Posts tagged with: contemporary romance

Meet 2019 Golden Heart Finalist Elly Kate!!

Today we’re welcoming another Omega, Elly Kate, a 2019 Golden Heart finalist in the Contemporary Romance category with her manuscript THE CINDERELLA FACTOR.

Elly Kate began reading romance novels early, pilfering from her mother’s collection kept piled in a basket in the kitchen. Writing romance came much later – in fact, not until just a couple of years ago. After years of penning poetry and non-fiction, dreaming up romantic stories has stolen her heart and she can’t seem to stop.

Born and raised in the Boston area, she has lived for the past twenty years in and around the city of her soul: Philadelphia. When she’s not writing or working at her day job as a librarian and archivist, she spends her time being a mom, wrangling two cats and a dog, fixing up an old house, reading, playing the banjo, knitting, cooking, gardening, and generally making all kinds of stuff.

Here’s a blurb for THE CINDERELLA FACTOR:

What happens when a precariously-employed academic with anxiety meets a book-loving, stress-cooking British movie star?

 After losing her job as an adjunct professor of Medieval Literature, Julia Harrow takes a chance on appearing on a morning television segment about courtly love in an attempt to raise her profile—despite her fear of cameras and public attention. Happily, her job search yields a dream opportunity in London: two years at a renowned college with the possibility of permanent appointment.

 Jake Flynn is the movie star heartthrob every woman wants. With his boy-next-door good looks and the leading role in a successful action series, he seems to have everything. But what he knows he can’t have is the brilliant, fascinating woman on the television morning show. Approaching a “regular” woman never ends well.

 Lightning strikes twice as Julia and Jake meet first in Miami Beach, then in London. But with Julia’s fear of public attention and cameras, Jake’s life in the spotlight is her worst nightmare. And it doesn’t help that her new boss is after her to stay out of the tabloids. Can love last when the reality of the fairy tale is everything she never wanted?

What a fabulous scenario!! You had me at a book-loving, stress-cooking British movie star!! (Weirdly, I also am a former academic who had a brief pop-culture moment being interviewed by HuffPost about medieval love poetry and Tumblr…but I digress. And I’m still waiting on my hot Brit actor boyfriend….)

Sounds like there’s plenty to drive Jake and Julia apart, and also a universe that very much wants them to be together!! Splendid!!

Okay, it’s time to gather round, folks. Since the story’s got a Miami Beach connection, I’m setting out some chaise lounges on a posh hotel balcony overlooking the ocean. Pour yourself a frozen tropical cocktail (with a flamingo stirrer, naturally), while we learn more about Elly Kate.


Guest Blog: 2019 Golden Heart Finalist Janet Walden-West

Today we’re delighted to welcome Janet Walden-West, another of the Omegas, the 2019 Golden Heart Finalists. Janet is a finalist in the Contemporary Romance with her manuscript Salt + Stilettos.

Janet is also a long-time friend of the Rubies and a hard-core participant in our yearly Winter Writing Festival, and we’re already huge fans of her fabulous writing voice! Regular Ruby readers know about our annual Make It Golden Contest, in which competitors submit 50-word book openings, Rubies select ten finalists from all the entries, and then finalists submit a longer 250-word version to compete for the top prizes. The entries are always AMAZING, so competition is incredibly fierce. Well, the very talented Miz Walden-West has finaled EVERY YEAR FOR THE PAST FOUR YEARS, and has been one of our final winners TWICE.

Janet lives in the southeast with a pack of show dogs, a couple of kids, and a husband who didn’t read the fine print. A card carrying Crazy Dog Show Lady, she’s easily distracted by great cars and bad coffee. A founding member of the East Tennessee Creative Writers Alliance and The Million Words craft blog, she is also a member of Romance Writers of America. She pens Urban Fantasy that escapes the neat confines of the city limits in favor of map-dot hillbilly towns, and inclusive Romantic Suspense and Contemporary Romance.A #PitchWars alum and Golden Heart® finalist, her first short story, “Road Trip,” is included in the CHASING THE LIGHT anthology. She is represented by Eva Scalzo of Speilburg Literary Agency.

