Historical Fiction

My husband reads lots of nonfiction, especially history and biographies.  I, on the other hand, love a book with a historical background, but I prefer fiction.  I want a plot, a story, with a sense of a time period.

Right now, I’m reading the second book in Anna Lee Huber’s Lady Darby series, MORTAL ARTS.  Set in Scotland in 1830, it’s a mystery–a little on the dark side–with the feeling of English lords and ladies with a bit of Gothic thrown in.  I’m a fan.

I recently read Mae Clair’s END OF DAY, with a present day mystery linked to a heinous event that happened during the founding of Hode’s Hill in 1799.  The chapters from the past added depth and gravity to a curse that’s released when Gabriel Vane’s remains are stolen from the town’s old church yard.  Those scenes from the past were vivid and emotional.

Another author I return to with every new book she writes is my friend Julia Donner/ M.L. Rigdon.  I love her Regency romances.  They take me back to my love of Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen.  But she’s started a new historical Western romance series, and I love those books every bit as much.

That’s why I’m happy to share that the first book in her Westward Bound series, AVENUE TO HEAVEN, is available now on a Goodreads giveaway.  100 lucky winners will receive an e-book copy of her book.  Here’s the link:  https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway?sort=recently_listed&tab=recently_listed.  And here’s a tiny tease about her book:

Mary Lou's Avenur to Heaven twitter post

Hope you have a great week and Happy Writing!

Some Good News


It all started with a phone call from my agent.  MMB Media had contacted her and wanted to buy all three of my Jazzi Zanders mysteries to make into digital audio books.  That made me pretty excited.  I got even more excited when Lauren told me that I owned all of the audio rights for my mystieries.  It was in my contract, but I never expected to have to consider it.  I’m glad I have Lauren for an agent.

Then my editor, John Scognamiglio, at Kensington, told me that The Body in the Attic had been scheduled at 99 cents for BookBub on Feb. 7.  Always a good thing!   Kensington had already offered 100 copies in a giveaway on Goodreads that garnered the book 100 reviews there, mostly good ones. And I had some more reviews on Amazon.  That was a first for me.  I’d never reached 100 before.

WAY back, when I wrote my first urban fantasy–FALLEN ANGELS–I sent it to BookBub and they accepted it.  I offered it for free, and it got LOTS of downloads.  It zoomed to number one for FREE e-books.  What I was too-new-to-the-business to understand is that MOST authors wait to do that until they have a few books in a series.  Then people order the first book and many order the next ones, too, and the author makes money.  Shrug.  You live and you learn.  At least I got name recognition from it.  And I learned some business savvy.  These days, it’s not easy to get a “yes” from BookBub.  But Kensington has more clout than start-up writers, so I got lucky.

The Body in the Attic went on sale there today, and I hate to admit it, but I couldn’t concentrate on the chapter I was writing because I kept looking at my numbers to see how I was doing.  Making it even harder to concentrate, my husband got more excited than I was.  (He’s pretty cute.  That’s why I keep him).  And every time we looked, my numbers were better.  Now, I can’t tell how many actual sells it had.  Those numbers all go to Kensington.  All I can see are the rankings, but when it went to #12 in Kindle store, #1 in Cozy culinary mysteries, then #1 in amateur sleuth mysteries, and #1 in hobbies and crafts, and again in “animal” mysteries, I printed it out, because I might never see those numbers again:)  To say I was distracted is putting it mildly.

My nerves are starting to settle now.  And I realize what goes up must come down.  But at least it FINALLY went up.  I’ve been working at writing for a long, long time.  A lot of writers have.  Writing isn’t for the faint of heart, or for the easily disheartened.

I try to share the different ups and downs of my writing with you.  This time, it’s nice to share an “up.”  A month from now, who knows?  I might grumble about a “down.”  But I believe in enjoying every little success that comes my way, so I’m enjoying myself now.

The next realization?  I can do a happy dance around the house today, but tomorrow, I need to plant my fanny in my chair and hit the keys again.  I want the next book to be as good or better than the first.  I’m so happy for readers.  I don’t want to let them down.  And I don’t want to let myself down either.

So for you?  I wish you Happy Writing!


P.S.  I ask this every once in a while, but does anyone have any questions they’d like to throw out there.  I’d be happy to try to answer them, if I can.


I joined three friends to give a writers’ workshop on marketing and promoting your book yesterday.  It was a beautiful Saturday.  We had a small audience, but that’s never bothered me.  I know and respect some of the writers who came to hear us.  I love and respect my fellow writers on the panel.  A win/win for me.  And then we went to the Outback to eat when the panel was over, and what can I say?  I can be had for a bloomin’ burger.  And the company?  There’s nothing more fun than talking to fellow writers.

All four of us have been writing for a while now.  Kyra Jacobs, the newest and shiniest writer in the group, is probably more savvy than I am at marketing.  I try, but I’m no whiz kid.  The thing that struck me is that we’re all good writers–all in our own way–and it’s just plain hard to get your name out there and find success.  The other thing that struck me is how willing writers are to help each other.  If we learn something that works, we’re happy to share.  We WANT to see other writers succeed.

We shared sites that had worked for us when we advertised.  Of course, the best site is BookBub.  It’s expensive, and it’s HARD to get them to accept your book, but if they take you, it’s worth it.  At most sites, you have to have a set number of reviews to be considered.  Not always true of BookBub.  They factor in lots of things.  And often, you have to have an average 4.0 ranking.  That led me to thinking about reviews.

Every author needs reviews.  If you reach 50 reviews on Amazon, you get more visibility. Amazon might even spotlight your book.  The only time I got 50 reviews was when I was active on Goodreads and BookBub accepted my urban fantasy novel, FALLEN ANGELS.  I ended up with 67 reviews, most of them good.  I really enjoyed Goodreads, but for whatever reason, the group I was in sort of trickled apart and I still haven’t plugged into a new one.  My fault, but I’m writing more, and it’s hard to find the time.  The thing is, good reviews make a difference.  They open doors for authors.  We have more options.  I like advertising at The Fussy Librarian, but you have to have 10 reviews and a 4.0 average ranking for them to accept you.  Since I started over with a new pseudonym, I have trouble getting 10 reviews.

There’s another reason having more reviews helps an author.  It’s sad, but true, that your book just isn’t going to click with every reader.  That’s all right.  You can’t please them all. But some readers are more than happy to write the worst reviews they can to let you know how much they didn’t like your book.  It hurts.  I know people who just don’t read their bad reviews, and maybe they’re smarter than I am.  I still read mine.  I’m curious what worked and what didn’t for readers, but a really bad review feels like an open wound that takes a while to recover from.  On top of that, those reviewers give your book a low rating.  If you only have six reviews to start with, your average rating is shot. When you get a new review that’s positive, you feel like someone gave you a dose of sunshine. It affirms that you might be doing something right.

The other thing that I noticed on our panel yesterday was that every writer on it is hopeful.  We all think that the time is coming when we’ll “make it,” whatever that means to each of us individually.  For Kyra Jacobs and I, we both want to see our print books on bookstore shelves.  For M. L. Rigdon–she loves self-publishing and making all of her own choices–so she just wants to make more money.  And for Les Edgerton–well, he’s already pretty darned successful and writes pretty much what he wants to–he’d just like to sell more, too.

And so, I wish each and every one of us success.  And I wish you success, too, whatever that means to you.  Happy writing!


BTW, my 5th romance, FIRST KISS, ON THE HOUSE, comes out June 27th.  It’s available for pre-order now.  I think it’s pretty darned fun!  http://www.kensingtonbooks.com/book.aspx/35025

cover 5 judy

And, if you’re interested, I started a new Babet and Prosper story on my webpage:


Writing: How bad can bad boys be?

I recently read the first books in Ilona Andrews’ and Jeaniene Frost’s new urban fantasy series, and I loved both BURN FOR ME and ONCE BURNED. Both have spunky female protagonists–a must for urban fantasy. And both have love interests who are, of course, stronger and badder than anyone around–another must. On top of that, it seemed to me that both authors ramped up the “heat” index until the chemistry between heroines and heroes sizzled. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. Both Vlad and Mad Rogan are sexy as sin. And both break rules to follow their own codes of honor. Which brings me to the question: how bad can bad boys be?

