Georgia’s Husband’s Sister’s Financial Advisor’s Cousin-in-Law


Have you ever read, or started to read, a book that had a dozen characters in the first chapter alone?  By the time you get to the second chapter, the relationships between the dozen(s) of characters becomes about as clear as a muddy lake.  By the third chapter, you’ve given up and the book goes in the pile to go to the second-hand store.  There’s just no way to keep up with that character tree, and still have enough energy left to understand the story.

I think it’s important to put a limit on exactly how many characters will be involved, be extremely cautious with their names, and only keep in the characters that truly drive the story.  While all of the ancillary characters my bring “character” and color to a story, if you’ve confused the reader with the sheer volume of them, your reader is going to give up and move on to something that isn’t so much work.  We read fiction for fun and entertainment. Reading is an escape. Why make the escape complicated?

I would venture to add that keeping character names distinct is also important.  If there is a Susan, Sandra, Sarah, and Sally in the same story, I’m going to forget who is who.  Distinct names for characters is almost as important as keeping the total number of characters limited.  The more the reader has to go back and figure out who all these people are, the quicker you are going to lose them.

The last point I’d like to make is to choose names for your characters that are easily pronounceable.  If the reader has to stop each time the name is shown, in order to pronounce it in their heads, again, you are going to lose their interest.  Making up a fabulous name that only you, the author, knows how to pronounce is definitely creative, but not conducive to keeping a reader.  Use traditional or at least easily pronounceable phonetic standards for your names, and reconsider the name entirely if you find yourself typing it wrong when you are writing the story.  Clarity and speed of being able to read the text are more important than a fancy and “unique” character name.

There’s nothing wrong with a good old Virginia, Katherine, Shannon, or Amelia as a character name.  The same goes for Stephen, Kevin, David, Austin, or Thomas.  Think simple.  Put the complexity in the story, where it will be more easily appreciated.

What character names have you used in your writing?  Do they have special meaning?  Tell me about it in the comments!

 

Fairest of the Faire – available now!

Fairest of the Faire book coverBlurb:

Schoolteacher Connie Meyers is suddenly a young widow, her husband killed in a horrific car accident. Heartbroken to find out he had gambled away everything they had, she moves to her sister-in-law’s Midwest home to rebuild her life. A trip to the local Renaissance Faire with her nieces leads to a summer job as a costumed storyteller.

Avowed bad boy and fair performer Gage Youngblood is infatuated with Connie at first sight. Despite his deliberately commitment-free life, and Connie’s don’t-touch-me attitude, he soon has her in his arms, realizing quickly she is also in his heart.

When she is threatened by her late husband’s bookie, he steps into the role of protector, his fate forever sealed with hers.

Available NOW!

Buy at Wild Rose Press:  (eBook and paperback)

Buy at Amazon (Kindle and paperback)

Buy at Barnes and Noble (Nook)

Getting to Know Your Characters – A Nineteen-Question Interview


Male-female symbolOh, our pesky characters!  We think we know who they are.  They talk to us, giving us ideas, telling us what they want to do, especially to the other person.  But we don’t know them at all.  And we usually don’t figure out that that is a problem until later when the plot falters, and we are stuck trying to keep going when we are mired in a world of grey mud.

Clear as day, right?

I just don’t know enough about my characters.  They are pretty, but flat, pieces of cardboard.  They have no depth, and there’s nothing behind them but a whole lot of empty space.  Kind of like that picture of a door in the middle of a meadow – it’s the same in front of the door as it is behind the door. This lack of depth can completely destroy what might have started out as a good story.

So I turn to character interviews.  I’ve looked at hundreds of them over the years. I even have a book that covers character development, including interview questions, physical descriptions, and suggestions for how to describe someone.  No single one has given me all the of the information I needed or wanted, and I’d end up putting togheter several character interviews to get what I needed.

So why didn’t I just write my own, using the questions I like the best, all in one document? Well, I did, finally.  I have a 19-question character interview I use on all main characters.  This includes the hero and heroine, and if there is a villain, him or her too.  It helps me figure out their motivations, how they feel about themselves, what their goals are, and what bugs them the most.  I have a list of 10 optional questions I sometimes use as well. I thought I’d share these with you today, in case they could help you too.  Here is a link to a PDF version of the questions.  

Do you have questions you like to ask your characters?  I’d love to hear them!  Leave your comments below!

Fairest of the Faire – available now!

Fairest of the Faire book coverBlurb:

Schoolteacher Connie Meyers is suddenly a young widow, her husband killed in a horrific car accident. Heartbroken to find out he had gambled away everything they had, she moves to her sister-in-law’s Midwest home to rebuild her life. A trip to the local Renaissance Faire with her nieces leads to a summer job as a costumed storyteller.

Avowed bad boy and fair performer Gage Youngblood is infatuated with Connie at first sight. Despite his deliberately commitment-free life, and Connie’s don’t-touch-me attitude, he soon has her in his arms, realizing quickly she is also in his heart.

When she is threatened by her late husband’s bookie, he steps into the role of protector, his fate forever sealed with hers.

Available NOW!

Buy at Wild Rose Press:  (eBook and paperback)

Buy at Amazon (Kindle and paperback)

Buy at Barnes and Noble (Nook)

Inspiring Others


InspirationI’ve had a few people lately ask me how I do it.  I know that what they are really asking is how they can do it too. They are asking for inspiration.

Writing is hard, there’s no doubt about that.  It’s hard work, from coming up with ideas, putting the ideas into some sort of logical timeline, writing all those words, editing those words, and then submitting to publishers.  If you get a contract, then there is more editing, approvals of galleys, followed by a thoroughly soul-sucking amount of self-promotion and marketing to get your book bought and read.

