Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Now that the honeymoon is over . . .

by CiCi Barnes

It’s June 30th, the end of our wedding blogs. We’ve planned, we’ve laughed over snafus, we’ve made it through walking down the aisle and taking the vows. Our bloggers have shared their ups and downs, compared the whole shebang to writing and our lovely followers have added their spice to the mix and we thank you. I feel it appropriate to talk about the rest of the story.

What comes next?

Of course, after the wedding and reception, comes the honeymoon, whether it take place in a motel 20 miles down the road, a Caribbean cruise, a cabin in Gatlinburg, Tenn, or a condo at the beach. It doesn’t really matter where you are. You’ve started a new life with the man of your dreams. The landscape while you’re honeymooning is inconsequential. The time spent in euphoria for those few days lives with you in your happy place for a lifetime. The love, the perfect bliss, the exploration of two minds and bodies melding to one.

Then you come home.

Mortgages, jobs, insurance, in-laws, toothpaste tubes squeezed from the top, wet towels on the bathroom floor, and dirty, smelly socks by the bed. You’re not in each others arms in wedded bliss every second of the day and evening. You come home from work, tired and numb. There’s dinner to fix, dishes to wash, clutter to put in it’s place. The cute puppy you just had to have to make your little home complete has pooped and peed in five different places around the house while you earned money to buy outrageously-priced dog food to suit his delicate tummy so he could poop and pee some more. We won’t even speak of the pitter-patter of little feet to come.

The honeymoon is over. Life has blossomed and taken control.

So goes the way of entering into the wedded bliss of writing.

You cross the threshold into the world of words, pecking out ideas that have sprouted in your mind. You’ve researched and found a glorious group of other writers working toward the same goal. Some have achieved that goal and are gracious enough to help you do the same. Others have just started out and are desperate to commiserate with those in the same position. It’s still new, exciting, fun, and you love the challenge.

You’re in love with writing. The honeymoon has begun. Maybe you transformed a spare bedroom into an office. Hubby supported your interest and outfitted the room with a brand new desk, a standout computer and all the little essentials. Maybe you scraped by to save money for a small laptop, or even to buy notebooks and pens to write the old-fashioned way. It doesn’t matter. Ideas are blooming, words are flowing. You’ve joined the world of writers and love the camaraderie.

Before you know it, the honeymoon is over. The computer crashes, swallowing up your precious words, digesting them into the great beyond. You’ve sent out your work to a contest only to be told you’ve done nothing right. Your critique partner constantly points out places in your manu where you are telling and not showing, and somehow you can’t seem to grasp the difference.

The daily grind of writing creeps in. Outside life want to take over, but you know you must persevere. The euphoric edge wanes.

Just as in the daily grind of marriage, there are spikes and perks of that wonderful glow of love. Your hubby takes you on a vacation, just the two of you, or a night out on the town. He does little things around the house without you asking, to show how much he cares. He compliments your looks.

Writing sends you to a conference to hobnob with the published, to learn the difference between show and tell, to hear other writers with the same problems you’ve experienced and how they conquered them – or if not conquered, coped. Hopefuls just like you get ‘the call’ and bounce around like Tigger on his coiled tiger tail.

You know the work and valleys are worth the peak that sits there waiting for you to complete the climb. You can deal with the bad days, because you know the good days are heaven on earth.

The honeymoon doesn’t have to be over. You can live it with your hubby and your writing everyday in some small way . . . or big! Just vow to make the honeymoon last. In your marriage and your writing.

I leave you with that thought. Words are whispering sweet nothings in my ear.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Writing Is Like Fishing

By Sandra Elzie

I’ve always loved to fish, casting my line into the water at the tender age of six in a stream near my home in North Carolina. The biggest problem back then was that I was trying to fish in a stream where I had only seen minnows and therefore, believe it or not, I never caught a fish. But I didn’t let that stop me from trying and trying and trying again on other days.

Almost half a century later, my husband was again listening to me expound on how I intended to write a book…someday…after I retired. At that time I wasn’t sure when that magical retirement date would be, but I was sure that it would include sleeping in, traveling and having all the time in the world to write the masterpiece that I was sure I was capable of writing. Besides, as a woman, I speak 15,000 words a day, so if I just wrote them all down, I’d have my first New York Times Best Seller in less than a week. Piece of cake. Then I could hire someone to clean the dust bunnies from under the bed and that would free even more of my time.

Then came the day when the rubber met the road. Or I might say that he called my bluff…if it was a bluff…and he asked me how much time I spent watching television and reading and then proceeded to ask me why I didn’t use half of that time to write. Why was I putting it off until retirement?

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that he was a genius. I could have my cake and eat it too. I could work 40-hours a week, continue to cook the meals and chase the bunnies, and write the novel of the decade…in my spare time.

Well, being a strong-willed woman, I picked up the gauntlet he had so cleverly tossed down and started on the road to publication. Over the past six years I’ve learned some things that might help the new writer or make veteran writers laugh as they nod their heads in agreement.

When anyone takes up fishing, he or she might land “the big one” on the first try. Skill? Definitely. Beginner’s luck? Maybe, but for most of the novice fisherman, it takes someone instructing him on the finer points, explaining about the right rod and reel to use and the best “line” to use depending on what type of fish you’re going after.

So you don’t fish or understand what I’m getting at? Well, let me simplify it.

To catch the big fish, it takes patience and a desire to continue fishing until you hook a fish on the line, and if you fail today, you have to be willing to come back again and again, maybe trying a different bait, but never giving up on your goal.

In writing, you have to be willing to get rejection letter after rejection letter until the day comes when you get the one saying they liked your first three chapters and they want you to send in the entire manuscript.

You have to be willing to practice, to learn from others and read books written to help you learn the techniques of fishing…or writing. But most of all, you have to believe in yourself. If others have learned how to fish, you can too. If others have succeeded in catching a trophy fish suitable for displaying on their den wall, then you can follow in their footsteps and achieve great things also.

You might get discouraged at times, but if you keep practicing your craft, one day you will “hook” the big one and a framed copy of your first book cover will be mounted on your den wall.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Aspen Exposé -- Group Novel -- Chapter 9

Life is a constant fight between good and evil. At the
end of the day if the good guys win, it’s been a good day.

~Sandra Elzie

Tom was at his post in front of the double glass
doors as Van Buren and two of the other branch
managers stepped off the ski bus.

“Good afternoon Mr. Van Buren. Did you have a
good day skiing?”

“Yes, son, it was a mighty fine day with just a
few problems, but I think I worked them out,” he
said, glancing sideways to laugh with the others.

“Weren’t there four in your party this morning?”

Tom knew he was taking a risk in questioning the
man about Jack, but something was wrong. His
partner was out there somewhere alone.

“Yeah,” he chuckled, taking the ski carrier that
the bus driver handed him. “Newlyweds wanted to
give the upper slopes a try together,” he said,
handing the ski carrier to one of the other men.

“Take this for me, would you Ellis? I need to find
Allison and be sure she isn’t spending every penny I
have on clothes.” He slapped the other man on the

“Sure thing. See you at dinner.” As Ellis headed
up the steps toward the front door that Tom held
open for him, Van Buren’s arm shot out to hold the
other man back.

“I need you with me,” he barked before turning
toward Tom. “Have my Rover brought around.”

“Yes sir.” Tom turned to pick up a phone tucked
into an alcove near the front door. After ordering the
vehicle to be brought around, Tom watched as Van
Buren was apparently giving instructions while the
other man nodded.

