Characters for Autumn: All About the Fall “Feels”!

Last week I participated in my monthly Golden Heart blog party with the theme “favorite holiday books”. But instead of talking about A Christmas Carol or The Polar Express, I made a case for the books of Autumn. Not necessarily stories that take place in the Fall, but those that evoke the emotions of this season.  Stories — and emotions — told around a campfire. Stories — and emotions — passed down from one generation to the next.

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In my last post, I wrote about what it takes to be an “Autumn Book”.

Autumn is a complicated season with edgier feelings. There are a lot of events and holidays (back-t0-school, Homecoming, Halloween, All Souls Day, Thanksgiving, etc.) that fight for dominance over the encroaching Christmas season. (Although I adore Christmas, I like my holidays contained to the month in which they occur.)

Night steals hours from the day. The air cools and sharpens. The west winds (at least here in Virginia) carry the scents of crisp apples, cinnamon-flavored cider, and pumpkin pie. The harvest comes in and fields lie fallow.

The veil between life and death thins.

The possibility of redemption can only be taken on faith because the guiding lights of this world have dimmed.


And Autumn books carry these feelings regardless of when or where they take place. These books offer triumph over desolation, perseverance in the face of death, faith over fear, and remind us that death is not the end.

But why does the “season” of a book matter?

At one time or another, we’ll all identify with the season that closes in on us, steals our daylight, and leaves us in despair for spring. And our reading choices give us a healthy way to work through these emotions.



But where does a book get its emotion from?

There are many elements in a novel that carry the emotion including setting, dialog, and plot. Yet, for me, emotion is all about character. While an overall book can have a “fall feel”, certain characters personify these emotional elements.

So, for my debut post on the Sisters of Suspense blog, I’d like to share share some of my favorite characters that embody the characteristics of Fall.

Click here to read more at Sisters of Suspense or click continue to read here.  Continue reading

Books for Autumn: Yes, Fall has Feelings Too.

When I was a kid, I listened to Christmas music year-round. I would play my dad’s vinyl Goodyear Christmas records on St. Patrick’s Day, Easter weekend, Memorial day through Labor Day, then all through the fall. I loved the emotions those songs evoked. Anticipation, happiness, love. And since Christmas Day took FOREVER to arrive, I thought that if I listened to the music all year long, time would speed up.



But now that I’m older, time is going by way too fast and I have this desperate need to grab hold of every minute and slow things down.


So while today’s Writer Wednesday’s post is about your favorite holiday books, I’m not going to talk about Christmas books. Or Halloween books. Or any other kind of holiday books. I’m going to talk about books that evoke the emotions I attribute to my all-time favorite season: Fall.

Why do we listen to Christmas music or read holiday books or beach stories anyway? Is it to remind us in the middle of winter that summer (and summer love) will come regardless of the ten-foot snow drift outside your door? Or to give us hope no matter how difficult the year has been? To remember that on one special day of the year all of our desperate cries and unanswered dreams will be reflected in a single Star of grace?




Maybe. But I also believe that since readers read to feel something, they choose books (even subconsciously) that evoke the emotions of each season. Summer reads are full of laughter, forgiveness, and fleeting love. Spring books are stories of redemption and renewal and weddings. Winter books? Hope that there is a light in the darkness.


But what about Fall?

Fall is the time of year when days are shorter, nights appear darker, the air fluctuates between warm and cold. And in the midst of the changing weather and light, colors become more vibrant (red, purple, orange), smells more intense (burning leaves and pumpkin spice lattes), and there’s a parallel between beginnings (school) and endings (growing season). Harvests are coming in, favorite foods reappear (apple cider and pumpkin pie), Halloween signals the thinning of the veil between life and death, and the first snowflake falls.



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Fall reactivates every sense at once. Yet there’s a desperateness to it all. We fear that if we don’t cut our pumpkins, get to the Renaissance Faire, pick apples at a Harvest Festival, or roast marshmallows after Trick or Treating, the season will disappear with the first appearance of Christmas decorations, sometimes as early as All Souls Day, before we can enjoy it all.

