Character Names

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. As I write this blog I’m getting ready to start work on a new book. I’ve done some pre-writing – thinking about my characters backstory, what’s hurt them in their pasts and what motivates them in the present and touched on what their goals are, but now I’m ready to put pen to paper, start the story, and really figure out who they are.

That is both a very exciting thing and a scary thing for me. Exciting because at this point there are so many fun and adventurous new possibilities stretching out in front of me. Scary because there is always that little niggling worry that I won’t be able to do justice to the story as I try to translate what’s in my head to the actual manuscript.

But that’s not what I want to talk to you about today. This book will feature twin sisters – one will be the heroine of this book and one will be the heroine of a future book. I’ve been trying to name these two ladies and I’m finding it a bit more difficult than usual.

Do I give them similar sounding names like Amanda and Miranda, Hilda and Wilda, Annabel and Isabel, Connie and Bonnie.  Or maybe I should go with themed names like Ruby and Opal, Summer and Autumn, Daisy and Lily, Iris and Rose, Fern and Ivy, Flora and Fauna, Scarlet and Violet? Or just name them like I would any other siblings? After all I have twin daughters of my own and deliberately didn’t chose matchy-matchy names – they are Lydia and Melissa.

There are other people as well as places and things I’ll need to name in these books of course.

There are the heroes naturally. Right now I am thinking I’ll name them Wyatt Hayes (a ranch hand) and Gavin Burns (a small town lawyer) but that may change as I figure out who they really are.  For the town name, I’m waffling between Larkin and Crossvine.  And one of them owns a dress shop – should I name it after her (Miss such-and-such’s Dress Shop) or after the town (Crossvine’s Fashion Emporium) or something altogether original (Purple Plume Fashions)?

But back to my dilemma over naming my twin heroines – what do you think, which approach should I take? And based on your answer, do you have any suggestions for actual names?

Give me your thoughts in the comments below and you’ll get your name in the hat to win a copy of one of my backlist books AND a fun Christmas ornament.

A Little Bit About Some Big Horses

 

I recently finished writing a book that will be out April of 2023. In it, there are a pair of elderly Haflinger draft horse brothers who are mostly pets but used occasionally for pulling a carriage. One of my critique partners, when she first read about the horses in my book, named Elvis and Otis, told me she had no idea what a “draft” horse was and had to look it up. Actually, I was kind of surprised as the Budweiser Clydesdales are probably some pretty recognizable draft horses.

While draft horses can be ridden, large breeds like the Clydesdales are better suited, and specifically bred, for pulling heavy loads. Some of the lighter and smaller breeds, like the Haflingers in my book or the Norwegian Fjord, can be ridden, but they aren’t typically fast or agile. They are, however, like most draft horses, very gentle natured — which is why, in my book, my hero often leads his three-year-old twins around on the old horses’ backs.

Another common draft horse is the Shire, which is among the tallest at around 17.2 hands. Like the Clydesdales, they have these great shaggy feet that look fantastic when they walk out.

I fell in love with the Friesian many, many years ago as a teenager when I first saw them perform in a circus. With their long flowing manes and tails and high-stepping legs, they’re a breathtaking sight. Which is why you’ll often see them used in other equine performance events, as well as parades and even trick riding.

The Percheron is a draft horse I’m more familiar with as we once owned one. Originally from France, they started out as a war horse and then, after the war, were used as a work horse. They are usually grey or black, though I personally have only ever seen grey Percherons. They have incredible docile personalities and, this is pretty cool, can be used as jumpers. Maybe that comes from them being first bred as war horses.

The Belgian is one of the four main breeds of draft horse used in Europe, the others being the Shire, the Clydesdale, and the Percheron. These are the draft horses I’ve seen the most. Especially at pulling competitions. They are big, sturdy, and reliable. Like all drafties, they have that great docile temperament (comes from being a cold-blooded horse rather than a hot-blooded horse like an Arabian or a Thoroughbred).

Which makes them an excellent choice to use in cross breeds. Those of you who’ve read my posts here know that I’ve owned a lot of mules in my life. Some of those mules were Belgian draft mules. They inherit the best qualities from both parents. From the donkey (or Jack) father, they get surefootedness, cleverness, and incredible endurance, not to mention those great ears! From their Belgian mother they get their size, coloring, strength, and easy temperament.

