Sunday, June 26, 2011

Chapter Length: what’s best?

Some authors draft 100,000 word novels and insert chapter breaks during their final edit. Others, like me, think in terms of chapters as we write.

I used to aim for a regimented 5,000 words per chapter, but in this post-Angels and Demons-era, that is too simplistic.

Plot crafters can look at chapters as self-contained sections, with a beginning, a middle, and an ending, just like the overall story arc. Each chapter can have a sense of unity or completeness. There are exceptions, such as the cliffhanger chapter ending, where the action is not ending. Chapter hooks are great…especially if the reader can peek ahead, see that the next chapter is only 10 pages long, and decide to trade precious minutes of sleep for finding out what happens next.

Chapters should not end in the middle of a scene or intense action. I tried this in one of my correspondence course assignments, and was instructed in bold black marker that it’s a red flag for rejection. It’s also unkind to the reader.

One new idea is to have chapters take between ten to fifteen minutes to read. This is often how much time people have during commutes or lunch breaks.

Beyond reader convenience, short chapters definitely convey a sense of faster pace. Long chapters hint that lovely, languid descriptions of settings, gowns and tea service are to follow.

White (blank) space on a printed page is savvy. Short paragraphs fit the times. The same can be said for chapters. Until the pendulum swings, and the next mega-seller has fifty-page chapters.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Character Interview with Samantha Stone

Argh! I’m so frustrated I could scream! Oh, hello there. Sorry for my bad manners. How about I introduce myself first; I’m Samantha, art gallery owner extraordinaire. I’ve got this great little SOHO gallery filled with some amazing modern art, although if you ask my brother, Gideon, he’ll probably say it’s garish and ugly.
Ugh, I’m jumping ahead again. Okay, let me take a deep breath and slow down.

Although we look nothing alike (I’m dark-haired and pixie-ish and he’s all deep blond and golden lion-like) I’m Gideon’s little sister, a fact he takes great pleasure in reminding me of whenever he thinks I should be doing something his way, which is pretty much always. If you have a big brother, you’ll understand exactly what I mean.

Well, anyway, he’s not all that bad; actually, he’s a pretty great guy. He’s extremely loyal, the first one to help out, he plays basketball and mentors kids at the local youth center.  He can be tough to get to know, though, especially since he built this almost impenetrable wall around himself after his car accident put him in a wheelchair three years ago, and he’s very careful who he lets in, especially if that “who” is a woman.

But, I have a plan. Now, if Gideon actually heard me say I have a plan, he’d yell at me, in that deep-voiced boom he has. Luckily, he’s not around (picture me sticking out my tongue here). I’m going to set him up with my new best friend, Lily. Lily is a widow who moved here from Philadelphia and lives in the apartment across the hall from mine. She’s pretty and graceful and smart and just as wary of men as Gideon is of women.  And the kicker? She has the cutest six-year-old daughter you’d ever want to meet. Claire is adorable! And Gideon is a sucker for kids. He’ll make the best dad someday.

The only problem I have is that I can’t make the setup obvious to either of them. Anytime I’ve suggested to Lily that I set her up with one of my guy friends (and I have a lot), she’s always brushed it aside, saying she’s too busy with her PR clients or with taking care of Claire. I admire her for her ability to juggle motherhood and a career. She’s an amazing mom and is always finding fun things to do in the city with Claire on weekends.  But she seriously needs some time for herself and a man in her life.

I just have to figure out the best way to have them meet each other. As I said, it can’t be too obvious. Because, despite the fact that he used to pull my pigtails when I was little (there’s a reason why my hair is short and spiky, and it’s not just fashion!), I would never want to hurt him. And of course, after the fiasco with his last girlfriend, whose name I won’t even mention because she was a viper from...anyway, she was horrible and the mere mention of dipping a toe into the dating pool makes Gideon’s face turn all dark and foreboding and even I’m a little afraid to continue. But, that doesn’t mean I don’t think he should take a chance with Lily.

