One wheel of Tara’s cart at the craft store knocked rhythmically, thump, thump, thump, causing Isabelle to giggle and clap her chubby hands.
Tara shook her head. “Oh yes, this is great fun, isn’t it?” The baby grinned, showing her two new bottom teeth.
Ignoring the clanking wheel, Tara turned down the Christmas isle. Now that it was November she was on the lookout for decorating ideas. Filling the Bed and Breakfast Inn with cozy Christmas items was a favorite chore, and the endless options on the shelves made her pulse race.
She reached out to touch a plastic flocked pine bow. There had to be fifty to chose from, not an easy task. Finally she tugged a few from the basket, taking her time to separate them, careful not to knock any more glitter than necessary on the floor.
“Is that a no?” Tara chuckled. The baby fussed and arched her back, pushing at the cart handle. Tara put the decorations in her cart and turned to head toward the check out. “Okay, okay, I know you’re tired of this,” she soothed. “But someday you’ll love shopping here, I promise.”
The sewing machine hummed and buzzed and Gloria bent closer, watching carefully as she fed the fabric past the flashing needle.
“There!” she exclaimed in relief as she held up the child size dress. All she had left to do was the hem, and it would be finished. The old clock on the mantle dinged, announcing that she didn’t have time to waste, so she folded up the dress and tucked it into the box by her feet with the others. This was the last dress for the package going to the homeless shelter in Uniontown, and once she hemmed it, she could concentrate on Christmas sewing.
“Christmas pageant…” she muttered under her breath, worrying again about the upcoming gathering.
She'd heard talk that Smithville was considering a pageant to earn money for a new community center, and she was sure she’d be asked to make costumes. Although she loved sewing, it would definitely take a huge bite out of her own Christmas sewing time, not to mention shopping, card making, and baking time.
“Who am I kidding,” she huffed, knowing full well that she wasn’t bothered by the time it would take. It was the other women at the meetings that had her on edge...
My latest book, Love on the Line, is the story of Andy, a woman who chooses to work building a pipeline in the rugged mountains of West Virginia. Why did I write about this? I wrote it partly because I was inspired by the experiences of my own daughter who entertained me with many of her personal experiences as a pipeliner. But I also wrote it because I too chose to work in a male dominated field back in the day. Some of the struggles of women in these fields are upsetting, but many are inspiring and funny, thus perfect material for the kind of books I love to write. Just because not many women choose to do it, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done, right?
More than any time in recorded history, women are choosing to work in male dominated fields. Every day you come across a woman truck driver, firefighter, or pharmacist. And even though it’s become commonplace, many fields stick with their traditional titles such as policeman, draftsman, and even garbage man. Given this plus the infamous glass ceiling, why would a woman choose to spend their entire career fighting an uphill battle? There are a million reasons, but overwhelmingly, the answer I find is “because I want to” or “because the job appealed to me,” or “My dad and grandpa did it, why shouldn’t I?”
When was the idea planted for women to take the jobs they wanted, even if they were traditionally considered only suitable for men? Some would say with Eve, but both folklore and history are filled with women who not only worked at the jobs they pleased, they ruled societies: Joan of Ark and Cleopatra, to name a few. In Victorian times, women who wrote were forced to use a male pen name or work without recognition. But the women of my grandmother’s generation were forced to work at jobs considered appropriate only for men during world war II. They worked everywhere from factories to the fields. Sadly, after a taste of the liberation a paycheck affords a person, these women were expected to quietly step back into the kitchen once the men came home.
My mother’s generation, were blessed with not only their mother’s experiences, but all manner of modern conveniences which allowed them to clean and cook and generally care for their families in a fraction of the time it took their mothers. Many of these women took it upon themselves to “have it all” and step out into the working world, and not just as nurses and schoolteachers. Their bravery gave the women of my generation the encouragement and conviction that we too could plan a career. However, we quickly learned that we couldn’t be super mom and have a demanding and time consuming career without a shift in attitude, and this shift had to come from the men. The change had to happen not just because of the aforesaid glass ceiling on the job, but because we needed help at home.