Some people are obviously better at it than others.  I don’t feel particularly good at it, but I am published, which means I’m at least somewhat good at it.  But it is definitely hard work.  I didn’t get to this point without having done all the previous steps – the formulating of the idea, getting the plot set up, writing it all down, and editing it.  It took four years to get here. I know authors that publish two or three books a year.  I am always surprised by this, because my process takes so much longer.

But what I can say is that it will never happen unless you sit down and start writing.  There are no short-cuts.  There are no magic pills you can take, or voodoo rituals you can do, to make any of it happen.  You just have to sit down and write.  I have a quote on my bulletin board at home, from the late great Erma Bombeck.  “Want to write?  Then write already!”  And she’s right.  It really is that simple.  Sit down, and write. It doesn’t have to be good that first time.  It doesn’t have to sparkle and shine.  I definitely doesn’t have to be perfect.  It just needs to be written.  If you aren’t writing, you can’t call yourself a writer.  That’s just the bottom line.

So, you want to be a writer?  Then write already!

Fairest of the Faire – available now!

Fairest of the Faire book coverBlurb:

Schoolteacher Connie Meyers is suddenly a young widow, her husband killed in a horrific car accident. Heartbroken to find out he had gambled away everything they had, she moves to her sister-in-law’s Midwest home to rebuild her life. A trip to the local Renaissance Faire with her nieces leads to a summer job as a costumed storyteller.

Avowed bad boy and fair performer Gage Youngblood is infatuated with Connie at first sight. Despite his deliberately commitment-free life, and Connie’s don’t-touch-me attitude, he soon has her in his arms, realizing quickly she is also in his heart.

When she is threatened by her late husband’s bookie, he steps into the role of protector, his fate forever sealed with hers.

Available NOW!

Buy at Wild Rose Press:  (eBook and paperback)

Buy at Amazon (Kindle and paperback)

Buy at Barnes and Noble (Nook)

I Make No Apologies


blushing emoji faceA few weeks ago, I listened to a podcast interview with author Marlow Kelly. She and the podcast host talked about why we apologize, or feel we need to, for being “just a romance writer.”  Readers, too, often apologize for reading them.  A shrug of the shoulders, an embarrassed smile, a redness in the face.

But the fact is, the romance genre sells somewhere between $1.3 and $1.5 billion a year.  That’s billion with a “B.”  Romance novels comprise about 17% of the fiction market, bigger than any other genre.  It is about the same sales as all sci-fi and mystery sales combined.

Yeah.  We’re here.  We’re reading, and we’re writing.  Why should we feel embarrassed about that?  We make the publishing world go around.  We earn publishers a lot of money.  Arguments are made all the time about romance being “just for women” and “junk food.”  This may be more a matter of the marginalizing of women than anything else, but the truth is, romance novels are consumed regularly and voraciously by women all over the world.  And women buy and read more books than men.

Thus, the thriving market for them!

I used to apologize for my writing.  I could be found saying, “oh, it’s just a contemporary romance” when people would ask me what I was getting ready to publish.  It is not “just” anything.  My novel took as much work to write as literary fiction.  There was research to be done to create the right setting, create believable characters, and write a plot that (in my case) contained a bit of mystery and suspense along with a standard love story and a Happily Ever After ending.  Writing is not easy.  Writing a believable story is not easy.  Writing characters that a reader will care about is not an easy thing.  Editing is not an easy thing.  Getting a publisher to look at a manuscript is hard.  Getting published is even harder.

I didn’t publish “just” a romance novel.  I published a romance novel.  Let me repeat that in my big-girl voice:  I WROTE AND PUBLISHED A ROMANCE NOVEL.  My novel will be read by women in many walks of life, with many different life circumstances, and for a few hours, I will have given them a romantic escape with my characters.  I didn’t JUST write a contemporary romance novel.  I WROTE A NOVEL.

I am proud of that, and all of my sister-writers should be proud of themselves as well.  No apologies, no blushing, no “just” anything.  Read what you want proudly.  And write what you want, proudly.

Fairest of the Faire – available now!

Fairest of the Faire book coverBlurb:

Schoolteacher Connie Meyers is suddenly a young widow, her husband killed in a horrific car accident. Heartbroken to find out he had gambled away everything they had, she moves to her sister-in-law’s Midwest home to rebuild her life. A trip to the local Renaissance Faire with her nieces leads to a summer job as a costumed storyteller.

Avowed bad boy and fair performer Gage Youngblood is infatuated with Connie at first sight. Despite his deliberately commitment-free life, and Connie’s don’t-touch-me attitude, he soon has her in his arms, realizing quickly she is also in his heart.

When she is threatened by her late husband’s bookie, he steps into the role of protector, his fate forever sealed with hers.

Excerpt:

“Who said anything about a relationship?” he said, standing up so he could tower over her again. “I’m just trying to have a little fun. You know, fun?”

If he’d been an animal, she was sure he’d have had hair raised on the back of his neck, he seemed so angry, and it struck her painfully. She hadn’t wanted to anger him or hurt him. She turned away from him and closed her eyes to tamp down the tears she knew would come if she let them. She crossed her arms over her chest, to hold in the pain. Being tired made her much too vulnerable.

“Yes,” she finally said. “I know about fun. Life isn’t always fun, though.”

“Princess.” His voice was soft, tender. “I won’t hurt you. It’s not in my plan.”

Despite herself, she felt the shivers of desire race down from her shoulders, down her arms and legs, and back up to that secret, soft place at her core. She bowed her head and gritted her teeth, hoping for the feeling to go away.

“And what is your plan, Gage?”

“It’s a simple plan. I want you to feel good. I want to feel good, too.”

Available NOW!

Buy at Wild Rose Press:  (eBook and paperback)

Buy at Amazon (Kindle and paperback)

Buy at Barnes and Noble (Nook)