Author Archives: Cathi Tully


Training Travis

My new contemporary romance, TRAINING TRAVIS, is now available!

TRAINING TRAVIS, available now!!!

TRAINING TRAVIS, available now!!!

Two professionals with a past they thought forgotten—can they keep their relationship strictly business when the passion reignites?

After the death of his ex-wife, Travis McGill becomes sole parent to his fifteen-year-old daughter. Determined to do what’s best for her—even if it means reopening old wounds—Travis moves back to his Pennsylvania hometown.

Rebecca Evans never forgave Travis for the way he dumped her. Not only did he break her heart sixteen years ago, but he and his daughter are a reminder of the family she never had. But when Travis asks her to redecorate his Victorian house, she can’t turn her back on him or his angry, grieving daughter.

Getting Rebecca back in his life might not be the easiest task, but Travis is determined to try. Can he earn the trust of the two most important women in his life? Or—will he need on-the-job training?

Cathy Tully
Here’s the link:

No More Bookstores?

The mere title of today’s blog sends me into cold sweats because I am a lover of books. I shudder to think what a life without bookstores would be like. A few words that instantly come to mind are: cold, sad and depressing.

We didn’t have a lot of money when I was young, so I didn’t venture into a bookstore until I got my first job in Manhattan. Entering that store was an out of body experience for me. I spent more lunch hours than I care to admit, surrounded by books, than living breathing colleagues.

As a writer, it’s important to keep up with your genre, and the quantity of new releases can add up quickly, and I was running out of shelf space. So, my husband gave me a kindle last year. I find it extremely helpful especially when traveling, instead of packing five or six books, which take up a lot of room, I can pack more clothes.

Now, a few year’s later after the battle of the big bookstore’s, I find it ironic that after putting all the small bookstore’s out of business, these large conglomerates have also put each other out of business, leaving us with one bookstore chain. One.  And I can’t help wonder how did this happen?

I talk to a lot of people who don’t buy ebooks. They want a print version. Not everyone has a computer, not everyone is going to buy a computer, and not everyone orders books on-line. So I think its always going to be important to supply readers with what they want. To do this, Amazon just isn’t going to be enough.

And one bookstore chain? Nope. I don’t think so.

Last week, a very good source told me that B&N closes twenty bookstores a year in the U.S. Call me an optimist, but I think it’s time for the re-emersion of the small bookstore. It’s time to get back in the game, boys. Whether they offer a little bit of everything, or specialize in certain genres: Children’s books, Romance, Mystery, Thrillers, Suspense, etc. I think people would welcome them back with open arms.

What do you think? Do you miss your local hometown bookstore? I know I do.


Cathy Tully

The Synopsis

The other day an editor I know asked permission to use my latest synopsis as part of a talk she had to give. I couldn’t believe what I was reading, because up to now, I always thought I stunk at writing synopses.

Who knew : ) She went on to say that it was the kind of construction she looked for but rarely received, so I thought I’d share the steps I take to write a synopsis with you.

When I began writing I was a pantser who  believed that plotting  inhibited my creative process. That’s probably why it took me a year and a half to write my first book, which I never sold.

As time passed, I began to realize that if I wanted to write more books faster, I needed to plan more and if I planned more, writing the synopsis at the end of a project might just be easier.  I’ve played with a few variations of my process over the years but here’s what I’ve found works best for me:

1- Before I start to write a book, I write a character analysis for my hero and heroine because the more I know about who they are, where they’ve been, and what they want, the easier it is to move onto the next step–

2-  I write down my hero/heroine’s goals/motivations & conflicts. Keep in mind, it’s very effective if your hero/heroine’s goals oppose each other (ex: he wants a stay at home wife and she wants a career).

3-Once I’ve established their goals/motivations & conflicts, I write a  chapter by chapter outline. Sometimes this is a bare bones outline, sometimes it’s in depth.  Now I can begin to write the book.

