Pause And Ponder Favorite Quotes

by Andrea on March 10, 2013

          Words well spoken and aptly arranged can take the mind in new directions.  These are a few quotes that made me pause, chuckle, or see a bit of fog lift off the truth.  If you have a favorite quote, I hope you’ll share it in a post.  Meanwhile, pause and ponder.

           “The penalty of success is to be bored by the people who used to snub you.”  ~Lady Astor

          “What a wonderful life I’ve had.  I only wish I’d realized it sooner.”  ~Colette

          “Don’t compromise yourself.  You are all you’ve got.”  ~Janis Joplin

          “To be successful, the first thing to do is to fall in love with your work.”  ~Sister Mary Lauretta

          “Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer and wish we didn’t.” ~Erica Jong

          “If the world were a logical place, men would ride side-saddle.”  ~Rita Mae Brown

          “No artist is ahead of his time.  He is the time.  It is just that others are behind the time.”  ~Martha Graham.

          “Just the knowledge that a good book is awaiting one at the end of a long day makes that day happier.”  ~Kathleen Norris

          “Why shouldn’t truth be stranger than fiction? Fiction, after all, has to make sense.”  ~Mark Twain

          “There are three rules for writing the novel, unfortunately no one knows what they are.” ~Somerset Maugham

          “Don’t wait. The time will never be just right.” ~Napoleon Hill



Hearts and Flowers, Love and Kisses

by Andrea on February 12, 2013

Hearts and Flowers, Love and Kisses To You

Happy Valentine’s Day

May Cupid’s Mark BE True.

          Think pink and red and hearts and flowers, cupids and arrows, lace and bows.  Valentine’s Day is about joy and sweetness and declarations of love and affection for someone special.  The someone special might be a miss or a mister, a husband or wife, a sweetheart, a precious child or a dear friend.  It is a day to open your heart and say to that someone what you feel  in the most heartfelt,  romantic or even the silliest way you choose. It is a day to feel the fullness of love and the richness of friendships and to give a token of your caring with a sentiment spoken, a card, or perhaps a gift that might be as simple as a single red rose or as lavish as a band of diamonds.

Simple or lavish, it is the sentiment that matters more than the gift.  Present it with a twinkle in your eye, love in your heart, open arms and deep sincerity.  Some of my favorite things to give and get on Valentine’s Day are:

  • One perfect chocolate. (Yes, I love chocolates by the box but having gotten wiser and wider over the years I have learned to savor one decadent piece and call it enough.)
  • Sweethearts candies. (Be Mine. Pick Me. Luv U.  Nothing bespeaks Valentine fun more than these little heart-shaped candies.)
  • Perfume. (A scent gift is a never fail choice for him or her.)
  • Candles. (It is good if there are matches and a romantic dinner to go with these.)
  • Book. (Poetry, a journal, or my pick, a romance novel.)

Be someone’s Valentine. Make Someone yours.  Have a wonderful Valentine’s Day.  You have made mine sweeter by visiting my page.

Be sure to pick up a free copy of Dark Prelude: (Amazon) (Apple iBookstore)  My gift to you.



Saluting Westerns

by Andrea on October 25, 2012


My salute to Westerns started with a childhood desire to head out west and with romantic notions about cowboys and cattle ranches and life in the saddle. My musings led to setting  several of my historical novels in the west of my imagination.

I freely admit my old west is based as much on the lore portrayed in old movies and paperbacks as on the gritty reality of life on the range or the hard demands of making a go at a ranching or surviving in one of the mushrooming towns on the frontier.  My Western novels are my salute to that wonderful world, real and imagined,  and the magnificent spirit of all those who tamed it.

Theodora Gamble, the heroine in Devil Moon has that high spirit.  She’s a woman who picks her own roles in life and lives them on her own terms.  She isn’t much for compromise and isn’t easy to live with when she’s forced into one.  Rhys Delmar learned that the day they met.

