Friday, April 29, 2011

What Makes Him a Hero

I missed the wedding but caught the balcony scene. The bride was radiant, the dress lovely, the kiss…sweet.

The traditions put a lump in my throat.

To be honest, I got tired of the press coverage about five minutes after the engagement was announced, but one thing, amidst all the thousands of things that were reported about the royal couple was this: that William had allowed his relationship with Kate to develop slowly that she could have time to think about what she was getting herself into.

Not many couples do this. Certainly if William’s parents had taken a breather to consider what they were about to do, things might have turned out much differently and we wouldn’t be having a royal wedding today.

But to wait, to make sure history wouldn’t repeat itself…and to lessen the possibility for heartache all round, that’s love.

And that’s why I think Prince William is a hero.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Doing Bad Things To Good People

It’s one of the keys to solid romance writing, and it’s called conflict.

Conflict is my weakest thing. I hate doing bad things to good people. So do most of the writers I’ve talked to about this over the years. One person even likened it to stabbing the hero or heroine with a knife, then twisting it. But we do it, because, honestly, fiction is more like real life than we care to admit.

I love a story in which the conflict is so deep and painful that I cannot imagine how the story will end, how the hero and heroine will ever have their happy ending.

Anne Mallory, one of my Golden Heart sisters from 2003 (yes, I’m talking about the Wet Noodle Posse), and one of my favorite Regency-set historical authors, did this beautifully in Seven Secrets of Seduction (Avon, 2010). Miranda, who is not in society, is hired by Maximilian, Viscount Downing, who definitely is, to do a librarian-sort-of job organizing his private library. He plans to seduce Miranda and write a how-to book about the process. Oops, best laid plans and all that, they fall in love.

Maximilian and Miranda indulge in their flirtation, and, oh, the banter. I love banter. I try and try to write banter and only occasionally hit the mark, but this is one of Anne’s best qualities as a writer. Every word out of her characters’ mouths is perfection.

Miranda knows they cannot marry because of their stations in life. Maximilian knows it, too. So does the reader, who is, as she should be, rooting for a happy ending.

But, when? But, but how? Oh, come on, you know it all works out!

Because that’s the promise of romance. They always live happily ever after!

At least that’s what the sticky note on my computer monitor says. I know I can put my characters through the wringer as long as I make it up to them in the end. And I will...I promise.


Two other books that have wonderful conflicts (and deliciously happy endings) are Mary Balogh’s A Matter of Class (Vanguard Press, 2009) and Karen Templeton’s Rita winning A Mother’s Wish (Silhouette Special Edition, August 2008). Karen’s July, 2010 Special Edition, Welcome Home Cowboy, also nominated for a Rita, is wonderful, too.

Monday, April 25, 2011


I bought a new colander today.

The old one (emphasis on the old) was plastic and broke because I had it sandwiched inside the stockpot between two sets of stainless steel mixing bowls. It was a tight squeeze and the old colander gave up the ghost last week.

At the store, while I was holding that miracle of technology, the stainless steel and mesh colander, in my hands I suddenly asked myself, do my characters ever cook?

I couldn’t remember! In category romance, unless the plot is food related (chefs, caterers, restaurant workers, etc.) there’s not a whole lot of time or word count to devote to what the characters eat. Yes, they go out on dates to restaurants and eat, often pizza, but you rarely, if ever, get a blow by blow description of the food. Characters rarely, if ever, go to the supermarket.

In Daddy in Waiting (Silhouette Romance, June 2005) my hero, Matt, was concerned that the pregnant heroine, Jenny, wasn’t getting enough to eat, so he gave her a caterer. Not only did the caterer go to Jenny’s office every day to prepare lunch, she dropped off care packages to her over the weekends. (Not that it applies here, but Matt also gave Jenny a chauffer and car—Matt was just a tad obsessive).

In the first of a series of contemporary cowboy books I’m working on, one of my favorite scenes takes place in the heroine’s vegetable garden. Then, there’s a cute cookies-and-milk scene at the kitchen table that I love, also.

