Monday, October 12, 2015

O is for Ophelia, a father's perspective

Ana shares the origin of her heroine's given name.

Stormy Hawkins' given name is Ophelia. Her father loved books, from classics to great literature, and amassed a fine private library for himself and his only child.

His wife died in childbirth, and he chose the name Ophelia from Hamlet. A first-time father living with two Army companions on the open Dakota Territory, he expected the innocent babe to be naturally sweet, compliant and domestic.
After all, she was a girl.

Instead, the fire-haired, rough and tumble child has the disposition of a hell cat, with a temper bigger than the vast prairie sky. Her nickname suits her to a T: Stormy.

Stormy fits well into her all-male world. She loves riding and roping. She has no interest in frills or doing what she is told. She's smart, tough, determined and hard-charging.

She's an ideal heir to the sprawling ranch her fathers have built up, but that's the problem. They are three and she is one. And she's got the well-deserved reputation of being the opposite of her famous namesake.

She's too ornery and too unfeminine to land a husband.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Sunday Snippet

An excerpt from Margaret’s new book

Unwelcome Stranger is the title of my latest romance, happily published as an e-book this week. My heroine, Amanda, has had so much bad luck in her life that she wants to end it, and isn’t the least bit happy when a complete stranger saves her from drowning. Below are the opening paragraphs:

This was Frazer Benedict’s favourite time of night. And this was his favourite place. Walking along the beach, the dark, clear sky filled with a zillion stars, very little sound apart from the ebb and flow of the incoming tide, it felt like an oasis of peace after a busy, meeting-filled day. He’d even sailed his first yacht in these waters long before he set up his own company.
A final late meeting had been called off at the last moment and he’d slipped away. Now he paused to inhale the fresh ocean-filled air, filling his lungs, breathing out again slowly, listening to the faint call of a sea bird. A rare moment. He was normally so busy such self-indulgence played no part in his life.
The tide was coming in fast, lapping at his toes, and he hopped out of the way, almost falling when his foot caught something lying on the sand. He frowned, visitors didn’t usually discard rubbish here. They respected it as one of the most striking natural bays and took their litter home.
On closer inspection he discovered to his horror, what he had thought was a bag of rubbish was actually a person. A woman! Asleep! Of all the places to fall asleep...
He touched her with his toe. Nothing. He touched a little harder. Still nothing. He bent low and shook her. No response.
A frown dragged his brows together as he slid his arms beneath her and picked her up. She felt like a rag doll. His first thought was that she might be dead and a shiver ran down his spine. But she was still breathing – just about.
He carried her to his parked car and gently lowered her on to the back seat before driving as fast as he dared to the nearest hospital. Which was five miles away! Never had a journey seemed so long. Even so he knew it would be quicker than waiting for an ambulance.
After explaining the circumstances to the medics he left her in their care but he couldn’t get the woman out of his mind and an hour or so later rang the hospital. Much to his annoyance, because he wasn’t a relative, they wouldn’t give him any information.
The next morning, determined to find out what was happening, he drove straight to the hospital before going to work. This time, when he explained the situation, he was shown into a doctor’s office.
“You are the guy who found her?”
Frazer inclined his head. “I am indeed. How is she?”
“First things first,” said the doctor. ‘Tell me all you can about this woman and her circumstances.”
Frazer stared at him as though he was out of his mind. “I don’t know anything. I found her lying on the beach. She was spark out. If I hadn’t been there she would have drowned. And it’s not often I walk there, I can tell you. She’s damn lucky. Will she recover? Have you found out who she is?”
The doctor shook his head. “She had no identity on her. My belief is that she desperately wanted to die.”
“What makes you think that?” He was stunned by the man’s theory. How could such a young woman want to kill herself? It didn’t make sense. “She could have simply felt unwell and collapsed.” Surely they were making harsh assumptions?
“It is the only possible conclusion.  She had an alarming amount of drugs in her body. Enough to kill most people. She’s very lucky you found her.”
“Does she know?”
“No!” The man looked sad. “She’s not recovered consciousness. But she is alive and is being carefully monitored.”
Frazer reached out one of his business cards and placed it on the man’s desk. “I’d appreciate it if you’d keep me informed of her progress.”
The doctor looked at the card and nodded. “Frazer Benedict – of Benedict Yachts I presume? I used to own one of them.”
“Used to?”
“Time caused me to give it up. I work long hours.”
“Surely you need some relaxation?”
“I have a wife and two daughters. They’re enough for me.” He held out his hand. “I’ll let you know as soon as I have any news.”
Frazer envied the man his family. He wanted marriage and children but it hadn’t happened. He was thirty five now and didn’t even have a permanent lady friend. There were plenty who would love to be in that position but none whom he felt deeply attracted to.
His parents were always on to him to find himself a woman but the love of his life was his job. He had built his business up from scratch, to the detriment of having a life outside work, and the pleasure he felt in owning a highly regarded business more than compensated for the lack of a wife.
It was not until the end of a long and busy day that Frazer thought again of the lady on the beach. He wondered whether they had found out who she was.  Whether she’d regained consciousness. Since he’d heard nothing he presumed not. But he couldn’t get her out of his head and against his better judgement took a detour on his way home.
The same doctor was not on duty and no one could give him any information. It seemed the fact he wasn’t a relative slammed doors in his face. But he wasn’t prepared to give up.
He stopped a nurse, one who had smiled kindly the day before, and asked which ward the woman was in. His presence was not questioned and he found her in a private room just off the ladies surgical ward.
She was either asleep or still unconscious, he wasn’t sure, and drugs were being fed into her. Dark shadows lay beneath her eyes and her skin was deathly pale. Even so he could see she was a beautiful woman with short, thick dark hair. She reminded him of Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, a film an old girlfriend had insisted on him watching.
He didn’t normally like short hair on a woman but in this case the elfin look was quite attractive. He wondered what colour her eyes were, envisaging a luminous blue, or maybe an emerald green? Without even stopping to think what he was doing he leaned forward and brushed his fingertips over her cheek.
She flinched lightly as though she felt his touch and he drew back. But there was no further movement and after a few more minutes standing watching he turned and left.
The next day he visited her again. For some odd reason he couldn’t even begin to understand he felt a sense of responsibility. The authorities hadn’t yet identified her. A missing person had not been reported. Logically someone cared, but unless they were close friends or family who kept in touch on a daily basis they wouldn’t know she was in hospital.
Frazer was unsure why he continued to worry, but he did. Something must have gone drastically wrong for this woman to want to take her own life. And he would not be the man he thought he was if he did not care, if he did not want to help.
Once she came round and they discovered her identity, found her relatives, then he would back off. For the moment, though, he would be there for her.

