Friday, January 28, 2011

Guest Blogging All Day Today, Friday, January 28, 2011!

Vince at Machu Picchu

I’ll Be Guest Blogging at The Writer’s Life by Caroline Clemmons, Today, Friday 28, 2011! All day long!

The Topic is:
The Importance of Building “Marketing Vitamins” into Your Story

Caroline Clemmons writes historical and contemporary genre fiction. Historical romances, contemporary romantic suspense, mysteries, and paranormals are among her current works. Learn more about her at The Writer’s Life by Caroline Clemmons.

Vince & Linda in Peru

Thursday, January 27, 2011

How to Keep Your Scenes From Dying!

The One Test Every Scene Must Pass!

Entire books have been written about what needs to go into a scene. There are dozens of rules. No doubt all this guidance is designed to help writers but it misses a key point. It’s not what goes into the scene that counts! It’s what comes out of the scene that spells success! And the most important thing to come out of any scene is this:

Have you rewarded the reader for reading this scene?

If the reader has not been rewarded, the scene fails no matter how many rules were obeyed. This is why some writers can keep breaking rules, year after year, while at the same time, producing best selling books.

Books sell well when readers are amply rewarded for reading them!

I know! I know! This can be infuriating to the quality writers who know what they are doing and who obey all the rules (and only break them when it makes sense to do so).

This situation reminds me of a music critic I saw on TV. This classically trained composer had this to say: “Yanni is no composer. He just writes music people like to listen to.” The thing is, the guy was being serious and I think we can all understand what he meant.

Obey the rules but always be rewarding the reader!


Look for my Book on “How to Reward Your Way to Writing Success!”


Coming Summer 2011!

It’s Time To Let Smiles Become Invisible Again!

I’ve read all the “lines curving upward” descriptions that I can stand!

I think I’ve read every one of these wiggly variations imaginable! Every time I read these futile attempts to avoid the word ‘smile’ I’m pulled out of the story and reminded that I’m reading a novel.

The word ‘smile’ has much the same status as the word ‘said’ obtains when it is used in ‘he said’ and ‘she said’. Such words can become invisible to the reader. But not when the writer gets fancy and starts writing:

“she answered.”
‘he responded.”
“she chortled.”
“he expressed.”
“she inquired.”
“he stated.”

You get the idea. Let sleeping, invisible, words lie. As a reader, I know what a smile is. What I want to know is the action that goes along with that smile.

For example:

“Mary smiled as behind her back she heard the pencil snap in her moist hands.”

In the above sentence I don’t need to know the angle of the curve of the line that forms Mary’s mouth.

This may seem to be just a small point but it servers to alienate the reader (after reading five or more of these in a row) and it also shows a misapplication of the rule to show and not tell.


Guest Blogging All Day Tomorrow Friday January 28, 2011!

Vince and Wife Linda at Machu Picchu

I’ll Be Guest Blogging at The Writer’s Life by Caroline Clemmons, Friday 28, 2011! All day long!

The Topic is:
The Importance of Building “Marketing Vitamins” into Your Story

Caroline Clemmons writes historical and contemporary genre fiction. Historical romances, contemporary romantic suspense, mysteries, and paranormals are among her current works. Learn more about her at The Writer’s Life by Caroline Clemmons.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Famous Quotation Quiz

Who Wrote these Quotes: Me or Someone Famous?

(1) "No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money."
Samuel Johnson or Vince Mooney

(2) "The best quotations in the world will still only tell you what you already know".
Dag Hammarskjold or Vince Mooney

(3) "A novel only exists while it’s being ‘played’ in a reader’s mind".
Jean-Paul Sartre or Vince Mooney

(4) "The problem with the school of hard knocks is that by the time you graduate, you’re punch drunk."
Grocho Marks or Vince Mooney

(5) "If characters really took on a life of their own, there would be a lot more murdered authors".
Agatha Christie or Vince Mooney

(6) "Writing is easy. You just sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.”
Red Simth or Vince Mooney

