Thursday, May 31, 2018

Unusual Character Names~~Shake Your Family Tree by Ann Everett

What's in a name? Read on and let Ann's post entertain you. Then leave a comment and maybe you'll score a book. Please welcome our guest, Ann Everett.

Nobody works harder at coming up with unusual names than famous people.  Other than celebrities, who names their kids, Heiress, Audio, Rocket, and Honeyblossom? Weird, right? And—unforgettable.

As authors, we, too, strive to have memorable characters. Not just their personalities, but also monikers. Who can forget Ebenezer, Sherlock, Katniss, and Scout? Granted, those are from super-famous books, but still, we want the names we choose to stand-out—just in case our story hits the big-time.

There are tons of name generator sites. All you have to do is type in (your genre) name generator and Google will show you the way. Need the most popular boy or girl names for a particular year? There are plenty of those on the internet. I have a writer friend who uses dog and cat sites to find bizarre names. I suppose Fleur, Caramel, Magness, and Ammo will work for humans as well as pets.

However, a bit of family research may be all you need to find the perfect name. In my 2011 debut novel, Laid Out and Candle Lit, Saint, Pattiecake, Sugarpie, Synola, and Tizzy are just a few of the characters gracing the pages. One reviewer commented how stupid those names sounded. Guess what? They are all real family members!! Yes, Saint was in my family long before Kim and Kanye came up with it.

Other than checking my heritage, I have two favorite places for reference. Obituaries and cemeteries! Call me morbid, but those sources have a treasure trove of uncommon names. Here are just a few I have in my notebook: (men) Jap, Clete, Early, Tarlton, and Oochie. (Women) Aslin, Nelia, Kelby, Meade, and Swinn.

In my current WIP, Swan and True, take center stage. They aren’t family members, but women I know. They are much, much older than my characters, but their names are timeless. 

Chirp by Ann Everett
A woman hiding from her future…..
Heiress to the largest steel company in America, twenty-year-old, socially awkward Blaze Bledsoe hides out at Dessie Bishop’s farm. For the last three years, Blaze has eluded one investigator after another, but just when she thinks she’s safe, a PI closes in. Her luck is about to run out in more ways than one.
A man running from his past….
Rance Keller, a tough, hard-living ex-con, fresh out of prison for a crime he didn’t commit, arrives to claim the house his grandmother left him. Finding a strange girl living there, his plans for a solitary life take a turn. Her lack of modesty, no filter, and word of the day fetish baffles him, but those big green eyes and sweet mouth have him losing sleep.
Welcome to Bluebird, Texas
Where two damaged people with secrets, discover trust can lead to passion.

Blaze reached room three and referred to the next list: Blue eye shadow. Black mascara. Mauve lip gloss. Enhance beauty mark at corner of mouth.
Only thirty-nine years old, Ginny Elliott had met her demise when her biker boyfriend failed to negotiate a turn. Thank goodness she’d worn a helmet. Camouflaging a mangled face presented a challenge. Being tossed ten feet into the air before landing on the hard pavement had proved too much for the rest of her bones.
Ginny was dressed in a leather jacket and low-cut tank, her voluptuous breasts swelling over the top. Nothing like formaldehyde to pump up a woman’s upper thorax. Blaze tugged at her own T-shirt, conscious of the small boobs she’d been blessed with. Removing the pencil from behind her ear, she scratched out part of the note and made changes.
Proper shading and contouring made women appear pounds lighter and years younger. Once Blaze had finished, Ginny looked like a Harley Harlot. Blaze always regretted the client couldn’t witness the magic. She jotted another message, tucked it into Motorcycle Momma’s pocket, and zipped it. “When you get to heaven, give this to Larkin Montgomery. You’ll recognize her because we look alike.” With only a few pictures for comparison, she wasn’t sure about that. The older she got, the less she remembered about her mother.
With her supplies back in place, Blaze peeked into the hallway. The coast appeared clear. No Cameron waiting to walk her out. Maybe she’d finally been rude enough for him to get the message.
Outside, a sharp February breeze cut at her face, but spring hid right around the corner. Almost time to break up the garden spot. Even though she liked living alone, she missed Dessie. The sweet woman had left the place to her only grandson, but Blaze would never meet him.
Since he was serving a fifteen-year prison sentence. She’d be long gone by the time he showed up. 

