Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Z is for Zander

Jennifer talks pen names...

When I first started writing, I had grand ideas for what I wanted my name to be. First, I wanted to use my first and middle names—Jennifer Alison—for shelf placement.

But shelf placement isn’t as important as it once was.

Then I wanted to use a completely different name. Except, when I told my mom, she thought I should use my real name—I think she might have wanted some bragging rights. J

So then my decision was between my maiden name, Zander, and my married name, Wilck. I thought about it for a while. Since shelf placement isn’t as important with the proliferation of e-books, and honestly, even if it was, the difference between “Z” and “W” is minimal, there wasn’t a compelling reason to use, or not use, either name. It all came down to personal preference.

When I was first married, I used my maiden name professionally, as people knew me by Zander. And to transition, I used both for a while. But I’ve been out of the traditional workplace for a while, and everyone knows me as “Wilck” now. In fact, many people who know me and might be inclined to buy my books wouldn’t know to look under “Zander.” So I decided to go with “Jennifer Wilck.”

Do you use a pen name?

Monday, June 29, 2015

Z is for Zealousity

Ana muses on zealousity

I have decided that I am a zealous writer in addition to being a slow writer. Part of the slowness comes from having Libra rising: I seem to have to debate every word choice. I edit as I write, then edit until I feel I have it perfect. Then I discover I don't and I edit some more.

Another facet is my Sagittarius sun. I want things to be right. From grammar to plot to deep POV, I want to present a correct balance to the reader.

My zealousity comes from being determined. Each time I feel I'll never have the skills to write a good romance, I find I am driven to keep going. Pain and pain drugs have slowed down my brain, but it started thinking about my next chapter last night. It's ready to go, and so  am I.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Y is for Y'All

Debra is a country gal at heart.

A line of my author bio reads: Although she's a country gal at heart, she lives in a suburb of Chicago with her husband, who is her real life hero.

Despite my geographic location, I really am a wannabe country girl. I love driving our pick up truck. Taking the John Deere out for a spin while on vacation is one of my favorite things to do. I met my hubby at a country bar, and we learned to two step together. My preferred choice of music is country, and I rarely stray from it. I own three cowboy hats. I've seen Kenny, Carrie, Toby, and Brad live in concert many, many times. And Kenny for sure has it right: I do think tractors are sexy.

No surprise then, that most of my books are set in the country or in small towns. My Corral Series is all about the interaction of friends at a country bar. Except for Wild Wedding Weekend and Family Secrets, all of my stories have a small town or western theme. The first book in a new series I'm brainstorming has a country music star as the hero.

Going along with that, most of my heroes drive pick ups, wear boots, jeans, & hats, and say things like "Y'all" and "Yes, ma'am." It makes my knees go quivery just imagining their soft, southern drawls.

Many a time, inspiration comes from a country song, or even a single line in a song. Music provides my muse and my inspiration, and it's hard for me to separate music from writing. When I listen, my brain conjures images of how the story would go if it were written out.

Will I ever really live in the country or on a farm or in a small town someday? Probably not. Which is why it's so fun to live vicariously when I write.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Yo-yo writing

Paula thinks writing is sometimes like riding a yo-yo.

During the last few weeks I’ve been up and down with my current WIP. Riding high when a scene goes well, dropping down when I get stuck on a scene or conversation – and frequently getting hopelessly tied up in the string when the story plot became tangled.

As a child, I used to practise for hours with a yoyo, and became very frustrated when I couldn’t get the thing to wind back up the string after I’d thrown it. I felt the same kind of frustration last week when I couldn’t get the first chapter of my WIP right, even after several attempts. I felt I was dangling helplessly on the end of the string. With 12 chapters of the story already written, I was in a situation that I’d never experienced before i.e. not knowing the right point at which to actually start the story.

So I put the yo-yo away for a couple of days while I thought about it. However, the more I thought, the more tangled the string became, so in the end I metaphorically cut the string, threaded a new length of string onto the yo-yo, and started my first chapter yet again.

Success! So far I’ve managed to keep the yo-yo spinning – until the next time it gets stuck again!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Y Is For Yes

Jennifer takes out her pom-poms...

Writing is a solitary endeavor. Sure, we have critique partners and beta readers and fellow authors and supportive friends and family. But when it comes down to it, we sit at our desks (or wherever it is that we write), tune out the world and write. We disappear into our own worlds of our own making, where we control the outcome.

And while we might be really good at solving the problems of our heroes and heroines, we’re not always good at maintaining our resolve. It’s easy to fall victim to our own insecurities, to look at the first draft of our first attempt to get our thoughts on paper and say, “Wow, this is awful!”

Although we might be the first to tell others their draft shows promise and to keep at it, when it comes to telling that to ourselves, we are sadly inept. Not only that, but we take it to the extreme—we will NEVER write anything good again.