His new business partner wasn’t exactly what he was expecting…

“Where is this Teddy Gamble?” Rhys Delmar asked as he got out of the stagecoach.  His fine leather valise, along with its contents,  was shot through by no less that three bullet holes. “I need to tell the man he’ll be required to replace my entire wardrobe. ” A lad in the crowd pointed.

Teddy Gamble, attired in fringed buckskin trousers and shirt, and with tightly laced leggings that rose to her knees, had her back to the Frenchman. Rhys looked at the slight form with the masculine clothes and feminine curves and assumed he had discovered the reason for the Gamble Line’s shortcomings. No man with that build was much of a man. Rhys stood and stared. Before he could voice his observations his friend Lucien put them into words.

“N’est-ce pas?” the manservant whispered. “This Monsieur Gamble has the look of an effete, a sissy.”

“At best,” Rhys said moderating his voice too late.

On top of the attack on the stage it was too much. Teddy spun around like a hot desert whirlwind.

“At worst,” she said eyes blazing, voice crackling. “I’m a gal who’s got as much use for a pair of tinhorn, foreign, starched-shirts as I have for a pair of buzzards.”

Rhys’s gaze went to the swell of her breasts. “You are a woman!”

He could not have invited more trouble if he had lit the fuse on a stick of dynamite and tucked it in his pocket.

“Well, thank you for clearing that up.”

 “Mademoiselle Gamble,” he said, with the smooth, deep voice that had weakened many feminine knees. “My apologies. It seems we have gotten off to a bad start.”

“You bet your ass we have!”

. . . And that is only the beginning . . .

Please join me in a tip of the hat to the Old West. 

Devil Moon is slated for release in November and joins Delilah’s Flame as a Guns and Garters Western Romance.  To share the adventure with Teddy and Rhys, keep an eye out for the stage and for announcements of the release of Devil Moon.



Writing Tips: Naming Your Characters

by Andrea on March 16, 2012

Names are delicious to me.  I love how the sound and meanings of them filter through my mind and how they immediately give an image of the person they fit.  Naming my own children was such a lovely, slow process.  How to pick from all the wonderful choices and the phonetic combinations and to avoid the pitfalls of names easily tuned up with silly associations or nicknames a child might not wish to carry for a lifetime was the challenge.

My children number two, hardly enough to satisfy my desire to use the dozens more names on my list.  Happily, my offspring are satisfied with their monikers and I found another way to satisfy my naming fetish.

I name characters.  Sometimes a dozen or two in a book.  It is great fun and a careful process.  I admit that most of the time my protagonists show up in my head and introduce themselves.  They do, however, willingly submit to name changes, if need be, or the addition of a surname.

Roman, the hero in Dark Splendor and Dark Prelude, needed a surname and a name for his brother.  They became Roman and Morgan Toller, names which seemed appropriate for strong, virile, colonial era men of German descent.

Silvia Bradstreet, heroine of the same books, needed a surname that was not aristocratic and which told of her British heritage.

Amanda Fairfax hints at the sweetness and beauty of the heroine of  Whispers at Midnight, another colonial era romance.

In Whispers At Midnight, hero Ryne Sullivan has a brother named Gardner.  It is easy to tell who is the more steadfast of the two.

Switching to Westerns, I chose Tabor Stanton as the handle for the hero in Delilah’s Flame, an uncommon name for an uncommon man of the west.

Which he had to be to contend with the heroine, Lilah Damon, a soft-hearted woman with a duplicitous nature.  Her alias is Delilah.

There are scores more names in each of my books.  I strive to make each choice distinctive and a good fit for the character and the story and the genre.  Names imply much about personality and station in life for characters.  I rarely use names of my friends and family, but occasionally I sneak one in.

I’m sure most readers would agree the names of characters add a special dimension to a story and a carefully chosen name can make a character more real and memorable.

