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Tuesday, July 30, 2013


By Kathy Ivan

Thanks so much for letting me spend the day with you.  I'm thrilled to be a part of Smart Girls Read Romance. 

Let me be honest.  I love the paranormal worlds in romance fiction.  Vampires, werewolves, ghosts, psychics and zombies, I love 'em.  When “The Walking Dead” is on, I'm glued to the screen.  Give me a paranormal romance and I'll devour it faster than you can blink.  It's definitely one of my favorite genres to read.  Throw in some steamy romance and I'm a goner. 

"The Walking Dead" TV Show

Never thought I'd write it, though!

Romantic suspense—that's what I write.  The mystery, developing the plot.  Having the heroine and the hero race against the bad guy, overcome all the obstacles thrown in their way, follow the clues, have lots of sexy times along the way, figure out the who/when/why/how, defeat the villain, profess their love and live happily ever after.   Whew, it can be a roller-coaster of a ride! 

Story after story, this was my premise, my formula.  The problem—something was always missing.  I didn't get the satisfaction, the extra oomph I'd get from reading all those paranormal romances with their otherworldly specialness.  So I decided to go for it and combine the two genres I loved, romantic suspense and paranormal romance. 

Voila!  DESPERATE CHOICES was born.  Theresa, my heroine, is a psychic living and working in the French Quarter of New Orleans.  Max, her ex-beau, is a private investigator who comes asking for her help.  His godson is missing.  And the story was off and running.  It unfolded with just enough of a paranormal element added into the suspense that it was believable and the readers loved it as much as I did. 

New Orleans French Quarter evening photo

DESPERATE CHOICES became my first published book (from Carina Press) and it won the 2012 OKRWA International Digital Award for long suspense. 

SECOND CHANCES is a paranormal romance, introducing you to the world of Destiny's Desire Lodge in the Colorado Mountains.  It's the first in a series, uniting soul mates destined to be together, separated—usually due to outside influences.  Sometimes the couples have already met and need to be reunited.  Other times, they need a little "extraordinary and magical" assistance.  They're brought together with a little help from Quinton Chase, the Fate-Keeper, who runs this special resort, Destiny's Desire.  The first novella is available now and book two is finished and will be out soon. 

For some people normal is normal and that's perfectly okay.  I've learned the hard way when it comes to me and my writing world, paranormal is my normal. 

About the Author

An avid reader of all types of romance, Kathy writes romantic suspense and paranormal romance.  She makes her home in the heart of North Texas doing her best to deal with the Texas heat.   She's a member of Romance Writers of America (RWA) and the Dallas Area Romance Authors (DARA). 

New Orleans Photo, Wikipedia commons

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Calling All Time Travelers by Beth Trissel

Writing, or reading, a story set in any historical era is traversing time in a way, as would be a futuristic setting, but I'm referring to actual time travel stories. In my Somewhere in Time series the boundaries of time and space are hurdled in various manners. This idea has always fascinated me, also of discovering new lands. I've been seeking Narnia since childhood and never gave up the quest. C.S. Lewis is my favorite author and has been since I read his Chronicles of Narnia. I'm nothing if not devoted. Any fellow Narnians out there?
"Things never happen the same way twice." C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian; The Return to Narnia
A concept I bear in mind while writing.

