Archive for 'on writing'

“A letter for you from Mr. Hastings”

Seems legit.

"A letter for you from Mr. Hastings": a comic by Tom Gauld

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A chat with ‘Happy Ever After’

Such a pleasure to be interviewed by Joyce Lamb for the USA Today Happy Ever After blog! In which I dish about The Laird Takes a Bride, inspiration, writer’s block, my next book, a fave TV show, and more . . .

Click here to read the interview. And for more about my books, click here.

Image: cover for The Laird Takes a Bride by Lisa Berne (Avon Books)Photo: Amy Adams and Matthew Goode in "Leap Year"Photo: Grantchester star James NortonAvon Books logo

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Word of the day: akimbo

An excellent word! Infographic: "akimbo" and its definition, via Merriam-Webster

I used it in a scene in Chapter 3 of The Laird Takes a Bride, not long after my hero, Alasdair Penhallow, has met the four candidates for his favor in a Bachelor-esque scenario — one of whom he must choose as his bride, or suffer dire consequences.

Later, much later that evening, Alasdair lay with his head resting on interlaced fingers and his elbows akimbo. He was a big man, but even so his own self took up but little space within the great laird’s bed. Four massive oaken posts, carved long ago, upheld a canopy and looped hangings of rich cream-­colored linen, upon which had been skillfully embroidered figures of falcons, hawks, eagles, does and stags, foxes and wildcats. At this canopy Alasdair gazed unsee­ingly, for he was thinking about the four women.

About Wynda of the extraordinary bosom, so gen­erously displayed, he could only wonder what exactly was the jewel on her pendant necklace, it having disap­peared like a climber descending between two close­-set boulders. He supposed she had talked to him in the drawing-­room, but for better or for worse he retained nothing, as he had primarily exerted himself not to stare at her deeply fascinating balconniere.

Little Mairi had told him, in considerable detail, about her dog: where he slept (on his very own pillow, right next to hers), what he ate, when he evacuated his bowels, his fear of squirrels, his hatred of baths, his love for a nice marrow-­bone.Image: cover for The Laird Takes a Bride by Lisa Berne (Avon Books)

Green eyes sparkling, Janet was full of enthusiasm for the morrow’s outing. “An ancient monastery!” she’d cried, clapping her hands. “What fun! I simply adore old ruins, the more ramshackle the better! Oh, I do hope there are ghosts. Or a hermit at the very least!”

He had been obliged to inform her that the keep was entirely free of hermits, and as for ghosts, he had yet to encounter one there.

Janet had been only temporarily daunted, and smil­ingly said: “Still, it sounds wonderfully romantic! So Gothic! How I look forward to exploring every inch of it! Now! I want to hear all about you, laird!”

Now that was the right sort of lass, positive and friendly, excited about visiting a local landmark, a good conversationalist, and all soft and plump and round, like a ripe hothouse peach.

As opposed to the prickly, sharp­-tongued, aloof Miss Fiona Douglass. Her eyes, when they spoke, had been suddenly, strikingly blue against the drabber blue of her gown — and practically crackling with fiery intelligence.

She was not uninteresting.

But God’s blood, she’d be a handful for a man. Some other man. Not him.

He liked his private life to be easy, predictable, as smooth as silk. And nothing about Fiona Douglass suggested smooth, easy predictability.

Besides, she’d made it clear she didn’t want him, either.

He wondered again why she was still unmarried. Was there, perhaps, a swain anxiously waiting for her back in Wick Bay?

Oh well, it wasn’t his problem.

So now there was one lass crossed off his list. Still, there was no point in saying anything to her about it. No use in sending her home early, under a cloud of humiliation.

He thought again about Janet, and Mairi, and Wynda. Good God — Wynda. He spent a few mo­ments imagining himself spending the rest of his life, the rest of his nights, with his face buried between those prodigious, those delicious, yielding breasts.

His last thought, before sleep claimed him, was of Fiona Douglass, and the recollection that her breasts weren’t prodigious at all.

For more about The Laird Takes a Bride, including ordering info, a special gift with purchase, and a first-chapter excerpt, click here. Would you like to save it on Goodreads? Click here

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Word of the day: pandemonium

An excellent word! I used it with pleasure in The Bride Takes a Groom, the third book in my Penhallow Dynasty series, coming your way next spring.Graphic: "pandemonium" and its definition, via Merriam-Webster

It appears toward the end of Chapter 1, in a scene in which my hero, Captain Hugo Penhallow, has just returned home, unannounced, after an eight-year absence during which he’s served in the Army. In the entry-hall he says to the servant Eliza:

“Tell Robinson to set another place for me, would you? I’ll go in directly.”

