Saturday, July 20, 2024

How Do You Deal With Stress?


For our Round Robin blog July topic, Skye Taylor asked about stress in our lives and how it affects our writing, or do you write in spite of it?

Let’s face it – who doesn’t have stress these days? In a nutshell, whether it’s the economy,politics, our health, news from the latest war zone, or dealing with the daily commute, everyone can experience stress. Science has proved that stress is bad for our hearts and blood pressure, plus a multitude of other physical issues, from migraines to panic attacks, fatigue to nausea, and can ultimately affect our immune systems.

Yes, medication can and does help alleviate symptoms of stress, as does yoga and meditation, along with learning to breathe correctly. But it takes regular daily practice, and that’s time not everyone wants to spare in their busy lives.

While stress can cause one to become indecisive along with a lack of concentration, the upside of stress for me is that it sharpens my focus. I am a procrastinator. I can look at the calendar and think, I have plenty of time to do that. Of course, regardless of what I have planned out on the calendar, life tends to happen in all its wonderful and not-so-wonderful ways. Then, it’s down to the wire with what I must get done in an even more specific time frame. Then the blinkers go on, and I zone out from everything around me and concentrate on the work.

It’s probably not the best way to work. The sensible way would be to write something, or several things, daily. In summer, that would be early in the morning. It could be any time of day in winter, but most likely afternoons. But then the sun shines, or a friend suggests meeting for hot chocolate, and there I go again.

However, once I have a work in progress, I get carried along on the crest of the story wave. Excitement rather than stress fuels my mind as I finish one chapter after another. If I need to take a break for some extra research or a lunch date, I take it, but don’t stress about it. I firmly believe that the art of writing isn’t always in the definitive butt in chair, fingers on keyboard maxim, but in what swirls around in our agile minds while we walk, doodle on a drinks mat, or do mundane chores. Laundry, anyone? Stressing about stress doesn’t help, but knowing what stresses you and taking appropriate action to alleviate it does, whether it is yoga, a spa night, or a walk in the park.

I’m interested to learn what my fellow bloggers say on the subject. I’m sure I can learn something from them.


Judith Copek - 

Anne Stenhouse - 

Helena Fairfax - 

Fiona McGier 

Skye Taylor - 



Saturday, April 20, 2024

Point of View

For the month of April, Skye Taylor has asked us Round Robin bloggers what our favourite point of view to write and/or read is and why. What advantages might Omniscient, third-person, or first-person offer? What might be the disadvantages?

What writer doesn't love the intricacies of POV! I’m being a little facetious here because when I started writing, I found point of view to be the most challenging aspect of the craft to master. My critique partners and beta readers still pick me up on it, but I usually have it right rather than wrong these days. First, here’s a quick look at what POV is.

First person – indicated by I/me/my. Stories written in first person can create a closeness between readers and the character telling the story, but it is limited to that character. The characters must be able to portray themselves as likeable or sympathetic or risk losing the reader. Think Jayne Eyre, or Ishmael from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. If it is written well, as by my personal favourite Dick Francis, it can take the reader on a roller coaster ride.

Second person – You/your. These are often self-help books like The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle or Deepak Chopra’s books. Or think of any recipe you have ever read. You take 1 cup of sugar and add it to your flour. I’m sure you get the point. This point of view can not only surprise the reader but also stretch the writer’s skills because you must focus on writing it well.

Third person limited - She/he, her/his. The narrator is outside the story, relating the characters' experiences, and various characters can tell the story. I have always liked Maeve Binchy’s books as it was always clear which of her characters' points of view she was in.

Third person omniscient – She/he. The narrator tells the story through all the characters by having access to their thoughts and experiences and often has information that none of the characters know. Unless done well, this can become messy and confusing to your reader.

Regardless of the character’s point of view you write from, it is best to establish it as early in your work as possible. Sometimes, it can be from the first line, but it should be established in the first two paragraphs, giving your reader direction into your story and a solid framework from which to start.