Hmm, food...they both like chocolate (or I should say love, in Lily’s case); kids...Gideon loves kids, but I wouldn’t want to freak Lily out (she’s very protective of Claire). Oh I know! My gallery is having another opening next week. I’ll invite them both to it and see if I can’t arrange for them to bump into each other. It’s always crowded and that will probably let me control things without making it seem like I’m in control. Don’t you think?

For more info on Samantha, Gideon, Lily and their book, A Heart of Little Faith, please check out

Friday, June 17, 2011

Welcome to Cate Masters

Welcome to our Friday Friend, Cate Masters.

Finding Magic in the Ordinary

Like any kid, I loved fairy tales, fables and legends. Their mystical magic became ingrained in my head, making the world seem full of possibilities invisible to the eye. But never to the imagination! I guess that’s why I love fantasies in real-world settings – at first, everything appears ordinary, then… surprise! Everything you thought to be plain and run-of-the-mill has a deeper underlying truth – or a secret. It makes you look twice at the world around you, and question reality. Is the woman who bought the inn just a lonely widow, or is she related to a goddess? Is the waitress at the diner just a poor girl in love with the wrong guy, or is she a demon?

Yes and yes. *grins* Another reason I love contemporary fantasies – real emotions and situations are layered within, so the characters are not only believable but you can relate to them.

In The Magic of Lavender, the heroine Jocelyn Gibson doesn’t become aware of her family ties to the realm of magic, or to the Goddess Iris, until she buys an old bed and breakfast. That single act, an everyday occurrence, breaks down the wall around she’s built up since childhood, shielding her memories about the fae. All she wants is a quiet life, preparing special dishes made with lavender, but before she can have it, she has to first deal with a few demons and goddesses. How could she know the inn sat atop powerful ley lines that would cause a battle to erupt between the forces of dark and light?

Even the secondary characters with roots in mythology can have very real feelings.  For instance, the guardian of the gates of Tartarus, which is just outside Hades proper, is one of the three Harpies, the Erinye named Tisiphone. Terrible to look upon, and even more terrible to smell, lol, Tisiphone must make sure no one escapes the outer boundaries of Hell. It’s a lonely job patrolling the gate, but someone has to do it. Still, a girl has feelings. She likes to be invited out once in awhile, or at least keep up with the gossip from the outside world. Or world above, as the case may be. So when the hero is kidnapped and trapped in Tartarus, and runs into Tisiphone at the gate, he unwittingly hurts her feelings by filling her in on the latest news: there’s a war between demons and fae in his hometown. No one told Tisiphone. So if she happens to let the gate slip so Eric can slip through, well… who can blame her?

The research for this novel led me deeper and deeper into mythology. I loved learning about the Goddess Iris – messenger to the gods, and also Goddess of the Rainbow, the bridge between the worlds.

The Magic of Lavender is the first book in The Goddess Connection series, which says: Every woman should embrace her inner goddess. What’s your connection?

I have several more novels in this series in mind to follow. In each, the heroine will be somehow connected to a goddess. Her lifelong quirks will become strengths once she finds her true place in the world, and accepts herself for who she really is.

Something we should all do! Every woman should be treated like a goddess, don’t you think? ;)

I'm sure we all agree with that, Cate!  Thanks so much for being our guest today, and we wish you every success with your intriguing fantasy books.

You can find out more about Cate at

Monday, June 13, 2011

Ending Your Novel

In Louis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the King says to the White Rabbit: “Begin at the beginning and go till you come to the end; then stop.”

Great advice! 

But where’s the end? 

One snippet of advice I once read is ‘Figure out the end before you write the beginning.’

I’ve read romance novels where the hero and heroine get together and all seems fine and lovely, until you start wondering, ‘Hey, what happened about the conflict over – whatever?  Did they ever resolve that?”

At the other extreme is the novel where the hero and heroine resolve their differences and get together in the penultimate chapter (or even the 3rd chapter from the end) and the rest is a downward spiral as all the other issues are explained, or we find out their wedding plans, or – yawn, yawn!

My view is that the final chapter should begin with the reader wondering how on EARTH is this novel going to have a happy ending?  How are those two ever going to get together? 