Here’s a blurb for Salt + Stilettos:

Growing up red-dirt poor, Brett Fontaine learned image matters, you can’t count on family, and marriage is another word for misery. Leaving that past in her rear-view, her new reality is the best Jimmy Choo collection in Miami and a position as the go-to image consultant in South Beach. With a strict CYA policy of never mixing business with pleasure, she’s good with uncomplicated hookups who can see themselves out the door. Unfortunately, her latest client—the muscled chef with the intriguing tataus—is making it difficult to stick to her no-complications rule.

Will Te’o expected plenty of challenges establishing a fine dining restaurant in Miami’s chic foodie scene. However, falling for the fierce consultant with the power to make or break his career wasn’t one of them. He’s already learned mainland women prefer manscaped and unencumbered, not hulking and rough around the edges. But he wants the same kind of Happily Ever After his parents had and is determined to cook his way past Brett’s relationship reservations.

While their kitchen heats to scorching, Will’s traditional Samoan family obligations crash into their modern Miami life, leaving Brett questioning whether she’s repeating her parents’ mistakes, all while a smear campaign led by ghosts from her past threatens both their careers and their chance at love.

Oh, man!!! I know this going to be FANTASTIC!! I’ve loved all of Janet’s 250-word openings for the Make It Golden Contest, and adore her sassy, fresh, funny contemporary voice. I can’t wait to read A WHOLE DANGED BOOK!!!

Instead of choosing the the interview option today, Janet volunteered to pen a guest post.

And it’s on a topic very dear to the Rubies’ hearts: the ways writers don’t have to go it alone. 

Take it away, Janet!!!


Does It Really Take A Community To Raise A Writer?

It’s a truth universally acknowledged…that writing is a lonely, solitary occupation. Hours, days, weeks of toiling alone in our isolated tower, with only the characters in our heads keeping us company.

Meet 2019 Golden Heart Finalist Rosie Danan!!

Today we’re continuing our series of interviews with the Omegas, the 2019 (and final) class of Golden Heart Finalists. We’re delighted to welcome Rosie Danan, whose manuscript NEVER HAVE I EVER finaled in the Contemporary Romance (Long) category and will be available from Berkley/PRH in Fall 2020!!

Rosie Danan writes steamy, big-hearted books, articles, and tweets about the trials and triumphs of modern love. In her spare time, she enjoy jogging slowly to fast music, petting other people’s dogs, and competing against herself in rounds of Chopped using the miscellaneous ingredients occupying her fridge. As an East Coast transplant to Austin, TX, you can regularly find her, sweaty and happy, with a mouthful of taco. As child she appeared on the short-lived (and rather ill-received) television program Bloopy’s Buddies.

Here’s a blurb for NEVER HAVE I EVER:

Clara Wheaton has built her life around other people’s expectations.

The rich and powerful Wheaton family is infamous for their lack of impulse control, except for their careful daughter Clara. She’s never made a rash decision in her life, but can’t resist when her first love invites her to move in with him and shed the shackles of her suffocating blue-blood upbringing. She’s shocked when Prince Charming pulls a bait-and-switch, leaving her to share a three-month lease on a crumbling Los Angeles bungalow with an annoyingly charming stranger. Clara must hide the shameful circumstances that led to her sudden cross-country move. If the Greenwich gossip hounds get their hands on one more story about a Wheaton behaving badly, the family reputation she’s worked her entire life to restore will go up in flames.

 No one ever expected Josh Conners to amount to anything.

