Writing Retreat and my Next Project

I spent the second half of last week in Bear Lake with five other writers. It was our second annual writing retreat. The point is to get away from our usual days of work, family and kids, and focus just on our craft.


Took this during one of only two times that I bothered enjoying the view.

Since I was so close to finishing Painting Rain (Lorraina’s story), I knew that I needed to decide what my next book would be. With 3 uninterrupted days to write, I didn’t want to run out of work. So I set Painting Rain aside, and focused entirely on plotting and beginning Kinley’s story. If you don’t recognize the name, I’m not surprised. She’s only mentioned a couple of times in Just Ella. She is Gavin’s younger sister. So I’m stepping away from the royal family (though of course Ella and Gavin will make appearances) and getting into Kinley’s head.

I’m not going to lie, I have loved starting this project. Both Kinley and her hero were very present and well-developed when I started putting them on paper, which makes it much easier than if I’m floundering to define them.

The problem now is that I have to force myself away from the new project until I can finish Painting Rain. I’ve got to make that a priority so I can get it out to my readers. I shall prevail! And I hope that I’m able to tell Raina’s story the way it deserves to be told.


My OTHER Work in Progress

I’m not one to work on multiple projects at once. I’d rather not split my focus, but for this very special project I made an exception. I’ve been working on this for about four and a half months now, and I’ll be working on it for another four and a half.

Whether this project will center around a hero or a heroine, I don’t yet know, but I’ll let you know when that verdict is in.

This is #5 for us. Wish me luck!


The Choices We Make

I was musing about the Twilight series this morning. Random, I know. But it got me thinking about something important.

When I was first introduced to the series, I loved it. It was well told and based on a twist of an idea that I’d never encountered before. As time went on I found several elements of the book I might not have agreed with, but overall, I liked the series. That was before the big craze hit, or at least before I was aware of the crazed fandom that had developed. That obsessive kind of fandom left a bad taste in my mouth and turned me off to the series for a while before I remembered the reason I had found Twilight so compelling in the first place.

You see, it wasn’t the love story or the vampires that pulled me in. It was the idea that despite the fact that the Cullens were essentially damned creatures, doomed to bring pain and grief into the lives of others, they chose not to.

It’s easy for us to blame our bad choices on our circumstances. How we grow up and who influences our lives will impact the way that we think, but it doesn’t have to control us. Sometimes it’s tempting to let our circumstances define us instead of our choices, but when we do that, we give up everything. We were made to act, not to be acted upon.

I hope you guys know who Malala is. She was a Pakistani teenager advocating for the right to education when members of the Taliban boarded her school bus, asked for her by name, and shot her. She survived the injury and continues her work today. She just recently turned 18. I saw an interview with her where she talked about being confronted by the taliban. She said that she considered throwing her shoe at them because it was the only mode of defense at her disposal. However, she decided against the idea, because responding to violence with violence would make her no better than her attackers.

UnknownBold words from a young teen. Her life was being threatened, and I think any one of us would agree she would have been fully justified in defending herself in any way, but she decided that—for her—the right thing to do was to be peaceful, to not allow these militant men to change who she was striving to be.


Malala chose not to let her circumstances define her.

The child soldiers of Joseph Kony also came to mind as I was thinking about this idea. Joseph Kony is the leader of a guerrilla group that operates in Uganda and surrounding countries called the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). The way he “recruits” people to his cause? He and his men kidnap children, enslave them, indoctrinate them and force them into military service. He has turned more than 30,000 kidnapped children into either child soldiers or slaves for his cause.

Why am I speaking about this atrocious man after talking about someone like Malala? It’s not him I want to point to. It’s the kids he kidnaps. I can’t think of very many circumstances more controlling and manipulative than the situation these kids find themselves in. How is it even possible to make a different choice when a child lives in such an environment? When they are ripped from their beds and forced under a very real threat of death to do as they’re told?


There is a group advocating for these child soldiers called Invisible Children. Among other efforts, they have distributed Come Home flyers. On these flyers, Kony’s soldiers are instructed on how to leave Kony and his group and safely surrender. Kony has been telling these boys for years that they will never be accepted by their families if they try to return, but with the help of these flyers, some have come out of the jungle and even been reunited with their families. They no longer have to be acted upon by the man that stole them away from their loved ones in the first place. They can make the choice to leave.

