JULY

CELEBRATING CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE and WOMEN’S FICTION


07-14-18 Cassandra O’Leary

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Vive La Difference

I've read so many fabulous stories, but who knows if you'd like them too. Recently I read a book entered in a competition and loved it so much. I was convinced it would win, or at least be a finalist - but it did neither. And I couldn't understand how anyone else couldn't see how fabulous the story and the writing were.

What we like to read is so subjective and can be the polar opposite of what someone else likes. Equally we can't expect everyone to love our writing (and something we need to remember when we get bad reviews or low sales). As Abraham Lincoln quoted poet John Lydgate 'you can't please all of the people all of the time.'

So what floats or sinks my book boat?

I love good words. Words put together cleverly (but not so clever that I have to think about what they actually mean). Words that paint a compelling character, or a place or a situation. The genre or the story are really of secondary importance. A close second, but no amount of fascinating storyline will keep me reading if the words themselves, the way they're arranged, doesn't make me think 'wow that's written so well.'

A good blurb will grab me. The premise can entice me to look inside and once I do, I can usually tell if I'm going to enjoy a book from Page 1. Much like I can tell if I'm going to get along with someone, enjoy their company, from the first few minutes of conversation. I just know. First impressions and all that stuff. Maybe I've missed out on some good reads (and interesting friends) because of my tendency to make quick decisions, but I also know I've saved myself hours of frustration of persevering with something that won't engage my mind or my heart.

 Many a book has not been bought because by the end of the first page I wasn't engrossed (thank you Amazon for the Look Inside function!) Unlike my partner, I won't continue with a book and wait and hope that eventually I will like it. Therefore I can say I've rarely read a book I didn't like, and that I've never read a 'wall banger', a book that's been thrown at the wall in frustration.

Writing craft teaches the importance of a strong 'opening hook' and I have to say that, for me, that is vital. The words must be put together in  a way that makes me want to read more. To turn the page. Give me an opening page that puts me immediately into the action or the emotion and you've got me.


'My Reckless Surrender' by Anna Campbell
"I want to be your lover."
Diana was shocked to hear herself issue the invitation. Even more shocked that she didn't stumble over the bald words. 
She'd never been sure she'd summon courage to speak them aloud. Yet they emerged clearly, firmly, without hesitation.
The statement sounded confident, as if she spent her life asking strangers into her bed.

Tell me more! So much I want to know. Why is she making such an invitation? Who to? What if they say yes? But it's not just the questions, it's how such  few lines tell me so much about Diana. Fascinating things. I want her to tell me her story.

'Pretend It's Love' by Stephanie London
There were plenty of other things Paul Chapman would rather be doing than watching two people making goo goo eyes at each other. He could stab himself in the eye with a steak knife. Or listen to his mother talk ad nauseam about the intricacies of floral arrangements.

I'm in. The quirky language of the hero's thoughts give me a tempting insight into his personality. I love his sense of humour and he's someone I want to get to learn more about.

If the strength of the first page has ensnared me, the chances are good that the rest of the book doesn't usually let me down. But it has happened. Not because the actual writing didn't hold up, but because a character or storyline wasn't believable or relateable. All the pages of (technically) good writing won't save a hero or heroine who doesn't create empathy in me. My personal pet peeve is a character who complains about their situation yet does nothing to help themselves out of it. Or has put themselves into a situation without enough explanation of the motivation. Or a lack of emotional reaction to an important situation or event.


But (back to 'can't please all the people'), what I can't empathise with, dozens of other readers will. It doesn't make it easy for writers, either for our creative process or our creative egos, but differences are what make us interesting to each other.


Getting me to like a book mightn't be that easy, but if you do and you're a reasonably prolific writer, all your books will end up either on my bookshelf, or in my digital library. Finding a writer whose way with words has you sighing with enjoyment (and turning just a little green with envy) is like finding the perfect pair of shoes or a hidden cache of chocolate. It also has me aspiring to improve my own writing and that's even better.
















Monday, July 16, 2018

What turns me on in a book by Kristin Wallace

As I write this, I should be in the throes of getting ready for my trip to Alaska so this post might be short. The theme on RTG this month is “What turns your on or off in a book?” For me it’s humor or the lack of humor. I like a book that makes me laugh. Not that all the drama and emotion should be left out, but a book full of nothing but angst and darkness is something I can’t handle. 

That’s why my favorite authors write humor. They can make me cry, too, but there must be laughs. Actually, if they can pull off BOTH that is a really good book. It’s not easy to write humor, of course. Most people have different ideas about what is funny or not. 

I’m not sure it’s something you can teach, either. I have always just naturally gravitated toward humorous situations in my stories. Like a “true-love-doesn’t-exist” woman who gets roped into taking over a wedding planning business (MARRY ME). Or three women trying to win custody of a pig…and a fortune (The Heiress Games series). Even in my darkest book (Imagine That) where the hero’s mother is dying I managed to inject humor. In fact, I deliberately added more humor because I couldn’t take so much sadness. 

