chess-cropped“Men define romance as the prelude to sex, and women define romance as one of the expressions of love.”

This quote from the book by Neil Rosenthal titled, “Love, Sex, and Staying Warm” sums up one definition of the term “romance.” A rather recent definition: this sentence appeared in a blog by the author published in May of 2013. The book has a current publication date of 2015.

As romance authors, how does this affect the stories we write? Can we assume—since according to the Romance Writers of America—a majority of our readers are women, so our plots and characters should place more emphasis on the “expressions of love”? Or, as do a seemingly increasing percentage of romance authors, should we place more, and earlier emphasis on the sexual part of a relationship?

(I’m not referring to genres labeled as erotic or erotica here. I’m referring to mainstream, contemporary romance novels.)

I not only write, but also read romance—A LOT. In the past two years, I have listened (on audiobook) to over 200 of them. That doesn’t include the other fifty or so on my Kindle app, or the teetering stack of paperbacks on my bedside table. I tend to read what I write, so, the contemporary genre. But I also enjoy crossover authors who infuse paranormal, time travel, suspense, or “chick lit” slants to their

One trait, as I rapidly approach the 300-books-read-recently mark, has jumped out at me. It clearly divides the books into two distinct categories.

There are stories where the hero and heroine have sex before any sort of relationship develops, soon after meeting and “sparks flying.” These tend to be the shorter, 40-60,000 word novels, such as a few of the Harlequin lines.

Then there are the ones where, after getting at least halfway through the book, I am convinced there won’t be any sex scenes at all. The emotional journey bringing the two characters together is rich and deeply explored. Developed slowly, realistically. When sex happens, it’s just as intense, oftentimes just as graphic. But as a reader, I tend to become more emotionally involved in these love scenes, because they really are more love than sex scenes. I come away convinced that the expected, required happy-ever-after ending defining a book as a romance really will stick.

My debut novel from SMP followed this slower route. I believe my H/H don’t have sex until at least halfway through the book. It is a longer title, as most of my books tend to be. This has defined my writing style from the start. I am, after all, old-fashioned—and just plain older. For me, as a teenager in the early 70s, that’s the way it was “supposed to be.”

First comes love, then comes marriage, then (and ONLY then) comes Claire with a baby carriage.

But times have definitely changed, and in trying to stay abreast of the modern way of thinking, the new emancipation of women’s views on sex, I have altered my approach. I realize that many women now, like men, totally separate the concepts of lust and love. One is not necessarily a prerequisite for the other.feminism-1367370_1280

Think Sex and the City.

I received a “critical” review recently on one of my titles where the reader labeled my story as “insta-love.” Her reasoning was because, written along the lines of my modernized approach, the H/H had sex very soon after meeting. A more emotional relationship didn’t evolve until much later in the book, as the characters got to know each other better. After they’d spent enough time together, and been through enough tribulations, to discover that they did, indeed, have feelings for each other that went beyond lust.

So why the label “insta-love”? It wasn’t love my characters experienced throughout the first quarter of the novel, but pure physical attraction. The love didn’t develop until later in the book, which, unfortunately, this reader never got to experience—because she stated she did not finish the book.

I’d like to ask my fellow Soulies their opinions on this subject. Are you afraid the modern reader will be offended by our H/Hs giving in to their lust before any kind of emotional relationship develops? Or merely a sub-set? I tend to believe the latter, because shorter romances, like those in the majority of the Harlequin lines, simply don’t have time to develop any kind of deep, emotional relationship before the H/H jump into the sack. And HQ novels have been selling like hotcakes since I was in my teens . . .a very, very long time ago. Even when many of us believed love should come before sex.

As I pull together all the straggling plot lines of my current WIP, I am now wondering if I allowed my H/H to have sex too early. It is before any real emotional relationship develops—that comes later. My heroine starts out an old-fashioned kind of gal, timid, and not especially sexually confident. But at a point early in the novel, she decides to change all that. She is, as my tagline describes, a “strong woman, starting over ~ redefining romance” –taking charge of her life in a more modern way—at work, with her friends, in her life. Bolder. More brazen. Adopting a modern mindset where it’s okay to separate the concepts of lust and love.

