Some of you may recognize my blog title as the title of a song by Paul Simon of Simon and Garfunkel fame. For those of you who don’t, and are in fact, asking, “What is a Garfunkle?” go look it up on your I-phone and enjoy your youth.
For those who do, this is what I’d like to know; Do you still drool over guys? Even though I’m old and fat on the outside, I’m sometimes still a giggling teen on the inside who loves to ogle hot guys (we called them “Major Babes” when I was younger). Case in point: I recently watched Proof of Life again for research for my next Blaze and omg, Russell Crowe!

Russell Crowe in Proof of Life

Russell Crowe in Proof of Life

MmMm! Drool, drool. Of course Russell is the inspiration for a hero of mine. Oh and yes, I pin pictures of hunky men up on my wall in my office. Now days I have an excuse: Ahem. It’s research for my current book. Yes, it is! Research, I swear!
Okay, I admit it, I’m still Boy-crazy after all these years.
Remember the movie, AUSTRALIA? Hello! Hugh Jackman pouring water from a barrel over his half-naked torso? Oh. My. Yum!
There are a few actors that I will go see even if I don’t think I will like the movie, just cause they are in it. Shameless, I know.
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey

Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey

Anyone else looking forward to Fifty Shades of Gray?
And speaking of guys named Jamie…
Sam Heughan as Jamie in OUTLANDER

Sam Heughan as Jamie in OUTLANDER


Also can’t wait for the movie Kingsman! Hello Colin Firth!
Colin Firth as Darcy

Colin Firth as Darcy


I”m so boy-crazy I still keep a Top Ten list of guys I think are the hottest. And update it every so often.
Here is my current list:
(in no particular order)
1. Gerard Butler
2. Russell Crow
3. Eric Bana
4. Hugh Jackman
5. Daniel Craig
6. Sam Heughan
7. Mark Walberg
8. Jamie Dornan
9. Colin Firth
10. Christian Bale

So, who’s on YOUR top ten list? Who makes you go all girly and crazy and feel like a teen again? Who makes you drool?

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True confession – I almost forgot it was time for my monthly blog post. But that’s because I’m holed up at a friend’s cottage in picturesque Vermont for a weekend of plotting and writing with five author buddies. Check out our beautiful view.

Snowy Vermont

And the inside ain’t bad, either.

Love this fireplace!

Love this fireplace!

I love plotting with friends. Not just because it gets me away for the weekend, but because we always come up with such great ideas together. They point out all my plot holes and push me to make the book the best it can be.

Fellow authors Jamie Beck and Ginger Jamison

Fellow authors Jamie Beck and Ginger Jamison

Jamie’s our host, and she got us these adorable writer survival bags filled with chocolate, Baileys and a scented candle.

Goodie bags

Goodie bags

Of course we have lots more food and libations to sustain us.

Our stocked fridge

Our stocked fridge

Hopefully by the end of our three days here my empty plot board will be full of pretty post-its. Each one will represent a different scene in the book.

There's nothing sadder than a naked plot board.

There’s nothing sadder than a naked plot board.

And when all is said and done, I’ll have a nice, neat plot for these two. Meet Jace and Noelle, the hero and heroine of book four in the Art of Seduction series.

Adam Levine and former flame Anne V, my muses for Jace and Noelle

Adam Levine and former flame Anne V, my muses for Jace and Noelle

What are you all doing this weekend?

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I was trying to come up with a clever way to lead in to the fact my second Pleasure Before Business title, WOUND UP, is officially out in the wilds in both print and digital format. As usual, when I’m stumped, I take to the royalty-free image sites and do some WOUND_UP_2__1411563995_89161browsing, looking at different images for inspiration. Okay, okay. I was looking for gorgeous men. But it was all for you, dear Reader! That’s an almost entirely true statement! As I browsed through pecs and abs and obliques (oh, my!), it struck me that a simple query for “man chest” will return one thousand images. Those images range from seriously screen-blisteringly hot pictures of all kinds of muscles to many depicting an older men having heart attacks or, in one particularly memorable photo, of a post-operative open-heart surgical patient. (Note to self: refine search criteria.)

