Sunday, April 29, 2012

Yin and Yang Hatch a Plot.

Yin describes the receptive, responsive part of a character’s psyche, the Jungian anima.  
Yang is the opposite, the active, initiatory anima.

Most of us know our Sun’s astrological sign. We also may choose a Sun sign for our hero and heroine. Every realistic character has both yin and yang qualities. Flat, one-dimensional, stereotypic characters have only yin or only yang.

Aries is yang. Aries are exuberant, fiery, impulsive, quick, initiatory, self-starting
Taurus is yin. They are practical, persistent, possessive, sensual, tenacious, retentive.
Gemini is yang: verbal, mental, social, changeable, curious, versatile
Cancer is yin: sensitive, emotional, clinging, protective, nurturing.
Leo is yang: dominant, proud, regal, obstinate, generous, showy.
Virgo is yin: observant, discriminatory, logical, practical, flexible, critical, healing.
Libra is yang: companionable, diplomatic, conciliatory, indecisive, partnering.
Scorpio is yin: tenacious, deep, retentive, passionate, vengeful, sexual, secretive.
Sagittarius is yang: idealistic, expansive, optimistic, unrestrained, scattered.
Capricorn is yin: controlled, ambitious, cold, practical, cautious, responsible.
Aquarius is yang: reasoning, intelligence, stubborn, anarchistic, unconventional, independent, humanitarian.
Pisces is yin: emotional, intuitive, unclear, compassionate, sacrificing, fluctuating, flowing, structureless.

Need sparks between characters? Pair up a proud, obstinate yang Leo with a fiery, impulsive, impatient yang Aries. Yang and yang don’t mix.

Need compatibility? Introduce a yang Sagittarius to a yin Cancer. The Sag wants to try everything while the Cancer is happy to stay home and tend the fire.

Need to complicate things? Make a yang Libra choose between a yin Taurus and an yin Capricorn. Libra can’t ever make up her mind. Meanwhile Taurus is her capable Beta assistant her and Capricorn is her Alpha sky’s-the-limit boss.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Friday Friend - Suzie Tullett talks about Reviews

Please welcome today's Friday Friend, Suzie Tullett, who first tels us something about herself:

I was born and raised in Lancashire and after leaving school I undertook a variety of jobs – from office work to teaching in Further Education, from managing a Training & Advice Centre to being an outreach worker for Women’s Aid. So, it’s fair to say my working life has given me the chance to get to know all kinds of people, from all kinds of backgrounds; a definite asset for anyone looking to write for a living.

Amidst all of this, I was also raising a family, whilst at the same time working towards a BA (Hons) in Women’s Studies. The latter being something that finally encouraged me to take my writing aspirations more seriously and as such, I then went on to obtain a MA in Television & Radio Scriptwriting. Fortunately, this led to my being chosen by the BBC for their New Writers’ Initiative – a break that culminated in the opportunity to work on their continuing drama series, Doctors.

Even so, this still didn’t stop me continuing to dabble in the world of prose and testing the waters with a bit of poetry and a few short stories, I was lucky enough to garner a modicum of success through publication, allowing me the confidence to put a future in scriptwriting to one side, in favour of a career as a full-time novelist. So, after successfully graduating from the London School of Journalism’s Novel Writing Course I now write contemporary women’s fiction and because in my view you can’t put a price on laughter, it tends to have a very humorous slant.

Are Reviews Really All That Important?

There’s been a lot of discussion around reviews of late, particular those left on on-line book stores. People seem to be wondering if the vast majority are, indeed, worth the paper (or in this instance, the screen) they’re written on? They ask if they’re genuine? Or just written by an author’s family and friends? And there’s even some suggestion that alleged readers have reviewed books without actually doing any reading – and all for a fee!

Naturally, this raises the question as to whether or not such reviews are actually all that important? However, in my experience as both an author and a reader, my response is that yes, I think they are.

Firstly, as an author I wouldn’t dream of paying someone for a good review and I very much doubt any of my peers would either. Not only is this bad form, it’s a sign that we might not have sufficient confidence to let our work speak for itself; which then beggars the question, if this is the case, why we’d be putting it out there for people to read in the first place?

Secondly, as professional writers we’re not doing what we do purely for family and friends; we’re pouring everything we have into our latest magnum opus for you, the book reading public. So as such, it’s your opinions we want to read about on these sites, not those of our loved ones. So like me, I don’t think the majority of authors would waste their time cooking the books, so to speak, as it doesn’t serve any purpose. Furthermore, we also know the importance of ‘word of mouth’ when it comes to recommending one book over another and these online review sites do operate as a virtual ‘word of mouth’ system. Of course, this  means any negative reviews also get their fair share of attention, but as with every other profession we have  to take the rough with the smooth.

Now let’s look at it from a reader’s point of view. As readers, do we really want to fork out our hard-earned cash on a book that sounds ok, but it’s written by an Author we’ve never come across before? Especially in these financially strapped times of ours? Of course, if we stick with the authors we know and love, we could simply be denying ourselves the opportunity to broaden our reading experiences; but still, we don’t want to waste our money, time and effort just to end up ploughing through something we’re not quite enjoying…

Then again and on a positive note, at least a physical book can enhance the look of a bookcase, so it’s not a complete waste of money. But do we really want a list of titles clogging up our e-readers because it turns out what we’ve just bought isn’t particularly our thing? No siree… no matter how cheap a download, we still want to enjoy what we read!

Of course, that’s when these on-line reviews sites come into their own. We get to see who thought what and why, good and bad; and like all of you, I know I’m intelligent enough to decipher what’s genuine and what’s not. And let’s face it, even a negative review can simply be a troll with an agenda…

Either way, having read what other readers have to say on a particular book, at least we get to make a more informed choice over our reading material.

