Thursday, December 12, 2013

Adding Subtle (And Not so Subtle) Charm to Your Writing

"Marley was dead, to begin with. This one fact you must believe or nothing you're about to see will make any sense at all."
The Muppet Christmas Carol
Dickens "A Christmas Carol" drops that instruction succinctly into the opening lines of his much beloved tale of redemption. And like those words, straightforward and direct, here's a thought for the lot o' youse:

Your "charming" might be someone else's "annoyance".

Do you remember vintage holiday notepaper like this???? #LOVEVINTAGE!!!
Stop sighing, don't fret, don't worry.... you know it's true, not everyone's attracted to the same sort of story, we see that every stinkin' day around here. You catch glimpses of literary wonders, fantasy lore, children's classics, old and new, historical romantic comedy with cowboys (a genre all its own!!!) heart-stirring women's fiction and endearing romance... and the regularly scheduled "how to do this and that" columns and books folks tout.

But let's talk "Charming"!!! Not like the prince, most of them are somewhat metro-guys, I mean really???? That's like the old commercial where Barbie disses Ken and runs off in the Jeep with G. I. Joe...

Now that's CHARMING, LOL!!!  :)

Defining charm isn't as simple as going to and pulling up their take. In some ways it's indefinable because your reader will decide if it's truly charming... or drivel. And that's the chance you take every time you sit down to write a stinkin' story.

WHY DO YOU DO IT???? WHY, I ASK????  (beats chest, lamenting, desperately trying to save you from yourself!!!)

Well, here's why: because it's God's spirit within us, touching hearts, feeding yearning souls. And if you don't believe that, well, you're being stubborn and/or silly.... have some eggnog and some of my sugar cookies featured over HERE AT YANKEE BELLE CAFE TODAY and if peeking at those sweet cookie-baking babies doesn't make you smile, then you need to watch The Muppet Christmas Carol, quick!!! Before another Christmas passes you by!

Elements of charming in no particular order:

Long, sweet looks (creates a memorable image for reader and protagonist)
Quick glances (builds anticipation)
Chest-stirring emotion rising (raises expectation)
Dimpled babies (Pfft. If I have to explain this, then you need more eggnog!)
Twinkle lights
(note that dappled light, oblique light, minimal light creates more of an emotional scene setting than obvious full-day sunlight)
Music (plays to memories or longing)
Strong wind (evokes physical and emotional feelings)
Light wind (teases feelings or prolongs moment)
Passing breeze (a tickle or tingle of emotion)
Children playing (for people who don't like kids in romance, THIS STOPS THEM COLD. Not everyone is urchin-friendly, but I just figure they're going to toddle off and read someone else's books.... because I love the hope of children and new life in my stories!!!)

People who love families and hope will love this amazing cover! Yay, Art Team!!! And yes, you know I always give youse a link in case you need to BUY THIS BOOK LIKE RIGHT NOW!!!!  :)
Small-town events: Can include spiritual events like prayer services, Advent walks, living Nativities, outdoor venue weddings, and yes, funerals. The charm of a life well-played, well-spent and the effect on the people around that life can be ingratiatingly beautiful... and poignant. Think Matthew's funeral in Anne of Green Gables)

Small-town events, non-spiritual:  Festivals, fairs, dog shows (!!!!) 4-H gatherings, horse shows, regattas, snowman-building contests, tree-lightings, quilt shows, centennials (for the Western half of country) bicentennials (for the Eastern half of the country) Founders' Days, church bazaars....

City neighborhoods: Razing old buildings to make way for new, saving old buildings, cleaning store-fronts, turning old blocks into "mini-malls", creating neighborhood associations, porch gardens, community gardens, new "little" shops (think old-time America, the nostalgia is returning!) bakeries, dry cleaners, Chinese laundries, little pubs, parks with playgrounds, ice skating rinks, new lighting (this is subtle but huge, light is a factor for a lot of "charm" emotion), awnings, new signs, clean sidewalks, sand-blasted buildings... Think "fresh and new" or "washed-and-painted old" in this setting.

Quaint characters
Quirky characters
Colorful characters (and by that I mean physical and emotional/mental images. I love to use a normal American hodge-podge of multi-cultural in my work because it's real... And that reality charms the reader because it speaks to our normalcy and the way life works in the real world. LOVE IT!!!!)
Hints of twang/dialect
Walking babies
Watching toddlers stumble, fall and get back up (image of gumption)

Yes, shameless plug, I know, but this 4-Star read is the LAST Summerside Press release... MARY CONNEALY SWEARS IT'S MY FAULT, BUT IT'S NOT!!!!  This sweet story, set in 1947 Manhattan sweeps you back in time to a post-war changing world... and what that change means to Karen O'Leary and Officer Mike Wolzak.
And yes!!!! HERE'S YOUR "BUY" BUTTON!!!  :)
Oh, there's so much more!!!!  In every experience we have, we can usually see the "charm" side of it if we re-examine.

Now if you're determined to be Debby-Downer, well, I got nothin' for ya' sister! But that doesn't mean you're wrong... It just means we embrace different styles of writing and there's an audience out there for most of us, ready and waiting for that Next Big Thing.

Or sweet, evocative romance.

Come on in, and feel free to add stuff to the list! Examples are wonderful, too, it's way fun to play with words.... settings.... actions.... to evoke the right element of emotion. I'm tossing names into the cat dish (it will NOT be clean because I'm not home to do it!) but no worries!!! The $20 Amazon gift card WILL BE CLEAN, I promise! And you can spend it on whatever you want because who can't use an extra bit of change at Christmas????

