Guest Post: Man Oh Man! How Author Marin Thomas Created A Setting For Her Novel

HEApromise 300I was fortunate to read an early copy of The Promise of Forgiveness by Marin Thomas. It’s full of heart, family, and the promise of second chances. It’s her first work of women’s fiction but not her first book. Not by a long shot! Marin has written (sit down now) over 35 romances. When she approached something new, she wanted a special setting. She wanted it to be different from what readers were accustomed to—and different from what her characters expected as well. 

Only an author as skilled as Marin could make a dusty, rough, Oklahoma town full of bristly men a charming place to set a novel! 

Today, Marin shares with us how she created Unforgiven, Oklahoma, as well as advice on writing setting that really hit home for me.

Please welcome Marin to WFW!

Amy xo

the setting in a novel is a place that keeps your characters off-balance


A Novel Setting: Turning Reality Into Fiction


Guy Town; Austin, Texas

HEApromise 300I love picking a story’s location almost as much as I enjoy fleshing out the characters. More often than not I have to write the entire novel before I get a feel for the setting. With The Promise of Forgiveness the setting fell into place faster than the characters and I believe it’s because the concept for the town of Unforgiven, Oklahoma, had been fermenting in my brain for a long time.

I’ve always been fascinated with U.S. history and I enjoy researching the old west.  My love of history is one reason I jump at the chance to take a ghost tour when I visit new cities or towns.  You never know what nugget of information, name or background of a famous person might inspire an idea for a future story.

In The Promise of Forgiveness the fictitious town of Unforgiven, Oklahoma, came into being in a roundabout way. A few years ago when my husband and I were in Tombstone, Arizona, visiting the famous haunted Bird Cage Saloon, another tourist mentioned that he had taken several ghost tours throughout the state of Texas. He went on to tell us a story about a once famous historical neighborhood in Austin called Guy Town. Weeks later the name Guy Town popped into my head again (when you’re over fifty, things pop in and out of your head at an alarming rate). I Googled Guy Town, 1870-1913, and spent hours reading everything I could find, knowing that one day I’d work Guy Town or the idea of it into one of my stories.

In a nutshell,Guy Town, also known as the First Ward, was a saloon district, comprising eight square blocks in Austin. It was the go-to place for women, whiskey, music and gambling. The boundaries of the neighborhood consisted of Congress Avenue to the east, the Colorado River to the south, Guadalupe Street to the west and 4th Street to the north. Today high-rise office buildings and apartments occupy the area, but its history will never be forgotten.

The saloons in Guy Town were typical of those found in any city of similar size in the West during the mid-to-late 1800’s. The one thing that made Guy Town stand out was that it not only catered to reprobates but also to influential clientele due to The Texas State Capitol located right there in the city. In Guy Town state legislators and other government officials sat side-by-side with common folk drinking, gambling, and dancing with the soiled doves.

For a while Guy Town was just another rowdy red-light district in Texas like Houston’s Hollow, El Paso’s Utah Street, Fort Worth’s Hells Half Acre, Waco’s Two Street, and Frogtown in Dallas, where crime and murders were commonplace. Then between 1884 and 1886 a serial killer, known as the “Servant Girl Annihilator,” terrorized the streets of Austin and Guy Town, supposedly murdering eight victims with an axe. The killer was never found.

On July 15, 2014, the PBS TV show History Detective used historical research and modern techniques like psychological and geographic profiling, to help identify a probable suspect: Nathan Elgin, a 19-year-old African-American cook. Elgin worked near the original crime scenes and had a clubfoot, which was similar to a footprint left by the killer. In February 1886, shortly after the last murder, police shot and killed Elgin when he was caught attempting to assault a girl with a knife. Guy Town was shut down in 1913 after a growing sentiment among religious leaders and women’s groups against prostitution, gambling and alcohol abuse.

There wasn’t a need for a serial killer in my women’s fiction, but the name Guy Town stuck with me.  When I came up with the idea for The Promise of Forgiveness, I knew I wanted to create a place that catered to men and challenged the novel’s theme of forgiveness, so I filled the town with oil roughnecks and ranchers—the kind of men who would have visited Guy Town back in the day. Ruby, the heroine in my book, has a deep mistrust of men, therefore I made sure Unforgiven was a place where women weren’t welcome. Often it is only when people are uncomfortable that they acknowledge the need to change.

