Book Review: My Soul To Give

review-cover-my soul to giveTitle: My Soul To Give [A Demon’s Love 1]

Author: Magali A. Frechette

Genre: Dark Romance, Contemporary, Fantasy

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

When Celina Leviet escapes the brutal home invasion that kills her husband, she’s left with a bullet in her gut and vengeance in her heart. An alluring demon, Mekaisto, offers an irresistible deal—in exchange for her soul, he’ll let her live long enough to get her revenge, but she must hunt and kill the murderers herself.

After sealing the contract, Celina digs into her husband’s past for clues about his murder, and what she uncovers makes her question everything she thought she knew about him.

His company never existed.

His family history was a lie.

And he was involved with The Lumen, a shadowy religious order whose members know too much about demons. As the life she thought she knew crumbles around her, Mekaisto’s charms become harder to resist. Forced to face a horrible truth, Celina struggles against her late husband’s betrayal and the dark seduction of the devil she knows.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I’ll admit it. I have a thing about demons in my romance fiction—I love the danger of the forbidden relationship they represent, and the tension in trying to figure out if they can truly be trusted at their word… so it should be no surprise that I enjoyed My Soul To Give by Magali A. Frechette. There was certainly an aspect of danger and the forbidden to its characters and plotline, even crossing over the line a little too far at times. This was definitely not your conventional romance.

The characters were interesting, complex, and compelling. Their romance was steamy, a bit taboo, and sweet at the same time. The mystery and aspects of the murder plotline kept the story jaunting along, and I couldn’t help but get sucked into the narrative.

I don’t think this story is going to work for everyone though. There are definitely a lot of questionable aspects of the characters and plot that aren’t going to sit well with some readers, especially those who are firmly religious. If you’re one of those people, this book is not going to be for you—and it’s not meant to be.

If you’re into dark fantasy, I highly recommend you pick this one up. It was certainly a captivating read, and the ending was one I didn’t see coming!

Book Review: Outlining Your Novel

review-cover-outlining your novelTitle: Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success

Author: K.M. Weiland

Genre: Non-Fiction, Writing & Publishing, How-To

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Writers often look upon outlines with fear and trembling. But when properly understood and correctly wielded, the outline is one of the most powerful weapons in a writer’s arsenal. Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success will help you choose the right type of outline for you, guide you in brainstorming plot ideas, aid you in discovering your characters, show you how to structure your scenes, explain how to format your finished outline, instruct you in how to use your outline when writing the first draft, reveal the benefits of outlining, and dispel the misconceptions.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I have to be honest… this book wasn’t what I expected it to be. Based on the description, I went into this book thinking this was going to help me outline, figure out how to fill in said outline, structure my scenes and plot, etc.—but that isn’t exactly what this book is. 90% of this book was a switch between author interviews where basically every author had the same response (which is fine, they all talked about outlining and why it was useful), and the actual author of the book encouraging the reader to outline. That’s fine… but you aren’t really going to pick up this book unless you’re already planning to outline… so why are you trying so hard to convince the reader that outlining is the way to go?

I expected the book to be more helpful, to help me fill out an outline and spark questions about where to go next in my outline. I was hoping for page after page of outlining advice on how to actually figure out an outline and turn it into a workable story… but there was very little of that in this. Don’t get me wrong—it was in there… sort of, but it felt more like the book was one big advertisement pushing the reader to try outlining and feel really good about that decision… and like I said, no one’s going to pick up this book if they aren’t already going to be outlining.

In the end it felt like the small percentage of the book that was actually useful was so small that it could have easily been a single blog post. The rest was just filler to bolster pages and make the reader feel good about their decision to outline… rather than being of any actual help. I gave this book three stars because it was fine. I learned a few small tidbits that will be helpful, but I also feel like I wasted my money on something I could have just Googled, and probably would have gotten more out of in the process. I’m a bit disappointed.

