Is There a NEED For Great Novel Ideas?

Nope. Not really.

AH-HA! That surprised you, didn’t it?

What most novelists need is the time and space to develop a mediocre idea into a great one. If you have an idea you think is okay, but want to make it more than that (which is standard), ask yourself “What if? What if I twist the idea? What if I turn it back to front? Or inside out? What if, instead of saying yes to a plan, someone says no? What if up is down? Black is white? Pink becomes bright red? This need not be the main idea for your story, but simply the idea you have for a scene as you write it. Or, as in the many cases where this has happened to me, one of your characters does or says something that changes the tenor or the scene, and possibly even the book when it comes to developing characters. You might be shocked by the difference it can make.

The only way I know of to develop an idea for a novel is to tinker with it, ask all those questions above. You may end up with it staying exactly the same as what you started out with or you may end up surprising yourself and, for the same reason, your readers. It has often given me a jolt when a character forces the change.

I remember writing one Contemporary Romance novel in which the heroine had a very strong sense of self, positive ideas about what she could and should do in certain circumstances, and didn’t take any kind of crap from anyone. (This book was written about 30 years ago before most women had “attitude.”) The hero, who was hot for her, as she was for him though neither had acted on the attraction yet, reached out one day, pulled her in close and kissed her. To his surprise (and to mine), she broke loose, flipped him into the air, and tossed him to the ground where he lay on his back. When he caught his breath, he asked “Why did you do that?” To which she replied, “You didn’t ask. You just took.” That scene required me to go back to the beginning of the manuscript and drop in hints about her having become expert in self-defense and then expand on the reason why she’d done so. It helped immensely in understanding her character. Then, I had to work on his, too, because I didn’t want him to simply walk away, offended. He had to “get it,” and forcibly quell his alpha-male tendencies for a few chapters.

In another, not Romance but SciFi, two of the character hated each other, were ready to kill each other several times. It wasn’t until the book was nearly over that I discovered why the animosity had arisen. In the scene when I learned the truth about them, they were about to be separated and (this scene was in the POV of the main protagonist, who witnessed them coming to full realization of the truth), suddenly, one of the two men in question was seen to be in tears while his companion tried to convince him they had to stay together. Until that point, I had not realized they were gay and all along had been resisting their attraction to one another. Again, that meant back tracking and dropping hints into previous scenes to make it all more understandable. Okay, let’s face it. A Romance writer can’t help but sneak in at least one understated love connection.

You need to understand, I don’t plot out scenes or progression. I “just write” and when my characters do or say things that I never expected, the best thing I, as a “pantser” can do is see where the scene goes to learn whether it works as part of the natural events as the book progresses. I think my subconscious knows long before I’ve figured it out. It does mean lots of rewriting, but since writing is what I do, I may as well accept that any book worth reading has been written and rewritten dozens of times, and there’s no reason mine should be any different.

I’m still in the process of accepting that tiresome fact.

Fiction writing, avoiding the pitfalls, Uncategorized, What writing's all about

Good Writing Advice to Ignore

In many ways, “Write what you know” is limiting, if not downright stultifying advice for would-be novelists. Apart from military personnel, law enforcement, physicians, nurses, EMTs, financial experts, moguls, and other professionals who do write dramatic novels based on their work experiences, most fiction writers seldom do even a small seldom do even a small percentage of the things their characters do, at least physically. The majority rely on their own more mundane backgrounds and plenty of research to enrich their characters’ dialogue and create experiences vivid and exciting to read about. They apply what they’ve learned through hours of research, which includes talking to people who know more than they do about the subjects at hand, as well as reading the novels written by those professionals.

There, now you have it, advice from an "authority" on the subject of writing--reading work by others is good, good, good for your career!

To enhance the scenes they create, most fiction writers employ their own senses, their own emotional and mental reactions to events, and apply them to their characters’ responses. Every writer has feelings we can use to enrich our imagined experiences. All we have to do is dredge them up out of our own psyches, minds, and gut feelings by asking ourselves, “What would be happening inside me if…” or “How would I feel if…” or “How long could I tolerate this if…” and “How would my life be changed…” Each writer has to become her characters, to draw on the varied, often disparate sides of her own personality to discover the answers to all the questions she has to ask of her characters.

I’ve never been to space. My only experience with weightlessness was enjoying negative buoyancy while scuba diving and imagining how weightlessness in space might feel similar, which allowed me to apply that to the experiences of my characters. I’ve never been through a space-fold that took me far beyond the night sky I’ve seen all my life, but my characters saw familiar constellations appear skewed because I imagined it would be that way when each group of stars was seen from a different angle a few hundred astral units beyond the customary view.

