Tag Archives: writing

Indie Lives Matter

One of the unexpected benefits of becoming an indie writer was joining the wonderful community of indie writers. I cannot even begin to describe how supportive, helpful and awesome these folk are. Critical in the best ways. Cheering me on in the dark days when I think my writing is shit or I can’t find my way out of the hole I’ve written. Just stellar people who are doing exactly what I’m doing and struggling exactly the way I’m struggling. Yet, we all laugh at/with each other, send cyber hugs when needed and promote the crap out of each other’s work. And all with good reason. I’m telling you, people, the indie world is where it’s at. There are some truly talented people penning stories right now, stories that put traditional publishing house fare to shame.

We all know the game is rigged and how difficult it is to support yourself off of being an indie writer. I’ve been a judge for several contests and it always leaves me scratching my head at how the winners are, nine times out of ten, big House books that are such crap, I wouldn’t even feed them to my shredder. Even still, we indies trudge on and churn out the stories and characters we love. And you know what? I think that’s why our stories are so much better. Because our writing is not our job. It’s our passion.

In some ways, it reminds of watching the Little League World Series. Those kids pour their entire hearts and souls into the game they love. They play through blood and sweat and cry when they lose. That’s because they don’t get paid to do it. They do it because they love the shit out of it – something blatantly absent from professionals.

I write all of this because just in the last 24 hours I’ve gone on three wild rides, thanks to two of my fellow indie authors, and it occurred to me today how I might have missed out on these five-star reads had I not joined the indie community myself. I might never have known about great authors like R.C. Matthews, Heather Blair, Rachel Chanticleer and Danielle Ward. How sad to have potentially missed out on such great reading.

With author Heather Blair, I took a trip into an alternate reality where nursery rhymes are actually spells and Jack Frost is a hero (or villain?) you love to hate – an action-packed wild ride that had me desperate for the next book in the series (which I’ll shamelessly plug here: https://www.amazon.com/Sixpence-Whiskey-Toil-Trouble-Book-ebook/dp/B01CZINZ42/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1472530797&sr=8-1&keywords=sixpence+and+whiskey#nav-subnav )

Once that series left me breathless, I was whisked away to 19th century England by author R.C. Matthews, where a pirate named the Devil takes possession of a haunted mansion and hires a local blind medium to rid the place of the ghosts left from the massacre that took place in the underwater ballroom. (Shameless plug #2: https://www.amazon.com/Devil%E2%80%99s-Cove-Tortured-Souls-Matthews-ebook/dp/B01KGO4A6O/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1472530954&sr=8-2&keywords=Devil%27s+Cove#nav-subnav )

Seriously…I can’t make this stuff up. But my wildly imaginative and talented indie friends can. Thank you to my GR buddies and good friends I’ve made along the way. And to those of you looking for some good-ass writing, just check out my Goodreads author page (that’s Sawyer Belle in case you didn’t know whose blog you were reading!) and check out my five star list. You won’t be disappointed.


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Ain’t Nothin’ but a Hound Dog

Now that I’ve started writing again, I fully understand why I was so hesitant to jump back into it. The creative process is a bear. It really is. You start out with an idea, spend months and months thinking about it, dreaming about it, mapping it out, even listening to its soundtrack until you feel solid enough to put something on paper. I outline, and I mean thoroughly outline. I have outlines that are ten pages long. I do research. Do ALL of this leg work and as soon as I start writing the damn thing it goes wildly off the course I so painstakingly planned.

I know it’s cliché to say that the characters become alive to the author, but it is so true. I’ve laughed and cried with my characters; really, really ached for them. They become real once you start writing, and as cool as the experience is, it can get frustrating when they hijack your story and make it their own. It all ends well, of course, but the creative process is exhausting. It’s a lot of work, endless work. So, why do it? Simply because I have to. And I love it.

When the inspiration hits, I just start writing. I used to write songs and the inspiration would hit at the oddest times: like while I was driving on the freeway zooming into the spaghetti bowl. I used to carry a notepad and pen in my car so I could write things down as they came to me, but I was getting so prolific that, in the interests of safety, I bought a mini tape recorder and carried it with me so I could just talk into it.

Every author has their own quirks, their own ways of doing things and mine is very much inspiration-based. Sure, I can bang out something if needed, but it won’t be something with heart or that I believe in. So, I choose not to do things that way. I wait for the inspiration to hit and then pounce on it like a ravenous animal on food scraps. I think this is why the creative process is so exhausting to me. It’s a yo-yo at maximum speed, and sometimes it has me juggling between projects.

