Romance Writers Weekly: All in the Name of Research-Locations

Welcome to Romance Writer’s Weekly Blog Tour. A.S. Fenichel provided our topic for the week! What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done in the name of “researching a book?”

largeI’ve been fairly active all my life. I can ride a horse, shoot a gun, ski down mountains, and have gone scuba diving with sharks. I loved sailing as a kid, prefer hiking outside to the Stairmaster at the gym, and have finished 2 triathlons. I’ve worked on a road crew, as a loader at UPS, as a waitress, at the Massachusetts Statehouse, at the United Nations in Geneva, and in tall skyscrapers for huge corporations. My experiences help me with my writing, but most of them came long before I’d decided to be a writer. I’ve never decided to climb a mountain for a book.

I’m very efficient at computer research, but when it comes to locations, I prefer visiting. There is nothing like taking in not only the sights and sounds of a foreign culture, but also the attitudes of the people. The physical push of a crowd on the Champs Elysee in Paris, the smell of spilled beer at a beer garden in Munich, the style of the people of Tokyo, and the tranquility of the Fiji Islands.

There are very few locations I’ve written about that were not described straight from my memory. One place I never visited, however, is North Korea. My novel True Deceptions has a significant amount of scenes in the countryside there. I do not have a desire to visit North Korea, especially having published a book where businessmen are executed by the North Korean military. My research came from articles, photographs, and a study of Google maps to plan my hero and heroine’s escape.


The second location I wrote extensively about without having visited was Columbia. I set the location of the third and final novel in the True Lies series on the property of a drug cartel in the Andes Mountains. I researched the area again by Google, but I also found many documentaries about harvesting opium for heroin. The films provided some knowledge of the sights, smells, and dangers of living in such a place.


Future locations I’d love to visit include China, Russia, and India. I can imagine entirely new environments to explore. New tastes to discover, new sights to see, and new people to understand.

Where would you go if you had the opportunity?

Travel to J.J. Devine to read about her research.

Ready for 2016? It’s coming anyway.



I accomplished many goals in 2015. First novel published, second novel published, made PAN (a professional author designation) for the Romance Writers of America, spoke at the Debut Author Breakfast at Thrillerfest, and finished my first legal/political thriller.

The pressure is on to make 2016 even better. I made a few resolutions to make sure I keep my sanity as I increase my writing goals and take on more cases with my law practice.

  1. Do one thing at a time. I do my best work when my focus is 100% on what I’m doing, so I need to make sure to stay on task to complete one goal and then move onto something else.
  2. Every complaint requires a solution. Complaining about something is never beneficial unless I am actively searching for a solution. No solution? Then I need to move on to things I can change.
  3. Meditate everyday. I’m doing this a bit differently. Instead of sitting and saying “Omm” and thinking about all the things I need to do, I’m going to walk at least a half hour after lunch. When I’ve done this in the past, my creativity and productivity have soared in the afternoon.
  4. Practice my French and Spanish. Every year I tell myself I will practice these languages. I never do. The result is that my daughters are much better than I am in French, and one of them is also taking Spanish, sure to surpass my limited ability by the end of the school year. I’m doomed if I don’t work on my linguistic skills.
  5. Realize that everyone has the right to think what they want, even if I disagree. Different politics? A bad review? Someone hates my new shoes? Let it go. I have to focus on my goals, my family, and the issues close to my heart.

I could list more resolutions about my diet, fitness, and sleep habits, but I’m a believer in keeping things simple. Have a wonderful New Year’s celebration and may next year be your best yet!

Romance Writers’ Weekly



Welcome to Romance Writers’ Weekly Fan Fiction Week.If you came from Dani Jace’s blog at, welcome.

This week’s topic comes from Jo Richardson.

FanFiction is getting a lot of attention these days. Certain books have opened up the “pull to publish” flood gates, as it were – whether people like it or not. What fandom do you have a thing for? I want the title and opening scene (short or long) that you would give to a FanFiction you might write, if you were so inclined to, that is. 😀

No, I didn’t do this correctly, I rarely follow rules.


