Per·se·ver·ance — A Writer’s Best Friend

per·se·ver·ance noun \ˌpər-sə-ˈvir-ən(t)s\ the quality that allows someone to continue trying to do something even though it is difficult. See also insanity and banging head against the wall.

Cruising Facebook today, I clicked on a friend’s link to a blog posting with advice from famous authors about what aspiring writers should do. Between Kurt Vonnegut’s prohibition on the use of semi-colons and Dorothy Parker’s advice to shoot your friends before they start writing while they are still happy, the common advice was write, write, write.

Sounds easy in theory. Even in practice, knocking out something, even the crappiest of crapola, isn’t too difficult. But doing it day after day, when the outwardly visible rewards are miniscule if not non-existent, requires perseverance.

Every writer knows this. I know this. I didn’t start writing because I thought it was the get rich quick scheme to secure mine and the hubby’s future. Even so, when I recently opened a royalty check, the modest figure staring back at me brutally reminded me that I’m not E.L. James or J.K. Rowling in the sales department.

Few authors are. Making it big, and I mean really big, as a writer is like hitting the jackpot in Vegas. It happens, but not a lot. Yet, people still pour money into the one-armed-bandits, and we writers keep putting words on paper. So, I asked myself: why do I insist on pursuing a dream where the compensation is (at least at this point in my career) dramatically less than working the fast food drive thru and the prospect of hitting the jackpot is so small?

The answer to my query was two-fold: beside the fact that I would hate smelling like burgers and fries, I also do not look good in a visor. That answer left me pondering whether a grocery sacker career path might be in my future. After all, I can rock a white shirt and tie and get the eggs and bread bagged for the trip home safely.

Then, I remembered the little square on my daughter’s “Star of the Week” poster captioned, “My Hero.” A lovely stick-figure picture of yours truly filled the box and she wrote: “My mom is my hero because she has perseverance.”

Well, if that’s not enough to get me to toss my teeny-tiny-violin-of-self-pity in the garbage, then what is?

Like every other writer, I write because I love it. Maybe some day I’ll hit the jackpot, maybe I won’t. But in the meantime, I plan on being a role model to my kids and friends.  What might look like banging my head against the wall is really perseverance. And, I’m having a blast!

So, if you’ve ever said “I’ve always wanted to write a book” or if you’ve already started down this path of insanity, then go write something. Now. Anything. For five minutes. Ten minutes. An hour or more. Whether you earn a million dollars from your words or nothing, you will have changed your life for the better and I’m betting you will have shown at least a few other people the value in pursuing a dream.

Write on!

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Put Romance in Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving cocktailsThere’s much to be said for a Thanksgiving spent just with you and your significant other.  Maybe you live far away from family or don’t have children or extended families. Maybe you just want to spend a few days off from work doing nothing.  Whatever the reason, Thanksgiving can be a very romantic time for lovers if you forgo the crowds and the sleep-inducing turkey.

Without hardly any effort at all, you can plan a special day or evening for just the two of you with one of the ideas below.

  • Have a romantic breakfast in bed on Thanksgiving morning and do the New York Times crossword puzzle together.
  • Go for a walk through a park.  Don’t forget the camera—you’ll want to remember the colors of winter’s onset.
  • Buy fresh lobster for dinner and watch Woody Allen’s “Annie Hall.”
  • Find an out-of-town B&B and both of you “assume” a fantasy persona. Speak with a British accent; wear over-the-top clothes—who cares?  You’ll never see these people again—probably.
  • Find a local state park cabin with a fireplace.  Bring extra blankets and throw rugs. Bring a prepared gourmet dinner that you picked up from your favorite bistro—something you don’t have to heat.  Don’t forget the wine and cheese!
  • At home, have a barrel of popcorn ready and decide in advance if you want a marathon of Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black” or any season of “The Sopranos.”
  • Address Christmas cards together over tea, hot cocoa or mulled wine (see my recipe below).  And, don’t just sign your name.  Use this time together to remember what’s special about these friends and write it on the card.
  • Don’t go to a soup kitchen and volunteer. Most soup kitchens have plenty of volunteers this time of year.  Instead, talk about what you would like to do with any year-end bonuses that might or might not involve a tax-deductible charity. Your favorite animal shelter does great work.  But think about people you know, too. For example, you might know a neighbor out-of-work or a young person ready to go to college with little money. It’s fun and meaningful for the two of you to think about how you could give to those who need it—giving anonymously is even better—the two of you will forever share this secret of giving.

