True Confessions of a Romance Writer!


 Charlene Sands


When I think of “True Confessions” I remember the one-time tell-all magazine that depicted stories that weren’t all that sensational, come to think about it.  And then there was the show on television called True Confessions.  It didn’t last long, so don’t worry if you didn’t know of it. You’re not out of the loop!

 But today I’m giving you my very own True Confessions, and unlike my romance novels, which tend to get very steamy, very quickly, these confessions aren’t glamorous. They have to do with my very own quirks, cheat sheets and foux pas, in the writing world.


Confession #1

 When I was writing Chase Wheeler’s Woman, I had a scene where my hero gets poisoned. Well, I did my research, read through a book called Deadly Doses- a writer’s guide to poisons.  And I found the perfect way to poison Chase. Only the plant I found was so accessible to the public and the method so easy, I COULDN’T use it in the book. My conscience wouldn’t allow me.  I thought, if someone gets mad at their spouse, all they had to do was put a few of these leaves in their tea, and they’re a goner. So I sacrificed the authenticity of my story and used vague words and terms to poison my hero. I smile when I think about that now, but you know, today, I’d do the same thing.


 Confession #2

To date, I’ve written 25 books and I swear that at times, I’m at a loss to come up with names of my characters. I’m picky.  The name has to fit the character to a T.  I CAN’T even start writing the outline, synopsis, much less the story, until I get the right names.  Because of this, I use some very unorthodox methods to find names because I am very eager to start writing. I do resort to a baby name book, called The Best Name for Your Baby. Sometimes, I just flip open one page and say, “Charlene, find a name on this page.”  Does it work? Heck no.  If the name’s not right, it’s just not right. For my westerns, I’ve resorted to going to the PRCA website for rodeo riders. I check out the rodeo names and I have come up with quite a few good ones that way.  When I’m desperate, I’ll pause the credits at the end of a movie or TV show to see if something hits me.  Lastly, there’s always the Santa Anita Race Track!  Don and I are members of the Thoroughbred’s Club and we love going to the races.  The Racebook we get at the door is chock-full of interesting names of jockeys and owners AND sometimes I get a title idea from the horses’ names.  
 Here’s just a few that’ll put a smile on your face.  


One Hot Storm

River Lord

Sweet Spot (Susan Mallery has a book with this title)

Foxy Danseur

Hot and Dusty


Belle’s Bounty 


Confession #3


 I’m fully ashamed of myself that I no longer have a library card!  I can’t believe it. I let my card expire. Until a few days ago, I hadn’t stepped foot in a library in years. Why?  The Internet, for one.  I do a ton of research on the Net. It seems I can pull up data and find the answers to my questions in mere seconds.  We’ve all really gotten spoiled, I’m afraid. We need and expect everything in a quick hurry and with my super duper new 21-inch Vista-infused computer, I get my research done in no time flat. It’s a miracle invention that can be your best friend and your worst enemy (you know what I mean)


Back to my red-faced library confession. The other day, when out with friends I visited a brand-new gorgeous Civic Center in a neighboring town.  The library called to me and we walked inside.  Well, I was like a kid walking into a candy store. As I wandered quite excitedly thru the corridors, my friends tagging behind me, I couldn’t believe what I’d been missing. This library was amazing, with its wonderful catalogue of books, up-to-date computer center, separate children’s library, lecture rooms, a reading/sitting area complete with a floor to ceiling fireplace and an outdoor amphitheatre. I think my jaw dropped. I didn’t want to leave. My non-writing friends weren’t as enthused so I didn’t have time to get my library card. But I promised myself I would. And I will. There’s nothing like seeing all that knowledge – and yes, even a romance section-at your fingertips, literally. Oh to pick up a book, leaf thru and smell the pages and the binding. What childhood memories just being there evoked!


Confession #4

There aren’t many things about being an author I dislike. I’m a pretty positive, optimistic person and I always give the benefit of the doubt. I was taught to turn the other cheek, whenever possible, so I haven’t complained, or even been snarky about this.  But the one thing I really hate, is when readers, friends, acquaintances, come up to me and say, “Oh, I read your book.”   Period. That’s all they say.

