Friday, April 30, 2010

Friday Friends

Our Friday Friend today is Michelle Daly from Liverpool in the North West of England, author of Marie’s Voice and I Love Charlotte Bronte.

HWH: Hi, Michelle and thanks for being with us. First of all, tell us something about yourself.
MICHELLE: I was born in Liverpool, the third eldest of seven children, five girls and two boys. My father went to sea and was away for months at a time so our upbringing was left to my mother.
I grew up in a house of women and we’re all very strong and independent.
I didn’t have much of an education and was kicked out of school at the age of fifteen with a reference stating “Michelle thinks life is one big joke”!
At school I was always drawn to the problem children. I sat next to a girl who lived in an abusive foster home. Every evening after school we’d get the bus to the Social Services to complain but they were not very sympathetic and just told her to go back and try again. That was my first introduction into the often sad and lonely life of children ‘in care’

HWH: Marie’s Voice is based on your experiences. Can you tell us how you met Marie?
MICHELLE: When I was almost seventeen I went to work in a convent looking after toddlers. It was there that I met Marie, a little five-year old girl who had severe learning difficulties and cerebral palsy. I think there’s a fine line between abuse and neglect and because the nuns had no special training in child care they would lock Marie up all day in a room on her own. Needless to say I was appalled and two years later I became Marie’s legal guardian and brought her home to live with me.
I later wrote about our life together in Marie’s Voice.
Below is the link to a review by Maeve Binchy.

HWH: Please tell us some of the background for your novel I Love Charlotte Bronte.
MICHELLE: I moved to Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo, Ireland in 1990 where I home-schooled my other two children, Patrick and Anna.
I returned to England in 2001 and did agency work at nights in nursing homes whilst my kids went to university. This kind of work can be very sad and yet most of the people I worked with just rolled up their sleeves and got on with it. I felt proud to work alongside most of them and decided to write a book about an underpaid undervalued dedicated care worker. Whenever I had a break during the night I would sit at the window with my pencil and notebook and scribble away.
My grandparents came from Ireland and I wanted to pay tribute to them and celebrate the Liverpool/Irish connection, and to incorporate some of my own experiences of living in Ireland.
I am a great admirer of Charlotte Bronte and indeed all the Brontes but everything I read was written by academics. I decided to write about Charlotte Bronte through the eyes of a working class woman. Also Charlotte is half Irish so everything just fell into place.

HWH: What especially do you personally love about Charlotte Bronte?
MICHELLE: Charlotte is almost as famous for her short tragic life as she is for her career. She was also way ahead of her time.
In Jane Eyre she criticises the lack of opportunities for poor but educated women and the idea that women ought to confine themselves to household duties and looking pretty. Jane’s desire for a better life, her need to be loved, her rebellious questioning of convention, are all a reflection of the author.
If we look to the beginning of her publishing venture, Charlotte and her two sisters, Emily and Anne, published a book of poetry under the pseudonyms of Ellis, Acton and Currer Bell, expecting their work to be taken more seriously if submitted as men. The book, which cost £37 to publish was almost a year’s wages in those days but sold only two copies.
Did she/they give up?
Fortunately for millions of readers she went on to her next project with unblinkered determination. It’s difficult not to admire someone who overcame so many difficulties and achieved so much, someone who gave us one of the greatest novels ever written and above all someone who never ever gave up despite feeling a society outcast for most of her life.

HWH: How do you divide your time between looking after Marie and writing?
MICHELLE: I’m actually Marie’s full time carer so in all honesty my days are pretty taken up with those practicalities. Being a carer can be very isolating but I’m quite a strong person and a dangerous optimist so I just roll up my sleeves and get on with it.
When I was writing I Love Charlotte Bronte, Marie and I would usually go up to the attic (office) after breakfast and I would work for most of the day. Her limited understanding together with her autistic spectrums can often present very challenging behaviour but it was as if she sensed how important the project was to me. She would sit beside my desk scribbling away in her exercise book or playing with her blocks. I’d glance at her occasionally and feel so humbled it would make me all the more determined to stick with it. In my mind we wrote the book together because if she hadn’t been so compliant I couldn’t have written it.

HWH: How easy/difficult was it to find a publisher for your books?
MICHELLE: I have been both mainstream published and self published.
My first book, Marie's Voice, began as a rant on my Brother typewriter in 1983. I had just won yet another of many battles with the Social Services and after years of relentless unnecessary obstacles, usually concerning my mentally handicapped daughter and my refusal to be dictated to, I'd had enough! I was burnt out and knew I had to do something.With two children under three and a teenage daughter with learning difficulties and cerebral palsy, my days were already full, but I think it's true, that if we want to do something badly enough we will find a way. I did.I finished the book almost a year later. I then decided to find an agent but gave up after a while and sent it directly to publishers. When Virago sent me a rejection letter, they apologised for keeping my manuscript for so long, saying that all of their staff had wanted to read it. They also said their publishing house was too small for my book and it would simply 'get lost' with them. I decided to put my book away in the drawer. There was no rush to have it published. I was just so happy that I'd written it.It wasn't until I moved to Ireland in 1990 that I dusted my ms down, bought myself a word processor and more or less re-wrote my book. So much had happened since the first draught and on reflection I understood our story hadn't finished and now was the time to bring it up to date and bring some closure to it.It was Christmas Eve that same year when I sent it off to the publishers in Dublin and it took ten long months before they accepted and published it six months later.

I remember that Spring day so clearly. There was a postal strike in Ireland and I was sitting on a bench in the railway station in Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo, with my children, smiling when I heard the train in the distance knowing it had my freshly printed book on board. I opened the box of books on the platform to see my daughter's beautiful face smiling back at me from the cover. All that hard work had finally been rewarded.

I was far more confident and familiar with the publishing world when I wrote, I Love Charlotte Bronte. I knew exactly what I wanted even down to the cover. But it was also a different publishing world. The market was saturated with too many writers and not enough publishers. Nowadays so many people work from home and there are more opportunities to work on that novel. Publishers no longer had in-house readers and were far more unreachable.
I remember listening to an author being interviewed on the radio. She was saying how thrilled she was with her agent, how he guided her with the storyline and book development. She said her name began with V or something but they’d suggested she change it to something beginning with C so she’d be next to Jackie Collins on the bookshelves.
I knew I would never have agreed to any of those demands. It seemed like the integrity had dropped out of the publishing world and I realised the only way I’d have full control over my work would be to publish it myself. I had to work twice as hard because I was a team of one and had to do everything.
There used to be a lot of snobbery towards self publishing but it’s becoming more acceptable as people prefer to take control over their own work.

HWH: What’s the best advice you’ve ever heard/read for aspiring writers?
MICHELLE: Have faith in yourself and your work. If you don’t, it will show and how can you expect others to believe in you when you don’t believe in yourself?
Don’t seek too much approval from friends and family. It’s your work and an indifferent remark from someone can be the end of what might have been a brilliant book.
Competition is fierce. No matter who publishes your work you must be prepared to take an active role in promoting and selling your book.

HWH: Do you get writer’s block and if so, how do you get over it?
MICHELLE: When I decided on the title and wrote it down I couldn’t wait to get started; the story was just waiting to be told.
My office is in the attic so it’s a very peaceful place to write.
I don’t answer the door or phone and I don’t do much reading because when I’m not writing on my computer I’m often writing in my head. Although I have to admit there were days when I dragged myself (and poor Marie) up to the attic whilst thinking of a million excuses not to write that day but sometimes writing is a labour of love and you just have to get on and do it. Besides, the characters are so alive they’re like friends. Some days I tell them what to do and other days I’m astounded at their unpredictability and the fun I have with them. I also have to think about securing Marie’s future and that’s a great motivator. So my reasons for writing are what drive me when times get tough.

HWH: Here in England it doesn’t seem to be as easy to promote our published books. What methods have you used?
MICHELLE: Nowadays press releases don’t seem to carry any weight so you have to keep your eye on the ball and put yourself out there.
I’ve had several radio interviews which led to local book sales. I also do book talks in libraries and to carers groups.
The Central Library was very enthusiastic and purchased almost a dozen books to distribute in libraries across Liverpool.
It’s a very slow process and you have to be prepared to work hard and grab whatever opportunities come along. Just keep reminding yourself of the long hours, the social suicide and emotional battering it took to create that fabulous novel.
I set myself a challenge to achieve at least one promotional opportunity a week.
But for me the icing on the cake was when I saw it for sale in The Bronte Parsonage Museum. I felt so proud. That’s what it’s all about, I thought on the drive home, and one day I hope to see it on the big screen. (Laughs) Well, why reach for the stars when you can have the moon?

