Monday, May 6, 2013

Writing the Hero and Heroine From Different Cultures by Chris Karlsen

In my Dangerous Waters series, my heroine, Charlotte Dashiell, is an American nautical archaeologist from Chicago. In book one, Golden Chariot, she's part of the recovery team working a shipwreck off the coast of Turkey. Atakan Vadim, the hero, is on the same team and her dive partner. Atakan is Turkish, and a trained archaeologist who is a government agent working for the Ministry of Culture. Field reps from the Ministry are assigned to all legitimate archaeological sites in the country. They oversee the integrity and safety of the sites and relics.

Over the course of the story, Charlotte and Atakan's professional relationship grows as does their personal attraction for each other. We Americans tend to speak our minds and we enjoy teasing one another. Turkey is a patriarchal society, where in the main; women are less likely to be as outspoken as they are here or in much of Europe.

When bringing this hero and heroine together, the first concern has to be for the reader. Who is your audience? For mine, I needed to write this culturally different man in a way that appealed to a, for lack of a better word, more liberated female reader. After visiting Turkey several times and interacting with men and women in various professions, plus often reading their online, English language paper, especially the Op-Ed page, I had a good idea how to craft Atakan's attitudes towards the different situations.

He is well educated, sophisticated, and lives in a cosmopolitan city with a diverse population that he interacts with, but he grew up in a quieter region of the country. Although his province draws many tourists, his family lives in an area that doesn't see as much tourist activity as the rest. His parents are very traditional, especially his mother. She is a contemporary woman in some respects but in many others her attitude is rather old fashioned.

To be fair to the reader and to him, I blended those two elements that shape him: the worldly, well educated, city man with the reserved, family proud, and to an extent traditionally influenced man. I strived to do this in the sequel, Byzantine Gold, also.

The opportunity to bring this couple together with their mix of cultures was great fun at times. I enjoyed giving each moments to show how they differ. In Golden Chariot, we see Atakan taken aback by Charlotte's bold teasing about his sex life. In Byzantine Gold, the reader is privy to how his traditional mother's views of their relationship affect Charlotte. Through the character arcs in both stories, the important result is the reader sees how much the two are alike in vital ways: there is love, trust, humor, and respect, in spite of cultural differences.

Cultural diversity can come in many forms, not just in east meets west or north meets south type of situation. If you've ever planned a trip to the United Kingdom and are researching places to stay or visit, check how many inns, hotels, and historic sites claim to be haunted. From the ghost of Anne Boleyn walking the grounds of the Tower of London, to Catherine Howard's at Hampton Court, or the lady seen passing through walls at the Angel and Royal Hotel in Grantham, or pirate ghosts at the Mermaid Inn in Rye, and let's not forget the ghosts hanging around The Witchery in Edinburgh, the people embrace their earthbound spirits.

Think of the long list of writers from England, Scotland, or Ireland, who have entertained readers with tales of ghosts, or the paranormal and metaphysical. Shakespeare, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Dickens, Henry James, Abraham "Bram" Stoker are but a few. Now try to think of a list of French writers of ghost stories. That's a tough list to comprise. Guy de Maupassant is the only who immediately comes to mind.

How does this apply to the topic at hand? Let's use a vacation for example. After you plan your UK trip, plan your next trip to France. Check how many places offer a "ghostly" experience of some kind. By comparison there are far less listed: the Palace of Versailles, The Pere Lachaise Cemetery, and the Paris Catacombs to name a few. Why is the paranormal experience so much more limited in France than the UK? Perhaps it's because their authors are not so inclined to write on those subjects. I'm speculating, but perhaps as a result of the limited literature, the paranormal has never been of a great influence on the people as a whole.  

Knowing the difference in attitudes, say your heroine is an English ghost hunter and your hero is a French scientist. Not only is he a man who probably didn't read stories of the occult or paranormal growing up but as a man of science, he's likely not given to belief in what cannot be factually, positively  proven. Can you as an author turn this into a humorous, delightful source of conflict? Yes.

While writing the more obvious differences between your characters backgrounds, don't forget the little things like language and slang. Your English heroine will call the elevator the lift and probably call the bathroom, the loo. My hero, Atakan, is fluent in English. That doesn't mean he is so familiar with American slang. I had fun letting him get some expressions close, but not quite right.

In conclusion, I would again say, keep your audience in mind when creating a character from a different culture. But, be fair to the foreign character and his or her background and beliefs. Balance is the key.


