Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Crafting Characters

For today’s Writer’s Wednesday I’ve decided to share an excerpt from my tutorial “Crafting Characters: Strengthening Your Motivation To Write”. This is a brief publication that I decided to create when asked by new writers what it takes for me to keep my head in the writing game. You may obtain this title in full online at no charge.

In addition to delving into the soul of your characters, giving focus to their backgrounds is yet another method/way of maintaining motivation to complete your story. This is a bit more of a task when the characters are brand new. When the characters are part of a series, this gives the author the chance to flesh out facets of the character’s persona that may have been planted in earlier stories in the series.
For instance, the readers already know that the hero of A Lover’s Beauty Taurus Ramsey and his cousin Quest Ramsey (A Lover’s Dream, A Lover’s Soul) don’t get along, but the reader isn’t given the benefit of knowing why when Taurus is first introduced in book one in the series A Lover’s Dream. Taurus’ appearance in the book is brief, but it was memorable enough to peak the reader curiosity to know more about him.
When a book is a standalone, it is just as relevant to flesh out character aspects which have been planted earlier. In my 2004 release In The Midst of Passion (Kensington/Dafina Books) my hero Alex Rice was extremely complex. We discover early in the story that he owns a paper but spends little time there- why? We learn that he has a love/hate relationship with his cousin Melissa-why?
As the story progresses, we return to this seed and others planted. We learn that Alex desires to have a legitimate interest far removed from his former occupation as a killer-for-hire. This seed opens up a host of other issues within the story. We also learn that Alex’s strained relationship with his cousin has much to do with racial issues revolving around the disapproval from his mother’s family towards Alex’s father.
As earlier stated, occupation can open another trail of issues within your story. For my first traditionally published novel Remember Love, our hero, Trinidad Salem’s profession did not mix well with his wife Dominique’s career as a reporter. The emerging events created chaos in their marriage and well-being.
Personal interests go a long way in bringing life to your characters- making them more real to the readers and to you the author. Giving focus to your characters’ food or clothing preferences, musical tastes, sports interests even their choice of transportation can offer many entertaining insights into your characters and often allow for various plot twists.
**Remember: Make the most of character interests. Use them to add substance to your plot instead of simply adding numbers to your word count.**

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Talk Time Tuesday: Rating the Guys on Grey's Anatomy

Heidi Rice - coming late to the Seattle Surgical Soap - has given scores out of ten for the main man candy in Seasons 1-3... All in the interests of provoking an interesting and informative debate about hot men in scrubs.

I'm not gonna lie to you, I'm sure that someone's done this before on PHS, because I am about a decade and a half late watching Grey's Anatomy. But I've been binge-watching it all over Christmas and I am now officially obsessed... So bear with me people. Here are my ratings for the guys of Seattle Grace Hospital (that I've seen so far). If you've seen this show and have an opinion join in!

Doctor Derek Shepherd (aka McDreamy aka Patrick Dempsey) 


Meredith Grey's main squeeze right from the opening scene of the opening show, McDreamy scores points for being Meredith's go-to guy for the three series I've watched so far... He's cute, charming, has great hair and the best puppy dog eyes in the business - especially when Meredith is being a bitch to him which is quite a lot frankly (maybe that should be whipped puppy dog eyes)... But sorry, folks, this guy has NO EDGE. Everyone beats up on him, his ex-wife, his best mate McSteamy, even his dog dies! At the close of season three all I want to do is smack him (and not in a good way).

Intern George O'Malley (aka TR Knight)


I found George a bit annoying at first (even more sulky and pouty and puppy-doggy than McDreamy to start with)... He's the guy next door type - who kept accidentally sleeping with all his pals. But at the end of Season three he seems to be leaving Seattle Grace (no spoilers folks, if you know different), and I actually felt kind of sad and fond of him. So I think he must have snuck up on me a bit with all his pouting.

