Friday, May 27, 2016

U is for Universal

Margaret talks about universal truths.

“It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”
  (The opening paragraph in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice)

 I know this was a tongue in cheek comment by Jane Austen. She wasn’t saying Darcy was actively looking for a wife, merely suggesting that any rich and single man must be in need of one to make his life complete. She also observed that their success makes them a target for unattached, single women.

Would you say this is true today?  That not a lot has changed? Would a wealthy man need a wife?   In most of my stories (which feel real to me when I write) my heroes are certainly well off, which in turn does make them a target. But equally their wealth has made them wary of the opposite sex.  How are they to know whether these women love them for themselves or the size of their bank balance? It's a very fine line but I'd like to think it’s personality that counts every time.



Thursday, May 26, 2016

U is for Uber Excited

Debra received another cover this week.

To say I was thrilled to get the cover for my Fourth of July story last week was an understatement. When I opened my e-mail and found the cover for my Halloween story just a few days later, I was over the moon! Apparently my cover designer was behind a bit on the Fourth one and ahead of schedule on the Halloween one.

To make it even more exciting...I mean, how often do you get two covers for two different stories within a week?...the cover is absolutely wonderful. It fits the story so perfectly I can hardly believe it. Not to mention, since it's Halloween, it has a fall theme, and fall is my favorite season. (Not that I'm in a hurry for it to arrive at this point and time. I plan on enjoying the summer ahead to the fullest!) The colors are so rich and vibrant. I can't stop looking at it. I keep sneaking peeks on my computer and phone throughout the day. It's definitely my favorite cover of the series.

So, without further is the cover for Halloween at The Corral.

And here's the tag line and blurb so hopefully you'll see why it's not only visually stunning, but fits the theme of the story to perfection...down to the jack-o-lantern in the corner, since there's a scene in which the hero and heroine carve one.

You don't need to wear a mask to hide who you really are.

Kelly Harper has no interest in egomaniacs like Dan Jenkins. She also has no patience for the entourage of groupies that follows him while he basks in their attention. Her experience with her ex-fiancé has taught her to steer clear of guys like Dan who see women as no more than a pretty face to parade around.

Dan Jenkins is something of a local celebrity. His charm and good looks ensure he never lacks for female company, but truth be told, he finds their attentions shallow and superficial. No one really bothers to get to know who he really is. Trouble is, Dan's not sure he really knows who he is.

Will Kelly be the one to figure out who Dan really is behind the good ol' boy facade? If so, she just might discover a man she never expected. A man worthy of giving her heart to.

Until next time (maybe I'll have stopped gushing by then...),

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

U is for Unprofessional Behaviour

Paula looks at unprofessional behaviour.

As writers we have to take the bad reviews with the good. There seems to be an unwritten code of conduct that authors should not comment on or argue with any bad reviews. Maybe at times we would like to respond, especially to what we perceive as an unjust comment, but we have to accept the fact that not everyone will like our books.

Earlier this week, I came across an example of a well-known author taking to Facebook to complain about a one-star review for her recently published novella. She named the reviewer and, worse still, called her an idiot. I considered that very unprofessional.

It seems the author’s many fans then swung into action and (I assume, although I did not actually see this on Amazon) proceeded to criticise the reviewer or maybe they complained to Amazon, with the result that the review was deleted, either by the reviewer herself or by Amazon. The author then proceeded to thank her fans for their support in getting the review removed.

I read the actual review before it was removed because the author provided a screen shot on Facebook. It was actually more of a general criticism of novellas in general (which is fair enough, since some people like them, and some don’t). Her opinion was that they were too long to be called short stories, but tended to take a long time to ‘get going’ and then ended abruptly, and that this also applied to this novel. She also said she had read other books by this author and had enjoyed them, but called this a ‘half-assed job.’ While I admit she could have been more polite, I have seen far more critical reviews than this one.

It certainly didn’t warrant the rude reaction by the author, and I admit I was shocked that any author would publicly name a reviewer who gave a one-star review, let alone call her an idiot. As authors, I believe we should remain professional at all times, and perhaps even more so on any social media.

Interestingly, a couple of days later, both the author’s original post on FB about the review, and her later thanks to her fans for getting the review removed appear to have 'disappeared' from Facebook. I’m now wondering if someone (her agent, maybe, or her publisher?) took her to task for her posts?