When the Rover arrived, Van Buren flipped
money to the young car jockey before sliding behind
the wheel, his cell phone already at his ear. As soon
as the passenger door shut, the tires spun and the
vehicle lurched forward, turning right at the
crossroad to head toward the Athletic Center and ski

Tom barely had time to register confusion before
his cell phone rang.

“Tom, it’s Jack. Listen. I’ve broken my wrist,
but Van Buren knows something is up and he’s
headed for Rachel. She’s on the beginner slope with
Allison. Get to her.”

Tom flipped the phone shut even as he bolted
from his post, down the steps and around the corner
at a sprint. He only hoped that cutting across lawns
and between buildings would enable him to get to
the ski lifts before Van Buren could cover the same
distance on the streets.

As he neared the parking lot for the ski lift to
the lower slopes, he quickly scanned the area for the
hunter green snowsuit Rachel had worn. His eyes
passed over the group, jerking back as he saw
Rachel being escorted between Van Buren and the
other man toward the Rover. Allison was trailing
behind, her mouth moving, although Tom couldn’t
hear her obviously angry words.

He knew there would be no way to reach them
before the car pulled away, so Tom darted to the
right toward the kiosk where the resort rented out

“Charlie, I need one,” he called toward the
manager of the rentals as he jumped on the motor
and turned the key. The engine roared to life
seconds before Tom engaged the gear, and fishtailed
slightly as he twisted the handle. The snowmobile
shot out of the parking lot across the field of snow.

He knew the road took a sharp hairpin turn
about a half-mile down the road, so he cut through
the trees, ducking to avoid several limbs designed to
sweep him from his ride. When he successfully
dodged the last tree, he shot out onto a steep slope,
hoping against hope to keep the machine from
flipping end over end as he raced against time to
reach an intersecting point on the highway below,
before the Rover had covered the distance.

As he neared the two-lane highway, he glanced
off to the right, relieved to see that Van Buren was
still coming, but the distance was closing fast. If
Lady Luck were on his side, he’d get to the road in
time, if not…he refused to think of what would
happen to Rachel if he didn’t get down to the road in
time to deter Van Buren.

He twisted the throttle a little more, risking his
life in the downhill plunge. If he missed his mark, if
he hit an exposed rock, if he miscalculated in any
way during this hell-bent race to the finish, he could
easily be killed, but that was a risk he was willing to
take. Rachel would be helpless against a man like
Van Buren and he wasn’t prepared to give up on
getting his man…or being her hero.

As Tom converged on the road, he knew he
would arrive first by mere seconds. What lay down
the slope once he crossed the highway was an
unknown that he refused to consider. Priorities.

As Tom braced his body for an impact, he shot
down the last few feet of slope, pulling up on the
nose of the heavy machine to cross the snow-filled
ditch, and landed with a bone-jarring thud on the
salted asphalt. The heavy machine careened toward
the trees on the far side of the highway even as Tom
jerked on the handlebars, turning the snowmobile
into a sideways skid.

Tom heard the squeal of brakes, but only his
peripheral vision caught the large black vehicle as it
went into a spin and skidded toward the side of the
road and the snow-covered trees that stood at
attention along the highway.

Tom released his death-grip on the handlebars
as the snowmobile skidded sideways toward the
same grove of trees. Pulling his legs and arms
inward, he landed on the asphalt and executed a
tuck and roll that brought him to an abrupt stop
against the icy snow piled on the side of the road.

Without wasting a moment, he was on his feet
even as it registered in his brain that he could hear
sirens blaring as the cavalry raced up the mountain.
With his gun drawn from his hidden shoulder
holster, Tom aimed at the car as he ran, shouting
that he was FBI and for everyone to step out of the
car with their hands up.

As two other squad cars arrived, sirens died
slowly but flashing lights still swirled as the five
men converged on the Rover that was now sunk
axle-deep in the snow and leaning at an odd angle.

“Get your hands up and get out of the vehicle,”
Tom ordered. Later he would be thankful that
neither of the men in the car had been armed, and
that the Rover had not slammed into the trees.

While the police pulled Van Buren, Allison and
the other man from the Rover and put them in
handcuffs, Tom slid the couple of feet down the
embankment and pulled hard on the door to get to

Unsure what he would see, relief flooded his
system when he leaned over and saw her wide-eyed
stare suddenly focus in recognition. A tiny smile
touched her bloodless lips, slowly reaching her eyes
as she lunged toward the man reaching out to her.

“Are you all right?” His arms folded around her,
pulling her in close as he closed his eyes, sending up
a prayer of thanks that she wasn’t hurt and that he
had gotten to her in time. She was trembling, but as
he ran his hands up and down her back, her fears
gradually subsided, leaving her cuddled in his arms.

“Yes, yes, I’m fine. I was so…thank you for
coming after me,” she said, pulling back enough for
him to look into her smoldering eyes.

In the distance they could hear Allison
screaming that she hadn’t done anything wrong and
demanding that they release her even as she was
tucked into a waiting car and the door slammed
behind her, effectively silencing her protests.

Tom’s eyes never left Rachel’s face, but his body
craved so much more than holding her. Even as she
put pressure against him to pull away, he leaned
into her to place his lips against hers, capturing her
with a hand at the back of her head to deepen the

“Hey,” called out one of the policemen. “Give the
poor girl a break, man. She was just in a car wreck
and you’re putting the moves on her.” He chuckled
as he turned toward his patrol car.

The words slowly penetrated, making Tom feel
guilty for taking what he needed without considering
Rachel. As he pulled back, he gazed down into her
face, shifting his focus to her eyes as they slowly

“Come on, let’s get you back to the lodge and get
you a good stiff drink,” he muttered, tamping down
the heat this tiny woman had ignited.

“Well, Jack, do we get to sign your cast?” Rachel
and Tom sat in front of the roaring fire in the
Presidential Suite where Jack was now sipping
brandy and grousing over not having been involved
in the takedown of Van Buren.

“Stuff it. You guys had all the fun and I got
stuck with this thing,” he said, holding up his arm,
“for the next six weeks.”

“Hey, cheer up. At least you didn’t get dead.”

Rachel punctuated her snide comment with a quick
jab of her elbow into Tom’s side.

For a moment Jack felt guilty. Here his partner
and a woman he had come to care for very much had
been in danger and all he could think about was
missing out on the kill. “Sorry guys. I didn’t mean to
be selfish. It’s just that I’ve been on this case for two
years and I was so hoping to see Van Buren’s face
and read him his rights. I really am glad you’re both

Rachel stood, leaning over to place a light kiss
on his cheek. “We’re glad you just broke your wrist.
It could have been your neck.” She smiled sweetly.
It took just a moment to sink in before both men
started chuckling.

“So, Rachel,” Tom called after her as she walked
to the refrigerator, leaning in to pull a Coke from the
shelf. “Speaking of signing something, have you
decided if you’re going to sign the application to join
the FBI?”

She turned slowly, stopping to pop the tab on
the can as she pondered the question. “Well,
assuming I’d have to work with men like the two of

She allowed a pregnant pause to hang like a
mist over the conversation. “I’d have to say that it
didn’t take me much time to decide that my life is
too staid and dull. I think a new career is just what
the doctor ordered.” She smiled as she lifted the can
toward the two men in a salute. “To a new life.”


Ah, so where does this take us now?

Are you ready for the last question? Have you answered
all the others to be eligible for a great prize?


What was Jack's injury?

