Saturday, March 19, 2011

WILDCARD WEEKEND: Winnie Griggs

Winnie Griggs joins Wildcard Weekend with wedding bells on the mind....

Just a few short weeks ago our oldest daughter got engaged. Actually, her boyfriend did the formal speak-to-the-father thing first, then formally proposed and gave her the ring. It was all quite romantic and lovely and now we are in planning mode for a summer wedding. But while I was doing a bit of online research on wedding planning, I stumbled across some information about superstitions and myths associated with weddings, many of them new to me. I thought it would be fun information to share with you in this post.

I’ll start with the ones that denote bad luck, mostly so I can end on an upbeat note.



Wearing Pearls
The bad luck version of this superstition indicate that pearls represent future tears and so wearing them on your wedding day will bring lots of tears and heartache in your marriage.


Rain On The Wedding Day
Similar to pearls, rain drops are thought to represent the many tears a bride will cry during the coming years.

Signing Your Married Name Before The Wedding
This is considered bad luck as it is thought to be tempting fate sort of like counting your chickens before they hatch).


Making Your Own Wedding Dress
Supposedly, every stitch the bride sews herself on her dress represents a tear she’ll shed during her married life. However, I can shoot this one down. I made my own wedding dress and so far have had 35 years of happily ever after.

Marrying Someone Whose Surname Begins With The Same Initial
Apparently there is an old saying that goes "A change of name and not of letter Is a change for the worse and not the better."


Dropping The Wedding Ring
Some believe that whoever drops a ring during the ceremony will be the first to die among the wedding party (yikes!)


Winnie Griggs

Sensible, settled, steady... and not Sadie Lassiter.

Eli Reynolds knows what he wants in a wife, and the flighty Texas girl couldn’t be further from the mark. Eli has his nine-year-old sister’s welfare to consider - Penny deserves a mother who will give her proper care. But when bad weather strands Eli and Sadie together, he sees a new side to her character. She’s rash - but also resourceful. Instead of discipline, she has diligent faith. Her housekeeping skills are lacking, but she’s filled with humor and sweetness. She may not be a “proper” wife, but to save her reputation - and to take a chance on happiness he’d never expected to find - Eli will take her as his bride.





Rain On The Wedding Day
Some equate rain with fertility and thus believe that rain on the wedding day ensures the couple will be blessed with the coming of fine children.


Crying On The Wedding Day
This superstition states that if a bride cries during the ceremony, she will have cried all her tears and won’t need to shed any during her marriage


Dropping The Wedding Ring
In this version, dropping the ring during the ceremony is considered good luck because it shakes out the evil spirits that might be hiding in the ring. (I like this MUCH better than the bad luck version!)

Okay - on to the superstitions that claim to bring good luck.. Oh, and you’ll notice some of these contradict the superstitions above - such is the nature of myths and superstitions.


Wearing Pearls
In this version of the superstition relating to pearls, it is said that pearls take the place of a bride’s real tears and so she’ll have a joyous, tear-free wedding

Shoes
Surprisingly, there are several superstitions around the shoes of various members of the wedding party.
It is considered good luck for a house cat to eat from the bride’s shoe during the week of her wedding (now how did this one get started?)
It is also considered good luck for the groom’s mother to throw a shoe at the bride as the newlyweds leave their reception (yikes!) - supposedly it ensures the bride and her mother-in-law will become good friends
If the bride has the bridesmaids sign the bottom of her shoe, the name that remains after the others are walked off is the next to marry.


There were many more, but I thought these were the most interesting.
So have you heard of all of these before? Are you at all superstitious when it comes to weddings? And are there other superstitions you want to share with us?

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Date With Kate - Romance means love - All around the world

I was going to write a completely different blog – something clever about the conflict in a romance novel being like March coming in like a lion and going out like a lamb - but then the events of this past week, with the terrible disasters in Japan have left me with only one topic I can write about

Last week I wrote a blog on ‘what is romance anyway’ - and there were lots of answers. But one has been in my head this week – Anne McAllister said:

It's the attitude behind that behavior. Behaving romantically is focusing on the other person, thinking of things -- big or small -- that matter to that person and finding a way to make them happen.

