Friday, December 31, 2010

Welcome to Francine Howarth!

Please join with me in giving a very warm welcome to Francine who joins us a fifth member of 'Heroines with Hearts'. Francine lives in Pembrokeshire, a beautiful area of Wales. She has had erotic romance novels and e-books published in the past and is now trying to get back into the publishing world again.

Here's her introductory blog:

To say I'm thrilled to be posting on here at “Heroines’ with Hearts” is an understatement: it's fab. As a once published writer who dropped off the radar due to a serious riding accident, I appreciate how easy it is to create a web profile and start "waffling books and the writing of" like a rookie whilst trying to break back into the world of publishing. But, like all bloggers I know how much harder it is to generate a following of likeminded souls. To be honest I cannot remember how I discovered Heroines’ with Hearts, but I fell upon this happy band of writers and have followed them ever since. Their posts not only amuse and enlighten on individual writing projects, they come across as fun people displaying mutual love for writing romance novels and always, upbeat air prevails: the latter attracted my attention. I love to know what inspired a particular novel, how the characters came into being, and a little background info on the author and why they write romance. Who doesn't want to know these things?

As a romantic writer I find inspiration in paintings, and bizarre as it may seem it’s as though the very images (people) come to life in overnight dreamlike movie: their intimate stories unfolding in dramatic detail. I then feel compelled to present their story in words, all the while their passion and obsession luring me toward the ultimate romantic liaison. Sometimes insane jealousy enters play, maybe even revenge when dark emotional pits of despair lie in wait for the unwary and trap them in its evil grip. I’m a rebel at heart and love rogue characters, and some of my rogues have redeeming qualities but don’t always get the girl they desire. But then, I do love torturing male characters and putting them through hell! Who knows, maybe one day you’ll be reading one of my latest offerings. In the meantime, you can read sample chapters from my latest historical here:

Thursday, December 30, 2010

"Here we go again..."

I think if I were to create a story around the phrase 'Here we go again...' it would have to be a reunion story. I'm not sure if I'd include the actual phrase, but the phrase would give me a starting point.

If I were going to include the actual phrase, I might use it as an opening hook for a story...maybe the heroine talking to her girlfriend about the horrible date she had the night before - again! - not knowing that Mr. Right (our dashing hero) is right around the corner...maybe literally! Or perhaps the gal pal is talking about the fabulous guy she met the night before, and the heroine is pondering why she can't find THE ONE. Again, little does she know he's about to come into her life in spectacular fashion.

Or maybe it starts us off with a single mom who's teen-age son keeps getting into trouble. The super sexy and sensitive guidance counselor at school will not only be her son's salvation, but our hero as well.

Just a few thoughts off the top of my head!

Happy New Year to y'all!

Until next time ('see' you next year!),

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Here we go again...

My mind has stayed fairly blank on this one too.
Maybe it's what Santa says as he sets off on his sleigh on yet another Christmas Eve?
Or maybe you say it when you submit a previously rejected novel to another publisher?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Here we go again...

This week's topic is 'How I would build a story around the phrase, "Here we go again."'

Still thinking.....

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Ghost of Christmas Past...and Present

My Christmas traditions sure have changed over the years. As a kid we'd head off to one grandma's on Christmas Eve. The aunts and uncles and cousins would join us and we'd have dinner, then open presents. Everything was done in an organized way. Presents were opened in turn, with the youngest starting. This gave everyone the opportunity to see what everyone else had gotten, and to enjoy the reactions of those opening presents.

Then it was off to the other Grandma's house. We'd go to church, then head back to her house to have a little snack (sandwiches, Jello, cookies) and open presents. This was a much more chaotic opening of gifts. Everyone opened at once, which was also great fun, but more difficult to focus on what what going on around you.

We'd sleep at Grandma's, and then Christmas Day we'd head over to my aunt's house for dinner. At home later that night, we'd open our presents from Santa. My sister and I were always very spoiled by Santa.

Throughout the years those traditions have changed. The grandmas got older and eventually passed on. Most of the cousins grew up, got married, and had families of their own. Even in recent years the "routine" has varied, depending on where Mom and Dad happen to be living at the time (up here, down in Florida), but in the last ten years or so, we've settled into new traditions and ways to celebrate.

On Christmas Eve my wonderful hubby and I open our presents to each other. Then we head off to my parents' house. My sister joins us there. We spend the day lazing about, have dinner (the meal varies from year to year), and head out to church (if the roads aren't too bad). In the morning we open presents (I have to say that Santa still spoils us!) The organized, methodical way of opening presents has carried over here, and it's as much fun to watch others open their presents as it is to open my own.

After breakfast we head over to the hubby's sister's house. Here chaoes reigns. With sixteen in the family - there's no order to opening presents. But it's a happy chaos. We spend the day, have dinner, and then sometimes we'll watch a movie, or simply head back home.

After two days and a night away, it's a treat to snuggle up on the couch together, and then lay our heads down in our own bed to go to sleep.

So however you and yours are celebrating this year, I wish you a VERY Merry Christmas!

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Memories

Memories of Christmas divide into different ‘eras’:
My childhood memories – the excitement of Christmas Eve and then waking up, finding the full Christmas stocking at the end of my bed. Not the ‘ready-made’ Christmas stockings you can buy these days, but one of my Mum’s old nylon stockings (or was it rayon – or even lisle?). One of my most-used gifts was a thick exercise book which I got when I was about eight. I wrote my early stories in that book – in pencil, so I could rub them out and start another story when I ran out of space. I filled every millimetre of space in that book – several times over!
Teenage memories – for several years, family friends came on either Christmas Day evening or the next evening (called Boxing Day over here). As a change from turkey sandwiches, my Mum used to make a huge meat and potato pie for supper, enough to feed about twelve of us. One Christmas Day thick fog descended and the friends were unable to get to our house. So after Christmas, in addition to eating up the left-over turkey, we were also eating up all the meat and potato pie until we truly never wanted to see (or eat) pie again!
Then came the era when my daughters were young. They had ‘real’ stockings too, and I spent hours wrapping everything up individually. One year they both had dolls’ houses which I ‘decorated’ for them using scraps of carpet, linoleum and curtains etc to match the real ones in our house. It was the winter of 1973 when we were having repeated power cuts due to the global energy crisis and various industrial disputes, and I remember trying to sew tiny curtains by candlelight!
The girls grew up and wanted to be off out with their friends once Christmas Dinner was over. I was left to entertain my aging parents which wasn’t very difficult as they both tended to fall asleep soon after the early evening news on TV.
Then came the grandchildren – and back to the joys of kids’ toys again. My younger grandson was into ‘making things’ when he was five or six – card models of fairgrounds or shops or houses etc. He’d had a minor frustrated tantrum a few weeks before Christmas when he couldn’t find any split pins for a model he was making. So I got him a small plastic tool box and filled it with ‘crafty’ type bits and pieces, all wrapped separately, and including a box of split pins. When he opened it, he ran excitedly to the kitchen to show his Dad. “This is the bestest present I’ve EVER had,” he shouted. So much for all the other expensive toys he received!
Hope you all get the ‘bestest’ present too – the simple pleasure of being with family and friends over the festive season.
My very best wishes to you all for a very happy Christmas.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Past

(Paula is posting Margaret's blog for her today as she is away in sunny Florida)

I have been thinking of Christmas past. This is the first Christmas in thirty-eight years I don’t have John. I was dreading it but my lovely son and his wife bought me a flight to be with them. How wonderful is that.

When I was a little girl we were quite poor, for Christmas I was always given a couple of books and lots of tangerines. A rare treat when I was growing up. Everything I had, like a board and easel, was home made, as was my doll’s house but they were wonderful nonetheless.

I always spent Christmas at home with my family, Mum and Dad, Granddad and Grandma. I had no brother’s and sisters but I had lots of books to read and the wonderful radio to listen to. We always had turkey, sprouts, carrots, and two lots of potatoes.

It was generally pretty quiet. Gran came from a Scottish background so it was always New Year for us, that’s when the fun began. The whole family came round; we had singsongs and lots of laughter. We would pile out onto the street at five minutes to twelve, and my dad who was always first in, carried a basket containing a lump of coal, and slice of bread,. These would signify the essentials in life, keeping warm and having something to eat. There was generally a tot of Scotch when we went back inside (oh not for me!).

These were usually quite sober affairs but one year a Jewish lad I was seeing came around, he brought a case of beer, and you should have seen my Granddad’s eyes light up!

John and I were living in St Tropez one winter and we had a “French Christmas” We ate a huge meal on Christmas Eve. I shall never forget my friend Fernande peeling a mound of chestnuts to make chestnut stuffing. The food was mouthwateringly delicious. It was a glorious evening. Christmas Day was a more sober affair, but it was one of the most memorable Christmases John and I enjoyed.

Christmas in Cyprus proved interesting too. Not much happening Christmas Day, we had no trouble finding a place to eat, but on the Feast of the Epiphany, everyone was out and celebrating joyously. The dockside was laid with greenery and boys dived into the Med after the coins people threw. You couldn’t get a table in a restaurant for love or money.
New Year’s Eve we spent with a Cypriot family and ended up celebrating New Year in London and then New Year in Cyprus, Greek dancing was mandatory!