I can’t write fan fiction. Seriously, I tried. Last week, I toiled over a brilliant Harry Potter and Hermione Granger story where Hermione is a recent widow and she needs to stop Harry from breaking a rule in order to save his dying wife. This plot, as I was told by two irate teenagers, has been written to death on various fan fiction forums and I wasn’t that good at harnessing their essence. I was about to tell them what I thought about them, but decided to go for coffee instead. I’m calmer now.

In reality, they told the truth. I messed up some canon and never formed a 3D character profile of Harry. Getting a character right is important to me, and this one wasn’t passing my quality test. In addition, I have zero memory for the details necessary to give another author’s world the reverence due. I can’t even remember the hair color of the character of my last published book, never mind someone else’s creation.

My daughters write fan fiction, and they are fantastic. They understand the nuances of the twelve (or thirteen?) Doctors. They ship Sherlock and Watson. They dress as trolls from Homestuck for Comic Con and run. They hate me watching television with them because I ask stupid questions. Apparently, there are stupid questions.


So I will read my co-Romance Writers Weekly fantastic stories today, but spare you all from work not worthy of being written. Instead, I’m heading back to my office to write about a few characters who live in my soul and are dying to get out.


Head over to Kristi Rose

Romance Writers’ Weekly: FLASH FICTION

Welcome to this week’s edition of Romance Writers’ Weekly. Have you come over from A.S. Fenichel’s blog? Welcome!!!

Fiona Riplee offered up our topic this week. Flash fiction – Your hero & heroine are playing an “old-school” board game (one with an actual board or pieces old or new – just not a video game). The winner gets a special prize. 1000 words or less.

Did I follow the rules??? NO! This was why I didn’t graduate with honors. I did something, but not quite what was required. I forgot the board game and just had a game. :(



Kate. She was the key to the missing car and the fifteen pounds of heroin he’d neglected to turn over to the evidence department. And now he’d have to beg or spend a long, long time in prison. He took his cruiser over to her apartment, a sweet little place overlooking the Naples Yacht Club and Crayton Cove.

Three knocks and she answered in nothing but a green silk nightgown and carrying a bottle of tequila.

“Come on in, Officer.” She turned around and sauntered back to the bar, all hips and attitude. She didn’t pour the poison into shot glasses. Not Kate. She poured the Jose Cuervo into tumblers, at least two fingers worth. Holy hell, it was going to be a long night.

“Listen, honey. I’m not here for anything but the information on a certain car.”

“Want the information, sweetie? Drink.” She handed him a glass.

He took a drink. The liquid burned his throat and made him cough

Damn, strong stuff.

“Take it easy. This stuff can grow hair on your chest.” She stared at Harry’s chest a bit too long. “Maybe you’d need a bit more to get the follicles working.”

“Are you done?” He didn’t need this aggravation. He needed to get what he was there for and then leave, hopefully, never to return.

She walked out to her balcony and sat at a small table. Harry followed. The woman was drop dead beautiful. Dark brown hair, green eyes that slanted up at the corners just enough to give her an almost feline appearance. He looked away to get his bearings. She would rip him apart without a second thought. A pelican was flying low over the water and several boats were headed back to their slips for the night.

He glanced back at her to see her smirking because she had the upper hand, as always. “How about this, you match me drink for drink for the next hour and if, and trust me, this is a big if, you’re still standing, you get the information.”

“Deal.” He had no other choice. Threats had never worked on her in the past. Kate was made of steel.

She shot back the tequila and placed the empty glass on the table. “Ready for the next one?”

Harry blew out some of the tension in his chest and then shot down the rest of his drink too. “Ready.”

He followed her inside to the bar where she poured two more tumblers, higher this time.

“This really is a waste of time, Harry.”

“Why is that?”

“The car may be miles and miles away by now. Perhaps sold to someone who bought it in good faith.”


She lifted her glass to his and tapped the edge. “We’ll see.”

