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:

to bea read

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.

too-many-words

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.

17 May 2016: Learning good lessons from bad books

I shouldn’t really say they’re bad books, but the two books I read this past week definitely had some issues.

The first book I read (which shall remain nameless) had a heroine who was supposed to have been born and raised in/around New York City. Yet for some unknown reason she kept using words that only people in the UK would use. Here are a few examples of what I’m talking about:

  • It had a granite countertop, fitted dishwasher, ceramic hob, refrigerator … (A hob is a stove top burner)
  • Tucking into my lunch … (Tucking = eating)
  • Although we didn’t find a torch … (A Torch is a flashlight)
  • Pushing all the banknotes into his hand …(Banknotes = dollar bills)

Clearly, the author of this book needed to have a professional editor or an honest friend tell them to reword these sentences. Honestly, this is why all my heroines are from my home town of Wading River, New York. I know how my people talk and phrase things. In other words, I write what I know.

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Lesson learned:

Be mindful of the local lingo. Just because you shine a torch on the hob while in search of your missing banknotes doesn’t mean they do that in New York too.

british-and-american-english-40-728-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.

25 April 2016: It’s the little things that annoy me the most.

I started to read a new book last night.  Part of the beginning of the book is how the girl (who lives in New York City)wins tickets to a concert in Montana for this famous band along with a five night stay in 5 star hotel.   Her and her friend get in her car and drive to Montana after she arranges to take a week off of work.

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Okay.  Do you see a problem here?

NYC to Montana is a 32 hour drive.  If she only took 7 days off of work, it would take 2 days to get to Montana if you drove and they’re all excited to use all FIVE days of their 5 star hotel experience.  Does she not realize she needed to take at least 9 days off of work to drive there, stay five nights then drive back.  This really annoyed me.

While lost in the backwoods of Montana, the main gal notes how they haven’t seen a petrol station in a long time.

Do you see the problem here?

I’m from New York, and I can assure you that no on in the state of New York calls a gas station a petrol station.

To be honest, the girl with the car lives and grew up in NYC.  She’s a workaholic too.  I think I really could have used the author justifying why she had a car to begin with.  Just about everyone in NYC who lives and works there takes mass transit. When she got into a fender bender with the guy in the book, she couldn’t afford to get a new headlight for her car. So I have to wonder why she has one to begin with in a city that you don’t really need a car in.

SpockIllogical

Am I nitpicking? Yes, but I’m only like 15% of the way into the book!!!!

Lesson learned, know your geography first of all. Know that really no Americans use the term Petrol Station, and remember that if you’re writing about a big city lifestyle, ask someone who lives that lifestyle for advice on your character.

Now back to the book to see what else will annoy me.  Good thing the characters, though illogical at times, are interesting enough for me to continue.

-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.

8 April 2016: To Kindle Unlimited … or not to Kindle Unlimited …

In case you’re not aware of Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program, for $9.99 a month, you can have unlimited access to read as many books as you like so long as these books participle in the program. It’s sort of like a library card.  You can take out “on loan” up to ten books at a time. You can keep any book for as long as you like, but if you should decide to drop the program, any books you have on your Kindle that you acquired through KU will be yanked off your Kindle.

kindle-unlimitedIf you’re like me and you read constantly, this $9.99 is a huge savings. I’m simply limited to book that are in the program, but so many are that it’s never been an issue.  I still buy books that I can’t resist, but all things considered, I save a ton with KU.

