8 Mar 2017: Momentum Killers – The Death of a story

Here’s the fourth installment of my series on How to Write a Good Romance (or any story really) based on what not to do:

4: Backstory dumps

I suppose this is probably a generic story problem, but it certainly is one that plagues the romance genre. A good story drops you right into the action.  It provides the bare essentials of information for you to understand the action and hit the ground running. It does NOT spend the first couple of chapters taking you from birth, trough childhood and adolescence and then to present day where your protagonists have their meet-cute.

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This backstory dump will kill whatever momentum the author is trying to build. The best way to introduce necessary backstory (and I stress the word necessary) is through the occasional dialog drop, a casual conversation that mentions something that happened in the past.  Let the characters current circumstances draw proper conclusions about the events that led to their current situation.

Don’t start a story with pages upon pages backstory about your characters.

Besides the fact that you’re asking me to be interested in something that is just backstory (not the actual story,) you’re wasting valuable real estate.  Those first few pages have to hook your reader, don’t waste it with things that are not your main story.  Drop you reader in the middle of a scene and make them hungry to know how they ended up there.  Tease them with bits and pieces of backstory, like bread crumbs that lead them to the last pages of the book.

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I recently read an excellent book that does a wonderful job of dropping the reader in the middle of the action. I wish I could copy and paste those first couple of pages here for you, but since I can’t, I highly suggest you check this book out if you’re looking for a good example.  It’s Haunted Souls by Kathryn Knight.

-Jennifer

Jennifer Geoghan, author of:

I’d love to hear from you!  So click on “Leave A Comment” below and let me know what’s on your mind.

6 Mar 2017: If they thought it once, they thought it a thousand times.

Here’s the third installment of my series on How to Write a Good Romance (or any story really) based on what not to do:

3: Unnecessary thoughts and feelings.

In a story where most conflicts are emotional, it’s easy to fall into the trap of repeating the same internal dialog over and over again.

“I was so confused. Did he really like me or was I just fooling myself that he could ever love a woman like myself?”

Believe it or not … Readers have good memories.  If she thinks that once, she doesn’t need to repeat it over and over again every time they meet.

Because in a story that is a pure romance all your story conflicts are emotionally based, you can easily fall into the trap of over thinking and analyzing your characters thoughts and feelings. Let their actions speak louder than words.

life-lemons-and-vodka-actions-speak-louder-than-words-20Don’t tell me a hundred times that she’ll die if he ever leaves her.  Once is enough. After that, let him leave and show me what happens to her.

-Jennifer

Jennifer Geoghan, author of:

I’d love to hear from you!  So click on “Leave A Comment” below and let me know what’s on your mind.

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In this case, tell me, don’t show me. Click on Leave a Comment.

4 Mar 2017: Never Underestimate Likability

Here’s the second installment of my series on How to Write a Good Romance (or any story really) based on what not to do:

#2: Never Underestimate Likability.

Not all characters have to be likable. Not everyone in this world is likable. Although the protagonists in a love story should have flaws, like all humans do, they should also have more redeemable qualities than flaws.

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I recently read a book where I kept thinking, why is she interested in him? He’s a total jerk and an unrepentant man-whore to boot! She can do so much better than him! When the finally got together at the end of the book, I really could have cared less. Did I read any more of the books in that series? No, they all sounded pretty much the same, with “heroes” that were not good people at all, certainly not anyone I’d ever want to fantasize about.

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The real problem was, he was just as much of a jerk on the last page of the book as he was on the first. There was no progression of character, no redemption, no understanding of why he was the way he was. Remember that your readers have to find something likable in your protagonists in order for them in invest themselves in them.

  • What keeps someone turning the pages of book is caring.
  • They care if the protagonist finds love or doesn’t.
  • They care what trap or mystery they may be walking into.

If you want to have a character that’s a jerk when the couple first meets, that’s fine, but give them a journey that reveals why they are the way they are, and continue that evolution of character until the final pages of the book. Every event that happens to us in our lives changes the person we were when we woke up that morning. How does this fact of life change who you characters are when you finally type “The End?”

