Roberta Pearce's Blog

August 22, 2015

Join The Boys’ Club I really did have plans to blog more regularly, but I’ve been busy reading Angie Martin’s The Boys Club, so . . . In any event, I found out that Boys was [were? ;) ] voted Self-Published Book Worth Reading on and will be on sale for 99 cents for a limited time. So, I thought I’d use this venue to let you know, too! Pick it up and enjoy this rollicking read. [I wish I had a review to share, but alas, I’m not done it yet!]
Blurb:Growing up a homeless juvenile delinquent left its mark on Gabriel Logan. He lived a throwaway existence until a former FBI agent recruited him for a fringe organization for boys like him, ones who could operate outside the law for the sake of justice. As an adult, he sets an example for the others and is slated to take over their group, until his work results in the murder of his pregnant wife.Going through the motions of everyday life, Logan does only what’s required of him with one goal in mind: kill Hugh Langston, the man responsible for his wife’s death. When he’s handed the opportunity to bring Langston down, he jumps at the chance, but the job will challenge him more than anything in the past. Not only does he have to save Langston’s daughter from her father’s hit list, but the job seems to have come to them a little too easily. Logan must find a way to not only rescue the one woman who can take down his biggest enemy, but also look into the men he trusts most to discover which one of them is betraying The Boys Club.
Angie Martin’s bio:I live in Overland Park, Kansas with my husband, two cats, and beloved dog. I have two sons off paving their own way in the world. I grew up in Wichita, Kansas and have lived all over the United States. My entire life has revolved around imaginary worlds contained within the covers of a book. My aunt introduced me to Stephen King and a little book called Christine in eighth grade, and my life was never the same.

My debut suspense novel, "False Security" (romantic suspense) was re-released in October 2013. "Conduit" (an award-winning psychological thriller with a paranormal twist) was released March 5, 2014. I also have a poetry collection that was released in April 2014. "The Boys Club" (romantic suspense) went live on 12-2-14.

I am hard at work on many projects that I cannot wait to share with all of you!

If you want to connect with Ms. Martin, here are some of her links:Website
Fan Group 
Twitter @zmbchica
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Published on August 22, 2015 04:46

July 26, 2015

Errors? Not so much.

An articleon got quite a buzz in the circles I follow – originally when it was posted on the virtual eve of the release of the Fifty Shades movie, and again yesterday, when it popped up a couple times in my Facebook feed. Authors and readers alike were posting it, commenting on it, and, well, squinting at it quite a bit.For those who didn’t read the article, it was a numbered list of the most common grammatical errors [per Grammarly] found in E.L. James massively successful [“best-selling” doesn’t quite cut it] Fifty Shades of Grey.I read the book, but didn’t read the subsequent novels, as I rather liked the way the inaugural book ended. Because most who know me are aware that I can be a bit pedantic in formal-style issues, I thought I’d share my thoughts on People’s list.Disclaimer of sorts: I know the article was not intended as an attack on Ms. James' work. It was a topical piece at a topical moment. Even where inaccurate, the article has some decent advice that every writer and author should consider. For its part, Grammarly is a useful tool for flagging possible issues in one's writing. In light of those known facts, I, in turn, want to have fun with the results.

Remember – these are alleged grammatical errors. Period. So, let’s start with a definition, courtesy of my well-worn Oxford English Dictionary:

grammar The branch of language study or linguistics which deals with the means of showing the relation between words as used in speech or writing, traditionally divided into the study of inflection (or morphology) and of the structure of sentences (syntax), and often also including phonology (see also linguistics). [OED]

What doesn’t that definition cite as part of grammar? Punctuation, just for one [sort of a rough a priori: punctuation is not a part of speech, but grammar is, so punctuation is not part of grammar]. Mechanics, for another. I’m just noting that before we get into it.

Now, on to the list! [So excited! I'll tally a score at the end of each section – in a completely subjective fashion.] Grammatical Error #1: Punctuation Errors in Complex Sentences
Before we go further, this is not a grammatical error. It is an error in punctuation, as was indeed noted. So shouldn’t have been on the list. Let’s look at it, though. [“Yes, Roberta! Let’s!”]

FSoG sample citation: "Oh my. My heartbeat picks up again, this feels so... so good."

In fact, the error is a comma splice[not specified in the article], so named as it’s the splicing together of two independent clauses with a comma. The advice – which was correct – was that the comma should more appropriately be a semicolon [though they spelled it semi-colon; to each their own]. I used to use many semicolons, but I use fewer now [that last one in exemplum]. I prefer to have a full stop [period] or a conjunction. [In interests of fairness, comma splices drive me wild. I hate them. Probably used to use them.]

For identifying a grammatical error [punishment; no zeros awarded in this category]: -1
For identifying a [different sort of] error: 1
For good advice: 1
Score: 1
Running total: 1 Grammatical Error #2: Comma Misuse
Again, not a grammatical error. So shouldn’t have been on the list.

