Thursday, September 27, 2012


So late last week I was a bit bummed out and discouraged. I got an e-mail back from an editor at TWRP who was considering the third book in my series. This one is about Jake, my bull rider hero, and as I'm all about those cowboys, I'm probably more in love with this hero than any of my others. At least at this particular moment! :)

The mss had already been submitted once and revisions requested. I changed the heroine's occupation to give her a greater motive for being fearful of Jake's career, polished up a few more things, and sent it on its way again.

Within the promised time frame, less than three months, it was back in my inbox again. Before opening the e-mail, I noticed the little paper clip on the line indicating there was an attachment. My foolish heart did a little pitter patter thinking it was a contract attached.

But, no such luck. The e-mail started off by telling me she liked the revisions and that part of the story worked much better, but it still needed some work. She gave me a list of specific areas that still needed to be stronger. The attachment was a copy of the mss with some sections highlighted to show where those changes were needed.

At first, I couldn't shake the disappointment. I thought about going to another publisher, posting the doc on my web-site for free, or giving up on the story altogether. To say I was discouraged was an understatement. I read through some of the suggestions and couldn't help but feel that nothing was right with the mss. I had no motivation to do anything to change it. Why bother? It would probably just be rejected again.

Then I noticed the topic for the program Monday night at my local RWA meeting. "Maintaining Self-Esteem in the Face of Rejection". The timing couldn't have been more perfect. After the meeting, I was more than ready, willing, and motivated to work on the mss again. I approached it with fresh eyes. Ideas are coming to me and I'm scribbling notes at all hours of the day and night.

I guess the thing that hit me the most was when the speaker said when an editor (or agent) asks for revisions...she's not just being nice...she means it. She wants to see the story again and is giving you a chance to make it better. A revision letter is a second, or in this case, third opportunity. Even a rejection means you're out there living your dream. Some people don't even have the guts to do that.

Now, looking at the marked up mss, I see it as an opportunity. And I'm going to take it. That editor didn't need to take the time to give examples and exact places where the story needed work. But she did. She even said wanted to see it again, but understood if I wanted to move on to other projects. For a while there, I thought of doing just that. But this is my dream. When I first conceived the story for This Time for Always, it was always with the intention of writing a second and third book for the series based on secondary characters from the first. I'm two-thirds of the way toward realizing that dream. Now is definitely not the time to quit.

All I needed was a little kick in the pants and a reminder of why we're in this crazy roller coaster business in the first place: because we have a story to tell. And I'm gonna tell Jake's.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!

An Unexpected Blessing - a Thanksgiving novella coming November 21

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

How should romance novels end?

We see lots of advice about the first line, the first paragraph, the first page, the first chapter – providing the hook, drawing in the reader to make them want to read on, etc. But what about the last line or paragraph or page of a novel?
I’m reminded of the King’s advice to the White Rabbit in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: “Begin at the beginning and go on until you come to the end and then stop.”
Where’s the best place to stop? In a romance, it’s taken for granted that there will be a happy ending. Does that mean a wedding, or at least a proposal? Or does it simply mean that the reader knows these two will be happy together and get through what life throws at them from now on?
I’ve read romances where the ending is contrived – some coincidence brings them back together, or one of them is injured and the other rushes to their side in the hospital. I’ve also read romances where the reconciliation comes 2 (or even 3) chapters before the end and the rest is padded out with buying the dress and walking down the aisle. In contrast, I’ve read rushed endings that leave one thinking ‘Oh, is that it? But what about …’
Explanations (and apologies) may be needed at the end of the story, but these don’t have to be dragged out. Nor does the ending have to beat you over the head with sappiness where they repeatedly declare their undying love and drift around on pink clouds of happiness.
I prefer romances to ‘come to the end and then stop’. The couple come back together, sort out whatever the problems have been, and then the story ends, leaving the reader knowing they’ve made an emotional commitment to each other and a willingness to explore a future together.
And what about that last paragraph and final sentence? I think those need as much care and thought as your first sentence and paragraph, in order to ‘round off’ the story in a satisfying way.
Since I’m starting on the promotion trail this week for my November release, I’ll leave you with the last few lines of ‘Her Only Option’:
“If, at any time in the future, you think someone’s threatening me, will you tell me?”
“Only if you promise not to say ‘It’s my problem, I’ll deal with it’.”
Ross laughed. “We’ll deal with things together from now on. Okay?”
“Very much okay.”
With a smile, she leaned forward to kiss him, and he wrapped his arms around her.
Together from now on. That sounded so good.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Who or The What?

I’m a pantser, which means I write as things pop into my head, rather than plotting everything out in an outline ahead of time. Usually, a character will start talking to me and if I’m smart, I’ll write down what he or she says immediately. If I don’t, either the conversation disappears or continues to scroll through my brain until I finally do write it down (think of a song that gets stuck in your head and you’ll get the idea). All of this means that most of the stories I write are character driven.

However, the current stories I’m writing are plot driven. Yes, I said “stories.” Because right now, I’m in the process of writing three of them. At the same time. If this continues, I may have to become a plotter—I don’t think I can keep three stories straight in my head at the same time. But I digress.

The three stories I’m currently writing are plot driven currently, because what popped into my head were scenes involving something happening.

In the first story, the meeting of the hero and the heroine was the first scene that popped into my head. She’s having a battle with a lawn mower and he comes and helps her conquer it. Just in case you think that he spends the entire book rescuing her, don’t worry. He doesn’t. The next scene that I’ve written, which actually won’t take place until much later in the story, is the hero waking from a nightmare and the heroine comforting him. The inspiration for this story comes from an old house I recently saw. I started wondering about who had lived there during its 140-year-history and have come up with a story about the most modern of the inhabitants.