I’ve never been mountain climbing but I have studied mountains through binoculars while mentally inserting my terrified fingers and quivering toes into cracks and crevices that appeared impossibly small even to my enhanced vision. I’ve watched climbers on film and in person, scarcely able to breathe while they ascended. My fear of falling helped me write about a character’s sensations in the moments before her rope stopped her slide when she did slip off an insecure hold. I knew this terror from a time when I scrambled (very briefly!) up a climbing wall. Thanks to that foolish stunt, I managed to inject my initial fear of falling into my character’s emotion because it created contrast to the intense sense of accomplishment when she succeeded and reached the summit. (I didn’t get that on my climbing wall. I had to be helped down from maybe twenty feet up, but I turned my disappointment on its head and reversed my self-disgust in my character’s mind, giving her, instead, a sense of triumph–the emotion I feel when I finish a first draft.)

I believe the advice “Write what you know” was mainly intended for non-fiction writers, such as those who write articles aimed at specific markets, or those talented people who compile how-to books based on their own experiences and knowledge. It would be pointless to write an explanatory article on fly-fishing if you haven’t learned the specific techniques involved, body movements probably not easily gleaned through research, but only by doing and putting in hours of practice. If you’ve never so much as planted a seed, you need practical experience before you can write a good, helpful gardening book or one about post and beam house construction.

Writing what you know also applies to location. If you’ve never been to Seattle you might be able to create a walking tour on paper by using Google Maps. That’s great, you can even see pictures of the place, learn the street names, picture the buildings. You won’t hear sounds specific to the place, though, feel the rumble of a ferry’s engines under your feet or see the utter grandeur of Mt. Rainier’s bulk looming above the city. You’ll also be far too likely to repeat a misconception you’ve heard all your life—that it rains all the time. It does not. If you’ve never been downhill skiing, don’t put a novice on a black-diamond run. If you’ve never been to a Caribbean beach, or on an ocean liner, or visited the inside of a submarine it’s hard to write about those places with authenticity. Research helps, but personal knowledge is better when it comes to setting a scene in a place readers might know well and find fault with your impressions.

So, if you’re writing non-fiction, by all means, write what you know. But if you’re writing fiction (apart from the above advice about location), let your imagination be your guide, but research well and thoroughly so you can inject a strong degree of reality into the scenes you write. Your readers want to go with you on your adventures and the only way to carry them along is to be authentic and help them feel what your characters experience through your imagination and the authority with which you write

Ignore all advice about writing. Leave your blood on every page. Every page!

Miriam Toews

Available in Amazon Kindle, Print, and Audible.

Fiction writing, avoiding the pitfalls, Living the Writing Life, What writing's all about

Romance Novels–Bad for Women? LOL.

This is a repeat of an earlier published article. I believe it bears repeating. Probably daily.

Bad, bad, bad romance novels

Why are romance novels and romance novelists looked down upon?

It’s easy to dislike something you’ve never tried and difficult to try something you’ve been told you must dislike if you want to be seen as a mature, thinking human being.

People who have never and will never read any novel that could possibly be construed as a romance have a low opinion of them and the novelists who write them because they have chosen to believe others without thinking for themselves. They have likely been told by people they admire that they must have that opinion, and speak it loudly, if they expect to be taken seriously as connoisseurs of the written word.

I once had a Child Psychologist (not a person who dealt with adult human relationships) tell me my books were “damaging” to women because my readers would “develop impossibly high expectations” and “such books are what lead to high divorce rates.” Her message was that women are so weak-minded they can’t differentiate between fantasy and real life. When I asked about the fantasies written by men, she gave her opinion that those books show life more realistically. Uh-huh! Books in the genre of one-man-single-handedly-saves the-world are safer, psychologically speaking, than women reading about romance and love. Of course, if the world-saving hero get to bed six or eight women during the course of a two-hundred-page novel, that’s okay. It’s just “male fantasy.”

I suspect the almost universal belief that all romance novels are “trash” may have been established by a few male professors in the day when certain magazines with pulp paper interiors inside slick covers bearing brightly colored titles containing words like “Romance,” and “Confessions,” and “True” were popular and beloved by many teenagers and young women. If those short “true” accounts were “trash” (they were seldom true, and many were written by men in the forties and fifties, according to statistics I’ve read), then anything to do with romance must also qualify as junk–at least according to the detractors. Luckily, I wasn’t prejudiced when it came to reading books written by men, but many men have a much harder time being seen reading books written by women whether those books are murder mysteries, thrillers, or science fiction.

I grew up and was educated at a time when about fifty percent of my contemporaries (the half of my class with penises) and a fair number of my teachers, insisted on telling me books written by my gender must, by definition, be “bad” or “poorly written” because the characters in them didn’t go in guns blazing or fists flying to settle differences. Books without those elements were boring, not at all “exciting.” If a book dealt with human feelings, human frailties, and if the conflicts could be resolved without death or arrest or both, it had to be “badly written” because those touchy-feely factors scare the hell out of a great many readers. I feel sorry for people who were, and still are, so afraid of their own emotions that reading a romance might make them feel crawly or even cause them to shed a secret tear or two.

