Wow, it's the end of a decade. Yikes!
So this past year I didn't publish much. Yes, one teeny-tiny novelette--even that was a spur of the moment type ordeal. However, and this is a big however.
(There we go. Much better.)
2020, is the start of a new decade and things are looking bright. I have a steamy blue-collar novella series lined up for publishing which I've been wriggling to release for over half a year. I would love to give a sneak peek for the cover of Take Your Shot, but it's not ready yet. I can tell you my beta readers were laughing out loud with this rom-com starring a dirty mouthed plumber and an uptight nurse. Each book in this series will take place in the same small town setting, but feature different couples, so yes, they are stand-alones. Benji Gakhar will be the first tradesman of the crew in the series to find love through his polar opposite, Hannah, who is persistent on finding the Mr. Perfect with a long list of criteria she wrote as a young girl.
These last few months, have become quite a journey for me in growing as a writer, learning more about the publishing industry, networking, then on top of all that in life things like motherhood. Speaking of...
Happy Reading and Happy New Year!
Another year with my head stuck in a book... using an e-reading app, same thing. Before we begin, I’d like to bring out two honorable mentions which were a hair from making this list. Neighbors Like That by Carina Taylor (How can you not? It’s a flirty prank war between two feuding neighbors), and Blind Date With A Billionaire Single Dad by Evangeline Kelly (It’s an endearing tale showing how far a mother’s love will go to reunite with her child).
These novels are not in order to preference partly because I enjoyed them for different reasons and ALL five of them are available through Kindle Unlimited.
By Lindsay Buroker
Who doesn’t love a good bodyguard forbidden romance story involving space knights? I read much of Lindsay’s work in this past year including her Emperor’s Edge and the Agents of the Crown Series. This is a neat side-story set in the same universe as her Star Kingdom series. Lindsay has mastered the slow-burn, so it was a great relief to read a steamy standalone.
2.Saved By The Prince
By Michelle Pennington
Perhaps you love an endearing damsel in distress romance? In that case, check out Michelle’s royal addition to her Rich and Famous series. A fashion designer and a prince, that would make for one fabulous wedding wouldn’t it? Maybe it’s because I sew, but I liked the jargon that went with this one.
3.The Unbelievable, Inconceivable, Unforeseeable Truth About Ethan Wilder
By Cookie O’Gorman
I pulled an all-nighter reading this one. I had my suspicions for the mystery, but I had to know whether or not I was right. Cookie’s books are guaranteed entertainment. I especially love how Cookie used the stereotypes of a pastor’s child, something I relate to.
4.Rule #5 You Can’t Trust The Bad Boy
By Anne-Marie Meyer
A lot can happen in one day, so is the case for the young couple in this story. Anne-Marie did an excellent job using the rich girl, poor boy trope. Again this was another book, I could not put down until it was finished.
5.The Billionaire’s Conflict
By Johanna Evelyn
I love this series! And rumor has it; she’s releasing more in the New Year. When it comes to billionaire romances which are a dime a dozen, this is a must-read. The pain these characters feel as their friendship is twisted... I don’t want to give anything away, but Johanna writes unforgettable swoon worthy characters—even when they’re at their worst, she causes us fall in love with them flaws and all.
So you want to improve your writing, but you need a break from the how-to books? Great, because stories aren’t only found in books! Here’s five ways of the many ways you can learn how to create an entertaining story.
1. Watch movie reviews
There’s always going to be haters. Therefore, diversify your sources, especially those who base their review off a set standard. Why do people admire that movie? Where did it fail? Find what audiences love and hate in stories. Also notice the difference between a good and bad montage, or how the universal theme of the story is carried through the entirety of the film versus events being thrown at the character.
2. Study body language
Unlike ‘people-watching’ which is merely observing how humans interact with someone who isn’t you, reading up or watching videos on charisma will make your characters relatable and interesting. Though we can’t read gestures simultaneously with dialogue in books like we can in reality, by accurately applying expressions you will be able to convey a message to the reader the character is unaware of. For example, the male lead may be standing in a line up. He will say to himself she’s cute but not interested; however if he persistently checks over his shoulder he’s either paranoid or lying to himself, searching for a means to strike up a conversation. It is crucial to understand why your characters do what they do, whether or not their words agree.
