Thursday, May 29, 2008

Owed to the Reader


Haverhill Ohio is a speck on the map, if you blink once while driving through you’ll miss the entire town. There is no stop light, only a post office and a church situated in a wide place in the road. It’s a flat rural town located on the banks of the Ohio River. A two-lane road divides the town. On each side of the road is flat farmland, often dotted with a lone John Deere tractor driven by a local farmer hoping for a decent planting season. The town’s economy is poor, only driven by a local coke plant, and a chemical plant that has recently announced that it will close in a matter of months.

I grew up in this town. I often wonder why I stayed when there is so much more in any direction over the county line. I live here because I was raised in this town with strong family values, and I have the desire to raise my son in the same atmosphere. The only problem is that sometimes I feel as if the world is moving on without me.

Most people who live here view life outside the town on a TV screen, and we all know how skewed that vision can be. With reality shows setting the precedence in the Neilson Ratings, people have a warped view of the world and reality.

I can remember the first eye roll I received when I told someone I was writing a book. I’ve discovered it was the first but definitely not the last. The majority of my friends and family know I am a writer. They have always been supportive of my writing, but I’ve found a select few beyond that circle, who think I’m wasting my time. They think I have a very weird hobby. I don’t have a problem with this line of thinking; life is too short to be hung up on perceptions.

My ambition is to connect with people in small towns just like mine. I want to make a difference in their lives by allowing them to relate to the characters that I create. Isn’t writing about transformation? We develop characters who overcome conflicts throughout the course of our stories.

If we can fix a character, can’t we fix a reader too?

Can we give a reader hope that if they make a different choice, their life can be better? Can we help them see that even in extenuating circumstances love can persevere? Can we show them through words that they aren’t alone, that people in this world are hurting just as they are, and sometimes for the same reasons? Sometimes the only happy ending a person receives is the one they experience through reading.

I want to provide a happy ending for someone struggling to find a light at the end of a dark tunnel. I want to give the gift of an escape after a long stressful day. I want to whisk someone away from a loveless marriage and give him or her hope that love is still alive in the hearts of those willing to take a risk. But most important, I want them to enjoy the journey.

I know I’m highly optimistic, but isn’t that part of the foundation for a successful writer? It’s always been my nature to fix a person, which explains my present career. However, this time it’s different. Instead of fixing individuals through the science of medicine, I want to make a difference through words in a story.

I may have a rural existence, but my vision stretches far beyond the confines of a small town.
Have you ever received an eye roll when telling someone you’re a writer? Do you think as a writer that you have the ability to make someone’s life better? What do you wish to convey to your readers?








Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Get Off That Soapbox!

As a historical writer, I find it hard to not get all riled up when I’m doing research.  Recently, I read an article about asylums in nineteenth century England and the conditions of those classified mental ill and it made me want to throw something.  Especially when the article mentioned that women who were too difficult to control were likely to find themselves considered “lunatics” and sent away.   

From child labor to the conditions of the poor in Regency England, I can easily work myself into hysterics over these past events I read about knowing full well that abuses to children, the poor, and women still happen today, though the forms these abuses take may appear different than they did then.

My research inevitably finds its way into my work.  My WIP mentions asylums in two capacities; my witches are worried that if they are discovered they will be sent there and my villain ends up there at the end.   When I write about asylums, I mention the horrors I’ve read about, hoping that others who read my work will be as disturbed by them as I am. 

Misery loves company, I suppose.

Sometimes I worry that I’m standing atop my soapbox when I write, trying to push some sort of hidden agenda.  I try to make sure that any information I give has basis on the plot or the characters.  But, I think that there is always some level of ulterior motivation when it comes to what we write.  We want our readers to react and chances are we have a wish as to how we want them to react.

In Perfect by Judith McNaught, there is an entire subplot about illiteracy.  I remember reading about the levels of illiteracy in the US today and being stunned.  I’m sure that was Ms. McNaught’s intention, to raise awareness, and I believe that she donated some of the funds from the book to a charity fighting illiteracy.

I would never deem to hold myself up next to Judith McNaught, but I can see how something I feel strongly about would find its way into my work.  In fact, I’d expect my thoughts about controversial issues like war, child welfare, poverty, etc. have found their way into my work already, though I hope in the context of characterization and plot instead of outright preaching. 

Do you think it is ok for our work to make a statement about a controversial topic?  Do you think we can avoid that from happening?  Do you think we should even try to avoid it?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008



Beginnings are always the toughest for me. It’s the gateway to the whole book. What I say in that first line will set my tone for what’s to come. And what better way to say that then the title.


When I walk into a store, I beeline to the books. It can be Target. It can be Walmart. It can be Hyvee. But I go straight there. Barnes and Noble is heaven for me. I spend a lot of time perusing the library, up on the second floor running my fingers over the thousands of titles. But the single most thing I look for in a book is a title. And the cover. I’m sorry but I’m that person. Tar and feather me if you must but some of the best books I’ve ever read were because I saw them on a shelf, facing out and picked them up for a two-page middle of the book teaser. My mind works like a projector. When I read the words, it plays out like I’m watching it on the screen. The title helps to give me an idea if it might be something I’m interested in. The cover helps me pick it up. I never read a back-cover blurb without reading two pages right in the middle. That’s just the way I am.


Two years ago I was in Phoenix at a Walmart in Peoria right off the 101 Loop. They have the biggest book selection ever. Right in the middle of the store. It stretches as far as the eyes can see. I was in need of another book to read. A two and a half hour flight back to Missouri is rough for someone who doesn’t like to fly and I like to spend my time chewing on my fingernails and reading. I searched the new releases. Nothing caught my eye that I didn’t already own. And I head towards the back section. That’s where I saw it. The cover was beautiful, purpleish with gold tones. The middle was a couple. The guy muscular, tan, his dark hair worn longer and the woman, blonde, petite, her hair was plastered to her. He was leaning into her, her mouth ready to be kissed.


Hard Evidence. (Pamela Clare)


I smiled to myself. A play on words- my kind of book. I picked it up, flipped right to the middle of the book. I can’t repeat the scene. But one might say… uh, um… it was hot. Super hot. Hotter than the Sahara on the most blistering of days. I stood right there in the store fanning myself with this book. My face went flushed. I might’ve sweated a little. I dunno. I was in Phoenix. It was pretty warm.


Let’s just say I snatched that book up faster than a rabbit can destroy a strawberry patch.


I’m not the best titlist. It goes hand in hand with my inability to write beginnings. I can’t title something I don’t know exactly. Double Vision, my WIP, wasn’t always DV, but I can tell you it happened not too long after I established I was going to start my quest for the original. The plot is completely different as well. My heroine started out as an investigative journalist a little over two years ago. Now my heroine is a special agent for the FBI, working in the cyber crimes unit.


