Romance Weekly: Characters, Inspiration, and Plot Holes

‘Do you like to read romance novels? Wouldn’t you like to know more about your favorite authors? Well you came to the right place! Join the writers of Romance Weekly as we go behind the scenes of our books and tell all….. About our writing of course! 

If you’ve come from Tessa Gray’s blog, welcome. If not, go back…  http://www.tessagray.comWomen’s Fiction author, Tessa Gray, writes stories set in the tiny West Texas town of Alpine. Check out her newest release. But come right back!!!

Tessa Gray



This week’s questions are brought to us from Jeanne McDonald.

1. How did you go about choosing the names for your characters?


The minds and personalities of my characters form long before I name them. My daughters or the name generator on Scrivener offer me the most character names. Occasionally, I look up popular names in certain years to find something that’s not too far fetched for the age of the person I’m writing about. I’m rarely tied to a name. On certain occasions, my character’s names have changed by the time I’ve written half the story. Family and friend names are mostly avoided, especially if that character will be having sex on the page or will be killed. This helps me avoid awkward Christmas parties.


2. Where did the inspiration for your current book come from?


You could say that I pitched my way to my new series. The seed of an idea for the series came from my very first pitch to an agent. I had planned two books about sisters and the agent suggested I add a third sister because three of anything is better than two. The problem was I had already completed the first book and didn’t know where to put her. I made her estranged and shipped her off to Paris to deal with later.

As I wrote the second book, I obsessed about the third sister. Why was she in Paris? What was she like? A Bostonian blueblood by birth, the character had black hair and an edgy personality. She loved art, but wasn’t an artist. I named her Alex. When I completed the second book, I dove into her story.

An agent at a different pitch session at a different conference suggested I focus on the hero’s brother for the sequel instead of the sisters, because romance readers tend to follow male characters more than female characters. I wrote his story and then his best friend’s story afterward to give me that magical third book. I placed the original two books on the sisters in storage for a while.

Ironically, an editor I pitched at a conference gave me the title of Alex’s story Untrue Colors.

The brother centric series, led by Alex my heroine, just sold to Entangled Publishing. The moral is that listening to agents and editors’ suggestions at pitch sessions can help add the magic ingredients that take a manuscript from the slush pile and turn it into a sale.


3. What methods do you use to ensure you have no plot holes (journal, storyboard, outline, editor, etc.)?

plot holes

I plot before I write, but I usually rewrite the plot toward the end, because I’ve missed some poignant fact that screws up the entire story. More important, I rely on critique partners and beta readers to find my plot holes. They’re good and not afraid to completely challenge my story. I’ve had eye color wrong, dates wrong, and once I wrote a story about Delphi when I meant Delhi. In other words, I need help. A CP once told me my heroine would never whine in the dire situation I’d placed her in, and my hero wouldn’t be such a jerk to her. I rewrote the scenes, because she was right and the book is better now.


The next stop on the blog hop is Daphne and Golden Pen winner Susan Scott Shelley.!blog/c1cod. She’s not only an amazing writer, but she’s insane enough to be my critique partner and has endured writing some novellas with me as well! Our first published work is “Tackled by the Girl Next Door,” published by The Wild Rose Press in October 2014.Tackled by the Girl Next Door

Romance Weekly

‘Do you like to read romance novels? Wouldn’t you like to know more about your favorite authors? Well you came to the right place! Join the writers of Romance Weekly as we go behind the scenes of our books and tell all….. About our writing of course! Every week we’ll answer questions and after you’ve enjoyed the blog on this site we’ll direct you to another. So come back often for a thrilling ride! Tell your friends and feel free to ask us questions in the comment box.

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Have you come from ? Welcome. If you missed her blog post, GO BACK!!!! Her answers are great.

This week’s questions from the lovely Tessa Gray.


1.   Do any characters you’ve written into your books remind you of yourself? Explain which ones and why.

Most of my female heroines have personalities and traits I’d love to possess, but don’t. One is a computer expert, one speaks over twenty foreign languages, and another has an expert understanding of firearms. I’m horrible with computers, as many who tried to post on my site last week learned. My foreign language expertise consists of broken French, broken Spanish, and the ability to order a beer in German. As a romantic suspense writer, I should know all about firearms, but I have trouble remembering the difference between a 9mm weapon and .38 caliber one. I’m getting better with all three things, but my characters are masters in their fields.

