Practical Advice for Beginning Fiction Writers by Stefan Vucak

So, you want to be a writer, eh? I’d suggest you take up golf instead. Still determined?

I’m not going to talk about why you want to write. That’s a story in itself. You have read widely and perhaps dabbled at writing some short pieces, and after seeing what’s out there, you’re telling yourself it can’t be that hard. You can do a much better job and you’ve made up your mind to prove to everybody you can do it. You also decided that you can take the pain, the loneliness, frustration and exasperation that goes with writing. Have you? If you haven’t, do think about it. Writing a 300 page book means many hours with a pen, notebook and computer. Time where you don’t want to be interrupted by anything or anybody. Still want to inflict this on yourself?

When I started, I had grand dreams about getting published and my books in every store in the world. I’d be famous! Perhaps you might make it, but before you jump into the writing tar pit, knock any expectations you may have about fame and money out of your mind. If you want to write for money, become a journalist or a freelancer. Better still, get a paying job. That’s my first bit of advice. The second:  forget about becoming famous. If you are honest with yourself, you will understand that you are driven to write, and you want to share what you have written with somebody. Everything else is secondary. If you don’t have that fire burning inside you, goading you to write, never leaving you alone, than you’re kidding yourself. Remember what I said about golf?

Okay, let’s get serious. Like any profession, writing is a craft and there are tools you must master to be any good at it. What did Einstein say? Ten percent inspiration and ninety percent perspiration? He got that right. Having a story idea is nothing. Getting it down on paper in a form readers will not want to put down is everything. As with anything new, practice makes perfect. If you haven’t already, write some short stories. Why? The effort will tell you how good you are at manipulating words, creating sentences, scene breaks and chapters. It will show you if you have problems with plotting, whether you are a character or action writer; whether you like prose, dialogue or are in love with flowery adjectives. By the way, drown those adjectives - most of them anyway, or take up poetry. You need to find your voice. You need to discover your writing style with which you are most relaxed and one that doesn’t impede the flow of words. Stilted, awkward narrative and dialogue is death, regardless of how good the story itself might be. Don’t try to imitate an author you like. You must be true to yourself.

Some basic things that get overlooked, but are important:

-   Format your manuscript correctly. Use 1 inch margins all around and have a proper header: Author Name/Book Title at left, and page numbering at right. Amazing how many people get this wrong.
-   Use double spacing with your sentences, and don’t right justify the text. That part comes later when the book gets published.
-   Always use the word processor’s automatic paragraph indenting. Have a hard page break, never one you create using the Enter key to space down the page.

There are other small things, but the idea is to get the fundamentals right before you put down that first word. Believe me, it will help in the long run. Why do all that? Firstly, submission editors have rules on manuscript formatting, but more importantly, you are developing yourself into a professional, not some amateur who hopes a brilliant story will carry you over all the bad parts. Long ago, editors helped iron out poorly written manuscripts, but those days are long gone. Today, your manuscript must be perfect, ready for typesetting and printing.

Become your worst enemy! You need to develop editorial skills and be prepared to cut that favorite word, phrase, sentence or paragraph. Never, never become so attached to your writing that you cannot prune. Like a shrub that needs cutting in order to make the whole live, you must be prepared to trim your writing. I know. It’s like hacking off an arm, but you must become inured to the pain, your eyes set on the end product. It takes time and practice, but it’s worth the effort. If you don’t do it, your editor certainly will. He will do it anyway just to demonstrate his superiority over us lesser mortals. Grin and bear it, and have a bourbon.

Develop a disciplined approach to writing. You would never build a house without proper architectural drawings. In the same way, never jump into writing that book without having thoroughly researched your subject and written a detailed outline and worked every plot angle. Careful not to get carried away with the outline or you’ll end up writing what should really be ‘real’ writing. An outline is a skeleton on which you write the book around. And like any skeleton, every bone must be in place or things will start to fall off when you begin to write. That’s called writer’s block, and can drive you to thoughts of jumping off tall buildings. It can also result in a book that will be all disjointed and pieces won’t fit. You can write a short story on the fly, and I’ve done it, but not a full-length novel. I have seen results of such amateurish writing and I still shudder when I think of them.

Develop your characters. There is nothing worse than coming across a character that has blue eyes in one chapter and brown in another. There is more to it than that, of course, but you get the idea. Every major character in your book should be fully developed, like a police mug sheet. And like that mug sheet, it should contain everything: height, color of hair, distinguishing features, mannerisms, likes and get the idea. This not only beds down the character in your own mind, but enforces a consistency of behavior by that character. If you have given your character a quirky mannerism, you can use it with confidence throughout the book. It will also make your reader comfortable, knowing you will not spring a surprise on him. If your character is a badass, keep him that way. Don’t introduce a brand new mannerism way down the book simply to make a point.

There are lots more things I could talk about here that every author needs in his toolbox, but I have to do some writing on my own novel. You will run into mental potholes, wander why you’re bothering, thinking that drinking your way out will help, but there is one thing you must always keep in mind. Writing can be tremendously satisfying. There is nothing like the buzz you get when the words flow and everything clicks together. The pure joy of creation can be giddying - and addictive. Once hooked, I’m afraid there is no cure, and no cold turkey withdrawal will help.

Still want to be a writer? On your head be it.

Thanks so much for visiting us today, Stefan!

PictureGuest Blogger Bio


Stefan Vucak is an award-winning author of the sci-fi Shadow Gods series of books. His contemporary political thriller Cry of Eagles has won the coveted 2011 Readers Favorite silver medal award.


