Sunday, October 30, 2011

A stands for Appearance

We’ve set up a new challenge for ourselves on HWH. Posts will follow the alphabet. All posts this week will be on topics starting with the letter A. Next week, the letter B. And so forth.

I want to talk about defining a lead character’s APPEARANCE. When I first get a fix on a story line, that usually comes with a solid gender and age for my heroine. Since I write historicals and timetravels, she is usually in her 20’s or early 30’s, pretty to beautiful, and, by personal preference, capable in her everyday world.

If I were writing YA, she’d be in her teens. Contemporaries could have an older heroine, needing to start a fresh chapter in life. Suspense seems to call for a heroine who is energetic and well-established in a career. There are many potential variations, though, and writing the unexpected may lift a novel above the pack.

In the first community ed novel writing class I attended, the instructor taped people pictures on the whiteboard. She told us to each pick a picture to craft a story around. I asked if I could pick two, since I knew I wanted to write a romance. (I was surprised I was the only romance enthusiast. I had so much to learn.)

I claimed two pictures, and started inventing descriptions of my new characters’ personalities. By the end of the class, I was able to pitch a credible basic plot. I was hooked!

Since then, I’ve not focused on the picture method, mainly because my magazine subscriptions are for news or farming. I might glance at Sunset and People in the dentist’s office, but feel guilty about ripping out a page or two.

I know my WIP characters very well after five years of writing. But when I start my next story, I plan to make a collage of my hero, heroine, and villain, and maybe my main secondary characters.

Essential details of appearance are:

Body type
Color of hair, skin and eyes
How the eyes react to various situations: open wide? Narrow? Dart here and there? Avoid?
Same with the speech. Is she verbose or reticent? Use big words or stammer? Curse, repeat, yes sir a lot? Repeated phrases? Honey, sugar, or baby doll said affectionately or insultingly?
Any scars, moles, dimples, weird eyebrows, big earlobes?
Size and shape of hands and feet
Breasts / chest, hips
Length and size of arms and legs
Choice of clothing
How he walks
Personal hygiene
What s/he does while waiting in a line.

Donald Maas says a lead character should have:
1. courage
2. virtue
3. likeability
4. competence

Body type and appearance can impact these four qualities.
Let the cutting and pasting begin!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Friday Friend - Katheryn Lane

Please welcome today's Friday Friend, Katheryn Lane.

Katheryn has lived and worked all over the world, including the USA, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.  As a result she has no clear idea of where she is really from!  She is currently working full-time as a teacher, mother and a wife, but somehow she also finds time to be a part-time writer as well.  ‘The Royal Sheikh’ is her first book, a contemporary romance inspired by her experience of living in the Middle East.  In her free time (on the rare occasion that she has any!) she loves to lose herself in a good book.

Happy Endings

‘ . . . and they lived happily ever after’ is the classic ending of any good fairytale.  It is also the classic ending to any romance novel and though it is phrased in more varied language, the meaning is the same: the boy gets the girl (or nowadays, the girl gets the boy) and they are united together in their love for each other after having overcome many tests and challenges.  But why is this?  Why do romances always have that happily ever after ending?

Firstly, romance stories are types of fairy tales in which good overcomes evil and love conquers all.  Both fairytales and romances have an enduring appeal because of this as they reinforce our hope that love will win the day and that despite all the hardships that are suffered, life is essentially good and fair.  Like fairytales, romances show us that despite the many trials and tribulations that are thrown our way (whether it’s the big bad wolf, or a simple misunderstanding between two people), the power of love will find a way to overcome these obstacles, beat the odds and enable us to find happiness.

Secondly, even though we know that life is often not fair, the guaranteed happy ending in romances gives us a bit of escapism.  In real life there are too many unhappy endings due to illness, death and divorce, not to mention infidelity, unrequited love and forced separation.  Reading a good romance provides us with a bit of fantasy and a pleasurable escape.  Even when we aren’t confronted with the bigger problems in life, romances give us an easy way to get away from some of the more miserable aspects of our existence such as the weather, having to get up at 5.00am for work (in my case!) and the price of the weekly shopping bill.  Romances have the power to bring some joy into our lives.  Without the happy ever after ending, a romance novel would turn into a tragedy and if that is what we wanted to read, we would pick up a copy of ‘Wuthering Heights’ or ‘The English Patient’ instead.

Thirdly, as we read a romance we become attached to the central characters and there is nothing like the satisfaction of seeing them, like good friends, coming together at last and finding true happiness.  Personally as a writer, I want my characters to be happy by the time I leave them at the end of the story and I would feel guilty if I didn’t.  If I left them apart at the close of the final chapter I would feel that my story was unfinished and I am sure that my readers would feel cheated.  In the same way, readers of an Agatha Christie mystery would feel cheated if Miss Marple failed to solve the crime by the end of the book and the mystery finished with her saying that she has absolutely no idea who did it.

I am sure that there are many more reasons why romances have that happily ever after ending, but for me these are the main ones and they are why I love reading and writing romance.

Katheryn, thank you so much for being with us today.  Having read and enjoyed 'The Royal Sheikh' while I was holiday last week, I don't think I'm giving too much of a spoiler by saying that of course it has a happy and satisfying ending!

‘The Royal Sheikh’ is available from Amazon:
Follow Katheryn online at Twitter:
Read what she’s up to at the moment:

Monday, October 24, 2011

Kinesics - Using Body Language in your Novels

Kinesics is the interpretation of body language i.e. the movement of the body as a whole or any part of the body. The term was first used in 1952 by Ray Birdwhistell, an anthropologist, who argued that all movements of the body have meaning and that these non-verbal forms of language can be analysed.

