Monday, April 09, 2018

On Hiatus

This blog is taking a break from new content, but feel free to browse around and check out all the book reviews, writing tips, and ramblings about life in the archives! And if you're wondering what's keeping me so busy, head on over here to check out my pen name and sign up for my newsletter.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Searching for Irene by Marlene Sullivan

Author Marlene Sullivan is releasing an exciting new novel, Searching for Irene.

What happened to Irene?

When Anna Coughlin, a modern 1920s woman, travels to the secluded hills of Virginia to work for wealthy Lawrence Richardson, she discovers that the previous secretary, Irene, mysteriously disappeared a few weeks before.  Upon arriving at the castle-like mansion to begin working, Anna finds that Lawrence’s handsome, but antagonistic son, Tyler, wants nothing more than to have her gone. And he isn’t the only one—

After Anna sets out to find the truth behind Irene’s disappearance, a series of frightening incidents ensnare her in a maze of intrigue. Anna is helped—and often hindered—by the temperamental Tyler Richardson, who—despite her best intentions—begins to steal her heart.

But even as Anna begins to uncover dark secrets in a troubled household, she must continue to hide a significant one of her own. When her life is threatened, Anna is left to wonder if she’ll be able to unravel the mystery before she disappears as mysteriously as the unfortunate Irene.

Would you like to read an excerpt?

The tallest parts of the mansion—fanciful turrets and a circular tower—were visible only in glimpses Anna caught between lofty oaks and towering pines as her cab wound through the knolls and hills of eastern Virginia.

When the cab turned up the long driveway lined with dogwood trees in full bloom, Anna Coughlin reached for her handbag, gripping it with a tension that had knotted her muscles ever since getting on the train.

The vast estate stood on a hilltop, like a castle—and she craned her neck to better view the starkly impressive gray-stone mansion of Ashton Hall—where she hoped to be hired. With its arched, leaded windows and slate roof with numerous chimneys, the house rivaled pictures she’d seen of castles in Europe.

Instructing the driver to wait, she climbed out, patted her hat in case it was askew, then smoothed her gray suit with gloved hands in hopes of presenting a professional appearance. Anna had no confidence she was clever enough or bold enough to pull this off, but she had to try.

Her eye was drawn by a tall man—more than six feet—who came from the side of the house. Since the man was striding toward her so purposefully, Anna stopped and waited. As he drew near, Anna noted his deep-set eyes were as black as his hair. His skin was tanned, his thin, long-fingered hands brown and strong.

“Miss Coughlin?” He stretched out a hand and shook hers, but there was no warmth for her in his eyes. “I’m Tyler Richardson. Unfortunately, your services are not needed after all.” A touch of arrogance marked his manner, as though he was long accustomed to command those around him.

“Your father called only last week to have someone come out,” Anna blurted in dismay. “May I ask what caused him to change his mind?”

A fleeting glimpse of discomfiture crossed Mr. Richardson’s face. “I wasn’t consulted about his hiring another secretary to replace the one who left so suddenly. My father isn’t in good health, and the last thing we need is someone coming in and upsetting him by making a muddle of things.”

His words kindled a fire that glinted in Anna’s eyes. How dare he make such an assumption? It was difficult to hang on to her temper, but there was too much at stake to let his boorishness sidetrack her. “Since I’m here, I’m sure you won’t mind if I keep my appointment. After all, your father is the one who requested my services. I’m sure he’s expecting me.”

Her words hit home.It took a few bitter seconds, but he finally acquiesced. “Come in, then,” he muttered ungraciously before leading the way up the steps and opening the door.

Following his rigid back down the narrow hall, Anna’s brows furrowed as doubts crept in. How wise had she been to come to this remote place? Especially when the previous secretary had disappeared so mysteriously? Even her employer thought it odd that no one in this mansion seemed to know where Irene had gone or where she was now. It was as if Irene had vanished into thin air.
Marlene has been a favorite author of mine for a long time, and I'm happy to help her celebrate this new release. Don't forget to check it out by clicking here, and you can learn more about Marlene by clicking here


Saturday, June 17, 2017

Connecting the Dots

It's been a while since I've written a writing-related post ... or posted much at all, really ... so bear with me as I become particularly long-winded.

It seems that certain stories make their way around the Church, and everyone has to share them in their talks or lessons. In the eighties, the story of choice went something as follows:

A man went to a job fair to look for a young man to hire to work on his farm. He went down the line of applicants and asked each of them for their qualifications. One boy said, "I can sleep when the wind blows." This perplexed the man, and he passed the boy over.

