Why I write romance: “Oh Sweet Lorraine”

I write romance because of stories like this one. 96-year old Fred Stobaugh’s song “Oh Sweet Lorraine”, written and submitted to a local contest only a month after his wife passed away, became a YouTube sensation and currently holds at #8 on iTunes. This one seriously made me get teary-eyed; seventy-five years together, so very sweet.

*sniff*

Why I write romance: "Oh Sweet Lorraine"

I write romance because of stories like this one. 96-year old Fred Stobaugh’s song “Oh Sweet Lorraine”, written and submitted to a local contest only a month after his wife passed away, became a YouTube sensation and currently holds at #8 on iTunes. This one seriously made me get teary-eyed; seventy-five years together, so very sweet.

*sniff*

Snippet Saturday #2

This week has been busy with us looking at homes in (and not in) our area. The Dude and I made the joint decision it’s time to buy, but we’re stuck now on WHERE, so the last few days has had a lot of driving around, finding and speaking to realtors, etc, trying to find the “perfect” home within our budgets.

That said, I haven’t forgotten about you. 😉 Today is Snippet Saturday Part the Second, and I dug around for some meaty bits to the story so far. I’ll probably kick myself for giving away so much beforehand (you’ll know how it all turns out at this rate! 😀 ) but hopefully these make your weekend a teensy bit brighter.

*~*~*

Always before, Jeremiah had been in control, but somehow this was different. He didn’t try to restrain me in any way; his kiss wasn’t an assault or struggle. His lips caressed mine like a lover, making no demands other than for permission to continue. When I opened to him, still he held back, tongue dancing and teasing. I tightened my grip around his neck, pulling him close and wanting more, but he took his time, lips and tongue a gentle torment that was nothing like I’d experienced in his hands.

He broke off the kiss, leaning his forehead against mine. Firelight danced in his eyes and, my breath catching, I traced his beloved face with my fingertips. His eyes searched mine, holding back none of what he was feeling. I read him like an open book, and the knowledge was intoxicating.

“Lucy,” he murmured, my name a benediction on his lips. Desperate longing shone through his eyes as he kissed me again before asking softly, “Stay with me tonight.”

I shut my eyes, licking my lips, then looked back up at him. Desire ached in me, alongside a bleak loneliness, and ever fiber of my being screamed for his touch. He shifted, running a hand down the side of my neck and arm. A cool island breeze brushed against my hot skin, and I shivered as he whispered my name again, lips moving across my forehead.

**

Both of Jeremiah’s hands clenched into fists atop the table. “I spent years fighting against people like you in the Army…”

“Then you quit that life to take over mine.” Lucas’ lips kept their upward tilt but lost what humor was left. “I was pushed out of the only existence I knew by my own brother. He took over the gilded throne and let me fall to the wolves.”

“You didn’t fall,” Jeremiah said, voice as cold as ice, “you jumped. You kept jumping, and now you’re trying to drag me down with you. Our father…”

Your father gave you everything and left me nothing,” Lucas hissed.

“I didn’t want this!”

“But you took it anyway, didn’t you?”

“Hey,” I snapped, aware that the two men looked poised at any point to leap over the tables at the other’s throat. Peering around the room, we didn’t seem to be attracting any attention in the empty outside area, but if the conversation continued that would change. “Can we stay on subject here?” I asked in a low voice.

**

“You say I’m yours, but I’m not allowed to love you. So what am I? A responsibility? A liability?”

His chin came up. “I swore to protect you.”

I gaped at him. Surely he understood what I was asking. “I don’t care about my safety,” I snapped, “that’s not important right now…”

“It is to me.”

“Why?” My last word was a shout, and Jeremiah straightened up. I waved my hands around my head, unable to contain my energy. Giving an exasperated grown, I turned away, rubbing a hand over my face. When I looked back, that stoic mask was back over his face, and I suddenly wanted to cry. “Why do you think you can claim me, yet reject my love?” I murmured brokenly. “What gives you that right?”

He didn’t answer for a long moment, and I almost turned to leave when he finally spoke. “Love isn’t a happy ideal in my family.” The mask threatened to crumble for a moment before clamping back in place. “I don’t wish for the…complications love might bring.”

My shock at his short speech faded quickly. “That may be so,” I conceded, trying to make him understand, “but my parents were happily married for twenty-four years before they died. My grandparents, fifty-two. The words mean something to me.” I sighed. “I never asked for you to reciprocate, I only wanted to tell you how I feel.”

But Jeremiah just shook his head. “That word is a mere platitude. If the affection is there, why does it need to be named?”

