Wednesday, September 30, 2015

M is for Mist Na Mara

Paula invented a house for her first Irish novel.

Mist Na Mara was the house my hero and heroine jointly inherited in Irish Inheritance, and from the moment I started the novel, I could see it in my mind.

Here’s the heroine’s first view of the front of the house:
Built of grey stone, Mist Na Mara House had a central doorway, flanked on both sides by a pair of long sash windows and, at each end of the frontage, large square bay windows on the ground and upper floors.

I knew roughly where I wanted the house to be situated (i.e. near Clifden in the west of Ireland) but had to ignore the fact that this area only had a few isolated stone cottages, and some modern white bungalows. This was where I wanted my house to be, so I put it there anyway!

And this was the view from the front of the house:
She turned and let her eyes take in the panoramic view. Not only did they overlook the narrow bay and the low green hills on the far shore, but they were high enough to see another stretch of water beyond and some larger hills. On their left were the peaks of the Twelve Bens, and to their right, broken by a few rocky islets, was the vast grey expanse of the Atlantic Ocean.

The inside of the house was sharply focused in my mind, too:
Once inside, she stared around, hardly able to take in the elegance of the large hallway with oak wainscoting and polished parquet floor. In the centre stood a rosewood pedestal table on an ornately carved column, and a crystal chandelier sparkled in the sun’s rays through the arched fanlight above the door. On each side of the hallway were two solid oak doors, much broader than modern doorways. Ahead of them, a wide wooden staircase curved upwards, with a brass handrail and wrought iron balusters, and a corridor at the side of the stairs led to the back of the house.

And, of course, there was the bedroom which had been locked for over 70 years, and my hero and heroine were the first to see it, but I won’t post any spoilers here about that!

Originally I called the house Sea Mist House – but then I discovered there was a hotel with that name in Clifden. One of my friends in Dublin came to my rescue, with the half-English, half Irish name of Mist Na Mara – meaning ‘mist of the sea’.

The house also played a part in my second Irish novel, because the heroine of that story, who lived there when it became an arts and drama centre, had every reason not to want to return as a result of tragedy two years earlier.

Mist Na Mara also plays a large part in my current WIP, the third of my Irish novels, and I’m now so familiar with the place, I find it hard sometimes to remember it is not actually a ‘real’ place.

Imagination is definitely a wonderful thing! And one comment by a reviewer was especially pleasing: The description of the old house, Mist Na Mara, was excellent. I walked around the house in my head, I could picture the bedrooms, the kitchen, and even the drive up to it.

It’s great when something you have invented also captures someone else’s imagination.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

M Is For Miriam

Jennifer talks about her heroine, Miriam...

The heroine in my latest book, Miriam’s Surrender, is...wait for it...Miriam! She first appeared as the sister in The Seduction of Esther, and when I wanted to write a sequel, I chose her as the heroine. Never having written a series before, I probably should have planned things out a little better to make it easier to write her, but, live and learn.

In my head, when I first created her in Esther, I pictured a young BeBe Neuwirth--she played Lilith in Cheers--minus the curly hair. Once I realized she was going to be my heroine, I needed to soften her a bit so that a reader could like her more. But I couldn't make her too soft.

She’s super controlled. She doesn’t do anything without a plan and she’s flawless, or at least, she pretends to be. On the outside, her hair is perfect (I’m so jealous), her clothes are exactly right, she never spills or makes a mess or loses control.

But inside? That’s another story. Growing up, she was the sister who was supposed to take care of everyone else. She wasn’t supposed to make mistakes. And the one time she did, well, let’s just say she never let it happen again. That’s a lot of pressure for one person to live under, and it’s had a huge impact on her life.

Which is why ceding control to someone else is such a big deal for her. She’s always been the one everyone else depends on. It’s going to take a really strong man to convince her it’s okay for her to give in, without giving up.