The theme behind my Somewhere in Time series is that the story opens in an old home, so far Virginia (I’m a Virginian with deep roots in this richly historic state), and then transports the reader back in time either in the same wonderful old house (I love old homes), or another place entirely such as the Scottish Highlands. As is the case in Somewhere My Lass and Somewhere in the HighlandsBoth stories convey the characters to and from 17th century Scotland via a portal in time. The unifying characteristic of the series is the paranormal/time travel element, but the stories themselves aren't necessarily tied together, though some are, and will be. It’s the encompassing theme that matters. Doors play a big role in this series. Behind every door lies a secret, an intriguing puzzle to be solved, so these romances are also suspenseful mysteries.
Fergus, the unlikely hero of my latest release, Somewhere in the Highlandsheads up this fast-paced Sci-Fi Fantasy Time Travel Romance. Untold hours of scheming, dreaming, writing and revising went into the story. Yes, there will be another title in this continuing saga. Don’t ask me when, but plotting is underway. Somewhere in the Highlands is book three in the seriesfollowing Somewhere My Loveand is the sequel to Somewhere My LassSomewhere the Bells Ring is a hauntingly beautiful Christmas romance.
Blurb for Somewhere in the Highlands: 
The MacDonalds are coming! When Elizabeth MacDonald (a.k.a Beezus Mac) thrusts a sealed gold box at Angus Fergus amid panicked requests for him to hide the stolen artifact, she has no idea the ancient cloth it contains bestows unearthly powers. Red MacDonald knows and he’s hell-bent on traveling 400 years into the future to claim the charmed relic, even kill for it. Protecting Beezus from his old nemesis is only one of Fergus’s problems. 
Before they can stop him, Morley MacDonald, descendant of Red MacDonald, snatches the prize and leaps through the time portal to head the MacDonald clan and kill Fergus’s MacKenzie ancestor. If he succeeds, Fergus will cease to exist. Danger grows in the feud between the MacDonalds and the MacKenzies as the pair, along with an ingenious friend and high tech inventions, returns to 1604 Scotland to face these brawny Highlanders and reunite with kin. Will Fergus overcome his mistrust of Beezus and fan the growing spark between them before they battle Morley? If he waits, it may be too late.~
Fergus turned to dive after Hal’s hazy form.
No time to glance at his watch. It had been a mad scramble since they first charged through the portal, but five minutes must’ve passed by now. That truck needed to blow!
A loud boom and bright light answered his prayer.
“Fire in the hole!” Fergus shot down to the hard-packed earth and stone below.
Hal grabbed him, breaking his fall. “Always wanted to shout that, didn’t you?”
“Yep.” Fergus swept his gaze over the faces faintly illuminated by the glow from above. “You guys OK?”
“A relative term,” Hal grunted. “But tolerable.”
Beezus gave a short nod. 
“This place is just as charming as I remember. No wider,” Fergus noted.
“Real cozy,” Hal said under his breath.
“Dug by dwarves, I expect. You may need to crouch down as we go along.”
“Counting on it.” Hal again. Beezus was sucking in deep gulps of air.
Fergus fished in a pocket for the LED flashlight and flipped it to green. That hue made everyone appear garish, but would show up less in the gloom. Beezus looked scared spitless, and with good reason. Morley might as well have painted a big red X on her. She was ‘it.’ But Fergus would die before he’d let Morley take her. The problem was, he might not still be here to stop him.
No room to ponder that challenge now. The clicking that emanated from Hal told Fergus his quick-witted friend had retrieved his ultrasonic device to better navigate their way. He’d better think fast too.
“Here, Beezus.” Fergus pressed the flashlight into her trembling fingers. “We can’t risk you bringing up the rear in case we’re pursued and you’re snatched again. Shine this ahead and follow the tunnel. Hal will go next and me last. And don’t look too closely at your surroundings.” He remembered his last trek through this tunnel with rats scattering across their feet, not to mention spiders and pushing through cobwebs. Wishing he could take her into his arms, Fergus laid a hand on her shoulder. “We’re right behind you. And if all goes as planned, Niall waits ahead."
She lifted a quivering chin, resolve in her eyes. “Watch your back.” Snatching up trailing skirts with one hand, she directed the light with the other.
Angry voices sounded overhead.
Fergus snapped, “For God’s sake, don’t they ever give up?” 
“That would be a negative, Captain,” Hal said gruffly.
He tailed Beezus and Fergus brought up the rear. At least the really big men couldn't get through this narrow pass. That still left a considerable foe. Of course, Fergus had smoke bombs inside his coat to toss over his shoulder. And he did. Luckily the breeze was in his favor.
Coughs and curses carried from behind, then a man with a strong Scottish burr roared, “After them, lads!"
Amazon Link for Somewhere in the Highlands, in case you missed the one above.
For more on me, my blog is the happening place and has links to everything else
 The Somewhere in Time Series; where the past meets the present.
***Royalty free images. Cover by my talented daughter Elise

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Is it the Story or the Sizzle?

