Category: For Writers (Page 1 of 15)

The Trouble with Tropes

Cruising through the internet last week I came upon a conversation between highly successful romance authors looking for recommendations for romance novels. Many complained that they were bored with the same old tropes played over and over again. As readers, they wanted something  fresh to grab their attention and keep them turning pages past their bedtime.

There were many responses along a similar vein and the recommendations seemed to be for re-reading old favourites. As a romance author I found the discussion interesting and worrisome.

To trope or not to trope. Readers have certain expectations of romance novels. If an author doesn’t meet those expectations, the book is likely to flop. Yet meeting those expectations results in reruns of the same old themes — and bored and disgruntled readers. 

What is a writer to do?

Here are five top tropes in romance along with some suggestions for freshening them up.

  1. Spunky heroine.  The belief is no one wants to read about wimps. Heroine’s must be proactive, kick-ass, goal-oriented, tough . . . you get the picture. And yet, fairy tale heroines beloved of romance authors are often placid and reactive. Cinderella needs her fairy godmother to get her to the ball. She needs prince charming to rescue her after the ball. So, perhaps there is hope for a “non-spunky” main character. I read one book recently where the heroine irritated me no end because she wouldn’t stand up for herself, yet, in the end, she did grow and find love and she “rescued” herself. What kept me turning the pages was the author’s voice, the engaging cast of secondary characters, and the setting.  If you are really tired of writing about or reading about the perky, spunky female, you can go a different route, but you need skill to pull it off.                                                                                                                                                           
  2. Jilted at the altar. This one incorporates the “cute meet” beloved of romance readers too. Usually the bride, or groom, left standing alone meets the perfect mate while picking up the pieces of the disastrous day. I just read a book that began that way. I yawned, but kept reading. I liked the heroine’s voice. However, the book exceeded expectations as the story delved deeply into family relations, small town castes, and an old mystery. So the trope was useful to hook the reader, but it did not determine the entire story.                                                                                                                                                                        
  3. Proximity.  This is the one where the two main characters are snowed in by themselves in a remote cabin, or stranded on an island, or locked in an old castle. There are many variations but the point is they are together and cannot get away from each other. In the world of tropes this must lead to romance.  But what if it doesn’t? What if enforced proximity exposes a nose-picker, or a soup-slurper, or a bully, or a whiner? Perhaps this trope could be used to separate a couple who were romantically inclined at the beginning of the story and can’t put enough distance between themselves when they are finally able to escape? I haven’t read a book like this yet but there must be one out there somewhere. I think if would make a great comedy.                                                                                                                                                                     
  4. Marriage of Convenience.  I admit that this is one of my favourites, especially in historical romance and especially when handled deftly — witness Georgette Heyer. Inevitably the pretend couple ends by falling in love and turning their fake marriage into the real thing. What would happen if they didn’t? What if her old sweetheart, left for dead at Waterloo, returns, alive and well? How does she get out of her “convenient” marriage? Walking away is a possibility in contemporary romances, but for a regency lady to desert her husband and still have a happily-ever-after? Again, such a story would challenge the author but it might satisfy the reader who is tired of same-old, same-old.                                                                                                                                                                             
  5.    Billionaires/celebrity/royalty.  I don’t like this one very much. The characters are too unbelievable for me. The billionaire who never seems to work, the celebrity who misbehaves, the royal who doesn’t understand protocol . . . I’m apt to throw the book at the wall. But it is a trope that is adored by many readers. So, how to make it work?  Be realistic.  If you put a public figure in your story, give them something worthwhile to do. To paraphrase Martin Luther King, let me judge them by their character, not their bank account. Celebrities often spend a lot of time helping charities, or advocating for the poor or hungry or traumatised.  A person who expects adoration because of his wealth or social status isn’t “hero”material. If he loses all his money, will the reader still love him? I’d read that story.

So, dear reader, what are your favourite tropes? Can you recommend a romance that turns an old faithful on its head and sends that author to the top of your reading list? Please share in the comments section. (click the button under the post title.)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

 

 

 

Hits: 14

Christmas Short Story

Christmas seemed a long way off in November, now it is rushing forward at breakneck speed. So, I’ve been working on my annual short story. After numerous re-writes, I thought I had the text ready to publish. My friend had told me about using the reading tool on microsoft so I thought I’d do one last check using that. I found one typo and one repeat word but listening to my words read by a computer voice was . . . an experience.

