Dec 21, 2011

Love Me For Me

A dear friend of mine told me about an encounter she had with a reader. The woman said she loved a good love story but asked if my friend, a writer of love stories, could write a story about a “fat woman” – tearfully she questioned, “Why can’t we be loved for who we are?”
As a woman that my mother always tactfully described as “zoftig”, I understood this poignant plea. I have often felt blessed that my husband has always made me feel like the most beautiful woman in the world even though fashion designers and modeling agents would surely scoff.
Our heads are filled with stereotypes, women and men who are “fit and trim” with appealing curves and strong biceps. Years ago when I first contemplated writing in the romance genre I received a list of guidelines from one of the “more respected” romance publishers of the time. Some of the suggestions included: he should be self sufficient and usually financially set; she should be attractive and usually innocent; he should have more experience than her; he should be strong; she can be a leader in business with an innate desire to be domestic…
I rebelled. When I wrote the original manuscript for my romantic suspense Courage of the Heart in the late 90’s, I created a hero that was damaged and insecure. Adam Sherman was wrongfully sent to prison as a teen and suffered abuses that left him filled with doubt and shame. Along came Davie (Davida) Prescott, an innocent girl who Adam was finally able to open up to and who accepted him for “who he was”. Because of their love, he was able to face and stare down many of his demons.
I sent the manuscript to one of the two leading romance houses – and it was turned down. The editor gave me the courtesy of an actual response. She complimented me on my writing and said that the story was definitely intriguing and well-plotted. However Adam was not the “typical hero” because of his past - so my story, even though well-written, was not considered saleable.
The world is not made up of “beautiful, perfect people” as oft described in society pages. There have been a few stories I’ve read where heroines and heroes have “imperfections”, but especially a decade ago, those were truly rare. As my friend  questioned, “What about the greater population who make up our world; people in wheelchairs, ones who need walkers or braces on legs or arms?”
The world is not made up of stereotypes.

Excerpt from Courage of the Heart:
Adam had never felt so frustrated about a relationship before, at least not since he got out of that little Pennsylvania town he grew up in. His teen-age years were filled with memories he wished he didn't have; so long as he could remember that time, though, he'd never be any good for someone as pure as Davie. He had been with a lot of women and he never made any secret of his appetite or his lack of emotional commitment. Adam had told himself that his unusual interest in Davie as a person and not just a sex partner was only a sign of his "growing up", at twenty-five it was bound to happen…eventually. He shook his head, because it was Davie and not his age that was playing havoc with his libido.
Adam stared at the clock on the wall and decided that he had to get close to Davie somehow. He had no idea how to get beyond his dilemma, but he knew he had to try to mend fences with her. Red roses were Davie's favorite, he had learned that during one of their relaxing conversations. He had enjoyed listening to her talk about just about any subject, he was always interested in everything that made her smile, or pause. A quick phone call to the florist gave him a touch of hope.
Forty-five minutes later he felt a little cocky as he walked down the hall to Customer Service.
The door was ajar and Adam peeked in. Only one of the desks was occupied.
"Oh, hi Mr. Sherman. Are you looking for Davie?" Agnes, one of the other girls in Customer Service, was holding down the fort by herself. Since he had not made any secret of his interest in Davie, it was a natural assumption why he was there. "She's already gone for the day."
Checking his watch, he frowned. "Isn't it a little bit early?"
"To be honest, I don’t think she was feeling too well." Agnes shrugged. "And then she got some flowers delivered and it must've really started her allergies or something…'cause her eyes got all red and she had to get out of here."
"Flowers were delivered?" Good, then she got his note.
"Yeah. They were really pretty. She took them with her."
"She did?" Maybe there was a reason to feel optimistic after all.
Adam thanked Agnes and left the office. It was only when he passed the garbage chute that he lost his newfound hope. On the floor was a rose; a piece of green fern was sticking out from the side of the bin where it had gotten stuck when the bouquet was thrown out.
Chelle has come a long way since first joining the Vanilla Heart Publishing queue of authors nearly two years ago with her first novel, Bartlett’s Rule. Now with nine novels on the market, she has solidified her standing as a Romantic Suspense author (7 romantic suspense & 2 mysteries.) She also has short stories in the VHP anthology With Arms Wide Open, Mandimam’s Press anthology Forever Friends, the VHP anthology Nature’s Gifts, VHP anthology Passionate Hearts and Mandimam Press anthology Forever Travels.

