Friday, February 26, 2010

Friday Friends

Our Friday Friend this week is Jan Bowles, who lives with her husband in an old farmhouse in Lincolnshire, England, UK. She would like to think that she's a free spirit, having lived in various parts of the UK and Europe.
When she's not writing Jan likes to paint large landscapes and sweeping vistas. She loves walking, and looking in old antique shops. There just might be something someone has overlooked.

HWH: Jan, welcome and thanks for being with us.

JAN: Thank you for inviting me, Paula.

HWH: Let’s start at the beginning and tell us when and why you started writing.

JAN: I love being creative. You know, making something entirely from scratch. Just like painting, weaving a story feels so expressive.

When I was much younger, I read one romance book after another. I think I was addicted to them. It was a way of escaping into a fantasy world.

Later I began to think that I could do that, and decided to write one. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as easy as I’d first thought. I found I ran out of ideas very quickly. The older I am, the easier it is has become. I guess there are a lot more life experiences with which to draw on.

HWH: How easy or difficult was it to get your first book published?

JAN: Rejection is difficult to swallow. I’ve a whole drawer full of rejection letters.

Fifteen years ago I had so many rejections, that I shelved writing entirely. Last year my husband retrieved my manuscripts from the loft, and I looked at them all with a fresh pair of eyes. I saw all the mistakes. I thought I can do better than that.

I re-wrote ‘The Return’ and eventually received a contract for it from Siren-Bookstrand.

My motto to would be authors is never give up. If you think you have the ability keep plugging away. Eventually you will succeed.

HWH: Good advice for us all!
Some writers work from a detailed synopsis, others let the characters take them. How do you plot your novels?

JAN: I have a plot, and I create a storyboard with it. One chapter per box. But I have to admit, my characters do have a life of their own. Sometimes they will lead me through their conversations, into something quite unexpected. I think when that starts to happen, the characters really come alive, and this will also show to your readers.

The characters in my latest release, ‘Love Lessons with the Texas Billionaire’, took me in a totally different direction. Eva St. John, and the Texas oilman Jack McClaine, really do make the sparks fly.

HWH: I completely agree that your characters come alive when you let them surprise you sometimes. Apart from those sparks flying, what do you think makes a good romance novel?

JAN: Emotion, passion, and a happily ever after. I think the reader would feel cheated if you missed any of those out.

HWH: What’s the best writing advice you’ve received/read?

JAN: Always make a detailed list of your characters attributes for your book. It really helps when deciding on what will happen in a given situation. From the colour of their eyes, right down to their mannerisms, there can never be too much information. I even give my characters an education. Yes, really. I decide whether they have further education, or whether they never really had an education at all. It all makes for a more rounded character, and one that the reader can believe in.

HWH: That’s interesting advice, and something I’ve never actually done. Must admit I tend to learn about my characters as I go along and again sometimes they surprise me by revealing something about their past life!
Now, what’s your cure for writer’s block, or when you get stuck somewhere in a story?

JAN: I leave well alone. One can’t force the muse to flow. I usually go away and do some gardening, or feed the fish. Both of which are very therapeutic.

HWH: Wouldn’t work for me, I’m afraid! I don’t like gardening and I don’t have any fish. Maybe I should buy some!
Let’s talk now about your books. Your novel ‘The Return’ is about a hostage who returns home after 2 years. What inspired you to write this story?

JAN: I originally wrote this story some fifteen years ago. It was inspired by the John McCarthy and Jill Morrell story.

He was a journalist working Beirut, Lebanon. He was taken hostage and held captive for five years. For 1,943 days he was chained to a radiator. When he returned to Britain he was a changed man. He was the most traumatised of all the hostages taken.

Jill Morrell never gave up on him, though she did have some idea that John was alive.

I wondered what would have happened if she’d been convinced that he was dead. Would she have moved on, and what would he have thought if she had?

‘The Return’ is based loosely on that premise. It is about coming to terms with betrayal, loss, and forgiveness. Ultimately, it is about falling in love again.
It centres on Robert Tremayne, an English journalist who is captured by the Islamic Jihad, and held hostage for two years. When he returns to Britain, he finds everything changed. His sweetheart, Marielle Stevens, has moved on with her life. His sense of betrayal and loss consume him. Will he ever find forgiveness in his heart?

HWH: Like many people, I was intrigued by the story of how Jill Morrell never gave up while John was being held captive, so I look forward to reading your angle on this story.
Your second book is completely different. Tell us more!

JAN: ‘Love Lessons with the Texas Billionaire’ is about English beauty Eva St. John, who is flown to Texas to shadow rugged billionaire oilman Jack McClaine, for the magazine article she is writing.

He has a reputation as a fast living, womanising rogue, who has quite literally come from the wrong side of the tracks. A self-made man who always gets what he wants.

Still nurturing a broken heart and a secret past she left behind her long ago, Eva intends to remain professional at all times. Will she be able to resist the inevitable sexual advances of the predatory Texan, Jack McClaine? Will she really want to?

I really the love the character of Jack McClaine, he’s flawed, and yet so loveable. He’s a real Texan, with a gritty past, and an eye for the ladies. I guess Eva will have her hands full when it comes to taming him! J

HWH: Jack McClaine sounds like one sexy guy!
Finally, what are you working on now?