“I’m glad you agreed to have dinner with me. Maybe we’ll do it again?”
“I’d like that.” She looked at Josh and smiled.
He tipped his head and Miriam could feel his breath warm her face. Mere inches apart, she could see silver and black flecks in his irises, stubble on his cheeks, the arch of his eyebrow. Shivers zinged up her spine. Like a magnetic pull, she wanted to lean into him, to feel his body against hers, to press her lips against his. But they worked together, and a kiss would change everything. As if he read her mind, he pulled back, said goodbye and got into the cab and drove away. Miriam covered her lips with her fingers.
What in the world was she supposed to do now? He’d come close to kissing her. She could still feel the electric charge between them; still catch a slight scent of his musky aftershave in the air. His hand had held her arm with enough pressure to keep her against him. Although she’d watched him leave, she could still feel the imprint of his touch. She stroked her hand up and down her arm.
Did she give away how much she wanted to kiss him too? It was so quick, so unexpected, she couldn’t be sure. Her mind shot off in all directions as she entered her building and took the elevator to her fifth floor apartment.
They worked together! How in the world was she supposed to look at him when they next met? Should she acknowledge the kiss that almost happened? Should she pretend it never did? He didn’t plan on discussing it at their next meeting, did he?

Available on Amazon & Barnes & Noble

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Sunday Excerpt from Paula's 'Irish Inheritance'

Jenna and Guy have visited the house they have jointly inherited in the west of Ireland, and shared a spontaneous and passionate kiss in the Victorian bedroom. However, the evening at their hotel, with Dan McGrath, the lawyer, and Eve Callaghan, the very attractive property agent, has left Jenna feeling annoyed!

Jenna kicked off her shoes and threw her handbag on the bed. With a frustrated exhalation, she yanked open the door of the minibar fridge and pulled out a small bottle of white wine. So what if she’d already had two glasses during the evening?
Damn this Irish inheritance. Damn the family links that had brought her here. Damn Eve Callaghan. And damn Guy Sinclair too.
Glass in hand, she dropped down on the chair near the window. Some of the wine sloshed on her trousers, leaving a dark stain after she’d brushed it with her fingers.
She took a quick gulp of wine.
Calm down, Jenna.
The evening had been a disaster. Eve Callaghan had fawned over Guy, directing all her comments to him, leading him off in discussions about Ireland and America and God knows what else. Despite what he’d said about feeling uneasy about her, he’d responded to her flirting, laughing with her and exchanging amused glances.
In contrast, he’d hardly spoken more than a dozen words to her all evening. Instead, she and Dan had chatted, and she’d shared with him what Charley had told her about her grandfather’s mother and grandmother.
So what game was Guy playing? Was he interested in Eve Callaghan, despite his reservations about her?
The memory of his kiss forced its way into her mind. He’d made excuses, said it was the room and the dress, but she hadn’t imagined the passion in their kiss or the intensity in his eyes after Dan’s voice had interrupted them.
“Oh, to hell with him,” she muttered and downed the rest of her wine.
Tomorrow they’d return to Dublin and, with a bit of luck, she could catch an evening flight to London. If he wanted to come back to Ireland, he could do it on his own. She’d tell him she wanted to sell the house, and that would be the end of it.
A light knock on the door startled her. Who on earth—?
Her breath hitched when a squint through the peephole showed Guy standing outside. For half a second, she was tempted to ignore his knock, but curiosity got the better of her.
She opened the door but left the security chain on its latch.
“What do you want?”
“To talk to you.”
“Like you’ve been doing all evening?”
“Jenna, I need to explain. Please, may I come in?"

English actress Jenna Sutton and American artist Guy Sinclair first meet when they jointly inherit a house on the west coast of Ireland. Curious about their unknown benefactress and why they are considered 'family', they discover surprising links to the original owners of the house.
They soon unravel an intriguing tale of a 19th century love affair. At the same time, their mutual attraction grows, despite personal reasons for not wanting romantic involvements at this point in their lives.
A local property agent appears to have her own agenda concerning the house while other events pull Jenna and Guy back to separate lives in London and America. Friction builds over their decision about the house and its contents.
Will their Irish inheritance eventually bring them together - or drive them apart?
Available from Amazon USA , Amazon UK

Friday, September 25, 2015

L is for Love

Margaret talks about characters falling in love

What else would I say L is for when I’ve been writing love stories for nearly forty years? There are lots of songs about love – Love is in the air, Love is all around, are two of my favourites. To me writing a love story is writing about what goes on every day of our lives. It’s part of human nature.

What is interesting is that I can let my imagination run riot. I create the characters, I create their situations, and I work out their problems for them. Or do I?