Men have, as author Rosenthal above states, been doing that all along. Is it really so bad now, in the spirit of embracing our modern feminist views, for us to portray women who think the same way?

How do you, my fellow authors, define romance? Does it offend you if heroines give in to their sexual desires before they fall in love? Or does it come off as “insta-love”? (And can someone explain that term for me?)

Feedback welcomed!


Claire Gem writes contemporary, paranormal, and romantic suspense. Find out more about her at, or at her Amazon Author Page.


Posted in Contemporary Romance, Soul Mate Publishing | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

What’s Better Than 1st Place?

Welcome to Junior’s!

Hail a taxicab anywhere in New York City and tell the driver, “Take me to the best cheesecake in New York.” Odds are you will end up at the corner of Flatbush and DeKalb Avenues in Brooklyn, at Juniors. Junior’s landmark restaurant is known as the home of New York’s best cheesecake. For decades, Brooklynites (and other New Yorkers) have come to eat, laugh, and kibbitz (argue) over cheesecake. In the 1950’s, an entire generation came of age at Junior’s, that’s me. Their cheesecake was as important as the Brooklyn Dodgers…the Fox Theater…Coney Island…Brighton Beach. Today loyal customers still come –from all over and all walks of life. Famous mayors. Presidents. Hall of Fame athletes. Authors, singers, like Frankie (the crooner) and Eddie Cantor (Mammy), movie stars. In fact, it’s as true today as it was 60 years ago when they started, “You haven’t really lived until you’ve had cheesecake at Junior’s.”
Christmas Swirl

Inside Junior’s at Foxwoods



All dressed up for the holidays, The Original New York cheesecake swirled with real strawberry puree, topped with red and green chips and wrapped with yellow chiffon cake on the sides with a beautiful Christmas tree pattern. Junior’s and cheesecake are synonymous. You say cheesecake, and you knew you would be dining at Junior’s. You say Junior’s and you knew your would be eating cheesecake.

Here come the cheesecake

Here come the cheesecake

Junior’s is a restaurant chain with the original location at 386 Flatbush Avenue Extension at the corner of DeKalb Avenue in Downtown Brooklyn, New York City. Other locations include Times Square area and the lobby of the MGM Grand Hotel in the Foxwoods Resort in Ledyard, Connecticut. The restaurant was founded by Harry Rosen in 1950. According to the restaurant, it was named Junior’s after Rosen’s two sons, Walter and Marvin.

Coney Island mural

Coney Island mural inside Junior’s

According to GO Brooklyn, “At that corner of Flatbush and DeKalb avenues in Downtown Brooklyn, there has been a diner run by the Rosen family since 1929. In 1950, the name was changed to Junior’s, and it has been serving its famous cheesecake and other goodies ever since.”



Rosen worked with master baker Eigel Peterson to create the cheesecake known today as “The World’s Most Fabulous Cheesecake”, based on a recipe that was in the Rosen family for three generations. In addition to cheesecake, Junior’s features deli sandwiches (particularly corned beef and pastrami), ten ounce steakburgers, cheese blintzes, and unique onion rings. Fans of the restaurant are not limited to Brooklynites. A Kuwaiti prince was known to have taken several of Junior’s cheesecakes back with him.

So what’s better than 1st place? Cheesecake at Junior’s, that’s what’s better than my dance competition placement. Well, almost. I had no idea there was a Junior’s restaurant at Foxwoods. Tom, my hubby said, “We’re going to have breakfast at Junior’s. I had no idea that was the famous Junior’s, and neither did my mid-western husband. We rounded the bend from the smoky casino, and low and behold, right in front of me was my most favorite New York restaurant that I ate at for years and years and years.