I signed up to read BURN FOR ME as part of Goodreads, but I’m so slow and got so far behind, I ended up reading the comments other readers made and didn’t add any of my own, because by then…what was the point? But it interested me that a few readers agreed with the book’s heroine, that Mad Rogan is a sociopath–a tempting, I’d throw myself at him, gorgeous, smart, intriguing sociopath–but still….
Since I’d read the two books close together, it made me wonder why Vlad didn’t get the same comments, but then, he’s a vampire. And everyone knows that vampires do whatever they please, so being called a sociopath is the least of their worries. Mad Rogan is a mortal with massive amounts of magic, so I’m guessing readers expect him to show more restraint. It got me thinking, and I was surprised by the heroes who have been my favorites lately. Jorg, from Prince of Thorns, is no nice guy. Mad Rogan would gladly eliminate you if you got in his way. And Vlad–well, his magic is fire. You’d probably be a crispy critter. The thing is, to me, they’re NOT sociopaths, because in their worlds, they’re probably better than anyone else who has the same powers they do. It’s all relative. They have a reason–to find and protect usually–for the things they do; whereas, the bad guys only strive to promote self-serving interests.

A true sociopath lacks empathy, but Vlad and Mad Rogan have that. They don’t follow normal social rules because they don’t live in a normal, social world. Their friends and enemies possess lots of power. The bad guys use power to do evil. The good guys use power to battle them. They risk their lives to fight villains. The conflict in the stories is usually good vs. evil. Jorg, he’s a little more ruthless than the norm, but so is his world. In Prince of Thorns, it’s hard to feel sympathy for even the ordinary citizens. They’re not very nice either. And the rulers? They tend to be violent and power-hungry. Jorg just does it better.

I’m shaking my head at myself. It’s hard to believe I went from doting over Mr. Darcy, Deerslayer, and Harry Potter to cheering for Vlad, Mad Rogan, and Jorg. But they’re all heroes, in their own ways, who defy the norm of their social worlds to see beyond it. The one rule a bad boy might get in trouble for breaking? Cheating on the heroine. I’m a fan of Faith Hunter’s, too, and when Rick cheated on Jane Yellowrock–even though, technically, he was a bit coerced–readers weren’t happy with him.

Who are your favorite heroes? And why? Are you hooked on any bad boys?


Writing–Before Your Book Goes Online

I’m mostly an indie author.  Not exactly, because I have an agent, who’s wonderful.  And an agency, which is awesome.  So I get to skip some of the steps that 100% indie authors do.  Which is fine by me.  So I can’t tell you how to format, because Sharon–who’s an e-book wizard–does it for me.  And I can’t tell you about working with a publisher, if you have a book coming out in hardback or paperback, because I’ve never done that.  All I can share with you is what I know or what I’ve tried.  But here are the steps I go through to get a novel/novella online:

1.  People keep saying it, but they’re right.  Write the best book you possibly can, because there are a LOT of books out there–some good, some bad, but you want yours to be the best it can be.  So don’t slap words on a hard drive and share them with the world.  Edit them.  Have a few beta readers (who don’t tell you you’re wonderful and shouldn’t change a word) critique them for you.  Then decide what you could do better and fix it.  Now, I’ve had several friends who would be happy to NEVER send their book out into the cold, cruel world because they’re never going to be satisfied with it.  They can always see one more thing to fix, one more thing that will make it shine.  You have to find a happy medium here.  But don’t rush your book either.  When you send it out, make sure it’s good.

2.  Have someone who knows his/her stuff copy edit your work.  I notice misspellings, bad grammar, and the “sprinkle method” of adding commas.  (I had a friend once who told me that she didn’t understand commas, so she just “sprinkled” them on the page so that they looked good).  Aaargh.  Grammar and spelling are the basic tools of writing, but none of us finish writing a manuscript with no mistakes.  And we can’t always see our own mess-ups.  Make sure your manuscript is clean before you offer it to the world.  (My biggest weakness is hyphens.  Hope one belongs in mess-up???)

