Finding Devil Moon

She was no lady. He was a gentleman gambler. Together they were like gunpowder and flint, setting the west on fire beneath a Devil Moon.

Devil Moon by Andrea Parnell (Trove 2013)Western lore dominated my childhood. Kid-friendly western movies streamed from the local theater. I saw them all and yearned for life on a ranch, a six-shooter and spurs. Not much of that in Georgia farm country but a kid can dream. Decades later my dreams saw fruition when I began creating my own tales of the West. Though I had been weaned on male dominated features where women were merely in the supporting roles or part of the scenery, I wanted to showcase  atypical women of the West.

Surely, all women of that era were tougher than hardtack and had hearts bigger than the sky, but I wanted them to put aside their bonnets and petticoats and stand toe to toe with the men. I wanted them to strap on six shooters and ride herd and take on bad guys and bad times just like the men.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I loved those rough and tumble good guys in their boots and Stetsons even if it was mainly their horses strumming my heartstrings. TV westerns were better at showing strong go get ’em women but that only made me more determined to give my characters some grit and sass.

The first of my western heroines made her debut in Delilah’s Flame. Delilah takes justice by the tail and gives it new meaning. Teddy Gamble steps out in Devil Moon. Teddy is prickly as a cactus flower and pretty as a desert sunset.  She runs a stage line, wears buckskins, battles road agents, a hostile takeover attempt, and her own wayward heart. She needs all the grit and sass she’s got when a handsome Frenchman enters her domain and claims a part of it.

Writing historicals is a little like time travel. I loved and lived every minute of Teddy’s adventures and misadventures even though she’s braver and bolder and a better shot than me. I am strongly addicted to American history, particularly that of the West. I enjoy creating characters whose lives show the strength and forbearance that gave us our heritage.

Devil Moon is the second of a trio of Guns and Garters Western Romances, to be released as an ebook this fall from Trove Books. Pre-order Devil Moon now at Smashwords at Barnes & Noble and on Apple iBookstore.

Traveling Companions, How to Create Characters Who Live and Breathe

*The following is a chapter excerpt from my book Roadmap For Writers and expounds on the use of the character chart shown in an earlier blog post.  Many of my Creative Writing students found it useful for fleshing out the characters in their stories.  For major characters, I often write several paragraphs or more about each item in the character chart. Write as much or as little as works to make your characters real. 

Traveling Companions

You’ve thumbed the travel brochures, picked a vacation spot.  The bags are packed.  The car is filled with gas.  You’re ready to go.  But do you really want to travel alone?  Consider asking a friend along.  Good traveling companions make a trip more fun.

In writing a snippet of conversation overheard, an article you’ve read, an experience you’ve had or any of a hundred other events triggers a spark in your head.  You’re excited and eager to plunge into chapter one or to start plotting an outline.  But do you really want to travel alone?  Consider asking your protagonist along from the start.  Good characters make a story worth reading.

In a sense the reader and the protagonist share the same seat in your story.  The idea that got you going has to be an integral part of your protagonist’s existence.  Plug your idea into your protagonist’s makeup right from the start.  You’ll be well on the way to creating a character readers can identify with and a story they can’t put down.  One of the best ways to do this is to make an extensive character chart early in the process of writing a book or short story.  Think of your chart not simply as a police report that covers primarily physical characteristics and whereabouts, but rather as a complete psychological workup that includes every facet of the character’s personality and life.

Think about characters who live on in your memory.  Scarlett O’Hara.  Luke Skywalker.  Indiana Jones.  Captain Jack Sparrow.  Katniss Everdeen.  What makes him or her endure?  Capture those traits and you have a character who lives for the reader.  The key word is live.  Any character, particularly the protagonist in your story, must have a life.  This includes a past, a family, friends, opinions, goals, fears, all the components of being a living person has.

You, the writer, must know your protagonist as well as you do your brother or sister or best friend.  You’ve got to be on speaking terms with all your characters.  You must know secondary characters as well as you do your neighbors, the guy in the next office, the stylist who cuts your hair.  Otherwise your characters are merely mouthpieces for the narrator — that’s you.

A major character must be extraordinary in some way.  If you attend a party where there are fifty guests, this is the one you would tell everyone about afterwards.  Imagine what you would have noticed about this person:


  • Behavior or Action
  • Conversation or Dialogue
  • Thoughts, introspection (He’s your character now so you can get into his head.)

