Notes on the Writing Craft: Romantic Tension, a guest blog by Donna Schlachter

Sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? After all, who wants romance and tension at the same time? You do. I do. And readers do, too.

Romance draws your male and female protagonists together with promises of a happy ending inherent. Tension is what keeps them apart throughout the story, raises questions about whether they should be together, causes them to assess their goals and priorities, offers an opportunity for the antagonist to have a say in the matter, and keeps the story moving forward.

Face it, if boy meets girl, boy gets girl in the first chapter, the romance is pretty much tied in a knot for the rest of the story.

So how do we create the tension in a romance without having the characters constantly fighting, breaking up, and making up? One or two rounds of that in a story is more than enough.

Each character needs to have a backstory. Not about where he went to college or what kind of car she drives. This romantic backstory should include past relationships, the lie the character believes about themselves, their dreams or goals regarding their romantic future, and the obstacles that keeps them from achieving their romantic goal.

For example, Bob had a girlfriend in college who dumped him for a rich frat guy. The lie he believes is that no girl could possibly love him for himself; he needs to make lots of money and be successful. The problem is that the more he works and the more stuff he acquires, the less time he has for a girlfriend.

Sue longs to have the marriage her parents had. They fell in love in sixth grade and were together ever since. But, the guy she fell in love with in high school ended up getting her pregnant and then leaving her before the baby was born. The lie she believes is that there are no happily-ever-afters, and no man is going to want her. She’s damaged goods. So she holds all men at arm’s length.

In your story, you could have Bob meet Sue at work. He’s attracted to her but manages to work through every date he makes with her, which confirms her belief that no man should be depended on. Sue doesn’t tell Bob about her daughter, so she has to work hard to keep that secret, and when Bob finds out, he believes she’s just like every other woman—out to take what she can get. After all, she probably tried to trick some poor guy into marrying her by getting pregnant.

Bob’s beliefs and Sue’s are at odds with each other. If they both stick to their guns, they won’t get together.

Work them through their problems, get them to change their belief system, and get them together by the end of the book, or at least to a point where the reader understands there’s a very good chance they will get together.

IMG_6534  Juggling the books - smaller


About Donna:

Donna writes historical suspense from Denver Colorado. Sometimes she writes contemporary suspense using her pen name, Leeann Betts. You can subscribe to their blogs at and She and Leeann are active on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. Check out their websites at and .

Dreams Come True, a guest post by Alexis Goring

My dream since age 9 was to write books that are made into movies.

Since then, I worked hard to make the dream come true by taking every good opportunity to be properly trained and grow as a writer.

A few years ago, God allowed the dream of my heart to come true on one level. Crossbooks (the former imprint of B&H Publishing Group) published my first book, an inspirational romance novella called Hope in My Heart: A Collection of Heartwarming Stories. Another dream came true when Barnes & Noble hosted me for a book signing!

As I wait for my biggest dream for my writing career to come true (my books becoming movies), I am developing my skills as a writer by reading books in my genre (inspirational romance), brushing up on my skill set and practicing techniques that I’m learning from notable books about writing.

Now I do not know if my first book will be made into a movie. I’d love that, but I do realize that it’s my first book and that’s rare. However, it happens! Rebecca Donovan, indie author of The Breathing Series, not only had sky-high success in the publishing of her first novel, but Hollywood picked it up and decided to make it into a movie!

My point here is dreams come true. Rebecca tried to get into publishing the traditional route—get an agent, a book deal and sign a writing contract with a traditional publisher. But when doors kept slamming, she decided to go indie and it worked out better than she could ever imagined. Just so you know, it’s not every day that people who publish their books independently (hence the term “indie”) have sky-high sales and Hollywood knocking on your door. It’s not normal.

Oh but isn’t it wonderful that when God is moving behind-the-scenes in your life, He can take ordinary circumstances and create something extraordinary!

Much like my fictional character Elle from the story “Peace and Love” (the last story in my first book), I am waiting on another dream of my heart to come true.

When my readers meet Elle, she’s on the hunt for a full-time job with benefits that will allow her to be creative as an artist and earn sustainable income. So she drives down from Michigan to the Washington, D.C. area because she landed interviews in Maryland, Virginia and D.C. Elle’s job hunt is filled with ups and downs and she is tempted to give up hope. I won’t give away the ending, but I will tell you that Elle’s faith in God and continued trust in His plan for her life plays a deciding role in whether or not her dreams come true.