Against the odds, he’s made a name for himself in Hollywood entertainment—unfortunately, that name isn’t his own. His on-screen chemistry with his ex-girlfriend won him the hearts (and panties) of American women, but when his ex kicks him out and a power-hungry executive wants to turn his viral success into a million dollar payday, he finds himself back at square one—answering a Craigslist ad for a summer sublet. The last thing Josh needs while trying to decide whether to employ his prodigious talent for questionable means is for his uptight new roommate to find out how he earns his paycheck. But keeping secrets from Clara while they’re sharing a shower is easier said than done.  

I love that premise—“keeping secrets while they’re sharing a shower.” And you clearly have a great sense of humor! I’m not at all surprised that Berkley/PRH snapped this one up! Yay!

Since this is an L.A.-set book, I’m going to arrange some virtual beach chairs by the surf and invite everyone to get comfy while I ask some questions of Rosie Danan. (And, oh, look!! There’s my favorite taco truck!! Tacos on me!!)

What My Mother, And Walt, Didn’t Tell Me

Life is messy. I don’t know one person who is living the fairy tale that Walt and his tribe, lack of social media, and the sheltering love of parents helped us to envisioned as children. Disagreements were once about how we were affected. Now they included our families, our communities and our world’s state, and these disputes are not easily forgotten with a hug.  Disease, accidents, and death are no longer something that happens to someone else. Financial responsibility is more than adding dimes to a piggy bank. Social manners go beyond saying please and thank you. The news is aired 24/7, and viewed by children. Life is messy.

My grandmother had a saying. If everyone in the room tossed their problems into a pile and then were told to go pick one out, most would pick their own.  

Why would we do that? Because we know what we’re dealing with, we have experience handling it, and we have a sense where we’re headed. Starting over with new problems requires a lot of energy, physically and mentally. Many don’t want to do that. A few don’t have any more stamina left to give. The rare person will give up a less important problem and take on a life threatening one. They are heroes.

Readers love to escape their world. They want to read about other peoples’ problems and learn how they resolve them. They don’t want to read about a fairytale life. They know that world doesn’t exist.  They want to connect with your characters and causing your reader to sympathize with your characters is a way to connect. Give your readers a hero or heroine to cheer for.


Life will always be messy, especially in great works.  





Autumn Jordon is an awarding-winning author of Romantic mystery/suspense and contemporary romance. Check out her sexy U.S. Marshals in the C.U.F.F. series, or fall in love with her characters in the Perfect Love Series. 




Meet 2018 Golden Heart Finalists Eileen Emerson and D. Murphy Ryan!

What a treat here for our second-to-last interview with the Golden Heart class of 2018: today we’re welcoming TWO Persisters, D. Murphy Ryan and Eileen Emerson!

D. Murphy Ryan, also known as Dawn, is a finalist in Contemporary Romance Short with OUT OF THE SHADOWS, and Eileen is a finalist in Historical Romance with AN UNLOVED EARL.

D. Murphy Ryan has lived a life in chapters: as a waitress, a nanny, a photographer’s assistant, a singer and performer, and as a healthcare professional.  But author is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.  Writing since she was eight, she has a vast array of stories she’s eager to share as she moves onto the next chapter of her storied life.




Eileen Emerson spent years getting a Master’s degree in costume design for the theatre, and then chucked it all to make her way in the world of Corporate America. She eventually turned her creative focus to writing and began submitting her work to the contest circuit, with excellent results. She is now a three-time Golden Heart finalist and is zeroing in on publication.


We’re sitting down to chat in the Writing Room of Eileen’s newly renovated Victorian house, which she’s named Valhalla. Dawn and Eileen will be telling you about their books in the course of our conversation, so let’s jump right in!

FYI, Dawn and Eileen met last year when Dawn joined Valley Forge Romance Writers, of which Eileen is President.

And fair warning: Eileen is also Elisa’s real life sister, so the conversation gets a wee bit personal as we go along. Also, there was waaaaay more giggling and raunchy humor than the final transcript implies. (We talked for 45 minutes!! I had to cut something!!!!)