JAN: I’m working on a mystery suspense at the moment. It involves an English archaeologist as the heroine, and an American archaeologist as the hero. The hero has recently lost his family, and his inability to come to terms with that, sends him on a slippery downward slope into the seedier side of life.

Fortunately, the heroine is able to reach him, and guide him back to a more stable way of life.

HWH: Another interesting scenario, particularly with the archaeology setting, I look forward to it.

‘The Return’ and ‘Love Lessons with the Texas Billionaire’ are available through Siren-Bookstrand -

Here’s an excerpt from ‘Love Lessons with the Texas Billionaire’
“Why, Miss Eva St. John, I feel about as welcome as a skunk at a lawn party.” Jack McClaine spoke as mild amusement played around his silver-grey eyes.
Eva eyed him warily. It was only two days since she had first laid eyes on the rugged Texan. Now his lithe, athletic frame perched on the desk, her desk. He looked every inch at home, as if he belonged there. Wearing a light grey suit, he seemed to think his very tall six-foot-three-inch frame had somehow a right to be there.
“Just what is going on, Mr. McClaine?” Eva folded her arms across her chest, her mouth compressed with indignation, as she waited for his answer. Her gaze was drawn inexorably to his, and like a laser it burned into her. Then as a smile spread from his eyes down to the deep dimples at the side of his mouth, she felt the breath escape from her lips in a silent gasp. Why did he have to be so damned attractive? She had to fight the sudden urge to push the stray hair back that had fallen forward across his forehead.
“Mr. McClaine, are you going to answer my question?”
“Hold on now, darlin’, I thought we were on first-name terms already.” He smiled at her in amusement.
“No, we’re not.” She slumped into her chair and glared up at him. “Andrew Jameson could shadow you for a month. Why do you want me? I won’t be a pushover, you know. I’ll certainly write exactly what I think.”
He smiled easily and twisted around to meet her frosty gaze. “Now, why would I want Andrew Jameson to shadow me for a whole month? Live in my home. Share my food. Share my life. Why would I want him when I’d be much happier with you?”
Eva picked up a pen and pointed it at him. “You, Mr. McClaine, have a reputation. If you are expecting anything but a working relationship, then you are mistaken.”
“Well, that’s settled then, honey.”
She looked up watching the amusement play around his eyes. The creases channelled down to his mouth. “Don’t look so smug, Mr. McClaine. You may regret your decision to invite New Dawn magazine into your home. You may not like what I write. Be careful what you wish for, Mr. McClaine.”
“Darlin’, I’ve never regretted anything in my life.”
“I told you once before, Mr. McClaine, I’m not your honey, and I’m telling you now, I’m not your darling either.”
He laughed. “Eva, it’s just a figure of speech. It don’t mean anything.”
That afternoon a huge row developed with her boss, Simon Jessop, but he wouldn’t back down. If she pulled this off, he’d give her a raise. Even more than that, he’d give her a promotion. She wanted to know why he thought Jack McClaine specifically asked for her to do the article. His thoughts exactly mirrored her own. He had lifted his hands in the air, an expression of helplessness on his face, and said, “You’re a big girl, Eva. I’m sure you can handle yourself, and Jack McClaine.”
Well, thanks!
Eva felt like a dish served up specifically for Jack McClaine’s pleasure. What’s more, her boss had handed her over on a solid silver platter.
JAN: Ha, ha, I think Eva will have to keep her wits about her where Jack McClaine is concerned.

HWH: You’re right about those sparks flying between them!
Thanks very much for joining us today, Jan, and telling is about yourself and your books

JAN: You’re welcome, Paula. I’ve really enjoyed it, Jan.

Jan’s website is at

STOP PRESS NEWS: 'Love Lessons with the Texas Billionaire' reached #1 in Bookstrands 14 day mainstream list, after only 6 days. It also received 5 stars from the reviewer at Manic Readers:

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


After reading blogs etc where some writers talked about making copious notes, a detailed scenario and a chapter-by-chapter outline of their novel before they even started 'writing', I started to think I was doing it all wrong. Then I discovered that they were as many (if not more) writers who write as I do - start with a basic idea and develop it (and the characters) as they go along.

I've decided that I am somewhere in between a pantser and a plotter. I have a basic scenario, two main characters and a setting. My 'plotting' (if you can call it that) consists of hero and heroine meeting - or in some cases, meeting up again. Immediately there is some kind of 'issue' between them - one does something to upset the other, they disagree about something fundamental or they have a long-standing distrust of each because of something has happened in the past etc. The possibilities are endless. But there also has to be that attraction between them, although maybe they are fighting it (for whatever reason) or maybe something 'external' is keeping them apart.

After that I just throw conflicts and/or problems at them. I have some of these in mind when I first start thinking about the story, but others seem to develop out of nowhere as I write. Then, at some point, it has to seem that the conflict between them is resolved, since I hate stories where they fight non-stop until virtually the last page of the book and then fall into each other's arms. But as soon as it seems to be resolved, I throw something even bigger at them, and then pile on the pressure until it seems that there is no way that they can possibly get together.

Finally, and this can be the tricky part, I have to get them back together, but of course this has to be realistic, not contrived or coincidental. It also needs to be something that reveals how they have 'grown' - maybe learned more about themselves or about each other and their relationship.

