I’ve always had a keen interest in how things work and the history or stories behind them. That may be why I spent no less than a year researching my first romance novel, a historical set in the Italian countryside. Though I don’t spend nearly as much time researching my current novels, the research process still fascinates me to such a degree that I have to limit myself or I get carried away. As beautiful as Veneto, Italy is, no one wants to read a two-page description of the panorama. In the first draft of this book, the heroine (daughter of a winemaker) takes the hero on a tour of her family’s winery, explaining every detail of what happens to the grapes once they are harvested. This segment, eventually cut, was ten pages long. Thankfully, I now know how to pick and choose what readers want to know. It never hurts though to know how something works because it might just add a scene or element you didn’t expect to the storyline. Here’s a list of some of my all-time favorite research topics….
Winemaking – This research was for Forever Amore, my historical based in Italy, which was eventually published after several revisions. Before I wrote Forever Amore, I didn’t drink wine. During the research, however, it became inevitable and I eventually grew to love it. There’s so much history in winemaking. I find the organic process – especially that which was utilized in the early twentieth century – fascinating in itself. I watched many videos, printed out many pictures, and read many books that revolved around vineyards and winemaking. My favorite part of the winemaking research (besides the tastings) was the vineyard work. I even made my hero a worker in the heroine’s vineyard to better help him blend with the people around him and avoid capture. A lot of work goes into a vineyard, but there’s something romantic about it. In spring, when the buds begin to burst on the vines and the vines have grown tall enough to conceal the hero and heroine in a sunset stroll, romance was simply inherent!
Italian – While researching Forever Amore and reading books based in Italy, it became pretty clear that some knowledge of the Italian language was necessary. The plot revealed that the heroine would have to teach the hero Italian if he were to journey through the Italian countryside safely in disguise. I enjoyed learning French in school so I took to teaching myself rudimentary Italian. It came pretty easily, all except for distinguishing between the different greetings people use at different parts of the day. I transferred this confusion to the hero, Charles, in one of his first conversations with the heroine, Lucille….
“I already know a bit Italian,” he said in earnest as he followed her from the room that he would share with Roberto indefinitely.
“Really? How do you say ‘good morning’?”
He frowned. “Ciao?”
With a sigh, she descended the stairs ahead of him. “We have far to go.”
Rodeo – I joined the ranks of western romance authors with relish by signing up to write a novella in the Wayback, Texas series for The Wild Rose Press. And I dove into researching cowboys like a fish into water. For those who aren’t familiar with the series, Wayback is a rodeo town. I love cowboys. I love western animals. Research was no chore, especially when I was invited to a local rodeo and got to experience the whole thing firsthand. In other words, I was the eager wannabe cowgirl in pigtails and blue-jean skirt taking diligent notes in the first row. I uncovered those notes the other day and found both the name of the bull the hero of the first book in my Wayback trilogy rides as well as the hero’s first name. Somewhere in the world a bull named Jack the Ripper and a rodeo cowboy named Judd have been immortalized forever :)
Taj Mahal – This research was for my romantic suspense, Denied Origin, in which the hero and heroine are taken on a fast-paced scavenger hunt around the globe to uncover her true identity. One of the locations the scavenger hunt leads them to is India, the town of Agra, and the beautiful Taj Mahal. There is a wealth of fascinating information surrounding this monument both historically and architecturally. It is a shrine, first and foremost, to love and devotion. I needed an element of danger, however, to add to my story so I focused my research on the Taj Mahal’s water system, which during the period the Taj Mahal was built were way of their time. With its canals, fountains, and the river flowing beside it, I created a frightening scene involving water tunnels beneath the Taj Mahal. Despite its scary elements, it’s one of my favorite scenes of the book.
Mythology – Currently, I’m working on research for a paranormal concept that involves a great deal of Greek mythology. I love mythology – it’s my storyteller paradise! At the moment, I’m learning a great deal about the god of war as well as the origins of mermaids of folklore – sirens! Sparta is another key area of research. It’s all too easy to get carried away. However, one of the best parts of research is uncovering new passions or indulging old ones. I’ve always loved Greek mythology and wanted to include it in some aspect of my writing. Now that I’ve found the perfect opportunity, my job just got a lot more fun!
