Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Value of Hope...

I can remember the moment as if it were yesterday…

It was a brisk spring morning. The air seemed to crackle with the chill but the birds were singing…spring was on the way. And I was ‘stalking’ the mail carrier. Yelp, had a string of rejections from my favorite publisher and very much feared I would soon receive another.

I was tired of waiting and exhausted by the lack of encouragement missing in form rejections. I expected practice to make perfect. That’s what I’d been taught. What I passed on. What I still believed. I had been studying and practicing the craft of writing for three years…surely I had made progress. So I tried to focus on the joyous songs of the birds as I approached the highway.

And the long awaited envelope was in the mailbox. Finally! I dreaded what I might find inside, but unable to wait, I stood at the end of the driveway and ripped the envelope open. Another R…

I couldn’t allow my disappointment to show, the neighbors might see. Even at a distance they could see if I stomped my foot or hear if I yelled in frustration. But they couldn’t see the tears that filled my eyes as I forced my feet back along the drive. Nor could they hear the silent pray I sent winging heaven ward. “I’ve tried. Really tried. Dear God, please send me a sign to show I’m not wasting my time in vain.”

I stumbled on a gravel and opened my eyes to watch were I was going…and then I saw it. In the sunlight it sparkled bright as an icicle. Yet even with the crisp mornings, I knew it wasn’t ice. But it was silver and sparkling like a gem. How I missed the pen when I started down the drive, I’ll never know. I would guess it was because I was staring at the mailbox, my goal, and not paying attention to the steps I needed to take to get there.

Isn’t that true with many of the things we do in life? We forget the process…the baby steps.  I picked up that silver pen, read the publisher’s name printed on the side, and started trembling. My dream publisher…and not one in my life could have dropped that pen. It was a sign. It had to be. At least two vehicles had driven up and down that drive and not crushed the pen. How could I cave in after a few short years of trying to sell to this publisher?

I never expect to be one of the ‘big girls’ but I want to write stories.  I still have that shinny pen. I pulled it out today. It’s a new year, with renewed hopes and who knows; perhaps drafting my outline in ink from that pen will bring me luck.  Or perhaps the real lesson is that we should never give up hope.

Happy January to you all and here’s wishing you a very successful year!


Friday, January 30, 2015

The Up and Down of Valentines

     For readers and writers of romance, it’s one of the biggest days of the year. For people in happy, committed relationships, it’s a day to celebrate their union, and for hopeful lovers, a chance to woo the object of their affections. But for some among us, Valentine’s Day is best forgotten.
     One example is my friend, Faye, whose husband of nearly fifty years died exactly thirteen months ago today. There’s also my friend, George, who has dated and hoped to find someone for more than twenty years, but has never had a partner.  Around each of us, there are probably people who dread the approach of Valentine’s Day and sigh with relief when the calendar reaches February 15.
     For them, I propose an expansion of the holiday. Why should the day be only for lovers? Can’t it become a day for any and all whom we love?
     My husband began expanding his reach some years ago, including our daughter, Rebecca, as one of his valentines since her pre-teen years. When two daughters-in-law both lost their daddies, he added them to his list. Then two years ago, when my mother was widowed, he began sending her a small Valentine gift as well, usually the chocolate-covered strawberries she adores.
     I’ve been trying to learn from him. Last year, when asked to organize a Valentine’s Day celebration for our congregation, I invited everyone—married, single, even little children—and made it a time for all of us to come to know one another better. The dinner was successful and I've been asked to repeat it this year.
     I've floated this balloon once before via one of my favorite characters. Sarah, my heroine in Right Click, is dreading the coming celebration since the break-up of her engagement. To deal with her own loneliness, she proposes to relieve the loneliness of others, leading the third grade class she teaches in preparing care packages for soldiers deployed far from home.
     I’m not suggesting that we forget the significance of the one sweetheart with whom we share our lives. I want my husband to know he is still The One for me. But as we approach the day of hearts and flowers, I’m hoping we can expand our circles of caring, reaching out to others. After all, love does not always equal romance, and no one should look forward with dread to a day that is all about love.

Susan Aylworth is the author of 13 published novels and has part in three boxed sets, all 16 titles available now. Mother to seven, she is "gramma" to 23. She lives in northern California with Roger, her husband of 44 years, and the two spoiled cats they serve. She loves hearing from readers at, @SusanAylworth or You can also follow her on Pinterest and Instagram.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Love Songs

There are some love songs that are so evocative and conger up such images that they are a story onto themselves.  I’m not talking about the tune that was playing the first time I slow danced with my crush in junior high, Elvis Presley’s “I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You.” Nor Percy Sledge’s “When A Man Loves a Woman,” when I was in college dancing with a different boy.  Those songs can remind us of the one we danced with and kissed, but the song is only the trigger for the memory. 

