We have a winner!!

The winner of Christie Kelley’s new book, Bewitching The Duke, is Deanna.  Congratulations!  I’ll be in touch.

Thanks to everyone for stopping by the blog.  Be sure to stop by tomorrow for a special Valentine’s Day guest author – Isis Rushdan, who writes fantastic paranormal romance.  See you then!

Guest Author: Lex Valentine & Giveaway!

I have the perfect guest blogger for the day after Valentine’s Day – erotic romance author Lex Valentine.  Lex is an award winning, multi-published author, a member of Romance Writers of America, and she’s also active in several RWA chapters including her local OCC chapter. Her publishers include: Ellora’s Cave, Pink Petal Books, MLR Press, Liquid Silver Books and Cobblestone Press. She is published in both ebook and print.

I asked Lex to write a special Valentine’s blog for today and she’s done just that, with an interesting story about how her latest book took an unexpected twist.

For an author with a name like Valentine, you’d think I’d do something special for Valentine’s Day. Well, this year, I did. I wrote my first ever Valentine’s love story. Originally, I’d planned for a story of two people who meet in college and became friends. The girl is pretty and popular and the guy is a big lumbering bear who stumbles over his own feet. After years of them each thinking they weren’t the other’s type, the girl does something outrageous on Valentine’s Day in an effort to see if there’s any chance for her at all with this guy.

Now, me being me, the person for whom nothing ever works out as planned, of course this book did not turn out the way it should have. Did it follow the plot I outlined? Er, pretty much. But the girl refused to stay a girl. And thus, Kissing Joan Collins was born.

You don’t have to be a reader of gay romances to read this blog post. It’s not exactly about the Valentine’s Day romance I wrote. It’s more about how my writing process and two incorrigible characters sabotaged my plot. You see, sometimes there are forces at work that even an author cannot turn to her will.

Kissing Joan Collins was a working title. It was about the plot device and I figured at some point in the writing, the real title would come to me. It never did because the story took on a life of its own the instant I stopped trying to make it a contemporary het romance.

I had my plot written down. I had my characters written down. I had my main scenes mapped out in my head. But the scenes wouldn’t commit themselves to paper. I sat and stared at the blank Word screen night after night. Finally, one Saturday, I stopped struggling with this story and took a nap. While I slept, I dreamed. In the dream one of the key scenes came to life.

Logan Moore (the stumble over his feet hero) comes home and hears someone in his bathroom. Then he remembers his best friend Chase is there visiting. He has a moment of heart stopping fantasy about Chase and then the bathroom door opens and something more than a fantasy comes out. It’s Chase dressed as Joan Collins in Dynasty. For the space of several heartbeats, Logan can’t think who the woman is except that the costume is amazing. A skin tight dress that lovingly cups the butt cheeks of the woman before him, a woman who turns her back to him and obligingly bends over to grab her ankles, showing off the perfection of her ass and thighs.

I bolted awake because in my dream Chase is not a woman, but a man.

The story pretty much wrote itself after I made the change. It literally flew from my fingertips. Chase became, as Logan describes him, the most perfect gay man ever. He’s beautiful, masculine, athletic, popular and confident. Everything that Logan is not. Logan takes one look at him and can’t look away. He stares like a deer caught in headlights. His stare does not go unnoticed. Chase catches him staring and the two begin a friendship that leads to them being college roommates and best friends for a dozen years.

For Chase, Logan is everything he ever dreamed of. He’s tall (6’4”) and although he’s a little clumsy as a freshman, he grows out of that. He’s smart and funny and completely unaware of his charm and beauty. He has no idea that on the day they met, when Chase found him staring, that his sweet, guileless personality turned Chase into a babbling idiot who fell in love for the first and last time in his life. I sure didn’t see this part of the plot in this exact way when I first wrote it and Chase was a girl!

For twelve years, the two of them continue as best friends, each hiding from the other how they really feel. Chase never has a serious relationship and Logan dreads the day his friend falls in love. In Logan’s case, he has a series of failed relationships with men who cheat on him, never knowing that Chase longs to show him what it would be like to be with someone who worships the ground he walks on.  In the original incarnation of my plot, Logan is the one who never has a serious relationship and Chase is the one with the failed relationships. I actually like it better that the character who is seen as most confident, really isn’t.