Today I’m including an excerpt from Denied Origin, a romantic suspense available in paperback and ebook from The Wild Rose Press….
He knew all about the Taj Mahal’s tragic history. He knew it wasn’t the only great temple in India, but it was the most cherished, a very fitting tribute to beauty, a shrine of love and devotion. He knew it’d taken over two decades to complete and had been built by a Mughal emperor in honor of his beloved wife who’d died in childbirth.
Mark wondered how love such as that of the Mughal emperor and his Muslim princess could still exist now in a time defined by its greedy and power-hungry society. In a world where terror and fear reigned, Mark found it hard to believe a love like that was still a reality.
He glanced at Valentina and realized he was living that reality. He was full proof of it. He turned away from her, tried to convince himself he had no choice. But even with his mind determinedly set against it, this feeling was digging a home in his core, refusing to be stemmed or ignored.
As the train pulled into the station, Valentina stirred. It was midmorning and the sun was out, bright and full. She squinted out the window at Agra. “Are we getting off?”
Mark nodded as he rose to get their luggage. He threw the duffel over his shoulder before helping her to her feet. He tucked an arm around her shoulders. “Don’t leave my side,” he whispered as they wandered into the station.
He kept his eyes sharp. A sniper could be perched just out of view, a knife could be held just out of sight. His eyes passed over every face, studied them, judged them. He checked over his shoulder many times to make sure no one was following them. “We’ll go straight there.”
“Good,” she muttered. He knew she was also watching the crowd. “The sooner we leave this place the better.”
He didn’t relax, but slowly began to take in the sights as they walked quickly through the city streets. They walked through a large bazaar where the smell of spices was so strong he could almost feel them filtering through his lungs as he breathed deep to admit them. There weren’t many cars. There was the occasional elephant, more than a few horse-drawn carts, and various bicyclists.
All the people were tan with exotic eyes and peasant dress though they had a carefree air, a sense of peace and gratification. They’d been walking for some time when they came to a crowded iron bridge.
“Are we close?” She pressed close to Mark’s side as they squeezed into the traffic on the bridge.
He nodded, his eyes darting every which way, searching for the glare of a weapon. “This is the Yamuna River. The Taj is just across the bridge.”
After wriggling their way through the suffocating crowd, they broke out into the sunlight again. As soon as she saw the monument in the distance, she let out a surprised gasp. “Oh, Mark…”
He couldn’t help but grin at her surprise. “It’s even better up close and personal, huh?”
Her gasp melded fluidly into an awestruck sigh. “Oh, it’s gorgeous—more than I imagined.”
“We have to go through the south entrance,” Mark advised, guiding her onward. “Not much further.”
Find out more about Denied Origin, Forever Amore, and my western romance trilogy at my website: www.amberleighwilliams.com! Thank you for hosting me, Alison! I enjoyed talking about my favorite research topics.
Readers, what people, places or things do you most like learning about through your TBR list?
Thanks, Amber! Great advice and information! Denied Origin sounds like my kind of scavenger hunt and who can resist a title like Forever Amore!
Now, with the release of Bronze Skies this past July, the Dangerous Times series is complete. I'd like to take a look at all three, which are available online at The Wild Rose Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and many sites that sell ebooks.
The first is Silver Screen Heroes and it takes place in 1920 at a silent movie studio in Hollywood, California. This was my suspense historical. We meet Addy Garcia and Zeke Shafer, who work at Majestic Studio that has been sold to a crime family. Addy gets sucked into the intrigue, because her cousin, Muriel Carter, elopes with the boss' son.
“I’m happy you could come to the party tonight.”
“Thank you for inviting me.”
He maneuvered a turn toward a quiet hallway.
“I want to talk to you about a problem that’s causing
me a lot of trouble. I think you can help me. Seeing
that I gave you a little leverage to advance at the
studio, maybe you can do something for me.”
Addy felt her face burn. What did he want?
Surely he couldn’t be going to make advances toward
her, too. It would be so awkward, with him being
Muriel’s father-in-law, but she would fight him just
as she had Mr. Abrams and John. “What is it?”