So last night I finished reading a book that I got for free on my Kindle.  It wasn’t through KU, just listed at a price of $0.00.  It was an okay book.  The story was decent, but I could take it or leave it. As I suspected, when I checked to see what else this author had to offer, the book I’d just read was indeed the first in a series. The second book was $2.99.  For $2.99, I took a pass.  However … had this book been on the KU program, I’d have read it.

kindleunlimited

There are many authors that poo poo the KU program because they feel the royalties just aren’t there for them.  To those authors I feel the need to remind you that the members of KU are hard-core readers, but we’re also extremely budget conscious. I might WANT to read your book, but I’m just not willing to pay more than $2.99 for an ebook of an author I’ve never read before, or was slightly ambivalent about their first book.  This was the case with the book I read this week.  The author missed out on me reading the second book in their series because I’d have had to have paid for it.  My suggestion would be to take the first book and put it in the KU program instead of making it $0.00 on amazon.  If they had, they’d have gotten royalties on the first book instead of nothing which is what they got from me.  I’d price book one at $0.99 for non KU and have it enrolled in the KU program.  I’ll be honest, if a book looks interesting enough, even with my KU, I’m willing to pay $0.99 for it.

royaltiesAs an author, I can tell you that I’m currently generating just as much royalties through the KU program as I am with straight sales. So what have your experiences with KU been like?  Let’s here from some other authors or KU members!!

-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.

4 April 2016: Maybe we should just hold hands instead of kiss …

What is Romance?

Exactly how much “romance” does a novel have to contain for it be considered a romance novel?

I’ve been pondering this question for a while now. Is it as simple that at the end of the book the male or female protagonist ends up with the person they’ve been flirting with? Is it the amount of sex in the book, and by sex I mean sex other than casual sex? Is it as simple as love, two characters that weren’t in love when the book began but are when it ends?

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Oops! Sorry, I can’t kiss you there. If I did, that would be a romance and I don’t do romance.

Let’s take my latest book, If Love is a Lie, for an example. I list it as a romance, but there’s a whole lot more to it than your standard formulaic romance. The first third of the book is Emily’s relationship with her internet dating scam artist. Hardly a worthy romance! The next phase of the book is her working with the FBI to bring her scammer and his gang to justice. There’s a growing attraction between her and the FBI agent assigned to the case, but really this section of the story is more crime/action/adventure. The last section of the book is where she’s forced to make a choice about the direction of her life. She’s caught in a love triangle between her scammer and the FBI agent. In the end she makes her choice and they ride off into the sunset together to start a new life. The last section is very dramatic but I suppose it would fall into a romance category. I’ll admit I like love triangles. There’s always a happy ending in my books but I like to keep the suspense of who she’ll be happy with until the very end.

So is If Love is a Lie a romance novel?

Sometimes I think romance is like vampires. My book series (The Purity of Blood novels) has vampires in it. Is the fact that they are vampires central to the story? No, but because there are vampires in it, it’s automatically “Paranormal Romance.” Personally, I don’t feel that classification is warranted, but a vampire is a vampire and if even one creeps into a novel, it’s automatically a paranormal book. This makes me wish there really was a vampire in the world, just one, a friendly one preferably, but just that one would make the paranormal … normal. Thus my “paranormal romance” could be classified as just romance.

I was gonna suck your blood, but I'll just kiss you instead!

I was gonna suck your blood, but I’ll just kiss you instead!

As with vampires, I think any book with kissing involved gets unfairly classified as a romance novel. Is If Love is a Lie a romance? Yes … and no. I think folks who like and those who dislike romance novels would both enjoy it.

Does underwater kissing count?

Does underwater kissing count?

Yesterday I wen to lunch with a friend and asked him this same question, how much romance is enough to push a book into that category. His reply was if the central theme of the book was romance, than it’s a romance. A logical and well thought out answer. With that in mind, I’d say my series (The Purity of Blood) is not a romance series at all. The central theme is the development of Sara from the innocent girl she is at the beginning of the series to the strong woman she is at the end. Are her romantic relationships part of that development? Yes, but even stronger in it is her relationship with Randall, her grandfather. But seeing as Randall is a vampire … I’m still stuck with the paranormal label. Oh, well. C’est la vie as the French say.

