Romance Writers Weekly: Story Ideas

This week we’re delving into the origin of story ideas. If you’ve come from Fiona Riplee‘s blog, welcome!

One story idea that came to me as a gift from someone else is the story of Alexandra Northrop from Untrue Colors. She was the reason the book was written.

I had written two books about wealthy sisters who must overcome huge obstacles. When I pitched them to an agent, she told me to add a third sister.  Trilogies sell better. The problem? The books were already written. So I added an estranged sister in Europe. she refuses to come home. The first two books never sold. That left Alex alone in Europe, away from her family. Why?

Untrue Colors was a blast to write: Here’s an excerpt:

Alex sat in her favorite booth in the back corner of the Yellow Dog Pub with a Coke and a cup of pumpkin-and- Gruyère soup and pulled out the book Matisse, Father & Son from her backpack. One of the students she’d met offered to check out books for her from the library, and she devoured every one she could lay her hands on. She’d created a comfortable yet temporary life in Oxford. She dressed as one of the students at the university, lived at a youth hostel, and earned money by helping a pub owner clean up after closing. Still, she felt far from safe.

“Gabe, how’s the soup?” Matt, the owner, asked.

She’d become used to being called Gabe West. Gabrielle, her mother’s name, had been the only name she could think of when she’d arrived in Oxford. West reminded her that her family was across the ocean in Boston. Since moving to

Europe eight years ago, Alex had kept in sporadic contact with her family. Since meeting Luc, she’d had zero. They didn’t need to become mixed up in her problems. Luc was too dangerous.

She took a spoonful and savored the first taste of her main meal for the day. “You outdid yourself.”

“Glad to hear it.” He sat across from her, his wise blue eyes framed by laugh lines. “Listen, love, some bloke has been poking around the local pubs asking about an undocumented French art lover with a pert little nose and an air of desperation. Never did hear you speak anything but English, but thought I’d give you a heads-up.”

Her spoon dropped into the bowl, splashing some soup on the table. She clasped it again as though it was an accident and raised her eyebrows to appear interested in Matthew’s statement, but not too interested. Her body tensed, ready to run away from this sanctuary. Had they found her? 


Alex in Paris

Alex in Paris

Continue on to read what Leslie Hachtel found as an idea that eventually came to light and see you next week!!!



2016 Booksellers’ Best Winner



I attended the Romance Writers of America Annual Conference last week in San Diego. What a great opportunity to meet with my agent, editors, and my friends. The highlight of the week was learning that my novel “Untrue Colors” won the 2016 Booksellers’ Best Award for Romantic Suspense.

I also did a book signing there with over 400 other authors including many of my favorites. If you are near the Orlando area next July, come on out. It’s such fun and all sales are donated to support literacy.


Romance Writers Weekly: All in the Name of Research-Locations

Welcome to Romance Writer’s Weekly Blog Tour. A.S. Fenichel provided our topic for the week! What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done in the name of “researching a book?”

largeI’ve been fairly active all my life. I can ride a horse, shoot a gun, ski down mountains, and have gone scuba diving with sharks. I loved sailing as a kid, prefer hiking outside to the Stairmaster at the gym, and have finished 2 triathlons. I’ve worked on a road crew, as a loader at UPS, as a waitress, at the Massachusetts Statehouse, at the United Nations in Geneva, and in tall skyscrapers for huge corporations. My experiences help me with my writing, but most of them came long before I’d decided to be a writer. I’ve never decided to climb a mountain for a book.

I’m very efficient at computer research, but when it comes to locations, I prefer visiting. There is nothing like taking in not only the sights and sounds of a foreign culture, but also the attitudes of the people. The physical push of a crowd on the Champs Elysee in Paris, the smell of spilled beer at a beer garden in Munich, the style of the people of Tokyo, and the tranquility of the Fiji Islands.

There are very few locations I’ve written about that were not described straight from my memory. One place I never visited, however, is North Korea. My novel True Deceptions has a significant amount of scenes in the countryside there. I do not have a desire to visit North Korea, especially having published a book where businessmen are executed by the North Korean military. My research came from articles, photographs, and a study of Google maps to plan my hero and heroine’s escape.