I'm in New York City today, hanging out in Manhattan with Finance Boy and Lawyer Boy so I'll be hit and miss (I might have to budge some sweet, overworked Manhattan professional off his Starbucks stool to chat, but I'LL DO IT!!!! As long as my phone holds out! Cue the lights! The music! The tree at Rockefeller Center! Ruthy's In Manhattan and Loving It!!!!

And I'll let you know if I see Derek ambling around Midtown, shopping for his Mom!!!  :)

Ruth Logan Herne loves being part of Seekerville, she's a multi-published author with over a half-million books in print, and every now and again she pokes her head up from her rabbit hole in upstate New York to pester normal folks, check out the snow levels, then ducks back inside. She's married to a very patient man, has a slew of kids and grandkids, and isn't afraid to see what happens to dust as it ages. Visit her webpage at or find her on facebook at where she's known to post fun pics of cute kids and small animals while shamelessly self-promoting her sweet books!


  1. I am! I'll pass on the eggnog but pass those sugar cookies. I baked 10 dozen cookies tonight for my church's cookie walk and didn't eat a one. Got to raise money for that Christian hospital in India.

    You mentioned dog shows, but I like animals in stories too. I'm a sucker for a guy who likes wounded cats. I read a book once where the hero was a big burly guy with a Harley but he had a cat whose tail had been lopped off in an accident. That he took in that cat gave him humanity.

    In my stalled WIP, the hero has an Irish Setter. The heroine overhears him talking to someone named Rosie and hears him say, "You know you're the only girl for me." She jumps to conclusions and then feels silly when she sees he's talking to his dog. And he's Irish, so it's all in that wonderful Irish lilt.

    Great post! Have fun in the Big Apple! It's cold down here in Alabama -- way colder than usual for us.

    So... I'll heat up some spiced cider for everyone.

  2. Here's the coffee, Marilyn. Everybody fill your mugs.

    Gotta go back and read this again. And make notes.

    Thankee, Ruthie.

    Now back to my AFS for book 3.

  3. Oh my gosh! The Muppets are at Seekerville, and Ruthy is in NYC! All's right with the world.

    Except ... what am I doing as the third person to comment?? (Hi, Marilyn and Helen!) Perhaps all is not right with the world.

    What was the question, Ruthy?

    Was there a question?

    I'll go rest now ...

    Nancy C

  4. Ruthy, I hope you're enjoying New York City. My wife and I were there a few years ago around Christmastime. It was great. We'd love to go back.

    I'm in Costa Rica at the moment, but I'm flying out later today. Can't wait to get home.

    When I read your list, the first thing that came to mind was the scent of cherry blossoms. I love it when the cherry blossoms (and also the plum blossoms) are in bloom. It's short, but it's wonderful.

    - Walt

  5. I'm sure the fact that your book ended the amazing, classic, brilliant and enduring Love Finds You line of books isn't your fault, least...not exactly.........

    A total coincidence.....

  6. Sometimes I'll be reading along and just read something and be so stinking CHARMED by it.
    It's so hard to really put your finger on exactly how or why. I'm going to hunt around here and try to find some examples.

    Maybe in the MORNING.

    One line that comes to mind that I just always thought was so funny, so brilliant, that it needed to be lingered over. Which to me amounted to charm.

    The opening sentence in an inner chapter of a book about a really feisty, cranky little writer who was such a pill that honestly, I don't know if any man will ever really keep up with her.

    Here's the line.

    "I have always fantasized about being likeable."

    To me, that is just so laugh out loud funny. The more I think about it, the funnier it is and in some ways it's painful, too, but she's such a pill and she really doesn't care if anyone likes her and she knows pretty much no one does and sure, she wouldn't mind if people liked her, but she wasn't about to change to help that cause along.

    And yet one old cowboy on this dude ranch she's been more or less shanghaied into visiting sees what a charmer she is, how misunderstood, what a sweetheart she is under those porcupine quills. And we just keep waiting and hoping that the hero figures out why she drives him so CRAZY.

    I have always fanaticized about being likeable.

    I find that charming.

  7. Ruthy (aka The Show Off) may be in Manhattan at Christmastime. But I did get to town today and I put GAS in my car and I also bought a can of tuna and some celery (to make myself an awesome lunch). So it's not like she's having ALL the fun.

  8. Goooooooood Morning, Seeeeeekerville!!!!!!


    "I want to wake up in the city that never sleeps!!!!"....

    Oh my stars, I love New York!

    Last night's reception for award-winners was wonderful, in this amazing Mutual of America building penthouse loft gathering area where you could see the entire city of lights before you. Glassed in on three sides, it was magnificent! I forgot all about ZACH because of the view, LOL! :)

    Helen, I love it when you say things like "Go off to do my AFS." (Art fact sheet)because then I go SQUEEEEEEE and laugh in delight! Yay, you, I can't wait to read these books!

  9. Marilyn!!!

    Okay, "stalled" jumped out at me, you knew it would....

    And my first dog was and Irish setter, my second one, too. Great dogs!

    So why are we stalled? Not enough time? Did you write yourself into a corner? Did your people get boring, same-old, same-old?

    Mary would SHOOT SOMEONE and it works!!!

    I'd probably have something happen to the dog....

    Or a friend. Or family. Deepen their characters with guilt or remorse or shame....

    If I can't get in later today once I'm in Midtown(my phone wouldn't let me post on Myra's day, BAD PHONE!!!)I'll tackle whatever you say when I get back to Internet... but I bet there will be SEEKER ADVICE galore, my friend!

  10. Good morning, Ruthy.

    Since you're busy in the city, I'm dropping off a charming birthday cake for Julie Hilon Steele. I'm sure you'll all be happy to share it with her.

