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Andrew McAleer on Being Passionate about the Craft of Writing

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Excerpt From Part 8 (“Being Passionate about the Craft”) of Chapter 1 “A Portrait of a Novelist” in The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Novelists (ed. Andrew McAleer)

101 Habits

Writing is a craft and an art. If you are a writer, you are an artist as much as is an oil painter, sculptor, or ancient stone mason. Your passion for words and sentence structure should equal a painter’s passion for color and brushstroke. Take pride in knowing that what you are giving readers is your best work. Like a true artist, never be satisfied that your work cannot be improved.
~Andrew McAleer
(quoted from pp. 16–17)

About the book:
Learn from the MASTERS!

In The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Novelists, more than fifty of the greatest fiction writers of our time show you how they practice their craft. You’ll gain insight into every aspect of fiction writing, including:

Coming up with ideas
Knowing what makes a great story
Developing dialogue
Overcoming writer’s block
Creating a pitch synopsis
Promoting yourself

The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Novelists is a “who’s who” of today’s great fiction writers that will quickly become your most trusted writing companion!

Work Cited:

McAleer, Andrew. “Being Passionate about the Craft” in The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Novelists. Andrew McAleer, ed. Avon, MA: Adams Media, 2008. 3–20. Print.

Word Nerd Alert—Some Fun Posts on Language and Grammar

Monday, April 14, 2014

Ever wonder if the word you’re using literally means what you think it means? Does that beg the question? Do you even know what that turn of phrase means?

Here are some fun links to posts about our idiosyncratic English language (mainly American, but I’m sure some of these apply to others as well).

These 9 Words Don’t Mean What You Think They Mean

20 Common Grammar Mistakes That (Almost) Everyone Makes

Crazy English

And remember, punctuation saves lives:

From @wrdinc on Instagram, found here

From @wrdinc on Instagram, found here

Fun Friday: Wait–what? There was a CAR in that ad?

Friday, April 11, 2014

Fun Friday 2013

I wonder if Jaguar realizes that their celebrity spokesperson far outshines their car(s) in this ad.

Throwback Thursday: Who Would You Put on the Cover of a Romance Novel? #TBT

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Throwback Thursday

Sometimes, I’m late jumping on a bandwagon. But when I do, I jump on (in) with both feet and take up the banner. Here, instead of posting old photos, #TBT will be looking back at the 1,760 posts from the past eight years (yes, I’ve been blogging for EIGHT YEARS!) and sharing one chosen at random every Thursday.

If you want to join in the #TBT fun, share a link to your #TBT post in the comments section below!


Throwback Thursday Post of the Week:
Who Would You Put on the Cover of a Romance Novel?

Originally posted: February 17, 2012

It’s no secret that modeling for the front cover of romance novels has made someone very famous. And then, there’s Fabio. ;-)

Did you know that Corbin Bernsen got his start modeling—and did some covers for Harlequin? Even though I’ve never been able to find an image, I met an author at a conference a couple of years ago whose first Harlequin featured Bernson as the hero on the front cover.

And then there’s this guy:

If you’re a fan of HGTV (or if you follow me on Pinterest), you recognize this guy: it’s John Gidding from Curb Appeal.

Yes, that’s right, John Gidding got his start as a model and did several romance novel covers (a few more of which you can see here, here, and here).

Of course, in this age of the proliferation of self-publishing—and of authors doing their own book covers, we might find that we see more and more self-designed covers like this:

Does that guy look familiar to you? Maybe because it’s a Photoshopped, flipped rendering of this actor’s headshot:

(How has this author gotten away with such a blatant use of a famous person’s image? Still trying to figure that out.)

Because they’re the key romantic leads in the series I’m working on right now, I’d love to have a “rendering” of these guys on my next three books:

Henry Cavill as Andrew Lawton (Follow the Heart); Chris Hemsworth as Dr. Neal Stradbroke (An Honest Heart);
Daniel Craig as Lord Stephen Brightwell, Viscount Thynne (The Heart That Waits)

So even though we’ve done this before (but it’s been a long time), I thought it would be fun to do it again.

