Saturday, November 18, 2017

A Goodreads Prize Winner and One More Announcement

Right now I have a pile of papers scattered all around my feet; the kind that needs sorting and filing. You know, old bills, receipts, cards and address labels -- and, oh, what's this? A 2017 calendar I haven't looked at since August. Hm... Yep, I do procrastinate with sorting and filing. So what am I doing instead of sorting and filing? Why, I'm getting totally distracted of course, because I have information to share.

I'm happy to announce that Bonnie from New Jersey won an autographed copy of The Deepest Sigh! Thank you, Bonnie, and everyone else who entered my first Goodreads giveaway. Look for more of them in the future. Who feels like filing receipts when I can bear such good news as that?

Here's another thing... I'm pretty slow at announcing formally (though some of you have probably known for a while) that I recently signed another contract. This one is for a voyageur era novel set on and around Lake Superior in the early 1800s. It's chock full of voyageurs, fur traders, adventurers of all sorts, not to mention a Métis woman fleeing a cruel suitor in Montreal. Look for Mist O'er the Voyageur in October, 2018.

So, while lots of my writer friends are on the ball posting nice pictures of themselves when they sign, I'm posting after the fact; but, here it is --  signed, sealed, delivered, duplicated, and... You guessed it -- ready to file.

Keep up with the release of two novels coming out next year, more giveaways, contests, and other fun stuff by signing up for my newsletter on my home page at

Please have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Goodreads Giveaway - Historical Romance - The Deepest Sigh - Enter Now!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Deepest Sigh by Naomi Dawn Musch

The Deepest Sigh

by Naomi Dawn Musch

Giveaway ends November 17, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Monday, October 30, 2017

THE DEEPEST SIGH Won Cover Wars! So How About a Giveaway?

That's right! Faithful supporters put votes for The Deepest Sigh over the top during Author Shout's Cover Wars last week, and now it's the Book of the Week! To celebrate, I'm going to give away an autographed copy. Yay! Want in? Keep reading.

I'll be doing the giveaway through Goodreads. (Why? Because it's every reader's haven, of course.) So if you aren't on Goodreads, go sign up. Start adding books to your "Want to Read" list. ADD THE DEEPEST SIGH, that way you'll get a reminder when the giveaway starts.

I have another reason for doing the giveaway now. See, my birthday is coming up November 10th. That's right, apparently time is moving forward. So I want to put my book into some book lover's hands during my birthday week because that's exciting for me. Will you be that Book Lover?


On any of those dates, you'll be able to enter. Still haven't added it to your Goodreads list? What are you waiting for? Get going! :)

Soooo sorry, but this contest will only be available to U.S. residents. :(

Friday, September 29, 2017

Novel Brainstorming is the B.O.M.B.

I don't know if I've ever outlined two novels exactly the same way, but there are always similarities, and there is always that first brainstorming session, the one where ideas flow in synopsis fashion. It's that part of the process that gets me real fired up to write the story, because let me tell you, as a writer, brainstorming is the B.O.M.B.! It is where I quickly riddle out these things:

B. Begin to meet the characters
O. Open with the initial conflict
M. Mind the major turning points
B. Bring it all together

Well, that was fun...

Once I begin the serious work of outlining, a lot of that initial synopsis might change, but that's okay. SOTP writers (that's seat-of-the-pants for those who aren't familiar) may not take their idea to that next level, but everyone starts someplace, and in a way, a written synopsis is a form of outline.

So today I brainstormed a new novel. I've been thinking about my characters. It's a sequel, so one of them had an established history and personality. The other main character needed a lot of fleshing out.

What. A. Blast!  (I promise not to write an acronym for that.)

Just following the trail down which my brain led me as the idea spilled out onto paper, from one thing to the next, was like dreaming wide awake. It's terrific fun, and totally freeing, because I can go back at any point and change something if I get a better idea later, or if the one I initially create isn't working. Some people hate beginnings, but I don't know why. It's the part during which we, as writers, first get to live the adventure.