These are the same traits that make a character believable and worth knowing.    Be sure to give your major character some quirks and faults.  Extraordinary doesn’t mean perfect.  You want your character to have a reason for not doing everything right.

The following character chart had been useful to many writers.  It guides you to include physical, emotional, psychological and social traits as you develop characters.  It also includes several components essential to developing a successful plot.  A thorough workup on a major character can take three or more single spaced pages.  Secondary characters may require only a paragraph or two.  Walk-on characters can be covered with a couple of sentences.

Suggestions and examples for making the chart more effective are included below.  (Most excerpts and examples are from Devil Moon, a Western romance.  My idea was a stage line run by a woman.  I knew I wanted to set it in Arizona.  That’s all I knew.  My heroine-protagonist gave me the rest.)

Meet your protagonist in the character chart.  Plug in your story idea.   Use the chart in any way that works for you.  Use part of it, all of it, expand it.  It’s your tire tool now.

Character Chart

  • Name:  A name should tell something about the character, so choose carefully.  The reason a name was chosen can also be important.  (He was called T.J. Benton after an uncle who had been hung for rustling.  /  Her father was Theodore Timothy Gamble.  She was called Theodora after him.  Her twin brother was called Timothy.)
  • Age/Height/Weight/Sex:  More than numbers and letters here.  Include shape and appearance and the way the character feels about his or her size.  (Theodora has an hourglass figure that owes its shapeliness to heredity rather than the confines of corsets which she despises.)
  • Birthdate and birthplace:  Both these can have more significance to the story than the details on a birth certificate and can factor into the character’s personality.  Was he born on Friday the thirteenth?  Or in a leap year?  (She was born beneath a tree on the banks of the Savannah River on the hottest summer day of 1785.)  note:  A book of  astrological signs can be an excellent resource for character development.
  • Hair color/Eye color:  Create description that can be used in the text of your story.  Remember these features can be telling details about a character’s personality.  (Teddy’s hair is the color of taffy candy, brown-streaked with sun-lightened strands.  It is long, silky and straight and is her one vanity.)
  • Mannerisms, gestures, expressions, sound of voice:   Assigning a character a dominant impression, labeling, is an important part of character creation.  Give your character a distinctive tag or trait.  Assign two or three to a major character.  You will use these throughout the story for anchoring with the character.  These can include a pattern of speech, an accent, pet expressions, a way of drumming the fingers, a favorite item.  Katniss has her bow.  Indiana Jones had his whip and fedora.  James Bond his martini, shaken not stirred.
  • Scars or handicaps  (physical, mental or emotional):  Include childhood experiences, traumas.  (Teddy’s twin brother drowned at age ten.  Fifteen years later Teddy still blames herself for the accident that cost his life.  Her grandmother believes her continued tomboyishness is her way of making up to her father the loss of his only son.)
  • Educational and work background:  Account for skills or the lack of them.  (Teddy endured her grandmother’s teaching.  She did embroidery, learned French, and curtsies but only because it was required of her before she could mount her pony and spend the remainder of the day riding the range.)
  • Family members and family background:  Include siblings and parents and other influential persons in the extended family.
  • Description of home (physical, mental & emotional atmosphere):  (Teddy’s grandmother was nurturing.  Her father was loving and kind but he was never able to hide his belief that a family’s heritage passed through the male heir.)  
  • Financial status & feelings about it:  (During his father’s illness his older half-brothers began to spend and waste the family fortune, diminishing all assets.  Rhys left his family home penniless and embittered.) 
  • Friends/best friend/romantic interest:  The friends a character chooses tell a lot about him.  A best friend can make an excellent supporting character and supply backstory throughout the book.
  • Enemies and why:  A story is about characters in conflict so give your protagonist enemies and give the enemies a reason to be.  (Teddy inherited her father’s enemies along with his stage line.  Top among them is Parrish Adams.  His rival line will go under if Teddy stays in business.)
  • Personality type/self-image/attitude:  Is your protagonist a loner or leader, cheerful or brooding?  What does she think of herself?  What’s his attitude about life?(Teddy is a no-holds-barred woman who thinks nothing of walking into a saloon and having a drink with the men while she smokes a cheroot.  She has a quick temper, another defense against being a woman.  Teddy subconsciously feels half of her is missing and tends to believe others see her that way.) 
  • As seen by others:  Including the views of friends, enemies and minor characters can offer insight into the character and his motivations.
  • Ambition/Philosophy/Code of ethics/Religion/Values:  These are the traits that determine how a character will act and react in given situations.  They are the core of the character.  Be wary of violating them by having the character act or react in a way contrary to what you have established as his basic nature.  (Teddy’s ambition is to do what she believes her father would have wanted her brother to do.  At this she is driven.  To fail would be unthinkable.)
  • Hobbies & pastimes; music, art & reading material preferred:  An unusual hobby can make an interesting tag.  Generally these make up the softer side of a character, the rounding out.  They may also supply links for subplots and interplay with other characters. (Edward Cullen collected cars, played piano and kept a journal.)
  • Habits:  Routine and predictable patterns of behavior can be areas of vulnerability for a character.
  • Favorite color/foods:  Is he turned on by red?  Is her bedroom painted black?  Has he got a favorite beer?
  • Clothing choices & why: Clothes make the man or woman.  More significant in some types of fiction than others but useful in helping the reader visualize the character. (Teddy wears pants or shirts in beige or gray and a man’s style jacket or long duster coat.  Her grandmother reluctantly makes her garments.)
  • Worldliness or lack of it:  (Rhys has had all the worldly experiences of high society decadent living.  He is a man who has been influenced by outside forces and allowed them to shape his destiny until he found the reserve of power within him.) 
  • Romantic experience:  Relationships help define a character’s expectations from others.  (The men in town treat Teddy as one of the boys.) 
  • Traits admired in others – men/women:  (Teddy admires men who know what they want and are willing to work hard for it.  /  Rhys has always admired people who have the courage to stand up for what they believe in.  This is what he sees in the West and what he wants for himself.)
  • Positive & negative traits in self & feelings about:  Here’s the place for quirks and faults.  (Teddy’s strongest traits are her courage and determination to succeed where by any standard she is out of her element as a woman doing a man’s work.  Her weakest trait is her refusal to acknowledge the woman within her.)
  • Traits that make this character memorable:  What makes a character live for readers long after the book is read?  (Rhys will be remembered for the way he teases Teddy and for his determination to prove to Teddy and to himself that he is a man of substance.)
  • Fears:  These are the stumbling blocks that hinder the protagonist from achieving his goals. (Teddy fears failure and is afraid to acknowledge the woman within her.)
  • Goals:  In the context of your story, what does the protagonist want to accomplish?  What does she believe in or care about?  What will make him take risks?
  • Present problem or crisis — external & internal:  What is the character on the brink of doing?  What is about to happen that will upset life as your protagonist knows it?  (Teddy’s external problem is battling a diabolical rival to keep her stage line running and dealing with an unwanted partner.  Her internal problem is coming to terms with her brother’s death and overcoming her denial of her womanhood.) 
  • Complications:  Complications make conflict and conflict makes a good story.  Give your protagonist plenty of problems.  (Teddy deals with a lack of money, holdups, her unwanted partner, a kidnapping, a flood and a pregnancy.) 
  • Growth & change in character:  At a basic level this is what your story is about.  Your protagonist must be different at the end of the story than he or she was at the beginning.  (Teddy grows by confronting her demons and by trusting someone other than herself.  Only then does she truly have anything to give to another.) 
  • One line characterization:  Get a handle on your characters.  (Teddy Gamble is energy and ambition, a woman no man would forget but a stranger to herself until love unlocks the secret self within her.  /Rhys Delmar is a man forged by the West into one of its finest and strongest, a man both tender and formidable, a man to love.) 

