Squaring Off With Research
I’ve done a lot of research over the years, some fall-asleep-at-your-desk boring, some pull-your-hair-out frustrating, and some so enthralling you-spend-more-time-researching-than-writing.

What I want to talk about today is sport research—specifically MMA (Mixed Martial Arts for those of you unfamiliar with the acronym). I recently completed a manuscript (that is making the rounds, so keep your fingers crossed for me) about a hero who is a cage fighter. Number one, I adore this sport anyway so this research quickly fell into the spend-more-time-researching-than-writing category. But not only did my research increase my respect for the sport, it also gave me a whole new understanding of what these men go through. And added to the complexity of my hero, making him well rounded and oh-so-very yummy.


These men are not barbarians who simply jump into a cage and beat the crap out of each other. Yes, they do get paid to fight, but there is a science to entering the octagon. The training is intense (sometimes up to eight hours a day) and painful, the mind games real, the focus crucial, the strategy and studying of their game plan vital. When a fighter is training for a match, their life is consumed with each of these things. I learned so much through writing this story, I now consider MMA extreme fighters some of the top athletes in the world.

Did you know that hitting a bag in speed drills is painful? I should know. As part of my research, I took part in one these “drills.” Now mind you I only did a minute instead of the usual three these guys do. Let me tell you, sixty seconds is a LONG time. By the time my buzzer sounded, my arms were on fire and wet-noodle weak. Then I found myself shocked to learn these men feel this way each time they do a burn out session. How exciting. I was also informed that most fighters dread bag work because it is so painful. I was able to use this in one of my scenes:

“Burn out!”
In quick short punches, Dante hit the bag, over and over again. In less than a minute, burning seared his arms up into his shoulders.
“Two to go. Faster!”
He increased his speed, pounding in swift repetition. The burning deep in his muscles intensified until he yelled. Pummeling faster, he refused to let the strong sting daunt him. Sweat coated his arms and dripped off his elbows. Still he continued.
A loud buzz rang. “Time.”
Dante bounced back, hopping from foot to foot as he shook out his arms.


Not only did I participate in a drill, I watched a training session. All I can say is wow. Hours of Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai and a plethora of other Martial Arts came into play. Now each of these men is not specialized in every aspect of Marital Arts. You have some who are black belts in Jiu Jistsu, some masters of Brazilian boxing, others who are All-American wrestlers, a wide range of different techniques.


In my story, my hero is an undefeated stand up fighter with a punch that has knocked out countless men. His opponent is an undefeated ground fighter with a chokehold that will render an opponent unconscious in seconds. I couldn’t have asked for two very different men. So what happens when a standup fighter (boxers) takes on a black belt in martial arts?

Train, train, train. Study, study, study.

Each man will spend hours studying previous fights to watch their opponent for their strengths and weaknesses. Then they will train on how to take advantage of these things. A boxer will have to learn how avoid being taken to the mat by a seasoned ground fighter and if he is how to wiggle out of a triangle hold before a submission occurs while a ground fighter will have to learn how to dodge the punches aimed for his head and look for that opening to take his opponent down. Each have an agenda, and each is trying to keep the other from reaching it. Every move has to be calculated, intentional. One false step and the game plan goes up in smoke.

I could go on and on about the sport that has stolen my heart. The research I did throughout the months I wrote Dante and Cait’s story will stay with me forever. It’s the first time I have been impacted and understood how very important learning what your writing about is crucial to portraying realistic characters. Without immersing myself into the MMA world, I would have written extreme fighting all wrong and the story would have lacked a certain luster. But because I did the opposite and researched my little heart out, I was able to bring a spark to Dante’s conflict that otherwise would not have been there. So the morale of the story is: Research helps enrich your writing, don’t forsake it. :)

Esme
www.esmereldabishop.com
The Crazy Things I Do For Setting Research...
Is it possible to set a fictional story in a place you've never been? Yes, but nothing can compare to actually experiencing that setting first hand. Not even detailed travelogues can give you all the vital information because you need to know the sounds, scents and feel of a place. The feel of a place might relate to the humidity, temperature, weather and unique landscape.
When I went to Scotland two years ago, I ended up at Kilt Rock on Isle of Skye during a gale. This storm wasn't like the storms we have where I live. This was more like a cold, mini tropical storm (and very short-lived.) The wind blew the rain sideways. I could hardly stand upright. Fortunately the wind was blowing east instead of west or it might have blown someone off the cliff. This was something I had never experienced before (aside from the tropical storm I was in once) and hadn't expected it in a chilly place like Scotland. But now that I have experienced a gale of this type I've included the information in a couple of stories. These sorts of weather details add authenticity and flavor to a story and make the reader feel they are in your setting.

Another thing I learned from on site research is that Scotland is much cooler and chillier in midsummer than I would've imagined. I'm from the Southern US and in June we wear shorts and short sleeves (and I'm a cold natured person.) In the Scottish Highlands, we wore sweaters and jackets in several layers. It was also very cloudy, rainy and blustery much of the time.

The traditional fuel of the Scottish Highlands and Islands (and Ireland) is peat. Soggy peat moss is cut from the ground in bricks, stacked to dry and then used much like wood to burn.

