Monday, September 19, 2011

Beautiful Worlds of Realism

While we're all aware of the downsides of the times in which we live, this doesn't mean wonderful things aren't happening. Or that wonderful things can't come from ordinary or seemingly catastrophic events from one's childhood.

I love to reach into a hat so-to-speak and run with whatever idea comes out of it. The wonderful thing about writing is that you can turn any situation into a happily ever after.

When I begin a story, I don't usually think about location or setting. My main focus are the characters. After all, it's their lives which capture us and make us feel their ups and downs as they fight and struggle for what they see as their ultimate goal to happiness. Often they figure out what they thought they wanted isn't at all what they want or only a part of it. It's creative magic.

The heart is a tender organ which when broke can take eons to heal, unless another comes along and overwhelms it with magical healing. To hook the reader and have them love, hate, cry, and laugh with a character is important, in my opinion. To have this happen, the characters need to consume me. I need to allow them to use me as a vessel to write their story through me. If I don't, they lose some of the realism and the story lacks the ultimate punch.

In most of my stories, if not all, I hope I show those who can relate a happily ever after is possible. I want to encourage them to seek it or be open to it. Isn't that what romance stories are supposed to do?

Not all of my characters have reasons to fear love and commitment caused by past hurts, but they can be hindered by outside sources. Many of us work for a business with 'no fraternizing' policies between management and employees. This can cause stress in employees who feel an attraction, but can't act on it. Stress can be manifested in many ways: anger, immature behavior, arguments, extra work, etc. It also leaves lots of room for misinterpretation. But when the feelings over power them, it can lead to an explosive interlude.

I explore this in Last Glass of Wine where Cole is Lana's boss in a restaurant setting.


How about secondary characters? I've been accused of having too many characters in my books, it's confusing. How so is beyond my comprehension. People have friends, family, and coworkers they interact with every day of their lives, why shouldn't our characters? It makes them three dimensional - complete. If done right, these people add depth and insight to further make our characters real people. And often some of them earn their own story.

Or maybe the work place is the connecting piece to a series as I've done in the Servin' It Up series although the last two books are sitting on my computer. In book one, A Psychic Hitch, we know by the end Cheri will be leaving Rogan's Steakhouse so someone has to replace her. Often the assistant is offered the job, which was Lucas. Who replaced him as assistant? Cole in Last Glass of Wine and when he left, he was replaced with a woman who then became Lucas' love interest in book three, Beth Jarvis. I was able to bring back Cheri and Allen along with Cole and Lana for a cameo appearance in this story thanks to an event Beth put together. That was fun. However, in book four, I went for a twist and left the play up to the staff using an outsider to infiltrate to catch a thief.

In Jewel of the Sun's Blood Destiny, I went a different route. Or, I should say, the characters took me on a different path. Half of the secondary characters are spirits who ganged up to bring them together along with their living grandfather's using the peridot gem. What a hot and ride wild they took me on! What's real about this, you might be wondering? I believe in ghosts/spirits, I believe they can and do have a real impact on people's lives.

I think writing realism is every bit as fun as world builders must have writing worlds we can get caught up in. And now that I've pumped myself up, I need to get back a story itching to get out.


Friday, September 16, 2011

Beautiful Worlds - The Magic of Budapest

By: Stephanie Burkhart

I've always been drawn to Europe's castles, it's towering cathedrals, and it's quaint little villages. When I was stationed in Germany in the late 1980's and early 1990's, I loved going on "volksmarches" throughout the countryside and seeing the heart of the nation.

A View from Fisherman's Bastian

Then the Berlin Wall fell and opened up a totally new and exhilarating world – the Eastern half of Europe. Having been guarded by an "iron curtain," this side of Europe was exposed to all after 40 years. In 1997, I was deployed to Kaspovar, Hungary and in Oct that year, I went on a USO tour to Budapest. Next to Berlin, Budapest is one of the most beautiful worlds I've ever seen, so it was fitting, when I was crafting a new paranormal series involving witches and werewolves, Budapest seemed like the most natural setting in the world for the series.

Overlooking the Danube

There are two sides to Budapest – Buda and Pest. The city is divided by the Danube River and there are three bridges and multiple islands in the river. The Buda side is to the west on a hill overlooking the river and houses the St. Matthias Church, Fisherman's Bastian, and the Castle district, including the royal castle, Buda Castle. The Pest side is to the east of the river, relativity flat and houses the Parliament building, The University of Fine Arts, and the downtown shopping area. Budapest's main train terminal is in Pest. The Széchenyi Bridge is a suspension bridge first built in the 1840's to connect the two cities.

