Category - Writing Series

WIP Wednesday: What Exactly ARE You Working On?

Hello all! Welcome to this week's WIP Wednesday. So I've been writing a lot lately and as I work on quite a few things at once, I realize I'm starting to confuse a few folks, especially with a new release coming out this month. Don't worry, I confuse myself all the time.

I decided today I would get a little organized so you all get an idea what's going on and don't feel overwhelmed by all them heroes popping out of the woodwork. Welcome to my world. Here's a compass, some maps, and instructions. Watch your step, and don't worry about signing any waivers, you'll be just fine.

Current Series in Progress: (The actual collections don't have names yet) I've listed them in the order I'm working on them, though that's subject to change and if deadlines and such come up, one story might be put on temporary hold.Anything that's listed as 'In queue' means it's on my to do list, just not sure when it'll be started yet.



♥ Book 1: Roses in the Devil's Garden (Short story. Part of the Goodreads MM Romance Group Love Is Always Write event. Available for free)

Main Characters:  Prohibition Agent Harlan Mackay Prohibition Agent Nathan Riley

Secondary Characters:
Julius Knight
Detective John Flynn
Prohibition Agent Danny Brogan

Year: 1925


♥ Book 2: A Rose by Any Other Name (Novella. Am working on this now, 26k written)

Main Characters:
Julius Knight (Eros)
Edward Joseph Clarence Jr.

Secondary Characters:
Lawry Reinhart (Himerus)
Maxfield Clarence (Edward's cousin) 
Terry Talbot (Pothos)
Albert Harrison (Edward's best friend)
Davie Williams (Anteros)
Christopher Masin (Ares)


Crossover Characters:
Harlan, Nathan (From Book 1)
Christopher Masin (mentioned in Book 1)

Year: 1927


♥ Book 3: Untitled (In queue)

Main Characters:
Danny Brogan
John Flynn

Secondary Characters:
Harlan, Nathan (From Book 1)

Year: Not yet decided.


♥ Book 1: The Amethyst Cat Caper (Available to buy)

Main Characters:
Remington Trueblood
Detective Stanley Hawk

Secondary Characters:
The Gentleman Thief
Tom Winchell

Year: 1934


♥ Book 2: Untitled (Am also working on this. Will be completed after A Rose by Any Other Name)

Main Characters:
Remington Trueblood
Detective Stanley Hawk
Chester Trueblood 

Secondary Characters:
Maxfield Clarence, Lawry Reinhart (also in A Rose by Any Other Name)
Tom Winchell
Clyde Morris

Year: 1935



♥ Book 1: The Auspicious Troubles of Chance (Available to buy from Dreamspinner Press June 20th)

Main Characters:
Chauncey 'Chance' Irving (Legionnaire)
Jacky Valentine (Commandant)

Secondary Characters:
Johnnie Wolfe (Legionnaire, part of Jacky's unofficially adopted brood)
Bobby Haven (Legionnaire, part of Jacky's unofficially adopted brood)
Alexander Read (Legionnaire, part of Jacky's unofficially adopted brood)
Dr. Henry Young

Year: Spans a good portion of Chance's life. Early 1900s, most takes place during the 1920s, up to early 1930s.


♥ Book 2: Untitled (Next in queue)

Main Characters:
Johnnie Wolfe
Dr. Henry Young


Secondary Characters:

Chauncey 'Chance' Irving
Jacky Valentine
Bobby Haven
Alexander Read

Crossover Characters:
Julius Knight 
Edward Joseph Clarence Jr.

Year: 1934

♥ Book 3: Untitled (In queue)

Main Characters:
Bobby Haven
Alexander Read

Secondary Characters:
Chauncey 'Chance' Irving
Jacky Valentine
Johnnie Wolfe
Dr. Henry Young

Crossover Characters:
Chester Trueblood
TBC

Year: Not sure yet

♥ Intro: When Love Walked In (Available to buy)

Main Characters:
Private Investigator Bruce Shannon
Jace Scarret

Secondary Characters:
Mittens
Joe Applin (from the pie shop)

Year: 1933



♥ Book 1: Untitled (In queue) The first book in Bruce's PI series

Main Characters:
Private Investigator Bruce Shannon
Jace Scarret

Secondary Characters:
Mittens
Joe Applin
TBC


Year: 1934


So.... Dizzy yet?  There are a couple of others that are maybes for now, so I won't list them here yet as I won't even be looking at them until I've let these fellas say their piece.

Here's the list of what I'm working on in order. Anything 'In queue' may be shuffled about. There could possible also be some short stories in between. We'll see.

1. A Rose by Any Other Name (Julius' book)
2. Remi and Hawk Book 2
3. Johnnie and Henry's book (In queue)
4. Bruce's Series, Book 1 (In queue)
5. Bobby and Alexander (In queue)
6. Danny and John's Book (In queue)

Phew! Glad we made it out of that one. If anyone has any questions about any of the fellas or their stories, feel free to ask. Also, if you're wondering what the whole 'crossover characters' is about, you can read all about it here. Warning, you might want to keep that compass at the ready.

* link is all fixed now. Sorry about that! :D

x Charlie x






Creating Character Part 1: Who Am I?

Creating Character* Please note: if you're reading this post on Goodreads, formatting may be affected .

Hello all! Today I'm starting a series where I talk about how I create my characters. Granted, I haven't been published very long, and don't have a great many books under my belt yet, but with each one, I delve a little deeper, worry a little less, and listen a little more to that voice in my head that tells me to write what's in my heart and forget the rest. I've had some wonderful comments from readers about my characters, so I thought I would start with the fellas.

For those of you who have read my books, you've probably noticed that I'm very character driven. My stories are first and foremost about the characters and what they go through in order to find, attain, and keep their happily ever after. I'm the same way with my reading. No matter how amazing a plot is, if I'm not able to connect with the characters in some way, I feel kind of disappointed. Even the most vile villain is preferable to a character with all the appeal of a plank of wood.

