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! :-)