Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Character Profiling

Music Choice of the Week: Oblivion (Lacuna Coil, Shallow Life, 2009)



Effective communication just isn't your day to day conversations. You need effective communication conveyed through your characters to reach your readers.


About a month ago I attended a state conference for what I do as a day job. I needed to get some credit hours to make it seem like I keep up on the business. You could choose through a few different courses. I try to take something different every year depending on what's offered. This year I picked two courses that really interest me as a person, not to mention I wanted to see how one could effectively help me run an office. Personality Profiling was extremely interesting. I like to dig into what makes people tick, what traits are associated with certain personalities and how to deal and defuse situations based off those traits. The course was four hours. Best four hours I've ever spent in a conference room. I knew my type before I went in but the course instructor had a different test than the one I've taken before so I enthusiastically paid attention and honestly filled out the questions.


Still the same personality.


But you can really tell what type of personalty people have by the way they assert themselves with others, by the way they take a test, by the way they interact with the rest of the class and with the instructor. You could tell the course instructor was really paying attention to this detail. Fabulous information.


Next was my course on effective listening and communication. I took this course because I thought it would be a no-brainer for me. It's no secret I'm not much of a talker in life. But I like to listen. Listening gives me the chance to learn how to communicate with others on the off chance I have to do it. Listening allows me to learn how to make my characters interact with one another. Listening is the chance to just quiet observe others. Because let's face it, lots of people like to talk about themselves. They want to brag to anyone who will lend them an ear. And I might lend you that ear, and I might listen but that whole profiling thing from above? Yeah, I'm doing that while you're talking so I can give you exactly what you want to hear when you finish.


So I walk into the conference room with a few other gents and ladies and take my seat at the front. I learned this a long time ago. There are certain parts of the room where you can effectively listen from and take part in a conversation. The reverse triangle effect. I need direct eye contact to effectively listen and I sure as hell was going to pass this class. So to the front I went. Effective listening is just what you think it'd be. Making eye contact, being interested and invested into the conversation. Asking questions, taking mental notes so you can relate to the conversation.


Listening is an active exercise. If you're being lazy you aren't listening. How many times have you said, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I'm listening,” then two seconds later after the person walked away you think, “Now if only I could remember what they said.”


I can effectively listen all day. Then we get to a little exercise I'd like to call Hell. There are all types of listening. When dealing with people who have issues you need to dial in a little empathy to let them know you understand what the person is dealing with and want to help. I can relate to people. Some times. So it's no surprise the instructor calls upon me for a little exercise.

Instructor: Can you help me with something?

Me: Sure.

Instructor: Pretend I'm a teenage boy who just graduated high school. For my graduation present, my parents were supposed to buy me the brand new pick-up truck I wanted. Instead, they gifted me with a rusty old truck. How would you deal with that?

Me: Be glad they bought you anything. Thank them for being great parents to you. Stop being ungrateful for their generosity. Don't be a brat.


The Instructor waved that off. Several people in the course agreed and added a few more comments onto mine.


Instructor: Okay, let's try another one.

Me: Sure.

Instructor: Pretend I'm your best friend. I've applied for this job that I really want and I've interviewed twice for it. The interview process couldn't have gone better. I was made for this job. But I've just found out they gave it to another girl in my office.

Me: Obvious the girl was a better fit. Better luck next time.

Instructor: Flabbergasted.

Class: Stunned silent.


I shrug and go back to my seat. Obviously, this is why I don't have many girlfriends. Apparently, I'm lacking a whole bunch of empathy. Go figure. Remarks from instructor, “Great listener. Excellent memory. You need to work on your empathetic communication skills. Good luck.”


Bite me. I know a whole bunch of hand gestures. Do those count as empathetic communication?


So how does this work into writing? Easy. Your characters have to listen. Have to be able to communicate with one another to make the plot work. You have to weave personalities together and those people have to listen to one another. Breakdowns in communication happen all the time and everyone knows the consequences. Black moments, misunderstandings, the silent treatment. By learning how to effectively convey those abilities into our characters it gives the reader a sense of reality.


What kind of personality traits do your hero/heroine display? Do you know what type of personality you have?  And how does your personality play into the characters you write (or read)?
Sunday, August 28, 2011

Jack "KISS & Teal"s with Jenny Brown in a Star-Crossed Seduction

*camera shows Captain Jack Sparrow at a small round table with a purple gold-trimmed tablecloth. The tabletop has several old books and a crystal ball on it. Across the table from him is a beautiful, serene woman who looks at home anywhere*


JACK: Ladies and gentleman, we get to welcome back author Jenny Brown to the ship. If you’ll recall, Jenny is writing a series called Lords of the Seventh House. *kisses Jenny’s hand* What is the seventh house?


JENNY: *pulls her attention away from her hand, looking a bit less serene* The Seventh House is the part of an astrological chart that describes people with whom we have close, ongoing relationships, most notably our spouse. But it can also describe other people with whom we have an intense relationship—including declared enemies—which is relevant to the next book in this astrologically themed series, Star Crossed Seduction. The two Scorpio lovers in this tale have a very tough time figuring out whether they’ve found their soul mate or an enemy sent out to destroy them.


JACK: Lovers and Enemies are described by the same part of the chart, eh? I’ve had more than my share of both, come to think of it. Good thing Hellie and I don’t have an intense relationship. I just tell her what to do and she does it. It’s really more of a master and servant thing…oh, Hellie’s manning the camera again? Darling! I thought you were getting your much needed beauty sleep this morning? *clears throat* Moving on, Jenny my luv, what is your new book about?


JENNY: Seduction. Secrets. Loyalty. Betrayal. And a famed Indian jewel that has some very unique properties. The hero of Star Crossed Seduction is a captain in the cavalry, called Trev by his friends. He’s on leave from active service in India and heading out for a night on the town when he rescues a beautiful pickpocket from arrest. He figures she's the perfect choice for a few days of dalliance--beautiful, cunning, and completely disposable.


JACK: Sounds like just my kind of woman!


JENNY: Not so fast. The pickpocket has no intention of becoming some soldier’s plaything. Temperance is a runaway who’s left behind a life of privilege to pursue her revolutionary ideals—and if there’s one thing she hates it’s officers of the king. I’m sure you can understand that, Jack, having had your own share of issues with authority. In fact, you and Temperance have a lot in common, what with being irresistibly sexy and prone to get yourself into more than your share of situations that require a the use of finesse and charm to survive.


JACK: *preening* Good thing I also have more than my share of charm.


JENNY: When Trev gets her alone, Temperance uses her charm to draw him into a passionate kiss that makes him drop his guard so she can escape. But the kiss turns out to be more than either of them bargained for, and when two lonely Scorpios connect, watch out!


JACK: Two Scorpios. That is asking for trouble! I too am a man of many secrets, but I’m no Scorpio. What kind of hero does this Scorpio officer make? Do you recommend him as the ideal man?


JENNY:  Trev is ideal for a woman like Temperance, who lives life up to the hilt, and revels in action. He has courage and discipline and is capable of loyalty to the death. And, of course, he has those brooding, magnetic good looks Scorpios are notorious for. But what appeals to me most is that because he’s been in the thick of battle he also has that edge men get when they have spent a lot of time doing things that will kill them if they don’t get them just right.  Like you, Jack do.


JACK:  You say the sweetest things. But since you do seem to get what I’m about, why did you waste your time writing about this guy when you could have made me your hero?