    Sing alongs are charming, no?

    One, two, three...

    Happy Birthday to you...

  11. Mary, thank you for trying to make me look popular by leaving a bunch of comments!!!!


    See how we're "synced" even thousands of miles apart!

    I am a show off, this cannot be denied. And I got a glimpse of 5th Avenue last night... and St. Bart's Church (I have a love affair going with old churches) which is just QUAINT AND CHARMING rolled into one. We were close to Rockefeller Center last night, so surrounded by opulence and light and sky-high gorgeousness.... Beauteous!

  12. Mary Curry, my Manhattan coffee buddy!!!!

    Dave is at Financier right now getting me coffee..... :)

    The very same Financier you and I had coffee at over the summer!!! And it's COLD here, Mary Curry. C-O-L-D but not as cold as the mid-section is dealing with now, so I'll suck it up and stop whining!

    It is December, after all. :)


    Oh sweet, dear mother of all that's good and holy in the universe and its surrounding towns, let's sing!!!!

    "Happy birthday to you!
    Happy birthday toooo youuuu!!!

    Happy birthday, dear JUUUUULIE!!!
    (4-part harmony on this last line, come on, we can do it!!!!)
    Happy birthday tooooooo yoooouuuuuuuuu!"

    Hugs for you, JHS!!!!!

  13. Mary, I might steal that line.

    "I've always fantasized about being likable."

    That's total "Edith" Downton Abbey.

    Or Marilla Cuthbert, Anne of Green Gables

    Who else would fit that line? Who's a snark we love but could easily abhor?????

    (Note the use of an SAT word, I must not fall out of practice!!!)

    I like prickly personalities and that sometimes makes heroines tricky to love, but what's up with it being okay to have BROODING, GRUMPY heroes.... and snippy heroines are thought of as witchy....

    We are a strange sort!

  14. Ruthie, Just came back from ordering "Love Finds You in the City at Christmas." And never once did I feel you were shamelessly promoting your books as you said. :) I appreciated the link.

    I'm not sure I was clear about my statement in a previous post when I said some authors were all about I do not include the Seekers among those. If anybody markets by giving, it's this group.

    It's just that coming from a reader's side of the sales issue, I need something more to entice me to buy other than the author contacting me, asking me to buy her book because she desires to be at the top of the sales list. That's about her. It doesn't tell me what's in it for me, the reader. That's important because there's a lot of books out there clamoring for the same money.

    I know it's a tough issue for both sides, but one of the things this site does so well is provide a showcase for personalities--Seekers & guests alike. When an author's work is unfamiliar to me, just knowing a little about them can tip my decision to buy in their favor. I've bought a lot of books because of this site.

    Oops.Sounds like I'm on my soapbox again. And my timing is way off. This post is about charm.

    I love gruff characters who show a soft spot for children, elders, and/or animals. That gets me every time. So does generosity.

    Enjoyed the post. Your personality definitely comes through.

  15. "I have always fantasized about being likeable."

    Mary Connealy, I laughed out loud when I read that. What's the title of the book? It sounds like a "must read."

  16. What a fun post, Ruthy! You lucky duck, frolicking in NYC... Not fair! Oh, well, I can look at pictures of Manhattan on Pinterest ...and I find everything about Christmas charming.:-)

    NANCY C, what are you doing up this early???? Hope to see you next week! :-)

    Ruthy, I just finished THE LAWMAN'S HOLIDAY WISH, It's a wonderful story! :-)

  17. There can't be anything more beautiful than the city at Christmas. I hope to be in Boston for New Year's Eve.
    Remorse, guilt and shame...sounds good to me.
    Kathy Bailey

  18. I agree with CaraG. Sometimes I'll buy a book after getting to "know" the author on Seekerville, because then I know where they're coming from.

  19. Marilyn -- based on that description of your Irish Setter lovin' hero, I'm on board to read the book. Please don't be stalled for long!!!!!!

    Ruthy -- enjoy NYC! It will likely never be the same after you're done with it! Love this post. It makes me smile because everything on your list is exactly what tickles my reader's fancy. As far as writing goes though, I tend to put more charm into my animals than my human characters. :-) Maybe if I pretended I was writing a Lady and the Tramp romance that might help me. LOL.

    Just finished the second in an awesome series about a little Kentucky town called Hollyhill by Ann Gabhart. Oh my goodness but I love that town and the people who live in it. And her teenage heroine? Phew -- talk about charm!

    Enjoy your uptowning!!!!

  20. Absolutely charming post, Ruth-ster! Who doesn't love a Muppet Christmas Carol? Much more fun to watch than the original, but then, there is a place for tradition, too.

    So many touching ideas for incorporating charm into our writing. Of course, 4-H gatherings should be #1 on everyone's list of small town events, LOL!

    Hmm, a Derek Jeter sighting or two probably doesn't hurt either, but might distract from the main event of the story, LOL!

    Love the book covers, especially the Love in the City. Beautifully wrapped present of a story.

    Now if you'll excuse me, I need to stop by the Yankee Belle Café and pick up a dozen or so cookies to bring to work with me. Always a good thing to keep the boss in a good mood.

    Have a charming day!

  21. Hi RUTHY, Glad you are enjoying NYC at Christmas time. I hear it is really exciting.

    Personally, I find Palm Springs charming at Christmas. I love all the decorations in the yards, esp the lights climbing up the date palms. I love the manger scenes in the yards because after all Jesus was born in the desert. I love the bake sales, the angel trees in all the churches and those at our resorts. I love angel trees because I don't have any children to give presents to so they are fun for me.

