Friday, July 30, 2010

Writing Tip -- The basic conflict

We all know what conflicts are especially when it comes to characters. Sometimes the basic conflict in a story is a little different from the conflicts the characters face. We can use something like escaping an environment that smothers a person, or good vs evil. To develop a basic conflict in your story, you must give the protagonist or protagonists a chief motivating force. To me this is the why of the story. Why do they want to change their environment? What's wrong with it that makes them desire a different environment. There must be a tangible goal to reach. To me this is the what. Just what do they want. I've often gone through a rough draft of the story before I discover just what the goal is. To reach the final goal, there are often smaller goals to reach.

When writing the Warrior of Bast, Tira, the heroine, wants to go to Egypt. She is thinking archeologically. She realizes this is impossible for her at this time. Then she receives a chance to go, but not to the Egypt of the present, but the one of the past. Now her goal has shifted. Why would she want to go there? She must decide what she really wants and why she wants this particular goal. Even after she arrives there, the basic goal is muddy. She finally knows her goal is really wanting to belong and wanting someone to love and be loved by.

In the story the motivating force also changes as the character herself changes.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Interview with Charmaine Gordon

1. What's your genre or do you write in more than one?
When I wrote To Be Continued, I never thought about genre or even that
> I was writing a book. Ta DA! Out came a romance. A tiny bit smarter
> with Starting Over,the second book, I realized I had written a
> Romance/suspense book. "Now What?" the third book to be released at
> the end of July is a paranormal.

> 2. Did you choose your genre or did it choose you?>

As you can see, the genres chose me.>

3. Is there any genre you'd like to try? Or is there one you wouldn't?

> I haven' thought about it but I do have an idea...
4. What fiction do you read for pleasure?

> Murder, mayhem, with humor. Elmore Leonard, John Sanford, Robert B.
> Parker and I like Susan Isaacs.

> 5. Tell me a bit about yourself and how long you've been writing,
Born in a small town in the Mid west-Chicago. Maybe you've heard of
> it...Oh-not that far back. I wrote skits with music and dancing in
> high school and college and later during Air Force years when my
> husband was a pilot. For many years I was an actor with daytime drama
> and movie credits and reached Off Broadway in a wonderful play "The
> Fourth Commandment." At some point I had an idea for a story. Kissing
> the sweet time of acting so long, I began to write.
6. Which of your characters is your favorite?

> I love all of my /*survive and thrive*/ women; from *Beth Malone* in
> *To Be Continued *who re-creates herself as the winner she once was
> after being abandoned by her husband-to *Emily Kendrick i*n *Starting
> Over* who learns to protect herself against the stalker determined to
> have her-and dear *Carly Evans* in *Now What?-*a widow who must thread
> the path between two worlds to find happiness.
7. Are there villains in your books and how were they created?

> Bad guys are part of the initial plan. I start with a tragedy and end
> with a resolution before the story begins. The rest falls in place.
8. What are you working on now?

Just finished *Now What?* and a short story, *Take me As I Am* to be
published in a romance anthology titled Passionate Hearts-to be
published by Vanilla Heart Publishing in the fall.
> 9. What's your latest release and how did the idea arrive?

> *"Now What? *came to me in my sleep like the other stories.

> 10. Tell me about your latest book and how it came about. Enclose the
> opening of the book around 400 words.
> *"Now What?" an excerpt
> *
* *


/ //It was 2:30 a.m. when the phone rang. I fumbled for it, my heart
starting a race toward bad news. /

/ Our doctor’s voice urged me to hurry. I crammed into clothes as if I
expected this call. Actually I thought all would be well, or did I? It was only a
fever that wouldn’t go down./

/ Only a fever yet the dogs had curled up next to him on his favorite
couch and never left his side all week. His ruddy complexion drained to gray. Only a fever. /

/ I cried all the way driving too fast on Eden’s Expressway. Then the
slow elevator ride to the fourth floor, a sprint down the dim corridor to his room.
He lay on the hospital bed where I’d kissed him goodbye not so many hours before. I’d said, “See you tomorrow.” My husband of thirty years replied with words I hadn’t heard in a long time. “I love you.” Not since the heart attack two years before when he began listening to his heart beat and forgot about me. When he said them, other words flashed across my mind, like writing on a sign: Too late,/
Bobby. Maybe we both sensed the crossroads ahead, the impending doom./

/ Our doctor shook his head. “Bob had difficulty breathing. They called
me. We did everything possible to save him. I held him in my arms when he took his
last breath. Carly, I’m so sorry.”/

/ I asked him to have everyone leave me alone. Settling in beside my
Bob, I held his cooling hand and asked the two words spoken many times during our years together. /

/“Now what?” This time there was no response. I was on my own for the
first time./

/ My hands caressed his sweet face knowing he wasn’t there. Only his shell lay on the bed. The essence, the beauty of his spirit had moved on. I let my eyes gaze around the colorless room; the water glass half empty now, straw bent for easy
access. His toothbrush leaned in a container, toothpaste smeared down its side. The scuffed leather slippers under the bed and striped terry cloth robe—a Christmas gift from the kids, draped over a nearby chair. /

/Homey and homely. And the saddest sight I’ve ever seen./

/ When my fingers touched his wedding ring, I slipped it off and held it
in my fist. The gold band was warm. I clung to him. “Come back to me, dearest.” /

/ I knew from past experience, loved ones always return./

/ /

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Developing Characters Via Astrology

When I use Astrology to cast my main characters, I use the Sun sign, the Moon sign and the Rising sign. The Sun denotes the person's inner self. The Moon shows the emotional self and the Rising sign shows the face the character shows to the world. When using this for characters this system gives one a vast variety of traits for their characters. I'm no mathematician but think of twelve times twelve times twelve and probably even more. There's something for every character. And even more. Minor characters can have just one set of traits. What I'll be doing here is making lists of traits for each of the three types of signs. Sometimes the characteristics are even opposites or if you're designing a multi-layered villain the traits can be turned from positive to negative. Each week, I'll start with one of the signs and list the traits.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Writer and Observation

Still reading John Gardner's On Becoming a Writer. This time he talks about the writer as an observer. To be a writer takes a special kind of curiosity. Watching people and listening to their conversations. What does that gesture mean? Why that expression? By watching other people the writer adds to their way of expressing what they mean in words.