And heaven knows, there’s been a need for that this week. And, it seems, for much of the earlier weeks of this year too. There have been the floods in Queensland, the earthquake in New Zealand and this appalling earthquake and tsunami and the resulting destruction in Japan. It’s horrible to hear about and yet whenever you turn on the TV or the radio, it seems like there’s nothing else being talked about.

But at the same time as I’ve been brought down by these reports of loss and misery, I have had my spirits lifted by other things – by the way that the romance writing community, and so many other authors, have gathered round, come together, and determined to do what they can to help, as much as they can.

I’ve been able to share in this, to make contributions to books for Queensland, the silent auction for the victims. Every year there is Brenda Novak’s fabulous auction to raise funds for research into diabetes, and running right now is the Authors For Japan auction where we’ve clubbed together to raise funds for the Red Cross working in Japan. I've donated a copy of the 12 Point Guide, and a selection of novels – all signed. Bidding is open now and goes through to March 20th so don't miss out.



Another auction going on right now is on a smaller, more personal scale, but no less a tragedy for one particular family. Someone I've come to know over the last years as a wonderful reviewer and supporter of the Romance genre. Fatin (mad4rombks) lost her husband last week in a workplace shooting which is just devastating for her and her family. The Operation Auction proceeds will go to an education fund for their four girls. I've added a few items of my own, and there are some wonderful offerings up for grabs.

In the middle of all that seems darks and horrible, these signs of caring and generosity are real testaments to the best of humanity.



There’s an old, well-worn ‘joke’ (one that should be worn out by now in my opinion) that has hung around too long and it’s often quoted by crime writers. The one where perhaps a reporter asks ‘Doesn’t dealing in these gruesome crimes, writing about then, researching them, say something about the nature of a crime writer? Their obsession with the dark and nasty?’

‘Oh no,’ is the answer, ‘crime novelists are usually lovely, warm, friendly people. Romantic novelists, now - you wouldn’t want to be in a room with them. They’ll stab you in the back any day!’ Hmmm!

I don’t need to spell it out, do I – the evidence above is so clear. Romantic novelists/romance writers are spread out all over the globe, but when they’re needed they don’t let a few oceans and continents stand in their way. We know that by ourselves, one of us can do so little – but together we can really hope to achieve something worthwhile.

And isn’t that what romance is truly all about? We women (mostly women ) know that we’re independent, capable, coping on our own – but together with someone at our side, we become so much more than the sum of two halves. We can change things – and hopefully help to make things better.

At a time when I think we’re all hungry for good news, I wish you all the true romance of the support, strength joy of love. In our books and in our lives that’s what we assert - ‘romance’ that is so much worth having.

Kate Walker's latest Presents title - The Good Greek Wife? - was out in Presents Extra in October and is still available now on Amazon, eHarlequin etc. her next Presents Extra title is The Proud Wife (her editor has been on a 'title with Wife in it kick!) is out now in  Modern Romance the UK and April in America.



Her latest book, part of the The Powerful and the Pure mini series - The Return of The Stranger - has just been scheduled for September 2011.


You can get all Kate's news and read the latest updates over on her web site or her blog.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

What Are You Reading Thursday: 'The Messenger'

Our columnist Annie West discusses a recent favourite: 'The Messenger' by Markus Zusak.

OK, I admit it, I'm not a trendsetter. I don't often get the chance to discover a brand new author no one has heard about or read the book when it first hits the shelves. Markus Zusak is a case in point. Years ago I heard about a wonderful book he'd written called 'The Book Thief'. You may know it. I bought it for my husband knowing he'd love it (which he did) and hoping to read it myself (which I didn't as other things kept taking priority). Even my daughter read and loved it. Did I mention it's been translated into 30 languages and made the NYTimes bestseller list?

Well, I'm not writing about that book...! I was at a book store recently and a cover caught my eye. 'The Messenger' by Markus Zusak. I remembered the author's name, the fact I still hadn't read his other book, the fact that my reading was being severely disrupted by work and other commitments and I staged a minor rebellion. I bought the book, went home and started reading (well, almost). As a result, I'm going to read 'The Book Thief' as a reward when I get half way through my current ms . Yes, 'The Messenger' was that good!

It didn't matter that it was first released in 2002. Better late than never. It didn't matter that it turns out the book has won various literary awards for young people's fiction (I didn't know it was for young people and believe me it suited this middle-aged person wonderfully well).