Instead of trying to ascertain why they have this strong aversion, such people perpetuate the belief, and speak it loudly from their lofty university pulpits or bar stools, or book-review panels, asserting that most women can’t write “real” books because few women understand the way the kill-or-be-killed world works. For them, there is no such thing as men or women experiencing personal growth throughout the story in which finding love—that is love, not just sex—is the main goal. If a reader cannot accept that a character’s admitting to his or her weaknesses and learning to overcome them makes them stronger, if they cannot accept that redemption is possible, they will never understand the romance genre. Those same people likely consider “redemption” a dirty word unless the novel has at least a thousand pages and takes place in a major theater of war or was written as a result of a war or involves the priesthood of some religious belief.

When some men write what they consider romances, chances are there is no happy ending, and “a lesson has been learned” so the reader will have to think and ponder what the author of the book really meant. If I have to wonder what conclusion I, the reader, should draw, and why I needed to learn that lesson, I consider the book poorly written because the answer is too often pat—as in “infidelity, while it might feel good at the time, is wrong.” As a reader, I want something deeper than that, and I don’t like being told “you’re born, you die, and life’s a bitch.”

So, if you think that’s romance, I’m here to disagree and tell you, “Uh-uh. Nope. No way. Not this reader.” That kind of “romance” doesn’t work for me. I want a woman and a man (or a woman and a woman or a man and a man,) with serious, deep-seated inner struggles that keep them at arms’ length despite their desire to be together. Their problems must be a whole lot more difficult to solve than say, geography or a misunderstanding that could be resolved by an open conversation. Whatever conflict keeps them apart needs to be potent enough to prompt the reader’s question, “What the hell are they going to do?” A good writer of romance novels will solve those problems with common sense, a considerable degree of human psychology, and a lot of caring, without killing anyone or anything. We want our happy endings, because, pal, without that, what we romance writers call, a H.E.A. conclusion, (Happily Ever After) it just ain’t romance.

You don’t like ’em, don’t read ’em, but fucking quit telling the world they are “bad,” and even worse, “bad for women.”


When Something Old is New Again

Away back in the dark ages I remember a song with similar words to those above, and then I heard music…

which made that old song ring clearly in my head. Cassiel Knight, Publisher of the Champagne Book Group agreed to look at a novel of mine and liked it. Ms. Knight, I’m thrilled to say, is now my current editor. When she said she wanted to republish a Romantic Fantasy I wrote sometime between those dark ages and the current moment, I couldn’t believe my good luck.

Whispers on the Wind, with a lovely new cover around a lot of new content, proved even more personally rewarding to work on than it did the first time around. With Cassie’s guidance and insightful editing, I was able to dig deeper into motivations and causes, build stronger characters, and flesh out incidents and events that needed it. I feel, with the changes wrought in this story, it has become what it should have been in the first place.


Briefly, Lenore, a no-nonsense accountant has a close encounter of the sexy kind with an invisible man who invades not only her bedroom, but her mind, begging her to help him. She’d refuse if she could, but she just can’t and so embarks on an adventure unlike anything she’d ever imagined. From the high Canadian Rockies to the Sonoran Desert, with tantalizing glimpses into Jonallo’s phantasmagoric homeworld, Lenore and her alien search for his missing companions and his kidnapped sister, fighting an ever shrinking window of time and intergalactic drug-lord every step of the way.

That would all be wonderful, except the alien must soon return to his own time and place, where Lenore cannot go…



This is Lenore, looking much more beautiful than she thinks she is, and Jonallo, her own, personal alien, with his “grass-green eyes” and lyrical, mysterious language, not to mention his totally compelling ways and tempting, sexy whispers.

Whispers on the Wind is set for release at http://www.champagnebooks.com on January 15th, 2020.

But for now, I wish everyone a very Happy New Year! FireworksAnd offer my hopes that your 2020 promises to be as good as I’m sure mine is setting out to be. Wherever you are, whatever makes you happy, I like to think reading books is among your favorite pastimes, as it is mine—though I love writing them even more.

Fiction writing, avoiding the pitfalls, Writing. Whatever it takes.

Letting your manuscript go

When you’ve read all four-hundred-thirty-seven pages for the ninety-ninth time and sit back with a sigh of satisfaction and say, “Damn, I’m good!” you’re probably ready to send your work away to an editor or an agent. There is never a better time to send it out… except when there isn’t.

I know because I’ve enjoyed such a moment more times than I care to say. That’s when I want to print it for the final time to make it all clean and shiny, pull some elastic bands around it and slide it, gently, tenderly, into a big padded envelope with a cleverly written cover letter, and send it off into the world.

Then, I remember how cruel that world is. “Oh, no,” I say, patting it and setting it aside. “You’re not ready yet, sweet baby.”