Doctor Preston Burke (aka Isaiah Washington)


Focused, intense, ambitious, our resident heart surgeon Preston seems at first to have had a bit of a heart bypass.  Until he meets his ultimate match in Sandra Oh's Christina Yang. Preston also has the most chiselled jaw I've ever seen this side of Mount Rushmore. But he is also a control freak. Which can be sexy, but only in small doses... ie: this guy has a bit too much edge. That said, the wedding vows he never got to deliver made me sigh.

Doctor Mark Sloan (aka McSteamy aka Eric Dane)


As you know I cannot resist a bad boy, and plastic surgeon McSteamy is a very bad boy. Flirty, dirty, shallow, selfish, and self-absorbed, not only did Mark sleep with his best friend's wife (see above) but he is also a self-confessed man whore. He's handsome (never a bad thing) also has great hair and did I mention dirty... But this guy had slept with or hit on pretty much every woman in scrubs within three episodes of joining the cast. So he's dirty, but not always in a good way. ie, this guy would DEFINITELY give you a communicable disease.

Dead Guy Denny Duquette (aka Jeffrey Dean Morgan)


Be still my beating heart, Denny is poetic and gorgeous, the patient that Katherine Heigl's Izzy has a mad tragic love affair with - and who has stubble to die for. That he managed to make an impression while being hooked up to an IV and wearing sickly green heart-condition makeup for nearly a whole series is impressive. Unfortunately though he became a corpse by the end of season 2 or he would have scored higher. Although he did get an encore as a ghost which gave us a brief glimpse of what he would have been like if he had not had such a dodgy ticker (who knew he was so tall and was swathy not sickly green).

Intern Alex Karev (aka Justin Chambers)


Fellow intern Alex was  a slow-burn through Seasons one and two... Basically just your resident dickhead sleeping with everyone he could get his hands on. But as soon as he started scrubbing in with McDreamy's ex Meredith and getting proper storylines involving sick babies and amnesiac ferry disaster survivors, he turned out to be the dark horse of Grey's Anatomy man-candy. Alex is a good guy in bad boy's clothing.. A good guy who can't commit. And I have a feeling there's something tortured and traumatic in his past, which is why he can't commit. Which means he has LAYERS... He's also sexy, but not too sexy. And his hair is NOT great. And LAYERS people!! I think there is much more to discover about Alex, which may involve more sick babies and possibly puppies. Seriously, this show could run and run... Oh wait a minute, it did, and I missed it.

But not anymore.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know who you would scrub in for at Seattle Grace in the comments?

While I get stuck into Season 4.

Heidi's first classic Presents Vows They Can't Escape is out this month in the US and next month in the UK. She also tutors a 7-week online writing course - An Introduction to Writing Hot Romance - which will be running again from 20th February for anyone interested in finding out how to write hot romance. Obviously.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Writer's Wednesday: All the More Unfamiliar Places

PHS Columnist and Harlequin Historical author Nicole Locke asks: Can a writer reinvent themselves?

I love to write in all the more unfamiliar times and places. I don’t write only in the morning, afternoon or evening. I write at any time. I certainly don’t have a writing spot in my house. It’s the red chair, the sofa, or on top of my bed. Sometimes I even sit in the hallway.

I gallivant as well. I write on buses, on trains, and on tubes. I’ve written in almost every museum in London (except that one at UCL, which had very little space). Oh, and benches. I love benches. And café’s, and sometimes libraries (often too quiet). I write indoors, I write… I think you get the picture.

I am a Creature of the Unhabit.

Does it work? It doesn’t…unwork. After all, I have actual finished novels that have been published. Better yet, these stories have given me inspiration for more stories. So good, right?

Yet, should I tell you how long my writing process has been?  I found a floppy disc dated 1999 with bits of my first story. I know for certain I thought of the story before that date. When did it get published? Once I split the story (it had two storylines), the first one was in 2014, and the second one in 2016.

In other words…I think you get the picture. Oh, sure Life happened. Kids, my insanely demanding day job. We moved countries. It took me six months to try all the different cheeses suddenly available. Oh, and we travelled. A lot.

Through it all, I wrote here and there. I entered writing contests. I tried to find my storytelling voice. I adored finding new words; I soared when I wrote that perfect moment between characters.