A) Broken leg

B) Broken arm

C) Broken wrist

D) Broken Heart


Aspen Exposé, Part Deux

Will Rachel accept Tom’s offer to join the FBI? Or will she want more from the man with the dark smoldering eyes? If she does join the FBI, will the agency ever be the same? What about Jack? Will he be the spy who’s left out in the cold? If two’s company, is three a crowd? Will Rachel turn to Tom now that Jack is incapacitated or will she try to reform her former boss? Will he pay her the $5,000 he promised her? If you need more Hot Summer Sizzle stay tuned to Petit Fours and Hot Tamales for the sequel to Aspen Exposé, coming soon.

We hope you enjoyed reading Aspen Exposé. Check back Sunday, July 5 to find out the winner of our “Group Novel” Contest.

Who's Going on the Honeymoon?

Here's our lineup for the last half week of brides and weddings month. Hope you've enjoyed it as much as I have. Wednesday is a new theme. Tune in to read all about it.

Monday, June 29: Michelle Newcome
Tuesday, June 30: Cici Barnes Now that the honeymoon is over
Wednesday, July 1: Linsey Lanier The Dreaded C-word: Conflict
Thursday, July 2: Guest Chef: Wendy Wax
Friday, July 3: Friday Book Reviews
Saturday, July 4: Saturday Book Reviews - Happy Fourth of July!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Saturday Review

Sundays at Tiffany’s

Authors: James Patterson
and Gabrielle Charbonnet

Published by Vision
ISBN 978-0-446-53631-8

Backcover Blurb:
“Jane Margaux is a lonely little girl. Her mother, a powerful Broadway producer, makes time for her only once a week, for their Sunday trip to admire jewelry at Tiffany’s. Jane has only one friend: a handsome, comforting, funny man named Michael. He’s perfect. But only she can see him. Michael can’t stay forever, though. On Jane’s ninth birthday he leaves, promising her that she’ll soon forget him. Years later, in her thirties, Jane is just as alone as she was as a child. And despite her own success as a playwright, she is even more trapped by her overbearing mother. Then she meets someone—a handsome, comforting, funny man. He’s perfect. His name is Michael . . . .”

Wonderful story. I read it in one day. James Patterson is one of the best-selling writers of all time. Gabrielle Charbonnet writes children’s books. Together, they can’t miss. It’s a love story; a romantic escape! Patterson’s son, Jack, said it, “Love means you can never be apart.” So, my friends, get a copy, a box of tissue, a glass of wine and enjoy!

Reviewed by Maxine Davis
Rating: 4 Petit Fours & 2 Hot Tamales.

Title: The Secret of the Dread Forest: The Faire Folk Trilogy

Author: Gillian Summers

Publisher: Flux
ISBN-10: 0738714119
ISBN-13: 978-0738714110
Genre: Young Adult

Keelie Heartwood finally makes it “home.” Of course, home now happens to be an elf village in the heart of Oregon’s Dread Forest. After her amazing save of the Wildwood Forest and their unicorn, you’d think Keelie would be well on her way to acceptance by the other elves. Instead, she’s treated worse than ever before. On top of that, her relationship with Sean is over because of her half elf, half human status. Then there is the spoiled Princess tree, Alora, demanding most of her attention; her enemy, Elia, wanting to be friends; the mysterious boy in the woods who knows more about her family than she does; the discovery that the unicorn killer himself, Lord Elianard, is now her teacher; her dad turning out to be the Lord of the Forest which leaves little time for her; her grandmother hating everything about her human side; and that doesn’t even take into account the age-old rift between her family and the other elves. Isn’t that enough for one teenage girl to handle? Apparently the forest doesn’t think so. They have few more surprises to throw Keelie’s way.

Gillian Summers did an awesome job of wrapping up the Faire Folk Trilogy in Secret of the Dread Forest. I’ll be honest and say I was seriously upset about Keelie’s love interest(s) right up until the very end. Thankfully, Ms. Summers did an awesome job of surprising me and I closed the book satisfied. Yet, it wasn’t until I found out the writing duo has another fabulous trilogy in the works that I was truly happy. As satisfying as the ending of this book is, I was NOT ready to say goodbye to Keelie and her mysterious world. Keep an eye out for the new series, the Scions of Shadow Trilogy, coming June 2010.

Reviewer: Tami Brothers
Rating(s): 5 Petit Fours and 1 Hot Tamales


Author Stephanie Bond

MIRA Books, paperback
ISBN 978-0-7783-27073
Genre: Romantic Suspense

From the back cover:
A killer remains at large...

Carlotta Wren's world is crumbling beneath her well-shod feet. One of her closest friends has been arrested as the Charmed Killer, but Carlotta refuses to believe it. And to prove her friend's innocence, Carlotta goes against her boyfriend Peter's wishes and resumes her after-hours body-moving duties.
And then...
Her troubled brother Wesley goes missing...
And the madman stalking the city strikes again, this time a little too close to home.

6 KILLER BODIES is a fantastic conclusion to the trilogy contained within Stephanie Bond’s Body Movers series. The trilogy runs through books 4, 5, and 6 in this series and introduces us to the Charmed Killer, a mysterious figure who leaves a charm bracelet piece in the mouths of his victims. In 6 Killer Bodies, the identity of the killer stalking Atlanta is finally revealed.

Oh, but don’t go thinking that things are over for our heroine, Carlotta Wren. 6 Killer Bodies may resolve the mystery of the Charmed Killer, but it by no means wraps up all the questions raised in this series. Loyal Stephanie Bond fans still want to know which of the three hunks Carlotta will choose.

For those of you who are new to the series, I strongly recommend starting at the beginning to get the full benefit of Stephanie Bond’s humor and skillful character development. For the rest of us, one can only hope (beg, plead, give offerings) that the publisher will decide to continue this fantastic series.

Reviewed By: Debbie Kaufman
Ratings: 5 Petit Fours & 2 Hot Tamales

Friday, June 26, 2009

Introducing our special guest, Nicole North!

by Carol Burnside

Please join us in welcoming Nicole North. Nicole writes sensual and erotic romance novels, novellas and short stories. She has seen several of her short stories published in national magazines and has sold her first novella, Devil in a Kilt to Red Sage Publishing for inclusion in the Secrets Volume 27 anthology due out July 2009. The second novella in the series, Beast in a Kilt will be in Red Sage Secrets Volume 29 anthology. She has recently sold another novella, Kilted Lover, to Red Sage. Her works have finaled in over a dozen writing competitions and won several awards. She is a member of Romance Writers of America and three chapters. She teaches online writing workshops and her writing articles have been published in many chapter newsletters. She is proud to be represented by the Ashley Grayson Literary Agency. Her favorite hobbies are reading, candle-making and jewelry making. She and her husband live in the Southeast.

