Monday, March 01, 2021

Caught in a lie... A Husband By Any Other Name

Caught in a lie….

Fourteen years ago Dan Beckett’s identical twin took off without a word to his pregnant young fiancĂ© or their father. Having secretly loved Lorraine for years, Dan assumes his twin’s identity as the first-born son, as Lorraine’s husband and father of the baby she carried. Around the lie, he created the perfect life.

But now his greatest fear is coming true. His long-lost brother is coming home—with amnesia. Dan is about to lose his tenuous hold on this masquerade, and he must tell Lorraine the truth before Tom remembers his true identity.

Lorrie built a life with Tom Beckett, the man she loves, the father of her children—or so she believed. Her first reaction to his confession is disbelief…and then anger and hurt. Her whole married life has been a lie. But Lorrie has a secret of her own—a secret that never seemed important until now.

Will the truth unravel the love they once shared? What will become of their family, their children…their marriage when everyone learns the truth?

Thursday, February 25, 2021

The Right Way to Write the way that works for you.

Writers refer to their methods of writing as either being a pantster, meaning they write by the set of their pants with little planning--or a plotter, which means they use one or more of many methods to plot and plan the story first. There are a lot of gradients in between those two extremes.

I used to be a pantster, but have learned over the years to do more planning. I don't by any means outline chapters on note cards or anything (look at my eye twitchin'), but I write a synopsis that shows me I have the conflict and emotional depth to carry the story all the way through. My synopsis is for my own benefit, because I add dialogue and bits of things that excite me about the story so I can recapture them later on. I find I don't get bogged down in the middle if I've planned well enough in the beginning, noted plot points, etc.

For me, synopsis writing is part of my brainstorming and one of the most fun parts of writing a book. The rest is real work. I write the first couple of chapters along with the synopsis, and that's how I learn the characters and their motivation and conflict.

Monday, February 08, 2021

Back to the Joy of Writing – Cheryl St.John


I have always had a rule I teach and that we practice in my critique group: Don’t ever budge on that one element that excited you about a story in the first place. That spark that inspired you to write the story is what will carry you through the middle and to the end. Not all books are easy, even when you love your subject matter and characters, but books are double down hard to write if you lose the joy.

We do our best, but the lack of joy eventually shows in our work, our health, our personal lives. I had been under contract for over twenty-five years, writing two or three books a year, and everyone knows a career isn’t a writer’s only responsibility. Most of us have spouses, children, grandchildren and parents. Eventually I realized I needed a change.

After twenty-five years under contract, by fate or a stroke of luck or God’s timing, whichever your belief, a line closed and I didn’t have an option book. I’d been in that place before and it had felt scary. This time it felt good. Like someone had taken an 800-pound boulder off my shoulders. And in this timing of events, I also had a new grandchild due.

To my daughter’s immense relief, I told her I’d care for the baby for the first year. I had a few weeks to decompress and prepare, and then the baby came. I had forgotten how exhausting it is to take care of an infant, but it was a good exhaustion, and I enjoyed every minute of it. After the baby was a year old, my daughter had a neck surgery, and I cared for both of them at their house every day, so this hiatus stretched into about sixteen months. During that time, I eventually missed writing. I got ideas. The desire was there to tell stories, but I knew I didn’t want to go back to where I’d been before. I wanted to write, but I didn’t want to experience the pressure of deadlines.

I made a decision to only write books that I love from that moment on. And to do it in a manner at and a pace that I set for myself. Choosing to make a change was a huge step. Indie authors don’t have the distribution advantages of traditional publishers. They don’t get advances. They do all the work. But they can choose to do the writing and marketing at a pace that’s comfortable for them, and there’s a lot to be said for comfortable.

In deciding what to do next, everything fell into place. Years previously in my critique group, we had the grandiose idea of creating a continuity series. We had thrown ourselves into developing characters, fashioning families, planning family dynamics, and a setting. We had created family trees, character profiles, detailed maps, and brainstormed themes. We collected photos and researched and even started the stories. After a time, the contracted books came first; two members dropped out of the group; a couple new ones came and went. But the core group remained.

