One Comma, Two Meanings

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Graphic of a crossed sword and a pencilSo… here’s an interesting one for you.

It’s from my own fiction, so I’m not bothering to change the line to protect the innocent. Let’s just let ‘er rip. (Also, if you want to know more about my own fiction, sign up for the newsletter, eh? Be sure to check the box for the author newsletter. And then stay tuned, because as soon as we have the new website and the book cover and the legal stuff worked out, we’re letting this project loose and I promise you’ve never seen a project like this one.)

Here’s the sentence:

It didn’t help that he still looked good, in a green collared shirt and tan dress pants—very expensive dress pants, she noted.

Pretty innocuous statement, no?

Here’s where it gets interesting: My proofreader, the amazing and wonderful April Hughes (so don’t you dare be thinking I’m picking on her or suggesting she’s not up to par because she totally is. I mean, hello? I PAY HER), suggested I cut the comma after good.

Except… this is where the comma changes the entire meaning.

Because without the comma, the sentence means that he looked good because of the clothes he’s wearing. His looking good is dependent on his clothes.

WITH the comma, the man just looks good, period, and the comma signals that we’re getting a description of his clothing.

Teeny tiny little bits of nuance… that even the best editors can’t catch for you.

WHAT? WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY, SUSAN????

Yep. This is one of those sentences, because of the twin meanings, that only the author can choose which message to send to the reader. They’re both grammatically correct. They both paint a vivid picture of the dude. The question is whether or not the dude needs his clothing to enhance his looks… and that’s something no editor can answer for you. All we can do is call it out and suggest the author take a closer look and consider the different messages the sentence is sending, with and without that comma.

For a little piece of punctuation, it’s sure got a lot of power.

Right, Grandma?*

Ahem.

If you’re one of those people who thinks you don’t need an editor, well, I can’t help you. But if you’re not, April and I would both love to work with you, and this isn’t the only project we’ve worked on together! I heartily recommend using one editor for different stages of editing, but most especially using a fresh set of eyes for that final look before you hit publish or submit to your agent/acquiring editor. Yes, it’s more expensive, but you’re worth it.

I promise.

*As in: Let’s eat, Grandma/Let’s eat Grandma

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Prophecies and Promises by Alana Lorens in the Featured New Book Spotlight!

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Book Cover It’s another visit from our friend Alana Lorens! This is her FIFTH visit here, which might be a new West of Mars record, and one I encourage all my author friends to try to take on and exceed. And the author friends of my author friends, as well!

If you’ve missed her earlier visits, here they are:
Second Chances (in 2013!!!)
Tender Misdemeanors
Encounter
A Rose by Any Other Name

Wow! And you ask why she’s one of my favorite people! Here’s only one example of why. Well, two. She’s prolific AND likes to drop in to visit. Plus, she’s really super, but we’ll talk about that part in a minute.

First, let’s find out what song makes Alana Lorens think of her NEW book, Prophecies and Promises. Alana, take it away!

Who doesn’t like pirates? Well, I suppose those enforcing the letter of the law may not be thrilled with them, but many ladies I know swoon over the romantic notion of a man who lives at sea and experiences the wild, free life! The mystery, the wicked pleasures …the sea shanties. Yes, the sea shanties, and there are several in PROPHECIES AND PROMISES, as sailors used the songs to set the timing for their tasks, pulling lines and setting sails, even swabbing the decks. When I was polishing this story, the pandemic was in full swing, and the sea shanty craze hit. I was inspired, of course, but this one hits my funny bone. I hope you enjoy it too.

Not only did I turn off TIDAL’s list of heavy metal to give it a watch and a listen, it summoned both my cats! Okay, maybe that’s only coincidence, but it happened. I swear.

So other than sea shanties and cats — although probably not cats — what’s Prophecies and Promises about? Alana Lorens, let’s hear it!

Tamsyn McKiernan thinks her dreams have come true. She’s engaged to a dashing Key West bachelor and finally in her widowed father’s good graces. But in her heart, she knows something’s wrong. She loves the ocean and the quiet pleasures of nature—so what does the aristocratic life she’ll lead truly hold for her?

