Write a Novel Step 5 Victims and Villain

Since my last post, I have been trying to decide who my villain was so that I could develop him/her.  It has been difficult because I had no clue as to his/her identity.  All I knew was what I wanted my villain to do. So in the process I lost a victim and gained a villain.  In my last post, I had a professor who I intended to be my second victim.  He had so many traits that I liked, I couldn’t just kill him off, and so he has become my villain.  I guess I wanted to spend more time with him.


In this whole process, I have also decided to change his last name.  After working with him, he felt more like a Schroeder than a Hollingsworth.  I also changed the one victim’s name from Morton to Chambers.  Don’t know why, just felt compelled to change them.


I had originally cast the victim – Bradley as someone who was in advertising.  He is now a lawyer.


The villain is Ben Schroeder, an English teacher at a community college who likes to cross-dress.  He is 38 years old, 5’10” and weighs a slight 160.  He appears effeminate which helps because it enables him to appear as a woman better.  He is an only-child who witnessed his mother and aunt as they killed his father.  Their story was that he left them when Ben was very young. Ben was so young that he isn’t sure about what he saw.  He thinks of it as a bad dream.  His mother and aunt instilled in him that women were better than men and that is why he feels need to dress like a woman, even though it is secretly. His biggest fear is that the college will find out his secret and he could lose his job.  He is jealous of authors who have succeeded where he has failed.  He knows Rachel from when she was in college. He saw her talent and envied her abilities.  He tried to become close to her but she wasn’t interested. He still holds a grudge against her for that and now that she has become a published author and he has failed, his jealousy is even fiercer.

Bradley, who is Rachel’s fiancé is a cheater, always has been, always will be.  Ben has been following Rachel’s career ever since she shunned him while she was in college.  Haven’t worked out all of the details as to his rage but he is so jealous of Rachel, he not only wants her career, he wants her life.  He finds out about her engagement and decides to meet her fiancé.  One night while out drinking, he meets Ben in his female persona and picks him up. Bradley passes out before anything goes too far. In Ben’s sick twisted mind, he decides that if he can’t have Bradley, than Rachel can’t either and he plans to kill him and starts his path to destroy Rachel.


I have definitely developed more of my story while creating my characters. 

Nothing is set in stone at this time, so don’t be surprised if things change along the way.

Over the next few days, I will be developing more of my characters, specifically the innocent suspects. 


I am enjoying the experience, so far.  Though it is fun, it is work.  Hopefully I can keep piecing the puzzle together in a logical and entertaining way. 


How is your story going?  Are you creating well-rounded characters or do they feel flat?  If so, I would suggest getting deeper into their goals and motivations.


Until next time,



What’s Happening in July

Francesca Hawley’s book Protect and Defend is now also available in print from Elora’s Cave/Jasmine Jade Enterprises.  The buy page is http://jasminejade.com/p-7481-protect-and-defend.aspx.

Carla Cassidy has a new release this month – Pregnsia.  You can find it at your favorite bookstore.

Lois Greiman is part of an anthology that came out in June  – Faeries Gone Wild – at your favorite bookstore.

Watch for new author updates  and interviews coming soon.

August –

Richard Jay Parker, Lori Wilde, and Kylie Brant

And as always, if you want more writing related articles, check out Cheryl’s www.learntowritefiction.com 

Keep writing and of course keep reading.


Book Review – A Year on Ladybug Farm

Title: A Year on Ladybug Farm

Author: Donna Ball

Publisher: Berkley

Publication Date: March 2009

1st Edition

Pages: 374

Price: $14.00

ISBN: 978-0-425-22587-5

A Year on Ladybug Farm is the story of three women in their fifties who strike out on an adventure together. When Bridget’s husband dies, the women who have lived most of their adult lives on the same street and have travelled the world together decide it might be time to purchase a home together.  They find a run down mansion in the Shenandoah Valley that they each fall in love with.  Cici wants to make use of her skills with tools, while Lindsey pictures the dairy barn becoming her art studio and Bridget is in love with the kitchen.  If nothing else, Cici runs the numbers and decides that with the needed improvements, it could be a great investment. The house gets its name from the multitude of ladybugs found in the vacant house.  They feel the ladybug is a good omen and decide to give it a year to see whether they feel the same way at years end.

 The main characters are Cecille Burke, a divorced, REALTOR with a daughter in college and an ex-husband who is wealthy and hob knobs with Hollywood celebrities.  Lindsey Wright is a single, teacher and an artist who seemed to have postponed her own attempts as an artist, while Bridget Tyndale is a recent widow with two grown children whose cooking skills make her the one the other two turn to for catering the grand parties, the three women have a reputation for putting together.