Here's the back cover blurb so you can get an idea of what attracted me;

Ed Kennedy - cab driving prodigy, pathetic card player, useless at sex - shares coffee with his dog and is in nervous love with Audrey. His life is one of suburban routine and incompetence, until he inadvertently stops a bank robbery.
That's when the first ace turns up and Ed becomes the messenger.
PROTECT THE DIAMONDS
SURVIVE THE CLUBS
DIG DEEP THROUGH SPADES
FEEL THE HEARTS
Chosen to care, he travels through town, helping and hurting, until only one question remains. Where are the messages coming from?

Intriguing, eh? Not only that, but a beautifully written story. The language is deceptively simple and direct and the author has a gorgeous way with words. I found myself reading short passages aloud to my husband just for the joy of reliving the description of a breeze riffling paper or the emotions stirred.

The first chapter had me chortling out loud with its mixture of great characterisation and dry humour. I'm tempted to say it's a brand of laconic Australian humour but maybe I'm biased. The book is sent in contemporary Australia but I'm sure readers anywhere would enjoy it. I note it was published in the USA under the title 'I am the Messenger'.

I read the back and was reminded a little of 'The Solitaire Mystery' by Jostein Gaarder but really, it's a book that stands by itself. I can't classify it. There's a strong mystery element. Humour pervades the story as does the sort of understated heroism that comes from doing the right thing even when you're scared witless at the prospect. The hero is imperfect, the people are ordinary, living in a working class neighbourhood and facing the sort of everyday issues many of us face and yet they're endearing and fascinating. There's a wonderful poignancy and beauty about some of the subplots. There's some violence, not a lot, but it makes an impact. There's a twist to the plot that removes it from the ordinary quick read and makes you think.

Actually, much of this book made me think. It's a book about caring for each other, making connections with others and proving yourself (to yourself). It isn't too sentimental (with the possible exception of the Doorman, the stinkiest and most delightful old dog I've read about in a long time).

If you haven't discovered Markus Zusak yet, I can recommend him.

And for something completely different, Annie just wanted to mention her latest release (hot off the press this month in the UK) is 'The Desert Sheikh's Defiant Queen', an anthology of two stories with the lovely Jane Porter. Annie's contribution is 'The Desert King's Pregnant Bride'. It's available from Amazon UK and The Book Depository (free postage worldwide). To read about the book pop over to Annie's website.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

WRITER'S WEDNESDAY: Heidi Rice on why inspiration is everywhere... But it isn't everything.

M&B Riva and Harlequin Presents Extra author Heidi Rice waxes lyrical about where inspiration comes from, why it isn't the most important thing in a story and her glamorous weekend in Barcelona and fiendishly finds a way to connect them! Make a comment and there's a copy of her latest book up for grabs.

Okay, I'll admit it.... What I really wanted to do was a very smug post about my fabulous trip to Barcelona last weekend, so I could make everyone jealous (and use the photos I'd taken). But this is a Writer's Wednesday slot so I had to make it relevant to my writing life somehow. And then funnily enough, while I was actually in Barcelona two incidents happened which gave me a great angle for this post and confirmed something I've always believed:

That inspiration for writers is everywhere... 

Doh! I know most of you (especially the writers who read this blog) are probably thinking, no kidding Sherlock. Isn't that obvious? But funnily enough it isn't to a lot of people. How many times do we all get asked at writing workshops or from readers emails the old question 'where do your ideas come from?'. Every time I get that question, I always give my standard answer - everywhere - and the attendees sometimes give me this dumbfounded, slightly annoyed look, as if to say 'Well that's a big help. Ta very much, mate!'

Because another big myth about writing is it's the brilliant idea, the unique inspiration for a story, that is the most important thing. And therefore if you ask a writer where their ideas come from, they're not going to tell you, because they don't want you to steal their brilliant idea, or their unique inspiration. When in reality of course, every writer knows, it's not the idea, the hook, the inspiration behind a story, whatever you want to call it, that really matters — it's what you do with it.

To misquote a certain great Kevin Costner movie: You have to build it before they will come.