“Oh, sir, but Mr. Robinson’s not here.”

“Egad, not dead, is he?” Hugo hoped not, as he had been very fond of their old butler; he’d loyally stayed on after Father had died, despite having his wages drastically reduced.

“Oh no, sir, he’s alive, but his palsy got so bad that the mistress pensioned him off, you see, and he’s living with his daughter Nancy and her family, up on Roper Street. Very happy he is, sir. Takes a pint every day at the pub, and sings in the choir on Sundays.”

Hugo was pulling off his greatcoat and hanging it on a peg. “Well, that’s excellent news. I’ll go see him later this week. See here, Eliza, I’m hungry as a bear. Can you set a place for me?”

“To be sure I can, sir! But — but — if you’ll forgive me asking — who are you, sir?”

“Good God, didn’t my mother tell any of you I was coming? No wonder poor old Hoyt looked as if he’d seen a ghost.” He laughed. “Never mind. I’m the prodigal son, Eliza! The eldest, you know — Hugo.”

Eliza looked astonished. “Oh! Sir! You’re Mr. Hugo? We was all afeared you was dead!”

“Dead! Why?”

“Because the mistress said you’d been shot by a Frenchy, Mr. Hugo, and that you was laid up in your cousin’s house — and then there wasn’t any more letters from you! Cook says them French bullets have a special poison in them, sir, that drains the life right out of a person!”

Blast it all, he’d deliberately trivialized the nature of his illness when writing home, not wishing to worry them — and why hadn’t Mama gotten the letter he’d written from Gabriel’s house a fortnight ago, informing her that he was fine, and would soon be on his way? Well, he could allay their anxieties right now.

“I was shot,” he said to Eliza, “but it would take more than some beastly Frenchman to kill me, that’s for certain! Go on, now, and bring me some supper, that’s a good girl.”

She bobbed a curtsy and Hugo, favoring his left leg ever so slightly, went down the long, familiar hallway, the dogs trotting behind with the same pliant obedience the children of Hamelin might well have displayed while following the Pied Piper. He came to a pair of oak-framed double doors, brought them open, and strolled into the dining-parlor. “I say, I’m home.”

Five golden-blond heads swiveled in his direction, five pairs of wide blue eyes displayed shocked surprise, and then pandemonium erupted.        

Would you like to preorder The Bride Takes a Groom? Click here. If you’d like to save it on Goodreads, click here.

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On happy endings, sexy heroes, and revolutionary writing

Really enjoyed this recent post on Shondaland.com featuring the inimitable Julia Quinn. Here are some of my favorite bits.

SL: What do you think takes a romance novel from good to great?

JQ: There’s a joke romance writers like to make when we’re talking about our books. We’ll be talking about the plot, and then we’ll say in a confidential tone, “Okay, spoiler alert. They get together in the end.” This pretty much always gets a laugh, because if there is one thing we all know about romance novels, and indeed, if there is one thing that defines a romance novel, it’s the happy ending. 

This isn’t to say, however, that romance novels are formulaic. Far from it. You open with two protagonists who meet (or re-meet) and you finish with a happy ending. How you get from point A to point B is wide open. But no matter how varied the plots may be, they all end in fundamentally the same place. Which is why I think that if you want to take a romance novel from good to great, it’s all about the characters.

If the reader doesn’t care about the characters, if she doesn’t have a hollow spot in the pit of her stomach when things look bleak, or she doesn’t feel a thrill as they tumble into love, the book will fall flat. A romance novel is all about the emotional journey, and a reader’s emotions must be engaged. I’m known for writing humorous books, and I’m often asked for advice on how to be funny. (Short answer: I have no idea. It’s just the way I’m wired.) I always caution writers not to forsake the emotion in the pursuit of humor. A funny book will make you laugh, but a funny book that grabs your heart at the same time will stay with you forever. 

Photo: Julia Quinn

SL: What do you most hope people take away from your work?

JQ: I’ve said many times that I’m not going to change the world with my writing, but I can change someone’s afternoon. There is a time and a place for the Great American Novel, and there is a time and a place for clever, well-written entertainment. I love writing the latter, and I love reading it, too.