In the second story, I’m moving onto book two in my Jewish romance series and this story revolves around the story of Passover. It’s not fully fleshed out and I only have one scene—again, a middle scene—the hero is working through an issue and the heroine is helping him. But it is plot driven because the story will revolve around the theme of freedom. Everything that happens to my characters will relate back to that theme in some way or another.

Finally, in my third story, I’m moving into totally different territory. It’s an experiment. The story is based on a mystery in my family that I’ve pieced together involving immigration, infidelity and mysterious family relationships. It’s not a true story, because I have no way of verifying any of the facts anymore—all the people directly involved are long dead. But it’s a “what if” scenario that I’ve been dying to write and hopefully, with a lot of research, I’ll be able to do it.

So tell me, are your stories character or plot driven or both?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Cars, writing, and the Universe

I am self-employed. The economy has been really tough lately, and I have trimmed expenses to the bone in order to keep my employees working.

I have also taken really good care of my old work truck. I park it when the veggie season ends and drive all winter an even older Blazer. It squeeks and creaks and thumps as I drive. The passenger seat belt doesn't work. The doors are so rusty, you can see out when you sit inside. I just replaced its cracked windshield, after a warning from the highway patrol. (It's too old to qualify for insurance glass coverage.)

I'd expected to nurse it through another winter, but several weeks ago, I accepted the reality of really needing a different car. I sent out a prayer to the Universe. A decent car at a do-able price.
Note: I hate hate hate shopping for used cars.

Yesterday, one of my daughter's high school friends posted on her Facebook page that she had ordered a new car. The dealership would not take her old car in trade, so she needed to sell it herself. Any takers?

My daughter arrived home recently for a healing month away from New York City. She came upstairs and asked me if I was interested in test driving her friend's car. (She knew I needed one. She didn't know I was ready.) Feeling the flow of Universal goodness, I said yes.

I drove the car today and agreed to her asking price, which was exactly what the Blue Book quoted. It has new tires. She's getting the oil and windshield wipers changed. Wants to vacuum it. Called again to say the heater/AC fan doesn't blow much on settings 1 and 2.

I'll need to get a loan from the bank, but I feel good about doing that. Sales will keep going up. I'll afford it.

And I won't have to be embarrassed when I drive through town any more.

p.s. I expect the same Universal flow of goodness when I send out my WIP. It will be time, and all will be well.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Friday Friend - Debra Parmley tell us how to make time to write

Please welcome today's Friday Friend, Debra Parmley

Debra was born in Columbus, Ohio and raised in Springfield, OH but has lived in the Memphis, TN area since 1997. She attended Marywood University in Scranton, PA and was the first student to win first place in two categories of the Delta Epsilon Sigma Beta Epsilon Chapter writing competition, in creative prose and in informal expository. Her poetry was published in literary journals while attending college. She holds a BA in English Literature.

Debra has traveled extensively and worked as an independent travel consultant for several years. She has visited thirteen countries. She has also worked in banking, newspaper advertising, as city recycling co-coordinator, as an office manager, and as a belly dance instructor.

Her first short story, published in the anthology More Monsters From Memphis, was a finalist in the Darrell Awards for best Mid-South short story.

Her first novel, A Desperate Journey, a western historical romance, was a finalist in the Bobbi Smith Creative Writing Challenge. Not long afterward it was a finalist in the American Title II contest. For those not familiar with the contest, she describes it as similar to the American Idol contest, but for authors. Readers voted online and the prize was a publishing contract. A Desperate Journey was published a year later by Samhain Publishing. Debra's second western historical romance, Dangerous Ties,was published Feb. 15, 2012 by Desert Breeze Publishing in eBook and will be released April 2013 in print.

Aboard The Wishing Star, Debra's first contemporary romance, will be released Oct. 11th by 2012 by Desert Breeze Publishing in eBook.
Trapping the Butterfly, set in 1920's Hot Springs AR will be an April 2013 release.

When not writing, Debra enjoys dancing, primitive archery and medieval reenactment, yoga and traveling.

For Debra, writing is about joy. The joy of creation and the joy of connecting with her readers. It is one of her greatest pleasures to hear from her readers.