Come to think of it, the second cowboy book takes place at a guest ranch in Texas, and there’s a dining hall there—but the hero and heroine never cook—just eat good old cowboy food. The hero has a thing for peach cobbler and hand-cranked ice cream (and the heroine).

So yes, in spite of my momentary memory lapse when it came to whether or not culinary matters figure into my books, the answer is yes.

And in the vernacular of the day, yes, the characters really cook, too.

Friday, April 22, 2011

What I'm Reading (and a tribute)

In the past year I’ve had a lot of time to read, and it’s been heaven. I kept a list—the totals are running into the hundreds now,--but the books I enjoyed the most were Ariana Franklin’s Mistress of the Art of Death series. The first was Mistress of the Art of Death, introducing Adelia, a twelfth century version of today’s CSI and her lover Rowley, and, my favorite part, the family she creates for herself in England, far away from her home in Salerno (where she grew up and attended medical school—in the twelfth century! Yes!).

When I’d finished Mistress I immediately went to B& to see if there were other books, and there were (The Serpent’s Tale, Grave Goods and A Murderous Procession), so I quick-like-a-bunny-rabbit reserved them at the library and read them like a woman rescued from the desert gulps down water.

I had to wrench myself away from the fourth book to scoot up to Flagler Beach to have lunch with my Noodler friend Merrillee, but as soon as I got home I sat down to enjoy the (cliff-hanger) ending. Wonderful!!! I noted that Franklin’s website was listed on the flyleaf of the book, and, curious about when the fifth book in the series would come out, I pulled out my trusty Netbook and looked her up.

Much to my surprise—and horror, if you must know—I discovered that my new favorite author had passed away in January of this year.

I couldn’t even look at a book for the next four days. I felt as if I’d lost a friend—or friends, if you will, because I had come to love all the characters in the Mistress of the Art of Death series.

And not a word, anywhere, about the future of the series.

A little piece of me hopes that someone, perhaps one of Franklin’s daughters, will complete the series and give Adelia and Rowley their happy ending. A larger piece of me will always remember Franklin as one of the most accomplished writers I’ve ever read.

I’ll miss you, Ariana.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Of Stories and Things

The muse is really on my case this morning. I want to write, I need to write. My brain is working on a story problem, specifically how to get the heroine of my WIP into the guest room bed of my bachelor hero’s bachelor pad...

Question: Would a bachelor who lives in a bachelor “pad” have a guest room? a way that is not too rushed, not too obvious and not too coincidental (see Harlequin? I really do pay attention).

Answer: Yes, especially if he’s a big-shot Denver developer whose apartment takes up one-half of a floor of a big-shot Denver condo building that not only has a media room but also a sauna right there in the apartment! Rich people. Ya gotta love ‘em.

I think I’ve got it—the pacing I mean. I just need to sit down at a computer that’s not hooked up to the Internet, and not on the back porch near any form of wildlife or plants that need to be mulched. Or weeds that need to be pulled. I need either to go in the house and lock myself in the study where I can’t see the hummingbird feeder which seems to have dead ants inside the sugar-water container or just cry uncle and call the day a waste.

But nooooo.

I started out the day with a goal, I really did. It was to get the vacuum cleaner downstairs by 11:00 a.m. That was it. You see, I’ve just been through four days of having the flooring replaced on the ground floor of my townhouse—a job that should have taken one day, two at the most—but anyway, it took four days because of a moisture problem. For two of those days I stayed cooped up in the house with the air conditioner on (that moisture thing again) and I hate to be in the house with the air conditioner on. I’ll get enough of that when summer rolls around.

In order to reach my goal for the day I turned off the computer at 10:37 and went in search of the vacuum. Along the way found the laundry that didn’t get done because of the flooring project. I sat in the new chair in my study. I watered the plant in my bedroom. I dragged the vac and the laundry downstairs. I vacuumed the porch and put on a load of clothes in the washer. I sat down at the computer again to have this nice chat with you. I feel much better now. More organized, more efficient, less like the not-a-multitasker I really am.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to clean out that hummingbird feeder and think some more about my book. But I promise I'll only do one thing at a time.