Let Me Call You Sweetheart

By Tammy Trail

Valentine’s Day is just days away. Have you gotten your sweetheart a gift yet? I have done a bit of research on the history of Valentine’s Day. It is rooted in a pagan holiday that ensured fertility.

Roman Emperor, Claudius II ruled that young men in the Army were to remain unmarried. He felt that this would make single men more aggressive in the field of battle. The Emperor put a young cleric by the name of Valentine to death for secretly marrying young couples.  Valentine was later made a Saint by Pope Gelasius and given the date of February 14th to celebrate Saint Valentine.

In the 13th Century, it was synonymous with love and romance because it was believed that this was the beginning of mating season for birds.

In the 15th Century, written valentines were given to sweethearts.

In the 17th Century, valentines were exchanged between those who were smitten with one another.

In 1840, the first mass-produced valentines appeared in the United States. Valentine’s Day is the second most popular card giving occasion. It is celebrated in Canada, Mexico, United Kingdom, France, Australia, Denmark, Italy, and Japan.

As a child, I remember my mother scouring the house for shoe boxes to be made into valentine mail boxes to decorate for my desk at school. There would be a party, of course, with lots of good treats. After school, you would open your box and read the paper gifts of admiration your classmates gave to you.

I have tried in years past to make my own valentines to give to family members and friends. Last year I made these for my grandsons.

I filled the little sack with treats. They really enjoyed getting a valentine from their Mimi!

I am already diligently looking for options for this year. You may find it just as rewarding to make your own as well. I find a great source of inspiration with Pinterest. What a treasure trove of ideas!

Whether you make your own, or buy a card for that special someone, I believe it’s a good holiday to celebrate. Who doesn’t like candy? And you will make mate, child, or friend feel important with a valentine that you especially picked out for them. You can never go wrong by making people feel loved and important.

For the writer, especially the romance writer, Valentine’s Day is a reminder of why we put words to paper. That boy meets girl stuff is what makes the story, especially when they lived happily ever after.

So, in keeping with that thought! Here is my valentine for all of you.

  1. Writing Prompt: Jessica expected a great big box of heart-shaped candy.  What she found was……..?

Click to tweet: Romance is #alive https://ctt.ec/53mP6

The Inspired Prompt Crew and Romance Novels

Romance novels. Some are good reads but easily forgettable. Some are too formula-bound, others too, shall we say, revealing? There is nothing like a romance novel that holds you spell-bound to the end, loving the settings, characters, and story line. If the story is good enough and timeless, you’ll often find a movie to go along with it.

When it comes to the Inspired Prompt Crew, you might wonder about our favorite romance novel. We’re so glad you asked. Some of our Crew members share their thoughts…

Click to tweet: The Inspired Prompt Crew shares their favorite #romance novels. You might be surprised. #amreading

Harriet Michael

When asked my favorite romance book, my answer comes swiftly, without reluctance—”Lorna Doone”!

I first read “Lorna Doone” as a missionary kid growing up in Africa. We were homeschooled using the Calvert Course curriculum. Back then, and perhaps still, they have elementary students read a child’s abridged version of this classic novel. It made my heart skip and set my mind dancing. For weeks after reading it, my friends and I pretended to be the beautiful Lorna.

A few years ago, I decided to read the original version. It’s a bit challenging since it was written in 1869 and uses very old English terms. In fact, there is one brief section written in the servant’s voice which I had serious trouble reading, so I learned to skim over them. Those parts were only a small section of the book and the rest was much easier to read, especially once I got used to it. (I recommended it to my daughter who also loved it and seemed to have less trouble with those parts. I’ve always known my daughter was smarter than I.)

Author R.D. Blackmore weaves a wonderful story about John Ridd whose father was slain by the Doones, a lawless clan living in wild Exmoor in the seventeenth century. Ridd manages to meet and then fall in love with the beautiful Lorna Doone. They become secret playmates as children and true loves as they mature. The plot is masterful! I highly recommend it to all romance readers, especially if they are also writers. Read this book and learn plot and character development from one of the Masters!

Gail Johnson

When asked for the names of my all-time favorite romance stories,  the first two that leap to mind is Redeeming Love and Pearl in the Sand. In Redeeming Love, Francine Rivers transports her reader to a California gold rush town where she shares the story of Michael (Hosea) and Angel (Gomer).

Tessa Afshar’s, Pearl in the Sand is a fictional tale of the harlot, Rahab. Afshar skillfully depicts Rahab’s struggles, her deliverance,  and her marriage to Salmone, a Hebrew leader. Both are filled with truth and symbolism of God’s forgiveness and love for his people.

Cammi Woodall 

I read a lot of romance books. A lot. My mother started me out on Grace Livingston Hill and Barbara Cartland. As I grew, I devoured series by Jane Austen, Nora Roberts, Jude Deveraux, and Kathleen Woodiwiss. That’s why my choice of my favorite romance book is… odd.

Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz is not a typical romance book by any means. The book focuses on the character of Odd Thomas, a fry cook in the small desert town of Pico Mundo, California, who spends his days flipping pancakes and grilling hamburgers. It is a simple life but one he revels in, because Odd has an unusual ability.

He can see dead people. Any time a spirit cannot pass over, they are drawn to this young man. Much of the novel focuses on Odd’s attempts to solve murders and help these spirits so they can go forward to the next great adventure.

The one thing ‘normal’ about his life is his relationship with Stormy Llewellyn. Stormy comes from an abusive childhood but finds the strength to call the authorities and save herself. The two young people share a chaste love and a deep bond. At a local carnival, they see a gypsy fortune teller machine. Each couple in front of them receives bad messages, but they decide to try their luck anyway. They receive a small white card with a decorative border  embossed with the words “You are destined to be together forever.” They both smile, because they already know this.

The novel culminates in a gruesome mall shootout. After disarming the gunmen and disabling a bomb, Odd is badly wounded. During his hospital stay and recovery, Stormy never leaves his side. The two laugh, talk, watch TV, and recuperate, healing both wounds and spirits together. After a few days, Odd’s friends come to tell him the truth, something he has known the whole time but refused to acknowledge. This truth sets the stage for the rest of the books.

This is where the ‘romance’ angle of the book veers away from the normal formula. Stormy and Odd are not together at the end of this book. I won’t go into the details but I do recommend you read the story. I warn you though – you will fall in love with Odd and his eclectic assortment of friends.

The ‘end’ of Odd’s relationship with Stormy is defining, as it sends Odd on a long, spiritual voyage. Koontz summarized it as follows: “You can decide a relationship was all for nothing if it had to end in death, and you alone. OR you can realize that every moment of it had more meaning than you dared to recognize at the time, so much meaning it scared you, so you just lived, just took for granted the love and laughter of each day, and didn’t allow yourself to consider the sacredness of it. But when it’s over and you’re alone, you begin to see that it wasn’t just a movie and a dinner together, not just watching sunsets together, not just scrubbing a floor or washing dishes together or worrying over a high electric bill. It was everything; it was the why of life, every event and precious moment of it. The answer to the mystery of existence is the love you shared sometimes so imperfectly, and when the loss wakes you to the deeper beauty of it, to the sanctity of it, you can’t get off your knees for a long time, you’re driven to your knees not by the weight of the loss but by gratitude for what preceded the loss. And the ache is always there, but one day not the emptiness, because to nurture the emptiness, to take solace in it, is to disrespect the gift of life.”

In the end, Odd leaves Pico Mundo. He has no intentions of disrespecting Stormy’s gift of life, but he does not think he yet deserves to spend eternity with his girl. So he heads out into the world to confront his grief and help in whatever way he can. By confronting evil and the woes of humanity, he will struggle through this boot camp of life so he can be with Stormy. After all, they are destined to be together forever.

There are seven books in the Odd Thomas series, with two smaller novellas. The last book, Saint Odd, was published in 2015. I will make a confession. I have only read 5 ½ of the books. I cannot make myself finish the series because I am afraid it won’t end the way I want.

I adore the characters of Odd Thomas and Stormy Llewellyn. The stories are all first person, so it feels like Odd and I are on the front porch watching the sunset while we sip sweet tea. He regales the reader with his humorous, insightful, self-deprecating views on life and the follies/evil we all encounter. He has become a dear friend and I want his story to end gloriously.

He and Stormy are destined to be together forever. I won’t settle for anything less.

And when you read romance or write romance, you shouldn’t settle for anything less either. If writing, use vibrant characters, a good plot line, and a love that goes above and beyond the story itself. If reading, let the story carry you. Root for love and “boo” at the evil. Enjoy the book in your hand.

Maybe one day you can see the movie…

 

1st Saturday Extra: Why I Write Romance

By Janie Winsell

I have always been an avid reader of fiction. I was born with heart problems and barely escaped open-heart surgery as a newborn. Because of my health issues, my mom had to keep an eye on my exertion and stress.

If I ran too much or got upset, my lips would turn blue, and my mom had to figure out ways to quiet me down—enter books. Mom found that reading to me calmed me down the quickest. I fell in love with the stories of princesses finding their princes and the adventurous journeys that brought them together.

When I wasn’t reading about two people falling in love, I created my own stories with my Barbie dolls. I would practice the storyline and then put on plays for my family.

As I grew up, I exchanged my Barbie plays for V.C. Andrews and Maureen Daly books. I never really dated in high school, but I had wonderful book boyfriends. They were gorgeous and sweet, thoughtful and protective. It raised my expectations for the type of guy I wanted to date.

