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Instigator #ElizaCarlisleMystery 3 is here!

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Eliza Carlisle Mystery, Book 3

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“Why would someone commit murder over a cupcake?”

That is Detective Gordon’s question. Eliza doesn’t have an answer, and doesn’t particularly want to find one. Gordy promises she doesn’t have to get involved…just look at the cupcake and use her culinary knowledge to tell him why it would inspire murder.

It’s never that easy.

Not for Eliza Carlisle.

What should be a relaxing two week break between semesters of culinary school turns into a never ending string of embarrassing, injury-inducing, rat-filled situations Eliza can’t escape. She hadn’t wanted to meet Puck’s parents to begin with. Meeting them in the middle of the murder investigation and running into Chef Harper, her least favorite instructor who is intent on making her life miserable, guarantees anything but a good time.

Add it just keeps getting better. Baxter is getting impatient. His ex-wife, the Evil Queen of Darkness, is getting more vicious by the second. Cupcake bakers are dropping every time the cops turns around. Eliza quickly finds herself hating the Christmas holidays even more than usual. All she has to do to survive her least favorite time of the year is catch a killer, beat Megan at her own evil game, hold off Baxter a little longer, and face down Puck’s unimpressed parents.

Piece of…cupcake.

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Posted in books, creative writing, lessons learned, writing, writing advice, writing thoughts, writing tips

Lessons Learned: Life of Pi

I watched the movie first, and really enjoyed it, so I figured I would read the book, since there’s always so much left out of the movie version of any book. This is one of those very rare times where I actually preferred the trimmed down movie version.

life of piFor those who haven’t read or seen Life of Pi, it’s about a young man who survives his ship sinking in the middle of the sea during a journey from India to Canada. He makes it to a life boat, but finds himself in the company of several of the zoo animals his family was transporting…including a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.

What I loved about this story was the use of extended metaphor to tell Pi’s story of survival at sea with Richard Parker (I won’t give away what that’s a metaphor for in case you haven’t seen/read it). It’s not a commonly used tactic in modern fiction, and if you’d like an great example of it, read this book. Or watch the movie.

How to write an extended metaphor is not the lesson learned from this book, however.

Not overloading your reader or being condescending to them is the lesson learned.

c4223-robotcartoonInfodumping is often a struggle for writers who do in-depth research for a book. You found out all these awesome things about whatever and now you HAVE TO SHARE THEM ALL! Unless you are writing a non-fiction book about your topic that is meant to give a detailed history of whatever, please, please, please for the love of all things bookish DO NOT vomit up every seemingly fascinating tidbit of research you uncovered while preparing to write your book.

Listening to an audiobook, you can’t really skim, which makes endless amounts of information you’re not particularly interested in even harder to get through. I listened to Life of Pi and simply had to take a break when chapters went on and on about various animals, their habits and traits, mating rituals, etc. I started listening to the book to find out more about Pi’s journey, not to hear a dissertation on animal husbandry.

Focus on what your reader wants out of your story, not just on what you want to tell them.

girl-868784_1920I also struggled to listen at length to the religious discussions, which I usually enjoy quite a bit. I think religion is a fascinating topic and enjoy learning about many different religions. What I didn’t enjoy was, again, too much straight information that took me away from the story, and the sometimes condescending way the information was presented. I don’t hold with any particular religion, but I was still bothered by the sense I got that if a reader didn’t agree with the author’s opinions on eating meat, practicing multiple religions at once, or who or what God or gods might be they were simply wrong or not as smart as the author. I enjoy learning about how others view God, religion, the Universe, etc., but in a way that invites thoughtfulness rather than looking down on others’ beliefs or viewpoints.

Don’t talk down to your reader.

While I enjoyed the story overall, I definitely prefer the movie version, which focused the point of Pi’s journey as a struggle to understand faith and the meaning of life when faced with tragedy. If something you want to put into your book doesn’t add to the story or unnecessarily turns readers off, there’s a good chance it doesn’t need to be there.

