Love. Love. Love. It’s supposed to be in the air Wednesday, when flowers, candy, perhaps a bracelet urge someone to “Be My Valentine.” But maybe a cupid-bedecked card is all the budget can handle. It’s the thought that counts, right?
So let’s indulge in fantasy. What is your perfect Valentine’s Day celebration? What would you do if money, time, kids, jobs were no object?
For answers, we turned to winners of the most recent Midwest Fiction Writers (MFW) Chapter Awards. The 75-member organization, an affiliate of Romance Writers of America (RWA), welcomes anyone in serious pursuit of producing a work of romance, including novels and short stories. Here’s what they had to say.
Her Valentine dream: “I have three children so it’s been a long time since I had any kind of date with my hubby. First, my husband would make arrangements for someone to watch the kids all by himself. That one act right there could already catapult us into ‘best date ever’ since it would be a first, but since this is my dream date, it’s going to get even better. Next, he’d surprise me with a drive down to New Ulm. We’d stop for a wine tasting at Morgan Creek Vineyards and then pop over to Schell’s Brewery to see the peacocks and take a tour. He’d take me out for a repeat of the best steak I’ve had in my life at George’s Fine Steaks and Spirits right on Minnesota Street. Then we’d check in to Bingham Hall Bed and Breakfast where we’d stay in the Elijah Suite because it has a whirlpool tub and a fireplace. I’ll leave the rest to your readers’ imaginations, but I can guarantee you there would be a couple’s massage, a whirlpool for two and no 9-year-old coming into our room in the middle of the night because he can’t fall asleep. Ah, nirvana!”
Her career: Dylann writes contemporary romance with what she describes as “sizzle and sass.” A romantic at heart, she loves her heroine’s spunky and her heroes super sexy. “All-American Cowboy,” first in her Holiday, Texas, series will be published July 3. It’s about a city boy who meets a fierce cowgirl in a town where every holiday is celebrated. Dylann received the MFW First Sale Award.
Bio: When she’s not dreaming up steamy storylines, Dylann can be found sipping a margarita and searching for the best Tex-Mex food in Minnesota. Although she grew up in Texas, she lives in a Twin Cities suburb with her unflappable husband, three energetic kids, a clumsy Great Dane, a rescue mutt and a very chill cat. She loves to connect with readers, other authors and fans of tequila.
Her Valentine dream: “After being with my husband for 34 years (and married for 30 in September), my dream date might seem tame. However, given how much we both travel for work and pleasure (our family and friends are flung to the four corners of the Earth), it’s a joy to have an evening home alone together. I like to cook, and my husband is an excellent bartender, and it’s cold outside, so we would have a fire in the fireplace with some classic jazz playing in the background. My favorite part of the evening would be relaxing in front of the fire with my husband, he with a dirty martini, and me with a rye Manhattan (up, please!), talking about everything and nothing. He is the yin to my yang, different enough to be endlessly interesting, but alike enough to be compatible.”
Her career: “My book just got a title (yay, marketing team!); it’s “A Girl Divided,” a woman’s novel that follows a naive but adventurous daughter of an American missionary in China on her journey to 1942 Los Angeles, and her efforts to reconcile the two cultures, modern morality vs. traditional, and balancing what others want from her against what she wants for herself. It’s scheduled to be released in August.” Ellen received the MFW First Sale Award.
Bio: “I’m a member of Midwest Fiction Writers, Romance Writers of America, Women’s Fiction Writers Association, and a past student at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. My B.A. is in classics from the University of Colorado, Boulder. I’ve lived in Minnesota since 1990, and absolutely love it here.”
LARAMIE SASSEVILLE/NAOMI STONE
Her Valentine dream: “One of the most romantic Valentine’s Day activities I can imagine would be to snuggle up with my sweetie and read romantic fantasies aloud to each other. There are so many wonderful romances out there at every level of heat or sweetness or inspiration. Sharing a favorite fantasy with my partner is a way to put all these fuzzy and often confusing feelings into words that can bring us closer. Being me, I’d like to read from one of the stories I’ve written — whether it involves a fairy godmother or a djinni who could grant any wish, having psychic powers enabling otherwise impossible adventures.”
Her career: “I can only guess why my fellow writers voted to give me the (MFW) Rising Star award. I suspect it’s not so much for any one book, but because I grew my career so much in the last year. I got the rights back to my Naomi Stone romantic fantasies … and reissued them under my own imprint. I also published two new fantasy books for young readers under my own name, and most recently the first book in a new series, ‘Holiday Enchantment: Thanksgiving.’ The series involves five single women who’ve formed a club to celebrate the traditional family holidays. A little fairy godmother magic leads them each on a magical adventure to true love. ‘Thanksgiving’ got a lot of good reviews and made the Top 100 (for a few days during its release) on Amazon’s Magical Realism list.” (She writes fantasy for middle-grade readers as Sasseville and more romantic urban fantasies as Naomi Stone.)
Bio: In addition to a bachelor of arts degree from Wellesley in studio arts and archaeology, she studied for two years at the University of Minnesota law school and got an associate’s degree in electronic publishing (web design).
Her Valentine dream: “It would begin with a cup of tea in bed (Irish Breakfast)! Then I would love to hit the slopes and fresh powder at Big Sky, Montana. (This is the dream date — right? I’ll get first tracks.) And when the lift closed, there would be mulled wine in front of the fire. And a dip in the hot tub. Then I’m willing to cook dinner, maybe chicken piccata. And since my signature drink is Prosecco — that would be involved, too. (Anything after dinner will have to be censored!)”
Her career: She’s a five-time Golden Heart finalist, active in MFW and on the board of a dance company. “To Catch a Thief,” Book 6 in her Harlequin SuperRomance Fitzgerald House series, will be released in March. The series is about the Fitzgerald House, a bed-and-breakfast in Savannah run by three sisters in their old family mansion, where they tumble into love and gather new friends and expand their family. Current release: “Undercover With the Heiress,” about an undercover agent forced to cozy up to a spoiled heiress and uncovers an honorable woman. Nan received the LaVyrle Spencer Mentor of the Year Award.
Bio: Dixon spent her formative years as an actress, singer, dancer and competitive golfer. After studying accounting in college, she realized being a successful financial executive didn’t feed her passion to perform, and when the pharmaceutical company she worked for was purchased, she got the opportunity to pursue a writing career. She has five children, three sons-in-law, two granddaughters, a brand new grandson and one neurotic cat.
Her Valentine dream: “I would love to be surprised by being whisked away to a warm getaway, being that we’re in the cold season of Minnesota.”
Her career: Jody says maybe living her own romance story is what inspired her to write romance novels, because it was never her dream to become a writer. Reading has always been one of the things she loves to do and travels across the U.S., Cancun, and the Bahamas inspired her stories. Book 1 in her contemporary Texas Girlfriends series, titled “Florida Heat,” features Maggie Carlisle, who thought she left her ex-husband’s drug life behind in Texas. Struggling to shed emotional pain, she falls in love with Trent Randall, a boarding and breeding ranch owner and offshore powerboat driver who loses focus when Maggie enters his life. She won the MFW Writer of the Year Award.
Bio: Jody and her “real-life law enforcement hero” live with their three children and two pets, Holly the cat and Totty the dog.
Her Valentine dream: “Spending the evening with my husband enjoying pints of Guinness at a pub in Dublin. I firmly believe a proper pub should have dim lighting, heavy wooden tables, and slightly sticky floors. We met back in college because we were the only two people in the bar drinking Guinness.”
Her career: Lola’s lighthearted contemporary romances are “Bad Traveler,” “Lucky Traveler” and “Winter Fairy.” She was a doctoral candidate in history when a hurricane in Virginia wiped out the archive where all her research was located, so she decided to learn to write fiction and “stumbled into a local RWA chapter.” Her stories feature “an optimistic outcome where characters triumph through adversity — with a little love thrown in.” She admits: “There are people who say they would never pick up a romance. I was one of them. I found myself at a time where I was moving, didn’t know many people and was lonely. I needed reassurance that everything would be OK. Romances helped me through some difficult times and spurred me to make it my life’s work.” Lola is MFW president and the MFW Chapter Service Award winner.
Bio: Lola has lived in eight different states in her adult life, ending up in Minnesota when her husband Tom (he’s private about publishing his last name) was transferred here. Recalling that Irish pub: “Some couples have a song; we have (that Guinness) beer. Those two pint glasses have turned into two kids, 22 years of marriage and more laughs than I can count.