Posts tagged with: Christmas romance

Writing Fearless: A Christmas Tale

I admit it. I am guilty of studying tropes and trends, because I know that readers like them and my publisher expects them. And also, being familiar with tropes and trends is helpful.

But early this year, when my publisher asked me to write yet another Christmas novella for the 2015 holiday season, I was less than enthused. Honestly, if I had to write another:



a) Retelling of the Gift of the Magi (I did that in my novella I’ll be Home for Christmas),






b) Take on Scrooge (I did that in my book Last Chance Christmas), or







c) Baby in a barn story (I did that in my novella Silent Night)




I. Would. Scream.

(Did I mention that the publisher made this suggestion in January, right after I was thoroughly Christmass-ed-out?)

I expressed these negative feelings to my husband on our daily commute. I railed against Dickens for having written the quintessential Christmas Novella of all times. I ranted about Scrooge — about how he is such a powerful icon of the season that he’s everywhere, in every story you read.  I mean, even It’s a Wonderful Life and How the Grinch Stole Christmas have Scrooge archetypes messing up Christmas for everyone.

“Not gonna do it,” I said.

Then my husband said, “What if you wrote a story where Tiny Tim was all grown up?”

And I said, “Okay, if Tiny Tim is a grown up, who’s Scrooge? A little kid?”

And he said nothing.

Did I mention that he’s a whiz at knowing when to shut up?

The next morning, this idea of turning Cindy Lou Who into a tiny-sized Grinch was still rattling around in my head. So I Googled the words, “Kids who hate Christmas.”

I got the usual listing of posts about greedy kids, even greedier grownups, and people ungraciously mouthing off about Christmas gifts they hated. But once I got past all that crap I stumbled across several heartbreaking and utterly inspiring articles and blog posts about and by parents whose children either have autism or who are on the Asperger’s spectrum.

For many of those special kids, Christmas is a nightmare. For their parents, Christmas can be a difficult obstacle course that requires love and patience and even more love.

A story began to form in my mind, but I didn’t think I was courageous enough to write it. The courageous ones are the parents of these special kids, and I didn’t feel as if I had any authority to write about them.

I put the story idea aside. I worked on a dozen other ideas all of which had some well-worn Christmas trope that failed to inspire. I dithered. I procrastinated. I complained.

And then I sent an email to my BFF and critique buddy, Caroline Bradley, who just happens to be the mom of a child on the Asperger’s spectrum. I didn’t contact Caroline to seek information about Asperger’s– not at first. At first it was just to have a conversation about whether I was brave enough to take on this topic.

Bless her, Caroline was more than enthusiastic. She told me that if the story had captured my heart, then it shouldn’t matter whether I was qualified to write it (that’s what research is for) or whether it was the usual trope (sometimes you have to stop listening to the marketing people). In short, she told me to be brave, write fearless, and tell a good story – words I hope to continue to live by.

I started by asking a lot of questions of a lot of parents and siblings of autistic kids.  I did my research. And then something magical happened, when I had finally stopped telling myself that this story was beyond me, I discovered that it was actually inside me.

The story arrived fully formed in a matter of days and needed almost no revision.

This experience has convinced me that when I dig deep, stretch my boundaries, and tell a story from deep inside my heart, the writing is never a problem. It’s when I back away from the hard stuff – that’s when the writing becomes impossible.

midnight clear coverA Midnight Clear, a Christmas story of a single mom with a special needs child goes on sale today. Here’s an excerpt.

So, tell me, have you ever had a story present itself that you thought you weren’t brave enough to write? Did you write it? What happened? Was it hard or did it turn out to be easy?

Working Together

While working together isn’t a true collaboration such as you think of when reading James Patterson with (take your pick), an anthology or boxed set takes a lot of coordination and working together. I’ve never done a boxed set, but I’ve been in two anthologies now (Christmas Revels and Christmas Revels II) with fellow Ruby Louisa Cornell as well as friends Hannah Meredith and Anna D. Allen, and I believe the rules are about the same.516G7UFRUDL._AA160_

Rule #1.  Make a plan early. It was decided Christmas Revels, and now Christmas Revels II, would be English Regency Romance Christmas novellas. I’ve read enough Regency romances to know I never wanted to write one. I wanted to write a late Victorian Christmas novella. Hannah whacked me with her whip and told me I was writing Regency for this. See Rule #4 below.