Do I think only women who work have value, and somehow women who don’t work away from home are lesser somehow? Of course not! In my lifetime I have been a stay at home mom, a sick in bed mom, a full time student mom, an employed full time mom, and a retired mom. All of those words we put on women are pointless when you realize that we are in this together, and we should be supportive and understanding, no matter what roll you chose.
So, take a moment this summer to grab a copy of Love on the Line. Then curl up in a corner with a cup of coffee and prepare yourself for a heartwarming story filled with feminine strength, challenge, bravery, friendship, and romance.
Do you like romance novels? If so, do you like the story line where the poor sweet heroin needs to be rescued or saved by the handsome hero? I’ve read my fair share of these books, and sometimes they’re fun; especially on a hormonal day, or if you’re feeling vulnerable. but on the whole I want a story that feels bit more realistic.
Okay, granted, it’s a romance novel, so realistic isn’t going to happen per se, but I want to read about a woman who could be real. Someone I’d like to have coffee with, not a woman that wants to go in the dark basement, alone, with a killer on the loose. Nor do I want to read about a woman who needs (or wants) a man’s money.
Having said all that, what makes a female character in a novel more realistic? I’d say, first of all, she has to be at least a little bit moody, because lets face it, as women, we are a moody group. Not in a bad way, but in a keeping-things-interesting kind of way, right? And this woman needs to be able to change her mind for no sane reason, just because things aren’t feeling right. Then if she wants to, she can change it back!
Next, I like a woman with a plan. A lady who knows what she likes and needs, or at least thinks she knows. That is the fun part, because when it comes to romance, most of the time we are attracted to men who are not what we think we want or need, am I right?
And finally, I like to read about a woman who has to make allowances and let herself fall in love. She has to consider changing her career plans, or her financial goals, or she has to realize she has some hang-up that she needs to get over. Because let’s face it, that’s how love really works for women in this day and age. We have to face the fact that we will never fall in love with the perfect guy, at the perfect time, on our way to the perfectly planned ending. Love is messy and confusing and painful, in the most delicious sort of way. Love for ladies in the new millennium is gut wrenching, and tedious, and as wonderful as ever.
So here’s to romance novels with leading ladies who saves themselves, so they can ride happily into the sunset with a man they’ve never dreamed of!
As I prepare to launch my new romance novels, The Girl Power Series, it’s given me the opportunity to think about what it means to be a woman in the twenty first century. Women now days have endless lifestyle and career options, thanks to the strong and ingenious ladies of centuries past, but what do all the opportunities open to us really represent? How have the changing times altered women’s perceptions and concerns?
In the last two or three decades women face different obstacles than generations before, or do they? Surprisingly, I see my daughters struggling with some of the same issues that I stressed about. How can I afford to further my education? What types of work do I enjoy? What are my careers options? What type of relationships do I want? Do I want to have children, if so when? How will I manage birth control? Will my baby’s father/my partner stand by me and be a good provider of love, support, and time? Will I be able to manage relationships and my own needs? How will I manage a work schedule and family/relationships? Will my career path interfere with my relationships? I’m not sure if my mother or her mother worried as much about career options, but this meant they must have been much more stressed about their relationships and how the men/partners in their lives supported them and their children. Girls way back in my day were taught to have a career as a plan B, just in case things went south with their husband’s career. Now our careers are plan A.
If we have more possibilities these days, how has that affected us? Once again, the answer is a bit surprising because, from what I can see, one of the outcomes of having so many options seems to be added stress. Sure, I now have the ability and opportunity to become a neurosurgeon, but how will that choice cascade down through all my other concerns about relationships and family? Will I be accepted in that field as woman? Even though women now realize, and even envision, being better educated, well traveled, and making far more money than our mothers or grandmothers may have dreamed, that doesn’t make it any easier to do so while balancing the demands of a family. Plus, as we are learning, women’s health is a big part of being successful. And due to our unique and finely tuned balance of hormonal and feminine needs, it takes time, money, and effort just to stay healthy.
