"For me, a romance novel is about challenge. It’s about meeting someone who, on the one hand, you’re powerfully attracted to, yet on the other hand brings significant challenges to your life. It’s never easy for the heroine and hero of a romance novel because the story is about character growth."
As a romance reader, I love all kinds of heroes—from totally caveman alpha to sweet, geeky beta. I fall for them all. As a writer, I tend to write a slight mixture of heroes, except for the extreme alpha. I don’t think I’ve done one of those yet. What has inspired me as an author when I develop my heroes is looking at guys I know.
Sheri Cobb Smith dives into the reasons why readers and writers continue turning to Regency romances for their historical fix.
Nancy Lee Badger shares her notes from the front lines of the Highland Games in New Hampshire. Find out about kilted athletes and get a look at an excerpt of her new novel, My Dark Highlander.
How far would you go to save one life? Ten lives? A million? What if you knew the future? Would you change things? This is a complex question. If you’d known about the latest outbreak of Ebola, would you have tried to stop it if it meant risking death yourself? What about a war? An assassination? What if the only way to change these events was to travel to the past, where one small change might mean you would never be born?
Today novelist Rachel Blaufeld joins us to talk candidly about how going to strip clubs inspired her novels Electrified and Smoldered. The question I’m asked the most is, “Did you go to strip clubs before, during, or after writing this? Are you going today? Now? Tomorrow?” Friends ask my husband, extended family members question my mother, readers are extremely curious if I have friends who are strippers, and most of my husband’s gang has offered join me in doing research. Okay, are you ready? Cue Drumroll. Yes. The answer is yes. I have in fact been to a number of strip clubs before writing Electrified. While the Electric Tunnel doesn’t really exist and all the characters that work there are fictitious, I don’t think it would be wise to write a book… Continue
I’ve always been an outdoorsy person. My mom called me a tomboy. I hated dresses (still do). And I spent more time roaming the woods catching frogs than playing inside with Barbie dolls. One of the benefits of being a military brat is it afforded me the opportunity to explore a variety places from the woods on the Air Force base in Maryland, to the tropical jungle on Guam. My favorite outing was going fishing with my father when we lived in in Louisiana. Not only because of the quality time we shared, but because of how magical the swamp seemed to me as a child. It captivated me with a heady blend of danger and beauty. And I learned fairly quickly to abide by the posted “Don’t feed the alligators” signs by not swimming… Continue
I joke that I write contemporary romance because I’m too lazy to do research. Friends of mine write epically wonderful tomes on Roman and European history, and the months they spend compiling detail upon fact upon footnoted quote boggles my mind. However, all joking aside, I’d like a little credit for the hours I do actually log on the Internet doing research. Is it as much as an author writing historical fiction? Nope. But contemporary romances are based in reality, so there’s even more pressure to get it right. Because trust me—people will notice if you get the tiniest detail wrong. I research for one of three reasons. Okay, four reasons, but number four is the aforementioned ogling of hot men to use as prospective heroes. Reason #1: I hate when people gloss over the… Continue
Last year was a year of several firsts for me but one that really stands out is my appearance on the reality TV show, Say Yes to the Dress, Atlanta. For the complete story of exactly how I came to be on the show, check out Barbara Vey’s Beyond Her Book Blog, here. Today, I’m sharing the story of what I learned by agreeing to tape an episode of the show. 1. When they cast you for the show, the producers send you a big list of dos and don’ts including what to expect. One was don’t wear white or houndstooth. Certain colors and prints aren’t great for the small screen and white and houndstooth are at the top of the list. White can make you blend into the background and look like a floating… Continue
I was inspired to write my debut historical romance after a visit to the splendid Morris-Jumel Mansion, located in New York City’s Washington Heights. Imagine an estate from Alabama or Georgia, complete with solid white columns and lush gardens, dropped onto the island of Manhattan, and you’ll get a good idea of the place. Startling, to say the least. But even stranger than the existence of the house was the story of the woman who lived there through the 1800s. Eliza Jumel was born into poverty in Providence, Rhode Island as the daughter of a prostitute, and used her beauty and wit to become the richest woman in New York City by the time of her death in 1865, at the age of 92. It couldn’t have been easy, to say the least. In the… Continue