    Okay, I'm done. I think I'll head over and get some sugar cookies. I love cookies at Christmas time also.

  22. Wait a minute. KAV I laughed so hard at your Lady and Tramp dilemma. I so have the same problem. Maybe animals are more charming because they love us no matter what.

  23. Cara G.!!!! I hear ya, sweet thing!

    And I'm always teasing about using children.... blogs.... facebook.... small pets, LOL!.... BABIES!!!! to shamelessly exploit folks into buying my books, so it's all good.

    You know, I appreciate your wisdom a lot because balance is a critical thing. I love that my sales are doing well. Harlequin likes that, too! :)

    But what I love more is that I can bond with people here and on Facebook, pray for them, chat with them, get their e-mails or snail mails.... and that's the true gift behind the craft. All the friends and folks who love to work together to promote Christian fiction and suhweeeet romance!

    You get on your soapbox anytime. I love it!

    Nancy C, what were you doing up at that hour????? 'Sup wi' dat, girlfriend? And I think Ruthy and Muppets and Christmas helps everything be calm and bright... but heaven knows how Manhattan will fair today! :)

  24. WALT!!!! I can see/smell/touch the charm of cherry blossoms.... plum blossoms.... apple blossoms.....

    Anne of Green Gables "white way of delight" when she and Matthew Cuthbert took the wagon trail through the "Avenue" a break in the apple orchards at blossom time.

    A beautiful, winsome image, Walt and safe travels home today!

  25. Kathy Bailey, those three things are story builders, aren't they? Plot formers, for sure.

    And then the charm of the lighter moments shines brighter by contrast.

    Like that one candle, piercing the darkness.

  26. Sandra, what a wonderful way of looking at Christmas in the warmer climes!

    I was chatting with some Salvationists last night about our "quintessential" Christmas look of New England at Christmas... and how the manger was probably not like that....

    But I'm going to bet it wasn't much like Palm Springs, either, LOL!

    I think the imagery of "all is calm... all is bright..." works its magic with the winter profile, the quiet, the snow, the trees, the dark but starlit sky...

    I wonder where Jenny is today? My daughter was in Adelaide Australia years ago at Christmas time and said they decorate their windows in New England snow, frost, winter scenes, etc. right after Halloween even though it's summer there.

    Aren't we a funny sort????

    But clearly there's something about that Silent Night that lends itself to winter scenes...

    or desert scapes.

  27. Audra!!!!! There's a mountain girl for you! You've got some charming scenes right there in Colorado, even though you've got so much political scampering back and forth right now that it's kind of fun to watch the hijinks!!!

    And don't you just love the "farm lit" side of charm???? Small town and rural America at its best? And sometimes with its "best" brought to light while dealing with the less-than-best of small town living!

  28. Nice post, Ruthy!!!
    I love animals in stories (like Marilyn said) but I have never been particularly attracted to small children and babies in my romances. (Sorry, Ruthy. I do feel a little guilty about that, which will make Tina happy.) But I actually added a 5-yr-old to the book I'm writing now. I didn't plan to, it just happened. But I like it. It's working for me. :-)

  29. Ruthy, if it wasn't so cold, I'd join you in New York! Watched the lighting of the tree in Rockefeller Center, but would love to see the decorations in person. I'll live vicariously through you. Give your sons a hug from me! Are you keeping warm?

    Excellent suggestions for adding charm to our stories. Now don't call me Debby Downer--not our Debby that's for sure--but some of my heroines are put off by the charming hero. They'd been hurt by a smooth-talking man in the past. They see charm as a red flag. :-)


    Thanks for bringing the cake to the party, Mary Curry!


  31. Aw, thanks for the birthday wishes and thanks for the reminder of the little things that twinkle in a story! I like to think of the things you mentioned as the twinkle lights on a plain tree.

  32. Ruthy...just finished RUNNING ON EMPTY and waiting for LOVE FINDS YOU IN THE CITY AT CHRISTMAS. I'm still hoping to be in Phoenix this Christmas.....and yes, I love it that there is now SNOW especially since we must have has 12 inches in the last few days, which is keeping us house bound!

  33. CaraG it is the middle book in a novella collection by Jude Devereax called The Invitation. It's secular so be warned.
    But this one little, middle book, so short, it reads very strangely, the heroine in this book is in first person, the hero in third and we are almost always in first person and when we get into the heroine's head she is just INSANE.
    It reads like Jude found out she had a book due in 48 hours and was furious with everyone in the world for making her write it and just spewed out every bit of venom on the world that was stuck in her craw. But in such a hilarious way ... it's just a killer. Very short.
    It's called The Matchmaker and it was, for years, my favorite book on the planet.

    The third book in this collection called A Perfect Arrangement is almost as good. Another hilarious, cranky heroine.

  34. Merry Christmas to NY City. What fun.

    Is it snowing there?

  35. Hilarious post :)
    I used to be one of those people who didn't care for kids in books--then my older sisters started having kids! Now I have, like, a thousand nieces and nephews. Lol!
    I like kids now. Especially once they learn to say "Love you, Courtney." (Doesn't sound exactly like that, but I've learned kid-language.)
    Charming enough for me.

  36. A truly CHARMING post, Ruthy-kins! Hope you're having a fun, fun time in the Big Apple.

    "I have always fantasized about being likeable."

    Looks like several of us zeroed in on that line this morning, Mary. I could have written it myself. About me. You say the story is about a writer? On a dude ranch?

    Um, that wouldn't be Grammar Queen, would it???

