Saturday, April 19, 2014

Spring Memories Part 2: Easter - by Donna Alward

I love Easter.

When I was a girl, Easter always seemed to mark the TRUE beginning of spring. I used to love getting up Easter morning to see what the Easter Bunny brought me, and it was usually a basket with treats and fun stuff like a new skipping rope or Frisbee or ball along with a healthy (or unhealthy) amount of chocolate and jelly beans. I didn’t even mind the chocolate-covered marshmallow stuff. It was AWESOME.

But my favourite part of Easter was the new dress and shoes. 

In our family, we took the “no white shoes after Labour Day but okay on/after Easter” thing very seriously.  I almost always had a new dress to wear to church on Sunday morning, probably in a pastel colour with some ruffles at sleeve, neck or hem.  You did not wear that dress before Easter.  And of course last year’s shoes wouldn’t fit, so it was off to town for a new pair of white ones. The best Easter Sundays were the ones where your white shoes were open toed or sandals for summer and it was warm enough that it made sense to wear them.
When my girls were little, Holy Week was fairly crazy. I sang in our church choir, which meant services on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and again Easter Sunday. Our pieces on Thursday and Friday were always somber, and one was usually a version of “Were You There”.  In a darkened church on Good Friday, the sound of that hymn being sung a cappella by the choir in 3 part harmony was haunting. We would dress in winter clothes…dark trousers or dresses and black shoes. But then, Easter morning would arrive, and my girls would be able to wear THEIR Easter dresses and new shoes (usually courtesy of Payless) and we’d head off to church where we’d smell Easter Lilies and sing bright and happy songs to celebrate the Resurrection. I remember one year the girls had new dresses in lilac and golden yellow, with cute little box pleats and matching wide-brimmed hats. Oh my, those were the days (these days it’s more about heels and eyeliner).

I definitely understand that not everyone celebrates the religious holiday of Easter, but I think most can relate to a day where we leave the darkness of winter behind and celebrate a bright new season of life and colour.

Do you have a “Rite of Spring” where you throw off the shackles of winter?
Donna’s latest book is THE HOUSE ON BLACKBERRY HILL, out on April 29th and the first title in her new Jewell Cove series from St. Martin’s Press. Catch up with her on her website at and don’t forget to enter the Blog Hop contest for your chance to win a great box of books, chocolate, T-shirts, a Tote bag and more!

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Easter – a food feast by Liz Fielding

Think Easter treats and the first thing that will come to mind is the chocolate egg. My mother always said that the chocolate in Easter eggs was better than any other and I imagine it’s because it has to be very smooth to get that thin, crisp shell. They are still, even with all the amazing chocolate on sale, a very special treat.

But Easter isn’t just about eggs.

It starts on Shrove Tuesday with the pancakes. We have ours exactly the way my mother made them. Thin pancakes, sprinkled with sugar and lemon juice and folded into quarters.

Then comes the Simnel cake, traditionally baked for Mothering Sunday. In the UK we have our very traditional Mother’s Day on the fourth Sunday in Lent, a day when girls in “service” were given time off to visit their mothers. They took home a cake and the wild flowers they picked as they walked home as gifts.

Then on Good Friday we have Hot Cross Buns. Fresh, soft, full of fruit and spices and buttered. I have to confess that these go on sale not long after Christmas and this last weekend my daughter brought us some particularly luscious ones with chocolate, orange and caramel. Yum.

And finally, Easter Day – the time for chocolate eggs and something very special for lunch. A turkey, maybe, if there’s to be a big family gathering, or a piece of pork roasted until the crackling is golden.

What special treats do you look forward to at this time of year? What are your special traditions?

Liz's latest romance, For His Eyes Only, published by Harlequin KISS is available now. You can find her at her website

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Spring-Board Your Story Idea with Character

By Shirley Jump

Thanks so much for having me here! I thought I’d talk about character today, because I get asked about creating characters all the time. For me, my book derives from my characters and plot at the same time, in sort of a ying-yang thing. Okay, that sounds crazy. It’s not as nut as it sounds. I swear ;-).

Lots of writers come up with an idea for a book but then aren’t quite sure where to go from there. I always start with character, and by doing that, the book becomes character driven, rather than plot driven. Character driven books are more emotional, connect more, than plot-driven stories.

For me, I have often have a What-If situation—What if a commitment phobic Coast Guard Lieutenant is suddenly saddled with two kids? What if a woman who is trying to start a new life finds out she’s walked into a money pit of a change?

Then I decide on WHO my character is. Is she a murderer? An actor? A chef? Is she the protagonist or antagonist? Is he the father of the murder victim? The doctor who diagnoses a life-threatening disease? A lot of times this vocation will come from the plot. If you’re writing a murder mystery, obviously you need a killer, a victim and a hero. If you’re writing a romance, you need a hero and a heroine who have a few conflicts between them but not so many that they can’t get together. If you’re working on a children’s story, then you need a child protagonist who goes through a life-changing event.
For THE SWEETHEART RULES, my latest in the Sweetheart Sisters series with Berkley, I chose a hero and a heroine who were opposites in everything from their jobs to their approach to life. Responsible single mom and veterinarian Diana has decided never to rely on a man again. Then she has a one-night stand with no-strings Coast Guard Lieutenant Mike Stark. Six months later, when Mike returns (after being saddled unexpectedly with his two daughters), she ends up having to rely on him when her life is un upheaval. So I had two great characters, with sparks between them. The next step was to figure out who each of these people were and why they were who they were.