--by Vonnie Davis

I love asking readers questions. Yeah, you could say I'm a nosy old broad. But how can I write stories for you, that you'll love, if I don't know your tastes? Our choices in romance reading are wide, from sweet to multiple partners and BDSM. The sexual bounds are nearly non-existent--and I often wonder how readers feel about this. Are these sexual boundaries being stretched by the author's rolling pin at the risk of making their plotlines too thin? Are readers after the sizzle or the storyline?

Back in the sixties when I started reading romance. We knew in the end there would be a hug, a kiss and a marriage proposal--hot stuff. But, oh the journey our heroine and hero took to reach that magical kiss. We waited and waited as they very slowly grew closer, turning pages, devouring chapters, agonizing over every problem that pulled them apart again, fearful they'd never experience their well-earned happily-ever-after.

Slowly sex entered our beloved genre. Euphemisms for body parts were used, and we were rarely privy to the actual sex scene. They occurred behind the closed bedroom door or had one measly sentence to tell the reader oh yeah, they did the wild thang.

Over the years, those bedroom doors squeaked open...farther...and farther. Now, we're lucky if they make it to the bedroom. Gee, I sound like a prude, don't I? I'm not. Truly. I write romances from sweet to downright spicy. The "heat level" depends on the characters. To be sure, the amount and placement of sex depends on my storyline, on how quickly--if ever--my characters grow close enough where shared intimacies suits their relationship. For my stories are character driven. If I don't follow my heroine and hero's desires, they wake me up at night and complain.

Recently, I've had a dream fulfilled. I sold a book to Random House. After eight titles with small presses, I've secured a tiny spot with the Big Six. While the editor "adored it", she told me she wants more sex scenes and she wants it earlier in the book. I'd made my characters wait until four chapters prior to the ending before they made love. "Sex sells," the editor said. Well, yes, I thought, but I was trying to build a loving relationship between Paisley and Creighton first before I led them to the bedroom. Was that wrong? Should I have sacrificed storyline for sizzle? Am I being old fashioned in thinking love--or a strong respectful attraction--needs to come before the sex?

What say you?

Meanwhile, one of my historical "sweet" romances is available on Amazon--A MAN FOR ANNALEE. I tried to write a more sensual story, but my heroine planted her hands on her hips and said she was having none of it. And no one pushes Annalee around.


When men fight over the feisty new arrival in town, the battle for her hand begins...

Annalee Gallagher loses her parents, home, and business in the Great Fire of Chicago. When she travels to Cicero Creek in the Wyoming Territory to start a new life, more heartache awaits her, and so do the attentions of several men--for good and for evil. Why was her stagecoach attacked, and was the shot that zinged over her head one night a wild bullet or a bad aim?

Boone Hartwell, the marshal of Cicero Creek, suspects someone is out to kill the new spitfire in town. She amuses him and touches a lonely part of his soul, but keeping her safe is a fulltime occupation. More importantly, can a white man raised as Cheyenne rise above her other suitors to win her heart? One thing is for certain in his determined mind: He's the man for Annalee.
So what do you enjoy most about your romances? The storyline or the sizzle? Or both?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


My critique partners are wonderful, patient and extremely helpful. They are also irritating, pushy and take delight in grabbing me by the ear when I drag my feet submitting my delightful work in progress.  At least it was delightful while I was writing it late last night.

There I am, typing away. The words are flowing and I haven't stopped to see if there is any birthday cake left. I'm on a roll. Well, I did leave this morning to go to the museum, but that was research. I solved the CSI crime exhibit so I can use what I learned in my Cookie Devereaux romantic suspense. Even Grissom said a did a good job.

But, I digress.

It never fails. I submit my brilliant example of American romance literature to the three picky Meanies. I just know that this time, they will be dumbstruck in awe. These pages will be praised as the most perfect work ever to grace their desks.

When we meet and they grimly push my pages across the table.  Red bleeds across my beautiful white pages.

"You are back to head hopping," says the red headed Meany.

The second one just looks at me with pity in her eyes.

The third one pats my hand a assures me (very kindly) that I am improving. I think she would praise me if it was written in crayon.