All these Christmases had a touch of magic. That is what Christmas is, magical. Forget the commercialization; let Christmas into your heart you won’t be disappointed.

How will I fare in Florida? Well in the loving arms of my family it will be perfect.

A Very Happy Christmas and a good New Year to you all.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Ho Ho Ho

One Christmas tradition in our family is feeding of Santa's reindeer. They work so hard on Christmas eve, and don't like cookies and milk. We set out piles of hay in reindeer-sleigh order so the reindeer can munch while Santa does his work inside. Rudolph knows the hay will be there, so he guides the sleigh to the ground, rather than onto the roof.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Where Are We Now?

I know for me basing a setting on a place I've actually been makes the whole writing process so much easier.

In my first book, This Time for Always, The Corral is based on the bar where my husband and I met. It was a place that held such wonderful memories for me, I guess I wanted to immortalize it forever. And now I'm glad I did, as the actual place has closed. It's nice to know I can open the pages of a book and go back to visit it whenever I want to!

In Wild Wedding Weekend I took Abby and Noah to some of the places my hubby and I visited on our own honeymoon. Not only did I have actual memories to refer to while writing, but I had photographs and literature to boot.

The first time we ever visited a friend's uncle's cabin in Ozark, Missouri, I knew it would be the perfect setting for a book, even though at the time I didn't have a story to set there. When it came time to write the spin-off of Always, this cozy retreat turned into the perfect place for Zach and Jessica to fall in love in This Can't Be Love. I did take the liberty of "moving" it out West, though.

In the third book of this "series" (my current WIP) readers will get to revisit both The Corral and Zach and Jessica's cozy cabin.

My story "Family Secrets" (just waiting for me to get my act together and start the submission process) is set in a Chicago suburb. That was the easy part. Much of the story takes place in a historic row home, and I'd never been in one. I gathered floorplans, blueprints, and pictures from the Internet. But, I have to admit, writing this setting was a bit more difficult because it wasn't a place I'd actually been to.

Currently I'm also working on a shorter length story which is set at a ski resort. Again, as I've never been to a ski resort, this is taking quite a bit of research, and I'm not quite comfortable in my environment yet. Hmn? Maybe the hubby and I will have to go skiing this winter.

The setting is immensely important in a story. Whether it's reality based or researched based, an author needs to do it right.

And if you're looking for a cozy holiday read, check out the setting (and more!) of my free read Mistletoe and Folly.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, December 15, 2010


I much prefer to write about a place I know. I couldn’t set a story in, for example, Norway because I’ve never been there. Okay, maybe I could read up about it but I simply wouldn’t have the ‘feel’ for the place or the local knowledge that would add authenticity to my story. Which is why two of my stories have been set in the Lake District which I know and love, and another story has been inspired by my recent visit to Egypt.
Inaccuracies in settings really bug me and I would hate to be (unwittingly) the cause of bugging someone who reads my work who actually knows the location I’m writing about. Don’t even get me started on Aaron Sorkin’s location/factual errors in ‘The West Wing’ series!
Even when I was writing fan fiction, I researched places. I even WENT to Galway City in Ireland to make sure I had it right! And when I visited a small Irish town, on which I’d based ‘my’ Irish town I was mentally doing some adjustments – okay, I’ll move the Post Office there and yes that’s the pub I want to use etc!
Actually I have more of a problem with the ‘work setting’ rather than the location. ‘His Leading Lady’ is based mainly in London’s West End – no problem, I know London well. But the theatre world? I used my own knowledge of rehearsals and the backstage atmosphere in the amateur theatre. I was therefore relieved (and delighted!) when I saw a programme on TV about someone who set himself a challenge to appear in a London musical, and the rehearsals and backstage scenes mirrored the amateur world.
I’ve travelled a lot, I’m familiar with many places in Europe, Middle East, America and Canada. But I am much less familiar with occupational settings. I wouldn’t have a clue about, for instance, advertising agencies, or banking, or an industrial plant, or even a large department store. My work experience has been mainly in the teaching world. For me, finding out about different work settings is more difficult than researching a location.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

An image of my Italian island - Santa Caterina


I love to use a variety of settings. Recently I have really been into Florida. I love Florida; I like the heat and lushness. It is so different from anywhere I have been before. The wildlife is fabulous and there is an atmosphere that is so appealing to me.

Australia and New Zealand are countries I have used for two novels. It was always, from being a little kid, an ambition to go out to the Antipodes, it took me 59 tears to do so, and I was so blown away that I had to set two novels there. I have hope of more.

Europe I am familiar with. I love to write about Italy and Spain but I have never been to the latter. Like Ana I use guidebooks and read as much as I can about the culture of the country. Sometimes I think that if I went to Spain I might be disappointed. Another place I like is Belgium but I have never used this compact country and I wonder why not, when you see the wonder that is Bruges it just calls out to be used as a setting. France I know well too but although my heroine in Eden’s Child visits Provence, I have never used France as a main setting. It will come… it has to do.

I wanted to set Shadows of the Past on an island in Italy. Since it was “owned” by the hero, it had to be a made up place. I used aspects of Elba but it was not Elba. If you have a place in mind it helps you to paint a picture.

Settings can be fun and so enjoyable. I love to write about the West Country – I know it well – I have used in part Wales too. These places are in my heart so I think that helps enormously.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


So far, I've picked Dakota, St. Louis, Brittany, Boston, and Duluth, Minnesota for my novels' settings. I know firsthand the terrain of rural South Dakota and the layout of Duluth/Superior.
I've been to Paris, but not Brittany, so I read travel guides and early 1900's accounts of leisurely wanderings through that northeastern department of France. It was important to my story to have that specific setting.

I've not been to St. Louis, but I found in my local library great drawing of its Mississippi River steamboat docks for a different historical romance.

I've probably not visited Boston enough to do justice to that well-known setting. I did attend a girls private school, so I can write with authority about that environment.

Maybe I can color up little old Park Rapids to be more exciting. It's hard to have summer sex by the lake with so many mosquitoes, though.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Guess Who.....

My main characters aren't based (trait-wise) on any real person. I do have to admit that Noah Grant in WILD WEDDING WEEKEND was based looks-wise on Brad Pitt. And Jake Hawkins in my WIP "This Feels Like Home" is based looks-wise on Matthew McConaughey. But their personalities are all their own.

I do some name dropping with people I know as minor characters. In WILD WEDDING WEEKEND I used all of my friends and their families as Noah's brothers and sisters. I didn't tell them, so it was fun to get their reactions after they read the book for the first time. They were all delighted to be immortalized in print!

So far my settings have all been based on real places. It's just so much easier for me to create a world for my characters to walk around in that I've actually seen. I've done some tweaking, like "moving" the setting to another part of the country, but most of the settings are very recognizable to those who know me. THIS TIME FOR ALWAYS features the bar where my husband and I met. I take Noah and Abby to all of the places we visited on our honeymood in WILD WEDDING WEEKEND. And Zach and Jessica fall in love in THIS CAN'T BE LOVE at one of our favorite yearly vacation spots. Even my free read MISTLETOE AND FOLLY features my neighborhood downtown area.

Lawsuits? Probably not. Inspiration? Plenty of that.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Can I be sued?

I have to confess – my very first novel in 1968, which was based on a story I originally wrote in my teens, had a very idealised and romantic view of a teacher I had a crush on when I was about 15. But I don’t think for one minute he would recognise himself!
I suppose Aaron Sorkin and NBC could sue me for using their West Wing characters in my fanfiction stories despite the disclaimer one writes for every fanfic story. Martin and Stockard would probably laugh their socks off at the sexy scenes I gave their characters in those stories!
I don’t base my invented characters on anyone I know. When I start writing a story, I have a vague image in my mind of what they look like. As I continue, that image solidifies somehow. I can see them. If I can’t I know I’m in trouble!
Then I may see a picture of someone and think ‘Yes, he/she looks just like my hero/heroine’. It happened when I saw a singer on TV and thought ‘That’s Jess.’ It doesn’t always happen but that doesn’t matter. The image is there in my mind.
I have to hear their voices in my head too. With one of my novels, I had problems finding a ‘voice’ for my hero, until the first friend who read it said she could hear the voice of a certain famous music mogul. Voice-wise anyway. But no way did I want my favourite hero to look like him (not with that hair!). I could see him – vaguely, but not enough. Then I found him (think Darcy). Yes, now I’ve got him. One man's voice and anothe man's looks. Don't think I can be sued for that!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Lawsuit anyone?

Do I fear being sued by someone depicted in one of my novels? No way. Let me tell you that if there is a male out there with the characteristics of my heroes, then I am bagging him! I have never come across a man like those found in my books (and yes I loved my husband very much but even he never saw himself as perfect). My guys are fantasy guys, how I would like it to be, but know that it never can.

My heroines these are made up too, although my daughter in law is always telling me that when they speak, she can hear my voice. “You say that,” she will insist. Do I? Perhaps psychologically then I am writing about a perfect me but that is not my intent.