Well, the worker he chose didn't fit, so he came back the following week to see who else was available. The same unusual young man was there, and responded, "I can sleep when the wind blows." That didn't make any sense to the farmer, so again, he hired someone else, and that someone else also didn't do well at the job.

The third time (ever notice how these stories always go in threes?), upon hearing the strange answer, the man decided to go ahead and give the boy a try. He took him back to the farm, showed him his tasks, and showed him his bedroom in the loft.

That night (what a coincidence!) a horrible storm came up. The farmer leaped out of bed and ran around the barn to check all the doors and windows and latches, and found that they were secure. His worker was still asleep in his bed, and the farmer finally understood what he meant and was glad that he'd hired him.

So, that's how I heard the story told all through my childhood, and it never made sense. Why was the farmer so impressed that the boy was still asleep? It sounded downright lazy to me. It wasn't until I was in my late teens that I finally heard the story told in a way that made sense, and you know what? It only took one clarifying sentence, which went as follows:

Because the young man had made sure that the barn was secure before he went to bed, when the storm arose, he didn't need to run around in a panic because the work had already been done, and he could sleep peacefully.

Whoa! Did you see that? One little sentence clarified that whole story for me. Now I understood why everyone nodded and agreed with how wise it was when they heard it. Now I could apply it to my own life and really get the lesson I was being taught.

One of the biggest questions I ask my clients when I edit their books is, "Why?" Why did the character pull that face? Why did she react that way? Why did she sigh? Why did she start digging through her purse? Why, why, why?

It might be totally obvious to the author why the character is doing that thing or saying that thing, but if it's not obvious to the reader, the entire point will be lost. I have come up with a saying to help us all remember this principle, and you may quote me, but it's so awesome that if you do quote me, be sure to use my name:

If you don't understand how she feels, you'll never understand what she does. - Tristi Pinkston

See? Cool, huh? If you don't understand that your character is angry, you won't understand why he's suddenly speaking through his teeth. A quick flash of thought will go a long way there. 

It's all about connecting the dots. You give the reader this plot point and this character and this setting, and then you connect them together to make a complete image. You throw in those clarifying sentences (like, the kid had already locked everything, so he was at peace) and you show why that other character from the other example is angry (her words reminded him of what she'd said the night she left, and all those hurt feelings came rushing back, blinding him). That's how you create a whole picture, a whole experience for the reader so they can be immersed in your world and want to come back again and again - which is the whole goal. Take a reader and make them a repeat reader, do that over and over again, and you will have a career.

Monday, March 06, 2017

The Dating Experiment by Elodia Strain

I was so excited when I heard that Elodia Strain was releasing a new book. She's one of those authors who captured my imagination from the first with her unique storytelling voice, and there should be lots more Elodia books in the universe, in my opinion.

Book Description: After losing her job, her house, and her long-term boyfriend, Gabby’s roommate signs her up to be in a dating experiment. Little does she know, however, that her ex is in the experiment too! In an attempt to escape the chaos of her life, Gabby visits home and accidentally reunites with her childhood friend (and secret crush), Ian O’Connell. As she participates in the study and its hilariously awkward dates, Gabby finds her heart torn between the man she’s comfortable with and the man who’s had her heart from the beginning.

About the Author:  Elodia Strain was born in Alaska and grew up in the middle of California. She spent her childhood exploring Yosemite National Park, skiing—badly—at Lake Tahoe, and enjoying the beaches along California’s famed central coast. Elodia graduated cum laude from Brigham Young University with a degree in marketing communications. She is the author of three previous books from Cedar Fort. Her debut novel, The Icing on the Cake, was well received by readers of all ages, and earned Elodia the Best New Fiction Author award from CFI. Her second book, Previously Engaged, was a Whitney Award finalist. Elodia also wrote My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend, the novelization of the widely successful eponymous major motion picture, starring Alyssa Milano. In addition to her creative writing pursuits, Elodia has spoken at writers’ conferences, had the privilege of signing books at national events such as her alma mater’s Women’s Conference and Education Week, and is also one of the founders of Ink Ladies Plus (formerly the Ink Ladies blog), a group of CFI and independent authors who work together to strengthen and promote each other’s work. When not writing or marketing, Elodia spends her time bargain shopping, enjoying staycations with her husband, and spoiling her nieces and nephews.

Purchase the book by clicking here.

Learn more about Elodia here.
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