Since I write stories in historical settings, I needed to know what peat smoke smelled like. My first experiment in trying to learn this fact (before I'd traveled to Scotland) was to set ablaze some of the garden variety peat moss (from Canada.) Good thing my neighbors weren't watching. They would've thought I was trying to get high on peat moss. :) I learned it smelled bitter. But nothing can compare to smelling smoke from a genuine peat fire coming out the chimney of a thatched roof cottage on Isle of Skye. It was a the Skye Museum of Island Life at Kilmuir, but that made it no less authentic. The peat bricks had been dug locally. When we picked them up they were lightweight, much like a sponge. My writer friend and I stood outside sniffing and trying to analyze the scent while laughing at ourselves. Surely everyone would think we were crazy if they knew what we were doing. But sometimes you have to do crazy things in the name of research. The good thing about that is it's usually fun too.


What kind of crazy, fun or bizarre adventures have you had in writing research?

PS There's still time to
enter our blog contest!
The Passion-Minded Professor - in print April 28th


Can passion be found in a bottle?

Roxy Morgan is finally in control of her life. After working in the family diner to put her now ex-husband through law school, she’s getting her own chance at a college education. She doesn’t need any distractions in her life right now, especially men. The strong magnetic pull she feels toward chemistry professor Dr. Daniel Jennings is more than just an annoyance—it’s threatening her GPA. Yet she can’t seem to keep her mind on her studies, or her hands off him.

Driven, lonely Daniel has been working to perfect an attraction elixir so he can finally find what’s been missing in his life: passion. Sassy, outgoing Roxy wasn’t supposed to be part of his experiment. It was purely an accident. Now his elixir has given him an unexpected side effect—he’s fallen in love. But his sense of honor nags him to tell her the truth about the “love potion”.

Even if it means risking the best thing that’s ever happened to him.


I loved writing this story. Actually the research for this story was pretty easy. There was a local diner I ate in often that was the model for Sandy's Diner. My daughter was a waitress during college. I went to college...a long time ago...although I certainly never ran across a sexy professor like Daniel. :) I set the story in a small town much like the one in which I live.

I did go online and check out what was necessary for a degree in Communications. Almost none of it appears on the page. But I've found it's like that with most research. We can spend hours and hours in research learning about something that we end up only using a fraction of. But that's okay. As writers we need to know anyway. In order to make it real. And you know, maybe more of that research ends up on the page than we realize. In the background. In the attitude. In the voice of the characters. And the voice of the story.

I'm excited that Roxy and Daniel's story will now be available both as a download and in print. That way readers have a choice which version they would rather read. One way or the other, I hope you'll give The Passion-Minded Professor a try.

Natasha
Romance with more...sizzle
www.natashamoore.com
Sunday Sundae (aka The Most Romantic Dessert)

Flowers and Roses MySpace Comments and Graphics



As I pondered the blog topic for today, I let myself drift back in time to a special Sunday in May.

A Sunday memory made possible by the man of my wildest and most passionate dreams. Not a bit of breeze or cloud in the sky. A lush lawn and weeping willows. Birds serenaded us from the branches. Underneath one of the trees he’d scattered orchid petals and formed a heart. Although we’d fed each other bites of grilled filet, buttery baked potato and tossed garden salad, and sipped champagne, he asked me to close my eyes while he prepared our dessert. His footfall was cushioned by the blades of grass. I lolled inside the floral heart, my pulse pounding and body tingling. He returned after a short while, gently kissed my closed eyelids and tapped my mouth with something cold and metallic. A spoon, or so my curious tongue discovered. I peeked. He wore a wide grin, and his brown eyes flashed a familiar message. His left hand held a dish inside of which he’d created a mouthwatering sundae. Four large scoops of chocolate ice cream, each dripping with fudge sauce, wearing dollops of whipped cream and crowned with a cherry. He lay down beside me, and we took turns spoon-feeding each other. Laughing when some of the dessert trickled onto our chins. Wasn’t long before two of the frozen peaks disappeared and we rested the spoons in the pool of melted cream at the bottom of the dish. I lay on my back and closed my eyes again. At his request I opened my mouth, and he squeezed maraschino cherry juice over my lips and tongue. His kiss came faster than I could clean off the sweet stickiness and not only took away the cherry juice but also my breath. After that sneaky and sexy trick, I kept my eyes open wide. He reached behind the tree and brought forward the champagne bucket, now filled with a can of whipped topping. He sprayed a ring of cream around my mouth. Without looking away, he dunked the can into the ice bucket and pressed his lips against mine. Hot. Sweet. His tongue and mouth spreading and sharing the topping and another deep kiss. We embraced but not before he grabbed the can and started shaking it. I’ll never forget his next words—“You’d better get ready, because this dessert is far from over.”

He wasn’t kidding.

Ah, the sundaes of which fantasies are made and brought to life. Romantic moments and memories such as this one are part of the reason I enjoy writing romance fiction. After all, the love of a wonderful man can make all the difference in a woman’s life.







Wishing you all many happy reading—and romantic—moments,

Shawna Moore
TORMENTED -- Ellora's Cave
ROUGHRIDER -- Ellora's Cave Exotika
HELLE IN HEELS -- Ellora's Cave Exotika
TO HELLE AND BACK AGAIN -- Coming April 29 to EC Exotika

Shawna's Myspace
Helle's Myspace
Ah... The romance of it all...

by Kristin Daniels


Thank God it’s Friday. It’s been a long day. You got up at dawn’s first light to finish the laundry from the night before, drove the kids to school and yourself to work, where everything that could go wrong did—not to mention you had to deal with your jerk of a boss—only to end up leaving a half hour late. You stop at the store because your son needs fish food, your daughter needs a pack of index cards (didn’t you just buy like ten of those?) and you’re out of diapers for the baby. You finally get to the checkout, daydreaming while waiting in a line longer than you’ve ever seen about going home, soaking in a hot bath and putting your favorite jammies on before curling up in bed to sleep the sleep of the dead. You hit every red light on the way home, and by the time you pull into the driveway, you’re cringing about what’s really waiting for you behind the closed front door. Screaming kids, a barking dog, and a hubby that wants your undivided attention. You schlep your way to the door and…


It opens before you get there. Waiting inside the doorway is your husband. And he’s holding a rose. When you step inside, he gives it to you, and you take it while he relieves you of the bags from the store.