In a tragic turn of events, we lost a beloved friend and co-writer. Grief took the remaining wind from our sails. We recovered slowly, welcomed a new friend to our critique group. Then came a day when we got together and said, "We're going to get serious and do this!" Energy built, and the series took on new life. A previous co-creator joined us again. Now, here we are, many years after the initial idea, actually publishing the books and enjoying their development. Together we’ve finished thirteen stories in the Aspen Gold Series and there are more to come.

And I’ve recaptured the joy of writing!

I’m excited about our Valentine’s Day sale. Each of the Aspen Gold Series books is on sale for 99 cents this week. CLICK HERE



Whisper My Name

Sweet Romance from a USA Today Bestselling Author

 She was the girl behind the headlines.

Anyone hearing her real identity would know who she was, and she’s had enough of cameras, questions and stares. Unwanted attention comes in the worst possible form—a tough, perceptive, and all too determined lawman.

Will Laurel’s truth be his undoing…or hers?

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

Tips For Writing a Helpful Book Review

Hook the reader

Why did you pick up this book? Why do you think another reader should or shouldn’t? What was your takeaway? Explain what caught your attention.


Don’t write a synopsis of the book
Focus on elements that you feel particularly strongly about or you think that your readers will want to be aware of. If you liked a character, explain why. If you didn’t like a character, make it clear why you felt that way. Did you appreciate the author’s writing style?


Avoid spoilers
Writers take special care to reveal plot points and secrets at appropriate times in a story. Authors don’t appreciate reviews giving away the big moments, and readers don’t appreciate knowing what’s going to happen ahead of time. If you’ve done this in the past, be kind and revise.


What matters is how you felt about the characters and their story
What worked or didn’t work? Was the story satisfying? Did you appreciate character development? Did the story end the way you hoped or was the conclusion better or worse than expected?


Read reviews on other books

What sort of reviews help you select a book to buy? Do you like quotes pulled from the book? Do you like fair warning about emotional triggers? What do others say that you can appreciate about their review style?


Always proofread
Did you use correct character names? Do you have typos? Did you give away a spoiler?


You love books, so have fun
Readers read reviews to make buying choices. Everyone appreciates a well thought out commentary on a book. Be creative with your remarks and write as though you’re speaking to the next reader trying to decide what to buy. You are!

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Overview of Whisper My Name and the Aspen Gold Series

Her story is ripped from the headlines....

Read the series: Whisper My Name: Aspen Gold Series by Cheryl St John @_cherylstjohn_ @Gold_Aspen #RLFblog #sweet #ContemporaryRomance

Laurel Whitaker has spent her entire life burying her infamous past and becoming a normal person.

Joe Cavanaugh suspects she’s in trouble. His job demands honesty, and it’s his nature is to protect.

Will Laurel’s truth be her undoing…or his?

Whisper My Name in the Aspen Gold Series

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Book heat level (based on movie ratings): G

She was the girl behind the headlines

Laurel Whitaker has been her name for fifteen years. Anyone hearing her true identity would know who she was, and she’s had enough of cameras, questions and stares. Spencer, Colorado is a great place to blend in among the tourists. But unwanted attention comes in the worst possible form—a tough, perceptive, and all too determined lawman.

Sheriff Joe Cavanaugh looks out for people—his large loving family, his teenage daughter, anyone in his county who needs him. But the mistrustful young woman staying in the lake house beside his property goes out of her way to avoid his help, and that’s suspicious. Instinct tells him she’s hiding something…and attraction motivates him to uncover her secrets.


Whisper My Name is book #13 in the Aspen Gold Series.

This is my second in this multi-author series, and I have at least five more stories plotted. I’m sure many more ideas will come to me. I’m enjoying the freedom of writing what I love. There are thirteen books so far, including those of my co-authors.

My characters in the series

I’ve written the stories of two Cavanaugh brothers so far: Dusty Cavanaugh and Kendra Price, as well as Joe Cavanaugh and Laurel Whitaker. My current work in progress is about Deputy Jericho Tanner and the woman he still loves. Audrey Knox left Spencer and made it big as a pop-country singer, but she returns in hopes of giving her daughter a normal childhood.

