Wednesday, April 29, 2009

How To Create Memorable Characters

Today's guest speaker is once again the multi-talented Kathy Cottrell, editor extraordinare at The Wild Rose Press, (Kathy is the senior editor for our Last Rose of Summer line), author of two novels as Kat Henry Doran, and creator of beautiful custom-made tote bags. Check them out on her newly re-designed website, created by the incomparable Rae Monet, who also created my website.

Today, Kathy has kindly offered to share with us her thoughts on creating memorable characters. I apologize for all the underlining, as I can't seem to get rid of it despite many tries, and it doesn't show up in her original document. But when I transfer it here...

Oh, well. The information is just as invaluable underlined as not underlined. And now it won't let me add Kat's book cover to this post, so I will post this, and if it shows up, fine, if not...I tried!

First, we should think about the heroes and heroines we already know and love, then determine what is it about them that makes us return to the TV screen each week to get our fix of Brenda Lee Johnson on “The Closer”, Charlie Crews on “Life”; Adrian Monk on “Monk”, or read [again] our tattered copies of Kathleen Woodiwiss, Harry Potter, or Eve Dallas and Roarke.

Some of Ms. Woodiwiss' characters date back to the 70's and 80's, yet are unforgettable:
1. ASHES IN THE WIND is set in New Orleans at the close of the American Civil War. The hero, army surgeon Cole Latimer, feels indebted to a young waif “Al” after the boy saves him from drowning and offers him a job in the army hospital. It is months before Cole realizes “Al” is really Alaina, a gentle born Southern woman, hiding in broad daylight from Union soldiers because she has been falsely accused of treason after she transported letters to the family of a dead Confederate soldier.

2. SHANNA wears the hot sultry influence of the Caribbean Islands like a cloak, and moves from England, to the Indies, climaxing in pre-Revolutionary War American colonies. The heroine, Shanna, in order to meet her father's dictate that she marry, finds a man in an English jail who is bound for the hanging tree. She has him cleaned up before they marry; he agrees to the proposal only because she promises of one night of marital bliss. Just as bliss is about to commence, she coshes him over the head and flees back home. Of course the hero escapes and follows her to the Caribbean as an indentured servant. Of course he's looking for “bliss” while she's looking for peace and quiet. Another hoot of a story.

How do we intrigue the reader into coming back for more either by turning the next page or buying our next book? Donald Maas, in HOW TO WRITE THE BREAK-OUT NOVEL, suggests throwing one or both of them into the deep end of a strange pool, and be sure to hide a few boulders beneath the surface to keep them on their toes. Nothing was more fun than reading Eve Dallas try to cope with Roarke's immense wealth and numerous “toys”. In her futuristic crime series “In Death” series, Nora Roberts created a world where red meat and coffee are but fond memories of most people. Not so for Roarke who woos Eve, the street smart homicide detective, with a perfectly grilled steak, then a bag of Brazilian roasted beans.

We owe it to our readers to make our characters unique, but at all times believable. Brenda Lee Johnson, called The Closer because of her skills in closing investigations by convincing suspects to confess, is a transplanted Georgia peach, lured to the Los Angeles Police Department by a former lover/current Deputy Chief of the LAPD with promises he never intended to keep. While riding herd on a group of renegade homicide detectives, she builds her wardrobe at the local Volunteers of America store, never leaves a room without an over-sized handbag hanging off one shoulder; has a passion for anything chocolate; and every other phrase out of her mouth is, “Thank yewww, thank yewww very much.”

Going into the fourth season [I think], each of these secondary characters is a story in and of themselves. Lt. Provenza, who never dates women over 30, well . . . 40—if he's been drinking, has forgotten more than most cops will ever learn, and would sooner die in the line of duty than retire to prevent his first ex-wife from getting her marital share of his pension. Lt Flynn, a late 40's Lothario with a toothpick stuck in the corner his mouth, takes indolence to new heights. Ten years sober, thanks to Alcoholic Anonymous, Flynn harbors a grudging respect for Chief Johnson, but would choke twice and die before admitting it. Detective Julio Sanchez with the dark, haunted eyes, is the “go-to” guy when it comes to the barrio and gang cultures. He's also about as homophobic as they come. Bald Lt Tao is a wizard with computers; and Brenda's aide, the uptight Sgt. Gabriel, and a hunk if there ever was one, has eyes that would burn the soles off a woman's shoes. He's bright, savvy, intelligent and devoted to her.

As evidenced above, by the late Ms. Woodwiss' leading characters and the detectives who comprise Priority Homicide, one way to build memorable characters is to make them vastly different from each other. This takes some planning. I use a tool which I call the Character Interview. This is a multi-page document, a former RWA chapter mate brought back from the New Jersey Romance Writers conference many years ago. Over the years it has undergone many revisions but the concept remains the same. In long hand, I interview my lead characters. Before I can do that however, I have to know at least one basic thing about them.