That last chapter is as important, if not more important, than the first.  If you get the H/h together too soon, the rest can be redundant, even boring.  Resolve the probems and conflicts, and stop there!  Maybe you have to surprise the reader but you must also satisfy them with an ending that isn’t contrived or, worse still, coincidental.  The loose ends should be tied up before you bring the H/h back together, otherwise you’ll have an anti-climactic ending. 

The aim is to stop on a high, not a long drawn-out low.

Another cliché, but it works here –‘End with a bang, not a whimper.’

Thursday, June 9, 2011

As An Author

As an author I'd love it if people got these three things out of my writing:

A satisfying, emotional read, where the characters and story seem real. I also want to live up to my tag line in every story: Sultry romance. Sexy heroes. Spunky heroines.

I love it when people say, "Your book was so good I couldn't put it down." I want that to happen for all of my books.

And I'd love to be one of those authors whose books are read again and again. I have books I've read over and over again just because they're that good. I'd love it if someday I'd hear people say, "Oh, Debra St. John's such and such book was so good I've read it four times. I can't wait until her next one comes out." I love for all of my titles to be on people's keeper shelves.

But in order for any of that to happen, I need to keep my immediate goal for the summer is to finish my WIP and get further into a novella for a new line at Champagne Rose (TWRP).

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Great Read

I have only one thing I want people to connect with my name as an author – a great read.   

If my readers consider I’ve given them that, then I shall know I got it right.  A heroine with whom they can empathise, a hero they can fall for, plus enough twists and turns in the plot to keep them reading until the believable and satisfying happy ending. 

And that’s why I was delighted to receive this email last Saturday from one of my American ‘West Wing fan’ friends who has read my fan-fiction stories in the past.  I can rely on her to give an honest opinion and, bless her, she must have been one of the first to download a copy of ‘His Leading Lady’.  With her permission, I quote from her email to me:

“I had to stay home today while we were dealing with plumbing problems. So I finished reading your story. It was a great read. (hip hip hooray!) The deeper I got into the story, I was kind of hoping that I wouldn't be called to help with the plumbing (I wasn't much) because I wanted to see how things ended. I've not read any books in the romance genre before, but I was assuming that there'd be a happy ending :-) so I was just enjoying all the obstacles you were throwing in front our heroine and wondering how you were going to work things out.
So congratulations with this novel and I look forward to your next one. I can't believe I have to wait more than 6 months.”

My first 'review' – and I’m over the moon!  A great read – that’s exactly what I want people to say about me and my stories! J

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

I’m Your Go-To Gal

…if you’re looking for characters that are three-dimensional, realistic, spunky, snarky (at times), independent, imperfect and with just a hint of vulnerability (that goes for the male characters, too).

...if you want to smell, taste and touch (as well as see and hear) everything the characters experience. Settings that are lush and jump off the page. Places that fill your mind with memories long after you’ve put down the book.

…if you’re looking to escape your life for just a little while, curl up in front of the fire or on a beach blanket, and disappear. Stories that carry you away and put a smile on your face.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Three times a bridesmaid!

Don't you just love that phrase: Three times a bridesmaid?

How many romance novels can you remember that had that theme?

I felt like the bridesmaid for years until my first book was published.

Then, as happens I got divorced from publishing due to serious riding accident. There's a story to that, because after a blood transfusion I began to crave cigarettes and I'd never smoked in my life before. Tell a lie, except round the back of the bike sheds at school! But, the weird aspect the ciggy craving also set me on the path of writing historicals! I don't smoke now: gave it up soon as. 

Eventually I picked up my writing heart and here I am trying to find the right lover of my books all over again! Where in hell is my fairy godmother when I need her?

Big cheat using images but I feel lazy on the word front today!

Remember me thrice!

Don't remember me for my hunky cabana boy slash rich business manager.
Think of me as a creator of heroes you can visit in your dreams because th heroines were just like you.
For settings so vivid that tidbits of information lodge effortlessly in an accessible-when-needed lobe of your brain. Next to the lyrics of Joni Mitchell's 'Both Sides Now.'
And for going to work groggy because you couldn't find a dull chapter hook and had to keep reading.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Welcome to Raine Delight

The love of a good alpha hero

I love strong alpha male heroes. There is something about them that makes my heart race and sigh with delight. What makes a really good alpha hero? One that in my opinion is also with flaws. You know the strong hero with a heart of gold he keeps hidden. I don't mean one that is so vile and mean that you want to toss him out the window. I mean those heroes who come off strong, tough but with the right person, melt into a puddle of goo. Who doesn't love an alpha male hero who is redeemed by the love of their soul mate?