And one more thing: at one point we got so caught up talking about the possible elimination of the Golden Heart Contest, I decided halfway through the conversation to split that part of the interview off into a separate blog that will post tomorrow. IF YOU’VE GOT STRONG FEELINGS ABOUT THE VALUE OF THE GOLDEN HEART, PLEASE JOIN US AGAIN TOMORROW, AND TELL YOUR FRIENDS!!

Elisa’s questions are in maroon, and Eileen’s answers are in black, and Dawn’s are in blue. 

Off we go…

2018 Golden Heart Finalist Katherine Olson on Self-Care for Writers!

Today we’re welcoming another Persister, 2018 Golden Heart Finalist Katherine Olson, whose manuscript NORTH STAR has been nominated for Best Contemporary Romance!

Katherine lives in south Texas with the rest of Team Olson—her Air Force pilot husband, daughter, two cats, and two dogs. Excellent margaritas notwithstanding, she wishes she was back in Alaska, but settles for writing contemporary romances set in the Land of the Midnight Sun. When she’s not writing a new story on napkins, receipts, and keyboard alike, she’s lifting weights, biking, swimming, and reading all the books.

Here’s a blurb for NORTH STAR:

Yura Nukusuk, an Inupiaq geologist in Alaska, fights to save her home from the devastation of climate change while trying to forget about her first love, NHL hotshot Michel Beaulieu. When mutual friends put together a relay triathlon, Yura aims to use the race to reclaim her dignity and send Michel back to Montreal with his tail between his legs. Instead, Michel sets the record straight about his infidelity and confesses his lingering feelings for her, shifting the ground right under Yura’s feet.

Under the glow of the midnight sun, Michel steps back into Yura’s life as her friend, regaining her trust with every act of kindness and bridging the divide between them. Caught between her calling and the man determined to win her back, will Yura leave the Last Frontier to be with the love of her life, or will they remain on opposite sides of North America, forever separated by the Continental Divide and an inability to forgive?

Oh, sigh! I’m such a sucker for second chance love, and I think it’s fabulous that you’re mixing in climate change, athletic competition, and love as a guiding “North Star!” (Excuse me while I sigh again!!)

Katherine’s here today with some wonderful advice for all of us: concrete things to do on those days when we feel down, and aren’t sure how to get back up again!

Take it away, Katherine!


Self-Care for Writers

That’s it, you think, hearing the heavy-handed criticism from someone in your critique group.

Or reading the polite let-down from yet another agent you’d queried.

Or the scathing review from a reader who did not care for your book and wasn’t shy about letting the entire world know.

I just can’t do this anymore.

A writer’s career is rife with opportunity for disparagement—by its very nature, we are putting our work and ourselves out in the world for public consideration and either adoration (we all hope!) or rejection, in its many permutations. So, what’s a tender-hearted writer to do? How does one cope with the ups and the downs and not lose sight of the reason we started telling stories in the first place?

I don’t have easy answers for those questions, but what I do have is a game plan for putting myself back together when the rejection comes. In no particular order, here are some strategies that have helped me pick myself back up and get back to doing what I do best.

Meet 2018 Golden Heart Finalist Melanie Edmonds

Today we’re welcoming another Persister, 2018 Golden Heart Finalist Melanie Edmonds, whose manuscript PLAYED is nominated for Best Contemporary Romance.

Melanie lives in the suburbs of Chicago with her Cardinals-loving husband and the three lovely daughters he’s ruined into being the same. When she’s not rooting for the Cubs alone*, she’s thinking about working her way through the alarmingly-high stack of books beside her bed, but really, she’s probably just re-reading The Hating Game.

*just kidding, she doesn’t care a bit about baseball. Her true passion is giving her husband sh*t. No, wait, it’s tennis Yes. Tennis.

