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Wednesday, May 30, 2012


  Wow, the last entry for a great blog, and it's all mine.  
I think the pressure may be too much!

Art by Pickyme-she's fabulous!

  Seriously, this has been a great blog for me.  Because of it, I made some really cool friends, and the memories we've made together have been awesome.  I will treasure them forever.

Me and Marianne Stephens at RT 2011!

  I think memories are underrated.  Some folks might think of them as pleasant daydreams.  I consider them to be much more than that, more like artist Bill Keane's "Rememberies".  They are remembrances of great moments in life that empower one to overcome some obstacle, whether it's a broken spirit or a path toward a goal.  In the USA we just celebrated Memorial Day and the weekend was filled with remembrances of what was sacrificed by our servicemen and women in order to enjoy the life we do.  Remembering their sacrifices and victories enables me to go to work everyday and serve their brethren at the VA I work for despite the hiring and pay freezes currently in place.  Remembering lost loved ones compels me to live a good life.  

Dear Ol' Dad, serving in the Korean War.

  The best part is that they are always available when you need them, you just lean over and pluck one out!  When I'm freaking out, I think of cuddling a golden lab puppy, works every time!

Casey, definitely NOT a puppy here-lol!

  And recently, I lost a beloved cousin who fought most bravely against prostate cancer.  His struggle and personal faith illuminated the hearts of everyone who knew him.  I never met anyone who illustrated the love of God better than he did during his journey home.  His memory will comfort me when it's my turn, and I'll know he'll be waiting for more hugs...

Kissin' cousins!

  A person without memories is surely a poor soul.  They allow one to celebrate, to heal, to love and connect with others.  They equip us to endure truly difficult times when all seems lost.  What blessings they are, and always at the ready.

  Thank you to everyone associated with this blog. It has been a privilege to be a part of it. Now go forth and remember!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Special Memory

May’s theme for All Day and All Night Writing Divas is memories. Happy memories are the best kind, so the first thing I thought of when deciding what to write was how ecstatic my husband and I were when we found out I was pregnant.
Sometimes these little bundles of joy don’t come easily. That certainly was so in my case. For four years, that elusive stork kept avoiding my door, or chimney, or wherever it was that the stork liked to drop off his bundle. So for me, there were no pink or blue booties to knit, no dirty diapers to change, no joining the Momma Club. *Sigh*
But then one day--it wasn’t in May but in June--I had a funny feeling. What if... what if...?

I didn’t mention my suspicions to my hubby, and believe me, that took some doing! “What’s new, honey?” he would say.

“Oh, nothing, dear.” Right. Any minute I was ready to explode from anticipation.

Finally, after a week of pins and needles, I bought one of those over-the-counter tests. Whether the positive results were supposed to turn it pink or not, I don’t remember. I do remember I wasn’t supposed to drop the test tube. Well, at four in the morning I could hardly contain myself--I dropped the tube!

But the kit had turned the right color. Yes! Double Yes!

Now, I had a choice: should I awaken my sleeping husband and share the news? Or should I let the poor man get his rest?

No contest. I woke him up.

It took him a few minutes to figure out what I was saying--I was that excited. Then he and I hugged each other, dreaming about our new child, and praying that I really was pregnant.

Later in the day, I went to my doctor for a blood pregnancy test--to know for sure if our long wait was over. When I returned home to sit by the phone for the results, I found a single red rose on the kitchen table, along with a note written on the back of an envelope.

I’ve saved the note, all these years, to help me remember the magic of that day. Here it is:

“Works cannot describe...?” I scratched my head.  Oh, he meant to say “words.”

When my hubby came home, I showed him the note and we both got a big kick out of it. Ever since then, whenever one of us gets really excited, we say, “Works cannot describe...!”

P.S. the blood test came back positive and in January I gave birth to our beautiful miracle baby. She’s now a lovely young lady and we bless the day she came into our lives!

Hope you enjoyed my May memory!


Susanne Marie Knight
Read outside the box: award-winning Romance Writing With A Twist!
Now Available: The Minx Tobin Mystery Series: The Embezzled Envelope--Case Six (Desert Breeze Publishing)
An old embezzlement case takes on a new twist: murder. When Minx tries to clear her good friend’s name, she gets burned... literally.

Now Available: A Karmic Connection (
Elizabeth and Paul went their separate ways twenty years ago. When their paths cross again, will they heed the psychic signs that they are meant to be together?

Friday, May 18, 2012


As a recovering illiterate (once illiterate, you always feel a semblance of literacy) I have found words in all forms to be beautiful. There is beauty in the word itself, in the formation of sentences and words put together to create stories, articles, and letters.