Chris Karlsen - International Best-Selling Author
Amazon, Barnes and Noble, AllRomance, Overdrive,

Saturday, March 30, 2013

An Avon Affair Book Review


Today, we're taking a walk down memory lane with one of my first Avon reads, and one that is still among my favorites:

            While I’ve yet to read a book by Laura Lee Guhrke that I haven’t loved, this one has been the best to date by far.  With the gentle humor, wit and heart that makes all her books great reads, this book features two brilliantly drawn characters and so much tension that I am still baffled that the book didn’t combust in my hands while I was reading. 
            For years, Emmaline Dove has been a model employee, not only assisting Harry Marlowe in his publishing business, but also in keeping his love life tidy and peaceful, placating his mistresses with trinkets and condolences when he determines that their affair has reached its conclusion.  She is tireless in her work, hoping only that one day Harry will publish the etiquette books she has written.  However, when it comes to her attention that, for all his explanations that the public has no wish to read about books on manners, Harry hasn’t read a word she has written, Emmie quits in a fury, determined to find someone who won’t play games with her talent…or her heart. 
            But Harry is not so easily deterred.  Emmie has been his closest companion for years, and the idea that she can walk away so easily leaves him baffled.  So he sets out to learn what makes his lovely secretary tick—and finds surprises at ever turn.  For despite the fact that Emmie’s every move, every remark is the model of proper etiquette, there is something beneath her perfect exterior that keeps him coming back for more.  What proper lady reads the unedited One Thousand and One Nights?  And while Harry has sworn off love affairs, how can it be that this model of propriety has managed to take such a place in his heart that he cannot let her go?
            Neither of these main characters are the kind you would normally expect to see as romantic leads.  Harry, who apparently does nothing better than cause scandal, has lived through the hell of a divorce and now refuses to have anything by the simplest of physical relationships with women.  While initially the womanizing part of his personality made it really difficult for me to like him, from the start, his interactions with Emmie showed the better part of his nature that he kept tightly hidden away.  He never treats her as anything but an equal, and is willing to show her the broken heart that is hiding beneath his sometimes heartless exterior.  Emmie herself seems at time to be the most uptight person imaginable, constantly chastising herself for the rebellious and ‘unseemly’ parts of her character.  It isn’t until much later in the book that we learn the full reasons for her need for etiquette and order, but the heartbreak she has suffered is perhaps even deeper than Harry’s own.  They are a matched set in temperament and stubbornness and the chemistry between them is absolutely sensational.
            What makes this book so unique is way the relationship between Emmie and Harry grows and flourishes. Even though we are kept waiting for nearly 200 pages before the two actually share a kiss, the tension between them starts at a fever pitch and only gets hotter from there.  Laura Lee Guhrke is able to eke more emotion, more tension and more passion from a single touch than most writers do with page and pages of action, and in this book she is at her best.  The chase is by far what makes this book special, but the emotional bond that grows between the characters as they continue their pursuit makes the whole story magical.
            A word about the ending of this book.  I’ve read several other reviews that really took this story of task for the way it ended.  I personally found it a really interesting choice.  I don’t think that Emmie wasn’t true to herself in the slightest; in fact, I think that Harry allowed her to stop hiding and learn who she really was—someone who needed love far more than she needed social acceptance and propriety.  Her willingness to follow that love was a much more courageous move than a cowardly one, and one that allowed Harry to drop his own pretenses and follow his heart, as well.
            All in all, this was a wonderful story, beautifully told.  Both Emmie and Harry are fantastic, complex characters, their exchanges were witty and winning and their romance had my heart all a-flutter even after I had finished reading.  A winner all around from a great writer!

Here's the Amazon and Barnes & Noble links to buy this book...

And be sure to check in with these sites as some of my fellow Avon Addicts are also participating in The Avon Affair:

And don't forget to check out The Romance Reviews 2nd Anniversary Party with some great fun and prizes!
Happy Reading!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

WITH THIS KISS Avon Addicts Blog Tour

Today, The Romance Reviews is proud to be a part of the With This Kiss Avon Addicts Blog Tour, featuring the final installment of Eloisa James' delightful and consistently surprising novella, With This Kiss.

Blending the idea of the historic serial with a modern reader's perennial desire to know more about their favorite characters and the events that happen after the final page has turned, this novella has been released in three parts over the course of the month.  Any fans of James' The Ugly Duchess and Seduced by a Pirate, will recognize our heroine, Grace, as James and Theo's daughter, and our hero, Colin, as Griffin's adopted son.  Though the references to these past books are fun, this story is all about Grace and Colin, and can be enjoyed by new readers and devotees alike.