Friday, October 9, 2015

N is for Names

Margaret talks about naming characters.

Names define character. Strong names for strong people. If a heroine or hero had a weak name we wouldn’t be able to believe in them. Characters in romance novels are no ordinary people. Heroes especially are strong, they haven’t been given their name without considerable thought.

When I first started writing I kept a notebook in which I jotted down Christian names from newspapers or magazines. Names do change, though, over the years and ones I used then I wouldn't dream of using now. On my bookshelf is a copy of The Guinness Book of Names by Leslie Dunkling published in 1974 which I used to use frequently. It’s very dated but in it there’s an interesting poem by Charles Lamb, first published in 1809. He put himself in the place of a little girl who had been offered the chance to choose a name for her sister.

Now I wonder what would please her,
Charlotte, Julia or Louisa?
Ann and Mary, they’re too common;
Joan’s too formal for a woman:
Jane’s a prettier name beside;
But we had a Jane that died.
They would say, if ‘twas Rebecca,
That she was a little Quaker,
Edith’s pretty but that looks
Better in old English books.
Ellen’s left off long ago:
Blanch is out of fashion now.
None that I have named as yet
Are so good as Margaret.
Emily is neat and fine,
What do you think of Caroline?

How I’m puzzled and perplexed
What to choose or think of next!
I am in a little fever
Lest the name that I shall give her
Should disgrace her or defame her.
I will leave Papa to name her.