Twitter: @stefanvucak

The Benefits of Social Networking

Okay, so we’ve all heard that to make it in the new publishing world, we have to promote, promote, promote!  Sigh.  Unfortunately, it’s true.  It is important to maintain author accounts on significant social networking sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.  Did I miss any?  Probably.  I’ve heard Pinterest is up and coming, but that is not what I’m going to talk about here.

LinkedIn was at one time a social networking site for mainly the business world.  Now, it still is, but tons of people use it.  If you do decide to create an account on LinkedIn, make sure you connect to as many people as possible.  As I have tons of accounts (one for each pen name…LOL), this is a hard thing to do.  For the benefit of this blog, I’ll only mention my Marie Lavender identity.  LOL.  To this day, it still gets me that I have so many pen names, but I digress.

On LinkedIn, I have 1126 connections.  What?  How did that happen?  Network, network, network.  If someone wants to connect with you, do it.  The more connections you have, the more potential readers you’ll have.  Or peers.  Fellow writers always come in handy because you can ask them questions.  And they may recommend you to someone else.  Cool, right?  Mostly, I do it because I feel an affinity with other writers.  We’re all going through the same thing.  Also, try to reach out to as many people as you can and connect with them.  If LinkedIn is suggesting you connect with five people, take the suggestion.  LinkedIn will make suggestions depending on if you happen to be connected to someone else in that person’s network.  LinkedIn has a three tier system for networking.  The first level is who you’re connected to.  The second is who those people are connected to.  And the third…well, for the most part you don’t need to be concerned with them.  They are so out of your reach, it would be a miracle if you ever connected to people like them.  Think Bill Gates.  But, if you happen to connect to Bill Gates, good for you.  Those “third” connections are persons of influence.  

So, on to my next thing about LinkedIn.  The other way to gain more connections is to join groups.  Yes, I did say “groups”.  Discussion groups are a time-consuming process, but believe me, they foster a lot of learning and networking.  Try to join discussion groups that have a lot of members, and are about a subject you’re genuinely interested in.  If you like making pottery, don’t join a comic book club.  You get the idea.  And LinkedIn lets you have about 50 groups, so you have a lot to choose from.  Considering there’s about a million discussion groups on LinkedIn (I could be exaggerating...then maybe I'm not), you have your work cut out for you.  In some cases, the moderator of the group will have to approve you to let you in.  Nowadays, a lot of discussion groups are becoming open groups so it may be easier for you.  

Once you are in a group, you can post discussions.  Yes, some people take this to the extreme and use it as an advertising tool.  “Please look at my book….please go to my website…buy my pet rocks…”  But, this is a sure-proof way to get the moderator to block you or boot you from the group.  You can advertise, but please, oh please…do it sparingly.  The thing you want to focus on here is the discussions posted asking someone else’s opinion about a topic or advice.  If you have something to say, comment on the discussion.  Be mindful of your image, however.  You can choose to follow the discussion, and you will receive email notifications about other comments from group members.  And if you’d like to post a question, go ahead.  In most cases, you will get a response.  You will get a ton of emails once you join a group though.  Not only because of these discussions you participated in, but because of the discussions posted in the group overall.  You’ll receive updates.  Thankfully, you can change your notification settings when you click on each group.  You can tell it to only send those once a day, once a week, etc.  Take advantage of that, or you’ll end up screaming in frustration at the craziness in your inbox.  

The other thing you can do on LinkedIn is create a discussion group.  If you really feel there aren’t many groups that interest you and you think there’s a niche for it, then make one.  Be sure to make the rules for the group clear, and the description as accurate as possible.  You can invite your connections to the group.  You can sit and wait for people to join.  In some cases, it totally works.  In others, not so much.  Really consider what you’re doing when you start a discussion group.  For one of my accounts, I created a romance writing discussion group, and it has gone very well.   People are posting discussions all of the time.  For another account, that didn’t go so well.  I had plenty of members, but no one wanted to say anything.  You will have to post the occasional discussion in your group to actually foster discussion.  And moderation is very important.  You will have to approve members quite often and approve discussions.  Occasionally, you’ll get someone that posts the same topic/advertising tool like crazy, and you have to delete those posts or it will make the group look bad.  In some cases, you may have to tell that person the group is not a forum to advertise, but a “discussion” group.  Again, I digress.  But, forming a group can be a powerful tool, if that’s what you want to do and you have the time to moderate it.

There are ways of advertising on LinkedIn.  Yes, you can send a blitz of messages to your connections, but you may get some pretty hateful replies in return.  LinkedIn has paid advertising just like Google, if you want to do that.  LinkedIn offers free accounts as well, but there are paid accounts that will give you more power.  Do that if your budget allows it.  For most of us writers, at least at the start of our careers, our budgets are pretty meager so we have to evaluate things like this.

On to the next tool.  Facebook.  Facebook can be a pretty useful medium.  Once you have an account, you can “friend” people.  At first, it might seem like you don’t know anybody.  You want to look up your friends from high school?  You can do that.  You want to connect with other writers?  You can do that.  Facebook will suggest friends for you like LinkedIn does.  Take the suggestion.  The more friends you have, the better.  Right now, I have 870 friends.  Also, if you are an author, you will want to find fellow author’s pages and “like” them.  They will likely connect with you and “like” your page if you have one.  Like other people’s pages if you want too.  

Yes, you can create a page.  It’s free, and it’s a very useful tool.  You can create an author page and a page for each of your books.  For some writers, this is very nice because once they reach the maximum amount of friends that Facebook allows, they can refer people to this page.  If you are connecting with other authors, you’ll understand exactly what I mean very shortly.  Then, you want to try to get people to “like” your page (or pages, if you have more than one).  Sure, you can message people like crazy, but this can also get a pretty unsavory response.  Believe me.  LOL.  You don’t want that can of worms.  