Bartlett’s Rule was named one of Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s Top Ten Reads for 2009; Final Sin was a 2009 Pushcart Nominee; and Hostage Heart, Final Sin and A Chaunce of Riches were nominated in the 2009 Preditors’ and Readers’ poll and had top-ten finishes. Chelle Cordero was recently featured as one of the authors in “50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading” published by The Author’s Show in 2010.

Chelle also authors a weekly Amazon Kindle Blog featuring weekly writing lessons. Vanilla Heart publishing recently published two books based on that blog, Living, Breathing, Writing: A Lesson A Day, Volumes 1 and 2. And all of Chelle’s novels are available in both print and ebook editions for every reading device, through online retailers and in select bookstores around the world.
Please use only what you wish...

My website:
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Dec 6, 2011

Cover Me

Any writer will tell you—covers are always an occasion for stress. In my case, I never know exactly what to expect, but I usually have an idea of what I don’t want. Fortunately, the cover artists for my Konigsburg books, Natalie Winters and Valerie Tibbs, always come up with something that works.

Julie Ortolon did a nice rundown on the history of romance covers from clenches to objects to cartoons. She includes the “headless horsemen,” guys whose heads are missing but whose abs are prominent featured, but she didn’t include one more category that I know of—torso girls. These are the covers featuring nude or partially nude women clutching their breasts or crossing their arms across their bosoms to hide the nipples. I had a torso girl on the very first version of Venus In Blue Jeans and wasn’t happy with it. Neither was my editor. You can see the version we finally ended up with here. I love it, but it took a while to get there.

After we had this lovely picture of a smiling heroine, that seemed to set the pattern for the next three books about the Toleffson brothers. Two of them (Wedding Bell Blues and Long Time Gone) featured the heroines. One (Be My Baby) featured the hero. Of the three books with heroines, two have “headless horsemen” in the background, while one (Wedding Bell Blues) has a guy in a nice blue blazer since he’s heading for a wedding and can hardly show up semi-clothed (although that particular wedding might have been okay with it).

When the Toleffson stories were finished, we wanted the next covers to have a different feel to go along with the new storylines. So Brand New Me featured a couple looking at each other rather than a single character looking directly at the reader. There’s also a different color scheme and (love this part) a field of sunflowers to give the cover a sort of golden tone.

Which brings us to Don’t Forget Me, the latest Konigsburg book.
This is actually the first time I’ve gotten a cover where I looked at the people and said, “Yes! That’s Kit and Nando.” I frequently don’t have a firm picture of my hero or heroine in my mind as I write. I do the usual thing where you think of a movie star who’s sort of the same type and then associate your character with him/her (Kris Kristofferson for Cal, Steve McQueen for Tom Ames). But that was just a kind of mental crutch rather than a real picture of what my characters looked like. With the earlier covers, I came to believe that the people on the cover really looked like the people I wrote about (Docia in particular seemed true to life), but I didn’t start out feeling that way. This time, on the other hand the people on the cover were the people I’d envisioned—which is really sort of scary when you think about it.

So thanks, Valerie. It’s a beautiful cover. And it so looks like them!

Here’s the blurb:

Once they said goodbye forever. Now they want to walk it back.
Konigsburg, Texas, Book 6

Eighteen months ago, Kit Maldonado was so over Nando Avrogado, she left Konigsburg without a backward glance. With the family restaurant in San Antonio sold out from under her, though, she’s back to manage The Rose, an exclusive resort eatery outside town.Dealing with a stingy boss, an amorous head chef, an understaffed dining room and planning her aunt’s wedding should have kept her hands full. But she realizes she might not be as over Nando as she thought.As the town’s new assistant chief of police, Nando’s got enough trouble without sexy Kit fanning embers he thought had long ago turned to ashes. Every time he turns around, she’s there—and it doesn’t help that everyone in town wants to see them back together.One incendiary kiss, and there’s no denying the force of their attraction. But there’s a mysterious and oddly familiar burglar who’s been lurking around Konigsburg, someone who isn’t above a little mayhem—maybe even violence—to cover his tracks. 