Suzie's latest release is 'Going Underground'

At 8 ¾ months pregnant, Tracey Parkes has everything she wants in life. A nice house, even if it is a bit on the small side, a long awaited baby on the way and a reliable husband to boot...
Well, as reliable as a husband can be when he’s keeping a long held secret – a secret she’s desperate to uncover.
But with Jonathan continuing to keep schtum over the whole thing, Tracey is forced to turn to his past for answers. And it’s the unfortunate death of his old friend Malcolm that provides her with just the opportunity she’s been waiting for – an opportunity she soon wishes she hadn’t taken.
Of course, the last thing Tracey expects is to find both herself and her humongous belly squashed into the back of a classic, little Mini – all in a desperate attempt to catch up with three men on two vintage scooters. But with Jonathan seemingly hell bent on facing up to a past he’s spent years trying to forget, what choice does the mother-to-be have?


“Did you know,” asked Megan. “That the name ‘Louise’ actually means ‘famous battle maid’?”

All very interesting, considered Tracey, at the same time wondering what on earth the girl was going on about. But a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ will suffice.

“And everyone knows that grief can make people do things they wouldn’t normally do, don’t they?” she continued.

Yep, now I’m completely lost, the mother-to-be couldn’t help but tell herself – unable to quite connect the two statements in relation to each other, let alone with a request to drive both her and Andrea down to Brighton.

“And should one particular famous battle maid feel the grief stricken need, the last thing I want is my Ace Face in a position where he has no choice but to oblige, isn’t it?”

“Right…” said Tracey and in realising this was all somehow part of Megan’s decision making process, she found herself slowly nodding in agreement – despite not having a clue as to what it was that she was actually agreeing with.

In fact, none of what this young woman was saying was making any sense whatsoever and she began to wonder if this had been such a good idea after all.

She looked to Andrea for some assistance.

“So, does that mean you will drive us to Brighton then?” Andrea duly obliged.

“Yes,” came Megan’s simple reply. “Of course it does.”

Tracey shook her head, by now completely baffled.

“Louise is Malc’s girlfriend,” whispered Andrea, by way of an explanation. “The plan is for her to meet up with the boys when it comes to them scattering his ashes.”

Not that Tracey gave one iota who planned to be present, as long as by then Jonathan wasn’t amongst them.

“You two load your bags up,” Megan instructed, whilst pointing in the general direction of the garage. “I’ll go and let mum and dad know where I’m off and then I’ll grab my toothbrush.”

Tracey watched her happily head off back inside the house, at the same time speculating over whether or not she’d inadvertently entered some sort of twilight zone – a feeling that only got worse when Andrea proceeded to lift the up and over garage doors, revealing what had been hidden within.

She looked from what she saw to Andrea and back again.

“You’ve got to be kidding?” she said. “Someone please tell me this isn’t happening.”

'Going Underground' is available on-line and in all good book stores, in both paperback and e-reader formats

Buy Links:



Thank you so much for being our Friday Friend today, Suzie, and wishing you every success with 'Going Underground' and your future writing career.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

X is for X-Rated

Many will say that romance is the best selling genre out there today. Some will go further and say erotica is the largest selling sub-genre of all time. It's not really my thing (I'll go as far as 'spicy', but that's about it for me), but like I've mentioned before, the great thing about romance is there's something out there for everyone. From chaste kisses to explicit sex, the romance genre has it all. So what makes erotica such a big seller these days? I recently read an interesting article that gave much of the credit to e-readers. E-readers allow women (and men) to be discreet about what they read. The fabled 'bodice rippers' draw much attention to themselves. It's hard to be discreet when the cover of the book you're reading boasts a shirtless hero with ripped abs and huge man nipples. Not to mention the heroine on the front with her breasts barely contained by the neckline of her gown. Of course as Rachel on the TV show F.R.I.E.N.D.S. once said, "There's nothing wrong with a woman enjoying a little healthy erotica." And I agree. But according to the article, in the past, the blatant covers and suggestive titles made some readers reluctant to bring their books out in a public venue. In general I think these days people are fairly open about what they read, but if they choose, an e-reader can keep their secret indulgence just that: a secret. The article referred to them as 'the ultimate brown paper wrapper'. E-books are definitely changing the face of romance. Perhaps in more ways than one. Until next time, Happy Reading (whatever you choose!) Debra

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

X is for Xenon - and writing?

I mulled over several X words – maybe Xebec, a 3-masted pirate ship? I’m sure some authors could link that to their writing, but I’m not one of them, even though I loved Captain Jack Sparrow. How about Xanadu, an exotic, luxurious place? A lot of romance novels are set in such places, either real or imaginary. Or how about the X chromosome – men have one of these, women have two. No, I’m not even going there!

So why did I choose Xenon? It’s a colourless, odourless, inert gas, used in arc lamps, and sometimes as a general anaesthetic.

What has this to do with writing? As I read the definition of Xenon, it occurred to me that sometimes our writing can be like this – colourless, odourless and inert. Happily it does sometimes light up like an arc lamp, other times it seems so dull that it’s sending you to sleep, never mind your readers.

So how do we get our writing out of the ‘Xenon’ mode?

Colourful instead of colourless: this doesn’t just mean describing the colour of the sea, or the heroine’s hair, or the hero’s eyes, of course. Nor does it mean pages of purple prose. ‘Colourful’ means capturing the reader by making our characters and the whole world in which they live come alive. Create ‘real’ characters with whom the reader can empathise and show their surroundings through their eyes. Make them jump out of the pages and into the imagination of the reader in full technicolour, not just in black and white.