Rance stepped outside and followed the aroma of bacon to Bubba’s Diner. Just what he needed after going heels to Jesus all night. He removed his last cigarette and tossed the package into the blue trash barrel at the corner of the building. Really should give up the bad habit, and he would. Later.
It occurred to him, last night’s tag-team event with the BFFs, had fulfilled his goal—fifty-two women in fifty-two weeks. No more pressure. With an early start and few stops, he could make it to Bluebird in one day. Grab a quick breakfast. Crank up the Harley. Hit the road. Couldn’t wait to see the place again. Enjoy the seclusion and relax in his grandmother’s old claw-foot tub. That’s what he loved about the little country town.
Everything remained the same. Never any surprises.

 ****I will be happy to gift a digital copy of “Chirp” to TWO lucky readers who leave a comment.

Are character names important? If so, how do you choose them?

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Muses & Writing by Diane Burton

Apollo and the Muses on Mt. Helicon by Claude Lorrain

Back in March, I wrote a post on Paranormal Romantics about The Muses. Here’s a little backstory about them. In Greek mythology, Zeus created The Muses to celebrate the victory over the Titans and to forget the evils of the world. Zeus was a prolific father. According to myth, he laid with the goddess of memory nine times to create the nine Muses, goddesses of literature, sciences, and the arts. Two of them are directly related to literature—Melpomene (tragedy) and Thalia (comedy). Although I claim Thalia as my muse because I’d rather write humor than tragedy, But, I can’t ignore Melpomene. A good book must contain both. Tension and danger need the comic relief.

In the past, I’ve groaned and complained about my Muse having gone on vacation or that she deserted me. Then, I read this quote from J.K. Rowling:

"The Muse works for you. You don’t write at her beck and call—you train her to show up when you’re writing.”

I find that an interesting perspective. It’s easier to blame the Muse than myself when I'm stuck. Yesterday, Mac Crowne wrote about Writer’s Block. I identified with her feelings back in February when I had a lot of trouble with Numbers Never Lie. At that time, I blamed my Muse for deserting me. Now, I have to wonder.

Have I trained my Muse to show up? I think it’s much like training a puppy. I wasn’t very good at that. Inconsistent at first. Then, I learned to be more vigilant . . . and consistent. I guess that means I need to be consistent with expecting my Muse to show up each time I sit down to write.

However we write, whatever we think of Muses, our job is to get the story out of our heads and onto the screen (or paper). Some of us need inspiration. Reading favorite books, as Mac is going to do (and as I do), reminds us of excellence in writing. 

If I want my Muse to show up when I do, I guess I’d better train her better.

Here’s the blurb for Numbers Never Lie:

A shocking secret brings danger to Jack Sinclair and his sister Maggie. 

As kids, they were the fearless threesome. As adults, Jack's an accountant; Drew, a lawyer; Maggie, a teacher and camping troop leader. Returning from a weekend camping trip, Maggie receives horrifying news. She refuses to believe her brother’s fatal car crash was an accident. If the police won’t investigate, she’ll do it herself. Convincing Drew Campbell to help is her only recourse.

Drew Campbell was too busy to return his best friend’s phone call. Too busy to attend a camping meeting important to his teen daughter. Too busy to stay in touch with Jack. Logic and reason indicate Jack’s accident was just that—an accident caused by fatigue and fog. Prodded by guilt, he’ll help Maggie even if he thinks she’s wrong.

A break-in at Jack’s condo convinces Maggie she’s right. Then her home is searched. What did Jack leave behind?

