The writing life, generating creativity

Happy Monday! 

2GH7hkY5I want to share with you the long and winding exploration in which I’ve indulged during the magical cold days of December, days that somehow lend themselves to introspection, giving the psyche time to go deep like the dormant trees doing whatever it is they do to prepare themselves to leaf out in the spring.

This exploration  all started when I read my friend Gayle Parness‘ debut novel Rebirth (Rogues Shifter Series 1). She has a dozen or so books out, and she gave me the audio book of the first one, which starts the series. Rebirth brims with imagination and gorgeously rich language not to mention brilliant characterization, snappy dialogue and good plotting. But it’s the brimming imagination that triggered a negative thought about myself as a writer.

When something happens to make me doubt myself as a writer, I am all over it. I am a disciple of Eric Maisel, my go-to writer for all the baggage that goes with being an artist. Because I’m a “self-coach,” as he teaches, I know when I am having a self-defeating thought about writing, and I get on that. Not to deny it, but to examine it and understand the thought so that I can then dispute it.

First the examination. It is a known self-defeating action to compare oneself to other writers. However, if we have the solid anchor of being a creativity self coach and know that we are not going to let the self-defeating part take root, it can be a useful exercise. I do have this creativity self coach thing down now, so let’s take a look.

Author at workUnlike Gayle, who is prolific, I am a lean writer. With my debut novel, my newly assigned editor said, “This could be a lot longer.” I said, “I know. I write lean. I don’t know why, but no matter how much I try, that is what I do.” She said, “It’s your style. Most authors throw everything on the page and I have to sort through it.” I felt lots better. This leanness is just my style.

However, I want to do more, much more.

As I was examining this comparison of myself to Gayle, I thought, I’m semi-scientific. I say semi-scientific as I like to dwell on the fringes of science; I am not myself a disciplined scientist. In my previous career, I was a senior technical writer, a role that is on the border of the engineer the IT professional and the written word. Nothing in my life has ever come to me so naturally as technical writing; the field was a perfect match for someone who majored in math and English.

This thought that I am semi-scientific rather than richly imaginative led to the idea of Googling creativity for scientific minds, which led me to: How to Train Your Creative Brain, which led me to: A Technique for Producing Ideas, by James Webb Young. Gold mine. I need a deliberate methodology for cultivating creativity because while flashes of insight and imagination come to me, I want to go deeper and I want to have some control over it. If I am analytical, how can I use that quality in the service of my art?IMG_6806

I put together this from A Technique for Producing Ideas. This book is about advertising, which is a highly applied form of creativity. I translated the book to writing fiction this way:

  • Ideas — ideas for plot and character
  • Product — whatever the characters do for a living and the setting or other element that plays a big role in the book
  • Consumers — readers

Here is a longish quote from the shortish book:

We constantly talk about the importance of having an intimate knowledge of the product and the consumer, but in fact we seldom work at it.

This I suppose is because a real knowledge of a product, and of people in relation to it, is not easy to come by. Getting it is something like the process which was recommended to De Maupassant  as the way to learn to write. “Go out into the streets of Paris,” he was told by an older writer, “and pick out a cab driver. He will look to you very much like every other cab driver. But study him until you can describe him so that he is seen in your description to be an individual, different from every other cab driver in the world.”

This is the real meaning of that trite talk about getting an intimate knowledge of a product and its consumers. Most of us stop too soon in the process of getting it. If the surface differences are not striking we assume that there are no differences. But if we go deeply enough, or far enough, we nearly always find that between every product and some consumers there is an individuality of relationship which may lead to an idea.*

Another book I read in December had a major impact on my writing: Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen. So I looked him up and found this quote which captures what is so genius about Freedom and which ties in neatly to what James Webb Young said:

…if you pay careful enough attention to a character’s inner life, it turns out to be a marvelously detailed mirror of the character’s outer world.**

Here’s another quote from a book that is playing into my new methodology of creativity (The Plot Thickens, by Noah Lukeman):

…it is the purpose of this book to show that plot is not just about having a single great idea; on the contrary, a good plot is an amalgamation of many ideas or elements of writing, including characterization, journey, suspense, conflict, and context. An idea is paramount but without the supporting elements, an idea by itself is just that — an idea, not a 124 or 300 page living being replete with shades, colors, and textures. Most stories do not come in one flash — on the contrary, the best stories or are organic to their characters, to their layers of suspense and conflict.***

Creativity and imagination can be cultivated. Stay tuned for Part II on how I employed the methods and the results.