3. Read children’s books
Because I have babes at home, I’m constantly reading children’s stories out loud impersonating the characters by attempting new voices. If someone read your story, how would they personify them? Some have one word per page with others are multi-paragraph. They don’t always have rhyme and rhythm but they convey stories in limited words. Apply this to your writing. Omit unnecessary words and ideas. Sometimes I paraphrase their books for this reason. If it doesn’t push the story forward or add to character development, put it aside. No one likes a story dragged out. Why should your audience read those sentences if they don’t have to?
4. Listen to music (from a variety of artists and genres)
Musicians pour their heart into their music. With few words they relate to you while sharing their story and the emotions with it. For example, many church-going Christians may tune out a structured in depth theologically sermon, while being completely moved by the latest song. How can a three minute song surpass a thirty to sixty minute presentation? It wasn’t until the last century we replaced quoting poetry for humming song lyrics—even tattooing them on our bodies. What do you quote more: poetry/scripture or songs?
5. Participate in theater
Creating skits or throwing jokes to an audience through the means of ‘improv’ will spike your creative juices. Or if you partake in a scripted performance, note how the dialogue carries the story. Each line brings us to a closer understanding of the characters, carries the story forward, and is exciting. If the dialogue in your story is boring... off with its head! The good news is you don’t need to audition for Broadway—even a little reader’s theater goes a long way.
Obviously, there are more methods to diversify and improve your writing. Overall, here’s the take-home. Your goal in fiction writing is to entertain. You have a story? Neat. Do you make money? Cool. Feel like you have to convert people to your ideology? Gross—don’t be that person. Remember to listen to your audience, your beta readers, and your close ones’ critiques, because at the end of the day, you’ve shared your story for them... not yourself.
After writing THE BARRED SOLDIER, I’ve taken a break from this blog because I have been busy with other upcoming projects. One of the dilemmas I face is having quite a few beloved manuscripts and figuring out with one to prep for the publishing process.
My current game plan is to send out a novella series which would be available on Kindle Unlimited or for purchase for a low price. However, it is never fun for a reader to consume a story to not know the sequel’s release date—and perhaps it is months to years later. So I’m hoping to have the series ready to go, one novella after the other... with release dates closer to each other.
Your Blue-Collar Romance Novella Series will be:
(Close to a hundred pages each)
(Plastered with puns)
(With hotties, flirty banter, and swoon-worthy kisses.)
I love indie publishing. The tasks seem to never end, but to tick off each box on the long list is exhilarating. While revising the drafts, I’m organizing the advertising campaign, designing the art themes for the cover and content, learning about eBook formatting, and listening to you my readers.
When I need a break from writing, I am often reading books in the same genre to scope out the good, the bad, and the ugly, so that each work becomes more irresistible than the last. Also my husband has been working diligently every weekend on house renovations. Throw into the mix, our firstborn is entering the terrible twos (temper tantrums galore) and caring for our Christmas newborn, I am reminded I only have two hands in a twenty-four day. I love my family!
What I’m trying to say is... my blogs may be less frequent this summer. I am bummed that I probably won’t publish this summer as I had aimed to do so, but by then I hope to send out some teasers. In the meantime, check out my Pinterest boards and other online media. DM me, and of course...
PS: What is something you want to see, but haven’t in a blue-collar romance?
Photo by Simson Petrol on Unsplash
While I'm still debating which manuscript to publish next, this week I will be posting a short story related to the Aykotah/tribal universe in three segments. The Barred Soldier, written from Ridwiqu'Mar's perspective takes place before Fakusha's story (The Aykotah Daughter). What will this story be about? Well...
"Is it terrible to share a lifetime in want, hungry yet never satisfied?"
He's a social outcast: a harvester's son, with a questionable upbringing and she's a tribal princess forced into following the traditions of their people. Ridwiqu'Mar, Fakusha's best friend... and only that. Are his amateur swordsmanship skills enough to impress the king--her father? Destined for separate futures, what must a friend do to remain close, to be closer, to be more than friends?