Meg Benjamin is the author of the Konigsburg series for Samhain Publishing. Book #3, Be My Baby, won a 2011 EPIC Award for Contemporary Romance. Book #4, Long Time Gone, received the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award for Indie Press Romance. Book #5, Brand New Me, was a Long and Short Reviews Best Book. Meg lives in Colorado with her DH and two rather large Maine coon kitties (well, partly Maine Coon anyway). Her Web site is  You can follow her on Facebook (, and Twitter ( Meg loves to hear from readers—contact her at

Dec 1, 2011

13 Tips for Characterization and Conflict

In writing, as in life, it's often the similarities of things that bring about the most conflict. Familiarity breeds contempt. Here are some ideas to use those similarities as well as differences to enhance characterization and conflict.

1. Is there a particular type of feud that underlies part of your character's background? For example, is her brother in the Army, and her hero's brother is in the Navy, and she meets her hero at halftime during the Army-Navy game? Imagine they are both wearing sweatshirts with Army or Navy on them, and end up stepping forward at the same time in the concession stand. Turns out they have the same order (beer and hot dogs), and even both want only mustard on their dogs. How might the similarities as well as the differences fuel the conflicts, yet bring them closer together?
2. Write a backstory for each major character, so he has a reason for being the way he/she is. Did your hero become an outlaw because he broke the law while saving someone's life, but he hides this? Why? Does he have a dark secret about his past? Who else knows about it? Could this come out at a worse time than now? What will he do to prevent it?
3. Create a barrier between your main characters that keeps them from communicating at a critical moment. Suppose one is telepathic, and the other can't shield thoughts. If something suddenly hampered that flow of thought, what would happen to their usual smooth dynamic? Would the one with telepathy think the other was hiding something? Would this cause a misunderstanding that might fuel conflict?
4. Give your hero/ine an idiosyncrasy. For example, does your heroine tap her chin when she's deep in thought? Perhaps this is how the hero realizes she's hiding something later in the story, and clues him in to make a critical decision. Make the odd habit enough of a part of the character for readers to recognize it too.
5. Create a list of things that your main character wants. Write down three conflicts for each one, and then figure out an unexpected solution. For example: WANT #1: to be a mom more than anything in the world. CONFLICT #1: She can't conceive because _____. CONFLICT #2: Because _____ happened in her past she doesn't trust men. CONFLICT #3: Because she works as a ________ she travels all over the world, so how can she even think about adopting? She's pretty much given up her dream, but it's still there, taunting her. UNEXPECTED SOLUTION: Her work puts her in a war torn area where an orphaned street kid's savvy enables him to save her life. How might saving this child lead to the loss of other things in her life? Career opportunities? Travel? Freedom of movement? How can she reconcile her desires against the child's very real needs, and the fact that she owes him her life? Now, throw in a hero who risks his life to help them both. How might this change her conflicts?
6. What event from your hero and/or heroine's lives changed them the most? How did it come about? What would they do if they could change it? How can you adapt that concept to the current story?
7. Don't be too kind. Let your favorite character suffer. Conflict is the lifeblood of a story. Readers want to see a happy ending that is well earned, so don't go easy on your character. Help them overcome it.
8. Don't be afraid to make your villain truly evil. No one fears a wimp. It's okay to be bad (at least in this case).
9. Consider what your main characters don't want. Is there something they would never do even under penalty of death? What is it, and why?
10. A character was forced into a compromising situation in which a lie seemed the best way out. Over the years, that lie became second nature, and almost seems like the truth. Now, the lie has been exposed. What will happen if the truth comes out? How does your character react? Will he/she try to cover it up? To what extent is he/she willing to go? What emotions go through the character's heart?
11. Create doubt for your character. Yes, we know that the good guy will win, and the bad guy will be defeated, at least for now. But at what point does your hero/ine look at a situation and think "How can I keep doing this? How can I go on?" No action movie is complete without a final showdown in which the hero/ine is so beat up and so close to defeat that you start to hold your breath and wonder "will he make it?"
Surrender Love
2010 EPIC Award Winner
Erotic SciFi Romance
12. Foreshadow conflict for your characters. In the book Surrender Love, the two heroes are generations apart. When a cousin points out the large age difference, the younger hero says, "The age of someone isn't something I think about." Later, it's discovered the younger hero isn't as old as he lets others think he is, and the older one isn't just older -- he's immortal. Each has a reason to hide his age, and part of that reason is a character flaw as well as a strength.
13. Make a list of ways your characters handle conflict, and stick to them -- until there's a reason to change. Does your heroine head for the bar, or chocolate? Does your hero stalk off in a huff, or go practice yoga? Does they both go to the shooting range and blow stuff up? At what point does your character talk to a friend and hash out the details? Is he too much of a loner to talk about emotional things? How might he handle conflict if there is no one to talk to but he is a talker? Does he pace? Does she keep a journal? What if that journal is found by the villain, who uses it against the hero? At what point does your character's usual handling of conflict backfire or fail to work? That can be the crux of a conflict all on its own.