I’ll finish with some of my personal recommendations if you want a romance with humor.

Ain’t She Sweet by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Honestly, you can’t go wrong with any SEP book if you’re looking for humor. She’s pretty much the master and the kind of writer I aspire to be. Another great one of hers is Breathing Room

Too Good To Be True by Kristan Higgins
Anther author where you really can’t go wrong if you want your stories with some LOLs. In this one, the heroine makes up a fake boyfriend with hilarious results. 

Rescue Me by Rachel Gibson
Really, try any of her books. She’s always funny. 

Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie
This book is not exactly new, but do yourself a favor and search for it. Jennifer Crusie is amazingly talented. Faking It is also great, as well as Agnes and the Hitman, which she co-authored with Bob Mayer.

Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding
Have you ever read the book on which the movie starring Renee Zellwegger & Colin Firth is based? If not, you really should. 

Here’s a historical romance offering:

10 Things I Love About You by Julia Quinn
This book made me absolutely fall in love…with Julia Quinn. 

Do you have any funny book recommendations? Please share them!


Kristin Wallaceis the USA Today Best Selling Author of inspirational and contemporary romance, and women’s fiction filled with “Love, Laughter and a Leap of Faith”. She has three series, Shellwater Key Tales(sweet contemporary romance) and Covington Falls Chronicles (inspirational romance). Check out her newest series, The Heiress Games, a sweet contemporary that sees three very different women competing for custody of a pampered pig…and a $120 million fortune. Find out more about her books at Kristin Wallace Author.



Saturday, July 14, 2018

Old Skool Romance Traps

When does contemporary romance become historical?


This question was recently posed by another writer on social media...and it got me thinking. If you don't want to become a relic, it's worth doing your research when writing contemporary romance, even about things you, as a writer, think you already know. Consider the idea that what you know may be twenty or thirty years outdated. Are you up to date with how younger people communicate?

There's a trap for older authors aged roughly 40 plus (ahem, I'm one of them), when writing contemporary romance with characters aged in their 20s. The pop culture references authors unintentionally make can be quite outdated. The characters, if they were real, would probably have been born around the time Buffy the Vampire Slayer was made, or they may have been toddlers. They may never have seen this TV series beloved of Generation X, unless their mothers were fans. Am I blowing your mind yet?

But the big problem I've seen with a few recent contemporary romances is the lack of realistic technology or online communications.

Keep in mind your twenty-something characters would not:
- remember a time before ubiquitous internet access
- have any trouble using a computer or online apps
- use paper maps to get around a new city
- communicate with friends by landline phone calls
- remember a time before everyone owned a mobile/cell phone.

Your younger characters would:
- have a cell phone on them at all times (except if they lost it, which could be disaster!)
- use text messages and/or instant messages on various online apps
- have played online multi player video games as teenagers and probably made friends online
- watch YouTube or streaming services instead of TV, or be 'multi screening' using apps on a phone while watching a movie
- have tried online dating or met someone special online.

Twenty-something characters wouldn't use email as a communications method of choice except at work, or when contacting their parents (or grandparents). They’d have certain groups of friends contactable mainly by social media, maybe around the world from where they live. They would buy clothes online, use Uber or other apps to get around, get into ‘flame wars’ on topics they're passionate about on social media, or may have dealt with online bullies.

I think I'm pretty up to date with technology and social media, having worked in online communications including years at a university. But I’m now in my early 40s and I don't have the natural duck-to-water affinity for it my kids are already displaying. I think before sending a text message or Facebook Messenger direct message, not shoot them off at random at all times of the day like younger people. I don't use Snapchat or some of the other instant messaging apps that I know are springing up constantly. So I know I need to do my research.

Examples of contemporary romance traps


Re-reading older contemporaries can be a weird experience fraught with plot holes and unintentional hilarity. Some situations are just ludicrous because they simply wouldn't happen now.

A couple of years ago I read a category romance that left me confused and shaking my head less than half way through. The 20-something heroine in a big city started her own business in events management. She was apparently poor or at least didn't have much capital to throw at advertising. Guess what she did? She grabbed her laptop (she didn't seem to have a cell phone) and designed and printed hundreds of brochures to hand deliver and letter-drop to local businesses.

Can you spot the plot hole yet? Where was her social media? If she had an online network, she could have shared her business information instantly with thousands of people. Brochures would cost a few hundred dollars whereas a social campaign would cost virtually nothing. Where was her website? Did she have an Instagram account with photos of her previous events? Where was her Patreon or GoFundMe account to raise money?