Because I write historical and contemporary romance, my favourite point of view to read and write is that of third person limited. It is a way to broaden the scope of my stories because I can spread the plot across two or three points of view. If I want to deepen a character’s point of view, I will write a scene in first person, in longhand, which might sound laborious but works for me as I think it gives my readers a deeper, more emotional connection to that character in whatever situation I've landed them.

Now to see what my fellow bloggers have to say.


Bob Rich -

Connie Vines

Diane Bator

Helena Fairfax

Skye Taylor

Saturday, March 16, 2024

Before We Begin

This month's blog topic is Research for Your Novel - Love it or hate it? How important is it for your writing?

Oh, where to begin? First, for me, I have to say it is supremely important. As a writer of historical romantic fiction, I could not imagine having written any of my books without a great deal of research. The fact that I have always been a reader helped enormously when I needed to go down the rabbit hole of research.

I say rabbit hole because I’m easily sidetracked by weird and wonderful snippets of history—a subject I really did not like and, therefore, paid little attention to when I was at school. Dates and the succession of kings made no impression on me, but as an adult, I was drawn into historical fiction because of the characters that populated those stories and, subsequently, the details of the fabric of their lives.

However, it wasn’t historical fiction that started me collecting odd facts about peoples' lives, but a contemporary Western romance. I knew nothing of ranches and rodeos and thought the best way to find out was to talk to people who did. Ranchers and working cowboys were brilliant—they somehow managed to keep straight faces while answering this city gal’s probably silly questions. I have written three contemporary Western romances now, and each one needed someone’s input.

For Loving That Cowboy, I needed to know about steer wrestling and conducted a telephone interview with a top Canadian performer. For Legacy of Love, I pulled on conversations I’d had with stock contractor Harvey Northcott, who just happened to have two Australian bull riders staying with him for that year’s rodeo season. I knew nothing about grain bins, so after an online search, I contacted a company that made them. In Loving Georgia Caldwell, I needed to know about growing hay, and for this, my next-door neighbour, Don Hunt, was a valuable source. Sadly, Don is no longer with us, having recently passed after a long illness.

Research for my WWI novella, Shell Shocked, took me to the Imperial War Museum in London, UK. I considered it a privilege to read the actual, often poignant and moving, letters written by soldiers from the trenches. Although some letters were heavily censored, the writer’s thoughts, hopes, and fears were revealed in stark black handwriting. My Regency research came with its own background as I grew up surrounded by the elegance of Regency architecture in an area of Bristol, UK. More information was gleaned from the novels of Georgette Heyer as regards fabrics and costumes, manners, and what was expected from those gracing the upper echelons of society.

Royal York Crescent, Clifton

My daughter and I had a wonderful day at the Costume Museum in Bath, including playing dress up. The costumes were handmade as they would have been, from fabrics either the same or similar to those available during the Regency. Even though my daughter is slim and trim, the corsets were not big enough for her, which only emphasized how tiny women were in that era. About the only thing we could both try on were the bonnets, which we did.

People truly are the greatest source of information, as a website or book cannot speak to you in the same way. I wanted to know what living in pre-war Montreal was like, so I spent nearly a whole day with a lovely lady with whom I connected via a local seniors’ centre. She wasn’t sure how she could help me, so I asked her to describe a typical day in the life of her and her family. The images she depicted were vivid and fun, and I wrote notes like crazy. A little of that interview crept into Legacy of Love.

Of all the research I have done for my books, the most surprising was on my doorstep. In His Unexpected Muse, Lord Peter Skeffington is a closet writer of romance novels and is published by the Minerva Press. I needed to know how writers of that era phrased their writing and what style, if any, was common. When I started an online search, I discovered the University of Alberta’s library in Edmonton housed an extensive collection of Minerva Press books in their Bruce Peel Special Collections library. I contacted them and was invited to view the collection. On arrival, there was a library cart with my name displayed, already stocked with the books I had requested. That was so special.

