Let Your Characters Write Their Story

You’ve heard authors say, “My characters were resisting me” or “My characters ran away with the story.” Some writers complain about that. I call it magic when the characters talk to me and tell me their love story.

When I set out to write In My Dreams, all I had was that snippet from the song, I’ll Be Home for Christmas–if only in my dreams. It is my favorite Christmas song and brings me to tears every time. In my mind, that song says all there is to say about wartime and a soldier’s yearning to be home with his family and his friends. I can not imagine anything sadder than being away from home for the holidays, doing the same old, same old, as every other day in the service or on the battlefield, wishing you could be home for the holidays.

So, when I sat down to start the story, Juan Montoya was a soldier, halfway around the world in a jungle, fighting warlords and guerrillas, dreaming of Christmas and song, and home. And since this was a friends-to-lovers story, I had Jessie Ortega back home in Lake Willowbee, being a nurse at the local hospital. And…no matter how many times I tried to start with Chapter 1, it just wasn’t happening. Until…Jessie announced she was a soldier, fighting in Africa and Juan was a physical therapist back home, working with wounded vets.

Like finding the missing pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, the story came together. Juan and Jessie told me of their childhood friendship, how they had been there for each other through everything, until their friendship broke, and they hadn’t spoken to each other in years. Even with the years between them, at her lowest moment, Jessie’s first thoughts are of Juan.

In My Dreams is a story of the power of wishes and being careful what you use them on. It will be in the Christmas Wishes on Main Street boxed set with the other Authors of Main Street.

Do you believe wishes can come true?

Jill James, romance writer

It’s Time for a Divorce

Divorce? Yes! The time has come. The relationship has ended. There’s nothing left of what was once wonderful and beautiful. It’s over.

As an author, there comes a time when we must divorce our characters. It’s tough. We don’t want to do it. There’s all this emotional energy that has gone into them. Alas, we must leave them, fall in love with someone else, and write their story. No longer can we allow those characters to invade our sleep. They must leave. Once they are gone, we can still look back fondly on them and remember the way they were. Stolen kisses, passionate feelings, the quirky little things that they did.

Sound insane? Not at all. Authors must climb into their characters. They become them. I think within the romance genre the emotional connection is extreme. Writing can be emotionally draining. To write it we must feel it and than means feeling the pain, frustration, anger and all the negative things along with the thrill, excitement, and the love. It’s a roller coaster ride of highs and lows.

So as the edit process begins, the author has to pull away from the characters in order to look at the whole story. It’s important to become detached and remain unbiased. We must see them as our readers see them. We must see where we’ve failed to say what the character really is feeling and not let it slide with what we thought we said. Furthermore, when a manuscript comes back from an editor, we often discover that sometimes that character has totally failed to be that sexy wonderful guy and instead is a brazen, overly cocky mess that must be reined in and quickly repaired. Or his arms must have been made of very stretchy rubber for we left him in the living room yet he’s managing to open the refrigerator.

So we must divorce them by the time edits are done. Edits is discovering that the honeymoon has ended. And once a manuscript is sent for publication, we must be able to look back with only fond memories of what once was.  Most of us are monogamous. That means we need to sweep away the old so that we can embrace the new characters and fall in love again.

I’m in the process of divorcing myself from my Christmas story characters. I flipped the tables this time and created a heroine who has the power to make or break the top CEOs. But maybe the real heroine of this story is under the the age of twelve months. She doesn’t care about money and has no clue what it is. Her needs are simple and she loves everyone. Her hello-world attitude separates the wheat from the chuff as fast as a dirty diaper.

I know the day isn’t too far away that I will forever turn my back to these Christmas characters and give them away to my readers. The divorce has already begun – the separation agreement is in place. I’m looking at them from a distance. They are in edits.

When a review comes in that says the reader didn’t want it to end, I know why. The reader fell in love, too. To close a book, be it paper or electronic and end the relationship always hurts. The keeper shelf is a little like keeping that faded photo from the dance or whatever event from so many years ago. Maybe you didn’t marry him, but your heart will never forget.