This is my first beginning. My working title at the time (which stayed for all of two days, I think. I had to go look up my emails from two years ago. LOL) was Practice Makes Perfect Murder. Just like a headline. Or at least I thought it was in my head. (I’m telling you I suck at titles. I always have. I just happen to have the best titlist in the world as a best girlfriend.)


“I’d always thought that paper and ink smelled a lot like heaven and a little like hell. Let’s just say I was leaning a little more towards the hell part today.


It was Friday and the office at Midwestern Daily had been a cluster of activity up until about three hours ago. I had been at my desk for 12 hours today and hadn’t accomplished one damn thing. Not one word was written on my computer screen and I still had a nasty red-penciled marked article sitting on my desk courtesy of Dave Winton, Editor-in-Chief. But at the moment I was too fed up to really give a flying rat’s ass.”



My beginning now, which is still subject to change since I’ve not finished yet and I always rewrite the beginning after I’ve written “The End” is not much better. But better fitting for the title of Double Vision. I’m still thinking up the perfect first sentence. It has to be something completely smart ass, just like Sadie. I will come up with it after I’ve written the last word. That’s usually how this works for me.


“It’s been four weeks! What do you mean clean-up isn’t taken care of yet?” I tapped my pencil on the desk and the eraser’s momentum carried it higher and higher the madder I got. I was speaking to my superior, James Davenport of the Washington D.C. FBI office and I tried to keep my voice down to a whisper but I was fighting a losing battle with my temper. “By now Ivan Petrenkov’s whole operation could be shut down!”



Double Vision is reflective of my plot. There is a lot that can be said for double vision. It can remind you of being drunk in a bar, weaving through the tables as you make your way outside. You vision so blurry you can’t make out which one is real and which one is the fake. It can be the mirror image of my heroine with her twin. The twin is not the main plot. Only the background. Things get very interesting for Sadie when she returns home to Missouri. Practice Makes Perfect Murder wouldn’t fit for this story anymore. To even write that is just silly for me. Bad, bad title. Shame on me. That’s like having a mullet and air-guitaring to Stairway to Heaven.


To me the title is the bread and butter of the cover. It is what will attract a lot of people. It is what will ring in their ears long after they’ve forgotten what the cover looked like. It’s hard to come up with something catchy. And for us writing series’, it’s hard to find something you can use over and over again without it becoming stale. It’s like the perfect accessory. Almost as important as the right shoe for the trouser jeans you love to wear. Without a title, your book would be just another untitled good sitting on the shelf waiting to be picked up, begging to be read.



I know our writing pirate wenches out there have something to share. Give me your best first title and how it’s changed since you’ve began.  Do you think a short or a long title is better? For our readers, do you base your reading off title, cover, blurb or a little of everything? What’s the best title you’ve read for a book that seemed to fit perfectly?

Monday, May 26, 2008

Choose Your Own Adventure

Once upon a time there was a conflicted princess who was in love with a handsome, noble knight; however, she was sworn to marry an unknown prince from a far away land. Because she loved her father, she did not want to do anything that would shame her in his eyes, but neither did she want to give up what might her only chance for true love. So…




A.   She marries the unknown prince

B.   She marries the knight

C.   She proposes a contest for all the noble men (including said prince) to joust for her hand


So say we pick A. She marries the unknown prince, even though her heart remains with the noble knight. She is terribly unhappy in her new marriage, but she comforts herself that she’s done the right thing. NOW PICK ONE.


A.   The prince slowly seduces her, winning her heart, and she is now newly conflicted with being in love with two men. She’s sworn to remain true to her beloved knight, but she can’t help but be seized by raptures in the prince’s bed

B.   The prince takes a mistress, and the princess is even more miserable. The prince also berates her for not being very princess-like. She must do something. She can’t remain here; she must….

C.   Her beloved knight is also now part of her personal bodyguard. She begins an affair with him, even though she knows if she is caught, they will both die


Those are interesting turns-of-events; however, I’m curious what would have happened if she had married the knight. So let’s go back a step and pick B.


A.   She elopes with the knight, but the prince, furious with her betrayal, follows her and kills the knight in a post-honeymoon fight. He takes her back to his castle but plans to keep her as a whore

B.   She elopes with the knight, but her father cuts her off. The knight becomes a mercenary, and though they struggle to make ends meet, they still love each other (and can’t keep their hands off each other)

C.   After eloping and being cut off from her father, the knight becomes resentful of the constant struggle—and blames her for their lack of financial circumstances. He tells her she should have married the prince, then they’d both be happy


Hmm. That one was a bit dark, but the option A would be an interesting plot development, wouldn’t it? Okay, what if we’d picked C.


A.   The prince wins, and she marries him, grudging, but admiring of his skill to even beat her beloved knight. He whisks her back to the castle, unaware she’s still carrying a torch for the unseated knight

B.   The knight wins, and she marries him. Her father gives her the dowry she would have gotten for the prince; and they move North to a castle property that belonged to her mother.

C.   Neither of them wins. Gareth, Earl of Swinehearth, won the tournament, and he is now the lucky guy who gets to wed her. Only he was such an appalling bastard when they were children, how will she stand it?


Do we see what the problem is yet?


Too many choices. Not all of these are “great” choices; some of them are no-brainer “discard”, but there are several that would actually be interesting to pursue, that would have interesting and overarching conflict for at least 400 pages. What’s a writer to do?


When I first started eating Chinese food, I only ate Twice-Cooked Pork, Crab Rangoon, and Hot and Sour soup. It was so much easier to order when I didn’t pursue other choices to see if there was anything better or equally enjoyable. Now I look at a Chinese menu, and it takes a half-hour to decide what I want. Oh, look steamed dumplings! But oh, oh, vegetable lo mein—how I do adore those spicy noodles! OMG! They have Ginger Chicken. Well, I have to order that, but how can I get that when I’m craving dumplings? And soup. Don’t forget the soup. I walk out with $20 of food that ends up feeding me for the next three days.


You can’t do that in a romance. 400 pages is it. You’re allowed to spend $7.85 and that’s it. Now what do you order? You certainly do not want to be sitting at the table with your selection and go, “Damn, I should have ordered the Ginger Chicken.” You do not want to get to page 300 of your novel and go: “Maybe I should have had her marry the Earl of Swinehearth; he was kinda cute for a bastard.”