Anyways, raising kids keeps my hands full. I'm blessed to have girls that love books, though sometimes I wonder how sane I am after reading The Cat in the Hat to my toddler a minimum of three times a day. So... if my future posts develop a strange rhythm and rhyme, you will now know why.
What is the difference between a good poem and a great one?
Seriously, how is Alligator Pie a renowned (Canadian) classic? Here I am reading it to my firstborn, confused as can be. Anyone can rhyme, but not everyone is Dr. Seuss. Not all poems are emotional either, but if they were... how could you judge?
Why do I bring this up? In one of my manuscripts the protagonist (Jamie) is an avid reader and poetry fanatic. He acknowledges he has no skill in the art itself yet tries anyways by consistently recording his thoughts in a poetry journal.
Recently I posted a short poem about the moose in our back yard...
"You won't have to search hard,
A visitor you see,
Right here in our backyard,
Beyond the apple tree."
I wasn’t aiming for gold with this caption. I was playing with rhyme. In school, I struggled with the poetry unit. I think it was because I couldn’t read the teacher’s mind. Since then, I have of course developed the ability to not only read minds, but convert them—not! Anyways, we would read poems but I would understand them only on a surface level. The poems I beloved seemed underrated. Writing poetry was worse. The ones I poured into—decent. The ones I wrote halfheartedly—appreciated.
Then we spent what seemed like forever studying literary devices, except while they are great in poems, they seem to become stumbling blocks in stories. Repetition comes across as redundant. Alliteration seems unfitting. Rhyme is interpreted as tacky, like the old geezer who shouldn’t rap but does.
Below is an excerpt of my novel manuscript, “Haunted.” In this scene, Jamie Rodgers is picking up his new girlfriend Sarah from work, even though he is madly in love with Natalia. Earlier in the story Sarah requested he write her a poem. (Changes are still to be made as this story is only a rough draft.)
“You know you don’t have to wait every time.” Sarah winks back. I shrug.
“I don’t mind. You’re worth the wait.” I murmur into her ear. Those are the exact words I want to tell Natalia. Because that is what it is these days isn’t it—a waiting game.
“Hey is that my poem?” Sarah asks, ripping my journal out of my hands. Eager, she reads it out loud,
“Sweet syrup rots the teeth,
It increases my heartbeat.
Coveting it to a festered defeat,
An endless cycle of highs and lows.
I’m high on her flavor.
Wishing for the love I’d savor…
My tongue scorns.
My throat filled with thorns.
My heart, the throbbing cavity.”
She closes the journal, placing it in the glove box. “I guess this makes me your sweetie.” She leans over for the first of many kisses. I smile through it. If only my situation wasn’t so sour.
So what are your thoughts? Does interpreting poetry come natural to you or are you in the same boat as me? What’s your favourite poem and why?
Photo by Sticker Mule on Unsplash
You can trust me because I’ve had two kids, so now I’m clearly an expert. Okay all you moms with a flock around you, hardee-har-har. Yeah, I have much to learn... but let me have my moment of fame, yeah? My nine months are over, thank goodness! (And yeah, my second girl was born on Jesus’ birthday. I didn’t see them angels singing for her arrival now did I?) I may be sleep deprived, but yay I finally have my body back. Anyways, with that redundant update over... here it is: My Top 5 Facts for the New Mom.
1. Maternity Pants are overrated.
No seriously, they’re glorified leggings. FACT! Yes that elastic band is comfortable but the fabric was not meant for a woman’s body. They lack pockets and the material was far too thin. (There’s this thing called winter, and it’s freaking cold!) Literally, it’s wear and tear. Simply having bigger clothes like looser jeans will benefit the new mom before and after birth. And don’t worry, you had a baby... that’s proof your man thinks you’re hot stuff—so don’t sweat it and go for the sweats for a while.
2. Not everyone can breastfeed.
It’s worth a try and it will help you recover. But put your baby on the weighing scale often and listen to your healthcare professionals. The milk is free, comforting, and full of antibodies, but it’s not much help if it’s simply not there. Don’t let pride starve your child. Formula is bloody expensive. The cheap stuff is all filler—then there’s the bottles. Just do what you got to do so they get what they need.
3.The amount of ultrasounds you have will vary.