The second location I wrote extensively about without having visited was Columbia. I set the location of the third and final novel in the True Lies series on the property of a drug cartel in the Andes Mountains. I researched the area again by Google, but I also found many documentaries about harvesting opium for heroin. The films provided some knowledge of the sights, smells, and dangers of living in such a place.


Future locations I’d love to visit include China, Russia, and India. I can imagine entirely new environments to explore. New tastes to discover, new sights to see, and new people to understand.

Where would you go if you had the opportunity?

Travel to J.J. Devine to read about her research.

Ready for 2016? It’s coming anyway.



I accomplished many goals in 2015. First novel published, second novel published, made PAN (a professional author designation) for the Romance Writers of America, spoke at the Debut Author Breakfast at Thrillerfest, and finished my first legal/political thriller.

The pressure is on to make 2016 even better. I made a few resolutions to make sure I keep my sanity as I increase my writing goals and take on more cases with my law practice.

  1. Do one thing at a time. I do my best work when my focus is 100% on what I’m doing, so I need to make sure to stay on task to complete one goal and then move onto something else.
  2. Every complaint requires a solution. Complaining about something is never beneficial unless I am actively searching for a solution. No solution? Then I need to move on to things I can change.
  3. Meditate everyday. I’m doing this a bit differently. Instead of sitting and saying “Omm” and thinking about all the things I need to do, I’m going to walk at least a half hour after lunch. When I’ve done this in the past, my creativity and productivity have soared in the afternoon.
  4. Practice my French and Spanish. Every year I tell myself I will practice these languages. I never do. The result is that my daughters are much better than I am in French, and one of them is also taking Spanish, sure to surpass my limited ability by the end of the school year. I’m doomed if I don’t work on my linguistic skills.
  5. Realize that everyone has the right to think what they want, even if I disagree. Different politics? A bad review? Someone hates my new shoes? Let it go. I have to focus on my goals, my family, and the issues close to my heart.

I could list more resolutions about my diet, fitness, and sleep habits, but I’m a believer in keeping things simple. Have a wonderful New Year’s celebration and may next year be your best yet!

Romance Writers’ Weekly



Welcome to Romance Writers’ Weekly Fan Fiction Week.If you came from Dani Jace’s blog at, welcome.

This week’s topic comes from Jo Richardson.

FanFiction is getting a lot of attention these days. Certain books have opened up the “pull to publish” flood gates, as it were – whether people like it or not. What fandom do you have a thing for? I want the title and opening scene (short or long) that you would give to a FanFiction you might write, if you were so inclined to, that is. 😀

No, I didn’t do this correctly, I rarely follow rules.


I can’t write fan fiction. Seriously, I tried. Last week, I toiled over a brilliant Harry Potter and Hermione Granger story where Hermione is a recent widow and she needs to stop Harry from breaking a rule in order to save his dying wife. This plot, as I was told by two irate teenagers, has been written to death on various fan fiction forums and I wasn’t that good at harnessing their essence. I was about to tell them what I thought about them, but decided to go for coffee instead. I’m calmer now.

In reality, they told the truth. I messed up some canon and never formed a 3D character profile of Harry. Getting a character right is important to me, and this one wasn’t passing my quality test. In addition, I have zero memory for the details necessary to give another author’s world the reverence due. I can’t even remember the hair color of the character of my last published book, never mind someone else’s creation.

My daughters write fan fiction, and they are fantastic. They understand the nuances of the twelve (or thirteen?) Doctors. They ship Sherlock and Watson. They dress as trolls from Homestuck for Comic Con and run. They hate me watching television with them because I ask stupid questions. Apparently, there are stupid questions.


So I will read my co-Romance Writers Weekly fantastic stories today, but spare you all from work not worthy of being written. Instead, I’m heading back to my office to write about a few characters who live in my soul and are dying to get out.


Head over to Kristi Rose

Romance Writers’ Weekly: FLASH FICTION

Welcome to this week’s edition of Romance Writers’ Weekly. Have you come over from A.S. Fenichel’s blog? Welcome!!!

Fiona Riplee offered up our topic this week. Flash fiction – Your hero & heroine are playing an “old-school” board game (one with an actual board or pieces old or new – just not a video game). The winner gets a special prize. 1000 words or less.

