Friday, November 16, 2018

Being Thankful by Diane Burton



This time of year, you’ll see many posts on being thankful. I hope you’ll indulge me with one more. I am so blessed with my family. Hubs and I were married on Thanksgiving Day. He says that’s how he’ll never forget our anniversary. 😊 After forty-six years, we’ve had many events—big and small—to be thankful for. We’ve had good times and difficult ones. Our relationship grew stronger during the difficult times. We don’t always see eye-to-eye on issues. Most of the time, we cancel each other’s vote. We enjoy different TV shows and movies. I love reading fiction. He doesn’t. However, he will read my books. His usual response: not bad or pretty good. Glowing praise from him. Together, we raised two children. Because of the demands of his job, he missed much of the children’s early years. He’s making up for that with our youngest grandchildren.



I’m so proud of our children. Despite the “normal” teenage conflicts, when I despaired that we’d ever have a good relationship, they’ve become loving, responsible adults with families of their own. I admire their parenting skills. Most of all, I’m thankful they found loving spouses who support them in so many ways.

There’s a saying “If I knew grandchildren were so much fun, I would’ve had them first.” I can say, with all certainty, that’s true. During a stressful time, we visited our daughter’s family in Indianapolis when our first grandchild was a baby. Rocking a sleeping baby brought so much peace and relaxation. My stress went away as I cuddled her. With each grandchild (five now), I’ve felt the same. Time disappeared. I had nowhere else to be. No chores to do. Just holding and rocking a baby was enough. I wish I’d known that when my babies were that small. I’m so thankful for the second chance.

While I’m thankful for living in a land of freedom, I fear for our future. In our efforts to protect our country, will our liberties be lost? Will Emma Lazarus’ poem on the Statue of Liberty (“…give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me…”) be a lie? I’m thankful my ancestors found refuge here.


As I give thanks, I must add the fabulous authors I’ve found here on this blog. We went from strangers to friends as we shared our lives, our sadness and triumphs. I’m grateful for the support they’ve given me, the attagirls and the commiserations. While the deadlines for twice monthly posts always seem to catch me unawares, I wouldn’t have missed this experience. These ladies made me stretch my creativity with the annual holiday stories. Prior to my first time, I hadn’t written a short story since high school (back in the Dark Ages). Talk about fear and trepidation! That was in 2013. Now, I look forward to writing a short story that begins with the same first line as the others. More than that, I look forward to reading the others’ stories. Despite the same prompt, we all have such different stories. I hope you enjoy them, too. My story will be up on December 8 – 10.

With this being my last post, I want to say how thankful I am for all of our readers. Enjoy the holidays.





Thursday, November 15, 2018

An Exercise in Cover Design by Alison Henderson

You've all been such a valuable and cherished source of support for me over the years, it seems only fitting that I should be asking for your help once again in my final regular post for the Roses of Prose. I may have mentioned I've started re-working a story I began a few years ago after finishing Unwritten Rules. It's going well, so I decided to start working on concepts for the cover design. I'm aiming for a June 2019 publication date, but having a cover I love always inspires me to keep going when the writing bogs down, as it inevitably does. Also, I like to live with the design for a few months and keep tinkering with it until I've got it just right.

To that end, I've come up with five preliminary cover concepts, and I'd love your gut reactions to them. The story is a romantic suspense (not sure how those elements will balance out yet) set in Big Sur and Carmel. There's a murder, money-laundering Russians, and a couple of humorous, meth-dealing bikers. It may turn out to be darker than my last series but not bite-your-nails-and-hide-in-the-closet dark. In addition, my heroine is a kinetic sculptor who has come home to escape an abusive relationship and find her true self through her art, so there will be personal growth, transformation and hope. Not much of a tall order, is it? lol

At this point, I want the cover to convey a strong sense of place and the impression that something interesting is going to happen here. I want something that will make readers click on the cover to learn more.

Three of the mock-ups include images of the Bixby Bridge, and two are of the Big Sur coastline. The bridge images convey more of a sense of mystery or suspense, and the crashing waves tie in more with the title and the heroine's wind sculpture. I'll decide which way to go once I have more of the book written and have a better feel for the final tone. For that reason, it would be really helpful if you treated this like a Chinese restaurant menu and chose one from column A and one from column B. But please, if you hate them all, please say so! 
#1
#2
#3
#4
#5

Thanks so much for your help!