I  click CTRL+Home to take the file back to page one, or take off the elastics, turn my stack of paper over, set it down and start reading again. Just in case. “Maybe it’s not as good as I think it is.  Maybe I’m not as good as I thought I was five minutes ago.” Sadly, I’m probably right.

That’s when, if I’m working on an MS Word file (which nowadays is pretty much the only way I work), I run a global search for words ending in “ly”—like gently, tenderly, cleverly. And make a good stab at eliminating them wherever possible and practical. Please remember that word. Practical.

“Only, easily, truly, and certainly,” are words most readers glide over without noticing so I only look at them and make a quick decision about whether to chop them or leave them if deleting or changing them would make the sentence awkward. Above, when I wrote about “gently, tenderly” sliding my manuscript into a bag, it would have been just as effective to say “I ease” it into a bag. My cover letter could have been described as just as well by writing, my cover letter because of course, I would have written a clever one. After all, I’m a writer.

If, before this moment I have neglected to do so, I also do a global search for the word “that” which is most often nothing more than padding and can be removed. This is especially true if I’ve written something like “the man that stood on the corner was waiting for a bus,” I’d have been accused of bad writing on two counts. One, because it’s an inactive sentence, and two, because people are who and animals are that. To correct the statement, I would write, “The man who stood…” It would have been preferable to write, “The man on the corner stood waiting for a bus,” or “The man stood on the corner waiting for a bus.” Simple solutions, both.

If I feel I might have overused any word—I do have my favorites—I go through and search them out. “Know” is one. “Slow,” is another as is “deep. It is those global searches for problem words I, and you, should have done long before the final read and the wonderful “Damn, I’m good!” moment. Once we’ve completed them, done everything possible to make our manuscript the best it can be; when astute people have proofread it for typos, grammar, spelling, punctuation and plot holes; when we’ve repaired all the bloopers brought to our attention, it is time to submit it. If we don’t, as writers have the courage to put our work out there, we’re in danger of shoving it into a box under the bed where it will languish. At that point, we have to let it go and send it out into the world to fly to the sky or sink into the Mariana Trench. (Or simply float along gently on the surface of the world where once in a while some reader will trip on it, pick it up, enjoy it, and let you know. There is satisfaction there too.) Not every book is destined to be a bestseller.

Still, that “Damn, I’m good!” uplift in spirits, the feeling of intense satisfaction must not be ignored. The best time to send a book away for the professional assessment of a publishing house or literary agency is when you’re on a real emotional high. That’s about the easiest time to let it go. It’s also the time to anchor your thoughts on the next book, the one poking holes in your brain, insisting it needs your attention, demanding you write it. Now.

Celebrate your great feelings about your work as I hope you celebrate this festive season the way you prefer. I also hope your career will grow as swiftly as my amaryllis blossoms which, three weeks ago, were mere sprouts poking out of the bulbs. Write well and daily throughout 2020! Be a flowering amaryllis.


Dialogue–for fun and function

If you love reading conversations between people (and listening to them, enjoying the repartee, the back-and-forth of banter), then you probably also love writing dialogue. I’ve learned a few things about that, but one that really stands out in my mind is not to write conversations the way they go in real life. Such dialogue is usually filled with “er… um…well, yeah, I think, maybe…” and other hesitations. Like this:
He looked at the array of tools on the hardware store wall and said to himself, “Hmm. I think I’ll probably need, er, want, the whatchamacallit, um, there, the one with those little prying dealies on one side and a banging part on the other, oh, yeah, a claw hammer.”
Unless you want your character to sound indecisive and a bit dull-witted, try to avoid writing the way he might have said it, even to himself. Instead, give him some initiative. Have him stride up to the wall, reach out and grab down a claw hammer of the right size and weight. He knows what he needs. He’s a hero.

Another problem many writers have is their having been told not to repeat words. But when you take that to mean even words such as “said,” you can get into trouble. The fact is, you need not struggle to find alternatives for “said” because most readers simply let their minds glide over the word unaware. The struggle to find alternatives sometimes comes across as ludicrous. You can end up with a lot of silly sentences.
For example, “he cooed”, “she purred,” “he rasped”, “she warbled.” Unless he’s a pigeon, she’s a cat, he’s a file, and she’s a songbird, avoid using such words to tell how the voice sounded. Instead, use other words to show. “Ah, come here, honey, let Daddy help.” Or Martha picked up the abandoned newborn. “Aren’t you just the sweetest little thing.” If you use a thesaurus to look up “said” and pick a dozen or so of the many synonyms, then pepper your manuscript with them, your work can look amateurish.