Conflict and characterization go hand-in-hand. How your characters react to conflict is what makes them who they are. Write them with depth by knowing how they deal with life. Ask them questions, be willing to listen, and then use those reactions to beef up the story.

Nov 23, 2011

Cover Love

Never judge a book by its cover – that’s the old saying but I must admit, I for one will definitely take notice of a gorgeous cover, whereas one that doesn’t appeal to me, I might well not even pick up. Covers are so important, and authors on the whole don’t usually have a lot of input, although I have to say Penguin/Berkley were absolutely fabulous in taking my suggestions into consideration.

FORBIDDEN, book 1 in my ancient historical series, is set during the first century AD during the invasion of the Roman Legions into Cymru ~

Between a warrior and a princess comes an erotic passion as all-consuming as the hatred between their warring worlds…

The image I had in my mind for FORBIDDEN was deeply romantic, with the hero holding onto his heroine and with them both looking away from the “camera”. I had visions of them in a forest glade with a waterfall in the background. One thing I really wanted was for the hero to be dressed in his Roman regalia so it gave an instant visual of when the book was set and what it was about.

My editor loved my ideas but suggested it might have to be a bit sexier. So I thought I would end up with a half naked guy on the cover. Now don’t get me wrong – I love half naked heroes on covers! But I had this burning desire for the cover to show exactly what the book was about – and it’s about a Roman centurion, a Druid princess and a lot of the story takes place in the forests of ancient Wales. And yes, the waterfall has great significance!

When I saw the cover the art department came up with I just about fell off my chair. It was perfect. Just as I had imagined, but even better! I’m still in lust with Maximus’s biceps and Carys even has bi-colored eyes.

Trained in sensuality, a Druid priestess finds herself falling for the wrong man—the warrior who’s taken her prisoner… 

When we were discussing the cover for CAPTIVE, book 2 in the Forbidden series, I assumed it would be similar in design as the first book in the series. But Marketing wanted to go for a darker look and when I saw the cover for the first time I was completely blown away. Without even reading the book they had managed to convey Bren’s deeply ingrained sense of protectiveness and the overall feel was one of danger looming.

I showed a few writer friends and was amazed at the reaction. Several who write dark paranormal/fantasy said they would definitely pick CAPTIVE off the shelf – based entirely on the cover – whereas the FORBIDDEN cover didn’t appeal to them in the same way.

This really intrigued me because when I look at the FORBIDDEN cover I see the mist swirling around the forest and to me that gives a mysterious, mystical atmosphere. But the CAPTIVE cover does give a much stronger indication of the light fantasy element threaded throughout the book.

What is it about a cover that really grabs your attention? Do you prefer to see a gorgeous half naked hero on the cover of erotic romance? And what elements about either FORBIDDEN or CAPTIVE appeals (or doesn’t appeal) to you?


Check out the video!

Nov 16, 2011

Aithne Jarretta’s New Release ~ Kissing Santa

Hi. I'm Aithne Jarretta, your tweetin-fiend here at the MFRW Author blog (taking a brief break from Twitter) to share some tidbits about my newest story, KISSING SANTA. This tale blossoms in the heart of holiday spirit and love reunited. It's short, bittersweet and scrumptious.

Readers will find just a hint of paranormal (Santa Claus). Paranormal-lite is unusual for my stories due to my overindulgence in world building, but the reason is simple.

KISSING SANTA is inspired by several true events in my Christmases past. 

You see, I grew up in one of those neighborhoods where Secret Santas roamed the streets on Christmas Eve and handed presents to children from bright red sleighs pulled by modern-day vans filled with Santa helpers and plenty of gifts. (whew! Breathe ... Aithne!)