HWH: Finally, if you could visit just one place in the world (so that you could use it as a setting for a novel) which place would you choose and why?
MICHELLE: I think I’d choose New Zealand. Some years ago a fortune teller predicted I would immigrate to that beautiful country. Of course it will never happen but I could see a novel in the making and a nice long holiday whilst I researched it.

I LOVE CHARLOTTE BRONTEColette Murphy is a twenty-eight year old care worker who lives at home with her father and brothers. The family are of Irish-Catholic descent and live in a close neighbourhood in the heart of Liverpool.
Colette has a special bond with Maisie, one of the residents in the home where she works and is stunned when the old lady dies and leaves her a cottage in Ireland.
With Maisie’s legacy and the inspiration of a Victorian novelist, Colette decides to up sticks and set up home with her best friend, Marion.
On their first morning in rural Ireland they waken to a herd of cattle congregating at the back fence. Marion is convinced she will be eaten by them and Colette feeds them soda bread because she thinks they look hungry.
The story celebrates the Liverpool/Irish connection and also reminds us about the importance of friendship. The excerpt below starts when Colette and Marion have just boarded the night ferry to Ireland and sneaked their cat on board.

Excerpt:“When the receptionist offered me the keys I quickly took them and followed the arrows up the steps along the carpeted hallway. It was a relief when I flung open the door of cabin 42 and stepped inside. I threw my jacket on the chair, checked there were no dead bodies behind the shower curtain and began to root through my holdall for the chicken butties. I was starving.
Marion sat down on the bunk and peeped into her bag. “He’s still fast asleep, Col!” she proudly announced. “You see, I told you he’d be no trouble.” She took a sandwich from my outstretched hand, looked inside, and then took a bite.
“Mmm, I bet your Tony made these.
“Who else?”
“I wish I had a brother.”
“You can have one of mine!” I offered, clicking open a can of lager. “In fact, you can have them both if you like.”
Marion was thoughtful for a moment. “I wonder what my mam thinks of us going to live in the back of beyond? I mean, she’s only been dead six months, hasn’t she?”
“Oh, God! She’ll be thrilled to bits. Do you think she wanted to see you stuck in the flat with all your sad memories for the rest of your life?” Marion shook her head.
“No way” I continued. “Put that thought right out of your head.”
She looked so sad. Then she began to cry.
“You’re not sorry are you?” I asked, sitting down beside her and putting my arm around her shoulders.
“Course I’m not,” she replied, reaching into her bag for a tissue and wiping her nose. “I can’t wait to get there. I know we’re going to have such a great time. Take no notice of me. I’m like a big kid. I’m just a bit tired, that’s all.”
“That’s OK! It might be my turn to cry tomorrow when we get there. Who knows?” I asked.
“I doubt it.” she smiled.
After we finished eating, Marion lay down and fell asleep.
When the Irish voice came over the loudspeaker announcing the ship’s departure, I sprang to my feet and pulled back the curtain to look at the landing stage. I knew all three of them would be standing out there on the dockside in the bitter cold waiting for the ship to sail.
I put on my woolly hat and gloves and left Marion in the cabin with the cat. She must have been so worried these last few days. No wonder she was sleeping like a baby.
The sea air washed over me when I climbed the iron steps. I could barely contain my excitement when I reached the top and went out onto the open deck, clinging tightly to the rail and peering over the side. My dad and brothers were hidden behind the office buildings but I gave a tearful waive just in case they could see me.
I tried to imagine poor Maisie when she sailed from Ireland all those years ago. Then I had a flashing image of Charlotte Brontë and thought once again how daring and gutsy she had been when at the age of twenty six she had arrived in London, close to midnight, on that cold January evening in 1843. Soon she would be teaching and perfecting her foreign languages in Belgium in preparation for the school she planned to open in Hawarth with her sisters. Her temporary home had been a ferry ride and train journey away, but it must have seemed like a million miles.
So many strangers.
So many uncertainties.
I empathised with her as I thought how frightened she must have felt, alone on a cold night like tonight and took comfort in the fact that my friend was tucked up fast asleep in our cabin with her cat.
A loud shout from across the deck jolted me out of my daydreams.
I watched the dockers loosen the thick ropes that secured the vessel to the bay. Within minutes the ship began to inch away from the dockside and cruise into the loch.
I looked out across the river. I felt proud to come from such a great city.
In my Liverpool home, I hummed as the waves lapped around the ship.
I looked around nostalgically. Nobody could deny its beauty.
The lights shimmered on the Mersey and the ship rose as the dam slowly began to fill. The Liver Buildings looked enchanting: tall and noble, they lit up the Pier Head, giving it an almost fairy-tale atmosphere.
Across the river to Birkenhead, the cranes at Camel Laird’s pointed to the sky like machine guns, and the ferry cruised across the river towards Liverpool.
I can’t believe it, I whispered into the darkness, I’m finally going to Ireland.
The cold had driven the other passengers back downstairs but this was an experience for which I would brave any weather, maybe tell my grandchildren about in years to come. Standing quietly, almost respectfully, I waited for the loch to fill and watched in awe as the gates opened and the ship began to cruise into the Mersey. The vessel swayed as it inched its nose with expertise, sailing through the freezing moonlit water, on and on, passing the New Brighton Lighthouse as it gathered speed and sailed into the night.
When I returned to the cabin, Marion was still fast asleep.
It wasn’t long before I climbed into bed between my crisp white sheets.
With the hum of the engine and the swaying of the ship as it sailed across the Irish Sea, I soon joined Marion and Tiddles and slipped into the land of the unconscious.

HWH: Having recently crossed the Mersey by ferry, I can imagine it all, Michelle! I love Ireland too, so am really looking forward to reading about Colette and Marion’s adventures there!
Please give us details of where your books can be bought/ordered?

MICHELLE: My book can be bought from and and also ordered in any bookshop.
It can be purchased direct from or,
The Bronte Parsonage Museum and on their website.
There’s also a click to buy on

HWH: Thanks for being with us today, Michelle. You truly are an inspiration to us all, first for the wonderful care you have given to Marie, and secondly for all your hard work and sheer determination!
MICHELLE: Thank you so much, Paula. It’s been most enjoyable being interviewed.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


Here's an excerpt from my first book "This Time for Always". In it the hero and heroine are meeting up again after being apart for nearly twelve years. Needless to say, they have some unresolved issues and perceptions of what happened all those years ago.

Logan followed her from the room. Before she could make it to the safety of her office, the touch of his hands on her shoulders stopped her. He turned her to face him. His eyes bored into hers for long seconds until he demanded, “What the hell is going on, Sharlie? What are you doing here?”
Although every nerve ending in her body had come alive at his familiar touch, she managed a calm, “Nice to see you again, too, Logan,” above the pounding of her heart. “As for what I’m doing here, I thought that was obvious. I work here.”
Logan sighed, then removed one hand from her shoulder to run it through his thick, dark hair.
Her heartbeat quickened as she remembered her hands making the same journey so many times. She used to love running her fingers through Logan’s silky hair while he lay his head in her lap after—
What was she thinking? She shook free of his other hand.
Logan raised an eyebrow. “Quite an interesting place for Daddy’s little girl to be. I’ll bet the old man doesn’t cotton to his darling working in a bar.”
“What my father thinks is no concern of yours. Although having a rich father turned out to be quite an advantage for you, didn’t it? How many business holdings do you have?” Sharlie’s voice was bitter.
Logan folded his arms across his chest. Anger flared in his eyes. “Ah, yes. Daddy’s money. Not much it can’t buy, now is there?”
Their gazes smoldered and clashed. Then into the storm came a voice.
“Miss Montgomery?”
Taking a few seconds to pull her attention from Logan, Sharlie took a deep breath and turned to face the young woman who had spoken. “Yes, Pam?”
The waitress looked from Sharlie to Logan as if she could feel the tension in the air. Sharlie didn’t doubt it. The air almost crackled with electricity.
“Um, I’m sorry to interrupt you, but I have a question about this tab.” She held out a receipt.
Sharlie glanced at the small slip of paper. “This looks fine. Have the customer sign it at the end of the night.”
“Thanks, Miss Montgomery.” The rookie waitress grabbed the receipt and scooted away.
Sharlie could feel Logan’s gaze boring into the back of her head. She turned to face him. “If you’ll excuse me, I have a job to do.” She started to brush past him, but stopped when his hand gripped her upper arm. Her flesh warmed at once.
“We’re not finished.”
“Yes, we are. I have things I need to take care of.”
Logan smiled, causing her heart to skip a beat. “You have to take care of me. Pete’s instructions if I recall. Show me around and answer my questions.”
Sharlie stared at him in amazement. “You can’t be serious about buying this bar.”
“Oh, but I am.”
“I don’t want you here.”
“Well, now. That decision is out of your hands. If you’ll wait here for a few minutes, I’ll be right back.”
“If you’re so anxious to see this place, where are you going?”
Logan’s hand swept over his attire, and her gaze followed it down the lines of a well-tailored suit. “I don’t think I’ll blend in down in the bar wearing this. I’ve got a change of clothes in my truck.”
“I can’t wait around for you. I have a bar to run. I’ll be downstairs.” This time Logan allowed her to pass him.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A misunderstanding that creates a serious rift

Here’s my example of a misunderstanding based on someone making assumptions or, as we would say, putting two and two together and making six!