 The characters feel whole; in fact, I would love to find friends like them.  I was not ready to let the characters go by story’s end.  Luckily, I discovered a sequel coming out in October. 

 The author wove a ghost, other quirky characters, and subplots to make a most enjoyable read.  Her description of setting was realistic and pulled me deeper into the story.

 I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys heart-warming stories about women who have lived long enough to experience life’s ups-and-downs and still have the courage to find new adventures.

Want to Write A Novel – Secondary Characters

If you have been following my blog, you know that the past few days, I’ve been working on secondary characters, specifically victims, because I am writing a mystery.

 The how-to book I am using, suggested that my story have three crimes with three victims, haven’t quite got there yet.  I have two crimes and two victims.

 The first victim came to me when I started developing my original idea.  That victim is my protagonist’s, (sleuth’s) fiancé Brad.  Because these characters don’t have a huge part in the story, I’m not spending as much time developing them that I will on the protagonist (sleuth), antagonist (villain) and some other secondary characters that support the story with possible sub-plots.

 Bradley Morton is 45 years old, 6’ tall, dark hair with distinguished gray temples; he is smart but somewhat smarmy. The protagonist’s friends have thought this every since they first met him.  He cheats on Rachel.  The villain will use him as a pawn to get back at Rachel. Since it will help the story if the victims have secrets, his secrets are that he cheats and gambles and Rachel doesn’t know about it. 

 The second crime is the murder of one of Rachel’s college professors.  He is Benjamin Hollingsworth.  He is 46 years old. (For some reason my protagonist is attracted to older men.) Benjamin is 5’10” tall slender with an almost feminine structure and features.  He likes to dress as a woman and that is his main secret.  He also flirts with the coeds, not necessarily, because he is interested in them but because he likes to check out their beauty secrets.

 Some of his other secrets that may come into the story, or may not are: He resents students who have succeeded where he failed with his writing.  He drinks a lot. He does have a completed manuscript that has made the rounds to lots of publishers.

 As for the crimes themselves, they will both be murders that happen in the bedroom.  The first is Bradley, the fiancé and as I explained before, he will die while with another woman but Rachel will make it look like she was the person he was with, at the time.  It saves her pride until the police discover that he was poisoned.

 Ben’s death will be similar.  Rachel will have had some contact with Ben after Bradley’s death.  He will die while with someone else, but what connects the crime to Rachel is that, that someone will plant a personal item of Rachel’s at the scene.

 I may need to create another crime but for now, I think I will leave it with these two and go on.

 I hope you are having as much fun developing your story and characters as I am.  If you want to give me suggestions or any comments about what we are doing, please do so.  I hope you will continue following my adventure and I really hope you are writing along with me. 

I will be developing a separate page on my blog with the each step we take while writing this novel.  If you are joining me now and want to catch up, that is where you should go.

 Our next step is creating the antagonist (villain). 

 Until next time,


Interview with a Poet – Dennis Maulsby

Responding as a write, I would say: I was from war. I was driven to writing after a year in Vietnam that featured the battle of Kai San and the Tet Offensive.


It is my pleasure to introduce a friend and local poet, Dennis Maulsby.  I know Dennis because we both belong to the Border’s writing group.  This group has been around for over 10 years.  It started out at the local Barnes and Noble but migrated to Borders a few years back.  Because it is a public group, our demographics change frequently. Dennis has been a great addition.  The group has been a success story, in that several members have published.  So if you happen to be in the Des Moines area around 7:00 PM on a Tuesday night, feel free to stop by and join us.

Dennis has published in several publications and I think of him as our local poet laureate.  He writes mostly about his experiences while in Vietnam and I felt this would be appropriate so close to July 4th.

Virginia – Where are you from?

Dennis – If I was to respond typically, I would say: I was born and raised in Marshalltown, Iowa, graduated from Marshalltown High School (1960), and Grinnell College (1964), Grinnell, Iowa.

Responding as a writer, I would say: I was from war.  I was driven to writing after a year in Vietnam that featured the battle at Kai San and the Tet Offensive.

Virginia – What do you write?

Dennis – Most of my poems and short stories deal with that experience.  All my Vietnam poems spring from the personal emotional impact of that war and its relentless memories.  Some of the poems have some elements that I did not experience directly, but relate to veterans’ common experience, both as soldiers and civilians.

