Wednesday, September 30, 2009

To Be Mature Like Diane Keaton

When I saw the topic for this month’s blog I thought I don’t like that one, what would I ever write about. I’m not a fan (yet) of the mature heroine in my reading material and now that I’m fifty I’m not always a fan of being mature in my everyday life either. But the topic turned out to be one of the easiest subjects for me. I thought of Diane Keaton’s movies.

I’ve become fascinated by the parts that Diane Keaton has been playing in her movies the last few years. She plays funny, sensitive, sexy, well-dressed, interesting, successful characters that are of a mature age. I like the women she plays, enough that I would enjoy having lunch with them. They are not sitting on the sideline, waiting on a man, a life, or a career. They’re out there living and making things happen for themselves.

I think Baby Boom was the movie that made me a fan. A successful woman found that loving a small human was more important than being top dog at a job. She ended up with a hunky man, too. .
In The Family Stone she was a dying mother that loved her family and had such a strong presence in their life that she left a legacy of strength.

In Because I said So she played the mother of four girls. She wanted the youngest to find true love and was going behind her daughters back to help her . The mother manages to meet her own true love along the way, and still be a mother that was not too old to learn a lesson.

In the Father of the Bride she played the mother of the bride in the first one and the mature woman having a baby in the second. I’ve done the mother of the bride thing, and with four grown children now, I’m not going to do the baby thing again, but unlike me Diane Keaton looked great doing both. There was nothing weak about her character in either movie.

She played the wife dumped in the First Wives Club but she brings herself out of a devastating experience and grows from it.

I think Something’s Gotta Give is her strongest mature role. She has the chance to be that cougar we discussed earlier in the month but as a mature woman she knows what true love really means.

Based on the number of Keaton movies, all of which I enjoyed, mature woman are on the upswing.

I’ve heard Ms. Keaton say that she is just glad to be offered such great parts at her age. I can remember when a female was over the hill in Hollywood as an actress when she turned 40. I’m glad to see that idea is changing. If mature women and characters are moving into the movies then maybe it is time for me to give the mature woman more of a chance in my reading material.

Have you read any books with really great mature women in them lately?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

10 Things I Wish I'd Written

I thought it might be fun to talk about those pieces of writing that move you beyond mere emotion to that magical land of wistful sigh and “I wish. . . .” Often my husband and I will watch a movie or share a book then look at each other and say, “I wish I could write that.” This isn’t an exact science. In fact, I’m sure when you weigh in with comments, I’ll see at least ten works that might rank above what I have here. It’s just for the fun of it, so allow me to begin and then I would love to hear some of the things you wish you’d written.

10. Straight Man. This novel from Richard Russo metes out humor and angst in equal parts. I love this quirky story about a professor who has nightmares about his wife having an affair with his best friend while navigating the murky waters of a university faculty and suffering the ill-effects of an enlarged prostate. No, really. It’s funny.

9. Lonesome Dove. I devoured all thousand plus pages in almost a day. I fell in love with the characters, especially Gus. McMurtry writes so beautifully that a review I once saw in Haversack Books says it best, “Have you ever read a thousand page book and thought it was too short?”

8. The Thursday Next Series. I love the concept of a literary detective who can jump into books and through time—in fact, I want to be one. My favorite is The Well of Lost Plots where Thursday runs into all of the characters who have been cast aside or are coming into being. I don’t always love the writing itself, but I really loved the idea and eagerly went along for the ride.

7. Clue. I adore the mystery movie, the clever endings, and all of the witty repartee and double entendres. Like The Westing Game, I can only wish I were this clever.

6. Nora Roberts’s Chesapeake Bay Series. Most of us adore Nora, but this series in particular hooked me from the get-go. These are broken heroes just begging for the right woman to help them heal, and most of us would gladly volunteer. The story of sheer genius, though, is the second one. Ethan is my favorite romance novel hero of all time. If you don’t know why, you need to read the book.

5. The Westing Game. I just re-read this young adult award winner to my son and relived the sheer delight of discovering the book as a girl. If you write any type of YA, I would highly recommend reading The Westing Game. The mystery is so clever I can’t begin to see how Raskin pieced it together. The characters are memorable and quirky, and almost all of them transform into a better self, the perfect formula for a commercial success. As with all of my picks, this one packs in the humor and the suspense.

4. The Mummy and Pirates of the Caribbean. I love moves that have adventure, humor, and romance. If there’s an element of suspense or mystery, all the better. Brendan Fraiser is a fabulous mixture of hot and adorable, an alpha hero who’s not too alpha. Pirates has double the eye candy with straight arrow Will as the man who will go to any lengths for the woman he loves and rogue Jack Sparrow, the ultimate bad boy. In The Mummy, Evie transforms from dowdy librarian to more than a match for Imothep. In the Pirates series, Elizabeth transforms from plucky governor’s daughter to skilled swordswoman and captain of her own ship. You can’t go wrong with strong heroines and hunky men in a race against supernatural forces. In a perfect world there would be a romance genre simply called “Adventure,” and I would be the queen.

3. The Princess Bride. I love this story from top to bottom. It doesn’t lag, and it takes its relationship to fairy tales with tongue firmly in cheek. I confess I thought it an exception to the adage that commercial stories require a transformation in the main character. Then I watched the movie with my kids and realized it’s really about the grandson discovering his love and respect for his grandpa, and I fell in love with the movie all over again. When the grandpa answers “as you wish” at the end--talk about your perfectly satisfying movie ending!

2. Buffy the Vampire Slayer. A teenage vampire slayer falls in love with a centuries old vampire but that’s not enough conflict for Joss Whedon. Oh, no. When she finally sleeps with said vampire, he loses his soul and becomes psychotic and heartless resulting in her having to kill him to save humanity. But, wait, killing her first true love isn’t bad enough either--just seconds before she sends him to hell, he regains his soul and becomes the man she loves once again. And that’s one of MANY storylines from Joss Whedon. He, too, is the master of quirky humor and characters who visibly grow and change over time. I could devote a whole post to his pantheon of beautifully developed characters.

1. The Harry Potter series. I know this one is going to be popular, but I have to say it. Rowling has done it all: adventure, magic, mystery, humor, and, yes, romance. While I’m reading I’m totally immersed in her wizarding world, and when I finish I sigh wistfully wishing I could write something as complex as the story of Harry Potter. Unlike all of the examples above, Rowling consistently weaves page-turner plots with beautiful prose. Parents should send her thank you letters not only for getting kids to read but also for sneaking SAT words seamlessly into stories designed for young adults. In the end it’s that beautiful blend of well-developed characters and a continuous mystery culminating in the ultimate whodunit that makes me wish I had written Harry Potter. Just like Buffy I could write a month’s worth of posts devoted to why I love Harry Potter, but I’ll spare you.

Okay, now it’s your turn. What do you wish with all of your heart you had written? Now that I’ve come to the end, I confess I have an ulterior motive. Maybe examining what you wish you had written can help you discover what you should be writing, so let’s all plop on the psychiatrist’s couch and wax poetic on our favorites for a look at who we are and who we hope to be.

Monday, September 28, 2009

What Makes a Heroine "Mature"?

by Linsey Lanier

1. complete in natural growth or development, as plant and animal forms: a mature rose bush.
2. ripe, as fruit, or fully aged, as cheese or wine.
3. fully developed in body or mind, as a person: a mature woman.