The best thing to do next is to join some discussion groups.  “Oh, no!” you say.  Not more discussion groups.  Yes, my minions.  LOL.  Just kidding.  You should join more groups.  On Facebook, you really don’t need to join that many.  Between five or ten is a good number.  Sometimes people will automatically add you to their groups, which can be good and bad.  You can choose to leave at anytime, of course, just liked you can on LinkedIn.  Within these groups, you can post questions and present topics.  

The other thing is “events”.  You may get invited to join “events.”  Sometimes it’s a book signing or release.  You can choose to join or decline.  Or click “maybe” if you don’t know yet.  In my case on two of my accounts, it was a “Liking” event.  This was very, very cool because a bunch of authors joined it.  And all of us started “liking” each other’s pages.  And yes, you need as many likes as possible on your pages.  In some cases, you can even encourage people to “like” your Amazon book page, if Amazon still allows that.   Never forget to return the favor of liking.  If someone likes you or your book page, do the same.  It’s only fair.

If you want to get the word out, Facebook has advertising too, and it’s cool if it’s within your budget.  But, I don’t even have that kind of budget right now so I can’t give you advice in that regard.

The next tool is Twitter.  Ah, Twitter.  The wonderful Twitter where you can “tweet” like crazy.  You can create your author account here.  Yes, it is an advertising tool for the most part.  Or it seems like that.  It doesn’t have to be.  If you are a new member, you will need to “follow” your interests.  Most likely, Twitter will offer a tutorial.  Once you have established what interests you, Twitter will make suggestions based on that.  You can also search for what you want to follow.  If you like healthcare, follow the CDC.  If you like Taylor Swift (*shudder), follow her.  If you like writing, follow other authors and their books.  In most cases, people will “follow” you back.  

You want to get as many followers as possible.  This may seem hard.  It will look as if you follow more than you’re followed.  Keep pushing forward.  You will also receive notifications about Tweets the people you’ve followed have posted.  Yes, it does make your inbox crazy.  I believe you can change the notification settings here too.   Another tip.  With Twitter, you can customize your profile with your book cover, author pic or other background to make it look nice.  Other people will see this when they follow you.  Because you do want a lot of followers, I will give you this.  

Recently, I heard of a way to actually buy followers.  You can go to and see how it works.  I haven’t tried it yet.  But, it might be a decent way to get potential readers.  As of right now, I have 181 followers.  I’m getting there!  LOL.  

As always, I’m still learning.  We all try to pick stuff up every day to keep promoting ourselves as authors.  Do you have any tips for writers in the modern age?  Want to write an article for my blog here or maybe you’d like me to interview you?  Please email me at and I’ll get back to you promptly.

My Interview with Jessica Tornese

This interview was originally posted on Jessica Tornese's site as she did interview me.  You can look at it here.  I will post it below as well.

Author Marie Lavender

Marie Lavender, author of numerous books, is the next highlight of my continuing series of authors. Her book, Upon Your Return, is available now!

Read on for an interview with Marie and get a free sample chapter from her book!

What can we expect from you this year?

Well, my historical romance, Upon Your Return, just came out in e-book form in February.  You can get it on Amazon at    The print version should be out in May or June.  I am writing the sequels to this book.

What genre do you like to write? What genre is your favorite to read?

Romance, romance, romance!  LOL.  Anything romance is fun for me to both read and write.  I love a good love story.  I write both contemporary and historical romance, and I would like to try my hand at paranormal romance down the line.  I also have a work in progress that I would label more of a romantic suspense.  As far as what I read…anything I can get my hands on really.  I read a lot of contemporary romance and historical romance novels.  Right now, I am reading some paranormal books.

Where do you get your ideas?

Everywhere.  I am inspired by books, films, music or television.  I also do a lot of people watching.  No, I wouldn’t call that eavesdropping, but I have always found myself observing other people.  I’m sure a lot of authors do the same.  I have always been fascinated by the human mind and how it works.  So people are very interesting to observe.  Sometimes I just get an idea out of the blue and I have to write it down though.  Who knows where it came from?  I’m sure my muse could tell you!

What was the best thing ever said to you about your work?

I’ve had some say my work is well-written.  I heard someone say once that they found the stories easy to read, that they did not have to stop and wonder what the hell it meant.  So, I guess that’s good, right?  I think that when I was in college and I was doing academic writing, I had the tendency to over-complicate things.  But, I am glad that when I write fiction, it can be pretty clear.  I like to get into my character’s heads, and if that comes out well on the page, then I have done my job.

Do you have a system to writing? Favorite place? Time? Music playing? Quiet? Food/Drink?

My ideas pretty much come at different times of the day.  Sometimes, yes, I can sit down with the intent of writing and it works well.  At other times, it comes to me randomly.  I would say I probably lean toward nighttime more because I have always been a night owl.  LOL.  A lot of my scenes come to me when I’m in bed, and I have to write it down or it will drive me crazy if I ignore it.  During the day, if I have a comfortable chair, I am fine.  But, location can be an inspiration as well.  I have written while sitting in a car.  I have written while I was in a park.  I do prefer everything to be quiet usually, but I do use the music technique from time to time.  Different kinds of music can foster different types of writing.  I like Celtic music a lot, and I have listened to that while writing.  This especially works if the story has something to do with it.  At other times, I find I can play any type of music as long as it is not too loud.  I don’t like to be distracted when I’m writing.  I have to be in “the zone”.

Do you have people read your book before submitting it? Or do you keep it a secret?