How To Make Time To Write
How do we find time to write? This is a question that appears repeatedly and one every author must address.
It has become clear to me in the years since I began writing that I don't find the time as much as I make the time. Time isn't lost or found, we get the same amount of hours in each day. It's how we choose to fill those minutes and hours that make the difference.
There's a mantra I tell myself and this is it:
Anything, which is not writing, is not writing.
It doesn't matter what it is, whether it is good or bad, necessary or not, the simple fact is, if you are not writing, you are not writing.
In less than a month, my third book, Aboard the Wishing Star, will be released. This is a book I started back when I was still working full time as a travel consultant. My first draft was written in the spaces between a full time job and family obligations. The last revision was written this year and though I am now writing full time, some of the writing challenges and practices have carried over into my writing schedule.
If your schedule is already full with a full time job, if you are caring for children or an aging parent, it may be challenging to make time to write. Here are tips that work for me when my life is super busy and it seems there's no time to write.
1. Write in between the spaces. How do you fill the spaces in between your scheduled time? Do you watch TV, read the paper or magazines, play games or on the Internet? Track what you spend your time on each day and look for those spaces to see where you can slip the writing in to replace another activity. Writing may not be your first priority if you have a child or aging parent to care for, or a demanding job, but it certainly shouldn't come in dead last if you want to build a career as a novelist. What are you placing first, before your writing?
Remember, anything which is not writing, is not writing.
Can you combine your writing with another activity such as eating lunch? An hr here and an hr there can add up quickly.
Once you establish where your spaces are and what those patterns and activities are and replace them with writing, you may find yourself with a schedule.
2. Protect your writing schedule, your writing time. Now that you know what it is, let everyone who might be affected by it know what you are doing so you won't be disturbed.
If you are writing on your lunch hour let your co-workers know so they will not disturb you and remember this is your lunch hour, your time to do what you choose, even if you are writing at your desk.
Sometimes this does not work and people will not respect the boundaries you set, whether you are at work or at home. If this happens, you may have to remove yourself, go into another room, close the door, perhaps even lock it. Libraries are a good place to write because there is less likelihood someone will talk and interrupt. Headphones can work as well. You may have to lay down ground rules and repeat them until others get used to your routine.
3. Defend your writing time. For many writers this is the hardest part. Something will always come up, that person will want to interrupt you just this one time or just for a minute then they'll leave you alone. It may seem easier for you to stop this one time, but once you do, no one is respecting your writing time, not even you! If the building is not on fire and no one needs to call an ambulance, does the interruption really count as an emergency? Just how important is the reason for the interruption? Just how important is your writing? If the interruption can wait until you are done, stick to writing.
You may have to learn to defend your writing from yourself. If you sit down to write and then think of ten other things you need to be doing first, stop. Just like the interruption, which is not an emergency, those ten other things can wait until you are done.
If it is your writing time, then you must write. That is how professional authors turn out so many books. By making the time to write, setting a writing schedule, by protecting that writing time and defending it.
Be aware of your time and how you are spending it. Be aware of the choices you are making and remember, anything which is not writing, is not writing.

Aboard the Wishing Star - AVAILABLE – October 11, 2012
When Kara's, husband is shot and killed in front of her in what she's told is a random act of violence, she becomes convinced the world is unsafe. Her life is quiet and predictable, until she wins a Caribbean cruise for two and takes along her best friend.
On her trip she meets Nate, a scuba dive instructor and ex marine. He'll teach her to face her fear of deep water and teach her to snorkel. Will Kara learn to trust him with her heart, when she fears this shipboard romance will reach an end and she'll never see him again, leaving her broken hearted?
When Kara's boss shows up at their first port of call unexpectedly, Nate's protective nature comes out.
Her creepy boss becomes more aggressive after she returns to Ohio and when she calls Nate he gets on the first plane. Can Nate rescue her?

Debra's website which hosts her blog:
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Thanks so much for being our Friday Friend today, Debra, and for your very useful advice. We wish you the very best of luck with your new release!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A Cover AND a Release Date! (Blog Tour Coming Soon)

A lot has happened since we last 'chatted'. Late last Friday night I got the cover for An Unexpected Blessing, and just now when I checked e-mail before writing this post, I got the release date for the book as well. It made the cut-off for Thanksgiving this year by a will be released on November 21, 2012...the day before Thanksgiving!

To say I'm thrilled is putting it mildly. Just picture me doing a wildly joyful Happy Dance!

Now, a different kind of work starts. I need to get a blog tour scheduled. In anticipation, I had already scheduled one date, but when I wasn't sure if we were looking at a 2012 or a 2013 release date, I held off on scheduling any others. Now I need to kick things into gear.

Some people use an outside source for scheduling their blog tours, but I set my own up. I try not to make it complicated. When I see a post on one of my loops asking for guest bloggers, I send a quick e-mail out. Usually I'm able to fill the calendar around my release date with half a dozen to a dozen blog stops.

To keep things organized, I start a page in one of my writing notebooks (The ones I'm always scribbling ideas in.) listing all of the stops, their internet addresses, the date of the post, and what's expected: interview, general post, topic specific post, etc. I mark it with a brightly colored sticky tab so I can easily find the page. Then I'll start a calendar with the locations so I can see the big picture and not overschedule myself on any one day. I'll also print out any instructions and/or questions and label them with the date of the post as well.

Then it's time to dig in and get the posts written and sent off to the proper hostesses. About a month before my tour, I start visiting these blogs everyday to leave comments and start a presence. (This part worries me a little this time around. I've noticed that a lot of my Blogger comments are being labeled as SPAM and disappearing. I haven't found a way to fix this. I hope something magical happens by the time all of this rolls around so I'll be able to comment on my own guest posts. Not being able to reply to other commentors would not be a good thing. So, if anyone has any advice about or a solution to this problem, I'd greatly appreciate hearing it.)

For this particular release, most of the promotion will be done before the book actually gets released. Once Thanksgiving passes, most people set their sights to Christmas and won't be thinking about Thanksgiving even the day or so after. So I need to get them thinking in anticipation of buying the book on its release day before their interest drifts to another holiday.

All in all, I have my work cut out for me over the next two months...but like I said, I couldn't be more thrilled!

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Bad Rap for Romance Novels?

Twice in the past week, I’ve heard comments from two different acquaintances that have made me think. Here is the gist of the conversations.

First conversation:-

Her (with a smirk on her face): Please tell me you don’t write for Mills and Boon.
Me: No, not now, but I wouldn’t mind being published by them again.
Her (with mouth dropping open): Why? Their novels are rubbish.
Me: How long is it since you read one?
Her: I haven’t read any. I wouldn’t be seen dead reading one of that bodice-ripper kind of book.