My favorite set of words (today) is euphemisms. It's just down right fun to think about how words are used in different forms and still mean the same things. Let's say you want to convey something but you want to say it in a way that won't seem harsh or offensive. Try a euphemism.

Here are a few words and their alternates.

Dead -- deceased
Disabled -- challenged
Kill -- terminate
Crime -- antisocial behavior
Lie -- fabrication
Poor -- underprivileged
Theft -- misappropriation of funds

Do you agree that using a faux is better than using imitation? What about encore viewing instead of rerun? Yep, those have been used.

I just touched on a few that are out there. Different words are often used to make a person feel better but really mean the same thing no matter how much you try to pretty it up? Aren't euphemisms fun? How often do you use them in your everyday dealings? In writing?

What other euphemisms can you think of?


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Bridging the Gap Between the Beginnings

There's a big, wide gap between where the story begins and where the characters began. Memories form the bridge that connects the story to the characters, the characters to the story -- and the reader to both. Very little else can build a book or kill it as quickly as the way the writer builds that bridge.

IMHO, one of the worst ways to build the bridge is by starting a book with a "prologue." It has all the appeal of watching the second in a movie series with an oh-so-helpful someone who watched the first part. You know that person, right? She's the one who'll lean over in the middle of a crucial scene to explain - "See, in Part 1 they first met on a bridge where she saved him by talking him out of jumping." Grrr. Right? Just - grrr.

Okay, all you prologue fanatics (I hear there's a clique of them hiding in a bunker somewhere in the Midwest). They'll tell you that a prologue is more like your perky little pal leaning over to give you the low-down during the previews. I'll give 'em that but really - is it any better? Where it's the sequel to a book or the sequel to a movie, I want to experience it for myself. I don't want to start Part 2 armed with my friend's opinion of Part 1. I don't even want to start Part 2 armed with the author's opinion of Part 1 - and there, in a nutshell (or a duck's egg) is the problem with prologues.

Prologues can convince a reader to close a book before they reach Chapter 1. There's another type of bridge that works a little better than prologues - it lets a reader get into the first couple of chapters before flooding the bridge and washing the reader -and her interest - far, far away. Yes, it's the infamous info-dump. Usually, it'll occur after a reader has gotten a wee ways into the story. She's met the hero and the heroine and often they've met each other. She's in the story and going with the flow when suddenly, the author interjects herself into the story. The author will tell the reader that the couple met before when they were 3 and 6 or she'll explain that the hero is the best friend of the heroine's middle brother and used to come home with her brother for all school holidays.

And the author loses the reader who'd just been getting swept up in the story - cheering for the heroine and hissing at the hero. By the time the reader digs her way out of the dump, the mood's been broken. And we all know that a broken mood is a mighty hard thing to rebuild. So the trick is to feed the reader the information in a way that it doesn't break the mood.

In two of my books I did this with a doorknob. Think about it - a hand on a doorknob is chock full of dramatic potential. In Brotherly Love a trio of brothers is at their ranch awaiting the arrival from finishing school of their little sister (by choice, but not by blood). The eldest brother is at the window watching as the carriage arrives and his little sister steps down. He reacts to her in a way that is far from brotherly. When she makes her to the porch and out of sight of the window, the older brother watches the door, recalling the little orphan he'd helped raise and wondering how she'd turned into this woman who called to the lover instead of the brother. He watches the knob emotions divided between the brother who knows he's not ready to treat this woman like a sister and the lover who is hard and taut and more than ready to treat this woman to every sensual trick he knows.

In A Sixth Sense of Forever the book opens with the hero chatting with a group of brothers who were his best friends growing up. They floor him by asking him to give their little sister - a girl he's known since she was a toddler - sex lessons. After a vigorous debate, he tells them he doesn't know if it's possible because she'd have to arouse him as a man in order for him to teach her such tender lessons. The hero heads up to her room where he knows she's taking a bath because that's the perfect test of whether she can arouse him. But at the door, with his hand on the knob, he hesitates, and has to acknowledge that he's been lying to himself. He's been running from his feelings for this girl since she was 16 because a family curse means that he can never marry a woman he loves.

In both of the above books, I inserted backstory to add to the mood I was building so that it didn't dump a bunch of information that would wash the reader out of the story. Another way to do this is by making the backstory part of the present tale. In A Faerie Fated Forever the reader learns of the faerie curse because the hero's clansmen are taunting him over the poorly hidden dowdy lass in a sack whose crush on the hero is locally infamous.