Diane Burton combines her love of mystery, adventure, science fiction, and romance into writing romantic fiction. She blogs here on the 16th and 30th of each month. She shares snippets from her stories every weekend on her blog.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Beating #Writer’sBlock with a Good #Book by Mackenzie Crowne

Writer’s Block. Gah! Just typing the phrase makes my skin crawl — a reaction I’m sure makes perfect sense to those for whom writing is compulsory. It is for me and finding myself frozen in front of the keyboard without a clue as to why the words won’t come is a nasty, horrible, utterly frustrating state of affairs. Unfortunately, I’m not a novice when it comes to the phenomenon, having found myself staring at a blank screen a number of times over the years. Yet, knowing I’ll eventually make it through to the other side is of little help while I’m waiting. I want to write. I NEED to write and none of the countless tricks I’ve used in the past to overcome this painful lack of creativity seem to be working.

So, I’ve decided to go back to the beginning. Back to those stories that first touched my heart and lured me into the world of romance when I was little more than a girl. Back to those paperbacks that claim a permanent place on my re-read shelf. Here’s the plan: For the next seven days, I will be spending my free time with some of my all-time favorite characters — old friends I’ve neglected for far too long. I plan to immerse myself in sweeping adventures that came from the creative and talented minds of none other than Linda Howard, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Johanna Lindsey, Nora Roberts and Elizabeth Lowell to name a few. I’m talking classic romance, written in the 70s and 80s before I’d ever heard of such things as plot development, linear vs non-linear, character arcs, head-hops and dialog tags.

With a little luck, these old friends will remind me of why I started writing romance in the first place, and if not, who cares? Re-reading a favorite romance used to be one of my most enjoyable ways to pass an afternoon. It’s time I got back to that bygone pleasure. I’ll let you know how the plan works out, but in the meantime, what about you? Do you ever re-read or do those new adventures waiting to be experienced claim your heart?

When Mac isn’t bashing her head against the keyboard and cursing the dreaded writer’s block, she spends her time providing happily-ever-afters for her sassy characters like Rylee Pierce, heroine of

Monday, May 28, 2018

#Romance and Adventure in the Southwest, plus a #recipe by @Kris_Bock

Prepare to be hungry and enjoy a great guest post while you're at it! Welcome to ROP, Kris.

I live in New Mexico, and the Southwest inspires my work, as I bring suspense with a hearty dose of romance to the land I love. My Southwest Treasure Hunters series involves wilderness hiking and horseback riding (The Mad Monk’s Treasure), visiting fabulous geological and historic sites (The Dead Man’s Treasure) and rock climbing and caving (The Skeleton Canyon Treasure). In my books, readers get a glimpse of the adventurous side of the Southwest – you won't even need hiking boots!

For another easy way to get a taste of the Southwest, here's a recipe for grilled cheese with a Southwestern twist. The refried bean layer makes the sandwich extra creamy, without needing as much cheese. The green chile (and yes, it's chile not chili in New Mexico) gives it a nice zing. You can adjust it to your heat level by choosing an appropriate heat level of chile.

New Mexico Grilled Cheese
2 pieces of bread per person
About 1/4 cup refried beans per person
1 whole, roasted green chile per person, or chopped green chile to taste. If you can’t get green chiles, try poblanos, chopped jalapenos, or salsa. (Drain any extra liquid off the salsa)
1 piece of pre-sliced cheddar or Jack cheese per person, or more depending on the size of your bread

  1. Butter one side of each piece of bread, or spray with spray oil. Place half of the bread on a griddle buttered side down.
  2. Spread refried beans on that piece of bread. Lay a whole, roasted green chile on top, or spread with chopped green chile. Cover with sliced cheddar cheese.
  3. Top with the other piece of bread, buttered side up. Fry at low heat. Cover with a pot lid to help ensure that the refried beans get heated all the way through.
  4. When the bottom side is getting toasty brown, flip over the sandwich and heat the other side uncovered.

