Thursday, December 31, 2020

The Blank Page by Liz Flaherty #RomanceGems

I couldn't think of anything to say. When I opened this page to write my post, I still couldn't. Although 2020 has been comparatively easy for me, I am ready for it to be over. But then I really looked at the screen. 

And thought how lucky I am.

Because there it is waiting for me, the greatest gift a writer can have. 

The blank page.

It can be horrifying, of course, when you can't think of a publishable word to put on it. Can I have a show of hands from everyone this has happened to? Oh, forget that--there is a sea of hands out there. How about a show of hands from everyone it hasn't happened to? Yep, there are a few. I envy you, but I don't have a problem with envy. It makes you keep trying.

However, the blank page can also be so exciting. It's how every single story you've written started. Especially if you're a pantser, because then it's just one piece at a time until the puzzle is...less puzzling. It's on that blank page that your favorite hero of all time introduces himself, the heroine ends up being a short blond instead of a statuesque redhead, and the setting is a town called...what? Peacock? Really?

Blank pages make me remember--and I know I'm dating myself here--new notebooks when I was a kid. Unopened packages of lined paper and crisp folders and Bic pens with clear barrels. I always got them for Christmas. If I ever wondered why I so often start new stories after the holidays, that memory is a reminder. All those blank pages and smooth ink and pocket folders that ended up containing so much of my heart.

I ended 2020, writing-wise, by publishing Window Over the Sink, a compilation of columns of the same name, and submitting Life's Too Short for White Walls, my latest completed manuscript. The one I expected to sell to Harlequin and didn't, that made me trip and stumble and try to decide if I should retire. 

But I can't, you know, because there are too many blank pages out there. Waiting. 

Happy 2021. I hope it's a wonderful year full of blank pages.

Monday, December 28, 2020

A Dash of Secret Ingredient by Nora LeDuc

 "Love is like the wind. You can't see it, but you can feel it." 

Nicholas Sparks

Writers of romance have a tricky task. First, we set up the hero/heroine with the person who is a perfect match and point out all his and her wonderful qualities. We're practically drooling as we write or read the descriptions. Then, we try to keep the duo apart.                                                                                              

Authors have lots of ideas about how to do this. If one character is working to maintain a business, the other is trying to buy or demolish it. Then there are the competitions. 

Who has the best cookie recipe for the annual baking challenge, or the yearly wine tasting, or the cake decorating, or the killer marketing idea? Usually the winner attains recognition, promotion, a business partnership, or/and a cash prize which will save the day. 

But there's something else we add to our books. It's a secret ingredient. Emotions. Not just any emotions either. We search deep within our characters' souls. Our stories speak of lingering losses and sorrows. These hurts make the hero or heroine mistrustful of others. They are the barriers and reasons why our couple are reluctant to admit the truth when they fall in love. And it is love, romance's secret ingredient, that gives them the courage face their biggest fears, heal, and unite. And readers celebrate!                                    

So my friends, in 2021 I want to remind you to enjoy the simple gift of reading a romance novel. (You have so many to choose from on the Gems list.) May you immerse yourself in this genre's never-ending stories of happiness, joy, and love throughout the next three hundred and sixty-five days. Remember you are strong. You overcame 2020.

Happy New Year!

My Favorite True Love Moments by @KaraONealAuthor #RomanceGems

One of my favorite moments in a story is when the hero or heroine kisses his or her true love and the curse breaks. It's such a wonderful thought, that love is strong enough to cure any ill.

For me, it's more than a thought, though. It's a belief. Love has the ability to soothe any villain, comfort the grieving, and liberate the oppressed.

And, of course, I have a few favorite true love moments....

1) When Emma Swan kisses Henry, her son, and wakes him from the sleeping curse in Once Upon A Time.

2) When Prince Philip kisses Sleeping Beauty and wakes her from the sleeping curse.

3) When Wesley and Buttercup kiss at the end of The Princess Bride.

4) When Emma Swan and Captain Killian "Hook" Jones triumph in the ultimate true love test in Once Upon A Time.

