JoAnn Smith Ainsworth's Blog

March 13, 2020

99 cent sale

EXPECT TROUBLE e-book is on sale for 99 cents and the EXPECT DECEPTION e-book is $1.99 until April 18.

EXPECT BETRAYAL - Book 3 e-book of this award winning series - releases on April 18.

For readers who enjoy gripping suspense in authentic historical settings, wrapped in other worldly experiences, with the fast pace of a thriller, but the feel of a cozy.

EXPECT BETRAYAL (ISBN: 9781393579403 e-book) launch April 18. Preorder https://books2read.com/b/3Lp7zN
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Published on March 13, 2020 08:36 Tags: 99-cents, mystery, psychic, spies, suspense, wwii

March 10, 2020

Reviews for EXPECT BETRAYAL

“Ainsworth develops a suspense filled, historically steeped race against time and evil….Ainsworth certainly makes the job of psychic sound exciting, and for readers of WWII novels, she gives a riveting story of espionage and treachery set in an era of polite national determination.”—Ana Manwaring, reviewer


“The story is very fast-paced suspense with plenty of twists and turns! Hard to stop reading!”—Elizabeth Ubrig, reviewer


“[T]he (amazing) pace of the story that kept me reading and I relied upon it and trusted that the action would take me where I wanted to go. I could count on there never being a dull moment, and there wasn't one. And I'm amazed that I found the spells and psychic sensings as dramatic as if guns and other weapons were involved”—Charles Steiner, reviewer


“I loved it! You’re true to your style.” –Amelia Akiyama, fan club founder

“Throughout the whole series, the cautious and growing warmth between Trey and Livvy provides the canvas upon which the events of war are painted…. As they run from one relentless peril to another disaster, facing injuries and the threat of death, they pull together against the forces of Hitler’s Institute for Occult Warfare. One of the particular strengths of the series is Ainsworth’s attention to specific physical historical details, setting the readers firmly in wartime Britain, and without slowing the fast pace. Additionally, the author blends the love story with the paranormal mystery, resulting in a thoroughly wonderful page-turner. “ Carolina Montague—author of Forever Green, Forever Hunted, Forever Endangered”
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Published on March 10, 2020 15:02 Tags: curses, expect-betrayal, great-britain, grimoire, naval-commander, nazi, remote-viewing, spy, u-s-wave, wwii

FINDING INSPIRATION FROM STORY CHARACTERS

Readers tell me that Lady Lynnet, the Anglo-Saxon sight-impaired heroine of my medieval romantic suspense novel, OUT OF THE DARK (ISBN 9781386717690), is inspirational.

Why?

Lynnet doesn’t make herself into a victim. She acknowledges the limitation of diminished sight but knows her other senses have become stronger. Acute hearing. Retentive brain. Heightened sense of smell.

How do I weave diminished sight into a medieval story?

When still a child, Lynnet lost a good percentage of her sight to disease. As an adult, while staying in the king’s London residence with her family, she gets disoriented and lost in the cellars. While there, she overhears three men in a distant corridor plotting a conspiracy against the king. She cannot see them, but she’s certain she can identify them by their voices. She joins the Norman sheriff in his investigation, despite putting her life in danger by doing so.

Let's look at how she ended up in medieval times.

When faced with a blank sheet of paper, I decided to write a first novel having Anglo-Saxon characters. Why? Because Ainsworth is an Anglo-Saxon name meaning the property of Ains. It dates back to the 900’s A.D. in Britain. During research, I found those times too turbulent for a romance novel. For love to blossom, I needed peaceful times, not warring factions. Plus, my female character needed to have some say in the direction of her life to make the storyline work.

I found peace during the reign of the third son of William the Conqueror. It was also a time when Anglo Saxon laws still had some clout, during this early transition into Norman rule, and women had some say in who they married. Since the deceased queen had been Anglo-Saxon, I made my heroine into a distant relative of the queen so that it would be more difficult for her enemies to be openly aggressive.

Having decided on Britain in 1120 A.D., I then needed a problem which my heroine would have to rise above. I chose blindness.

