Thursday, March 24, 2011

Not A Stitch

A good percentage of romance novels have scenes where the character’s clothes are ripped off in a passionate rush. You’ve read them. You’ve pictured them in your mind. One shoe kicked off here. Another left behind there. Jackets and blouses tossed over the banister. Skirt and jeans left mid-stairway. A bra dangling from the hall sconce. Rumpled boxers and panties at the bedside. You get the picture.

As an author, how many times have you written in a fever toward the ultimate moment only to realize you didn’t dress the characters to begin with? Jill and Jack were walking and talking or even horseback riding through the scene a’ natural.

You might think this blog is only about dressing your characters—it’s not. Read on.
I’m sure everyone reading this blog has read a book that stayed with them for years? One so rich that it was truly unforgettable for them? Great writing has details woven into the story in such a way that they’re not intrusive but still nudge the reader’s memories, bringing the story and characters to life, and engaging the reader.

Visual details are usually the first particulars integrated into our writing. We give our characters faces, hair and eye color, physical descriptions, and clothing. We layer in setting details. When adding visual detail, our hero becomes not just a strapping man, but a strong man who has been injured and walks with a limp. A room is not just four blank walls, but is shown to be a small, oblong room with peeling green paint and cracked ceiling tiles. Visual details should be specific and serve a purpose. A ship is a dinky, luxury liner or aircraft carrier. All are different. All tell something about the story and our characters.

Auditory details are the next most common elements used in writing. Sounds remind us of personal memories, creating images in our minds. Recalling the sound of waves crashing against jagged breakers, reminds me of one of my own favorite vacations. Children giggling brings back the memories of my own children at a younger age plotting against me. A character’s word choice or the cadence of their dialogue is another way to add detail.

Touch leads us to investigate the world around us. Through touch we learn the texture, shape, and size of things. By describing familiar tactile sensations, we encourage our readers to put themselves in the place of the characters, like wiping away of a tear or brushing of lips across a cheek.

The sense of smell is commonly overlooked in writing. It is the one sense most closely linked to memory, because the receptors in the brain responsible for processing smells are close to the area of the brain responsible for the storage of memory. Scents trigger thoughts and emotions.

Taste is also a sense that is forgotten by novice writers. Taste (sweet, sour, bitter or sour) jars a reader’s memory and allows them to recall people, feelings and places associated with the taste. Midnight Martini’s now remind me of my niece’s wedding and how beautiful it was, and how in love the young couple looked, and the way my husband held me close while dancing. Taste is a powerful tool and definitely should not be forgotten.

The more we cause our readers to draw on their memories the more memorable our stories will be.

I’ve heard the five senses should be on every page. Do you think that is possible?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Draggers With Dessert

Monday March 7, 2011


If you could have dinner with anyone dead or alive, who would you pick?

I was asked this question recently in an interview and I choose an undercover female agent. Okay, the picture isn't of a female, but the hard abs got your attention. Okay, back to the question. Why would I want to dine with a female? Because I love and write romantic suspense novels and one day I’ll write a story with a spy as my heroine. I’d love to know how she really ticks, not just what I assume from watching movies or sitcoms or reading novels.

I’m really curious how anyone can give up their life, walk away from family and friends, and put themselves at risk, living with danger every second. The thought of not talking to my best friend, who is my dear husband BTW, whenever I want, or not being able to be there when a family member or friend desperately needs me makes me say, “No. I don’t think the job is for me.” Holidays would either kill me or I’d blow my cover for sure.

What about children? I know not every woman wants children, but what if she did? So many questions come to my mind concerning that subject.

I also wonder what their long term goals are, or dreams. We all picture ourselves in that far off future to some degree. We’re retired, enjoying activities that we put on hold for decades and just spending our Golden Years as we want, without looking over our shoulders for someone who might recognize us and drag us in for interrogation.

I’m sure as they were growing up, they didn’t think, I want to be a spy one day. Or did they?

I wondered about their schooling and training. How are they paid? Do they get vacation days? And if so, what name do they use?

I have a thousand questions I’d love to have answered, and more would probably surface in my tiny brain before we’d ordered our chocolate mousse. (We are women so chocolate would be involved.)

So, if you could have dinner with anyone who would it be and why?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Friday Friend Melissa Ohnoutka

Today, I’m so excited to welcome my good friend Melissa Ohnoutka who just published her debut novel Faithful Deceptions. Melissa and I met a number of years ago during a Margie Lawson class and the rest is friendship history. You’re going to love her, and I’m sure anxious to hear more about her journey and Faithful Deceptions. Grab a glass of champagne, welcome her and remember to leave a comment. Melissa is giving away a prize.

Melissa, Can you tell my readers a little about yourself? I know you love camping and hosting sleepovers for your children’s friends. How do you find time to write?