Aromatic instead of odourless: the sense of smell is important – new mown grass, a rose, woodsmoke, freshness of the air after rain … etc. This leads us on to the other senses: sight, sound, touch and taste. All important in evoking emotions in our readers. Again, show them through a character’s perception. Don’t tell the reader the tree had a gnarled truck; have your heroine running her hand along its rough bark. Put the senses within an action, not outside of it. But don’t overdo it. Less is more!

Animated instead of inert:  an inert gas does not react with other substances and does not undergo any chemical reactions. That’s the last thing we want in our stories! Our characters need to react with each other, of course, and they also need to undergo some kind of ‘growth’ during the story, whether it’s overcoming a fear or flaw, learning something about themselves, or dealing with a personal conflict.

We need always to concentrate on the ‘arc-light’ capability of Xenon and not its anaesthetic qualities, by keeping our writing dazzlingly bright and not soporific! A Xenon Ion Drive engine can be used to propel spacecraft on deep space missions by firing a beam of energetic xenon ions – so let’s do the same, and reach for the stars!


Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Okay, that title might be a little awkward, but I’m talking about a kiss. According to, X as a symbol is used at the end of letters, telegrams (?), etc. to indicate a kiss. I’ll add “emails” and “texts” to this, in order to update the definition. My guess is that the letter X resembles the mushing of the mouth when you form your lips into a kiss.

So, if an X represents a kiss, what exactly is a kiss? Again, the same dictionary site says, “to touch or press with the lips slightly pursed, and then often to part them and to emit a smacking sound, in an expression of affection, love, greeting, reverence, etc.”

Hmm, well, my characters often kiss. A lot. In fact, kissing scenes are some of my favorite scenes to write. They offer me a way to show the depth of my characters’ feelings for each other. It can be a lingering kiss, a sensual kiss or a parting kiss. The kiss can show emotion that the characters can’t necessarily express in any other way.

Again, according to the site, there are many examples of kisses (related words), including soul kiss, buss, air kiss, French kiss, neck, smack. Think about these types of kisses, whether they’re ones you’ve engaged in or assigned to your characters. Just by reading the word, you can imagine, and in some cases, feel, the exact type of kiss that’s being described. What are the emotions that go along with the particular kiss you’re describing? Who is kissing whom and why?

So the next time you sign a letter or email with an “X,” think about the kisses you write about and decide for yourself: what exactly are you trying to say?

Monday, April 23, 2012

We all depend on Xenogamy

 I found the word Xe-nog-a-my in the dictionary while hunting for an X word for this week's post. It means, "transfer of pollen from one plant to another." Zowie! Without xenogamy, the human race would starve.

 I would love to make my living as a romance writer, but until that glorious day, I work as a Biodynamic gardener. The tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, raspberries, zucchini, winter squash, cucumbers, okra, sweet corn, tomatillos, melons, etc., I raise for my CSA's members need cross pollination. Most fruit and nut trees need insects for pollination. Cross pollination also produces seed for the following season, and creates the hybrid varieties that are productive in my chilly Zone 3 climate. Wild bees and honeybees from our hives pollinate my veggie and fruit crops.

 Agricultural practices that threaten honeybees should be questioned. Five years ago, the drug giant Bayer introduced a line of nicotianimide pesticides for Monsanto's GM field corn. The GM drug is applied to the seed, and is so powerful, dust from the planter that drifts onto bordering weeds kills bees gathering nectar from the flowers of the weeds months later. Scientists at the U of Pennsylvania determined recently the pesticides were causing colony collapse disorder.

 Monsanto and Bayer claim their proprietary seed/drug patents are in jeopardy if independent safety tests are conducted, so they are allowed to do their own testing. They are also allowed to release the drugs for use before testing data is reviewed. Most consumers are unaware of these practices. There is no way to put the genie back into the bottle. Cross pollination between GM and wild plants is occurring.

Consumers should be aware of what technology is doing / can do, and then choose to buy, or not buy, foods and food products with genetic mutations and designer drugs.

 Xenogamy. This word is going to stick with me.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


Coming up with the title for your book can be tricky. Sometimes it jumps out at you right away, and other times it takes forever to come up with something just right. Sometimes you come up with something perfect and it gets changed, or the title's already been taken.

This happened to me with my second book. It started as "Winner Takes All" and even won a contest under that title. When it got contracted, there was already another book with that title at my publisher. So then I came up with "Playing For Keeps". Wouldn't you know it? As soon as my editor and I decided on that, someone just squeaked in ahead of us with the same title. Finally, based on a game show in the story called Win a Wild Wedding Weekend, she suggested Wild Wedding Weekend, and it turned out to be perfect! Now, I can't imagine it under any other title.

Other than that, I've been lucky with my chosen titles, as I've gotten to keep all of them. Some publishers rarely keep the title a mss was submitted under.

Of course another thing to be careful with when picking a title is whether there's something else out there with the same title. (Titles aren't copyrighted, so it can happen.) I learned this the hard way with This Can't Be Love and A Christmas to Remember. My Google search on these titles comes up with several hits each day, most of which have nothing to do with my book.

Sometimes titles are chosen based on a series they are part of. My first was This Time for Always followed by the second installment This Can't Be Love. "This Feels Like Home", which will complete the trilogy, is currently undergoing some fairly major rewrites. As you can see, I've gone with the theme of starting each title with "This". That coupled with similar fonts for the titles helps to tie the stories together in a visual way and provide recognition for readers.

So, how about you? What tales of titles can you share?

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Who, when, where, what and why?

It occurred to me that answered these five W words can give you the basis of a new story.

