RETURN TO ME - Julia Templeton

Like many authors, some of my ideas come from movies, television, research books, magazines, art, music, or just normal everyday things.

In the case of RETURN TO ME, I was flipping through the pages of a GQ magazine when I came across a picture of twin brothers standing side by side, both gorgeous, and yet they were as different as night in day in how they dressed, wore their hair, and overall attitude. That picture sparked my muse and twin brothers Darius and Demetri MacLeod were born. From there, I had an interview with them to see who they were, where they came from, and what single event changed their lives forever. That event happens to be when Darius, a Scottish warrior in Robert the Bruce’s army, is cut down at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, and a handsome young man appears offering him immortal life.

It was important for me to write a story about vampires who weren’t necessarily devastated that they were made into creatures of the night. In fact, a few of my characters love their dark gift and wouldn’t trade places with a single mortal being for anything. The only reason my hero struggles with his gift at all, is the single fact that the change in him terrifies his pregnant wife so badly, she ends up dying in a tragic accident while trying to flee from him.

I wanted Darius to find another love, but it couldn’t be just any woman, it had to his wife, reincarnated. When his wife does return, she’s a beautiful woman who resembles his wife in every way, save for now she’s no longer a medieval Scottish woman, but a nineteenth century beauty with the power to read minds, cast spells and heal. Unfortunately, she’s also at her uncle’s mercy, and he basically sells her to an old, lecherous man who has killed each of his previous wives. Knowing this, Gabrielle sets a plan into motion to escape, but that plan is thwarted when she meets the devilishly handsome Darius and feels an attraction and familiarity that confuses her and intrigues her at the same time. No matter how much she yearns to know him, she has no choice but to flee into the night to escape her impending wedding.

Weeks later Darius finds Gabrielle, and swears to protect her from her uncle and betrothed. In the process, Gabrielle falls madly in love with the man who had been her husband centuries before. The fact that he’s a vampire weighs heavy on her mind, but she trusts him completely, even when he whisks her away, back to his home in the Scottish highlands. Unfortunately, trouble follows in the way of her evil betrothed.

As in many of my books, there’s a secondary romance that is played out, and in RETURN TO ME that couple is Demetri, Darius’s twin, and their maker Remont. I remember asking my critique partners and agent just how far I should take the romance with these two men. I received different answers from each, but in the end, I stayed true to my characters and their love for each other. I’ve received great feedback from reviewers and readers about this male/male romance. In fact, I hope to write a sequel, which will delve a bit deeper into their love affair.

Out of all my novels, RETURN TO ME was the most challenging to write, mainly because the characters have lived so many centuries and have unique powers. Despite those challenges, I’m definitely writing more vampire romances, because let’s face it—vampires are just plain sexy.

So that’s how RETURN TO ME was born. Thank you, Heather, for letting me share at The Idea Boutique!

Labels: ,


Sasha White - TROUBLE

“You’re the right kind of sinner to release my inner fantasies.”

This is one line from Pat Benatar’s long ago hit HEARTBREAKER. I love it. It brings all sorts of story ideas to mind. And it completely sums up Valentine Ward, the hero in my latest release, TROUBLE.

Despite the very edgy cover, this book isn’t a BDSM book or even about fetishes. It’s all about fantasies, and living them out when you can.

The title of the book, TROUBLE describes our heroine Samair. She doesn’t really understand why or how she earned the nickname Trouble, but she’s decided she wants to live up to it. And when Val offers to make her fantasies come true, she see’s no reason not to take him up on it. Samair’s dream of being a lingerie designer came to me when I realized she was a bit overweight. And as someone who is overweight herself - I hate lingerie shopping. I wish I could sew my own. So, I made my heroine able to sew her own. Fun and sexy and lacey stuff that fit, looked good, and made her feel super sexy!

Check out this little bit at the start of the book. Samair, our heroine, has had a bad day,a dn decided it’s time to embrace her wild side, so she goes looking for her old college roommate and best friend. Joey is the friend, and she’s also a cage dancer at a nightclub. This bit is right after Samair does some dancing with her.

Samair lost track of time as they danced with abandon, bumping and grinding against each other, lost in the flashing lights and loud music. The heat of many eyes landed on her, and she enjoyed every minute of it. Joey’s soft and feminine hands floated over her generous curves, and Samair shifted closer as one of those hands slid under the cover of her hair. Joey put her forehead against Samair’s, and the women gazed into each other’s eyes.