-Jennifer

Jennifer Geoghan, author of:

I’d love to hear from you!  So click on “Leave A Comment” below and let me know what’s on your mind.

1 Mar 2017: It All Starts at the End

I thought I’d do a series on how to write a good romance novel, or any novel really, by avoiding some common pitfalls.

#1: It all starts at the end …

In any novel, the most important sentence is the first sentence. The most important paragraph is the first paragraph, and the most important page, the first page. However, romance novels are all about the ending.ever-after

 

In a book that’s main theme is the relationship between two people, the resolution of their conflicts and consequent “happy ending” are of paramount importance. It’s not like a mystery where if the mystery is solved, the reader is satisfied or a crime where the murderer is finally revealed in the last few pages.  The end of a good romance story, in many ways, is the beginning of the story of their lives together, which therefore begs the question, where do you stop the story.

  • Do you stop at the kiss where they finally declare their love for each other?
  • Do you stop after a proposal or wedding?
  • Do you give a glimpse into what the coming years will bring them?

That’s really a question of personal story telling style.  But really, every good love story should end in a spot that leaves the reader satisfied that they weren’t left with lingering questions about what happened next, and by this I mean in a bad way.  Remember, you want a reader to love the ending so much they want to buy every book you’ve ever written.  If, as a reader, I’m cheated of a good ending, I promise you, I won’t be reading anymore of that writer’s books.

Lesson: Consider how emotionally satisfying your ending is.

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-Jennifer

Don’t forget to check out all my books at: My Amazon Author Page

 

1 Feb 2017: My Reading Challenge Progress & Reviews

Month one of my year long reading challenge is complete. I’m a little behind pace to read 100 books in a year, but in my defense, the books I read were longer than usual.  I had an excellent mix of the really good and the really not so good, from 1 star to 5 stars.

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Book 1: Two Cabins One Lake by Shaye Marlow

4 Stars

Terrible title and cover mask this inventive story line. Helly loves her secluded cabin in Alaska on its quiet lake. When she gets a new neighbor disturbing her peace with his helicopter and construction noise, she can’t decide if she wants to kill him or shag him. Hi-jinks ensue between the feuding neighbors. Toss is her crazy brothers, some drug dealer thugs and a bear, and you have a really fun read. The ending was my only concern. I thought it fell a little flat in comparison to the rest of the story. We’re left wondering if they ever really get together in a long-term way of if they drift into friend territory. I would have preferred an epilogue that gave me a glimpse into their future without another book being involved.

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Book 2: Wedding Day by Erin Bevan

5 Stars

I never thought I’d be giving 5 stars so early. I’m a tough reviewer and figured it would take a while for me to enjoy a book enough to give it 5 stars, but here I am doing it on my second book! This story paced very well. The story stayed away from a lot of the formulaic story pitfalls of most romance novels today. I’ll start by saying I’m normally not a fan of romance novels that involve children. They seem to clutter up the story with unnecessary cuteness, but not here. Both protagonists feel an attraction for one another but both have good reasons for holding back. I like that because usually one or both have some really dumb reason why they just can’t be with the other. If I had any complaint about this book, it would be the title and cover. I’m a firm believer that the cover should give a hint as to the gist of the story and this one did not. First of all, it’s a cowboy romance, which you totally don’t get from the cover. From the cover alone you’d expect that the Wedding Day would feature prominently in the story. Nope. It comes on the last page of the book. With this rational, most any romance novel could have this title and cover. What makes this book special certainly isn’t reflected in it’s title of cover, which is a real shame as the story between the covers is a definite 5 star read.

