14 Mar 2017: The five page “How do you do?”

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

7: The five page “How do you do?”

A huge pet peeve of mine is piles of interior monologue in the middle of a conversation between two characters, especially if that interior monologue has nothing to do with the scene at hand.


If your characters are exchanging dialog, don’t be rude to them and have one of the characters in the conversation go off on a tangent of a long interior monologue about something or another.  I’ll give you an example of what I’m talking about:

He looked my way and smiled.  “How do you do?” he asked as he extended he hand my way.  Taking it I felt his firm grip and the veins that corded the back of his hand. His hand was strong and held the promise of things to come.

“It’s nice to meet you,” I replied even though I knew it was a boring thing to say.

Ignoring my lame reply, he smiled. “How about dinner tonight at the restaurant downstairs?”

Dinner? Was he serious? Surely he had some pin-up model on speed dial he’d rather spend time with than me. No, that was my low self-esteem talking.  Damn Brian and how long I’d stayed in that relationship with him! Five years.  Five years of my life wasted on a man who didn’t appreciate anything about me except the way I made grilled cheese sandwiches.  The key was using three different kinds of cheeses, none of which was american cheese. In hindsight, the first sign of trouble was when he refused to go with me to my grandfather’s funeral. I was distraught at the loss. Instead of coming with me to the funeral home, Brian said he had an important squash game he couldn’t reschedule.  Grandpa Joe was like a father to me.  I missed him everyday. Just yesterday I passed the park on my morning walk and saw an old man and a little girl flying kites. I cried silent tears on my way home remembering doing that with Grandpa. With him gone, I had no family left. Besides that squash is a stupid sport.  Who even plays squash anymore since the 80’s. 

“That sounds nice.”

When authors do this, I’m so lost I always have to turn back a few pages to find out what question she was asked that she’s now, five pages later, answering. Sadly, by doing this the author has lost her pacing in the scene and now needs to start over to reestablish it.  I’m sure even Grandpa Joe would say he deserves more of a relevant insertion into the story than this.


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.

12 Mar 2017: A Rose may not be a Rose after all.

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

6: A rose may not be a rose

Romance is intrinsically different for every person. Because of this variety in human nature, it’s important to take the time to discover what romance means to your characters, as it might not be what would be romantic to you.


Lizard Romance?

This individualization is what can give your characters depth and ultimately more interesting than stock characters out of a Cracker Jack box. If, like myself, you have written a number of romance stories, it’s important to distinguish your couples as individuals and not the same cookie cutter couple that you drop into a new situation in each book. Readers will quickly bore with this.

Your main characters should be as unique as your story. 

If indeed your female protagonist is truly a different person than your last book, than what is romantic to her will be different as well. Where one woman will find a man doing the dishes romantic, another may find flowers or walks in the rain romantic.


  • Fast cars or carriage rides?
  • A hand written poem or karaoke solo?
  • For me, a truly romantic gesture would be for a man to read all my books.
  • A friend of mine said one of the most romantic things a man could do for her was to love her dog a well as her.


Discovering what romance means to your protagonists is key to a good story. In the end, if you write characters that your reader care about, your reader will appreciate the romance of the book if it’s romance that makes sense for the characters you created.


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.

10 Mar 2017: Where the $)*@#$ am I?

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

5: Where the $)*@#$ am I?

Never be generic. Tell your reader in the first few pages where the characters are.

  • Are they in New York City?
  • Miami, Florida?
  • Austin, Texas?
  • Big Timber, Montana?

Each of these places are very different and those regional influences will affect how your characters interact with their environment. I recently read a book that seemed to purposefully avoid telling me where the story was set. All I can tell you was that I got the impression it was a city (as opposed to a small town) and that the main character said that, when a child, they used to go to the beach on weekends. Humm… not giving me much to go on.  Where they in Oregon or Georgia? Should I be picturing southern accents or New England ones? I can only imagine that the author of this book didn’t want the setting to interfere with the story.  Why? Did she not realize that the most amazing books every written are very identifiable with the places they are set?

Imagine Gone with the Wind without Atlanta.

Imagine Twilight without Forks.

Imagine Sherlock Holmes without London

Readers need something to go on.  As we read a book, we’re forming pictures in our mind, sort of like assembling the words on the page into a movie that shows in our head.  We hear the voices of the characters, we see what they see. But we all need a starting point from which to embark on the journey the book is to take us on.

2015-11-17-1447775691-8026445-accents_1Instead of ignoring the setting of your story, let it become a part of the story, let your readers walk it’s streets with the characters.  If they’re like me, the like to form a mental picture of the places your characters go, so paint a picture of a real place. Now, that doesn’t mean they can’t be set in a fictional town, it’s just that your fictional town should be set in a real life region of the country that your readers can identify with.


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.

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.


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.


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 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 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.


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.


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.


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 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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!