Rule #2. Make a schedule and stick to it. We started late with Christmas Revels, so it didn’t appear until December 1st. As everyone knows, Christmas season begins when the back-to-school displays are put away in late September. December 1st was late to the party. We decided for Christmas Revels II we would put it out October 1st and made a schedule accordingly.

Rule #3. Expect your schedule to get blow out of the water by somebody. Hannah underwent hip surgery September 22nd, so she was out of the picture at a critical juncture. I blew by a couple of writing deadlines because my second attempt at writing Regency was a disaster. For an important character, I used a position not seen in England after the Middle Ages. In trying to fix it, I kept running into walls. Big stone walls six feet thick. I fixed the problems, and brilliantly too I might add, 😉 but it made me a month or two late.

Rule #4. Somebody must be in charge. For us, that person is Hannah. She’s organized, talented, and has the leadership qualities that brought the Allies through D-Day. She collects and disburses the money. She has vision. She cracks a mean whip. We couldn’t have done this without her.

Rule #5. Everybody brings something to the table. Besides our lovely, brilliantly written, funny, murderous, sigh-inducing stories, we each bring a talent to the project. Hannah is organized and handles the big items, including big advertising sites. Louisa knows everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY, in the Regency romance world and found us mentions on blogs. Plus she wrote the award winning story in Christmas Revels, and it was her debut! Anna has an incredible amount of technical talent needed for self-publishing. And I have some experience with Goodreads giveaways and other advertising sites, as well as having a contact for plan B when one step of plan A didn’t work out.   

Conclusion: We published 3 1/2 weeks late, but still early enough to hit most of the Christmas season. Our stories are top rate. Our publication values are excellent. We’ve met our Number One goal, which is to bring enjoyment and the Christmas spirit to everyone who reads our stories.

One lucky person leaving a comment will win a print copy of Christmas Revels, including Louisa Cornell’s award 51yashW6a+L._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_winning story. US only please.

When she’s not writing in the Regency period, Kate Parker writes the Victorian Bookshop Mystery series. The next, The Conspiring Woman, releases November 17th.

Fangirl Friday

With summer coming to a close (yikes!), some of us are already looking ahead to the holidays (double yikes!). Here’s a Ruby release that’s up for preorder that’s sure to warm your bed on those cold nights…

WrongBedChristmasA WRONG BED CHRISTMAS (Featuring 2 great Harlequin Blaze stories in one book!)

Releases November 1, 2015!

The Wrong Bed—But the Right Guy!

IGNITED by Kimberly Van Meter

What do you do when a sexy, naked fireman gets into your bed? If you’re Alexis Matheson, you freak out. But now she’s snowed in with Layton Davis, and suddenly Alexis’s best intentions to behave seem to have disappeared up the chimney. Because a hot ‘n’ naughty firefighter in her bed might be the best Christmas surprise ever…



Emma Rose Brent is sure she’s dreaming when Erik Matheson, her bestie’s überhot older brother—who she’s been crushing on for years—mistakenly slips into her bed, all gloriously naked. But Emma must have been a very good girl this year, because she’s been given the best gift of all: the chance to be really, really bad…

PREORDER at: Amazon | iBooks | B&N | Kobo | GooglePlay


And we’re thrilled to celebrate Lara Archer’s latest release, WILD AT HEART:

LaraArcher_WildAtHeart_web size new edit with burnCinematographer Nick Turner has yearned for independent film director Amber Wakeling for years, but he absolutely forbids himself to touch her. Their work together is the one thing that makes this notorious Hollywood Bad Boy feel like he has a soul. He’s just not wired for commitment, and he won’t risk his artistic bond with Amber for a few nights of even the most mind-blowing sex.

A new shoot on Colorado’s beautiful Wild Mountain, though, strains Nick’s resolve to the breaking point. Somehow in this lush, unspoiled setting, the rules of civilized life don’t seem to apply. When normally straight-laced Amber makes a sudden move on him, Nick is lost to desire.

But will stepping off the safe path lead to heartbreak for both of them, or will Nick discover he’s capable of something he’s always thought impossible—real and lasting love?



Did you have a new release this week? A book on sale? Have you read something that blew your mind? Sound off in the comments! We want to hear from you! We only ask that you are courteous to other commenters and that authors do not post the same book more than once. Buy links are welcome. Thank you!