Of course, if someone shouts, it’s fine to say “Stop!” he shouted, but remember to use an exclamation point at the end of what they shouted. Remember, too, that’s about the only time you get to use that particular bit of punctuation. If another person screams his words, your reader might like to know, but often, there’s no need to use any of those descriptives for speech because the words themselves should be plenty of indication.
For example: “You stop talking!” Cole slammed his fist on the table. “Give me a goddam chance.” His voice grew louder. “You never let me get a word in edgewise and it’s my turn to be heard, so shut the hell up!” Spittle flew from his enraged mouth. Beads of sweat dotted his bright red forehead. He attacked the table again, sending dishes dancing as Pete tried to speak. “No! Not another word until I’ve had my say.”

Ellie wiped angry tears from under her eyes and spoke through trembling lips. “They fired me.” She drew in a tremulous breath. “One false accusation from a disgruntled customer, and it’s out the door. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m already behind on my rent, and now this, on top of my mother’s illness.”
Carla frowned. “I’m so sorry, El. If it’s a matter of a short-term loan…” She let the suggestion hang.
No one used the word “said,” yet we know who said what and in what tone of voice. (I should have rewritten that bit where I have too many exclamation points, found a way to use only one, but I leave it as an exercise for the student to fix that paragraph if desired. Editing someone else’s work is always fun. It gives me great feelings of superiority—until I realize how wrong I was and that the original writer was quite correct.

Then there are the danger-combos which, in my opinion, every writer needs to watch out for, especially when writing dialogue. One example of what not to do is have the character speaking while doing something else. Like this: “You look cute in that bunny outfit,” he laughed. Really, try saying those words while also laughing. Instead, make it two sentences. He laughed. “You look cute in that bunny outfit.” Whenever I catch myself making that particular mistake, I mentally thank one of my first editors who set me straight on the issue. Then there’s this one:
“No,” she said as she carried in the groceries, bag after bag, emptying the car’s trunk and setting the provisions on the counter and giving the dog a treat. She put the baby in the high chair, gave him a sippy-cup of milk, and sat the toddler on a booster seat to serve him lunch. “I don’t want to.”
Really? She said those few words while busy with her other activities? By the time she gets to “I don’t want to,” the person she’s speaking to will have forgotten what question prompted the response. Okay, maybe that’s a bit extreme, but when you’re proofreading your work, try to watch for such cases and correct mistakes like that.

Dialogue should be clear, crisp, and informative. It can often be funny or poignant, but always it must drive the scene forward and provide bits of action and snippets of description of the surroundings as well as some thought from the POV character so the reader can build a mental image of who, what, where, and why. It can allude to things either in the past that impinge on the story or hint and things to come.Happy writing! And remember to enjoy your dialogue. It’s the most fun part of creating living, memorable characters. And the best part is, six hours later when you think of what you should have said (or had your character say), you can go back and change it. It’s like controlling history.


Audible? Laudable!

I just had the most amazing experience–listening to one of my own books narrated by a woman who got all the subtle nuances just right. If I’d been asked to narrate Forbidden Dreams, the story of Shell Landry and Jase O’Keefe, I couldn’t have done it better than Darlene Roberts. Correction–I couldn’t have done it as well as Darlene.

When Jason O’Keefe blows in on a wicked, west-coast storm, bloody and battered and looking oddly familiar, Shell Landry is intrigued but wary. She has good reason for both reactions, the first is the secret she must protect, the second, her instant attraction to him. When he explains that they did meet years ago and far away as children, her wariness grows, turning nearly to panic. Why has he come? What does he know? What will he do if he learns her secret?

Shell has knowledge that must be kept from any stranger, a secret she has held for most of her life, information which, if revealed, could destroy a person she holds very dear. Jase poses a distinct threat to the sanctity of that confidentiality, but when he reveals his reason for coming to her, not by accident as she thought, but because he needs her help, she is torn. If she doesn’t do as he asks, someone else she loves could be harmed. But still, Shell must walk a careful line.

In contrast to Shell’s reticence Jase finds himself unwillingly revealing a great deal about himself as he tries to convince her to do something she clearly feels is wrong. But the need for immediate action is great. It is so urgent that he presses hard, citing reason after reason, all valid, why he needs her assistance. When she finally agrees, Jase knows that should be the end of it. He’s accomplished what he came for. It’s time to leave. But… He’s as intrigued as she was, and more deeply attracted than he thought possible.

When, after providing him with the help he’d come for, Shell learns exactly who and what Jase is, she finally understands the familiarity she sensed in the beginning. It had nothing to do with their distant, childhood connections and his deliberate seduction was a result only of his greed. Feeling betrayed, she breaks off all contact with him. But, had he seduced her, or had they seduced each other? She’s forced to recognize she’d wanted him as much as he wanted her. As her misery grows so do her doubts. Has he actually perpetrated any of the cruelties she suspects him of, or… has he only told the truth, which is what he always claimed? Worse, though, are her doubts about herself.