I have made use of YouTube videos to learn how to sail a schooner, set a broken leg, repair a torn rotator cuff, and cut cattle. I spent hours in the archives of the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies and the public library in Banff when I was researching Brides of Banff Springs. I returned home with fourteen books to read, having discovered that I could drop them off at my local library when I was finished. An interesting side to this is that I recently learnt that my accountant loves this book and has read it several times. She also has a familial connection to one of the real-life characters I refer to, Herb Paris, which makes it all the more real and special to her.

Books on my shelves reflect my research, from A History of the Wife to The Age of Agony, Piracy, The Complete Servant and more, and I know I can get carried away with where research takes me. After a discussion during a workshop years ago on how much research is too much research, the presenter said, “Vicki, forget the research and write the damn book.” Sage advice, but darn it, I need to know this stuff before I start writing so that I can give my characters a bigger, broader stage on which to play their parts.

You can join me in learning what my fellow Round Robin bloggers have to say here:

Diane Bator

Anne Stenhouse

Dr. Bob Rich

Connie Vines

Helena Fairfax

Skye Taylor



Saturday, February 17, 2024

February's Round Robin Blog

 Feb 17

Our Round Robin topic this month is Goal, Motivation, and Conflict; it is the glue that holds your story together and keeps your reader turning the page. It can and should be applied to every central character in your story to create more emotional impact while readers, knowingly or unknowingly, experience its benefit. In a romance, if your reader reaches for the Kleenex, you’ve done your job as a writer. Or, in a mystery, if a murderer is apprehended and brought to justice, that reader may well feel a great sense of satisfaction or relief at the conclusion.

These goals, motivations, and conflicts can be internal or external, but when GMC is internal, it exposes the character’s emotional needs. Who wants what? Why do they want it? What stops them from getting it? Digging deep into your character’s psyche can build a compelling storyline because their goals, motivations, and conflicts can often be linked to emotional wounds.

Say a character has been unlucky in love. They might conclude they are just not lovable and don’t deserve to be loved. Their emotional wound or need is to find love, which becomes their goal. Their motivation might be to move beyond those feelings of unworthiness, which can create conflict. How do they achieve the very thing they want the most? What is standing in their way or preventing them from reaching their goal? This block can also be their external conflict.

What if your character looking for love meets someone who continually puts them down in a mean or sly way? How long before Character #1 realizes what Character #2 is up to? This realization can become a powerful external conflict as Character #1 comes to terms with it. What if Character #1 decides they must escape Character #2? What ugly confrontation could stem from it and add weight to your story?

There are many ways to work with these aspects of writing a story. Some writers use charts, and others write backstories. I don’t want to make writing a more challenging exercise than it already is, so when I do my character profile, I make bullet points and then enlarge them as I write because I am more of a pantser than a plotter.

I’m always interested in how other authors deal with different aspects of the writer’s craft, so now I’ll see what I can learn from the following:

Dr. Bob Rich 

Anne Stenhouse

Connie Vines

Helena Fairfax

Diane Bator

Skye Taylor

Thursday, February 15, 2024

My New Book



Released on February 1st in e-book, also available in print.

Professional football was Ty Harding’s life. Injury and age ended it. Now what? Returning to the family ranch after two decades to decide his future, he finds it in crisis. His mother needs help, and Ty’s ranching skills are rusty. His only recourse is his high school sweetheart, who runs the adjoining property.

Georgia Caldwell manages her thriving spread, competes in team cattle penning, and has little room for anything more, especially an injured football hero.

 Ty is captivated by the strong woman Georgia has become. Is her busy life the reason she keeps her distance from him, or is it something else? Could whatever she is hiding keep them apart, or can Ty become the man Georgia needs for them to rekindle what they once had?