Mercenary captain Drake Ashton is neck deep in preparations for the Spanish-American War, running guns and other supplies to Cuban natives who want out from under their Spanish masters. He and his brother Freddie risk their lives daily, focused on saving his friends on the island. Nothing else matters but his mission.

A chance encounter with a spiny sea urchin brings the two together, and neither of their lives will ever be the same again.

This might be the most intriguing Alana Lorens plotline yet, and I know I say that every time. I don’t know how she manages to top herself, but… she does. Also, the idea of shrugging off a life of propriety sounds mighty appealing. Maybe I just need a grand adventure, though. It’s possible. And this book just might be grand adventure enough!

Be sure to grab your copy! It’s not releasing for another week, but c’mon. You know how important preorders are, and you know that there’s no better gift to yourself than to wake up one day and find hey! A new book on your device!

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Remember, the best way you can show your appreciation for an author’s book is to buy a copy for a friend or two. Or seven. But the second best way is to leave an online review, and I heartily encourage all readers to get in the habit of leaving reviews.

So. Ready to connect with Alana Lorens? Like I said, she’s pretty awesome.
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As always, if you’ve got author friends who’d like a turn in the spotlight, or if you’re an author wondering how to get in on the fun, follow this link to the handy-dandy form. Even if we’ve not met yet, I’d love to fix that and host you for the day!

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Auctioning off some work…

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And here we go! I’m auctioning off up to 100 pages of line edits as part of The Romance For Reproductive Justice movement.

I’m not going to get all political about the hows and whys. You know the stories, you know where you stand. This is where I stand, and I’m making myself available to one author who wants to work on their craft and up their game.

Please spread the word, bid, send your friends. If you’ve been wanting to work with me and can’t afford to, now’s possibly your chance to do so! And if you do work with me and want to support the cause, feel free to browse the other offerings. Or hang out and run the bids up. I won’t say no. It goes to a good cause, and it’s a chance to work with ME.

Really. How can you resist?

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Celtan Dilemma by Eileen Troemel in the Featured New Book Spotlight

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Let’s welcome Eileen Troemel back for a trifecta visit! Woot! (Also, I keep telling y’all it’s addictive and fine with me if you need to feel the high. Come on by anytime.)

If you missed her previous visits, here you go! Here’s her first time in the spotlight, featuring her book Marelo. And her second time? Right here, with On the Line. Eileen Troemel likes us, and we like her right on back. How can we not? Her books sound wonderful!

So what do we have today? Today, it’s Celtan Dilemma, and let’s talk music before we get to what the book’s about. That is, after all, how we do things around here. Music first to set the mood! And also, music!

My Fight Song by Rachel Platten would be the perfect song to go with Lilly and her song. The refrain of the song is as follows:

This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I’m alright song
My power’s turned on
Starting right now I’ll be strong
I’ll play my fight song
And I don’t really care if nobody else believes
‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me

Lilly and her squad as fighters for the human military and they fly the missions they’re told to fly. They live in fear of the punishments the male military members impose on them. They are sent on a mission to take out a Celtan (Keltan) transport. While it carries Celtan people, they are women and children. The transport is unarmed and barely has shields. Lilly and her subordinates have to make a decision – take out the transport and become war criminals or disobey orders to be labeled traitors. Up until this point, Lilly has done what was required of her. But in the moment she knows the right choice for her. She makes her decision, her squad follow her decision, and Lilly believes they will suffer the punishments from the human military. The Celtans offer them other options.

WHOA!!! I love this song and actually recognized it, so I had to scurry over to Tidal to add it to my work playlist. Talk about empowerment… and ladies, do we need some of that right now, or WHAT? Let’s let Lilly inspire us. And Rachel Patten, too.

Ready for the book description? Although after THAT, how can a mere book description fire us up as well as the song does?

Traitor or criminal?

Lieutenant Lillian Buckner receives orders to take her squad of women pilots out to specific coordinates and destroy an unarmed transport. Lilly must decide whether to be a war criminal by firing on an unarmed vessel or to be a traitor and disobey her orders. Her life and those of her six pilots depends on her decision. No matter her decision, the punishment may kill her if she returns to the human forces.

Trust or Punish?

Lord Hugh Korol fights against the humans. They invaded the Celtan’s territory and took sectors of space from them. The humans attacked their home world. When human women aid one of their unarmed transports, he must decide what to do to them. Can he trust the one he desires or will she break more than the fragile trust growing between them?