You’re speechless. He smiles. You melt.


The house is quiet, except for a mellow jazz tune playing in the background and the most wonderful aroma is drifting from the dining room. You peer around the corner to find the table set for two. A pair of taper candles on the table are lit and a bottle of red is already uncorked. There’s not a booster chair in sight.


Your insides tingle, and a smile blossoms on your lips. “What’s all this?”


“It’s for you.”


He leads you to the table and holds the chair out. He hasn’t done that in years, you muse. You’re still dumbfounded as he pours the wine. “The kids?”


“Are at my mothers until tomorrow.” A knowing look passes between the two of you, and the earlier tingle travels a bit lower.


The meal is spectacular, and you’ve found that you’re not as tired as you were on the drive home. He leads you into the bedroom, but passes by the king size bed and heads to the bathroom instead. After a tender kiss that curls your toes, he lights more candles and runs hot water in the tub built for two. He adds a seductively scented rose oil to the steaming water, one you didn’t own before. You both slide in, and the massage along your shoulders begins…


Okay, I could go on and on here, but I think you get the idea. That, my friend, is what’s known as a romantic gesture. Romantic gestures can run from something well planned like this one to a simple love note tucked into your husbands lunch bag. The idea behind them are to make the other person feel special, to do something for them so out of the ordinary that they’ll always remember it.

My husband loves to bring home flowers. I never know when I’ll get them, but when I do, it always gives my heart that little flutter. What about you? I’d love to hear about your favorite romantic gesture, either one you’ve been the lucky recipient of, or maybe one you planned out.

Some of My Favorite Romantic Songs
I’m titling this blog, Some of My Favorite Romantic Songs, because really there are so many songs about love and romance from which to choose. My list today is probably different from what my list would be tomorrow.

My guess is that there are more songs written and sung about love than any other topic. Not that all songs about love are romantic because there’s nothing romantic about suffering from a broken heart or your baby leaving you for someone new. I mean, I think Whiskey Lullaby by Brad Paisley and Allison Krauss is hauntingly beautiful, but I wouldn’t call it romantic. (Of course, Allison Krauss could sing the phone book and it would sound hauntingly beautiful.) And when that guy from Nazareth sings, “love hurts,” it sounds like someone is ripping his heart from his chest – affecting but not too romantic.

I picked four romantic songs to share with you today, and each song embodies a different aspect of romance. But to me, each is undeniably romantic. So in no particular order, here are four of my favorite romantic songs – for today:

Song #1: “Making Memories of You,” Keith Urban
This song is all about sweet, forever love. “I wanna sleep with you forever. I wanna die in your arms. In a cabin by a meadow where the wild bees swarm.” This is also a total “wedding” song. “I’m going to love you. Like nobody loves you. And I’ll win your trust making memories of us.” The intimate setting of this performance adds to the romanticism of the song. So fall in love with Keith...and the song:




Song #2: “I Belong to You," Lenny Kravitz
This song has a sensuous underlying beat that emphasizes the possessive nature of the relationship. “I belong to you and you, you belong to me too. You make me feel complete. You make me feel so sweet.” The romance here is a slow, simmering burn. "You are the flame in my heart. You light my way in the dark. You are the ultimate star." Wow! Again, it doesn’t hurt that Lenny is a sexy man. I really like this video. Although the video isn’t romantic in a typical way, Lenny in the water and against the tree and then everyone dancing in the street is sooo hot and sexy. Enjoy!




Song #3: “Accidentally in Love,” Counting Crows (from Shrek II)
The love story between Shrek and Princess Fiona is undeniably romantic. While she’s still a beautiful princess, Fiona falls in love with an ogre. And once Shrek falls in love with the beautiful Princess Fiona, he loves her even more in her ogre form. But the romance between two ogres has to be fun, and this song reflects the fun and excitement of romance. “Well baby, I surrender to the strawberry ice cream never, ever end of all this love. Oh this love! Well I didn’t mean to do it, but there’s no escaping your love.” Pure exuberance. Have fun!




Song #4: “Read My Mind,” The Killers
Love can also be wondrous and scary. For me, this is a soaring song about taking a chance on life and love. “Woman, open the door. Don’t let it stay. I want to breathe that fire again. She said, I don’t mind if you don’t mind ‘cuz I don’t shine if you don’t shine.” The lyrics in this song are beautiful poetry. “It's funny how you just break down waitin' on some sign. I pull up to the front of your driveway with magic soakin' my spine. Can you read my mind?” I just love that image. And then at the end, “The stars are shining like rebel diamonds cut out from the sun. When you read my mind.” Enjoy a great song with a rather silly video set in Tokyo (love the Japanese Elvis).




