Travel with Mona on a Cruise Conference

For years I enjoyed cruising around the world—in the Caribbean, Cross-Atlantic via the North Pole and Greenland, in the Mediterranean Sea, the Far East, around South America, all the way to India and Singapore through the Suez Canal, in addition to several river cruises.

Let me tell you about a different kind of cruises that combined fun and business for writers. I’m talking about the cruise conferences organized by FRW [Florida Romance Writers] the South Florida chapter of Romance Writers of America [RWA]. (Unfortunately I think both groups don’t exist anymore.)

The FRW members gathered for their monthly meeting at a fixed location where a qualified guest presented a talk, but once a year, FRW opened its doors wide for the annual conference where editors and agents were invited to come and chat with the authors. For years this annual conference was set in a big hotel in Miami or Fort Lauderdale. Later it was moved to a cruise ship. I attended two of these memorable cruise conferences.

In the following pictures, you may recognize familiar faces–authors who are now multi-published and quite famous.

The obligatory drill

Together with the other passengers we attended the safety drill before departure. As soon as the ship sailed out of port, we gathered in one of the ship’s big lounges for an introductory meeting.

~*~ THE EDITORS=THE GODS ~*~ at the time !!!
Introductory meeting in the lounge with the three founding mothers of the FRW chapter. Joan Johnston, Sally Fairchild and Heather Graham.

Dinner took place in the main restaurant, with an editor or an agent sitting at each table to allow the writers easy access to the agent or the editor they want to approach about their latest book. Remember, this was before self-publishing became so popular.

So business was in the afternoon, fun in the morning, and more fun at dinner.

Shopping for a t-shirt and a mug.

At the Three Amigos: This restaurant/pub became a traditional stop for the FRW writers who needed a beer, a tequila and some fun.

At Three Amigos!

After a good lunch it was time to work. Seriously! We were at a business conference! Heather Graham separated us in 5 groups. Each group received a few words and had to come up with a blurb for an interesting story. My group included Senior Editor Eric Raab from Tor, and our words were: actress, roto-rooter, ugly, basement… We brainstormed our blurbs and then read out loud with everyone. Quite hilarious.

This workshop was followed by an open discussion with Agents Lucy Childs and Lucienne Diver: How can an agent help writers achieve their goals? In the past, to be published writers needed an agent.

For the next two hours we enjoyed a special treat called the Floridian Idol. Heather Graham and Traci Hall read the first two pages submitted anonymously by more than thirty writers. Each submission received a thorough critique by the agents and editors.

On the last night, we gathered at dinner for our formal night.

Yes my husband came along and volunteered to be FRW’s official photographer!

He met most of the writers and enjoyed the conference too!

But all good things came to an end–business and fun–when our ship returned to port.

Time to say goodbye. Here with Heather Graham, a fabulous author who has been an inspiration to all of us at FRW.

On Special Sale for the Holiday Season:

CHRISTMAS HER AND THERE

Christmas is the most beautiful time of the year, a time for family gathering, for sharing love and exchanging gifts, for spoiling the children…
And yet some people may run away from celebrations that brought them betrayal, grief, or frustration. In this box of three sweet novels and a sexy novella, our heroes/heroines are trying to avoid Christmas and their painful memories. But…

LOVE YOU DOC series

Dr. Robert Olson, a well-known cardiac surgeon and heart transplant specialist, and his wife Janice, an ER nurse lived in Florida and deeply cared for their close-knit family. At home, all they talked about was hospital, patients, surgery, recovery, etcetera…
Sure enough, their four kids studied medicine. The oldest brother, Nathan, became an orthopedic surgeon and worked in Boston. His brother Aidan finished a residency in neurosurgery and accepted a position in Cincinnati. Their sister, Sophia, was an ER doc, and the youngest sibling, Liam, was still in med school when their dad died. Sure enough, these successful doctors faced their share of problems before finding their HEA. The following books related their stories: A Complete Family, Love On The Slopes, Love In The ER, Secret Kisses.

MODERN PRINCES Series

While cruising the British Isles, I visited Guernsey, in the English Channel, 30 miles west of Normandy. We were welcomed in St. Peters Port with a gorgeous sunny weather and a 70 o F temperature for our visit of the island, an idyllic paradise with cobbled streets and picturesque seafront marina.
Guernsey is not part of the United Kingdom but it is part of the British Islands. Residents speak English and French, and their money is similar to the English pound. The top speed limit in Guernsey is 35 miles/hour. If you drive along the coastline of Guernsey you will hit military fortifications almost every 2 minutes or so. These were built during the Napoleonic wars to protect Guernsey from France.
St. Peter Port is the main town on the island of Guernsey. It’s full of hills, colors, and super cute shops! French author Victor Hugo lived in exile in St. Peter Port for 15 years at Hautevile House where he wrote both Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame.
This quaint island with special privileges and autonomy became Rensy Island, the setting of my new series, MODERN PRINCES.
Modern Princes Series:
A Bride For Prince Paul: She can’t abandon her patients for his crown!
A Bodyguard For The Princess: A murder at Harvard in Princess Chloe’s student building.
Jingle With My Princess: The doc and the princess… He saves lives but Princess Charlene may save his heart.
Prince Philip’s Cinderella: A charming jogger saves her from danger. But he’s a prince… and she comes from nothing.
A Dance for Prince Eric: A ballerina with a promising career on the run for her brother’s sake. A charismatic prince who saved them both.