A Technique for Producing Ideas, by James Webb Young


***The Plot Thickens, by Noah Lukeman

Luke’s #1 Rule, by Cynthia Harrison

Lukes #1 Rule
Lukes #1 Rule

Releasing today, Luke’s #1 Rule is on sale this week only at The Wild Rose Press.

This book has the natural style I love so much about Brenda Novak’s work, and like Brenda’s Whiskey Creek series (see here for all my book reviews), Luke’s #1 Rule is part of a small-town series. The small town is Blue Lake, and when the main character ends up there, I could feel the relief of arriving in a community where people care about each other. But the relief doesn’t happen immediately for Chloe Richards. Oh no, she has a constant source of internal conflict: She’s moving with her kids to Seattle, very far away, and it’s ripping her apart, but she has no choice.

This book is about family and very difficult issues. It’s realistic, not at all forced, and utterly riveting as a result. Yet it is still a romance, and though I cried three times while reading it, they were good tears, and I knew it would somehow all end well. That’s a requirement for me. I dislike books that end sadly, even if I love the book, and I tend not to read those authors again, because let’s face it, who needs more bad news and sorrow when we have life, which has its share for everyone? (Although I do sometimes break this rule for literary work that makes me understand things more, like, for example, Rules of Engagement by Anita Brookner, which I really need to review one of these days! And even The Hunger Games, the ending of which infuriated me, but which is still such a profound work of allegorical literature that it informs my thoughts about various things we humans are doing to each other and the way the world works at the moment.)

But back to this wonderful book. Luke’s #1 Rule is thought provoking literature that will leave you feeling happy and satisfied as well as thoughtful and more informed.

Here are some little details from the book that I jotted down as I was reading. After that, I am posting the interview that was included at the end of the book, with the author’s permission. Cynthia is on tap to answer comments, too, so fire away!

I love it when Tommy’s smile spreads over his face like butter on toast. (Tommy is one of Chloe’s children, whom I just adored. Cynthia really captured children realistically. I love the characterization of the children; I could see and feel their excitement over meeting Luke, and over everything fun.)

I love this line:

“Then I’d say you had quite a mess to clean up before your next child arrives, don’t you?”

This was a line by a therapist talking to the drug addict in this book who makes the people around him miserable. This line is just an example of how you feel this book is written by an artistically mature author.

Speaking of artistically mature, the book is so deeply written, I was inside the character’s minds.

I love details like this, feeling the calming effect of something homey when one is in the midst of a very real life crisis.

…and the meatloaf mixture minus eggs sat in a blue bowl. Her mom had used that same mixing bowl since Chloe was a little girl.

And little offhand comments like this that communicate a setting in so few words:

Good stones, she had learned this week, were the ones that made the biggest splash when you flung them into the water.

And I love the realism of this little gem tucked into a scene:

She mentioned the price of a year of college these days. One year for one student. Her mother had been shocked at how college costs had sky-rocketed just since Chloe had finished off her degree.

And finally this, at the crisis point in the book. I felt the emotion because I was living the story with the characters.

Now she knew the rip of kin from kin, and it hurt.

Buy Luke’s #1 Rule here (on sale)

Now for the interview. I love that it was included in the book because I instantly had questions about the author’s own experiences. The book was so realistic that I thought maybe she had experiences along the lines of those of the book’s characters.

There are also excellent book group discussion questions provided.

An interview with Cynthia Harrison

Cynthia Harrison
Author Cynthia Harrison

1. You said that your husband gave you the idea for this book twenty-five years ago. Why didn’t you write your true love story?

I’m a fiction writer. I like making things up. I also wanted to protect the privacy of the real people involved in this story. Not just my husband and sons, but their father, their other mother, and their siblings.

  1. Their other mother? Why not stepmom? Do you mean the character of Bettina?

I’ve always felt, from almost the first day, great respect for the woman who would help raise my children. I feel like I can talk to her about anything and she will understand. She’s very friendly and open and nonjudgmental. I love her. She took great care of my children; she is truly their other mother. Stepmom has such negative connotations in literature. She’s the opposite of that.