These are the 'hooks' on which I hang my story, but my characters do have a tendency to 'do their own thing' at times. I love it when that happens because it's at that point I feel that they have really come alive for me.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


This is a tough one for me because I don't plot. I think of an idea and just see it as a movie. The story just comes to me. Example, a woman emailed me her first chapter and she really isn't sure where she wants to go next. So after reading the first chapter, I sent her an email several paragraphs long with ideas of where to go with the next chapter and the plotting.

After I have my beginning, middle, and end I come up with my theme. At some point there is a scene that stick out and where I get my title from, from there I use it as my theme and weave it through the entire story.

I'll give you the example from my current WIP: My hero and heroine were lovers when they were young. They did everything together, loved the same things. Eighteen years later, they meet up and search for a child they had and put up for adoption. Long story short, he wants to date her again and tells her that if he can find ten things they still have in common she will agree to see if they can pick up where they left off. Of course, throughout the story, he starts counting things they have in common. The title of the story COUNT DOWN TO LOVE. This has become my theme.

So how do you plot? Or do you sit and write and see where your characters take you?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Next step: plotting

I have my hero and heroine, and their antagonist, physical or ethical. I have a setting. I have an everyday life (starting point) and a goal on the horizon. Now I have to invent interesting hurdles.

In my first two novels, I followed my muse's lantern as it bobbed in front of me like a carrot on a stick. I fell into sagging middles. I meandered into dead ends. Constantly, I needed to backtrack to upgrade already written pages to match a just-conceived twist in my plot.

To wit: who better to force an unwilling hero back to his rich and powerful family than a beloved younger sister who arrives unannounced on the woolly frontier desperate for help in finding her kidnapped secret fiance? Oops, my only child hero now has a sibling. Go back and correct pages 45, 83, and 144.

Midway through story: A middle brother! He could covet my hero's place in their patriarch's heart and would be able to intercept mail and therefore believably sabotage my hero's efforts to find beloved younger sister's betrothed. Oh, he will be summarily rejected by said patrician family due to his low station. Backtrack and write in middle brother. And opinion of patrician of the lower classes.

I freely admit that I love epic sagas. I also accept that my skill sets are fledgling. But after my second rejection letter, I decided I needed to plot.

That effort has led me through a host of proven systems: Donald Maass -- too complicated for my first attempt. First Draft in 30 Days: ditto and we occasionally like to eat at the kitchen table. Hero's Journey: too heroic for my paltry capabilities. On-line classes: great, but too short to plot 80,000 words. 3 Act with Black Moment post-it-note grid: I am definitely deficient. Personal writing coach: Cheaper to abandon writing and stick to reading.

Something clicked during Break into Fiction: Mary Buckham and Dianna Love got through to me. I plotted the emotional journeys of my hero, heroine, antagonist, and mentor for my WIP, plus my two other first novels.

I have been reading Larry Brooks's blog about The Pantser's Guide to Story Planning. He asserts that pantsers plot, even if it is just for the next scene. He argues, convincing me, that the 4 contextual parts of a story--and the transitions between them--have to be followed to write a sellable character-based story.

He says the First Plot Point is the most important moment in the story. This is when the hero/heroine are first presented with the huge situation that changes their everyday world and "ignites their journey, need and quest, which is what the story is really about."

Re-outlining would be an excuse to postpone jumping into the water. I feel confident about my preliminary plotting, but I will keep his maxim front and center as I write my first act.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Friday Friends with Lois Greiman

Lois Greiman is a multi-pubbed, award-winner author from Ana's home state, Minnesota. Her paranormal/historical, “Charming the Devil” hit bookstores in January, 2010.

Lois, thanks so much for being here today!

1. “Charming the Devil” is book 3 of the Witches of Mayfair series. Tell me more about the series.

The Witches of Mayfair series is about a coven of government witches in Regency London. Each book involves one of the women who lives in Lavender House and works for an agency that employees them to handle situations that can’t be dealt with by more conventional means.

2. You set your novels in palpably vivid settings. Do you research and build the story around specific details, or do you layer in details after a first draft?

The details come later for me. I’m a five draft writer, so with each pass the characters and settings become fleshed out. After the first draft I generally think, dear Lord in heaven, save me from myself. But eventually things smooth out and I begin to see some hope…usually.

3. Your heroes are strong, virile men--with backstory. Do you think there will there any difference between heroes in 2013 vs 1999? I ask because aspiring authors are writing with 2013 as our target?

Heros, and characters in general, will always change and evolve with society. As our mores and values flux, so does our fiction.

4. I have heard you speak of getting “the call” after persistence and a dash of “in your face.” What advice can you give on acquiring an agent or publisher?

Persistence is extremely important in this business. Granted, a little talent and luck are nice to have, too, but hard work is the backbone of getting published. So keep writing, meet people in the industry, go to conferences, keep honing your craft, exercise discipline, and eventually luck will find you.

5. Your very first novel was "Highland Jewel." If you were starting out now, would you e-publish “Highland Jewel?”

I’m still not very friendly with the techno universe. The printed page is my best friend. But I’m waiting to see where e-publishing goes. I’m certain it’ll be good for the environment to have less paper copies, and that’s always a positive thing, but for me the jury is still out as to whether or not it will be good for authors.