There are many more less common breeds of draft horses. But I can’t end this post without talking about miniature draft horses. Basically, a draft pony is a smaller version of one of the established draft horse breeds and must show the same conformation character of a draft horse. They also can’t be taller than 58 inches. Full disclosure, I’ve never seen a draft pony in person, but they look pretty adorable, and I think I want one.

Journey of 100 Books

I firmly believe every journey begins with a step. Just one step.

My writing journey started with a nudge from my husband.

One cold, winter day twelve years ago, I’d just finished reading a book that was horrible. I turned to my husband, Captain Cavedweller, and said, “I can’t believe a publisher put this into print. I can do better than this.”

“So do it,” he said, throwing down the gauntlet of challenge, then returned to watching the football game I’d interrupted.

On a February day, much like this one, I worked up my courage, sat down at my computer,  and decided to give writing a romance novel a try. For months, the idea for a story had been simmering in my thoughts, but I hadn’t known what to do with it. Now I did. I had a challenge thanks to CC and a purpose – to take the story in my head and write a book. The contemporary sweet western romance was about a 30-something couple on the brink of walking away from their marriage. I titled the book Heart of Clay.

Although I had no idea what I was doing, the words poured out and in less than three weeks, I’d written a full-length novel. I spent the next several months rewriting, editing, and enduring a few anxiety-driven panic attacks. Finally, I decided it was ready to submit to an agent. Visions of royalty checks, fame and fortune danced in my head as I eagerly sent out one letter after another, attempting to convince someone my book was the next bestseller just waiting to happen.

A few months later, I’d received my 67th rejection letter, most of them stating they weren’t interested in a romance with a cowboy. (Isn’t it always a good time for a cowboy romance?) In spite of the multitude of rejections, many of them arrived with personal notes that were encouraging.

Frustrated yet determined, I reached out to a good friend who happened to be friends with the author Jane Kirkpatrick. She introduced the two of us and Jane kindly allowed me to pick her brain for ideas. To this day, I consider Jane a dear friend and mentor. But in that first conversation we had, she suggested I give digital self-publishing a try.

I was clueless. Self-publishing? What was that? So, I dove into researching the possibilities and what it would entail. It took me less than a week to decide this was what I wanted to do.  I loved the thought of having complete control over all aspects of my books. It seemed like an ideal option for someone like me who prefers to pilot my own boat. Rather than immediately upload my wanna-be bestseller to all the digital book outlets available, I followed the advice I’d found on self-publishing websites that recommended indie authors build their bookshelves wide and deep, meaning authors should ideally have a variety of books (the width) and a number of books in a series (the depth).

I jumped into writing two more full-length sweet romances and a short story, all connected to Heart of Clay, creating a series of three books with a prequel. I titled the series The Women of Tenacity. I liked that word, tenacity, because my dad had mentioned more than once that I had a tendency to be tenacious.

In June 2011, I released all four stories online. Nervous, excited, and uncertain, I had no idea what to expect. Within a few hours, some awesome, wonderful person purchased a Kindle version of the second book in the series – my very first book sale. That month, I sold a whopping 12 books.

Despite my lackluster sales, I was hooked on writing sweet romances and the self-publishing process. So I used every spare minute to write.

That November, I released The Cowboy’s Christmas Plan, the first Christmas book I’d written and also the first book in the popular Grass Valley Cowboys series.

Throughout 2012, I continued working full-time at my day job, working part-time with a home products direct-sales company, and writing in my spare time. In November of that year, I published my first historical romance. I had no clue what it would involve to write a historical book, but I’ve always loved history and thought it might be interesting to try.

I hadn’t planned on writing a holiday story, but it ended up being titled The Christmas Bargain, about a banker who accepts a bride in lieu of payment on a loan during the holiday season. The story is set in Hardman, Oregon, which is now a ghost town, but at one time was a bustling stop on a stage route. I had such a good time writing that first book, there are now nine books in the series with plans for more.

It was while I was writing The Christmas Bargain I discovered how much I enjoy doing the research for historical stories. I love digging up little tidbits of history that I can incorporate into my books to add depth to the stories and the characters, while offering a glimpse into everyday life during a specific era.

By the start of 2013, I gave up the part-time direct-sales job, determined to spend more time writing. That spring, I released the first book in my Pendleton Petticoats series about a bride from Chicago who comes to be a farmer’s wife.

Aundy, has been one of my readers’ favorites.

The summer of 2013 was a pivotal point in my writing career. I was working between 50-60 hours a week at a job that was becoming increasing stressful and challenging. Every spare second I had went to my writing.