  1. So the next obvious question is your ex-husband. Is he anything at all like Spence?

Not an iota. Not even close. Spence is the character I had the most trouble with, at first. I didn’t want to make the ex the bad guy. It’s such a cliché. So I did the opposite and that didn’t work. This is fiction, and I needed conflict. I’m a writer who teaches, and the first seven years of my teaching career, I taught at-risk high school children. I learned a lot about addictions and how they destroy families. Then there’s my addiction to chocolate and potato chips, which sounds funny but created serious consequences. I was recently diagnosed with pre-diabetes. So no more sugar for me. I have an addictive personality. Fortunately, I can’t drink more than a few glasses of wine without getting dizzy and then sick. So food has been my primary addiction, but I am also a binge television watcher, huge movie fan, and constant reader of novels. Aside from the food, these are all soft addictions, but they all gave me insight into Spence.

  1. What will happen to Spence? Will he be okay? How can the reader know?

As a reader, I sometimes have questions when a story ends, too. In the literature, the relapse number is very high, but Spence has a unique supportive system in Blue Lake. We will see Spence in other stories, but I don’t know if he will relapse because he hasn’t (yet). Still, it’s true what they say: addicts will always be in recovery.

  1. How many books do you plan for the Blue Lake Series?

I still have a lot of stories to tell. I like telling two thematically related stories in every novel. So Fast Eddie’s will be about the reunion of Bob and Lily, who were going off to college in Blue Heaven. They’ve graduated, and Lily comes back to Blue Lake. So does Eddie’s first love. My favorite way to write is to have a new adult storyline and a more mature romance as well.

  1. Blue Heaven was more of a traditional romance, but Luke’s #1 Rule had many more characters. There are the four adults and two children, plus the meddling mothers. Why the change?

They say every writer has a “book of her heart.” Luke’s Number #1 Rule was mine. It was not just a love story, although that’s the main plotline. Using the theme of blending a family was the book I’ve always wanted to write. It was a challenge. And it wasn’t a romance. I will always write love stories because I have a romantic soul, but the larger picture interests me, too. 7. You said you’re a reader. Who are some of your favorite authors? If you came to my house, you would look at my bookshelves and know. I use an e-reader these days, but still collect my favorites in hardback. First came Jane Austen and Erica Jong, then Alice Hoffman, Louise Erdrich, Sara Lewis, Elizabeth Berg. I also love poetry and short stories, so add Margaret Atwood and Alice Munro. Also Carol Shields.

  1. Do you read male authors?

I do. Raymond Carver is a personal favorite. I also admire TC Boyle and Richard Ford. There is not a book by David Lodge I have not laughed through. Richard Russo is in there, too. I don’t collect any of them except Carver. I think taking two degrees in English literature filled me up with male authors. The classics. After college, I started my own education of contemporary female writers.

  1. Do you read contemporary romance?

I do. I never miss a novel by Barbara Delinsky, Pamela Morsi, or Rachel Gibson. I’m also a fan of romantic suspense and several of my fellow TWRP authors write in that line. Mysteries! Sue Grafton and Anne Perry. Lee Childs. Every book.

  1. How do you find the time to teach, read, and write? Are your little boys grown up now?

Yes, my boys are grown with families of their own. When they were young, I wrote less and read less. I enjoyed my time with them. More recently, I’ve been teaching less, which gives me time to read and write. I’ve found you can do it all, but you can’t do it all at the same time. I’m also dedicated (again, I could say addicted) to Twitter and my blog. My older son suggested I start a blog in 2002. He set it up for me, and I’m still there at For ten years, I wrote about my efforts to publish my novels. Then it happened and I decided to write about other things, the concerns in my novels, but also the love and joy in everyday life.

  1. Do you ever speak to book clubs?

I adore meeting people I’ve only known on the Internet. In real life, I’ve met friends from New York, San Diego, Los Angeles, and Seattle. I live north of Detroit, but, time permitting, I’d be happy to Skype with a book group from anywhere.