Alison


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

A Selection of Poems by Christine DePetrillo

I often write poems when I'm experiencing writer's block. I'd like to share some with you today. Enjoy!



Here are two serious, nature-inspired ones:

LEAVES

Summer green
         fades,
autumn red
         flares,
to orange
yellow,
brown,
blankets the
         ground
awaiting the
         arctic veil
of
snow.
Fading sun
graying sky
frosty crispness
quiet hush

leafless trees
dark twigs
wait like soldiers
                  for the icy assault

flakes fall
frozen bullets
covering all in
         white
                  folds
                           of

                                  snow.


****


REFLECTION

Silent soldiers
standing tall in the ranks
needled arms raised
against the ambushing
sun

Autumn marches in
spraying its yellow, orange, brown
ammunition on the
vulnerable

Only the strong emerge
unscathed
true green
evergreen

Quiet river
remembers the battle
reflecting the victory
of the
pines


****
And here are two silly, food-inspired ones:

OH, THAT CRANBERRY SAUCE!

Wiggly
jiggly
red
sloppy
floppy
round

Sliding
off my
plate
headed
for  the
ground

Slipping
through
my fingers
landing
in a
mound

Grandma
steps
right in it
and it
doesn’t make
a sound

Sticky
icky
blob
three days later
when it’s
found.


****

SQUASHED

It’s orange.
It’s bumpy.
Mom’s is
Always lumpy.
It’s squash.

Serve it cold
Or serve it warm.
Either way
It’s got no form.
It’s squash.

Eat it now.
Don’t delay.
Best to get it
Out of the way.
It’s squash.

Take a drink.
Wash it down.
I’ll try my best
To hide my frown.
It’s squash.

Time for dessert.
Oh me, oh my
Cut me a slice
Of that apple pie.


Oh no…
it’s SQUASH!


Be sure to check here after Thanksgiving and into December for The Roses of Prose Annual Holiday stories! Free holiday cheer! Also, join the Facebook reader group I co-host with author Amanda Torrey at Small Town Hearts. We have a blast over there and we want you to be a part of it all!

Toodles,
Chris
www.christinedepetrillo.weebly.com

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

NaNo once again!

I'm participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in a very half-assed way. I'm making progress on my book and I probably will finish it this month, but that's not unusual for me --I write every day, come hell or high water, except when emergencies interrupt (like my sister in the hospital for 5 days -- that sidetracked me while I stayed with her).

I like NaNo. It's a chance to put aside distractions and focus on what I want to do and it's "sanctioned". Other folks are doing it, too, so it's not like I'm being selfish by doing what I love to do. Of course, I do that all the time, but for one month I'm simpatico with other writers who are also nose-to-grindstone, writing away. I love hearing stories of progress that others are making and how they manage their writing schedules. We're all so different but we all love what we do -- and that's what is so fun about it.

Here's to all those busy writers out there, glaring at their computer screens, hands poised over the keyboard. May inspiration strike and the words flow!

J L
jayellwilson.com


Monday, November 12, 2018

Coming Soon--"Beary Sassy" by Vonnie Davis

Lucky me, I've been friended by a small group of paranormal authors who self-publish. Someone creates a storyline, sets up pages on facebook so we can keep in touch, and offers services like cover creation, formatting, and beta reads.

Our current project is "That Old Black Magic: Heart's Desired Mates" series. It is set in a Shifter Community of Stillwater, CA in the Sierra Nevadas. Eight books will comprise the series. Each author retains her rights with royalties paid directly to the author. We promote and support each other.

Each story revolves around a couple who fight their attraction to each other. Although they secretly watch the other, few overt attempts are made to connect. Oh, there are run-ins and arguments, awkward words, and stolen kisses. What finally brings them together is a Raven-shifter's chanting an old heart's desired mate spell. Something goes awry -- isn't that always the case? -- and the entire town is thrown into an orgy. Couples who've secretly desired each other unite for a night of passion. Some wake up the next morning aghast at what they've done.

My contribution involves a Scottish bear-shifter sent to Stillwater after she's been targeted by a drug gang. A man she's dated hid drugs in her home. When she finds them, she turns the cache over to the authorities. She's shot, poisoned, and marked for more attempts on her life. The head of her bear sleuth sends her to America -- a new take on witness protection.