Mr. Gardner also related a personal experience that reminded me of a very dark time in my life and my reaction to what was going on. My husband had an aneurysm where the aorta comes off the heart. The doctor told me there was a fifty/fifty chance of his survival. Worried, I really was but I also sat in the waiting room with other people thinking about their loved ones. Besides my worries, I also remember saying to myself, this could be material for a book. Not the actual situation but the emotions, not only mine but the ones on the other people's faces. Watching them, I think I observed in one person or another all the stages of grieving. I listened to conversations and invented stories while I also listened and felt my own sense of helplessness.

When I read what he wrote on the subject and this was many years ago, I felt relieved. The splitting of the self into parts was one of the traits of a writer.

Monday, July 26, 2010

My Writing Life - Last week's wonderful news

Yje week began with a review of The Dragons of Fyre by Bitten By Books ad garnered a 4. Here's a snipped from the review.

The world and characters of The Dragon of Fyre are outstanding. I particularly liked the fact that the absolute hero of the story was a dragon and not the humans. He was not only the keeper of dragon wisdom but also the mentor and healer of Drakon. The story is vibrant, and the characters are portrayed as people doing the best they can and persevering in horrendous conditions. The author led the characters and reader along beautifully on the journey of healing and love.

Then came the review for Flight, another 4. Here's a snippet.

Flight by Janet Lane Walters
Publisher: Mundania Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Age Recommendation: 12+
Length: Full Length (233 pgs)
Rating: 4 Suns
Reviewed by Aloe

"We’ve been betrayed." Those words spoken by the Dom and Doma of the Wesren henge awaken their four children—two sets of male-female twins.

Each child has an affinity for one of the four elements—earth, air, fire and earth. In secret, the young teens flee their home to seek a place of safety and teachers to hone their control. They use their emerging talents in ways they never imagined.

Will their quest succeed or will they become pawns of He Who Walks In Darkness?
Would you like to have an affinity that is magical and gives you powers? What if you aren’t sure how to use or what to do with it?

This is the story of two sets of twins that have such a talent. The oldest twins are just celebrating their 14th name day when disaster hits. Soldiers are at the gate and a rival Dom is ready to take over their henge (a castle-like structure).

Ash is the oldest and is given responsibility for her twin and two younger siblings. They are guided into a secret tunnel and sent out into the woods and on to a neighboring community named Cedris. Their parents remain behind.

What intrigued me about this story was that it included two sets of twins and magic. They are young and just beginning to understand what their abilities are, but they don’t have full control of their magic yet. And then the world they know falls apart…

The author does a good job of expressing their loneliness, fear and insecurities in the traveling they have to do and the new life they must begin. The siblings all have their strengths and weaknesses. The youngest girl is very impetuous and impulsive. There is squabbling between the siblings as well as very nasty dangers facing the group. There is good and evil in the world they live in, and they are caught in the middle with no guidance on how to proceed. The characters are resourceful, full of spirit and resilient. They also make a few mistakes along the way, which makes them seem more human.

This is a fast-paced, well-written story that grips you and carries you along, wanting to see what is going to happen next. The world this author created has richness and poverty, enslaves and tortures children and adults, and rival groups seeking power. You can feel the children’s terror, admire their ability to find food and survive, and you know they can’t trust anyone they meet.

The book indicates this is the first novel in a series, and two more are planned. I’m glad. This was an entertaining read and has just enough danger and imagination to keep your attention. I’m looking forward to seeing how the twins conquer their problems.
The last great thing is getting a pub date for The Warriors of Bast and also the great thing my new publisher did for me. You can see it here including the book cover and a chance to read an excerpt/

What my new publisher has done. Check here to see the cover and to read an excerpt.

I'm pleased to offer my book The Warrior of Bast for a free preview here -

Please read it and share the same with your other friends.

I'd love to hear your feedback on my book.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Writing Tip - The protagonist and the environment

So just what is the environment of the story. The most evident part is the setting, the places your protagonist inhabits or visits. The home, the work space, things like this. Environment is more. No one exists in a vacuum, even those on a space ship have an environment. A second part of a protagonist's environment is the social or cultural area of life. Big city, small town, a foreign country, a particular social group like a social class, wealth, poverty, educational status, job choice, all of these make up part of the environment for the characters in the story. Often one or more of the characters moves from one environment to another. the city slicker on a farm or a ranch, the patient in a hospital, these are the sort of things that make for a dynamic to the story.

How can the environment be used when writing. The setting can be used to set the mood of a story. Think of Gothic novels and the spooky house, or a hospital in medical stories, especially those of suspense, the seashore in a light hearted romance. By choosing bits of a setting to emphasize the mood a writer wants to infuse their story through and the setting becomes an important part of the story.

The social environment can add depth to a story. Rich versus poor, rebel against establishment. These things do play a role often in the characteristics and motives of the protagonists.

There is another way. Suppose your character just loves their entire environment. There's no real story there. Maybe some scenes but there's no conflict. A protagonist can be dissatisfied with his environment all or part of the time. This is how stories are built. Suppose there is a change in the character's environment. In Murder and Mint Tea, the protagonist's son finds her a tenant who changes the dynamics of a neighborhood. This is a devise I've often used. Perhaps the protagonist experiences a change in their environment. In my latest, the Warrior of Bast, the heroine is sent into another environment and must deal with the changes.
Perhaps a stranger comes into the protagonist's environment and makes changes. There are many ways to use the environment in developing characters. Just let your imagination roll and add changes in the environment and see what develops.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Interview with Teel

I met Teel at EPICON in Virginia Beach. During a reading session, he blew me away. I read from my printed out pages while he recited his from memory complete with gestures and emotional expression. At the banquet, he wore his kilt. I do like men in kilts.