So this is for all of us who think we’ll never get over that writer’s block, that our writing is awful and our editors must have been drunk when they sent us a contract, or that we’ll never write ourselves out of the hole we dug ourselves into:

Yes, writing is hard—all things worthwhile are!
Yes, we have talent—although it can always be improved.
Yes, we can do it—don’t give up!
Yes, the end result is worth it—remember that feeling of pride and accomplishment when we finish the book.

Yes, we can do it again—and again, and again and again.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

X is for Xtremely Too Long

Debra takes a look at chapter length.

I started reading a new series this past weekend, and I am having the hardest time getting through the first book. It's about a topic I like: vampires. It's set in the city of Chicago, so there are some familiar setting references. There's a bit of romance in it. The guys are sexy and appealing. It even has touches of humor and a little action thrown in. What's not to like?

For the longest time I couldn't put my finger on why it was taking me so long to read it. I read a new Clive Cussler over the weekend which was 452 pages long, and I was done in a day. The vampire book is only 342 pages, so over a hundred pages shorter, and it's dragging on and taking me forever to finish.

Now granted, they are different types of stories...one is action-adventure while the other is fantasy, but both are genres I usually enjoy. So why was it that I couldn't put one down and I'm having a hard time picking the other up?

And then it hit me: the chapters in the Cussler book are quick, short, and often jump from one character's POV to another. This is a great page-turning technique, as a reader is always wondering what's happening with that character we left a few chapters ago. So we read on to find out what happens next.

The chapters in the vampire book are long, drawn out, and often encompass many different scenes and circumstances and are all written in first person from the heroine's POV.

Ah, this seems to be my issue. The story seems to be dragging because the chapters seem to never come to an end. One was 33 pages long. Another 37. For me, this is just too long.

A chapter can definitely provide a cliff hanger to urge us to keep reading, but it can also provide a mental break. A place to pause, stop, and think about what we've read. If you're never getting that break, things really seem to drag.

When I write full-length novels, my chapters in mss form are usually around 20 pages long. In actual print they are shorter than that. In my novellas, my chapters are about 10 - 15 pages in mss form.

We often think about the length of sentences and paragraphs and how it effects the pacing of our stories. Chapter length goes along with that as well. So, when you're thinking about the pacing of your story, be sure to think about how long your chapters are, because their length can pick up the pace of your book or slow it way down. Depending on the genre, style, and type of story you're writing, think about how the length of your chapters effects that.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The X Factor

Paula asks what gives a novel the X factor.

The dictionary defines the X factor as “a quality that you cannot define that makes someone or something very special.” The judges on the X Factor reality shows claim to know which singers have this indefinable quality; the members of the public sometimes have different ideas.

The same applies to novels. I’m not talking about professional critics versus the reading public, but about how different people can have very different ideas about what gives a book the X factor.

Has anyone ever recommended a book highly to you –and then you’ve read it (or maybe just started to read it) and wondered whatever they saw in it? That happened to me recently, with an author whose books are always in the NYT Top Ten and who has millions of fans worldwide. I abandoned the book after about 10 pages, because I was too bored to read any more.

I’ve seen plenty of articles online that tell us the ‘essentials’ for a successful novel but, in the end, it’s not the writing tutor or even the writer who can pinpoint the X factor. It’s the readers – and, of course, their perceptions of the X-factor are individual to each of them.

As writers, we can’t hope to please all the readers all the time. All we can hope is that some of them find that indefinable quality in our stories.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


Jennifer talks about those extra scenes that didn't make the cut...

If you searched through my computer, and thank goodness you can’t, you’d find many files called “Extra.” There are so many, in fact, that some of them are numbered—Extra2, Extra3, etc. And these files are in every single one of my book files.

What are these “Extra” files? They are all the extra information that I’ve culled from manuscripts but was not willing to get rid of at the time. Some of them are paragraphs that didn’t need to be there. Others are entire scenes that were repetitive or just didn’t do what I wanted them to do.

Sometimes I create “Extra” files when my critique partners make suggestions. I agree with what they’ve said, but I’m not sure if I’m going to like it when it’s finished, so I move what I had into “Extra” and follow their advice. 99% of the time, I love what their suggestions result in, so I never need the information in “Extra.” But I keep it anyway.

I’m thinking I might start using some of these files as a marketing tool—either as a bonus for my street team or maybe in a newsletter. Obviously I wouldn’t use the badly written ones, but the files that just have additional information might be interesting.

What do you think?

Monday, June 15, 2015

X -rated

Ana muses about erotica.

If you're not a botanist, X-ray technician, geometry student, or science fiction writer, you don't use many X-words.
Unless X-rated is your genre. I took a class recently that defined the difference between erotica and X-rated erotic romance.