Reminiscences run deep and tug at the heartstrings. Mix those two magical elements with my three favorite story essentials; bittersweet separation, love's reunion and happy endings.... What you have is a story born of romance.

The last Christmas I was gifted with the magical Secret Santa visitation N.E. Ohio experienced a major snowstorm. Wind-chill factor and huge (yet beautiful) snowflakes nearly stopped Santa.... But now I'm giving too much away.

I'd prefer to share this magical moment that Lily, the heroine of Kissing Santa, has with her young nephew, Sammy.


Lily wondered at Sammy's odd behavior.
With an impish shrug Sammy faced the frosty window. Then he raised his right hand, placed it firmly on the glass and held it there for a long moment.
Watching him, Lily trembled from the cold. She crossed hands over her chest and rubbed sweater covered arms in an attempt to chase away the chill.  Little Sammy had been just over two years old when she left. No wonder she didn’t understand him—she didn’t know him.
Small shoulders beneath a holiday inspired red flannel shirt shook with mirth. He winked and pulled his hand from the glass.
A perfect handprint presented itself—a clear window to the exterior world. He leaned forward and demonstrated that she should give it a try. “See? It's just right.”
Surprised at his simple action, gratitude pooled around her heart. The little gift mellowed her like the warm scent of spiced cider.
She laughed softly and leaned down. There it was—the record breaking snow squall. Large snowflakes whizzed by on the bone-chilling wind. Their size and multitude completely obscured the street out front.
“He’ll still get through,” Sammy said with all the confidence of youthful innocence. “He’s Santa Claus.”

* * * * * * * * * *


If you enjoy trailers, play Kissing Santa's video. Comments are always welcome.

Today, I live far away from snowstorms. But as mentioned above, Readers can find me primarily on Twitter. The pulse of the flowing contact stream is what makes Twitter my favorite online place. I respond to all @AithneJarretta mentions and would enjoy having you join our conversation.!/AithneJarretta

Tweet this & Receive a Secret Santa Stocking-Stuffer:

RT Yowza! @AithneJarretta is Kissing Santa on the MFRWA Blog ;D #readthis #WW #99cents #MFRW

The stories I write are showcased on my newly revamped blog:


Thank you for stopping by. Before you leave, why not check out some of the other postings here. MFRW has many fascinating contributors and I'm sure you'll find something that matches you perfectly.

Peace & Love be with you always.
~ Aithne Jarretta
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Nov 15, 2011

An Interview with Coleen Kwan

Today we have the wonderful Coleen Kwan with us to tell us about her new release When Harriet Came Home from Carina Press. Join us in welcoming her to the MFRW Authors’ Blog. Welcome, Coleen!

Tell us about your latest book, including its genre. Does it cross over to other genres? If so, what are they? (Please include the cover so we can post it as well.)

My debut novel, WHEN HARRIET CAME HOME, is a contemporary romance set in Australia. It’s a fun, sweet story about an ‘ugly duckling’ heroine who reluctantly returns to her hometown only to meet her old teenage crush. Here’s the blurb:

After ten years of exile, Harriet Brown is back in town. Things have definitely changed, but so has she. Now the confident owner of a catering business, she's no longer the shy, overweight girl everyone—including her hot teenage crush—used to ignore. In fact, she's determined to make peace with Adam Blackstone for her part in exposing his father's secret affairs and corrupt behavior as mayor.

But Adam has changed as well. No longer a pampered, rich pinup boy, he just wants to reestablish his family's good name. He reluctantly agrees to a truce with Harriet, and is surprised by how changed she is. He doesn't want to be drawn to her, but he can't seem to resist her allure.

As Harriet struggles to come to terms with her past, her adolescent infatuation with Adam morphs into something more serious… Will she ever be accepted again? Or will ancient history ruin the chance of a future full of possibilities?

The book is available from Carina Press, Amazon, and other ebookstores.

What can we expect from you in the future?

I’ve recently sold my first steampunk romance to Carina Press! It comes out next year, but I don’t have a publication date yet.

Do you have a favorite comment or question from a reader?

I was lucky enough to receive a great first review from Naughty Cougar Tales. “I could not put this book down, I read until the early hours of the morning, until my eyes refused to stay open. As soon as I woke up the next morning, I did housework then got right back into the book until I finished it. The emotions, secondary cast and most of all Harriett and Adam kept me enthralled until the end.”

