Posts Tagged “romance”

I need to preface this by saying that, by society’s standards, I’m a nice person. Truly, I am. By writerly standards? I’m not sure–more a goldfish in disguise.

Small Fish With Ambitions Of A Big Shark - Business Concept

My muse just giggled in the back of my mind and is shaking her head. Maybe as a writer I’m not entirely innocent. Why? Here comes the admission…

Because nothing thrills me more than learning that
I’ve made my readers cry when they’ve read one of my books.

There. I said it. Now, let me defend myself before I’m burned in effigy.

Very few books have made me cry. I have to be so invested in the story on a visceral emotional level that when the crisis occurs, or when dark moment comes or (particularly) when the book ends, I’m wrecked. It’s a thing. I can’t explain it. I only know that it has rarely happened. But when it does? Whoo boy. Let me tell you. I’m a fan for life.

I cannot (CANNOT) write about this without a specific book coming to mind: Me Before You by JoJo Moyes. Oh, crud. Get the tissues. See? I’m so totally invested that, eighteen months later, I’m still weepy. Best. Book. EVER. I can’t even… If you haven’t read it, realize that it’s a book that will change you on a fundamental level. It’s fiction, yes. But… Cellular. Level.

So, why do I get all giddy at tears–mine or my readers? I’m not (terribly) sadistic. (cough) When an author succeeds in making me cry, it means she has literally stolen my emotional investment within the pages of her novel and made me care. She has found the key to my emotional vault, opened that door and scrambled the contents–and I love her for it. Why? Because that novel will stick with me, like Me Before You. Ms. Moyes has done such an incredible job that I cannot hear the name “Will” without experiencing a Pavlovian response that involves tears and wailing and, at times, thumb-sucking. (Yes, it was–and is–that good.)

So why do I want to know I’ve managed to make readers cry? Moreover, why does it thrill me to know I’ve induced tears with my written words? Because if I’ve accomplished it, then readers have found a book that will stay with them indefinitely. It is a book they will think about, discuss, re-read. It has nothing to do with sales and everything to do with how well I’ve done my job in creating characters and situations that touch the reader on an emotional level. I know–I know–how hard it is to accomplish for an author to earn my tears. If I earn any reader’s tears, I have touched a part of their heart that not many have touched. It’s an incredible feeling, knowing that I’ve created characters, situations and solutions that draw my reader in on such a personal level. Ultimately?

It means I’ve done my job and given readers a good read.

So…where did this blog post come from (besides the dark reaches of my mind)? My third Covington brothers book in the Wild Western Heat series is releasing in print on February 23 (digitally March 1), and the pre-reads I’ve had? They’ve come back with creative invective at the fact, to a reader, I’ve made them cry. And laugh. And sigh. The characters within those pages have reached people, and that, my friends, is the greatest reward I could have as an author: to know that my words lingered after the last page was turned.

In that vein, I’m giving away two signed copies of Cowboy Strong. And I’m sharing a copy of the cover because the Art Department knocked this one out of the park and across the freaking BLOCK!


To enter, leave a comment and tell me about a book that’s really touched you (authors need good reads, too!). I’ll announce the winner on my blog ( on January 30 and mail the books out on February 1.

May you shed a few tears over some good books in 2016!

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Are you a chicken or will you do something that scares the bejebus out of you? I suppose that kinda goes with horror movies too (which I like by the way, even if I nearly die when I watch them) My family likes to *make* me watch scary movies because I usually end up clinging to the ceiling like that cartoon cat.

I do believe you should do something outside your comfort zone. Even stuff that will scare you. It makes you feel ALIVE.

Over Christmas Meat Man and I went away. Our kids, I have two boys 24 & 27 and he has identical twin daughters almost 27, were busy. So we decided to jet and found ourselves in Costa Rica. It was fabulous. Hot and hot. The sand was too hot to walk on and you needed to wear flip flops. Even the decking around the pool and bars could fry an egg. We swam constantly, the beach and sea in the morning and the pool bar in the afternoon.