Of course we’re all aware of how different facial expressions can reveal a person’s feelings. There are seven universally recognized emotions shown through facial expressions: fear, anger, surprise, contempt, disgust, happiness, and sadness. I would suggest there are many more – concentration, desire, joy, frustration and confusion are just a few that come to mind. As writers, it’s our job to show our characters’ feelings – not by statements such as ‘She felt confused’ but by showing her confusion as in ‘Her nose wrinkled and the crease between her brows deepened as she looked from Sam to John and then back again.’

Eyes and mouth probably play the largest part in showing feelings – contrast the widening eyes of interest with the rolling eyes of frustration, and the tight-lipped smile with the pursed lips. Eye-contact (or lack of it) can also reveal a whole range of different feelings.

The movement of the head as a whole is important too. Nodding signifies agreement, slow head nodding shows attentiveness, fast head nodding can show impatience, and there’s a world of difference between the head held high and the head down.

The position of the arms can signify different things, and of course the hands have their own language, whether it’s clenched fists, cracking knuckles or fidgeting with a pen or wineglass.

Leg positions can sometimes be influenced by gender. Men and women do tend to sit differently. Partly due to clothing, partly due to sexual differences, men naturally exhibit more open leg positions than women, but there are still accepted interpretations of leg position. The figure-4 leg cross with the supporting leg being crossed just above the knee by the ankle of the or lower calf of the crossing leg signifies independence. With a hand clamped over the ankle of the crossing leg, it can reveal stubbornness since the hand produces a locked position, reflecting the mood of the person.

Even the position of people in relation to each other can be interesting. Sitting opposite another person can create a feeling of confrontation, which is intensified if there is a table of desk between you and the other person. Of course, sitting opposite across a table can be fine for lovers who gaze into each other’s eyes!

Studying kinesics can help us to use the right expressions, gestures, movement or body positions to reveal the emotions of our characters.

One the best articles I have read on the subject can be found at This gives lots of examples, but also points out that body-language is not an exact science, and that a single body language signal cannot be considered a reliable indicator.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Welcome to Ann Gimpel

Please welcome our latest Friday Friend, Ann Gimpel. Ann is a clinical psychologist with a Jungian bent who practices in a very isolated area high in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains. Avocations include mountaineering, skiing, wilderness photography, and, of course, writing. A lifelong aficionado of the unusual, she began writing speculative fiction a few years ago. Her short stories have appeared in The Absent Willow Review, The Aurora Wolf Literary Journal, Aurora of the Dawn (anthology), Title Goes Here, America the Horrific (anthology due out in October 2011) and Cover of Darkness (anthology due out in November 2011). Her debut novel, Psyche’s Prophecy was released in March of 2011 by Gypsy Shadow Publishing, a small press. Psyche’s Search, book two of the series, is slated for release in October or November 2011.

Why I Don’t Want to Grow Up—Not Ever

Do you remember back to when you were really young? When the boogeyman lived under the bed, or in the back of the closet? And your mom told you he’d get you if you didn’t finish your peas. There was that little frisson of fear that would scuttle down your spine. Part of you knew things like boogeymen didn’t really exist—or did they? The possibility that they might added an edgy, exciting dimension to things.

I sometimes wonder if the box age (you know, the one that started with television and ended with computers and smartphones) hasn’t shifted that sense of wonder we who grew up in the fifties and sixties used to have. There were mysteries when I was a kid and no internet to race to in a hunt for answers. So, some mysteries remained just that. And that was fine. It was all right that some things had no answers; that you just sort of took it on faith that there were at least a few things that couldn’t be dissected into their component parts.

So, what does all this have to do with writing? Authors, really good ones, are able to transport you to another world. It doesn’t have to be a far-fetched science fiction or fantasy world like the ones I frequently write about, but it does have to have enough in the way of world-building to anchor you in the writer’s imaginal process. Reading is an escape and if the world inside the book isn’t sufficiently enticing, you’ll put it down and move on to something that captivates you.

As a sidebar, I’d like to say a couple of things about the imaginal world. Like, for example, what it is. On its simplest level, it’s where we go in our imaginations. For many artists though, this place can turn into a multi-faceted experience. Once they asked Nijinsky what was in his head as he danced. His response was, “I am sitting in the front row watching myself.”

What I think he meant by that was he was able to split his conscious mind into two parts: the part keeping his agile body balanced through the amazing, gravity-defying twirls and jumps he did on stage, and a more cognitive part choreographing his next moves. Because what he did had a physical element, the marriage of his physical and intellectual selves was his link to the imaginal world and the basis for his genius.

How does the imaginal world pan out for writers since it’s a far less physically demanding artistic pursuit? I can only speak for myself, but when I’m deep into a story, my head is so full it’s difficult to stop writing to come down to start dinner. And when I do, God help the poor, hapless family member who actually tries to talk to me because I’m not living in twenty-first century America at that moment. Nope, I’m running alongside my characters as they sketch out their next moves in a sort of parallel universe. Terry Brooks once said something like, “In this business, if you tell your muse to go away, you never know when you’ll see her again. Or if.”