Very often the characters tell me what is going on. I sometimes shake my head in amazement and think, where did that come from? It’s not what I planned. So you see love happens. I don’t plan for my characters to fall in love (of course I know they will - eventually) Nor do I think to myself, it’s about time I put a love scene in here. Everything happens when the time is right, when the characters dictate it is right.

The build up to such scenes is probably more important than the scene itself. The emotions each character feels has been growing inside them for maybe the whole of the book up until this point. They may not have been aware of it but deep down inside something was happening. All it took was one trigger for both hero and heroine to give in to those feelings.

Nor does a love scene have to be the actual physical act. Closeness. Just being held by the person you have feelings for can be just as intense. Kissing is sometimes all that is needed. In the book I’m currently writing it took a long, long time for my characters to get together emotionally. And even then it wasn’t love they felt. Not true love. That came later, much later.

My belief is that there is no such thing as love at first sight. What do you think?



Thursday, September 24, 2015

L is for Logan

Logan Reed is the hero in Debra's This Time for Always.

I have to admit that while I'm working on a particular story, I've fallen in love with each and every one of my heroes in turn. Which isn't a bad thing. But I also have to admit that out of all of them, Logan holds a special place in my heart. Because he was my first.

The hero in your first published novel is someone you never forget.

Logan has the proverbial chip on his shoulder from being born on the wrong side of the tracks. In high school he meets and begins dating Sharlie Montgomery, a girl from the other side of town. They fall in love, but Sharlie's father is against the match, and, though little did Logan know it at the time, is the cause of their break up. Logan hates being poor and never felt he was good enough for Sharlie, and her father's actions help prove the least in Logan's mind.

Fast forward about twelve years. Logan has returned to town a changed man. He's all grown up now, with money of his own, and he's there to prove a point. He wants the whole town, and especially Sharlie, to know he's made something of himself. Finding Sharlie working at the bar he wants to buy isn't part of his plan, and the sparks fly immediately between the two: both residual anger and residual passion. Logan is confused to discover her father is no longer a part of her life, and their financial situations have reversed. He's the one with money now and she's living day to day.

I find it interesting that in working on this first manuscript way back when, I felt Logan needed to be angry...all the time. I think that came from my reading background. In high school I read lots and lots of romance, and most were filled with alpha males whose main emotion was anger. Perhaps a comment on the style of the times. Beta heroes were definitely not in vogue at that time. I don't remember if it was a contest or a submission to a publisher, but someone commented after reading the mss that Logan was too angry.

The beginning of mss did wind up winning first place in a contest, and eventually went on to be my first published work with TWRP. By that time Logan's anger had been toned down a bit, and I was able to share a bit of his softer side as well.

And it was probably that softer side that made me fall in love with him, and why out of all my heroes, he'll always hold a special spot in my heart.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


P.S. Not only did I fall in love with Logan, but I fell in love with the setting in that first book, too. Two other books went on to complete my Corral series, and even then I wasn't ready to leave it behind. I started a spin-off series or novellas, Holidays at The Corral. I'm pleased as punch to say I just signed a contract for the second book in the series, Valentines Day at The Corral. Yay! And while we don't actually get to 'see' Logan in this story, he does get a mention! :)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

L is for Lake District

Paula loves the English Lake District.

I’ve been revising Fragrance of Violets for re-publication (and eventually forced myself to stop tweaking and to submit it last Sunday!). The story is set mainly in the Lake District, an area in North West England, which is one of our national parks. Known sometimes as Lakeland, or simply ‘The Lakes’, it’s not a large area – about 32 miles from east to west, and 40 from north to south – but it contains some of the most beautiful scenery in England. There are dozens of lakes, of course, although only one of them has the word ‘lake’ in its name. Others are called ‘water’ or ‘mere’ and the smaller ones are called ‘tarns’.
Windermere - the largest lake
The mountains in the Lake District are usually known as ‘fells’. They’re not particularly high (all under 3,300 feet), but they can still provide some spectacular views, from the valleys
Langdale Pikes from Tarn Hows

Or from the tops

It’s now over 55 years since I first visited the Lake District with my parents, who bought a small caravan just outside one of the villages in the southern part of this area. We used to go there frequently, and I eventually took over the caravan from them. As a result, I got to know the village very well, and it became the village in my novel. Although I gave it a different name (which allowed me to ‘move’ some of the buildings around), anyone familiar with the Lake District would recognise it!
Here, for example, is the twelfth century church on a small hill above the village, and the grey stone building is the ‘Old School’ which caused some controversy in my story when the roof was damaged by heavy rain.
This is the pub where, during the 80s, I got to know a lot of the locals – and played dominoes with them, so of course I had to use it in the story!