Did I follow the rules??? NO! This was why I didn’t graduate with honors. I did something, but not quite what was required. I forgot the board game and just had a game. :(



Kate. She was the key to the missing car and the fifteen pounds of heroin he’d neglected to turn over to the evidence department. And now he’d have to beg or spend a long, long time in prison. He took his cruiser over to her apartment, a sweet little place overlooking the Naples Yacht Club and Crayton Cove.

Three knocks and she answered in nothing but a green silk nightgown and carrying a bottle of tequila.

“Come on in, Officer.” She turned around and sauntered back to the bar, all hips and attitude. She didn’t pour the poison into shot glasses. Not Kate. She poured the Jose Cuervo into tumblers, at least two fingers worth. Holy hell, it was going to be a long night.

“Listen, honey. I’m not here for anything but the information on a certain car.”

“Want the information, sweetie? Drink.” She handed him a glass.

He took a drink. The liquid burned his throat and made him cough

Damn, strong stuff.

“Take it easy. This stuff can grow hair on your chest.” She stared at Harry’s chest a bit too long. “Maybe you’d need a bit more to get the follicles working.”

“Are you done?” He didn’t need this aggravation. He needed to get what he was there for and then leave, hopefully, never to return.

She walked out to her balcony and sat at a small table. Harry followed. The woman was drop dead beautiful. Dark brown hair, green eyes that slanted up at the corners just enough to give her an almost feline appearance. He looked away to get his bearings. She would rip him apart without a second thought. A pelican was flying low over the water and several boats were headed back to their slips for the night.

He glanced back at her to see her smirking because she had the upper hand, as always. “How about this, you match me drink for drink for the next hour and if, and trust me, this is a big if, you’re still standing, you get the information.”

“Deal.” He had no other choice. Threats had never worked on her in the past. Kate was made of steel.

She shot back the tequila and placed the empty glass on the table. “Ready for the next one?”

Harry blew out some of the tension in his chest and then shot down the rest of his drink too. “Ready.”

He followed her inside to the bar where she poured two more tumblers, higher this time.

“This really is a waste of time, Harry.”

“Why is that?”

“The car may be miles and miles away by now. Perhaps sold to someone who bought it in good faith.”


She lifted her glass to his and tapped the edge. “We’ll see.”

They both downed the drink together. Her face unconcerned and cool, his not so much. This was awful stuff.

“More?” she asked. Her mouth lifted into a grin.

He handed her the glass. “Hurry up. I need the information.”

This little back and forth went on for the next twenty minutes until the bottle was dry and another was close to the same fate. Kate had moved herself to the living room couch, her legs kicked up on the coffee table. Harry sat in the recliner opposite her. A warm fog surrounded his thoughts and soon, the world went black.

He woke in the backseat of the 1968 Mustang he’d owned since high school. The car he’d been searching for.

His clothes were missing and two empty bottles of tequila littered the floor. “Son of a bitch.”

He’d have to move the heroin to the evidence room before anyone noticed. He sat up too quickly, the dizziness gave him a headache and made him want to puke. And then he noticed the blue lights. How the hell could he explain that amount drugs in his own car?

“Harry Tornetti, fancy meeting you here. Nice outfit.” John Shipton laughed and directed a flashlight at him.

“Maybe he was so happy to locate the car, he decided to celebrate,” Tim Smith said.

“Screw you. How did you two locate the car?”

“Someone called the police tip line.”

“Let me guess, a female.”

John decided to be an asshole and photograph the “evidence” before throwing him a blanket.

Harry struggled to get up, but he needed to know. He went to the back of the car and opened the trunk. Inside was nothing but an envelope with his name on it.

John peered over his shoulder, flashlight still in his hand. “Payment for last night, pretty boy?”

“Don’t say a word, Shipton.”

The envelope contained a note in Kate’s handwriting.

Dear Harry,

Here’s the car. I took the liberty of cleaning out the trunk for you. Say hi to all your police buddies and remember that crime never pays, unless of course you’re a criminal.

Love, Kate

And that was it. The drugs were gone, and he was in the clear. And Kate? Well, he’d see her soon enough. It was only right to replace the tequila after all.


Your next stop is Lia Fairchild – She played the game right and included a board game. Jose Cuervo somehow made it into both of our stories. I think we share a bond!!