Synonyms: aged, grown, adult, ripe.
Antonyms: childish, raw, green, young

* * *
When my beta reader critiqued some of my early manuscripts, she asked me "How old is this heroine supposed to be?"
I had to think. I remember answering "twenty-six."
"She seems eighteen," she replied.
She had a point. At that time, my heroines were shallow, silly, too sweet, and all they could think about was the hero.

I had problems with supporting characters, too. "How old is the little girl supposed to be?" she asked about a a child in one of my books.
"Eight or nine," I said.
"She seems five."
Hey, maybe I should have gone for YA.

Instead, I focused on making my heroines (and secondary characters) seem more mature. I swung the other way, and my next heroine was a little too tough and bitter (she was an abused spouse).

Beta reader said "She's interesting,
but I wouldn't want to be friends with her." From contests and submissions, I got, "Can't connect with this heroine."

My conclusion? Neither of those extremes makes for a compelling heroine. In my opinion, it's not about the chronological age we assign to our heroines. It's about her inner being. The way she talks, the way she acts. Her thoughts. Her psychology.

In "The Fire in Fiction," Donald Maass asks, "What draws you to people in life? An even better question is, to what degree are you drawn to people in life? It varies, doesn't it? most people leave you indifferent, I bet. When you are pushing your loaded shopping cart across the supermarket parking lot, are you filled with love for your fellow shoppers?"

He gives this sage advice. "Whether they are public figures or just ordinary in profile, our heroes and heroines are people whose actions inspire us. We would not mind spending ten straight hours or even ten days with them."

"People whose actions inspire us." Interesting.

I'm learning. I'm working on the tough heroine mentioned above. And I think the heroine of my current project is a better blend of tough and tender, vulnerable and strong.

So my question for the day is this. How do you strive to create the perfect blend of maturity in a heroine in your books? What elements do you think make the reader connect? What makes a heroine sympathetic without being whiny?

Here are some characteristics I've collected from our previous discussions this month about the mature heroine:
  • Zest for life.
  • Feeling like the world holds many more possibilities.
  • Walk that tightrope between a dour reality and a pollyanna fantasy.
  • From a love standpoint, I think you can fall in love at any age. I just don't think you do so with as much reckless abandonment at 40 or later.
  • They know who they are, faults and virtues, therefore know what they want, know what boundaries to set with others, know what they will and will not do.
  • They are significantly more confident than their younger selves, thus are significantly sexier.
  • The heroine who knows what she'll put up with in a man and what she won't is infinitely more interesting, don't you agree? She's a force to be reckoned with and makes a better match for a strong hero, IMO.
Whether she's struggling with the problems of adolescence or battling hot flashes,I believe it's qualities like these that make a heroine compelling. And if we work hard and get it right, we just might create a heroine who is timeless.

What would you add to this list?

Photos from MorgueFile

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Getting Older Can Be Spooky...

Another month has flown by. PF&HT thanks all our readers who have grown a few weeks older with us this month. October brings a new theme.

Monday, September 28: Linsey LanierWhat Makes a Heroine "Mature"?
Tuesday, September 29: Sally Kilpatrick
Wednesday, September 30: Susan MayTo Be Mature Like Diane Keaton
Thursday, October 1: PF&HT Blogging from M&M –
Friday, October 2: PF&HT Blogging from M&M

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Saturday Review

Goddess Of The Hunt

By Tessa Dare

ISBN-13: 978-0345506863
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Historical Romance

Ever the bold adventuress, Lucy Waltham has decided to go hunting for a husband. But first she needs some target practice. So she turns to her brother’s best friend, Jeremy Trescott, the Earl of Kendall, to hone her seductive wiles on him before setting her sights on another man. But her practice kisses spark a smoldering passion—one that could send all her plans up in smoke.

Jeremy has an influential title, a vast fortune, and a painful past, full of long-buried secrets. He keeps a safe distance from his own emotions, but to distract Lucy from her reckless scheming, he must give his passions free rein. Their sensual battle of wills is as maddening as it is delicious, but the longer he succeeds in managing the headstrong temptress, the closer Jeremy comes to losing control. When scandal breaks, can he bring himself to abandon Lucy to her ruin? Or will he risk his heart, and claim her for his own?

I discovered Tessa Dare at the RWA National conference this past summer. She’s very friendly, and very talented. Let me tell you, this is one captivating read. Be sure to have plenty of time set aside because you won’t be able to put this book down. It was fresh and fun. The heroine, Lucy Waltham will hook you immediately, much like she hooks poor Jeremy Trescott. I’m currently reading the sequel, Surrender Of A Siren, and planning to go out and buy the third in this trilogy, A Lady Of Persuasion, first thing next week when it debuts. Do yourself a favor…get to the bookstore!

Reviewed by Darcy Crowder

Rating: 5 Petit Fours and 3 Hot Tamales

Friday, September 25, 2009

A Triple Welcome to Our Guests!

Interviewed by Carol Burnside

Today we have not one, not two, but THREE guests with us whose latest books will be released in four days (Sept. 29th)! Please help me welcome authors Jenna Ives, Natasha Moore and Skylar Kade.

Jenna Ives lives in Southern California, and has the typical problem that affects a lot of modern authors – multiple personality disorder. She writes for several publishers under a variety of names, but mostly the reason is to keep her poor sainted mother (who used to read Barbara Cartland and Georgette Heyer) from having a heart attack over how sexy modern romances have become!

Natasha Moore fell in love with the written word as soon as she could read and began writing her own stores while still in grade school. Currently, she lives in western New York State with her very supportive husband – her real life hero who is happy to tell everyone that he's her inspiration. They travel in their RV whenever possible – the great thing about writing being she can take it anywhere.

Skylar Kade, self-avowed hedonist and princess extraordinaire, started her writing career after throwing aside yet another erotica she could not bring herself to finish. She resides in sunny southern California, alternately cursing the polluted air and adoring the often-perfect weather while she dreams up her next kinky adventure.

CB: Welcome, Ladies, and thanks for being our guests today on Petit Fours & Hot Tamales! Congratulations to you all on your upcoming releases.
JI: Thanks, Carol, we're thrilled to be here!
NM: Thanks, Carol. We’re looking forward to spending the day with you and your readers.

CB: Your covers are eye-catching, and it's obvious from them and reading the blurbs on your websites that there's a bondage theme here. Can you tell us about each of your stories? (Link title to online excerpt.)

JI: The Initiation of Isabella is a classic case of mistaken identity that lets my heroine experience some of her wildest sexual fantasies. Here's the premise: Isabella Tallin is trying to join the Sigma Iomega Nu sorority, and thinks she's waiting at the corner of Elm and Main for her mysterious initiation rite to begin. But she can't believe it involves a gorgeous guy in a hot red convertible and being bound, gagged, and blindfolded…or does it? In the end, Isabella finds herself happily initiated by a far different organization than she expected.

NM: Aren’t the covers absolutely gorgeous? In Bound by Design, Jenn spends her days crafting custom-designed slave jewelry, but she’s vowed to never wear a collar again. When she meets Scott, an architect with a dominant side, she’s forced to confront her submissive needs. They are both healing from past mistakes and must learn how to design a new relationship with the help of ropes and chains and a whole lot of trust.

SK: In my novella, (Maison Domine) the heroine, Lara Brunner, is overworked and needs a vacation from reality. After being coerced by her best friend, she finds herself discovering the world of submission at a BDSM retreat—along with her sexy trainer.

CB: They all sound great. I look forward to reading them. What can we expect from each of you in the future?

JI: This is my first Samhain release, but hopefully not my last!

