BEAST by Judith Ivory

899b877863a79ab883efbbec903ed772I’ve been re-reading my all-time favorite romance novel, BEAST by Judith Ivory, and I just have to wax rhapsodic about it.  I’ve enjoyed many romance novels, but this is, by far, the best I’ve ever read. It’s the Grand Opera, the Taj Mahal, the Ritz of romance novels.

A retelling of “Beauty and the Beast,” the story is set around the turn of the 20th century, a time when young American heiresses were married off to aristocratic European gentlemen–even ones who might seem, at first glance, to be rather beastly. The first half of the book takes place on the ocean liner Concordia; the second half takes place in Provence, France.

Two things make it so special–the marvelous writing with luscious descriptions (I swear you can smell the scent of ambergris!), and the deep point of view that makes Charles and Louise come alive as real people. You feel you know these characters. You are these characters, and you experience every thought, every chuckle, every sigh, right along with them.

Oh! There’s a third aspect that makes this book so charming, and that is the character of Louise. Yes, she’s beautiful and intelligent, but we expect that of romance heroines. Louise has something more, a trait that is admirable:  She knows how to take care of herself. She knows her own worth. While kind-hearted, she never denigrates herself or turns herself inside out, trying to please others.  She pleases herself–a refreshing lesson for all modern women.

The book came out in 1997, but you can still find it on Amazon.

Highly recommended! If I could ever write a novel half as good as this one, I’d die happy. :)

Hello, September

Fall–the Autumn–Back to school, light some candles, enjoy the warmth of the fireplace, all the colors of changing nature, the layers of clothes, the list goes on.



The Fine Art Diner

imagessyI recently discovered a fun blog that I recommend to all writers and movie buffs. It’s The Fine Art Diner at http://thefineartdiner.blogspot.com/.  This blog reviews works of art, discusses what they say about our times, and breaks down the symbolism that makes them so rich.

I don’t really know who the author of this blog is–she says very little about herself, but her insights are spot-on. The blog’s banner says:

“Supreme art is a traditional statement of certain heroic and religious truth, passed on from age to age, modified by individual genius, but never abandoned.” William Butler Yeats

So, for example, in one of my favorite movies, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, she raises and answers questions like:

  • What could a Cold War era spy novel possibly communicate to us about the world in which we are living?
  • Why is George Smiley silent for much of the film?
  • Why was the closing song, La Mer, chosen?
  • Why is it important that George Smiley get new glasses?
  • Why does George Smiley take off his shoes and eat mints during the climactic scene?
  • What do Irina and Smiley’s wife symbolize?

Another of my favorite films is Midnight in Paris. In her review, the blogger asks and answers questions like:

  • Why is rain so important to Gil Pender?
  • Why are pearl earrings chosen as a present to Adriana?
  • Why does the 1920s bar become a modern-day laundromat?
  • Why was the particular spot where Gil Pender strolls chosen as the highlight of the film’s poster?

Love, love, love this blog! Next up–her analysis of Penny Dreadful. The blog heightens my enjoyment of the films.

It also reminds me of just how important small, but symbolic, details can be a in a work of art. How they resonate and enrich in ways we don’t even realize. How in the rush to write fast and push a plot along, it pays to slow down and choose details that are particularly meaningful. A good thing for writers to remember!




imagesca3nvvbr  Here’s a great opportunity for writers!

The 2014 Hot Prospects Contest
Sponsor: Valley of the Sun Romance Writers

Turn up the heat on your writing career with the Hot Prospects Contest!




Let editors and agents see your manuscript! Plus winners will receive:


Grand Prize Winner

  • The grand prize winner of the contest will have her entire manuscript (400 pages, Courier, 12pt, Double spaced) reviewed by two professional editors at Novel Needs http://novelneeds.com


  • All finalists in each category will receive a certificate, a graphic for their website, and an acknowledgement in the Romance Writers Report.


For more information, go here:





imagestimeYou sometimes hear people say things like “This is the best time in history to . . . ” In my case, this is the Best Time to Write. I know I’m really dating myself with this post, but that’s okay. I began back in the 90s, and even got published. Then I had some enjoyable life to go off and live. Oh, I still dabbled, but not seriously. In coming back to writing, I’ve discovered that there have been so many changes in the writing/publishing field, it makes me giddy–happy giddy! Here are four reasons why NOW is the best time for me to write:

1. NEW WRITING COMRADES — I’ve kept my old writing friends, but, since moving to Phoenix, AZ, I’ve made some new ones. My local RWA chapter, Valley of the Sun, is filled with inspiring women who are generous and fun to be around. My favorite writing guru, Larry Brooks, lives here in Scottsdale, and I was able to attend one of his live workshops. I’m daily inspired by his web site, Storyfix.com.

2. NEW TECHNOLOGY — When I was writing in the 90s, my group’s newsletter consisted of articles that were typed, cut out, pasted on a sheet of paper, duplicated, and handed out at meetings once a month. Hard to believe, huh? Marketing consisted mostly of business cards and swag to be handed out at conventions. Or buying expensive magazine ads. Now, computer technology is fast, free, colorful, and effective.

3. NEW PUBLISHING OPPORTUNITIES — A writer no longer has to wait months or years to hear back from agents and editors. Sure, the big traditional publishers are still a great way to go, but there are more opportunities now with smaller, online publishers. Not to mention, e-book self-pubbing that doesn’t consist of piled books sitting in one’s garage. A writer can feel hopeful that if she writes good books, she WILL get published. No question.

4. NEW WAYS OF CONNECTING WITH READERS — Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, blogs. A writer never need feel isolated or alone.

5. NEW LEARNING TOOLS — Back in the day, I was hungry and thirsty, soaking up everything I could find on how-to-write. I was always scrabbling for information. If I found a dated library book or picked up one good piece of info at a conference, I felt lucky. Young people just don’t realize or appreciate how wonderful it is to have the whole world of information at the touch of a finger.

Hooray! Writing is great anytime, but I’m finding it gets better and better.

Is NOW your best time to write?

If so, what are you waiting for?  :)



1cc30749b8df8b86f0ac773a9dfcb1baWoody Allen has said, “80% of success is just showing up.” And isn’t that true?

I’ve found a new, tried-and-true way to do that–and it really works.

I have a BFF, Yvonne, and we’ve established a standing date to show up online at a certain time every Wednesday. We check in on our Facebook chat, say “Hi,” and then go off and write. We check in every hour–not to critique, just to encourage each other:  “How’s it going?” I have to keep this date because I don’t want to disappoint her, and it sure makes it more fun.

This has helped me get more actual writing done than anything I’ve tried. I recommend it to every writer. Get a writing buddy to help you “show up”!


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