With this in mind, I’ve made a short list of my favorite books that I re-read every fall, books that capture this season. Books about ghosts, dying dreams, gratitude and family, hopelessness against fate, feasts and food, and even magic.


First up, my all-time favorite book when I was a teenager:

The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope:

Amazon blurb: In 1558, while exiled by Queen Mary Tudor to a remote castle known as Perilous Gard, young Kate Sutton becomes involved in a series of mysterious events that lead her to an underground world peopled by Fairy Folk—whose customs are even older than the Druids’ and include human sacrifice.

This book entranced me when I was a teenager. Not only is it a poignant teenage love story based on the Legend of Tam Lin, it includes murder, mystery, and fairy folk with the climax of the book taking place on Halloween. The heroine wears green velvet cloaks and gets lost in the autumn woods. When the hero, Christopher, is captured, Kate, the heroine, has to save him. Then he has to save her. There are towers and moats and spells and insanity. There’s a lost girl and a heartbreaking sacrifice. But most of all, there’s forgiveness at the very edge of midnight, the moment before All Souls Day.


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling:

Besides being a huge Harry Potter fan, I included this book for the simple reason that every book in the series starts with the new school year. And new school years are nothing more than metaphors for new beginnings. Despite the fact Death Eaters lurk everywhere, Harry is safe at Hogwarts with the promise of dark afternoons spent with Hermione and Ron at the Leaky Cauldron drinking butter beer in front of the fire.

When the Heart Waits by Sue Monk Kidd:

This autobiographical account of a spiritual crises always makes me cry and gives me hope. It’s about endings and beginnings and spiritual awakenings. Highly metaphorical, this book reaches beyond the pain of past hurts and forces the reader to open his or her heart to new possibilities hiding in the shadowy mist. But only if the reader trusts that the dark night is always followed by the morning sun.


The Once and Future King by T. H. White:

The story of King Arthur, Guinevere, and Lancelot. With Merlin and Mordred and Morgan Le Fey. Knights in shining armor, ladies in velvet dresses, love and longing, honor and truth, deceit and betrayal. Reading about the legends of King Arthur is like walking through a Renaissance Faire with blazing bonfires and hot mulled cider (without the horse droppings). Yet, despite the deaths and brutal endings, the story offers a seed of hope that only comes from forgiveness and redemption.


The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Amazon blurb: Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue never sees them–until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks to her. His name is Gansey, a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul whose emotions range from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher who notices many things but says very little. For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She doesn’t believe in true love, and never thought this would be a problem. But as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

A beautiful YA love story that includes a search for Ley Lines and the legend of the sleeping Welsh Kings. A lush story of teenage love and all its crippling angst set against the backdrop of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley in the waning light of fall.


Lover Eternal by JR Ward

Amazon blurb: Within the Black Dagger Brotherhood, Rhage is the warrior vampire with the strongest appetites. He’s the deadliest fighter, the most voracious lover, the quickest to act on his impulses. He’s also been cursed with two hundred years of hell. Possessed by a beast, he lives in fear of the times when his inner dragon comes out and he’s a danger to everyone around him.

Mary Luce has unwittingly found herself in the vampire world, and under Rhage’s protection. With her own life-threatening curse to bear, she’s not looking for love. Besides, she’s stopped believing in saving grace and miracles long ago. But when Rhage’s intense sexual attraction turns into emotional bonding, he knows he must have her for his mate. As their enemies close in, Mary finds herself praying for something she fears she’ll never have: life eternal with the one she loves.

I don’t know why this book speaks to me in the fall because there’s nothing outwardly fall-ish about the story. Except for the fact that the hero is a vampire and Halloween is in the fall. But I think it has to do the heroine Mary. Her sacrifice in this book always makes me weep. She accepts her choice so willingly, despite her own heartbreak, and it reminds me that even when dreams die, and you submit to the hopelessness of the truth you never wanted to face, that fate always finds a way to reward you.