In erotica, sex is the plot. The lovers meet, they have sex. The story sets up for another round of lovemaking or ends.

In erotic romance, sex forwards the plot. The lovers meet. The plot throws them together until they end up in bed. They have a great time, but character conflicts come up and they split up. Their attraction is so strong that they hook up again despite the issues that presently (and for the foreseeable future will) drive a wedge between them. The plot evolves so they find ways to overcome their external issues--or they grow emotionally. They resolve their issue(s) and reach the HEA/HFN.

The degree of heat (amount of description) of the lovemaking acts determines whether a romance is erotic or sensual or sweet.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Sunday Snippet - A Peek at Debra's "This Can't Be Love"

This Can't Be Love is the second book in Debra's The Corral Series.

Chapter One

There was a naked man in her grandfather’s bathtub.

At least she assumed he was naked. She didn’t plan on getting any closer to verify the fact. Jessica Hart stood in the doorway and worried her bottom lip with her teeth. The man had one well-defined arm slung lazily over the side of the clawfoot tub, fingers trailing on the floor. His head tilted back against the edge, eyes closed. Dark, damp hair curled over his forehead. A day’s worth of stubble shadowed his strong jaw. Her gaze drifted lower to his chest, visible above the water in the tub.

It definitely wasn’t Pops. So who the hell was he?

She shifted her weight from one foot to the other. The last thing she’d expected when she walked into the bathroom was to find a strange man in the tub. She’d come to the creek looking for some peace and quiet. After the events of the past year she needed it. Desperately. The cabin at the creek had seemed like the perfect retreat. Spending time with Pops would help her gain some perspective and feel human again.

So where was her grandfather? The door to the cabin had been open, which wasn’t unusual, but Pops was nowhere around. She’d checked his favorite places before heading upstairs. A nice long soak in his antique tub would be the perfect way to while away the time until he returned. Unfortunately the tub was already occupied. Well, that wouldn’t do.

She cleared her throat.

The man opened his eyes and turned toward her. His irises were a rich brown, reminding her of hot, strong coffee with just a touch of cream. His gaze swept over her before returning to her own. He raised an eyebrow. “Yes?” He seemed completely unfazed to see her standing there.

Jessica placed her hands on her hips. “Who the hell are you?”

“Zach Rawlings.” He inclined his head.

“And you are?”


“Ah, Ben’s granddaughter.”

“You know me?”

“He talks about you all the time.”

“Oh.” She paused. “What are you doing here?”

His mouth quirked up at the corners. “Taking a bath.”

All of Debra's books are available through The Wild Rose Press and other major book sites.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

W is for Weeds

Debra takes a look at editing.

I was weeding my garden this past weekend and grumbling about how the weeds seemed to be thriving more than the actual plants. Some weeds are pretty, and I sometimes think about keeping those some would call 'wildflowers', but overall getting those weeds out of there is important so they don't overtake and strangle the tomato and pepper plants I want to grow. Sometimes I need to call in an expert (by the name of Mom) to help me determine which are weeds and which should be kept.

Writing is a bit like that too. When we're in a groove, words are flowing, filling up the pages, but those words aren't always the ones we keep in the end. Lots of weeding and cutting need to be done during the editing process so our stories can bloom. During the editing process, there are some 'weeds' very obvious to spot. Repeated words. Intruders. Too many 'thats'. POV shifts in the middle of scenes. Other 'weeds' are a bit trickier. Those words that seem pretty and even flow well, but don't do anything to move the story forward, and in fact detract from, strangling and overwhelming, the story we actually want to tell. Sometimes it's difficult to tell what we should keep and what we should cut, and it's here those experts come in again: fellow writers, editors, critique partners.

Sometimes it's not only the weeds we need to worry about in our stories, but the thriving 'plants' as well. Sometimes there's just too much, and we need to cut, dig out, possibly to 'replant' in another scene, or perhaps even in another book.

Gardening and writing both take time, patience, and perseverance. But the end result is well worth it and pleasing to the eye and ear.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

What stops you from downloading a book?

Paula asked this question recently on FB.

A few days ago, I read the start of a novel on Amazon (using the ‘Look Inside’ facility) as it was set in Ireland and looked interesting. It also had 20+ good reviews. However, I decided not to buy it. Why? Because there was too much narrative, description, and backstory in the first few pages. Following this, I posed the question on FB and received about 30 replies giving different reasons why people didn’t buy a book after reading the Amazon excerpt. Here's a summary of the comments:

Inevitably quite a few people mentioned bad grammar or poor editing, or more generally ‘bad writing’. Linked to this, ‘style’ could be a deal breaker. Obviously this is subjective, as not every writer’s style will appeal to every reader, but some commenters felt it was important that the style, rhythm, or quality of writing appealed to them. One person referred to this as the ‘character’s voice’.