            There you have it.  Do this for all major characters and as is needed for others.  You’ll have the basis of your plot when you’re finished.  You’ll have most of the major action.  You can quickly outline the rest of your story.              

Character Chart

  • Name
  • Age/Height/Weight/Sex
  • Birthdate and birthplace
  • Hair color/Eye color
  • Mannerisms, gestures, expressions, sound of voice
  • Scars or handicaps (physical, mental or emotional)
  • Educational and work background
  • Family members and family background
  • Description of home (physical, mental & emotional atmosphere)
  • Financial status & feelings about it
  • Friends/best friend/romantic interest
  • Enemies and why
  • Personality type/self-image/attitude
  • As seen by others
  • Ambition/Philosophy/Code of ethics/Religion/Values
  • Hobbies & pastimes; music, art & reading material preferred
  • Habits
  • Favorite color/foods
  • Clothing choices & why
  • Worldliness or lack of it
  • Romantic experience
  • Traits admired in others – men/women
  • Positive & negative traits in self & feelings about
  • Traits that make this character memorable
  • Fears
  • Goals
  • Present problem or crisis — internal & external
  • Complications
  • Growth & change in character
  • One line characterization

An excerpt from Whispers At Midnight

Whispers at Midnight is a Gothic Romance set in Colonial Era America.  I particularly like exploring the early days of our country and imagining what might have been.  The following excerpt is from the prologue. I hope you will enjoy it.  A longer excerpt is available at Amazon.

