Writer Wednesday: Meet J. Arlene Culiner!

jill-culiner2baWelcome to Writer Wednesday, that glorious day of the week where we shine the spotlight on a fellow author. We’re so glad you popped in to share it with us.

Today our mini interview features J. Arlene Culiner, author of quirky characters, great romance, and engaging stories! What’s better than that?

Enjoy getting to know J. Arlene and her writing better, and please, leave some love in the comments!

Creative WritingWhat inspires you to write?

I love stories. I love telling them, hearing them. I love being a fly on the wall and watching other people’s stories unfold. And I love thoughts that begin with, “What if…”

sunset in heart handsWhich type of romance do you love most, and why?

I love romances that are realistic with older characters. I also like rebellious heroes and heroines, the ones who don’t have big fortunes or flashy cars and designer clothes but do things they’re passionate about. And of course the romances I really appreciate have to be well written.

Gobekli Tepe (Pot-belly Hill) is an archaeological siteName one interesting thing you learned in researching/writing your last book:

I learned a lot about archaeology, of course, and I discovered that some very important sites are being deliberately destroyed, covered over by cement and buildings, all in the name of profit.

Name two things people don’t know about you:

I’ve crossed much of Europe on foot — most of the time on my own — and I worked as a translator in Turkey, just like the heroine of my latest release, The Turkish Affair.

Fireworks DisplayWhat one piece of advice do you wish you’d had when first starting out?

Know that writing and trying to find a publisher or an agent can be heartbreaking. Therefore, you have to take care of yourself, congratulating yourself when you’ve achieved a goal, no matter how small: meeting your word count goal; finishing a story; writing one scene beautifully; sending out queries. Give yourself presents, even little ones like a good cup of coffee and feel proud.

turkishaffairA Bit About The Turkish Affair

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 discreet 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 artifacts 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?

Published by Crimson Romance

Find The Turkish Affair here:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo Books

TypewriterA Bit About J. Arlene:

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.

Want to connect further with J. Arlene?

Website | Anecdotes Blog | J. Arlene’s Blog | GoodReads | Facebook | Twitter

Thanks so much for being here today, J. Arlene – I’m glad you could be a part of Writer Wednesday

Turning Up The Heat in A Scandalous Matter

ASM3DMy darling husband reads every one of my books – just once, right before publication, to help ensure I haven’t missed any egregious typos or made any other noticeable boo-boos. I love him for that (well, and for a zillion other reasons).

Last night, he finished A Scandalous Matter. When I asked him what he thought, his first response was, “It’s more explicit than the first two.”

I laughed. Partly out of nervousness – was that a good or a bad thing? Then I defended: “Yes, it is, a little, but that’s because of who the characters are, who the heroine is.”

And that’s the truth.

In fact, A Scandalous Matter‘s Amara Mattersley sprang out of my desire to create a heroine quite different from A Man of Character‘s Catherine Schreiber and A Matter of Time‘s Eliza James in regards to sex.

Both Cat and Eliza are a bit more conservative, for lack of a better term, in their approach. I hate to use that word, as it implies a judgment I don’t feel – if you can think of a better one, let me know! What I mean by it, is they’re not interested in sex for sex’s sake; Eliza, especially, can’t and doesn’t want to separate the emotional from the physical.

That was easy to write, because that’s how I am.

A Man of Character and A Matter of TimeBut as I was crafting A Man of Character and A Matter of Time and I realized Eliza’s view on physical pleasure just for the fun it was a basic, “No, thank you,” I thought to myself, “What would it be like to write a heroine more driven by physical desire? Who only wants the sex, and not the emotional attachment?”

I didn’t want readers to think, via Cat and Eliza, I was implying that such an approach to sexuality was wrong. I believe women can and should choose for themselves (as long as they’re being honest with themselves and not bowing to pressure or judgments from anyone else in either direction). If they want to wait until marriage to have sex, fine. If they want to have casual encounters, fine (but be safe!). If they choose somewhere in between, or their views evolve and change, more power to them. I know where I fall on that continuum, but I’m not going to say where anyone else should.

Thus, Amara was born, showing up as quite the spitfire as Deveric’s sister in A Matter of Time.

Of course, in truth, as I got to know her better, it became clear she was much more than her initial impression. That there were reasons behind her behavior – major hurts to overcome. And as A Scandalous Matter unfolds, emotions definitely come into play – I am a romance writer, after all, with a firm belief in love.

Insta1But I also made it clear physical passion has always driven Amara. Not necessarily an easy thing to deal with for a high-born woman raised in an era with fairly stringent expectations in regards to women’s sexual purity.

