Author Archives: Jessa Slade

Creating believable characters

LAST CHANCE! Don’t forget to enter my favorite romance writing contest of all time, the Golden Rose. This is the contest that got me published, but even before that I received wonderful feedback from judges who wanted to help me succeed.

Continuing the Janes roundup of the Rose City Romance Writers‘ Spring Fling Writers Conference, I’m sharing the highlights from Amy Liz Talley‘s workshop on Authentic Writing: Creating Characters & Worlds Readers Love.

Because I tend to be a plot-driven writer, I’m especially (even painfully?) conscious of the need to make sure my characters are always working as hard as they must to engage readers. Liz talked about four keys to creating believablity.

1. Flaws, secrets, and vulnerability

No protagonist should be so bad that she’s irredeemable or so good that she’s insufferable.* It’s the flaws and the need to keep secrets that make a character vulnerable and cause conflict as she tries to protect herself. And it’s also her vulnerability that makes her able to ultimately change for the better. (Hey, these are romances. Of course they change for the better!)

2. Past influences and backstory

Threaded through the on-page revelation of the character, old wounds and triumphs going all the way back to childhood — or even further into family history — help explain why a character does what she does and make her more than just a two-dimensional leaf blown anywhichway on the plot wind.

3. Consistent behavior

Faced with the twists and turns of the plot, the character should act in a way that internally consistent with the driving forces of her flaws and backstory. She’ll behave as she always has right up until the plot forces her against the black moment at the end where she must finally change.

4. Research

This is less about the characters and more about the creator. I’m not a huge fan of research — I love Wikipedia! — mostly because of how lost I can get answering an otherwise simple question about what sort of ionized gas is emitted from a black hole. But Liz had a great example: Since she was speaking in Portland, Oregon, in the spring, she noticed all the plants she doesn’t have where she lives in Louisiana near the Texas border. And they don’t have tulips in the spring! Too warm for the bulbs to overwinter. To create a believable world, a writer needs to know what springs from the very dirt of your creation. No pressure!

Spring is a great time for creation. And since Oregon is having one of its wettest rainy seasons on record, I’m getting a lot of indoor computer time. Hope you are finding inspiration from our Spring Fling recaps!

* Obviously, these are guidelines, not “teh rulz”!

A finalist in both RWA’s prestigious Golden Heart award and RITA award, Liz Talley has found a home writing sassy contemporary romance. Her stories are set in the South where the tea is sweet, the summers are hot and the men are hotter. Liz lives in North Louisiana with her childhood sweetheart, two handsome children, three dogs and a mean kitty.

You can visit Liz at to learn more about her upcoming books, including her most recent ALL THAT CHARM, the latest in a series about best friends who are each bequeathed the chance to make the most of their lives and love.



Calling all Janes

women hands.jpg

I like this photo for all its differences. Not just skin tones, but strong hands and slender fingers, painted nails and bare, jewelry or not, and is that one faintly hairy wrist? All reaching to the center. Go, Team Women!

When I create characters, I often start off thinking of them in archetypal terms: hero, villain, leader, trickster, warrior. Even as I flesh them out with unique characteristics, some of that primal core still shines through.

For me, one of the “base line” characteristics is — especially in a romance! — who is the hero and who is the heroine. But though the words (and sexes) are different, the arcs are strikingly the same: both have wounds, both have hopes and fears, both have dreams they don’t quite dare reach for. I like to play with giving the “hero” traditionally feminine characteristics, while the “heroine” explores some masculine traits. From that, I’ve seen that men and women are more alike than different even while their differences add to the diverse beauty of our world.

So today, I hope women are empowered to pursue all their potential. And I hope men get a chance to cheer for the women in their lives — and maybe consider the archetypal heroine in themselves. And for anyone who identifies somewhere in between or outside those binary poles… We’ve got a long way to go, baby. But meanwhile, Happy International Women’s Day to all Janes everywhere.



‘Tis February — the month of Valentine’s Day! So I thought I’d share a few things I love. Because, er, the world needs more love, yeah?

First, even though I’m a little behind on newfangled music, I stumbled over this song from a country-western singer (!) that I loved. It has an odd sci-fi quality to it I thought. Plus…love. Apparently the heroine in the video is also the singer’s wife. How delightful is that?