Police detective in the magical community is Mateo Savage. This panther-shifter is attracted and yet put-off by the Scottish bundle of sass.


Keep watching. My new book will be available soon! It's in the formatting stages now. it'll be out in eBook and paperback formats. www.vonniedavis.com


Sunday, November 11, 2018

It's That Time Again To Thank Those Heroes Among Us by Margo Hoornstra


Yep, November 11th has arrived again. Those of you who read this blog regularly know that, on this date every year, I pause to reflect on those who have sacrificed and continue to sacrifice so much to allow the rest of us to be free. And protect us when we are.



Please join me in thanking those who serve both in the military abroad and our law enforcement community here at home.



I am proud to be the wife, daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece, cousin and mother of these remarkable heroes among us.


And I have to tell you. It never gets old in honoring them for their service. So please join me in a moment of silent reflection...and appreciation.

Thank you.

I'll be back here again on the 23rd. Until then, if you're so inclined, please visit my WEBSITE

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Day of the Dead in SMA by Rolynn Anderson

In a couple days I fly home after five weeks in San Miguel de Allende. You know me…this place will appear in a book eventually. The Day of the Dead (actually a Week of the Dead), was the high point. I was especially interested in the ‘shrine’ concept. Every store, restaurant, hotel, and family develops a shrine to those who have died. Heavy use of marigolds, the ubiquitous skeleton, pictures of the dead, and foods enjoyed by the dead. Yes, even a plate of chicken enchiladas, loaves of bread, seeds, favorite cups, and plates.  Unbelievably detailed. The Mexicans also decorate their cemeteries with bright flowers and seeds. So here are some pictures to illustrate how Mexicans celebrate Day of the Dead: 
In a cemetery:
In a street near a church:


 In a cemetery:

In a store (all made with seeds!)

My takeaway…I wish Americans had a ‘memory’ day.  I think we’d benefit from the ritual.  What do you think?

Speaking of memories.  In June of 2013, I introduced myself to you; 33,000 words later, I’m saying goodbye. But since I don’t do farewells easily, I’ll concentrate on the ways we’ll continue to interact.  I still want to tell you about my pre-order experience…I’m dying to ask you what you think of a book I have in mind.  I’ve had some success with AMS, but all my campaigns have stalled lately.  We definitely need to keep in touch and help each other with this crazy career!

As for my pre-order,  click here to get the bargain dollar off before Dec. 4!

Facebook page:
Twitter:
Goodreads:
Amazon

Friday, November 9, 2018

Crazy Even Before Drilling My Head by Brenda Whiteside

I've been crazy busy while not feeling well so I decided to recycle this post when I woke later than normal today and realized I hadn't written anything new for today. My apologies to anyone who might have already read a post very similar to this one on my personal blog, Discover....

What a great time I had a couple of weeks ago in Chino Valley, Arizona. The Chamber of Commerce sponsored the 50th anniversary of Yavapai College with a day long event. This is rural Arizona so there were hayrides, a truck and tractor show, pumpkin patch, corn maze, beer garden, food, dog costume contest, and vendors. I was part of that last group.

A fellow author, John J. Rust, joined me in offering our books. I signed and sold a bunch. This event was held far from town, and I
was doubtful about the attendance, but I was wrong. Lots of people and lots of readers. It was a great time.

This month is NaNoWriMo. Translation: National November Writing Month. An author can get into this seriously, or not so much like I do. If you take part in the national group, you have check in and set goals. I belong to a group called Pretendo NaNo. We set our own goals, cheer each other on, and don't judge when we fall short. I've been doing okay. The first book in my new series is taking shape. Helping our son move cut into my writing time, but family always comes first.

Another day down the drain as far as writing was yesterday. I had oral surgery. I'm having the tooth I knocked out in June replaced with a permanent one. Yesterday, they inserted the screw that the permanent tooth will be attached to. Nothing like having your head drilled. No fun. Still recovering this morning. (And still recovering two days later. I just don't recover like I used to from anything.)

I do have a book on sale right now. Southwest of Love and Murder is the second book in the series. It's on sale at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks, and The Wild Rose Press. $.99 doesn't happen often. Here is the Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00QQPMIMQ/ref=series_rw_dp_sw

I'm enjoying the cooler, darker mornings here in Arizona. This is my favorite season. What's yours?

