Category Archives: Auth: 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!

Putting the sigh & friction in science fiction romance!

It’s a new month and a new moon and, hey, I have a new book, first in a new series! Well, not me, per se, but my alter ego, Elsa Jade. As we head into the cold, dark months here in the northern latitudes, it seems like the perfect time for some hot alien loving in science fiction romance! Seven authors have joined intergalactic forces to each write a trilogy about alien mail order brides for the Intergalactic Dating Agency shared world series.

alphastar-4x6Looking for love in all the wrong galaxies…

Intergalactic Dating Agency
Big Sky Alien Mail Order Brides
by Elsa Jade

Amazon  |  iBooks  |  Kobo  |  Google  |  Barnes&Noble

Sinclarion Fifth-Moon Jax will be lord of his own solar system, but he can’t claim the homeworld until he takes a bride. He needs the right mate to win his mating rings, but choosing one female from among the neighboring systems while slighting the others could start an interstellar incident—and this ex-mercenary starship captain has finally had enough of war. Where in the universe can a runaway cyborg prince find a naïve female willing to risk her life on the dangerous frontiers of space?

Big Sky Country has a big secret…
Intergalactic Dating Agency
Big Sky Alien Mail Order Brides
#1 ~ Alpha Star available now!
#2 ~ Red Shift coming in October
#3 ~ Dark Matter coming in November

See all the IDA stories at
And join the Facebook group for all the latest news and releases.

15688Never read a science fiction romance? All my heroes had to fill out dating profiles for the Intergalactic Dating Agency — cuz of course they did! — which are gathered in a quick free sneak peek at InstaFreebie so you can try it out.

In space, date night never ends!


Top 10 Olympic Women who would be Awesome Kick-Ass Novel Heroines

There was something wrong with the 2016 Olympic media coverage. It wasn’t just the commercials every 5 minutes or the security and health concerns facing all the athletes in Rio. It was the blatant sexism illustrated best in this video:

The women’s entire female Olympic team and Katie Ledecky deserve all their media attention for their accomplishments but there was more female talent than the hours of media coverage on the women’s beach volleyball team of Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross with constant bottom up camera shots of their derrieres. The media was happy to give women attention for all the wrong reasons: Hope Solo’s poor sportsmenship, the doping scandals of Russian athletes highlighted by the feud between Russia’s Yulia Efimova and U.S.A.’s Lilly King or Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s female Prime Minister’s downfall.  But the reality is that women at the 2016 Olympics made Olympic history and shattered glass ceilings. Just on the USA Olympic Team alone, there were 264 men and 294 women. USA women won 27 of the 46 American gold medals. The following 10 women are inspirations to their countries and would make legendary kick-ass romance novel heroines.

10) Majlinda Kelmendi

Gold in Judo

Country: Kosovo

It is a great honor to pursue the dream of bringing home your country’s first gold medal but that doesn’t guarantee food on your table. Majlinda is such a talented athletic that other countries offered her huge financial incentives to compete for them. She turned down these lucrative offers to bring home hope to her war-torn country.  That must have been a tough decision to make, especially for someone who has experienced a life of limited resources. Her bravery and fortitude landed her on my list.


9) Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce

Track and Field:

  • Bronze – Women’s 100m
  • Silver – Women’s 4x100m relay

Country: Jamaica

At Rio, the first Olympian to get the chance to pursue a third straight Gold medal in the 100 meter race was a Jamaican track star named Usain B….Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. What? Based on the media coverage, Usain Bolt was the only athlete of such grand stature but there was a woman who had the chance to accomplish the same dream. Unfortunately she also came to Rio recovering from a toe injury and only walked away with a Bronze and Silver medal. It was the way she handled her non-gold medals that landed her on this list. She was gracious and congratulated her fellow Jamaican track star Elaine Thompson. Shelly-Ann is one of my favorite Track and Field athletes and I will always wonder what kind of reception she would have received if she had also achieved the third goal medal.


8) Gwen Jorgensen

Triathlon: Gold Women’s individual

Country: United States

Gwen is on this list because she broke free from a safe comfortable life in a work cubicle to pursue her Olympic dream full-time. At first, she kept her full-time job and only practiced before and after work. It was only when she took the leap of faith and trained full-time that she became an inspiration to all women to have faith in their dreams.


