Saturday, December 16, 2006

What Are You Wishing For?

This time of year, it's natural to think about things we'd like, whether they're gifts for ourselves or special wishes for others.

Sometimes we get our hearts' desires, don't we?

And sometimes we get more than we bargained for!

One year as a child, my greatest wish was for a big-girl bicycle. To my joy, on Christmas morning, I found Santa had left that two-wheeler under the tree. It took me several days--not to mention, numerous bruises and two skinned knees--before I could truly appreciate the gift.

In COURT ME, COWBOY, my November book, my heroine has to learn a lesson before she can appreciate her present, too.

Marissa is touched when Gabe gives her a package all wrapped up in fancy paper and ribbon. After she opens the box, she's a little...surprised by what she discovers inside. It's not the most romantic item for a man to give to the wife he's supposedly courting. After some thought, though, Marissa realizes the importance behind Gabe's gift: he took the time to think about her and what she might really enjoy. And there's no better present than that!

Whatever you're hoping for this holiday season, I have several wishes for you: health and happiness in the year ahead, many wonderful books to read, and every one of your heart's desires.

All my best to you,



Barbara White Daille

The small, round, gray, heavy rock….

Have you ever read a book where the author has strung several adjectives together to describe something as simple as a rock?

As a writer I'm always searching for ways to move readers to tears, laughter, fear or even anger--and one way I attempt to do this, is through Description. How I use words to depict character, setting and emotion can be the difference between a good book and a memorable book.

I often argue (with myself, my husband, the dogs, whoever will listen) over the right word. I make my living putting words down on paper but some days I leave my desk feeling gutted, defeated and totally inept at my job. Suddenly something as simple as describing the heroine's eyes…. turns into an hour in front of the computer screen hacking out phrases like …her sea-foam eyes, her blinking indigo-orbs, or other such dribble. But writers are human and once in a while I raise my white flag and type …Her big blue eyes….

Having admitted that, I will say that when I revise my manuscripts I try to pay close attention to sensory detail. If used properly, the reader will be able to imagine the shape, color, smell, size or texture of the person, place or thing I'm describing. Keep in mind that memorable description rarely details how something looks--purple, large, long, heavy etc.

I've been guilty of using lovely, old and young (sometimes there's just no other word that works.) But I attempt to use them sparingly because adjectives such as old and young don’t play to our senses. Words like scratchy, kinky, sticky, sand-covered help the reader experience the object. Good description creates the illusion of reality. Sensory details that soak into the reader's consciousness will encourage them to become more emotionally involved in the story. And we all know that the key to a good romance is… EMOTION!

So, how would you describe a small, round, gray, heavy rock???

Happy writing and reading!

Marin Thomas

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Gift lists made easy

One thing you rarely have to worry about when you’re an author is what to give people for gifts. That is, assuming you’ve had one or more books published that year and you haven’t already sent them copies. (It must be enscribed somewhere that your relatives never actually buy your books themselves!)

Of course, authors don’t get unlimited free copies of our books. And some of us have large families. But at least it’s a start on the stocking-stuffer list.

For the long term, I try to retain about twenty copies of each of my books, although my earlier ones (I was first published nearly twenty-five years ago) run far short of that. The problem is that I’ve sold more than seventy books. Do the math. Even considering that most of them are paperbacks, that’s a lot of storage space! They fill up the cabinets in my office and part of my older son’s closet. He’s away at college most of the year, so maybe he hasn’t noticed, although recently he’s been making noises about needing space to store his old textbooks.

Then there are the foreign editions. These are fun to receive and to show off. The covers can be quite unusual, and as for the languages, my books have been translated into Spanish, French, Italian, Greek, Dutch, Polish, German, Japanese, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Hungarian, Czech, Portugese and Turkish. Maybe a few others.

Some of those, my mother passes along to her international friends in the ceramics community (she’s a ceramic sculptor – to see her work, Google Sylvia Hyman, or check out my website, I’ve given a few to friends who speak foreign languages, but mostly I save them, and they do tend to pile up. In fact, they occupy three drawers of a small chest in my bedroom.

These are the problems a writer dreams of having, of course!

International attention is really exciting to me, since I used to live in Italy. I was thrilled when a friend reported seeing one of my books at Heathrow Airport in London. And once I was interviewed via email for a website in Argentina that specializes in books about sheiks and sultans (the interviewer was kind enough to translate my answers into Spanish). In case you haven’t stumbled across this subgenre, sheik books are popular among category romance readers, although the Harlequin American line has become more realistic and isn’t currently featuring them.

What’s a useful gift for an author? How about bookshelves – and maybe an extra room to put them in! Better yet, keep buying our books, because who else are we writing them for?

Hope you receive your heart’s desire for Christmas, Hanukkah or whatever holiday you celebrate!

Poor Santa's Under Attack!!!!

Ahhh . . . Don't you just love this time of year? Deadline's looming, teen son's shooting Nerf dart's at Santa's Village, hot water heater busted, cookies burning, brakes going out on the car. AAGGHH!!!!

Actually, now that I've turned in my latest book, I can't wait to let the holidays commence!!! We're starting off this Friday night with the Holly Ball--my kids' high school's version of winter prom. Tonight, we pick up tuxes, and last night, Daughter and I spent getting her fingers, toes and eyebrows done. Friday night, a big crew is stopping by our house for a light meal and pics, then we're off to the big dance.

Daughter's freshman class prez, so I've been informed that I'm required to work. Do I get a fun job, like making sure no one's dirty dancing?? Nooooo. I'm stuck in the coat room!!!! Here in Tulsa, it's supposed to be sixty-five today and Friday. How many coats do you think I'm going to get? Hmm . . . At least I'll have time to catch up on my reading!!!

