You all knew her, right? I mean, she was everywhere. A social media queen, a convention diva, a powerhouse writer with more projects going on than the Energizer Bunny. More energy than an octogenarian ought to have. I knew her way back when we were learning to be writers and were both members of a critique group in San Antonio—before we were both published by Ellora’s Cave (when it still existed) and we were on our way. In fact, I have this photo on my desk from an EC convention, not even sure what year, but there’s Desiree in the middle, me to the right, surrounded by lovely men, fellow authors, and having a high old time. And that’s the way I’d prefer to remember her—full of life and energy and hopes and dreams.
She wrote and played online, connected with her friends and readers, all the way up until the end. I’ll be forever proud of the work we did most recently with a series of connected stories inside my sister’s Brotherhood Protectors world. Desiree was our leader through several sub-series. She always had that strong, central vision of what the stories ought to be and how they should be “branded.” My sister called me yesterday while I was at my holiday craft sale to say she’d passed of the same awful cancer my mother had. I haven’t had time to process this yet, but I’ll miss her. RIP Judith/Desiree.
Today, I’m up at O-dark-thirty to get this blog completed because I have to get a shower and get to the holiday craft show! My daughter and I have prepared for months but were still working up until yesterday because we didn’t feel like we had enough “stuff”—um, we do, but we always feel we could’ve done more. I’m leaving my space a wreck, paints and papers still on my desk and art table. Everything strewn around. I DON’T CARE. I have to shower and get dressed in the most obnoxious Christmas clothing. I’ll dig up a Christmas pin for my jean jacket… Should I bring Christmas fairy lights…? STOP!
I’ll leave you with the puzzle. Solve it. Then tell me how prepared you are for the season for a chance to win a $5 Amazon gift card!
The third steamy seasoned romance in my Silverberry Seduction Series released yesterday. An Instagram reviewer recently commented that the whole series is themed around found families, and Turn the Next Page definitely does. Here’s the blurb:
Turn the Next Page
High school sweethearts, their marriage was shattered by tragedy. Thirty years later, a startling confession reignites long banked embers.
On the outside, politician Aubrey Windt is assured and assertive. On the inside, she’s a confused tangle of nerves and regrets. A lost election is the perfect opportunity to reset her life, and she’s going to take it, no matter what anyone says. This time, she means it.
Everything’s fine with Philip Church. Just fine. His second divorce was amicable, his twin sons are grown, and his landscape business runs itself. The fineness is driving him crazy. But reconnecting with his first love provokes an upheaval more potent than he’s ever imagined.
When Aubrey and Phillip learn a startling fact that will forever link their lives, they set out to find the brother Aubrey didn’t know she had. To do so, they must forge a new path, unexpectedly abetted by a stray cat and the eclectic members of a unique book club.
Aubrey (52) is a single child who learns that she has an older half-brother who was given up for adoption sixty years ago and sets out to find him. Phillip (53) lost his parents at a very young age and was raised by his aunt. Aubrey has a beloved stepdaughter, and Phillip has a mature, friendly relationship with his second ex-wife. Even the stray cat finds his forever family!
I am drawn to this theme as a writer in part because of my own found family. On my mother’s side, there are eleven grandchildren (including myself). Of those eleven, six are adopted, including my two brothers. Growing up, we knew this fact, but it was a non-issue. We were cousins and siblings, plain and simple.
I write romance because I need the happy-ever-after (and the hot sex. Don’t forget about that LOL!). I write found families because, in the end, isn’t that what every romance is? Whether it is by blood or love, we all crave connection, and exploring this theme satisfies my soul.
Here’s an excerpt from Turn the Next Page:
Phillip didn’t look at her. Tying the handles of the bag together seemed to require all his attention. Aubrey wondered if she’d gone too far. He couldn’t be angry that she wanted to be friends, could he? That was a pretty innocuous wish.
