Tag Archives: Romance Weekly

Romance Weekly: Flash Fiction


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Welcome to this week’s Romance Weekly! If you’re here, I hope you came from Susan Scott Shelley’s blog. This is my first attempt at flash fiction. In fact, I had to look up what it actually is. I mean, given the terms “flash” and “fiction,” I could guess, but I wanted to make sure I was doing this right. I actually considered skipping this week, but decided to deviate from my comfort zone. The challenge is to write flash fiction (100-150 words) using the following words: chocolate, scarf and candle.

Sweet mother of God, what have I gotten myself into?

***

Penny’s from Heaven

I painted my lips cherry red, and styled my blonde curls around my favorite scarf. Smoothing my dress over my hips, I slipped on shiny black sling backs over my black silk stockings. I lit the candle on the nearby table, spiked the champagne with a tranquilizer, and turned down the lights. I always looked best in the soft glow of candlelight, and he’d only get the best from me, at least for a little while. This would be the best night of his life.

That is, until it suddenly wasn’t.

I’d been told this particular mark had a thing for Grace Kelly, and tonight, that was the character I would play.

No one knew the real me. I doubted anyone ever would. When I arrived at an event, I was, for one night, exactly who and what my client wanted me to be. I’d been everyone: I’d been the babysitter, the long-lost love, the teenage crush. I’d been a confidant, a lover, a mother and a friend. Half the time, my marks didn’t even notice they’d been robbed. I suspected some of them didn’t even care, once they’d spent time with me.

No one knew Penny, the name on my original birth certificate. I’d played so many characters that I sometimes wondered if I really even knew who Penny was. “Penny” was an intangible, a thing so distant and remote I wasn’t sure I believed in her existence.

A knock sounded at the door. I popped a chocolate in my mouth and allowed it to melt on my tongue, so when he kissed me, the taste would linger in his mouth. I wanted to be perfect.

I’d planned everything down to the last detail. I wouldn’t even need the stiletto strapped to my thigh; this night would be perfect.

Little did I know, perfection didn’t matter. Lady Luck–another intangible I wasn’t sure I believed in–had stopped believing in me, too.

Because this was the night I died.

***

Hmph. I went way over, so I guess my experiment with flash fiction was not as flash as I hoped. Ah, well. Why not travel on over to Katherine Givens’ blog and see what did with those same three words!

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Romance Weekly: Recipe Time


So here was our recipe challenge: one meal, start to finish, in 15 minutes. Those of you who follow my blog routinely know I have celiac disease, which is really more fun than one person can possibly stand, and therefore can’t eat gluten. This, combined with my food allergies, generally makes quick cooking harder than it has to be. Which is probably a good thing, since husband is diabetic–so the big batch of spaghetti is out the window (not that I haven’t done it, but I have to have another plan for Hubs and me).

In any case, there are a few things that I can do quickly. Most of my meals are all about ease, but 30 minutes is generally how long it takes.

So what to do for a complete meal, including dessert, in 15 minutes? I have two options.

First meal:

Margherita pizza
Salad
Homemade fudge (we call it ghetto fudge in my house–I’ve even made it in the trailer, and it’s a huge hit. I honestly have no idea why)

MARGHERITA PIZZA

Ingredients:

Instant pizza crust (because I’m also allergic to eggs, I have to make my own, which totally ruins the 15 minute thing, but I generally have a home made crust in the fridge for weeknights). Pillsbury makes some good crusts, and even makes a gluten free crusts (but, alas, not egg free).
Jarred spaghetti sauce (I use Classico, but you can use whatever you want)
Pre-sliced buffalo mozzarella
Fresh basil

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Take the pizza crust out of the packaging** and place the pizza crust on a pizza pan or cookie sheet. Use whatever’s clean.***
Use as much of the spaghetti sauce as you feel is necessary. I like sauce, so I use a lot, but if you don’t…then don’t. Reserve the remaining sauce for dipping.
Put as much or as little of the pre-sliced buffalo mozzarella on the pizza as you want, and fill in the gaps between slices with basil. If I’m in a rush, I don’t even bother to tear the leaves; I just set them down whole.
Bake in the oven for 12-18 minutes, or until bubbly and golden brown

** Taking the items out of the containers probably sounds obvious, but you never know. I knew someone who once cooked an entire turkey without unwrapping it… it was messy. And a health hazard. And gross. But the fire department came, along with cute firefighters, so there is that. That part was fun, because I got all the benefits of having cute firefighters, but it wasn’t me who did it, so I didn’t have the embarrassment, either.