What I’m talking about here are the songs that tell a love story that we all relate to.  Think of  Bob Seger’s “We’ve Got Tonight.” This is a song that tells a universal story.  One that even if you never experienced, you can imagine.  You know there’s no future with him, but you’re attracted to each other and “you’ve got tonight,” something could happen.  Maybe you’re on a vacation and meet this guy.  You might have gotten into something except that you don’t live anywhere near each other and you’re too new in the relationship to commit, but you do have tonight, so “why don’t you stay.” There’s a compelling story there that we all relate to.  It’s the reason the song stays in our head long after they’re over. 

Then there is “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers Anymore” sung by Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond, the story of a love gone cold.  You can imagine the wife waiting for her husband to come home from work as she tries to muster up the courage to talk to him about their relationship.  She’s afraid of his response, the pain she will feel, but she knows she has to confront him no matter the outcome.

I have only skimmed the surface of the love songs that have touched me.  Besides songs by Bob Dylan, Restless Heart, Peabo Bryson and Dan Hill from the past, there is Pink’s “Just Give Me a Reason,” Sam Smith’s “Stay” and John Legend’s “All of Me” to remind us that love songs are still strong and capable of touching us.

Great love songs raise the bar on romance novels.  I want my books to have that same impact.  I want readers to be thinking about my characters, believing in them and imagining their lives together long after they’ve finished the book.  Great romances do that.  It’s the reason that “Pride and Prejudice” is such a universal classic.  It also happens in more contemporary romances.  Think of Marian Keyes’ “Anybody Out There.” I listened to it on a CD in the car.  When I realized what had happened to the hero, I had to turn it off so I could mourn.  In Jane Green’s romance “The Beach House,” another book I listened to in the car, I worried about the characters between car trips until all their problems were resolved.  And then I missed them.  In these romances the authors created such compelling characters that we believe in their stories long after they are over.   

As a romance writer that’s my goal, to make my hero and heroine and their love so compelling that we believe in them and worry and think about them even when the story is done.  I hope that I succeed.

Deborah Nolan is the author of Suddenly Lily and Conflict of Interest published by Montlake Publishing and Second Act for Carrie Armstrong published by Desert Breeze Press which will soon be available in hardcopy through Amazon.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Falling in Love, Time After Time

My fellow bloggers here at Classic & Cozy have written about their conversations and tussles with their characters, especially the heroes. Writers do have the extraordinary privilege of inexhaustible companionship and playmates but I think Romance writers have the best of all possible outcomes.

We get to fall in love, over and over, time after time, as often as our imaginations create the heroes who fulfill all our heroines’ dreams. If we, as creators, don’t fall in love with that guy, how can we expect our heroine to do so?

I’m doubly fortunate in my romantic fictional writing (triply if you consider my personal, real-life romance, to be revealed in February). Not only do I have the opportunity to fall in love with men like David Gitano, Eric Wasserman, Brad Foster and most recently, the soon to be introduced, Mike ArgentI also, writing as Lily Dewaruile, have had the pleasure of meeting and forming lasting relationships with Medieval Welsh heroes such as Garmon Dolwyddlan and his younger friend, Geraint Padarn, who cross my mind and swell my heart from time to time.

However, they have the misfortune of being in competition with my first love, Jehan-Emíl deFreveille, hero and patriarch of my first Medieval romance, set in Wales, Book One of the Pendyffryn series, Invasion. But even Jehan could not stop me from falling for Christophe Maides, his closest friend, who stole my heart when I least expected to be susceptible, especially not to desperate men, adventurers, the worst and the best of their profession—9th Century soldiers of fortune. And Christophe gave way to his father, Gilles de Maides, in the fifth book, Reconciliation, set in Armenia. 

Mike Argent, hero of my forthcoming “Americans in Love” novel, This Can’t Be Love, will soon leave me, to take his place among the other heroes I have loved and let go, to woo someone else. I don’t mind. Mike has been a delightful compagnon du coeur, during the many months we have been together, as was Bradford Foster of Nights Before fame. I’m sure others will do their best to make up to me for his loss.

I will soon be head over heels in love again. This time with Jehan-Emíl’s second son, Marshal who takes the stage in Justice. And once I have ensured that this wild young man is suitably entrenched in a relationship with the shy and studious apothecary, Tanglwystll, I will abandon him to his fate for the quiet byways of 1870s rural Maine where the kind and industrious, Evie, will encounter G. Rupert Smith, in Pavane for Miss Marcher.

