Cupid’s Cafe: Welcome to the Creator

Hello, Through Heart-Shaped Glasses Readers!

By now you’ve enjoyed Lori’s post about the series her and I are a part of along with her amazing book, Exactly Like You, that’s releasing on June 20th. Lori and I wish we could take the credit for this fantastic idea of a series, but of course, we can’t. No, the honor belongs to the fabulous Catherine Peace and I convinced her to agree to an interview on the series.

Just a few questions mind you, Catherine is a busy woman working on her own Cupid’s Cafe story.

First up, as the mastermind behind this series, where did the idea for the series come from?

Dang, already with the tough questions! 🙂 Well, here is where we get a little deep. I’ve dealt with depression and anxiety my entire life before I even had a name for them. I hit a….really bad patch a couple years ago that led me down a rocky road to treatment, which involved group therapy five days a week. The first day in my therapy group, it was the last day of a man who was a recovering meth addict. And he talked about his ex-girlfriend who’d cheated on him and treated him terribly because of his addiction and a couple other mitigating factors, and he said, “I guess I don’t deserve to be loved.” My heart shattered, and I looked at him and said, “You’re wrong.” I don’t think he expected that, especially from the newbie, but it’s true. People deserve love by virtue of being people. It doesn’t matter the background, the road, the ups and downs and mistakes and victories. People deserve to be loved and treasured. So in a way, this series came from wanting to prove him wrong and prove wrong people who have that same thought pattern. It’s nothing more than a lie.

Wow! I remember tearing up myself when you told me that story, and that’s when I fell in love with your idea too. That being said, what is your goal for the series?

Kind of what I said in my last answer, to show that people deserve to be loved and treasured. In a way, this series came from wanting to prove the guy from therapy wrong and prove wrong people who have that same thought pattern. It’s nothing more than a lie, but it’s one of the easiest to believe. I want to show people like him, people like me, that we’re not too broken to have worth and value. And hopefully, show them–us–that we’re able to rise above the challenges if we allow ourselves to be loved. It’s not that people don’t love and care and want the best for us. It’s that we simply cannot fathom it. 

Now, the series is set where you live, do you think that make things easier from a research standpoint?

In a way, yeah. The fun thing about Louisville is that it’s SUCH a diverse city. My roommate and I talk all the time about the racial and cultural diversity just in our apartment complex, and you can find that all over the city. It has its problems with racial violence and drug abuse, but it also has opportunities to offer people. It’s a city of entrepreneurs and small business owners, tattoo shops and music stores and SO. MUCH. FOOD. Dear Lord, I could set 50 different series here and never reuse an idea. My roomie works at a health clinic that caters to the homeless, and she’s able to help them in a way she never truly expected. I love this city. It still has small town charm regardless of being a metro, a lot of opportunities, and a lot of idea fodder. 

How do you think this series differs from other matchmaking romance series out there?

To me, it’s the focus on characters with mental health issues. Considering my own, I’ve noticed a lack of representation for people like me. I’ve seen a few that touch on PTSD, but it’s mostly these gruff Alpha dudes and these badass bitch ladies, and while that has its place, there’s STILL a need to open up the dialogue about mental health. Still, a need shed light on it, especially with what’s going on in the world now and how stressful it is. The characters in these stories are people who are at the ends of their ropes, people who need One Good Thing to give them hope. To help them see they’re worthy of love, of help. These aren’t going to be fluffy stories, I know. They’re dark. They’re tough. But they’re worth it. 

If any one of these stories helps someone, they’re more than worth it.

The first two books in the Cupid’s Cafe series are coming this month. Be sure to check out Exactly Like You and Painting For Keeps. If you’re interested in writing for the series reach out to Landra at landra (dot) graf (7) (at) gmail (dot) com

About Landra Graf

Landra Graf consumes at least one book a day and has always been a sucker for stories where true love conquers all. She believes in the power of the written word, and the joy such words can bring. In between spending time with her family and having book adventures, she writes romance with the goal of giving everyone, fictional or not, their own happily ever after.

Cupid’s Cafe: What’s That About?

Hello, my friends in Romancelandia. I wanted to write a little about my new release (coming June 20th) titled Exactly Like You and the premise behind the series.

My book, about a depressed, former social worker who rehabilitates feral cats and a sexy fireman widower, is the first book in the Cupid’s Cafe series. The books are all standalone. Landra Graf‘s Painting for Keeps (the second book) will be out June 27. They can be read in any order or pick your poison. The common thread is the cafe and the universe in which the story is set.

