Wednesday, September 12, 2012

How to Write Romance in Five Easy Decades

The Wedding Wager is Live!  

Megan leaves the hospital whole but in despair. Can Kevin heal her heart and still save the family fortune?

When people say romance is easy to write, I laugh and say, "Where's your book?" 

Romance is a lovely balance of human interaction, emotional transformation, and page-turning storytelling. For years, people (who didn't read romance) told me to concentrate on mystery and science fiction. Those were the genres that appealed to them. Those were the only stories they felt worth reading. It was no coincidence that many of these people worked at the same university where I worked. They considered romance to be fluff. "Oh, anyone can write that silly stuff!"

Anyone? Really? Again I say, "Where's your romance? Where's your novel about the hearts of two people falling in love?"

Try to tell them that Jane Eyre or Madame Bovary were romance novels and these academics will turn pale and sputter to defend "the classics." My personal theory about academic acceptance of mystery and science fiction is this: Academia is still dominated by men, and men like to read mysteries and science fiction. Female academics who read romance would never admit to that in the presence of their male colleagues.

Well, guess what? I don't work there anymore! I love romance, and I love writing romance! But it didn't happen overnight.

 After years of reading and yes, even studying romance novels, I finally plunged in with a romantic suspense called North Rim Delight. The stars of that book, Terri and Russ, now have their own mini mystery series. Well, I guess I can't call it a series until the second mini mystery is published later this year. But the point is, they moved into a mystery series because it's hard for the same people to fall in love in multiple stories. 

Even so, I felt that the inclusion of the suspense and the mystery forced me to pay less attention to the romance of the book. So I decided to try again, with a completely sweet romance. Because I love dogs so much, my characters love them, too. That inspired my next novel, Calin's Cowboy. The sweet romance was there, but the book also appeals to lovers of cozy mysteries as Calin and Derek solve the puzzle of Calin's forgotten memories when he pretends to be her fiance for her class reunion. Calin and Derek are dog lovers, and their pets provide many humorous moments throughout the book.

Then I read another lovely novel by one of my favorite writers, Sandra Edwards, called The Marriage Bargain. I loved it! I had so much fun reading it, I thought maybe I could write a marriage of convenience novel. After all, I had been reading them and studying the genre for ages. 

The Wedding Wager is my first offering in this genre, but not my last! I had so much fun writing it, even my editor commented that she could tell on every page that I was having a great time. And hopefully my readers will feel the same way.

So don't let anyone tell you writing romance is easy! It may be fun, but it takes all the skills you can muster as a writer to provide a satisfying romance novel.

My other titles:
And my dog books (as Linda White)

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Sir Darby for Kindle

How Perfect is Perfect?

by Linda White (Regina Duke's dog-showing alter ego)

Summertime is dog show season for those of us in the high desert. We spend the winter training indoors and taking classes. After Thanksgiving, we assume there will be no showing until Spring because we don't want to chance a snow storm in the Sierras on our way to a California dog show. Entries for dog shows close about three weeks before the show, so the weather can be, if you'll pardon the Reno expression, a crap shoot. As a result, we try to make every show in Northern Nevada during the summer.

With that attitude, I decided to work with Darby on the new AKC Rally Obedience signs.

He has been doing a great job with his tricks training, but there are no tricks competitions in our neck of the woods. And I really wanted an excuse to compete in the Reno Kennel Club show. 

Darby, however, reminded me of the reason we started doing tricks instead. He could care less about Rally! By the time his message came through loud and clear, I had already paid the entry fees. Two turns in the Rally Excellent ring. Off leash. Yes, I am a brave woman.

Because Darby was the only dog showing, I let Buster and Gracie stay at home. The show was local, there were no hotel rooms involved, and I knew I would be sleeping in my own bed that night. So it was Darby and me all day long.

Our first turn in the ring came around 9:00 a.m. I used my squeaky toy voice. I cheered him on. I laughed when he stared at me like I was a mad woman. He was the cutest dog in the entire competition, and in the end, he earned his first leg in Rally Excellent with a score of 73 out of 100 possible points.