Ooh, this looks like a FUN read. Yes. I am into it. Are you? Preorder your copy and on June 4, you’ll wake up to a nice surprise waiting for you! It’s Amazon exclusive, sad to say (I’m always sad and it’s never personal). Just don’t forget to leave a review; they help with a book’s discoverability, which means it gets noticed by more and more readers.

And be sure to connect with Eileen Troemel! This link will take you to a LinkTree (I love these aggregators… they make everything so easy!), so have fun and make a new friend!

As always, send your friends over to the handy-dandy form if they’d like to step into the spotlight. Or if you’re an author, fill it out first so you get priority scheduling and then share it with your author friends. That’s not against the rules!

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Brown Eyes by Frances Ive in the Featured New Book Spotlight

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Book coverLet’s welcome Frances Ive to West of Mars!

Frances shows why it pays to still be hanging out on Twitter; that’s how we connected and I invited her to join us here today. And she was gracious enough to accept the invitation! Yay! Now we all get to hear more about her book, Brown Eyes.

Let’s start with the most important question: Frances Ive, what song makes you think of your book?

Everything I Own – Bread

Is there someone you know
You’re loving them so
But taking them all for granted?
You may lose them one day
Someone takes them away
And they don’t hear the words you long to say

Many of us take those we love for granted, and it takes a special person to show appreciation and value their partner in the way they deserve all the time. Especially when someone dies, we realise how much they meant to us, and often feel guilty. Did I take them for granted? Did they know how much I loved them? Losing someone close can be a sea change in our attitudes and perspective on life.

Whoo boy, this is going to be a heart-string-tugger, isn’t it? It sure sounds like it, but check out the description. It gets really super interesting and I may need to read this one sooner rather than later.

Brown Eyes: The dog sees everything

A watchful eye as a marriage falls apart. The phone call, the rows, and the split are all observed by the family Labrador. He knows the habits and senses the moods of his beloved family members. Seeing them unhappy and hurting each other is unbearable. Where did his perfect life go?

Her marriage to Phil in crisis, two children at the challenging teenage stage, and a close friend in peril, Meriel’s world is falling apart. She finds solace in the arms of another man, but is this the answer for her? It is her stubbornness that threatens the family’s future together, until a major loss has a life-changing effect on her. A sliver of hope returns.

Like a fly on the wall, Benji the dog sees it all.

Narrated by both the dog and Meriel, Brown Eyes is written by the author of Finding Jo.

This is just… I’m intrigued. Aren’t you? A novella about a struggling marriage and two very disparate narrators… both the reader and the editor in me are intrigued.

Get your copy! See what you think! And remember to leave your review when you’re done, too.

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And all bookstores including Barnes & Noble

There you go! Happy shopping!

And be sure to connect with Frances Ive, too. Our interactions have been limited so far, but I have enjoyed them.
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And, of course, the spotlight is open to you, your friends, authors you know… It’s all good around here. I just want to tell you about books and the songs that are inspired by them. That’s it! That’s the agenda! And here’s the handy-dandy form for you to use to submit your own.

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Bridges by Linda Griffin in the Featured New Book Spotlight!

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Third time’s a charm, right? Well, let’s welcome Linda Griffin back to West of Mars for her third stint in the spotlight.

If you missed the first two, here they are:
Guilty Knowledge
Love, Death, and the Art of Cooking

And so Linda Griffin is back with a third book! This one’s called Bridges, and let’s learn about it, shall we?

Linda, what song makes you think of your book?

“Bridge Over Troubled Water” because Neil is always on Mary Claire’s side when she needs a friend, and their friendship is a bridge over the troubled water of their differences and her situation.

Oh, my! That’s rather provocative, isn’t it? I’m intrigued by that, and I love good, healthy friendships in books, too.

Ready for the cover copy? I sure am!

In 1963, Neil Vincent, a middle-aged World War II veteran and “Christian atheist”, is working at Westfield Court as a chauffeur. He spends most of his spare time reading. Mary Claire DeWinter is a young, blind Catholic college student and reluctant heiress. To secure her inheritance, she has to marry within a year, and her aunt is pressuring her to marry a rich man who teased and bullied her when she was a child. Neil and Mary Claire shouldn’t even be friends, but the gulf between them is bridged by a shared love of books. Can they cross the bridge to more?

