So I’ve Finished Another First Draft…Now What?


Yup! That’s how I feel when I’ve finally made it to the end of another story.

But what happens now?

Every author has their own process they go through. I thought I’d see if I could pinpoint how I get from the thrill of finishing that first draft to nearing the point of publication.


It certainly is quite a transformation.

But here’s my must-do list.

  1. Delete any and all unnecessary description that slows flow. I often ask myself: Does my reader really care about this little bit of info? Make them feel like they’re in the scene and move on.
  2. Combine sentences to show/tell the same thing in one rather than three while still maintaining a balance of short and long sentences.
  3. Watch out for info dumping and delete unnecessary parts that neither mean something to the plot nor move the story forward. This is the time to be ruthless. Murder those darlings!


4. Search for cliches and ditch them. Be original.

5. Search for overused words. I have a slew of those suckers that creep into my stories.

6. Check all those ideas and thoughts that I hopped out of the shower to jot down in the notes section of my phone. Add in and fix per the list of Things-To-Do-For-BookXYZ.

7. Read the story out loud. How does it sound? Does it flow? Do my characters sound like real people? The story should sound as natural as it would if you were sitting at a pub with your bestie and simply telling her the story.


8. Rewrites and edits—no matter how many passes it takes—are a must.


9. Tackle opening sentences of each chapter. Same goes for mini-cliffhangers or some sort of exciting news at the end of each chapter. I really do want to keep my readers turning pages.

10. Let it sit. This is a must for me. When I let my manuscript sit for a week to a month, the time away from the story gives my brain a break. And my brain works in very unusual ways. After time, I no longer have sentences memorized. I find out if a scene is funny, or sad, or just terribly bad. At this point, I also find issues I missed because I was too close to the story. Once, I wrote an entire chapter that rhymed. What? Yup. I had no clue I’d done it. Some days I talk in rhyme without even thinking. Told you my brain is strange.

11. Read. Read. Read. If I don’t move on to another story while BookXYZ is sitting, I read.


AND EAT! I tend to forget the importance of nutrition.

12. Shout the news that I’ve got another story for my beta reader(s) to critique. Then pray that they’ll tell me the truth.


13. Give it all another go… one more time… giving the story everything I’ve got left in me.


14. Write for me, not for sales!


15. Celebrate the accomplishment. After all, writing a story is not an easy task!

I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few other things I do along the way.

What steps do you go though? I’d love to hear about them.

Retreats and Obsession

Though a Writing Retreat is months away, I’m already gearing up for the trip and making a list of needs or wants to generate a more enjoyable, week.

Okay, I do buy items that aren’t really necessary, but what can I say? I might need them. Lol

My husband rolls his eyes when he gazes at a corner filled with bags of toiletries, and items that have a long shelf life. A couple of weeks before leaving, it’s easy to add extra items to my grocery list, cross them off, then slide them into waiting bags for the trip. This process saves me a ton of time when I make a last stop at the grocery store trip for refrigerated items. 

Let’s don’t forget cleaning supplies. Heaven forbid. I refuse to take for granted the place is germ free…so out comes my disinfectant spray and paper towels to clean counters, bathrooms, etc.

Don’t think I don’t run two loads of dishes we’ll use while there…because I do.

Is anyone else as paranoid particular as I am when it comes to cleaning a condo before spending an entire week where who knows what type person came before you?

Granted, I admit I’m paranoid particular and cleaning requires time. Still, that nice cup of steaming coffee is definitely satisfying once I’m settled in front of the computer and fingers on keyboard. The view is awesome, especially when we have spectacular sunsets.

Here’s a couple of shots of amazing sunsets from last year. Maybe it was the year before that. Regardless, I hope you enjoy the view!




Please check out these links to my books, available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Kobo, Apple and Smashwords.

I wish you Butterflies, Music and Love

New Release – A Baby for Easter

I’m excited to announce the release of the third book in my Holiday Bundles of Joy series. A Baby for Easter is a little different from the others—it’s a prequel to A Baby for New Year’s, told in the words of Meg’s mother, Helen, as she looks back on a pivotal time in her life.

Easter cover2.inddHelen Ellis rarely talks about how she met her late husband, Blake. When her granddaughter Julie begs her to tell the story, Helen finally delves into bittersweet memories from the summer of 1978, when a young bartender’s dreamy good looks caught her eye and his kind soul captured her heart. But having run from her strict religious home at eighteen, and then broken away from her cheating boyfriend, Helen wasn’t ready to give up her newfound freedom. With Blake set to leave for relief work overseas, a temporary romance seemed inevitable—until an unplanned pregnancy turned their plans upside down.