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Book 3: Haunted Souls by Kathryn Knight

4 Stars

As an author myself, I love the beginning of this book. On page one Miss Knight has done a great job of dropping us right in the middle of the action without having to add needless back story to explain what’s going on. The romance isn’t overpowered by paranormal aspect of the story which is a good thing. I’m not one for reading ghost stories and quite frankly wouldn’t have read this book if it wasn’t for a good review it had received on a review site I follow. Its good review there was indeed accurate. I think the paranormal didn’t bother me so much because he was a friendly ghost and his plight understandable. Although the romance didn’t seem overshadowed by the ghost story, I wish we could have had just a little bit more between the male and female protagonists. That’s why this book gets 4 stars instead of 5. If I had ½ stars in my system, it would get 4.5 stars. It’s hard to put my finger on exactly what is missing, but I guess it’s the pace at which their relationship progresses. If I had a better idea of how much time was passing between events, I think I’d have enjoyed the story better. Looking back, it feels like the book takes place over the span of a few weeks, but it should feel like months and really it doesn’t.

My biggest annoyance was that at the end of the tour, the guide said she should stay so she didn’t miss something, something she dismissed and we never got to hear. I was convinced that what the guide would have said would have solved the mystery much faster, but that little tidbit was never revisited to explain what it was. This annoyed me. I know red herrings are a thing, but this was a red herring that never was as we never got to find out what that vital or not so vital bit of info was.

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Book 4: Vivian’s List by Haleigh Lovell

1 Star

Skip this book. Do not believe what the author writes on the Amazon book blurb. She says that this is book one and is Vivian and Liam’s story. Book two is supposed to be about a different couple. However … when I reached the end of Vivian’s List, and by ending I mean where the writing stopped, I was greeted with “Please continue reading for an excerpt from Liam’s List (the sequel to Vivian’s List.)” Funny how this sequel was not mentioned in the blurb. I did not purchase Liam’s List for four reasons.

Number one is that the writing was a little pedestrian for me. It’s obvious this author hasn’t learned to hewn her craft quite yet. Although I liked the characters and was drawn into the story because I liked them, the author needs to learn to edit herself down. Maybe I’m just picky, but there are a lot of sentences like “Swimming helps me clear my mind.” What’s wrong with this sentence? Nothing really, except that the “me” is a totally unnecessary word. This is one example but there were dozens of other examples in this book.

Reason Two: I love a good sex scene, but the ones is this book dragged on and on and on to the detriment of the story.

Reason Three: The list. The book blurb leads one to believe Vivian’s sex list is exciting, when in reality it’s just things like sex in a car, sex in the shower, sex in a tub. Boring.

Reason Four: I’m pissed that the author mislead me that this was a standalone story set inside a series. Really, this is the first half of the book and given that Vivian’s sex list was so boring, what hope is there that Liam’s sex list will be any more interesting.

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Book 5: Delay of Game by Catherine Gayle

3 stars

I’ll start out by saying the title has nothing to do with the book other than the male lead is a hockey player. There is no delay to speak of, so really the title is pretty dumb. It’s doubly dumb when you contrast the sports title with the flowery romantic cover. These issues aside, the story is a good one. I thought the main characters were engaging, and although at times I wanted to slap the female protagonist silly, I still got that that’s just who she was as a person. So far as characters go, my issue was more that there were WAY TOO many of them. This wasn’t the first book in the series, but it’s a stand alone novel. Thankfully I don’t feel I was confused about any plot points not having read the other books in the series. This is a very good thing. However, I have the feeling that this epic cast of secondary characters were the leads in the previous installments of the series. They were completely unnecessary to the story in this story and only detracted from the even pacing of the book. My suggestion would have been to ditch all the children and pair down her adult female friends to two max.

Like I said, the male protagonist is a hockey player. I’d don’t know much about hockey. I have nothing against hockey, but I’d rather read a romance novel than watch a game. I suspect the author of this book loves hockey as she spent an excessive amount of time describing the action on the ice. This player did this, that player did that. Just like the female protagonist had too many female friends to keep track of, the male protagonist had too many teammates to keep straight. I think the book would have flowed much better if the author had cut all the hockey games out of the book, keeping any description of the game to one paragraph only. It wasn’t important to the story and distracted from the plot but slowing the pace of the story WAY down. I found myself skipping pages of those scenes. Yes, this series sounds like it’s about all the players on the team, but they don’t all need to be so involved in each book.