The waiter gave us menus. I looked it over and with sad eyes, I looked up and asked the waiter, “Where’s the potato pancakes?” He said, “On our lunch menu.” I named lots of other dishes that I remembered. He said, “You know Junior’s. Impressive!!!” I kid you not, I remember it well, just like the song sung by Maurice Chevalier. They have Junior’s in Florida and of course I ate there too. So I asked him if I could have a potato pancake with my breakfast, with sour cream. A big breakfast later, I asked, “Will you wrap up cheesecake to take away, and how about one of your New York bagels with cream cheese and tomato?”



bagels bagel-w-stripes






Happy Thanksgiving! Remember to have cheesecake.



If you like romance, and you like rip-roaring adventure, Indigo Sky is for you! Shopping at Tiffany’s, getting caught up in the New York Draft Riot, the Civil War, and the wilds of the Great Plains. Enjoy the holiday with Gail Ingis’s Indigo Sky.

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Giving Thanks for 20 Wonderful Years

happy-anniversaryOn November 1st, I was fortunate enough to celebrate my twentieth anniversary as a published author. Since then, I’ve had so many starts and stops in my career even I wasn’t sure where it was going.

I sold my first book within months of attending the 1996 RWA conference in Dallas, TX. Courting Trouble, part of the quickly-defunct Precious Gems line (a joint effort between the publisher and Wal-Mart Corp), became my foot in the door to the inner sanctum of published authors.

1-courting-troubleIt was a different publishing world back then. Manuscripts were submitted in hard-copy. Edits were really done in red ink with mark-ups (editor’s shorthand) and everything was sent back and forth via the U.S. Postal Service. For those of you who are fairly new to this crazy profession, back in the 90’s they didn’t use stock photo sites. The publishers held their own photo shoots and some even commissioned artists to create their cover. Mine was painted by the renowned romance cover artist, Pino.

Unfortunately, the euphoria of becoming published stalled out quickly following an amicable divorce and the need to return to a full-time job in order to support myself. Still, I never actually stopped writing, I just took longer and longer to finish a book.

I wouldn’t sell my next book until 2006. My friend and writing partner, the late Patti Shenberger, and I sold one of our joint projects to a newly minted publisher. I was skeptical … especially after the quick demise of the Precious Gems line. However, hoping for the best, I signed on. Ten years later, I still write for that publisher.

Books three through six came quickly, gleaned from manuscripts I’d been working on slowly over the previous years. I was on a roll … or so I thought.

Everything came to yet a second screeching halt in 2010 when health issues intervened! Again that writing career I longed for was put on hold. But only for awhile. In 2013 I began writing and selling again and, much to my delight, became part of the Soul Mate Publishing family in 2014.


As we approach tomorrow’s “turkey day” and then the holidays that follow, I find myself replaying my bumpy ride over and over in my head. I’m thankful for having a career…as chaotic as it turned out to be…and for the honor of being able to entertain people with my writing.

23-eye-of-the-pharaohSince that very first book twenty years ago, I’ve sold 24 more, my most recent release an Egyptian-themed, time travel romance, Eye of the Pharaoh, from Soul Mate.

I sometimes wonder how many more years…how many more books…I’ve got in me as a writer. I’d like to think I’m just getting started. My intent is to be that crazy old lady in the nursing home, one hand on her computer and the other on her oxygen mask and still writing steamy prose. I hope you’ll all stick it out with me!

Thank you for stopping by today. Wishing everyone a safe and joyous holiday season!




Posted in Nanobytes From Nancy!, Soul Mate Publishing | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

A Thanksgiving Treat

gobble-pop-clgobble-pops-2-copyHere’s a fun and tasty treat to add to your Thanksgiving traditions – adorable Gobble Pops! They’re cute enough to use as a table centrepiece – but way too delicious! The instructions seem long, but the Gobble Pops are actually pretty easy to make. And mine turned out pretty close to the ones made by Canadian Living expert bakers!

Check out the recipe HERE:

I wanted to make some of them gluten-free so I used gluten-free ginger snaps, M&Ms instead of malt balls for the head, and chocolate coated ginger snaps for the tails. Yum!

I hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving filled with love and laughter. 

If you’re a fan of romantic comedies, you might enjoy the Perfectly Series! More love and laughter for your long weekend.😀

Perfectly Honest coverYou never know where your words will take you. . .

When Mikaela Finn agreed to be Sam’s ‘fiancée’ for a weekend, she probably should have told him that she’s a doctor. Sam O’Brien, aka ‘Dr. Eye Candy’, is trying to shed his playboy reputation and convince a small town hospital that he’s ready to settle down. But when his ‘fiancée’ helps deliver a baby in the middle of the meet and greet, it’s a bit of a shock. If he’d known the whole truth, he might have done things a little differently because somehow his ‘fiancée’ ends up stealing his job and his heart. Not exactly the change he wanted.

Lies and deceit – it’s a match made in heaven!

Posted in Linda's LoveLines, Soul Mate Publishing | 2 Comments

Creating Memorable Characters


There are many elements to consider as you write your novel but including memorable characters is perhaps the most important of all. We all remember characters that resonated with our hearts, long after closing the last page of a book. Classic characters favored and remembered by many include Sherlock Holmes, Jane Eyre, Harry Potter, Anne of Green Gables, Rhett Butler and Madame Bovary to name but a few. Some of these characters represent benevolent goals (justice) or personal (love) while others surprise us as we find ourselves liking a character we know we shouldn’t.

How do you draft characters layered with complexities and who leap off the page with three dimensional force, leaving your readers grasping for more? Remember your favorite characters – the ones you love the most?  Why are they so compelling? What traits do they possess?

I’ve compiled a character worksheet you may find helpful—listing elements you may consider as you begin bringing your character to life on the page.

Character Worksheet

1. Who is your main character (identifying information)?

2. What are your character’s main goals and motivation?

3. What does your character need to do in order to achieve his/her goals?

4. What problems will your character face and how will they overcome these problems?

5. Will your readers like your character?

Additional things to consider:

·         age and physical description

·         family background

·         relationship status

·         friends

·         career

·         socioeconomic status

·         religion

·         skills

·         interests and hobbies

·         fashion style

·         favorite foods

·         strongest trait

·         flaws/weaknesses

·         sense of humor

·         dreams

·         habits

·         fears


Beyond these considerations, any character you create is all the more relatable if they possess flaws (or in the case of antagonists, something readers can empathise with). Any surprises or secrets that are revealed about the character (to the reader) will also work to strengthen your character’s personality. Readers will lose interest if your character is squeaky clean and never wrong. You don’t want him/her coming across as a robot, lacking in emotion. Rather, he/she should have moments of fear, rage, uncertainty, joy and sadness and should seek redemption in the event of mistakes. Characters are not meant to be perfect or untainted.

Most writers understand the necessity of avoiding the web of too much backstory but you’ll want to provide readers with information about your character’s motivation (we all want and need something). Include internal conflict (confusion, doubt, obsession, etc.) and external conflict with other characters and the environment.

My favorite characters are ones who begin as underdogs but rise up when faced with challenges. Scout, Piggy, Anne and Jane are illustrious representations of humans aiming to overcome hostility, poverty and discrimination.

What are your favorite characters and what tips can you offer writers with regards to creating memorable characters?

Posted in A Bit of Catch-Up With Kim, Soul Mate Publishing | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

The Write Word with Wareeze

Scene and Sequel continued


Hello writers and readers. Thanks for stopping by Soul Mate Publishing blog today. Together, we have discussed many elements of writing a book, writing forward, scene setting, creating worlds among other topics.

I’d like to add more information to the scene and sequel post I submitted on an earlier date. A scene/external—action is always necessary and moves the story forward. There must always be a sequel/internal—reaction is necessary to supply the deliverance of an emotional impact desired by the reader. Some want to escape reality for a brief moment, others want fulfilment, while other live through the pages with the characters. The author must supply satisfaction. We all strive to achieve such a lofty goal. Salute to writers—and readers everywhere!

