Thursday, October 20, 2016

My rules for writing romance

Giveaway Alert!

I have very definite rules when writing romance. My books have to contain the following elements:

·      Realistic heroes and heroines — people who are just like us, and who find themselves on the magic journey of falling in love

·      No business moguls, no billionaires — just intelligent men and women who feel passionately about what they do

·      Fascinating settings — an archaeological site in Turkey (The Turkish Affair), a backwoods Nevada community (All About Charming Alice), an abandoned stretch of California coast (Felicity’s Power), or the bright lights of the country music world (A Swan’s Sweet Song)

·      Funny, cranky, interesting secondary characters

·      And, like in any good book, information that allows readers to learn new things (about archaeology, or snakes, or the origins of country music, or foreign aid)

When writing my contemporary romantic suspense, The Turkish Affair, I added yet another set of rules:
·      No overt violence
·      No car chases or shootouts
·      No fisticuffs, karate chops or improbable situations

Because I had to create tension without those usual tools, I needed real people with authentic problems; a plot based on what really does happen in the antiques world; an unstable political situation; untrustworthy and corrupt characters; a hostile environment.

In The Turkish Affair, my heroine Anne, a translator working in backwoods Turkey, has let a failed marriage and a scandalous affair turn her into a fearful person. Now, again faced with disgrace, she has a choice: she can run away, or she can find her lost courage, discover who is trying to frame her.

My hero, Renaud, is passionate about his work as an archaeologist, about traveling around the world and discovering lost civilizations. He loves and appreciates women, but is determined to stay uninvolved: women need security and a comfortable home base, and that would be too much of a sacrifice for him.

But what Anne and Renaud never imagined was the passionate attraction they feel at their very first meeting…

   The door opened. Anne looked up. And froze. Speak of the wolf and you see his tail.
Renaud Townsend. She stared at his long, tight body, the tousle of sun-bleached hair. Noted again his casual, elegant saunter as he entered. Remarkable. But what was he doing here? What mad coincidence had brought him to Necmettin’s cafĂ©? And now that he was here, how could she avoid him? Get up and go home? Her fingers inched toward her purse strap in preparation for the getaway, while she lowered her head and pretended to read. But,
despite her desire not to look, she couldn’t help glancing up.
   He was watching her.
   Their eyes locked. Time became fluid, spilled out into a long, loose eternity.
   Until, finally, he was moving again, easing his way toward her, stopping beside her
table, his blue eyes radiating intimacy.
    Intimacy she didn’t need. Or want.
   “Hello.” His voice was warm, coaxing. Very different from the tone she’d heard this
   Speech temporarily deserted her. His eyes scanned her mouth slowly, and her throat
closed. His gaze was as intimate as a caress.
   “I’m happy I’ve run into you again.”
   He meant it; she saw that. Did it mean he’d been looking for her? Combing the scruffy
town until he found her? Ridiculous. Why be preoccupied by a woman he’d met only
   “I want to apologize for my rudeness at the site this morning. I felt guilty all
   She stared at him blankly. Humility was the last thing she’d expected. She fought her
curiosity … and lost the fight. “Guilty?” He didn’t look like the sort of man who’d know
what the word meant. She had him pegged; she knew his type. He was a man who helped
himself to what he wanted and ignored the rest. As easy to read as a fluorescent billboard.
   He nodded. “Please, let me explain.”
   But he didn’t look quite so sure of himself now. And she felt herself relenting. “You
don’t have to explain anything.”
   “Of course I don’t have to.” His lips twitched into a faint smile. “I want to. My
behavior was offensive.”
   She forced herself to shrug, as if his explanation didn’t matter to her. She had to
discourage him, because friendliness was the last thing she needed from him. Arrogance
she could deal with; it would be easy keeping him at arm’s length with that. But warmth?
Sympathy? She didn’t think she was strong enough to handle those, not when his very
presence excited her, made her want to open up to him. “Explanations really aren’t
necessary, Mr. Townsend. Please don’t bother—”
   “Not Mr. Townsend. Renaud. Just Renaud and Anne, okay?”
   How calm, how vibrant his voice was. There wasn’t the slightest trace of the
aggression she’d heard this morning. And first names were too intimate. She wanted to
stop him, say, “I don’t want you in my territory. You spell trouble.” She didn’t want
complications and emotional upheaval. Those would churn up her daily life, turn it into
complete misery.
   Yet it was a nice name. Renaud. She tried the weight of it in a part of her mind.
   “Yes,” she heard her own traitorous mouth murmur.
   He indicated the second chair at Anne’s small table. “Mind if I sit?”
   Of course she minded. Or did she have a mind left at all? She shook her head. He’d
traded in the tight T-shirt for a loose, beige shirt that managed to suggest all the tight
muscles it hid. He still wore jeans, though. Tight, worn jeans outlining his thighs. His hair
had been brushed back into a semblance of order, but a few unruly curls invited her
fingers to touch.
   “It’s the first time I’ve been on a site in Turkey. I know nothing about local customs; I
don’t speak a word of the language. And having responsibility for the site dropped onto
my shoulders only days ago made me less than pleasant this morning.”
   “I wasn’t particularly charming either.” She hadn’t wanted to say that. Oh, why was he
making her say things she’d had no intention of admitting? The last thing she should be
doing was encouraging him, opening the door to easy conversation.
   “Call it revenge.”