CB: Nicole, thanks for being our Guest Chef this week and may I just say, I love your cover art!
NN: Thanks!! I'm thrilled to be here! Glad you like the cover art. The guy looks so devilish, doesn't he? ;)

CB: Yes, he does. Congratulations on your impending release from Red Sage, Devil In A Kilt (Great title!). Can you tell us something about the story and when it will be available for purchase?
NN: Thanks, Carol!! I love talking about my story. LOL Here's the blurb.
Devil in a Kilt (Secrets Vol. 27 Untamed Pleasures): A trip to the Highland Games turns into a trip to the past when modern day psychology professor Shauna MacRae touches Gavin MacTavish's four-hundred-year-old claymore. What she finds is a Devil In a Kilt she's had erotic fantasies about for months. Can Shauna break the curse imprisoning this shape shifting laird and his clan before an evil witch sends Shauna back to her time? The book should be released July 1. It's available for preorder online at Barnes and Noble and Amazon, but I'm not sure when the ship date is. (Soon, I hope. LOL)

CB: Ooh, a yummy Scottish hero. What's not to like? I've seen the pictures from your visit to Scotland on your blog. They are gorgeous and it SO makes me want to go there. Why do you identify with Scotland, and how does it inspire you use it as a setting?
NN: Glad you liked the pictures! My love of Scotland grew slowly over the years, thanks to a friend who was gaga over Scotland before I was. Reading a lot of Scottish romance novels added to that. As far as I can tell, some of my early ancestors were probably from the Lowlands of Scotland. I'm not sure if it's in my blood or some kind of past life connection. But there is something about the breathtaking landscape that is awe inspiring. To me, Scotland (especially the Highlands) is the most hauntingly beautiful place on earth. Add to that the native people who lived in Scotland hundreds of years ago, their long, tragic history along with colorful myths and legends and you find a fascinating place and culture. One of my favorite quotes describes it nicely: "There is only mist, wind, rain, the cry of the curlew and the slow clouds above damp moorland. That is the real Scotland; that is the Scotland whose memory rings the withers of the far-from-home; and, in some way that is mysterious, that is the Scotland that even a stranger learns to love". H V Morton. Using Scotland as a setting feels natural to me and I always enjoy creating the descriptions.

CB: A lot of writers have several creative outlets in addition to writing. Do you, and if so, how do they help (if at all) with your writing?
NN: I've always had too many creative outlets. LOL I have a minor in studio art. I used to paint, make pottery, and do photography, etc. Later, I went through a crafting phase with floral arrangements. Garden design and amateur photography have been hobbies I've dabbled in since my college days. More recently, I've gotten into jewelry making. I suppose a parallel would be that I'm a visual person. Visual arts have always interested me. And I try to carry that over into my writing through vivid visual descriptions of people and places like painting with words.

CB: Wow, that sounds like great writing. Do you write any non-Scottish stories?
NN: Yes, I started out writing contemporary romantic suspense. I write in three subgenres of romance: paranormal, historical and contemporary. And I like to add dashes of suspense, a pinch of humor, and of course sexy hot scenes. One fun thing about Devil in a Kilt is that it incorporates every aspect of writing that I enjoy. I used genre blending to the fullest. :)

CB: You also have another yummy cover on your website for Kilted Lover, also from Red Sage. Tell us a bit about it too, please.
NN: Thanks! I love that cover too. The artist, Rae Monet, created something even better than I'd imagined. Kilted Lover is a contemporary erotic romance novella with a touch of the paranormal...
When kilted caber-tosser Scott MacPherson tosses Leslie Livingston over his shoulder to rescue her from two armed thieves trying to steal her priceless amulet, they are thrust into a deadly but sexy adventure. Though Leslie already has a lukewarm, uninterested boyfriend, her attraction to Scott is white-hot and undeniable. She wants to lick this tall, muscular alpha male all over and explore the depths of eroticism with him. But will he want anything more than one night once the danger is behind them?

CB: You also teach classes, I understand. Do you have any coming up that our author readers might be interested in, and if so, how can we find them?
NN: I'll be teaching three online classes this fall. In September, I'll teach Writing Hot Delicious Love Scenes for
Yosemite Romance Writers. (Then I'll teach that one again in November for a different chapter.) In October, I'll teach Turn Up the Heat! about creating sexual tension in romance for Celtic Hearts Romance Writers. You can find the links on my website. http://www.nicolenorth.com/ and then click on "Workshops" on the menu. There are detailed descriptions of these two classes along with student testimonials.

CB: Our readers and even the PFHT blog sisters are inquisitive folks. Would you mind popping in a couple times throughout the day to answer a few questions?
NN: I would love to answer questions! Bring 'em on! :)

CB: Nicole, we've enjoyed having you here. and it's been a pleasure talking to you. Is there anything else you'd like to share with our readers?
NN: Thank you, Carol! This has been wonderful! You ask great questions and don't mind when I go on and on about Scotland. LOL Anything else to share? Hmm... well, I should share with you guys that we received a 4-star review from Romantic Times. "Few anthologies give as much bang for the buck as this one."—Devon Paige

Thanks again everyone!!

CB: That's a terrific start, Nicole. We should all be so lucky!

Readers, Nicole has book trailers posted on her website if you'd like to pop over and check them out. Also, she's graciously offered to give away a pair of her fabulous, handcrafted sterling silver and semi-precious stone earrings. A winner will be drawn at random from those who comment on this post. Good luck!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Fall in Love Again: Careers, Marriages, & Critique Partners

by Nicki Salcedo

Working 9 to 5

I recently attended an all day meeting at my new job. I got to work at 6:30 a.m. and didn’t get home until 9 p.m. It was a loooong day, but I learned a great deal about finance, marketing, and operations. All business stuff, but the most interesting comment I heard came from the Vice President of Human Resources. He said there are three things that employees must have to be successful at their jobs. I’ll paraphrase what I heard:

  • Employees must enjoy their actual job. The tasks. The stuff they do.
  • Employees must like their co-workers. The people they know. The people they work with.
  • Employees must respect their managers. They must believe that they work for a capable leader. Or a capable company.

If any one of these three things is missing, an employee won't like going to work. After this meeting, I spoke to a former colleague, and I mentioned that things were going well on my new job. Her response, "You're still in the honeymoon phase."

George Bailey, I'll love you 'til the day I die

This month, many of the Petits have spoken about weddings and marriages. I hope my work honeymoon lasts as long as my marriage honeymoon phase. I'm still in it. I believe that work is a lot like marriage. Bear with me. I’ll tell you something that’s a lot like both work and marriage, but first some marriage advice from an eight-year newlywed. If you know me, you've heard this advice a hundred times before. And if you continue to know me, you'll hear it again.

  • Do things freely and cheerfully. Don't do anything with the expectation that your spouse/partner owes you something in return. If you are scratching his back so you get your back scratched in return, you are scratching for the wrong reason. Just scratch because you want his itch to go away.
  • Be glad when you see your spouse at the end of the day. I like to tell what's-his-name, "You're the least idiotic person I've seen all day." Your spouse should be your ray of sunshine. You should be able to see the good in the ordinary things they do. Try to think of three good things about your spouse each day. Think of it as a prayer or mediation or an offering of thanks.
  • Treat your marriage like your job. Respect each other. He should be the smartest, funniest guy you know. She should be the most intuitive and spontaneous person you know. If you can only think about his beautiful biceps, remember that one day things are going to change. You better be able to appreciate his intelligence and humor when he starts looking like Mr. Potato Head.

You are the Wind Beneath My Wings

A critique group is the ultimate blending of career and marriage. A lot of what I learned about critiquing came from college. I was a creative writing major, and there were some simple rules.

  • You've got to like writing and be willing to share your writing.
  • You’ve got to critique with people whose opinions you trust. Who is the grammar girl in your group? Who is the plotting guru? The motivator? The word weaver? No sense in having a critique partner who loves everything that you write. Nothing critical about that.
  • You’ve got to respect that the writing process is both creative and a craft. Establish parameters for how and when you'll critique. Set realistic expectations for your group.
  • No excuses or explanations. Let your writing speak for itself. Save talking for brainstorming. Just bring it on the page!
  • Your rebuttal is your revision(s). Revising doesn't mean to change your story every way someone suggests, but it does mean understanding the critique and using your best judgment to make your story stronger based on the critique.
  • Write every word like you are writing for an audience. When I was a kid, I used to write poetry in a purple notebook. I never wanted anyone to read it. Writing was my secret escape. Most writers start out that way. I'm never going to share my 30 page ode to River Phoenix written in slant rhyme with you. But today, I am writing for you. And you are writing for your career. Write like your book is going to be published. Write like your future editor or agent is reading. Don't censor yourself. Let your real voice and story shine through.