Should authors maintain a professional silence, or should they bite back if they find a review they don't like? What do you think?

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

U Is For Understanding

Jennifer takes a look at criticism...

I like to think of myself as a reasonable person. If someone gives me advice or tells me something is wrong, I visualize myself listening and taking to heart what they say.

I suspect, however, my visualizing my reaction and their witnessing of that same reaction is quite different.

As a writer, the same holds true. I have critique partners who offer suggestions about my writing. Sometimes I take it well, other times I don’t. I try to at least demonstrate that I’m accepting what they say, although internally, it’s a different story. Inside, I’m railing against their lack of understanding for what I’m trying to do.

And that’s the very crux of the matter. If I can’t convey what I’m trying to do, it doesn’t work. I may think my story is full of tension and conflict, but if someone reads it and says, “Hmm,” my job, no matter how hard it may be, is to go back and look at it from their perspective.

Sometimes they might be wrong—we’re all human, after all. More than likely, however, they are at least a little right and their suggestions should be taken for what they are—assistance to make my books the best they can be.

No matter how personal our writing is to us, to others it’s just a story, and that objectivity allows others to find flaws that we will never see.

So my goal going forward is to appreciate from where the criticism comes, to try to understand what it means, and to do better at expressing myself. Because that’s the only way I’ll ever improve.

Oh, and maybe a few less tantrums. J

Monday, May 23, 2016

U is for Unique

Ana muses about her unique feeling.

Last night at midnight, I whizzed through the writing of the Black Moment.
The last (first introduced) villain revealed his ultimate villain-ness and, though exposed, he appears to have defeated the hero and "won" in a dramatic "If I can't have her, you can't have her" way.

Now I'm working on the final chapter's HEA.

The "unique" feeling is this: I have gotten to The End twice before, but this time feels different to me.
I believe I have crafted a solid story, and I have the request for the full.

I'm digging this feeling.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

T is for Ta Da!

Debra reveals her latest cover.

It's finally here! The cover for the third installment in my Holidays at The Corral series was finalized today.

And here's the blurb:

When United States Marine Tyler Collins is injured in the line of duty and sent home, the first thing he does is go see the girl he left behind. He wants peace and to escape from the memories of violence and war. Instead, what he finds might change his life forever.

Their time together was supposed to be a fun summer fling, but in the three years since Tyler's been gone, he's never far from Pam Foster's thoughts or heart, even though the last thing she did before he left was lie to him. She has to right the wrong, but can a man with such integrity and honor forgive her? Especially when she hasn’t forgiven herself.

Is rekindled love enough, or will the secrets of the past ruin any hope of a future together?

Fourth of July at The Corral hits cyber shelves on June 3.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


P.S. Just for comparison, here are the covers for the other two books in the series. I'm just loving how they all really look like a set. Cover artists at TWRP rock!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

T =Tearing My Hair Out

Paula sometimes feels like tearing her hair out.

I’ve recently spent what seems like an inordinate amount of time on a short conversation in my ‘work in progress’. It’s less than 500 words, but I’ve written and re-written those words at least a dozen times until I felt like I was tearing my hair out. Each time, I thought I had got it right i.e. the balance between what the heroine actually said, and what she left out of her explanation. When I looked at it again, I decided there was either too much – or not enough.

Sometimes I can whip through 2 or 3 pages of dialogue with no problem. Other times, like with this conversation, I agonise, and go back and forth with it forever! There’s a ‘fine line’ somewhere, and I’m not sure I have found it yet.

I can recall having similar struggles with some of my other novels, usually with short but highly significant parts of the story. Often it can involve an explanation of something, where you don’t want to give everything away to the readers, but at the same time need to give enough to arouse their interest or curiosity.

Other times, I struggle with how to get my characters from Event A to Event B without saying, ‘Three weeks later…’ or ‘padding’ the story with unnecessary detail about what happened (if anything!) during those three weeks.

I’m sure most readers have no idea of how much we struggle at times to get things right, so that the story flows. It’s only we authors who know we have to paddle like mad through the white water to get to the smooth flowing waters!

What part of writing makes you feel like tearing your hair out?

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

T Is For Time

Jennifer is out of time...