(7) "I have no problem getting ideas; it’s getting them to behave that’s the trick!"
Lewis Carroll or Vince Mooney

(8) "I’d rather know what to write than write what I know".
Jacqueline Susann or Vince Mooney

(9) "I write comedy because I like being entertained when I work".
Woody Allen Vince Mooney

(10) "Ideas are like stars: they are all pretty much the same until the writer joins them into constellations".
Jack London or Vince Mooney

(11) "Libraries are where they keep the books no one has time to read".
Ogden Nash or Vince Mooney

(12) “The difference between fiction and life? That's easy. Fiction has to make sense."
Tom Clancy or Vince Mooney

(13) “My characters don’t take on a life of their own. My characters give me a life of my own.”
Mickey Spillane Vince Mooney

(14) "The first six revisions anyone could have written. But the seventh, that's Anatole France.”
Anatole France or Vince Mooney

(15)  "Authors who have nothing to say are usually better at saying it."
Oscar Wilde or Vince Mooney

Monday, January 24, 2011

Guest Blogging All Day Friday January 28, 2011!

I’ll Be Guest Blogging at The Writer’s Life by Caroline Clemmons, Friday 28, 2011! All day long!

The Topic is:
The Importance of Building “Marketing Vitamins” into Your Story

Caroline Clemmons writes historical and contemporary genre fiction. Historical romances, contemporary romantic suspense, mysteries, and paranormals are among her current works. Learn more about her at The Writer’s Life by Caroline Clemmons.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Winner! Best “Showing Character Growth” of the Week!

“Chasing the Sun” & the Use of Physical Description to Show Character Growth!

Editors want to be able to ‘see’ characters grow in a story. I enjoy reading vivid physical descriptions in novels. This is something I feel is a lost art in today’s novels. Authors tell me that today “everyone knows what everything looks like and you don’t need much in description.” I don’t agree. I read Betty Neels and Lucy Gordon largely for the beautiful descriptions.

In the below passage, Kaki Warner, uses landscape description to show character growth. This is a wonderful technique. The hero, Jack Wilkins, is riding home after three years away. Some of those years were spent at sea. The location is in the high mountains in New Mexico.

Chasing the Sun
(15% of the way into the story. Sorry no page numbers on Kindle!)

It was late afternoon when he rode out of the trees and onto the rolling flats that were the heart of the ranch. Twice as long as it was wide, the dished basin stretched for miles from one rising slope to the other. Yet as he rode slowly across it, the valley seemed smaller than he remembered.

Maybe it was because he’d spend so many months at sea, where the horizon hung at the far edge of the world, flat and undisturbed. Unconfining. Here, the mountains brought it closer, creating a looming barrier that reduced vision to a few miles and blotted out almost half the sky. Yet, strangely that old feeling of entrapment wasn’t as strong as it had been when he’d left. Probably because he’d escaped this country once, and he knew if he had to, he could do it again. Smiling, he kicked the horse into a lope. Or maybe he was just homesick and gland to be back.

This is an amazing passage. The character, after three years away, literally ‘sees’ the world differently! And the reader gets to see that world through the character’s eyes. This also adds credibility to the character’s time at sea.

Reading “Chasing the Sun” is like a creative workshop in how to write exceptionally well. I’m only 28% into the book and I’m in awe of the writer’s skill. Read this book!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Will eBooks Change Your Reading Habits?

What does this mean for authors?

Channel Hopping
Comes to eBooks!

I am now actively reading four books on my Kindle. (I’m reading two on my Sony and one print book.)

The Kindle books are: “Chasing the Sun”,The Texan’s Irish Bride,”A Hope Undaunted” and “The Hunger Games”. I have no problem switching between books. I read what I feel most like reading at any given time. I think this is a factor of having all my books instantly available without having to carry them around. It's like having a TV remote ever ready to switch to something different!

Reading Habits Will Change!