View of Szchenyi Bridge

St. Matthias Church is one of the oldest churches in Budapest. It's over 700 years old and is next to Fisherman's Bastian. The Bastian is a series of seven towers overlooking the Danube, representing the seven Magyar tribes that settled the city. It was completed in 1902. Buda Castle was built on the southern tip of Castle Hill, bounded on the north by what is known as the Castle District famous for its Medieval, Baroque and 19th century houses, churches and public buildings.

Buda Castle at Night

The Parliament building was completed in 1896 and houses the Hungarian Parliament. The Hungarians have proven themselves to have quite a flair for their architecture. At night, when the lights shine over the city, it comes alive with old world ambience. A reader just might believe the city is full of magic, and with that magic, you just might believe in werewolves.

Hungarian Parliament

Book 1, The Hungarian, takes place between England and Hungary in 1901. On the cover is a picture of the Széchenyi Bridge which stands tall and proud, a true testament to Hungarian tenacity and their strong will.

Szechenyi Bridge

Book 2, The Count's Lair, takes place during the Christmas season of 1901-1902. On the cover is a depiction of a castle, "Ravenwind," Anton's estate, lit up at night time, capturing that old world ambience.

Fisherman's Bastian completed 1902

Book 3, Danube in Candlelight, takes place in the summer of 1922. It is due to be released in NOV 2011, and while I don't have the cover, the book addresses the Hungarian peoples' strong will as it struggles to overcome the shadow of World War I.

Book Trailers:

The Hungarian:

The Count's Lair:

Reviews for The Hungarian:

"I enjoyed this book immensely... Katherine doesn’t know exactly what she’s getting into when she falls in love with Matthias but she proves to be a strong heroine that I could really root for. Matthias is dark and troubled, to me an old-fashioned romance hero who needs the love of a strong woman to bring him back from the dark side...This is an excellent book and I think fans of both the paranormal and historical romances will really, really enjoy it."

Happily Ever After Reviews
Rating = 5 Cups of Tea and BUY NOW!

"This book is extremely entertaining. The plot is sensual and romantic. Katherine and Mathias play were together. This is the first book in a new series. I look forward to reading the next entry."

Reader's Favorites - Book Reviews
Rating = 5 Stars

Reviews for: The Count's Lair:

"Want a recipe for a great story? Take an awesome writer like Ms. Burkhart, stir in her intimate knowledge of Hungary, her innate ability to create wonderful characters, a book-full of suspense, mystery and passion and you get a book you can’t put down."

Fennel -- Long and Short Reviews
Rating = 5 Books.
Nominated for BOOK OF THE WEEK!

The Count’s Lair is filled with suspense, mystery, passion, and the paranormal. This story is set in the beautiful city of Budapest; the author brings her knowledge of the area to her plot. She describes the history and culture of Budapest... I was cheering for Anton. However, for me the best scene was the last one when Anton gives Amelia her choice. He held her with an open hand."

Reader's Favorite Book Reviews
Rating = 5 Stars

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Beautiful worlds, mainly medieval, and how I create them

There are two 'schools' of historians - optimists and pessimists. The first looks to the positive side of historical events. The latter tends to a more gloomy view. It's the rosy and the grubby views of history.

In creating the past in my stories I tend to the more rosy view of history, apart from where I feel readers need to be shown the 'grubby' side as a contrast, or for high stakes, or to endanger my heroines or heroes. But the worlds I try to create I try to make appealing - and romantic in the uplifting, optimistic sense. I rather celebrate the best in human nature and show the 'best' of past societies and cultures.

So how do I go about it?

First I read. I read children's non fiction books (lots of social history and pictures), general histories, specialist histories and finally original, primary sources where I can - letters, chronicles, laws, coroners' rolls. An amazing amount of detail can be found in the last two. Look at the Sumptuary Laws of the 1300s, aimed at restricting expensive dress - that tells me that everyone in England was dressing as richly as they could. And coroners' rolls give lists of accidents that are both vivid and chilling: a man dies because he fell through his privy floor and drowned in his privy, a child perishes because she falls into the fire. These cases are tragic and horrific but they give clues to the world.

These details are grim, so in my world they would be touched on only briefly, if at all, but I need to know them and use them where appropriate.

Other more positive details I try to slip into my novels - as deftly as possible, so I don't have slabs of research and a fact-mountain in the middle of my story. For these details I find pictures invaluable. The beautiful drawings of Les Tres Riches Heures of the Duc de Berry show ordinary people at work and play and the world in which they do so. It may be an idealized world, but I find it endlessly inspiring.