Sometimes I have people read it, yes.  For Upon Your Return, I used a couple of critique groups for romance writing.  I also private messaged my critique partners.  I am still in contact with some of them!  As far as secrecy, I have to say I’m very bad about letting things out.  I think when you’re excited about a project, it is hard to shut up.  You just want to talk about it.  So, I probably need to work on that flaw.

Who is your favorite character and why?

Wow, that’s a tough question.  I come to love my characters as if they’re friends really.  I suppose that’s strange.  I would have to say Fara Bellamont in Upon Your Return is one of my favorites.  She is a young woman from Victorian France, a time when it was hard for women to be individuals.  She is a strong character.  Despite the social pressures, she perseveres.  She doesn’t let men push her around too much.  She does her best to make her own decisions about her life.  And being a little of a feminist myself, I get that.

What is the hardest thing to write? Setting/Character Development/ Climax or Intense Scenes…

That really depends on the story.  But, I think setting is definitely a challenge for me.  I try to do research to try to place a character in a room or town.  It can be hard, however, when you haven’t been there yourself.  That is the nice thing about fiction though.  We can use our imagination to create something very real.

Name some of your favorite authors or people who influence your writing.

Let’s see.  There are a number of authors that I follow.  Jennifer Blake, Catherine Coulter, Nora Roberts, Nicholas Sparks, Tessa Dare, Emma Wildes, J.R. Ward, P.C. Cast.  The list goes on, of course.  I have been influenced heavily by poetry.  I don’t claim to be a poet at all, but poetry is lovely.  I like the greats such as T.S. Eliot or Emily Dickinson .  And I have been influenced by historical romances.  Even classic writers like Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte have influenced me.  I have to be very careful when I write contemporary books because I have a tendency to use flowery language, and I have to go back and revise it to make it seem more modern.  Sigh.  LOL.  I guess I’m too much of a romantic.

What other hobbies do you have besides writing?

Well, I read a lot.  Obviously!  And I am definitely a music lover.  I love listening to all kinds of genres: pop, alternative, electronic, folk, new age, Celtic, some R&B/hip hop.  It totally depends on my mood.  I don’t watch television or watch movies much, but when I do, I only watch something that catches my attention.  Of course, I love romantic comedies and some drama.  But, I am into science fiction, fantasy and mysteries too.  I watch Grimm, Once Upon A Time, Castle, Bones and The Mentalist.  I’m sure there are a couple of others, but these are the only ones that come to mind right now.  I usually don’t have much time to watch them.  Truthfully, I’d rather read a good book than watch something.

Who is your favorite author? Favorite book?

Jennifer Blake is probably my favorite author.  My favorite book now…that’s hard.  As I said before, I read a lot of books.  Right now, I’m kind of hooked on J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series.  They are paranormal romance books, but they are still very exciting to read.  Did I mention there are sexy men and most of them are vampires?  Woo!  Anyway, that’s my favorite series.  I’m also reading P.C. Cast’s House of Night books.  I know…vampires again.  Are you detecting a theme?  As aforementioned, I would like to start writing paranormal stories at some point.  The closes thing to a paranormal that I’ve written is A Misplaced Life, penned under the name Kathryn Layne.  It is about a ghost, but I digress.  Terror in the Night and Pursuit, two books I wrote under Erica Sutherhome, also had supernatural elements.

Is there anything else you want readers to know about you or your books?

I’ve written sixteen books thus far.  You can find a list of them on my website with direct links at  I also have profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter if you want to message me.  Thanks so much for reading my interview!


Marie Lavender lives in the Midwest with her family and three cats.  She has been writing for over twenty years.  She has more works in progress than she can count on two hands.

At the tender age of nine, she began writing stories.  Her imagination fueled a lot of her early child’s play.  Even growing up, she entered writing contests and received a certificate for achieving the second round in one.  She majored in Creative Writing in college because that was all she ever wanted – to be a writer.  While there, she published two works in a university publication, and was a copy editor on the staff of an online student journal.  After graduating from college, she sought out her dream to publish a book.

Since then, Marie has published sixteen books.  Marie Lavender’s real love is writing romances, but she has also written mysteries, literary fiction and dabbled a little in paranormal stories.  Most of her works have a romantic element involved in them.  Upon Your Return is her first historical romance novel.  free to visit her website at for further information about her books and her life.  Marie is also on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

A list of her books and pen names are as follows:
Marie Lavender:  Upon Your Return
Erica Sutherhome:  Hard to GetMemoriesA Hint of ScandalWithout YouStrange HeatTerror in the NightHauntedPursuitPerfect GameA Touch of DawnRansom
Kathryn Layne:  A Misplaced Life
Heather Crouse:  Express Café and Other RamblingsRamblings, Musings and Other ThingsSoulful Ramblings and Other Worldly Things

SAMPLE CHAPTER- Upon Your Return

Fara fought the darkness to the coming light. It was so easy to stay in the dark. It was comforting like a warm blanket. But, the light held such possibilities. She knew she must rouse, as if something significant lay there in wakefulness. She stirred and felt a pair of arms holding her. Then she heard a heartbeat beneath a rough fabric, felt a coarse texture of chest hair. It was so secure within that embrace.

When she finally realized it was a man who held her, she gasped and tried to retreat from the cord of muscles. She glanced up to be temporarily blinded by the lamplight to her left.

“Don’t move,” said a soft but deep voice.

He spoke with the assurance of authority, and she could tell he was used to ordering people around. Well, he wouldn’t order her. She lifted her heavy head and whimpered as a stab of agony sliced through her skull. Fara squeezed her eyes shut tight. It was so much easier to be left in the dark for it was as if her head was being cut with so many knives.