Who, exactly, has she been protecting all these years? Whose fears have guided her every action? If the answer is “her own”, then she clearly has to admit it because, unless she can forgive him—and herself—for keeping secrets, the love she’s long dreamed of will continue to be forbidden.

To find an audible version of this book go to https://adbl.co/30LdTWV


Reviews 23, 24, 25, & 26 of 30 for 2017

Winning Casey, by January Bain ****

Free-spirited Casey Madison loves finding buried treasure and hidden artifacts from times long in the past. What she does not love is all the university protocols she must, as an associate professor of Archaeology, abide by. The story opens with Casey in a cold, damp cave outside Dawson in Yukon Territory, where she finds an old hoard of Klondike gold, with which she barely escapes alive. Her sorority sisters, a group of like-minded women, are as cheered as Casey over the great find. But she still has a bit of vacation time left and wants to use it before buckling down to work—and meeting her new department head, whom she knows will be another one of those nit-picking, protocol-loving, stuffy professors she’s learned to despise. CaseyWith approval finally granted for the new class syllabus she’s proposed, “Mysteries and Lost Treasures of the World”, she flies to Oak Island, Nova Scotia, to see what she can learn about the famous Money Pit.

There, a handsome hunk falls nearly at her feet when he stumbles into a deep hole dug by other treasure hunters on the island. Still, as attractive as the man is, it doesn’t take long for Casey’s interest to turn to dust. He is no other than Professor Truman Harrison, the newly appointed head of the Archeology department where she teaches. Nevertheless, she’s not about to give up her opportunity for gaining first-hand knowledge of one of the prime sites she means to use in her new course. Besides, the professor smells good…

Truman can understand Casey’s determination to hold him at arm’s length. After all, he’s her boss, but everything about her intrigues him to the point he must know more, so he’s not about to give up. His permit to explore on Oak Island is a strong drawing card and he doesn’t hesitate to use it to his own advantage, knowing how eager Casey is to do that.

As the two explore together, and talk of past exploits each has enjoyed, Casey comes to see she’s found a fellow adventurer in Truman, but he’s still the head of her department and she knows she must proceed with caution. Ms. Bain delivers a tale of mystery, romance, and danger. Highly recommended, but too many incorrect word choices and typos drop it from 5 stars to 4.


Race the Rising Tide, by January Bain ****

Cole McClintock, a recent hire with the TETRAD Group learns his new partner in an undercover operation is a woman who sends him into a tail-spin at first sight. She tangles up his emotions like no one else ever has. The best he can do is ignore the situation and get on with the job. At least, he has every intention of doing just that…

Gabriella Banks doesn’t hesitate to admit she’s a complicated woman, and one of deep inner strengths, firm opinions, and strong beliefs, which may, in her opinion, be responsible for her main problem. She doesn’t like to admit , but her total lack of a sex life troubles her. TideWhen she and Cole McClintock are teamed up to go undercover in Vancouver’s Chinatown, she resents him for reminding her of what’s missing from her life. He also makes her want something she knows she shouldn’t want under present circumstances.

While the two of them race to rescue a kidnap victim before it’s too late, they both know this is no time for hormones to get in the way, but they find themselves powerless in the fight against their mutual attraction.

This author is very good at making location as much of a character as the living beings in her story. Her descriptions are sharp and well-envisioned. Ms. Bain’s writing showcases her use of the language and her knowledge of how to choose words to create the effect she wants. But a note of warning: if strong language is not your thing, there is a great deal of it. While I have no objections, when and if appropriate, to the four-letter words liberally peppering this book (I suspect editorial demand for them), perhaps in an attempt to make the characters seem more “contemporary” and “edgy”. I’ve read other novels by Ms. Bain and know she has an excellent vocabulary and is more than capable of get her point across without the gratuitous use of “fuck”, which brings me to one of the worst books I have ever read…


 Scrooge McFuck by May Sage *

Despite the feminine author name, I was left with the impression this book was scribbled in a hurry by a seventeen-year-old boy from the UK, in love with four-letter-words and gleeful in his desire to shock and make fun of romance novels. I’ve been reading (and writing) contemporary romance, some of it humorous, most of it sexy, for many years. My novels have been published in the UK and the US and translated around the globe with many good reviews, which frequently mention humor as well as a believable love story. This book, however, doesn’t make the grade for either humor or romance and despite it’s catchy title, is definitely not a Christmas story.Scrooge

The author faithfully adheres to the “formulaic” rule so many detractors believe must be  followed in a romance—writing the once-typical (1960’s) wealthy, bad-tempered, rude, crude boss as a “hero”, a more-or-less “feisty” heroine in desperate need of her job, so she takes his bad manners like a lady. The heroine is equally crude, though mainly in her thoughts, not words. Unrequited lust builds within each, though neither character acts upon it… Then… Wow! Wouldn’t you know it? She gets sick, he learns she and her sweet little five-year-old daughter (who has the vocabulary of your maiden aunt–“my mother is ‘feeling poorly'” and other such unlikely phrases), are living in a New York tenement building. Hero-Boss magnanimously moves mother and daughter into his palatial home and immediately becomes a nice person, looking after the sick woman and the unbelievably well-spoken little girl, which suggest the author has no knowledge of kindergarten age kids.