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Goodbye and Farewell by Andrea Downing

      For some reason the song “So-long, farewell, etc. etc” from The Sound of Music is going through my head—probably because this is my last post here at The Roses of Prose.
      Good-byes are always difficult, no matter what the situation.  I was in London last week for a wedding, which was happily followed by seven days of nonstop visiting with old friends from when I lived there. After the final dinner with one, I burst into tears because we happen to be at that age where ‘ya never know.’ But let me not get too morbid.  Here on the Roses’ blog, we’ve had some pretty good times, many laughs, shared a lot of important information, and hopefully made friends for the future. As Thanksgiving approaches, I find I have a lot to be thankful for.
And the best good-byes are brief so I won’t linger.  It’s been highly enjoyable for me and I’ve appreciated all the support over the months, and reading everyone’s thoughts, both in their own posts and in comments. So, farewell everyone!
Oh, but it wouldn’t be an author’s post without one more thing.  I know my fellow Roses will be entertaining you with their Christmas stories throughout December, but let me also mention my latest before I go, available at https://www.amazon.com/Christmas-Cowboy-Keep-Contemporary-Collection-ebook/dp/B07JF6LYWD/   Curl up with some great Christmas reading:


The weather is cold, the atmosphere is festive, and the cowboys are hot. How do you keep a cowboy at Christmas?

Don’t miss this holiday collection of modern-day cowboys and the women they love, featuring USA Today, Amazon Bestselling, and Award-Winning authors.

CHRISTMAS, LIBERTY, AND THE THREE MINUTE MAN by Carra Copelin
Nashville event planner Liberty Ann Hart has come to Mistletoe, Texas, to set up and promote a Christmas fundraiser for country music star Lilah Canfield. She tries not to fall for the local carpenter building the outdoor stage, but his cowboy charisma is hard to ignore.
Daniel Dylan Layman is happy to live his life in obscurity in Mistletoe, until a sassy, headstrong woman removes her shoe and beats an ATM machine for eating her debit card. From that moment, he’s determined to show her a Texas country life away from the glitz and glamour of Nashville.


A CHRISTMAS CAROLE by Andrea Downing
When single mom Carrie Matheson inherits a Wyoming ranch and moves out of NYC, her six-year-old son is not happy. Trying to help Tim settle into life out west isn’t easy, especially when his pleas to Santa receive replies from a mysterious correspondent. Is it the crotchety ranch foreman upon whom she relies so much? Somehow, she doesn’t think so….
Tate Schrugge is amused by his new neighbor when she jogs over with some mis-delivered mail. But Tate has just finished with a long-term relationship, and the lithe blonde in front of him has just called him Scrooge.
If these two can get together, it might be the Dickens of a romance.

THE PEPPERMINT TREE by Kristy McCaffrey
Skye Mallory had always aspired to leave her family’s ranch, and she took pride in having achieved her dream of becoming a lawyer. But when an unexpected inheritance draws her home for the Christmas holidays, she’s surprised by a longing to set down roots in the wide-open meadows and woodlands of southwestern Colorado. Only one thing stands in her way—a cowboy who broke her heart nine years ago. 
In high school, Joe Carrigan had admired Skye for her spirit and her intellect, but he had known she was destined for a life beyond ranching. Turning down her romantic overture had been the best course of action for them both. But now, he’s returned to the community he left years ago, and it’s inevitable that he’ll come face-to-face with his one regret in life—Skye Mallory. This time, however, he wouldn’t be so chivalrous.

THE DEVIL’S CHRISTMAS KISS by Devon McKay
Kristen Kelly is returning home with a new attitude. No longer the shy, awkward girl of her past, she’s determined to show the small town what she’s made of. Especially Cole Lawson. When she’s challenged by Cole at a holiday kissing booth, she finds the wicked cowboy hasn’t changed a bit. He’s still the most frustrating, infuriating, and tempting man she has ever come across.
The minute he sees Kristen again, Cole Lawson can’t believe his eyes. She’s the one girl he’s never forgotten but convincing her they belong together will take more than a Christmas kiss. Kristen doesn’t trust him but, this time, he’s determined to not let her go.