Book Review: 10 Step Plan To Promote Your Book

review-cover-10stepplantopromoteyourbookTitle: 10 Step Plan To Promote Your Book

Author: Scott Hughes

Genre: Non-Fiction, How-To, Marketing

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

In 10 Step Plan to Promote Your Book, Scott Hughes provides valuable advice for self-published authors and small publishers.

The plan works on any budget. It works for the wealthy busy professional as well as for the struggling artist short on funding.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I don’t normally review non-fiction. Usually, it’s either because I’m simply not interested in the topic, or I don’t feel that I’m knowledgeable enough on the topic to spot when an author is outright lying to their readers (as often happens in non-fiction I’ve learned), but when I was contacted by the author of 10 Step Plan To Promote Your Book, I thought, “Why not?” Books are something I know a heck of a lot about.

Here’s the thing to keep in mind: this “book” is only 38 pages long. It took me about 15 minutes to finish reading and easily could have just been made into a blog post.  If you’re looking for an abundance of explanation on the 10 steps in this plan, you’re going to be disappointed.  That being said, the information in this book was pretty accurate. There was some really good advice that I wish a lot of indie authors would follow. There’s also a lot of self-promotion for the author, his website, and his affiliates that probably didn’t need to be included, but was. I understand… the author is marketing, and I can’t fault him for that. It did, however, make the book read a little like an advertisement at times.

My only other complaint was the way the book was actually written. It was personable and sounded like a friend handing out advice—and that’s great! But, there was also a lot of talking in circles, repeating points already made, and re-repeating them again in such a way that made me want to skip several paragraphs. The text lost a lot of my attention after a certain point, and I wish it had been more concise and to the point than it was.

Was it helpful? Sure. If you are looking for marketing tips, there are some pretty solid ones in this book, and you should get to know them. However,  all of the tips are pretty common sense and things you could learn just about anywhere with a little Google-fu. At the time this review is being written, the book is free on Amazon, and I encourage you to give it a look-through, but would I pay more than a dollar for the info? Probably not.

Book Review: Stranded, Stalked, and Finally Sated

 

review-cover-strandedstalkedandfinallysated

Title: Stranded, Stalked and Finally Sated [License To Love 1]

Author: Amelia Rose

Genre: Novella, Romance, Thriller

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Clara Roberts has found herself forced to flee across country, pursued by a madman who seems to have access to every aspect of her life. Consequently, she is off the grid and under the radar when her truck breaks down in a small corner of Southwestern, Oklahoma, and she finds herself at the mercy of a local cowboy. While she knows that she will eventually have to keep running to stay one step ahead of her stalker, she begins to find herself drawn to this man. With his support she decides that her life is something worth fighting for.

Shad Brandt wasn’t sure what to expect when he pulled over to help out the girl on the side of the road, but it isn’t long before he realizes that she was a lot more than he bargained for. He knows that she is running from something, but he can’t quite place his finger on what it is. However, he cannot turn his back on this woman in need and when he opens his home and his heart to her he finds something else entirely. So when danger comes to lay claim to Clara, he finds that he is willing to sacrifice everything to make sure she stays safe.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

This was an exceedingly quick read (15-20 minutes), which I’ll admit, I wasn’t prepared for. I won a copy of this book from a Goodreads giveaway back in April, and then picked up a free digital copy just a few days ago when it got discounted on Amazon. Not realizing this was a novella, I jumped in. By now, most of my review followers should be aware that I don’t particularly care for Novellas. I tend to prefer longer reads because as a whole, Novellas tend to feel rushed (understandably so—there’s a lot of information being packed into a spectacularly short word count).

As Novellas go, this was actually surprisingly well written. As far as the technical side is concerned: the grammar was spot-on. Word’s weren’t misspelled or redundant. Punctuation was correct, and the narrative moved at a quick jaunt. There was tension, and excellently written dialogue…overall, this was a well-written Novella.