  37. Thank you, Ruthy. I'm coming back with a little coffee, unless the country files an export license against me. I've been doing final edits on my GH entry. Same manuscript as last year, but I've cut about two pages from it in tightening edits as well as corrected a couple of historical errors. (I discovered I was about 12 months early on one item. On another, I was right on the time but realized it would be a least a month before my characters could have possibly known.)

    I also read Tina's The Christmas Angel on the flight down and have The Lawman's Holiday Wish for the flight back.

  38. OK.I should have said "...before the country files an injunction against me for not having an export license."

  39. Ruthy, what a great post! I LOVE all your fabulous ideas. And even some for the city—I need those, since that's where my stories tend to be set. :)

    We love, LOVE the Muppet's Christmas Carol. We'll be watching it with the boys tomorrow night. Lots of charm in that.

    And in this post. Thank you for sprinkling happy dust into my day!

  40. New York at Christmas time, I am trying to picture you there. Isn't it a little chilly? I am sorry to see the "Love Finds You" books ending, loved everyone I read and like the looks of your new one.
    Thanks for thinking of seekerville and all the folks back here while you are having a grand time there.
    We'll keep the light on for ya.

    Merry Christmas
    Paula O

  41. Not snowing at the moment, Tina. It did on Tuesday and more is forecast for the weekend, but for now we're just hanging in the 20s with sunny skies.

    Hope you enjoyed the coffee, Ruthy.

  42. Love the post Ruthy. Love what's happening over at the Yankee Belle Cafe too. Never can have too many adorable children baking christmas cookies pictures. Overload of cuteness!! I'm charmed by that.

    I've always found hero/child interaction charming - especially if said child makes hero uber uncomfortable because he isn't used to simple interaction. Also, I like it when the hero tries to do something nice for the heroine - or rather, what he thinks would be nice for the heroine - but it sort of misses the mark. (ie. man who loves tools who buys lady living alone a power tool so she can fix stuff at her house...well, really it's so he can fix things at her house by showing/helping her fix things with said tool). um, my brother once thought his girlfriend (now wife of twenty years) would like such a tool. very sincere, he was - took mom and I some time to convince him it wasn't very romantic.*heh* I did find it charming and still do.

    Your Christmas in the City book is on my wish list, awaiting budget freedom for purchase. Put me in the cat bowl for ANY book by Ruthy. They always give my heart warm fuzzies.

  43. All I can say, MARY CURRY, is . . .


  44. Happy Birthday JULIE HS. Forgot to mention that earlier.

  45. RUTHY, About Jesus in a manger-- the priest at Sacred Heart Church (I really like his charming spirituality) brought up the idea that it was a blessing for Joseph and Mary to be offered the stable because the inn was so crowded, noisy, stinky, etc. The innkeeper thought it would be more peaceful and quiet with more privacy in the stable. Of course he didn't know that a host of angels and shepherds would appear. LOL Anyway I love that image and when I see the manger scenes I think of it in a different light.

  46. MELANIE, I'm with you, although I admire when others can manage children and still have romance. RUTHY and others do it well in their stories, but I really don't-probably cause I never had any of my own so can't even imagine them helping the romance along. LOL

  47. Hi Rutie,

    As I was reading yours and Mary's charming quips, I was reminded that my cp, Piper, is good at coming up with those charmers. In A Champion's Heart, she really hadn't explained how the heroine felt about her hero's mother until the beginning of Chapter 7: (Delie watched as Effie Bates sashayed her wide behind down the road.) I laughed and understood perfectly what their relationship was.

  48. Loved the post, Ruthy! Between this and the cookies over at the Yankee-Belle Cafe, I'm really getting in the Christmas spirit :)

    (The Muppets don't hurt, either...)

    Oh, to make a story charming! I love adding in the quirky secondary characters, and the cute kids, and the dogs who think they're cats.

    I've added a mule to the story I'm working on now - all based on a friend's mule. She's going to be the instigator of charm, I can tell.

    And in my August 2014 release, there's all sorts of charm - ten children, a gigantic cow, a curmudgeonly aunt, and a heroine named Ruthy. What more can you ask for?

  49. Just got back from some charming Christmas shopping. Only 2 more gift needed. And have to wait for 2 we had to order because they were out of stock.

    There's been no school here all week. Ran into someone (didn't knock her down) in town awhile ago who said we're supposed to get 4 more inches of snow tomorrow. We're still trying to get rid of the 10 inches over a layer of ice we already got.

    Me: I'm cold.
    Hubby: Go stand in the corner.
    Me: Why?
    Hubby: Because every corner is 90 degrees.

    Okay, okay, I'm going away now.

  50. The Muppet Christmas is a CLASSIC at the Pagels household. We watch that every year and switched from VHS to DVD! It isn't Christmas unless Kermit has performed!

    No eggnog (dairy allergy) and no sugar cookies unless those are Gluten free!

    Thanks for the great article!

  51. Ruthy, I love your charming list! Everyone on Downton Abbey is charming to me, but probably not to everyone! It's their loss.

  52. Oh cp Elaine!!! Loving that new profile pic!!! I remember you saying that you were going to take them--you look gorgeous!!!

    And thanks to a bit of advice Ruthy gave me earlier, I knew how to use some, but certainly not all of these great charmers. There's lots of them in A Champion's Heart because there are kids--two of the biggest ones are the h/h who have to grow up and learn how to say they care for one another.

    It's always better to use a charmer phrase because it would be so much easier to say that Delie and her potential mother-in-law never got along. Then there would be the risk that Delie came across as hostile. Nope, better for her to refer to Effie's wide behind. And that's not "the end" of it either!!!

    Thanks for the lesson Ruthy, this is an awesome post!