Okay, so does that mean they read my book and enjoyed it? If so, why not say that?  Does that mean that they read my book and hated it?   And they don’t want to say so. Or is it more about them than me. Are they PROUD, they actually finished a book and want a pat on the back? Often, I believe this is the case. I’m tempted to reply, “Congratulations.”  The irony floors me.

 For heaven’s sake, why don’t they say something more? 

I wouldn’t visit a friend who just gave birth to her precious baby and say, “Oh, I just saw your baby.” Some gushing is required, I would think.  

I guess some people don’t understand that our writing is personal to us. We put ourselves out there – much of our writing comes straight from the heart and our guts are involved too.  None of our Petticoats’ readers would do this. I know you’re all in sync with our sensibilities. Your comments have proven it time and again. And don’t get me wrong, I do get praise for my stories. I’m at a place in my career when winning a contest, sweet words from my editor and good sales, tell me, I’m doing A-Okay. 

 But is it too much to ask to avoid those awkward moments in life?

 And lastly, Confession #5 

I don’t read!

Oh dear, did I just say that?  I did.  Unfortunately, its more a true statement than I’d like to admit. I LOVE to read.  I have auto-buy authors like Rachel Gibson, Linda Lael Miller, Janet Evanovich and Susan Elizabeth Phillips. I love to read new authors, and I love to read our wonderful Petticoat authors.  But I don’t have time.  Does that sound like a cop out?  It does to me, too.

But it’s true and I’m so regretful about the fact that I’m too busy these days. With deadlines, research, proposals, blogs and promotion, there’s always something to do at the computer.  And at night, I promised myself to spend more time with my hubby.  He likes to watch television and we have our favorite shows. And quite frankly, my eyes burn like wildfire by the end of the day.  In the summer, when I take my beach days, maybe I’ll get a hour or two of reading in, but I’ll admit to you that I’ve started a few books that I really wanted to read, and haven’t finished them.    I miss reading so much!  I used to read 3 books a week.   I would go thru them like my favorite candy. Not anymore. 


I’d love to know if any of you experience this too?   Any hints as to how to sneak in some reading time?   Do you have any confessions to share today?  What do you think about mine, agree or disagree?


I thought I’d share my new cover with you. It’s my favorite thus far.Romantic Times Magazine Top Pick 4 ½ Stars *****   and part of Eharlequin’s Red Hot Passion Reads!


 Suite Reading Everyone!

Click on small cover to purchase. 

+ posts

43 thoughts on “True Confessions of a Romance Writer!”

  1. Hi Charlene I just love your cover of the new book Do not disturb until Christmas! It is on my “to get” book list!
    I use to read 3 to 5 books a week but not any more with 2 teenagers it takes a lot of my time. I do say that’s it for me and in the evenings I read.
    Happy reading!

  2. Hi Penney,
    I hope you enjoy the story. I’m glad you find time to read even with two teenagers. I remember sitting down at night to help my kids with studying and homework and projects. Before they drove, I was their chauffeur!
    Suite Reading!

  3. Hi Charlene, Love the book cover! Yes I read…all the time. I read, watch Tv or walk on the treadmill, in the car, in bed, in the bathroom, in the tub,…you get the picture. Everywhere I go I have a book. Sometimes I have a little trouble keeping the stories straight but I am seldom caught without a book to read no matter where I am. I have even been caught carrying a book out of the bathroom at work!!!

  4. Love the cover of your newest! That’s just gorgeous (and will have to go on my wish list of books!)

    As for your confessions- I have not one disagreement with them. I too would have trouble using an easily accessible poison on a character for fear someone would actually try it after reading about it.

    I can’t start outlines/plots without the right name that fits my characters. I use baby name websites and a list of names I’ve collected over the years to help me. I don’t have a library card either(I have one in my purse that is for the library in my hometown, but I’m not sure it’s valid anymore! LOL)

    If I love a book, I’m more than eager to tell the author my favorite parts and how much I loved the characters, the story, etc. Of course, I’ve never had the opportunity to tell an author in person- so would I lock up and panic and simply say “I read your book”? I don’t know.