I’m probably the only woman in America who skimmed past the sex scenes in Fifty Shades of Grey. It’s not that I’m a prude. I don’t hide under a pillow when Hannah walks around naked on Girls, or fast forward Sooki having sex with Bill, Eric, or that creepy Warlow on True Blood. Watching a sex scene on TV doesn’t seem as voyeuristic as reading one when the bedroom door stays open in a novel. After one round of submissions for Worth the Weight with no luck, my agent told me I should spice up my G rated rom-com since Fifty Shades of Grey had amped up the heat in the romance industry. “No whips and chains.” I said. “Or bondage. I’m definitely not adding bondage.” My agent laughed and told me… Continue
When I ended the Dark Warrior series after 14.5 books that included six books in the Dark Sword series, I still wasn’t ready to let go of the world I created. Luckily, my publisher asked me to spin off the DW series and the Dragon Kings were born! I wanted to call the series Dragon Kings, because, well, that’s what they are, but because it’s a spin off series, they wanted to stay with the “Dark” theme, which is where the Dark Kings series name came from. If you’ve read any of the Dark Sword or Dark Warrior books, you know I love Scotland. There’s just something about a guy in a kilt with that brogue that does it to me every time. J Few can resist a hot man in a kilt! I love… Continue
I have a confession to make. My latest novel, The Unexpected Duchess, (which comes out today!) was inspired by my intense desire to break up with my friend’s boyfriend for her. Okay, okay. So it was actually more than one friend. The fact is that right around the time I was thinking up a brand new Regency romance series, I had two different friends whose boyfriends were acting like colossal jerks. On more than one occasion I’d say to either of my friends, “Just give me the phone and I’ll break up with him for you!” Of course, my friends never took me up on my offer. Hmm. Seems it was much easier for me, with no emotional involvement, to want to break up with someone who they loved. Imagine that? But the experience… Continue
Muses. They come in all forms, huh? Anything from that first warm day after a long winter to the hunky guy in plastic glasses reading across from you on the subway. We’ve all got them. And we all crave more. For myself, and probably a lot of authors out there, a huge source of inspiration is other authors and novels. After all, Stephen King said it best in On Writing: “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.” So, on the eve of completing my first ever trilogy, I wanted to offer a nod to the top five paranormal authors and/or books that inspired me as a writer. Laurell K. Hamilton and the Anita Blake series. There’s just something oh, so delicious about a dark… Continue
The romance genre is for women, about women, by women. I know when I open the first page that I can leave the troubles of gender inequality behind and settle in for an uplifting story full of positive lady affirmations. Girl power and healthy body images. Strong heroines. Men who sweep women off their feet, treat them like queens and fantasize about all-night cunnilingus. Chicken Soup For the Vagina. No? Okay, I guess I can’t count on any of that. I don’t think it’s possible to take gender dynamics out of the equation when you’re writing about men and women. Many romance readers enjoy a dominating hero who takes control of everything. That’s fine with me. Get it, girl. I don’t like reading about heroes who cross the line into abuse, and I also find… Continue
It’s that time of year again. April 15th is here and all of us are thinking about our taxes. While paying money to Uncle Sam might not bring a laugh to your lips, I’d bet IRS Special Agent Tara Holloway would. She’s the star of my hilarious romantic mystery series, and is such a fantastic sharpshooter that she’s known as the Annie Oakley of the IRS. Of course, she’s also got a good-looking guy – or two! – in the mix. All work and no play, after all… What is it that makes the combination of romance and comedy so popular? I have several theories. The first is that love makes us feel scared and vulnerable. We are both intensely self conscious and keenly aware of our new partner. Let’s face it. New love… Continue
I grew up in the South, and it’s a lot about cooking. In fact, in my new contemporary romance, Sweet Talk Me, my characters live in a fictitious seaside village near Charleston, South Carolina, called Biscuit Creek. It seemed apropos because biscuits are a way of life here. We eat ‘em for breakfast. They go great as a side with fried chicken or pork chops at lunch or dinner. And of course, you can have a biscuit with strawberries and whipped cream for dessert. I’m not a big biscuit maker. I’ve made them, and I even have a go-to recipe, but it’s no easy task. It takes time and practice, a lot of gentle handling, and even intuition. How much is too much flour? When should I stop rolling out the dough? Some would… Continue