Here’s a blurb for PLAYED:

With her career in free fall, star tennis player Anna Carsten is ready to walk away. But when her dad’s gambling jeopardizes control of their tennis academy, she’s determined not to let it slip from her grasp. Climbing to the top of the rankings is hard enough, but getting to the bottom of her family’s secrets has been impossible—until she decides to hire her father’s protege-turned-enemy as her new coach. 

Former Irish tennis pro Declan Riordan never thought he’d speak to a Carsten again, let alone coach one. Then he discovers it’s not Anna’s game her aunt wants him to fix—it’s her matches. Reluctant to return to the past he thought he’d left behind, he’s determined to figure out what the Carstens are hiding—even if it comes at the expense of the girl he swore he wouldn’t hurt again.

As Anna and Declan wind their way through the U.S. hardcourt season, the cost of winning on the court collides with the bets made off it. And just as Declan realizes that redemption might mean sacrificing his future, Anna is forced to choose between the family loyalty she didn’t know she should doubt and the man she didn’t think she could trust.

I love the idea of a sport romance set in the tennis world—with the heroine as the central athlete! Sounds like it’s full of suspense and emotional complexity, too. Congrats, Melanie, on spinning a story that earned a Golden Heart final!

Melanie’s here today to talk with us about beginnings—in particular, the beginning of her own career in writing Romance. It’s a story I think will resonate with many of us in this community.

Take it away, Melanie!!


The beginning of a story is never easy. It’s why we spend countless hours honing and revising. Lure the reader in, don’t give too much away, but don’t say too little. A delicate balancing act. I have myriad versions of my opening, so many I used to joke I wasn’t sure if I was writing a novel or merely writing the start of one, over and over again. My own personal Groundhog Day.

Yep, beginnings are hard.

But they’re hard in real life, too. Like probably most people reading this post, I started writing at an early age. My grade school required every fourth through sixth grader to put 200 words on a page, every day. Fiction, non-fiction, copied from a book. Didn’t matter. And I loved whipping out those words, creating stories and characters that I’d then run home and pitch to my brother. (To this day, when he asks what I’m writing, I like to begin with “Well, there’s this girl and…” And, for better or worse, that opening line still works!)

How Do You Find Your Characters

Many years ago, I was like a shaky legged fawn stepping into the world of writing. I had written before, for myself and for my school newspapers, but this new world was totally different and scary as hell. I knew if I was going to survive I would need a strong man by my side so I began my search for the man I knew whose name was Hudson Alan Mitchel.

I searched every store, every street corner, and every office I entered, but I was always disappointed. Yes, there were plenty of men in all those places but none were Hudson.

This went on for months, during which time I began to write his story. It came to me like I was listening to his dreamy baritone voice over the radio. (Yes, at that time there was no podcasts or You Tube channels). Taking long walks and listening to him like we were connected by our cell phones, I learned what he liked and didn’t like. I discovered all of his dreams from childhood and on. I felt his angst over the burdens and problems he carried as a major league ball player. I became aware of whom he trusted and who would put a knife in his back because of his fame. And he revealed to me his most personal desires. He wanted a woman just like me. (Yes, when he told me that, it was a sigh worthy moment.) But sadly, I was blissfully married to my own hero and being the decent guy he was Hudson said he would always be my friend.

But I didn’t have an idea of what he looked like. I knew his heart but not his face.

He assured me that we would meet and soon.

I wanted to meet Hudson so much, face to face, and touch his cheek and let him know that I would do anything to find the woman of his dreams for him. I wanted him as happy as I was. Then, I thought why not start the search for Hudson’s dream woman right away. It would be so great to be the one to orchestrate their cute-meet.

One sunny afternoon, I sat on my patio, flipping through a catalog when Sileen Wright caught my eye. She had long, nutmeg brown hair and dark eyes like I did, but she had a cute button nose like Sandy Bullock and a body I’d need to exercise like ten hours a day for a year to achieve. But physical beauty wasn’t all Sileen had going on for her. Her smile reflected her warm heart and her witty sense of humor. She had a look that told you exactly how she was feeling.