How do I know which was the right choice? Because if you’ve done your work on your characters, even your less “obvious choice” characters will be right your hero or heroine. Think of Sweet Home Alabama. Two great hero choices—so it basically boiled down to the guy who was her roots and the guy who was her wings. Mr. Roots won out, but only because he had come up enough in the world to be able to understand her need for things outside their small town and a willingness (and ability) to help with her wings. He could give her both. But does that mean Mr. Wings couldn’t have given her roots? Is small-town family life the only married life that is ideal? Can you not be happy married and living in New York City, vacationing at Martha’s Vineyard, and dropping off your kids at private school?


My friend Tammy said that movie ended wrong. She wanted Patrick Dempsey and couldn’t imagine any woman in her right mind picking redneck Josh Lucas. My best friend and I sighed and said, “Josh.” And Tammy said, “I rest my case.” And secretly I think she’s right. I think Felony Melonie could have been just as happy with Patrick as she was with Josh.


So what’s the right course for your book? What if you have so many options, you feel a bit like Jack looking at his compass, watching the needle spin because you don’t know what you want. You want a happy ending. But happy endings come in many different guises. Which one is the happiest for this character? How do you decide? Put them all in a hat and just start pulling them out?


So choose your own blog ending question:

A.   Do you think Felony Melonie picked the right man at the end of Sweet Home Alabama? Why or why not?

B.   Do you have this problem with writing? How do you overcome it? Or if you’re a reader, do you read a new plot point and think, “God, why did she go there? That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard!”?

C.   Which way would you have told the story above?

Friday, May 23, 2008

I-MANGA-ing the Possibilities

My sincere apologies for the lateness of this blog.  Server issues, gotta love technology.  But better late than never!  Here's Santa.

Manga.  Sounds like an exotic fruit our fair pirate lasses may have come across while transiting through the South Pacific’s Cook Islands.  Alas, not so my hardy wenches and deckhands.  Manga is the Japanese word for comics.  These stylized books have their roots in ancient Japan, but their images were said to have morphed from exposure to the comics American soldiers had with them during World War II.  Here in the United States, Manga really began to reach the masses during the 70s and 80s.

Manga AustenWho knew?!

I’ll tell you who knew – my 11 year old daughter.  I’d heard about these books but had never seen one until she came home with one from our local library.  Now, you can call me a snob but I never considered Mangas to be ‘real’ books capable of telling a story with substance.  I was to be disabused of that notion in very short order by my daughter and that book she carried home.

You see, the book she’d gotten was an adaptation of Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo & Juliet’. I’d expected it be populated with doe-eyed characters with little bubbles of modern verse escaping half-moon smiles.  Instead I found Shakespeare – chapter and verse.  Huh.

Still I hesitated and called my trusty Shakespearean whose son, close in age to my daughter, is an avid Manga fan.  She assured me that exposing children to the classics in any format was a very good thing.  Fair enough.

Well, my daughter raced through the book, fell in love with Romeo and Juliet, was quoting Shakespeare for weeks afterwards and asked what other Shakespearean plays I’d recommend.

Mr. DarcySo that got me to thinking.  If Shakespeare can be transformed into a Manga why not other classics?  Say – Jane Austen.  Now, I can hear the gasps, so please bear with me.  Until recently, I’ve been a Jane Austen purest.  No novels about Mr. Darcy and any progeny he may have had.  No Captain Wentworth for the 24th century.  But what about  a black ink rendering of Mr. Darcy emerging drenched from the pond at Pemberly?  Or Mr. Knightly chastising Emma for her meddling ways?  Or Elizabeth Bennett’s refusal of what has to be the worst proposal ever spoken between clenched teeth?

More news on the Manga horizon for me because it’s already being done.  Jane Austen’s beloved ‘Pride and Prejudice’ is already in Manga format.  As a matter of fact, one of our own lusty pirate lasses has a Jane Austen Manga as her avatar on the Eloisa James/Julia Quinn BB.  Delightful.  Looks like I can have my Mr. Darcy in ink after all! 

Manga DarcyWhat say you my pirate friends?  I'm sure there are already Mangas straight from the classics lists.  Can you see A Christmas Carol or The Adventures of Tom Sawyer retold?

And what of our beloved romance novels?  I, for one, can see Christina Dodd’s paranormal series easily translated into this medium.  My knees weaken at the thought of having Mary Balogh’s haughty Wulfric raising his quizzing glass at everyone. Mmmmm.

Friends, it seems I’ve been reformed.  What of your own books or works in progress?  There some incredible debut authors whose books will be out in the next few years.  I think it’d be fantastic to see some of those books in this format.  In fact, I’ll go out on a limb about my own manuscript, ‘Sweet Melissa’ as a Manga.  I do have that scene under the pergola behind Melissa’s restaurant when Jake backs her against the post and begins to show her she is as delicious as warm peach cobbler drenched in vanilla bean ice cream. 

What do you think, my pirate lads and lasses?  Is Manga the wave of romance’s future or just another fantastic way to tell a tale worth retelling in another way?  Come aboard and share your own thoughts.  I’ll be popping in throughout the day to chat with you all.

Thanks, once again, for letting me aboard one of the best pirate ship blogs out there!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Knobby Knees, Adolescent Reminiscing, and Exaggerated Awareness

As I’ve been working up to writing my sex scene, I’ve been reading over my entire story. 

*GM dodges behind a barrel on deck as the Captain makes for her with an empty rum bottle, screeching, “Write AS IF!!”*

*GM holds out her arms in a defensive motion.*   I know!  I am not supposed to reread until I’m done, but I assure you it was necessary.

*The Captain returns to her seat, muttering and still appearing suspicious though pacified for the moment.*

*GM sighs, visibly relieved, and continues.*

As I started writing my love scene, I realized that I wasn’t confident that I’d built the sexual tension between my characters as well as I could have.   I started reading back through and found plenty of spots to shore up the tension.

Sandra Brown said somewhere that sexual tension is created by using “exaggerated awareness.”  Basically, every time the hero and heroine meet every sense between them should be electrified.

I tried to recall any time in my life I’ve felt like that and the closest I can remember required me to do a time travel back to middle school and relive my first real crush. 

*The Gunner begins moving her hands up and down a la Wayne and Garth in SNL*  Dododo, dododo…..

To me, he was Adonis.  He was very athletic and I remember he had the best body of all the boys in our grade (probably not difficult when compared to a bunch of eighth graders).  I would spend extraordinary amounts of time lying on my bed listening to music in my angst-ridden adolescent glory, dreaming of his muscular body and girlishly wishing for kisses and touches from him.