In the past, I read my work from start to finish checking on the scene, sequel aspect of the manuscript. I have a project in hand in which I failed to do so. This story may never go forward or be completed, but the mistake will point out my meaning.


This certainly wasn’t the proper time to explore. Elizabeth sighed with a measure of relief. Dusk slowly invaded the trees and hovered above the lane. Another day would be much better for the search. An owl swooped over the path with wings spread wide, and a mournful hoot reminding her she should move along.

Before she’d taken more than a few steps, she heard a low rumbling growl. Hoping to climb out of harm’s way, she ducked behind a tree with low hanging limbs and peered around to locate the source of the noise. She spotted a huge, gray wolf staggering down the rutted track from the Clarke place. The animal’s mouth dripped white foam, and his fierce yellow gaze was fixed ahead, a terrifying sight. With the frenzy of her pulse raging in her ears, she couldn’t move for a single heartbeat. 

A rabid wolf! The hairs on the back of her neck stood up. Not daring to move and draw the wolf’s attention, she very slowly drew her pistol from her satchel and took aim, her fingers trembling. Before she managed to shoot, the beast fell to the ground kicking with convulsions, thrashing, and snapping its jaws all the while emitting a strange howl. The animal lurched to its feet and lunged forward.

She gulped in harsh mouthfuls of air and attempted to fire. Her hand trembled so badly she had to lower her weapon for a moment. Drawing in another deep breath, she tried to steady her gun again. She made two more attempts to control her hand before squeezing the trigger. Noise exploded from her gun, the beast yelped once then collapsed. Although stifled with the smell of gunpowder, she kept her gaze locked on the thrashing animal, alert, watching. Finally, the wolf succumbed and lay still.


I stopped here and jumped to her arrival at the boarding house in the town. Big mistake. There was no sequel/reaction. No physical reaction or internal reaction either. 

Sequel: reaction/both external and internal

A moment later, she crumpled against the rough bark of the tree to keep from falling. She trembled all over, her legs barely able to support her, and her hand still vibrating with the recoil from the gun. While she fought to recover, the light faded into the grayness of twilight. Finally, she regained enough composure to step out and rush towards Bittersweep.

The woods came alive with sounds, the chirping of crickets, the wind rustling leaves, and the scurrying of small creatures. At least, she hoped the noise came from rabbits and other harmless critters furtively scrambling through the underbrush. She broke into a run until moisture dripped off her forehead into her eyes. Slowing her pace, she spied winking lights ahead. Nearly back at the boardinghouse, she drew a deep breath of relief.

She couldn’t wait to get inside to safety, to four walls between her and nature. Finally making it to the porch, she rushed forward and burst inside.  Shutting the door, she gripped the brass knob with both hands behind her. She leaned against the wooden panel for a brief moment waiting for her breath to slow.

Betty entered the hallway. “What happened? Your hair’s all blown about and you’re breathing like a bellows.”

Elizabeth shook her head, still leaning against the doorframe. “I shot a rabid wolf.”

“A wolf? You better come on in and tell my mom about your upset. She’ll want to hear all about it.”

Elizabeth pushed away from the door making the glass pane rattle. “I’m going to my room. I’ll be down in a second.”

She collapsed on her bed, taking several deep breaths until her pulse steadied. Thoughts of JP able and willing to face a challenge for the children gave her ease. If only she could contact him tonight instead of tomorrow, she would sleep much better. She heaved a big sigh, changed her dusty boots for a pair of slippers, and headed downstairs to face Mrs. Ledbetter’s curiosity.          


Start of another scene/action– sequel/reaction.

After explaining everything at least twice, Elizabeth allowed the landlady to shove another cup of dandelion tea at her. By Mrs. Ledbetter’s reckoning, the tea would help her sleep, steading her nerves after such an ordeal. Elizabeth ate her supper and headed off to bed. When she passed the front door on the way to her room, a horse snorted outside of the house. She peered out the window in the door. A bridle jingled and a saddle squeaked under the weight of someone dismounting. A dim shape, wrapped in darkness, formed and strode across the porch. JP knocked on the doorframe, tall and powerful exuding the essence of strength even in his stillness.

