Thursday, September 24, 2009

Think with your heart

I know, I seem to be stuck on those cheesy title lines. I dunno, could be something in the air. Summer is coming in around my side of the world (southern hemisphere actually, my kids would correct me!) and suddenly all's bright and nice and warm and the birds are chirping while the sun is this big golden orb in the spotless deep blue of the sky, with little puffs of fluffy clouds like cotton candy dancing in from time to time... Uh, sorry, got carried away by the light flower-scented breeze that drifts in the wide open windows and terrace doors... Oops, I did it again! (oh bugger, I'm quoting Britney Spears! Yikes!!)

Allright, back to business (not back to black - Amy Winehouse btw - oops again!). I dunno for you but I see a little pattern emerging between my title and the little (okay, long!) paragraph I just wrote above. What is it?

I wrote it with my heart. Summer makes me feel good, and the feelings flow inside me, and then I have no trouble finding ways and means to describe it all in a lyrical and flowing voice (granted, take Britney and Amy out of it, but that too can count as voice, or characterization!)

What I'm getting at is this - if your heart is into something, it shows in what you do. How many times have you dragged your feet to do a chore? Granted, yes, you got the job done, even got it done well, but the fact remains, you had to drag your feet to do it. Now imagine doing something you're all revved up for. You can hardly remain still until you can get to this task, and when you do get to it, you immerse yourself in so much time flies, and when it's over, you're like, that's too soon, I want to hang on to this feeling.

Ask yourself then if your writing is a feet-dragging chore, or an elation-filled endeavour. If it's a chore, I think you need to reassess your position. Is it the writing itself that's drudging, or is it other factors in your life that are impeding upon it?

The fact remains that while writing should be a labour of love, it should also be a task you undertake with all your heart. When this is the case, have no doubt that the story that flows out of your pen (or keyboard) is one that is bound to be strong, solid, and overall a round story that covers all aspects of what constitutes a good story. Why? Because you wrote it with your heart in there, not just to fill a slot of the market demand and to make a quick buck or to get a shoddy credit.

Ask most good writers (the ones we all rave about) what they are after, and they'll most probably tell you that their goal is strong stories that they have invested all their heart and soul in.

Is it that hard to do? No, but you need to sit down and decide what you want. A good story most often brings you all of publishing contract, publishing credit, readership, and some money. Add to it that there's also the elation-filled author satisfaction that can tide you through weeks on end. Take all of these elements apart - contract, credit, money - and without your heart in your work, you may end up with any or all of these, but all of it may not last long - it may not bring you more contracts, credits or money. Whereas a good story, well, it can pave the way for your future career path.

Think with your brain and common sense, think with some logic - find what you want to do, and then think with your heart when you are writing. A story that has author investment and the author's heart and soul into it will shine out of the lot without you needing to do much work, and that, I believe, should be every writer's big goal.

Any questions, just holler!

Aasiyah Qamar - Cultural Romantic Fiction, With a Twist
Coming out October 2 - Light My World - Eirelander Publishing
Nolwynn Ardennes - The Promise of Fulfilment
Coming out January 8, 2010 - Storms in a Shot Glass - Eirelander Publishing
Coming out July 2, 2010 - Walking on the Edge - Eirelander Publishing

Aasiyah Qamar/Nolwynn Ardennes - Romance the world over

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Make me believe it!

As a reader, I'm very easy to please. Cover to cover, make me believe in the story, in the characters, in their world. Whether it's a sci-fi alien gig, or a vampire-werewolf thing, suck me in. If the characters are suppose to be attracted to one another, show me that they are, let them express it. If the villian is going to be a major stumbling block, show me why. That's all I ask for.

I know. I don't ask for much.

Honestly, that's just the basic idea of what makes a good book for me. I really prefer HEAs, but will take a solid HFN. A weak HFN only makes me feel incomplete at the end. The 'he might join her if' kind of ending. Blah. Not my kind of thing.