PERFECT. Why Would You Write That?

Last Thursday, Ruby sister June Love started the awesome, lively discussion on how writers handle writing through difficult times, and many writers offered great advice. I stated that my writing was an asylum for me during difficult times, which was indeed true.

My life has been in a funk, to say the least, the last few years. Sometimes, I don’t know which way I’m going and for what reason. I’m sure many of you, if not all, have had times when you’ve felt the same way.

Several months ago, after some heart-wrenching news, I opened my file to continue work on my next romantic suspense—because you need to keep putting one foot in front of the other, you know— and the words simply weren’t there. Tears rolled down my cheeks and my chest was so tight with pain. My fingers were stilled on my keyboard. I just couldn’t bring myself to write and put someone in danger. I needed laughter and love in my life at that moment. So, I did what any sane writer should do. I closed my romantic suspense file and started a new work. It was the best thing I could’ve done.

I found myself submersed in the lives of one down-on-her-luck Charleston, S.C. restaurateur and one yummy maple tree farmer who had one goal.

No. Not to fall in love.

After totally screwing up Thanksgiving, Dylan’s goal is to make Christmas special for his two, small nieces whose parents were deployed overseas and would be absence for the holidays. However, when Darcy Witherspoon arrives in Black Moose, Vermont, his thoughts do turn to the forever kind of love that suddenly seems apparent all around him. My fingers flew across the keyboard, and with my crazy-ass schedule in a little over six weeks I wrote the end to my new holiday novella, PERFECT.

Now, some might question whether writing a contemporary holiday novella, with not a suspenseful word in it, will dilute my brand as a romantic suspense author. BRAND seems to be big a BIG word in the publishing world—a rule of sorts for marketing. To them I say, “I don’t know. I like reading both. Maybe, I’ll bring a non-romantic suspense reader over to the darker side.” And, actually, I think I’m marketing myself—a unique writer with many likes.

All I know is if I hadn’t written PERFECT, I might still be sitting in front of my laptop, getting frustrated, and perhaps depressed because I needed happy, happy and wasn’t listening to my own needs. Instead, I went with my gut, finished a novella that made me chuckle, and while doing so, the oddest thing happened. Near the end of PERFECT my muse turned back to my unfinished romantic suspense.  I’m now ready to dive back into the second of the C.U.F.F series with renewed enthusiasm. I hope to finish the rough draft before the Christmas holiday hits, so that I can work on C.U.F.F.’s third book during the Ruby Writing Fest.

I truly believe if you listen and give yourself what you need, in the end you will be a much happier person.


What do you think about the question of an author diluting their brand by writing in different genres?


Dylan Kincaid totally screwed up Thanksgiving and now he’s faced with Christmas. Thrown into the frightening role of both mother and father while his brother and sister-in-law are off serving their country, all Dylan wants is to make Christmas perfect for his two nieces. But time is running out.

Down on her luck Charleston, S.C. restaurateur, Darcy Witherspoon is licking a wounded ego when she arrives in Black Moose, VT and meets the handsome Maple tree farmer. Wanting a happy holiday herself, she teams up with Dylan to make a perfect Christmas.

Neither is interested in a holiday affair, but the magic of Christmas has something more everlasting in store for the couple. An absolutely perfect love!

I hope you’ll check out PERFECT over the holidays.  It’s available at AMAZON and will be available at B& soon.

Ruby Release: Last Chance Christmas

 (Looking for the MAKE IT GOLDEN Contest finalist list? Jump to here.)

I love, Love, LOVE Christmas stories!  Since I also adore the beguiling denizens of Last Chance, put both in one book, and I can’t resist.

Visiting Last Chance is always a joy, but Hope Ramsay has outdone herself this time.  She took a difficult hero, a wounded heroine, familiar characters, added a little Christmas magic, and—Voila!— gave us a story sure to touch the Scroogiest of hearts.

This story brims with subtext, emotion, difficult questions and situations.  It draws us back to a painful time when tensions—and prejudices—ran deep, compels us to remember and forgive, and reminds us that healing, redemption, and love are the true gifts of Christmas.

Thus, rather than interview one of the story’s characters, I opted to peek into the mind that gave Last Chance, and all who dwell within it, life.

Hope, tell us about Last Chance.  Is it a real place?  An amalgamation of places?  Or a product of your imagination?

