Shortly after my first book hit the shelves, an acquaintance confided that she almost couldn’t finish reading it because she felt as if she were prying into my life. “It was just so… intimate!” she’d said. I was equal parts astonished that she actually thought it was autobiographical and flattered that she thought I lived (or once lived) such an exciting life. I mean, I love my life, but it’s vastly different from the fictional worlds I create for my heroines.
After I thought about it, I could see where she might have drawn that conclusion. While I’m a bit older than most of my heroines, I do tend to lend them characteristics and features similar to my own. Still, my heroines are not me. I don’t write about myself as much as I write about observations and what I find interesting.
Take, for example, my first book, REINVENTING OLIVIA. It was born one night when my husband and I were out to dinner at a trendy downtown restaurant. As we approached, I heard dance music pulsing from the loft condos above the restaurant. When I looked up, I saw a hand holding a drink over the balcony rail. I thought, wow, if I were young and single that’s where I’d live… and the story took off on its own. So, while Olivia was most decidedly not me, she was definitely a child of my imagination, born out of what-ifs and shades of possibility.
I’ll confess that within the pages of my twenty-five (and counting) books I’ve drawn strongly on my own life experiences (because the first rule of writing is write what you know). I’ve borrowed characteristics from real-life villains (uhh-hmm - bosses) and given them their comeuppance on the page, or rewritten an unsatisfying true-to-life experience so that it ended happily, but the majority of my plots and characters come from the most unexpected places. That was the case with my book WITH VIOLETS (HarperCollins) – written under my historical nom de plume, Elizabeth Robards.
I’ve always been infatuated with the French Impressionists. So when my husband and I went to Paris, I was anticipating a daytrip to Giverny, Claude Monet’s home and famous gardens. Before we boarded a train at the Gare Saint-Lazare, to make our way to Giverny, we stopped at the Musée Marmottan to see Monet’s famous ‘Impression, Sunrise’ (Impression: Soleil Levant), the painting that launched the French Impressionist movement.
Little did I know, but I was about to meet painter Berthe Morisot on the second floor of the Musée Marmottan. Not literally, of course, because she died in 1895. However, I saw her work for the first time and a photograph of her with her family. Something about the photo haunted me and urged me to research her life. In doing so, I discovered the tale of a deeply complex, richly talented woman who bucked nineteenth century convention to become one of the world’s greatest artists and the heroine of WITH VIOLETS.
The research and the story were labors of love. And while the Berthe Morisot I wrote is not really like me – well, except for her strong, independent streak and a great passion for what she loved – I think there’s a little bit of every woman in her.
In my next release A CELEBRATION CHRISTMAS (Harlequin Special Edition, November 2014). I drew inspiration from one of my favorite movies THE SOUND OF MUSIC. To make it my own, I gave it a Christmas twist. Here’s the back cover copy:
THE GREATEST GIFT OF ALL
Lily Palmer is in for the Christmas of a lifetime! When the nanny signs up to watch Dr. Cullen Dunlevy’s four foster kids, she’s got her hands full. The Thomas clan is the most mischievous group of youngsters she’s ever had to wrangle, but Lily loves the job. After all, what girl wouldn’t adore spending the holidays with a warmhearted new family—and their irresistibly handsome foster dad?
Cullen doesn’t mind Christmas, but his Scrooge-like facade is there for a reason—to protect himself. His tough childhood caused him to hide behind his work and avoid entanglements at all costs. That includes avoiding falling for the deliciously tempting new nanny that Santa left for him this year…
Anyhow, when a fertile imagination has its way with an interesting subject… Well, that’s how stories are born. Whether or not the plot is autobiographical, a writer can’t help but infuse a little of herself and the things she loves into the story.
Have you ever related to a fictional character so much that she seemed real? Who was it and what about her grabbed you?
One person who comments will win the book of her (his) choice from my backlist… Can’t wait to hear from you!