Do you feel humor is important in fiction and why?

I love a bit of humor in my characters, but humor is very tricky to write as it’s so subjective. I’m not very good at writing humor. A judge once wrote on my score sheet, “Your heroine, Tamsyn, reminds me a lot of Stephanie Plum… without the humor.” Ouch!
Please tell us about yourself (family, hobbies, education, etc.)

I live in Sydney, Australia with my partner and two children. I graduated from university with a science degree and for many years I worked in IT. About three years ago I quit my job and started writing. I’ve had a lot of setbacks and rejections, but writing is such fun I couldn’t stop. I made my first sale to Carina Press in February of this year, and it’s been a steep learning curve from then on, not just in terms of editing, but all the associated marketing and promoting. My favorite hobby is reading! Now that I write, I find I have much less time for reading, which is a great pity.
Are you a member of any author groups - RWA, critique groups, etc.?

I belong to Romance Writers of Australia. They’re a great organization. As an unpublished writer, I entered many of their competitions and learned so much from the judges’ score sheets. Through them I’ve also joined online critique groups, face-to-face groups, and attended online conferences.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I hope I’ll still be writing! I’d love to be multi-published, perhaps in several genres, but most importantly I hope I will still enjoy creating stories and characters.
How long have you been writing - have you always wanted to be a writer?

I dabbled a bit in my early twenties, but starting getting serious about three years ago. Although I’ve always been an avid reader, I haven’t always wanted to be a writer. It’s just evolved over the years.

What do you hope readers take with them after reading your work?

I hope readers will be transported away from their everyday lives, at least for a small time. I hope they will become emotionally invested in my characters, even if they hate them or want to strangle them, that’s good! The last thing I want is for my readers to be bored.

Where can your readers find you?

Where’s your favorite place to hang out online?

Nov 11, 2011

An Interview with M.S. Spencer

Please Help me today in welcoming M.S. Spencer to the MFRW Authors’ Blog.

Tell us about your latest book, including its genre. Does it cross over to other genres? If so, what are they? (Please include the cover so we can post it as well.)

Three sisters, three lovers, and three spirits guarding a dangerous river. Add long-lost master artworks, stolen prototypes and a resident genius and you have a recipe for jealousy, sex, love and a little larceny. Triptych, due out November 9 from Secret Cravings Publishing, is a full-length novel of romantic suspense.

Miranda Cabot lost all interest in love after her husband Edward crashed into the Potomac River rocks called the Three Sisters. Her sister Honor likewise prefers her tower and her writing.  Not so the third sister Sybil, who longs for romance with a dashing Frenchman.  She advertises for said hero on Craig’s List and is rewarded with the Chevalier du Bon Arnaque, who comes to Washington from Strasbourg on unidentified business.

Miranda and Honor believe the Chevalier is a crook and ask their neighbors Dieter Heiliger and his grandson Corey, to act as chaperones. With three beautiful, strong-willed women in a house filled with three handsome, virile men, the inevitable result is an intricate web of jealousy, sex, and intrigue. Who will end up with whom, and will the Three Sisters take another life as the legend calls for?

Purchase Information:
Triptych, by M. S. Spencer
Published November 9 by Secret Cravings (
eBook, 65,000 words, M/F, 3 flames
ISBN: 978-1-61885-064-5  

What can we expect from you in the future?

I have a murder/suspense/romance in final draft, tentatively entitled The Torpedo Factory Murders. It’s the story of an artist who falls in love with the man who wants to destroy her beloved art center. Along the way they get mixed up in a complicated stew of murder and politics. At present I’m in Florida to research my next story, set at the famous Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Florida.  It will involve intrigue, murder and suspense. And love. And sex. And international trafficking of exotic birds. And dolphins and sea turtles. That’s as far as I’ve gotten. 

What is your writing routine once you start a book?