“I will have you more comfortable in a moment. Please do not move.”

How could she possibly move with all this pain and that large man rendering her limbs useless?
Suddenly, she felt a light cushion beneath her. The glare from the lantern came into her vision again when she opened her eyes and was then replaced by the outline of a man towering above her. She gasped and crawled away from him, but his hold on her waist hauled her back. Her head hurt so as he studied her face.

Madame, the pain will be less if you stay still. I promise I did not bring you here to harm you in any way.”

She gradually settled back on the pillows and looked at her keeper. He was an attractive man, if one liked the rough, indignant kind. Dark layers of soft waves covered his head and ended at the nape of his neck. He was large, but slim in the right places…it spoke of years of hard physical labor.

His eyes captivated her as she studied him in such proximity. The shade of his eyes…a charcoal color; they were the most intense and unreadable eyes she’d ever seen. It was an odd, yet strikingly beautiful color for a man.

Oh, you silly girl, she thought. Really…how ridiculous for her to be wooed by only a pair of eyes. “May I ask you a question?”

“I insist you do, if you are not too unwell.” He gestured to her jaw.

Fara nodded, acknowledging the wound provided by the man named Bernard. She imagined what he referred to must indeed be a hideous sight. She looked around the room. It appeared to be a cabin of sorts. “Monsieur…how did I get here? Are we on a yacht?”

“A ship. My ship, La Voyageur,” he announced firmly with a lifted brow.

She faltered at the damning tone in his voice. It gave the impression that he was accustomed to some ridicule, but she could not fathom the reason for it. “You are a captain?”

Oui, Madame.”

Mademoiselle.” She blushed.

“Ah. I knew you were too young to be saddled to one man, but thought it safer to say you were.”

Monsieur…how long will I be here?”

He pointed to her throbbing jaw. “As soon as that is healed nicely, I will escort you to your home.”

Why, that could be days! Did he really mean to let her go, or was his intention to ask for a ransom? He had rescued her, but what if his motives were for reasons other than valor? “My uncle…he will be concerned for me. I insist you take me home now.” She realized her voice was too soft to sound commanding.

He shook his head. “I will have a message sent to him. What is his name?”

She sighed. “Michel de Bellamont.” She began to protest, “Monsieur, surely you do not intend to keep me here? That would not be right.”

“I do though. You fainted twice. I must be certain it won’t happen again. That bastard hit you. I would be surprised if you didn’t feel unwell. I will send the message to your uncle, informing him that his niece is in good hands. You will probably be better tomorrow. You may leave then if you wish.”

“All right, Monsieur. Merci.” He seemed to be concerned about her enough to care for her here. She still felt unsure about spending time alone with a complete stranger, especially a man, but she did not know how to convince him otherwise. He did not seem like the kind of man one questioned. And despite the fact that she’d thought he could be trusted, she still must be on her guard. She had no idea what he really intended.
He went to the door and spoke quietly to a young boy, who nodded exuberantly, and then he shut the door.
She stared at him for several moments. “What might I call you?”

He turned to her, stood straight and bowed. “La Capitaine Hill. My name is Grant though.”

Grant Hill…it was a strong name. It spoke of a good lineage, yet it had a trace of foreign roots as did her first name. There were many people in France who would discriminate on petty things such as names or appearances. “Grant,” she murmured absently, suddenly captivated by his eyes again.

“And you, Mademoiselle Bellamont?”

“My name is Fara.” Her mother had named her, had claimed it was English for ‘beautiful’. No one knew that except her mother and father. She supposed most people could guess it wasn’t a French name, like Capitaine Hill’s. But she refrained from telling anyone because she knew how odd the French acted about origins. If one wasn’t entirely French in every way, there was something low about it. It was a narrow-minded and proud society.

“Tis’ a beautiful name, Mademoiselle.”

“Thank you.” She frowned. “If you are the man who came to my rescue, then why did those sailors run away?”

His eyes darkened with mischief. “They were cowards. Once they put you aside, they were quick to find out what an accomplished swordsman I am. One technique and they ran for their lives. There was no sport in it.”
She looked away. Masculine conceit was not something she wished to indulge. Men, she chided, could be so like children at times.

“Hmm…I see.” She managed a smile and looked up at him again. “I’m very grateful for your concern for my welfare.”

“A lady in distress is worth it. I was, however, worried that you might be unconscious for much longer.” He frowned. “What were you doing out there so late? You should know it is dangerous by the docks at night.”

“I know. I was to meet someone there.”

“A man?”

She nodded. “Oui.”

“Any man who directs a lady to that side of town at that hour is either desperate or an idiot.”

She smiled. “Well, desperation comes to mind…”

“Was he a suitor?” he inquired.

Perhaps she had said too much. “Really, Capitaine Hill. I would not think it would be of interest to you.”

“Call me Grant, Mademoiselle. I merely feel this man was in some way out to do you harm. Most civilized men would never lead you there.”

“I fear I am somewhat responsible for being there.”

An eyebrow rose skeptically. “Twas’ not your suggestion surely.”

“No, but I was not well acquainted with this man. He very well could have been crazy.”

“And no doubt conniving.”

“Yes,” she replied softly. “It seems he set me up.”

He frowned. “They were hired?”

She nodded. A long silence stretched between them, but it did not bother her. She was content to lie back among the pillows. Her head throbbed, and her jaw ached terribly.


“Fara.” His need for formality after all he’d done perturbed her.

“Fara,” he repeated easily, and she couldn’t help thinking how intimate her name sounded on his lips, like the gentle sigh of a lover. She winced. Dear God, what was the matter with her? She could not think such things, even if he was terribly attractive. “How long have you been in your uncle’s care?” he asked.

