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Writing Exercise

I was doing this today with an opening scene and then a complete chapter.

Roughly two months ago I was asked to do some editing on a manuscript, to look at some aspects of Show and Tell (amongst other things). Of course a few bells went off. This is one of the major issues most writers struggle with even published ones.

So, I took up the challenge. It can and will only benefit me. Any time I can learn and improve my writing I’m all for it.

I did this writing exercise on my manuscript and I thought I’d share.

I should also add that the editor, who asked if I’m up for the challenge, also provided me with some great resources. I’ll write the name of the book and author at the end of the post.

This is an issue that is obvious, yet I’ve found so many instances of it in the chapter I did the exercise on.

You can read through the explanation, then some of the examples, and then try it on the opening scene of your current WIP or even a completed manuscript you plan to submit.

Here goes!

Redundancies: How to avoid telling what you have already shown.

Another common mistake often [seen] in manuscripts is passages that show and tell the same thing. Sometimes, writers have beautifully shown something, but instead of moving on, they add [a tell], as if to make sure that readers really “got it.”

Example:

        Betty glanced down at the hand on her arm, her eyes flashing with anger.

The flashing eyes show her anger; the “with anger” tells us she’s angry. Just cut the telling. If you don’t quite trust the sentence to reveal the character’s emotions without the telling, rewrite the sentence to show more strongly.

Rewrite:                                    

        Betty glanced down at the hand on her arm, her eyes flashing.

Or:

        Betty glared at the hand on her arm.

Example 2:

Betty’s brow wrinkled. “I don’t know if that’s such a good idea.” She obviously wasn’t convinced.

The wrinkled brow and her words show that she’s not convinced, so you don’t need that last sentence. Try not to tell things you have already shown. Trust your showing skills, and trust your readers to get what you’re trying to say just from the showing part.

Rewrite:

        Betty’s brow wrinkled. “I don’t know if that’s such a good idea.”

EXERCISE:

Look at your first scene again. Have you told anything that you have already shown? If so, cross out the telling parts and let the showing stand on its own.

*From Show, don’t tell… by Sandra Gerth.

Amazon Discount Promo Book Feature: Sapphire Promise by author Sally Brandle — I Love Romance Blog

DISCOUNT PROMO — If you admire clever women and unfailing love in a tropical wartime setting, you will be captivated by this one…I am pleased to announce a cool book bundle offer by author Sally Brandle! You can grab the audio and ebook versions of her latest WWII romantic/exciting/inspirational (enhanced) memoir, now through April 8th!Yay, that’s awesome! This is just in time for Women’s History Month…

Amazon Discount Promo Book Feature: Sapphire Promise by author Sally Brandle — I Love Romance Blog

Excerpt Blitz: Say It’s Forever by A.L. Jackson — The Guide To Romance Novels

S ay It’s Forever A Close Proximity, Single Parent Romance from A.L. Jackson Coming March 28th “You matter, Salem. You matter. Look at you, darlin’.&r dquo; There was the charm all mixed up wit h the disorder that was at the heart of this man.  My chest squeezed and the blood thundered through my veins. […]

Excerpt Blitz: Say It’s Forever by A.L. Jackson — The Guide To Romance Novels

💙 𝐇𝐎𝐓 𝐍𝐄𝐖 𝐑𝐄𝐋𝐄𝐀𝐒𝐄 + 𝐆𝐈𝐕𝐄𝐀𝐖𝐀𝐘 💙 Kiss To Belong by Anna Doe! — ginreads

Kiss To Belong, a childhood best friends to lovers college romance by Anna Doe, is now live and FREE with Kindle Unlimited! ➜ https://books2read.com/blairwood-KTB ★★★★★ “This friends to lovers was pure perfection. Five star must read.” -Tilya, Tilyagotbooks ★★★★★ “This book achieved to steal my heart and play with my feelings in the best way […]

💙 𝐇𝐎𝐓 𝐍𝐄𝐖 𝐑𝐄𝐋𝐄𝐀𝐒𝐄 + 𝐆𝐈𝐕𝐄𝐀𝐖𝐀𝐘 💙 Kiss To Belong by Anna Doe! — ginreads

Ten (or more) Things I’ve Learned — Lyndi Alexander’s worlds of fancy

Welcome guest author DARIEL RAYE! Ask any writer, published or not quite yet, and you’ll get the same response – “If only I’d known then what I know now.” Of course, I suppose that could be said about life in general, but that’s another post or two, or maybe ten! For today, I’ll talk about […]

Ten (or more) Things I’ve Learned — Lyndi Alexander’s worlds of fancy

2 Goodreads Giveaways: 1 ending soon! — Peggy Jaeger, Author

Just stopping in to remind everyone in the US about my 2 current Goodreads Giveaways. I’m offering a chance to win 1 of 5 print copies of my steamy romance for Limitless publishing, DIRTY DAMSELS. The giveaway ends Monday, March 21, so if you haven’t entered yet, now is the time to. What if Cynderella […]

2 Goodreads Giveaways: 1 ending soon! — Peggy Jaeger, Author

Editorial Letter

This book came out in 2011. That’s the last time I read this particular Harlequin line.