Available now for only 99 cents!

New Project – Spring 2017


Happy Wednesday, All!

As some of you may know, I am a lawyer by training as well as a high-conflict family law mediator.

I mention that because up until now I haven’t been able to write about any aspect of law. That was work. Writing romance was escape.


Now that I’ve put a little distance between me and the courtroom, I am jazzed about legal storytelling.


Below is my first chapter (rough) of my new endeavor. Although there will be some romantic elements in this story, it is more of a legal thriller. Because it isn’t romance central, I’m thinking of using M.L. MacDonald as my author name. I’d love to hear your thoughts on that.

I’ll still write quirky Celtic-based romance under the name, Leigh Morgan. This newest creation is simply too far afield from that.

What do you think? Should an author have multiple identities if there are divergent genre’s involved?

Wish me luck, and Happy Reading,





Molly MacBride made her way out of her law office, a Gone Fishing sign in one hand, her Jeep keys in the other. She was wrapping the twine string over the rusty nail on her front door when her phone rang. She stopped and waited. It was after five, about three minutes after, yet still after hours. Most people gave up when she didn’t answer by the fifth ring.

This caller was different. This caller let the phone go unanswered for ten rings. Most didn’t have the patience for that kind of unrequited commitment. That alone should have told Molly all she need to know about whomever was calling. She hooked the sign and turned the key on the front door. She needn’t have locked it. No one in Settlers Grove would dare enter a business after hours. Especially one that owed as much cash as it produced. MacBride Law Offices had nothing worth stealing, unless one counted the old newspapers Molly hung on her office wall. A left over from her father, who’d brought them back from Edinburgh. James MacBride had been proud of them. For that reason and that reason alone, Molly kept them. They reminded her of an easier time, when her parents were alive and life’s joys included more than fishing on a spring evening.

She managed to get the door of her Wrangler open before her cell phone began to vibrate. She ignored the first few vibrations as she started the Jeep. Henry was no doubt already waiting for her at the river. She’d seen him this morning packing the cooler with Leinenkugels and oranges. Her surrogate father loved oranges. He’d been telling her since she could cast a line that the secret to catching fish was eating oranges. Fish like oranges. And limburger cheese. Molly drew the line at limburger, but she ate the oranges.

Her phone stopped vibrating, then started again. Few people had her private number. Molly didn’t hand it out. She hated talking on the phone outside of work. She hated carrying her work with her. She’d only gotten a family plan, because Henry was getting older and she didn’t want him thinking he couldn’t reach her when he need to.

Molly looked at the phone. The number came up as blocked. That meant government number. Not a good sign. Few people at the court house had her cell number. Those who did, wouldn’t call if it wasn’t important. Especially at almost five minutes after five on a Friday afternoon. Everyone who knew Molly well enough to have her cell number knew she’d be on the water casting lines with Henry until dusk.

Molly answered the call. “Someone better be on fire,” she said.

“Caught you before you could sink a line, MacBride?” judge Boyd asked, knowing he had.

“If I’d have made it to the water, and I knew it was you, my phone would be in the river by now.”

“Ah, Molly, you wound me, you really do.” Seamus Boyd’s voice grew more serious, “You know I wouldn’t be calling if I had another option.”

Molly took a deep breath. That’s exactly what she was afraid of. Seamus liked fishing even more than she did. He wouldn’t violate the sanctity of the fine art without a damned good reason. “I’m not on call today, Seamus.”

“But you are on Monday.”

“Fine. Call me Monday.”

“This won’t wait.”

“Whatever it is, give it to Dirk. He’s on call on Friday.” Dirk James was the attorney for any child needing emergency services on Fridays. Among the Guardians ad Litem, he’d drawn the short stick because he was the newest and the youngest. No one wanted to work Fridays in juvenile court. Social workers always seemed to take kids on Fridays and hold them for the weekend. Shit duty. Molly had done her share of it. She earned her way out. Monday was her day.

Nothing of consequence ever happened on Monday. Unless it was a trial, and those required scheduling. Monday was clear for Molly. No trials. No emergencies. Nobody on fire.