“Only if you want to, I mean.” The hamburger she’d eaten congealed in her stomach, the meal solidifying with nerves. “I’ll understand if, once this is over, you’d rather we didn’t see each other. Except with Marjorie and Clarence getting married, I don’t suppose we’ll be able to avoid it completely.”
He lifted his chin and gave her a level look. “What exactly have I done that suggests I want to stop seeing you any time soon?”
“Nothing!” Oh, god, now she’d offended him. “You’re much too polite.”
His eyes narrowed. “Polite? You think I’m only doing this to be polite?”
She spread her hands, bewildered. “It’s not an insult. Why are you upset?” Where had she gone wrong? She’d only been trying to give him an out, explain to him—and remind herself—that this new connection between them was temporary.
He jerked to his feet, dropped the trash bag, and kicked it under the desk with suppressed violence. “You sit there, looking like that, and tell me we should be friends?” His pointing finger slashed up and down as if dissecting her.
Her hand flew to the messy knot on the top of her head. “I know I’m a little untidy right now, but what does—”
He leaned over, one hand on the desk, one hand on the arm of the chair, his face lowered to hers. “You look like dessert.” His brown eyes flared with amber coals. “Sweet and luscious and delectable.”
Her mouth dried. Sweat sprang up on her palms. She swallowed, hard, and could think of absolutely nothing to say.
“I could never feel anything as bland as friendship for you.” His conversational tone was at odds with his looming stance. His arms caged her, his gaze trapped her, but she had no urge to break free. She sat rooted in her seat, curled like a seed in its shell, mesmerized by his voice. “Not thirty years ago, not now. That’s one thing that hasn’t changed, for me at least. We can’t erase the past. But that doesn’t mean we’re doomed to repeat it.”
“What do you mean?” She’d meant to sound firm, confident, but the words came out in a hesitant whisper.
He answered with questions of his own. “Is that really all you want, Aubrey? To be my friend?”
Her heart pounded high in her chest, choking her. Her breasts and belly buzzed with tingling heat. His scent dizzied her, warm and potent and male. She wrapped her arms around her bent legs, rocking slightly.
“I don’t know if I can be anything more.”
He leaned in closer as she spoke. Her eyes closed briefly, her senses overwhelmed. “Why not?” It was a challenge, a dare.
“No reason.” Her pulse scurried like a mouse on snow, fast and frantic. “And too many reasons.”
Surprisingly, he nodded as if agreeing to this befuddled sentence. “If, when we met a few weeks ago, that had been the first time…if there was nothing between us but the thoughts and actions and feelings of the present…would you still deny what’s happening right now?”
How many times had she wished she’d never fallen in love with him? How many times had she wished the heartbreak and grief they’d shared, the same heartbreak and grief that had torn them apart, had never happened? Only to feel searing guilt that those same wishes would have erased Samantha’s too short appearance in this world?
“That’s not a fair question. It’s impossible to answer.” Her eyes traced the lines bracketing the corners of his mouth, the grooves dug into his cheeks—proof of just how many years had slipped away. “You said it yourself, we can’t erase the past.”
“But we can use it to nourish the future.” He knelt, tucking in close to her chair, so close his chest brushed her crossed arms where they clasped her knees. “The roots of things often live on, dormant and waiting, even when the plant appears withered, is given up for dead. All that’s needed to bring it back to life is a little attention, a little care.”
She knew he was talking about their marriage, their relationship—but he could have been talking about her soul. For years she’d felt like a dried husk, blown in random directions by whatever wind was strongest. He was telling her it wasn’t too late to find fertile soil and start to grow again.
Could he be right?
Releasing from the closed, compact ball she’d formed, she laid her palm on his cheek. The scruff of his whiskers rasped her skin, ruffled along her nerves. She stroked the curve of his jaw, tracing his bottom lip with one fingertip. His eyes grew diamond-bright and she shuddered when his tongue flicked out to taste her touch. She laid her other hand on his chest, shyly pleased to discover the frantic thump of his heart.
