This blog is for those 18 and older.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Reading Over the Holidays

Who doesn’t look forward to having time off, a break from the same old routine? I know I do. This holiday season I’m not traveling, or visiting family or anything. When I realized I had 10 days to do whatever I wanted, my mind started racing so fast it made me light headed! Ten whole days, what could I do with all that time, in addition to writing that is :-) It took a whole three minutes to make a list longer than my pad of paper, so I thought I’d better just share what I hope to read over this holiday season.

First, I must read Nicole North’s KILTED LOVER. I bought this eBook as soon as it came out and it has been waiting for me for over a month! I’ve read a novella by Nicole and really enjoyed it, so I am looking forward to this next one by her. Besides, who can resist a guy in a kilt? But beware, this is a very hot novel.

Next, I just have to read Jennifer Ashley’s THE LONGEST NIGHT in the anthology A CHRISTMAS BALL. I absolutely love everything this amazing lady writes and I know reading her novella will add to my Christmas spirit! This story takes up where her novel HIGHLANDER EVER AFTER left off and that was a wonderful romance with a touch of paranormal.

I also plan on reading Kathryne Kennedy’s new book MY UNFAIR LADY. It’s set in 1885 London, but the heroine is from America and has come to England to get polished up. Her “tutor” so to speak, is an impoverished Lord and from what Kathryne has said, it is a fun and humorous book. I’m all for laughing during the holiday season!

In addition to these books, I simply have to read Denise Domning’s A LADY IN WHITE which has been re-released by CVS Pharmacy. Denise gave me some great pointers on improving one of my manuscripts so I can’t wait to read her book. With Queen Elizabeth pulling the strings, this book promises to be a great escape back in time.

This next book I want to read is Kayla Janz’ HEART OF GLASS which features a rock star and is an erotic romance. What a combination! This is the second book in her RIGHT MAN . . . RIGHT NOW series. Definitely want to read this one soon, especially as I will be joining Kayla’s critique group in January.

Lastly, of great importance and edification, but probably not quite as fun as the others, I plan to read Donald Maass’ new book THE FIRE IN FICTION. I’m hearing wonderful comments about this book by this agent extraordinaire, so I’m hoping to learn a lot to utilize in my own work.

So those are my reading plans for the holidays, how about you? Do you have any plans to read? If you do, please share. I would love to hear what you plan for your reading pleasure.

Monday, December 7, 2009

A Take On Writing Contests

Here at Happily Ever After Thoughts I usually focus on romantic fiction, but this week I’m taking a side road to talk about nonfiction. Actually, it’s about my article that was published in this month’s Romance Writers Report and I’m so excited about it! The article is titled “Contests: Proving Ground” and it’s about how writers’ contests can help a pre-published writer develop habits and skills that will stand her in good stead when she becomes a published author. I’ve pasted the beginning in here, but if you want to read it in its entirety you can go to my website at and click on "articles." I hope you like it.

Contests: A Proving Ground
Unpublished writers can gain much from writing contests

Contests are a great way to hone a writer’s skill and develop good author habits as long as the contest route is taken with “practice” in mind. Like making the Olympic team, we need to develop a routine, exercise our muscles, practice our art, and enter competitions, so when we make the publishing team, we have a solid foundation on which to build and we won’t let our teammates down.

But we must be very conscious of how we approach this path and what our expectations are. If we enter contests simply hoping our entry will pass the test of the first-round judges who will pass it along to the final judge who will then request the full manuscript, and love it so much they’ll decide to publish it, then we are losing out on the education that can be gained from the experience itself. Not every competition will be won, but we can take something away from every competition entered.

The Reality
Feedback is probably the most controversial area of entering a contest. Horror stories abound about the belittling judge who told a writer never to write another word. To me, this type of critique tells me more about the judge than the work. However, it amazes me that a writer will receive feedback from three judges and two will offer wonderful praise and the third will trash it. The writer can’t stop talking about, and, yes, obsessing over, the negative feedback. Granted, positive critiques don’t give you a lot to work on, but, for some reason, we always focus on the one negative. Are our egos really so delicate? For writers, they’d better not be, or trips to the psychologist will far outpace trips to the bank!