NM: My next release will be November 1st from Red Sage. The Better to Eat You With is a fun little twisted take on the little Red Riding Hood story, featuring Grandma and the big bad Wolfe.

SK: I have a few projects in the works, as my muses keep waking me up with new ideas, but you can be sure that all will push the limits of eroticism. What the muse demands, I must give her (lol).

CB: Yay! Something to look forward to. :) Now that you're published authors, what advice would you give to those of us still working toward that goal?

JI: Just keep writing! Your craft improves with each story you write, so keep writing until you sell :) That's the only secret there is.

NM: Jenna’s right. Write until you finish a story. Then start another one. Find joy in the writing because that’s the only thing you have any control over.

SK: Decide what your writing goal is, and determine the most realistic way to reach it. Yes, all of us may like to be the next Nora Roberts, but setting smaller, more manageable goals—like being e-published—is not only fulfilling, but is progress in the right direction.

CB: I must say, you all have lovely websites. Did you have the same web presence before you sold or did you develop them afterward? If before, do you think it helped with your initial sale?

JI: Personally, I did not create a website until I sold. I really don't think it's necessary, though other writers might disagree. Having a website might give you a professional presence on the internet, but ultimately it's your work the editor/publisher buys, not your website presence.

NM: I did have my website up before I sold but I doubt it had any bearing on my first sale. However, with all the new things to think about after getting that first contract, it was nice to not have to worry about getting the website up and going too.

SK: I didn’t even have a web site until the sale of my first manuscript. Until I got The E-mail, being published seemed this tenuous dream, and doing promotion was not something for which I was ready.

CB: In my writing, I often find bits of my likes, dislikes and experiences creeping into the heroes and heroines I craft, sometimes without me realizing it. Has that ever happened to you?

JI: Absolutely! What's that advice we always hear -- write what you know! I've even given some of my heroines my personal habits, like biting my lip when I'm nervous :)

NM: Definitely. In fact, there’s a few scenes I’ve written that have been taken from real life (although embellished a bit) Those were done on purpose, other times I have to watch that I don’t have my heroine do what I would do in a certain situation, but remember to have her do what she would do – if that makes sense.

SK: Absolutely! I always find my less likable male characters picking up the annoying habits of ex-boyfriends. I think it is my subconscious way of subtle revenge.

CB: LOL, Skylar! I never thought about that aspect of it. Are any of you currently running any promotional contests that you'd like to tell our readers about?

JI, NM, SK: In keeping with the bondage theme, and to celebrate the release of our awesome Binding Ties anthology, we knew we couldn’t offer just any old prize for our readers! So anyone who joins our message-only Yahoo group, Binding Ties, will be eligible to win their very own bondage kit, complete with blindfold and wrist and ankle cuffs! Entrants will also receive occasional newsletters from us, to let you know what other sexy stories we have coming up! Just enter by sending an e-mail to: The contest will be open until October 29th.

CB: That's definitely not your average contest prize. Kudos for thinking out of the box, ladies, and thanks for answering my questions. I'm going to release you to our readers now and see what questions and comments they have for you.

JI, NM, SK: Thanks for having us. We look forward to talking with your readers.

To buy the Binding Ties novellas, go to Samhain Publishing on or after Tuesday, Sept. 29th.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Beauty of Crows' Feet

I've loved reading September's posts so far. Discussing the mature heroine in cyberspace is ignighting a fire storm of questions in my mind, making me reflect on my own age and my own life as a whole. One question that comes to mind is this...

Have I made an impact on someone, anyone, in the 38 years I've been on earth?

Now, lets set this question aside for a moment and discuss the topic at hand.

I'm sure we've all heard women complain, "After 40, it's all down hill."

Why do we say this? What within our DNA makes us believe such rubbish?

And then I thought about it. It's not DNA at all. Our genetic makeup isn't responsible for this pessemistic notion.

It's the media.

American women have been conditioned, from birth it seems, to believe that we have only a short window of time in which to enjoy the benefits of beauty and desirability. Our teens and twenties were the "golden age". Our skin was elastic, our breasts were perky and coarse black hair grew on our gams, not our jawlines. (WTF's up with that? For about three years now a few persistant whiskers have been sprouting from my chin with the growth rate of invasive Kudzu. If the hair on my scalp grew with as much zeal I'd be tripping over my tresses in between each monthly trim.)

I digress...Fashion magazines, In my opinion, are one of the major culprits contributing to the incorrect notion that the mature heroine is lacking. Their glossy, high concept pages have little room for wrinkles or saddle bags, size 12 frocks or greying hair. Instead, the publications are populated by long-limbed, firm skinned, baby-faced goddesses swimming in size zero garments and contorted into couture poses coreographed to make them appear even thinner.

Like I admitted earlier, I'm 38 and to be completely honest, I'm one of the thousands of mature women who gobble up these magazines like a 4 p.m. Oreo binge.

Now, I'm using the fashion industry as an example, because it happens to be what I'm into. I subscribe to three different fashion magazines, all of which appear to embrace feminine youth as their mantra.

So why do I support this view?

I don't internally. I'd like to think I'm better than that, but to be honest, I suppose I've been captivated by these images - lithe figures, shining coifs and designer fabrics modeled by gamine youth. And that's exactly what a fashion editor wants - her readers to be dazzled by youth and beauty.

In much the same way, romance editors okay book covers featuring a teen or 20 something model. Her porcelain skin unwrinkled and blessedly free of stretchmarks. Her scantily clad, D-cup figure draping a muscled hero. Her full lips parted, hinting at a moan.

I believe there are romance readers who would reject the mature heroine, for her younger, firmer counterpart if she were depicted this way. And editors know this. When was the last time you saw someone that looks like Martha Stewart being carried across the heather in the arms of a kilted hero on a romance book cover? Hmmm?

Maybe its time an attractive, mature woman (like Martha Stewart for example) was given a shot at posing for the next historical cover - I see her at the bow of a pirate ship, skirts whipping in the wind revealing sexy dimpled thighs while her crows feet are illuminated in the moonlight.

Hey, I think that cover would be cool!

Besides, crows feet are simply a testement to happiness and laughter and dimpled thighs are a testament to...well, I can't think of a literary way of accepting celulite. Feel free to fill in the blank for me.

Basically what I'm saying is we shouldn't reject the prospect of aging. Instead, we should embrace the prospect of a brilliant future.

We as readers and writers can affect the future perception of the mature heroine by the actions we take today. Continue to read with the fashion industry's preferences in mind and thousands of deeply satisfying novels portraying the lives and loves of spectacularly written mature heroines might never see print. Continue to follow the trends and write solely with the youthful heroine in mind, and a potential audience of devoted fans might never be realized.

We have to change things in the industry. Those of us who have yet to pick up a book with an older female protagonist should go out and give one a try.

And those of us who pour their heart and soul into a novel, who stay up late typing long after the kids have been tucked into bed, who find themselves behind at work because they used company time to translate thought into plot, who turn dreams into stories on their Alphasmarts in precious seconds at stoplights, might benefit from exchanging a 20 something main character for a 30 or 40 something heroine.

You never know unless you try.

And that sentence brings me to the question I asked myself in the beginning of this long post.

Have I made an impact on someone, anyone, in 38 years?

I hope so. I have a 13 yr old daughter and though she sees my fashion magazines and thumbs through them periodically, I've taught her that beauty is only skin deep.

Our intelligence, respect for others, actions and beliefs make us who we are. In the end, youthful appearance is fleeting, but the wisdom of maturity is something we can hold onto for a lifetime.