JENNY: Because this is the Scorpio book, Jack. And unlike you, Trev is a Scorpio. Now the thing about Scorpios is that you really don’t want to play games with them or piss them off—but that’s exactly what Temperance does. And when that happens, suddenly Scorpio is no longer just about charm and courage. Now the key word is retaliation.


JACK:  Retaliation, eh. If this Trev of yours ever gets tired of the Army, you might suggest he try out a little pirating. We could use someone like him on the crew when things get dicey—or maybe not. The ladies would be falling all over themselves trying to get a piece of this Trev of yours. Nothing attracts women like a good looking man who can brood and seethe with resentment. I’m not sure I want the competition.


JENNY: He would provide that. Once he does give his heart he is well nigh irresistible. And did I mention that in his years in India he’s mastered Sanskrit and studied many of the classic texts, including the Kama Sutra?


JACK: *clearing throat again*  This book comes out on August 30, tomorrow—I understand that Avon is running a special promotion on your book? Would you care to tell me more about the promotion?


JENNY: September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness month, and Avon Books’ “KISS and Teal” books are part of an effort to make women aware of the symptoms of ovarian cancer. Avon has already made a donation to the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance and will be donating 25¢ from the sale of each copy sold of each book in the "KISS and Teal" promotion to OCNA. So when people buy Star Crossed Seduction—which like any author, I desperately hope they’ll do—their money will do a bit more than just enrich a couple large, faceless corporations.


JACK: I’m always trying to do my share for charity, especially when it comes to things I was going to buy anyway. Now if this KISS & Teal program worked with Tortugas rum—I could be a one man donation show. What will you publishing next?


JENNY: My next book, Perilous Pleasures, is the Pisces book in the series. The hero is a Scottish lord with a tragic past who has taken a vow of chastity after falling under the sway of a mysterious mystical master. I've paired him with a cynical Virgo who is the ugly daughter of a beautiful courtesan--the same courtesan the hero believes sent his sister to her death during the French Revolution.


JACK: Jenny, as always, you’ve been a wonderful, gracious interviewee. My last question before I turn the questioning over to you—I like to ask authors about their rainy day. It’s a rainy day, what are you wearing, what are drinking, and what are you reading?


JENNY: Depending on how much I’ve been drinking, I might not be wearing much at all, especially if I’ve been plied with liquor by a handsome devil like you. Rainy days are the perfect opportunity to do research, and let me tell you those hot sex scenes don’t write themselves. They require a lot of research.


JACK: Well if you need any help with that, my dear, just give me a whistle. Okay, crew, do you believe in star-crossed destiny? Are there any "sun signs" you avoid in particular because you know it just won't work out? Have you been with someone who was sun-sign not a match but you worked to make it work? Do you worry about your character's astrological charts ever? (Hellie does.) There are a lot of great books out on August 30--what will you be running out to get?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Arrrrrf Matey!

Today is National Dog Day.  I don't know what that means, exactly, but I heard it on NPR so it must be true.

I'm hoping my Pug, Basset Hound and Maltipoo don't know about it, or they'd be dropping hints about filet mingon marinated in peanutbutter and cat treats.  Anyway, it got me to thinking.  You never see a dog on pirate ships in the movies.  Why is that?  You'd think a dog would come in useful on a pirate ship.  Especially if it had one of those casks of rum around it's neck.

Sure, we have an undead monkey.  And I would never want to give up the undead monkey.  But it isn't National Undead Monkey Day.  It's National Dog Day.  So, I think we need to consider what kind of dog this ship should have.

Different breeds would have different uses - although any breed should be big enough to carry the aforementioned (and extremely necessary) keg or rum around it's neck.  We could have a sight hound, like an Afghan or Ibizan - they could spot land and other ships.  The Afghan's hair would be a problem unless we let it go to dreds.

A giant mastiff or rottweiler would be useful in combat.  And they have those big, bicycle seat heads that would hold a huge tri-corn hat rather nicely.  A scent hound (like my basset) could be trained to sniff out rum on any ships we plunder.  And their big, square feet would help them stay upright on deck.

I'm going to have to draw the line at chihuahuas though.  They simply aren't strong enough to hold that cask of rum.

I think we are all going to have to give this some serious consideration...

Happy National Dog Day!

The Assassin

We Have a Lucky Winner!

Thank you kindly for visiting yesterday! It was great having Jill Shalvis aboard. I had random.org pick me a number from 1-43 and the generator drew lucky number:




JV, please email me at: magnificentsin @ aol . com  (without the spaces of course!) and I'll get you hooked up with Jill Shalvis  for your free book!
Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Glam and Exciting Life of a Romance Writer with Jill Shalvis!

Hey Pirates, Wenches, Crew and Lurkers! It's Sin and today I have the extreme honor and pleasure of welcoming aboard New York Times Bestseller and recent RITA award  winning author Jill Shalvis. She was gracious enough to take time out of her busy schedule to tell us a bit about how her daily life really goes. (Seriously, the woman has bionic fingers- three books are coming out before December. Animal Attraction (Book 2 to Animal Magnetism), Head over Heels (Book 3 in her Lucky Harbor series) and Christmas in Lucky Harbor (which is the 2-1 of Simply Irresistible and The Sweetest Thing.) So please raise your rum tankards high in the air and welcome aboard Jill Shavis!

People ALWAYS ask me about my research. I’ll get: how do you write those scenes (with a wink, wink). The truth is, it’s the other parts that are the hardest (no pun intended). Creating the tension in daily situations, the character building …

But the other day I had a new and exciting experience in research. I’m currently writing a story with a hero who rides a motorcycle. A Harley to be exact. And since I knew NOTHING about this, I decided I needed to ride a Harley …

Hmm, riding a Harley . . . For some reason I didn’t think this would be a big deal. But first I had to find someone who was willing to be subjected to all sorts of stupid questions (doesn’t that leather chafe?) and then get him to give me a ride.

So I found a guy, through a friend of a friend of a friend. I called home and got Alpha Man on the line and said “don’t worry but I’m going on a date this afternoon with a leather-wearing, badass Harley driving dude. Okay?"

Now Alpha Man, well used to my occupation, didn’t bat an eye. “Wear a helmet” was his only comment. “And don’t forget to get milk on the way home.”

Fine. So I’d forgotten to pick up milk three days running and the kids were whining about not being able to eat cereal. That seemed insignificant in the light of this exciting adventure. So I said “I’m not kidding, you know. I’m really going riding on a Harley.”

“Is the life insurance paid up?” he asked.


I did get my ride, and wow, there is something about the power of the beast between your legs and the roar of the engine and the danger and the wind in your hair . . . And the bugs in your teeth.

Afterwards I found myself grateful to get back into my car, thinking maybe I’m not quite as adventurous as I’d thought.

Oh, and I remembered to get milk on the way home. The glamorous, sexy lifestyle of a writer …

Oh and P.S. … I’m going to be doing a giveaway VERY soon so make sure to stop by my site (http://www.jillshalvis.com) and sign up for my newsletter, and if you have Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/jillshalvis) , come “like” me to be entered.

Grab a drink and pull up to the bar! Jill will be here to answer questions today! One lucky commenter will receive a copy of Simply Irresistible! (Paper or e-format. Winner's choice.)
Sunday, August 21, 2011

I Love to K.I.S.S. & Teal

I went along to my Dad’s doctor’s appointments on Thursday, and to keep myself distracted from dark thoughts that the doctors might have bad news, I took an old faithful with me: a romance novel. The book in question for this day was Cathy Maxwell’s THE SEDUCTION OF SCANDAL. Historical romance? Check. Gorgeous cover? Check. Fun and reliable trope? Check. I was off to a brilliant start.