Cupid’s Cafe is a fictional, mystical coffeehouse in Lousiville, Kentucky. It’s fully functional with lots of patrons and exists, in the stories, on Bardstown Road, an eclectic and exciting part of town.

The characters in the story are usually invited to the cafe by the mysterious Mr. Heart. They receive a letter with a date and time to show up. They don’t know it, but it’s a “date” with someone from their past and their last chance at love.

The manager, Angel, is definitely an omniscient supernatural being and guides the invitees to their appointment with fate. A sense of serenity falls over them when they walk in the door (which tends to make my heroine, Roxie, a little uncomfortable–she never feels “serene”). There’s a beautiful, hand carved bar with mermaids at each end. The baristas may or may not be demi-gods from ancient mythology. They serve everything from coffees to pastries to alcoholic beverages. Anything is possible at Cupid’s Cafe, including a second chance at love.

Exactly Like You

Homeless and jobless, ex-social worker, Roxie Fisher, is convinced she’s cursed to never find happiness and an invitation to Cupid’s Café isn’t going to change that. All the same, against her better judgment, she gives it a try. What else does she have to lose?

After the death of his wife, accountant-turned-firefighter, Aidan Craig, can’t stop taking ridiculous risks and never turns down a dare. So an invitation to Cupid’s Café is an offer he can’t refuse. What he doesn’t expect is to meet the social worker who helped him through the darkest days of his life. Now she’s the one struggling, and he’s compelled to help.

The two of them experience an immediate attraction, but Aidan swore to never become involved in another relationship, and Roxie can’t imagine daredevil Aidan being interested in a boring, cat-rescuer like her.

Will they resolve the problems tearing them apart or lose their last chance at true love?

This is the first book in the Cupid’s Cafe series, a Kismet book, from After Glows Publishing. Would you be interested in writing for this series? Email me at lori (at) lorisizemore (dot) com.

About Lori Sizemore

Lover of nail polish, pens, her Kindle, and fresh coffee. She likes romance filled with messy, real characters and lots of snarky banter. Reading was (and still is!) her BFF; when she discovered writing she fell in love. Come for the snark. Stay for the story.

Loving When Matchmakers Meet Their Match

Hi, all! Jennifer here.

Cupid is in the air this month at The Heart-Shaped Glasses blog! And I’m here to talk about one of my very favorite tropes in romance books. And that is “The Matchmaker”.

Oh, my goodness, why do I love this trope so?

  1. Matchmaker books usually lead to a LOVE TRIANGLE. Oooh! Drama!
  2. Matchmaker books are usually very FUN, especially since either the person doing the matchmaking or the person on the other end of the matchmaking is not happy with the situation.
  3. Matchmaker books force one or both of the characters to realize their true feelings pretty fast then fight for them

If I could, I’d write another Matchmaker book, but since my last one–WRONG BROTHER, RIGHT MATCH— came out 6 months ago, I’ll have to wait. Boo-hiss.

But I have a few other favorite matchmaker books to share with you!

  1. Searching for Someday by Jennifer Probst — really fun and hot! Plus, there was a little paranormal twist added that I loved.
  2. Match Me if You Can by Susan Elizabeth Phillips– super fun and funny! And she happens to be my fav author.

Hope you get a chance to read my book, Wrong Brother, Right Match or one of the other two books I mentioned and enjoy them as much as I have!

 

Do you like matchmaker romances? What are your favorites?

About Jennifer Shirk

Jennifer Shirk is a USA Today bestselling sweet romance author for Montlake and Entangled Publishing who also happens to be a mom, pharmacist, Red Sox fan, P90x grad, and overall nice person. 🙂

Call Me Cupid via Gina Wynn

Just Call Me Cupid

Thank you to the lovely ladies at Heart Shaped Glasses for letting me loose on their blog.

I have a confession to make. I, too, am a romance writer. But, seriously, writing a romance is more difficult than it sounds. It isn’t just a matter of putting two characters on a page, getting them to mash face and calling a happy ever after. Some days, getting two characters to even maintain a ‘happy for five minutes’ is an achievement. And anything less than chemistry won’t cut it for a reader. They need to believe in the romance, feel the sizzle, and know that those two characters, no matter what the storyline throws at them, are ultimately destined to end up together.

I suppose it’s a bit like finely tuned matchmaking. It’s about knowing which character traits will appeal to the heroine, or a hero, and playing with those. In some ways, it’s about creating a perfect partner. I’m joking, of course. We all know that perfect doesn’t exist. But I can get it fairly close. 😉 In a book, it’s about the dance of flirtation and desire, and stage-managing two people together in a believable way. I keep saying two but, you can insert your own magic number.