The need to straighten her hair and scan her reflection in the glass tugged at her. Being in his presence always had this unsettling effect on her, one she couldn’t explain. Brushing the urge away, she took a deep breath and opened the door. “Ah, Mr. Honeycutt. You are the very person I wanted to see.”


Again, thank you for sharing your time with me. I hope you found the offering of interest. The genre is different from my usual offerings because of my love of the Regency. This is my attempt at a historical western. I don’t know how far I will take the story, or whether I have the right voice for the period. We’ll see.

For more information about my writing, visit my website:

With High Regards,

Wareeze Woodson

Posted in Soul Mate Publishing | 4 Comments

To Improving Our Craft—Hear, Hear!


In my earlier posts I may have mentioned that I am an avid audiobook fan. My 35-40 minute daily commute to my day job, coupled with the amazing medium of the audiobook, allows me to double my reading volume. In fact, I usually have three books going at once: a paperback at home, an eBook for lunchtime and breaks, and an audiobook whenever I’m in the car.

What I didn’t realize when I began listening to audiobooks is how the medium would allow me to improve my writing skills. Funny, since I’m actually a visual learner, but there are details that jump out at me when listening to a book—ones not apparent to my eyes on the page.

Our leader, Deborah Gilbert, has numerous times advised all of us Soul Mate authors to read our work out loud as a final proofread. This has proven to be golden advice. But even reading my own work out loud doesn’t highlight as many inconsistencies, flaws, or weak spots as listening to the work with my own ears.

My debut novel came out from SMP last year, and within days I had secured a narrator to produce it through ACX for audio. I’ll never forget the thrill of hearing, for the first time, my story being told in another’s voice. It was thrilling, exhilarating—and sobering. I realized quickly how awkward my phrasing could be at times, and how I over-used favorite words and phrases. How transitions seemed abrupt, or how what seemed like a logical sequence of events in my mind didn’t always translate to a logical flow in the story.hear-no-evil-1696231_640

These weren’t necessarily missed copy-edits, or even content edits, but more stylistic flaws that an editor may not pick out. Hearing them out loud, through my car speakers in stereo, highlighted several areas where I found I could improve my work.

My second audiobook was released recently, and although I’ve much improved those initial, “debut author” snafus, I still have much work to do. Listening to more than one of my own books brought to light the fact that:

  1. My heroines cry too much
  2. My characters’ smiles “don’t quite reach their eyes” way too often
  3. My female antagonists all seem to earn the title of Barbie doll.

Yikes. Guess I’ll be combing through my present WIP much more carefully for these very personal, individual writing pitfalls.dolls-1283261_640

Note: you don’t necessarily have to hire a narrator to produce an audiobook to catch these weak spots in your own work. Instead of simply reading my work out loud now, I have started actually recording it—no fancy equipment is needed, as it’s not headed for professional production.

So when you read your work out loud—that last, polished draft before final approval—record it. You can use the mic built into your computer. On my Mac, I use Garageband to produce the recording, then export it to my desktop as an MP3 file.

I either listen with earbuds from my laptop, or, by transferring the file to my iPhone, I can listen on my car’s speakers, the same as I would any other audiobook. I’m not sure what software is available for this purpose on a PC, but I welcome those who know how to make suggestions in comments.

So—here’s my latest tip to raise the quality of your writing: record your books. The spoken words will reveal elements you may miss on the page. You can then go back and tweak your writing style to reflect the story you want to tell in the very best form it can be.

Here’s to using yet another one of our senses to improve our craft—hear hear!industrial-1636403_640


Claire Gem writes contemporary romance & romantic suspense. You can find out more about her at Amazon Author Page or her Website.

Strong Women, Starting Over ~ Redefining Romance

Posted in Contemporary Romance, Inspiration, Motivation, Paranormal Romance, Romance, Soul Mate Publishing, Writing, Writing career | Tagged , , | 2 Comments