For more tastes of the Southwest, check out my novels!

The Mad Monk’s Treasure - The lost Victorio Peak treasure is the stuff of legends – a heretic Spanish priest’s gold mine, made richer by the spoils of bandits and an Apache raider. When Erin, a quiet history professor, uncovers a clue that may pinpoint the lost treasure cave, she prepares for adventure. But when a hit and run driver nearly kills her, she realizes she’s not the only one after the treasure. And is Drew, the handsome helicopter pilot who found her bleeding in a ditch, really a hero, or one of the enemy?

Erin isn’t sure she can trust Drew with her heart, but she’ll need his help to track down the treasure. She heads into the New Mexico wilderness with her brainy best friend Camie and a feisty orange cat. The wilderness holds its own dangers, from wild animals to sudden storms. Plus, the sinister men hunting Erin are determined to follow her all the way to the treasure, no matter where the twisted trail leads. Erin won’t give up an important historical find without a fight, but is she ready to risk her life – and her heart?

“The story has it all - action, romance, danger, intrigue, lost treasure, not to mention a sizzling relationship....”

“Great balance of history, romance, and adventure. Smart romance with an "Indiana Jones" feel. Well-written with an attention to detail that allowed me to picture exactly in my head how a scene looked and played out.”

Each of the Southwest Treasure Hunters books stands alone in this series mixing action and adventure with light romance. The Dead Man’s Treasure is book 2 in the New Mexico treasure hunters series. See the “Books” page of my website for a printable list of recipes for Southwestern dishes mentioned in the book.

Excerpt from chapter 1 of The Mad Monk's Treasure:

   Erin could hardly believe what she was seeing. Could this be it? After all this time waiting, searching, had she finally, finally, found what she was looking for?

   She forced herself to sit back and take a deep breath. Don’t make assumptions. Don’t rush into things. She wanted to leap up and scream her excitement, but years of academic training held. Slow down, double-check everything, and make sure you are right!

   She leaned forward and ran her fingers over the grainy photograph. With that one image, everything seemed to fall into place. This was the clue. It had to be.

   She fumbled in her desk drawer for a magnifying glass and studied the symbols in the photo more closely. At a glance, they looked like your standard Indian petroglyphs. You could find them throughout the Southwest, tucked away in caves or scattered among boulder fields. She’d been on a hike just a few miles outside of town which took her past a wonderful series of handprints and spirals, and what looked strangely like a robot.

   But this was different.

   If she was right—and she had to be right—these symbols were a map. A map that could lead her to one of the greatest caches of buried treasure ever.

Counterfeits takes place near Jemez Springs, a small town in the mountains of northwestern New Mexico, known for its hot springs. I’ve attended many writing retreats at a camp north of the town, and those experiences inspired Counterfeits. Of course, in the book, the site isn’t quite so relaxing. When Jenny inherits a children’s art camp, she discovers that her grandmother’s death might not have been an accident after all. The men who killed her grandmother are searching for stolen paintings, and they think Jenny and her old friend Rob, the camp cook, are involved. Doing research at a real camp tucked away in the woods, and hiking above Battleship Rock for a scene where Jenny gets lost, helped the setting feel realistic.

In my romantic suspense Whispers in the Dark, my heroine is an archaeology Masters student working at the fictional “Lost Valley” monument, which is closely based on Hovenweep National Monument. Located on the southern border between Colorado and Utah, these ruins once housed 2500 people between A.D. 1200 and 1300. It’s one of many sites left behind by the ancestral Puebloans, also known as the Anasazi. It’s a smaller site than some, but that’s part of its charm. You can hike and camp without crowds. The lonely location allows for an almost Gothic atmosphere – mysterious lights in the canyon, spooky moaning sounds, and plenty of people hiding secrets.