Trusting in God no matter what happens is a life skill that will bring you much joy and peace. So as I wait for my dreams to come true, I’m learning to be content in where I am in life, continuing to seek God daily and trusting Him to provide.

The Bible says in Jeremiah 29:11 that God has good plans for my life and I believe it. The best part is God has good plans for you too! God’s promises found in The Bible are true and apply to all who believe in Him. So today, I encourage you to choose to trust God’s perfect timing in making your dreams come true.


About the Book

Hope in My Heart is a collection of short, heartwarming stories with characters in need of hope.

In “Love Unexpected,” a car crash brings commitment-wary Sebastian and career woman Chandra together. Neither is looking for romance, but those around them see the potential, and Sebastian and Chandra discover that sometimes love shows up unexpectedly.

Christmastime is the setting for the middle story, “The Best Gift.” Christina desires to lose ten pounds so she can fit into her dress for her sister’s wedding. Jordan wishes her mom would stop trying to marry her off. And Joshua hopes to be reunited with his ex-girlfriend but eventually learns that the best gift this Christmas will be the restoration of his relationship with God.

In “Peace and Love,” three characters living in a metropolitan area are desperately searching. Elle, a starving artist, aspires to become a paid professional. Eric, a divorce attorney, wants to resolve his issues concerning his parents’ divorce. Kristine anticipates finding her birth mom before she marries Derek. All characters pray their searches will conclude this holiday season and fill their hearts with peace and love.

 You can purchase it at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books A Million, Christianbook or Lifeway 

About Alexis Goring

Alexis Goring

Alexis A. Goring is a writer at heart and a journalist by profession. She loves the art of storytelling and is especially delighted to have released her first book, an inspirational romance novella called Hope in My Heart: A Collection of Heartwarming Stories, in Sept. 2013. When Alexis is not working on her next book or chasing down the next big story for the newspaper where she works as a freelance reporter, she can be found listening to songs by her most admired musicians, enjoying the food in cafes/restaurants, shopping at her favorite malls and spending quality time with loved ones (family and friends).  Visit her online at her website, Facebook or Twitter


How to Keep a Love Journal (And why!)

how to keep a love journal
How to Keep a Love Journal (The Why)

Keeping a journal is a simple way to track the inner workings of your soul. I first read about this in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. She calls it Morning Pages, but I call it love journaling because as I kept up with this writing practice,  it helped me  invite more love into my life. Not just love towards others, but love towards God and love towards my self.

Whenever your pen touches paper and your mind connects to your thoughts, something special occurs. All the stuff fizzing around in your brain, the good, the bad and the ugly, rises to the surface and you are forced to deal with it. If you press through the not-so-pretty parts of love journaling, you’ll discover how to invite more goodness into your life.

Yeah, that sounds very heady and philosophical, but it’s pretty simple. Love journaling is all about paying attention to your inner self, the secret place that houses your fears and worries and insecurities. Whenever you love journal, gone are the days of stuffing your feelings in a bucket and pretending they don’t exist.

We have a bazillion thoughts running through our minds every day: insecure thoughts, fearful thoughts, selfish thoughts, kind thoughts, noble thoughts, but we may never give them proper attention. Left ignored, those thoughts fester and blister and boil and pop up in our lives in not-so-pretty ways. They often take the form of bad habits, wrong thinking and destructive relationships. In other words: drama. I, for one, don’t need drama. Keeping up with a 4 year old and a 2 year old provides me with ample drama already :-)

How to Keep a Love Journal (The How)

Here are three simple ways you can keep a love journal and start the love process in your own life:

Step One: Get a notebook.

Any notebook will do. Right now I have a blank, one subject spiral notebook. When I finish with it, I plan to continue journaling in these lovely black soft bound medium journals from Barnes and Noble. (Hint: If you want to buy me something for Christmas, this is it.) I haven’t used them yet, but all the reviews say lovely things and since I’m part of American consumer culture, I’ll buy them. I even make sporadic trips to Office Max and Staples and oogle over their pens and notebooks and post it notes. Sad but true.

Step Two: Get a pen.

Yeah, you need a pen to write. You cannot journal on a computer. Using your own hand to write your own thoughts is key. It builds a physical connection which makes all the thoughts which arise during a journaling session more immediate and real. I’ve tried many different pens. Right now I’m using Bic pens because I like to see the ink level decrease as I write, makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something worthwhile. (I’m weird like that.)

