Review: Only Enchanting

This is easily my favourite book from the Survivor’s Club. I loved so many, many things about it.

First the characters are delicious. Flavian, or Viscount Ponsoby, is a man devastated by his former fiancée’s choice to leave him. He was in the war and survived but endures mental scars that, he believes, made him a monster. He convinces Agnes to marry him because she’s calm, serene, predictable and innocent where he’s cynical and battle-weary. Agnes falls quickly in love with him but tries to keep her good sense in mind to prevent her from making the ‘foolish’ mistake of marrying him.

Still, they marry. And the resulting story of how they heal each other is wonderful. I loved every word.

Mary Balogh is a great story teller. She hints at their wounds with tiny tidbits early on that fuelled my imagination without letting the reader know the full story. Their secrets come out gently in the natural course of events and conversations.

I loved both characters from the start and the writing was superb, so there was little Ms. Balogh could have done to upset me but the plot only gets better and the twists only got me more and more into the book until I put aside my blog, my writing and our attempts at selling our house and simply read the entire thing.

I loved that there wasn’t a violent, physical danger. Here, the threats were all dealt with conversation. I loved that the characters didn’t know each other well before they married in haste. It was delicious to see them unravel their secrets and still come out whole and in love. I loved the writing. They sounded incredibly British and authentic. I loved the setting, the fact that they weren’t in London the entire time surrounded by the dreaded ton.

Only Enchanting is a book that I love and cherish already and I’ve only read it once. If you’re a historical fan or thinking of trying the genre or someone who loves romance but has never tried it, I would highly recommend it. It’s Mary Balogh at her finest.

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Note: click on cover to go to site.

 

Taylor Grace in The Character Blog Hop

Oddly enough, I just participated on my first ever Blog Hop yesterday and here’s another! I was nominated by Crystin Goodwin for this one and I’d like to give her  a big thank you for thinking of me.

Here are the questions:

1) What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person?

My character is named Klias and he’s most definitely a creation of my little mind.

 

2) When and where is the story set?

The story is set after Klias finds out he’s probably going to die–mostly due to what he’s done. It’s  a paranormal story so the reason is somewhat magical or ethereal.

 

3) What should we know about him/her?

We should know Klias will help others even if it kills him–which it nearly did.

 

4) What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?

He had accepted that he was going to die…but then he falls in love. With Amy.

 

5) What is the personal goal of the character?

Klias wanted to ensure that Amy was safe before he died.

 

6) Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?

It’s called Amy’s Courage.

7) When can we expect the book to be published? 

I’m doing the big edits now. Then come little edits. You can see my progress on the first page of my blog. You can read more about Klias in the first book, Olivia’s Choice. He’s a secondary character in that book.

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I also get to nominate five awesome blogs for this hop. I have five just in mind:

Infinitefreetime

InkyTavern

Heather B Costa

Elsie Elmore

Amos M Carpenter

I hope everyone enjoyed this Hop. I tried to keep my answers brief and sweet. If you have questions, please give me a shout.

Review: The Pact by Jodi Picoult

I chose to read something else out of my usual comfort zone and chose Jodi Picoult’s ‘The Pact’.

‘The Pact’ was absolutely incredible. I think one of the things I enjoyed the most about it was how realistic the character arcs were. Ms. Picoult has the ability to not only create fleshed-out characters but to describe their growth–when they meet challenging obstacles–and make it believable. Not once did I think: They’d never say that or do that. Instead, I kept turning the pages, hoping to find out what happened to characters who had become endeared and very real to me.

As well, the plot was an absolute page-turner. Every scene left me hanging and wanting more. Woven like a fine rug, the threads of the many stories intertwined beautifully.

Yes, it wasn’t romance, but it was very well written, with incredibly real characters who went through the very worst that could ever happen to them and came out changed. Realistically, they didn’t all get ‘better’ or end up happier. They just changed. I thought the ending was all the greater because of it. I would highly recommend this book. Absolutely gripping.

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Sleep-deprivation and characters

I’ve done it. Notably, I’ve just done it with my current hero, Klias. He’s sleep-deprived in a big way. And still, he handles stressful situations without a hitch. Not a single consequence from his lack of sleep.