The Crystal Set

It was a beautiful set of crystal glasses, a gift from my father that we cherished and used when we had guests. Eight of each—wine glasses, bigger water glasses, smaller liquor glasses, wide bottom cognac and champagne flutes. Notice that I use the past tense.

Last night, we heard a big noise and jumped out of bed, running to the living room barefoot. It was 4:30 am. Nothing prepared us for the sight we met in the living room. The two glass shelves in the cabinet separating the kitchen from the dining area had collapsed, pushing the cabinet door open and smashing almost all the glasses. There was glass pieces all over the kitchen, dining area, and living room. It took us a few seconds to assess the damage. Dad’s crystal set was gone forever. We still don’t know why the shelves have decided to collapse after fifteen years.

Once we recovered from our stupor, the first order of the day was to wear slippers. I swiped the tile floor with a broom, collecting the pieces in paper bag—mentally thanking Trader’s Joe for still packaging groceries in paper bags instead of plastic bags. My husband put on gloves and withdrew the broken glasses one by one from the cabinet. We filled four garbage bags. I finished the cleaning job by wiping the tiles with a wet cloth.

Now the cabinet is wide-open and empty. To think, I always complained about the lack of storage space in a condo’s small kitchen. The moral of the story is not to get attached to material things! Well thank God, I have other gifts and souvenirs from my dad.

Last Chance Plans

is on sale for $0.99 during the month of May.

Emotional, Sensual, Humorous

At twenty, Rick Lambert ran away from the US to escape the accusations hurled at him. Fifteen years later, he returns to settle in Fort Lauderdale. His mother agrees to live with him and take care of his two sons who have been raised by nannies and boarding schools.
Flight attendant, Madison Howell loves nothing more than her job. During a flight from Dubai to Miami, she meets the authoritative businessman and his mother. The sweet old lady befriends her, and Rick doesn’t hide his attraction. When his children come home, Madison finds herself entangled with the Lamberts way too often. As she helps the young boys adapt to their new life, she falls in love with their gorgeous father, but she’s not sure she really knows Rick, her charming lover. A loving son and dedicated father but also a womanizer and tough businessman with a hidden past.
When people from long-ago cross his path, secrets are revealed, threatening to ruin their romance. Now mature and powerful, Rick confronts his enemies to clear his name, but will it cost him the woman he loves?

Travel with Mona to Argentina

I went to Argentina twice and enjoyed it tremendously. Often described as the Paris of Latin America, Buenos Aires owes its reputation to its wealth of beautiful Belle Epoque buildings. Many of Buenos Aires’s architectural landmarks were built in the early decades of the 20th century when the city exploded from colonial outpost to one of the wealthiest metropolises in the world. 

I loved this lively city so much that I described it in my most recent book, LAST CHANCE PLANS. Although the novel is set in Fort Lauderdale, one chapter takes place in Buenos Aires. Madison Howell, a flight attendant, is flying there on an assignment, and billionaire, Rick Lambert, joins her for a business trip that soon brings a lot of fun.

Plaza de Mayo

The Plaza de Mayo is a city square and main foundational site of Buenos Aires. It was formed in 1884 and became the political center of the country. Surrounded by the Casa Rosada, the Cabildo and the city’s main cathedral, Plaza de Mayo is the place where Argentineans gather in vehement protest or jubilant celebration.

Casa Rosada — from which Eva Peron addressed adoring crowds of workers.

The Plaza de Mayo is decorated by the Pyramid de Mayo (built in 1811 to commemorate the May Revolution a year earlier) and a grand statue of independence hero General Belgrano as well as towering palm trees and soothing fountains.

<<From time to time, Rick caressed her palm with the pad of his thumb as he glanced out of the window and listened to their driver, Mario, who took them to the famous Plaza de Mayo. “Tomorrow, you should walk in the square and take pictures,” Mario said as he waved at the May Pyramid, their oldest national monument.

“We will,” Madison promised.

Next, Mario drove along the Rio de la Plata waterfront at Puerto Madero, explaining that all streets in the district were named after women. They passed in front of the Museo Nacional de Belles Artes and the Teatro Colon. As he continued along 9 de Julio Avenue, he pointed at the obelisk that was built to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the founding of the city, and he insisted they should have lunch or dinner at the famous Café Tortoni.

“Tonight we’re just getting an overview. Tomorrow we’ll walk and visit all these places and more,” Madison declared.