In CAPTAIN MARVELOUS, I wanted a heroine with a brain and balls to match. The one thing I knew: she would do anything to achieve her career goal of becoming a physician and will let nothing and no one stop her. That's all I needed to interview Annie Wolfe. Why does she want to be a doctor? Why will she never marry and have children? I asked her to tell me about her family of origin; where did she grow up; did they have money, live from paycheck to paycheck, or did they eat out of dumpsters? Then I asked her to tell me about her family of the heart. Who are her friends, heroes, enemies? I need to know how she relaxes, what turns her on, and off, in terms of favorite foods, music, and clothes. What kind of car does she drive; how does she drive—is she a speed demon or careful and cautious?

I decided the hero had to be the exact opposite of Annie: staid, rigid and always in control—no matter what, a single parent with a desire for more children, someone who always follows the rules. Captain Ronen Marvelic, a New York State Trooper with a steel rod up his spine, was born. After being banished from the cultural hub of Western New York, he arrives in the bowels of the earth on the Northern border of the Catskill Mountains. No Man's Land is a place where a man takes a woman to the local drive-in for a Rambo marathon on their first date--or to the town dump to shoot rats. On his first day in town, Ronen encounters a woman who lives in the apartment across the hall, a long-legged, softball playing smart mouth named Annie Wolfe, aka Wolfgirl, for her abilities at short stop. He thrives on opera; Annie considers it all a bunch of fat ladies singing their brains out. He loathes sports of any kind; she has life-sized posters of baseball players and golfers papering her apartment. Ronen is assigned to investigate the murders of six women; Annie is coerced into helping him by developing victim profiles. Throw in a landlady who's a throw-back to the 60's, a decrepit town doctor with an amazing resemblance to my own father, and a 17 year old college bound teenager and the fun begins.

Don't forget to give your characters a few warts. After all, defects of character are what make this world go 'round. Annie Wolfe [CAPTAIN MARVELOUS] believes her only value is in becoming a doctor. While Ronen Marvelic [CAPTAIN MARVELOUS] has his career path carefully laid out, he disdains any woman who doesn't want a husband and children. Maggie McGuire [TRY JUST ONCE MORE] spent years living at the bottom of a scotch bottle and doesn't know how to pick out a good piece of fruit? Why would anyone think she's capable of picking out a good man? Eve Dallas [____ IN DEATH series] identifies herself by her job, and uses a prickly pear exterior to hide an inferiority complex as big as Montana. Mike Brandt [TRY JUST ONCE MORE] escaped a loveless marriage with only the clothes on his back, a cat, and a mountain of regret thanks to an ex-wife who cared more about titles and dollar signs. He's not about to hook up with some dame who carries herself like the Queen of Sheba and has more secrets than Homeland Security.

And that's how I create my characters.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Tisket, a Tasket, Put Romance in Your Basket

I'm extending my day in the A Tisket, A Tasket promotion, because I found out that the person who was supposed to post the day before me didn't, and so blog followers of this particular Easter Egg scavenger hunt may have lost the thread and need an extra day or two to find it again. I also wanted to post another picture of Lucy :)

To enter my drawing for a $10 gift certificate to The Wild Rose Press, just tell me the top three titles you would like to buy and why. I loved the answers people gave yesterday, and since so many people said they had trouble whittling it down to just three titles--if you want to enter again with another three titles, by all means do so! I'll announce the winner here on Thursday evening.

And thanks to everyone who mentioned wanting to buy Jake's Return. I didn't expect that! I appreciate your support and encouragement.

Today's official A Tisket, A Tasket blog post will be at Emma Lai Writes Blogspot, so be sure to go there next!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sunday's Inspirational Quote

Let us examine our capacities and gifts, and then put them to the best use we may.... We can...put them absolutely in God's hand, and look to him for the direction of our life energy. God can do great things with our lives, if we but give them to Him in sincerity. ~Anna Robertson Brown Lindsay (1864–1948), author and the first woman to earn a doctorate at the University of Pennsylvania.

I'll have to continue this blog post tomorrow morning. All the thoughts I had about it this morning before church have scattered. Now it's almost three-thirty and the day has gotten away from me.

Until then, think about what your gifts may be, and how you can best put them to use...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Guest Author, Rob Costelloe

Today's guest is Rob Costelloe, friend and fellow Polka Dot Banner author. Rob has written two romances, including Coinage of Commitment, which celebrates love at a higher plane, and was awarded finalist honors at the National Indie Excellence Book Awards. His current title is Pocket Piece Cameo--five cups from Coffee Time Romance--a coming of age love story of betrayal, suspense, and ultimate renewal. Rob also has a blog, where he explores love at a higher level. I find the concept fascinating, and look forward to seeing more from this highly talented author.