Obviously your story has to have characters. Who they are may depend, of course, on when and where you decide to set your story (more of that later). I’ve seen advice about creating complete character sketches before you start, but I fully admit I’ve never done this. I tend to start with their names and occupations, and I usually have a picture in my mind of their appearance too. I think they decide themselves whether they have dark or fair hair, brown, blue or green eyes! As I get to know them during my first draft, I find they reveal things about their idiosyncrasies, characters and backgrounds, sometimes totally unexpected.

‘Who’ can also include your secondary characters. I usually have some ideas about these, although I have known others to invent themselves. My Elvis-singing Nile boatman is an example of this. When he ‘appeared’, I must admit my first thought was ‘Where on earth did he come from?’ But in fact he later played quite an important part in the story, one I could not have imagined when I first thought about this particular story.

In my case, this is present day, since I write contemporary romances. As history is my ‘speciality’ and I was a history teacher for umpty-ump years, people often ask me why I don’t write historical novels. Maybe it’s simply because, being an historian, I would need every fact in my story to be 100% accurate. I know just how much research I would have to do to achieve that, particularly research about the fashions and customs of a particular era. I admire the writers who do this well, but I just don’t have the inclination (or patience!) to do all that would be necessary.

Of course, stories can be set at any time in the past or in the future. There are no limits although, admittedly, some periods of history are more popular with readers (and writers) than others. Regency, of course, is one of these (thank you, Jane Austen!) and another seems to be 19th century American ‘Wild West’.

The ‘when’, of course, can influence the ‘who’ in your story, especially regarding their occupations (or lack of), the social sphere in which they live and their general attitudes and expectations.


Again, there are no limits. A story can be set anywhere in the world or, in the case of paranormal, fantasy or future stories, in any other world.

I prefer to set my stories in areas or places with which I’m familiar, although I did take one character to Iceland which I’ve never visited. On the whole, however, I find I’m more comfortable with places I know, or at least have been to, even if only for a short time.

Another aspect of ‘where’ is the specific place where you characters live or are staying during your story. A five star hotel, a small cottage, a city apartment? The possibilities are endless and can, of course, contribute to the story as a whole, rather than simply act as a place where the character does her laundry and washes her hair.

‘Where’ can also include where your characters actually work, where they first meet, where they go together (or separately) and where they are at the end of the story.


There are two angles to this question.

The first is ‘What is the problem?’ If they simply meet, fall in love and marry, you might have a romance, but you don’t have a romance novel! The life-blood of a romance novel is one or more issues that have to be solved by one or both of your characters. It has to have some obstacles, either internal or external or both. So one of the first things you have to decide is just what these obstacles are.

The second angle is an extension of the first i.e. ‘What if …?’ When you start asking yourself this question, you’ve started to develop your story. What if her grandmother leaves her a million pound fortune? What if she loses her job? What if his ex-fiancee appears on the scene? What if someone tells him a deliberate lie about the heroine? I find the ‘what ifs’ are the most interesting part of building up a story. You can let your imagination run wild. Some ideas you’ll dismiss, others may take you down a different path than the one you’d imagined.

Try this: roll a dice for each of the categories below, and write down your results:

Who? (roll twice to get 2 occupations i.e. 1st roll for hero, 2nd roll for heroine):
1. Hairdresser   2. Journalist   3. Hotel owner   4. Archaeologist   5. Singer   6. Animal vet

Who? (secondary character)
1. Sister   2. Photographer   3. Police officer   4. Grandmother   5. Farmer   6. Pharmacist

1.Present day   2. In 3012   3. Second World War   4. American Civil War   5. Early 20th  century   6. 1960’s

1. Large city   2. Small town   3. Beach area   4. Mountain area   5. Cruise ship   6. Ski resort

What's the problem?
1. Health   2. Small child   3. Ambition   4. Mistaken identity   5. Family feud   6. Broken promise.

What did you come up with? Have your who, when, where and what results sparked an idea in your mind? Can you already think of a ‘what if?’ resulting from this?

If so, the 5th W is Why? Why not start writing your story?

By the way, my results were:
Hero’s a singer, heroine’s an animal vet, a secondary character is a grandmother, it’s set in the 2nd World War in a mountain area, and the problem is a family feud. Hmm, my mind is already working on the what ifs!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


When you write about women, what do you think about? Or maybe I should ask, who?

I know some of us on this blog often use actors as our inspiration for our heroes. We may post a picture of our favorite actor on our desk so that we can use it in our descriptions. Sometimes it’s not the actual actor, but a character he plays. At other times, it’s a compilation of several actors in one hero. For whatever reason, I need to see a picture of my hero in order to create him.

But where do we get our inspiration for our heroines? And does being a woman writer have anything to do with it? For example, while I’ve heard lots of authors talk about their hero inspiration, very few have ever discussed where they get their heroines (at least, not with me).

I know in my case, obviously, as a woman, I’m more familiar with how a woman thinks, feels and desires, so therefore, I often need less artificial inspiration for my characters. I don’t need to look at a picture and I don’t often get inspired by actresses for my characters.

In my head, I don’t create my heroines in my image, but I might create one who is a more perfect version of how I perceive myself. I can create a heroine who behaves how I wish I did in certain situations. She might respond to someone in ways I wish I could. On the flip side, I might picture how I’d do something and then do the exact opposite.

There aren’t many, but there are some male writers in romance and I’d love to know how they create their heroines and if they base them on real women or women from their imagination. In the meantime, what do you do? Do you create your heroines in your image? 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Today's Friday Friend - Sherry Gloag

Please welcome today's Friday Friend, Sherry Gloag.

Multi-published author Sherry is a transplanted Scot now living in the beautiful coastal countryside of Norfolk, England. She considers the surrounding countryside as extension of her own garden, to which she escapes when she needs "thinking time" and solitude to work out the plots for her next novel. While out walking she enjoys talking to her characters, as long as there are no other walkers close by.