The past makes us who we are and explains what we've become. It's no different for heroes and heroines in a romance novel. But a story has to start somewhere and picking that spot is part of an author's job. Creators who get it very, very right can do such a good job at inserting flashbacks or backstory that readers or viewers are sorry the story didn't start somewhere else. I find that to be true on Shonda Rhimes' "Scandal." Last week's episode flashed back to the start of the affair between then-Governor Fitz and Olivia. It was during the campaign. Fitz was unhappily married to a wife having an affair, but he wasn't yet the Prez. HELLO - does that not remind anyone else of Mer/Der on "Grey's Anatomy"? I've always thought that the way we were introduced to Mer/Der explains a lot about how well they clicked for fans. And I think Fitz and Olivia would click the same way if "Scandal" pulled an about face next season and went back to the beginning. Let Shonda come on in Epi 1, explain, and let 'er rip. When the great Ms. Rhimes tweeted the good news about the show being renewed, I replied and asked her why she hadn't started the show back there - in that sweet spot.

Well, Shonda didn't answer my tweet but if she had, I'm guessing that she'd give the same answer any author would give to that question. The answer is - that's where the story started for the writer. I know that, but since I'm "just a fan" of Ms. Rhimes' work, I couldn't help putting my two cents in. But, like I said, the flashback epi of "Scandal" proved just how good Ms. Rhimes and her team of writers is at crafting a story. Fitting in backstory is a real test of the quality of an author's work.

A story must start somewhere but it will never move from that point unless the characters in the tale whisper to the hearts of readers. A reader will never care for a character who remains a stranger. Memories are the key to letting readers understand the characters, but it is a key that must be wielded carefully. Too heavy or too light a hand risks presenting a character in a false light. The only thing more likely to lose a reader than a character who remains a stranger is one a reader later realizes that she misunderstands.

When it's done right, memories or backstory will give a reader a clearer insight and understanding of events about to unfold in the tale. "To look backward for a while is to refresh the eye, to restore it, and to render it the more fit for its prime function of looking forward." ~Margaret Fairless Barber, The Roadmender
NOW IT'S YOUR TURN - Quack back about your thoughts on backstory, memories, Shonda Rhimes' work, Grey's Anatomy, Scandal or anything you want to Quack about. Just quack loud and quack proud and remember - insanity is more than valued - It's encouraged!

Mary Anne Graham
Quacking Alone Romances
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Picture credits:

Bridge gap

Close-up duck

All other pictures from
Quacking Alone Romances

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Memories: Ours and Our Characters

Memories. Good ones. Bad ones. We tend to push aside the ones we don't want to remember, but they have a nasty habit of surfacing at times.

Good ones, sometimes embellished with our creative perception, pop up more often and make us happy. Savor the good ones; know the bad ones but don't let them taint your life.

Our characters have's called backstory. Every hero and heroine has things in their past, good and bad, that they deal with. Maybe it's a failed romance, bad business deal, death of a loved one...all things mimicking "real life" events that happen to everyone. The bad memories are a catalyst for better motivation for character change and growth.

In Gone to the Dogs, Katie has to deal with the memory of her boyfriend's betrayal. Determined to move on with her life, she remembers his actions, and uses her self-control to push herself forward and change her life.

In Street of Dreams, Eileen recalls how her police department still treats women as "unequal" partners in her detective division. She uses her instincts to prove her worth, and strives through the book to show her skill qualities.

I could go on with all of my other books, but you get the idea. And, the heroes have their share of bad memories to overcome. These are fiction; I've created memories for my heroes and heroines.

In my nonfiction book, Guilty Survivor - Memoirs of Tamerla Kendall, I had no part in creating memories. What I ghostwrote are Tamera's memories of her life living in a war zone. There are good memories for her; but the book focuses on her hardships, and how she managed to survive. Her courage and determination to life through a was she didn't want enabled her to become the motivated-to-succeed woman she is today.
Photos: Flickr: ibookperson, BuhSnarf, and 'Playingwithbrushes' photostreams

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Triggering Memories

May is a month for passages, for finishing and beginning stages of life's journeys. Pictures bring back the memories that make me smile back on events both big and small--all of which merge into a collage of what was, what is and what is yet to come. If I may, I'll share a few memories inspired by some photos I plucked at random from my personal collection.

 Flowers bloom, only to fade and come back the following year, evoking memories of the Mother's Day when this orchid arrived from a daughter who couldn't be with me for the first time in her life. I think about the end of her childhood and beginnings of a friendship I'm reminded of each time the plant breaks out in vibrant color. Each blossom takes me back in time to when she took her first step...went off to the first day of kindergarten...graduated from high school...and married the love of her life one bright, spring afternoon far away from home.
 I remember going last year to see my middle son, noticing how he's grown up and changed--but yet he's kept the wonderful sense of humor and love for animals that made me so proud when he was a little boy. Life goes on, but some things never change. The wooden owl reminds me of a day trip we took west of Denver, where a carver turned simple wood posts into fanciful pieces of art, and that brings to mind the lovely flowers and breathtaking scenery he showed me during my stay.