Saturday, January 20, 2024

Our First Round Robin of 2024

 The idea for the first Round Robin of 2024 caught me short-footed during a deep freeze. I am taking care of two houses while the owner is on vacation, and in the one where I live, the water froze, so my mind was not exactly on any writing project.

When asked to share some ideas on giveaways as a marketing tool, my initial thought was that the only giveaway I had ever initiated via Goodreads a long time ago wasn’t too successful. However, with much patience and slightly improved temperatures, the water and my thoughts began to flow.

I tend to write books in series of three, as in The Berkeley Square Series, Books 1 – 3, and Those Regency Belles, Books 1 - 3. The Buxton Chronicles come in one volume of three novellas, and I have just completed Book 3 in my Western Collection of contemporary Western romances.

Several years ago, I ran a giveaway on my author’s FaceBook page, asking a question to which anyone who had read Book 1 of The Berkeley Square Series would know the answer, and offered Book 2 to the first reader to get it right. I had lots of likes for that post, but no responses, correct or otherwise. At the time, I had already moved on to writing Book 3 in that series, so I didn’t pursue that idea. It might be time to try again.

I have never offered ‘swag’ at conferences and workshops as I have seen too many bookmarks and other advertising materials unceremoniously dumped before the day or weekend was over. Yes, spending money to make money is possible, but I don’t believe in throwing good money around. Most authors have a budget for advertising, and I admit that mine is minimal for various reasons.

Another idea I had was to invite my followers to name a character or become a character, bearing in mind the genre of the book. The winner of that particular venture appeared as the housekeeper in Those Regency Belles, Book 3. That was quite good fun, and I think I might try that again with my next book.

The most I spend on advertising is for my business cards, which I leave wherever possible. I also use them as bookmarks by punching a hole in one corner and attaching a beaded ribbon or lengths of fancy string. Dollar and thrift stores are an excellent resource for these types of materials. My other go-to is postcards. I can get three books and their blurb on a postcard, and when I make up bundles, I will place a postcard advertising The Berkeley Square Series with Those Regency Belles, and vice versa.

I see the most positive results when I give a book away. I usually make a note for myself of which book I gave and when I gave it, and then when I get my sales report from my publisher, I check to see what, if any, result came from it. It’s been noticeable that after a book giveaway, I often notice an uptick in sales of my other books, so that method seems to work best for me.

Like many authors, I prefer the writing process to the necessary one of self-promotion and advertising. My virtual assistant monitors my FaceBook page and posts when sales are on various platforms, or a new book is released. I’d struggle without her, so I appreciate all she does for me.

So now I will visit these authors and see what tricks and tips they offer.

Dr. Bob Rich

Connie Vines

Skye Taylor

Friday, December 22, 2023

The Gift


I am so late with my Round Robin blog, the last one for 2023. I  marked my calendar for December 15th. Plenty of time to write a short story ready for posting on December 16th, right? Not according to the bug that had me wake up with such a sore throat I couldn't speak and an ensuing head cold. Thankfully, it was nothing worse, and I can now speak and breathe again.

It may be behind, like the cow's tail, but here is my Christmas story for December 2023.

 It might be Christmas, but Suzie Castle felt no cheer or goodwill to all men. Losing her parents this year within months of each other weighed heavily on her, as did having her art class budget cut. She worried for her students, who had left before she did today with cheery Christmas greetings and shouts of ‘see you next year’ as they filed out of the classroom before her.

Cold from riding the train and then taking a bus from the school where she taught to her home, her feet wet from walking through slush and snow from the bus stop, she trudged up the stairs of her three-storey apartment building, wondering why she’d insisted on having a room with a view when an apartment on the main floor would have been so much more convenient right now.

Stopping at her door, Number 304, she set her grocery bag down and searched her purse for her keys. Why hadn’t she thought to find them while sitting on the train or the bus? She fitted the key in the lock, turned it and pushed her door open—then stopped.

Pale blue light flooded her open-plan kitchen, dining, and living room.