I felt privileged when she told me about her family and her dreams to work for NASBO (National Association of Small Business Owners). However, I picked up on the sadness when she spoke about those dreams. She hid the sadness quickly and I didn’t pry. I knew who could help her figure out her problems­~the man who I trusted. They were perfect for each other.

Maybe a month after, Sileen and I met, I attended my first big writer’s conference at Penn State’s main campus. For three days, I learned more about the craft from great writers such as Merline Lovelace. ~I love Merline’s work and not because she gave me such great advice. Her writing is wonderful.~ Anyway, my critique partners and I stopped at a local café and while we enjoyed Ben and Jerry’s ice cream (I know, I know about the Creamery now!) Hudson appeared. It was love at first sight. Yes, I mean me. But at last, remember I was married. So, it was love at first sight for Sileen and Hudson and their story took off in my imagination.

After years, their story is now going out into the world and you all are among the first to know how Sileen and Hudson’s love affair started.  Perfect Fall is up on all venues for a preorder price of $.99 now.  It will release in four short weeks on July 18, 2017 at $4.99. Grab your copy today and if you feel like sharing the information with your friends, please do!




I Books


To me the story is all about characters. Finding a picture of my characters and interviewing them is usually how I begin to learn the direction and theme of my stories. Where do you start? Do you just dive into write and learn about them as you go?  Do you use character charts?



Autumn Jordon is an award-winning, sneaker wearing Ruby. She loves writing both contemporary romance filled with chuckles and romantic suspense/mystery meant to keep you on the edge of your seat, guessing. Visit her website for information on all her works and to join her newsletter.

Meet 2017 Golden Heart Finalist Jo Anne Banker!!

Today we’re welcoming another Rebelle, 2017 Golden Heart Finalist Jo Anne Banker, Finalist in Contemporary Romance with her manuscript THIS CHILD IS MINE.

This is Jo Anne’s third Golden Heart® final. She won the Short Contemporary category in 2011 with LOST AND FOUND, and finaled again in Contemporary Romance in 2015 with HOMECOMING. She writes about the secrets that families guard and the love that heals them.

She’s owned a bookkeeping service for years, and finds balance in the creativity of storytelling. She has volunteered with her local RWA chapters, serving as President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer and contest coordinator. She lives in Houston, Texas with three overly-pampered cat, where she enjoys the theatre, an eclectic mix of foods, good friends, and family.

Here’s a blurb for THIS CHILD IS MINE:

A date rape survivor returns home to care for her dying father, and faces the two men who changed her life. A vicious attack, a desperate secret, and a love that can heal even the deepest hurt…

Jenna’s world shattered the night her boyfriend’s twin brother assaulted her. She fled her hometown the next day, but found herself pregnant from the attack. Twelve years later, she reluctantly returns to care for her dying father. But feelings long since buried resurface when she meets her lost love.

Cade never knew why Jenna deserted him. Until she shows up in town with a son who looks exactly like him. There’s only one problem. The child can’t be his. The only answer leaves him furious and hurt. She betrayed him with his own brother.

Can these two childhood sweethearts get past their anger to find happiness and love in forgiveness?

That sounds intense!!! I hope we see it on bookshelves soon!

Jo Anne is here today to talk about a fascinating topic every writer needs to think about: the importance of knowing your “core story”!

Take it away, Jo Anne!


Core Story: Or Why We Write What We Write

As writers, we all have a core story, a common theme, infused throughout our novels. It inspires our characters to pursue their goals, to overcome whatever conflicts we throw in their paths, motivating them to strive for their happily-ever-after. This theme is the underlying meaning of the story, the life lesson exemplified throughout. It normally has a universal nature, one understood as part of the human condition, so it transcends race, religion, and language, and instead encompasses experience. It might be a coming of age story, or good versus evil. Perhaps it’s betrayal, or lost love renewed. But if we examine our tales, whether they be filled with fantastical creatures, lords and ladies, or Navy seals, we’ll find that each of us writes our own individual core story.