But lately I’ve been thinking that there is more to it than that. I often hear from readers who tell me that my books have shown them that they deserve better in their lives, that they deserve a partner who treats them well. And maybe that’s why my heroes aren’t typical bad boys. (Seriously, every time I try to write a bad boy hero he turns around and does something decent and nice.) I don’t want a guy who treats women like dirt, and I don’t want to write about guys who do that, either. Then it occurred to me — in some ways, portraying a healthy relationship in literature is the most revolutionary thing you can do.

SL: Going off of that, what makes a male character sexy in a romance novel?

JQ: There are really two parts to what makes a male character sexy. The first is focused just on him. There is the physical — he doesn’t need to be classically handsome, but he needs to be attractive to the heroine. He also needs, in my opinion, a stellar sense of humor and the ability to — at least some of the time — not take himself too seriously. But I also think that a vital component of his sexiness comes in how he sees the heroine. A guy simply cannot be sexy if he doesn’t respect women. If you want to be a hero in one of my books, you have to believe in the heroine and respect and cherish her strengths and abilities. It doesn’t mean he can’t get all protective and macho from time to time — I mean, who doesn’t love that? But ultimately, he’s got to think she’s the bomb, and not just because he likes the way she looks on his arm. And of course, it doesn’t hurt if he gets down on one knee and declares that she’s the missing piece to his soul.

To read the full interview, click here.

More about Julia Quinn here.

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It’s done . . .

And now the manuscript for The Bride Takes a Groom, the third book in the Penhallow Dynasty series, is off to my editor!Photograph: the manuscript for The Bride Takes a Groom by Lisa Berne (Avon Books)

Plus, here’s an advance preview of the back cover!

Lisa Berne’s Penhallow Dynasty continues with a pair of star-crossed childhood friends who meet again years later—and find love where they least expect it . . .

Katherine Brooke may be a fabulously wealthy heiress, but she’s trapped, a pawn in her parents’ ruthless game to marry her into the nobility. Then Captain Hugo Penhallow—so charming, as handsome as a Greek god—comes into her life once more, and suddenly she sees a chance to be free.

As a Penhallow, his is one of the highest names in the land, but still his family is facing ruin. So Katherine boldly proposes an exchange: his name for her money. But only if Hugo understands it’s merely a practical arrangement, and that she’s not surrendering herself entirely.

Back from eight years in America and determined to give his younger siblings a better life, Hugo agrees. He’s never fallen in love, so why not? Yet neither of them guesses that this marriage will become far, far more than they ever dreamed of . . .

Would you like to preorder The Bride Takes a Groom? Click here. To save it on Goodreads, click here.

 

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Word of the day: Onerous

A suitable word for Monday, don’t you think?

Graphic: "onerous" and its definition, via Merriam-Webster

 

I also used it in The Laird Takes a Bride, in a scene in which one of the “contestants” in a Bachelor-esque scenario receives the news that she’s been summoned to the castle of my hero Alasdair Penhallow:

When Miss Janet Reid, of the Lowlands, got her letter, she had only an hour before returned from a stroll in the manicured gardens to the back of her house, and in the company of a young man who had for the past months been courting her most ardently. (Her governess, Miss Sad Shovel as she liked to call her, had been discreetly trailing behind, her face just as dreary and spade-­like as ever.) Janet had been in­clined to encourage this young man over her other suitors, for he was terribly good-­looking, came from a fine family, and stood to inherit a handsome fortune from his father. Oh, and she liked him well enough.

But having read the letter, she changed her mind. And she laughed, and clapped her hands with joy.

A marriage to the laird of Castle Tadgh would be a far better arrangement — quite a coup, in fact. Besides, she’d heard a few things about Alasdair Penhallow, and he did sound like fun. And she was quite partial to fun herself. Not for her the staid life of your average miss, always sitting around sewing samplers, or plucking dolefully at harps, or poring over dull books. No, she was cut from a very differ­ent sort of cloth. Which reminded her. She went with her light tread to the drawing­-room, and announced:

“I’m going to Castle Tadgh. We need Miss Cowden to come in right away, and bring all her assistants, and plan to stay as long as necessary. I need a new wardrobe, and we haven’t much time.”

Her mother — seated across from Parson Tidwell, who had no doubt come on behalf of his tedious orphanage or his seemingly endless supply of poor people — at once lost her look of thinly disguised boredom and turned to Janet in astonishment. “You’re going to Castle Tadgh? Why?”

“So I can marry Alasdair Penhallow, of course.”

“The Penhallow? He’s offered for you?”

Janet Reid smiled. “No. But he will.”