In real history, of course, tales abound of women engaging in scandalous affairs and all of that – I know the past is never as “pure” as many of us try to make it (thank you, Victorian ideals!). But by and large, the expectations Amara Mattersley faced in 1813 when it came to sex and sexuality were far different from 2016.

And therein lies part of her inner conflict.

And mine, in writing. This book is somewhat steamier (though not as steamy as many romances – I don’t want to raise expectations in the opposite direction! There’s still plenty going on outside of the bedroom). Will my audience be okay with that? I hope so.

Once you’ve read it, you tell me. 🙂

The #VRW Awards Luncheon: #FoolForLove & #HOLTMedallion Winners

HOLTFrontProgramThe Virginia Romance Writers‘ second annual awards luncheon kicked off in festive spirits (and with lots of hats) as we celebrated our members’ and contest winners’ accomplishments in tea-party style.

A big thanks to Jacqueline Bragaw, our hostess extraordinaire, who planned and decorated everything with great finesse!

VRW President Stephanie Gurnsey Higgins welcomes us all, while dapperly dressed event planner Jacqueline Bragaw looks on.
VRW President Stephanie Gurnsey Higgins welcomes us all, while dapperly dressed event planner Jacqueline Bragaw looks on.
Yes. You should be jealous. 

VRW’s president, Stephanie Gurnsey Higgins, welcomed us all before we feasted on a delicious meal and even more scrumptious desserts, provided by VRW’s very own Amy and Carolyn. Yes, there was much oohing and ahhing – over the taste as much as the presentation!

We all swooned over the swans.

Another special treat was listening to VRW founding members Carolyn Greene and Cynthia Holt Johnson (for whom the HOLT contest is named!) discuss the history of our chapter (newsletters copied at Kinkos and sent via the good old-fashioned mail? Janet Evanovich and Cathy Maxwell and so many other big names? You bet!).

They encouraged us to move forward in our writing with AUDACITY – the same audacity VRW showed by calling themselves the Virginia Romance Writers when the original members all hailed from Richmond, by launching the Fool For Love contest to encourage unpublished writers, and by establishing the reader-judged HOLT Medallion contest. Go, Virginia Romance Writers!

VRW Founding Members Carole Greene and Cynthia Holt Johnson
VRW Founding Members Carole Greene and Cynthia Holt Johnson
Meg Adams and I showing off our certificates.

Then came the grand finale – the announcement of the Fool for Love and HOLT Medallion winners. I’m so pleased fellow VRW member and writer friend Meg Adams took home 1st place in the Fool for Love contest in the Published Authors division, and it was such a thrill to share in the excitement and giddiness of the other winners.

I was thrice-nominated, an unbelievable honor, and while I didn’t win (and I didn’t expect to), it was such a joy to be a part of this great day. But I’m now the very happy owner of three certificates of merit:

Thank you to the Virginia Romance Writers for all they do in supporting all of us in our writing careers. What a fantastic group of people, and I’m so proud to be able to say I’m a part of it.

I look as startled as I felt to be garbed in a fancy dress - with a fascinator!
I look as startled as I felt to be garbed in a fancy dress – with a fascinator!

Writer Wednesday: Meet Kishan Paul!

KishanWait, what? It’s Wednesday again? HOORAY! We love Wednesdays, because that means it’s #WriterWednesday, and I get the opportunity and blessing to introduce you to another amazing writer.

Today, Kishan Paul joins us. Kishan is a romance author who’s wonderfully supportive of other authors (like me!). She dishes up romance and more in her novels and in her great newsletter (so consider signing up!).

So settle in with a cup of tea (and a blanket, if you’re here in Virginia – it’s cold and rainy. Again.), and enjoy learning a bit more about Kishan and her books!

What inspires you to write?

MusicButterflyInspiration comes from many different places for me. Books and movies are the main culprits. The more emotional it is the better and music has that effect on me too. Sometimes it’s just the simple act of driving down a road with no one to talk to and no good music to listen to.


Blind Love coverWhich type of romance do you love most, and why?

I am a sucker for a good romantic suspense. Books that make my heart race and leave me saying ‘One more chapter’ are my crack.


Name one interesting thing you learned in researching/writing your last book:

A symptom of a brain bleed is bruising under the eye and blood in the ear.


sunset in heart hands

Name two things people don’t know about you:

I’m really goofy and find humor in the craziest things.

When there’s a painful scene in my stories, I have to heal with my characters if that makes sense. I need to see that they’re okay before my heart can stop aching. So those painful scenes are the ones where I’m lost to the world until my characters are in better places.