1. What's your genre or do you write in more than one?

I really don’t recognize genre’s as such—I consider myself an adventure writer, but since there is no direct market for that I write horror/adventure, fantasy/adventure, romance/adventure, thriller/adventure etc.
Since the characters are what really matter for me it is not hard to adapt to the conventions of the given genres.

2. Did you choose your genre or did it choose you?

Oh, the muse chose me! I was exposed to the great writers and classic adventure films as a young, sickly child and heroes like the Lone Ranger, Tarzan and Doc Savage called to me…

3. Is there any genre you'd like to try? Or is there one you wouldn't?

I’ve written in almost every genre imaginable including westerns and MM fantasy so I can’t really see where –if the characters took me there or I was commissioned- I couldn’t go with a good yarn.

4. What fiction do you read for pleasure?

I read the Spenser books, Robert E. Howard, the Doc Savage series (or almost anything by Lester Dent the author), the Modesty Blasé series, O’Henry, Poe, Hawthorne, E.R. Burroughs, Hammet, John Carol Daily are all books that I read for pure enjoyment as well as technique.
I also read a lot of non-fiction and historical works.

5. Tell me a bit about yourself and how long you've been writing,

I’m a native of Brooklyn though I’ve traveled the world for thirty years as a Stuntman/ Fight choreographer/ Swordmaster, Jouster, Book Illustrator, Storyteller, Bodyguard and Actor. I’ve been lucky to study under the head of the Seoul Military Academy and Errol Flynn’s last stunt double and feel obligated to ‘pass that on’. I was head instructor at the Hollywood Stunts professional stunt-training center in New York and teach stage combat and swordplay at the New York Film Academy and for Different Directions school group.

I have always written, I had stories and articles printed in scores of magazines from Mad to Black Belt and Fantasy Tales among others over the years but five years ago when I was laid up with a lung infection I pulled out old stories, retooled them and took the plunge into world of eBooks. 25 books from 5 publishers later I know it is the right path for me. I’d like to ease out of the fight work into the keys-for-food world full time.

My greatest achievement however, is my awesome daughter Aislin Rose.

6. Which of your characters is your favorite?

Oh what a Sophie’s choice—I guess my trick answer is whomever I’m writing at the moment. But the most fun to write has to be Moxie Donovan—he is such a wise acre…
Next would be T.K. Mitchell from my Altiva fantasy series for pretty much the same reason. Smart aleck is fun to ‘live’.

7. Are there villains in your books and how were they created?

Can’t have a good hero without a good villain but unlike a lot of writers I strive to keep my heroes more interesting—I do not find evil attractive and don’t think it should be portrayed as such. The badguy usually doesn’t think of himself as a badguy, so I try to connect with his humanity but I don not like to spend time on justifying their evil.

Too many people confuse ‘protagonist’ with ‘hero’ because they are too lazy to work at finding the reason why someone is a hero and the cost he-or she- has to pay for the job.

8. What are you working on now?

I’m part way into a period adventure novel set in 1937 in Manchuria called “Manchurian Shadows.” It is in my Dr. Shadows series and deals with the Japanese occupation and the germ warfare experiments done on the locals. It is a thriller with a social conscience.

9. What's your latest release and how did the idea arrive?

Deadline Zombies: the Adventures of Maxi and Moxie just came out from

“Chasing a headline is just a job for ace reporter Moxie Donovan, but sometimes those headlines turn on him and bite. Moxie, along with his sexy better half, Maxi (a theater and film actress) face a tiger-sized panther, mechanical gunmen who support the master race, Irish Fae with the urge to pay Moxie back for the loot his grandfather took from them, murder and a hypnotist intent on re-filming Ben Hur.”
Their adventures started as almost an afterthought when I was writing a story in my Skullmask horror/adventure series. I had always like the old wise-cracking reporter films of the thirties and decided to use such a narrator for a Skullmask story. Within two paragraphs I knew I wanted to know more about the reporter and the rest is history (or myth at least) as they say.

10. Tell me about your latest story and how it came about. Enclose the opening of the book around 400 words.

The Traveler’s Tale , out from Eternal Press is my first trip to a new fantasy world The Seven Kingdoms- that I have since written two other stories in. I wanted to explore the outsider-loner hero in a completely new place (I have several other fantasy worlds-Altiva, the pseudo historical Dr. Argent stories) but nothing set in a world with no connections to our earth –in Altiva our window to the world is an Earthman, T.K. Mitchell.

And I wanted to write something with an old fashioned, romantic fell that had a little of Dark Shadows and a little of Prisoner of Zenda in it…

The first chapter starts this way:

Chapter One
A Stable State

“I don’t have any use for Gypsies myself,” the blonde Pyrran lad said with a cold laugh, “except maybe for target practice.”

“Naw, Midan,” his friend said, “seems the Crown found another good use for one of them damn Darkhairs.”

My name is Korvan Orm and I am what the rest of the world calls a Varnian Gypsy, or, insultingly, “Darkhair”. We call ourselves, simply, the Travelers. I was backed against the wall of the barn while the two stablehands, armed with cudgels, advanced on me with a look in their eyes that I had seen before: pure racial hate.

“Linden,” Midan said, “I am a loyal Pyrran but I swear I can’t see the sense the King has in letting scum like this have even a job shoveling horse droppings. I lost a brother fighting in Ardulia to keep Pyrran pure and then they let this sort walk the streets with full citizen rights.”

The two men were big and broad with faces that might have been handsome had they not been twisted with an almost bestial rage. Their blue eyes were fixed on me with very clear, vicious intent. They were dressed in rustic leather jerkins that were stained with tobacco and ale. A few stains just might have been blood picked up after their night at the tavern. On their arms they wore the sleeve markers of the “Pure Pyrran” cult that was sweeping the country because of the bad state of things.