Though I’d just traumatized myself and vowed to give up fatty foods, I returned to my search with the intent of finding a male model who looked like and was appealing as WOUND UP’s hero, Justin. The options for what a photographer or consumer considered sexy were truly infinite. Yet not a single image truly made me think, “There! That’s Justin!” Not the way I, the author, have pictured him in my head.

man chestThis started me thinking: what do readers prefer when they look at the cover of a romance novel? For me, I very, very rarely want to see the model shown above his chin because a face is an intimately personal thing. Faces can feed your daydreams and torment you in sleep. They are the thing that makes us incomparably unique. So when I read a book, I don’t want the cover to tell me what to expect the hero to look like. I want the author to give me a strong sketch but still let me fill in the blanks. It’s that very thing, allowing me to see him through my own mind’s eye, that attracts me to him. Why? Because I fill in those little details in a way that make him desirable based on my own, very personal, entirely subjective definition of “sexually appealing.” I may find a 6’7″ man with piercing green eyes, shoulder-length-plus black hair, a visible wicked streak and a chest and abdomen so defined I can roll marbles down the ridges to be THE ultimate in hotness. However, the woman next to me on the plane may prefer a 5’10, blond, brown-eyed, accountant-type who has a wicked streak he keeps hidden from everyone until that one Santana song plays and his inner stripper can’t be contained a moment more. Now, take our two versions of what makes a man hot, have us both read the same romance novel and then put us with a police sketch artist. I’ll bet $100 that, while our descriptions may have similarities that the author clearly defined for us, the nuances that make the man appear sexy by our own definition will result in two very different faces.

Masculine young guy on grey backgroundSo now I’m asking you, as my fellow readers and cover assessment professionals, what you prefer when you pick up a romance. Do you want to see a torso, something like my debut, STRIPPED DOWN? A partial full body shot like WOUND UP? Just the hero? Skin? No skin? The hero with the heroine? What cover comes to mind when you ask yourself this question: What’s the best cover I’ve ever seen on a romance novel?

Leave me an answer in the comments between now and January 31. Three lucky commenters will be randomly selected to receive signed copies of WOUND UP and, just maybe, the first available copies of the third Pleasure Before Business book, PULLED UNDER, before it’s offered anywhere else. ;)

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Greetings Blaze Babes!

It’s a bit late but you can still catch up to my online read at eHarlequin.com, If You Dare . . . Come one come all and join the party. Every weekday a new chapter! The story links my October and February Blazes, about very different twin sisters who each own coffee shops, one in New York, one in California. Restless and bored, they agree to switch lives temporarily. This short story is about a romance between customers at NYEspresso, the shop featured in my October Blaze Some Like it Hotter. It’s about a woman who runs into the teaching assistant she unsuccessfully tried to seduce in college. Oooh, the mortification . . . but he’s still sooo hot.

And now to food. It’s been bitingly cold here, several days with wind chills in the waaaaay minus, the kind that sucks the heat and moisture out of your body in about three seconds and makes 15 degrees seem balmy when the arctic blast finally retreats. Brrrr. A very good time to stay indoors and eat warm bowls of anything.

Therefore, this month I’m pointing you to a pot roast recipe that is truly amazing. Don’t be scared by the strange ingredients (ginger?), it doesn’t taste Asian, but the flavors are heavenly. Our guests were moaning in pleasure when we served it (so embarrassing). And while it’s cooking it smells so good you want to climb in the oven.

As always it comes from my recipe bible, epicurous.com. Unfortunately it has an unsexy name, Gordon’s Pot Roast.

But seriously, if Gordon cooked me that, he’d become instant romance hero no matter what.

Enjoy!

Cheers,

Isabel

www.IsabelSharpe.com

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Hey Gang! Hope you had a great holiday and the New Year is a great one for you. I’m at the Television Critics’ Press Tour in Pasadena California right now. I’m a bit busy, so no real post this month. But I’m leaving you some photos of some of the folks I’m talking to over the next few weeks. Don’t forget a tissue for the drool. :) And these are just three out of hundreds. I know. And people wonder why I haven’t given up the day job yet. ;)

Tell me about your favorite TV shows.

