Reading for research

Until recently, I thought of reading as strictly for entertainment value. I’m a self-proclaimed book nerd. I love getting lost in stories, and use every available moment, even while on a street corner waiting to meet a friend, to power up my Kindle. I read on the subway, in line at the grocery store, while blow drying my hair. My friends have been known to mock me over it (out of love, course).

Over the last couple years, I’ve discovered that reading is not only fun, but educational. Studying great writers and noting what works so well in their novels motivates me to up my own game. I’ve recently started writing a new book—the first in what I hope will be a three-book standalone series. This book will focus more on the romance aspect than my others, but I intend for it to be funny—very funny. I’m counting on inspiration from some masters of true romantic comedy to keep me on my path. In that vein, I’ve stocked my Kindle with some of the best and will be reading back-to-back romantic comedies beginning…now!

Some authors don’t like to read books in the same genre they write, but I’m the opposite. Some of these authors write books with a little more steam (read: sex) than what I have planned. Some of the romances are a bit mushier than my style of writing. I don’t plan to change my own writing style/voice, but I do hope the funniest of the bunch will remind me not to waste even a line of dialogue or opportunity for conflict, the deepest of the crew will serve as a lesson to add depth to my couples’ connection, and the quirkiest of them will implore me to keep my voice and characters as distinctive as possible. By reading these authors, I will work harder to be funnier, to create fleshed out characters, and to make sure my couples have the chemistry required to keep readers turning the pages of my book just as I am flipping the pages of theirs.

Curious what books are on my TBR for the coming months. Here you go:

MY ONE AND ONLY – Kristan Higgins (Just Finished. LOVED.)

SUNSET IN CENTRAL PARK – Sarah Morgan

GOOD AT GAMES – Jill Mansell

UNTIL THERE WAS YOU – Kristan Higgins

MEET ME AT BEACHCOMBER BAY – Jill Mansell

NEW YORK, ACTUALLY – Sarah Morgan

YOU AND ME ALWAYS – Jill Mansell

AT THE HEART OF IT – Tawna Fenkse

BET ME – Jennifer Crusie

SIMPLY IRRESISTIBLE – Rachel Gibson

TRUST ME ON THIS – Jennifer Crusie

HOLIDAY IN THE HAMPTONS – Sarah Morgan

IRRESISTIBLE – Stephanie Bond

HOW I MET YOUR BROTHER – Janette Rallison

DAISY’S BACK IN TOWN – Rachel Gibson

NOTHING BUT TROUBLE – Rachel Gibson

AN EX FOR CHRISTMAS – Lauren Layne

DATING YOU, HATING YOU – Christina Lauren

HEAD OVER HEELS – Jill Mansell

TRUTH OR BEARD – Penny Reid

You’ve probably noticed several repeat authors. This is because they are tried-and-true masters of romantic comedy fiction and if I’m going to learn, I want it to be from the best. True confession: I’ve never actually read anything by Rachel Gibson, Christina Lauren, Lauren Lane, Janette Rallison, Stephanie Bond, or Tawne Fenske, but I’ve heard enough positive feedback to trust I will love them as much as I adore the others on the list.

But enough about me. Who are your go-to authors when you want a romantic yet hilarious story?

cover reveals (five of them)!

It’s cover reveal time! Revealing one cover is super thrilling, so imagine my excitement to share five at the same time. It’s important to note that I loved my previous covers, but as I commence this new beginning with Henery Press, I’m embracing the change in covers too. And since the insides of the books have been altered to varying extents, it’s fitting the outsides get makeovers too.

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Just Friends With Benefits has been rewritten virtually in its entirety so, even if you read the first edition, I recommend you check out the new one. Same characters, different story 🙂

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I’ve made some significant changes to A State of Jane as well!

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Can you say “bonus scenes”?

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More bonus scenes.

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Still more bonus scenes 🙂

I hope you love them as much as I do. All books will be available for pre-order soon and will be published on February 14, 2017!

so good, they make me better

As I was reading The One You Really Want by Jill Mansell, I felt a sense of dread. I didn’t fear the fate of the characters because, even though the author put them in several formidable and embarrassing situations, I’m a fan of conflict and was confident she’d resolve everything to my satisfaction in good time. And it was also not because the plot was awful, the characters undeveloped, the pacing slow, or the dialogue stilted—exactly the opposite. The sense of alarm was a result of reading a fabulous book by an adept storyteller who, as far as I was concerned, did everything right. As an author, too, all I could think about was my own work in progress and how it was all wrong. Not all wrong, but not quite where it should be or where I wanted it to be. I spent the weekend modeling myself after Mansell—not imitating her style, copying her plot, or anything quite so nefarious, but spicing up the dialogue (Mansell is a master of dialogue), beefing up the humor, cutting out extra words, and fleshing out the characters as I’m sure she did painstakingly while writing The One You Really Love. I’m only on the first draft and my projects always improve with each revision, but even at this early stage, I know it is better and I owe it to Jill Mansell.

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This exercise got me thinking about other consummate authors who have unknowingly helped my writing.

 

For instance, Emily Giffin has taught me that even in light women’s fiction, characters don’t have to be all good or all bad. The main character, Rachel, in Giffin’s debut novel , Something Borrowed, managed to be likeable even while coveting (and sleeping with) her best friend’s fiancé. Giffin wrote the character in such a way that the reader experienced Rachel’s conflict right along with her. Rachel had loved Dex long before she basically threw him in Darcy’s lap. Giffin did the same thing with Ellen in Love The One You’re With (my favorite of her books). Ellen’s happily married to Andy, but is still drawn to Leo, the first man she truly loved (the one who broke her heart and whom she never quite forgot) when he comes back in the picture. Giffin does not encourage infidelity in the novel, but she creates a character many can relate to even if they are too ashamed to admit it. Ellen is human, not evil. Giffin strikes this human/flawed/likable balance with each and every novel she writes and it’s something I’ve kept in mind when writing my own novels where, as anyone who has read them knows, the characters are not perfect. Most specifically, my character Maggie in How Do You Know?  is in love with her long-term boyfriend Doug, but has her doubts he’s the one and desires time to figure things out before she makes a lifelong decision that will affect both of their lives. Maggie isn’t uncertain because she’s a selfish person, but because she can’t help it. Most human beings can’t control where their heart goes and I (along with Emily Giffin) don’t think fictional characters should have to either.