Background: Lisa, a translator at the State Department, has been living for the past year with Paul, a geologist. Paul has been offered the chance of a lifetime, a three-year expedition to Peru. He wants Lisa to go with him, but she has just discovered that she is pregnant. This scene takes place when she returns from an official visit to Berlin where she acted as a translator for Senator Ralph Gregory.

As she went up the stairs to the apartment on the second floor, she tried to ignore the sick feeling at the pit of her stomach. Before Paul got home that evening, she had to make a decision. She could tell him she was pregnant and then let him decide what he wanted to do. But she knew already what that would be, knew beyond any doubt that Paul wouldn’t go to Peru if he knew about the baby.
Or she could decide to go ahead with a termination and then tell him that everything was okay, that she was as excited as he was about going to South America. She’d told Ralph she needed time but time was a luxury she didn’t have. She had to make a decision and knew that, whatever it was it, it would have a profound effect on both of them, maybe for the rest of their lives.
She opened the door, heaved a sigh as she dropped her suitcase on the floor, and went through to the living room. Then she stopped in surprise. “Paul!” she gasped, seeing him standing by the window, looking out on to the street. “Why are you here? Are you sick?”
He didn’t move. “How long has it been going on?” he asked without looking around at her.
Lisa frowned. “What are you talking about?” She took a step towards him. “How long has
what - ?”
He turned abruptly. “You and him – how long?”
“What? What do you mean?”
“Oh, don’t give me that!”
She saw the look in his eyes, a look she’d never seen before. Hurt? Anger? Hatred? She didn’t know. All she knew was that she was suddenly terribly afraid. “Paul, please - ”
“Oh, for God’s sake!” He turned back to the window again and drew in a deep breath. “I saw you.” he said evenly. “I was standing here. I saw you kiss him. And I heard everything. See, the window’s open – your voices carried.” He spun around, his blue eyes like ice.. “So what do you need to think about? What isn’t going to be easy? No – no, don’t answer,” he said bitterly. “I know. I’ve known since last night. I guess I knew before that but like an idiot I wouldn’t let myself believe it.”
“Paul, you’re not making any sense,” Lisa said helplessly. Everything was going desperately wrong and she didn’t know why. This Paul was like a stranger.
“You’re gonna leave me, aren’t you? It’s him you want.” His voice was flat, expressionless.
“No! No – why on earth do you think - ?”
“He was in your room last night.”
Lisa’s forehead creased in bewilderment. Then she remembered the phone ringing and Ralph answering it. “Oh God!” she whispered involuntarily.
“I tried your cell phone but couldn’t get through. So I tried your room – twice, and you weren’t there. And then he answered it.”
“Look, I can explain - ”
“Oh, sure! Just as you can explain this?”
He picked up a tabloid newspaper from the chair and threw it on to the table. Lisa looked down. There was a photograph of herself and Ralph, dancing together at the American Embassy in Berlin earlier in the week. The camera had caught them as they were looking at each other and laughing. She remembered how Ralph had been making wry comments about some of the Embassy staff. But even to her eyes, the photo suggested more than that and her heart sank at the headline above the photo – ‘A New Love for the Senator?’
“Paul, this was nothing. I was laughing at some silly comments he was making.”
“It doesn’t look like nothing to me, and whoever wrote that headline didn’t think so either.”
“And if there’d been a photo of me dancing with the President, which I did, by the way, would you be thinking the same about me and him?”
“That’s different,” Paul retorted. “The President doesn’t call you at ten o’clock in the evening, asking you to go into work there and then. Documents to translate? That was a good excuse, wasn’t it?”
Lisa heaved a sigh as she remembered how that had happened the night before the Berlin trip. “Paul, I told you at the time - two new documents had come in on the wires and he needed them translating before we left for Germany.” She’d known that Paul had been annoyed but had thought that it was because it was the last night before her week away. Now she wondered just what he had been thinking. He’d been asleep when she’d got home at one o’clock and she hadn’t woken him, either then or when she’d had to leave early the next morning. She’d been in such a hurry that morning that she hadn’t even left him her usual note saying ‘I’ll miss you so much’. So what was he reading into that, she wondered.
Then she stopped, as another thought occurred to her. She looked at him wide-eyed. “Why were you calling me so late last night? Were you checking up on me?”
“No, I was calling to tell you – oh, what does it matter? You don’t want to go to South America anyway. I knew that the night I told you I’d been selected.”
“That’s not true. I – I do want to go.” Even as she said it, Lisa knew that it sounded empty, unconvincing. But she couldn’t think straight, her head was all over the place.
Paul was watching her. “It’s written all over your face,” he said, resentment dripping from every word. “You don’t want to go. You want to stay here. With him.”
Suddenly Lisa felt angry. “If that’s what you think, it doesn’t say much for our relationship, does it?”
“And whose fault is that?” he lashed back. “God, I must have been blind. All those trips to Europe, him asking for you every time he had to go, you coming back with all the exciting tales of the places you’d been to. Did you ever listen to yourself? It was always Ralph this, Ralph that, the receptions and galas you went to with him, all the heads of state and foreign diplomats that you’d met, travelling on Air Force One a couple of times with the President. Must have been quite a let-down coming back to this boring life here.”
“You know that’s not true,” Lisa said, more steadily now.
“Do I? I’m not sure what I know or don’t know any more. Except that you made it pretty obvious that you don’t want to go to South America. When Fletcher first announced the expedition six months ago, you were as excited as I was at the possibility of going out there. ‘It’d be a real adventure,’ you said. So what changed, Lisa?”
Lisa stared at him. For one wild moment, she thought of blurting out, ‘I’m pregnant.’ But even now, something stopped her. They could work this out somehow, once she’d had time to sort it all out in her mind. “Look,” she said quietly as she sank down on to the couch, “can we talk about this when we’ve both calmed down? I just can’t think straight at the moment. It’s been a long day and I’m tired.”
It was the wrong thing to say. Paul simply raised his eyebrows and said coolly, “Then maybe you shouldn’t let your lover stay in your hotel room until the early hours of the morning.” He walked past her and out of the room.
“Paul!” she cried. She jumped up but by the time she reached the hallway, he was coming out of the bedroom, carrying a large backpack. “What – what are you doing?”
“Didn’t I tell you?” he said. “Oh no, of course I didn’t manage to speak to you last night, did I? John Fletcher’s asked me to organise the supplies for the base camp so I’m flying out to Lima tonight. That’s what I was calling to tell you.” He shouldered the backpack and headed for the front door, then looked back at her. “So go call your boyfriend and tell him that you’ve got your freedom sooner than you expected.”
Lisa stared unbelievingly at him. She watched, almost as if in some sort of nightmare, as he opened the door of the apartment and then slammed it behind him. The sound of his footsteps echoed harshly on the stars, and she wrenched the door open again.
“Paul! - Paul!”
The door to the street slammed with equal force and numbly she leant back against the door frame. ‘He’s gone,’ she thought, ‘He’s left me.”

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A scene where a misunderstanding creates a serious rift between H/H

A scene from Ana's WIP
Erin Foster, the heroine, recently and reluctantly agreed to move in with Jeremy, a French teacher who had pursued her ardently. Ramona is Erin's assistant. Rajeev Baruah is Jeremy's co-worker at school and Ramona's new love interest. Uncle Ray is Erin and Ramona's boss. Quintos is a school janitor who has the hots for Erin. Belina is his conniving daughter.