SLAY BELLS by Hildie McQueen
Big-city girl Carmen Dias is prepared for the worst when she accepts a writing assignment in rural Montana, but she’s pleasantly surprised by the jubilant atmosphere and warm welcome of the townspeople. Unfortunately, as she begins working on an article about their small-town Christmas festival, she discovers a dead body, putting her face-to-face with a local—and hunky—detective.
Weary from his all-work and no-play schedule, Detective Jared Bowden braces for a busy season helping at his family’s Christmas festival. When a beautiful writer arrives in town, his holidays immediately take a turn for the better. But a murder investigation, possible charges against him, and a pesky ex-girlfriend don’t exactly spell romance.
Can Carmen and Jared find love amidst the mayhem and sleigh bells?

THE BEST CHRISTMAS by Hebby Roman
Sofia Rossi travels to Texas to re-connect with her estranged teenage son, Aaron, who’s at a ranch rehab-center. An immigrant from Argentina, she has managed to thrive in the tough New York world of modeling. And she’s a survivor of an ill-advised liaison with a wealthy, married member of New York society. When her ex-lover manipulates their son into living with him, Aaron gets into trouble. Sofia will reclaim her son at any cost.
Gar McCulloch, after losing his wife to her high school sweetheart and his daughter to a drug overdose, believes his life is over. He dedicates himself to turning a dude ranch into a juvenile drug rehab-center. Selfless and with twenty years of juvenile counseling experience, Gar is a wizard at reforming other people’s kids, but he can’t forgive himself for his one failure… his daughter.
As two emotionally-damaged people come together to save Sofia’s son, neither feel they’re entitled to romance or happiness. Their mutual attraction and admiration come as a surprise and an unexpected joy, making this their best Christmas… ever.

COUNTING DOWN TO CHRISTMAS by Patti Sherry-Crews
Melody Evans grew up as the only child of a single mother, never putting down roots. Instead, they carried family traditions from home to home, none more precious than those surrounding Christmas. Romance? Melody has put a wall around her wounded heart and turned a cynical eye to the concept of happily ever after, despite making a living as a wedding planner.
Veterinarian Leland Jennings IV has roots long and deep at his family’s ranch in South Dakota. What he lacks, according to his meddlesome sister, is someone to settle down with. But he continues to hold out, nurturing an unwavering belief that there is only one woman out there for him. Christmas? It’s a holiday for children, not a bachelor living alone.
Once Melody and Leland get over their initial animosity, they come together like two pieces of a puzzle, sparking emotions and nostalgic memories that bring magic to the holiday season. But when tragedy strikes, will the budding romance become a case of the right person at the wrong time, or will they forge a new path together?




Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Weird Words with Friends by Leah St. James

A few months ago, Jannine wrote about playing Sudoku and how it wasn’t until she tackled it from a standpoint of logic that she was able to play and enjoy. It also helped her organize her thoughts for her marketing plan!

I also am a voracious Sudoku player (sans the marketing plan, of course.... Plus there’s only so far my brain will follow the “logic” path!).

I like playing Sudoku because it’s low tech. You need the puzzle (book or newspaper), a  pencil or pen, and some light. (And your brain.) I’ve always avoided online games because I didn’t want to get caught up in yet another “thing” that keeps me attached to a screen.

But that all changed during my vacation to North Carolina back in September. My vacation buddy (my oldest, closest friend for more than a couple decades), was playing Words with Friends (FB’s version of Scrabble) and said, “You should try it. I think you’ll really enjoy it!”


(Edit for correction:  I'm told the game IS Scrabble...that's how much I don't know about online games. But I still like the "weird" play on words! Now back to the matter at hand.)

She knows me well. It has become my latest obsession.

Like Jannine, it took me a bit to understand how to be successful. Basically it boils down to putting the highest point letters in odd/bizarre combinations that no one who is fluent in English would come up with  on his/her own.

I discovered this fact not playing with my friend, but with the computer! (She suggested I try it because there is a “teacher” who can suggest ways you could have improved your score.)

The “teacher” will give you feedback on every word you play.

The best is:  Incredible! I couldn’t do any better!
(It’s amazing how you can feel appreciated by a machine. And, it’s amazing how some of the shortest words can score the highest points!)

The next level down is:  Superb! The best word is only a few points better.
I’m usually happy with that, and sometimes I’ll smack myself on the head when I realize I missed an easy extra couple of points.

At the next level down
Good work. But there is some room for improvement – is where it starts getting ridiculous. I mean, take a look at one of my plays.