Last Chance and Allenberg County, South Carolina are made up places.  But the town is very loosely based on Denmark, South Carolina—a place with one stoplight that you’d miss if you sneezed while traveling through.  A couple of aunts and uncles lived in Denmark, and I went visiting there every summer as a child.  Denmark was as far away from New York City, where I lived the rest of the time, as a place could get.  When I first set out to write about Denmark, I used the real place, but I soon discovered that reality can be a major drag, especially when I wanted to give Denmark a quirky miniature golf course.  So I reinvented it.  And of course my imagination took me to a whole different place altogether.  One setting is authentic, however.  The Edisto River Country Club is a real place in Bamberg County, and I’ve described it exactly as it truly is.  As you can see from the photo, the water really is the color of iced tea.

What inspired you to write about a tiny South Carolina town filled with colorful characters?

I know this is going to sound weird, but I’ve always known that someday I would write a story influenced by my childhood memories.  I can’t even tell you when I decided that – sometime when I was very young.  When I finally sat down to write the first Last Chance story – a novel called For Love or Money, which finaled in the 2009 Golden Heart – I had the oddest feeling that I had come home.  I just couldn’t shake the feeling that I was meant to write these stories.  So I guess you could say that the inspiration came from on high or something.

What imp had you name the Rhodes children Stone, Clay, Tulane, and Rocky (aka Caroline)?

Rhodes is a family name.  And when I was a child I thought that my Cousin Clayton’s name was funny, especially since a lot of the roads in South Carolina were unpaved at the time.  If you ventured onto one of those red clay roads during a summer thunderstorm, you just might get mired deep in some slippery stuff.  My 2009 Golden Heart book, which will forever remain under the bed, thank you — was a sideways retelling of Cinderella.  My heroine, an early version of Caroline Rhodes, heroine of Last Chance Beauty Queen, was the Cinderella stand in.  She needed stepsisters, but stepsisters have been done, so instead I gave her a bunch of good ol’ boy brothers.  I thought it would be fun to give them silly names.  Clay was easy.  Stone followed Clay pretty fast.  I jettisoned Dusty, because it’s done before.  It took some serious thought to come up with the third name.  My husband and I were riding down a two-lane road brainstorming ideas when the name, Tulane, presented itself.  We laughed until we cried.

Golfing for God is so well planned.  Does such a place, or something similar, actually exist?  Or is this another gem mined from your imagination?

Once again I have to go back to my 2009 Golden Heart manuscript.  In that story Caroline has to take a visiting English baron on a tour of South Carolina.  Caroline wants to show the baron all the sights of the New South.  The baron wants to go slumming.  He’s got a guidebook with various roadside attractions that he wants to see.  So, of course I had to consult to see what kind of roadside weirdness existed in the real world.  (I’m dying to visit the alien visitors’ center located in Orangeburg, South Carolina, but I digress.)  While researching I came across a putt-putt located in Tennessee that was Bible themed.  That place is no longer in business, but I’ve seen photos – the holes were all New Testament and kind of lame, if you want to know.  So I decided to have fun with the Old Testament, especially with the plague of frogs, which always struck me as funny when I went to Sunday School.  And once the idea sprouted, it was like Topsy, it just grew.

Many of the town settings in your books are revisited again and again.  Do you have a map?  Layouts of Ruby’s salon?  How do you keep it all straight?

Yup, I have a map.  It started as a map of Denmark and it’s grown.  I also created a map of the golf course, because so much action takes place there, I had to know which hole was located where.  You can see the golf course map here (  I keep a world building Bible that has all kinds of stuff in it.  Not just maps, but time lines that go all the way back to the Civil War.  I’m seriously OCD.

Having met Stone in previous books, he seemed a hard nut to crack.  Is that why his is the story told during the season of miracles?  Did you always intend for it to be so?  Or did your publisher desire a Christmas book?

Wow, that’s weird, Gwynlyn.  Years ago, when I was first plotting Stone’s book I gave it the working title: “A Hard Nut to Crack.”  Did you know that?

I had no idea!

Anyway, the heroine in that early outline was going to be a ballerina on the lam and I was trying to figure out how to work in the Nutcracker story.  So, yeah, it was going to be a Christmas book from the get go.  I didn’t get very far with this early outline.  And Stone’s book got shelved for a long time (years) while I worked on selling the series.  Once I made the sale, the series story elements had moved on, and Haley’s angel had come into being.  So the Nutcracker idea was jettisoned and I went with Christmas angels instead.  The publisher also wanted a holiday book, so luckily we were all on the same page.