“Gentlemen,” I said with the best, non-threatening smile I could muster, “surely you have me confused with someone else. I am from Shinaria.”

The two thugs exchanged a startled look at that, not because my statement was credible but for exactly the opposite. Shinarians were blonder and paler then my new playmates. Like most of my race, I am dark, tall and lean (well, young Travelers are lean—it’s amazing what pear-shaped fellows so many of the elders become with us young bloods doing all the work).

Midan, who seemed to be the lead buck, shook his head and smiled an ugly smile. “You think we are as stupid as a Gypsy, huh?”


This may be my middle name. I often tell people that I sold the first book I wrote and that it had been re-written 17 times. This may be a slight exaggeration but it's true about the revisions. This was in the days when publishers nourished writers. Each rejection pointed a different thing that I had to work on to make the book ready to print. What I received from these generous editors was a crash course in writing. I can remember some of the comments. "Dialogue stilted." So I went in and made the dialogue much clearer and specific to each character. "Are they living in a vacuum?" This time I went back to put in settings. Some pointed out flaws in the plot and I worked on those. You get the picture. What persistence did way pay off by a sale. That book was reprinted in England and was serialized in a weekly paper. All these things brought in a bit of money. Another thing I learned from all this was to work on each book until it was finished. No jumping around to starting a book and hitting a stone wall and putting it aside. I chip at the wall until there's a break through.

So if you feel discouraged, just remember that persistence pays. I have my dream now. I'm no NY Times best seller but I have fans who will buy everything I write. And they're growing in number. That's another reward of persistence.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Back to reading John Gardner for some inspiration. "Detail is the lifeblood of fiction." Had to think about this some since I'm often told that my details sound like laundry lists. Re-reading what he wrote about this by details he meant those little things that bring a character to life. Their gestures, their reactions and their actions. He was talking about showing and not telling. Details seem to be find when describing settings. Is there a way to make these details come to life? Sure it. That means the character interacting with an object or with a setting. The sight of the house always brought a nostalgic sadness, knowing the ranch had once been the home she could never feel comfortable visiting. Boy does this kind of thing evoke curiosity. One can tell about incidents in the past but it they have no effect on the present story, they may not need to be there unless they can be brought to mean something to one character or another. So making sure your details show the character in some kind of emotion, action or reaction makes the character and the story live.

Monday, July 19, 2010

My Writing Life - Who Am I?

I jokingly call myself the eclectic writer because I write in a number of genres. I found a site a sort of who do you write like. This is what came back. Note, there are six different authors. Ann Rice, HP Lovecraft, Neil Gorman, JD Salinger, Dan Brown and Stephen King. Among these are mostly writers I don't read and one I've never heard of. Where does that leave me. I think as a writer I am myself and while the phrasing and word choice may imitate these other writers, I think my voice is many faceted. Perhaps that's why I'll never be a major player in the writing game. Does that matter? Not really. I like jumping around and doing the unexpected. What can one expect from someone who has Uranus, the planet of change sitting right on their Ascendant.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Writing Tip -- Protagonist

Once you have your idea for a novel, you need a person through whose eyes the reader will see the story unfold. There can be more than one main character and each one must tie into the idea in some way. In romances, there are usually two -- the heroine and the hero. What a writer needs to decide is how each fits into the idea. In romances, usually the idea is love winning out. In a mystery there are often the hero/heroine and the villain. Each fits a facet of the idea. Crime does or does not pay.

I sometimes write stories with many main characters. The idea here is that each must fit the idea. In the YA I'm working on, the fourth of the story the main idea is good versus evil and this often fits into the fantasy novel as an idea but I have given my young protagonists affinities with the elements -- Earth, Air, Water and Fire. So here there are a number of ideas that must be blended into the major idea. Hard work but slowly I'm getting there. Because there are a number of protagonists on the hero/heroine side, there are a number of villains. In this cast only one has a viewpoint and that is in the final book. He has been designed to fit into the idea of the book which started with my imagining what if someone could control Earth, Air, Fire and Water.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Interview with Chelle Corders

I met Chelle at a RWA meeting and got involved with several of her projects. Have read several of her books and enjoyed them very much. She's also responsible for my latest publisher Vanilla Heart Publishing.

1. What is your genre or do you write in more than one?

My main concentration is Romantic-Suspense although I have attempted a few forays into Mystery/Thriller.

2. Did you choose your genre or did it choose you?

I started out writing the type of story that I enjoy reading - Suspense; add to that, I am a hopeless romantic and think everyone should be in love.

3. Is there any genre you'd like to try or one you would rather avoid?

I have never been a huge Sci-Fi fan although I've been pleasantly surprised by a few good stories, but I don't think I have the type of knowledge necessary to write a successful and believable Science-Fiction... maybe one day I will try only because I believe in stretching oneself.

4. What fiction do you read for pleasure?

Love stories, romantic fiction, romantic suspense - I don't care for the old stereotype of romance with the helpless damsel in distress (most romance has NOT been about that thank goodness). I like to read about men and women who are strong (emotionally) and yet human with flaws,

5. Tell me a bit about yourself and how long you've been writing?

I've been writing... forever. My writing career has grown in stages but the earliest writing goes back to my childhood when my sister and I wrote a poem/story about Martians! I went to school for theatre and drama, and my courses included playwriting and reviewing. I also studied Creative Writing under the guidance of poet Daisy Aldan.

I wrote my first (published) newspaper article when I was 19. "Many" years later when I was pregnant with our daughter I started writing full-time for newspapers and magazines (hard news, advertorial, human interest, and opinion pieces). My first novel with Vanilla Heart Publishing came out in 2008.

6. Which of your characters is your favorite and where can she be found?

This is difficult because I tend to fall in love with all of my main characters.