Had she left a light on? She didn’t think so. Besides, all her lights were practical, white LED bulbs. This morning, she had switched them all off and opened the drapes before leaving for her journey to the school. Now, not only was there light, but her drapes were closed against the wintery night. She stepped inside, her jaw dropping as she looked around.

The blue light came from an acrylic Christmas tree on her coffee table. Who had put it there? And when had all those cards been set up on her mantle shelf?

Suzie toed off her wet boots and wriggled her toes into her welcome mat as she unzipped her coat. Who on earth had been in her apartment? She hung her coat in the hall closet. As she approached her coffee table, she noticed several wrapped gifts on the floor beneath it. Frowning, she picked one up and looked at the label.

Happy Christmas, Miss Castle. See you next year. Best wishes, Jorge.

She picked up another.

Thank you for making the last term so fun. Love, Beccy.

Thinking of the bright, difficult fifteen-year-old with whom she’d had more than one skirmish, tears pricked Suzie’s eyes. She brushed them away and picked up another gift.

You helped me see things differently. Thank you. Love, Donny.

Donny. Suzie laid the gift on the table. She’d crossed words with him, too.

Suzie ran her gaze along the row of cards, stunned to see herself depicted on each one. She picked up the biggest, showing her in her toque and muffler with a big smile. She ran her finger over it and opened it.

Hope you like my drawing of you. Happy Christmas. Peter.

Peter. Her most talented pupil.

On another card, she was pointing something out to a figure she was sure was little Mary Brown. Whose easel had been behind Mary’s? Suzie couldn’t remember but thought it might have been Devon Jackson. She turned the card over. Sure enough, there were his initials and the date.

Suzie swallowed the lump in her throat as she remembered some of the casual, throw-away questions and comments from the last few weeks in the run-up to Christmas.

What do you do at Christmas, Miss Castle?

“Snuggle up in a big blanket with a book and drink hot chocolate.”

Do you have turkey and all the trimmings?

“Good gracious, no. It’s just like another day for me, although I sometimes buy myself a box of chocolates.”

Have you ever locked yourself out of your apartment?

“Only once, and then I left a spare key with my neighbour.”

Why did that question and her response suddenly spring into her mind?

Who had asked it? Suzie’s brow wrinkled as she thought back. It was Beccy. She was sure of it. At the time, she’d been busy suggesting a correction to the shading in Beccy’s drawing and not thought anything of it. Now, she saw clearly how her students had been cleverly gathering information all this time.

A knock at her door startled her, but she went to open it, only to find her elderly next-door neighbour, Mrs. Delaney from Number 306, outside.

“Mrs. Delaney,” Suzie said, welcoming her with a smile. “Please come in.”

There was an answering twinkle in Mrs. Delaney’s kind, blue eyes. “Don’t mind if I do, but I won’t keep you a moment. I only wanted to make sure you weren’t cross that I’d used your spare key to let the young ones into your apartment, and of course, I stayed with them while they decorated. They were such polite young people and wanted to do something nice for you so you wouldn’t feel lonely at Christmas.”

“How could I be cross about that sentiment, Mrs. Delaney?” Suzie motioned her to sit down. “This is the nicest thing that has happened to me in a long while. Would you like a cup of tea?”

“If you’re sure it’s no trouble, dear.”

Suzie went into the kitchen to fill the kettle and switch it on, but right beside it, a mug with two single sachets of gourmet hot chocolate sat on top of a box of chocolates.

“Mrs. Delaney,” Suzie called. “Would you like a mug of hot chocolate instead? Irish cream or salted caramel?”

“Irish cream would be lovely,” Mrs. Delaney said, and Suzie unhooked another mug from her mug tree.

When she had made the drinks and carried them into the living room, Suzie sat opposite her neighbour and smiled.

“Thank you for helping my students set this up,” she said. “This is the best gift anyone could have given me.” She raised her mug in a salute to Mrs. Delaney and each one of her students. “Happy Christmas!”