Recently, Jayne Ann Krentz signed her new Amanda Quick historical release, The Girl Who Knew Too Much, at Murder By the Book here in Houston. During her chat with the audience, she promised her readers that although she’d changed the landscape of her new novel from Regency England to the Hollywood/Southern California coast in the 1930s, she had not changed her core story. Jayne/Amanda knows that her readers pick up one of her books with the expectations of a certain type of story and characters, and she wanted to assure us those would always be there. A strong suspense plot, a dark hero who walks with an emotional limp (and sometimes a physical one, too), a smart, fearless heroine, and that core story, which in Jayne’s case is about trust. What makes her romantic stories so beautifully yummy is the trust her hero and heroine develop for each other.

As it turns out, my core story is about healing family hurts. I believe each of us has some type of family karma, and that it’s healthy to identify and work with what we’re given. Why do some have co-dependent relationships that promote victim consciousness, while others come from a healthy nurturing place? Why is it important for some people to have children, and some choose not to? Why do some express obsessive behavior destructively, becoming alcoholics or drug addicts, where others focus that same obsessive behavior into eating right, exercising, and living healthy?  

I write stories where love not only heals family, but where it often forms new families. Not always with biological family members, or sometimes with lost family members found. My stories are often about children separated from a parent in some way. My maternal grandmother had four children, each with a different man. I don’t know why. She died before I was born. But the half-siblings, each seven years apart, all grew up without fathers. My own father and paternal aunt were both adopted. In the five generations I’ve researched, either adoption, growing up without a parent, or raising someone else’s child is prevalent. Parent/child separation, family karma. I recently joked with friends that I write about the skeletons in everyone else’s closets to keep my own rattling bones at bay.

Multi-published New York Times bestselling author Sharon Sala says that everything in her stories comes full circle, because that’s how she sees life. “We are born, we live, we die, and as one life ends, another is beginning. Full circle…. From conflict to solution. From sadness to joy. From being alone to finding a happy-ever-after love. From beginning to end…” Sharon writes characters we all love, and we love seeing them come full circle to their HEA.

Popular historical author Shana Galen finds her central theme tends to be the fish-out-of-water trope, usually in her heroines, sometimes in her heroes. Shana believes there are several reasons she writes this core story. First, “…a character who doesn’t have all the answers and is unsure of herself is approachable and likeable…. Secondly, this convention gives me lots of opportunities for conflict and comic relief. If I throw a character into a situation she’s not ready for, she can get into trouble and she can also mess up in funny ways. Thirdly, this is a theme in my own life. From a young age, I’ve held views and opinions very different from those of my family and friends. …I became a romance writer, which is not exactly a common profession.” Because it’s familiar to Shana, it’s easy for her to write. Feeling out of place is something to which we can all relate. And Shana’s stories are action-packed, and her characters do get into lots of fun trouble!

Award-winning romantic suspense author Colleen Thompson writes about women harnessing their anger in a positive way, “…using [that anger] to find their strength and right a wrong rather than continuing to ‘behave’.” Colleen gravitates toward this theme because “…women are fed from childhood the message that it’s not nice not to be nice, so much so that we end up swallowing the unpleasant and internalizing the damage rather than risking making a scene and drawing attention to ourselves. What happens when a woman reaches her limit and stands up for herself or those who can’t protect themselves? What price does she pay, and what rewards can she reap?” Colleen is tough on her heroines. She puts them in situations where if they want to live, they’d better find the emotional strength to fight for what they love.