Our whole family is seriously looking forward to Christmas this year for a very special reason--drum roll, please!! Any of you who used to read my blog before I vanished, may have wondered why I vanished. Well, here's my official reason . . . I had a baby!!!!! He's 6'-1", has a full head of blond hair, a few scraggly whiskers he's quite proud of, and a full set of teeth!! Needless to say, the labor was rough!! LOL!!!

Okay, now for the true version. We've known this boy for years, known he had a rough home life, but we didn't know the true extant. In early September, he asked our son if he could stay with us for a week or two, as his mom had been evicted. We said, of course. Making a long, sad, sad story short, I used to tease him when he first came that I was keeping him forever--and a judge just made it official!!! I've been an angsty mess while waiting for our court date. What this boy has been through makes me all kind of crazy, and worry that he might have to return to that kind of life has pretty much consumed me.

Anyway, from here on out, we're hoping for a happily ever after--except for poor, Santa back at his village!!! I've heard nasty rumors that Son #1 is planning a late night Nerf football attack!!!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006



We'd like to welcome those dropping by from the very fun chat on eharlequin tonight. It was great chatting with you. Our schedule to the right is starting in January, but be sure to drop by often as we are always posting and making subtle changes to the blog to make it better.

We're glad you're reading and interested in Harelquin American Romance. Feel free to leave us comments, and while your at it, visit some of our individual author sites!

Happy reading,

Michele, on behalf of all the authors here

Monday, December 11, 2006

Entering the Harlequin American contest?

A reader asked for tips for writers entering Harlequin’s Great American Romance Contest (see Michele Dunaway’s blog below. At her request, I’d like to add a few things about writing a novel suitable for this imprint.

The Harlequin American line is currently emphasizing realistic stories set in real towns. While the tone can range from humorous to highly emotional, that means the editors don’t want to see fairy-tale themes (foreign princes, sheiks) or paranormal elements, although these may have been acceptable in the past.

They do like stories with appealing secondary characters, although these shouldn’t overshadow the romance. As you know if you’ve read my Downhome Doctors series, I weave in storylines that strengthen and develop the main conflict between the hero and heroine. So rather than isolating them, as you might in an Intrigue, you’re showing them in a setting that involves children, other family members and/or friends.

Sometimes supporting characters end up becoming the heroes or heroines of their own books later on. I wouldn’t worry too much about that with your first book, though.

Popular plot devices such as babies, pregnancies and marriages/engagements of convenience still work but you have to give them a fresh twist. For example, in my February ’07 release, The Doctor’s Little Secret, the hero gets a chance to reclaim the little girl he once agreed to give up for adoption but needs a pretend fiancĂ©e. The twist comes in the woman he nominates for the role: the no-nonsense policewoman who nearly arrested him by mistake. Of course, I had to find a way to make the situation believable!

Good luck to all of you who enter. One of these days I hope you'll be joining our ranks and blogging here, too!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

What Makes a Good Hero?

My husband and I had a Harry Potter mini-marathon today. We rented Prisoner of Azkaban and Goblet of Fire and watched them straight through. Since we are both writers, we tried to figure out what makes Harry such an appealing hero. And we decided the rules must be different in children's stories than adult novels, because Harry breaks a lot of the rules for a good hero.

First and foremost, he's not very pro-active. He tries to keep a low profile and not make waves, and he's just buffeted along by events. I remember a Harlequin editor once telling me that romance heroes must make waves! They have to initiate action. They have to be leaders. In Prisoner of Azkaban, Hermione is the one who figures everything out in the end and drags Harry along on the time-travel adventure. If I recall, Harry did absolutely nothing but watch.

Second, Harry doesn't have control of his emotions, especially his temper. He has unchecked fits of rage. He inflated his aunt and let her float into the stratosphere, then wasn't even sorry. A good Harlequin hero, on the other hand, always takes responsibility for his actions.

Third, Harry is hopeless with females. He can't even get a date for the dance. When he finally asks a girl he doesn't like just so he'll have a date, he doesn't treat her very nicely. A Harlequin hero would behave more honorably.

And yet, I love Harry and I'm rooting for him. It's partly because life has been so unfair to him. He's the ultimate underdog, always out-gunned and pushed to face the most hideous evil. He's not an Alpha male, that's for sure. But then, I'm not a big fan of Alpha males. (Anyone who's read my books can figure that out!)

So what do you think? Could Harry grow up to be a Harlequin Hero? Or does his nature preclude a future in category romance?

Great American Romance Contest

Harlequin Enterprises is holding a Great American Romance Contest. (More details at

I don't know much about it, but a reader has asked us the following: "Do any of you Harlequin authors have words of advice or hints/tips for those of us getting ready to enter the Great American Romance contest?"

I guess my biggest piece of advice would be to make sure that you have an American romance. Many times when I read contest entries targeted toward my line, I can tell that the entrant really doesn't have a grasp of "home, hearth, and family." For example, our heroes are not alpha males like you would find in a Harlequin Presents. No matter how well your story is written, a wrong hero will knock you out of the ball park.

Same goes for sensuality level. While Americans can have a range, these books do not have a focus on heat and passion of say, Blaze. Sex is not about having sex for pleasure so much as it is really developing a connection--if that makes sense. Harlequin American Romance editors have been known to tone down anything seen as too overboard--so make sure your heroine isn't salivating over your hero too much.

I've asked the other authors to pop in here as well.