This was all horribly unrequited, of course.  He was “going with” the head of the cheerleaders and probably didn’t even notice me beyond the time he picked me to be in his science group.  Then I hoped pathetically that it was a show of affection.  Now I’m certain it was because I was a geekily good student.  *cue Taylor Swift’s Teardrops On My Guitar*

Every time he came into the room it was as if I could sense him even before I saw him.  His every movement set my little pre-pubescent heart thumping.  When he was near, I could hardly breathe and talking, HA!  I doubt I ever said more than one syllable to him at a time with the sum total of all of my syllables to him ever equaling one sentence, maybe.   My body would feel paralyzed when he was around and if I even thought his gaze was on me, I would blush horribly and my movements would feel jerky. 

Back then, those new experiences were equally awful and wonderful.  Half of me wanted to be around him while the other hated to be in his presence.

I imagine exaggerated awareness being something like that, though hopefully without the more mortifying aspects of adolescent misery.   I’ve been attempting to harness all that girly stuff for my characters’ benefits and trying not to dwell on my juvenile silliness.   

Though, maybe that juvenile silliness is the very innocence and vulnerability my characters need.

How do you create sexual tension in your WIP?  Any thoughts on Exaggerated Awareness?  How about horrible unrequited love stories?  *sigh*

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The First Time

It was dark by the time I walked through the door. Seven o’clock. You wouldn’t think that was overly late but it wasn’t yet spring in Missouri and time hadn’t reverted back to borrowing time to make it light longer.


I dropped my keys in my purse. I had a major headache going on. I’d just finished Eleven on Top by Janet Evanovich this morning before work and then ending was still bugging me. I went into the kitchen and flipped on the light, finding the book on my desk, I popped it open to the last 30 pages. It was a quick read for me. I had almost every line memorized. The way Ranger finds Stephanie crammed into an overhead cabinet. The way their eyes met. The way he kisses her bloody wrists. The emotion I felt in those few short paragraphs was killing me. How could she not be with him?


Matty popped his head around the corner and I closed the book with a sharp snap.


“You wanna watch a movie?”




Blow was the choice movie. We’d seen it at least a dozen times before. We sat on the couch together in the dark, eyes focused on the TV and still my mind wandered. I couldn’t get that scene out of my head. I knew there wasn’t another book. I’d checked a million times at the library. No new book for a few more months. I surely was going to die with longing to know what happened next. What if they didn’t get together in the next book? What about that look? How could she not see what I see?


There was only one way to fix this in my mind. I had to just get it out. I had to write. But how the hell was I going to do that? I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t even have a notebook to write on.


You know what will happen in the next book, don’t you? There it was. That little voice. Poking me. Prodding me. They won’t be together. What are you going to do then? What if he brushes a curl behind her ear and walks away. What if there wasn’t another book?


I had to fix this problem. It was driving me nuts. I had printer paper. As soon as Matty went to bed, I was going to find a pen and just write something. Who cared if it made sense. No one would ever see it but me. No one would have to know what I’d done. Surely I’d lost my mind. No character had ever come to life for me like Ranger and Stephanie on a page. There was something about the way they looked at each other.


I looked up at Matty sitting beside me on the couch and he happened to look down at me the same time. The glow from the TV was perfect on his smiling face and I knew why I was addicted. Matty was my Ranger. And I had to let Stephanie see that. Somehow.


That settled it. I had to do something. So I patiently waited. I fidgeted. I chewed on my thumbnail. I got up and walked around. I did the dishes. And finally, it was midnight. Way past our bedtime. I smiled all the way up the stairs. I thought of the way I wanted to write. What I was going to write. It was going to be perfect. And finally I’d be able to have some peace and quiet.


It was one am. I tossed back the blankets and crept down the stairs. The house was eerily silent in the hush of night and I was slightly creped out that I had the guts to walk down into the kitchen. I pulled a couple of sheets from the print and found an old ink pen. I slid into a kitchen table chair and sat there.


No words came to me.


I put my head in my hands. This was the worst feeling. I knew it was there. Why couldn’t I write it now?


“I glanced into the mirror. The black mini dress molded to every curve and made me feel slightly self-conscience. I could do this, I reminded myself. It’s not like I’d never done a distraction for Ranger before. Piece of cake, right?”


My god! What is that?! I read over it. “What the hell is this?” I ask myself. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m just going to go with this until I get to the scene where she throws herself into his arms and kisses him like she’s never kissed someone before and swear that she loves him.


I put my ink pen back to the paper. My fingers flew through sheets of paper. My hand would cramp and I rubbed it out, a mad gleam in my eye as I tried to remember everything flowing through my mind. I finally got to the end. By no means did Stephanie throw herself into his arms. She backed him into a wall and wrapped a leg around his thigh. She drew him into her, pressed herself against every hard inch of him and brushed her lips over his. And as quickly as she did that, she walked away from him.


WTF am I writing? I asked myself, reading back over it. I was cross-eyed. Delirious. I glanced back at the microwave clock and rubbed my eyes. It was almost six am!


I shoved the papers into my desk, underneath the keyboard covered in three inches of dust and dropped the cover over them. I hustled back upstairs and fell into bed, asleep before my head even hit the pillow.


Eight AM comes very early to someone on two hours of sleep.


I wrote about 40 pages of Mission: Distraction (which wasn't what I ended posting and at this point wasn't even titled), before I ever had the nerve to type it up. I knew how to type. I was a computer major in college. I type faster than my brain can keep up. But there was something very intimidating about the computer. I felt very phony. And I dared to breathe a word of my obsession to my younger sister- who at the time was very obsessed with Sailor Moon (Anime) fan fiction.


“You should post it.”


“NO!” I shook my head violently side to side. “No way. I’m too old for that crap. I don’t know why I wrote it. Surely I’ll get sued.”


“No way, dude. There’s a ton of stuff out there.” She pulled up her email account. “Listen. What do you have to lose? I’ll email you the site link to that fan fiction site.”


I made myself sick on the way home. Post it? Was she insane? Clearly she was because she was in the same family as me, but I couldn’t post this. I didn’t own these characters. People would make fun of me. They would KNOW it was me.


Wouldn’t they?


When I was in high school, I was being a smart ass to my English teacher and in my goal for what I wanted to do after high school I put: I’m going to be on the top of the NYT someday.


My English teacher thought this was brilliant. I laughed in her face. I hate writing. Why would I ever write for fun?


What did I have to lose?  Everything, I swore to myself. Okay so that might be a little melodramatic. But surely I’m too old to post “fan fiction” as my sister liked to refer to it as. And still, this writing thing was still in my head. I had to write something else. She was still talking to me. Telling me where she wanted to go next. Telling me what she wanted to do. This wasn’t good. I was obsessed!