TMI! This author got very wordy at times with unnecessary info. He’s an example: “When she was discharged, she begrudgingly let me take her home – but only because all of her other options were busy. The guys were all at the morning skate since Game Six was that night; Rachel had dropped her kids off at school and gone to work: Katie was getting what should be her final chemo treatment and so, of course, Laura was with her: Dana had to take her mother back to the airport; and Scotty still wasn’t allowed to drive.”

Seriously, the author should have stopped after “her other options were busy.”

Despite all this added fluff, there’s a really good story here. I really wish this author had received good editing advice before publishing. With some editing cuts, this book would easily have gone from 3 stars to 4.

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Book 6: Love Found a Way by Sable Hunter

5 stars

Miss Hunter delivers another fabulous book. I’ve been a fan of hers for years, mostly because she rarely disappoints. This romance set in Cajun country is full of the rich history of the area as well as a few intertwining stories. This is I don’t even know how many books into the series but there aren’t many of the characters from previous books in it. (Unlike Delay of Game) The couple that live close to them are about the only ones involved in the story and they are necessary to help move the story along and not just for show. One thing I really like about how this story is crafted is how after the romance is more or less settled, the couple have to face a life or death medical challenge together. This is a great way for us to see what happens after they get together in a way that is part of the whole story and not some tacked on after thought. Having read all the books in the series, I have to say I was surprised how this one resolved itself, not in a bad way though. It’s nice that I can still be surprised. If I had any editorial comment, it would be to cut off the last 5 or 6 pages. Too much of a saccharine sweet ending for me.

22 Jan 2017: There’s nothing like hitting the “Publish” button.

There’s no greater feeling than hitting the “publish” button to put a finished book up for sale online.  Having finally completed my newest project, I had the pleasure of doing so just that this week.

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The Family History Quick Start Guide is now up for sale on Amazon for the amazing price of only $4.99!!

Check it out at: https://goo.gl/eSSZwa

Its creation was a true labor of love. I’ve been somewhat obsessed with my family history since I had to do a middle school social studies project on my family tree. Thirty some on years later, I’m an expert on the subject.  It was suggested to me about a year ago that writers, even novelists, should write a how to book.  Never having written nonfiction before, I wanted to give it a go. What I produced is an easy to read, funny and extremely helpful guide for those just beginning to untangle the story of their family history.

Check it out!

-Jennifer

29 Oct 2016: Celebrate the Spookiness of Halloween with the Wells Vampires

For those of you who have read my blog long enough, you know that not only am I an author, but I’m also a genealogist.  Among my novels is a series I wrote where I used my real life Wells ancestors as actual characters, mainly Randall Wells (1747-1821) and his wife Lois Maxson (1748-1819) of Hopkinton, Rhode Island.   To grant myself my fondest genealogical wish of meeting my 4th great grandparents, Lois and Randall, I took the facts we know of their lives and weaved a story around them, breathing literary flesh over those dry bones of the dates of birth, marriage, death.  Then I brought them ahead a few hundred years and made them living people in the modern age we live in today.

How did I do that?  Well … I made them vampires.  Each book in the five book series reveals more of their story, like peeling back the layers of an onion. So for Halloween, I thought I’d share with you a little of how their story begins to unfold in book one of the series, The Purity of Blood.

To set up the quote below, I will introduce Sara Donnelly, the protagonist of my novels.  Like me, she is also the 4th great-granddaughter of Randall and Lois, at least the literary versions of them.  It is through her eyes that we enter the hidden world of vampires that secretly coexists with the humans of the Earth.  But these vampires are not like the ones of popular culture.  Vampires are not immortal.   They can walk in the sunlight.  For the most part the are solitary creatures that have an innate need to hide their existence from the world.

In this conversation, Sara is talking to Daniel Bennett.  Daniel is the adopted son of Randall and Lois.  He is also a vampire, but though he is well over a hundred years old, he has never killed a human.  He was raised by Randall to be as close to human as a vampire can possibly be, and because of this unique lifestyle, they have extended their lives well past the accelerated aging most vampires experience.