I’ve been writing long enough now that I trust the muse will return. It’s simply a matter of when. Problem is, if I skitter out of the imaginal world back to the other one, I get grumpy because it’s not where I want to be. I suppose I’m happiest when the story just keeps on unfolding and I find myself letting pretty much everything else go to hell as I spend hours and days at the keyboard before coming up for air. I’ve always been grateful for my tolerant family. They’re my first beta readers, my biggest critics and my greatest advocates. Long hours on the trail in the backcountry help too. I’ve written lots of short stories in my head on those journeys and gotten the underpinnings for a novel as well. Solitude is my key. It stokes my imagination. Doesn’t take much to bring me back to being a five or six year old kid wondering if tonight is the night the monster will spin out of the closet.

Which circles back to the title of this blog post. Children are born with wonderful imaginations that we set about drumming out of them practically from the time they can talk. There’s nothing wrong with something hiding in the closet, or a magical staircase rising up just there next to the window.

We live in an age that is antithetical to mystery, and because we want everything explained to within an inch of its life; it is also an age that is antithetical to imagination. Without imagination, it becomes progressively harder to lose oneself in books or anything else. I think the fix is to read more, especially to children. Teach them to love books. Let them regale you with fantastic tales about dragons and wizards. Read them The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. Pull out the Narnia Chronicles. There’s something irresistible about a magic door in the back of a wardrobe leading to a whole other world. I just finished Lev Grossman’s Magician Kings and it has a definite C.S. Lewis feel about it. Probably why it was a best seller. They don’t access Fillory from a wardrobe, but one of the many routes into that magical land is through a grandfather clock.

This is getting too long, so I’ll wrap up. Find the Alice in Wonderland door in your own mind. Revel in the unexplained. Grab onto a dream and make it real for yourself. Take a couple of really deep breaths and tell your best friend how much you love them. Read to your kids and grandkids. And never lose your sense of wonder. 

Cover Blurb: Psyche’s Prophecy
What if your psychotherapist could really see into your soul?  Picture all those secrets lying hidden, perhaps squirming a bit, just out of view.  Would you invite your analyst to take a peek behind that gossamer curtain?  Read your aura?  Scry your future…?

Classically trained at the Jung Institute in Zurich, Doctor Lara McInnis has a special gift that helps her with her patients.  Born with “the sight” she can read auras, while flirting with a somewhat elusive ability to foretell the future.  Lara becomes alarmed when several of her patients—and a student or two—tell her about the same cataclysmic dream.  Reaching out to the Institute for answers, Lara’s paranormal ability sounds a sharp warning and she runs up hard against a dead end.  Her search for assistance leads her to a Sidhe and ancient Celtic rituals blaze their way into her life.  Complicating the picture is a deranged patient who’s been hell bent on destroying Lara ever since she tried to help his abused wife, a boyfriend with a long-buried secret and a society that’s crumbling to dust as shortages of everything from electricity to food escalate.

Excerpt from Psyche’s Prophecy:

Chapter One
Lara McInnis fidgeted in the ginger-colored overstuffed chair taking up most of one corner of her cozy psychotherapy office. Schooling her face to neutrality, she tried to gin up some energy to support her quarreling clients. Bethany Beauchamp wasn’t saying all that much, though; and her husband was cataloging her faults, clicking them off one by one on his fat fingers. Wonder why they really wanted to come here? Lara asked herself, searching for an opportunity to intervene. Aha, there it was.
“Mister Beauchamp,” she murmured, voice pitched purposefully low so he’d have to stop talking in order to hear her.
“Yes, what?” He sounded irritated, voice scratchy from too many cigarettes. “You interrupted me.”
“Yes, I know. But I was interested in what you were saying and I didn’t quite catch that last part before I, um, interrupted. Might you be so kind as to repeat it for me?” Oh-oh. Watch the sarcasm.
Ken Beauchamp straightened self-importantly in his chair, carefully slicking back a couple of mouse-brown hairs that had fallen out of place in his too-careful comb over. Uncrossing short, chubby legs encased in expensive suiting, he turned so he could look right at her with close-set blue eyes. Broken blood vessels along the sides of his nose suggested a far-too-intimate relationship with alcoholic beverages.
“We pay you quite well. The least you could do is be attentive,” he complained, an unpleasant whiny note in his voice.
She nodded, offering a silent invitation to speak to her rather than to his wife who looked exhausted. Bethany’s eight-month pregnancy dragged at her tall, slender frame and dark smudges under her hazel eyes detracted from her showgirl beauty. Light auburn hair fell in limp curls to her shoulders. Though only in her early thirties, today she looked ten years older.
After an imperceptible pause Ken took the bait and, rather than repeating his last statement as requested, he started in on Lara. “Well, Doctor, you’ve been late for our appointments twice out of the ten we’ve scheduled. None of the things you’ve suggested work and our marriage isn’t any better than it was the day we walked in here.” He sat back in his chair, a smug smile on his florid face.
“Which things have you tried?” It was difficult to keep her features pleasant. She was coming to detest Ken Beauchamp and suspected his wife felt much the same. Stealing a glance at her other patient, Lara noticed Bethany seemed to be trying not to cry. Reaching over, Lara handed her the box of Kleenex she always kept next to her chair. “Mister Beauchamp?” she urged. “What things have you tried? I need to know so I can work with you to figure out what might be more effective.” Or, so I can find an excuse to refer you to another therapist.
Ken’s face reddened even more. “I’m sure we’ve tried some of them,” he said defensively. Shifting his bulky body around in his chair, he shot his uncomfortable wife an intimidating look. “Beth, the good doctor here is asking what we’ve tried.”
Withering under her husband’s knife-like stare, Bethany burst into tears, choking on the word, “N-nothing,” as she buried her face in her hands. Outside of her soft sobbing, the corner office, morning sun streaming through leaded-glass window panes, was absolutely silent.
Lara leaned forward, her dark luminous eyes moving from Ken to Bethany. “It’s like I told both of you when you first came here, I can’t fix your marriage. Only you can do that. But, for there to be any improvement, you have to be willing to listen to one another. We’re nearly at the end of today’s hour, but frankly there’s not much reason for you to spend your money coming here week after week just so I can listen to you argue and try to referee. Go home and have an honest discussion this morning while everything’s still fresh. Figure out if you really want to continue seeing me. If the answer is ‘yes’, call me and come on back next week. If the answer is ‘no’, well . . .” She let her last words hang in the air, realizing she was hoping to never have to see Mister Beauchamp again.
“Uh, here.” Ken rustled around in an inner jacket pocket coming up with a well-creased piece of paper. “Sign this.”
Taking the paper from him, she flipped it open. Damn the man. He’d been court-ordered to attend marriage counseling and he hadn’t told her. In fact, neither of them had. Fuming, she hastily checked the box verifying attendance at ten sessions, signed the document and handed it back to him. “You should have told me, Mister Beauchamp. We might have done things a bit differently.” We sure would have, since I never accept court-referred clients. He just looked at her as he snatched up the paper, a feral smile adding a malevolent note to his already-unattractive face.
“Thank you, Doctor McInnis.” Bethany’s voice was still clotted with tears as she planted her feet beneath her ample belly, then struggled to her feet. Standing, Lara held out her hand and Bethany latched onto it like a lifeline. The two women looked down at Ken who hadn’t made the slightest effort to leave his chair. He was chewing on his lower lip, his face the color of a boiled lobster.
Acting on impulse, Lara let go of Bethany’s hand and gestured to her. “I’ll just walk your wife down to the ladies’ room, Mister Beauchamp, so she can put some cold water on her face. She’ll meet you at the car.”
Pulling the office door open, she exchanged a meaningful glance with her receptionist. “Arabel, could you please see Mister Beauchamp out?”
Without waiting for a reply, she took Bethany’s elbow, pushing her out into the hallway. As soon as they were safely out of the office, Lara turned to Bethany. “He hurts you, doesn’t he?” Her voice was the barest of whispers as she remembered the little she’d been able to drag out of Ken about his obscenely violent childhood.
A single tear leaked from one of Bethany’s eyes as she mumbled, “I, uh, can’t, um, shouldn’t . . .” They had reached the bathroom and were both inside the tiny enclosure. Lara waited, regarding her patient intently with well-honed inner senses. But Bethany maintained an edgy silence, the ragged, darkened edges of her aura radiating a gloomy melancholy. Probing with her psychic side, Lara suddenly knew much of what the woman was unwilling to divulge. And then—as was often the case when she used her gift—she wished she’d left well enough alone.
Reaching into a pocket of her plaid wool skirt, Lara pulled out a pen and one of her cards, scribbling a number on the back. “If things get bad, make an excuse, any excuse. Tell him you’re going out for a walk. Bring your cell phone and call this number. They help women like you.”
Bethany’s hand snaked out and she took the card; then a frantic look washed over her. “But what if he finds the number?” she whimpered.
“It doesn’t matter. They won’t talk to him.” Lara laid a hand on Bethany’s arm. “You probably need to get down to your car. Maybe you could come in and talk to me by yourself.”
“He’d never let me.” Dull voice matching her dead eyes, Bethany let herself out into the corridor and began walking, with the awkward gait of the very-pregnant, towards the stairs.
Back in her office, Lara stopped at Arabel’s desk. “Who else do I have today?”
Hooking her thumb out the door, Arabel asked, “What’s up with them? The mister, he seemed pretty put out. For a minute there I didn’t think I was gonna git him out of the office.”
“You know I can’t discuss patients with you, dear. Or, at least we have to pretend we don’t talk about them.” Lara smiled fondly at the elderly Black woman who had been her sole office help for over twenty years. Arabel was dressed in her usual white blouse, navy gabardine skirt and black flats. An ancient maroon sweater hung over the back of her secretarial chair. Hair in a modified mostly-gray afro, she had a piquant sense of humor and a quick temper that was sparking from her nearly-black eyes.