It’s time for me to move on. I already know who I will become and maybe she’s a little more like me. Until then, there’s nothing like a book boyfriend. (Even if I’ve created him!)


I Need a Title!

Those words don’t usually come out of my mouth. When I settle down to write a story I almost always start with a title. The Authors of Main Street are working on Christmas stories for a new boxed set and I’m included…if I can come up with a title. LOL

It started as A Baby for Noel. But that just was not my heroine’s name. She told me so. 🙂 Now she is Krista and the story got deeper than expected. As the story changed I thought I wanted to go with Second Chance Christmas. But that just sounds overused. I’m sure without even checking Amazon that title is out there a dozen times at least.

So, I’m turning to the readers! I need a title for my Christmas novella!!

Krista Green is a godsend to Lake Willowbee’s foster child system. When an addicted baby needs a temporary home Krista is the first one called. She loves the babies in her care, but just once she would like to be chosen to become mom to one of these angels. Unable to have a child of her own, she dreams of becoming a mother to one of the babies in her charge.

Morgan Fieldcrest returns home to find he has a son he knew nothing about. With baby Max’s mother dead in a car accident, Morgan believes he is all the child has. Except, Child Protective Services has placed his addicted baby son with Krista, a woman who damaged his family and is the last woman he wants to care for his newly-found child.

Krista and Morgan will be forced to put the past behind them to care for Max and his special needs. They will need to face the lies of family and friends to give the little one a Christmas to remember and find out if they can be a family or maybe even more for each other.

Unedited excerpt:

“I’m sorry, Miss Green. There are no babies for fostering right now. With the holidays in a few weeks, that’s a good thing.”

Krista bit her lip. Of course it was a good thing there were no babies waiting for homes, but her house felt so empty without the cries and giggles of little ones, the scampering of tiny feet. Christmas was a bad enough time for her without the warmth and comfort of another to care for.

“What about an older child, Mrs. White? I know they are harder to place.”

The woman turned kind eyes her way, her glasses slipping down her nose to make her the spitting image of Mrs. Santa Claus; with her twinkling, blue eyes and snow-white hair.

“Miss Green…Krista. We need you available if any babies might come in this holiday season.”

“You mean addicted babies,” she said, a hitch in her voice at the lump in her throat.

Mrs. White reached across the desk and patted her hand. The scent of peppermint and pine trees wafted up from the older woman’s soft skin. It sent flashes of happy, childhood Christmases to her mind. Back when she’d been naïve and young and believed Santa Claus and Daddy could fix everything. Before she’d grown up and realized that miracles didn’t happen, Christmas or not.

“Krista, those babies are the hardest to place. We are so grateful for what you do for them…for us.

She looked behind the woman to the Happy Wall. The pictures of babies and children with their new parents in their Forever Homes. The images wavered through her unshed tears. For every success story there were hundreds, thousands of failures. Children who slipped through the cracks and disappeared into an unkind world.

Krista yanked back her hand, snatched up her purse, and stood. “Please let me know if you need me. Please.” She winced at the pleading in her voice.

“Of course, Krista. We need you. I hope you know that.”

She nodded as best she could and walked out of the office. Not sure how she’d made it to her car, she placed her head on the roof and let the tears come. The turmoil cleared her brain. A few sniffles and a swipe of her wet face helped her put things into perspective. She could do this. How many holidays had she’d spent alone? Too many to count. The thought shot through her head. She could do this.

Krista wrapped her coat around her and buttoned it up. Pulling on her gloves, she blinked as snowflakes wafted down to fall on her outstretched hand. She stared across the road to Lake Willowbee. The lake would be frozen by morning. Flashes of red and green showed through the trees as kids cheered and broke the thin ice at the edge of the water with their stamping feet.

She turned away with slumped shoulders and got into her car. Her teeth chattered as the heater fought against the frigid temperature in the vehicle. Krista hated the cold. It brought too many thoughts of kids on the streets, struggling to survive in killing cold nights.

“Don’t go there, Krista. You are warm in your car, going to your nice, warm house. Count your blessings.”