Despite my worries, the time flew because the story was so engrossing and a perfect distraction. At one point of the day, Dad and I were eating together and I had to make myself put it away. It was hard because I wanted to know how the story was going to work out. The villain(s) were dreadful. I was very invested in the outcome of the hero and heroine.


After I took Dad home, I turned on some little league baseball for him and put the book to my nose. I read as fast as I could, even with Dad interrupting me every ten minutes to say I could switch the channel if I wanted to watch something else. “No,” I said, “this is fine. I’m almost done. I want to finish this book.” So he left me be and I got to The End. It was a very satisfying ending for me. I put it down and smiled.


Dad asked, “Did it turn out like you wanted?”


“Yes,” I said, “exactly like I wanted.”


Therefore, if you too like escapist fiction of the historical variety with a gorgeous cover (I love the hero on this cover) and a fun trope, run out and read THE SEDUCTION OF SCANDAL. If you love highwaymen and a little rousing about the countryside that reminds you of the Headless Horseman, run out and read THE SEDUCTION OF SCANDAL. If you love heroes who are a little more beta and thoughtful than the average alpha, but also has a delicious alpha side—run out and read THE SEDUCTION OF SCANDAL. If you like heroines who are determined to rescue themselves; secondary characters who are so real they nearly pour you a spot of tea; and a horse you just want to root for: run out and read THE SEDUCTION OF SCANDAL.


This month, Avon has seven books for their K.I.S.S. & Teal promotion. The program donates much needed money to the research and awareness of ovarian cancer. Not only is the book I read great, but the books to choose from also include Caroline Linden, whose book ONE NIGHT IN LONDON was featured a week or so ago here and we will be interviewing Jenny Brown about her STAR-CROSSED SEDUCTION on August 29th. I’m sure like me, you will also want to be adding their books to your TBR pile.


Books we haven’t yet featured, but I have a feeling most of us will be gushing about anyway in the weeks to come are: Lynsay Sands’ THE DEED (which is about one woman’s quest to get laid—who knew red-blooded men could be so disobliging? But don’t worry: we know she’s going to find a hero who will fulfill her every wish); Stephanie Laurens’ VISCOUNT BRECKENRIDGE TO THE RESCUE (which features some kidnapping, so you know that will be fun. Kidnappers are almost always sorry for kidnapping the typical intrepid historical heroine. Gotta read that!); Katharine Ashe’s IN THE ARMS OF A MARQUESS (which features my favorite trope: a mouthy spinster, since that’s exactly what I am; and a hero named Ben. I’m sorry, but I just love men named Ben. This is going into the cart); and last but not least, Tessa Dare’s A NIGHT TO SURRENDER (we’ve all been drooling for her next series, haven’t we? And MORE spinsters! I’m so happy!)


This September, I plan to do my part with the K.I.S.S. & Teal program and read-read-read. It’s an easy, ignore-the-dishes-and-children job, but I’m willing to do my share. I hope you are able to do the same. There is no shortage of great books to pick from.


QUESTION OF THE DAY: What book are you most looking forward to this Fall? What tropes do you most adore in romances? How do you like to distract yourself?
Thursday, August 18, 2011

Pick A Villain Day!

Step right up and spin the wheel of villainhood!

I do love a good villain, no oxymoron intended. To me, a good villain has no redeeming qualities. I’m a black/black/black villain sort of writer. I don’t want anyone looking on my villains with anything but hard eyes and worry about what they have in mind for the helpless populace (seeing how I tend to write end of the world stories.)

No namby-pamby oh, he had a father who beat him stuff. Poor guy! It’s not his fault he visits animal shelters to find puppies he can train his pit bulls with, he was scared by a Chihuahua when he was a toddler!


Nope, my bad guys are bad guys. I might toss in a sidekick who isn’t all bad. I’ve even visited alternate worlds where villains redeemed themselves, or future lives where they had a chance to do good.

But in the present? Nope, bad, bad, bad. I like a good nasty villain. I’ll make him smart, wickedly intelligent and diabolical. And I love the ones who aren’t technically breaking the law but who are nevertheless doing massive damage. And I love going totally apocalyptic on their asses.

A real nasty villain deserves a h/h who will deservedly and without reservation beat them senseless. None of this ‘we’ll let justice take care of him’. Uh uh.

In the movie Taken, Liam Neeson is on a race to find his daughter, adducted by white slavers. He finds the man who just sold his daughter, who pleads for his life, “It wasn’t personal, it’s just business.” Liam replies, “It is to me.” Then blows the guy away. I cheered.

Yup. I figure it’s hard on h/h to do terrible things but as far as I’m concerned, wreck vengeance.

It helps if villains are totally black, like mine!

Now, your turn, how do you like your villains?

We Have Not-So-Grim Winners!!

Thanks to Random. Org, we have two winners from the Darynda Jones guest blog. Thanks to everyone who stopped by and commented.

For the audio book (compliments of Macmillan) of SECOND GRAVE ON THE LEFT…

JOAN SWAN!!! (She declared she’d LOVE the audio book and it’s like the universe was listening. Or at least Random.org was.)

And for the signed hardcover (compliments of the authoress herself) of SECOND GRAVE ON THE LEFT we have…

ASHLEY YOUNG!!! (A true and deserving fan!)

Congratulations, ladies. Email your snail mail and contact info to me at DJTLO at YAHOO dot COM and I’ll forward to the appropriate channels.

Thanks once again to Darynda and everyone who hopped aboard for the day. We hope you’ll come back!

PS: The hottie is just decoration. I may decorate all my blogs in this fashion going forward.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Dancing Through The Graves with Darynda Jones




Today is more a spotlight than a guest blog. This lady made the mistake of wading close enough to the ship for me to cast a line and reel her in. Thankfully, she was as excited to join us as I was to have her on board. Celebrating (and pimping, cause that’s what we do!) her sophomore release SECOND GRAVE ON THE LEFT pull up a rum keg and settle in for some interesting characters who literally live on the edge of life. I give you award winning author, Darynda Jones!


Thank you so much for having me on Romance Writers Revenge!!!


I’m so honored to be here and to have the opportunity to talk about the Charley Davidson series. It’s basically about a female PI who was born with a rather odd job title. She’s the grim reaper. With her special set of skills, she solves mysteries for both the living and the dead, and of course attracts all kinds of trouble in the process.


On Tuesday the second in the series came out, and I’ve been over the moon. And a little exhausted. SECOND GRAVE ON THE LEFT picks up one week after the first in the series, FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT, takes place and starts off running. There is a missing woman, a string of murders, a dark love interest who is butting heads with Charley through the whole book, and several unfortunate attempts on Charley’s life.


I will say that the books are pretty fast-paced with multiple plots running at the same time, but the story lines are not hard to keep straight. One of the things I set out to do with this series was to create a female character that readers could root for. I’m hoping Charley is that character. She is part Buffy, part Stephanie Plum, and part Lorelei Gilmore from the Gilmore Girls. And let’s face it, with that combination, she’s bound to get into any number of disastrous situations. As a magnet for trouble, both eliciting it and causing it, she has to use her smarts and sarcastic wit to get out of a plethora of tight situations.  


In First Grave on the Right, which came out in February, Charley discovered the identity of an entity who has followed her all her life and who shows up at the most opportune times, mostly to rescue her from whatever mess she’s gotten herself into. Turns out this man of mystery is just as much of a mystery now as he was when she first discovered him, and in Second Grave, there is no limit to the amount of grief he causes her. Each time they meet, the struggle begins anew and the heat index rises. But that tends to happen when dating the son of Satan.