Now read as Daniel explains the beginning of Randall and Lois’ back story.

The Purity of Blood, Vol I, by Jennifer Geoghan. Available now on Amazon.com

Excerpt from The Purity of Blood, Volume I, by Jennifer Geoghan

“So, Randall and Lois. You promised to tell me their story when there was time.”

“I did, didn’t I.” His smile faded a little. “It’s not a very happy one, are you sure you want to hear it now?”

“Well, give me the highlights; you can fill in the details some other time.”

He settled back in his chair and began.

“I guess I have to go back farther than just when Randall became what we are now. You should know that their marriage was arranged by their parents. In those kind of small isolated communities like Hopkinton, most of the time marriages were partnerships more than emotional relationships. Randall will tell you he fell in love with Lois the moment he first laid eyes on her. She, on the other hand, was a sensible woman and only agreed to the marriage because she thought Randall would be a good provider and partner in life. She didn’t love him, but she also didn’t think it was important that she did either.

“He married her knowing this, but he was convinced that in time she would eventually grow to love him. Her sensibilities and his expectations were more common than you would think back then. The lifelong journey together often took two people from strangers to friends, and from friends to lovers. This was what Randall hoped would happen for them in the end.

“Years passed and Lois was an excellent wife providing for all his needs, raising his children and supporting him in every way she could. But he knew she still didn’t love him the way he wanted her too. Still he loved her with all his heart and believed that someday she would return his love with her own.

“Their life went on like this for many years so I’ll skip ahead to 1819 when he was bitten. Randall was an older man when it happened, seventy-four. He had gone out of town for a few days to settle some business up in Providence, I think it was. He was travelling back to Hopkinton in his carriage when he came across what looked like a body in the middle of the road. He got down to see if he could help, but the body was a vampire lying in wait for him. He sprang up, attacked Randall then left him for dead deep in the woods.”

He paused when he saw the look on my face. “You’re wondering why the trap. Why not just drag him down off the carriage and kill him.

I shrugged my shoulders as I chewed.

“Vampires are people too, Sara.”

Then he kind of chuckled when he realized what he’d said. “They get bored and find new ways to capture prey. I have to assume that was why. Anyway, there in the forest, Randall went through his transformation. It took a couple of days he thinks, but you can’t keep track of time when all this is happening to you. The pain is too excruciating.”

“Do you think his attacker meant to leave him alive?”

“He doesn’t know and there’s no way to say for sure now.”

“What do you think?”

Daniel paused for a moment then said “Yes, I think it was probably on purpose. But I’m the only one who thinks so.”

Then he turned to watch a couple at another table kissing in the corner. Although I had no clue why, I think it was clear he didn’t want to talk about it anymore, so I changed the subject.

“So what happened next?”

“When he regained his senses he knew something was wrong. He felt the remains of the bite marks on his neck and when he held his hand up to his chest, he couldn’t feel his heart. Even though his throat burned with an overwhelming thirst he didn’t understand, none of it mattered, his only thought was for Lois.

“He ran back to the house only to find her sitting on the back porch waiting for him. She took one look at him and knew something was terribly wrong.

“He told her what had happened, that he’d been attacked and had woken up in the forest. Of course at this point he had no idea what had really happened to him. Then he reached out, took her hand and placed it on his chest so she could feel that his heart no longer beat.

“Did he look younger then?”

“Yes.”

“That must have freaked Lois out.”

“Yes, I believe it did.” He sighed, I think uncomfortable with the subject.

“So what happened next?” I asked as I twirled my fork around in my pasta.

“She started to cry and told him she didn’t want to be a widow. I think part of her thought he was dead already – some kind of a ghost. She broke down and told him how she’d desperately loved him for years, but had kept it hidden from him because of her pride. She’d thought that if she ever told Randall how much she loved him, that things would change between them. She said she wouldn’t be able to stand it if he ever tired of her and looked at another woman. She knew that by denying him what he’d always wanted most, her heart, that she’d kept him all to herself. And here in the end, she finally realized she should have confessed her love for him years ago.