Posted in creative writing, reality, Uncategorized, writing, writing advice, writing fiction, writing tips

Fiction Vs. Reality…And the Author’s Responsibility

I was going through my list of drafts in my blog roll and found this title but no content. I think there was a specific review or article that inspired this debate, but I can’t remember what it was lol!

Either way, it’s an interesting topic.

Typewriter illustrationSeveral years ago on a car ride my family and I started listening to “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand. I downloaded it from Audible after only a cursory glance at the summary and checking the reviews. So, it wasn’t until several hours into the book that my husband and I both turned to look at each other and asked, “Is this book a true story?”

Why ask that question?

Because it was too unbelievable to be fiction!

Louis Zampirini’s life was quite literally unbelievable in many ways. As history, it’s fascinating and incredible. As fiction, readers would have rolled their eyes at how many dangerous and crazy situations he got into and survived! If you haven’t read the book, please do, you’ll understand so much better what I’m talking about.

So, this question is…where is the line as a fiction author? How do you balance crafting a compelling and engaging story without making it unbelievable? Here are a few tips I’ve learned over the years.

1. Characters lose more often than they win.

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Sure, most days in reality are pretty routine, and we all have those days where everything just goes right. Is that interesting to read about? NO. In real life, maybe the boring days and good days are the norm, but the days and weeks we struggle and fail and do stupid things and hurt the people we love are the ones that push us to grow and do better, or maybe to give up and throw our hands in the air. Readers are pulled in by the struggle. They can connect and empathize with lousy days and bruised emotions.

2. There are only so many times you can win or escape.

galaxy questBe mean to your characters all you want. Kill your darlings, right? However, if the end to every situation is a predictable close call or last second escape, readers will not only be annoyed they’ll lose interest. Have you ever watched Tim Allen in “Galaxy Quest”? They parodied this concept beautifully when the alien ship built to model the TV series spaceship is designed to stop its self-destruct sequence at 1 second because “that’s what always happened on the show.” It’s funny because we all now how irritating that “last second” save becomes after a while. While there are rare stories, like Zamperini’s, where people really do beat all the odds and survive the worst situations, most people fail and miss chances and get hurt.

3. Going through traumatic experiences have lasting effects.

unbrokenLouis Zamperini survived an incredible amount of danger and horribleness in his life, BUT there were deep scars left behind because of what he suffered. The last third of the book that deals with the aftermath of being tortured in a Japanese prison camp is very, very hard to listen to because the lasting damage is so real. I’ve read to many novels (especially YA) where the main character has some tragic past or experiences something truly awful…and bounces back like it was nothing. This is not one of those areas where reality needs to be downplayed. Let your characters be as broken as they need to be. Emotional scars are something we all understand. Characters need that element of reality to ring true with readers.

4. Romance has more leeway, use it.

Most people are fairly rational, even when it comes to relationships. Love can conquer all in movies and romance novels, but real people often give up on difficult relationships and choose not to take risks. Now, I’m not saying all romantic stories have to be 100% HEA, “Enchanted” style storylines. What I am saying is that in romance readers  expect a little more of a break from reality. Let your characters make rash decisions or fall too hard too fast. It’s okay if their choices wouldn’t be completely rational or logical in real life. A lot of romance readers want the escapism, the fantasy. Don’t go overboard, but bend reality a little when it enhances the love story.

Enchanted

Balancing fiction and reality is tough, because the line between captivating and irritating a reader can be thin. Stretch reality when it enhances the story, not when you want an easy way out of a situation.

Posted in books, running, writing, writing thoughts

Writing a Book is like Running a (half) Marathon

Last weekend, my husband and I just ran our second half marathon. I intended to write this post after we ran it last year, but that’s how on top of things I’ve been lately!

So, how is writing a book like running a half marathon?