My heroines embark on adventures to foreign countries and strange situations and meet people who challenge them in everyway. I’ve lived in some of those foreign countries, but most of the danger they’ve experienced are beyond any danger I’ve come across in my life. I strive to make their adventures interesting to me and, hopefully, by extension to other readers.


2.   Was there a teacher or mentor in your life who helped nurture your writing? 

My mother has been a huge influence on my writing. She’s never doubted my abilities or questioned whether I could succeed. She’s also a wonderful role model. She takes on mountainous tasks and succeeds beyond expectations, whether it’s building a school from the ground up, taking a hobby in photography and making it into a successful business, or tutoring kids who have nothing and making them believe they can succeed against overwhelming odds. She has a never give up attitude and that makes all the difference when trying to become published. With her on my side, nothing is impossible.



3. Every author has that moment when they doubt their ability to write. When that happens to you, how do you pull yourself up by the bootstraps and continue? What do you do to inspire YOURSELF?    

When I decided to write full-time, I had to let go of certain fantasies about writing. Writing is not an activity I do while sitting calmly with a cup of coffee and creating wonderful stories inspired by the Monarch butterfly that landed on my finger in the middle of a garden on a sunny day. Although there are times when my stories form in my mind with the precision of a 3D action sequence, more times than not, I must kick and prod and yank the stories from my subconscious.

I also find that given the choice, I’d rather go for a walk or play with my kids than write five sentences when I have no inspiration. Why? Because writing is difficult and making something interesting and fun to read takes major brain power. Instead of procrastinating, however, I sit at my desk and write, not everyday, but very close to everyday. Some days are wonderful and others are wretched journeys into depression, but I write anyway. Soon, I have a decent story that requires even more work to make better and then more work to become worthy of posting to the world.

The secret to getting over a bad day of writing is to continue writing until I have a good day. The more I write, the more good days I have.


Thanks for stopping by. Head over to and

J.J. Devine.


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‘Do you like to read romance novels? Wouldn’t you like to know more about your favorite authors? Well you came to the right place! Join the writers of Romance Weekly as we go behind the scenes of our books and tell all….. About our writing of course! Every week we’ll answer questions and after you’ve enjoyed the blog on this site we’ll direct you to another. So come back often for a thrilling ride! Tell your friends and feel free to ask us questions in the comment box.


This is my first week on this blog with such an amazing group of writers. Kim Handysides was the previous stop. If you missed her, swing back around or you’ll miss an amazing picture of Jake Gyllenhaal. 

When writing your novel, do you know how it’s going to end before you write, or do you write from start to finish?

I plot and plot and plot my ideas. In the middle of the story, I completely change my direction and my plot, but I’m usually in a good place by then and the changes make the story better.

I have one manuscript I’m currently tearing apart and moving the end to the middle and making the middle the end. The change strengthens the motivations of the characters and brings the book to a more satisfying end.

How do the people you know impact your writing? Are you influenced by friends and family for your characters?

Everything in life influences my writing. I especially love watching how people treat others in good times and bad. Some are genuine, some are self-centered, and there are people who will appear helpful, but would rather slit a friend’s throat than let him get ahead in life.

I never use a real person as inspiration for a character. The character comes from a bundle of personality traits, emotions, and personal backstory. Any similarities are purely coincidental!!!

Describe the hero in your current WIP in three words.

Dane is the hero I’m working with on my current manuscript. He’s handsome, loyal, and deadly. Although he’s hesitant to become the hero of this book, he easily out matches my most Alpha hero from my last book. And gives him a bloody lip, just to prove who’s now in control.

Let’s get another perspective and see what Rhenna Morgan has to say about her writing process, especially the part about finding ideas at Target- I’m going shopping there this afternoon to find my own inspiration!

Rhenna Morgan

And please remember how much we love your comments.

Baton Blog Hop: My Writing Process

Veronica Forand Romance Writer

The wonderful Kristin Contino, invited me to be part of a Baton Blog Hop. Each writer involved answers four questions and then passes the baton on to another person. I’m receiving the baton from Kristin Contino. Her debut novel, THE LEGACY OF US, will be published by Sparkpress in September. It’s a wonderful journey in the lives of the women in one family through three generations.


Susan Scott Shelley and I are preparing to publish a novella, TACKLED BY THE GIRL NEXT DOOR published by The Wild Rose Press this October. We’re in the “Oh my God, we have to promote this thing?” stage of the process, but we’re a good team and have been learning about marketing books from our friends who have published before us.