The daily mantra did its job as her shoulders loosened and a small smile curved her lips. A swipe of the windshield wipers cleared the glass and showcased a world of fluffy white. She put the car into gear. A shiver went down her spine. The weather in the Sierras could go from fluffy to whiteout within hours. She planned to be in front of a crackling fire before that happened.

*Readers: please help me with a title for Krista and Morgan’s story!!*

Jill James, romance author
currently working on Christmas novella and ghost paranormal romance

Body Image and Seasonal Dysfunction

My jeans don’t fit! I’ve lost weight. Lots of it. I have more to lose. You’d think I’d be happy, but I’m not. I’ve barely lost where I need to lose it the most. I hate this in-between stage. I need a new body! I don’t like the one that has come with passing birthdays. This one needs a complete engine overhaul and a new paint job.

My daughter is at the beach for a week. I could easily join her, but I won’t. There is no way I’m going to put on a bathing suit. It’s body image and I know what my image is. My oink, oink body is starting to imitate a Chinese Shar-Pei . I can see what is staring at me in the mirror, and I’m thinking no-way! Embrace my curves? My curves are in the wrong places and headed south. The days of wearing a bathing suit in public are done for me – besides we aren’t supposed to be in the sun. I’ve had plenty of sun in my life, more than enough.

To make matter worse, I’m writing a Christmas story. As authors, it seems we are always off season with our stories. This year is no different. I actually have two stories in edits.  Let’s pretend we are freezing as we walk through the snowy street. We’re doing that while trying to keep the house cool enough that we don’t melt! Does it make me feel any cooler to envision a snowy walk? The sweat pouring off my forehead is not snow.  I wish it were that easy. I’d be writing tropical beach romances in January and snowboarding adventures in July. Just think of the savings in power bills.

I need to do a little post holiday shopping when the sales on summer clothes are probably at their best.  But anything I buy, I’m hoping won’t fit next year. I think I should make do with the few things I bought this spring.

I watched a friend last year lose tons of weight. I kept telling him to buy a few new clothes, because he got to the point that he couldn’t walk without holding onto his pants. When he finally bought some new clothes, the transformation was amazing.  I’m not quite to that point with my weight loss.  Maybe in another month and by then all the stores will have their winter clothes. That won’t help me when September and October can still be darn hot here in Virginia.

It does conjure up the memory of my youngest daughter having a massive growth spurt when she was about two. Right after Christmas, I noticed her little snowsuit was snug. A week later, I could barely get her in it, and the little sleeves were much too short. Do you know what it is like to buy something like that after Christmas? Every store told me they had sold out and they weren’t getting any more in stock. (Back in the old pre-internet days.) I think my friend bailed me out with one from one of her friends that no longer fit her daughter.

Anyway I look out my back door and I see green grass, Cannas blooming, too many Japanese beetles, a set of robins frantic to gather bugs to take to the nest filled with young ones, hummingbirds flitting, the sky is blue, and I’m writing about Christmas in the northern hemisphere. Seriously? Yes.

So I’m seasonally out of kilter. My pants are trying to fall off of me, and the body is having a race to see which part of me can reach my knees first. And the winner is… To be announced at a later date.

But if you’d like to read a book that will take you through a few seasons, and take your mind off your own body image, A Rancher’s Request released on July 27, 2017. (Somehow I can’t imagine living around here in 1890 wearing long dresses  with no air conditioning.) These two people might be more suited to one another than either one wants to admit. Zadie is determined to make Duncan change his mind about the arranged marriage that their fathers have agreed upon.

Here’s a snippet you might enjoy of Zadie chatting with her best friend.

A shiver ran up Zadie’s spine. “Marriage isn’t that far off for me.”

You have a suitor?”

“Thank you very much. You make it sound as though I would never have one.”

Catherine looked at her children who were now tossing seeds from a maple tree into the air and watching them spin to the ground. “I didn’t mean it that way. But you never seem to have an interested male. You went off and were educated. This is Franklin. No one around here does that.”

“Well, I did and I’m glad I did. And as for my suitor, he’s the son of an old family friend.” She decided that wasn’t lying. It also wasn’t telling the whole truth.