These pictures bring back other memories, of Tex-Mex dinners and frozen margaritas, the best lox and bagels I ever ate at a Kosher deli that was featured in Drive Ins, Diners and Dives...and best of all, the fun of meeting my son's partner's family and their circle of good friends at a Sunday brunch complete with an incredible array of food and drink. I've never enjoyed such fantastic tasting mimosas as the ones his partner made for us that day!

On the way home I detoured by my youngest son's and got to hold his then-three month old baby, who reminded me so much of his daddy at that age. The shot of the three metal pigs--daddy, mommy and baby, taken outside their apartment--brings bittersweet memories of the time when we thought their future promised a lifetime of togetherness. Though my son and his love split up, they've kept their little one in mind and promised that even though they're not together, their little boy will always have both of them, no matter what they have to do to accomplish it. I laugh through my tears, because while not all the memories are happy, they remind me of beginnings and endings, the joy and sadness I'm glad to share with the ones I love. 

Thanks for letting me share a few of my memories. Whether happy or sad, they make up the fabric of my life, my family and my friends, and thus they're all precious. The worst fate I can imagine is losing my memory--I pray that never happens to me, to you or to any of us.

I hope you'll share some of your fondest memories with me. I'll be choosing my favorite one of your comments in June and asking the winner to choose one of my nearly 100 books they'd like to read. I'll post the winner's name on this blog as a comment.

Ann Jacobs
Watch for MOUNTAIN HEAT, a Blush romance coming soon from Ellora's Cave

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Truth Really is Stranger Than Fiction

Several times in the past when writing stories, I drew on my own memories... and then was told by several members of my crit group that they couldn't believe those things would happen. 

In The Christmas Curse, my heroine has terrible memories of Christmas -- one of them is when she got a training bra in her Christmas stocking:

Thankfully, this wasn't as embarrassing as her eleventh Christmas, when Santa left a size 28AA training bra and a trial-sized box of Kotex in her stocking—a lovely tale that made the rounds at school, thanks to the big mouths of her two older brothers, and resulted in much bra strap snapping upon her return from vacation. She probably still had the bruises on her back to prove it.
Yes... yes that really did happen to me.  Though I only had one older brother at home.

And in Pregnancy Cravings, I used the memory of the time when I was pregnant myself and DYING for salt and vinegar chips (taking an entire lunch period to find them ... none of the stores by my job carried them as this was when they had first come out).

Her obsession started innocently enough. In desperation, and unable to find the specific item she needed at the last three stores, Patrice ran to the counter of a little mom-and- pop grocery. A quick glance at her watch told her she'd been gone for nearly an hour. How was that possible?

"Do you have salt and vinegar kettle cooked chips?" She directed the question to the flannel-clad back of the clerk at the register.
Both memories were actually the impetus for the idea for the entire story of each.

I like to hope, when bad things happen, some day I'll pull out that memory and use it for good ... in a story.

What are some memories you have that you think would make great story starters?

You can find Marianne Arkins at her website and blog.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Cute Memories

The fibromyalgia is not happy today so I'll keep my post short and sweet... Enjoy.

Funny Pictures of Cats With Captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures, and check out our Socially Awkward Penguin lolz!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Memories sweet and sad.