    If I did though, I’d have been squirming on the inside, wanting to jump up and down in fangirl excitement- wanting to scream- “I read it and I loved loved loved it!” Do you think maybe these people just suddenly find themselves at a loss for words? Do they just want to have something to say that “ties” them to you in some way?

    If they didn’t like it though, why even bring it up? It leaves you in that perpetual state of “Well,…” (big question mark hanging overhead)

    I do read from time to time, but not as often as I used to. I miss it- It can take me up to a month to read just one book now because I always pick up the novel, start reading, get a page or two in and then find that there’s something I have to do, or kids needing help or well…something makes me put it down with the promise I WILL read it eventually.

    My biggest confession is that I have to have ink pens, spiral notebooks, post-it notes (the bigger ones that look like a small lined notepad in bright colors) and folders around me. I jot notes, ideas- etc. I’m lost without them! LOL

  5. Hi Connie – You’re inspiring me about reading just listening to all the places and times you find to read. The threadmill? That’s a bouncy sort of way to go. I used to read in the car when we took trips, but as I get older (older, not old) I tend to enjoy the scenery and take mental notes as we drive along. Are those hot and steamy covers your fellow workers see coming out of the bathroom with you? *Hee,Hee*

  6. Hi Taryn and good morning!
    We have a lot in common with our confessions! Seems a shame that we don’t have library cards, doesn’t it? I was so proud of mine as a child. I do love your confession about having to have pens and notebooks and post-it notes around you at all times! I bet you don’t miss much and jot lots down. Thanks for your confession!

  7. Love the Race Horse titles Charlene. What a great idea. I love to read, too. I even have a library card and live two blocks from the library. But I rarely go. My TBR pile at home is monumental. I have books lying around the house and I’m reading all of them just when I pick them up. A lot of them are outside the genre (currently reading a political book). Like Connie, I get the most reading done in the bathroom (but I never did it at work–LOL).
    Your new Desire cover is hot, hot hot!! Love it!

  8. Hi, Charlene! Boy, I can relate to everything you said. Another peeve similar to yours is when friends/co-workers ask about what I’m working on or my newest book just out, and they’ll say, “I’ll have to get it.” And then they never do. It’s just a way to end the conversation. 🙂

    Love, love, love that gorgeous cover!

  9. Good morning Elizabeth- Same with me, my TBR pile is huge. I buy the books I fully intend to read and support the authors, but I haven’t finished a book since I read Fearless Fourteen by J. Evanovich in June. I know it was in June because I took it to the beach with me and got most of the reading done there. 🙂

  10. Good morning Pam – Oh, yes I get that too. I think you’re right … it’s a classic way to end the conversation. I think a lot of people don’t “get” romance, so they don’t read it. To that, I say, what a shame. Love and romance make the world go round. Where would we be without it?

    I do give a lot of books away though. To my close friends and occasionally to acquaintances. My nephew’s girlfriend’s father (if you can follow that) asked me for a signed book for his aging mother. I was glad to give her several, thinking she won’t read them, but it would make her happy. She died just this month and I’m so glad I’d sent her a gift that she didn’t expect.

  11. Hi, Charlene. I work full-time, write full-time, and am a full-time wife/mother of three elementary age kids. Three full-time jobs doesn’t allow time for much else, does it?

    I read at a much slower pace these days, but I do make time for it. I’ve done the treadmill thing and it works as long as you don’t lose track of where you are stepping. LOL

    Like you, my husband and I enjoy watching TV together, too, after the kids are in bed. My favorite way to sneak in reading is to read on commercials. That way I pay attention to the show and can talk about it with him, but I can also escape into a book for a bit. I might only read a couple chapters a night, but I do eventually get to The End and the satisfaction that brings.

  12. Confessions? Oh, Lord, here we go LOL!

    I too, wish people would say more than “I read your book.” There are 2 types of readers I adore…those who say “I don’t read much but I couldn’t put it down!” AND those who say “I read all the time and I couln’t put it down!” Which I guess pretty much sums up every reader but the thrill is equal for both comments. 🙂

    I don’t read as much as I used to either but what I do is go on an occasional reading binge for the weekend. I don’t watch tv, I don’t write,edit or promote – I pick a book or two, maybe a triology and read, read, read!

