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 English Alphabet

New Release for Christmas

IRRESISTIBLE SCROOGES…not anymore Kindle Edition

by Tamara Ferguson (Author), Natalie Ann (Author), Cynthia Cooke (Author), Suzanne Jenkins (Author), Alicia Street (Author), Mona Risk (Author), Mimi Barbour (Author), Taylor Lee (Author), Susanne Matthews (Author) 

Filled with heart, hope, and holiday traditions…it’s Christmas, the most magical time of the year.
So, what could be more romantic than breaking through the bah humbugs to find love with your own personal Scrooge?

Find your spirit of the season in these NINE HOLIDAY ROMANCES, featuring BRAND-NEW, NEVER BEFORE PUBLISHED steamy stories, from New York Times & USA Today Bestselling, Award-Winning Authors.



CHRISTMAS HERE 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…

Cruise with Mona…And Babies

My name is Julia. I was seven months old when my grandparents took us on a cruise. My cousin Olivia and I were the only two babies on the ship.

Cruise muster drills are mandatory safety briefings that all passengers must attend before the ship is allowed to sail. Before sailing, Daddy outfitted me with a life jacket to make sure I would be safe in case of emergency.

On the very first night, Olivia ruined her parents’ dinner by whining, crying, and displaying a high fever—a possible risk when traveling with small children. She paid a visit to the local clinic and was treated with antibiotics.

Here is Olivia crawling through the connecting balconies to come and visit me.

Thankfully, she recovered in no time, enjoyed the rest of the cruise and even managed to celebrate her first birthday on the ship.

Nothing beats a day spent at the beach, on a gorgeous Caribbean Island.

This was our parents’ first cruise too and they were determined to enjoy it. They took several tours, discovering the water fall, snorkeling and scuba diving.

Luckily we had adoring grandparents. While our parents went ashore, Nonno and Nonna spent the day with us, ambled around the ship, each pushing a stroller, or sat at a table around the pool each feeding a baby, or lounged on a deck with a sweetheart in their arms, sucking on a bottle. The passengers would stop by, cooing over us.

We explored the ship with Nonno and Nonna and admired the masterpieces sculpted by the cooks and their helpers.

Around four o’clock, the parents collected their little bundles and got ready for dinner. Before the cruise, Nonna had sent us appropriate sailing outfits and adorable dresses.

Our Mommies took us to the casino where we tried our hands at blackjack and crab, and won big time– I mean won big applause.

On formal night, we put on the pretty dresses Nonna had offered us. We were as pretty as can be.

In the dining room the family was assigned a table for eight in a corner at the end of the huge dining room, as far as possible from the other tables. Two high chairs waited for us with colorful balloons flying above. Several waiters hovered around our table, ready to pick up the forks or spoons, napkins or plastic glasses falling down. Forget about the crumbles carpeting the floor around our high chairs.

Do you know many kids who have the chance to celebrate their first birthday on a cruise? The night we celebrated Olivia’s birthday, the whole crew of waiters and all the passengers sang Happy Birthday, dear Olivia.

Unfortunately everything must come to an end. Our first cruise was so much fun and way too short. Of course, we don’t remember anything but our grandparents swear it was the best cruise of their lives.

WE’RE ALL TOGETHER, (Love Plans Series, book 15)

#Preorder Release Day November 7 —– A generous computer expert, Greg Haynes navigates life without worries or responsibilities. After experiencing pain and betrayal, Heidi Benton focuses on her law studies with one purpose in life, to graduate and get her revenge. The threat of a hurricane hitting the island forces everyone to evacuate and turns Greg and Heidi’s lives upside down, displacing their priorities for the sake of two orphaned children.

The Case for BODICE-RIPPER SEX-ED by Taylor Lee

NEWS FLASH!  We romance writers have been vindicated. According to none other than the Gray Lady herself, the New York Times: “Romance Novels Are The Best Sex-Ed.”

Bodice-Ripper

Seriously, this is a “don’t miss” article. The Sunday New York Times published a sensational article by contributing opinion writer Jennifer Weiner titled: “We Need Bodice-Ripping Sex Ed.” *

The Insightful Jennifer Weiner

In a clever, insightful article Weiner claims that she got a smidgen of information about sex from her well-meaning parents. Another sliver came from junior high sex ed classes that named body parts and detailed all the bad things that can happen to you if you have sex.  (Think hideous diseases and of course, the ultimate curse, pregnancy.) Fortunately for Weiner, like a lot of us, she was a reader.  And what did she read? Yep, you guessed it:  Romance novels.