Finally, when the two have been separated for a year because Chase moved away for work, Logan confesses to his brother that he’s always loved Chase.  His brother, who’s known for twelve years that Chase loves Logan, helps set up a Valentine’s Day Logan will never forget. The original plot had Chase asking Logan’s twin siblings for assistance and they’re reluctant because they think Chase is going to break their brother’s heart. This version is funnier because Jeremy and Julia (the twins) are actually pretty snarky about these two finally getting their butts in gear and getting together.

Logan’s sister has a Valentine’s Day masquerade party where the theme is couples. Chase, deciding he needs to shake Logan out of his comfort zone, buys a dress and plans to go to the party as Joan Collins. In the skin tight dress, Chase sets Logan’s libido on fire. Logan can’t stop looking at him and neither can anyone else. Every man who ogles Chase’s behind in the dress comes up against Logan’s primal growls of possession. In the original version, this wasn’t nearly as amusing.

The two end up back at Logan’s condo confessing their love for each other. Chase has arranged for a Valentine’s Day surprise of champagne, chocolates, roses and a ring box. He’s determined to make Logan his forever. A night of incredible passion, punctuated by confessions and explanations, ensues. The original plot grated on me a little because Chase the girl just never seemed like she’d do the whole romance thing.

Logan is shocked by the depth of love Chase shows him. The man he thought was only out for a good time turns out to be a man who wouldn’t compromise. All Chase’s years without a relationship were because the only man he wanted a relationship with didn’t want him. Chase shows Logan that beneath his handsome outgoing exterior is a man who will beg and plead for Logan to love him in return. See, in the original plot this was all turned around and Logan’s the begger which worked but not nearly as well as it works to have the most perfect gay man ever be the one whose confidence is shot to hell.

In the morning, Logan awakens with doubts based on his own feelings of inadequacy around Chase. He goes for a run, leaving Chase sleeping. When he returns, he faces a Chase he’s never seen before, a man pale faced and frightened of losing the only man he’s ever loved. The M/F version of the plot was just happy happy joy joy. This whole angst angle was missing. I just slapped the HEA on it and called it a novella. The end result, even though it’s no longer M/F, is much more satisfying to me. I wanted a memorable Valentine’s Day story and boy, is it!

Of course they work things out. Of course there’s some snarky humor. But the bottom line of the story is that sometimes things aren’t what they seem and sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone in order to reap amazing rewards. I know it felt as if I stepped out of my writer’s comfort zone with this story even though I have written gay rom before.

Normally, I don’t do much snark and I’ve never had a cross dresser in any of my stories. I’m not sure why this story decided to be a gay rom, but as my first Valentine’s Day story, I’m not unhappy with the love story itself. It’s a feel good love story, a true Valentine’s Day treat. But it sure wouldn’t write itself when the woman in the Joan Collins outfit was a woman. And honestly, I don’t think it matters whether this is a gay romance or a het romance. After all, love is love, isn’t it?

Vanessa, here.  Thanks, Lex, for sharing your Valentine’s story with us.  And, yes.  Love is love, and that is truly the message of Valentine’s Day.  Readers, you can check out all of Lex’s books on her website, and also be sure to pop over to her blog.

For my readers today, Lex will be giving away one of her books.  Just tell me about your favorite Valentine’s Day experience – a personal one that happened to you or someone close to you.  One person will win a copy of one of Lex’s sexy books!

Just In Time For Valentine’s Day!

Nothing says Valentine’s Day like a literary dose of murder and mayhem, eh?  And that’s exactly what my February contest delivers!  On my facebook page, I’m doing a giveaway of a Romantic Suspense Prize Package, with two great novels by Susan Anderson and Brenda Novak.

Just hop on over to my facebook page for all the details, and to enter.  While you’re there, you might also want to check out the other fabulous contest I’m running this month, with several other authors.  We’re giving away the entire backlists of some of your favorite romance writers, including Julia Quinn, Elizabeth Hoyt, and Cynthia Eden.  Zounds!  You won’t want to miss out on that action, will you?

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!  Hope it’s a great day for you and yours!

Guest Author: Ann Roth & giveaway!

I’m very pleased to have contemporary romance author Ann Roth guest blogging with me today.  Ann writes wonderful and heart-warming romances that have garnered great reviews, contest finals, and many top picks from RT Book Reviews.  She has a new book out this week called Rancher Daddy, and she’s here to tell us why cowboys are so special.