I soon discovered that it's difficult getting around a castle with no disability accommodations. She needed some sight. Consequently, I ended up making her able to see shadows and movement.

How did I come to choose lack of sight as my heroine’s challenge?

When I was a student, I did some temp clerical work for the Disabled Department at a community college. The department was run by a blind woman. She amazed me. These were the early days of accommodations for the disabled. In fact, she was helping design many of the future accommodations. In the meantime, she had to make her way around structures designed for people with sight. Through her, I saw how much of her life she could control, despite a disability.

She traveled around the campus and to local restaurants without a guide dog. She had a reader for her correspondence (these were the days before voice-activated computer software) but she set up and ran meetings, used the phone and directed office staff in their work despite a lack of sight.

I thought, wow, here’s a disability that’s not a disability if you work around it. I decided my heroine could find her way around a castle that she knew as a child when she still had sight—especially since I gave my heroine part of her sight back.

I wrote the whole manuscript by imagining what I would do if I’d lost my sight. When I was finished and before I sent the manuscript to a publisher, I contacted the Society for the Blind and asked for someone to review the manuscript. They referred me to the School for the Blind, which referred me to a retired, sight-impaired instructor. The manuscript had to be printed in 16 point type for her to be able to read it. It took almost a ream of paper. Two months later she had her recommendations on what to change. In a few cases, we couldn’t logically get Lynnet out of a situation, so I added a touch of paranormal to the storyline in the guise of a ghostly grandmother who points out which way to turn.

Why should this heroine inspire us today? She’s a woman who doesn’t give up or give in.

Her only weakness comes from the fact she believes her parents that she’s flawed and that, because of her blindness, unlovable.

The Norman sheriff proves them wrong.


Let me know if you’ve also found a story character that is truly inspirational.
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Published on March 10, 2020 14:59 Tags: anglo-saxon, disabled, inspirational, medieval-romantic-suspense, norman, sight-impaired

FINDING INSPIRATION FROM STORY CHARACTERS

Readers tell me that Lady Lynnet, the Anglo-Saxon sight-impaired heroine of my medieval romantic suspense novel, OUT OF THE DARK (ISBN 9781386717690), is inspirational.

Why?

Lynnet doesn’t make herself into a victim. She acknowledges the limitation of diminished sight but knows her other senses have become stronger. Acute hearing. Retentive brain. Heightened sense of smell.

How do I weave diminished sight into a medieval story?

When still a child, Lynnet lost a good percentage of her sight to disease. As an adult, while staying in the king’s London residence with her family, she gets disoriented and lost in the cellars. While there, she overhears three men in a distant corridor plotting a conspiracy against the king. She cannot see them, but she’s certain she can identify them by their voices. She joins the Norman sheriff in his investigation, despite putting her life in danger by doing so.

Let's look at how she ended up in medieval times.

When faced with a blank sheet of paper, I decided to write a first novel having Anglo-Saxon characters. Why? Because Ainsworth is an Anglo-Saxon name meaning the property of Ains. It dates back to the 900’s A.D. in Britain. During research, I found those times too turbulent for a romance novel. For love to blossom, I needed peaceful times, not warring factions. Plus, my female character needed to have some say in the direction of her life to make the storyline work.

I found peace during the reign of the third son of William the Conqueror. It was also a time when Anglo Saxon laws still had some clout, during this early transition into Norman rule, and women had some say in who they married. Since the deceased queen had been Anglo-Saxon, I made my heroine into a distant relative of the queen so that it would be more difficult for her enemies to be openly aggressive.

Having decided on Britain in 1120 A.D., I then needed a problem which my heroine would have to rise above. I chose blindness.

I soon discovered that it's difficult getting around a castle with no disability accommodations. She needed some sight. Consequently, I ended up making her able to see shadows and movement.

How did I come to choose lack of sight as my heroine’s challenge?