Many things help you make these decisions. What kind of person would be thrust into this situation? And why? This can send your plotting into a 100 different directions so brainstorm on this. One of the best ways to brainstorm, and something I teach in my class on my “Brainmap” method, is the spoke and wheel. Draw one word in the center of the page (protagonist, murderer, and antagonist) then draw out lines that lead to all kinds of possibilities. Maybe the murderer is an innocent framed for the crime. Maybe it’s a desperate woman backed into a corner. Maybe it’s an accident. Maybe it’s a serial killer. Feel free to let yourself go, even if you end up with 100 ideas on the page, and come up with as many ideas as you can. Even if you don’t use all these ideas, hold on to the paper. When you get stuck later in the plot, pull this out and see where it leads you.

With THE SWEETHEART RULES, I had my heroine show a secret she is keeping at the very beginning of the book. That secret underlies every decisions she has made, and will come back to haunt her in several different ways. Then I figured out why she would keep such a secret, and what toll it has taken on her life and her relationships.

Third, you need to name your character. For me, I like names that have meaning. I have a baby name book I use to look up meanings, derivatives and nicknames. In THE SWEETHEART RULES, I wanted names that showed their characters. Dependable, reliable Diana and sexy, charming Mike seemed to fit well!

Fourth, create a character “bible.” This can come from a character interview, from your own thoughts, however you want to develop it. The character bible is comprised of the simple stuff - eye color, hair color, etc. But also tackle the bigger issues -- what happened to this character as a child? What is he or she afraid of? What’s his worst habit? Greatest trait? Biggest weakness? How does he feel about his parents/ pets? Last girlfriend? All of these things become fodder for great, well-developed characters. For THE SWEETHEART RULES, this became even more vital because it’s part of a three-book series, and I needed to keep everything and everyone straight.

These are the kids of details that give characters life. One of my first rejection letters praised my writing up and down but aid that my characters didn’t breathe and live on the page. I had no idea what this meant at the time, but learned later how to pump life into people on a page.

How do I do it? I filter EVERYTHING through that character’s past. When my character looks out the window at a tree, there is a memory associated with that tree, a memory that impacts on the plot, and that makes the tree and the moment with the character have ten times more meaning.

Characters shouldn’t be static -- they should have past habits, annoying traits, likes and dislikes, etc. Those are the little details that make them as real as the neighbor you don’t like or the favorite aunt you love. And creates books that readers love!

If you pick up THE SWEETHEART RULES, I hope you’ll share with me your favorite character! If not, tell me: Who was the most memorable character you read about? What made them so interesting? What kind of traits do you love in heroes and heroines?

If you love THE SWEETHEART RULES, it here or in a bookstore near you! And read an awesome review here, if you’re so inclined :-)

Don’t forget to enter the giveaway, too!


New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Shirley Jump spends her days writing romance and women's fiction to feed her shoe addiction and avoid cleaning the toilets. She cleverly finds writing time by feeding her kids junk food, allowing them to dress in the clothes they find on the floor and encouraging the dogs to double as vacuum cleaners.

Look for her Sweet and Savory Romance series, including the USA Today bestselling book, THE BRIDE WORE CHOCOLATE, on Amazon and Nook, and the debut of her Sweetheart Club series for Berkley, starting with THE SWEETHEART BARGAIN in September 2013.

Visit her website at or read recipes and life adventures at

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Spring Fling by Liz Fielding

Spring has inspired poets throughout the ages. I came across this poem recently and enjoyed it so much I thought I'd share.

After months of waiting, spring has come at last,
enjoy it while you can it all goes oh so fast.
Spring is here. Spring has finally come...
It's the time for cheer, blossoming flowers, and happy dance.
The warm weather and sweet romance.
Spring is here. Spring has finally come...
Just a small town waitress who barely made enough to live off of,
She didn't believe in love.
A city bad boy, the new outcast,
running from a real hard past.

Spring is here. Spring has finally come...
Love is in the air, first crushes and harmless flirting,
the beginnings of a spring fling.
Bittersweet kisses and endless bliss.
Enjoy it while you can it'll all go oh so fast.
Spring is here. Spring has finally come...
As time flies by, spring quickly comes to an end.
He says goodbye, leaving her with nothing but a broken heart to mend.
Spring is gone. It all went by oh too fast.
As she cries, she begins to ask god why?
It takes a moment, but she soon realizes...
It was just a spring fling,
it never meant a thing.

Ivory Strife

What is your favourite spring poem?

Liz's latest romance, For His Eyes Only, published by Harlequin KISS is available now. You can find her at her website

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