My memories of Vietnam have not dulled with the years.  At night in dreams, or in pensive moments, they have refreshed themselves too many times.  Perhaps, this is the way it is with all veterans.

There is no question that PTSD plagued me.  My first six months after being dumped back into civilian life were hell.  I learned that this was an affliction that must be worked constantly, like an alcoholic – once scrabbling day at a time.  In casting around for ways to cope, I discovered creative activity pushed the demons back.  Writing has been the best.

Virginia – How long have you been writing?

Dennis – Ten years ago, I joined a writers’ group and the creative writing process has been the most successful therapy.  I can only speculate on the reasons.  However, I believe writing to have an almost limitless canvas, especially in English.

There are over a million words in the language, as compared to French, for example that gets by with somewhat less than four hundred thousand –pauvre Francais. The various combinations, arrangements and permutations of a million words with new ones being added everyday must be almost infinite.  Certainly, enough to last my creative lifetime – so, I am a poet, a short story writer and perhaps, a novelist.

I started building a literary resume by submitting individual works, both poetry and short stories, to journals I thought matched my style.

Virginia – How many books/poems have you published so far?

Dennis – There are lots of rejections, but sometimes lightening would strike.  My writings have been published in the last eight volumes of Lyrical Iowa, the annual anthology of the Iowa Poetry Association.  Others have appeared in the Des Moines Register, The Hawkeye, Peregine, The North American Review, Tapestries, Types and Shadows, Fiele-Festa, and The Hawai’i Pacific Review.  Some on Internet sites including Writetherapy, Speaking Leaves, Words on a Wire, Brick & Mortar, Voices in Wartime  and the International War Veterans’ Poetry Archives.  In May 2004 my poem 6 June, Omaha Beach  was featured with a musical background on National Public Radio’s Themes & Variations.  Listen for yourself: http://iwvpa.net/maulsby-d/omaha-be.php

My first book of poetry, Remembering Willie, and all the others was published in 2003 and won the Military Writers Society of America Silver Medal Award.

Remembering Willie is included in the Veterans’ archives of The Library of Congress and is on display at the Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum. From Remembering Willie:

Memory of a Eurasion Working Girl

I hope she knew why I was so quiet,

When we held hands at night in her strange land,

Uninvited and lost.

It must have made her uneasy, watching for cues

From this twice her size round-eyed male creature,

So large pored and hairy.

Blood-warm breeze felt so comfortable.

Her perfume riffing in the air,

Set time for the music.

That evening she pierced my blind stare,

And helped me lay down my mountain of stored up death,

So weary with the weight.

Whether she was aware or not,

She did what women have done for soldiers

These thousands of futile years.

Fingers entwined our primal spirits touched

And I remembered

What my soul should look like.

I write often – both poetry and prose – because I must.

Virginia – What is your writing day like?

Dennis – Most of my early ideas come from 3:00 to 4:30 AM sweat-soaked dreams about my experiences or nightmarish variations on them, some from daydreams or flashbacks.

At this time, the process is more normal and poetry/story ideas come from the observation of people and places, imagination and research flesh out the details.  I have recently completed drafts of a book of linked short stories and a book of poetry.

Virginia – What are you working on now?

Dennis – I’ll be retiring from my day job on July 31st, 2009 and plan to work on the drafts until they are ready to submit.  I have a list of 147 small presses.  Do you think those will be enough?

I also have developed a one to two hour (your choice) workshop.  In a relaxed group setting, participants discuss some very old forms of Japanese poetry (Tanka, Haiku, and Senryu) and how they evolved.  Once grounded, we examine how they impacted American poets and how American poets have impacted them (The American Sentence). We practice writing a few lines while simultaneously looking for ways the forms can give us insight into the poetic moment.  And, how looking for these moments may improve our other poetry and our prose.  Email me, if you are interested.  (dennismaulsby@yahoo.com)

I have had great good fortune of being supported by several exceptional local writers’ groups.

Virginia – Do you have some words of wisdom for us unpubs?

Dennis – Writing the material was good therapy, but reading to a group increased the healing value by several orders of magnitude.  My first group encouraged me to assemble my book and helped with the editing and layout.  I owe them a lot.

Don’t be afraid to write honestly.  Sometimes that requires you to go mentally naked with friends or relatives, or to violate the restrictive cultural codes we were taught.  I would also recommend the summer workshops at the University of Iowa.  They have a Summer Writing Festival consisting of one week or weekend workshops on most every type of writing (poetry, novels, short stories, screenplays, memoirs, children’s books, etc.) all taught by experienced authors.  People come from all over the world for these sessions.  Check it out (http://continuetolearn.uiowa,edu/iswfest/).