TobySam

Travis

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Galsskiing

My daughter and me

 

I didn’t learn to downhill ski until I was in my thirties. When I finally did, it was because my husband wanted our kids to learn and I didn’t want to get left behind. This might not be the noblest reason, but like most reasons for doing things, it turned out to be good enough to get me moving, and therefore just plain good enough.

There are now few things in life I love as much as downhill skiing (sex, writing, reading, electric blankets, ice skating, 80s music, really good food—not necessarily in that order).

Also, skiing is a great life teacher. Maybe it’s because the visceral experience of hurtling downhill at high speeds cements things in the brain. Everything you think and feel gets spread out against that blinding blanket of white and printed permanently, like black text on paper. All I know is I’ve learned as much about myself and my life in five or six days of skiing as I have any other way. Here are ten life lessons from skiing:

Being fearless is half the battle. My kids have learned to ski so much faster than I have, mainly because they don’t think about getting hurt.

Always keep your eyes on the prize. No matter which way your skis are pointed, your upper body is headed downhill. You might technically be on a collision course with that tree, but if you remember that you’re going down the slope, you’ll straighten out and keep moving towards the goal.

You have to speed up to gain control. If you hold way back on the slopes, you’ll never pick up enough speed to learn to chain turns together into a long, smooth run. It makes no sense, but in order to get control over the hill, you have to give control to the hill.

You aren’t old until you believe you’re old. I told my friends I was too old to learn to ski. Some of them said, “That’s just dumb. It’s not like you’re going to start skiing double black diamonds. You’re just bopping down the bunny trail.” Others said, “Have you looked at yourself lately?” Truth is, you’re as old and as vulnerable as you think you are. (Also true: Your friends see you better than you see yourself.)

Some things are worth waiting for. Lift lines, for example. They are long. And you have to stand still. And the thing is, when you’re flying downhill, you don’t spend one single second of your time regretting having waited in that lift line.

Uphill counts, too. Maybe more. I read an essay in high school, by Albert Camus, about Sisyphus—the one who has to push the rock up the hill into eternity. Camus said that the key moment for Sisyphus is the moment he makes the commitment to turn around and begin the uphill climb again. It looks like he has no freedom, but every time he makes that choice, he’s deeply free, and human. I think about that a lot when I’m stuck doing really repetitive stuff, like emptying the dishwasher AGAIN. Also when I’m riding the chair lift up. As a bonus, wise ski bums ride those lifts, and if you listen carefully, you will hear amazing life advice from people who are 80+ and still skiing.

Meaning (of boots) varies by context. Ski boots are the stupidest item of clothing on earth when you are clomping around the ski lodge in them, but they are perfectly engineered for flying downhill. Life is full of these sorts of things. If things feel all wrong, the key is asking yourself whether you’re wearing the wrong boots or doing the wrong thing with them on.

If you’re hungry enough, you’ll eat anything. Ski lodge pizza. ’Nuff said.

Your kids have stuff to teach you. My kids are rapidly outpacing me skiing, even though we all started learning at the same time. I try to stay open to what they know that I don’t, because this will become more and more true in life.

It’s worth the effort. I can never imagine that skiing is going to be fun enough to make up for all the planning and packing and thinking-through that’s required to get a family of four in the car at 3:30 a.m. and headed toward the slopes. And yet—I have never once said to myself, I wish I hadn’t put in all that effort to get here.

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New Year’s resolutions suck. There, I said it. Why do they suck? Because often they are unrealistic and include things that you truly don’t want to do. Yes, it’s a good idea to eat healthier, go to the gym more, save more money, clean out that damn spare room closet and learn Spanish. (, I’m talking about me.)  But what I really want to do is read more books. There is a resolution I can keep! Is curling up on the couch with a hot cup of tea and a hotter story going to be difficult? No! If you book lovers agree, how about starting your New Year with one of January’s Blazes. Guaranteed fun and pleasure! That’s one hot resolution.