When I began writing again this year, I started on one project. Felt great about it. Was in the groove and then that inspiration went right off the deep-end. Just disappeared, because another project suddenly woke up inside of me and I had to yield to it.

As I walk my coonhound, I realize he does the same thing: zig-zags on the trail just following his nose, treating each direction with equal zest. But when he hits on a particular scent in a particular direction, he’s off and running and there’s no stopping him. I guess that’s me when it comes to writing.


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Guest Blogging Today!

The incomparable Regan Walker has invited me to guest blog on her wonderful site, Historical Romance Review with Regan Walker. Today, I’ll be sharing some of my research into the mining perils of the Nevada silver strike. Come by and read the post and feel free to comment. One lucky commenter will receive a free copy of Silver Nights With You.

The Site is here:


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The Music that breathes life into my stories…

I took one of those silly online quizzes to determine the age of my soul. Those tests are always fun and comical, and sometimes they even ring true. I was given the age of more than 500 years for my soul, and was told that it birthed during the Renaissance. The analysis went on to say that I am often deeply touched by art, music, poetry, etc to the point of tears, and that is the result of my soul aching for the days of its birth.

Well, I know one thing for certain. The first part of that sentence is absolutely true. I have often been moved to tears by the beauty of art. I can’t listen to an orchestra without goosebumps pimpling my skin and water tugging at the backs of my eyes. Certain passages of writing, paintings, sculptures, photographs will have the same effect, but the strongest artistic area to incite an emotional response from me is, by far, music. Such a beautiful language!

It should come as no surprise, then, that I often plot and write to music. I use music all the time for inspiration on pacing, scenes, and just overall vibe of a story. While I’m immersed in writing a story, I tend to find a small sampling of music that encapsulate the text for me and I’ll listen to them repeatedly. The cool thing about that is when the book is published and I’m moved onto another project, I can still go back to my other stories with a simple press on my iPod.

Everyone imagines things differently. So, I’ve no idea if my readers see my characters and stories the way I do, but in case any of you are wondering what kind of music or songs I think have encapsulated the “feel” of my stories, I’ve provided the answer for you! If our imaginations  have synced up, cool. If not, at least you get to enjoy some cool music in the process!

Silver Nights With You – For this one, I went to the soundtrack of my favorite western (in fact, favorite “movie”) of all time. Lonesome Dove. I listened to that entire soundtrack a ton, imagining all of the tender moments between Lila and Morgan, envisioning the danger and the comedy, imagining the awe of the first view of the Washoe Valley. Here is a small sampling of the greatness that is the Lonesome Dove soundtrack, and if you haven’t seen the mini-series, you are seriously missing out.

Desert Sunrise – For the sequel to Silver Nights, I went with the father of American folk music. Due to the musical themes and influence of the characters in the story, I mentioned several songs by name. If you happen to be a geek like me, you will have noticed that all of the songs and lyrics in the story are all from Stephen Foster songs (with the exception of Ave Maria at the end). So, here are a few that I listened to quite frequently while writing Desert Sunrise, imagining how the powerful lyrics would have affected Jess as she thought about her cares and worries.

And, appropriately, for the scene of the hide races, I listened to this gem (not Stephen Foster):

Love of a Lioness – A few different styles of music went into thinking about/writing this medieval romance “adventure.” I had slower, more celtic sounding songs for the intense dramatic moments, but I listened to some up tempo and modern music to inspire the battle scenes. The first song I’m going to offer you is one that I must have spent a month’s worth of hours listening to. I envisioned the finale mapped out to this music, beginning with Isabeau standing on the railing of a ship, eyeing the coast of France just before diving off to swim ashore and rescue her knight. I know it doesn’t sound medieval, but you gotta admit – it still sounds pretty bad ass. 🙂

This was another one I went to for inspiration on other battle scenes:

This was another I listened to in order to imagine more sedate scenes, those during training, on calmer seas, more intimate moments.

Big Sky Eyes – for this contemporary cowboy tale, I went with Blake Shelton all the way. I love that guy, and I think his song, Mine Would Be You, captures the entire tale of Brent and Mackenna. I listened to it repeatedly, picturing scenes from their years together.

