Tag Archive | Harlequin Superromance

Claire McEwen: Convincing the Rancher

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Backstory Saved My Characters!

by Claire McEwen

Thank you for having me on Susana’s Morning Room today! I’m so happy to celebrate the release of Convincing the Rancher with you.

Authorpic_Claire McEwen copyI didn’t get too far into writing this book before I realized that my hero and heroine were pretty different than any characters I’d written before. Tess is promiscuous, avoids any difficult conversations, throws herself into work and allows herself the occasional one-night stand. She’s so guarded even her best friends don’t know that much about her.

Sound familiar? She’s a lot like many of the heroes I’ve read.

My hero, Slaid, is a family man. His wife left him and their adopted son so he’s juggling his ranch, his role as the mayor and his need to be a devoted, loving father. In an early scene he allows himself the luxury of one beer and a tiny bit of time to contemplate the unfolding events, but quickly realizes his time is up – he needs to cook, do chores and help his son with homework.

Sound familiar? He’s a lot like many of the heroines I’ve read.

I don’t think I did this consciously. Tess was created years ago, and has appeared in my last two books. Slaid came to me as a complete vision, the rancher-mayor at his desk, already a dad, fully formed. But once I realized who they were, and that she was going to be a lot less emotional, more aggressive, and sometimes less sympathetic than he was, my challenge became how to make them likeable. I didn’t want him to be a wimp and I didn’t want her to seem like (as a few friends jokingly described her) a total slut!

I realized that my first step in making them likeable was to really develop their backstory, to find out why they were this way. So I got out a notebook and started writing down whatever came to me about their lives before they met. I was pretty surprised by the results!

Tess, it turned out, was raised in foster care and never adopted by anyone. That feeling of never being chosen, never being deemed worthy of love and a family, created a wound so deep that her only way of managing it was to put it in the past and close the door on it. Whenever someone gets too close she pushes them away, because deep down inside, she considers herself un-loveable. Thus, the one-night stands. It’s a way to have a manageable dose of intimacy and still save herself from the rejection that she feels will be inevitable.

And Slaid? I learned that he’s a pretty dutiful guy. He was raised with a strong connection to his family and their legacy of ranching and community service. He’s a regular church-goer, a former football hero, the kind of guy who steps up and does what needs to be done. Including adopting a cousin’s child when she could no longer care for the boy. But because he hasn’t traveled far from his hometown, he hasn’t been exposed to a lot of other people who might be different from him. He’s crazy about Tess, but she also drives him crazy because she won’t do the most basic things that have been drilled into his moral code. He gets self-righteous sometimes, and controlling, as he tries to make her fit into the only way of life he’s known.

I learned a big lesson from writing this story. If characters feel one-dimensional, or unlikeable, I need to take the time to open my imagination to their backstory. And once I know it, I need to think about what this means for them. How does it affect the way they react to each other? How can secondary characters challenge them or teach them?

The next time you feel stuck with a story, open up your notebook and imagine where your characters came from. You might be amazed by what you find out!

About Convincing the Rancher

About that night…

Benson, CA, represents all that Tess Cole doesn’t want. So she intends to keep her business trip there brief. Too bad her idea to quickly change the mayor’s mind about some planning issues dissolves the moment she recognizes him! That one night with Slaid Jacobs remains a personal favorite for Tess—and for him, too, it seems.

Even though he’s gorgeous and hot, it’s clear to Tess that the single dad wants a commitment—something she avoids. It’s also clear Slaid is bent on convincing her they can build a future out of their passionate past. And that’s a very tempting offer…

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Excerpt

TESS WASN’T PREPARED for a Jeep that looked like an ice sculpture. With a pang of longing, she pictured her underground parking space in San Francisco, where even on the rare frosty morning she never had to worry about a frozen car. Reluctantly she opened her wallet and stared at her rainbow assortment of credit cards, wondering which one she could sacrifice as an ice scraper. The Saks Fifth Avenue card was nice and thick and would work the best, but she didn’t want to risk ruining it. Same with Bloomingdale’s. And there was no way she’d sacrifice Nordstrom—their annual shoe sale was coming up.

Cover_Convincing the Rancher copyShe finally settled for Talbots and started scraping at the frosted windshield. The ice came off in a spray coating her bare skin. “Ow!” she exclaimed and pulled her hand away abruptly, shaking it to try to get the frost off and the heat back in.

“Don’t tell me you didn’t bring gloves?” The deep voice had her whirling to confront the mayor. He looked warm and comfortable, his thick parka advertising the fact that he was prepared for the weather. The battered leather cowboy hat on his head was one more reminder that she’d left San Francisco far behind.

“It’s probably seventy degrees at home today,” she said by way of an answer.

