Like most of us who read or write romance, Valentine’s Day holds a special place in my heart. There have been those holidays when I spent them with a significant other, and some where I spent the day watching my children open candy hearts or going out to dinner with family to celebrate love. I always enjoy a day filled with the joy of romance, and there are some books and films that encompass that joy for me more than others.
So, what 5 books and movies are on my must-have list for Valentine’s Day?
Thanks for letting me share some fun books and movies to celebrate Valentine’s Day.
He slowly saunters to a chair and sits with legs spread, his gun within easy reach. I’d like to see his silvery gray eyes, but the brim of his Stetson hides them. I’ve heard they’re quite startling. Some have called them quicksilver. There’s an air of danger about him that I find very attractive. I’ve always been drawn to bad boys.
My heart is racing like a herd of wild horses.
Anyway, in my crazy job list, I’ve worked as a bingo caller/activities director for dementia patients, a phlebotomist (aka a real life vampire), an adjunct English and business professor, and a professional bellydancer (and instructor) all before settling on romance author. Sound kooky enough?
So how does my experience as a dancer have anything to do with my writing? Well, I’m glad you asked.
Here’s 4 ways being a professional bellydancer prepares you to be a romance author:
1. You’re used to performing in front of large crowds of people
Sure, when you write a book you’re not technically standing in front of an audience, but if you plan to publish that book, you might as well be. In time, that book will reach readers and that’s when the performance really begins. Every time I sit down to write a new book in my Seven Range Shifter series, where the sexy heroes are cowboys by day, wolf shifters by night, I try to keep that performance aspect (aka what my readers would love to see in mind). It’s that mentality of performing for your audience of readers that helped create some of my favorite moments in my newest release, book 3 in the Seven Range Shifter series, Wicked Cowboy Wolf. Like an adorable teacup pig by the name of Tucker who I just know readers are going to love (and who, by the way, is real and owned by my mother).
2. You’ve learned to accept criticism with grace.
Not everyone is going to love your books, the same way everyone is not going to love every dance you do, every costume you wear, every prop you add to your performance, every song you choose—and you learn that that’s okay. Your books (or your performance art) shouldn’t be for everyone. You find your audience. Not everyone will love the idea of cowboy wolves or paranormal romance with a western twist, though I certainly do, but if you’re the type of reader who loves dark, sexy paranormal romances ala JR Ward with a hint of occasional witty banter, and you don’t mind a western twist being thrown in, you might love my cowboy wolves too ;-)
3. You know how to be devoted to constantly bettering your craft.
I strive for every book to be better than my last, just like a performer is constantly working to maintain, hone, and perfect dance skills. I used to spend hours practicing certain moves for my bellydance performances, now its hours perfecting my craft and writing skills via workshops, podcasts, tutorials, etc.
4. You’re used to people looking down on or not approving of what you do.
Just as we romance readers have all heard that our genre is little more than bodice-ripping guilty pleasures (newsflash: it’s not- it’s smart, feminist fiction written by, for, and about women), bellydancers hear all the time that they are little more than glorified strippers (newsflash: they’re not, it’s a legitimate dance form deep rooted in Middle Eastern culture, and legitimate dancers keep their clothes on at all times). Haters might hate, no matter whether you’re a romance author or a bellydancer, but we here at Romance Reads know that when you can find your own personal happily-ever-after, whether it be in the pages of a steamy romance novel like Wicked Cowboy Wolf, or on the performance stage at Ali Baba House of Kabobs, you deserve that little bit of happiness for yourself.
Dance on and read on, Romancelandia!
Hi, I’m Teri Anne Stanley, and I’m addicted to soup.
Is there anything better on a frigid winter day than hot homemade soup? Is there anything worse than waiting for homemade soup to be…soup?
I’ve found a compromise between less-than-satisfying stuff from a can and takes-all-day stuff with a ton of chopping and waiting. This still takes an hour or so for the flavors to meld, but you don’t have to wait foreverrrrrr, and it’s seriously easy to prep.
Spicy (or not) Sausage Vegetable Soup
2 pounds of spicy breakfast sausage (or the regular mild kind, if you prefer)
1 big can of V-8
2 cans of beef broth
3-4 12 oz bags of frozen vegetables…whatever you prefer. I usually use a bag of mixed corn, peas, green beans, carrots, and then a couple of bags of other stuff…more green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, some other mixtures…
Get a big ol’ soup pot out and fire up the stove.
Start with the sausage—break it into bit-sized bits as it cooks.
Dump in the whole danged can of V-8 (get another can if you plan to drink Bloody Marys while the soup gets going).
Add the broth, bay leaf, a splash or two of Worcestershire sauce, and the veggies.
Cook on medium heat until it begins to boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 45-60 minutes (although, of course, it never gets worse if it cooks longer). If it’s too thick, you can always add more broth—and if you want to add more veggies, go right ahead!
My mom was a dog breeder—rottweilers and pugs during my childhood––so I’ve pretty much always had dogs around me. Right now, I live with two dogs—a poodle-mix named Houdini Beauregarde and a chihuahua-mix named Sheba Reba Rita Peanut. Both are rescues. I met Houdini at a restaurant in Ft. Lauderdale where his foster mom had brought him to socialize. He was such a gentleman that he stole my heart. Our Australian Shepherd had passed away two years prior, and my husband and I had agreed not to get another dog because the pain of losing her had been so awful. Houdini changed our minds and has brought much joy to our lives.