When I was a student, I did some temp clerical work for the Disabled Department at a community college. The department was run by a blind woman. She amazed me. These were the early days of accommodations for the disabled. In fact, she was helping design many of the future accommodations. In the meantime, she had to make her way around structures designed for people with sight. Through her, I saw how much of her life she could control, despite a disability.

She traveled around the campus and to local restaurants without a guide dog. She had a reader for her correspondence (these were the days before voice-activated computer software) but she set up and ran meetings, used the phone and directed office staff in their work despite a lack of sight.

I thought, wow, here’s a disability that’s not a disability if you work around it. I decided my heroine could find her way around a castle that she knew as a child when she still had sight—especially since I gave my heroine part of her sight back.

I wrote the whole manuscript by imagining what I would do if I’d lost my sight. When I was finished and before I sent the manuscript to a publisher, I contacted the Society for the Blind and asked for someone to review the manuscript. They referred me to the School for the Blind, which referred me to a retired, sight-impaired instructor. The manuscript had to be printed in 16 point type for her to be able to read it. It took almost a ream of paper. Two months later she had her recommendations on what to change. In a few cases, we couldn’t logically get Lynnet out of a situation, so I added a touch of paranormal to the storyline in the guise of a ghostly grandmother who points out which way to turn.

Why should this heroine inspire us today? She’s a woman who doesn’t give up or give in.

Her only weakness comes from the fact she believes her parents that she’s flawed and that, because of her blindness, unlovable.

The Norman sheriff proves them wrong.


Let me know if you’ve also found a story character that is truly inspirational.
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Published on March 10, 2020 14:58 Tags: anglo-saxon, disabled, inspirational, medieval-romantic-suspense, norman, sight-impaired

May 21, 2019

Refresh

[246 words]
If you’re like me, you’re a self-starter who plans each day and often gets work done faster than anticipated. Qualities that can drive those close to us crazy mad, but necessary qualities for solitary authors.

Still, there are those days when everything we touch seems to drop out of our fingers and progress is zilch for the day.

Challenging days!

Frustrating days!

Over the years, I learned that the more I struggle, the less I get done. I found the best way to deal with those difficult days is not to fight them.

Instead of trying to be diligent and disciplined and on schedule, I let go. I don’t worry and I take it easy. By taking this break life is offering by causing nothing to go right, I am in a better frame of mind when I awake next morning.

That’s right. Strange as it seems, the best way for me when nothing goes right as an author is to not do “author” things. Instead, I do “enjoyable” things—even if the “thing” is staring into space while petting the cat or going swimming or having lunch with a friend or camping. These pleasing, enjoyable activities rejuvenate.

The break in routine refreshes. The break re-balances my equilibrium. The break gives a fresh viewpoint on my work. I become more productive in the long run. Instead of getting frustrated and fighting a losing battle, I give in, relax and have fun. After I’ve refreshed mind and body and come back to the keyboard, my prose sparkles.

Try it. You’ll like it.
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Published on May 21, 2019 18:23 Tags: frustration, keywords-struggle, refresh-viewpoint, routine, take-a-break

September 4, 2018

Don’t Neglect the Endings

Endings are important features in novels—endings of sentences, scenes and chapters.

“What makes the end of something so important?” you ask.

Endings of sentences can carry the “punch” that makes your words stick in the reader’s mind. Endings of scenes can vault your reader seamlessly into the next scene where that Point-of-View character reappears. Endings of chapters are many times the reason why readers stay awake all night, unable to put down the novel.

Let's take the end of a sentence.

Sentences are made up of a variety of words, some of which are more impactful than others. When the most powerful word(s) is put at the end of the sentence, you give that sentence increased power. The words at the end of the sentence stand out more vividly in the reader's mind than those in the middle of a sentence. This technique is called back loading. Back loading increases pacing and contributes to page-turning.

Of course, writers can't use the technique of back loading for all sentences. A reader can't take all those “punches”. Soften the impact and give the reader relief from the punches by using a variety of sentence structures. Besides, variety of sentence formats creates a complexity of form that is pleasing to the eye and to the ear.

How do you go about back loading?