Where to find Cynthia Harrison:

Blog :

Facebook :

Twitter :

Pinterest :

Google+ :

Goodreads :

Amazon Author Page :

Happy Valentine’s Day, two Romance authors talk about writing and love

Today in honor of Valentine’s Day, I am doing very brief interviews with two romance authors.

Welcome back, Melinda Di Lorenzo! Thank you for joining us today. Can you share with us a bit about your experience with either the Romance genre or romance in life?

Melinda: Sure! On writing romance, until about four years ago, I didn’t even realize that I was writing romance! It came as a big surprise to me when I found the common thread in all of my stories – LOVE. I’m a sucker for it. If it makes your heart pound, or makes you sigh a little breathlessly, I’m hooked.

Nia: You definitely have the hang of this genre. I loved Tattoos and Tangles.

Find Melinda on the web here:, on Twitter: @melindawrites and on Facebook:

Next up we have RoseAnne DeFranco.

RoseAnn DeFranco

I reviewed her book Return to Audubon Springs here. Welcome, RoseAnne! Can you give us a tidbit about romance or Romance from your life?

RoseAnn: Sure! People always ask if the men in the Brothers of Audubon Springs are based on someone I know. While they are not, they all possess some of my husband’s characteristics – a love of nature, fishing and family (See: MAMA’S BOY). Fishing, nature and beach excursions were a large part of how I fell in love with my husband. The series is an expression of that love.

Nia: Thank you, RoseAnn!

Find RoseAnn on the web here:, on Twitter: @radefranco, and on Facebook:!/roseanndefrancoauthor

Tattoos and Tangles, by Melinda Di Lorenzo, book review


I was very caught up in this story right from the start. The voice of the heroine is young and edgy, yet vulnerable. The hero is very strong. And even though I was right in his head, the twist at the end came as a surprise. 

The characters’ life stories were painful and realistic, making for well-motivated actions. This is a romance, and follows the story arcs expected in the genre, but does so in a convincing and natural way. Such organic arcs flow from strong, realistic character motivations.

Along with the characters, the suspense, and the mystery, I enjoyed the author’s light touch with the romance. Feelings grow naturally and realistically while intimate moments are written sparingly. Actually, all the writing is quite spare, making for a strong contemporary fiction feel and fast romantic-suspense pace.

We have the author here today to answer a few questions.

Melinda, welcome! Great book. Tattoos and Tangles is a real page turner. Where did you come up with the idea for this book?

Melinda: A friend said to me one day (half-joking), “You know what the world needs? More tattooed bad boys. That’s what you should write!” So I laughed and replied, “Fine. I can do that.” So I started with the opening scene.

Nia: I was going to ask what came first: the characters, the situation, the plot, the livelihood… Apparently the tattoos. Can you elaborate?

Melinda: The tattoo parlor came first, and Cass’s story. I knew exactly what had happened to her from the first page.

Nia: You wrote in multiple first person. I was excited to see how you handled this point-of-view (POV) choice because my co-author John Holland and I decided to go with this POV for our novel. We went back and forth with POV, sometimes writing in third person but always coming back to first. First just felt right. Why did you choose first person and did you write it another way and change it or decide on first person from the start?

Melinda: I almost always write in first person. It feels natural to me. I wrote Cass’s first two chapters, but knew as soon as I was done with them that John needed to get up close and personal, too.

Nia: Where are you in your writing career? How long have you been writing, what else have you published and where do you hope to go?

Melinda: I feel like I’m just getting started in the part of writing that equals a career, but I’ve been writing for as long as I could hold a pencil. If you ask my parents, they’ll tell you that my room was covered with story notes from the time I was about 8 years old. In addition to Tattoos and Tangles, I have two Indie novels, Snapshots by Laura and Long Way From Home, both available on Amazon. I have a New Adult Romance coming out with Harlequin in the early summer. I’m currently working on another Romantic Suspense and just hope to keep going forever!

Nia: Congratulations. You are off to a great start with the career phase of your writing. Can you tell us why you write?

Melinda: I have a lot of stories in my head. I feel like I have to get them out. Like REALLY have to.

Nia: What do you like to read?

Melinda: Just about everything. I love historical romance and romantic suspense. I also enjoy a good thriller. I decided a while back that I was going to write a Young Adult novel, so most recently I’ve been diving into those. Last year, I read 55 books!

