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redman photo 115 fb kids fav scarf vert headshotHi, everyone!

I couldn’t be more thrilled to have been invited to participate in the celebration of romance throughout the month of August at READ A ROMANCE MONTH. I was lucky enough to get the invitation because I’m lucky in my wonderful friends. A big hug and big thanks go out to the beautiful Lorelei of Lorelei’s Lit Lair for inviting me to participate. Another hurrah to the amazing Bobbi Dumas, founder of RARM, for being so generous and supportive!

lorelei white t shirt
If you missed Lorelei’s guest blog here, I hope you’ll go back and catch it. And don’t miss her RARM essay, which is wonderfully inspiring! She’s one of the sweetest, most generous people you’ll ever meet, and she’s a great friend of all romance writers!
 

THE JOY OF ROMANCE

Have you ever heard this quote?
 
“A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.”

The source of those words is unknown or at least interwebally disputed, but I love the quote, because it’s true. It’s true of the best friends, and I’ve always thought it’s also true of the best romance novels.

Dry rose on an old book/ Vintage Books and Roses

Most of us carry the romance “song” in our hearts. If we’re lucky, if we’ve found the person who makes us come alive, we sing it loud and clear, sometimes from the rooftops, carried away by the bliss of it.

But sometimes we can feel as if we’ve completely lost the melody. We can’t remember how it goes, and everything we try comes out sounding harsh, discordant and wrong.

Young lovely smiling woman wonders on flower, tearing petals, close-up.

Maybe we’re facing a failed relationship, or maybe the person with whom we shared that joy has died. Maybe we’re enduring a rough patch in a committed relationship. Maybe we’re just temporarily overwhelmed by life’s other problems—health, money, deadlines, tragedy—and romantic joy seems like a mirage, shining from a shore we can never reach.

In those moments, a great fictional romance can be a lifesaver. Whether it’s a classic, like Heathcliff and Cathy, or something trendy, like Castle and Becket—or even something futuristic, like The Doctor and Rose—love stories remember the song, and they will sing it to us until we’re ready to try again. Like a lighthouse beacon, like a robin in winter, they remind us never to give up hope.

And so, as Read-A-Romance Month begins, I couldn’t be prouder to honor this wonderful genre. It’s been my nearly thirty-year privilege to write stories for you, and it has been indescribably rewarding to get your notes and emails telling me how much they’ve meant to you in times of sorrow or loneliness.

A big, heartfelt thank you to all the readers who have found joy in my books, and to all the other fabulous authors who have offered their “songs” for me to turn to.
Here’s to the joy of romance–and romance novels! May the song play on. ❤

Pink roses and old books on wooden desk

Recommendations:

Have you heard of MIMI WELLS?  Maybe not, because her novella with Tule Publishing has just come out, and it’s only her second published book.  But I hope you’ll make a note to check out THE BILLIONAIRE’S DECEPTION, because it’s fabulous.  All the books in this AMALFI NIGHTS series are (Nancy Robards Thompson, Eve Gaddy, Katherine Garbera and I each have one there, too), and I wholeheartedly recommend every single one.  But I’ve singled out Mimi Wells for a special reason.  I’ve known Mimi for years, and loved her sense of humor and loyalty, her intelligence and spunk.  But when I finally read her work, I was blown away.  She’s marvelous, and I believe she’s someone to watch!

THE ROSIE PROJECT, by Graeme Simsion.  This likely isn’t news for you…I know this book is hugely popular.  But it’s just so wonderful I have to mention it.  I haven’t read the second, THE ROSIE EFFECT, but I can’t wait.  If you’ve read it, please let me know what you think!

AUTHOR QUESTIONS

Describe a moment when you’ve experienced pure joy.

On our tenth anniversary, my husband and I took a trip to Charleston.  We were married in April, so we encountered a city in full spring glory. Wisteria, azalea, dogwood, camillias…everywhere you looked, the gardens were hosting their own parties of riotous color.
closeup roses
I knew he would have planned some special gift, because he’s a traditional kind of guy. No birthday, anniversary, Mother’s Day or special holiday ever passes without roses arriving at the door.  But I also knew he hadn’t brought along anything big enough to notice, so I assumed his gift must be something small…like, perhaps, a jewelry box.

