Category Archives: The Research Files

Road Trip To Coffee Creek

Okay, so Mike & I were driving back from Palm Springs, which is like, only 27 hours by car from where we live in Calgary. (Should be a breeze, right?) And as we’re approaching Great Falls, Montana, I get this brilliant idea that we should detour for a visit in Coffee Creek, which is the setting for my upcoming four-book series for Harlequin American.

So we do it.

We’re getting a little grumpy, cause we’ve just added 3 hours to a 10 hour day, but we figure it will all be worth it to see this town that I decided to write about because I spotted it on a map and I liked the name.

Let’s just say that the reality of Coffee Creek did not match the fullness of my imagination. This church was pretty much the highlight of the town and it looked like a strong gust of wind would blow it over.

Little Church On The Prairie
But we kept driving. And we eventually came to some beautiful ranches, amazing valleys and spectacular mountains. I thanked the stars that I was a fiction writer and could patch all of this into my own version of “Coffee Creek” that would include the “Cinnamon Stick Cafe” and “The Lonesome Spur Bar” all with a nice little creek running right through it.
Best of all, I found the perfect location for the Lambert’s ranch. Can you imagine living with this view every day?

home on the range


I’m very excited to announce that the next books I write are going to be for Harlequin American and set in the beautiful state of Montana. So I’m on the hunt for inspiring photos of central Montana. Here’s some of what I’ve found, so far… The good news is you can buy this ranch! (It’s for sale for a mere 3.5 million.)

Montana Ranch Prairie
Montana Ranch Prairie
overview of Montana Ranch
Overview of Montana Ranch
Here are the cows!
Here are the cows!

Trees at Montana Ranch
Trees at Montana Ranch

On The Road To A New Trilogy

Home from a whirlwind trip to San Francisco, including an intense drive up the coast to Oregon…my head is still spinning, but I’m happy. I’ve found the perfect setting for my new trilogy. I’m all set to start writing…provided my editors approve the new project!

To The Beach
To The Beach

The town I discovered was Gold Beach Oregon. The setting is wild and rugged, beautiful and mysterious. The community was built on logging and fishing, and the population triples in the summer thanks to tourism. According to the helpful woman at the visitor’s center, the best fishing to be had is on the Rogue River which cuts through the north end of town.

Of course I’m going to take a few artistic liberties with the town. Add a three-story Victorian next to the motels on the beach, invent a pub called the Linger Longer and a bookstore named Armchair Adventures…

Plus a new name. I’m thinking Twisted Cedars, in honor of the magnificant Redwoods that have reigned for so long in the Pacific North West.

This is truly the most fun, creative and exciting step in the long process of writing a book. And I’m enjoying every day of it!

Blogging On EHarlequin

Are any of you familiar with the Proust Questionnaire on the last page of every issue of Vanity Fair? I love them…I always flip to this page first. The celebrity of the month (an author, political figure, actor, musician, etc.) is asked twenty-one questions, such as: What is your idea of perfect happiness? What quality do you most admire in a man? What do you most value in your friends?

I love pondering questions like these.

CJ Working Hard Again
CJ Working Hard Again

Did any of you buy the issue of Vanity Fair with Johnny Depp on the cover? (I know, rhetorical question.) If you made it to the back page, you would have discovered a very funny, wry, touching interview with Judd Apatow. Maybe you know who Judd is. Probably you do. I didn’t (I need to beef up my celebrity IQ) but now that I’ve read his Proust Questionnaire I adore him. How can you not adore someone who answers questions like this:

VF: What or who is the greatest love of your life?

JA: My wife, Leslie Mann. Don’t call her Leslie Apatow or she’ll get upset.

VF: What talent would you most like to have?

JA: I would like to be a sexual dynamo. I mean, Leslie would like me to be a sexual dynamo.

Apparently, answering a list of questions that revealed your character and aspirations was a popular entertainment among the cocktail set in the late 19th Century. (Proust was a fan of the parlor game, which explains why VF uses his name.) I say the questionnaire is useful for other things too. Like, as a tool for revealing character in an romance novel. In fact, I love the Proust Questionnaire so much I’ve used it in my novels twice.

I’ll tell you about the second time. It happens In my March 2010 book when my heroine and hero are stuck together on a long flight, with nothing much to do. The heroine (ever inventive) turns to the back of her VF magazine and starts asking the hero questions. Naturally he quickly turns the tables on her. I thought it was a fun way for my characters to learn more about each other. And I even picked up a few tips about them, too.

If you’d like to join in the discussion please join us on the Super Blog at eharlequin!

Do You Know Your Life Path Number?

Most of us have at least a passing interest in astrology. We know our “sign” and can’t seem to pass up the chance to read our horoscope if we see one in a magazine or newspaper. But how familiar are you with numerolgy? Do you know that you have a life path number? How to calculate it? What it means?

When I was writing Christmas With Daddy, I wanted my heroine to have special skills that would allow her to assist the detective hero in finding a missing teenaged girl. I wanted these skills to be unusual…something that the hero might find hard to take seriously.

Having recently read The Power of Time by Pauline Edward, I decided to make my heroine a numerologist. Based on my research (primarily reading Pauline’s book and with additional help from Pauline) I know the following neat stuff:

My life Path Number is 3. According to Pauline’s book this means I have “excellent communications skills, a lively and positive outlook, resilience, lots of charm, wit and enormous creative potential.” Hey…I like that! On the flip side, I’m prone to speaking before thinking, tend to hog the stage and need to work on being responsible and organized.

If you want to calculate your life path number, it’s quite easy. Basically write down your birthdate in numbers (month, day and year) then add them up and keep adding until you end up with one number. Here’s how I found mine: Birthdate: 3 (March) + 3 (day) + 1 + 9 + 5 + 9 (my birth year is 1959) = 30. Simplify to 1 digit by adding 3 + 0 = 3. Now, that’s a little simplified, so if you want to make sure you’re doing it right and find out more about the meaning of various life path numbers, you’ll have to check out Pauline’s book.

See the cool stuff you learn when you’re researching romance novels?

Star-Crossed Research

Hitting The Trails

I live in Canada, so when I got the bright idea to set my next book in New England a research trip was in order. I set aside some time in October…who wouldn’t love a trip to New England in the autumn? I’m a big hiker, so of course my version of this trip included hitting several of the beautiful mountain trails in the region.

My guy and I put in hours and hours in the Squalm Lake area and we even hiked up several of the bigger peaks in the White Mountains, including Mount Washington.

After all that work, I deserved a little relaxation, didn’t I?