Jennifer's Journal


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Contest, The Three Graces Trilogy

Contest, Contest, Contest!!!

Three Contests for The Three Graces Trilogy!

3 autographed sets of the 3 books as prizes!

***Plus a Special Grand Prize***

An Italian cameo pendant/pin of the “Three Graces”

 Mediterranean blue handmade, oval cameo pendant/pin featuring the Three Graces from classical mythology. Set in sterling silver with a beaded band of 18K gold, approx. 1” in length, value: $250. Jennifer chose this special piece at Donadio, Naples, Italy, famous for cameo jewelry since 1885.

Contest Details:

Each of the three winners will receive autographed copies of Jennifer Blake’s Three Graces trilogy: BY HIS MAJESTY’S GRACE, BY GRACE POSSESSED, and SEDUCED BY GRACE. Prizes will be awarded by blind drawing from the membership of each social media site or newsletter group listed below. Entrants must be 18 years or older. You may become a member of any, or all, the groups to be eligible to win, but may not join any single group more than one time. Current members of the various groups are automatically entered in the contest for any group where they hold membership. They do not need to join again.

Contest #1:

Winner will be chosen from those who have clicked the “Like” button on "The Three Graces Trilogy" book page on FaceBook by the date of the drawing, November 1, 2011. To complete the requirements for entry go to:!/pages/The-Three-Graces-Trilogy/204590232915219 (You may be prompted to register for a FaceBook account if you don’t have one.) On The Three Graces Trilogy Facebook page, click the “Like” button at the top of the page and then post a comment to complete your entry. The winner for this contest will be contacted by Instant Message sent to their FaceBook account on November 1, 2011. It will be the responsibility of the winner to respond to the Instant Message in order to claim their prize of three autographed books.

Contest #2

Winner will be chosen from those who follow Jennifer on Twitter @JenniferBlake01. To enter, go to, then click the “Follow” at the top of the page. (You may be prompted to register for a Twitter account if you don’t have one.) The winner of this contest will be contacted by Direct Message sent to their Twitter account on November 1, 2011. It will be the responsibility of the winner to respond to this Direct Message in order to claim the prize of three autographed books.

Contest #3

Winner will be chosen from members of the Jennifer Blake Newsletter group on the date of the drawing, November 1, 2011. To become a member, click on the “Newsletter” button on the top bar of the Jennifer Blake web site (above, or at ) and then follow the instructions for joining this Jennifer Blake Place Yahoo group. The winner will be contacted by email on November 1, 2011. It will be the responsibility of the winner to respond to the email contact in order to claim the prize of three autographed books.


From the three winners, one from each group, a single winner will be selected to receive the Grand Prize. This person will be contacted by email, as verified by previous contact, on or before November 15. It will be the responsibility of the winner to respond to the email contact in order to claim this Grand Prize.

The names of the three winners, plus the Grand Prize winner, will be posted on Jennifer’s blog,, on or before November 15, 2011.

Good luck!!

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Friday, August 26, 2011

Synchronicity and the Writer

We’ve all experienced the odd synchronicity that goes with being a writer. We choose a name for a character only to have it show up next time we watch movie credits roll. We use some obscure mannerism in our books and it’s mentioned in the magazine we pick up at the dentist’s office. We create a disaster for our characters and a similar disaster flashes on the news. How these things happens no one knows, but they do, again and again. Understanding this, I should not have been so surprised at what took place after I was asked to write a medieval trilogy.