Hope you enjoyed my romantic songs for the day. What are some of your favorite romantic songs?
Most Romantic Getaways

Maui, Hawaii – the essence of romance, right? But it’s really a restaurant I’m focusing on. The Swan Court at the Hyatt Regency on Kaanapali Beach. Doesn’t that just sound romantic? My husband and I ate here when we were youngsters and it was so special and romantic, we never forgot it. The restaurant was a big splurge then, and there was no way we could have actually stayed at the hotel. Though we dreamed…Then, lucky us, we have lots of frequent flier miles. So last summer we returned to Maui for a family vacation, stayed at the Hyatt and, with more than a little trepidation, returned to the restaurant. Sometimes things don’t seem as special the second time around. But the Swan Court more than fulfilled our expectations. It was even lovelier than what you see in the picture.


As for the Hyatt itself, the lobby is rated #2 on all of Maui and it deserves the rating. (I think the Four Seasons is #1.) It’s a huge tropical space open to the outdoors. Quite unique. The hotel rooms are standard and the Kaanapali Beach itself mediocre (sad to say with a name like that), but the Hyatt is at the end of a string of hotels lining the beach with lots of restaurants and shops so there is plenty to do. At night, the whole stretch is supremely romantic with the ocean on one side, and twinkling lights and happy vacationers cuddling on the other.


Another favorite romantic getaway is the Hunstrete House near Bath, England.
A true country manor turned hotel, it is a quintessentially British country house type experience. The rooms are huge and furnished with beautiful antiques, the grounds spectacular, and the food wonderful. I almost felt like someone might curtsey to me! It’s very quiet, secluded and, well, romantic!


Finally, one of the most romantic experiences I ever had with my husband was dining at a mom and pop restaurant by the ocean on the way to the Florida Keys. It was called MacDonalds, which I only remember because it’s a family name of mine. We stopped when the endless drive to the Keys finally defeated us. We were starving. They brought us out to a deck right on the water, which swayed and murmured all around us, black as the night. The stars shone overhead. Candles flickered in the breeze. They served us plastic baskets of pink shrimp (which my husband determined were steamed in beer). We peeled the shrimp ourselves. Not a fancy place according to most definitions. But we both remember it as one of the most romantic experiences of our lives together. A perfect, starry night on the water with good food.


Which proves that serendipity, and the person you’re with, rather than money, is the key to the most romantic events!


What is your most romantic getaway? I’m always looking for good ideas!


And don’t forget to join the blog to win a chance at a gift basket Nicole is giving away this month!






A Kiss

Robert Burns said it best, I think:

To a Kiss

Humid seal of soft affections,

Tend'rest pledge of future bliss,

Dearest tie of young connections,

Love's first snow-drop, virgin kiss.

*sigh* The man knew his way to a woman's heart, huh? Well, when I think of the most romantic thing kissing definitely comes to mind. A kiss can convey so much. Words are just words, but a kiss is like a brand on the soul. At 41 years old it's easy to let the romance slide in a relationship. It's easy to get into that comfortable routine. But when he kisses me, my heart does little flip-flops, my stomach starts to flutter a little and suddenly I'm a young girl again feeling love for the first time. He can do that to me at the drop of a pin. It's a little scary actually. LOL

So, the other day when my daughter had her boyfriend over and they went outside in the rain, my husband started to frown and do that growling thing that only a father can do. I hushed him and reminded him that we were teenagers once, too. Later, after Matt left, Kati came in and I could swear stars were in her eyes. Real stars! They'd danced in the rain and then he'd kissed her, she said. She had a smile like nothing I've ever seen before. "Mom, how romantic is that?" She said. It was such a profound moment for her and I both. My daughter is growing up, becoming a woman and I'm so blessed to be able to watch it happen.

I know she went to bed thinking of that kiss. I can see her laying in the dark, smiling and thinking of Matt. He twirled her around, rain drizzling down, and they shared a sweet, youthful kiss. It'll be a memory she'll always carry with her. Heck, I should know. :)

However, my youngest daughter was rather disgusted. "Ew, they kissed?!" Surprisingly, it was my husband that piped up and said, "Kissing isn't so bad. You're mom and I kissed in the rain a few times". He looked at me with that intense look he gets and for a moment I was a teenager all over again, falling in love for the first time.

Yeah, a kiss from him still sends butterflies through me and I hope it always does.

Favorite Romance
Hello everyone:) This week each of us will take a turn talking about our favorite romantic (fill in the blank) :) I’d like to take this opportunity to talk about my favorite romantic movie. I have a slew of favorites that I watch over and over again that brings forth that happy, contented sigh or blasted tear to my eyes. But one movie stands out above all others in my mind. I think you will be surprised to find out what it is.

There have been a million (Yes, I exaggerate, but it feels like a million) different versions of Cinderella shown on the big screen. Out of all the fairy tales to be redone, IMO, Cinderella is the most popular. Of course there is the Disney version and probably most well known. There are also teen flicks like, A Cinderella Story and Another Cinderella Movie. Heck, even Elmo stared in one called Cinderelmo.

So why am I babbling about Cinderella? Because of all the movies I could pick from it is one of these Cinderella adaptations that wins as my all time favorite.

Ever After

The moment I watched it ten years ago, I fell in love and I still love it to this day. Drew Barrymore stars as Cinderella and Anjelica Huston as the wicked stepmother. Could you ask for a better villain? She plays the part to perfection, adding just a bit if vulnerability so you see she is also struggling with a deep sadness she refuses to reveal. I loved this addition to the character. Now she is still wicked, LOL, but this side that is rarely shown in any other version I’ve seen, added a lot of depth to the character.

