Updated: Mar 21

This month, in honor of spring, I’m steering my blog toward the floral persuasion. As someone who spent many hours in the garden and who then learned from horticulturists at several plant nurseries, only to later spend years behind floral counters in creative bliss, I’ve got a lot of stories to tell and experiences to offer.

My two earliest memories of puttering around in the garden were from ages 5-7. The first involves my grandmother, who used to have me collect strawberries from her patch in the front yard. She showed me how to pick the ripest berries while leaving the rest for the next harvest.

It was with great pride that I tripped down the steps the first day on my own to collect the bright red berries, just as my grandmother had taught me. I remember carefully stepping over the small, wiry fencing that separated her garden from the sidewalk. The sun was bright above my head and the earth warm beneath my hands as I crouched low to begin my search. It was a treasure hunt; I was a fearless explorer, sifting through a half-dozen insects that had decided to make my grandmother’s patch their favorite hangout. I did not fear them; I understood them, for it was mine, too.

No arguing adults, confusing changes, or boogeymen were allowed in our little world. Only the heady feeling of freedom from confining walls, the aromatic symphony of disturbed soil and crushed leaves and berries, and the zipping sounds of bees and dragonflies were our companions. I felt as if I had found my apotropaic spot in the world.

My second memory was of a kind woman that was our neighbor for a time. She often spoke to me while I was outside playing and she was tending to her sidewalk garden. We lived in thin-walled townhomes, each with a large dining room window, so there were very few secrets between our houses. When my neighbor brought out a flat of bright yellow and burnt orange marigolds, I hurried outside to stare at them in awe. Seeing my excitement, she asked me if I’d like to help her plant them, cementing my hero worship. Later, she would thank me for my help with a beautiful M.I. Hummel figurine.

Neither she nor my grandmother is among the living today but I am very happy to say that the gifts—both tangible and not—are still with me.

I feel that my role, now, is to pass the torch to the younger generations. My son has been the recipient of this mode of thinking since he was old enough to walk. He has assisted me with everything from plant shopping and watering to identifying plants by genus and species. I can’t wait to share this with my daughter, as well. With so many of us spending time at home in recent months, I believe we will see a great resurgence in gardening activities and shared experiences. I can vouch for the staying power that these early lessons can have on young minds.

So, you want to write a love story for a work of fiction?

First things, first. Anything goes. Write for your genre, of course, but readers of fictional stories generally accept that what they are about to read has sprung from your imagination. They’re cool like that.

What will stump them, however, is not giving them a reason to root for the romance. Why else would they devote hours of their time to your story?

Human Experience

To do this, you have to deliver the human experience. As we all know, to be human is to be flawed, resilient, sometimes lucky (and sometimes not), vulnerable, and so many things in between. To love, and to have that love returned, is nothing short of a miracle. The trouble is, we never know when our human experiences will mesh well with someone else’s.

Past trauma, hidden vices, and subconscious desires are not a part of the equation when we first meet someone. Hope is. And as the creator of your story, you must convey that emotion from your characters in a way that resonates back to your reader. It is what will have people not only reading your story all the way through but have them coming back again to reread it.

First Meeting

Creating that spark of hope is also why so many writers stress the importance of crafting a memorable “first meeting” for your main characters. It is the driver of your story. In a series, hope must steer the reader through the first book and again, direct them to the starting point (the story itself) through other installments, until they have reached the final destination (the ending of the series.)

A tall order, indeed. But that is the power of hope.

In romance novels, hope is what makes a long-time reader of the genre take a chance on yet another story where they know what the ending is likely to be. They are hoping to find a story that stimulates their emotions along the way. A lackluster first meeting in your story will not inspire confidence that you will deliver the desired outcome to your reader.


Having said that, it isn’t always the initial meeting that can blow a crater-sized hole in the credibility of your character’s love story. It’s what leads up to it and what happens afterward that can be tricky.