Sure, not everyone will take a liking to my fellas, but that's okay. We don't always get on with every single person we ever meet. That's just human nature. I do try to get the balance right, and no matter the type of story I'm writing or how bigger than life a character may seem, I always try to make them feel like real people with a good mixture of strengths and weaknesses.

Whenever I start a story, there's always one character that pops into my head first. He's usually my main protagonist, and the story will be a little bit more about him than his love interest. It's usually his point of view you get in the first chapter, and he'll usually be the one who finishes the story (unless it's told from a first person point of view). The first thing I do is start thinking about what kind of man he is. What's his personality like? Is he usually grumpy? Cheerful? What's his temperament like? Is he cool and collected, or is he hotheaded? What sets him off? What sort of things get on his nerves? What does he value? What are his morals like? What kind of food does he like? What's he drink? I ask myself hundreds of little questions. He starts to talk to me and I start to listen. What's his speech pattern like? Where's he from and does he have an accent? Is he well spoken? What's he look like?

There are scores of character sheets out there with countless questions meant to help you get to know your character, but for me personally, I like coming up with my own questions. Sometimes they're random questions that just pop into my head. They may seem irrelevant, but I always end up learning something. This morning I had waffles for breakfast, which made me wonder, whether Hawk would prefer pancakes or waffles. Suddenly I can see Hawk sitting in Joe's cafe with his prerequisite cup of coffee. Joe asks him what he'd like, pancakes or waffles. Hm... Pancakes. Hawk just strikes me as a pancakes sort of fella. Nice big stack with plenty of syrup and some butter. Why not waffles? He wouldn't be too keen on all those little squares hoarding his syrup, and the fact that his syrup is unevenly distributed throughout his waffle would displease him greatly. Yeah, Hawk's a little weird that way. What does that say about Hawk? He has to analyze everything, even his breakfast. Sometimes, unless a certain situation comes up, I don't always know how my fella is going to react.

The moment a character starts forming in my head, I start asking myself all kinds of questions. If I decide he's a detective, I start asking myself what kind? How did he get there? Is he good at it? Is he more physical or more brainy? What's his work ethic like? What's his office like? What social class does he belong to? What sort of people does he deal with on a daily basis? Is he liked? Do folks avoid him like the plague? What kind of gun does he carry? How does he dress when he's on a case?

Look at Stanley Hawk and Bruce Shannon, two very different types of detectives. They might both be a little rough around the edges, but Hawk is clean shaven, well-dressed, well-spoken (for the most part) playful, and went to Harvard for a period of time. He doesn't smoke, drinks occasionally, will always try to do the right thing and by the book. Bruce is gruff, stubbly, smokes, drinks--a lot, has a dry and sarcastic sense of humor, didn't go to college, barely made it out of high school, is street smart, and his language is... well, just as rough. Bruce is very clever, but his manners (or lack there of) attracts far more trouble than Hawk's. If Bruce had been on the case of the Amethyst Cat, things would have turned out very differently. Namely, he would have probably had Remi arrested just to keep him out of the way while he worked things out in his own way, in his own time. Either that or tie him to a chair. Yep, that's Bruce all over.

Okay, I have my character (by now I've also given him a name, but how I name my characters will follow in Part 2), and an idea of his personality, so now I think about what may have happened to him in his life to shape him into the man he is. We all experience a multitude of events throughout our lives both good and bad. Things that affect us deeply. Heartache, loss, hardship, failure, anguish, betrayal, embarrassment, as well as moments of triumph, pride, inspiration, support, bravery, love, and joy. These moments help make us who we are, how we approach others, and how we lead our lives.

Let's take Chance (from The Auspicious Troubles of Chance) as an example. Once I had an idea about the story I wanted to tell and I had Chance standing there with a very basic feel for the sort of fella he was, I needed to know more about him. In his story, I knew he was an orphan. So I asked myself, how he ended up that way. He was abandoned by his parents when he was seven years old. What happened after that? Did he grow up in the orphanage or run away? A year later, he ran away and  grew up on the streets of New York City. He found happiness, only to lose everything to a horrible tragedy caused by a terrible man. He was sixteen. Two tragic events at two vulnerable ages, with no one around to help him see it through. Chance had already been filled with so much hurt, anger, and heartache from what he perceived to be his parents betrayal, he gave into his anguish, feeling he didn't deserve any better than the path of vice and self-destruction he found himself on. He didn't make any excuses for himself, and was perfectly aware of what he was doing. He just couldn't stop himself from doing it.

Loss and betrayal are things that many people can relate to, because most of us have experienced it in one way or another, though perhaps not in this extreme. When someone leaves us, we start to wonder why, and even start to blame ourselves, thinking it was something we did.  We start to think maybe we weren't good enough, that we weren't worthy of this person. So I start to delve into all those feelings, how such a loss would have hurt Chance and how a fella with his personality would have reacted.

Jacky on the other hand, led a perfectly happy--and privileged, childhood with a loving family. His loss happened once he was all grown up. It was no less painful,  but he was in his twenties, old enough to try and make sense of his feelings and what to do about them. He was always a friendly, social guy with a glass-half-full mentality. He fought to find purpose and a way to help others. He wanted to be strong, and dependable for those who needed him.

Another event that would have had a huge influence on my characters is the Great War, either directly or indirectly. Considering the period I write in, one of the first things I think about is: did this fella fight oversees? If he did, was he drafted? Did he volunteer? What did he do there? Where was he posted? How long was he there, how involved was he, how much did he see, and what did it do to him? Even if it's never mentioned in the story, I take it into consideration when I start delving deeper. I don't have to map out his entire military career, just enough to help me figure out why he is the way he is.

