Creative Spaces — Guest Post by Leigh Michaels

Creative Spaces

My working space has gone through a whole lot of changes in the 29 years since I was first published, so as I thought about what my office means to me, I’ve journeyed down memory lane.

In 1988, my office was located in the smallest bedroom of our American Foursquare house – a space that was hardly big enough for a twin bed and a dresser. Yes, I really did write more than a dozen books in this room. That’s an IBM PC with a 10-megabyte hard drive and a 14-inch green-screen monitor – and believe me, that was a big step up from my first computer! Off to the right is the state-of-the-art printer which tapped out each letter with a rotating ball, just like those old electric typewriters. I’d start a chapter printing and have to leave the room because of the echo.

Creative Spaces Guest Post by Leigh Michaels

Leigh’s First Office

The photos at ceiling level are the covers of my first few Harlequin Romances and Presents, and the two shelves at the right of the photo hold what I grandly called the Collected Works – one copy of each edition.

If I closed the door so I could concentrate, I soon ran out of oxygen. 😉

Not long after the photo was taken, we moved into a new house. This is my office today. It has two big windows – one looking out over the woods, one toward the front of the house so I can see visitors coming and decide whether to answer the door.

Creative Spaces Guest Post by Leigh Michaels

After 29 years of publishing, author Leigh Michaels needed a bigger office.


The Collected Works (one copy of each of the editions of my 83 romance novels and 20 non-fiction books) now occupy the shelves at left – that’s 62 feet of bookshelves, if you’re counting. The framed photos have moved to the hallway which leads to my office, where they’re limited to one cover from each language – though we had to stop doing even that when we ran out of wall. A few years ago my husband and I ripped up the carpet and laid the parquet floor (the sort of job which makes you eager go to back to writing). And as time has gone on, I’ve added the extra filing cabinets and counters so I can spread out with my various projects.

I now rely on dual 24-inch monitors and a laser printer.

I think some of those same reference books are still hanging around, though. And I still need my glass of ice water and cup of coffee – and quiet — before I can really settle in to work.

Creative Spaces Guest post by Leigh Michaels

Because I also teach (at Gotham Writers Workshop — — where I offer online classes in romance writing) and I edit books for our small publishing firm (PBL Limited – – which specializes in local history books and niche-market non-fiction), I use every inch of the practical desk space. Those piles on the counter are non-fiction book projects and source material, waiting to come together so they’re ready to publish.

Though I’ve moved on from my original publisher – as well as switching from contemporary romance to historical, and from sweet stories to spicy ones – I’m grateful to Harlequin Books for a lengthy and rewarding career. That’s why the one-of-a-kind Harlequin marionette is still a prized feature in my office. He watches over me as I work.

I haven’t included a photo of my sitting room, where I leave my laptop set up – it’s another book-lined room, and I retreat there when I need to fall into a story and not be bothered by phone calls or email. I do better at knocking out words when it’s not so easy to page back to edit and fix and continually revise – and that’s made much less tempting when I’m working on a smaller screen. And sometimes I move to the bay window in my living room, where I can work a jigsaw puzzle while I write or plot or brainstorm, as well as watching white-tailed deer and wild turkeys wander across the acre of back yard that we refer to as The Garden of Weedin’.

Thanks go to my husband, photographer Michael W. Lemberger, for providing all the photos.

Bio: Leigh Michaels is the best-selling author of more than 100 books, including historical romance, contemporary romance, non-fiction (On Writing Romance), and local history. Her current Montlake Romance release is The Birthday Scandal, a historical set in the Regency period and featuring the intertwining romances of two sisters and a brother. She’s also just released a self-published sweet contemporary romance, Return to Amberley. Her website is and you can find her on Facebook and Twitter @leighmichaels.

The Birthday Scandal by Leigh MichaelsThe Mistress House by Leigh Michaels      The Wedding Affair by Leigh Michaels      Return to Amberly by Leigh Michaels

Eight Ways to Break into the Romance Market

Have you always thought that romance writing isn’t your thing? Well, think again. Romance novels have evolved so much over the years that several subgenres have emerged. Today’s readers can easily find the romance novel subgenre that suits their tastes—and writers can, too.