My word was JUNTA. I was impressed with myself considering my letters were: J-N-T-A-E-K-E. Plus there was a Q in play and I  had no U!


Here's what "Teacher" came up with:


JAUK??? ... Seriously???
What the $#&@(*! is "JAUK"?

(For the curious among you, it is an intransitive verb of Scottish origin meaning to dally or dawdle. Now you know.)

Anyway, "Teacher" scored 31 points on that word no one ever heard of, while I scored a measly 14 on a perfectly respectable word (JUNTA). And I still prefer mine.

Moving on... when you have really failed, “Teacher” will say:   
OK, I guess. But how about this word?

Uh....no, I had NOT thought of that word actually. In fact, I've never seen, read or heard of that word. Ever. Are you sure it's a word, Teacher? It looks more like a grunt to me! 
 
Half the time when I score big, I’m just picking letters at random and trying them out! I have no idea (1) that they’re words or (2) what they might mean!

But I am having fun. Sometimes I get a chuckle. Like look at this grouping of the tiles I had to play.





I was singing Old McDonald Had a Farm in my head for a whole day. (You’re welcome.)

Some other interesting words you might note:  

ADZ:  I mean, would you ever have known that ‘ADZ’ is a word much less ‘ADZES’? (Adz: a  variant of  the more common "adze"--duh!--which is a cutting tool.) 

CAF: According to Mirriam-Webster, it stands for "Cost and Freight" which is NOT supposed to be an allowable word because abbreviations are not permitted! No fair! 

And how about CHIAO? (I'm too tired to even look.)

I finally printed out a list of words with Q but without a U.


You might see why I’ve decided to rename the game WEIRD WORDS WITH FRIENDS.

If you haven’t yet, give it a try. You’ll exponentially expand your vocabulary of words that no one else would ever know!


--------------------------------------


When not scouring her brain for words with X, J and Q, Leah attempts to write fiction with romance and suspense. Learn more at her website, LeahStJames.com. Occasionally she retweets poetry on Twitter or posts recipes she’ll never actually try on Pinterest. Happy November!

Monday, November 5, 2018

Writing the (Semi) Breakout Novel by Alison Henderson

I haven't been writing, but I have been thinking. A lot. 

I'm preparing to start a new book, the first in a new series, and I've been feeling for a while that I want this series to be different somehow. I just haven't been able to define different. I feel like I need to write something more. By that, I mean something with more depth, more to say. Maybe. The problem is, I still want romance, and I still want mystery. I don't want to switch from genre fiction to literary fiction. 

This urge might have something to do with my general overall mood. When I wrote Unwritten Rules, I was a new empty-nester, work was going great, and I had life by the tail. I could try to be funny. For the past couple of years, humor has eluded me. I really struggled with the final book in my female bodyguard series, and while I love the final result, I know it isn't as funny as the previous two.

In an effort to find the right tone for the new series, I've been re-reading Donald Maass's brilliant book, Writing the Breakout Novel. I'm not trying to "break out" in the way he means--signing with a top agent, scoring a six-figure contract--but I am looking to add depth to my work. Several years ago, I attended one of his day-long workshops based on this book and found it very instructive. He puts into words many of the principles most of us sense about writing but never mange to articulate. The book was published in 2001, so some of the advice is dated, but much of it is still pertinent. I recommend you read it for yourself, but I thought I'd share some of the highlights I hope to incorporate into my next book.

Premise
A breakout premise has plausibility, inherent conflict, originality and gut emotional appeal.

Stakes
High stakes start with high human worth. Honesty, integrity, loyalty, kindness, bravery, respect, trust and love of one's fellow men are all measures of high human worth.
Breakout novels combine high public stakes with high personal stakes. 
To raise personal stakes ask, "How can this matter more?" 
To raise overall stakes ask, "How could things get worse?" 

Characters
Breakout characters are deep and many-sided.
Larger-than-life characters say what we cannot say, do what we cannot do, change in ways that we cannot change.

Plot
Conflict in the breakout novel is meaningful, immediate, large-scale, surprising, not easily resolved and happens to people for whom we feel sympathy.

This all sounds pretty lofty, especially for what may turn out to be another quirky romantic mystery, but it has helped me think about my characters and my story in a new, deeper way. 

Alison
https://www.alisonhenderson.com