Genealogy is a hobby I’ve pursued in a casual way since I was a teenager, asking for birth and death dates from parents, grandparents and great aunts, begging for copies of family trees compiled by distant cousins. When genealogy software came out, I entered all the information I’d gathered over the years, but could never find time in my writing schedule to search for more. Then my computer crashed last year, not long after I’d agreed to change from writing Victorian-era New Orleans novels to the medieval time period. I lost the genealogy software I’d been using, so had to buy an updated version and then reload my saved data. Part of the upgrade was several months of free access to the improved online database for

Oh. Wow. Because I had such detailed records already in place, I was able to tap into literally thousands of family trees. My ancestors connected at once to English and Norman-French lines going back more than 50 generations, to King Alfred the Great, to William the Conqueror and, through him, to Charlemagne and even a Roman emperor. Here was an ancestor who was born in a castle; there was one who had died in a priory, in battle or on crusade. I clicked and clicked, mesmerized by the small trembling leaves on’s world version. Good grief, a tie to Wales with a Tudor in the female line! And just look at the famous names from English history, the Spencers, de Montforts, Montagues, Nevilles, de Clares and, especially, the Plantagenets. Was I really descended from Henry Beauclerc, from Henry the II, John Lackland Plantagenet, Henry III and Edward I? Was I truly the 24th great granddaughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine? I mean, these were people I’d been researching for months, the direct ancestors of both the York and Lancaster lines in my new trilogy. How could this be? Why had it appeared now of all times? Was it real or too good to be true?

Some 9000+ ancestors later I’m still not sure of the answer, and don’t want to look too closely. If it’s all a mistake, let me keep the illusion until I’ve finished the last book of my medieval trilogy set at the time of Henry VII. It tickles me to think that some form of atavistic memory may be at work as I write, that there’s a reason why I see so clearly in my mind the roads of 15th century England and the great halls of ancient castles.

Writers are like that, you know. We do appreciate and make use of our fantasies.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

In Search of a True Hero

Alpha males, we all know and love them. They are the stock heroes of thousands of romance novels and the secret relish of millions of women. We thrill to their strength, their daring, their ability to dominate those around them and bend the rules to suit themselves. We enjoy their limitless capacity for surmounting every difficulty, defeating every enemy. This preference is genetically programmed in us as females, for it represents protection for our offspring.

And yet the idea can be taken too far. No one really likes a hero who is too controlling or cruel to the point of pain. A hero who overrides the heroine’s will with too much force makes us uneasy. We can’t believe this man cares about her if he refuses to allow her any degree of choice. We have difficulty identifying with a heroine who stands for such treatment—no matter how good the guy may be in bed. When the heroine does an about-face at the end of 200 or 400 pages and decides she adores the son-of-a-gun instead of despising him, we are unconvinced. And that’s if the book hasn’t already bounced off the wall.

Where do we draw the line? What makes one dominant hero acceptable and not another? What turns one book with such a man into a treasure and another into a paper-and-glue missile?

he difference is in how the character is formed, the way he’s created by the author.

A hero, no matter how mentally and physically superior, should always be shown as multi-facted, with depth of emotion to equal his strength. He should care so deeply about one particular thing that it becomes his greatest weakness. Personally, I love it when this weakness is the heroine, but it can also be a child, father, mother or sibling; his clan, birthplace, home area or country. Added to this, an alpha hero may be given an internal code which forces him to act against his best interests, causes him to struggle with moral questions and decisions which threaten his control. He can have doubts and fears, though he may conceal their existence. His supremacy can actually be enhanced by his ability to rise above his problems with intelligence and internal fortitude instead of simply bludgeoning his way through them. His tremendous power can be used for its true purpose of protection rather than subjection.

In short, he can be created as a hero with whom a woman can safely fall in love.

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Ten Tips for More Productive Writing

1. Create goals. Decide how many pages or words you can comfortably produce in a day, then mark these potential daily totals on your calendar. Be realistic. Allow for rest days, also days when life may intervene—since it always does.

2. Set personal deadlines. Example: You have a six-month editorial deadline, but know you will need a major read-through for author revision, plus another for polishing, in order to turn in your best work. Mark your calendar with a two-month deadline for completing the rough draft, and two months each for the author revision and polishing.

3. Establish a daily routine. Doing the same things in the same order (shower, eat breakfast, exercise, check email, make a cup of tea or coffee) prepares your brain for work in the same way any engrained habit produces mental readiness.

4. Make certain your writing area is comfortable. Invest in a good office chair and follow ergonomic principles. You need to be relaxed and pain free in order to concentrate.