No doubt Evie will entice Rupert away from me. This is as it should be since, as soon as I met her, I knew the sort of man she needed to combat the bullies in her life.  

My fickle love life is never-ending. Falling in love with heroes is as natural as breathing, ask any Romance writer. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Our Men, Our Heroes by Fran McNabb

Every reader of romance loves a strong, good-looking, patriotic  hero. We love to watch him being a gentleman, butting heads with the heroine, overcoming obstacles, and eventually taking the lady as his partner. I, too, love a well-developed, lovable hero, and I especially love the heroes in my books.
That might sound a little strange for an author to say, but I really do love my heroes. I have author friends who say they don’t like their stories or their characters by the time they finish writing and rewriting and reading and rereading the stories. Not me. Sure I hate to read the same words over and over, but I still love my characters, especially my heroes, no matter how many times I have to read the same story.

I truly fall in love with the men in my books. If I don’t, how can I expect my readers to love them? I guess when an author creates a male character she pulls together all the good traits she admires in her own, real-life heroes or what she’d want her ideal hero to be if she could create a live one. Maybe we use traits from our husband, a brother or our dads to come up with the men who make our stories so much fun to read.

The best compliment an author can receive is to have a reader say something nice about a character. We want our characters to live with readers long after they put the books down. I remember my sister-in-law called me one day and told me she was mad at me. When I asked why she told me she couldn’t keep her mind on her work because she couldn’t stop thinking about Jake, my hero in ON THE CREST OF A WAVE. I had to smile and wanted to pat myself on the back. I had done my job!

The most memorable hero I ever read was actually not in a romance. He was Ari, the hero in Leon Uris’s EXODUS. He possessed all the characteristics that I love in a man. When I saw the movie version of EXODUS, I was disappointed because in my mind my Ari did not look like Paul Newman. I loved Paul Newman, but not in my Ari’s role! I think from my first reading of the book (yes, I read it twice) I loved Ari and I think I use some of his characteristics in all of my heroes that I create today.

Do you have a favorite hero? If so, who is he?

Hmmm. I think I’ll sit back, close my eyes and dream about Ari for a while!

Fran McNabb lives along the Gulf Coast on a small, bayou harbor with her husband who just happens to be her very own hero! She has four books published by Montlake, two Indie books, and soon will have one romantic suspense by The Wild Rose Press. Visit her at or contact her at

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Truth, Confession, and Just Plain Eavesdropping

Over the years people have asked where I get ideas for my books. They come from many sources, everything from fantastical dreams to sobering, often awful, news, and I don’t hesitate to make them into stories of my own. I’m in good company—“Ripped from the headlines” is a time-honored tradition among authors and television and screen writers.
While I am developing my story, I think about who would be in it, what will happen, and what I want a reader to take from it. I imbue the characters with attributes I desire for them and provide descriptions sufficient for the reader to know their “faces,” wants, hopes, and dreams. I also need to ensure that each character speaks in a manner appropriate for that personality. How someone expresses confidence, anger, love, confusion, etc. can tell a lot about the person.
Enough of the hypotheticals. What I want to talk about is actually more of a confession than anything else. When I was writing my third Wally Morris novel, VENGEANCE CUTS LOOSE, a book that takes place primarily in a hair salon, I was shamelessly eavesdropping. I had taken my mother for her weekly appointment and sat waiting while her hair was washed, rolled, dried, combed out, teased, and sprayed. To be truthful, most weeks I left to run some errands while she got beautified, which also included a manicure every two weeks. One day, however, I just had no place else to be, so I sat nearby and waited. Slowly the din of the hairdryers and blowers faded and I started to hear a conversation between a hairdresser and his client taking place in the next chair to my mom’s.
They discussed a wide range of subject matter. I heard about people getting divorced, Botox that was available on the street, tummies that had been tucked, as well as relationship issues of people I will never meet. I learned more than I needed to know about the latest scandals among the movie stars and starlets, and I was drawn into the saga of more than one person suffering from a dread illness.
At the back of my mind I had been ruminating on a deeply personal story which was waiting impatiently to be told. It was about a poor unsuspecting person (me) in search of a cut and blow who stumbled into a highly recommended salon and received, due to the arrogance of a stylist, the most insultingly bad haircut. I had to seek revenge, if only literarily. But that hadn’t been enough to get the novel going, it was too cut and dried (pun intended) or at least it wasn’t much of a story, not until my day with Mom at her salon. Suddenly characters abounded.
I still needed a murderer and a motive, those came from a conversation with a neighbor who had no idea I would put it into my story when she told me about a problem her child had experienced and overcome. And while looking out the window from an upper floor during a trip to the dentist I found the means for the murderer to escape.  I used the local hair salon as the prototype of the location of the murder, since it could help the murderer and appease my need for revenge.
Sometime after publication of the book, my friend came running into the library where I work, her hair beautifully coiffed, to tell me a funny story. While she had her hair styled, a woman sitting next to my friend was talking about a book she was reading that sounded as if it could have been set right in the salon they were in (and where my abusive haircut had been perpetrated).

