Category Archives: What I have learned about being a Novelist

Austen Men in My Life

Charles Bingley

Writers borrow from their own lives when they construct their characters and circumstances. I am at my most realistic when I insert a scene or person from my own life into the story, for I can feel the emotions and describe the events very well, especially if I was experiencing strong feelings when I lived it.

Austen men

Yesterday, I was thinking of that and of the very different Darcys Laura Hile and I have written. Her Darcys are playful. They banter with cheerful Elizabeth. My Darcys are kind and courteous, but they brood. They’re moody, and Elizabeth is by turns angry, sad, happy – she’s all over the place. Like me.

I have been told that I’m dramatic. I might be.

Anyhow, I now realize that I’ve combined Austen’s characters with bits and pieces of people I’ve known throughout my life. As I processed that epiphany, I began to think of the men (and boys) I’ve known and how bits and pieces of them have made it into my characters. I knew all of them well. Some of them were classmates, some were casual dates, some were/are friends or relatives, some were boyfriends, and one is my husband.

In fact, I have known all of the Austen men. Let that sink in. I was able to think through Austen’s characters and select the man I know/knew who fit that character. I knew Darcys, Bingleys, Hursts, Wickhams, Collinses, Edwards, Toms, Brandons, Wentworths, Tilneys, Knightleys, Churchills, Mr. Bennets, – all of them.

My first boyfriend was definitely a Bingley – sweet, kind, cheerful, well-liked, lovable, unfailingly polite, popular, and courteous. I dated him for three years and never heard a cross word from him, though I’m certain he heard a few from me. Unlike Austen’s Bingley, he was very intelligent and spiritual. I think that’s why my Bingleys are always smarter and more capable than the Austen original.

Is there a Bingley in your past?

For the next few months, I plan to trace Austen’s characters, male and female (yes, I knew those, too) through my life. Please feel free to join me.


Writing Revolution

Yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks.

I’m in the very final stage of publishing my newest book, Understanding Elizabeth. Because it’s my seventh indie publishing effort, some steps are easier for me, but others have become more complicated.


My earliest writing (the Guardian Trilogy) consisted of outlining the basic plot, writing the chapters, sending my work to my betas, taking their corrections, posting on Beyond Austen (as well as Derbyshire Writer’s Guild, Darcy & Lizzy, Fanfiction, and Austen Underground), formatting, one final edit, and publishing.

I now understand that it is much easier to format as I write, so that isn’t the huge headache it used to be, but I have become much pickier (real word?) about my writing.

I rushed to publish my first six books, but with this latest one, I have taken six months between completing the writing of the story and publishing it. In addition to all the steps listed above (minus posting on all those forums except Beyond Austen), I have gone through six edits and rewrites. I finished the final rewrite yesterday, and I’m nearly ready to release my child to make her way in the world.

Today, I hope to put the book in the print template so I’ll have a page count for the cover designer. I also want to finish the formatting of the ebook version and send it to my very talented friend, author Wendi Sotis. She’s a wizard at all things tech, and she has the final look at my formatting.

With a little luck, I may publish the ebook Saturday. 

Exciting times!


Writing: Work or Inspiration?

Am I a real writer?



According to Steven Pressfield:

“There’s a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don’t, and the secret is this: It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write. What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance.”

“Procrastination is the most common manifestation of Resistance because it’s the easiest to rationalize. We don’t tell ourselves, “I’m never going to write my symphony.” Instead we say, “I’m going to write my symphony; I’m just going to start tomorrow.”

Here’s a totally different point of view from Charles Bukowski:

““if you have to sit for hours staring at your computer screen or hunched over your typewriter searching for words, don’t do it.”

“unless it comes out of your soul like a rocket, unless being still would drive you to madness or suicide or murder, don’t do it.”

So who’s right? Do I have to pick one?

Actually, I’ve been in both places. Sometimes I have to force myself to sit down at my computer and write. Other times, the story is fighting to get out.


