Hands-on Men

There is something about hands-on men that is so appealing when their gestures are warm and affectionate.

I sat at the beach one day for a brief coffee break of twenty minutes or so and watched a young couple who were on a blanket nearby.

He lay on his side supporting himself on one elbow. She sat with her back to him curled over a big textbook studying. Perfectly normal, right? At first, yes, but while I watched, for my entire visit, he touched her non-stop. He ran his nails lightly over the part of her back exposed by her sundress and her shoulders and arms, hands, knees, legs, feet.

There was nothing lascivious about it. His actions were perfectly suitable for a beach. It was gorgeous and sensual. Everywhere his fingers went his eyes followed. He was obviously fascinated by her.

I thought, wow, I have to use this guy and this scene in a novel one day. I also thought, if this is what he is like in public, what on earth is he like in a bedroom? As a writer, that thought certainly fueled my imagination.

Cut to another scene, another beach. I had been sitting with a friend while we watched our children play in the sand when a large bunch of men and women formed a party nearby. They were middle-aged to older people.

Same thing again. Another man who loved to touch. The group was large and voluble, very animated. I would guess the man to be in his late fifties to early sixties. He sat beside his wife with his hand on her back, or her shoulder, or her knee, while they each talked to different people. Such an ordinary looking man, but so sweet and loving. When they all settled down, she lay on her stomach and he rubbed her back, then lay down beside her and rested his hand against hers.

Ah, such simple romance and so lovely.

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Filed under Harlequin Superromance

Sisters!

I have four sisters, with ten years between the oldest and youngest. Since my mum’s recent death, we’ve spend a lot of time together, mostly walking through the different parks and trails of Toronto and talking. Despite our grief, we can still laugh. My mum taught us to take every opportunity in life to laugh.

Last weekend, we had a sleepover at my sister’s house and cried a little, but we also laughed a lot.

It reminded me of one of my favorite weekends with my sisters. All five of us, plus one sister-in-law, rented a van and drove to Ottawa to visit my daughter, who was in her first year of university at the time. We wanted to skate on the canal during Winterlude. February in Ottawa is absolutely frigid! When we met my daughter at her dorm, we carried our skates and were dressed in a ton of layers, heavy hats and mittens, and our warmest winter coats. When we took the elevator to access the walkway to one end of the canal, all seven of us crowded in, the doors closed, we pressed the correct floor’s button and went…nowhere.

The elevator was stuck. To my daughter’s knowledge, there had been no problems with it in the months she had been using it.

We were able to call security, who had to bring in a repairman from his home. There was no one available on campus who could help us to get out. Shedding a MILLION layers of clothes, we built a pile waist high until we were down to one layer–camisoles and undershirts. It looked like we had built a bonfire of winter clothing in the middle of the floor.

After a while, impatient students started to knock on the elevator and we were laughing and yelling, “It’s HOT in here. We’re menopausal women. Get us out!” which thoroughly embarrassed my younger sister who was definitely NOT menopausal. My daughter laughed until her sides ached.

Half an hour later, we were rescued by an older gentleman who kindly averted his eyes while we pulled our layers back on.

We still laugh about that.

I’d love to hear your favorite stories about times spent with your sisters. For those of you with brothers? Definitely share your stories, too!

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Grandmothers are Special People

On February 21st, my mum passed away, suddenly and unexpectedly, leaving the family reeling. I don’t want to make anyone sad, or to bring you down. The purpose of this blog is one of celebration.

I find that I remember my mother at the oddest moments and not always with sorrow. There are times when I feel great joy thinking about how much she gave to those around her, and how fortunate I was to have been her daughter.

What I want to discuss is how she affected my daughter and the wonder of the extended family.

My daughter is an only child so every family member is important to her. She has a warm relationship with all of her aunts and uncles, and loved her Nan dearly.

My favorite memory of my daughter and Nan together goes back to when my daughter was three or four years old. She always enjoyed talking to adults and, even at that age, was a great listener.

Because we lived outside of Toronto and I wanted to maintain a close relationship between my daughter and her Nan, we would visit my mum for sleepovers. My mum was an early riser, and I am not, but I would hear my mum head down to the kitchen very early and then, a few minutes later, would sense my daughter slipping out of bed to join her grandmother.

More than a few times, I came downstairs to find them sitting in the open doorway of the back porch in the sun, still in pajamas and housecoats, my mum with a cup of coffee and my daughter a hot chocolate. Even before I finished walking the stairs, I could hear them chatting. When I turned down the long hallway, I would see them with their heads together, silhouetted against the green grass, trees and colorful flowers in my mum’s back yard, enjoying each other and the day. It is a snapshot memory of my two favorite people.

A week before she died, my mum and I had lunch and she mentioned how much she loved and admired my now-grown daughter and how important to her the times they’d had the opportunity to spend with just each other were. Especially, she remembered those mornings when they sat together on the back porch in the sun and talked.