With all this in mind, I started writing The Girl Power Series. As with my other books, I like to find the humor we encounter along the way as we plod through life, career, family issues, and love, but I also enjoy writing about ladies who are learning about themselves as they go. Oftentimes, we women are our own biggest enemies when it comes to falling in love. Add the fun of dropping a strong-willed leading lady into a rewarding career that is still managed by the good-ol-boy network, and watch the sparks fly!
Enter Andrea, the main character in the first Girl Power novel Love on the Line. She can’t stomach even one more day of graduate school. She’s not sure what her problem is, but she knows she needs to get out of the classroom and into the world. Her estranged grandpa Buck as offered her the opportunity to join him engineering a pipeline through the mountains of West Virginia, so uncharacteristically, she takes the bait to try her hand at working in the untamed forest, also snagging the chance to learn more about the grandfather her mother despises. Follow Andy as she finds hidden inner strength, finds family secrets, and earns the respect of her coworkers in a wilderness where few women dare to venture. Laugh at her silly mistakes and cheer for her successes, as she finds her way in what has always been considered a man’s job. And I dare you not to fall for the cocky, handsome, hardworking-hunk of man who draws her eye.
Looking forward, I plan to continue the series with more stories about women finding a way to make their mark in unexpected places. If you have ideas of better yet, personal experience that would make a great story line for a book in the series, please send me a note. I’d love to create a fabulous and romantic tale based on how you survived and thrived in an ever-changing world!
When writing a conversation, how do you avoid overusing the dreaded “said” too many times?
Contriving conversation can be tricky. Your goal should be clarity, so the reader has a well-defined vision of who is speaking. No one likes to back track when reading a conversation, so the “said” word will inevitably happen. How to keep “said” at a minimum? Read on…
When I first decided to get serious about writing and take it up a notch from hobby to marketable novel, I did what most of us do. I bought a bunch of books about how to write books! Some of them were more helpful than others, but I’ll never forget the stickler who instructed “never use the word said”. He said it was lazy writing to rely on pointing back and forth between speakers. I was baffled. How could I write an entire novel full of spirited conversation and never write “said”? Confused, but undeterred, I gave it a shot.
The first suggested method I found was to write a character’s actions as they spoke. This is, by far, the most effective way to move the story along while people are talking. After all, most of us don’t freeze when we talk, we have to get things done. Especially with friends, family and coworkers, we chat while walking, over coffee, while driving, or thanks to speakerphone, doing just about anything. It’s also fun to write about that horribly inconvenient, worst possibly timed phone call as well. I try to not let my characters talk on the phone in the bathroom, however. Good taste and all that… But I digress.
By creating a scene of action, even something as simple as lifting a fork or frowning, you can portray an entire panorama while the characters talk back and forth. The story keeps bumping along and it helps to show how each character is responding to the information they are talking about.
Another important thing to remember, is that you need not note who is speaking each and every line of conversation. If you follow the rules of grammar, each return (or new line) will indicate a new speaker. This alone gives you a little go between without stating the speaker, especially if it’s quick, one line type, back and forth banter.
There are multiple replacement words for “said” as well. Some of my favorites are muttered and mumbled, maybe because it’s great fun to have conversations go awry, with one character or the other showing frustration. A good site to find helpful replacement words is https://letterpile.com/writing/400-Alternative-words-for-said.
Although repeating “said” over and over can get annoying, be careful when using an alternate verb, no matter how fitting. Many purists say it’s best not to substitute replacements, since readers don’t usually pay attention to “said” in the first place. In fact many grammar police argue that the word “said” effectively becomes invisible to readers.
If you do choose to use an alternative, be careful not to become too conspicuous. Substituting too many talking words can actually downgrade your writing and make it sound amateurish. To be on the safe side, many authors steer clear of using alternatives words, or use them very sparingly.
So, which is it then? Never use “said”, or never use an alternative? As with most things in life, I’ve found that striking a balance is best. Use it when needed for clarification, but don’t over use it. And be careful when replacing it. Read the conversation out loud to see if it sounds natural.