Yet, how did I possibly get published with this much dribble and drab of words? Because I persisted with those words. Every year I wrote a bit more until I finished the manuscript and started querying agents (all to no avail). Along the way, I fixed stories. I joined groups and met other writers. I kept trying.

Then in 2014, I met a Harlequin editor, and laughed that my manuscript sent over a year before hadn’t been rejected yet. Three days later, I received a series of emails that ended up being The Call.

I tell people that the only reason I’m published was because of an administrative error. In truth, the only reason I got published was because I persevered. I kept with the struggle; I kept dreaming.

Now that I have contracts, do my unworking, unhabit practices work? Not at all.

Because let’s face it, I dreamed, but I got in my way.  And that doesn’t work in the publishing world. That doesn’t work when I have characters vociferously demanding their stories (inspiration is great until you have too many voices in your head). It doesn’t work with editors and never for the reader. I, too, am a reader. I know how demanding I can be for the next book.

So I must become familiar. I must find habit. In 2017, I think I’ll dream a little less; I’ll struggle a lot more. In 2017, I want to soar with more perfect storytelling moments.
-- Nicole :-)
Nicole's fourth book in the Lovers and Legends series, In Debt to the Enemy Lord, is out now!

“You have a debt to pay. You owe me your life.”

Anwen, bastard of Brynmor, has fought hard to find her place in the world. But she’s forced to re-evaluate everything when she’s saved from death by her enemy Teague, Lord of Gwalchdu. Instead of releasing her, he holds her captive…

Teague trusts no-one. And with ominous messages threatening his life he must keep Anwen under his watch, no matter how much her presence drives him wild. And when passionate arguments turn to passionate encounters, Teague must believe that the strength of their bond will conquer all!

To find out more about Nicole Locke, visit her website, and follow her on Twitter.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Talk Time Tuesday - Calendars with Kate Walker

  Looking back at past posts I've written for my first post in January,  the first post for the beginning of a 'new year', I've noticed that I seem to end up writing about New Year Resolutions - or the
lack of them. Or the reasons why I don't believe in these resolutions to be 'a better you' , a 'better writer' - ie a writer who writes more, to be thinner, more efficient,  exercise more.

I still feel that way.  Last year was hard enough on a lot of people, in a lot of ways. It was filled with tension and discomfort  (mental discomfort mainly, but also some bad physical discomfort when I sprained my back badly and could hardly walk for two weeks).  There was so much uncertainty, in elections and  the referendum  and something that almost ended up as the new guessing game - which celebrity  is going to die next.  I even saw people posting worries about the  Queen because she didn't appear at church for Christmas.   Talk about borrowing trouble as my mother used to say - we  didn;t seem to have enough worries of our own - instead it seemed some people had to invent them, imagine them, create concerns in their own minds before anything actually happened.

For myself, I found that the worst things that happened were to ones that I had never anticipated
or  feared. The ones that just appeared without warning - and all the worrying - or resolutions -  in the world wouldn't have done anything to  create or to stop them.  ( A  sprained back being the perfect example.)

My friend Holly Jacobs always chooses a word to live by for each  year. Her choice for 2017 is HOPE - a good one I think. We  need hope to keep us going forward  in a confused and uncomfortable time. What 's that Chines Proverb - may you live in interesting times.  Personally, I found 2016 just a little too 'interesting.' I thought about following Holly with a one word - and I was toying with peace - or calm - or anything that meant getting on with today and not focussing on all the other things  going on around me - the things I can't do anything about.
But no word seemed quite right until I thought that the important word in that sentence above is 'today'.

 Have you ever noticed   how some  Christmases, your gifts seem to major on one thing - perfumed soap  or hand and body lotion perhaps,  Or  chocolates or  - well, this always happens with me - books.  I always get lots of books.