Falling Out of Love

Have you ever had a stomach ache before going to work? Have you looked at your spouse and wondered, what happened to the person you fell in love with? Do you sometimes do everything possible to avoid writing? Just as we fall in love, sometimes we fall out of love. Maybe one or two of the tips above might help you. I encourage you to stay focused and motivated in all aspects of your life.

Fall in Love Again

A spouse should help you be a better person than you would be alone. I hope that your critique partners do the same. They should make you a better, stronger, faster writer than you ever have been before. Love your job, love your spouse, and love the hybrid of the two: your critique partners. Here's to Jena, LaShon, Jeanette, Marilyn, Michelle, Kimberly, Kym, Maria, Alissa, Jennifer (in China) and the other Jennifer, my nieces and nephews, my sisters, my mom (another Jennifer), what's-his-name, and anyone who has ever shared their writing with me or been brave enough to read my words. Critique partners are some kind of wonderful.

Let's fall in love all over again. Happy writing.

Pop Quiz:

  • Find the movies. I've referenced at least five movies in the blog above.
  • I'd love to hear comments about what you like about your job.
  • Got any advice for a good marriage?
  • What works in your critique group?
  • For my non-writing friends, what do you do that you love? Golf? DragonCon? Running? What's your bliss?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

When Happily Ever After Doesn't End At The Alter

By J Perry Stone

I freely admit to being a hopeless romantic in the very traditional sense of the word. Perhaps this is why I’m attracted to romance novels, historical in particular. The hero and heroine overcome a slew of obstacles only to end up standing at the alter … and with a baby or two in the epilogue.

That’s how I like to read it. That’s how I like to live it.

Not so much my friends, however. In the past two years, roughly 70% of my husband’s and my contemporaries have gotten a divorce. Obviously the experience has been wretched for our friends, but it is also having a poisonous effect on me as my idealistic naïveté where happily ever after is concerned is taking repeated kicks to the ass.

What is going on? Splitting up assets and custody hearings do not a happy ending make. What’s more, I’m beginning to wonder if maybe I’m setting myself up for a major depression if I keep applying what happens in romancelandia to the real world. Or maybe love conquering all is simply taking a roundabout circuit I don’t yet recognize.

As it turns out, many of my girlfriends have recently grown up to find themselves married to men who were so emotionally stunted, even a plant couldn’t subsist in their care. Two of my best girls are leaving their husbands with the hope that genuine love is still out there. But they’re also waiting patiently. Maybe they need to rest while their battle scars fade, but I suspect it’s also a growing sense of maturity that is making them pause. They’ve both realized they have to love themselves first. They have to be whole enough to be able give such a love before they can get such a love. They know—and this is a very un-romance book thought—that happiness comes from within first and love is simply the precious opportunity to share it.

So yes, I want everyone at the alter … but I’m slowly beginning to realize a wedding can include just one party.

Becky, do you take this woman, Becky, to be your lawfully wedded wife?

So how about you? Has reading/writing romance ever altered your take on reality? How are you able to rationalize real world suffering with your happily ever after point of view?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Planning for the Big Event: What Weddings and Writing Require

By Debbie Kaufman

I was my own wedding planner, not something that I would ever recommend that you do yourself if you can avoid it. My husband and I paid for, planned, and arranged all but the small reception afterwards. My dear Aunt Frances stepped in and offered to take care of the cake and punch reception, an offer we gladly accepted.

It wasn't until I started the planning process that I realized what kind of a committment I was making to the event itself. I'd thought about the committment I was making to the man that I loved, but to the wedding itself, not really. Who knew that there were so many details and decisions surrounding a twenty minute ceremony? Dealing with the invitations alone was enough to invoke a migraine. What kind of paper, color of paper (really, how many shades of white and ivory are there?)font style, font color, wording, type of envelope, and, of course, how many to order. Don't even get me started on what's involved in creating the guest list. So many details when all I wanted to do was walk down the aisle looking beautiful, make and hear promises of eternal love, and be pronounced married. Instead, I was forced to make a decision and be knowledgeable about everything including what utensil to use for cutting the wedding cake.

The whole process strongly resembles my decision to embark on a writing career. I'd considered the committment I was making to the stories I wanted to tell, but to the union of manuscript and publication, not really. Frankly, what I've learned is that it's not just about writing a great story, it's also about all the details before, during and after writing a great story. It's that attention to detail that gets the manuscript to publication. Fortunately, while I can't afford a publicist and don't yet have an agent, there is still the internet. Boy, wish we'd had that when I was planning my wedding.

So, instead of invitations and utensils, now I immerse myself in manuscript formats, the proper approach to query letters, agent and editor research, which on-line classes to take, which blogs to follow (so many great ones, so little time), and a host of other details. Just like wedding planning, and the married life afterward, approaching writing as a career is not for sissies. You've got to be committed without losing site of your objective.

So, I've struck a balance. I spend a limited amount of time each week working on the planning details. Consider just one aspect of this planning - the realm of contests. For me, this means that I've researched contests to enter and usually choose them based not only the quality of the feedback I'll receive, but also on the agent or editor that will see my work if I make the finals. This involves taking the research one step further to learn more about the agent or editor. I think this is important because, although I do want to be published, I want to be smart about it and find the right home for my story and the right person, one I would be comfortable working with long-term. So I google them, I read blogs where they have been a guest. I learn all I can before I choose to put my work in front of this person. And then I pay my fee, follow ALL the contest rules, and hope for a good response.
And, I plan for the eventuality of a negative response. After all, details are important...

Now, there's more to my planning than this. I carefully consider online classes, I blog for a bit of pre-published publicity, I'm working on a website (Okay, my daughter is working on a website for me since I'm designed challenged), and I regularly attend my local Georgia Romance Writer's meetings. There's a lot to learn in the writing business. When it all comes together for me, I don't want to just publish a manuscript, I want to go all in and make the committment to writing as a business. I don't want my manuscript to be the blushing bride, but one that makes an editor stand up and take notice. The one that stands out from all the others they've recently read, and I'm willing to do what it takes for that to happen.

What about you? What have you committed to do or to learn about the business of writing?

(All photo images copyrighted and used with permission of Onesixphotography.com)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Fifty Something: Books from the Grave

By Marilyn Baron

“I’m in love,” my daughter said. “This is the one I’ve been waiting for. But it’s a big commitment. I hope I’m doing the right thing.” I was excited. My daughter had finally found her Prince Charming. I had visions of engagement parties, June weddings and grandchildren. Actually, it turned out to be my daughter’s description of her new luxury Park Avenue studio apartment in New York City. When she signed the lease, the doorman hugged her and said, “Welcome Home.” Well, that’s a story with a happy ending. Anytime one of your children is happy is a reason to celebrate.

At my age, I’ll take any excuse at happiness. Last month, I celebrated my 50 Somethingth birthday. And this is the birthday present I got from my doctor.

I’m Coming Elizabeth

“This is Dr. (Physician who shall remain nameless) calling Marilyn Baron. I got the results of your echocardiogram. It did show that you have a slightly thickened left ventricle consistent with high blood pressure, which means that you need to have your blood pressure well controlled. You also had mitral valve prolapse and mitral regurgitation, which is the cause of the murmurs. There’s no particular significance to that. You don’t need to do anything about that, but it does explain those murmurs.”