Thanks so much to my dear friend, Nancy Robards Thompson for inviting me to stop by today. I’m thrilled to be here again! And even more, I was recently delighted to be a part of an anthology with seven talented authors, including two of the fabulous members of the Jaunty Quills—Nancy, and the lovely Katherine Garbera.
More than once over the years, I’ve heard people say things like, ‘working with a group of women is way harder than working with men.’ The logic went that women engage in power struggles and can be too catty to get along. Ironically, it was one of my own gender spouting what I consider the rather sexist viewpoint. But I’m proud to say that I’ve now scaled that female-only wall with not a single scratch!
In all fairness, none of us actually populated a cube farm, gathered around a water cooler or stood on line at a copy machine. Not once. Rather, we created our stories in a twenty-first century version of an office—a virtual office. There were no power struggles, no cattiness. One person stepped in to take the lead and nudge all us as far as deadlines and the like. Another agreed to handle banking, and so on. We utilized a Yahoo group and email loops for communication, signed contracts in tandem, and delegated tasks during the few in-person meetings we were able to have. And in the end, I must say, I’m darn proud of the finished product, as well as the way we were able to work together.
In the course of the project, there wasn’t a single argument. Sure, there were differing opinions on cover concepts, marketing costs and strategies, small things. But overall, for seven women with strong opinions and voices, our visions were fairly uniform. We definitely agreed that we wanted to see a hot, bare-chested man on the cover! I mean, how can you go wrong with that? Although individually we each write varying heat levels, we easily settled on a PG-13 rating. Above all, we all wanted top quality stories.
We named ourselves the Jewel Box Authors. Collectively, we’ve written Enchanted by an Emerald, a box set that’s different from anything I’ve ever read. The set is a combination of seven distinct romance genres, and I’m very excited that the release date is approaching. I can’t wait to see how readers react to the anthology.
The idea started on the trip home from a writers’ conference, four of us in a car, a long stretch of highway ahead of us. Someone threw out an idea, then came the names of those we’d like to pull into the project with us. Despite the fact that we all wrote completely different types of books, we realized that we could start with one theme—a theme that we could weave through time and space.
And so it began. This kernel of an idea. We gave ourselves a year from concept to release, which was about how long it took. Using the concept of a magical emerald through seven stories, from medieval to World War II to New Adult and everything in between—that we all agreed upon. In retrospect, that was quite a feat. But we’re women, and despite having a rep that groups of us have a tough time working together, we did it, and we did it well.
What’s been your experience? Do you think women can work well together?
The Jewelbox Authors have some goodies to offer! I will give away a download of my novella in the collection, titled EMERALD INTRIGUE to one commenter. Nancy Robards Thompson is offering a Kindle copy of her Montana Born Fair novella BEAUTY AND THE COWBOY to another lucky winner. Caro Carson will mail a print copy of her current Harlequin Special Edition, NOT JUST A COWBOY, to one winner! T. Elliott Brown is giving away an e-copy of her book BOMBSHELLS to one winner! Catherine Kean is offering an eBook copy of her boxed set MEDIEVAL ROGUES to one winner. Katherine Garbera is giving away a book from her backlist to one winner. Mimi Wells is giving away a $5 gift card to one lucky winner.
ENCHANTED BY AN EMERALD will be available in EBook and print on September 8.
One enchanted emerald…seven couples in need of its magic to find true love. Follow the magic jewel through time and distance…
Will a medieval Lady risk her heart for the battered knight she believes to be her first and only love?
Can a twenty-first century policewoman find her future after she falls into the arms of an eighteenth century pirate?
A World War II soldier’s luck is in the hands of a beautiful French woman, but is she friend or foe?
A business owner with a tragic past is forced to lean on her neighbor to protect her and the valuable jewel she’s discovered, but can she open her heart before it’s too late?