It reminds me of cleaning house. Most of the time, I have to make myself do it, but if I know company is coming, it’s an act of desperation. I’m the Tasmanian devil, whirling through my house, cleaning everything in my path.

Right now, writing is work. However, when I work at writing, the inspiration comes.

Use Protection, Kids. And Lots of It!

Romance_Travel_CoverFor a while I have been working to arrange a move for my mother. There are lots of moving parts and I’m not all that good at multitasking these days. To keep my sanity, I have been working on a new story.  I finally got far enough in and was confident I would keep with it, so started posting the story on Beyond Austen.  Captain Wentworth’s Guide to Romance and Travel: Lyme Regis is Persuasion without Louisa Musgrove’s fall from the Cobb. This past week I was in the trenches of packing boxes, paper, tapes, and Sharpie markers. Wednesday is the day I had chosen to post and so a week ago I put the flash drive in my computer to retrieve the post, and, VOILA! The drive was emp-ty.

Not a crumb remains.

A few years ago, I took Laura Hile’s loss of thousands of words in a computer crash as a warning and started keeping all my writing on flash drives. A couple of years after that I starting getting serious about organizing my writing, graphics, and private business. Yes, indeedy, I did.

So much for my trying to be grown-up.

I’m thankful for two things: that I was hip-deep in real life and not focused on my writing, and that it took several days to realize that the aforementioned story wasn’t the only thing on the drive.

I’ve now officially lost one whole novel, two partial–each hovering around 175 pages–several outlines of novel ideas, and countless graphics I had created for this and other blogs, and several book covers.

There were many family photos as well, but I have found them on other drives and online haunts of mine.

I am home now and have signed up for an automatic, online, cloud storage service.

Lessons learnt: exhaustion keeps you from going ballistic when the unthinkable happens, and back up your back ups. And then back it all up again.

Nothing is certain.

Except the Web Gods will exact a price.

I will be back next week with Wentworth Wednesday. Anne and Frederick finally talk in the relative quiet of the White Hart dining room with the Musgrove clan dickering over going to the theatre.


Tell Me What You Really Think

Sincerely Yours  Robin Helm

Sincerely Yours
Robin Helm

Meredith Esparza of Austenesque Reviews posted her thoughtful four-star review of Sincerely Yours yesterday. Her review was a good one, in that she presented her likes and dislikes in a very fair manner. It’s wonderful to me that she likes more than she dislikes about the book. Thank you, Meredith!

I don’t expect everyone to like everything about my books. In fact, I would be surprised if they did. I know that my books can be controversial. All of them have a religious component and a paranormal element. The Yours by Design series (Accidentally Yours, Sincerely Yours, and Forever Yours) features a time-switch between Regency Darcy and modern Darcy.

I was particularly interested in the comments. More people were concerned about the religious aspect than about the time switch. Accidentally Yours (the first book) is much more “Christian” than are the other two books (Sincerely Yours and Forever Yours) in the series. I established modern Will’s Christianity in the the first book, so I felt no need to beat it to death in the other two books. Modern Will’s grandmother was dying. Losing his last family member caused him to lean heavily upon his faith. He was in despair. People of faith respond to such gut-wrenching agony in one of two ways: they will either draw closer to God or they’ll turn from Him entirely. Will reacted in the first way – he sought God. When he switched places in time with Regency Darcy, Will was in a place where everything was unfamiliar to him. Again, he sought the comfort of the only thing in his life that was stable and real at that point – his faith.

It amuses me that so many readers prefer the jerk Darcy (who grows into a good guy) to the spiritual Darcy, but it shouldn’t. After all, I see that in real life on a daily basis.