Whispers At Midnight

Virginia, July 1730

The night was hot and still. More so than any Evelyn Wicklow could ever remember. She held tightly to her husband’s arm, so that her steps would not falter and reveal the tug of fear at her heart. Not a sound rose up in the cloying heat, not the chirp of a cricket, not the song of a bird. It seemed both time and the movement of the elements had come to a halt as an omen of the evil she sensed.

“He’s a heartless man, Jubal,” her lovely, sad voice petitioned Jubal Wicklow. “If only there were another way.” Her soft gray eyes, rimmed with worry, pleaded silently with him. At sunrise Jubal would fight a duel on the riverbank near Wicklow House. Knowing he had been one of the best shots in England failed to ease Evelyn’s mind, for deep in her soul she already knew the outcome of this senseless contest.

A dark wave of apprehension swept through her as hazy images clouded her thoughts. Her head ached violently, yet her hands clung lovingly to those of her husband. Since childhood she had borne the peculiar gift of foretelling the future. Evelyn had often thought that ability was more of a burden than an advantage. Sometimes, as now, when the vision involved those to whom she was closest, what would happen could only be viewed through a deep, murky mist and not clearly enough to see one’s way. And yet she had read disaster in the dark warning clouds long before she knew John Mott had come to Virginia.

“Aye, but there will be no reasoning with John,” Jubal Wicklow responded calmly as he clasped Evelyn’s hands between his own. “Four years at sea with the man and I learned to know him well.” He did not try to make light of her words; instead he marked the depth of anguish in her voice and eyes. She was so lovely to him, with her fair hair and eyes which at times were as luminous and mysterious as silver moonlight. He never tired of looking at her, his Evelyn, the sweetest treasure a man could ever possess.

Jubal Wicklow smiled reassuringly. As always, Evelyn aroused his protective instinct. He did not ask what she saw. He knew the effort would only heighten her pain. He understood his wife’s power and the toll it required of her delicate body. For even though she possessed great spiritual strength, she was as fragile and beautiful as an orchid. Above all things in life, he swore to himself, he loved Evelyn and their young daughter, Elise. Nay, more than that, he loved nothing or no one else on earth.

Evelyn lifted her pretty chin. “I prayed, Jubal, you could settle this debt with John Mott without bloodshed.” Still, she did not believe prayers could help and would send Elise to a trusted friend in Williamsburg.

Jubal led his wife into the newly finished maze of hedges, her single request for the grounds of Wicklow.

“Bloody bastard,” he said, and nodded. “Begging your pardon, my love, but it boils my blood that he should come here making his challenge after a full decade. As for the debt he claims, there is but what he invents. John holds no right to the gold or the ruby. The full bounty we took on our last voyage we divided before returning to England. I take no blame that John Mott’s share rests on the ocean floor. He sailed into weather no sane man would have faced.” Jubal halted his steps at a turn in the hedges and glanced about until his puzzlement brought the wanted smile from Evelyn. She pointed out the correct path. “The blighter lost his crew to the last man,” he said. “It should be enough he has his life.”

“It is more than gold and jewels he has come for,” Evelyn said softly. She had not thought John would follow them to the colonies. With an ocean and the passage of time between them it seemed that her dreadful destiny with the man could be overcome.

Once she had been betrothed to John, a prosperous sea captain and a widower with a young child. As a girl of seventeen she might have been enthralled with the handsome Mott and even delighted in accepting the marriage her parents arranged. But there was always something about the man that his smooth words and elegant manners could not overcome. He frightened her.

A fortnight before the date of the wedding, John Mott introduced her to a seafaring companion, the exuberant and red-haired Jubal Wicklow. One week later Evelyn and Jubal eloped and in so doing made a fierce enemy of John Mott. Having seen in her vision what John meant to do, Evelyn convinced Jubal that they should leave immediately for the colonies. A month following their departure, John wed another young woman.

For once Evelyn believed the visions had been wrong. John had forgotten them. But now, on the tenth anniversary of her marriage to Jubal Wicklow, a duel would be fought. She did not enjoy seeing John Mott’s face so plainly in her mind. Indeed she could not shut it out as she prayed that once again what was destined would be postponed.