For quieter, more internal thoughts and moments, I liked these:

NOW, for a treat! I am in the middle of working on two manuscripts. One, many of you may know as Ruby’s Song, which is the third installment of the Love in the Sierras Series. The other is a contemporary that takes place in the Caribbean. I haven’t named that one yet, though it is 70% written. For Ruby’s Song, I am really heavily into Catrin Finch and the soft lyrical sound of her harp playing. So, the current inspiration for Ruby’s Song scenes are these:

When I’m working on my contemporary, I hit up A&B Acoustic, Above and Beyond:

Whew!! That’s a lot of music…and I love it all!! 🙂

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Is there an AWARD in my future?

So, I just learned yesterday that (much to my surprise and delight) Silver Nights With You is up for an award with InD’Tale Magazine!! It’s the RONE (Reward of Novel Excellence) Award for American Historical Romance. The first round of judging opens today, which consists of public voting for the first week. Five finalists will move on to the next round, which will then be read by a group of industry professionals consisting of editors, writers, professors etc. and be judged on a one to five scale from a specific list of requirements such as characterization, overall arc, editing etc.   Those scores will then be tallied by a professional company unrelated to InD’tale or its employees to determine the winner of the coveted RONE award, along with the honorable mentions. SO, I really need your support this week to go here and vote for my book:


Voting requires an account to be set up on the magazine’s website for free. I’d appreciate any and all support I can get!

Thanks, all!

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5 Myths About Romance Writers!

One of the most amusing side effects of becoming a romance writer has been the ideas other people have formed about me after learning that I write this stuff. I’ve been flattered, offended and bowled over with laughter at some of things to come out of people’s mouths about what I do. Here are the five biggest preconceptions I’ve found that people have about romance writers. Are you a romance writer? I’d love to hear what assumptions have been made about you!

1. I write porn.

This is, perhaps, the greatest myth about romance novelists and has likely contributed most to the widely-held belief that romance novels are not considered “real” literature. Well, I actually take offense to this one. It usually takes me a year to write a romance novel, and the majority of that time is doing real research, then weaving a story and editing it. I cannot even exaggerate how tiny the amount of time is that’s dedicated to writing a sex scene. I, along with most romance writers I enjoy and know, don’t write gratuitous sex scenes. Like any other plot element, sex scenes are used to enhance or progress a story. They are not just thrown in for the sake of making a racy book. I personally believe that writing sexual tension is far more important than writing sex scenes, and I try to keep mine minimal and tasteful. The fact that people think I write porn is laughable. I’ve read more graphic sex scenes in a Dean Koontz novel.

2. I am a sexpert.

This is quite flattering. It also reminds me of stories my aunt would tell me from when she used to host “fun” parties and sale scandalous goodies to womenfolk around town. She’d conduct her sales in a back bedroom one-on-one and when her customers would shut the door, they’d unload on her as if she was a sex therapist, just because she sold sex toys. I’ve had similar happenings, and while I’m happy that I appear to know what I’m talking about, I find it difficult to say anything more than, “hmm…you should really talk to your husband about that” or “what’s normal for me may not be normal for you,” and all sorts of awkward one-liners like that.

3. I’m writing about my sex life.

This usually comes from men, and it makes me laugh. I may or may not be into the kind of sex that my characters are into, but it is a mistake to think that I am translating my nocturnal activities into print for the world to read.

4. I’m writing about my sexual fantasies.

This usually comes from women, and makes me laugh even harder. I think that romance is the highest grossing of all literary genres because romance writers are tapping into other women’s fantasies, not necessarily our own. I write stories that I want to read, and I care more about the love than the sex, and you’ll see that in my books.

5. I am my heroines.

When I published my first contemporary, I had so many people ask me if I had ever been in an abusive or controlling relationship because my heroine had been in one. I had to explain that I am not Mackenna. I would never accept things that she did. I had family members come to me and say they never knew I felt a certain way about somebody or something and I’d have to say that I didn’t. She’s not me! This is such a hard thing to explain, because my characters are borne from me. They come through me like my own children, but they are not me. As a writer, you write what you know. So, of course experiences from my life, socially, emotionally and romantically, make it into my stories. And I like to think that there is a piece of me in each of my characters, but they are not me, and I am not them. I wish I had half their strength.

So, what about you other romance writers out there? What do readers believe of you?