Second conversation (on the phone conversation with someone I hadn’t seen for a couple of years):-

Her: So what have you been doing with yourself?
Me: Actually I’ve been writing novels.
Her: Really? Have you had anything published?”
Me: Yes, three novels in the past year and another one due out in November.
Her: Oh, well done. What are they about?
Me: They’re romances.
Silence, then: Oh, sorry, I never read romances. They’re so predictable, happy ever after and all that.

I’ve paraphrased these conversations, but you get the idea.

The first conversation made me realise the stereotypical image of romance novels has persisted, at least for my generation, for 30+ years. The “bodice-rippers” were the hallmark of Mills and Boon/Harlequin in the 1970’s and 1980’s, and, in my opinion, gave romance novels a bad rap. They had archetypal characters and contrived plots, usually involving a virginal heroine who was ‘rescued’ by a strong hero, and they often contained a barely disguised rape scene. On the whole, this kind of novel has gone ‘out of fashion’ (with a few notable exceptions which have recently dominated the best-seller lists!). However, a kind of stigma still remains.

The second conversation made me wonder about the word ‘predictable’. Yes, romances have, if not a ‘Happy Ever After’ ending, then at least a ‘Happy’ ending where the hero and heroine overcome the obstacles in the path to reunite. Aren’t thrillers, detective stories, and mysteries equally predictable? The ‘goodies’ will triumph, the baddies will receive their deserved punishment, and the crime or mystery will be solved. What’s the difference? Why are romance novels considered predictable, while other genres aren’t?

And why are romance novels considered by some to be the ‘lowest form of literature’? Why do people want to disassociate themselves from reading romance novels? I’ve had a few reviews which start, “I don’t usually read romances but …” as if that is somehow praiseworthy. It seems to be okay to say you read thrillers or mysteries, but not the ‘done thing’ to admit to reading romances, even though thousands (millions?) of women obviously do!

Have you come across this kind of ‘literary snobbishness’ and, if so, what’s your response?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

“J” My Name Is…

I have two children. When my husband and I decided we were not planning to have any more children (we love them to pieces, but there are only two of us and we DON’T want to be outnumbered!), I willingly loaned my baby name book to my sister-in-law, who was still on the baby train. Worst mistake I ever made! Baby name books are fabulous resources for finding character names. I would have asked for the book back, but, well, that would have been awkward. See, back then, no one knew I was writing books and I wanted to keep it that way until I was published. Therefore, I couldn’t explain my real reason for asking for the book back. That would leave me with only one reason—I was having another baby. Can you imagine the talk around my family THAT would have created?

So, I needed to find another option. What I ended up doing was using online baby name sites and I have to say, I love them. They’re so much easier to use than books and you can do all kinds of searches. For example, my first book required names with specific meanings. I needed a man’s name that showed strength and a woman’s name that showed grace, without weakness. I ended up with Gideon for the hero (which means mighty warrior) and Lily for the heroine (which is a flower). They were perfect.

My current WIP (or at least, one of them), is a multi-generational story that takes place in Poland in the early 1900s. The story eventually moves to America and I need Polish names that can be modernized as the time passes. Again, the website was great, because I was able to do a search by nationality. After a lot of playing around, I ended up with Matteus and Magda for the earliest generation. I still have some playing around to do, and I’m not sure what the other generational names will be, but at least it’s a start.

How do you name your characters?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Storehouse of future descriptions

I work outdoors and have come to appreciate the amazing array of green hues I can see over a growing season. I have also worked in scorching heat and brutal humidity while being stalked by hordes of ravenous mosquitoes.

In my personal life, I've given birth and discovered infidelity. I have been wracked by fear and rage, and filled to glowing with wonder, joy, and awe.

As a writer, I need to describe things from tropical sunset scenery to my villain's deepest darkest feelings,
I work to hone my vocabulary skills.  How?

Stop and let my senses record. 
           I used to note things and keep on trucking. Now whenever I can, I stop.  I watch the red-tinted sun until it disappears under the horizon. I listen to full fade of an ambulance's siren. I study the body language of a child with a new toy. I record as much as I can without letting allowing my inner voice to do commentary. That way I have a bank of "clips" to use.

Let associative words attach. 
            As soon as I can, I play back what I have "recorded," and let my feelings attach to the "clip." Some feelings  are not immediately writable. Others are. Again, I am building my storehouse of future descriptions.

Use resources to expand my pool of words. 
           My Flip Dictionary thesaurus lists 72 words under the heading "Green."  Dictionaries list antonyms.  Children's encyclopedias have great pictures with captions and identifications.

          News magazine reporters and columnists are often masters of the succinct description. Short stories are a treasure trove of good examples.  Poets also play well with words. I read a variety of writing.

        Nothing beats practice.


