04-20-19 – In Praise of a “Bad Pick” by Linda Lovely and Robin Weaver

Friday, March 2, 2018

Getting Lost in A Book or Not

Judith Ashley is the author of The Sacred Women’s Circle series, romantic fiction that honors spiritual traditions that nurture the soul.

Before I made the decision to be indie published, I read blogs and listened to agents and editors talk about what they were looking for in the submissions they read.

Characters that readers would love, root for, identify with. (Yes, I know dangling preposition).

A core story readers could relate to so even if it was paranormal, historical, sci-fi, fantasy, etc., it was written in such a way the reader felt him/herself “there.”

And a story that draws the reader in and doesn’t let up. One where the suspense and tension pulls readers from chapter to chapter until the end of the book.
What I’ve learned over the course of almost two decades since I first started writing fiction is that, while the premise is true, the premise is also extremely flawed.

One of my author friends writes thrillers. (And if you like to read thrillers, check out http://PamelaCowan.com).  Several of my friends write romantic suspense or paranormal romance. I hear them talking about writing a “page turner” a “can’t put it down” kind of book.

While I wish them all well, and hope they achieve mega success as authors, the probability of me reading their books is slim to non-existent.


Because I don’t want to read a “page turner” nor do I want to be up “all night because I can’t put the book down.” If people start talking about that or I see it in a review, I cross that book off my list.


I find there is enough thrills, drama, suspense, horror in the news every day. If I’m losing sleep because of nightmares and other sleep issues by watching/learning about what’s going on in “real life in real time,” why would I subject myself to fictional thrills, drama, suspense, horror in my leisure time?

Does this mean I only want lukewarm stories?

Not at all. There is a real difference between tension and suspense from my point of view. And because of our own personal/professional experiences our perception and tolerance levels are very different.

One of the things I realized working on the first draft of Gabriella: Chaos and Symmetry was I’d better get used to nightmares and other sleep disturbances. Gabby has had a very difficult childhood that she is finally coming to grips with. While I’ve never been a homeless teen living on the streets prostituting to survive, I’ve met and talked with several of them in my child welfare work.

So why tell you all this when the topic is “Getting Lost in a Book?” Because from my point of view, there is no one genre or sub-genre that will appeal to everyone. When a writer submits to an agent or editor, it is that person’s view of “relatable” “root for” “believable,” etc. that determines whether they are going to do business with the author.

Learn more about Ashley
My books are ones I like to read. Tension between heroine and hero, a bit of suspense from real life scenarios like non-custodial parent kidnapping, runaway teenager, love scenes that fit the story (i.e. do you really think the hero and heroine are going to jump into bed and have any kind of sex when she’s just heaved her guts out)?

But mainly I deal with tough topics such as infidelity, domestic violence, single parenting, cancer, trusting others as well as trusting oneself. Tough topics that women deal with every day. Because they survive the tough times, my characters are stronger by the end of their books than they believed they were in the beginning.

What gets them through those tough times?

The support of their sacred women’s circle, their spiritual practices and learning to trust that they can survive the leap into the void. That leap comes with no guarantee other than the only way to have the love of their life is to take it.

Your free copy of Lily: The Dragon and The Great Horned Owl is waiting for you. Just click here and sign up for my mailing list (I will not spam you and you can always unsubscribe).

I’ve also ventured into non-fiction and Staying Sane in a Crazy World's release is planned for March 2018! Click this link to be added to my mailing list and you’ll receive a free copy of Staying Sane as soon as it’s published. FYI: You are actually only added once to my mailing list but this way you get both books free!

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

Follow Judith on Twitter: JudithAshley19

Check out Judith’s Windtree Press author page.

You can also find Judith on FB!

© 2018 Judith Ashley


Paty Jager said...

Hi Judith, I can relate to what you are saying. I loved Ruth Rendell books until she went into the killers mind and then it scared me so bad I can't read any book where the author goes into the killers mind. But I like writing murder mystery where the characters try to find out who killed someone and why. I don't watch the news or read any papers but our local one. My husband and I find we enjoy life a lot more not seeing all the things that go on in the US and the world. Happy writing!

Judith Ashley said...

I used to read everything Nora Roberts wrote but when she went darker with single title and series books, I've become more cautious. I go through periods of time where I don't watch the news. The truth is, if it's particularly awful it's everywhere because people are talking about it on social media, my friends will ask me what I think (usually after asking me if I've heard about X). The world we have control over is the world directly around us not a continent or ocean away.

Barbara Rae Robinson said...

I agree, Judith. There are books I will not read. As much as I adore Lisa Gardner as a person, I will not read her thrillers. I don't like killer POV and there are Brenda Novak books I can't read. Ditto, Allison Brennan. But I do love the tamer romantic suspense. Patricia Potter has written great books that deal with human emotions.

Judith Ashley said...

Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Barb. I was worried when I put this post up that I was the only one who looked at books this way. And I think it is important to separate out the books from the author. Just because we like the author doesn't mean we must read those books and just vice versa.

Sarah Raplee said...

I believe "tension between heroine and hero, a bit of suspense from real life scenarios like non-custodial parent kidnapping, runaway teenager, love scenes that fit the story" make for a compelling read, Judith. I'm more and more picky about the books I read. They need to have a positive slant and lack of very gory details. No more serial killer books for me!

Lynn Lovegreen said...

Yes, Judith, I agree! I get enough adrenalin from real life and don't look for it in books. But if you have a sweet romance, or a plucky heroine from the past, or even a cozy mystery, I'm your reader. The beauty of it is, there are books for every reader out there. And vice versa!

Judith Ashley said...