3.  Once your manuscript is ready to go, it’s time to format it for whatever site you’re going to load it on.  Most of my writer friends pay someone to do this for them.  A few take the time and effort to do it themselves.  I’m lucky.  (And I know it).  Sharon does it for me.

4.  Books need a cover.  I’ve been lucky enough to work with Michael Prete.  I love the covers he’s created for my novels and novellas.  (And for the first time, he’s told me he’d like to do more covers, so I can share his name and web page: http://vertex10.com/.  He usually designs web pages, so his site only shows his professional work as a web designer, but if you like any of the covers on my work, he’s done all of them, and his prices are reasonable!!).  He’s also been kind enough to let me find images that I think fit the story/tone that I’m trying to create.  Sometimes, I only use one image for a cover.  Sometimes, I combine them.  I just copy the links of what I like and send them to him, and he works his magic.  But whatever you decide to do, your book cover is what makes people notice your novel.  Don’t kid yourself.  People DO judge books by their covers.  Here are my two favorite sites to find images for Michael to work with: http://www.canstockphoto.com/  and  http://www.shutterstock.com/.  Be warned, though, once you start flipping through all of the images, you can lose a few hours without noticing.

5.  And last, but not least, once your book is ready to go, how are you going to market/promote it?  What have you got in place to help people find it?  I’ve already shared a few great marketing sites in previous blogs.  A good one is http://www.lindsayburoker.com/.  Another is https://twitter.com/BadRedheadMedia.  I had great luck with Book Bub ($90), but it’s getting harder and harder to get your book listed there.  I had okay luck with http://www.ebookbooster.com/ ($40).  By okay, I mean I had over 3,000 downloads of my free book with ebookbooster.  Not bad, but nothing compared to the 18,000+ downloads I got from Book Bub.  Later this month, I’m going to try out the parajunkee site to see how that works for the release of my 2 new novella bundles.  I’m experimenting, looking for a mix of sites that help readers discover my work.  I’ve been lucky enough to have several bloggers feature my books.  I still haven’t been brave enough to try a blog tour.  Twitter makes a difference when I tweet about a new release.  So does Goodreads when I self-promote in Making Connections or Nexus.  But an occasional paid ad has proven pretty effective, worth the money, (but only because I have more than one book online).  All that I’m saying is that not many people are going to stumble on your book amid the thousands or millions of novels on amazon and Nook unless you help them find it.  You can twitter (but do it right.  Don’t just list your book over and over again.  People stop reading your tweets).  You can join Goodreads or Facebook.  Or start a blog.  But whatever you do, do something!

P.S.  Just because I LOVE this cover and I mentioned Michael, this is the cover he created for the first Babet/Prosper bundle that’s going online Sept. 23–and this one happens to be FREE when it goes up.


My facebook page (but it’s mostly the blogs you’ve already read): https://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/JudithPostsurbanfantasy

Writers, readers, & reviews

It’s taken me a long time, but I finally got up to 44 reviews on one of my  novels.  When I offered Fallen Angels for free for 4 days on amazon, I got over 18,000 downloads (big for me, not so impressive for best selling authors).

I’m not sure, but it might be possible it takes 18,000 downloads to get 33 reviews–I had 11 to start with.  That, in itself, was an eye opener.  I’ve read that a lot of people download free books and then never get around to reading them.  *Sigh.  I’m guilty of that myself.  Out of the ones who actually read it, only some write reviews.  But thank you, thank you, thank you to the ones who do!  Because readers didn’t react to my book the way writers do.

I have three friends who I trade manuscripts with.  They mark up my stuff.  I mark up theirs.  We look for everything–word choice, pacing, conflict, tension, plot holes, characterization…you name it.   If we find anything that we think could be better, stronger–we mark it.  Not to be critical.  But because each one of us wants to write the best book we possibly can.

Before I offered Fallen Angels for free on amazon, I offered free copies for read-to-review on Goodreads.  I love Goodreads.  It’s becoming sort of saturated with writers right now, but the readers and bloggers on the sites I joined are some of the most supportive people a writer could have the joy to meet.  These are serious readers.  They’re voracious and they know their stuff.  Their reviews are honest and insightful, and they’re almost always harder to impress than most people who walk into a bookstore or open a book on their e-readers.  They compare you to other big name authors and know the markets, every major series in the genres they like, and what’s current.  But they’re generous.  When they see potential, they say so.