Don't get me wrong.  I love these women. They cheer me on and my writing truly  has improved  from the pitiful mess it was a while back.

There are times when I want to take off my size eight orthopedic walking shoe and throw it across the table.

The one saving grace is that, I also get to critique their stuff and payback is hell.  Mua-ha-ha-ha!

Monday, July 22, 2013


by Tessa Gray

“The unexamined life is not worth living.” Although there’s some debate as to who said this (Socrates or Thoreau), this quote remains one of my all-time favorites. I firmly believe that most individuals continuously re-examine their lives, and books play an important role in reshaping us. And to take this a step further, I propose that well-written books sometimes change the course of our lives.

When I was around seven years old, I detested fairy tales. That intense dislike probably stemmed from a troubled childhood. Shifted between foster homes more often than I care to admit, I had little time for make believe stories; I was far too busy trying to figure out real life. I learned early on that nothing comes easily. For that reason, I fell in love with author Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie books. 

For those of you who’ve read the Little House on the Prairie series, you know that those frigid winter settings Wilder paints strike a chord, particularly if you’re from Minnesota, like I was. 

For the Ingalls family, life could often be brutal, and I identified with that. I found myself rooting for this tight-knit family, cheering right along with them as they struggled, rejoicing when the crops came in that year, or when Pa got a well-paying job. And, of course, there was the fact that Laura sometimes struggled in school and was far from perfect-unlike her sister, Mary.

The summer I turned nine, my situation shifted when a foster family took me in and made the decision to raise me permanently. Once the dust settled and I didn’t have to change schools every year, I began to feel like a pretty normal kid. My taste in reading shifted, and I found myself drawn to books that were somewhat lighter. 

The Trixie Belden stories by Julie Campbell became my favorites. Trixie and her sidekick, Honey, experienced adventures most girls during the 1960’s only dreamed about. Although I don’t recall many of the storylines for this series, I know that those two girls often made me laugh. Whenever we drove into our small town of Osseo, I always made a beeline to the local library to check out more Trixie Belden books. 

When those notorious Trixie Belden paper dolls came out, I was the first girl in the neighborhood to own them and quickly began creating even more Trixie Belden adventures with my Trixie and Honey paper dolls.  

Eventually, of course, I moved on to romance novels. Truth be told, I’d never been exposed to a romance novel since no one in my very conservative, religious family ever owned one. But one hot summer day, all that changed. I’d just graduated from high school and was working at a Target store when one of the employees (who just so happened to also be a classmate of mine) introduced me to a novel called Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann. We were breaking for lunch when Sheryl reached into her purse, handing me the novel she’d kept hidden from everyone. It took me most of the summer to finish the book because I didn’t have the nerve to take it home, fearful my family would catch me with it. Sheryl would fish it out of her purse when we went on break, and I’d pick up where I’d left off the previous day.

While I can’t say this is a favorite novel, for me, it represented the fact that the world could be an evil place. I realized that I was a grownup now who would be heading off to college without my foster parents to shelter me from the evils of the world, and frankly, I was scared.

I don’t know if any of you have ever been influenced by a novel you didn’t particularly like, but I was profoundly affected by this one. My biological family, unlike the foster family I lived with, was extremely dysfunctional and self-destructive, so I did understand the consequences of making bad choices. But truth be told, it was this novel about three women being led down an endless spiral of self-destruction that drove it all home-propelling me into taking charge of my life. Up until that time, I don’t know that I gave much thought to how negatively poor choices can impact a life, but after reading Valley of the Dolls, I was more determined than ever to make decisions that were wise and would lead to a happy ending.

My taste in books during college probably most closely reflects what I enjoy reading at the present time. I adore strong, compelling characters that stand up and fight for what they believe in. In To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, lawyer Atticus Finch fits the bill. 

Part of my fascination with this book stemmed from the fact I’d never been south of the Mason Dixon Line but had spent the majority of my childhood in the North. Frankly, we didn’t have any African American students in my high school, and I don’t believe I’d ever been exposed to racism. When Atticus lost the court case, I suffered right along with him, angry at the injustice of it all. But through it all I learned that although our world is far from perfect, we all play an important part in trying to create a kinder, gentler world-one which we can be proud of.