“Since my parents died…” Her voice broke on the note and she looked to the rafters for guidance.

His hand curved around hers in a gesture of sympathy. “I am sorry. How did it happen?”

“As a child, my father traveled often on business and for that one trip, my mother went with him. I was left in the care of my nursemaid for it was only to be a short while. On their way back from Turkey, their ship was taken by pirates. Few survived.

“My parents never made it back to Marseille. I was sent to live here with my uncle in La Rochelle. The law claimed that I was to be placed in the home of the next of kin. I was eight then.”

He pulled his hand away. “And now you are of marrying age…”

Oui,” she agreed, trying to pull away from the pain of the past. She blinked and then looked at Grant again.

His dark eyes filled with regret before he glanced away. “I, too, was orphaned at an early age.”

She grimaced. “How unfortunate for us both to have had this experience.”

He nodded, but rushed on as if to shift the conversation away from the uncomfortable subject. “Have you no suitors?”

“I’ve had many, but I do not wish to become a man’s chattel just yet.” She did not feel that admitting her affianced state would help matters. He already knew about Monsieur Le Croíx’s plot.

“Not all men are like that,” he said softly.

“I’ve not met one who thinks women have minds of their own!” She angled her neck to glare at him, but his face was the picture of innocence and the slicing pain suddenly shot through her skull again. She gasped and winced.

“Now, Fara. It is time for you to rest. The ache will lessen by tomorrow.”

Oui,” she agreed. The pain was intense and she didn’t feel like arguing. She laid back and realized suddenly that her corset was very tight. She felt the heat rising over her cheekbones, but she knew he would not guess at her discomfort. “Grant?”


“Where will you be sleeping?”

“Right here, if you do not mind.”

She swallowed. “Here? In this bed?” She drew in a sharp breath. Surely he was joking.

“That’s right. Someone must look after you. You’ve had a fairly eventful evening, and if you have a concussion, I must fetch a physician right away. But, if you insist, I will find another place. Perhaps Eric will relinquish his quarters for the night…” His voice was soft, as if he was speaking to himself.

This man had saved her life and already she was pushing him out of his cabin on his ship? It did not seem quite right. “No, I do not want you to do that, Monsieur.” She sighed. “We may share the bunk, Grant. It is quite simple.” She colored beneath his gaze. “Of course, you would have to be a gentlemen about it.”

“I would not encroach…” His gaze traveled over her from head to toe.

It should have made her shudder; she should have been appalled at that kind of look, but it seemed almost normal in the intimacy of the moment. She felt gratitude for his rescue, but more, a part of her was comforted by the protection he provided. And she craved that safe haven desperately, or at least to hold on for it for a while, if only for tonight.

“You saved my life. It is only right that I give you something in return, if not a good night’s rest.”

“You owe me nothing, Fara.”

“Tis’ not the way I see it.”

“Very well.” He began to unbutton his cravat and white shirt and threw them aside. He bent to pull off his boots and then approached her. “Is there some way I may assist you, to make you more…comfortable?”

She hesitated a moment, unnerved by his half-naked state, and then went on. “I do have a predicament. My corset…it is dreadfully tight. If you would assist me, I should be very grateful.” She watched his lips part in surprise and he swallowed audibly.

“Of course.” He waited for her to sit up, and then bent to work at the buttons of her lavender dress.
His body was so near that his clean, male scent was almost intoxicating. An additional aroma wafted about too, musky like cigars. It reminded her of the ones she smelled when she passed by her uncle’s office while he met with other men for business affairs.

Her breathing came faster and she struggled to control it. Her heartbeat pounded in her ears and she half-wished it all to go away. But, she felt giddy with it too. It was almost a sense of invincibility as his gentleness was lover-like.

He eased the fabric away and when she leaned forward to assist him, he bent over her still to work at the bands of her corset and his hands splayed across her lower back.

Soon, the fabric fell away and she licked her lips, staring into his gaze. His dark eyes were bright with something she’d never seen before. His face was nearly inches from hers and she feared he might kiss her. Half of her wanted it; the other half was her uncle’s voice telling her it wasn’t right for unattached ladies to display such behavior. No, twas’ too soon for she’d just met this man. She cleared her throat, looking away.
He sat back, away from her. “I was thinking to give you some laudanum tonight for the pain. It will help you sleep,” he urged.

Merci,” she replied and watched as he went to fetch it. She sighed. She would need it indeed if she wanted to sleep. She felt so heady with a want she didn’t understand and she was certain his presence might keep her from sleeping. Not to mention how her head ached so very much.

When he returned, she drank the wine dutifully and set the glass on the table beside the bed. As he climbed onto the mattress and doused the lights, she wriggled out of her dress, corset and hoop skirt, leaving only her thin shift to sleep in. Her slippers were pinching her feet and so she kicked them to the floor.
She felt his presence beside her, was aware of his even breathing, and wondered if he slept. She couldn’t help thinking that laying there made her feel safer than she’d ever felt in her life. Within minutes, she was claimed by a drug-induced sleep.

My Interview With RC Bonitz

I was interviewed by RC Bonitz on March 20th.  You can find the full article here.  I will post some of it below.

My guest today is Marie Lavender, author of Upon Your Return and numerous other books. Welcome Marie

When did your latest book come out? What formats is it available in?

Upon Your Return, a historical romance, was released on February 13th in e-book format.  You can find it on Amazon at  The print version will be out in May or June.

Marie l's cover

What were your aspirations as an author and have any of them come true?