Friday, September 14, 2012

Friday Friend - Nancy Jardine

Welcome to today's Friday Friend, Nancy Jardine.
A former Primary teacher, Nancy lives in the picturesque castle country of Aberdeenshire, Scotland, with her husband who feeds her well or she’d starve! Ancestry research is one of her hobbies, as is participating in exciting events with her family which drag her away from the keyboard. In her large garden she now grows spectacular weeds, which she’s becoming very fond of! She cherishes the couple of days a week when she child-minds her gorgeous granddaughter.
What’s In a Name?
Hello Paula. I’m really delighted to visit you today. I’d like to talk about an area of the world I believe you will be familiar with, since I seem to remember you blogging about the Lake District. My historical novel, The Beltane Choice, is set in areas covering northern England, and over the border hills into southern Scotland. The year is AD 71.
Why did I write about that particular era? It was simply because I loved teaching about Celts and Romans to my primary school classes. There was such a lot we could discover about the influx of the Roman armies and how they dominated the land that was lived in by the Celtic tribes.
It was particularly good to be able to teach about how the further north the Roman armies marched, the less hospitable they found the landscape…and subsequently the more resistant they found the northern Celtic tribes. I chose that particular year since it was a crucial time for the Celts of Northern Britain. In the annals of Roman history, as in the works of Tacitus, the domination of the Brigantes of the north was strategically important for the Roman Empire. Subduing the Brigantes meant the Roman Army could march even further north, into the lands we refer to as Southern Scotland-in particular into the lands of the Celtic Selgovae. The island of Britannia was the last outpost of Europe to be conquered-the Roman Empire dominated pretty much everywhere else.

History isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it is mine, and I itched to use my scant factual knowledge in a work of fiction. The plot of The Beltane Choice changed over the different draft stages, but in essence what I wanted to contrive was some way of having a unity amongst normally warring Celtic tribes, in order for them to stand more united against the super-disciplined Roman legions. The relationship between my Nara of the Selgovae, and Lorcan of the Brigantes, became the linchpin of the plot for The Beltane Choice.
Sometime around the year 2000 I visited Hadrian’s Wall country. Housesteads-a Roman Fort on Hadrian’s Wall, in Northumberland-was a great place to steep myself in the remains of a Roman encampment. I also visited the nearby Vindolanda, another Roman Fort, to get more background knowledge. Travelling to those sites gave me some idea of what the countryside looks like. Some places change a lot over the centuries, but I can’t imaging the rolling hills of the North Pennines, and the Cheviot Hills, changing so drastically that they would have been vastly different. The lower slopes, I imagined, would have been much more wooded with mixed plantings, but the view from the high tops I could easily imagine.
Some years later, when I wrote the first draft, I created my fictional landscape for The Beltane Choice. I’d never written a historical novel before so I contrived to find names I liked which had some authenticity. By that, I mean I took names from a fairly recent Ordinance Survey map. The names I honed in on were ones which had a particularly nice cadence, or ones which sounded like they, perhaps, had a Celtic connection from way back. I don’t speak Gaelic, and am not familiar with the Northumbrian dialect, so any names I chose were just because I liked, and wanted, to use them. I pulled up my memories of the landscape I’d travelled in during my Housesteads, trip and matched them up with my knowledge of Galloway in Scotland. The crannog village of Gyptus I set in a lake scene that stuck in my mind, though I can not recall which lake it was. It was definitely a smaller one in the Lake District of England.
When it came to writing about the battle scenes with the Roman armies, I picked Whorl as the main place for the action. I have no way of knowing if there ever was an immense battle there, between Brigante tribes and the Roman army, but in my work of fiction that’s where it happened. I used other names, or very close to other names, for other places during the conflict.
Roman history tells of conflict happening to the north of Eboracum (the current city of York) around AD 71, the Roman army settling back at the Eboracum garrison afterwards. Treaties were then signed between the Brigantes and the Roman Governor, Petilius Cerialis, to the effect that if the northern Celts did not attack Roman occupied areas, then the Romans would not attempt another surge north. Those same documents, written by Tacitus among others, state the agreements lasted some seven years before there was a change of Roman policy. By then Julius Agricola had been made Governor of Britannia and he wanted to show his worth by conquering the whole island. I used this basic piece of history as a part of the basic plot for The Beltane Choice.
I really will be delighted if someone, who knows the areas well, can tell me if I made good judgements over my chosen names, after they read the book. So long as they are aware that The Beltane Choice is a work of fiction!
Thank you for giving me the opportunity of sharing some background to The Beltane Choice with you today, Paula. It’s been lovely visiting you!

Buy links:  Crooked Cat Bookstore:
Book Trailer for The Beltane Choice

Blurb:  Can the Celtic Tribes repel the Roman army?

Banished from the nemeton, becoming a priestess is no longer the future for Nara, a princess of the Selgovae tribe. Now charged with choosing a suitable mate before Beltane, her plan is thwarted by Lorcan, an enemy Brigante prince, who captures her and takes her to his hill fort. Despite their tribes fighting each other, Nara feels drawn to her captor, but time runs out for her secret quest.

As armies of the Roman Empire march relentlessly northwards, Lorcan intends to use Nara as a marriage bargain, knowing all Celtic tribes must unite to be strong enough to repel imminent Roman attack. Nara’s father, Callan, agrees to a marriage alliance between Selgovae and Brigante, but has impossible stipulations. Lorcan is torn between loyalty to his tribe and growing love for Nara.

When danger and death arrive in the form of the mighty Roman forces, will Nara be able to choose her Beltane lover?