Introducing: Cheryl St. John

cherylstjohn1If you love a story that touches your heart, you need to read everything Cheryl St. John writes.  Cheryl belongs to the Heartland Writers Group out of Omaha, Nebraska.  I met her too many years ago to admit and have been hooked on her books ever since.

Here is out interview –

Virginia – Where are you from?

Cheryl – I’m a Midwest girl, born in Iowa, but raised in Nebraska.  I live in a big city, however, so don’t ask me about cows or corn – unless it’s Cornhuskers, and then I’m all over that.  Go Huskers!

Virginia – How long have your been writing?

Cheryl – I’ve always written in one form or another.  As a child, I wrote stories, drew the covers, and stapled them into mini-books.  My first rejection came at age fourteen when I submitted a romantic short story to Redbook Magazine.  I still have the form rejection.  I was crushed.

I wrote long hand off and on after that, occasionally typing a story on my Grandma St. John’s manual typewriter.  For years, I pretty much dedicated myself to my family, and raised my four kids.  I used to read only horror, mystery and mainstream novels, but I read a few Victoria Holt’s I’d received from the book club and found them appealing, yet somewhat unsatisfactory in some way I couldn’t define at the time.

On a whim one day, while browsing the store shelves, I bought Lisa Gregory’s The Rainbow Season and LaVyrle Spencer’s Hummingbird.  Imagine that out of all the books available, I chose those two classic romances for my first taste of romance!  Needless to say, I was hooked from that day forward.  I devoured everything either of those two authors ever wrote, and went on to Janelle Taylor, Jude Deveraux, Johanna Lindsey, Francine Rivers, and Kathleen Woodiwiss.

When my youngest daughter went to Kindergarten, I was lost without her.  In retrospect, it was empty nest syndrome, but instead of having another baby, which many women do, I decided it was time to write the novel that would launch me to stardom.

Yeah, right.  The rest of the process took a little longer.  And I’m still not sure about the stardom part.

Virginia – What do you write?

Cheryl – I’ve written several contemporaries, but I love writing historical romance set in the American West or Midwest, and I love cowboys.  I love stories with an underdog, and those in which a character is pretending to be someone he or she is not.

Virginia – Tell us a little about your publisher and agent.

Cheryl – Harlequin publishes my books.  I’ve written for several lines and worked with a few different editors over the years.  My agent is my intercessor and the left side of my brain, so to speak.  She handles money and contracts and leaves the creative side to me.  She believed in me from the beginning and sold my very first book for me.

Virginia – How many books have you published so far?

Cheryl – See, now this is a tough question – because I am so not a numbers person.  I always have to go count when someone asks me this.

The Preacher’s Wife is my thirty-second published book.  I’ve written number thirty-three and it’s scheduled for next year.  I’m working on two more right now.

Virginia – What is your writing day like?

Cheryl – It’s changed over the years as my life has changed.  I went from dropping off kids at school to having an empty nest and am now back to dropping off one child-my grandson-at school most mornings.  I get up and feed him and get him ready and drop him off at school.  Sometimes I stop at the grocery store or if it’s Thursday or Friday, I scope out every garage sale in the vicinity on the way back.  It inspires me.  That’s my story, and I’m sticking with it.

Once home I make a fresh pot of tea – chai is my preference – read through my email, take care of the things that are pressing that day, and then open my Word file.

I read over what I wrote the day before, edit a little, as I go, and then continue forward.  Many nights after supper and my favorite evening shows, like American Idol and Bones, I go back to my desk and work.  If my brain is too tired to write much past 11 or 12, I do promo work and blog.

I teach an online class each month, so the night I need to prepare lessons, I’m sometimes up until 2 03.

Bookmark my workshop:  http://cheryl-stjohn-workshop.blogspot.com/

Virginia – Can you tell us how you found a publisher and/or agent?

Cheryl – The really stupid way, I assure you.  I was clueless, unlike the beginning writers today who have the Internet and online communities.  I didn’t even know any other writers to ask about the process.  Looking back on my amateurish manuscript preparation, all the stories with no plot or conflict, and the volume of editors I sent the manuscripts to is a humiliating, yet laughable experience.  I can’t believe I did that!  I wrote in a vacuum for years, reading how-to-books from the library and sending stuff out to everyone in The Writer’s Market.  Those early books are still on a shelf in my basement, along with a few others. And rightly so.

Virginia – Do you have anything that just came out?