R and S running the course

The first few miles of a half marathon are awesome. Your adrenaline is pumping, you’re excited to get the race going, and 13 miles doesn’t sound that bad now that you’ve actually got your sneakers on the course. You’ll definitely beat your personal best, by at least half an hour.

When you first start writing a new idea, it’s exciting and you think feel like you’ll be able to write straight to the end because it’s that amazing! You can sit for hours on end scribbling down witty dialogue and captivating scenes. 300 pages? That’s nothing, right?

The fun and adrenaline starts to taper off somewhere around mile 6 or page 50.

When it comes to running, your adrenaline is pushing you to churn out a faster pace than you’ve ever run before. You’re pretty sure you can try out for the Olympics in a few years. Everything feels amazing. Until it doesn’t.

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World and character building has been a rush, and setting up all those clever little hints has convinced you that there won’t be a single reader in the world who will guess the ending. It’s the best opening of a book you’ve ever written or read. Until your creativity takes a nose dive.

That’s when you hit a wall…creatively or physically.

The physical wall you hit halfway through your half marathon is aggravating and painful. Your knees start to ache. Your hip feels like it has no cartilage left. Every step is torture and you’re regretting ever signing up for this stupid race. There’s no way you can finish. Every time a car passes by you hope they’ll stop and give you a ride to the finish line. But no one stops, so you Just Keep Running.

One moment you’re writing like a crazy person…then all the words dry up. Each one feels like you have to drag it to the surface by force. You’re pretty sure you now have carpal tunnel from the frantic writing. Where has it left you? You’ve set up fabulous characters and a storyline no reader will be able to put down, but keeping up the same momentum seems impossible when you move from doling out exciting tidbits to carrying on a consistently engaging story where you don’t lapse into pointless dialogue or never ending description of a walk through the park sounds impossible. But you Just Have To Keep Writing even though you’re now  positive the whole book sucks and you never should have started writing it.

Then something changes again.

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When you see mile marker 11 come into view and you realize you’re almost done, the tears aren’t easy to hold back. Pain, joy, madness…it’s hard to tell. You’re too dehydrated to cry, though, so you hobble onward with renewed energy. As much pain as you’re in, you’re almost there! You can make it.

With writing, the middle section that felt like torture to write and wanted to throw across the room while crying about how terrible it was…everything suddenly comes together. That chapter where your characters endlessly walked through the park went from being a Tolkienesque history of the trees to a pivotal conversation that helped them solve the mystery for fix their relationship. You know how the story ends now!

Sheree Finish Line

Crossing the finish line, writing the end, both feel incredible…but neither one is really the end because you know you’re going to be sore for a week or have a long list of rewrites to work on, BUT it’s a huge milestone to hit and it was totally worth it regardless of the messy shape your body or manuscript is in.

After our race, we got a breakfast burrito and a beer, which I’ll be honest, sounded like a horrible idea at ten in the morning after running 13 miles (the race was hosted by a brewery), but both were actually much appreciated because I was starving and in pain and food and alcohol proved to be exactly what I needed.

Finishing a manuscript is also something to be proud of regardless of the fact that it might have choppy scenes and stilted dialogue and a handful of hints you forgot to ever bring back into the plot. You started a book. You finished it. How many people have wanted to write a book and gave up after a few chapters? A lot.

20170206_074136After running a half marathon, I take a good couple weeks (or maybe a month) off from running. It’s time for yoga, core work, maybe a little biking. My body needs to recover, and honestly so does my motivation.

As soon as you type out THE END, take a good long break from your manuscript, too. Don’t even look at it. Think about it, if you want, consider those problem areas and forgotten clues, but leave the book alone for as long as you can stand it. It’s mentally and emotionally exhausting to write sometimes. Give yourself a break so you can come back for the editing round with fresh eyes and some excitement.