According to the Romance Writers of America (RWA) website, approximately 8,090 romance titles were published in 2007, accounting for $1.375 billion in sales. In fact, one of every five persons who read books in 2007 read a romance novel! Among the 43 RWA recognized romance publishers, Harlequin Enterprises is by far the largest, bringing out 120 titles a month in 29 languages for 107 international markets on six continents.

If you’re wondering how to get in on the romance action, consider focusing on one of these popular eight subgenres:

• Inspirational—novels where faith and religion are integral to the story.

• Paranormal—novels may include werewolves, vampires, ghosts, and more.

• Mystery & Suspense—women-in-jeopardy stories.

• Young Adult—books feature teen protagonists, written for readers from 12 to 19 and incorporate all the elements of adult fiction—character, plot, setting, theme, and style.

• Erotica—sexually explicit stories where the character growth occurs through the sexual scenes.

• Historical—historically accurate stories where the setting plays a part of the book.

• Contemporary—novels can be funny, emotionally intense, and spicy but not explicit; or sweet traditional romances. They can be as short as 40,000 words, or as long as 80,000 words, depending on the publisher and the line.

• Mainstream Women’s Fiction—big novels where the romantic relationship is a significant part of the story.

Know that within the first seven genres listed above there are category romance novels, those that are part of a series, which are published monthly by Harlequin, Silhouette, Steeple Hill, and Mills & Boon. And there are single titles, those novels that are released as standalones and have a shelf life of longer than one month.

With all these books and series and markets, how does a writer break in?

Eight Ways to Break into the Romance Market 

Author Carol Grace Culver wrote short stories for the confessions magazines and Woman’s World before she broke into the romance market in 1989 by selling a book about a single dad and a nanny to Silhouette Romance. Since then, more than thirty-three of her romance novels have been published.

“I am currently under contract with Harlequin-Mills & Boon; my July 2009 book is called His Sicilian Bride, under my pen name Carol Grace. I wrote a series of young adult books for Berkley in trade paperback last year (the first is called Manderley Prep) under my name Carol Culver. As Carol Grace, I also wrote a couple of single-title romances for Pocket Books that took place in Greece and Italy.”

Historical Romance author Anne Mallory broke in in a different way. “I entered the RWA Golden Heart contest and became a finalist. My editor read the entry in the finals and contacted me about buying the book!” Mallory writes Regency romances for Avon/HarperCollins, and has published seven books since her debut in 2004. Her release, For the Earl’s Pleasure, set in 1822, was due out in July 2009.

Jasmine Haynes, also known as Jennifer Skully, followed yet another path: “I joined Romance Writers of America, attended many craft seminars, and utilized their networking opportunities.” As Jasmine Haynes, she writes erotic romance for Berkley. Jennifer Skully’s publications are light, humorous, romantic suspense novels published by Harlequin HQN; as JB Skully, she writes the Max Starr sensual mystery series available from She’s been published for six years and has twenty-one books under her belt. Her book, Fair Game, was a June 2009 Berkley Heat release.

Does the romance genre have too many options? How does a writer choose the subgenre?

Culver has a quick answer: “I pick the genres that are actively acquiring books.” But then she explains, “Single titles are longer, more characters, more complex plots, more freedom from rules. Young Adult can be edgy, funny, paranormal, light, lots of freedom there, too. Category romance follows certain rules that are important to follow. In a way, it makes writing them easier.”

For Mallory, “Regency historical romance is what I love to read! There is a definite fantasy aspect to historicals. The world is familiar, but just different enough to give the reader more of an escape.”

And Haynes says, “My voice is pretty humorous, but I also love having a mystery to solve. So both light mysteries by Jennifer Skully and the grittier Max Starr series came out of discovering my voice. I didn’t pick the genres as much as they picked me. I did specifically decide to write erotic romance, though, because I saw that it was a growing market. However, I found that also fit my voice, too. I’ve always written very sensual books, and erotic romance was an outlet for that without having to figure out who I was going to kill (lol). I have found the more erotica I write, though, the more humor slips in.”