Lois is on a speaking/marketing tour today, but will be checking in to answer questions and comments.

She was born on a cattle ranch in central North Dakota where she learned to ride and spit with the best of them. After graduating from high school, she moved to Minnesota to train and show Arabian horses. But eventually she fell in love, became an aerobics instructor and gave birth to three of her best friends.

She sold her first novel to Avon Books in 1992 and has published more than twenty-five titles since then, including romantic comedy, historical romance, children’s stories, and her fun-loving Christina McMullen mysteries. A two-time Rita finalist, she has won such prestigious honors as Romantic Times Storyteller Of The Year, MFW’s Rising Star, RT’s Love and Laughter, the Toby Bromberg for most humorous mystery, and the LaVyrle Spencer Award. Her heroes have received K.I.S.S. recognition numerous times and her books have been seen regularly among the industries Top Picks!

Currently, she lives on the Minnesota tundra with her family, some of whom are human (she says).

Vist her website

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Story Setting

Because I LOVE Tennessee and cowboys, I set my story in the Smoky Mountains. I also have a story set in Texas (Again, cowboys! But the story has nothing to do with them). A current story is set in NY and RI (what I know).

I look at a map of the state and find an open area. Example, the Smoky Mountains is close to Knoxville, but there isn't anything on the map east of that city. This way I can create my own little world and not have to worry about making "mistakes" during research. The same goes for the other stories, I create my own little world apart from the "reality" of that city/town.

Tell us how you come up with a setting for your story? Do you write what you know? Or do you use the internet to get as close to a description as possible?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


My early novels were all set in North West England, the area with which I am most familiar. I used towns that I knew but gave them different names, and in one novel I ‘transplanted’ one of my favourite Lakeland villages into a different part of the Lake District. Apart from the latter, the setting could actually have been anywhere as it was not particularly vital to the storyline. In the Lakeland novel, however, the storyline involved an issue which was specific to that area (and indeed was based loosely on an actual issue which had caused a lot of controversy in the area).

I was more comfortable writing about places I knew and, of course, I was writing in the pre-internet era, when research into ‘unknown’ places depended mainly on the written word (travelogues etc) and photographs.

What a difference the internet has made! When I started writing ‘The West Wing’ fan fiction, I was faced with having to write about places I didn’t know as well. I’d visited Washington DC several times, so I was fine with that, and an internet search found a wonderful site which showed the whole layout of every floor in the White House. But in one fanfic story (a spin-off from the series) I took the characters to Ireland and at that point I had only visited Ireland once (a day trip to Dublin). But again the internet was invaluable as I could explore Galway (both the city and the county) to my heart’s content, with instant access to maps, videos etc. In another story, the characters were in New Hampshire. I have never been there, but I have an internet friend who lives in NH, so I plied her with questions.

When I returned to writing novels, I dug out an unfinished story I had started years before. This story had originally been set in England but at some point I had decided to re-site it in America, with the heroine working at a college in Virginia. Heaven only knows why, because I knew nothing about American colleges! I found the names of some colleges (at the local library, I think) and then wrote to them for their prospectuses, which seemed to take ages to arrive. How much easier it was, when I picked up the story again, to ‘google’ for colleges and get a mass of detail about them.

The internet is a wonderful resource for the settings we use for our stories, and one of our Friday Friends recently gave a wonderful tip about using Google Earth and also the Google Streetcar Views. Excellent – at least for contemporary novels.

At the same time, I am still wary of making some very basic error when I am writing about places that I don’t know. I have read too many of these errors in novels and they always irritate me. One that caused me to laugh out loud was a story where someone crossed the road to reach the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. No mention of the eight lanes of traffic, all whizzing round at top speed, cutting in, overtaking etc. The hero would probably have been killed on the spot! It can be practical details like this which can trip us up.

And, for us Brits trying to write about America, there are other problems, not least the language difference! Even though I have visited the States several times and know to say elevator and not lift, sidewalk and not pavement etc, I have been picked up several times by my American friends when I have used a word or expression that would not be used by Americans.

Basically, I am saying that all kinds of problems can arise if you choose a setting with which you are not familiar and therefore, of course, far more research is needed!

Monday, February 15, 2010


This week's topic is setting.
My first two novels were historicals. The accuracy of setting impacts historical plot, I think, so I researched settings right after I fleshed out my main characters.

One is a western set in 1890's South Dakota. I am familiar with the northern plains landscape and climate, and have first hand experience with cows and live-off-the-land lifestyle. I have books about Native American life, and a farmer-husband who adores that area's prairies and wild spaces. I ordered books on the Missouri River system from my regional library system, and found on the Internet letters between mail order brides and their future spouses.

The second is set in 1490's Brittany. I studied travel guides, European archaeology texts, and the Rance River estuary. I read up on castles in general, and the fortified city of St. Malo in particular. I joined a Preservation of the Brehonic Language Society, and familiarized myself with 15th Century political tensions between Brittany and France, and France and England. I researched Celtic coinage, and compared History Channel shows on medieval weaponry with the information I gleaned on writing loops.

My current WIP is a contemporary suspenceful romance. I am setting it in Duluth/Superior for familiarity. I am not finding that the setting is as critical -- or as helpful. What the characters do for a living and the impact of childhood family issues are driving my plot as much as their personalities and their mutual attraction.