This month is all about memories. In the past month mine were kicked into gear when one member of my family discovered she was sick. Thinking about losing her set my mine to memories of all the times I’ve shared with her in my life. My brother’s first baby, and she was so beautiful. Oh, yes, I know you’re thinking prejudice, family members always think a baby is beautiful. She truly was then as now with features as fine as a sculptured porcelain doll so much like her mother’s. She hated me. No kisses or hugs for her auntie until her sister came along a few years later. Maybe it was just that when sister came, she was at an age to reach out to those outside her nucleus family, but I had never had a baby reject me as strongly as she did, a sign of strength that she’s needed this past month. As a toddler, auntie got to babysit. When her mother died, I had the sad responsibility of telling her her mommy would never be coming back. She drew away from me again then. I think it was the association of never seeing mommy and the one who told her. Still through the years I was a part time surrogate mommy for her and her sisters whenever I could be, helping my brother as much as possible in raising three small daughters alone. I remember one shopping trip for school clothes, each one of them looking for something different in what they wanted. One day on a shopping trip of my own, I caught her ditching school. Ah, the look on her face when she realized she was busted. I never told her dad. Dads find out those kind of things without aunts being snitches. When she announced she was getting married, at the justice of the peace’s, the family threw a fit. We all wanted her to have a wedding she’d remembered. I did her flowers, and the wedding was held up when our son’s daughter decided to make that the day to enter into the world. We stayed as long as we could for the birth before we raced to the wedding to deliver the flowers, the bouquet for the beautiful bride. It was, though starting late, a lovely wedding. She reminded me so much of her mother on her wedding day. I’ve had the joy of sharing her three beautiful daughters, babysitting them when mommy and daddy took some time for themselves. When the news came of her illness we were all shocked and frightened. We’ve received good news in that even though it is cancer, it is of a type that responses well to treatment. We’ve got a while yet before we’ll know for certain she’ll be free of it, but if strength and courage make the difference, supported by love from all of those around her, she’ll beat it as she has all other challenges in her life. I’ve never told her, and I do want to for all to read, how very proud we are of her and how much having her in our lives has brought us joy. Love you, Renee.
larion aka larriane wills, two names one author, thousands of stories.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Beholding Constant Beauty

  I recently drove to a professional symposium from my home in western Washington state to an area called Tri-cities in central Washington.  In order to do this, I had to drive four hours across some of the most beautiful country you have ever seen.  Thank God for books on tape-or rather-books on iPod!

  The drive called for a journey from the Seattle area where the hills meet Puget Sound to crossing the majesty of the Cascade range.  There, lovely mountain vistas abound with high altitude lakes and their soft caresses of low-hanging mists.  Once past the mountain passes, the topography changes.  Soft rolling hills appear, looking as if God Himself had chiseled their forms and then pulled soft green felt tightly around them.  Fertile valleys below swell with vineyards and fruit orchards in their sunshine.  The drive was seriously zen, and I was grateful for each mile along my way.  

  When I had finally reached my hotel's registration desk in the town of Kennewick, I was told that I had been upgraded to the executive suite.  SWEET!  Although my travels ended when I stepped out of my car, the beauty of the day persisted.  Even then, when I opened the door to my room, this is what greeted me:

  There were flowers, a plate of HUGE chocolate-covered strawberries, a bottle of wine, and a hand-written personal note from the hotel.  Wow, I was totally blown away!  Not only had Beauty persisted, but it took residence right there in my room.

  The one thing that worried me the most about my trip was chairing the upcoming board meeting for the first time as state president.  I didn't feel prepared, and I dreaded appearing stupid.  And wouldn't you know, it was all for nothing.  The board and general membership put me at ease as they always do, and helped me every inch along the way.  This is the beauty in ordinary things to me.  They were my plate of chocolate-covered strawberries. 

  I know that I've mentioned this previously, but I live with a couple of very annoying chronic autoimmune conditions.  Against my will, pain has become a constant companion.  However, the discomfort I live with is a very sage teacher in her own right.  Where others are bored with the dull repetition of life, I am grateful for every "normal" moment I have when I'm not in pain.  To me, this is a huge gift.  As a result, I believe I see more beauty in a day than most do in a week.  What our culture - or heck, the world - considers beautiful is completely laughable to me in many cases. 

  As a medical technologist, I see beauty at the "organismic" level.  When I peer into the microscope I see the beauty in nature, such as the uniformity of normal red blood cells,

the alternating barrel pattern in a fungal arthrospore, 

the military-straight lineup of a columnar epithelial cell layer in the bladder, 

the beautiful array of onion cells appearing as fenestrations  in a layer of its skin,

or in nature at large, the flawless symmetry of a nautilus in cross-section.

  These are prime examples of the beauty in ordinary things to me.  All of them keep me from taking life for granted, and I give thanks for them. 

  I hope that you will always see the unsung beauty in life, and also give thanks for it.  Thank you for sharing my journey.


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Beauty is truth...

In the spring of 1819, English Romantic Poet, John Keats wrote his famous, Ode to a Grecian Urn. While the poem is considered one of Keats' lesser works, his line 'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,' - that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know, has become as famous as his line, 'A thing of beauty is a joy forever'.

I first read Keats in college, but I have to say, his 'Ode' still leaves me thinking. If beauty is truth, yet we all agree beauty is subjective, then how can its truth be true? Doesn't the very meaning of subjective hold that the idea of beauty would then change from perspective to perspective and person to person?


Without revisiting Philosophy 101 any further, (my professors at Fordham University would be so proud), I would have to agree...believing that Keats', Beauty is truth, truth beauty, is merely reminding us that whatever we hold beautiful is own own personal truth, and regardless of another's opinion, it's all we need in this world.