“The master ledger for the studio has been
missing for a while.” He tightened his grip on her. “I
think you know where it is.”
The second, Golden North, takes place in 1921 in Juneau, Alaska Territory in a theater/restaurant called Golden North. Addy and Zeke have married and fled the wrath of the crime family to help Zeke's brother, Josh Shafer, restore and operate an old opera house and bar. Muriel follows her cousin north. She is a widow with a small daughter, whom the crime family wants. This is my murder mystery.
Muriel’s heart went out to Josh.
He had put his head in his hands and leaned his
elbows on the desk as Muriel told him what
happened at Millie’s, and now he looked the picture
of despair. He slowly raised his head. “Well, that’s it,
isn’t it? Muriel, I’m sorry you had to come into this.
You seem to have traded one problem for another.”
Muriel caressed his shoulders. “I’m sure Sarah
and Amos can find out what really happened. When
they do, the townspeople will come around.”
“We may not be here by that time.” He
straightened and threw his hands up. “I really
wanted to prove to myself that my father was wrong,
that I could make something of my life. Well―” One
hand slammed down on the ledger.
Muriel’s chest tightened. He could be right
about having to leave. She didn’t want to think it,
but her eyes swam with tears. How could he blame
himself, though? He had worked so hard.
Josh looked at her through the mist in his own
eyes. He stood and took her in a gentle embrace,
then pulled back quickly. “I’m―I didn’t mean to―”
Muriel put her fingers on his lips. “Don’t
apologize.” She drew him toward her again, and they
gazed at each other for a moment before she put her
hand on the back of his neck and kissed him.
The third book, Bronze Skies, takes place in the 1940s in Alaska Territory during World War II. This is the war story. Lt. Tom Shafer is the son of Addy and Zeke, who is in the Army Air Corps. We see the conflict through his eyes and the home front through the eyes of his girl, Pam Wright, who lives in Juneau.
“Will you tell me where Vic Houston is?”
Jake nodded toward an old blue Oldsmobile.
“He’s working under the hood over there.”
“Thanks, Jake.” The smell of gas, grease, and
rubber hit Tom's nose as he made his way to the
Olds. He saw Vic with a wrench, tightening
something in the engine. Tom leaned against the
fender. “Vic, do you have a moment?”
Vic looked surprised, and Tom noticed his
grease-grimed hand clench the wrench tighter.
“What do you want, Shafer?” His voice was rough.
“I didn’t come here to fight you, but before I
leave to go back to base, I have something to say. If I
hear you’ve hurt Pam in any way, I will find you.”
Vic's fingers bunched the dirty cloth that
covered the radiator grill. “I don’t plan to hurt Pam,
but that doesn’t mean I won’t try to date her. And
the big-time flyboy didn’t bring any charges against
me. Are you too chicken?” He spit on the floor by
I want to thank Alison for hosting me today and giving me a chance to celebrate my series. My web site is http://www.ilonafridl.com I'm also on Facebook and Goodreads.
Thanks, Ilona. This sounds like a wonderful series! Next Week: Amber Leigh Williams
I recently read a book that was very different from what I normally read. But I had committed myself to reading it, so I did. And I enjoyed it. I’m glad I read it. When I finished the last few words of story and turned the page, I found a Book Club Guide.
Now, I enjoy a good book as much as the next person, and I love to sit around with my friends and/or family and talk about something we’ve all read. But my goal as an author is to never-ever write a book that needs a guide to help readers and their friends and/or family talk about it. I write what I consider to be mid-length romantic fiction with a great deal of comedic moments. Light-hearted, fun. And you won’t need a reader’s guide to enjoy it. Or “get” it. It is what it is.
Not to say that having a reader’s guide is a bad thing. There are a lot of books that have such subtle issues and changes with the characters that a reader almost *needs* the guide to define what they have read.
Not my goal.
So here’s a peek at Brodie’s Bride. Summer beach read or whatever you want to call it one thing is certain—
What you see is what you get.