Okay, that’s a lot to lay on a person, especially a person who didn’t know she had heart murmurs to begin with. Ah, the joys of being chronologically challenged. Before I never knew I had a problem. But now, if I get excited about something, I can attribute it to my heart murmur. Like Fred Sanford on Sanford and Son, whenever something riles me I clutch my chest dramatically, look heavenward and say, “I’m Coming Elizabeth!”

And these days, I have a lot to rant about – those annoying calls I get three times a day, and usually at 3 o’clock in the morning, warning me of the dire consequences if I don’t renew my auto warranty, or those e-mails from Vince extolling the virtues of the ShamWow® or the Snuggie Blanket, or those unsolicited e-mails about male enhancers. I think the people who sold the mailing lists to these companies should be prosecuted.

And I’m not the only one with anger management issues. My neighbor was furious about an incident that happened at her daughter’s high school and she showed me a blistering two-page and growing letter to the assistant principal she had just finished.

“You’re angry,” I said. “Maybe you need a blog.”

But, I digress. Back to my heart murmurs. Apparently these murmurs have made me lose my ability to multi-task.

On multi-tasking

I was having lunch at a Thai restaurant with a friend recently when I went to open up a packet of sugar to pour into my Jasmine tea and accidentally poured it into my bowl of Won Ton soup. Apparently I can’t sweeten my tea and talk at the same time. The ability to multi-task obviously dwindles as you age.

And speaking of age, sometimes I wonder if I’m too old to write. But I just ran across an interesting article in the May 2009 issue of the AARP Bulletin in a column headed, “Power of 50.” And yes, I am old enough to have an AARP card. Just not old enough to qualify for the senior discount at the movie theater.

The article, entitled, “Write On Past Age 50,” by Bill Hogan, poses this question:

“Aiming to write the great American novel? There’s hope. Nearly a dozen of the annual best-selling novels of the past 50 years have been created by American authors in their 50s, 60s and 70s – some of whom turned to writing after other careers.”

The illustrious list includes some of my favorite authors – Irving Stone, James Michener, Leon Uris and Robert Ludlum. Maybe I could aspire to be like Robert Ludlam. He’s dead, but despite his demise, he continues to produce best-sellers. Perhaps he’s channeling from the grave. Is it me or has his writing improved since his death?

Okay, that’s good news. But if I have any advice for a young person contemplating a writing career, it would be this: “It’s never too early to start writing.” I’ve been employed as a writer my entire professional career but I wish now I had started writing fiction earlier in my life. My daughter is 23 and she just started writing so I have a lot of hope for her.

What do you think? Can you have a successful writing career after 50? Is there room at the top for an over-the-hill writer?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Aspen Exposé -- Group Novel -- Chapter 8

Chapter 8

You don’t know jack.

~Anna Steffl

Rachel clicked the door’s deadbolt and secured
the chain. They didn’t want her out; she didn’t want
them in. It was a dandy arrangement.

Laptop tucked under her arm, she headed to the
bed. Imagine—she hadn’t thought to pack her set of
screwdrivers. If it was an FBI computer, it probably
had remote tracking goodies inside. Oh well, she’d
have to take her chances. What was Tom going to
do? Bust down the door? Shoot the lock?

Rachel kicked off the Manolo Bhalniks, propped
a pillow against the headboard, and nestled in.
“Okay password hacker, do your thing.” A line of
code popped on screen. “Yes. Let’s see Karen do that.
She couldn’t hack her way out of a cardboard box.”

There was a knock on the door, followed by
Tom’s velvet voice. “That was fast. Good job. Go
ahead and finish.”

Rachel sat the laptop on the nightstand, sprang
from the bed, twisted the deadbolt and opened the
door until the chain clinked taut.

Tom held his cell phone in through the gap. It
showed Jack’s computer screen. “Go ahead and
finish. Jack’s not sloppy. He wouldn’t leave his
laptop in there with you by mistake.”

“You know,” Rachel seethed, “I’m more than a
little tired of these games.”

“Can I come in?”

Between the easygoing way he flicked the phone
closed and the disarmingly earnest brown eye that
peeked in, it was hard to distrust him. A woman
could snuggle into his arms like into her favorite
overstuffed chair. He’d smell familiar, like
Thanksgiving dinner. He was the opposite of Jack,
who was sinew, steel and blue arctic sky. It would be
so easy to fall for Tom just because he wasn’t Jack.

Rachel shut the door to take off the chain, and
then opened it halfway. “Okay, you can come in, but
only if you level with me.”

“I’ll tell you what I can.”

Tom dragged a chair into the middle of the room
and positioned it so he could watch the door. Darn. It
was obvious he was going to keep his charm
professionally in place.

“Van Buren is using Mira to launder money
from his overseas shell companies,” he said, all the
laidback drawl gone from his voice. “Overseas drug
trafficking and child prostitution pays for over half
of the Mira hardware you’re sending to foreign

“Child prostitution? For real?”

“For real.”

Rachel’s lips tightened along with her fists.
She’d given a year of her life, working evenings and
Saturdays beyond count, to a company that paid her
with dirty money from child prostitution.

“Tomorrow night,” Tom said, “we think Van
Buren’s going to add another shell to the game. A
Thai national is coming in. Jack’s job is to put the
financials you ran on the table and sell Mira’s
impeccable accounting. We’re hoping Van Buren will
let him stick around as he details how the accounts
work. But if he doesn’t, I have his suite bugged.
We’ll get him.” He nodded to the laptop. “I was
serious that you should finish the job you started.”

Rachel unclenched her fists and shook the anger
over Van Buren’s slimy tactics from them. She sat on
the edge of the bed and balanced the computer on
her thighs. There was only one file on the hard
drive—Livingston. A document with an FBI logo
came up. It was a dossier of her personal
information. She scrolled down to an FBI
employment application with her information
already filled in. At the bottom was a
recommendation signed by an Agent Jack...“Soloski?
Is that his real name?” Soloski was a name you’d see
embroidered on a second-hand bowling shirt at
Goodwill. The Jack she knew wore cufflinks and
Italian suits.

“Code name Han. Born and raised in Kearney,
Nebraska. Accounting degree from the University of
Iowa. Law degree from Tulane. And, the best
marksman in our class.” Tom grinned. “Except for
me. You want me covering your rear.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Rachel said, then
returned to reading Jack’s recommendation.
Brilliant. Cooperative. Ethical. Levelheaded. Rachel
twitched her lips. He might reconsider levelheaded
after she’d bolted out of the ladies’ room. Grabbing
his balls probably counted heavily in her favor,
however. And, her kiss had made Agent Jack Soloski
a bit sloppy.

Tom stood. “Think about it, Rachel. Mira is
going down. You’ll need a job and we need your kind
of talent to bring in creeps like Van Buren. We ran a
complete on you before authorizing Jack to bring you
here. It’s twenty hard weeks of training at Quantico,
but...” Tom gave her a head to toe look. “You’re up to

Any other time Tom’s look would have set her
pulse sprinting, but Rachel was picturing herself
with an FBI badge. That was never in the plan. Her
life operated like a computer program. Nothing could
happen outside the parameters she’d written for
herself. Class valedictorian. A scholarship to one of
the most prestigious computer science schools, the
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. A
great-paying job in gorgeous Denver once she’d

Maybe that was why she jumped at the chance
to come to Aspen with Jack. She wanted outside the
parameters for once. But the FBI was too far out. It
was a boys’ club, complete with goofy nicknames like
Han Solo. Would she always have to be pretending
to be someone different? Use people like Jack used
her? Sure, she was getting five thousand dollars for
this stint of make-believe, but she had to admit she’d
wanted something more than the money from Jack.