Figures on the periphery? Not really, my imagination can make my villains larger than life. If I met someone like my villain in A Fatal Flaw, you would not see my rear end for the dust cloud. Same for the villain in the book I am intermittently working on at the moment.

No, I write fiction, there is no fear of anyone suing me…golly they would have to have a super ego to think they are my hero or villain.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Is there a lawsuit in my future?

In the first writing class I attended, the instructor passed around an assortment of glossy magazines and had us tear out photos of two protagonists and one antagonist. "These," she said, "were the main characters of the story each of us was going to plot." I made my selections, cut and pasted well, considering how long I'd been out of grade school, and developed my first story arc. The models had no life story, so I was safe from a close encounter with a defamation of character suit.

I have based settings and character's actions on personal experience. I live on a farm, hence my comfort with my farm-ranch setting. I've woven other dynamics of my childhood and motherhood into characters' POV. I confess I've incorporated personal intimate moments into some sex scenes. I don't think I've cut and pasted any living person onto a page.

I wonder if the type of story makes a difference. Memoirs could be risky.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Put What Where?!

Okay, I have to admit, I am totally turned off in a story if actual body part words are used in a love scene. I'm sorry, but there's just nothing romantic about the word 'penis'. And I'm not a big fan of the cruder words like 'cock'.

My love scenes are fully depicted in my stories (and I like them to be that way in the stories I read as well...those fade to black behind closed door scenes just don't do it for me!), but I like them to be romantic and sensual and sexy and emotional...I don't want to be reading (or writing) something that sounds like it comes out of a sex ed text book.

Trouble is, after a while, finding unique euphanisms to use gets rather difficult. Even my editor will mark places with comments like "already used this word a few times". Then I have to grit my teeth and try to get really creative.

Even finding unique - or at least not overly used - ways to describe how my characters are feeling during the scene isn't easy. Once I used my thesaurus feature on a word and came up with a whole new way to write the scene in terms of fire and heat. Which worked out nicely. Of course now I don't want to use similar language every time.

But that's all part of the challenge. Finding a special, unique way to describe things that have been said in millions of books before my own. Part of my writer's voice, I guess.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, December 1, 2010


I read a couple of ‘erotic’ novels when I was researching currents genres and I’ll admit that the sex scenes in them did absolutely nothing for me. I don’t want anatomical descriptions, more positions than the Kama Sutra or a surplus of four-letter words, I don’t want sex for the sake of sex. Far more erotic, in my opinion, are love scenes where I can empathise with the emotions and sensations of a couple who are in love.

Having said all that, I struggled to write scenes like that to begin with. My first novels were in the late 60’s and early 70’s when a chaste kiss was all that was allowed. They didn’t even go INTO the bedroom, let alone leave the door open!

A friend described my first foray into writing a love scene as ‘a bit like a 40’s movie, with the curtain wafting in the breeze while the couple get on with it’! But I became braver and less inhibited (thank you, Jed and Abbey Bartlet!) and another friend delighted me when she said I wrote ‘classy, not crude’ love scenes.

Having said that, I still struggle with the euphemisms – I don’t like the ‘clinical’ terms and cringe at the ‘coy’ ones ¬– and I think I need more synonyms for ‘thrust’ as I continue with the love scene in Chapter 10 of my WIP! :-)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


I had to smile when I saw this topic. John used to roar at some of mine. Petals was the one that used to tickle him. Buds, maleness - member no, I don't use that one for the male, I did try but as I wrote it I kept thinking of Today in Parliament. "The Member stood..." no couldn't do that, too funny.

I dream up all kinds of names. I simply don't like the real names. It sort of sounds too clinical and, for me, ruins the romance. Also it can get really tedious. I can't tell you how many times, when reading a book recently, the word "cock" appeared. Sorry, but it sounds so off-putting. I know people like to use the correct words, well that is their choice but please let me stick with my buds and petals and throbbing maleness. Ooh, I've come over all hot and bothered!


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Anatomical, anyone?

My vocabulary list of sexual body parts is limited. I rejoiced when 'penis' became an acceptable. I've studied the entire fine-print poster of George Carlin's dirty words, but many of his phrases feel foreign to me, like they'd need to be explained. This could be due to my generational upbringing and marrying when I was nineteen. I must not have had a broad enough range of experiences.
I dislike repetitive use of the word 'cock' in modern erotica. For some reason, I feel that word belongs as an euphemism in historical romance, i.e., "And his cock crowed."
Half of my WIP is set in 1490's Brittany. I researched the Breton words for penis and vagina, and used them in love scenes when in my past-life hero's POV. This expanded my vocabulary and, I hope, added some historical realism.
All in all, I want to craft love scenes where sexual tension is built up through dialogue and intimate foreplay. When coupling finally occurs, I hope my reader is so engaged, she can 'feel' the thrusts and moans without needing a tutorial in the act of sex. I'm more interested in how the H/H relationship intensifies after each coupling.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Reduced to Tears

I'm a cryer. I have to admit it. There are some Hallmark and AT&T commercials that make me cry. Beautiful music can move me to tears.

The first time I ever recall crying over a book was when Beth dies in "Little Women". I was probably in fourth/fifth grade, and I remember sitting at the kitchen table reading. Mom was making dinner. I distinctly remember getting to that part in the book, feeling the tears welling, and escaping to my room so no one would see I was crying over a book. Since then, I've cried over lots of books: sad parts, happy parts...

I was deeply honored when a review of my first book indicated readers should keep plenty of tissues nearby. To be able to move someone else to tears with my words is an unbelievingly humble thing.

Certain movies make me cry no matter how many times I've seen them. In college my roommate and I watched the movie "Beaches" with Bette Midler. We each lay on our respective dorm room beds, crying silently until the movie was over. It was then we turned to each other and saw tears streaming down the other's cheeks. To this day, if I even see or hear something about that movie, I call my roommate to say hello and tell her how much her friendship means to me. (I'm going to have to give her a call.)

"Apollo 13" is another one that does it for me. The tears start to trickle as soon as the space craft enters the atmosphere. And we wait. And we wait. And the time comes for them to have reemerged, and still we're waiting. When they finally splash down, the tears are coursing in earnest with the sheer cathartic relief of having the crew safely back on Earth.

The first time we saw "Titanic" - the James Cameron version - in the theater, I cried for half the movie. Now this is a three hour and then some movie, so basically I was crying for over an hour and a half. I started when Jack gets accused of stealing the "Heart of the Ocean" necklace and gets carted off. I didn't stop until the credits rolled. Now the tears start in various places: when the sweet old couple is laying on their bed wrapped in each other's arms; when the Irish immigrant mother is reading to her children on a third class bunk: when Jack slips away beneath the waves...

You know...sometimes a good cry is just the thing.

Until next time,

Happy Reading and Happy Thanksgiving!


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Crying Game

It’s happy endings that make me cry, especially in films.
I can remember one of the very first films I cried at – an old film about the San Francisco earthquake (with Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy and Jeannette Macdonald). At the end, when they’re all camped out above the burning city, a boy runs up the hill shouting ‘The fires are out!’ and they march to the top of the hill, look out over the ruined, smouldering city and sing ‘San Francisco, open your Golden Gate …’ well, I’m in floods of tears!
Another film which ALWAYS makes me cry, even though I’ve seen it many times, is ‘Apollo 13’. The astronauts, after an agonising wait, finally break the radio silence. Years ago, I watched it actually happening on TV and cheered. But in the film, it’s the reactions of all the families and the Houston crew that make the tears flow, every single time!
I cried at the end of ‘The Incredible Journey’ when Shadow, the golden retriever, eventually appeared. I cried when Hugh Jackman found Nicole Kidman after Darwin had been bombed in ‘Australia’. For heavens’ sake, I even cried at the end of ‘Toy Story 3’ when the toys found a happy new home!
I cry at the end of ‘Carousel’ when Billy makes his peace with Julie, I cry when the family escape to safety over the mountains in ‘Sound of Music’, I cry when Emile re-appears at the end of ‘South Pacific’– in fact, a lot of musicals make me cry.
It doesn’t happen as much with books – except when Jane Eyre finally comes home to her Mr. Rochester.
If a reader ever tells me that the happy ending of any of my books has made them cry, then I’ll know I got it right!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What makes you cry?

Do you cry at Movies or Books?

I confess to being lachrymose, I cry at anything. It does not take much to get me to “fill up”

Take for instance last night I watched a movie about soccer. Would that make you cry – bring it on Margaret – where are the tissues. I am a sucker for all that baloney. I just can’t help it. Sentimental, moi? Of course.

Believe me, I take after my Dad. He was a “cry baby” too. We used to go the pictures (movies) on a Wednesday and a Saturday; you can bet we both shed a tear. We liked Horse and dog films, guaranteed to weep buckets.

John and I spent a Christmas in Cyprus. For the first time EVER we put our dog, Nell, in a kennel while we were away. You know what, we were daft enough to watch Lassie Come Home…oh the sobs across that warm Cypriot night. People were closing their balcony doors.