Another women's fiction book I read a few months back made me laugh for all the wrong reasons. A famous man was hiding out in a seaside town in the off-season, which meant that he'd dropped off the face of the earth. No one could find him, no one in town recognised him or took a photo on their phone to post online. Someone had to run to the post office to send a letter before it closed for the day instead of sending an email or text message. A couple of chapters in, I realised the book had been originally published in the 1990s. The plot simply didn't make sense anymore, in a world where anyone could Google the famous man and communications are almost instant.

New social trends to watch

I watch social media trends and it's the odd, new things that catch my attention. A journalist I follow recently started a Twitter thread about her health issues. She was in pain and was having trouble getting treatment. By the end of the day, she'd used her online network to reach tens of thousands of people, including health professionals. She crowdsourced her diagnosis and had word-of-mouth referrals to several specialists!

I'd strongly recommend that writers keep an eye on younger people, online and out in the world maybe go hang out on a university campus for a while, or in a major city at lunchtime. Grab your kids or nieces and nephews and question them about what they'd do if they wanted to meet someone, or if they wanted to find a new restaurant, for example.

I can't explain exactly what's wrong with some contemporary romances, except to say they're not really contemporary but quite nostalgic. As a reader I have trouble understanding a supposedly modern heroine who doesn't know how to use a computer, or who doesn't own a phone. It's incongruous and weird. SMH (shake my head).

BTW (by the way) all of the above is irrelevant if your characters are Amish or lost in a remote jungle somewhere! If that's the case, happy low-tech writing to you. :)


About Cassandra O'Leary

**Winner of the global We Heart New Talent contest run by HarperCollins UK. Nominated for BEST NEW AUTHOR in AusRomToday 2016 Reader's Choice Awards for excellence in Australian romance fiction**

Cassandra O’Leary is a romance and women’s fiction author, communications specialist, avid reader, film and TV fangirl and admirer of pretty, shiny things. Her debut novel, Girl on a Plane, was published in July 2016. 

Cassandra is a mother of two gorgeous, high-energy mini ninjas and wife to a spunky superhero. Living in Melbourne, Australia, she’s also travelled the world. If you want to send her to Italy or Spain on any food or wine tasting ‘research’ trips, that would be splendiferous. 

Read more or sign-up for Cassandra's newsletter at cassandraolearyauthor.com



Friday, July 13, 2018

Blessings of Nature


We live on the edge of town, actually at the beginning of the county. The cross street at the end of the block, one house down from ours, is the dividing line between city and county. We are in a small housing track of maybe 30 houses and each one is on an oversized lot. Ours is an acre.

My husband sets the trail camera out to see what all animals wander through our unfenced yard at night. 

We had a herd of deer in the winter and when it snows my husband puts out some hay and feed for them.



There have been racoons, foxes, bunnies, quail, ducks, geese, and all kinds of birds come in to feast on the birdseed. We’ve even seen one black squirrel hanging off the bird feeder, a rare sighting in Bend. Never saw him again. 

And then sometimes a neighborhood cat will pass by, and in 4 years we’ve only had one dog at night.

It is fun to watch the videos and the animal interactions with each other. All the videos are at night. The deer might be eating a carrot and the bunny hops into view. The deer is startled and runs off. The quail will chase after the bunny or the duck either one.

This summer, at the very beginning, June 24th, 7:15 am a doe had her baby in our back yard by the old pickup truck. The baby was so sweet! It was the size of a small dog, and had big spots on its back. It was not afraid and came up to the chain link fence. It kept running back and forth trying to find a way into the small fenced backyard area. Eventually, the mama got up and the baby trotted after her. I was surprised how the little fawn could keep up when the doe ran across the street and into the field and then the forest.

My husband and I were feeling truly blessed to have been given the opportunity to witness this new born fawn.

But our blessings were not over. We were driving through another neighborhood close to ours, and two quail were trying to cross the street. My husband stopped the car, as nobody was behind us. We watched as the parents escorted their brood of newly hatched chicks. We counted 10! Their bodies were the size of marbles with little tooth pick legs. Amazing how fast they ran and could keep up with their parents.

I love watching animals, and reading about all kinds of animals. I love National Geographic shows.

In my new manuscript I’m working on my heroine, Opal, is a scientist in Nova Scotia. She is studying a new breed of animals. Coywolves. Yes, there really is such an animal. The Canadian wolf and coyotes have cross bred. There was a documentary on tv about this new creature an it garnered my interest. I researched the coywolf and began writing my story.
I will tell you more about it in a later post.

Do you have a favorite animal native to your town, city or countryside?


Thursday, July 12, 2018

What Turns Me Off or On in a Book by Lynn Lovegreen

I have pretty eclectic tastes in reading, so I’m up for almost any genre or format. But there are some things that turn me on or off a book. 

To start with turn offs, I read to be inspired or entertained, not to be brought down. So I don’t like it when protagonists are killed off or the book ends in total devastation. I also won’t read about women or children in great danger—my imagination is too vivid, and I get enough nightmares without that kind of stimulation. I admire people who can write harrowing suspense, but I’m not your target audience.