“It’s seventy degrees in San Francisco most days. Didn’t you check the weather report before you drove out here?”

She hadn’t. She’d been in denial until she’d pulled into town yesterday. Despite all the arguments with Ed and the cramming she’d done to understand wind power, she’d ignored the fact that she’d be living in this tiny town in the middle of nowhere for the next month or so. Tess could safely say that denial was one of her strongest abilities.

About the Author

Claire McEwen lives by the ocean in Northern California with her family and a scruffy, mischievous terrier. When not dreaming up new stories, she can be found digging in her garden with a lot of enthusiasm but, unfortunately, no green thumb. She loves discovering flea-market treasures, walking on the beach, dancing, traveling and reading, of course! Convincing the Rancher is her third book for Harlequin Superromance.

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Rachel Brimble: Christmas At the Cove

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Rachel will be awarding a $20 Amazon GC to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour. Click here for the Rafflecopter. Click on the banner to follow the tour and increase your chances of living.

Message From Rachel

Writing a series of books set in a small town is a dream come true––something I’ve wanted to do ever since I discovered Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven series when I was nine or ten. The idea of having recurring characters appeals to me in both my writing and reading choices.

Obviously, I’ve moved on from Enid Blyton, but my shelves now groan with the weight of the books I collect and refuse to part with. The downside of loving a particular series is I have to buy the entire backlist (if I’ve come in past book 1) or keep buying each book the author releases.

To name a few favourites, any series or trilogy by Nora Roberts, The Lucky Harbor series by Jill Shalvis and The Virgin River series by Robyn Carr – each of them has influenced some small aspect of my Harlequin Superromance series set in the fictional UK seaside town of Templeton Cove.

AuthorPic copyUntil this latest release, Templeton has more often than not basked in the summer months due to the sea, the beach and everything a typical British seaside town encapsulates. Yet, when my editor suggested I might like to try a Christmas themed novel, I was thrilled! One, because I had never written a Christmas story before and two, it would be fun to paint the canvas of the Cove a different colour for book number four.

The series consists of a mix of romantic suspense and mainstream contemporary romance stories, but I decided quite early on I didn’t want to taint the joy of Christmas with a grisly murder, abduction or threat of some sort…so mainstream contemporary it was!

Christmas At The Cove is a reunion story between long-term Templeton resident, Scott Walker and the return of his brief but passionate lover, Carrie Jameson. Carrie has news for Scott – the decision is his what happens next…

Happy Reading!

About Christmas at the Cove

More family for Christmas?

Scott Walker doesn’t have time for a relationship. The sexy mechanic has career ambitions, not to mention a mother and three sisters to take care of. The last thing he needs is Carrie Jameson, the beauty he never forgot, arriving in Templeton Cove over the holidays with some unexpected news.

Scott still finds Carrie irresistible, and he’s not one to shirk responsibility. Scott’s issues with his own dad make the prospect of parenthood a minefield. But if he and Carrie can overcome their fears, this Christmas could bring them the best gift of all.

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Excerpt

She squeezed her eyes shut. “I’ll stay for another couple of days, but then I have to go home. I can’t stay here for Christmas.”

The soft whisper of his exhalation drifted over her folded hands on the table. “That’s great. It’s more than great. Thank you.”

She swallowed, wanting the words she needed to say out of her body as soon as possible. “You have your life, and I have mine.” She opened her eyes. “Neither of us has to change our plans because I’ve told you about Belle. You can still do what you want to do.”

Cover_Christmas At The Cove copyHis eyes ever so slightly darkened. “If I’m a father, it changes everything.”

Be strong, Carrie. Lay down the ground rules. “I disagree.” She straightened her spine. “I get it, Scott. Truly. I understand you think knowing about Belle means you have to change your entire life, but that’s not true.”

“That’s not what I’m––”

“Let me just say this, please.”

He closed his eyes and she took that as permission to continue. She inhaled a deep breath. “I like, and appreciate, you thinking what you should to do and how to do it, but I’m not asking you to change your plans overnight. This is going to take time. I want it to take time. Belle doesn’t need to know about you yet. You can go on with your life and when the time’s right, I’ll tell her about you.”

Silence.

Carrie swallowed against the dryness in her throat. When she’d been standing outside the holiday park, the decision to see her mission through to the end burning like a flame inside her, she’d thought her words would be strong and clear, delivered with a reverence he couldn’t argue with. Yet now, her stomach trembled with nerves and her hands longed to take his.

Why did he make her feel so torn and her reasoning unfair? Belle was hers. He had no obligation to her unless he wanted one. “I’m not saying that to be cruel, you know.” She sighed. “I’ve looked after her the last year without a partner beside me. She’ll be okay…whatever you decide.”

