Castles and Romance and Sex, oh, my!


B/W photo of author Linda Needham as a 5 year old girl in the foreground, Sleeping Beauty's Castle, Disneyland, Anaheim, CA, in the background.

Linda at Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, January 1956

Mine was a sto­ry­book child­hood, spent just a few leagues from an Enchanted Castle set in a Magical Kingdom that was ruled by a benev­o­lent wiz­ard whose pow­er­ful spells cap­tured my imag­i­na­tion every time my par­ents took me for a visit.

The moment I walked through the gates of this mag­i­cal land, I would be greeted by beau­ti­ful princesses and their hand­some princes, despi­ca­ble vil­lains and ter­ri­fy­ing drag­ons, fairies and pirates and a talk­ing mouse named Mickey.  Yes, I grew up 10 miles from Disneyland, the orig­i­nal Magic Kingdom.

The photo above is my almost 5-year old self on the draw-bridge of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle in January,1956. 

Cover of Her Secret Guardian, by Linda Needham


The seeds of my pas­sion for writ­ing sto­ries of pow­er­ful lords con­tend­ing with their fierce-hearted ladies were planted in that enchanted soil long before I even knew how to read, let alone, write.  The magic is plain: that lit­tle girl on the cas­tle draw­bridge grew up believ­ing in Happily Ever After, because Romance is Timeless, Storytelling has No Age and True Love is Forever.



Escalating Emotion Workshop Handout

Escalating Emotion in Commercial Fiction Writing

One of the first rules we learn as romance writ­ers is that the Emotional Conflict between the hero and the herEscalating emotion workshop, Waterhouse painting of woman sleeping in a chair with a book in her lap.oine must not only be com­pelling enough to carry the rela­tion­ship to its inevitable story con­clu­sion, but that the Emotional Conflict must also esca­late exponentially.

This is actu­ally true of all Commercial Fiction.   Whether you’re writ­ing Science Fiction or Westerns or Paranormal, the con­flict between the Protagonist and the Antagonist (whether Godzilla, Mom or the Ghost of Christmas Past) must be emotion-based in order to drive the story.

Escalating Emotion Workshop Handout

Below you’ll find a pdf of the hand­out for the Escalating Emotions work­shop I gave at the 2014 Willamette Writers Conference.  Along with an anno­tated exam­ple story, the chart lists the steps of Christopher Vogler’s Writer’s JourneyMichael Hague’s Screenplay Structure and James Scott Bell’s Writing from the Middle.

Use the chart as a ref­er­ence for struc­tur­ing your story — not as a bible.

WW2014 Escalating Relationship Workshop Handout

Home Library Bookshelves — Ideas and Tips

Bookshelves for Your Print Library Collection

Too-tall tomes!  The most clever thing we did when we had book­cases built into our 20-bay home library was to have the cab­i­net designer make eight adjustable book­shelves for each bay instead of the usual six.

Author Linda Needham's curly, medium sized black dog in the foreground with wall of filled bookshelves in Linda Needham's home library in the background.

Pippa the Portuguese Library Dog

As you see in the photo, the two extra shelves allow room for those tall books or mag­a­zines to lay side­ways, spine out. That way we don’t waste ver­ti­cal shelf space with a few tall books sit­ting on the same shelf as stan­dard height books.
Pippa of the Library Chair agrees!
She’s not alone in her opin­ion!  The gob-smacking, amaz­ing Trinity College Library in Dublin cat­a­logs its price­less col­lec­tion by … height!

Trinity College Library 02.JPG
Trinity College Library 02″ by SuperchilumOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Surprising New Tools for the Working Romance Writer

I never would have guessed, back in the dark ages of the mid-1990s when my first romance was pub­lished, that the list of tools for the 21st Century work­ing romance writer would include a Canon Rebel T3i DSLR cam­era with all the bells and whistles.

But, here’s the new truth: work­ing writ­ers are no longer allowed to hide out behind their screens and bang out sto­ries.  We gotta get out there and engage our romance read­ers with images and adven­tures.  And that’s all good, by my lights.
Extreme Close Up

New Tools, New Lessons

New tools, new cam­era, new lessons in how to work all those but­tons and gears. Remembering what f-stop means, how to read the expo­sure meter, which lens does what, shoot­ing video and timed pho­tos, etc.  Above is an image from my home­work in prepa­ra­tion of my research trip to the UK — try­ing out a lens exten­sion tube.