For some reason, the computer voice did not recognize the name of my heroine — even though a google search showed it does exist. The word the computer used was totally mangled. For those who may have received the story, the heroine’s name is Riona, pronounced ree-owe-na. 🙂

I live in Canada and have always referred to my mother’s mother as grandma. Pronounced grand-ma. The computer must have been programmed in the southern States because it pronounced my grandparent as grand-maw. I had a hard time picturing the woman I’d written about sipping tea from a china cup with “maw” at the end of her name.

Usually, I do a final proof by reading the work aloud, myself, but that can put a strain on the voice and I’ve got a cough, so the computer option seemed like a good idea. It certainly speeded up the process, and reminded me that readers will come from different regions and different backgrounds. 

I’ve had a trying day arguing with various templates on the computer, but my story is now written, edited, and published in my newsletter. If you want to read it, please join my newsletter   here.  

If you are frantically working on Christmas projects, take time to savour the moment. You’ve still got seventeen days. Put some carols on your sound system, bite into a piece of shortbread, and remember the reason for Christmas.

Hits: 24

Remembrance Resource

Although we are now heading into the Christmas season, I want to share a resource I came across as part of our Remembrance Day activities.

Our local newspaper does an excellent job of connecting readers with the actual people who went to war. For one thing they run a “remembrance” page where families can commemorate their loved ones. One item clutches at my heart strings–a family of seven, four brothers to WWI and three more to WWII. On first glance I thought the family was lucky since only one brother was killed in action. On a closer reading I found that the surviving brothers of WWI were all invalided out. One suffered shell-shock (we call that PTSD now) for the rest of his life.

However, the newspaper cannot tell all the stories, there are too many. Into the breech has come Vancouver Island University with its “Letters Home” project. The university has collected letters written by soldiers away from home and sent to their families. In November, copies of those letters are delivered to the current occupant of the house at that address.

The recipients are surprized to to receive a letter written from the trenches a hundred or more years ago, but most are touched by the message, and reflect on the young man (only men were in combat at that time) who left home and family in the cause of justice and freedom.

What makes this project unique and wonderful is the fact the letters are not held in a museum. Rather they are digitized and then returned to the family that owns them. Thus Canadians can read the real life experiences of our soldiers without depriving the families of a precious artifact.

So far the university has digitized 30000 letters and thousands of photographs. The database is searchable and available to the public for free. It can be found at canadianletters.ca.

I took a quick look and was immediately drawn into a story. The first letter on the landing page was from a young man wondering why Marjorie hadn’t written. I wanted to jump back in time and give Marjorie a stern lecture. Then I wondered if Marjorie had become ill or maybe died herself and no one had the heart to tell her soldier-beau. Or maybe Marjorie had written but the letters were intercepted. Of perhaps . . .

Look at the story possibilities that jumped to mind after reading only a few paragraphs. For writers of fiction, this database is a treasury of ideas. For people living in a former soldier’s home, they are a window to the history of the house. For citizens who weep for the lives lost, the dreams unfulfilled, and the heartbreak of millions, the letters are a way to honour our brave men and women who sacrificed so much that we might live in peace.

On this day of American Thanksgiving celebrations let us give thanks to our veterans for their service.

 

 

Hits: 36

Avoid the Second Night Blahs

At one time of my life I was involved with amateur theatre. I loved it. Rehearsals were a blast. Meeting the cast, who became your family for the run of the show. Costumes, make-up, staging– it kept me coming back year after year. Opening nights were the best. The air buzzed with excitement. Players vibrated with nerves and anticipation. The energy backstage could have powered the stage lights. When the curtain went up, we reached out to that audience with both hands, determined to shake them out of their seats and send them home amazed by the talent right there in their home town.

The second night, meh. . .  The actors were exhausted from the effort they’d put into opening night. We had to work at putting energy into the performance. Second night audiences always seemed uninvolved. Even though the show might be technically more polished than opening night, it usually felt flat to the cast. We just hoped the audience wouldn’t notice how hard we were trying.

The book I just finished, felt a bit like second night at the theatre to me. It wasn’t wrong, it just wasn’t right. If this had been the author’s second book, I’d have put its shortcomings down to time pressure — an editor or agent demanding a new book in a few months whereas the first one took a year or maybe years.  But this was the third book. What happened? How can we avoid this let down in our own writing?