I’ve written a lot about editor letters on this blog on my publishing journey. I’ve experienced success, I’ve also had rejections. And have sometimes explained how in the writing world rejections have different meanings than in other industries. For instance, authors (and editors) like to talk about good or encouraging rejection letters. The kind of letter that instead of completely knocking the breath from your lungs, actually boost your confidence and take you one step closer to your goal.

What I haven’t thought to share was one of those Editor Letters so you can get an idea of how a rejection letter can make a positive impact instead of leaving devastation and dejection behind. Not that there aren’t those type of letters, or that some writers don’t experience those feelings, it does happen. I’ve been there. And I’m sure many authors have horror stories to tell of how they lost themselves in a tub of chocolate and caramel ice-cream…nope? Just me? Okay.

*laughs*                                                    

Anyway.

In a previous blog post I shared how I once got my submissions mixed up. Harlequin had an open submission period that guaranteed a quick response from their editorial teams. More than one line was running this Blitz opportunity to pitch. I had two manuscripts I was working on at the time, one I aimed for the Desire and another for the Presents line. I mixed things up at the submission portal and sent my Desire entry to Harlequin Romance…uh yeah.

You know how some people are a klutz and trip over their own feet? Well, I tend to do that sometimes mentally when I’m too excited about something or bone tired. And not in a ‘oh I put my phone in the fridge’ kind of way. More like, ‘crap I’ve been sending emails to my friend’s mother CCing her and she read all my ridiculous ramblings and inappropriate jokes’ kind of mental klutz. I swear on my mother’s love of Nollyhood movies, I am a levelheaded person. I am not uncoordinated in my thoughts, body or manner…but for some reason, like the stupid lisp I get once in a blue moon when I try to pronounce certain words, I make mistakes like this.

It’s ridiculous.

I admit to that.

It shouldn’t happen.

But I’m from the species Human, so it happens.

So, without further exposition here’s the editorial letter I received from the Harlequin Romance line.

Dear Ms. Saunders,
Thank you for submitting Breaking All Her Rules for our consideration. We have read your submission with interest: you have an enjoyable, confident, lively writing style, with engaging characters and a fun premise. However, we feel that the story is tonally off-promise for Harlequin Romance, and to revise the submission would be to take it away from the story you have here.
However, we do see promise in your voice and would recommend exploring the series guidelines and reading as many books from the Harlequin Romance series as possible to be able to deliver on our series promise. Two recent and good examples are His Cinderella Heiress by Marion Lennox and The Bridesmaid’s Baby Bump by Kandy Shepherd.
In the meantime, here are some suggestions for your next submission.
Emotional Conflict
Harlequin Romances are driven by internal conflicts and a strong, emotional connection between the hero and heroine from the start. Drawing on their emotional conflicts you can explore the development of the characters and show how they are inextricably tied together. There should be a strong emotional arc running through the story, with obstacles creating twists and turns in their romance. Perhaps you could try writing out a plan for your characters, and how they’re emotionally drawn together through the story?
Secondary Characters
Secondary characters are a great way to add richness and depth to your central romance but it’s important not to let them take over! The hero and heroine are at the core of series romance. The protagonists’ friends can provide context, but the emotional impact of the book should come entirely from your hero and heroine.

Aspirational stories
Don’t be afraid to glam it up! Romance stories are highly aspirational – while we want a heroine we can relate to, our hero should whisk her away to something escapist and exciting. The small-town setting you’ve written was once very much part of the Romance promise, but there’s now a much stronger focus on urban settings, with a Cinderella aspirational fantasy driving the story.

Sensuality
Harlequin stories have a wide range of sensuality levels between series, but it’s really important to tailor your story’s sensuality the series. Harlequin Romance has a ‘closed-door policy’ – everything explicit happens behind off-the-page. This equally applies to the hero’s thoughts – Harlequin Romances are focused on the emotional, not the physical.

Overall, it’s really important to target your work to a particular series. Try reading the books recommended above to understand what that series delivers to the reader; in Romance we are looking for heroines we can relate to, heroes we can fall in love with and an aspirational story, in which readers are whisked away into a better world! Stories should be pacey, have a feel-good factor and show a relationship experience that is primarily emotional, not physical.