They both downed the drink together. Her face unconcerned and cool, his not so much. This was awful stuff.

“More?” she asked. Her mouth lifted into a grin.

He handed her the glass. “Hurry up. I need the information.”

This little back and forth went on for the next twenty minutes until the bottle was dry and another was close to the same fate. Kate had moved herself to the living room couch, her legs kicked up on the coffee table. Harry sat in the recliner opposite her. A warm fog surrounded his thoughts and soon, the world went black.

He woke in the backseat of the 1968 Mustang he’d owned since high school. The car he’d been searching for.

His clothes were missing and two empty bottles of tequila littered the floor. “Son of a bitch.”

He’d have to move the heroin to the evidence room before anyone noticed. He sat up too quickly, the dizziness gave him a headache and made him want to puke. And then he noticed the blue lights. How the hell could he explain that amount drugs in his own car?

“Harry Tornetti, fancy meeting you here. Nice outfit.” John Shipton laughed and directed a flashlight at him.

“Maybe he was so happy to locate the car, he decided to celebrate,” Tim Smith said.

“Screw you. How did you two locate the car?”

“Someone called the police tip line.”

“Let me guess, a female.”

John decided to be an asshole and photograph the “evidence” before throwing him a blanket.

Harry struggled to get up, but he needed to know. He went to the back of the car and opened the trunk. Inside was nothing but an envelope with his name on it.

John peered over his shoulder, flashlight still in his hand. “Payment for last night, pretty boy?”

“Don’t say a word, Shipton.”

The envelope contained a note in Kate’s handwriting.

Dear Harry,

Here’s the car. I took the liberty of cleaning out the trunk for you. Say hi to all your police buddies and remember that crime never pays, unless of course you’re a criminal.

Love, Kate

And that was it. The drugs were gone, and he was in the clear. And Kate? Well, he’d see her soon enough. It was only right to replace the tequila after all.


Your next stop is Lia Fairchild – She played the game right and included a board game. Jose Cuervo somehow made it into both of our stories. I think we share a bond!!

Romance Writers’ Weekly: Killing Your Darlings

Welcome back to the Romance Weekly Romance Blog Hop. The coolest romance writers in the business link together once a week to talk writing, life, and random stuff.

This week’s topic is from Carrie Elks

Stephen King famously said that it’s necessary to ‘kill your darlings’ when editing your work. Do you have anything you had to remove from a book that you’re still proud of? Or something that embarrasses you so much it will never again see the light of day? If you’re feeling really brave, share some of it with us!

Did you come from Betty Bolte’s blog If not- go back. She has so many darlings in her work- it makes me cry when she cuts them.

This is one of my favorites of hers.

I started “Untrue Colors” with a completely different set of characters in mind. Alexandra Northrop was not in control of her life. In fact, she was a drunken thug at the beginning of the original version. Henry Chilton was a pompous ass. They cracked me up.

My beta readers and ultimately my editor didn’t find them as funny. So I reworked the characters and seriously, their advice was great.


But I still love this initial scene. Here’s a few paragraph’s of the great break in….

Henry Elliott Chilton, Earl of Ripon, a title only used by suck-ups and sycophants, sat in his favorite leather chair immersed in the darkness of an oak-paneled library. He preferred the title of Professor. He’d earned that title. He’d been born to the other.

Piles of exams to be graded rested on his desk along with three articles to be reviewed for The Journal of the Anthropological Society of Oxford. Despite his youth, only thirty-six and one of the youngest full professors in the department, Henry didn’t want to play cat and mouse with anyone, especially tonight. He wanted a brandy, a good book, and a down pillow. He had little time or patience for the three drunken students who seemed intent on stealing his brass fish head doorknocker.

Ripping the fish head off his front door had been deemed a rite of passage for the first year students of Worcester College. The beginning of spring tended to bring out the bravado in normally mild-mannered first years. Admittedly, he’d stolen it from his professor when he first arrived on campus, fresh out of Harrow, and every now and then the students attempted to repeat the feat. He should have taken it home to Ripon Manor, but that wouldn’t be fair to future generations of pranksters.