5. Put on music. Whether you create a playlist that reflects the theme of your story, opt for classical pieces such as Mozart that’s said to encourage concentration, or choose something that jars every brain cell in your skull, music can tune out distractions and put you in the mood to write.

6. Read over the last 5-10 pages of work done the day before. This will allow you pick up the threads of the story, and/or do minor polishing. Avoid reading back over too many pages as this can eat up working time.

7. Brainstorm the scene coming up. Jot down four or five points that need to be made at this point in your story, and then arrange them in order of occurrence. These notes will give your brain something to work with as you face the blank computer screen.

8. Start typing something, anything. Make a diary entry, a grocery list, a collection of things to be thankful for, or just rant about the last idiot who annoyed you. Segue into random thoughts about your characters, their motivations or up coming actions. Something will usually appear that’s useful for the book. Delete the garbage and go.

9. Set a cheap, portable kitchen timer. Challenge yourself to do your personal best number of words or pages in an hour. The time ticking away acts as a goad, and speed writing permits you to by-pass your internal editor for better creative flow.

10. Reward yourself for goals met and/or work completed. The prize can be as minor as a piece of chocolate when you make your daily page total, or as major as a trip to Europe when you finish a multi-book contract. Any incentive for your muse will encourage her to show up and lean over your shoulder, whispering, “You can do this. Yes, you can.”

Why We Read

In a Sunday New York Times book review essay, The Plot Escapes Me, novelist James Collins admitted he often can’t remember the contents of the books he reads. He maintains that we read for the aesthetic and literary pleasure, yes, but also to learn something or to be changed in some way by the experience. His question then is, “Why read books if we can’t remember what’s in them?”

Well, he does have a point; I don’t always remember the books I read, either. But then I don’t expect to recall the details of more than a handful. I read to be entertained, to fill leisure time without resorting to television. I read to escape from the stress, disappointments and griefs of life. An added bonus is the euphoria that comes when I’m engrossed in a good story, that uplift of pure happiness caused by the release of endorphins as the brain relaxes. Like a cavewoman huddling near a leaping fire while listening to a tale, I glory in the story that will allow me to forget the cold and the wolves outside.

If a book can do that, isn’t it enough?

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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Dear Author Review - Spoil of War

I’ve seen negative reviews before, but the comments posted on the Dear Author site for SPOIL OF WAR BY Phoenix Sullivan go well beyond normal literary criticism. Reviewer DA_January didn’t care for the book. Fine; that’s her privilege. But to use her position as a reviewer to attack the work of a beginning writer, holding it up to extended personal ridicule, is both unbecoming and unfair. Added to that, the reviewer must surely have known that concentrating on the sexual assault in the story, without regard for obvious historical precedent or the book's theme, would inflame her audience; the word “rape” has always been highly reliable for that kind of response. I can only suppose that was the purpose.

One of her most blatant acts was taking sentences from the book out of context in the attempt to prove her point. In one example the female protagonist, Elsbeth, overhears a young girl being assaulted in the room next to the one where she is held prisoner. In Elsbeth’s isolation and extremity after watching everyone she knew and loved killed before her eyes, she feels the fleeting need to be touched, the recognition in her despair that any physical contact might be better than the essential loneliness of her existence. At least this was my reading of the scene. DA_January, by contrast, seemed certain it meant nothing more than that Elsbeth was inappropriately turned on by the sounds she heard. Frankly, I’m not sure anyone so unaware of the nuances of human reaction—or the concept of showing those reactions instead of explaining them in words of one syllable—should be allowed to act as a filter for what others read.

For myself, I stand by the cover quote given my niece for this book about a woman who, rather like a male protagonist after a bloody defeat, accepts her fate with stoic endurance and uses her silent rage to best her enemies. While considering it, I did not make the mistake of applying romance novel criteria to a story that was obviously not a romance, nor did I credit the male lead with being heroic in any sense of the term. The book was evaluated on its own merit, not in comparison with my reading preferences or my work. Due warning was given for its depiction of the horrors of warfare in a brutal era. Enough said.