FSoG sample citation: "I open my eyes, and for a moment, I'm tranquil and serene, enjoying the strange unfamiliar surroundings. I have no idea where I am."The advice – again correct – was that a comma should have followed “strange”. The reason for that [not given in the article] is that “strange” and “unfamiliar” are both adjectives modifying “surroundings”. Therefore, a comma separates the separate [haha! there's a mnemonic for you!] ideas. [For those who think “strange” and “unfamiliar” are synonymous and therefore redundant, you are wrong.]

For identifying a grammatical error: -1
For identifying a [different sort of] error: 1
For good advice: 1
Score: 1
Running total: 2 Grammatical Error #3: Wordiness
Again, not a grammatical error. So shouldn’t have been on the list. It is a matter of style, and style is a matter of taste. Whether you like it or loathe it, it is wholly discretionary. [Should you like excellent examples of wordiness, I highly recommend cracking the spine on anything written by Melville or Hugo.]FSoG sample citation: "He's so passionate, mesmerizing. This is obviously his obsession, the way he is... I can't take my eyes off him. He really, really wants this. He stops talking and gazes at me."

The upshot of the advice [they didn't mention the comma splice!] was to remove one of the “really”s. While I don’t argue with that too hard, FSoG was written in first person, and the narrative voice is Ana’s. I really, really think the emphatic repetition suited the character.

For identifying a grammatical error: -1
For identifying a [different sort of] error: 0
For good advice [I'll give it to them]: 1
Score: 0
Running total: 2 Grammatical Error #4: Colloquialisms
Again, not a grammatical error. So shouldn’t have been on the list. It is a matter of style, and style is a matter of taste.
[Didn't I just write that a couple minutes ago? Could’ve sworn . . .]

The article concedes that it’s a style issue. My – well, not argument – but slight dismissiveness of it, is the sample chosen to represent this “error” [not an error, remember!].FSoG sample citation: "I open my eyes, and I'm draped in Christian Grey. He's wrapped around me like a victory flag."

I thought the complaint was going to be “victory flag”. It wasn’t. It was “I’m”. A contraction. [Erm . . . *not sure where to look* . . . Um.]  For examples of real colloquialisms that can be problematic, might I suggest Joyce or Runyan? Or maybe this blog post?

For identifying a grammatical error: -1
For identifying a [different sort of] error: 0
For good advice: 0
Score: -1
Running total: 1 Grammatical Error #5: Accidentally Confused Words
Ah! An actual grammatical error! [*high-fives the Internet*] "Accidentally confused words" is indeed about syntax and how words relate to each other. Also known as malapropisms.

I love malapropisms! [Maybe "I hard malapropisms"? ;) ] They make me laugh. I work hard to keep them out of my writing [because they are really bad!], but recently a reader caught “illicit” where I meant “elicit”, and once upon a time, another reader caught “palatable” where I meant “palpable”. I laughed a lot at myself – but fixed those puppies right away.

My favourite and often-seen malapropisms:
elude/allude [avoid/imply]
affect/effect [verb: influence / noun: result]
consecutive/concurrent [successive/simultaneous]
bridle/bridal [noun: tack for horse / adjective: relating to a bride (okay, no snickering – or nickering)]
rein/rain/reign [part of a bridle (not "bridal") / water from the sky / rule]
regimen/regime/regiment [schedule/establishment / military unit]

But back to the article . . .FSoG sample citation: "She doesn't think to question my explanation, because I am one of the most un-coordinated people in Washington State."

The “caught” error was the hyphenated “un-coordinated”. ... Huh? At worst, it’s a spelling error. It’s not an “accidentally confused word”. It's not a malapropism.

For examples of malapropisms at their best, I recommend Sheridan's The Rivals, wherein you'll find the archetypal Mrs. Malaprop [though her malapropisms are used to deliberate comedic effect]. Or select Yogi Berra quotes.

For identifying a grammatical error: -1
For identifying a [different sort of] error [I'm not giving it to them!]: 0
For good advice: 0
Score: -1
Running total: 0 Grammatical Error #6: Sentence Fragments
I’m going to concede that sentence fragments are grammatical errors, as they affect syntax and how words relate to each other. However, it is mostly a style choice many authors employ, and can be used to great effect [not affect! ;) ], at least in fiction. In a medical journal or poli-sci piece, you're going to want to avoid them. FSoG sample citation: "Do you really feel like this or do you think you ought to feel like this? Two very different things."

I have zero problems with that, structurally at least. Yes, it’s an error. Do I think it works? Yep. Sure do.
Best. Fragment. Ever! [Well, no, but . . .]