Jubal Wicklow embraced her. “You must not worry, love. No harm will come to me. Not to any of us. I promise you.”

“Jubal, my darling,” she whispered, wishing she could be reassured. “If it should, you must remember this: we will find one another again. That I can promise you.” Her soft, liquid eyes gazed deeply into his and then she kissed him long and lovingly. “For time, my darling, is only a moment after death.” Her voice softened. “I will wait for you, Jubal.”


Find Whispers at Midnight at your favorite ebook retailer:

Writing Tips: Naming Your Characters

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

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?”


How to Write Vivid Characters Using a Character Chart

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.

Romantic Heroes And Their Loves

Writing a romance you get to fall in love with a new guy for a while.  When the book is finished and in the hands of readers, you say goodbye to your hero and move on to the next man in your life.  Breaking up is sad and difficult but in your writer’s heart you know he’ll be back and no matter how many fans and new sweethearts he has, you will always be his first love.

The heroes in my novels have been flaxen-haired, ebony-haired, had blue eyes and brown and shades of each, though I admit a weakness for the black-haired, blue-eyed heart-throb. They are generally tall and muscular, sometimes lean and fit. They have amazing prowess and are generally the sort of men who have to peel women off them.

A little dark and dangerous in spirit, but good deep down and an ever ready champion of those in need. Those are the loves of my life. Bad boys, good hearts.

Roman Toller in Dark Splendor is blonde and bold and forgets he is supposed to be a gentleman way too much.  Ryne Sullivan in Whispers at Midnight looks nothing like my predecessor love, Roman, but is equally negligent of his gentlemanly skills. Dark-haired Tabor Stanton in Delilah’s Flame has good reason to forget how to treat a lady, and he does.

Blame Lilah Damon. She deliberately forgets she is a lady of society. As Delilah she is bawdy and bad and adventurous and bent on revenge and really good at making men pay for their wrongs. Tabor doesn’t like the price and sets another.

Lilah is a redhead. I always thought it would be fun to have red hair. And it is! I’ve tried it twice as heroines in my books. Those girls have pluck!

Amanda Fairfax in Whispers at Midnight matches wits with Ryne and loses her heart just where she wants it to be found. Beauty, fierce determination that neither ghosts nor villains could break. Amanda gets her man and more.

Silvia Bradstreet, my first heroine for romantic readers, has all a damsel in distress must. She is lovely, vulnerable, curious to a fault, drawn to Roman, a man she cannot trust, and trapped on an island where there is no escape. Did I mention she has the wardrobe of a princess?

Slipping into the skin of a heroine is as heady as gazing into the blue, amber, green or gray eyes of a hero. It is love.

Fall in love again, in a past century. Roman, Ryne and Tabor will make the heart beat faster. Silvia, Amanda and Lilah will renew what you love about being a woman, or what you are looking for in one.

Watch out for villains. They are sure to show up in another post.  Like the heroes and heroines from my heart, the bad guys never behave as I expect.  Listen for the knock.

Dark Prelude, a prequel to Dark Splendor, now available

Dark Prelude, a novella-length prequel to my sexy Gothic romance novel Dark Splendor, is now available free from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple, Smashwords and other ebook retailers. Dark Prelude is an expression of thanks to my readers.  It is yours to download and enjoy.

Dark PreludeIf you have read Dark Splendor, (and I thank you if you have), you know the protagonists first meet aboard the Eastwind. What you don’t know is that the story almost began a different way.

Handsome sea captain Roman Toller and his irascible brother Morgan made their appearance in London some days before boarding the Eastwind for a journey to their Uncle’s private island off the Georgia colony of 1751.  Their days were spent indulging in food and drink, their nights in debauchery with the damsel of the day.

Across London, lovely and resourceful Silvia Bradstreet was scrapping to keep her life together until she could escape on the same ship.  Her days were occupied with work and worry, her nights with fear and dread of her Uncle Hollister who had made her a servant in his home.

That the three of them should meet was inevitable but how and when became a study in fate, a glimpse of how a single event can change everything.  But that is more my story than theirs.  I wrote the first few chapters of my first novel Dark Splendor and sent it off to an editor at Signet Books.  Those chapters earned a multiple book contract for me and swelled my heart with joy that I was about to become a published author.