Friday, February 12, 2010

Friday Friends with Margaret Blake

Our Friday Friend this week is multi-published author, Margaret Blake, whom I ‘met’ via a yahoo group last year and have since met up with a few times, as we only live about 50 miles apart. Margaret has written over 20 novels, and her historical romantic suspense “The Substitute Bride” made the finals at the Eppies this year. Her new book, “Dangerous Enchantment” is published this month by Whiskey Creek Press.

Margaret's website is at

HWH: Hi, Margaret, you and I have a lot in common, not least both being Lancashire born and bred. But whereas I’ve always lived in North West England, you have experienced other places. Can you tell us a little about your life?

MARGARET: I was born in Manchester, England – actually during the blitz. My Grandson wrote a story about me and told how I was “born under a table” when actually what I had told him was that I used to “hide under a table when the bombs were falling!” If ever I do write an autobiography I certainly know what to call it.

John, the love of my life and my wonderful husband, recently died. He and I both lived in the United States when we were younger, however we did not know one another then, and it is just one of those small coincidences that seem to bind us together. We used to travel quite a bit and lived in St Tropez, France for a short time, which was quite amazing. Now I live in Fleetwood, Lancashire and it is wonderful – I love being part of Lancashire once more!

I have one wonderful son, a fantastic daughter-in-law and three lovely grandchildren. They live in the States so I get to go over every year, which is marvellous.

HWH: Our sympathies are with you over your recent sad loss. It was John who encouraged you to submit your stories for publication, wasn’t it?

MARGARET: I always wanted to be a writer but when I was growing up such things were not possible for me. My parents were wonderful but they were quite hard up. From being fifteen I had to go out and earn money and did lots of different jobs from window dresser, waitress and secretarial work. I ran a pub and worked in a hotel, lots of variety is highly recommended for any writer. Having such a varied career did me no harm, in fact in many ways it was a great educator.

I always wrote from being a little girl but it was John who encouraged me to do something about it and in 1978 I had my first novel accepted for publication. I wrote historical and contemporary romance over a period of ten years and then opted to go into Higher Education. This proved to be another remarkable experience, I can highly recommend being a student at 40, and you meet so many interesting people. It used to amuse me to see that it was the mature students that turned up for all the lectures!

HWH: Whether you’re writing historical or contemporary, your stories are all romances. What do you think makes a good romance novel?

MARGARET: Strong characters, male and female. I hate wimpy girls who hang on men’s arms, I like women who are capable. And, of course, there has to be tension and passion.

HWH: Totally agree! So are you a plotter or a pantser?

MARGARET: I am a “pantser”. If I did plot I would change it, I change as I am writing. I think of a plot such as “what would happen to this woman if…” and then I have to have her name and the name of my hero. If I don’t have the name I can’t write a word. I then let the characters run away with the story. It would not work for everyone but it works for me. I like my characters to drive the story forward and not me!

HWH: Another thing that we have in common, as I too let the characters lead me. Now, something that I have problems with - how do you know when to stop ‘tweaking’ your manuscript?

MARGARET: I never know. I just think that seems all right – then when I get the proofs I always think I could have done something slightly different. But the basic plot I generally am happy with, it is just a word or two. I think you can over-tweak too! You have to be firm with yourself. I know someone who is still “tweaking” their novel that they wrote five years ago – it hasn’t gone on its merry way to a publisher yet.

HWH: Very good advice about being firm with yourself. Now I need to be firm, stop tweaking mine, and send it on its merry way. What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received or read?

MARGARET: I don’t understand the advice “write about what you know” as, if I took that mantra as my own, I would never write anything interesting. For instance I have written two books set in Spain and I’ve never been to Spain, so I am not sure what they mean by that. Perhaps it is for more “serious” writers. The best advice I ever had is from my husband. “Stop hiding those stories in a drawer and send them out to a publisher!”

HWH: John gave me some advice too, the last time I saw him. He said simply “Keep on writing.” Which leads us to my next question: what’s your cure for ‘writer’s block’ or when you’re stuck at some point in your story?

MARGARET: Leave it alone, go for a walk or just forget about it for a day or two. When you return and look at the story you will be inspired. However, there is a more serious side to writer’s block when you can’t even write a story. That did happen to me and it was meeting up with my late friend Loren Teague that had me back in the saddle and raring to go. Other people can, by showing they have confidence in you, be inspiring.

HWH: Meeting you has certainly inspired me! It’s so good to have a writer friend in ‘real life’ as well as those we meet via the internet! I know you have a varied and busy life in addition to your writing. What are your other interests?

MARGARET: My other hobbies are walking and reading. I like the theatre and films and television – I am a Frasier freak and just have to watch all the CSI shows. I also really feel lucky to have my family and my friends. They are a wonderful support to me. They are carrying me over this lonely, heartbreaking path that I am currently on. Bless them all.

HWH: You didn’t mention my favourite TV show, ‘The West Wing’ but I know you enjoyed that too! Now let’s talk more about your writing. Which, of all the characters you have created, is your favourite – and why?