Still, uncertainty frayed the edges of her desire. “What happens if—”
“No.” He tilted his head, resting his cheek in her palm. “No what ifs. Answer me this. Do you want me? Tonight, right now?” He asked the questions confidently, as if he had no doubt of her answer, but his eyes watched her warily. She took heart at this sign of vulnerability.
“Yes.” Her heart swooped into freefall. His hands lay on the cushion of her chair and she lowered her feet, feeling the stiffness of her joints and ruing the aches and pains of age. Spreading her knees just the tiniest bit allowed her to feel his fists like heated embers on either side of her thighs. “But—”
“No.” He was stern. “If you have any doubts at all, tell me now and I’ll go to my own room. If you want me to stay, you have to promise me one thing.”
“That you won’t regret it in the morning. That you won’t feel guilty or ashamed or any other emotion that might taint something so lovely as desire.”
He was right. Desire was lovely, and even more beautiful when felt for someone so honest and trustworthy and genuine. He didn’t deserve to be the subject of her insecurities.
She spoke slowly so he would know she meant every word. “I promise you. I will not regret tonight. No matter what happens.”
“And what’s going to happen, Aubrey?” He leaned closer, their breath mingling, the heat of their bodies entwining. “Am I going back to my room?”
Brenda Margriet writes savvy, slow burn, contemporary romances with ordinarily amazing characters. In her own ordinarily amazing life, she had a successful career in radio and television production before deciding to pilfer from her retirement plan to support her writing compulsion.
Readers have called her stories “poignant,” “explicit and steamy,” “interesting, intriguing and entertaining,” and “unlike any romance you’ve read before” (she assumes the latter was meant in a good way).
First, I’d better introduce myself, eh. The ‘eh’ is due to being a Canadian writer, but I digress. I’m the author of over twenty published books in the last few years and just as many unpublished. Crafting a story is such an exciting process that I wanted to share with all of you some of my thoughts on the journey.
Why did I begin writing? I guess like so many others, I thought I might have something to say, but little did I know that the experience would require far more hours of learning the ins and outs of what is story than I could have imagined!
Today, I want to discuss creating a character, specifically, the characters in my latest book Hellfire, book 4 in the series, Sin City Wolf. The discovery of the personalities I will be spending months with is a fascinating part for me. I generally start with their emotional wound, which tells me why they are the way they are and allows me to understand their background and how they fit into the story.
Hellfire has two main characters like most romances: Dante and Amara. Dante’s a werewolf and Amara is human. I wanted to explore the idea of a werewolf rescuing a human female just after she’s bitten by a vampire, which makes them eternal enemies immediately. A forbidden love calls to my heart!
As always, I wanted a strong heroine that could give back as much as she was given. One who would fight the good fight. I found her in Amara, a young woman who is able to take on anything the world offers and come out the other side more understanding and wiser about life.
And Dante, a science guy with serious alpha appeal, was the perfect foil for Amara.
I now want to share the blurb about the pair and their unique story…
Sin City Wolf: Hellfire
Amara St. Clair is just out for a rare night of fun on the Vegas Strip. But when she discovers her fun-loving side in the Glitter Palace casino, a life-altering altercation with a deadly ancient vampire leaves Amara lying unconscious in an alley near the famous casino.
Doctor, geneticist and genealogy expert Dante Luceres, dedicated to research that will keep his fellow werewolves safe and healthy, is attending a mandatory yearly event of the House of Luceres. Coming across Amara, he saves her life, though vampires and werewolves are forbidden from interfering with each other in the supernatural world. There are dire consequences for interfering with another supe’s domain, and he expects that soon both the vampires and the werewolves will be after them, but he can’t leave the beautiful, vivacious little human to suffer alone.
Drawn to each other, the pair must hide from the world. But with everyone against them, including Dante’s clan and an evil vampire hellbent on having Amara for his own, how can they find a path to a shared future…and true happiness?
The following is an excerpt from this action-based story that is all about finding yourself and true love…
My feet moved before my mind could form the word. Run. I yanked up my dress and jumped aboard. I grabbed hold of his waist and he gunned the engine. The back tire left the ground as the bike spun out. Too much gas! Oh, my lord, we’re going to spill. Right into a pit of vipers.