“Hmmmmph . . .” Arabel bristled, mouth twisted into a frown. “You know I got nobody I’d be tellin’ anything to. Never have.”
“Sorry, sorry. Didn’t mean to your feelings.” Lara held out a conciliatory hand. “Truce?”
Arabel cocked her head to one side, the corners of her mouth twitching as she reached up to shake hands. “Truce. Never could stay mad at you. Not for long, anyways.” Turning back to the computer, she brought up the day’s schedule on the monitor. “David Roth cancelled, so you’re free till one thirty. Then you got folk packed in here till close to eight.”
Lara walked around the desk so she could look at the screen. Groaning audibly, she glanced at her watch. “Okay, I’m going to swing by the gym and then grab some lunch. Call me if anything comes up.”
“You got it.” Arabel’s voice followed Lara into her office where she grabbed her purse and her BlackBerry, locked her client file drawers and let herself out the back door.
Lara’s office was in an old, pale blue Victorian on Seattle’s Capitol Hill. She’d bought the building for a song about ten years before because someone had thought there were problems with the foundation. There had been some structural deficiencies, but they’d proven relatively trivial to fix. Split into four offices, her building was home to an architect and a CPA on the first floor, and herself and a psychiatrist on the second. Walking through a carpet of leaves that had fallen off the Madrona trees thickly lining East Avenue, Lara hit the clicker and heard the answering chirp from her nearby BMW.
As she drove, Lara thought about the Beauchamps. She’d spent an unusually long time—at least the first five sessions—gathering a history from them. One problem had been Ken’s reticence to disclose much of anything. Persistence and caginess had paid off, though, and he’d told her far more than he’d meant to about the French-Irish gang-affiliated father who’d turned him out as a child prostitute at the age of eight. His mother had abandoned the family when he was so young he had no memories of her at all, just oodles of anger Lara suspected he generalized to all women . . . including her. By contrast, Bethany’s meager life story had tumbled out with very little prodding. Not that hers read much better than her husband’s.
Fears for Bethany nagged at her. “What if they want to come back?” she asked herself softly. “Should I see them?” Pulling into the parking lot for her fitness center, Lara knew she’d turn that question over in her mind as she moved through her workout. Once she lost her objectivity—and any empathy she’d tried to develop for Ken had long since evaporated—it became progressively more difficult to work with clients. She’d learned some hard lessons over the years, including that it was usually better to cut the cord sooner rather than later.
“Hi Tony!” Dropping her membership card onto the glass countertop, she snagged the proffered key and towel from the tall well-sculpted front desk attendant and headed down the lushly carpeted stairs.
“Have a good workout, Doc! Power’s on today so all the machines are available,” Tony’s throaty voice trailed after her.
Pulling her longish coppery hair into a snug ponytail, she was just pocketing her locker key when she heard her phone trilling its Bach Etude. Wrinkling her forehead in irritation, she stuffed the key back into its hole, retrieved the phone and barked, “Doctor McInnis,” without bothering to look at the screen.
“Hey there, Lara. It’s me.” The clipped British accent of Trevor, her long time, live-in lover, came through the tinny cellular system. “Sorry to bother you, love, but the power’s off again . . . at least on Queen Anne Hill.” He paused. “Thought you’d want to know.”
She found she was gripping the plastic of her BlackBerry. “Again? But that’s the third time since, let’s see, last Wednesday. How long did they say this time? Or did they? Or did you even call? What about the food in the freezer?” She stopped abruptly, realizing her voice had become unnecessarily shrill. “Sorry,” she muttered. “I’m just worried, that’s all.”
“I know, I know. That’s why I called you.” There was a hesitation. “Guess I’m worried too, and I just wanted someone to talk to.”
She closed her eyes, summoning an image of him with his Nordic features and summer-blue eyes. He was a flight attendant for KLM airlines, which meant he only worked about fifteen days each month. She’d met him ages ago on a return flight from Europe where she’d been completing the last leg of her analytic training at the Jung Institute in Zurich. Exhausted from a grueling six weeks of seeing patients, she’d been half-asleep in her narrow airline seat and he’d solicitously brought her tea and cookies. Lara wasn’t quite sure how it had happened, but he’d come home with her that night and they’d been together ever since. Those first few years had been more than a bit rocky. In fact, she’d run screaming from their home a time or two, so she wouldn’t kill him on the spot. But something indefinable—in fact she still didn’t truly understand what it was—had always drawn her back.
Sinking into one of the wicker chairs in a corner of the locker room, she felt a less-than-vague sense of unease tugging at her. “What do you think it means? Have you any idea?” There was a very long silence, so long she finally said, “Trev, you still there?”
“Yes, Lara, I am.” His accent was more pronounced, so she knew he was debating whether or not to give voice to his thoughts. Finally, he blurted, “I think we’re really running out of oil this time. Not like all those other times when the government stock-piled it and then released it after the price sky-rocketed. You wouldn’t know about this, since you’re such a news-phobe and I gas up the cars, but it was really hard to find petrol last month. Damned near impossible, actually.
“If what I suspect is true, everything that takes oil to run will eventually go tits-up.” He paused to draw what sounded like a frazzled breath before adding, “We might have been all right here in the northwest with all our hydroelectric power, except the rest of the country’s been draining power off our grid to compensate for their shortages. That’s been in all the papers since our state lawmakers have been kicking up a fuss in D.C. Anyway,” his voice was brusque, “I’m cooking up what I can from the freezer. We can talk more about this when you come home. If you get any breaks today, think about how you’d feel if we had to leave the city. Whoops, my cell’s ringing. See you tonight.”
Slipping her phone back into her locker, Lara walked towards the aerobics room and jumped on one of the elliptical trainers. She wanted to come to some decision about Bethany and her husband, but the conversation with Trevor kept intruding. Damn it, she thought irritably. He hung up before I could even react to that whole doomsday scenario he laid out. Hmmmmph! Probably didn’t want to give me a chance to talk him out of it. Meantime, I’m supposed to think about leaving the city? Where the hell would we go?
Mopping at sweat that was trickling down her face, Lara glanced at her reflection in the mirrors covering almost every wall. Staring back at her was a tall, too-thin redhead with freckles covering every inch of exposed skin. Her angular face, with its prominent nose and chin, glistened in the reflected light. Moving to the treadmill, she set it for six-and-a-half miles an hour and ran hard for ten minutes. Gasping, she slowly backed off on the speed, while increasing the angle. Ten minutes after that, she sucked down what felt like a quart of water from the drinking fountain and stopped by the squat rack to do three sets. Finishing with twenty pull-ups, she headed for the locker room and the showers.
