Mary Welcome to HarlequinJunkie!
Anthony Weston came to me as I lay on the hospital bed waiting for the first of three surgeries that would lead to a hysterectomy six weeks later. There I was, tucked into an oversized blue and white print hospital issue with an IV in one arm, beeps, buzzes, and scuffing footsteps pushing me toward a migraine. Without glasses or contacts, I could see about three inches in front of me and that’s a generous estimation generous. I didn’t even have the calming voice of my husband next to me as he’d been shuttled to the waiting room.
I did the only thing a writer can do at a moment like this – I closed my eyes and thought of my next book, or more to the point, my next hero. I love creating heroes, the wounded kind that ‘bleeds hurt and been done wrong’ - the kind every woman wants to heal. My mind wandered, the noises quieted, and there he was, Mr. Anthony Weston, in his proper attire and perfectly tied cravat. When he popped into my head, I didn’t know the details of his painful history, the lowly beginning as a stable boy with an empty belly and grimy hands, the father who beat him, the mother who didn’t love him enough to save herself. I knew none of Anthony’s story, but then I began to think about what would make a man like this avoid anything that smacks of emotion and what kind of woman could change his mind and heal his heart. Enter Meriel Linton, a carefree spirit who runs barefoot, dons men’s breeches and loves animals and people with innocent abandon and boundless energy.
This is Meriel’s first impression of Anthony Weston, from A TASTE OF SEDUCTION:
The door clicked behind her and Meriel forced her gaze in the direction of the voice. A man sat behind a large desk, writing. He was somewhere in his thirties, with closely clipped black hair, save an errant cowlick above his left brow. He had rough, hard features: thick, bushy eyebrows, a straight, firm nose with a slight crook to the left, high cheekbones and a jaw that was too square. There was nothing soft about him, except perhaps his mouth which boasted a pair of well-formed lips.
But when he looked up, the frown on his face pulled his lips into a thin straight line and Meriel changed her initial opinion. There was nothing soft about the man. She met his stormy silver gaze, cold as a winter’s chill, and just as biting.
And then there was the scar. It ran down the right side of his face in a jagged path, from the edge of his bushy brow trailing halfway down his cheekbone.
She swallowed. This man was most definitely not Lord Montrose. Besides being much too young, Uncle Bernard had told her that Lord Montrose loved her mother beyond reason. She doubted this man had ever loved anything in his life.
And then there’s Anthony’s thoughts on Meriel . . .
What the devil! He ran his hands over his face and thought of his encounter with the red-headed stranger. She was beautiful, of that there was no doubt. With her tumbling fiery mane and brilliant blue eyes, the woman was the type who could weave truths from lies and capture the heart of any unsuspecting fool. Not him of course. He’d never been considered a fool.
I made it through the surgeries and recuperation period with the love and support of my husband’s quiet strength, my children and stepchildren’s humor, my mother’s cooking that included green leafy vegetable and liver to build up my depleted iron supply, my dog, Molly, who stayed at my side when I was too weak to sit up, and of course, Anthony Weston, who had a story to tell and needed me to tell it.
I grew up in a very small town in northwest Pennsylvania with two older brothers and a younger sister. There were no malls, no McDonalds, and one movie theater that closed in the summer to avoid competition with the drive-in. (One man owned both.) One thing this town did have was a wonderful library . . . about 2 miles away. I walked there at least once a week and fell in love with the characters and places I read about. It was then I began creating different endings to some of the stories I read, and if I didn’t want the story to end, I continued it on in my head – exactly the way I wanted it! Though I moved away and lived in different cities and states, family and the small town community have always stayed with me and are often central themes in my stories.
Did I know I wanted to be a writer as a child…
Honestly, I had no real idea what I wanted to do. But when you are 16 and intelligent, people start asking and I thought I had to have an answer . . . as though it was a test! I thought about a nurse, an English teacher, or a journalist. I decided on nursing because my mother was a nurse and loved it, my grandmother lived with us and I enjoyed taking care of her, and there were several scholarships for nursing. No brainer, right? Wrong. My heart was in the written word. My college freshman English teacher told me I broke the curve every time we had an essay. I did become a registered nurse but left a few months after taking my state boards. I found that while I loved reading about medical conditions and situations, I was not cut out to actually be in the middle of them. It would take many years to find the courage to follow my true path. Who knows? Had I become an English teacher, I might have been so content I would not have tried writing my own story. I find many of my stories involve medical situations, so that schooling did help!
