Friday, April 29, 2016

Q is for Quest

Margaret talks about the quest to write a best seller

The dictionary definite of Quest is ‘The act of seeking something.’

So what is it that writers seek?
 The ultimate book?

A plot no-one has ever used before?


Perhaps all three?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to write a book like Gone With The Wind? A story that has stood the test of time and been read by millions worldwide. I Googled Best selling books of all time and this is the top ten of the 101 that came up:


A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens

The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R.Tolkien

The Hobbit – J.R.R.Tolkien

Dream of the Red Chamber – Tsao Hsueh-Chin

And Then There None – Agatha Christie

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – C.S.Lewis

She – H.Rider Haggard

The Little Prince – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown

The Catcher in the Rye – J.D.Salinger



Interesting?  What would you add to that list?





Thursday, April 28, 2016

Q is for (Amanda) Quick

Debra's not alone in the use of a pseudonym for writing.

Writers choose to use a pseudonym for many reasons. For myself, I chose to use one to keep my 'real' life and my writing life separate. This worked well for a few years, but as time went on, the lines became blurrier. I'm still not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing. I guess it depends on the circumstance or the day.

Amanda Quick is the pseudonym for one of my favorite writers, Jayne Ann Krentz. Her books always go on my keeper shelf, and when I look at the expanse of her particular section on my shelves, she's one of my many inspirations for wanting to be a multi-published author. Due to publishing house contracts, etc. Jayne Ann Krentz has used many pseudonyms throughout her career for her contemporary novels.

Amanda Quick has always been her pseudonym for writing historical romantic suspense.

What I find really intriguing, is that she has a series, The Arcane Society, which is written across three of her pen names: Jayne Ann Krentz (contemporary setting), Amanda Quick (historical setting), and Jayne Castle (futuristic setting). To me, this is impressive. I have trouble keeping one genre and identify straight in my head. I can't imagine juggling three.

I don't think I've read anything written as Jayne Castle, but I've delved into many Jayne Ann Krentz books and a few Amanda Quick books. Again, what's interesting is that she really does have a different voice in each of her genres. If I didn't know, I'd never guess it was the same person writing.

I think a lot of choosing a different name for a different genre has a lot to do with branding and establishing consistency.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Q is for Quiet

Paula needs quiet to write.

Some people can write in crowded cafes, some listen to their favourite music or ‘mood’ music, and others seem to be able to write anywhere, anytime, even with the television on.

Unlike them, I need peace and quiet to write. Anything else is a distraction, even an irritation. I need to be able to immerse myself totally in the ‘moment’ of my story, and in my characters’ thoughts and feelings. If I become distracted by music, people talking, or something on TV, I lose my ‘link’ with the story, and find it hard to get back into it.

Maybe it’s a sign of getting older, because I’m sure I used to be able to distance myself from external noise, or maybe it’s because, living on my own, I have become used to the house being quiet and not having any interruptions, particularly in the evenings.

Having said all that, I’ll admit to being able to think about a story anywhere. Driving can provide a good thinking time, and a pub lunch with my brainstorming friend can solve in less than an hour a problem I have battled with for several hours in the peace and quiet of my study.

What are your writing habits? Peace and quiet? Or can you write anywhere?

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Q Is For A Quickie

Jennifer talks about judging books…

Since we restarted our alphabet blogging, I’ve been giving a lot of book reviews. I’ve enjoyed highlighting authors people might not have heard of, and it’s helped me with my resolution to read more.

Forget about whether or not I have time to read—we’re all busy, we are all pulled in a million different directions and it’s up to each individual to prioritize what’s important to them—reading as an author is a challenge. We are too used to critiquing our own work that when we sit down to read for pleasure, it’s difficult to turn off our inner editor and just read for enjoyment.

So if that’s the case, how far into a book do you read before you give up? When my kids were little, they were told by their teachers to do three pages or three chapters, depending on their reading level, to determine if the book was right for them. That advice was geared more toward their ability than their enjoyment. For me, I have to say it depends.

I try for three chapters, but lots of glaring errors will make me put down the book sooner than that. If I put it down and don’t want to go back to it, that’s another clue. Most of my reading is done on my Kindle, so it’s easy to get rid of a book and quickly start a new one. When I go on vacation, I tend to bring paperbacks. If I don’t like the book, I leave it at the hotel for someone else to read, thereby lightening my load.

What about you? How long do you give a book?

Monday, April 25, 2016

Q is for Questions to address in a Critique

Ana muses on questions to ask a critiquer or beta reader to address.

1. Does the chapter/scene/story have an OPENING HOOK and a hook or CLIFFHANGER at the end? Did the scene/chapter /story grab you, hold your attention and fulfill its promise?