Who would you like to see on the
front cover of a romance novel?

Get creative, get obsessional. And it doesn’t have to be just men, seeing as how images of women are so popular on the front covers of historicals in the Christian market. Be sure to post a link to an image if you can so we can see him/her, too!


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

An Honest Heart Giveaway!

On April 15, Goodreads will be drawing the names of five winners for a signed copy of An Honest Heart—that means you still have six days to sign up!

An Honest Heart

Click here to enter!

Drawing is open to residents of the US, Canada, Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand.

Dr. Neal Stradbroke has a secret past that could destroy everything he’s worked since childhood to build. But when he falls in love with the daughter of one of his patients, he must choose between revealing his past and risk losing everything or keeping his secret and watching her marry another man.

Cadence “Caddy” Bainbridge has worked hard as a seamstress since her vicar father died, and for a while, things went well. But then her mother fell ill. Now, most of Caddy’s earnings go for doctors, medicines, and trips to the seaside trying to get her mother better. The last thing she needs is a romantic entanglement—but she finds herself torn between two men: Oliver Carmichael, whose wealth could give Caddy’s mother the life of ease she deserves; and Neal Stradbroke, for whom her heart yearns.

Oliver Carmichael has always drawn the eye of all the girls with no exertion on his part—all the girls, that is, except seamstress Caddy Bainbridge. So, even though he has plans to marry Edith Buchanan, he places a bet with his friends that he can make Caddy fall in love with him before the opening day of the Great Exhibition. Edith Buchanan has been disappointed in marriage prospects already, so she is not about to lose another suitor to a woman of lower social status—especially not her own dressmaker!—so she spreads rumors about Caddy that could not only ruin Caddy’s business but cause Caddy’s mother to have a fatal relapse.

Courtship . . . cunning . . . candor. Who has an honest heart?

Books Read in 2014: ON THE WAY TO THE WEDDING by Julia Quinn

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

On the Way to the Wedding by Julia QuinnOn the Way to the Wedding

Book Blurb:
A funny thing happened…

Unlike most men of his acquaintance, Gregory Bridgerton believes in true love. And he is convinced that when he finds the woman of his dreams, he will know in an instant that she is the one. And that is exactly what happened. Except…

She wasn’t the one. In fact, the ravishing Miss Hermione Watson is in love with another. But her best friend, the ever-practical Lady Lucinda Abernathy, wants to save Hermione from a disastrous alliance, so she offers to help Gregory win her over. But in the process, Lucy falls in love. With Gregory! Except…

Lucy is engaged. And her uncle is not inclined to let her back out of the betrothal, even once Gregory comes to his senses and realizes that it is Lucy, with her sharp wit and sunny smile, who makes his heart sing. And now, on the way to the wedding, Gregory must risk everything to ensure that when it comes time to kiss the bride, he is the only man standing at the altar….

My Review:

Rating: 4 stars

      Goodreads bookshelves: books-read-in-2014, hist-19th-c-romantic-victorian, historical-romance

      Read from March 20 to April 2, 2014

In this, the final full novel of the Bridgerton series, Quinn penned a fun romp of a romance, transitioning the family to “all married.” Lady Violet Bridgerton must be so happy!

This last novel focuses on Gregory Bridgerton, the youngest brother (but not the youngest child, which would be Hyacinth, whose story we got in the previous volume). While Gregory was a fun character, I had a really hard time connecting with him—he doesn’t actually do anything. He doesn’t have a profession or a hobby. Apparently he goes from his small flat in London, when that’s where his social activities take him, to grand homes in the country (we start at his brother, Anthony’s, country estate at a house party) when an enticing enough invitation presents itself. He lives off the generous allowance Anthony (the viscount of The Viscount Who Loved Me) provides.