So to Barcelona... When I planned this girls weekend away with my best mate, I had the vague idea that I might use it for a story location. I'd never been to Barca before, but I'd heard it was a vibrant, captivating city which brilliantly combined modern urban chic with old-world Catalan charm. Which sounded perfect for Riva. Plus it's Spanish. And I'd never done a Spanish hero before.

Of course, once I got there, I immediately fell in love with the gorgeous insanity of the place: those lavishly sculpted fountains plonked in the middle of traffic-choked roundabouts; the labyrinth of alleyways accented with wrought-iron balconies and tiny squares where you can drink rioja and eat tapas into the night; Gaudi's gloriously deranged buildings springing out like wild flowers next to the geometric grace of 14th century churches; and the occasional edgy graffiti masterpiece spray-painted over ornate medieval grandeur. But while Barcelona looks amazing, what really makes any city is the people.

And it was those two key people moments I mentioned earlier that got me thinking about possible story ideas and characters. 

The first came on the first afternoon we were there. It was sunny and surprisingly hot for March and the chic hotel we were staying in had a rooftop pool. So of course, being two mad British women, we just had to go for a swim. Anyway, while we were busy getting hypothermia, I noticed a handsome young Spanish guy in a business suit talking into his mobile phone on a nearby roof terrace. But as we actually started swimming he put down his phone and stared. Now, I couldn't see his expression, but I could tell, by his body language that he was obviously thinking 'What a couple of loonies!' So of course we had to wave at him. He waved back... But tentatively enough that I'm sure he was still convinced we were nutjobs. Then I started thinking, what if he were my hero? And the heroine was a svelte, beautiful British tourist getting wet in a freezing cold pool and cheekily waved at him? Suddenly the possibilities were endless..

The other incident wasn't quite so much fun. Barcelona is a haven for pickpockets (probably because all those alleyways make for an easy getaway if you're fit). And on our second day we were out sight-seeing when a guy ran past at breakneck speed with a heavy rucksack in his hand. Two seconds later we heard the high-pitched cries of a young woman in hot pursuit. As she charged after him my first thought was 'Jeeze she's brave and determined.' And then my next was 'But what happens when she catches up with him?'... And again the story process kicked in. What if my hero were to intervene, but then give the heroine a stern talking to about personal safety? Maybe he knew more about pickpockets than he should, because he'd once been one himself? And why was my heroine so desperate to get her bag back?

So there you have it. Where I get my ideas from. Why inspiration is everywhere (especially in beautiful Barcelona). But also why it's really the story you build from that spark of inspiration that counts.

So I want to hear what has inspired you recently? And why? And I've got a copy of my new Riva Cupcakes and Killer Heels to give away to one lucky commentator.

Heidi's new UK Riva, Cupcakes and Killer Heels, is about to hit the M&B site in April and will be on shelves in May. Her latest Presents Extra, Surf, Sea and a Sexy Stranger, is also out in April in the US. Come talk to her on her blog, on Facebook, through her website or on Twitter (@HeidiRomRice)... Because she loves to natter, and she's a social media junkie.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

DEADLINE RECIPES: Caro's Favorite Fish and Rice

Jackie Braun joins us with a Deadline Recipe sure to please...

Fish? Really? I know that’s what you’re thinking. Last week, Amanda McCabe was sharing her recipe for English Toffee. And here I come with flounder.

Well, writers cannot live on sweets alone. I know. I’ve tried. (As me sometime about the week I passed on mint chocolate chip ice cream. Disaster.) So, here is a healthy, light and super easy recipe to make for a special occasion, a midweek meal or just whenever. It’s that versatile.

Even my six-year-old will eat this. Will loves it, in fact. That’s him in the picture with the finished product. He likes to be my sous chef.

His 10-year-old brother won’t touch it, but Daniel has taken finicky to a whole new level. He doesn’t like the ketchup in the school cafeteria because he claims it tastes like it was made with cherry tomatoes. Yes, he really said that.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering about the recipe’s name, it refers to the heroine in my March Harlequin Romance: “The Daddy Diaries.” (Yeah, I just renamed the recipe in honor of the occasion.) Usually, I name recipes after myself. It’s become a running joke in my marriage. As in, which “Jackie Surprise” are we having tonight?” I can admit, I’ve had as many flops as successes over the years. This, is one of the successes.