Last week, I finished the third novel in my Truth series. It’s been sent to my beta readers and will hopefully be at a publisher at the end of the month. I have another book in the series that requires a full overhaul. It should take a month to whip it into shape and then I’m starting a new romantic suspense series about three brothers and the women who bring them to their knees.

Susan and I are finishing our third novella together and have started plotting the fourth. I love plotting sessions with her, because our imaginations run in opposite directions and create amazing storylines.


My characters, especially the female ones, are often hampered by society or their family’s expectations or lack of expectations for them. I love stripping characters down to their true selves and having them become who they were meant to be. Authenticity is a real issue for me.


My writing style does not include long descriptions or narratives. It tends to jump between dialogue and actions with enough narrative and description to keep the plot moving. Romantic suspense fits that style of writing.

My tendency to be a wise ass bleeds onto the page. In some cases, I create the most unlikeable characters ever. If there is a contest for characters people hate the most, some of the earlier versions of my characters would win (ask some of the contest judges for my earliest manuscripts). Making characters that are real and not Disneyesque versions of people or characters you don’t want to slap up side the head is a challenge, but I love challenges.

The novellas I write with Susan are fun, fast, and full of action. Our voices aren’t similar, but very complimentary. We combine our styles to create really interesting storylines and cool characters.


I usually start with a character I obsess over, often for months. Finding a partner for that character also takes time.

Creating the plot is fun. It sometimes takes days, weeks, and an army of friends to keep a plot moving in a believable direction. I love when all the pieces of a story are linked together in a cohesive manner. I tend to redo the plot when I hit the middle after I run into logic problems or find myself becoming bored. If I don’t like the story, no one else will.

When writing, I try to complete about 2,000 words per day. I spend my mornings revising what I’ve written the day before. Each scene is edited about five times before I finish the book.

I rely heavily on my critique partner (Susan!) to catch flaws in my logic and confusing issues in the book. When she’s finished, I send it out to my beta readers.

So that’s all about me! Next week, I’m passing the baton to my critique partner/writing partner Susan Scott Shelley.

Broken Bones, Broken Promises


By Veronica Forand

Note to self: first thing in the morning, send Jordan some flowers to make up for the long hours spent away from her. She deserved at least two dozen red roses arriving at their house to brighten her afternoon. The image of his sexy wife and her long legs and beautiful smile melted away some of the stress Max had felt while dealing with his latest case.

His eyes strained to read the words on the computer screen. Two quick motions to draft and he’d be done and able to curl up with Jordan in their bed. A faint thumping sound echoed outside his office door. Probably the cleaning service. A few seconds later, the noise transformed from footsteps to shuffling.

Max stood and stretched. He needed to ask them to wait to vacuum. He couldn’t concentrate with the roar of their industrial monster of a machine. Before he reached the door, it flung open and the shadows of three men pushed their way into his office too fast for him to react.

They, the mysterious bastards who broke into his office, shoved him into a wall, nose first. Pain shot from his forehead through his cheeks and into his inner ear. He snorted up blood as he tried to maintain his breath. The coppery tang coated his mouth until he spit it out. He wanted to aim the bloody sputum at his tormentors, but they stood behind him out of his line of vision. He wouldn’t have seen them even if they had turned him around. Max couldn’t open his eyes. The nose must be broken at some screwed-up angle.

Someone restrained his arms behind him. He could feel heavy cord being wound around his wrists. He tried to pull free, but each pull on his side, caused his arm to be torqued in the opposite direction by his captors. The angle they twisted his shoulders could cause serious damage if he fought too much against them. Surprise, panic, and fear merged in his gut. And his eyes stung like acid poured into his cornea.

“Who are you?” He tried to spit out the words through the stream of blood flowing down his throat. He gurgled and finally managed to say something akin to the question.

The response was immediate. Two, maybe three, men punched and kicked his torso, his legs, and his face until he no longer could sit on his own. The stabbing pain in his gut must be a broken rib. Max choked in as much air as he could tolerate, but each inhalation ached. Would it feel better to just stop breathing?

The final kick in the face across the already broken nose knocked him cold.