*** If you want a crisper crust, bake for 7-9 minutes before you put any toppings on it.

While the pizza is cooking, make the fudge (this is so easy, it’s embarrassing).

FUDGE

Ingredients

One package of semi sweet chocolate chips
One can sweetened condensed milk

In a large, microwave safe bowl, combine the chocolate chips and the condensed milk. Put in the microwave for two minutes. Stir the mixture, put in the microwave for another two minutes. This usually achieves desired smoothness for me. If it doesn’t for you, stir again and put it in for another minute.

When it comes out of the microwave, be sure to smooth the chocolate down.

Since we’re in a time pinch, you’re then going to put this in a FREEZER safe bowl (generally, Pyrex does just fine between the two venues, but you know your cookware best), and throw it in the freezer to set until it’s time to eat. If you want to be all fancy and have single (large) servings of fudge, you can put the melted concoction into a muffin tin that you’ve sprayed with PAM, and put that in the freezer. The kids do like having their individual servings of fudge in their lunches the next day, and I can lord it over them if they argue or get in trouble… “NO FUDGE FOR YOU!”

SALAD

Ah, the salad, the easiest of all.

Ingredients:

One bag salad

Package of tomatoes

Put these ingredients into a bowl and combine. If you have any leftover mozzarella cheese, you can throw that in, too.

By this time, the pizza is done, so you just let it cool for a couple of minutes, slice it up, and you’re done. While you’re eating, the fudge is setting, and it’s totally done and set by the time you’re ready for dessert!

So that’s meal number one. Because husband is diabetic, we don’t actually get pizza all that often. So, more often than not, a simple meal for us will look like this:

Big salad

Fudge for the kids/Sugar free chocolate for the hubs.

Ingredients:

Baby greens

berries of your choice (I like strawberries and blueberries). Hull and slice the strawberries, pick out the bad blueberries and throw them on the salad.

Cheese of your choice (personally, i prefer gorgonzola or goat cheese with fruit, but it’s totally up to you). Because crumbles may contain gluten, I just get a large piece and crumble it myself.

Pre-cooked sliced chicken (from the deli counter) or canned chicken (I keep several cans on hand for things like chicken salad sandwiches, big salad, and chili (or tortilla soup). It just makes life easier, and really, no one in my house knows the difference)

Blue cheese vinaigrette (I can’t recall the brand right now, but it’s delightful).

Then I combine it all together, and we’re ready to go!

So there you have it. Two different option for dinner. I hope you like them!

M

Why not check out what Sarah Hegger is having for dinner!

Romance Weekly: Research


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Let’s get down to it, shall we? This week’s questions are courtesy of Dani Jace.

1. What is the most unusual thing you’ve ever done in the name of research for a book?

I’ve gone to a museum dedicated to Victorian-era prostitution in the Old West. Talk about a niche market, there. 

Actually, the museum was fascinating, though I will admit that some things shouldn’t be seen, and once seen, can’t be unseen, but whatever. It is only unfortunate that I was the only sober person in there (Hubs had the kids at the ice cream parlor). That was actually the awkward part.

2. Name a nonfiction book you’ve read for research that you wouldn’t have read otherwise.  Not including writing craft books.

I just finished Scotland: The Story of a Nation by Magnus Magnusson. It was pretty good. My non-fiction reading is usually reserved for the day job, so this was refreshing.

3. If you could travel anywhere to do research for a book, including back in time, where would you go?

I’d love to go back in time to Scotland. I mean, it probably smelled bad, and lord knows I wouldn’t be able to eat any of the food with my allergies (I’m a huge fan of Amazon Pantry, just because they have almost anything a girl could want. Somehow, I doubt 12th century Scotland carries gluten-free flour and other specialty products. It would be all, “Here. Have a steak, some eggs, and a piece of bread. Would you like a side of Death with that?”). With this in mind, I suspect 12th century Scotland would go something like this:

Me: Hey Scotland.

Scotland: Yo.

Me: What’s that smell?

Scotland: Hey, don’t hate. I haven’t a bath since last summer.

Me: Gross. Is that lice?

Scotland: Yes. Here, have a staph infection. Don’t forget, no antibiotics yet, so good  luck with that.

Me: Um, no thanks. I think I’m going home now.

And then I’d return to my century and spend all my time in the library, reading about centuries I can never visit because, well, I’ll die. Small things, right?

Also, I’m not sure why, in my head, Scotland sounds like a 20-year-old college boy, but it does. Some things are unexplainable.