Unfortunately, as with all Novellas, the story was a bit rushed—but even then, I must admit, the author managed to construct the story in such a way that the rushed bits didn’t feel disjointed or skipped over. I’ve found over the years that most Novella’s tend to have really rushed narrative. There’s a lot of “telling” as the characters skip through the story at light speed, sometimes forgoing scenes all together. In this story that isn’t the case. Scenes are played out naturally as if from a longer book. There are a fair share of time jumps; the story takes place over a period of about three days—but the important scenes are all present.

My biggest gripe is probably that the romance seems a bit fake. The characters are making out in the first 24 hours (okay it can happen) and having sex within the first 48 (again, it can happen, but we’re pushing it) by the end of the third day, they’re moving in together permanently (okay, you’d have to be insane to allow this…). It certainly stretches my ability to believe in the story, but considering the short length of the story, I feel I can suspend my disbelief a little.

Overall, the story is cute. It’s well written, and if you can get around the time frame, it’s a good story. There’s a steamy sex scene, and a (somewhat rushed) fight with a stalker—I will say that I wasn’t a huge fan of the stalker. He was creepy and adamant on pursuing the main female lead…but I’m not entirely sure why he was doing it.

Would I recommend this Novella? Yes. If you like steamy romances and have 20 minutes to pick up a book, this wouldn’t be a bad choice. Would I read it again? Sure. Why not? I’m not a huge fan of Novella’s, but this one was good.

Writer’s Tip: Show, Don’t Tell

Khet

Image (c) Copyright Cary A. Morton.
(The owner of this blog)

Show, don’t tell (SDT). It’s one of the few consistent pieces of advice that all writers have heard at one time or another. Even the most amateur of writers parrot it back, but knowing the phrase doesn’t necessarily mean that we understand it, or how to implement it.

So what does “Show, don’t tell.” really mean? SDT is the idea that instead of telling your readers what’s happening in a story, you show them. This seems like an abstract concept to most of us, but what it boils down to is this: using words to give your readers an idea without having to directly state it. There are many ways good writers do this. It can be as simple as adding a scene for when your character walks down the street to the corner market rather than saying “she went to the store.” but it can also be as complicated as weaving subtext into dialogue and editing entire character personalities to prove a point down the line. I want to look at two examples to try and get this point across in a way that will sink in for you. My goal? To make you really think about SDT and what it means, and how you can implement it in your writing.

My first idea I want you to consider is:

1. Convince your reader of your point by putting them in the character’s shoes.

For example, let’s say I have a character who needs to make a tough decision. I could simply say:

It was a tough decision.

Sure–but it’s not convincing. The reader may say “okay.. so it was a tough decision.” but it’s not going to resonate with them. It doesn’t draw the reader into my story. Why should they care? If I were to take the concept of SDT and implement it, the correct course of action would be to put the reader in my character’s shoes. Instead of telling the reader it was a tough decision, how could I make them waffle over the decision as well?

Let’s say the tough decision was the choice in a love triangle. I know, I know, there are some of you rolling your eyes right now, and that’s probably because more often than not, you’ve run across a book that had a love triangle in it and it seemed like a convenient plot device. That’s probably because the author did a whole lot of telling rather than showing. So humor me. Instead of  having just the character waffle over the decision between the two love interests, it is your duty as a writer (yes I really said duty) to make your reader waffle too. You want to get your readers so engrossed in the story that they don’t care how tired the trope of a love triangle is. How do you do that?

Show your readers why your character wants to waffle. Make the love interests so equally loveable that even your reader has a hard time choosing between the two. That means they both need to have equal part bad to their good and they must be equal to each other. Putting your reader into your character’s shoes is one of the most involved and complicated ways of “showing” but it’s good –no–great writing. It’s hard, because you have to really convince your reader that both the people in this triangle are worth loving, and no, you can’t just say “this guy was really sweet and funny, and the other guy was really sexy and deep”. I’d need to show those traits consistently throughout the story so that I never have to “tell” my reader why they’re both a valid choice. It should be a no-brainer why my character waffled over the decision.