Advice to the new writer…
Write what you are passionate about, do not jump on the trend wagon, and continue to improve your craft. Only you can write your stories with your voice – find that voice and stay true to it. It may take time to discover your voice but it will be worth it. Don’t take a rejection personally either-(see below) I know that’s hard to do but if you let it, rejection can smother you. Don’t let that happen to you! Join a group in the genre you write but don’t let others tell you what or how to write. Read. Quite a bit. Most importantly- write, write, write! And NEVER GIVE UP! Did I mention write?
And a thought about rejection letters…
Ugh! No, do you really want to know how I feel? UGH!! Seriously, no one wants to be rejected, but if the reason is plausible, I can accept it. I might not like it, most of the time I won’t agree with it, but I will accept it. (And file it away, to pull out when it sells and say, ‘Ahah, you were wrong!’) The subjectivity of this business makes it difficult. Editor A might love the first half but not the last half. Editor B loves the last half and none of the first half. Editor C loves it all. D loves none of it. See what I mean? You can’t start changing your book to please everyone or you will end up with something you don’t even recognize.
What I find most difficult is waiting months and months and months and then receiving a form ‘This project is not right for us’ or nothing at all, which is apparently acceptable in some circles. I consider it bad manners, no matter how you look at it.
The kindest rejection advice I ever received came from a young editor who said to never give up. The rejection was merely a pass on the piece, not a pass on me, the author. Do not take it personally and please continue submitting. So, there you have it.
Since I’ve joined the self-publishing world, there’s a new kind of rejection that’s often bold, blatant, and certainly doesn’t come in a sealed envelope or private email. It’s called the bad review. And the writer’s best defense is to not look at them…easy to say, hard to do.
Yes, I write in more than one genre…
I began with historicals for the pure joy of falling into romance through a fairytale setting. The beautiful young women, the wealthy, titled men, the gowns, the carriages, the estates, even the villains are pure fairytale material reminiscent of Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, and Sleeping Beauty. I still remember watching Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella with Leslie Ann Warren and Stuart Damon, (who was later Alan Quartermaine in General Hospital!) The historical lifts me up and carries me away into happily ever after. And here’s a confession; I watch Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice at least once a month. (The Matthew Macfadyen and Keira Knightley version.) I know many Austen critics say it’s not true to the story, but I can’t help it, the chemistry is there and I love the scene in the rain and when Mr. Darcy hands Ms. Elizabeth into the carriage and squeezes her hand. I’ve watched that scene so many times- nothing is said, yet so much is conveyed. Anthony Weston in A Taste of Seduction is initially a bit of a ‘stick in the mud’ like Mr. Darcy.
Writing contemporary romance comes naturally to me. Most of my contemporary romances are hybrids; combination contemporary romance and women’s fiction. But, I like a strong romance in the book, so I’m always going to have one in there. The whole attraction/distraction, push/pull between the man and woman is a must. They have deeper themes but great love stories too.
What I’m working on now…
I just finished the first in a Regency historical series I’m calling The Model Wife. It’s delightful and delicious with a very different kind of hero. Next up will be book editing and re-releasing of Paradise Found. Then book two of the An Unlikely Husband series. (The Seduction of Sophie Seacrest is book one.)
Here’s a snippet for Paradise Found – What if a man who has everything – wealth, power, looks, talent- is suddenly stripped of one of life’s most basic needs – his sight – and what if the one person who can help him redefine his new world is a woman who has been so emotionally scarred and bruised by an ex-husband that she can’t see past this man’s image to the real person inside?
Paradise Found explores the delicate balance between ‘blind’ trust and hope, the development and nurturing of feelings where physical appearances are non-existent, and the inevitable fear that accompanies any relationship when the mask of politeness is discarded and the true self is revealed.
And here I am…
Mary will be giving away a copy of "A Taste of Seduction" and "The Way They Were" to 2 lucky commentors.
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The Way They Were
He hasn’t spoken her name in fourteen years. She keeps a journal hidden in the back of her closet and permits herself to write about him once a year—on the anniversary of the first and only time they made love. They promised to love one another forever, but tragedy tore them apart. Now, destiny may just bring them back together.
