Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Writer's Inspiration: France

From where do you get the ideas of your stories?
How do you decide where to set your plot?
Are your characters real?

Of all the countries I visited, France has always been my favorite. Maybe because of its rich culture and history, or maybe because I am fluent in French and have several friends living in Paris who always welcome me. Although Paris would inspire any visitor fabulous dreams, there is more to France than its capital. [Click on the pictures to enlarge them]

A few years ago, my husband rented a car and we toured the Loire Valley.

I was impressed by the magnificence of the French Chateaux.

The Chateau de Chambord, the most somptuous one, was built by King François I and inspired by Leonardo Da Vinci.

The Chateau d'Amboise was built over an old roman fortress.

The Chateau de Chaumont, built in the 10th century, is one of the oldest castles in the Loire Valley.

Villandry is better known for the magnificent gardens surrounding the castle.

The Chateau de Blois has been the residency of several French kings. It is also the place where Joan of Arc went in 1429 to be blessed by the Archbishop of Reims before departing with her army to drive the English out of Orleans.

The Chateau de Cheverny was built between 1630 and 1640.

While visiting so many famous castles, including Chenonceau, called the Ladies' Castle, I visualized gallant aristocrats entertaining beautiful women in lavishly decorated galleries and plush gardens. Stories played in my mind. I don’t write historical romances but kept thinking about the settings.

A year later, my niece enthusiastically related her summer training in a French chateau. As an American student in Architecture from Harvard University, she was offered the unique opportunity to work on the restoration of a chapel in France.

When I asked jokingly, “Was the owner a haughty old man?” My niece answered: “He was a young, handsome count and the five girls in my team had a crush on him. He dated my friend.”

Oh, oh. Chateau. Handsome count. Training on a historical chapel. Maybe looking for a historical statue. I had an epiphany. Here was my story premise. Below is the chateau I used in my story.

When I pitched it to an agent at the RWA conference, she suggested I change the plot to make it a romantic suspense. I took her suggestion to heart and upped the stakes with a missing statue and the murder of a professor.

French Peril was born.

Categories: Romantic Suspense
Book Type: eBook
Publisher: Cerridwen Press
ISBN: 9781419917189

What could be more exciting for a young American architect than to live in a French chateau owned by a young count and to work on the restoration of a chapel in the Loire Valley?
But when her professor is poisoned because he knew too much about a missing statue, Cheryl's summer job changes into a dangerous treasure hunt and Count François is faced with a difficult choice:
Are the statue and his chateau worth endangering the life of the impetuous young woman who's turned his life upside down?

Friday, November 28, 2008

An Excerpt

Jasmine Jade/Cerridwen Press

Publisher: Cerridwen Press
Categories: Contemporary Romance
Book Length: 290 pages
Book Type: Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9781419958106

Short Synopsis:

Raised in boarding schools, Cecile buried her loneliness under long hours of study and work. On the rebound of a broken engagement, she is determined to excel in her first international contract, the refurbishment of an environmental laboratory in Belarus.

In Belarus, a Russian country dominated by male chauvinism and intrigues, Cecile finds more chemistry than she bargains for.

Admired by men and adored by women, Major General Sergei is a true hero in his country. The widowed Sergei has pledged to clean his country of the pollution left by the Chernobyl disaster.

BUT… With a glass of vodka in his hand and the lovely Cecile nestled in his arms, Sergei has more on his mind than patriotic duty and Cecile soon learns that chemicals are not the only things that generate heat.

Would she betray his trust to save his career? Would her love cost him everything he values?

Excerpt from Chapter One:
“Welcome to Minsk International Airport,” the loud speaker announced as the aircraft bounced on the runway before coming to a halt.

Cecile Lornier rubbed her ringless finger, her spirit buoyant with triumph. “Belarus, here I come. Finally,” she whispered, her nose pressed against the plane window for a first look at the remote little country, located south of Russia. Not much to see. But the gloomy sight of gray sky, barren trees and drizzling rain couldn’t dim the joy that exploded in her heart. After a twelve-hour flight, she’d made it to Minsk. In spite of her ex-fiancé’s dirty dealing. For the millionth time, she cursed Rob Spenser, the worthless creep who’d snatched her promotion, almost foiled her first international assignment and gifted her with a bleeding ulcer.

With a sigh of relief, she hung her purse on her arm and collected her hand luggage to exit the plane. Dragging her carry-on suitcases, she proceeded up the bumpy ramp of the jetway boarding bridge.

A group of people clustered in front of a sign affixed on the sidewall. Russian or Belarussian? Might as well be Chinese as far as I’m concerned. Unable to decipher the foreign script, Cecile shrugged and followed the line of passengers through the arrival gate, toward an escalator.