Let’s go see what Mishka Jenkins had to say on the topic. I’m pretty certain her answers weren’t as ridiculous as mine. 🙂

Here’s another link, because I’m cool like that: https://awriterslifeformeblog.wordpress.com/

Romance Weekly: Take Away


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This week’s questions are from Julie Abdinoor. If you like romance, and want to know how writers think, follow the links and see how everyone else answered.

1. What are the ages of your characters?

In Highland Deception, Isobel is twenty-two, and Malcolm/Kenneth is almost thirty. Because it was set in 1725, it made more sense to have him be older than she.

2. What special things or places inspire you to write?

Music inspires me always. I do best when I’ve assigned a song to a character–that way, when I’m writing a scene, I can listen to a song and it helps me really get into the character’s head. It’s weird though, how music chooses to inspire me. For instance, for my latest WIP, Devil of Dunmoor, the song Counting Stars  by One Republic makes me think of my hero, Ethan. Which is so weird, because I really thought The Last of the Mohicans sound track would be my inspiration.

Places that inspire me? Well, I finished my first three or four books in Fort Bragg, California, in a little motel near the water. The place is rink-dink and as fantastic as a 1970s leisure suit–all the tile is cracked in the bathrooms, and the decor is… um… dated, but I love that place. The showers are hot (and I mean really hot) and it has a great little path down to a private beach, and that makes it totally worth it.

The last book, though? Not so much. We got a little trailer over the summer, and now, instead of our trip to Fort Bragg, we’re going to new and different places. I actually plotted Devil of Dunmoor in Valley of Fire State Park, in Southern Nevada. I still love the ocean, and I think it would be great inspiration for the Scottish moors (because there really is something about that place–especially if you go north toward Eureka–that reminds me of the Irish Sea. It’s more of a feeling I get when I’m there as opposed to actual physical similarities, though).

3. What is one message that you hope women will receive when they read your stories?

Well, I’ve already talked a little about how the one thing I want people to take away from my stories is a sense of hope. That there is hope that things will work out for the better, and that everyone will get their happy ending. That there is hope that we will all find the love and the happiness we deserve.

But more than that, I think what I want women in particular to take away from my books is that they deserve the fairy tale. We deserve a man who will love us with his dying breath, who would move heaven and earth for us. We deserve to feel loved, to be wanted, and to have great sex. We deserve our own heroes. They may be imperfect, they may have crummy days and be crabby, but at the end of the day, the men in our lives should be heroic.

I know mine is.

Follow the link to find out what SC MItchell has to say on the subject!

Romance Weekly!


It’s time for another post from Romance Weekly. Here are the questions for this week, submitted by the ever fabulous Katie O’Connor (I like the name, by the way!)

1. What is the weirdest question you have been asked about writing?

The one that I find most amusing is this one: “Do you write about yourself?”

Um, yeah, because I’m totally a 18th century Scottish laird. Totally.

In a related question, I often get, “Is this you you, or writer you?”

The answer to that question is simple: I am writer me. Just because I refer to my writer persona as my alter ego doesn’t mean that I have another personality living in there. I don’t. I swear it’s not plain old Mary in the morning and wild child Meggan at night, like the split personality sagas from every soap opera from the 1980s. “Look, she has on glasses! It’s Mary, and she’s a librarian by day. But at night, she’ll take off those glasses and take her hair out of the straight-laced bun, and she’s a murderous stripper!”

Um, no. I’m just me. No skeletons in this closet. And no, I’m not a stripper by night. Or by day. Or in any light. Ever. No one needs to see that. After two babies and four hernia surgeries, really, I’m feeling pretty daring if I walk out my door without Spanx on. No, seriously.

2. What was the most exciting thing about your writing career so far?

I suppose it was when I got “the call” from Soul Mate publishing. I’d submitted on a lark, and because the publisher promised a detailed critique. Honestly, I thought to myself, “Hey, it’s cheaper than a contest.” I didn’t expect anything. Then I got asked for a full, and i thought, “Ooo, maybe I’ll get good feedback on the whole thing.”

But then, a few mornings later, I got an email offering me a contract. Actually, I was walking into work when I got it (because I’m addicted to my phone, I’ll admit). I sat down on the curb, right there at the school, and read the email four or five times before I actually believed it.

That was a good day.

But there are other days that are really exciting, too. Because I’m a relatively slow writer, I don’t publish really more than once a year. So every time I get a cover, I get super excited. My next cover is really something, and I’m super excited about it. This time, when I got my cover, I actually dropped my phone, because it was so awesome. These are good days, and wonderful surprises.