This instant availability is changing my reading habits. It also pits the books I’m reading against each other for a share of my mind and time. I now have 344 books on my Kindle of which I have probably bought 50. The others were free books. The free books are good books. They are just sitting there waiting for a share of my time. About ten of these books I have already purchased before they became free. I’m not too sure how to think about these. A few of these books I first bought as print books -- “Code Blue” for example. I am delighted to get them for my Kindle because I can make the type as large as I want. I can also search these books to find passages I want to use in reviews.

The Competition Does Not End After the Sale!

Authors need to consider that their books remain in competition with other books even after they are sold. A reader who does not read your book after buying it or is lured away by another book, may not buy your next book. “Oh, I didn’t even finish her last book”.

This is why ‘rewarding the reader’ on each page is so important. The author has to hold the reader’s interest all they way from the first page to the last page. I actually think it is more important for the middle of the book to be grabbing than it is for the first five pages. (You need the first five pages to win writing contests, I know, but holding the reader's attention is more important in that 'sagging' middle! I can't think of one book that I purchased in the last year that was a result of reading the first five pages! Not one!)

Lesson: get your books read!  It’s not enough that someone bought your book. Keep plugging your backlist. More importantly:  always have a KO, knockout, ending for your books. Because now a reader can buy more of your books within seconds of finishing the book she just read!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Winner: of the “Showing not Telling” Award of the Week!

From “Chasing the Sun” by Kaki Warner:

Set-up: The heroine, Daisy, has just been given a singing job that she desperately needs. It’s 1873 and the location is San Francisco. Can you tell Daisy is exuberant without the author telling you she is exuberant?

“She giggled then laughed out loud, startling a drunk dozing behind a refuse bin outside a garment maker’s shop. 'I’m going to be a star,' she called gaily to him as she hurried by.”

This has added interest because the heroine is on an emotional high while in one of the worse locations in San Francisco. Also it is Daisy who disturbs the drunk which is the opposite of what usually happens: drunks disturb the regular folks. This is how to ‘show’ and not ‘tell’.

“Chasing the Sun” is the final book in the Blood Rose Trilogy and was just released on January 4th.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Winner! Best ‘Physical Proxy’ of the Month!

Physical Proxies Are Ways To Convey Emotion Silently and Without Dialogue.

Sometimes an author does things so well it should be acknowledged! I am introducing a new feature that will highlight great examples of things writers are doing.

The first winner is Audra Harders for having the best ‘physical proxy’ in her new book, “Rocky Mountain Hero”.

In the scene below the hero is helping the heroine clean a fish. He has is arms around her with both leaning over the kitchen sink.

From Page 79, “Rocky Mountain Hero”.

“Ouch”. The muscles in his arm jerked.
“Sorry.” She pulled away. He held on tighter. What a time to daydream. She tried to drop the knife into the sink.
“Let’s try again.” His breath fluffed her hair.
She shook her bangs out of her eyes. Gabe chucked in her ear.
“Relax. I’m only letting you cut me once.”
Imagine! Cutting the hero with a knife to demonstrate that the heroine is flustered by the hero’s nearness! I didn’t even think of anything that far out in my list of 100 Physical Proxies. Wonderful writing!


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Guest Blogging All Day Wednesday January 5, 2011!

Special Notice:

I’ll Be Guest Blogging at Seekerville Tomorrow, Wednesday 5, 2011. All day long!

The Topic is: Author Branding & Author Tags: What’s Best for You?

Plus a Contest!  Participants will have an opportunity to win Seeker releases of their choice.

Visit the Seekers here!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Announcing: “Philosophy of Romance” Book of the Year for 2010:

“Made to Order Family” Is the ‘Perfect Romance’!

“Made to Order Family”
by Ruth Logan Herne
Steeple Hill Love Inspired
September, 2010, 224 pages.

“Made to Order Family” may be the easiest choice I’ll ever have to make for the “Book of the Year” Award. When I wrote my review of this book, I called it ‘the Perfect Romance”. I am still as enthusiastic about the book today as I was when I first read it in August.