For tips on how to choose names for your characters, read “Name That Character”, my guest blog post on Writers Unite.  Thanks to Writers Unite for featuring me and for the terrific support they give writers.


Love Letters And Romance

by Andrea on February 14, 2012

When was the last one written, I wonder.  Where is it now?  Tied up in ribbon, tucked in a drawer or keepsake box, lost in an attic trunk.  Once cherished, love letters, their lasting endearments, may be no more.

There are things to be thankful for about communicating with technology, but much is lost.  No sweetheart can tie up an email file with blue ribbon or twine and hold it next to her heart, or his.  No string of texts, however sweet, can grow yellow with age, or be read again and again over the decades then be refolded and slipped into a tattered, postmarked envelope for safekeeping.

A heart cannot throb with the same thrill at the arrival of an electronic message as it might with the arrival of a letter on familiar stationary in a hand a lover knows as well the face of the loved one.  No lock of hair, or scrap of lace, poem or photograph could ever be more meaningful than as a love token in a letter.  No perfume ever smelled as sweet as that which scents a sweetheart’s missive.

It is a sad loss if love letters disappear even if life must go on and things must change as they always have.  Change now happens with a rapidity that leaves us no time to mourn what has passed.  Some things lost leave a greater void than others, like that of a fine art piece vanished from the enjoyment and enrichment of humanity.

A college sweetheart wrote a letter a day to me one year, sometimes two.  And I returned the sentiments matching each with one of my own.  Sitting at our small desks in shared rooms far from each other we poured out our hearts, named our dreams, and planned life and love.  I can still recall the daily joy of receiving that love note.  Some days I could not wait to return to my room and stopped at a bench under a tree to read words I could have recited without looking. At the end of that year we married.  I sometimes think we were more in love in our letters than together.  The marriage did not last and when it ended, I burned the letters in a ceremonious goodbye.

My mother, more recently, burned the bundles of letters my father wrote to her from overseas when he was away fighting in a war from which he did not return.  She is in her nineties.  She kept them in a trunk in the attic.  I asked why, after so many years, she did not preserve them for her children.  She said they were for her alone and she wanted to keep them in her heart.

I understand.  Love letters touch something in the recipient that no other exchange can mimic.  To know one is thought of with fondness and affection over miles and time, that the one who holds your heart has paused and taken time to choose just the right words, just the right sheet of stationary, just the right token to slip between the folded pages, and has made sure not to miss the postman, is enough to weaken any knee and make a lasting mark on any heart.

Greeting cards are sweet but they are not as straight from the heart as words penned especially for another.  Love letters are romance.  Love letters are valentines that do not need a special day or sweet rhyming lines.  They are deeper, truer.  They are love captured, preserved in ink and paper, worthy of being tied in satin ribbon and kept through the ages.  They may be, may become, only a practice of the past but if we are wise, the writing of love letters will not become a lost art.

With love,

Andrea Parnell


Postscript:  TOPIC  is in the Air!  SEE:

“Did Facebook kill love letters?”



An Excerpt from Delilah’s Flame

by Andrea on December 18, 2011


Delilah’s Flame

Smiling, Delilah invited Tabor to a table and asked Fat Jack to send over the bottle of French wine she’d had delivered to the bar. One thing she had never been able to master was drinking the horrible whiskey these places served. While she waited, she gave Ta­bor, seated beside her, an analytical look. Rugged, he had a trace of arrogance only half-hidden in the gray eyes. That at least didn’t surprise her. His hair was black, a bit too long. Did that mean he couldn’t afford the price of a haircut? At least he was clean and smelled . . . rather nice.

The barkeep came and poured her wine. She eyed her companion more discreetly now: worn boots, gray cord pants, a black shirt and leather vest. The gunbelt and ivory-handled guns were probably the most ex­pensive items of his attire. He didn’t look as if he’d fared as well financially as his former companions. She saw a ray of hope. If Stanton had become just a drifter or cowhand, concocting a quick plan would be easy. She could be done with Tabor Stanton before she left Yuba City.

