Saturday, November 06, 2010

WIldcard Weekend: Melissa McClone's Christmas Magic

 Melissa McClone on the inspiration behind her latest heart warming romances.

Thanksgiving is less than three weeks away, but the shelves are already filling up with Christmas wrapping paper, tags and bows. Holiday themed romance novels are also hitting the shelves this month.
Christmas Magic on the Mountain, a Harlequin Romance, is one of those November books. The story stands-alone, but it also contains characters from a previous book. A planned series? Nope. While some writers plan everything out in advance, this series just sort of happened.
Back in December 2006, a climbing accident on Mount Hood captured media attention around the US and the world. I was captivated, too. I wanted to know more about the rescue mission so clicked on a link on an Internet news article. I ended up at a Pacific Northwest climbing forum where I found posts by mountain rescuers involved in the search.
It didn't take long for a story to take shape. One I felt compelled to write even though I knew nothing about climbing and mountain rescue. I put on my research cap as well as a climbing harness and set to work. That initial idea turned into Rescued by the Magic of Christmas, a November 2008, Harlequin Romance.
I soon realized I didn't want to say goodbye to the quaint little mountain village called Hood Hamlet and the characters that lived there. I proposed another story set there with a mountain rescue hero. The time of year, however, would be late summer/autumn. My editor gave me the thumbs up.
About this time, a Portland Mountain Rescue member, who had helped me with research on the first book and became a friend in the process, was injured while climbing Mount Hood. Fortunately he was going to be okay. But I had an a-ha moment about my new plot. My editor said the story changes were fine!
I had written about a quarter of the manuscript when my editor sent me the following:
Would you be happy with making Sean’s book set at Christmas time and making it as Christmassy - with all the bells (excuse the pun!) and whistles on it – as possible?

I love reading and writing Christmas stories so said yes! Of course, I soon realized Mount Hood is totally different between early September and December. I also couldn't take a non-holiday plot and just add in some Christmas decorations and snow. What I'd written wouldn't work at all. I had to start over.
When I finally typed The End, I knew without a doubt this story was meant to be set during the holiday season. Thank goodness my editor asked me to change the timeframe.
This summer when I was asked to write an eHarlequin on-line read, I decided to return to Hood Hamlet once again. Snow-Kissed Reunion stands alone, but readers who are familiar with the first book will recognize a few characters including Sean Hughes, the hero from Christmas Magic on the Mountain.
In a couple of weeks, I'll start writing another Hood Hamlet book set at Christmastime. A trip to Mount Hood and Timberline Lodge will definitely be in order. Let's just hope there's enough Christmas magic left on the mountain for that story!
Are you a fan of series or books with continuing characters? If so, what are your favorites?

Be sure to read Melissa's heartwarming Online serial --A Snow Kissed Reunion on eharlequin which concludes on 8 November.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Must Watch Friday : : NCIS . . . still

Anne McAllister is revising so she's taking heart by watching tried-but-true, same-but-different television shows -- and celebrating one of the best.

NCIS has been around forever. Well, perhaps not forever, but it certainly seems that way.

I had heard of it long before I ever began to watch it regularly. It was around in the days when I didn't watch anything regularly. It was practically around when we still didn't have a television.

Like series romance, it endures.

NCIS began as a two part episode in the earlier drama JAG back in 2003. It entered its eighth season a few weeks back, and in terms of popularity, definitely is still going strong.

In fact except for a tiny dip in season four, it has continued to grow in popularity every year since its inception. It's not only in the top ten in the US, but was, last I heard, the most popular US television show in the world.

Why? Because, I think, like the best in series romance, it delivers on its premise.

It doesn't pretend to be something it's not. Viewers know what to expect -- strong quirky characters, a dead body, bad guys being brought to justice, a little comedy amidst the drama, and Mark Harmon delivering a figurative or literal head-slap or two.

NCIS offers the quintessential "same but different" fix that consistently appeals.

In every episode we know that Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon) is going to go with his gut. He's not going to tolerate foolishness or slacking, he's going to go nose-t0-nose with authority at the same time he's going to demand the best from his team.

We know that Tony (Michael Weatherly) is going to indulge in a bit of foolishness regardless of Gibbs' disapproval, but that deep down he's not quite as shallow as he'd like everyone to believe.

We know that McGee (Sean Murrary) will make nerdiness sexy and, like Tony, has hidden facets that make him more than just a geek.

We know that Ziva (Cote de Pablo) could kill with her little finger, will mangle Americanisms regularly, and will try to mask even the tiniest bit of emotional vulnerability beneath her Moussad-trained professionalism.

We know that Ducky (David McCallum) will wing off on verbal flights of fancy inspired by whatever dead body he is currently confronting, but that, yanked back to the moment and the murder victim, he will find a clue.

We know Jimmy (Brian Dietzen) will be a foil for Ducky's wisdom and then surprise us with an insight of his own.