    Always serves to get me motivated again if I’m in a slump or to get back refreshed.

    Great post, Charlene! Nice to know even the most prolific and successful authors struggle with some of the same things the rest of us do. 🙂


  13. I liked your confessions. Now if there were no librarys where would your books be besides a Book Store. A lot of people cannot afford to buy a lot of books. With gas so high, the library could become popular again.
    If you don’t like to read, what would you do if your fans felt that way.
    I get my reading done while sitting at my computer – like now. I live in a rural area and the service is so slow I can read two to three pages between pages loading on the internet. I bet you have High Speed internet.
    Also I carry a book with me to doctors or anywhere else I have to wait. I have had doctors comment on books they have seen me reading while I wait in the waiting rooms or exam rooms and I have even given my doctors books to read when they expressed an interest – I have women doctors.
    However my husband’s doctor was impressed to see me reading a book on Amish as his wife is Mennonite.
    When I watch television, I read during the commercials – now don’t tell them.

  14. Hi Karen and good morning! – My hat’s off to you!
    You are truly doing 3 full time jobs. I’m pretty efficient, get lots done in a day, but I can’t imagine doing ALL you do. Good tip on reading during commercials. That’s about twenty minutes of reading an hour. I never thought of that!! It’s doable and I’m going to try it. 🙂

  15. Hi Pam T — Oh, it sure is nice to know that we can relate to each other about writing. It’s such a lonely business if not for email and internet connections. And yes, I’ve been known to go on a reading binge for a weekend, but darn it, I haven’t done that in ages. Gonna try to do it. Just sit outside on a nice day and read. Sounds like heaven!

  16. Good morning Jane – Oh I LOVE to read! Becoming a writer, I never realized that I wouldn’t have the time to do the ONE thing that brought me writing, and that’s reading.

    I do have high speed internet, so no, I don’t have long wait times, but I find it interesting that you don’t waste your time waiting. You pick up a book and read a few pages. What a good idea.:)

    One thing about the failing economy and high gas prices, I think more and more people are staying home. Maybe doing more reading? Maybe enjoying their hobbies more? I know I’ve cut way back on my driving and I carpool whenever I can. But I’m home a lot more these days.

  17. Hi Charlene – loved your confessions.

    I cherish my library card – and I LOVE my library. While I purchase my fair share of books, my library is a second home.

    I am NEVER without a book to read. I carry two in my suitcase sized purse and have been known to whip out a book at a moments notice. You never know when you’ll be caught with down time. In line at the post office, the bank, a supermarket check-out line.

    I have tremendous respect for any writer who can sit day after day and create a new world for us readers to read. So I think it’s important to tell an author more than “I just read your book”.

  18. Hi Charlene! I loved your confessions, too. I really relate to the one about names–I can never get into a manuscript until I get the names right. Sometimes they come quickly, other times it’s a struggle.

    Reading is always a time problem for me, too. It all depends on my deadlines. And I don’t like to be influenced by the other writer’s method of writing while I’m trying to create my own story, if you know what I mean. I tend to read a lot more contemps than historicals for that reason, and magazines, newspapers, biographies, non-fiction. I do buy lots of novels to support my fellow authors, just never seem to get to the bottom of the pile. I love going away for a few days–that’s when I get to read the most.

    Hey, that is a beautiful cover. Really gorgeous, and a gorgeous title. Did you come up with the title?

    Fun blog!

  19. Hi Maria,

    You’re smart to carry books with you wherever you go. I can do that too! It seems I’m always rushing around though, but I’m making an effort to try to slow down a bit.

    I’m glad you think it’s important to tell a reader how much you enjoyed their book!

  20. Good morning, Charlene! Your confessions are most apt LOL. I love our public library but haven’t been in years…I agonize over characters’ names myself. I even got inspired by the name of the street where my son, DIL and baby live.

    I remember reading a comment on a blog; a reader said she’d rather have a medieval heroine named Eunice than something modern like Tiffany. Some of the antique photos I’ve found in my mom’s old house are identified, so I know names like Olga and Hilda and Irma were 19th century names. But they just don’t MOVE me.