Amie Louellen--Brodie's Bride
Available now from the Wild Rose Press
Amie Louellen loves nothing more than a good book. Except for her family…and maybe homemade tacos…and shoes. But reading and writing are definitely high on the list. When she's not creating quirky characters and happy endings she enjoys going to little league baseball games and boy scout meetings. Born and bred in Mississippi, Amie is a transplanted Southern Belle who now lives in Oklahoma with her deputy husband, their genius son, a spoiled cat, and one very hyper beagle.
Blurb--Waking up next to a beautiful golden-haired stranger isn’t the worst thing that has ever happened to Brodie Harper, but staying in a fake marriage in order to gain a new construction contract could very well be.
Savanna Morgan just wanted a way out of an engagement to a man she didn’t love. Marrying Brodie seemed liked the perfect answer at the time. Less perfect the next morning when she finds herself disowned by her father and flat broke. Now she must make it through the weekend. Monday they can get it all annulled and forget it ever happened.
The real problem may be keeping their hands off each other until then.
“On Monday, after our appointment, you’re leaving.”
“I have to go home,” she said quietly, turning away from him to stare into the postage-stamp sized back yard.
“But we have an agreement for the weekend. I think we should have some ground rules.”
“Good idea.” Savanna clapped her hands, then rubbed them together as if she were ready to get down to business. “Like what?”
“We only have two working bedrooms here,” Brodie said. “Mine and Nan’s. Do you mind sharing a room with me?”
Her pupils dilated, and he knew she was thinking about the scarlet room they had shared last night.
“My room has two beds,” he continued. “We can be like Lucy and Ricky.”
She smiled. “If it was good enough for the Ricardos, I’m sure I can handle it for a few days.”
“We may not so lucky at the Sullivan’s.”
Sobering, she nodded. “If there’s only one bed there, we can just take turns sleeping in it.”
“Fair enough.” Brodie said. “Now, as a married couple—especially at the ranch—we’ll be expected to act like a married couple.”
“Okay. But only around others. When we’re alone, we can act like we’re not married.”
“Correct. But sometimes…” He took a step closer to where she leaned against the porch railing. “Sometimes married people hold hands.”
He reached out and took her fingers into his own. Her skin was velvet soft and smelled so sweet, like the mountains after a rain.
“I—I don’t have a problem with that.”
“Sometimes married couples put their arms around each other.” He placed her hands behind his neck, then slid his arms around her waist.
“That’s okay,” she whispered. He watched as she swallowed hard.
“And sometimes married people kiss. Just a peck here and a peck there. Are you going to have a problem with that?”
“Huh-uh.” She shook her head.
“Maybe we should practice,” he rasped, bending his head close to hers.
“Maybe,” she repeated before he brushed his lips across hers once, then twice.
His intent had been the small, nearly chaste kiss of old married couple, but once he got close to Savanna, once he could smell her sweetness and taste her heady essence, he couldn’t stop himself.
He pulled her close to him, gathering handfuls of her tank top, securing her to him. Over and over he slanted his mouth across hers. Over and over, deeper and deeper, until her whimper brought him back.
He released her, his breath rasping in and out of his lungs in hard painful gasps.
She grasped the edge of the porch railing, looking as disturbed as he felt.
With demonstrations like that, they may not ever convince Blair and Nan their marriage was an accidental twist of fate, but they would surely convince Red Sullivan their passion was for real.
Brodie ran his fingers through his hair, just one more gesture to keep from reaching for Savanna again.
“There,” he managed to croak. “That wasn’t so bad, now was it?”
Thanks, Amie, great read and I couldn't agree with you more about Book Club Guides! Just finished reading a bunch of old Sandra Brown books. "Slow Heat in Heaven," "Mirror Image," "Best Kept Secrets." Boy, you sure don't need a Book Guide for those! Whew! Steamy and great! Best of luck with "Brodie's Bride!" Next week: Ilona Fridl
An interesting article appeared in yesterday's Milwaukee Journal, explaining how a few independent bookstores are surviving in today's digital age. The local stores profiled say their principal concern is no longer the huge brick and mortar stores--of which Barnes and Noble is the only one left standing--but the Internet. It's so much easier to go online to buy something and have it instantly downloaded. Case in point, yesterday I went to Barnes and Noble to check out the new releases and the bargain books. I always enjoy Holocaust literature and found a new hardcover called "The Warsaw Anagrams." It was priced at $25.95. I made a note to check out the e-book price when I got home. I went on www.kobobooks.com (I have a Libre e-reader, which is compatible with Kobo rather than Kindle) and found the e-book priced at only $2.79. I bought it and downloaded it in a few seconds. Amazing savings!
