Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Blog On Hiatus

Since I embarked on this blogging journey about a year ago, I've learned many things. My knowledge of the publishing industry has grown. I've found some delightful new authors I can't put down. I've connected with some of you as I went along.

But I never expected blogging to take up so much of my time. While I have continued my research for my own books, after I started this blog I slowly stopped writing. At first, I moved to novellas and short stories instead of the novels which wanted to come out. Eventually it whittled down to nothing at all, as has been the case for the past six months at least.

So it is with regret that I need to sign off for now. Maybe in the future, I'll align my writing with the rest of my life and find that I have time for blogging after all. But at the moment, I just want to write. Thanks to everyone who joined me on this incredible blogging journey. Maybe someday soon I'll come back to it.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

EMLY FORREST: The Problem With Cougars

My friend Teresa wants a man. “Someone to share dinner or a movie, so I’m not the odd person out anymore,” she tells me. “A companion, a partner, and, okay, maybe a romantic liaison.” She states specifics: no dirty finger nails, no physical problems that might turn her into a caregiver, no deadbeats. Never mind that Teresa is old enough to be my mother (and I’m no teenager).

“Have you tried the Senior Center?” I offer helpfully. “Or what about a singles group?”

She gives me a look that says she’s sure I’ve lost my mind and then informs me that older men want younger women. By “younger,” she means someone my age. It’s relative of course.

Teresa’s daughter, a fine artist who makes her home in Mexico, advises Teresa that her problem is more about geography than chronology. Mexican men—actually Mexican folks of either gender—are not as age-conscious as most Americans seem to be. “They don’t see a problem with a fifty-year-old woman dating a twenty-five-year old man.” And she goes on to explain that it’s not only acceptable, but quite common.

Could this be true? Certainly, Americans are fixated on youth. Witness the thousands of women and (yes, it’s true) men who undergo the knife to undermine the wrinkles. Try to buy a magazine that is not filled with ads for creams and lotions that promise a smoother more youthful complexion. But is it possible that folks in other countries are not as obsessive about staying young as we are?

And if that’s true, is it possible that there are no cougars in these other countries? By “cougar,” I’m talking the woman-of-a-certain-age variety, not the animal. I’m guessing that if the age thing turns out to be mostly an American concept, then the idea of “cougar” would have little meaning in other countries. Maybe they even laugh at our notions of what’s acceptable.

While I try not to think of myself as a woman-of-a-certain-age (and what age is that exactly?), my doctor reminds me that I might be at each annual checkup. My petty physical complaints and pleas for understanding and relief are usually met with a pat on the knee and the assurance “Well, when we reach a certain age...” She’s letting me know that I’m falling apart slowly and there’s little she can do about it.

The upside, then, may be that I’m cougar material. Can there be a gorgeous dark-skinned lothario across the border who might find me irresistible? Is he willing to overlook a few mild frown lines, a slightly poochy tummy, and a drooping derriere because I’m witty, experienced and kind? I may never find out. But I like to keep the fantasy alive.

Perhaps that’s why I write about cougars. It’s my way of living the dream without doing irreparable harm to my marriage. But I’m particular about the “cougarness” of my cougars. First and foremost, no “Real Housewives” stuff. I don’t believe those woman are any more real than the folks that enliven Jerry Springer-type shows. My cougars must be women we all might know. Maybe even us.

Take Jessica Grandville from my novella Irish Ice, for example. Sure, she’s beautiful and has a good-paying job. But she’s also a single mom, bored with her life and ready to be romanced, whether she realizes it or not. Who couldn’t relate?

And then, there’s the matter of younger men. They should never be childish. Or too innocent (or even better, not innocent at all). In fact, as Jess finds out, some younger men may be more mature, more sensitive and more serious than a lot of older men. The point is, age is just a number. And there’s no accounting for attraction and no limits on love.

So, what do I tell my friend Teresa? This is me, shrugging. And hoping that someday she travels to Mexico to discover that her daughter was right all along. I hope she invites me along.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Interview With Maggi Andersen

To tie up my special February blog month, I would like to welcome author Maggi Andersen to talk about her book The Reluctant Marquess.

Clara: Tell us a bit about your book.