Thursday, October 8, 2015

N is for Noah

Noah Grant is the hero in Debra's Wild Wedding Weekend.

Noah was raised in small-town Indiana and wanted nothing more than to live a big life away from his small-town roots. He's an older brother to four siblings: two sisters and two brothers. His mother and father got married because she was pregnant with him. He's never gotten over the guilt, as he feels she gave up a promising career as an artist because of him. As a photo journalist, Noah travels all over the world to beautiful, exotic places. He has no interest in settling down and starting a family and being stuck in one spot like his parents.

As Noah's character arc unfolds throughout the story, he learns a lot about life and love.

Here's a scene between him and his mom toward the end of the book:

“Are you okay, dear? You don’t seem yourself today.” His mother’s voice broke into Noah’s reverie.

He half smiled at the words. A familiar warmth washed over him at her being able to discern his mood. Which is why he’d driven to Indiana. Running his fingers through his hair, he
sighed. He hadn’t felt like himself in a long time. How could he explain that to the woman looking over at him so expectantly? He couldn’t explain it himself. “I don’t know, Mom.”

“Talk to me, Noah.” She sat down on the arm of the couch.

He turned to pace the length of the basement, passing the Foosball table he and his brothers had spent countless hours at while they were growing up. He barely noticed the assortment of photographs on the walls, but he knew every picture by heart and could almost name the dates of each of the Christmases, holidays, and family celebrations chronicled there. Over the years the family had grown, and more and more smiling faces mugged for the camera. Finally he turned to face his patiently waiting mother.

What could he say to her? That he thought he might be in love, but he wasn’t sure what that felt like, so what if he wasn’t? He could say that, but if it didn’t sound right in his head, he doubted the
words would come out any more clearly.

One of the pictures caught his eye again, and, out of the blue, words Abby had spoken that day in Grand Cayman came back to him. “May I ask you something?”

“Of course.”

“If you had to choose between traveling around the world and having the whole family together, what would you pick?”

His mother sent him a reproachful look.

“I know, I know. Stupid question.” He paused. “Tell me this. Do you ever feel like you missed out on things? Because of me?” He held his breath, waiting for her answer.

She rose, coming to stand before him. “What on earth are you talking about, ‘because of you’?”

“Well, you know. Having to get married and all. Because you were pregnant. With me.” He couldn’t meet her gaze.

“Had to get married?”

“Yeah, you know. Because of me.”

“Noah, dear, I’m not sure what this is all about, but your father and I didn’t have to get married, we wanted to. From the moment I met him, I knew he was the man for me. We didn’t have to do anything.”

Her words didn’t convince him. He’d carried his guilt with him for so many years, he couldn’t let it go as easily as that. “But you could have been an artist or—”

“The only thing I wanted to be was Ed’s wife. And the mother of his children.” She reached up to lay a soft hand against his cheek. “We were thrilled when we found out we were going to have you. How could you think anything else?”

He cursed to himself at the tears that sprang to her eyes. He gathered her to him in a comforting hug. He hadn’t meant to hurt her. Inhaling, he breathed in the familiar floral scent of the perfume she always wore. It brought back countless memories of being comforted as she held him in her arms. Now he was the one who held her. “I’m sorry, Mom. Please don’t cry.”

After a moment, she pulled away, dabbing at her eyes with the hem of her apron. “Have you always felt like this?”

No use pulling punches now. “For a long time. As long as I can remember,” he admitted.

“Oh, Noah.” Her voice was anguished. “Why didn’t you ever talk to us about this? Why didn’t you tell us how you felt?”

He shrugged. “I don’t know. I figured if I could bring pieces of the world back to you from my travels, you wouldn’t feel like you were missing out on so much. I guess I didn’t think there was anything to talk about.”

“Well, now that’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. Your father and I haven’t missed out on anything. Other than maybe having you around more.”

He flinched at the slight note of recrimination in her voice, but he deserved it. Abby sure had hit the nail on the head with that one. How had she picked up on it so quickly, when he had missed it
all these years? He shook his head and smiled to himself. Because she was Abby, that’s why.