7) Caster Semenya

Track & field: Gold Women’s 800m

Country: South Africa

The coverage of this athlete was brutal. They were determined to put an asterisk by her name to dimmer the shine of any medal she received at Olympics. They insisted on calling her a name that has never been proven by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and has never been confirmed by the athlete and her family. Because of her appearance, her clothing choices and her stellar improvements on the track field, people have been cruel to her. But it’s up to the IOC to come up with a fair way to determine gender identity and not to revert back to historically humiliating gender identity verification. It’s unfair to the athletes to be found guilty in the public’s eye. When the warm-up to her race was televised, I had to mute my television screen because the announcers wasted minutes talking about her in a way to imply that when she won, it was because of an unfair advantage. Instead of becoming bitter and resentful, Caster only expressed kindness and gratitude, making her a true Olympian in my eyes.


6) Michelle Carter

Track & field: Gold Women’s shot put

Country: United States

On the flip side, there was another athlete who received a lot of media attention for having a physical appearance that went against traditional public opinion. Female Shot Put athletes are not known for appearing to be feminine but Michelle Carter not only wore beautiful make-up during her competition, she has her own cosmetic company. None of the criticism stopped her from taking home the Gold Medal with her father, Michael Carter (1984 Silver Medal Olympian in Shot Put), in the stands. It was a beautiful moment for the Carter family and the United States.


5) Oksana Chusovitina


Country: Uzbekistan

Most people have the mental picture of female gymnastics as being extremely young and petite with high pitched voices. Oksana breaks that mold by her accomplishment of completing at her 7th Olympics at the age of 41. She even has a pole vault routine named after her. If she could have stuck her current pole vault landing at the 2016 Olympics, she could have been serious competition for Simone Biles. Very few other athletes had the chance to be a legitimate threat against the Rio golden girl. They might even go toe-to-toe again in 4 years. Oksana proves that you can still go after your dreams at any age.



4) Tie: Nikki Hamblin (New Zealand) and Abbey D’Agostino (United States)

Track and Field: Women’s 5000m

These women collided during the women’s 5000m qualifying race. Abbey encouraged and helped Nikki to get back on her feet to compete and Nikki helped Abbey get medical attention after Abbey finished the race. They were both awarded with the prestigious Pierre de Coubertin medal for Spirit of True Sportsmanship. They are awesome women with hearts of gold.


3) Allyson Felix

Track & field

  • Gold Women’s 4x100m relay
  • Gold Women’s 4x400m relay
  • Silver Women’s 400m

Country: United States

Allyson is the most decorated US woman in Olympics track and field history with seven total career Olympic medals. Yet her path has not always been golden. She lost out on 1st place during the Women’s 400m because Bahamas’ Shaunae Miller dramatically dove for the finish line to get more of her body across the line first. Then they were almost disqualified in the women’s 4X100 meter relay because Allyson was bumped while trying to pass her baton. She fought for every victory, never giving up and earned her spot in Olympic history.


2) Simone Manuel


  • Gold Women’s 100m freestyle
  • Gold Women’s 4x100m medley relay
  • Silver Women’s 50m freestyle
  • Silver Women’s 4x100m freestyle relay

Country: United States

Believe it or not, there was another Simone on the USA Olympic Team making history at Rio. Simone Manuel made history by becoming the first African American woman to win an individual swimming medal. But she didn’t stop there; she walked away with 4 medals, cementing her inspirational journey to Rio. I cried tears of joy with her.


1) Yusra Mardini


Refugee Olympic Athletes

Why did I select a person for the #1 spot who didn’t even medal at the Olympics? Because she accomplished something that no other swimmer has ever been asked to do by swimming for hours in the freezing cold water to save the lives of other boat passengers. Yusra competed at the Olympics as part of the first ever Refugee Team and took this opportunity on a global stage to shine a positive light on refugees. Part of her refugee journey was traveling by a boat that began to sink. This has meant death for so many other refugees in similar situations. However, Yusra and her sister jumped out of the boat and swam for three hours to help everyone reach the shore alive.

Last week I spotlighted 10 male champions at the 2016 Olympics that would make ideal romance novel heroes but today these 10 female champion counterparts deserve a bright spotlight for their Olympic achievements. And right now, athletes all over the world are training for the 2018 Olympics in South Korea. I can’t wait to meet you all!

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