3. Do you get your story ideas from real life or real people? If not, where do they come from?

If I were to ever write a contemporary, I might base it on a friend of mine and her dating (mis)adventures. She’s totally behind this endeavor, so that would be okay. But otherwise, no. I make these people up.

See, when I write, I very rarely start with the characters. I devise a plot, and then the characters come forward to introduce themselves, like actors trying out for parts. Sometimes, the first character who shows up gets rejected for the main manuscript, because he or she doesn’t fit the story. Sometimes, the characters insist that they stay exactly as they are, if not tweaked for the worse. For instance, in The Marker, some of my original readers and judges from contests felt that Nicholas was unlikable, because he was drunk, a gambler, and he was willing to allow a remarkably unsavory wager. But every time I tried to change him, to show in those first few chapters that he had a good heart, he dug his heels in and got worse. He eventually let his good heart show, but not in the beginning. He was drunk, or hung over, in those.

But in Highland Deception, I wanted my hero to be more hot-headed. I thought I wanted a fiery Scotsman, a fighter. You know, like traditional Highlander heroes.

Yet, when I tried to write him that way, he insisted that that wasn’t his character. Given his history, he had learned to curb his temper, so while he could fight, that was never his first option. So while I thought I would be writing a brash, alpha male Scot, the character I wrote was a quieter, more contemplative version of the alpha male. He doesn’t act without thinking. Because if he did, he wouldn’t be alive.

For more on these questions, follow the link to Leslie Hachtel! I’m excited to see her answers!

ROMANCE WEEKLY BLOG HOP’S DEBUT!


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Welcome!

Today is the inaugural post for Romance Weekly. A bunch of us romance writers have gotten together, where we link to one another’s posts. In each post, the authors will answer three questions, which are different every week. So here are my questions/answers!

1. What made you start writing romance as opposed to any other genre of literature?

Honestly, it’s because every story that I ever loved had at least some element of romance to it. Part of writing romance is about the HEA. We don’t always get those in real life–sometimes, the best friend dies. Sometimes, the hero stays dead. Sometimes, you won’t get your happy ending, no matter how hard you try or how much you beg your higher power for it. There will be times when the answer you get from heaven is no.

But in romance, that answer is always yes! No matter what obstacles stand in their way, the hero and the heroine will live out their happy ending. Every. Single. Time. There is something comforting about that. These are books that you will read over and over again, books that are an escape from the tragedy we are so often dealt. I write romance because I want that escape–my life is complicated enough. When I read for pleasure, I want to know that things are going to work out. I don’t pick up a romance because I want an ugly cry–I pick up a romance because, when I turn the final page, I want to think to myself, “Darn right. As it should be.”

2. Why do you think romance continues to be a market leading genre?

Well, first, I think it’s that people want a happy ending. In this age of high speed communication, we are inundated with bad news: kids shooting each other at school, people killing doctors in hospitals, flu outbreaks across the nation, starvation in Africa and the Middle East, war, famine, poverty. Bad things. I think, after awhile, people just get tired of it, drained of compassion and hollow inside.

I think romance balances that out. When someone picks up a romance novel, they know they’re getting a happy ending. That love will conquer all, despite all the bad stuff that happens to them. What romance novels offer, and what so many major critics of the genre fail to understand, is that romance is the one genre that consistently offers hope. It’s not all pain and blackness. In the end, the characters find real joy. There is beauty in that message, and in it, an implicit promise that, no matter how bad things get, everything will turn out as it should. I love the optimism in that. It’s why I started reading romances in the first place.

3. In what way do you see romance today reflecting the way women’s role in society has changed?

Well. That’s a good question. I suppose it could be summed up this way: in the past, women had to wait for the men to rescue them. Now, the women can rescue the men. We expect our men to be strong and brave, but we expect the same thing from our heroines. We don’t expect our heroines to be able to punch out a bear (all the time), but we do expect that they will behave in a manner that will allow her to solve her problem for herself. When I think of the older romances, the women were relatively helpless. Certainly this was part of the zeitgeist–women were supposed to be domestic, young, virginal, subservient, and generally well-behaved. Romances today allow for poorly behaved heroines, older heroines, and working women and single mothers. Instead of having only those two infamous depictions of femininity–the Madonna and the Whore–most heroines today are painted with shades of gray, with flaws and strengths. Not every heroine is a virgin, but neither is she a fallen woman. Not every heroine is young, nubile, and sublimely beautiful, either. I think this reflects society’s changing values, where we are honoring people who are like ourselves rather than some idealized, false notion of perfection.

I really hope that answers that question. Shucks, that was hard!

Want to know what other people think on these topics? Follow the link to read more! I can’t wait to read what she has to say!