“Your spear, warrior-woman. What name do you go by?”
The Brigante’s burr was infuriating.
Aware of his change of mood, Nara hastened for her weapon. Almost letting her grasp it, he tugged it from her reach, his chortle derisive. “Nay. I do not think so. Not yet, woman of the Selgovae, of the tribe who call themselves hunters.”
Stung by his sneering attitude, Nara bristled. “You have saved me from the boar, Lorcan of Garrigill, but you may not toy with me, whatever you desire.”
Half-hooded lids flickered, a dangerous gleam settling, before his brows lifted skywards. “You have no knowledge of what I desire.”
His amusement rippled deep into her very centre, creating a heightened swell of reaction to wash through her. He paced around her setting off another quiver of unease…and a surge of anticipation she did not understand. The confrontation in his gaze she despised, but in a contrary way felt a deep response to it.
“And how do you think to stop me?” Sardonic humour permeated his gaze, which Nara did not appreciate when his head bent towards her.
“There is always a choice.” Her body tensed as she challenged him, her tongue sharp. “Did you not just tell me that?”
The Brigante chuckled. His rugged face came closer, so close the drooping facial hair prickled her skin. She reached forward, though she would have sworn she had had no intention to move. Covering up her strange response to him, she spluttered, “Leave me be! My tribespeople lie close.”

Other books by Nancy Jardine:



Thank you so much for visiting us today, Nancy. You've brought back many memories for me of visiting Hadrian's Wall, several times with groups of twelve-year-olds. One of them, on seeing scaffolding at Vindolanda, where restoration work was taking place, asked, "Oh, are they still building it?" As I'd given the class more than a dozen lessons on Roman Britain and the Wall, I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry!  

Thursday, September 13, 2012


Chaos in a romance novel has its place. Often our characters' worlds are discombobulated and thrown out of wack right up until that happily ever after. Then they, and us authors and readers, can breathe a sigh of relief.

Chaos in real life is a little less entralling. I'm feeling a bit chaotic these days.

For example:

Here's what my desk looks like...

...and this is what my closet looks like...

...and this is what my garden looks like...

Yep. Inside and outside various places in my house are a mess. I'd like to blame going back to school, but to be honest, things looked like this all summer and I was too busy relaxing to do much of anything about it. I can't really lay the blame on being stressed out at school, because so far, my new class is great.

Nope. It's all due to my lack of motivation. Which is carrying over into my writing life. Since July 30 I've written a grand total of four pages. Yep. in one, two, three, four. I guess to be fair to myself I did spend some time since then doing blurb writing, cover information, edits, and galley approval on An Unexpected Blessing , but I haven't generated anything new in quite a while.

I don't know what it is. I'm just not in the mood. To write. Or to organize.

Hopefully something will come along and kick me in the tush soon...because walking into my closet is becoming increasingly like wandering through an obstacle course. It's only a matter of time before I twist an ankle or a knee. And perhaps if my desk was neater, I'd feel more like sitting down at it and banging out some progress on my WIP.

Only time will tell.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Spark

What sparks my creativity? Everything!

Sometimes it’s a billboard I pass on the local highway that gives me an idea for a plot point.

Sometimes it’s a store I’ll walk or ride by—I’m still trying to figure out a story to go along with a tattoo parlor and a motorcycle repair shop.

Sometimes it’s an actor or character on TV or in the movies—usually, it’s a minor, walk-on character that hasn’t been fleshed out, leaving me plenty of room to invent a story of my own.

Sometimes it’s a situation that I’ve actually experienced—all you people who sit next to me in meetings, you’ve been warned!

Sometimes it’s a movie or TV show that I’ve overhead (not watched closely)—I’ve gotten enough snippets of them that let me create my own stories and go off in my own direction.

What sparks yours?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

UK and US - divided by the same language?

It’s said that Britain and America are two nations divided by the same language. Yes, we have different words for some things: elevator/lift, sidewalk/pavement, faucet/tap, etc. We say plaster, not bandaid, and what would an American say if I asked them for a rubber? I would, of course, be asking for an eraser!

We also have different spellings – Americans miss out the ‘u’ from colour, favourite, harbour, rumour and others. They put a ‘z’ ( zed to us Brits, not zee!) instead of ‘s’ in words like organise, realise and recognise. They miss out the ‘e’ in words such as likeable, liveable, saleable. They miss the endings off some words so programme becomes program and catalogue becomes catalog.

I've heard a ‘rule’ that if you're writing for a mostly American audience, you should use the American spelling. I’ve also heard of one person who got a one star review on Amazon because of their incorrect (i.e. British) spelling!

My ‘beef’ is that, if we Brits can cope with American words and spelling in books written by Americans, then the same should apply the other way round – and yet I’ve had my editor trying to change my words to American spelling, until I objected! She even insisted ‘newsagent’ was two words, and refused to accept that in the UK it is used, as one word, for a person (or shop) that sells newspapers and magazines.

There are other occasions when one of my American critique partners has queried words or phrases, and sometimes a distinctly British concept. In my most recent chapter critique, she corrected the word ‘Maths’ to ‘Math’ – but the former is what every school pupil here calls that subject. When I wrote about someone being ‘in hospital’, she thought it should be ‘in the hospital’ – but that’s not what we say here.

An even bigger problem has arisen over what the British mean by ‘Sixth Form’, a phrase with which everyone here is familiar. No, it isn’t equivalent to sixth grade, as my CP thought. It goes back to the time when our school years were numbered differently from American schools. The first year of high school used to be called the ‘first form’ and so on, until you got to the 15-16 year olds who were in the ‘fifth form’. After that we continued into the ‘Sixth Form’ for two years. Even though our school years have now been numbered to correspond more to American ‘grades’ from Year 1 to Year 11 (we don’t use the word ‘grade’), the words Sixth Form are still used almost everywhere for the 17/18 years olds. Some schools have a ‘Sixth Form Annexe’ for the senior students and some areas have separate Sixth Form Colleges for the senior pupils from several different schools in that area.