Well, this year  the gifts under the tree majored in Calendars. I have  365 days of Kittens -  and Hot Dudes Reading . I have a purely functional Year Planner - Vintage Cat Illustrations -  and a beautiful  desk calendar  for one day at a  time - and a cute Cat Nap on each day. That's the one that is staring me in the face as I write this. It's the one  that always brings a smile to my face (not  that the kittens and the Hot Dudes don't! )   All the calendars are up on different walls - in the kitchen - by the phone, in my office . . . And they all have important dates, deadlines, birthdays, dates for the courses I'm teaching written on them.  But I love the one day at a time  Cat Nap because - well because it's one d
ay at a time. And that's really all we can focus on properly . All we have right now.
 There's a great saying:

 Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That's why it is called the present.

 The full quote often reads: "The clock is running. Make the most of today. Time waits for no man.Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That's why it is called the present "
In the 1902 book, "Sun Dials and Roses of Yesterday: Garden Delights..." by Alice Morse Earle.

Today is what we have right now.  It is too often neglected as we plan for  new things, aim for more achievements, more  'improvements'.     It's also all we can really deal with right now - we can work towards the future or  hope to move away from the past  - but what we have  is today.  The present.  It's a really great gift and I intend to  live for the present  as best I can - because I 'll never k
now what's just around the corner.

So - that word is today. You can add 'seize the day' as in carpe diem and that's fine too. But looking at the glorious - if bitterly cold - sunshine on frost  outside my window, I know that  just knowing I have today if great for me.

What about you? Resolutions or not?  Do you have a special word  for your year - or just give up on the whole things?

Whatever you feel and however you're going forward into 2017, I hope it's a wonderful year for you. One filled with love and peace and calm  and success, day by day  as each dawn gives us a chance to live that wonderful today.

Happy New Year!

My 65th title Indebted to Moreno  was published in October, but it’s still around.  I’m also delighted to say that a  couple of backlist titles  that have been missing  - The Sicilian’s Wife and A Sicilian Husband – are being issued as separate ebooks   in November  (though they've been in the collection Claimed By The Sicilian if you wanted in 3 in 1) .  And if you’re in Australia then there’s a special 3 in 1 Collection of my books  - Surrender to The Sheikh out now. 
 This three in one contains Desert Affair, AT the Sheikh's Command and Destined for The Desert King.

If you’re interested in coming on any of my writing courses  with Writers’ Holiday or Relaxand Write   then the details are always on my Events page on my web site and the most up to date news can be found on my web site  on my blog    or my Facebook page

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Talk-Time Tuesday - An Ode to Jilly Cooper

It all began in my early teens, this love affair I have with romance. I used to pinch my sister’s Harlequin Presents novels and read them under the covers at night. Slightly wicked, they were the most satisfying escape from my teenage angst I could find—a fantasy world where gorgeous alpha heroes and feisty heroines reigned supreme and a happy ending was guaranteed. 

One of my absolute favourites from that era was Robyn Donald’s book, Summer at Awakopu, a coming of age story that stole my heart. I think maybe I loved it so much because it mirrored so many of the things I was going through at the time. And that would become a big part of romance for me—how it allowed me to explore my own feelings and emotions alongside the heroine.

Little did I realize then how much romance would come to mean to me. It has seen me through four decades and counting of this rollercoaster journey we call life. But, like my painful teenage years, it’s been through the lows that it’s meant the most to me. I didn’t realize how much until, in the midst of a successful but grueling PR career, I let my love of reading slide. Burnt out and unsure of my next move, I remember rediscovering my passion one night when I happened across Sandra Marton’s Mistress of the Sheikh as I was leaving the supermarket. It was passionate and exciting and I remember thinking over a glass of wine and that book, “how could I have let this go?”

That wonderful book not only made me remember how much I loved romance, but it gave me the impetus to make a scary and ultimately amazing career transition to full-time writer.

Fast forward to very recently when I lost my father. His slow decline was heartbreaking in the truest sense of the word. With so much emotional turmoil going on inside me and so little emotional energy for anything else, a romance was the only thing I could envision picking up. I chose Jilly Cooper’s Riders, a book I’d been meaning to read for years. And I fell in love.

I’d never read anything like the hilarious, scandalous, tour de forces Cooper writes. It was exactly what I needed, allowing me to escape for a few minutes every night into a world that made me laugh and gave me such joy when it seemed there was none to be had. And that, in its essence, has been what romance has meant most to me. It makes me happy.