It seems all the adult protagonists can think of is fucking, being fucked, and wishing they could fuck. I don’t object to the word. I have used it in my writings, as well as in my  casual speech, but this would-be romance author seems to believe that mere physical attraction to curves, green eyes, a “great rack”, and tattoos must lead inevitably to sex, which act is, in the writer’s mind, equivalent to romance and “lo-o-ove”. Never mind there has been little if any prior indication the story might bring the reader the Happily-Ever-After ending customary in the romance genre. Instead, at first chance, the adults leap into bed together and the author writes THE END. Not my kind of writing, little boy. Please go paddle in some other genre pool.

And now, to get out of the romance genre entirely, here’s a well-founded book from a newbie I do admire…

Terms of Enlistment, by Marko Kloos ****

A fast paced book, TERMS OF ENLISTMENT introduces Andrew Grayson, a kid from the public housing slums of the next century, where the North American Alliance stretches from the N. Pole to the S. border of Mexico. In Basic Training, which will bring smiles of familiarity to anyone who’s gone through any similar mind-numbing course, he meets another recruit, Halley, and the two begin a relationship. Terms of EnlistmentFollowing graduation, Halley is allocated a berth in the Space Navy, and slides easily into the Officer Track while Andrew gets stuck as a grunt. His first real task, helping put down a welfare riot is a horror-show in which Andrew is injured. As a result, he’s allowed to change career directions and, still missing Halley, gets himself assigned to the same ship she’s on.

Humanity now occupies—if precariously—many far-off planets orbiting stars similar to Sol. Not all, of course, are particularly Earth-like, but with the need to deplete the home-world’s vast overburden of population, terraforming is necessary. Andrew and Halley find themselves bound for one such planet and, while it first appears things are going well, they soon learn different…

This is clearly book One in an ongoing series. Undoubtedly, many readers will follow it, though it’s not a five-star read.  The author may further develop his “voice” as the series progresses. The rapid pace of the novel works well with its  present tense delivery and his  firm grasp of military jargon.


I apologize for having fallen short of my promised number of review blogs for this year. My companion blog, Just Asking Why, may explain in part. It appears later today.



Book Reviews from Rider of The Waves

Reviews 20, 21 & 22 for 2017

Al Clark by Jonathan G Meyer **

I read a lot of Science Fiction because I like the genre, but this one doesn’t do it for me. The story is bland, anecdotal, and without much excitement. Confession: I did not read beyond the 40 percent mark, and skimmed up to 60 percent, then quit. Al Clark, the character, and the subsequent others as they finally appeared bored me so much playing Solitaire seemed like a better way to waste my time. Unfortunately, Jonathan G Meyer hasn’t reached the point in his career where he knows how to captivate a reader by employing strong , believable motivation for every action taken by the people in his story. His largely one-dimensional  characters just plod through the motions. He claims to enjoy the old “pulp fiction” books he read as a teenager. I read a lot of Heinlein, Asimov, Clark and many others from that era during my own youth, and still do, but Al Clark in no way piques nostalgia in me for those early times and the great authors he may want to emulate.

FORAGER by Peter R Stone ****

Possibly aimed at a “Young Adult” or “New Adult” audience, Forager takes place in post-apocalyptic Australia, a refreshing change from the norm. The author, creating a new and substantially different civilization that devolved following a past nuclear war, has written an engaging story.  Forager opens with a cast of well developed, youthful characters, a gang of  young men tasked with searching ruins to collect metals for use in factories. Their home of Newtowne on the outskirts of Melbourne is comprised of three basic categories of citizenry– wealthy men,  male laborers, and the Custodians, the latter also male who act as enforces of the draconian rules laid out by the wealthy, who live mostly segregated from the proletariat. Women, in this society, have no standing at all–their position demands they breed at the will of their husbands and dutifully serve the male members of their households

Ethan, from whose point of view the story  emerges, is the boss of a scavenging crew. Brain-injured from an accident, he’s physically healthy, but has lost an entire year’s memories to amnesia.  Possibly due to the accident he doesn’t remember, he has some odd mental powers that enable him to sense not only the metals they seek, but Skels, dangerous outlaws who live in the ruins.  Those powers, thought to be caused by radiation-damaged genes, are forbidden, so Ethan hides them. When his team encounters a pair of traders from a distant town, he risks his own life to save them from the Skels. One of the  visitors, Nanako, a beautiful young woman, is completely unlike  the females of Newtowne, who are forbidden to walk outside unescorted after dark. She’s intriguing, bold, and opinionated refusing to bow to local customs.  When she begins coming to Ethan’s bachelor apartment to cook meals for him, he fears for her safety, but she persists. This breaking of firm rules could send him to prison and her to death, but he cannot force her to stay away. Nor does he really want to.