Step three: Write 1-3 pages of your first thoughts when you wake up in the morning.

Do this before the day catches up with you. This enables you to clearly monitor your thoughts. When I started to love journal, my first thoughts were basically all about the to-do list I kept in my head. You know what I’m talking about:

I have to buy milk before we run out.

Oh, I need to mail off that telephone bill before the 8th.

Man, look at that mountain of laundry in the corner of my bedroom, will I ever get to it?

I hope the kids don’t wake up early today, I need some quiet time to myself.

Blah, blah blah.

After that stuff rose to the surface, all the self-conscious, human thoughts made their Grand Entrance.

Why did she say that to me? Does she like me? 

I really need to get a handle on my carbohydrate intake. Today is the day for a new beginning…again.

Gosh, this story I’m writing isn’t coming together. What IS the story I’m writing?

I hope I didn’t offend such and such when I did that.

Blah, blah, blah.

Then, some kind and gentle thoughts nudged me. I knew this was the voice of the Holy Spirit. He said two things:

1) I needed to be more kind and loving to my self.

2) I needed to be more self-protective of my heart.

I didn’t know what that meant when I first wrote it out, but whenever situations popped up, I would be reminded of those two directives. If I listened to them, things turned out well. If I ignored them, I got (you guessed it) DRAMA!

After love journaling, I read a portion of the Bible. That’s when I receive God’s thoughts. They always cemented those Holy Spirit nudges and corrected my faulty thinking patterns. It’s like early morning corrective surgery…every single day!

Keeping a love journal is a lifelong process, and I’m committed to doing it for the long haul.

How about you? Do you keep a journal? How has journaling helped your life?

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How Do Blossoms Bloom? a guest post by Ada Brownell

Weird how character almost take over a story and write it themselves.

I’m working on the sequel to The Lady Fugitive, and when I wrote that book I felt as if I were the reader instead of the writer. Things kept happening and I hated to stop working because I wanted to see what happened next.

I’m having a similar experience with the sequel, still unnamed. Several of these characters appeared in the first book, too. Jennifer Louise Parks’ brother, John Lincoln Parks is the main character. He’s trying to rebuild his parents’ peach and horse ranch in Peachville, Colo., after a wicked uncle nearly ruined it.

But John’s also looking for a wife, and the elegant and beautiful Valerie MacDougal who served as Jenny’s maid of honor nearly a year ago, appears to fill the bill. But since her first husband’s death, she’s spending her mourning with her parents and little son in Boston.

Yet, Valerie visits Peachville, and when she leaves, she promises to write. John gives her a goodbye kiss at the train station she’s sure to remember.

But trouble and distractions appear out of nowhere.

A gorgeous redhead, Roberta Bellea Peabody, appeared in John’s  barn loft in the process of birthing a baby. Then the mother of the wealthy young man who raped the young woman shows up and wants the foundling—her grandson. The baby’s father also tries to get the newborn because he fears his mother might cut off his gambling money.

When the pasture fence is broken down and John’s new stallion escapes along with about a dozen other horses, the babe’s father, Wellington Davenport, is the first suspect on John’s list.

Further complicating John’s life is Edwina Jorgenson. Jenny believes Edwina has been in love with John since they were in grade school together. But Ed is running her father’s ranch since a rough ride on a wild bronco put him in a wheelchair. Edwina, even in 1909, not only wears pants most of the time, she seldom styles her hair except for the one long braid, and wears a gun on her hip. Add her temper and a nosey personality. Not a picture of what John envisions as wife potential. He knows her well, enjoys her company, but surprises her once in awhile doing things for her, such as washing dishes when she’s had a bad day.

That’s what helped John decide Edwina’s house would be the perfect place for Roberta Bellea Peabody. Bellea could earn some money, help take care of Edwina’s pa, and do the cooking and cleaning while caring for the little tot in the cradle.

Also in the book is Stu, the 12-year-old son of Jenny and William. He’s spending the summer while his adoptive parents go to Iowa with intentions of taking over a farm there. Shortly after he arrived on John’s ranch, the orphan Jenny and William found on the streets of Yucca Blossom caused a runaway with the team harnessed to a wagon. John attempted to show Stu how to drive a team of horses, but then had to take over the reins.