On a hot summer morning, not long after I arrived at work, Captain Cavedweller called me at my office and encouraged me to give my notice and begin writing full time. “You can do this,” he said. In spite of my fears, I took a leap of faith, buoyed by CC’s belief in me.

It was a huge leap—to leave behind the security of a steady job and paycheck, to walk away from benefits and paid vacation days—but I’m so glad I took it and I’m so grateful for my husband’s support that made it possible.

So I gave my notice and left my job on August 9, 2013, to begin the career of my dreams.

Every day, I feel so blessed to be able to do something I love so much. Writing has always been something I loved, and now it’s my career, my hobby, my joy – my bliss!

When I sat down to write Heart of Clay twelve years ago, I never, not even once, imagined that I’d be celebrating the release of my 100th book.  But here I am!

The Snowman’s Sweetheart, my 100th book, released January 27.

It’s been an amazing, incredible journey to get here that started with one step, one little nudge in the form of challenge from Captain Cavedweller.  I’m thankful for every single step on this marvelous adventure. And I am deeply, profoundly grateful for each and every person who has touched my life during the journey. Thank you for reading my books, for offering encouragement and support, for extending friendship and wisdom, and leaving my heart so full and my life so blessed.

Thank you!

 

 

I have a special giveaway of a $100 Amazon Gift Card.

Just hop over to this form to enter for a chance to win. 

 

And before you go, I’d love to hear about a special step in your life’s journey. 

 

Writer Research

I’m not great at research – I could never be a historical writer. But you’d be surprised how much research goes into even a contemporary book. I write about the West, and I’ve been to a lot of the places I write about (most on a motorcycle), but I’m writing my second ‘road trip’ book in a row, and there’s no way I could have been to all these small towns and back roads…or if I have, I don’t remember them!

So that means lots of maps, measuring miles between places, and TONS of internet searching!

Photo of the map of my latest road trip – and my cat, Harlie

But maps only take you so far (no pun intended). To write a location convincingly, you also need to know the ‘lay of the land’ – the terrain, the demographics, and the ‘feel’ of the place. I find that realtor web pages and homes for sale in the area give you a good cross section of that.

Downtown Sedona
Downtown Seattle

 

Historic Seattle building turned into a condo

 

 

 

 

 

Then there’s the really good stuff! I get to look up everything from clothes to tractors to cool motorcycles, and put them into books! I’m telling you, this writing gig can be FUN!

A dress my character wore to an art gallery opening
The motorcycle two sisters are riding in my current work-in-progress
My heroine’s almost-boyfriend. Oh yeah.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also get to make up places. For example, in my last romance series, Chestnut Creek, I made up the small town of Unforgiven, New Mexico. It’s small, with a weedy town square with a paint-flaking gazebo in the middle. A lot of the buildings surrounding it have butcher papered over windows. The hub is the diner, housed in an old railroad depot. That was so fun to write, and had me searching for old depot photos and diner interiors. Oh, and more heros!

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m telling you, there are a lot worse careers than writing fiction!

 

So tell me, have you ever thought of writing a book? If so, what genre would it be? Do you have a story in mind? If so, tell us a bit about it!

 

 

What Should I Tackle Next?

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. Today’s post is a bit different than my usual post. Instead of sharing information I came across in my research I’m going to ask you to help me with a bit of research of the reader variety.

I have three older releases that I’ve received the rights back for and I’d like to reissue them as self-published editions. However, they all need to be gone through and updated and right now I’m working on a contracted book that has a firm deadline. That means I have limited time to focus on them and will need to do them as low-priority side projects. So I’d be interested in learning which of the books intrigues you the most. So please rank the following in the order in which they interest you – and there are no wrong answers.  I’ll select at least one person to receive their choice of any book from my backlist (and I still have several copies of the below out of print books I’ll throw in the mix as well)

Book 1 – this was first published in 2002 under the title Whatever It Takes. Here’s the original blurb:

Flirting With Perfection…

To adopt the little girl she’s come to love, widow Maddy Potter needs a fiancé, not another husband. Luckily, she’s found the ideal beau for her purpose:

Clayton Kinkaid agrees to court her, propose marriage, and then leave her at the altar as she requested. But when he arrives on her doorstep she knows their charade will never work. Clay is too handsome, too smooth… too potent. Who would believe such a charming, good-looking man wants to woo her?