I rejoiced because he stayed with me in the ring. (Remember last year's battle over leaving the ring???)
Our second turn in the ring came at 1:30. Darby was tired. I was tired. We did not qualify. But I rejoiced again because he stayed with me in the ring.

Later, sitting around with my friends and waiting for other friends to compete (so we could cheer them on), I found myself saying, "He just refused to take that jump. He stared off into space and ignored me. There's so much to work on."

Sympathetic nods all around. Then one of my friends asked, "Where is he?"

"Right here beside me, in his little crate." I reached down and he kissed my fingers. And at that moment, I realized that I was expecting perfection for two minutes in the ring, and ignoring the fact that I already had perfection the other 1,438 minutes of the day!!!

At six a.m., Darby ran to his crate, ready to go anywhere I wanted to go. He waited patiently for his breakfast, because I didn't want him to get an upset stomach from stress. We got to the show grounds, and when I asked him to potty, he peed. When I asked him to doody, he had a BM. (I'll bet your dog doesn't poop on command!)

At seven a.m. we walked around the indoor rings so he could get used to the floor and see what was going on. When the room got crowded, he let me carry him so he wouldn't get stepped on. When big breeds got too close or too personal, he ignored them, except for one HUGE dog that made him very nervous. In that instance, he gave a warning growl, and I removed him from the situation.

He waited quietly in his crate for his turn in the ring. He visited perfectly with other people and dogs, reminding me that he is, after all, a Canine Good Citizen®. He was a bit overwhelmed by all the goings on. I could tell, because he was too nervous to eat. But after we finished our second competition, he visibly relaxed and had a lovely lunch of boiled chicken.

We were there from seven a.m. until 6 p.m. and then he slept in the car (in the shade) while a friend and I went out to dinner.

One thousand four hundred thirty-eight minutes of perfection, and all I could talk about was the only two minutes of his day when he was not at the top of his game.

Titles are only a way to let people know we have fun with our dogs. And Darby and I have wonderful fun together every day. Darby is the perfect dog. 

(Also appears on the website . Don't forget to visit as well for new titles.)

Monday, August 13, 2012

I'm guest blogging today! Come visit!

Skip on over to

I'm being interviewed at Two Ends of the Pen with Debra L. Martin! What a fab blog she has! You must go see. Check out the June post by Dean Wesley Smith while you're there.

I'm rubbing elbows with the big names. :-D

Friday, August 3, 2012

Sir Darby's Close Call
Linda White (aka Regina Duke)

“My little dog -- a heartbeat at my feet.”  Edith Wharton
I awoke in the middle of the night to a terrifying sound. One of my papillons fell off the bed!

Half a second later, as I fumbled for the light, I realized no one was screaming in pain, thank goodness. But when I could finally see my little Darby, he was favoring his left front leg.

Needless to say, the entire household got up to make sure he was okay. This morning, he is running around as usual, as if nothing had happened. But it made for a worrisome night.

And who is to blame for this near disaster?

I am.


Because Darby has me wrapped around his little paw, and over the last several months, he has manipulated me into letting him sleep on the bed. This is something I thought I would never do with my little dogs. Why? I was afraid they would fall off the bed!

So now I must decide whether or not to return to night time sleeping crates. 

The rest of the night was uneventful. Darby went back to bed, next to me. But he did take a moment to glance around and make sure there was more than a papillon’s body length between him and the edge. 

Perhaps I gave in and let him on the bed because he made bedtime into such a struggle by refusing to get in his crate. Like many doggy parents, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to let him stay on the bed. And secretly, in my heart of hearts, I love it when my dogs share my bed. 

But now I must weigh those pleasures against the potential danger of another fall.

As I sat in the living room, anxiously watching Darby’s every move, looking for some sign of injury, I realized that my “baby” is almost seven years old. For a papillon that is about middle age. When did my little guy get this old? 

