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!”


Monday, November 20, 2023

A Cowboy This Christmas Anthology

 It is hard to believe we are already more than halfway through November! In my part of Canada, we have had a wonderful and relatively snow-free fall, but Christmas is just around the corner and who knows what that will bring. 

As always, writing has taken a lot of my time, and this year I was part of a short story project. It was fun to return to the short story format, which is where I started my writing. Together with eight other Alberta authors, we came up with A Cowboy This Christmas. Each story is infused with holiday magic and is likely to steal your heart. You can find it at:


Saturday, July 22, 2023

Round Robin Blog July

This month we are looking at how important Character Arc is to our stories and how it ties into the plot or story arc, and do you usually give some time and story to character arcs for secondary characters?

A story without a good character or story arc is like a straight piece of string. Boring. Uninteresting. Then tie a few knots in it here and there, and it becomes a different beast. Why is the knot in that place rather than in this place? Why is that knot bigger than the others? Does its size mean something important in the plot or an ‘aha’ moment for the character? And what does that squiggly little knot between two bigger ones indicate? Could it be a red herring slipped in there to catch the unwary?

The plot arc is the story’s shape, while characters have internal and external arcs that can create conflict. At the beginning of the narrative, Character A may be lacking in confidence. He or she thinks they are useless, unlovable, and ordinary. Then events test them as the story progresses, and we see that character overcome their ‘negative press,’ the false image they have of themselves, and by the end, they see they are useful, lovable, and extraordinary.

Secondary characters in a story are there to bring out the best in or give support to Character A, which doesn’t mean that they are less critical. They still need a good backstory, and the author needs to make them as well-rounded as Character A and not a caricature. They need names, strengths, and weaknesses, the same as Character A. While we might lay out every aspect and nuance of Character A for our reader to get to know and understand him or her, we don’t need to see that for the secondary character, even though the author will know it. Secondary characters are great for discovering facts, as Lord Clifton instructs his secretary Edward Pargetter in my book His Dark Enchantress.

Lucius tapped his forefinger against his lips, his eyes narrowing as a scheme began to form in his mind.

“That could be most fortuitous, as long as the under-secretary is not one James Horace.”

“If you wish, I could make enquiries as to whom exactly my cousin is attached.”

“I do wish, Edward, and it must be done as discreetly as possible. I also wish you to discover who else Lady Darnley has invited to dinner. Now, will I be signing my life away if I do not read these damnable letters?”

“You’ll never be sure, Sir.” Edward handed him a freshly trimmed pen.

Because Edward has been employed by his lordship for some time, they have developed respect and liking for each other, as indicated by Edward’s quip. In the same book, Lord Clifton relies on his head groom, Mr. Noble, and coachman, Mr. Tockington.

“We’ll do the same as in Folkestone.” Determination made his voice grim. “Noble, I want you and Tocky to make enquiries at the Full Moon and the Flood Tide. Edward, find the White Horse and hire a horse for me and a carriage for you three and our equipment. I’ll ask the landlord here for the quickest route to Lille.”

Edward was the first to return and he and Lucius waited impatiently for Noble and Tocky.

“Perhaps they are unable to make themselves understood,” suggested Edward.

Lucius shook his head. “I doubt it. Noble speaks passable French and Tocky appears to be able to make himself understood anywhere. Plus, with coin available to pay for a round or two of drinks, they may be gleaning more information than we expect.”

Secondary characters will have a different perspective on Character A, understand and maybe appreciate their likes and dislikes. They can help the reader build up their image of the main protagonist, like peeling an onion in reverse. They might be more like the person on the street, someone the reader can easily relate to, rather than a lord of the realm, hot-shot sports hero, billionaire, or whoever your Character A might be.

Now, visit my fellow bloggers and see what they say on the subject.