Weiner throws a bone to the likely readers of the NYT when she concedes:  “The literary establishment doesn’t have much love for women’s fiction, whether it’s romance, erotica or popular novels about love and marriage.”  She adds, “Romance novels come in for an extra helping of scorn. Critics sneer that they’re all heaving bosoms and throbbing manhoods, unrealistic, poorly written and politically incorrect.”

Not so, says Weiner.

In the central theme of the article she insists as an information-hungry teenager, the romance novels she read, “for all their soft core covers and happily-ever-after’s, were quietly and not so quietly subversive. They taught readers that sexual pleasure was something women could not just hope for but insist upon.  Also, they shaped my interactions with boys and men. They helped make me a feminist.”

WOW! True vindication for those of us as teenagers who hid in the closet gobbling up everything from Gone With the Wind (You know the scene on the stairs when Rhett apparently has his way with a blushing Scarlet…) to  Judith Krantz, to Erica Jong etc., etc. Without understanding that we were being “brainwashed”, we romance readers came to believe that female pleasure was a must, something that we should insist upon.

Weiner explains, “Because these books were written for and consumed by women, female pleasure was an essential part of every story. Villains were easy to spot: they were the ones who left a woman “burning and unsatisfied.” She cites “Shirley Conran’s “LACE” that features a heroine telling her feckless husband that she used an egg-timer to determine how long it took her to achieve orgasm on her own and that she’d be happy to teach him what to do.” Weiner adds with what I’m sure was a grin, ”At 14, I never looked at hard- boiled eggs the same way again.”

The author gets political

Weiner takes her argument in favor of romance novels into the political issue of the day, the #me Too Movement.  She quotes Bea Koch, the co-owner of the Ripped Bodice bookstore who says, “Romance novels teach readers that all partners are equal participants in a sexual relationship….In some instances it can be a literal roadmap for how to bring up difficult topics with a partner. They give a roadmap to people wanting to experiment with their sexuality, or even get on touch with what they want and need in a sexual relationship.”

Are romance novels “just porn” as so many reviewers sniff?  Given the rampant availability of porn, that is a worthwhile question to ask.  One recent study found that “79 percent of men and 76 percent of women look at a pornographic website at least every month, another that three out of 10 men in that age group were daily viewers.” In contrast, those of us who read and write about a range of intimacy know that while “sex might be easy, relationships are hard.” Comparing romance novels to porn, Weiner says, “The book has the ability to paint a deeper picture. A 400 page novel can teach you more about relationships that any X-rated clip.”

Equal Empowerment

In the current climate where so many people, men and women, are wrestling with crossed wires and mixed signals, Weiner concludes, “If we want men and women equally empowered to form real connection, to talk honestly and openly about who they are and what they want, there are worse places to start than curling up with a good book.”

Amen.

*This is a repeat of a previous blog. I think it is one of my best. And frankly given the “sneers” we get from the mainstream press, Jennifer Weiner’s insightful and laugh aloud message published on January 21 2018 is worthy of reading again … and again!

P.S. If you like your Bodice Ripper books with no holds barred, check out:

FORBIDDEN: Book 1: Sizzling HOT Detective Series (The Criminal Affairs Collection)

Trust me. These guys and gals don’t need egg-timers.

Forbidden Taylor Lee

•She’d almost erased the memory of the outrageous undercover agent who’d captured her heart while betraying her soul.

•To her horror, the devious man she’d relegated to the ash bin of her tortured pride reappeared. As her commanding officer, no less.

•Certain that he could control his reaction to the renegade detective he’d betrayed, the arrogant agent accepted the command of her elite unit.

•It only took a fusillade of challenging skirmishes to prove that far from being over, their fierce affair was stronger than ever with the power to take them both down.

WARNING: Romance so HOT it singes the pages. HOT, tough, explicit. Not for the faint at heart. Definitely bring a fan!

And while you are at it, gobble up my Author Billboard buddies latest box set:

Irresistible Scrooges … Not Any More

Irresistible Scrooges

 

My book in the series is:

“Nothing Good Happens After Midnight”

Prequel: Bah Humbug

  • The brazen detective crashes the emergency room determined to her question her dying agent
  • The new head of the ER stops her at the door
  • Their antagonism aside, the arrogant physician and the brash detective agree
  • Christmas is the worst holiday of the year