The overall theme of the series

Spencer, Colorado is a thriving tourist town, its main draw an exclusive high-security hotel where celebrities and well-known personalities can vacation in seclusion.

Please list the series titles below, in any order you prefer.

Dancing in the Dark – Cheryl St John
Call Me Mandy – Debra Hines
Ryder’s Heart – Lizzie Starr
For Keeps – Barbara Gwen &Lizzie Starr
Second Chances – Donna Kaye
Sleepin’ Alone – Bernadette Jones
Stay a Little Longer – Bernadette Jones
Speechless – Lizzie Starr
Close to the Heart – Debra Hines
Finding Hope – Donna Kaye
Fortunate Cookie – Lizzie Starr
Lonely Eyes – Bernadette Jones
Whisper My Name – Cheryl St John

I was under contract with a major publisher for 25 years. Writing the Aspen Gold Series has given me the freedom to write the characters and storylines with complete freedom and with all the energy I have for the stories.

Other recent books not in this series

My other most recent releases are American westerns, Tanner (Bachelors and Babies series) and Joe’s Wife.

Links to find all my books

Amazon Author Page:

Where to buy Whisper My Name

Publisher Aspen Gold Books
Universal Buy Link

Cheryl St John Social Media

Cheryl is the author of more than fifty books, both historical and contemporary. Her stories have earned numerous RITA nominations, Romantic Times awards and are published in over a dozen languages. One thing all reviewers and readers agree on regarding Cheryl’s work is the degree of emotion and believability. In describing her stories of second chances and redemption, readers and reviewers use words like, “emotional punch, hometown feel, core values, believable characters and real-life situations.”

Amazon and Goodreads reviews show her popularity with readers. With a 4.9 star rating on amazon, Cheryl’s bestselling non-fiction books, Writing With Emotion, Tension & Conflict and Write Smart, Write Happy by Writers Digest Books are available in print and digital.

Amazon Author Page
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Monday, October 12, 2020

Were Your 2020 Goals a Bust? It's Never Too Late

It’s October already! It's time for apple cider and pumpkin-spice everything, to be immediately followed by Thanksgiving--and I expect there are already Christmas trees in the stores. Many of us will be glad to say adios to 2020 and move on. It's been a year we wish we could forget, but we had to live it to the best of our abilities and keep going.

I wrote and published two books this year, though I'd wanted to complete three. I'm not kicking myself however. I've given myself permission to take self-care days when I need them. 

During the year I often encourage followers to check back over their goal lists and see if they’re where they want to be. A lot of times when the excitement has drained from our writing or when we’re bored with the tedium of work and responsibilities, it’s because we’ve forgotten our dreams--or we've allowed other things to gain more importance. The distractions that monopolize our time aren't necessarily bad things; plenty of them are perfectly justified or necessary, rewarding even.

Of course there are mortgages to pay and kids to raise and groceries to buy and dinners to prepare, but tucking away our aspirations at the expense of our personal well-being isn’t healthy. Eventually we resent the things that are robbing us of personal fulfilment, instead of enjoying each facet for the richness it brings. Certainly there is joy to be found in the treasure of children in the dream of your own home and, but sometimes we pause in the midst of all that busyness to wonder, “Is this all there is?” There has to be more, and we yearn to find fulfillment within ourselves. That’s most often the time to reprioritize our busy schedules.

Often, sacrifices must be made to accomplish the things most important to us. It's up to you to identify what those sacrifices are and decide whether or not your goals are worth them.

“What is not started today is never finished tomorrow.” - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Look at the goals you set for this year. If you were in a slump, it's okay. Put it behind you. It’s not too late to get started on something new. Take time now to make a list.

Sit down and write five things that you dream of doing. Divide them into categories if you like: Family, Professional, Writing, Spiritual or Just for Me. Now select one that you will work on before the end of the year.

Make another list of the steps you will take to see that accomplishment come to pass. Now take those steps. Recapture your joy. We need to be participants in our lives, not spectators. We need to be passionate about our dreams. Sometimes simply revisiting our dreams is the kick we need to change our thinking and get us out of a rut.