“It’s been a long time, Sammie.” Joey’s breath floated over her lips.

“It has,” she replied, trailing her own hands teasingly over Joey’s bare back as she writhed against her. “I’m sorry.”

Both of Joey’s hands cupped her head and she spoke clearly. “You never need to apologize to me. I’m just happy to see you.”

Then she kissed her. A hard kiss on the lips that lingered for just a second.

When they pulled apart, it was to hoots of approval and raucous clapping.

“Welcome back, Trouble.”

They shifted apart, and Joey gave another piercing rebel yell. Samair’s grin was a mile wide as she slipped between the bars of the cage and dropped back to the carpeted floor that edged the dance floor. Her heart was pounding and her breath came in pants, but she couldn’t remember when she’d felt better.

Reaching between the bars she grabbed her backpack from the floor of the cage and snatched up the blouse she’d removed while dancing. After using it to pat her neck and upper chest dry, she reached for the drink she’d set aside earlier. The ice had melted, but it quenched her thirst well enough.

A bead of sweat trickled between her breasts and she thought about reaching down to wipe there, but reconsidered when she felt intent eyes still on her. She might not be shy, but she wasn’t tacky either.

“You’d think they’d never seen a woman in a camisole before,” she said when Joey dropped down to the floor beside her.

“It’s not that. My God, look around you. There’s more bare skin in Risqué than on the beach most of the time.” Joey laughed and threaded her arm around Samair’s. “It’s the fact that your camisole is this virginal white satin and lace thing that looks downright naughty at the same time. It’s one of yours, isn’t it?”
Samair nodded and felt a sting of pride. She’d made the top herself. Her passion for sewing, combined with her curvy and slightly disproportionate body, had her creating clothes, including lingerie, for herself that fit and looked good since she was sixteen.

“You don’t think it might be because you stripped me of my blouse, and then kissed me?”

“Ya think?” Joey giggled and steered her to a booth along the back wall where there was small group of people at a booth. “What can I say? I’m happy to see you.”

I have to admit that ALL of my heroines have something of me in them. It could be my past, my present, my hopes for the future, my fantasies…. But they all have something of me for sure. And the hero’s, they are all versions of my dream man. Basically my ideas jump from my muse to my fingertips, and TROUBLE was no different. I’m pretty sure my brain got involved somewhere along the way, but I’m not sure where. Honestly, I love the magic of not thinking, and just writing. It’s almost as good as reading a good book. I get lost in the story, and don’t want to stop.

And I dearly hope that happens when readers start one of my stories as well.
If you want to take a peek at TROUBLE, you can read the first three chapters on my website here: http://www.sashawhite.net/bookshelf/


Psychic Witches with Attitude SPELL Identical-Triplet Trouble . . .

As a Historical writer, I swore I’d never write a contemporary, but a shop in Salem Massachusetts called The Kitchen Witch changed all that. Magic or destiny, my bewitching romantic comedies became my first National Bestsellers. As Janet Mullany said in her delightful blog, the cosmic joke was on me.

SEX AND THE PSYCHIC WITCH is my fourth contemporary comedy, and the first in my Triplet Witch Trilogy. It hit the B & N Mass Market Romance Bestseller List the week before it came out and now ranks at #12, not to mention #13 at Borders and #21 on BookScan. With four back to back deadlines ahead, and a request for a new trilogy idea, I guess my contemporary comedies are here to stay.

I didn’t go into The Kitchen Witch shop, I saw it across the cobblestone mall, and Melody Seabright’s story was born. She loves of vintage clothes, because that’s what I know, so I gave her a friend who owns The Immortal Classic Vintage Clothing and Curio Shop, and a friend who was a witch. Thank goodness, since they each got their own stories. Talk about an idea that mushroomed.

The triplets, Harmony, Destiny and Storm, were easy to cast. I couldn’t have a conversation with my identical-triplet neighbors—blonds in their late twenties—without mind-casting them in a series. They approved, shared humorous triplet stories, and I was off. Confession: I plot in my sleep. I dreamed the most amazing location, an island castle, between Salem and Marblehead Massachusetts, built by a sea captain in the late 1800’s. Old Nicodemus had an eye for the weird and incredible and filled his castle with all the treasures he brought home from all over the world. In the castle is also a shed with an old steam train that once connected their island to Marblehead. It’s among the most haunted of the goodies at the castle, which is why Diane Whiteside’s blog made me smile—we’re a family of train lovers. The castle dream was so real that it took me a whole day to write down every detail. I dreamed the ghost of the witch who haunted it, a late family member whose goal in life was causing strife, so she could referee. I named her Gussie.