So even though I haven't discovered a cure for cancer, or designed a fashionable stilleto that's actually comfortable, I have made an impact on someone I love. And that's pretty cool.

Baby steps people, baby steps. We need to make an impact a little at a time and if writing about a mature heroine or reading about one is your first step, then I salute you.

Have you made an impact on someone, anyone? Have you written outside the box?

Let me know. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Have a wonderful, productive day...and smile, remember, crows feet are merely a testament to a happy life.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Ecstasy of the Mature Heroine

by Maxine Davis

My grandparents were in their late 70’s when they had their last formal picture made (and probably the only one in a studio). Having farmed all their life and being parents of 12, they had the gray hair, overalls, and cotton dresses that you would imagine. Well this last picture showed them smiling and looking truly happy. I asked Grandmother one time why they had such big smiles and looked so happy. Expecting to hear the wisdom of the ages, she got a far-away look, smiled and said, “T.W. pinched my butt.”

I have never forgotten that. Once when my hub and I were at a friend’s house during Christmas, the wife said, “Let’s get a picture of the two of you.” He had not been in the best of moods, so when she said, “Smile,” I pinched his butt. What we got was a picture of me with a broad grin on my face and him jumping with a startled look on his face; if the flash had been a moment later, it would have captured two people having a big laugh. We still laugh and get a warm feeling about that picture.

See there. There is life after 30, 40, 50, 60, 70 – forever if you let it happen! You only have to be young-at-heart to find love, give love and have love. No one is ever too old to want love. “I don’t wish to be everything to everyone, but I would like to be something to someone.” Javan quotes (Iranian born American Inventor)

This is the month we talk about older heroines. If we live long enough, one day we all will be one. Yes, I do believe every woman is a heroine to someone – whether they know it or not. There is a lot to be said for experience and age.

Hopefully, one day soon, there will be romance novels that tout this wisdom. Sure, I love a young fierce heroine and a ‘he-could-be-a-Greek-God’ hero. It brings back memories, or at least an older ‘girl’ can live vicariously through them. But I also love reading that an older woman can be filled with lust, fall madly in love, take a wild chance and find true love, and a hero that sees all of that in her.

Come on publishers, wake up. You have books about young doctors, and young fierce women. Experience counts, it just does not mean you can’t act silly some time or even find a rotten love--temporarily, but experience also means that you can find that wonderful hero that will appreciate and, yes, prefer the experienced heroine and will ‘go to the ends of the earth’ for her. I can personally vouch for that.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Your Story

We’ve been discussing the mature heroine this month, and quite frankly, I’m not sure what’s left to be said. We all agree that life doesn’t end at 30. That notion of the brimming eagerness of anything-is-possible youth aside, I firmly believe that most of us our just hitting our stride in our 30’s and 40’s. We’ve finally grown into our shoes, so to speak. We’ve had the chance to make some mistakes, learn from them and move on, smarter and better armed to weather the next storm life may throw at us. (One reason I think so many romance writers are “slightly older” when they begin their writing careers – unless you’re one of those lucky gifted authors born with pen in hand, it usually takes some life experience to produce a strong novel.)

Passion in all it’s wonderful forms; romance, careers, motherhood, a deeper understanding of ourselves and what we want as women, is always ebbing and flowing into and out of our lives. That’s the beauty of it, as long as we embrace life with hopefulness and energy, the chance for passion is just around the corner. Even romance, no matter how old we get, can find us.

I’m reminded of my husband’s grandmother recently turned 90. She was widowed early in life, in her mid 40’s. For decades she lived as a single, mature woman pursuing her own interests. She stayed very active and very involved with her family. And with one notable exception somewhere in her mid 60’s, she didn’t even date. Then, in her eighties, when other women would be sitting quietly on the sidelines, she had a timely reunion with a boy she’d been sweet on in high school and . . . bam! She was in love – for the second time. They’ve been happily married now for several years.

I’m not saying we all want to read about a heroine who remarries in her 80’s. But it’s important to know that love can find us wherever we are on our journey. While these women may not be the focal character in our novels, they should be represented, when possible, for this very reason. I’m sure most of you can think of some family member in a similar situation.

Someone mentioned in an earlier post this month that it doesn’t matter if the heroine is in her 30’s, even 40’s, if the story is written well, capturing our imaginations, entertaining us with twists and turns. I couldn’t agree more. And I think the industry is open to that when we consider books and movies like two of my all time favorites; Under the Tuscan Sun (which was a book first) and Something’s Gotta Give.

My point is that we are all heroines of our own lives. Think about it. This life is your one chance to tell the most important story you'll ever write. Your story. Write it well.

What about you? What are you passionate about? Are you living like the heroine in your own story?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Will the Real Heroine Please Stand Up?

A few weeks ago, my daughter got married—at the ripe old age of twenty-nine. Not so long ago in history, she would probably have remained a spinster if she hadn’t found herself a husband before the age of say, twenty-three. Unless of course, she got desperate and married some old geez in his forties with a passel of children in need of a female influence in their lives.

If my daughter were a character in a novel, she’d be described as a mature heroine. A Cinderella who, for one reason or another, didn’t find her Prince Charming until she had a few (or more than a few) years of life experience behind her.

As I sat, watching the ceremony, I couldn’t help but think of all the women surrounding me witnessing Summer’s marriage. Each of them has their own story, and each, in her own way is a Mature Heroine, too.

I consider myself blessed to look quite a few years younger than my birth certificate states. I found and married my Prince Charming right out of high school, and was still in my teens (barely!) when Summer was born. Thanks to good DNA, I don’t look like the mother of a woman pushing thirty. I was a youthful mother of the bride, but plenty mature as far as age and experience go.

Contrastingly, the mother of the groom is, in the eyes of the world at large, a “senior citizen”. She’s had her AARP card for a while, her hair is silver and evidence of decades of smiles wreath her eyes. She chose a career over motherhood until her mid-thirties. The very definition of the modern mature heroine.

Behind me, sat my Aunt Sally. I want to be her when I grow up. Sally is eighty-five and one of the most energetic, loving, giving women I know. She’s got snow white hair, and more than a few wrinkles. But she walks as upright as a Cherokee brave, her mind is as sharp as a Ginsu knife and until just this past year, she drove herself all over the country in her little Honda visiting friends and family. She’s survived being an unwed pregnant teen in an era when nice girls didn’t, as well as two devastating divorces. She didn’t find the love of her life until she was forty. Her son was grown and she’d already been a full-time working mom for two decades. Henry was twenty-odd years older and they were blissfully happy until, tragically, he was murdered by the crazy old man next door.

On the other side of the aisle, sat the groom’s grandmother. She’s a mere two years older than Sally, but is a fragile flower of a woman. She married the love of her life barely out of her teens and raised four daughters to responsible adulthood during the height of the flower child movement. Her back is bowed by osteoporosis, she uses the assistance of a walker to get around, and about three years ago, moved into a senior citizen village where her meals are prepared for her, she can play bridge in the comfort of the community room and emergency care is available twenty-four hours a day. She lost her Prince Charming a few years back and he took her heart to heaven with him.

After writing this, I’ve realized that the term mature heroine is quite elastic. Mature can mean chronologically old, yet young at heart or quite the opposite. And just because a woman passes a certain birthday, that doesn’t necessarily mean she’s ceased being a vital woman with plenty of love and passion left in her.