What did Jack want from her? To help him
make a bust and recruit her for the FBI, that’s what.
It was part of his professional shtick to tease her
with garbage about wanting to make her glow, and
then walk away.

Rachel frowned. “I don’t know, Tom.”

“Okay, but think about it.” Tom headed to the
door. “Can we count on you to play along, though,
until tomorrow night? We’re so close to busting this

Playing along meant skiing the beginner slopes
tomorrow afternoon with Allison while Jack and Van
Buren did macho guy stuff on the harder terrain.
Sure, she could put up with Allison for a few hours
knowing that with her husband in jail, she wouldn’t
have a rich-bitch high heel to stand on. A thousand
bucks an hour was about the right compensation to
put up with Allison. Then, she wouldn’t owe Jack
anything more for the money. “I’ll play along—on
one condition.”

Tom paused in the doorway. “What’s that?”

“Jack needs to sleep somewhere else tonight.”

Tom saluted as he left. “Han is solo tonight.”

At the edge of the hill, Jack buckled onto the

“Let’s make this last run a good one.” Van Buren
pierced his pole through the foot of powder that had
fallen last night. He flashed a daring smile at Jack.
“Take Bell Ridge down to Shoulder of Bell. I want to
hit a few moguls before calling it a day.”

Jack nodded and smiled to himself. It would be
that son-of-a-bitch’s last run for a long, long time. By
tonight, he’d be in federal custody.

Van Buren launched himself down the hill. The
ridge run was steep, but smooth. Jack got in a good
rhythm, shifting his weight and balance to make the
short zigzags. The snow flashed so fast across his
goggles that he couldn’t see the flakes anymore, only
a haze that the goggles tinted orange.

Van Buren angled to the right side of the slope
and stopped at a gap in the trees. A double-black
diamond sign marked the Shoulder of Bell trail.

Joining him, Jack lifted his goggles. Moguls
were hell on a snowboard, and there were trees
everywhere. Still, there was nothing like taking on a
tough hill, having every bit of consciousness focused
on navigating the valleys between the bumps. It was
the ultimate way to live in the now. There were no
distractions...like Rachel. He needed a clear mind
this evening. Maybe it was good she’d locked him out
of the room last night. This thing with her was
getting out of control just at the time he needed his
wits the most. When he had her on the bed by the
wrists, it took everything he had to walk away. If
she’d have let him in the room, there was no
guessing what would have happened. He’d have
been up all night finding new ways of putting
together the puzzle of their bodies.

Ridiculous. When had the FBI penetrated that
part of him? Puzzles? Damn.

“I’ll give you a third of the way head start,” Van
Buren said. “That board is slow on moguls. Last one
down buys the beer.”

“Deal,” Jack said as he pushed his goggles down
and lifted up on his heels.

The moguls were tough—all twists and turns.
He was halfway down when Van Buren, riffling up a
wave of powder, cut into his peripheral vision. What
the hell? Van Buren was cutting in front of him—
way too close in front of him. Jack swung around
backwards to grip the board’s toe edge into the snow
for a good stop, but he kept sliding. The board hit
something, and then went airborne. Jack held his
hands out to brace the fall. He hit, something
cracked and popped, and then he rolled over and
skidded before coming to a sitting stop. He clutched
his left arm to his chest. “Shit. I broke my wrist.”

Van Buren released his bindings, slung his skis
over his shoulder, and began to trudge up the slope.

Jack peeled off his glove. His wrist was bent like
a dinner fork. Not good.

After sticking his skis in the snow in an “X”
behind Jack, Van Buren took out his phone. “I’m
calling the ski patrol.”

“No. Give me a minute. I can make it down.”

Van Buren had the phone to his ear. “Like hell
you can. I don’t want you passing out and crashing
big time. I need you patched up and ready for

“Fine,” Jack admitted. The pain was ricocheting
between his hand and elbow.

In a couple of minutes, two men wearing red and
black jackets with white crosses on them arrived.
“We’re going to get you down to the base and an
ambulance will transport you to Aspen Valley
Hospital,” one of them said as he pulled the rescue
sled alongside Jack.

The ski patrol wrapped Jack’s left arm to his
chest, then bundled him into the sled and secured a
yellow tarp over him.

“Do you want me to call Rachel for you?” Van
Buren asked. “Allison can take her to the hospital.”

Rachel. She was skiing with Allison. “Sure.”

“What’s her number, Jack?”

Hell. He didn’t know her cell number by heart
and his phone was in the jacket pocket underneath
where they’d wrapped his busted wrist to his chest.
Plus, the tarp bound him like a mummy. Think
quickly. “I don’t know. I have it on speed-dial.”

“Don’t worry. I’ll call Allison. We’ll take care of

The ski patrol clicked back into their bindings.
Van Buren knelt beside Jack. “My people tell me
you’ve never seen Rachel Livingston outside of the
office. What else have you lied about, Jack
Davenport?” To the ski patrol, he said, “He’s ready to

They started down the hill.

“I need to make a call. It’s an emergency,” Jack
roared to the ski patrolmen. He had to contact Tom.

“At the base, dude,” one of the men yelled back.

Jack thought about shouting “FBI,” but Van
Buren could be near. Jack couldn’t see anything.
Snow covered his goggles. A pain, different from the
one pulsing in his arm, shot through him. What did
Van Buren mean when he said they’d take care of


Wow! Didn't see that coming did you? Okay, now for the question.

Question for Chapter Eight

What doesn't Jack know:

A) How to snowboard

B) Rachel's middle name

C) Rachel's cell phone number

D) Who Han Solo is

Who's Saying "I Do" Next Week?

Here's our lineup for the week of June 22. Sounds like there will be some interesting discussions. Join us and post a comment.

Monday, June 22: Marilyn Baron Fifty Something: Books from the Grave
Tuesday, June 23: Debbie Kaufman

Wednesday, June 24: J Perry Stone When Happily Ever After Doesn't End at the Altar
Thursday, June 25: Nicki Salcedo Fall in Love Again: Careers, Marriages, and Critique Groups
Friday, June 26: Guest Chef: Nicole North

Friday, June 19, 2009

Please Welcome Back Inspirational Author Missy Tippens

Two-time Maggie winner and 2006 Golden Heart finalist Missy Tippens had her dream come true on January 30, 2007, when she got The Call. Her second book for Steeple Hill Love Inspired, HIS FOREVER LOVE, is on shelves now! The next, A Forever Christmas, will be out in November.

Ahhhh…The Happy Ending
By Missy Tippens

I see that your theme this month is brides and weddings. Just like a lot of you, I’m a June bride. (Oh my gosh, I’ve got to remember our anniversary!!) And oh boy, I love weddings. They make me cry no matter who’s getting married.

And talking of weddings made me think about the fact that I’ve never shown a wedding in any of my books. I think maybe it’s time to add a good epilogue with a wedding. I know I will boo hoo through the whole thing. Maybe others would, too. So, as I work on my proposal, I’m going to consider adding it.

And speaking of epilogues, do you like having one? I seem to always want to add one. I like when I read a book and get to see the happy ending. Or rather, a little bit beyond the happy ending. I have a last one-scene chapter at the end of my November Love Inspired book, A Forever Christmas. I guess I could have called it an epilogue. But it actually takes place only a few hours after the big climax, so I just decided to do a new chapter.