Clay accepted Maddy’s proposal in order to repay a family debt of honor. He traveled to Missouri expecting to find a reserved widow, not a beautiful young woman—a woman who has the temerity to suggest he comb his hair differently, mess up his clothes a little, maybe even walk with a limp. She even has the audacity to instruct him on how to court her!  Clay knows he could be the perfect suitor. What he didn’t realize was that he’d soon long to be the perfect husband.

Book 2 – this was originally published in 2004 under the title A Will of Her Own. Here’s the 2004 blurb:

Will Trevaron’s grandfather demands that he leave America and return home to England to claim his title of Marquess. Will is expected to put himself on the marriage market but balks at the idea. He hits on the perfect solution: a marriage of convenience to Maggie Carter. A union with a “nobody from the colonies” would shock and horrify his stuffy family and rescue from poverty the woman who had once saved his life. Will didn’t count on getting three spirited children in the bargain though. And he didn’t expect to fall for his wife.

But as Maggie sets his household straight about what an independent lady from an ‘unsophisticated country’ would and would not accept, the new marquess begins to discover that his marchioness has a will of her own.

Book 3 – this one was originally published in 2010 under the title The Heart’s Song. The 2010 blurb reads:

Widower Graham Lockwood hasn’t stepped foot in church since he lost his family. So he can’t possibly say yes to his new neighbor’s request that he lead the hand bell choir. But widowed mother Reeny Landry is so hopeful—and her fatherless children so in need—that Graham agrees to help.

Suddenly, the man who closed himself off is coming out of his shell. And he finds himself acting the father figure to Reeny’s sweet, mute daughter and her loner son. But going from neighbor to husband is another matter altogether. Until a loving family teaches Graham to hear the heart’s song.

 

So there you have it, the three projects I’m itching to get to work on. Let me know which order you think I should tackle them in and why, and I’ll throw your name in the hat for the drawing!

 

The Difference Between Romance & Women’s Fiction

I’ve been thinking about this lately, because I’ve written a women’s fiction that is with an editor now (cross your fingers for me!).

I’m very familiar with the subject, because my first book, The Sweet Spot, I wrote as Women’s Fiction. Half the editors who read it thought it was romance, half, WF. It finally sold to a romance line, so I had to make some changes.

The difference is mainly in the focus. In a romance, the focus is on the relationship, and ends in a ‘happily ever after’. In WF, the focus is on the woman’s journey and emotional growth. It may or may not have romance, or even a happy ending.

I learned that in Romance:

  1. The bad-boy hero can’t be TOO bad. In my debut novel, the couple had lost their son in an accident, and it tore them apart – they divorced. To deal with the pain, my heroine developed a Valium habit. The hero’s drug was young and blonde. In my original version, he was still with the blonde when the book opened. I had to change that; my editor told me that if the readers met the bimbo, the hero would be irredeemable, no matter what he did down the line.
  2. I had to soften the heroine as well – she could be damaged and flawed, but she couldn’t be seen as cold, or uncaring.
  3. Because I wrote the book as a WF, most of the scenes involved the heroine’s point of view. I had to add a couple of scenes with the hero’s, and even though they weren’t together in the same scene in the first third of the book, I had to add thoughts each had of the other, showing how they were changing.
  4. Sexual tension. It’s not critical that the couple make love but there still needs to be escalating sexual tension as the book advances. Inspirational romances do a brilliant job of this.
  5. I had to be more careful with graphic scenes (not talking sex, here). My hero raised bulls for the bull riding circuit. In one scene, the heroine helped a cow with a breech birth. My editor had me reduce the level of gore, blood, etc.  I also had to be careful how I covered breeding details like selling semen (can I say that here?)
  6. And, of course, there must be a HEA (happily-ever-after.) That was no problem, because I originally planned for my couple to end up together!

In my Women’s Fiction:

  1. There is a romantic interest, but it’s a small part. The guy is mostly there to show her issues with commitment. I leave it open-ended as to whether they end up together.
  2. The focus is on a grandmother and her granddaughter who, due to the past, doesn’t like or respect the family matriarch. 
  3. So it’s about the main character’s growth. When she learns her grandmother’s past, and her secrets, she not only accepts her grandmother – she learns more about herself, and what was holding her back.

So tell me – do you read Women’s Fiction? Romance? Which do you prefer, and why?

I’m giving away a copy of The Sweet Spot to two commenters!