Independent booksellers in the Milwaukee and surrounding area (most are in the suburbs) say they survive by holding book club meetings, having book signings with best selling authors and offering discounted books to students. They depend on local community support and loyalty. They have also added cards and other non-book items to their inventory. Stuffed animals sit next to the children's books. Some even sell e-books on their websites.
Another interesting note. The only brick and mortar store that has expanded in recent years is Half Price Books, one of my favorites, since you can also find so many out of print books there as well as on Amazon. My problem with Barnes and Noble (besides the high prices) is the fact that they only stock current stuff and few items from indie publishers.
Even those bookstores that are thriving say they could make more money doing something else and cite concerns about the future.
For the complete article visit:
Sandra, many thanks for having me here today. Since the release of my debut novel, Storm’s Interlude, I’ve morphed from a fulltime writer into a blogging and promotional fool with little, if any, time for writing. Thank you for making me one more degree the fool.
Frankly it would be easier for me to fly a propeller airplane with a banner trailing from the back like you see at the seashore. “Eat at Joe’s…dial 1-800- TOMAINE” Only mine would say, “Beach read hot enough to melt sunscreen!”
Silly me, I thought all I had to do was write a book, find an agent and get published. My books would be in bookstores everywhere, and the publisher would promote me.
So, here I am blogging, posting on facebook, tweeting and keeping my fingers crossed that someone will buy my book.
I read somewhere that the best way to sell books is to write a good story. Now, we’re talking! Don’t we all love a romance? One populated with people who charm us, shock us and, at times, irritate us. A couple who fuss and fight on their way to happily-ever-after. Don’t you just love a good lovers’ spat? Followed by some mighty fine making up, of course.
Here’s an excerpt from Storm’s Interlude. Rachel is in a major snit after seeing Storm talking to his ex-fiancée. Not that she’s the jealous type, but she saw Storm tuck the lady’s hair behind her ear and stroke his knuckles down the side of her face. Once they get home, the fireworks escalate.
When Storm pulled in front of the ranch house, Rachel was the first one to barrel out of the SUV. Before she’d made it a dozen steps, Storm grabbed her and threw her over his shoulder like a bag of grain. “Put me down, you lunatic!”
“Like hell.” He stormed into the house, his boots echoing off the hardwood floors of the large foyer. “We’re going to have this out right now. I’m tired of your peeling my hide with your accusations.”
Jackson rushed out of the den into the large hallway. “Storm? What the hell?”
Storm had one hand on the doorknob to his office. “You got all the security measures in place? Anything that demands my immediate attention?”
“Put me down this instant, you…you caveman cowboy!” He smacked her bottom. She yelped. Once he put her down, she was going to tear him apart, limb by cheating limb.
Jackson had a hand over his mouth to hide his laughter. “Have at it, buddy. I’ve done my job.” He took a sleeping Sawyer from Noella. “Sunny and I will put tiger here to bed.”
Storm opened the door to his office, waiting until the couple had the sleeping boy upstairs before he yelled his announcement so the entire first floor could hear: “Anyone who knocks on this door before Rachel and I have worked things out takes their life in their hands. Is that clear?” He slammed the door shut behind them and turned the lock before setting Rachel down on the floor.
She was so incensed, so humiliated, so livid she couldn’t speak. She kicked him in the shin with her sneakered foot. Storm winced before stalking over to the liquor cabinet.
He poured himself two fingers of whiskey, neat, and downed it. He poured another and downed it, too. He hung his head, his hands fisted on the cabinet. “You can make me so damned mad I can’t see straight. No one has ever pushed me over the edge the way you do.”
She fisted her hands on her hips, hiked her chin and glared at him. “Yeah, well, I’d like to slap you into next week, you lying, cheating, poor excuse of a man. You told me things. You told me you loved me. I surrendered to you. I had sex with you.”