As if this rickety machine could be called a mechanical escalator. The uneven steps jolted with a grinding noise, bouncing and shuddering downward. Cecile scanned the area for an elevator or stairway. There were none in sight. Was she expected to negotiate this crooked roller coaster with her luggage in hand?

Apparently, yes. The passengers were carefully holding the railing, men helping their female companions and children as they went down. She eyed the rattletrap contraption. Her first taste of Belarussian obsolete technology. This was exactly why her company had been chosen to help modernize the local environmental laboratory.

A military officer dressed in khaki passed her. Cecile’s gaze fixed on his large back and decorated epaulets. He was tall, solid. A brick wall of a man. The wobbly escalator didn’t seem to bother him but then he didn’t have two suitcases hindering his movements.

Cecile bit her lip, imagining the sneer on Rob’s face if he could see her now, hesitating so long in front of the first step of her mission. Literally the very first step. She shifted her two carry-ons to her left hand and followed the officer onto the jerking stairway, hoping for the best. Wishful thinking. Her short heel caught between the steps of the damned escalator. Gripping the railing for dear life, she let her luggage slip out of her hand as she pitched forward.

“Welcome to Minsk…” the airport speaker roared in broken English.

A sturdy back blocked her fall. The officer turned and circled her waist with brawny arms, welding her to his rock-hard frame. She stopped moving, stopped thinking, stopped breathing, until the officer lowered her to stable ground as they reached the end of the escalator.

Her head still pillowed against the muscular chest, she took a breath, inhaling the scent of soap and spicy cologne. She was alive all right and oddly secure in this stranger’s arms.

He said something in his native language. She tilted her head back. Her gaze collided with deep blue eyes shadowed by long, black lashes. Still floating in a peculiar haze, Cecile squirmed to free herself. She gasped for air to clear her head and squeaked, “I’m sorry.”

He stared at her, a glint of interest under the scowling eyebrows. “Americanka?” His baritone voice echoed against the metallic escalator’s crunch. “Here, let me help you.” He cupped her elbow. “Can you walk? Are you hurt?” he asked in fluent but accented English.

Leaning on his arm, she took two steps and exhaled with relief. “I’m fine. Thank you.”

Her ankles felt sore, her right shoulder hurt and her breasts ached from the impact but she was still in one piece. Breathing in uneven gulps, she eased from the officer’s supportive arm.

He waved to the escalator. “People have to be careful. It needs repair. There was a sign.”

“The sign? Oh, is that what it said?” Cecile bit her lip, patting her purse with regret. The little Russian-English dictionary was right there.

“Unfortunately, fixing the airport escalator is not on our government’s priority list and there is no lift at the gate.” A curious smile replaced his scowl. “Is it your first visit to Belarus?”

“Yes. A business trip.” Scanning the six-foot plus, movie star-type figure, she rubbed a sweaty palm against her raincoat. “My companion has already exited the plane.”

Damn it, where was the welcoming committee John Gordon promised? And where had he gone? “I appreciate your help, sir. I can manage now.” She extended a hand to grab the two carry-ons he’d collected for her. A knowing smile curved his mouth as he shook his head. “Let me help you to the passport control. This way,” he instructed as he offered her his left arm for support.

Glancing at the sharp profile, she hesitated for a fraction of a second before accepting the unspoken invitation. John had raved about the quaint charm of Belarus and the affability of its residents. She couldn’t reject the courteous gesture without being rude.

As her fingers curled on the sleeve at his elbow, his hard biceps contracted under her hand. Uncomfortable warmth spread through her. She stiffened but suppressed the urge to pull back.

He led her into an adjacent room where a musty smell mingled with the odor of strong tobacco. She pursed her lips and wrinkled her nose in distaste. The room bustled with passengers in long coats and round fur hats. As her eyes adjusted to the dim lighting, she saw John emerge from a dark corner, his burly frame swaying as he walked.

She pulled her hand from the officer’s arm and waved. John headed straight toward her. “For heaven’s sake, where did you rush to? Couldn’t you have waited for me?”

“Why?” He shrugged. “You always manage well enough on your own.”

Cecile rolled her eyes. “Not this time. The broken escalator at the arrival gate threw me down and this gentleman—”

“General Fedorin, I didn’t realize we were all on the same plane.” John pumped the officer’s hand. “It looks like you’ve already met Dr. Cecile Lornier.”

The General? Oh, God. She had literally started her assignment on the wrong foot.


She registered the shock spreading over the general’s face. Her throat went dry with embarrassment.
The general touched her arm. Awareness shot up to her throat as he invaded her breathing space. Her chin tilted up a notch. “Yes?”

“I must leave now. Roussov will take care of the formalities. The opening meeting of our contract is scheduled for tomorrow at eleven, at the Hall of Officers.”