Unforgiven is a safe haven for men. A place where roughnecks and cowboys check their morals and values at the door. The men have secrets and regrets. Their lives have been built on mistakes and bad decisions. At home the men answer to their wives or girlfriends but just like in Guy Town, there is no one in Unforgiven to hold them accountable for their actions or words.

Ruby is nothing like the wives and girlfriends who are at home waiting for their roughnecks and cowboys. She is as hard as the gemstone she’s named after. She, too, has secrets and has made her share of mistakes and bad judgment calls. The town is a reflection of Ruby—unforgiving and suspicious.

The best advice I can give about setting in a novel is to create a place that keeps your characters off-balance.  If you give the setting it’s own voice and viewpoint, it can help guide you in creating richer, more meaningful characters.

What’s the most unusual setting you’ve read in a book?


Marin Thomas writes Women’s Fiction for Berkley/NAL and western romance for Harlequin books. To date she has contracted over 35 projects for Harlequin. The Promise of Forgiveness (March 2016) is her first work of women’s fiction.

High Res Colored Photoaf9e7b_9bdd7616e076462e9fda0e3400dace17Marin grew up in Janesville, Wisconsin, and attended college at the University of Arizona where she played basketball for the Lady Wildcats and earned a B.A. in Radio-TV. Following graduation she married her college sweetheart in a five-minute ceremony at the historical Little Chapel of the West in Las Vegas, Nevada. Marin and her husband are recent empty nesters and currently live in Houston, Texas, where she spends her free time junk hunting and researching her next ghost tour.

 Buy the book!







Want to learn more about Guy Town?


Guest Post: Facing Fears In Writing And In Life by Author Julie Christine Johnson

Final_CoverWhat fears do you share with the characters in your novel? What fears or phobias do you give her that are not part of your life but that you want to explore? Today, debut novelist, Julie Christine Johnson shares with us a real life fear that worked its way into her novel, and how she — and her main character — have triumphed.

Share your story in the comments and please welcome Julie to WFW!

Amy xo

Continue reading

Guest Post: Persistence On The Road To Publication by Author Phoebe Fox

HEART CONDITIONS frontNothing fills my writer’s soul than hearing other author’s road to publication. Or their road to not being published yet. It reminds me that while writing is something we do on our own, our experiences are shared. One for all and all for one. 

Today, Phoebe Fox shares her journey to publication with us. She uses words like REJECTION and PERSISTENCE. Words every writer can relate to. 

Please welcome Phoebe to WFW and share your own stories of persistence in the comments! 

Amy xo

Continue reading

Guest Post: Do Readers Cross The Romance/Women’s Fiction Line? By Laura Drake

Thumbnail CoverWhat do my readers want from me? In today’s publishing climate, we’re often afraid to give something new a try, afraid of losing our readers, our followers, our mojo even. Sometimes our publishers are afraid as well, using the word “brand” to help us shape our new books. Staying within genre makes sense, but it’s not always possible. Especially when we have a story we want to tell that falls outside certain industry parameters. (I have a few floating around myself.)

Today we have with us, Laura Drake, multi-published, award-winning, romance author whose first women’s fiction title is releasing today! She wonders if fans of her romance novels will read her women’s fiction. Will the new readers she acquires with this book pop over and give her romance novels a try? Below, Laura shares with us her excitement and her fears for her new journey. She’s also sharing an short excerpt. 

Please welcome Laura Drake to WFW! And tell us what you think, in the comments.

Amy xo

Continue reading

Guest Post: How Author Sharon Maas Navigated The Pathways Of Publishing

winniecoverHappy New Year! We’re kicking off 2016 with post by multi-published author Sharon Maass, about her publishing journey. Publishing nowadays looks different to everyone. It’s different for everyone. Even authors on the same path encounter different rough patches, different times of great ease (wait, I’m not sure those exist). 

Today, Sharon will share with us her own story. And hip-hip-hooray — it has a happy ending for Sharon that culminates with the release of her latest novel, THE SECRET LIFE OF WINNIE COX. (Here’s another secret: it’s $2.99 for Kindle  and Kobo, and $3.99 for Nook!)