Yes, getting a harsh critique can be tough, but guess what? Editors and agents are not all going to have the same opinion. They aren’t going to like the same genres, writing styles, voices, and plot lines. They will come to your manuscript with their own personal biases and beliefs, just as the many volunteer judges do for our chapter contests. Some editors will think my manuscript needs work. Others may think it should be thrown in the trash (though they won’t say so), and then, there will be that one editor who thinks my story has great potential and will want to publish it.

Notice the similarity? The judging portion of the contest world is simply a microcosm of the publishing world. It is a competition for your Olympic manuscript. Feedback from the “good” judges is like our coaches sharing their experience and wisdom. The feedback from the “bad” judge is the opposing team’s trash talk. Are we really going to waste time on trash talk?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Kathryne Kennedy - My Unfair Lady

This week I'm very excited about a new book that came out today, MY UNFAIR LADY. It's by one of my favorite authors Kathryne Kennedy. She is a great writer and a truly wonderful person. But instead of talking about the book and the lady here, I am posting a link to another blog where you can read a great interview with Kathryne and comment for a chance to win a book from her. I already left my comment so now it's your turn :-)

The link is for the blog Jenny Loves To Read. Join me over there to get an idea of why I'm so excited!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Guest: Wendy Ely, Win a Free Book!

This week my guest is Wendy Ely. Her second book CONFESSIONS has just become available. One lucky commenter will win a downloadable copy of her book! Welcome Wendy.

Alexis suggested I talk about how I came up with the plot for my novel but honestly, I can’t remember where I got the idea for CONFESSIONS. I’ve racked my brain since the date was set for her blog and the closest I’ve come was this: My mom came from a family of 9. My maternal grandmother kept the two boys and got rid of the 7 girls. My mother had been sold at age four. That premise with the other details swirled together and now we have CONFESSIONS.

What I do remember clearly is an incident that happened to me while writing CONFESSIONS. I had been in a relationship with a guy and we were getting ready to take the next step~ move in together. One morning, after staying the night with me, he got up for work as usual. He woke me long enough to kiss me goodbye. The man left. He went to work (he’d been a store manager) put the keys in the safe, went home to pack his things, and left town with no word to anybody. I was in the middle of CONFESSIONS at the time and had already written the big emotional scene between Chelsea and Jordan. When my boyfriend left, I was so upset; I had a million questions whirling through my head. After my two week depression, I took all my anger and rewrote some of the scenes. All of my feelings were fused into those pages. It’s crazy to know I experienced something I had already written about, but his disappearance turned out to be a blessing in more ways than one.

The conclusion to my story is: He ended up emailing me three months later and asked if I’d move to Boston with him. I told him to go to… well, it wasn’t a nice word. What about the conclusion to Jordan and Chelsea’s story? Well, you’ll have to see for yourself but I’ll share the scene I’ve talked about in this blog.


His presence seemed to be intruding on the living room. Earlier, he had been so welcome here, now it seemed he’d become a stranger in her sacred space. She wanted him to leave so she could curl up and cry alone until she reached her state of denial.
“What are we going to do now?” She didn’t want to be having this conversation. She wanted him to walk out the door so she wouldn’t have to feel anymore. Feel the loss of her child, feel the love for him, or feel the sadness of what she’d done.
“Damn it all to hell.” His voice boomed through the room.
“Jordan, I’m sorry,” she whispered, tears streaked down her face.
“Stop saying you’re sorry! I’m tired of hearing it. If you hadn’t sold our baby we wouldn’t be here right now. We’d be home. We’d be happy. We would be a family.” His strong voice flung out as if a bomb had gone off.
“Are you ever going to forgive me?” She shrank farther into the chair.
“I have every right to be angry with you, Chelsea. Do you know what I went through when you disappeared?” He took a few steps toward her.
“No,” she said, lowering her voice. “I won’t even pretend I do.”
“I went through hell.” His fist banged into his chest.
“As if I haven’t gone through anything.” The words shot at him like bullets.
“You?” He spat. “What have you gone through? Missing your daughter? You, darling, chose this! I didn’t.” He stomped over to the window and looked outside.
She kept her legs curled up in the chair, as if it would shield her from the hurt she’d caused him. It seemed like they had come so far in mending the issues between them, now they were taking ten steps backward.
“Jordan, please.” She swiped at the tears trickling down her cheeks.
“Please what? Please forgive you? Please accept my daughter is gone? Please forget about my love for you? You might be able to, but not me!” He turned to her, his eyes blazing with fury.
She shot up from the couch. “Forget? You think I can forget you? Look at this.” She undid the zipper on her jeans to reveal the tattoo. “Remember this? I can never forget you with this branding on me! I can’t even look in the damn mirror without remembering!”
“I hope it haunts you like it did me for ten years.” His voice lowered but didn’t lose an ounce of anger. “I didn’t know what happened to you. I didn’t know if someone abducted you, or if I did something wrong to make you leave.”