To Kill a Mockingbird  is a “must read” in many school districts, and after reading it, I began planning which books I could use in my classroom as tools for teaching some of life’s most important lessons. It truly shaped the way I teach.

It wasn’t until my own two children grew fairly self-reliant that I actually began reading novels on a regular basis. I’d finally reached a point in my life where I’d achieved many of my own personal goals and allowed myself the luxury of escaping through a good, old-fashioned romance novel. I settled on many books by writers such as Nora Roberts, Sandra Brown, and Fern Michaels, enjoying the storylines immensely.

Author Debbie Macomber wrote a book called Dakota Home and for me, that book would forever change the way I viewed characters in romance novels. In the prologue, hero Jeb McKenna loses his leg in a farming accident. After reading that short prologue, I remember leaning back in my chair, wondering how in the world this author would manage to make an actual hero out of a guy with one leg. It’s a judgmental thought, mind you, but I’m being honest here.

The book was written in 2000, before our country went to war and we learned to deal more openly with people who’d lost limbs. By the middle of this book, I’d fallen in love with this hero and spent many sleepless nights thinking about him. This book was part of my evolution and I found myself drawn to characters with angst, enormous flaws, and lots of grit. I continue to marvel at how skillfully Ms Macomber wove together this cast of characters from a small, fictitious town.

On a personal note, I’ve been fortunate enough to attend many of Ms Macomber’s book signings and at one of them, she wrote a special message to my mother-in-one. My mother-in-law shared this special inscription with many of her friends until the end of her life. How special it is when authors take that extra time to make someone happy. The characters in Debbie Macomber’s novels are kind and gracious, and I suspect they’re drawn straight from the heart.

Firefly Lane by author Kristin Hannah is a beautifully written women’s fiction novel about the journey of two best friends. Like many readers who’ve reached a milestone, we often become not only reflective about our lives but begin moving away from situations and circumstances that don’t bring out the best in us. In other words, we become much more selective. It’s another part, I believe, of our complete evolution as women.

Ms. Hannah’s lush descriptions of the Pacific Northwest with settings so real you can actually feel the ocean waves wash over your legs are a huge draw for readers; coupled with the fact that her characters are flawed, gritty, and often full of angst. 

The most surprising thing about this novel is that one friend disapproves of the other’s choice in men, and yet, the women learn to live with it. Many friendships have broken up over this, but not the deep and abiding friendship between Kate Mularkey and Tully Hart. It’s a great summer read that I highly recommend.         
The cast of characters writers create often greatly impacts us. I attended a writing workshop sponsored by the school district I taught in a number of years ago. We sat in groups, reading the poem Sympathy by Paul Laurence Dunbar. One of the teachers became very emotional when we got to the part about the bird beating its wings against a cage, longing for freedom. Suddenly, her eyes welled up with tears as she confessed to everyone at the table that she’d been in a loveless marriage for years with a husband who controlled her every move. She announced that the poem had caused her to step back and take a hard look at her life. We shed many tears together and when all was said and done, she headed home to tell her husband that the marriage was over.

                 Sympathy – by Paul Laurence Dunbar
I know what the caged bird feels, alas!
When the sun is bright on the upland slopes;
When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass,
And the river flows like a stream of glass;
When the first bird sings and the first bud opens,
And the faint perfume from its chalice steals--
I know what the caged bird feels!

I know why the caged bird beats his wing
Till its blood is red on the cruel bars;
For he must fly back to his perch and cling
When he fain would be on the bough a-swing;
And a pain still throbs in the old, old scars
And they pulse again with a keener sting--
I know why he beats his wing!