Dark Prince by Christine Feehan

Amazon Blurb: Breathtaking story of a beautiful hunter with extraordinary telepathic abilities captivated by the powerful allure of a tormented prince of the mysterious Carpathians.

Yes, another vampire novel. But this one takes place in the Carpathian Mountains of Romania. The setting alone evokes everything about Autumn, but the emotions are what draw me back year after year. Like JR Ward’s book above, this heroine has to make heart-wrenching choices. Yet all of her decisions are made to protect the family she never thought she could have and would do anything to protect. It’s less about magic and fangs and more about family and love.

Which leads me to the next book:

Dark Celebration by Christine Feehan

This book is a reunion book of Ms. Feehan’s Carpathian Hunters and their families at a Thanksgiving celebration. And reading about “vampires” trying to outdo each other while cooking meals they’ve never cooked, and playing football without knowing the rules, will make you laugh out loud. This book is ALL about family, feasts, and forgiveness. It’s about grace and gratitude. And nothing represents fall more than stories about grace and gratitude.



How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

Amazon blurb: Fifteen-year-old Daisy is sent from Manhattan to England to visit her aunt and cousins she’s never met: three boys near her age, and their little sister. Her aunt goes away on business soon after Daisy arrives. The next day bombs go off as London is attacked and occupied by an unnamed enemy. As power fails, and systems fail, the farm becomes more isolated. Despite the war, it’s a kind of Eden, with no adults in charge and no rules, a place where Daisy’s uncanny bond with her cousins grows into something rare and extraordinary. But the war is everywhere, and Daisy and her cousins must lead each other into a world that is unknown in the scariest, most elemental way.

Although this book starts in the summer, it evokes the feelings of desperateness and longing more than any other book I’ve read in a long time. Maybe because it’s a YA romance (yes, it is a romance), or maybe because it’s written in almost complete stream of consciousness, this book is so over-the-top emotional that it plunges you into its depths with the first sentence. You feel, like the heroine Daisy, that you are trapped in a metaphorical deep well with moss-covered walls, at night, and no chance of help. Yet, just when things are the worst they can be, a tiny ray of light appears. And you realize that love will even defeat the horrors of war. (They made a movie of this book! It’s on Netflix and it’s wonderful albeit disturbing.)



Red Mortal by Deidre Knight

Amazon blurb: Leonidas has long led his fellow immortal warriors in battle with quiet, unyielding strength. But when Daphne, Oracle of Delphi, confesses to having loved him from afar, Leo finds his stoic shell breaking away. Just as their love ignites, Daphne’s half-brother Ares strips Leonidas of his immortality. Now, it’s just a matter of time before Leonidas is taken from her-unless they can find a way to challenge Ares together.

Again, this story doesn’t take place in the fall but it relies heavily on the themes of redemption, hopelessness against fate, and family. But mostly it’s a story of forgiveness. Forgiveness of self, of brother, of God. It’s my favorite of the Gods of Midnight series because it so beautifully describes the heartache we cause ourselves and others when we don’t allow others into our hearts. Yes, it almost sounds like a Christmas book. But because this story is driven by the need for family, and gratitude for those we’ve love and lost, it falls firmly in the Autumn pile.


And, finally, anything by Edgar Allan Poe and Washington Irving.

Seriously. Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman from the Legend of Sleepy Hollow? The Tell-Tale Heart? The Raven?

The emotions these two authors serve up don’t get any more dark or scary or intense. Mr. Poe and Mr. Irving were masters of emotional manipulation, and their collected works are two of the treasures on our family’s keeper shelf.


I hope you’ve enjoyed the list and now I’d love to hear from you. What books evoke the emotions of your favorite holidays? I’d love to know!