    I am going on a vacation Sunday and taking THREE books with me. That’s all I intend to do: read. One if Five Star Cowboy. And I can’t wait to read Do Not Disturb. I for one “read your books” and adore them.

    Thanks as always for a fun-to-read blog. You are such a busy bee. And always smiling. Keep up the great work.

  21. Hi there, Kate – yes, I should have mentioned that too, that reading another author sometimes sways how we write or what we say. That’s so true and I’m always afraid I might mistakenly use the same phrase or words. That’s another reason I try to only read between deadlines.

    Thanks for the compliment on the cover, I really love it. And no, the titles all had to be related to hotels and it is the brainchild of the Desire Sr. Editor. It was a very clever play on words having to do with hotels and Christmas.

  22. You have enough ideas in this blog to have 5 or 6 blogs lol.
    #1 That was probably a very good idea about not using the real poison.
    #2 We just went to a night at the races at a local legion and I couldn’t write down 3/4’s of the names they were so naughty.
    #3 I haven’t been to the library since my kids were small and I do miss it but I guess I’ve replaced it with the used book stores and large ones like barnes and noble – I agree it’s not the same. The only good thing is you save on gas and time by using your computer lol.
    #4 I can’t imagine saying just “I read your book” to an author. I’d either be gushing or if I didn’t care for it, I wouldn’t say anything at all.
    #5 If reading doesn’t interfer with your actual writing process, I would say you just have to make time for something you love so much. It’s probably not the best way but I sleep less so I can read (lots of coffee). Maybe you can give up one tv show with your hubby or read in the same room if that doesn’t bother you. I too take a book everywhere and it’s surprising when you have to wait how much reading you can squeeze in.

    Great blog.

  23. Hi Charlene,

    Oh my gosh, that cover is sizzling!! Love the sexy models on it and the colors really make it pop. I’m looking forward to reading it.

    I go through spells with reading. There was one time when I went a whole year without reading a book. I’m not proud of it. I love to read. Lately I’ve been on a reading spurt where I read a book a week. Seems I can’t get enough. It’s like I’m trying to fill a well or something. And it’s all kinds of books. I discovered the Love Inspireds since we’ve had a lot of guest authors who write them. I found I love the stories of faith, hope, and romance. And just this week I bought two new books from Doubleday — “A Tale Out of Luck” (a western by Willie Nelson, can you believe it?) and “Appaloosa” by Robert Parker. I’ve just barely started on Willie’s book (I wanted to read it first because I was so curious) and it’s interesting, but so far not riveting. You can definitely tell it’s written by a man.

    Great post, Charlene! Lots of luck with the new release.

  24. Fabulous post, Charlene! I’m not sure how to suggest you sneak in more reading time–I sometimes do when I really shouldn’t! (Housekeeping takes a waaaaay back seat, for instance ;)) I love my library, too, but sometimes I think I ought to just buy the books outright, because I’m terrible about staying on top of late fees 🙁

  25. Well, Charlene, I have to say I’m shocked and I believe your confessions would be better told to a priest. Some penance is definitely called for. 🙂
    I love that cover.

  26. Hi Tanya – Thanks for the kind words my friend. I hope you get lots of reading done while on vacation. Sounds like pure paradise!
    And I didn’t know YOU didn’t go to the library. I guess there are lots of us who don’t, sadly.
    One day, I’ll show you that new library. I know you’d appreciate it as much as I did.

  27. Hi there Jeanne – Boy, you sure do have lots of great thoughts on my confession. I know our Petticoat readers would never be insensitive to an author. You guys all know we need a few pats on the back, just like anyone else when we do something well.

    Funny about the races! Those announcers speak so fast, you can barely make out the names of the horses but when you sit down and read the names, oh boy! 🙂

    Thanks for all your insights today!!

  28. Hi Fedora – I guess we can relate borrowing books from the library like renting a DVD. Nowadays, most people order movies from their cable service right thru the TV and don’t bother with picking up and returning rentals.

    I JUST had to drop off my daughter’s book at her library. They wouldn’t let her renew them again and they were VERY VERY late. It’s easier to buy the book and share with friends sometimes.