Let's go back to Hawk and Bruce. Both the same age, old friends, similar personalities. Both played a part in the war. However Hawk wasn't sent oversees, but helped out Uncle Sam on American soil. The work he did, helped him regain his confidence and made him a stronger man. It was other events that wounded him. Bruce was drafted and sent to France. He was in the trenches at the age of 21. It's safe to say that Bruce struggles with demons even Hawk couldn't imagine, he's just found his own way of dealing with them, not all of them healthy but necessary for him.

My characters, like real people, aren't perfect, even the nicest and most heroic of fellas like Jacky, has his weaknesses, flaws, and less than admirable qualities. They feel frustration, rejection, loneliness, and fear. Danny Brogan from Roses in the Devil's Garden is one of my more troubled and darker characters. He grew on me really quickly. His story's not yet been told, (aside from the part he played in Harlan and Nate's story) but I know that when it happens, some folks might not take to him. However, for all his faults, he will have redeemable qualities. A few folks weren't keen on him, but that may change once they get to know him a little better.

What's happened to Danny is something that many men suffered during the Great War. Danny was young, cocky, eager to begin what he believed would be a great adventure, only to discover the horrifying truth. By the end, he was left broken, alone, and addicted to morphine. He was on the take as a Prohibition agent, but by the time he meets up with Harlan and Nate, he'd done the right thing and had made that choice on his own, putting his own life at risk. With John's help, Danny will overcome some of his heartache, but like with most of my fellas--as in real life, there is no magic cure. Their pain may subside, their demons may be silenced, and their scars may fade, but those experiences will always be a part of them.

The more I learn about my main protagonist, the more I learn about the man who's going to change his life and steal his heart, but we'll get to him in Part 3.

♥  Next Tuesday - Part 2: What's your name, handsome? A look at how I go about naming my characters, behind the names, and the sites I use.

♥  Part 3: Because I Love You, covers our main hero's love interest. So check out July 17th for that post.

If you want a peek into how I keep track of all my heroes and how they're connected to each other, you can check out this post here.

Hope you all enjoyed my little rambling. If you want me to cover anything specific, or you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment, or you can always email me.

x Charlie x


Creating Character Part 2: What's Your Name, Handsome?

black three piece suit

Hello all! Welcome to this week's Texty Tuesday, and the next installment of my writing series, this one covering character creation. If you missed part one, you can check it out here.

Congratulations, it's a boy! Now what do you name him? Coming up with character names can be very tricky, and every author has his or her preferred method, as well as likes and dislikes. Today I'm going to talk about how I go about naming my characters and a few of the sites I use. You can find a few more here.

Here's a list of my MC's to date, their nicknames if they have them, and who they are at the beginning of their stories to start off, so you can get an idea of the types of names I tend to go for. Afterward, I'll explain a little about how I got there.

Stanley Hawk - Pinkerton Detective Remington Trueblood 'Remi' - Tea House proprietor Chester Trueblood 'Chess' - unemployed Bruce Shannon - Private Investigator Jace Scarrett - Ex-bank clerk/Bruce's assistant Harlan Mackay 'Harley' - Prohibition agent Nathan Reilly 'Nate' - Prohibition agent John Flynn - Police Detective Danny Brogan - Prohibition agent Chauncey Irving 'Chance' - Legionnaire in the French Foreign Legion Jacky Valentine - Commandant in the FFL Jonathan Wolfe 'Johnnie' - Legionnaire in the FFL Bobby Haven - Legionnaire in the FFL Alexander Reed - Legionnaire in the FFL Julius Knight - Cabaret performer Lawrence Reinhart 'Lawry' - Cabaret performer Terry Talbot - Cabaret Perfomer Edward Clarence - Executive and heir to the Clarence & Co. Dept. Store fortune Maxfield Clarence - Heir to the Regalis Hotel fortune Albert Harrison - Heir to the Harrison fortune Gabriel Chase - Owner of Midnight Radio Robert Bradley - Mail room Clerk George Fitzpatrick - Writer Noah Baxter - Professor

Things I take into consideration when naming my characters:

♥ The era I'm writing in.Sometimes it's easy to forget that the names we come across today, may not have been around decades ago. I don't start with the year my story is taking place, but the names that were popular the year my character was born. Example: Stanley Hawk appears in The Amethyst Cat Caper in 1934. He's 36 years old. Which means he would have been born in 1898. So I bring up my favorite trusty site of 1000 Most Popular Baby Names of the (insert year here), pick 1890s from the drop down menu, and  go down the list. Stanley is #84.

♥ What kind of fella is my character. So why Stanley? He's a big, rough around the edges, kicking butt detective, shouldn't he have a big, tough guy name? No. Why? Because he wasn't born a big, tough detective. Stanley is a nice guy who loves his mom, went to Harvard for a period of time, loves Chinese food, bad duck jokes, and can pull a nickel out from behind your ear. Being a detective is a part of who he is, but it's not who he is. It doesn't define him. So I go down the list, with a mental image of him and listen to what my gut is telling me. If more than one name seems to fit, I write them down until I have my surname and then start eliminating.

♥ Common vs uncommon names. Since most of my stories take place in either the 1920s or 1930s, the fellas are going to have pretty common names. John, Bruce, Albert, Robert, etc. That allows me to give them uncommon surnames if I so choose. If they have an uncommon first name, then I'll try and give them a common surname. There are a few exceptions, such as Remington Trueblood. I went to Baby Names and through the advanced search, ran a filter that showed me only English boys' names. I started looking for the longest names that would fit a fellow who is the epitome of English high-society. Once Remington popped out, I then had to find him a nickname. Why? Because his father is a pretentious bastard who enjoys to lord his wealth and social standing over everyone, so he would have chosen a name for his son that would reflect that. Despite his upbringing, Remington would not see himself the way others see him. He's sweet, smart, and kind. He would prefer to be called by a nickname. Hence 'Remi'. It's short, sweet, and reflects his true personality. Remi uses his full name much like a shield, to keep people at a distance, but to those he cares about, he insists on being called Remi. This is a list of English boys' names I use quite often when I want a name based on it's meaning.