I’ve been writing since I was a kid.  I guess I’ve always wanted to see my name in print.  I’ve always wanted to see one of my books in a store.  My first fifteen books were self-published.  So, when my first book was delivered to my door, I was so excited.  I couldn’t believe how great it felt to see my name there on the cover, to see my work actually printed.  Then, after I proofed it, it was quickly available on Amazon in print and e-book form.  I never get over that initial excitement.  Every time I see one of my new books, it’s overwhelming.  I hope that never goes away.  I felt the same when my last manuscript was accepted by Solstice Publishing last August, just so completely overwhelmed and exhilarated.  The print version of Upon Your Return will be available soon.  Maybe I’ll even see that in a store!

What inspires you?

Oh, everything inspires me.  Music, films, the books I read.  People inspire me.  I love observing how people tick.  Sometimes an idea for a story comes out of nowhere, and I have to write it down quick before I forget.  I have so many ideas going at the same time, it’s a wonder I can keep anything organized!  I truly believe that as writers, our minds collect a ton of information and sometimes that internal collage can create something amazing.

What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned about the publishing industry so far?

You can’t give up, no matter the obstacle.  Persistence is key.  I think it’s easy to get discouraged in this industry because it can be pretty competitive.  I also believe a lot of writers can be very supportive of one another.  But, if you’re a writer, you can’t be afraid to keep trying.  You will only regret it if you do give up.  I can’t count how many rejections I received before a publisher accepted me.  This industry is subjective, just like the spiel goes.  What might not interest one agent/editor might totally inspire someone else.  So, just keep moving forward.

Now that you have a feel for the publishing world, would you do anything different if you had to do it all over again?

Probably not.  I think these experiences foster learning.  Many years ago, if someone had told me, “Hey, if you submit your manuscript, you’ll be sorry!”, I probably would have laughed.  I was never arrogant about my writing.  I majored in Creative Writing.  I went to college because I felt I had room to learn more about the craft.  Was I timid about putting myself out there?  Hell, yes.  But, I think not only our experiences with writing help us learn, but also the people we meet can shape how we view ourselves and our work.  I’m not sure I would have been mature or comfortable enough then to try what I have these past few years.  So, no, I would not change any of that.

Are there any authors who have influenced your work?

Oh, many.  I follow a lot of authors.  Jennifer Blake, Nora Roberts, Catherine Coulter, J.R. Ward, Nicholas Sparks.  The list goes on.  I have even been inspired by Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte.  The first real romance novel I read was Devil’s Embrace by Catherine Coulter.  My mind was completely blown!  I was a definite fan of mild romances and love stories, but I never thought a book about love could be told that way.  That was the first step to where I am today.  And I have to say that Jennifer Blake became my favorite romance author.  I remember checking out nearly every book of hers I could find at the public library when i was younger.  Yeah, I’m influenced by a lot of writers.

Reading or TV?

Definitely reading.  I would much rather curl up with a good book than watch something.

Flowers or Chocolate?

 That’s a tough one.  Flowers are beautiful.  Chocolate is my weakness, especially dark chocolate. If a man brings me flowers, he’s very sweet.  But, if he brings both, he certainly gets my vote!

Thank you Marie. It was a pleasure hosting you. Now, here is the blurb for her new book:

Fara Bellamont has been back in society for a year after leaving Cluny Abbey, where her uncle sent her long ago.  When he chooses a suitor for her for marriage, she fears that she will be forced to marry a stranger and live a miserable life.

But, Fara finds herself thrust into an adventure of a lifetime when unforeseen circumstances cause her to place her trust in a strange man for protection.  His intervention not only saves her, but puts her in an even more compromising position.

Grant Hill, a trading captain, is enchanted by the young heiress not only because of her beauty, but because she is hardly conventional.  Underneath her ladylike exterior lies a tigress.  Grant cannot help but offer his protection as she is in need and he is far from immune from her charms.

Fara just never bargained on the passion that she feels for Grant Hill.  As events unfold, she must decide whether her desires and the dictates of her heart should trump the rules of society in this exciting tale.

Excerpt from Upon Your Return

A shiver slowly crept up her spine.  Were those footsteps she heard behind her or on another pier?
“Jean? Is that you?” She tried to slow her breathing, which came in rapid pants. “Jean?” She stiffened. “Jean Le Croíx, are you there? You’d better come out.” As she turned, her elbow brushed something and she recoiled, falling against a wall. No, not a wall. Terror ripped through her as she realized a pair of arms enclosed around her.

“Lovely lady. You’re looking for someone, I presume? Well, Monsieur Le Croíx thought you’d be better off in our hands.”

Our hands? She tried to jerk away from him, but he was too strong. “Let me go, I-I demand it.”

Laughter erupted nearby and a figure loomed before her. Another man appeared and licked his lips lasciviously. “Oui, Monsieur Le Croíx believed us quite capable once he dished out the finances required. We may have gotten a poor bargain, Bernard. She could be worth far more.”
The man grunted in agreement.

Mon Dieu, she thought. Jean had hired them! For what exactly? To kill her? Her stomach rolled as she imagined all the things they might do to her.

“Please, I’ll do anything. Not this…” She shook her head.

“The lady is smart, Bernard. We must watch her.”

“Please. My…m-my uncle,” she stammered.

“I’m terribly sorry, chère. Your uncle has nothing to do with our pleasure.”

“But…” She swallowed her fear. “Ransom…if you ask for a ransom, he’ll give it to you. I promise. Anything.”

“No doubt your uncle is a wealthy man and you might fetch a fair price. But, what we’re looking for you cannot buy.” He laughed. “In most circumstances.”