 On the other hand, there are many genres I love to read. I often dip into nonfiction history and biography. I enjoy novels that entertain me and teach me something, so give me your historical fiction or cozy mysteries about interesting people, places and professions. I also love romance, and books about teens finding their place in the world. And as a retired English teacher, classics and spin offs on Jane Austen, William Shakespeare, or other literature favorites will catch my attention. I also want well-developed characters that feel real (at least on some level). Authors, if I love your characters, I’ll follow you through any of your books!

Knowing my preferences, it’s no surprise that my current writing project is a young adult romance series set in Alaska during World War II including riffs on Shakespeare plays. In the future, I hope to share it with readers who have similar tastes in reading!


Lynn Lovegreen has lived in Alaska for almost fifty years. She taught for twenty years before retiring to make more time for writing. She enjoys her friends and family, reading, and volunteering at her local library. Her young adult/new adult historical romances are set in Alaska, a great place for drama, romance, and independent characters. See her website at www.lynnlovegreen.com. You can also find her on Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Have Courage, everyone


Hi everyone! 

I am YA, and now MG author Barbara Binns , writer of contemporary and realistic fiction for adolescents and teens. My tagline tells you what I am about - Stories of Real Boys Growing Into Real Men - and the people who love them.  The release date for my newest book, Courage, is fast approaching - July 29 from Harper Collins.


This post is about the Courage saga, my debut novel being released in a matter of weeks and geared for those most demanding of readers, young readers.

Not that you can't read it too, and enjoy peering into the wayback machine to your own childhoods. But no one is pickier than young readers. Adult readers will often forgive authors a lot. We know we keep reading, even past the occasional slow spot, plot hole, character inconsistency or other minor imperfections, geographic inaccuracies and improbable motivations.

Kids will drop a story the first time it bores them. Taking the reader out of the story is a huge fear for those of us who write for younger readers, because if we lose them we know we will never get them back. That's listed as one reason why many adults have gone back to reading YA. They are not looking for simple stories, they are looking for stories that move and make sense on every page. That's also true for middle grade books, MG. We have to be more entertaining than alternatives like video games, social media, and even real life play!

It all made writing Courage, my debut middle grade novel, an exacting event. I've written adult romance. I've written YA. Writing Courage was harder, because it had to all the characterization and plot of a novel intended for adult audiences, and more. Holding the attention of these most demanding of readers puts an extra burden on craft.

I'm a plotter, not a pantser, but I always begin a new novel by developing the characters. I struggle to create full-featured characters that readers will follow anywhere.  Once I have that, its safe to develop a plot for them to traverse. I know that no matter what danger or trouble they get into, readers will come along and enjoy the ride. I do make things harrowing, the young people in this story face everything from a near death experience to problems with police, to diving off the edge of a springboard into open air.

They also face a host of family issues.

Courage is a modern day retelling of the parable of the prodigal son. One child leaves home and wastes his life, in this case, ending with prison time. His younger brother, the main character, T'Shawn, remains at home. When his older brother returns home a frightening stranger, T'Shawn stands prepared to do whatever he must to protect his widowed mother and younger sister.

Everyone in this story needs courage. The courage to forgive, courage to try again, and courage to deal with the police, an all too common phenomenon that people of color, and even children, have to face on in today's world. They become every man and woman, with age and race taking second place to their humanity. One character lives with a debilitating disease, another with homelessness. Yet another is willing to do anything, break any rule, to hold onto the love of an adoptive parent.

Technically, Courage is not a romance. It's a story of friendship, and family love. In the end, (sorry for the spoiler) love and faith wins out. T'Shawn finds the strength and courage to dive off the springboard into the pool, and to deal with his fear of letting himself love his brother again.

Speaking of love, even at thirteen, T'Shawn manages to find himself in a relationship triangle between Carmela, the police detective's daughter, and Linda, Carmela's best friend and the daughter of a man in prison. You see, I believe that even stories of friendship and family should hand readers happily ever afters.

The city of Chicago provides the perfect backdrop for this story. Courage highlights the vibrant south side. Locations including the University of Chicago to the lakefront are featured on the pages. Readers see the city through the eyes of children from various ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds.  Forget what you think you know about Chicago, pick up Courage, and get a good look at the real deal.

I invite you to take a look at one of the reviews of Courage  where Kirkus calls Courage - " a multifaceted look at the urban experience." - https://bit.ly/2KY7QK6



Author Barbara Binns was a Golden Heart finalist in 2010 with her adult interracial romance, Damaged Goods. Her first YA novel, Pull was published by Westside Books in 2010. Since then she has gone on to write several YA novels, and her short stories are regularly published in the Arlington Almanac. She lives in the Chicago area, and is both a cancer survivor and an adoptive parent. She is also a member of Kid Lit Nation, http://kidlitnation.com an organization working to help more authors and illustrators of color break into publishing.