“What a coincidence,” I marveled with the satisfaction that I had captured the setting (no pun intended) well. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Modern Fairy Tales

by Gina Ardito

Photo by  Matthew Murphy
Courtesy of Playbill
This past weekend, my daughter and I went to see a quirky musical called Disenchanted! It's an ensemble tale, told by a few famous storybook princesses who want to set the record straight on that whole Happily Ever After rumor. (Can I just say we loved it? We had a fantastic time and laughed A LOT.) 

In the space of an hour and forty minutes (the amount of time the fairy godmother would allot), these fed-up ladies tackle such subjects as their figures (buxom on top and waistlines narrower than their necks), breaking the color barrier, changing the annals of history to make a heroine into a princess (Spoiler alert: the real Pocahontas was 12 when she met John Smith!), and being happy with yourself no matter how different you are. It's a fabulous, raucous show, and I highly recommend it (but you better go fast; it closes this coming weekend!)

When my husband learned we'd bought our tickets, he asked me, "What is the fascination between you girls and fairy tales?"

I understood his confusion. The week before, my daughter and I couldn't wait to see Into the Woods at the movies. We're rabid fans of Once Upon a Time on television, we saw the Maleficent movie opening night, and we're obsessed with Wicked on Broadway. And of course, let's face it. I'm a romance writer. I'm totally invested in the whole Happily Ever After scenario.

From the time we're little girls, most of us are fed these fairy tales where, if we're good enough, pure enough, thin enough, a handsome prince will come rescue us and we'll live the dream life. But in the last decade or so, writers have been turning these fairy tales around with wonderful results. Nowadays, we're seeing the heroine slay the dragon and rescue the prince; strong, smart, and capable females who don't need a man to complete them; and characters who aren't all good or all bad, but a little bit of both. You know. Real-life humans. 

And just like for real-life humans, Happily Ever After comes with hard work, a few tears, sharing the good times and struggling through the bad times together. Today's princesses don't sit around singing with woodland creatures, while waiting for their prince to come for them. They go out and create their own happy endings. I wonder what stories will be told about these new princesses to future generations.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Voices in Our Heads? Of course! We're writers.

Writers have the best jobs in the world:  We hear voices in our heads without being thought crazy (well, not too crazy anyway) and we get to tell lies for a living. When we’re writing cozy mysteries, we also get to kill people—imaginary people who will be missed only by their imaginary loved ones. Still the voices we hear become real on the written page, the lies we tell carry the very essence of truth, and the imaginary people whose imagined lives we end bring hope to the very real futures of the flesh-and-blood readers whose lives we touch. What could possibly be better?

The beginning of every new year finds me having a chat with those voices in my head, all of whom are jockeying for position. Whose story will be next? Who is emerging as the new heroine, love interest, victim, murderer, detective, hero or confidante? This year’s conversation sounded something like this:

MALE VOICE:  Yo! Pay attention! You put me off all of last year and I think it’s about time you heard my story.
ME:  Sorry. I’m working with Roman and Lottie just now. They’ve both been lonely a long time and…
MALE VOICE:  I know, I know, but life isn’t all about the hearts and flowers. I’m about to be murdered here.
ME:  Take a number and get in line. I’ve at least half a dozen potential murder victims in front of you.
FEMALE VOICE:  No kidding! When am I going to get to come out and play again?
ME:  Maggie, is that you?
MAGGIE:  What? I’m wounded! You don’t even recognize my voice anymore?
ME:  Of course I do, but it has been a while…
MAGGIE:  No kidding! You don’t have to tell me. You made me the star of one book, and then you told me to take a number.
ME:  Sorry. There are only so many hours in a day, only so many books in a year.
MAGGIE:  That’s what I tried to tell you when you were on deadline with MAGGIE RISING, but you just kept pushing me for a solution anyway.
ME:  That was in your best interest. You didn’t want to spend any longer in the county jail than absolutely necessary.
MAGGIE:  My best interest? You say that now, but you were the one who put it on the cover that MAGGIE RISING was “the first book in the Maggie Rising Case Files.” I’ve been waiting ever since.
ME:  You’ll just have to wait a little longer.
2nd FEMALE VOICE:  What about me? You told me if I came to work in the Hope Creek Medical Center, you’d find someone special for me.
ME:  Hi, Caro. I’ve found him and I’m working on the plot line. If you can just be patient a little longer—
NEW FEMALE VOICE:  Patient? You told me that too. I’ve been waiting about two years since that day you found me wandering on the beach near Sydney.
ME:  And I do plan to tell your story, Lucy, but there hasn’t been that big a market for historicals lately—
LUCY:  Tell that to Harry. Until I go to live with Aunt Marjorie in Stowe-on-the-Wold, I won’t be able to come back to him again, and that will leave him stuck with that floozy from Leicester—
ME:  So tell her to take a number and—
LUCY: …and get in line. I know.
2nd MALE VOICE:  Have you figured out what you’re doing with me yet?
ME:  Oh hi, Sean. You’re going to be Caro’s love interest at the Med Center. Didn’t I tell you?
SEAN:  Hmmm.  Caro, huh? Um, yeah, I like that. So how long before you get around to our story?
ME:  Probably not more than five or six months.
SEAN:  Five or six…?! Really? Come on! I was just talking with Rand. He thinks his story would make a good follow-up when you get done with mine.
ME:  (sighing)  Tell him to take a number—
SEAN:  Yeah, I know, take a number and get in line. Hear that, Rand?
RAND:  Yeah, I heard. Do you think we can find a writer who isn’t quite so preoccupied with other characters?
SEAN:  We can certainly look around. Can’t hurt, since we’re just hanging out here doing nothing anyway.
RAND:  Hear that, folks? Sean and I are going to start looking around, see if we can find someone else to tell our stories. You wanna come?
ME:  Wait! What is this? Mutiny?
MAGGIE AND CARO:  It all depends. How soon do you think you’ll get to our stories?
ME:  Now this sounds like blackmail. I don’t think I like this at all.
SEAN AND RAND:  So how does it feel now the shoe’s on the other foot?
ME:  But I’m the one who created you, the one who thought you up! What will you do if you go to another writer, someone who doesn’t know you like I do?
ALL:  Sorry. We may have to tell you to take a number and—
ME:  (sighing harder) Ugh, take a number and get in line.

I’ve decided this is what comes from writing uppity characters with minds of their own. This year I’m making a new resolution: I will tell as many of their stories as I can. I may have to commit my own set of crimes with the others, drugging them all into silent submission to avoid having them mutiny. I don’t like taking numbers, and I’m not good at standing in line.

Susan Aylworth is the author of 13 published novels and has part in three boxed sets, all 16 titles available now. Her recent release, MAGGIE RISING: Adventures of a Part-Time Psychic, has just come out in paperback as well as e-book. Mother to seven, she is "gramma" to 23. She lives in northern California with Roger, her husband of 44 years, and the two spoiled cats they serve. She loves hearing from readers at, @SusanAylworth or You can also follow her on Pinterest and Instagram.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

An Empty Field

 by Sandy Cody

January 16, 2015 - The new year has begun, but just barely. It’s sixteen days old; there are still three hundred forty-nine days left, stretching before us like an empty field, just waiting for us to build or plant whatever we choose.

It is, as Dickens said in what is probably one of the most-quoted openings in all of literature: “the best of times, the worst of times”. The best, because beginnings are exciting. They’re full of promise, with the leaving behind of the false starts and, worse yet, the no-starts, of last year. We have all those days/hours/minutes/seconds in which we can build a house in that empty field. Let’s make it a big house, a huge house - and offer shelter to a needy world. Or we can plant wheat or corn to help feed a hungry world - or how about a field of daisies just because they’re beautiful. Why not? The world needs food for the soul too. Simply put, the opportunities are limitless, just there for the taking.

So much for the best. What about the worst? Beginnings can also be intimidating. Think of all the mistakes you might make. What if you do plant daisies, then forget to water them and they all die? You’ll have added ugliness instead of beauty to the world. That could happen. You could plant corn with the promise that you’ll feed the hungry, then let weeds take over and have nothing but thistles to offer. The trouble with making promises is that if you don’t keep them, someone is going to be upset. The risks are limitless too, but we have to take them because doing nothing is the biggest mistake of all.

To the writers among us, that open field might seem like blank pages - just waiting for a story to unfold. There’s a lot of space for characters to pursue a dream, to find their happily-ever-after. But, wait a minute, if you look at the field again, you’ll see a sky filled with clouds. Is a storm brewing for our characters? Let's hope so. It wouldn’t be much of a story without a few storms. That’s okay. That’s what writers are for. We’ll guide our characters through and help them find shelter, but only after they’ve been tested and proved themselves worthy. Words will be our seeds, hopefully to be watered by inspiration and fertilized by research and, when those fail, nudged into growth by the encouragement of people who care about us.