Anne Stenhouse

Connie Vines

Diane Bator

Helena Fairfax

Marci Baun

A.J. Maguire

Skye Taylor


Saturday, May 20, 2023

Round Robin Blog - Emotional Wounds



This month our topic is emotional wounds for our protagonists – and how to help them learn to cope with and accept those wounds.

 First, what is an emotional wound? We likely all have one or more, to some extent, and it is the same for the characters we create.

 Wounds can be caused by an event or series of events, by a person, particularly someone close, be it a friend or family member, from either a parent or parents, or a (usually older) sibling. It might be caused by a careless comment heard in passing, one that our character hears at a vulnerable point in their life. Rather than let it go, our character hangs on to it until it becomes ingrained in them, colouring their thoughts and feelings in a negative way.

 However, much like an alcoholic who cannot recover until he or she recognizes their condition and makes the personal choice to overcome it, our characters are unlikely to recover from an emotional wound unless they look into themselves and choose to make changes. As their creators, we authors can start by building a believable backstory for the characters. The deeper the wound, the more complex the character, which can then lead to creating a strong character arc.  

 What is your character’s greatest fear, and why? Answering the why can be the path to overcoming the fear. Perhaps your character was bullied as a child. Not having the physical or mental strength to overcome it at the time the event(s) occurred might mean your character has difficulty standing up for himself or herself. A weak person making a bold decision can be the start of a change in that character.

 One of my characters was overshadowed and controlled by her mother – until the mother was out of the picture. My character’s first step on her path to healing and growth was stepping alone outside her front door. Mother/daughter or father/son wounds are often the strongest, deepest wounds to heal.

 Perhaps your character has a physical flaw which they have been teased about or otherwise made aware of. This might make them not value their self, to make them think they have less to offer than the next person. It might make them unlovable when what they want most in life is to love and be loved.

 Another of my characters dealt with her father’s murder by tracking down the murderer. The villain in one of my short stories suffered abuse as a child, which led to him being an abuser and ultimately committing murder.

 This is an extensive and complex subject, and I have given only brief examples of ways in which characters can be wounded. Because I write historical and contemporary romance, my characters' wounds are usually resolved through love. Idealistic, maybe, but the genre known for its happy-ever-after endings still leads the market.

 Now to visit my fellow bloggers to see what they have to say on the subject.


Connie Vines

Dr. Bob Rich

Fiona McGier

Marci Baun

Skye Taylor










Saturday, April 22, 2023

 For our April topic, we are discussing how authors breathe life into their characters. Every author has their own methods. What works for one doesn't or won't work for another. This is my take.


Love ‘em or hate ‘em, a writer’s characters can make or break a story. An author may base them on someone or several someone’s they know, or they may be complete figments of that author’s imagination.

Whichever way an author approaches character building, there are some tried and true methods. I’ve been fortunate that most of my characters have come to me almost fully formed. I can see them. I know their names, but I must get to know them after that.

I have always been methodical, and the method that works for me is the character-building questionnaire. Some may call it a developmental worksheet or character arc plan. Beyond hair and eye colour, what is the character's physical type? You may have a tall male character, but how is he tall? Is he proportionate, or does he have a short torso and long legs? The same applies to a female character. Do they find their height awkward and stoop or otherwise try to disguise it, or are they proud of it and stand with shoulders back and head held high?

One of the most delightful heroines I ever came across was Winnifred Gardner in LaVyrle Spencer’s Spring Fancy. Win blinks with one eye. Not winks, but blinks. How can a reader not be intrigued by that distinction? Or how about Catherine Cookson’s ‘Mallen streak,’ that section of white or grey hair in an otherwise dark head that marks the Mallen men? Then there’s Rex Stout’s PI, Nero Wolfe, who rarely leaves his home and has his sidekick Archie do the legwork for him. Many of Georgette Heyer’s aristocratic heroes are proud, cold, and bored men whom Society believes the worst.