The above link to Letterpile.com offers several other solutions such as adverbs or phrases that emphasize how the person spoke, not just who was speaking. Once again, be careful when using words ending in ly as they are also on the hazard list, but that’s another blog all together.
Whatever route you decide to go when writing conversation, I wish you the best of luck. Keep it clean, make it feel real, and you can’t lose.
Love a good romance novel? Me too! Let’s take a look at those of us who buy, read and maybe even write romance novels, and see what makes us tick.
According to sources such as Romance Writers of America, Nielsen Books & Consumer Tracker, romance novels are a multi-billion-dollar industry, holding over thirteen percent of the literary industry total sales. Think about that for a minute. Cook books, self help, travel books, non-fiction such as biographies, current events, and history, crafting, religion, how-to books, all of those books and yet romance stands strong as an established market in the literary world. There must be something magical about a great romance to be so competitive, but then we knew that, didn’t we!
It probably comes as no surprise that eighty-four percent of romance novels are bought and read by women ages thirty to fifty-four, but it may surprise you to learn that fifty percent are still sold in paperback form, followed closely by e-books at forty percent. Or maybe it would shock you to learn that sixty-four percent of those ladies read more than one romance novel each month. Maybe not. I know most of my readers read my books within just a few days. We can all agree that nothing is as fun as a fantastic page-turner that you just can’t put down.
What are the top romance subgenres we love to read? It appears that no matter whether you like your books in print format or e-book, suspense is a key factor. We all want a happy ending, but we want a little anticipation as to how that will happen. The most popular subgenera type appears to be contemporary romance holding around fifty percent of the market, followed by a relative tie between historical romance and erotica. Paranormal, young adult and Christian romance hold their own as well, in the twenty to thirty percent range.
According to studies, we like to read about friends turned lover, soul mates facing their fate, second chance love, secret romance, and first love; in that order. We also want to read stories with strong hero and heroine leads, reunited lovers, love triangles, and of course, sexy billionaires. Again, no big shock there for those of us in the romance world.
What other types of books do romance reads like to buy? It appears that we also have a taste for mystery, general fiction, and cooking/food books. Want to feel old? Stats broken down by age show that a majority of older readers buy mysteries, and younger readers buy young adult and erotic fiction. Once again, not too shocking, especially for those of us inching up there in age, it just makes sense.
In this age of Amazon Prime, how do most romance readers purchase their books? According to the stats I found (some were admittedly a few years old) most of us still find books in bookstores, but more and more ladies are beginning to buy books online. Many of us still us the library, and a growing number of women are downloading books in e-book form. Some of us trade books we love with friends, relatives or book clubs, while some busy ladies are reading books on their phone. When I was a young mother I belonged to a book subscription and got books in the mail each month. That was always a happy day, followed by several days of ignoring housework. Now days we have the option to subscribe to e-books or audio books as well.
What makes us choose one book over another? According to most stats, we love a romance with a good story, followed by reading anything by our favorite author. Price and reviews come into play next, followed by reading books because they are a part of a series. The trailing reasons we select a book are the back cover blurb, cover art, social media recommendations, bargains, and endorsements.
What do you think is a fair price for a book? Pre e-book, the only free books I ever read were from the library, but now free books are everywhere. Even books that are normally priced, are sometimes offered free or for less than a dollar in e-book form. According to sources such as Amazon and Neilson, most of us consider six dollars a fair price for a romance novel. I know my novels are priced under five dollars in e-book format, but due to the price of printing, my paperbacks run closer to ten dollars. These days it’s hard to be competitive in the print market unless you are a traditionally published, well-known author.
So there you have it, the world of romance novels according to statistics. Does this agree with your preferences? How do you find good books and why do you choose the ones you read? I’d love to hear from you!
What makes a romance novel enticing? That is the million-dollar question.
Is it sexual tension, the act of love, the battle of the sexes, or the sweet tingle of attraction that draws your attention? The answer, of course, is as varied as the people who buy romance novels.