Platitude. That word again. Oh, how I hated that word. My hands balled into fists, insides quaking at the sudden rage it induced. “You won’t even try to see my side, will you?” If it didn’t fit in with the way he believed, it was wrong. Was this the real Jeremiah? Had I been so blind this entire time?

**

I skittered across the floor away from the body, then beat at the hands that tried to help me up. “What the hell,” I screeched, pushing away from Lucas. Adrenaline coursed through my body and all I could do was pace, heart racing and body jittery. “Why does this always happen to me,” I demanded, unable to stand still. I dug my hands into my hair, pulling at it in frustration.

Then Lucas was in front of me, blocking any escape. “Hold still.”

I fought him for a minute, so he grabbed my shoulders and gave me a shake. “You’re bleeding, let me take a look.” His eyes narrowed shrewdly. “Stop fighting. I doubt you’d take kindly to being slapped right now.”

Damned right. The threat did however calm me down enough for him to press a dishrag that I hoped was clean against the wound. “I have a first aid kit in my bathroom. Kolya, take care of the body and figure out how he got onto this ship.”

I slapped away his hands, determined to walk by myself, then screeched again as he lifted me up in his arms. All I wanted to do was be left alone, but he carried me kicking and screaming back to the room, dumping me on the bed before shutting the door. He rummaged through the bathroom, then came out holding a big red box. “Hold still, I want to look at that.”

Grumpy, I complied reluctantly, flinching away with a hiss when the alcohol stung. “My life was so boring before I met you and your brother,” I muttered. “Is this some sort of cosmic payback for being the dullest girl on the planet for so long?”

“Perhaps,” Lucas quipped, and at my dark look he laughed.

**

“Then I’m to believe your visit here was totally by chance?”

Lucas sounded like he was talking about the weather, but like his brother I sensed something dangerous behind the words. Niall on the other hand didn’t seem quite as tuned in to the Hamilton universe. “I saw a chance, I took it?” he said, shrugging.

Rage suffused Lucas’ face, taking me by surprise. Gone was the happy-go-lucky persona; like flipping a switch, Lucas looked ready to kill. He advanced on Niall, the gun pointing at the Australian’s head.

“Son.” At Matthews’ gruff call, Lucas hesitated. The grizzled sea captain was watching the younger man closely. “Don’t do it.”

For a handful of seconds it looked as though Lucas wasn’t going to listen, then the switch was pressed and a smiling mask came over him again. “You’re lucky that I’m a nice person,” he said, raising the gun so it pointed at the ceiling. He signaled behind him. “Let his man take him downstairs, then lock them both in the hold with a first aid kit.”

“You’re going to pay for this,” Niall muttered as his man helped him to his feet. It looked as though Jeremiah had only shot him in one leg both times. “I know people on the outside, and they won’t take kindly when I tell them…”

Lucas lowered his gun again, casually firing at the good leg, and Niall collapsed into his bodyguard. “Okay, so I’m not that nice.”

*~*~*

Snippet Saturday #1

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Inaugural test spin of a (hopefully weekly) new blog feature! For those of you who are keeping up with me on Facebook, most of these small snippets, cookies, excerpts etc are probably familiar to you. Even there however some of these bits were added in comments and may have been overlooked, so here they all are, in one place for easy reference!

(Funny fact: this was supposed to be Snippet Sunday but, hah, I couldn’t wait until tomorrow. 😉 )

*~*~*

I cringed back as he reached for me, prepared to fight tooth and nail, but Lucas stepped forward between us. He moved so quickly I didn’t even see him pull the gun until it was already under Niall’s chin. The big Australian jerked to a stop, rage and sudden fear bursting from his face as he glared at Lucas.

“Ms. Delacourt stays with me.” There was nothing jovial about Lucas’ voice now as he leaned in close to the other man’s face. “My ship, my rules. Do I make myself clear, Mr. Jackson?”

Niall looked like he was sucking on a lemon. Behind him, his men had their guns trained on Lucas and I, and I prayed the gunrunner knew what he was doing.

“They’ll kill you and the girl,” Niall hissed, then grunted as Lucas pushed the gun harder against the tender flesh of his chin.

“Perhaps.” Lucas smiled, a hint of amusement in his tone. “But you’ll still be dead.”

*~*~*

“I’m curious,” Lucas said as if I hadn’t spoken, “what my brother saw in you.”