From James' website:

Lady Grace Ryburn is in love with a dashing young lieutenant, Colin Barry, but she turns away, thinking that Colin is in love with her sister.
Should Colin throw propriety to the winds, imitate his pirate father, and simply take what he most desires?
As with all of James' novels, I loved the insight she provided to each of her characters, allowing readers to take a journey with them and experience their fear, pain, and, ultimately, their triumph, with each turn of the page.  In this case, the anticipation of each new release has only added to the tension, allowing for some genuine concern and doubt whether Grace and Colin will ever overcome the obstacles between them and find their way into each others arms.  Both characters are fully-detailed, complex individuals whose strength and courage is admirable, and whose bond, despite all their doubts, is beautifully strong.

Though there have been some plot developments that gave me pause for thought, the final installment of With a Kiss wraps up the story beautifully, tackling each problem in Grace's long history with Colin and providing a reading experience that was a sheer delight from beginning to end.  This is a story about making amends, both for deeds done and deeds left undone, and watching both Colin and Grace take those first tentative, wrenching steps toward their heart's desire is wonderfully moving.  Because each installment is about 30 pages, I was genuinely impressed with Eloisa James' ability to write directly into the heart of the matter, providing a feast of heart-wrenching moments and joyful details in each bite-sized portion of this story.  Each of her books offers something truly memorable, but With a Kiss has been a special treat, providing not only a deeply romantic, dramatic and satisfying story, but also a unique reading experience that I enjoyed immensely.  If you haven't yet started this fascinating novella, I hope you do so now!
Here are some links for buying each part of With a Kiss:

Part One (Released March 12)
Part Two (Released March 19)
Part Three (Released March 26)

For those out there who have been reading Grace and Colin's adventures, what do you think?  Feel free to share your thoughts below!

Happy Reading, and don't forget to check out The Romance Reviews Second Anniversary Party going on all this month and featuring over 400 participating authors and publishers and plenty of prizes!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Addictions of a Sex Demon Bloghop & Giveaway!

Today, the Romance Reviews is proud to be a part of the Addictions of a Sex Demon Bloghop & Giveaway, coordinated by the remarkable Tasty Book Tours.

Jaye Shield's Sex Demon Trilogy is fun, sassy and completely sizzling, and Addictions of a Sex Demon is a wonderful addition to the series.  The two leads, though driven to find each other by physical needs, are surprisingly emotionally complex, and when they come together, there is no stopping the sparks that flare between them.  Though their world is one where demons can roam freely, they are never free from danger, both paranormal and human--but together, there is nothing that Sephina and Axel cannot accomplish.  Dark, funny, sexy and fiery, this is definitely a book--and a series--to enjoy!

One lucky commenter will win a copy of Addictions of a Sex Demon (your choice .pdf or .mobi available).  Just leave a comment below and the winners will be contacted on Friday, March 1, 2013.

Keep reading for a summary and excerpt:
Sephina is about to trade one addiction for another—and his name is Axel.

Sephina Antara has gotten into a lot of trouble as a sex demon with a drug addiction. Moving to a new village was supposed to help her get clean. But when she relapses, it comes with a side of hot dragon man.

Axel Stavros may be a drug dealer, but he's also the town healer. Half-human, half-dragon, his blood can cure just about anything, but it has some erotic side effects for its user, as the new beauty in town is about to find out…

Content Warning: graphic language, hot foreplay, and even hotter sex, including light bondage and some girl-on-girl action.