I can remember age seventeen and trying to be cool on the bus – going to work, dressed in my finest, reading a book by a famous British author called “A J Cronin. The book was “The Citadel” the hero’s lovely wife is run over and killed. Bucketfuls, mascara everywhere. How embarrassing. For the next week I didn’t take the bus but walked to the office. Three-mile walk, no easy job in stilettos, let me tell you.

But you know what - I enjoy it. Book, film, TV drama – and don’t get me started on real life. Goodness, people come and tell me their troubles, knowing they are going to get a full-blown reaction. And do I actually cry at my own stories? Well of course, come on if the author doesn’t cry it’s darn tooting the reader won’t!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Pass the tissues, please.

What makes me cry reading a book or viewing a film?
When a character I've come to care about dies. I can't help it.
My husband is a Marine veteran in an honor guard that serves at veteran funerals. When the bugler plays taps, my waterworks turn on.
I'm not afraid of death. I just feel so sad about the passing.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Special Guest Alison Henderson

My Journey to Publication

Hello, Ladies! Thanks for inviting me to join you today to talk about my road to publication. It may not be the longest on record, but many days it felt like it – more than twenty years from the day I scribbled the first story outline in a notebook until I held a published book in my hand.

I’m not one of those writers who always wanted to write. I never considered writing fiction until I took an extended leave from work when my daughter was born. (She’s now a graduate student.) At that time, modern romance fiction was new, and I was swept away by the books of early mistresses of the genre like Kathleen Woodiwiss and LaVyrle Spencer.

I read everything I could get my hands on, and by the time my daughter started pre-school, I decided to try writing one of my own. I quickly became hooked on the creative process. When I had nearly finished my first manuscript, I met LaVyrle Spencer at a booksigning, and she steered me to my local chapter of RWA. I started a second manuscript, which ultimately became Harvest of Dreams, my first published book, and signed with an agent.

I thought I had it made. The path to publication would be smooth and short. Right? Wrong.

It turned out my agent had limited contacts and failed to sell my first, second, and third manuscripts. In retrospect, I can see that those manuscripts weren’t ready to sell, but I hadn’t yet learned what was wrong or how to fix it. Also, about that time life intervened, as it often does, and I had to go back to work full time. I parted ways with my agent and put my writing on the back burner.

For the next several years, I occasionally tinkered with the second and third manuscripts because I still loved the stories and couldn’t bring myself to give up on them. (The first book was a wonderful learning experience but unsalvageable.) I entered a few contests and finaled and learned a tremendous amount about writing, but I couldn’t figure out how to balance a full time job, taking care of my family, and writing.

Unfortunately, during this time the popularity of my subgenre, Western historicals, steadily waned, and with it my chances of seeing these stories in print. Then, in 2006, Harvest of Dreams and its sequel, A Man Like That, placed first and second in the Lake Country Romance Writers contest, and the editor/judge requested a full of A Man Like That. I fired it off right away and sat back to wait. And wait. And wait. Twenty-two months and three polite email inquiries later, I received a bland “not as excited about it as other projects I’m considering” rejection. Back to the drawing board.

I decided to put the historicals aside and try writing contemporary romantic suspense. While it was tremendous fun, I was still too stubborn to completely give up on my Westerns. By this time, e-publishing was growing by leaps and bounds. I saw that an editor from The Wild Rose Press was judging the Western Historical category of the 2009 Hearts Through History contest and entered both manuscripts. Harvest of Dreams finaled again. Although it didn’t win, the comments of the published judges were so encouraging I decided to query Wild Rose Press anyway. Several weeks later, I received a contract.

Three weeks ago, eighteen long years after its conception, Harvest of Dreams was finally released. I’m also pleased to announce that the day I began promotion for it, I received a contract for the A Man Like That. Now other readers can get to know the characters who have been so close to my heart for long.

Thank you again for having me today, and I invite everyone to visit me on the web at

Harvest of Dreams Blurb

Alone on her farm in the middle of a blizzard, young widow Lisa McAllister labors to give birth to her first child. Help arrives in the strong hands of a stranger wearing a six-gun. Lisa has no reason to trust this man who makes a living by violence, even if he is on the right side of the law. Men and their guns have already claimed the lives of her father, brother, and husband, and she’s determined to protect her son at any cost.

Jared Tanner, a security agent for the stagecoach, has been on his own since he was twelve. Against his better judgment, his feelings of protectiveness toward Lisa and her baby turn to something deeper, and he is tempted by the possibility of a family of his own. Can their tender new love survive when an act of ultimate violence threatens to tear them apart?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Moral Support

As I looked back at my various books, I realized that most of my characters do have a best friend they rely on throughout the book in one way or another.

In my debut, This Time for Always, the heroine Sharlie has a group of friends at the bar where she works. When Logan comes back to town intent on buying that very bar, her friends, Zach and Pete in particular, provide support and comfort.

In Wild Wedding Weekend, Abby's best friend is Claire. The relationship between Noah (the hero) and Claire provides some of the conflict in the story. Although toward the end Claire helps Abby through an emotional time, and provides a way for me as the author to let the reader know how Abby is feeling without having to do a ton of internal introspection.

In This Can't Be Love, it's Zach (the hero) who has a buddy. Jake provides relationship and career advice to Zach. Again, this relationship also helps to cut down on long streams of internal dialogue.

For another manuscript, "Family Secrets", Erika has a best friend. Per the usual, the friend provides support, advice, and encouragement, and saves me from too much internal thought on the heroine's part.

My current WIP ("This Feels Like Home") features Jake as the hero. We first meet Jake in Always, and get to know him a little better in Love. Being the hero in the third of a set, Jake does have an established group of friends, who will play background roles in his story. My heroine, Amber, has a cousin who will be her "sounding board" when it comes to her romance with Jake.

Secondary characters help move the plot along, provide support for a hero and/or heroine, and can be used to save readers from loads and loads of internal introspection from your main characters. Pretty important jobs, I'd say. (And sometimes it's fun to give those background characters stories of their own!)

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Best Friends

Sometimes it’s useful for the heroine to have a best friend if only for a purely practical reason i.e. she can voice her thoughts and feelings in dialogue which is infinitely preferable to a long narrative of thoughts and soul-searching.
Jess, my heroine in ‘His Leading Lady’ met up with an old school friend who became her confidante and Abbey in ‘Fragrance of Violets’ confided in her sister.
Thinking back to my early novels, my heroines in those didn’t have best friends. Maybe in those days I didn’t have my heroines doing as much soul-searching as I do now. Or maybe because I’ve realised dialogue works better than narrative.
What’s interesting is why the hero doesn’t usually need a best friend. Is that because men don’t talk to each other about their feelings?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Funnily enough I don't often have good friends in my books. It's odd I suppose from someone who is fortunate in her good friends.

In my historical novels I have servants and these are more or less also friends of my heroines. They counsel and aid, rescue them from scrapes, or try to, but are seldom listened too by my feisty main character. I can visualise them wagging a finger at the heroine's escapades! They are trustworthy and loyal but they are never in a competitive role with my heroine. She rules and everyone knows it.

A close and loving friendship is forged between Kate and her mother in law (and since I have a marvellous relatinship with my daughter in law I know it can happen)in Dangerous Enchantment.
Dame Caradoc has had a hard life and although not as intelligent as my heroine, has a natural understanding of the right thing to do. She is very knowing and I think that it can be important that at least one character can see the reality of the situation.

In one of my early novels for Robert Hale, Fiona, my heroine thinks that Fiona is her best friend. She adores her and then she finds out to her cost, that Fiona is a spiteful and indeed dangerous adversary.

Perhaps one day I will give one of my main characters a good friend - perhaps.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Does your heroine have a BFF?

In my WIP, my heroine Angel has a best friend, her assistant Ramona. Ramona is blunt and sassy, smart and supportive. She is outgoing and looking for Mr. Right. She corners Angel into agreeing to a first date with the hero, and renegs on her promise to extricate Angel on a pre-arranged signal--exactly what friends are for. She serves as confident and comic relief. I adore her!

In a pending romance, my heroine has no best friend. She is emotionally wounded, a loner, and has to reach out to barmaids and debutantes to get the assistance she needs to reclaim the hero after rejecting his love.

So, I think it depends on the heroine's journey.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Friday Friends with Monya Clayton

Welcome to our Friday Friend, Australian writer Monya Clayton, who's going to tell us about her research for a historical novel in the days before the internet.

So I Decided to Write a Historical

This, dear readers, is a map of the city of Charles Town, South Carolina (pardon me, just Carolina at the time) in 1704. A small part of the modern city, and at that time the only walled city in the Americas. My daughter found it for me on the infant Internet about 1995, before Google, before I myself owned or could use a computer.

I had this idea for a story, you see, about a young Puritan woman on the way to New England (um, it was Massachusetts Bay Colony), whose ship is sunk by pirates and she herself captured, off that coast. Mercy Penhall grew in my mind like a friend, a strong character in spite of the fact she couldn’t speak. And the reluctant pirate Edmund Gramercy was as kind a soul as was possible in his circumstances and in his times. That was the beginning of the story. And after then I started chewing my pencil. Pencil because in those pre-computer days I wrote my first drafts in pencil, then typed the second drafts onto the portable mechanical typewriter, and the final draft onto the electric typewriter. Final draft, hah! I was completely ignorant of the publishing world in those days. Edits were an unknown quantity.