We know that Vance (Rocky Carroll) will bring the weight of his authority to bear on Gibbs, but that he's a wise enough man to know when to back off and let his agent do the job that needs to be done.

And we know that Abby (Pauley Perrette) will be the voice of science and the heart of the show, both at the same time.

Every one of these characters is predictable, but not one-dimensional.

We know them, and yet to some extent they continue to evolve. They are the same -- our familiar friends on Tuesday nights (and practically every day several times a day on USA Network in re-runs) and yet we come back because they are also different. Tony gets wiser (well, slightly). Ziva becomes more human. McGee isn't quite so geeky. Even Gibbs shows a hint of emotion now and then. And even when he doesn't show it, deep down we know he still feels it. A lot.

We come back to NCIS because it delivers on our expectations. It gives us an hour (or several if we're watching USA or DVDs) with old friends.

It reinforces our belief that right will triumph, that the good guys are not always perfect, but that when the chips are down, they will find a way to do the right thing.

I came to NCIS rather late in the game, but I think by now I've watched almost every episode thanks to my local library and USA Network.

This season I'm catching the new ones first time around -- and enjoying every minute of it. NCIS delivers on its promise.

It's not only fun to watch, it reminds me of why I write series romance -- and, I hope, it helps me deliver a good story that has the same elements we who read it look for, and at the same time, brings something new and surprising in every book.

Are there some good series programs that you watch regularly? Which ones? What makes you keep coming back?

Anne's latest book, Hired by her Husband, was out in UK in October as a Mills & Boon Modern. It will be a Harlequin Presents in February.

In it George Savas does his best to prove that being a physicist can be sexy, and tha
t getting hit by a truck can lead to true love.

Who knew? Certainly George did

Thursday, November 04, 2010

What Are You Reading...Terri Reed?

Love Inspired Suspense Author Terri Reed explains one of the joys of writing a novella -- getting to read the other stories in the collection!!!

I just finished reading Christmas Target by Stephanie Newton, which can be found alongside my novella, Yuletide Sanctuary, in the Love Inspired Suspense book Holiday Havoc, a November release.

When my author copies arrived I tore into the box and immediately read Stephanie’s story. I couldn’t put it down. Not only was it suspenseful with a fast paced plot and a surprising twist at the end, but the romance was so tender and the characters were people I wanted to root for. I was also tickled that she had used my name for a secondary character (which I’m sure wasn’t on purpose ).

Mayhem and mistletoe share the holiday in these two suspenseful stories

Yuletide Sanctuary by Terri Reed

A cry for help shatters youth counselor Sean Matthews's quiet Christmas night. He saves Lauren Curtis from her attacker—for now. But the vengeful man on her trail won't be held at bay for long….

Christmas Target by Stephanie Newton

She hadn't wanted the contest "prize" in the first place. But when police officer Maria Fuentes arrives for the holiday vacation she won, she finds much more than expected. Her "date"—handsome weatherman Ben Storm—is in danger, and Maria is the only protector he'll trust.

You can read more about Terri's books on the Love Inspired website.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Writer's Wednesday - Guard your Writer's Sanctuary

This Writer's Wednesday blog comes from debut Harlequin Romance author Barbara Wallace, who urges you to find that special place and cherish it! You never know what it might give back to you...

As writers, we need our sanctuaries. Creative energy is fragile enough without being pulled in ten thousand directions while we try to write. Once you find one, hold on tight. Treasure it, protect it for all it's worth.

A little over five years ago, after another decade of stagnation and frustration, I decided to take my writing career seriously. I was, I determined, going to write every single day. Problem was finding the time to write. Not only did I have a school age son, but a part time job with a pr agency. Then there was the bigger problem of day-to-day life. Every time I turned around there was some errand, some activity, some household chore, some…thing needing my attention. By the time I actually found an hour or so to write, the day was over.

A wise friend of mine pinpointed the problem right away. “It’s not the obligations,” she said, “It’s your location. How can you put writing first if you’re forever trapped in a land where your main identity is ‘Mom’?” Her advice: Find a place where your identity isn’t Mom, but Barb the writer.
As my friend pointed out, everyone needs a special place. Not a room, not a corner, not a desk, a place. Somewhere that you can tap into your creativity without distractions or clutter. Where you can truly become your writer self.

Enter my local Starbucks. I made it a goal to spend an hour there two days a week. While there I would have coffee (naturally) and write. At first, I felt guilty. I mean, hanging out at a coffee shop with my notebook and three-dollar latte went against my hard-working Yankee roots. But slowly the guilt faded as I realized that 1) writing is work and 2) there’s nothing wrong with taking time out to work on your dream.

Shortly after I established my Starbucks routine, something magical happened. I was no longer talking about my desire to write. I I was writing. What’s more – writing had become a priority. What had been a two day a week treat became a five day a week routine. The more I wrote, the stronger my writing became. The stronger the writing, the better the editorial response. And somewhere along the way, my self-image shifted. I stopped being Barb-The-Mom-and-Wannabe-Novelist; I became Barb The Writer. The other titles, at least while at Starbucks, faded in favor of my dream. Now is that worth the cost of a latte? You better believe it.