Here’s one of the small squares in the village

And here is one of the quaint, narrow lanes.

As well as giving the village a different name, I even ‘moved’ it into a different valley, because, ever since I was in my teens, this particular valley, dominated by its twin peaks (known as ‘pikes’ in Lakeland) has been my favourite place in the whole world. I may have fallen in love with Connemara in the last 10 years, but revising Fragrance of Violets has reminded me that I have had a much longer love affair with the Lake District, and especially with this valley!

Stop Press Info!
I'm happy to say that the new cover for Fragrance of Violets (finalised copy received today, just three days after submission of the ms.!) has a genuine Lakeland scene as its background and I am thrilled to bits with it!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

L Is For Lily

Jennifer introduces us to her heroine, Lily...

Lily is the heroine of A Heart of Little Faith. I chose her name because of its flower meaning. I wanted a woman who appeared delicate and beautiful, yet had a core of strength to her. Unlike the hero, I wanted her to appear exactly as she seems. In this book, Lily is a widow and has a six-year-old daughter named Claire. The scene below is where Lily and the hero, Gideon, first meet.

He stared at her, bedazzled. He only intended to look for a moment, but she turned around and met his eyes. Caught red-handed he contemplated turning around, but that would be cowardly. He couldn’t continue to stare at her without appearing either moronic or rude, especially since he hated when people stared at him. He inhaled and tried to muster up a smile, when another man approached her. Breaking their gaze, she turned and smiled at him. Gideon inched closer. He heard her engage the other man in casual conversation before she gently excused herself. As the other man walked off, she turned back to Gideon and smiled. Her green cat eyes pierced his soul and made him believe she could see right through him. He continued to watch her, entranced.
“Hasn’t anyone taught you it’s impolite to stare?”
Struck by the irony of her question, he burst into warm laughter, rested an elbow on the back of his wheelchair and shook her outstretched hand. Her soft cool hand fit completely within his hard, callused one and he closed his other hand over hers. He felt the delicate veins beneath her skin, her pulse beating in her wrist and wished to prolong the skin-on-skin contact for as long as possible. Reluctantly, he let it go.  
“I’m Gideon.”
“Are you a fan?”
Lily stared at him blankly for a moment and blinked quickly. “Oh, of the artist’s?” She turned once more to look at the painting, tilting her head to the right. “Not exactly. He’s a little too…”
“Much? Bright? Vulgar?”
Lily laughed. “I see you’re a huge fan. No, maybe, I don’t know. The colors are cheery, if only maybe there weren’t so many. But looking at it does brighten my mood.”
“Bad day at work?”
“Terrible. But why are you here if you don’t like the artist?”
Gideon turned and pointed to Samantha on the other side of the room. “She’s my sister.”
Lily raised her eyebrows as she looked over at the gallery owner.
“Oh, Samantha’s my best friend. I didn’t realize you were her brother. So I guess she roped you into this too?”
He sat back and gave her what he hoped was a relaxed grin. “Brotherly duty, or some such nonsense. Apparently I pulled one too many pigtails as a child and this is my penance.”
Lily laughed. She has a great laugh, he thought. It lit up her whole face. “Samantha had pigtails?”
The two of them turned to look at Samantha, currently sporting short and spiky jet-black hair, with small rhinestone barrettes scattered throughout. “You’ll have to fill me in more later,” Lily added, as she stifled a yawn.
“What, is it my stimulating conversation, or these garish paintings that bores you?” Gideon asked, one eyebrow raised.
Lily apologized. “I’m sorry. I had a long day at work and I’m exhausted. I wasn’t even going to come, but Samantha begged.”
“She tends to do that. I’ve told her it isn’t a pleasing trait, but why should she listen to me? I’m only her big brother.”

Find it on Amazon

Monday, September 21, 2015

Lines, as in Sappy Pick-up Lines

The hero of Ana's time travel sends the heroine flowers with this sappy line written on the card: ‘My life is complete now that I have found you.’

