They say that great characters can make up for a weak plot, but weak characters won't do anything for your book no matter how strong your plot may be. Have you read reviews that say, "I just couldn't get into the characters." If readers love your characters, they'll love your books.

Isn't this what you'd rather hear about your books? Dalton, "just Dalton," is a sweet-talking Texas black ops contractor equipped with a sharp mind, big muscles, an intriguing background tragedy that makes him cry over babies, and boatloads of sex appeal. … Romance fans will drool over Dalton and his fellow camo-clad helicopter-riding commandos as they look for runaways and love. (Publishers Weekly, March 14, 2011).

Welcome to a month-long discussion of characters. I'm a firm believer that great characters are the heart and soul of any novel. Cardboard just won't cut it for me. I want to love the characters in the books I'm reading—to the point where I expect to run into them around town. Although there have been a few successful books with characters who (to quote a workshop presenter) "you could drop a piano on and it wouldn't matter to the story", I think most people prefer their characters be crafted from something other than cardboard.

For this month, I'd rather have discussions than lectures, so I'm going to post "formally" twice a week, and we'll have Q&A and chat the other days. I'll try to get my posts up by 9 AM Mountain time (I live up in the Colorado mountains).

I'll check back in periodically through the day and respond to any comments or questions you might have. And if there are any topics you want to address, please let me know.

A little about me. I write romantic suspense, and have six published novels, plus numerous short stories. My genre of choice before I started writing was mystery, and I thought that's what I was writing when I wrote my first book. However, my daughters were reading my drafts, and they told me I was writing a romance. To that point, I'd never read a romance, so I figured I ought to start learning about them. Thinking about it, however, I realized that I preferred series mysteries where I could follow a character through the course of many books, and I was paying more attention to their private lives and relationships than I was to the actual crime-solving.

I guess that's why I like to think of my own books as "mysteries with relationships" although the publishing world insists on pigeonholing them as romantic suspense. As a matter of fact, I was so hooked on Randy and Sarah, the hero and heroine of my first novel, FINDING SARAH, that I broke a "rule" I didn't know existed (remember, I hadn't been reading a lot of romances) and brought them back as hero and heroine of a second book, HIDDEN FIRE.

So, for me, it's all about characters. Years ago, I bought a copy of Naked in Death by JD Robb to read on a plane. I'd never been a huge romance reader (sensing a theme here, are you?) and hadn't read any Nora Roberts. In fact, I was totally unaware she was JD Robb as well, but I'd heard that this series was about a female cop, and that they were less "romance" than the books she wrote as Nora Roberts. I read the book on the plane, and although I'd expected to leave it in the seat pocket, I brought it home, went to the bookstore and bought the rest of the series (14 books at that time.) Why? Because I needed to know more about Eve and Roarke. The characters hooked me. Totally.

What about you? Who are some of your favorite characters, and why?

Feel free to introduce yourself, let me know if there's anything in particular you want to talk about, and because it's a holiday weekend, I'll be back on Tuesday. And if you want to meet any of my characters, first chapters of all my books are on my website,