Her Montana Man

Cheryl – My December Her Montana Man was picked up by Doubleday and Rhapsody Bookclubs in hardcover, and I was excited about that!  It has a stunning cover – one of my all time favorites.

June 2009 is the release of my first Steeple Hill Love Inspired Historical, and I couldn’t be more pleased with this venture into the inspirational market.  It’s a story I wanted to tell for a long time, and then this wonderful venue opened up for me to leap into.

Virginia – What are you working on now?

Cheryl – I’m writing a Love Inspired Historical novella for a two-in-one anthology for Mother’s day of 2010.  And putting together a sequel to The Preacher’s Wife – its Elizabeth’s story.

Virginia – Do you have some words of wisdom for us unpubs?

Cheryl – Believe in yourself and your ability.  All the techniques of writing are learnable, so stay open to those, but the gift of storytelling and the desire to write are talents you were born with.  Your talent doesn’t up and desert you when life is difficult or you’re struggling.  Some of my best work was done during times of emotional upheaval.  Let those times be a catharsis for your work.  Stories are about feelings.

I’ve just launched a brand new website and I’d be delighted for you to drop by and visit.

Visit me on the web: http://www.cherylstjohn.net/

Look who’s blogging: http://cherylstjohn.blogspot.com/

Thanks Cheryl for taking the time for this interview and I look forward to seeing you soon!


Author Alert: If you would like me to post an interview with you on my blog, please comment and let me know.

Do You Like Your Romance Novels to Sizzle?

Francesca Hawley is the type of person who can walk into a room and light it up.  I think she carries that gift over into her books.  I attended a program where she explained the different steaminess levels of sex scenes in the romantic genre, from the sweet romance that usually stops at the bedroom door to the explicit scenes needed for erotica.  She had a lot of information and if any other writing groups are looking for a speaker for this subject, I would highly recommend Francesca.

The following is our interview:

Virginia – Where are you from?

Francesca – I was born in Minnesota and raised in Iowa.  I’ve lived in Iowa since I was about three.

 Virginia – How long have you been writing?

FrancescaI’ve written stories all my life.  I used to spend my lunch hours in high school writing fiction – bad fiction – but I was trying.  I’ve been writing with the intent to publish since 2002 or 2003.

Virginia – What do you write?

FrancescaI write erotic romance.  Most of the time I inject paranormal elements into a story, but that isn’t always the case.

 Virginia – Tell us a little about your publisher and agent.

FrancescaAt this time, I am un-agented.  My publisher is Ellora’s Cave.  They’ve been around since the early 2000’s – last November they celebrated their 8th birthday.  I started reading EC books about the time I started writing seriously because my dream publisher was Ellora’s Cave.  I loved the books I read and I wanted to write books as good as those I read.  EC published Romantica®, which are stories that must be both erotic and romantic.  I was thrilled to bits to have an opportunity to pitch to Raelene Gorlinsky, the publisher, at the RWA national conference in 2007.

Virginia – How many books have you published, so far?

Francesca – I have a short story – Alpha v Alpha – published in an anthology called – Paranaughty. It was published by Draumr Publishing in 2005.  This short story launched my shape shifter world.  In January 2009, my first novel – Protect and Defend– was published by Ellora’s Cave. Protect and Defend is an urban fantasy.  My short pitch is “CSI meets shape shifters.”

The blurb for Protect and Defend is:

Mikaela Laughlin discovers a whole new world, and an entirely new species, when she tours the crime lab to meet Lieutenant Diarmid Redwolf while researching her next book.  She’s lusted after “Delicious Diarmid” from afar for a long time, but meeting him sets her body on fire.  It doesn’t take long for Mikaela to discover there’s more to him than meets the eye.  Diarmid is far more delicious up close than she ever dreamed.

Diarmid has bad guys to catch, but one look at the voluptuous writer has him wanting to catch her instead.  His shape shifter blood recognizes his true mate and he wants her naked body arching beneath his.  Now.  But with a cold-blooded serial killer on the loose, Diarmid has one shot at his future and he will not fail.  Because this time, the killer wants Mikaela.  (This was a 2006 Stroke of Midnight Finalist for Passionate Ink).

I recently sold my second book to EC too.  Seeking Truth is a medieval, paranormal, erotic romance set during the troubled reign of King Stephen in the 1100’s.

Virginia – What is your writing day like? 