For identifying a grammatical error: 1
For identifying a [different sort of] error: 0
For good advice [I'm on the fence, but . . . nope]: 0
Score: 1
Running total: 1 Grammatical Error #7: Determiners
The word I would have chosen over “determiners” would have been “articles” – direct article “the”, and indirect articles “a” and “an”. Leaving articles out is not necessarily a grammatical error, depending on the context. FSoG sample citation: "I still prefer my title to yours, in so many different ways. It is lucky that I am master of my own destiny and no one castigates me."

The [ ;) ] article suggested adding “the” before “master”. I’m assuming the writer hadn’t heard of a little ’90s sitcom called Seinfeld and the most famous episode of its – or any other TV show’s – run: The Contest.

That aside, dropping articles can make for far tighter and more compact narrative. Grammatical error? Only if the article is absolutely necessary for clarity.Scoring:
For identifying a grammatical error [sure, okay]: 1
For identifying a [different sort of] error: 0
For good advice: 0
Score: 1
Running total: 2 Grammatical Error #8: Prepositions
Yep, preposition use is grammatical. FSoG sample citation: "Please him! He wants me to please him! I think my mouth drops open. Please Christian Grey. And I realize, in that moment, that yes, that's exactly what I want to do. I want him to be damned delighted with me. It's a revelation."

The suggested edit was to change “in that moment” to “at that moment”. I concede that “at” specifies a particular time, and “in”, an unspecified time. But when I read the FSoG passage, I took it subtextually as Ana being “in the moment”. Should I care more about the grammar? Possibly. Maybe I’m not really in the moment at this moment.

For identifying a grammatical error: 1
For identifying a [different sort of] error: 0
For good advice [yes, they get it, for sheer subtly – kudos!]: 1
Score: 2
Running total: 4 Grammatical Error #9: Passive voice
Okay, that one made me laugh a bit. First, the article did concede that it is a style issue – not a grammatical error – to employ passive voice. [So shouldn’t have been on the list!] But wait! There's more!Aside first: I do not like passive voice – even in casual conversation, I don’t use it. It’s a personality thing [or so my friends tell me]. While it has its uses [which I’ve likely exploited], I agree that it weakens drama and comedy alike, faster than anything else.

FSoG sample citation: "He is totally beguiling, and I'm bewitched. I place my hand in his."

So that was where I started laughing. That is not an example of passive voice. “I’m bewitched” is a simple declarative statement. [The suggested change: “he has bewitched me”. Um . . .] The cited sample does walk a thin line, though. Had it read, “I’m bewitched by him,” then it would have been passive voice. Since it began with “he” as the subject, changing it to “I” created a problem through the presumed “by him”. However, maybe there are other things at that moment that influenced Ana, and it is not solely the beguiling Christian who caused her bewitchery. Thus, it’s a simple declarative. For the sake of clarity, perhaps it should have been two separate sentences: “He is totally beguiling. I’m bewitched.” Or [presupposing Christian as sole cause], one sentence: “He is totally beguiling and bewitches me.” Or better: "He totally beguiles and bewitches me." [Tip! Just like my last example, removing forms of "to be", where used in conjunction with other verbs, tightens your prose. And if there's a preposition near your "to be", you're in passive territory, so step carefully!]

But still, not passive. Not an error.For more about passive voice – and indeed, much helpful advice on writing – I recommend Orwell’s essay, Politics and the English Language, the text of which can be found here. It is marvellously relevant, though written 70 years ago. Also, Orwell’s conclusions are – or should be – at least vaguely familiar to every writer and author. I guarantee you've heard them, even if you didn't know the source.

For identifying a grammatical error [they should lose double for the incorrect example]: -1
For identifying a [different sort of] error: 0
For good advice: 0
Score: -1
Final total: 3 out of a possible 27

Yay! We're through it! \o/
All that written [or said, as many might write], the article entertained me. Started a whole whack of conversation. And reminded me that I should never read comments on controversial articles, since many of them were quite ugly, both for and against. Ms. James wrote a trilogy that changed much of how we view publishing, sex, and fandom. Whether a fan of her work or not, one must give her kudos. I, for one, wish her nothing but the best in all things, and offer my most sincere congratulations.Should you wish to sample Ms. James’ books for yourself, they can be purchased on Amazon, and are listed on her Author Page.

Should you wish to sample my novels and find all my grammatical, punctuation, and mechanical errors [and report back with scathing criticism so that we can discuss], you can find them on Amazon or, for other retailer buy links, on my WordPress page.
My romantic-comedy suspense, Famous Penultimate Words, is now available in ebook format, and will be available in print soon. Look! Here's the PB cover [so you'll know I'm not lying]!