By the time I sit down to write I’ve already spent hours thinking about the story, plotline and characters. Once I have a general picture in my head I’ll bang out an outline—listing the salient traits of the hero and heroine, what they do, etc. and a few sentences describing the plot. Then I make a loooong list of potential names for the principals.  I know now not to settle on a name till I’ve reached the third chapter of the draft.  The characters haven’t defined themselves well enough before that. I used to write bits and pieces of scenes & then try to fit them together but that was too complicated for my tiny brain, so now I simply keep writing from start to finish. Each day of writing begins with rereading the earlier couple of pages and fiddling with them. Then I find something else to do—check email, look for the cat, any activity I can think of that could be described as useful, if not productive. About 10 am I begin the serious writing.  Quit at eleven for my constitutional, back to work at 2 but a nap beckons. About four I wake up wand write madly for two hours, grumbling about all the time I wasted.  I wonder how many other writers find they are most creative when the dinner bell is about to ring?

What kind of research do you do? 

All kinds.  It’s so important to be accurate in the details when you write. I’m reading a thriller by Steven Berry now, and it threw me when he described a garden as brimming with mums, asters, and pansies.  I mean, really. I use the internet to recheck facts and maps, as well as for basic research. For example, for Triptych I had to look up train schedules for the Paris to Strasbourg route to fit my time-line. I also spend a lot of time on the ground wherever the book is set. My third book, Losers Keepers, is set on the eastern shore island of Chincoteague and, even though I’d visited it at least twice a year for some fifteen years, I went back and followed the itinerary of my heroine to make sure she didn’t make a wrong turn into a dead end when she was supposed to be following the bad guy.

Who, if anyone, has influenced your writing?

My father loved to write, although most of his published works were academic.  I inherited my love of writing from him, but my mother gave me my love of reading. When I was young I read everything I could lay my hands on, which has stood me in good stead now that I’m writing. I absorbed a great deal of literary structure, sense of place, and the richness of human nature from my reading. The strongest influence came from the English romantic writers—Austen, the Brontes, and Thomas Hardy, but also from Iris Murdoch, Dostoyevsky, and the early works of Anne Rice.

How many books have you written, how many have been published?

I have written six full-length novels so far. The first one, a murder mystery set in Yorktown, Virginia, sat idly awaiting an act of God for years, until it was inadvertently thrown out by my husband, may he rest in peace.  It was good practice (I mean the writing) and I would have probably reworked it at a later date, but unfortunately I wrote it before the existence of flash drives and off-site storage and all I had was one hard copy.  My second novel, Lost in His Arms was published in 2009, my third, Lost and Found, in 2010, both by Red Rose Publishing. The great folks at Secret Cravings took on my third, Losers Keepers, which came out in July, and will release Triptych November 9. My sixth, tentatively titled The Torpedo Factory Murders, is still a WIP. The seventh remains a twinkle in my mind’s eye.

Are there any words of encouragement for unpublished writers?
Practice.  Like any skill, the more you practice the better you get. I’ve been writing all my life (granted, in fits & starts), but I’ve noticed a distinct improvement in my writing from my first published work to my latest. Write every day, even if it’s a grocery list or a haiku. A very good tool is a journal.  Try to write in it every night before bed to calm you and sort your thoughts out.

What is the most rewarding thing about being a writer?

No question: it’s rereading a passage and thinking, “Wow, that’s good! I wonder who wrote that?

If money were not an object, where would you most like to live?

Vienna. Absolutely. I have visited and lived in many places—in the Middle East, Europe
North America, and South America, but the week I spent in Vienna was the most magical. The food is wonderful, the architecture varied and eclectic, and the history romantic. But what I loved most of all was the music. It was everywhere—in the parks, spilling out of cafes, in churches and museums. I remember passing an orchestra playing Mozart in the street in honor of a store opening. How cool is that?

I love pizza with...

I love pizza with Phil. Oh, and with anchovies, jalapenos, and capicolla. The tomato sauce should not be sweet but abundant, the crust medium thick and the capicolla crisp.  Of course it’s very hard to find a restaurant that offers these ingredients. I found one and when I called to place the order, the order taker fell silent. Finally “Joe” said wonderingly, “I think you’re the first person to ever order this combination. And I’ve been in business for thirty years.”  I was so proud.

M.S. Spencer

Where can your readers find you?

Facebook Author Page:

Where’s your favorite place to hang out online?

My website is a freebie from Google and extremely difficult to edit, I try to keep it updated with links etc. and have even posted a lot of my poems there, but the blogspot is SO easy to deal with that I’m gravitating more to it.  At first I only posted news of blogs, interviews etc. but I noticed that the only posts that garnered comments were off-the-cuff remarks about events in my life or musings.


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