To read more of CONFESSIONS or find out more about the author visit

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Do You Buy E-Books Online?

My first guest blogger, Laura Breck had her first book, SECRET VEGAS LIVES, published by Red Rose Publishing. Her next book, SCANDALOUS L.A. DESIRES, will also be published by this well established epublisher. I have always been an old fashioned book buyer. You know the kind. I'm the one who hears about a book coming out and goes to the book store to buy it, only to leave with three more books than I planned on. Yup, that’s me. But with so many romance writers publishing with epublishers, I realized I was behind the times. So recently I bought my very first book from an epublisher. It was sooooo easy, I couldn’t believe it! That made me wonder if I was the last to discover the ease of buying from epublishers. Have you bought a book from an epublisher? How many ebooks have you bought electronically?

ANNOUNCEMENT: I have another guest blogger coming to Happily Ever After Thoughts next week! Her name is Wendy Ely and her new Romantic Suspense, CONFESSIONS, came out this week by Lyrical Press. She’s actually going to give away a copy of her book to one lucky commenter, so be sure to stop by next week.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

What to read next?

Wow, what a great blog last week with guest blogger Laura Breck. Thank you everyone who commented. The winner of the goody bag was Hannah Howell! Congratulations, Hannah.

Since I’ve already read Laura’s book, I was looking at my “To Be Read” shelf and wondering what to read next when I decided to expand my horizons and see what others might recommend. So that’s my question for this week. What have you read recently that you just couldn’t put down and think I should read? I’m open to all possibilities as long as it’s romance and it is available for purchase now. Give me the name and author of the book and a little about the story to wet my appetite. Whichever commenter’s book I choose will win a $10 gift card to Barnes and Noble so she can buy her own next book. Don’t be shy. I need some suggestions!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Good Idea! And a Goodie Bag Contest!

It is my pleasure to welcome my first guest Laura Breck, to Happily Ever After Thoughts. Laura's new romance SECRET VEGAS LIVES just came out and it is fantastic! She has included an excerpt of her book and is giving away a prize to one lucky commenter, so don't forget to comment! Laura, take it away!

Sometimes, a good idea deserves a 102,000 word book written around it. That’s how SECRET VEGAS LIVES grew from a suggestion to a novel.

I lived in Las Vegas for three years at the turn of the century. It’s a wonderful city; good, caring people flock there from around the world. I chose to base my first romance/mystery novel there because it’s such a popular place, and nearly everyone can relate to it and to its Sin City patina.

The “sin” is what gives SECRET VEGAS LIVES its mystery - Antonio’s decadent addiction that, in Vegas, could be any one of a hundred legalized indulgences! The idea of creating a book around this sin came from a friend at a bachelorette party, late one night/early one morning, somewhere on the Vegas strip. “You should write a book about this,” she said. And I did!

I love telling a story that can sweep a reader away, take them completely out of their life and immerse them in whichever city they choose to visit; Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, San Antonio, Chicago. And I write a sweet/spicy romance. Sweet, because I believe in a physical relationship between two loving, committed adults, and that’s what I promote in my books. Spicy, because I like to write detailed love scenes, something to steam up a reader’s windows.