 

We begin with a big treat for 2015! Readers love Kate Hoffmann for her The Mighty Quinns stories but she couldn’t resist writing an enticing military hero for our Uniformly Hot! series. SEDUCING THE MARINE is about Will MacIntyre, a Marine who has the dangerous job of Jan. 827 Katediffusing bombs. When one goes off he is wounded and sent home to recuperate…only to be reunited with the girl he left behind. Dr. Olivia Eklund couldn’t bear to see Will go to war seven years ago and did he best to try to forget him. But now she’s determined to heal him…even if that means losing Will again. Don’t miss this dynamic and heartfelt story!

 

Jan. 828 KelliWelcome to the second book in Kelli Ireland’s super-sexy Pleasure Before Business miniseries, WOUND UP. It’s Justin Maxwell’s final performance at Beaux Hommes, an elite male revue, before he begins his career as a psychologist. He certainly didn’t expect Grace Cooper, a former student of his, to be front and center in the audience. He’s wanted her for years, but a relationship was always off limits. Until now…. It’s time to seduce her, and Justin gives it everything he’s got. Grace can’t resist this charming, intelligent and seductive man, but how long can their relationship last, when there are so many obstacles between them? Kelli writes very sexy stories—so if “hotter books” is on your resolution list, check her out!

 

Here’s another one you’re going to love! Serena Bell’s second book for Blaze, HOT AND BOTHERED, has already received a Top Pick in Romantic Times Book Reviews for this month! The story is loosely connected to STILL SO HOT!, her 2014 title, so you’ll double your enjoyment if you’re familiar with that story. Haven Hoyt has a tough task ahead—transforming former pop superstar Mark Webster from his current boozing, brawling mess back into a successful musician. Haven has definite rules about not sleeping with clients, no matter how irresistible. Can she resist? Read and find out!

 

And finally, the third book in Katherine Garbera’s wonderful Holiday Heat trilogy is AFTER MIDNIGHT. This book is great, full of complex emotions and steamy love scenes. Lindsey Collins is a former championship skier and led a life of all work and no play. It’s time to stop that! So at midnight on New Year’s Eve, she resolves to kiss hunky snowboarder Carter Shaw. Who knew that he would fall so quickly, only to be rejected by the very woman who seduced him? This former Olympian has some work to do—and Carter will stop at nothing until Lindsey is his!

 

Please enjoy this first month of Blaze—many more sexy stories to come this year! My best wishes to you all for a happy and healthy 2015. Tell me your most realistic New Year’s resolution for this year and I’ll enter you in a draw to win one of three sets of January Blazes. Happy New Year to all of our readers!

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Working on edits that are due this Monday, for my next Blaze, FEVERED NIGHTS (Neil the SEAL’s story) so I’m recycling an old blog from December 2009. Hope you don’t mind. But, I’ve added new photos and it IS how I’m feeling today, too.
Happy Holidays, everyone!

Our Christmas Tree and presents

Our Christmas Tree and presents


December 27th. It’s kind of a limbo day between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Nothing really special about this day. The excitement of the holiday, the parties, the gift giving is over, and on top of that, some of us may even have to go back to work tomorrow. Or worse, some of us may be working retail today and patiently helping all the people who are out returning everything they received and didn’t like. Ugh. A job I used to have and respect greatly. If I know my critique partner–and I do–she’s already got her Christmas decorations down.
Christmas Breakfast

Christmas Breakfast


When I was a child the days between Christmas and New Years were magical. No school. All the new toys to play with. Baked goodies my mom only made at that time of year, and the best thing: playing the new board game with my mom, dad, and sisters.
Every year we’d get a new game, and we’d play it for the next week. Anyone else remember a game called Masterpiece? Or how about Mille Bornes?
And who didn’t play Life?
Ahhh, my childhood. Those were the days…
Made an Apron for my youngest

Made an Apron for my youngest


Now days when asked my favorite holiday, I half-jokingly answer; Labor Day. It’s the only holiday I don’t have to buy, wrap, bake, cook, or cater to someone else. I still love Christmastime, but as an adult, I have a lot more work and a lot less time to play during the Christmas break.
And yet, there’s still something special about Christmas. I still believe in Santa Claus, and in the magic of this season. Every year I feel the ghosts of Christmases Past—my grandmother, my grandfather, and my father–surrounding me with their love, living in my heart.
I feel the excitement of Christmas Present, the anticipation of all my loved ones opening their gifts, eating a wonderful meal, and sharing the day.
Visit with Granny

Visit with Granny


And I can envision Christmases to come, when I might be dangling a beloved grandchild on my knee and watching with unspeakable joy as she experiences her very first Christmas.
Oh yes, I still believe in Magic.
After all, there’s nothing more magical than love.