  53. CARRIE, it sounds like you and I have some of the same food issues. :) We do GF and Dairy free also. I miss eggnog. :)

  54. I agree with all the things you've listed Ruthy. But one thing I find very charming is when the heroine is in pain and the hero just opens up his arms and the heroine walks into them and they cuddle. I had one of those moments today (rough day at work and my hero husband opened up his arms and pulled me in. It always makes everything better. :)

    Would love to have my name thrown in the cat dish. :)

    Have fun in New York City and Manhattan. I must make a trip there someday.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

    countrybear52 AT yahoo DOT com

  55. Love your post, Ruthy! Yep....all those charming things. And such precious cuties over at the Café. Enjoy your time in NYC!

    Happy birthday, Julie!

  56. Enjoy the big NYC.. ahhh, isn't it great at Christmas!!!

    I'm thinking you are really at the top of the list for writing CHARM, so this was a great choice. Right now I am determined to see if I can dig any up in my ms.
    possibly...there's not even a dead body in this one.

  57. Sandra I would love to try a desert Christmas one of these years.

  58. I have to agree with Sandra. Kids are not conducive to romance. Only, maybe, in fiction. :-)

  59. Julie HS Hope you had a wonderful birthday!

    Nancy C

  60. This comment has been removed by the author.

  61. Melanie, you've come to the dark side of adding a kid to your book!!!!


    You know, I love your stories and because the heroines were young, I think you were right to not worry about kids! But some stories (contemps and second chance romances come to mind) just lend themselves to families, single parenthood, etc. because it's such a part of our current society.

    And TINA makes you feel guilty, too?????

    I'm convinced it was her Italian Catholic upbringing! Italian Mama's know how to guilt us into being GOOD!!!! :)

  62. You know, one of the charming (ahem) things about Seekerville is how well we get to know each other. Like Mary H and Ruthy asking what on earth I was doing up so early. Actually, it was a matter of staying up late. And I'd love to say I was finishing a WIP or editing or something incredibly writer productive ... but the truth is I was reading a Seeker book. These Seeker Authors are really messing up my schedule with books I can't put down :-)

    Nancy C

  63. Janet! Oh, the tree was so beautiful. Even prettier in person. And Saks 5th Avenue has a SHOW being broadcast on the side of the building on the west side of Rockefeller Center, set to Transiberian Orchestra's Carol of the Bells. They might have other ones, but they run them every 4 minutes.... and by then we were in St. Patrick's Cathedral... Under reconstruction and rehab, but open for people to come in.


    Praying for all of the needs in Seekerville and family/friends and the homeless and despairing this time of year. What seems so joyous to me/us is hard on some.


    Christ's peace with us.


  64. So, about charming ... a hero who is humorously aware of his shortfalls and finds the heroine's shortfalls a source of good-natured amusement.

    Or a hero who is trying to maintain some semblance of order in the middle of overwhelming chaos ... kinda like Kermit.

    Nancy C

  65. >> Your "charming" might be someone else's "annoyance". <<

    Ruthy, I almost forgot to tell you how much I appreciate that reminder.

    Nancy C

  66. Julie, I love that image of the twinkle lights brightening the tree!

    You need to do a post on that!!!!

    That's perfect, everyone can "see" exactly what you mean with that phrasing, birthday girl!

    Marianne!!!! Thank you for reading "Running on Empty"! I'm so grateful for your time, kiddo! And I think you'll love "Love Finds You in the City at Christmas". Dave and I spent last evening with several of the majors of the Greater Manhattan Salvation Army and it was just lovely. Such kind, warm-hearted, God-fearing people. Great night, and two of the NY Salvationists, Bill Groff and Reverend Jay Sinclair were my advisors on that book. Good men, and I love the human pledge of the army... to work as Jesus taught, helping the least of the least.

    I hope you like it! Let me know, okay????

  67. Tina!!!! No snow, but bitter cold, wind.... so it tunnels down the streets, down the subway stairwells/alleys, etc.

    I bought my own Metro ticket!!! And Dave and I didn't mess up ONCE!!!!


    We spent the day at the Museum of Natural History, just amazing. DINOSAURS!!!! :) And the mammals of North America... Africa.... Under the sea.... Amazing exhibits, I've never seen such beautiful museum exhibits, so complete and perfectly set.

    My phone died mid-day so there was no getting onto Seekerville, but I took a picture of a CHRISTMAS DINOSAUR!!!! The front of the huge museum is displaying a huge dinosaur (sauropod/long neck) made of evergreen branches that lights up at night. It's huge and green!!!!

    Christmas dinos rock!!!!

  68. Courtney, I think you nailed it, kid!

    Kids can be annoying if you have no experience with them and therefore think they're going to jump when you say jump....



    And if you can't see them as the hope for the future. Once you have them around you, they grow on you!

    Well, so does MOSS, but you know what I mean!

    I get a kick out of the cuteness, naughtiness and honest emotion in kids... and when a kid tries to be big, brave and bold???? To rise above???

    Oh, that just grabs my heart!

  69. I believe it stalled because I didn't know the characters well enough. And I was trying to write it for NaNoWriMo and I should have learned a couple years ago that I do not work well under that much pressure (so heaven help me if I'm ever under a contract deadline!).

    Right now I'm working a second job -- as a virtual assistant to an author who has gone totally digital. I work with her FB page, I did an email blitz to review blogs for her December 9 release and now I'm proofreading her January release. My hope, dream, deepest desire, honest-to-goodness wish is for this to earn me enough money I can quit working at the law firm. I'll be doing some networking at RWA this summer to pick up a few more clients and if all goes well, that hope, dream, desire and wish can come true. My counselor says I really really REALLY need to get out of that law firm. It's not the work per se, but the fact I can't get away from divorce (that's all we do -- family law).