I love great characters. They give momentum and nuance to a story, whether it's just the H/h or half a dozen hangers-on. I will tell you, if you're shoving people into the story just to make page count, I can tell. I've come across quite a few where an extraneous character was just well...extraneous. Doesn't really hurt the story, but adds nothing just the same. I love Alpha males, but will take a solid Beta or Gamma with Alpha tendencies. Strong heroines need strong counter-characters. I love sparks between the characters. You know, because real life is just so dull.

I love worlds I can fall into. Doesn't really matter if it's Earth or some semblance there of. Pull me into the moment, the locale. I don't need a thousand explanations about how she became a vet, how a vet tech's day proceeds or why or how often they have to clean cages. Let me fill in the blanks. Granted if it's something a little less common, expound, but don't overinflate. Nothing makes me skip paragraphs faster than monotonous unnecessary overkill.

In essence, this is really how I write myself. A woven story where one facet feeds another to the culmination, with lots of tension, chemistry and anticipation. Keep in mind, this is ME, and we all know how weird I can be. So my reading preferences will most likely differ from yours, and that's okay. No two readers are going to catch the exact same images, patterns and nuances from the same story. That's why writing is subjective. We read the same story, but discover different details that stick. Often that's why reviews can be in the range of Great! to Sucked Swamp Water.

All I ask from a story is make me believe it, and I'm usually happy.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Just a little investment goes a long way.

I remember the days when I was an aspiring writer. I wanted to make it, and in a sick way, I wanted to prove myself not to the arses who said, "I couldn't" but to myself. Every story was a labor of love and so much sweat there were days when I wanted to tear my hair out. It all boiled down to one thing – investing in the story.

Today, that's changed. There's so many publishers out there that it's more a case of pick your poison on their side than sweating out the little stuff in the story. You see, when I started writing there was no internet. Shoot, a computer was something that took up a whole room and needed fifty workers to care for it.

It was an age when every story had to count. Each page had to have that spark that got your foot in the door and, potentially, a contract in your hand. That's what I come from. Where it was the effort you put into the story that counted.

Maybe I should hang up my old typewriter and say, "Characters don't count. Plot doesn't matter. It's all about banging out the story and selling it then waving the credit in front of all your crit partners because somehow that makes you bigger or better."

Sorry, but that's sad. It's not that I don't think prolific writers don't exist. I know they do. My main beef comes down to how much garbage is out there. Don't say there isn't because we've all come across at least one crappy story in our days.

You can tell who's invested in their story. It's obvious and if nobody is willing to tell you that then I will. In my own mentor's words this is a matter of sit-down-shut-up-and-listen.

There's another side to my beef. That's where an author has the unmitigated gall to say – "I wrote it but it's the editor's job to fix it".

What planet are you on? And how did you get lucky enough to get a contract?

Then you get the author who will sit there and say – "But my crit partners tell me this or that or the other thing."

Wake UP!

You didn't enter into a binding contract with your crit partners. And for the record, about fifty percent of them are about as helpful as a pilonidal cyst. They tell you to do one thing, so you follow that. Then another says something else, so you follow that. Finally you end up with a mishmash of words that has stripped your story down to a lovely skeleton that's baking on the desert sand or have twisted it inside out. (Can you tell I could go on and on about this?)

Invest in your story. Use your common sense when it comes to crit partners. And take the time to create the best story you ever could have.


Okay, I'm done ranting. It's your turn. Can you tell when an author isn't invested in a story or am I just blowing smoke? Do you think it matters and that authors have to get tougher on themselves when it comes to investment?


Until next Tuesday, cheers and happy writing,


Monday, September 21, 2009

With Love, from Ms.Blush

Hello to you all wonderful, beautiful people!

Read any good books lately?

Ask anyone this question and most often, sadly, you hear something like, not really.