“Randall was stunned, he’d had no idea. He said in that moment of revelation, he could feel the warmth of her hand on his bare chest. Swept up in his lack of understanding of what was happening to him, he felt her blood as it surged through her hand faster and faster, her pulse quickening under her emotions. He could hear her heart beating so loud and so strong. And in that singular moment, he realized that after all these years, it finally beat only for him. He said he’ll never forget how his eyes stared at her hand on his chest, and how he followed the blood in it up her arm until he looked up to see the desperate emotion that filled her eyes. That was when he lost control. The thought of a life without her overwhelmed him and … he bit her.”

Daniel paused for a moment, waiting for me to take in the enormity of what he’d just said.

“Suddenly realizing what he’d done, he dropped her and ran off, leaving her barely alive. He still didn’t know what he’d become, but he knew what he’d done to Lois, and unable to live with the knowledge of it, he fled.

Totally wrapped up in the story, I stared at Daniel.

“You’re not eating, please finish,” he softly urged.

I cut up a meatball and took another bite.

“So then what?”

“I suppose you could say that’s where their story really begins, but let’s save that for another time.”

He reached over and gently placed his hand on mine, and for a moment ran his thumb across my knuckles. It was the smallest of contacts, but even this small sensation generated a tingling down deep inside me. When I looked up into his eyes, he smiled, then pulled his hand back to pretend to take a sip of water as our waitress passed.

I was satisfied for tonight, but I wouldn’t let him forget to tell me what happened next. It would give me something to look forward to. Of course, I was also wondering how I was going to translate all this new information into my genealogy program. I’d have to give that some more thought as well.

I hope you enjoyed this spinet of my novel.  If you’d like to read the entire novel and the four more that follow to experience the entire story of Randall, Lois, Daniel and Sara, go to Amazon.com to purchase the books as either paperback of ebooks:

https://www.amazon.com/Purity-Blood-I-Jennifer-Geoghan-ebook/dp/B00J142WK2

The Purity of Blood, Vol I, by Jennifer Geoghan. Available now on Amazon.com

The Purity of Blood, Vol I, by Jennifer Geoghan. Available now on Amazon.com

-Jennifer

7 July 2016: A book lover’s paradise … The American Library Assoc Convention

I have to say …. Sometimes I just get lucky.  Because of my job here in Orlando I was able to get a free ticket to the expo floor of the American Library Association convention held here in Orlando the weekend before last.

The American Library Association Convention - Orlando, FL

The American Library Association Convention – Orlando, FL

I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect but a friend of mine who is a librarian over on the west coast said I was going to get a LOT of free books.

He wasn’t kidding.  Here’s my new To Be Read Pile:

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The show floor at the convention center had a variety of different exhibitors selling everything from shelving, chairs and electronic card catalog systems to publishers trying to entice librarians to stock their books. Hence the free book giveaways.  Here’s how I saw them displayed and just had to take a picture.

Book Stack

No, I’m not a librarian but I am an avid reader and an author so I have to admit, I was in a little bit of heaven.  Not only did I get some great books to read (and review here on my blog) but I also gained some interesting insights on how publishers promote the books they sell.  I also met several authors that were there doing book signings.

By far and away the coolest pavilion on the show floor belonged to the Library of Congress.  I had the pleasure of listening to a talk they gave on the genealogy resources that the LOC offers.  Here’s where I do a shameless plug for my other blog, the one about my genealogy exploits: www.wellsgenealogy.wordpress.com

Here are some pictures I took of their “booth.”  Was a little hard to photograph as it was quite large.

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The best thing I took away from the LOC’s genealogy talk was a great resource they have called Chronicling America, an online resource for you to search (for free) a large amount of historical newspapers that they have scanned. Check it out at: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/

So back to the books …

This week I’ve been reading and listening to two books I got at the show.  I’ve been reading Kristen Proby’s “Close to You,” and listening to the audio book of “Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined” by Stephanie Meyer.