No, they couldn’t buy it. But, they could take it. Her virginity. She could not fight them if they tried. Anger heated her face and a red haze filled her vision. She struggled harder. “Damn you! You’ll pay for this!”

He laughed. “I suppose so. But, what else can you do? There is an alternative now, a position with dames de nuit…”

She clenched her fist. Now she was likened to a prostitute? No, it would not be done. She tried to play at her innocence. “Please…this can’t be happening.”

“Oh, but it is, my lovely lady. It won’t be so bad–”

“No!” She slammed the heel of her foot in her captor’s shin and spun away.

“Bernard!” called one of the men.

She heard footsteps behind her and she turned, lashing out with her fingernails. She gasped as she saw him howl in pain, lowering his head to reveal red claw marks over the bridge of his nose. Then the man she’d first wounded came at her, tackling her.

The impact jarred her and she went down. “No!” Her escape was not to be.

She rolled to the ground in a maze of skirts and a heavy thigh was thrown across her knees, leaving her immobile. She squeezed her eyes tight. His touch on her face and breasts was repulsive. Tears threatened to overcome her and they ran like tracks into her hair. “Please,” she whispered.

“Ah, gentlemen, what have we here?” An unfamiliar voice sounded and Fara lifted her head weakly to see a new face, a different man. She wondered if he was an ordinary spectator. He didn’t look ordinary. He was big, intimidating but not frighteningly so. There was something about him she wanted to trust. She thought it might be his eyes, thought she detected a hint of concern as he glanced at her briefly. But, of course, she might be wrong. She had been before.

The man who pinned her disengaged himself and got to his feet. He looked down at her uneasily. “To your feet, chère,” he ordered.

She dizzily stood in response and he clutched her to his side as if to claim her as his possession.

The stranger frowned. “She’s quite a catch, gentlemen. Are you sure she’s not off limits?”

The man at her side stiffened. “What do you mean?”

“She appears to be a lady.”

Hope sprang from inside her. The man was no innocent bystander. He was a man with a purpose, but deep down she knew he could not be with these rogues.

“And if she is, Monsieur?”

“Then I would be curious as to why a lady is here with the two of you.”

The one called Bernard replied derisively, “Perhaps we are just too irresistible.”

The man laughed. “Hardly.” He sighed as her captor chose to resume his place behind her and blocked all attempts of escape with an arm across her chest. “Release her, gentlemen. Let’s settle this in a civilized manner, shall we?”

The man who held her grunted. “Why don’t you go about your business, Monsieur? A simple matter like this shouldn’t interest you.”

“A woman’s reputation may be at stake. Of course I’m interested.”

“We could share her, Monsieur.”

His gaze swept over her body and she shivered. Why, surely he would not take them seriously…he couldn’t take the offer. For God’s sake, he was her only hope. Tears streamed down her cheeks and she cursed herself for her maiden’s sensibilities. Where had her strength gone?

“You think I would participate in something so lewd? You mistake my character, gentlemen.” He pulled a rapier from its sheath. “The question is, what risks will you take? Let me see…two men against one. Of course, if you still want to keep the lady, it will take one of you to hold her. She looks fairly strong despite her size…why look at that mark on your face. She has fought you. She could be deadly, if given the chance. That makes one against one. Do you intend to fight me for her obvious favors?”

“Take out the girl, Bernard.”

The command came too quickly and before she could struggle away, a fist slammed against her jaw and she fell into blackness.

She lifted her head sometime later, unsure of how long she’d been unconscious. Her vision gradually returned, and the damp of the ground seeped through her dress. She shuddered with the chill of air upon her body. She heard the scrape of a footstep and a grunting sound above her. Still disoriented, Fara raised her head to see the man who had come to her rescue fighting off the two rogues.

He fought them with expert wrist and arm technique. He seemed to be in top physical shape as compared to Jean Le Croíx, who was soft for his obvious youth. She grimaced. Her wound caused her to be silly. So, he was attractive and strong…strong enough to fight these men off and break her neck all in the same moment.
Then the man thrust his rapier forward swiftly. When the one called Bernard, who had a white scar down the side of his face pulled away, he revealed a small but bloody wound on his arm. With a ragged breath, he looked at her rescuer as if weighing the consequences of his decision. He then turned on his heel and his accomplice soon followed him away from the docks.

Fara watched their retreat with a deep sigh. Her rescuer pivoted on his heel and approached her. He looked much larger than before. Trembling, she levered herself up on one elbow and waited for him to speak.
He kneeled and looked her over. “I guess they gave up the chase…”

Fara nodded, swallowing hard. “Oui,Monsieur.” He touched her cheek and she felt the warmth emanate from his hand. She was afraid, but she did not pull away from his touch. She found it strangely protective, even affectionate. Though she barely knew him, she wanted to believe he cared for her welfare. Her vision clouded with tears as rich longing swept through her. To be cared for completely, to be loved. But, he was a stranger. She could not forget that.  Distantly, she knew that her physical state was far from normal at the moment.

“Are you all right?”

She shook her head, feeling herself grow weaker by the second. Nothing could keep her alert at that moment. “Monsieur…” she murmured, falling into the inviting darkness.

Marie’s bio

Marie Lavender lives in the Midwest with her family and three cats. She has been writing for over twenty years. She has more works in progress than she can count on two hands.  She has published sixteen books under various pen names.  Marie Lavender’s real love is writing contemporary or historical romances, but she has also written mysteries, literary fiction and dabbled a little in paranormal stories. Most of her works have a romantic element involved in them.  Upon Your Return is her first historical romance novel.  Feel free to visit her website at for further information about her books and her life. Marie is also on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.



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