Dream big and dream often.

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” - C.S. Lewis

“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work. – Stephen King

Friday, October 09, 2020

I love an angsty story!

I grew up watching the old television westerns, so those good-vs-evil and the-good-guy-wins stories appealed to me early on. I read extensively as a young adult, devouring Louis L’Amour and many other genres. The first two romances I read were by Lisa Gregory and LaVyrle Spencer—westerns with true romance! I was hooked.

When I really dug in and got serious about writing, I think my biggest hang-up was not thinking anyone would take me seriously. Who was I? I had a husband and four kids and wrote when they all went to bed at night. I had never taken a writing class, but I had read every out-of-date writing book in the public library. It was an immense joy to find the courage to join a group of writers and discover they were all people just like me, from all walks of life, and with a dream we shared.
I wrote Americana and westerns for Harlequin Historical for years, branching out into contemporaries for diversity and fun. After 25 years under contract, I gave myself a year-and-a-half hiatus. I promised myself from then on out I would only write stories I loved to write without the stress of contractual deadlines. I still write sweet westerns and contemporaries, and have most recently focused on the multi-author series Aspen Gold with my critique group. We’ve had great fun and have many more books planned.

I love an angsty story! The more angst and emotion, the better. If I don’t know how I will resolve the story people’s issues, then I know I’m on the right track—though I will want to pull my hair out at some point when all looks hopeless. I always figure it out.

My favorite thing is the ability to write books around the rest of my life without a daily 8-to-5 schedule. I’m able to have a full, busy life with family, friends and church and still write stories. If I want to go to lunch with a friend or take a day trip with my husband, I simply make up my pages on another day. Don’t get me wrong, when I’m pushing toward a book release, I write all day, every day—but that’s my choice and it’s rewarding.
It’s a joy to see an idea I came up with fleshed out, brought to life, sent out into the world and enjoyed by so many readers. I love hearing that what I’ve created brought pleasure to a reader, especially if the theme or the strength of a character spoke to them in a meaningful way. My stories are always about redemption and second chances, because that’s the cycle of life.

Monday, October 05, 2020

Listen to playlist that inspired me as I wrote Whisper My Name

Want to hear the music that inspired me as I wrote my new book that releases tomorrow? Here's a LINK to the amazon music playlist for WHISPER MY NAME!

Saturday, October 03, 2020



 The shredded paper burned quickly, the heat reaching them, and then the sticks caught fire, snapping and cracking pleasantly.

She watched, admiring how easy he made everything look. “The paper starts the sticks burning, and the sticks start the logs burning.”

“Exactly. Once the fire’s going well, you want to keep the screen in front of it, so sparks don’t fly out into the room.” He set the black screen in place.

At least she had an excuse for the warmth in her cheeks now. “That’s nice. Thanks for showing me.”

“You’re a quick learner.”

Now, with him looking at her and both of them kneeling before the fire, their nearness seemed awkwardly intimate. But what did she know? She felt awkward about everything, and yet this was the best awkwardness she’d ever experienced. He wasn’t looming over her or threatening in any way. He was one of the kindest, gentlest people she’d ever met, though she knew he was tough and aggressive at his job. That juxtaposition of strength and peace struck a chord and peeled away a papery layer of her fear and distrust.

She looked into his eyes. What did he think of her? The blaze now gave off enough light to highlight his features, the deep bow of his upper lip…the disquieting fullness of the lower one. He terrified her—or her reaction to him terrified her; in either case, her legs trembled, and she shifted her weight to rest with a hip solidly beneath her.

“What are you thinking?” she asked.

“Do you really want to know?”


“I was thinking you’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever known. Strong, but feminine. Smart.” His gaze took in her hair, her eyes, her mouth. “And now your question made me realize that you don’t play games.”


“You don’t flirt. You look directly at a person. You hold a lot inside, but what you do say is out there. No games.”

“Not the sort of woman you’re used to, I guess.”

“You’re like no one I’ve ever known, that’s for sure. And that’s a good thing.”

She raised her eyebrows. “It is?”

“It is. What were you thinking?”