Mulled Wine (featured in my new book, “12 Happy Hours,” soon to be available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.  I’ll keep you posted if you will “like” Thirsty Jane on Facebook.)

1 bottle red wine

1 orange

6 whole cloves

1 cinnamon stick

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/3 cup sugar

3 splashes brandy


Remove peel from orange with a vegetable peeler trimming white parts. Cut orange in half, squeeze juice from it and set aside. Pour about 1/4 cup of wine in a pot and add sugar, orange peel, cinnamon stick, cloves, nutmeg and vanilla extract. Bring to a boil and continue for a few minutes until syrupy. Add rest of wine, brandy and orange juice and lower to lowest heat. Don’t allow wine to boil, otherwise alcohol will burn off. Leave wine to steep on low heat for about 20 minutes. Strain out spices and orange peel. Enjoy in warm mugs. (Photograph copyright 2013 Lisarae Photo Design)


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Writing About Writing About Sex

Telling my neighbors I was a lawyer rarely elicited titters or clandestine conversations in the dairy aisle at the grocery store. But, now that I’ve changed careers to writing romance, and steamy romance even, everyone seems eager to ask that one critical question, usually at the grocery or hardware store, neighborhood coffee shop, soccer game, or God forbid, in the elementary school hallway.  Typically, it goes something like this: “So, when you write those steamy sex scenes, is it…you know…autobiographical?”


Given that I write fairly straight-forward, albeit very explicit, sex scenes, a randy affirmative answer to this question is theoretically feasible and would probably make my man feel quite proud. Alas, like most authors, I create using my imagination and drawing upon research. As we know, most mystery writers are neither murderers nor private investigators, and I hope that my paranormal romance writing friends haven’t been doing the nasty with the werewolf down the street recently.

So, how does one make up hot and spicy sex scenes? Every writer has her own method, and often it takes years and several books to discovery what method works best. When working with my editor on Objection Overruled, I knew I needed to add additional sex scenes and to rev a few of them up a notch. I tried dealing with those sections while going through the manuscript’s other revisions, but somehow, I couldn’t switch from penetrating penises to dragging dialogue. Instead, I added all of the additional sex scenes (about 30 pages of it) over the course of 1 week.

Yes, I’m a binger. When I’m in the mood, I’m in the mood!

I’ve used the same technique for my current work in progress. The thing that I like about this process is that I am close enough to several scenes so that I don’t repeat the same sequence.  Because while sex might occasionally (at least for the rest of you!  HA!) be formulaic, a reader never wants to read a love scene only to experience deja vu.

The other thing that writing in one long spurt forces me to do is let go of my inhibitions. I write as if no one is going to read my words, especially not the PTA President. I consult my erotic thesaurus (the actual book and not just my guy) frequently, although about half of the time the terms make me giggle.

Yet, through it all, I continue to struggle with what to call the… the… the…”the lady bits.” Let’s face it, the dick is simple. Each man-part has an easily identifiable name as well as multiple slang terms. And, when using them, you never feel like you are in a medical lecture or a scuzzy porn flick. I’ve posed my quandary to erotic romance writer colleagues, and have yet to receive satisfactory resolution. But, another sex scene is on my check list for today.

At least my hero and heroine will get some satisfaction!

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What would you do with a $100,000?

Romance novelist Nora Roberts’ foundation has given a $100,000 grant to McDaniel College in Westminster, Md. — the third grant in as many years. If you ever strike it rich, what’s your dream donation?  Ms. Roberts’ grant, which was announced Oct. 1, supports the Nora Roberts Contemporary American Fiction Collection housed in Hoover Library at McDaniel. The collection includes the complete works of Nora Roberts and J.D. Robb, and works of other contemporary American writers.  Good for Nora Roberts!

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J.K. Is Real!

Move over Bethany, J.K. is a REAL wife, too!

A friend recently referred me to our local lifestyle magazine, Leawood Lifestyles, and suggested that they feature me as a real wife from our area. After submitting my questionnaire, I was astounded to hear that I would be this month’s feature. So, for anyone out there wondering if I truly am a “real” person, let alone a “real wife,” you can find out all of the inside scoop in the attached article.