As a writer, I have looked to Keats' quote for reassurance and peace of mind many times. Especially when someone else's opinion of "beauty and truth" has bashed my own in a review. It somewhat lessens the sting, comforting in the knowledge that even centuries ago, it was still all about subjective perspectives.

What if we could hold this personal truth of what we value as beautiful close to our hearts, practice it in our daily lives? Imagine the tidal wave of self-confidence that would follow. How much our self-esteem would blossom, and by our example, that of our children.

What if?

What and If are the two most important words in the English language when used together. They have the power to inspire dreams, and through those dreams affect great things. Beauty is truth, truth beauty is by far, for me, more than just an abstract notion. It's almost a battle cry. A call to arms defending that which nature itself deemed beautiful. Each and every one of us.

Beauty is truth, truth beauty? You bet. So find yours, and own it...
Whatever that truth may be.

Marianne Morea

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Beauty And Romance Writing With A Twist!

BEAUTY is All Day and All Night Writing Divas theme for April. My contribution will be about the goddess of Beauty, Aphrodite (Greek) or Venus (Roman).

I thought I’d look over my books to see how often Aphrodite/Venus, as the goddess of Beauty, appeared in my writing.

Here’s a snippet from my Regency romance, PAGING MISS GALLOWAY.

Lady Yancy turned her attention to her daughter. “Millicent, in that blue gown, you look as fresh as Aphrodite rising from the sea.”

As the figure sited in Botticelli’s masterpiece was notoriously undressed, Millicent blushed. “Mother, that was Venus.”

Waving the ever-present handkerchief, Lady Yancy shook her head. The large feather plume from her turban fluttered in the wake of her movements. “Venus, Aphrodite. Roman, Greek, what is the difference?...”

The Birth of Venus, Sandro Botticelli, 1484.

Evidently, I like this image because I used it again in my paranormal romantic suspense, GRAVE FUTURE.

Slamming his eyes shut to cut off the tantalizing sight of exposed, silky skin and white, soapy bubbles, Dan clenched his fists hard—to drive away his inner pain.
But he couldn’t keep his eyes shut all night. He permitted himself another glimpse. Jocelyn looked as lovely as Botticelli’s Venus on a half-shell—all innocence and femininity.

The Birth of Venus, William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1879

Beauty goes hand-in-hand with longing. Try this snippet from my Regency time-travel, TIMELESS DECEPTION.

For his own sake and for his son’s, Richard could not allow himself to be fooled by the aristocratic, appealing,... and adulterous Aphrodite whose bedchamber adjoined his.

Alicia did not keep him waiting long. Good. He was in no mood to enact a scene so she would dance attendance on him. Entering the room, she glided as Aphrodite might, poised and confident in her beauty. She wore a simple gown with ivory ruffles high on the neck. Matching ruffles encased her slim wrists. As always, she looked exceedingly lovely and feminine. Indeed, she appeared as if she passed a restful night. Would that she had passed it with him.

Sometimes, because the goddess Venus is also connected with sexual pleasure, her name is used as a synonym for a house of ill-repute.

From my time-travel Regency, LORD DARVER’S MATCH.

Simon slammed the door shut. Rosebud Tavern--a notorious temple of Venus. A place so vile by reputation that he had never felt the urge to visit inside its walls.

He shrugged, then explained, “By the bye, any establishment with the sign of a woman’s hand pouring coffee means that inside rests a temple of Venus.”

An Allegory with Venus and Cupid, Agnolo Bronzino, 1550

Venus/Aphrodite is an archetype--the epitome of Beauty. To be compared to Venus is an honor, indeed.

SOJOURN THROUGH TIME, time-travel Regency romance.

“True, but just look around you, everything is perfect. The spherical hedges, the winding stone pathways, the budding roses, the-- I say, who’s that picture of Venus?”

From my paranormal romantic suspense, PAST INDISCRETIONS.

“Oh, Ah dunno, ol’ buddy. Breeding tells, Ah always say. Why would a veritable Venus among women want to tether herself to someone who has tainted blood?”


The woman’s midnight hair was piled gloriously high on her head, and one lone ringlet curled over her bare shoulder. She might have given the Greek goddess Aphrodite cause for envy.

FOREVVER, science fiction futuristic romance

His thoughts turned to a story he’d learned about in childhood. A Greek or Roman tale where a man, Pygmalion, breathed life into an ivory statue. Or requested a goddess, Aphrodite/Venus, to make the statue live. Pygmalion then married his creation, and had a happily ever after ending, an ending that was unusual in mythology.