My triplet witches are psychic. Hey, I watch TV. Harmony is psychometric, reads old objects, and brings peace wherever she goes. Harmony sees the past. Destiny sees the future, except her own. Storm, my rebellious Goth witch, sees and hears the present. Storm’s story, GONE WITH THE WITCH, is due out in May of ’08. She hears a baby crying when only when Aiden McCloud is near her but he won’t go with her to find the source, so she kidnaps him. Included in the kidnapping are his motor home and two pairs of fuzzy purple handcuffs.

Story ideas come during movies, TV, conversations, wherever there’s a lot of energy. I sit in a mall and people watch and get ideas. Objects inspire me; I love to go antiquing and come out with more in my head than in my hands. I go to cemeteries and read gravestones. I have two brilliant brainstorming buddies who help take my snippets and turn them like puzzle pieces into scenes or chapters or entire stories. Life is full of ideas. That’s why the Idea Boutique was born. Thank you, Heather, for inviting me.

Annette Blair


The Romance of the Rails

When I was growing up, family vacations always consisted of visiting the relatives. Well, that was the official story, anyway. In reality, they were just a thin excuse for my father to meet another one of his great passions – steam trains. We’d drive for hours through high mountain passes, above steep precipices, along tumbling rivers, over narrow logging roads – just to catch a glimpse of one of those beauties, sailing along, her whistle caroling out across the wilderness.

My father always stopped to watch and listen. Oh, he’d talk to the engineer and the fireman, too, about their magnificent example of a bygone era. But he didn’t need to inspect their innards or get his hands on the wheel. He wanted to ride them, wherever they went for as long as possible.

He grew up during the Depression in a boarding house his mother ran for college students. The only man in the family, he faced a lot of hard work, while he listened to the trains passing through the great railroad yards only a few miles away. Never the most articulate of men, his face would light up decades later when he talked about his first long train trip, the one that took him away from that college town and the boarding house.

Other men are probably better at talking to little girls. But some things don’t need words. The first time I stood beside him and heard a steam engine’s whistle, the same thrill of pure joy ran through us both. I looked up at him and smiled. He grinned back at me and took my hand.

I’ve written three western historicals before The Northern Devil and traveling by train was included, as a matter of course. I’d always treated it as matter of factly as we’d discuss driving our cars. But I wanted to do something else, something more intense, more passionate. The feeling got stronger with every book, as if my father’s ghost was pushing me harder and harder. He didn’t want the facts put down on paper – but the sheer delight.

Lucas and Rachel’s story is a marriage of convenience, where marriage pushes them together and intensifies their conflict. I wanted their surroundings to be just as tight and passionate as their relationship but how?

The idea hit me: a stream train in winter. Hot and steamy, capable of burning your skin off if you’re unwary enough to touch it. And how incredibly beautiful a private car’s interior could be, too! But frigid and dangerous, a barren waste of a landscape, like Lucas’s arrogant exterior and the wreck of his family life.
I wrote The Northern Devil’s train scenes for my father. I know his ghost was beside me all the way.

Diane Whiteside


Janet Mullany


I needed light relief. I'd just written a book (as yet unpublished) where the hero/heroine were angsty and terrified of the implications of their falling in love, and even the weather was bad. An editor (whom I knew slightly) called me up to bark by way of greeting, "Janet, are your hero and heroine always so horrible to each other?" My answer must have included some variant of the word "yes" since I didn't sell it to her.

So I decided to write something for fun, just to clear the palate, and the result was The Rules of Gentility. Wouldn't it be funny, I thought, if someone wrote Bridget Jones's Diary set in the Regency. You couldn't have the calorie,
cigarette, or alcohol counts, but you could have a lot of other fun things taken from other chicklits--a passion for designer shoes could be for bonnets, for example. And it could be written in first person, a device I love (and which some of my favorite writers use--Nick Hornby, Anna Maxted, Jennifer Weiner)--and in a sort of Regency-speak in the voice of a fashionista heiress. Even better, I could lapse into the hero's voice when I found Philomena a bit too breathless and gushing.