I’ve just finished reading a book I anticipated with joy. Unfortunately, the actual book disappointed. I’d read two of the author’s previous books with pleasure. The latest had the same WWII, England setting. The main characters were a group of women, just like in the earlier books, yet this one relied on too many co-incidences, too many unmotivated changes of heart, and too easy resolutions to the conflict. 

          Have a Big Idea   

 Sometimes, with the pressure to produce a new work in less than your comfortable timeline, an author may jump at the first idea that presents itself. If it’s a small idea it may work for a short story, but won’t be enough to carry a whole novel. Even if you are a pantser, try to jot down a few turning points to be sure your idea will carry a whole book.

         Do You Have a Passion for this Book?                   

 That first book, was likely a story that had been brewing in your imagination for some time. You just had to write it. You were in love with the characters. The setting was a place you knew well, whether real or fictional. You couldn’t wait to spend time in that place with those people.If you are now writing on command from reader or publisher expectations, you may be creating a less interesting place with one dimensional characters. Even if you are under pressure, make sure the story you tell is one you love.

          The Editor on Your Shoulder

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could “un-know” much of what we’ve learned as we wrote those first words? In blissful ignorance, we plunged right in and let the characters tell the story any way they wished. We didn’t worry about head-hopping, or point-of-view, or beats, or three-act structure. Now, all of those writing crafts are important. Learning them and using them in your own process will improve the quality of your book in second and third drafts. But all that stuff can clutter up your brain in the rough draft. Replace that nagging editor with a bluebird of happiness — one who chirps “great line”, “too funny,” “I’m crying.” That’s the voice you want to listen to when getting the story onto the page. When you’re ready to edit and revise, set the bluebird free and let the nagging editor do her job. Just don’t let her try to edit the blank page.

Remember the Rules of the Craft

After years of writing and a bunch of manuscripts, it’s possible to go on automatic pilot. That may have been what disappointed me in the book I just read. First rule, we need conflict and it has to matter.

In this book, the conflicts were real and important, yet they were easily resolved with a single conversation, or even a character just having a change of heart for no particular reason.

Character development. In this example, the characters had a sameness to them although they came from very different backgrounds. There wasn’t enough difference in their speech or in their inner dialogue to make them stand out. And they were all “nice.” We all want nice people in our real lives, but in fiction they are bland and boring. 

Go Deep on POV.  It seemed to me that this author had given us an outline of her story rather than the finished product. She set up intriguing situations but only scratched the surface of the characters and the  conflicts. Even the setting was given a mere glance. Rationing, food shortages, enemy bombers, black marketers . . . these are all riveting elements for a novel, yet I was never really afraid, or hungry. Mostly I was disappointed. An author that I know can write a gripping tale, had short-changed me on this one. I don’t know why. I just know I’ll think twice before putting down money for another of her books.

And that is the real lesson for authors in this experience. It is a truism that you are only as good as your last book. Don’t kill your career by putting out something that is less than your best.

 

Hits: 33

6 Sources of External Conflict

I went to an all-candidates meeting in my municipality last week. We have 13 candidates vying for 6 council positions, plus 3 candidates for mayor.  I always vote and I want my vote to be as informed as possible. The meeting was jam-packed and it became clear early on that housing density vs green space was a hot button issue. It made me think of a workshop I went to years ago where the presenter suggested we create the “village” and let the conflict flow from there. It seemed an odd idea to me, but by the time her presentation was finished, I saw the merit in starting with the place.

I tend to start my stories with an idea of the characters and then wrestle with the conflict. The old saw, “she’s a pyromaniac and he’s a firefighter” was my starting point.  Using the “village” idea, and my recent encounter with grass roots politics, it’s easy to see how real life events can create conflict.  So much of public life comes down to “us” vs “them.” Here are some examples.

  1. Owners vs renters. In a story this could create conflict between a landlord and a tenant. 
  2. Preservationist vs developers. This trope is so prevalent in romance fiction it is almost cliché. Still, in the hands of a skilled writer this universal concept can be made fresh. 
  3. Rural vs urban.  My community is currently rated rural/rural residential, but there is enormous pressure to urbanize.  This friction brings in the question of farming vs housing.  Generally, everyone is in favour of farmers, but most people want to save money on the grocery bill.  So, do we really support farmers? Which brings us to the next conflict . . .
  4. Environmental protection vs commercial interests. When does a neighbourhood coffee shop become the villain? Does one commercial activity inevitably lead to more and is that good or bad? In a story, the owner of a heritage home operates an Airbnb in order to save the heritage home. She opens a cafe in the original dining room.  Can’t you see the conflict growing out of that scenario? Which side of the equation is she on? Who opposes her? Why?
  5. Young vs old. YA authors often use the generation gap in a family as a source of conflict but it can also be an issue in the larger community. At the meeting I attended there were distinct hints of resentment from younger families wanting to buy houses against older folks who already owned them. Is the older homeowner being greedy or is he just living in the family home his parents built years ago?
  6. Taxes vs Services. This division was very evident in the meeting I attended. Everyone wants lower taxes and many want more services. You can’t have both. What is the trade off? Do you pay for expertise or rely on volunteers?