Jason had saved Flavia; he’d breathed life into her. Maybe their destinies were intertwined--

Regency romance, THE MAGIC TOKEN

In his enthusiasm, Pritchard dug his stirrups into his horse’s ribs and leaped forward. As eager as Marcus was to meet this diminutive Venus, he had to wince. One did not mistreat good horseflesh.

Short story fantasy romance, “Special Delivery

She drifted toward me, uncertain, as if a sudden gust might blow her away. I figured this was a dream... and she was my dream woman--plucked from the innermost recesses of my mind.

Draped in a dress of filmy chiffon, my dear Ms. Venus sashayed across the street. The sheer fabric was unlike anything I’d ever seen, and boy, did it do justice to her figure. Every curve was enticingly displayed. I’ll make no bones about it;I lusted for her.

Short story fantasy romance, “Zeus And The Single Teacher” (in my anthology LUCKY THIRTEEN)

If anyone knew about attractive guys, it was Venus. Maybe it was because of her name, but her growing list of boyfriends was the talk of the entire school.

Cupid Complaining To Venus, Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1530s

Hope you enjoyed this foray into my Romance Writing with a Twist!

Susanne Marie Knight
Read outside the box: award-winning Romance Writing With A Twist!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Beauty of Earning A Spot On The Keeper Shelf

Things are beautiful if you love them.
- Jean Anouilh -

My keeper shelves for books have always been virtual because I keep too many books to restrict them to a "keeper shelf." In fact, I've kept just about every single one of the paperback romance novels I've ever bought. And since I devoured the books ravenously for more years than I'm willing to confess, you can guess that I have a massive quantity of the things.

I have shelves of romances surrounding the television in my den and more shelves hidden away in the cabinet where my landline phone sits. I have boxes and boxes of books in my youngest's walk in closet because he's a 14-year-old boy and will wear anything he grabs - it doesn't have to fit or match. I have a long shelf in the garage that my father-in-law kindly built for me one year. The hope was that other shelves would be built and eventually my whole book collection would have a home that didn't take up so much room inside the house. The garage bookcase never came to be but the one long shelf is so full that books are double-stacked and fall off the ends.

If paperbacks ever qualify as antiques, then I'm set for life.

So, I've never had an actual physical keeper shelf - I've kept all of my books. My keeper shelf has always been virtual and it always, always existed in my mind. Woodiwisses' books are there along with some of Johanna Lindsey's Malory novels, Julia Quinn's Bridgerton series, several of Julia Garwood's (Secret and Ransom are real faves), some of Linda Howard's early work, a number of Diana Palmer's, and Elizabeth Lowell's Only series. Susan Elizabeth Phillips' Chicago Stars Football novels are there too, even though I've only started watching some football lately and then only my law school alma mater, the University of South Carolina Gamecocks. (Even though I wasn't a football fan I loved Phillips' Stars books.) Because my keeper shelf was virtual, and because I have books in so many spots around the house, finding one of the books could be like a scavenger hunt. My hubby will tell you that he's often walked the distance of our small house, calling me, until Sam would shout, "She's in here Dad." Then my hubby would locate me bent over and tossing books all around the youngest's closet until I found it. You know it. The exact "keeper shelf" book I was looking for.

Likely, no people on earth were happier to see the ebook revolution than my family. Eventually, the books would have run 'em clean out of room to live indoors. Heck, I was already eyeballing my oldest's closet....

Even though it was always virtual, my keeper shelf has always been a very important place. It contains the books I've re-read, and re-read. You know - those books? The ones that take me somewhere special. Sometimes, I'll be depressed or sad or I've been moody and a real Queen B for several days and it'll hit me - I need to read that book. Yes, each book on my virtual keeper shelf serves a purpose. They lift my spirits. They soothe my turmoil. Visiting those characters is like visiting friends that will always, always be there for me. Books only earn a spot if I know, right from the first read, that I'll read them again. Every book on my keeper shelf -without exception - I re-read within days of finishing it the first time.

I consider keeper shelves - real or virtual - to be a mighty special, nearly magical place. And I've told you all of this - all about how much the books I re-read and treasure mean to me - to say this: I recently got a couple of reviews and a message from different readers all saying the same thing: I loved your book so much that I've already re-read it. The readers were all talking about the same book -- A Faerie Fated Forever which is still available free everywhere.

Now that you know how important my virtual, keeper shelf has always been to me, and how very special a book has to be to earn a spot, perhaps you can understand how very, very much those recent reader reviews and messages have meant to me. I wrote something that meant enough to earn a spot on keeper shelves. I wrote something that created such an impression that readers had to re-read it right away.

Wow. Just, Wow.