Cupid is the god of desire, erotic love, attraction, and affection, and that pretty accurately sums up the romance writer’s playground. The characters, whether in a sweet or steamy romance, have to experience a crush or lust before that ramps up to love and forever.

On top of that (heh) the best romances also coax the reader to fall a little bit in love with at least one of the characters or at the every least root for them. If at the end of reading one of my stories, a reader tells me how much they loved one of my characters and claims them as theirs, I’ve done my job. I’m Cupid, and I am a god.

Available now from the Kismet line of After Glows Publishing:

Two By Two by Gina Wynn

A match made in…outer space.

When things at Absolution, the bar on space station The Salvation, take a turn for the strange, witch Penelope Hardacre is thrust into the wacky world of matchmaking. Without the meddling of bar owner Geraldine’s alternate personality, Gerald, it should have all been so easy. But, weres with weres, vamps with vamps, fairies with fairies… Penny’s ordered to pair them all without choice. Is she willing to compromise all of her morals to maintain her safety from Gerald, and what should she do with her best friend Vincent—the kind of fanged best friend who makes her feel safe and loved…and jealous? On The Salvation, two by two won’t be quite what Noah had in mind.

Like what you see, grab your copy: Amazon ~ Kobo

Excerpt:

She steeled herself against another sneeze until her eyes watered, then she shook her head. The creeping, crawling irritation under her skin brought a wave of reminders of spells gone wrong because of the distraction of a sudden itch or sneeze she couldn’t stifle.

“Not at all. I can’t imagine you’d know the difference between a therapist and a hooker because I have no doubt your claims of experience—no, expertise—as a lurve machine are much exaggerated.” She plucked the lemon wedge from the edge of his glass and bit into the flesh as she wrinkled her nose again.

His gaze danced over her face, and his eyes flashed with either amusement or danger…or desire.

She shivered a little in the warm room.

“Just let it go, silly girl. Sneezes are like orgasms. An unstoppable force—though hardly a…delight.” He watched another drip making its way back to his drink from his nail, apparently bored with their conversation.

But she knew better. “Whatcha drinkin’, my vampire friend?” She cooed the words as she twirled her hair around her finger in a playful gesture designed to annoy him as much as he’d irritated her, and nearly let loose a giggle as his expression turned sour.

“My drink.”

“Which is…?”

His eyes flared red for a second at her words. “Something you wouldn’t like.”

“Perhaps you mistake my love of tomatoes.” She kept her flirtatious tone in place and leant to rest her hand on his arm.

He bumped his fist against the table. “Keep your voice down, angelcakes. Can’t a man abide by his principles in peace?”

Glancing out at the dark sky and the pin-prick stars stretching into the unknown distance, she sighed. “A man, Vincent? I thought you’d got over that pipe dream.”

“I am a man.” He ground out the words.

“You’re a vegan vampire, trapped on an old heap of a space station for maybe the rest of your days. That’s a long time.” She spared a look for his tomato juice. “Although maybe not quite so long if you were to give in to your basic instincts and get rid of anyone who annoyed you—which is everyone. At least then you’d be alone with your indignity and plant-based thirst-quenchers.”

He let loose a short, mirthless laugh. “Just me, you, and tomatoes. And you’re a witch who can’t do magic without sneezing and breaking out in an itchy rash.” He shrugged at her, his grin rueful. “What a pair we make.”

What a pair indeed.

One last thing: The Salvation has been opened up as a multi-author world. To play on board The Salvation, please check the details on this page. 🙂 Thank you.

 

 

 

 

About Landra Graf

Landra Graf consumes at least one book a day and has always been a sucker for stories where true love conquers all. She believes in the power of the written word, and the joy such words can bring. In between spending time with her family and having book adventures, she writes romance with the goal of giving everyone, fictional or not, their own happily ever after.

I read for the good parts *wink, wink*

Before I start in on this little rant, I want to preface this blog post with the following:

Everyone likes to read what they like to read. There’s nothing wrong with sweet romance vs. regular romance. I’m not writing this to tear down a genre, but because I’m tired of the stigma that comes with writing sex scenes. With that, let’s begin.

I write sex scenes. I don’t close the door on my character’s sexual interactions with one another.  When I announce such a thing in a group of people the following reactions occur:

  • “Oh, you’re a freak, huh?”
  • “You write mommy-porn.”
  • “But you say you don’t like gratuitous sex.”

These are just a few of the comments I’ve heard. Some involving the winking eye from the guys, the casual drop in conversation by the gals, and anytime a conversation veers to the inappropriate people get a little shocked when I say the discussion is a bit risque since I write such things.