I’m an Australian. What did I know about the British colonies of what is now the U.S.A. in the early 18th century? Practically nothing. I was deeply interested in history, loved good historical fiction, had read some historical romances, seen some historical movies. I knew men wore long wigs. I possessed some vague knowledge of the beginnings of British colonisation, of the Puritan faith and the Salem witch trials. What I knew about the topography of eastern America might fill a teacup. There my knowledge ground to a stop.

No Google. I looked up my encyclopaedias. South Carolina, Charleston, New England, Virginia. Piracy. Puritanism, Quakerism, the French Protestants called Huguenots, who were among the original settlers of Carolina. Costumes of the era. Weapons. The war. What war? Originally I picked 1704 because it possessed the only date I recalled, for the Battle of Blenheim in Europe, an incident of the War Of The Spanish Succession against France. Discovery: the war was called in the American colonies Queen Anne’s War. Believe me, it was pure serendipity to find the map above dated 1704! I closed my set of books with my mind chock full of incomplete facts. Obviously I needed to look further afield.

At that time we lived in a farmhouse in sub-tropical Queensland. We shopped in Gympie, 14 miles away, and borrowed books from the library there. I did a little more research in their reference section – while my husband patiently waited in the car! Then, to spare him, drove down to the new library in Noosa on the coast and enjoyed myself hugely, investigating their reference section and borrowing their books. Found one about ships and shipping in the 18th century. I searched opportunity (charity) shops and second-hand shops in both towns, found some old National Geographic magazines. One had a great article about Charleston, another about the Sea Islands, another about the massacre at the New England town of Deerfield by the French and their Indian allies.

Right. I was getting the background together. Still incomplete, though. I wrote to the U.S. Embassy in our capital, Canberra, asking for addresses for Historical Societies and Museums in the areas I needed to find out about. I addressed the letter to “The Cultural Attache”, hoping it was the right title. And, bless him, he sent me back addresses to the Societies in Charleston and Richmond, Virginia. I wrote to Charleston. They wrote back: they were a self-supporting organization. If I wanted to ask questions, the cost would be $5 U.S. per query. Plus postage, plus the cost of getting money there by international bank cheque. No PayPal either! I understood their position and wrote instead to another address provided by the Embassy, the State Department of Archives in Columbia, capital of South Carolina.

And a dear man there sent me reams of photocopied material about the city, the state, the Sea Islands, their history. (I sent him a thank-you copy of an Aussie book and, MUCH later, a pdf copy of my finished novel.) And, immersing myself in all this fascinating information, I was in danger of neglecting my story out of sheer fascination with the research. Deer hides etc. were their first export item, then they planted rice fields. Cotton came much later. (Richmond, Virginia, didn’t answer my letter at all. I can see their point of view: What business did this unknown woman in Australia have writing a story about the historical U.S.A.?)

I discovered one fact which was all important. My point of view must change to grasp all these historical truths. I must stop thinking like a 20th century person. Roads existed but they were few and poor. Almost all transport was by ship. There was little communication among the original colonies so anyone moving from one to the other needed a darned good reason to risk the sea voyage. I also must stop thinking like an Australian. The Carolina coastlines were not like ours, which are mostly sand beaches with occasional mangrove bays. Their rivers were big, so were their swamps. (Australia is the driest continent on earth, it has one large river system, the Murray-Darling, and isn’t big on swamps either.) South Carolina is sub-tropical like southern Queensland. Cold New England and cool temperate Virginia were beyond my experience, and again their coastlines varied. Everything in Virginia developed around the great Tidewater. New England was barren ashore, with, in autumn (fall) and winter, wild seas, wild storms, and SNOW. I’d never seen snow.

The native animals were/are also different from our marsupials, of course; bears, deer, alligators, possums, raccoons, wildcats. More geographical research… And I’d hardly started on the people! The Europeans among whom my story was set, that is. I became conscious of the enormous differences the lay of the land imposes on its peoples. Aboriginal Australians were/are a totally different culture to Native Americans. Yet out of this part of the research emerged the secondary character of Mercy Penhall’s friend, Soulange de Vaugeret. Finally I finished the final (ha, ha) draft.

I did say I was ignorant of the realities of publishing. I joined the Romance Writers of Australia. I began to send the completed manuscript to publishers. Australian publishers prefer local content (after all, our population is only 20 million). The cost of postage overseas was murderous, but I continually posted the typewritten book to London and New York in turn. Often it languished in slush piles. Often I wrote letters enquiring of its fate. I received a (very) few almost encouraging answers. We would like to print it, but… and I’m reading between the lines here. But it doesn’t fit our present requirements. (Won’t sell enough copies.) But it has no – er - sensual scenes. (Not a bodice ripper! We thought it would be a bodice ripper.) It’s difficult to market an unknown author. (I wasn’t famous.) And so on. The writers among you will know the sort of thing I mean!

In the meantime, life went on. We left the farmhouse and moved inland to be closer to our children and grandchildren. My husband built a shed on our allotment in a small town more or less in the middle of them all, and we lived in it for three years while we built our own house. At the time, when I could find a moment, I was writing a contemporary. Son number two, the I.T. professional, had by now provided me with a computer he pieced together out of spare parts and was making me learn to use it. This was pretty painful for someone born in 1941. The first time I looked at the screen full of all these unknown symbols I asked him, “What am I supposed to do? Fly it?”

He started me off learning to play Solitaire on the thing, so I could get used to using the mouse. Aussies used to call the game Patience, and oh boy, did it require patience. I’d never played it before, you see, so I was learning the game as well as the computer. Very tentatively I began to use Word. I came to a full stop the first time because there was no paper carriage to roll to the next line… The printer was pretty temperamental but hey, my words came out one end of it! Then, in 2003, while I recovered from the insertion of a steel pin into an injured ankle, he put me on the Internet. And wow, I began to discover new worlds. Including places called “e-book publishers”.

I sent a query and first three chapters of my pirate saga to one of these, a newish firm called The Wild Rose Press. The historical editor asked for the whole manuscript. I waited. Nicole McCaffrey, an historical romance author herself, was unabashedly enthusiastic about the story, which soothed my rejection-wounded soul no end. Then, she added gently, we need to change just a few things… And I became familiar with the hard-work world of editing, cutting, adding, changing and (shudder) correcting galleys. At least it could all be done on the computer! Nic became, and remains, a good friend. She emailed me the cover designed by Kim Mendoza, not of a half-naked couple in a clinch but a dignified and striking picture of a large ship bearing down on a smaller one. AND Nic mailed me a poster of the cover. Then I received my free pdf copy of the novel, and, a few months later, a print copy…

Girls, it was worth all the work and all the research!

And, as was to be expected in the course of so much primitive research, I transferred a couple of mistakes to the final draft. I doubt if many readers noticed either. One - I mentioned lemons twice - in the 350 page novel. I live in a warm climate and lemons are a fact of life. It didn't occur to me they would have been practically unknown to most Europeans in the early 18th century. I do know now limes were grown in the West Indies about that time or perhaps a little later. And when I did mention it at our local writers group meeting, an English-born member confirmed for me that all citrus fruits were imported to England from Spain until the 1950s! And before then, I believe, citrus originated in China-Asia, but I'm not about to research it again now!

Two - This is a fact any Americans who study the history of the Puritans would know, particularly New Englanders. I described their place of worship as a "church". The Puritans fled to America partly to escape the churches of the Catholic and Church of England faiths. They called their - er, churches - meeting houses. Or meetinghouse, one word. I knew Quakers used the word meeting instead of "congregation" and called their places of worship "meetinghouses". So I should have worked out the Puritans would have done the same before them! Smack my fingers!

I don't doubt there are other historical errors in the m.s., but gosh, we're stuck with the book as it is now.

My own blog - shamefully neglected - is:
and there's an older one at:

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Romance in Real Life

I know we're supposed to be talking about movie romance this week, but I have a real-life romance story I just had to share.

As a romance writer/reader, my life is full of romance. On most days I'm either reading a romance or, when the muse is strong, writing one. These days, however, my life is filled with romance in a different way. A real way. Not just words on a page, but real, live romance.

My husband is a fabulous man. Of course he is. I wouldn't have married him if he wasn't. But lately, he's been really romantic in one particular way.

When I work out, I always listen to music. I usually get stuck in one groove or another and listen to the same thing for a while. These days it's the new Toby Keith CD, Bullets in the Gun. I simply program in the best running songs, and away I go. Once the "meat" of the workout is done, I'll throw in a couple of other tunes for my cool down.

One of the hands-down best songs on the CD is "Kissin' in the Rain". Toby has a knack for not only putting down hard-driving in-your-face music, but romantic ballads as well. This is one of those romantic songs.