She rubbed her thumbnail against her jeans. “I was…I was wondering what you were thinking about me. And now I know. Possibly.”

“What were you thinking about me?” he asked.

His steady gaze called her out, so she turned and looked at the fire. “I was remembering the night we were locked in at the Herald.”

He didn’t press her for more, but adjusted his weight to a sitting position.

“You really think I’m beautiful?”

“I thought it from the first time I saw you.”



A question was burning in her, the issue hotter than the fire. Her heart pounded, and she couldn’t believe she was going to say the words, but she couldn’t not. “Am I someone you would kiss?”

She made herself look at him to gauge his reaction.

His eyes seemed to darken even more, and the firelight reflected in their depths. “Seems like you’re fast becoming the only someone I want to kiss.” 

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Friday, October 02, 2020


Writers: Do you have what it takes? What does it take?

Along our writing journeys, it’s not uncommon for writers to struggle with confidence. One of the things we can do to build confidence is to recognize and overcome self-defeating behaviors, like negative self-talk. Negative thinking can be detrimental to our performance, make us doubt ourselves and inhibit our creativity.

We all wonder if we have the stuff it takes. As beginners we wonder if we have an inkling of talent. Once our talent is validated by other writers and readers, we still wonder if it’s good enough, if we have what it takes. It’s good to acknowledge that we don’t know it all and to have a desire to learn and grow, but doubt can hold us back. We shoot ourselves in the foot by creating and feeding feelings of inadequacy.

Being unprepared can leave us feeling inadequate, so reading, attending workshops and staying informed on the craft of writing and the market is another way to help us feel prepared. When positive thinking is paired with common sense, we can stay open to possibilities.

Confidence can be built by setting and achieving goals, so it’s pretty important how we choose to set goals and measure them. Short-term and long-terms goals should be realistic and achievable. Don’t set yourself up for failure by setting a goal like, “I will be published by this time next year.” Unless you’re independently publishing, a goal like that is out of your control, and the result will leave you feeling helpless or like a failure. Set goals with smaller steps. A long-term goal might be to produce a polished product for submission with the next ten months. Then set short-term goals to make it happen: Two new pages a day or two hours of writing a day for example. Perhaps take an online class or find a critique partner.

"Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt." – William Shakespeare

Most of us were raised in a competitive and comparative environment, where our achievements were profiled and graphed into percentiles; where we were matched up against our peers as a gauge to see how we were doing. It’s no wonder so many of us have self-esteem issues and doubts about our abilities. Thank goodness teachers, counselors and parents have learned to work in teams to choose learning methods suitable for children of all capabilities. Students are treated as individuals and encouraged to learn at their own speed and in the manner best suited for them.

Sometimes we make mistakes. Sometimes a project crashes and burns. Sometimes we have to do something wrong before we figure out how to do it right. And that’s okay—as long as we’re moving forward.

You have to be willing to make mistakes.

I know writers who never get started because they’re always planning, plotting and talking about the book instead of putting words on pages. Know anyone like that? There are writing students (not actually writers yet) who read every book on the craft and attend all the workshops and conferences and ask questions and take notes and plan, plan, plan.

It’s a good thing to be teachable and eager to learn, but you can’t learn to write until you put words on paper. The people who don’t get that far want everything to be perfect before it gets on the page – or they want it to come out perfect on the first try, so they wait until they’re good enough. Guess what? Ain‘t gonna happen.

You have to be willing to make mistakes. You have to be willing to write badly in order to learn to write well. Ask yourself: What’s the worst that could happen?

“Confidence comes not from always being right but from not fearing to be wrong.”
                                         - Peter T. Mcintyre

I’ve been a worship leader for quite a few years, and I always say to my team of singers, “If you’re going to make a mistake, make it with confidence, and no one will know you didn’t intend it that way.” I have been known to sing the wrong notes or words, but I sing them with such authority that everyone follows along. Confidence grows with practice and with maturity.