When I’m not writing romance (or working the EDJ, loving my hubby and kiddos) I sing in a band. You never know what wedding or bar mitzvah you might attend and hear me belting out covers of popular songs. So, it will come as no surprise that I use music in the creation of my story. I have a playlist for every story before I put one word on the paper and when I hit “play”, I am immediately drawn into that world. I’m really not sure if I could write without one and I’m too chicken to try it out. So, I thought I would share my Top Five favorite songs from the playlist for SEX & THE SINGLE VAMP:
Gravity by Sara Bareilles: This song gets me from the first piano … Continue
The end. Or is it? It’s always hard to say good-bye to characters that you’ve come to love, especially when you’ve been with them for three books over four years of your life. So writing the final installment of my Ashes trilogy was kind of hard. But I did it. I gave each of them a farewell befitting their story and left all with a sense of hope, except for one character, who dies. Not telling you who, you will just have to read the book to find out. Fast forward to a few weeks ago when I was flipping through a catalog. It was the Sundance clothing catalog; of which I am a big fan of dreaming over and wishing I could buy or wear half the things in there. I do have a… Continue
I don’t live on the edge doing truly scary things, the kind of things equated with living on the edge. I do not skydive or snowboard. I don’t climb rock walls or drive race cars. Living on the edge for me is taking on a new writing challenge or speaking in public. What exhilarates me is pretty simple, as simple as experiencing a dramatic thunderstorm from my back porch, or working with a homeless cat to get it accustomed to me and therefore adoptable by a compassionate person. But when it comes to my characters it’s a different story. I put them into dangerous situations, ones that could end their lives. Being kidnapped, shot at, and knocked unconscious is just another day in the lives of heroes and heroines in my romantic suspense novels. But… Continue
Do you remember your first time? That first taste of love conflict, and lust in textual form, often right under your parents’ very noses? What I’m asking is: do you remember your first romance novel? If you’re anything like me, maybe you don’t. I went through books like a moth in a trunk, consuming everything in my path. But in my word-hungry ravaging of any library I could gain entry to, there are a few books that stand out in my memory. The ones I read again and again in pre-adolescent wonder, hoping that one day I’d find a love as sweet or tender or fiery hot as the ones between the flaking pages in my hands. Fifteen, by Beverly Cleary. I wonder if Beverly Cleary could have ever imagined that her sweet teen romance,… Continue
As reader, I feel there are two components to a great plot—mystery and romance. And as a writer, I find it darn near impossible not to include both of those elements in my stories. It’s a little like that old Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup commercial, I get either mystery mixed up into my romances or romances mixed up into my mysteries. I blame this on some of my favorite pre-teen series Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew, and Cherry Ames. There was always thread of romance running through the Trixie Belden, Cherry Ames, and Nancy Drew books as those girl sleuths solved the mysteries. Would Trixie and Jim Frayne end up together? How about Nancy and Ned Nickerson? Would Cherry Ames marry Dr. Lex Upham? On the romantic side, how about Jane Eyre? Would she figure… Continue
Where did the romantic suspense market go? That’s a question I get a lot from readers. There was a time when it seemed like every contemporary romance novel was a romantic suspense story. But recently? Not so much. I have a theory about it (ask anyone who knows me: I have theories about everything). This theory revolves around a number of the originating authors of the romantic suspense form retiring or reducing their writing schedules in the early 2000’s. It was just about time for a new crop of suspense writers to come along and refresh the pool when three things happened simultaneously: First, a wave of mega-hit paranormal books had swept the marketplace and movie theaters. New writers’ imaginations were galvanized by images of magic, vampires, and dystopian nightmares. Second, the Great Recession hit.… Continue