5) When Stephen Dawson kisses Constance Forrester for the first time in The Editor's Kisses. (Unfortunately, I don't have a video clip of this. Because this is from one of my books!)

Yes, #5 is one of my own, and while there isn't anything literally magical about it, it does wake up Stephen and he's able to unchain himself from the toxic control another woman had over him. It was absolutely beautiful how it worked out, and even though you can't watch it happen, you can read it...

Scene: The parlor of the Talbut home

Problem #1: An embarrassing parlor game – being locked in a broom closet with a member of the opposite sex

Problem #2: Stephen and Constance are in a fake courtship – Stephen is trying to make someone jealous and Constance gets to be a reporter for his paper

Madeline’s spinning of Constance was a little rough, but Stephen held his tongue. When their hostess let go, Constance fumbled for a moment before Stephen raised himself up and yanked her into his lap.

The shouts of excitement and delight that went around the room nearly deafened him. People playfully called out “cheater”, but Stephen didn’t care, especially when Constance whisked off her mask and looked immensely relieved to see he’d successfully caught her.

They headed to the closet without fuss. Constance almost looked as if she was dying to climb inside. She probably wanted to get the farce over with.

Once they were squeezed into the confining space, with their chests pressed together in a way Stephen had only fantasized about, she said, “Thank you. I don’t know what I would have done—”

He covered her mouth with his hand, having dislodged it from his side. Then he leaned near her ear. “They might be able to hear us,” he whispered.

She flinched.

He lowered his arm, and she let out a slow breath. He wished he could see her face. For more reasons than to satisfy his worry she was all right.

He did everything he could to ignore the touch of her body along his front. He tried not to remember how she looked, how her eyes lit up, how her expression sharpened when she was interested in something. Why had he watched her all night?

But he knew. He knew very well. She was captivating. Intriguing. And so damned lovely.

Why was he having feelings for her? Wasn’t his love for Madeline strong enough to withstand attraction for another woman? But if it was, he would be in the closet with his hostess and not the lady he pretended to the world held his fancy.

He had to kiss her. He had to discover if this attachment was real. Besides, if he didn’t kiss her, everyone would wonder why. And for some strange reason, he needed every fellow out there to understand Constance Forrester was his. He closed his eyes and realized his attitude was no better than a caveman’s. But the need to possess and brand raced through him without pause, and he couldn’t fathom how to check it. Except to kiss her and get her out of his system once and for all.

“Constance,” he uttered. “I’m gonna kiss you.”

She flinched again.

“I won’t hurt you, I swear it. But if I don’t kiss you…they’ll all question us and our…attachment.” He was an ass. He was using their agreement to coax her into acquiescence, and while he knew it, and was ashamed of it, he continued. “It will only be for a second. I’ll just brush my lips with yours.”

In the darkness, he felt her slight nod against his chin. His heart pounded at her quiet surrender.

When she pulled back as far as the space would allow and lifted her head to his, heat slashed through him. He’d never needed a kiss as much as he needed hers.

 Madeline had kissed him. Once. Behind the schoolhouse when they were sixteen. And that moment hadn’t caused nearly the anticipation this one did.

He lowered his head and swallowed her gasp. It wasn’t a brush, even though he only set his lips on hers. It was a fire. A shot of whiskey that whipped through him and pooled in his gut. He deepened the connection, and she let him, sighing and sinking into him despite already being as close to him as he could get her.

He melted. He needed to move to the ground and cover her, press her down and make her his. He used his tongue, tasting her. She capitulated instantly and opened her mouth under his. He took what she allowed without hesitation as his free hand came up to grip her waist.

The damn closet was too small. His left hand was wedged between her side and the slender door. But though he couldn’t get his arms around her, he didn’t stop the kiss. It went on and on, stealing his breath, tightening his chest and making him doubt everything he’d ever known about his heart.

Rapid footsteps had him surging backward, and he knocked his head on the wall.

The door flew open, and cool air blasted his cheeks. He and Constance fell out of the space, their limbs tangling as they tried to right themselves.