Her eyes narrowed slightly. “Won’t you join me?” she asked, signaling the barkeep to wait a moment.

“No, thank you. I’ll stay with whiskey.” Reluctantly the barkeep left, his gaze so intent on Delilah he backed into a customer and got splashed with beer.

Tabor’s eyes hovered on her too. With the grace and refinement of a duchess she sipped her wine. He could easily believe the talk that she was from down-in-the-pocket British aristocracy. As a naval officer he had spent time in England. Only the years of training genteel British girls received in the social arts could account for her elegant manners.

He couldn’t figure Delilah out. That diamond around her throat would keep a good-size estate running a couple of years. That she had so much tied up in the diamonds dispelled the theory she was in need. She was a riddle, all right, a beautiful, tempting one. A grin manifested itself on his lips as he recalled he had always liked a good riddle.

Thank you for stopping by to read an excerpt from Delilah’s Flame, an Historical Western Romance by Andrea Parnell

Purchase Delilah’s Flame at these stores now:


Dark Prelude (a prequel to my historical Gothic romance novel Dark Splendor) is free and is available at all major ebook  retailers.

Read Dark Prelude as a free download from Amazon Kindle Store.

Dark Prelude

There is a serpent in thy smile, my dear,
And bitter poison within thy tear.
—Shelley, The Cenci

Chapter 1

Shivering miserably, Silvia Bradstreet, clutched her heavy woolen cloak against the wind, her gloomy thoughts little better than the weather. Had she come to this? That she would freeze to death on the London streets? Winter held a formidable grip on the city, shutting out the sun with murky, grey clouds and the bitter pelting of a late snow that fell to the streets like a shower of brimstone to become dingy slush mottled by tracks of those unfortunate enough to be about in the treacherous weather.

The fierce wind bore a chilling moisture from the sea as it wailed between blackened buildings, sounding like the mournful cry of despairing souls. How foolish she had been not to defy Uncle Hollister. Lately he had grown impossible, his sober days largely outnumbered by the drunken ones. But to send her on a fool’s errand in such weather was demeaning and cruel.

Still, she had little choice.

At times her uncle flew into a scalding rage over the simplest matter and she had begun to fear for her safety. Today his attack of angry words had wounded her pride and brought a flood of tears to her eyes. “Curse me, Missy. I’ll be master of this house ’til my dying day and I’ll not have you trying to run it for me,” he had shouted and kicked a chair across the kitchen. “Left to you we would eat nothing but soup and stew! Now get to the butcher and buy the chops and have a dinner on the table this night that’ll fill a man’s belly! And don’t be forgetting your place again!”

With that he had taken the stewpot from the stove and tossed it into the street. She choked back a lump in her throat. No danger she would forget her place again. She had no place. Her once kindly uncle had turned caustic and she was little more than a maid to him.

She sighed ruefully, then set her jaw and trudged on. Lips, blue from the cold, curved into a deeper frown. She had a more immediate concern than Uncle Hollister’s abominable disposition— getting home before the cold claimed her. Because of her uncle’s poor credit, she had been forced to walk blocks farther to find a butcher they did not owe. Passing the docks, as she made her way home with the bundle, the wind roared colder and stronger, biting and stinging her face like a spray of icy needles.

Behind her a carriage rattled its way along the cobbled street, spinning dirty snow behind its wheels. Before she could jump aside, a splash of filthy wetness splattered her cloak. The carriage swept past while Silvia shook the snow from her garment. Almost instantly a stabbing cold pierced the damp fabric to sap the little remaining warmth in her body.

She could fight the chill no longer and drew into the narrow, secluded entry of a shipping company to escape the angry wind. A lantern mounted beside the door flickered haltingly in the dimness of the winter afternoon.