2. Is the CONFLICT strong in each scene? Does it work? Do you care whether it will be resolved?

3. Are the CHARACTERS well-rounded, three-dimensional, interesting, strong and believable? Do they seem like real people? Do you care about them? Do the characters have goals? Do the characters have motivation for the things they do? Do they demonstrate internal and external conflict?

4. Did you feel you were in the SETTING because of appropriate detail? Is the setting over-described?

5. Does the scene/chapter/story contain enough DIALOGUE? Does the dialogue sound and feel natural and realistic? Does the dialogue move the story forward? Are there too many tags, not enough tags? Is it clear who is speaking?

6. Is the PLOT believable and unique? Does the plot hold your attention or does it need more conflict?

7. How is the PACING? Does the story move forward at the correct speed? Does it drag or move too quickly?

8. Is the POV clear. Is there too much "head-hopping"?

9. Is the writing ACTIVE and not passive? Does the writer SHOW rather than tell?

Friday, April 22, 2016

P is for perseverance

Margaret talks about the three P's.

Perseverance, perfection and patience - all three qualities which are needed to become a writer.


Let’s look at Perseverance first.  My dictionary definition says: determination to continue, persistence, and continued diligence. How true that is. There are times when, as a writer, you feel that your work is going nowhere. All you want to do is tear it up and start again. Perseverance is the name of the game. (Remember in the film Field of Dreams, were the words ‘If you build it they will come.’?) It’s the same with writing. If you write your book to the very best of your ability, one day you will succeed. It might take several re-writes and lots of patience but if you truly want to be a published writer you’ll get there in the end.


Perfection.  This is all part of the same thing. Writers strive for perfection but because we’re so close to our work we cannot always see it, so it’s a good idea to let someone else read your manuscript before you send it to an editor. As well as considering the story line editors will have no patience for spelling mistakes or bad grammar.


Patience.  I’m fortunate in that I have oodles of patience but I know some people who are equally as impatient. Whatever you do, once you’ve sent a manuscript to an editor, do not enquire about it. Each manuscript is taken in the order it is received and it could be many weeks before you hear. Which is disappointing for you, the writer. On the other hand it gives you time to start something else.




Thursday, April 21, 2016

P is for (Harry) Potter

Debra is a fan of the teen-aged wizard.

I've said it before and I'm sure I'll say it again. I'm an adult that reads children's literature. Often. One of my favorite go-tos is the Harry Potter series. When I'm in the mood for something cozy and fun. Or when I need to get 'adult' language and story lines and genres out of my head when I'm writing...I pick up this series. At least once a year I read through all seven books.

Even if you're not a fan, hopefully you'll admit that this series is one phenomenon that changed modern literature. People of all ages (myself included at times) stood in long lines for the stroke of midnight waiting to get their hands on a book. How amazing is that? Some, after getting a newly minted copy in their hands sat down right in the book store to read, unable to wait another minute to dive into the story. Others took it home and read into the wee hours of the night. Some couldn't wait to get up in the morning to start reading again.

An entire generation of readers has never known a world without Harry Potter in it.

However you feel about the stories themselves, kudos needs to be given in that they got people (of all ages) reading. And that isn't ever a bad thing. And as the series has spawned web-sites and movies and amusement parks, its appeal continues to grow, and more and more readers flock to it.

Dare I use the label of 'modern classic'? There are good guys. Bad guys. Battles. Even a bit of romance. Only time will tell if the books will stand the test of time. But for now, Harry Potter is here to stay. And I for one am glad.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

P is for Pacing Your Story

Paula looks at what pacing means.

‘Pacing’ is often taken to mean a story that proceeds at a fast rate. However, I would contend it doesn't just mean the speed but also includes the rhythm of your story, and I believe it’s important to take both into consideration. A story which is ‘fast-paced’ throughout may keep your readers reading, but there’s also a danger in making it too fast. I recall reading a fast-paced thriller, and literally had to stop reading at the end of one chapter. I was mentally exhausted because everything moved so quickly!

This is where ‘rhythm’ comes into play i.e. slowing down from time to time to allow your readers time to absorb the previous fast-paced scene and maybe to learn more of the character(s) reactions, thoughts, and emotions.

Looking first at the fast-paced or ‘action’ scenes: these move the story along, and shouldn’t contain distractions such as lengthy descriptions. Instead, use a few brief details to act as relevant ‘props’ for the scene, and keep the characters’ thoughts or feelings to a minimum. Rapid-fire dialogue will make a scene much stronger than long-winded conversations. Think of it as a fast ping pong game, rather than a gentle game of bowls. Also, if the outcome of an action scene is left hanging, the reader will turn the page to find out what happens next. End the scene with a revelation, a threat, or a challenge to grab the reader’s interest.