♥ First names as last names. I'm not a big fan of names I can't easily pronounce, but I am a fan of using first names as last names, which is what I did with my characters Robert Bradley, Noah Baxter, Edward Clarence, Maxfield Clarence, and Albert Harrison. I don't know, but I just like the way they sound. Though you do have to be careful of which names you choose.

♥ Ethnicity. Between 1850 and 1930, about 5 million Germans immigrated to the United States. Between 1820 and 1930, 3.5 million British and 4.5 million Irish entered America. Considering the years these fellas were born in, they would have either migrated with their families as children, or been born in America not long after their families had come over. Bruce Shannon for example, was born in New York City, but his parents were Irish immigrants. Shannon is a diminutive of Gaelic Ó Seanaigh which means "descendent of Seanach". The given name Seanach means "wise", and Bruce for all his grumpy ways, is indeed, wise. This is a fantastic site which allows you to look up surnames either by letter or ethnicity.  Search For Ancestors.com is also a great site for surnames. You can look up by letter or by ethnicity.

♥ Inspiration from outside. Back to Stanley Hawk. How did I come up with Hawk? Well, I take my inspiration where I can get it. I was sitting at my desk, and I happened to look over at my DVD collection. My eyes fell on one of my favorite comedies with Bruce Willis:Hudson Hawk. Bruce Willis' character is called Eddie Hawkins and he's the world's most famous cat burglar. He's also referred to as 'the Hawk'. He's sarcastic, a wise guy, and adorable. I didn't think twice. I'm a movie addict, of course I get inspired by movies! So I had Stanley and then I had Hawk. It just fit. That's probably as close as I would get to using a name from a character in a movie, because let's face it, some movie characters are one of a kind, so if you go and name your action character John McClane, you may come across a few problems. Unless your character is somehow related or something. Anyway, I'm just saying be aware of association.

Sometimes I need a name to fit with the story. For example, Bruce is the kind of fella who finds nicknames for people who do something to annoy him. So when Jace ticks him off, the first thing he would do, is call him by a nickname, one that would express his displeasure in true Bruce fashion. So I had to first think of the nickname Bruce would call Jace that would really get under his skin. With Bruce, I figured he would call Jace some kind of girl's name because let's face it, Bruce shares a lot of noirish detective traits, which means he can be pretty oafish sometimes. I went through a list of surnames, trying to find one that could easily sound like a girl's name. I found the perfect one. Scarrett. Bruce's nickname to infuriate Jace? Scarlet.

♥ What name will he go by? It's important that you decide which name your character will go by in your story. Depending on who he is, people will either address him by his first name, or by his surname. I use Stanley Hawk's name in different ways. Hawk goes by the name of Hawk, because as he says, only his momma calls him Stanley. He regards his surname as a nickname, one that gives the right kind of image for his profession. Yes, Remi calls him Hawk, too, but when Remi is upset with him, hurt, or scared, he will always refer to Hawk as Stanley, because being called Stanley triggers an immediate reaction in Hawk, cutting through that tough guy facade right down to his core. It makes him feel vulnerable. Harlan and Nathan are the opposite. When they introduce themselves, they use their full names. Their nicknames are reserved for each other, which fits with their personalities because outside of each other, there are few people they trust.    

Thanks so much for joining me for Part 2, hope you enjoyed it, and maybe even came away with a little something. Next week's Texty Tuesday is Part 3: Because I Love You. A look into our MC's love interest. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or drop me a line. I'm happy to help!

x Charlie x


Creating Character Part 3: Because I Love You

Hello all! Welcome to the third part of my series on creating character. Here I'll talk a little about how I go about creating the man our hero will ultimately fall in love with. Here's the first part if you missed it: Creating Character Part 1: Who Am I? As well as how I go about naming said heroes: Creating Character Part 2: What's Your Name, Handsome? 

As I mentioned in Part 1, the more I get to know my first hero, the more my second hero starts to materialize. When I got the inspiration to write The Amethyst Cat Caper, I knew I wanted to write a Classic Hollywood movie type story. I had my main hero: Remi, who would inadvertently end up with the amethyst cat-the object sought by our gentleman thief. I also knew my second hero would be a detective, and as I mentioned in Behind the Scenes: The Amethyst Cat Caper, Stanley Hawk started out as a police detective. We soon discovered that the position didn't really fit Hawk, so after a good deal of research, he officially became a Pinkerton Detective.

I had my starting point. Now I had to know what kind of man Hawk was, what kind of detective he was, and how he would feel about who Remi was. I knew that I didn't want Hawk to be like Bruce. To me, Bruce is more noirish. A tough talking, whiskey guzzling, always at the wrong place at the wrong time, gets-into-fist-fights-because-someone-insulted-his-mother type character. Hawk on the other hand, I see sharply dressed as a Cary Grant type character in romantic screwball comedy, with some mayhem added for the fun of it. Getting to know Hawk would help me figure out how he interacted with others, especially Remi.

Obviously, being a Pinkerton--who handled security for many businesses and high society folk, Hawk would have had to deal with plenty of wealthy folks. So I decided to make things a little tougher for him, by making him well-spoken (compared to a lot of the other detectives he works with), educated from the two years he spent at Harvard, and a fella who cares about his appearance, just to start off with. What does that mean? It means that when a job comes up that involves fancy folk, Hawk would be the first one his boss would call on. Much to Hawk's irritation. So, I now knew that he'd be forced to deal with high-society. It made sense that at some point he may have gotten involved with some well-to-do gentlemen. He is, after all, a handsome, cheeky fella, and I'm going to guess that a lot of those young fellas he got involved with were all very excited to be having a dangerous detective in their bed.