Another major off-putting factor was too much description in the first few pages - phrases used were ‘superfluous description’, ‘overabundance of exposition’, or ‘painfully describing every detail’. Info dumps and blatant factual research were also disliked, as was ‘all telling’ and too much backstory at the beginning of the story. However, one commenter said: “sometimes the author doesn’t give enough back story and you’re lost from the get go.”

Readers didn’t like slow-paced stories that failed to make much progression in the first few pages. The need to be ‘grabbed’ was important.

In some cases, dialogue could be the make or break factor. One person commented on ‘discussions about nothing,’ while another disliked ‘too  much dialog where the things the characters say gives you no insight into their personalities’. Both of these could be summed up as ‘waffling’.

Point of View switches came in for some criticism. Several disliked too many switches of POV, referred to as ‘bouncing’ or ‘ping-pong’ switches (even though, as one person pointed out, Nora Roberts does this all the time).

Other commenters were put off by: violence for the sake of violence, too many unpronounceable names, unlikeable characters, two-dimensional characters, too many characters introduced too quickly, too many adverbs, and four letter words. A couple of people also disliked stories written in first person present tense.

So there you have it. Now you know what to include (or rather what not to include!) in your first few pages. The ‘Look Inside’ facility is the one that seems to be universally used, and it is this, and not the cover or blurb, that will persuade your readers to buy your book - or not!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

What Are You Working On?

Jennifer talks about her WIP...

I’m at the stage in my current manuscript where I can see and almost taste the ending. My hero and heroine have gone through the black moment, they’re in the abyss and now they need to climb out in order to reach their happily ever after so that I can type, “The End.”

I procrastinated writing the black moment. I like my characters. I’ve spent the book rooting for them and I didn’t want them to suffer. But they have to, because the entire story has been leading up to that moment of suffering, and to avoid it would let down the reader. So they’re apart right now, and suffering mightily. With a hero who doesn’t express his feelings easily, this is going to be tricky. Add in a heroine who refuses to repeat the mistakes of her past and it’s going to be doubly tricky. But like I said, I’m almost at the end and I’m chugging along.

Additionally, I have a great idea for Book 4. I have my characters and I have their black moment. I still need a lot of other details before I can write, but the characters are nudging me and even if I wanted to slow down on Book 3, they won’t let me.

So what are you working on?

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Sunday Sneak Peek - at Paula's new novel 'Irish Secrets'

This is the start of the first draft of my new novel. It could change completely by the time I finish it, of course! 

“Hey! Wait for me! Wait!” Kara Stewart sprinted the last twenty yards, arriving at the bus stop on Market Street as the blue and yellow City Link bus drove away. With one hand fisted against her waist in frustration, she watched the bus turn right at the end of the street and muttered a small curse under her breath. With the next bus not due for three hours, she'd have to abandon her plan to visit the Adoption Agency in Galway. Her mother's family history would have to wait until another day. 
The short beep from a car horn made her turn. A white car pulled up at the bus stop, the side window slid open, and the driver leaned across the passenger seat. “You’ve missed the Galway bus.”
Did he think she hadn't already realised that? “Yes, I know.” She took a step toward the car, and her heart jumped at the sight of the taxi driver who’d driven their Living History group from Mist Na Mara Arts Centre into Clifden a couple of times. “Oh, hi, there.”
Something about him had attracted her the first time she’d seen him a few weeks ago. Good-looking in an understated way with thick nut-brown hair, Irish blue eyes, wide forehead, straight nose, and firm jaw. Not exactly male-model gorgeous but rugged enough to set her pulse racing until she reminded herself he was probably married with half a dozen kids. No way was she going to make that mistake again.
“Good mornin’. Thought I recognised you,” he said.
She glanced at the roof of the car which usually held a blue and black sign with the name and phone number of his taxi company, but today the sign was missing. “You’re not taxi-ing today?”
“Day off.”
“Mine too, but, as you guessed, I missed the bus to Galway.”
“Hop in, I’ll take you there.”
She laughed. “You probably charge about a hundred Euros for that trip. I can’t afford that.”
“A hundred and ten actually, but I’m not working today, and I’m on my way to Galway, so ye’re welcome to come along with me. No charge,” he added.
“You sure?”
“O’ course.”
He opened the passenger door, and she slid into the seat beside him. The thought crossed her mind that she didn’t really know this man, but he’d always been chatty and friendly when he’d driven them into Clifden. Besides, all licensed taxi drivers had to undergo strict Garda background checks, so she should be safe enough, and anyway, she relished the idea of getting to know him during the hour’s drive to Galway. At the very least, she could find out if he was married. “Thanks. I really appreciate this.”

I'll be interested in your comments as to whether this beginning would be enough to make you want to read on, or whether I should start the story at another point!