Axel reached out and touched the soft flesh of the woman. He'd been given the gift of a hellion with the face of an angel. Her cheek fit perfectly in his palm as he cupped her face. Her eyes flickered in response, shifting from a playful, yellow glow to a deep, primal, amber hue. He drew his finger down her shoulder and observed the heated silk of her skin.
"You're hot enough to be a dragon's mate." He spoke gently, afraid to spook her.
Her dainty hand swatted him away. "A sexual demon like you doesn't need cheesy pickup lines."
He frowned. "Your skin is very warm, woman. What are you?"
"I'll tell you mine if you tell me yours."
Axel appraised her and was happy to note that her climax had helped stop the trembling of her hands. But it would only be a matter of time before the effects of the withdrawal continued. "My name is Axel Stavros, one of the few quetzalem in this realm."
He searched her face for a reaction, but found none. Instead, the firecracker ran a hand through her electric pink hair, mussing it up so that she looked like she'd just rolled out of bed. He groaned at the thought.
"Quetzalem, huh? Well, that explains the tasty BBQ smokehouse quality of your skin."
He frowned. There was no detecting how this woman truly felt about his intentions. "You are familiar with my breed then? Perhaps you know that once a year we go into heat for twelve hours, and during this time we need constant climax to fan the embers of the brimstone lacing our bones. If we do not, our brimstone dries. Never more can we get it back once the cinders turn to ash."
"Well, it's a good thing you found the sex demon in town, isn't it?"
Of course. He should have guessed. She was too damn hot to be anything else; it was her young, innocent face that had convinced him otherwise. He'd already experienced the fire coursing through her veins like liquid passion, and he knew her claim to be more than true. It was an understatement.
He motioned for her to follow him. "Come to my home and I'll give you what you need."
That perked her up. No doubt she thought he meant the fae wing. "You know, sex demons can sympathize with your little problem. Except we have it worse. If we don't get climax on a regular basis, we can weaken, and even die."
"I doubt you've ever had a problem with this." His gaze raked over her sumptuous, goddess-like body. He instantly regretted the words when her yellow eyes swarmed with a deep orange and flecks of brown. She'd gone from carefree to tormented in only the breath of a sentence.
"I haven't, but my sister Zahra nearly died just last month. She was tortured by someone who knew this information. Not everyone likes sex demons. Surely you can appreciate this, dragon boy, since your kind has been hunted to near extinction."
Axel looked upon the woman in a new light. She wasn't just a sensual hellion. She'd seen enough things in her obviously young life to be a woman who knew how to take care of herself. Contemplating what kind of hard times would have led to the thick skin she possessed fueled his veins with rage. Thinking of anyone hurting this beautiful woman brought a haze over his vision. Remembering her current condition, he took her hand in his, but she jerked it away. He'd held it just long enough to realize the shakes had returned.
He'd seen enough withdrawal to know her insides probably felt as if they were soaked in acid, being pickled in bitter liquid need. Her mind would only be half-registering his words. The other half would be an evil mantra teasing her with the desire to make this itching of her skin and pain within her body go away.
"I'd been clean for a month, but I had a slip up the other day." Her gaze flickered with disappointment. "My sister still doesn't know. We left our hometown mostly on my behalf." She
laughed, but it escaped in a bitter, desperate cry. He searched her face for tears, but found none. "Gods, why am I telling this to my dealer?"
"I'll be more than your dealer soon."

Author Info
Jaye Shields holds a degree in Anthropology from San Francisco State University with an emphasis in archaeology. Her previous claims to fame include being a bass player for a grunge band called the Hymens, being mistaken for Britney Spears while in Tokyo, and commercial model. She insists the commercial still counts even though her lines were cut.
 When she's not flying the skies as a flight attendant for a major airline, she spends her time writing sensual paranormal romance and urban fantasy. Thanks to her grandmother, she's been reading romance novels since she was ten years old. Jaye sprinkles her love of history, mythology, and the occult into flaming hot reads. Visit her

And don't forget to check out the other fabulous stops on this bloghop:
Tour Stops
Feb 20th-TBQ Book Palace
Feb 23rd-The Jeep Diva
Feb 28th-Angie Derek

1. You must be a follower at this blog.
2. Post a comment on this post--have you enjoyed other books by Jaye Shields?
Contest Deadline: Friday, March 1, 2013

Winners Selected and Contacted: March 1, 2013
Two winners will be selected via

Congrats to our winner, Joanne!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

"Forever thine, forever mine, forever us..."

I talked last year about how I miss the art of the love letter.  This year, I decided to investigate perhaps one of the most famous love letters in history—one that has been the subjects of countless books and articles and studies, in part because of its famous author.  The other reason is because no one can say for sure who the intended recipient of the letter should have been.  For over a century, people have debated the identity of Ludwig von Beethoven’s “Immortal Beloved”, and though one of the theories is discussed a bit below, I think the significance of this letter is really in its impact through history. The love in his letter will live forever—such is the strength of romance and the power of the written word.

Beethoven was never known to be a very charming individual.  He suffered from chronic stomach pains from his early twenties and began going deaf at about age 26, and both conditions made him quite short-tempered.  He was known to stop performances in the middle of a piece if he thought the audience was not giving him the attention and respect he deserved.  His patron in Vienna, Archduke Rudolf, had to make an announcement that the composer was not to be held to the general rules of proper society, so that he could still show his face in court.  Nevertheless, Beethoven had the soul of a Romantic, and history is still trying to uncover all the secrets of his love affairs.  Für Elise, perhaps one of his best known pieces, is believed to be a audible love letter to one of his students (who rejected his marriage proposal).  You can listen to the piece here.