For anyone wondering why I write as J.K. O’Hanlon and not Jane Kurtz….Another quite famous author exists by the name of Jane Kurtz (not me) and she write children’s stories.  While the chance of confusion between her stories and mine (erotic romance and cocktail how-to books) is not high, I thought it best to pick another name. So, “J.K.” stands for “Jane Kurtz” and “O’Hanlon” is my husband’s last name.


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It’s “JUST” a Romance

I have a confession, when I decided to take down my lawyer shingle and write, one of the reasons I chose romance was that I thought it would be easy. After all, there’s a formula: boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back, they live happily ever after. Two books later, and well into my third book, I’ve learned my lesson.  Writing romance isn’t formulaic or easy. For those who’ve never tried it, though, that phrase “it’s just a romance” sometimes tumbles too easily from their lips.

Recently, I attended a conference, and sat on a panel with several other writers from a variety of other genres. I expected a little push-back from the literary and old-school folks, but the level of resentment and disdain startled me, and the audience. The romance industry is undeniably the juggernaut of the publishing world.  It accounted for over $1.4 billion in sales in 2013 according to the Romance Writers of America. That’s more than 3 times the sales in literary fiction. Enough to get the hackles up of someone who wants to write the next great American novel.

Why should anyone, whether literary or sci-fi or thriller writer, be threatened? There’s not a finite amount of reading that can occur in the universe. A romance lover can also buy a classic or a mystery or a high fantasy. Many do, including me. I routinely rotate my nightly reading between all genres and non-fiction. And many don’t. My mother read every single Harlequin romance written for probably a 30-year time span, until her deteriorating vision moved her to audio books. Whether she was reading the latest romance or Moby Dick didn’t matter squat to a 5-year old girl. My mom read. And loved it with an unquenchable passion. She turned that book-addiction over to both my sister and me, both of us becoming avid readers and writers of romance.

So, if I don’t write romance because it’s easy, why do I? The same reason I think every other romance writer does: because a great love story is transforming. Maybe not everyone dreams of finding a soul mate, but most people do. A romance raises our spirits and reminds us of love’s transforming power over men and women, as individuals and as a couple. It brings happiness to many people’s lives who have little else to celebrate. And, I hope that in my erotic romance novels, that women see not only the power of love, but the impact that a fully realized sex life can have.

So when someone accuses me of writing “just romance,” I tell them, “Hell, yeah, and proud of it!”

Why do you read romance? How much do you read? Do you write romance? If, so, why?


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Fifty Shades of Wine?

Fifty Shades of Grey author E.L. James has partnered to create a new collection of wines inspired by her best-selling books. “Wine plays an important role in Fifty Shades of Grey, adding to the sensuality that pervades a number of scenes,” said E L James. “I’ve always had a penchant for good wine, so combining two of my passions to blend Red Satin and White Silk was a natural extension of the series. I hope my readers curl up with a glass as they enjoy the romance between Anastasia and Christian.”  Read more:

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Is there Ever a Case for Censorship?

The Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Gardens has been home to a statue called Accept or Reject by Chinese sculptor Yu Chang since the fall of 2011. It’s a bronze, mostly nude, headless sculpture of a woman taking a photograph of herself. In 2012, a local mother began a petition drive to remove the sculpture.  She thought it was inappropriate for a place children frequented, and that it promoted “sexting.” What do you think?  See one article here.

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What’s your idea of a heat-o-metre?

chart color0001Penguin Books Australia’s romance e-book imprint has just introduced a heat-o-metre to its website, rating ebook titles from sweet to spicy and hot.   How do you feel about rating the romance books you read?  Good idea or bad? What icons would you use for a rating system? This illustration is by Matt Golding. 

Click link below to read more::


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Romancing the Video

According to the Romance Writers of America more than 74 million people read romance novels each year, with women accounting for 91% of this massive audience. Silicon Sisters, a Canadian developer of video games for women, is bringing this well-loved genre to life in a tantalizing new way with Everlove: Rose, an interactive romance novel for iPad, Kindle Fire, Nook HD, and other Android and Apple devices. Silicon Sisters Interactive is the first female owned and run video game studio in Canada.


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