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Published on July 26, 2015 00:50

June 23, 2015

5 things to do when rebranding – rebranding heaven and hell

Part Two: Hell [For those of you tuning in late, check out Part One: Heaven ]
+google bannerSo, here I was with a pretty new brand and lots of places to show it off. It wasn’t going to take that![imagine snapped fingers] to get it all up and running. I’d tweet and post and highlight my colourized self all over the place. I’d created special detail images of my new covers – like little business-card thumbnails that I would throw onto Twitter with clever little tweets. I created collages for Facebook. I wrote a blog post to announce the rebrand [that started out just as the Heaven portion]. I had a detailed Excel file with a compiled list of all my social media places and things I’d signed up for over the last couple of years, so I knew where to update my art. I planned to use my languishing WordPress site to showcase my novels. So many well-made, well-laid plans. This rebrand thing was going to be a breeze! Right?Well . . . no. I mean, it wasn’t impossible, and I never contemplated shooting myself or throwing in the towel on it all. But so many things became problematic. Don’t think that that list of preparations was useless. Without it, I might have given up. Or taken weeks to get things done and out there to cyber-world.

Despite those preparations, I ran into some things I wish I’d had on my list. I’m sharing them with you so you might avoid them. Thing to Do #1 Get your timing right.Timing is paramount. I’d estimated that it would take me about a day to get it done – and thought smugly how easy-peasy it would go and how few hours of that estimated day I would actually need.

What I’d forgotten was that Smashwords is my distributor to all retailers except Amazon . It usually takes a little longer for stuff to go live. [NB:This is in no way a complaint. I loveSmashwords – they handle my distribution to so many retailers, I can’t even remember them all! Right there, I’m saved gazillions of hours, effort, and memory recall.]

In any event, my timing for going live was pushed back a few days [I think three] while I waited for Smashwords’ affiliates to get the new info. I checked every few hours, and once I saw the new covers appearing, moved ahead.

Everything went swimmingly.But I’d forgotten something else. Goodreads . You can’t change your cover art in GR; you have to create new editions. Then you can combine them – I knew this from past experience when adding my Smashwords and Amazon editions of my books, and combining those editions so I didn’t have all of them showing up as individual works.

In retrospect, I could have handled this myself, but as my planned timing was getting away from me, stress levels were spiking, affecting clear thinking. In any event, I turned to Goodreads Author Program Support. The librarian who helped me [Cristián] was fantastic, and everything was done within a couple of days of my initial panicked email. I was really impressed. And grateful.In short, push what’s done by others to the top of your to-do list, and base [ballpark] the rest of your timing around theirs. What you can DIY has predictable timing. What’s done by others, not so much.

Thing to Do #2 Don’t take on too much.In the year since my last novel, The Value of Vulnerability , was released, I’d forgotten all the minutiae of what that entails. Promotion and announcements and coaxing people to accept ARCs, and myriad other things quite aside from the actual – you know – publishing.

So what did I idiotically do? I put my new novel, Famous Penultimate Words , up for pre-order in the same week as I released my new brand.In short, don’t do this. Honestly, when it comes to your rebrand, focus on that. It took you how long to write your novel? It’ll wait a week or so longer. And your new brand will be there to embrace it lovingly.

Thing to Do #3 Don’t forget the big things. Lots of places . . . lots and lots.

The list was long, and my journey through that list became a huge philosophical question: Who am I and where have I been?And occasionally a question of behaviour: What was I doing there? Good god . . .  Or, Why haven’t I been back here? Awesome site.

I thought I got everything. And just as I was settling back in pleased triumph that I had conquered rebranding, I found I’d forgotten my Amazon UK page. And my Amazon France and Germany pages. These are important bits, sitting there with my old avatar in place.

In short, double-check everything. Don't assume you couldn't possibly have missed something big, because you will. Tip: Go through the bookmarks/favorites of your browser.

Thing to Do #4 Don’t forget the little things. Twitter business cardsOh, yes, I had my cover art, my site-specific banners, and my avatar. Even those cute little Twitter business cards I’d created specially. What didn’t I have? The favicon for my blog. Such a little thing, but believe me, I went almost apoplectic over it. After all, it’s always the little things that set you off, isn’t it?
In short, pay close attention. If you’re an SP author, especially, you’ve probably done everything pretty much on your own. That requires attention to detail. So, attention, everyone! Look at the little bits of branding dust you’ve left everywhere, and clean it up! [LOL; # Spotless ]
Thing to Do #5Be resigned that some things can't be changed.My old book covers are out there on different sites, where my books have been reviewed, promoted, or nominated for something. There's nothing I can do about that. Sure, I could approach those sites and ask that they swap out the art, but that runs the risk that they would just take it down entirely. I'd rather leave things as they stand. [Aside: There's still the ghost of my very first [god-awful] placeholder/temp cover for my first novel, hovering out there in the wilderness. I cringe on the rare occasions it pops up.]

In short, relax. You have enough stresses in your life. You've done your best. Nil satis nisi optimum.