We are sorry to disappoint you on this occasion. However, we really enjoyed reading your submission, and we encourage you to make another, focussing on the Romance series promise and the points above. We hope this feedback is helpful.
Thank you for your continuing interest in Harlequin Mills & Boon.
Yours sincerely,
Editorial

Now I’m going to post to you what the Harlequin Desire line’s submission guidelines is and you can contrast and compare, and read just exactly why my manuscript had missed the mark. (While I hang my head in shame for doing this to myself.)

Contemporary, sensual, conflict-driven romances that feature strong-but-vulnerable alpha heroes and dynamic heroines who want love—and more! Reads that are always powerful, passionate and provocative.          

Harlequin Desire Key Elements

  • Powerful, passionate and provocative contemporary romances set against a backdrop of wealth, privilege and glamour
  • Intense, dramatic storylines with a highly sensual, passionate feel
  • Classic romance hooks mixed with juicy, unique elements
  • High-stakes conflicts (emotional and/or external) drive the plot
  • Every story includes the sense of a bigger world—extended families, corporations, brotherhoods, best friends, partners, secret societies
  • Stories are primarily set in North America but can be set elsewhere; they should not feel exotic. The author’s voice sets the tone for each story
  • Sexual language is euphemistic and romantic, not explicit
  • The reader should feel swept away from the everyday
  • Characters should have believable, sympathetic motivations
  • An emotional payoff befitting a powerful, passionate and provocative read
  • No paranormal or romantic suspense stories; no sheikh or royalty stories at this time

Featured in Harlequin Desire:

A powerful and wealthy hero—an alpha male with a sense of entitlement, and sometimes arrogance. Beneath his alpha exterior, he displays vulnerability, and he is capable of being saved by the heroine. The Harlequin Desire hero often has fewer scenes from his point of view, but in many ways, he owns the story. Readers should want to fall in love with and rescue the Harlequin Desire hero themselves!

The Harlequin Desire heroine knows who she is and what she wants. She is complex and can be vulnerable herself. She is strong-willed and smart, though capable of making mistakes when it comes to matters of the heart. The heroine is equally as important as the hero, if not more so.

Harlequin Desire stories should take place against the dramatic backdrop of sweeping family saga. The hero and heroine are not isolated from outside influences, even in forced proximity stories. External factors impact the relationship. Their loyalties, goals and personal lives affect their emotions and influence the development of the romance.

Harlequin Desire is…

Revenge or Scandal or Dallas or House of Cards for their wealthy and glamorous settings, intense story arcs that sometimes span generations and highly dramatic, larger-than-life conflicts that characters address in a believable way.

Now you’re thinking, Inge how can you be positive about the rejection letter?

For one, since I aimed it at the wrong line getting rejected by them was a given and didn’t hit hard at all. The project wasn’t rejected because it wasn’t “good” but simply because it didn’t fit. There is a difference. And no need to feel upset about that. Also my small town setting was courtesy of being inspired by all the Maisey Yates books I was reading at the time. I should have read broader. I have also learned since then aspiring HQN authors should stick to the guidelines and not deviate, established authors like Maisey can. Hence, the encouragement from the editors to read the latest books from the line. Again, I can’t be upset over this; I should’ve done my homework.

Secondly, they loved my writing style and voice. Something that is not to be scoffed at. That’s how you hook an editor. They also loved the premise of the story. Which means I have interesting story ideas. I can roll with that. That’s a positive.

Lastly, and importantly, they ended with this, “…we really enjoyed reading your submission, and we encourage you to make another, [focusing] on the Romance series promise and the points above.” Editors don’t write this at the end of a letter if they don’t want you to take them up on it, if they didn’t want to encourage you to do what they recommended, come up with a new story and submit again. They aren’t in the business of being polite to spare your feelings. They have busy lives. Lots of reading to do, their authors to manage, the publishing industry to run…and if you think that a letter addressed to you ending with an encouraging sentence like that was given on a whim than sir/mam you’re underestimating how truly demanding their jobs are. Simply put, they don’t have time to stroke your ego.

I wish I could say I completed Breaking All Her Rules but I haven’t. I literally bummed myself out after that slip up and decided to throw myself into my current manuscript.

I honestly want to give myself the best chance to not do a mental klutz again so I’ve been holding off working on anything for Harlequin. I also want to study the line I want to write for more, do more research on the story ideas I have and just be relaxed about it.

In the meantime I’m polishing my current manuscript like crazy. I’ve spent so much time on it first chucking out my first draft and then rewriting the whole book, then I injured my foot, then the pandemic happened, and now I’m still in recovery but also editing. I want to give this project a fair chance…I want others to give it a fair chance, so I’ll keep polishing until I exhaust all my self-editing knowledge *smile*

And that’s it.

Now you’ve gotten a behind the scenes (BTS) on how a rejection letter can actually leave an author with feelings of hope rather than failure.