“Oh, that’s so exciting. Tell me more! Do I know him?”

She shook her head. “Not much to tell. He’s from Edenton, he’s moved to Wyoming, and we’ve been corresponding. So far everything is going well.” All right, that’s a lie. Maybe I should write to him. What if this doesn’t work?

“Oh, I’m so happy for you.”

“Well, don’t get your hopes up or spread a bunch of gossip, because I still don’t know what will happen. We’ll leave it with so far everything is working well.” Another lie. If you call getting chapped hands from all the laundry as working well, it’s a fry-in-Hell sort of lie. I’d like to skewer my father and roast him for dinner.

“Wyoming? Isn’t that a territory?”

Zadie shook her head. “It recently gained statehood.”

“Aren’t there Indians out there?”

Again Zadie nodded. “I’ve heard it is very wild in the west.”

“Aren’t you scared?”

Zadie smiled. I’m scared out of my skin and not so much about the Indians. I’m more worried about my own survival skills without a maid to help me. “I’m certain Duncan will protect me.”

It’s available in paperback and in ebook.

Click on the cover for a sneak preview!




On Writing ‘Short’…Yeah, Right.

Hello! I hope you’re having a great week!


Those of you reading this blog generally know the Authors of Main Street write a Christmas boxed set, right?

Well, I was honoured to have been asked to join AoMS this year…between boxed sets, so this upcoming Christmas edition will be my first with this group of lovely ladies!

Here’s a little giggle for you…

When I told my man I was going to write a short story for the Christmas Box, he laughed…again…

like the last time.


Picture this…

I’d just uploaded my first novel, A Long Trail Rolling,

and jumped into NaNoWriMo for the first time with the second novel in my series, A Sea of Green Unfolding…

Well, yeah… it’s now the third, for those of you  familiar with The Long Trails series.



Well, about that…

As I wrote a few months ago on this blog, my Matt, and independently, one of my other beta readers, decided there was another story between Book One, A Long Trail Rolling, and its Epilogue.”

“Oh no, there isn’t…” I argued. I tried that a few times, but noooooooooo…

SO, I tried to ignore it, which was getting a little difficult, because by now Matt and I had become an item…

So, we were at a local RWNZ branch meeting at the home of a teacher-writer member, who also did a lot of art. She’d made some LOVELY storyboards for her stories…and she is an artist. Being a primary teacher, she also had BOXES of ’stuff’ for us to play with and create our storyboards.


Matt looked at me. “What storyboard are you going to do?” He lifted a brow at me pointedly.

“Sea of Green,” I challenged.

He raises both brows.

I occasionally know when I’m beat. This was one of those times.

A big sigh. “Okay,” I finally murmured.

I sat down to create the storyline for what was to become the new Book Two.


as I worked, I became more and more excited. Soon the story was just falling out on the canvas before me, made easier, of course, by the fact that I knew the areas through which my hero and heroine were travelling like the back of my hand.

SO, thanks to Matt and my wonderful writing group, I did it. Now I was keen.

This was going to be a quickie novella, mostly to get Matt and Kate off my back and get back to A Sea of Green Unfolding.




The Hills of Gold Unchanging didn’t turn out much like a novella…more like 510 pages, by the time I’d finished it. Nearly 170K words.

Today I finished the final edit for A Sea of Green Unfolding. It’s finished up around 122K words. Hmmm…not short either…

I redid the cover before its official release. 🙂  Here it is… complete with photos of our farm, my youngest son, and my big bay carriage horse.


I told Matt I was going to write Book 4, Tatiana, ‘short’.

As I expected, he laughed.


At a writing workshop in Auckland a few months ago, even Joanna Penn told me I needed to write ‘short’.


SO, when I told Matt I was going to write something that was twenty to forty thousand words for Authors of Main Street, guess what?

You guessed it, he laughed.

Then grinned. “I know you can do it,” he said. “I can’t wait to watch.”


I’m still shaking my head.


Three weeks ago, I started thinking of the story I’m going to write for our boxed set on one of my dog and author walks around our farm here by the river. (this pic is on the island in the middle of our river)


I desperately needed to finish A Sea of Green Unfolding, but I snuck into a new workbook and started scribbling down the new story… and couldn’t stop.