Last Chance Christmas is rife with subtext, more so than any of your other books.  Was this a conscious decision?  Or did it result from the many threads this book finally ties?

It’s a complicated story for a couple of reasons.  The first is the obvious one that I needed to resolve a bunch of story lines, most important, the one involving Haley Rhodes and her sorrowful angel.  But, at the same time, I gave my heroine, Lark Chaikin, a very dark story goal.  She’s come to town to scatter her father’s ashes at the golf course, but she’s undertaking this last request without understanding why her father wanted to be interred there.  She very quickly discovers that in 1968 her father spent some time in Last Chance and became involved in an ugly racial incident.  Lark, a photojournalist by trade, is compelled to learn the entire truth of the matter.  In effect, Lark shines a light into the darkness of the past.  At the same time, the town is putting up Christmas lights, lighting Hanukah candles, and basically celebrating the darkest night of the year as we do every December.  The theme of light and dark runs like a heartbeat through the story, and that was not by accident, because Christmas is, at its heart, a Winter solstice celebration.  Even my heroine’s profession mirrors the theme of light in darkness.  She captures light with her camera.

Will there be more Last Chance books now that the Rhodes children have all met their soul-mates?

There will be more books set in Last Chance.  The next series of three books revolve around the members of the Last Chance Book Club, led by the town librarian, Nita Wills, who is an important minor character in Last Chance Christmas.  The first book in this series, Last Chance Book Club, will be published in April 2013.  In this book, Miz Miriam Randall starts matchmaking for her nephew, Dash.  Any resemblance to Pride and Prejudice, the book club’s book of the month, is entirely coincidental.

Cover Blurb

Dear Reader,

I’ve been wishing for a miracle for my oldest boy, Stone, and this Christmas my prayers might just be answered!

Her name is Lark, and she’s here in Last Chance looking into her father’s past—and stirring up a whole mess of trouble without meaning to.  As the chief of police, Stone sure has his hands full trying to keep up with her.  Ever since his wife died, Stone’s put everything into raising his daughters and dodging the Christ Church Ladies’ Auxiliary matchmakers.  And it’s clear Lark has been through some trouble and could use a place to finally call home.  I only hope Stone can let go of the past soon enough to keep her…

Goodness, I need to stop talking and finish up Jane’s highlights so we can make the town tree lighting.  You come back by because the Cut ‘n’ Curl’s got hot rollers, free coffee, fresh-baked Christmas cookies—and the best gossip in town.

See you real soon,

Ruby Rhodes

Hope Ramsay was born in New York and grew up on the North Shore of Long Island, but every summer Momma would pack her off under the care of Aunt Annie to go visiting with relatives in the midlands of South Carolina.  Her extended family includes its share of colorful aunts and uncles, as well as cousins by the dozens, who provide the fodder for the characters you’ll find in Last Chance, South Carolina.  Hope earned a BA in Political Science from the University of Buffalo, and has had various jobs working as a Congressional aide, a lobbyist, a public relations consultant, and a meeting planner.  She’s a two-time finalist in the Golden Heart, and is married to a good ol’ Georgia boy who resembles every single one of her heroes.  She has two grown children and a couple of demanding lap cats.  She lives in Fairfax, Virginia where you can often find her on the back deck, picking on her thirty-five-year-old Martin guitar.

Hopes books are available in e-book and mass market format at Amazon and Barnes & Noble

* * * * *

To celebrate Hope’s book release, one lucky commenter on today’s blog will win a copy of Last Chance Christmas, and a pretty little Angel wreath lapel pin.  Just to get the conversation going, tell us about your  favorite Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa tradition.

The Latest Comments

  • Marianne Hull: The genre is paranormal romance with shifters. It’s going to be a novella, I think, so there...
  • Autumn Jordon: Marianne, I’m not sure what genre you story is, so my suggestion might be totally off, since I...
  • Marianne Hull: I’m finding this very restrictive, but it does boil the story down to essentials. He walks away...
  • Lydia Stevens: Ooh! I like that! It definitely speaks to the immediacy of the conflict! Thank you! 🙂
  • Autumn Jordon: Happy to help.