1. Who are you?

I was born in Philadelphia and wrote short stories as a child to please my parents, who were highly supportive. Like many boys, I wrote Science Fiction short stories as a high schooler. But my teachers were never impressed.

While in college, I composed a series of novellas, most of them love stories set against the backdrop of World War II. Then after college, came more stories, a teeth-cutting first novel, and a little poetry. My interest has long focused on what romantic love can achieve in people’s lives: the soaring possibilities. In 2005, I read a well crafted love story by a best selling author whose ending was a reversal so suddenly despairing that I felt outrage on behalf of the novel’s readers. Within twenty-four hours, I was writing Coinage of Commitment, a novel whose first draft was produced in a four month blaze of sleepless effort. It was published in June, 2007. My second title, Pocket Piece Cameo, a coming of age love story, was published November 10.

2. What type of stories do you like to write and why?

I write love stories, mainly to explore what love can achieve in people’s lives.

3. When do you write?

My best time for writing is when I first get up at 4:30 a.m. If I get a good start, I’ll go all day, sometimes into the night.

4. Where do you go to think?

I go to a commercial park area which is a group of four storey buildings and associated parking lots carved out of a wooded area. It’s especially good for watching the leaves fall in autumn.

5. How did you come up with your title and main characters’ names?

Coming up with main characters’ names is too mysterious to describe. For my titles, there is some logic. Both my books are love stories that feature a physical token of the couple’s commitment. I start with the token, a cameo or a coin, and I work from there.

6. How long did you write seriously before your first book was published?

I started writing Coinage in October, 2005, and the publishing contract was dated 4/7/07.

7. Why do you write?

For me it’s an artistic expression, born of gratitude, for giving back to others.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Guest Author, Denyse Bridger

Today's guest is Denyse Bridger, whom I don't know personally, but admire very much, as I see her all over the place in cyberland and she sends me the most positive and uplifting email messages. She got her start in fan-fiction, and has published around 400 stories and novellas, which is something we can all admire and use to inspire us. She's also got a fascination with Italy and all things Italian, which is definately worth checking into. Welcome, Denyse, and thank you for being here with us today. Sorry I haven't yet figured out how to put that accent line on the last e of your name...

Hello, everyone, and thanks to Liana for having me as her guest!
I’m Denysé Bridger, and here’s a brief bio: I am a native of Atlantic Canada. I began writing at an early age and can’t recall a time when I wasn’t creating in some artistic form. My first major fantasy novel is AS FATE DECREES. (Available in bookstores everywhere, and on – this novel was a finalist for the Prix Aurora Award 2008.) The novel relies heavily on Greek Mythology, and is set in Ancient Greece and modern Athens. At this point in my career, I’ve had published in the vicinity of 400 stories and novellas, in almost any genre you can name. My poetry has been published internationally, as well.

I am presently at work on several very exciting projects, many of which are inspired by my passion for the wonderful romantic love songs of Italy, and the wonderful men who have brought this music back to today's audience. To stay current with all these projects, or to just say hello, please feel free to email me anytime, there’s a contact link on the mail menu. I promise I will do my best to answer everyone, though it may take a day or two, so please be patient! Or, feel free to sign up for my monthly newsletter, which is called Romance and Fantasy. If you prefer to chat with me and other readers, the newsgroup is open to everyone. Denysé Bridger News.

What type of stories do you like to write and why?

I love to write all kinds of stories but pretty well all of them are romance related in some way. I mix genres up, combine them, have fun with it all. I also like elements of fantasy, and occasionally I have been know to merge those unlikely genres, as well. My first major release, As Fate Decrees, is a fantasy epic, but the backbone that drives the story is at core a romance. So, it works well. I like to write sensual romance, not hard-core erotica, though I’ve been known to do that as well a time or two. My favourite stories to write are those that are not so much sexual as they are sensual. The type of romance you see in Harlequin’s imprints, my favourite of which is the Presents line…. Alpha heroes, smart and savvy heroines, and beautiful, romantic settings.

What type of stories do you like to read and why?

I read all kinds of stories, authors vary, styles, moods. I like Victorian mysteries in the form of Sherlock Holmes, or Anne Perry’s novels set in Victorian London. I love Westerns, to read and to write, and to watch. Terry Brooks was my first real fantasy author, and I have read so much of his stuff since I discovered him with “The Sword of Shannara” back in ’77. I real romances all the time, various genres. Lucy Monroe is my favourite contemporary romances author, and I fell for Kathleen Woodiwiss back when she published “Shanna” and have read many books of hers since.
At the moment I am reading one of the most wonderful novels I’ve encountered in years: The Lost Diary of Don Juan. If you visit my blog, or the website for this amazing novel, you’ll quickly discover what the passion and magic is all about.