I’m thinking of two high-profile men I know who have the same job. One is a criminal, though he has never been convicted of anything since charges against him are always dropped. He has raped, stolen, cheated, been obscene in public, and destroyed private property, but people idolize him because he gives them what they want. He has received national, prestigious awards. The other man is a Christian. He works hard, goes to church, does good works, stays humble, and pleases God rather than all men. Guess which one is more popular? Michel Jackson meme

I’m not at all upset by the controversy my books create. People are talking about them, and to me, that’s a good thing. At least I’m not being ignored.

I think I’ll make my next Darcy a Christian politician. Hand me that popcorn.

The Flintstones and Giant Squids

September 30 has never seemed to be very important to me. I live in the south, and though fall officially begins September 23, we don’t notice it for at least another month. September is more like a northern summer here.

Since September 30 seems to be a particularly blah day, I decided to see if anything important had ever happened on that date. If you’re interested, History Orb has a huge list, most of which are events I’d rather forget.

However, there were a few September 30 happenings that illustrate just how much life has changed in the past 168 years

1846 – Anesthetic ether was used for 1st time by American dentist Dr. William Morton who extracted a tooth.
1939 – A college football game was televised for the first time. (Fordham vs Waynesburg at NYC)
1950 – Radio’s “Grand Ole Opry” was broadcast on TV.
1960 – The Flintstones premieres (first prime time animation show)
1962 – KCRL TV channel 4 in Reno, NV (NBC) begins broadcasting
1988 – IBM announces shipment of 3 millionth PS/2 personal computer.
1993 – MS Dos 6.2 was released.
1994 – Space shuttle STS-68 (Endeavour 7), launches into orbit
2004 – The first images of a live giant squid in its natural habitat are taken 600 miles south of Tokyo.

I’m most thankful for that first one. I would never have any dental work done without anesthetic, so Dr. William Morton has my undying gratitude.

The item which caught my fancy the most was the last one. A live giant squid was photographed for the first time.

The first images of a live giant squid in its natural habitat are taken 600 miles south of Tokyo on September 30, 2004.

The first images of a live giant squid in its natural habitat are taken 600 miles south of Tokyo on September 30, 2004.

That, of course, was followed fewer than ten years later by a live giant squid sighting hoax in California.

January 9, 2014 - the giant squid hoax in California by The Lightly Braised Turnip

January 9, 2014 – the giant squid hoax in California by The Lightly Braised Turnip

If we can be so easily fooled by a photoshopped picture, what else might we be missing?

Next, I’m going to hear that the Flintstones were never the modern Stone Age family from the town of Bedrock.

I really do believe in Area 51 and the Roswell UFO incident. Something is out there.

I can’t take much more reality. That’s why I write fiction.

Help Us Help You Help Us

writing infographicAre you laughing yet? You should be. The title is a blatant attempt to get you to read this post, but there certainly more to it that that.

According to Psychology Today, “Neuroscientists have discovered that reading a novel can improve brain function on a variety of levels,” and, “researchers found that becoming engrossed in a novel enhances connectivity in the brain and improves brain function. Interestingly, reading fiction was found to improve the reader’s ability to put themselves in another person’s shoes and flex the imagination in a way that is similar to the visualization of a muscle memory in sports.” The article further states that passive activities, such as watching television, don’t help people to visualize. The work is done for the viewer, and he merely watches the action.

Athletic reading. I like it. That’s my kind of a workout.

Smart people read, and reading actually makes them smarter. Take that big word “Neuroscientists,” I already knew what that meant. Impressive, huh?

Are you ready for another fun fact? The Daily Infographic says that “writing can serve as a calming, meditative tool. Stream of conscious writing exercises, in particular, have been identified as helpful stress coping methods. Keeping a journal, for example, or trying out free-writing exercises, can drastically reduce your levels of stress.”
Austen variations

Stay with me here. Conclusion: Reading our books will benefit you in several ways, and it will encourage us to write more books for you to read. Writing those books will help us to reduce our stress levels, leading to longer, happier lives. You can feel good about taking some time for yourself, because you’ll know that you are being a true humanitarian, ministering to others.

And love will be showered all around. God bless us every one.