 Francesca – Well I work as a librarian, so during the day I answer reference questions and plan programming for my library.  I also write a weekly column in the local newspaper.  When I get home from work, I sit down at the computer and read over the last chapter or two I wrote so I can “get into” the story again.  I may make some edits if I see things that need adjusting then when I reach the point I stopped I start typing.  I work for a few hours in the evening.  I may do some research on the internet or in the collection of books I have about a topic.  Sometimes I hit a point in my writing where I need a quick answer so I research on the fly then keep going.

Virginia – Can you tell us about how you found a publisher and/or agent?

Francesca – With my first publisher, Draumr, I happened to be on a critique list with other authors who like to write BBW’s (big, beautiful women) as heroines.  The group was writing short stories to pitch for an anthology with Draumr, a small independent press.  Rida Allen liked my story and included it.

For my second work, I had Ellora’s Cave in mind when I was writing it.  To me it was kind of a pipe dream… a pipe dream that came true.  I kept thinking “Wouldn’t it be great if the leading publisher of erotic romance wanted to publish my book? I joined RWA in late 2006 and decided to attend the national conference in 2007 – primarily because I knew Ellora’s Cave, Looseld, and Samhain Publishing would be present.  I was in PRO (because I’d completed my first manuscript and proven it to RWA) and so I had a jump on the general attendees and secured a pitch session with Raelene Gorlinsky, the publisher of Ellora’s Cave.  Raelene was way cool, and her hats totally rock any outfit she wears.  I tried to keep my cool – or at least keep my sweaty palm from grossing her out – a pitched my little heart out.  She liked the concept for my book and told me to send it as a submission.  I sent it in August of 2007.  In January 2008, I knew an editor had pulled it to read.  In April, my editor Mary Moran offered me a contract for the book.  I was thrilled.  Since this was my first novel, I hired a literary lawyer – Elaine English – to vet my contract.  Elaine was amazing and well worth the attorney fees.  She negotiated a contract that I liked and was wonderful to work with.  I completed edits last fall and my book was released in January of 2009.

Virginia – Do you have anything that just came out?

FrancescaProtect and Defend, my first novel with Ellora’s Cave was released in January 2009.  I recently sold a second book to EC.  Seeking Truth was released on May 29, 2009. I’m thrilled they liked this book.  Here’s my blurb for Seeking Truth:

Baron   Eaduin Kempe, a man of intense passions, seeks a healer at a nearby abbey.  When the abbess introduces convent-raised Lady Verite de Sauigni, he knows he’s hell bound for desiring her.  He wants to tie her to his bed until she sobs with the pleasure of his touch.

Eaduin offers Verite marriage in exchange for easing the pain of his dying foster mother.  Years ago, Verite secretly watched Baron Eaduin arouse a lover and has dreamed of him ever since.  She desires him enough to risk exchanging the imprisonment of convent life for that of marriage.  On their wedding night, Eaduin craves dominance and Verite submits with enthusiasm.  Each heated encounter thereafter binds them closer together.

When Verite’s father accused her of witchcraft because she won’t use her psychic gift of seeing truth to aid him, she begs Eaduin to kill her so she doesn’t suffer.  Instead, Eaduin challenges her father to trial by combat, determined to save her because she owns both his passion and his heart.

Virginia – What are you working on now?

Francesca – I’m developing two ideas right now.  The first is another book in my shapeshifter universe, which I’ve tentatively titled, Leader of the Pack.  And the second is a follow-up to Seeking Truth, entitled Seeking Peace.

If readers would like to share your opinions about my work, please visit my web site at http://www.francescahawley.com and send me feedback via my contact page.  I’m always interested in hearing from my readers.

Virginia – Do you have some words of wisdom for us unpubs?

Francesca – Never give up.  Never ever, give up. It takes perseverance even in the face of rejection.  You have to believe in you because if you don’t know one else will.  I know it’s really hard when those rejection letters come in, but don’t let them get your down.

Find a critique partner or critique group.  They’ll tell you the truth when your work is crap and when it’s good.  My crit partners have helped me brainstorm and patted me on the back to say “it’ll be all right.”

Never ever, forget that this is a business.  Think like the entrepreneur that you are.  Save your receipts so you can write off expenses on your taxes.  Find a trusted person to do your taxes (if you aren’t a financial whiz kid).

Attending conferences, paying for organization memberships, the cost of classes and books are all a part of the cost of doing business. To be sure what qualifies, talk to your tax preparer for information.  Start now.  This year.