Apart from writing, Sherry enjoys gardening, walking, reading and cheerfully admits her books tend to take over most of the shelf and floor space in her workroom-cum-office. She also finds crystal craft work therapeutic.

“There is a book in everyone.” True or false?

Probably a little bit of both. There probably is a book in each one of us but it’s the ‘getting it out there’ that makes the difference. Not just getting it out there, but getting it out there in a presentation that will catch the eye and attention span of the reader.

What is the point of slaving away for days, weeks, months even, if all you are going to offer your reader is a load of drivel?

That said (grin) every reader has their own preferred genre of reading so the rest may well seem like drivel to them however well it’s written.

A case of ‘horses for courses.’

So what to write? And how to go about getting it ‘out there’ in a state and condition that will entice that very particular and often elusive reader?

First you have to know what you want to write about. Well that’s simple enough, surely? Actually, no! What interests you may not be the best thing to write about.

I can almost hear you saying: “Duh? I thought you HAD to write about what you know?”

True, but what you know and what interests you, are not the same thing. Just take a moment to stop and think about it.

I am interested in gardening, I know enough to achieve what I want in my garden, but to write a book about gardening…, the experts would be laughing themselves silly if I attempted it! Oh! And the readers – if I had any – would be bored rigid within seconds!

So write about what you know then? Sure but don’t get so immersed that once again you bore your readers to death. It is tempting to include everything you know in your writing, but then you would be guilty – what is known in the trade- as ‘info dump.’

One of the best examples I’ve come across of threading technical knowledge into a story was done by Christine Flynn in her book Sugar House
It’s not a new book, but is one that will always be on my book shelf because when I get lost in how to present information in my books I refer back to her awesome skill.

In the Sugar House Christine Flynn uses her heroine to impart the intricate and technical knowledge she wants to share with her readers. She delivered it in the right bite sizes, and had me wanting to read on to learn more and kept me riveted to the plot that was woven around the technicalities of the background. In other words the background became another character in the book, and an essential character at that.

I write romance, contemporary romance with a smidgeon of suspense. I never tagged myself as a suspense writer and it came as a huge shock when review after review contained the words, ‘edge of your seat’, ‘packed with suspense’, ‘fast paced, if you blink you’ll miss the action…’

This brings me to research. If, as in Christine Flynn’s book you want to weave specific information through your book, your research must be spot on, because that information is no longer something you ‘dump’ on your reader, but becomes another character, you, the writer, use to move the plot along.

When I wrote From Now Until Forever, released by Astraea Press in December 2011, my heroine, Melanie Babcott used a dustbin lorry/trashcart to get her client (and husband) out of danger. I had to be sure, they were not going to be automatically crushed once tipped into the back of the lorry. A small, but essential detail!

It shouldn’t take a rocket scientist for you to realise I knew nothing about the construction of dustbin lorries!

As that and the next book, His Chosen Bride, are set in a riding school for disabled/physically challenged children, I had to research the procedures used when working with these children. It would have been so easy simply to copy and paste the information into one single paragraph, but I imagine I would also have lost my readers if I’d cheated on them in this way.

Nor did I know when I wrote it there would be three more stories in the Gasquet Princes Series. His Chosen Bride, released by Astraea Press in time for 2012 Valentine’s Day, followed on From Now Until Forever because the hero’s eldest brother, Henri, made a very brief appearance in the book and later demanded his story be told. Books three and four are still in progress as I write, and like Henri they had a cameo part in His Chosen Bride and both decided they wanted their own stories told, and as they are twins…

So be careful when you write about ‘what you know’ and be sure you know what you are writing about.

From Now Until Forever
For Prince Liam, families meant bad news, unwanted commitments, and the loss of his personal freedom. Love spawned white picket fences, slippers at the hearth with a wife and kids making demands, so why did those images disappear when he met Melanie Babcot?
Melanie Babcot fought hard to escape the horrors of her youth and vowed to remain single and free, so when paid to protect Prince Liam from insurgents why did her personal pledge fly out the window?


Liam Fitzwilliam Gasquet stared in amazement at the blooming patch of red milliseconds before the pain exploded in his arm. Some trigger-happy idiot had fired in his direction. Indignation didn’t have time to take root before another bullet kicked the dust at his feet.
Not ‘trigger-happy’.
The rebels had found the fourth and youngest son of Jean-Phillipe Gasquet, ruler of the tiny kingdom adjacent to the Swiss border. When had they discovered his whereabouts?
With a reluctant sigh, he faced the truth of it. They hadn’t ‘found’ him at all. They’d followed him.

Astrae Press:
Amazon USA
Amazon UK
B & N

His Chosen Bride
Prince Henri Gasquet is happy to let his father, the king, choose his bride for him until he meets Monica Latimer.
Monica Latimer is not prepared to risk letting any man close enough to learn about her Gift. A gift that normally has men running for the hills when they find out about it.