I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore--
When he beats his bars and he would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart's deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings--
I know why the caged bird sings!
I often find myself wondering if the author of this beautiful poem had any idea how impactful his writing truly was. It’s mind-boggling that the power of words can impact a life so profoundly as it did this woman’s. In the grand scheme of things, I suspect that’s all we really want as readers-to find our true, authentic self through the writings of others. I suspect as most of you read, your own life stories have a great deal to do with the books you choose to read. Read what you enjoy, read what helps you become the very best person you can be, and above all else, share with everyone you know the impact a book has had on your life.hlse again with a keener sting— he beats his wing!
Author Tessa Gray

If there’s such a thing as reincarnation, Tessa Gray plans to live her second life in the tiny, west Texas town of Alpine, getting to know the locals. After attending the Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Alpine, she’s chosen this location for her “Dreamcatcher” series. The first book in this series, LAST CHANCE TEXAS, was released in December 2012 and is available in electronic format. Having written for nearly nine years, she’s completed eleven novels. In addition to writing, Tessa spends a large chunk of her time singing and quilting. She resides on a three acre plot in Fairview with her husband of thirty-eight years, Jim, four dogs, and two miniature donkeys.

The amazon link to LAST CHANCE TEXAS is:

The amazon link to TEXAS SUNSET is:
Both books are also available in print, as well as e-book versions.

Find out more about Tessa Gray at her website:
TesssaGrayBooks (Twitter)

Saturday, July 20, 2013


By Geri Foster

This year I went to the Romantic Times Conference and RomCon for the sole purpose of meeting and engaging with readers of Romance. I had a wonderful time and met many delightful people while at these two conferences. I also had the privilege to meet several of my favorite writers and became a fan to some I’d never read before.

Happy reader

The whole experience was career changing. I returned home determined to write more stories, have deeper plots and develop compelling characters if it killed me. I wanted to be better for those wonderful readers I’d met, and I wanted to be equal to the outstanding writers I’d came in contact with.
That’s true inspiration.

As writers we’re often alone in a dark room in the middle of the night pounding on our computers. We rarely see the end result of our hard work except when we receive payment for books bought. That’s a very cold way of doing business. Yet we don’t own shops where customers come in and browse and we get to know them in the process. With no face to face contact we have no idea what a reader really wants from a writer.  We only have a paycheck and reviews to gauge our success. With only a few tools to work with, we write hoping our readers will like what we’ve spent months writing. If they do, and they let us know, we’re thrilled. If they aren’t happy with our story, we languish for days on how to get better at our craft.

Inspired writer

I think the way to write the stories readers will love is to love what you write.

I pour my heart and soul into my stories. I don’t hold anything back for the next story. The book I’m working on is where all my love, energy, and brain power goes. I dig deep to find everything there is to know about my characters. I push to make my stories as exciting and emotional as possible. When I write the end… it truly is the end for me. I’m exhausted and thrilled, but I also know I gave that book every ounce of blood I had in my body.

Do I love it? You bet I do. It’s the reason I get up every day and come to this computer and work long hours for my readers. I want them to know when they pick up one of my books they’re in for a memorable experience.

Read On!

Geri Foster always loves to hear from her readers and other writers. You may contact her at the links below.


Thursday, July 18, 2013


My latest trilogy, Men of Stone Mountain, is about the three Stone brothers: Micah, Zach, and Joel. Aren’t brothers enough of a link for a trilogy? Yes, but there’s another link to these three books. Each involves poison in some way and is a mystery as well as a historical romance. No, I’m not bloodthirsty and I don’t intend to use my knowledge to wipe out any real people. In this trilogy, however, I wipe out a several people. Ah, the joys of being a writer! We are allowed to vent our frustrations by killing people on paper. And it’s legal. I love my job!

Studying herbal medicine is sort of a mini-hobby. I’ve taken the excellent herbal class Beth Trissel occasionally offers, as well as perusing my books on folk medicine. Pioneers relied heavily on their ability to recognize healing plants as well as those that discouraged pests and vermin. No Walgreens or WalMart around in those days.  Early settlers also learned that what can heal, if administered improperly, can harm. Cue eerie music.

Don’t you suspect a lot of so-called natural deaths were helped along before modern medicine and forensics discouraged using potions and tinctures to kill? Maybe I’m suspicious by nature, but I believe a lot of troublesome people died prematurely, helped along by a supposedly loving family member.

“My father in law Uriah? Why, he had a heart attack and up and died.”

“My first two wives? Each took sick and died on me.”