The reviews I got from the free days on Kindle were different.  Every bit as intelligent and insightful, but in a different way.   These people read for fun.  They download a book and want to be entertained for a few hours.  If you accomplish that, they’re happy with you, and they give interesting feedback.  Their reactions weren’t always what I expected.  More than a few had trouble with Voronika.  I love Voronika.  I know why she’s built a wall around herself and is aloof and prickly.  Enoch loves and understands her, too.  But I still haven’t made her into as sympathetic a character as I’d like her to be.  Maybe I’ll get her right in book 3…let’s hope:)

Even most of the negative feedback was interesting, if for no other reason than to remind me that I’m never going to please everyone.  But these people read for fun.  They didn’t analyze plot or structure.  They just asked if the book WORKED for them.  Did they like it or not?  Were they glad they’d spent a few hours with my characters?  What made them keep turning pages, and what made them get up to trim their toenails?  Yes, a book CAN be that boring.  And when it gets right down to it, that’s what we need to think about.  We want people to pick up our book, turn a page, and get hooked in our story.  And we do all that we know how to do to keep them engaged from the first page to the last.

So…happy writing to you.  And may you hook readers from the beginning, through the middle, and to the end of your latest novel/novella/or short story.


Writing–Enjoy the Words

I love my writing group, Summit City Scribes.  We get together twice a month and critique each others’  manuscripts.  We mention what we find strong and wondrous in each piece and what we think might make it better.  We bully and encourage each other, and eventually, most of us end up being pretty darned good writers.

And then it’s time to figure out what to do with what we wrote.  This isn’t a how-to about selling books.  It’s not practical advice, but from the heart.  Some of us in Scribes have been writing for a long time.  I remember the days when a writer could send a query letter directly to an editor at a publishing house.  True, the editor might never look at it, but some poor underling or slush pile reader trudged through each submission, and if it was deemed worthy enough, a writer could get a reply from the editor. These were  considered “good” rejections.

A few of us at Scribes have managed to survive “almost” deals, where an editor asked for a manuscript, held it to publish, and then the deal fell through.  Twice, editors held novels I wrote for future lines their companies meant to start, and then, for whatever reason, decided against trying.   Frustrating?  Yes.  But not nearly as frustrating as today’s world of traditional publishing where no editors or slush pile readers even accept unsolicited manuscripts.  In today’s world, an author has to find an agent, and only an agent can submit manuscripts to editors.  In the “old days,” publishers had a strong stable of midlist authors who might never reach the Top Ten lists, but sold consistently.  There were lots of places to submit and sell short stories.  A new writer could “cut her teeth” and learn as she got better and better at her craft.

Things have changed.  I have a writer friend who claims that finding an agent is easy.  It is for him.  He’s well known in the publishing world.  For the rest of us?  It’s blood, pain, and tears.  I was lucky enough to get an agent who’s anything and everything that I’d ever hope for an agent to be, but I still didn’t have any luck selling my books. I have a habit of writing cross-genre that I find exhilarating, but publishers aren’t so fond of.  I also have a tendency to write for markets that are already full or starting to sag.  So I bugged Lauren to let me put my writing online.  She warned me that sticking a novel on amazon and Barnes and Noble, etc., would be no trip to overnight success.  And boy, was she right!

Before she’d even put my work online, she had a list of to-dos I had to complete.  I needed 50 followers on Twitter, I needed to start a blog and join some kind of internet group–I chose Goodreads and love it–and I needed to be on Facebook.  None of these are any best kept secrets.  There are lots of posts on how to create a “brand” as a writer these days.  But what Lauren was making sure of was that I’d at least TRY to market myself and promote my work.  No one does it for you these days, unless you’re a big name author who will make a publisher lots of money.