Of course, the reality is that Hawk doesn't walk around scowling and pulling guns on people, and he's only dangerous if someone is threatening his life. His job's not exciting either (not before he meets Remi, anyway), and consists of endless paperwork, sitting in his car doing stakeouts for hours on end, following people around, asking lots of questions, and the list goes on. The illusion wears off quickly, and soon these fellas see him for what he really is: just a regular working class Joe. Hawk's experiences with these fellas have him judging Remi before he's even met him, and although some of his assumptions prove to be wrong, there's still a lot of uncertainty and distrust. He thinks Remi's just out to have a little fun, so why the hell not go along for the ride.

I wanted someone who would also help Remi grow as a person, someone who could challenge him and bring him down to earth a little. Remi is used to doing things his way and not being questioned about it. He's been in love once and fooled around a few times, but he hasn't had a serious relationship, so sometimes he forgets what it's like to be part of an equal partnership.

The most important thing is that I put as much work into Hawk as I did Remi. Hawk is his own man, and none of his traits have anything to do with Remi. He has his own likes and dislikes, as well as his own strengths and weaknesses. I thought about Hawk's childhood, how he was brought up, by who, what happened in the war, the kind of man he is, what's brought him to this point in his life, and all those other questions I ask myself when developing any character, and although he compliments Remi, he has to be a fully developed character who is just as strong.

It does you no good to have a fantastic hero, and then the fella he falls for is about as appealing as stale popcorn. They have to bring out the best and worst of each other. Like real people in real relationships, each fella possesses traits that the other either loves or is driven bonkers over. They have to have had their own heartaches, dreams, and demons before ever meeting each other. They will learn to reign in certain parts of themselves, or try harder not to do certain things, but those traits have to have been there in the first place.

Example: Remi has a bit of a temper and is known to blow his top on occasion. This sort of behavior is something Hawk wouldn't tolerate from anyone. Were it not Remi, Hawk would either walk away or give that person a good piece of his mind and let the chips fall where they may. With Remi, he holds his tongue. Depending on the severity of the situation, he'll either talk Remi down with a few kisses, a little cuddling, and some saucy talk, or he will just stand silently to one side with such skill as to almost disappear into his environment. Once it's safe, he will engage the Englishman. Remi's tantrums will either amuse Hawk or frustrate the living bejesus out of him. Why? Because a part of him will always be aware of their differences--mainly their social standings. Just because they're in love, doesn't mean it's easy, and doesn't mean that certain facts can be ignored, but it does mean that each one will do his best to make things work. Of course they'll fight. Of course Hawk will end up sleeping on the couch, and yes, Hawk will give in more than Remi, even if something's not entirely his fault. Why? Not because he's weak, but because he's weighed the importance of that argument and whether it's worth the heartache. Because when we love someone, sometimes we do have to swallow our pride, and be the first to wave the white flag.

When I develop my second hero, I don't create him to merely compliment my main hero. He is his own man with all the various types of traits that make up any other fella. I will think about what I need from him, and how he's going to provide that through his own traits. I'll think about how him being who he is might make things difficult for their relationship.

For Roses in the Devil's Garden, I wanted to sort of work backwards. I wanted an already established couple with a strong relationship who also work together, both Prohibition agents. I knew that with Harlan and Nathan, it wouldn't be about them finding love, but keeping it. Because although they've been together six years and would do anything for each other, it doesn't mean they don't have to fight to keep what they have. They're lucky to have each other and they know it, but they've had to fight tooth and nail for it. The Great War brought them together, and in a way, keeps them together, because they both suffer from PTSD, though in this book, Harley is unaware of the severity of Nate's nightmares, because Nate prefers to suffer in silence, rather than add to Harley's troubles, which in the end, won't be good for either of them. At times, their relationship is unhealthy, and they're aware of it, but what they provide for each other trumps everything else. Nate provides the humor and playfulness that Harley needs to feel like a regular guy. For Nate, Harley provides the safety and security he feels he can't survive without.

We're all drawn to different types of people, and area attracted to different types of traits. Whether it's a sense of humor, a love of the same things we love, or the ability to provide what we feel is missing in ourselves. Our fellas fall in love for a reason. What is it about this fella that has your MC all in a tizzy? Whatever it is, remember he's got to be just as developed as your main man.

Next week: Creating Character Part 4: Mirror Mirror, on the Wall. How I go about deciding my characters physical traits.

Hope you enjoyed this little session. Feel free to ask any questions. What do you feel works for you or doesn't? As a writer or a reader.

x Charlie x


Character Creation Part 4: Mirror Mirror, On the Wall

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Hi folks! Sorry this post is a day late, but a couple of things came up and I had to reschedule. So here's Texty Tuesday on uh, Wednesday! This post is about how I go about figuring out my characters physical traits, because it's not as easy as it seems.

My fellas range anywhere from 5'4" and boyish, to 6'5" and built like a brick wall, but the two aren't always paired with each other. Opposing traits are fun, but your fellas shouldn't be caricatures, or predictable. When I start visualizing my characters, I take their personalities and who they are into consideration, as well as the story. Each author is different, some choosing to leave the physical descriptions vague, some being very specific. Personally, I like to describe my characters. Not down to the last freckle, mind you, but enough so folks can get a general idea, and then their imagination can fill in the rest.

Let's take Harlan and Nate as an example. They both start as Prohibition agents and two years later when we get to Julian's book, they're Bureau agents. They're very active fellas who get into all kinds of trouble, a lot of it involving physical brawls. Harley is a big fella, 6'5" tall, 220lbs, all hard muscle. Nathan might not be as big, but then few men are as big as Harley. Nate is still a tall fella at 6'2". He's also muscular, just with a lean, more athletic build. He probably weighs in at about 170lbs. He can also kick as much butt as Harley, and between you and me, Nate is far more dangerous. Harley has brown hair, Nate has black. Harley's eyes are hazel, Nate's are green. What these fellas do means they have to be in good shape. They were also soldiers during WWI. I wanted Nate to be the sort of fella who could not only challenge Harley mentally, but physically as well. They're physically similar in a lot of ways because as a pair, whether as teammates or lovers, that's how I saw them.