A woman in an unhappy marriage leaves New York behind to rebuild her life on Iris Island, Florida, but can she find strength in her mother’s wisdom and a special gem to build a future and take a second chance at love?
Can a dark-headed mystery man and one magical stone help a down-on-her-luck young woman discover what Fortune has in store for her?
A jewel collector’s plans to thwart her father by stealing a famous emerald might be derailed by the man who wants to throw her in jail—unless the enchanted jewel has another destiny for the lovers.
Wynter Daniels lives in Central Florida with her family. After careers in marketing and the salon industry, Wynter’s wicked prose begged to be set free. She has authored more than two dozen books in several genres including contemporary romance, romantic suspense and paranormal romance. You can find her on the web at WynterDaniels.com and on Facebook
Thursday, we took College Girl back to school. I’m not going to lie, I’ve been a little blue since we said good bye. This is the third year we’ve given her up. I keep waiting for back-to-school–college edition–to get easier, but it doesn’t. So, she and I have a joke (after binge-watching the HBO series Arrested Development) that mothers who cling too tightly to their grown children risk turning them into “Busters.” For those who haven’t seen the show, Buster is a grown man who has an unhealthy attachment to his mother. Since I’d never want to turn my darling girl into a Buster-ette, I’ve had to find ways to cheer myself up (never mind the looming deadlines. Just look away from the ticking clock. Direct your attention over here…)
It’s time for another installment of Misheard Lyrics (Volume 3). Feel free to sing along.
Song: Desperado Band: The Eagles
Misheard Lyric: You’ve been outright offensive, for so long now…
Correct Lyric: You’ve been out riding fences, for so long now.
Song: Comfortably Numb Band: Pink Floyd
Misheard Lyric: My head smelled just like tuba lube…
Correct Lyric: My hands swelled just like two balloons.
Song: Blowin’ in the Wind Band: Bob Dylan
Misheard Lyric: The ants are my friends, they’re blowin’ in the wind, The ants are a-blowin’ in the wind….
Correct Lyric: The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind, The answer is blowin’ in the wind.
Song: Royals Band: Lorde
Misheard Lyric: My friends in Iowa cracked the code…
Correct Lyric: My friends and I, we’ve cracked the code.
Song: Rock The Casbah Band: The Clash
Misheard Lyric: Rockin’ the cash bar…
Correct Lyric: Rockin’ Casbah
Song: Like a G6 Band: Far East Movement
Misheard Lyric: Like a cheese stick …
Correct Lyric: Like a G6
Song: Bohemian Rhapsody Band: Queen
Misheard Lyric: Saving his life from this warm sausage tea…
Correct Lyric: Spare him his life from this monstrosity
Song: Message In A Bottle Band: Police
Misheard Lyric: Massage in a brothel
Correct Lyric: Message in a bottle
Song: Living on a Prayer Band: Bon Jovi
Misheard Lyric: It doesn’t make a difference if we’re naked or not…
Correct Lyric: It doesn’t make a difference if we make it or not.
Song: Bad Moon Rising Band: Credence Clearwater Revival
Misheard Lyric: There’s a bathroom on the right…
Correct Lyric: There’s a bad moon on the rise.
What’s your favorite misheard lyric? I’ll give away an e-copy of my latest release, Beauty and the Cowboy, to one person who comments below.
Several of the Jaunty Quills were in San Antonio last week for the Romance Writers of America conference. We thought you’d like to see some photos from the conference (at the bottom of the page, there’s a legend telling about each photo).
1. Cindy and Nancy with former Jaunty Emily McKay at the Harlequin Party.
2. Cindy and Nora Roberts.
3. The gorgeous decorations at the Harlequin party.
4. Friday was Cindy’s birthday. Harlequin threw a big party just for her. Shhh! Don’t tell her they the party was for everyone.