Maggi: The Reluctant Marquess is a Georgian romance. When Charity Barlow, and Lord Robert, the Marquess of St Malin are forced to marry, things get off to a very bad start. Charity must learn to be a marchioness, while Robert must give up the life he enjoyed as a single man in London. None of this can happen overnight, and as Charity wants her husband to love and cherish her and not just look at her with lust, and Robert is resentful and reluctant, the journey is a bumpy one.

Clara: Why did you choose to write historical romance?

Maggi: It’s a perfect form of escapism, and who doesn’t need a little of that from time to time? I feel a wistfulness or nostalgia when I read and watch historical movies, despite the knowledge that history was never quite like that. We are subjected to so much information today; the bleak, sad happenings reach us from many different news sources, far more than the good things that occur. I think that’s why romance novels are so popular. And the best thing about it? We know we’ll get that happy ending.

I think the historical romance genre chose me. The first books I read as a teenager were my mother’s. She loved Georgette Heyer, Agatha Christie and Victoria Holt, and I also read my father’s crime and thriller novels. I guess they made quite an impact on me. I like to combine some of those elements in a story when I write. I have written contemporary novels and a couple of young adult novels, but the world I prefer to inhabit is a historical one, because it offers so much for an author. Not just historical facts to weave into the story, but fascinating architecture, clothes and interiors; the mores and habits of the times; what is possible for my hero and heroine within this world, and what is not. All these go into the world building and help flesh my characters out.

Clara: What did it feel like to get your first acceptance?

Maggi: After some years of finding my way, I was very excited and a bit relieved that all that time and money – I studied a BA in English and Fine Arts and an MA in Creative Writing – hadn’t been wasted. But with hindsight I realized that those years were necessary for me to reach a standard worthy of being published.

Clara: What is the best (and worst) part of the writing process?

Maggi: Writing is hard work, no writer would deny. An author – can’t remember who – said it was harder than working on the roads. In a way it can be although not as physical. The worst part is when I’m tired and think I’m writing rubbish, or having to write the dreaded synopsis which I hate. The best part is when it all comes together at the end. Or when my hero and heroine connect on a deeper level and the dialogue works perfectly. Or when the conflict sparks between them and the sexual tension almost leaps off the page.

Clara: How long does it typically take you to finish a story?

Maggi: It varies greatly. I worked on my first novel, a thriller/mystery for years. I’ve written a novella in a couple of weeks. But a good full length novel needs time. At least six months and probably longer.

Clara: Was there ever a point in your career where you almost gave up writing?

Maggi: No. I don’t believe a truly committed writer ever really considers giving up. I’ve heard it said, a writer is formed by what happens in the early years of life. That might be the case in some instances but I think we are born with a need to write. Call it obsession, sometimes close to masochism at times, and a good pinch of tenacity. Like an artist, a writer must develop a tough hide, because once your work is out there you come under scrutiny and sometimes hurtful reviews. That’s very hard for the more sensitive souls, and you have to bear in mind that it’s only one person’s opinion.

Clara: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Maggi: Keep honing your skills. Study and read how-to books. To be a writer means having to bear the frustration when things don’t go the way you planned. When you have to wait far too long for your submission to be accepted or rejected. Rejections can hurt too. But don’t give up. You learn a lot along the way, and it is persistence in my opinion that pays off in the end.

The Reluctant Marquess


A country-bred girl, Charity Barlow never expected to become a Marchioness. Nonetheless, she is determined to make her marriage of convenience into the ton work. Yet despite the strong attraction between them, and Charity’s bold attempts at intimacy, the rakish Lord Robert does not believe a husband should be in love with his wife. Can she ever make him love her?


‘You don’t? I wasn’t aware of you until the reading of the will. Then I learned of your parents’ death from my solicitor. I’m very sorry.’

‘Thank you. I’m sorry, too, about your uncle.’

‘My uncle fell ill only a few months ago. He rallied and then …’ The new marquess’ voice faded. He sighed and stared into the fire.

‘You must have been very fond of him,’ Charity said into the quiet pause that followed. Though, if she were honest, she felt surprise that the cool man she remembered could have provoked that level of affection.

He raised his eyes to meet hers and gave a bleak smile. ‘Yes, I was fond of him. He always had my interest at heart, you see.’ He sat in the oxblood leather chair opposite and rested his hands on his knees. ‘I am his acknowledged heir, and the legalities have been processed. I’ve inherited the title and the entailed properties. The rest of his fortune will pass to another family member should I fail to conform to the edicts of his will.’