Confession: I know of one place a specialized version of my old avatar exists. But I’m not doing anything about it at the moment, even though I can. Right now, I need to catch up on my sleep and proceed with the next stage in my career: writing another novel.

As you set up your author platform, do you make note of all the places on the Internet where you splash your brand presence? Any experience finding it all again? 

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Published on June 23, 2015 04:50

June 22, 2015

9 Reasons Why Authors Need Betas

I know I promised Part Two of my rebranding story,  Rebranding Heaven and Hell , but instead, I'm guest author/poster on Rosanna Leo's blog today! So exciting!

9 Reasons Why Authors Need Betas” is the subject of my post.

For those of you who want to know more about Ms. Leo, check out her blog[obviously], visit her Amazon Page, find her on Twitter, or on her Facebook Page.

I'll be back tomorrow [I mean it this time!], with Part Two: Hell.
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Published on June 22, 2015 12:35

June 20, 2015

Rebranding heaven and hell.

Part One: Heaven.

The title should probably be “The Heaven and Hell of Rebranding”. I didn’t try to spin a new view of traditional archetypes or anything. Swear. Everybody stay calm.No, it was I who was rebranded. Roberta Pearce of the black & white & grey & splashes-of-red covers decided she was bored with the flat look.
Reaching for the zenith of minimalismDon't get me wrong - I loved the minimalism and starkness of the old brand. The covers popped when compared to busier covers out there. And the brand was something I had control over and could create myself.

So why did I change my brand?It all started with the impending publication of my new novel, Famous Penultimate Words. It’s a comedy under the guise of romantic suspense, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t make a “happy” cover with my old branding. Everything I came up with was dark [one example here.] After long conversations with several people, especially the talented Camilla Monk, I decided I had to change it all.I played a bit with colour schemes and fonts, but while I’m pretty good at layout and simple graphics and being judgy of the work of others, colour defeats me.
. . . no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t make a “happy” cover with my old branding.

Then there was Camilla Monk. There is Camilla Monk. She's the author of one of my new favourite books, Spotless. If you’re not familiar with her, get familiar fast on her site here. I met Camilla online early last year, and was immediately entranced with her writing and how she incorporated her wicked and rather twisted sense of humour into it. Easily one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever encountered, she’s also very nice, so her urging to brighten my brand was both gentle and subliminal. Clever girl.At last, I caved, and begged for her assistance. She took time out of her crazy schedule and stepped up to the challenge. We agreed that I should keep my original art and I insisted that in any colour palette we went with, I got to keep my red shoes. We tried a couple of things – I loved everything she sent back to me, and was ready to leap. Following her instructions and suggestions to the best of my ability, I sent revised files back for her approval. [Yes. Yes, I was asking permission and seeking approval.]

A few days later, I got an email from her that ran essentially: Changed my mind. Ignore everything I said about the color palette. This is what we’re doing.
Attached were hotly coloured covers with a textured overlay and bang! I was in love. I tweaked some stuff on the layouts – just tiny changes – revamped my avatar to suit, and was ready to launch RobertaPearce 2.0.

New . . . Old
Ah, I was in heaven! These pretty new covers for my old books, a bright and quirky one for my new book, and even one for a WiP I’m looking to finish in the fall.Then came the launch . . . I’ll tell you about that in Part Two: Hell . . . tomorrow.

Have you ever done a rebranding? Thought about one? Wonder if you’re too married to what you’re currently doing?     For more information on where to pre-order Famous Penultimate Words, visit here. It will be released in print and ebook format on July 24, 2015. [The print links are not up yet, so no yelling at me . . .!] 
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Published on June 20, 2015 19:23

October 24, 2014

Taking the time to take the time.

Every time I do a review, feel obliged to begin with: “I don’t read a lot of XYZ genre.” I thought about that quite a bit today as I began this post-with-review for a work of historic fiction, and realised that my problem is twofold: A. I don’t read as much as I want to and B. I read just about everything. [Not sci-fi, though. Don’t reco your sci-fi books! I’m sure they’re awesome and everything, but Heinlein and Asimov ruined me for other authors – you’ll never get a fair shake out of my prejudices!]So, yes, I have a wide range of genres that I enjoy [and to those of you who write literary fiction and claim it’s not genre, I’m lumping you in there, too]. The partially read books on my Kobo that I’m dying to get back to include [in no particular order] several romances [Regency, contemporary, ChickLit], two For Dummies books [one on CSS and the other Italian Grammar (I can’t speak Italian at all, and had intended to buy Italian Wine !)], several books on writing [loving Ben Yagoda’s The Sound on the Page ], Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man , Diane Capri’s Jack in the Green , Lee Child’s latest Reacher novel Personal , Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings , Shay Lynam’s The Tree House , and Wynne Channing’s I Am Forever .