His continuing silence raised the hairs at the back of her neck, made her fear she drove a bigger wedge between them, but she wouldn’t falter. She had come to Templeton and achieved what she came to do––the gates were open and Scott could step through them whenever he was ready. As long as he realized the hinges wouldn’t creak back and forth on a whim.

About the Author

Rachel lives with her husband and two young daughters in a small town near Bath in the UK. After having several novels published by small US presses, she secured agent representation in 2011. In 2012, she sold two books to Harlequin Superromance and a further three in 2013. She also writes Victorian romance for Kensington–her debut was released in April 2013 and she has since signed for three more.

Rachel is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and Romance Writers of America. When she isn’t writing, you’ll find Rachel with her head in a book or walking the beautiful English countryside with her family and beloved black Lab, Max. Her dream place to live is Bourton-on-the-Water in South West England.

She likes nothing more than connecting and chatting with her readers and fellow romance writers. Rachel would love to hear from you!

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Amber Leigh Williams and “A Place With Briar”—GIVEAWAY!

Susana: What inspired you to start writing?

Amber: When I was in the third grade, my parents moved the family to the Gulf Coast of Alabama. After taking several tests, it was determined that my reading levels were too low and that I needed to be placed in a reading comprehension course in order for me to catch up with the rest of my classmates. I had a very patient teacher who taught me that reading doesn’t have to be difficult. It can be fun and enjoyable. This is around the time I discovered my love of the written word, storytelling, and writing in general. It makes sense since every writer you meet is normally always an avid reader as well!

Susana: Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?

Amber: I’ve learned over the years that writer’s block is an excuse. For me, it’s a combination of procrastination and perfectionism. Learning what writer’s block really was for me has helped tremendously, as well as a quote from bestselling romance author Nora Roberts: “You can’t fix a blank page.” I’m also at a point where I can no longer afford to sit around and wait for inspiration to strike. When you’re up against a deadline, you simply MUST sit down at the computer every day and WRITE, no matter what that page(s) looks like. And Nora’s right – I can fix a bad page much quicker than I can fix a blank one.

Susana: What comes first: the plot or the characters?

Amber: It depends on the story. In some cases, it’s the plot and in others it’s definitely the protagonist. Setting also is a big story influence for me. Usually, though, what happens is I come up with a “what if” scenario that creates great conflict between protagonists. The characters usually develop quickly around this and so does the plot framework and scenes.

Susana: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Amber: I’m an ingrained plotter. I’ve tried pantsing because most of my favorite authors are admitted pantsers. Plotting is my bread and butter, though. It’s the method I always go back to. I’m not a full-out outliner…. I like some things within the book to develop a bit more organically than that. But when I start writing, I pretty much know my characters inside and out, their conflict and how that conflict is going to resolve itself in the end.

Susana: Tell us something about your newest release that is NOT in the blurb.

Amber: In a way, A Place With Briar is a bit of a tribute to my upbringing. It takes place in my hometown, Fairhope, Alabama, a beautiful small town on the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay minutes away from Alabama’s white-sand beaches. I’ve spent my life in the South and I loved finally being able to allow a setting and a cast of characters to embody the spirit of the South. Although the hero and heroine, Cole and Briar, and the situation they find themselves in are not based on anything or anyone in real life, there are very small echoes of my own courtship with my husband, which happened on the Eastern Shore and the Gulf Coast. I can attest to the fact that it is the ideal place to fall in love. Travel + Leisure Magazine even went so far recently as to name Fairhope one of “America’s Most Romantic Towns!”

Susana: Are you working on something at present that you would like to tell us about?

Amber: Yes, I recently signed a two-book contract with Harlequin for two more Superromance novels to follow A Place With Briar, my Superromance debut. These two follow-up titles will involve some of the colorful secondary characters readers meet in Briar and Cole’s story. One of the first pieces of feedback I received from Harlequin about this book was that the editors cared almost as much about what happened to the secondary characters as they did about the hero and heroine. I always planned for A Place With Briar to be the first in a series, but this information from the editors really helped me decide whether or not I actually should go through with it.

Susana: What did you want to be when you grew up?

Amber: Ah, what didn’t I want to be when I grew up? LOL. Initially, I wanted to be an English/Language Arts or Literature teacher. I actually studied for a year to be a teacher before I realized that I was meant to be writer. If I hadn’t been called to writing, I might have been a marine biologist. I’ve lived on the water all of my life – whether it was the bay or the Gulf or the lake where I spent my childhood summers. In high school, I took a marine science course and was really absorbed by the material. I have a few issues with vertigo and seasickness, however, so I’m not sure how great my sea legs would have been in the field. Aside from writing now, I am still passionate about our waters, inland and offshore, and here and there I like to take an interest in conservation when I can.