MARGARET: Oh yes, how could I forget The West Wing, one of the greatest shows on TV, if not the greatest. When I am writing my characters they are my current favourites but if I look back over my work three spring to mind. One is Sarah who featured in my Peterloo books, I liked Sarah because she was a fighter. She overcame terrible odds in her life and she is a role model for anyone. My other favourite is Maddie in Eden’s Child, she is strong and although suffering like Sarah, manages to move her life forward. She is also not afraid of facing up to the truth. My other favourite is Jesse Crane from "A Poisoned Legacy"…oh boy I am afraid I have fallen madly in love with Jesse and don’t mind admitting it!

HWH: Your new book is set in the late Middle Ages. What attracts you to the medieval period?
MARGARET: I have always been fascinated by this period, of course my main attraction has always been Richard the Third. I obsess about what kind of country we would have were he to have remained king. He was a true renaissance man and not a penny pincher like Henry the Seventh! So I imagine lots and lots more art would be seen.

HWH: Although I’m a historian by profession, I’ve always been scared by the research needed to write a novel set at any time in the past. How do you research your historical novels?

I used to research my novels by going to the source, I would read extensively and especially really good biography. Then I learned a trick about background research. Children’s history books are a mine of information and they have excellent illustrations too!

HWH: Please give us a ‘teaser’ about your new book, “Dangerous Enchantment”.

MARGARET: A medieval historical romantic suspense, it tells the story of Kate Merryweather. She has been trusted with a very important cargo. How can she keep the secret of her supposed stepson? If someone finds out the truth, Kate knows both of them will be killed. The safety of the castle in Yorkshire is suddenly no more. A Lancastrian lord has been granted the house and lands of her dead husband. Shall she chance the roads and escape to Burgundy, or stay and out bluff the new lord?

HWH: I can’t wait to read it because, as you know, I’m also a ‘fan’ of Richard III and the mystery that surrounds him.

“Dangerous Enchantment” is published by Whiskey Creek Press this month. It is available from the publisher in e-book and print, and also from or as an e book only from

We wish you every success with it, Margaret, and thank you very much for joining us at this time. We really appreciate it and hope that your happy memories of John will help you through this very sad time for you.

MARGARET: Thank you, Paula, it has been wonderful to be here. I feel John has inspired some of my answers, he always was “the wind beneath my wing” and now he is my guardian angel and will always be there for me.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Creating Characters

This week’s topic really made me think – because I wasn’t sure just how I do create characters!

I don’t analyse them beforehand, I simply put them into a situation and see what happens! As soon as the idea for a story begins to take shape in my mind, the main characters are also there. To start with, I don’t know much about them and sometimes I struggle to find their names. Soon, however, even when I’m still thinking about the story, they start to come alive for me. I can see them in my mind’s eye. Once I start writing, I can hear their voices, and I know what they’re thinking and feeling.

They are purely my own imagination but they become as real to me to any real-life people. I don’t base them on anyone I’ve actually seen although sometimes I can see someone on TV and think, ‘Yes, he’s how I imagine Paul’ or, as happened recently, I saw a girl singing a Lloyd Webber song, and immediately thought, ‘That’s Jess.’ She looked just like I had imagined Jess.

This happens with the minor characters just as much as with the hero and heroine. I can visualise them all and it’s as clear as if I was watching and hearing them in a movie.

Their characters evolve as I write. Half the time, I don’t actually think about it, it just happens, mainly because I become so immersed in their thoughts and feelings. I empathise with the heroine and fall in love with the hero. Sometimes they surprise me but I love those moments when they reveal something about themselves that I didn’t actually know beforehand!

By the end of the story, I can see how they have grown. Maybe they've learnt more about themselves and/or about each other, or understood why and how they had made mistakes and made an effort to put things right – the possibilities are endless and their growth depends very much on the story itself.

I am a total ‘pantser’ and write by instinct rather than by planning. I rely on my characters to take me through their story, and I enjoy the journey with them!

Creating Characters

I keep a folder of photos that i rip out of magaines. After I come up with a name for each character, I go through the folder to see who looks like a "MaKayla" or a "Bobby." It's just a gut feeling I go with to decide.

Once I know what my characters look like, I start writing. I create the character as I go along. During the first full run of the manuscript, I get my characters in a situation and then I have them react. After they react, then I come up with a reason for his/her reaction. What happened in their past to make them the way they are and why he/she reacted in such a way. Then I'll go back and add give my characters feelings during a reaction. It makes them come alive.

Once I have them perfect, then I have to give them flaws. Something that will go against the story. Example, one of my characters doesn't kiss in public. So I have my hero always showing her affection in public. So you can imagine, this heroine is uncomfortable whenever he does this, so during the story and in the end, I have to get the hero to break this uncomfortableness within the heroine. By the end, she's showing him affection in public.

Your characters need to show some kind of change from the beginning to the end. You may have a shy heroine working in an office who kisses the boss's ass because she's afraid of her, and doesn't like her. But by the end of the book, the boss may be getting the heroines coffee because the heroine broke out of her shell and told the boss where to go. See... character change!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Creating characters

I create heroines, heroes, confidants, and villains differently.

My first heroine started out as me in a different setting and predicament. I needed to spend time in the story with 'me-her' before she emerged as an independent character in the last chapter. For my time travel, I wrote symbiotically with my heroine; she acted and reacted as I would have under similar circumstances. For my romantic suspense WIP, my heroine is fully independent. She and I have similar interests, but her life is her own. I am along for her ride.