As a writer and a reader, I’ve been drawn to and intrigued by the mature heroine. When I see a manuscript (and not just mine!) get a comment such as “nobody wants to read about a forty-year-old woman who falls in love for the first time”. Or “A woman having her first child over the age of forty is unrealistic”, I shake my head, confused. Are all these women around me living unrealistic lives? Or is the critiquer the one who is unrealistic?

Who are the mature heroines in your life? Would you consider yourself to be a mature heroine?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Aging with Grace for Another Week

Here's who'll be blogging next week. Hope everyone can join us!

Monday, September 21: Cynthia Hamer-Omey
Tuesday, September 22: Darcy Crowder
Wednesday, September 23: Maxine Davis - The Ecstasy of the Mature Heroine
Thursday, September 24: Tamara DeStefano
Friday, September 25 Guest Chef: Natasha Moore, Jenna Ives and Skylar Kade

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Winner for Jennifer Haymore's A HINT OF WICKED

After a short conversation with, we have a winner.

Congratulations to JOYE

Joye, email me @ and we'll get you hooked up with your book!

Thanks to Jennifer Haymore for taking the time out of her busy schedule to blog with us. Visit Jennifer at

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Big Petit Fours and Hot Tamales Welcome to Jennifer Haymore

JENNIFER HAYMORE's first historical romance, A HINT OF WICKED, was released in June, 2009. Jennifer grew up on the Big Island of Hawaii, where she surfed, learned how to fly airplanes, raced bicycles, and developed a love for sailing. Jennifer holds a bachelor's degree in Computer Science from UC Berkeley and a master's degree in Education from UCLA. Before she became a full-time writer she held various jobs from bookselling to teaching inner-city children to playing bit roles in soap operas.

You can find Jennifer in Southern California trying to talk her husband into yet another trip to England, helping her three children with homework while brainstorming a new five-minute dinner menu, or crouched in a corner of the local bookstore writing her next novel.

Jennifer, tell us about your latest release, A HINT OF WICKED.

A HINT OF WICKED is about a woman who spends seven years grieving for her husband lost at Waterloo to finally remarry. Less than a year into her new marriage, her first husband returns. He wants his life back and he wants her back, and he’s not taking “no” or even “maybe” as an answer! The heroine’s husband, of course, is determined that he and the heroine are best for each other, and he’s not about to give her up. The heroine doesn’t know what to do—she is completely torn between her first love and her new love.

Your stories are often linked. What is it about linked stories that appeals to you and how do you manage the continuity between stories?

As a reader, I love “checking in” with characters I’ve grown to love in previous stories. And as a writer, I love exploring how the characters from previous books end up. I’ve grown to know the characters from A HINT OF WICKED so well that the subsequent books (A TOUCH OF SCANDAL and A SEASON OF SEDUCTION) just seemed to flow from it. I think together the three books form the complete story of this family.

So what’s next after A HINT OF WICKED?

My next book, A TOUCH OF SCANDAL, starts a few months after A HINT OF WICKED ends. It’s the story of the “losing” hero from A HINT OF WICKED and how he ultimately finds his true love after the heartbreak he suffered in the first book.

I’m sure you get asked this a lot, but how did you go from your eclectic and rather technical background to writing historical romances?

I’ve always been sort of a Jack of all trades, but I’ve always loved to write!

Any favorite sites or books for research that you can share with us?

Google books, all the way. :)

Do you have any writing rituals?

In order to get in the writing “zone,” I need extended periods of uninterrupted time. I do my best writing locked away in my office or camped out in the corner of a local bookstore with my iPhone on shuffle mode (although when “Whistle While You Work” comes on, I usually fast-forward!). I typically need a cup of coffee to keep me going, and I try to turn off my laptop’s wireless modem so I’m not distracted by the internet.

What advice do you want to convey to unpublished authors?

Never stop reading, and never stop writing. Don’t let rejection stifle you—rejection is a milestone, not a failure!

Tell us a little about your alter ego, Dawn Halliday. We’d love to know why you use the two names and how you manage both.

I’ve been writing under Dawn Halliday for almost three years. Dawn writes “racier” stories and also lets me explore other time periods and genres. Under Dawn Halliday, I’m currently writing Scottish romances (my first Scottish erotic romance, HIGHLAND OBSESSION was released in August). Dawn has also written contemporary, medieval, and contemporary romances as well.

You’ve had one of my favorite writers’ contests of all time at your Dawn Halliday website. Tell us about the contest you ran, how you came up with the idea, and how successful you feel it was promotionally.

My wonderful agent, Barbara Poelle of the Irene Goodman Agency, came up with the prize and the tagline idea. She offered to review the manuscript of the winner of a contest that I designed. My husband and I developed the mechanics behind the contest. We went back and forth and decided, to get people coming back, there would be a few phases to the contest. First, the entrants would post a tagline, then the title of their book. These would be narrowed down into a group of semi-finalists who posted the first five lines of their books. The final round consisted of the finalists posting their second five lines.

It was enormously fun! And my website had tons of hits during the contest period. That was my goal—I really wanted people to visit the site and become familiar with Dawn’s name.

I’ve decided to repeat the contest in February, 2010 to help promote A TOUCH OF SCANDAL. It will have a similar prize, but I’ll probably tweak the mechanics a bit… So stay tuned over at my site!:)

Jennifer is generously providing a copy of A HINT OF WICKED to one lucky commenter today. Please leave your question or comment for Jennifer today.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Dreaming of Time

At a workshop a couple of weeks ago, a woman admitted that she can’t find the time to write because she has a full-time job. This didn’t sit well with me, and I know there are others out there who suffer from the same excuse. Most writers do not have the time to sit down for a few solid hours at the computer to write their stories. They have to fit in the words where they can.

Now I understand as mature women we all have responsibilities that cannot be ignored. I get that. There are times in a person’s life when you just can't write. Those situations include the birth of a baby, family crisis, environmental crisis, etc. However, given the fact this woman was at the workshop led me to believe that her job was the main reason she cannot not write.

Here are some examples of writers who make the time to write:

  • One friend in particular works between 50-60 hours a week, cares for her two small children, spends quality time with her husband and has recently acquired two puppies that require a lot of attention. Still, she finds a few hours a week to write.
  • Another friend works a regular full time job, cares for two small children, takes two classes every semester while she is in graduate school and finds a few hours a week to write.
    The ladies are inspirations to me and many others.

But where does this time come from?

  • Take 15 minutes out of your lunch hour
  • Take 15 minutes in the morning before work starts
  • Use your 15 minute break to write
  • Get up a little bit earlier
  • Go to bed a little bit later
  • Write while you wait for your child to finish soccer practice
  • Write while you are waiting for an appointment (doctor's office, etc.)
  • Give up television and video games
  • Forget about FaceBook, Twitter and surfing the Web.
  • Limit your e-mail time

Carving out 15 minutes a day can add up to a lot words, and lots of words add up to lots of pages.

Do not forget about using technology to help you work more efficiently. The AlphaSmart is a popular choice followed closely by NetBook.

If you can’t afford to acquire technical gadgets, write in a notebook and transcribe it later. The idea is to get words on a page. Without those words, you have nothing. A friend uses this method successfully, and she swears she is more creative.

In short, stop dreaming about finding the time to write and make it happen. Everyone deserves the chance to go after their dreams. Do not let life keep you on the sidelines while you watch everyone else pursuing their passion.