Okay, here’s what you’ll need:
Four to six filets, depending on size. Flounder and Talapia work best since they are both mild fish and cut thin. If using frozen, thaw completely and pat dry. Add salt and pepper.
2 cans of diced tomatoes, undrained
1 yellow onion, chopped, about a cup worth
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon capers
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
kosher salt and cracked pepper to taste
3 dashes of hot sauce or to taste
quarter cup chopped and pitted calamato olives
1 cup uncooked white rice
First thing, in a saucepan, cook rice per directions.
Next, in a frying pan, heat olive oil over medium heat and add onions and dried basil Cook onions until tender.

Add tomatoes, dried oregano, capers, salt and hot sauce. Bring back to a boil and simmer for five minutes.

Add fish filets to top of mixture and cover with calamato olives. Cover pan and cook over low heat until fish is fork tender. (about 8 minutes depending on thickness of filets.)

Pour mixture over bed of rice and garnish with fresh chopped basil or fresh parsley.

Add salt and pepper to taste, but be mindful of salt in capers and olives.

This amount serves about six, depending on the number of filets you use.

Also, this dish reheats well, so leftovers aren’t a problem. In fact, I think it tastes even better the second day.

Hope you enjoy Caro’s Favorite Fish and Rice.

Be sure to check out Caro’s story in “The Daddy Diaries,” out now from Harlequin Romance.

Happy reading!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Male on Monday: Sexy Sidekicks

PHS Editor Donna Alward goes beyond the leading man to some sexy sidekicks that get her pulse racing just a bit...

Everyone loves a leading man. They dominate the screen, have the best dialogue, get the girl, save the day. But we all know they can't do it alone. Witty dialogue needs company. Someone needs to cause trouble, be backup, and be, well, supportive (there's a reason it's called a supporting actor). And sometimes sidekick hotness gets overlooked.

I don't watch a lot of tv, but there are a few characters that I LOVE to watch and they're pretty fine as well.

First up: Kevin Ryan (Seamus Dever) and Javier Esposito (Jon Huertas) from CASTLE.

I love these two. They always have a funny line. They're loyal. They have quirks. They complement each other. Maybe they're not the dynamic duo of Castle and Beckett, but they can hold their own as detectives - like how they saved Castle and Beckett last week.  I love watching them.



Next is Nate from NCIS LA - played by Peter Cambor. When the show debuted, Nate was the resident psychologist who did a lot of the "brain" work for the team - things like debriefing agents, monitoring interrogations, profiling. Nate was a very tall nerd. And yet...I always really liked him. There was something about the eyes that did it. Then he went away. But lately he's been back for a few episodes and it is a very different Nate that we're seeing. When he was on the inside of prison working as a psychologist, he showed some agenting skills we hadn't seen before.  When he asked Eric to shut down the cameras and he neutralized a bad guy using only his hands, I was in heaven. He showed up in the follow up espisode too, as an effective resource in the Middle East. Go Nate! Brains are sexy.


Speaking of sexy brains: I've also been catching up on MI5 courtesy of Netflix and the library (Known as SPOOKS in the UK). Yes, there's Matthew McFadyen, and Rupert Penry-Jones (not to mention Richard Armitage in seasons to come) but I cried like a baby over Danny and I'm quite taken with his replacement, Zaf....




And let's not forget The Tudors. I know I'm not alone here. Henry VIII? Who cares about Henry when you have Charles Brandon? And I'm not the only one who has noticed - after all Henry Cavill has been cast as the next SUPERMAN and a fine choice I must say! Totally swoonworthy.

So who are a few of your favourite sidekicks? Do tell!







Donna's current release is HONEYMOON WITH THE RANCHER, out now in the UK from Mills and Boon Cherish, and due to hit Australian and US/Canada shelves in May. You can check out an excerpt and more on Donna's site.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

MARILYN'S REVIEW ROUNDUP


Happy Sunday everyone!    Were you able to read anything wonderful this past week?  I was so busy working for people unable to come in either due either to illness or vacations.  Therefore, I wasn't able to read as much as I would like nor post pending reviews.

My mail box was full this past week......The Devil's Heart by Lynn Raye Harris, The Proud Wife by Kate Walker, Do Not Disturb by Anna Cleary, a trade size women's fiction and a book I can't mention because I'll be reviewing it for the Rom.Con Reader's Choice awards.