These are only a few ideas that tickled my brain as a result of the all candidates meeting. A good story won’t rely entirely on external conflict. The author will build in internal conflict and emotional challenges as well. Still, the external, the “village” may be a good place to start the story.

Oh yeah, if there are elections happening in your area, vote! The ballot is the greatest tool in a democracy. Make it count.

Hits: 81

5 Reasons Your Book Should Sing

Over the summer I reread  Georgette Heyer’s Sylvester.  I have all her romances on my keeper shelf, but I’d forgotten this one, so it was like reading it for the first time. What a treat! When I finished it,  I picked up New Girl in Little Cove by Damhnait Monaghan. This book is set in modern day Newfoundland. I felt as though I’d switched the soundtrack from Mozart to Great Big Sea.

That got me to thinking about the music I might associate with my own books. For the Prospect Series, Gord Lightfoot’s Canadian Railroad Trilogy was an obvious choice. It combines the excitement of opening up a new land with the hardships that come with the adventure. The fact the song has three parts plays well into my storylines as well.

I’m currently working on a short read with an older couple. I don’t have a particular song in mind, but I’m thinking of a community dance. I went to many of those in my younger years. The music ranged from waltzes to square dances to The Twist — the music wasn’t the most important thing–it was who chose you for a partner! And yes, in those days the boys did the choosing and the girls did the hoping. With that image of the town Odd Fellows Hall and the homegrown band in my ears, I can stay in the story world more easily.

I tried out my idea on my author friend in Australia and learned that she had specific songs in mind when writing her books too. “Yes my books do have theme songs… although not always logical. Evil in Emerald was ‘Cat Like Tread’ from Pirates of Penzance, The Postmistress was ‘Peter Hollens Shenandoah’ and The Gold Miner’s Sister was ‘Shallow’ from the latest Star is Born movie. The oddest was probably ‘Arms’ by Christina Perri which was the theme for Gather the Bones.

So, why have a soundtrack for your story?

  1. Tone  The soundtrack playing in your mind will keep the tone of your writing consistent. The English language is rich and varied. Authors have many choices for the “right” word. A song can help make those choices better. Is your book a stately gavotte or a rollicking sea shanty?
  2. Mood  Even though stories move through light and dark times, a book can be strengthened if there is a consistent mood. War stories carry that hint of danger even when we aren’t on the battlefield. Children’s books are full of wonder, regardless of the actual scene. When the reader puts down the book, what do you want her mood to be?
  3. Setting  I am an author who views setting as a “character” in a story.  The mountains in my Prospect books, for example, played a role in the heroines’ reflective scenes. Those towering peaks gave strength and courage to Lottie and Emma and Louisa.
  4. Inspiration  “What happens next?” is a constant question before a writer.  The lyrics or the music of your soundtrack can provide some ideas. Country and western songs are legendary for telling a complete story from joy to heartbreak in only a few lines.  Tammy Wynette’s   Stand by your man, give him two arms to cling to
    And something warm to come to/When nights are cold and lonely.–might provide the nudge to take your story down a different path.
  5. Fun  Sitting at a keyboard or holding a pen over a lined notepad, can get lonely and dreary.  We all start this journey because we want to tell a story, we love words, we want to send our ideas into the world. That’s the part that makes us want to write. But the process from idea to finished work can be a slog. The soundtrack playing in our heads can remind us to have fun. Maybe we could all “Whistle While You Work.”

What about you? As a reader do you hear music in a book? As a writer do you consciously choose a soundtrack to accompany your story?

Hits: 109

7 Wonders


doing homeworkA schoolgirl, when asked to name the seven wonders of the world, skipped the pyramids and the Taj Mahal and came up with this list.  The seven wonders of the world are:
1. to see
2. to hear
3. to touch
4. to taste
5. to feel
                                                                  6. to laugh
                                                                   7. and to love.