“Six o’clock, Foster.” Ramona spun her around. “Time’s up.”
“I thought you were kidding,” Erin said.
“Rajeev is very particular. Cocktails at six-thirty, dinner at seven. And he is very traditional. In his caste, a woman must be accompanied by a chaperone until there is an understanding.”
“An understanding? What’s to understand? You like him, he likes you. You don’t need me tagging along. Besides I have piles of work to do.” She lied again. “Uncle Ray lost my last report.”
“Screw Uncle Ray. For Rajeev, this is a sign of respect. He won’t make a move on me until he gets formal approval from a family member. I told him you were my mother’s youngest sister-in-law.”
“Ramona.” Erin rolled her eyes.
“Play along, Foster. You might learn something useful, like how to get a man.”
Although he was half again her age, Rajeev Baruah greeted Erin in her office with embarrassing deference, bowing deeply three times before squeezing her outstretched hand with his good one. He was slight and ruddy with silver highlights in his wavy black hair. His clipped accent reflected his Bombay roots, and his Queen’s English was flawless. When he lectured, the scientific names of organs and microorganisms sounded like mystical mantras.
She shot Ramona you-owe-me look.
“I am delighted to make your acquaintance, Mrs. Foster,” Rajeev chirped. He escorted her into the hall. “My condolences on the recent loss of your husband. If it is not too painful, I would be most interested to hear the case history of his duodenitis. You will find that I have a very good bedside manner.”
They walked single-file to pass Quintos, who was dry-mopping the floor.
“It is sign of good health that you decided to take on new clients, Mrs. Foster. I am most excited to intercourse with a woman of your experience.”
Erin insisted on driving separately to the restaurant. She didn’t know how much more of Ramona’s eyelash batting she could stomach.
Rajeev ordered cocktails and launched into his biography. It was a fascinating chronicle going back six generations, rich with exotic characters, lost spice fortunes, and two assassinations-by-hire. With surgically precise lines, he sketched a forest of genealogical trees on a body of napkins.
“So you see, Mrs. Foster, once we severed all ties to Mahani Punjabi, the uncle from my great aunt’s hastily arranged marriage, my family has remained scrupulously reputable.” He took Ramona’s hand. “Should Nature take its course, I would bring no dishonor to your family.”
Erin searched for an appropriate response. One of Father Dominic’s baptismal blessings popped into her mind. She recited it beatifically, declined Rajeev’s offer of tea, and drove back to RISE.
She worked in her office until well past midnight.
Jeremy’s cottage was dark when she arrived. She heard an ominous whoosh, whoosh, followed immediately by two crisp thwacks. She slammed the car door a little harder than necessary and gripped the car key between her knuckles for a weapon.
Jeremy stood in front of his target holding his throwing knives. Without a word, he walked back to an invisible mark, turned his back to her, and threw. The first blade spun end over end until it embedded itself on the edge of the inner bull’s-eye. Six more knives landed around the circle in rapid succession. The eighth struck dead center and hummed eerily until it stopped quivering.
“Take what you need for now,” he said coldly. He retrieved his blades and retook his stance. “You may return later for the rest of your things.”
“Are you asking me to leave?” A sharp pain gripped her chest. “Why?”
“You have free will, ma douce. You have used it.” He whipped his knives like his words. They formed a perfect X in the bull’s-eye.
Erin forced logic over the chaos of her emotions. If she could define the problem, she could negotiate a solution. Her mind raced, replaying the hours since she had last seen Jeremy.
“Did you look for me this evening?” she asked.
“Apparently you had a rendezvous.”
“And who told you I went out?”
“Not you.” He clenched the knives so tightly that she was sure he was slicing his palms.
“Whom did you talk to?” That was twice. She prayed three times would be enough. “Who was it?”
“Belina! I was humiliated by my own student.” Jeremy whirled around. “Her father heard you and Baruah making the bargain for love.”
“Quintos.” Erin walked toward him, her grandmother’s favorite insult rising to her lips. “Belina’s father is a piggish lush of a slut-sire. Did he mention that Ramona was with me? Did either of them know I went back to work as soon as Rajeev made a formal request for Ramona’s favor? Do you really think I would sell my body?” She slapped his cheek, and her hand stung.
“You will tell me the truth.” He snaked an arm around her waist and pulled her against him.
“Let me go!” She struggled until tears streamed down her cheeks.
“Say you love me,” he demanded. “Say that you are mine, and only mine.”
“Here is the truth,” she sobbed. “You are the only man I have ever wanted.”

Friday, April 23, 2010

J L Wilson, today's Friday Friend

J L Wilson began writing in 2003 and had her first book published in 2007. She has at least three books published every year, alternating between mystery, romantic suspense, time travel/paranormal and a new ‘other planet’ series.

JL, thank you for being here today!

HWH: Three books a year is an impressive number to write, sell, and promote. You must have a good strategy to keep up this pace. Can you explain how you do it?

I have 3 rules for being so prolific:

1. Discipline: I write every day, no matter what happens, even if it’s just to jot down a note or two for my current work in progress (WIP). If I don’t write every day, I find that I lose touch with my characters or my plots. I just have to keep it all current in my mind.

2. Write cleanly: By this I mean that I taught myself early on what my bad habits were and I make sure to try to avoid those when I write. That way I can write a very clean first draft that requires little effort on my part to whip into shape to send off to my editor. There’s always editing to do -- but once I mastered some of the fundamentals, it makes my second round of editing much easier.

3. One of the methods I use to ‘write cleanly’ is what I call The Chapter Method. I write a book not as one big file, but as individual chapters. For example, I know my mysteries are normally between 16-19 chapters long. Each chapter will be about 14-16 pages long. That means that I need to have my action take place within that chapter, within that particular spot in the book. I know that by chapter 13 or 14 I should be wrapping up the mystery and have had my Big Black Moment. I know that by page 5 of any chapter I should have been firmly into the reason for the chapter and the action.

This helps me keep each chapter on track and thus keep the book on track.

HWH: An aspiring author (like me) works hard to develop storytelling skills, master techniques of craft, and develop a voice. Yet sometimes the biggest hurdle seems to be finding reliable, honest feedback for our WIP’s. In your opinion, what makes for a good critique partner relationship?

I think you need to determine what your partner can give to you -- what her strengths are and where she excels. For example, my CP reads for what we call ‘speed bumps’ -- anything in the book that slows down her reading, whether it be repetitive words or a plot quirk or an unclear description. She doesn’t try to evaluate my writing technique or grammar or punctuation -- she’s looking at my book as any reader would, to make sure the words flow.

When I review her work, I focus more on craft issues because that’s where I’m strongest. I’ll point out how she can rework a scene to be stronger, or how to avoid passive voice, or how to stick in one POV.

No one partner will give you all the feedback you need, but I think it’s a mistake to have a lot of people review your work. Find one or two people you can count on then use contests to hone your work. I’ve always said that you don’t know what a real review is like until a total stranger has read your work. A contest can really help you find your strong and weak points.

HWH: Homicides, Hostages, and Hot Rod Restorations is your January release from Wild Rose Press. Your heroine is a few weeks shy of age 50. Her ex-husband left her for a younger woman. She is educated, independent, principled, and generous—in short, a modern, mature woman. Tell us why you choose this type of heroine for your mystery/suspense novels.

Let’s face it -- I write what I know! When I started reading romance novels (just a few years ago) I didn’t find many, if any, that featured older heroes and heroines. I just can’t relate to big-city career women or 30-somethings who want home & family. I wanted to read about women facing mid-life changes. So that’s why I wrote those heroines.

I model most of my heroines on aspects of myself and on other women I know -- many of my ‘ladies’ are in the high tech field (I am), many are single (I was divorced and remarried late in life), many are just entering the romance world again (some of my friends are in that boat). I think at this stage of my life, I find those kinds of people more interesting!

HWH: Homicides, Hostages, and Hot Rod Restorations is set squarely in the Minneapolis metro area. Have you found that being so specific about setting details helps sell your novels to a nationwide (worldwide?) audience? What feedback have you had about it, if any?

That’s an interesting question -- I’ve never really gotten feedback about my settings except for once, when a reviewer questioned whether there could really be a high speed police chase in Iowa -- she apparently had an image of the Midwest as a bucolic, crime-free rural zone and she just couldn’t believe in an urban chase scene. I had to laugh when I read that because the Midwest has long had that kind of image.

I try to use Iowa and Minnesota as my settings because I know the area well. I grew up in Iowa and still go there to visit family, and although I’ve lived around the country and overseas, I ended up back in Minnesota to be closer to family. So like my heroines, I write what I know and I know the Midwest!

HWH: I am fascinated by your Time Travel/Reincarnation novels. Tell me more about this series—how it came to be, how you set it up, how you approached writing three novels (so far).