The Immortal Beloved letter was discovered among Beethoven’s papers after his death in 1827.  His secretary kept it for the remainder of his life, and it was sold to the Berlin State Library in 1880 and the speculation began.  Tests on the watermark of the paper in the 1950’s indicate that the paper was made in 1812, which means the letter was written while Beethoven was staying in the Czech city of Teplice.  Why the letter was never sent is still a mystery, but that is nothing compared to the fact that the only name Beethoven gives to the recipient is "Unsterbliche Geliebte", or “Immortal Beloved”.  There have been debates for over a century as to who the lady was who captured the composer’s heart so thoroughly, but it is generally assumed the real recipient was Josephine Brunsvik.

Beethoven, around the time he met Josephine Brunsvik
Josephine and Beethoven met in Vienna when she was 20 and he was 29 and he was hired to give piano lessons to her and her sisters.  Six years later, he wrote of that meeting to her: "Oh beloved J., ... when I met you for the first time - I was determined not to let a spark of love germinate in me...” The endeavor was useless, as Beethoven was clearly in love, but Josephine was forced to marry an exceptionally wealthy count nearly twice her age.  Though he died of pneumonia five years into the marriage, Josephine wasn’t free once she was widowed. Because Beethoven was a commoner, marriage to him would have forced Josephine to relinquish custody of her children.  As she explained to him in a letter dated sometime in the winter of 1806/7: “I would have to violate sacred bonds if I gave in to your request – Believe me – that I, by doing what is my duty, suffer the most…”  Clearly heartbroken, Beethoven ended a reply with the wrenching phrase “I love you as much as you do not love me".
Josephine, around the time of the Immortal Beloved letter

About a year later, Josephine was pressured into marriage to Baron Christoph von Stackelberg, her children’s tutor.  It was a disastrous marriage, and the baron left her two years later.  Desperate for money, Josephine set off to see a family friend in Prague—which was a stop on the way to Teplice, where Beethoven was destined.  That potential meeting may have given Beethoven the inspiration to write his legendary letter, if indeed Josephine was the intended recipient.  Here are some excerpts below (you can read the full text of the letter here).

6th July, in the morning.
My angel, my everything, my very self. – only a few words today, and in pencil (with yours) - I shall not be certain of my rooms here until tomorrow – what an unnecessary waste of time - why this deep grief, where necessity speaks - can our love exist but by sacrifices, by not demanding everything. Can you change it, that you are not completely mine, that I am not completely yours? Oh God, look upon beautiful Nature and calm your mind about what must … if we were wholly united, you would not feel this as painfully, just as little as I … If our hearts were always close together, I would have no such thoughts. my heart is full with so much to tell you - Oh - There are moments when I feel that language is nothing at all - cheer up - remain my faithful only darling, my everything, as I for you, the rest is up to the Gods, what must be for us and what is in store for us. –
your faithful ludwig -

Monday evening, 6th July.
You are suffering, you my dearest creature … you are suffering - Oh, wherever I am, you are with me, I talk to myself and to you[,] arrange [it] that I can live with you, what a life!!!! as it is!!!! without you … However as much as you love me - I love you even more deeply, but - but never hide yourself from me - Good night – as I am taking the baths I must go to bed.
oh go with me, go with me Oh God - so near! so far! Is not our love a true edifice in Heaven - but also as firm as the firmament. –

Good morning, on 7th July.
While still in bed my thoughts turn towards you my Immortal Beloved, now and then happy, then sad again, waiting whether fate might answer us - I can only live either wholly with you or not at all…never can another own my heart, never – never – O God why do I have to separate from someone whom I love so much, and yet my life in V[ienna] as it is now is a miserable life - Your love makes me at once most happy and most unhappy - at my age I would now need some conformity[,] regularity of my life – can this exist in our relationship? – Angel, I have just heard that the mail coach goes every day – and thus I must finish so that you may receive the letter immediately. – be patient – only through quiet contemplation of our existence can we achieve our purpose to live together – Be calm; for only by calmly considering our lives can we achieve our purpose of living together.- be calm - love me - today - yesterday - What yearning with tears for you - you - you my life – my everything - farewell - oh continue to love me - never misjudge the most faithful heart of your Beloved
Forever thine
forever mine
forever us.