It's a choice between 2 for heroines - Caitlyn from His Lucky Charm (formerly Forgotten) and Julie from Final Sin. Caitlyn lost a lot in her young life and yet, while it has left her with some insecurities, she is an amazingly upbeat person, very devoted to family and very supportive of those she cares about. Julie in Final Sin has a wild, untamed streak which I can relate to - she is also a Paramedic which is a profession I hold in very high regard. She is intelligent, devoted to her patients, thinks quickly and shows courage in her job and life.

Although you asked "where can she be found", I also have a favorite male character - Tom Hughes. Tom is introduced in His Lucky Charm and has his own story in Within the Law. Tom is Caitlyn's cousin and best friend, he is patient, down to earth, emotionally and physically strong - and ALL Alpha male with just a touch of bad boy in him.

7. Are there villains in your books and how are they created?

What is life without some "bad guys"? Villains can be bad or evil for a variety of reasons - cruelty, selfishness, obstinancy, and of course outright dastardliness. I don't believe that anyone is all good or all bad, people make their own choices as to which path to follow. Believe it or not, a "good guy" and a "bad guy" can share the same motivations, it's how they go about achieving their goals that makes a difference. The villain, or bad guy, thinks only of their needs and wants and is inconsiderate of other people's feelings. Most bad guys are rationale even if not admirable - although the occasional psychopath (as in Final Sin) certainly makes life interesting!

8. What are you working on now?

I am following up on one of the supporting characters from Final Sin - Matt Garratti, Julie's good friend and former Paramedic partner. Matt is now married with a family and he's made changes in his career and venue - he is now a Flight Medic in North Carolina. Like Final Sin, this book will also be a Mystery/Thriller.

9. How did the idea for your latest release occur and what is the name of the book?

Common Bond, Tangled Hearts. I had overheard a conversation about a woman who decided she had reached a point in her life where she wanted to be a parent so she was going to a clinic to be artificially inseminated. My overactive imagination wondered how much connection there was to the biological donors/parents.There is an expression that any man can be a father but it takes a special man to be a dad; Justin and Layne find out just how true that is.

10. How does your latest book open? Include the first bit 400 to 500 words.

Confrontation - both my readers and the main characters are thrown directly into the first abrasive meeting between parents of the same child. A lot of questions remain to be answered.


If he was reading her surprised expression right, she was expecting somebody else to be on the other side of the door when she swung it wide open. Cautiously, the willowy blonde pushed the door partly closed before politely inquiring if she could help him.

Justin took his time letting his eyes roam from her short, tousled hair down to her very long legs. He noticed, in typical male fashion, how very shapely those long legs were. She was wearing a loose fitting shirt and cut off jeans, her feet were bare.

Layne felt uncomfortable as the stranger's eyes made their leisurely excursion. She closed the door just a little bit more and then fortified her courage with the thought that her nosy neighbor, Mrs. Addamson, would open her door at the least little yell she might make.

"Is there something you want?" She impatiently asked him and then blushed when his eyes flew up to meet hers with an amused smile.

Oh baby, where have you been all my life? He thought and then smiled politely. "I was looking for…" he carefully checked a piece of paper he held in his hand. "…for Layne Gillette." Justin said 'Lane'.

She refrained from correcting his pronunciation. For the last few years, Layne had explained to people that it was pronounced like Janie except with an L.

"Who's asking?" No matter that he seemed to fit the exact description of tall, dark and handsome that she and her friends always joked about, she was wary of any stranger who came looking for her.

"My name is Justin Ross…" He waited just a moment to see if there was any recognition, he was disappointed. "I was told that Layne Gillette lives here."

"It's Lay-nee…" She was expressionless.

"Hi, I take it you're Lay-nee?" His eyebrows arched as he emphasized the proper


"What do you want?" Layne inconspicuously braced herself against the door so she could slam it forcefully in his face if need be.

"It's… uh… personal. May I come in?" He was mesmerized by her golden eyes.

"No." She was firm.

It took a moment before her refusal totally sunk in. Not many dared to refuse Justin Ross anything. He took a deep breath in and started to patiently explain to her that he needed to speak with her privately. "Look, I just came a long way… and we really need to talk…"

"Hey Mom, is that Rita?" The childlike voice startled the both of them. Layne turned her head to answer when Justin pushed on the door with his hand and knocked her off-balance. The door swung open and Justin got his first look at the little boy who had his mother's golden eyes. Like his own hair, the boy had jet-black curly locks and the contrast was extraordinary.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Walking in other people's shoes

While reading On Becoming an Author, I came across this need for a writer and I found it very interesting. Yo me, it means becoming the character you're writing about. This holds especially true for your major characters. A writer needs to step into the character's life and discover likes, dislikes and other things. If not, all the characters come out sounding and acting the same.

Putting yourself into a hero or heroine is usually not hard, or is it? I've read many stories where the dialogue of one character could be said by another just as easily. Are there tricks to learning to live the lives of your characters? There are some tricks to be learned. Choose the character's occupation and try to be around people wo practice that profession. Here's where you learn the buzz words and the attitudes they bring to life in general. Listen to how people speak to each other. Read books on psychology and other aspects of human interactions. Write a scene from one of the character's viewpoints and then do it again from another character in the scene. How do they differ. Tear the scenes apart and do it again.

For me, Astrology often gives me an insight into the complex natures of my characters. What you need to do is become the character, not yourself telling about the character. Showing is the word and if it means tearing up or revising do it. Actually revision is fun since it allows you to add layers to the characters. This doesn't mean substituting one word for another. It means putting the feelings in and in your mind becoming the character you are writing about. I once read a statement that creativity is akin to madness. For just a bit, you need to enter a state of madness.