When my first book, An Image of You, was accepted by Harlequin Mills and Boon in 1991, it had plenty of sizzle but the sex was pretty much left to the reader’s imagination. Back then in the U.K., all the books, sexy or sweet, were published under the same cover (readers bought by author, cover and blurb). In the U.S., however, my books were slotted into the “Romance” series, and although I did frequently flirt with very edge of the guidelines (and my books were often published in the sexier lines in other countries) the sex had to stay in the imagination. In its original conception, the new Kiss series — with it’s fresh, flirty, international editorial — was to have revisited that early, and very successful, British model of mixing sexy and sweet.… Continue
As the author of five books and two novellas featuring firemen, I’m here to let you in on some little-known facts about these smokin’ hot heroes. Sure, you probably already know the basics. They put out fires, they drag hoses, they look really really great in their turnouts. But did you know … 1. Most firefighters are also trained as paramedics. So if you’re on a date with a fireman and you choke on your triple layer raspberry fudge cake, he can save your life. Major points! 2. Firefighters love to play pranks during their down time at the firehouse. This means they can go from mischievous jokester to deadly serious professional in half a second flat. Gotta love a guy who keeps things interesting, right? 3. Many firefighters become expert at cooking for big groups,… Continue
I’d like to talk about tropes—those easily-recognizable story lines that can turn a certain type of story into a favorite and a book into a keeper. I love so many tropes. Best friends to lovers, bad-boy hero, marriage of convenience, city girl/country boy… We could go on and on. And I’m sure you have favorites of your own. Tropes are kept even more interesting when more than one is blended into a story. Another way to keep them exciting is to take a familiar storyline and give it a bit of a twist. One of my favorite story types is lovers reunited. I’m a big fan of allowing folks to realize their mistakes and giving them the chance to go back and fix them—if they can. In my current release, Rancher at Risk,… Continue
“Bollywood” is one of those buzzwords that the West has come to use as shorthand for all things Indian. A Bollywood-themed wedding! A Bollywood party! A Bollywood-inspired look! The thing is, Bollywood is as far from “real” India as you can get. Imagine if all of the United States was judged by Hollywood? Do you fancy yourself a Charlie Sheen or Lindsay Lohan? Yeah…I didn’t think so. “Bollywood” is a specific place, a specific mindset, a specific genre, all based out of Mumbai (formerly Bombay), the mass-market film capital of India. There are movies made in plenty of other cities, in plenty of other languages than Hindi. There is a thriving art-house film community in India as well. “Bollywood” is not the be-all, end-all…but it is a lot to take in. So, if you’re… Continue
For as long as I can remember I’ve been a fan the hidden swan. Being a tall for my age, slightly awkward girl, I always gravitated to stories where the unlikely beauty came out on top. I guess it all begin when I saw Cinderella for the first time and watched her get her full sparkle transformation on at Radio City Music Hall. This was back in the day when they used to show movies at RadioCity so you can imagine how far I’m going back. Seeing this hearth sweeping, picked on, odd girl out emerge on top in the end warmed my heart and gave me a hope that never waned. My love of unlikely heroines continued throughout my tween and teen years when I started to read romance and went in for the… Continue
One of my favorite things about starting to write a new series is getting to know the place where my characters live. I’ve always been drawn to island settings, both in reading and writing. There’s something so soothing about being surrounded by all that water. The pace of life is slower. Neighbors look out for each other. Everyone knows everything about everyone. The first book in my new contemporary romance series, Wind Chime Café, is set on an island in the Chesapeake Bay. Heron Island is loosely modeled after Tilghman Island, a real-life island only thirty minutes down the road from where I grew up. It’s a place known for sailing, fishing, and crabbing. It’s home to some of the last few hearty souls who still pull their living from the water. It’s one of… Continue
When you think of figure skating, what comes to mind? Is it a love story, set to music and enacted on ice by Olympic athletes who stun us in the Winter Games every four years? The skating flicks that showcase the romance, humor, and heartbreak of this beloved winter sport? An ice show with princesses and superheroes? Maybe, but more likely it was “the baton strike heard around the world.” 2014 marks the 20th anniversary of the attack on Nancy Kerrigan at the 1994 US Figure Skating Championships orchestrated by the ex-husband of Kerrigan’s main rival, Tonya Harding. The ugly incident had a distinct silver lining, however. When Kerrigan and Harding faced off for their short program later that winter in Lillehammer, their Olympic showdown became the third highest-rated sports television event of all time.… Continue