But I would suggest that DA_January’s comments are actually a testament to the writing ability of Phoenix Sullivan. The reviewer would not have been so affected by SPOIL OF WAR, for good or ill, had the author not fully engaged her attention and her emotions.

Please note that comments to this blog are monitored.

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Sunday, August 07, 2011

The Jennifer Blake Newsletter - August


Hot, hot, hot! If you watch the Weather channel, you may have noticed the red-shaded section of northern Louisiana that has the same triple-digit temperatures as Texas and Oklahoma. We are in the middle of that area, caught in a heat wave the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the Dust Bowl days of the 1930s. The level of the lake we live on drops every day, and it’s all we can do to keep the landscaping alive, much less the lawn. I’d do a rain dance if I thought it would help. Meanwhile, we’re just trying to stay cool.

BY HIS MAJESTY’S GRACE, Book 1 of the Three Graces Trilogy, is in stores at last, as well as available for order online from Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Reviews continue to come in with at least eight posted on, and more than that on The book is being featured on the Eye on Romance web site, also on the for RT Book Reviews Magazine site. In addition, it was chosen as the “Fresh Pick” for August by readers on the Fresh Fiction web site, a nice honor indeed.

Both this new book and MIDNIGHT WALTZ, my reprint out this month from Sourcebooks Casablanca Classics, received top honors on the Long and Short Reviews web site, with their highest review award of "5-books"—their version of a five star ranking. See them here:

And here:

My husband and I were in Colorado much of last month, where the air was wonderfully cool and dry. Considering how hot and humid it’s been since our return, we should have stayed longer! While there, we were joined by some of our children, grandchildren and other guests. If you’re on my Facebook page, you may have seen several photos of them enjoying white water rafting on the Arkansas River. If not, you’re more than welcome to take a look by joining me on Facebook. You never know what I may post or what kind of photos I might put up! I’m also considering hosting a weekly question and answer session there on the craft and business of writing. The link to sign up is below, beneath my signature. Once you’re on my Facebook home page, just send a “Friend” request and I’ll add you. The link for my Twitter page is below as well, if you’d care to “Follow” me there.

Because of traveling plus the promotional efforts caused by having three new books and a reprint out this summer, I’ve neglected the series of writing tips on my blog. I’ll get back to them later this month, if all goes according to plan. The next subject I’ll be posting about is choosing character names. Meanwhile, there’s a fun “interview” posted there, one in which Sir Randall of Braesford, the hero of BY HIS MAJESTY’S GRACE, asks questions of the author who created him. Scroll down below the copy of this newsletter to see it. 

Book 2 the Three Graces Trilogy, BY GRACE POSSESSED, will be released at the end of the month, on August 30. My author’s copies, with their vivid green covers, were delivered while I was in Colorado. Reviews are already trickling in, as well. RT Book Review’s Magazine gave it 4 ½ stars, saying:

“With the second Three Graces novel, Blake draws readers into a tale of attempted murder, insurrection against the king and a high romance with her marvelous research of the period. She builds a strong background, creates three-dimensional characters and weaves sexual tension into a lively love story.”

And Harriet Klausner of Merry Genre Go Round said:

“The middle sister’s Graces medieval romance is an exciting period piece as armchair readers will believe they are at the court of King Henry VII in the late fifteenth century. Except for her belief in the curse, Cate is a typical historical heroine while Ross is a fascinating protagonist whose loyalty is stretched in diverse directions as he must choose between Scotland (and his father), the English king and Cate.”

Meanwhile, I have a new venture in the works which will involve some of my older works, also a couple of things that have never been published, a nonfiction manuscript or two, and work from my daughters and my nieces. It’s still in the planning stages for now, but you’ll be hearing more about it later in the year. Just what I need, another project, Well, it does keep life interesting!

With warmest wishes for cool days and interesting projects wherever you are,

Jennifer Blake

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