I know, this is supposed to be a writing blog. Or a reading blog, if we’re talking about books we’ve read. But, um, not for me, not today.

For the past many weeks, I’ve tried to post reviews of books I’ve read, so that I can introduce people to new authors. But lately, I haven’t had time to read.

I try to write 1,000 words or so a day. But lately I haven’t had time to write more than a few hundred.

Why? Because I’ve stepped in to fill in as an interim director in our temple’s school and I’m trying to get from right now until the end of school without any major disasters. We’re in triage mode until June 5 and my schedule has completely exploded. I need to make sure our school runs, our teachers get paid and nothing important falls apart for the next few weeks.

And did I mention I have to learn Excel??? Holy cow, I’m a writer. I deal in words. And Word. I don’t do numbers, I don’t know how to make the columns do their formula thing and I hyperventilate just looking at it! But somehow I’ll figure it out in the next few days.

Which is why I’m not reading or writing much right now.

But I will. After June 5.

Monday, May 16, 2016

T is for The End

Ana muses on seeing The End.

I've changed my ending again. Not the very end, where the hero and heroine say I do.
The chapters just before the end.

I 'd decided I needed to trim scenes from my plot outline so the Black Moment, when the main villain shoots the hero in front of the heroine, happens sooner. Readers would not enjoy too many teaser chases or drawn-out 'this is the villain's nefarious plan' introspections.

The interesting thing (to me) is learning that I really have to sleep on things. And that I can trust that my creative subconscious will provide the insight I need.

I went to bed last night not at all sure of how to write the next chapter. Things were sort of set up, but the actual blow-by-blow steps were shrouded in writer's block fog. I asked for inspiration.

My first thoughts this morning were the answers I needed. I'll have to wrestle them into shape and pad them with descriptions, but I truly feel I am closing in on The End for real. This is exciting!

Friday, May 13, 2016

S is for Sagittarius

Margaret talks about signs of the Zodiac

When I’m creating new characters I sometimes refer to Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs book, written in 1968.  Although it's over forty years old I don't think anything's changed over the years. It's a fascinating book and this is some of what she has to say about Sagittarians:

Sagittarians never do things half way. 
Sagittarians may sometimes seem both casual and careless but don’t let that mislead you.

Sagittarians can be bold. You’ll be aghast at their forthright statements.

Sagittarians are curious. He’ll never be satisfied with simply being given instructions, he’ll want to know reasons and why.

Dishonesty is not one of their weaknesses, neither is tact.

Sagittarians sometimes have outbursts of temper, but it never lasts long enough to burn.

Incidentally, my husband is a Sagittarian and so many of these things are true to his nature.

Is there anything more you would add?









Thursday, May 12, 2016

S is for Sookie Stackhouse

Debra enjoyed the books to tv show conversion of the Sookie Stackhouse series.

Converting a book (or an entire series) into a tv show or movie can be tricky business. Many readers have a set image in their minds of what characters and a setting look like, and when it doesn't translate the same onto the big (or small) screen, it can sometimes be disappointing. In addition, invariably in the shows or movies, things are left out. Some of this is simply a visual thing. You don't need as much description as in a book. Some is due to time constraints, although several recent movie franchises have gotten around this by turning the final book of the series into two movies.

Most often I've read the books before I see the movies. Only rarely do I watch a movie and then read the book. Generally I enjoy the conversions, and in fact, I can think of one case in which I liked the movie better than the book. (Which is rare.) Most often I'd say I like them equally.

Some movies/shows stick fairly straight to the text, other than the needed minor changes that have to happen from a page to screen translation.

The first few seasons of "True Blood" stuck pretty close to the books. A few changes were made here and there, but I could recognize each of the books in a particular season. Eventually, though, as the series went on, it got further and further off book. The final couple of seasons had nothing to do with events that occurred in the books. At first I wasn't sure how I felt about this. I enjoyed the books and wanted to see favorite scenes and storylines played out in a visual format. To be so far off book was a bit disappointing.

But I did enjoy some of the additional content that was created just for the show. It stayed true to style, so I decided it worked for me. There are still a few scenes from the books I wish had made the tv cut, but all in all, my "True Blood" experience, which the hubby and I called our guilty pleasure, was a satisfying one. In fact, I'm just about ready to go back and watch the entire series from season one.