So my friends, please share your ideas about where to find time to write. Also, what tools/methods help you be a more efficient writer?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


By: Debbie Kaufman and Sandra Elzie

This month’s theme is about mature heroines so we thought we’d join our efforts and give you insight from two “seasoned” travelers who recently had their own little adventure: one filled with conflict, romance, and a story line that typifies us older heroines. We now feel uniquely qualified to write one of those Traveling as Couples for Dummies guides. (Wait; did we get those nouns reversed?)

Every good book needs a blurb. Ours would read something like this: What do you get when you put two happily married couples on a road trip to the mountains to locate obscure properties WHEN the driver is directionally impaired and the front seat passenger’s main bit of dialogue to the ladies in the back seat is “Where’s your sense of adventure?”

Now, we should pause here to note our First Bit of Sage Advice: When traveling through life…and we’ve both been at it for just a couple more years than we like to think about, our advice is to not sweat the small stuff. Let’s face it, if it’s not going to be important five years from now, let alone one year or even next week, why risk a frown crease in your forehead? After all, how can any woman resist the fun of wilderness travel, the prospect of needing a tow off a remote road or the possibility of careening off the edge of a road (and we use the term loosely), into a creek?

Frankly, in this story the heroines forgot their own advice a time or two. Fortunately most of the new wrinkles will come in the form of laugh lines.

Second Piece of Sage Advice: When traveling through life in a car with your husband, accept in advance that certain rules apply that aren’t needed when a woman travels alone or in groups of other women. For example:

• Common sense overrules GPS. If Tom-Tom, Garman or whatever you call your tour guide tells you to turn right and all you see is a dirt road through the trees, common sense tells you that’s not the way to Highway 75…unless husband # 1 is driving and went to MIT and is just sure the technology knows what it’s talking about. And let’s not forget husband #2 with a map in hand nodding in agreement with husband #1 and the GPS. Besides how can mere wives compete with Yoda’s voice insisting in 300 yards, right you must turn?

• Directions? We don’t need no damn directions.
Face it, men don’t need directions. Never mind heroine #1 in the back seat saying if you just go back TO THE MAIN ROAD and take the next turn… Oh, well, ‘nuff said on that subject. Well, except for the fact that going back to the MAIN ROAD and taking the next turn was exactly what finally got us to the property. But really, 'nuff said.

• 4 Wheel-Drive is not a super power. Both heroines of this story pointed that out more than once on the occasion of crossing a creek with two boards for a bridge.

• Roads that drop off sharply to what shrieking heroines perceive as a perilous descent should be navigated carefully, if at all.

• Driving through remote wilderness areas is best done when the gas tank isn’t sitting on empty. In his defense, Husband # 1 stated, “We’re not out of gas. The red light only comes on when we’re on steep hills." Uh, when weren’t we?

• Bathroom breaks are an essential element of every trip. It seems only men have the bladder of a camel and only men get an ego boost when using the great outdoors. After all, if God has the animals using the forest as their very own personal potty, it must be okay for us…right? Nuff said on this subject also.

• Smart husbands never disregard their wives directional advice especially when the wives were right EVERY time.

Final Piece of Sage Advice: When two writers and their husbands travel together, smart husbands should never abuse the power of the front seat on road trips, ESPECIALLY not when the wives have a blog… Husband # 1, realizing this, now says he’s not browbeaten, but blogbeaten.

In conclusion, let us assure you that no husbands were harmed on this trip, regardless of the few stray thoughts of mayhem that threatened to sneak out and grab them from the back seat. As mature travelers, let us assure you that when the sun goes down and everyone can laugh, it was a good day.

Now it’s your turn to share with the world about one of your memorable road trips.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Reading the mature heroine

I am a mature woman, in years if not in actions. Perhaps like our last Guest Blogger, Tawny Weber, I just don't want to think of myself as aging. ;) Though I should identify heavily with them, I have little desire to write about the mature heroine. When sitting down to type this post, I examined the why of that and decided I'd either have to make her life so much more exciting than mine, I'd be hugely jealous or I'd write her too realistic and no one would want to read about her.

I like to read about mature heroines, though. Really, I do. I guess I'd like to think that, if I found myself single again, I'd have the option to find love and romance again.

The mature heroines I enjoy seem to have certain traits I admire. They have the guts to modify their circumstances or their habits, to step out of their comfort zone and embrace change in order to give their lives more meaning. For instance, if an empty-nester has been "coasting' through life as a wife and mother, wrapped up in the minutiae of day-to-day survival so much that she's lost sight of who she once was, she takes steps to rediscover the things that once made her excited about life.

Do you like reading about mature heroines? If so, what makes her interesting to you? What traits do you find you admire in them or expect to see them adopt and make their own during the course of the book?

Monday, September 14, 2009

And here's to you, Mrs. Robinson...

Ana Aragón

A classic cougar in American cinema was Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate, which begins as Benjamin Braddock returns from college somewhere on the east coast to a party in his honor at his parents’ home in Pasadena, California. Benjamin is a lost soul and has no idea what he wants to do with his life. Mrs. Robinson, his mother’s best friend, asks him to take her home. Offering him a drink, the still-attractive Mrs. Robinson opens up her life to him, exposes herself and offers to have an affair with him. He flees her home, only to return a few days later. Who can forget the hotel room scene when Mrs. Robinson unrolls a stocking down an impossibly long, shapely leg as Benjamin watches in shock? As he and Mrs. Robinson begin a torrid summer affair, his parents and Mr. Robinson hound him to date Elaine Robinson, which he finally does.

I was much too young to see the movie when it first came out in 1967, but have seen it several times since, beginning with my film criticism class in college. The male professor’s discussion began with a question on the inappropriateness of Mrs. Robinson seducing the young Benjamin. At the time, I can remember being quite disgusted and landing on the side of those who denounced the idea of May-December romances, even while I sneaked a peek at historical romance novels with explicit sex scenes (for the times) pairing older men with young girls barely out of their teens.

Benjamin ruins everything by falling in love with the younger Elaine, enraging Mrs. Robinson. He’s threatened by her father and Elaine is sent away. When Benjamin learns she is marrying someone else, he embarks on a desperate drive to stop the wedding. Arriving at the church, Benjamin frantically begins banging on an upper window and screaming “Elaine” as the groom bends down to kiss her. The movie ends with Elaine and Benjamin catching a bus, their smiles turning to enigmatic, uncomfortable gazes as they realize their predicament.

The Graduate is an American classic film, selected for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 1996 as a “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” film. So why is it that, culturally, we have no problem with a May-December romance between an older man and younger woman, and yet cringe at the thought of an older woman with a younger man?

The list of May-December movies with an older man almost doubles that of movies with an older woman in the romance, and I would venture to say that, like The Graduate, the chances of the cougar romance ending in a happily ever after or HEA is even less likely. So if it isn’t a cultural “taboo” then why the discrepancy?

Do you know of a movie or book where the feminine version of the May-December romance has an HEA ending? Please share your thoughts!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Aren't We Mature?

Here's who's up next week as we continue to explore maturity... in our own way, LOL.

Monday, September 14: Ana Aragon – And Here's To You, Mrs. Robinson

Tuesday, September 15: Carol Burnside – Reading the Mature Heroine

Wednesday, September 16: Sandra Elzie & Debbie Kaufman - The Road Trip

Thursday, September 17: Tammy Schubert – TBA

Friday, September 18 Guest Chef: Jennifer Haymore

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Winner for Tawny Weber's Blog Post.

Congratulations to the winner from Tawny Weber's blog post on Friday:

babs m

Barbara, please send me your email address and we'll get your prize to you.