Close to You by Kristen Proby

Close to You by Kristen Proby

I’ve read a few of Kristen Proby’s books and have enjoyed her writing style.  It’s simple but the characters are engaging enough to draw you into the stories she writes. “Close to You” is the second book in the series, the sequel to “Listen to Me.” Being the way that I am, I bought the ebook of “Listen to Me” to read it first.  I just can’t read the second book in a series before reading the first one. I like the series so far.  It’s about five female best friends who run a restaurant in Portland.

“Listen to Me” had two buggaboos that had me lost for a bit.  First of all the book takes place in Portland.  Now, I’m from the east coast.  When you say Portland and give no other explanation as to geography, I’m assuming Portland, Maine.  It was about a third of the way thru the book that they mentioned Seattle and I realized I’d been picturing Maine in my head and should have been picturing Oregon.  The other thing is she drops you right in the middle of five women.  Maybe I’m just slow but the other four that weren’t the main characters of that book were hard to keep straight. I think it would have been better to reduce it to four.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved the book, both books, but sometimes there are just too many characters to keep track of.  I think my only other suggestion is that the covers of both books look like the same couple to me.  I asked my friend if she thought they were the same couple and she said she didn’t think so but she couldn’t be positive.

Judge for yourself ....

Judge for yourself ….

“Life and Death” is a retelling of “Twilight” but this time Stephanie Meyer changes up the story and instead of Bella and Edward, you have Bo and Edyth.  Yes, this time Bo (the boy) is a human and Edyth (the girl) is the vampire.  I’m about two-thirds of the way through the audio book so far and am really loving it.  There’s just enough difference from Twilight that L&D is almost a totally different story …. But not??  You have to read it for yourself to know what I mean and I highly suggest it for those who are Twilight lovers.  Life and Death

Both “Close to Me” and “Life and Death” bring up an interesting concern for women writers and that’s how to write first person narrative from a man’s point of view when you’re a woman.  Men and women think differently and I know from writing my own novels that when you switch points of view from the female character to the male character you have to write completely differently.  By this I mean how I would describe something and how my brother would describe the same thing would be completely different for some things and the same for others.

Case in point.  At one point in “Life and Death” Bo describes Edyth as wearing a bone colored scarf and a dove leather jacket.  Really?  What 17-year-old boy says bone instead of white and dove instead of gray?  He later says of himself that he’s besotted with Edyth.  Again, no 17-year-old boy who’s infatuated with a girl is going to say he’s besotted with her … unless he’s straight out of a Jane Austen novel.  I’m really enjoying the story of “Life and Death” but in no way believe that it’s really being narrated by Bo, a straight 17-year-old boy in the year 2015.  He watches Edyth obsessively for quite a while but makes no mention of any of her girly parts except her … hair and eyes?  Not only that but before he moved to Forks, Bo was best friends with his mother.  I’m just saying that if he’d  say she was hot or that he wanted to run his hands over some reproductive part of her body I’d be more inclined to believe he wasn’t batting for the other team. He can bat for whoever he wants to but he is supposed to be falling in love with a female vampire.

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In “Close to You” Kristen Proby switches the narrative between Cami and Landon every couple of chapters and I have to say she does a great job of differentiating their voices.  Landon sounds very masculine and Cami very feminine.  Having done this in many of my novels I can tell you it’s not an easy feat and I give Kristin high marks for her ability to write from a male POV.  There’s a subtlety that you need to understand in order to write a first person narrative in the opposite sex.  Kristin gets that.  I’m not so sure Stephanie Meyer does.

-Jennifer

Jennifer Geoghan, author of The Purity of Blood novel series and If Love is a Lie: A Partly True Love Story. I’d love to hear from you! So click on “Leave A Comment” below and let me know what’s on your mind.

19 May 2016: Help! I’m drowning in excess exposition and characters!

As a continuation of my last post , here’s the issues I encountered and lessons learned from the other book I started this past weekend. Again, for the sake of the author, I’ll keep the name of the novel to myself.