Silvia folded her arms across her chest. Still she shivered with cold. She thought dejectedly of her situation. There was no reasoning with Uncle Hollister. He would have his way and damn those who tried to deter him. She sighed dispiritedly, longing to reach the warmth of the kitchen. But the numbness of her feet and the thought of the rude welcome she would receive from Uncle Hollister kept her from hurrying back along the street.

Slumping against the wall in despair, Silvia brushed the snow from her lashes with the back of a dusky wool mitten. Her gaze lingered on a notice posted beside a window frame in the entryway. The lines blurred together until her eyes cleared.

Able bodied men and women wanted
Passage paid
Sailing date: the twentieth of March, in the year of our Lord, one thousand and fifty-one.


Dark Splendor, Gothic Historical Romance excerpt

by Andrea on December 11, 2011

Thank you for viewing an excerpt of Dark Splendor. I hope you enjoy this bit of adventure.

Get the Dark Splendor ebook at these retailers:

Dark Splendor

There is a serpent in thy smile, my dear,

And bitter poison within thy tear.

—Shelley, The Cenci

Chapter One

 March 1751

Silvia Bradstreet stirred only slightly when the wooden door of her cabin creaked as it slowly opened.

She slept the heavy sleep born of exhaustion, and neither the pitching of the ship nor the shouts of deckhands, though loud enough to rattle the masts of the Eastwind, roused her. A hazy light split the darkness of the tiny compartment and disappeared beneath the shadows of two men who quietly entered.

Roman Toller roughly caught his brother by the arm and halted him in mid-step. A lump like a burning chunk of coal lodged in his throat as his eyes roamed over the figure of a young woman sleeping soundly in the bunk.

Her dark hair spilled over the contrasting whiteness of the pillow like tassels of black silk he had seen displayed in stalls in an Eastern market. Beneath the blanket her slender form rose softly with each slow breath. She lay curled like a kitten spent from its play.

“Bloody hell, Morgan,” he muttered. “What is this?”

“God’s pity, man, if you have to ask.” Morgan Toller’s lips curved into a teasing grin. “It’s a woman, plain and simple.”

“That I can see,” he growled. “But why is the wench sleeping in this cabin?” Roman’s lids half-closed and his nostrils flared as his eyes, cold as blue ice, met his brother’s.

Morgan stared at the pleasing curves of the lithe form beneath the blanket. His chest swelled with the fullness of a deep breath he exhaled softly. “The captain said we’d find a surprise below.”

“Aye. That he did,” Roman agreed. The beginnings of a smile quivered on the corners of his lips. “And I’ll admit I thought he meant a bottle of vintage wine.”

“We must be certain to thank Wilhelm for improving the stock on his ships,” Morgan said, looking wryly at Roman. “This trip may prove to be less bleak than I expected,” he added, followed by an easy chuckle.

“The old scoundrel is up to something, I’ll wager. Summoning us to the colonies with no explanation of the urgency.” Roman’s brows raised sardonically. “And this.”

“Let’s consider that he is seeing to our comfort,” Morgan chided lightly. “And this is a flower in the desert. Or on the ocean, as it seems.” He rubbed his hands together and his mouth curved into a half-grin. “The only problem as I see it is there is one woman and two of us.”

“I begin to see your point.” Roman landed a hard but playful blow to Morgan’s jaw. “Pull out a coin. We’ll toss for the first night with her.”

Morgan scowled and rubbed his jaw. “Find another outlet for your bad temper, man,” he railed. Still he reached into his pocket and withdrew a coin. “Call it,” he said jauntily, tossing the goldpiece into the air.

“Heads!” Roman snatched the spinning coin before it landed in Morgan’s waiting hand. “Heads. And you sleep alone,” he jeered, slapping the coin to his forearm and uncovering it for Morgan to see.

“Alone,” Morgan scoffed derisively, opening a silver flask of brandy and raising it to his lips. “Well, I’ll be off to my solitary cabin and misery.” He took a second swig from the flask and ceremoniously replaced the cap. A tight-lipped smile rested uncomfortably on his crestfallen face. “And you with a preference for redheads,” he remarked dryly.