Oh, I hope so! No one should be forced to marry a bully, current or former. (My clients can tell you I’m a big proponent for healthy relationships among their characters!) And how romantic could it be for Neil to read to Claire…

Heck, why don’t we see MORE scenes of couples reading to each other?

Are there reading-to-each-other scenes? I sure hope so, but grab a copy and see for yourself. Because that’s what we’re here for: to entice you to pick up a copy!
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Remember, the best way to help an author is to leave a review after you’ve read the book. It doesn’t have to be fancy; one of the best reviews I saw recently read “This gutted me.” That was it! The whole review! How EASY is that, and why aren’t you helping make a book more discoverable, especially if you liked it?

And, of course, connect with Linda Griffin.

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Remember, if you’ve got a friend who’s an author, or if you’re an author yourself, send them over to the Featured New Book Spotlight. One question, a bunch of links, a lot of fun. And, of course, we all get to discover new books–and, often, new music, too! Everyone wins!

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The Hob and the Hound Pub by Seana Kelly in the Featured New Book Spotlight!

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Woo hoo! Let’s welcome Seana Kelly to West of Mars!

I have to tell you, I’m a HUGE fan of this series. Action, of the fighting variety as well as the sex variety, great characters, paranormal doings, world traveling, and more!

And so, these songs do NOT surprise me in the least. Ready for them? Okay, then! Seana Kelly, what songs make you think of your new book, The Hob and Hound Pub?

I think my books are a combination of Bad Moon Rising (Creedence Clearwater Revival) and So This Is Love (Cinderella)

So… that’s why I don’t recall Tom Keifer and company singing a song called So This is Love…

Are my hair metal roots showing?

Anyway, I stand corrected. I’m surprised by So This is Love, and yet I totally get it. It makes sense and it fits.

Ready to know what this fourth in the series is about?

I’m Sam Quinn, the newly married werewolf book nerd owner of the Slaughtered Lamb Bookstore and Bar. Clive and I are on our honeymoon. Paris is lovely, though the mummy in the Louvre inching toward me is a bit off-putting. Although Clive doesn’t sense anything, I can’t shake the feeling I’m being watched.

Even after we cross the English Channel to begin our search for Aldith—the woman who’s been plotting against Clive since the beginning—the prickling unease persists. Clive and I are separated, rather forcefully, and I’m left to find my way alone in a foreign country, evading not only Aldith’s large web of hench-vamps, but vicious fae creatures disloyal to their queen. Gloriana says there’s a poison in the human realm that’s seeping into Faerie, and I may have found the source.

I knew this was going to be a working vacation, but battling vampires on one front and the fae on another is a lot, especially in a country steeped in magic. As a side note, I need to get word to Benvair. I think I’ve found the dragon she’s looking for.

Gloriana is threatening to set her warriors against the human realm, but I may have a way to placate her. Aldith is a different story. There’s no reasoning with rabid vengeance. She’ll need to be put out of our misery permanently if Clive and I have any hope of a long, happy life together. Heck, I’d settle for a few quiet weeks.

Sound confusing? Maybe go back and start with the first in the series — it’s a USA Today Bestselling series, so you know you’re in good hands! And The Hob and the Hound is still up for preorder, so you’ve got time yet before it releases. Not a lot, so get reading!

Here’s your buy link. It’s a link aggregator, so pick your retailer and have some fun!

And connect online with Seana Kelly. I can confirm she’s great fun.
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As always, remember to leave a review; it’s the second-best way to let an author know you liked their book (the first, of course, being when you buy a copy and give it to a friend).

And speaking of friends, if you’ve got a friend, be sure to send them this way to have their own book featured! Or is it YOUR book that you want to have featured? That’s fine, too! This is your moment, so step into the spotlight, enjoy, revel, and help yourself find some new readers. You’ll be glad you did.

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Zeus by Carly Spade in the Featured New Book Spotlight

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Book CoverLet’s welcome author Carly Spade to West of Mars!

And does that book cover remind anyone — in a very very very good if a bit I-miss-you way — of Lucifer? That right there is reason enough to grab this book, no?