Depending on the child’s health and your health or anything concerning either, you may have more or less than two three visits with the sonographer. And yes, follow their instructions and drink the water! Some pregnancies require multiple tests, others few. Information is your doctor’s friend.
4. Birth is not entirely free.
In British Columbia, while most medical services are free to Canadian citizens there are few exceptions. Since circumcision is optional for traditional practices and not necessary for the child’s well-being, the parent would be billed. There is a small fee for the birth certificate.
Immunizations are free including the flu shot. The dental screening is free too. (This is awesome because they help you with brushing techniques, search for decay, and provide a fluoride treatment to strengthen the enamel.) BC Health even offer to check the infant’s hearing, again for free. After the child is born, a mother is given the option for a nurse to visit to check on the health of both baby and parent.
5. You will see a new side to your community.
Where I live, the pregnancy outreach centre downtown is where mothers can pause from their errands to nurse their child, find supplies like baby clothes or gear, and be educated by various experts. Child Development Centres are another incredible hub for connecting with other parents, children, and resources. By signing up for their newsletters, they will inform a parent on neat opportunities fit for the child’s needs and sponsored events bringing fun to the whole family. Extra hands make light work. I was blessed by my local church when they planned and hosted an open baby shower for us, saving us hundreds on clothes and supplies, and offering renown tips.
In summary, adding a child to your family is going to raise costs. But one might be lucky in saving big costs by breastfeeding, using cloth diapers, accepting hand-me-down clothes, and borrowing baby gear and toys. Even if your child is healthy, take advantage of the help others are willing to give you.
Photo credit: Dakota Corbin on Unsplash
Being a church-going brunette girl meant the same thing every December. I was always Mary come Christmas time. Okay, that’s a lie. When I was too young for lines I was a sheep and when I outgrew the role, I became the Inn keeper or Narrator. My husband claims he was always a shepherd, whacking the back of his sisters' heads with the staff. (As in he was never trusted with an important role.) Whose genius idea is it to give pre-pubescent boys large whacking sticks? Anyways, the Nativity story holds fond memories for us who have grown up in North American church culture.
Now while it has been many years since I’ve slipped on the blue housecoat over my scraggly child-like body and vanilla table cloth over my tangled hair, I am yet again playing the role of Mary. Not that I’m a virgin teenager, but I am with child. (I’m due shortly after Christmas with baby two.)
Sometimes we like to consider the social pressures and obstacles Mary faced during her expectancy. However playing the waiting game for both the holiday and my child, I wonder about her complaints. Like was Jesus really active in the womb? I mean, this is the LORD incarnate right? The inn was full. The whole town of Bethlehem would have been crowded. Was Joseph able to round up a midwife or two to help with delivery? And mercy! Travelling by donkey? Okay, it’s better than travelling by foot, but still. Ouch! Maybe that trip alone induced the labour. (I’m assuming this was their method of travel.) Did they pack expecting to deliver on the way or was it earlier than they thought? Did they pray to God asking, “In your timing but... please after we return home from the census”?
Imagine if Jesus’ birth was recorded by women? The details on that report would probably include what time of day the contractions started, how long she was labouring for, the nursing—all of it could have been unnecessarily descriptive. To some it may still be an interesting story, but those details pull from the main focus.
But it never hurts to wonder.
And to an unbelieving world we are provided with more than enough details to accept Christ. Prophecy fulfillment aside, Baby Jesus must have been incredibly cute for the shepherds to be spreading the news about a newborn. Yeah, God doesn’t make mistakes, but this was His own son. I’m curious; did He add a dimple or two?
In no particular order and with the year coming to an end, here are my top 5 romance novel recommendations of this year. All these books are available through Amazon Kindle Unlimited which I am in love with. Perhaps in the future, I’ll publish some novellas straight to it so you the reader will have more free reads to enjoy.
1. The Draughtsman Damsel
by Emily Klein
I’m not usually one for Medieval or historical timelines, but readers out there should make an exception for this story. After watching Quest for Camelot with my daughter, I wanted to read the book it was based on, finding this instead. I was not disappointed. And the research that went into this, wow! This novel has a unique take for the intellectual reader and an incredible finale.