The Saturday Review

Julie and Julia
Starring: Meryl Streep and Amy Adams
Movie PG-13

Julie is young, married, with a go nowhere job and living in a small depressing apartment. Her husband encourages her to do something for herself. She decides to cook all the recipes in Julia Child’s The Art of French Cooking throughout a year and blog about the experience. While Julie cooks we see flashes of Julia Child’s life and how she became the cook that America loved. As the movie progresses the parallels between the two woman’s lives becomes evident. Julie learns things about herself, her life, and to appreciate her husband as the year goes by.
This is a warm, memorable movie that I enjoyed very much. I grew up watching Julia Child on TV and found learning more about her life very interesting. She was a great example of being successful at starting a career later in life.

4 Petit Fours and 1 Hot Pepper
Reviewed by Susan May

Virgin Mistress, Scandalous Love Child
By Jennie Lucas

Harlequin Presents
Contemporary Series

Hot- hunky- dark- billionaire- Brazilian Diogo Serrador takes his sweet, small town secretary Ellie to Rio during Carnival. They spent one passionate night together. Months later, Ellie discovers she is pregnant, even though Diogo had assured her he couldn’t have children. No one else will be his baby’s daddy. He kidnaps Ellie from her wedding to another man, and whisks her off to Rio. Diogo woos her into a marriage of their own. Ellie discovers Diogo has another child and insists the child live with them, creating a family. When Ellie is kidnapped by the man she was going to marrying, Diogo saves her, declaring his love.

If you like demanding, hot tropical men that live at the edge of danger, and the excitement of Rio, you will like this book. A nice fast read, with tingly moments.

3 Petit Fours and 3 Hot Tamales
Reviewed by Susan May

Friday, September 11, 2009

Petit Fours and Hot Tamales Welcomes Blaze Author, Tawny Weber

Maturity? Who, Me?

I peeked at the blog before I wrote my guest post and had to giggle – right there above my picture was the word mature. Rarely a word associated with me, to be honest. At least, not in my own mind. And probably not in the minds of most people who know me LOL.

Of course, I did realize before I’d finished my giggle that the maturity refers to age. But again, my first thought was: “Ack, am I getting old already?” Quickly followed by: “Oh no, I don’t want to grow up.” Which I think plays in to my love of being a writer. Get this, I have a job that lets me stay up as late as I want, work in my jammies, make up tall tales and party like a rock star when my book is out.

Every kid’s dream, right?

My most recent Blaze, FEELS LIKE THE FIRST TIME, revolves around a 10 year class reunion. And believe me, my characters think their *so* much more mature than they were in school. And yet, as soon as they are reunited with the people they graduated high school with, the characters slip right back into the same angsts and worries they’d had a decade before. Only now, my heroine and hero are much better prepared to deal with both said angst – and their wild attraction to each other. Adding another level to the maturity theme, Zoe is older than Dex (by a year, not quite cougar status, but still...)

This is an excerpt from FEELS LIKE THE FIRST TIME where Zoe Gaston, my heroine, has her first ‘known’ sighting of her old buddy and our hero, Dexter Drake.

“Excuse me, Mr. Drake?”

Zoe’s head whipped around, looking for Dex’s dad. Or better yet, Dex himself. Hey, any friendly face would do.

Her eyes rounded as she stared at the gorgeous guy from the lobby. He was focused on signing something for the restaurant manager. His hair was just as untamed coffee-hued wild waves as it’d been in the lobby yesterday. His butt just as nice close up as it had been bent over that cart. And his shoulders. Oh yeah, she still wanted to run her fingers over the naked breadth of them.

Zoe pressed her hand flat against her tummy, glad now that she hadn’t eaten anything. The food would have just got in the way of the horny butterflies dancing around in there.

Had the manager called him Mr. Drake?

Hottie with the nice ass from the lobby was Dex? Her old friend Dex? No way.


At the sound of her voice, gorgeous guy turned to face her. Holy crap. That couldn’t be here old friend. Could it? Tall, toned and hot? This guy looked nothing like her geeky buddy. But the eyes, she saw for the first time, were the same. A deep intense aquamarine.

“Dex,” she repeated under her breath, her own eyes widening in shocked appreciation. He was definitely Dexter Drake, but my-oh-my had he matured nicely.

Hmmm, at least Zoe appreciates maturity *g*. How about you? Does your career or job inspire you to feel mature? Or to feel like revel in the Peter Pan feeling of never having to grow up?

I’ll give away a copy of any of my backlist books to one lucky commenter. You can check them out at

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Mature Romance

By Debbie Kaufman

It was thirty-two years ago today that I married my Beloved. If you’re curious as to just how mature of a protagonist I’d make, I’ll take a brief pause here to let you do the math. Oh, wait, you’re missing an addend? Well, there was a reason I taught English instead of math and, really, isn’t a little mystery good for all of us?

I’m blessed. I have the category romance love that comes together in flaming hot passion and continues in a Happily Ever After. It’s also the women’s fiction romance that weathers storms and comes to greater understandings of each other. And while I loved the thrill of the newness of love, I’d have to say the love that has stood and faced forward to the storms, the love that has fled and been reborn, the love that refuses to quit when everything is beyond the pale, the love that has weathered to a fine patina, that love is the love I cherish.

You see, the sparks still flame and sustain no matter how long you’ve been married – if you give the fire the attention it needs. And frankly, the flames are better than ever with the maturity of love.

So, with such a satisfying love, why do I read romance? I’ve been asked that question, usually by a non-romance reader who intimates that reading romance is something best left to the spinster/unrequited/can’t get a man/totally stereotyped reader that needs fantasy to replace their boring lives. Really? If that were the case then 55% of the American novel buying public is not nearly as diverse as we thought! Another young woman I spoke to recently about writing romance said that “real life is hard; I don’t have time for fantasy.”

Well, I do. I’m totally in love with my sweetheart, am happy with my life, and I still love reading and writing romance.

What’s not to love? A great story, a great plot, a great ending.

What's not to love? Your choice of spirituality, sensuality, and settings.

What's not to love? Two people who have to deal with their own internal life issues, issues they may not have been forced to confront without the other person in their life provoking them. Oh, wait. That’s not fantasy. THAT’S REAL. Not only is it real, but I can count on it to all work out. Reminds me of my own marriage.

What about you? Why do you read or not read romance?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

How Old Is Too Old?

by CiCi Barnes

“You’re heroine is too old.”

I received that statement on a critique from a contest I entered a year ago. My heroine was 38, college graduate, a lawyer, single.

When did life end at 30? She was tall, slim beautiful, full of life, strong, independent, not looking for love, but certainly wouldn’t be adverse to love finding her. And it did.

My children are in their mid-thirties as are their friends. They would make great heroes and heroines in a romance novel: deputies, fire-fighters, pharmaceutical reps, teachers, motorcycle mamas, hip and intelligent. But, according to one judge out there ------ too old.

I’m from the generation that said, “Never trust anyone over thirty.” I might like to reassess my thinking and change that to “Never trust anyone under thirty.” I’m ready to don my rebel-with-a-cause togs, go out and have a sit-in demanding that older heroines get their due.

I don’t even mind if the older heroine has a younger guy in her life. Of course, it can happen in real life and does. I know many women who have married younger men. Okay, probably not twenty years younger -- except for Demi -- but it could happen.

Logically, a possible, if not probable, problem is with common interests if the gap is too wide, but stranger things have happened. I don’t choose my friends by the year of their birth; I expect a woman might not do that with a love interest. Love comes in all sizes, colors and ages. Love stories abound for the old as well as the young.