Not a bad range of tastes – and barely scratches the surface. If only I had more time. Time is such a precious commodity that tempest fugit becomes tempest fuggedaboutit. Available on AmazonSo . . . let me begin again: I don’t read a lot of historic fiction. But languishing in the virtual stack on my Kindle app was a book I’d been dying to get to: Jana Petken’s The Guardian of Secrets and Her Deathly Pact. Now, first of all, that’s a hell of a title. Secondly, it’s set largely in Spain, and covers the Spanish Civil War. Being somewhat of an amateur historian, I was pretty hepped up on reading it.

I bought it eons ago. Why the devil hadn’t I rubbed some seconds together to make minutes and then hours and maybe a day or two? Because we all know that seconds become minutes become hours become days with the rest of our lives, also, and the things we enjoy frequently take the first hit while we’re being responsible.Now, the other thing about this novel is that it’s long, which is a bit intimidating to anyone on a tight schedule. Where was I going to find time to read something so epic in length? I’m a fast reader, but seriously.

Then, over the last week, I started sneaking little peeks at it while waiting for responses to emails, while ignoring telemarketer phone calls, while waiting for my coffeemaker to splutter out last drops of soul-restoring elixir. These jealously hoarded moments caused neither missed deadlines nor the total devastation of my life, and I realised that, for all its [electronic] bulk, Guardian of Secrets was eminently readable. Moreover, I was going to enjoy the reading! Enjoy? Who’s got time for such frivolity?

Still, I stopped chewing my nails over all the other things I was supposed to be doing and, throwing caution and schedules to the wind, I read it.

This novel, as it spanned a century, made me think much about time – the march of it, the wasting of it, the sheer incontrovertible relentlessness of it. How it can leave one behind, or catch up to one. How it heals and at the same time erodes.

Life can be a scary proposition, and time ticking by is one of the scariest aspects. Maybe due to the sense of mortality all creatures have. Maybe because we all know that no matter how much time we have, it’s never enough. Time never weighs heavily on my hands: I’m never bored; never lack for something to do. But one thing I often forget is the real value – mental health not the least of it – in stepping away from hurry and worry to do something I enjoy. Just for me.Stress is not going away. So I have to put it away on occasion. Whether I have the time or not.

Review – The Guardian of Secrets and Her Deathly Pact5 stars

I could practically write a novel-length review for this epic. Relax; I won’t. An overview: the novel is a family saga that begins in England and travels to Spain, spanning several generations, overarching the Spanish Civil War.Ms. Petken handles characterisation deftly, though I’d like to have seen Joseph’s devolution into the villain he is from the get-go [FYI, his comeuppance is great, but the sneaky author tricked me a couple times! And great courtroom scene, BTW.]. With a huge cast and the rich historical backdrop, keeping these characters straight and well delineated must have been a monumental task.

Personally, I might have stripped down much of the text – there is some telling of emotions rather than showing. But contrary to popular opinion, this is not a horrific crime, and greater economy might not have served the story, whereas Ms. Petken’s style seems to aptly suit it.

While the research that went into this work must have been enormous, that’s not the impressive part. No, the impressive part is Ms. Petken’s distillation of that research into a comprehensive – and comprehendible – fictional narrative that makes the reader feel the lives of these people, whether sinner or saint, villain or hero[ine].
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Published on October 24, 2014 14:56

September 10, 2014

“The butler did it.” I’d kill for a simple dénouement.

My current WiP is a murder mystery of sorts, the result of deliberate restrictions I put on myself for last year’s NaNoWriMo: first-person, romantic suspense comedy. It’s almost done. It was almost done November 30, 2013, with the plot laid out clearly in an annotated detailed list in the MS so I wouldn’t forget who did what to whom when I returned to it.I wrote the HEA ending last November, so, literally, that’s all I had left to do – get that list of details into a scene. Yesterday, I shot off a message to one of my betas, letting her know she’d see the MS in a couple of days, as I was just writing the dénouement. I immediately returned to work, determined to finish those few lines that would wrap up the mystery. That’s it. Easy-peasy, right?

Dénouement literally means “untying the knot”. It’s the unravelling of the plot of any story, not just in mysteries. Explanations made, he-said-she-said, I’ve always loved you, here’s the murderer, the motive, the MacGuffin. Scene! The End.

So I’m not unfamiliar with tying – or rather, untying and retying – the knots of a story. However, this is my first mystery. With clues hidden and scattered and hinted at throughout the MS, trying not to give things away and tossing out some red herrings for fodder, now I have too many things to explain. In the midst of the mess I’ve made of these “few lines” I was going to whip off last night, I started wishing for a convenient butler to blame everything on.