SECRET VEGAS LIVES focuses on Dr. Valerie Kane, an eminent psychologist who is at the wrong place at the right time, and is mistaken for a blackmailer by crime novelist Antonio Daniato. They both swear they’re not the blackmailer, but their suspicions keep them from exploring the intense attraction between them. When they learn to trust each other, the passion is red-hot. But there’s a reason they’re being blackmailed, and when they learn each other’s secrets, their perfect romance is torn apart.

The places in the book are real, and I’ve visited them, so my research consisted of remembering what the restaurants looked like, and doing a little online research to make sure they were still in business. My heroine in SECRET VEGAS LIVES volunteers at a shelter. Since each of my books is partnered with a charity in the city in which it’s set, in Las Vegas a portion of the proceeds will be donated to The Shade Tree Shelter, a shelter for women, children, and their pets. Read more about The Shade Tree on my website

Here is a scene from SECRET VEGAS LIVES that I love.

Valerie looked at the lapel of Antonio's tuxedo. "I hoped you wouldn't do anything rash."

"You give me too much credit, princess. I'm not ethical like you."

She looked into his eyes, disappointment knotting her stomach. "You would have caused a scene here tonight?"

"If not here, then somewhere. Yes, I would have."

She blinked, fighting back tears. How could someone be so cruel? He would have ruined her reputation on nothing more than circumstantial evidence. She hadn't misjudged him. He was a bastard.

He snapped, "Don't look at me that way."

"What way?" Her throat closed, tears were imminent.

His voice dropped low, sensual. "As though your sexy blue eyes can see right into my soul."

Uncertainty gripped her, the room closed in. "Imagine how surprised I am to find you have no soul."

"Ouch." He flinched. "You've got claws, princess." His smile flashed evil.

She wanted to wipe it off his face--with her lips. She choked on the desire, zinged with energy, amazingly alive. Like she hadn't felt in days, like she never felt with Troy. Guilt, fear, passion, anger. The conflicting emotions warred with her sanity, and panic swamped her.

"I can't do this, Antonio..." Her voice broke and she gasped for breath.

She broke away from him and ran. The opposite direction from where her boyfriend's big, safe arms would protect her. In the empty lobby, she veered toward an exit, then changed direction and darted around a corner where a couch sat hidden in a dark alcove between two potted palms.

She sat and began the steady breathing technique and pressed the reflexology spot on her wrist which together should hold off anxiety. Then gave up and dropped her head into her hands and broke down crying.

"Cara mia,no." He sat next to her, his warm arm wrapped around her shoulders, comforting. He stuffed his handkerchief in her fingers. "You know I'm not worth crying about."

She sat bolt upright and glared at him, allowing her anger to emerge, effectively preventing the panic attack from overtaking her.

"You arrogant bastard."

"That's one of my best features."

"I'm not crying because of your cruelty, I'm crying because of mine! I never act this way. Something about you brings it out in me." She tried to shrug off his arm, but he wouldn't budge.

"Should we analyze it? We've got a couch right here," he wiggled his eyebrows at her.

"You are not funny!" She dabbed at her eyes with his handkerchief. She must be a mess. Her makeup running, her eyes red, and her nose sniffly.

He laughed. "You're sexy when you're mad."

"Don't. Don't try to laugh this off. This is the cure I need to get you out of my system."

His face sobered. Quietly he said, "How can I be in your system when I've never held you." He tightened his arm around her, with the fingers of his other hand he caressed her jaw. "And I've never tasted..." His lips pressed hot against her neck, his tongue teased her skin.

"Wait," she murmured breathlessly.

He continued his assault. "And we've never really kissed," he whispered, nipping her ear with his teeth. The bite sent waves of passionate chills down her body.

Oh, God, what was she doing? They were in the middle of Caesar's Palace and she'd arrived with another man.

"No." She straightened her arms and pushed him away, looked into his beautiful brown eyes and almost lost her willpower again.

"Yes. It's going to happen." He smiled his charismatic, irresistible smile, "Runny mascara and all."

