Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Inside Story

What am I reading now?  Reforming Lord Ragsdale (Carla Kelly)

Annnd . . . what do I think so far?  Emma Costello owed a debt of honor to one of the most dishonorable lords in the realm. The infamous Lord Ragsdale was as rich as sin, as sinful as he was rich, and as heartless as he was handsome. But he had saved Emma from a fate worse than death when he stopped a lecherous brute from buying her as an indentured servant. 

I really enjoyed this book--but I didn't like the hero, but I liked his character. I know! That sounds all kinds of confusing. Here's the thing. He's definitely not someone I'd be friends with, but he is the character that fit the story. 
        For me, deciding whether or not I like a book  isn't always about answering the question, "Do I like the characters?"

The Inside Story

Something I really enjoyed about this book was the way the author snuck in the backstory of the characters and revealed their personalities. Her skillful writing of the "Inside Story" of the characters kept me reading and reading way past the time I should have gone to bed. The Inside Story is how the characterization, motivation and personality are developed through seeing the personal reflection, emotions and debates a character goes through. 

Here are some examples of inner reflection that revealed character, from this book:

  • "I wonder who is living in our house now, she thought. I hope they have not made too many changes. Mama had such exquisite taste."
  • "I have had my fill of prisons, she thought. I hope the walls are thicker at Newgate than they were at Prevot."
  • "I've walked from County Wicklow to Dublin, most of the time carrying my little brother. This will be a stroll."
The Inside Story is what makes us feel connected to the characters, their problems and their growth.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Lemon Poke Cake with Blueberries

What am I reading now?  Blackmoore (Julianne Donaldson)

Annnd . . . what do I think so far?  This book now sits on my "favorites" shelf, and this author is becoming a favorite too! Blackmoore is her second book, with the first being Edenbrooke. Both are historical romance and stand alone novels. I would give this book 6 stars on Goodreads if I could!

Kate has watched her best friend, Sylvia, and her brother, Henry, travel to their ancestral home each summer for the past ten years, leaving her behind to imagine all the adventures they have without her. Finally, at seventeen, she is invited. This is Kate's last opportunity to secure her future. If she receives three proposals and rejects all three, her mother will grant her permission to travel to India with her mother's sister. If not, she must marry the man her mother chooses for her. Kate never wants to marry and sees the bargain with her mother as the only way to escape the cage that is her current life, but not her heart. She alone has to confront the reason she has sealed it up to ever be truly free.

Lemon Poke Cake with Blueberries

I love all things lemon. It must be genetic because every new addition to our family goes through the same ritual, almost an initiation. When they are finally eating foods, we give them a slice of lemon, with our cameras ready to take a picture of the sour face--but they never make it. Maybe someday one will but so far, none have. They just eat it and ask for more.

In honor of lemons, here's a great dessert recipe for next Sunday.

Cook lemon cake according to box directions in a 9X13 pan.
Cool then poke holes all over the top.

In a small bowl, stir to combine a can of sweetened condensed milk and 1/2 package of instant lemon pudding mix. Pour over the cake.

Mix together 1 can vanilla frosting, 1/2 package lemon pudding mix, and 1 small tub of Kool Whip topping.

Spread over cake and refrigerate until served.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Tags, Tags and More Tags!

What am I reading now?  Cress (Marissa Meyer)

Annnd. . . what do I think so far?  This is book #3 (Cinder and Scarlet are the first two books) and I think there is one more planned in this series. This book, like the two that came before, uses a fairy tale character in a science fiction novel. The main character is Rapunzelish.

Cress (short for Crescent) has been trapped on a satellite with only an occasional evil visitor. She was born on the Moon where most people have magical abilities, but she didn't. When parents have a "shell" baby, they can give it to the government to be destroyed.

Instead of being killed, she was made a slave. With incredible hacking abilities, she spies on the governments on Earth for Queen Lavana, who is planning to destroy the Earthens, recording military movement, technological advancements, and political weaknesses. But Cress has a secret, she also watches Earthen television, is entranced by the customs and social norms, and is interested in (obsessed with) one particular outlaw, who she is sure is just misunderstood because he really is a humanitarian and did all those illegal acts out of altruism.

The Earthens are nearing their own distraction, but Cress might just be the only one who can save them.

They're not what I thought they were.

Deanna and I are trying to improve the emotions and tension in our novels, but we're struggling. Maybe we got some help though...

Jean Kent is one of the authors of The Romance Writers' Phrase Book, with a critique partner, Candace Shelton. At the beginning of the book, Jean tells an experience where, after submitting another novel only to receive more form letter rejection, she caught a break from an editor who jotted a little note at the bottom of the letter, "You need more tags!"

Tags are phrases or short sentences that describe the emotional impact of words spoken.

I've been trying to learn this novel writing thing for a few years now and appreciate the advice and instruction so many have shared. But here was one piece of advice that seemed to be the opposite of what I've been hearing from the pulpit, so to speak. "Get rid of the adverbs. Agents, editors and publishers hate adverbs."

Except when you need them. 

So I decided to pull a stack of books from my library, take a look at a few authors I think write well and do a 2-page scan to see what they did. Do they use these little phrases to infuse emotional tension?
They're not all adverbs though there were many--I noticed a lot of "as if" (or a synonym of it), prepositional phrases, physical gestures and one character guessing what another character's actions or words meant.

If this sounds like something you think will help you as well, check out their book: