Stories are so important to our lives. Admit it, you smiled the last time someone in the family talked about Uncle Hal saying “goodbye” and walking into the closet. And what little girl hasn’t wanted to be Cinderella, so she can meet her prince?

I write stories to remind myself that even though things may seem bleak, there is always the possibility of a “Happily Ever After.” If along the way I make readers smile, cry or see the magic in our everyday lives, then I’ve done my job.

I hope you’ll read my books, and together we’ll bring to life characters that aren’t perfect, but have a story to tell.

Sir Smudge here. At least that’s what my human calls me. She’s out at a Teddy Bear and Doll Show, whatever that is, so I decided to use her keyboard. Now you have to promise me you won’t tell her I can write, or she’ll insist I help her with those stories she enjoys. No, we have the purrrfect set up. She writes, and I sleep nearby.

Now for you writers out there who have your own feline, might I suggest a few guidelines, based on my experience? Cats really aren’t high maintenance, in spite of the tales you hear. (I’m a firm believer all those anti-cat sentiments have been spread by dogs.)

First off, communication. We do hear you when you call us, we just don’t want you to think we’re always going to respond. It’s not fair to set up false expectations. If you must call us, at least make it worth our while if we come running. Tuna is always appreciated.

Please don’t think we operate on your schedule. A middle-of-the-night run can be exhilarating. You ought to try it sometime. And even though we look incredibly cute, don’t disturb our naps. No wonder humans are grumpy. They are under the misconception that eight hours of sleep is enough.

Persistence is one of our most endearing traits. Just because you don’t want us on the table, or your keyboard, doesn’t mean we won’t keep trying. After all, it gives us a reason to interact with you, and we add a little interest to your lives.

If you’d take the time to play with us, you just might tire us out. We really appreciate toys with feathers and some of us love the elusive red dot. (I’ve finally come to realize I’m wasting my energy.) I like something I can sink my claws into.  I don’t know why my human was so upset about the goldfish I left under the dining room table. It wasn’t any fun after it stopped flopping around.

We really are the perfect writing companion. Just ask us. Of course, we may chose not to answer.

Oh, and please keep reading my human, Dawn Ireland’s, books. The writing keeps her busy, while I take a nap.

Sir Smudge

“What Makes a Man Sexy?” 

Several years ago I was sitting at my desk, going over yet another spreadsheet, when I heard a commotion in the reception area. I looked up and met the eyes of the most handsome man I’d ever seen. He smiled at me, and it took a moment before I realized I’d forgotten to breathe. It had to have been the lack of oxygen that caused me to give him a brief smile and pretend to look busy.

It turns out, he was the Xerox copier repair man.  He may have been dressed in dark pants and a light shirt, but they hugged every contoured muscle. His golden-brown hair curled, keeping him from looking too business-like, and when he smiled, you’d swear you were the only woman in the room.

Of course, I wasn’t the only woman, and I don’t believe any work was accomplished for the next 45 minutes. We all kept stealing glances at him, or finding some reason to walk by the copier. When he left, I was very glad the blinds were down, because we were all lined up along the windows, peeking through the shades to get a last glimpse. I often wonder what he thought, as he looked back at the building.

What was it that made us all react that way?  Yes, he was handsome, but I’d met attractive men before. So I think it was his approach that set him above the rest. He wore his attractiveness like you would a well-tailored jacket. Yes, the attractiveness is nice, but it’s only on the surface.  There was something about the way he interacted with people that made me think there was more to him. He exuded a sense of confidence, and had a way of making every woman in the room aware of his presence.

Our heroes need that extra “something” that sets them apart from other men, especially in the heroine’s eyes.  There are some universal elements that are seen as sexy: being handsome, physically fit, wealthy, powerful, confident, etc.  But, your heroine will notice small things that are unique to her perception of sexy – his hair falls onto his forehead, he has a crooked smile, the way he rolls his shoulders when he’s tense. Often they are small “moments” that fan a heroine’s attraction.

Hugh Jackman is my favorite actor, and I will never forget a small “moment” that made him very attractive in my eyes.  He played Wolverine in X-Men. At one point in the film, a mutant’s mother asks him what he teaches at the school, his response, as he folds his arms and leans back against the wall is “art.” Everything about him cries dangerous male. His eyes dared her to question his response, yet hurt and vulnerability were there as well. Can you tell I love wounded alpha heroes?

For most of us, it’s not just physical attractiveness that makes a man irresistable. (I remember my sister dating a very handsome male model who wouldn’t let her touch his hair when they kissed. Funny, how unattractive he became in her eyes.) Now I’m curious. What do you find sexy?

"Once Upon a Time"
. . . are four of Dawn’s favorite words. Her love of story became a love of romance when she read Georgette Heyer’s, Devil’s Cub. It inspired her to write stories with strong characters that discover love is never easy, but always worthwhile. Dawn’s written several award-winning novels set in Georgian England – an era filled with rules and intrigue. Her characters often defy “Society” as they pursue love, run away, pursue, run away – well, you get the idea.

Then again, she might write romance in order to do the research. What other profession encourages you to sit in the audience at Harlequin’s Male Model search, and take notes, or just sigh?

Dawn lives in a Victorian home in Upstate New York with her husband and very independent cats. When she’s not writing, she’s singing, gardening, learning to play the harp or wood carving.

More of Dawn’ s FAVORITE THINGS: Romantic Movies: Pretty Woman, Everafter, While You Were Sleeping, The Wedding Date


The “Not So Gruesome” Tower

Mist gathers on the cobbled rise above the Traitors Gate in the Tower of London, the sound of lapping water a reminder of the nearby Thames. Out of the swirling white comes a Warder, his keys jangling in time to his steps, his red coat illuminated by a candle lantern.

Okay, I admit it sounds rather spooky, but it’s actually the Ceremony of the Keys that’s been part of the Tower’s history for the last 700 years. Each night the gates need to be locked. After all, the crown jewels are inside. In true British fashion the dialogue is the same each evening, and the event takes place within a precise time frame. Except, one night during World War ll. A bomb knocked the Warder off his feet, but he stood up, brushed himself off, and carried on. He was forgiven for being late. (Once every 700 years isn’t bad.)

It’s a good thing they lock up each evening. There have been attempts to steal the jewels, which isn’t surprising considering the Star of Africa sits atop the royal scepter. It’s awe inspiring to go through and look at the crown which is still used by the monarchy for affairs of state. The rulers of England are shrouded in tradition, including the decree that ravens occupy the Tower.

Six ravens are mandated to live in the royal holding, with a seventh waiting in the wings–so to speak. As a matter of fact, their wings are clipped so they can’t fly too far. Legend has it the monarchy will fail if the ravens leave the Tower. As you can imagine, the birds are named, well-fed and considered soldiers of the kingdom. As such, they can be dismissed for unsatisfactory conduct.

Poor George lost his appointment to the Crown for attacking and destroying TV aerials. Another raven, Grog, deserted his duties for a nearby pub. (Mmm. Do you think it had something to do with the name?) Animals were not a novel thing for the Tower.

At one time a Royal Menagerie resided in the White Tower and offered the privileged an opportunity to see exotic creatures. A wide variety came and went over the years, a Polar Bear who was allowed out on a chain and used to fish in the Thames, a leopard who loved to shred parasols and an elephant that stunned visitors with his size.

The dangerous animals eventually caused the menagerie to be moved to a zoo. The lions or bears would escape their cramped holding cells and attack guests.  My hero and heroine visit the Menagerie in my book, The Perfect Duke, but it is a danger of the two legged variety that threatens their plans.

This interview was posted by scmitchell on May 2, 2013

Today I’m featuring romance author Dawn Ireland and her wonderful new release, The Perfect Duke. I’d like to thank Dawn for stopping by to talk about her new… Hey, wait a minute, who are you? (A group of seven short, stout little men have appeared out of nowhere.)

 Grumpy: “My brothers and I have some questions for this writer, and she’d better be quick about it.”

 Doc: “Grumpy, put that pick axe down!” (Doc turns to Steven.) “Sorry about that. But since Dawn patterned some of her characters on us, we have a few questions for her.”

 Well Dawn, do you have any objections?

 Dawn: Of course not, although characters don’t usually ask ME questions.

 Grumpy: (wiggles his overlong eyebrows and leans forward.) “So what took you so long to write us? We’ve been cooped up in that manuscript forever.”

 Dawn: You haven’t been cooped up anywhere, and it took me less than a year to write The Perfect Duke. The revisions are what took the time. Besides, Cara comes across a grouping of folks like you. They aren’t even dwarfs. Though now that I think of it, one of them does have your temperament.

 Grumpy: “Humph.” (Grumpy sits, hugging his axe and glaring. Happy steps in front of him.)

 Happy: “I’m glad she put us in this book. I LOVE Cara. It’s not fair that she marries that Duke. He’s not nice at all.”

 Dawn: “Now Happy, you shouldn’t say that. Cara understood that Garret had good in him right from the start. He has to learn how to treat the people around him. Not everyone has your ability to make the world a special place every day. Besides, don’t you think Garret makes Cara happy?

 Happy: “Well, I guess. But if he ever mistreats her, I’m right there.” (Doc pats Happy’s shoulder, looks up at Dawn and winks.)

 Doc: “So what now? Are you going to forsake your fairy tale friends for other kinds of books?”

 Dawn: Don’t worry Doc, fairy tales are a part of all our lives, and mine more than most. One of my favorite TV shows is “Once Upon a Time.” So you see, no matter what I write, I’ll always look for that touch of whimsy and a “Happily Ever After.”

 (Bashful inches forward, his cap crushed in his hand.)

 Bashful: “I’d like to know, that is, well…What do you do when you aren’t writing? You don’t have to tell me. Only if you want to.” (He turns, his chin tucked against one shoulder.)

 Dawn: Thank you for asking Bashful. It’s kind of you to be interested in who I am. Aside from writing, I love to sing, (I know dwarfs do as well.) dig in my garden, work on my Victorian home, attempt to play my harp and help out our local historical society. I’m even trying my hand at Gepetto’s craft-woodcarving. Though I don’t think I’ll be carving Pinocchio any time soon.

 Okay my little friends, I think that’s enough questions for today. I do have a blog to write, you know. Dawn, thank you for visiting with us today. I’m going to give you the last word. Tell us a little more about The Perfect Duke.

 Dawn: The Perfect Duke is a story for women who sigh over Alpha males. Garret may seem arrogant and selfish, but he’s tamed by Cara, an innocent that is pure of heart. I hope my readers enjoy the magic they create.

 (PS, can you name the dwarfs that didn’t ask me questions?)  Answer: Dopey, Sleepy, Sneezy

​Just Imagine

In my own little corner
In my own little chair
I can be whatever I want to be

“I can be whatever I want to be.” Oscar Hammerstein II gave Leslie Ann Warren that very motivating line in Cinderella. She proceeds to sing about all the terrible trouble her imagination gets her into, and how grateful she is to be back in her own little corner. (She must have been feeling a little pessimistic that day.)

Imagination is a truly amazing gift. It can take us to places, and allow us to be people, that we’ve yearned for. It will give a lonely child an unseen friend, or a little girl the ability to find the “princess” when she looks in the mirror. It lifts us out of our humdrum, everyday, lives and propels us into a place where anything is possible.

The ability to imagine is what made this country great. In order to invent cars, light bulbs, and computers, you first have to imagine it’s possible. I’ve often heard it referred to as “thinking outside the box,” but I think it’s more like letting your creative side take flight. I’m a little worried that so many people these days don’t take enough time to use their imagination. We need to poke at the outside edges of what’s possible in our lives. We are so busy “being busy” that we don’t see any other way to live life.

Now, I’m just as guilty as the next guy. I guess that’s why I enjoy writing. When I put pen to paper I get to be the characters in my books, feeling that jittery feeling when I first meet Mr. Right, the insecurity of trying to figure out why a man like “him” could to be interested in me, or the devastation that comes with discovering your love has been betrayed. (Okay, I’m beginning to see why Cinderella found that corner so inviting.)

Regardless of how you choose to get lost for a while, reading a book, watching a movie, or listening to music, you won’t regret the “me” time that allows you to regenerate and see your life from a different perspective. Just think, the first step to that “better you” is imagining how your life could actually be better--the rest is just follow-through.