Writing the second novel in the series turned out to be a bit trickier than I’d expected. Any book in a series has to read as a stand-alone. No ifs, ands, or butts. So bringing in all that back-story without boring those who read the first one took some time. I’m certain my editor has a few more gray hairs thanks to me. But one thing I did learn through all of this is not to mess with my “process.” I’m a plotter. Period. When I even try to write without plotting, I get about three pages in and then get stuck. So for me, pansters are these mad, mysterious creatures who surely glow in the dark and can eat chocolate without gaining an ounce. I find them fascinating. You know, like fireflies. But, again, I do not mess with my process. I have it down pretty pat.


First Grave was my third complete manuscript. It won an RWA Golden Heart in 2009 and sold to St. Martin’s Press in a three-book deal along with a YA series, the first of which comes out in April 2012, also a three-book deal. (I have a spectacular agent. J) First Grave has also sold to CBS for the CW. And more recently, First Grave was given starred reviews from the Library Journal and Booksense while Second Grave had the honor of getting a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly. Woot! And THIRD GRAVE DEAD AHEAD is coming out next Janurary.


 This has been such a fun series to write, and I hope it’s just as fun to read. Charley is a handful, but along with her best friend, Cookie, her detective uncle, Bob, and a skeptic skip tracer who has her back more often than she’d like to admit, she is able to solve cases for both the living and the dead while functioning at almost a normal level. Normal being a subjective term.


Thanks SO much again!!!

Winner of the 2009 Golden Heart® for Best Paranormal Romance for her manuscript FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT, Darynda was born spinning tales of dashing damsels and heroes in distress for any unfortunate soul who happened by, annoying man and beast alike. After the Golden Heart final, she pimped herself as best she could, landed an amazing agent and sold to St. Martin’s Press in a three-book deal. Darynda lives in the Land of Enchantment, also known as New Mexico, with her husband of more than 25 years and two beautiful sons, aka the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys. She can be found at www.daryndajones.com.

Darynda is being extra generous today! Up for grabs to one lucky commenter is a signed hardcover copy of SECOND GRAVE ON THE LEFT! How do you feel about jumping into the middle of a series? And what would you do if you suddenly found yourself filling the job of grim reaper?

EVEN MORE BOOTY: MacMillan Audio has also offered a FREE AUDIOBOOK COPY of SECOND GRAVE ON THE LEFT to one lucky commenter as well. So that's TWO prizes you have a chance to win! Comment away!


The Sexy Booty Goes To....


Yes, Sin is the lucky winner of Jenn LeBlanc's THE RAKE AND THE RECLUSE. Now she has a good book and some purty pictures to keep her entertained up there in the Crow's Nest.

Congrats, Sin!!!

PS: No idea who this hottie is to the right but I found him lingering in my computer and he so exemplifies Sin's (and our) favorite area, I thought I'd throw him in as a prize as well.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Fantabulous Picture Perfect Interview with Jenn LeBlanc and the Fabulous Captain Jack Sparrow

We all know there’s been a ton of buzz and change and upheaval in the publishing industry lately, and today we’re going to spotlight one more change on the horizon. The good news is, this is an awesome, painless change that will make all your hunky hero dreams come true. Today we welcome Romance author, Jenn LeBlanc who did more than fill a book with a beautiful, well-told story. She literally brought the book to life. She’s a pioneer, a trend-setter, and damn generous with the man-candy.

Our own Fabulous Captain Jack Sparrow sits down with Ms. LeBlanc to get all the details on her debut release THE RAKE AND THE RECLUSE as well as the author herself. Take it away, Jack!

CJS: I’m ready for my close up!

Bo’sun: What are you talking about Jack?

CJS: I was told a photographer was coming aboard today. I knew those cover people would eventually realize I was the perfect model. You put this face *points at himself, nearly puts out an eye* on a cover and those books will fly off the shelves.

Bo’sun: Jenn is a photographer, but she’s here to talk about her book. You’re interviewing her, not posing for her.

CJS: But I bathed!

Bo’sun: *crooks a brow* Having the Undead Monkey throw a bucket of water on you does not qualify as a bath. *hands over cards mixed with photographs* Here are the questions. I’ve mixed in some of the images from Jenn’s book so you can talk about them.

CJS: *flipping through pictures* Since when do your Romance novels have pictures in them?

Bo’sun: Since Jenn LeBlanc wrote an awesome book and brought it to life by including images. Now get ready, here she comes.

CJS: But these are all men. And they’re barely wearing any clothes. *flips to another picture* Good God, woman, this man isn’t wearing anything at all. Why, I can almost see his-

Bo’sun: Good morning, Ms. LeBlanc. We are so excited to welcome you aboard The Revenge. The buzz about your debut has been fluttering our sails for weeks.

Jenn: Why thank you, thank you! I’m excited to be here! *looks around* Very cozy! Who is that up in the Crow’s Nest?

Bo’sun: That’s Sin, our International Ninja of Mystery. Don’t look her in the eye and you’ll be fine. Now, just have a seat right here and Jack will get started with the questions. I’ll be right back with your drink. *eyes Jack, nods head toward his chair, glares until he sits down*

CJS: Yes, welcome, Ms. LeBlanc. I’m intrigued by a woman with not only an ear for a fine word, but an eye for *flips another picture, grimaces* inspiring images.

Jenn: Don’t be jealous Jack, I’d be happy to have you in my studio for a play date. What do you say? You bring the abs, I’ll bring the talent? I might need some rum as well.

CJS: I’m not sure what those “abs” things are, but I never go anywhere without me rum, darling. We’ll work out the details after the interview, else Bo’sun will have both our heads. So, where did you get the idea for your book and did you always know you would include the images? Tell us about the story.

Jenn: I woke up from a dream with the first line in my head “She ran as if the hounds of hell were on her.” I could see that first scene and wanted to know why she was running. So I figured I better start writing so I could find out. I had NO IDEA I was going to illustrate this book. Heck, I had no idea I was going to finish this book. I just started…and kept going.

After I got the beginning down I wondered what it would be like, to be me stuck back then and that’s how it ended up a time travel historical. I really wanted to play with the fish out of water idea. I ended up falling head over heel for both of my heroes, Gideon and Perry, as well as Gideon’s Francine.

CJS: Two heroes, you say? Is this one of *leans close and whispers* those books?

Jenn: *one brow raised* No Jack, they’re brothers. This is the story of Gideon and Francine, she is a 21st century woman trapped in Victorian England, and he is a Victorian Duke trapped by his own past and propriety. I really like to think of it as Gideon’s story, he goes through such an incredible journey in the book, everyone loves how he grows and changes.

CJS: And what kind of response are you getting so far? *flips to another picture, chokes* If the wenches see these pictures, you’re not likely to get them back.

Jenn: Hey, the wenches can have them, that’s what they’re for. I like to share, just ask my fans. The majority of the people absolutely love the idea, I mean the romance novel cover is a 20th century icon. This is that icon on steroids, for the 21st century. I get some snickers and snide comments *narrows eyes at Jack* but once they see the project (and Derek) they really are blown away by the scope and breadth of it.

Bo’sun: *setting steaming teacup next to Ms. LeBlanc and glancing over Jack’s shoulder* Oh, that’s my favorite. He can share my hammock any day.

CJS: *glares up at Bo’sun*

Jenn: Heh. Page 187? *winks* mmm good tea.

CJS: How do you go about deciding what images you want and how to get them?