Danger at the ancient Hittite site of Karakuyu

A top notch Washington journalist before a liaison with the wrong man implicated her in scandal, Anne Pierson has been hiding in backwoods Turkey and working as a translator. She’s determined to keep her past a secret, to avoid personal relationships. But after meeting Renaud Townsend, her discrete little world is turned upside down.

Archaeologist Renaud Townsend is troubled by Anne Pierson’s refusal to talk about her past, but instinct tells him he can rely on her. Or is it only desire speaking? A lusty love affair for the duration of the summer dig is a very appealing idea.

When Anne’s bad reputation links her to stolen artefacts and murder, the budding romance with Renaud comes to a halt. If they learn to trust one another, her name can be cleared. But is there still enough intensity to give love a second chance?

Arlene will be giving away an ecopy of THE TURKISH AFFAIR to one lucky person leaving a comment or email entry.

About the author

Born in New York, raised in Toronto, J. Arlene Culiner has spent most of her life in England, Germany, Turkey, Greece, Hungary and the Sahara. She now resides in a 400-year-old former inn in a French village of no interest and, much to public dismay, protects all creatures, especially spiders and snakes. She works as an actress, a photographer, a contemporary artist, a musician, writes mysteries, history books and perfectly believable romances. Her heroines are funny and gutsy; her heroes, dashingly lovable; and all are (proudly) over the age of forty. 

Giveaway ends 11:59pm EST Oct. 21st. Please supply your email in the post. You may use spaces or full text for security. (ex. jsmith at gmail dot com) If you do not wish to supply your email, or have trouble posting, please email with a subject title of JCR GIVEAWAY to be entered in the current giveaway. US residents only.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


With: A. J. Pine

Congratulations to "Dee", the winner in A.J.'s giveaway. Thank you to all who participated!

Doesn’t it always happen that the guy we know we should stay away from ends up being the guy who is hardest to resist? Annie Denning—bookshop owner, romance blogger, and believer in happy ever afters—wants nothing to do with bestselling author, Wes Hartley—the guy who wrote the most cynical book that all her blog followers tout as the best romance of the year.

But the story of a man who is a serial dater, breaking hearts left and right, and chooses to be alone—is not a romance! And Annie just can’t seem to separate the author from the character he created. But, since the universe enjoys messing with her, Wes ends up as her last-minute date to a wedding. This is the scene where he show up to pick her up.