I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of time travel and it seemed natural to combine it with my feelings about reincarnation. My History Patrol series combines both. The books in that series all feature a hero and a heroine, one of whom is a Guide for the Patrol and one of whom is a Companion. The Guide is always human and the Companion is a telepathic shape-shifting human. Only the Companions know the full truth about the Patrol. The Companion and Guide are reincarnations of two lovers, one of whom betrayed the other. The Companion can’t be in human form until forgiveness happens -- until they can forgive the one who betrayed them or until they are freely forgiven for their betrayal.

Complicated? Yep. The Guides don’t know about this connection. They think they’re being sent back in time to rescue tourists who got lost during a time travel jaunt.

It’s tricky to combine the love story with the history involved, to make sure that I get all the historical facts correct while inserting the personalities of my main characters into the mix. Three books are currently available (and one of them -- Endurance -- recently one a national award!). More are planned, too.

HWH: You have a great website with lots of information. What other forms of promotion do you use? Which nets the best return for you?

Promotion is a big unknown for me -- unknown in the sense that I have no idea what really works. I try to do one ‘bit’ of promotion a day, whether it be guest blogging (like this), or posting an excerpt on a loop, or tweeting about a book. I have a Twitter account, a Facebook account, a MySpace account and I try to keep those current every day. I also send promotional items to conferences and I participate in panels at conferences.

I think the best thing I can do is produce a consistent product (a good book) and hope that fans will like what they read and make me an ‘auto-buy’ -- and tell their friends about my books, too. Word of mouth is really the best way to sell a book!

HWH: You have another release in April. Tell us about that.

My April book (releasing TODAY!!!!) features my quirkiest heroine yet. Jane Renard is a college professor -- and a best-selling author of erotic romances. She wrote an erotic book on a bet from a friend and was shocked when it sold like crazy. Since then she’s had several books out, each one more wildly successful than the last.

Now she’s up for a promotion in her “real job” and she’s afraid word might leak out about her other life. To further complicate matters, her estranged husband was murdered in front of a thousand Z.Z. Top fans at the Minnesota State Fair -- while Jane sat in the crowd. Marcus Sloan, a security guard, is her alibi and is soon her ally when she’s briefly suspected of murder. Plus her best friend is being threatened by a vengeful ex, Jane’s getting disturbing fan mail to her alter ego and a guy keeps calling and talking dirty on the phone.

Jane’s biggest problem, though, is her inexperience with men. Marcus might be the man to help her add some interesting firsthand facts to her novels. Maybe she can also discover if happily ever after only happens in books.

I had a lot of fun writing this book because Jane is very unique -- she speaks five languages (including Pig Latin, which figures very big in the plot), her family has a Rom heritage (Gypsies) and gets involved in just about everything she does, she’s a klutzy matchmaker, and her cats (William Dean Howls and Ezra PoundCat) end up saving the day at the end.

I think I can guarantee you that PhDs, Pornography and Premeditated Murder will be a fast and fun read!

For information about that book and my other books, see my web site ( where I have links to purchase information, excerpts, and links to the promotional items used for each book.

Thanks for letting me chat here today -- I love talking about writing and about my books, and love to share any information I can with others. I hope people will contact me if they have any questions --

Thanks again!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

One of THOSE People

Okay, so I realized there was no way in the world I could come up with my favorite book or movie of all time. There are too many great choices out there. Curling up with a book and curling up with my hubby to watch a movie are my all-time favorite things to do in my spare time. I've read so many books and watched so many movies, I'm sure I've lost count.

So I'm going to go with my favorite books/movies at the moment. And, and yes, I'm one of THOSE people, so bear with me...right now I have to say the "Twilight" series.

I got hooked on the books right before the first movie came out about a year and a half ago. In the time since, I've read the series (four books) seven times. I know, I a world with so many great books out there, how can I possibly read the same ones over and over again? That's how good they are.

There is something escapist and magical and alluring and sexy about these books. People of all ages gravitate toward them. And I've always been a vampire fan.

With the advent of the movies, the characters I've grown to love in the pages of these books have now come alive for me on the big screen. And I fell in love all over again in a completely different way.

So, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Which leaves only one question...are you Team Edward or Team Jacob? For me it's Edward all the way.

Until next time,

Happy Reading (or watching)!


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

My favourite movie

This has to be a little known 1980’s movie called ‘Da’ which is a little gem. It stars Martin Sheen and was filmed in Ireland, two automatic points in its favour before we even start! But I have seen over a hundred of Martin’s movies, and this is my favourite of all.

Charlie Tyson, a New York playwright returns to Ireland for his father’s funeral. While at his childhood home, he ‘meets’ his father’s spirit and re-lives some of the defining moments of his often turbulent relationship with his father.

The whole movie is a total delight. Martin is obviously enjoying it immensely, and his portrayal of the playwright revisiting various turning points in his youth ranges from nostalgic to frustrated to angry, and finally to acceptance. His father, the 'Da' of the title, is played superbly by Barnard Hughes. He is an irascible old man who has been content to spend his life as a gardener for the ‘quality’ and who doesn’t understand Charlie’s need to better himself.

The switches between past and present are seamless and believable, highlighting the fact that we are seeing it all through Charlie’s memories. There’s a perfect mixture of laughter and sadness, and the interaction between Charlie and his younger self (played extremely well by a young actor called Karl Hayden) provide some of the funniest moments of the movie.

The location shots are filmed in and around the small town of Dalkey, a few miles south of Dublin, and show some of the beauty of the surrounding area, particularly Killiney Bay with the Wicklow Mountains in the distance.

If you can get hold of a copy of this movie, I promise you that you won’t be disappointed.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Favorite book or movie

Favorite book has to be Palomino by Daniele Steele.

The way it starts you would never expect it to end the way it does. I would explain but then it would ruin the book for those who haven't read it. If you haven't read it yet, I suggest you look for it. It's an old book so it may be hard to find.

I only read this book after I watched the movie of it on LIFETIME. And of course the book was MUCH better.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Most Favorite Book or Movie

The movie I love to watch again and again is the Renee Russo-Pierce Brosnan version of The Thomas Crowne Affair. The acting is smart. The settings are fantastic. The camera work exceptional. The love scenes (cable cut) are steamy. The music is perfect.

The plot is multi-layered (a big plus for me). I still can't figure out how he stole the little priceless painting she preferred when he "put back" the Monet that he stole at the beginning. This secondary plot is woven brilliantly into the romance with exquisite tension until their final scene on the airplane. Every action and reaction is justified.

I wonder if the script was so tight because this was a remake. The writer(s) had a chance to rework the original screenplay. My WIP is a reworking of a story I wrote three years ago. I have high hopes.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Friday Friends with Angela Kay Austin

Welcome to Friday Friends with author Angela Kay Austin.

Thanks for being with us, Angela. I know tomorrow is your birthday, so HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Okay, let's get started.

HWH: Tell us about LOVE'S CHANCE and how you came up with the idea.

AKA: I lived in central Pennsylvania for three years, and Love’s Chance grew out of that experience. Although the story is false, some of the events mentioned are not. I’ll let the readers try to figure out which ones.

Here’s a blurb:

To pay back her parents and prevent the loss of their family business, Sinclair Mosley leaves her family and friends behind. Pennsylvania doesn’t welcome her with open arms, but Chance O’Malley does. At the risk of losing everything that brought her to Pennsylvania, including her family’s restaurant, Sinclair must decide if she’s willing to take a chance on love.

HWH: This is your first romance novel. How long did it take you to get published? And what advice would you give to aspiring writers?

AKA: This is my first manuscript that sold, but not my first completed work. My first novel has not sold, yet, but I’m currently working on edits to submit it to a publisher. This novel took me about six months to write. Not because of length or anything, but because of time. I work full-time, and carving out moments in the day to work on my writing can become difficult at times. If I had to give any kind of advice to authors, I’d say: “Write all the time, and tell everybody.” If you don’t believe yourself to be a writer, why would anyone else. Even if you don’t get paid for it, write.

HWH: Good advice, Angela. What do you think makes a good romance novel?

AKA: Developing a strong connection between the story and the reader. If the readers don’t care what’s happening to your characters or that they do or don’t find their happily ever after , then I think as a writer you missed your mark…if you’re writing a romance novel.

HWH: What are you working on now?

AKA: Several different pieces. Interracial romance. Women’ s fiction. Poetry.

HWH: What do you find helpful when you have writer’s block?

AKA: Ice cream, and the Scifi network. I veg out, and forget about the story for awhile. Usually, when I return to the story, I’m ready to type out a few chapters.