The rest of the story, however, is not a happy one.  Josephine and Beethoven drifted apart following her second marriage.  Though there is speculation that they arranged a secret meeting in 1816, there was very little communication between them, and Josephine died after a long illness in 1821 at the age of 42.  Whether she was the intended recipient of the Immortal Beloved letter, Beethoven composed a piece of her early in their relationship that is still referred to as “Josephine’s Theme”.   For those fans of Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth, Josephine’s Theme is the piece being played when Darcy gives Elizabeth his Look. 
His final Piano Sonata, written just after her death, is a heartbreaking, haunting requiem, echoing that Theme, as Beethoven bid farewell to the woman who may very well have been the love of his life.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Is the Book Dying? by Margaret Daley

I wrote this blog below almost five years ago and I'm still wondering the question: is the book dying? A lot has changed in that short time. Kindle has evolved into the Kindle Fire. We have the Nook and iPad now, too. We have tablets and iPhones to read books on. Best of all, the price for these devices has come down to where it is affordable for a lot of people. Writers now have a choice of going with a traditional publisher or self-publishing. The ebook share of books being sold is growing in the past few years rapidly. So what is the answer to the last question at the end of the blog?

Is the Book (Paperbacks, Hardbacks, Trade) Dying?
By Margaret Daley

For years we have been hearing people predicting that the book was dying—on its way out the door. In the future people will read books on the computer or some kind of handheld device like the new Kindle at Amazon (which I do think is neat but way too expensive). I do think those devices will gain in popularity, but at least for the near future the book is alive and well—holding its own.

I read an article in an airline magazine on my way to Fort Lauderdale about a project that Microsoft was involved in.  It's the high school of the future. The library doesn't have books that you can hold in your hand. Everything is on the computer and all the students have their own laptops. They don't have textbooks.

For the most part things are going along okay, but the students and teachers are complaining there are no books around. They must research on the Internet. Teachers go home and spends hours adapting work from the Internet to present to their students. They miss not having textbooks to supplement their teaching.

Now I don't know about you but I can't sit at the computer all day and especially read on top of that a story on my computer. I think my eyes get tired from the light on the computer. Don't get me wrong. I love my computer and what it can do, but I also love a good old-fashioned book to hold at the beach. So I'm hoping there is a place for both in the future.

What do you see happening in the next ten or twenty years?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Character Study - Buttercup, from Sonata by Blair McDowell

I can't begin writing any new book without first writing background character studies of the people who will inhabit my story. Somehow, in my mind, my stories always begin with place, and, after place, with characters. My stories evolve from the settings and the people.

But even I had to laugh at my preoccupation with character studies when I found myself writing one for a dog.  Of course Buttercup is not just any dog. She's Vancouver Police Detective, Michael Donovan's dog, and she plays an important role in Sonata.

What she's like and how Michael came to have her are vital elements in the story.

Below is the first draft of my character study for Buttercup. Initially, as you will see, I made Buttercup a male, but somewhere during the writing of this novel she told me she was female. My characters have a way of changing on me sometimes—although not usually gender.

Buttercup—Michael Donovan's dog.  

Michael rescued the dog when a drug bust went bad. He found the dog, only a puppy at the time, malnourished and shivering with fright under the bed after its owner had been killed. Michael took him to a vet and then home. Fed him up and ended up with a dog who would gladly give his life for Michael if it seemed needed. Physical description— Malamute and St. Bernard cross, but somewhere in his lineage is a wolf—(other indeterminate ancestors as well). This is one BIG, fierce-looking animal, with a sugar sweet disposition.

The odd name? I haven't figured that out yet, but it is his name. Maybe because of a bright yellow patch under his chin.  Brown and white fur, soft and thick.  Face, white with brown freckles from the top of his head to his nose. One blue eye and one brown eye. Buttercup is a real coward, afraid of his own shadow. Hides under the bed when anyone new comes into the apartment. He stands high enough to eat off the dining table without any effort.


The following excerpt from Sonata shows something of the relationship between man and dog:

Michael fitted his key into the lock of his apartment door and swung it wide. A huge fuzzy mass leapt at him and the two, man and dog, rolled over and over on the carpet.

"Okay. Down, Buttercup." Immediately the beast backed off and sat expectantly on its haunches, tongue lolling, tail thumping on the floor.

"Buttercup, this is Sayuri. Sayuri, Buttercup." The dog lifted a paw the size of a small ham and Sayuri, after hesitating only a moment, shook it.

"How do you do, Buttercup," she said, gravely. Then she turned to Michael in total disbelief. "Buttercup?"

"It's a long story. I'll have to take her out to the park for a quick run before I start dinner. Just make yourself comfortable. There's wine in the fridge. Pour us both a glass. Be right back." With that, man and dog disappeared out the door.


As they went down in the elevator and across to the park, Michael spoke to the dog, "So far so good. We've got her in my apartment. I expect your full cooperation tonight. Whatever happens you are not to climb on the bed, should I get so lucky, or slobber all over Sayuri. If there's any slobbering to be done, I'll do it. Got it, buddy?"

Buttercup wagged her tail furiously, nearly knocking over a passing pedestrian.