About the Author

Kris Bock writes novels of suspense and romance involving outdoor adventures and Southwestern landscapes. Read excerpts at or visit her Amazon page. Sign up for Kris Bock newsletter for announcements of new books, sales, and more.

Author Social Media

Sunday, May 27, 2018

If Writing Is An Art by Betsy Ashton

then editing is a craft. For me, writing the initial draft of any work brings me a freedom to put anything, and I do mean anything, down on paper. I love getting out of my characters' way and let them have free rein. That first draft may be full of purple prose, misnamed characters, characters whose physical features change from sentence to sentence. I don't worry.

Once I've finished the first draft, I sit back and think about the characters first. What do they look like? How do they speak? What do they carry in their pockets or purses? I make a list of all these things, so that when I begin crafting a story, I have a reference point. Notice I do this AFTER I've written the first draft. Nothing can restrain the initial gush of story.

I then return to each chapter. Is it necessary? Does it move the story along? Does it have or need conflict? What happens in it? If I can't see the chapter moving the story forward, I cut it out of the longer manuscript and copy it into a file called [Working Book Title] Parking Lot. I may need it again. I may not, but at least it's not lost.

That done, the fun begins. I mean it. Editing is fun, painful at times, but fun, because that's when I shape the story. Think of a potter at her wheel. She slaps a blob of wet clay in the center and begins spinning the wheel. Gradually, through a deft touch and no small amount of luck, she shapes the clay into a vase or bowl or whatever the clay wants to become. Words are like clay. Story is like the wheel. My hands are merely a means to revealing a story, much like the hands of the potter pulling a shape from the blob.

Editing is plain hard work. Early drafts are, for me, broad brush strokes to see where the story falls apart. It will, because it hasn't been finessed at all. Secondary drafts are where I look at every word in every sentence. Is it the right word to convey what I want? Is it a cliche that has to die a rapid death by Delete key? Is it trite, original, fresh, stale? Sometimes, it takes several drafts before I can set a chapter aside. After a few weeks, after I've finished all the other chapters, I sit back and reread from page one to "the end."

Oh what was I thinking? What drivel? No one will ever want to read this. It sucks. Oh, wait, what? That chapter is really pretty good. So is the next one. I think about what makes each chapter sing. I try to replicate it.

And then I ask my loyal beta readers to dive in. Usually, this leads to more revelations about what needs to be fixed. Some are such good readers they can suggest what they expected to read. After a few more edits, I'm finally ready. I put the book out into the world. I cross my fingers in hopes people like it. I read reviews, even the one-star reviews. I engage with readers on social media or old school by phone, in person, or email. Each interaction, each engagement, helps me become a better writer.

I'm in the midst of the secondary draft stage of a book called Out of the Desert, a novel in stories. So far, one chapter of fourteen sings on key. The others are still slightly off key. More work to be done. Bye for now.


My Mad Max series is on sale throughout May. Ebooks are $.99 each. Please try one--or three. I think you'll enjoy them.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

The tedious side of #amwriting

I wrote "The End" to my latest manuscript a week or two ago. I finished "a month early", according to my internal deadline.

Now I'm on the tedious part of writing -- editing. I'm not ready to do a content read-through yet. I need to wait until the story is at least somewhat out of my head. But I did do my Abused Word Search. You know the ones, the overused words that get tossed in when you do that first draft.

I have about 100 words that I search for, one at a time, throughout all 109,500 words of the manuscript. Along the way I rewrite, search my thesaurus, and re-read bits and pieces to see what can be changed. It's mind-blowingly tedious.

Along with that, I'm setting up a new wiki to keep track of details in my book. I was able to migrate all the pages from my old wiki (which is folding in September). Now I have to go through and set up a new wiki, which means learning a new scripting language, new programming parameters, and ... well, figure I'm setting up a new website from scratch.