The child may have failed her social studies exam but she nailed it for fiction writers. 

These days much of the author world is is focused on marketing,  Do ads work? Do we know an influencer? Can we find a niche? What’s the ROI on a publicity campaign? Should I buy space on a highway billboard?

With all these business questions hovering about our writing, we sometimes forget about craft. But craft is paramount. Without it, marketing is selling an empty promise.  

So, let’s take a little time today to think about the art of writing as opposed to the science of selling. 

One of the first “rules” a newbie author encounters is “use the five senses” — the first five wonders in our schoolgirl’s list. I notice she left off smell and that’s a really important one. Scent conjures up emotions and memories faster than any of the other senses.

But the senses alone aren’t enough for fiction. 

I’m reading a travel book just now . Here’s a description of town of St. Ives. “From the station we walk a jagged route along beach and cobble streets into town. A maypole dance is taking place just off the foreshore,  . . . Children skip and weave ribbons in a twisting rainbow.”

This passage uses the sense of sight but it misses out on feeling, laughing and loving. While colourful exposition is fine for a travel book, it is too shallow for good fiction.

By contrast, consider “The peaceful sea sighed as it lapped gently onto the white sand. . .” A.M. Stuart, Evil in Emerald. 

In the St. Ives example, we are observers only. We see the children skip, we see the jagged route, but we are indifferent. The second example adds feeling to the senses. Sighed and lapped are evocative words that draw the reader into the mood of the story. We expect romance — or mayhem, but we are no longer mere observers. We are participants.

**

“The Marsh stretched before them, smiling and lush in the September sunshine, yet with a suggestion of eery loneliness, about it. . .  ” Georgette Heyer, The Unknown Ajax. Even though Heyer is known for her light touch and sense of the ridiculous, this example shows her skill at conjuring a dark mood, in the midst of sunshine. 

**

“Intense wind picks up – fifty miles-per-hour gusting to sixty. Tide’s out, fishing boats and dories askew in the bay.” Here the travel book tells me the author is experiencing rough weather. But, although he may feel the wind, the reader doesn’t. We merely observe.

“My house stands at the edge of the earth. Together, the house and I have held strong against the churning tides of Fundy. Two sisters, stubborn in our bones.”  Ami McKay, the birthhouse. Ms McKay gives only a minimal description, “churning tides,” but the reader is drawn into the battle to survive on the edge of a heaving ocean. 

**

“A man sitting in a chair in the sun, reading a paper, and three children kicking a ball about. A dog jumping around the children and barking. The scene before her was so ordinary after what she had just  been though that she almost laughed in disbelief. ” Tracy Chevalier, A Single Thread

Can you identify with the terror of the heroine in this example? We see and hear a pleasant scene, yet the last line draws us into the emotion of the moment. This is more than a travelogue.

**

“She watched as [they] strolled across the village green. At first she thought they were going to the bistro for a nightcap, but then they veered to the right. To the light of Clara’s cottage.

And Reine -Marie heard them knock on her door. A soft, soft, insistent knocking. . .” Louise Penny, The Long Way Home.

Note how the word choice entices the reader into the drama. “veered” instead of “turned”, knocking that is “soft” yet “insistent.” There should be a great distance between the reader and the story at this point. We are watchers observing a watcher, and yet we sense the danger/intrigue/menace/heartache of the unfolding events.

**

“A glaring sun bore down on the small mining town . . . bleaching the colour from the landscape and sapping the strength of its citizens.” Alice Valdal, The Man for Her.  In this opening sentence I’ve set an ominous mood with oppressive heat and listless citizens. The reader not only observes the street, she feels sweat under her collar.

**

“[The dog’s] head would rise like a periscope and he would slide over the edge of his basket and work his way into the bedroom, keeping low to the ground, as if he were hunting. He would stop a foot short of the bed and cock an ear and listen . . . his nose only six inches away.” Stuart McLean, “Arthur”

Laughter, the sixth wonder. No reader can be disengaged from a story that makes her laugh. Shakespeare knew this. Even in his most heart-rending tragedies, he included scenes of comic relief. An audience, or a reader, needs release from tension. Put a little laughter in your story. Your readers will thank you for it.

**

“In her dreams Evelyn would always return to a pristine white beach where the sand felt soft between her toes and Henry’s hand was warm in her.” Joanna Nell, The Last Voyage of Mrs. Henry Parker.  Here we have the seventh and greatest wonder of them all, love.