Monday, July 12, 2010

My Writing Life

Sold another book and this means I have four plus a novella waiting to be published. The Warrior of Bast is an alternate world, fantasy romance. Does it cross all those genres. It does. There's also a bit of the paranormal there since my heroine comes from this world to an ancient Egypt that's slightly different from the one she has studied. Tira is also sort of based on my oldest granddaughter and partly on my own dreams of being a heroine and visiting ancient Egypt when there were people there. I've begun a new story and have finished the formatting from -----. Took me four days to make the computer continue to behave and give me the indents I wanted. Not fun but it's done.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Writing Tips -- Ideas

A question I'm often asked is where do you get your ideas? My answer is everywhere and ideas are out there. But not all ideas can be translated into works of fiction. I have a whole stack of ideas that haven't gone anywhere and probably won't. Another author could take one of them and fly with it.

Let's look at the idea that came from something that's happened to you. How to turn this into a story. I had a neighbor who was not a nice person and I wanted to kill her after some of the things she did. This idea evolved over several years and she turned into a young woman with no conscience who moved into a neighborhood and who attempted to destroy a number of lives including the heroine of the cozy mystery's family and friends. How did the evolution take place. By asking that question, what if. This was followed by another question, how about. Finally I had to remove the personal feelings and cast them into fictional ones.

The idea needs to be removed from the personal when trying to turn it into a book.

Another way ideas arrive is by just wishing something happened to ourselves. What if I won the lottery? What if I was a kick-ass heroine? From there the idea is taken from the factual to the fictional. The heroine or hero becomes your fictional alter ego. Sounds like fun.

Something we read or hear on the news is another jump start for a story. Again, the questions what if and how about come into play.Reading books, magazines, and well, maybe not cereal boxes, can raise ideas. Talking to friends may trigger ideas. It's getting the ideas from that stage to the book where asking yourself. What about this idea stimulates me? What if this could really happen? How about twisting the idea? What kind of characters do I need to design.

When the idea comes to you write it down. There are times when I forget to do this and then the idea is lost. I use scraps of papers, note books and sometimes index cards. Having ideas is fun and remember not all of them will work for you and the ones who do have to be taken from the factual to the fictional.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Interview __ Carly Phillips

I've known Carly for a long time and remember her early writing. We were members of the same critique group for many years and struggled with the ups and downs of writing and families. She watched me semi-raise my granddaughter and I watched her raise her girls. Her success was won through hard work. Janet

> 1. What's your genre or do you write in more than one?

I'm a contemporary girl at heart. I love to read contemporary and I love to write it. My preference is light contemporary although my new Berkley books will be a touch more serious than the ones out this summer (KISS ME IF YOU CAN 7/27 and LOVE ME IF YOU DARE 8/30).
> 2. Did you choose your genre or did it choose you?

Both. I chose contemporary from the beginning and I chose category romance. I started trying to sell to Silhouette Special Edition and ended up being tempted (pun intended) by Brenda Chin at Harlequin Temptation to write for that line, which was the first book/line I ultimately sold to.
> 3. Is there any genre you'd like to try? Or is there one you wouldn't?
I would love to try paranormal but I don't have that kind of mind/thought process. I wouldn't try Romantic Suspense for the same reason. I have a linear mind. Twists and turns are hard for me. That's why I have plotting partners who have those strengths.

> 4. What fiction do you read for pleasure?
I read contemporary romance, the same kind I write:
I also read

> 5. Tell me a bit about yourself and how long you've been writing,

At one time I liked this question. Now it just freaks me out because I can't believe how fast time flies. I started writing 18 years ago. (How is that possible?) My oldest daughter was all of one year old. She's graduating high school this week. I'm a work from home Mom, I have two girls, ages 18 and 14 (youngest is graduating middle school this week) a hubby and two soft coated wheaten terriers. I love reading contemps, I recently started knitting and love that too!!
> 6. Which of your characters is your favorite?

Wow. Tough one. Can't pick. And I took a break to try and decide, too!
> 7. Are there villains in your books and how were they created?

Occasionally I will do "bad guys" or villains, but they are usually more obvious than not and a plot device rather than a true mystery. KISS ME IF YOU CAN, out this summer is a similar book.
> 8. What are you working on now?
My first book in a new contract for BERKLEY about a fictional upstate NY town called SERENDIPITY. The book is the story of the town but also of three brothers, the first of whom is returning after ten years. He has plenty of wrongs to right. It's about second chances, the road not taken, things like that. I'm very excited about the story!
> 9. What's your latest release and how did the idea arrive?

In one month, KISS ME IF YOU CAN (7/27/10) followed by LOVE ME IF YOU DARE (8/30/10) in the Bachelor Blogs/Most Eligible Bachelor series. These are very light contemporaries that I had a blast writing.
> 10. How does the book open? Show the opening scene-- 400 to 500 words.
Sam Cooper approached his favorite hot dog stand, his stomach grumbling at the sight of the blue and yellow umbrellas shading the cart from the blazing sun. Fresh from a boring press conference where the mayor and police commissioner announced the long awaited wrap-up of a string of apartment burglaries on the upper west side, Coop had his digital recorder in one pocket and cash in another.

The aroma of New York’s finest hot dog had his mouth watering. “Hey, Dom. How’s business today?” he asked the owner.

“Can’t complain. Busy lunch crowd. Slow now but it’ll pick up again during the commute.” The older man, tanned from his days outside, lifted the metal lid, revealing Coop’s belated lunch. “The usual?”

Coop nodded. “The works. Actually make it two. I haven’t eaten since breakfast.”

He glanced at his watch. Nearly three P.M. Enough time for him to eat and get his story in before heading home for the day.

While Dom placed his hot dogs in their buns and began loading them up, Coop glanced around his city. On a hot August day like this one, few people wandered around outside. The smart ones high tailed it out of town, heading for the ritzy Hamptons or Jersey Shore. Others holed up inside, with their A.C. blasting.

Coop’s favorite hot dog stand was located on the corner of 47th Street and Park Avenue South. A people watcher by nature, part of what led him to become a reporter he supposed, Coop always studied the stores and buildings in the vicinity, and the people entering and exiting each.