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The Smell of My Life

This morning I used up the last drops of my body spray, and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect with the onset of Autumn. I have this weird quirk, you see, of changing my “scent” for every major season or phase of my life. I don’t like to perfume-hop. There is a really good reason for this. I have always associated memories from my childhood with smells. You know when you get a whiff of your mother’s old perfume and it takes you right back to a certain time and place and suddenly a memory, more vivid and colorful than ever before, bursts into your mind? You laugh at something you’d forgotten, and you smile for the rest of the day when you think about it. Yeah – that’s why I do what I do.

The summer of 2014 will always smell like Sensual Sunset from Victoria’s Secret Garden. The scent was discontinued years ago. Someday, they will bring it back or some other perfume company will put out something similar, and when I’m walking past someone wearing it I’ll go back to this season. I’ll remember my baby sister’s wedding, and all of the associated parties and gatherings. I’ll remember the girls’ weekend my friends and I took to Mesquite. I’ll remember the day my baby girl turned two, the day I spread my dog’s ashes in the mountains, and the horrible toothache that resulted in my first root canal. I’ll remember my husband’s 40th birthday bash in the mountains of Utah and the release of my third novel.

When I want to remember my pregnancy with my son more than eight years ago, I go to Tomigirl by Tommy Hilfiger. Moonlight Path takes me to my best friends’ condo in Reno in the winter months post college graduation. I moved in with them to save money for my trip to Europe. We’d sit on the roof, drink gin and tonics and smoke American Spirits while chatting away and looking at the unobstructed view of downtown Reno. Lavender oil takes me to the summer I backpacked New Zealand with my best friend. Senior year in high school is all Jovan White Musk. Japanese Cherry Blossoms takes me to the Fall I hiked the Grand Canyon, rim-to-rim.

Anytime I smell passionfruit, I am transported to a European summer; squatting in London; getting spit on at the train station in Paris because I am American; riding bikes to the beach in Barcelona and chilling out in the sand with sangria; celebrating the fourth of July in Rome with a group of American soldiers stationed in Germany; being dragged to a piano at an Italian streetside restaurant to pound out Ballin’ the Jack and the theme to Dr. Zhivago while the old Italian musicians waltzed with female patrons on the sidewalk (I earned us a free dessert with my playing!); an amazing roadtrip through the Swiss Alps; roaming the streets of Salzburg in the rain; the crazy albino who ran the hostel in Prague; the beer festival in Wurzburg; falling in love…that’s what passionfruit means to me.

Most of the time, depending on the size of the perfume bottle, I don’t use up all of the perfume in one season. The great thing about that is that I can retrieve whatever memories I want by simply walking over to the top of my dresser and pulling open a bottle. It’s like a lifetime of yearbooks on my dresser, only prettier. And when I really want to go back, I’ll wear the scent for a day. Now, I just have to decide what I want my Autumn to smell like.


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The Balancing Act

When I started this blog, I made myself commit to writing at least one post a week. That probably lasted about…oh…one week. I’ve followed other people’s blogs, people who post at least one thing a day.
Sometimes it’s worth the read, and other times it’s an obvious marketing ploy. Sometimes (and these are the ones I really hate), the frequent posters are so damn cute and clever. I just don’t fit. Here’s the thing – I’m not that interesting.

My private life is private, and my writing life is not really different from any other writer’s. I’m not qualified to give advice or instruction. I’m not cute enough to do…I don’t know…anything cute. I’m only clever part of the time (and mostly in a sailor-talk kind of way after a few drinks). Oftentimes, I find myself staring at a blank screen, chomping away at my fingernails trying to think of a topic to write about. After a few minutes of this I get frustrated and wonder: am I really that boring? Is there really nothing for me to tell you?

Probably nothing that anyone would care about. I grew up a lonely girl in a large family. There were always people around but I preferred my own company (probably how I ended up with very high standards for companionship and very little social skills). Even now, I wouldn’t consider myself outgoing. If I’m in a social setting involving strangers, I’m polite and cordial enough, but I only speak when spoken to, and I’m quite content to watch from the shadows and excuse myself early.

You wouldn’t know it by the posts on this blog, but my life is filled with drama: the literary kind I create and the other, everyday bullshit I try to avoid (did I mention the whole big family thing?). If I used this forum as a venting chamber, it would house the foulest pollution. But life is so full of negativity – myself included – that I try to use this blog as something else.

The part of me that is the writer, the artist, the dreamer – exists outside of my everyday world. Reading can be the conduit to escapism, but writing is absolutely vital to grounding. I have my roles, my titles (mother, wife, office rat, etc.) but the only part of me that truly encapsulates who I am as an individual is my craft – whether it’s music, or writing – any type of art. People have so many reasons for writing, and some of the popular ones resonate with me still. I have stories to tell, I have passion for words, and so on and so forth. But the real, the sacred, reason that I write is because I have to exist outside of my functions.