What causes Win to blink with one eye, or why does Nero Wolfe not like leaving his home? The Mallen streak is a condition where the hair follicles are devoid of pigment, a harmless but distinctive condition. And what does hide behind the proud, cold, and bored facades of those Regency rogues and rakes?

Knowing everything I can about my characters, and maybe finding out even more as I write them into life, helps build a better character and story. None of the characteristics are presented as a laundry list. More dropped into the narrative through dialogue or introspection. Is a character’s hair colour more important than the fact that she’s particular about the shape of her fingernails? That would depend on the story’s genre and what part either feature might have to play as a clue or red herring.

I will conduct a character interview if I get stuck at any time. I have lists of questions and pick six or seven. Sometimes the answers come quickly. Other times they take a long time to surface. Those questions the character does not want to answer tend to dig the deepest, but when the answers come, they can be an ‘aha’ moment and make the person on paper burst into life. All these facts, the weighing up of strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, hopes and fears, may not appear on the page. However, they have helped me, the author, get to know my characters better and in doing that, presenting a more realistic cast in my books.

And for more ways to breathe life into characters, check out what my fellow bloggers have to say.

Anne Stenhouse

Connie Vines

Diane Bator

Dr. Bob Rich

Fiona McGier

Marci Baun

A.J. Maguire
Helena Fairfax

Judith Copek

Skye Taylor





Wednesday, March 29, 2023

The Viscount and the Orphan




Gabriel, Viscount Cavanagh, is a gambler, womanizer, and bankrupt. His grandfather, merchant Adam Maynard, will absolve him of his debts if Gabriel agrees to marry Adam's wealthy orphaned ward, Dorinda Davenport.

Sixteen-year-old plain, plump Dorinda, fueled by romantic notions from the novels she reads, considers Gabriel a knight in shining armour who will whisk her away from the orphanage to a life of love and luxury.

Nothing could be further than the truth, and this story’s eventual truth has a stunning twist. Along the way, Gabriel and Dorinda grow as characters. Gabriel's friend Avery is an engaging foil and the 18th Century historical detail, as always with Ms. Morris’s books, is on point. You will surely enjoy this tale if you like historical romance, or romance in general.

Saturday, February 25, 2023


This month’s Round Robin topic asks how can contemporary fiction keep up with our swiftly changing world, politically, socially, or technically. Or how do you keep your stories located in time?

It is a good question, but one that does not affect my writing. My genre is historical romance, so while I delve into the 19th century, I don’t worry so much about any of those topics. Politics a little, the social world a lot, and technicalities hardly at all. 

The technicalities of the time were about the craft involved in producing furniture, of making the best clocks and carriages. There were theories on how to breed the best carriage horses or hunters. As Juliana Clifton discovers in His Ocean Vixen, weapons vary in weight and use depending on whether it is a rapier or cutlass. Beyond maybe creating an image of what a pair of Manton’s duelling pistols looked like, describing Captain Morris’s pistol crutches in Hester Dymock, or mapmakers’ instruments in Charlotte Gray, technicalities are not at the top of my list. 

The social scene makes much more impact on my novels. The Regency era was well known for its strictures. From the correct time of day to visit friends and acquaintances and the length of the visit to the rules and regulations for riding and driving in Hyde Park, Society was rigid. Confusingly, morning calls were made between one and four o’clock in the afternoon. This was because the whole period before dinner was referred to as morning.

 A visitor would send in a calling card via a footman. The caller would be invited to join her if the lady of the house was receiving visitors. Visits were usually no longer than thirty minutes, less if other visitors arrived and the first visitor would then leave. Each visit was long enough to be polite, and short enough not to outstay one’s welcome.

A lady could only venture out alone in a closed carriage. Other than that, she would travel in the company of a gentleman or chaperone. If a single lady happened to be found in the company of a single gentleman by chance, the most likely outcome would be a proposal of marriage to save the lady’s virtue and satisfy her parents.