Nia: Thank you for joining us, Melinda. Bloggees, you can find Tattoos and Tangles at the link below, and you can find Melinda on the web at the links below as well.

Tattoos and Tangles, by Melinda DiLorenzo


Twitter: @melindawrites


Book review, Return to Audubon Springs, RoseAnn DeFranco


Homecoming, past lovers and secret baby… this book hits a lot of romance themes that I enjoy. Brimming with passion, conflict and humor, this book made me laugh and bite my nails and brought a tear to my eyes. Emma returns to a beautiful family house left to her as an inheritance with a big catch. She has to live there for 2 weeks a year and share the house with her very sexy ex-lover, Rafe. She tries to make Rafe leave by driving him crazy. Her ruse of being on a macrobiotic diet in order to drive him crazy had me in stitches.

The secondary characters, Rafe’s family, Emma’s friends, Emma’s mother and brother and especially the love child, Elana, populate this book with a rich, vibrant and realistic community.

This book is free on Amazon Kindle from 11/5 – 11/9/13!

Today, the author is here to answer a few questions. RoseAnn, welcome! I have a lot of questions for you, so here goes.

First, my favorite of all: are you a pantser or a plotter?

RoseAnn DeFranco: Hi Nia! Thank you so much for having me here. I’m thrilled to know you enjoyed the book.  I’m a plotting pantser.  My stories start with the characters. I take my time, live with them for a while, and figure out what makes them tick. From there, I naturally see the BIG MOMENTS or Turning Points FIRST. I tend to write or at least sketch out those moments and then go back and write to those points.

NS: That sounds like a great technique. I noticed you made effective use of a realistic and emotional device: the special kiss shared between mom and daughter. Did this come to you as you wrote it, did you layer it in later, or did you plan it ahead of time?

RDF: It came to me naturally in the first draft. I loved reading the book The Kissing Hand to my daughter. The exchanges you see between Emma and Elana are right out of my own history with my daughter.

NS: Wow, no wonder the mother/daughter relationship was so tender and realistic. You’ve lived it. Tell us, what came first with the idea for this book – setting, conflict or characters?

RDF: Setting definitely. Audubon Springs is based on my personal favorite Jersey Shore town. A couple of people that hail from Jersey already correctly guessed the town! Emma and Rafe’s house is actually a combination of my two favorite homes on Ocean Ave in the town.

NS: That’s wonderful. I used to spend summers in Manasquan with my family growing up. Those summers are favorite memories for my sister and me so your book was especially enjoyable.

Let’s talk about the conflict. The conflict is pretty explosive. I was biting my nails wondering if I could forgive Emma! You did it, though! It was a bold plot. Were you nervous about handling the secret baby, being able to redeem the heroine after keeping such an important relationship from the child’s paternal family?

RDF: It was definitely a concern of mine! I once attended a seminar about conflict with Eloisa James.  She said that it is the Author’s job to make the conflict so horrible that you can’t imagine how the H/H will work it out. At the start of the book, Emma feels very justified in her previous decisions.  As the story progresses, this secret creates a lot of internal conflict for her.

NS: Wow, that’s a great tip. Thanks for sharing it. How long have you been writing?

RDF: I’ve been writing for about seven years, seriously for about four.

NS: What other books have you written?

RDF: Return to Audubon Springs is the first in a three book Contemporary Romance series scheduled for release in 2014. The Series is called the Brothers of Audubon Springs.  I wrote two other Contemporary Romances prior to starting this series. I pretty much got my feet wet and worked out my writing chops on those stories.  In addition I have a Young Adult Fantasy, Forbidden Signs, which is the first in a planned three book series.  It was a finalist in two writing competitions in 2012. I’m currently seeking the right home for it in traditional publishing, but if that doesn’t happen, I have plans to self-publish it.

NS: I am in awe. What are your goals and dreams with writing?

RDF: Ultimately I’d love to be one of those Authors who can give up my day job to focus exclusively on my writing.  I have plans for a lot of stories, and as you know, writing takes time. Something I always seem to be short on!

NS: Wow, you are this prolific and you don’t write full time. I am so happy for you… you will get there. Thank you for joining us here today. We look forward to having you back as you publish more books.

RDF: Thank you! It was my pleasure to chat with you about Return to Audubon Springs.