The interesting thing about Gregory being at Anthony’s home is that it isn’t really his brother who has a presence in this story—it’s Kate, Gregory’s sister-in-law. And, actually, Anthony comes across as rather unlikeable in this book. Though we do see some of Hyacinth and Violet in this book—and Daphne is mentioned—it seems that whenever characters from previous books appear on page in the subsequent volumes, it’s rarely a sibling and more often an in-law. I think I may have mentioned in my review of It’s in His Kiss (Hyacinth’s book) that it seemed like Benedict and Sophie (An Offer from a Gentleman) had completely fallen off the face of the earth—not only were they rarely, if ever, mentioned again after their book’s end, but in Kiss when Hyacinth makes an allusion to them (not mentioning them by name), Violet quickly hushes her up as if they don’t talk about them. Well, that changed in Gregory’s book. They’re not only mentioned a few times, but at one point, it’s suggested that Gregory go and stay with them for a while and, in the same conversation, it’s mentioned that Violet had just been to visit them a month before and didn’t get to see them as often as she’d like. So it was nice to know that their reclusive tendencies—and the bit of scandal surrounding them—hadn’t made them the black sheep of the family. After all, which of these stories didn’t have a bit of scandal (or the threat of it)?

The prologue of this book opens in a very cinematic way: Gregory running into a church and stopping a wedding ceremony. We’re not told who the bride is, only that Gregory wants to keep her from going through with it. It then takes us two months back when Gregory arrives at Aubrey Hall, the Bridgerton country home in Kent, for a house party. After a loooooooong introduction—recapping both the family’s and Gregory’s backstory—we learn he is in the process of being lectured by Anthony on his [Gregory’s] wayward tendencies and being told he needs to man up and start taking some responsibility. Throughout this book, it’s pointed out several times by different people that everything has been handed to Gregory, that life has come easily, and that anything he’s wanted he has gotten/achieved with little effort. Unfortunately, that doesn’t really change for him by the end of the book.

What I liked best about this book was the idea of the hero falling desperately and madly in love at first sight—with the heroine’s best friend, Hermione Watson (yes, I was picturing Emma Watson as Hermione Granger whenever her name was mentioned). This was a cute setup, but it wasn’t very realistic. Apparently, all men everywhere instantly and immediately fall in love with Hermione and make fools of themselves falling all over her because she’s so beautiful. Hermione, one of the most vapid and imbecilic characters I’ve seen in a novel in a long time, is “in love with” her father’s steward, a man she would never be allowed to marry. But she, like Gregory with her, fell for him on first sight and nothing will convince her he’s not the one. Until, that is, Gregory makes her laugh (and it was some pretty good dialogue, I must say). And she feels a “flutter.” The same kind of “flutter” she felt when she first saw her father’s steward.

I was never quite clear on why Lucy, our heroine, was such good friends with Hermione. They have nothing in common—Lucy being intelligent and witty and somewhat worldly wise; Hermione being unengaging, dull-witted, and, basically, stupid. Lucy had been with Hermione’s family for quite some time, having been taken in so that (motherless) Lucy could be prepared for her presentation by Hermione’s mother. But I never really felt a true connection between the two girls. And given the fact that Lucy is always having to run interference for Hermione with the swarms of drooling men chasing after Hermione all the time, I really didn’t buy the relationship. Sure, it’s part of Lucy’s character to want to take care of others; however, even caretakers eventually give up when the ones they’re burdened with refuse to stop being burdens.

When Hermione’s “flutters” lead her into a compromising position and a quick engagement to someone else, Gregory comes very quickly to terms that he had actually come to enjoy Lucy’s company more than Hermione’s and that it’s actually Lucy he wants, not her friend. But Lucy has gone from “practically engaged” to “engaged with a wedding date set” within a few days of meeting Gregory. And though she’s attracted to Gregory, she’s not averse to her fiancé. But a stolen kiss between Gregory and Lucy at the house party has her thinking that there might be more to marriage than “non-aversion.” When her uncle sends for her, telling her that everything is finalized and she will be married in less than two months, Lucy is torn. Her head is telling her to obey; her heart tells her to rebel.