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to see my stories translated to the screen. Would I be happy with the results? Or would I feel like they'd changed too much? Maybe one of these days I'll be lucky enough to find out! (A girl can dream, right?!)

Until next time,

Happy Reading (or watching!)


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

S is for Skelleen, the village in 'Irish Intrigue'.

Paula likes ‘inventing’ places.

Skelleen is a village in Connemara, County Galway. Well, no, actually, it isn’t – because I invented it, mainly for my Irish Intrigue story, although it also had a few mentions in Irish Secrets. However, it wasn’t a complete invention. In fact, it’s an amalgam of a couple of Irish villages. Although I knew where I wanted Skelleen to be situated, I needed it to be somewhat larger than the village in that position which has a population of only about 200. So I ‘combined’ it with another larger village about 20 miles away (in County Mayo).

First village, in Connemara

Second village, in County Mayo 
The advantage of doing this, of course, is that you can ‘move’ buildings around to suit your story! By the time I finished Irish Intrigue, I had a clear picture in my mind of ‘my’ village, even though it was drawn from two different sources. The pub (Connolly’s) in my story came from the Galway village, the church from the other village (sorry, I don't have a photo of the church)

The ‘Now and Forever’ house in the story was a figment of my own imagination, a grey stone cottage with two storeys – but the idea came from The Quiet Man cottage in the Mayo village, where we saw Maureen O’Hara’s signature in the guest book (and if you’ve read Irish Intrigue, you’ll understand the significance of that!).

Slightly blurred, sorry, but the signature is on the bottom line!
Blending factual places with your own imagination can be useful because you have carte blanche to add/delete whatever you wish - as long as you stay true to the character and atmosphere of the place. Obviously, you can't add a tattoo parlour or a strip club to a village like this, but I did add a children’s playground at one end of the village, and the children’s school in my story wasn’t anything like the schools in either of the villages.
But, in one of the villages, there was a bridge spanning the point where a small river reaches the head of the lough (pronounced 'lock' by the way!), which I mentioned several times. Anyone who is familiar with this area of Connemara will probably know which lough I called Skelleen Lough (even though it isn't even called a lough in 'real' life!).

The view of the river and lough from the bridge -
and that low cloud was a rainstorm moving up the lough toward us -
we watched it approach and then got soaked as we ran to the pub!


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

S Is For Seven Sisters

Jennifer reviews a new book...

Seven Sisters by M. L. Bullock, was recommended to me by an online friend and I just finished reading it. I’m not quite sure which official genre it falls into—it’s part mystery, part paranormal and part romance—and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m fairly critical of new authors. I don’t like reading books that pull me out due to errors or poor writing. This one kept me hooked from the beginning and I read it all in one sitting—a luxury for me! It’s a serial, so this book ends on a cliffhanger (warning to anyone who dislikes that kind of ending).

The story takes place in Mobile, Alabama. The heroine is able to read people’s memories in her dreams. She is some sort of an historian and is hired to help turn an old antebellum mansion into a museum. That’s all I’m going to tell you, other than the blurb, which I’m posting below. The story is fast paced and fascinating and I’m looking forward to reading the second book in the series.


"Classic Southern Ghost Storytelling At Its Finest!"
Step back in time with dream catching historian, Carrie Jo Jardine.
Carrie Jo has a secret”"she dreams about the past. The handsome and wealthy Ashland Stuart has hired her to uncover the history and the secrets of Seven Sisters, an aging antebellum mansion in sultry downtown Mobile, Alabama. A series of dreams, an untimely death and the betrayal of someone she loves lead her back in time to uncover the truth about a missing young heiress and a web of secrets.
Will Carrie Jo slip into the shadows of Seven Sisters, following in the ghostly footsteps of the lost young woman, or can she solve this tragic mystery and find her own happiness?

4 Hearts

Monday, May 9, 2016

S is for Shock and Surprise

Ana is stunned. But not speechless. Thank goodness.