Then there is the Prince of France. Henry (played by Dougray Scott). Again, not your perfect swoop-you-off-your-feet-go-ga-ga over Prince. He’s arrogant, slightly spoiled and privileged. It’s his growth throughout the movie, with the help of Danielle, a woman who believes in helping the poor, that gives another layer of richness.



Ever After might be an odd choice among some of the classic romances out there, but I’m a sucker for a fairy tale. This everyday rendition of a childhood story is taken one step forward with depth, scenery (which is breathtaking, I might add) and a solid plot that goes further than a woman being treated as a housemaid in her own home and the Prince who rides in on a white horse to save her. I've added a video here. It's more than a trailer so if you haven't seen the movie you will get more insight to how the movie progresses, so be warned. But I couldn't help myself either, LOL.


So my question(s) to you today is: Do you have a favorite romance movie, or better yet, a version of a movie that has been redone to death, but one version stands out above them all?
and the winner is...
"Housemouse88"

Congrats! You've won a signed copy of "Seduce Me". Email me at: anne@annerainey.com with your mailing address so I can get your book out to you ASAP!

Thanks to everyone for welcoming here at Fierce Romance AND for entering my contest! :)
The End!!! Soon, Hopefully

This is me (well not really, although I have rapelled off cliffs), but this feels like me as I strive to reach the pinnacle...the end of the story. :) I've got the weekend off finally, and so HAVE to meet my deadline on Monday. Have to.

And so that's my post...no rest for the weary...got my word count, have to end the story, and then keep polishing it up. Soon, I'll get back to commenting, to having a life, to...I don't know. The possibilities are limitless. :)
Back to writing and rewriting! Hope everyone has a terrific weekend! :) Terry
Please Welcome Fierce New Member Anne Rainey!
Hi, we're thrilled to welcome Anne Rainey on board as an awesome new member of Fierce Romance!

Anne lives in a small town way out in the middle of no-where-ville. She is a gorgeous blonde with wonderful curves and a money tree in the backyard. She never wants for anything and she always loves everyone. Of course, she wasn't always this way.

It all started on one Rainey day, as she was sitting on her comfy couch,
reading a romance novel and sipping a hot chocolate. She realized the book she was reading seemed to lack a certain 'vavavoom!'. Thus, the talented, beautiful, and rich Anne Rainey was born.

Clearly, Anne is a mere figment. A ghostly figure that pops in and out of my head like a drive-by author. Nevertheless, I do so love it when she's visiting, because her imagination really is wickedly delicious! She'll bring you fantasies and erotic delights that will have you grabbing the ice water!

Whew, hot covers! (okay, I have my ice water. I'm ready.) Welcome, Anne!! Please tell us about your books.
I write mainly contemporary romance with lots of heat. I've dabbled a bit in the paranormal arena, but my first love is contemporary. Modern settings,
everyday people finding love when they least expect it.

My current release, Turbulent Passions, which just released with Samhain,
does have some psychic elements and that was great fun to create. Here's a
blurb for ya:

Love. Is it blind luck? Or just a lump on the head?

Sapphire Demas and her twin brother have a secret. Since the awful day their parents were killed, they've been in hiding, fearful the same fate will befall them. Now she's grown tired of living a half-life, tired of lying. She wants something just for herself. When she stumbles across an unconscious man while hiking through the woods and brings him home to heal, she knows she's found it. Even if he's a dangerous outsider.

Investigative journalist Adam Richton trusts only one thing-his nose for news. He's never failed to get a story and doesn't intend to start now. Until a beautiful and mysterious woman rescues him. In an instant, he forgets all about his career. Now all he wants is Sapphire, any way he can get her.

Then he witnesses something extraordinary that puts his reporter instincts back on full alert. Something that exposes Sapphire's secrets, challenges him to believe the unbelievable and to trust in something way out of his comfort zone: love.

And Later this month my first print release with Samhain will be available. Seduce Me is a two in one. Touching Lace and Tasting Candy, the first two stories in my Vaughn series, available under one cover!

Here's a blurb:
Melts in your mouth-not in your heart

Anne Rainey takes indulging the senses to a whole new level with two stories that are melt-in-your-mouth sexy!

This duet of novellas is melt-in-your-mouth sexy! In "Touching Lace," Lacey is tired of rejection and turns to her best friend for lessons in seduction. But from Nick's first touch, lessons fly out the window-all she wants is more of him, and him alone. In "Tasting Candy," Blade is hungry for sex and there's only one woman on his menu-Candice. Except Candy is afraid of her own shadow. Blade sets out to prove that sex with him is just the therapy she needs.

These sound fantastic! What inspires you? What motivates you?

Youth. That's the honest truth. I love watching teenagers fall in love. That
first shy glance, the sweet hand holding, that feeling that you don't want
to spend even a second apart. That's what inspires me to write romance. I
love watching people falling in love! It's beautiful and exciting and it
makes me feel alive.

Yeah! I'm the same way. I like to "people watch" those who are falling in love. What is your writing process or method?

I have a strange process. LOL! I can't write a single sentence without a title. I always have my title, my characters' names, the town name, all of it's named ahead of time. Once I have the names figured out, I work out the plot. Most of the time I do a brief outline or synopsis, nothing extravagant, just something to have on hand, then I write.