-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 March 2016: Table of Nonsense

When I first started publishing my e-books, I was new to the wonderful world of e-books my brand spanking new Kindle was about to open up to me.  Three years later, having read countless e-books, I’m now a seasoned e-book reader. With this in mind, I was thinking back to when I was first going through KDP’s (Kindle Direct Publishing) instructions on how to properly format and construct an e-book for publication.  They were very insistent that my novel have a table of contents with imbedded links to each chapter head.

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Three years later I can tell you this table of contents is completely unnecessary. I have never used a table of contents in any fiction e-book.  No, not even once.  When I think about all the trouble I went through setting my first one up, I could scream!

Why do they insist on them?

I have no idea. Maybe to keep an e-book looking as close to a paper novel as possible. If that’s the case, they need to wake up and smell the coffee.  A paper book is not an e-book.

I see other authors putting Table of Contents in their books as well.  As a writer who knows what it takes to pull a professional looking e-book together, whenever I open a new book, I back scroll from page one – chapter one, to the front cover. If you read on a Kindle as well, you know when you open a book for the first time, it skips the sacred Table of Contents and places you on page one.  Being as I like the experience, I like to start from the front cover and work my way to page one, so I see all those useless TOC (okay, I’m abbreviating it now)

So I ask … if the TOC is so sacred, why does my Kindle not open a book on it instead of page one?

I’ve come to the conclusion that going forward I’m no longer going to include a TOC in my e-book editions.  What’s the point?

So, I’m curious … does anyone else have an opinion on the inclusion of a TOC in a fiction e-book?

-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.

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5 March 2016: Word Counts & the Pressure to Conform into a Box.

Somewhere on my list of pet peeves is the question “How long does my novel need to be?”

I’ve seen multiple people ask this question in online forums on LinkedIn and Facebook groups.  It’s a peeve of mine because it’s one of those really stupid questions, that if you have to ask it, you really don’t know what it is to create a work of art (AKA a Novel, Novella or Short Story.)

How Long does my novel need to be

So …. How long does a novel have to be?

Answer: A novel has to be long enough to tell the story it is intended to tell.

The better question is, is the story I’m trying to tell require more words than a short story or less words than an epic three book arc to tell it succinctly and with creative flare? … I suppose just asking how long does my novel need to be is easier …

Length is all relative to the story being told. Take my five novel series for example.  They’re all basically chapters/adventures in the lives of Sara, Daniel and Ben.  Yet here’s how the word count fell:

  • 184,970 words :The Purity of Blood Vol I
  • 170,882 words :Purity Lost, TPOD Vol II
  • 190,103 words :The Blood that Binds, TPOD Vol III
  • 223,862 words :Purity’s Progeny, TPOD Vol IV
  • 223,591 words :Blood’s Solemn Vow, TPOD Vol V

Each book is the amount of words I needed to tell that part of the story. No more. No less.

In my opinion, here are some better questions:

If my novel is longer, how much more is it going to cost me per book if I do print on demand?

My best answer here is, the more pages it is, the less money you make. Find a balance between telling the story that needs to be told and keeping your bottom line in mind.

My novel is really long, should I break it into two separate books?

In response I’ll ask “How long is your epic masterpiece?”  If it’s more than 200,000 words and has a good breaking point about half way through, I’d break it up and beta test the ending of book one with a good group of people. But I’d never break a book in half just because of word count.

Do I want to write a short story, a novella or a novel?

There is no hard and fast rule as to where one of the above ends and another begins. If you’re thinking about submitting your masterpiece in a competition, that competition probably has a word count that will place your work in one of these categories. But don’t get bogged down in labels.  I heard a woman at a writing conference complain that the piece she’d entered into a competition didn’t make the word count to be judged as a novel, but instead was categorized as a novella.  She was livid that they considered her novel a novella. I don’t have a problem with novellas.  I mean what’s a novella except the perfect novel for people with short attention spans!

