves and about each other. They want a happy ending i.e. a convincing and satisfying resolution of all those problems, because they feel the hero and heroine deserve it.

Maybe the romance author's job is to bring the hero and heroine to a place where the potential for happiness is restored. This is the happy ending. They are on their way to creating a life together in which their new understanding of each other will help them resolve future problems. They’re not going to live ‘happily-ever-after’ (i.e. have perfect, easy lives from now on), but, at the ‘happy ending’ of the story, they are better equipped to develop a lasting and mutually satisfying relationship because of the struggles they've won and the life lessons they've learned.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

H Is For Hannah

Jennifer is writing a new story...

Hannah is the heroine of my newest manuscript. It’s an as-yet untitled contemporary romance with a little bit of an older hero. Well, older if you consider late thirties/early forties “older.” He walks with a limp as a result of a car accident that killed his wife seven years ago, is the father of a teenaged girl, and has greying hair at the temples. And he has a secret he’s unwilling to share with Hannah.

Hannah is in her late twenties, lives with her grandmother, has a recovering drug addict for a brother and is working toward a promotion at her marketing firm. She’s not sure she wants to get involved with the dad of a teen, or with someone who is older than she is by several years, but there’s something about him that attracts her. And when her grandmother is a little too enabling of her brother, it’s Dan to the rescue.

Or so she thinks.

Turns out, Dan’s firm is investigating her client and indirectly causes her to lose her job. And Dan’s secret? Well, let’s just say that he and Hannah’s brother are not so different, albeit for very different reasons.

When the secrets are revealed, the two of them are in for some trouble.

But it’s a romance, so you know you’ll get the “happily ever after.” It’s the getting to that point, though, where the fun comes in.

I’m still editing and revising and increasing the tension, but I’m hoping to start pitching it soon. So we’ll see what happens. In the meantime, here’s an excerpt:
He blinked. When she returned to his side and hooked her arm through his free one, he blinked again. She’d accepted his explanation. Was it really that easy? Maybe he should tell her how much he was attracted to her. Maybe it wouldn’t sound so crazy.
“What are we looking at?” She whispered out of the side of her mouth, pursing her lips together and giving him an insane urge to kiss them.
“What?”
“I assumed since we’re just standing here that you must be looking at something, and I wanted to join in the fun. Or did you not realize we weren’t moving?”
Her nostrils flared and she bit her lip, and Dan realized she was trying not to laugh. Now he really wanted to kiss her. Before he could act on it, his stomach growled.
“Was that yours or mine?” She looked over at him, eyebrow raised.
His lips twitched. His breath hitched. He couldn’t keep his laugh to himself any longer. It bubbled in his chest and he let it out as he shook his head.
“Okay, while I am older than you, I’m not old enough to be senile. Yet. So yes, I did know we weren’t moving. But thanks for that. And yes, that was my stomach growling, because I’m hungry. Except I think I need to put eating on hold for a moment, because what I need, more than anything else right now, what I’ve needed all night long actually, is to kiss you.”
He turned toward her, reached his hand behind her neck and drew her close to him. This is what he’d been waiting for. Tilting his head, he angled his mouth and softly touched her lips. A groan started in the back of his throat. Her lips were even more delicious than he’d imagined. They were sweet and soft and for the moment, his. He deepened the kiss and felt her arms wrap themselves around his waist. Good, because he had no intention of stopping anytime soon. Her body fit perfectly against his and he pulled her closer, wishing they could blend into one. She sighed and he slipped his tongue inside her mouth. It was like honey, and he couldn’t breathe.
Her fingers were swirling, drawing lines of fire along his back. Shaking, he pulled away and rested his forehead against hers. Her pupils were huge, like his he suspected, and her breathing was quick. Her hands hadn’t stopped moving and well, he wanted her to move them lower. But they were in the middle of the street and he wasn’t an exhibitionist. So he pulled farther away, took her hand, and led her toward the restaurant.
“Wait,” she cried as he limped as fast as he could to Isabella’s.
“What?”
“What about what I need?”
Before he could ask what she meant, she grabbed his head and pulled it down to her. She kissed him, hard, and pulled away.
“I wasn’t finished,” she said.