I’m not a naturally selfless person. Simply giving all of myself to my family and my job everyday doesn’t satisfy me (go ahead – throw rotten tomatoes at me all you mothers-of-the-world). I love my family, but they don’t define me. I defy any person to claim I don’t love my children 110% (and get ready for a slap if you do), but I DO exist outside of them. I am a person with thoughts and motivations and aspirations independent of the people I love most of all, and there is nothing shameful about that.

I could deny my deepest self, abandon my writing, my hopes for success in that arena, but to what end? Why pump our kids full of the reach-for-the-stars mentality only to abandon it the second we give birth to them? We raise our children and send them out into the world. When I was young, the idea of being a parent seemed like so much of a sacrifice. So much time dedicated to these little humans I’d create, but the truth of it is that you really don’t have much time to raise your children, and they will go on (as they must) and leave you to yourself. You spend more time with, and as, yourself than you do with your children. One of my favorite poems about parenthood is by Khalil Gibran:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

One of the foremost emotions that comes with motherhood is guilt. I often feel guilty that I don’t spend more quality time with my children. I must work and so am away from them ten hours a day, and when I get home I don’t feel like the jolly sort of playmate they would like. I do my best, though not as often as I’d like. It is a common thing for mothers to encourage one another to get away and have some “mommy time.” But with that comes guilt. (I should be at home with my kids instead of the movies with my girlfriends, or instead of this massage or lunch date). I always feel guilty for being away, but I never feel guilty for being me. I wish I made as much time for my writing as I did for my “mommy time,” (which isn’t much, I’ll tell you for free!).

The scary part about parenting (and writing!) is that you never know if you’re getting it right. But I think the most important thing in either endeavor is to be true to yourself. If you can’t hear the beckoning of your own soul, then the quiet and most beautiful moments of life will be lost on you.


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The Courtesy of a Review

Every writer, and especially an Indie writer, knows the value of reviews. As Indie authors, it is our job to market our work, and one of the best ways is to get our work reviewed. Oftentimes, we trade out free copies in exchange for honest reviews, a win-win. But it wasn’t until I accepted a free copy of a book in exchange for an honest review that I really understood the anxiety on the part of the reviewer. And the reason for that is because I didn’t enjoy the book.

Not only did I not enjoy it, but it was just awash with so many errors and obvious needs of improvement that I seriously wondered how I could review it without dropping a huge sledgehammer on some writer’s dreams. I had never struggled with this before when writing reviews of either Indie authors or large house authors, and it occurred to me just why. When writing an unsolicited review of a book, the author is still somewhat anonymous, disconnected and unconcerned with my opinion (or so I can believe). But when an author seeks me out for a review, there is a bit of a correspondence before I actually receive the book, and in that correspondence the author becomes real to me.

There is a tangible excitement on the other end of my email inbox. I can sense it from the writer. I know she is biting her nails in her anxiety, plodding through each long, laborious day, waiting for me to post my review so she can read how much I loved the fruits of her labors, how much I appreciated the amount of effort and work it took her to write her book, how much I recognized her talent and admired her storytelling brilliance. I know she is waiting just this way. I know it deeply because I have been her.

And what if one of my reviewers had responded just the way I want to and said: This is just not good?

The problem is that I know how that would affect her and I can’t do that to her. I have struggled so much with this that I even discussed it at-length with my husband. I suggested that I should forego writing a review and just write her personally with some helpful tips and constructive criticism, but what is the point? The book is already published and has been for more than a year. Should I offer to be a critical reader or a beta reader for her on future works? How can I be honest without being damaging? How can I be helpful without being patronizing? After all, I may be no better writer than she.

And what if she handles it badly and turns around to write negative reviews of my books? It is a petty fear, I know, but this industry has some petty people in it. There seems to be an unspoken agreement in the Indie world, a sort of you-scratch-my-back-I’ll-scratch-yours in effect. I have seen it where Indie authors are reviewing each other’s work and rating each other exactly the same. If one author rates a book four stars, you can be assured that that author will, in turn, rate the other’s four stars. Am I breaking with some code if I rate less than three stars? Am I moving myself toward some black list? Am I overthinking it all?