"Sorry, ma'am."

Michael thought about how Sayuri had looked when she answered the door. So cool and composed. Delectable. Good enough to eat. Down boy, he reminded himself. Don't blow it now. You've got her this far.

Taking a deep breath, he muttered, "Keep it cool." Then he looked at his dog. "Okay, Buttercup, do your thing so we can get back up there."

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Character Study - Sayuri McAllister by Blair McDowell

Yesterday as he was drilling away at me left eye tooth, my dentist asked “When you’re writing, which comes first, characters or plot?” There was no way I could answer him with a rubber dam in my mouth, but the answer would have been, “Characters, always characters.”

I may have the germ of a story idea in my mind, but it doesn’t take form until I know my characters.  Before I write the first line of any book, I write detailed character studies. I do this even for the less important characters. Only in that way will they behave in a consistent way as I get them into and out if trouble in my story. 

Below is the study I wrote for my heroine in Sonata. As I wrote the story I made some minor changes, but for the most part, here she is. Please meet Sayuri McAllister.

Sayuri McAllister—heroine.  Sayuri is twenty-nine when the story begins. She comes from a wealthy family. Her father, Sean, is a Canadian tech tycoon. Her mother, a Japanese woman he met through a business colleague when on a trip to Japan. It was a love match, not well accepted by either family. 

Sayuri shows signs of musical talent early. She attends the local public school and, after school each day, the Vancouver Academy of Music for classes in music theory and history. She studies with the first chair cellist of the Vancouver Symphony. While still in high school, she plays with the National Arts Centre Orchestra. After graduating from high school, she majors in cello performance at McGill. Her life to this point has been made up of nothing but classes and lessons and long hours of practice. She has had little time for anything else.

As the story opens Sayuri is returning from Paris where she has spent two years studying with the famous cellist, Cecile Dubois and then another three years on the concert circuit through-out Europe. She has played both solo recitals and as a soloist with orchestras. She is now an accomplished performer, planning to audition for the first chair cellist’s position in the Vancouver Symphony and preparing for a solo recital at the Chan Centre. She is fluently bilingual, English- French and speaks Japanese as well.

Sayuri is a strong young woman, self-reliant and secure emotionally. She is very much her own woman. She’s had some sexual experience but not much, not a virgin but she does not give of herself casually. **note: I changed this and made her a virgin.

Physically, she’s tall and long legged. She has straight silky dark hair worn back and caught at the nape of her neck. Soft, doe-like, almond shaped brown eyes. Oval face. Creamy complexion. Wears no make-up except lip gloss. Graceful as a dancer. Likes to wear casual clothes, low heeled shoes, slacks and sweaters, vortex jackets— not really into jeans. Never wears hats or carries an umbrella. Doesn’t mind getting wet. Has a wardrobe of formal professional clothes for performances. Most prized possession—her Guarneri cello. 

Sayuri is a one hundred percent modern Canadian woman, independent and self-sufficient. She’s focused on building her own life and career. She has kept in touch with her Japanese grandparents, and when she visits them, to please them she observes the customs of that country. She knew her Canadian grandparents only briefly. They objected strongly to their son’s marriage and she was in her teens before she ever met them. They died soon after, leaving her independent financially.

She has had a series of casual boyfriends over the years at McGill (Montreal) and in Paris, but none she was serious about. She hasn’t time in her life for serious relationships. She was in love with Michael Donovan when she was in high school—but cut him out of her life when he strayed once.

On meeting Michael as an adult, she is once again attracted to him and she is prepared to be a bit more tolerant of his past indiscretions, if she can just get him to make a move in the present. Trouble is, he’s now a detective with the Vancouver Police, and is investigating a major robbery at her father’s house—and he suspects that her father may have been involved. 

Blair McDowell, Author

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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

What's a Regency Romance Anyway?

The word "regency" is not uncommon—a new hospital in my area is called "Regency" and when I google the word, I get a beauty institute, a concert hall, a real estate company, a furniture company, a shopping center, and of course, the famous hotel chain. There are, in fact, 111,000,000 results, only a few of which refer to the Regency period in England that so many devotees of historical romances fancy as a setting for their favorite stories.

Yet I've found few people outside of die-hard Regency fans who know what the word means…and even some of them don't know that much about it, just that during that period, the heir to the British throne, Prince George (or Prinny) was called "Regent."

It appears to me that many business owners looking for a name that sounds rather upper-class settle on "regency" for no real reason. Which is fine. I 'd rather people do that than come up with some "cutesy" name like "Kozy Korner Kreations." [Shudder]

What does "Regency" refer to?