I’ve seen characters start off wanting to kill each other become #relationshipgoals in 300 pages or less. I’ve also fallen asleep waiting for two people who are perfect for each other fumble around for the first few books in a series before they finally get a clue. The former often crosses over into the unhealthy while the latter makes you question the character’s intelligence (how many blatant signals can the average person misread?)

The truth is: your readers will sit through either scenario if you pace the story out in a creative but believable manner.

Elements of Storytelling

By pacing, I don’t mean just figuring out if you are writing a slow-burn or insta-love romance. I’m referring to the ebb and flow of tension, attraction, conflict, seduction, and opportunity that you are responsible for maneuvering your characters through. Writers often refer to the term "arc" to describe this concept.

The Nicholas Sparks novel, The Notebook, employs these elements brilliantly. The story resonates with so many people—even the love cynics—making it an enduring classic. The love story spans an entire lifetime of a couple (barring their earliest formative years) but keeps us enthralled because of the clever roller coaster ride of emotions it takes us on.

For anyone who still hasn’t seen it, here is a simplified spoiler summary:

Boy sees girl and is instantly attracted. Girl resists boy, setting up several scenes of tension while boy does extreme things to win girl over. Conveniently, boy and boy’s father do work on girl’s family’s property (opportunity.) Mutual attraction flairs (seduction) between them until their "opposite side of the tracks" romance is discovered (cue conflict), and the girl’s parents split the young couple apart.

Using variations of that same formula, we are later reunited with the couple (opportunity) as they maneuver through past hurt and current roadblocks (conflicts and tension), rediscover their feelings (attraction and seduction), and reach a bittersweet happily ever after. There is another element to the story that I refuse to spoil but trust me when I say it’s a big reason why this movie is universally loved.

In Love with Love

Most people expect to be challenged, thwarted, and ultimately, rewarded, in love.

They accept these highs and lows as a natural course of the human experience.

It is the job of writers to communicate these human conditions in a believable and compelling arc that ignites a readers hopes and carries them through each happily-ever-after.

Updated: Jan 29

Interview for Rose Walken

Posted on Marilyn Vix’s: Journey of the Soul/Author Blog on Jan. 1, 2021.

See the full posting here:

There is no better way than spending New Year’s Day cuddled up under a blanket, favorite fur baby near by, and a nice cup of tea or adult beverage on hand. Personally, I think reading and great books saved me this year. So, I want to pass along what I’ve found, and give you a chance to read a great new author.

Her name is Rose Walken and she’s written a fabulous CIA mystery romance called “The Raven’s Call”. Rose Walken is a speed-reading, coffee-loving, book-addicted East Coast romance author. She is also a mother of two angelic (while sleeping) children, a brother-sister pair of rescue kitties, and a loving, supportive partner. I had a chance to talk to Rose about her new book. She shares her favorite reading memories and what future projects she has in store for us.

1) What is your favorite memory from reading as a child?

Rose Walken: It is how quickly I would become immersed in the story. My first love was unicorns and horses. When I read books about them, like The Last Unicorn, Black Beauty, or Misty of Chincoteague Island, I imagined myself leaving my everyday life behind and living inside the story. It still happens, although the type of books I read has changed.

2) Who was your favorite author and how did they influence you?

Rose Walken: My favorite romance author has always been Jude Deveraux. There are never more than a few sentences that I am aware of reading in her books. She pulls me into the story right away, and it is something I strive for in my writing.

3) What is writing to you in one sentence?

Rose Walken: Writing is a voice for the myriad of emotions, thoughts, and ideas in my head.

“The Raven’s Call” is a CIA mystery romance that will pull you in and not let you go. Mitch has spent nineteen years with the international elite. But nearing retirement, he decides to do one last mission—and its personal. But when Victoria McKinley walks into his life and becomes his unwilling accomplice, there’s not much he can do but reel her in, use her and carry out his duty. But the difference with this mission and all the others—he doesn’t want to walk away from her. Will he find a way to survive the mission with her? Or will he have to sacrifice his new relationship to save them both?

“The Raven’s Call” is available at several online retailers through this book link.