Based on past experience, it is obvious he will be a grumpy old man. As the years go by, he tests me on different fronts. Resource management helped solve our problems with attention and performance in the competition ring. But the creative Sir Darby has now decided that he has a lovely voice, and he has begun using it to get my attention, and sometimes I’m sure he is simply voicing his opinion.

As cute as I find all of this, I must do my job as his caretaker and make the decisions that will be best for him, even if he disagrees.

I guess I’d better put a new bed in his night time crate!

If you would like to read more about Sir Darby, check out his book on Amazon and Barnes & Noble! His face is on the cover. Sir Darby by Linda White. And don’t miss Loving the Sensitive Dog, my book about his brother Buster, on Amazon. Visit my website for more about my cozy mysteries and my romances!

This post also appears in a local newsletter for Imagine Your Dogs training. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Buster Poses for the Camera

(Photo credit: Donna Sullivan took this lovely photo of Buster staring into my eyes.)

I recently shared this photo with friends. They were amazed that Buster, my papillon Wonder Dog, actually appears to be posing for his portrait. How could such a thing happen? Dogs don't know what cameras are, do they? Needless to say, he caused quite a sensation.

There is no mystery to Buster's amazing behavior. However, that doesn't mean there is an easy trick to getting your dog to do the same. Well, maybe it is easy. But it's not fast.

There are two commands a dog must learn in order to pose for pictures. The first is STAY. The second is WATCH ME!

When teaching your dog to stay, you don't have to insist he freeze in place for three minutes or so, like they do in the competition ring. Often for pet owners, a stay of thirty seconds is plenty long enough. Stay in one place to get your picture taken. Or stay long enough for mom or dad to reach you and snap your leash on before you get in trouble. No matter how long a stay you would like your dog to master, they all start the same way.

STAY: With your dog on a leash, place the open palm of your hand in front of his face as you say "Stay." Wait one or two seconds, then praise your dog for staying. GOOD STAY! And give him a yummy treat, such as a tiny piece of hot dog. Gradually expand the amount of time before praising and treating your dog. Do not rush. It will take many sessions spread over many days before your dog works up to thirty seconds or longer. You can also gradually increase your distance from the dog, working out to the end of your leash. This is a good picture-taking distance.

Your dog may be sitting or standing or lying down when you practice stay. Remember to keep your training sessions fun and brief. No more than five minutes on a new behavior and another five or ten as you add extra behaviors that need to be rehearsed or reinforced. Lots of praise and treats. Never strike your dog, and never jerk on the leash. It is for safety purposes only. (Let a professional teach you how to use exquisitely timed leash corrections when needed to perfect a complex behavior such as heeling.)

WATCH ME! This is so much fun to teach and so easy! Hold a piece of hot dog or other soft yummy treat near your eyes and as soon as your dog looks at you (at the treat, really), say, "Good Watch Me!" and give him the treat. Repeat five or six times, and always include this command when you start any training session as reinforcement. After a while, you will be able to touch a finger to your cheek or nose and your dog will magically stare into your eyes! Amaze your friends with this one. And don't forget to slip your dog a treat for a great performance.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Calin's Cowboy is Live!

I am thrilled to announce that Calin's Cowboy is available for both Kindle and Nook.

85,000 words.  A cozy mystery with a budding romance.
Calin Holliday’s life is finally almost normal. Memories of the high school accident and family tragedy that turned her world upside down have been conveniently hidden away in her subconscious. But when her beloved Chinese crested hits the wrong key on the computer, she is forced to face the past whether she likes it or not. And thanks to her Facebook blooper, she needs a cowboy fiance for the weekend!
Derek Longley grew up on a ranch, but yearned for the Hollywood life. Too bad he got more than he bargained for. As a result of a decision made in crisis mode, he is forced to work for a shady investigator on a special assignment. His future and his reputation are on the line, but he couldn’t leave that poor injured dog on the side of the road. He steps into Dr. Kay’s Veterinary Hospital to save the dog’s life and ends up using his acting skills to play Calin’s fake cowboy for her class reunion. Little does he know that fate has some surprises in store for both of them. And so does Cupid.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Some things never change

Over the last year as an indie writer, many things have changed. I have seen my book sales increase month by month. I have read lovely reviews by readers who took the time to comment on Amazon. I have learned how to build websites and I am slowly learning how to use a blog.