I got home in a mood. The night was ruined. My stomach was churning. I might have sweated a little bit. I pulled up the email account and sure enough, there was an email from my sister.


Hey. I checked into that for you. You have to sign up for a penname

and there’s a three day wait. If you want to sign up, do it now before

you have a chance to think about it.

Buck up. Don’t be a chickenshit.


And at the bottom was the link to the site. I sweated it out for a minute. Palms sweaty. Mouth drier than the Mohave. Knees knocking. Did I dare click on it? I’m known for doing crap that I wished I hadn’t. I’m too impulsive for my own good. I mean, look where this reading thing got me! I knew I shouldn’t have picked up that book Janine told me too. “Just read this book. I know you’ll like it.” I shook my head politely NO. I’m not into those sorts of books. I told her. I like historicals. “No. NO. No. You’ll love this. Stephanie Plum is a riot. This is the eighth book. You don’t have to read them in order. I really think you’ll enjoy it.” Still I shake my head no. I hold this woman off for two years on this Stephanie Plum book obsession she had going on. And then I caved and now it has me getting up in the middle of the night like a thief and stealing downstairs to write like a mad woman until dawn.


So I click on the link. It seems pretty harmless. There’s something like 10 pages to browse through of Stephanie Plum fan fiction. I read one. Someone rewrote the last scene in Eleven on Top in Ranger’s POV. I fell in love. I read this story about a million times. Never would I have ever thought to write in another POV. Stephanie felt natural to me, but this writer made Ranger come alive in front of my eyes. I felt his desperation. I felt his hunger for revenge. I felt his overwhelming moment of relief to find her alive. I was looking through his eyes and seeing the tears brushing along her lower lashes. Knew she thought she was going to die. Knew that she kept telling herself over and over again that he’d save her.


And in that moment I knew what I had to do. I went to the sign in page and filled out the necessary information. No one would ever know me. No one would know it was ME. I could do this anonymously.


No one would ever find out!


Wrong. I’m at something close to 35 fan fiction stories for Stephanie Plum two years later. Two full length stories under my belt, two novellas, and dozens of short stories. Fan fiction gave me the courage to try to write something of my own. Gave me the courage to reach out to other people, other writers and talk to them. Helped me meet women who I’ll never forget, who I’ll always be friends with, and gave me more sisters. Partners in crime.


So, I know that was long. I’m getting back into the old habit of long-windedness.


Tell me about your first time writing. The first time you wrote a scene you never thought you’d be able to write. The first time you wrote anything. Did it come out the way you wanted it or was it something completely different from what you envisioned? For our reading wenches, how about the first time you found a community for your favorite author? Did you have a hard time just jumping in there?


A little rum-soused undead monkey told me our very own Lisa is having a birthday today! Please join us in wishing her a Happy Birthday. (All gifts of rum and money can be directed to the Captain who will pass them along to Lisa....)


Captain Jack says because it is such a special occasion, we should put up more pictures for the lovely Lisa to enjoy--and he did offer himself (nude) for everyone's, um, viewing pleasure, but since I'm the captain, I thought I'd post these instead:



Monday, May 19, 2008

Hellion's Meditation 17

I’m not a fan of literature we had to read in high school, but there were a couple pieces that made an impression. One was John Donne’s Meditation 17, where he says no man is an island; and that any man’s death diminishes all of us. Cheerful Tuesday fodder, I admit; but in my Hellion irreverence sort of way, I think, hey, no writer is an island. All writers are a part of us; and what we put forth on the page has been influenced by all the writers that have published (or some even, unpublished) before us.


I buy writer’s books whenever I’m stymied by anything. A footnote, a punctuation mark, a sex scene…whatever. If you go to the “Go On Account” page where a bunch of writer’s books are listed, I have all but one of those. And many more besides. But the question remains: can a writing book really teach a writer how to write? Or for a completely different analogy: do you really learn how to have sex by reading a theorized manual on it, or do you learn by practice—and if you’re lucky, by being tutored by someone who’s done it before and knows how? (I know, we pirates, everything circles back to sex. It’s all the men on this ship!)


But really, although I have learned some really great things from the writer’s books I’ve gotten, I have to say—the real stuff I’ve learned about writing, I learned from reading other published books. Books I wanted to write myself. Books I was so inspired by that I ran out and told all my friends about. Okay, maybe not when I was thirteen. (My friends threatened to burn my books then, so I didn’t exactly share then.)


In the first “real romance” I ever read (circa age 13) I learned the importance of the “cute meet.” Janelle Taylor’s First Love, Wild Love is a story about the rancher’s daughter who comes home, stays overnight at a bordello (after nearly being accosted), and ends up being seduced by the hero, a Texas Ranger, whose bed she just happens to be sleeping in. (Granted, I’m taking liberal interpretation of “cute meet” but considering the scene in question, it’s one of those 80s “forced seduction” scenes. The Windflower out West.) The cute meet ties with the “catalyst” (sex) and the rest of the book is this wild romp of will they or won’t they? I still have a soft spot for blond Texas Rangers. And bordellos. It probably also explains why I love having heroes who have a LOT to overcome to make themselves heroic. (I mean, what type of guy has sex with a girl who’s barely awake? Even if she is dressed like a strumpet? Even if she did seem interested? I mean, get her name first.)


In the second “real romance” I read (Autumn Dove), I learned the importance of internal conflict. He was a half-breed and she was a white woman/lady. Considering the time period, it would never work out. And the internal conflict of this very simple belief propelled the external conflict as well! The conflict was built from the characters themselves. It wasn’t just some historical point where two characters were inserted; the book seemed very real, as if these were real historical figures with real problems.


Then there are my auto-buy authors: Jude Deveraux, Julie Garwood, Teresa Medeiros, Elizabeth Hoyt, Sherrilyn Kenyon, and Kasey Michaels.


Jude Deveraux: her heroes were always to die for. I always wanted to marry a Taggert or Montgomery (especially Alex from The Raider or Hank from The Awakening.) I loved the situational comedy she’d do; and the feisty heroines with the smart remarks, but her heroes were always my favorite of all. Her heroines seemed so real; her stories were different (hello, A Knight in Shining Armor?); and her heroes were swoonworthy.


Julie Garwood: I adore her gift for the one-liner and dramatic irony. She knows how to open a chapter, and she knows how to end it so you don’t dare put down the book and go to bed. I’ll never forget my jaw-dropping when I got to the end of one of her chapters and I read, “We like to call her Pagan.” (I was 14 or so, and not very good at solving the mystery—so this was huge news to me.) I couldn’t put the book down after that. Now when I read the book (The Guardian), it’s clear from the first chapter who Pagan was; and I love her cleverness at imbedding the clues in plain sight.