Jenn: It was easy for me, knowing the book as well as I do. I knew what scenes stood out for me, and I knew what pieces of the story in particular I wanted to highlight. I also knew what my readers would like to see. Eh-hem. The difficult part was finding my hero. I could never have done it without the fabulous Derek Hutchins.

CJS: *looks at pictures* This Derek boy isn’t shy, is he? I am available if you ever want a real pirate to make the ladies swoon. *Ignores Bo’sun choking off stage* This card says you’ve traveled to distant lands in your capacity as photographer. Where have the winds taken you? Do you have a favorite port of call?

Jenn: Oh yes, last year I actually covered the BP Gulf Oil Spill for three weeks. It was horrific and very difficult to witness, but the people in the Gulf were incredible. They were welcoming, resilient, helpful— just amazing people. I think you would like them Jack. They know how to throw a good party, even when the chips are down. Find a pot of mudbugs and a tankard of ale and it’s all good.

CJS: We do try to keep the bugs out of the ale aboard ship, so maybe keep those at a distance. This card says you weren’t raised in what Bo’sun calls a conventional household. Were you by chance raised by pirates? It did wonders for me.

Jenn: Sometimes I think it was a pack of wild dogs, so we might have much in common. In fact, pirate ships do tend to collect the unwanted people in this world, and that’s what my family was. My parents took in the unadoptable foster kids. The ones that had such dire issues that nobody wanted to keep them. It was always an adventure. Bunk house style.

CJS: Sounds like a motley crew to me. Which is a compliment, by the way. What can we expect from you next? *glances to next picture, smiles* Ah, finally, a beautiful woman. Will there be more of these illustrated books?

Jenn: Absolutely. I’m working on Perry’s story now— my fans are helping me with the casting. It has been a LOT of fun. You can follow along too Capt’n Sparrow— do you tweet? Just follow the hashtag #castingPerry on Twitter and whenever I post a prospect to my tumblr you’ll see it!

CJS: Tweet, you say? I’ll have to talk to Bo’sun about that. They get all hand slappy around here every time I touch one of those computers they’re always carrying around.

Bo’sun: You infected the network!

CJS: ONCE! Not the most forgiving lot on this ship. Now a quick quiz to help the crew really get to know you. Pantser or Plotter?

Jenn: Pantser!! Heck yes. No maps here, eh Jack? Just my magic compass.

CJS: Morning person or night owl?

Jenn: Night owl for sure.

CJS: Top hammock or bottom hammock?

Jenn: I like it on top. You get a better sway up there when the ride is rough.

CJS: *chokes – gains composure* Rum or vodka?

Jenn: Rum, as long as it’s full of fruity goodness.

CJS: Thigh highs or nothing at all.

Bo’sun: Jack!

Jenn: *giggle*

CJS: I should get to ask one of my own. *sniffs* Fine. We’ll turn you over to the crew. Is there something you’d like to ask them to get us started?

Jenn: Help me out with my casting! What is your favorite feature in a man. Now, we are talking about pictures here so let’s get our male objectification pants on and have at it. None of these great personality traits, I concede personality. Let’s talk assets and abs.

EDITED TO ADD: I'm a goober!! Totally forgot to mention Jenn has been generous enough to offer up a free copy of THE RAKE AND THE RESCLUSE to one lucky commenter. Now you could have all the pictures in your hot little hands!!
Thursday, August 11, 2011


I was chatting with my sister a few weeks ago about the
epidemic of pessimism that seems to exist in my family.

Yes, I’m a closet pessimist. I fight it, but it’s deeply
embedded in my DNA. Probably why I take the opposite tack as much as possible.
I mean, it’s exhausting! And I have better things to do than focus on the great
whack-a-mole bat poised above me all the time.

But I know it’s there.

Yup. You know that one. It’s more subtle than the inner
critics. ICs are easier to deal with. Toss them to the Kraken and keep my hands
on the wheel.

But the bat…that’s more like the wind and there is no
telling how it will blow.

Or to use the whack-a-mole metaphor, when that bat will
smack down on you…the moment you think… “Oh! Sunshine! I want to feel sunshine
on my nose and whiskers…” And you carefully pop up to sample the sweet
weather…and the bat hits. Like lightening, suddenly, your whiskers are bent,
your nose hurts and you’re dizzy.

(Mixing a lot of metaphors today, ain’t I?)

My sis and I were going back and forth about how hard it is
to relax and enjoy good fortune… In my family, and I’m sure, for a lot of
people, we tend to look sideways at good fortune. Wondering where the stick
is…nothing good happens without a ‘trick’ involved. That sort of thinking. And
when you have a run of good luck, you tend to hold it close, for fear that if
you crow about it you’ll attract the attention of the gods, who will smack you for

I have no idea where this mindset came from. My parents
didn’t use the old bait and trick crap. No trickery of any sort. But maybe a
touch of fatalism? Just not sure, really.

(I do think it may just be part of the Irish psyche.)

But let’s face it, right now I think all of America is
running scared with this sort of thinking. The economic recovery, however you
look at it, leaves us all looking over our shoulder…waiting for that bat to
come out and smack us if we peek out of our safe little holes.

Though living in a hole really isn’t all that safe, or
scenic, or life affirming. Wow, it is hard to look beyond it.

I’m published, but keep waiting for the bat. I look at my
slow sales and feel that this is the bat, right there. Should have never let
myself feel good…see? That’s what comes of thinking things were looking up.


Yeah, that’s me, slapping myself. I really hate feeling this
way and know it does no good…in fact, it can attract more bad luck! Ha! There I
go again! I can spin good luck into a magnet for bad luck and I can spin bad
luck as a way to attract more bad luck!

It’s a gift.

Or is that a curse?

How do you feel about
this metaphor? Are you the bat, always missing the moles, who laugh at you? Or
are you the mole, peering into the sky, knowing that bat is out there?
Tuesday, August 9, 2011

How High Are Your Stakes?

Every story needs stakes, the higher the better.

It took me a while to understand this concept. A long time ago, when an agent called to talk with me about one of my manuscripts, she said my stakes were about a 4.7, and I needed to ratchet them up to an 11. I realized I was striving to give my characters a breezy, conflict-free life filled with rainbows and lollipops, which is understandable, except it makes for a less-than-compelling story.

When a story has high stakes, the characters have to make difficult choices. Each option has unbearable consequences, but with darn good reasons for being that way. Characters naturally want to go with the easy alternative, but they aren't allowed to, because there aren't any easy alternatives.  

This provides built-in tension, and the reader stays around because he/she wants to know which impossible choice the character will ultimately make. If it's a choice the reader knows the character doesn't WANT to make, but HAS to, there is also built-in sympathy for the character.

I have an example of this from a TV show I watch, called Flashpoint, which is about a SWAT team in Canada (known as the "Strategic Response Unit", or SRU). I love the characters, and the way they joke about being important enough to wear the "cool pants", as well as their heroism and bravery in a variety of emotionally tough situations.

In one episode, the SRU team is desperately trying to stop a madman who is intent on blowing up the city, potentially harming hundreds of people. As one of the team members approaches the building where the suspect is hiding, he steps on a landmine.

It's easy to understand the awfulness of this scenario, even without seeing the character's response when he hears the click under his boot. There are definitely some high stakes here. If he lifts his foot, he blows up. Even though he is in tiptop physical shape, there's a certain limit to how long he can stay motionless in that one position.

After watching this show for many weeks, I've gotten used to this team getting themselves, and others, out of impossible situations. They are used to it, too, and they respond as they always do, not even worried about the outcome. One of the other team members is best friends with this guy, and the episode opened with them just back from a vacation together, laughing as they showed pics of their antics to the rest of the team.