But some things never change.

Case in point: getting the next book ready for publication. My Calin's Cowboy has taken three months longer to prepare than I anticipated. First, it turned out to be twenty thousand words longer than I expected. But that's okay. The story needed more substance, so I took the time to supply that substance. Then it took longer to edit, because it was a longer and more complex book. And now, thanks to my wonderful editor, I am tweaking it again to strengthen the story even further.

No matter how much I have learned in the areas of marketing and tech smarts, the one thing that has not changed is the effort and hard work needed to get the next book ready to go.

In a sense, this is reassuring. Writers need time and focus to create a great story. I am not claiming greatness for my upcoming new title, but I want it to be the best book I have written so far, and that means taking the time needed to make it the best it can be.

In my pre-indie days, when I was grabbing for that elusive gold ring of a publisher or editor who actually clicked with my work and at the same time had a spot for me, an unknown, in their lineup, I'm not sure I took as much time with my books. At the back of my mind, I never really believed that I would snag that ring. In the end, I wasn't sure I wanted to.

The last time I went to a writers' conference and pitched two of my books, I came away feeling that I had expended enormous energies  and Toastmaster dues trying to master a ten-minute oral presentation for the sole purpose of eliciting an invitation from an editor to mail off another manuscript. How many times have my pages sat for months on someone's shelf? The record for me was a response after three years, a one-line apology and the stale news that my book was not right for that line.

I decided I didn't want to play the pitch game. That was not my strength. Why couldn't writers simply bring a few pages and use their ten minutes watching the editor actually read three or four pages of manuscript? I never understood why we had to endure the torture of what amounted to a combination job interview, oral exam, and first date as a rite of passage to "earn" the opportunity to submit our work. In the elevator heading back to my room, I overheard another writer say, "They give their cards to everyone. What's the point?" That was the last time I jumped through that hoop.

Going indie is a very good fit for me. No more pitches. No more three-year waits for rejections. And it turns out that I am using all that extra energy and time to polish my next book.

Going indie has made me a better writer. My goal is to improve with every new title. The world of publishing is changing rapidly, but the pursuit of creative excellence does not change.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Ten months into the e-pub world

Although I began my journey in February of 2011 with a webinar offered by Writer's Digest, my first novel "went live" in mid-May 2011. When I say I am ten months into my journey, I am counting from mid-May. But without that initial webinar, I might not have begun at all.  Even so, as I look back, I remember thinking, "Oh, my, there's so much to do! I'm not sure where to begin."

I decided to make a list of "things to do" in two different areas: Preparing Books & Marketing.

The Marketing list was the one I found most daunting. Not only did I need to learn how to build and manage websites and a blog, I had to figure out how to purchase domain names! I was so low on the tech ladder, I did not have a clue when I first went to the GoDaddy site to buy domains. (Just FYI, GoDaddy has been very helpful and easy to work with, and I am pleased with my website progress over the last year. I could never make their blog software work, however. Blogger is much easier to use, IMO.)

I also had to set up a Twitter account and a Facebook account and start learning how to use those tools. As it turns out, I love Twitter, but I still have trouble using Facebook.

Preparing Books was the list I felt most confident about. What a heady feeling! I've been writing novels for years! This will be a piece of cake!

So I chose a title to begin with. North Rim Delight is a romantic suspense novel with adventure, humor and a love of dogs floating through it. The first three chapters were in pretty good shape. A little tweaking here and there. But as I moved through the book, I realized something mind blowing. All those years of working on my novels, in some part of my mind I was trying to guess what an editor wanted to see, not what a reader might enjoy! That made me angry. That whole traditional publishing route had forced me to spend way too much energy on the editor roulette game (hoping you actually get the query letter and ms. into the hands of someone who likes your voice, likes your plot, and has room for you in their @#$#@ schedule!).