Website - http://babinns.com
twitter - http://twitter.com/barbarabinns
facebook - http://facebook.com/allthecolorsoflove

Courage is her debut middle grade novel.
Hardcover $16.99 ISBN - 978-0062561657



Available from Amazon - https://amzn.to/2N6GMFT

Harper Collins - https://bit.ly/2u7ogWG
Barnes & Noble -  https://bit.ly/2u9CiHF

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Writing a Series: Beyond Plotting

by Madelle Morgan

I'm starting to write Hollywood Hero, the third book in the Hollywood in Muskoka contemporary romance series.

Okay, I've been "starting" for a while. Over six months, to be exact.

If I were a panster, I'd simply dive right in and start typing. While creating the story, I'd discover the story. Then I'd go into the second draft in a shaping & refining mode, like a sculptor carves a blob of clay into something that resembles art.

Since I'm a plotter, as I did for the first two in the series, I just need to create character profiles, internal and external goal, motivation and conflict (GMC) charts for each character, and scene structure (scene by scene POV, plot beats and goals), then start writing. Straightforward!

Or so I believed...

On the cusp of writing my seventh novel (three published), I expected plot development to be a breeze. I've read the craft books and distilled my own process for short contemporary romance. I even wrote posts about it. Click here and scroll down to Tips for Writing a Novel.

But I've Been Thinking


Two books in, I've belatedly realized that writing a series requires pinning down several abstract but critical elements before the easy and fun (to me) plotter's process of creating characters and drafting beat sheets.

In addition, readers have expectations that each story will give them a similar experience. That "similar experience" is the series "hook."  If you don't fulfill those expectations, readers lose interest in the series.

Expectations...what does that mean, exactly?

I've discovered that I need to spend time on (maybe I'm overthinking) these foundation elements.

Series Universal Theme

Each romance in the Hollywood in Muskoka series explores the universal theme of Identity. Each heroine struggles with these questions: What kind of person am I? Who do I want to be? Where do I belong? What should I do with my life?

Story Theme

Each story explores a different aspect of identity. Below are the story themes that reflect the heroine's internal conflict and journey to becoming her best self. Each novel's black moment emerges from the story theme, which is why (as a plotter) it is important to nail down the story theme before creating the scene structure and beats.

Caught on Camera: Deception leads to heartbreak.
Seduced by the Screenwriter: To heal, you must face your fear.
Hollywood Hero: To thine own self be true (draft).

Romance Trope

In the novel blurb, the trope has to be immediately evident to the prospective romance reader. It's vital to her "yes, I want to read this" or "no, I'll pass" decision.

Caught on Camera: Romantic Comedy
Seduced by the Screenwriter: Wounded Hero/Heroine
Hollywood Hero: Unrequited Love/In Love with the Boss

Tone

Caught on CameraHumorous, light
Seduced by the Screenwriter: Dramedy, dark elements
Hollywood HeroHumorous, light

Heat Level

Series: steamy

The Cast

When writing a series, several characters are continuing or will star in their own books. Therefore when crafting each story, secondary characters have to be introduced to set up the future novel and novella romances.

Caught on Camera, #1
Rachel and Mickey (hero and heroine). Introduces core series characters: the wedding party (Halden, Candy, Garth, Wade, Asta, Tiffany), Catrina, Marie-Eve, and Wendy. A character mentions Tiffany's director ex-husband who will be the hero in Book 4.

Seduced by the Screenwriter, #2
Catrina and Chett (hero and heroine). Introduces Brigit and Brad (Muskoka), and Jenna and Henrik (Hollywood).

Hollywood Hero, #3
Halden and Wendy (hero and heroine). Introduces Bella (Hollywood), Skylar (Muskoka) and maybe others TBD.

The Director's Dilemma, #4
Tiffany's ex and Asta (hero and heroine). 

Getting the Greenlight, #5
Wade and Skylar (hero and heroine).

The Producer's Passion, #6
Garth and Tiffany (hero and heroine).

You can see that I have planted the seeds for Brigit, Henrik, Jenna, Brad, Bella, and Marie-Eve to have their own romances, should I decide to continue the series or write novellas within the timeline of the series. Then there are all the "extras"; that is, the local Muskoka community and Hollywood film industry characters who have walk-on parts, are villains, or get killed off.

That's quite a few inter-connected characters to juggle before starting to create the GMCs, beat sheets, scene structure, character arcs, etc. in the Muskoka "world." Yikes.




Series Bible & Timeline

The series takes place over a two to three year period. I have to keep notes on locations and characters (including dogs), and what each character is doing in the time frame of the individual novels. For example, Halden's film production company has several movies at various stages of development or in production over that time period. Several characters have various roles to play in the creation of these films. Their private relationships intersect their working relationships.

"We'll Fix it in Editing."