This also applies to describing your main character’s personality. Instead of saying “she was beautiful, shallow, and none-to-bright.” Find ways to prove those points to us. Show an instance where she’s shallow or where her beauty is brought up (like a character that glances at her and then walks into a pole). Show us how dumb she is with her dialogue and actions.

2. Another example of SDT (and perhaps easier to grasp) is the use of subtext to show emotion. The idea behind this is that you should never have to explain how your character feels, their actions and words should show it clearly enough that it never be said.

For example, I’ll take a 1st draft (short) scene from one of my own stories. Yup, I’m throwing myself under the bus. It reads like this:

“Mahir!” I called out into the darkness with a tired note to my voice and smoothed Sadia’s hair back from her face to calm her.

Mahir’s awkward thumping footfall approached to my left, and he collapsed onto the flat rock beside Sadia.”What?” he asked in a tired, gravelly voice.

“Give me your cloth.” I ordered, motioning it. I could barely see his face in the creeping dark, but I didn’t need to. He stared at me in nervous reluctance. “Just give it here. No one here cares about your nakedness. Let me bind your feet.”He hesitated, but began to unwind the cloth from around his waist.

The pain of our feet scraped raw had been our constant companion for the last several hours. Even Mahir was past caring. A low warning growl sounded from behind me, but I ignored it as I tiredly tore Mahir’s loin cloth into strips and begin to bind his feet.

“What about you?” Mahir asked quietly in the dark, a note of concern to his voice. His eyes were focused on something behind me, but I ignored it and kept at my work.

“I’m fine.” I waved off his concern.

“Khet-” he started.

“There’s nothing to be done about it!” I nearly shouted, and Mahir grew quiet. The shrill sound of my voice echoed off the rocks in the dark. “Help your sister to walk.”

It’s not god-awful, but it’s not great either. Now let’s look at the same scene with SDT applied:

“Mahir!” I called out into the darkness, wincing at the falter in my voice. It’d been hours since we’d left the village and my tongue felt like wet clay in my mouth. I cleared my throat and smoothed Sadia’s hair back from her face. Her small shoulders relaxed, and she leaned against my chest, her sweat-beaded forehead sticking to my skin.

Mahir’s footsteps thumped in an uneven gait from my left, then he collapsed onto the flat rock to the other side of Sadia.”What?” His voice was like gravel crunching under foot, and the skin of his lips had begun to flake off in dry bits.

“Give me your cloth.” I motioned for it, my arm awkwardly swinging out in his direction before falling back to my side. I could barely see his face in the pale light of the moon, but I didn’t need to. He stared at me for a moment, his half-lidded gaze zeroed in on my face. I fought the urge to swallow against the pasty feeling at the back of my throat. “Just give it here. No one cares about your nakedness. Let me bind your feet.”

He hesitated, but began to unwind the cloth from around his waist. He held his feet a few scant millimeter’s from the gravel around us, careful not to set them down even as he worked.A low warning growl rumbled behind me, but I ignored it as I tore the loin cloth into strips and began to wrap them tightly around Mahir’s feet.

“What about you?” Mahir’s gaze flicked down to my feet. Even in the dark, the wetness on the gravel beneath them was evident.

“I’m fine.”

“Khet-“

“There’s nothing to be done about it!”. Mahir tensed, and I let out a long breath, purposefully unclenching my hands. The shrill tone of my voice resonated among the rocks around us, and only when the air was still again did I speak. “Help your sister to walk.”

Obviously, the basics of the scene are the same. What changed was the way I elaborated on the scene by “showing” my readers the emotions and subtext of what was happening. I didn’t need to say that they were tired, thirsty, or in pain, but I guarantee you that my reader understood that. I never had to say that the siblings were concerned for one another, or relieved to be off their feet. Go ahead, look back and see if you can find any of these words:  tired, thirsty, pain, exhausted, concerned, or relieved. You won’t find them in the second scene. This is the essence of SDT; to use the narrative and dialogue to present the idea that your character is tired (for instance) without ever having to use the word “tired”. Your readers don’t need to be told how to feel about a scene if you just let them feel it. Put them there in that moment and quit “telling” them about it.