Briskly toweling off, she felt animated and dynamic, the problems with power outages and the Ken Beauchamps of the world temporarily pushed to a back burner. Nothing like a few endorphins, she told herself, inhaling deeply. Making plans to get a smoothie-to-go with extra protein powder from the small on-site restaurant, she contemplated the afternoon’s lineup of patients.
Out of the six scheduled, there was one analytic client, two angry teenagers: a cutter and a bulimic, another couple and two lonely, middle-aged women, one depressed, the other anxious. Too bad it’s unethical to introduce patients to one another . . . outside of a therapy group that is. Lara chuckled softly to herself. She loved doing analytic work, but there weren’t many who really wanted to delve that deeply into themselves. Not to mention the cost. For analysis to be truly effective, patients needed to come three, or even four, times a week. “Magic theater, not for everyone,” she mumbled as she picked up her smoothie, a tofu bar and some green tea before heading for her car. The sun, an elusive phenomenon in Seattle, was nowhere in sight and it was raining lightly. While not cold, the day held some of the crispness typical of mid-October. Her phone chimed again but she ignored it, figuring she’d be back at her office in less than five minutes.
* * *
“Can you tell me what goes on inside you before you start cutting?” Lara took in the overweight seventeen-year-old, sitting catty-corner from her, arms and legs covered with a network of fine white scars from years of self-mutilation. Caren would have been attractive, with her silky black hair and porcelain skin, were it not for the miasma of absolute misery emanating outwards from her like a spider’s web set to trap the unwary. The girl had been coming to therapy for a month, but had been steadfastly unwilling to divulge anything.
“I suppose I could tell you, but I don’t really want to,” the teenager spat. “You don’t care about me. You see me because my stepmother pays you. This is nothing but a fucking waste of time.” Folding her arms across her chest, she stared defiantly at Lara.
Lara watched her patient intently. Caren squirmed in her chair, eyes glued to the floor. “Caren, would you look at me, please?”
“Why?” The girl sounded sullen.
“Because I want you to see I’m telling you the truth when I say I do care about you. You’ve had a perfectly rotten life and you have every right not to trust anybody.”
Caren risked a sidelong glance at her. “How do you know anything about my life? I haven’t told you very much.”
Lara was silent for several seconds. Even without her ability to read auras, she’d have been able to figure out a likely script for Caren’s early life: molested, physically abused and emotionally neglected. “What we really need to talk about is a plan so you have something to do besides carving on yourself when you feel bad. Once we can come up with that, we can talk about anything you’d like.”
“Can I take a bathroom break?”
Lara nodded. “Second door on the left outside of my office.” Watching the teenager leave, she wondered if she’d made a mistake. What if she has razors with her and cuts herself in my bathroom? How do I explain that to her parents? Making a conscientious effort to breathe, Lara glanced at her watch deciding to give Caren five minutes before going after her. Trying to summon her elusive ability to predict future events, she came up dry while wishing fervently there was a shaman somewhere who could teach her about her psychic abilities. “Yes, but first you have to be willing to tell people you can do those things,” she muttered. “You’ve always been afraid they’d cart you off to the loony bin.”
With just ten seconds to spare, Caren sidled back through the door. She had a mulish look on her face and Lara knew her young patient would bolt if given the slightest excuse.
“Thanks for coming back,” Lara offered, attempting to soothe the alienated girl.
“Thanks for trusting me to leave.” Caren resettled herself in one of the comfortable chairs across from Lara. The barest of smiles ghosted across her face and she took a deep breath. “This is really hard to talk about . . .”
“Yes, I know. But nothing you say leaves here.”
“That’s almost not the point,” the teenager mumbled, twisting in her chair. “Talking makes it hurt more.”
Lara nodded and, as she looked at Caren, scenes flashed quickly, one after the other: a woman holding a small screaming girl down then doing unspeakable things, brutal beatings, cigarettes pressed into tender flesh. Lara closed her eyes, sucking down a surreptitious ragged breath. “Yes, it does hurt to talk about it,” she agreed. “But that’s the only way out. If you keep everything bottled up inside, you’ll just keep cutting . . . The first part is always hardest. After that it won’t be quite so bad.”
“How can you know that?” Caren risked a sideways glance at her.
“’Cause I’ve done this for a long time.” Lara paused. “And I’ve got no reason to lie to you.”
Caren raised crystalline-blue eyes and Lara saw a scared little girl, living behind teenaged bravado, desperately wanting to trust someone . . . anyone, but frightened half out of her mind at taking that first small step. After a very long time, Caren began hesitantly, in a voice so low Lara had to strain to hear her. “It feels like I have to cut or something terrible will happen. I try to fight it, but I always lose . . .”
“What do the voices that live in your head tell you?”
“How do you know about them?” Caren sounded rattled. Fear flitted across her face; and she folded her arms protectively across her chest. “I didn’t tell you . . .”
“Because everybody who cuts has voices that tell them things, before they tell them to cut. It’s okay to talk to me about them. The voices don’t mean you’re crazy.”
Caren’s eyes closed. Her head dropped back against the chair. As Lara watched, one tear escaped, rolling down the girl’s pale face. Time passed. Lara knew it was impossible to force anyone to reveal their secrets. Clients had to come to an inner juncture where they believed the pain of disclosure would be worth the risk. Fleetingly, she thought about how lonely and isolated the teenager must be. Just like I was . . .
“Doctor McInnis?” Caren’s voice was thready, almost not there at all.
“Yes, dear.”
“You said everybody who cuts has voices telling them things. Have you helped other people like me?”
Lara nodded, then realized Caren couldn’t see her because her eyes were still closed. “Yes,” she said simply. “I have.”
“Did they stop cutting?”
“Some of them did.”
The girl seemed to consider this. She opened her eyes, shiny with unshed tears, and looked pleadingly at Lara. “You must be telling me the truth,” she said in a choked voice.
“How can you tell?” Lara smiled gently and, she hoped, encouragingly.
“Otherwise you would have told me all your other stupid, fucked-up cutter patients got well.”
“You’re not stupid, or fucked-up.”
“Yes, I am. And fat and ugly too.” Caren was struggling not to cry.
“That’s what the voices tell you, isn’t it?”
Caren nodded miserably, giving in to a flood of emotion.
“It’s all right,” Lara murmured. “Cry. This is a good place for your tears. Here’s more Kleenex. I think you’re courageous. Maybe we can re-program those voices to say good things.”
Caren shook her head vehemently. “Nothing good . . . never.” The words choked out between sobs.
“I want you to take a few deep breaths,” Lara urged, waiting for the girl’s emotional storm to subside. “Now I want you to listen, just listen. None of what happened to you was your fault. And it doesn’t matter how I know.” Lara held up a hand to still Caren’s protests. “You were a child. None of those things happened because you were fat or ugly or stupid. They happened because your caregivers were sadly damaged . . .”