My smile vanished, as did any patience for dealing with the man in front of me. “You can leave now,” I said, marching across the room and opening the door. “I’d like…”

I broke off in surprise as I turned to see him standing only inches behind me; I hadn’t even heard him move. Startled, I moved back a step and came up flush against the wall between the bathroom and bedroom doors. Lucas stepped forward, far too close for my comfort, and I put a hand against his chest to keep him back.

It was a curious thing, having a man this beautiful standing so close. The smell of alcohol coming from his direction was more like a faint cologne, not at all the cloying odor I would have expected. Beneath my hand, I felt the play of muscles beneath warm skin and silk, and I swallowed.

Fingers pushed a strand of hair out of my face, running along my brow, and I shivered. I pressed back against the wall and he followed, my hand the only thing keeping him at bay. “You’re beautiful,” he murmured, dipping his face down near my temple. Warm breath flowed against my cheek. “And smart. And fearless. Is that what my brother saw?”

*~*~*

A high pitch shrieking woke me from a fitful slumber.

Jolted awake, I scrabbled at my sheets, groping for the edge of the bed. The ground was further away than I thought and I almost tripped as I leaped to my feet, but managed to stay upright as I stumbled to the doorway. Ripping it open, I immediately smelled smoke, and raced toward the stairs, not knowing what to expect.

Lucas looked up at me from the kitchen. Sunglasses covered his eyes, but he gave me a bright smile. “Good morning, sunshine. I’m making some breakfast, care to join?” He had a fork in one hand and an unplugged toaster, the reason for the fire alarm, under his other arm. He set the chrome appliance back onto the counter at my incredulous stare. “How about eggs?” he said, moving over to the refrigerator.

*~*~*

It amazed me how different the two men were. Jeremiah had the broody, tortured thing going for him, while Lucas… I wasn’t sure. He held a different type of mask in place, one that I found hard to pierce. There wasn’t much brooding here, at least not on the surface; his lips seemed locked in a Joker-like smile, as if sarcasm and pleasantries could keep people away.

As much as I enjoyed puzzles, the Hamilton men were a bit out of my league.

*~*~*

“Did you love her?” I asked bluntly, aware of the awkward direction our conversation was taking.

He started to say something, then paused. “Maybe once,” he murmured, not appearing to think this was an odd discussion topic given our current situation. “When I first met her, she was young and naïve. I was angry and selfish; stealing her away from my brother was a way to get back at him for taking over my life.” He sighed, staring blankly beside me. “Times change. People change. I didn’t do enough to keep Anya sheltered from this lifestyle, and now she’s dead.” He met my eyes again. “What about Jeremiah? Do you love him?”

“I…” My heart clenched painfully. “I thought I did.” Right now, my opinions about Jeremiah were all jumbled, due in no small part to the man lying atop me. “He saved my life.”

“I saved your life too. Twice.”

I winced at the reminder, hand going to the bandage at my throat. “Yeah.” A lump formed in my throat and I screwed my face up against tears. “That was the first time I’d said those words to anyone since my parents died,” I mumbled, “and he called them “platitudes”.” The memory was powerful enough to pierce my heart again.

“My brother is an idiot.” Lucas said it in a matter of fact way, like he was talking about the weather. Then he sighed. “Love is a fickle and cruel mistress. Confusing as hell too.”

*~*~*

Jeremiah grunted, and when he shifted I became aware of his proximity. As much as I wanted desperately to touch him, there might as well have been a wall between us. He was less than five feet away from me, but neither one of us would take that first step. Finally, Jeremiah spoke. “When I heard they’d found one of my drivers tied up in the bunkhouse, I knew something had happened. When I was told you weren’t in the house, then Jared was found unconscious, I couldn’t…”

Jeremiah cut himself off, and I saw a myriad of emotions race across his face. The stoic mask was gone, and he seemed to struggle with his next words. “By the time we started tracking the car, it had already stopped moving, and when we got there everyone inside was gone. You were gone.”

“So what did you do?” I whispered, scarcely able to breathe.

He stared down at me, green eyes bright in the dim light. “Moved heaven and earth.”

*~*~*

Stay tuned for more next week!! 😀

Everything and the kitchen sink

Writing can be such a balancing act.

I make no excuses: I’m a pantser not a plotter, the kind of writer who learns about the story as she goes. I may have some structure, such as knowing scenes or events that will come later in the story, but for the most part I don’t plan things out beyond the next scene. Not having an end game in mind right off the bat, of course, leaves me open to the possibility of meandering storytelling, or of putting too much in that would need to be taken out later.