Peals of laughter rung around them as Stephen reached out a hand to balance her. She latched on as if she didn’t want to let go, and his muscles vibrated with hope she had enjoyed the moment as he had.

It had taken less than a few seconds for him to realize kissing her had been the wrong thing to do. But also the most right, most perfect, most sound judgement he’d ever made in his life.

As those who’d crowded around the entrance to the kitchen went roaring with laughter back into the parlor, he gazed at Constance. And his world tilted.

Her flushed cheeks and bright eyes made his heart constrict with an emotion he was too afraid to name at the moment. But he knew what it was. He knew.

How in the devil had it happened? Was he a fool? A fickle man?

He swallowed. “Do you want to leave?”

And before his eyes, he witnessed a transformation that set his blood on fire. Determination changed her expression, and she lifted her chin.

“Certainly not. I’m quite all right, I assure you.” She gave a shake to her skirts. “We’ve a job to do, Stephen Dawson, and I’ll not let you down.”

She exited the kitchen with a swirl of satin, and he followed with less sure steps. She wouldn’t let him down, he knew it. But he feared he might disappoint her, for if she knew the direction of his thoughts, she would never forgive him. Constance Forrester had no time for any man. She had plans. Plans that didn’t include caring for the heart of the newspaper editor.


The Editor's Kisses

Constance Forrester has no intention of getting married. She is a suffragette and determined to change society. When Stephen Dawson, her school chum, starts a newspaper in their sleepy little town, Constance discovers an opportunity. With confidence and an unflinching will, she asks Stephen to take a risk and employ her as a journalist.

Stephen is stunned by Constance's impossible proposal and immediately turns her down. But the small moments he's spent with Constance have peeked someone's curiosity, and Stephen finds himself sought after by the town princess, Madeline Talbut. Stephen has loved Madeline for years, and when the young lady finally shows an interest in him, he concocts a plan: enter into a fake courtship with Constance in order to make Madeline love him, and in return, Constance can be a journalist for his newspaper. Anonymously, of course.

It’s a chance Constance can't pass up. So what if she has to attend parties and withstand Stephen's heart-melting kisses? A suffragette must forge through barriers, break down walls and risk all for the sake of freedom. But Stephen changes the game, and Constance finds herself the object of the editor's desire…

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Saturday, December 26, 2020

The Holiday that wasn't.. by Peggy Jaeger

 Let me say, first off, that 2020 is not a year I shall look back upon with undiluted pleasure. That phrase sound familiar? I'm not the first one to say it...

In a year that brought us Covid 19, the George Floyd and Breonna Taylor murders, Portland, death-causing hurricanes and wildfires, the loss of my adored brother-in-law, and an election that divided this already tortured nation, 2020 is a year I am putting in the books right now. 

The two shining spots in an otherwise dark year is that my daughter - whose wedding was already postponed twice due to Covid - decided to have a scaled down ceremony in September. In a very Covid-cautious, limited number of guests ceremony, she married the man who has stood by her side through thick, thin and everything in between.

And, after asking for 21 years, Hubby finally agreed to adopting a dog. We were blessed when Maple Leaf came into our home and hearts in September as well.

I have to be honest and tell you I didn't even decorate this year. No tree. No Cookie swap because of Covid. No baking.

So, starting today ( 4 days early) I am looking toward 2021.

I've got a lot going on during this next 365 day cycle and I sincerely hope the pandemic isn't on the agenda!

First, I've got the release of the next 2 books in my Romantic Suspense Lite series, A PRIDE OF BROTHERS. Up first will be Aiden, then Dylan. I love these guys sososo much and it's been fun finding them women who compliment - and torture them! - them, in every way.

My next indie book, part of the Uptown Girl series, will be titled HIS UPTOWN GIRL and stars Phillipa Doubletree from WOKE fame. This one is tugging at my heartstrongs because Phil is so guarded and has been hurt so badly by her lousy ex that I have to make sure her hero is worthy of her. This is a mock up of the cover ( not sure I'm using it yet!!)