She lost track of time until the flames caught her attention once more. They flickered from orange to gold, to silver, to white.
A flurry of snowflakes masked the flames and for a second Monica watched the most beautiful, pristine snow-scene she’d ever seen. Her lips curved in longing. How she’d love to get a toboggan and slide down that slope. She knew where it was, and had done just that many times in her childhood, first with her parents and then, in clandestine manner, with her brother. Sneaking an old tin tray from the back of her mother’s walk-in pantry, she’d then grabbed Billy’s hand and they’d rushed out the back gate, heading for the lakeside track that led up into the hills.
Darkness, dense and thick with grief dropped over the scene. Startled and disconcerted by the strength of emotion emanating from the vision Monica shifted to her knees, ready to stand, when a voice, a deep male voice, sharp with fear called out her name.
She knew she’d never heard the voice before, and yet—it was as familiar to her as the image she saw in her mirror each morning.
“Help me, Monica.”
Desperate for more clues, she searched the darkness within the flames until it sputtered and faded. With a curse she jumped up and ran for the phone. With her outstretched hand hovering over it she halted and let her hand drop to her side once more. What could she say? What would the police or rescue team think of her if she called them and told them she’d seen a vision of a man in distress.
They’d laugh in her face and classify her as a lunatic. Well, maybe not. It wouldn’t be the first time she’d contacted them with positive information but something—an instinctive gut reaction told her what she’d seen this time hadn’t happened yet.

Astrae Press:

Find out more about Sherry Gloag and ALL her books:

Twitter: @sherrygloag

Thanks so much for being here with us today, Sherry. We wish you continued success with your writing career.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

V is for Vampire

One of my favorite types of heroes is a vampire. I know most of my fellow blog authors don't agree! But that's the fabulous thing about the romance genre. There are so many sub-genres, there's something for everyone.

But back to vampires. I love vampires. I always have, even before they became as popular as they are now. Linda Lael Miller has a fabulous vampire trilogy. And I will be the first to admit that I am one of those middle-aged women who are in love with Stephenie Meyer's Edward. Having the oh-so-charming Rob Pattinson play him in the movies is an added bonus.

And then there's the Sookie Stackhouse series. For me, it's Eric Northman all the way. I'll take him over vampire Bill any day, er night. This carries over into "True Blood", the HBO adaptation of the books. Just when I thought Eric couldn't get any yummier, along comes Alexander Skarsgard.

Logically, it doesn't make sense for a vampire to be a desirable hero. They're technically dead, yet practically immortal (Which kind of wrecks the whole growing old together thing). They're blood thirsty. And they're dangerous. Instinct would have us running from them, rather than into their arms.

Yet, vampires are sexy. Maybe it's the danger that makes them that way. Many are torn and conflicted about the life they live, so we see a little bit of the redeemable side to them. They are passionate. When their silent hearts come 'alive' with love for the heroine, it's truly a romantic moment.

Whether the traditional vampire who only wakes up at night, or the new breed of vampire who sparkles in the sunlight, there's just something about them. Something, for me, that's appealing.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Voice - what is it?

Agents and Editors want one, and writers wonder what it is and whether they have it. If it was easy to define, there wouldn’t be dozens of books, articles and workshops trying to tell you what it is and how to get it.

Here’s my two cents’ worth!
A writer’s ‘voice’ is the individual writing style of each author. At its very basic, it can be a combination of the writer’s use of sentence construction and vocabulary. But it’s more than that. Each of us has a unique personality therefore each of us has a unique voice in writing, and that’s what makes our writing unique. You already have a voice. The trick is to let that voice come through.

Authors have ‘voices’ that are as different as musical instruments – one may be a flute, another a bassoon. Even an individual author can have several voices – you write a letter to your lawyer in a different voice from a letter to your lover (at least, I hope you do!). In the same way, your ‘voice’ in a blog like this is different from your voice in a romance novel, and your voice in a romance novel is different from your voice in a crime novel.

Would-be writers sometimes ask how they can ‘find’ their voice, or even how do they know if they’ve found it. Some beginners think they have to ‘sound’ like a writer, so they may think they have to write long sentences with flowery or 'literary' descriptions. In doing so, they’re in danger of losing their own natural ‘voice’.

I’ve also seen advice about studying other writers’ styles in order to ‘find’ your own voice, and I always cringe at that advice. A writer’s voice isn’t something that can be learned (or copied) from others. It's already there within your writing, it’s YOU. The secret is to relax and let it flow.

That’s not to say it can’t be improved, by learning about the technicalities of grammar and sentence construction, of course. It’s also said that the more you write, the stronger your voice becomes. Basically, however, your ‘voice’ is how YOU write. I like to think of it as writing from the heart, from the hidden depths of the inner ‘you’. One piece of advice I like is 'Write from the heart, edit from the head.'

In a website about writing for children (Write4kids), I found this paragraph, which I think applies to all books, not just children’s books:
The elements of a book - the plot, characters, setting, description - are all important, but alone they make up the bare bones. With a voice, a book becomes more than words on a page; it becomes a story. The writer's voice breathes life into a book and gives it a soul.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Very: The Right Word Speaks Volumes

As writers, we are expected to choose our words carefully. They need to be precise, descriptive and completely useful. We’re told about a “list” of words we shouldn’t use, such as “that,” “feel,” words that end in “ing” and too many adverbs.

“Very” is one of those words. Any word with “very” in front of it can be replaced with another, better word. “Very pretty” can be replaced with “beautiful” or “gorgeous.” “Very hungry” can be replaced with “starving” or “ravenous.”

It can be hard to find the exact right word the first time. Often we have to write and rewrite before we can get the exact word, the exact rhythm, the exact image conveyed by those words. We use a thesaurus, dictionary, Internet, writing partners, critique groups, beta readers to help us. One of the best ways to find the right words is the radio, in my opinion. There are so many songs whose lyrics are amazing. The singers and songwriters have a way of expressing themselves that I don’t find in most books.

Today, while listening to the radio, I heard a song use the word “sunglasses” to mean a person wearing sunglasses. I can’t remember the name of the song, even though I heard it twice in the space of an hour, but I remember thinking how descriptive it was. Just by that one word, I can picture a cool guy wearing shades. And it’s so much more powerful than saying, “a very cool guy who wore sunglasses.”

What words do you overuse? With what words can you replace them?