Take a look at the words in your sentence. Which word carries the most emotional punch? Is it a strong word that makes the sentence interesting? Well, then, you’ll want that word at or near the end of your sentence.

Another thing, sometimes back loading won’t work for a particular sentence. If the sentence sounds awkward no matter how you revise it, give up. Don’t struggle to use the technique if it isn’t effective.

Let's have a look at an example of back loading.


ORIGINAL:
He had an utterly amazed look on his face.

See how the most powerful words are in the middle? Now, put them at the end.

BACK LOADED:
His face had an utterly amazed look.

The back loading evokes a stronger image, one that keeps the reader flipping through the pages fast, ready to dig into the next chapter.


Now, let’s look at scene and chapter endings.

The power of the last sentence in a scene or chapter is in its hook. Hooks set up the reader to want to continue reading to see how the anticipated action will be resolved.

In scenes, hooks have a dual purpose: (1) They keep the reader flipping through the pages and (2) they let the reader know what the POV character is planning for his or her next appearance in the story. The aim at the end of a scene is to set up anticipation so interesting and powerful in the mind of the reader that the reader wants to keep reading to find out how it plays out.

But…here’s where you have to watch out. There can be a little trickiness to creating the hooks between scenes.

If you write third person with several POV characters, the scene hook becomes anticipation for when the character next comes into the story, which is not necessarily the next scene. That “next time” might be several scenes or even chapters away. Despite that, the transition needs to be smooth so that the anticipation set up at the end of the scene matches the action when the character again enters the story.

I use examples of scene endings that anticipate the next arrival of the POV character from my own WIP, EXPECT DECEPTION, a paranormal suspense.

Scene endings:
“The clock struck eight as the binding spells clicked into place. The battle was begun in earnest.”

“Satisfaction washed through her when the smell of rotten egg assaulted her senses; she’d latched onto the source.”

“He wiped his hands, one on the other, as if cleansing them for the next task—the disintegration curse for the Liberty Ship.”


Ends of chapters are easier than scenes in that there is no skipping forward. The ending hook must entice the reader into the chapter immediately following. The hook carries the reader to the next chapter in sequence.

To do this, you have to give the reader something to anticipate about the next chapter. Shutting down and closing off the current chapter with no anticipation for things to come in the story will only give the reader the notion to put the book down and go do something else.

These endings must be interesting enough to keep the reader in the story. Ending a scene or chapter with the character deciding to go to sleep is likely to lead the reader to make the same decision—to go to sleep. Instead of closing down action at scene or chapter endings, these endings should anticipate new action, new problems to resolve, and new happiness or unhappiness to anticipate.

Dan Brown wrote chapter hooks effectively in The Da Vinci Code. Here are some examples of those endings:

Chapter endings:
“If all went as planned tonight in Paris, Aringarosa would soon be in possession of something that would make him the most powerful man in Christendom.”

“Thirty seconds later, forty kilometers away, hidden in the undercarriage of the armored truck, a tiny transponder blinked to life.”

“When Collet read the label above the empty peg, he knew he was in trouble.”

“As I expressed when we first spoke, Bishop, you would do well to remember that you are not the only man on the verge of losing everything.”


Don’t you agree that these hooks make you want to know what’s going to happen next?


Endings are valuable real estate in any piece of writing. When doing your final edits, take a look at each ending. Make sure each is as powerful as it can be.

Now it’s your turn. Create those hooks which keep readers reading.
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Published on September 04, 2018 14:17 Tags: back-loading-sentences, dan-brown, hooks, scene-and-chapter-endings, the-da-vinci-code

June 29, 2018

Indomitable Women Going It Alone

You may be like me and prefer to write and read character-driven stories.

Recently, my writing partners pointed out that I consistently write “coming of awareness” and “self acceptance” stories in an historical setting. The heroine is of prime importance to the resolution of the story question. Self acceptance transforms the heroine into an “indomitable” woman as she struggles with plot elements. She gains strength, wisdom and becomes empowered as she overcomes each challenge.