So here’s my quandary: if I’m writing a novel set in Britain and about British people, I think I should use British spelling, phrases and other concepts. However, if this is going to lead to confusion among my American readers who, like my CP, may think ‘Sixth Form’ means 10-year-olds, what do I do? I tried to bring in the meaning of ‘Sixth Form’ in the first chapter by linking it to ‘senior students’ without having my teacher characters explaining in detail (which of course they wouldn’t need to do in a British school!). However, my CP either didn’t understand this, or forgot about it when she got to a later chapter, as she queried whether a group of 10 year olds would be staying up so late at night on a trip to Paris!

I have to accept that she is representative of an average American reader, therefore it seems I need to find some ‘mid-Atlantic’ method of describing this kind of thing, to make it understandable for American readers while at the same time not sounding totally weird to my British readers!
Without wanting to appear controversial about all this, it has made me wonder whether American writers ponder in the same way when using or referring to American concepts, traditions or customs that overseas readers might not understand. I look forward to some interesting comments!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Friday Friend: Jessica Lauryn

Thanks so much for having me Ana, Debra, Jennifer and Paula!  I’m very excited to be here, and I’m very much looking forward to sharing my thoughts with your readers.  As this blog is called “Heroines with Hearts,” I’ve decided to share a little about heroines, not typically the first element that comes to my mind when I’m considering writing, or reading, a romance novel.

So, how important is having a strong heroine?  If you’re anything like I was when I first began writing, you might think that the heroine’s strength of character is not all that important.  Or perhaps you’re so distracted by the hero you find it difficult to focus on anything else.  Well, if you feel this way you’re probably not alone.  However, I urge you to pay attention to this very critical element, one which is significantly more important than you might think.

When I was first began writing romance, I thought the most important thing I could do was to create danger.  Danger enhances plot, and it creates a feeling of urgency and suspense.  Aside from the fact that I wanted to write romantic suspense, I was trying to create opportunities for my hero to come to my heroine’s rescue.  Because that’s what we’re all reading for, right?  To see the hero strut his stuff, to see him be…a hero?  This is very true, and it’s something I agree with strongly.  But a hero is only as good as his heroine.  And consequently, a heroine must be equally as strong as her hero.

The first story I ever wrote, the original version of Dangerous Proposal, looks very different from the finished project.  There were many things I needed to change about this story before it could be published, but one in particular stands out in my mind.  My heroine, Lena, was weak. 

But I want her that way, I said.  How else can the hero, Alec, save her?  How else can I give him an opportunity to make her go weak-at-the-knees, come to her rescue?  Well, there are a lot of ways to do this.  And in fact, it’s a lot more interesting to see a strong heroine brought to the point of vulnerability, by virtue of a scary plot, and her inexplicable attraction to the hero, than it is a weak one.  It’s just that simple.

I submitted the original version of Dangerous Proposal to contests and critique partners, and most were in agreement that the heroine, Lena, was weak.  But something else about her was pointed out to me, and that was something that made a tremendous difference as I began the editing process.  Namely, Lena wasn’t likeable.

Lena’s not likeable, I gasped.  Why the heck not?  She’s sweet.  She’s smart.  And she’d do anything to help the people she loves.  But just as the old adage goes, it’s difficult for others to like a person who doesn’t like them self.  And apparently, Lena did NOT like herself.  If she did, why would she remain engaged to a fiancé that she had serious doubts about, a man she was almost positive was doing cold and underhanded business dealings—a criminal?

And so, I set out to fill in the blanks.  It didn’t take too long.  Lena’s parents were overbearing.  So overbearing that they’d set her up on dates with one arrogant blowhard after the next, made it their mission in life to find her a husband.  They drove her so crazy that dating a psychopath was practically a break from the monotony.  Not that Lena knew Lucas was a psychopath, exactly.  She knew enough to have some doubt about the relationship, but when she learns what he’s up to—trying to get the two of them married without her consent—she does what any strong heroine would do.  She runs, not looking back.

Strong heroines propose an opposing force to the heroes that challenge them.  And typically, that opposing force is needed, both to balance a story as well as to help the hero grow as a man. 

In my debut release, Dangerous Ally, Lilah (heroine, New York Times Reporter, and also Lena Benson’s younger sister) takes a job in the Ramone Mansion.  A hard-nosed journalist, Lilah is hoping to expose Lucas Ramone (her sister’s ex-fiancé) for his crimes, and write the story of a lifetime.  But what Lilah doesn’t realize is that from the first moment, she actually begins to transform Lucas in a positive way. 

Telling himself he’s only trying to sway the savvy journalist’s opinion, Lucas finds himself sticking his neck out for Lilah on several occasions, coming to the aid of his own sister and half-brother, and making a sizable donation to a charity.  This strong heroine impacts this tough-as-nails hero in a major way, causing him to look inside of himself and make a complete transformation.

But…if my heroine’s too strong, will it be believable for her to come into danger’s path, consequently providing opportunities for the hero to come to her rescue?  Absolutely!  Once I got over the notion that only weak heroines need saving, I realized that there was a whole world of opportunities for my heroines to be saved. 

For instance, in Dangerous Proposal, strong and independent heroine Lena Benson attempts to hide in the remote town of North Conway.  But danger is never far away.  A witch, whose identity and significance are a mystery to Lena and the audience alike, is hot on her tail.  And of course, Lucas is never far away either.  Despite the fact that Lena is a strong heroine, these villainous elements offer her a world of danger, and consequently, opportunities for hero, Alec, to come to her rescue, are numerous.