Themes come to me during this time. The primary theme usually shows itself pretty early on. During the actual writing of the book, I keep a close I toward the emergence of secondary themes. Those are then consciously layered in as I move forward. I must have that primary theme to begin though. Without it, I can't weave plot lines as effectively, nor can I entirely understand my character. So discovering theme as I brainstorm is important.

This morning, I had a pretty good idea of theme when, all of a sudden, an even stronger form of that theme presented itself. I sort of descended out of nowhere into the story, and I knew immediately that this theme was the one that would make the story resonate with readers. Wish I could tell you more, but that might ruin it... :)

Today I did something else different (for me). After jotting down my synopsis -- a mere couple pages, a very general overview of the story -- I went back and highlighted these things:

*The Inciting Incident and Key Event
*The First Turning Point
*The Midpoint
*The 2nd Turning Point or Dark Moment
*The Race to the Climax and Resolution

These points will all be broken down further when I begin the long plotting process, but this is just a simple synopsis. I marked these things to be sure they existed, because even if you don't use an outline, the mental shape of these things has to be there, or you don't really have a story.

It will be a while before I begin writing this particular story. For those of you who have read or plan to read The Deepest Sigh, this new idea is for the sequel to the sequel. Got it? Man... I love being a writer.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Friday Flashback! on a Great Old Book ~ Afton of Margate Castle (The Theyn Chronicles Book One)

I have to tell ya, there are some novelists who have jumped around from genre to genre in their story-telling, and that's just fine, but when an author like Angela Elwell Hunt writes an historical fiction piece, she's second to none. Don't get me wrong. She's a great writer of contemporary fiction too, but I was first captured by her historical fiction. It is gripping. Today I'm remembering The Theyn Chronicles series, and most of all, book one: Afton of Margate Castle.

As it says on the cover, it's "a novel of intrigue and romance in medieval England". Afton is a from a poor family, but she is taken by the earl's wife (who has mothering issues) to be raised as a companion to her daughter. Of course, being raised around the gentry and turning into a lovely and vivacious young lady, it isn't long before Afton falls in love with her childhood protector who is none other than Calhoun, the earl's very own son. This would be all well and good, except that Calhoun's mother reacts to this a little bit like the evil queen in Snow White. Oh, the fit of panic! So poor Afton is cast out of the castle, and in a way that is absolutely despicable. She's given in marriage to a brute of a man in return for his loyalty. Trust me, things are not good, and the result of this union can only stir up one thought for Afton -- revenge!

Afton of Margate Castle is a heart-wrenching romance, complete with knights and villains -- not to mention villeins -- love and treachery, and a big dose of chivalry. If you enjoy a big ol' novel full of this sort of medieval action and adventure to really sink your reader's teeth into, then give it an add on your Goodreads list. Angela has re-released the book, so you'll find it with this lovely new cover too:
Click on the cover to find purchase links on Angela Hunt's site.
When you've finished reading, you might want to follow up with books 2 and 3, The Troubadour's Quest and Ingram of the Irish.

Happy weekend reading!

Monday, July 3, 2017

A New Trick for Getting Into Your Character's Skin #WriterUnstuck

Do you ever have trouble getting at the heart and soul of one of your characters? You've tried journaling or free-writing from his or her perspective. You've answered all their questions -- what their deepest desire is, what dark thing happened in their past, what their greatest emotional need is, and so on. You've stepped into their skin in every way you can think of, yet, when writing their character, they still feel lacking in personality somehow.

Here's a little trick I stumbled upon that helped me tremendously with a recent character who, after trying all the usual devices, was still too stiff to be real. Maybe it'll help you. As well as answering the important questions and journaling from my character's perspective, I tried the same technique from the perspective of other characters involved with them. In other words, I wanted to know from another character in the book what his/her view of said character was. Wow! What a difference. Try it. The other character might be a parent, a sibling, a best friend or lover -- or it might even be your problem character's nemesis. Everyone will see them from some other aspect, and you'll be surprised by the things they tell you.

You might be surprised at how characters see one another.
They definitely won't all view the individual the same way.

Did you ever wonder how other people see you? If your mom, best friend, or coworker were to write about you and give free rein to say anything they wanted, what would they have to say? How would they describe you? What secret insights might they share? What memories and stories would they tell about you?