Flash forward to the present. I’ve sold two Romances and a novel, and have a contract for two more. The baristas and management at Starbucks celebrated every one of these sales. In fact, as I type this, there’s a three-foot sandwich board out front advertising A FAIRYTALE CHRISTMAS, my November anthology with Susan Meier. Starbucks is throwing me a book signing. It’s a congratulations gift from my coffee brewing friends.

Now is that worth the cost of a latte? You better believe it.

So if you have a writing sanctuary, guard it. Protect it for all it’s worth. You never know what magic it’ll create for you.

Barb's debut is the novella Magic Under The Mistletoe, paired up with Susan Meier in A FAIRYTALE CHRISTMAS in the US/Canada and part of the antho CHRISTMAS WISHES & MISTLETOE KISSES in the UK (Mills and Boon Special Releases). Check out her next book available now from eharlequin and on store shelves in December - THE CINDERELLA BRIDE!

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Temptation Tuesday - Sick Days and Duvet Days

Here in the northern hemisphere days are getting shorter, the weather is getting cold and rainy and the inevitable cold virus and flu bugs are doing the rounds.

I have been struck with my first cold of the season and this last week I have been battling with the biggest temptations of all. My sofa, my duvet and the complete Buffy and The Vampire box set. I know I should be doing my tax return or writing but when your head is woolly and you're hugging a box of tissues to you like they are your best friend then I will admit I am weak. I gave in. It was blissful. Luckily I had looked like death warmed up at work so when I called in sick it wasn't unexpected. The fact I sounded like Honor Blackman (without the black leather cat suit) also helped.

I wasn't at death's door. I will hold my hand up. But I also knew that the next day I had too much stuff on at work not to be fighting fit. So I took the day. And what a day it was. OK so I was coughing a lung up and everything was a bit fuzzy but it was a without guilt day of being good to me. And I will admit I haven't been doing that very often recently… which probably explains the cold!

You don't always have to be battling a cold to give in to a 'duvet day'. Sometimes you look out of the window and see grey skies and think how much nicer it would be if you didn't have to go outside and deal. That you can sit in your rattiest clothes snuggled up with completely unhealthy foods and indulge in great or even not so great TV. It is a time to put life on stand by and just be. Some companies allow you to have them and of course if you are self employed you can take them as long as you don't mind not getting paid and aren't already booked for stuff.

Of course it doesn't do to have more than two duvet days in a row. That starts to look a little too much like heading into crazy depressed territory. Take that day, feel no guilt, gorge yourself and then when you wake up the next day you can spring (ok fall) out of bed and face the rest of the week knowing that you have spent a little time on yourself.

Brigid has pulled herself off the sofa and is currently revising her YA. Her story 'The Great Leap Forward' is in Even More Tonto Short Stories

Monday, November 01, 2010

Male on Monday: gorgeous Frenchmen!

Kate Hardy says French men are just gorgeous…

I’m possibly a little biased here as I’m just back from Paris, where I found the French people absolutely charming. (Having not spoken French for 20 years or so, I was a tad rusty, but my confidence came back very quickly because everyone was so nice and encouraging – nothing like the South of France, where they’ll claim they can’t understand a word you’re saying if you say ‘la’ when you mean ‘le’, cough.) The artist who drew my daughter’s portrait in Montmartre, the lovely man who came to my rescue in the Louvre when I came across the only unhelpful person in Paris while trying to find a particular painting, the waiters and our concierge and even the staff in the Metro station – they were all very kind and very sweet.

And so I’m being a little self-indulgent – my Male on Monday slot is about gorgeous Frenchmen!

When I was small, French men were the height of sophistication. I can remember my mum sighing over Sacha Distel (left).

In my early twenties, I discovered Gerard Depardieu – first in The Return of Martin Guerre, and then in Cyrano de Bergerac. He’s been described as joli-laid (i.e. unconventionally attractive), but who could fail to fall in love with a character with such wit, such eloquence? (Yes, Vincent Perez, who plays Christian, was very pretty; but Depardieu stole the show.) And then there’s Green Card. The bit where he plays the piano to get Andie McDowell her trees is the bit where a lot of women fell in love with him.

And then there’s Mathieu Kassovitz, probably best-known outside France for his role as Nino Quincampoix in Amélie. (He's also a writer and director. Gorgeous and clever is a fabulous combination, in my book.)

And, more recently, Gilles Marini – both in his Sex and the City role, and his fabulous dancing in Dancing with the Stars.

Do you have a favourite French actor? Come and tell us about him and your favourite French film.

In the UK, you can still get the second of Kate’s Modern Heat French duo, Champagne with a Celebrity, from Mills & Boon’s website; the first, Red Wine and Her Sexy Ex, is out in December in the US and Australia. You can find out more about these books, and Kate, on her website ( and her blog (