I'm a big picture thinker and a planner, so it's not overwhelming for me to think about six books at once. However, it takes time. There's the danger of getting mired in the details. Minor issues can be fixed in the second or third draft, but before I personally can start writing, the underlying structure needs to be pretty solid.

I plan to start writing Hollywood Hero next month.

I've been promising myself that for three months....

What I need is a deadline to get my you-know-what in the chair at the computer. Any ideas to share on what motivates you?

Enjoy the summer!


Madelle


Caught on Camera is a Hollywood wedding romantic comedy set in Muskoka, Canada—summer playground of the rich and famous. It's Book 1 of the Hollywood in Muskoka series.

5 stars! "Caught on Camera" is a super fun read! Full of funny drama and lighthearted banter, it lifts the spirits. A witty, passionate romance, "Caught on Camera" is a great break from reality. Laura Dinsdale, InD’tale magazine review, October 2017.



Seduced by the Screenwriter, Book 2, is a steamy romantic dramedy.

Cat and Chett’s characters are well developed, drawing the reader into their individual plights, while their campy banter keeps the story light and downright fun. Ms. Morgan keeps the plot moving with humorous situations and dialogue interspersed with exciting and poignant drama. A good read for a snowy afternoon. —Marc Joseph, InD’Tale magazine review, March 2018.



Madelle's romantic thriller DiamondHunter is a free read in Kindle Unlimited.

Follow Madelle on  TwitterFacebookGoodreadsPinterest, and Wattpad. For giveaways and new releases, subscribe to Madelle’s blog at www.MadelleMorgan.com.

Monday, July 9, 2018

I Read ...I Buy..Maybe Not!



By: Marcia King-Gamble
www.lovemarcia.com

It's a competitive world out there, and with so many authors offering free reads, I am  mighty selective about what I buy these days. Aren't you? Hard cover books are pushing the $30 mark and paperbacks can cost close to $10.00. So don't you  think twice before getting out that credit card? In today's world of outlet shopping I can get an entire outfit for that same 30.00 bucks.



Like you, I have a tendency to stick to the tried and true. Authors that I know for sure can deliver. Authors like Susan Elizabeth Phillips, because there isn't one of her stories I don't like. The same can be said for Donna Hill, and then there is Sandra Kitt - the reason I began this crazy writing career. Incidentally she is the co-author of my last book, titled By Design.



What most people don't realize is that even if you are traditionally published ( and you get editing services for free,) these professionals with their ivy league degrees are hardly infallible. You, the author, shouldn't leave all the proofing up to them. Your responsibility is to edit your book as best as you can, and even so, you are way too close to your work to catch all the errors.



That said, several things pull me out of a book. A poorly researched book being one of them. Sure I can forgive the occasional typo. I can even  forgive the dangling participles, and I can overlook the chapters that end without a hook. What I can't forgive are misspellings, or the inappropriate use of words. I have difficulty forgiving the author placing her story in a setting she is clearly unfamiliar with. For gosh sakes we live in the world of Google maps and videos.

Case in point, I recently read a novel set in the world of  the affluent, yet the author didn't have a clue that those enjoying that lifestyle would never wait in an airport lounge, or pick up their luggage at the carousel.  Further, she did not understand that the hotels they stayed in would never serve a $8.95 buffet breakfast in the lobby, and that such a thing as room service is a staple in most 4/5 star hotels.

I am by no means suggesting that we are all born with silver spoons in our mouths. I am simply suggesting that a little research could easily have added some authenticity to her story.  Another pet peeve of mine are self published authors with  homemade book covers.  Covers sell a book and if that book looks amateurish there go your sales. The only person you are hurting by being cheap is yourself. There are Internet companies that can help. I have gotten some beautiful covers from upcoming graphic artist looking to build a portfolio for as little as $5.00, and I have tipped them far more than they charged.




This brings me to another pet peeve of mine. Books with no internal conflict. What surprises me are the number of seasoned authors putting out books that are all external conflict. For those of you who don't know what I mean, let me elaborate. An external conflict is an issue created by an outside force; a situation going on in the hero/heroines environment. It drives the dramatic action of the plot. Think Romeo and Juliet and the two feuding families.

 The internal conflict is the war within. The struggle inside that usually prevents the characters from moving forward. It's the dilemma facing the characters and it's impact on them. If these people aren't relatable or flawed why should we care? Everyone has experiences that have scarred them and made them vulnerable. Readers want to read about people they can relate to and root for, and they want to see them growAt the end of the book they want to have learned something.

When I read a book that is all external conflict, and no internal, it makes me wonder what drives that character. What are the stakes? How can I root for a character that I don't know, and why should they matter when the author has not provided the ground work for me to understand who they are, where they come from, and why is that goal so important to them?

Since I write romance, I need to know  what drives my characters. It's not enough that two people are attracted to each other and find love. What are the obstacles they face? What is so important to them to make them step out of their comfort zone to achieve that goal? It's got to be more important than winning that guy or girl.     