I also focus on pleasant things - hobbies, past-times, pleasures and show my characters at play. I also show my characters at work and try to make those sections interesting, in that my people have unusual skills - everyone likes to learn new things.

To build the world I start with geography - the land itself. Where a character lives defines how that person survives on the land and what skills the person will have. Is it wooded and fertile, with soft, rolling hills, or bleaker and harsher? Uplands also have their beauties and I research what animals and plants grow in my fictional kingdom, taking care to include those species which were once common but are now rare. I also take care that my animals and plants are appropriate to the period - in the Middle Ages, I can't have a bunch of English villagers munching on potatoes, which weren't introduced from the New World until much later.

After I have 'made' my land I consider the people. What do they look like? Do they have any unusual aspects in their appearance? Do they have any particular habits of movement, speech or dress? What are they clothed in?

Clothes are always fun for a writer, and for a reader. Roman Britain gives me a lot of scope as there were all kinds of luxury fabrics such as silk available to the rich, plus wonderful jewels. Ancient Roman houses - the ones the rich could afford - can also be shown as very beautiful, with wall paintings and under-floor heating.

After the fall of the Roman Empire the wattle and daub houses that replaced the grand villas might sound drab, but certainly in this country it's the dream of many British to live in a thatched cottage and that is what many of the dwellings were, in essence. When I create them for my beautiful medieval worlds, I stress their snug warmth and living heat.

Returning briefly to clothes, the later Middle Ages also has furs and silks and richly dyed woollens, plus an array of hats and jewels and shoes.

To create a beautiful world of the past I also evoke pleasing sounds and scents - the bells ringing the church hours, the twitter of birds, the rattle of drums, the scent of baking bread, the smell of a bluebell wood - and more.

Selection is the key. As I try to evoke the past and create a beautiful past, I select those details that will transport the reader into fields of wild flowers and colorful, vibrant cities.

It is my pleasure to do so, and I hope it is my readers' pleasure to enjoy the results.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Beautiful Worlds…What is Yours Like?

Would it be the quiet surface of an empty planet?  Perhaps you like the deep dark ocean with the merman or maid of your dreams?  Maybe it’s a tropical island or lush forest.  But could your beautiful world be a dingy room filled with regret or an alley littered with human despair.

Those who know me well will be shaking their heads by now, not in an absolutely not answer, but more because they know what’s coming.  They can hear my answer loud and clear.  It’s the same as it’s always been.  Yep, there is beauty even in the dingy rooms and alleys.

The beauty of a dingy room or an alley covered in trash is certainly not the outward splendor of a sun-soaked beach with clear blue waters, but it is an inner beauty.  It’s the knowledge that if one person goes to that room or alley, then so can another and another, until finally enough of us arrive to pick-up the discarded debris, to sweep away the dirt and offer a hand to those who need.

As a child, some of my favorite worlds were the ones inhabited by Robin Hood and Maid Marion, The Three Musketeers, Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys…all Heroes and Heroines  who helped those in need.  Or, of course, that’s how I saw them. 

Even as authors described places lush and lovely, wild and wonton even happy and free, I always found myself more intrigued with the characters, both major and minor who made their worlds so beautiful.  I still do.

Now thinking back over the stories I’ve written I’ve noticed a trend.  Every one of them has a random act of kindness in them.  In The Challenge, it’s a waitress who feeds and warns the hunted heroine.  In A Magical Return, it’s a heroine who buys flowers, every day, from a failing florist.  These are small things in the grand scheme of the stories, but meaningful to those on the receiving end. 

We all have the power to bring happiness and light to those around us with our words, our actions and it’s those random acts of kindness that make any world a beautiful one… 

Monday, September 12, 2011

Envisioning Beautiful Worlds for Romance Novels

Middleton Place Plantation in South Carolina

The idea for this post began with a blog I wrote on Kougar Kisses, my personal bloggie, back on August 6. Here is a portion rewritten for this post.

Creating Beautiful Worlds...the Kougaress had an intriguing insight earlier today. At least, intriguing to her. It becomes more important, in fact crucial to create beautiful worlds.

As romance writers a lot of us know that urge to ‘create a beautiful world’ for our heroines and heroes. Whether that means the HAPPILY EVER AFTER, or world-building another realm as in sci fi. Maybe we dream up a far-away fantasy place. Oh, the exquisite possibilities we have as writers. Our imagination is allowed to take flight, to surpass the boundaries of reality as we know it, as we live it everyday.

This Big Cat believes humanity instinctively has an innate drive, a need to create beauty. An obvious example is art in all of its glorious expressions. Art has always been with humanity, ala the prehistoric cave paintings. Another classic example, to the Kougaress’s mind, is the fairytale wedding mania of the nineties. Beaucoup bucks have been spent on that perfect day, as if for a short time, a beautiful world could be created, one that would last a lifetime in a world where trials and tribulations are the norm.