Fifteen half-sized pages. Not bad for a few stolen moments while my dinner cooked.

Now to plan out the rest and get it done.


Oh, what’s it to be about?


It’s a story about this horse-crazy chick in vet school and what she gets up to. It’s to be the first in a series Matt’s been encouraging me to do for ages. For years, I kept telling him I didn’t have any vet stories…and every time I told him another vet story from my life that eyebrow would shoot up again.

“There’s another story,” he’d say. Well, yes, I guess so. Now I can’t wait to get on with it.


It’s going to be a lot of fun…but I’m NOT going to tell which things really happened and which I made up. That would take all the fun out of it…


…and the names were changed to protect the innocent…and the not-so-innocent.


Have a wonderful week, all!


Take good care, and big hugs from New Zealand!




Lizzi Tremayne

A Bride for Prince Paul on #KindleScout

Guest Post from Mona Risk

A Bride for Prince Paul on Kindle Scout

My Kindle Scout campaign for A Bride for Prince Paul has launched.

Here is the URL: https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/37BZQ1K8SCMK7

May I count on your nomination? If I get selected you will receive a free copy of this delightful book set in Paris and Rensy Island in the Channels.

After you enter your nomination and rating, please leave your name in the comments or email me at mona@monarisk.com


Prince Paul 2


To Nominate me, click HERE

A Bride for Prince Paul (Modern Princes Series Book 1) by MONA RISK

She can’t abandon her patients for his crown!

To please his dying grandfather and protect his country’s autonomy, Prince Paul of Rensy Island must marry an American doctor, descendant of a Rensian princess. Paul, a confirmed bachelor, agrees to meet Amy incognito during her vacation in Paris. Although her career and ex-boyfriend are major interferences, attraction sizzles between Amy and her ‘driver’, but the rumor of her engagement to ‘Prince’ Paul outrages her. Can he convince her that he loves her, in spite of his lies by omission?

I wrote this story while cruising the British Isles. The setting of the book was inspired by the quaint Guernsey island, an island in the Channels. The guide explained that the residents of Guernsey speak English and French, don’t pay taxes and enjoy free medical care for children under seven and seniors above seventy. The island has alternatively belonged to England and France, and is now part of the British Commonwealth. The ruler is a governor and the constitution states that in case of problems the island would revert to England.

I loved the setting. My muse immediately replace the governor with a prince, just like Monaco or Luxemburg , both in Europe, and my imagination changed their constitution–the heir to the throne must be married. The ruling prince is old and dying, and his grandson is a businessman and playboy who enjoys his freedom and his work. But grandpa worries about the future of his country and summons his grandson!

All of this played in my head while in the bus touring the island and visiting the landmarks.

Imagine if Kate Middleton (Dr. Amy in my story) were an American doctor, dedicated to her career and her patients.

What if Prince William (Prince Paul in my story) wanted to make sure his future wife will love him for himself and not for his crown?

What if he decided to act as her driver and guide, in Paris, to get to know her better?

What if their attraction turns into passionate love?

What about her medical career and her patients?

What if the paparazzi haunt them at every turn? What if the tabloid magazines spoil everything? What if…what if…what if…


Guernsey Island


Sweet & Small, The Greatest Month of All

j-m-maurerauthorHi! I’m J.M. Maurer, one of the newest members of Authors of Main Street. You may have heard about me through my writing, or our paths have crossed during some previous moment in time, or you might not know me at all. If so, we can use this time to become new friends (yay)! Whatever the case, I’m super excited to be here.

I love February. For me, it’s not just about that one day in the middle of the month. No, for me, it’s all about the chocolate. Sweet. Semi-sweet. Dark. White. In my coffee. On my finger. Spread across my morning toast. And, by the way, have you ever put chocolate in your pot roast?

It is true that cocoa and chocolate have neuroprotective effects on our body. Did I tell you I’m a registered nurse? Well, fair warning to you, my future posts might get rather interesting. But back to chocolate and that wonderful morsel you just slid past your lips.