If I want my heroine to be thirty-eight or even forty-eight, I’m sure there are readers out there who would enjoy her journey of finding love with the right man.

So come on mature ladies. Burn your bras, protest, sit in, MAKE LOVE, NOT WAR ON THE MATURE HEROINE. Let those twenty-somethings know that they do not have a monopoly on finding love.

Let’s here from the over-thirty crowd. Would you write an older heroine? Would you read about an older heroine?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Swine Flu and the Mature (hacking cough) Heroine

It's Tuesday. I'm supposed to be posting about craft AND mature heroines. Cripes. Even on a good day that's a reach for me. Today (er, the day I'm writing this) isn't a good day. I paid estimated taxes, property taxes, stood in line for a bazillion hours at the post office, and ate a hamburger bun for lunch. So now I'm poor, tired and malnourished. I might-could get up the nerve to talk about mature heroines, but I'm not going near the craft thing. My notion of craft has more cooties than a kid with swine flu.

Swine flu. Now there's something I can write about. I should've been a doctor. My handwriting is sufficiently atrocious, and I possess a certain untoward curiosity. If you want to show me your boil, I'll look at it and give you free, but potentially harmful, advice. In that spirit, I offer my experience with N1H1.

My son calls California the "State of Emergency" because they have a budget crisis, wildfire or earthquake every fifteen seconds. Georgia, where we live, used to be the Peach State. Now we're the N1H1 state. You hear about a confirmed case here or there, but in reality, "The Flu" is all over Georgia like a fog of Aqua Net hairspray. Both my kids had it.

Our Experience:

1. A bit of a sore throat for a day or two before.

2. Headache and fever (101 or so) and a cough sets in.

3. Fever lasts or one or two days. Cough lasts a week longer.

4. You're contagious 24 hours after the fever ends. This is on the authority of Dr. Swails, our most excellent pediatrician.

5. Incubation period is 1-3 days.

6. If you have another potentially serious condition, see the doctor. Otherwise, it's not as bad as the regular flu. Don't be one of the idiots jamming the ER just because you get a bit of a fever.

7. According to the kids, never admit you had swine flu unless you want to be treated like a leper. You were just ill, got it?

9. Call it N1H1. It sounds more cultured.

10. Mostly kids are getting it. For once, us mature heroines are getting a break.

11. Can you believe I tied swine flu to mature heroines? Those weird associations usually only work in Frank Zappa songs.

I love books and movies with mature heroines. By mature, I mean women of post-childbearing age, 45 and better. I'm throwing this out there for discussion -- I don't think mature heroines will be a staple of the romance genre as it's currently being written. Why? Well, it isn't because of the heroines. They're interesting, sensual, just as eager to be in love. It's because we savor alpha men in this genre.

Men get mellower with age, like good booze. It's harder to craft a believable 50-year-old alpha hunk than a strapping young one unless he's a multi-millennium-old paranormal guy. And I guarantee Mad Max Methuselah isn't rocking the world of anyone who uses Oil of Olay.

Older alpha men seem relegated to the ranks of the Bad Dudes. Evilness must elevate testosterone levels. They're power-lusting politicians, war-mongering generals and tyrannic tycoons. Come on, don't we think they're a bit silly for swaggering on?

What do you think?

Stay well.

Image from

Monday, September 7, 2009

Cougar Done Right.

by J Perry Stone

Cougar: A woman 40 years or older who preys upon men many years her junior.

Every time I turn on the television lately, it seems I can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a cougar. This fall, Courtney Cox stars in Cougar Town, a sitcom about a divorcee mother looking to spice up her dating life. On TV Land there’s a reality show called The Cougar where a group of young men compete for the attentions of a mature female. Even Saturday Night Live has gotten in on the act. In an admittedly hysterical skit called “The Cougar Den,” resident comediennes behave as the most stereotypical of predators—those so surgically enhanced and hormonally over-sexed, the primary reaction they elicit from their underage quarry is nausea.

Cougars have entered our reality, our language, and thus, require a small measure of investigation. I have to admit, however, the term bugs me for a couple of reasons (and not just because I’m kicking the hell out of 40 either).

1) It seems to me whenever a woman does something society has to stretch to accept, such women are ALWAYS slapped with a pejorative moniker.

High-powered professional = ball-buster or bitch
Sexually daring = slut

Dating a younger man = cougar.

Notice there's no name for the male equivalent of cougar save dirty old man, perv, creep, or a**hole. Nothing that sticks, in any case.

2) By calling a woman cougar, one trivializes her relationship by assuming its existence is merely the result of a self-serving, last-ditch attempt to recapture her diminishing youth. This isn’t to say there aren’t women out there prowling around, but how utterly depressing and sad to assume this is the agenda of every woman who takes part in a May/December romance. Focusing on a woman’s inability to accept the aging process is a generalization unworthy of most women I call friend. What’s more, it is an ugly insecurity most women get over the older they get.

So what are the options? Throw a big tantrum? Laugh it off till the term cougar gets so cliché, it falls out of favor?


I think of the 70’s classic cult film, Harold and Maude in which the adorable Ruth Gordon plays the vivacious septuagenarian teaching Harold--depressed and death-obsessed at 20 years of age--a multitude of life lessons:

A lot of people enjoy being dead. But they are not dead, really. They're just backing away from life. Reach out. Take a chance. Get hurt even. But play as well as you can. Go team, go! Give me an L. Give me an I. Give me a V. Give me an E. L-I-V-E. LIVE! Otherwise, you got nothing to talk about in the locker room. The best thing a woman can do is maintain her youth inside.”

Maintain her youth inside. That’s absolutely right!

So what are your thoughts? Does the term cougar offend you? What do you think of May/December romances in books, TV and movies (particularly if the woman is December)?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

We've All Aged Another Week, Haven't We?

Here's who's up next week. Let's all be mature and tune in to see what they have to say, LOL!

By the way, if you haven't participated in our poll yet, we'd love to get your feedback. Scroll down on the right sidebar to see our questions.

Also, some of our readers said they weren't aware of Aspen Expose, PF&HT's group novel. It's also on the sidebar, below the questions. You'll find links to all nine chapters. Enjoy! (And look for a new book out early next year...)

Monday, September 7: J Perry Stone Couger Done Right
Tuesday, September 8: Anna StefflSwine Flu and the Mature (Hacking Cough) Heroine
Wednesday, September 9: CiCi Barnes -
Thursday, September 10: Debbie KaufmanThe Mature Romance
Friday, September 11 Guest Chef:

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Saturday Review

Stop Me

By Brenda Novak
ISBN: 13:978-0-7783-2460-7
Publisher: Mira
Single Title

Stop Me is part of Brenda Novak’s Last Stand series.

The kidnapping of her sister has haunted Jasmine Stratford for sixteen long years. When she hears about the kidnapping and death of Romain Fornier’s daughter, Jasmine sees similarities between the two cases. Going to New Orleans, Jasmine forces Romain from his hermit life to face the possibility he may have killed the wrong man for the crime against his daughter. In a fast paced story of intrigue and horrible villains, Jasmine and Romain fall in love as they uncover a child kidnapping ring, a sicko killer, and a corrupt cop.

Brenda Novak’s work is not my usual reading material. But after having lunch with her, I thought I needed to take a peek at her work. I wasn’t disappointed. She made a fan. For a writer I don’t think there is higher praise.

Reviewed by: Susan May
4 Petit Fours and 4 Hot Tamales