      Nine days ago, I entered a pitchfest hosted by the Hearts Through History chapter of RWA. I'd just received their newsletter and read the announcement of the event, which ended at midnight.
                                  Post your first 200 words for publishing editors to read.
     I'd labored over the first chapter of Stormy for three years. It had helped me place in contests and earned me scathing criticism. A simple copy, paste and post might not help, but it couldn't hurt. So I did, expecting nothing.
This arrived last Wednesday:

Hi, Ana!
I am excited to inform you Theresa Cole from Entangled has requested your FULL manuscript of Stormy Hawkins
Please upload to this website, and request Theresa Cole. Put requested HTH submission.
Jennifer Bray-Weber
HHRW Chapter President

I was shocked. The final five chapters aren't written. 
So that's what I'm doing now. Feverishly. Crit loop friends are rallying 'round and sending scenes back practically as fast as I write them. 

The surprise is that my hubby, who has always doubted my ability to finish the story (he doesn't understand rejections and rewrites), is now my in-house cheerleader. 

I thought I'd self-publish this story. And I will, if Entangled rejects it.
But while I rush toward The End, my hopes are high.

Friday, May 6, 2016

R is for Retribution

 The opening pages of Margaret’s book, Rachel’s Retribution
I know I've already posted an excerpt from this book but I couldn't resist posting these first couple of pages.
Rachel felt a chill steal down her spine as the man strode into the bistro. She shrank back into the shadows, her heartbeat accelerating. The last time she had spoken to him he had verbally thrashed her to within an inch of her life. She had been young and foolish and she had let him down big time. For days afterwards she had cried, feeling as though it was the end of her world.

Their last meeting had prompted her move from Ireland to North Yorkshire in England. She had needed to get away from her old life, make a new start, forget her stupidity. As she studied him she placed her hand over her heart, as if by so doing she could somehow bring calm. Heat ran through her, even her palms became clammy. This was a man she had hoped never to see again.

If everything had gone according to plan she would not have been here, she would not be shaking like a leaf in the wind. Liam Mallory belonged to a part of her life she thought was over, a part that still mortified her every time she thought about it. Meeting him now, having to speak to him, would be far too embarrassing.

Although she and Steve, her partner, had discussed finding someone to invest in their business in order to expand, she couldn't recall him actually mentioning this man's name. He had told her a prospective investor was coming to see him and she'd been disappointed that she couldn't be present. Now, though, she wished with all her heart that her appointment with the dentist had not been cancelled.

She watched as Liam walked over to her partner and shook his hand before disappearing into the office. Only then was she able to breathe again


Steve's voice called out and she froze.

"Rachel, come and join us."

Hell! She could not do this. She simply couldn't. But what choice had she? Steve would think it strange if she didn't do as he asked. The bistro wasn't yet open, she had very little to do, nothing that couldn't wait.

Her heart felt as though it was trying to escape from her chest as she walked slowly into the office, and she could feel trickles of perspiration running down between her breasts. Even her legs felt as though they were going to collapse.

Liam took one look at her and a thunderous frown blackened his brow. Thick, dark brows bristled in surprise. "You!"

"You two know each other?" Steve smiled in delight, seemingly unaware of the tension pulsing between them, though Rachel could not see why. Surely the air had chilled?

"Oh, yes, I know her," said Liam, "but if this woman is a part of your business then consider our deal off." His eyes met Rachel's alarmed ones.

All she wanted to do was turn and run. But of course she couldn't. She had to stand and face him.

Steve's jaw dropped and he asked the inevitable question. "Why? I do not understand. Rachel's my partner, she's invaluable—"

"And she's also a thief," interrupted Liam harshly. "She won't think twice about stealing from you. How long have you known her?"

"Long enough."

His loyalty warmed her but he did not know the whole story.

"And you trust her?" Liam's words were filled with scorn.

"Implicitly." Steve looked at Rachel, his brows questioningly high.

She said nothing.

"I have every faith in her."

But his frown made Rachel question whether he was beginning to wonder if his belief in her was justified. Of course it was! It had been years since she'd worked for Liam, since the Ben episode!

Even thinking about Ben Tamlin caused her fists to clench, but she refused to let it bother her. He was a part of her terrible past. A past she had thought was over and done with. She had consigned it to the deepest recesses of her mind. Unhappily it did not look as though Liam had.

"Mark my words, she is not to be trusted," Liam growled, standing up. "Watch your back, Steve. This meeting is over." After a further damning look in her direction, when eyes of steel pierced her skin, leaving her bleeding and humiliated, he turned and walked out.