It’s a not terribly long romance novel. Problem is, I’m over 50% of the way through the book and I feel like the entire first half of the book could have and should have been condensed into the first 10% of the book. The pacing is so slow it’s driving me crazy. The only reason I’m still reading it is because I’m curious to see if the author crams the plot  resolution into the last paragraph. At this rate I have no idea how she’s going to manage to get any story line into the book. So far all she’s done is introduce 16+ characters and have the heroine say she’s a school teacher who because all her friends are now married and having babies, wants to have a baby on her own without waiting for a husband to come along. There, I said it one sentence, the author took half a book to say that. Oh, and the heroine is organizing a charity event where they will auction off some bachelors. It took up to 49% of the way through the book for the couple to kiss and that was after they’d had their first real conversation. I gather that this is not the first book in the series, but one of my issues with it is that there are WAY TOO MANY characters. Even if it’s a series where all the books take place in the same town, it doesn’t mean you should include all the previous characters in every book. The main focus should be the couple that book is centered on and a few supporting cast. This book has thrown over 16+ characters at me so far and I’m only half way through!

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When writing my current novel, I’ve been very mindful of the pacing in the first chapter. By the end of chapter one I’ve introduced the main characters and placed them in the middle of the action. I’ve given the first chapter to a few people to read to get their opinion about the pacing, hoping I wasn’t dragging it out a bit. Sometimes it’s hard to take a step back and recognize the pacing of your own book.

With this novel, I think the author got lost in her love for her characters (all 16+ of them) and forgot that she needed to move the plot along quickly enough to keep the reader engaged. Novels shouldn’t be an author’s love story with a character they created, and in this case I think it is. In my opinion, the entire book would pace so much better if the author ditched a lot of narrative that takes place during conversations between two characters. This isn’t from the book, but will give you the idea of what I’m talking about.

“Let’s go to the beach today,” Mary suggested. Really she didn’t want to go to the beach but needed to get out of the house and any destination was better than cleaning the garage. It was Friday and that garage wasn’t going to clean itself. Looking out the window she wondered if it would rain, which only reminded her that she needed to wash her car. Her car … her father had given her that car for a graduation present. She missed her father so much it hurt sometimes. The day he’d been run over by the train on his way home from the apothecary had been the worst day of her life. Well, the worst until Justin walked into town. Justin was no good and never would be. Maybe he’d look better if his hair wasn’t purple. Mary loved purple, in fact it was her favorite color, but dying her hair purple was where she drew the line.

“Sure the beach sounds like a good idea,” Diane replied as she handed Mary a cup of coffee.

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In my little example above you can see how annoying it is that there is so much exposition between the lines of dialog that quite frankly has nothing to do with the conversation itself. The author of this book has the terrible habit of making a simple conversation go on for pages and pages and pages. Honestly, I started skipping over a lot of this filler to get to the rest of the dialog in the conversation. With so much exposition I was getting lost as to who spoke last so when someone eventually spoke, I had no idea who it was.

Lessons Learned:

Too many chefs crowd up a kitchen just like too many characters confuse your readers. Keep to a small core set of characters, especially in a shorter length novel and develop your main characters before adding more character into the mix. If you think you may have too many characters, see if there is a way to combine two into one.

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Pacing is paramount. By the end of the first chapter you should already have established who your main characters are, set up the situation they find themselves in and why the reader should want to continue reading. This is super important if you’re going to be submitting your book to a publisher or an agent. If they only want to see the first chapter, it had better be a good one.

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Don’t drown your dialog. Your reader wants to feel as if they’re eaves dropping on your character’s conversation. Too much exposition in between actual dialog dilutes the conversation they are having and disengages your readers.

-Jennifer

Jennifer Geoghan, author of The Purity of Blood novel series and If Love is a Lie: A Partly True Love Story.

I’d love to hear from you! So click on “Leave A Comment” below and let me know what’s on your mind.