Yes, June will be one fun month of programming and editing. Sigh. But you know what -- it's also useful, because I have a story idea percolating in the back of my mind and this tedious stuff lets me play with ideas while I'm doing mind-numbing things. So I guess it's win after all ... if I can just get through it without my head exploding ...


Friday, May 25, 2018

Friday Person in a Monday World by C.B. Clark

It's guest day, and we're happy to have C.B. Clark!

She was a Friday person in a Monday world. That’s how people described my mother. She always smiled, was always happy, always fascinated by other people. I was with her one time when she stopped a harried mother of three rambunctious toddlers on the sidewalk and told the woman that the color of her blouse brought out the blue in her eyes. When the woman realized mom was sincere, a smile broke over her face, and she walked away with a strut in her step, her day a bit brighter.

Mom always asked how you were doing, and she cared, really cared. Due to complications from severe osteoporosis and life-long diabetes, she was in constant pain, but you’d never know. She forced a smile and went out and talked to people and made them feel better. Her philosophy was that no one really wanted to hear about your aches and pains, so put on a happy face and get on with your life.

Years of attending functions with dignitaries for my father’s work honed her social skills and she was an excellent schmoozer. She met Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip, Prince Charles, a variety of Hollywood celebrities, and even Colonel Sanders from KFC, when they visited our small town in the North, and she’d have them feeling comfortable in minutes.

Mom was my biggest supporter with my writing career. She was always eager to share news of my latest book release with anyone she met. I’ll miss her, that’s a given, but I’ll take her lessons to heart and try and follow her lead. With luck and practice, I too will become a Friday gal in a Monday world. Love you, Mom.

Book Blurb:
After five years of hell with an abusive husband, Natasha Hartford vows never to trust another man. Then she stumbles onto a murder scene and meets sexy, stubborn Homicide Detective Chase Brandon, a take-no-prisoners tough guy who’ll settle for nothing less than the truth. Sparks fly, but Chase’s suspicions and Natasha’s innate distrust block the way to happiness.

The detective struggles with his own troubled past and is determined to find the truth behind the shadows dimming Natasha's eyes. As more murders occur and a possible connection to her ex-husband appears, Chase fears her life is in danger.

Natasha and Chase race to find the killer before he strikes again. Their survival depends on their willingness to overcome their mistrust of one another. Will they overcome their fears and find love again? 

The thick carpet muted the tapping of her high heels as she fled through the reception area and down the hall to the elevators. In spite of her cowardly retreat, she wanted to shout in triumph. She’d been terrified of angering the surly detective, but she’d dragged up her courage and told him what she thought. Blood buzzed through her veins, fueled by the adrenaline rush. Damn. It was good to have her old fire back.

She glanced down a short corridor on her left and stumbled to a stop. How had she missed the ropes of yellow police tape blocking the entry to one of the rooms? Her breath hitched in her throat. That must be where the grisly crime had occurred.

The shocking truth struck her like a blow—Jonas Waverley was dead. Murdered in cold blood. She staggered and grabbed onto the wall.

“Ms. Hartford, wait.”

She glanced back.

Detective Brandon strode along the corridor toward her, his long legs eating up the distance, a determined expression on his face.

Her earlier spurt of courage vanished, and she whirled and dashed toward the bank of elevators. Chest heaving, heart pounding, she hit the button for the elevator, jabbing it again and again.

“Look, I’m sorry,” he said, catching up. “I was hard on you, but I’m just doing my job. A man was murdered.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “I have to examine every possible lead, question every person of interest.” 

She shuddered and stabbed the down button again. Person of interest? Her? She was a person of interest in a murder investigation?
“Can we go somewhere and talk?”

She shot him a look, making it clear what she thought of his suggestion.

He lifted one shoulder. “Maybe we could grab a coffee? I have a few more questions I’d like to ask.”

The elevator pinged, and the doors opened with a hiss, revealing a middle-aged man and an elderly woman who stared at them with vague interest.

Natasha stumbled toward the elevator.