As romance novels are typically read by women, the heroine is often the protagonist.  Sometimes the protagonist is weak, but let’s face it.  Isn’t it disappointing when that is the case?  As our readers essentially see the story through the protagonist’s eyes, they’re looking for someone who inspires them, someone they can identify with, and someone we want to emulate.  When that character is strong, we in turn, are inspired to be strong.  And aren’t we all trying to be strong heroines when the day is done?        

At two years old, Jessica became a devoted fan of both listening to and reciting the books her parents would read to her at night. When she was a little older (about four), she sought a greater challenge in her life, and began making up stories of her own, acting them out with her dolls. “When the dolls got “boyfriends,” she says, “I knew I was getting too old for dolls!”

As a romance novelist and a reader alike, Jessica is most intrigued by dark heroes, who have many demons to conquer…but little trouble enticing female companions into their beds! She feels that the best romances are those where the hero is already seducing the heroine from that first point of contact. “Isn’t it the hero’s job to seduce?” she says with a grin.

Jessica loves to see the sparks fly when a stubborn, domineering hero crosses paths with a bold, feisty heroine, and uses the combination frequently in her stories.

When she’s is not writing, Jessica enjoys listening to as much80’s music as possible, watching the same re-runs of Smallville over and over, shopping for exceptionally unique cameos, and taking long walks in nature where she can daydream about anything romantic. Though she resides in Central New Jersey, her heart belongs to the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire.

Blurb for Dangerous Proposal:

For ten agonizing years, Alec Westwood has been keeping a secret from the world. At nineteen, he nearly committed the most horrific of crimes—murder in cold blood—and narrowly escaped the assigned task with his life. When a stunning young woman crosses his path wearing the insignia for the underground organization that recruited him, he vows not to let fate get a second chance. But when the enchantress gives him a kiss that leaves him spellbound, Alec realizes the power she holds is greater than all his strength and fortitude combined…

On the run from her psychotic fiancé, Lena Benson vows to forge a new life, even if that means befriending a witch, and practicing the craft of the devil. But when her new friend Jack tells her to stay away from Alec Westwood, the man she believes her fiancé hired to track her down, and the handsome stranger she kissed in a tavern, Lena vows to take matters into her own hands. Alec may have the charm, but she’s calling the shots this time, even if that means resisting the man responsible for giving her the most intimate kiss of her life, a man who’s eyes and touch rob her, literally, of sense…

Excerpt for Dangerous Proposal:

She ought to go. She certainly wanted to. But the idea of walking alone in the woods with the man she’d been warned to stay away from seemed most unimaginable.

Lena looked at Alec. He was smiling softly, no longer criticizing. His eyes were full of intent. They suggested one thing. Come with me. And your desires will be fulfilled.

Anticipation consumed her. She reached for his hand. Excitement melted into warmth. Warmth became security. They began to walk together along the moonlit path.

She felt…safe. As if for the first time since she’d left Westchester, everything was going to be all right. No one could hurt her. Not when she was with Alec. Her skin tingled with warmth as he brushed his thumb across the surface of her hand.

“Where are we going?” she asked.

“I thought we were taking risks tonight,” he said with a grin. “You want to be surprised, don’t you?”

Her cheeks were flushing. She was grateful for the darkness that masked her anxious demeanor.
He smiled. “Don’t worry. I think you’re going to like this.”

She imagined she would, considering how much she had enjoyed everything he’d done so far. A part of her was still afraid, but a larger part wanted very much to know where he was taking her. 

Alec stroked her knuckles as they walked. The feeling was intoxicating, like sweet, dark chocolate. The longer he did it, the more it seemed this simple touch was no longer enough.

She was drawn from her thoughts as Alec stopped beside a bench. He took a red-and-blue-checkered picnic blanket and slung it over his shoulder.

“Is that yours?”

He shrugged. “I just thought you might want something to sit on. Some of us tend to”—he cleared his throat—“dress up a little more than others.”

Lena laughed. With his hand around hers, she was almost appreciating his wit. “I guess some of us do.”

He leaned in, his warm breath coming against her ear. “I didn’t say I didn’t like it.” He gave her hand a squeeze. “It’s just past those trees. No peeking. I want you to be surprised.

“I promise I won’t peek.” She smiled and shut her eyes. A shiver shot up her spine when she realized he was kissing her cheek.

Lena took an uneasy breath as she walked forward, unable to see what was in front of her. 

Keeping her arms at her sides, Alec moved her in slow steps. She was taking quite a risk, allowing him to lead her along like this. He could do anything he wanted to her with her eyes closed like this. Oddly enough, the idea was more exciting than it was frightening.

Guiding her by the shoulders, he walked forward a few more paces. Then he stopped. “All right,” he said. “Open your eyes.

Lena did as she was told, looking out at the biggest, most beautiful lake she’d ever seen. It was vast in size, extending out as far as the trees that surrounded it. Moonlight shined against an uneven surface. Dark ripples glittered beneath a starlit sky.

She turned, looking up into two eyes as blue as the water. “It’s beautiful, Dr. Westwood.”

“Say my name, Lena,” he commanded softly. “I love the way it sounds when you say it.

Lena bit her lip. Once she did this, there was no going back. It would break the unspoken barrier between them. But how could she deny him anything when he was looking at her the way he was?

She suddenly became aware of Alec’s arousal pressing against her back. Her pulse quickened. He tucked a lock of hair behind her ear, tightening his hold on her.

She took a deep breath. “The lake is beautiful, Alec.”