I’ve written a lot about editor letters on this blog on my publishing journey. I’ve experienced success, I’ve also had rejections. And have sometimes explained how in the writing world rejections have different meanings than in other industries. For instance, authors (and editors) like to talk about good or encouraging rejection letters. The kind of letter that instead of completely knocking the breath from your lungs, actually boost your confidence and take you one step closer to your goal.

What I haven’t thought to share was one of those Editor Letters so you can get an idea of how a rejection letter can make a positive impact instead of leaving devastation and dejection behind. Not that there aren’t those type of letters, or that some writers don’t experience those feelings, it does happen. I’ve been there. And I’m sure many authors have horror stories to tell of how they lost themselves in a tub of chocolate and caramel ice-cream…nope? Just me? Okay.

*laughs*                                                    

Anyway.

In a previous blog post I shared how I once got my submissions mixed up. Harlequin had an open submission period that guaranteed a quick response from their editorial teams. More than one line was running this Blitz opportunity to pitch. I had two manuscripts I was working on at the time, one I aimed for the Desire and another for the Presents line. I mixed things up at the submission portal and sent my Desire entry to Harlequin Romance…uh yeah.

You know how some people are a klutz and trip over their own feet? Well, I tend to do that sometimes mentally when I’m too excited about something or bone tired. And not in a ‘oh I put my phone in the fridge’ kind of way. More like, ‘crap I’ve been sending emails to my friend’s mother CCing her and she read all my ridiculous ramblings and inappropriate jokes’ kind of mental klutz. I swear on my mother’s love of Nollyhood movies, I am a levelheaded person. I am not uncoordinated in my thoughts, body or manner…but for some reason, like the stupid lisp I get once in a blue moon when I try to pronounce certain words, I make mistakes like this.

It’s ridiculous.

I admit to that.

It shouldn’t happen.

But I’m from the species Human, so it happens.

So, without further exposition here’s the editorial letter I received from the Harlequin Romance line.

Dear Ms. Saunders,
Thank you for submitting Breaking All Her Rules for our consideration. We have read your submission with interest: you have an enjoyable, confident, lively writing style, with engaging characters and a fun premise. However, we feel that the story is tonally off-promise for Harlequin Romance, and to revise the submission would be to take it away from the story you have here.
However, we do see promise in your voice and would recommend exploring the series guidelines and reading as many books from the Harlequin Romance series as possible to be able to deliver on our series promise. Two recent and good examples are His Cinderella Heiress by Marion Lennox and The Bridesmaid’s Baby Bump by Kandy Shepherd.
In the meantime, here are some suggestions for your next submission.
Emotional Conflict
Harlequin Romances are driven by internal conflicts and a strong, emotional connection between the hero and heroine from the start. Drawing on their emotional conflicts you can explore the development of the characters and show how they are inextricably tied together. There should be a strong emotional arc running through the story, with obstacles creating twists and turns in their romance. Perhaps you could try writing out a plan for your characters, and how they’re emotionally drawn together through the story?
Secondary Characters
Secondary characters are a great way to add richness and depth to your central romance but it’s important not to let them take over! The hero and heroine are at the core of series romance. The protagonists’ friends can provide context, but the emotional impact of the book should come entirely from your hero and heroine.

Aspirational stories
Don’t be afraid to glam it up! Romance stories are highly aspirational – while we want a heroine we can relate to, our hero should whisk her away to something escapist and exciting. The small-town setting you’ve written was once very much part of the Romance promise, but there’s now a much stronger focus on urban settings, with a Cinderella aspirational fantasy driving the story.

Sensuality
Harlequin stories have a wide range of sensuality levels between series, but it’s really important to tailor your story’s sensuality the series. Harlequin Romance has a ‘closed-door policy’ – everything explicit happens behind off-the-page. This equally applies to the hero’s thoughts – Harlequin Romances are focused on the emotional, not the physical.

Overall, it’s really important to target your work to a particular series. Try reading the books recommended above to understand what that series delivers to the reader; in Romance we are looking for heroines we can relate to, heroes we can fall in love with and an aspirational story, in which readers are whisked away into a better world! Stories should be pacey, have a feel-good factor and show a relationship experience that is primarily emotional, not physical.

We are sorry to disappoint you on this occasion. However, we really enjoyed reading your submission, and we encourage you to make another, focussing on the Romance series promise and the points above. We hope this feedback is helpful.
Thank you for your continuing interest in Harlequin Mills & Boon.
Yours sincerely,
Editorial

Now I’m going to post to you what the Harlequin Desire line’s submission guidelines is and you can contrast and compare, and read just exactly why my manuscript had missed the mark. (While I hang my head in shame for doing this to myself.)