Molly rubbed her forehead. She looked at her watch. Ten minutes after five. On a bloody Fishing Friday. “I’m not going to get out of this, am I Seamus?”

“I could order you, if it would make you feel better.”

“I’d rather you just tell me why Dirk can’t handle whatever it is. He’s new, but he’s not stupid.” Molly was looking for any way out of what was coming. Dirk James wasn’t stupid, but he wasn’t the brightest bulb either. Hard work didn’t seem to be his default position.

“I’ve got a removal case,” Seamus said pausing.

Molly waited. Removal cases were family court cases. A pain, but hardly emergent. They involved one parent removing the children from their ‘home state’ and coming to live in another jurisdiction. Like Settlers Grove, Wisconsin. Child placement in those cases was always an issue. One Molly, or any of the Guardian’s ad Litem who worked for the county, would address. It was the Guardian’s job to give a recommendation to the court on what was in the child’s best interests regarding when they spent time with each parent and under what conditions. Guardians gave recommendations on more than that, but that summarized the gist of what they did in family court.

Seamus’s voice thickened. “I’ve issued a Juvenile Injunction based on what little I heard from Dirk. He interviewed the elder girl and gave me a verbal summary on the record.” Seamus paused. “I stopped him after thirty seconds. It’s bad, Molly. Really bad. I want to go home and hug my kids and never let them go, right after I vomit, kind of bad.”

“Where are they?” Molly asked.

“Women’s shelter on your way home,” Seamus said, sounding relieved and tired at the same time.

“When is the hearing for the Permanent Injunction?”

“Monday. Nine a.m. I spoke to the father on speaker phone after Dirk James gave his summary. I ordered him in at eight so you’d have time to interview him. No doubt he’ll come with a barrage of lawyers, so if you need more time, I’ll grant you an extension for another seventy-two hours.”

“What aren’t you telling me, judge?”

Seamus Boyd chuckled without mirth, “So it’s judge now, is it?”

“It is when I’ll be facing a barrage of lawyers first thing Monday, on a case that makes you physically sick.”

“Wish I had someone else I trusted to give it to, Molly. I really do.”

The sincerity in Seamus’s voice put the final nail in the coffin that had been her peaceful evening. Followed by a weekend of reading and riding and eating more of Henry’s Sunday waffles than anyone her size should.

“What are you trying so hard not to tell me, Seamus?”

“The father is a senator.”

Molly chest constricted. “State senate?”

“No such luck. Junior U.S. Senator from the great state of Idaho. His secretary told me so before she put him on the phone.”


“Exactly. I’ll text you the details.”

“You said Dirk interviewed the elder child. How many kids am I representing here?”

“Two. Both girls. Ages twelve and nine.” Judge Seamus Boyd sighed heavily. The strain in his voice evident when he said, “Their names are Grace and Lily, for Chrissake. Doesn’t get more pure and innocent than that.”

Something in Seamus’s tone made Molly’s skin crawl. “The abuse is sexual?”

“Yes. Among other things.”

Molly paused then asked, “Any good news, Seamus?”

“I’ve ordered your bill paid outside the GAL contract. At fifty bucks an hour over your normal hourly rate.”

“You’re not making feel better about the case, judge.”

“Didn’t intend to. Text with case info is coming. Keep your phone on MacBride. That’s an order,” judge Seamus Boyd said, killing the call.

“And it started out to be such a promising weekend,” Molly said looking up to the heavens. It was a personal quirk of hers, talking to God. It helped. Even when Molly was certain the Almighty wasn’t listening.


What is a “Sweet or “Clean” Romance?

Lately I’ve been asked by a number of readers, and some authors too, to define a “sweet” or “clean” romance. While there seems to be some discrepancy within the publishing industry around these terms, the general consensus is that sweet romances emphasize the emotional intimacy between the hero and the heroine. Although these stories may contain sexual tension, they do not contain sex scenes—think of G to PG rated movies. It is possible for the hero and heroine to have had a sexual history, but it’s not shown on the page. Kissing is okay. Everything else is frowned upon. The same thing applies to offensive language.

These stories have internal and external conflicts, like any romance, but the sweet romance doesn’t contain violence. While the characters struggle and eventually find their happily-ever-after, it’s done with an underlying sweet theme.

Sweet romance is often confused with Inspirational romance. However, the two are different. Faith may play a role, but if it does, it’s not a key factor in a sweet romance, as it is in an Inspirational.