Detective Brandon grabbed her arm, holding her back. “Ms. Hartford, wait.”

Warmth from his large tanned hand seeped through the thin material of her raincoat and raised goose bumps on her arm. “Let me go.” Her voice was shrill with rising hysteria. She tugged, but he held on, his grip tightening.

Buy Links:
The Wild Rose Press:

Connect with C.B. Clark here:

Thursday, May 24, 2018

#Beach, #Babes, and #Dogs by Brenda Whiteside

Daddy then
After spending four days in Seal Beach, California, I wonder why I haven't set one of my books in a beach setting. We lived in Santa Barbara when FDW went to Brooks Institute of Photography so it isn't that I don't know the beach. If I didn't already have five books percolating in my head that will be set in a western, reborn ghost town, I would. I'm sure something is going to pop into my writer's brain, and I'll have to tuck it away for the future.

Daddy now
Spending time on the California coast always brings back memories. Our son was a toddler and hard to keep out of the water. Now it's a granddaughter who has her father's love of the ocean.

Xena and Gabby 
Our dog, Shadow, a black lab loved the water as much as our son. Grown up son has two dogs that thoroughly enjoyed the dog beach.

When we walked by this bright blue VW Bus, I was taken back to the purple one we owned. We traveled up the coast for over a month in the bus
with plush purple carpet, velvet curtains, and a dashboard I painted with flowers and the words "this is the first day of the rest of our lives."

Remember when

Yeah, I'm going to have to revisit a seaside story. Just thinking about it, I smell the salty air and hear the crash of the waves.

Until then:
The fifth book in my Love and Murder Series, set in central and northern Arizona will release worldwide on June 18. The Deep Well of Love and Murder is a romantic suspense you'll enjoy. See all of my books here on my AMAZON PAGE.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

A #workinprogress revisited by Margo Hoornstra

On The Make is Book 3 in my latest series, Brothers In Blue. Four heroes who met at the police academy and became life long friends. The dropout, the straight arrow, the movie star and the maverick. All share a passion to serve and protect, each in their own unique way.
A while back on these pages, February 11 to be exact, I shared the first five paragraphs of On The Make, along with a plea for help in getting the words right. At that time, I had essentially five paragraphs of introspection and very little dialogue. Since the story opens at a funeral,  and deals with my heroine’s reaction to being there with her two sons, many of my ROP buds thought maybe I needed to lighten the prose up a bit.
Now back from the drawing board, this is what I’ve come up with.

“Let us pray.”
Madison Clark dutifully lowered her head, along with scores of others in the huge, impersonal auditorium. In her case, more for show than reverence. Who held a funeral at a place like this? The Greater Metro Conference and Convention Center. Then again, nothing about her marriage to Joe, short as it was, could be construed as normal. Why should anything change now that he was gone?
“Dear Lord, we commit Joseph Eugene Edward Ralls, this once earthly soul, to your able and compassionate care.”
Dear Lord. Please don’t let him run into Dave.
Despite the solemn nature of the occasion, she couldn’t hold off invading memories of a previous life changing event. Hard to believe three short years earlier she’d buried one husband, the love of her life and soulmate, with her young sons, and his, on either side of her.
“Almighty God, we ask that you grant those of us left behind the guidance to understand and the patience to accept your decision.”
The minister’s voice invaded her thoughts. Keeping her head down, she shifted her hips more snuggled in the plush stadium style chair and sat straighter. A mere thirty six months later, front and center in the jam-packed amphitheater, she prepared to bury spouse number two.
Back when their father died, Dak, the sensitive one, sobbed so loudly during a solo of Amazing Grace, he drowned out the lyrics. At eight, he was old enough to understand and process the chaos of event since his father’s unexpected, and lethal, leukemia diagnosis. While not able to make sense of it at all. Cameron, two years older, and already stoic and long suffering like his dad, hadn’t moved a muscle during the entire service.
Much as he was now.
“In your name we pray. Amen.”
“Amen.” Madison murmured the response along with so many others in the room.
As all their heads came up as a single unit, her thoughts remained on her two boys.
Now older and more mature, each exhibited no more emotion than simple boredom as the accolades went on and on for their mother’s late husband.