Novels Novellas Short Stories

Now that I’m writing my books with an eye on making money, I’m trying to write stories that aren’t quite as long as the ones in The Purity of Blood series. Although I love my novels and feel that they are wonderful books, for the print versions, they’re too long to allow me to make a decent profit.  Right now I’m happy if my books are between 80,000 and 100,000 words. With that large a range, I don’t feel pressured to add or subtract from my stories for the sake of something unrelated to their literary merit.

What are your thoughts on story length?

-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.

14 Feb 2016: So you want to write a novel … now what?

Over the course of the last few years, I’ve had many people tell me that they have a great idea for a novel.  Some say they’ll get around to it one day, some ask if I want to write it with them, some admit it will probably never get written. I’m often asked for advice on how to go about getting started.  Getting started is always the hardest part, even for me, an author who’s written seven novels.

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  • So how do you start?

First you need to start gathering your thoughts on paper.  Get a notebook and write headers on the top of several pages.  Headers Like “Plot,” “My Main Character,” “Subplot,” “Other Characters.” Really it’s the process of organizing all those thoughts that have been rambling around inside your head.  You think it will be easy to just sit down and write your book out without this step, but you’d be wrong.

  • Why on paper and not on a computer or other device?

Don’t discount the effect of paper and pen.  There’s something cathartic about writing with a pen or pencil that you’ll soon discover for yourself.  I suggest a portable notebook.  I use smaller ones that fit in my purse.  Believe me, you’ll want to have it with you at all times and inspiration tends to strike in the most unlikely of places.  I especially recommend you keep a pad and pen on your nightstand. How many times have I woken up in the middle of the night with a great idea and been too lazy to get up and write it down? … way too many times.  And then I wake up in the morning thinking … didn’t I have an idea last night? But I can’t remember exactly what it was.  Don’t be like me because it totally sucks.

Okay, let’s say you’ve started the above.

  • So when do I get to start writing my novel?

After you have a decent idea of your plot and a detailed description of your main characters, their physical descriptions, likes, dislikes, past history, the flesh on their bones, it’s time to start your outline. For me, my outlines are bullet point outlines, plot points I need to hit in a specific order so that I tell the story properly. This outline will evolve a lot from the moment I start writing till I finally type “the end.” It’s not chiseled in stone, it will evolve as your story evolves, but it helps you keep your eye on the prize.  It will be your guiding north star.

When you’re writing a novel, you need to feel as if you’re making headway, and being able to tick off another bullet point on your outline makes you feel as if you’re making progress and that in and of itself is encouragement to continue on. It is your light at the end of the writing tunnel.whats your story

  • So now I’m writing … now what?

My suggestion to not lose your momentum going and keep from getting bogged down to the point you give yourself writer’s block is to XXX it. Huh? you’re asking out loud as you scratch your head.  Yes, you read me right. When I’m writing out a scene and I come up to something that I’m not sure of, I xxx it, and go back to it later.  I’ll give you an example. In my current project, I had a sentence that went something like this:

“Doc Gibbs came by this afternoon and said he’s worried about the new calf, thinks he may have come down with XXX and he wants to come back tomorrow and give him a TREATMENT.”

My novel takes place on a ranch in Texas.  I’m from New York and live in Orlando. What do I know about Longhorn cattle? Nothing.  If I stopped to do the research on what could be wrong with a calf and what they’d have to do to treat it, I’d never get a book written.  I finished the first draft this week and spent a couple of days fixing the XXX’s and other issues like this.  These are things that aren’t really important to the story so I don’t even bother to stop to dwell on them while I’m writing.  I’ll have things like this: “After I order LUNCH ORDER, I handed her the menu back.” Don’t lose yourself in minutia.  I have news for you … your first draft will suck.  Get over it and know that you can always fix it in the editing.

Don’t expect perfection.  If you do, you’re doomed before you start.  Perfection is crafted from your first draft.  Your first draft will have lots of issues that need fixing.  I can’t stress enough that you need to leave expectations of “The Great American Novel” at the doorstep. All you can hope is that your first draft shows potential.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t attack your first draft with gusto, it only means that if you agonize over every sentence, you’ll never get to THE END.  You’ll get so discouraged by chapter two that you’ll never bother to finish.