Thank your for spending the day with us. Below is a link of my Golden Heart sisters who are participating in today’s blog party. Hope to see you next month!

Novels with Romantic Elements – Jean Willett – Natalie Meg Evans | Romantic Suspense – Sharon Wray | Paranormal writers – Kay Hudson | Contemporary Romance –Tamra Baumann – Lauren Christopher

Writer Wednesday List

All photos courtesy of Sharon Wray.

Mothers & Daughters Rock the Night Sky: An Interview with Suzanne and Melanie Brockmann

UnknownToday I’d like to welcome Suzanne and Melanie Brockmann, along with Ellen Wray, for a Kiss and Thrill first: A mother/daughter interview with the NYT best-selling mother/daughter writing team!

How did this all happen? It started with my daughter’s love of YA novels which led to the buying and borrowing of many(!) books.

That led to my reading and falling in love with the YA genre too.

Then came the announcement that my all-time favorite romance author was writing a new YA paranormal romance series with her daughter.

Once I told Ellen (an aspiring author herself) about the series, she asked, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we could do a mother/daughter interview with the mother/daughter writing team?”

To which I replied, “Yes!” And because Suzanne is known within the writing community for her generosity, I reached out to her and she said “Yes!” as well.


The Night Sky series debuted last October, followed by the prequel novella Dangerous Destiny. The second book in the series, Wild Sky, came out a few weeks ago. Upon Night Sky’s release, critics praised the novel for its witty dialog, strong female leads, realistically drawn characters, and a fabulous secondary cast  — not to mention a brilliant new YA world where kids with unusually strong powers must fight against those who would use them for nefarious purposes.

None of this praise comes as a surprise since these are the trademarks of Suzanne Brockmann’s adult romances. For her adult fans, this YA world is an extension of the world from Suz’s paranormal romance Born to Darkness. For younger fans, Melanie’s sharp insights into the minds of teenagers is as engaging as it is hilarious. The Night Sky series is a gripping, fast-paced adventure that Ellen and I have enjoyed experiencing together. And I’m so grateful to Suz and Melanie for sharing their YA world with us.

To read more, please join us at Kiss and Thrill or click here to continue.  Continue reading

What’s in a Name? A Rose named Sharon.

Today’s Writer Wednesday post is all about names. Character names. Specifically, our favorite character names.


This seems like a straight-forward topic, except when I sat down to write this post I got stuck. It wasn’t that I couldn’t think of a name, it’s that I thought of too many.

Fictional names, if used properly, not only evoke emotion but can make permanent indentations in history’s timeline. Some are so famous we know them by single names:

Hamlet. Juliet. Romeo. Gatsby. Odysseus. Brutus. Scooge. Pip. Alice. Heatchcliff. Aslan. Frankenstein. Gandalf. Jekyll. Hyde. Voldemort.

Others need a surname or moniker, but are instantly recognizable:

Holden Caulfield. Huck Finn. Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth Bennett. Jack Reacher. Harry Potter. Atticus Finch. Long John Silver. Catherine Earnshaw. Jane Eyre. Count Dracula. Hester Prynne. Mr. Rochester. Scarlett O’Hara.

I’m sure you could think of others.


Then there are the YA novels who stole the concept of “shipping names” from the old soap opera message boards. Remember LUKA for Luke and Laura? In YA novels, the names (first or last) of the hero and heroine are melded together to form a relationship name unique to them. How about FOURTRIS (Divergent series), EVERLARK (Hunger Games series), ROMIONE (Harry Potter), PERCABETH (Percy Jackson series), DUNE (Legend series), and CLACE (Mortal Instruments series)?

But names have always been an issue with me. Since I was named after a waitress my mother worked with one summer, and not a family member, my name has always stood out in my Irish Catholic family. Sharon is not a typical Irish Catholic name, and I always felt like my first name fought with my maiden name of Brennan. Like the latter bristled when pushed up against the former.


In the Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi, WARNETTE is one of the most powerful YA couples today.