I say, what a shame! I mean, come on, can you count the sheer amount of writers out there, the humongous number of authors in the publishing world? And not even a handful of good, memorable stories every month? Am I too demanding or what?

We, the Royal Blush posse, have been trying to wrap our minds around this sad fact - where have all the good stories gone? Whatever has happened to take the number of amazing books published from a good deal a decade or two ago to not even a handful today, while there has to be at least a hundred stories coming out every month?

Why, what, how? And again, why?

Catch us this week as we try to not tear our hair out and shed some light and thoughts on this terrible issue.

On Tuesday, T.J. asks whether it may be that investment is lacking in a story. Come check her post on what it was like when she started writing, and what the situation is like today.

Wednesday, Diana chimes in to bring us her simple but at the same time apparently 'un-get-able by writers today' view of what constitutes a good story in her world.

On Thursday, Z(Aasiyah/Nolwynn) asks whether the writer's heart is into her work or not, and how this may affect the story that comes out of said writer's pen.

Don't forget:

This September, we want to go back to the roots of what makes writing, and reading, such a life-changing experience.

This September, we're on the quest:

Searching for a good story...

The best of us for the best of you, that's our promise as we deliver the full flush of romance.

From now till later, enjoy!

With love, from Ms. Blush

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Imagine with your imagination

I know, cheesy title, silly really. What on earth is she gonna ramble about today, eh? Bear with me for a little while, you'll see what I'm getting at.

Yesterday, my six year old son must've been really bored out of his senses to come to my bedroom and plop himself down on the bed while I was blow-drying my hair. Usually one to talk the hind leg off a donkey, after a few minutes, he got bored again that we both had to shout over the noise of the hair dryer. So he did what every self-respecting little boy would do - look for something to do. Now, my room ain't exactly girly (remember I share it with the hubby, who's best described as a caveman of sorts) but it ain't exactly a little boy's heaven either. So there my little one goes, making tons of noise like the sound of a gunning engine, and with all things, a bottle of body lotion in his hands. As I usually do if he isn't breaking anything, I humor him, and ask, is that a car (he's obsessed by racing)? Little one rolls his big eyes and shakes his head (yeah, his mom's a hopeless basket case according to him!) and goes, it's a speedboat, Ma! Can't you see that's the engine and the propeller? And true enough, it was one of those pump bottles, the pump bit was turned in such a way that it really looked like the engine of a boat.

What I'm getting at is this - who'd have thought a pump bottle of lotion would make a great speedboat?

The answer is, imagination!

As a writer, it got me thinking then - where has our imagination gone? When you see the amount of templated work out there (which Sandy touched upon yesterday in her post), you wonder what happened to originality and twists and turns. It's as if writing, especially in the romance category, has gotten as cliche and as predictable as soapies. You always know in a soapie that the guy who loves this one is gonna marry someone else and this first love may try to break them up or they both pine for each other and blah blah blah. Same for romance with its rehashed stories.

But what's even worse, and that T.J. touched upon on Tuesday, is that there is no emotional drive behind the stories you get. Even if you lay your hands on a romance that is not loaded chock-full of mindless sex, you hardly ever have a plot and even more rare is good characterization.

Let's come to the mindless sex bit (sorry, this kinda sticks in my throat, and I know it's the case for many other unfortunate readers and writers of my acquaintance). Let's use our imagination, and let's use our common sense too.

So imagine you're a girl who's out in the big bad dating world. One of the big rules you would follow, as a sane and sensible person, is no sex on the first date. Why? You risk coming across as a cheap shag who has no respect for herself. How then do you expect a guy to respect you?

Makes sense, right?

So why then does the heroine of your book jump a guy's bones, not even on the first date, but within minutes of meeting him?

Okay, lust-driven attraction can happen, but it doesn't just happen bam, bang, boom out of nowhere. There's a buildup to this lust-driven state. So where is that in your story?