If you are offered a contract but you’re not represented by and agent, good for you.  If you’re unable to secure an agent to handle negotiations, all is not lost.  Before you sign on the dotted line, as a literary lawyer to vet the contract for you.  I was so glad I contacted Elaine English about vetting my contract.  Not because I don’t like my publisher or don’t trust them, but because it’s just smart business. Contract clauses are negotiable.  Not all of them, but the worst that happens when you ask for a change is that they’ll say no.  A literary lawyer specializes in literary contracts.  They know that typical, where you can negotiate, etc.  They also do not need to live in the same city you do.  Elaine English practices law in Washington D.C. but her web site is out there.  She’s also a literary agent, so for me she was the perfect person to ask for assistance.

Finally start promoting YOU as a brand before you’re published.  Buy and internet domain name and get a web site going.  If you have the time and energy, start a blog.  Make contacts.  Network.  It helps… a lot.

As a final note, Francesca’s novel, Protect and Defend was recently reviewed and rated 4 ½ out of 5 stars by Romantic Times magazine.  The reviewer even called the book “a keeper.”

Thanks to Francesca for taking the time to give us a little insight into her experience as an author.

Until next time,


Getting to Know: Carla Cassidy

The headline said ‘The Butcher of Crows Creek Strikes Again.’ Allison Clemen’s father had spent the past fifteen years in prison for butchering her mother, sister and brother. Somehow, she’d survived being knocked on the head and strangled before the killer posed her in her own bed. Now the nightmare had started over in Crows Creek, Kansas. Had they convicted the wrong man and was the real killer just waiting to finish the job?

Carla Cassidy

The headline said ‘The Butcher of Crows Creek Strikes Again.’ Allison Clemen’s father had spent the past fifteen years in prison for butchering her mother, sister and brother.  Somehow, she’d survived being knocked on the head and strangled before the killer posed her in her own bed.  Now the nightmare had started over in Crows Creek, Kansas.  Had they convicted the wrong man and was the real killer just waiting to finish the job?

Carla Cassidy’s newest release titled – Last Gasp. It will keep you breathless with each twist and turn.  If you haven’t yet read Carla’s books, I’d like to introduce you to this multi-published author.  She has been kind enough to grant me this interview.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I have enjoyed visiting with her.

Virginia – Where are you from?

 Carla I was born in Lawrence, Kansas but spent the first twelve years of my life in the small town of Lansing, Kansas.  At that time, we moved to Kansas City and that’s been my home.

Virginia – How long have you been writing?

Carla – I started writing when I was in junior high school, but I didn’t get serious about a career in writing until I’d married and had children.  My first book was published in 1988, so I’ve been doing this for a while.

Virginia – What do you write?

Carla – Right now, I’m almost exclusively writing romantic suspense.  It’s a genre I love, but I’ve also written straight romance and a coupe of paranormals.

Virginia – Tell us a little about your publisher and agent.

Carla – I write for Harlequin, Silhouette and NAL and my agent is from the Curtis Brown Literary Agency.  I love writing the shorter formats for Harlequin and Silhouette and then exploring longer stories for NAL.

Virginia – How many books have you published so far?

Carla – To be honest, I’m not sure of the exact number, but I think it’s over a hundred.

Virginia – What is your writing day like?

Carla – My writing day starts about fifteen minutes after I roll out of bed.  I make the coffee, then sit down at the computer.  The computer stays on and I work until bedtime with breaks for the usual cleaning and cooking.  My office is my cave and I’m rarely out of it for any length of time.

Virginia – Do you have anything that just came out?

Carla – On April 7th, my latest release from NAL hit the stands.  Last Gasp is a romantic suspense novel set in western Kansas.

 Virginia – What are you working on now?

Carla – At the moment I’m working on a new book for Harlequin Intrigue entitled, Scene of the Crime: Brightwater, Texas.  Next month I have a release from Harlequin Intrigue. Interrogating The Bride is the first of a three book series.

 Virginia – Do you have any words of wisdom for us unpubs?

Carla – I wish I had the magic secret for getting all writers published, but unfortunately, I don’t. You need to educate yourself, attend conferences, study the markets, join a writers’ group.  Probably the most important thing a writer needs to survive to get published is patience and perseverance.  I know writers far talented than me who never got published because they received a couple of rejection letters and gave up.  So, my advice would be if this is your dream, write, write, write!

 Now go check out Last Gasp.

Carla Cassidy is the award-winning author of more than one hundred books.  She lives in Kansas City, Missouri, with her husband.  Visit her Web site at www.carlacassidybooks.com.

Last Gasp

Keep coming back for more great interviews.  Also, follow me as I write my novel with the Write a Novel series of blogs on this site.  Writing can be lonely, let’s do it together.