Now we'll look at two of my characters who are physically the opposite in every way. Julius and Edward. Edward is a former soldier. He's tall, strong, though not overly. I didn't need him to be as big as Harley. He's a business executive, 6'2" tall and weighs about 175lbs. Julius is a cabaret dancer. He's small, slender, and sleek like a cat. He needs to be for what he does. He's just over 5'4". Edward's got black hair, Julius is a blond. Edward's eyes are hazel, Julius' are sky blue. Edward's tan, Julius is fair skinned. Now despite Julius being the smaller of the two, he's the most fiery, has the sharpest tongue, and is pretty fearless. He's wise beyond his years and street smart. He may have been too young to go to war, but he grew up on the streets and has lead a tough life. He taught himself how to speak properly, how to carry himself, and how to protect himself. Edward is the more timid of the two, at least when it comes to the emotional side of things. They both have their strengths and weaknesses which compliment each other. I don't do weak characters, because everyone has a strength, and just because someone's small, doesn't mean they're pushovers.

Who the fellas are also tells me a lot about how they dress. Bruce is a PI in the 1930s. I see him as a noirish type detective. Physically, he's very much like Harley--built like a brick wall, though he's slightly leaner and weighs in at 200lbs. Harley, even with stubble, dresses neat and sharp. He's got the money for tailored suits, and it shows. Bruce owns maybe one or two tailored suits which he'll only wear for special occasions--should they ever come up. He's always stubbly, and will dispose of his suit jacket the first opportunity he gets, usually rolling up his sleeves to the elbows afterwards. We're lucky if he keeps his vest on. His hair's usually somewhat disheveled, he wears the same long, black overcoat, and prefers dark colors. He also sports several bruises and cuts on a somewhat regular basis. Bruce gets into a lot of brawls, seeing as how his cases tend to involve finding folks who don't want to be found. Jace was a blank clerk. He's by nature, neat and sharply dressed, not because he has the money--Jace works for Bruce now, having lost everything and ending up homeless beforehand. So he's frugal. He just has that look about him. Jace is 6' tall, has black hair and blue eyes. Bruce, for all his dark broodiness, has sandy blond hair and brown eyes.

Remember that characters--like people, communicate with more than just their words. They use their body movements, facial expressions, and physical features. Think about who your characters is, what he does, how he communicates, his type of personality. Think about how he dresses and why he dresses that way. To me, physical traits come after I know who my fella is, and don't be afraid to mix it up. Well, I hope this helps some!

So what are your favorite type of characters?


Charlie's Guide to Writing Historical Gay Romance - Part 1: Character

Charlies GuideHello and welcome to Part 1 of my guide to writing historical gay romance. As I stated during the introduction, this isn't a definitive guide, just merely how this author goes about writing m/m historicals. Getting your characters right is vital, because no matter how amazing and accurate a world you build for them, if your character doesn't fit in with that world, your believability will suffer, and your readers will have trouble staying immersed.

When creating a historical character, there are many things I take into consideration before I start piecing him together. Before you can start giving him quirks and personality traits, a job or secret crush, there are some very important details you have to work out first.

1. Manner of speech - Where a character was born, where he grew up, and where he ends up will have a profound effect on what he sounds like. If your book is set in Europe, especially Great Britain, your character's speech will be determined by what region and social class he grew up in, unless he moves from one class into another or is self-taught. It is possible a character born and raised in a certain area can teach himself to speak with a posh accent. I know a few folks who've done this. In Britain, there has always been a very profound separation of class, and depending on what part your character is from, there's dialect to consider.

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Each region carries its own accent, and believe me, each one is very distinct. The slang is different, the phrases they use, names for things, swear words, even the speed at which they talk. If your character is from Manchester, he's not going to talk the same way as a fella from London's East End. And I know it may seem silly, especially to my lovely Brit friends, but not a lot of American folks know that England and Great Britain are not interchangeable. Great Britain (The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland) includes Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and many smaller islands, whereas England is part of the United Kingdom, bordering Scotland and Wales. Then there's the British Empire. It wasn't that far back that the British Empire held sway over a huge chunk of the world's population, with colonies and territories from Fiji to Canada. You don't have to research every country and who was under whose administration, but at least be aware, especially so if your character is going to move about.

If your book is set in America, again, there are still social classes to consider, back then even more so than now, and this, along with the region will influence how your character talks. In The Auspicious Troubles of Chance, both Chance and Jacky were raised in New York, though Chance being an orphan and growing up on the streets has a much rougher way of talking than Jacky. He uses a lot of slang, talks faster, swears a hell of a lot more (though that's more part of his charm than anything), and his accent is stronger, whereas Jacky is the opposite. Also because of the time Jacky spent in England, his accent isn't fully American. English phrases, slang, and words occasionally slip into his speech. In A Rose By Any Other Name, the erotes: Julius, Lawry, and Terry, speak properly, but it's something they were taught. Before they began work at The Pantheon, they were prostitutes in the Bowery. They're orphans and grew up on the streets in the worst parts of town. Underneath the high-society primness, there's a completely different layer of speech, which can slip out during certain circumstances. Hawk, from The Amethyst Cat Caper is self-taught. He came from a humble family, but studied for a while at Harvard. To fit in, he taught himself to speak properly. Despite his time working as a Pinkerton, he maintained his manner of speaking though he mixes it up with some street slang. When he gets in a lather, or drunk, he reverts to his old way of talking. Back then, not all children and adults received a school education, so keep that in mind as well.

public enemy cagneyOnce you've decided how you want your character to talk, find a video or sound file of someone from whatever region you've chosen so you get an idea of the accent. If your book is set during a time that has documentaries available, even better. Granted, some of my characters, like P.I. Bruce Shannon, have a somewhat exaggerated way of talking. I doubt most fellas really talked like James Cagney, but my goal was to emulate that slightly over the top, Classic Hollywood movie feel. Depending on the effect I want, I'll watch old movies, documentaries, read books by authors of that time, or memoirs in order to get an idea how folks talked. The point is, research real people. Don't just refer to something you saw in a movie, because let's face it, history through the eyes of Hollywood isn't the most reliable source.