Contemporary, sensual, conflict-driven romances that feature strong-but-vulnerable alpha heroes and dynamic heroines who want love—and more! Reads that are always powerful, passionate and provocative.          

Harlequin Desire Key Elements

  • Powerful, passionate and provocative contemporary romances set against a backdrop of wealth, privilege and glamour
  • Intense, dramatic storylines with a highly sensual, passionate feel
  • Classic romance hooks mixed with juicy, unique elements
  • High-stakes conflicts (emotional and/or external) drive the plot
  • Every story includes the sense of a bigger world—extended families, corporations, brotherhoods, best friends, partners, secret societies
  • Stories are primarily set in North America but can be set elsewhere; they should not feel exotic. The author’s voice sets the tone for each story
  • Sexual language is euphemistic and romantic, not explicit
  • The reader should feel swept away from the everyday
  • Characters should have believable, sympathetic motivations
  • An emotional payoff befitting a powerful, passionate and provocative read
  • No paranormal or romantic suspense stories; no sheikh or royalty stories at this time

Featured in Harlequin Desire:

A powerful and wealthy hero—an alpha male with a sense of entitlement, and sometimes arrogance. Beneath his alpha exterior, he displays vulnerability, and he is capable of being saved by the heroine. The Harlequin Desire hero often has fewer scenes from his point of view, but in many ways, he owns the story. Readers should want to fall in love with and rescue the Harlequin Desire hero themselves!

The Harlequin Desire heroine knows who she is and what she wants. She is complex and can be vulnerable herself. She is strong-willed and smart, though capable of making mistakes when it comes to matters of the heart. The heroine is equally as important as the hero, if not more so.

Harlequin Desire stories should take place against the dramatic backdrop of sweeping family saga. The hero and heroine are not isolated from outside influences, even in forced proximity stories. External factors impact the relationship. Their loyalties, goals and personal lives affect their emotions and influence the development of the romance.

Harlequin Desire is…

Revenge or Scandal or Dallas or House of Cards for their wealthy and glamorous settings, intense story arcs that sometimes span generations and highly dramatic, larger-than-life conflicts that characters address in a believable way.

Now you’re thinking, Inge how can you be positive about the rejection letter?

For one, since I aimed it at the wrong line getting rejected by them was a given and didn’t hit hard at all. The project wasn’t rejected because it wasn’t “good” but simply because it didn’t fit. There is a difference. And no need to feel upset about that. Also my small town setting was courtesy of being inspired by all the Maisey Yates books I was reading at the time. I should have read broader. I have also learned since then aspiring HQN authors should stick to the guidelines and not deviate, established authors like Maisey can. Hence, the encouragement from the editors to read the latest books from the line. Again, I can’t be upset over this; I should’ve done my homework.

Secondly, they loved my writing style and voice. Something that is not to be scoffed at. That’s how you hook an editor. They also loved the premise of the story. Which means I have interesting story ideas. I can roll with that. That’s a positive.

Lastly, and importantly, they ended with this, “…we really enjoyed reading your submission, and we encourage you to make another, [focusing] on the Romance series promise and the points above.” Editors don’t write this at the end of a letter if they don’t want you to take them up on it, if they didn’t want to encourage you to do what they recommended, come up with a new story and submit again. They aren’t in the business of being polite to spare your feelings. They have busy lives. Lots of reading to do, their authors to manage, the publishing industry to run…and if you think that a letter addressed to you ending with an encouraging sentence like that was given on a whim than sir/mam you’re underestimating how truly demanding their jobs are. Simply put, they don’t have time to stroke your ego.

I wish I could say I completed Breaking All Her Rules but I haven’t. I literally bummed myself out after that slip up and decided to throw myself into my current manuscript.

I honestly want to give myself the best chance to not do a mental klutz again so I’ve been holding off working on anything for Harlequin. I also want to study the line I want to write for more, do more research on the story ideas I have and just be relaxed about it.

In the meantime I’m polishing my current manuscript like crazy. I’ve spent so much time on it first chucking out my first draft and then rewriting the whole book, then I injured my foot, then the pandemic happened, and now I’m still in recovery but also editing. I want to give this project a fair chance…I want others to give it a fair chance, so I’ll keep polishing until I exhaust all my self-editing knowledge *smile*

And that’s it.

Now you’ve gotten a behind the scenes (BTS) on how a rejection letter can actually leave an author with feelings of hope rather than failure.

World Building

One of the big things about writing a paranormal novel is world building, in my case specifically an alternate world.

You’re operating in a fictional world that doesn’t exist. That could be from planets, hidden “worlds” within the existing world e.g. faeries, werewolves, etc. other-world societies that rule the human world, stories set on earth but with events that aren’t normal for our world, e.g. time travel.

It’s so broad and frankly only limited to how far your imagination stretches.