Every time I play it while I'm working out in the basement, if my hubby's home and he hears it, he comes down the stairs, takes me in his arms, and we dance. My sweaty sheen doesn't bother him one bit. (Which is saying a lot, because if he were the sweaty one, I wouldn't go near him with a ten foot pole.) We simply dance, right there in the basement, among the clutter and old furniture and the furnace and the washer and dryer. Seriously, it's one of the most romantic things ever. I've always known he's my soulmate, and this is definitely one of the many reasons why.

So,thanks, Toby, for a beautiful, romantic song.

Until next time,

Happy Reading! (or dancing)


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Favourite on-screen romance

My favourite on-screen romance is (as you can probably predict) between Jed and Abbey Bartlet (played by Martin Sheen and Stockard Channing) in ‘The West Wing’.
In the series, they’ve been married for over 30 years so how can it be a romance?
Simple answer - because they are still deeply ‘in love’.
Over the years, they must have changed and matured, but their relationship is still dynamic, passionate and intense, flirty too at times. They continue to be stimulated and challenged by each other, and they enjoy each other too.
They’re also completely attuned, instinctively aware of the other’s feelings, reactions, deepest desires and worries. When Jed decides to run for a second term as President, Abbey has serious misgivings because of his health issues, but knows it’s what he has to do and puts her own fears to one side to give him her wholehearted support. When Abbey voluntarily forfeits her medical licence (after helping to conceal Jed’s multiple sclerosis), Jed is shocked, knowing the enormity of the sacrifice she is making. They understand each other perfectly.
Some of the best on-screen moments are when they communicate in a private way even when they’re in the public domain – sometimes just by eye-contact, or a smile, or a hand on the other’s arm. Beautifully and so naturally done.
They argue, too – or rather (as Stockard once said), ‘You don’t fight with someone unless you care about them, especially in a marriage. They’re not nasty fights. They’re responsible, energetic discussions.’ Abbey knows exactly which buttons to push, Jed knows what she worries about and what will make her cross.
We never see more than a chaste kiss between them – but we’re left in no doubt that off-screen they have a very active sex-life! For one thing, the on-screen chemistry between them sizzles! Abbey makes seductive references to ‘a special garment’; Jed has a frustrating day trying to find a gap in his hectic schedule for some ‘time-out’ with Abbey after 14 weeks of enforced celibacy after he was shot. We see them both making their way to the White House Residence after the Saturday morning radio-talk and we know exactly what’s going to happen there! Of course, I (and many other West Wing fan-fiction writers) have been more than happy to give the fans the benefit of our imagination of those scenes we never saw!
Press Secretary CJ Cregg once asked Jed why he had abandoned his ambition to become a priest. His reply was “I met Abbey” – just three words, which he didn’t need to elaborate, explain, rationalize or justify. Those three words said it all. He gave up all idea of the priesthood because he had met his soul-mate. The romance between them began – and continued.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Best on Screen Romances

Best on Screen Romance

For me the ultimate romance is Casablanca. Bogart lets Bergman even though they are both madly in love. Cue, tears, isn’t it lovely to have a good cry. I always remember Love is a Many Splendored Thing, another great love story, when the Jennifer Jones character walks to the hill where she used to meet he lover, he’s been killed, yet she thinks she sees him there. Unforgettable.

Of course I could go on and on, who could forget An Affair to Remember, whenever this film is on I watch it. Sleepless in Seattle which was inspired by the aforementioned, oh yes have to watch it! All have such wonderful leads. The minor characters in these films are excellent too.

Off screen romance? Well my own must get a mention. I had thirty-eight happy years with my late husband. We met on a blind date; we laughed a lot on our first date. We laughed a lot through our life together too. John introduced me to many exciting things that I hadn’t known before. Camping, travelling, France! Oh yes, ours was an unforgettable romance too.

I love writing about romance, perhaps because I have experienced real life romance. I always somehow fall in love with my hero, which considering I have written twenty-four novels, must mean I am pretty fickle!

Michael in Bitter Betrayal was a man I couldn’t get out of my head. Both he and the heroine have been torn apart by some very spiteful people. Neither feels able to trust the other but there is still something there…a little spark that will not e extinguished. I think that must be what romance is all about – a spark that one day with burst into flame? What do you think?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Most Romantic Romances

Most days, my list of most romantic romances includes the sultan and his concubine who are entombed in the Taj Mahal, Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, and my WIP's heroine and hero.
Today, though, my husband and I top my list. It's our anniversary. It's Sunday, so I cooked, vacuumed and did laundry. He moved the beef cows and feeding hay right now. Soon we'll take a shower together, make love and fall asleep in each others' arms.
Just like my H/H.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Friday Friend Mary Eason

Please give a warm welcome to guest blogger Mary Eason! Mary, welcome to Heroines with Hearts...

Great love stories. Are they about the romance or the sex?

When I first started reading romance novels, (I’m about to truly date myself), there was very little sexual activity in the story itself. For the most part, it was all “hinted” at. Then came the “bodice rippers” where the writer took a bit more leeway with the description.

Today, there’s something for everyone. Do you love a good “romance”, with a story that tears at your heart and make you fall in love right along with the hero and heroine?

Or do you prefer a sexy romance, filled with lots of “steam”. A romance that doesn’t have to necessary be happily ever after, but just happy for the moment. Sometimes, getting there is the best part of a story.

Today, with the wide variety of romance genres that we have, there’s truly something for everyone.

Now, as a writer, I have to say, I’m drawn to creating stories filled with raw emotion. Whether it be romantic suspense of just contemporary romances, I love to fill my stories with the seemingly insurmountable drama in my characters lives that creates great emotion for the reader and well as for me the writer.

IN THE ARMS OF A STRANGER is now available through New Concepts Publishing.

IN THE ARMS OF A STRANGER is a contemporary romance that brings together two people who have lost at love and are afraid to trust again.
Blurb: Everything Kate Bradshaw believed to be real about her marriage to her husband Alex slowly slipped away from her as the newspaper reports explained the sordid truth in black and white. Their marriage and Alex's seduction had been nothing more than a lie, a means of accomplishing one thing--Alex's revenge against the man he believed responsible for killing his one true love—Kate’s own father.

SHADOW GAMES is now available through Champagne Books.

SHADOW GAMES is a romantic suspense drama that is filled with cutting-edge suspense, lies and espionage. The spy world truly is a game of shadows. SHADOW GAMES brings one woman back to the past she thought she left behind in order to save the one man she couldn’t forget.
Blurb: He was the love of her life. The father of her child. Now he was missing. Presumed dead behind enemy lines.

CIA agent Booth Tanner was the best of the best and now he’s as good as dead. The only person who can save him now is the woman who’d written him out of her life three years earlier as a lost cause. Then Rachel Weiss receives a text message that is brief, chilling, and enough to send her back into the shadowy world she thought she’d left behind for good.
So, what do you think? Are great love stories about the romance or the sex? I contend that great love stories can be filled with romance and sex but they always, always leave the reader wanting to know what happens next in the hero and heroine’s lives. And if you’re like me, you’ll end up reading those books over and over again.

Hoping your 2010 has been filled with great love stories…
All the best…

Mary Eason

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Frankly My Dear...

I'm going to have to go with Scarlett as my favorite heroine: both in literary form and on the big screen.

To be honest, I can't put my finger on exactly why. There's just something about her. She's fiesty, she's determined, she's headstrong, yet at the same time she's vulnerable and scared: her entire world and way of life is changing right in front of her eyes. And when she finally figures out what (who) she really wants...well, Rhett walks out.

If it weren't for the sequel (Which was okay in literary form and a disaster as a mini-series...ugh.), we'd only be able to guess at what happens in the future.

But even without the sequel, we have a pretty good idea. Like I said she's determined and willing to fight for what she wants. No matter what. And she's not one to give up easily, as we are reminded in Margaret Mitchell's closing words: "After all, tomorrow is another day."

And indeed, it is.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Favourite Heroine

My long-time favourite is Katherine Swynford in Anya Seton’s novel ‘Katherine’. It’s based on the true 14th century story of the daughter of an obscure knight who became governess to the powerful John of Gaunt’s daughters. She fell in love with him (and captivated him too) and bore him four children (out of wedlock). It’s a testament to Katherine’s strength of character that she never wavered in her love and loyalty even when, for political reasons, John married the Infanta of Castille and was forced to put her aside. Katherine accepted her role, knew John could never marry her, but lovingly brought up their children. In the end the most powerful Duke in the realm went against all the medieval mores and DID marry his beloved mistress (and also had their four children legitimised). John and Katherine were soul-mates, and their story is one of love (eventually) conquering all. It’s a long time since I read the book, but just writing this short summary has made me reach for it from my bookshelf. I’ll have to read it again, admire Katherine’s courage and constancy and, like her, fall in love with John again!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Favourtie Heroines

If we are looking at older novels then I do like Lizzie in Pride and Prejudice. Yes she does make mistakes but she is so spirited, you have to admire her courage and her intelligence, plus she captures one of the most attractive men in fiction, Mr Darcy, so she has to be special.