On the day of the funeral, I told my daughter what her Nan had said about her and she was thrilled. She recalled those memories so fondly. I’m sure she will carry them with her always. She was fortunate to have had her grandmother in her life for so many years.

I didn’t meet my mother’s parents until I was nineteen. They lived in Newfoundland, one of Canada’s Atlantic provinces. That’s when I learned where my mother got her sense of humor–from her father–and her streak of mischief. Nan played tricks on people, which my daughter loved.

There weren’t many times that I was able to visit my grandparents, but I cherish the memories of those rare visits.

I would love to hear some of your cherished memories of your grandparents.

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Filed under grandmothers, Newfoundland, special people

I have fond memories…

In February, the published authors of the Toronto Romance Writers hosted a Librarians’ Tea for our local librarians. A resounding success, it brought back fond memories of visiting my local library often and regularly when I was a child (which, admittedly, was a verrrry long time ago). In those days, libraries were quiet, hushed places. My library was a sanctuary for me and I loved its hallowed stacks of books.

In my large family there were resources for only a few books. I craved more and got to know my local branch well.

The upper floor was devoted exclusively to children and I would curl up in cozy window benches in front of leaded glass-paned windows and devour books. Because it was such a long time ago no individual titles come to mind, but I do remember reading the Madeline series by Ludwig Bemelmans as well as the Curious George books by H.A. and Margret Rey–and loving them. There was also my prolonged fascination with ballerinas.

Somehow, I missed the Nancy Drew series, but loved the Bobbsey Twins. By then, I felt a closer kinship with the older 12-year-old twins Bert and Nan, than with 6-year-old Freddie and Flossie.

I moved on to Daphne DuMaurier, Phyllis A. Whitney, Victoria Holt and Mary Stewart, and devoured their books.

I’m sure that libraries nurtured most of today’s authors and a huge number of today’s readers.

I have tremendous respect for librarians and the work they do. These are the people getting our children as hooked on reading as we are.

I would love to know of your memories of your library when you were a child, tweenie and/or teenager. What books did you read? Which ones stand out as your favorites?

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Filed under Bobbsey Twins, Curious George, Daphne DuMaurier, H.A. and Margret Rey, libraries, Ludwig Bemelmans, Madeline, Mary Stewart, Nancy Drew, Phyllis A. Whitney, Victoria Holt

To Beard or Not to Beard

The other day, I happened to look through People magazine’s last dozen or so covers of their Sexiest Man Alive issues. What a feast.

One thing led to another and soon I was checking out good-looking male movie stars all over the Internet and dividing them into three categories, which dictated how attractive I would find them.

Those categories running from my own favorites to my least favorite were: the Clean-shaven look, the Two-day stubble, and the last category for Brad Pitt alone and the weird beard he’s sporting these days. I truly hope that doesn’t last long for him. What a shame to waste such a gorgeous face.

I would put Jude Law into a category of his own with his one-day stubble.

I love men’s skin, especially on their faces. While the two-day stubble is undeniably sexy, some faces are just too handsome to be covered by anything other than a woman’s kisses!

Most male movie stars straddle the line between the first two, sometimes clean and sometimes with stubble.

Here is my list of favorites depending on how they looked in different photos.

Clean-shaven:

Matt Damon

George Clooney (his salt and pepper beard is a good look, too, though)

Daniel Craig (I really don’t like his mustache in A Steady Rain)

Two-day stubble:

Hugh Jackman (um, wow)

Patrick Dempsey

Gerard Butler

Weird beard:

Brad Pitt

How do you like your men? Clean or ‘dirty?’ Who are your favorite male stars?

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Filed under A Steady Rain, Brad Pitt, Daniel Craig, George Clooney, Gerard Bulter, Hugh Jackman, Jude Law, Matt Damon, Patrick Dempsey, Sexiest Man Alive

I am amazed…

I am amazed by how much interest people show when they learn that I’m a writer. I don’t trumpet the information about, but at times, it does come up in conversation. People are invariably curious and impressed.

It generates the kinds of questions you would expect, i.e. where do you find your ideas (everywhere); how long does it take to write a book (it depends, but on average six to eight months); if I give you an idea, will you write the book for me? (Um…nope 😉 )

There are other questions, though, that do surprise me, such as, do you consider yourself an entrepreneur? Well, considering that it takes as much work to sell your novels and yourself to agents and editors as it takes to write them, yes, I do. As well, considering how much knowledge of sales and promotion authors need to have these days to succeed, yes, I do.

I write because I love to create stories with wonderfully happy endings, and I feel such gratification that there are those in the world who will buy my stories. I think this might be everyone’s dream: to make money doing what one loves to do.

I’m not always sure what the reception will be when I mention that I write romance novels because of the long history of romance novels not being taken seriously. What a shame. They offer a glorious escape from our daily stresses.

To my surprise, most often I find that I’m treated with respect. There are so, so many people out there who want to write a novel, but never do. They are impressed that I not only finished at least one, but that I persevered and sold.