As a result, the last half of my book was not at all ready for readers. I spent a great deal of energy and time rewriting the second half to make the story enjoyable for readers, not editors. All those years of submitting, and I had to go indie to actually see the damage the traditional route was doing to my narrative voice.

And since I now get to think about readers only, my narrative voice is improving! This is so exciting. I want to provide readers with an enjoyable experience that makes them want to come back. I want them to love my characters and the universes I create for them. I want them to eagerly anticipate the next book. And now that I've gone indie, that is where my creative energies are focused: on the reader.

With the reader as my priority, my sales numbers are improving month by month. During my first month with one book published, I sold 23 copies. In February 2012, with five books published, I sold 825. I am approached the 2K sales mark. That is certainly fun. But my biggest joy is knowing that I can take the time and creative energy I need to make my next book, Calin's Cowboy, the best it can be before publication.

I hope you are all having record sales, and finding new wonderful writers to read and enjoy!

Friday, February 17, 2012

I need a back hoe to fill that plot hole! (And a FREE PROMO)

Good grief! The last thing you want to see when you get close to "The End" is a plot hole the size of the Grand Canyon. But that's what I've been dealing with all week.

One of my personal discoveries as I prepare my next ebook for publication has been that I want to get it right. I want the reader to have a really great experience. I want the story to hang together and provide a satisfying conclusion. I want to avoid plot holes that yank you out of the story. So I'm still working on the WIP. But after a week of nothing but plotting, I think I see light at the end of the tunnel. At least, I hope so.

To cheer myself up, I am offering my collection of science fiction and quiet horror for FREE for two days on Amazon! If you enjoyed "The Twilight Zone," I think you might like these stories. That program was a huge influence on my early work.

FREE Feb 17 & 18 only!

Friday, January 27, 2012

FREE! North Rim Delight romantic suspense is FREE for two days!

If you haven't met Terri and Russ yet, please take advantage of this FREE offer of North Rim Delight, my romantic suspense novel that introduces this dog-loving couple to each other and to the Grand Canyon.

Terri Baker is through with men!  But her abusive ex-boyfriend has other ideas. Meanwhile, she is grieving for her beloved German shepherd. She heads for the Grand Canyon to get away from it all. Three men are chasing her. One wants her money. One wants her life. And one wants her heart.
Russ Camino is a bounty hunter with a haunted past. He made a promise that he must keep, and he has no time for women. Not even when he meets one who makes his pulse race. When he discovers that the hit man he is following is after Terri, he knows that he must protect her at all costs.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Fodder for my fiction

All my books have dogs in them, and some of those dogs are quite amazing. But everything done by the dogs in my books has been drawn from life experience.

The same goes for my characters who live with and train the dogs in my books. If my own experience as a trainer is insufficient, I am blessed with a group of friends who all train and show their own dogs. So there are always stories and tips close at hand when I need a fictional dog to do something.

Case in point, two of my dog loving friends and I went to help a fourth friend teach her seven dogs to respect the door. Whenever her husband would leave for work, the dogs would go crazy. They would bark, charge the door, and generate so much canine excitement that sparks would fly. Since three of her dogs are terriers, this could result in dog fights at the door. Even when fights did not ensue, general chaos was often the result.

By the end of our visit today, and with the help of a truly excellent trainer with over 30 years experience, all seven dogs were respecting the door. The dog we thought was causing all the trouble turned out to be simply reacting to the excited state of the younger Sheltie who thought the word "Bye" meant "Get ready to charge and bark at the door."

I confess, I was amazed at the progress that was made in about ninety minutes of hands-on training, with patience and skill, working with one dog after the other. I have great respect for trainers with this skill level. Because of that, I aspire to keep my fictional dogs and their trainers as honest as possible. When Terri Baker and Russ Camino give their dogs a command, you can bet that either my dogs can do that or I have seen local dogs who can do it. Our dogs are so amazing, there is no need to invent the impossible. The possible is more than astounding.