‘His will?’ Charity gripped her sweaty hands together, she couldn’t concentrate on anything the man said. Her mind whirled, filled with desperate thoughts. With her godfather dead, where would she go from here? Her heart raced as she envisioned riding off along the dark cliffs to join a theatre troupe, or become a tavern wench.

‘This must be difficult for you to take in, and I regret having to tell you tonight before you have rested. But I’m compelled to move quickly as you have no chaperone and have travelled here alone …’

She raised her chin. ‘There was no one to accompany me.’ She would not allow him to make her feel like a poor relation, even though she was quite definitely poor. And alone. She hated that more than anything. What had her godfather left her? She hoped it would allow her some measure of independence and wasn’t just a vase or the family portrait.

The footman entered, carrying a tray with a cup of steaming liquid. Charity took the drink and sipped it gratefully. It was warming and tasted of a spicy spirit. She found it hard to concentrate on his words, as her mind retreated into a fog and her eyes wandered around the room. She finished the drink, which had heated her insides, and allowed her head to loll back against the cushions. Her gaze rested on her host, thinking he would be handsome if he smiled. She was so tired, and the warmth of the fire made her drowsy. What was he saying?

‘It’s the best thing for both of us, don’t you agree?’

She shook her head to try and clear it. ‘I’m sorry, what did you say?’

He frowned. ‘The will states we must marry. Straightaway, I’m afraid.’

‘I … What? I’m to m-marry you?’ Placing her cup down carefully on the table she struggled to her feet, fighting fatigue and the affects of whatever it was she’d just drunk. Smoothing her gown, she glanced at the door through which she intended to depart at any moment. ‘I have no intention …’

His lips pressed together in a thin line. ‘I know it’s perplexing. I didn’t intend to wed for some years. I certainly would have preferred to choose whom I married, as no doubt would you.’
Her jaw dropped. What kind of man was this? She had been raised to believe that marriage was a sacred institution. He made it sound so … inconsequential. She stared at him. ‘The will states I must marry you?’

‘Yes, that’s exactly what it states.’ He rose abruptly with a rustle of silk taffeta and moved closer to the fire. She wondered if he might be as nervous as she. ‘Unless I’m prepared to allow my uncle’s unentailed fortune go to a distant relative. Which I am not. As I have said.’ His careful tone suggested he thought her a simpleton. Under his unsympathetic gaze, she sank back down onto the sofa. ‘You are perfectly within your rights to refuse, but I see very few options open to you. As my wife, you will live in comfort. You may go to London to enjoy the Season. I shall give you a generous allowance for gowns and hats, and things a lady must have.’ His gaze wandered over her cream muslin gown, and she placed a hand on the lace that disguised the small patch near her knee. ‘What do you say?’

She tilted her head. ‘I shall receive an allowance? For gowns, and hats, and things a lady must have.’

‘Exactly,’ he said with a smile, obviously quite pleased with himself. ‘I see we understand each other perfectly. So … do you agree?’

What was wrong with this man? Slowly, Charity released a heavy sigh. She could barely contemplate such a thing as this, and yet he acted as though he’d solved all the problems of the world with fashion accessories. She had hoped for a small stipend, but marriage! And to a complete stranger. She couldn’t! Not for all the gowns and hats on earth. She straightened up in her chair and lifted her chin. Her words were clipped and precise, and she hoped beyond hope he would accept her decision gracefully. ‘I say no, Lord St. Malin.’

‘No? Really?’

‘Yes, really.’

‘How disappointing,’ he said quietly.

She gulped as his heavy-lidded eyes continued to study her from head to foot. She was uncomfortably aware that the mist had sent her hair into a riot of untidy curls, and she smoothed it away from her face with both hands as she glanced around the room. She tucked a muddy shoe out of sight beneath her gown and then forced herself to meet his gaze. Might he like anything of what he saw? Her father loved that she had inherited her mother’s tiny waist, and she thought her hands pretty. His lordship’s gaze strayed to her breasts and remained there rather long. She sucked in a breath as her heart beat faster. When their eyes met did she detect a gleam of approval? It only made her more nervous.

Visit Maggi on her website, on her blog, or buy The Reluctant Marquess.


What better way to tie up the end of the month than with a contest? Leave a comment with your email address for your chance to win an ebook copy of The Reluctant Marquess.