I'm starting a new series based on my Match Made in Heaven one, titled HEAVEN'S MATCHMAKER. It stars Olivia Joyner the town matchmaker as she helps people find their HEA. In the final book in the series I'm hoping she finds her own!

In October, the FALL IN LOVE NEW ENGLAND Readers and Romance Writers's conference will be taking place and I am already registered as a participating author. I had to bow out this year due to Covid concerns after I received treatment for skin cancer. My derm guy was concerned since I was already immunocompromised, that it would be worrisome for me to be around anymore than 2 people at a time. So next year I am going with gangbusters!!

So, I hope the New Year finds you busy, happy, Covid-free, and vaccinated ( I had to put that one in because I'm a nurse!!)

Bless you all, and here's a gentle reminder why I write such sappy blog pieces at times: I truly believe everyone deserves their own Happily Ever After.

See you next year~ Peg

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Coffee and Conversation with the #RomanceGems

It's time for Coffee and Conversation with the Romance Gems! So, grab a cup of your favorite beverage and join us for some fun. This month's topic is: Be a tour guide to a place you love.

2020 is certainly one for the record books, and most folks I know are eager to get back to “some kind of normal.” For many, that includes travel. So, let’s do a bit of armchair traveling, shall we?

Be an expert tour guide to a place you love. Hint…This does not need to be the Pyramids of Giza unless you want it to be. It could be a favorite vacation spot, a museum, the town you grew up in, even your backyard garden. Let’s talk!

“California’s Hearst Castle, which I’ve visited four times, ranks up there with the world’s great sites. Two things make it stand apart: its spectacular setting five miles above the Pacific Ocean and its rich history of the early California film industry. When Hearst was living there with his actress lover in the 1930s, it was a gathering place for Hollywood’s elite. There’s a spectacular outdoor pool as well as a spectacular indoor pool with tiles made of real gold. Hearst owned fifty miles of the California coast. He spent $1 million a year on art and antiquities during the Depression” ~ Cheryl Bolen

“Indiana used to be a big, BIG railroad place. It’s not so much anymore, but it’s still a big railroad TRACKS place. However, many of those tracks have become walking and riding trails. One of them, the 37-mile Nickel Plate Trail, meanders through the fields about a mile and a half from my house. It’s where I walk, get out of the corners I’ve written myself into, pray, and find peace in a time when it’s hard to find. I am accompanied by squirrels, chipmunks, deer, and the occasional snake, to mention a few. While I’ve never learned to properly identify either birds or wildflowers, there are multitudes of them on the Trail to enjoy. Come and visit!” ~ Liz Flaherty

“Here in St. Augustine, in the northeast part of Florida, we have something called Nights of Lights. The entire historical downtown area is lit up with lights everywhere. Visit the Plaza de la Constitucion and see the gazebo and Christmas tree and all the trees covered in lights. Or walk down quaint St. George Street where the buildings are pulled right from the past. Visit the little shops and restaurants and sit outside watching boats cruise on the Matanzas River. Many of them are covered in lights as well. The beauty will definitely get you in the mood for Christmas!” ~ Kari Lemor

“My favorite vacation spot is Las Vegas. From the gambling (within reason) to the shows, to the glitz and glamor ... it's more fun than should be legal! My last trip netted a comped stay at the Wynn Casino with their amazing topiary AND a chance to see Elton John in concert!” ~ Nancy Fraser

“One of the places I love best is the American Saddlebred barn, Premier Stables, where I take riding lessons. I love the smell of cedar shavings and horses. I enjoy riding lessons and the feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment. And at the end of the lesson, I love handing out peppermint treats.” ~ Jan Scarbrough

“Butchart Gardens’ sunken garden, built on the site of an old limestone quarry, is one of the most photographed gardens in the world, hosting one million visitors annually. Even then, I can always find a quiet corner to hide away, whether it’s a pond-side gazebo in the Japanese Garden, or a secret bench behind a bower of roses. “Sometimes parts of the family home are open for tours, set with original furnishings and photos. Fireworks and concerts in the summer, or a romance lover’s winter wonderland with the 12 days of Christmas creatively displayed on fifty-five acres, these gardens are always a crowd pleaser.” ~ Kathleen Lawless