    Anyhoo, I have SpeedBo in my sights. It's not as regimented as NaNo and last March I did really well -- I finished the novella that I entered in the Boroughs contest (no release date yet but it supposed to be before June). I'm going to start working on some more "pre-writing" after New Years and get that Irish setter loving Irishman whipped into shape by golly!

    And I'm back to my dining room table to edit some more.

  70. Myra, you know how I love to charm you, darling!!!!

    And Grammar Queen would be PERFECT for that line, oh my stars, YES!!!!!

    I think we all feel that way now and again, but GQ?????

    She's the cat's pajamas of embodiment! Love your thoughts on that!

    Ask her if she's insulted. :) I'm sure she realizes, especially after her sweet romance with JAKE in northern Idaho, that love softens all angst. You tell her I said that, darling!

  71. Walt, I'll come down for coffee! I'm totally down with that, my friend.

    I just had a decadent dessert at Financier called "Marjolaine", a coffee/meringue/cake/chocolate ganache amazing bit of deliciousness!!!!

    Your coffee would have been perfect alongside. :) And I haven't read The Christmas Angel yet, my Kindle was absconded by my daughter Beth and it has been spending a long-term vacation at her house. But I know it will find its way back to me eventually!

    I hope you like/love The Lawman's Holiday Wish. I love the story, love the characters and those three five-year-olds just make me smile!

    (and cringe, LOL!)

  72. Aw, Jeanne! How's the story coming? I love that you've moved so much faster with this story. That says so much!

    And YAY for the Muppets!!! LOVE THAT STORY!!!!!

    Paula, I love Tom Bodett!!!! :) Yeah, freezing cold and windy here, folks are bundled and it's tough to traipse midtown comfortably because the wind is barreling down 5th Avenue, but I saw the lights of Midtown... lovely decorations!! Bloomingdales is ALIVE in lights! And decorated trees everywhere! Salvation army bell ringers everywhere... and I was glad I wasn't out there ringing tonight, I must confess.

    Did you know a lot of the ringers in high volume areas like midtown NYC are young salvationists learning how to serve others from the ground up?

    Cool, right?

  73. I love A Christmas Carol so you had me hooked from the opening!

    Great list and many resonate with me.

  74. You know it's about 15 degrees colder back home, but back there I can layer up in CRUMMY HOODED FLANNELS and fat jeans and long underwear and not care how I look while I feed chickens and take kids sledding.

    But here????

    THIS IS NYC!!!! GOTTA LOOK GOOD!!!! I'm seeing lots of fur...

    Peta is ANGRY at NYC, for sure!!!

    And puffy coats are back in style, those quilted, lightweight coats that MELT (for real) if you get too close to a wood stove.

    Everyone's wearing "puffy" coats. I thought that was over ages ago and that nice, well-woven wools were the "thing"....

    You know, timeless, tailored, stylin'?????




    Quilted puffy coats everywhere!

    I did find the LINDT store in Midtown and shopped there a little... and a Nuts for Nuts vendor so I got a couple of bags of nuts.

    I love nuts for nuts!!!

  75. Mary Curry, I thought of you at Financier again tonight! Had to try the pastries, oh my stars.

    So good!!!!


    Deb H, I'm putting your name in the dish, darling! And I agree, I love the Jimmy Stewart style hero stuff, where they mean well and kind of bumble their way through bungling things.... and I love it when a kid softens a hard heart, hero or heroine.

    The pure light within!!!

  76. Elaine, Piper has a gift for nuance, doesn't she?

    And she doesn't waste words to do it, you can feel/see the emotion within a sentence that doesn't name emotion, but the art of the words inflects the feeling.

    (I have no idea what I just said, I'm getting sleepy, but I think it was nice, Piper!!!!) :)

  77. Jan, you had me at MULE!!!! I was laughing about mules with the gals on the continuity for 2014 because several of them have experience with mules... and love them!

    Now I must put a mule in a book! I thought Beansy-the-goat (Falling for the Lawman) was charming. I just loved the little fellow and am seriously thinking of grabbing a few dwarf Nigerian goats just because they're so stinkin' cute!!! (my children are threatening my life because you know who has to care for my critters when I go away.... :( They are not livestock lovers!!!!

    And a Ruthy heroine is always a good thing! Mary Connealy's "Swept Away" just was named best western romance by "True West" magazine... and the heroine???



    I think not!!!! :)

  78. Helen Gray, I love that husband of yours!

    And because I've been doing square measure, and area and ratios and perimeters and all kinds of tactical measurement.... I think it's even funnier than I would have last year because I'm surrounded by 5th through 7th graders and they're knee-deep in sizing everything!

  79. Carrie, I will make gluten free just for you and Jeanne!

    And Julie has to watch things, too, so maybe these meringue treats from Financier will be better for you guys!

    We'll come up with something, I promise!

  80. Cara Lynn, are you counting the days like we are???? And I was a year late loving Downton, so I had to catch up last year... and loved it!!!!

    What will season 4 bring?????

    And my daughter thinks we must be related to Phyllis Logan (Mrs. Hughes) because she reminds her of ME.... I hope that's a good thing!!!

  81. AW, Piper!!!!

    You're so stinkin' sweet.

    I probably BROKE YOUR SWEET HEART and left you crying in the gutter, I'm that mean and cryptic, but thanks for prettying it up, honey!!!


  82. Cindy W, I just wrote a scene like that, where a tough-as-nails heroine stood her ground, did as needed, but at the end, the hero was there, waiting, knowing she needed that hug.