Books with no black moment are downright boring to me.  It's that knuckle biting moment when you think all is lost, and there is no hope of romance between these two people that keep you reading. If everything is hunky dory from start to finish it's yawn city.

I spend money on books to be carried away, and while I'm being transported to another world I want to learn something. If I stumble over sentences that require I reread them four or five times until I understand what the author is saying, then I get frustrated not carried away.

As authors we may only have one time to make a first impression (especially with new readers.) It pays to be your own harsh critic, and it also pays to enlist the services of an editor or proofreader.  It could very well be the best money spent.


About Marcia King-Gamble
Romance writer, Marcia King-Gamble originally hails from a sunny Caribbean island where the sky and ocean are the same mesmerizing shade of blue. This former travel industry executive and current world traveler has spent most of life in the United States. A National Bestselling author, Marcia has penned over 34 books and 8 novellas. Her free time is spent at the gym, traveling to exotic locales, and caring for her animal family.
Visit Marcia at www.lovemarcia.com or “friend” her on Facebook: http://bit.ly/1MlnrIS


Sunday, July 8, 2018

Romantic Suspense – Finding the Hero Inside


Romance and suspense; it’s a powerful combination. Like chocolate and peanut butter. I hate to reduce everything to food analogies, but there you have it. Two great things that are truly great together.

Let’s take a closer look at the individual parts that comprise the whole. A well-written suspense keeps readers in the story. At the heart of that story is the characters’ motivation. What’s the ultimate motivation? Love. Love of family; love of friends; love of country; love of that one special someone. Your soul mate. Love compels you to reach deep inside of yourself and find the hero within. That’s a universal truth, and one that connects readers and characters. We can relate to that motivation. That's what makes us care about the characters. Make me care about your characters and I’ll finish your story. Would you agree?

Romantic suspense offers you a plethora of sub-subgenres starring specialized protagonists: military heroes on a special mission; undercover agents on a secret mission; law enforcement in the ultimate battle of good versus evil; the list continues.

My favorite romantic suspense stories are those featuring ordinary people in extraordinary situations. When I first started writing romantic suspense, those are the characters I wanted to write about. I absolutely love the every woman who trips into a situation from which she has to extricate herself. She can’t fight. She’s not a martial arts specialist. She doesn’t have specialized weapons training. She doesn’t even own a gun. To save her community, her family, herself, and/or her soul mate, she has to reach deep down and find her hero inside. All she has are her wits and her heart. Those – and her truly scrumptious ride-or-die-with-her love interest – are enough to save the day.

Enemies-to-allies is my favorite hook. I enjoy realistic, organic tension between protagonists, at least at the outset of the journey. Then, as the story progresses, the hero and heroine realize that, if they want to stay alive, they have to work together. Yes, I’m a sucker for that setup. What about you?

My first romantic suspense, You Belong to Me, reunites a divorced couple in a race to unmask a serial killer who's targeted them. The ex-wife/heroine is the author of a successful science fiction series. She’s sold the film rights of the first book in her series to her ex-husband’s/hero’s production company. Unknown to either of them, however, one of our heroine’s fans is adamantly opposed to having the book turned into a movie. (I’ve likened the villain to a Stephen King fan who’s endured one too many botched film adaptations of Stephen King’s wonderful books. Now he’s at the end of his rope. Please note: Any similarities between my villain’s feelings and mine are purely coincidental. Really.) The hero and heroine are forced to work together to survive. But they also have to work through the unresolved issues that ended their marriage.

In my second romantic suspense, On Fire, my odd couple is an outspoken investigative reporter and an arson investigator who’s been burnt by the press before. (See what I did there? Ha!) My hero and heroine have to identify the serial-arsonist-turned-serial-murderer, but my hero’s trust issues stymie their cooperation.

Perhaps it goes without saying, but I'm drawn to assertive heroines who refuse to give in or to give up even as they admit to their fears. Likewise, I love heroes who are protective, but also respectful of the heroine’s capabilities. There’s an equal partnership in the relationship.

Those are my preferences regarding romantic suspense stories. What are yours? What types of romantic suspense plots do you prefer? What types of protagonists do you most enjoy?


About the author
Award-winning, bestselling author Patricia Sargeant writes contemporary romances and romantic suspense. She also writes under the pseudonym Regina Hart, and she writes cozy mysteries as Olivia Matthews.

Website: PatriciaSargeant.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/patricia.sargeant.9
Twitter: https://twitter.com/BooksbyPatricia

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Magic at Ochre Court, A Gilded Newport Mystery by Alyssa Maxwell


Ok, the title of my July release is actually Murder at Ochre Court, but I almost didn’t write this book—at least not the way I would have wanted to—if not for a little magic that happened on our annual trip to Newport two years ago. You see, Ochre Court, the summer “cottage” set on the famous Cliff Walk that used to belong to the Goelet family, is now the administrative building of Salve Regina University, and it’s not open to tours. That doesn’t stop people from trying, of course, and tourists trickle in all day long, only to be told no, you can’t see the inside of the house, but The Breakers is just a short trek up the road and they’ll welcome you with open arms.