Amazon Link (free today through 11/9!):

Goodreads Link:


RoseAnn DeFranco

RoseAnn DeFranco grew up in upstate NY with her nose in a book and a song in her heart. Following the pursuit of a musical theatre career in NYC, she turned her creative energy to writing funny, steamy romance with heart. A NJ shore transplant, she enjoys time spent at the beach with her family and would love to one day live in a quaint shore town like the fictional town from her BROTHERS OF AUDUBON SPRINGS series.  More information about these Contemporary Romantic Comedies can be found at


When Emma Grant returns to her family’s Audubon Springs beach house to fulfill the stipulations of her father’s will, she has every intention of forcing her former lover out of the house for good. She’s never fit into her wealthy family and would prefer avoiding her past, but with her brother threatening to reveal her young daughter, she has no choice.

Rafe Iuliano has other plans. The wealthy Grants tried to bribe him out of Emma’s life years ago, but he’s determined to prove once and for all that a master carpenter is worthy of Emma and the house.

Their ridiculous and steamy battle for the house reignites the love and passion that bloomed between them years ago. But when Rafe discovers she’s kept their daughter a secret for two years, can he overcome anger and pride to claim his family and the love of his life, or will the deception drive a final wedge between them?


“This is your fault!” Emma shouted.

“My fault?” Rafe blinked through the thick coat of flour. “You’re the one who started this.”


“Yeah, you—Miss Macrobiotic Princess!” They used the barstools for support, and pulled themselves up from the slippery floor. “You’re immovable just like your mother.”

“And you’ve got about as much depth as a toenail. For the life of me, I can’t remember why I was ever with you.”

With a predatory look in his eyes and gait, Rafe advanced. In two long strides he pinned her to the counter, his hands grasping her hips. “Don’t!” His voice, low and dangerous, and his near proximity overwhelmed, charging her body with a jolt of electricity rendering breathing impossible. His gaze locked on hers for an eternity, then without warning, he dipped his head and licked lavishly at the syrup on her chest and neck.

Need and heat consumed her at his touch, fraying what was left of her nerves. She dropped her head back, shivered, and her knees buckled. He held her steady, fully pinned against the counter and continued to feast on her neck. Then with a shake as if waking from a dream, he stepped away, taking his heat with him.

Emma swayed and gripped the counter. Goose bumps rose on her flesh at the storm brewing in his eyes.

“Say or do anything you want to push me out of this house, but don’t ever say you don’t remember.”

Author interview, Cynthia Harrison


Today, we have author Cynthia Harrison.

Cynthia, welcome! Your background shows that you are a real book lover. You teach English, including creative writing, have written a manual on writing, and have written hundreds of reviews, features and short fiction. Have you written in other genres besides romance?

Cynthia Harrison: Yes, I started as a poet and short story writer.  I tried a few literary novels, a mystery, and a historical romance. They were practice books. Nothing felt right until I turned to contemporary love stories, novels of self-discovery, set in small towns.

NS: I know you also read outside the genre. What do you like about reading and writing romance?

CH: I like the parameters. I like working within a structure and twisting it for a bit of edge.

NS: Are you a pantser or a plotter?

CH: Pantser, to my dismay. I do begin plotting in earnest at about 30K words, but until then it’s whatever comes out of the fingertips that day.

NS: What is your favorite part about writing?

CH: I love losing myself in worlds that I can control, lol.

NS: What is the hardest part about writing?

CH: Finding the time and energy to keep going  when I really want to read a good book.

NS: How long have you been writing?

CH: 45 years. Junior high star journalist.

NS: What are your dreams for your writing?

CH: I love this series idea, because I love writing series. But, if I can finish and publish this one I’m writing now, the book of my heart, I’ll be satisfied.

Cynthia Harrison
Cynthia Harrison

To learn more about Cynthia:

Links blogging for 11 years on A Writer’s Diary.

facebook fan page: Cynthia Harrison

Twitter: @CynthiaHarriso1

Author interview, Robena Grant, Desert Exposure

Today we have Robena Grant who has a cool book trailer for one of her romantic suspenses. Check it out… it really captures the mood of the novel.

Robena, welcome! What prompted you to get the book trailer made, how did you do it, and do you feel it is helping increase awareness of your book?