This desire to create beautiful worlds, to escape into a beautiful fantasy world, will only dramatically increase in the upcoming times. One, because of the harsh realities most of us are facing. And, two, because, it’s time. Time to bring forth our personal visions of a beautiful world.

Envisioning Beautiful Worlds

Beauty feeds and nourishes our souls. As writers we are able to give this gift to those who read our books.

I’ve envisioned beautiful worlds ever since I can remember. The stories my parents read to me at a young age were the beginning. My imagination spun with the images evoked by fairytales, and other children’s books. Being highly visual, the illustrations also inspired my flights of fancy into these beautiful realms.

Later, when I began reading all the non-fiction and fiction horse books, like The Black Stallion by Walter Farley, that I could get my little grubby hands on, I not only envisioned beautiful worlds filled with horses, but I began daydreaming about how to create my fantasy worlds for real.

As a child, I wanted to create a beautiful world of my own. Desperately. The urge became so strong it burned bright and fierce inside me all of the time.

Of course, the more I learned growing up, and the more I experienced life, the more complex these ‘romantic and beautiful worlds’ became. Often they lived within my imagination as real, more real than everyday life, especially during the nineties.

These worlds I daydreamed about, some of them were the dreams I wanted to bring about for real. Over the years, I’ve fought for my dreams, lived for them. However, that’s another story.

At this point in time, I have no idea how many of my romantic fantasy realms are stored inside my mental hope chest, and are my current WIPs...hundreds, at least. Most of them will never see the light of day, unless I pen them into full existence -- world-build them in my paranormal erotic romance novels as a finished book.

I should add a bit of a correction here because I do have one ‘sweet’ romance written. However, it’s so different, I don’t know what to do with it.

Even though, my romances are character driven, my stories are always based on a beautiful world or worlds -- my ideas about them, of course. This happens in several ways. There is the potential to bring one forth. The heroines and heroes are saving their beloved land, and their way of life. Or, my happily-ever-after couple lives in a thriving, full of life society, and this is their love story.

To world-build these beautiful realms is challenging, a joy, and very hard work. I constantly ask myself, or my muse...what does it feels like -- the society, the day-to-day activities, life in this particular OtherWorld, this OtherRealm, this OtherTime?

As authors, the question often becomes: How do we create beautiful worlds -- this includes ALL of the romance subgenres -- for our books? Or, how do we bring them forth from our imagination, and onto the page?

For some of us it’s a natural ability, even though it ain’t easy at times. One approach is to look at the dreams of your childhood. What was it that made you feel radiant inside, that lit your soul, your face?

As a teenager, what kind of world did you fantasize about, and long for so much it hurt? So much you made plan after endless plan?

Right now, what are those ‘beautiful worlds’ living inside your imagination, the ones that resonate with you the most? Start there, and your story will unfold.

As an example of how I’ve envisioned a beautiful world, here’s an erotic-romance Flash Scene I wrote for this past Valentine’s Day between Volcano and Sedona, my hero and heroine in WHEN A GOOD ANGEL FALLS.

Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2014

The rose, in full bloom, landed in her palm. Sedona felt the prick of thorns as she gripped the stem in reaction. Transfixed by the radiant scarlet rose, she stared, barely aware of the tiny pain.

Lost in the spiral of gorgeous petals, Sedona noticed the heavenly heady fragrance moments later, when it wafted inside her nostrils. An appreciative sigh sang from her. Lifting the rose, Sedona inhaled its scent more deeply. Her eyelids drifted shut and she dreamily soared inside.

“Volcano,” she whispered with her lips brushing the petals.

My angel woman. His telepathic voice trembled her with desire.

Playing cupid? Sedona mentally teased her words though him.

My arrow is only for you. The image of his ready cock filled her mind’s eye.

Oh, my cupid, I want to stroke your wings. I want to kiss each feather tip. I want –

With a loud whoosh, Volcano’s powerful essence vortexed around Sedona. A firestorm of pleasure captured every inch of her body, and she moaned.

Yes, smolder me, you naughty cupid. Until I surrender to the launch of your boldest arrow.

Even as the scorch of orgasmic rapture seized her mound, and spiraled upward, Sedona felt herself lifted from the floor. Her carnal cherub carried her with his incredible force. Somewhere.

All Sedona knew was that she traveled light-fast through the ethers, as her molecules blissfully entwined with his. Yet, strange to her senses, she still felt the prick of the rose thorns.