Writing is hard work.  So is marketing.  And what’s frustrating to me is when a new author shows tons of potential in our group, and she asks, “What should I do now?,” more often than not, the answer is, “If you want to try to find an agent and publisher, go for it.  But if it takes forever and it doesn’t look good, put your work online.”  Thankfully, Scribes has Melissa, our computer guru, who can whip up a book cover, format a book, and put it on Kindle in the blink of an eye.

The sad news, to me, is that it’s so hard to get a traditional publisher to take on a new writer these days.  The good news?  E-books have taken the place of midlist author slots and pulp fiction magazines that used to serve as practice grounds that gave writers time to learn and grow.  But going the e-book route, an author has to market and promote to get her work any attention.  The only exception that I can think of, off the top of my head, is Harlequin romance.  Editors there still welcome writers and work with them.  A writer doesn’t have to have an agent to submit to one of their lines.  More places might exist, but I can’t think of them.

In a way, it’s so easy to put a book online these days that there’s no filter to assure quality of writing.  There are so many books online that it’s hard to stand out.  So my advice to writers?  Enjoy putting words on paper (or computer screens) and write the best books you can, because that, for me, is the luxury part of the job.  The business part is necessary, and I’m not saying it’s not without its joys, but it takes a new set of skills.

Write What You Read

You know the saying, “You are what you eat.”  *shivers* (Makes me think of Patricia Briggs’ vampire in Silver Borne, who took that very literally).  Sorry..I digress…my brain does that, but I think it would be appropriate to describe most writers as “you write what you read.”  I started out reading mysteries…lots of them.  So, when I wanted to write my first book, that’s what I wrote.  That’s the form that I intuitively felt comfortable with.  My friends who devoured one romance after another write romances.  One of them reads romances and watches tons of horror movies…and she writes both.  Odd combo, right?  Write a romance with a happy ending.  Write a horror novel and go dark.  Might balance things out.  Sci/fi readers tend to write sci/fi.  It makes sense.  We write what we love/what draws our minds and imaginations to it.

Another reason I advocate to write what you read is that each genre (and I include literary novels in this category–they have their own rules and structure too) has its own rhythms and intricacies.  We “learn” them while we read one book after another.  They become an internal compass that guides us from page to page.    We can feel when a red herring should appear or a twist in plot should occur.

Years ago, when I was trying to find a “home” for a mystery I wrote, I sent the manuscript to Tor, and the wonderful editor who worked there at the time, wrote me back and told me that she loved my writing, loved my characters, but she’d just been moved to head up the paranormal romance line for the company.  Did I have one?  Now, I had lots of spare mystery manuscripts stuffed in file drawers, but I had no idea what a paranormal romance even was, so I wrote and told her so.  And bless her, she said, “Here’s a list of the things that make a paranormal romance.”  There were no books on shelves for me to look at, nothing to go by but her list, but hey–I have lots of creativity, right?

I’m a writer.  I read the list and said to myself, “This doesn’t look too hard.  I can do this.”  And I tried.  Needless to say, my first attempt was maybe a good book, but it sure wasn’t a paranormal romance.  So she sent me another list and a few titles to look at.  I stuck the ideas on a solid mystery plot (something I knew), and she liked that one–wanted to buy it, actually–but she got shot down because the sales department had just pedaled a book with Tarot cards in it and didn’t want another one.  Such is the world of publishing.  And then she left Tor, and her type of paranormal romances morphed into the type I read today.  And I was behind the transition again.

The thing is, once more paranormal romances reached the market, I discovered I’d never be good at them.  I’m not romantic.  Have a heck of a time writing it.  But urban fantasy–now that I not only loved, but got hooked on.  And it took lots and lots of reading until I felt comfortable there.  Now, I never want to go back to writing mysteries.

My point is, even with a list of “this is what’s in an urban fantasy,” you won’t get it right.   There are lots and lots of small, key elements, rhythms, nuances that you only learn by reading…and reading more.  How you label your book or story matters, because readers come to your work with set expectations.  I learned that on Goodreads.  If you say your book is a paranormal romance,  the romance has to be the key ingredient that turns your story.  If you label it as urban fantasy, romance is a subplot and a battle between a good paranormal and a bad paranormal drives the plot.  So my advice?  Once you decide what you want to write, read as many books in that genre as you can.  And then read some more.