Sheba came to us as a foster. I was doing a favor for a rescue organization. Sheba was scheduled to be put down on Friday, and the person who wanted to rescue her couldn’t get to the Miami area until Monday. My job was to pick up Sheba at the shelter and keep her for the weekend until the rescue volunteer could pick her up. Monday turned into Wednesday, and Wednesday turned into a week and a week turned into forever because we decided to adopt her ourselves.
Although they got off to a rough start, Houdini and Sheba are now the very best of friends. Sheba takes her job of lizard patrol very seriously, and Houdini acts as her back-up barker for all security related activities. They both love snuggling and eating carrots, not necessarily in that order.
The poodle, LouLou, in Cold Nose, Warm Heart is of course inspired by Houdini, but LouLou is her own dog. Although LouLou has Houdini’s sweetness and Sheba’s love of licking people, her adventurous nature that sends her roaming from home is all her own.
Lady, the black Lab, is LouLou’s best dog friend in Cold Nose, Warm Heart and will appear in future books as well. Lady is the grand dame of the neighborhood, beloved by canines and humans alike. She enjoys head pats and being told how good she is.
My favorite HEA? My own, of course!
Unlike the characters in WHITEOUT, I didn’t have to cross the frozen tundra or fight off bad guys for my happily ever after, but I did have to work for it.
The night I met Le Husband, I was pretty sure he was The One. He let me trim his beard at a dinner party, I skipped home at 4 am, told my mom about him the next day, and broke it off with my then-boyfriend. Instalove is real.
Things went quickly from there—we went on a date, we kissed…and then nothing. He was late for the next date, cancelled the one after. I know, I know, unacceptable behavior from a romance hero. BUT… I decided he was worth pursuing. So I did a weird thing. I sent him a postcard, asking him to dinner at my place. He could RSVP by text only. He showed up that night--on time!—had a bowl of my famous First Date Soup (curried sweet potato) and we’ve been together ever since.
Today, my HEA is living on the coast of France with my 6 foot five French artist husband and our two kids. I followed my heart and it paid off, big time.
Beyond my own, my favorite HEAs are the ones you have to fight for, the ones that drag you down before lifting you to such great heights that you hardly remember the depths. I want HEAs that happen because the characters WANT them, fight for them tooth and nail, not because it’s easy to wind up together.
Here are a few of my favorite, hard-won Happily Ever Afters:
Sandra Brown, Chill Factor. Sandra Brown is an absolute master at making readers think there’s no way the love story will work. And, somehow, it does. Somehow, the guy you’re the most afraid of, the one person who couldn’t possibly wind up being the good guy in the end…IS the good guy. Her HEAs are hard won and hard to believe and, always absolutely perfect.
Karen Rose’s No One Left to Tell is a harrowing, non-stop, edge-of-your seat read. The ending left me blinking and breathless and ready to move on to the next story.
Every book in Katie Ruggle’s Rocky Mountain Search and Rescue Series features lovers who fight hard for their HEA. I’ve never rooted so hard for a heroine to get her hero in the end and never been so happy when she does.
Rebecca Zanetti’s HIDDEN gives us a cast of characters so vivid, so real and eccentric, that we can’t help but swoon when they finally get theirs in the end.
Happy 2020 Romance Read-ers! Who wants to see covers for all of our books releasing between January and June? Keep scrolling to see what is coming at you in the first half of 2020.
Stay tuned for a second round of incredible 2020 covers for the second half of the year!
When I first saw that the topic of this post was my favorite HEA, I was frozen with trying to pick my favorite book HEA. So many choices! But after thinking through it, I realized that my favorite HEA is the one that I believe made me a romance writer. But it’s not a book. It’s a movie.
When I was around ten, I watched Dirty Dancing for the first time and fell in love. You can question if that was a wise choice of movie for a ten-year old, but I can confirm that I had no idea what was going on with the Penny storyline or even the sex. All I knew was that there was good music, great dancing, and romance with a capital R. I was instantly obsessed. New Kids on the Block posters were rearranged, and this poster promptly went up on my wall. I had a new crush.
I obviously didn’t realize it at the time, but that movie planted the romance seed that would eventually grow into the career I have now. I had never been swept away by a story in that way. And at that time in my life, there was a lot of transition, so the idea of a happily ever after really resonated with me. Without realizing it, I experienced for myself what kind of comfort a fictional HEA could provide in a time of stress. I’ve never lost that love for an HEA since.
And the movie keeps on giving me things even all these years later. Recently, I’ve started teaching online romance writing courses (Rock That Romance Novel: The Beginner Course and the How to Write Love Scenes course), and when I was writing my lectures on romance structure, I realized that Dirty Dancing is the perfect example for demonstrating romance story structure. (The 1987 version. Do not get me started on the remake.) So now I get to use the movie in an academic way and break down the beats of the story for new writers. Dirty Dancing is homework, y’all. Ask me how much I love my job, lol.
Most of our Viking mythology comes from the Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda that were both written in Iceland during the 13th century, several years after the actual Scandinavian Viking age. Sometimes people refer to the Edda’s as part of the Icelandic Sagas, which technically is not correct because the Sagas are strictly about Icelandic history. However, since Snorri Sturluson—a famous historical Icelandic poet, historian, and politician—is the author of the Sagas and the Prose Edda, you can’t blame people for being confused.
In my Viking Warriors series, I keep things simple and refer to the historical texts that the Vikings and Valkyries sometimes turn to for information as The Sagas. I am originally from Sweden and the term works for me since “saga” in Swedish means “story” or sometimes, “fairytale.” Little kids in Sweden ask for a “saga” to be read to them before bedtime. When I was a kid, I usually asked to be read to from a book of Norse tales. Here are three of my favorites.