Redemption: Even in fiction it’s tough


Webster makes it sound so easy….

Redeemable. That’s a big word in fiction writing. When you create a character, sometimes you don’t want them redeemable. You want a villain so evil people stand up and cheer at their fate, a la Dolores Umbridge. (Sorry, I wanted that woman to die more than I wanted Voldemort dead!) Sometimes you want people to understand why they are the way they are, to perhaps feel a twinge of understanding. Sometimes you want the character to be puzzling, so readers can’t quite decide if they’re completely evil or not.

All of this, of course, presupposes you have A Plan.


See how nicely it all comes together when you have a plan?

But life–and writing–being what they are, sometimes things just happen. Like an editor buying what you assumed would be a standalone book, and then, when it’s too late to change anything, asking for a spinoff. And realizing that only one secondary character truly stood out enough to be the main character in said spinoff. And that character just happens to be…well, darn near irredeemable. As in one of Those. Yes, she’s a b*tch.


Dogs are for the most part nicer than people anyway, right?

And I don’t mean this kind, loving, loveable, and generally sweet. No, this female, unlike the one above, hasn’t got a nurturing bone in her body. But at the time I’m young, still a newbie, and foolish. I think I can do anything. I mean, how hard can it be to turn somebody around, right? I’m the writer, in that world I created I’m God, I invented her, didn’t I? Besides, the heroine of the first book, who was absolutely heroine material, had been friends with her once. So there had to be something good about her, didn’t there? I only had to find it. So, I set myself to the task. And how did it go? Kind of like this:



Whose idea WAS this, anyway???

It wasn’t long before I was pacing the floor, yelling at myself for being an idiot. Why on earth–or any of the worlds I was writing about–had I ever thought I could save this woman? What had possessed me to choose her as a heroine? How on earth was I going to make this woman in the least heroic, let alone loveable?

I finally realized there was only one way to do this. I had to go back to the bones. I had to tear this woman down and try to rebuild her into something heroic. And I had to do it so thoroughly that readers would believe that it was possible for this woman to achieve that redemption. Had I realized what I was letting myself in for, I probably would have rethought it. But as I said, I was young and foolish and probably a bit cocky thanks to landing on the fast track my first published year and having sold a ridiculous number of books quickly. Ha. That’ll learn me, as my uncle used to say.

So I began. And for a long time my life felt like this:

construction - roofing

Wait, where does that stick go again?

And nearly 600 manuscript pages later, it was done. Whether I succeeded is not really up to me. Whatever I think, it is the reader who ultimately decides. Although I will happily accept the assessment of reviewer extraordinaire I mentioned in the last post, Melinda Helfer, who gave SKYPIRATE that rarest of accolades, one that has since been retired–an actual 5-star review in RT Magazine. The book also won a Reviewer’s Choice award, a Reader’s Voice award, and along with its predecessor, LORD OF THE STORM, was on the RT top 200 of all time list. So I guess maybe I did succeed. But I swear I will never try that again. Next b*tch I write stays one.

Heroes, on the other hand…..


LORD OF THE STORM and SKYPIRATE, re-released and available now in both e-book and print! Links on the book page, here:




Frustration: Tanya Little via Creative Commons Share Alike 2.0 Generic license


13 thoughts on “Redemption: Even in fiction it’s tough

  1. Eve Gaddy says:

    Great blog about Skypirate. But then, you always write such interesting blog posts. Love the pictures. And love the book!

  2. catherinewinther says:

    Reblogged this on The Writers Room.

  3. Rosemary Elwell says:

    You know, when I first saw who the heroine on The Skypirate was , my first thought was “Are you NUTS?!”. By the end of the book, it was thoroughly believable. I even wound up liking her.

    • Rosemary– Believe me, that was a phrase that got repeated many, many times during the course of that book! But I’m so glad to hear it worked for you. She did turn out okay, didn’t she? πŸ™‚

  4. azteclady says:

    Well, it goes to show, when you don’t know you can’t do something, you just find a way to do it. And did a master job of it too.

    May I confess that, since I read Lord of the Storm a few years after it was published, I always thought Califa would be the heroine of her own book, though I couldn’t actually imagine how you would manage it.

    And I just saw that Rebel Prince is up for pre-order at amazon…:grin:

    • Thank you! I did wonder, after I’d finished LORD OF THE STORM, why Califa hadn’t turned them in to save herself. And that was the genesis of the idea, I suppose. I just had to know why.

      And yes, the pre-order is now live for REBEL PRINCE! I suppose I should mention that somewhere, shouldn’t I? πŸ˜‰

  5. SusanS says:

    Chiming in very late here but I wrote a “Desert Isle Keeper” review of Skypirate for All About Romance way back in 1997 and noted how well you pulled off Califa’s redemption. In fact I even mentioned that I was sorry the third book wasn’t going to be published.
    Can’t wait to read Rebel Prince. God bless Belle Bridge Books.

    • Never too late for such kind words, Susan! Thank you so much. The readers and fans of these books have been the greatest encouragement to go ahead with this when the chance arose after all this time. And I can only echo you, bless Bell Bridge, they’ve been wonderful to work with and so enthused about Rebel Prince. My editor called it a “honking great book,” which still makes me smile. Can’t believe it’s finally happening. I hope you enjoy the book, it’s certainly been a long wait.

      Thanks again for coming by!

      • SusanS says:

        If you’re working with Deborah Smith you’re in great hands. I love her work too and was heartbroken when she was dropped by mainstream publishing because she wouldn’t jump on the vampire romance bandwagon.

        January 30 is circled on my calendar!

  6. Actually, her partner Deb Dixon is my editor, although Deborah Smith is involved all over the place. The caring shows! And bandwagons tend to make me run…in the opposite direction. πŸ˜‰ Thanks again, and I hope you enjoy reading Rebel Prince as much as I enjoyed writing it!

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