Where did you get the inspiration for your current book?

The inspiration for my current book came about in a very odd way. The man I love is from Italy, Rome exactly. We were chatting online one evening and I was watching “Van Helsing” – he mentioned he always wanted to be a vampire… I laughed and said maybe I’d turn him into a sexy vampire for my next book. We chatted more about it, and the idea began to fall into place, so “A Perfect Beauty” was created. If anyone wants a peek at it, there’s a nice excerpt on my blog, as well as a picture of the inspiration – he’s going to be the cover model for the book when it’s ready. This is the link:

Where do you go to think?

Mostly, I find myself able to think when I’m alone, late at night. I write notes, or I work on my personal passion project, Amore Senza Confini. Other times, I go for a walk in the local park, and the calmness just settles in and allows my mind to wander.
How did you come up with your title and main characters’ names?

With the current novel, I didn’t – I asked Vincenzo to choose the names and the setting for the book. The title was an obvious one for me, so I didn’t ask him about that. Mostly, I tend to settle on a title, then consider the character names. I use Sherrilyn Kenyon’s fabulous Sourcebook a lot, too, especially for names from other countries. There’s a resource book no writer should be without!!!

How long did you write seriously before your first book was published?

That’s a difficult one, because so much of my earlier writing was all fan-fiction related, it’s sort of where I did my “training” and I was published about 400 or so times before I turned toward it as a serious venture. I always knew I would get to a place where I wanted to “go pro” but I was never sure how I wanted to do that. So, I keep honing my ability with the fiction, and occasionally tinkering with original material. My first short fantasy story was accepted and immediately won the Reader’s Choice Award in the magazine it was published in, and I was inspired by that to continue moving toward original material. The next “big” idea was a mythical tale that would marry an historical setting with a modern one, and the concept of “As Fate Decrees” was born. That shopped around for several years before being accepted by EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publications. During that time, I won a contest spot that had me e-published for the first time, too. (That book is available now from Samhain Publishing, it’s called “Another Man’s Wife” and is an erotic western.)

Why do you write?

I think I write because it gives my voice the release it needs in many different areas. Writing is a privilege, and a gift if you’re good at it. To be able to entertain people with your vision, perhaps teach them something about themselves and their feelings, to just have fun and share passion of words and worlds… those are powerful things, and when readers respond and tell you how much they enjoy your efforts… that’s the best payoff there is – you know you’ve done your job when that happens!

Mostly, writing is about the passion… to share it, explore it, and give it a voice. To remind us that nothing is ever truly lost, and love is timeless… that’s why it’s always romance that calls me back. I belong to another era in my soul anyway, so it’s not really much of a stretch to write about a sweeter time, when men and women knew how to value each other in a gentler way than is often portrayed now. That shared belief is what created the book I’m writing with my partner, Amore Senza Confini. And everything else we’re creating together. It’s all based on old-fashioned ideals that should never really be old-fashioned or forgotten…

Current release is WHOM GODS HAVE FAVORED, a vampire historical, mildly erotic. It’s from Absolute XPress.

Coming next from Firedrakes Weyr Publishing, an epic fantasy/adventure romance. The cover model is my real-life love and partner.

My Links:

Official Blog:
Amore Senza Confini Blog:

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Tisket, a Tasket, Put Romance in Your Basket

Spring is in the air! Bees are buzzing. Children anxiously await the big morning where they can graze on candy all day. What about mom? We've got a treat for you! Come join a group of romance authors in celebration of spring. Enter to win a prize a day as well as enter to win the grand prize.

All you need do is begin at Silver James' blog TODAY, April 1st. Silver will host the day's contest and provide the link to the next day's location. Don't forget to enter to win the grand prize!

A TISKET A TASKET, PUT ROMANCE IN YOUR BASKET Grand Prize: To enter to win prizes from the authors donating treasures to the grand prize (see each day's post for what an author is donating to the grand prize), find the four Easter eggs in the A TISKET A TASKET, PUT ROMANCE IN YOUR BASKET blog event.

You will be searching for the above egg. Just visit all of the authors' websites, locate the 4 eggs, make a list of their locations by pasting the urls to the website pages in an e-mail, then send the entry to by midnight CST on May 1st, 2009. The winner will be randomly drawn and announced May 2nd at
And don't worry. If you start in on the blog event late, you can always start with Silver James' blog on April 1st and catch up from there. Each site you visit will give you directions to the next site.
Happy hunting!