Fast-paced scenes also involve appropriate word choices, and usually short sentence and paragraph length. Cut out unnecessary words; eliminate extraneous information e.g. a character driving to a rival’s house (unless something significant happens during the drive); avoid small talk and get your characters straight to the main point of the scene.

After a fast-paced scene, you then have the opportunity to allow readers time to catch their breath and absorb what has just happened. This is when you can go into more detail about thoughts and emotions, which will bring the pace down. You can use longer sentences and include more description, but again this must be relevant and should move the story forward in some way, and not simply be a 'filler'.

The best stories are those which contain sequences that move at different speeds. Too much fast pace can exhaust the reader; too much slow pace can bore them. The trick is to keep the reader engaged by alternating the pace of your story.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

P Is For Passover

Jennifer's book is discounted in honor of Passover...

One of the reasons I write Jewish books is the old adage, "Write what you know." I know Judaism and the holidays. I know the smells and the flavors and the language. And I want to share that knowledge with my readers. Miriam's Surrender is a contemporary romance revolving around the holiday of Passover, which begins this Friday evening.

We'll be having the seder, or celebratory dinner, at my house. There will be matzah ball soup and gefilte fish (whitefish) and sweet & sour chicken and a vegetable kugel (noodle pudding) and chocolate desserts (of course). Until then, I'm cleaning and preparing for the holiday, which lasts 8 days.

To celebrate the holiday, my publisher has discounted Miriam's Surrender. It's the second book in the series, but can easily be read as a standalone. I hope you enjoy it!

On sale this month for $0.99 in honor of Passover!


Buy Link: Amazon


Josh Lowenstein is a successful architect, hired to redesign the alumni club of a posh, private school in New York. He is strong, capable and knows the best way to do everything. Except let another woman in. 

Miriam Goldberg is the Assistant Director of Outreach, and is Josh’s day-to-day contact for the redesign. She’s taken care of everyone around her, and forgotten how to let someone else take care of her. 

With a tumultuous history, neither one is prepared to work together. As they get to know each other, the animosity disappears, but Josh is hiding something from Miriam and its discovery has the possibility of destroying their relationship. Only when they are both able to let the other in, and release some of the control they exert over everything, will they be able to see if their love can survive. 

This story centers on the Jewish holiday of Passover and is the story of two people who need to discover the freedom of letting go in order to let love into their lives. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

P is for Professional Edit

Ana delights in the professional ten-page edit she won after attending an online workshop.

The workshop was 'Horses for Fiction Writers' and was designed for authors who feature horses as setting or characters. 

I've lived on a farm for forty years and know lots about cows and chickens, haying and gardening. We had a wonderful Palomino mare named Charmin. She was the best kind of horse, one that never moved a hoof when toddlers hugged her legs. 

My daughters spent hours riding. (My son preferred tractors.) The girls raced Charmin up and down our long country driveway, but I watched from the barn, garden, clothesline or kitchen. When the children went off to college, Charmin hung out with the cows, becoming, as she aged, a nanny for calves on pasture. She grew dreamy (senile?) and died in her sleep at the age of thirty-seven.

So I never was an equestrian. I knew enough to think I could write a romance set on a ranch, but not enough to write it right. So this class was perfect for me. And when the instructor announced she'd pulled my name from a hat, I was thrilled.

I received her critique yesterday morning and dove eagerly into the comments. The instructor improved a scene where a gelding slips on wet sod and wrenches its ankle, setting up a scene where the hero and heroine have to ride double. The biggest boo-boo I made was to imagine that when the hero and heroine ride double, the heroine sat in front. That doesn't happen in real life unless the two are riding bareback. Western saddles do not afford enough room for two adults. Either the hero or the heroine has to sit behind the saddle on the horse's rump. 

This correction meant I needed to rewrite much of the scene. The hero doesn't lift her into the saddle like a princess. He mounts first, kicks his boot out of the stirrup, and reaches down. She begrudgingly takes his hand, puts her foot into the stirrup and mounts by throwing her other leg over the horse's rump and sitting. 

As the scene progresses, she can't fall forward when the hero's horse gets spooked. She has to fall sideways, which is easier when you consider that the back end of a horse rises and dips with its gait, so she's always in swaying motion. The hero will still get to save her from falling and being trampled. He'll reach back with his already proven quick reflexes, hook her waist with his hand and then draw her onto his lap. This is a great place for her to land, given the sparks that both are denying.  

The instructor has offered to review the rewritten scene and I'm about to send it to her. She's also agreed to do an edit when I type 'The End.' 

I'm pumped!