**

In science class we are taught that the five senses are sight, smell, hearing, touch and taste. As writer’s we should include the school girl’s wonders, feeling, laughter and love.

Hits: 46

Our Little Libraries

I took a mini holiday last week and visited Coombs, a tiny village about a three hour drive from my home. While wandering the boutiques I saw this jumble of books through an open doorway. There were at least three more doors, all with teetering piles of used books. If anyone thought paper books were dead, think again. 

Since my own public library has removed most of its books and replaced them with computers and dvd’s my browsing ability has been hampered. So I have become a regular at used book stores and  “little libraries.” Those little neighbourhood “bring one/take one” stands have filled a need, not just for me, but for many. On lower Vancouver Island we have over 600 of them, which have received over 67,000 books. That’s just counting the “professional” supplier. No one knows how many volumes are off the shelf before they are counted. I heard that a copy of How to Knit and Felt with your Cat’s Fur was swooped up seven minutes after it landed in a little library.

The little libraries reflect the communities they inhabit. Fourteen of our 600+ include a seed drawer. Victoria is a city of gardens after all. Jigsaw puzzles and art supplies are also exchanged. 

used books galore in Coombs

In other words, the little libraries are meeting the needs of the community in a way the public library never did or could.

There are five of these delights within a one mile radius from my house so when I want something to read, it’s an easy walk. I’ve brought home all sorts of books — romance, history, travel, lifestyle, adventure, mystery — if I don’t like them, I can put them back and take something else. The freedom encourages me to take chances.

One of my latest picks turned out to be a gem.  I almost didn’t take it home. The title is Republic of Dirt and it looked as though someone had dropped it in the dirt. Still, the mule on the cover intrigued me.

The story has four narrators, each in the first person. Again I had doubts,  but the narrators turned out to be so engaging and so individual I couldn’t stop turning the pages. Not only that, the book had me laughing out loud. 

As a writer I can never leave off the editor’s hat when I’m reading, so much as I enjoyed this story, I also took a lesson from the author on creating unique voices for different characters. As a bonus, the story is set on Vancouver Island.

I so enjoyed this treasure from a little library, that I checked out the author and found she is a critically acclaimed writer, winner of the Leacock Medal for Humour for the book I’m reading. Her other works have been on best seller lists, and book of the year lists. A young adult series is being turned into a TV show. Since the book I read is the second in a series, I’ll recommend the first one to my book club for next year’s reading list.

So, three cheers for our little libraries who have kept books out of the landfill and put them into the hands of readers instead.

If you are lucky enough to have a little library in your neighbourhood, go check it out — you may find hidden treasure.

Hits: 57

6 Takeaways from Mark Lefebvre

On the weekend my writers group, VIRA, sponsored a workshop with Mark Lefebvre. 

I admit, the main impetus for me to attend this workshop was to re-connect with my writing tribe. I’ve missed the in-person contact for the past two years. Thanks to our terrific leaders and Mark’s obliging nature, the workshop was made available on Zoom for those who chose not to attend in person. One thing about COVID, it forced us Luddites to learn a lot of technology!

Once Mark started to talk, I quickly realized I was in for information overwhelm. To say Mark is an industry insider is an understatement. He knows the publishing world as a writer, a book-seller, a professional speaker. He has been at the forefront of digital publishing and book selling. He has served as the President of the Canadian Booksellers Association, been on the Board of Directors for BookNet Canada, helped to create Sheridan College’s degree program in creative writing. He has worked for Kobo, where he created the Kobo Writing Life self-publishing platform. He currently consults with Draft2Digital for eBook and print distribution. With such a wide-ranging resumé and a surname that is difficult to spell, he mostly defaults to the title “The Book Nerd.”

We had four hours of non-stop teaching. It will take me a while to digest the wealth of information, but here are some of the immediate standouts for me.