In my book, Haunting Magic, I have a wolf shifter who has to find his mate before Halloween or risk being a lone wolf for the rest of his life. Rodrick Dracon was a fun character to write. He had a different woman (or women for that matter) every night with a charm that could have been slimy but came off as adorable….well except for Jax, his nemesis and the one woman his wolf wanted for a mate. I never imagined these two hooking up per say. The sparks flew whenever they were together but my muse was determined to show these two stubborn people they were perfect for each other. I let the muse flow and voila! Writing Rod as a strong alpha male had me swooning because he didn't steamroll over Jax, she went toe to toe with him and in the process both found a love that was meant to be.

An alpha male character, in my honest opinion, is only as good as the mate he is destined for (be it female or male). They have to be just as strong and able to not let their soul mate(s) run right over t hem. For that I love strong main characters, ones that fairly simmer with life and practically step off the pages-into your room and heart. I just finished another Devon Falls book called Moonlight & Magic, a tale of a lone were-tiger looking for his mate and a place to call home. Michael Barnes was at first a shy quiet man until he informed me quite loudly I should say, that he was a tiger, not a house cat and made me scrap the first draft and rewrite it all over again. After reading what I wrote the second time, I totally agreed with the character and my muse. He was a stronger character the second time around who, with his sight set on Dixie, made sure that she knew how much he wanted her. He wasn't without issues either. Michael had to show Dixie the love he was feeling for her would last longer than that one night plus he had to trust her with the one thing he had of value-his heart. Both characters are strong in their own way and perfect for each other.

The latest alpha male hero that is capturing my heart is two sexy space pirates in my upcoming June release called Space Pirates: Bounty. Take Capt. Jack from the Pirate of the Caribbean movies and add in a dash of Capt. Malcom “Tightpants” from Firefly (Nathan Fillain character) and stir. This is my version of a futuristic that has me swooning while I write it. I love bad boys with a heart of gold and a take charge kind of mentality. This is the basis for Captain Rafe Gregory and his first mate, Tyrese. Two of the hottest space pirates around and they find a human earth woman stowing away on their ship. With bounty hunters after them, Tyreese and Rafe find they need Kara Griffan as much as they need the money she would bring to the slavers. It's a race against time as Kara, Rafe, Tyrese try to figure out how to lose the bounty hunters amid the stars. All three are perfect and as this is my first ménage, I am having a blast letting my imagination and love of Firefly, Battlestar Gallactica and Stargate take me places in my imagination.

I draw upon my favorite books that had some memorable characters as inspiration for my characters. You know those authors like Sherrilyn Kenyon, Keri Arthur, Lena Austin, Sierra Dafoe, Claire Thompson, Josh Lanyon and more who create many wonderful characters for readers to fall in love with. With each book I write, I try to draw on my inspiration and give the characters that spark that makes them lovable as well as believable. So tell me, what makes a good alpha male hero in your mind? Have any favorites that make you swoon?

Raine Delight is a multi-published author who enjoys writing about alpha heroes who need the love of a good mate to settle their heart. You can find her on the web at  (website), (blog), (Yahoo loop)
or on Twitter at Raine Delight.
She is with Secret Cravings Publishing (Devon Falls Series) and at Shadowfire Press (the upcoming Destined Mates series and Club Fantasy Series).