Friday, April 15, 2016

O is for outline

Margaret talks about writing outlines
Writing outlines for publishers can be tricky. How long to make it? How short?
How much detail? Writing a short outline initially is perhaps the wisest approach. (I’m not talking about my short romances here, but mainstream fiction).
So what to include?
A brief outline of the setting.
A brief outline of the characters and their dialogue. Enough to tell the publisher what the story is about in as few words as possible. Enough for them to get the essence of the story.
If this provokes interest they will read the whole book and you'll wait with bated breath and fingers crossed, hoping they like it and are willing to publish.
First acceptances are always the most exciting. I remember when it happened to me. I grabbed hold of my husband and we danced around the room, my son and daughter thinking we were mad because they didn’t know what was going on.
What has been your reaction if/when you’ve had a first novel accepted?

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

O is for One at a Time

Paula only works on one story at a time.

Henry Miller’s first commandment is: Work on one thing at a time until finished. His tenth is: Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing. The rest of his self-imposed schedule for 1932-33 is also worth reading:

Although I can multi-task on many non-writing occasions, I can only think about one story at a time. That’s not to say I don’t have ideas for other stories, and occasionally I may write an opening or a scene for another story, but I’ll then put them to one side while I concentrate on completing the ‘work in progress’.

I don’t recall any occasion when I have worked on two different writing projects at the same time. The main reason is that I become too involved with my characters and their story to direct my thoughts to another story or another set of characters. If I abandoned them, even temporarily, I would have difficulty in picking them up again and/or my mind would keep switching back and forth, resulting in two (or more) disjointed stories.

I know of writers who can work on several things at once, and I do wonder how they can do it. Recently, I read an article about a well-known American author who claims it took him nearly fifteen years to write one of his novels but wrote short stories when he got stuck on it. My immediate reaction was that he would have taken less time to write that novel if he hadn’t diverted his mind to other stories! The same author also admitted that he switches between novels when he gets bored – which actually shocked me. If he gets bored with his own novels, there’s not much hope for the reader, is there?

Am I alone in only working on one story at a time? If you can work on several stories at the same time, I’d be interested to know how you switch your mind from one to the other, and back again!

Monday, April 11, 2016

O is for OMG quotes

Ana worked all weekend at a craft show and during a lull read this OMG quote:

The aim of literature [...] is the creation of a strange object covered with fur which breaks your heart." Donald Barthelme

When I read this quote, I had to think if it applied to the romance genre. Some romance authors write paranormal, where the story could feature a young heroine living in a far-distant planet colony who finds a sentient alien fur ball that is so darn cute, she adopts it as a pet and then bawls her eyes out after she lets it lick a spoonful of whipped cream and it suffers a terminal allergic reaction. The alien full ball was about to attack and take over her body, but she doesn't learn that until she and the teenage heartthrob hero compare notes late one night during one of their secret petting sessions.

But I can be less literal and say the aim of a romance is to write a story about two strangers whose rocky (hairy) relationship tugs at your heartstrings until they finally find the path to their HEA.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Sunday Snippet - Sneak Preview

A sneak preview of part of Chapter 1 of Irish Deceptions.

Ellie and her sister Maria are in Murphy's pub in Clifden. Maria is sure she's seen a famous TV actor in the pub, but Ellie isn't sure it's him.

Ellie glanced at her watch. “It’s time we headed back to work. We still have three million things to do, and the Fire Safety Inspector is coming at two o’clock.”
She stood, pulled her black jacket from the back of her chair, and stretched her arm into one sleeve.
“Ellie!” came Maria’s warning cry.
She turned just in time to see the dark-haired man duck out of the way of her arm and spill some of his beer in the process.
Oh! I’m so sorry!” she gasped.
He flicked his hand down his thigh to brush away the beer splashes. “No harm done, my trousers will dry.”
As she looked up at him, a dozen confused thoughts crashed through her mind. Yes, he was definitely Dan Nicholas, and yes, he had the darkest eyes she had ever seen, and yes, the deep, rich timbre of his Irish voice left her lungs short of oxygen.
“I-I’m so sorry,” she stuttered again.
He put his glass on the nearby table where he and the other man had obviously been heading, and smiled. “Let me help you with this.”
She only remembered to start breathing again once she slid her arms into her jacket, and turned to him. “Thank you.”
“My pleasure.”
A fire of embarrassment heated her cheeks. “Sorry again about spilling your beer. I hope your trousers won’t be stained.” She glanced down at the wet patch on his thigh, but wished she hadn’t when she looked up to see the slight twitch of his mouth and the amusement twinkling in his eyes. Struggling to salvage a few shreds of dignity, she mustered what she hoped was a calm and collected smile. “Well – goodbye.”
Outside the pub door, she stopped and blew out a huff of annoyance. “Jaysus, how to make a complete fool of yourself in ten seconds flat.”
Maria giggled. “It’s not every day you cause a star of stage and screen to slop beer down his trousers, is it?”
“First and last time, I hope.”
It isn't the last time. Next time, it will be coffee ...