So ... sixteen days into 2015 I wish you a Happy New Year - filled with opportunity and risks that make you grow.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Romance and Television

by Sierra Donovan

I'm not a weekly-TV-series type of viewer. My husband and I are much more likely to pop in a movie when we settle in on the couch at night. But with the growth of Netflix and the phenomenon of “binge watching” – largely by my two kids who live at home – I've gotten familiar with some recent series.

I've found that situation comedies have changed a lot since the days of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” when the situations and characters changed very slowly over the course of seasons, if they changed at all. Now there's a lot more story progress over the course of even a single season. It's a great opportunity for character and relationship development.

Surprise! Romance figures into this, because a lot of central plots have to do with romantic relationships. Will this couple end up together … or not?

SPOILER ALERT for Netflix viewers: shield your eyes if you haven't seen all of “The Office” or the first six seasons of “Parks and Recreation.”

These two series get it right. There's a lot of anticipation and expectation built on key relationships. Then the writers go on to affirm what they've made us believe in our bones: Jim and Pam belong together. Ben and Leslie belong together. The characters are written consistently and believably, even through moments of doubt. And ultimately, and the writers deliver on our expectations.

Now, let's talk for a minute about “How I Met Your Mother,” and why I think this one gets it wrong.

I haven't seen how this series ends. But I do know last year's season finale had viewers screaming. Even without having seen it, I'm pretty sure I can tell you why.

If ever a series was built on expectation, it's this one. It's in the very title. We're teased from Day One that we're building toward the revelation of Ted finding his true love.

Writers, you set your audience up for disappointment.

You promised a payoff, but we keep being told Mom is NOT any of the characters we're watching now. She's going to be someone we haven't invested in. What are the odds that the viewers are NOT going to be disappointed in the outcome?

An even worse sin, in my opinion: time and again, the series set us up to anticipate a relationship between one couple or another. Usually the buildup is very well done. The characters spend months out of a season yearning for each other, longing for each other, just missing each other. And then, when the two people do get together, it's usually – PFFFT! – over within a couple of episodes. After that, the much-anticipated couple goes back to interacting pretty much the same way they did before all that longing ever started. What is this, partial amnesia?

No, it's inconsistency. I think the series tried to break ground by flying in the face of viewers' expectations. I think what it did, instead, was tease the viewers, then contradict what it had told us about the characters. I can't address the finale, but from season to season, the series repeatedly went back on its promises.

Romance fiction is often criticized for being predictable. Yes, the couple gets together, as promised. Just as, in a murder mystery, the killer is discovered. As promised.

In real life, we're not promised happy resolutions. In fact, we're not promised resolutions at all. This is where fiction is different. We go in expecting that the story will reach a satisfying resolution. Depending on the genre, that ending may or may not be happy, but it needs to satisfy. It needs to be consistent with the author has told us. It needs to keep its promise.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A New Day

by Sandra Wilkins

            The sparkling new year is upon us like a bright, shiny quarter ready to spend or save—depending on your sensibilities.  With resolutions already falling to the wayside, I was reassured when I came across this quote by L.M. Montgomery from Anne of Green Gables:  “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes yet?” 

            I think it’s a wonderful thing to imagine every day that way.  Each day is a pristine start.  There is a reason to wake up in the morning.  It’s fresh, with no mistakes or problems.  We can choose what to make of it.
            For some, the new year ahead seems to loom over them like a giant wave that’s about to crash onto them and sweep them away into the bottomless ocean.  I would hope that those people would see themselves swimming to the beach, trudging across the soft sand and scrambling up the cliffside.  From atop that glorious perch, the world seems brighter.  It seems possible to soar in the clouds with the birds again. 
            Whether your life seems like one big mistake or you just had a bad day today, I hope you can see tomorrow as a clean start with hope for the future—one day at a time.  

            Sandra Wilkins is busy writing another series while home educating her two daughters.  Ada’s Heart, Rose’s Hope and Gwen’s Honor are her first three published wholesome historical romances.  Go to to find out more about her and her books. 


Monday, January 12, 2015

Classic and Cozy Foods: FIG NEWTONS!!!

by Jayne Ormerod

           I like to eat.  Correction, I love to eat. As a result, my characters also love to eat. I incorporate a lot of Classic and Cozy (and hence Comforting) foods in my books.  Here is but one example:    

“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Sam asked as we exited the dimness of Flossie’s Pharmacy.  I squinted against the sunlight of a glorious summer’s morn.  The three Fig Newtons I’d stuffed in my mouth prevented me from answering, but I figured it was a rhetorical question, anyway.  I was right.
~Excerpted from The Blond Leading the Blond 

          In the interest of researching my topics thoroughly, I did a little research on the Fig Newton.  I was surprised by what I found, not the least of which is January 16th (this Friday!) is National Fig Newton Day!  As they say timing is everything, so let's get ready for the big event by learning all there is to know about Fig Newtons.