Instantly her mother grasped the salient facts. “I’ll send a note to Miss Cowden right away,” she said, and with a nod to Parson Tidwell she rose, indicating that his presence was now, well, more than a little onerous.

Image: cover for The Laird Takes a Bride by Lisa Berne (Avon Books)As I mentioned in my recent interview with Lenora Bell, Janet Reid, a secondary but important character in The Laird Takes a Bride, was inspired by the indelible Veruca Salt in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. 

This scene appears in Chapter 2, but if you like, you can read all of Chapter 1 here.

 

 

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Interview and giveaway!

I’m delighted to be featured on the blog of the wonderful Lenora Bell, with an interview and a giveaway celebrating the release of my latest book!

What was the favorite part of your research for the book?

My hero, Alasdair Penhallow, lives in an ancient castle — renovated to state-of-the-art elegance and comfort circa 1811, but still, it’s a castle. Très romantique! I spent quite a few happy hours on the web studying Scottish castles and estates.

Authors often have all kinds of influences and allusions in their stories. What about in The Laird Takes a Bride?The cover for The Laird Takes a Bride by Lisa Berne (Avon Books)

Yes, they’re definitely in there! Here are a few examples.

  • My heroine Fiona’s first (and lost) love was based on the charming, fascinatingly slippery Morris Townsend in Washington Square.
  • A strong-willed secondary character, one of the “contestants” for Alasdair’s favor, was modeled after Veruca Salt in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, a movie I saw ages ago and which — obviously — made a deep impression on me!
  • The work of Stephen King inspired a scene in which Fiona is frightened by memories of being told bloodcurdling tales about a ghastly creature called the Sack Man.
  • In Chapter 12 you’ll find a tiny tip of the hat to Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind, and in Chapter 16, a bit informed by Little Women — specifically, the scene in which Amy and Laurie confess their love, a passage I found thrilling as a kid. (And still do.) Look for Fiona saying, “It fits,” and Alasdair’s reply.

What’s the funniest/strangest thing a reader or a relative has said to you about your books or your writing career?

Romance writers everywhere know the look — a little sheepish, a little roguish — and the question that inevitably follows: “So, uh, did you do your own research for the, uh, racy parts?” I love the response Beverly Jenkins shared during a speech she gave at last year’s Romance Writers of America conference. When people ask this question, she told us, she’ll reply, with exquisite and tantalizing brevity: “Yes.” And we all cracked up laughing.

What’s up next for you? What are you working on right now?

I’m finishing the third book in the Penhallow Dynasty series, The Bride Takes a Groom, which releases next spring. It features Captain Hugo Penhallow, who appears toward the end of my first book, You May Kiss the Bride. He marries a childhood friend, Katherine Brooke, a brilliant and complicated heiress — and their marriage is quite complicated also!

* * *

Would you like to enter the giveaway for a signed print copy of The Laird Takes a Bride? Stop by Lenora’s blog or her Facebook page and say hi!

For more info about The Laird Takes a Bride, click here.

 

 

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Inside scoop: Katherine and Hugo

I’m looking forward to sharing with you the cover for The Bride Takes a Groom, the third book in the Penhallow Dynasty series — it’s gorgeous! In the meantime, I thought you might like to see the visual inspirations for my heroine and hero.

Here’s how I originally envisioned Captain Hugo Penhallow:

Photo: the visual inspiration for Captain Hugo Penhallow in Lisa Berne's The Bride Takes a Groom (Avon Books)

And these two actresses together are a composite of Katherine Brooke:

Photo: Andie MacDowellPhoto: Shirley Henderson

 

The Bride Takes a Groom releases next spring. Would you like to save it on Goodreads? Click here.

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Word of the day: Arbitrary

An excellent word for a writer.

Graphic: "arbitrary" and its definition, via Merriam-Webster

 

Here it is in Chapter 2 of The Laird Takes a Bride, in a scene in which my hero, Alasdair Penhallow, cheerfully reflects on the state of his existence, unaware of the fact that it’s about to be upended . . . and that my heroine, Fiona Douglass, will soon be entering it.

So now he was thirty-five. He wondered if he should feel a little different. But why would he? A birthday merely represented, in an arbitrary way, the passage of time. Here he was, in the vigorous prime of his life, healthy as a horse, strong as an ox, rich as a king — enjoying an uninterrupted spate of years in which he did exactly as he pleased, whenever and wherever he liked.

Yes, life was good.

Want to learn more about The Laird Takes a Bride? Click here.

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