If you lived in the middle of nowhere, who was around to prove otherwise? If you lived in town, forensics had not advanced to today’s level. Even if a lawman or physician suspected murder, he had to prove it. A few poisons left tattletale signs, others left none. And that’s not even counting falls and other so-called accidents. You think life is dangerous now?

Often pioneers learned more about the local plants from friendly Native Americans. As people moved West and the topography and climate changed, they found many plants with which they were unfamiliar. They required help to discover which helped and which harmed. Have you wondered who first tasted this or that to see if it would make good food or medicine? I admit I often wonder trivial things like that.

I’ve heard that women are more likely to use poison than men. Perhaps that’s due to lack of physical strength. In this trilogy, both sexes are involved in using poison—some for evil, some for self defense. And I wanted each to be a natural poison found in the wild.

Here are the three books:

BRAZOS BRIDE’s heroine, Hope Montoya, is a smart woman and figures out that someone is poisoning her. Who and why are more difficult problems.  Until she knows, she can trust no one who has access to her food or medicine. She vows to fight for her life, but she’s so weakened by the poison that she can’t fight alone. Enter our hero, Micah Stone. Do you hear the “1812 Overture?” You know, I’ve heard a highbrow is someone who can hear that music without thinking of the Lone Ranger. But I digress.

In HIGH STAKES BRIDE, Alice Price is on the run from her less-than-bright stepbrothers who plan to hand her over to a man she considers the meanest man in Texas to settle a gambling debt. Enter Zach Stone to lend a hand. But in the end quick thinking Alice has to save herself, with Zach fast on her heels to the rescue.

In BLUEBONNET BRIDE, Rosalyn must escape an unjust death sentence for poisoning her husband with dried oleander from her garden.  She flees to the ends of the earth, or so it seems to her, and meets Joel Stone. Only he can save her, but his family helps. Those Stones stick together. I love that fact about them.

In the event you wish to buy any of these books, I’m happy to share that I have combined the three into a boxed set, MEN OF STONE MOUNTAIN: MICAH, ZACH, AND JOEL, at a reduced price that saves you two dollars at Amazon

Individually, each book is also available at iTunes, Kindle, Nook, Kobo and at Smashwords.

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

What's in a Name?

Characters are an important part of our writing for without them we'd have nothing to string the scenes together. They are the cohesive glue, substance, and heart that hold the story together. Equally important are the names we give them.

The names we choose should reveal something about our characters: who they are, where they come from or where they are going. If you name your character right, you will choose a name that is unique to your character, memorable to your story and an everlasting brand such as, Rowdy Yates, Daddy Warbucks, Spock, or James Tiberius Kirk.

I love naming my characters. Names come to me easily and usually when I least expect it. My soon-to-be-released book, Code of Honor, is set in the small ficticious Texas town of McTiernan. In the process of building the town, I developed a local older business man who plays an integral part in the lives of McTiernan's residents. While writing the scene describing his business, that of the local auto mechanic, Harlan Garrity popped into my head and I felt as if I’d known him all my life.

On the other hand, I sometimes come up with names I love, but there is no way I can get away with using them. Like for the CEO of the troubled company, Southern Star Airlines. Oren Thatcher popped into my head, shook my hand and sat behind the carved mahogany desk, pipe and all. Alas, a friend pointed out that the name too closely resembles that of Senator Orin Hatch. Yikes! Needless to say, Oren retired unexpectedly, and Nelson 'Nelly' Widmore slid into his leather chair.

Sometimes a name is simply too common to the point of overuse. Last year, while still in the early stages of my story, I came across a post concerning character names. Immediately intrigued, I dived headfirst into the article. The list of tips made sense to me and then I came to Tip #6 – Overused Names. The name, Jack, was precisely mentioned. Well… wait for it…you guessed it. That was my hero’s name. I stewed over the dilemma until one day, while watching a golf match, they introduced a player, Graeme McDowell. Aha! I liked him so much, that between that and enjoying a meal at McAlister's Restaurant, my hero had a new name, Graeme McAlister.

Sometimes a name latches onto a character so firmly that it will never let go. My heroine has been Maggie since her inception. She's been very stubborn and refuses to entertain a new moniker. Did I mention she has red hair? She may even have had relatives from Missouri.