I found it amazing how doing this with my stiff character brought out the substance of her personality in ways I hadn't yet imagined. So try it. Hop into the head of any other surrounding character, and let them talk about the one you're having trouble with. Sit back and soak in their gossip. Let them introduce you to that character in a whole new light.

Write on!

Friday, June 23, 2017

What Color Are Your Characters' Personalities?

Admit it, you've gotten sucked into those color personality quizzes on social media. They're all mostly flattering. Oh, you're orange? You must be playful and witty. Certainly you're attractive with all that energy you exude! Or maybe you're red: confident, powerful, and passionate. Yes! Bring on the passion.

Well, I don't know how accurate all those tests and quizzes are. They seem to be pretty good at massaging our egos. Most of them don't mention the negative sides of those color traits, whether or not we tend toward being self-centered, irresponsible, or just plain dull. I'm sure the makers of those tests are missing a few shades in each quiz. Nevertheless, there is a good use for those color charts if you're a fiction writer. You can use them to flesh out your characters' personality profiles.

people vector created by freepik

Consider the Green personality: Calm, intellectual, powerful, curious, introverted, cynical. Sounds like an anti-hero to me. Maybe it's even a villain. I think examining the traits of a "green" personality would add a lot of dimension to some of the villains I've read. It would help to learn that they are not only maniacal and egotistical, but that they are curious and intellectual too. Do you see what that could mean to the fleshing out of their character? How much more dimensional might that make your villain if you added in traits and characteristics that explored these other nuances of personality? How about a dangerous, egotistical villain, who also happens to be a brilliant horticulturist or amateur astronomer? What if they're a winner on the game show Jeapordy? What if they got a full ride scholarship to a prestigious school because they're brilliant, yet morally demented in some way?

Let's look at another example. How about a romantic lead who is Purple by nature: Peaceful, charismatic, gentle, supportive, sensitive. It's easy to find leads who are gentle, supportive, and sensitive. Romance novels are swamped with them. Maybe they are peaceful as well. But if we add charismatic to the mix, what might that mean to the things they do when it comes to their actions and behavior? If they are all those positive things, what would their struggles be? Because they are sensitive, would they hide behind the mask of their charismatic actions if they feel hurt? Also, take a look at the color list below. Those gentle souls have some serious issues to deal with in the personality department too.

It's important to note that not all the color personality tests completely agree, and some are more expansive. Here's a basic conglomeration of what some of the charts say. I've grouped the results together and generalized. (How very unscientific!) Whether they're to be believed or not is up to you. You can still use them to round out an otherwise flat personality in your story world.

Confident, Strong-Willed, Determined,
Ambitious, Passionate, Vibrant
Can be harsh, critical, cheap, workaholics, poor listeners, domineering

Sensible, Helpful, Faithful,
Thorough, Responsible, Committed
Contrarily, some tests say they are persuasive, spontaneous, motivated by fun and...
Can be self-centered, superficial in friendship, easily distracted

Calm, Intellectual, Powerful,
Curious, Introverted, Cynical
Can be argumentative, tend to gossip, unmotivated, unwilling to take risks

Sincere, Romantic, Idealistic,
Spiritual, Empathetic, Loyal
Can be perfectionists, moody, insecure, unforgiving, and very controlling

Peaceful, Charismatic, Gentle,
Supportive, Sensitive
Can be impractical, cynical, aloof, arrogant, a social climber, have delusions of grandeur

Witty, Playful, Open-minded,
Generous, Energetic, Active
Can be judgmental, over-analytical, impatient, pessimistic, cowardly, non-emotional

Considerate, patient, accepting, devoid of ego,
non-confrontational, good listeners
Can be self-deprecating, unwilling to set goals, express conflict, or work at another's pace

There are a lot more. Plus, each of the colors I listed have further variations of personality than what I've included. If you find it might be useful to enhance character development in your writing, investigate color personality further. I found this site to be very helpful, explanatory, and just plain fun to investigate:

Write on!