Until next time,

Happy Reading,


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

N is for Neve Dalton

Neve Dalton is the heroine of Paula's Egyptian novel, Her Only Option.

This story was inspired by my visit to Egypt five years ago, and I have no idea where the name Neve came from. Neve is half Egyptian, half Irish, and her name was there in my mind as soon as I started thinking about the story. Only later did I realise Neve is the way the Irish name Niamh is actually pronounced.
Next month, I can reclaim my rights to this novel and will then edit it for re-publication.

Meantime, here is my 'interview' with Neve, which takes place during the first chapter:

I’m now in Luxor, on the Lady Nadia cruise ship, waiting in the lobby to interview tour guide Neve Dalton. Ah, I can see her now, running down the stairs– but, oh dear, she doesn’t look very happy …

Has something upset you, Neve?

I’ll say it has! I went up to the sundeck for some peace and quiet until my next tour group arrives, and next I know, I’m being chatted up one of those cruise ship Casanovas – you know, the smooth-talking posers who think female tour guides are an easy target. And this one had the nerve to say tour guides churn out half-baked facts from inaccurate guide books!

I take it you weren’t impressed?

Well … (Neve blushes) … he was rather good-looking, with amazing blue eyes  - but then he tried to claim he was an archaeologist. Huh! Probably one of those dilettantes who think they can make the discovery of a lifetime without any effort. Anyway, enough about him. I’m only thankful he’s on the Lady Amirah and not the Nadia, although I don’t envy my friend Joanne having to put up with him for this week’s cruise.

Er – how did you meet him if he’s on a different ship?

Oh, haven’t you been up to the sundeck? Our cruise ships have to be moored 3 or 4 abreast because there are so many here in Luxor, and they’re built to roughly the same design, so the sundecks are level. Joanne and I often meet up to have a chat over the rails.

Let me ask you more about yourself and Joanne. I believe you’re both Cambridge graduates, so why did you decide to become Nile cruise ship guides?

We both felt we needed a break from the academic life. This job with the Rahman cruise line has given me the opportunity to return to Egypt where I grew up, and to share my passion for Ancient Egypt.

I understand you’ve been dating Malik Rahman.

(Neve narrows her eyes) I hope you’re not going to make some derogatory comment about me dating the boss’s son?

I wouldn’t dream of doing that!

I like Malik, he’s –well, as Joanne has said, he’s good-looking, charming, worships the ground I walk on, and he’s filthy rich, but—

But you’re not in love with him?

I can’t be, can I? Otherwise I’d have accepted his proposal.

So he’s asked you to marry him?

Oh yes, several times. But, between you and me, I think the only reason for his proposals is because his father won’t give him any senior role in the company until he’s ‘settled’ - which to Sabry means married with a whole brood of sons to inherit the Rahman empire. And I’m not ready to settle down as a wife and mother. Anyway, if you’ll excuse me now, I need to go and warn Joanne about that annoying self-styled archaeologist she’ll have to put up with on the Lady Amirah this week. Bye!

I wonder if Neve will change her mind about that annoying self-styled archaeologist?

Here's the blurb:
Neve Dalton loves her job as a tour guide on a River Nile cruise ship as much as she values her independence. She isn’t ready to settle down with her Egyptian boyfriend, despite his repeated proposals and his father’s desire to see him married.
Nor is she ready to meet Ross McAllister, a compelling and fascinating archaeologist.She struggles against her growing attraction to him until she can no longer ignore what her heart is telling her. This is the man who sets her soul on fire.
When she starts receiving cryptic messages, and Ross’s work in the famous Valley of the Kings is threatened, Neve has to make a heart-breaking and life-changing decision which she feels is her only option.
Can they discover whose enmity is forcing them apart before it’s too late?

And one of my reviewers wrote: Neve is a very appealing character and I did not want to finish the book and leave her.

Monday, October 5, 2015

N is for Nothin

Ana muses about white space on the page.

Do readers' eyes glaze over when they turn the page and see solid blocks of type? Do they skim over long, detailed descriptions of setting or introspection? Do they read every word of a character's soliloquy?