Friday, February 25, 2011

Interview with Gina Gordon

Now that I've gushed over her book, I'm sitting down with the author of The Only Exception

Clara: How long does it typically take you to write a book?

Gina: That depends! I have a novel I've been working on for over two years. But if I concentrate and my muse complies, I could probably write a novella in a month.

Clara: Thus far you write contemporary romances. Do you see yourself branching out into another subgenre in the near future?

Gina: I want to. I was thinking about branching out into the paranormal world but something is pulling me to romantic suspense. Not sure why. I'm still exploring.

Clara: Sounds like an exciting journey. Your book Her Five Favorite Words has topped Amazon's top 100 erotica, and Wicked Ride seems to be on the rise. How did you feel the first time you saw your book edge onto that list? How does it feel to be #1?

Gina: I was ecstatic the first time I saw myself at #1. But it is all so surreal. I still can't believe that I am on that list let alone in the top spot. In my opinion, it's a big fluke lol

Clara: What releases can we look forward to in the near future?

Gina: In 2011, I will have 3 more releases. Books two and three in my Bare Naked Designs series, Temptation In Lingerie and Bound In Lingerie, will be released in April and September. I will also be releasing a sequel to Her Five Favorite Words entitled His Five Favorite Lines.

Clara: What did it feel like to get your first acceptance?

Gina: I was lucky and I got an acceptance on my very first submission. I was shocked. Surprised. The first thing I did was email my CP who is my biggest cheerleader. Then I told my husband lol

Clara: What is the best (and worst) part of the writing process?

Gina: The best part is when you get that epiphany--when the story line or character you've been agonizing over finally clicks. The worst part is agonizing over that story line or character.

Clara: Do you have any favorites out of the characters you've written?

Gina: I loved writing Becca and Jordan's story, more now that I have added to it. Even a one-time elevator encounter needs a happily ever after. But I especially love Aleks and Carrie from my Bare Naked Designs series. There is something so romantic about friends turned lovers.

Clara: Which writers inspired/influenced your work?

Gina: I have to mention Megan Hart because she was the first dirty author that I read lol because of her I was introduced to erotic romance and I've never looked back.

As for inspiration, as for the person I look up to and go to for support and motivation, it would be my CP Lindsay Below. It amazes me how many ideas and projects she has going on and how diverse her writing is. Not to mention the amount of words she can put down on the page.

Clara: Was there ever a point in your career where you said, "Yeah, I can do this!"? Was there ever a point in your career where you almost gave up writing?

Gina: I had the "Yeah, I can do this" moment in 2009. That's when I made the decision to pursue my dream. Getting into that mind space had been a long time coming.

I will admit that I ask myself almost every day whether I should continue. If I should maybe quit while I'm ahead because eventually the ideas will stop. But I haven't yet (:

Clara: How do you come up with your stories?

Gina: Most of them just pop into my head but I find that I draw a lot ideas from stories people tell me. Of course I get to add the good words and always give my characters a happily ever after.

Clara: What do you do to overcome writer's block?

Gina: I wait for the block to go away. Sounds dumb but I find that I can't force my writing. Not too long ago I went an entire month without writing. It was horrible but eventually my inspiration came back.

Clara: Not dumb at all. Everyone has their own way of dealing with it. Let's leave off with one last question: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Gina: Keep writing and read, read, read.

Clara: Thanks for joining me Gina!

You can visit Gina online at or on her blog here.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Review: The Only Exception by Gina Gordon

Caroline and Hayden have given off sparks from the first, but Caroline is determined not to mix business with pleasure. When the two are forced together in a mid-winter work retreat, things between them heat up hot enough to melt the snow outside. But does Hayden want Caroline or the fantasy he's created?

Gina Gordon promises a hot read with every new release, and man does she ever deliver! Hayden is a man worthy of being drooled over. He knows what he wants -- and that, of course, is Caroline. Despite her tough exterior, he doesn't stop until he's melted the shield around her heart. Ms. Gordon takes us on a roller coaster ride as Caroline fights her attraction to him at every turn. Is Hayden the man for her? Well if Caroline doesn't want him, I'll take him! LOL

In a word, this book was


Are you interested in winning an ebook copy? This book is being featured at The Romance Studio in their book-a-day-giveaway! Take a look here.

And don't forget to join me on Friday as I sit down for an interview with the erotic genius herself, Gina Gordon!