          Raise your hand if you thought the Fig Newton was named after that Apple-to-the-Head guy.  You know, Sir Isaac Newton, the brilliant man who first proposed the laws of gravity. Yeah, me too.  But in my research for this food-related topic I learned something quite different. 

          The Fig Newton was originally called just The Newton, named after a town in Massachusetts.  That was back in 1891.  But the cookie wasn't new then; it was already hundreds of years old by that time.  So let’s start our history lesson a few hundred years earlier.

          The history of figs can be traced back as far as 15th century Egypt when figs first began being cultivated.  Somebody (and nobody knows for sure who, because that was a rather long time ago and records did not survive the ensuing 500+ years…) figured out a way to bake the figs into a light pastry in order to keep them fresher longer.

          Good ideas travel fast (well, maybe over a couple hundred years) and the fig-filled-biscuit idea made its way to Sicily, where they were called Cucidati. These special treats were prepared two times a year; Christmas and St. Joseph’s day. 
          Eventually this good idea made its way to America, where they were considered “medicinal.”  While today a doctor might say “Take two aspirin and call me in the morning,” back in the 19th century you would have been more likely to be advised to “stick to a diet of biscuits (defined as crisp, dry bread) and fruit” to cure what ails you. Hence a combination of dried figs and biscuits was just what the doctor ordered! 

          An Ohioan by the name of Charles M. Roser, owner of a bakery in Kenton, Ohio, is credited by some sources of baking and promoting the fig biscuit.  Research shows that he may have sold the recipe to the Kennedy Biscuit Company for $1,000,000.  (In today’s dollars that would equal 19 million!) 

          Now enter James Henry Mitchell.  He invented a machine that was a funnel inside a funnel that squeezed out the fig jam encased in cookie dough.  It came out in one loooongg tube and then was sliced into the cookie size you are familiar with today and then baked.  (Ha!  I bet you thought Pillsbury had the lock on the slice-and-bake idea).   This enabled the Kennedy Biscuit Company to mass-produce the medicinal cookie. 

          The Kennedy Biscuit Company, the holder of the recipe, was based in Boston, Massachusetts, had a history of naming their cookies after surrounding towns.  So, the fig biscuit was renamed the Newton. 
          The year of the Fig Newtons birth is officially recorded as 1891.  Fast forward to 1898 when the Kennedy Biscuit Company merged with New York Biscuit Company to become the NAtional BIScuit COmpany (hence the name NABISCO) and Ta-Da,  Nabisco Fig Newton became a household world. 

            It’s interesting to note that the recipe, shape, size or baking process hasn’t changed in over 120 years.

          Not a big fan of the figgy cookie?  Well fear not, there are other uses for them.  A Google search for Fig Newton Craft Projects pointed me to these:


          And of course, who amongst us of a certain age will ever forget the commercials staring The Big Fig Newton who ended the ad with the classic pose.  Time for a sing-along:  Eewy-gooey rich and chewy inside.  Golden flakey, tender cakey outside..."  Take it away Big Fig... (click on arrow to play...)

          (And good luck getting that song out of your head today!)

          And I bet you didn't know that National Fig Newton Day is celebrated annually on the 16th of January.  That's this Friday!  Traditional celebrations suggest you bake your own Fig Newtons from scratch, but I gotta say, the recipes I found make it look messy unless you’ve got access to a double-funnel machine.  I do not.  So I will have to celebrate by eating the store-bought kind.  Heck, I might even really cut loose and have some apple, strawberry or raspberry Newtons! 

          But if you miss National Fig Newton Day this year, fear not, Fig Newtons can be enjoyed any day of the year. And they may make you feel better, if only as a fond memory of your youth.    

Friday, January 9, 2015

Getting to Know Interview with Victoria M. Johnson

Interviewed by Jayne Ormerod

Victoria M. Johnson
Author of The Doctor's Dilemma
Yes, we all have bios on this website, but there is so much MORE to know about our Classic and Cozy bloggers.  So the 2nd Friday of each month is dedicated to getting to know us better.  

Our first volunteer for 2015 is Victoria M. Johnson. She's active on our list and I thought I "knew" her, but boy was I surprised with her answers!  Such an interesting life! Please give a warm Classic and Cozy Blog Welcome to Victoria!  