Friday, May 5, 2017

Finally Friday Flashback! on a Great Old Book - Journey Of No Return

It's finally Friday, and time to take a flash back to look at a terrific book from the past! This is a new blog series, so I hope you enjoy it.
There are so many books to choose from, and we all have favorites we've read over the years. Some are considered classics, and some might have resonated with us simply books I've enjoyed because they were great stories in their own right. So, let's talk about an old book that you may or may not have ever read, but I think you should.

I didn't know where to begin, so I glanced at my book shelf, and a book I've had for many years, and one that shaped my love for a particular genre jumped out at me. If you don't know it, allow me to introduce you to Bette M. Ross's Journey of No Return.

It can be read as a stand-alone, but you would do yourself a favor by first reading Gennie the Huguenot Woman and afterward, Hannah's Daughters. Journey Of No Return fits in the middle as it is part of this generational saga.

It is a tale of early America that settles on the story of three brave young people. There is Miss Hannah Roebuck, a courageous and lovely young woman in early America faced with heart-rending choices that help to shape the destiny of the new nation. There is the famous Shawnee leader Tecumseh, whose proud people have been deceived. Finally there is Micah MacGowan, a Scottish missionary whose life is also irrevocably changed during this time.

I loved this story! First off, I get swept up in early American history. I'm a fan of Allen Eckert's creative non-fiction, especially The Frontiersman (we'll talk about that one someday) and the stories of Tecumseh. This tale gave him and that period another light. Set against a fascinating panorama of American history, as well as a visit to the court of Versailles when Napolean offers America the Louisiana Purchase, the story is a strong romance as well. It's a love triangle, if you haven't guessed, and it will hold you spell-bound to the end.

This book's publication hales back to 1985. You might recall some of Ms. Ross's other novels such as Song of Deborah or The Thirteenth Disciple. She also penned a book called Our Special Child about parenting children with special needs.

If you enjoy current authors such as Laura Frantz or Lori Benton, you will enjoy this throwback novel Journey of No Return as well as the entire series.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

My New Cold Frame Garden Experiment

Hey, everybody, I am so excited! Last weekend my superman Jeff built the first of my two cold frames that I'm implementing in my garden plan this year. Fantastic, huh? Before you wonder if I'm a little behind the ball with springtime upon us, remember, I live in northern Wisconsin. Don't let the green grass in the picture fool you. It may be mid-April, but we are currently under a winter storm warning. Yuck!

Nevertheless, I'm anxious to start planting. In this box, I'll plant some cool weather crops like onions, lettuce, and maybe even a few peas. I'll leave them in there all season long. The next box will mostly be used for starting or housing things I'll move out into the garden later.

The box is ten feet long and about two-an-a-half feet wide. It's made entirely of recycled materials.

At the back, it's about 18 inches deep and about 12" deep in the front. The angle will invite the sunlight in, and I'll have plenty of room for some dirt.

I like those fancy handles he found somewhere...

The clear, plastic roofing will really help heat it up. I'll have to prop it open when it gets too warm for the plants.

It has nice big hinges to support the length of the door.

And here it is with some rich, black dirt inside. Eep! Fresh veggies, here we come!

What new things are you trying with your gardening this year?


Thursday, April 6, 2017

I Have An Announcement!

Today on April 6th, 2017, we mark a big centennial. Do you know what it is? Take a peek, because it's the perfect date for me to make a special announcement!

NaomiMusch (at)


Saturday, April 1, 2017

Here it is! The March Clash of the Titles Winner!

Congratulations to Jennifer Vander Klip
and the novel
Protective Custody

About the book:

A cop burned by love falls for a key witness in a crime implicating the town's rich and powerful.

Lifestyle magazine editor Heather McAlister was in the wrong place at the wrong time. What she saw sends her faith and life into a tailspin. As a key witness in a crime shaking the roots of the town's power brokers, doing the right thing may cost her everything. Including her life.

Detective Kyle Taylor is in the midst of solving the town's worst crime spree, a case that cold make or break his career, when the woman he thinks he might have a future with witnesses a gang initiation gone wrong before they can finish their first date. He has spent his entire adult life protecting his hometown. Now he's protecting a woman he'll risk everything to save.

With more than their future at risk, they must discern betrayal from trust, image from truth while avoiding a danger closer than they think.