Another dating rule: don't shag everyone and everything. Come across otherwise as a no better than a brainless idiot who thinks with her libido. Now think of that girl you may know who shagged everyone and everything. Did you like her, respect her, want to know what happened to her? I'd bet on a big fat no!

So why then should we as readers like, respect, and want to know what happens to your heroine if she is like this?

Dating rule to never forget: a man who thinks with his crotch may be a good shag but he ain't ever worth it. Yes, he may have money, looks, a penthouse in the hippest part of town, drives fast and expensive cars, wears hand-stitched suits and shoes. So what? He shags you, shags the girl at work, the woman who hit on him in the wine bar, the woman he met in the elevator, basically he shags everything that catches the attention of his groin!

That's supposed to be a hero? We're supposed to cheer for him?

Oh, I forgot - the heroine is the one who's gonna change him and make him monogamous, right? How will she do this? By sending him into andropause thirty years before he's due to hit it?

Think, and use some common sense first and then lead that on with your imagination.

I don't say sex cannot be integrated in a romance, or in any other story for that matter. Take a very good example and you'll see what I'm getting at. Basic Instinct. Michael Douglas as tough cop. Sharon Stone as wicked temptress. Everyone will agree that movie is chock-full of sex and sexual innuendo (the interrogation scene, holy cow!). But, but, but - is the movie a string of mindless sex scenes? No! Why? Because the characters are involved, they're building up the tension, taking you along with them along that feverish, rising pitch of lust, emotion, and denial. In some places, you can cut the tension with a knife, and nothing more than a long, steady look is taking place between the protagonists.

Basic Instinct is hot, sexy, sultry. No one can say that isn't an erotic-inclined movie. But was it cheap? No! Was it hare-brained? No! Did it make sense? A resounding Yes!!

Why? Because there was thought, emotion, involvement, imagination that were all used in equal measure in that story.

Where has the imagination of writers gone then today? Into the gutter?

I'd love to know what you think.

As always, any questions, just holler!

Aasiyah Qamar - Cultural Romantic Fiction, With a Twist
Coming out October 2 - Light My World - Eirelander Publishing
Nolwynn Ardennes - The Promise of Fulfilment
Coming out January 8, 2010 - Storms in a Shot Glass - Eirelander Publishing
Coming out July 2, 2010 - Walking on the Edge - Eirelander Publishing

Aasiyah Qamar/Nolwynn Ardennes - Romance the world over

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

What Gets Me Interested in a Story?

It’s so much easier to tell you what doesn’t interest me in a story. The characters can draw me into the story but to keep me there the pacing better be fast forward much of the time. I don’t like huge amounts of setting and description just enough that I can picture the scene and see the characters.

Another thing I don’t like is pages of introspection. Thoughts can be boring unless it pertains to what is going on in the story. Something else I detest is reading about gratuitous sex. It’s boring, and I’ll skim through the scene so fast your head would spin. If the scene requires a love scene, then I’m all for it and if it’s a good one I’ll read it.

Something else I don’t like is the same old plot. How many times do you want to read about runaway brides, women with babies their spouses, boyfriends, etc., don’t know about, navy seals and on and on. What is wrong with writers? They read a story they like about a hero/heroine and they decide to write the same story with the very same characters. After a while it gets boring. Please come up with something new.

For instance, why can’t the hero be a soldier, sailor, marine, or someone ordinary instead of a navy seal, special ops, CIA, FBI, or mercenary? I have to admit here that I’ve done the very same thing, but the ordinary men and women in our military are brave heroes, too. It is only right to portray them as such instead of ignore them for what we think are more high profile characters.

Okay, I am going to get to what I want in a story. I want to read something with meat and potatoes to it. First, I want a hook, and I want emotion. This requires real depth to the characters and to the plot. I want to live what those characters are living and I want the plot to be believable. I want to care about those characters.