Okay now. Be honest. I can take it. Does this work or no? The story does lighten up from there. I promise.
My days to blog here are the 11 and 23. For more about me and the stories I write, please visit my WEBSITE

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Character is king (...or queen) by Leah St. James #amwriting

The Plot Master (TPM) and I watched The Martian the other night. I had never read the book by Andy Weir, but the story of the self-published novelist rising to mega success, followed by a mega hit movie, always inspired me, and it's been on my "watch" list since it came out.

For whatever reason, TPM wasn’t all that keen on watching, but I talked him into it. Within the first few minutes as we followed the adventures of the Mars explorers, I was hooked, exclaiming things like, “This is fascinating!” Meanwhile TPM was watching half-heartedly and playing solitaire on his tablet.

When the crisis stranded poor Mark Watney (Matt Damon) on this uninhabitable piece of rock, his crewmates thinking him dead, I was curled up on the couch in a fetal position, biting my fingernails, and TPM had started to take interest.

According to the movie’s website, the film lasts 143 minutes, although I was completely unaware of the passage of time. In fact, I only paused the video once for a break...which is significant since I’m a serial pause-for-breaker. Somewhere in there TPM put down his tablet, and when the final credits rolled, he said, “That was excellent.” High praise from TPM. Even more striking, for once he had no comments on what he would have done differently, plot-wise, no suggestions for improvement.

It got me thinking about plot vs. character and which drives a story. (It also convinced me to put the book on my reading list!)

As a reader, I generally tend toward the character end of the see-saw. I read to find out what’s going on with the characters and their relationships, and how they react to the action around them. To me the pickles they get themselves into are sort of secondary, or interchangeable. Substitute car chase for martial arts butt-kicking—that type of thing. Or in a romance novel, substitute discovery of the hero’s past mistake for discovery of something he did two days ago. So for me, the story isn't so much about what the characters do as how those plot turns affect them.

But with The Martian, I was completely absorbed in the plot, while almost ignoring the character. Not that Mark Watney wasn't likeable, just that the situation was so compelling he was almost secondary.

But then I thought about it a bit more.

Certainly any of the astronauts on the mission would have done what they could to save themselves. Probably, since they are all scientists of one form or another, each would have approached the situation methodically, forming a hypothesis for each problem, then testing the theories. At least in the beginning. But how many would have persevered through the seeming insurmountable challenges, right up to the final moments, as Watney did? (I’m trying to NOT give away the ending for any who haven’t seen the movie or read the book.)

Finally I decided it was that component of his character (calm, steadfast perseverance in the face a situation that would have reduced most of us to a wailing pile of self-pity) that drove the plot, and ultimately the story. So for me, it’s a character story after all.

Then I got to thinking about all my favorite books and movies and tried to figure if it was plot or character, and again, I chose character.

Gone with the Wind, for example: Aside from this Yankee's curiosity of the setting in the ante-Bellum South, it was the characters and their relationship that intrigued me more than the story of war.

Or Kristen Hannah’s The Nightingale:  Two sisters in German-occupied Paris (WWII) and how they deal with the horrors of war. While the situation and setting are compelling (emotional and heartbreaking), how the sisters react is what tells the story.

What about romance?
Since the ending of a romance novel is, to a great extent, predetermined by the genre, romance writers have to be pretty clever and skilled to create suspense, either plot-wise or relationship-wise, to keep readers turning the pages. But again, that’s why I read: To find out how the characters react to those plot twists and how they achieve their HEA/HFN ending.

What do you think? Plot or character—which drives the story for you?


Leah writes stories of mystery and romance, good and evil and the power of love. Learn more at her website, or visit her on Facebook.