The best friend races around trying to find ways to fix this horrible situation, and I'm on the edge of my seat fervently hoping it can work out. I tell myself the SRU team has proven time and time again they can rescue people from dire situations. I don't even want to consider the possibility that it won't work out. It has to work out, because I want everything to be okay for these people I care about.

However, it soon becomes clear that the available solutions aren't working. It's not possible to fix this, and everyone but the best friend acknowledges it--including the man standing on the land mine. He doesn't want to admit it, but he knows. And he's aware he has a decision to make, choosing between two horrifying possibilities.

He can lift his foot and be killed instantly.

Or he can stay put and let his best friend continue the risky maneuver of moving something on top of the land mine, in the remote hope that it will work and not blow up both of them.

Those are some Level 11 high stakes. The kind that have you wishing there was a Door #3 to choose instead.

However, high stakes don't always have to literally involve "life or death". In my characters' lives, "life or death" is a little different, with "life" being the new direction they take, and "death" being the end of the old life they hold on to so tightly, before they encountered the person they love and everything changed so drastically.

Still, high stakes come with an emotional cost, no matter which choice is made. That is what keeps us glued to the book, maniacally turning the pages, worried about the land mines threatening to detonate the characters' hearts. We have a stake in the outcome now, too, because we've invested our own emotions in the story.

So what kind of stakes have you given your characters? What choices do they face, and what are the consequences of each option? How do you make the stakes even higher?
Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Fabulous Captain Jack Sparrow Is Invited to Ruin With Bronwen Evans

JACK: Welcome to a new season of Fabulous Interviews with the Fabulous Captain Jack Sparrow. *Orbitz tooth smile at camera* As you can tell behind me we are docked in the beautiful and incomparable New Zealand, where it is not hot as blazes. *camera zooms to find Bo’sun wearing three scarves and heating herself with a space heater* Today we’re here—not just because we’re all hobbits fans—


HELLIE: Jack, you do know Middle Earth is not actually located here.


JACK: And J.R.R. Tolkien is the best fantasy writer ever, but New Zealand is also the location of another writer, who writes about my favorite topics in real life: rogues, scandal and ruin. And my favorite of all of these: easily persuaded women. Please welcome Bronwen Evans to the ship! *applause*


BRONWEN: *Smile cautiously. Think to myself – I hope I’m not that easy! Besides I like a man that has to work at seduction.*


Hello Captain Jack, thanks for welcoming me aboard. As New Zealand consists of two main islands, surrounded by sea, I’m used to dealing with sailors and of course cheeky Pirates. So watch yourself.


JACK: Lady Bronwen, it’s a pleasure to meet you finally. Come please sit here on my lap. It will be slightly scandalous, but I promise not to lead you to ruin. *gives come hither smile and looks up through his lashes, his promises clearly bunk* And while you’re here, you can tell me all about your book, Invitation to Ruin. *pats his knee invitingly*


BRONWEN: *Sigh – don’t look at his ‘come to bed eyes’, you’ve got an interview to get through.*


INVIATION TO RUIN is the story of the Lord of Wicked, Anthony James Craven, the Earl of Wickham, who is a notorious rake, with a reputation as a bad boy. He lives for pleasure, namely to block the horror of his upbringing. He has no intention of marrying and settling down like a good heir should, because he thinks bad blood flows in his veins.  He’s determined to see his angelic looking twin brother, Richard, provide the family heir. Richard, feeling guilty for escaping his father’s hedonistic attentions is equally determined to see his older brother happy, and he thinks he knows how to make that happen.  A little trickery and a wicked bet find the Lord of the Wicked betrothed.


Up to now, Miss Melissa Goodly has led a lonely and thankless life. So, when her brother propels her into the marriage shark pool, she’s determined on one outcome – to marry for love. But any hope of that dissolves one wild night, when she loses herself in the arms of the most irresistible-and unobtainable-man in all of England - Anthony. For when they are discovered in a position as compromising as it is pleasurable, she has no choice but to accept his proposal.


Anthony decides it will be a marriage of duty and nothing more until the vows are spoken and they are left alone-and his new bride reveals a streak just as brazen and unrestrained as his own...


JACK:  *winks at the audience* Didn’t I tell you this place has the best authors? Come now, Bronwen, I would love it if you’d ruin me. Why don’t you tell me how you do that? Slowly and with lots of detail. *a hardback book flies through the air and clips Jack in the back of the head* Ouch! What—oh, um, I mean, why don’t you tell us more about your hero? *deadpan voice* We’re all dying to hear about him.


BRONWEN: Anthony is a wounded and deeply tortured alpha male, who’s as sexy as hell. Women are, equally scared, and titillated by him, and he has no trouble finding willing partners to share his bed. There is no doubt that Invitation to Ruin is a dark romance. My hero, Anthony, has had a terrible childhood and is not going to be a cheerful, happy rake. But that is what makes the book so appealing. He has such a struggle to come to terms with his past, but he has the biggest heart imaginable, and rises above his background to overcome the emotional torture of his early life.


JACK: Yes, yes, he sounds perfect. Moving on. Let’s hear more about your heroine. Persuasive actually? Do you think she might fantasize about pirates? Because I’d be more than willing to make her--*book hitting Jack* Ufff. Yes, the heroine?


BRONWEN: Melissa is an ahead of her time, intelligent and determined woman. She thinks about the Society she lives in, and tries to change it for the better. She is head of the Woman’s Freedom League – women who buy slaves their freedom. She understands that ownership of a human being is wrong, and that ‘marriage’ for most women is a form of slavery. She has no rights of her own, has no way of supporting herself on her own, and she is trapped in a life she has little ability to change. Her self-awareness is what makes her who she is. She fights against Society’s bindings however she can, and then, when she has no choice, she decides to make her life over to one she wants – a life of love.


JACK: *looking around for possible book missiles* Excellent, excellent. She sounds…very heroine-y. It sounds like you’re fond of characters with flaws—and while I wouldn’t know about that since I am without flaws—I thought maybe you could talk about your favorite flaws to write about? How do you come up with flaws to make your characters well-rounded?


BRONWEN: Flaws are fascinating because most people don’t always recognize their flaws – a bit like you Jack! Anthony’s flaw is that he thinks he’s unlovable and unworthy. I love characters who have to dig deep to understand themselves. I love a big strong alpha male hero with hidden insecurities that a strong heroine brings to the surface. It’s the love between them that helps conquer and makes them accept themselves – flaws and all.


JACK: What is next for the lovely Lady Bronwen? What will be out on shelves next?


BRONWEN: The second book INVITATION TO SCANDAL of the five books ‘INVITATION TO’ series will be out early next year. It’s Rufus Knight, Viscount Strathmore’s story – Anthony’s friend in book one. Book three, INVITATION TO DESIRE, is Richard’s story and he ends up with Rufus’s sister Madeline.


JACK: The favorite question on this ship is the Call—what is your Call story, and what bit of advice would you give to struggling pirate writers?


BRONWEN: Hmmm – I started writing in June 2006, when I joined Romance Writers of New Zealand and RWA. I spent three years learning my craft and taking as many online romance writing courses that I could find. I also fell into the beginners’ trap of starting loads of stories (that’s easy) for contests and not finishing them. My critique partner told me, ‘you can’t sell what you haven’t finished.’ So in 2009 I sat down and finally finished INVITATION TO RUIN in November 2009. I submitted a query at beginning of December to several editors and agents (Melissa Jeglinski at The Knight Agency signed me – I meet her and pitched the book to her at the RWNZ 2009 conference). The query resulted in full and partial requests. On December 18th I got a call from Megan Records in New York saying she loved the first three chapters and could I send her the rest as she ‘might like to buy it’. I was so excited. I don’t think I slept properly until the 7th January 2010 when I sold it in a two book deal to Kensington. My first completed book. Do I love my critique partners advice or what?