Funny then when I came across this quote from Cooper in a recent BBC interview:

“I am proud of these books. I know they’re frivolous, imperfect, but people love them.
 Basically, my aim in life is to add to the sum of human happiness.”

And that, Jilly Cooper, is what you did for me. I thank you for that.


If you’ve never read Jilly Cooper’s Rutshire Chronicles, they’re a must. I’m half way through the series so if you’ve read it, I’d love for you to weigh in. Favourite hero anyone? Rupert? Luke? And if you’d like to listen to one of the most delightful interviews you’ll ever hear about romance, writing and life, tune in to Jilly Cooper’s Desert Island Discs BBC’s podcast. I guarantee it will make you smile.

Award-winning author Jennifer Hayward writes fast-paced, sexy stories, always with a touch of humour. You can read a free chapter of her latest, A Deal for the Di Sione Ring, the seventh story in Harlequin Presents' glamorous, intriguing, The Billionaire's Legacy series, on her website.

"Marry me, sell me the ring and I will fly you out of here tonight." 

Hotel magnate Nate Brunswick's faith in marriage was destroyed by his father. But in searching for the ring that his beloved grandfather has asked him to retrieve, the illegitimate Di Sione who hates weddings finds himself inconveniently engaged!  

The alluring owner of the ring, Mina Mastrantino, can only pass it on once she's married. Quick vows and an even quicker annulment should be easy…but the exquisite impromptu wedding night gives them both far more than they planned! 


Monday, December 19, 2016

Male on Monday -- The Men You Meet

Anne McAllister is reflecting on meetings in real life and in books. She's also wrapping packages and, for once, writing a blog is a procrastination ploy to keep from having to wrap more.

I am presently threading through some backstory in the book I'm working on -- specifically the part where the heroine meets the hero for the first time and how this meeting is somehow different than all the other meetings she's had in her life because he's The One.

And since I don't have any other Males on Monday for you, I thought it might be a nice thing to reflect on meetings of our own with the men in our lives.  The book inspired it -- but so did a question from my 9 year old granddaughter last weekend.  She said, "How did you and Grandpa meet?"

She asks questions like that all the time, which is one of the reasons I love her. The rest are too numerous to catalog here. But as I told her that I saw her grandpa for the first time when I was just starting my junior year in college and he was helping the girl next door move in, I thought that there are probably only three people in the world who know that -- me, the man in question, and my roommate, to whom I remarked, "I'd like to have a boyfriend like that."

Coincidentally -- or not -- he came into the reserved book room of the library where I was working a week later and wandered around looking lost. So I asked him if I could help him find something. It's what you do when you work in a library.  And he told me the book he couldn't find, and I found it for him, and we talked briefly.  And then we talked again when he returned the book. And we talked a few more times when he appeared in the library. And the day after Thanksgiving, when we appeared to be the only two people who didn't go away for the holiday (yes, I exaggerate) and the student union was closed and he was bemoaning being unable to buy a cup of coffee, I (who lived a stone's throw from the library) offered to make him one when I got off my shift at work.

He sent me a Christmas card. I sent him a Chri
stmas card.  We walked on the beach, went to a play, talked and talked and talked.  In April we got engaged and we got married in August. My kids are appalled we knew each other so briefly.

I told them my grandparents knew each other six weeks when they got married. That's a family story I do know.  I know my grandfather's parents married because he needed a wife and she needed a husband, and importing her from Bavaria apparently seemed like a good idea.  In both cases it worked out.  My grandparents were married 59 years. My great-grandparents were only married 15 -- but it ended when my great-grandmother died.  We'll be married fifty years this coming summer (ye gods. Would you believe I was a child bride?)

Anyway, my own personal Male on Monday has enriched my life for fifty years now (beginning with the Christmas card).  I have now immortalized him -- and our meeting -- so more than four people know (counting my granddaughter) how we met.

How about you?  How did you meet the love of your life?  Or your best friend?  How did your parents meet?  Your grandparents? Your kids and their spouses if you're that far along?  Please share if you wish.