Summer Reading

One of the things that I look forward to in the summer is the chance to stay up later than usual, read more, and sleep later in the mornings.  It’s been a slow start on my reading this year.  Summer’s been busier than usual.  My daughter’s been picking up extra hours as a nurse.  My grandson got a job in construction.  He comes home for lunch every day–hot, sweaty, and covered in dust.   Teenagers have been bopping in and out of our house.  But we’re finally settling into a routine.  And I can snatch time in the evenings to read.

I belong to Goodreads on the internet.  These girls can whip through a book in a day.  Their reading goals are almost all over one hundred books a year, some over two hundred, whereas I’m a slow reader.  If I push myself, I can finish a novel in a few days, two books a week at warp speed.  I’d like to think it’s because I savor every word.  I suspect it’s because I dawdle and ponder as I go.  I turn things over in my mind, consider plotting and pacing instead of just enjoying the ride.  I’m going to try to change that about myself, to just say Whoopee and turn pages, to go with the flow.  But it hasn’t happened yet.

Goodreads has introduced me to more series and writers than I ever knew existed.  And the readers debate what they liked or didn’t like about the books they read.  I’ve learned a lot from them, but by the time a few different people write glowing endorsements for a novel with an interesting premise, it ends up on my to-be-read list.  At the  moment, I have so many books on that list that someone will probably have to bury it with me when I pass, but that doesn’t discourage me.   Unfortunately, it doesn’t even deter me from walking into bookstores and browsing.  Okay, buying.  I have a terrible time leaving a bookstore empty-handed.  Meaning, I have piles and piles of novels to read….

But there’s hope, because summer is officially upon us.  The solstice came and went.  Warm evenings stretch before me, and I’ll have more time to read–one of my favorite parts of the long days of summer.

Emotion in Writing

I’ve started to really look forward to a fellow blogger’s posts.  She’s a bird enthusiast, like me, but she’s also a wonderful writer and captures lots of emotion in very few words.  (http://jmgoyder.com/author/jmgoyder/)

It’s made me think about my own writing.  I draw character wheels to get my characters’ hair and eye color right, to understand what motivates them.  I scribble down a sketchy map of plot points to keep the story going in the right direction.  I worry about word choice and commas.  But I belong to Goodreads, and the books that people love the most aren’t always perfectly written.  They’re the ones that elicit a strong emotional reaction.    If the language is lyrical and the twists and turns are exciting, that’s an added plus.  But the emotional impact is the payoff for all of the pages turned.

So how does a writer create emotion?  An often repeated piece of advice comes to mind.  The protagonist’s stakes have be high, almost impossible, to achieve.  He has to work hard and suffer many failures to try to achieve his goal.  And he should never give up.  The goal has to matter.

The characters should be sympathetic.  Not the same as nice or smart or good looking, even though in urban fantasy, that doesn’t hurt.  But come to think of it, protagonists aren’t always nice.  They can be stubborn, frustrating, and flawed.  That actually makes them much more fun to follow, but it’s hard to care about a character who’s petty, selfish, or mean.  I have a problem with whiners.  Or characters who are shallow.  Why would we care if he/she achieves what he wants or needs?  But he might SEEM petty or act selfish sometimes, etc., as long as we know he’s actually a decent human being at the core.

The characters need to feel real, not just some personality traits on paper who follow the author’s script and lead the plot from point A to point B.  They have to have their own wants and desires, their own hangups and habits.  And once in a while, their reactions have to be totally honest, not what the author or reader would expect, not the proper way to respond, but something that makes them seem human.  They need to be flawed, to make mistakes, and have regrets.

Anyway, I’ve read lots of articles on POV, pacing, and voice, along with all of the other tools a writer needs in her author belt.  But I think checking our scenes and chapters for emotional impact should be one of the things at the top of the list.  Some people do this naturally, like JMGoyder does.  Some emotions are built into the story conflict.  They come with the territory.  But if we can add emotion to a scene, it makes it stronger.  It’s something to think about.

What are some of your all-time favorite books?  What made you like them?  Remember them?