The Philosophy of Romance “Book of the Year” is not awarded simply just because I liked the book better than any of the other books I’ve reviewed during the past year. There’s more to it. The winner of our “Book of the Year” award must be demonstrably excellent! In other words, there must be many praiseworthy elements of the book that I can point to as proof of the book's excellence.

“Made to Order Family” is made to order for a detailed philosophical review. There are many interesting details to be found under the hood. There is also a lot to be learned by making a careful study of this book. Of course, this calls for a long review. But then you don’t have to read the review. You can just get a copy of the book and read “Made to Order Family” straight off. This may be best for fans while reading the review may be best for writers. Both fans and writers will find that reading “Made to Oder Family” offers many rewards!

Rewards! Rewards! Rewards!

I know making a claim that any book is a perfect romance needs to be substantiated. This I fully intend to do with examples and explanations.

Rewarding the Reader --
Every Step of the Way!

I should disclose at the outset that I am a little biased. I am writing a book on the romance genre which advances the theory that the best selling romance authors are the ones who reward the reader the most times on average per page. As of now, my research indicates that Nora Roberts is at the top of my ‘rewards-per-page’ index. I mention this research now because when it comes to ‘rewards-per-page’, “Made to Order Family” is off the charts! Reading the book provides one reward after another after another. This makes for a great reading experience with maximum enjoyment.

Many Ways to Reward a Reader

There are many ways for an author to reward a reader for reading her book. The author can ‘surprise’ the reader, ‘delight’ the reader, ‘5-sense’ her copy so the reader really ‘feels’ the story, and she can provide ‘new experiences’ which the reader can ‘vicariously’ enjoy.

The author may also go to ‘new’ places so the reader can see new things she may never get to see otherwise. The author can let the reader ‘feel’ a wide array of emotions, and she can make anticipated events happen sooner than the reader expected.

The author may also let the reader experience the emotional elation of ‘victories’ along the way without having to wait for the HEA at the end of the book. Victories are very important in creating a rewarding reading experience. (Some romance writers will present only problems and conflict until the very end thinking that this will make the HEA even more appreciated. This is bad thinking. It is like serving five bland courses of a six course meal in a fine restaurant so that the last course, baked Alaska, will seem more spectacular. Every course should be special and delicious!)

The author can please the reader with ‘sparkling’ copy and entertain the reader by writing in a way that makes the reader eager to discover what is happening next. This becomes even more rewarding when the reader is anticipating five or six events to happen! There are many more ways to reward a reader but I think you get the idea.

Maintaining The Reader’s Interest!

A major factor in successfully rewarding a reader is by always maintaining the reader’s interest. Many authors do this by constantly raising the stakes and heightening tension.

For example, the bad guys may be trying to kill the heroine and with each chapter the murder attempts come closer to success and the heroine’s escapes come closer to disaster. This approach can be successful but it is one dimensional and wears thin rather quickly. This ‘straight-line’ approach is much better suited for the cinema because big screen special effects can dazzle and entertain viewers.

The ‘straight-line’ approach is weaker in a novel because the reader quickly understands that this is how the story is going to proceed. (Oh, it’s a chase story.) Having the expected happen as expected is not very rewarding without spectacular special effects.

The Multi-Dimensional Approach to Rewarding a Reader

A better way to maintain reader interest is to take a multi-dimensional approach with many different ‘threads’ of interest. “Made to Order Family” is an excellent example of this multi-dimensional approach.

Two Conflicts That Leverage The Tension

In addition to the standard hero/heroine conflict present in all romances, the hero and heroine in “Made to Order Family” are both recovering alcoholics. Each fears falling off the wagon which could happen at any moment. Neither wants to return to the disastrous lives they once lived. This danger elevates all normal life conflicts to life threatening proportions. I consider this to be ‘built-in’ tension that's inherent to the plot and thus not artificial. (As simply adding another ‘escape’ scene to a book would be.)