She broke free and stood, catching her breath. How was he able to make her lose control? Her knees shook with excitement and her libido commanded her to fling herself onto his lap and let him kiss her senseless.

"Antonio." He sat there patiently waiting for her, so handsome it made her ache to touch him. His smile was too confident, as though he knew there wasn't a woman capable of resisting him.

She took a step toward him...

Just as her boyfriend came around the corner.

Sometimes ideas for my books come from dreams, some pop into my head while reading other books, and once in a while, as with SECRET VEGAS LIVES, someone blurts out an idea for me at a completely unexpected moment!

I’d love to hear how you’ve found ideas for your books, or what plots you’ve found in romance novels that you’ve found ingenious. Please leave a comment, and one lucky person will be drawn at random to receive a goodie bag of my promo items.

Thank you so much to Happily Ever After Thoughts for hosting me today, and I’ll be around to answer any questions. I appreciate everyone’s stopping by, and I look forward to reading your comments.

Happy Reading!
SECRET VEGAS LIVES is available at

Monday, October 26, 2009

Reading Romances in Order

I just finished Joy Nash’s IMMORTALS: THE CROSSING which had been on my TBR shelf since I met her in NJ a year ago. This was such a great book! I actually got to revisit Dante’s 9 levels of hell through the characters' adventures. Talk about up close and personal! Truly amazing. I like saving books to read when I know more will be coming out in the series and then I read them all at once. That way I don’t have to wait months between books. The IMMORTALS series has a total of 8 books and three authors, Jennifer Ashley, Joy Nash, and Robin Popp. The last book was published this March. Okay, so I’m still a little late, but it’s so fun to get lost in a world with reoccurring characters throughout the books. I hoard them until I have them all.

I also used this strategy of buying and holding for Cassie Ryan’s SEDUCTION Trilogy. These books take place mostly on a planet called Tador which is similar to the proverbial Garden of Eden, but these are erotic romances so reader beware these are very, very hot books. With this series I loved the characters so much that by the last book I made myself stop reading every few chapters to make the story last longer.

How do you read books in a trilogy or series? As they come out or do you save them for an all out read?

ANNOUNCEMENT: I’m so excited! This Sunday I will have my first guest blogger. Laura Breck, whose first romance SECRET VEGAS LIVES came out last Thursday, will be giving away a prize to one lucky commenter. So don’t miss next week!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Sending Fan Mail

When I finish reading a book by one of my friends I always send them a quick email and let them know what I liked about it. I can’t help it. I think it’s because I’m always so thankful to read a great romance and when it’s written by someone I know, I want to tell them how much I enjoyed it. Since I’m quite the miser with compliments, this is a bit out of character for me.

However, I’ve never sent fan mail to an author I don’t know. I wonder why. I did ask a few authors what they thought about fan mail and was excited to hear that they love it! Even if you read a book of theirs from years ago, they love receiving your reaction to their stories. In fact, the authors I corresponded with said they reply back to fan mail! How great is that?

Have you ever sent fan mail? Did you hear back?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Characters’ Names Starting with the Same First Letter

commenter from Maryland contacted me to ask if other readers find this annoying in romance novels. She says she is a very fast reader and when multiple characters’ names start with the same first letter, she has to slow down and confirm which character it is. For her, it gets frustrating. I can see where this might be an issue for very fast readers. Do people who read slower care about the first letter of the characters' names? Do other fast readers find this to be a distraction? Where do you stand?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Does Setting Matter?

This weekend I read a book from one of my favorite authors. It was a paranormal set in San Francisco, mostly in Chinatown. I love visiting San Francisco and have even enjoyed the Dim Sum experience, but for some reason I just couldn’t connect with the environment. Maybe it was the big city. I’m a rural/suburban girl at heart. I still thoroughly enjoyed the book, but not as much as her others and I know it was the setting and my own personal bias. In the historical genre publishers have slowed down on westerns. In all genres publishers have been more open to settings around the world than they used to be. I wonder where that leaves futuristic romances with whole new worlds which could be either. Have you ever found setting effects your connection to the story? Have you ever thought about where the book takes place before buying it?