“Shit!” she yelled, squatting to pick up the three-inch heel that was now nothing more than a stick. “Like, throw me a freaking bone here, universe!”

Before she could head back upstairs for a quick shoe change, the unmistakable sound of a motorcycle broke through the quiet of her street, and seconds later, said vehicle stopped in front of her building. Because, of course, this comedy of errors would not be complete without an audience.

“I guess I’m right on time?” Wes said after he killed the engine and took off his helmet.

Annie’s stomach lurched.

He wasn’t supposed to look so good. And that voice of his—playful and teasing with a sexy rasp—wasn’t supposed to do things to her insides. But her palms began to sweat, and she felt nauseous.

“Yeah.” She held up her broken heel. “A minor wardrobe malfunction.”

His smile bloomed fully now. Annie was still trying to reconcile the cartoon drawing, the ridiculous bio, and the most cynical book she’d ever read with the specimen parked in front of her apartment.

Because he didn’t look like a cartoon or ridiculous, and that grin was anything but cynical. Wes Hartley wasn’t how she pictured the hero of Down This Road. But he’d created the character and had all but admitted the book was autobiographical fiction. Still, there was the hint of something butterfly-like in her belly, and she wanted to tell the little buggers to knock it the hell off.

A leather jacket, gray pants, boots, and a body atop a Harley hadn’t found their way into her fantasies before today. The heroes she read about were steadfast. Reliable. She could tell by looking at Wes—from knowing he’d fled Chicago the first chance he got—that he was more of a drifter. After all, Jeremy said he had just shown up out of the blue looking for a place to stay—unsure when he’d leave again. But maybe tonight she could throw expectation out the window and enjoy the view. This was not the boy she barely knew in high school. This was—a man.

A gorgeous man smiling at her.

Three Simple Words


I know where to find my happily ever after—between the pages of a romance novel. It’s why I sell books, why I blog about them, and why I’ll never get disappointed by love.

So what if my brother’s best friend from high school is now a bestselling author? Or that he just blew back into town on a Harley, filling out a pair of jeans like he never did before? Or that he’s agreed to do a signing at my bookstore on such short notice? Because despite all his adoring female fans, I kind of hated his book.


The last time I saw Annie Denning, she was a senior in high school, three years older than me and way out of my league. Now I’m her last-minute date to a wedding, and what started as a night of pure fun has turned into something more real than either of us anticipated.
Annie is my muse. When I’m with her, my writer’s block fades away, and the words finally flow.

The only problem? She wants the fairy tale—her very own happily ever after—and anyone who’s read my book knows the truth. I just don’t believe they exist.
Each book in the Kingston Ale House series is a standalone, full-length story that can be enjoyed out of order. 

Series Order:

Book #1 The One That Got Away 
Book #2 Six Month Rule
Book #3 Three Simple Words

Book #4 Worth the Wait (January 2017)

Author bio:
AJ Pine writes stories to break readers’ hearts, but don’t worry—she’ll mend them with a happily ever after. As an English teacher and a librarian, AJ has always surrounded herself with books. All her favorites have one big commonality–romance. Naturally, the books she writes have the same. When she’s not writing, she’s of course reading. Then there’s online shopping (everything from groceries to shoes). And a tiny bit of TV where she nourishes her undying love of vampires, superheroes, and a certain high-functioning sociopath detective. You’ll also find her hanging with her family in the Chicago ‘burbs.

AJ Pine is the author of the If Only series, the Only You series, and the current Kingston Ale House series.

A.J. will be giving away a $10 Amazon gift card to one lucky person leaving a comment or email entry!

Giveaway ends 11:59pm EST Oct. 19th. Please supply your email in the post. You may use spaces or full text for security. (ex. jsmith at gmail dot com) If you do not wish to supply your email, or have trouble posting, please email with a subject title of JCR GIVEAWAY to be entered in the current giveaway. US residents only.