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Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Good Kwanza or whatever holiday it is you celebrate this season. Here at Chez Kyle we’re all reclining on the sofa, soaking up our last day to enjoy those sappy Hallmark Christmas movie that are a family staple this time of year. Yesterday was the extended family frolic; today it’s just me, the Professor and the Drama Queen taking it easy, staying in our PJs all day and gorging ourselves on Christmas goodies and the Professor’s special heart-attack-inducing homemade pasta sauce, complete with five different kind of meat. Now that’s my idea of a relaxing holiday.book-tree1

We decided to go easy on the present front this year. But I still got some really fun stuff. My personal favorite? The Professor got me THE PERFECT MAN. And here is is! Pecs, abs and chocolate . . . what could be better?

Chocolate-Perfect-Man(pp_w500_h500)

And these LL Bean slippers are the bomb. I needed a pair badly, and they’re the softest, toastiest things I’ve ever worn.slippers

But I think the Drama Queen got the best surprise of all this holiday, and not from me or her dad. Her boyfriend just texted her to let her know he got two tickets to see Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett in concert – and he’s taking her! I’m sooo jealous!

Tony_Bennett_and_Lady_Gaga_-_Cheek_to_Cheek

How about you all? How are you spending your holiday? And what was your favorite gift? As a special holiday treat, I’ll give one lucky commenter their choice of an e-copy or paperback of my October Blaze debut, Triple Threat.

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A lot of people are enjoying a season of celebration right now, and what better way to celebrate than with a new set of December Blaze books! Congrats to this month’s winners:

  • Eden
  • Laurie G
  • Mary Preston

Bonus set for someone who correctly guessed that Kathleen’s favourite Christmas movie is It’s a Wonderful Life:

  • Colleen

Thanks to everyone who commented, and to Tawny and Regina for doing such a great job with this blog!

Can you believe it’s almost Christmas? December has sped by in a blur of parties and potlucks, evenings out and edits in! This weekend I went to the Toronto Christmas Market, which as become a tradition for me and my friend Alex. There’s something so magical about a Christmas Market, especially at night. The lights are so warm and inviting, the live music is full of heart, and all the vendors in their sweet wooden booths seem genuinely happy to chat with each passerby.

And oh, the food. The best schnitzel ever, served on a pretzel bun. Or glorious grilled cheese, piping hot poutine, fresh mini doughnuts covered in cinnamon…not to mention mulled wine or cider (I’m such a sucker for mulled things), hot toddies, and an assortment of other holiday beverages. All served and enjoyed outside in the snow! It’s probably a very Canadian thing, cozying up to to one of these outdoor tables with a group of strangers, sipping warm wine and enjoying the way the fire takes the edge off the cold.

big tree outdoor drinks

 

A source of lovely handmade presents as well as nibbles to bring as hostess gifts (oh, the fudge. The fudge!), the Market also always sets up some midway rides. I don’t know why, but there’s something truly special about riding the merry-go-round and the Ferris wheel in the pitch dark evening and crisp winter air. The view of the Market from the top of the Ferris wheel is breathtaking, and the lights are so festive! Plus, riding a horse, even a wooden one on a merry-go-round, counts as research for an editor of western romances, right?

Dana merry-go-round Ferris wheel

 

I hope whatever your celebrations, your December is merry and bright! Safe journeys, fun time with family and friends, good eats, and great, hot reads!

Image from The Toronto Christmas Market website, copyright 2014.

Image from The Toronto Christmas Market website, copyright 2014.

 

 

 

What are your favourite holiday traditions, old or new?

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Cover Art Copyright @by Harlequin Enterprises Limited. Cover art used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited. BLAZE, HARLEQUIN and the JOEY design are trademarks of Harlequin Enterprises Limited, used with permission.
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