Once the book is finished, I pull out the chapter by chapter outline I did months ago. I pinpoint the most important plot points in the finished book, (only those events and motivations that moved the story forward in a major way), and incorporate them into the outline. Don’t forget to reveal the character’s emotions and motivations. (Leave out secondary characters, you’re only using bare bones here.)

Once I’ve tweaked the outline, I begin to write the synopsis (in present tense) by picking up all the important elements from the outline. I introduce the hero/heroine each in their own paragraph. As they’re introduced, I identify their goals, motivation and conflict in as few words as possible, 1-3 pages maximum.

Wow, talk about pressure.  But take heart. Writing a good synopsis is tons of work but you’re also creating a valuable marketing tool. A good synopsis may even help you discover your blurb or pitch, and in the end, you’ve honed your writing skills too.


Cathy Tully

A Happy Ending

My need for a happily ever after is one of the reasons I decided to write romance; I can’t help myself, I love watching two people fall in love. From a writing standpoint, the most important thing about the ending of a book is that the issues between the hero/heroine all be resolved in a way that’s logical and satisfies the reader.

Two people who’ve hated each other through the course of the story and all of a sudden decide they’ve fallen in love halfway through the book, isn’t logical and doesn’t make sense. To prevent a contrived ending a writer must make sure the core vales of the hero/heroine are extremely different to the point that it’s impossible for them ever to compromise. For example, if he’s a cattle rancher, and she’s a vegetarian, there can’t be a middle ground for compromise.

In order for a happy ending to be believable and satisfying, the hero/heroine must make sacrifices for the sake of their love. Doing this establishes a basic equality, or meeting point. It also makes sense as to why they couldn’t solve their problems early in the story before they had a middle point and began to make sacrifices. Having your hero/heroine compromise gives a writer an opportunity to add an element of surprise to their story where the reader is left to think, ‘that’s a great ending, why didn’t I think of that?’

A clearly resolved ending doesn’t mean that only one of the characters can make a vow to act differently. A resolved ending must be when the hero/hero make sacrifices for the sake of each other and not just for themselves. This ending gives the reader satisfaction that the characters will be resentful later on about what he/she has given up. Also, the resolved ending must come about by the actions of the hero/heroine not through the interference of other secondary characters.

I like to test my happy endings by having a beta reader read the manuscript and ask them: Do you feel the hero/heroine are truly committed to each other?  Do you think they’ll be happy not just next year but in fifty years? Was there anywhere in the story where you weren’t satisfied? I find this feedback monumental to my editing process. Happy Writing!


Cathy Tully

Write What You Know

At an RWA national conference a few years ago, I sat in on a workshop that helped me understand what ‘write what you know’ means. In this workshop, we were all asked to write down every job we’ve ever had and the roles we’ve played in life throughout the years. I listed: Administrative Assistant to NY Fortune 500 Executive, Secretary in a pool of thirty, College student/graduate, receptionist at a veterinarian hospital, retail associate at a design store, owner of my own Interior Design business, Substitute teacher grades K-12, Girl Scout Leader, bridesmaid, maid of honor, mother, sister, wife, daughter, godmother, friend and aunt.

The speaker asked us to think about how we could use the professions we’ve spent time in as part of our books. Can our hero/heroine work in a field we’ve worked in? Can he/she be a parent? A scout leader? A teacher? An Admin? Instead of all those billionaires/tycoons in a lot of romances out there could we make him/her someone our reader could relate to so they could come to life on the page? The speaker then went on to explain that if you took what you know and incorporated it into your books, your writing voice be more genuine.

She encouraged our group to think about how our hero/heroine might become more relatable–more three-dimensional–and how it would be easier for your reader to sympathize with because they’re so real? Long after this workshop I thought about what the speaker had said and something clicked. It was my light bulb moment. So, I took her advice and incorporated a part of who I am into my next book, and like they say, the rest is history : )

My first book, All You Need Is Love features, Little Man, my family dog, who we lost to illness. It is the biggest tribute I can pay him and his cuteness jumps off every page. I love dogs, always have, and through no planning of my own, a dog pops up in every book I write. Dogs are better than secondary characters because they make people vulnerable without saying a word. We’re allowed to be our true selves around them without any judgment and their unconditional love brightens the darkest day.