Susana: If your publisher offered to fly you anywhere in the world to do research on an upcoming project, where would you mostly likely want to go? Why?

Amber: IRELAND! I’m sorry; did I say that a little too loudly? LOL. After my hometown series wraps up after four books, I’m most likely going to be doing a romance trilogy which revolves around three Irish characters. I’d love to visit Ireland to study the language and culture. My family has some strong Celtic ties as well, so it would be really fun to trace my ancestors’ footsteps back to Ireland and the Isle of Skye in Scotland. (Greetings from a Mighty McClure/MacLeod!)

Susana: Do you write in multiple genres or just one?

A Place with BriarAmber: I mostly write contemporary romance. I’ve written western contemporary romance, as well, which is a lot of fun! I’m a fan of cowboys. The real-life kind, not the NFL team. I’m a big history buff, however, and I absolutely love historical romance novels. I read more of those, historical fiction and non-fiction than anything else so, naturally, as a writer I’ve branched out a bit into historical romance. At some point, I would love to be able to focus on the historical genre a bit more. But right now my niche is definitely contemporary romance. As much as I love reading historicals, Regencies, and Highland romance, I enjoy writing contemporaries most.

Susana: Every writer dreams of getting “the call.” What were you doing when yours came? Who got to hear the good news first?

Amber: My agent relayed the news to me. I had known that Harlequin was interested in A Place With Briar and I had done several revisions of the manuscript. The revisions had taken a while because I was pregnant when I received the initial notes from the editors and I had some major issues with morning sickness and fatigue. I was so happy and relieved when the Superromance imprint finally said “yes” because I felt like the revised manuscript represented some really tough months and my best work to date.

Susana: Describe the “perfect hero.” What about the “perfect hero” for you?

Amber: As a reader, the perfect hero is a man who is compelling, someone I care about instantly and never stop caring about from the start of the book to the finish. I’m also a fan of the wounded/damaged romance hero. A beard doesn’t hurt much either and, as far as contemporary romance heroes are concerned, maybe a tattoo…or two. LOL. The perfect hero for me personally in real life is a 6-foot-tall, bearded man with calloused hands, kind blue eyes and an even kinder heart who can build beautiful houses from start to finish and who rides motorcycles. This is, of course, my real-life hero, my husband. 🙂

Susana: What has been your biggest adventure to date?

Amber: My biggest adventure started in the spring of 2012. My husband and I tried for a long time to have a baby, and four years later we had all but given up when I realized that we finally would. That baby is now an adventurous toddler and he keeps us both very busy running after him and taking him to new places he can explore. Parenthood has definitely been my biggest and most cherished adventure to date!

Readers, I’m interested to hear your thoughts on what the “perfect hero” would be? Does your idea of the perfect contemporary hero differ from the perfect historical hero, like mine? And if you have a real-life hero, feel free to tell me what he’s like, too 😉

COMMENTERS WILL BE ENTERED TO WIN A $15 BARNES & NOBLE GIFT CARD!

About A Place With Briar

He’s in some serious trouble…. 

Cole Savitt does not want to deceive Briar Browning. But if he hopes to see his son again, he has to find the weaknesses in her charming bed-and-breakfast, then get out of town fast! But the quaint inn isn’t the only thing charming him….

Cole’s straightforward plan becomes anything but when he begins to fall for the beautiful innkeeper. Suddenly everything’s on the line—his future with his son, a chance at happiness and the love of a good woman. Cole must rethink his priorities…and the stakes have never been higher. (RT BOOK REVIEWS gives this book 4 STARS!)

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Excerpt

“There’s something you need to know….”

Cole’s lips curved as he turned back to the bike. “I know.”

“You do?” Briar asked, sounding astounded.

“You’ve never ridden a bike before.”

“Is it that obvious?” she asked, rubbing her palms on her jeans.

“A little,” he said wryly. “Just lean with me into the turns. And hold on.”

Hell, if he didn’t coax her on now, she’d probably run for her life. And while that might have been better for the both of them under the circumstances, he found himself jerking his thumb behind him, motioning for her to get on.

After a brief pause, Briar dropped down her visor and stepped to the bike. Gripping his offered hand for balance, she climbed on behind him and placed her feet on the small passenger pegs.

Just this once, he was going to give Briar Browning the ride of her life. God help them both.

About the Author

biopic1Amber Leigh Williams lives on the Gulf Coast. A southern girl at heart, she loves beach days, the smell of real books, relaxing at her family’s lakehouse, and spending time with her husband, Jacob, and their sweet, blue-eyed boy. When she’s not running after her young son and three, large dogs, she can usually be found reading a good romance or cooking up a new dish in her kitchen. She is represented by Joyce Holland of the D4EO Literary Agency.

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