As usual, The Vintage Jewelers caught his eye. It didn’t strike him as upscale. Instead it was rather ordinary. As if to compensate, the window changed often, rotating gaudy, elaborate pieces almost daily. Usually only women frequented the establishment, no big surprise, but today a man wearing a sweatshirt, hood over his head, stood inside.

“Strange,” Coop muttered, since the heat from the sun had him sweating in his shirt and the steam coming off the sidewalk blistered the souls of his shoes.

“Dogs are ready,” Dom said, distracting Coop’s attention.
But not before Coop caught sight of what looked like a gun in the man’s hand.


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Visual pictures

This is the inspirational. As writers we must use words to create a picture of the people and places we write about. Once again I've been reading John Gardner's On Becoming A Writer. In there he said a number of things. One was about cliches. Another was how we're influenced by television, movies and other people's writing. Another thing was how the flavor of our writing word choices comes from the general area where we were raised. This hit a nerve but as I looked at my own writing, I began to see some truths in this statement.

Let's look at cliches. I love them but I know they're tired and trite. Sometimes they seem to say exactly what you wanted to say. I know when I finish a rough draft I have dozens and I try to remove them. Sometimes single words used as description are cliches. Broad shoulders. Do all heros have broad shoulders. Lately I've been seeing this in a lot of romances. He clasped her small hand. Seems that too many heroines have small hands. One of the tricks to getting rid of cliches is to cast the words into the frame of your particular works. Into the frying pan, could become into the autoclave if your character is in the medical profession. A way to rid yourself of the broad shoulder, small hands sort of thing is to show those in a different way. His shoulders rivaled Atlas's. That sort of thing.

Now the outside influences. When we watch a car chase on the screen and then write one in out manuscript, we often borrow from that. Sometimes it's hard to know if the words you've written have been written before. Some writers I know never read in the genre they write. Others often do. Here I think it depends on a writer's vision. Are the scenes depicted really copies of ones they've read of seen. I don't mean exact copies but rather echoes of what they've seen or read.

Where we live and how it effects our writing. People who were raised in cities tend to use different words and phrasing than those raised in the country. In my own writing I find that being born in a town that was an extension of a big city and where people used mainly verbs and nouns that I often struggle with descriptions. I also trained as a nurse and this had helped choose my vocabulary and being terse. When I returned to writing after a long stint working as a nurse even verbs and nouns came slowly. I'm not one for long flowery passages. Not that there's anything wrong with these. Even when writing poetry, my poems tend to be terse and to the point.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The New beginning

As I said in yesterday's blog, I headed in a new direction with the opening of my new start. If you want to see what the original opening was. you can read the first two paragraphs that I posted last week. Here goes for the new one.

"The time has come." Ash bolted upright. Her heart pounded like a maddened drummer hammering a staccato rhythm. Her gaze swept the room. Her companions slept. Had someone spoken or had the words been an event in a dream she couldn't remember. When her heart slowed, she cautiously opened her senses to read the winds of the keep. With her affinity for Air she found the only person awake was the doma and the words hadn't been hers.

Fingers of moonlight slid through cracks in the shutters of the windows. She eased her feet into her slippers and crept across the room to peer outside. A gasp sounded when she saw the birds, one white and one dark, circling above the keep. She rubbed her arms to erase the chill of the late winter cold. "Mama. Papa," she whispered. "What does your appearance portent." Since the destruction of the Wesren henge the birds had appeared as an omen or a warning. What was the meaning now?

Monday, July 5, 2010

My writing life -- Critique group and me

At our last critique, I read the start of a new book. I felt there was a problem with the start but wasn't sure what it was. After hearing the comments, I thought about what they had said. They were right and wrong. What I'd done was load the beginning with too many people and too many problems they faces. They made some good suggestions for cuts in the opening. What they really did was make me think about the following questions. Did I begin in the right place? Was there too much back story in the first seven pages? What about characters? Had I allowed the reader to get a feeling for the character through whose eyes the scene will unfold?

The answer to some of these questions was a definite yes. Since this is an ensemble story with eight characters sharing the viewpoint, I had to find a way to let the reader be with each character during their part of the narrative. It's not that I began in the wrong place or with the wrong character. Jamming was what I'd done and I'd made the problems so dire that the characters would have to run off in five or more directions and nothing would be accomplished except a mess. Part of this is that I have lived with these characters and the developing situations through three prior books. This is the last one and will complete the cycle.

I've taken the opening apart and pulled what I think should be known in the beginning and reorganized the story. I'll post the new first few paragraphs tomorrow and hopefully those who heard the first will comment on what I've done. If not at next critique group, I'll read it again.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Proofing your mss

Thw great opus is finished. You've run it through the spell and grammar checker and found those little errors. Have they all been found. Maybe yes and maybe no. They aren't going to find clam instead of calm or she instead of the and a number of other things. I often find this happens when I have two letters that are close together on the keyboard, like m and n. So can becomes cam. ran becomes tan, you get the picture. How to solve this since you want to send out the perfect manuscript for consideration? I've tried proofing on the computer but I've found that doesn't always work. Witness one mss I sent out and the wrong choice word was on the first page and the second paragraph. This is my tip.

I print out what I'm going to send out single space and then I sit with a ruler and read line by line with the ruler allowing me to only see one line at a time. This sounds like this might take a long time but I finished a nearly 300 page mss in about an hour. I'm not reading for story but for typos. I found one or two in each of the thirty three chapters. Did I find them all. I hope so but I'm not holding my breath. I've one book that has an error that I did not find, my first reader didn't find, the copy editor didn't find and neither did the editor.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Interview -- Jenna Kernan

I have known Jenna since she arrived at HVRWA to join this group of writers both published and unpublished. She writes some neat historicals but my favorites oh her stories are the paranormal romances.