Funky results and soooo much fun to see the world through a new set of lenses!

Better Images

Since I base all of my his­tor­i­cal romance nov­els in the UK, cas­tles and manor houses are my bread and butter–uhm, make that my tea and crum­pets.  I’ve used dig­i­tal point-and-shoot cam­eras dur­ing my pre­vi­ous research trips, snap­ping tons and tons of pho­tos of details of door hinges and land­scapes and mine shafts and rugged coast­lines.  Good, but not great.

Smart phones and P&S cam­eras cap­ture lovely mem­o­ries, but in this new Age of the Image, as a work­ing romance writer I need more sophis­ti­cated tools for shar­ing my expe­ri­ences with my readers.

Legal Landscape

A work­ing romance writer can’t just grab any old image off the net and share it on the web or slap it onto their indy cover.  Someone owns the copy­right on that image and might (should) object.  With that threat upper­most in my mind, my cam­era becomes another sur­pris­ing tool of the trade, allow­ing me to snap my own images — after first receiv­ing per­mis­sion from the “snap-ee” — mak­ing my work legal and above-board.

Working Romance Writer

I keep­ing think­ing there’s no more room in my writer’s tool­box.  But there’s always some­thing new and excit­ing com­ing at me around the cor­ner.  Next time, I won’t be sur­prised; I’ll be ready with my DSLR cam­era!  Snap! Right.



The Romance of Editorial Time Travel

Late last year, I had great fun edit­ing the OCR copies of two of my old print romances –Ever His Bride and Her Secret Guardian — and shep­herd­ing them onto the Amazon KDP, iTunes, Nook, etc. eTailer sites.

Confession: though I cre­ated my own e-book cov­ers (for bet­ter or worse) I merely edited my old books then handed off the Word doc, the front & back mat­ter and retailer info to a paid professional.

Winchester Cathedral interior, looking up into the north side Romanesque Transept, heavy stone blocks and two stories of thick arches, with tiled and coffered ceiling

Winchester Cathedral, north transept; a glo­ri­ous exam­ple of the ear­li­est English Romanesque cathe­dral architecture.

This year I’m work­ing on the third and final of my old print books before releas­ing a brand new series of medieval his­tor­i­cal mys­tery romance (Avon Books/HarperCollins still has all the rights to my other 7 his­tor­i­cal romances.) Continue read­ing

Write What You

One of the first rules we are taught when we who have been writ­ing since we first real­ized that words could be strung together to pro­duce beauty and despair, is that we should “write what we know.” Even non-writers doubt­less heard the old saw in school.

WWII advert; write what amazes you!

I’ve come to believe that “write what you know” doesn’t do it by half.

Write what you want to know is a lit­tle closer.

But I pre­fer some­thing more inti­mate, more driving:

I write what I feel.

I write who I am.

I write who I want to be. Continue read­ing

Romancing the Beast-the Heroine’s Journey

The fol­low­ing is from the speech by Linda Needham for Rose City Romance Writers Literacy Luncheon in Portland, Oregon, called “The Heroine’s Journey, or The Scandalous Truth about Dangerous Men and Their Feisty, Persistent Women.”

Edmund Blair Leighton; the AccoladeKathleen Woodiwiss’ The Flame and the Flower was not a fluke.

Romance is all about romanc­ing the beast.

Romance is about redemption

Romance is about love that accepts and embraces. That doesn’t hit or shame. Continue read­ing

Linda’s Writing Career

Linda’s Writing Career, or The Night the Turkey Burned; Achieving the –You Can’t Seriously Mean Me–Impossible Dream.

The Death of Mr. Decay was my 1st stage play. I wrote, pro­duced, cos­tumed, propped, directed and starred in this clas­sic for my 6th–grade class. That same year a 1-page writ­ing assign­ment went scream­ing out of con­trol; Alvin and the Chipmunks Go West just kept going and going. Still haven’t fin­ished it.

RWA Conference 2000, Literacy BooksigningJr. & Sr. high school–in the 1960s–a time of pri­vate mus­ings: gothic, angsty, mind-twisting poems about death and flow­ers and the Beatles.

If you’d told me then that I’d end up writ­ing nov­els for a major pub­lisher, I’d have fainted. As would have my 11th grade English teacher, who was dri­ven mad because I earned As on all my in-class tests and Fs on each of my projects (because I didn’t turn them in.) Average grade=C. Continue read­ing