“Show, don’t tell.” is the simplest phrase to parrot out as advice, but the real concept behind it isn’t easy. It’s work. It takes planning and sometimes it can be difficult to spot places where it should be used. Don’t let this discourage you. Hopefully by the end of this article I’ve given you something to think about it, and maybe–just maybe–I’ve given you a better understanding of what SDT really means. The next time you approach an author or a struggling-writer with the phrase “Show, don’t tell.” help them out. Explain it to them. Link them to this article. Parroting the phrase isn’t helpful if the person receiving it doesn’t know what it means. Cut them some slack and give them a helping hand up… we all need one sometimes.

P.S. The text examples used in this article are from Khet, an original Fantasy novel by moi. You can find the first (unedited) chapter posted as an excerpt under the “My Unpublished Writing” category over on the right hand side of this blog. The bits used here are from the second chapter.

In The Mail #14

I tend to post these a little late, trying to get more than one book in my “in the mail” posts, so I’ve had these for awhile now, but here are my recent accumulations.

ImageThe Reason is You by Sharla Lovelace:(Contemporary, Paranormal, Romance) In the small town of Bethany, Texas, Dani never fit in. Being different pushed her to the fringes of society, and even leaving town for two decades didn’t stop the talk. Now she’s back, trying to settle in with her daughter and have a normal life. But the men in her life might not make it that simple. First, there’s her old friend Alex. He’s mischievous, sexy, and still hot enough to melt her shoes. And he’s a ghost—a real one, who’s always been there for her when she most needed him. Of course, there are actual men in Bethany, too. Like Jason with his hard body. Dani seems to have a habit of running into him—literally. Now she must decide between a man who long ago touched her heart and a man she can actually touch.

ImageTo Stand Beside Her by B. Kristin McMichael: (Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance) To be the best courier in the world, eighteen-year-old Benét Leila follows three simple rules: always work alone, never stay in one place too long, and never fall in love. Too bad she didn’t follow her own advice.

Leila is a courier. To the people she takes from, she is seen as a common thief; to the people she helps, she is a savior.

Nalick is your typical king. He’s rich, powerful, and always assumed to be right. When Leila crosses paths with King Nalick, she finds herself trapped. In a rush to save her best friend Kay from a prison sentence for a crime Leila committed, Leila trades her hand in marriage in exchange for Kay’s freedom.

Tomboy Leila does not want to grow up, but in three months’ time, she will be married to King Nalick, if Nalick can keep his end of the bargain. First, Nalick must make Leila fall in love with him, a hard task since Leila is not ready to love again after losing her first love to a greedy king. Second, Nalick must keep her safe. He is not the only king trying to hold onto her. Leila has made many enemies over the years, and even more admirers that want her as a prize. Lastly, Nalick must convince Leila that ten years of love is better than a lifetime without. Unless Leila can trust her destiny, she might not reach her wedding day at all.

ImageStranded, Stalked, and Finally Sated by Amelia Rose: (Western, Romance) Clara Roberts has found herself forced to flee across country, pursued by a madman who seems to have access to every aspect of her life. Consequently, she is off the grid and under the radar when her truck breaks down in a small corner of Southwestern, Oklahoma, and she finds herself at the mercy of a local cowboy. While she knows that she will eventually have to keep running to stay one step ahead of her stalker, she begins to find herself drawn to this man. With his support she decides that her life is something worth fighting for.

Shad Brandt wasn’t sure what to expect when he pulled over to help out the girl on the side of the road, but it isn’t long before he realizes that she was a lot more than he bargained for. He knows that she is running from something, but he can’t quite place his finger on what it is. However, he cannot turn his back on this woman in need and when he opens his home and his heart to her he finds something else entirely. So when danger comes to lay claim to Clara, he finds that he is willing to sacrifice everything to make sure she stays safe.