Thanks so much for being with us, Angela. Visit her at to learn more about her up and coming books. Leave Angela a birthday wish on Heroines with Hearts today, or on her website tomorrow for your chance to win goodies.

Enjoy the excerpt for LOVE'S CHANCE:

Chance pulled out a chair beside Sinclair and sat. He leaned back and rested his arm across the back of her chair. His thigh touched hers underneath the table. “Your presentation was really good. I think you were the only one who actually kept to the time limit.” He ran a hand across his military hair cut. “How long was Raquel up there? Forty-five minutes.”

She could feel her cheeks redden due to his nearness. “I think so.”

Chance’s look fixed on something across the room; he shifted in his seat. His body leaned closer to hers. “So, when are you leaving? I’ll walk you to your car.”

She followed his stare. Raquel Dickinson, Bakery Category Manager, stalked in their direction. Her broad, angry movements destroyed the effect of the body hugging dress she wore. Reddish blonde hair flowed like untamed fire over bare shoulders.

Sinclair searched the room for her boss, Daniel Houser. She caught a glimpse of his back as he and his wife slipped out of the dining hall. As the breath escaped her, her shoulders slumped. Not so much as a pat on the back or job well done. For some reason, he spent as little time as possible around her. He wasn’t a bad guy, but he definitely was not the ‘go to’ guy in case of emergency. “It looks like I can leave at any time.”

Chance stood, and pulled out Sinclair’s chair. “Let’s go.”

Raquel reached their table before they could leave. “Calling it a night so early?”

He stood between the two women, and reached for Sinclair’s hand to help her stand. “Yeah Raquel it’s been a long night, and I’ve got a meeting in the morning.”

Raquel leaned around Chance. “Sinclair, do you mind if I walk out with the two of you?”

“Of course not. Are you ready?”

Chance released Sinclair’s hand, but walked closely behind. “Raquel, where did you park?”

She snaked her arm around his. “Next to your truck.”

“And Sinclair what about you?”

“I am on the other side of the lot. You really don’t have to walk me all of the way.”

“Sinclair, Chance and I would not dream of letting you walk to your car alone.” Raquel rubbed her hand up and down Chance’s arm, and looked up into his eyes. “Would we Chance?”

Chance stopped underneath the awning in front of the banquet hall. “Sinclair, wait here. Come on Raquel.” Chance and Raquel walked into the night toward their cars.

Sinclair didn’t wait; she headed in the direction of her car. Footsteps behind her caught her attention.

“Sinclair. Stop.” Chance’s voice was stern. He blocked her path. “I asked you to wait.”

“I know, but I didn’t want to be any trouble. You and Raquel…you seemed—”

“We seemed what? If you have a question, ask it.” His stare was amplified by his silence.

She had questions, but they didn’t matter. She shook her head from side to side. “No. It’s really none of my business.”

“None of your business?” Chance walked slow and close.

“No. You and Raquel have your own thing.”

“We do have a history, Sinclair, but—”

Sinclair stopped at her car door. “But it’s none of my business.”

Chance stepped in closer. “What if I want that to change?”

She took a step back. “It couldn’t.”

He stepped back, and stared. “It couldn’t or you wouldn’t let it?”

“Chance, I can’t.” She turned to open her car door. “Thanks for walking me to my car.” She stepped back to open the door, for a moment her body fit into his. She slid into her car, and shut the door behind her.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Unfamiliar Settings

Here's a scene from a manuscript I started a couple of years ago. I have about two chapters done. Right now it's languishing, but it's on my list of projects to completed "one of these days".

The setting is purely a figment of my imagination, although I've set it in wine country, probably somewhere in Michigan, but I need to do more research to help the setting come alive. (Drat, the hubby and I will need to take a trip and explore some wineries, all in the name of research of course!) There's also a historic town and a cozy B & B. The story actually revolves around the Inn.

Here's how I've set the scene in one part. We're in the hero's POV. (And please keep in mind, it's been a while since I've played with this particular WIP...not a lot of major editing has been done.)

Five miles down the road, the brilliance and vision of the major players at the company revealed itself. A modest sized lake appeared, nestled in the valley between two gently rolling hills. The afternoon sun reflected off the smooth surface of the water, which acting like a mirror, showed the surrounding landscape in reverse.
In awe, Jeremiah pulled his car off to the side of the road and got out. Ignoring the blistering heat, he stared at the magnificent view before him. Only in the middle of nowhere could one find untouched beauty such as this.
Just to the left of the lake, on the other side of the road, a vineyard could be seen, the plants seeming to stretch forever as they disappeared from view on the rolling landscape. Squinting, he could just make out a line of buildings on either side of the road between the lake and the vineyard. More were dotted here and there throughout the surrounding trees and hills.
He got back in his car and slowly made his way down the road, the vision of what could be vividly etched into his mind now. Driving into the town proper, the road turned to cobblestone beneath his wheels, causing the car to bump along. He cursed as he banged his head against the roof, reducing his speed to avoid a concussion. He made a mental note to have paved roads be a construction priority.
Passing a sign which read ‘Welcome to Lakemoore - Population 999’, the line of buildings he had observed from afar rose up on either side of him. Apparently this was the entire downtown area, if it could be called that. It was almost like stepping into the pages of a history book. Each building in turn had the look of something seen in one of the old time movies his mother liked to watch on the classic movie channel. Signs of disrepair could be seen in the peeling paint and shabbiness of some of the structures.
In his professional mind’s eye, he replaced the buildings there with the modern structures needed to run the planned resort, deciding as he drove along the best locations for each: the resort building itself, the clubhouse, golf course, pool area, and a variety of shops and spas to cater to the elite and wealthy that would hopefully flock there. That is if they could get transportation to the Godforsaken place.
Realizing he’d driven through the entire town without looking at a single address, Jeremiah executed a U-turn at the end of the cobblestone street and headed back the way he had come. Now the lake was on his left and the vineyards on his right. A few people could be seen here and there, most gathered at what he assumed to be the local coffee shop.
Watching the numbers carefully this time, he stopped, pulling over in front of a large Victorian house. The sign out front proclaimed it to be ‘The Rosewood Inn Bed and Breakfast’. That was the place. The only place to stay in town, or so he‘d been told. Then again, he thought as he took another look down the nearly deserted street, it probably was true.
Leaving his things in the car for now, he once again stepped out. In deference to the heat, he removed his suit coat, slinging it over his shoulder with a finger crooked through the label at the collar, and approached the sprawling house in front of him. White paint adorned the clapboard siding and green shutters framed the windows. The decorative scrollwork and trim so common to houses of its era graced the soaring peaks. A wide porch spanned the width of the house, curving around a turret on the left and disappearing toward the back.
As he climbed the uneven steps to the front door, he noticed that although in need of a fresh coat of paint, the house was in good condition, with much attention paid to the details that an establishment of its kind needed. Flowers grew in abundance along the stone path to the stairs, and more flowers graced the pots scattered across the spacious porch. Large ferns hung from the edge of the roof, and furniture was placed in conversational groupings.
For a moment, Jeremiah stood and stared. The old-fashioned setting before him was the complete opposite of his sparsely decorated, modern condo. It was like stepping into another world.
A trickle of sweat snaked down the collar of his shirt and brought him out of his revere. He grabbed the ornate knocker and tapped it gently against the oak door.

So, what do you think? Any thoughts?

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Writing unfamiliar scenes

Writing unfamiliar scenes has always been a problem for me. It’s not just the general location, it's the small details as well as the whole atmosphere of a place.

In the 1960’s a film called ‘A Kind of Loving’ was filmed partly in my home town of Preston in Lancashire. We actually watched some of the filming in the town centre. When we went to the see the film at the cinema, there was one point where a bus stopped in front of the town hall. Immediately you sensed a reaction from everyone in the cinema – ‘Buses never stop there!’ Suddenly the illusion was destroyed, people focused on the inaccuracy.

That moment has stayed with me over 40 years later. Get a fact wrong about a place with which people are familiar and all credibility is destroyed.

I’ve read location errors many times since and they always bug me. In ‘The West Wing’ fan fiction, someone looks out of a window of the White House and sees "the Washington Monument and beyond that the traffic on Pennsylvania Avenue." Wrong, the Monument is south of the White House, PA Avenue is north. Come on, with proper research that error would be easy enough to avoid.

In a story about Galway City, a car pulls up outside a shop on Quay Street. Wait a minute, that street is pedestrianised, no cars allowed. In this case, maybe research won’t reveal that, but knowledge of the area does.