Edgar the Butler, The Aristocats, [1970] © Disney Of course, the butler did it is a both a classic trope and hackneyed cliché. Relax; even had I a butler character to throw to the wolves of dénouement, I’d not use him. It’s not my first rodeo.
But damn! Sure feels like it. Seven hours I spent labouring over revealing the threads. The “few lines” currently stand at about 2,100 words. And I’m not done explaining!
I was too damned clever with too little experience in the genre. I have too many possible villains and accomplices. Clearing names in one breath and ruining reputations in the next is taking its toll in what should be a tight, fast scene.
At last, I fell asleep in the wee smalls, desperate for the convenience of simplicity . . . and dreamed that my H was the villain all along.No, that won’t work.

What to do with the steamy mess?

Well, I’m not going to change my plot. Maybe I’ll backtrack and wrap up some threads earlier to lighten the load of the end. I can muddle through this dénouement and think about how to tidy it while betas pfthhht it. Next time I write a mystery – if I ever do – I could keep it simpler. One villain. One motive.

Yet my current conundrum presents a huge opportunity. A writing exercise of epic proportions [for me]: to write this scene with all the complexities intact and still keep it interesting to the reader. To unravel the Gordian knot of my plot by following the tangles, rather than jackhammering through it – which is what I’m currently doing.Whew! We’ll see how it goes.

FPW WiP cover

Many thanks to the irrepressible Camilla Monk for her design advice [who am I kidding - it's her idea!] that fits my brand so well!

Famous Penultimate Words will be published . . . soon-ish.
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Published on September 10, 2014 15:26

July 18, 2014

#IAD International Authors’ Day Blog Hop – Featured Author: Martyn V. Halm


I was invited to join the inaugural IAD, the concept and creation of Debdatta Dasgupta Sahay of b00k r3vi3ws. On her blog, she posted: "I was shocked to realize that there's isn't an International Authors' Day that we can all celebrate to show our appreciation for the hours of hard work that  authors put into their  books... So I decided to do something about it!"
[See more at: b00k r3vi3ws]

I immediately hopped on this bandwagon . . . then struggled over which author I’d pimp. So many whom I love. But since I was in the midst of reading the third Amsterdam Assassin Series novel, Rogue, I chose its creator and author, Martyn V. Halm. [You can check out his endlessly entertaining blog here.]

Mr. Halm has created one of the most interesting characters in fiction, the amazing Katla Sieltjes, the titular Amsterdam Assassin. By dint of a flaw in her character, Katla lacks a conscience, and so chose freelance assassin as her career. Hey, why not? Excitement and danger and a lot of killing ensues.Now, if you want to know more of Katla, you can read my reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Well, actually, reading the books is probably the smarter choice. But about her author . . . well, here we go:

Mr. Halm lives in Amsterdam with his wife and two kids – to whom he routinely dedicates his work – but don't get confused over this appearance of domesticity. His background means he has the chops for writing this high-action series. He’s a former motorcycle courier, so those chase scenes he writes have realistic punch. He trains in koryu bujutsu [an ancient martial art] and aikido [another martial art, developed in the early-twentieth century], so the hand-to-hand combat scenes are authentic and thrilling. He studies the ages-old game of Go, the intricate strategies of which are evident in the complex development of his plots. Most scenes are set in Amsterdam, and Mr. Halm’s knowledge of and love for his city comes through loud and clear. The research that goes into writing Katla – and her blind lover Bram [Mr. Halm's depiction of the blind has been lauded by experts] – is evident, leaving me chewing my nails for the next one. I know it takes time and effort to write novels such as these. There are guns and games and gore galore in these works, and each rings true as a monument to verisimilitude in fiction.

There are three full-length novels [Reprobate, Peccadillo, and the above-mentioned Rogue], plus three short works [the Katla KillFiles - Microchip Murder, Fundamental Error, and Locked Room]. Suss them out on Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and wherever else awesome books are sold. FYI, they are also on Scribd, and for the moment on Kobo, Reprobate and the KillFiles are all free! Enjoy.     
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Published on July 18, 2014 05:55

July 2, 2014

Yar, me soul-matey! Revisiting my dislike of this romantic paradigm.

Yesterday was Canada Day, and I had a prearranged date with a bottle of wine and two women of fiction. The first was Kendra, a stranger to me, so you get to meet her, too.Before I get to my review, I’d best address my post title. I have – with a degree of amused snark – used this line before. Never as any dig at an author employing the You are my densitydestiny [Ah, damn! Snarky. Again.] trope, but I have a real aversion for it.

Kendra by Edward M. Wolfe at AmazonSo when reading Kendra by Edward M. Wolfe – which embraces the concept – I began examining why I was so, not bitter about it, but definitely antagonistic. I’m a romance novelist, after all. All romantic tropes and paradigms should be natural and reasonable to me, to be used as appropriate.

Maybe it’s that I never met my soul mate, that I’m still single [roughly speaking], and my distaste is a form of envy that I never met – or worse, met and missed – my soul mate along the way.Nah. Never met anyone like that . . .