“Aye. But with every moment I begin to like raven-haired beauties.” Roman’s chin jutted out stubbornly as he flashed a triumphant grin.

Morgan smiled. “I’ll leave you to your pleasure, Roman,” he chortled, and there was a taunting gleam in his eyes. “We’ll talk at dinner. If you have the strength.”

The fading ring of the Tollers’ voices, though certainly strong enough to break a normal sleep, were hollow echoes to Silvia, lost in the musing deepness of her dreams. The unwelcome sounds intruded as murky shadows in her slumbering thoughts. Stretched out beneath the verdant leafy awning of a tree, she watched milky white clouds float like fleecy ewes crossing an indigo field, while songbirds chirped a melodious note that lulled her even deeper in sleep.

Roman closed the door quietly behind Morgan and secured it with the bolt.

Silvia stirred faintly at the rasp of the lock catching. A dark intruder entered her dreams, a menacing shadow floating in a peaceful sky. She sighed aloud and curled up tighter.

Pausing when she turned her face toward him, Roman stood quietly, hardly daring to breathe, but her eyes remained shut. The innocence in her face surprised him and for a moment a pang of conscience bit at him. He whispered a curse. What reason did he have for remorse? Wilhelm Schlange solidly calculated every move he made. If the man had placed this woman at his disposal, why should he question that she did not look the part?

His eyes dwelt on the smoothness of her skin, fair and creamy white and with the soft luster of fine satin. Her rosy lips were parted a bit, as if set for a kiss, and the pouty fullness showed to a tempting advantage.

He exhaled slowly, letting the air whistle soundlessly through his teeth. She was beautiful. Her black lashes curled softly and were longer than any he had ever seen.

“A flower at sea,” he whispered, and lowered his frame to the chair near the bed. With growing urgency he removed his boots and stockings and rose to drape his coat and cloak over the back of the chair.

He caught his breath, feeling the thrill of arousal as he anticipated the touch of her tantalizing curves. Recklessly stripping away his silk shirt, he stood beside the bed wearing only his breeches. Feeling a surge of warmth in his flesh as passion flared within him, Roman carefully raised the blanket and silently eased into bed.

She wore only a simple chemise adorned on the bodice by tiny lavender bows. He groaned, and his fingers gently touched the streaming ribbons pressed like violets in the snow against the paleness of her breasts. Her body was warm to his touch and the delicate smoothness of her skin brought a lusting flame to his eyes.

Deep in sleep, Silvia responded with a sigh to the gentle stroking. While lost in her dreams, butterflies fluttered delicate wings about her face and neck. The caress of his lips at her throat and the nimble movements of his fingers in her hair were soft kisses of sunshine. She turned to him, her parted lips trembling beneath the rustle of his warm breath.

As she became aware of a shadowy image through closed eyes, her heavy lids reluctantly flickered open to reveal a face pressed close to her own. Just for a moment, as another lilting sigh sounded in her throat, did she know a trace of alarm. But sleep held her prisoner and his eyes were the blue of the sky in her dreams.

“Wake up, little flower,” he murmured, rolling closer so that the hardness of his chest pressed sensuously against the softness of her breast.

His voice was soothing, rich and deep and sweet to her ears. The face was dreamlike, fetchingly handsome, the nose straight and nostrils flared in passion, the cheekbones high, and the chin squared and strong. His flaxen hair was long and tied at the back of his neck with black cord. He had a provocative twist to his mouth and perhaps it was the small vestige of arrogance she detected there which disturbed her.

A subtle movement wrapped his arm about her shoulders and lifted her to him. With a gentleness that transcended his passion, he softly kissed her eyelids and watched them quiver fully open. Rimmed with the lushness of dark lashes, her eyes were golden like honey before they darkened with a pall of fear.