But we’re here to talk about the music! So let’s talk music! Carly Spade, what song makes you think of your book, Zeus?

Throne by Saint Mesa This song represents the royalty aspect of Zeus but also the carnal and powerful sides he exudes as well as the book’s themes as well.

I have never heard of Saint Mesa before, but WOW. I ran over to TIDAL and added this and made a note to myself to explore more of this Saint Mesa man. This is good stuff. And it’s great to have on as I work, too.

So okay… we’ve got carnal and powerful sides and this amazing song… if THAT hasn’t sold you yet on this book, how about its description?

𝘼 𝙜𝙤𝙙-𝙠𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙙𝙞𝙨𝙜𝙪𝙞𝙨𝙚𝙙 𝙖𝙨 𝙖 𝙘𝙧𝙞𝙢𝙞𝙣𝙖𝙡 𝙙𝙚𝙛𝙚𝙣𝙨𝙚 𝙡𝙖𝙬𝙮𝙚𝙧…⁠ ⁠

Zeus/Zane, King of the Greek gods, holds the world in his palm in both his mortal and godly form… until Hera leaves him, forcing him to uphold Gaea’s clause: There must always be a Queen, or he loses his title and part of his power along with it. Time is short. Too bad the one woman he has his sights on wants nothing to do with him. Or does she?⁠ ⁠

𝘼𝙣 𝙚𝙢𝙥𝙖𝙩𝙝 𝙘𝙧𝙞𝙢𝙞𝙣𝙖𝙡 𝙥𝙧𝙤𝙨𝙚𝙘𝙪𝙩𝙤𝙧…⁠ ⁠

There’s nothing Keira Bazin dislikes more than defense lawyers. So when she discovers Zane Vronti, one of New York’s finest, has been brought in on her newest murder case, it’s anything but good news. Tensions flare as the two immediately butt heads, but there’s something about Zane she can’t put her finger on. His emotions are the strongest she’s ever felt–borderline overwhelming. Power. Lust. Command. Can she fight her growing attraction for him? Does she want to?⁠

WOW. This looks like fun.

Make note, though: this is the last (the sixth! Good on you, Carly!) in the series and CAN be read as a standalone, there are some Easter Eggs that’ll jump out at you if you’ve read the first five. So… I’d say get this, read it, then go back and start at the beginning and read the series the whole way through to catch those Easter Eggs. Why not?

Pick up your copy:
Universal Amazon link
Pre-Order Incentive Bonus Sign Up (Free art print and bookmark)

Nice. Preorders are always good things. And you won’t have to wait TOO long, as this releases on April 25. That’s two weeks! Heck, if you’re a fast reader, you can buy the first five and speed read and be ready for this one to drop. (I wish; how about you?)

And be sure to connect with Carly Spade, too.
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Of course, the best way to thank an author for a book you like is to either tell a friend or buy them a copy. The second best way is to leave a review, and I think leaving fair reviews is always the way to go. If you’re not sure what a fair review is, drop me an email.

But the bestest best way of all? Send your author friends to the Featured New Book Spotlight submission page!

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Not You Again by Patricia Elliott in the Featured New Book Spotlight

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Book CoverLet’s welcoem Patricia Elliott to West of Mars!

Like others, Patricia has come to us from the referral of a friend. See how that works? You give someone the link and they use it and I get to meet someone new and we ALL get to hear about a new book and the music that inspired it. How can you go wrong? You can’t!

Since we can’t go wrong, let’s enjoy by finding out what song makes Patricia Elliott think of her book, Not You Again:

The song that makes me think of my book is Far Away by Nickelback. Devon made the mistake of leaving the only woman that ever captured his heart, but he never stopped thinking about her… never stopped loving her. Now he wants a second chance, but what will she give it to him?

Ahh, Nickleback. Make all the jokes you want, but they are solid. And a little raunchy in spots, if we’re being honest. But that just adds to the fun. (Also, I can’t believe this is the first time in all the years that they’ve shown up in the spotlight. What the heck?)

And can I tell you that I really like second-chance romances? They’re a lot of fun, and maybe it’s because I think we all hold a torch for the one who got away. And I’ll shut up now, lest secrets be revealed. 😉

Onward to the book and its back cover copy:

Emma Praught has everything a woman could wish for: a house, a husband, and a teen daughter who she wouldn’t trade for the world. But when she receives that fateful call, everything falls apart.