I always had a sneaking regard for Amber in Forever Amber, she is not really admirable but she is gusty. Her main flaw is that she clings to her love for Bruce who is the worst hero in fiction. Amber deserves someone so much better but she never finds him. A lot like Scarlet O Hara, admirable in many ways, but really you want to shake her the way she clings to her infatuation for the totally drippy Ashley Wilkes. How clever of Margaret Mitchell to show to her readers what a waste of time he is, and yet fails to let Scarlet see it until it is too late. A truly remarkable story.

I often wonder what it is with these women who can’t see the right men for them. Temp Brennan in Kath Reich’s’ “Bones” series just can’t seem to see that Ryan is so perfect for her, come to think of it he ought to make up his mind too, so perhaps it’s not always women.

When I was a kid I loved Nyoka, Queen of the Jungle. She was a female equivalent of the Tarzan figure, and did many brave things, running around the jungle in this skimpy outfit, Saturday afternoon matinees would not have been the same but for Nyoka. Incidentally here’s a laugh for any passing Brits dropping by, Nyoka’s fiancĂ© in the comic strip was called Larry Grayson!

A woman I admire in my own novels is Kate Merryweather in Dangerous Enchantment. Kate will protect the boy who should be king with her life. She does everything she can to keep him safe, even deceiving the man she eventually falls in love with. It was a courageous thing for Kate to do, for had the powers that be realized the truth, I am afraid Kate’s head would soon have parted from her shoulders.

So there you go lots of heroic ladies for us to admire!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Dream girls like me

I'm glad I started reading romance after the era of swooning, helpless damsels.
I like heroines who are brassy, like Kathleen Turner in V.I. Warshawski. (Turner was fantastic in this and other roles, especially playing opposite Michael Douglas.) V.I. is tough and beautiful, hot-tempered and sarcastic, self-reliant and smart.
Everything I am. Er... try to be...Ahem...want to be.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday Friend Pauline Holyoak

Paranormal Suspense Author – Pauline Holyoak

Merryweathger Lodge – Ancient Revenge…”A supernatural thriller that keeps you on the edge.” A perfect read for the Halloween season!

About me….

I grew in Southeast England, in a mining village my husband calls, “The place that time forgot.” I came to Canada as a nanny, when I was 21. This vast and majestic country has served me well, but England will always be home. I live in Alberta (western Canada) with my sports crazy husband, adorable Sheltie dog and cantankerous ginger cat. We have two grown children. I love this part of the country, except for the winters. It can be a chilly minus -30 for days on end. Burr…..
Every summer, when I was a child, we would visit my aunt and uncle at their quaint little cottage on Salisbury Plain. It was called Scotland Lodge and was situated not far from the historical Stonehenge. My uncle worked as a farm hand for the local squire. My aunt tended the manor house. It was there as I roamed free, deep within the English countryside, that I experienced joy, enchantment and some very strange and frightening occurrences. It was like a fairytale kingdom with a sinister twist. The memories of my summers at Scotland Lodge have stayed with me as a sort of nagging unsolved mystery all my life. A few years ago I revisited my childhood wonderland (the old place still emanates a strange and eerie essence) and was lead by some mysterious force into concocting this story and writing this book. It is from my mystifying experiences at Scotland Lodge that this book has emerged.

My life has been a fascinating journey so far but nothing compares to my mystifying summer holidays at Scotland Lodge.

Book blurb…..

When Emily Fletcher meets the gorgeous Jonathan McArthur she is infatuated and consumed with passion. Will he go with her to the dreaded wood-lot, to remove the bloody ancient curse, before it’s too late? In the first half of my story Emily is fourteen years old. In the second half she is forced to return to the cottage, at the age of twenty. My novel contains elements of horror, humor, fantasy, romance and sex. I have created a world into which my readers can escape and an atmosphere that will evoke their imagination, stir their emotions and engage their senses.


“It was the 31st of October. The day I had dreaded for the past week. I loved this time of year as a child; the thrill of dressing up in scary costumes, carving jack-o-lanterns and going trick or treating door to door. Spooky decorations adorned our homes, both inside and out. The trees were bare, piles of brittle brown leaves lay on the lawns, inviting little ones to run and jump. The air was crisp and cold, and sometimes the odd snow flake would fall, signaling the long cold winter ahead. Skye’s mom spent weeks making her the best costume, and it was always something incredibly gruesome. I always wore store bought costumes and had to go as a princess or fairy. I wish that Skye was here with me now. She’d know exactly what to do and wouldn’t be a nervous wreck, like me. Besides Christmas, Halloween was my favorite time of year; but there were no signs of little ghosts and goblins, jack-o-lanterns, or celebrating at Merryweather Lodge, only the rustling of half naked trees and the gloom and foreboding of the cool autumn air. I reach for my journal…If I don’t come out of this alive I leave you, my confident, to my best friend Skye. She is the only one who will understand the content of your pages. I am scared, so utterly scared.”

Merryweather Lodge – A quaint little cottage, steeped in history, shrouded in secrets, its aura a paradoxical essence of heaven and hell. Go into this book if you dare and experience my protagonist’s strange and eerie journey there…. . Available at

Thank you Margaret, for letting me share this with you and your friends. Come visit me at

(My profound apologies, Pauline. I was not able to upload your picture or your cover. Grrr.


Paranormal Suspense Author – Pauline Holyoak

Merryweathger Lodge – Ancient Revenge…”A supernatural thriller that keeps you on the edge.” A perfect read for the Halloween season!

About me….

I grew in Southeast England, in a mining village my husband calls, “The place that time forgot.” I came to Canada as a nanny, when I was 21. This vast and majestic country has served me well, but England will always be home. I live in Alberta (western Canada) with my sports crazy husband, adorable Sheltie dog and cantankerous ginger cat. We have two grown children. I love this part of the country, except for the winters. It can be a chilly minus -30 for days on end. Burr…..
Every summer, when I was a child, we would visit my aunt and uncle at their quaint little cottage on Salisbury Plain. It was called Scotland Lodge and was situated not far from the historical Stonehenge. My uncle worked as a farm hand for the local squire. My aunt tended the manor house. It was there as I roamed free, deep within the English countryside, that I experienced joy, enchantment and some very strange and frightening occurrences. It was like a fairytale kingdom with a sinister twist. The memories of my summers at Scotland Lodge have stayed with me as a sort of nagging unsolved mystery all my life. A few years ago I revisited my childhood wonderland (the old place still emanates a strange and eerie essence) and was lead by some mysterious force into concocting this story and writing this book. It is from my mystifying experiences at Scotland Lodge that this book has emerged.

My life has been a fascinating journey so far but nothing compares to my mystifying summer holidays at Scotland Lodge.

Book blurb…..

When Emily Fletcher meets the gorgeous Jonathan McArthur she is infatuated and consumed with passion. Will he go with her to the dreaded wood-lot, to remove the bloody ancient curse, before it’s too late? In the first half of my story Emily is fourteen years old. In the second half she is forced to return to the cottage, at the age of twenty. My novel contains elements of horror, humor, fantasy, romance and sex. I have created a world into which my readers can escape and an atmosphere that will evoke their imagination, stir their emotions and engage their senses.


“It was the 31st of October. The day I had dreaded for the past week. I loved this time of year as a child; the thrill of dressing up in scary costumes, carving jack-o-lanterns and going trick or treating door to door. Spooky decorations adorned our homes, both inside and out. The trees were bare, piles of brittle brown leaves lay on the lawns, inviting little ones to run and jump. The air was crisp and cold, and sometimes the odd snow flake would fall, signaling the long cold winter ahead. Skye’s mom spent weeks making her the best costume, and it was always something incredibly gruesome. I always wore store bought costumes and had to go as a princess or fairy. I wish that Skye was here with me now. She’d know exactly what to do and wouldn’t be a nervous wreck, like me. Besides Christmas, Halloween was my favorite time of year; but there were no signs of little ghosts and goblins, jack-o-lanterns, or celebrating at Merryweather Lodge, only the rustling of half naked trees and the gloom and foreboding of the cool autumn air. I reach for my journal…If I don’t come out of this alive I leave you, my confident, to my best friend Skye. She is the only one who will understand the content of your pages. I am scared, so utterly scared.”

Merryweather Lodge – A quaint little cottage, steeped in history, shrouded in secrets, its aura a paradoxical essence of heaven and hell. Go into this book if you dare and experience my protagonist’s strange and eerie journey there…. . Available at

Thank you Margaret, for letting me share this with you and your friends. Come visit me at

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Hunky Heroes and Heart-Throbs

My first celebrity crush was Erik Estrada...Ponch from CHiPs. I think I was in fifth grade! In junior high and high school I was all about Rick Springfield (still am) until Jon Bon Jovi hit the scene. My heart still stutters when I see him. If anything, he's even better looking now than back in the 80s. (Although I really was into the hair band guys.)

James Bond is the ultimate hero, especially if he's played by Pierce Brosnan - who I will watch in just about anything. Although Sean Connery gets big points for that role as well. He's really a sexy older man these days still.