Before the pandemic hit, I got a rejection on my paranormal novel with a “if you want to, you can revise and submit in six months”. The editor had taken the time to actually write a detailed letter on what I needed to focus on. Also any future projects I should feel free to submit.

So, not what we writers would call a bad rejection.

One of the things the editor pointed out was world building.

And funnily enough when I read his comment and suggestion, I immediately understood what he meant. I had written a novella. It was under 40K and full disclosure; the novella hadn’t initially been aimed at this specific publisher. I had rewritten my paranormal story and I knew it wouldn’t be a good fit for my current publisher’s series line I had aimed it for. And erroneously thought I could with some tweaks submit it to this other publisher. Alas that didn’t work.

And I’m glad.

Because right now as I’m polishing the novel and getting it ready for re-submission I feel good about the story.

Anyway, back to world building.

So that’s what I focused on first. What were the things that might not have grounded the characters in the world or made the world believable or even made it impossible for the reader to imagine as they read the story?

In my quest to correct this I did what every self-respecting writer would do. I researched. And this was what I learned.

  1. Create rules and parameters of my world: types of people and werewolves, their physical characteristics, their powers (and how those powers work), customs (how the characters mate, how they survive, how they deal with criminals, etc.), technology, weaponry, and many other details that fit with the action and romance of my story.
  2. Be consistent throughout my story. Every rule I have established should be followed. If I deviate from that for any reason, then I should have a very plausible basis for it.
  3. Make events a natural outgrowth of my characters’ motivations and actions, or those of my societies. You can write almost anything if you motivate it properly, and the reader will go right along with you.
  4. Every aspect of my story contributes to world building. What the characters believe about the world. How it makes them act and react. How they think about and treat each other. How they compare to the norm of their situation.
  5. The dialogue, the clothes, their attitude and reaction in every situation, how others react to them, the obstacles they encounter, who respects or disrespects who, etc. contributes to the reader’s understanding of the world.                      

Now a lot of these aspects I already had in the story, but needed to expand on. And couldn’t do it in an under 40K novella. So I wrote more story. I built a bigger world than I had before. Definitely with more details to ground the characters.

I know in the future I will, when working on a project like this one, come back to these points and make sure I hit all of them as organically as possible.

The List

It’s no secret I love to read and every once in awhile I would share some of those reads here.

Since last year, especially at the beginning of the pandemic, I’ve been on a mission to read books I have wanted to get into for a while but for some reason or other haven’t been able. Or books that simply got my interest and wasn’t strictly in the romance genre.

So without dragging on, here’s my list of reads that kept me, and in some cases are still keeping me, entertained.

The List 2020/21:

  1. The first stands out because there’s a special history that I have with the company that not only published the series but also produced the movie. And that’s Fathom Five. I came very close to selling a New Adult paranormal novel to them, but alas it wasn’t meant to be. I am referring to their very famous I Am Number Four series, written by Pittacus Lore (not the author’s real name). This action packed series had me and my Mom on the edge of our seats! We couldn’t get enough and was so glad there were so many books. We finished them in record time. I understand why the movie wasn’t as successful as the book series; it focused too much on aspects in the story that made a movie like Twilight so big and not the things made the book shine. And let’s be honest. Movie studios were trying to piggyback off the vampire/werewolf movie’s success, hence so many Young Adult films being released during that time. Some like the Hunger Games more successful than others. Though seriously, if you love sci-fi, actions, some teen angst and heroics with a super evil villain and the world in peril than this book series is for you.
  2. This second series took me by surprise because I didn’t expect to love it so much. One reviewer described the first book as “Lush, dangerous, a dark jewel of a book”. Holly Black delivered all of that in The Cruel Prince and set me on a book reading path I have yet to recover from. This fantasy series…Oh. My. Word. I devoured it in three days. Ate. It. Up. It was gone. Consumed. Digested. While the world was going on around me I was in Faerieland. I was with The Folk of the Air. The books are written so beautifully and well. The intrigue, suspense…moments of drama that would have your heart pounding. I don’t want to write more because I’m so excited about these books and am afraid I’ll give some of the plot away. If you love fantasy, strong female characters than this series is for you.
  3. Trevor Noah’s Born A Crime. Now I know what you’re thinking. How is it possible that I’ve only recently read Trevor’s book since I’m such a super fan. (In my head he’s Adam to my Eve since we were born a day apart. But that’s neither here nor there.) I am from South Africa so I do know a lot about Trevor’s background. Early on in his career he incorporated a lot of it into his stand-up routines, which is why I put off reading his book for so long. I shouldn’t have. There were so many things I didn’t know, was shocked by and laughed so long and hard, tears were rolling from my eyes. Damn just thinking about one of his stories as I write this is making me laugh again. His book reads like a movie. No wonder it is going to be made into one. If you’ve put off reading this book, don’t. Get on it now. It is way more and better and inspiring than you could have ever thought it could be.
  4.  To All the Boys I loved Before by Jenny Han. There’s a movie made about it. If you didn’t know. It’s out there. I watched it first and then read the book. And stop right there if you think I’m going to write what you think I’m going to write. The movie was enjoyable. It motivated me to read the books. Now let me just take a moment to say, the movie was very kind to the main character’s sister. Made her all innocent. She’s so irritating and annoying beyond belief. Like seriously. I so dislike her. But overall, the books are entertaining. I wouldn’t have Jenny Han on this list if they weren’t.
  5. The BRIDGETONS! With capital letters and an exclamation mark. I’ve been reading Julia Quinn for years but haven’t finished the Bridgetons for some reason. I got my Mom to read the series with me and watch the first season of the Netflix series. Ha. Nope we did not watch at the same time. No one needs to be watching The Duke in all his glory with their mother. Just no. At least for me. And I also have a confession to make; I haven’t finished the last book…because I don’t want to. I don’t want the Bridgertons to end. So yeah. I am nursing that book until the final season on Netflix and then I’m reading the book and saying goodbye. Yes, I’m weird. It’s been established. It’s nothing new. We been knew. Anyway, Julia Quinn knows how to deliver. I’ve read some of her other books and have enjoyed all of them. Even the Smythe-Smiths that you get introduced to in the Bridgertons books and TV show, are hilarious and entertaining and definitely spicy. If you love books set in this time period you should give this author ago.
  6. I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak is one of those books that I like to dive into every once in awhile. You think you know what’s coming but then the story throws a curveball. It’s so clever, it’s so funny. In parts heartbreaking and heartwarming. It can be unconventional, but not in a sleazy or over the top way. The story is very well-written and keeps you turning the page.
  7. The Hating Game by Sally Thorne is a Rom-Com. And that has to be mentioned since for the last couple of years I haven’t been into Rom-Coms as much. The whole quirky “hot mess” who is either struggling or a pack horse at work, was becoming old for me. Also the over-exaggeration of everything. And yes, I can be dramatic myself. But goodness, can the reader have at least a page where the heroine is not taking a thousand words just to convey one (not as funny as they think) thought?  Now this book, isn’t that.*laughs* It really isn’t. This isn’t Bridget Jones. This is Lucy Hutton and she’s relatable. This is Joshua Templeman and he is petty as all get out. And the book is funny. But doesn’t try too hard at it or try to beat a laugh out of you. I enjoyed it between my fantasy, paranormal and action packed novels. It was simply, lovely.
  8. I completed Brenda Jackson’s Westmorelands…well the main original family of Westmorelands because they branch out and there are a lot of them. But yeah, I now have a good understanding of how it all started and why the series is so popular. I love it and am still reading through the rest. I feel like I’m part of the family. Like the Westmorelands actually exist. Wait. What if in some alternate universe they do? Like the Westmoreland-verse. Oh. My. Word. Mind blown.
  9. Pippa Grant has kept me entertained for a while now. There were a few books of hers I had skipped over in favor of others, but I finally got to them. The Hero and the Hacktivist, Mister MacHottie,and Stud in the Stacks. You can’t go wrong with a Pippa novel. If you want funny. Actual snort laugh, cooldrink coming out of your nose funny, than she’s the type of romance author for you. Her heroines aren’t all self-deprecating either. As I’ve mentioned before, after awhile the whole insecure heroine thing becomes annoying. But, I have to add, if you can make a character with flaws that are able to laugh at themselves, accept themselves and really teach the reader something about being strong…than have at it. Give me that goofy off-centre heroine. I’m here for it.
  10. The last but not the least by any stretch of the imagination is Emma Doherty’s All That’s Left. It’s the first book in the Carlington Twin’s Duet. It’s a Young Adult series and I loved every minute of it. It was such an easy read even with the tough subject matter. The heroine is likeable, relatable, justifiably angry and a straight-shooter. She’s complex and complicated. And she can get things wrong majorly, but when she gets them right…she shines. I would re-read these books. That’s the highest compliment I can give any author.

And those are it. There were definitely more but I decided to stick with just ten. Though I feel like I should have a few honorable mentions….

Okay here they are: Michele Obama’s Becoming, Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone, Anna Todd’s After the After and Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl.

The Act of Being Timid

If there’s one box I’ve never ticked off it’s the “timid” box.

I’ve been labeled as quiet, shy, loud, confident, quirky, fun, easy-go-lucky, my-bratty-kid-sister, spoiled, generous, kind, lovely, intimidating, domineering, hardworking, spit-fire, ice-queen, straightshooter and adorable. Those are just the ones that’s been said to my face. I have no clue about any others and for anyone out there getting ready to try and place me in a box of your choosing, please refrain and keep it as your beez wax. I don’t need to know, whether flattering or not.