Current books:
Fantasies Unbound~Shadowfire Press (Sensual Paranormal Romance)
Available at Shadowfire Press and All Romance E-books
Buy at:
All Romance E-books:

Coming to Secret Cravings Publishing:
Devon Falls Series-late 2011
Book 1: Sticky Magic (Paranormal Erotic Romance) Please note this is currently being rewritten and expanded for re-release at SCP.
Book 2: Red Hot Magic (Paranromal Erotic Romance/Light Bondage) A Re-release and has been re-edited for SCP.
Book 3: Fiery Magic (Paranormal/Dragon Shifter) A Re-release and has been expanded for SCP.
Book 4: Haunting Magic (Paranormal/Wolf Shifter) A Re-release and has been expanded, re-edited for SCP.
Book 5: Moonlight & Magic (Paranormal/Tiger Shifter) *New Book Release*

Coming to Shadowfire Press
Space Pirates: Bounty (Sci-Fi Futuristic Ménage M/F/M) Release date: June 17th
Destined Mates 1: Bewitched by Destiny (Paranormal/Werepanther/Witch M/F) Release date: November 4th
Mistletoe Magic (Paranormal/Vampire/Fae M/F) Release Date: December 4th
Club Fantasy 1: Desires Unleashed (Paranormal/BDSM Menage M/M/F) Release Date: May 4th, 2012
Plus Books 2 & 3 in both Destined Mates and Club Fantasy come out in 2012-2014 as well as the final four books in the Devon Falls series.

This doesn't include my plot bunnies hopping around either. J

Coming June 17th from Shadowfire Press~
Space Pirates: Bounty
A Frontiers in Space Story
Author: Raine Delight
Genre: Science Fiction-Futuristic Ménage Erotic (M/M/F)
Publisher: Shadowfire Press
Release Date-June 17th, 2011
Tagline: Can one woman find a way to save her friend while falling in love with the sexiest space pirates this side of the galaxy?

Kara Griffin is determined to save her friend, Reggie from the alien slavers but what she finds is a love with two of the hottest space pirates this side of the galaxy. Capt. Rafe Gregory and his first mate, Tyrese are shocked to find a woman stow away on their ship but soon find themselves falling for this feisty earthling. The chase is on...the question is who won't win but who will fall fast and hard when these three come together in passion and desire.

Thank you so much for visiting us today, Raine.  I'm in awe of all your output! 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Emotional Stress and My Characters

As usual, everyone has done a great job of covering this topic this week. I'm going to go in a slightly different direction.

When my characters are stressed emotionally, I've given them some habits that (hopefully) outwardly betray their inner turmoil.

Sharlie in This Time for Always twirls the ends of her hair around her finger.

Jessica in This Can't Be Love bites her lip. Zach went out and chopped wood when guilt over kissing Jessica consumed him. (He couldn't help it...when she bites her lip it drives him all the right ways!)

After a difficult law case, Amber in "This Feels Like Home" decides to escape the city and visit her cousin in the country.

Erika in "Family Secrets" bites her fingernails. (She also opted for a late night ice cream raid of the refrigerator! Something chocolate-y of course...)

Heather in A Christmas to Remember ate entire bags of Doritoes and Double Stuffed Oreos after her cheating boyfriend took his secretary to Jamaica.

I plan on adding drumming fingernails, kicking the foot crossed over the other leg, or toe tapping to future characters.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Handling Emotional Stress

The original title for this week’s topic was ‘How do your characters handle emotional stress?’ I agree that non-verbal body language can help us to show the reader some of the physical reactions of our characters when they are under stress, but I think it goes much deeper than that.

We want our readers to empathise with the characters and to feel things as they feel them. Therefore just showing them slumping forward in despair or their voice breaking with tears isn’t enough.

People handle emotional stress in so many different ways. Someone who has been betrayed or let down or had their heart broken may rant and rave or throw things or cry on the shoulder of their best friend or sit brooding, or, indeed, behave perfectly normally, keeping their heartbreak hidden inside them.

The reader has to see behind whatever outward reactions the character is showing to the world. They have to feel whatever the character is feeling deep inside and not just what is on the outside. Do they feel sick, numb, angry, devastated, dejected, betrayed, humiliated? Do they blame themselves, the other person, someone else or the world in general? And how are they reacting, not on the surface, but deep within themselves – with resignation, depression, pessimism or determination?

I believe the only way we can show these things is to feel the emotions ourselves and not simply write about them. If we identify with our characters, we live their story with them, we feel everything as acutely as they do, and this makes it possible for the reader to identify with them too and feel, rather than just see, what they are going through.