What superhuman courage would that take? What an extraordinary example of making your own choice.

In today’s society, it is very popular to play the blame game. The scourge of entitlement rolling through society tells us that we deserve everything and are never responsible for our own failings. What a beautiful thing it is when we can instead take the situation that has been thrust upon us and choose the higher road, choose the better path.

We do not choose our circumstances, but we choose how to react to them.

Prince Charming

If you’ve read my books, you know that I don’t follow the damsel-in-distress-is-saved-by-Prince-Charming model. Yes, I like a heroic man, but I don’t want my heroes’ merit to be based entirely on their status as a Prince. My heroines are the royal ones, and because you’re in their head, you get to see their flaws and insecurities. It’s more fun for me to write that way.

The charming concept came up when I was watching a talk show and they showed a clip of the upcoming season premier of The Blacklist. I find that show to be incredibly compelling. The character of Raymond Reddington, played by James Spader, is the epitome of charming. The twist is that he’s a straight up really bad person. I mean he is a Bad Man. But the crazy part is: you like him anyway. That’s the main reason that I keep watching the show. I find his character fascinating. How can I like a character that I know is a terrible human being?

THE BLACKLIST -- Season:Pilot -- Pictured: James Spader as "Red" Raymond Reddington -- (Photo by: Patrick Ecclesine/NBC)

THE BLACKLIST — Season:Pilot — Pictured: James Spader as “Red” Raymond Reddington — (Photo by: Patrick Ecclesine/NBC)

After the clip was shown, the host of the show commented on the charm of Reddington and my mind skipped to the oft used Prince Charming character. I was reminded of the line in Into the Woods where Cinderella’s prince says, “I was raised to be charming, not sincere.”

Chris Pine is the Prince and Anna Kendrick is Cinderella in Disney's Into the Woods.

Chris Pine is the Prince and Anna Kendrick is Cinderella in Disney’s Into the Woods.

Charm is good. But if that’s the only thing you can say about a character, then they’re probably not worthy of being a main character. Charm is not synonymous with good. Far from it. Charm can be used to mask sinister intentions, or it could simply be a front for insecurity. Is a person’s charm being used to compensate for something they lack, or do they have a genuinely charming personality? The difference is important. I’ve read books where the story fell flat because as charming as the love interest appeared, there didn’t seem to be anything deeper. Perhaps that’s why Disney seems to have stepped back from the Prince Charming model. I think as more and more entertainment became available over the past couple decades, audiences wised up. We want more than just the image of a nice man; we want depth of character, even if they’re animated.

Depth means that we see the good and the bad of a character. We see not just their traits, but the reasons behind their traits. Did their charmed life leave them spoiled or grateful? Did their less than stellar childhood leave them bitter? Determined? Humble?

The why of a character’s personality is often more important than the what. There’s nothing wrong with charm, but the more interesting question is where that charm originates.

Guilt Free Spending

This isn’t book stuff, or author stuff, but it’s very near and dear to my heart.

Remember last time, when I talked about my awesome sister and her awesome husband and how we’re trying to help them with the cost of adoption?


Books for Babies (as named by Cherise herself. :)

All of my September royalties, whether from ebook buys, ebook borrows, or paperback sales, will go straight to them!





Photography Mini Sessions in ARIZONA

Donated by my photographer-sister, Jana!!

TO SCHEDULE, Email Jana at: Janamariemiller@gmail.com




Younique Lash Virtual Party Fundraiser

Hosted by my sister- Kimberly!

Great time to pick up the 3D mascara or try out their new make-up remover wipes.




FB Scentsy Fundraiser

Hosted by long time family friend, Kayla Rice!! Make sure and select Cherise & Bryce at checkout.

***If you are unfamiliar with Scentsy, I will give you a quick rundown:

Scentsy is an “electric candle” company. Our beautiful warmers use a low-wattage light bulb to warm over 80 different wax fragrances. No flame, no wick, no soot! Much safer than having a candle burning and the best part is that they are safe for children and pets! Our wax gets hot, but not hot enough to burn your skin in case of a spill. Our wax is a food-grade paraffin wax, meaning it is safe in case of ingestion (however, while you may be tempted to eat some of our yummy waxes, I don’t recommend it). We have so many different warmers to choose from, including plug-ins. There’s something for everyone, both feminine and masculine. We offer seasonal warmers and waxes as well.