Teresa Medeiros: I’ve always wanted to be able to do lush prose and setting like Teresa does. It’s gorgeous; and it doesn’t seem overdone when she does it. Sweet humor, vivid emotion—I couldn’t even begin to be that brilliant, but damn, it’s beautiful to read. Maybe one day it will rub off a little.


Kasey Michaels: In my favorite books by her, she starts off with a quotation. I love this. I love quotations—and I imagine she does too. She probably does this because she likes them. What a wonderful thing to learn! Write what you love! I think she writes the story she wants to read. Like J.K. Rowling does…whom we all know I adore! P.S. I think Kasey has some really imaginative, clever plots and twists! I wish I was half as clever.


Sherrilyn Kenyon and Elizabeth Hoyt: The hottest sex scenes ever. Sex scenes so hot even my best friend who used to burn my books can’t wait to read the next one. Okay, so she says she reads Sherrilyn for the stories, but she admits the sex is hot. She doesn’t skip it. That’s saying something. To make the characters so believable, the sexual tension so thick…yeah, you don’t want to skip a word of the love scene. This is hard. I’ve read books where the characters were likable; the story good—but the tension was lukewarm at best, and I skipped the sex scenes. Me! I never skip sex scenes! Or worse, you have characters but no tension—just pulsating jets of warmth between your thighs or whatever. SKIP.


Speaking of skipped sex scenes, even the books you don’t like you learn from. You realize what didn’t work for you and you learn not to do that in your writing. For instance, I will never have a jet of anything shooting anywhere in my manuscripts.


And to think these were all books I was going to buy anyway! So are all my other writer’s books a complete crock and waste of money? I don’t think so, but I don’t think I’ve learned half as much from them as I have from my auto-buys and the books I cut my romantic teeth on.


What about you? If you’re a writer, what do you think has influenced you more? What books have you read that made you go: Damn, I wish I was this brilliant? If you’re a reader, what makes you keep going back to the authors you read? Is it anything specific? What makes you avoid some authors/genres? Do any particularly vivid scenes stick out in your mind that you wish you could have seen the book made into a movie? (I would have loved The Guardian or The Raider as a movie.)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

"What's in a Name"

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."

Romeo and Juliet

I remember wanting to change my name at an early age. I preferred Stephanie or Courtney. Lisa was a very popular name in 1965. Before I named my son, I poured through several baby name books. I had a particular vision in my mind when I pictured my son. He was Chad to me long before I saw his face.

I do the same when I visualize my characters. I name them according to their personal makeup and personalities. I also choose names that fit their culture or heritage. I admit to scanning the phone book for names, but I never choose them carelessly. They have to resonate when said aloud, and have meaning behind the name.

I have a book called the Character Naming Sourcebook written by Sherrilyn Kenyon. The book lists several guidelines for naming characters. I thought I would share a few, since I really enjoy naming my characters.

1. Capture the persona. Never randomly pick a name, get to know your character, and make the name have a personal meaning to you or the story as a whole. Kenyon pointed out that almost every individual has some kind of baggage that comes along with his or her name. Playing off this makes your character seem more real.

2. Consider you character’s heritage and personality or trade.

3. Make the name harmonious. Vary the syllables between the first and last names.

4. Consider the time period in naming your characters. I’ve read historical work, and looked up certain names solely for the reason I didn’t think they fit the time period. I’ve often been pleasantly surprised to find that the name was true to the period.

5. Consider your character’s social status. This is fairly self-explanatory. It would be uncommon to name a chicken farmer from the south Juan, or Marcus.

6. Use nicknames. I’m a big believer in nicknames. To me it makes the character more endearing, and there are so many possibilities to weave around the use of a nickname.

7. Remember the genre. Name characters according to the category. In young adult fiction, a reader will expect a familiar name such as Keri, or Brandon, rather than Elizabeth or Elaine. Its common sense to use a name the target audience can identify with.

8. Avoid names that other writers have made famous. Try to stay on top of naming trends in your chosen genre.

9. If you step out of the box and name a character something out of context, make sure to address the reason in the storyline.

10. Mix it up. Vary the names you use. Don’t get stuck on a letter or rhythm. Avoid naming a heroine Alice and the hero Alec. It is too confusing for the reader to decipher between the two names.

The most important thing is to choose a name that you can embrace and envision for your character. In my current WIP, my character changes her name after she leaves home. She wants to shed the past, and her name held bad memories for her from the start. It has provided fodder for me to develop her personality and her conflict. She only allows the hero in the story to call her by her given name; it adds a very personal dimension to their relationship.

I know that most or all of this information is common knowledge for a writer, but it’s the simple things that intrigue me about writing. In creating characters we breath life into a new individual, it only makes sense to gift that individual with the perfect name.

Do you enjoy naming your characters? What do you use as a resource for naming your characters? Do any of your character’s names hold a special significance to your storyline, or is a name just a name for you? Interested in finding your offical pirate name? Take this quiz matey! 

Booty Call!

Mad Annie Mizzenmast...I mean, the incomparable Annie West is sharing two of her books with two commenters from yesterday's fabulous blog! The winners are:
KATHY: The Greek Tycoon's Unexpected Wife

KELLY: For the Sheikh's Pleasure (lucky girl, Arik is SO delicious!)

Thank you, everyone, who came yesterday and made Annie's visit with us a wonderful one. And be sure to visit us again when she visits us with her next book: The Desert King's Pregnant Bride.

Kathy & Kelly, email me ( with your snail mail addresses and I'll forward them to Annie.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Running Naked in Public

Well, the Captain spoke about sex scenes on Tuesday.  But, as I’m in the middle of writing my first one and that’s all I’ve been able to think about this week, I’m piggy-backing off her blog.  (I know, PIRATE!).

I said that my sex scene is all I’ve been able to think about this week, but that’s kinda not the truth.  I have spent this entire week trying not to think about my sex scene. 

It actually started last week.  I knew the scene was coming, but I’d been hoping when the time came, I could just go with the flow and let it take me.

Alas, that is not what has happened.

I got to “the point.”  You know, where we (me and my characters) knew it was time for them to get it on.  I got the whole scene set up the equivalent of writing foreplay, very romantic, but then, the awkwardness came.

I thought such things were left to real life first time encounters, but I was mistaken.

What do they do?  How do they really feel about each other?  If they were real people, how would they be reacting in this situation?

I didn’t know either.

I started to doubt myself.  What if I’d been writing a romance novel and my characters weren’t even that into each other?  It’s like that relationship where you invest all this time getting to know the other person on a metaphysical level only to find that they just don’t “do” it for you. 