Her scream rent the stillness of the cabin. Perplexed, Roman cursed and silenced her by clamping his hand across her mouth. He frowned and shook his head as if to assure her his intentions were pleasurable and not painful. Possibly he should have awakened the girl before getting in bed. He had not counted on her shocked reaction.

“Quiet now?” he asked softly.

She shook her head in agreement beneath the pressure of his hands. Her pupils widened and her eyes became almost catlike, glowing yellow and angry.

Thinking her calmed, Roman withdrew his hand, but before he could affect one of the devastating smiles he used so well, she screamed again. He moved his hand as swiftly as a striking snake to cover her mouth, but this time she caught the side of it in her teeth. With all her might, she bit down.

“Bloody hell, woman,” he shouted, rolling roughly across her and jerking his hand away to examine it for signs of broken skin.

“Get off!” Silvia groaned as his weight crushed the breath from her lungs. She squirmed beneath him but his body held her tight. Frantically she pummeled his face and chest with the strongest punches she could inflict. All the same, her rampaging blows were useless in dislodging him. With a gasp, she swung her arm beside the bed and caught the top of her boot, flinging it furiously at his head. The wooden heel struck him in the temple, stunning him enough for her to shove him aside and jump from the bed.

“Swine!” she screamed, racing the few feet to the door. She would have fled the cabin in her chemise, but in such a panicky state, the workings of the bolt proved too much for her.

Dazed, Roman struggled to his feet, rubbing the swell of a knot on his brow.

“Keep your hands away!” she shouted, snatching up her other boot and holding it menacingly in front of her.

“Easy now.” Roman raised a hand defensively in front of him. “You’ve damn near taken my head off already,” he stammered incredulously.

The woman was a demon and he had suffered enough of her fury. A drop of blood trickled from the wound above his eye and ran a crooked path to his cheek. But as he wiped at it with his hand a quick smile ruffled his mouth and a look of consummate disbelief paled his blue eyes.

“Get out of my cabin,” she ordered, her eyes igniting in a wildfire of golden lights. Cautiously backing around the room to allow him passage through the door, she steadied her trembling legs against the wall. “Out,” she sobbed.

Roman backed toward the door, wanting no part of the other boot.

“You’re no flower, but a spiny thistle.” His tone cracked sharply. He had assumed he would be welcome in her bed, so his exasperation was painfully vexing. Roman found himself in the hall barefoot and shirtless and dared not knock for the return of his garments.

His pride gave him no protection from the cold and he faced the option of exposing himself to Morgan’s ridiculing gibes or chancing that Captain Langham’s cabin would be empty.

He stepped two paces away and paused to make a sidelong glance at the door. Irritably he made a small mocking bow toward the portal. As his head dipped in pretentious deferment, the hinges creaked rudely open and his garments flew like rubbish through the air to land in a grudging heap at his feet.

“And a good evening to you,” he called out in his mellow voice. His own ire had succumbed to humor, and with a conciliatory shrug to his broad shoulders, he gathered up his garb and stepped lightly to the captain’s quarters, where he clothed himself. A bottle of wine sat at liberty on the table, and when Langham came below a short time later, Roman had partaken of a good portion of it.

Shivering with a chill of fear, Silvia pushed the chair against the door. As soon as she was calmed and could dress, she would seek Captain Langham’s protection. Surely he would take measures to ensure her safety on the voyage.

Dark Prelude, a prequel to Dark Splendor, is available free at Amazon and other ebook retailers.


Nearly 75 million Americans read at least one romance novel last year.  General book sales in the U.S. dropped nearly 2 percent (in 2009) but sales of romance novels rose almost 8 percent, equaling 14 percent of all fiction sold and $1.4 billion in revenue. Harlequin Enterprises alone earned $485 million.  In 2010 romance fiction was the number two category in eBook sales.