The clock chimed once, signaling Henry’s bedtime. “Simon,” he called out into the cold stone passages. “We seem to have a few visitors. Can you assist them please?” Simon’s presence alone intimidated even the most brazen students, if Simon chose to act as a security guard and not as the director of an action sequence.

“Right away, sir,” the answer boomed back.

Moonlight shone into Henry’s backyard like a searchlight illuminating two young men and one scrawny female with her long hair flying in all directions. Dressed in various forms of black leather and shredded blue jeans, they climbed over the small iron fence. From the look of them, they wouldn’t be successful in their quest. The two boys, one sporting a spiky blue Mohawk, glanced around and fidgeted from foot to foot. When artificial light radiated from the front yard, probably Simon opening the front door, they both leaped back over the fence toward the campus. Simon wouldn’t be giving chase. His efforts generally stopped at the light switch.

The girl watched them leave and then continued forward. She crouched low acting like a B movie spy. Where the hell was she going? She stumbled over herself and rolled onto her back with her knees bent and her arms stretched out to each side. Henry jumped up ready to speed down to assist her if she was hurt, but she wasn’t hurt. Her shoulders shook and he could hear her howls of laughter from two floors up. Disheveled hair hung in front of her face. She brushed it aside to reveal heavy black make-up covering her eyes and lips. She struggled to her feet and headed toward his basement window. Damn. She was going to try and enter.

The new beginning has more suspense and makes Alex and Henry a lot more sympathetic. I’m keeping this version, however, for when I want to read about characters just a bit darker around the edges.

Let’s jump to Jenna Da Sie’s blog to see what she does with her darlings.

Romance Writers Weekly: My Day Job

Welcome to Romance Writers Weekly Blog Hop!

If you’ve come from Kristi Rose, welcome!! Her book is sale- just an FYI!!!!

The Girl He Knows

This week Jeanne McDonald provided the topic this week.

Outside of writing, what is your day job?


My career as an attorney had a bumpy start. A new graduate of law school, I couldn’t find a legal based job in the middle of a recession that had a few of the largest laws firms in Boston crashing down. Instead, I volunteered at Legal Assistance and helped clients who couldn’t afford legal services. Within a year, I had opened a small law firm and also became a court appointed attorney representing parents who had lost or were at risk of losing their children for abuse or neglect. The learning curve was huge and the stakes were high. I loved it, yet the constant pressure to not mess up and ruin someone’s life hovered over me constantly.

And then I moved to a new state for my husband’s medical training and found a job with an accounting firm doing tax law. I became an international corporate tax specialist. Working with some of the wealthiest corporations in the world had amazing perks. Instead of visiting the poorest homes in the area, I was dining at the best restaurants. I received an assignment to work in the London office complete with a furnished two bedroom flat a few blocks south of Big Ben. The hours were grueling at times, but I enjoyed the challenge.

And then, almost a decade after becoming a tax attorney, I moved to a new state for my husband’s career. This time, I had two children in tow and the long hours at the office didn’t seem so satisfying. I homeschooled the kids to keep their lives more stable while we moved yet again.

When the kids went to school, I began writing and I love it. It’s the job I was meant to do, and yet something was missing. There are so many people in the world who don’t have access to decent legal assistance. I’ve seen how huge corporations spend enormous amounts of money to maneuver through regulations for their own financial gain, while people who have done nothing wrong but been born poor have to fight a system rigged against them. And I have a law degree that has value to those people.

So I’m reentering the legal profession not in the corporate world, but back to my legal assistance days. I have a part time practice that represents children and their parents in abuse and neglect cases. The pay isn’t great, but the impact is huge.

I’m currently writing a legal thriller and having my characters head into a courtroom for a murder trial. It’s been fun mixing my two lives together.

Head on over to Jami Denise and see what she does when not writing amazing books.