My writing partners also point out that my heroines, although living in historical times, could easily be transported to today’s world. Their type of courage is timeless. People struggle with the same relationship intricacies generation after generation. People face the same types of emotional highs and lows as their ancestors as they grow into adulthood, marry, and nurture children. They have aspirations. They endure despair. They are blocked while trying to reach their goals or make their lives better.

These universal events in the human condition tie us together with an understanding that spans the centuries.

That gave me an idea. I decided to compare my historical western romance heroine, Ida Osterbach, and Eleanor Roosevelt.

Ida’s story is set in 1895 Wyoming. She has survived Indian and range wars and the murder of her husband. She’s kept the family farm going with sheer grit and determination. Hard working, focused, fiercely proprietary, she’s determined no outlaw gang is going to steal her land out from under her. Ida would have said the same words as Eleanor Roosevelt if asked about her life: "As for accomplishments, I just did what I had to do as things came along."

Both women are fearless in their own way. Eleanor sets up canteens for people living in city slums. She works with the Red Cross during World War I and takes care of the shell-shocked and wounded soldiers in the hospitals. Ida acts despite bullets flying and willingly risks her life for her fiancé and her friends.

Both women were widowed when they took their longest strides in personal achievement.

Eleanor goes against social norms to support the women's suffrage movement. Ida lives in a territory which refused to join the union unless its women could continue to vote (as was the law in the territory).

As both women met and dealt with each challenge thrown at them, they rose above the “average”. They became “indomitable”. They are examples of courage and the ever-driving force of the human spirit toward a fulfilled life.

As you read various novels, do you ever find a heroine who reminds you of someone you know?

Share with us.
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December 3, 2017

Routines have Proven Good for Me

I’m a structured person–a plotter. Before I ever write a word of the novel, I do my research, have my main characters fleshed out, my story question, theme, tag line and pitch sentence written, and the whole novel outlined in an Excel spread sheet so I know the purpose of each scene and how it carries the story forward. I tried the intuitive approach when I wrote my first novel and it just didn’t work for me.

My daily routine is to wake early in the morning, do a half hour exercise, write for 3-4 hours on my laptop in my p.j.’s, then rest a bit before showering and going downstairs for lunch. In the afternoon, I check my email, return phone calls, and handle household and marketing needs. The only time my routine slips is the weeks before and after a book release. Then everything flip flops. Marketing and ‘taking care of business’ take priority. I squeeze writing in when I have the energy. I write a book a year. During that year, I expect to have three months when family, holidays, vacations, and marketing take up most of my time (so in reality, I write a book in 9 months). (Then, there are years like this one which are coming to a close and the book is only a quarter written. Age is slowing me down.)

How do I handle deadlines? I’ve never waited to the last minute to do anything. I like having the time to carefully review what I do before submitting it.

I try to do my research first, but as I write there is always a need for more research. I write in eight+ week timelines so my historical settings are more important than the history of the period. Clothing, housing and food take up most of my research time.

My process revolves around my critique partners. I keep working on a novel until they are satisfied it’s ready to go into the public.
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Published on December 03, 2017 07:41 Tags: critique-partners, deadlines, exercise, marketing, plotter, research, routine, structured

November 7, 2017

Romance Changes as We Age

When mature protagonists find love, there is a different "tone" to the experience from when young heroines and heroes discover love for the first time. My historical western romance, POLITE ENEMIES, released from Whiskey Creek Press, expresses the theme that “love strikes when you least expect it.” The novel was conceived from my desire to write about “mature” love.

I don't know about you, but I find that relationships change as I age. By acquiring more experience about people and the world, there’s an interplay between my inner needs and my outer experiences that causes a different reaction to - or outcome for - relationships than when I was young. I wanted my novel to explore the sense of "knowing" and "practicality" that comes from living and gaining knowledge about the world and its peoples. The novel’s protagonists are approaching middle age for that era. The heroine is late 30’s and the hero early 40’s.