I love bringing couples together. The magic of that first kiss—the moment the heroine knows the hero’s her soul mate drives me. Every story that I write opens my eyes to a new aspect of love in its purest form.

Love is so much more than physical attraction. It’s calling someone up at midnight because you’re worried about an important meeting at work the next day. It’s that person talking you down and calming your nerves enough that you’re able to relax and sleep. It’s forgiveness when we mess up. Love means knowing someone cares about what happens to you.

I think in this world, love has become a word to get something from someone. A child asks their parent, “How much do you love me?” They follow this by whatever toy or electronic device they want. A guy tells a girl he loves her so much he can’t wait for marriage, and if she loves him back, she’ll sleep with him. A Christian tells God they love Him followed by a laundry list of things they want, and if He’ll just provide these items, they’ll know He loves them.

That’s not love. That’s not romance.

I want people reading my stories to know God’s love through human interaction. My hope is that they see God’s love in how the heroine treats the hero and vice versa. I want them to read my stories and realize that they’re worthy of that type of unconditional love.

I write Romance because it’s my calling. It’s my way of sharing God’s love.

Writing Prompt: Write a story about the couple in the picture above. Forget cliche. Try to think of a twist to make it different.

Click to tweet: “Every story that I write opens my eyes to a new aspect of love in its purest form.” Why I Write Romance by Janie Winsell #romance #ValentinesDay


Janie Winsell is a Christian author who writes Contemporary Women’s fiction, Romance, and Romantic Suspense. She received her Master’s Degree in Creative Writing at Full Sail University. She is a member of ACFW and active in the critique main loop.
She writes about real Christians who, like the world, are not perfect, but through God’s love and discipline, they learn the lessons needed to grow in their relationship with their Heavenly Father as well as with each other.

Writing Romance

February is the month of love and romance. So what better topic could we offer this month besides romance writing? Stay tuned to learn about everything romance…

By Fay Lamb

Not so long ago, if anyone would have asked me if I wrote romance, I’d have say, “Uh-no” in that haughty way that tells someone they consider themselves above all that.

Today, I tell you proudly that I do write romance. The truth is, I was writing it way back then, too. I just didn’t realize it. Romance really does make the world turn. I’m sure if I tried I might come up with one movie or book that is absolutely void of romance, whether it be a simple attraction, a hint of romance, or the story is all about falling in love, but romance, even if it doesn’t play out, is what makes a story memorable.

Yet, writing romance isn’t always as simple as it seems. I’m one of those authors that balk at formula, but I have to tell you, formula works—especially if you’re targeting a publisher that lives or dies by that formula. Actually, the Hallmark channel is enough proof that publishers will thrive on formula romance.

So what is the formula? It’s a simple recipe: Boy meets girl, preferably by the first scene or at least by the end of the first chapter, and certainly no later than the first scene of the second chapter. Boy and girl must share an attraction that will grow into love, but there must be an overriding conflict that keeps them from taking the plunge. In my novel, Charisse, the heroine was always attracted to her hero, even in high school. She just didn’t think he cared for her. They drift apart, and many years later, after they reconnect, the big dope, who did care about her in high school, has done something unforgivable—at least as far as the heroine is concerned. Still, circumstances cause her to work for him. Her cold shoulder toward him due to her anger and also another woman who blatantly desires him, are both roadblocks to their finding happily ever after.

Formula does seem monotonous, though, so there are elements to a story that can make it rise above the others. One thing is character. My friend, June Foster, writes romance where the characters aren’t the golden-haired beauty queens or the blond Adonis of every woman’s dreams. Nope, her delightful stories include a woman who lost a leg, a man who is obese and closing in on being a diabetic. She writes about women who are compelled to buy things and men who struggle with unbecoming issues, and those stories work. Don’t underestimate the idea of a flawed human being as a hero or heroine. Readers like the underdog.

Another angle to take could be humor. In my very formulaic romance, Libby, the poor woman is traumatized by a perceived lack of self-worth while those around her see her shine brightly. Her hero is a man who believes that his past might cause him to hurt her. In the background are two of the worst matchmakers imaginable, and everything they do to keep the hero and heroine together turns into tragic hilarity.

Finally, a little mystery or two might add to the formula. No, I’m not saying get out of the romance genre and write a romantic suspense or a cozy mystery. Simply layer in a question that begs to be answered. Currently, I’m watching an Australian show where they bill the hero as having an “undetermined number of ex-wives.” Every mention of an ex-wife makes the viewer want to know more. This type of question can tantalize readers as well.

Find something unique for each romance, and weave it into the story. Turn monotony into a story with flair, and shout to the world, “I am a writer of romance!”

 Writing Prompt: Look at the photo above. Describe who is giving this gift and who is receiving. Develop a strong character in your description.