Then I learned that the name Sharon has an interesting history. In Hebrew, it means “plain” or “fertile valley”. It also refers to a flowering bush called The Rose of Sharon. But the name gained popularity in 1925 with the publication of a serial novel “The Skyrocket” by Adela Rogers St. Johns (fabulous name for an author) whose main character is an actress named Sharon Kimm. To be honest, I’ve never read the book nor seen the silent movie made in 1926. But, apparently, the story hit a nerve and the name Sharon took off for a while. Then, after WWII, the name lost favor and was used sparingly.

Now that I’m older, and realize how nice it is not to have a common name, I love it.


Rose of Sharon bloom.

Although I’ve come to peace with my own name, and I have favorite characters whose names I will remember forever, when it comes to my own writing, I’ve always struggled with choosing the perfect name for each character. For men, especially heroes, I like strong names with initial hard consonants and single syllables. They carry a weight when spoken out loud and appear with sharp edges when typed out. (Jack, Alex, Pete, Nate, Rafe, Zack, etc.)

For female characters, I’m even pickier. Regardless if the heroine is an ex-intelligence agent or Smithsonian archivist, her name has to be the exact opposite of her hero’s in both tone and form. The women’s names can be multi-consonant and even hold up an accent aigu. (Sara, Madeleine, Charlotte, Amélie, Samantha, Katherine, Elizabeth). All of the female names can be shortened to sound tougher, depending on the situation and what type of person she is at the beginning or who she becomes at the end.

The funny thing is that after I go through all of this work, my characters will often introduce themselves to me with their own names perfectly suited to who the are.


So why all this angst over names? Why drag out my ancient, dog-eared copy of Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Character Naming Sourcebook and spend hours studying all my options? Playing around with shipping names on the off chance a teenage girl will demand one to make my YA love stories Canon? (It’s a YA thing)

The answer is as simple as it is complex.

Names (and nicknames) tell us about a character’s culture, background, education, social status, where they come from, and where they fit into the world. They even evoke the genre and time period of the story.

Most of all, names carry emotion. And a perfect name will give you an instant visual image of that character with all of the problems he or she is about to face as they begin their journey.

A perfect name will make you begin to worry about them. Make you cry for them. And make you cheer for them.

But that’s a lot of responsibility for a first and/or last name to carry. Even more responsibility for the author. But the stress of discovering the perfect character name is worth the work. Because, who knows, one day one of us here at Writer Wednesdays may end up with a Pip or Scarlett of our own.

I’d love to know what your favorite character names are!

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Now I’d like to add a huge congratulations to my GH sister Wendy LaCapra on her upcoming historical release Duchess Decadence.

DD_500A game of chance with love on the line…

London, 1784

Thea Worthington, Duchess of Wynchester divides her time between social engagements and playing her luck against fickle fortune. Yet every gamble is only a bluff—a means to hide from the pain deep within her, and the loss of a babe she never held in her arms. Now Thea’s luck is about to run out. Her estranged husband has returned and seeks a reunion…

Plagued with guilt over what happened to his wife three years ago, the Duke of Wynchester has kept his distance. The duke is resolved to piece his family back together, especially now that he’s discovered his beloved brother—long thought dead—still lives. But Thea’s lovely, porcelain facade is on the verge of cracking…spurred on by the duke’s brother’s secretive, malevolent animosity.

With everything riding on her future, Thea plays a daring game of chance for love and her marriage…and this time, the dice are most certainly rigged.

If you’d like to read an excerpt, please visit

Thank your for spending the day with us. Below is a link of my 2012 Golden Heart sisters who are participating in today’s blog party. Hope to see you next month!

Historical romance writers –  Wendy LaCapra | Paranormal writers – Kay Hudson | Contemporary romance writers – Lauren Christopher  | Novels with Romantic Elements  Natalie Meg Evans

Writer Wednesday List

All photographs courtesy of Sharon Wray.