Robena Grant:

Thank you for inviting me, Nia. This is so sweet of you. Desert Exposure was my RWA®Golden Heart® finalist book from 2012, so it was special to me. I had not done book trailers for the first two books in the Desert Heat series. I had a friend who had hired GWExtra for hers: and I liked the result. I’m not sure trailers do anything toward selling a book though. : )

NS: This is the third in the series — how did you do the research to create the town of Almagro and the neighboring towns?

RG: I moved to the Coachella Valley in Southern California, which is a desert oasis, about eight years ago. I love exploring and became fascinated with the disparity between the poorer small farming towns butting up against the flashy vacation, golf-course-ridden bigger towns. I created Almagro based on my own town, but I moved its location further east.

NS: You created a villain that had real motivation and was three-dimensional. Kudos! Was that a deliberate effort and what made you want to spend the time to develop the villain instead of falling into the common pattern of making villains pure evil?

RG: Thank you. I believe there is good and bad in all of us. I’m interested in what might motivate a person to choose a life of crime. I wanted to show my antagonist’s good side through his loyalty to his family, his brother.

NS: Many of the minor characters were also richly nuanced. Did you work up character sheets for them? (Grandpa, Manuel, and Fernando?)

RG: I don’t do character sheets. When a character first appears to me I’ll flesh him/her out, try to figure out what makes him tick, choose one or two things that make him different from other characters in the story, and then I let him evolve as I write.

NS: Which leads me to my favorite question, are you a pantser or a plotter?

RG: I’m basically a pantser in that I think the story through as I walk, drive, exercise. Then I write a rough draft. With romantic suspense there has to be some plotting as you need to weave both the romance and the suspense. Plus there’s usually a subplot or two. : ) I focus on writing toward the major turning points.

NS: What is your favorite part about writing?

RG: The discovery part of having a character show up and whisper in my ear that they have a story to tell. Then discovering who he/she is, what they’ve done, and how I can do justice to their story.

NS: What is the hardest part about writing?

RG: For me it’s grammar. I still make ridiculous mistakes. I’m getting better at finding them, but thank heavens for editors.

NS: How long have you been writing?

RG: I started in the summer of 2000.

NS: I’m pretty close. I started in the spring of 2001. What are your dreams for your writing?

RG: To be a hybrid author. I adore The Wild Rose Press and I’m currently working on my fifth romantic suspense title for them. I hope we have a long career together. However, I have a couple of contemporary romances already written, and I’d love to secure a contract with a big house, just for the experience, and I’d also like to dabble in indie publishing.

NS: I see you are a nurse. Do you plan to ever try writing a medical romance?

RG: I retired from nursing in 1980. There are many medical stories in my head, but I’m not sure how they would sound on paper.  Medicine, technology, all of that has changed so much in thirty years that I doubt I’d ever get it right. I have friends who write for HM&B and there is a real art to the storytelling. Thanks again for hosting me, and I hope you and your readers have a great day.

Robena Grant
Robena Grant

To learn more about Robena please visit her website: Click on My Blog for her weekly ramblings on writing, interviews, and rants, or follow her on FB or Twitter.  Robena’s books are available at Amazon or through her publisher The Wild Rose Press:

Author interview Barb Han

Barb, welcome! Caught in the Crosshair was a terrific romance. The hurricane sequence was fantastic. Have you ever been through a hurricane or was it all research?

Barb Han:

Thank you so much for hosting me. It’s such a pleasure to be here. I’ve cruised around three hurricanes, all at a safe distance. Even so, the swells were large enough to make the ship sway. The captain joked that if we wanted to talk straight, we should drink.

NS: Can you tell us a little about your writing journey? How long have you been writing?

BH: Thank you so much. I’ve been seriously writing fiction for nine years. Before that, I worked as a journalist and a freelance writer for a number of years.

NS: No wonder you’re so good. That’s a terrific background. What made you want to write fiction? Romance?

BH: Great question. I love romance because it’s fundamentally about love. Love heals. If you want to see the effect of the absence of love in people’s lives, visit a prison. It’s filled with people who grew up without it. Love is powerful.

NS: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

BH: I’m a hybrid. Now that I’m writing under contract with Harlequin Intrigue, I pretty much have to plot my stories. But then, as I’m writing, the story takes over and doesn’t always stick to the plan.