My advice to fellow writers is to learn your craft. If you are struggling with one aspect of writing, don’t be scared to INVEST in learning. Keep writing. Also get yourself a great critique/support group. I’m lucky to have found that from a group of writers within RWNZ. Join your local RWA chapter, meet other writers.


But most importantly, keep writing and when you think you are ready, SUBMIT. Most editors buy from submissions, not from contest wins.


JACK: Lady Bronwen, it’s been a pleasure to have you in my lap this afternoon. Do feel free to come by the ship and sit in my lap anytime you like. Do you have any questions or comments for the crew?


BRONWEN: *Wiggles and notices just how much Captain Jack’s enjoying it – ooooh!*


If you were captured by a Pirate what flaw would you like them to have and how would you help them overcome it?


Let me know and two lucky commenter’s will win a signed copy of INVITATION TO RUIN. (open worldwide).
Thursday, August 4, 2011

Captain Jack Sparrow Interviews the Fabulous Caroline Linden!

Welcome to another fabulous interview with the Fabulous Captain Jack Sparrow!  Today’s guest is a RITA-nominated, award-winning author for Avon Romance.  Her adventure-packed historicals had Julia Quinn raving that she “touches every emotion.”

On a personal note, she’s the very best mentor this aspiring romance writer could have ever asked for.

Without further adieu, I give you the incomparable Caroline Linden and Captain Jack!


*Fade to the Revenge, anchored on the Charles River in Boston.  Captain Jack and a lovely brunette sit on the deck.  Captain Jack eyes her refreshments and her Red Sox baseball cap skeptically.*

CJS:  You say this is what baseball fans favor, eh?  Seems sadly lacking in the rum department….

Caroline: Jack, darling, Boston had one of the first rum distilleries in North America. We LOVE rum in Massachusetts. I believe a good quantity of it was recently sipped from Lord Stanley's Cup here in Boston. You should have ventured north instead of lolling about the Caribbean all the time. As for the lack today…Marnee told me you were abandoning piracy for a life of virtue, and had given up all spirits. Something about repenting, and maybe paying the wenches back for the hotel room you and your crew trashed in Barbados.

Marnee:  *scurries on stage, smiling apologetically to Caroline.*  I’m so sorry, he can be unruly. *Hands Jack his note cards.*  Jack.  Please.  You know the drill.  Just read from the cards.

CJS:  *pouts like a five year old*  Marnee, darling, you said you wouldn’t mention Barbados to our guests.  And I may have been a bit hasty about the whole giving-up-spirits thing….

Marnee:   You?  Hasty?  Never.  Now please remember what I told you.  *Raises her eyebrows meaningfully.*

CJS:  Yes yes, love, I remember what you said.

Marnee:  *in her best "Mom" voice*  What did I say, Jack?

CJS:  She doesn’t write pirates, I remember.  Honestly, I don’t know why you ladies can’t manage to find more pirate writers.

Marnee:  *Pats his arm sympathetically.*  I know, I know.  We’re your cross to bear.  *Rolls eyes at Caroline.*

CJS:  And I’ve told you all that I’m quite capable of doing these interviews on my own.  *Takes Caroline’s hand, kisses it sensually.*  What do you think, lovely?  We’d be fine on our own, don’t you think?

Caroline: Forget what I said about coming north. Will you take me to Tortuga with you?

Marnee:  *elbows him*  Be nice.  Remember:  the cards.  *Scurries away*

CJS:  Oh fine.  *relinquishes Caroline’s hand, directs gaze to cards.*  Let’s see what’s on the agenda today.  It says here that you write romance novels set during the Regency.  Why do you like that time period, exactly?  Your stories have a bit of suspense and adventure, correct?  I’d imagine you’d like a time period that offered more, I don’t know, pirates.

Marnee:  *from off-stage*  JACK!

CJS:  Fine that last part was me.  But why exactly do you like the Regency?

Caroline: Because the Regency does have pirates. And highwaymen, and spies, and all sorts of deliciously wicked scoundrels. You'd be right at home there. Well--I suppose you'd have to dress a bit more soberly to fit in.

CJS:  Sober?  I think not, my dear.  But your most recent release--the ebook, I LOVE THE EARL--is set during the Georgian period, correct?  *Glances at cards*  It says here that it is a prequel to your upcoming series.  Why a prequel and how was writing a Georgian set story?

Caroline:  It made me think of you, of course.

CJS:  *calls off stage to the girls*  Finally, someone who thinks of me!

*Collective groaning from the wenches*

Caroline:  *continues with a sassy smile*  And it had to be a prequel because it was coming out first, before all the books set in the Regency. And it takes place earlier than the books (forty years earlier, to be exact) so they called it a prequel. Rather like if you ever cared to share the tale of how you took to pillaging the high seas in the first place. What sent you into piracy, I wonder? Your incorrigible nature? Too much rum? Or was it a woman…?

Anyway. As you know--firsthand--the Georgian era was a lush and exciting time. I liked it so much I might try another. Perhaps even with a pirate.

CJS:  A pirate, eh?  You do say the sweetest things.

*The sound of Marnee’s hand hitting her forehead.

Marnee:  Good grief.

CJS:  She brought up the pirates, love, not me.  I've told you girls, you can never have enough pirates.  No one listens to me around here.  *Looks at cards again, peevishly*  It says here that I LOVE THE EARL's heroine, Margaret de Lacey, refuses to allow a fortune hunter to win her affections.  You know, some of us who seek fortunes aren’t so bad.  Perhaps she’s being a bit hasty in this regard?

Caroline: Naturally, but it is a lady's right to change her mind. After your adventures with Elizabeth Swann, you should know this better than anyone. Margaret's trouble is that the fortune hunters chasing her have no finer qualities to redeem them. At heart she is a sensible woman, and she knows if a man only marries her for her money, he won't care much for her once he's spent the cash. She wants a man who would still care for her even if she had no money.

CJS:  So, the lovely Margaret wants to marry for love.  A noble pursuit, I suppose.  I’d imagine it would take a fine chap to convince her that he loves her and not her money.  Tell me a little about this lad, Rhys Corwen.

Caroline: Well, he's broke. Terribly, horribly, completely broke. His friend convinces him there might be a decent heiress to marry--perhaps this very Margaret de Lacey--so Rhys goes out to take a look, not really expecting much. And indeed, when he meets Margaret for the first time, she tells him off, informing him she won't marry him, she's not interested in dancing with him, and he can just take himself off right away because he has no chance with her. This only makes Rhys terribly, terribly interested in her. What sort of woman tells an earl he has no chance? And she's also a lot more attractive than he was led to believe. Rhys has to see her again, just to see if she's for real. And when he realizes she is just as advertised, he sets course to win her heart and mind. Men are persistent when they want something, don't you agree?

CJS:  The good ones are, my dear.  Persistent and diligent, particularly when it matters.  *rakish grin.*  This story sounds delicious.  And it sets up the next group of books.  I’ve heard your upcoming series revolves around a secret?  *Waggles eyebrows*  Now this sounds interesting.   What sort of secret?