No one ever imagines that it’s not about the sex. At. All. The physical act on the page is usually a very limited part of the equation. Why do you think Twilight was so popular? It wasn’t because of the sex since there wasn’t any. What is important is the emotions, the way the act propels the plot either by causing conflict, bringing the couple closer together, dividing them apart, challenging core beliefs, and the list goes on. Some of my favorite books involve sex scenes that don’t actually describe the body parts entering bodies and such, but how the characters emotions evolve throughout the scene.

Not to mention, not every book requires 5 sex scenes, even an erotic romance, the scenes must fit the characters themselves. Writer’s really do ask themselves if the scene is necessary. In editing, and critiquing for others, I’ve removed sex scenes and added in others. Sometimes the comments are for more intimacy and less physical description.

I don’t write mommy-porn, I write emotional growth and discovery. A lot of the sex scenes are about that. Pushing the limits of what the character believes sex is really about and forming a genuine connection between the two people sharing it.

Books I recommend that do such a thing:

Tell Me Lies by Jennifer Crusie

Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie

Evening Storm by Anne Calhoun

The One In My Heart by Sherry Thomas

There are many more authors and books, but these are the ones that came to mind. What books can you name where sex is more emotional than physical?

Also, how do you think we can break the stigma?

About Landra Graf

Landra Graf consumes at least one book a day and has always been a sucker for stories where true love conquers all. She believes in the power of the written word, and the joy such words can bring. In between spending time with her family and having book adventures, she writes romance with the goal of giving everyone, fictional or not, their own happily ever after.

Character Driven Stories

The topic came up in our forum recently, and then I was thinking about it as a started reading a new book because there was a certain disconnect as I read through the first chapter.

So, as I thought about it, I noted two things.

One from my reading:

The conflict created unnatural reactions in the characters. When it came right down to it, I disliked the heroine for her bitchiness in the first scene…but mostly, it seemed that her thoughts [as the author tried to ‘show’ the story] and her actions weren’t realistic. She was stuck in a Russian blizzard, needing rescue! Why is she thinking she should try to bring up a past and resolve anything? Why is she thinking at all beyond, ‘Thank God. You rescued me. Please don’t hate me too much to save my life.’ So there were a few other instances where the author was trying to maintain sexual tension by NOT having the couple hook up too soon, and created conflict. But again, it just felt off, especially since the characters were both young, healthy, attractive, sexually active, and ‘hot for each other’. As an author, reading this book, the conflict felt too contrived.

This is where characterization can play a huge part! Because if even one of those characters wasn’t the horny, sex-impulsive type, then…I could have believed they were holding back as a natural occurence!

Two, from my own writing:

Last week I finished revisions on Book Three of my Hawk Elite Security series, and it’s the first full-length novel that has no sex in it. Before I started revisions, this book had the expected 2-3 love scenes. As I went through on the revisions, the sex kept NOT happening. Believe me, I wanted it to happen! I understand the satisfaction of seeing a couple through even this very private part of their relationship. It’s what romance readers are looking for… emotional connections. But no, I had a character. And do you know what my character’s nickname on the teams is?

Fr. John. Because he’s conservative in his dating life, because no one is quite certain if he’s had sex or not… is he a virgin? Does he even date anymore? He hasn’t–in a long time–and that’s what made his story. So, wouldn’t it be odd to have him suddenly be a lady’s man? a Don Juan? I think it would. It wouldn’t be in character.

I had a heroine who was ready to go, and she did her own pondering on why this guy wasn’t going to have sex with her. But even my heroine had been living alone for a few years, sort of in hiding from herself and the world. So, even for her to jump right in would have been a little off-reality.

I write romance, and I know the possibility of disappointing readers with a book that has no sex in it. But, I just couldn’t get beyond my characters. John was raised a certain way. He’s not perfect. He’s NOT a virgin [cuz, hello, college is a bed of sowing wild oats and living a little rebelliously], but he’s celibate, and has been for a few years. Because he knows, he wants the whole thing. All of it, and he isn’t going to settle for less, or cheat the next woman he’s attracted to by leading her on.

If you get a chance to read Strike Zone, please come back and tell me what you think. Part of me loves this story, because the sexual tension is so darn high. Part of me wishes I’d left the sex in there because it’s satisfying…

But in the end, I left the tone of the book up to the characters.

And if you like things a little hotter, stay tuned for book 4, Strike Force. Oh boy. That’s a different story completely!

About Beth Rhodes

Beth jumps into life with both feet...or head first. Impulsive and spontaneous to a T, she joined Passionate Critters and never looked back. She loves writing and reading, which made this wonderful group of woman a perfect match for her.

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