NS: Congratulations on writing for Harlequin Intrigue. What is the hardest part about the craft of writing?

BH: Letting go.

NS: What is your favorite part about writing?

BH: When I first started out, I used to love the creating part of writing. I didn’t plot, so I’d just run with an idea and let it take me where it wanted. Editing was a nightmare and I’d end up cutting quite a bit later. That was painful. As I’ve matured, I actually began to appreciate the revision process. I accept the fact my first draft is going to be awful because I’m getting the big ideas out. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Once I get through that, I get to play with language, sentences, create nuance, etc. That’s what I love doing. That’s when the story really comes alive.

NS: That describes me as well. Do you have any tips about the writer’s life or craft that you’d like to share with us?

BH: I once heard an author say, “Discipline is more important than talent.”

I wrote it down and taped it next to my computer. It’s my mantra.


Barb loves to connect with readers. Connect with her at: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest.

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Author interview Mackenzie Crowne

Welcome, Mac! Can you tell us a little about your writing process, from idea to finished product? Do you plan and plot in detail or “pants” it or some combination of the two?

Mac: I’m a complete pantser. I start out with an idea, a conflict, and a location and the rest comes to me as I go along. Let me tell you, that can be a real pain in the butt at times, but I can’t seem to write any other way, and really wouldn’t want to. I love the status quo.

Nia: What are your long term goals and dreams for your writing career?

Mac: Just to keep writing and sharing my stories. I didn’t take up this craft to get rich, though, of course, I wouldn’t mind. Storytelling is compulsory for me. Even if I never sold another book, I simply couldn’t stop. That would break my heart. So wherever my writing takes me, I’ll be smiling.

Nia: What do you find to be the most difficult part of the writing craft?

Mac: Staying on track to get to where I plan to go. As a pantser, I’m often tossed off in a direction I didn’t expect. Sometimes that’s awesome. Sometimes it’s a disaster leading to writer’s block.

Nia: I hear you. But if it’s any comfort, I’m a plotter and I hit disaster and writer’s block too. What are your favorite parts of writing?

Mac: A good, juicy scene fueled by dialog. I always learn the most about my characters when I let them talk and love how that happens.

Nia: Ditto! Thanks for coming by today.

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Author interview, Barbara Edwards, Journey of the Magi

Welcome Barbara! You have been writing for a while. Can you tell us where are you in your career?

Barbara: I’m a multi-published author. That means I’m working to increase my readership and write the best books I possibly can. Journey of the Magi is a different type of book for me since it is a sweet romance instead of a paranormal romance or a historical romance.

Nia: Are you a “plotter” a “pantser” or a mix?

Barbara: Although I ‘know’ the beginning and the end of my story before I start I don’t do advance plotting. My characters keep me writing until their story is told.

Nia: Another “pantser”! I’ve had a lot of those on this blog. I’m going to have to hunt for some other plotters, like me!

But for now, can you tell us, what is the most challenging part of the writing craft for you?

Barbara: Everything. I’m always rewriting, editing and re-editing.

Nia: I know the feeling! Writing fiction is, I think, the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. But now for the good part. What is your favorite part of the writing craft for you?

Barbara: I enjoy having a reader like my stories. That’s my ego talking. I also like to share what I’ve learned with other writers. Writers are like sponges soaking up every detail that will make their writing better.

Nia: That’s a nice thing to say about us. Thank you. What aspect of writing took you the longest to master?

Barbara: Keeping to a daily writing schedule. It’s difficult to ignore all the distractions that real life throws in my path.

Nia: Do you mind if I borrow that answer?! What are your aspirations as an author?

Barbara: I want to have a best-seller in the New York Times. I also want to keep publishing novels until I run out of ideas.

Nia: Forever, in other words. That’s so great. How many people want to keep doing their job forever? But that’s a rhetorical question. Here’s a real one. From what neck of the woods do you hail?

Barbara: I am a New Englander. I grew up in a small town and went to college at the University of Hartford in Connecticut.  I did live in Florida for ten years and will travel anywhere the road takes me.

Nia: That’s the spirit we like around here! There are a lot of travelers in this neck of the blogosphere woods.


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