Best wishes to you all this season whether you're celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, the winter solstice or some other holiday.

Anne's Tanner Brothers -- Cowboys Don't Cry, Cowboys Don't Quit and Cowboys Don't Stay --  have been reissued in ebook and trade paperback if you missed them the first time around.  The 4th and 5th books which follow them (Tanner friends, if you will), The Cowboy and the Kid and Cowboy Pride will be out in January and February and are available for pre-order now if you need more cowboys in your life.  

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Weekend Wildcard: A Few of Kristina's Favorite Books

for strength of character, Kristina chooses The Obsession
Pink Heart Society columnist Kristina Knight shares a few of her favorite reads from 2016. Share your favorites in the comments!

There are few things I like more than grabbing a mug of cocoa, requisitioning a corner of my sofa for an hour or more, and diving into a really great story. I have people ask me all the time if it's hard to slip into a story - if my internal editor is constantly working, if that editor draws me out of the story, if, if, if...and my answer is (usually) no. I've become pretty good at opening a book and kicking my expectations out of it. There are times this is harder - like if I'm working on particularly hard revisions or if I'm really stuck on something going on in my own books - but even then I can usually take a beat, clear my head, and dive in. 

This year, part of bebe's daily homework is to read for 20 minutes. So she grabs her book, I grab mine and we couch it for 20 minutes. Sometimes, we're both so enamored of what we're reading that we turn that 20 into 30, and we don't mind at all. Those 20 minutes are precious minutes, and have become such a habit that even hard revisions or being stuck on a story problem aren't bugging me. I sit down with her and focus on the book in my hands, not the one in my head. I'm loving it.

I noticed this week that Publisher's Weekly has released their best books of 2016 list. I was paging through it and realized I'd only read a handful - one of my goals for 2017 is to read more outside the romance genre...of course, romance will likely remain my go-to because...I just love it. The Publisher's Weekly Romance list can be found here and their Top 10 from across genres can be found here.

I thought I'd share three of my favorite reads (all romance genre) from this no particular order.

Maisey Yates' Brokedown Cowboy. I know, this was technically a 2015 book, but I didn't get to read
for raw emotion, Kristina picks Brokedown Cowboy
it until this year. So it's a 2016 book for me, and it had me from the first page. The hero was a wreck, the heroine completely believable, and the supporting cast so much fun to see. Also, it won the Rita for long if you haven't picked this one up, go forth!

Kelly Bowen's Duke of My Heart. I don't read a ton of historical books, but I picked this one up because the heroine had been described to me as 'a fixer' and my brain went immediately to Scandal and, well, it was awesome. I liked that the hero and heroine weren't your typical duke-and-damsel, and I also like that both characters struggled with falling in love but still remaining true to their individuality. 

Nora Roberts' The Obsession. If you've followed me at all on social media you know I'm a Nora fan. I like her paranormals, I like her old stuff...I like Nora books better than JD books, but they're both good. The Obsession, for me, was a bit different than her suspenses of the past. It was grittier, the heroine maybe a bit stronger, and the topic (child of a serial killer) something I hadn't read before, but something I've always wondered about. She tackled both the rawness of the emotions such a child might feel and paired it with just the right amount of hope and cynicism. 

So, readers, did you have a favorite read from this year? Feel free to share in the comments - we can all use more books to read!

Kristina Knight's latest release, What the Gambler Risks, released October 3 from Crimson Romance:

Twenty-something ice queen Sabrina Smith enjoys fame and fortune writing about her life of celibacy. The fact she's the Oldest Living (Supposed) Virgin in Vegas? Just keeps her readers interested in how she juggles dating in Sin City.

Jase Reeves knows Sabrina's secret - that she's not nearly as cold as she would like people to think - and he's through keeping it. He didn't intend to have a one night stand with the Vegas Virgin but he can't get her out of his head.

When Jase returns to Vegas Sabrina has one goal: stay away from the handsome gambler before he melts her career - and her heart.

Amazon  B&N  KOBO  iBooks 

You can find out more the book and Kristina on her website, and feel free to stalk follow her on FacebookTwitter or Instagram