It sounds like these writers have found their niche in romance.

“I like writing romance, inserting it into whatever genre I’m working on,” Culver says. “I’m writing a mystery now and sure enough, the sleuth has a boyfriend. It just makes life more interesting to have some romance in it.”

Mallory adds, “It’s been wonderful! I started writing full time and love the work and flexibility.”

Haynes’s experience is equally positive. “Romance writing has been good to me, but I’m still building my career. I do have freedom to write the stories I want and I do this full time, so I don’t have to work another job. I have worldwide distribution, but that could be improved. No movie deals, though!

While we do hear about those overnight sensations, building a writing career takes a long time for most of us.”

If you’re interested in pursuing this versatile genre, Culver offers this advice: “I’d say an aspiring romance writer has to read and read and read some more. Then get into a class or a critique group for support. It can be such a lonely life, writing, so you need other writers who understand and will help getting over the bad times as well as to share and celebrate the good times.”

Mallory agrees, “Write, write, write, and read, read, read! And join RWA. Look into your local RWA chapter for specific help and camaraderie and the national organization for consolidated publishing information.” Haynes concurs, “Join Romance Writers of America and become active with your local chapter. There is a huge support system in addition to so many workshops, online classes, and conferences where you can learn your craft and make the contacts you will need to get published. RWA helped me learn how to write and once I’d done that, they gave me the resources to sell my work.”

For more information on each of these authors, visit their fabulous web sites at,, and

The Doctor’s Dilemma

The Doctor's Dilemma by Victoria M. JohnsonThe Doctor’s Dilemma

Doctor Ryan Novak wants nothing to do with women whose only wish is to be a doctor’s trophy wife. Luckily, working in his pediatric clinic in rural Mexico puts romance last on his mind.
Nurse Grace Sinclair arrives at La Clínica Pediátrica with a broken heart and a vow never to fall in love again. The temporary nursing assignment is exactly what she needs to escape her painful memories and to rejuvenate her spirit.
After a rocky introduction, Ryan is skeptical of Grace’s motives for joining the remote clinic, and Grace believes he is like the doctors back home, demanding and self-centered. However, when disaster strikes the village, they soon realize they are equally committed to helping the community, and their close working relationship makes it impossible to ignore their attraction to one another.
When Ryan offers Grace a permanent assignment, her pain and fear stand in the way, and he wonders if he’ll ever be able to convince Grace to risk her heart again. The Doctor’s Dilemma tells the story of Ryan and Grace and the villagers whose lives they touch.

The Doctor’s Dilemma was a finalist in the 2012 Booksellers’ Best Award. (A Published Author’s Contest judged solely by booksellers and librarians for books published in 2011) It finaled in two categories, Best Traditional Romance and Best First Book!


Read an excerpt

paperback the doctors dilemma


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My eBook Debut!

I’m excited to announce the debut of my first eBook, The Substitute Bride!  This eBook is a collection of three intertwined short stories.  The thing they all have in common is one very special wedding. The eBook contains the lead story, The Substitute Bride, as well as The Best Man’s Secret and The Wedding Planner’s Apprentice.


The Substitute Bride by Victoria M. Johnson

The Substitute Bride

I’m a romantic and I’ve always loved attending weddings; partly because of the festive atmosphere, the romance, and of course all the bling. And, like millions of people worldwide, I got caught up in the excitement of the royal wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton and I was inspired to write these stories. While royals aren’t the stars of The Substitute Bride, I think you’ll enjoy these everyday characters and their engaging stories. (The Bride on the cover kind of looks like Kate, don’t you think?) Another difference is that the royal wedding went off without a glitch, whereas in these stories, things don’t quite go as expected.


The eBook is available at in several formats for most e-reader devices or just to download on your computer, and also at Amazon.