Marrying Mr. Right’s heroine, Missy Modesto, is similar to a good friend I’ve known my whole life. Missy is a strong, tough, yet loving woman with a heart of gold and although years may pass between visits, when we do meet, it feels like yesterday : ) Training Travis is about a divorced dad who gains custody of his fifteen year old daughter after his ex-wife’s untimely death. And even though I can’t personally relate to being divorced, I am the mother of two girls, so I can relate to Travis’ fifteen year old daughter and the mood swings of a teenage girl. My first women’s fiction, Pieces Of Candy, is about a menopausal, mother of two. Candy is a substitute teacher and decides she’s wants a real career of her own. So begins her journey into interior design : )

The speaker at that conference knew what she was talking about–and I wish I’d heard her speak many years ago.  Still, it’s never too late and once I took her advice my writing voice has been with me ever since.  I think it’s really about being true to yourself and who you are as a writer….and this probably isn’t something that can be used for every genre to the extent that I’ve gone. Yet, I can’t help but think it would be hysterical to read a book about an interior designer who dies, comes back as a ghost and keeps rearranging the furniture, sending the people she left behind literally flying!


Cathy Tully

Quick Dips To Celebrate Labor Day

Normally, I write about craft or karate when I blog. This week, I’d like to focus on entertaining, especially with Labor Day right around the corner : )

Here are two dips I make in no time and my friends and family LOVE THEM! So I thought I’d share them with you this week. Feel free to make them your own. I know once you do, you’ll go back to them time and time again. And don’t be surprised if your friends steal them from you too : )


What you need: Two cans of artichoke hearts, 1 cup of parmesan cheese, mayonnaise.

Drain artichoke hearts and run under cold water. Cut up the artichokes into fine pieces. Place them into a casserole dish. Add mayonnaise to moisten. Add all of the parmesan cheese. Add more mayo ( I use lite mayo) until you have a creamy, dip. I sprinkle a little more parmesan cheese on top, cover with plastic wrap and microwave for five minutes.  Be careful when removing dish from microwave, it will be pipping hot!  Serve with crackers or tostitos dippers. YUMMMM.


What you need: 1 can of Hormel turkey chili with no beans, 1 package of cream cheese, 1 regular size bag of shredded cheddar cheese. You can use the non fat cream cheese and the fat free shredded cheddar cheese. No one will no better : )

In a casserole dish, spread the cream cheese on the bottom. Spoon in the can of turkey chili, top with the entire bag of shredded cheddar cheese, cover the casserole with plastic wrap and microwave for three – five minutes depending on your microwave. Be careful when removing it —- it will be HOT!

I serve this dip with tostitos dippers and crackers. I swear my family licks this casserole dish clean each and every time : )

I wish everyone a healthy, happy, Labor Day — Eat, drink and be merry and we’ll reconvene in September : )

All my best,

Cathy Tully

The Impact Of A Character’s Name

Every aspect of the story a writer creates, especially something as simple as the names of their characters, has an impact on the story they choose to tell.  A name can be a very important vehicle when mapping out a character’s personality. A name can help a writer show what kind of person their hero/heroine is, or hint at the character’s history or background.

In a contemporary romance if a heroine’s legal name is Margaret Mary O’Brien, the image of  a woman in a long flowing skirt on a hillside covered with flowers pops to mind. But when the fact that she calls herself Maggie is disclosed, a much less formal picture of her is imagined. If the writer goes a little further and puts her in a pair of worn jeans/cowboy boots and sit her on top of a horse, they’ve painted the picture of a women who can more than take care of herself. A strong heroine—-my favorite kind : )

There are other reasons besides personality that should be considered when choosing a character’s name. For one thing, a writer must make it easy for their reader to keep the character’s straight as they’re reading. For example, if a hero’s name is Chase, a writer should not name the heroine, Grace.