I know that having Shonda "Sunshine" Rhimes, Penny Marshall, Ron Howard or most anyone call with a movie deal for one of my books would be an amazing thing. I know that making the bestseller list would leave me woozy. I know that having retails have to back up Brinks trucks to unload money into my bank account would make life much more comfortable. But I know something else even more important - there are some things that you just can't buy and earning space on a keeper shelf is definitely one of those things.

Writer Jean Anouilh said, "Things are beautiful if you love them." I agree and I would add - "and things matter if you love them." By those standards, I love my readers and I adore those who get my work, those who can open themselves and just experience what a ride over the top feels like and enjoy it enough to line up again as soon as the ride ends.

Having my work earn space on some readers' keeper shelves is a beautiful experience. It's a defining moment to me as a writer because I really understand how special a book is if it's one that gets re-read. BUT NOW IT'S YOUR TURN - What does it takes to get you to re-read a book right away? And what stuff is on your - real or virtual - keeper shelf?

Mary Anne Graham
Quacking Alone Romances
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Photo credits:

Messy bookshelf #1

Messy bookshelf #2

Messy bookshelf #3

Digital bookshelf

Bookshelf ducks

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Beauty: Around Us And In Our Books

Definition of beauty:
  1. The quality that gives pleasure to the mind or senses and is associated with such properties as harmony of form or color, excellence of artistry, truthfulness, and originality.
  2. One that is beautiful, especially a beautiful woman.
  3. A quality or feature that is most effective, gratifying, or telling.
Beauty surrounds us in all forms; landscape, paintings, people. What may seem beautiful to one person may not have the same effect on someone else. 

As the saying goes, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder". 

Beauty on the outside doesn't mean or guarantee a beautiful person or thing on the inside. 

Beauty fades; personality or  elements may not retain outward appearance, but inner beauty can remain. This includes people, places, things. 

What's more important? Outward beauty or beauty inside? I'd choose inner beauty.

In romance books, covers portray pleasing, sexy images of heroines/women. But do books always describe characters as beautiful? 

In "Gone to the Dogs", Katie talks about needing to lose weight; those extra pounds that always creep up when you're not looking. Mike's attracted to her; he likes her looks and spunky attitude. Would he call her beautiful? Maybe. Would others agree? Maybe not.

I didn't "write" Katie to be a beauty queen. I wanted her to be attractive, normal, and a tad low on self-esteem. Aren't we all like that? Can't we relate to Katie as if she were a friend, someone just like us?

In "Anything You Can Do" (ebook and coming in print this month!), Allison sparks Jeff's interest. Again, he's attracted to her good looks, but her challenge keeps him intrigued. Is she beautiful? Maybe to him, but not as a beauty queen. 

Again, I didn't "write" Allison to be anything but "the girl next door". An average, hard-working woman who entices and interests Jeff without being a size two model or celebrity. (Cover is for new print version)

When you read, do you envision the heroine as a beautiful woman? Does a Hollywood image of what beauty looks like plant itself in your head? 

Sex appeal comes in many features; eyes, lips, smile, etc. But overall beauty does not necessarily need be the image portrayed in a romance book. The more appealing, day-to-day heroine, attractive but flawed like the rest of us, captures our attention. 

Beauty is's what's inside our heroines that keeps a romance book desirable and read.

Can you describe beauty? As a reader, do you want beautiful heroines? As a writer, are your heroines beautiful?

Photo: Flickr: Kevin H. photostream 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

What does beauty mean to you?

Beauty means many things to many people: a soft, pink morning sky tinged by the rising sun, a rugged man holding his tiny daughter in his arms as he looks down at her with love in his expression…a perfect flower whose fragrance entrances.
One definition of beauty is “the combination of qualities that make something pleasing and impressive to look at, listen to, touch, smell, or taste.”
Another definition of beauty is “an advantage, attraction, benefit, asset…”
But is it? We all love to look at beauty by whatever definition, but not all beauty is good. There’s a wild beauty in a deadly hurricane, and in a rattlesnake poised to strike. There’s treacherous beauty in a physically perfect human whose soul is more villainous than heroic, and sometimes fatally attractive beauty in a poisonous flower. “Gorgeous to look at, deadly to touch” can apply in many cases.
I see the greatest beauty, though, in a man whose love for his woman or his child shines through, or in a mother’s love for her newborn baby. Beauty also shows itself to me in a fragrant orchid or brilliant amaryllis, a beloved pet or an interesting plant or animal.
What represents beauty to you? Tell me, and I’ll pick a winner from those who comment. The prize is a download of my bestselling-ever contemporary erotic romance, A MUTUAL FAVOR, where I hope you’ll discover real beauty comes from love.