I wrote a how-to-write book. It was a pretty big deal. Who was I to write a book that would be marketed beside admired and credible instructors? It was a lofty goal to write an instructional book, but I’d been leading workshops and teaching online classes for years, and I had a lot of encouragement from other writers, which built my confidence in my ability. I always ask myself, "What's the worst thing that could happen?" Writing this type of book was something I’d thought about for a long time. It was as big of a step as writing or submitting my first book. My long term goal was to submit it for publication. My short term goals involved gathering my notes and thoughts, preparing the manuscript and getting feedback.

Imagine my delight when the publisher I had dreamed of made an offer. The process was so different from my other publishing experiences that it was a stretch. The editor of Writing With Emotion, Tension and Conflict told me I should be proud of this project. And I am. I did something I had only dreamed of doing.

I have high hopes for the future generations of students and young adults receiving recognition for intrinsic value. We should all know that our value lies inside of us, not in our performance.

Some things just can’t be measured. What makes one book better than the next or one writer better than another? Only perspective. Only the reader, when you get right down to it. Because story-telling can be so subjective, I might enjoy a book you can’t finish, and a story I think is drivel could land on your keeper shelf.

No one can tell you whether or not you’re going to sell a book, publish fifty more or be a success. Another writer can read your work and assure you it’s good, but that’s not a guarantee. There are no guarantees when you start writing, and that can get frustrating.

As much as we’d love for there to be, there’s no writer’s crystal ball to foretell the future.

 Take a man with a desire to run a hundred meter race. He buys a pair of Nikes, goes out and gives running a shot, but he doesn’t do very well. Why not? He didn’t practice! He didn’t study how other runners achieve endurance through diet and exercise. He doesn’t know how good he really is until he’s trained by learning all he can, eating properly for energy and muscle and all that—and after he’s ready, after he’s prepared, by stretching to limber up and then running.

Then running again and again and again until he’s fast and he’s confident that he’s fast, and he’s ready to compete.

In many ways submitting a book is a lot like that. Your manuscript will be compared to all the others that cross an editor’s desk. It will be scrutinized for its ability to make the publishing house money in the marketplace—bottom line in this business. The only way you can have the confidence to know you’re submitting something with a chance of making it past that test is to learn your craft and practice, practice, practice. Work at writing and work at it until you get better, until you hit your personal stride. Then share it and get feedback from people you trust.

So how can you grow your confidence?
Confidence is gained by successfully completing a task and recognizing the accomplishment—repeatedly. By acknowledging a success, your brain processes, "I can do this again."

We can’t nurture confidence if we don’t recognize or even appreciate what we’ve done.

Don’t ever demean an accomplishment by saying or thinking, “I was just lucky" or "Anyone could have done it."

Don’t look at a project as too large. Break it down into steps and accomplish them one at a time. If it’s helpful, record your page/time goals and accomplishments in your planner. Check them off as you reach and overtake each one. It’s like that joke, “How do you eat an elephant?”
One bite at a time.

Celebrate each success along the way.

Have a chapter one achievement award party or treat yourself to something special for milestones reached. Give yourself fun stickers or hearts on your calendar—something visual to note progress.

Learn from your mistakes. This might sound simple, but if one method didn’t work, try a different one. You can’t expect a different result from the same behavior.

“Ability is what you're capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it." - Lou Holtz

 Confidence is conditioned behavior.

Many years ago a study was done at the University of Wisconsin. A scientist tied a mouse’s front feet together and placed the animal into the cage of another mouse. The mouse whose cage was being trespassed easily beat up the mouse with its feet tied.

After that happened several times, the scientist put mice without tied feet into the cage. The mouse who’d won repeatedly was so confident by then that it took on and defeated mice even larger than itself. Under ordinary circumstances, that mouse would have run when it saw a larger opponent, but it had been conditioned until it believed it couldn't lose. And it didn't.

Condition yourself.
Congratulate yourself.
Celebrate your successes.

“Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.”  - Eleanor Roosevelt

Sure, sometimes self-doubt is much deeper, it’s inadequacies we’ve carried with us from childhood and relationships and past hurts and experiences. But there’s help for those things, too, in recognizing it and getting help if need be and working on it. You’re a valuable person. You’re worth it. You deserve to give yourself the gift of improving yourself and reaching for your dream.

"If you want confidence, act as if you already have  - William James