Christian Romantic Suspense

What Reviewers Are Saying:

I just kept turning pages to see what would happen next! Can't wait for the next one!—R. Cole

This is my second novel from Vander Klipp and I continue to be impressed with her writing.--Kelly T.

Add this book to your must-read list!—Regina F.

What COTT Voters Had to Say:

~Great Book, Jennifer! Kept me on the edge of my seat!!

~Jennifer Vanderklipp, keep on writing. Some days it may seem as if no one appreciates

your books, but believe me, we, your readers, are out here just waiting for your next
release. A. Zuniga

~You have an awesome cover.The book sounds great.

~In love with Jennifer's writings!!!

~Enjoying so many new titles from amazing authors that pour their hearts in to their work. However I have to say that Protective Custody is a nail biter beginning to end. I could not put it down. Kudos to Jennifer Vander Klipp. Looking forward to more great reads from her.

~I like suspense like Jennifer VanderKlipp writes!

About the Author:

I make beauty from neglect, order from chaos. I like fixing messes!

And I get to do that a lot since I’m a mom to two and stepmom to four, navigating the tweens and
teens while battling my daughter’s juvenile arthritis, exploring the delights of my son’s autism, and keeping gluten free. A California native transplanted to the Midwest, my favorite thing is discovering with my husband how much there is to love about seasons, snow, and the delight that is Michigan.

Upcoming Release:

Promise Me is a prequel novella to Protective Custody, and it is releasing in May. With the same great setting as Protective Custody, (Orange County, California) this story focuses on Cait Bellamy and Grayson Kendall, who make brief appearances in Protective Custody. But we also get introduced to the stars of Protective Custody, Detective Kyle Taylor and Heather McAlistair.

Marketing director for Samashima Family Farms Cait Bellamy, on a break from the endless restoration of her farmhouse, witnesses potentially-devastating vandalism at the farm. Car restoration hobbiest and real estate attorney Grayson Kendall finds himself intrigued by the happenings at the farm which seem to be related to his latest real estate development. He does some digging, unknowingly putting Cait and her beloved farmhouse in danger. Can they both learn trust each other and create something new out of the wreckage their pasts while trying to discover who wants to put the farm out of business?

To find out more about her books, her latest releases, and get free chapters sign up for her newsletter at

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

New Springtime Clash! Which title would you add to your TBR pile?

Clash of the Titles presents four new springtime reads! 

Peruse the images, read the blurbs, 

then vote on your favorite in the survey. 

I know which one is my favorite.
Enjoy, dear readers!


He's a nature photographer returning to make amends, and she's a camera-shy naturalist seeking privacy. Their love for a boy brings them together, but the camera could drive them apart.
~ ~ ~

Lifestyle magazine editor Heather McAlister was in the wrong place at the wrong time, witnessing a crime that shakes the roots of the town’s power brokers and sends her life into a tailspin. Previously burned by love, Detective Kyle Taylor has spent his entire adult life protecting his hometown, but now he’s protecting a woman he’ll risk everything to save.
~ ~ ~

She’s ready to fly free of a life-long cocoon; he’s looking for anything but Raine. Can Paradise Pines find a miracle for two unwilling hearts?

~ ~ ~

When a homeless man rescues Glorilyn Neilson from violent assault, he's not the man he seems. What powerful secret keeps him on the streets?

If you have trouble viewing the entire survey Click Here to load a dedicated page to the survey. 

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Thoughts on Book Reviews and Using the Five Star Rating System

A few guiding thoughts on the whole 5-star rating system for book reviews.

And not to repeat what I said, here are five further considerations:

1. Did you keep it short and readable? You don't have to recap the whole story. They can read that on the back cover. Just tell us how you felt about it.

2. Is this the kind of book you normally read? If you don't, say so in the review. We tend to judge our favorite genres differently than we do those other genres we don't read as often.

3. What is your reason for giving the rating the number of stars you did? Was it a random choice? Do you have requirements for each star value?

4. Have you cross-posted the review in several places? Goodreads? Amazon? Barnes & Noble? On your blog? You should. It really does help.