Barely steady on her feet, Sedona heard, Your Valentine’s Day surprise, my woman.

The press of Volcano’s kisses covered her body like a phantom lover, as she blinked her eyes open. She certainly didn’t stand in the front room of their mountain cabin anymore.

“Oh, Volcano...” Hardly daring to believe it, Sedona gasped. With her hands flying to her throat, she murmured, “Straight out of Gone With the Wind. Like the plantation mansion of Tara.”

Sedona’s astonishment was an ecstasy unto itself, as she slowly turned, taking in the lavishly appointed ballroom. The crystal chandeliers and gilt-framed mirrors sparkled in afternoon’s sunlight. Dark red velvet drapes added to the room’s elegance, as did the taper candles waiting to be lit.

With her senses staggered, Sedona took her time, gazing at everything. How long ago had it been when she’d revealed her youthful, twenty-something dream to him?

They’d been in bed, cuddled in each other’s arms. She’d been leafing through an old magazine they’d discovered in a trunk. Inside were photos of a replica, pre-civil war southern mansion -- the exterior and the interior.

After her spontaneous gurgles of delight, Volcano had questioned her. Shoving away her sadness, Sedona had talked about her dream to create a back-in-time resort based on this period in time.

Do you like it? We cupids aim to please.

Maybe it should be Rhett instead of cupid. Sedona hugged herself, and knew her eyes shone with anticipation.

Before her mind’s eye, Volcano performed a rakish bow.

Are we dancing soon, Rhett Volcano?

Soon, my beloved. The Divine Council meeting is progressing well.

The pups? she asked, concerned about their two dogs.

In seconds, Aru and his mate appeared before her. After quizzical looks at her, they gave her doggie smiles, then began their canine exploration.

Volcano’s ephemeral kiss touched her forehead, a temporary farewell. Your gown is upstairs, my Sedona, inside our bedroom.

With her heart lighter than air, and trip–trip tripping rapidly, Sedona rushed toward the splendid staircase. Reaching the first step, she raced upward, the rose still clutched in her hand.



Blurb ~

Winter Solstice, December 21, 2012 – The end of the Mayan Calendar

What happens when a world weary, worn out incarnated angel, Sedona, who believes she is merely human has three choices after her old van breaks down? Let the Nazerazzi squad of the North American Union capture her and force her into a FEMA concentration camp? Walk out into the Arizona night desert, let the wildlife have a good meal, with the hope her death will be quick? Or does Sedona trust the mysterious stranger suddenly before her? Handsome as sin and all in black, he emerges from the darkness astride a super-speed black motorcycle.

Is he her savior from the brutal hell of end times, or is he a roving cult member of the New World Order, hunting his next blood sacrifice?

Sent from heaven to help her save humanity, Zerr Dann knows the Divine is playing its last card on Earth.

Have a Happily Ever After ~


Savanna Kougar ~ Run on the Wild Side of Romance ~

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The World of a Texas Ranch

As authors, we are privileged to create worlds where we might like to live, while in reality we never would. All my imagined "worlds" are earthly ones, unlike someone who creates a science fiction place, or a paranormal realm, or one inhabited by other-worldly creatures--werewolves, vampires, and shape shifters.
For me, the most fun kind of envisioned world is a big ranch, set in some reasonably pleasant area in Texas where I might enjoy living.
In my last "Texas" book, Texas True, the young heroine, True Leigh Cameron, marries a man who is almost a foreigner--Sam Deleon, the older disinherited son of a Spanish matriarch who needs him to marry and have a son so that he might regain the huge ranch that was willed to the worthless younger son.
Through many trials and tribulations, heartbreak and sadness, Sam and True come to a kind of agreement. Without giving away the plot, Sam visits the South Texas ranch to determine what and how much of the Deleon fortune he can salvage from what his brother has squandered.
In order to place my hero and heroine in a happy place of their own, I have Sam camping out on a bluff overlooking a river and many acres of prime pasture. This place is on the far side of the ranch from the old, run-down original ranch house.
He sleeps by the camp-fire and has a dream about a beautiful house on the bluff.
There is a gazebo to the side, closer to the edge, for lovers and dreamers to sit close , sip some wine...
...and watch a beautiful Texas sunset.
Ahhh, love.

TEXAS TRUE is one of the Cameron Sisters novels, that of the younger daughter.
TEXAS PROMISE is also one of the Cameron Sisters novels, that of the younger daughter.
Find these books on AMAZON, B&N On-line Store, The SONY STORE, and DESERT BREEZE PUBLISHING.

Thanks for visiting....
Celia Yeary-Romance...and a little bit 'o Texas