Cover Blurb: Psyche’s Search
Born with the sight, Laura McInnis is ambivalent about her paranormal ability. Oh it’s useful enough some of the time with her psychotherapy patients. But mostly it’s an embarrassment and an inconvenience—especially when her visions drag her to other worlds. Or into Goblin dens. In spite of escalating violence, incipient food shortages and frequent power blackouts, Lara is still far too attached to the comfortable life she shares with her boyfriend, Trevor, a flight attendant who lost his job when aviation fuel got so expensive—and so scarce—his airline went out of business. Forced to seek assistance to hone her unusual abilities in Psyche’s Prophecy, Book I of this series, Lara is still quite the neophyte in terms of either summoning or bending her magic to do much of anything.

Reluctantly roped into channeling her unpredictable psychic talents to help a detective who saved her from a psychopathic killer, Lara soon finds herself stranded in the murky underbelly of a world inhabited by demons.  The Sidhe offer hope, but they are so high-handed Lara stubbornly resists their suggestions.  Riots, death on all sides, a mysterious accident and one particular demon targeting her, push Lara to make some hard decisions. When all seems lost, the Dreaming, nestled in the heart of Celtic magic, calls out to her. Heeding its summons brings sorrow, while opening the gates to a new life. 

Ann can be reached at the following:

Twitter:           @AnnGimpel

Monday, October 17, 2011

Autobiographical? Not!

One of the questions I get asked a lot by readers is whether there is anything from my own life in my books. I’m not sure if it’s because I write romance and they’re trying to figure out if I’m writing about my own sex life, or if they’re wondering whether they should be picturing me as the heroine or what. Perhaps every author gets asked this question, although the question is a lot less voyeuristic if the author writes some other genre. However, I’m going to choose the high road and assume they’re just curious about how I come up with the things in my stories.

I’ve actually given this a lot of thought. No, my stories are not autobiographical, but there are definitely parts of me in them. For example, in my book, A Heart of Little Faith, the heroine describes a scene from her childhood, when she used to pretend her dad’s back was a pizza pie. She’d roll out the dough, sprinkle on the cheese, pat on the toppings, swish on the sauce and her dad would get a great back rub in the process. It’s a cute scene and something I took from my own experience when I was about three years old.

In my upcoming book, Skin Deep, the hero and heroine go to the racetrack with the heroine’s family on Thanksgiving weekend. That scene is pulled directly from my childhood, including the mom’s betting strategy (borrowed from my great-grandmother)—you’ll have to read it to find out what that is—which is the most successful of everyone’s!

What about the heroine? Is she me? No, she’s not. None of my heroines are me. They might have qualities that I wish I had; sometimes they’re a mixture of a number of people. Sometimes they’re reflections of who I wish I could be. But they’re not me.

And the hero? Nope, not my husband either. Not that I’m saying my husband is less than perfect. But he’s mine. I don’t want the hero to be him. I want the hero to be different. Occasionally the hero is a combination of a number of actors I see on TV (George Clooney’s smile, for example). My romances are escapist. While I might ask my husband about a male perspective on something so that I can be sure to get a conversation right or a characterization accurate, my heroes are not my husband.  

One of my favorite authors, Lynn Kurland, has said that her villains are a mixture of her ex-boyfriends. I love that! So what about you? What’s the inspiration for your stories?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Welcome to Friday Friend Sarah Grimm

We are so delighted to have award winning author Sarah Grimm with us today as part of her extensive After Midnight tour. Sarah will be giving away a PDF copy of her new release to one lucky commenter, so be sure to leave your contact information for a chance to win.

Sarah, welcome to Heroines with Hearts!

Tell us about yourself.
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I have notebooks filled with poems, story ideas, and partial chapters from as far back as age five. As a young girl, I always told stories. Sometimes they were funny, other times scary, but they always ended, and I mean always, happily-ever-after.

I live in West Michigan, along the shores of Lake Michigan, with my husband of 19 years, two teenage sons, three miniature schnauzers and a guinea pig. Oh, and until I find it a new home, a kitten I rescued from the side of the highway. I write sizzling, dangerously sexy contemporary romance and romantic suspense—no intimacy hidden “behind closed doors” in my books. With me you get detailed, explicit love scenes. You’ve been warned.
(I say bring them warning needed!)

Tell us about After Midnight.
After Midnight is a contemporary romance now available from The Wild Rose Press. It’s a tortured heroine story—yes, heroine. The tale of piano phenom turned bar owner Isabeau Montgomery, and how one night, after midnight, her entire world changed.
Here’s the official blurb:
Thirteen years—that's how long Isabeau Montgomery has been living a lie. After an automobile accident took her mother's life, Izzy hid herself away, surviving the only way she knew how. Now she is happy in her carefully reconstructed life. That is until he walks through the door of her bar...