Because I follow the principles above, most of my books are sweet romances, even though I write in a variety of genres.

If you’ve been confused by the term “sweet” or clean” romance, I hope I’ve helped to define this very popular genre.


USA Today bestselling author Raine English writes sweet small-town contemporary romance, along with paranormal and romantic suspense. She’s a Daphne du Maurier Award winner and a Golden Heart finalist.

It’s all fun until they knock on your door.

Research is queen in the writing world. Set your story in a city like San Francisco and use detectives in your police department instead of inspectors and someone will ding you for it. We can research the minutiae of every fact in our stories until we are sure we have it right…and then sometimes we still get something wrong.

Writers make a joke about the government knocking at our doors and searching our Google searches, but sometimes if you took a look at what we have to check out you might send the men in black from the alphabet agencies our way. I’ve done research on body decomposing timelines, drowning possibilities, and the history of zombies. How to poison someone and get away with it and how to stalk and remain invisible. Scary stuff!!

If you are a member of our family-watch out! Anything and everything you do is fodder for our books. Say something ironic and funny? It may end up in that romantic comedy. Be a cop, doctor, or lawyer and mention some tidbit from work? Someone may die a terrible, gruesome death in that suspense thriller.

Several years ago I was writing a romantic comedy with a klutzy heroine who gave food poisoning to the entire fire department when she baked them a cake in thanks for rescuing her when her leg got caught in the stairs banister where she was house sitting. (romantic comedy, remember?) So I needed a food poisoning that wouldn’t kill, wouldn’t be too bad, just make you miserable. So………..the family ate sour cream that had been left out too long the previous time it was eaten (I didn’t do it.) Everyone but yours truly (hate sour cream, don’t eat it.) was miserable for hours, but lived. So while they are in the bathrooms with groans and crying I’m asking them how they feel (can’t waste an opportunity for first-hand research, of course.) To this day I’ve been accused of doing it on purpose for the story.

So, to the writers out there, if you do research, erase your searches and don’t get caught with the tainted sour cream!

Jill James, author of the Time of Zombies series (because I can’t be accused of starting the zombie apocalypse…yet.)

The Real Authors of Romance

Untitled design (1)Spend any time at all on the Bravo TV channel, you’ll probably stumble on a Real Housewives episode. There are half a dozen of these shows now, spanning cities across the world. (Did you know they have a London one? They do!) With that in mind, I’d like to suggest Andy Cohen consider a new arm of this successful franchise: Real Authors. And get this! You could do different genres! Sci-fi, horror, mystery, literary, memoir, and of course, romance.

I’d personally volunteer for The Real Authors of the Romance Genre. Imagine how fascinated viewers will be, watching us guzzle coffee while listening in on strangers’ conversations at our local Panera Bread, Starbucks, or other public writing spot and finding a way to sneak that fun bit of dialogue we overheard into our stories. Don’t you want to know how we go about researching topics as diverse as women’s underwear in the medieval era, the interior of a G-6, or the sound a bullet might make in space? You can record our booksignings where we keep a friendly smile in place while we provide such pertinent info as directions to the restrooms. Get a peek at our real thoughts when we tell a parent that yes, your child can take a piece of the chocolate we brought with us to lure prospective readers to buy an autographed copy even though we know damn well it’s not going to translate into a sale at the event or any time afterwards. See how we balance writing with family life, day jobs, doctors’ appointments, chronic illness, financial issues, personal relationships, and make it look easy. Sneak behind the scenes to see how we decide things like cover art, titles, plotting vs. pantsing, signing a contract, or finding an agent. Discover how many times we remain polite and bite our tongues when our genre is put down as “those books” or called “bodice-rippers” in the media and learn why it annoys us. Witness our breakdowns when we get that fifteenth rejection, or third round of edits, the bad review that contains spoilers, or find our books on piracy sites.

We have the drama that all Housewives franchises air: serious friendships that sometimes turn toxic, two sides to every story, haves and have-nots, up-and-comers milling with established success stories, great victories and defeats.

Need a season finale that has a big fancy party like all those housewives host? We’ve got that! It’s called the RITA awards and it takes place at our RWA National Conference every year. We have ball gowns and teary-eyed emotional speeches and gold statuettes. We’ve even had several controversies at the event over the years.

And of course, we have romance. Lots and lots of romance. Come on. You know you’d watch.