Oops.

I’ve noticed it before in books I’ve read. Characters who haven’t slept in days and they still manage to function better than I do with my eight hours. When I don’t get enough sleep, I get crabby and cranky and grumpy…I’m pretty much miserable to be around. A couple of times, when I’ve had insomnia and I haven’t slept at all for a couple of days, I felt like the walking dead. Barely awake, barely able to function. Surprisingly, I was able to get through the day without killing myself or someone else but it was close.

I thought the less sleep I got, the worse I’d be able to function until, eventually, I’d be an eye-twitching, stuttering mess without the ability to tie my own shoes.

So, why how realistic is it for my character to run around in my story with only a couple of hours of rest and still be able to have a sharp mind and quick reflexes?

Skye Fairwin runs this amazing blog that mixes writing and psychology. I love it! Mostly because I’m nosy but also because I wondered just how realistic I was making Klias. As it turns out, most of us can still function with barely any sleep.

You still doubt? Well, here is the article. It’s truly neat because it has the real consequences of sleep-deprivation. Cool, huh?

Here is the site. Love it!

Now, I better head to my book and fix Klias’ reactions before his eye starts twitching…

Readers’ Choice

April’s choices, the best tips and juiciest reads. Here are the top posts for the month, according to you!

10. The importance of tags: limits on tags. Some good tips on the number to tags for bloggers.

9. Blogging ideas. Blogging tips from a pro.

8.  Of mushy peas and olives. I wrote this one back in February and people are still reading it and loving it.

7. Psychology and Characters. On how to use the Karpman triangle (a therapist tool) to flesh our characters better.

6. Hope. The idea of spring got everyone going with in this post.

5. Creating real characters. From the villain to the hero, everyone loves a fully-fleshed out character and this post explains how to do it. Readers loved the tips.

4. Don’t take your writing too seriously. Readers loved this one on writing and lightening up…but maybe it was the ostrich.

3. Info dumps. Readers loved and identified with the issues on this post.

2. Posts I loved this week. This week was a complete hit and no wonder. The posts were superb. A big thanks to all the bloggers for their inspirational work!

1. Don’t believe your characters. A reality check on characters who tell the hero’s background story…without missing a single detail.

That’s them. The top ten posts in April according to you! Thank you so much for reading and commenting!

Psychology and characters

It’s a fact of life that if you marry a therapist, you get to hear about all sorts of psychological issues, theories and concepts. That’s how I heard about the Karpman Triangle.

Basically, Stephen Karpman (creator of the Karpman Triangle) explained that human beings go into one of the three unhealthy positions of the Triangle when conflict occurs. You either rescue, perpetrate or become the victim. He argued that none of them are healthy, rather they are all co-dependent…but, the point to us writers (yeah, sorry, I took a while to get to it), is that our characters should also go into these positions–at least, if they’re realistic.

Now, the neat thing is this post by Shawn Coyne on just this issue. He’s come up with this great exercise on how to use the Karpman Triangle to develop great characters.

“…focus on the imaginary people you’ve invented. Think about how each one of them would play one of these three roles when faced with a direct conflict.

How would he play the victim of someone else or a power out of his personal control?

How would he become the perpetrator, the character that loses his composure and unloads a bucket of bile on another character?

How would he play the rescuer, the character that steps in between these two combative forces and sides with the victim?”

Then he follows with an excellent example of just how to do that. Love it. What a fantastic idea, using psychology to get to know our characters better.

Thanks for the awesome post, Shawn!

 

Character flaws–a great gift

I loved this post by Monica M. Clark. I always loved it when characters aren’t just evil for the sake of being evil and aren’t just perfect because they’re the hero and heroine. In fact, flat characters like that tend to turn me away from a book. When I write, I always hope to make my characters both flawed and gifted, whether they’re the heroine or the villain.

Personally, I don’t know if I would call the thing that shapes your protagonist or antagonist a “flaw” per se.  I think it’s more of a trait,” Ms. Clark says. And that’s a great way to put it, isn’t it? Maybe my villain keeps the hero away from the heroine because he’s prejudiced against him but, at the same time, he’s caring about her, he’s trying to protect her. That same ‘flaw’ might be a redeeming quality if he cares about the heroine enough to save her life, say.