5. Have you promoted your book review on social media? If you hang out on Facebook, Twitter, GooglePlus, or any other site, please do!

Leave a comment about the things you consider important in leaving or receiving book reviews.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Mysteries With a Message - Author Judith Rolf

This week we have a special treat! Author Judith Rolfs has been published in every genre. As an author and professional marriage and family counselor, Judith focuses on motivating people to live their best lives - emotionally, physically and spiritually. In her thirties, she researched the complexity of the natural world and moved from agnosticism to faith in God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Today, she talks about her latest novel, Never Tomorrow.

Tell our readers about your new mystery novel Never Tomorrow.

Thanks for asking. It’s like having a new baby - I welcome a chance to talk about Never Tomorrow after literally years in the writing. This is a powerful murder mystery, plus more - a psychological thriller that probes the marriage relationship, infidelity and forgiveness. I use my insights and experiences as a psychotherapist for three decades to instill deep emotions in my characters– the grieving, the loves, and the deep joys, that we all experience in real life. These are integrated with a compelling murder mystery.

This is your seventeenth book but only your third mystery novel. Tell us about your switch to fiction from non-fiction.

My previous books were how-to books about marriage and parenting and family issues, also a devotional and a teen book. Mysteries are a huge change. They are much more difficult to write, but seem to have a greater impact on readers.

Which leads to my next question. I understand your slogan is Mysteries With A Message. Explain please.

My mysteries center on real life family issues while keeping the suspense steaming.  Directive 99, my first self- suspense novel is about conflict between a woman’s career vs. family priorities. She makes major life changes when her husband is kidnapped. My next mystery novel Bullet in the Night with Prism Books is about genuine rehabilitation leading to life change and the value of nurturing friendships. I want readers to have a takeaway to ponder that can help them face situations in their own lives with more wisdom and confidence.

Tell us about where you like to write and a bit about your process.

My favorite writing places are my cottage in the woods in Fontana-on-Geneva Lake and a winter beach condo we rent in Venice, FL. I need solitude to create the story and develop my characters, but then I love to edit in coffee shops where I’m immersed in the energy of people. Relationships have always been fascinating to me, which is why I became a psychotherapist. Of course it’s helpful as an author to develop well-rounded characters. I also love to travel. In fact, Never Tomorrow starts out in Ballybunion, Ireland which I researched during a three-week trip there.

How and when did your writing career begin?

My writing career began at age ten creating stories for neighborhood children. I wrote newspaper editorials in high school, and was part of the Superior Student program at Marquette University, which published me in their literary journal. I love everything about writing especially contact with readers and other authors who are so gracious!  I recently met Pat Gussin, New York Times Best Selling Author of After the Fall and she offered to read Never Tomorrow prior to publication. She blessed me with an amazing review: “Layer upon layer of intrigue—laced with murder–propels this novel to the pinnacle of suspense. An ingenious plot, dynamic and complex characters, and an insight into the troubled avenues of human behavior rarely exposed make NEVER TOMORROW a stand-out for readers of mysteries, thrillers, and suspense.”

In closing, where can we find your new book baby?

Never Tomorrow is available through Prism Book Group, on Amazon and Barnes & Noble and through local libraries. If it’s not at the local library I hope readers will request it. Thank you for featuring me on your blog. It’s been a pleasure.


Visit Judith at

A compelling mystery with a powerful theme of forgiveness and healing...

Journalist Whitney Barnes investigates the mysterious death of her mother and three women from Cortland City seeking the thread that links them to an enigmatic killer. Why are women being murdered with no apparent motives for their death? Police are mystified at the lack of clues and a growing sense of fear surrounds the community. Who will be the next victim?

Determined to find the killer, Whitney discovers these women were dealing with wounds from their troubling pasts, but what was their connection? She teams up with Dr. Sarah Stevens, an expert on women's issues, to ferret out information while TV talk show host Rich and real estate broker Jordan vie for Whitney's affection.