Then Dante responded, shifting his weight, the tire grasped the pavement and we were flying through the fast-diminishing space between two of the menacing men in black. Would we make it? One elongated hand reached out to grab me. He missed by the smallest of margins, his cold fingernails grazing my upper thigh. The touch sent an icicle of fear stabbing through me. Worse, the piercing intensity of his red eyes that flashed as we raced by him with inches to spare would penetrate anyone’s armor. Now I knew how real fear paralyzed.
We hurtled down the Strip flat out, Dante driving like a Mad Max character, dodging vehicles, me holding on for dear life, unable to look away. The wind tore at my hair, whipping it all about. All I could think about was how my normally taciturn life had turned on its head. But deep down, I was loving it, this adventure like no other. I was on the high seas, surrounded by possibilities and excited beyond belief.
That I was shocked to discover this about myself didn’t begin to cover it. My body felt electrified, every cell supercharged. On the cusp of something I couldn’t give a name to. Or explain. Me, the one who normally hated change, had undergone a metamorphosis in the space of an hour.
I bought this little brainstorming tool years ago at some writers’ conference. “Story Cubes” is a brainstorming game. You roll the dice and whatever pictures appear face-up are the ones you use to riff off a story.
Now, I’d like you to tell me a story based on what you see on the cubes. Do any of these symbols tell you anything? You can pick some of the images or use all of them.
Have fun with this! Don’t overthink! Here’s the roll…
To make this fun, I’ll offer a prize—a $5 Amazon gift card—good for purchasing one or two stories…
Writers, where do you get your ideas? In my just-released workbook, The Novel Workbook for Messy Writers, the whole first section is dedicated to getting ideas. While some experienced novelists probably have long lists of ideas waiting to be written, beginner writers might struggle with this step—the first step, really! That said, I encourage even experienced writers to complete “getting ideas” exercises. It’s a great for stretching and challenging your creative muscles. My workbook suggests numerous ways of generating ideas but one of my favorites is “This Meets That”.
“This Meets That” is similar to something we have in the book business called “comps”. “Comps” is short for comparables, and it refers to what other books that a book under discussion would be compared to. So an author, an agent, a publisher or a reviewer might describe a book thus: “It’s got the sweet romance of Stargirl but in a dystopian setting like Divergent” (I would read this!) Sometimes comps are simply expressed like “It’s X meets Y” or “part X and part Y”. When I was agent hunting, I described my young adult sci-fi, Zero Repeat Forever, as “Part Terminator and part Beauty and the Beast”. My publisher describes it as “The 5th Wave meets Beauty and the Beast”. But one of my favorite ways to describe it has always been “Twilight meets Terminator”!
What does this have to do with getting ideas? For indie romance authors, who often write and publish six or more books per year, the “getting ideas” part of writing is critical. Readers are hungry for new premises and new characters, but new ways of telling familiar stories are also always popular. So a great way to generate ideas is to mash two familiar stories together, creating something new. In doing this you not only have created an interesting premise for your book, but you also now have access to at least two existing books/stories’ worth of inspiration (and indeed detail) to draw from.
X meets Y premises can be lots of fun, and the further X is from Y the better, in my opinion. Only imagine the possibilities! I’d love to read “Cinderella meets Clan of the Cave Bear” for example. A prehistoric prince and his enchanted mystery princess? Are you kidding me? That would be awesome. Or how about “Scheherazade meets High Fidelity” about a plucky Muslim teen who keeps her disgruntled record store boss amused with stories so he doesn’t close down his failing business. (OMG someone please write this).
I could go on and on about this, but I’m at risk of coming up with premises I want to actually write. And I have a deadline. I need to focus!
What X meets Y retellings would you like to write?