Her gaze trailed over the thin lines bracketing his lips, moved up the high-boned cheeks and tracked the midnight sparks in his eyes. His strong jaw and the small scar on his cleft chin conferred a somber expression to his beautiful face. A handsome man and a mighty officer.
Power and dynamite, she thought on a blink. Definitely not an easy-going customer she could intimidate with starchy speech.

“We’ll be there at eleven sharp, General.” John’s jovial voice intruded into her secret contemplation.

“Then I will see you tomorrow, John, Dr. Lornier.” The general shook hands with John, then raised her hand to his lips and brushed it with a kiss.

Her professional mask melted into a genuine smile. Did he always spice business with old-European, grand manners? She eased her hand out of the general’s palm and blurted the first serious thought that came to mind. “I can’t wait to visit the Belchem Lab.”

“We will go to the laboratory after the meeting. Meanwhile, we will make every effort to ensure your comfort.”

His velvety voice sent a shiver down her spine but she forced a businesslike tone. “Thank you, General. We have a lot to discuss about the contract and the lab refurbishment.”

“Yes, we do. Have a good evening, Dr. Lornier.” His gaze skimmed her face like a gentle caress, launching her heart on a much bigger roller coaster ride than the broken escalator.

For years, she had thrived on challenge in her analytical laboratory. Maybe now the real adventure had begun, with more chemistry than she’d bargained for.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Writer's Inspiration: Belarus

From where do you get the ideas of your stories?

How do you decide where to set your plot?

Are your characters real?

Writers often hear these questions from their readers.

I have three books out on the market. Let me tell you how I got the ideas to write these books. Today I will tell you about my first book TO LOVE A HERO which is on sale at

My first book TO LOVE A HERO was actually born five years before I wrote it. In a different life, or more precisely ten years ago, I was a Ph.D. in chemistry, Director of an environmental laboratory and a workaholic. I spent a boring predictable life supervising a staff of chemists who analyzed drinking water, hazardous waste and other polluted materials. Iworked twelve hours in the lab and often brought boxes of files at home.

Suddenly everything changed when I won a contract to refurbish a military laboratory in Belarus and traveled fifteen times to Minsk.

[Downtown Minsk, capital of Belarus]

[The Russian Orthodox cathedral. It was destroyed during WWII and rebuilt only fifteen years ago]

[the covered bazaar]

I didn't mind braving the ruthless cold of Belarus.

I was so well received by everyone, officers, directors, chemists, journalists, I fell in love with this country. Five years later while writing my book TO LOVE A HERO I practically lived again my fantastic trips to Belarus.

My story highlights the hospitality and warmth of the gorgeous and gallant Belarusians officers who sing, toast with vodka and make a woman feel like a goddess.

I had a lot of fun writing this book and I hope you will discover a new country and interesting culture while reading TO LOVE A HERO.

In this fictional love story between an American scientist and a Belarusian General, I related some of my experiences in Belarus. I included my fall on the broken escalator of the airport. I was rescued by my lab manager while my heroine (the smart woman) fell into the arm of a hero to die for, the handsome Major General Sergei who made her pulse race and stole her heart.

From where do you get the ideas of your stories?

How do you decide where to set your plot?

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Congratulations Kerri, Rain, Tammie, Deidre, and Debra for winning my contest. I sent your prizes today and hope you will enjoy them. Please let me know when they arrive. Thank you to every one else who sent answers.

I hope to be able to post again during the weekend. The last two weeks have been particularly difficult with my mother in the hospital for a clot and surgery. She is still in rehab. In addition, both my daughter-in-law and my son-in-law lost their jobs. They went through the usual gamut of emotions, anger, frustration, resentment, resignation, acceptance, and counting their blessings. So many people lost their jobs recently. As long as they are safe and healthy, life is good.

It's when things are difficult that I realize how reading a book can help. Believe me, I read many books in the last two weeks. I relax and escape reality with a good story and unforgettable characters.

I laughed with Divorced, Desperate and Delicious by Christi Craig, and immersed myself in historical suspense with Beneath a Silent Moon by Traci Grant. Now I am reading Dead Girls Are Easy by Terri Garey. This book won the Rita for Best First Book.

So what did you read recently?

Monday, November 17, 2008

And the Winners are...

CONGRATULATIONS on the accurate answers. Yes, you were all right.

Question #1: Which city in the Far East is considered a shoppers' world?
Question 2: Which city in the Far East has more bycicles and motorcycles than any country in the world?
Question 3: Which city hosted the 2008 Olympic?
Question 4: In which city of China is the Forbidden City located?

I was thrilled by the overwhelming number of contestants who entered my contest and sent responses to my questions. Thank you so much. I hope you had fun.