Rick smiled at her enthusiasm, determined to spice up their visit with his own brand of excitement.>>

The Monument to the Carta Magna and Four Regions of Argentina is located in the intersection of Del Libertador and Sarmiento Avenues, a landmark site in the Palermo, a neighborhood of Buenos Aires, Argentina. It is commonly referred to as the Monument of the Spanish. 
The Equestrian monument to General Manuel Belgrano is a landmark of Buenos Aires, Argentina. It is located at Plaza de Mayo, in front of the Casa Rosada. It depicts General Manuel Belgrano holding the Flag of Argentina, and it is made of bronze over a pedestal of granite.
The Pyramid de Mayo, located in front of the Casa Rosada, or Pink House, in the Plaza de Mayo, location of many historic and political events.
El Obelisco
Built by Alberto Prebisch in 1936 to commemorate Buenos Aires’s 400th anniversary, this pointed needle is the city’s unofficial center, and a useful landmark for getting one’s bearings. Standing 222 feet tall, the obelisk has four sides on its shaft that represent moments in the city’s history, from its founding in 1536 to being named as Argentina’s capital in 1880

La Recoleta Cemetery

La Recoleta Cemetery
Argentine aristocrats were known to sell all their worldly possessions to pay for a spot in the country’s most exclusive cemetery. A maze of splendid mausoleums and dramatic crypts, it’s where the country’s most controversial figures (including, most famously, Eva Perón) sleep. 

The Abasto Mall

The Abasto shopping center was built in 1930s in the Art Deco architecture.
In 1999, Abasto was reborn into a shopping center as it was refurbished completely on the inside, and with additional structures at the back and side, but keeping the original beautiful Art Deco façade.

Café Tortoni:

You’ll know you have reached this legendary fin de siècle café located halfway along Avenida de Mayo from the lines that snake out the door. Modeled on the Parisian coffeehouses of the 19th century, it’s been a meeting point for artists and intellectuals since it opened in 1858 and still hosts regular jazz and tango nights. 825 Avenida de Mayo.

<<Around seven, just after sunset, Mario dropped them at the tango restaurant. “I’ll be back for you at 10:00 p.m. You have time for dinner, the show, and a tango lesson.” Apparently, the dancers taught the patrons a few steps after their show.

<<Inside the restaurant, where long tables faced a stage, they were seated next to each other with other patrons. After sampling various bits of meat from a tray a waitress passed around, they ordered the local steak and a bottle of wine. They toasted, chatted, laughed with the other guests at their table, and enjoyed their meal.>>

Caminito

Caminito is a well-known pedestrian-only street in Buenos Aires, famed for its brightly colored houses built from scrap metal and painted with leftovers from the shipyards. The street is also known for being the birthplace of tango, which originated here in the late 19th century. Nothing beats the tour of the old city and the lunch in restaurant offering Tango shows.

 The Best Tango Shows In Buenos Aires: The authentic tango that you’ll see in these Buenos Aires tango shows is very different than what you’ve seen in the movies. It tells a passionate story. The movements are complex. The man signals to his partner with subtle cues that they’ve practiced religiously.

<<The music filled the air and the lights dimmed. Bright spotlights focused on the stage where a couple glided in, the man in a black, silk shirt and satin pants, the woman wearing a sexy, short, tight, sparkling dress that molded to her figure. The loud tempo of the music focused their attention as the man splayed a hand on the woman’s back and held her other hand in a tight grip.

The dance started with sharp, staccato movements, the male dancer bringing his partner against him, pulling her in with a passionate attitude. The music’s frenzy escalated, prompting more sensual steps in the dance while the dancers maintained their sober expressions.

Lips parted, Madison seemed totally mesmerized by the dance. Rick wrapped an arm around her waist, slowly pulling her back against his chest, needing to share the dramatic dance with her. She melted against him, her fingers clenched on his arm.>>

A tango show
My husband posing for the picture.

<<The server entered, set the tray on the desk, accepted his tip, and left with an “Enjoy your drinks.”

“All that?” Madison stared at the two giant ceramic mugs, miniature replicas of the famous Obelisco adorning the center of town.

“Here, they say that Buenos Aires is the city that never sleeps. The Buenos Aires Zombie is the perfect drink for a night meant to go on until dawn.”>>

Last Chance Plans, Love Plans Series, book 10

Today is the Release Day. 99 cents to celebrate its release.

At twenty, Rick Lambert ran away from the US to escape the accusations hurled at him. Fifteen years later, he returns to settle in Fort Lauderdale. His mother agrees to live with him and take care of his two sons who have been raised by nannies and boarding schools.

Flight attendant, Madison Howell loves nothing more than her job. During a flight from Dubai to Miami, she meets the authoritative businessman and his mother. The sweet old lady befriends her, and Rick doesn’t hide his attraction. When his children come home, Madison finds herself entangled with the Lamberts way too often. As she helps the young boys adapt to their new life, she falls in love with their gorgeous father, but she’s not sure she really knows Rick, her charming lover. A loving son and dedicated father but also a womanizer and tough businessman with a hidden past.

When people from long-ago cross his path, secrets are revealed, threatening to ruin their romance. Now mature and powerful, Rick confronts his enemies to clear his name, but will it cost him the woman he loves?

Love Plans Series #1

To celebrate the release of LOVE PLANS SERIES, book 10, Last Chance Plans, the Love Plans Series #1 will be half-price during February.

Heal My Heart

To celebrate the release of Last Chance Plans, Heal My Heart will be FREE on February 7, 8, 9 and February 21 and 22

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