Photo Credit, Carole Thornton 

“Snow swirls hypnotically across the windshield as we pick our way through Crawford Notch in northern New Hampshire. One more turn and we’ll see her. Stark white and magnificent, topped with a shiny red roof. Distinct against the bluish grey of the tallest mountain in the northeast. Our home away from home for a long winter’s weekend—the glorious Omni Mount Washington Hotel!

“This marvel of modern ingenuity for its time (construction completed in 1902) was built by Joseph Stickney, a gilded-age industrialist who made a fortune in coal and railroads. He spared no expense. Today the resort offers luxury accommodations, outstanding restaurants, a prohibition-era bar, colorful history, and epic mountain views. Plus, it’s haunted! That’s my kind of place!” ~ Kathryn Hills


Okay, it's your turn to join the conversation! Add your comments below or send via email through the "contact us” link on the bottom of the left sidebar. You can also make suggestions on what you'd like to discuss here in the future.

Thanks for joining us! Wishing EVERYONE a happy, healthy, wonderful holiday season and New Year!

~ The Romance Gems ~

Friday, December 25, 2020

Merry Christmas from Cheryl Bolen

Since I blog on the 25th each month, I figure not many are going to be reading my blog on Christmas Day. So I’ll make this brief. 

 It you’re going to be in the car for a long drive you might want to listen to one of my G-rated Christmas books on audio. (These links will be to Audible, though they're available on Amazon and iTunes, too.) I’ve got Christmas Brides, three novellas set in Regency England, all heartwarming. One of them, Christmas at Farley Manor, won Best Novella the year it came out. I’ve also got a fun friends to lovers story titled A Christmas in Bath in which a nerdy lady, with a little help from her friend, gets transformed in the eyes of the man she’s always loved.

And for everyone, I’ve got a very short, warm fuzzy, fully developed Christmas short story that’s a prequel to my second Brides of Bath book, With His Ring. You can read Glee’s Gift FREE here.

 Merry Christmas to all our wonderful blog visitors. See you next year.—Cheryl Bolen, who newest release is the marriage-of-convenience story A Proposal of Marriage 

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Cheers for the Winter Solsice! - by Judith Hudson

We are snowed in - a good four inches of icy snow. Don't laugh, northerners! Even though I'm in Canada, here on Vancouver Island we get very little snow, usually for about a week a year, and we are not prepared for it. 

It was really coming down, big fluffy snowflakes of heavy wet snow when I started writing this post and, of course, the power went out. For nine hours. It came on right about bedtime and on these dark days of the year that means a lot of darkness.

So cheers for the winter solstice and coming out on the other side! My Scandinavian blood rejoices at the lengthening of days.

I usually have a solstice dinner party for family and friends. The Christmas decorations are up and we light a million candles in fancy containers and old cups. Anything can be pressed into service. No electric lights are allowed except for a few dim lights in the kitchen for safety sake. I love it, probably more than Christmas dinner, and was sad to miss it this year. 

So when the lights went out, Hubby and I had our candle light dinner after all. Sure it was leftovers reheated on the barbecue, but even so, it was great. And isn't this what this year is all about? Making new traditions?

In most of the Fortune Bay books there is a solstice party. Really just a chance for the women to get together with a bottle or two of wine and catch up. Starlight and Tinsel is no exception.

Star is a newcomer in town and after she moves into the cabin she's invited to the winter solstice party. Usually, just for fun, Frankie gives someone a tarot card reading. This year it's Star's turn.

Here's a short excerpt to give you a taste.