I have never been confused for timid. Not even as a fearful 5 year old in grade 1 going to school for the first few weeks and later on having this girl a couple of grades ahead of me bullying me because I was small for my age. I couldn’t physically take her and I didn’t talk back. But the dirty looks I gave her and my “never back down” attitude made it hard for her to get satisfaction in trying to push me around. Might I add here for the record, she didn’t earn herself any friends by being a donkey towards me, in fact, as soon as she would start, there would be a bunch of kids telling her to lay off. Especially this boy a year ahead of me whose name I never learned and who walked with me to the corner of my street and then backtracked to his house in the afternoons when my cousins was nowhere to be found. In that time, I also learned to use my voice. Once I did the bully backed off completely.

Age 5 and I already learned some valuabe lessons 1) Never give bullies what they want 2) “Fight” for yourself, regardless of who supports you and 3) Speak up. You’ll never be true to yourself until you know how to use your voice.

I carried the lessons into adulthood. I’ve overcome a lot via self-development. You know, that thing where you make mistakes and overcome them. Recognize insecurities and work to not have them rule your life. Embrace flaws, imperfections on whatever level. You know, doing life as a human. You don’t need me to explain this to you. And I’m still at age 37 learning.

Now, what inspired this title…this topic.

What’s now a few years ago, but actually feels like yesterday, I recieved a Facebook inbox from someone I considered a work friend. And I should add an online work friend. We’ve known each other for a few years, didn’t chat everyday and obviously didn’t see each other. But we were friendly.

At least I thought so.

So, by the time of the African Online Book Fair this incident happened. Mind you, I had started to grow suspicious of this person a month prior to the event, but wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt. I mean, such a “nice” person wouldn’t drop you literally a week before the event, after you’ve done free promo for them, had their name linked to it as a prominent organizer when in fact you were the one handling the bulk of the work. Bceause it was your idea and you didn’t want to burden them with a heavy workload since they had their regular job and kids to take care of. Btw this is typical single person behaviour. Always taking on more work than thier married counterparts, because you know, the general public don’t believe single people actually do lead very busy, stress filled lives.

I freaked internally. Outwardly, I was the professional I’ve learned to be as a working adult who have dealt with a crisis before. I also realized it was crunch time and anyone who knows me know, I don’t fumble the ball when it comes to the finish line. (Okay I just mixed my sports references, just bear with me.) People were relying on me. Fellow authors. Readers. It was not the time to play possum. It was not the time to mentally lose it. It was not the time to not hold people accountable.

So I didn’t. I held them accountable.

And then a few days later was told I am not “soft” like them, I am a “very hard” person.

Me doing what I was obligated to do, what I had voluntarily signed up for, and this person also voluntarily signed up for I might as add, was a hard person because I wanted to get the job done. And do so successfully.

I had to literally call in back-up from someone the last minute because I knew I couldn’t rely on this person…ever.

When this Facebook inbox insult was sent I was like, “yep, I’m done here.”

Because here’s what happened. This person tried to bail out on their duties and I had to compormise and get them to do half of the work they committed to. Then they had the audacity to send an inbox complaining about how unrelaible some people in their lives were and just a general pity party. I had to restrain myself from yell-typing, hypocrite. The self-awarness on this one was sorely lacking.

MInd you, this person is known as being “timid”. If you heard their speaking voice you’d be like, “what in the 5 year old is that?” They have that manufactored “baby-voice” geared to make you think they can’t hurt a fly much less a human. So “soft” spoken.

And hey, for once in my life I was taken in my a “soft” spoken person. Over the years I’ve dropped some of my cynical bent and embraced peace, hope and love. Nothing wrong with that. Though it does give wolves in sheep clothing a chance to dupe you.

I cut off all comunication witout any explination. I became a ghost to this person. I’m sure they don’t care. I haven’t recieved any form of reach out from them at all. Not a “hey haven’t heard from you in a while” type of thing or a “how you doing?” misguided email. Misguided because I wouldn’t have replied. lol Maybe they are more self-aware than their last inbox communication indicated…?

Either way, I realized quickly how some people skate by in life on an act of timid. When in fact they are sly foxes. They really thought they’ll have me do all the work, promote the hell out of their books, link them to the event as someone important and then in the final hour or should I say weekend, drop out for a last minute half-sibling’s (whose mother they didn’t like) birthday party. Ha. Honestly, after all these years I still can’t believe the arrogance. The unprofessionalism.

What I would like to say in closing is this: behaviour like this doesn’t pay off. Pretending to be someone you’re not. That mask always slips off. And when people see you for who you really are Dorian Grey, all they see will is ugly.