Here are some more:

Aren't you tired? You have been running in my mind all night.

If you were standing in front of a mirror holding 11 red roses you would be looking at the 12 most beautiful things in the world.

Are you from Tennessee? Because you're the only "ten" I see.

If I received a nickel for every time I saw someone as beautiful as you, I'd have five cents.

Are you a parking ticket? (What?) You got fine written all over you.

Pick up a pack of sugar that actually says "sugar" on it and say, "You dropped your name tag!"

I must be in heaven because I'm standing next to you.

Baby, if you were words on a page, you'd be what they call fine print.

Somebody better call God because he's missing an angel.

Can I have directions? ["To where?"] To your heart.

Did the sun come out or did you just smile at me?

Do you have a map? I keep getting lost in your eyes.

Hey, don't frown - you never know who might be falling in love with your smile.

I dropped a tear in the ocean. The day I find it is the day I'll stop loving you.

I would love to be your tears, to be born in your eyes, live on your cheeks and die on your lips.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Sunday Snippet-The Seduction of Esther

This is Jennifer's favorite meeting of her hero and heroine...

Of all the ways I've had my hero and heroine meet, this one in this book is my favorite. What do you think?

Her stomach growled and the sound yanked Samara back to the present. She was hungry. With a shake of her head, she reached for a shopping cart and headed down the aisle.
Mounds of bright colored produce lured her—oranges, broccoli, bananas, kale. Her goal—the potatoes; the multitude of delicious sights and smells distracted her and she squeezed and smelled her way through the narrow aisles toward the back of the store.
Samara whipped her head up as a deep voice interrupted her thoughts of baked potatoes au gratin.  A tanned hand reached for her arm, its fingers long and square with clean nails.  They pressed against her arm, just firm enough for her to feel their warmth. Her gaze traveled up his arm, from the wrist. A light dusting of dark hair peeked from beneath the cuff of a starched, white shirt. Her eyes continued their way up to the biceps that filled out the sleeve. She continued across the broad expanse of chest, up a tanned throat, over a chiseled chin darkened by five o’clock shadow, past soft lips, around flared nostrils and into blue eyes. Slate-blue eyes twinkled at her. She yanked her arm out of his grasp.
“Let go of me, please!”
“Sorry. Didn’t want you to run me over.”
She tilted her head. Did his eyes always twinkle this much? She’d never seen him before; while his eyes alone would have been enough to spark a glimmer of recognition if they’d ever crossed paths, his voice was unforgettable. A trace of a rasp, like a callused finger catching on a silk blouse; a hint of a Southern drawl stuck out even in the melting pot of New York accents; a satirical lilt, a promise of laughter to brighten the darkest days. No, she would never forget his voice. She could get lost in it for days. Goosebumps ran down her back and she shivered. The sudden, uncontrollable movement jerked her out of her reverie and brought her back to the present. The glint in his eye told her he’d noticed her distraction and her cheeks warmed. When he stared at her, without saying a word, she jerked her cart out of his way and ploughed into the display of russet potatoes. The table screeched against the linoleum floor and mounds of brown spuds wobbled at the impact. Samara closed her eyes in horror and yanked her cart out of the way. She watched as one potato toppled onto the floor. Like a scout on a mission, it paved the way for the rest of the potatoes, because the pile collapsed and poured around her feet.
“Watch where you’re going, lady,” the produce guy shouted as he ran and surveyed the damage.
Samara’s face heated even more. She resisted the urge to press her palm to her cheek to make sure she wasn’t about to burst into flame, and backed away. Her heel caught on a potato and her leg slid forward. A tanned hand grabbed her arm and held her up. Too embarrassed to do anything, she gripped the grocery cart and closed her eyes. His next words made them fly open.

“Sorry, it was my fault.” He bent down and picked up the runaway potatoes. Her hands itched to smooth themselves across the broad plains of his back and feel his muscles bunch under his shirt. Instead, she gripped the handle of her grocery cart hard enough to turn her knuckles white. That’s all I need. One touch and I’d probably knock this whole place down, or worse, injure the guy. Before she could cause any more damage, or embarrass herself any further, Samara fled from the store.

Still on sale for $0.99.