Besides our warmers and waxes, we have some other great products, too! Room sprays, scent circles (for the car), scent paks (like a sachet), scented stuffed animals, a body line called Layers, and even laundry products!***



Homemade Stapleydolls: THINK OF CHRISTMAS!!!

My girls have Elsa and Anna dolls. They are so darling. And you should really consider a custom doll. I know she’s in the process of making a Harry Potter and a Cinderella. She’s also done Ninja Turtles, which are dang cute.

stapley dollsSewn and donated by Jana Miller and StapleyDolls.

From $20 (pre-made) – $38 (custom)

TO ORDER A DOLL, Email: janamariemiller@gmail.com



Amazing cleaning products.




If none of those strike your fancy, but you’d still like to help:


To donate money, Davies Adoption GoFundMe


September is for My Sister

I have a sister.

She’s compassionate, wonderful and talented. She’s married to an amazing man who’s held her up and cried with her as they’ve battled through the aching and sorrow of infertility. They’ve held hands and cried tears of joy as they discovered their IVF treatment gave them a baby, then sobbed with the kind of grief I’ll never know when that miracle was lost through a miscarriage. Then they did it all over again. Three rounds of IVF. Two joyous pregnancies. Two heart breaking miscarriages.

Before they started IVF, our family rallied the troops and helped them raise money to pay for their chance to have their very own kids, from their very own DNA. Now that they’ve exhausted that option, we’re rallying behind them again as they wait and hope and pray and desperately long to have a mother find their adoption profile and choose them to raise her sweet baby, to give them the chance to become parents, because despite the valiant efforts of doctors, they’ve accepted that they won’t have one the usual way.

They’ve been married seven years and through that time I have seen them grow and stretch and reach toward each other and to God to give them the strength and the patience to wait.

So now I want to do what I can to help them get their little one. I don’t want them worrying about money when they have so much more to worry about. For the month of September, I want to have a record sales month, so that I can donate all of my royalties to help get them a little closer to covering the cost of adopting the baby that I know is waiting for them.

Will you guys help me out? Can you recommend any of my books to a friend or two? Maybe write a review and share it on social media? Can you share their story? Share their adoption profile? Can you say a prayer for them, or just wish them well?

I have a sister and a brother-in-law who want nothing more fiercely than to bring a baby into their home. Will you help us out?

Ebook Purchase Links:    Just Ella    Missing Lily    Saving Marilee

Paperback Purchase Links:    Just Ella      Missing Lily      Saving Marilee

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Deleted Scene and Giveaway!

Hey Everyone!Saving Marilee Deleted Scene

I’ve got a deleted scene from Saving Marilee for you to read. And as a bonus, everyone who signs up in the next week will be entered into a drawing automatically.

How to enter: Go HERE and sign up for my free content. Not only can you find all my bonus scenes there, but you’ll also be notified when I add NEW bonus content.

What do you get: Firstly, you’ll get access to all my bonus scenes, including a new scene with Marilee and much of her family. You can get a glimpse of Lylin and Rhys, Ella and Gavin and others. You’ll ALSO be entered into a drawing.

What’s the prize for the drawing? If your name is selected, you’ll get a signed paperback of whichever of my books you choose. Or I’m happy to send you the ebook if that’s your preference.

Drawing ends Tuesday June 30, 11:59 pm.

Be sure to tell your friends, share it on Facebook or tweet about it. Happy Reading!

Inspiration for Heroes

Another question from my FB page. Someone asked where I get inspiration for my heroes. So here’s my attempt to answer:

Firstly, none of my characters are based on real people. I have utilized little quirks from people I’ve known and incorporated them into some of my characters, but that’s the extend of it.

I don’t predetermine a guys personality and it usually takes me a couple of scenes to get to know them. Their character will be based on what the heroine needs, and not necessarily what she thinks she wants. More often than not, I don’t know what it is the heroine will need—or be drawn to—until I’ve been in their head for a while.