Black Phoenix singer/front man Noah Clark came to Long Island City with a goal--one that doesn't include an instant, electric attraction to the dark-haired beauty behind the bar. Coaxing her into his bed won't be easy, but he can't get her pale, haunted eyes nor her skill on the piano out of his head.

Can Noah help Isabeau overcome the past? Or will her need to protect her secret force her back into hiding and destroy their chance at happiness?

You have quite a lengthy tour put together for this release. How did that come about?
I think I suffered a mental lapse the day I decided to put this blog tour together. LOL Seriously, though, I’ve hosted a few tours on my own site and it seemed like a fun way to spread the word about a new release. I chose to do it myself instead of signing on with a promotions coordinator—and boy, did I underestimate just how much work was entailed! Thank God I have great friends who were willing to pull me back to earth during those panicky moments before I got everything together.
If you want to see just how large an undertaking I’m tackling, all of my tour stops are listed here:

What got you interested in writing?
My overactive imagination? The voices in my head? Honestly, I’m not certain I can pin down exactly what got me interested in writing, as it seems like I’ve been writing since I was in utero. Okay, so maybe that’s a stretch, but I know I’ve been reading and writing since the age of five, when my older sister taught me to read and write.
If I were to hazard a guess, I would have to say my love of reading is what got me interested in writing. I’ve never been able to read a book without picking out parts that I would have written differently, or without rewriting the ending in my head.

What comes first, plot or characters?
A lot of writers begin a story idea with plot, into which they insert characters. I’m the opposite. Characters have always come first for me. One day the hero (usually the hero) will stroll into my head, take a seat and begin talking. My job is to scribble down what he says, and then weave that conversation into a tale of happily-ever-after.

What is the hardest part of writing?
Finding the time. Between my day job, the part time work I do for my husband’s business, being a mom of two teenage sons and three dogs…sometimes days go by where I’ve barely had enough to time sit down and unwind, let alone become engrossed in the world of my characters. Spring and Summer are the busiest times of the year for me, though, so things are slowing down and my need to get back to the keyboard grows stronger every day.

Any advice for new writers?
Never let anyone or anything stand in the way of your dreams. When someone says you can’t do something, go out and do it anyway. Prove them wrong! Criticism hurts, and no matter who you are or the amount of talent you may have, at some point we all receive criticism. It’s inevitable. The only thing you can do is hold your head high and keep moving forward. Do. Not. Give. Up. Whatever your dream, go out and grab it!

On your web-site you mention “Midnight Heat”, second in your Midnight series. Can you tell us a little about that? What made you decide to write a series?
I didn’t have a choice. While writing After Midnight, Black Phoenix bassist Dominic Price, kept nagging me to tell his story. I have a soft spot for him, so I decided to give it a go. Since making that decision and sending out ARCs of After Midnight, I’ve had a few people ask about Dominic, so I know I’m not the only one who fell for him. LOL
"Midnight Heat" is a reunion romance that begins about seven months following the conclusion of After Midnight.

What is one question you wish an interviewer would ask you?
How did it feel when you learned you’d made the NYT bestseller’s list?
*grin* I always say if you’re going to dream, dream big!
(I couldn't agree more!)

Where can we find you and your books?
Group Blog:

Sarah’s Spread the Word Contest Featuring 3 Prize Packages:

Buy After Midnight here:
The Wild Rose Press (
Amazon (

Wow, Sarah, you are really out there all over the place! It's nice to have so many outlets for your many fans to find you!

Thanks again for joining us today!

Sunday, October 2, 2011


Music is a huge part of my life. Which is ironic, since I can't carry a tune in a bucket. But that doesn't stop me from singing in church or belting out a tune in the car along with the radio.

I listen to music all the time. It's the best pick-me-up there is. If I'm feeling tired or down or sad, I pop in a CD and it helps me to feel better. My genre of choice is country, and the artist of choice these days around our house is Eric Church. We don't go anywhere without one of his CDs or his songs loaded on the iPhone.

I'm not necessarily a morning person, but if I turn on music while I'm getting ready for school, it helps get me going. Yesterday while cleaning the house, we had music playing upstairs and down. Music is a must for working out. This is one place where country works, but something a little edgier is motivating, too.

I was a hair band addict in high school: Bon Jovi, Skid Row, Motley Crue. My sister and I spent more money on concert tickets than anything else during our teen years. (Jon Bon Jovi still does it for me even though he's shorn his locks.)

Now, when I write, I generally don't listen to music, unless it's classical...something without words. Scores from movies work well, too. (Pirates, Star Wars, Twilight) Something to have in the background to drown out noise from other parts of the house. Music with words is too distracting when I'm trying to come up with my own words to tell a story.

But even though I don't listen to music with lyrics while I write, music inspires me to write. The idea for my free read from Wild Rose, Mistletoe and Folly came to me while I was listening to a Toby Keith Christmas song. A crooning by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton inspired my upcoming A Christmas to Remember. I even did a blog post about my music muse at Morgan Mandel's site a while back.

I try to include music in my writing. Not necessarily making my characters singers (Although I do have a few ideas floating around for that, too!), but to give them depth and personality. My hero may whistle a favorite Conway Twitty song. Or my heroine might sing along with George Jones on the radio. Or she may scope the hero's CD collection to see what he likes.

I can't imagine life without music.

How about you?

Until next time,