To make a long review a bit shorter, Lucy and Gregory are separated for a month or so between the time she returns to London and when he returns. Upon his return and their reunion, both of them realize that they’ve fallen in love with each other. Gregory suggests she break the engagement and they run off together to get married. But when Lucy goes to her uncle (her guardian after her parents’ deaths—he’s the younger brother of her father, the former earl, and because Lucy has a brother who inherited the title/lands/wealth, got nothing other than the burden of being guardian to his niece and nephew) to break the engagement, he tells her that if she doesn’t go through with it, it would ruin the family and take away everything from her beloved brother.

So Lucy doesn’t sneak out of the house on the morning of her wedding to run away with Gregory—which leads him to running pell-mell through town to get to the church to stop the wedding.

And . . . I’ll avoid spoilers and just leave the story summary there.

However, this brings me to why I feel like Gregory doesn’t actually change in this story. He starts the story as the spoiled youngest boy of the Bridgerton family who gets everything he wants with little effort. He ends the story as the spoiled youngest man-aged-boy of the Bridgerton family who gets everything he wants if he asks the right people the right questions—and ties Lucy up to the pipes in the watercloset to give him time to do so. (You had to be there.)

Lucy, with her unwillingness to stand up for herself and always tending toward self-sacrificing, did get a bit annoying toward the end. But I have to hand it to Julia Quinn. One of my favorite passages in a novel EVER was in this book:

None. None! Business. Of hers. None of it.

“Right,” she said, ruining her determined tone with a decidedly involuntary cough. Spasm. Coughing spasm. Vaguely punctuated by: “Should be going.”

But it came out more like… Well, it came out like something that she was quite certain could not be spelled with the twenty-six letters of the English language. Cyrillic might do it. Or possibly Hebrew.

And while that passage may be my favorite ever, I found myself almost screaming in frustration and dismay at the horrible, horrible epilogue. I’ve never made it a secret that I absolutely HATE the “baby-ever-after” types of epilogues. But that’s ALL this epilogue was about. Baby . . . after baby . . . after baby . . . after baby. It made me literally yell at Lucy, “JUST SAY NO!” I really just don’t understand the obsession with the Baby Epilogue. I’m starting to get really annoyed by them and leery of reading any epilogues ever (and Quinn is not the only author who does this). They’re trite, overdone, and never* add anything to the story. (*With the key exception of the epilogue from The Duke and I where having a child is a key event that does bring closure to more than one of the characters’ story arcs.)

Epilogues aside, the Bridgerton series was a fantastic introduction to a wonderful author who is now among my top three to five favorite authors ever. (And it is because of the epilogues that were already in the books that I won’t be wasting my time reading all of the extra epilogues, but moving on to one of Quinn’s other series posthaste.)

On the Way


My rating matrix:
5 STARS = one of the best I’ve ever read
4 STARS = a great read, highly recommended
3 STARS = it was okay/not a favorite
2 STARS = I didn’t enjoy it all that much, not recommended
1 STAR/DNF = I hated it and/or Did Not Finish it

What Are You Reading? (April 2014)

Monday, April 7, 2014
Open Book by Dave Dugdale

Open Book by Dave Dugdale

It’s the first Monday of the month, and you know what that means . . .

Book Reports!

If you’ve challenged yourself to—or even officially signed up for—a reading challenge in 2014, now’s as good a time as any to start reporting your successes. Tell us what you’ve finished over the last month, what you’re currently reading, and what’s on your To Be Read stack/list. (And if you’ve reviewed the books you’ve read somewhere, please include links!)


  • What book(s) did you finish reading (or listening to) since last month’s update?

  • What are you currently reading and/or listening to?

  • What’s the next book on your To Be Read stack/list?

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