An unfamiliar name can make a character stand out, but be careful—it can also make the reader have to stop and say, is this the hero or heroine? If a writer chooses to spell the heroine’s name Jeramie, which spelled Jeremy is male, chances are the reader will be confused. Another way to confuse a reader is by using unisex names. Both Pat and Chris can be male or female. Simple mistakes like these could drive a reader crazy, or worse, make them stop reading your book altogether.

Here’s a rule of thumb– If a writer wants to give one of their character’s a “different” name, they should make sure their other character, hero/heroine, has a gender specific name, one that’s easy for the reader to remember. So, if a writer names their heroine, Brooklyn, then their hero should be a Bob or a Jack. P.S. Short names like Bob, Jack, Bill are good hero names because they’re short, and strong.

Keep the names chosen for your characters specific to the period the story takes place. In a historical novel, the name Brooklyn for a heroine is out of place, just as in a contemporary romance the name Winifred would be out of place. I think you know what I mean : )

One last note: when referring to a character in narrative, make sure to pick one name or nickname and use it throughout. If a writer refers to their hero as Luke, Dr. Lucas Martin, and sometimes as the professor, their reader will really be stumped.

I did this a lot when I started writing, especially in my first drafts.  I was so eager to get the story that was alive in my head down and on paper, I don’t pay attention to my character’s names. Then I’d have to go back and while reading make the changes. As time has passed, I no longer do this, but it’s an easy mistake to make.

One last thing, when writing dialogue this rule changes slightly. A store owner can call a hero, Mr. Martin, and his students may refer to him as the professor, while the  heroine calls him Luke.

Is choosing your character’s names something you spend a lot of time on? And if so, what affects your choices the most?


Cathy Tully

Writing Supporting Characters

Supporting characters can come in all shapes and sizes, as well as, a variety of forms depending on the genre one writes: think elf, sprite, monster, you get the jist : ) They can range from loving family members to enemies that want our hero/heroine dead or want to destroy everyone and everything in our character’s life. In order for a supporting character to have relevance in a story, that third character must have a significant impact on one or both of the hero/heroine or they must influence the rest of the story. Otherwise, they don’t belong in the story.

In romance, many stories contain a certain kind of third character. This character is almost like a third main character. This third character can be the cause of the story or the point around which the story revolves. This character can be a child, a parent or a grandparent. They can be a best friend or confidante. Whichever works best for the story : )

In my first book, ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE, I used the heroine’s Gram as my third party.  I made this quirky, sweet, senior the reason the heroine came to town in the first place. I gave my heroine a close/loving relationship with her Gram and created a grandparent reader’s would love to have for their own : )

I love using a third main character in my stories. Most times it’s a person, although I must admit in MARRYING MR. RIGHT, my third character is an adorable dog named Hugo. He may not be able to talk to my heroine, but his loving ways and deep insightful eyes give her all the support/guidance she requires : )

This third character usually acts as a buffer, or someone the main character can bounce things off of. Better yet, someone who is truthful/honest to the end and tells the hero/heroine what they need to hear even if they don’t want to hear it. After all, isn’t that what a good friend does in real life?

The difficult part of writing third character’s is that they often become too big for their own good.I know when I write a third character, I have to pull he/she back and remind myself who the story is really about: The hero/heroine. Third character’s can become larger than life and that’s fine, if one is writing women’s fiction, not romance. So, when I outline these third character’s I must decide how the actions/choices of the third character affect the actions/choices of the hero/heroine without letting them take it too far.

Noone said writing was easy : ) And my books would probably be written faster if I didn’t insert a third main character. But every time I finish another book, I find that these third characters mirror so many real people that it would have been a shame to not include them in my story : )

Have you ever written a third main character? Do you find it hard to keep them on track and not allow them to “break out”?  Do you have a certain way you keep them in line? I’d love to hear your comments.