But frankly, only one or two guests at yesterday's Release Party for my Regency short story Treasuring Theresa actually knew what the word "regency" means.

My online dictionary defines a "regent" as:
  1. a person who exercises the ruling power in a kingdom during the minority, absence, or disability of the sovereign.
  2. a ruler or governor

Of course, there are such things as "regents" of universities and colleges and so on, but essentially we will deal with #1 and #2 here.

If a ruler dies when his heir is too young to take his place, generally someone will be appointed his guardian and rule in his place until he comes of legal age. That person is called a Regent. It could be his mother or some other prominent person at court. But in the early nineteenth century, it was the heir to the throne, Prince George, who eventually became George IV.

George III, the "Mad King"

Yes, it was that King George who fought the rebelling colonists in the Revolutionary War. But he wasn't really a bad guy…just sort of wrong-headed, according to those of us who consider ourselves patriotic Americans. He just thought it was something he should do, and he would have succeeded if it weren't for his enemies, the French, who helped the colonists more because they hated the British than for any other reason. We owe them, folks. Seriously. Although it might be cool to speak with a British accent, I still like our flag better.

Anyway, a decade or so later, King George began to behave erratically, showing symptoms that many attribute to the hereditary disease of porphyria, which can result in a sort of "madness." Parliament debated the establishment of a Regency at that time, but while the issue was being discussed, the ailing monarch recovered. However, in 1810, when Treasuring Theresa takes place, he had a relapse, and since he was unable to fulfill his duties, Parliament—under the Prime Minister Spencer Perceval—was obligated to consider the matter again. On February 5, 1811, the Regency was created, with the heir to the throne, Prince George, being made Prince Regent, or the "Reigning Prince" of the Kingdom, a position he held until he became King George IV in 1820 at the death of his father.

Why is the Regency period such a popular setting for historical romances?

Ah, the question of the hour! One reason is undoubtedly because during Prince George's reign as Regent, society became less reserved and pious and more frivolous and ostentatious, in accordance with the tastes and character of the Prince Regent himself. A great lover of the arts and architecture, he spent large sums of money on his homes—Carlton House and the Brighton Pavilion, to name two—as well as public works. This, in addition to lavish personal spending on entertainments and luxuries, obliged him to regularly dip into the Treasury to pay his bills, which was a major source of concern to the government, which had to scramble to find ways to pay its own bills, including an ongoing war with Napoleon.

But other than brief mentions of battles and heroes, and a mention or two of a wounded soldier (i.e., tortured hero) returning to his family, in most Regency novels, you wouldn't know there was a war going on at all. Aristocratic gentlemen gambled and drank to excess, while their wives shopped until they dropped and gossiped at balls and teas and worried more about keeping up appearances than the bloody toll of the war, and the increasing misery of the lower classes. Sound familiar?

But the Regency was also a time of elegant manners, fabulous balls, and glittering aristocratic lifestyles. The traditional Regency romance, à la Georgette Heyer, involves dashing heroes, spunky heroines, witty dialogue, and an unexpected, "sweet" romance. A traditional Regency romance involves no physical contact other than kissing, although the more "modern" Regencies range from spicy to steamy hot, more "erotic" stories.

Treasuring Theresa: A Traditional "Sweet" Regency Story

Lady Theresa is an earl's daughter who has grown up on her father's country estate. She despises the superficial values of London society, and especially that fribble Damian Ashby, who will one day inherit her father's estate.

When Damian meets "Cousin Theresa," he dismisses her as a mannerless country chit. (Well, it's true that at the time her behavior was decidedly out of character.)

But Damian is more than a London swell, and Theresa far from a brainless twit, which they both discover when they are obliged to spend time together. But he's still a city boy and she a country lady, so a match between them would be a disaster. Wouldn't it?

Treasuring Theresa is set in 1810 just months prior to the official Regency period, but the epilogue—which can be found as a free read on my web site—takes place in February 1811, at the same time as the establishment of the Regency Act. If you enjoy Treasuring Theresa, you'll surely want to find out what happens afterward!

Note: You can also find brief character sketches of both Damian and Theresa, and a sort of "prequel" to the story, "Lady Theresa's Trials." Enjoy!

Win a $20 Amazon Gift Card!

To celebrate the release of Treasuring Theresa,I am hosting a series of contests on my web site for the month of January. Winners will be chosen on January 9, 16, 23, and 31.

I love to chat with readers!

Please friend me on Facebook (susana.ellis.5) and follow me on Twitter (@susanaauthor) and send me your thoughts, ideas and suggestions. Reviews and likes are also welcome!
Happy 2013!

Susana Ellis

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