So how do you write a story that will appeal to the widest audience possible without leaving some readers wanting more, yet offending others? The answer is simple. You can’t.
Writing romance is all about finding a balance of passion and tension, and for most of us that means writing what we’d like to read. My first few novels were much steamier than they are now days, and I’ve wondered why that is. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older and most of the heat I feel these days is hot flashes. Or maybe it’s because I know my mother will read my books. Either way, I’ve toned down the sex to focus more on why the characters are feeling attracted, charmed, or conflicted.
Let’s talk about those three issues, attracted, charmed, and conflicted. Of course most romantic relationships contain all three, but let’s break it down.
We all understand attraction. We feel it in the bakery at the grocery store and watching a commercial on TV. What is different about romantic attraction? First there’s the whole instinctual need for sex. That topic is universal and well documented. Some romance writers simply go with that. It’s real. It’s easy to tap into and describe. Some readers thrive on reading about it over and over. But there are other, deeper, reasons people are attracted to each other.
Having a basic understanding of human psychology helps nail down why one person may be attracted to another. I enjoy visiting my elderly neighbor because she reminds me of my mother. Is that attraction? Yes, but it’s not romantic attraction. It has been documented over and over that women may be attracted to a man because he either reminds her of her father and she misses that stability and love, or on the flipside, she is looking for the father figure she never had. This type of romantic relationship is fraught with turmoil because it’s unlikely that a woman will find the unconditional love and support of a father, from a lover.
Sometimes people are attracted to another person because they feel comfortable with them. This one idea alone can be a big enough conflict for a whole novel, because what is considered “normal” by some, may actually be violent, or neglectful to others. The relationship may not feel good, but it does feel like the relationships they are used to, and trying something different feels awkward. I personally like to write about overcoming that discomfort and finding a healthy connection, but many popular and angsty books have been written about unhealthy love affairs.
So what about charmed? This is also one of my favorite topics in romance. Charmed is fun, inspiring, and different for everyone. Some folks are charmed by humor, some by thoughtfulness, others by verbal communication. The book The five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman, gave me inspiration for about a million love stories. For example, what happens when two people are attracted, but one is charmed by considerate actions like loading the dishwasher after dinner without being asked, but the other is fulfilled and delighted by lengthy deep discussions. Both are healthy desires in a relationship, but how do your characters find balance? One is busy in the kitchen to show their affection while the other feels neglected and bereft back at the table. Another example: A man spends an hour at the flower shop selecting the perfect mix of flowers to show his devotion, but when he comes home late, his lover is displeased that he was too inconsiderate to call and let her know. These healthy conflicts that are centered around the actions that delight and charm a character, to me, are perfect fodder for a great romance.
Last but not least is conflict. As discussed, both attraction and charm cause conflict, but some writers choose conflict alone as the basis for a love story. In some classic love stories the relationship is perfect, but the lovers are kept apart because of war, financial status, or family disapproval.
I chose to write about couples who are kept apart because of emotional reasons that they must find, confront, and alter. The realization and practice involved in this type of conflict is fun for me to twist and mold. I know from personal experience that realizing you have an issue, doesn’t fix it. You have to alter your thought processes and actions and work through changing in order to find a solution. The discomfort and confusion involved with altering your life is conflict enough for me.
To review, what do you find enticing about a love story? Is it the attraction of the characters to each other, the flutter of emotion and charm they find in the company of another person, or the conflict keeping them apart? Or like me, do you love all three?
I’m excited to announce that all of my books, The Shabby Chic Trilogy, and Love on the Line, are all available as audible books! In celebration lets talk about where we listen to audio books.
A quick Google search showed that since 2011, audio book sales have nearly doubled each year. I’m fairly certain this is because we’ve become so busy we need to find a way to read while we are doing something else. Sadly, multitasking has become mainstream, but fitting in a great book is always a plus.
I asked friends where they listen to audio books and I loved their answers. Read on and get some great ideas of how to squeeze a book into your busy day.