What was the most important thing you learned (the thing that made all the difference) just before you made your first sale?

That your 'voice' is your biggest advantage over the competition. Learn and grow as a writer, but don't let anyone change your voice!

Do you have any advice for unpublished authors?

Keep an open mind and never stop studying your craft. In addition, reviewers, other authors, editors and agents can point out things you simply can't see. As writers we see the big picture, others tend to see the details. Let them point them out to you!

What's next for you?

At the moment my focus is entirely on the single title I'm working on, Body Rush, which releases next year through Kensington. After that I'll have another single title with them, and then I'll be focusing my attention on a series I've been outlining. Things will undoubtedly slow down as I won't have as much time to work on short stories and novellas, but readers will get bigger, meatier stuff from me.
Sounds fantastic, Anne! Congratulations on all your recent sales and new contracts! We're so happy you've joined us here at FR! Everyone, please visit Anne's website at: http://annerainey.com
Anne is giving away a book today! Woot!! A print copy of Seduce Me to one lucky person who comments! (Check out the yummy cover and blurbs above!)
Naming My Hero
How important are heroes’ names? I have to admit, I see a pattern of similarity among contemporary romance heroes’ names—lots of Jakes, Lukes, Matts, Jacks. What many of these names have in common is that they are masculine, one-syllable names that make you think of someone tough and alpha. I won’t get into the names for historical heroes, since those tend to be different, although surprisingly similar among each other. I’m not going to get into names for futuristic or paranormal heroes either, since those can be downright hard to figure out or pronounce sometimes.

Can a hero's name affect the way you feel about him? I have to slip in a complaint here about the hero’s name in Eloisa James’s When the Duke Returns (although I loved the book). His name is Simeon, and throughout the whole book, I kept thinking of him as “simian,” as in one of the ape family, and it really bugged me. And then I thought, maybe it’s supposed to be pronounced “Simon.” Anyway, his name bothered me and prevented me from completely adoring him.

So onto my own heroes and my own problem. I am writing a series of Intrigues about a family of three brothers, the McClintocks, which began with Circumstantial Memories and the middle brother, Ryder McClintock. Ryder—great name for a secret agent cowboy, right? The patriarch’s name is Ralph, and I decided to give all the brothers “R” names because big daddy Ralph is a bit of an egotist. Initially, the brothers were Ridge, the oldest, and Rafe, the youngest. But my editor nixed Ridge, calling it too weird. (So I stole Ridge for my hero in “Triple Threat,” my Red Sage Presents story in the Three Kinds of Wicked series. MUCH more about that later.) My husband threw out the name, Rod, and I picked that up and it passed muster with my editor. So Rafe McClintock gets his book in Jan. 2010 and Rod McClintock gets his book in May 2010.

So what’s the problem? The powers that be at HQ really loved my series and loved the McClintock name itself, so I figured I could slip in another McClintock brother book featuring...an illegitimate son of the philandering patriarch. I definitely wanted another R name for this brother, but it had to be an R name with a twist since he’s the black sheep of the family and his mother was a free spirit. So I named him River. Not only does it begin with R, it’s a name a free-spirited, gypsy-type might come up with, and my husband actually knows a 20-something guy named River who grew up in Hawaii (like my hero). Well, when I sent my editor my synopsis, she didn’t like the name River. It made her think of River Phoenix. Even though she liked River Phoenix, she didn’t want the comparison to be there.

OK, back to the drawing board. After much back and forthing, I decided on Rio (which means river in Spanish!). I figured I could make the free-spirited mom Latina, and since the other McClintock brothers are blondish/brownish, I could make Rio the true black sheep of the family by giving him sexy dark coloring (see picture above for insipiration). I have not passed this by my editor yet, as I’m working on Rafe McClintock’s book right now. Generally, she doesn’t like “weird” names, so I hope Rio isn’t too weird for her.

So what do you think? Should I stick with Rio McClintock? I also thought of Riley McClintock, but it sounds too much like Ryder, the middle McClintock brother. Any other R names you like for heroes? Any hero names make you cringe (like Simeon)?

The Unconventional Hero
When the idea of The Feline Fugitive came to me, I knew I’d have the time of my life writing this story. I wasn’t disappointed. I loved writing Luca Doyle, in both his human and shifter form. That’s right, Luca is a shifter. What kind, you ask?

Here’s a passage from The Feline Fugitive, coming out July 6 with Lyrical Press, to help explain:

“Are you hungry, Fluffy?”

The name made Luca cringe. He was a male cat for Christ’s sakes, a shorthaired, black cat. Fluffy in no way described him.

Now before you stop reading in a huff of disgust that I had the audacity to make an uber-hot hero a kitty cat, the fun part of this entire story is the contrast between Luca, a strong, determined, and oh-so sexy alpha and his counterpart, Fluffy, a cat living in his lifemate’s home as her pet.

However, Claudette has no idea Fluffy is really a human. (Now, Luca isn’t a perv. I swear.. He’s just running from law. That didn’t sound any better, did it? LOL. He was framed, and he escaped prison to find the real killer. Claudette found him and brought him home with her.) But even she notices he’s different.
Fluffy came around the corner and watched her with his intent, unnerving stare that shone with an intelligence far surpassing an ordinary house cat. Until Fluffy, she’d never wondered what a cat thought.