My heros are assemblages of leading men: tall and determined like Tom Selleck; strong and capable as Sean Connery. Way back when, I swooned over reformed bad boy Harrison Ford in Star Wars. I recently rewatched Jim Cavieziel in The Count of Monte Crisco. What a transformation from victim to aristocrat! He had good material to work with (and a big budget with lavish sets and costumes) but the way he evolved the character was inspiring. I recall words to a song by Judy Collins: the man was small and short, but left his women begging for more. I want a hero who will haunt my dreams long after 'The End.'

Confidants come in all shape and sizes. Even discorporate ones. I have to remember to not fall into stereotypes: The wise old teacher. The kindly aunt/neighbor. The wide-eyed savant child. The wind that whispers.

Villains are the most fun. They are ruthless and powerful. They can be beautiful or homely. They can dance or slink. Down to their rings, their wardrobe says it all. They are what they wear. They have allies and cohorts to do their bidding. They have unlimited resources yet crave something more. If human activity is predicated upon core, elemental desires: sex, power, money, then villians are easy.

The noble motivations: compassion, truth, justice, honor and love are qualities we revere, but writing them into believable, multi-dimensional characters is harder for me.

What a wonderful challenge.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Friday Friends with Pamela Britton

The Wrangler

Welcome to Friday Friends with multi-published author PAMELA BRITTON.

HWH: Thanks so much for being with us, Pam. Can you tell us about THE WRANGLER and how you came up with the idea?

PB: I grew up reading horse stories and so I’ve always wanted to write a romance novel centered on my favorite animals. I show and own American Quarter Horses and so it was fun to use that knowledge in a book. I ride English, as does my heroine, and I live on a ranch and so I shamelessly stole on the funny lines I’ve heard over the years.

HWH: Are you a plotter or a panster?

PB: Much to my chagrin, I’m a panster. I really try to stick to my synopsis, but it never works out that way. Usually my editors don’t mind, but I recently got into trouble for deviating from my original outline. Oops!

HWH: LOL! Your stories range from sexy to sweet. What are your favorite books to write? Why?

PB: Sexy!! I’m a bad girl at heart because “sweet” books are so hard to write. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had an editor tell me to “tone it down!” I’m really looking forward to my upcoming EXTREME RACING SERIES (being published by Samhain) because those will be hot, hot, hot and I. Can’t. Wait!

HWH: Your hot scenes are smoking. After you read a sexy book from Pam, you look forward to the next one, trust me! So I too will be looking forward to the new series. Here is a question for our viewer writers, Pam. As a writer, I struggled with the meaning of deep POV. While reading DANGEROUS CURVES, I totally “got it.” I always suggest this book to new writers struggling with the same thing. Understanding it and writing are two different things, of course. You do it SO well. Before you were published, what did you struggle with and how did you over come it?

PB: Aww, thank you SOOooo much. What a nice thing to say. And you’re going to laugh, but the thing I struggled with the most before I was published was, um, grammar! Yup. I sucked at the mechanics of writing. Obviously, I’ve learned a lot. In fact, I got a fan letter a few months back from a reader who said she enjoyed reading my books more than any other author because there were so few typos and grammatical errors in them. I tittered when I read that…if this reader had read my first manuscript she’d have fallen over dead.

HWH: I totally get that. I hear that many writers struggle with grammar (myself included). Maybe it has something to do with that old saying "If you don't use it, you lose it." So tell us, what have you learned being published that you wish you knew before you were published?

PB: Honestly, I wouldn’t have gotten so wrapped up on the whole Romance Writers of America thing. I sincerely respect RWA, and will be forever grateful to them for launching my career, but some of the stuff that goes on…ei yi yi! I swear there are people out there whose mission in life is to make their fellow authors feel bad about themselves. Or who only want to use you. Or secretly want to sabotage your career. Looking back at some of the stuff that went on, it’s kind of scary. Smartest thing I ever did was unplug from it all. Once I got to where I was going I took a look around and saw who my true friends were and disconnected from the rest.

I once asked a bestselling author who shall remain nameless (think household name) how she’d managed to hold onto her friendships over the years. She told me she lived on a very small island (figuratively) and that the island had gotten smaller over the years, but that a true friend will always, always have your back. That’s good advice no matter what you do in life.

HWH: Hmmm... something to think about. It's kind of sad if you think about it. It makes you lose faith/trust in people. Okay, let's get back to writing. What do you look for when revising your MS? Are there tips/secrets you can pass along to other writers?

PB: Revisions are actually easy for me. I think that’s because I’m not married to my work. By that I mean I don’t mind cutting out a chapter…or even ten chapters. If snipping pages will make my book tighter, I’ll do it. I’m also subscribe to the theory that an editor is always right. If they say the pacing is off, or that my conflict is weak, they’re probably right. And so I actually enjoy the process of diving in and fixing those problems.

HWH: Well, editors must love you - "A cooperative author is a working author." LOL.. hey, maybe editors could use that as their slogan!

Thanks for being with us today, Pam. We'd love to have you come back when your new series is released.