  1. Optimize your author brand by being consistent, professional and courteous. As public figures, authors must remember that we are watched and judged all the time.                        
  2. Keep your ideal reader in mind as you craft your book. He showed us something called a Venn diagram to help determine who that ideal reader is.  The diagram is useful, but thinking of your readership as one person, like your Aunt Sally, is a good way to keep the writing on tract. If you are just telling a tale to Aunt Sally, you are less likely to go wandering down dead-ends.                                                                                                                                            
  3. Universal book links are necessary on the world wide web. Who wants to limit their customers to just one platform? But who wants to clutter up their book page with a dozen links either? Draft2Digital has a tool that allows you to make one link that will work on any platform. It’s under the Books2Read page.                                                                             
  4. Writer Beware is a website where authors can check out the too-good-to-be-true offers of companies that want to “help” you self-publish your books. There are legitimate companies that do this, but there are myriad scam artists who prey on hopeful writers. Beware!                                                                                                                                            
  5. Be kind. With so many avenues to publication, authors have more opportunity than ever to get their work in front of readers. Unfortunately, getting noticed is very, very difficult. Being compassionate makes you a  better person. It helps you build relationships, and those relationships will help to advance your career,  be that with booksellers, book buyers, other authors, or strangers in the street.                                                        
  6. As much as you are kind to others, be kind to yourself. Writers are constantly faced with rejection. Don’t let an editor’s “no thanks” letter defeat you. If you have written a novel, or a poem, or a song, or a blog post, or even left a comment, you are a writer. Be proud of that. Millions of people have said, “I should write a book.” You, who have written a book, have accomplished what millions have not. Wear your title of “writer” with pride.

There was much, much more from the workshop but I’m still processing! I told you it was information overwhelm. I’m glad I went. i saw old friends. I met someone new. I learned a lot about the book industry. I got material for this blog. Pretty good return for a rainy Saturday.

Hits: 137

Evil in Emerald

 

EVIL IN EMERALD, is the third of Harriet Gordon’s adventures and is available now in print, Ebook and audio.

Harriet Gordon turns her talents to musical theatre, joining the cast of the Singapore Amateur Dramatic and Musical Society’s latest production – Pirates of Penzance. However tensions run deep within the company and when the leading man is found murdered, Harriet and Curran are drawn into a complex web of lies and deceit.

I’ve just finished reading this latest Harriet Gordon Mystery by A.M. Stuart. When I told my friend, the author, I intended to feature it on this blog, she kindly sent along the following;

 

Hi Alice

Thank you so much for inviting me back to your blog to talk about my Harriet Gordon Mystery series.

Today I thought I would share with you what it is I love about reading and writing historical mysteries.

A good mystery novel – or TV series – is my catnip. It began as a teenager, I devoured Agatha Christie and I think her writing more than anything sowed the seed of my love of a good mystery. Like romances, which promise the reader a happy ever after, genre mysteries are premised on the expectation that good will triumph over evil.

After writing a number of romantic historicals (as Alison Stuart), I found mystery elements were creeping into the stories and felt the time had come to turn my hand to writing my own mystery … maybe combining all the things I loved about writing my romantic historicals with a mystery to solve. Drawing on my life in Singapore, the Harriet Gordon Mysteries came into being…

What is it I find so fascinating about this genre?

  1. I love creating a puzzle for the readers to solve with a twist in the tail. I often don’t know ‘who done it’ until I get to the end of the first draft!
  2. There’s something about the Edwardian era – those golden days before World War One when the sun never set on the British Empire (while also acknowledging the dark side to that past).
  3. There is also a huge challenge in solving crimes without the benefit of modern science. In 1910 the height of forensic scientific advancement was the use of fingerprinting and photographs. Those were the days when the investigator’s main investigative tool was his or her own common sense and curiosity.
  4. And finally I have loved creating a series with characters I know almost as well as my own family. I am more than a little in love with Curran and Harriet is my best friend and I look forward to meeting them in each new book as they slowly reveal their own character arcs.

I really do have the best of both worlds… historicals with the potential of romance, action, adventure and of course an intriguing (I hope) mystery to solve! —Alison

Me again — As a veteran of amateur productions of Gilbert and Sullivan I had a great time reading all the backstage chatter in this book.  The character of a leading lady who is too old for the role is almost endemic among amateur theatre groups, and I’ve often heard mutterings among chorus members that sounded like murder.

I also luxuriated in the highly regulated Edwardian Society of the time. Even in Singapore, proper English dress codes must be observed — never mind the heat and humidity! 

If you haven’t already read the two previous novels in this series, here’s a bargain for you. The second Harriet Gordon Mystery, REVENGE IN RUBIES, is currently on sale for US$1.99… these price reductions come around very rarely so grab it while you can! 

To find out more about Alison visit her websites www.alisonstuart.com or www.amstuartbooks.com

 

Hits: 83

« Older posts

© 2023 Alice Valdal

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