First, thanks for having me! I can't believe how long it's been since Margie's class. This first one is a great question. Time is the one thing I wish I could manage better. I'm not very organized and seem to be happiest when I've got several things going on at once. The writing comes in spurts. I'll have two good weeks of great productivity where everything falls into place and then nothing. I think this is why I love participating in NANOWRIMO. (National Novel Writing Month) It helps me realize that even with birthdays, Thanksgiving and Christmas shopping, I can find the time needed to write if I just focus. And the writing without rules and worrying about editing is so awesome!

BLURP for Faithful Deceptions:

Money dictates the rules of this game and the victim could be anybody— regardless of sex, age, or race.

When high-end antiques dealer, Hailey Devlin, discovers her business partner's boyfriend has bankrupted their company, she sets out to expose the thief. Unknown to Hailey, her target is involved in a brutal trafficking ring where human lives are sold off to the highest bidder and she fits the next customer's order perfectly. She awakens to a world she can't remember. An alluring man claims to be her husband-a man who seems both to want and reject her. Is this amnesia or something much more sinister?

ICE Agent Patrick Roark jumped at the chance to put his training to the test on an elite human trafficking squad of Homeland Security. Undercover as the bodyguard to the ring leader, and key suspect in a murder case, proves more than he bargained for. Masterminding a clever deception, he's determined to keep the next victim safe—even if the high-stakes operation costs him everything-including his heart. Can they survive a killer's wrath? And if they do, will the lies be too damaging for their love to endure?

AJ: Faithful Deceptions sounds like an intriguing romantic suspense. Can you tell us more about the story? What inspired it? And are there any story elements based on real life experiences?

Inspiration…let's see. This book is actually my third romantic suspense. I was working on another story when a miniseries on Lifetime called "Human Trafficking" aired back in 2005, starring Mira Sorvino and Donald Sutherland. Something clicked on in my brain as I watched the movie. I sat down when it was over to write out a quick outline of the story bouncing around in my head. Once I started, I couldn't stop. The other story was put on hold until I finished Faithful Deceptions. And to answer the second part of the question: Thank goodness there are no real life experiences to draw on with this one. LOL

AJ: Did you have to do special research for the story?

I researched a lot about the human trafficking, mainly for my own knowledge on the subject. I don't go into great detail about it in the book. It's a horrifying reality.

AJ: What do you love about your heroine and hero?

I feel like my heroine and hero are really well matched in this story. They both have a lot to learn about dealing with their guilt and anger, and more importantly forgiveness. I enjoyed watching their characters develop over the span of the story.

AJ: Will we see another story from you soon? And can you give us a hint of what it’s about?

Yes, I'm working on edits for my next release right now. Target of Betrayal is the first book I completed and I'm hoping to have it ready for this summer. I believe this is the one you helped me on during Margie's class.  Here's a short blurb:
Kathleen Landon thought her life would finally get back to normal after the bizarre death of her husband. But a "chance" meeting with an old boyfriend throws her and her family on a dangerous and emotional journey full of secrets and betrayal. Her husband's death wasn't an accident, but an attempt to cover up a horrendous crime spree being operated by a traitor inside the FBI. Now she and her children are running from a cold-blooded killer. Can she trust the U.S. Marshal sworn to protect them. Or is he using her as bait to capture her husband's killer?

AJ: Would you share an excerpt of Faithful Deceptions?


Excerpt from Faithful Deceptions

“Hailey. Open your eyes, sweetheart.”

A burning sensation ripped through her insides. Where am I? Why is it so dark?

Precious seconds passed as she tried the simple action of just swallowing. Why couldn’t' she move, speak?

And oh, the pain.

No matter how hard she tried, Hailey's efforts to focus and lift her eyelids fell short. It felt as if she was being pulled though an opening much too small. Jagged pieces, pointed, razor sharp, scraping and cutting at her tender flesh as she tried to regain consciousness.

Oh, no. What’s happening to me?

Death’s icy fingers laced around her heart as the empty void expanded further and tormented her soul. A part of her wanted to quit, to give in and find the peace she knew was just beyond her reach. But somewhere, somewhere deep within, the will to live grew stronger. Wouldn't let her cross over.


In the deep recesses of her mind, a glimmer of hope flickered. Someone was calling her name. She could hear them, sense their presence. But they sounded so far away. Their voice drifted in and out, the way the ocean flows beyond all boundaries of time and space on a solitary seashore.

Oh, dear God. Why couldn't she think straight?

I’m here. I can hear you. Alarm spread over her as she tried to lift a finger to alert them she was still alive. Not one tiny muscle even flinched. She may be able to hear them, but the person made no indication they knew of her receptiveness.

This isn’t happening, she thought, feeling her chest rise and fall with rapid repetitions. Don’t panic. Not yet.

Focus already. Just focus.

AJ: And where can we find you on the web? And can you share buy links for Faithful Deceptions?
Right now "Faithful Deceptions" is available at


Barnes & Noble -

The print copy will be out soon as well.

You can find me at: on Mondays

Thanks again for having me, AJ! It's been great fun! I'm giving away a $10.00 Amazon gift certificate Saturday morning for one lucky commenter! So please leave your name and email address when you comment so I can get it to you if your name is drawn.

Best wishes to all,