I love the fun of the holidays. It doesn’t snow in southern California, but the mountain ski resorts are only an hour drive away. While I was growing up, my mother would take my friends and me up to Mt. Baldy to play in the snow. We’d ride the ski lift to the top, although none of us skied, and have lunch at the restaurant. There was a great view, and chili sizes were a particular lunch favorite. I can still see Mt. Baldy from my home. It’s beautiful covered in snow and a sign winter, as we know it, has come again.
We all love IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, but my favorite holiday movie is THE CHRISTMAS STORY. Ralphie is so endearing as he hopes for a Red Ryder Bee Bee Rifle. Christmas is a magical time for children and the movie captures it perfectly. One of the best scenes is when Ralphie’s little brother gets ready for school in his snowsuit and can’t move his arms. When he falls down, he’s stuck like an overturned turtle in a snowdrift. It’s all manmade snow for the movie, but it looks icy cold and real. One cable station plays the film continuously for 24 hours, and I watch it over and over until I can anticipate the dialog and know I’ve had enough.
LOVE ACTUALLY has also become a holiday favorite. The intertwined stories are billed as the ultimate romantic comedy, but there are poignant moments as well. Richard Curtis wrote and directed the film, and it has a stellar cast including Colin Firth, Hugh Grant, Laura Linney and Emma Thompson. I discover something new each time I watch it.
Most of my books are set in the spring and summer when characters aren’t wrapped in heavy winter clothes. Many of my historical romances are woven through actual historical events, however, and have the appropriate time of year, even if it’s the dead of winter, and they do need their thick woolen cloaks.
My January Retro release from Samhain, SWEPT AWAY, takes place during America’s Civil War. Virginia belle Eden Sinclair is sent to London to stay with relatives to escape the horrors of the war. Along with her snobby cousin, she’s invited to the Season’s elegant parties, but the war isn’t going well for the South, and she’s regarded as penniless waif. She draws no admirers until she meets the wonderfully sympathetic Earl of Clairbourne, Alexander Sutton. Alex lives in the West Indies, and he’s come to London to help his nephew, Raven Blade, find a wife. The very last thing Raven needs is a wife, and most especially not a poor American one, but life has a way of playing tricks on us all, and he isn’t immune to love. I swear when I came up with the name Raven Blade, the book wrote itself.
Do you have a favorite Christmas movie or family traditions? I’ll be happy to send a pdf copy of SWEPT AWAY to someone who comments.
Whenever I meet someone new and mention I’m a novelist, their first question is often, “Where do you get your ideas?” I’m absolutely shameless and will scavenge for inspiration everywhere. I could be out shopping and overhear an intriguing conversation. While doing research for one book, I’ll find ideas for several more. I love going to the movies, and a minor character might spark my imagination and take me in a completely new direction. I keep a notebook to jot down the ideas flowing around me before they’re forgotten. I also record my dreams.
Last night I had a vivid dream that would make a great scene in a thriller. It was at the seashore on a cold and windy day. A woman was standing on a rocky ledge shouting to a man in the water who appeared to be holding a child. He could have been rescuing her, or threatening to drown her. The noise of the surf made it impossible to hear the shouts between them. Suddenly, the man let go of the child and swam away. The woman dove into the freezing water and grabbed what she thought was her beloved child, but it was only a crudely made doll with features inked on a pale cotton face. She’d been fooled by the doll’s long black hair floating on the water and been cruelly tricked.
I woke up then and while I thought I’d recall the dream in the morning, I got up and made some notes just to be certain. It was such a good scene, sharp, emotional, possibly tragic, and I could create a story of a kidnapping, or custody dispute with an unbalanced spouse. The point is, I didn’t just roll over and think I’d recall it in the morning. I caught it while it was hot.
When great ideas fall into your lap, as in a dream, or from your own experience, add them to your great idea file and keep them. Whenever I hear someone say they can’t think of anything to write, I always wonder why they don’t have a file or notebook full of ideas to spark their imagination.
History is filled with conflict and a rich source for ideas. I had the pleasure of touring Scandinavia and fell in love with Viking culture. There are wonderful museums with beautiful thousand-year-old artifacts that provide excellent detail to make a story come alive. There is a museum in Oslo with the Oseberg ship found in a burial mound. It’s complete down to the intricate carvings and is a marvelous thing to see. There’s another Viking ship museum in Roskilde, Denmark. In approximately 1070, the five ships were sunk in the harbor to protect the city from invasion. They were excavated in 1962 and are displayed in a stark modern building on the coast. Standing beside them I felt an eerie sensation, as though the ships were haunted by the men who’d sailed them.
My October Retro Release from Samhain is BY LOVE ENSLAVED, a Viking tale with a young woman charged with the responsibility of taming a Celtic slave. He promises to follow her every command, if she’ll take him for her lover.
First published in 1989, it’s long been a fan favorite, and I’m thrilled to have it available as an ebook.
I’ll send a pdf copy to someone who comments. Do you ever have dreams, or experiences you could turn into books? Have you done so? Make sure you leave a valid contact email.
Please come to my website, www.phoebeconn.com for details about my latest releases.
Those of you love historical romance will be familiar with the artist Pino’s wonderfully sensuous covers. He sold romance with great artistic flair. My first Pino cover was for CAPTIVE HEART, a Viking tale with both heartfelt romance and high adventure. He painted a couple in a fiery embrace surrounded by orchids. Yes, orchids. It’s a beautiful cover you’ll find on my website: www.phoebeconn.com
I bought the cover from him and it’s hanging in my bedroom. The room is painted a soft mauve to show off the gorgeous painting to the best advantage. If you stand close, you’ll see Pino originally painted a blond man and a brunette. Both the hero and heroine were blond and when Pino arrived at the Kensington offices with the original painting, my editor, Leslie Gelbman, told him to go back to his studio and fix it. He thought it would be easier to change the manuscript. Ms. Gelbman refused. The painting is beautiful, even with the repainted hair and an orchid filled Denmark.
The book was a New York Times bestseller.
I had many Pino covers following CAPTIVE HEART, but it will always be my favorite.
Pino attended Romantic Times conferences so many authors who had his beautiful cover art were able to meet him. He was a very charming man. For a photograph with Kensington authors, Pino told the photographer where to stand and how to adjust the angle for the best photo. Pino passed away in 2010, but his art is featured on his website: www.pino-artist.com
CAPTIVE HEART was such a fun book to write. I’d traveled through Scandinavia and visited wonderful museums with thousand-year-old artifacts that provided excellent details for the story. There is a museum in Oslo with the Oseberg ship found in a burial mound. Vikings believed in an afterlife and needed a ship to continue their adventures. There’s another Viking ship museum in Roskilde, Denmark. In approximately 1070, the five ships were sunk in the harbor to protect the city from invasion. They were excavated in 1962 and are displayed in a stark modern building right on the sea. Standing beside them, I felt an eerie sensation, as though the ships were haunted by the brave men who’d sailed them. I couldn’t wait to get home and begin a book where my hero and heroine sailed in a proud Viking ship bound for adventure and best of all, romance.
I love my new cover for the Samhain’s Retro Release of CAPTIVE HEART. I’ll give an ebook copy, or a print copy (United States only) to someone who comments. I love to hear from fans, firstname.lastname@example.org
Or visit my website: www.phoebeconn.com