Sarah, your "Blindsight" was initially difficult for me to even open and start but I only read in the daylight and was delighted when the whole bear scene was, for me, the most "thrilling." Great suspense and twists and turns. Looking forward to #2 in your series.

Judith Ashley said...

Lynn, I'm never sure what a "sweet romance" is other than the hero/heroine do nothing more than hold hands, chaste kiss on the cheek and maybe look longingly at each other. While I do have one book (Ashley) that might fit that description, because it deals with recurrent breast cancer, child custody and non-custodial parent kidnapping, I don't think of it is as sweet.

However I totally agree that there are books for every reader and readers for every book.

Sarah Raplee said...

Thank you for reading Blindsight, Judith! I wrote the geory parts of the scene 'off stage', so the heroine and hero only hear what's happening, because describing all the gory details would not move the story forward. I find gratuitous violence in entertainment repelling.

Judith Ashley said...

Sarah, I'm learning from you that there can be suspense that doesn't create weeks of nightmares. Neither gratuitous violence or sex adds quality to a good story. To me it signals there is something fundamental lacking and the author is hoping the reader will be distracted and not notice because of the gratuitous scenes.

Diana McCollum said...

While I do read some thrillers and spy books, I've never found that I have any nightmares from them. Movies, yes I do have nightmares!!

I find the pacing fast and I like it. The books I read I would not say the authors are lacking in any way for adding scenes that are more graphic. In every instance the graphic scene is needed to further the readers conception of just what the hero or heroine is up against.

If one were to say: He was held captive by Dr. goody. It doesn't have much impact on the reader. But if it was shown previously that Dr. goody liked torturing his captives, say pulling out their fingernails etc, the empathy for the hero being held captive goes up 100%. Just my two cents!!

Dora Bramden said...

I'm a believer that people can grow and that a spiritual aproach can assist learning a better way of being. I'm very drawn to this kind of book.

Maggie Lynch said...

What an interesting topic, Judith. I do write romantic suspense and I sometimes have suspense in my contemporary romance and women's fiction books. But, in both cases, I don't show torture on the page or the actual violence because I can't go there in my mind. I refuse. As it is, I spend sleepless nights thinking about it even though I didn't write it.

I do think there are times you have to write those books. For me, several of my books look at the horrors we wreak on each other. When I wrote the scene where Rachel is raped I didn't show the rape at all. I led up to it and the reader knew, just like Rachel, that was going to happen. But then I cut to her calling for help and her friends coming to get her. I just couldn't live it with her, because I can barely live it with myself, my sisters, or anyone else who has suffered from that. However, I HAD to tell the story because I wanted people to know that whether you are a sweet child, an old woman, a prostitute or a Mom in the wrong place at the wrong time that rape is never about sex and the woman never wants it. It is always about control and power.

There are other things I write that are scary as well, like what is going on in the lab that is featured in Expendable. Or how an out-of-control Chameleon can harm others she loves--not with intent but harm none the less.

To me there is tension in any well-written book. Sometimes the psychological tension of hurting the heart, destroying hope, feeling trapped by a lack of resources, are just as tension-filled for me as someone running through the jungle being chased by a killer.

I believe we each have our own way of dealing with violence and pain in the real world. I am a pacifist and always have been. Yet, there was a period in my life when I watched every episode of The Equalizer (British actor Edward Woodward as Robert McCall) about a retired spy who helps catch bad guys and put them in jail, partly as atonement for things he did in his past. Of course, it isn't nearly as violent as things on TV today, but at the time it was the most violent thing I watched. It was at a time in my life when I didn't feel like I had much control over what was happening to me and watching that show helped me vicariously exact my vengeance. Of course, now I do that by writing it in my novels. :)

As I've become older I have become less able to watch (in movies or TV shows) violence--whether gory or not--simply because I don't want to live in that place in my mind. I DO believe if we live with violence and accept is is a part of life every day that we become inured to it, and that means we no longer see it or care about it.

I actively choose not to keep that in my head, and to instead show an alternative to violence through love and compassion. In Healing Notes, even when my heroine is being beaten (again off the page) she still prays for the woman who hurt her, she still has compassion for whatever pain that woman suffered to get to this mental state. And the beauty of that is that by keeping love in her heart, instead of anger and vengeance, her own life is so much more beautiful and sustaining to her and to her family and others around her.

That is why I LOVE YOUR books, Judith. Because, your characters do deal with hardship in their lives but they still manage to let the light shine through them and keep them whole. To me that is the best gift you can give a reader.

Judith Ashley said...

Dora, thank you for stopping by. And if you see this and have yet to read one of my books, "Lily" is available for free to anyone signing up for my mailing list.

Judith Ashley said...

Maggie, I'm another Equalizer (Edward Woodward's version). I'm not sure I could watch it now but I watched it every week. I even had dreams where he came and helped me with a case I was working on.

I've read your Sweetwater Canyon books and know they have some Intense Scenes but because you have them "off camera" or "off page," I managed. I will admit, that like Sarah's "Blindsight" I wouldn't read them at night.

Powerful lessons to have a character your readers might have mixed feelings about be raped, find herself, redemption and build a life for herself. Forgiveness of self and/or others is powerful and needed for any of us to heal and create the life we want for ourselves.

One of the blessings for me in being a writer is telling the stories of women, men and children whose lives touched mine or vice versa. No matter our life experiences, we can do more than survive. We can turn it into a gift. It isn't always easy but the rewards are worth the work.

Judith Ashley said...

Diana, Showing is always has more emotional impact that telling. I can deal with off page showing better than on page showing. In "Blindsight" I definitely knew what was happening in the bear scene even though it was not "graphic" or on the page. I won't say any more... if you haven't read "Blindsight" do. It is will worth experiencing the off page bear scene!