“Would you just listen to me for five damn minutes?” He turned to face her and ran both hands through his hair, a sign of frustration.
She folded her arms under her chest. “Okay, but this better be good.”
Buy Links for Storm’s Interlude:
http://amzn.to/pkkcLq -- Amazon.
http://bit.ly/pb9DQd -- B & N. – Nook only
http://bit.ly/rcCIMa -- The Wild Rose Press
Thanks, Vonnie for the hot, hot, cowboy story and thanks for being such a great guest! Next Week: Gloria Marlow
FIVE STARS: "Excellent writing! Enjoyable hero and heroine! Great romance! Fast pace! I read it straight through! Author thorough in research! I lived the experience!"--A reader on Amazon.com
FIVE STARS: "Erica Kingsley, a twenty-nine year old spoiled woman had to be taught a lesson and her CEO father planned with the help of her ex-lover to do just that! The Holiday Channel needed a huge cash flow shot in the arm or it was at the mercy of his enemy. Erica hosted "The Lap of Luxury Show" and her ex hosted "The Wildman Show." Both shows could not survive and he got the idea of filming Erica as she tried to survive in the Belize jungle while they searched for Montezuma's Treasure!
Trey Zacco was told not to give the pampered Erica any help and he rode her hard! His crew was being picked off one by one and all eyes were on Erica as the culprit, but would she go as far as murder to get back to Miami?
Does Ms. Chambers hold her readers captive with a book that you just can't put down and gives her opinion on where the king's daughter buried his gold! From the descriptions of the jungle, the visions fairly leaped off the pages and I can't wait to read her next!"--A Reader on Goodreads.com
FIVE STARS: "A Wild Sultry Ride! Wonderful, action-packed story! I was completely lost in the author's words. Ms. Chambers created quite a world for us to lose ourself in. The chemistry between Trey and Erica is fantastic. With curves, twist, romance and action. Take the chance, The Montezuma Secret is well worth your time."--A reader on Amazon.com
The Secret Sentinel
Available from The Wild Rose Press
Reviews for The Secret Sentinel
FIVE STARS AND A TOP PICK FROM NIGHT OWL REVIEWS--" The Secret Sentinel is a wonderful read and I highly recommend it. Look out Nora Roberts...there's a new author on the horizon."
FOUR STARS FROM THE ROMANCE STUDIO--"The constant action and adventure made this a very enjoyable read. If you loved the movie 'Romancing the Stone' this book will be a treat for you."
RT Reviews--"Deception is the watchword in Chambers' thriller. The action is fast moving and the characters intriguing."
NIGHTS AND WEEKEND REVIEWS--"A wild mixture of National Treasure and Indiana Jones."
FIVE STARS--GOODREADS--"Savannah Rutledge Unlocks Pandora's Box When She Takes Her Father's Secret Map and Loans It To Her Boss For Display For A Southwest Fest And To Save Her Job, But Instead of Crowing With Delight She Was Running For Her Life With Murder Charges, Her Disabled Father Murdered, And A Zorro Stranger Kidnapping Her! A One Hundred Year Old Secret Has Been Released And It Refuses To Get Back In The Box!"
Time of The Eleven
Now Available on Amazon!
The Time of the Eleven
A daring prison escape in Mexico. An explosion in the Hague. Tourists disappearing in Scotland and the Sahara. Reporters murdered or reported missing. Seemingly unrelated incidents. Or parts of an ingenious terrorist plot? After her fiance mysteriously disappears, Kiley Prescott has a chance encounter with a seductive stranger in Mexico. But who is this man? FBI agent Peter Rushing is sure her new lover, handsome Armand Rachet, is really the notorious international terrorist, Gabriel Roca, suspected in a series of devastating bombings overseas. After Kiley learns Rushing was fired from the FBI, she fears he is hiding something even more sinister. The chase for the truth takes her cross country, from Washington to Chicago, Las Vegas, and finally San Diego, where Kiley learns the deadliest secret of all--everything is timed to happen at eleven. Eleven men. The eleventh hourof the eleventh day of November, 2011. It is "The Time of the Eleven."