That yummy bite contains numerous substances, my favorite being the antioxidant molecules (flavonoids) that are so beneficial to our brain. In fact, our brain loves an influx of these suckers. They’ve been known for elevating mood, preserving cognitive function, improving blood flow, and decreasing the risk of stroke. There is also research that suggests the substances in chocolate play a key role in memory.

There’s an added bonus of cardiovascular health as these flavonoids also help prevent clogged arteries and raise the levels of good cholesterol. Chocolate is also full of magnesium, which helps keep our bones strong, our nerves transmitting the appropriate signals, and our energy centers happy.

Chocolate certainly keeps me happy.


So what’s an appropriate serving size?  1.5 ounces will do your body good. Any more than that and you might want to hit the gym.

***One important side note about flavonoids…they act a bit like aspirin. So if you are already taking prescription blood thinners, be cautious with your chocolate intake and follow your doctor’s orders when it comes to consuming it. Though, I doubt a small bite during what’s been referred to as “Sweet & Small, The Greatest Month of All” will harm you.

Here’s an excerpt from one of my books while you eat your bite. This is from Seeking Redemption (Book 2 in the Emerging From Darkness Trilogy). Here, Matthew has the perfect evening planned. He spends the day sending Jess riddles. Each riddle leads her to discovering the next. The evening is nearly ruined by…spoilers…but she eventually figures out where she’s supposed to meet him. They’re on a private rooftop, sitting at a table set for two.


… After returning my attention to the intricately folded napkin on my plate, I stared at the masterpiece and wondered how long it took him to fold it to perfection. Forethought and time had obviously been given to it, folding it into the impressive and complex pattern that sat before me. I didn’t want to dismantle it; it was too beautiful.

But Matthew leaned forward, removed the pink flower from the center, and placed it in my hair, tucking it gently behind my ear. “Unwrap it,” he said, brushing his fingers along my jaw.

I looked at him for a moment, the upward curl of his lips and his eyes glistening under the lights of the cabana charming me. Caught within his smile, I had to force myself to return to the napkin that was folded like a rose on my plate, and coax my trembling fingers to move.

As I reached for a section to pull, Matthew sat patiently at my side, his smile so freaking beautiful. He nodded for me to continue. I pulled the corner sections apart and gasped, the hidden gift now clearly in view, sparkling in contrast against the black cloth.

Unable to move, I stared at it as Matthew stood up and reached over me, lifting the diamond pendant from its resting spot and displaying it for a moment in front of me.

“I love you,” he purred, then secured the white gold clasp around my neck and kissed the top of my head.

Surprised and cognizant of his love, I drew my hand to clasp the pendant, stood up, and pulled him into my arms.

“I love you too,” I whispered, clawing at his back and pressing my cheek against his chest. “Thank you.”

“I’ve said it before, Jess. This is me, showing you how much love your heart can hold, cherishing you like you’ve never been cherished, loving you like you never even knew you could be loved. Forever.” He pulled away, lifted my chin, and kissed me. “Forever,” he repeated, his lips brushing against mine.

We kissed until he broke contact. “Dance with me.”

It was a command, not a request, and I giggled as he stood and took me in his arms, holding me firmly as he led with purpose and style.

I’d been mostly tuning out the soft lyrics in the background, listening to Matthew instead, but as his tight embrace rocked me under the stars with the cool breeze blowing through my hair, I heard it, Savage Garden’s “Truly, Madly, Deeply”—the lyrics enchanting us during our first dance.

Following along with his subtle footwork and mentally absorbing the words, I wiped away a few stray tears as they rolled down my cheek, feeling emotional in the moment and deeply touched by the song. It was our beautiful moment, during a day that had been not so appealing at times but was absolutely perfect now.

“Forever.” The word traveled past my lips, becoming etched on my heart and stored with great meaning in my mind.

Emerging From Darkness Trilogy


I took this picture at L.A. Burdick Chocolate in Cambridge, MA. It’s one of my favorite “Main Street” places.

What’s your favorite chocolate? Do you remember my name? If not, why not try increasing your daily dose of flavonoids?