And then I thought about him. That guy. That guy who, when he first spoke, riveted me to the spot. That guy who so enthralled me that when we went on our first date, I was so busy staring at him in lustful admiration that I ran smack into a tree. [Who plants trees on sidewalks? In a city? Really. It’s the place for wide avenues of beautiful, sweet concrete. Where smitten girls don’t make idiots of themselves.]We bonded in a way that I hadn’t experienced before, and haven’t since. We were accurately finishing each other’s sentences within hours of meeting. There was a connect. A snap of awareness for each other that we discussed at length, our conversations peppered with words like destiny and yes, soul mates.

Did the relationship work out? Ah, no. Obviously. For a variety of reasons. We were too young and stupid and overly sensitive about . . . almost everything. Maybe I never forgave him for the fact that, had he been a true gentleman, he would have been walking on the outside of the sidewalk and I never would have embarrassed myself with that damn’ tree. Maybe he was secretly annoyed that my voice – that he admired in private moments – could suddenly drip with condescension when I felt threatened by, well, a lot of things in those days, not so long ago.But for all it didn’t work out, for all that I’m done grieving the loss of that time, I still have a soft spot for him, and wonder what would have happened had we met just a handful of years later. Or yesterday.

Because yesterday I read Kendra, and for once, didn’t have any snark about the soul-mate paradigm.
Review – 5 stars for Kendra

I’ve read a smattering of Mr. Wolfe’s work. Even when not over the moon with it, I like it. He has an Everyman, natural style that is enormously accessible, in which I imagine I can hear his voice. And it is pleasant to the ear.

And now, Mr. Wolfe has produced this phenomenal work. Kendra is a bang-up romance, beautifully crafted and surprisingly unsentimental in its celebration of the soul-mate paradigm.

I’m uncertain what else to say about it, as just about everything constitutes a spoiler. But I’ll try. Keith and Kendra meet by accident and instantly bond. Keith, whose voice in those early pages smacks of asshat-edness, sheds his veneer of cynicism when overwhelmed by the notion that he and Kendra are meant to be together. Happily, she feels the same way, and their relationship rockets along.

Tragedy strikes. The upshot is that Kendra winds up in a coma and on life support. Now, the subtitle of this work is An Astral Lovestory, so I think it’s safe to reveal that Keith and Kendra’s temporal connexion transforms into a paranormal one. A meeting of souls – or spirits, or energy – who experience a resplendent communion on an astral plane, even though he is very much alive, and she, not so much.

Plot-wise, I can’t reveal more. I can reveal that I got misty reading this novel. I’m blaming the wine I was consuming along with it.

The narrative questions the ironic: that some who believe in God, spirits, and an afterlife can’t believe something outside their experience – the irony being that, for most of us on this side of death, there is no demonstrable experience with God, spirits, or an afterlife . . . so believers should be more open, more willing to examine the tenets of those beliefs. There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio . . .

The novel also explores the meaning of life, issues of life-support and pulling plugs. The fine line between imagination and reality, and the even finer one between perceived sanity and insanity.

And love. The meaning of love. Kendra and Keith’s love is not gushy. Not corny or schmaltzy. It is as flawless as flawed humans can make it. Undefined, it reads as naturally and truly as breathing. It simply is. Meant to be.  
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Published on July 02, 2014 16:24

July 1, 2014

Just realised: I’m not twenty anymore.

I’ve never read a lot of YA, and less and less as time goes by. It’s not because I think it beneath me. It’s merely that I never had an affinity to it. As I recently observed to a friend, I started reading Kafka while still reading The Baby-Sitters Club – so maybe I leapt over that genre gap that YA would have bridged.I generally don’t like to review YA either, as part of me knows I punish the author through my lack of A: experience and B: affinity. Yet this lack lends a degree of objectivity to my review of such work – I’m not comparing this to that, and if I got through the book, then genre affinity doesn’t matter. I finished, so therefore, the book is notable [to me]. I have so much I want to read – and there are so many books from which to choose – that it’s easy to put aside a book that’s not working for me and move onto the next. Simple as that.

When I do read YA, I have to keep reminding myself what it was to be a teenager. It’s amusing now to think of how angsty those years were. How easily obsessed one could become with that boy. Or the meaning of a look. A word. Lack of words. How he glanced at you. How he didn’t.Only to discover later that none of it meant anything.

Ah, so glad that’s gone. Mostly gone. The point is that teenagers do obsess. They do lack confidence in themselves. They haven’t the experience or courage to be forthright and address relationship problems head on. Speak truth to power? What power? The individual[s] with whom they are consumed are as powerless as they.So they fret, and obsess, and are generally excessively annoying. Just like I did; just like I was.

I have to remind myself of that every time I pick up a YA. Normally – naturally – they are written from that angsty teen perspective. It’s maddening. Infuriating. But it’s real.
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Published on July 01, 2014 11:26