As I mentioned last week, I had finished Abby Green Secrets of the Oasis.  As the back blurb states, "shocking secrets of the sands!".  And let me just say shocking doesn't even describe them.  Because as a child he and his family were kidnapped and tortured and unbelievable things happened to this young man.

Secrets of the Oasis review, here

What people are saying about Secrets of the Oasis:

"wow.... hot.. hot... hot.   Great story with characters that simply jumped off the page.  Couldn't put it down.  Have I got a complaint.... yes.. Abby Green's next book is not out until September... Can't wait.."


"Absolutely fantastic! full of emotions and heartbreak as a man comes to terms with his childhood trauma....beautifully written as was the first one with Iseult and her sheikh..love Abbey Green's sensuality, emotions, heartbreak...the happy endings... "

Connected book, Breaking the Sheikhs Rules


I also mention in last Sunday's post, Maisey Yates The Inherited Bride.  This is Maisey's first sheikh.  This week on Facebook she mentioned she had sent another sheikh romance to her editor.  Is it just me or have you noticed more sheikh romances being written?  I find that interesting especially with all that's going on in the world.

My review of The Inherited Bride

Here's what people are also saying about The Inherited Bride:

"I thought this book was great and didn't drop it until i finished reading it."

" loved the characters and the way the hero and the heroine related to each other, also the passion and the way they fell in love was beautifully written"


To Tempt a Sheikh is the second book in Olivia Gates Pride of Zohayd series.  It was a most amazing sheikh romance and one I will long remember.  Action packed but it was their time spent at a most unusual oasis and how the author created their time together that I thought was so very special.

Here is my review of To Tempt a Sheikh and about the series.

Speaking of Olivia Gates, she has been on my mind because she resides in Egypt.  Sending a pray her way and to the people of her country.


With it being a very busy week for me between working and taking care of my mother after her eye surgery, my reading was somewhat limited.


However, I was able to read Kate Walker's The Proud Wife, a most amazing romance.  I believe it will be at the top of my Favorite Kate Walker romances.  A very intense romance about a short lived marriage due to communication problems, the loss of a baby and putting up walls.  Now two years later Pietro D'Inzeo demands his wife Marina return to Sicily to end their marriage and file for divorce. Full of desire, mutual attraction and a very emotional and roller coaster read.    My review of The Proud Wife posted here.

I had the opportunity to read my first 2 and 1 Cherish (Mills and Boon), Donna Alward's Honeymoon with the Rancher.  Another romance with the heroine always trying to please her parent, not really knowing who she was and finding out her fiance had a mistress.  It took real courage for Sophia the heroine to take a chance, pack up and go to Argentina to the Vista del Cielo, the ranch she was supposed to spend a week at on her honeymoon.  Well Sophia finds more than herself, she finds love in the arms of the very "sexy" Tomas Mendoza.

I sincerely loved this book and looking forward to reading Michelle Celmer's The Nanny Next Door.  What I love about these 2 and 1's is it gives the reader a chance to read a "new" author and Michelle is an author I haven't had the opportunity to read.


Late last night I finished Liz Fielding's Chosen as the Sheikh's Wife  It has so much warmth and humor.  Violet the heroine after the death of her grandmother puts her foot through the floor boards of the family's home and finds an ancient dagger.  Her friend and neighbor talks her into taking it on one of those antique road shows.  Of course it's not only worth a fortune it could cause havoc for a desert kingdom.

There was a part where Violet wraps it in bubble wrap and hides it in her freezer.  I've been there, done that with some jewelry I must admit so I had to chuckle.  I didn't make it to the safety deposit box before going on vacation and it was a place I hid some rings.

You won't want to miss Liz's "sheikh", it was a warm and wonderful romance.  I'll post the review next week as well

Becoming the Tycoon's Bride is a 2 and 1 with Patricia Thayer sharing her The Tycoon's Marriage Bid.  I'm looking forward to reading this one as well because Patricia is also a new author for me.  It takes place in Oregon which borders Washington State where I reside.  It seems to involve man determined to purchase the Flanagan business, an orchard and vineyard and I have a feeling he's going to encounter some problems, especially if there is a woman involved.

.