Cathy Tully

Creating Believable Hero’s and Heroine’s

I love reading books on the craft of writing because I believe that no matter how many books I write, there is always room for improvement. My latest read was written by Leigh Michaels, titled, Creating Romantic Characters. This book really hit home with me and how I write my hero/heroine’s, so I’d like to share some of what Leigh talks about with you today.

A hero or heroine should be the kind of person a reader wants to be. The good, the bad and the ugly qualities rolled up into a nice neat ball. As a writer I find that’s the best part of creating hero/heroines. They shouldn’t be perfect. They should be as real as we can make them, because those are the kinds of people readers relate to.

If a hero/heroine doesn’t open their mouths and insert their foot from time to time, if they were perfect and didn’t say dumb things, embarrass themselves or trip in front of a room full of people. If they said the right thing at the right moment instead of a week later, or better yet, if they were considerate and tactful more times than none they would probably be too perfect. Because we all know, no one is perfect : )

Here are some things hero’s/heroine’s do: he/she is always kind to those who are less powerful than them i.e., children, animals and the elderly. He/she is gentle even if Uncle Bob consistently talks about his aching back, they never snap at him or treat him like a pain in the butt. : )  Sure, we all know people in real life who cross the line and do not follow the above rules, but I’d like to think there are fewer of them in the population and more people like the heros/heroines we create.  More people like us : )

Heros/heroines never gossip or delight in another’s troubles, even if they deserve it. He/she is never rude unless provoked, even to each other and even then, they’re never hateful or malicious. However, wisecracks and remarks are acceptable : )

I especially like the last piece of information because I always get my hero/heroine head-to-head with some type of issue where each one is on the opposite side and the wisecracks fly like fireworks on the fourth of July. Ahhhh…..sexual tension is built and into the story I go : )

Do you agree with these rules for heros and heroines?  Are there other’s you use when you’re crafting a character? If so, I’d love to hear about them.


Cathy Tully

Moving Your Story Forward

Today I’d like to talk a little bit about forward movement in fiction. A good story starts at the beginning, moves through the middle, and ends at the end. But this isn’t as simple as it may sound because without forward movement, even good characters get stuck in dull stories. If your characters are reflecting, wondering and thinking a lot, be wary. Odds are all that thinking and wondering aren’t getting them from point a to point b.

Characters must do things, say things, go places, and interact with other people. A young man thinking about death isn’t a story. A young man digging his own grave is. Don’t ask who your character is; ask what your character does. Trust in your skills as a writer. Your character will reveal who he/she is once you’ve undertaken the task of describing him/her through their words or deeds. This happened to me while I was writing my first book, All You Need Is Love. A secondary character I created, the heroine’s Gram, wound up becoming the real life Gram I wished I had while growing up. Reviewers even mention the quirky senior citizen as endearing and memorable. Go Gram!

When your character’s personality and motivations emerge, this revelation may be so deep you might have to make changes to your plot when you’re done with your first draft. Gram’s constant knudging, made me change her from a one scene character to a six scene character. Quite a difference.

Our characters often reveal themselves to us when we least expect it and this is what makes being a writer, at least for me, so much fun ☺ These aren’t just voices we hear in our heads urging us to write their story down, they become real people we can relate to through the process of writing their story, and in some instances we hate to say goodbye to when the story is over.

Plot turns into story when we convey emotional information to the reader. A woman discovers the end of her marriage. A young man is left at the altar by the love of his life, a child realizes his mother isn’t coming back. Use these emotional discoveries that make real life interesting, horrifying, and beautiful.

Once you entwine them into your story, you begin to mesh plot and character together. Your reader will experience real heart break, loss or joy. Through this process of meshing you’ll feel the difference because the emotional information you convey will create a memorable three-dimensional character that might just grow his/her own fan base : )


Cathy Tully