Monday Meets: Tray Ellis

Today, Tray Ellis joins me, talking about strong female characters.


For all that I love to write male/male romances, when I do, I also love to keep in mind that strong and interesting female characters can be essential to good storytelling. As the handsome men fall in love, with stars in their eyes and sparkles in their hearts, they are surrounded by secondary characters that push, pull, and prod them. In our own lives we’re surrounded by strong, fascinating, multifaceted women, so I very much enjoy writing them into my stories. “How Sweetly the Whippoorwill Sings” is a very lighthearted, fluff-styled piece that focuses on the attraction between two handsome men, but even there I had the opportunity to sprinkle in some fabulous female characters.


The most prominent female character is Molly. She’s the bride. It’s her special day and the wedding is the reason everyone congregates. Her brother and her soon-to-be-husband’s best man are the two falling in love and making sparks, but I wanted to make sure I did something more with Molly than just use her as an excuse for the two men to meet. She needed to be beautiful, yes, but to also have substance. I gave her a challenging profession and some thoughtful exchanges with her brother, Jake, and the his romantic interest, best man Everett. Her actions and opinions help to reveal aspects about the main romance, as well as cement that her marriage is going to be solid and well matched.


Then I got to have a little fun with the two mothers. For better or worse, more often than not, we’re altered reflections of our parents. It’s hard to escape both genetics and environment! Plus, moms are a driving force behind wedding preparations. As characters, it’s actually harder to keep them tame and under control, otherwise they would rear up and demand the story be about them! Both of these moms had very distinctive voices and while they were focused on the wedding, it was definitely because they love their children and want them to be happy. Wedding traditions make a lot of room for the fathers, especially the father of the bride, with having him walk the bride down the aisle and with a specific dance at the reception, but the mothers tend to play more powerful background roles.


Additionally, I sprinkled in a few other female characters. The singer for the ceremony, the wedding party photographer, and a very clever young bridesmaid. Oh, that bridesmaid—she had so much to say and I had to be careful she didn’t take over an entire section of the story! I sometimes think it might be fun to rewrite the entire story from her perspective, just because it would be hilarious.


Writers and readers get so invested in the main romantic storyline that sometimes the supporting cast fades away a little. I hope my discussion here has brought a little attention to the background fun of these strong, female secondary characters.


I did write a short free read that dovetails in with the main story. It’s called The Nightingale’s Confection. It’s set prior to the wedding, where Molly is shopping for wedding cake. She’s brought her brother, Jake, with her for assistance, and they get a chance to have a brother and sister heart-to-heart talk about romance. The wedding cake shop owner plays a pivotal role in the structure of the story and it was fun to make her a successful business woman. Jake might get all the romance, but she’s going to get all the business! Here are links to the free read:



Also, here’s a short excerpt from “How Sweetly the Whippoorwill Sings” that highlights Molly, the bride, giving a thank you gift to Everett, the best man:


Molly beamed at him. “But there’s one more thing in the bag, and that’s from me.”


Everett searched the bag and his fingers closed around a smooth, cool object. He pulled it out and turned it over in his hand. It was a small paperweight of pink glass in the shape of a nesting bird. “A whippoorwill?”


Molly clapped her hands together once in apparent delight. “Did Irving tell you about the whippoorwills?”


Everett shook his head. “No. But I saw them on the cake, and on your dress.” He waved the glass bird down at the delicate embroidery on the hem of her dress, and Molly twirled left and right as she bent to glance at the design.


“It’s for luck, and for love.” She swished her skirts again. “I read a story when I was little, and in it a heroine went on dashing adventures, and along the way a magical bird was her companion. It was a little whippoorwill. Ever since then, I’ve paid attention, and if you look, you’ll see the birds everywhere. I hope this little one will be good luck for you.”


“It’s lovely.” Everett turned the glass bird over. It was a solid weight in his hand, though not too big. It would fit easily in his pocket. “I love it. Thank you.” He did like the bird’s form. He couldn’t decide if the bird looked as if it were settling down to sleep, or waking from a snooze, but either way, it looked calm, and comfortable, and had a friendly air.


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On the day of Molly and Irving’s wedding the usual hiccups and snags happen, but Irving’s best man, chemistry professor Everett Donnelly, is there to smooth them over, keep everyone organized, and make last minute adjustments based on the lists he keeps. If only he weren’t distracted and reeling from his strong attraction to Molly’s brother, police officer Jake Mountbatten, whom Everett first met at the rehearsal dinner. In between boutonnière crises and wedding photos, the two men have ample opportunities to catch each other’s eye, but the obligations of the wedding interrupt them time and again. Finally, all the speeches and traditional activities are over, and Everett finds Jake to see if they can make a little romance of their own.



Purchase Links for “How Sweetly the Whippoorwill Sings”:




Tray Ellis never learned to whistle and her home is rarely organized, but that just leaves more time for writing, which she adores. Gentle twirls of fate are her specialty and when she writes, she aims for a quiet humor and a satisfying ending. She can be found chronicling her writing journey at:



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