Please share your own journey, or any questions, in the comments.

Amy xo

Continue reading

Guest Post: Author Bette Lee Crosby Says “Write Where You Are.”

WHR - Ebook SmallWe’ve all heard it before. Write what you know. I’m not sure that always means what we think (a post for another day) but today, USA Today bestselling author Bette Lee Crosby puts her own spin on things with Write Where You Are. She was unintentionally inspired to write her new book, What the Heart Remembers, Book Three in the Memory House Series during a trip to Paris. 

How do you take advantage of where you are? And when was the last time you were unintentionally inspired?

Please welcome Bette Lee Crosby to WFW!

Amy xo 

Continue reading

Guest Post: Author Cora Ramos Travels Her Own Path To Inspiration. What’s Yours?

Lately I’ve been thinking about the inspiration for The Good Neighbor, because I now know, from experience, that’s what readers want to know. I’ve realized that this new novel sprung from several seeds, not just one. Today, author Cora Ramos shares with us her inspiring sources of inspiration. 

Please welcome Cora Ramos to WFW and tell us — what was your path to inspiration for one of your books or stories?

Amy xo

What Is The Path To Inspiration?

by Cora Ramos

Dance the Dream AwakeJust as there are plotters and pantsers, and writers who use Scrivener and those that must use pen/pencil and paper, so too we all find inspiration into our stories in different ways. There is no one path nor is it the same for every book. For me, it is through the senses that my work is brought into form; a painting, a song, a smell, the feel of a silk scarf or in the case of my first book, a déjà vu moment when all the sensory details came together in one poignant moment of time that changed me forever.

It started on a trip to the Yucatan, Mexico and a visit to the ruins of a little known complex of pyramids called Coba, most of which are yet to be excavated and restored. In one déjà vu moment, the pyramid came alive and my senses tapped into some reservoir within me that sensed there were certain places I could access in the pyramid. I followed the intuition of the moment and found a room in the center. I felt like I knew things, and smelled the past of a Mayan life there. There were feelings that confused me but when I got home after the trip, it stewed in my brain until one day when I had to quick–write a story for a teacher writing in-service. I remembered that experience and wrote it out.

Soon after, I visited a private writing class that a friend of mine took me to. I wrote out the scene and the teacher encouraged me to keep writing and join her class. Then I had to come up with a story. I wracked my brain for a plot and when it wouldn’t come, I took out paint and paper and did a quick painted a shamanic woman dancing around a fire. The story started to form in my mind and motivated me to start writing even though I had no idea where it would go—yeah a pantser.

That began the long journey of learning how to write while plotting out a story that is now published with Black Opal Books, Dance the Dream Awake. Many of the experiences I had on that journey to Mexico were woven into the story.

My second novel, Haiku Dance, came about in a surprising way. I was writing a sequel to my first book, in the viewpoint of the male character. I have a samurai sword that inspired me to choose a Japanese past life. The paranormal element in my stories is past lives, and this past life would be in Japan, 980 A.D. in the Heian Era. That era is one of the jewels in the history of Japan, marked by the first novels written by women—the pillow books of Japan, The Tale of Genji, written by Murasaki Shikibu, being the most famous.

There is an element of letting go (which is why I can’t be a plotter in the beginning) and feeling your way through to the story to the moment of inspiration. It can come from anywhere but for me it is through the sensory details I seek out wherever I go, or some sensory element remembered in a moment of reverie.

cora head shot 3Cora J. Ramos is an award winning author of short stories of mystery and suspense that straddle the edge-whether that edge is the paranormal, a deadly decision or the place where science ends and magic resides. A collection of her stories can be found in the anthology,Valley Fever, Where Murder is Contagious; stories set in the San Joaquin Valley of California.
She is the author of DANCE THE DREAM AWAKE, a present day romantic suspense with a captivating Mayan past life.
Her newest novel, HAIKU DANCE is awaiting publication this year—a spicy historical romance of a samurai and a courtier in the Emperor’s court of ancient Heian Japan, 980 A.D. at the time when the Tales of Genji, Sarashina Diary and The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon were written.