I could give you countless examples of location errors I have read in books.

So that makes me wary. If I want to set my story in a ‘real’ place, I have to research it carefully. I can’t assume that readers won’t know the place I’m writing about. The internet has made research easier, and – wonderfully - google earth/street view can show me what it’s like to drive down a street or through a town.

But can all the internet resources tell me what it’s actually LIKE to live in an English village, or a small town in America, or a farmhouse in Tuscany? Can they give me the atmosphere of a place? I think not

I can imagine, but I find it very difficult to write about it unless I have that certainty in my mind that I’m getting it right. I’m still aware of those people who, when reading it, might say, ‘Buses never stop there.’ Inaccurate location details annoy me, and I don’t want to annoy my readers.

So what do I do? I have to base my books on places I know. I wrote a fan fiction story once where the characters visited Galway in Ireland. I’d never been there. I researched it, looked at photos and videos of Galway and wrote it. Then I went there, and changed the story. Because now I can really follow my characters as they stroll through the streets from the Cathedral to Eyre Square, now I can I describe their drive through the Connemara mountains. Once it becomes real to me, I can show it through my characters’ eyes.

Yes, it limits me to writing about places I have visited, but at least I know I’m getting it right.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Writing Unfamiliar Scenes...

I make up my own towns. This way I can be as creative as I'd like without having to worry about whether I'm right or wrong. I do use the Internet to check the weather during a certain time period for that state, and make sure anything to do with the law is accurate.

For example, LASSOING LOVE will be my first published novel. I knew I wanted the setting to be in Tennessee. I looked at a map and found an empty section in the Knoxville area in the Smokey Mountains. And because a lot of the story deals with foster care, I contacted a woman in that area to help with the process of foster care. The laws are different than RI.

The only sign of the setting being near the Knoxville area is the airport, I think. It's been a while since I wrote the book. Even to that, I don't think I described the airport because I didn't want to get it wrong. I just had my heroine notice her friends in the crowd (every airport has crowds).

Give us your opinion: Would you rather have a writer describe a real place so the reader can "visit" through the novel, or do you like the idea of a make believe town?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Writing unfamiliar settings

To write the following scene I did extensive research into medieval life, castles, the history of the French province of Brittany, and Druidic lore. I joined the society for the preservation of Brehon, the Celtic language of Brittany. (It was easy to get caught up in the research.)

I am not expert at writing descriptive settings. I try to weave details into the action. I have to watch that I do enough to place the H/H in a scene.

Jermande wadded his shirt into a ball and headed for his aerie.
The back of Dinan castle was embedded in the ramparts, the massive earthwork wall that surrounded the 900-year old city and had defended its inhabitants from hordes of Romans, Franks, Gauls, and most recently, the English. Dozens of round stone guard towers were spaced along the fortification, but those on the bluff overlooking the river had fallen into disuse. Tenuous treaties and assassination had supplanted sieges and battlefield slaughter as the way wars were waged.
Tall, shaggy rows of hazel and berry brush thrived in the grassy yard between the sheer face of the castle and the armory. Once, this and all other arable tracts inside the fortress had been cultivated, thus guaranteeing a food supply in case the city was besieged by attackers or by quarantined by plague.
Curbing his impatience, he meandered through a small patch checking the ripeness of the tasty bramble fruits until he was certain that no one followed. Then he slipped behind the windowless armory and stepped through the shielding illusion he had set seven years ago around the base of the guard tower that was now his home. It was an elementary legerdemain, but simple spells were often the hardest to break.
He bounded up the circular stairs to his study.
“Greetings, milord.” His manservant spoke in the scratchy, oddly pitched lilt common to dwarfed men. Brion stood on a stool and, with the tip of his bodkin, deftly scraped droplets of wax off the surface of the writing table without disturbing the irregular pattern of small rocks and bird bones. “There is fresh water in the lave basin.”
“Brion, could I be alone with Angelique Valois without alerting my mother?” He poured a goblet of port and contemplated his divination spread from yet another angle.
“Do you plan to kidnap her a second time?” Brion’s reasoning was keen. “I was not in support of the first attempt.”
“Twould be thorny. Samat keeps a close watch on her charge these days.”
“Kaoc’h,” he cursed.
He climbed the steps to their sleeping loft and lifted up his goblet to a convergence of sunbeams that rayed in through the loopholes, the narrow vertical slits designed to rain arrows down on an attacking army. The rainbow colors that filled the room reminded him of the intricate, dangerous light fire mazes Longwy had created with his crystals.
All apprentices had to reason their way through them. The superficial burns healed quickly, but there was no way to complete the course without enduring at least one deep, scarring wound. The lesson was that a Brehon had to accept pain as willingly as progress, and to honor Celtic law over all other.


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sunday 'whatever you want' post

Today I found (on one of yahoo groups) a link to a condescending article about Mills and Boon romance novels, followed by a detailed reply by a Mills and Boon author.
(Mills and Boon, in case you're not familiar with them, are the UK partners of Harlequin, in fact I think Harlequin now own M&B)

Here's the original article which appeared in the Irish Times:
or if that doesn't work, try

And the rebuttal of the article, by Trish Wylie, a M & B romance author is here:

Definitely food for thought! Any comments??

Friday, April 9, 2010

Friday Friends with Laurie Ryan

Welcome to Friday Friends with author Laurie Ryan.

HWH: Thanks for being with us today, Laurie. Let's get started. PIRATE’S PROMISE will be out this August. How exciting! Tell us where you came up with the idea and a little bit about the story. You also have another book out, STOLEN TREASURES. Tell us a little about that story.

LR: Ah, I love telling this story. A local Tall Ships Festival gave me the opportunity to spend some time amongst gallant ships from a bygone era, envisioning the romance of a sultry night on the water with nothing around. Then, I got the opportunity to spend 5 days on a working 160 foot schooner. Wow! Talk about inspiration! Both stories were born from that experience. Stolen Treasures pits undercover operative Dion and his unplanned passenger, Claire, against a pirate who steals yachts for a living and has his sights set on Dion’s schooner, the Treasure. Pirate’s Promise is the sequel and explains why tall, blond, Hawk turned to a life of crime. And sparks fly when his hot tempered attorney, Julia, gets drawn into the mix, her career in jeopardy thanks to his stubborn, single-minded plans.

HWH: What do you find helpful when you have writer’s block?

LR: A hot cup of cocoa almost always works, especially if it’s gourmet and creamy. If my muse is still being argumentative, it’s time for a long walk. And if that doesn’t work, well, I move on, work on the next scene or another story and come back to what’s troubling me after it’s percolated for a while.

HWH: How do you plot your novel?

LR: I am definitely a plotter. And a little bit OCD about it. I use a process I learned from another writer, Wendy Delaney. I have an easel set up with a large “W” drawn on it. Using the “W” plotting technique, I post-it note my plot, using different colors. Yellow for plot, green for description, pink for emotion, orange for tension. Hmmm. There’s a little bit of Margie Lawson’s technique in there, isn’t there? It’s like Wendy said to our group: You’ve got to find what works for you. For me, it’s a conglomeration of techniques.

HWH: What's the best writing advice you've ever received/read?

LR: Lucy Monroe says that the intention to write a book will not make you an author. Only writing it will. Every time I think I’d rather go to sleep or veg in front of some television program without getting my words in for the day, I remember that.

HWH: What are you working on now?

LR: I’m currently writing the sequel to Pirate’s Promise, called Dare to Love. I fell in love with Aidan, a secondary character from Stolen Treasures. Then, while writing Pirate’s Promise, I knew Gail would be a perfect fit for Aidan. Now, all I have to do is convince THEM of that.

I’d like to thank Heroines With Hearts for having me here today. I’ll be around off an on to answer any questions or comments. You can also get further information by visiting my website:

Here is an excerpt from Stolen Treasures where the hero (and captain of the Treasure) describes the heroine:

Dion Gaetani watched her as she lay on the bunk. Her face was pale, giving her the appearance of a porcelain doll, most likely due to the concussion she must have. That was one hell of a knot on her head. Her long hair fanned out slightly, framing her face with the color of the teakwood he polished every day. Even with her eyes now closed, he could picture them. The cocoa color, a rich, intelligent, dark brown, was seared in his memory.

Claire Saunders. Not a name he would likely forget. She fit the stereotype of a yacht-club princess. She didn’t act like it, though. Long after all the yachting royalty had departed for home or club, she had stayed, apparently not afraid to get her hands dirty.