Others making my "list" these days are: Brad Pitt (without the straggly beard...thank goodness he FINALLY shaved that awful thing!) and Matthew McConaughey. I've used both as inspiration for heroes (looks-wise) in my own books.

I have, of course, been head over heels for all of my heroes at one time or another. Why write them if they weren't falling in love with?

In books these days, as you may well know, I am all about the vampires. Edward from "Twilight" and Eric from the Sookie Stackhouse series are both devine. They've translated well to the big/small screen, too. Robert Pattinson is the ideal Edward, and I've enjoyed some of his other work as well (although lusting after him does make me feel a little courgarish), and Alexander Skarsgard has the character of Eric down to a T in "True Blood". Not to mention both men are sexy as all hell. (I use posters of both my favorite vampires in front of my treadmill as motivation for working out.)

MY latest hunky hero is now available in paperback from The Wild Rose Press. This Can't Be Love is Zach's story. Zach is sexy, fabulous, and crazy about Jessica. (Digital release is November 5.) My cover artist did a FABULOUS job of depicting him, don't you think?!

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Tuesday, October 26, 2010


I have a few, but most have changed over time. I think my first heart-throb, in the 50's, was Pat Boone (don't laugh!)
Others have included Paul Newman - I'm a sucker for blond hair and blue eyes, and also Christopher Plummer in 'Sound of Music' but not in anything else.
I also like the tall, dark and handsome guys - Hugh Jackman in 'Australia' was wonderful, and in 'Kate and Leopold' (a time-travel movie), and also as Curly in the National Theatre production of 'Oklahoma' (the guy can really sing too!), but I'm less keen on his rippling-muscled Wolverine.
Colin Firth is another gorgeous guy - I fell for him, not in the much publicised 'Darcy exits the lake in wet shirt' scene, but when he was watching Elizabeth playing the piano. My God, those dark eyes of his said everything - hot, hot, hot! I had to stop the DVD and play it back several times while I drooled. Actually I fell in love with Darcy originally when I first read P&P in my teens. Mr. Rochester was another of my teenage favourites. Anya Seton's 'Katherine' inrtoduced me to the wonderful John of Gaunt, and who could fail to love Richard III in Sharon Penman's 'Sunne in Spendour'.
But of course my all-time favourite (as you know) is Martin Sheen. I fell for him way back in the 70's when he played John Dean in the Watergate mini-series 'Blind Ambition.' I now have over 100 of his movies on DVD or video, some brilliant, some appallingly bad (although his performance never fails to impress, however bad the movie as a whole). In the 1980's he was especially attractive (for that read: "totally gorgeous") and he made some good movies during that period. And I fell in love with him all over again when he played President Jed Bartlet in 'The West Wing' (the "best President America never had"). I owe Jed Bartlet a debt of gratitude because it was wrting West Wing fanfic that got me back to writing novels again.
As far as my own writing's concerned, I've been in love with each of the heroes in my stories. I think you have to be, otherwise the reader won't fall in love with them either.

Handsome Hunks

Favourite Heroes in Moves and/ or fiction

My first ever favourite hero in fiction has to be Mr Rochester (see the name of my hero in A Fatal Flaw) I just fell madly in love with this enigmatic man. I remember seeing the old film with Joan Fonteyn and Orson Welles – Orson Welles is still my perfect Rochester!

I never liked Bruce in Forever Amber. I just could not see what a spirited gusty heroine like Amber could see in him. He was not at all heroic. Just loathed him!

There have been many heroes in books that I have fallen for, I mean if you can’t fall in love with the hero you’re wasting your time reading the novel, aren’t you? A latest hero of mine is Harry Bosch, Michael Connolly’s detective. I love this guy, I feel he always falls in love with the wrong woman and I just know the right woman for him is me!

I loved Harrison Ford in Witness, I could really fall for him (do you think I have something for cops???. Also I fell in love with the, to begin with, cold and calculating Humphrey Bogart in Sabrina Fair. Ah, but he melts so deliciously.

Robert Redford, in navy whites, in The Way We Were…sigh and he is always to me the perfect Jay Gatsby (another of my novel heroes).

I could go on and on but I really must stop. If I start thinking about it I could be here all day and that way my own hero will not be created!

Ta ta…

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Hunky Heart-throbs

I would run away with Cary Grant. After him, I'm fickle. If I like the book or film, I am temporarily in love with the hero. If he's my leading man, I'm definitely in love.
A few standouts:
Ben Browder's character, John Creighton, in the sci-fi Farscape series. (Miss it.)
Jim Caveziel in The Count of Monte Cristo. (Just watched it again.)
Jeremy Dumont, aka Jermande du Monfort, in my WIP.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Our Friday Friend - Celia Yeary

Welcome to Celia Yeary, author of Texas Promise, who's going to tell us about her very interesting promotion idea - a "Texas Tea and Book Party".

Three years ago, the release of my first novel excited me, yes, but it also threw me into a dither. A dither, if you’ve never been in one, is similar to mild hysteria and confusion. All other authors I knew at the time talked about book signings, and I attended a couple of them. In my opinion, this might not work for me, as they don’t seem to work very well unless you are the author of Harry Potter. How many readers would drive to a bookstore and buy my book? I fear not many, and there I’d be, all alone in public, people walking past me, ignoring the books on the table. The thought of buying a big stack of books and not selling them didn’t make me comfortable either.

So, I wondered what else I might do. I decided to have the book signing at my house, instead. I know many people in town since we’ve lived here thirty-five years. I’ve had gatherings at my house, and we have a lot of parking space—near the house and out on the road.

First, I created a half-page invitation on Word and printed it on pink paper. I explained about the book: title, genre, a brief plot, price, and a link to buy it in eBook or print from my publisher. On a separate line, with a different font, I explained I would be happy to order it for them, give a one-dollar discount, and I’d pay the postage. With my publisher’s generous author discount, I’d still make a little over three dollars on each book. Besides, I was more interested in numbers of books, not the dollar amount.

I instructed the reader to send a check for the amount to me, or send an e-mail to reserve one and pay later, or tell me in person and make sure I wrote down the name. I said I would place the order in two weeks.

As an added incentive, I invited each buyer to my house on a certain date and time for a Texas Tea and Book Party! Instructions included my address — which almost everyone knew — and look for the Lone Star Flag out by the road.

Everywhere I went, I left a small stack of the half-page notices. If someone picked one up, fine, if no one did, fine. I didn’t even look. At the end of the two weeks, I had orders for sixty books.

Now, about the party. The food was easy: Texas-shaped chips, salsa, nuts, Texas Pecan Cookies, assorted cheese tidbits, and peach iced tea. I shopped at a warehouse with highly discounted everything!—and bought plastic cups, and small paper plates and napkins the color of a Texas bluebonnet. All this cost about twenty-five dollars.

My husband worked as the parking lot attendant, and he stayed on our wide front porch and greeted people, too.

Before the party, since I had everyone’s name, I pre-signed all sixty books. That alone took a long time.

With the release of my second book, I sent out almost the same announcement, except I did not have a party. Instead, I delivered the books, or took them along when I knew I’d see some of the buyers at a meeting or gathering.

I now have a reader base that waits for my next book—if it’s available in print. Since I live in Texas, I write about Texas, whether it’s a Western Historical or a contemporary. Each time I send an announcement, some of the readers will ask: “Will you have another party?” Maybe with my next release in print, I’ll consider another party.

Thank you for reading today, and my heartfelt thanks to my host and new friend, Paula Martin.


Celia Yeary-Romance...and a little bit 'o Texas

New ReleasesTexas Promise-eBook-Desert Breeze Publishing
Making the Turn-print & eBook-Wings ePress

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Happy, Happy to Us!

We're celebrating our first anniversary here at Heroines with Hearts this week. I haven't been with the group since its inception, but I'm certainly glad to be aboard now! I'm really enjoying working with my fellow bloggers, Paula, Ana, and Margaret! So here's to us and many more years of partnership.

Of course a celebration isn't complete without presents, so I have one for a lucky guest. Leave a comment telling us about a memorable celebration of yours (birthday, anniversary, promotion, etc.) and you'll win a PDF of my new release This Can't Be Love when it comes out November 5. (Be sure to leave your e-mail addy so I can get the book to you.) We'd love to have you become a follower of our blog, too!

For me, a recent memorable celebration was my 40th birthday. I wanted to do something special, and I'm a huge Disney fan, so we decided a trip to Disney World was called for. We hadn't been there in forever, and I was really itching to go. While watching tv one night, I caught a commercial advertising free admission to Disney in '09 on your birthday. That clinched it. We were officially in.

From there, the stars aligned and everything fell into place. We had points on our credit card to pay for our hotel; my birthday was on a Friday and the flight schedule lined up perfectly with a Thursday afternoon departure and a Sunday afternoon return; my boss graciously gave me time off for the long weekend; and I had some royalty money to pay for a portion of the trip.

When I walked down Main Street toward Cinderella's Castle, I actually had tears in my eyes. It truly is a magical place.

So, now it's your turn. Share your stories of celebration. Anyone who comments will have their name put into a drawing for my new book. Good luck!

Until next time,

Happy Reading!