Guest Post: No Mystery At All: NYT Bestselling Mystery Author Juliet Blackwell Writes Great Women’s Fiction

9780451473691 (4)Do we choose what we write? Or does what we write, choose us? It’s kind of like how many licks it takes to get to the middle of a Tootsie Pop. The world may never know. But we do know, that as writers, we think about genre and the kind of story we want to tell. What if that changes? Do you dare genre hop in this publishing climate, make new writer friends, join new groups, learn the new rules?

Today we have with us Juliet Blackwell, esteemed mystery author who has now taken a leap into women’s fiction. Find out why she wrote this book, and maybe more importantly, how.

And yes, we’re (totally door-cover-sisters, I know). 

Please welcome Juliet Blackwell to WFW!

Amy xo

My Mysterious Path to Women’s Fiction (Or how—and why—a New York Times bestselling mystery author decided to turn her hand to women’s fiction)

by Juliet Blackwell

Continue reading

Guest Post: Author Densie Webb Confesses She Steals Like An Artist

densieI’m so excited about this guest post by Densie Webb today because I’m totally on-board. In my upcoming novel, The Good Neighbor, there’s definitely a “stealing” story which I’ll share! So it’s good to know I’m in amazing company — Densie included!

Share in the comments where your ideas come from! 

And please welcome Densie Webb back to WFW!

Amy xo

I Steal Like An Artist, Don’t You?

by Densie Web

densieArt is theft.Pablo Picasso

Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet wields his theft into a whole of feeling, which is unique, utterly different from that from which it was torn.T.S. Eliot

There is nothing new under the sun.—Ecclesiastes 1:9

As writers, nothing we create is original. There, I said it. But, even that is not an original thought. The greats, like Picasso and Eliot, even the Bible, it seems, were bold enough to admit it long before I typed those words. As writers, creators, dreamers, we all like to think that our ideas, our words, our stories are unique. But we’re all hoarders. We watch, we listen, we read, we observe. We collect. And when we’re good and ready, we raid our collection for the perfect thing to slip into our stories.

In the very first audio post on Women’s Fiction Writers (September 3rd), Amy interviewed author Holly Robinson, who said that writers are magpies. Brilliant. European folklore has it that magpies are compulsive thieves of bright, shiny things that they collect in their nests in order to lure a mate. Instead of hoping to lure a mate, writers hope to lure readers with their bright, shiny stories. (Well, maybe some of us hope to lure a mate.)

I hadn’t really given the idea of artistic thievery much thought until a couple of years ago, when I was at the Texas Book Festival. I live in Austin, TX and each year the city hosts this awesome event, where hundreds of authors of all shapes, sizes and genres from all over the world convene in the State’s Capitol building and inhabit Congress Avenue for one weekend in October. It’s Christmas morning, the eight days of Hanukkah, your anniversary, and the best birthday party ever, all rolled into one. That year, I was lucky enough to listen to Austin author, Austin Kleon, who wrote Steal Like An Artist. I bought his book on the spot. Here’s the first page, which he gave me permission to steal:

Every artist gets asked the question,

“Where do you get your ideas?”

The honest artist answers,

“I steal them.”

His book is filled with examples of the best and brightest in their fields and how they borrow and build upon what already exists. Pro athletes and musicians, writers and poets are all “guilty.”

Here is where I fess up as to how I stole like an artist in my debut novel, “You’ll Be Thinking of Me.”

Family and friends—Listen to them. No, really listen. There are pearls in there that you may never have manufactured on your own. And they’ll slip by in conversation unless you’re constantly in scan mode. My 24-year old son, in talking about his 20-year old sister hanging with her gaggle of girlfriends, said, “Did she go into a gossip coma?” I felt all the neurons in my brain light up. A “gossip coma”? Yes! And it made its way into my book.

A good friend of mine always sticks her cell phone in her bra. That way, she always knows where it is. And yes, one of my characters pulls her cell phone out of her bra, making for an interesting scene with the male protagonist as she retrieves it and hands it to him.