In my first book, Her Unlikely Family, I have an epilogue that takes place a while later, after the couple is married. In my June book (on shelves now!),HIS FOREVER LOVE, I also have an epilogue. It takes place a week after the climax.

So I guess I’m the Epilogue Queen! But you know, something strange about me is that I don’t really like to read the same characters in the next book in a series. I don’t mind hearing a bit about how they’re doing now, but I don’t really like to read much more about them. I think I just like to end on the happy note from the previous book. I know they got their happy ending, and I like to leave it at that.

What about you? Do you like epilogues? Do you like to read about a hero and heroine in the next book in a series (where they’re secondary characters)?

Leave a comment today for a chance to win a copy of !),HIS FOREVER LOVE. And be sure to include contact information. Or you can just email me at missytippens [at] aol.com and put “Petit fours” in the subject line.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Making Memories

Funny enough, I attended a wedding this past weekend. This is funny because I haven’t been to a wedding for 3 years and before that it was something like 10 years. Suddenly, I have to come up with a blog post on weddings and viola, I have material!!!

Talk about timing…grin…

I’m glad the weekend is over because my friend was really getting stressed out over the smallest things (like when her fiancé suggested a different first song after she had already sent the request to the DJ and how her wedding cake was going to taste since it was made a week in advance). I can’t really complain or chastise her, though, because I remember doing the same type of things for mine. I remember poring over ever little detail and stressing about losing weight (heaven forbid!) and my dress not fitting right. I remember staying the night before the big day at my Maid of Honor’s house and crashing at 9 pm while she and my Bride’s Maid soaked in the hot tub. I also remember wishing I had been a LOT more vocal about wanting bubbles after some “pain-in-the-neck” wedding guest dumped a bucket of bird seed over the top of my head as we were leaving the church. Have you ever noticed how much that stuff itches? Try wearing it with a 20 pound satin dress…

But these are all memories that I can now look back on and smile without wanting to break the leg of the guy with the bucket. I can flip through the pages of my wedding album and remember each of those sweet milestones as the day progressed. The stress and frustration I endured during those weeks before “the big day” are reduced to fond blips that make the memories that much more fun to talk about now.

Of course, every wedding has to begin with that first meeting. The first time your eyes met his when you were bussing tables at the local restaurant. The first time you over-filled his dad’s coffee and then looked on in mortification as everyone jumped up to avoid the hot liquid quickly making its way to the edge of the table. Ahhhh. Memories… I really wish my husband would quit bringing this one up…

Those first impressions are hard to forget. I’ll share one from one of my manuscripts with you.

“Elizabeth? Elizabeth Andrews?”

Jessie’s stomach plummeted as the familiar voice reached her ears. Her fingers tightened involuntarily on the glass she held in her hand.

The rough southern drawl dredged up memories long ago buried. Just the thought of graduation night had the heat rising between her legs. A night of teenage indulgence that she’d tried to walk away from without looking back.

Lifting the water-filled glass to her lips; she downed the liquid. Staying in character, she scrunched her face, but couldn’t help wishing it had been a real shot of tequila. She was definitely going to need it.

Jessie! Get rid him. He’ll blow your cover.”

Her partner’s voice blared at her from the tiny speaker hidden inside her ear. Yeah right. He talks as if that would be an easy task.

Jessie signaled the bartender for a refill. The undercover cop sauntered over and pulled out the decoy bottle. With a nod of his head toward the man Jessie didn’t want to acknowledge, he said, “You’ve got company, doll.”

Jessie groaned inwardly at what she was about to do, but a year perfecting this sting was not going to be ruined because of her. Pasting a sickening sweet smile on her lips, she turned.

Holy cow! The smile wavered as she took in the Greek God standing before her. Alexander Handley had turned into one smoking hot specimen. Of its own accord, her gaze ran down the hard length of the “man” standing well over six-foot tall.

Gone was the lean lanky teenager and in his place stood the God, Atlas, himself. Jet black hair, bottle green eyes, smooth tan skin. The black t-shirt he wore molded perfectly to the hard pumped up biceps and a smooth flat stomach. Like his Greek counterpart, Alex looked like he could hold the weight of the world on those shoulders. If it weren’t for his green eyes and that sexy voice, she’d think she had the wrong guy.

Great! Take it easy Jessie. If she didn’t get her tongue back in her mouth, she’d never get rid of him. The thought of what she had to do made her stomach twist into a knot, but already she could feel several suspicious eyes looking their way.

Keeping in character, she raised an eyebrow and let her lecherous gaze wonder slowly back up his thick thighs. She titled her head to the side and with the whisky-roughened voice perfected over the past year, purred, “You lookin’ for a date, sugar?”

Fun, huh? Talk about a memorable moment. So, tell me about your first meeting with your significant other. Was it as exciting (or mortifying) as my heroine’s or mine? 10 points to anyone who can top scalding their future father-in-law…grin…

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Perfect, schmerfect!

by Carol Burnside

Have you ever watched one of those reality TV shows about brides, a Bridezilla type show? From the way those spoiled brats—ahem—women act, you’d think that the success and longevity of their marriages depend on the details of their weddings being perfect and that their lives will indeed be ruined if the ceremony isn’t elaborate enough or done exactly to their specifications. Their singular focus on the ceremony rather than their relationship and commitment to each other makes me doubt their marriages will last.

I was a typical young girl who dreamed of a church wedding, with me in a long, flowing white gown, veil and train, my faceless groom in a spiffy tux, and a heart spilling over with joy. Real life was a church wedding with all the trimmings, including a beautiful, handmade dress and veil (sans train), tuxes popular in the 70’s (‘nuf said?) and reservations in my heart as well as those of my family. None of those reservations were spoken or examined, and the marriage ended before my second anniversary. Believe me, it’s demise had nothing to do with whether or not the ceremony was perfect.

Less than a year later, after being reunited with my high school sweetheart, I stood in front of a Justice of the Peace in a long dress ordered from a catalog, my groom in an everyday suit. The JP was an older women who’d forgotten the appointment, and had been in her nightgown when we arrived at her home that evening. She excused herself then returned with her “marrying robe,” which was reminiscent of a judge’s robe or something you’d wear in a church choir.
This time around there was no family, no witnesses, no flowers, photographer or reception. None of that was as important as the swelling of love and the deep need we felt in our souls to weather the storms of life with each other. The legal ceremony was a mere formality to the overwhelming commitment I felt to my groom and he to me, yet the joy I’d dreamt of so long ago was there.

This year we celebrated our 29th anniversary.

My brother didn’t get it right the first time around either. Late in life, he met a lovely woman with whom he has a lot in common. Their marriage took place in Vegas with a live video feed for friends and family who wished to witness the event, but they didn’t need us there. Their love and commitment when they looked at each other showed clearly, even on my computer screen, several states away. He seems truly content for the first time that I can recall.

We’ve all heard of couples who got married while scuba diving or skydiving, or while enjoying their favorite sport. One couple in Texas even married via a blog, where a marriage license followed by a public declaration and verification by witnesses constitutes a wedding. Both posted their “vow” via blog posts, then friends and family commented with congratulations to their post. Are they any less married or more likely to succeed? I say it all depends on what’s in their hearts and minds.

In some parts of the world, there are still arranged marriages. Most of them seem to work. Why? I believe it’s the careful process with which the family members choose the mate and the seriousness of commitment shown by the couple.

I’ve had my say, now it’s your turn. Click on “comments” below and have your say. Was your wedding traditional or something else? Tell me about the most unique ceremony you’ve ever heard of or witnessed. And if you’ve ever encountered a Bridezilla, now’s the time to dish! Ditch the names and give details.