A Bit on The Second Wife:

Add the book on Goodreads: http://bit.ly/1JgPBTF

If you want to live, you must let go of the past…

Twenty-eight-year-old psychologist, Alisha Dimarchi, is abducted by an obsessed client and imprisoned in his Pakistani compound for over two years. Forced to change her name and live as his second wife, her life is filled with trauma and heartbreak. Thrust into a world of violence and oppression, Ally must fight not only to keep herself alive but to protect the lives of the people she now considers family. At night, she retreats into her memories of the only man she has ever loved—a man she believes no longer loves her.

Thirty-four-year-old handsome surgeon, David Dimarchi, has spent the last two years mourning the disappearance of his wife. After a painful and isolated existence, he begins the process of healing. It is then he is visited by a stranger, who informs him that Ally is very much alive and needs his help. In a desperate attempt to save her, David enlists the help of a mercenary. Together they find themselves in the center of more than just a rescue mission. Will he be able to reach her in time, and if he does, will she still want him?

Excerpt from The Second Wife:

Ally’s lungs were cement blocks heavy in her chest. Unable to breathe, she lay curled in a ball on the floor, gasping for air, drenched in sweat.


The panic attacks had started after Nasif’s first night away and progressively worsened each day. She wanted to pretend it was because he wasn’t there to distract her. But she knew better.

Sayeed would be here soon.

The gnawing voice in the back of her head wouldn’t stop reminding her of the hell his arrival would bring. As the day grew close, the voice became louder, urging her to do something. But there was only so much she could do locked away in a concrete box.

Unable to shut out the images or find a way to escape, hopelessness would again choke her, triggering another panic attack. Funny thing was, those episodes she spent struggling for air gave her a little hope. Maybe this one will kill me.

Something she knew better than to believe. After all, she’d spent her career teaching clients that panic attacks were typically non-life-threatening.

While this morning’s episode subsided, she stayed on the floor, slick with perspiration, staring at the ceiling.

He said Sayeed would be here in fourteen days.

Ally crawled beside the bed and dug under the mattress until her fingers wrapped around a thin, wooden pencil. After dragging the frame away from the wall, she slid between the headboard and concrete and sat on the floor. She added another tally mark to the twelve already there. Praying she’d counted wrong, she tapped the back of the eraser against each line and counted again. The end result was the same; Nasif had left thirteen times already. Her pencil slipped out of her shaky fingers and fell to the floor.

One more day.

Images of Sayeed, violating her, flooded Ally’s thoughts. Her chest tightened and her body chilled. Time was running out. Her breathing became labored and a cool sweat beaded across her lip.

“No.” She covered her ears and shook it all away.

Whatever happens, I will survive.

Find The Second Wife here: 

Amazon | Barnes And Noble | iTunes | KOBO

A Bit About Kishan:

writingFrom daring escapes by tough women to chivalrous men swooping in to save the day, the creativity switch to Kishan Paul’s brain is always in the “on” position. If daydreaming stories were a college course, Kish would have graduated with honors.

Mother of two beautiful children, she has been married to her best friend for over seventeen years. With the help of supportive family and friends, she balances her family, a thriving counseling practice, and writing without sinking into insanity.

Want to connect further with Kishan? Find her here:

Website: http://kishanpaul.net
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KishanPaulAuthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/@kishan_paul
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/kishanpaul
TSU: https://www.tsu.co/kishanpaul
Amazon: http://amzn.to/1JQBudd
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/9855660.Kishan_Paul
Sign up for her newsletter at: http://mad.ly/signups/119110/join

Thanks so much for joining us, Kishan! It was a delight having you. 

Writer Wednesday: Meet Annette Bower!

AnnetteBWe most heartily welcome contemporary romance author Annette Bower to today’s Writer Wednesday!

It’s a joy and pleasure to have her here on what is a rather chilly spring day in Virginia. I hope the weather is better where you are. But wait – who cares about the weather when there’s romance to discuss?? So read on…

Thank you, Margaret, for hosting me today on Writer Wednesday.

You ask what inspires me to write and my answer is relationships.

coupleRecently while on a trip, I captured this couple that provided story questions.

In this picture both people are looking in the same direction. His hand is on her thigh. Her hand is covering his, her knee is pointed toward him, and her dangling shoe indicates she’s relaxed and if she thrusts her foot in and out of the shoe, it provides a phallic sign. Therefore, she may have more invested in this relationship right now. She seems to indicate that she’s feeling all loving and ready for love. Other than his hand on her thigh, his knee is pointed away from her toward what is happening. He seems removed for the moment. My question to myself is what happened before this moment and what is happening now and what will happen in the next hour? (Reference: The Definitive Book of Body Language by Allan and Barbara Pease.)

As you can tell by what inspires me to write, it is also gaining knowledge. Continue reading Writer Wednesday: Meet Annette Bower!