  29. Hi Linda,
    Let us know how you like reading those books. I would love to hear your insights on Appaloosa. As you know, I wasn’t all that impressed with the movie, but some have liked it very much.

    Pretty soon,I am going to have to MAKE time to read, since the RITA books will be here in the spring. I think I got 9 books last time. I read them all, but it was tough to fit them all in with my deadlines. They gave me an excuse to legitimately stop what I was doing. Maybe that’s the trick. I don’t know.

    Do you judge the Ritas?

  30. I love Confession #2. I too have trouble with names. Of course I have three baby book names, but I have also gone through old records, phone books, church rolls, etc. I absolutely love the idea of horseracing and rodeo folks. For minor characters, I often just open the phone book, close my eyes and stick a pin on a name.

  31. Pat C – Waving hello! Christmas is around the corner and so are all those holiday books!

    Hi Pat P –
    I should try to phone book thing! I should just go with it. Right now I’m doing a continuity and the heroine’s name was Charlene! I changed it to Cara, especially since the hero’s name matched my son’s best friend! How weird is that. Sometimes the names just come to me, but mostly I struggle until I get it right!!

  32. Good post, Charlene – about your poison confession – we found the same thing when we owned a commercial greenhouse. There was this one gorgeous plant – an annual – that practically flew off the shelves when we grew it, but it was a hallucinogenic so we discontinued it. Customers objected but we didn’t want to be the cause of the town’s youngsters (or oldsters) hopping the fence into their neighbour’s backyard to snitch a few leaves for some fun.

  33. Hi Anita – How interesting about your greenhouse confession. I guess we’re more conscientious than some about giving access to poisons. It made me realize I could never be a thriller or mystery writer.

    Hi Estella – Oh, how wonderful that you read a book a day. You must read a great many authors each year! Rewards of retirement!

  34. The problem I always have with names is to ensure it was around back in the Old West and not just a modern variation. To overcome this, I search genealogy lists, historical books, and websites specializing in 19th century living.

    Does anyone have an easy site to check names?

  35. Hi Charlene, Ditto to having trouble with names. I’ve used up all my favorites. I have a trick, though, for starting a story before I’m confident with the characters’ names. I call the heroine Susan and the hero’s just “Hero”. The real names eventually emerge from the creative dreck, but I once got as far as Chapter 3 with Susan and Hero.

    I know what you mean about not having time to read. The year before I sold, I read over 100 books (2-3 a week) and wrote one ms. Now I read maybe 25 books a year and complete two mss.

  36. Hi Anita Mae,
    That’s a great way to figure out ways to check out historical names!

    Hi Vicki-
    I like how you do the Susan and Hero names, but I can’t imagine making it to Chapter 3 without the real names!! 🙂 You’re good! Thanks for the name site you posted. I’ll check it out too. Any help is always welcome.
    Oh, and after 25 books, I decided I can use a favorite first name over again. I’m using Nick in a proposal that I used in my second ever book!

  37. Hi Charlene;

    I also have trouble getting started with anything related to a book until I get the right names.

    I loved your confessions – in particular the one about reading. I’m so glad someone else is like me. It’s really hard to find the time…and I don’t even have to worry about deadlines – yet!

  38. Charlene I can’t wait to get your book I love holiday books. I am a little behind on some of my books. I am bummed I have this new job (well I guess I have been there a year already) and I don’t get a real lunch break so I get NO time to read and we don’t get breaks through out the day so it has really cut down on my time to read. When I get into a book I have such a hard time putting it down and I usually can read it in one day or two maybe but then I lose sleep and nothing in the house gets done. All my kids are grown now but we have a new grandbaby and I wonder how I had my own kids and was still able to read because it is hard with her. LOL I can’t seem to put her down when she is here.
    I have a confession I am not real good about telling the authors about their books it is that sometimes it is a while before I get to read them and I think wow there next book is already out they don’t want to know about a book that they did last year. But you know I should still tell you guys how I liked the book because I am sure you would like the feed back. I will try and be way better at that. I am going to try and write reviews for the books I am doing now on Barnes & Noble or Amazon hopefully that helps.

Comments are closed.