The setting is Buffalo, Wyoming, in 1895. This territory had recently gone through range wars and there was an unsettled feeling between ranchers and farmers. My heroine, Ida Osterbach, is a farmer. The hero, Jared Buell, is a rancher. An added complication is that both Ida and Jared had happy first marriages with spouses now deceased. Neither wants nor needs a new relationship. In the novel, I try to express the practical considerations that inch them toward a relationship until chemistry can take hold and take over.

As I wrote their story, I had to remember that the exciting, “first discovery of true love” was over for both of them. They needed a different foundation on which to build a relationship and a marriage. I added a tone of earthiness that I do not add to my novels with younger protagonists.

From their first marriages, Ida and Jared were both comfortable with sharing their bodies and found no embarrassment in revealing them (despite the remnants of Queen Victoria’s prudish dictums for those times). The thrill that comes with the first experience of physical love is over for them. Their lovemaking is a means to exact the full measure of pleasure for themselves and for their partner. The "discovery" in POLITE ENEMIES is that even people who are at odds with one another over their properties and their social standings are not immune when love comes knocking.

We humans are constantly changing and evolving, whether for the better or for the worse. Life doesn’t stand still. As we evolve, our approach to this world -- including love -- changes. For a novel mirror life, change must transform the lovers. Ida and Jared transition from “polite enemy” neighbors into lovers committed to marriage and a future together.

Have you noticed that your attitude toward relationships changes over time? It is this changed attitude I tried to capture in POLITE ENEMIES.

Let us know your experiences. What changed for you as you matured?
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October 2, 2017

Indomitable Women Who Beat the Odds

Universal events in the human condition tie us together with the characters we authors write about in an understanding that spans the centuries. This type of courage is timeless.

Recently, my writing partners pointed out that I consistently write “coming of self acceptance” stories in an historical setting. The heroine is of prime importance to the resolution of the story question. Self acceptance transforms the heroine into an “indomitable” woman as she struggles with plot elements. She gains strength, wisdom and becomes empowered as she overcomes each challenge.

My writing partners also point out that my heroines, although living in historical times, could easily be transported to today’s world. People struggle with the same relationship intricacies generation after generation. People face the same types of emotional highs and lows as their ancestors as they grow into adulthood, marry, and nurture children. They have aspirations. They endure despair. They are blocked while trying to reach their goals or make their lives better.

That gave me an idea for this blog post. I decided to compare my WWII paranormal suspense heroine, WAVES Lt. Livvy Delacourt in the award winning Expect Trouble (now an audiobook) and Helen Keller, the deaf and dumb American woman who graduated from college.

Livvy had her sight, but she also had Second Sight, which ostracized her from family and society. Helen Keller (living in the 1880’s) had a greater challenge. She lost her sight and hearing at 19 months from a high fever caused by “acute congestion of the stomach and brain.”

Helen Keller had some support from her family, but both found the most help from women hired or friends. Helen Keller made progress around her sightless world when Anne Sullivan was hired as a tutor. Livvy found her confidence when pressured into using her clairvoyance and precognition to help Uncle Sam win the war. Her superior officer, also a childhood friend, encouraged her and protected her. Both blossomed under the care of these mentors.

Livvy’s family, although supportive with finances, considered her a flawed product for the marriage mart. She dreamed of finding a man who would fall in love with her despite being “different.” Helen Keller's ambition was to attend Radcliffe College.

Because of her psychic powers, Livvy’s life is threatened by Hitler’s Nazi spy.
While Helen Keller's life was not threatened, she had the greater disability by being deaf as well as blind. She had to learn only by touch and smell and taste to identify clothing, furniture, people, plants and animals.

Both women never gave up. They were women who wouldn’t stay down for the count, but would shake off life’s punches and try again.

Helen Keller graduated from college and Livvy saw her true value in the eyes of her commanding officer.

Both women are examples of remaining true through thick and thin. As they met each challenge, they rose above the “average” and became “indomitable” women. They are examples for us of courage and the ever-driving force of the human spirit toward a fulfilled life.
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Published on October 02, 2017 06:48 Tags: character-driven-stories, helen-keller, indomitable-women, psychic, radcliffe-college, spies, wwii