Whitney discovers new strength within her, but is it powerful enough to cope with this dark force of evil?  Suspense escalates as Whitney becomes the killer's next target.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Writing Your Novel: How to Shake Up a Scene

I plot. Even though I am not a seat-of-the-pants writer, however, there are many times in writing a scene that the characters take off on their own. Most dialogue happens this way for me, and oftentimes, while I know what is supposed to happen in a scene -- which questions will be asked and answered, how relationships will change, what crisis will be formed or averted -- the actions themselves become organic. This can be a great thing, and sometimes it can be a little bit stifling. It all comes down to the shakeup.

Recently, I ran into some difficulty while working on a book that will come out in 2018. I found that, as is usual in my stories, I was using a lot of subtlety and nuance while painting the overall arc of the tale. That's good. I like subtlety and nuance. However -- sometimes subtlety and nuance, if that's all I use, become fancy terms for slow and boring. A book without them might be shallow, corny, predictable, or any number of other things that, for me, just aren't compelling enough to keep reading. But lack of definitive action is another thing. So how do I keep subtlety and nuance and still bate the reader's breath? The answer is to shake up the scene.

The primary way to shake up a scene is to ask the question, what can happen in this scene that the reader isn't expecting? For instance, I wrote a scene the other day in which I have a man and woman who live near each other walking home together. Per my plot outline, I knew they would have some conversation which would help them to get to know each other better while at the same time keeping each of their prospective secrets intact. They would start to feel like deeper friends and begin to struggle with guilt over keeping those individual secrets. Okay. Good. Got it. But stepping back, I realized it was a very nuanced type of scene. Little things like hints and secrets, while very cool and emotionally triggering, were happening. Still, I felt while writing this scene, that it was too "soft" a scene on top of a previous soft scene. I wasn't certain it offered enough to make the reader really care or compel them to read the next chapter.

Then out of the blue, an idea struck to shake that scene up. I asked, what is the reader not expecting? What am I not expecting? And voilà! Another fellow acquainted with both characters happened along, all full of vim and vigor, stirred the pot, and asked the woman out, right there in front of that other fellow. (You get this is a romance, right?) This little shake up lifted those nuances I had been writing to another level. On an aside -- I had known I wanted to use this third character in a way like that earlier, but I just hadn't seen it happening right there, until I asked that question about how I could shake up that scene.

So if you're stuck or feeling like a scene in your story just isn't clicking completely, ask yourself what it is that you and your reader aren't expecting. I think it goes without saying -- then again, maybe not -- that the shakeup should make sense to the story. I mean, keep it real. Believable. Organic. Not something so far-fetched that the reader will say, "Come on, I don't believe it," and toss the book.

Try it and see. Causing a little shake up in a scene now and then will revitalize your drive while you're penning your novel, and the end result will be to give the reader the emotional ride they're looking for.

Write on!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Eerie Concept Realistically Woven ~ A Review of INNOCENTS PRAY by Lisa Lickel

Lisa Lickel has done it again. She’s crafted another novel with a unique concept and characters as interesting and troubling as the concept itself. Innocents Pray asks the question, if four people are praying for different answers to the same situation, how will God answer all of them?

Lisa’s story is disturbing on several levels – from the woman who goes away to die without telling her family what she’s doing, to the doctor creating his own version of medical ethics, to the son who is described on the back cover as “a whisper from the edge of reason”, to the conflicted hospice chaplain with a connection to each. Each individual is struggling with a huge internal conflict and question for which there is no pat answer, and wondering how the story can possibly end is what keeps us turning the pages. The characters themselves are often not very likeable, yet so real in the ways they are troubled that we care for them in their brokenness.

Lisa tends to write from a variety of interesting points of view, which creates a much more fascinating web than if this story had only been written from the viewpoints of, say, the MC who has cancer or Able, the hospice chaplain whose integrity is at odds with what he is being asked to do. She deftly goes between their points of view in first person, third person, and from a mysterious interchange on a weblog that keeps us guessing as to who is hosting and playing devil’s advocate on the site.

I would view Innocents Pray as a both literary and experimental women’s fiction, and Lisa is up to the task of presenting it to her readers. If there is anything critical, it would be that there was a time or two I felt slightly uncertain if I was understanding a particular relationship (near the end) clearly (that might have been me).

Intriguing on an eerily realistic level!