The reader of “Made to Order Family” is always faced with the very real possibility that the hero or heroine or even both of them may fall off the wagon. To make this situation even more poignant, the author is well experienced with AA and dealing with both active and recovering alcoholics. The realism of the narrative makes the danger of a relapse into oblivion an even greater possibility. (If the characters fear a fall, no matter how strong they may appear to others, then the reader will also fear a fall. I have not seen this ‘fear of a fall’ so well shown in a romance novel before.)

Reverberations of the Serenity Prayer

It might be said that the spirit of the book is mirrored in the “Serenity Prayer”. Parts of the prayer are quoted in the narrative and are apropos to the story action. Seeing the “Serenity Prayer” so skillfully mirrored in the actions of the characters adds substantially to the reading enjoyment and the sense that this is an inspirational book.

Unexpected Victories -- The Kindest of Rewards!

At least in four places in “Made to Order Family” the reader is treated to an unexpected victory. These victories elicit the kind of vicarious ‘good feelings’ that are usually reserved for the HEA. To demonstrate this point I want to give one example below. This is the first example in the book. There are more and they get even better. I promise you’ll love experiencing the other victories but you'll have to discover them for yourself.

Example Setup:

The heroine’s mother is overbearing and highly critical of the heroine. The heroine seems to be reconciled to her mother’s abuse and the reader fully expects the mother’s conduct to occur for the rest of the book. (Perhaps the mother will come around by the HEA.)

Here’s what happens: (Page 61):

“Mom, I totally get that you’re disappointed in me, my life, my children and my existence on the planet, but I think it’s in everyone’s best interests if we move beyond the drama, okay? I haven’t got the time to go there with you anymore. What’s done is done. I’m not moving backward and I wish you’d move beyond it, too.”

Just like that! The abusive mother is dealt with and the heroine grows in stature right in front of the reader’s eyes! The heroine has waited her whole life to face up to her mother and we, the readers, get to be there at this critical moment to share in the event. I wanted to stand and cheer!

While this scene happens early in the story, I felt happier with this experience than I have when reading some HEAs at the end of a book. Better yet, this was just one of four unexpected victories in "Made to Order Family". And yes, when you are experiencing near-HEA moments throughout the book, it’s a great reading experience!

Always Having Something Happening That Holds The Reader Interest!

“Made to Order Family” is a multi-dimensional story with many threads of action woven into the main plot. Each thread carries its own reader anticipation and resolution. I am going to list some of these. I am sure there are more.

THREADS -- Creating Reader Interest

Pal the dog’s story – unique use of Scripture with dog to mirror human behavior. (Resolved.)
Kim’s story. (Resolved.)
Skeeter’s story. (Resolved.)
Paul & Amy story. (Resolved.)
Rita’s Mother’s & Father’s story. (Resolved.)
Brooks’ mother’s & Father’s story. (Resolved.)
Tootsie’s story (Resolved.)
Rita’s story. (Resolved.)
Brooks’s story. (Resolved.)
Baseball game. (Resolved.)
Jeff, the sponsor’s story: (Resolved.)
Wendy, the Farmer’s wife & kids story. (Resolving.)
Homeless story (unresolved.)

“Resolved” means the reader will get a happy feeling of satisfaction. "Unresolved" means the reader will experience a sad feeling.

Writing with Realism & Psychological Insight

“Made to Order Family” is very realistic. Kids aren’t sweet and people’s lives are often painful. In additional the writing shows an understanding of human nature. Here is a quote about what the heroine thinks about the hero.

“Liv respected Brooks. It was obvious in her manner, her attentiveness, her awareness of detail in his presence. Something about him inspired others to reach a little higher, go a little faster, try a little harder, that indiscriminate quality that screamed leadership in calm undertones.”