    Great minds think alike, and I agree: No matter how fierce we have to be on our own, it's just so stinkin' nice to be part of something special like a "couple".

  83. Sherida, you cute thing!!!! I loved meeting up with you DOWN UNDER at Jenny's blog last week!!!! :) Funny how easily we tour the world, isn't it?????

    Debra Marvin!!! Oh yeah, I love the city at Christmas. I remember how beautiful downtown Rochester was when I was a little girl. The beautiful displays, the windows, the lights, the joy!!!!

    And it's a ghost town now, so that's beyond sad, but coming here.... seeing the lights.... being surrounded by the prettiness and being at a reception honoring folks who fight for those less fortunate every single day... kind of brings it all together, that life can be hard... but we still need to dream, work and forge ahead!

    ♥ NYC!!!!

  84. Eh, eh, eh, Ms. Melanie....

    I do not agree, mon petite!!! I really think having kid or kids around can give the depth to a story that coaxes a 3 star rating to 4 star... or 4 to 5, and I'll tell you why:

    It keeps it real.

    They add depth.

    They add conflict.

    A family romance has its own level of ANGST because kids don't win over on a sensual level, there's no love at first sight, and lots of them have issues....

    Oh. Great. ISSUES!!!!

    But you know what? Part of how women see men is by how the men handle CHILDREN, kind of like a bear guarding her cubs from a big ol' GRIZZLY GUY.


    But I do think it's like anything else, if you can't write children organically or naturally, it's tough to fudge. A five year old with the properties of a seven year old will annoy readers....

    And too many smart, funny kids seems unreal.

    And too cute is almost gag-worthy.

    So going for endearing, inviting, captivating...


    Gotta love it!

  85. I always love Ruthy-posts! (did you know you're hyphenated, Ruthy? But don't tell Grammar Queen--she might tell me I'm doing something wrong and give me homework).
    Great post (or I guess I should say CHARMing post?!) and if I haven't told you this---I LOVED The Lawman's Holiday Wish!! Really--if I didn't have so many books on my TBR stack right now, I'd RE-read it before Christmas! Your Summerside book looks wonderful too (still so sad that the line is ending...).
    Enjoy being in the big city, and stay WARM!!
    Hugs from Georgia, Patti Jo

  86. p.s. HAPPY BIRTHDAY sweet Julie Hilton Steele!!! Sending hugs and birthday cake to you!!

  87. Oh, Ruthy, I have been SOOO bad lately, coming late every single day due to nasty edits. :(

    "Not everyone's attracted to the same sort of story, we see that every stinkin' day around here."

    LOL, AMEN, SISTER -- AIN'T THAT THE TRUTH!! And I got plenty of 1-stars to prove it. :)

    LOVE your various charm suggestions, and frankly, NOBODY does them better than you in books, girl, seriously!!

    Heck, even your LIFE is charming ... with roosters and puppies and kids galore, not to mention all the baking and charity you do!!

    Fun post, my friend. Now, back to edits ... :(


  88. Thanks Ruthy! But the upshot is, I survived! I have the tee shirt to prove it!


  89. It is true that not everyone likes the same kinds of stories, but there are plenty to go around.

  90. Marilyn, thanks for sharing all that...

    First, I'm covering you with prayers for the job situation. But a part of me wonders if you're in that office/position because of what you've experienced, that your specific wisdom might bless those around you????

    But you know best! I have learned that it's a tough business for making a living.... and I'm hanging on to my day job for at least two more years because I want to feel solid terra firma beneath my feet. But I'm older than you so I don't want to have to start anew if I stumble a bit!

    Like you, I don't do well with writing pushes... the solid 1K-1500words/day gets me 3 or 4 solid books/year and that's a living wage right there.

    I'm a turtle... but I'm a steady turtle and it is truly paying off! Hang in there, I know how talented and gifted you are!

  91. Terri! I'm so glad, and glad you stopped in today!

    Tossing your name in the cat dish, darling!


  92. Piper is referring to a "I survived a Ruthy Critique" t-shirt which is something we REALLY SHOULD PROVIDE AS NEEDED!!!! :)

    Patti Jo, oh how nice to see you!!!

    I'm so glad you liked it, isn't it a beautiful story of second chances and coming home? I'm so glad Melissa loved Rainey's story line and we had to figure out how to weave it into Falling for the Lawman to meld with The Lawman's Holiday Wish.... And when everyone in town and the family is just stinkin' MAD at a person, it was a tricky balance of family melding and forgiveness without making any of it trite.

    Heaven spare us from trite resolutions!!!! Glad you liked it, dear girl! You made me smile!

  93. Mary Preston!!!! That's the simple truth.

    Different strokes for different folks and the world goes 'round!

    Thanks for being here today!

  94. Julie, LOL!

    I love a wide range of reading, but a lot of folks stick to their One True Style and aren't comfortable with branching out...

    For me, it's kind of fun to see all the different kinds of stories on both sides of the great divide, like the list Virginia showed last week of one-liners... The world's a vast and wondrous place, ripe with ideas!

    I love grabbing hold of them!

    Thank you for your kind words and I say "PFFT and PIFFLE" to the rough reviews.

    Not all readers embrace our stuff, and that's okay!

  95. Ruthy,

    Sorry I didn't stop by yesterday. :-( What a lovely post about hope and Christmas! And I always love me some sugar cookies and eggnog.

  96. Entertaining and helpful hints in Adding Subtle Charm to Your Writing. Thanks for the entertainment and the help. Would love to win the gift card. Thank you for your generosity.