2. Calling Love (Modern Conveniences Book 2)
by Leah Atwood
I love a good blue collar romance. Leah’s works tend to have a calm pace to them, and this came at a time where I was becoming sick of predictable white-collar metropolis city romances stories. Archer was a charming character especially towards the care of his ill grandmother, and I’m glad he shows up in more of Leah's books.
3. Ninja Girl
by Cookie O’Gorman
For a story with plenty diverse characters, I enjoyed meeting them all secretly wishing this was a series so they could return. This fun book contains (trying not to spoil anything...) exciting fight sequences, a karaoke bar with marshmallow fluff on tap, and a sports car with a slick paint job. (Cookie knows her stuff!) Yet another YA novel where the parents are involved in their children’s lives and it benefits the story.
4. It Was Always You (Ridgewater High Romance Book 3)
by Judy Corry
If I’m honest... the whole Ridgewater series really. I went on a Judy Corry reading binge this winter and did not regret it. In the third book of her series though, addressing youth homelessness and redeeming a character that I in an earlier book labelled a jerk... well done.
5. Rule #1: You Can’t Date the Coach’s Daughter
by Anne-Marie Meyer
I think what makes this such an adorable high school romance story is not only the events between the main couple, but the relationship the protagonist has with her strict father. Also how the lovers weren’t trying to be together maliciously out of angst for the set rule, yet hoped to prevent drama at any cost.
Years ago, John Grisham wrote the novel Skipping Christmas about an empty-nesting couple who decided to pass over their festivities for a Caribbean cruise, because their only daughter was unable to spend Christmas with them. Looking at the costs, the husband’s idea would have saved money and exerted efforts by abandoning their traditions. (This book later became a holiday classic film known as Christmas with the Kranks.)
It’s a rather attractive idea isn’t it, since the winter season seems to add more to our daily schedule. From decorating the home, participating in church and community events, attending the work Christmas party, buying gifts, writing cards and sending off newsletters... oh my! The list goes on. Whether the family is on a budget or not, crafting their way through the season or shopping in the stores—sometimes this occasion can seem overwhelming.
What is the meaning of all of this? Why do we feed the machine? Can’t Christmas be simple? Why bother? Well, as Christians we recognize Christmas is not about the materialism, but the Messiah.
How do we explain that to our kids when what we say and what we do conflict each other? How do we share the good news of Jesus Christ when we are frantically following the culture of twinkling lights and turkey dinners? What good is it to war between the phrase ‘Happy Holidays’ versus ‘Merry Christmas’ around little watching eyes? As a parent of young toddler who is a frolicking tape recorder, I am convicted to teach the importance of Baby Jesus.
It’s not easy.
Give a toddler a new toy and tell them it’s because of Jesus’ Birthday. How effective is that? Try explaining all of this is because a virgin gave birth to God’s son. Are you ready to define virginity? What if you mention there was no vacancy at the inn, the shepherds were startled by angels, or that wise men who tracked down the stars studied the sky to find the family? It’s a strange event we Christians celebrate.
We pick between the stable scene or Santa Claus, but both have been materialized.
Then there are the parents who choose to wait until their children are older before mentioning God. Why? Should we allow ignorance of His presence in our homes? Sure my child is young, but my responsibility is to train her in both physical and spiritual matters. Yes, she is still in diapers, but that doesn’t stop us from reading stories, singing songs, and using the given opportunities to explain Him.
For our family, I’m choosing this Christmas to teach this truth: The world needed a hero and God fulfilled His promise to send one. Jesus Christ is that hero, we call him the Messiah. Jesus was God’s way of saving everyone from evil and proving his love for us. Christmas is when we remember God sent his son, God in all His power became a man... starting as a helpless baby. The goal here is my child learns we celebrate what the LORD has done. (And as an added bonus, we learn something about God. For example, God keeps his promises, or God is generous.)
Christmas is a family holiday and to each kin, they have their own traditions. Let’s not get too caught up in the rituals that our little ones are left confused. They are so young; they are absorbing all our actions. Time with family is good. Dressing up and singing carols are fun. Dinners and treats are delicious. Being hospitable, generous, and forgiving is always beneficial. However a young parent should observe their surroundings then ask, “What is Christmas to my child?”