Second of the things I love… I finished a book! The first of 2017. 🙂 Man, I LOVE the feeling of finishing a book. It’s a new title from one of my pen names, Jenna Dales, who has been sadly languishing on a far back burner while I cavort with my other pen name, Elsa Jade. I’m tempted to pit them against each other in a Thunderdome-style write-off. But that wouldn’t be very loving, would it? So in the interests of fairness, sisterhood, and romance, Jenna Dales’ story is off to New York and while we wait to hear back, Elsa Jade is going to write the next story. Wish me lucky in love, and we shall see whom readers love more!

And thirdly, for a touch of real-life romance… Here are my two best beloveds, both of them smiling.


Happy almost Valentine’s Day!

Spooky & sale from E.J. Russell!

[Note from Jessa: Not only is E.J. Russell a geeky girl goddess (she helped design my daily word count spreadsheet that keeps me On Task!) she writes wonderful and wonderfully diverse stories with a paranormal bent. So of course we had to have her here at See Jane Publish for the month of Halloween!]

Thank you, Jessa, for inviting me back to See Jane Publish to celebrate the release of my latest M/M paranormal romance, Wolf’s Clothing. This book is the second in my Legend Tripping series with Riptide Publishing—and BTW, Riptide is having their annual Anniversary Sale the entire month of October, and you can snag the ebook of Stumptown Spirits (Legend Tripping #1) for only $0.99 on their website!
About Wolf’s Clothing:

What do you do when you finally prove the existence of the otherworld, but the ghosts kick your ass?

wolfsclothing_400x600For Trent Pielmeyer, the answer is run like hell—away from his hostile family, away from the disbelieving cops, and far, far, far away from anything that smacks of the supernatural. After seven years’ captivity in a whacked-out alternate dimension, he is so over legend tripping.

When Christophe Clavret spots Trent in a Portland bar, he detects a kindred spirit—another man attempting to outrun the darkness of his own soul. But despite their sizzling chemistry, Trent’s hatred of the uncanny makes Christophe hesitant to confide the truth: he’s a werewolf, one of a dwindling line, the victim of a genetic curse extending back to feudal Europe.

But dark forces are at work, threatening more than their growing love. If Christophe can’t win Trent’s trust, and if Trent can’t overcome his fear of the paranormal, the cost could be Trent’s freedom and Christophe’s humanity. Or it might be both their lives.

Find Wolf’s Clothing here:

Riptide Publishing


All Romance Ebooks


Barnes & Noble


About E.J.:

E.J. Russell — certified geek, mother of three, recovering actor — lives in rural Oregon with her husband. She enjoys visits from her wonderful adult children, and indulges in good books, red wine, and the occasional hyperbole.

Find E.J. at her website,, on Twitter at, and Facebook at

Everyone Has A Story—Even If It’s Just Their Own

[Note from Jessa: In continuation of our new-release theme, I’m excited to share a new project from author and inspiring lady Susan Lute. Years ago, she convinced me to try vision boarding when brainstorming a book. I was sooo reluctant because it seemed like “wasted” time. To my surprise, I loved it! And I hope you’ll love this new book from her. Although I will fight her on her ranking of Firefly…]

Hello, See Jane Publish. Thanks for letting me take over your blog 🙂

I’m going to let you in on a secret. I have a new obsession. Not chocolate, though on any given day, that easily hits the top of the list. A good cup of coffee? My new favorite is Don Francisco’s Kona blend, but that’s not what has my fingers doing a crazy dance across the keyboard.

It’s a given I’m a huge geek over Star Wars, Firefly, Star Trek (probably in that order), but it turns out I’m also a little obsessed with how-to webinars on anything related to publishing books. And because everyone has a story, that obsession has flung me on a new adventure outside of writing my usual contemporary romances.

Life isn’t about the destination. It’s about the journey.

As a kid raised in a military family, it’s no surprise all my novels are about the journey home.

Drum roll, please… My newest release… Be Bold, Be Brave, Be Yourself (A Summer Journal) is the first of four journals. Your story starts here in these keepsake books.


Amazon | BN |


About Susan: You can take a girl away from her home, but you can’t erase the search for home from that girl’s heart. Like all children of military families, Susan Lute spent her childhood moving from one duty station to the next. Today she works as a Registered Nurse and writes whenever she can. When not writing, her favorite Zen moments are spending time with family, gardening, traveling, and remodeling the house she now calls home.


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