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  • So I finally finished my first draft.  No what?

Congratulations! The first thing I do is try to catch the easy things before I really dig deep.  In my word document, I use the “Find” feature and look for things I know I commonly type wrong.  Having just typed your novel, I’m sure you probably know what your typing foibles are. Mine are that for some reason, I tend to type an extra ‘ after the “t” in a contracted word.  – didn’t’ –  Don’t ask why, I have no idea why I do it.  I also type “because” as “becuase”, transposing the a and u.  I type “the” as “teh” a lot.  Not to mention that I also have issues with tenses.  I write in first person narrative and find that I can stray from writing in a past tense to a present tense.  Example: “I take the book he hands me and smile.” When I really should have typed “I took the book he handed me and smiled.” Again, I have no idea why this happens.  This is also when you go back and fix your XXX’s and Capped letter issues.

When you feel as if you have a good grasp on these kinds of issues, for me, this is when I print the first twenty or so pages and start to read.  Reading on paper and not off a screen is very helpful to me.  Maybe it won’t be for you, but I recommend you try.  It’s another perspective, one that your reader will have, so it’s worth taking a step back to look through their eyes. I like to make hand written notes on paper then enter them on the word doc. In this first 20 pages you’ll start to see other issues you missed.  After that just keep editing.

I usually read through, editing as I go, at least three times through the whole book.  At this point, I email the doc to my Kindle and let the text to speech feature on my Kindle read my book to me.  Believe me, you will find even more typos and issues.  Hearing it out loud is going to blow your mind.

After I listen to it two or three times, I think my books are ready for someone else’s eyes.  WARNING: Be careful who you give it to. I’ve had issues where you give it to them and a month later they haven’t even started it yet.  Find someone who has the time to sit down read it now.  Gently give them a deadline in which you’d like it back.  I’d also provide them with a sheet containing a guideline of what you’re looking for.  They are most likely not a professional editor and need your guidance here. Tell them you’re looking for typos, grammatical errors, inconsistencies in the plot, anything that confuses them or doesn’t make sense.  Some people are naturally good editors, many are not.  Your close family man not be your best choices.  Don’t give it to someone who is just going to hand it back and say “That was lovely, dear.”

Once you get it back, incorporate what notations you received and thought made sense to change.

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  • Set goals for yourself.

It would have taken me a decade to write my first novel if I hadn’t of set daily quotas on myself.  10 pages a day to start with.  As the story gets written, it gets easier to write.  By the end, my quota was 25-30 pages a day. If I didn’t meet my quota one day, the missing pages got added to the next days quota.  For example, I write 8 pages today means I have to write 12 tomorrow.  It was a mental way for me to stay on track.  I increased the quota when I found it was too easy to meet and I was exceeding it.

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  • Don’t get married to anything in your novel!

I gave a short story I wrote to a friend to read/edit last week.  She gave me back some good notes.  One being that she thought the ending was too quick and she gave me a suggestion on away to prolong the plot twist. I thought about it, and she was right. I made a few modifications and it really flows much better now. If I’d been stubborn and thought the baby that was my story was perfect just the way any mother would think her child was, I’d have been holding it back from being all that it could be.

  • What about all these fancy writing computer programs?

Don’t get sucked into the mentality that a computer program will help you write a book. People were doing it with feather quills and writing masterpieces of the English language long before the advent of the computer age.  I use MS Word and do just fine.  If you’re trying to write your first book, believe me, that is hard enough without tossing learning a new computer program into the mix.  Concentrate on writing, not fiddling with the newest software. I promise you, the software isn’t going to write your book for you while you slumber at night.

Well, that’s my advice on how to get started. I could go on and on and on about the subject, and I’m sure I will in future posts.

Happy writing!

-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.