Sunday, April 8, 2012


I looked up the Latin root word for victim and victory, thinking if it was the same I could contemplate the possible fork these words took to become so opposite in meaning. Webster said victim is from Lat. victima. Victory is Lat. victoria, victor.
Close, but no cigar.

Then my eye spied victress: A woman who defeats an opponent. This word isn't used very often. I went on a hunt.

We use heiress but not huntress. Actress but not doctress. Baroness but not conductress. Why don't we use ambassadress? Aviatress? Adulteress? Why have some words that denote 'woman who does ....' fallen into disuse, and others stuck?

Will women reclaim these words in the future? Will we be happy with gender neutral descriptors: doctor, lawyer, banker, president?

What would an alternative universe be like if women had held power in the past and men were struggling for equality? Would they want to be doctresses?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Friday Friend Isabella Macotte

It is my pleasure to welcome fellow Chicago-North member and fellow Wild Rose Press author Isabella Macotte to Heroines with Hearts today.

Isabella Macotte grew up in Chicago and now lives in the Midwest. Ever since she can remember, she was reading. Not just fiction but everything she could get her hands on. Science, romance, history and paranormal. Especially paranormal...anything scary, creepy, or gory, she loves it. From light paranormal elements to terrifying monsters, she'll make up a story to amaze or scare you.

Isabella Macotte writes the kind of romance she loves to read: a story with delicious dialogue, seductive encounters, a dash of the paranormal, and an irresistible hero you will never forget.

Passionate about books, Isabella keeps busy reading, writing and working in a library. But if a few moments remain at the end of the day, she spends them with a wonderful family and sweet bichon pup named Daisy.

Tell us about The Heart Gem.
The Heart Gem is my current release. A historical romance novel set in England, the story incorporates paranormal elements, a heroine who plans to be a businesswoman, and a sexy hero who needs to wed to leave the Fae world behind. I really love stories with a paranormal twist and hope readers do too.

What's the best writing advice you've ever gotten?
Just let the story flow. Don’t worry about grammar, spelling, and sentence structure. Get the story out and let the characters come to life. Later, go back to edit and shape the story. Very structured and methodical in the writing process, I’m working on letting the creative right side of my brain take over.

What are you currently working on?
I’m keeping very busy writing Book 2 of The Artifacts of Love series, The Heart Compass. This is Malone and Tilda’s story, two characters introduced in The Heart Gem. I’ve also completed a young adult novel, The Monster Mirror.

Where can we find you and your books?

Please stop by my website at
I’d love to hear from you!

We'd love to read the blurb and an excerpt from The Heart Gem.

In 1885, a proper Victorian woman's place was in the home. Convention never appealed to Hallie Pinefoy.

But plans for financial independence through a successful doll-making venture have one impediment. She's inherited a curiosity shop and a handsome business partner who's proving to be a delicious distraction.

When Bremen Tyler inherits a shop in coastal England, he breaks from the mystical Ancestral clan to live a normal life. The only way to guarantee a permanent break is to marry his Heart Match, a perfect soul mate. Bremen recognizes the captivating Hallie as his true love, but she isn't cooperating with his courtship.

If he can retrieve the stolen Heart Gem, an Artifact of Love, he can use it to prove their match. The surface of the Gem reflects the essence of a couple's future life, but the risks are great. More importantly, will Hallie realize true love doesn't need proof?

Hallie’s bottom shifted from Bremen’s lap onto the cold stone garden bench. Why was he stopping just when the moment was getting interesting? Then she heard the footsteps in the distance, rustling along the garden path. Her head still blissfully dazed, Bremen’s possessive hands moved to straighten the aquamarine gown’s bodice, which had drawn away completely from her breasts.

Clay’s face was an angry red, even in the dark night. She jumped at the intrusion and attempted to yank her hand out of Bremen’s, but his firm palm held on without releasing.

“Bremen Tyler, how dare you encroach on our relationship? Hallie and I have a long-established agreement among our families. You must honor this arrangement and withdraw your presence.” The shrillness of Clay’s voice reverberated through the grounds.

“I haven’t been informed of a promise or understanding. In fact, I have heard from the lady she is uncommitted. A state I’m determined to reverse.” Bremen’s deep voice was low and controlled.

“She would be committed to me if it were not for you. You are confusing her; she loves me but you are filling her head with promises and nonsense.”

“I have given Hallie neither false promises nor nonsense. She knows my true feelings.”

“She also knows my feelings and has said she will consider my offer.”

“If Hallie tells me it is you she wants, I’ll say no other word.”

“Hallie, tell him you will marry me. I believe my request was clear at supper,” Clay demanded.

“My love, make your wishes known, and we will visit the reverend directly,” Bremen countered.

Both men stared, waiting for a decision.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

U is for Upside Down

One of the goals of a romance writer is to turn our characters' lives upside down. Usually, life is going along just fine for the most part for the hero and heroine, until they come into each other's lives and things get complicated.

They fall in love when they hadn't planned on doing so.

The past gets in the way of the love they're discovering.

Things change and will never be the same again.

They change and grow and discover throughout the course of the story.

As a writer it's a challenge to present these ups and downs in a way that makes the reader think the hero and heroine can't ever be together, and then to, of course, provide the happy ending. These turning-the-world-upside-down moments are the ones we crave in a romance.

Upside down craziness isn't always as sought after in real life. It tends to make things difficult, and there are no magical 'happily ever after' words to wrap things up and make everything all right. I wish I had as much control of real life as I do of fiction!

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Uphill Struggle

Writing the first draft of a novel can be an uphill struggle, very much like climbing a mountain. Recently, while I’ve been writing my blogs for the A-Z Challenge, on the topic of my beloved Lake District, I’ve been reminded of my walking and climbing experiences there in the past, and it dawned on me that writing is similar to climbing a mountain in many ways.