Her hands looked so small. He gathered one in his, and it seemed even more delicate. Turning it over, it surprised him to feel calluses. These were not hands belonging to the rich and want-to-be famous. No, this woman wouldn’t be easily categorized.
She moaned then. The quiet sound echoed in his head. He laid her hand back on the bunk, but couldn’t resist another touch. His thumb traced her hairline down the side of her heart-shaped face. She shifted then, leaning her cheek into his touch. Her skin felt like warm silk.
Dion yanked his hand back, and straightened, searching the cabin for something, anything, to take his mind off the unconscious woman in his bunk. He refused to go soft over some wisp of a princess. A bad feeling settled in his stomach. She was going to be trouble, and lots of it.

Thanks again for being with us, Laurie.

Leave a comment or a question for Laurie, and before you leave don't forget to become a follower of Heroines with Hearts.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Four Things I'd Take to a Desert Island

Here we go...I'm packed and ready!

#1) My hubby. (With him the deserted island will be even more of a paradise.)

#2) My lap top. (This way I can write and write and write, listen to music, read e-books, and watch movies!)

#3) Pictures of my family and friends. (I'll miss them while we're gone.)

#4) A recipe book full of ideas for preparing tropical foods over an open fire. (We have to eat, don't we?!) :)

So, seriously...when do we leave? It is COLD here in the Midwest today. Brrrrr.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

4 things I'd take to a desert island

Once I saw that my fellow-bloggers were taking people to their desert island, my reaction was - in that case, please can I take Martin Sheen, Colin Firth, Hugh Jackman and Liam Neeson? No? Oh well, never mind!

Assuming that this island has electricity, then my computer would be my first priority plus several external hard drives for back-up in case the main hard drive died or got full with everything I'm going to write. I'm sure I could write several best-selling novels while I was marooned in Paradise.

Secondly, I'd take my pile of still-to-be-watched DVD's which I could play on my computer to give me inspiration in between my writing sessions. Oh and I'd also include my 7 seasons box-set of 'The West Wing' of course, since I don't mind how many times I watch those.

Next would have to be an inexhaustible supply of diet coke (little umbrellas optional) as I have to keep up my caffeine levels.

Last but not least, I'd have my own personal chef to cook me some wholesome meals. Nothing fancy, I eat to live, not live to eat, but I'd gladly let someone take over the cooking chore while I concentrate on more interesting things.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

4 things I'd take to a desert island

If I had to live on an island with only four things they would be...

My husband would definitely have to be by my side. Not only for the obvious reasons (I couldn't live without him), but he's very intelligent so I wouldn't need a book to know what plants to eat, how to build shelter, etc. The benefits of marrying a military man!

Second, of course would be my Netbook, because it has wireless Internet and by the time I would have to live on an island, the Internet will be EVERYWHERE.

Third, a monkey so he could climb trees and get bananas, coconuts, and anything else eatable.

Fourth.... my son. Because he makes us laugh and completes the family. Although, he would get bored fast without video games!

Monday, April 5, 2010

4 things I'd take to a deserted island.. and why

If I agreed to go to a deserted island (and this is a big if), I'd want a guidebook with color pictures of the edible and poisonous flora and fauna. I love foraging and cooking, but hate terminal food poisoning. "I wish I'd known" is too little, too late.

The second thing I'd want is a cabana set-up--beach chair, umbrella, frothy alcoholic fruit drinks (teeny umbrella optional). I want to really enjoy the midnight black sand and the soft tropical breezes. The water, of course, would be blue-green near the shore (no jellyfish), then as the depth increased, the blue would deepen to royal, punctuated by the curl of sedate waves and accrobatic air leaps of swordfish and blue marlin.

Third is Rex, my your-wish-is-my-command cabana boy. He's a master of massage, coffee, and wardrobe procurement. He lives to please me--and to write checks for my bills from his trust fund account.

Finally, I'd want unlimited Internet and email access. I'd be writing the next great American novels and my agent would insist upon it.


Saturday, April 3, 2010

Breath-taking scenery...

There have been a few. The most memorable I'd have to say was the birth of my son. The image of his tiny wrinkled face, arm stretched over his head, and one eye closed and one eye opened when he arrived, will be with me for the rest of my life.

Any sunset will make me stop and admire, only to have my straight A student son say, "Mom, it's pollution that makes those colors." Yes, I know, but its still amazing!

I'm also a fan of thunder and lightning, tornadoes, hurricanes. Of course, the damage they do can be horrifying and sad, but it amazes me what mother nature is capable of. A reminder to never cherish material things because you never know when a storm may come and take it away.

Currently, I have to say the most breath-taking scene has to be my home state. We had two days of rain here in Rhode Island and if I didn't see the mall under water, I wouldn't have believed it. The homes and businesses that have been ruined are endless.

Here is a you tube video of the mall.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Friday Friends with Jo Ann Ferguson

Please welcome, regency, historical, paranormal author Jo Ann Ferguson to Friday with Friends.

HWH: Thanks so much for being with us, Jo Ann. Lets get started. You write using several pen names: Regency; Jo Ann Ferguson, Paranormals: J.A. Ferguson; Historical, Jocelyn Kelley. Are there any currently in the works that I’ve missed?

JAF: Actually I’ve written quite a few historical as Jo Ann Ferguson, too. I did two quilting romances for Berkley as Joanna Hampton, and a Regency novella as Rebecca North. My “newest” name is Jo Ann Brown, which I used when I did the novelization for Thomas Kinkade’s Christmas Cottage from Lionsgate. I’m also using that name for mysteries I’m writing for Guideposts Books (A Time to Share will be out this late summer/early fall). Book 3, Sea Wraith, in the Nethercott Tales was recently released under Jocelyn Kelly and you have a new paranormal coming out soon under J. A. Ferguson, Under Her Spell.

HWH: Can you tell us a little about both?

JAF: Sea Wraith is the third book focusing on the three Nethercott sisters and their adventures with ghosts. Sea Wraith is Sian’s story and is set in Cornwall during the Regency period. Sian goes there to paint a mural for her older sister, but ends up meeting Wraith, a mysterious – and very sexy – man who may be a hero or a villain. Under Her Spell is set in Victorian England. The hero is looking to hire performers for a party where he hopes to introduce his mistress to his mother, so his mother has to acknowledge her. He hires the Amazing Nightingales, a sleight of hand brother and sister act, but Madeleine Nightingale is harboring a secret – she can do real magic. Needless to say, nothing goes as planned for the hero from that point forward.

HWH: Wooo....they sound interesting. I'll have to be visiting my book store soon! Okay, a writing question. I’ve heard writers talk about whether or not they should use a pen name. Since you use several, can you let us in on why and how you come up with your names?

JAF: I’ve chosen to use pen names when I write different types of books. I never planned to write Regencies as Jo Ann Ferguson. My plan was to write as Rebecca North (the heroine of one of my early historicals), but my real name ended up on the cover, so I continued with it. Otherwise, I’ve chosen a pen name when I’m writing for a line where the sell-through numbers may affect my other types of books. Kelley is a family name as is Brown.

HWH: Out of all of the genres you write, which is your favorite? And why?

JAF: That’s really tough to say. I write the books I want to read, and I read in several different genres. Usually my favorite genre is the ms I’m brainstorming, because it’s so much fun at that point and everything is possible.

HWH: What is the etiquette to approaching someone for research?

JAF: When I’m approaching someone to ask questions about a career or an avocation, I usually try to find someone in my network who knows that person and can offer me an introduction. I did that when I was writing One Knight Stands and I wanted to learn about quarterstaff fighting. I was fortunate to have a friend who could introduce me to a gentleman who does fight choreography for local and Broadway productions. If I don’t have a contact, I will send an email or a letter, saying that I’m an author and that I’m looking for specific information and asking if the person has time to answer questions. I never call cold. I have to say, I’ve gotten enthusiastic response to almost all my emails…and the information I needed. I always acknowledge my sources in the book and send them an autographed copy.

HWH: As a writer, I’m always interested in any tips for revisions. Do you have any?

JAF: The most important step for me in revisions is to spend some time away from the ms. I prefer two weeks, but sometimes I have less time. I’ll start something new and get caught up with new characters during that interlude. That gives me a chance to come back and look at the ms with clear eyes. A true re-vision. I also like to do revisions with distractions around, so I don’t get caught up in the story. It sounds strange, I know, but it works for me.

Thanks so much for being with us, Jo Ann. Please come back when your next book comes out. Please visit for more information on her and her wonderful books.

Jo Ann will be around today to answer questions and view comments. Don't forget to become a follower of Heroine with Hearts!