CR beach water

But a highlight was going to the Miravalles Volcano. We went to a waterfall that was spectacular and to get there we had to hike through the rain forest, over rickety little bridges until we came to the OMG bridge. Sadly, I can’t upload the video as proof that I did something  r e a l l y  s c a r y. But here is a pic of the suspension bridge.

suspension bridge

But the hike and scary bridge was so worth it.IMG_4387

After we walked through the volcano crater. It had fumaroles, bubbling steam vents and mud, and the best part was going in the mud baths. My skin has never felt so soft and flawless!

mud me

Once the mud dried it was a cold shower under one of these three outdoor showers, then a sauna heated by the geothermal steam, and three natural hot springs of varying temperatures. A fabulous adventure! But we did smell like sulphur for a couple days 🙂


Costa Rica is lovely. Their people so kind and helpful. The location terribly romantic. And why I love to write stories set in the tropics. Not everyone can travel there in person, so I like to take you there in a story. Perhaps I’ll set a story in Costa Rica one day 🙂

For now, we can visit Hawaii in More Than A Fling (A Taste of Paradise). It’s been out a little over a month now and I have to say thank you to all the readers that had it in the top 10 on Amazon Blaze! So great for a debut book. In case you missed it, here’s the cover.

Blaze cover

Wishing everyone a very Happy New Year. Hello 2016!

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So, there’s nothing more important that I could share than to make sure you guys know that all the Harlequin backlist is on sale for a $1.99 starting today until Nov. 17. On all the major ebook retail sites. You can get all of our Blazes, and any other Harlequin series you can think of. That means you can buy some of my back list like “Her Last Best Fling” and “Mission Seduction” for just $1.99. How crazy is that?

BUT one thing you may not know is that you can gift ebooks to your friends. As long as you know their email, you can email them a book. All you have to do is click on the Give As Gift button and then fill out the information. I do this ALL the time. Not just with my own books. Sometimes I get so excited about books I’ve read, I want everyone to read them, so I give them to my friends. You can even set the delivery date for whenever you want. So you could buy the book on sale, but then have it delivered Christmas Eve.

And I don’t mean to sound like a commercial for Harlequin, but this is a great deal for readers. It’s all in celebration of their 10 years of ebooks. And it starts today. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m going to do some holiday shopping over the next seven days. 🙂

For all you Americans out there, I want to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving. I think you should spend time with family, eat a lot and then curl up with a great book. Harlequin is making it very easy to do the book thing this year.

Happy reading!


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I’m sitting here staring at the blank screen. As my blog day approaches I’m at a complete loss of what to talk about. Which is odd for me. Not having anything to say 🙂

Unfortunately it appears to be spilling over into my writing as well. And that’s not good. What could it be that’s keeping me speechless? I’m going to blame it on the season, the longer and darker nights, the impending doom of winter. As I grow older I like winter less and less. If I could pack up and move south for the dismal season, I would. Sling a hammock between a couple of palm trees and I’d be golden.

bahama sunset

But no such luck of that happening anytime soon. Two years ago at Christmas we had a huge ice storm. It completely changed the landscape. I took this pic in a little town around here and while it’s so cold looking, I think it’s beautiful. But I don’t want any ice storm this year!

Fairey Lake ice

So, I think I shall set up those UV lights in the house, around my work space and put up happy pictures of warmer climates.

Perhaps that’s why I like writing about the tropics or other wonderful locations so much. I love to travel and experience new things. More Than A Fling is set in Hawaii and it’s release date is under two months away. I’m sitting on eggshells waiting to hear from Dana (my editor) to see if she likes the three book proposal I sent to her a month ago. It’s also set in Hawaii and has a unique combination for setting and scene that I won’t give away here. But, do you see a theme here? I do and I believe a research trip to Hawaii is in order. So hurry up and decide Dana! LOL

Blaze cover

What setting in books do you like best? Small town, vacation, mountains, big city?