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Another author I admire for her craft is Rainbow Rowell, who I consider to be my biggest author crush. I adore everything about Rainbow’s novels, from the quirkiness of her characters, to the swoony-worthy yet innocent romantic elements in her books, to the original worlds she creates. What stands out to me the most are the interactions between her characters, especially the ones who are romantically involved or at least want to be. Rowell has such a unique way of describing how the characters feel about each other, and it always feels very personal and intimate to me as a reader. In Landline, for instance, main character Georgie has this to say about her husband, Neal, in the first one percent of the novel: “When Neal smiled, he had dimples like parenthesis—stubbly parentheses. Georgie wanted to pull him over the breakfast bar and nose at his cheeks. That was her standard response to Neal smiling.” Reading that description, I knew instantly that Georgie loved Neal without being told. The characteristics that Georgie loves about Neal are very particular to him. Georgie loves Neal’s ears. Ears that were “a little too big, and they poked out at the top like wings. Georgie liked to hold his head by his ears. When he’d let her.” This description is specific to Neal and only Neal as opposed to a trait which could be used to describe just about anyone— he had beautiful eyes, full lips, a great butt, etc. Because it is so particular, it makes me believe the love Georgie feels for Neal runs deep. Rainbow Rowell does this consistently in her books and I love it! I squealed with delight when one of the teenage beta readers for my upcoming young adult novel, Kim vs. The Mean Girl, compared my book to Rowell’s Eleanor and Park. I can’t bring myself to agree, but this blog post has inspired me to be mindful to dig deep like Rainbow does.

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I’m sure there are others, but these three authors are currently at the top of my author-inspiration list. What about you? Whatever the activity, who inspires you to be better?

Thanks for reading! To return to the FICTION WRITERS BLOG HOP on Julie Valerie’s website, click here: http://www.julievalerie.com/fiction-writers-blog-hop-apr-2016

 

I’m letting my books speak for themselves!

My last post was extremely personal and raw. The multitude of comments and shares suggests that it touched many readers who were able to relate. I’m glad about that, but being so open and honest is draining and I couldn’t do it two weeks in a row. So, as a change, I’m focusing this week’s post on my books and what’s going on with them. And as a treat, I’m going to let them speak for themselves:

How Do You Know? – Thanks for letting me go first even though I’m the youngest. My characters are older so that should count for something, right? Anyway, I have some exciting news to share. Only, I was told that I’m not allowed to share yet because details are still being worked out. Sorry! In the meantime, I received my 57th review on Amazon this week and it was 5 stars! Woohoo! I would really love to catch up to my older sisters so if you haven’t left a review yet, please consider doing so. Pretty please?

Just Friends with Benefits – I’ve been a best seller in the UK for several months and consistently in the top 100 on the humor list. I’m very excited to be reaching chick lit readers and fans of romantic comedy across the pond. Like a good wine, I’m getting better with age!! Be sure to read my sisters too!

Blogger Girl – I was republished by AmazonEncore last year and—

A State of Jane – so was I!

Blogger Girl – Excuse me, we were republished by AmazonEncore.

A State of Jane –  It’s very exciting to be part of Amazon Publishing. We’ve recently been included in a special promotion for members of AARP offering discounts of up to 50% off our ebooks. If you’re a member of AARP, be sure to check out Amazon.com this month for an exclusive discount just for you!! http://amzn.to/1Ha5qwA

Blogger Girl – *rolls eyes* – Since I was so rudely interrupted, I’ll also speak on behalf of my sequel, Novel Girl. Her name might change, although I’m hoping we’ll hold onto the “Girl” part since “Girl” is very hot in books right now. Anyway, my sequel (whatever its name will be) is completed and with the final beta reader. We’re hoping to send it to the editor in the next month or two for release later this year. No spoilers but there are lots of exciting developments in store for main character Kim and her friends and frenemies.

And now a word from the author:

While waiting to begin final edits on Novel Girl, I’ve started writing a prequel to the series. The working title is Kim and the Mean Girl. I’m bringing Kim, Bridget, Hannah, and Jonathan back to high school in 2000. I asked several people who were teens in 2000 what it was like, have been binge watching Gilmore Girls, and added more YA to my TBR for inspiration. I’m currently reading To All the Boys I Loved Before by Jenny Han. The writing process is fun, particularly since I’ve never written YA before and I’m also writing from both Kim and Hannah’s perspectives. I hope this novella (aiming for 100-150 pages) will appeal to lovers of chick lit AND YA. It’s already 16 pages.

I’ve come up with what I think will be the plot of the second installment of the Seeking Happily Ever After series. This book will feature Maggie from How Do You Know?‘s friend Amanda. Again, no spoilers but think The Vow meets Glee meets The Best of Me.

I’m also toying with writing a novel inspired by the relationship between me and my late boss featuring a thirty-something single city girl and the ghost of her late mentor/best friend. It will be humorous yet heartbreaking at the same time.

I haven’t decided which one, if either, to write first. If you have a preference, be sure to let me know although I make no promises. And that’s it for me and my books. Books, say goodbye to my followers.

 Books: Later, followers!!!