Wait, I thought, after a few thousand words and the dim emergence of a plot. This is becoming serious. I like these characters. Plus a cast of secondary characters had emerged: the hero Inigo's terrifying mother and terrified bully of an older brother; Philomena's sisters, a collection of wannabe suitors, her mother who never stops talking (Mrs Bennett of Pride & Prejudice combined with Miss Bates of Emma) and a hymn-singing lady's maid. And there was so much more I could do with them: we'd already had The Kiss at the Ball; still to come were Proposals in Unusual Locations, High Adventures in Low Places, and Big Misunderstandings, all wrapped up in the revered plot device of The Fake Engagement. So, yes, it was an affectionate spoof of just about every Regency plot device.

In a way it was also an experiment, a getting back to basics--the WWJAD (What Would Jane Austen Do?) of romance. I couldn't suspend my disbelief long enough to write, or read, heroines who embarked on lofty careers; mine seem to aspire to either become whores or wives. Even Fabienne, the heroine of my first book, Dedication (Signet Regency, 2005) seems about to give up her career as a bohemian patroness of the arts for love and motherhood. What can you do with a heroine who announces upfront that her ambition is to marry well and meanwhile spends her spare time on fashion and rather vague philanthropic pursuits? Quite a lot, I found. I'm convinced, also, that Philomena is a cosmic joke on me, after all that stomping around claiming I'd never write a book with a virginal nineteen-year-old heroine.

I thought it was time, too, for someone to write a really funny historical romance. Anyone who spends any time at all online reading up on romance knows how popular sites are that spoof romance and in particular covers--and these are created and enjoyed by romance writers and readers themselves. You have to know and love the genre to be able to make fun of it. There are lots of brilliant historicals out there with fabulously witty one-liners and repartee, but nothing that made tea come out of my nose. One of my most embarrassing moments was when I met a Big Author and told her, with great enthusiasm, how I had laughed aloud in the scene where ... and as I babbled on, I realized
from the blank expression on her face, that it had not been written that way. So I released my inner comedy beast, the one that snuck out at the most inappropriate moments; the banana skin at Almack's, the whoopee cushion as the hero kneels to propose.

I hope you have as much fun reading The Rules of Gentility as I did writing it.


Heather Waters

Well, it's my day to post because YAY The Devil's Possession finally comes out this week (August 7th). Since I already posted how I got the idea for TDP here, I won't repeat it all again. I simply want to send a big thank you to everyone who's given me such great feedback from the advanced copies given out. Your feedback has been much appreciated so keep it coming.


American Diva: Celebrity Tabloid Without the Guilt

American Diva is the third and final book in my Thrillseekers Anonymous series that centered around the star-studded entertainment industry in Hollywood. I guess that sort of outs me: I am a celebrity news junkie. Want to know the latest on Lindsey Lohan? Call me. Ever wonder if Britney has lost her mind? I can run it all down for you.

You are probably thinking that’s kind of weird, and you are right. I didn’t think women got to be my age and still read all that stuff. But I can’t help it! When I am standing in the check out line, and I see Brangelina on the cover of OK! Magazine, I want to know if it’s true they are splitting up. When I see Lindsey’s mug shot, I think, that poor girl—did she have a mother? When they tease me with a picture of Nicole Ritchie and ask, PREGNANT?, how can I not look? It’s the tabloids’ fault—they lure me in with pictures and sensational headlines.

The idea behind American Diva didn’t come from tabloids, but it did come from watching American Idol. I downloaded a Kelly Clarkson song and thought how wild that must have been for her to go from waiting tables in Burleson, Texas to superstardom seemingly overnight. It gave me the idea to write a book about a woman from Texas who seems to hit it big overnight, and all the trappings of fame that go along with it. Friends who prove to be treacherous and sell her out to tabloids, a family who is trying to suck her dry, and a stalker who has threatened to see her dead. That sort of crowd could make the best of us a diva. And of course, there is only one guy who can see through her diva act and knows she really needs a friend. It helps that he’s a hunk, too.

The best part of writing American Diva is that I got to buy OK! magazine, and STAR, and all the rest of them for legitimate research. The book is sprinkled with tabloid bits about Audrey. I couldn’t have done it without the help of real tabloids, could I?

I hope you enjoy American Diva as much as I enjoyed writing it!