Other than referring to battles and incidents during the Peninsular Wars, politics rarely rears its ugly head in my books. Politics has no place even in the two contemporary western romances I have written, nor will it in my current work in progress which is another contemporary romance. I will leave that to more skilled authors than myself. I am looking forward to reading what my fellow bloggers have to say. Find them here:


Connie Vines    

Dr. Bob Rich     

Anne Stenhouse

Helena Fairfax   

Skye Taylor       


Friday, February 24, 2023


Thanks to for promoting my book His Unexpected Muse, Book 3 in my Berkeley Square series. You can find it here

The above are the books I selected for my book list that accompanied the promo. It is free for authors and worth taking a look at. You might like to check one of their new features at

Saturday, January 21, 2023




Look at us! A new logo and a great blog topic to start the New Year: New Beginnings. How do you motivate yourself to get back to writing when life has interrupted your flow and/or how do you begin a new writing challenge? A new genre? A new series? 

Life interrupted my flow last year. I had a book to finish, books to edit, blogs to write, and no inclination to write another word when that was all done.

I went to the UK for April and most of May, visiting my three children before flying to Glasgow to meet up with a friend who was born there. She was happy to show me her Scotland, and after not enough time in Glasgow, we travelled to the island of Arran, off Scotland’s west coast. Arran is Scotland in miniature, with the scenery in the north of the island like the highlands and the south the lowlands. Some of it was rugged and regal, threatening at times when the weather changed, the clouds rolling in from the Atlantic and soaking us with cold, heavy rain. Lots of atmosphere here prompted me to scribble notes in the pad I always have in my purse.

Scotch is my tipple of choice, so going to a distillery for a tasting was a must. We first visited the Lochranza distillery in the north of Arran and then Lagg in the south. I learnt so much, not just about the distilling process but the smuggling that went on too. Hmm. Smuggling. There’s a trope here. We visited the heritage museum and listened to one of the volunteers talking about the clearances, a dark time when entire communities moved out of their homes and off their land. The stories we heard sparked my imagination. What would it be like to live off seaweed, fish, and little else? Lady – what shall I call her? - was furious with her father when he claimed the crofters' land. Now, where did that thought come from?

After a week on Arran, we set off again, this time to Edinburgh. Whereas Glasgow is primarily a Victorian city, parts of Edinburgh are Georgian, especially the lovely Charlotte Square. I could see any of these houses as the home of my character Lady – oh, hang on a minute. Scratch that. I’m off writing. My Scottish experience was over too soon, but before we parted company, my friend challenged me to write a Regency romance with a Scottish setting. Hmm. Possibly.

I returned to my family for a few days and then drove down to St. Ives in Cornwall. I had forgotten the steep hill down into the town and how narrow the streets were. After checking into the hotel, I walked to the beach and, darn it, another idea struck me. Out of nowhere, I had the premise for a women’s fiction novel. So much for not writing.

In quiet moments I jotted ideas for a Scottish Regency and a contemporary women’s fiction. I had settings, characters, and a few lines of dialogue all worked out over a solitary lunch of blackened, locally sourced sea bass. Before I knew it, I had a whole new writing plan, which made me conclude that once a writer, always a writer.

Just because we are not sitting in front of a computer, or however any writer chooses to work, does not mean we are not writing. The ideas spring from anywhere at any time. We may not act on them immediately, but they are there, ready to be worked into something solid at some point. Taking a break from writing, as I found, stirred up the creative juices. I have a contemporary western romance in progress, so I will be kept busy between these three ideas for a while. That spring break gave me the quiet time I must have needed. Now for the hard part, actually knuckling down and writing them.

I’m looking forward to reading how my blog compatriots fare with their new beginnings. If I’ve missed anyone, I apologize in advance.


Dr. Bob Rich      

Anne Graham     

Connie Vines    

Diane Bator        

A.J. McGuire     

Fiona McGier     

Marci Baun        

Skye Taylor