Her husband is dead. The life she knew is over. And before she has a chance to make sense of it all, death threats roll in and so does a man from her past. One she never expected to see again.

Devon Matthews, in the stupidity of his youth, broke the heart of the only woman he ever loved. Something he has never gotten over. Now he has a chance to make it up to her by protecting them. And maybe, just maybe, she’ll find it in her heart to forgive him. If he can keep her alive, that is.

Will they make it through this unscathed or will Emma’s stubborn nature make the way difficult for them both?

One way or another, he’s not giving her up this time.

OOF. What a setup, no? What utter loss… I can’t. And then to add in the romantic suspense angle here? Yes. Let’s all grab copies. Here’s a handy Link Tree, for your buying pleasure.

And of course, connect with author Patricia Elliott.
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Remember! The best way to show an appreciation for an author’s book is to recommend it, or buy a copy for a friend. The next best way is to leave a review, something I highly recommend doing (HINT). And next? Give them the link to the Featured New Book Spotlight so they can tell more people about their new book baby.

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Lies of Gold by Jan Selbourne in the Featured New Book Spotlight

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Book Cover

Lies of Gold by Jan Selbourne

Let’s welcome Jan Selbourne to West of Mars!

Jan found us because an author friend pointed her in our direction. Yay, author friend! Yay, Jan for taking a chance on a total stranger! (I am only strange until you get to know me, so welcome to my world.)

Jan’s got a book. It’s a Regency Romance, for those of you who love Regencies (I don’t love them, but like them a lot and will gladly read them, so if you’re in that boat with me, welcome and let’s find out more about this one, shall we?), and it looks like it’s a standalone, for those of you who like those (Me! You?). Standalones are always nice in between all those commitment-demanding series.

So. Jan Selbourne, what song makes you think of your book?

Emotion in music speaks to all of us. The words from Some Enchanted Evening, (musical South Pacific) -‘You may see a stranger across a crowded room. And somehow you know, You know even then, That somewhere you’ll see her again and again,’ was exactly how Julian felt when he set eyes on Katherine in the crowded ballroom. Although my book Lies of Gold is set in Regency England, and Julian and Katherine were forced to part, fate, cloaked in treason and treachery, brings them together again.

South Pacific! An absolute classic!

Jan, tell us what the book’s about!

Their love affair ended in anger and painful consequences. Katherine Ashford has guarded a secret through years of abuse from her husband and now, after his death, from his brother now guardian to her children. Hard living and fighting wars have numbed Julian Ashford, Katherine’s former love. Then, as so often happens, fate steps in. A traitor is smuggling gold across the Channel to Napoleon Bonaparte, and Julian is ordered back to Halton Hall and Katherine, the woman he’s tried for years to forget. It’s her secret and their increasing danger that rekindle the love they once shared. Even when a murder reveals the shocking truth of the gold smuggling, nothing can prepare them for the devastating betrayal that awaits when they finally face the mastermind behind the sordid operation.

Lots going on here… definitely one you’ve got to pick up and read, no?

It’s an Amazon exclusive, so apologies to those of you who don’t buy via Amazon for whatever reason. (They’re all valid!)

And be sure to connect with Jan, too! Being an author can be lonely work. Rewarding, especially when readers leave good reviews (good = well thought-out, focused on the book and its merits and nothing personal to the author; etc. Good doesn’t always mean the number of stars!)
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Remember, as always! The best way to appreciate an author’s book is to recommend it to a friend. The second best way is to leave a review. And the third best? Tell them to come here and take their turn in the spotlight!

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On the Line by Eileen Troemel in the Featured New Book Spotlight

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Mmm. Bare male torso on the cover!

And with that, let’s welcome Eileen Troemel back for a second visit just this fast! Eileen’s got quite the backlist, and she’d like to share them with you. I’m game, so get your book-buying budget set accordingly.

This book is called On the Line, and it’s part of the Everyday Heroes World, which right there is intriguing. I want to know more! Don’t you?

So let’s start with the most important question of all time: Eileen Troemel, what song makes you think of your book?