One of the toughest parts (IMO) about writing is knowing what path you want your story to go down. For example, is it a revenge tale? A beach romance? A shoot-em-up action thriller? There are certainly stories out there that incorporate elements of all three of these things, but at some point something has to give. You can’t, for example, have werewolves and vampires attacking your heroine in a contemporary tale (unless it’s urban fantasy). Having space aliens show up in your sheikh desert romance might be…confusing to some readers unless you’ve set it up earlier that the story has scifi elements. Some surprise is good, keeps the conflict up, but there’s a tightrope to walk if you want to keep it believable.

For AHW, I kept my story tightly plotted, but because sequels up the ante I wanted to think outside the box. My resulting idea had the story including everything and the kitchen sink, so many ideas rolled into one book. That wouldn’t do – fun to plan, but when I looked at the logistics, it was a nightmare. So I backtracked, removing all the aliens and werewolves and vampires from my story plan (just kidding, but it may as well have been!) and tried to figure out a theme. What I want my heroine to learn. What I wanted my heroes (!!) to go through. Redemption? Revenge? I needed to figure out my motivations, or how their pasts affected their near-future (aka, the book’s plot line).

What did I come up with? Well, like I said, I’m not much of a plotter, but I do like having the bare bones sketched out so I don’t write myself into a corner. For years I couldn’t finish anything because I’d get to a certain point, then hit The Wall (other writers know what I’m talking about), and couldn’t bear to backtrack/delete words I’d written to go around it. By then anyway, another idea would beg to be written, so I’d leave the story promising to come back. Heh, yeah, that didn’t happen. *sigh*

The thing I’ve found, the more words I put down on paper, is that there’s never an end to learning. If it’s not learning your craft, then it’s learning how YOU craft. Every writer is different; I know folks who cringe when I tell them I don’t have a detailed outline for my entire series, down to hair/eye color and what shaving gel they used. Then again, the idea of writing from a detailed synopsis has my eyes crossing from boredom – I mean, the story is already written, why am I writing it again? Learn how you do things, and unabashedly DO THEM. Don’t let others dictate what works for you; listen, maybe try adopting new ideas into your pattern, but don’t be afraid to discard them if they’re not for you. Write your story as you see fit. FINISH your story. Then you can start thinking about how to incorporate all those fabulous ideas you came up with into your next book.

Oh, and leave the sink at home. 😉

Happiness is…

…traveling. 😉 The Dude and I are gearing up for a multi-week motorcycle roadtrip in either September or October and I’m stoked!! Last week we finally found a bike for the Dude: a 2000 BMW police bike that the previous owner had fixed up and repainted (working bikes like this get thrashed) and we got it for a song since it has higher miles. He’s over the moon about it – the bike hadn’t been his original choice but this thing looks so cherry (and has some of the original blue lights!) that after a test ride he caved. He says he’s going to have fun messing with peoples’ heads, and seeing all the brake lights on the freeway when people saw the old police bike in their rear view mirrors did make for some amusement.

I’ve always loved to travel. When I was little my folks packed us up and moved the family near Frankfurt, Germany. In the four years I was there (2nd – 6th grades), we went all over the place and saw many things I didn’t appreciate at the time but long now to see again. I remember driving down the roads in Germany and every single town we passed had a castle – most were up on a local hill and naught but ruins, and I find that incredibly romantic now. So many things I took for granted – all the trips to East Germany through Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin, climbing the Eiffel Tower leaning tower of Pisa, living in the German countryside, being in Europe at the end of the Cold War, seeing the Eagle’s Nest (without really understanding its significance)…

I’ve spent my adult life dreaming about travelling through Europe but have been quite content with the US. Giant sequoia pine trees, the lava formations at Zion National Park, Utah’s arches, spring break and several Mardi Gras in New Orleans, driving down highway 90 in south Mississippi immediately after Katrina and seeing the devastation to the majestic homes along the coastline. My goodness, there’s so much world to see, so many people to meet even if only for a moment.

Traveling expands the mind. Even if you never make it to see the pyramids – perhaps the farthest you go is the next state/province over – its an incredible way to appreciate where you’re from. I’ll always be a California girl – living everywhere from Mississippi to Idaho has taught me that – but oh, how I love seeing new places, new things. That’s one of the thing I love about writing, the way I can take readers to places they’ve always dreamed of going. The Greek coastline, a pub in Dublin, the moors of Scotland, the man-made islands of Dubai, the glaciers of Alaska. I read about these places and dreamed of visiting them myself someday, and maybe someday I’ll be able to go. In the meantime however, I’ll dream and imagine and write, and visit the wondrous joys of North America.

OMG. I can’t freaking wait!!!!!

(and yes, silly goose, I’ll still be writing on the road.)