For our viewers, thanks so much for joining us. Pam will be here all day to answer questions or comments you may have. Be sure to check out her website at for her latest and past books. And don't forget to become a FOLLOWER of Heroines with Hearts!

Be sure to join us next week when our special guest will be author Margaret Blake.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Starting a new romance novel

I think every writer starts with a basic scenario, the idea for which may have come from one or more sources. We all have those ideas, gleaned from something we have read or heard.

One of my early novels, for example, started with heroine meeting hero when he becomes Deputy Head at the school where she is a teacher (not that I ever fancied any of the Deputy Heads at the schools where I taught). She’s attracted to him (of course!) and there’s definitely some chemistry between them, but he seems to be fighting it. Why?

Why indeed? Think of a reason. Is she too young for him? Not a strong enough reason. Doesn’t agree with his ideas? Possible but pretty boring. Has he been badly hurt in the past? Maybe, but that’s too conventional. So what if the heroine is the spitting image of the girlfriend/fiancee who ditched him, maybe who had had an affair with his best friend? Ah, now we’re getting somewhere.

The stage is set. But just where is it set? Have to decide now whether it’s a big city, small town or country village. Originally the above story was set in a seaside town on the south coast of England. Later, as the story progressed, I realised that it needed to be nearer Dover because I wanted them to take the ferry across to France, so I moved them lock, stock and barrel to a different location. That wouldn’t have worked with another of my novels, where the setting (in the English Lake District) was an essential part of the story. I have to confess that I’m happiest when I’m writing about places that I actually know. I once went to Galway in Ireland simply to see and get the feel of the place so as to be able to write about it with more confidence.

Next - what about the characters? The heroine – dark haired, brown or blonde? The hero? Has to be good-looking of course but dark or fair? Somehow the characters take shape in my mind as I think about the storyline. Not just their looks, but their characters too. In the end, I can hear their voices, and see the way they smile and their mannerisms, even the way they walk. They seem to evolve naturally as they become more real to me. I don’t characterise in advance, I rely on the characters to develop themselves.

I know that they’re going to get together in the end (it’s a romance, it has to have a happy ending), but now let’s see what inner feelings and external events will conspire to keep them apart. The journey begins…

By the way, the blurb to the novel I used as my example (created by the publisher, not by me) was:
Anne Marshall was looking forward to continuing her studies in Paris. Then Max Lorimer arrived at Southgate High School, and suddenly the dream seemed unimportant. But he was the Deputy Head and she was only a junior teacher, so he was never likely to take any interest in her. Besides, there was Helen, the girl he should have married. Why then did there seem to be this strange affinity between them? And why did Max seem to be fighting it?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Beginning of a Romance Novel

For me a novel starts as an idea. For example, the one I'm playing around with in my head came about when a postcard arrived in the mail with a face of a missing child posted at the bottom.

An idea was born. Now what? I have the first chapter written but not set in stone. The hero and the heroine are introduced. Now, I have to think about the entire story before I can go on. I try to see the main plot points as movie clips. I don't write anything down because if the "movie clips" work, I'll remember it. That's when I start my research. The best part of writing as far as I'm concerned. I know how I want the beginning of the story to be, but if the research falls flat, then I have to rethink a new beginning

I like to have a subject in my story that deals with real life that folks can relate to, and/or that will teach the reader something new. I want my readers to feel the way I did after I read: BLAME IT ON CHOCOLATE by Jennifer Greene. I learned so much about chocolate after reading that book I still remember the author and the title!

So, back to my story. Now that I have this idea, where do I go next? Most of the time, while doing the research about one thing, something else peaks my interest and I think.. Hmmm...I can add that and then it becomes a snowball effect.

Monday, February 1, 2010

How to Start a Romance

Normally, I'd say start a romance with a gorgeous, rich, single man with a private jet and a villa in Monte Carlo. But for the next several weeks, we mean How We Start Writing a Romance.

I start with concepts drawn from my life. For example, I prefer homeopathic medicines over allopathic drugs. Concept: Parents of a 23-year old woman clash when she and her mother choose a naturopath to treat a lump in her breast. (True story. A year later, she was pronounced cancer free.)

This isn't very romantic, so I start playing with it. A medical doctor arrives in a small, rural, northern town for his first post-residency job. A local woman makes herbal remedies--tinctures, salves, teas--that many townspeople swear by. Doctor and herbalist meet and clash. Still, they are attracted to each other. As they are trying to get past their differences, an antagonist takes advantage of an external crisis and drives a wedge between the lovers.

I have now an idea for my setting, as well as some rudimentary information about my hero, heroine, and antagonist. My next step is to think up names. The bad guy's name should conjure an image of a nasty, selfish, greedy person. I'd have to write hard to make Fred Smith sound like a dashing doctor. My herbalist heroine can pick the name of a wildflower used for tea.

While my names are steeping, I think about the characters main qualities and their backstory. Did he work his way through college? Was she an only child? Who taught her about plants?

When I have developed somewhat her background, I pick her Sun sign. I know her place of birth--small, rural, northern city. I pick a birth date, and guess at a birth time. Then I test possible horoscopes. Interestingly, it never takes too many attempts to generate a usable chart from which I get a detailed personality profile. (Repeat for hero and antagonist.)

By now, hopefully, my names are brewed. I have backstory on my main characters. Now it's time to plot.