The authors of Self-Editing for Fiction Writers say, "Dialogue adds white space, or at least it should. So when you reread a scene or chapter, be on the lookout for places where your characters make little speeches to one another. In formal dialogue, characters often string together four or five complete, well-formed sentences. In real life, few of us get that far without interruption. So break your dialogue up, write in more give-and-take between your characters, have your characters interrupt one another --and themselves.

"Mechanical decisions about the length of your scenes or chapters can give you more control over your story. Brief scenes or even brief chapters can add to your story's tension, and longer chapters can give it a more leisurely feel. Scenes and chapters have a rhythm.

"That rhythm should not be unvaried. Some writers tend to fall into a rut. And in some cases, the steady rhythm of similarly sized scenes or chapters can reinforce a story's steady forward momentum. But if the scene or chapter length remains steady while the tension of the story varies considerably you are passing up the chance to reinforce the tension your story is depending on."

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Sunday Snippet - A Peek at Debra's "The Vampire and the Vixen"

Since we're in the month of October, I thought I'd share a snippet from my Halloween novella.

Chapter One

“I still think we’re a little too old to be dressing up for Halloween.”

Kelsey Adams glanced over at her best friend. “No, we’re not. It’s fun. Besides…” She swept her hand out. A couple hundred or so costumed people mingled in the banquet room. Long John Silver chatted with Snow White at a nearby table. Romeo and Juliet twirled among the dancers on the parquet floor. At the bar, James Bond sipped a martini. “Dressing up as one of your favorite literary characters for the library fundraiser was an inspired idea.”

Tracy laughed. “It was your idea.”

“I know. I was inspired.” Her gaze swept over the other woman. Tracy wore a black mini sweater dress with tights. Red contact lenses tinted her eyes, and an oval ring encrusted with cubic zirconia glittered on her finger when she raised a hand to brush the hair from the long, brown wig out of her eyes. “You make a very convincing Bella.”

“Thank you.” Tracy batted her eyelashes. Then she looked at Kelsey. “Tell me who you are again.”

Kelsey took a glass of wine from the tray of a passing waiter. “I’m not a particular someone.” She sipped the wine. The lush, fruity with a hint of vanilla flavor of the chardonnay slid over her tongue. She swallowed. The warmth of the alcohol pooled in her stomach. “I’m the heroine on the cover of a historical romance.”

“Which one?”

“All of them.”

Tracy’s gaze raked over Kelsey again. “Okay, so I get the boobs bursting from the barely barely-there bodice of your dress. But why the slit?”

Kelsey shifted her weight to let one leg peek through the thigh high slit in the full, floor length skirt of the baby blue gown. “A heroine always shows leg on the cover.”

Tracy laughed. “Well, you certainly play the vixen well.”

Kelsey lifted her glass in a toast. “Why thank you.”

In the background, The Monster Mash morphed into the theme from The Addams Family.

“So how long do we— Holy crow,” Tracy breathed.

Kelsey turned toward the entrance. Her gaze collided with the dark stare of the man in the doorway. Her breath caught. A flush of heat having nothing to do with alcohol, burned through her.

A cape, black as sin, flowed over his broad shoulders. The high collar stood up against the back of his head, nearly blending with his ebony hair. At his neck, a white bow tie topped the tuxedo shirt worn beneath a white fitted vest. A golden medallion nestled against his muscled chest. Black, tailored pants encased long legs.

Kelsey’s gaze met his again. Dracula’s mouth quirked up at one corner. Her heart did a funny skip beat. She swallowed and licked her lips. When he tracked the gesture, warmth seeped into deep, secret places. What would his mouth feel like on hers?


She jerked her attention away from the man at the door. “Sorry.” She took a sip of wine. Her fingers trembled around the fragile stem of the glass. If Tracy hadn’t interrupted the fantasy, Kelsey might have melted into a puddle on the rose-patterned carpet.

“I completely understand. A vampire will do that to you.”

“Uh huh.” Kelsey snuck another peek at the door, but the compelling stranger was gone. Damn.