There are many thousands, if not millions of aspiring novelists out there who simply don’t know where to start. Thousands more writers have attempted or even completed a novel or two but are looking for a new way of approaching their next one. Then there are successful, published novelists who are sure they’ve forgotten how to write a novel and will never be able to do it again. And finally there are published novelists who are confident they can do it again if they could just find their laptop under the chaos on their desk.
The Novel Workbook for Messy Writers is for all of the above and more. It’s a writer’s workbook that provides just enough structure to get the creative juices flowing, while leaving writers the freedom to get their words down how, when and where they want to. Lists, quotes, doodles, collage, prose, verse, song lyrics, maps and diagrams will all fit into the Workbook pages, allowing writers to create a complete and detailed blueprint for their novel, including such information as character names, setting descriptions, genre, musical inspiration, props, world-building and much more.
Including prompts and tips on each page, The Novel Workbook for Messy Writers is for novelists of all ages, at any stage in their writing career.
G.S. (Gabrielle) Prendergast is the bestselling author of numerous books for children and teens. She studied writing at the University of New South Wales in Australia, at San Francisco State University and the University of British Columbia. After years of working in the music industry, in social welfare, and the film industry, Gabrielle began writing books when she became a mother, so she could work from home. Her books have received nominations for the White Pine Award, the Canadian Library Association Award, the Vancouver Book Prize and several other honors. She won the BC Book Prize for her YA sci-fi Zero Repeat Forever and the Westchester Award for her YA novel in verse Audacious. Born in the UK and both an Australian and New Zealand citizen, Gabrielle now lives in East Vancouver in a permanent state of “under-construction”. You can find Gabrielle on Instagram or Tiktok @gsprendergast
My latest book, Victoria & Violet, is the first novel in my brand-new Royal Maids series and I am super proud of it! Why? Because it is the first book in which I have included real people and real events alongside the fictional. To do this has been an ambition of mine ever since my first book was published in 2007 so having achieved it feels like a very big deal.
Best of all, readers and reviewers seem to be loving it, too!
Although Queen Victoria, Lord Melbourne, the Duchess of Kent, Lehzen and others feature in the book, the story really revolves around the lives and burgeoning romance of fictional housemaid Violet Parker and fictional assistant to Lord Melbourne, James Greene. These two characters were a joy to create, and their electricity was immediate which made a usually hard job all the easier!
Their paths have crossed a few times before the book opens, but the interest is firmly in James’s court (so to speak!), rather than Violet’s who has far more important and life-changing things on her mind than romance, such as escaping the clutches of her overbearing mother and forging a life of her own. Of course, it is not as though Violet would ever consider James a possible suitor considering his superior status…yet he really is most persistent!
All too soon, James and Violet are thrown together over and over again as their roles become ever more important to Victoria and Lord Melbourne. Amid a court that travels from the gardens of Windsor Castle to the corridors of Buckingham Palace to the wedding of the Queen herself, Victoria & Violet takes you on an adventure of drama, intrigue and romance that I hope has you quickly turning the pages!
Why not give it a try?
Victoria & Violet
It should be a dream come true to serve the Queen of England…
When Violet Parker is told she will be Queen Victoria’s personal housemaid, she cannot believe her good fortune. She finally has the chance to escape her overbearing mother, a servant to the Duchess of Kent.
Violet hopes to explore who she is and what the world has to offer without her mother’s schemes overshadowing her every thought and action.
Then she meets James Greene, assistant to the queen’s chief political adviser, Lord Melbourne. From entirely different backgrounds and social class, Violet and James should have neither need nor desire to speak to one another, yet through their service, their paths cross and their lives merge—as do their feelings.
Only Victoria’s court is not always the place for romance, but rather secrets, scandals, and conspiracies…
Rachel lives in a small town near Bath, England. She is the author of 29 novels including the Ladies of Carson Street trilogy, the Shop Girl series (Aria Fiction) and the Templeton Cove Stories (Harlequin). Her latest novel, Victoria & Violet is the first book in her new Royal Maids series with the Wild Rose Press and releases 17th October 2022.
Rachel is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association as well as the Historical Novel Society and has thousands of social media followers all over the world.