A story is good if it gives me something to think about, makes me keep reading until it is finished, and then stays in my mind for weeks, months and years. I remember the premise of a story I read years ago, but I don’t remember the title of the book. It was about survival, the people lived below ground because the air above was tainted, but there were those who survived above ground. They wanted to go underground, but the ones who were already there wouldn’t allow them to come down because they were contaminated. This could have been a movie, too, but whatever it was it always stuck with me.

The story had a great beginning (hook) and it only grew from there as there was fighting between the two groups. The conflict started immediately, it intensified and with a plausible plot that could happen in real life the story held my attention to the end. There was even a love story.

Tell me what you want in a book.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Whatever happened to really good emotional drive?

Yep, this is gonna be a rant and a half. I sat down for a little while yesterday, piddling along the internet going – hmm, does anything look good to buy? I went to all my favorite haunts, but ended up ordering an old story from by one of my favorite romance authors and then sat wishing I had it in my hands. The author? Kathleen Harrington. The book? Cherish the Dream.

I actually do have the book. I just have to read it carefully. My copy is falling apart at the seams, literally. So, gingerly, I fell back in love with the characters. Blade Roberts – Captain and half Cheyenne Indian. Did I mention it was a historical? LOL. Theodora Gordon, botanist and blue stocking if ever there was one. Engaged to some entrepreneur who funded the mission to map over the Sierra's. Lieutenant Kearney/Fletcher/O'Fallon. It's amazing that I remembered so many of them, and all the good things about them. Why?

Because Ms. Harrington had the great ability to capture emotional drive and the story epitomizes exactly what emotional drive is. It's the fuel feeding the reader to turn pages. The angst that makes you wish the story would go on forever. It's real and you feel it as a reader.

There's some special quality that keeps you enthralled. I can say that with all honesty with this book because from moment one I read and read until it was four in the morning. An all-nighter I didn't regret in the least. And she isn't the only author who captured me that way: McNaught, Garwood, Rogers, Norton, Lindsay. They all brought their characters to life via emotional drive.

So what's happened to this aspect? I think it's more that writers have forgotten about it. That there should be more than – oh, he's hot and I want to screw him. Or, she's a babe, I wonder if she gives good head? This is what's happened. In a way, it makes me want to write better. To show the writers who load a story up with sex that I can write hot, with a plot and have my characters become memorable.

It's a tall order I've set upon myself, but then again, I've never shied away from a challenge.

Your turn, tell me what you think is lacking in stories today? Is it that emotional drive has gone by the wayside or is it that some stories aren't hot enough for you? What would you like to see in a story?


Until next week, cheers and happy writing,




Monday, September 7, 2009

With Love, from Ms. Blush

Hello to you all wonderful, beautiful people!

We launched off into September with a really swift kick to the backside, touching upon an almost taboo question in the writing and publishing world today: where have all the good stories gone?

Is it a wonder then how many of us as readers are falling back on books written one or even two decades ago? Why, when there's so much writing and books and ebooks and new authors popping up everyday in the world and in cyberspace?

Last week, we attempted to answer that loaded question from a the angle of characterisation - how good characters maketh a good, memorable and lasting-impression story.

This week, we continue to try to find answers to this dilemma.

Catch T.J. on Tuesday as she tells us how she feels emotional drive is totally, absolutely missing in most stories today. She also asks us what we feel is lacking in stories today - are we up for grabbing good emotional drive or just mindless sex?

Sandra Marshall pens us her monthly point-of-view piece on Wednesday. Find out what she has to say about what attracts, retains, and repulses her from books. She tells us what a good story is for her as a reader.

On Thursday, catch another of Z(Aasiyah/Nolwynn)'s endless rambles on the current topic. This week, she talks about the dwindling collective imagination of this bizarre species called writers.

Don't forget:

This September, we want to go back to the roots of what makes writing, and reading, such a life-changing experience.

This September, we're on the quest:

Searching for a good story...

The best of us for the best of you, that's our promise as we deliver the full flush of romance.