Back in the olden days when I was in college, I took a course that was entirely devoted to writing reviews. That was all we did all semester long. So, I got fairly good at it and the test then became how to write them funnier, how to make them stand out, and in a lot of ways that meant finding ways to be more insulting. I was inconsiderate of the person(s) I was annihilating with my criticisms back then and I began to wonder if and how I had matured in my reviewing.

I like to think that my reviews now are less insulting and more constructive, but I know that I have written some stuff that has probably offended some authors out there. I realized that there are two sides of a review, an emotional and a mechanical, and it is still, at the end of the day, my opinion. I started wondering if maybe I should endeavor to write each review as though the author personally sought me out, to always be mindful of the author’s feelings and to keep my criticisms as free of emotion as possible, and to keep my emotions as respectful as possible.

And, I decided that I will give each author exactly what I would want from my reviewers: honesty.

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Four-Star Funk

For the last half year (or maybe even longer than that?) I cannot seem to find a book or story that just absolutely blows me away; something that I’d call amazing; something that sticks with me long after I’ve finished; something I want to tell everyone about and buy copies for. I’ve read a string of really good books in many different genres, but nothing amazing. I was talking to my book club gals about it last night and one of them suggested that I might have just grown to be a more critical reader, or have started judging more harshly. I’ve been thinking about that ever since, and I’ve really been trying to figure out how I judge a book. What matters the most to me? So I thought it best to break down my grading criteria, and what it takes to get me to that five-star mark with a book.

  1. Writing – I cannot stress how distracting poor writing is to me. Obviously, the odd typo, misspelling or grammatical error can be forgiven. I am often horrified by things I’ve missed in my own published works so I know how even the most critical writer can make mistakes and the best editors can miss things, but poor writing goes beyond mechanical errors. Parroted clichés, poor organization of plot and dialogue, weakly-drawn characters, stretching believability to the breaking point, inconsistent characterizations, obvious filler crap, poorly-disguised preaching and hastily buttoned-up endings (one of my biggest pet peeves) can all ruin a story for me. If I am so distracted by the poor writing, it wouldn’t matter if the story was the best yarn ever spun. Imagination without talent is lost on me.
  2. Predictability  – On the flipside of poor writing, if a book is written well but has a lumpy, listless plot with an ending I can see from chapter one, I cannot get behind it. This is a most frustrating scenario because when I find a witty writer, someone who colors scenes a bit differently, I get excited. I think Yes! This is finally it – what I’ve been looking for! Then…the buzzkill. It’s easy for writers to jump on the bandwagon of whatever is trending out there. It’s also a copout. For someone who reads an inordinate amount of stories, I can spot a knockoff a mile away. I don’t want the same plot sequences regurgitated in a different setting. I’ve been there, done that. Take me somewhere new!
  3. Emoting – Folks, I gotta care about the characters. I have to feel for them, even the villains. I have to care enough to dislike the bad guys and cheer for their downfalls. I have to cry when the heroes and heroines cry. My heart has to break for their sorrows and whoop for their triumphs. I guess this ties back to number one on this list. If the characters are well-developed and thoroughly written, this will naturally happen. If it doesn’t? Bye-bye five stars.
  4. Depth – Please don’t insult me by assuming I don’t care about the details. Because I do. I realize this is a matter of personal preference, but hey, we’re talking about my personal preferences, here. I want the details. Sure, titillate my senses, but take me beneath the skin as well. The dedication of the writer is found in the details. I can tell how much he/she has researched, how much he/she’s devoted to fleshing out a person or a storyline, even how much he/she cares about delivering something epic versus delivering something mainstream by what he/she puts into the details. If a writer doesn’t care enough to pour his/her heart and soul into the story, why should I? Good storyline and dialogue are like the pretty petals of a flower. The details are the rich soil. If there’s not much there, that flower’s going to wither away pretty quickly.
  5. The WOW – I know this is different for everyone. Some people are easily impressed. I don’t happen to be one of them. If an author manages to “wow” me in any way, I’ll be running to rate it five stars, but as I’ve said before, I’ve read a ton. There’s not a lot I haven’t read already. I want to be “wowed” but in a way that is realistic. Don’t come out of left-field with something that doesn’t make any sense. Be smart. I’m smart, so I want a writer to write smart. The truth is, if a writer can get 1-4 right, then that will take care of number five.

Is any of this too much to ask? I’m always eager for recommendations. Trust me, I want to read that five-star book. I need to read it. I need to know that amazing writing still exists. I’m getting a little tired of my four-star funk!

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