And I am delighted to announce that I received a release date for my new book, a sweet and sensual medical romance.

BABIES IN THE BARGAIN will be published by The Wild Rose Press on July 3, 2009 as ebook AND paperback.

To celebrate my good news and thank the large number of participants in my contest, I will ask my husband to pull names for five prizes instead of three. And I will email the winners on Tuesday morning.

Prizes are 1. a cloisonne bracelet from Shanghai

2- a lacquer box from Saigon

3- a paperback copy of my book TO LOVE A HERO.

AND two gorgeous pillowcases from Hong Kong.

If you like to travel and love to read, come and enjoy my international romances. I will take you around the world through stories that simmer with emotion and sizzle with heat.

Check TO LOVE A HERO, paperback book, on sale at


Mona Risk's TO LOVE A HERO is a wonderful love story complete with deception, conceit, stubbornness and the love of a lifetime for two people who couldn't be more different. Ms. Risk hits a homerun with this story. Her characters are strong. Cecile is the epitome of a woman who has had to bust her butt to get to where she is in her career, too often losing the chance at a relationship. Sergei is a totally alpha male - strong willed, determined and totally chauvinistic! Obviously the two are bound to create plenty of sparks between them.

TO LOVE A HERO is heartwarming. I loved this story, and how Cecile and Sergei fell for each other and all the difficulties they faced. I loved the descriptive passages of Belarus and could easily picture the characters walking through the streets. I definitely recommend TO LOVE A HERO , and while you're at it pick up a bottle of vodka! Nazhtrovia!!

Or Check FRENCH PERIL, ebook released by Cerridwen Press. Click here:

Blurb: What could be more exciting for a young American architect than to live in a French chateau owned by a young count and to work on the restoration of a chapel in the Loire Valley?

But when her professor is poisoned because he knew too much about a missing statue, Cheryl's summer job changes into a dangerous treasure hunt and Count François tries to protect the impetuous young woman who's turned his life upside down?

French Peril is full of mystery and intrigue. I loved Ms. Risk’s injection of humor into the story. The ending was every romance readers dream! I love happily ever afters! Pick up French Peril, a sweet mystery romance you’re guaranteed to enjoy.

Friday, November 14, 2008


We spent two days in Vietnam.

Nhan Trang is a beautiful busy port on the Sea of China with attractive beaches.

Vietnamese are essentially Buddhists. They also honor their ancestors.

We visited several temples.

The bazaars attract many tourists with their special bargains, but merchants grab your arm and push their products under your nose. We could hardly move between a human sea.

It's a beautiful country, but a poor one, too crowded and too dirty, and Saigon harbored even more bycicles and motorcycles than I have ever seen in any country, even in the Netherlands or Italy.

We visited a silk factory where hundred young women embroider silk sheets and another factory where they handmade black lacquer boxes decorated with mother of pearl decorations. Later we were presented with drinks of coconut.

Your question #1: Which city in the Far East is considered a shoppers' world?

Question 2: Which city in the Far East has more bycicles and motorcycles than any country in the world?
Question 3: Which city hosted the 2008 Olympic?
Question 4: In which city of China is the Forbidden City located?
The answers can be found in my posts of Friday November 15, Saturday November 8, Monday November 3, Thursday October 30, and Tuesday October 28.
Please email the answers to these four questions to
Prizes are 1. a cloisonne bracelet from Shanhai
2- a lacquer box from Saigon
3- a paperback copy of my book TO LOVE A HERO.

I hope you enjoyed the pictures and traveled with me to the Far East.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Taiwan and Hong Kong

Those two metropolitan cities highlight the clash between ancient religious civilizations and ultra modern capitalistic worlds.More simplistically they represent a shoppers' paradize for people who like to look for bargain.

Taiwan crowded, active, struggling to be modern with the tallest building in the world: Building 101

Taiwan respectfully honoring its leader:
Monument of Chank Kai Check. There is a museum inside and a statue that is the mirror image of the Lincoln monument of Washington DC

Taiwan, holding to its temples and traditions

HONG KONG : the busiest port in the world

A shopper's paradise. I love it!!!

Question 4: In which city of China is the Forbidden City located?

{the answers to the questions are in the different blogs describing my recent trip to china and the Far East}

Monday, November 3, 2008


This post and pictures are dedicated to a friend and fellow writer whose son is stationed in Okinawa, Japan
Okinawa is an island south of Japan.

You can't starve in Okinawa with McDonald's open 24 hours a day.

We visited a very clean, modern, and organized bazaar.

The city was destroyed during World War II and completely rebuilt, including the palace that is now a museum open to the public.

Click on the pictures to enlarge them.

Question 3: Which city hosted the 2008 Olympic?