With the papers signed and the deadlines established, my editor said, “Start the book where those chapters end.”  A novice at this game, I dared not question but agonized over the loss of my golden words in those first chapters.  She was right, of course.  I realized that later as I dealt with length restrictions.  With a new beginning, the story veered in a new direction, thus Dark Prelude is more character study than missing chapters.  Nevertheless, I tucked those early pages in a file and kept them.

Today they have become Dark Prelude, a novella that explores the lives of Roman and Morgan and Silvia and how things might have been had they first met a few hours earlier. If you have read Dark Splendor, or when you read it, you will see that, indeed, a single event that does or does not take place changes the course of many lives, and, sometimes, a book.

Dark Prelude is a gift to my romantic readers, both new and old.  It is a chance to chuckle at the antics of Roman and Morgan and to appreciate Silvia’s tenuous relationship with the two of them. Hopefully, you will decide to follow up with Dark Splendor or another of my books.  If not, enjoy the read and meeting these three characters who are dear to my heart.

Writing Your Life

Fiction is my forte, but when I taught Creative Writing, many of my students wanted to write life stories about their own lives or those of a family member or friend whose life they wanted to honor.

Excavating personal history is not so different than researching for a historical novel, so I put together courses for Writing Your Life and for Journaling.  If you are a journaler, you’re going to make life much easier for someone to write your life story or for yourself when you tackle the job one day.

Helping my students develop the craft and skills for writing personal stories was the easy part.  The barrier they met was getting their work published.  Meaningful events and people in our lives may not have the wide appeal publishers are looking for in memoirs, biographies or autobiographies.  Those doing shorter pieces met the same barrier with periodical publishers for their essays and profiles.  If these devoted writers and chroniclers wanted more than spiral bound copies of their work and could not afford self-publishing costs with hard or soft bindings, they were out of luck.

Not so today.  Epublishing sites like offers writers of family histories, personal stories short or long, the opportunity to make their precious memories available to friends, relatives and others with wide distribution in ebook form and the choice of also offering print on demand.

If you have always wanted to preserve or share a family history or transmit your cultural heritage to younger generations, start interviewing your elders or writing down your own memories.  Include family legends and family folklore.  Smart phone apps and digital recorders can make that task easier and some even put your words directly into a print file.

If technology mystifies you, draft a son, daughter, grandchild or friend into scanning your work into a Word file.  Gather photographs and copies of any documents you might want to include in your book and note where they belong in the account you are writing.

12 tips for  writing a personal story:

  1. Decide on the person or event to write about.
  2. Decide on the format and whether to do a factual account or reminiscence.
  3. Collect photographs and documents to include.
  4. Decide what point of view to use to capture the essence of the person you are writing about.
  5. Outline the book or piece and write a fast first draft.
  6. Research supporting details and re-interview if needed.
  7. Revise and add dialogue, humor when called for, and accurate setting descriptions to make the story live.
  8. Have the subject read and check for accuracy and a qualified editor check the manuscript for needed edits.
  9. Design or have designed an appropriate cover.
  10. Write a long and a short description of your book.
  11. Format according to the publishing venue you have chosen.
  12. Upload to the epublisher according to guidelines.

Spread the word! Family members and others will treasure your work in years to come.





The Muse Went Missing

For quite a long time, fairy tale length, in fact, my muse slumbered.

Pages and pages of thanks to Dan McGirt at Trove Books for pushing, prodding and patiently persuading me to get with it and get my backlist of books out in digital format.  A few months later my first two novels, Dark Splendor and Whispers at Midnight, Sexy Gothics, first published in the late eighties are available as ebooks with brand new beautiful covers.  They debuted at and in a few weeks will be widely available at Amazon and other ebook retailers.

The bonus is that I now have characters, plots and storylines kicking around in my head and I am now as excited about writing as I was when I started my first novel.  My muse is wide awake again.  She nodded off because she did not want to deal with me.  We have a new bargain.  I write.  She keeps the ideas coming.

Pages of thanks, also, to J.A. Konrath, a man I have never e-met or otherwise but whose blog I read.  Thanks to Mr. Konrath for throwing wide the doors on epublishing and showing so vividly the procedures and possibilities.  His frankness and openness made it all so clear.  I got it!  He’s done a lasting service to aspiring, successful and even floundering writers everywhere.

A special note: Dan McGirt is my son, favorite author, and now publisher.  Trove Books takes care of so many details and leaves me the fun part of creating and writing.  Dan’s Jason Cosmo fantasy series is available in both the original (Jason Cosmo, Royal Chaos and Dirty Work) and revised versions, (starting over with Hero Wanted).  Visit or to see all of Dan’s works.