Now, as you probably know, receiving surprise jewelry for a special occasion is a little nerve-wracking, even for someone like me, who isn’t exactly a jewelry fanatic.  What if you don’t really care for the piece? You’ll always cherish the sentiment and affection behind it, but will you love wearing it day in and day out? And what if the absolute worst happens, and he can sense your ambivalence?  Hurting your husband’s feelings on a day like this would be unthinkable.

So when, at our lovely Charthouse steak dinner, I saw him reach into his pocket and pull out a little black velvet box, I was prepared. I’d thought it through, and I knew the jewelry didn’t matter.  Only the love mattered, and we had plenty of that to spare.

heart necklace

And then…I opened the box to find that it held the most exquisite little diamond heart pendant I had ever seen.  It was the pendant I would have dreamed of, if I actually dreamed about jewelry, which I don’t. 🙂 It’s graceful and sparkly without being gaudy, and I was absolutely enchanted. Not only did he care about me…he knew me.  He understood me.  He understood what I would love.
Publicity shot for Kathleen O'Brien Pynn (Kathleen has royalty free license for image)
He put the pendant around my neck that night, and it’s been there ever since.  We just celebrated our 38th wedding anniversary–yes, I was a child bride <g>–so that’s a long, long time. I’ve been forced to take it off now and then, for the births of my children, or mammograms, or cleaning…but otherwise it’s always there.  Sometimes, in tough times, I close my palm around it like a talisman. It holds the memory of that night, and all the nights in between, and the pure joy of being loved and understood.

Tell us about a place that brings you joy, or is attached to a memory of joy.

irene at slea head
Dingle, Ireland.  I’m Irish, and the air in Western Ireland just sings to me.  The little beach at Slea Head, with its caves and winds and its crystal water trickling down stony cliffs, is pure magic.  We traveled there as a family a few years ago.  The day we visited Slea Head, my daughter, who has inherited a slightly aloof dignity from her daddy and isn’t a reckless hugger, had reached the beach first. When I arrived she came running up to me, threw her arms around me, and hugged me until I’m quite sure the air twinkled around us with fairy dust.  That memory is like medicine to me, or like a spell to keep away loneliness forever.

Tell us about a sound that brings you joy.

little yellow duckling swimming towards the camera
Moving water.  Waves, rain on water, even fountains plashing or sprinklers hissing.  I grew up in a house that overlooked Tampa Bay, and I think water is the background music to all my happy childhood memories.

What recent book have you read that brought you joy. (Or a book you read in your life that brought you so much joy you’ve never forgotten it.) Why?

The Wishing Star cover
When I was in sixth or seventh grade, I checked out of the library a book called THE WISHING STAR by Norma Johnston.  It was so beautiful, the imagery so vivid, the characters so delightful, that I read it over and over.  I’m pretty sure it was while reading that book that I decided I wanted to be a writer.  I wanted to be able to create sparkling, snowy worlds like that.  When I grew up, I looked for another copy of that book for decades and finally found one, thanks to the power of internet searches! I re-read it every few years, just to remember that joy of discovery.

Pick your Chris! Chris Hemsworth, Chris Pine, Chris Pratt, Chris Rock, Chris Evans or Christopher Plummer.

Hmmm…from that list, I’d have to say Christopher Plummer.  The Sound of Music is one of my favorite films, and Maria’s softening effect on him makes their romance so touching–a real Beauty and the Beast story!  But if I could pick any Christopher out there in the big, wide world, I’d pick Christopher Eccleston, who played the 9th Doctor on Doctor Who.  He’d be a little gritty for me, ordinarily, but he was the first Doctor I met (I hadn’t ever seen the earlier series), and you know what they say about your first. 🙂

DRAWING!

Everyone who comments here will be entered, and on September 1st one randomly chosen poster will be offered a 25.00 Amazon gift certificate, and this wonderful plaque, with the quote I mentioned earlier about the song in your heart.
friend is someone

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Hi, everyone! I just got back from the frozen North…and while I’m thrilled to be home I’m missing the winter wonderland I left behind.