Here’s an excerpt:

The horses already galloped too fast for Stu to control them. A dust cloud made it a little difficult to see the road. A bump hit one of the wheels.

“Wow! You got that jack rabbit!” Giggles filled the air.

“Whoa! Whoa!” John pulled the reins to his chest.

“It felt like the wagon took that curve with two wheels!” More giggles.

“Whoa! Whoa!”

“I don’t think they hear you!” The giggles turned into deeper laughter, but Stu clung to John like a sand burr.

“I forgot about that mare having a colt in the barn,” John mumbled.


“Whoa there Nellie!”

A man and a woman in a buggy approached ahead. John did get the team over to the right long enough for the couple to pass on the left, fear enlarging their eyes.

“Oooohhhh! That was close!” Stu had sobered some.

Stu was going to get another lesson on how to drive a team—soon.


In The Lady Fugitive, you’ll see lots more of Stuart’s antics, animals that bring smiles, interesting and fascinating characters, suspense galore, and a romance that has a difficult time blooming. But when it does—wow!


About The Lady Fugitive

How does a respected elocutionist become a face on a wanted poster?

Jenny Louise Parks escapes from the coal bin, and her abusive uncle offers a handsome reward for her return. Because he is a judge, he will find her or he won’t inherit her parents’ ranch.

Determination to remain free grips Jenny, especially after she meets William and there’s a hint of romance. But while peddling household goods and showing a Passion of the Christ moving picture, he discovers his father’s brutal murder.

Will Jenny avoid the bounty hunters? Can she forgive the person who turns her in?

3 Elements of A Good Kiss

Elements of a Good Kiss

A kiss (or lack thereof) communicates volumes in a marriage. Whether it’s that kiss goodbye as you head out the door in the morning or a kiss given during your regular date night (You are going on regular dates, right? If not, read this post for ideas.), kissing is like the temperature gauge in a relationship.

It’s easy to not take the time to nurture our marriages, especially when you have a busy life with children and activities and multiples demands on your time. So…what to do if your marriage is suffering from a kissing drought?

Kiss! (Simple isn’t it?) If you haven’t kissed your spouse in a while, set a reasonable goal for yourself, something like: I’ll kiss my husband when he’s on his way out the door or: I’ll greet him at the end of the day with a kiss. Keep a visual reminder handy so that you can remember to kiss. Personally, I’m a checklist person, so jotting it down on paper helps me. Yes, I know that sounds very unromantic, but if I didn’t jot it down, I could forget.

3 Elements of a Good Kiss

When you plant a kiss on your husband, make sure all your bases are covered. There are three foundational things to a good kiss that every person should keep in mind: the lips, the breath and the tongue. I’ll break it down for you:


No stinky breath, please. Brushing and flossing twice a day keeps the stinky breath away. You may think being married gives you a perfect excuse to have halitosis because, he’ll love you anyway, but DON’T DO IT. That is gross.

And no heavy breathing, either. Personally, heavy breathing reminds me of stalkers. Maybe it’s from watching too many horror and thriller movies growing up. Heavy breathing is not on the same level as stinky breath, but it does give me a creepy feeling, so keep your inhales and exhales relaxed and normal, please.


The dry, cracked bleeding lips have got to go. Keeping yourself well hydrated through the day will prevent this as well as a healthy slather of lip gloss or chap stick. Some women prefer lipstick, others don’t so I’ll leave that up to you. Whatever you do, keep those lips soft and kissable!

There are two types of ways to kiss: open mouthed and closed mouthed. I write romance and whenever I get to a part of the story where the hero and heroine kiss, the type of kiss I write depends on the emotions of the story moment. If there has been a lot of emotional connection prior to the kiss in the story, then typically I write an open mouthed kiss. If there has been tension and stress between the hero and heroine or if they are preoccupied with another, unrelated activity (like cooking), I’d write a tight lipped, forced kiss.

However, in real life, make sure you are in a right place emotionally when kissing your spouse.


To French kiss or not French, that is the question.

Whatever you decide, sloppy, saliva laden tongues are icky. If you French kiss, keep it as clean as possible. Also, forceful French kissing, like heavy breathing, is stalker-like. Make sure that any use of the tongue is natural to the moment and not contrived or forced. (Wow, I’m sounding like a user manual, lol.)

There you have it, three elements of a good kiss. What have been your hindrances to kissing? What could you do about it?


Have you downloaded this week’s free printable Love Calendar? Get your copy here.

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