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Physically Scarred Hero

This weekend I read Elizabeth Hoyt’s TO BEGUILE A BEAST and I know exactly why I was hooked. I’m a push-over for a hero who is psychologically or physically scarred due to some violent act in his past. Hoyt definitely went out on a limb with this one and I was with her all the way (till 2:00am to be exact). Actually, her Legend of the Four Soldiers series, the fourth one coming out in November, is based on men changed by war, but the first two books have heroes with internal scars. This book’s hero, Alistair, has some pretty scary physical scars which of course mold his motivation towards being a recluse. I think it is a real challenge for an author to write the physically scarred hero, especially as Hoyt did, where the damage is readily apparent and not beneath his clothes.
I think I love this type of hero because I hope that I would be like the heroine and see beyond the scars and through the defenses he puts up, and like her provide emotional support for the vulnerable man underneath. How do you feel about physically scarred heroes in romance novels? Do you find them more compelling or the same as any hero with a tough past? Have you read any particular romance novels where the physically scarred hero was particularly memorable?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

What types of Romance do you like the best?

When I started reading romance novels, which was further back than I care to put in writing, I read only Historical Romances. For decades I did this with one exception, Sylvie Kurtz. She was writing for Harlequin Intrigue at the time and was part of my critique group so I bought her books and devoured them. Finally, in the past few years I have expanded to Fantasy Romance, Contemporary Romance, Paranormal Romance, and (dare I say it) Erotic Romance. Again, it is because I know the authors and it has opened up whole new worlds for me, in some cases literally! If someone were to ask me what my favorite sub-genre of romance is today, I would be hard pressed to give a definitive answer. What types of romance do you like best . . . or can you say?

Monday, August 31, 2009

What to read next

I was looking over my "To be read" shelf yesterday in a serious bid to determine what to read next. I will have a lot of reading time on my hands next month and I want to make the most of it, but besides the books I have already bought, there are at least five others I hope to buy. I think I will start reading Elizabeth Hoyt as I now have two of hers to be read, but there are so many others. I have unread books by Johanna Lindsey, Joy Nash, Allyson James, Judy Fennell, Cassie Ryan, Veronica Wolf and more. Where to start? Have you decided what to read next? How do you choose?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Who's on your Keeper Shelf?

There are some romance novels that I just can't bear to part with after I've finished them. Unfortunately, because I live on a houseboat I have limited space and have to make tough decisions about which romances I can keep on my shelves. Some of my keeper authors are Julia Garwood, Karen Marie Moning, Jennifer Ashley, Jo Beverley, Johanna Lindsey, and Kathryn Kennedy, just to name a few. There's actually about 50. I live on a big boat :-)
Who is on your Keeper Shelf? We all have them. Those amazing authors that we just can't give up. Do you have Oldies but Goodies, Up and Comers, both?

Friday, August 14, 2009

What was the first romance novel you ever read?

As a teenager when I visited my grandmother I would often dig through her many, many paperbacks and find a Victoria Holt or Phyllis Whitney to read while she read her book. I truly enjoyed those wonderful authors, but it was the day I discovered the book SHANNA by Kathleen Woodiwiss on my mother's dresser that I knew I had found what I was looking for. The drama, the adventure, and of course the romance at the heart of that book hooked me for life. I read in between my classes at school, sometimes even during! I read at night until the wee hours of the morning. I was very upset when I found that I couldn't read in the car because my stomach would get upset. So what was your first romance novel? Did you know immediately that it was what you had been looking for?

Friday, August 7, 2009

What was the last romance novel you read?

I think we all read romance novels for different reasons. I know I do. Sometimes I read a particular book because a friend wrote it, sometimes because I hope to learn from it, and sometimes because I just want to escape and enjoy an interesting story. The most recent novel I finished was Cathy McDavid's Waiting for Baby. After reading it in one sitting, I immediately emailed her and let her know how much I enjoyed it. So what was the last romance novel you read? What made you decide to pick it up and get lost in the romance?