1. Okay, inquiring minds want to know…why a writer? Certainly not for the fame and fortune…or maybe it is?

I knew by the time I was ten years old that I wanted to be a writer.  I wrote short stories back then but many years passed before I began writing my first novel-length manuscript.  I had a few honorable professions: Air Force medic, police officer, and airline representative, but I really wanted to be a writer.  I even had a twelve-year career as a grantwriter for a nonprofit, which I loved doing and loved using my writing skills and creativity.  Yet I longed to write romance novels.  It's just as well that I experienced other occupations first--those experiences enriched my life and supplied fodder.  As for fame or fortune: I'm not one to seek fame but I do like fortune, and I welcome getting paid for writing :-)

2. When did you first put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) to create the your classic and cozy characters?

I created my characters for The Doctor's Dilemma in 2010 and the book was published in 2011. I was thrilled that this book caught the eyes of the editors at Avalon Books.  The book was my baby and I wanted it to have a good home.  Avalon Books was the perfect place for it and it debuted in hardcover.  Montlake Romance later acquired the book and released it in paperback and ebook formats. The Doctor's Dilemma, came about from a visit to the rural part of Mexico in the novel’s setting.  I knew I wanted to write a novel or two set in that remote location and I always loved reading doctor and nurse romances so I combined the two. The Doctor’s Dilemma, tells the story of a doctor and nurse who work in La Clínica Pediátrica, and the villagers whose lives they touch. 

3. Do you have a set writing schedule?

No.  I only know what major projects I'm going to tackle in a year and in-between those I write all the shorter pieces. 

4. Is there a certain routine, food/drink, or location that summons forth the muses for you?

I write first thing in the morning.  I don't have a word count or page count requirement.  I just stop when I get hungry or I need to stretch or I have somewhere to go.  As for place, I like sitting at my desk in my office or looking out the window in my dining room when it's raining.  Walks on the beach, or anywhere really, prod the muse but then I have the task of remembering those thoughts or ideas when I return to my desk.

5. What do you do when not writing?

I attend poetry readings, sometimes I read my poems other times I'm there to support friends.  I attend many literary or art events each month.  I'm lucky to live in a town with a vibrant, creative environment and I attend or participate in whatever events I can.  I was a volunteer for a few nonprofits for many years but I cut back on that last year.  Now I volunteer for one organization.  I still make short films or work on the crew of others.  I take zumba classes and I enjoy jogging with my hubby.  I love to cook and of course I spend time with my family.  My husband and I have two grown children that live close by, and four lovely, energetic grandchildren.  Visiting with them and other family members (I come from a BIG family) is always a pleasure.

6. I imagine you’ve been reading all of your life (all great writers have.)   What was your favorite book as a child?

I read Clara Barton by Helen Dore Boylston when I was about ten and that book became my favorite thereafter.  I read it so many times that the binding wore out.  It's possibly the impetus of my joining the medical corps of the Air Force.

7. Do you re-read books?  If so, which one have you re-read the most?

My to-be-read shelf is overflowing so I don't re-read novels anymore. I sometimes re-read a nonfiction book and I often re-read poetry collections.

8. But there is more to life than reading, writing (and arithmetic)…what is your most memorable adventure in your life? <<I think this is the point where Barbara Walters would ask you if you were a tree, what kind would you be, but I’ll skip that and throw a softball…>>

I prefer to answer the tree question.  I'd be a Christmas tree because I love the colorful lights and the bling on all the ornaments.  I'd only have to look pretty for a short period of a few weeks and then I'd be tucked away and forgotten--which means I could read and write to my heart's content.

9. If you were on American Idol, what song would you sing to WOW! the judges?

I'm very patriotic so I'd sing the National Anthem because I'd sing with everything I had in me.  I'd put all my heart and soul into it and I'd have those judges in tears and applauding and giving me the highest praise.

10. Last question…movie rights…who will play your two main characters when Hollywood comes knocking on your door? 

Bradley Cooper would make an excellent smart and sexy doctor, and Natalie Portman would be fabulous as his strong-willed yet vulnerable nurse.

Victoria M. Johnson knew by the time she was ten that she wanted to be a writer.  She loves telling stories and she's happiest when creating new characters and new plots.  Avalon Books and Montlake Romance published Victoria's fiction debut, The Doctor’s Dilemma, (A 2012 Bookseller’s Best double finalist).  Her other fiction book is a collection of romance short stories titled, The Substitute Bride, and a novella titled, Hot Hawaiian Christmas. She is also the writer and director of four short films.   Visit Victoria's website at for inspiration and tips and connect with her on Pinterest  Twitter and Facebook.