Friday, March 02, 2012


Congratulations KRIS!! You’re the February winner. To receive your free autographed books please contact Marin Thomas and Trish Milburn through their Web sites.

To enter the contest simply leave a blog comment and your name will go into the drawing. Simple and painless. And FREE BOOKS.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Creating a series

I recently signed a contract with Harlequin American for three more books—bringing the total to twelve--in my Safe Harbor Medical miniseries. While this is great news, for me, it’s a challenge, too. Although I’ve written several series before (among a total of 93 books sold), the longest encompassed five books. Twelve? That’s new territory for me.

Initially, the plan called for three books. Then six. Well, the eighth book, The Baby Dilemma, comes out in April, and the ninth, The M.D.’s Secret Daughter, in September. Then I discovered I wasn’t done yet.

I don’t ever want to grow stale or predictable. That’s hard in a long series set in the same town, and in a hospital that focuses on pregnancy and fertility issues. Despite some similarities of theme, each book has to feel fresh to me—and especially to the readers.

Characters are essential. If I “plant” a future hero or heroine in an earlier book, I make sure that person is a genuine part of the community, not just a pretty face waiting for a turn on stage. In addition, I create offbeat and/or older people, like volunteer RenĂ©e Green and sarcastic anesthesiologist Rod Vintner. Having important secondary characters adds texture and richness.

What else does it take to write such a long series? Being organized! My list of characters runs to forty pages, my list of settings to nine. Plus I’ve drawn maps of the town and floor plans of important buildings.

And so I’ve begun writing book ten. Already, the characters are refusing to do what I expected. They’re taking me along on a ride of their own, and that’s exactly as it should be.

If you’re curious about the series, I’ve put together a web page with the covers, an overview and brief summaries. I hope you’ll visit

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Name That Character!

Here I am, sitting at my desk in snowy Calgary...

...writing the second book of my Coffee Creek series, and the story is flowing. The hero and heroine have just had an argument and parted on tense terms. The hero (a vet) leaves the heroine’s ranch and starts driving toward another property, thirty miles away, where a lame cow requires his attention. Suddenly a call comes in from his office. He patches in the Bluetooth and--

Full stop.

I have to halt writing at this point, because I need a name for my hero’s office receptionist, the person who is about to tell him that an emergency requires his immediate attention. I know a lot about this character already. She will be married, with four children. She is one of those super-organized people who not only keeps his large-animal vet office running smoothly, but also tries to run his personal life too. Because she is happily married, she believes everyone should be happily married. This includes the hunky man she works for, of course.

But what is her name?

Some people might think naming characters is one of the fun parts of being a romance author. I used to think so. But now I know the truth. Having to stop and choose a name for a new character is terrible for momentum. Especially since picking names is harder than it seems. I have several “Baby Name” books--but these are not as helpful as you’d think. I’ve heard that some authors used to turn to the phone book (before they became archaic) to find names. Not me. Too overwhelming.

Over the years, I’ve come to rely on two sources for finding good names. One is magazines. The other are the obits of my local newspaper.

If my character is fifty or older, I tend to turn to the obits first. You heard it first here, folks. My novels are full of dead people.

For younger characters, I look at the editorial board of various magazines for inspiration. My definition of “magazines” also includes the program for the Calgary Stampede. God bless the mothers of cowboys. They sure know how to name their babies.

Now that you know my evil, name-stealing ways, I must redeem myself, at least partially. I rarely use the first and last name of any real person. So Candy Smith and Sally Jones becomes Candy Jones. Who says I can’t be creative?

Okay, time to get back to my writing...And that pesky receptionist? I’ve just christened her “Liz Moffatt” (Compliments of a woman mentioned in Cowgirl Magazine and the author of a book that is sitting on my desk.)

Tell me--if you were writing a book, what name would you choose for your hero or heroine? I’ll send out an autographed book from my Superromance backlist to one randomly selected respondent.

Happy Leap Year everyone! (Did you know that leap years that are divisible by 100 don’t have an extra day? It’s complicated...check Wikipedia.)

CJ Carmichael