Also, don't forget that slang words and phrases have dates of origin and expiration, and they can also take on different meanings over the years. For instance the word 'queer' in reference to homosexuality wasn't used until the 1920's. Before then, it meant odd. Online Etymology Dictionary is a great place to start if you're unsure whether a certain word was used during a specific period and if it meant the same thing.

2. Mindset - Now this is extremely important. This can make or break your character. Say you've done loads of research. You've gone cross-eyed from the amount of articles and books you've read through to create the perfect setting, and suddenly it all falls apart because your character thinks and acts like today's modern man. Obviously, if you're writing a sort of costume drama, and you want your fellas to hold hands while walking down the street, that's up to you and there's nothing wrong with that. There's room in the genre for all types of historical romances, but if you want a story with historical accuracy, even if there's elements of paranormal, fantasy or sci-fi in it, you MUST research homosexuality in that period AND in that region.

How society viewed homosexuality will have a profound effect on your characters, how they see themselves, how they behave, think, and interact with other characters. It's surprising how drastically things change in the span of a few years. You don't have to know every detail of every era, but you need to research your era and probably the eras surrounding it. I write in the 20's and 30's, mainly in New York. In that one city, in a span of ten years, there was a drastic change in society and how folks viewed homosexuality. Although homophobia and danger was rife in 1920's New York, the 1930's brought new laws and new levels of intolerance. During the 1920's, in Paris and Berlin, gay culture was even more visual and prominent than in places like New York City. The closer we get to WWII, the more frightening things become.

Geroge Chauncey

If you plan on writing a gay historical, I highly recommend you read George Chauncey's Gay New York, Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940.  I know it says New York, but it's a great place to start, because you're aware of how certain things did or didn't happen, which you can then research to find out whether the same went for whatever city you're writing about. Don't make it the only book you read, but certainly pick it up. It's written in an engaging way, lists a great many sources, and refers to actual letters written by gay men of that time. Most importantly, it helps you understand where and when the concept and labeling of 'homosexuality' and 'heterosexuality' came from, and it'll surprise most folks to find that these terms, this division of men is a relatively new one. Depending on when your story takes place, is the label society uses for gay men. Behavior that would be deemed 'queer' in the 1930's, may not have been deemed as such in the 1800's.

Even if you have characters who have come to accept their homosexuality, they're still very aware of what that means to the outside world, and it will reflect in what they do. Depending on the period of history, how they view themselves and their homosexuality will differ. So the first thing you have to ask yourself is, does your character accept what he is? If he does, it's not something that happens overnight. No matter his age, he can't just realize suddenly he's gay and then go out to find true love. The truth is, many gay men throughout history led double lives. At home with their families, at their jobs, with their friends, they were heterosexual, and it was all kept separate from their life in 'gay society'. Many gay men couldn't accept it. They loathed themselves, some believed they were mentally ill, because there was a time when it was considered a mental illness. Some sought to 'cure' themselves, others were sent to be 'cured' by family. Who is your character and how does he feel about being gay? How long did it take him to understand? What did he go through in order to accept it if he did?

Winyan Soo HooThe complexity of gay men throughout history is something you'll have to read up on, because even if I only covered the 1920's and 30's, I'd need several posts just for those ten years, and as I mentioned, it will depend on the era you're writing. No matter how 'open-minded' your character may be, he can't kiss another man out in the open. He can't hold hands with another fella, can't have eye sex, brazenly flirt, and the list goes on. Not without consequences, or if your guy is in a specific environment, like a gay club, and even then it may have to be discreet. In A Rose By Any Other Name, The Pantheon is a secret cabaret for gay men from high-society. Each member has something to lose if they expose another, and as they're all men of wealth with high social standing, they'll do what's necessary to maintain their secret. Inside The Pantheon, men kiss, grope, and do all sorts of naughty things out in the open and in darkened booth because it's a safe environment. There's no danger of being raided, and members are considered through recommendation only, with members being accepted only by the hostess herself. What they do in there, none of them would ever so much as hint to out in the open.

Again, depending on the era, you also have to consider how these gay men view other gay men, because yes, it does differ throughout history. I know this is an overwhelming amount of information, but once you choose your time frame, it narrows things down a lot and makes research so much easier. I chose specifically to write in 1920's and 30's America-- because they're the eras I'm most passionate about, so I only had to go as far back as the late 1800's and as forward as the 1940's to get a clear understanding of things. Sure, I didn't have to, but I wanted to know what led to folks thinking the way they did in the periods I write in, what came before and after. You might ask what the point of all this is. Why go through such lengths? Because aside accuracy, you know what else this does? Minimizes info dump. If your characters think, act, talk, and breath an era long gone, you don't have to write out pages and pages of historical facts. This is where 'show, don't tell' can make a big difference.

Remi suit

3. Fashion - Who your character is, his age, and what social class he's from will reflect in his outward appearance. Hats were a staple pretty much up until the 1950's and early 60's, and gentlemen rarely left the house without one. If your fella is from a humble background, he isn't going to walk around wearing tailored three-piece suits and silk shirts, unless he's getting his money from somewhere else. How much detail you go into is up to you. Personally, I don't go into a great amount of detail unless it's pertinent to the story. In The Amethyst Cat Caper, I pretty much describe everything Remi is wearing because it says a lot about his character and his style. For him, I sought out a signature suit, because of all my fellas, Remi is the most conscious of his appearance. He's the owner of a high-society tea house with swanky patrons, so he must always look his best, whereas with Hawk, it's a black overcoat, black three-piece suit, white shirt, black tie, black shoes, and dark gray felt hat with black ribbon around the crown.