A throbbing throughout his body woke him and reminded him of his place in hell. Feeling drugged, he lay on his back, his arms tied behind him. His shoulders no longer had feeling. Someone had tied a cloth around his eyes. The pressure of the tight material over the bridge of his nose made the pain constant and unrelenting. He turned to a fetal position, only to land on a dislocated shoulder. The van or truck he was in made enough movement to remind him of every injury he’d received from the bastards who tied him up. Probably a disgruntled client. He couldn’t keep everyone from going to prison, but he usually managed to reduce the time to a minimum.

At least his captors found him in his office and not at home. Jordan would be safe there. His wife of five years had enough problems growing up in Brooklyn with a low-level crime boss for a father. She didn’t need to be involved in her husband’s problems. Images of her exotic beauty with olive skin and deep brown eyes cooled his nerves. He needed more time with her. He craved more time with her.

The vehicle pulled over to the side of the road. From the constant buzz of traffic sounds and the planes overhead, he must still be in the city. He tried to take a deep breath, but his throat was swollen and his nose stopped functioning after the last kick in the face. A chill crept over him and his body reacted by shivering uncontrollably. A door opened and light filtered in through the edges of his blindfold. Cars honked and sped by in the distance. Noises seemed muffled, perhaps by buildings. Was he in an alley?

Two men, strong like gorillas only not as articulate, picked him up with unnecessarily rough force. One ape grabbed him under his arms and dragged him to the edge of the van floor.  The aching pull on his twisted arms caused him to moan. The other guy lifted his legs and they yanked him up off the ground. He heard the door slam behind him. That would make guy number three. Max braced himself for his descent to the ground, yet they continued to carry him up onto a sidewalk.

He knew when they’d arrived at a building, because they used his head to push a door open. His breathing became more strained with the inability of his lungs to fully function behind a broken rib and a blocked windpipe. Each step down what felt like a never-ending hallway hurt. Arriving at another door, they shoved his head into it again. The force of the blow added to the disorientation and numbness of his defeated body.

If they were going to kill him, he wished they’d just get it over with, but they continued to hold him in place for a few minutes in a room that echoed as though encased in concrete. The thugs situated his body upright in a wooden chair with his arms draped behind him.

A chair? Maybe an interrogation?

Someone lifted his face up by yanking on his hair. Another pulled off the cloth covering his eyes. White light blinded him and he squinted through the pain. The outline of a person in front of a window barely registered. He shut his eyes and rested them from the onslaught of the sun’s rays. Opening them slowly, the outline became more clear. A woman. A beautiful woman. His beautiful woman.

Panic roiled through him. He couldn’t deal with her getting hurt, because of him.

“Jordan? Are you okay?” His voice strained through a broken jaw.

The tilt of her chin, the placement of her hands on her hips, and the solid stance of her legs told him not to worry about her.

“Max, darling. I really care about you, but it’s not working. Your long hours, the stingy allowance you give me each week.” She picked up some papers from the small table next to her and a pen. Strolling over to him with the confidence of a mafia daughter, she wiped some blood off his face with the back of her hand. “I wanna divorce.”


by Veronica Forand


Daniel wanted only one seat in the dining room. The seat next to the pretty woman in the green dress. Damn, her blue eyes could knock the socks off every guy within a ten-mile vicinity. Probably the rest of their clothes as well. He’d finally worked up enough pluck to sit with her.

He tried to meander up to her with the debonair style of a man about town, but his actions resembled more of a stop and go action. Not smooth, but he made it to the table without falling and breaking a hip.

He slid into the chair next to her and her eyes flashed in his direction. “Hello. I’m Alice.” Could a smile be soft, sweet, and sexy? Absolutely. Her pink lips proved it.

“Nice to meet you, Alice.” He rocked his chair a little closer toward her.

In response, she leaned slightly toward him. “Nice night.”

He nodded. “A little chilly, but manageable.” The nerves tightening his stomach relaxed and he eased into the comfort zone he’d known most of his life.

The waiter came over and served them each a turkey dinner, mashed potatoes, and broccoli. Daniel sent him away to get them both some coffee.

“Do you mind me sitting with you?” Daniel asked, after taking a few bites of his meal.

She laughed with a low throaty sound that curled his toes and sent shivers up his spine. “Mind? I was hoping you had the nerve to come over and keep me company.”

The waiter returned with their coffee. Daniel preferred black. Alice liked cream and sugar in hers. Smooth and sweet.