Until next time,


Want to Write A Novel- Developing the Protagonist

By blogging about this topic, I do not intend to teach anyone how to write a novel.  There are plenty of classes, by qualified teachers, you can attend and of course, you can read every single book about writing a novel you can get your hands on, like me.

 I am following a book on how to write a mystery – chapter-by-chapter – step- by- step.  The last few days, I spent developing my sleuth.  She is a romance writer whose career is failing.  Her publisher has said they don’t plan to offer her another contract.  Her agent is encouraging her to complete a novel she seems to be struggling with trying to get finished.  In the meantime, her fiancé dies in the arms of another woman.

 My character’s name is Rachel Miller/Rachel St. James.  Her motivation is to continue her writing career even though she is feeling blocked with the current project.  Now she is also mad and hurt because Bradley, her fiancé is now dead and had obviously been cheating on her before he died.  I do know that Bradley’s death will not be of natural causes, as everyone initially assumes and that Rachel will become a suspect in his murder.  That is why she is the sleuth.  She has to solve the mystery as to who killed Bradley and is it the same person who eventually starts threatening her.  She is early 30’s and I picture Sandra Bullock as I am writing the story.

 On another note about naming the character, the book I’m using suggested you use a list of eight qualities this character has and then pick five first and last names that reflect those qualities.  The next step was to go to the internet and Google the names.  See how many people have that name.  If there are too many, maybe you should pick another name.  The only problem with doing this was that every name I chose was out there, a lot.  So in the end, I chose a name that I liked and thought I wouldn’t get tired of writing down frequently.  If you have any suggestions about naming characters, check in and let me know how you do it.

 That is about all I can share with you so far about this character.

 Now I am on to developing the crime and victim’s secrets.

 Another note about your premise, from my last post, if you write it tightly enough, you could use it later for an elevator pitch.  If you don’t know what an elevator pitch is, let me know and I will explain.

 So, to recap, we have an idea that we developed into a premise and we have created a protagonist (for me, a sleuth), and we will be developing other characters.  If you are writing a mystery like me, you will be working on your crime, victims and their secrets.  If you are working on another genre, now would be a good time to develop other characters.

 I will catch up with you again after this step.

 Keep checking in frequently, I will be adding author interviews to this site.  Come back and meet Carla Cassidy soon.

 In the meantime, keep writing and have some fun.


Want to Write a Novel – The Premise

This blog is a way for you to look over my shoulderas I write a book and to interact with me while you write your own. I left the last blog with a promise to write a premise for my story.

I guess I should have given some advice as to how to do it, just in case you are just starting out and needed to know.  Look for ideas where you normally look, newspapers, magazines, people you know, what you overhear in a crowded place, whatever jumps out at you as a possible story idea.  When you develop a premise, you are taking an idea and constructing it into what your story is about within a few sentences.  It is the basic core of your story.

Since I am using Hallie Ephron’s book Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel, here is how I would do it using her suggestions:

Let’s start with my basic idea.  What if a failing romance author’s fiancée dies in the arms of another woman? 

Maybe an interesting concept but at this point just an idea.

To develop my premise, I have to take it a little further: Suppose a failing romance author’s fiancée dies in the arms of another woman.  What if because of her pride, she lets everyone think he was with her and all seems fine until the police determine that he didn’t die of natural causes and she becomes a suspect?

 Now I have something a little more substantial to hang a story on.  Nothing is ever set in stone at this point but this is my start.

Now I am going on to developing my mystery sleuth.  If you are not writing a mystery, this is when you develop your protagonist.  For the next few days, I will be creating my own templates to determine who this character actually is.  Her physical appearance, likes, dislikes, background, everything that has made this character, my sleuth, who she is at this point in her life.

Does what I’ve covered so far make sense?  Do you see anything that isn’t logical?  Do you understand how to develop a premise and create a character?  Feel free to comment at any time.  Like I said, this is a lonely business and it’s nice to know someone else is out there doing the same things.

For now, I’m going on with the story and will be back as soon as I get past this step.

If you’d like to see how other authors write, check out Lois Greiman’s interview within this blog site.  I will be adding other author interviews over the next few weeks.  They include Carla Cassidy, Franscesca Hawley, Cheryl Saint John, and Dennis Maulsby.  I will continue to post author interviews so keep checking back for more.  After you’ve read Lois’ interview you might take it a step further and read some of her books.

You are keeping me accountable and I hope to hear from some of you too along the way.

Until next time,


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