Writing Luca was tricky. I mean how alpha could I make a housecat? Trust me, this stayed at the forefront of my mind the entire time I wrote this. To give Fluffy a hard edge when he was on the page, I concentrated on his internal thoughts so the reader could see Luca’s personality without him in human form. I also focused on showing his frustration at not being able to reveal himself to Claudette and her going on with her life as if he, her mate, wasn’t in the same house. What else could I do but have her go on a date with another man. What could Luca do? He’s a cat. Pretty screwed, right? Don’t underestimate a spitting furball of rage.

As she started to push Roger away, he screamed and jumped off her again.

He flailed around the room. When he turned in his mad dance, Fluffy was attached to his back. Laughing out loud, she rescued her cat before Roger hurt him. Once she had the spitting feline in her hands, she said, “Roger, I don’t think this is going to work.”

“I think you’re right. You and your rabid cat have a good night.” With that, he slammed out of the house.

In the end, Luca reveals himself to Claudette to save her life. Then Claudette is introduced to a tall, well-muscled, wash-board stomach, broad-shouldered, all-male, male. The complete opposite of her sweet kitty. Luca wastes no time in showing her whose she truly is.

“Because it doesn’t exist. It’s make-believe. Fantasy. I have to be dreaming and for some reason, my mind is refusing to wake up,” she said.

“You’re not dreaming. If you were, would you be able to feel this?”

Before she could stop him, he grasped her face between his hands, capturing her lips with his own. Electric heat slammed through him, and he groaned. The kiss was far better than his dreams...

I worked very hard to keep Luca alpha even with his shifter form being something considered cute and cuddly. So my question today is how would you make up for your unconventional heroes less than perfect alphaness?
Esme
A Hero in Conflict
I love heroes of all kinds in the romance novels I read or write. I love those tough alpha warrior or chief types who rarely smile... because of all that intensity and emotional baggage. I also love the teasing charmer types who seduce with nothing more than a wink and a grin.

Today I want to talk about that hunky caber-tossin' man, Scott MacPherson, the hero of my erotic romance novella Kilted Lover, coming soon from Red Sage. He's 6 1/2 feet of drool-worthy masculinity, with bulging muscles, an American who wears a kilt when he competes in Scottish Games. He's not afraid to throw a few punches and rescue the heroine, Leslie, in a life-threatening situation. If he can toss logs, chances are he can toss people if he wants.

Scott is a gentle giant who is honorable, serious at times, funny at times, and has a great respect for women and commitment. What happens if he is tempted to go against his code of honor? What if the woman he wants is already in a relationship with a man unsuited for her? A man who doesn't deserve or appreciate her? And what if, in the past Scott was the man whose girl was stolen from him? He'd certainly understand the pain of betrayal and rejection. He wouldn't want to make someone else go through that.

But his attraction to Leslie is so intense and compelling he can't turn away. When she asks him for one night to explore this unexpected, blazing-hot attraction between them, how can he say no?

He wants to say no. He tries to say no.

He is a man with a lot of inner conflict. At first glance it might seem as if he's being selfish and taking what he wants, but that's not the whole picture. In Leslie he sees an amazing woman who needs something she isn't getting. What she needs, Scott has and he's unwilling to deny her that. He knows he has to let her go after their one night is over, though it will nearly kill him to do so because he's falling for her hard. Still, at the core he is honorable and he can't ask her to leave her injured boyfriend who needs her.

I love writing conflicted heroes who must do the thing they believed they never would. I like to make them go out on a limb or throw them into uncharted territory and see how they deal with it. This will show what they're made of, deep down.

What about you? What kind of heroes do you like? Do you like them conflicted?
Hanna's Hero
Hanna's Hero was one of the possible titles for the novel I just completed for Ellora's Cave. We're talking heroes this week, so I thought since it didn't make it as the title for the book, I could use it as the title for today's blog post.

The final title is Chains of Desire, a futuristic erotic romance with a capture/bondage theme. Hanna, of course, is the heroine. I had her character down pretty well from the beginning, but the hero...well, he took me a little longer. I thought he was going to be a cocky scoundrel, like Han Solo in the original Star Wars movie. I LOVE that character and I was looking forward to basing a hero on him. But the story really wasn't working for me.

Then one day, while I was researching hero images (yes, I consider surfing the net drooling over the pictures of hunky guys research...don't you?) I came across this picture of Duane "The Rock" Johnson. And there was my hero. Hanna's Hero. Jarrod. And all the pieces fell into place.


Jarrod was a jaded escapee from the mines, a man of few words, who won't apologize for what he's had to do to survive. He's also a Master, a sexual dominant, but he's been trying to keep that beast chained inside him...until Hanna brings it out again.

Here's how Hanna, chained to the wall in the spaceship, first describes him:

As he stood before her, she had a good chance to study him as she chewed the food he slid past her lips. She could tell he was strong and well-trained. His well-sculpted muscles bulged beneath his tight black shirt as he moved. His skin was as dark and shiny as the hortnuts on Vanya. His eyes were nearly black and while she studied them for warmth, she never saw any signs.

His hand were wide, his fingers long and strong. Rough and calloused. He wore a wide leather cuff on his left wrist. She knew he could strangle her if he wanted, but he was almost gentle as he fed her. His musky scent grew stronger than that of the food remaining on the plate.


And later:

Hanna had never felt anything like Jarrod’s rough hands caressing her skin. She knew she shouldn’t like what he was doing. Shouldn’t be aching for more of this incredible friction that was sending waves of sensations over her skin. She shouldn’t be wanting more.