Click to tweet: Romance really does make the world turn. But how do you write a love story? Read on. #romance #ValentinesDay


Fay Lamb writes emotionally charged stories with a Romans 8:28 attitude, reminding readers that God is always in the details. Fay donates 100% of her royalties to Christian charities.

Storms in Serenity is the first book in Fay’s Serenity Key series. Fay’s other series include, Amazing Grace and her novels, Stalking Willow, Better than RevengeEverybody’s Brokenand Frozen Notes. The Ties that Bind Series includes Charisse,Libby, and Hope. Delilah, is coming soon.

Fay’s is also the author of The Art of Characterization: How to Use the Elements of Storytelling to Connect Readers to an Unforgettable Cast.

3 Questions Wednesday with Sandra Byrd

Author Sandra Byrd is a best-selling author who has published more than fifty books. She also mentors and coaches new writers. Please visit www.novelcoaching.com to learn more. With great pleasure, we welcome her to 3 Questions Wednesday!

First question–

What inspires you?

Sandra: Art, in all its forms, and kindness.

Kindness is big for me also. My blog promotes small acts of kindness. 🙂 Now…

You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What color would you be and why?

Sandra: I love those pebbled crayons – the ones that have little beads and bubbles of colors all squashed together into a mosaic. Do you remember making those when you were a kid? You’d scrape up bits of leftover crayons and melt them together? Life is such a fusion of love, joy, pain, waiting, rejoicing, sorrow and grief, hope and renaissance.  I love to write about the full human experience – and I’d want me, the crayon, to represent that!

I love this answer! The perfect crayon. Last question…

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Sandra: I knew that I wanted to be a writer at six years old, as soon as I’d learned to read chapter books. Really! Then, I thought I’d better explore. So, as a kid, I wanted three careers: to be a hair stylist, to be a waitress, and to be an author. After I mohawked my Barbie I knew I wasn’t cut out for the hair stylist career. I was a waitress in a Jewish deli when I was a teenager and I then worked for a caterer till I went to college, both of which I truly enjoyed. Writing, however, was the real passion. And it stuck.

I know your readers are glad you did. Thanks so much for stopping in! 

Sandra has graciously offered a print copy of A Lady in Disguise to one reader who leaves a comment. (U.S. addresses only)


A Lady in Disguise

Daughters of Hampshire, Book 3

In this intriguing novel of romance, mystery, and clever disguise set in Victorian England, a young woman investigates the murder of her own father.

After the mysterious death of her father, Miss Gillian Young takes a new job as the principal costume designer at the renowned Drury Lane Theatre Royal. But while she remembers her father as a kind, well-respected man of the Police Force, clues she uncovers indicate he’d been living a double life: a haunting photograph of a young woman; train stubs for secret trips just before his death; and a receipt for a large sum of money. Are these items evidence of her father’s guilty secrets? His longtime police partner thinks so.

Then Gillian meets the dashing Viscount Thomas Lockwood. Their attraction is instant and inescapable. As their romantic involvement grows, Gillian begins to suspect even Lockwood’s motives. Does Lord Lockwood truly love her? Or is his interest a front for the desire to own her newly inherited property? And what should she make of her friend’s suggestion that Lockwood or men like him were involved in the murder of her father?

Soon Gillian is convinced that her father has left evidence somewhere that can prove his innocence and reveal the guilty party. But someone wants to stop her from discovering it. The closer she comes to uncovering it, the more menacing her opposition grows. With her life on the line, Gillian takes on an ingenious disguise and takes on the role of a lifetime to reveal the true killer—before it’s too late both for her and for those that she loves.


After earning her first rejection at the age of thirteen, bestselling author Sandra Byrd has now published more than fifty books. Her adult fiction debut, Let Them Eat Cake, was a Christy Award finalist, as was her first historical novel, To Die For: A Novel of Anne BoleynTo Die For was also named by Library Journal as a Best Books Pick, as was The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr.
A life-long lover of Victorian Gothic romances, Sandra’s new series, Daughters of Hampshire, weaves elements of that mystical, traditional genre with inspirational and literary threads. Mist of Midnight, the series’ first book, was honored with a coveted Editor’s Choice designation from the Historical Novel Society. The second book in the series, Bride of a Distant Isle, launched in March, 2016 and the third, A Lady in Disguise is just out in 2017.
A devotionalist as well as a novelist, Sandra’s best-selling devotional for tweens, One Year Be-Tween You and God  was followed up with her first devotional for adults, The One Year Home and Garden Devotions.  The One Year Experiencing God’s Love devotional will publish in Fall, 2017.
She is passionate about helping new authors develop their talent and their work toward traditional or independent publication. As such, she has mentored and coached hundreds of new writers and continues to edit and coach dozens to success each year.
Please visit www.novelcoaching.com to learn more.

Save

Save