Forager is an excellent, entertaining read marred somewhat by poor word choices, inaccurate punctuation, and typos.

Shards of Hope by Nalini Singh*****

(The Psy/Changling/Angel series)

Singh has once again proven that SF, Paranormal, and Romance genres can blend to make an exemplary novel. Shards of Hope grabbed me, though not quite as quickly as have all the others. Unfortunately, I experienced this novel as an Audible, the way I do many books. I found the rendition of the text irritating until I became accustomed to the high-pitched, frenetic delivery of the reader during narrative sections. The softer, more thoughtful voices used in dialogue were easier to listen to. After eagerly awaiting this book, however, I refused to let the performance mar my enjoyment of the plot and characters, and I was not disappointed. Though I’ve read Singh’s other books about the Psy and the Changelings, I enjoyed this one immensely—perhaps more than earlier novels in the series.

Aden Kai has a rough road ahead as he tries to transition Arrows, the warriors and  protectors of the Psy, whom he commands, into a new era where Silence no longer reigns. The members of his troop, especially the older ones, fear openly expressing their emotions telepathically, because doing so has been trained out of them by earlier leaders. However, Aden believes that when they see and hear him and other young leaders allowing their emotions freedom, they will begin to understand it is safe to do so and the Arrows will benefit from this new openness. Convincing Zaira to join him in his endeavors is the first, most important step. The two have been friends since childhood, when she was inducted into the Arrow program. Horribly damaged by the physical and psychic abuse visited upon her by her parents, Zaira is the one Arrow Aden wants to stand with him as he leads. Sadly, she is averse to his plan. Only if he can persuade her to trust to trust not only him, but herself, does he foresee success. Zaira’s avowed mission in life is to keep Aden safe, but she fears the core-deep rage burning within makes her too dangerous and unpredictable. If she relaxes the tight control she binds her emotions with in order to become his partner in all the ways he wants her, what will happen if the killing rage runs free and he happens to be in the way? But Aden believes he cannot succeed without her.




Today’s reviews are Books 18 & 19 of 30 for 2017. IRREPARABLE HARM, and AFTER: FIRST LIGHT.

While out riding the waves aboard La Niña our little cabin cruiser, I didn’t get in as much reading as I’d intended. Instead, I downloaded a large whack of Robert A. Heinlein books and spent my vacation partly on Earth, partly on Secundus,  and ended up on Tertius with the other members of the Long Family, which I joined years ago. Now, well rested by my vacation, I’m home again and ready to read, review, and write. Hope everyone else had as satisfactory a break from normal as I did.

Anyway, here are a couple I read just before leaving…


By Melissa Miller

This legal thriller captured my interest in the first page and held it all the way through. Sasha McCandless is a lawyer, small, smart, and dangerous. When she finds Federal Marshall Leo Connelly in her apartment, poor Leo wishes his current investigation hadn’t been responsible for what Sasha considers a B & E. Sasha, in eager search of a partnership with her law firm, is willing to do almost anything to achieve her goal… Even teaming up with Leo, whatever the cost, even when he insists she’s in danger and he’s the only one qualified to keep her safe. Safe from whom? Herself, him, or the bad-guys he’s certain want to do her harm–irreparably.
This well-written book has only one problem in my view—it’s too short. I was ready to read on and on, but then, there was no more. This seems to be a common thread now, so I’ll have to look for book 2… and 3… and 4… and so on–and believe me, I will. Sasha McCandless is a character easy to follow.



by Scott Nicholson

I always enjoy a good post apocalyptic story that keeps me reading until well after bedtime. AFTER: FIRST LIGHT is written as a prequel to the series AFTER: — and didn’t keep me up long.


In this prequel Nicholson delivers a short-story with some well-defined characters and a credible threat. Following a solar storm of unbelievable ferocity, all electric and electronic devices on Earth are rendered useless. Billions die worldwide. This leaves the dwindling numbers of survivors wallowing in fear and disbelief, certain the “government” will fix everything soon—they need only wait. Those who do understand what’s happened know there is no government, there are no effective armed forces, and people are going to have to fend for themselves.  Those who do survive the panic-riots and the inevitable, zombie-like “Zapheads”.

The author’s concise method of introducing the problem, the aftermath, and those who try to survive—as well as those who can’t—are mostly likable enough for the reader to root for. This quick, but fairly good read dropped several points in my estimation by the author’s introduction of another danger that, to me, is not at all plausible.  Things were dire enough without his giving into the immature and creating zombies to please the kiddies. Too bad, Mr. Nicholson. I’d have enjoyed the series if you hadn’t tossed in something out of comic books.