I am getting my MFA in writing from Seton Hill University, a gorgeous Hogwarts-like school in Greensburg, PA. Most of my work is done via the computer, but twice a year I attend a week-long residency up there. The winter residency is a dream come true for this Florida gal!

I felt as if I’d stepped into one of my own books. Now that I think about it, I’ve written three books that feature glorious winters–“Mistletoe Man,” “Winter Baby” and “We Need A Little Christmas.” It was amazing to learn that real winter is just as romantic and magical as I imagined.

I just blogged about my love affair with the snow, in fact, over at Tote Bags ‘n’ Blogs Stop by if you can, and see more of the beauty of Greensburg in January!

Now, before you decide I’m truly insane, remember I was born in Florida, and I have lived in Florida all my life. I once spent a few winter days in Innsbruck, Austria, where I saw plenty of picturesque snow, but I was working and didn’t have any real time for play.

Other than that, I’ve had to settle for a few flakes here and there, and a glimpse or two from a train window. But while I’m in Greensburg, I can frolic like a fool. And boy, did I! I caught snowflakes on my tongue. I made my first snow angel. I pummeled my friends with snowballs. In every way, I allowed myself to be swept into fantasy by the beauty of the hilly landscape.

So as I get back to real life, to work on my new book (a spin-off from “For the Love of Family”), carrying the frosty sparkles in my heart, I wanted to share a little of it with you. Here’s a very short video my daughter captured with her iIPhone. She knew I’d want to have a memento of this magical moment. I hope you enjoy it, too!

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My father used to tell us, “Everyone in the world is either Irish or wishes he were.” I was a kid, so I believed it. It didn’t take me long to discover that everyone values his own heritage that same way, but I still secretly think it’s super cool to be Irish. 🙂

So, in honor of this day, which of course has a special sparkle for me, here is a list of my favorite Irish things!


1) The music. Someone once said of the Irish, “All their wars are merry, and all their songs are sad.” I’m the corniest person on the planet, so I love a good tear-jerker song. Try listening to Bing Crosby sing “The Isle of Innisfree,” and you might see what I mean. If you’ve ever been away from your home and your people, you’ll cry at that one, or your tear ducts are broken. How about “The Fields of Athenry” or “I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen”? Sinead O’Connor singing “Molly Malone.” Christy Moore singing “Nancy Spain.” Anyone doing “Danny Boy.” Even while they’re tearing out your heart, you’re hitting the “repeat” button! Don’t like to cry? Hmmmm…you must not be Irish! 😉

2) The Dingle Peninsula in Western Ireland. This is what heaven looks like (as the song said). The picture here is of my daughter in a magical little cove called Slea Head. If you get a chance to go, do it. The Burren, the Cliffs of Moher, Lisdoonvarna…if you can, stay in an absolutely charming little B&B called Castlewood House, where they serve breakfast that was made by the angels.

3) The words. The irreverent definition of blarney is the ability to tell a man to go to hell in such a way that he looks forward to the trip. Whatever you call it, words fall from Irish tongues like fairy dust. Think of their wonderful blessings: “May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be always at your back.” And “May you be buried in a coffin made from the wood of a hundred-year-old tree that I shall plant tomorrow.”
And when they turn their words to poetry…to the lyrical celebration of nature, of life, of love, of fear and innocence… that is heaven, too. Yeats is my favorite Irish poet, and these are two of his images that I love the best:

From “Sailing to Byzantium”:
“An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing”

From “Song of Wandering Aengus”:
“And pluck till time and times are done
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.”

Ooops… I’m suddenly realizing that three things isn’t enough! What about their gorgeous actors (Liam Neeson!), their art (The Book of Kells), their plays (Pygmalion!), their novels (Maeve Binchy), their courage, their beer and their history? But I mustn’t go on forever, so I’ll leave you with the Irish blessing I love best.

May the saddest day of your future be no worse than the happiest day of your past.

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