I’m building my newsletter list and hope you pop by my website and sign up. Lot’s of great things will be happening! A direct link to my website and contact pages is here

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I really struggled with what to talk to you about this week. It’s been a weird few weeks for me–lots of emotional turbulence in what turned out to be deceptively sunny skies. Yet through it all, my creative mind kept churning. I was trying desperately to work on a proposal that simply refuses to come together (Angry Muse is a-n-g-r-y). It dawned on me that I should set that project aside for a few days and, instead of dividing my writing time in half–half to a proposal, half to a contracted piece, I would focus solely on the contracted story. It’s the third in the contemporary Western series, Wild Western Heat. The moment I narrowed my focus, the story began to simply flow.

This whole experience started me thinking about a common conversational thread that often comes up with non-writers:

How do you deal with all your ideas and the voices in your head?*

*(often asked with a wee bit of trepidation when they realize I must be slightly crazy, but that’s another post)

The answer is simple. My brain looks like this:

Creative Brain's Interior

Behind each door is a seriously complicated world. There are bankers, lawyers, shifters, vampires, dragons, demons, angels, cowboys (which might be demons and angels), heroes, Alpha heroes, bookworms, firefighters, Druids and more. Yes, I said more. I have all these compartments and often feel like a jailer to my creative mind. I have to keep things compartmentalized or I begin crossing tales and hero characteristics and heroines’ voices, plot lines and subplots. It’s a balancing act that I’m incredibly grateful to have help managing. My systems are a bit archaic given all the new methods out there, but they work for me. I’ve created forms that I use for characterization, plotting, subplots, characters goals and motivations, etc. Every time I start a new story, I fill out these sheets and store them in a file for the given story. Then, when I need to reference something, I just pull up the appropriate sheet and voila! My ideas are available.

There’s a great software called Scrivener that does much the same thing, but to use all the features appropriately, you really need an in-depth class. Ain’t nobody got time for that! (Sorry, sorry. I know. It’s one of my favorite sayings.) I’d love to use Scrivener and, in fact, own it, but I haven’t taken the opportunity to learn to use it in a comprehensive way. Someday… But for now? I use little data sheets I’ve created.

Because I’m always on the lookout for new and improved ways of doing things, what are some of the ways you keep organized? Drop me a line in the comment box below or email me and let me know if you have a great method you think might help me keep all the voices in my head from killing each other. When the dragon and the cowboy both escape their doors at the same time? I have the distinct feeling the world will never be the same again.

Until next time,


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Hold on  to you hats everyone, because it’s about to get controversial up in here!

(Side rant: Why don’t ladies wear hats anymore? They’re so flippin’ elegant! We gotta bring that sexy back. Who’s with me?)

That’s right, I’m calling you out, Pinterest. To be fair, you’ve got a lot of great things going for you.pinterest Breathtaking vacation destinations, aspirational home and party decor, and a shwack of handsome, shirtless men. You are the perfect virtual receptacle for my insatiable need to collect hairstyles I’ll never try and shoes I’ll never buy. There are many things I love about you, as evidenced by the fact that I have a Pinterest account of my very own. But here’s the thing: you’re ruining my reading experience. And if we’re going to co-exist peacefully in a world of inspirational quotations printed on dreamy, watercolour backgrounds, then you need to know that’s not something I take lightly.


Because of you and your social media brethren (Consider this your notice, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I’ve got my eye on all of you…) we now live in a literary world where authors are practically duty-bound to get you to “Check out the inspiration for my kick-ass hero, my brilliant heroine, my protagonist’s slovenly dog, my secondary character’s childhood home, and the burgers my H/h are eating on their first date in chapter four!” (Seriously, though. A burger sandwiched between two grilled cheeses? I want to makeout with whoever invented this masterpiece. Call me.)