I Heart Cowboys

I happen to love cowboys. How about you?

February marks the publication of Rancher Daddy, the first book in my new Harlequin American miniseries–just in time for Valentine’s Day. The series is set in Saddlers Prairie, a fictitious ranching town in eastern Montana.

In my mind, the ideal cowboy is rugged and tough on the outside, with a big heart. He is loyal to a fault, and deeply rooted in his land and his animals. When he finally meets the right woman-even if he doesn’t realize that she’s the one for a good two hundred pages or so-he falls hard and loves with his whole heart.

Recently, I discovered a website The Wild WestThe site posts what they call Cowboy Codes of the West. For your fun and enjoyment, here are some of those cowboy codes.

Never pass anyone on the trail without saying “Howdy”.
Don’t wave at a man on a horse. It might spook the horse and the man will think you’re an idiot. (A nod is the proper greeting.)
After you pass someone on the trail, don’t look back at him. It implies you don’t trust him.
Riding another man’s horse without his permission is nearly as bad as making love to his wife.
A cowboy is pleasant even when out of sorts. Complaining is what quitters do, and cowboys hate quitters.
A cowboy always helps someone in need, even a stranger or an enemy.
Real cowboys are modest. A braggart who is “all gurgle and no guts” is not tolerated.
A cowboy doesn’t talk much; he saves his breath for breathing.
No matter how weary and hungry you are after a long day in the saddle, always tend to your horse’s needs before your own, and get your horse some feed before you eat.
Cuss all you want, but only around men, horses and cows.

Don’t those exemplify the cowboy?

Thanks for letting me come visit, Vanessa!

Thanks for being on with us today, Ann.  And I love the Cowboy Code! 

Ann will graciously give away one of the books in her backlist today – reader’s choice!  Just tell me who your favorite cowboy is – in books, movies, or TV shows – for a chance to win.  And pop over to her website to have a look at her backlist and check out all the details on Rancher Daddy.


Happy Valentine’s Day!

Yes, it’s here – the Love Day!  Romance readers and writers are experts in matters of the heart, and boy do we ever take flack for it.  How many of you have had to put up with snarky comments or sneering looks from your fellow commuters, just because you chose to read a romance novel on the bus?  Or how about the elitist bookstore clerk who can’t help making a rude remark about that historical or paranormal romance you intend to buy?

Romance writers aren’t immune to that kind of snobbery, either.  I was doing a book signing in a mall a few years ago, and a perfectly normal looking woman made a point of crossing the very wide corridor in front of the store, just to tell me that she didn’t waste her time reading “books like that.”

Well, in the words of New York Times bestselling author Lani Diane Rich, “screw that!”  I saw Lani in a workshop yesterday, and she reminded us that writing romance is a truly awesome thing to do.  We get to write wonderful, heartfelt stories that bring joy to people’s lives, and help them through what might otherwise be a pretty crappy day.  We write about love in all it’s wonderful, mysterious permutations.  We write about a force that is invisible to the naked eye but is as powerful as a category five hurricane, a thing lacking in physical substance but which can remake the world in the most positive, life-affirming ways.

Romance novels seek to capture the essence of that force, and shape it into a story that will have an impact on the reader’s mind and heart.  And make no mistake – romance novels do make a difference in people’s lives.  I recently read a wonderful blog post by the uber-talented Teresa Medeiros, who also happens to be a lovely person.  The name of the post is “SAY IT LOUD AND SAY IT PROUD: I READ AND WRITE ROMANCE!” In it, Teresa talks about why she writes romance:

People often ask me why I write romance. I write romance because the ever expanding boundaries of the genre allow me to express my own heartfelt beliefs in optimism, faith, honor, chivalry and the timeless power of love to provoke a happy ending. In a society gutted by cynicism, we have found the courage to stand up and proclaim that hope isn’t corny, love isn’t an antiquated fantasy, and dreams can come true for women still willing to strive for them.

If you doubt this, you must read about some of Teresa’s friends and fans and the impact of her novels on their lives.  They are truly moving examples of the power of the written word, and of how love and hope can see us through some very dark times.  Trust me.  You owe it to yourself to read Teresa’s post.

To all my readers and friends I send you my gratitude and love, and I wish you a very Happy Valentine’s Day.  May it be an awesome one!