But as soon as she awoke and saw him standing there in the doorway, staring at her, she’d wanted him to touch her again. He wasn’t wearing a shirt and she couldn’t help but admire his sculpted muscles.

The tattoo surprised her. It was all black and covered the entire left side of his chest. It followed the curves of his chest, from his broad shoulder down past his tight nipple. Thick black lines radiated out from a center sunburst design to a circular border, with intricate designs between.

Some people on Vanya decorated their bodies in this way, but Hanna had never seen a tattoo that actually enhanced someone’s body as this one did. It made him look even stronger and sexier. If she ever got out of these cuffs and chains, she hoped she’d get a chance to touch it.


The tattoo ended up adding another layer to Jarrod's story. And I never would have known that part of his history if I hadn't come across this picture. Jarrod has ended up being one of my favorite heroes and I think it's because he became his own character, not a second-hand version of someone else.

We were talking about inspiration last week and I should have mentioned pictures. I use them alot. Do you use pictures to get a better handle on your characters? Are you like me, posting a picture up where you can see it as you write? Or do you really get into it, as some writers do, and make up a huge collage of images for your story? Or are your characters all in your head until you get them down on the page?

I can't wait to share cover and release date for Chains of Desire. You can be sure I'll let you all know when I get them.

Natasha
Romance with more...sizzle
www.natashamoore.com
Let's Talk About...Dialogue

WITCHYS WIKKED GRAPHIX



With each story I write, I become more enthusiastic. Blame it on the thrill of the unknown. How the characters and plot develop and overcome the obstacles I deal them. What happens if I decide to make the book’s setting become antagonistic and temporarily thwart the goals of my hero and heroine? How can I keep upping the ante on the conflict to deliver the maximum reader impact? Will the universalities and theme I’ve chosen resonate with readers?

All of these are things I consider during the writing and editing process, but one element of storytelling sparks my greatest passion—dialogue. Whether my tale is told from the Louisiana bayou, a small town in Texas, an otherworld teeming with demons and despicable characters, or the Lower Eastside of Manhattan during the Jazz Age when speakeasies and corruption reigned supreme, the people who live on the fictional pages must deliver convincing dialogue.

My research for dialogue involves acute listening skills and observation of body language. Whenever I’m out and about, or even when I’m lunching with family and friends, I make note of mannerisms, personalities and speech patterns. How emotions play a huge role in a person’s gestures, tone and message content. Some men are excellent conversationalists, but most are subdued and speak far fewer words than we women. Most women can’t stand the silent treatment. The way my heroes and heroines speak also hinges on how I’ve scripted them. During the editing process, I read each character’s dialogue passages aloud. If they have a speech quirk, impediment, dialect or accent, I recognize these when playing their role. In essence, although we authors are writing fiction, we strive to make our characters believable and ones to whom readers can relate. For example, rugged guys don’t think about the way golden waves of a woman’s hair skim her forehead when they’re looking at her for the first time. Doting, far-from-Alpha men don’t swagger and spout profanities. A cowboy wouldn’t think about how much he adored a woman’s crimson frock or patent-leather aubergine satchel with eye-catching kiss-lock closures and stunning hardware, and he wouldn’t talk about the same, either.

When all is said and done, much like cathedral bells, dialogue must ring true. What are your thoughts on dialogue and the role it plays in the romances you read? Can you “hear” the characters speaking as you read their story?


Wishing you all many happy reading moments,

Shawna Moore
TORMENTED -- Ellora's Cave (Must-Read from Dark Angel Reviews)
ROUGHRIDER -- Ellora' Cave Exotika
HELLE IN HEELS -- Ellora's Cave Exotika
TO HELLE AND BACK AGAIN -- Coming April 29 to EC Exotika

Shawna's Myspace
Helle's Myspace
What Gets You In The Mood?

by Kristin Daniels


So far this week, we’ve discussed several different areas of writing. Openings, point of view, conferences and plotting. But what I’d like to know is what you do to gear yourself up to sit down in that chair at your cluttered desk (or curl up on the couch with a pad and a pen, or drive you and your laptop to the local Starbucks) so you can begin writing for the day.


We recently had this discussion at my local RWA chapter meeting. The varied answers crossed the board. One author told us she had to play several hands of solitaire on the computer before she could put word one on the page (her husband would see that and comment, “Ah, I guess you’re going to write today.”). Others would check the news, or go back to read what they had already written. Me? I do two things. One, I check my blogs. I have a lot of writer and editor blogs that I follow and I love reading those before I settle down to work. The second is listen to music. Music was a big factor for most of the authors at the meeting.


Some authors have what they call a ‘soundtrack’ for the book they’re writing. They’ll make a CD, or create a playlist on their iPod and that’s all they listen to while they work. For whatever reason, I can’t listen to music while I write. It always distracts me. But I can listen before I begin, like setting the mood in a way. It’s usually only one or two songs, but it’s enough to get those juices flowing.


My favorites? Well, currently I have a few. As an erotic romance writer, I deal with sexual situations, so the songs I listen to before I write any sort of sexual tension or the actual sex scenes lean that way. For starters (and yes, this is the edited version, LOL):



Then, of course, there’s always this one:



Those never fail to get me going. But what about other types of scenes (I do have some that don’t include sex!). If I’m going to put my characters through some angst that day I might listen to this one:



Okay, so I like the harder stuff, but you get the point. All those songs set the tone for what I’m writing. What about you? What works for you? What is it that gets you in the mood?

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