That’s serious business. Sure the heroines have gotten bolder, more butt-kicking babe than damsel in distress and the heroes haven’t, though sometimes they are dead guys with fangs. The stories, at core, are still about relationships and love and making it all work against the impossible odds of a complicated life.

That said, there has to be something more readers are getting out of  romance novels than just another happy ending.  Some life lessons, perhaps.  Recently I came across a greeting card a friend sent me early in my writing career that helps explain just what those lessons are and why romance is a growing genre in fiction sales.

All I Need To Know About Life I Learned From Reading Steamy Novels

  1. There’s never enough dirty parts.
  2. Good guys finish last.
  3. Really good guys take forever to finish.
  4. Always have the ring appraised before you say yes.
  5. Everyone has an evil twin.
  6. The more expensive the suit, the sleazier the guy.
  7. Sex is trouble.
  8. No sex is more trouble.
  9. The bitch is always more interesting.
  10. Women are catty; men are dogs.
  11. Everyone is jealous of someone.
  12. If creamy white thighs and heaving bosoms don’t raise your temperature, you’re dead.
  13. The biggest thing in a man’s trousers should be his wallet.


I’m adding two more:

     14.  But not the only thing in his trousers.

     15.  Happy endings can lead to a sequel.


Please comment with your additions to the list if you wish.



The first rejection letter I received labeled my characters cardboard. And cardboard they were, so one-dimensional a sigh could have blown them over.  I quickly learned to flesh out characters in the planning stage of a book and to give them far more dimension than would ever appear in the book.

One of my favorite tools for developing characters is the chart I put together for myself a couple of decades ago.  It is simple and flexible and can be used for primary and secondary characters. My completed charts can be five to ten pages each for the hero and heroine and shorter for important secondary characters.

One of the bonuses of using my chart or a similar one is that once completed, you have the internal and external conflicts established and the goals and motivations for the major characters. With so much of the background determined, it is easy to get busy writing the action.

There are many variations of the character chart and they can be tweaked to fit the type of book you are writing. I generally add a few lines of dialogue to show the manner of speaking each character will use.  If you aren’t working with a character chart, give it a try. Be specific  and thorough on each point, start to develop the mood and tone of the book at this stage, add some descriptive lines you will use later. Your characters will live and you will know them better than your best friend.

If you find this chart helpful, let me know.  If you have some tips to share or have a particular challenge in developing characters, please post your comments.  Let’s stamp out cardboard characters.

Character Chart

1. Name

2. Age

3. Height

4. Weight

5. Birth date

6. Birthplace

7. Hair – color

8. Eye – color

9. Unique mannerisms, gestures, expressions, sound of voice.

10. Scars or handicaps (physical, mental or emotional)

11. Educational background.

12. Work background.

13. Best friend; other friends, men/women.

14. Enemies and why.

15. Parents/siblings & relationship.

16. Present problem or crisis.

17. Complications

18. Strongest and weakest character traits.

19. Self image.

20. As seen by others.

21. Sense of humor and kind.

22. Basic nature.

23. Ambitions

24. Philosophy of life.

25. Hobbies

26. Music, art and reading material preferred.

27. Dress

28. Favorite colors.

29. Pastimes

30. Description of home (physical, mental and emotional atmosphere).

31. Most important thing to know about character.

32. What trait will make character live and why?

33. Why is character worth writing about?

34. Why is he/she different from other (similar) characters?

35. Why do I like/dislike this character?

36. Why will readers like/dislike this character?

37. Why will this character be remembered?

38. What does he/she admire in women/men?

39. What quality does hero/heroine react to most?

40. How does character react in extreme circumstances? (guilt, rage,fear,doubt,pride)

41. How does character sees his/her own faults?

42. How character grows.

43. How faults change.

44. Is character self-contained or influenced by outside forces?

45. How character has been educated in worldly things.

46. Character’s experience with men/women.

47. Financial status.

48. Feelings about wealth or lack of it.

49. If not major character, how does he/she advance the plot?

50. One line description.