5. The annual Jaunty Quills breakfast.
6. Kristan and Alexander Rodriguez.
7. Nancy at the Harlequin authors book signing (signing Cindy’s birthday card).
8. Kristan at the Harlequin authors book signing.
9. Nancy and Kathy before the workshop they presented.
10. Nancy, Jane Porter, and Kathy at the Harlequin party.
11. Raeanne Thayne, Nancy, and Kristan.
12. Cindy, Nancy, Kathy and Harlequin editor Susan Litman at the Harlequin party.
13. Harlequin editor Patience Bloom and Cindy at the Harlequin party.
14. Nancy and Kathy.
15. Robyn at the RWA Literacy signing.
16. Shana looking beautiful before her publisher’s party.
17. Shana and Mia before the Golden Heart and Rita awards.
18. Shana at the RWA Literacy signing.
19. Nancy at the RWA Literacy book signing.
20. Nancy, Kathy, and Mary Louise Wells realize former Jaunty Terri Brisbin was on their flight home.
21. Kristan, Gail Kirkpatrick Chianese, Virginia Kantra, and Jesse.
Forgive me, please
by Debra Salonen
Cowgirl Come Home, my new release from Tule Publishing, is a second-chance-at-love story. It’s also about the healing power of forgiveness.
Like Bailey and Paul, the main protagonists of Cowgirl, I met my hubby in high school. Our lockers were next door to each other, and although we “knew” each other all four years of high school, we didn’t actually start dating until the summer before our senior year.
I’d been dating an upper classman my sophomore and junior years. When he graduated, I was…alone, available, ready for fun. And my hubby-to-be brought fun in spades. We dated that year, went to prom and headed off to college together. We stumbled over a rocky road in the early years–what relationship doesn’t have its ups and downs? We had many opportunities to forgive each other. Since we’re celebrating our 40th anniversary this fall, I think I can say with some authority, “Being able to let go of anger is a good skill to have in a marriage.”
In Cowgirl, Come Home, Bailey Jenkins and Paul Zabrinski meet and fall in love when she’s a senior–primed to move on and get the heck out of Marietta, Montana, where she’s spent way too much time picking up after her difficult father–and he’s a junior with that all-important final year of school ahead of him. “Fall in love with Paul Zabrinski” was not on her list of goals. But they did fall in love. And they did what young people in love do…they had sex. And there were consequences that changed their lives forever.
Now, fifteen years later, Bailey’s back. (Here’s the working photo I used when I “met” Bailey.) Her parents need her. She’s not the same girl who left Montana ready to take on the world. All that bright promise has been dimmed by loss and anguish. Her dreams are gone, her spirit broken.
Paul, on the other hand, seems to have it all–he’s a single dad, hot, gorgeous and successful. He’s also lonely and wants what his parents have–that once in a lifetime love. One look at Bailey is all he needs to know the love he felt for her never died.
As they explore the possibility of rekindling their feelings, they can’t ignore their families’ expectations and fears. Paul’s older brother, Austen points out, “You have two kids to consider. Do you really want to introduce Bailey into their lives if she isn’t going to stick around?”
Austen’s fears aren’t unfounded. Bailey, the daughter of an alcoholic, struggles with the fear her father will fall off the wagon and return to his old brutish behavior. Bailey promised herself she wouldn’t turn into her mother–a co-dependent doormat. But, deep down, she wants more than anything to stay.
As Paul and Bailey begin to move forward with the demands of every day life, they carefully pick their way through the wreckage of the past. The odds are stacked against these two characters, which made writing their story hugely challenging and extremely satisfying.
What do you think? Are some hurts too big to come back from or can real love overcome anything? Bailey and Paul learn that forgiveness is key to healing. One of the songs on my Cowgirl, Come Home playlist is Forgiveness by Toby Mac. In case you’d like to give this song a try, I’ve included a $5 iTunes gift card in my fun, little, Cowgirl Come Home prize (2 backlist titles, iTunes card, notebook, post-it notes and Tule swag).
Happy reading, my friends!