My friend and three-time Golden Heart® finalist, Kay Hudson, and I were talking about common themes a few days before Jayne brought it up at her book signing. Kay’s core story is about “…starting over, beginning a new life, a new adventure, a new romance.” Kay doesn’t know why, except “…it always seems like good story material, and a springboard for humor, as my heroines tend to be the sanest person in the room, surrounded by oddball associates.” Kay wrote an article once on how she came to write what she writes, and found a line that sums it up for her. “Love is funny. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.”

I’ve spoken with writers who say nothing personal ever appears in their stories, it’s all about the fantasy for them. I’ve talked to many more who agree there’s something of themselves in every one of their protagonists. But I believe that even if it’s subconscious, everyone’s core story is a basic life lesson learned deep in our own psyche. We don’t choose our theme, then write a story around it. In fact, we often finish a story without even being aware of any theme. But it’s there.

Can you identify yours? What thread of life is your common theme? What’s even more interesting: why is that core story yours?



Connect with Jo Anne Banker on Facebook!

What Do Your Characters’ Jobs Reveal About Them?

Jobs are hard for writers. Not that employment is hard, or even writing, although they are, but deciding on jobs for characters is especially hard. A reader’s first impression of the hero and heroine might be provided by their occupations and go a long way toward establishing personality traits.

If your blurb indicates that a hero is a cowboy or an oil-rig worker, that describes a type of physicality that wouldn’t necessarily be associated with a doctor or an accountant. The difference between a botanist and a financier speaks volumes without saying another word.

In my Billionaire Brotherhood series, the three heroes are, well, Billionaires, but is Independently Wealthy really a job? They each needed to have their own professions, but I didn’t want them to be the hard-driving corporate-executive type that’s often associated with the term. In my character profiles, they were designated as the Intellectual, the Dare-devil, and the Athlete, so their occupations needed to reflect that. All of them had broken away from their super-successful family businesses. One was an English professor, one was a financier, and one was a football player. For their counterparts, the heroines needed to be the kind of every-day, girl-next-door women that wouldn’t normally populate the men’s social circles. One was a writer, one was a pediatrician, and one was a museum curator.

In my Good Riders series featuring a Cincinnati motorcycle club, I wanted to show that people from all walks of life enjoy riding motorcycles, not just troublemaker, bad-boy bikers. My heroes include a news reporter, a computer programmer, and a fireman. The heroines are a documentary film-maker, a teacher, and a midwife.

And then came the fourth Good Riders book, FACE THE MUSIC. The hero is an astrophysicist and the heroine is a classical pianist. Oops! I knew nothing about either one of those professions. So, that was a challenge. Why would I do that to myself? It was an accident, of course.

The hero, Elliott, is the brother of Mitch, the hero in MEANT FOR ME. Elliott was introduced in Mitch’s book as this science-guy, physics kid. He pre-existed before I knew he was going to have his own story. Since he had once been a child prodigy, I wanted the heroine to have been a child-prodigy, too, in an area that seemed opposite of Elliott’s strengths. I liked the idea of a contrast between the creative artist and the man of science combined with their commonality of similarly odd childhoods. Writing them was fun, but I’m not sure I’ll go so far outside my comfort zone any time soon.

Since I write contemporary romance, my characters are never going to be intergalactic bounty-hunters or mystical priestesses. Typically, I give my characters jobs that are relatable to me as well as to readers. But what kinds of professions most appeal to readers? Conventional wisdom says to avoid rock stars and sports heroes, but is that still true? What are some interesting or unique jobs I could consider for my future characters?




Jacie Floyd writes contemporary romance, romantic comedy, and emotionally-rich stories that feature heart, heat, hope, and humor. Before publication, she was honored to be named an RWA six-time Golden Heart Finalist and two-time Golden Heart winner. Since abandoning her day job in 2014, she has self-published eight books and a novella. Her eighth book, FACE THE MUSIC, from the Good Riders series, debuted this week.

She loves hearing from readers and writers and invites you to contact her at,,, or





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  • Autumn Jordon: You’re very welcome. I learned a lot.
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