The question asked most often about writing romance is: is there a formula? My answer? There are expectations, the biggest of which is that happy ending.

To writers reading this, what is the most common question you are asked about your writing? What is the most unusual you’ve ever been asked?

To readers, what have you always wanted to ask a published author?

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Filed under happy endings, writing romance novels

The Summer of Glorious Eating

I think of summer, 2009, as the Summer of Glorious Eating.

Every social event I attended featured wonderful food. I remember the meals more than the conversations! Even small, unexpected treats were ambrosial. I remember a lazy latte sitting at a wrought-iron table on the Main street sidewalk of a small town late on a Sunday afternoon after the tourist shops had closed for the day and the only coffee available was from a tavern, but brewed to perfection. Man, it was good.

Two of the events—a 50th birthday party and a simple but gorgeous wedding—served the yummiest catered food I’ve ever eaten. I tried bison for the first time in the form of mini tournedos and found it lean, tender, and tasty. It didn’t hurt that it was wrapped in one of my faves—bacon. I tried chorizo ‘lollipops’ on wooden skewers, rounds of sausage dipped in honey. Sounds weird. Tasted great.

At the birthday party, I enjoyed the latest trendy version of golden French fries served in paper cones and topped with garlic aioli. Okay, I admit it, I’m addicted to potatoes. They make a great vehicle for flavorful toppings and fillings. At the wedding, I ate more than my fair share of tiny new potatoes stuffed with spicy shredded beef.

I had to (simply had to!) eat quite a few spring rolls before I figured out what it was in the rice wrappers besides the vegetables that tasted so refreshing. Slivers of pears.

Both of the catered events were outdoors, the birthday party in an enchantment of a garden filled with stone animals and small pieces of artwork tucked in among flowers and shrubs and rocks. Halfway up the hill toward the back of the garden, the children ate their food ensconced in large Adirondack chairs in an open-sided wooden structure with a peaked roof and backed by a stone fireplace. The kids called it ‘The Cottage.’

The wedding abutted woods full of tall pines and mature maples. Instead of a wedding cake, the bride—a cupcake fanatic—opted for tons of colorful pretty cupcakes, including decadent devil’s food, all of them decorated with edible flower petals.

Noshing al fresco on cool summer evenings under bright clear star-studded skies makes everything taste better.

I am SUCH a sucker for good food. Sigh. It was a good summer;-)

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The sound of a voice

Germs of ideas for romance novels can start in the oddest places. Sometimes, all it takes is the sound of a man’s voice.

Last year, I attended school as well as writing romance. One day, I sat in a bookkeeping class in which all of the students worked independently and quietly. In the hallway outside of my classroom, a bunch of students got excited because one of their teachers, who’d been off on sick leave for surgery, returned to school and joined them in the hall. I couldn’t see them from where I sat and didn’t pay much attention until I heard the teacher speak.

Wow.

I fell in love with his voice and his gorgeous Aussie accent. There’s something about Aussie men and the way they talk. For the next ten minutes, he delivered a truly hilarious monologue about hospital food and I thought, who is this guy? I want to be in his class.

I didn’t get much bookkeeping done that day because I did little more than listen to what was going on in the hallway.

When I stepped out of class, I got my first glimpse of him and he looked…nice, mild-mannered, unassuming. Bland. Not at all this hunky Aussie wildman I’d pictured. Had I met him in the hallway before I heard him speak, I might have smiled politely and walked on, but after hearing that voice, that sense of humor? I was hooked.

Too bad he was wa-a-ay younger than me, but I know I’ll use him in a future novel. The heroine will fall for the hero before she ever sees him–just by the sound of his voice.

I’m fascinated by the ways in which people fall in love. Sometimes, it’s the sound of a voice…sometimes, the touch of a hand…sometimes a unique scent floating on the wind. You spin quickly to see who it is, and what it is about this person that makes you feel he is already a part of yourself, that you have known him all of your life.

In my first Harlequin Superromance, NO ORDINARY COWBOY, June 2009, my hero Hank, had a rough, sexy voice. He sounded like he drank battery acid for breakfast, but the first time the heroine heard him, shivers ran down her spine.

I loved creating Hank. He isn’t the best-looking man around, but he has a great head of hair, awesome biceps, an amazing voice and a heart as big as his Montana ranch. He’s also a truly decent guy who is courageous enough to bring poor inner-city children who are recovering from cancer to his ranch for a little fun and TLC. They deserve it after all they’ve lived through.

I’ll let you read the book to discover why this took so much courage on his part. I’ll also leave it to you to discover his flaws. Like how stubborn he is…

Hank teaches my heroine, Amy, how to live a courageous life.

As hard as Amy fights her attraction to Hank, at the end of the story she realizes that she had never, ever stood a chance. Within the first few seconds of meeting him, of seeing adoring children climbing all over him, when he opened his mouth and said, in his rough dry sexy voice, “I’m Hank Shelter,” she fell in love.

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Filed under Hank Shelter, Harlequin, No Ordinary Cowboy, Superromance