From now till later, enjoy!

With love, from Ms. Blush

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Line up your characters and... Action!

I remember the first time something on TV captivated me. I was watching the sitcom Friends, and I was on the edge of my seat, because Monica was suddenly looking at Chandler like a potential shag! I was like, whoa there, wait a second!! Monica, this is Chandler! Chandler Bing, from across the landing, the guy who dated Janice for God's sake!!

I'm pretty certain there were thousands of people out there who just like me, were having the same reaction. Ever wonder why?

Let's see - what's Friends basically? A sitcom, about the life of 6 friends in New York. I'm not sure there was even a plot behind there, but lo and behold, Friends went on to complete 10 seasons, and its reruns are watched by millions still, with almost the same enthusiasm and anticipation as when you first catch an episode on air.

You have these 6 very different people then, brought together in the same building (Rachel/Monica in one flat, Chandler/Joey across the landing, with Monica's brother Ross and their friend Phoebe dropping in to complete the cast). So there you go, starting point - 6 young people struggling in New York. It wasn't any more than that.

But what made Friends so memorable and so followed, is that the story centred around the lives of these 6 people. In short, the characters drove everything! There was Ross pining for Rachel since he's a teenager, Joey who sleeps with almost everything in knickers, Phoebe who gave a new meaning to crazy-loony-mad, Monica who was obsessed by cleaning, Rachel who's the little rich girl who wants to spread her wings and get away from daddy's credit cards, and Chandler who frankly, was so uptight and 'twisted' he didn't make much sense in the start.

You had Ross, always trying to woo Rachel (especially when his marriage to a woman who disovered she was a lesbian fell through). Rachel who doesn't want to give Ross a second glance, like she's always done. Over the course of the ten seasons, Rachel and Ross had hooked up and broken up at least thrice, and had had a baby together! Then of course there was Monica, looking for her Mr. Right, who on the day of Ross's second marriage to British girl Emily, was so down she knew only a shag would do for her, so she goes for the one who's always ready to shag, Joey. But instead of Joey she finds Chandler in the room, and suddenly they are in bed. It's the prelude to one of TV's most cheered on and satisfying relationships and marriage!

And what happened plot-wise? Nothing! Friends was about people, and as a writer, you must realize that Friends was all about the characters! The characterization of this show was so well sketched that the characters just grew on you, you felt you knew them. You would've wanted to bash Rachel when she has that one-night stand with Ross and then finds she's pregnant! You'd have wanted to group hug Monica and Chandler when they finally declare their love for one another! You'd have wanted to take Joey aside and tell him that this is not the way to treat a woman. You would've gladly thrown a shoe at Phoebe when she got into another rendition of the song "Smelly Cat".

You as the audience were made to forget that these people's names were really Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Cox-Arquette, Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Perry, Matt LeBlanc, and David Schwimmer. They were simply Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Chandler, Joey and Ross. Period! It's the characters that were real, not the actors!

It makes me think of another instance where this has happened. One man, two roles, two Academy Awards nomination (one win). Russel Crowe, Maximus in Gladiator, John Nash in A Beautiful Mind. Two characters that when you looked at them, struck you as THE man/hero of the story. Not as Russel Crowe, because he became the characters he portrayed. Take another look at the same actor as Ed Hoffman in Body of Lies, and you'd see someone else!
Another good example would be Tom Hanks as Andrew Beckett in Philadelphia, and as Forrest Gump in the eponymous movie. Put these two men side by sidee and you'd go - yes, a passing physical resemblance, but never would you say, that's the same man!

So what does it come down to in the end? Characters, and characterization. A key ingredient of a good story is the characters peopling it. As the writer, it is your job to make these characters transcend from the page into fully-fleshed, living, breathing, human people. Actors do it when they take on a part. The writer too needs to do it armed with words, and with the inherent knowledge behind his/her characters.