Wait, has that only happened to me?   I digress.

Mostly, I fear writing my sex scene because I’m afraid that while I’m tearing down all the boundaries between my characters and stripping them raw for all the world to see, that I’m perhaps breaking down barriers between myself and every single person who reads my work. 

I am silly, sarcastic my fair share of the time, and self-deprecating more often than not.  When I write these things, I doubt I’ll be able to hide behind all that.  Will people be able to see ME in my words?

In other words, am I doing the writing equivalent of running naked in public?

My answer:  maybe.  Probably a little, but maybe not.  Who knows?  And I don’t think we as writers can ever worry about it or we’ll paralyze ourselves, shut ourselves off from our readers and make our writing ineffective.  If we want to connect with readers, we need to find those things that strike a universal chord.  And love, well, that’s a big one, the one that’s most important to me.  And sex, well, sex in my sex scene, if it’s with the right person (and my characters have found the right people) it should showcase love and get me closer to that goal.

Have you ever written a sex scene and if so, how’d it go?  How about streaking?  Not interested in that topic?  Ok, well, how about telling me what about writing makes you feel the most vulnerable?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Annie West Swings From the Mizzenmast

I’m not sure what a mizzenmast is. We have Luke, Tristan, and Jack to look after the stateliness of the masts, impressing us with the magnificence of their erect…sorry, was having a Windflower moment there. Annie seems more the fun and carefree type to swing about a ship than board one, cutlass in her teeth.


After reading her amazing book, For the Sheikh’s Pleasure, I begged her to come interview with us when her next book came out, and guess what? Her new book is out! Available right now is: The Greek Tycoon’s Unexpected Wife, and if you haven’t already discovered Annie West, you need to discover her now. Pure GOLD.


So please welcome: Annie West!


Annie: Thanks so much for inviting me to be here, Hellion. It’s been lovely corresponding with you and I’m thrilled to be invited to your site. Fancy me being allowed into the pirate lair. Love it! I’ve always had a soft spot for buccaneers (as anyone who read my ‘Sheikh’s Ransomed Bride’ will know) so I’m very excited.


Hellion: Good! We’re excited to have you on board too. I could probably spend the next hour talking about the magnificence of my ship and crew, but…well…I want to talk about you and your books. You write the most amazing Harlequin Presents novels. Your characters are so detailed, alive; and your plot derives from character development. How do you work within the 200-250 page “limit” but still able to make the characters so well developed, we fill like we’ve grown up with them? (I’ve read some 400 page books where the author wasn’t able to do that!)


Annie: Hellion, you do know how to make a girl feel welcome, don’t you? I could sit and lap up this praise all day!


I think getting the feel for my characters is an area where I’ve improved. My first (unpublished) books were fairly heavily plotted and I wrote in line with what I’d planned, moving the characters like dolls along preordained routes. (Important Note: there’s nothing wrong with detailed plotting. If you write best like this, good on you!). Gradually though, I found that IF I had a good strong conflict between the hero and heroine, I could start writing with only a rough outline of what was going to happen. I’d jump into the opening (trying to choose a climactic moment of change) and ask myself several times a page ‘what is he/she thinking/feeling’? By focusing on a major, emotional event, where the stakes are high, I see my characters under stress. Sometimes they’ll respond to provocation in a certain way and I’ll wonder why. I go back to the information I’d jotted down about them and factor it in. Sometimes I’ll write an opening and that process of questioning why the character makes a stand or takes offence or runs away will throw up a whole new facet of their backstory, which then influences their later actions.



Having a good strong conflict helps enormously. If they both want something strongly, and that goal means the other character is definitely not the person they should hook up with, it makes the intensity so much stronger. Each needs to challenge the other in some way.


I write long then cut. When I revise I have to be ruthless, searching out paragraphs, sentences or even words that don’t add value. I look for characters saying the same thing in different ways (which mine do early on while I’m still sorting out their motivation). I look for sections where the reading slows or there’s little dialogue. By ripping out the nice, feel good stuff I enjoyed but which isn’t high stakes emotion or a new point that drives the plot forward, I can make it a lot tighter. I also look closely at my secondary characters and my transition scenes. If it’s not absolutely necessary (and you’d be surprised what isn’t) then I take it out.



Hellion: Dang, you are fierce with a cutlass! Question everything and go for the biggest emotional impact (and payoff). You make it sound easy! How long have you been writing; and what’s your Call Story?



Annie: I started writing about 12 years ago. Fortunately I found out about Romance Writers of Australia at the same time, so as I was writing my first book I was learning about submission processes and writing techniques. I found the support of other writers wonderful, plus I sold a couple of short stories which gave me hope that someone liked my writing. Finally I had a book accepted in 1999 by a small Aussie press. I was thrilled, overjoyed, ecstatic! The press closed the year after ‘Strictly Business’ came out due to distribution troubles. Then came the hardest part of all – feeling that I’d come close but not close enough. The editorial door was shut again. I tried writing for a few different lines and received very encouraging feedback, but never an acceptance. Eventually a kind editor spoke to me about my voice, which she enjoyed, and my writing, ditto, and the fact that neither fitted what they were seeking. As I’d tried all the publishers I thought would take my work, I was about to give up. My last fling was to write a book called ‘The Mistress Makeover’ for Harlequin Presents. I knew it wouldn’t succeed (I didn’t think I could write a good alpha hero) but after a writers’ workshop with Emma Darcy and Miranda Lee I was so enthused I had to try. The feeling of writing that story was incredible. The words flowed and I felt as if I’d come home. I felt that story as I never had before. It was still hard work but it felt right. A chunk of it placed in a contest but the editor didn’t request it. Nettled, I revised it again (I’d never revised so much) and sent it in to the slush pile. In early December 2005 I heard from Harlequin Mills and Boon that they wanted to buy it. I had to read the email 3 times before I believed it and I kept going back to the computer all day just to check I wasn’t hallucinating. The book was published a year later as ‘A Mistress for the Taking’.



Hellion: (You’re going to do great a keynote-speaking, if you haven’t been asked to do that yet. That’s a keynote story if I ever heard one!) You write the most breathtaking emotion. Is that just something that comes naturally to you, or do you layer it in with each draft? How many drafts do you write?



Annie: Wow, thanks, Hellion. That’s the loveliest compliment. Does it come naturally to me? It seems to but then maybe it’s something that’s developed over those long years of learning how to get a story down. The reason I’ve always loved a good romance (and a Presents story in particular) is that oomph of emotion – that physical whack of sensation in the solar plexus when you really feel for the characters and empathize with what’s happening to them – the highs and especially the lows. Maybe knowing that, I’ve always focused hard on trying to build that into the book. Not that it’s necessarily always easy, but it’s always been a priority for me.