The following are a few tips to consider from a post,,  naming the world . . .one baby at a time, when deciding on a name for our characters. 

Tip 1: Make the name age-appropriate

The biggest mistake we see writers make is choosing a character name that is not age-appropriate. Many authors make the mistake of choosing a name that is popular now for an adult character--a name that would have rarely been used around the time of that character's birth. Decide the age of your character and then calculate the year your character was born. If your character was born in the U.S., browse the Social Security Name Popularity List for that year. You will also want to take into account the character's ethnic background and the ethnic background of his/her parents.

Tip 2: Choose a name by meaning

Many writers give their characters names that have significance in the story. It could reflect major personality traits, or the character's role in the story. You may want to use our advanced search to search by literal meaning, or think of ways to incorporate other meanings into your character's name. For example, if your character is a botanist, you may not want to name her Flower (too literal), but you may want to consider the names Linnea or Sage. Even if you choose not to name a character by meaning, you should look up the meaning of all your characters' names—there may be something that inspires you or, on the other hand, conflicts with your message.

Tip 3: Exotic romance names are out

Thirty, forty years ago, you would pick up a romance novel and the characters would have ridiculously exotic names like "Crystal Remington" or "Rod Delaware." Same with daytime soap operas. However we're seeing a shift in the past decade or so: romance and soap writers have modernized their character names so readers can relate to them. Naming a romance character should be no different than naming any other fictional character. If you use all the other good character naming tips, you'll create a genuine player to whom your readers can relate.

Tip 4: Science fiction names don't have to sound alien

It's difficult to predict what names will be popular in the year 3000, however you don't have to make your science fiction characters sound like they are from Mars (unless they are). When a person reads (or watches) your story, you don't want them to stumble over a name. The name Zyxnrid, for example, would be difficult to read or listen to every time the character is referenced—and may detract from your overall story. If you do choose to create your sci-fi name, you may want to:

· Combine two common names to make a less common, but pronounceable name. Example: Donica (Donna and Veronica).

· Use ancient mythological names, or combine two of them. Example: Ceres or Evadne.

· Make it easy to pronounce and spell. Example: Bilbo Baggins from Lord of the Rings.

Tip 5: Terms of Endearment

When writing your story, be aware that people who are close rarely use each other's full names. Couples will use nicknames, terms of endearment (honey, dear, boo). What nickname have your characters come up with for each other? Also, parents rarely call their children by their full names--unless they are admonishing them for bad behavior or testifying in court. If you have loving parent characters that are addressing their kids, use a nick name or term of endearment (sweetie, baby, D.J.). An exception to this would be if you want to show the parent character being cold and distant to their child.

Tip 6: Overused Names

For some reason, every writer loves to name his hero JACK. I know it's a tough-sounding, honest-working name, but naming your hero Jack is like naming your son AIDAN. It's overdone. Be a little more creative, so your reader will remember your particular protagonist as opposed to the umpteen-million other books they've read about Jack. Also, do not give your protagonist the initials J.C. as an allusion to Jesus Christ. That tactic was overused in 60's/70's fiction and is almost laughable by today's standards.

Tip 7: Loaded Names

Watch out for what we call "loaded" names--names that have a popular association. These could be names associated with celebrities, historical or infamous people like Adolf, Oprah, or Kobe. They could also be names of famous literary, tv, or movie characters: Hannibal, Scarlett, Romeo, Bart. If you do choose to use "loaded" names, then you really should make it part of the story, part of the character. Your character's mother was obsessed with Gone With the Wind, so she was named Scarlett--how has it affected her throughout her life? How does it affect her in the story?

Tip 8: Have Fun With Names

Have fun with naming your characters and take time to see what "fits." What was your character's childhood nickname? Is that an embarrassment when his parents address him in front of his friends? Did your character change his name at any point in his/her life? If so, why? Does your female character want to change her surname when she gets married? Why or why not? Names are such an important part of one's identity, don't take it lightly with your story!

Thanks for visiting Smart Girls Read Romance today. I hope you enjoyed how I choose my character's names and liked the tips shared from . Leave a comment to share tips of your own.