It appears that the first place many of us think of listening to an audio book is when we’re driving. We spend hours stuck in traffic each day, why not make those hours worth while? I know that back when I was working long days, if I had a great book to listen to I actually looked forward to the commute. And road trips? Nothing makes long hours stuck in the car pass quicker than a great story.
Eating lunch every day by yourself? Why not spend it with a sappy love story? Do you craft? I like to crochet, but it’s hard to watch what I’m doing and the TV at the same time. Perfect audio book multitask time! What about card making and scrapbooking? If you need your hands and eyes, your ears are still free to soak up a great story.
One friend told me she loves to escape in the evenings to a hot bath with a good book. She turns out the lights, burns a few candles, and floats away with a great story. What a wonderful idea! I never liked to read in the tub because I was always afraid I’d drop the book in the water. No more worries!
Some folks I spoke with like to listen to books while they run or work out. One friend said she absolutely hates getting on the treadmill, but with a good book the time passes much quicker. I’m all for finding a great way to bribe myself to work out!
So what do you think, could you squeeze some romance or mystery into your day? Tell me, where do you like to listen to books?
Have you ever wondered how an author could contrive the colorful characters that draw you into a novel? How do these imaginary people, so full of life and personality, spring from nothing but an imagination? Sometimes characters aren’t even people, but beings from a realm you’d never imagined. How does one mind come up with such individuals? Although there are steps I take to create characters, the process can be both puzzling and surprising.
Some authors feel that their gift of creation is precarious, and if they rock the boat their ability to contrive characters will vanish. They think a jolt of any kind could shake loose their talent and leave them bereft. They carefully walk through life on eggshells, cautious not to alter their lifestyle for fear of losing their unique power. Other authors feel that their creativity springs from living a colorful and varied life; an existence filled with ever shifting perceptions and insights. I take a more middle of the road approach. My life of traveling in our RV is varied and colorful, yet each day I tend to have a similar routine. I certainly gear up to write in a comparable way each day. So what is the secret to unlocking the imagination doors of character development?
I’ve heard of authors who conceive a story in a flash, then closet themselves away for days or weeks, typing furiously until the whole thing is out. But I believe that far more of us agonize over our characters, some for months or years. We turn them this way and that in our mind, considering how they would respond to specific stimuli. What would they notice? How would they feel? Would they have a knee jerk reaction, then change their mind after a few moment of reflection, or hold stubbornly to their first impression? Would this character be a compilation of their experiences, always looking back for answers on how to move forward. Or is the character motivated by the need to feel free, resolute to never alter their course, because everything happens for a reason. Is my character motivated by guilt, or pleasure, or the need to please others? Is she closed off due to a past trauma, or motivated by a single goal. All these questions sound like a phycology class more so than a novel, but motivation is the driving force behind a character’s actions. Once you know the motivation behind a character you can begin to conceive how they respond.
Now you have a few character’s motivations established in your mind you can place them in a setting, confident that they won’t run-a-muck. Or better yet, maybe they will, to the delight and shock of the author. If you are lucky enough to contrive two characters with personalities that play off one another, you are in for a treat. With conflicting motivation running wild, anything can happen. These are the moments I love as an author. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been surprised and delighted by things my characters do or say.
Of course there are other things to consider when creating a character. What do they look like? Where do they live? How old are they? What language do they speak? And again, do these things effect their motivation?
I always ask myself “How can I create a three dimensional character that takes multiple factors into account for their day to day motivation.” I believe the fuller a character has been developed; the more readers will empathize and be drawn into the story. After all, humans are quite complicated creatures. Next I think “What would happen if this character is confront with their worst fear, or situations completely out of their control and comfort zone?” That’s right, what if I contrived scenarios to throw at the character knowing they will struggle to figure it out? Therein lies the best idea for a story.
Next time you pick up a novel, watch as the author develops the character. How do you learn what their motivation may be? Does it become clear through memories or conversation? Are you dropped into a scene where the character is thinking or acting a specific way? Are you clued in by their mannerisms or speech patterns? Sometimes you find out about a character by the way other characters respond to them. The best thing about writing and reading is that the possibilities for character development are pretty much endless…