Thus did my hopeful attempt to see Ochre Court begin that September afternoon, with the very nice woman at the front desk explaining the deal – as in, no deal. Nope, can’t let you in. What did I do? I kept talking. Desperately. I told her I was writing this book, you see, part of my series, maybe you’ve heard of it? blah, blah, blah… I suppose I pleaded just a little, and I guess I wore her down, because she reluctantly gave us permission to quickly snap some pictures of the ground floor. The ground floor is an astounding feat of architecture, I might add, and we might have gone away satisfied. But while my husband snapped those pictures, I kept talking, and suddenly I stumbled upon the magic word: our last name, along with my husband’s family ties to Newport. Well! Turns out this lovely woman is a very good friend of my brother- and sister-in-law’s. Et voila!
The next thing we knew, she was locking up her desk, and we embarked on a guided tour from nearly top to bottom, including riding in the elevator built in the 1890s. Thanks to her, we learned some way cool insider info about the house – such as the owner, Odgen Goelet, designing the upper garden with a railing curved like a ship’s bow in order to keep his sea-faring wife happy here in Newport. She liked to travel, he didn’t so much. She could stand at the railing, look out over the ocean, and pretend she was on her way to Europe. I don’t think it worked very well, but he tried. There’s also the carved image of Bacchus between the double fireplaces in the dining room, whose nose guests used to rub for good luck. Yes, we rubbed! And then there are the mirrored closet doors in the attic, which play a role in my story. . .

These, and more, are all things I’d never have known if not for that bit of magic on that beautiful fall day. So, I learned several things from the experience. One, when up against a wall, start talking and keep talking. Two, never underestimate the adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” And three, believe in magic, because from time to time, magical things DO happen!

Come to think of it, this is kind of magical: in celebration of the release of Murder at Ochre Court, which is book six in the series, the first book, Murder at The Breakers, is a Monthly Kindle Deal! That means it’s only $2.99 all month long at Amazon. So, if you haven’t read any of the series yet, here’s your chance to give it a try. Also, comment below for a chance to win a signed, hardcover copy of Murder at Ochre Court! (U.S. residents only, due to shipping costs). Winner will be chosen randomly.


Alyssa Maxwell knew from an early age that she wanted to be a novelist. Growing up in New England and traveling to Great Britain fueled a passion for history, while a love of puzzles drew her to the mystery genre. She is the author of The Gilded Newport Mysteries and A Lady and Lady’s Maid Mysteries. She and her husband reside in Florida, where she is a member of the Mystery Writers of American-Florida Chapter and the Florida Romance Writers.


Friday, July 6, 2018

What Bumps Me Out Of A Story?

Coming Summer 2018

Judith Ashley is the author of The Sacred Women’s Circle series, romantic fiction that honors spiritual practices that nourish the soul and celebrates the journey from relationship to romance.
What bumps me out of a story?

Unsympathetic characters

Outrageous, unbelievable story line

ERRORS: Even in a well-edited book whether indie or traditionally published a few errors happen and even Errors happen but ERRORS mean the author didn’t care enough to use spell-check, to have someone who knows grammar and punctuation read the story, etc. And if the author doesn’t care, why should I?

And there are those errors of punctuation and grammar but the worst error is in the information in the story-line. That means the author didn’t care enough about the story to be sure it was accurate. Something as simple as the time of year flowers bloom will pull me out of a story.

I love to read historical romance and most recently I picked up two books by authors I’ve read and enjoyed before. One book I managed to finish – at least the characters and plot held my interest enough.

The other book? It’s in my “recycle at used book store” pile.

The beauty of Scotland
Both are by well-known and skilled story-tellers. I’m sure the setting, etc. is accurate as both are familiar with Scotland, where the stories take place.
However, both books have a plethora of Scottish dialect. Not a few “donna” or “ken” or “aye” or “nay” but virtually every sentence spoken by a Scottish character has at least one if not numerous words.

I’m not talking about the use of Gaelic. I think that adds to the atmosphere of a story. I’m talking about idiomatic language as if I’m going to forget between one sentence and the next that the character is Scottish. I can only assume that, as both authors are traditionally published, that someone in the publishing houses decided to batter the reader with Scottish dialect as if that is a good thing.

Before I purchase another Scottish romance (one of my favorite genres), I’ll read a few pages ahead of time.

Available Now!
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The reality is there is no One answer that fits all but we each have Our answer.

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Staying Sane is now available at your favorite e-retailer.

Learn more about Judith's The Sacred Women’s Circle series at JudithAshleyRomance.com

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