And while I appreciate the desire of every author to share the vision in her head, to connect with readers and give them a glimpse behind the scenes of the writing process, here’s the problem: if you tell me your hero looks like Robert Pattinson, but I’m more into Robert Downey Jr., or Robert Redford, or Rob Zombie, well, you’ve kind of ruined the magic for me. Now I have to spend each and every page playing the “Well, in my head he looks like _____,” game. It’s the same zing of disappointment I get when Hollywood miscasts beloved characters who already exist in my brain:


Jace Wayland? Nuh-uh.


Lestat? I don’t think so.

Stephanie Plum? No.

Stephanie Plum? Just no.

Don’t get me wrong, all my characters are physically based on celebrities. I’ve got files of sexy photos of my favourite movie stars and rock gods and I sift through them on the daily while I’m writing my novel. But I don’t want you to know who is based on whom, because I want my hero to be your hero. I want him to look like the man who makes your libido sit up and take notice. And that means the most you’ll get from me are a couple of cues, like brown hair and rock-hard abs, or blue eyes and a devilish grin. Just enough to let your imagination run wild, because as a romance reader, I think that’s where the fun lies.

CONFESSION TIME: In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit that there is one character who benefited immeasurably from being pulled out of my imagination and placed in front of my eyes. All subsequent Ron-isms became at least 78% more hilarious and enjoyable after I saw Rupert Grint for the first time. I like to consider this the exception that proves my rule, not flip-flopping.


That face though!

So tell me, am I out to lunch here? (If so, I’ll have the grilled cheese sandwich burger!) Do you love to know which celeb inspired your favourite author’s latest hunky hero? Do you not care because your imagination so stubborn that you envision whoever the heck you want anyway, regardless of the words on the page? Leave me a comment and tell me where you stand on the issue and, for bonus points, the last time you rocked a fabulous hat.


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Hey Gang, My oldest, Jeff, is getting married on Valentine’s Day to the love of his life, Crystal. They are so happy, it’s infectious. And I’m so happy for them. As you might imagine, it’s a crazy week. So I’m posting this pic of the happy couple, and I promise at least one wedding photo next month.

Do you have a great meet cute? I’d love to hear how you met your significant other. Crystal and Jeff met at a video store. My husband and I lived down the hall from each other in the same dorm, but met yelling at each other over a football game. Tell me how you met the love of your life.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Crystal and Jeff are getting married on Saturday!

Crystal and Jeff are getting married on Saturday!

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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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…because the Covington brother are coming in August 2015. Who are the Covington brothers? Well, this is Ty:

Blond Ty from Back XLG

Ty is the youngest of the Covington brothers, the three brothers who have totally different feelings about how best to save the family ranch. But Ty’s pretty dang smart for the youngest. Plus? He’s funny. And you all know how I love me some funny.

He’s hot, compassionate, highly driven to succeed and to be his own man outside the shadows his successful brothers set for themselves. Unfortunately (or fortunately?), Ty’s book is third in the series. I believe in giving us all something to look forward to.

The second story? Well, that’s all about Cade, the middle brother with a bit of a chip on his shoulder over having been left by the oldest brother to run the ranch. Cade had dreams and…I hate to give a good story away. Let’s just say when he’s trapped in the mountains with a travel reporter for New Mexico Magazine (thank you, flash flooding), he discovers that having stayed home all those years may pay dividends he never dreamed of. Readers, please meet Cade:



And finally, there’s the first book. Elijah Covington gave up the family legacy to get out of the two stoplight town. What he gained versus what he lost never quite equalled out, and now that he’s home to probate his father’s estate? Things are heating up as all he left behind comes rushing to the forefront and forces him to reevaluate what matters most. I’d like to introduce you to Eli and his left-behind lover, veterinarian Reagan Matthews:


The great news? It all kicks off in 2015. The bad news? It’s…um…August 2015. But watch both my personal blog and this fabulous Blaze blog in order to catch snippets and contests regarding the Covington brothers as each book is finished and we get closer and closer to the August release date! Because, my beloved readers, these men are hot, hard-bodied and huge-hearted. And the heat factor? Let’s just say I’m worried about starting a wildfire. 😀

Until next time,


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STRIPPED DOWN is officially alive. That’s right, it’s out in the wild. So wild, in fact, I found it at Wal-Mart. On a Saturday. At 2:00 p.m. My friends, fighting those crowds is about as “wild” as my life gets these days. 🙂  But it’s out there, and I’m happier than a certain blue-jacket-wearing rabbit with open access to Farmer McGregor’s garden. That’s pretty happy, my friends.