She took a tentative sip of her drink, and then placed the mug on the table. She tilted her head, perhaps contemplating her next words. They came out in a breathy invitation. “I don’t understand why my heart skips past my arrhythmia and almost into a full blown coronary when you’re nearby, but your companionship feels as comfortable as my favorite sweater.”

“You sure say the sweetest things.” He reached for her hand and enjoyed the warmth of her skin against his.

She squeezed his hand. “It’s true. And you’re also the best dressed man here.”

“How else to attract your attention?”

“It succeeded. An argyle sweater and a beige turtleneck? You could be Cary Grant.”

“Only if you’d be my Ingrid Bergman.”

They both laughed. Their hands never parted. Their eyes remained fixed on each other, highlighting the familiarity of each other’s face among the thousands they’d seen in their lives.

The evening carried on like a dream. They laughed about their first cars, their first kisses, and the first time they’d struck out on their own. She’d lived a life of adventure and he was a willing audience to hear her stories.

An hour later, the dream dissipated like fog in the sun. A woman dressed like Gumby arrived and reached toward Daniel’s dinner companion.

“Mrs. McClare, it’s time to go back to your room.”

Alice held up her hand to the woman, halting her steps. “Just a minute, dear.” She turned back to Daniel. “Agree to have breakfast with me tomorrow.”

Daniel smiled. Not a crazy teenager in love smile, but a smile that told the woman to his left that he appreciated her flirtations and reciprocated the interest. “Same table. Eight o’clock. I’ll be waiting.”

“I’m glad.”

Gumby pulled Alice’s chair away from the table and from Daniel.

“Until breakfast, my sweet.” He touched her chair before it rolled completely out of reach.

“I can’t wait.” She waved and departed with her nurse.

Daniel beckoned over his orderly.

“Mike, I need some help out of my chair.”

“No problem, Mr. McClare.” He grasped Daniel’s arm and lifted him, moving his walker over within arm’s length. “There you go. Did you have a nice dinner?”

“The prettiest girl in the place just agreed to have breakfast with me. I had a perfect dinner.”

Mike’s booming laugh followed Daniel out of the room, but Daniel ignored it. He needed to get back to his room and pick out an outfit. He had a date first thing in the morning.

Finding a Princeton Spouse Between Black Holes and Planetary Nebula


by Veronica Forand

Mary Ellen Thompson sat down at an empty table at the Chemistry CaFe in the Frick Chemistry Building on Princeton’s campus. As she began to inhale a ham and cheese on rye with a small Diet Coke, a tall, dark and amazing guy asked if he could sit down.  She would have answered “yes” if her mouth had enough saliva to swallow the sandwich. It didn’t. Forced to raise her hand for him to wait, she took a quick chug of the soda and then exhaled forcefully.

“Sure,” she finally answered. She twirled her copper braid and batted her eyelashes as her mother had instructed her to do when confronted with a potential spouse.

Mr. Amazing nodded and sat next to her. His lunch consisted of a large salad with grilled chicken and a glass of milk.  He didn’t touch his meal though. Instead, he stared into her eyes. A total cliché of a moment, but what the hell, she hadn’t dated a hunk like him since her freshman year when she’d tutored a blond, buff running back in Calculus. She deserved a romantic cliché on her life.

“Are you a student here?” he asked.

“Yes. Are you?” she continued their dry and otherwise predictable conversation.

“Yeah. I’m a history major and I play on the soccer team.” A slight smirk lifted the corner of his mouth. He was intelligent. He had to be in order to garner an exclusive spot at an exclusive school. He also had toned muscles that stretched the sleeves of his polo shirt. He could be the future father of her children. He could be the one. “What’s your major?”

She smirked back, sure that she’d found her equal. Her match. “I study astrophysics and am a member of the robotics team. I’m focusing my thesis on the long established problem of cosmic ray confinement in the Galaxy.”

His brown eyes, still staring intently at her, began to gloss over. “Cool.” Those baby browns turned toward the door, the cashier, the blonde with her breasts hanging out of her tank top, anywhere but toward Mary Ellen. “I’ve got to go. I’m late for class.” He stood with his untouched salad and milk and hightailed it away from her.

Her mother’s advice about finding a husband was proving more difficult as she moved closer to graduation. Should she stick with math or science majors and give up her dream to be held in the arms of a rock solid athlete? Or switch majors to something less intimidating. Maybe neuropsychology or microeconomics. A husband, after all, would be the most important decision of her life.