I’d like to say that the secret is planning in advance. You know the kind of thing – correct clothing for the weather, comfortable boots, basic supplies (water bottle, bar of chocolate etc.) and of course, maps, compass and whistle, plus, in this day and age cell phone, probably with GPS. Oh, and don’t forget to let someone know where you’re going- just in case!

Maybe that’s like writing: the correct clothing, boots and basic supplies are equivalent to one’s basic knowledge of the technicalities like grammar, spelling and punctuation. Then we come to the map – studying it advance, plotting your route, making sure it’s neatly folded in a waterproof packet in case it rains.

Did you catch the word plotting? As a self-confessed pantser, I don’t study the ‘route’ in advance, I simply have a vague idea where I’m going. Would planning my route in advance make that uphill climb any easier, or any less steep? Maybe it would lessen the times I have to stop and say ‘oops, taken the wrong path here’ and go back a little to find the right path. At the same time, I’d maintain that, for me anyway, detailed plotting would stop me from finding that hidden copse of wild flowers or that beautiful mountain stream – all the extra ‘discoveries’ you make when you let your characters lead you into unexpected scenes or events in their lives.

So, you’re all ready and you set off, full of enthusiasm. This is something YOU want to do. Not because someone else says you should, not because you want to do it ‘better’ than someone else, not because you want to gain some kudos or fame, but simply because that mountain’s there and YOU want to get to the top.

It might seem easy to start with –a gentle climb on grassy slopes, but what happens when the going gets tougher? When you’re puffing and panting with every step as you tackle a steep part of the climb, strewn with rocks and boulders that you have to find your way through? When you lose sight of the top of the mountain and think you’re never ever going to reach it? When you reach a seemingly insurmountable rock blocking your way? When the mist comes down and you can’t see anything ahead of you?

I’m sure we’ve all been there with our stories. So what do we do? Give up and trail back down the mountain, either in anger or depression or resignation, muttering ‘I knew I’d never be able to do it’? Or take a breather, look at how far we’ve come already, and convince ourselves that we’re not going to be beaten and saying, “I’ve come this far, and I CAN get to the top.”

Yes, it’s an uphill struggle – but perseverance and determination eventually pays off. You reach the top, type ‘The End’ and take time to look around you at the wonderful view. You did it!

But of course it isn’t the end. You still have the return journey to do. This is the editing part. Some people find this process even harder than writing the first draft. I’m the opposite. For me it’s a wonderful walk, run, even a slide down the grass on my backside, shouting, “Wheeee, I’m nearly there!”

And finally, there’s that pub in the valley where you can raise your glass and proudly say, “I did it.”

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Boo! The Unexpected

I have to confess that “U” is giving me a hard time. It shouldn’t. It’s not like I didn’t know it was coming—it wasn’t Unexpected! Commit to blogging for each letter of the alphabet, and sooner or later, you’re going to get to “U.” I should have known; I should have planned. I didn’t. And we’ve got a lot of other extra special letters coming up too. I probably won’t learn my lesson for them either.

So, as I was thinking about words that start with the letter “U,” I thought about the word “unexpected.” Hmm, it begins with a “U.” Awesome! I couldn’t find any interesting quotes, so I looked in the dictionary. According to the one I have in my home office, it means, “Not expected.” Brilliant. I think it might be time to buy a new dictionary (or maybe find someone famous able to say something pithy using the word). However, it also means “unforeseen.” And for this blog, I find that definition slightly more helpful.

See, as a writer, I craft stories that I hope will interest people. Characters pop into my head, they talk to me and I write down their words. Then I add my own twist to them. And while I’m writing down their stories, I have to achieve a fine balance between the logic of moving from point A to point B, and not boring the reader. I want the reader to be fascinated by what’s happening, invested in my characters and plot, and unable to put the book down until it’s finished. Although I may foreshadow events to come, I want to maintain a freshness in my writing. I want to create the unexpected, without stretching believability to the point of no return (also known as jumping the shark).

It can be as complicated as a secret inheritance/abandoned baby story where you REALLY can’t figure out who the mysterious donor/mother is until the reveal at the end, or as simple as making the beautiful heroine clumsy. Anything, really, as long as it draws the reader up short for a moment and forces her to read my words more closely, to remain invested in my story, rather than skimming because she knows where the story is headed before she’s read page five.

Tell me, as a writer, what do you do to add the unexpected to your stories? And as a reader, what unexpected things do you like?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Universal Themes

I read once that all human conflict is motivated by the quest for love, sex, power or money. These are the universal human themes, and everything else falls under one of these four headings.
One could argue that money is power, since money gives power. But some people seek money for its own sake. To buy fancy things. To feel secure.
Sex can be a tool for power, but it sure seems like a primal need. A prime directive to perpetuate the species.
Some people love power. They enjoy competition. I like to think of this as a testosterone condition, but women can be power-hungry.
As romance writers, we focus on love. A hero or heroine’s quest to find their true love and live happily ever after.
Love isn’t power. It isn’t sex. And it isn’t money.
It is feeling like you and your true love complete each other. You fit together, complement each other. Together, you feel whole.
It is feeling recognized, understood and valued. You see things in your love that few others see, and they in you. You feel safe, and can reveal sides of yourself you’ve held in check. You can let yourself go all the way.
It is feeling you would do anything, could sacrifice everything for this one person. They are that special to you.
Love can come in a first-minute flash. It can dawn slowly.
It can happen when you are sixteen and when you are 90. It can happen more than once.
But we romance writers usually stick to one at a time.