And maybe (who am I kidding? No doubt!) it’s a stretch to put my first Blaze release in the same category as anything by Beatrix Potter, but here’s what I’ve learned: we’re both authors. That blurs a lot of lines I always considered hard lines between good and great.

What changed my mind? A conversation with a very good friend. This friend, who shall remain unnamed for privacy purposes, is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author many times over. She’s brilliant, charming, gracious and kind–all the things I decided I had to make priorities when I met her. She’s my hero in many ways, and my mentor in many more. I’ve always looked at her work and thought to myself, “I want to be that good. I want to write stories readers gobble up like hers.”

As the Fates would have it, my friend offered to read/critique my first cowboy Blaze, tentatively titled BLOWN AWAY. Her reponse? “My first thought on reading this was that I should just give up writing. I’ve always wanted to write like this, but I never will. As a reader, I knew there were words on the page, but I was too busy sensing and seeing everything you wrote about to consider the words. This is amazing, honey.”  She went on, but anything more will just make me sound like a jerk, and this? There’s a purpose to this.

After I was done weeping post-Skype call, and when the shakes finally settled down, something else dawned on me. I’ve always thought of writing in a ladder system, where you move one rung up or down based on a HUGE variety of factors. I know, I know. The idea was ridiculous. Keep in mind, though, that I don’t do math. At all. The extend of my intimate relationship with numbers runs to memorizing phone numbers. The. End. 😀  So anyway, it hit me that she and I are both writers. We both have strengths. Conversely, we both have weaknesses. She works just as hard as I do to be brilliant. She’s been more successful in the brilliance department because she’s written many more books. BUT…I’m learning by continuing to write and continuing to read–read, read, read. I learn so much from seeing how a great story is put together by reading.

But here’s the other truth: I learn just as much from reader feedback. When a reader comes to me and says, “I loved your book, but I wish X had happened too,” I literally make notes. I learn from so many sources on how to improve.

This little revelation turned my ladder into a twisty slide that dumped all of us at the bottom of the sandbox in a giant, laughing heap. Because you know what? There is no ladder system. There’s learning, there’s (massive) effort, there’s appreciation, there’s writing what you love and there’s gratitude. That’s it. Mix those ingredients and the authors, and most of the readers, end up in the same puppy pile laughing and talking and enjoying each others’ company because we have those things in common.

So while STRIPPED DOWN is out in the wilds of McGregor’s garden chomping away on the carrots (I happen to LOVE raw carrots), my inner writer self is giddily at work on Eli and Reagan’s story, preparing to give you a better story every time as I live those five points: I learn; I exert (massive) effort; I appreciate every moment, reader, fellow writer and my editor (waves at Adrienne); I write what I love; I live with an attitude of gratitude. Beyond that? Well, the rest is just words.

I hope you get a chance to read STRIPPED DOWN and enjoy it. WOUND UP releases January 1 (December 16 for print books — thank you, Amazon, for the Christmas gift!). I really do have a serious book-boyfriend crush on the hero of this particular book, and I hope you will too.

Thank you so much for your amazing support and your awesome feedback. You guys rock!

Winners of the STRIPPED DOWN contest are: Marcy Shuler, Tammy Yenalavitch and Carol W. Congratulations! If you’ll send me your contact information through my website ( and let me know if you want the digital book or the paperback, I’ll get those in the e/mail today!

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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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