Whether you’re running or writing, don’t give up when it gets painful or hard. You’ll learn a lot from your mistakes and be better for it in the end. It took me ten years to publish my first book and a year and a half or running 5 days a week to survive a half marathon. The journey to do something awesome sometimes sucks, a lot, but it’s worth it in the end.

Cheers!

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Posted in book giveaway, books, eliza carlisle, eliza carlisle mystery, free books, giveaway, mystery

Catch your breath #giveaway!

To celebrate the next installment of Eliza Carlisle’s adventures, the first book in the series, TROUBLE MAGNET has joined up with a handful of other awesome mysteries to give readers some #freebooks and a chance to win a super cute dragon book bag!

Catch Your Breath share 1-bag

Readers get to choose which books they want to download and which authors they’d like to follow, AND enter to win the book bag.

If you haven’t read Eliza’s first foray into craziness and murder, you can grab a copy of TROUBLE MAGNET free through this promotion. If you’re all too familiar with Eliza’s knack for getting into dangerous but funny situations, grab a few mysteries from these lovely authors:

https://mybookcave.com/g/7040684d/

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Eliza Carlisle is back! And in more trouble than ever… #Mystery #CozyMystery

 

Firebrand

Eliza Carlisle Mystery, Book 2

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What’s worse than getting dragged into a murder investigation because you tried to help a friend?

Answer: Getting dragged into a murder investigation, drug ring, and criminal syndicate because someone mistakes you for a friend of your most despised coworker.

When Eliza sees the man dead on the floor of Saul’s Diner, she’s more annoyed than scared. Until they all realize the man’s death wasn’t caused by a heart attack and Queen Bee Danielle blames Eliza’s cooking. Fit to be tied, Eliza is determined to let Officer Gordon figure out who really killed the guy and put her energy toward not getting kicked out of culinary school after a reporter prints Danielle’s spiteful accusations.

But Eliza is Eliza, and staying out of things never works out quite the way she expects. When she is somehow mistaken for a friend of Danielle’s by the people who actually killed the guy in the diner, she quickly finds herself up to her eyeballs in creepy fish, a burgeoning drug ring, scary criminals who like to put black bags over people heads before they kidnap them, and baking a three tier birthday cake at the last minute for someone she doesn’t dare refuse.

Eliza has never hated Danielle more, but helping her is the only way to save herself. After that, Danielle is fair game.

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Life & Being now on #iBooks #Nook #Kobo #Smashwords

Life & Being has left Kindle Unlimited and is now available on iBooks, Nook, Kobo, and Smashwords! If you’re a non-Kindle reader, now’s your chance to pick up a copy 🙂 If you enjoy it, I’d love to hear your thoughts in a review!

Life & Being

Life and Being PreAgentA 007-style handoff between a girl he knew in high school and the college’s star football player catches Sanford Camden’s eye. He almost wishes it hadn’t. Almost.

Despite the fact that he hasn’t spoken to Dahlia Carter since they graduated high school two years ago, he rushes to catch up with her, warn her the local police are watching the campus. Unfortunately, his warning isn’t received very well. Insulted that he thinks she’s a drug dealer, Dahlia storms away. That should be the end of it. Move on. For some reason Sanford can’t quite explain, it’s not the end. It’s only the beginning.

Dahlia can’t decide whether Sanford is simply as weird as his mannequin parents, or if he’s not quite all there. Neither option explains him showing up at a party she’s working to basically stalk her and hurl questions. Of course, her grabbing him and locking lips just to piss off the skanky girl hounding him doesn’t make a lot of sense either. It puts everything at risk, in fact. If her dad ever finds out…about any of her extracurricular activities…she won’t have to worry about Lillian Devry scratching her eyes out. Her dad will kill her first.

An insane father seems like the biggest stumbling block to Dahlia’s freedom, until long-hidden secrets begin bubbling to the surface, and what once seemed like paranoid delusions become threats to her life neither Dahlia nor Sanford are prepared to fight.

Life & Being is available now on Kindle and is coming soon to other retailers.

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