Here’s how she explains it. “…a character’s “flaw” is the source of both his greatest strength and his greatest weakness. So, if the flaw is “fear of failure,” then the strength is that he is careful, prepared, and a strategist, while the weakness is that he is also relentless.”

Love it. Love how one strength is also a weakness and vice versa. Love it. I think, if I manage to study my characters this way, it’ll make them richer and more enjoyable.

What a great post. Loved it! A big thanks to Ms. Clark for writing it!

 

A good villain

I’ve rambled on about flat characters before. Then I discovered this post by Lisa Alber. She writes on how to make a fantastic villain. And you need a good villain, you need a great villain to take your story from good to great.

A great villain is someone that we love to hate. It’s someone we like just a little bit; they are redeemable enough that we want to hear about them yet they’re terrible enough that we hate them anyway. You know they’re good when they keep us turning the pages. More than anything else, we want that evil person to face the music and pay for what they’ve done. They can’t stupid or illogical, they have to be smart, even a little brilliant and nasty to the bone. They can easily carry that story to the end.

But how do you get one? Hm. I’m thinking of my book, Amy’s Courage and the villains in it (yes, more than one). I think I need to revisit them. Because Lisa Alber has some very, very good suggestions on how to make these characters rich and juicy and simply delicious. Characters you love to hate. And the chance to make my book better is too good to pass up.

Want to know more? Here’s the link to her post.

Want to know less? Here’s what I took from it: enrich my villain with layers, personality and background. Give them faults but also give them gifts–after all, they too were someone’s baby once.

A big thank you to Lisa Alber for the awesome post!

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A-to-Z Day 7: Genre

I loved this post. It was insightful, very well written and made so much sense. I particularly loved this paragraph:
“The element of storytelling that’s essential in all genres, if I have to only name one, is that the characters act like human beings. That means they’re not always just depressed or happy, because life is an emotional thrill ride.”

I thought Gene’O hit it out of the ballpark with this one. A big thanks to him for this great post!

My Former Blog

Genre can mean a couple of things. It can be used to distinguish fiction, nonfiction, drama, poetry, etc.

Click for A to Z blog list. Click for A to Z blog list.

It can also be used to categorize work as fantasy, romance, literary, etc. I suppose that technically, that second set of categories should be sub-genres, but that’s not how most people use the word.

I view genre as a set of conventions. I don’t make distinctions about the value of the work based on genre; but I do ask questions like:

  • How well is the author using the conventions of the genre?
  • Are they being innovative?
  • Using the same old tricks people have always used for this story?
  • Making some interesting statement about the genre itself?
  • Incorporating elements of other genres? (I love it when people do this).

I will admit, like anyone else, I prefer some genres to others. I like fantasy, sci-fi, modern realism, literary…

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Editing resources: Nathan Bransford

I’m deep inside the World of Editing. I’m reading, re-reading and hacking away at Amy’s Courage. It’s not easy. Like most writers, I hate editing. But it’s a necessity. It must be done.

What helps me is to break it down in to little pieces that are manageable and to believe I can do it. I’ve done it before. I can do it again. I don’t have to get it perfect right now, I just want progress.

It also helps if I have resources. And one of the best I’ve seen is Nathan Bransford. The guy is genius. He’s actually written a book on how to write a novel.

Here are some examples of Nathan’s amazing resources for editing:

http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2009/06/revision-checklist.html This is a revision check list to beat all checklists. If you can get through it, your novel will shine brighter than the sun. Awesome resource.

Do you have enough conflict? http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2009/03/on-conflict.html. This is a biggie for me. I like to ramble (oops). Rambling is all fine and dandy with a friend, but it kills a story. A book needs conflict to keep it going. It’s like air. No conflict, death happens and quickly.

And this one is HUGE for me because once I develop my characters, they have backgrounds, histories, tone of voices and even favourite drinks! They’re so complete, they sometimes take over and drive the story where they want it to go and not where it needs to go. http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2010/02/do-you-own-your-characters-or-do-your.html

What about you? Do you have some editing advice? Resources? I’d love to hear about them!