Caroline: A secret marriage! A clandestine, rash, possibly illegal, youthful-mistake-that-can't-be-undone-no-matter-how-bitterly-regretted, marriage. And the duke's sons don't find out about it until their father dies, leaving them to sort out whether that marriage was legal and valid, and what happened to the first wife, and what it means for them. Because if their father was legally married when he married their mother, he was a bigamist--and his sons are illegitimate, and can't inherit his properties and money. So the three sons each take their own tactic in unravelling the knot: the middle son decides to lawyer up, the youngest son goes off to find and kill the blackmailing villain who stirred up old secrets, and the eldest son…wait, I'm getting ahead of myself, aren't I?

CJS:  Happens to me all the time.  But this sounds intriguing.  I can't wait to here more.  Thank you so much for being here with us today.  Is there anything you’d like to ask the wenches?

Caroline:  Why did you tell me no rum, Marnee?  Was I not sympathetic enough when your air conditioner died?  Thank you for sending Jack, at least!


Of course you were sympathetic!  And please don’t remind me of those dark days with no air conditioning.  I don't sweat happily.

But I told you not to bring your own rum because we’ve got our own fully-stocked bar here on the ship!  Our trusty bartender, Chance, will fire something up when she rouses herself from her hammock, over there on the left coast.  Until then, please make yourself comfortable and we’ll send one of our hottie crewmembers over with some food.  There's one in a baseball uniform around here somewhere, isn't there?

Caroline is going to stop in when she can today, so I thought we could talk about our favorite secrets in romance novels?  Secret babies, anyone?  A secret treasure?  Caroline will give away a copy of her latest release YOU ONLY LOVE ONCE to one lucky commenter so make sure you say hello!


A single lady in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a suitor.

Margaret de Lacey has accepted her unmarried state with dignity, if not delight. She had no suitors when she was young and starry-eyed, though regrettably poor, and it’s unlikely any man will court her now that she’s older, wiser, and still just as penniless. Until, that is, her brother unexpectedly inherits the dukedom of Durham and settles an enormous dowry on her, making her the most eligible heiress in town.

No gentleman in London is more in need of a wealthy bride than Rhys Corwen, Earl of Dowling. He contrives an introduction to Margaret because of her dowry, but she swiftly sets him right: no fortune hunter will win her heart or her hand. Far from put off, Rhys is intrigued. Interested. Entranced. And soon the only thing he needs more than Margaret’s fortune . . . is her love.

And again, go here for links to buy the book!


Caroline Linden knew from an early age she was a reader, but not a writer. Despite an addiction to Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew, she studied physics and dreamed of being an astronaut. She earned a math degree from Harvard College and then wrote software for a financial services firm, all the while reading everything in sight, but especially romance. Only after she had children, and found herself with only picture books to read, did she begin to make up a story of her own. To her immense surprise, it turned out to be an entire novel—and it was much more fun than writing computer code. She lives with her family in New England.
Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Revenge Welcomes Debut Author Jo Robertson

We are honored to welcome a debut author to the blog today. Not that she's a stranger to this crew. I (Bo'sun, that be me) for one am happy to see this Mama step up and steal the spotlight. Ironic that she's here to tell us about other characters who try to steal the spotlight as well. Please give a warm pirate welcome to award winning author Jo Robertson!

Secondary Characters

One of the real problems a writer has, especially when creating a series around a core group of characters is having one of the secondary characters take over the story. Especially if that character had his or her own story in a previous book.

This happened to me in "The Avenger," my second book in the Bigler County romantic thriller series. This manuscript won the all-around Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in 2007 under the title "The Warrior." 

Ben Slater, the hero of my debut book "The Watcher" is a steady, dependable character, but he does tend to take over any story he's in. When I brought this larger-than-life hero back in the second book, I had to be careful not to let him dominate the story. In fact, I rewrote the book several times to keep Slater's character under control. 

Ironically, the same kind of situation happens in the Jack Sparrow stories of movie fame and Romance Revenge fascination.  Sparrow is often mentioned even before the film title Pirates of the Caribbean.

Although Jack was intended as a secondary character, the exquisite Johnny Depp plays the role with such flourish that the four-film series really is Jack Sparrow's story. We may like and remember the major and other minor characters, but it's Jack who keeps us coming back again and again to witness his witty banter and drunk-eyed swagger. For me, it's Jack who's the best part of the movies.

This started my thinking about how we view secondary characters in the books we read and write.

Generally we have a single protagonist (two in a romance) who dominate(s) the plot. We also have the antagonist or villain who can range from a stock character – you know, the kind who spouts the line "You must pay the rent!" while twirling his mustache – to a very complex, multi-dimensional bad guy who gives you chills and keeps you up all night.

Sometimes we use a stock character because the core of the story is not capturing the bad guy or disarming the bomb or scuttling the ship, but giving our hero and heroine their happy ending. Their difficulties and resolutions are merely played out in a situation the antagonist has created.  

Often, however, we don't want a "flat" villain; we need a "round," fully-developed antagonist, completely fleshed out, so that he becomes a foil used to show the protagonist's strengths and weaknesses.

That's when these secondary characters become interesting to me. The author uses the villain to complement or contradict a similar trait in the main character.

The villain in my debut book "The Watcher," which won the 2006 Golden Heart award for romantic suspense, is a complex character, one who causes the heroine to question the source of evil.

Although he commits heinous crimes, is he inherently evil or was he made this way through his life's circumstances? Should we hate him or pity him? Or both? As a forensic psychiatrist, the heroine Kate Myers must ask herself these questions even as she is intent on capturing him or ending his life.

I wanted readers to abhor and feel sorry for the villain in "The Watcher." Note this passage from his point of view:

He saw her giggle with her mouth wide and her cheeks flushed. He imagined she was thinking of some hidden pleasure or secret delight. Where did she get such careless confidence? Did she know that guys stared at her, salivating over what she promised?

The watcher wanted to crawl inside her head, move around in her skin, and learn what she was thinking, what made her tick. He’d like to take her apart and find the mystery of her.

His groin tightened with anticipation.

She walked away from her friends, wiggling her fingers in farewell as she strode off, confidence settling on her like the mantle of a queen. She walked alone in the opposite direction, heading for the downtown district and the antique stores.

He’d been watching her several days now, and he knew exactly what she’d do next. When she walked home alone, she dawdled at the string of antique stores along Vernon Street, entering each one, trailing among the dusty rows of other people’s discarded items. Junk passed off as treasure. Afterward, she always stopped at the mom and pop candy store at the end of the quarter-mile long street.

Most days she hitched a ride with one of her friends, but once a week, she indulged in her treats: antiquing and long twisted pieces of red licorice. Her preference for that candy made her seem younger to him, and a perfect choice, because he had a sweet tooth too.

After he’d first seen her purchase the licorice and sit outside the store on a wooden bench, he’d bought some for himself. He imagined her licking the cherry flavor with her tiny pink tongue, the stain coloring the inside of her mouth a rich scarlet.

What about you, readers? Do you enjoy secondary characters having their own stories? Do you feel disconcerted when primary characters return as secondary characters in another book?   

What about the antagonists in the books you read?  Do you prefer round or flat villains? 

Be sure to email me with your snail mail addy at jo.lewisrobertson@yahoo.com. I'll email you an autographed postcard of my upcoming August release of "The Watcher" and enter your name in a drawing to win a print copy of this romantic thriller.

You can find "The Watcher" by going here for the Create Space Store or to Amazon. 

Visit my website to learn more about the Bigler County romantic thrillers, as well as my historical suspense and young adult books.