Prose that Does Several Things At Once

You might wonder how a book that is only 224 pages long can develop so many theme threads along with the main plot. The author is able to do this because of her layering and economy of words. For example, in one short scene the hero goes to the town of Canton to look into buying a building that the heroine could use to start a bakery. The hero meets with the Realtor as quoted below:

“What are you thinking? If you’re free to tell me, that is.”
“I have a friend interested in this site,” Brooks explained. Steve’s interest spiked a grin.
“Rita Slocum?”
“Yes.” Brooks met his gaze. “you know Rita’s interested in this location?”
Steve nodded, then directed Brooks to the back of the store.
“We went over it inch by inch. I tried to fudge a few things, fluff them off, and she nabbed me on every one. Smart girl you’ve got there.”
Brooks grinned, thought of setting Steve straight, then realized too much protest only added fuel to the rumor mill.
“Rita’s got a great head on her shoulders.”
Steve barked out a laugh.
“If that’s all you’ve noticed, Brooks, you’re more than a little hardened. The woman’s beautiful.”
Brooks straightened, chin raised, his shoulders broad and blunt, remembering Steve’s marriage had dissolved nearly two years before. That made him single and in his mid-forties, just a tad older than Brooks.
“I’d noticed.”
“Ah.” Steven nodded, respectful. “I thought as much. It would be hard not to.”
“Right now she’s interested in opening a business.” Brooks wasn’t sure if he was trying to convince Steve or himself.

The above short passage, just 195 words, advances the story in these ways:

1. the Realtor reveals that the heroine is a very smart business person who has already looked into the property. (Hero did not know this.)
2. the Realtor reveals that he thinks of the heroine as the hero’s girl. (Hero had not admitted this to himself up until this point).
3. the Realtor is interested in the heroine himself because she is such a beautiful woman. (Hero doesn’t like this.)
5. the Realtor is not married. (Hero doesn’t like this.)
6. the hero discovers he’s jealous. (Hero must now rethink his relationship with heroine.)
7. the hero does not deny that the heroine is his girl. (Hero likes the idea.)

When so much story information can be presented to the reader in so few words, it becomes possible for an author to weave many more story threads into the general narrative while still staying within a limited number of pages.

'Information' Rewards Readers

When a story carries with it ‘inside’ information that is perceived as authentic by the reader, this generates a more rewarding reading experience. The author does this to perfection with her AA experiences and with her professional knowledge of the bakery business. This knowledge alone won’t make a novel a success with readers but it will add to the overall rewards-per-page for reading. This is important because readers are not really buying a book. They are buying a reading experience. The best selling authors create the most rewarding reading experiences.

Double “Knockout” Ending

James Scott Bell, a popular writing instructor and novelist, advises that novels finish with a ‘knockout’ ending! This elevates the impact of the book in the reader's mind making the reader 'hungry' for more and acts to help sell the author's next book. “Made to Order Family not only has a 'stand and cheer' ending, it has a surprise Epilogue which doubles the HEA enjoyment. In New Orleans this 'second helping of happiness' would be called lagniappe.


“Made to Order Family” rewards the reader multiple times-per-page. It does this by doing many things right. In addition to the overall romantic conflict between hero and heroine, there is the dual tension caused because both the hero and heroine are recovering alcoholics. This ‘alcoholic’ background tension magnifies all the other conflicts in the book because any of life's normal problems could lead to the hero or heroine falling off the wagon.

The spiritual elements in the story are skillfully reflected in the recurrent use of the Serenity Prayer. This provides for inspiration without preaching.

The reader’s attention is always stimulated because, Made to Order Family employs numerous interesting story threads. There are also surprise victories throughout the book which will delight the reader. The writing is realistic, the characters authentic, and the author’s insider knowledge of her subject matter is ever present.

“Made to Order Family” also has a dual ‘knockout ending’ which doubles the HEA’s feelings of enjoyment.

“Made to Order Family” is a Perfect Romance!

Like the “Perfect Storm”, I believe that “Made to Order Family” incorporates the ideal combination of story ingredients that are necessary to produce the perfect romance. In a way, I’m sad. This is only the author’s third book and I don’t see how a book better than “Made to Order Family” can be penned! But then, like the baseball pitcher who just threw a perfect game, it just might happen again.

Be Sure to Read This Book!

Read the Review of "Winter's End"
Read the Review of "Waiting Out the Strom"
Read about the 2009 “Book of the Year”!