Think of it - if you don't know your characters, how will you put them across to the audience? How will you make worthy and captivating things happen to them? If the writers of Friends didn't know that when Monica went to look for Joey in his bedroom when the wedding reception was in full swing that she'd find Chandler asleep there, how would we have gotten the twist that they have sex and find out there's more between them? They had to know Chandler is not one for receptions and all the hoopla and so he goes to bed when everyone is partying away. They needed to know that Monica does not give in to casual sex and that this is a turning point for when she sleeps with Chandler. They had to know that there's no way skirt-chasing Joey would be in his own bedroom before the early hours of morning when there are gorgeous bridesmaids to chase after!

You see thus that the story of Friends could not have progressed the way it did, the way it gripped its audience and captivated people's attentions, if the writers hadn't known the characters. Ask anyone what one of their favourite sitcoms is, and they'll say Friends. Why? Because while it may not have had a plot per se, it had wonderful, human and totally well-rounded characters at its heart.

So next time you're thinking of penning a good story, think of this underestimated and undervalued ingredient called characters and characterization. You may be holding the rough, unpolished gem of a story in your hand and not know it!

Any questions, feel free to holler!

Aasiyah Qamar - Cultural Romantic Fiction, With a Twist
Coming out October 2 - Light My World - Eirelander Publishing
Nolwynn Ardennes - The Promise of Fulfilment
Coming out January 8, 2010 - Storms in a Shot Glass - Eirelander Publishing
Coming out July 2, 2010 - Walking on the Edge - Eirelander Publishing

Aasiyah Qamar/Nolwynn Ardennes - Romance the world over

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Starring … Your Characters

There's just something about those memorable characters that jump off the page and endear themselves to your heart. It's part, they aren't just cardboard cutouts or mechanical robots; it's the one where they're almost human which catch our attention. They have flaws we can relate to, even sympathize with. They aren't all my groin is making all my decisions, but are faced with real issues. Strong or weak. The existential 'knight in shining armor' or the 'heroine in distress' who give the reader insight into their world, these are the characters we're most likely to remember.

I can tell you the first romance I ever read that opened my eyes to what was possible with characters. I can even tell you the character – Nick Sinclair. Yep, I'm talking Judith McNaught's, Double Standards. Rich, powerful, self-made millionaire who was disgustingly 80s, but then again, it was the 80s. Jaded, manipulative and in a very strange way, a true hero.

There's no telling how many times I read the book, absorbing the story, considering how great the characters were together. When I started writing romance, that's what I wanted to create. Characters who leapt off the page and at times made me want to tear my hair out. In some cases I succeeded, in others – not so much. The fact was I had to start where all great characters start – with them.

Notoriously, I am a big character profiler. I want to know how they tick and what makes them so deliciously imperfect and yet great at the same time. So, I constantly pour over my character profile, staring at it, going "If my character is in this position, how would they act?" Once I'm familiar with them, I go into their arcs, GMC and all the goodness that is emotional drive.

In the end it comes down to the character. Who they are, and what makes them great. How the reader relates to them and how they connect with the rest of the story.

Yesterday, I was reminded of one of my first short stories and how much frustration I had with my characters. It took a very good friend of mine to sit me down and say, "Shut up, TJ, and do the work." Okay, so I was a bit stunned, but he was right. I hadn't invested in them because I wanted the next credit. In those days, it was all about making me feel bigger because I actually determined who I was by the number of sales I made. My friend, plus my editor, plus a few internal rants showed me, it wasn't about the number of stories I sold but the quality which only I could create.

So today, I do the slug work. I learned my lesson. Character Profiles. Character Arcs. GMC. Emotional Drive. The whole nine-yards of it.

Never forget that this is a craft, and however you draw your characters, do it well. After all, they star in your story.

Time for you to shout back. What was the first book you ever read that made an impression on you? Was it so good, you'd go back to that author just cause of that first story?

Until next Tuesday, cheers and happy writing,