I tend to get as much of that emotion as I can onto the page as I write the first draft. Sometimes it works better than others, but I’d much rather try to do that from the beginning than write something sketchy and return later to add the feelings in. To me those emotions are so integral they actually drive the scene and I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve intended to end a scene in a particular way, only to discover as I delve into the character’s feelings and their reactions to what’s happening, that something else entirely different (and much better) should happen. If I’d written a draft without that detail it wouldn’t be the characters driving the story, it would be me following a pre-determined plotline without their input. (I know this makes it sound like the characters are real in my head but it’s true). Attempting to include this emotional perspective from the start is also a great way to get to know your characters fast.



I do several drafts. I print off at least 3 versions for a complete read through, and some scenes get multiple makeovers. Later drafts have large chunks or chapters that are more or less untouched and other bits that have been reworked several times. If there’s a pacing problem, for instance, then I’ll hone in on that section and keep at it till I think it’s right. Some sections mightn’t change from the first draft. (I love those sections. There should be more of them).



Hellion: I wish I had more of those sections myself! *LOL* What is your new book (The Greek Tycoon’s Unexpected Wife) about, and what did you love most about writing it?



Annie: Most of all I loved the intensity of this story. For me that just sizzled, and I hope I managed to get some of that on the page. The emotions were so strong they drove the plot right from the start, even when I wasn’t sure what the plot was going to be. *grins* I was so excited when I first imagined Stavros and Tessa and the set up for this story. Stavros Denakis is a Greek tycoon with everything: wealth, power, status and a gorgeous fiancée. The night of his exclusive A-List party to celebrate his engagement he has an unexpected visitor – his wife. It was fun creating that appalling situation, then watching the fireworks go off! Stavros is used to getting his own way and he isn’t amused. He suspects his long lost wife is there to make trouble and milk him for cash. He and Tessa had only been together for the shortest of times, and he believed her dead. Now he realises he doesn’t know her at all. Tessa was great to write too, strong in a quiet, dignified way that makes him slowly rethink his attitude. To me they seemed to complement each other. The book is out now in North America as a mid month “Presents Extra” release.



Hellion: Awesome, I love the possible fireworks scenarios for that sort of scene! Hilarious! Stavros definitely sounds like a very broody, not to be thwarted hero. On your website, it says you always create “heroes who are always dark, brooding, demanding and extremely sexy” (of which I can concur!): have you always been in love with alphas? Who do you draw your inspiration from?



Annie: Ah, the quote from Penny Jordan. Isn’t it a ripper? I was so thrilled when I read that I had to put it on the site.



I love romances with heroes that sweep me right off my feet. I’d never thought about whether they were alphas before I started writing. I’ve enjoyed boy-next-door stories and others where the hero, though fantastic, wasn’t a really an alpha character, but there’s something about a strong hero (and I’m not necessarily talking about muscles) that always works for me. Interestingly, I used to think I couldn’t write an alpha hero (Anna Campbell, my crit partner, will remember me bemoaning the fact) till I tried my hand at it and loved it. What works best for me is a hero with a strong sense of honor, of right and wrong that he will abide by no matter what the cost to himself. That means my heroes aren’t the sort to throw their weight around for the sake of it. They have an inner core of decency that I can rely on even if sometimes their understanding of a situation may make them do something they later regret (and boy do they regret it). And I love a heroine who can stand up to the most powerful man around and hold her own! An alpha can have a touch of danger about him which fascinates me, especially as you wonder whether he’ll use the full force of that power to get what he wants.



Where do I get my inspiration? He laughs when I say it, but definitely my husband. Of course, I have to do a bit of additional research for my heroes – books and movies and fantastic leading men like Richard Armitage, Clive Owen and so on can definitely inspire. And, um, chocolate sometimes helps!



Hellion: Richard inspires us daily around here. Excellent research skills you have, Ms. West. *grins* Okay, now for a serious question: You’re marooned on an island and can only have one. Who would it be: Will Turner, Jack Sparrow or James Norrington?



Annie: All three! Oh dear, that makes me sound awful, doesn’t it? But I refuse to have just one. They all have something going for them. Don’t you think? Jack Sparrow has the presence, the panache, the bad boy charisma and he’d be a hoot to share a bottle of rum with. I might die of dehydration but I’d be laughing as I did. James Norrington – well I’ve always had a soft spot for the honorable, serious hidebound hero in hopes of uncovering the less straight-laced man beneath. Will Turner has grown on me. Between you and me I found him a little to, er, young for my taste but he matured beautifully and I love his absolute determination and jump-in-boots-and-all approach to life.



Hellion: *laughing* You’re definitely a pirate to take all three! And great justification for such greediness as well! Can you tell us what is coming out next for you?



Annie: Next is the ‘The Desert King’s Pregnant Bride’. It’s available in the UK in October, Australia/New Zealand in November and hopefully in North America soon after that (I’m waiting to hear). It’s about an ordinary, hardworking girl who works in a racing stable (I had fun researching that) who falls for an Arab prince with a difference. Khalid is scarred by his past but determined to do the right thing by the woman who is carrying his child. He’s strong, determined, honorable and not looking for love. It’s a marriage of convenience story…with a few twists. 



Hellion: Being you totally won me over with Sheikhs with the book you sent to me, I know this is going to be another winner. Plus, hello, horses. Okay, last question, then the crew can fire away. You and Anna Campbell (veteran Pirate) are good friends. Just what is a typical day with the two of you like when you get together?



Annie: Noisy! Anna, are you there? I’m smiling just thinking about us having a day together. Anna and I don’t live near each other so getting together is a real treat. A typical day would be talking too much, eating too much and washing it all down with something tasty. We wake early and chat while still in our PJs, which is brilliant. Sometimes breakfast and getting dressed don’t happen for hours or breakfast will turn into lunch. Often there’s critiquing, during which time Anna is positively dangerous (she’s been known to wave a cutlass at me when excited). We talk about plots or treat ourselves to an outing. Often we’ll end up people watching or window shopping (including looking in exclusive stores for stunning shoes for my heroine who’d landed herself a role as a rich man’s mistress). One of the best things about our days together is our tradition of great waterfront (of course) lunches. Before our ‘big breaks’ we promised ourselves a harbourside lunch to celebrate the acceptance of each new book. I pictured us giggling as we spoke about our books. Now we get to do it for real, not just imagine it!


Hellion: Thank you, Annie, you’ve been a wonderful interviewee! Okay, crew, fire away! What questions have you for Mad Annie Mizzenmast…er, I mean, the incomparable Annie West?