Excerpt for THE WAY THEY WERE
Kate’s brush slipped, smearing red paint onto the gray siding of the miniature dollhouse. Damn. She snatched a rag and began dabbing at the red spot.
She dabbed harder as if she could blot out Angie’s words. “I heard you.”
Kate glanced up, proud of the outward calm she displayed when her insides were a jumble of panic. “And what?”
“Oh for heaven’s sake, it’s me you’re talking to here, the one who sat up with you for three nights straight after that jerk left.” Angie swore under her breath and muttered, “He didn’t even have the decency to say good-bye.”
“It was a long time ago.” Fourteen years in July.
Angie Sorrento was a pint-size dynamo with a giant-sized temper who swore in Italian and English and could carry a grudge longer than anyone Kate had ever known. The only grudge larger than the one Angie had for Rourke Flannigan was the one relegated to the ex-fiancé who skipped out on her three days before the wedding.
“Really, Angie. Fourteen years is ancient history.”
Angie’s dark eyes narrowed. “That’s what I’m worried about, Kate. Your history with Mr. Jerk.”
“There’s no need to worry.” Kate dipped her brush in red and filled in the trim along the roof. This house was a four bedroom cape cod, designed for Rachel and Jared Hennessy and their seven year old twins, Jeffrey and Jason. The family had relocated from Richmond, Virginia last year so Jared could teach sophomore English and coach basketball in Montpelier. Great family—devoted couple, beautiful kids, even a golden retriever named Jed.
Angie started up again. “Even if it weren’t ‘Mr. Holier than Thou, let me grace you with my presence in this Podunk town’ and even if said man-boy weren’t someone you’d been intimately involved with, I’d still be worried.”
“Unnecessarily.” Kate ignored the way her pulse skittered when Angie talked about him.
“Stop.” Her pulse tripled.
“You buried Clay five months ago. That makes you a lonely widow. The perfect target.”
“You watch too many Lifetime movies.” Had he heard about Clay? That was ridiculous, how could he have heard? She had no idea where he lived and now, suddenly, he was here. Why?
“Katie? Are you all right?”
No, she wasn’t. She hadn’t been all right since—Kate pushed the unwelcome truth away and glanced at her friend. “I’m fine.”
“Fine is code word for no. Look, I know you don’t want to talk about him, but there are some things you’ve got to know before this guy comes waltzing back into your life.”
“He’s hardly waltzing back into my life.”
“Steamrolling then. You just wait and see.”
“We haven’t seen each other since we were eighteen.” A marriage and child ago. “We’re strangers.”
“You were planning to marry the guy.”
Kate set down her brush and plastered the same expression she’d worn when well-wishers patted her hand and offered prayers for strength to endure her newly-widowed state. She’d never told Clay how much he meant to her, not really and now one freakish accident had stolen her chances of ever telling him.
“They say he kicks people out of their homes to get a deal.”
“That’s crazy. He would never—” She stopped. How did she know what he would never do? He was a man now, not a teenager.
“They say he buys the buildings dirt cheap, after he kicks the tenants out, and then renovates the places into posh apartments for his rich friends.” Angie crossed her arms over her small chest and tilted her head to one side so several black springs of hair bounced off her shoulders. “While you were watching Barney with Julia, I was watching him on E and seeing his face plastered in People.”
Rourke had always hated media in any form, said they made it hard to find a nugget of truth in anything. Kate started to shake her head in denial and ended in a shrug. What did she really know about him anymore? The truth slipped out again. Nothing.
“He flew to Sweden to have dinner with some beauty queen. And spent Easter skiing in the Alps.”
“Busy man.” While Rourke was globetrotting, she’d been burying her husband and trying to console her daughter.
“Still not married though plenty have tried to snag him.”
So, there was no wife.
“Here.” Angie slid a folder across the table. “Everything you need to arm yourself against Mr. Rourke Connor Flannigan.”
Kate glanced at the manila folder in front of her. “You make him sound like a villain.”
“If he gets to you again, you won’t survive.”
“Are there pictures in here?” Kate fingered the folder.
“Of course.” Angie let out an indelicate snort. “Okay, he’s drop dead gorgeous, I will give him that, but not much else.”
With a flip of the folder, she could satisfy fourteen years of wondering. “Maybe I’ll just take a peek—”
“Damn! Close the folder. Quick.”
“Because Mr. Jerk’s standing right outside.”