    Frankie reached into her handbag and pulled out an embroidered velvet bag. She undid the drawstring and pulled out an oversized deck of brightly decorated cards.
    A prickle went down Star’s back. She recognized those cards. Her mom was a great believer in Tarot card readings, but it seemed every time Poppy went for a reading, they moved shortly thereafter. And Star wasn’t sure she wanted to move. Harry’s face filled her mind, and warmth spread through her body. Not only didn’t she want to move, but at this point she wanted to stay in Fortune Bay forever.
    “I don’t know if I should have a reading,” she stammered.
    “It’s just for fun,” Louise said.
    Not always.
    “We do it every Solstice,” Maddie added.
    Looking around the room at the encouraging faces of the group of women she longed to be part of, Star wet her lips. “I guess it couldn’t hurt.”
    Star focused on the rhythmic movement of the cards as Frankie shuffled the deck and her anxiety slowly faded.
    “Winter Solstice is traditionally a time of new beginnings,” Frankie said. “The end of the darkness and the return of the light.”
    She put the deck face down on the table. “Fix a question clearly in your mind, then cut the cards.”
    Energy thrummed through Star’s body. Excitement? Anxiety? She wasn’t sure which. The burning question was, Should I stay, or should I go?  Reminding herself that since she didn’t believe in tarot readings, she had no reason to be nervous, she cut the cards.
    “The cards are just an observation,” Frankie said. “How you use the energy they reflect is up to you.”
    That alone would be a challenge since Star had rarely felt in control of her life, but now was the time. She had already decided that her new year’s resolution, starting now on the Solstice, would be to take charge of her life rather than be a pawn of the universe.  
    Frankie reassembled the deck and tapped it twice to straighten the cards, then turned over the top three, laying them face down in a row in front of Star. “I sense you have reservations, so let’s keep this simple. A three-card spread.”  Frankie tapped each card, beginning with the one on Star’s left. “Past, present and future. We’ll begin with the past.”
    Star turned over the left-hand card.
    “Hmmm,” Frankie said. “Queen of Cups. Reversed.” She studied the card then looked thoughtfully at Star. “Cups rule the emotions, and love. The queen can be a woman of dreams, a nurturer and a romantic. But reversed, she can take it too far. Maybe letting emotions rule her life or nurturing to the point of not letting go.” She tilted her head to one side. “I don’t really think it refers to you. The past card usually refers to someone who had a profound effect on you.”
    Poppy. Even from the grave, Star still felt her mother’s influence. The room was quiet. Everyone was watching. She nodded, mutely.
    Frankie smiled. “Okay, let’s move on.”
    Slowly and with a sense of foreboding, Star turned over the center card. It depicted a young man sitting under a tree with three cups before him. A small cloud drifted toward him. An arm stuck out of the cloud, holding another cup. This card was also upside down.
    “The present,” Frankie said. “The Four of Cups. Interesting. More cups. And this one is also reversed.”
    She smiled reassuringly at Star. “This card is about taking the time to nourish yourself, to understand what you need. It’s about accepting love, but reversed it has the added suggestion that a new direction is open to you. And, being cups, that could be new love.”
    “Finally,” Louise said with satisfaction. “Here we go. Anyone we know?”
    Star felt herself blush and was glad for the dim, candle-lit room. She glanced at Lily, who had mentioned the day before that Harry hadn’t been at the farm much and had wondered pointedly if Star knew where he’d been, even though she must have known they were spending time together. Star had dodged the question, but now could see Lily holding back a smile and hoped she wouldn’t spill the beans.
    “The future,” Frankie intoned, bringing everyone’s attention back to the cards. “The Ten of Cups. More cups. More joy, fulfillment and family.” She shook her head and smiled.  “I love readings with happy endings. I’d say it all means your cup is going to runneth over.”
    It was just a tarot reading, but it was crazy how closely it reiterated the things Star had been thinking herself lately. She shivered and looked around the candle-lit room at the faces of the women who were becoming friends, and hoped there was something to these readings after all.

If you want to read more, Starlight and Tinsel

a 120  page e-book novella, 

is on sale for 99¢ until the end of the month on Amazon.

Take care, stay safe, and treat yourself kindly. Have a happy holiday.