If there isn't a cause for it, like with Remi, I tend to loosely describe a fellas attire. If he's wearing a suit, I tend to mention color, any notable pattern such as pinstripe, color of his tie, and shirt. I might mention various states of undress, if he's sans his suit jacket, maybe just in a vest, sleeves rolled up, depending on what's going on. I assume folks know when I mention a hat--what with a story being in the 1920's or 30's, that I don't mean a baseball cap. If I describe a hat, it'll be either as a felt hat--maybe the color and ribbon color, or flat cap. The point is, you don't need to mention by name every single cross-stitch or item of clothing, especially when you go way back in history and have numerous layers to deal with--unless it's important to the scene or the character. Shoes: brogues, leather, maybe spats or boots. It is, however, important to know what was worn and what wasn't. If you're going to go through a great deal of trouble describing the cut of a character's waistcoat, make sure that cut was actually worn at the time. Gangsters in the 1920's dressed far more flamboyantly than regular folks. Take hairstyles into consideration. Fashion changed drastically after WWI, bringing about the birth of the teenager. It gave us flappers and dapper daddies. Society faced a different kind of war, old world traditions versus new.

Conclusion to Part 1: After you know the type of story you want to tell, what era it takes place in, and your setting, start developing how your character thinks, talks, and behaves. In order to do that, you must be aware of the world around him, what society thinks of him, and what he thinks of himself. Remember society has come a long way, and you can't judge your fellas by today's standards. There have always been bigots, but what is politically incorrect today, may not have been then, what words are taboo today may not have offended then. Words take on different meanings, slang changes. You shouldn't sacrifice authenticity, but certain situations can be handled with care, if you're worried about political correctness.

I hope you enjoyed Part 1. Stay tuned next week for Part 2: Atmosphere. If there's anything I didn't address here that you would like me to discuss, feel free to leave a comment or drop me an email. If you want to read about how I develop my characters' personalities, love interests, pasts and such, you can check out this series of posts here.


Building Your Author Website - Part 1: Getting Started

website building1Hello all! When I decided to blog about author websites and blogs, I realized there was no way I could fit everything into one post. Not if I wanted to go into detail. So I decided to turn it into a series. Today is part one and we’re talking about getting started.

I’ve been creating my own websites since the 90s. Anyone remember Geocities, Tripod, Angelfire? Yep, I used them all. Back then, I created everything in Dreamweaver and uploaded via ftp. Keep in mind, I knew next to nothing about html. But where there’s a will, there’s a way. I played around with site building on and off, creating graphics, trying new styles and platforms.

And then came the time to put those skills to use. I had just signed my first contract with a publisher and I needed an author platform. Before I could think about Facebook or any other social media, I had to establish an author homebase.

At the time, I had no idea what a blog was or what it entailed. A friend told me about Blogger, so I shopped around a little and went with Blogger. Slowly I started customizing, looking for themes outside of what was offered which would fit my needs. After that, I started playing with widgets and html. Google became my best bud. Anything I wanted to do but didn’t know how, I Googled. Everything I did with Blogger prepared me for the upgrade to Wordpress, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

With today’s technology, building your own website is much easier than it used to be, with website builders doing most, if not all, the coding for you. You don’t have to spend hundreds or thousands on a website. I know I certainly couldn’t afford to pay someone to build a site for me, and as I was just starting out, I couldn’t justify the expense. Though it’s far less expensive these days to get a really nice site designed for you. But this series is for authors who want to do it themselves.

Tip: It’s never too early to start your author platform.

Once you get published, you’re going to be busy with a billion other things: edits, galleys, production forms, marketing, promotion, and everything else. The more you have already done, the more you can concentrate on your release and your writing. It’s much easier to update your website once you’re published, than it is to build it up from scratch.  There’s a great deal of information you can include regarding your work in progress, your journey as an unpublished author, etc.

So where do you start? There are plenty of free website builders out there. I highly recommend having a website with a built in blog. If you already have a blog, let’s say with blogger, and you’re going to build your website in Wordpress, I would recommend linking your blog to your Wordpress site via your menu. I’ll be getting into that when we get to the design portion of the series.

When I decided to move on from Blogger to a website builder that was both easy to use and allowed me the freedom I wanted to customize, I tried out a few different builders: Weebly, Winx, Web.com, and a few others I can’t remember at the moment. They weren’t the right fit for me. Don’t be afraid to sign up with these free web builders and play around with the building tools. If they don’t work for you, delete or close the account.  Obviously you don’t want to link a domain name or start sharing links before you’ve decided whether the builder you chose is right for you.

worspressAfter trying several builders, I went with Wordpress. Now, there’s a big difference between Wordpress.com and Wordpress.org. Wordpress.com is rather limited in what you can customize, but again it depends on what you need and how much you want to change or be in control of. With Wordpress.com, if it’s not available in the theme you choose, there’s not much you can do, and certain types of coding won’t be permitted in your widgets. It also doesn’t allow plug-ins.

Wordpress.org allows you to upload plug-ins, customize html, and use scripts in your widgets. It’s not self-hosted like Wordpress.com which means you’ll have to have web host. If you go this route, make sure you do a good deal of research before choosing your host. The problem with cheap web-hosting is that the space is shared (unless you opt for the more expensive dedicated servers), so if your site uses up a lot of memory and causes spikes in their CPU, it will be shut down until you sort it out, and let me tell you, your blood pressure will skyrocket while you try to sort it out. With the amount of websites growing, companies providing shared web-hosting are overselling space on their servers. You don’t want to have the constant hassle of your site going down, so ask around and find a trusted web host. I’ve been told Dreamhost, Hawkhost, and Stablehost are good places to start.

Next Monday: Author branding. I’ll also list those free online image editors, since it’s relevant to coming up with your author/website brand.

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Have any questions? Just leave them in the comment box below. 

rosedivider photo credit: NathanaelB via photopin cc photo credit: ghwpix via photopin cc

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