A friend and colleague, whom I’ve known for over twenty years in my day job, travels internationally and is always a source of interesting stories. She was telling me of her latest adventure and I said something about how amazing it sounded and she responded with, “Yeah, sometimes I feel like I’m living vicariously through my own life.” I didn’t even have to write it down. It was imprinted on my brain and now it’s printed on the page, uttered by one of my characters.

Newspapers and magazinesThe New York Times and The Wall Street Journal are language sources that can’t be beat. If you don’t read the Wall Street Journal, I would highly recommend it. There are wonderful personal stories in there amid the financial news that feature awesome writing. And The New York Times may be the “old gray lady,” but the language, especially in op-eds or columns like “Modern Love,” which talks a lot about emotions, are gold mines of language.

I read an interview in Entertainment Weekly a few years ago with a celeb, who was not aging well, and the writer pointed out his “leathery pecs.” I knew immediately which of my characters would have “leathery pecs” and that’s in there as well.

Literally decades ago I read a magazine article that used the term “the sappy look of desire.” So descriptive. It was in my word collection all those years and I pulled it out and was thrilled that I was finally able to use it in a story.

Movies—The whole premise of my novel grew from a red carpet interview of a young actor, who was wildly popular at the time. He was asked, “So, where do you think it could go from here?” referring to all the screaming girls and obsessive media attention. He chuckled and said something to the effect that someone could jump out from the crowd and stab him and it would all be over. It was like an electric shock, a revelation of just how vulnerable celebrities are and it was the seed from which my story grew.

Music—Too many “thefts” to count. I constantly listen to music., when I walk, when I work, when I write. Spotify is my go-to source and I get more than my money’s worth each month. One of my characters has to forgive himself for something he’s done. I dubbed it a “slow-spun redemption.” Great turn of phrase. But it’s not original. It’s from a song lyric. Music lyrics are overflowing with clichés, but hidden in between the worn out sentiments about love and heartache are beautifully descriptive words, phrases and emotions that you can “steal” and make your own. (But, never, ever use whole lyrics intact. You’ll be setting yourself up for a lawsuit.)

My life—The whole story takes place in New York, where I lived for 13 years. One of the opening scenes takes place in Zabars, a gourmet institution on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. I used to pass by every day on my way to work and often dropped by on my way home. I can still smell the aged cheeses, the freshly baked bread, the sawdust on the floor. Zabar’s is front and center in my second chapter.

While I was writing the novel, my sweet dog of 17 ½ years died. It was a gut-wrenching experience, but it provided a deep well of emotion to dip into and pour onto the page. I now have a 16-month old pup, I’ve dubbed “devil dog.” I already know his antics will make its way into a future novel.

I like to think that most of the words, the phrases in my story originated with me. But the odds are they’ve all been used somewhere before. The examples here may have been “stolen,” but their use, their placement, their application, their meaning within my story are uniquely mine. And I can comfortably take credit for that. So, the next time someone asks me where I get my ideas, I hope I can be as honest as Austin Kelon and say, “I steal them.”

Densie Webb_2013Densie Webb’s debut novel, You’ll Be Thinking of Me (Soul Mate Publishing, 2015) is the story of a young woman’s serendipitous encounter with a celebrity, a brush with obsessive love, and the bittersweet gift left behind by the very person fixated on destroying her life. Densie’s book was just released in paperback and is also available as an ebook and an audiobook. While she still spends her days writing and editing stories about health and nutrition, she writes fiction in the evenings and weekends and is currently working on her second and third novels.

Check out YOU’LL BE THINKING OF ME on Goodreads! There’s a GIVEAWAY!

Guest Post: Debut Author Kristin Contino On Making An Old Story New Again

TLOU_Perfect_364_PRINTLooking back through a long thread of emails, it seems I met Kristin Contino in 2012 when we were both members of the same author group. Then Kristin reviewed The Glass Wives and came to my Philadelphia area book signing in 2013! I also worked as a freelance editor on one of Kristin’s projects.

I’d say we’re intertwined the way only authors can be.

And now Kristin is a debut author!


Today you’ll read how Kristin persevered, wrote through the madness and disappointment, and how THE LEGACY OF US is an old story turned new again— and is published TODAY! 

Please welcome Kristin to WFW!

Amy xo

Continue reading