1. What's your genre or do you write in more than one?

I was first published in Western historical romance for Harlequin in 2003 and have nine books set in unusual settings. My heroes tend to be trappers, trackers and explorers, rather than cowboys. More recently I sold a trilogy, based on Native American Mythology, to Silhouette Nocturne and now also write paranormal romance.

2. Did you choose your genre or did it choose you?

I enjoy writing what I most enjoy reading. I’ve always loved Historical Romance, Paranormal Romance and Time Travel. I also have a weak spot for Fantasy and Science Fiction.

3. Is there any genre you'd like to try? Or is there one you wouldn't?

I’d love to write a time travel and look forward to their return to popularity. Thrillers and women’s fiction aren’t my favorite, though I have read some of those as well.

4. What fiction do you read for pleasure?

I’m currently gobbling up paranormals and wandering through historical romances. I love Vikings, Pirates, Highway Men, Highlanders and Native American Heroes. Shapeshifters are cool, because they retell one of my all-time favorite fairytales: Beauty and the Beast

5. Tell me a bit about yourself and how long you've been writing,

I’ve been writing fiction for nearly two decades and have been published for eight years. I didn’t sell at first because I had to do a lot of on-the-job training, kind of like picking up a violin and telling yourself that you’re going to try out for First Violin in the community orchestra. It’s a nice goal, but also requires work, patience and luck. Now I’m writing about three books a year.

I keep my website updated and there is some more information about me. The address is:

6. Which of your characters is your favorite?

Oh, I’d have to say I’m in love with whichever hero I’m writing at the time. But I do have a special place in my heart for my first hero, Thomas Nash, WINTER WOMAN, 2003 and also for my first shapeshifter hero, Sebastian, DREAM STALKER, 2009.

7. Are there villains in your books and how were they created?

My first romances used nature as the villain. Nature can be very cruel and completely unforgiving of mistakes. My first heroine survived a winter alone in a wagon in the Rocky Mountains (WINTER WOMAN, 2003), a feat I would say was impossible if it were not based on historical fact.

My paranormal trilogy (DREAM STALKER, 2009) has a wonderful villain, who is the ruler of ghosts and responsible for collecting the evil ones from the living world. This story recently won The Book Buyers Best Award in the Paranormal category and is the first of there. I’m expecting the next release in May of 2011. There are excerpts of DREAM STALKER up at my website:

8. What are you working on now?

I just finished copy edits on my September release, HIS DAKOTA CAPTIVE and a Christmas novella out in October in the anthology collection titled: WESTERN WINTER WEDDING BELLES. I’m about done with my first draft of the next historical with a working title, PARTNERING LILY. This one is set in Alaska.

9. What's your latest release and how did the idea arrive?

His Dakota Captive, Harlequin Historicals, September 2010

Western Winter Wedding Belles, October 2010

And then a Silhouette Nocturne in May of 2011.

10. How does your latest release begin? Give us an excerpt 400 - 500 words.

HIS DAKOTA CAPTIVE, Harlequin Historicals, September 2010, by Jenna Kernan

Lucie West eyed the unusual man tying his horse at the hitching post before the blacksmith’s shop. His bearing struck her first because it seemed familiar in its supple grace. He did not stand or move like a soldier as he flipped the stirrup over the saddle and loosened the girth. She ran the length of him trying to understand why the sight of this stranger should stop her in her tracks. He was taller than most and broad…what?

Where was his hat? No white man rode in or out without one. Yet, here he stood bareheaded. His shaggy, shoulder-length hair was streaked with gold, bleached by the sun. His face was deeply tanned, but his light hair marked him as white. Perhaps he was one of the many born of both races.

His bare forearm flexed as he untied his saddlebags and effortlessly flipped the heavy sacks over one wide shoulder. Her gaze caressed his back and powerful legs, the menacing gun belt at his hip and then halted abruptly at his high moccasins. She recognized the style instantly having once labored to make similar ones, but never with such skill. Was that why she felt the vague sense of familiarity?

They could be a war trophy or trade goods, she told herself. Her objection did not sooth her growing anxiety.

Mrs. Fetterer, who was also a matron at the Sage River School for Indians, noticed Lucie had stopped and followed the direction of her gaze. The woman stood stiff as a starched collar and wide as the paddlewheelers on the Missouri River. Her frizzy hair was tamed in a conservative knot which made her head seem tiny by comparison.

“Ah,” she said. “The horse trader. I see he sold the lot.”

Lucie kept her eyes on the man. He straightened, his body now tense as if recognizing someone watched him. He turned in a slow circle until he found her and froze with one hand on the saddle pommel. He stared at her with piercing blue eyes, the color of the clear summer sky. Men often stared at her now, but this stare was different. Her breath caught at the connection and then she broke free, looking at the ground that separated them.

The tingling awareness lifted gooseflesh on her skin as she recognized that he was now studying her.

Mrs. Fetterer clasped Lucie’s arm and set them in motion.

“Look at the way he gawks at you. No manners at all and wild as the horses he chases.” She steered them across the yard. Lucie put one foot before the other, resisting the urge to turn-tail and run, which she would most certainly have done if her companion were not compelling her forward. Something about this man screamed a warning. The last time she felt this breathless with uncertainty she had been hiding from the attacking Sioux.

Mrs. Fetterer whispered as they passed the hitching posts before the blacksmiths. “He is a most dreadful man. My husband tells me that he barely utters a word to him, but will jabber in that gibberish to any Indian who wanders in.”

Lucie’s step faltered. If he spoke Sioux, it was a reasonable assumption that he understood the meaning of the marks on her chin.

COPYRIGHT: All content on is copyrighted © by Jenna Kernan. Reproduction of any kind is strictly prohibited.

Harlequin Historical is a registered trademark of Harlequin Enterprises Limited. As such all cover art and excerpts are copyrighted © by said publisher, and all rights are reserved by the publisher.