I think we all know that a lot of times what we want in a relationship can turn out to be a disaster. And sometimes the line between functional and dysfunctional is a little thinner than we’d like. When my husband and I were dating, I introduced him to some friends of mine that were a couple. After meeting them, he commented, “I’m not sure they’re exactly what each other needs, or exactly what each other don’t need.”

It’s all about finding that line. Does the couple balance each other out or drive each other to the brink of insanity?

My heroes’ personalities depend on the heroine’s personality. For Marilee I knew I needed someone quiet and thoughtful. He needed to be observant, someone who would know when to back off. An alpha male who wanted to walk in a sweep a girl off her feet with his charms and good looks would have made Marilee lock and bar her doors. I needed a hero who would recognize her vulnerability and not take advantage of it.

Fotolia_25517972_Subscription_Monthly_M 2For Ella I needed someone sturdy, someone willing to jump into her adventures with her, but he had to be a protector as well. Her want of adventure and her willingness to go find it was dangerous some of the time. Gavin needed to recognize that and be willing to keep an eye out.


Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 3.18.40 PMRhys ended up being the closest thing to an alpha male hero that I’ve written. He’s a little bit brooding, and has that air of mystery. Lylin is probably the most even-keeled of my heroines. She didn’t feel out of place in her world, and hadn’t been traumatized, so I liked putting her with someone who had that underlying current of intensity. At the same time, he couldn’t be the signature brooding guy, and I loved being able to show his more lighthearted side in scenes like the picnic and laying under the stars.

And of course it’s not all about what the girl needs. The relationships need to be balanced, so I need my heroines to have characteristics that will be helpful to the hero. Gavin had been ignored by the upper class for so long that it was easy for him to think of himself as less-than (I imagine most people in his position would feel the same) and I enjoyed having Ella see him for who he was and not what he was.

Rhys had lived with his deceptive brother for so long that what he really wanted was sincerity and honesty. I loved writing Lylin’s penchant for just saying what she was thinking.

James needed someone who could love him in an overwhelming, hold nothing back kind of way. He’s sensitive by nature and has a huge heart. He’s used to taking care of people and does a great job of taking care of Marilee. But I love that after she’s healed, I know that she won’t hold back from loving him with her whole soul.

Aaaaand this is the part where I awkwardly clear my throat and shuffle my feet because I realize I really am one of those people that talks about her characters like they’re real, like I’m not the one that made it all up in the first place. That’s just the way it goes, I suppose.

Missing Lily Playlist

A reader pointed out on my Saving Marilee Playlist post that I never posted my Missing Lily Playlist. Whoops! It’s not like I don’t have it. So, here it is.

Homage for the Suffering by Matthew Perryman Jones—Chapter 1, trudging through the rain.

Turning Page by Sleeping at Last—Lylin and Rhys’s song.

Falling Slowly by Glen Hansard—Chapter 4, Star Gazing.

Run to You by Pentatonix—Chapter 11, overlooking Fallon Manor.

With Or Without You by U2—Chapter 14, the Library.

The Living Sculptures of Pemberley from The 2006 Pride and Prejudice soundtrack—Chapter 22, meeting at the pond.

Say Something by A Great Big World—Lorraina and Tobias’s song, chapter 25.

Saving Marilee Playlist

During my 2 1/2 day writing retreat with my critique group last October, I ended up writing 22,000 words on my Saving Marilee manuscript. A lot of that success was due to my determination to plug in and write. No excuses. Just writing. And most of the time I would have my headphones on, listening to my writing playlist so that I could tune out anything else going on around me.

When I’m working on a story, I also have the tendency to listen to the lyrics of all songs to see if they apply to my character or stories. Thus I end up accumulating a list of songs that I associate with my work in progress. The list isn’t terribly long, but I think it’s easy to see why I would choose these songs to represent Marilee’s story.

07Fix You—Coldplay
Marilee’s song

Keep Breathing—Inglid Michaelson
Chapter One

Gravity—Sara Bareilles
Marilee and Damian

Begin Again—Taylor Swift Marilee and James

Not About Angels—Birdy
hapter 8—Realm of the fairies

Instrumental songs I would listen to while writing:

Infra 8—Louisa Fuller

Liz On Top of the World—Pride and Prejudice soundtrack

Casper’s Lullably—James Horner

The Kiss—The Last Of The Mohicans