I love music but I’m horrible at remembering song titles and artist names. So I recently wrote a contemporary romance and there’s a scene where they’re in the bar dancing. I wanted something ROMANTIC – not sexy or new but something where two people shared their feelings and you can really feel it in the song. I’m horrible at songs – as I’ve said – so I turned to my daughters. I got so many suggestions from them. I listened to all of them and it came down to two. As is normal for me, I cannot remember the one I didn’t pick but I waffled. My oldest daughter spoke up and said she suggested the date they were on, so she got to pick. I said true, she did. I think we were all satisfied with the end result. Tim McGraw and Faith Hill duet of Let’s Make Love. It fit the situation and I even had him sing to her.

Woo! That’s how you do it!

(Also, are your daughters old enough for songs like that??? Ehh, sex is healthy, right?)

So. Eileen, what’s the back cover copy? Tell us what the book is about!

Sunnyville offered Allison a return to a happy time in her life after leaving her cheating husband. After the drama of a car accident and the failure of her marriage, she wants nothing but peace and quiet. With the help of her daughters, she’s settled in her new home. She wants to do her job as a 911 operator and live a quiet life.

When his father fell off a ladder and his mother called 911, Chandler didn’t realize how much it would impact his life. One look at Allison and he knew he had to convince her to meet his family. But her ex-husband believes she’s still his. Is Chandler stepping over a line when he uses his computer skills to learn more about her ex?

Ooh, the jealous ex trope!! BRING IT. (Well, no, because no one needs that horror and trauma and just the sheer hassle in their lives and yes, I speak from experience. But for those of you who love it, here it is!)

Grab your copy! You know you want to!
Also, it looks like it’s Amazon exclusive, so know that before you click.

Be sure to connect with Eileen Troemel, too. Connections are what make life interesting and fun.
Website
Twitter
Facebook
Instagram
LinkedIn
MeWe
Goodreads

As always, don’t forget that if you’re an author or have a friend who’s an author, the Featured New Book Spotlight form is open to any author, with any book you’d like to feature. Got a short story in an anthology? I’ve featured those, too! (Apparently, it was a very long time ago, however, and I can’t easily link to one. But I have done it!)

And, of course, be sure to leave a few words of review about the book once you’ve read it. Authors appreciate it and it helps others find their book. Be part of an author’s success! Leave a review!

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Marelo by Eileen Troemel in the Featured New Book Spotlight!

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Book cover for book titled Marelo

The book is called Marelo and it was written by Eileen Troemel

Let’s welcome Eileen Troemel to West of Mars! We were chatting on Twitter and I invited her to stop in… see why it’s always good to chat on social media?

Eileen’s new book is called Marelo, and it sure sounds interesting to me! Let me share with you the hows and whys, and let’s start, of course, with the question of the day: Eileen Troemel, what song makes you think of your new book?

When I write, I listen to classical or non-vocal music. With Marelo, she’s very focused and has a light touch. Gary Stadler Fairy in the Woods album is one that comes to mind as I think about the story. The music is ethereal and that’s how I see the studies Marelo is doing.

I have always loved classical music and lately have been getting into instrumentals to play as I edit, as well, so I understand this impulse! And this song is everything Eileen says it is, so check it out, and then grab a copy of Marelo.

But before we get to the buy links, let’s hear the description!

Marelo studies water dragons. Bandor studies her heart. Driven to succeed, Marelo focuses on her studies. She doesn’t have time for males claiming her as a mate. She came here to study the dragon’s ancestral home. She will find the evidence she needs while avoiding all males especially Bandor who makes her heart rush. Bandor takes one look at Marelo and knows she’s his mate. Her haughty demeaner doesn’t put him off. She’s his mate, he’ll do anything to win her. But he has secrets only his mate can know. Can he convince her to be his mate or will it take something more?

Whoa. There’s a LOT of interesting stuff going on there! And this is categorized as a short read, too, so if you’re in the mood for something quick and (what sounds) lovely, this might be perfect for you!

Pick up your copy here:
Books2Read

And be sure to connect with Eileen Troemel!
Website
Twitter
Facebook
Instagram
LinkedIn
MeWe
Goodreads

And my usual reminders for you all…
* If you read a book, be sure to leave even a few words in a review of it. Reviews help readers find good books — and, of course, they help readers know what to avoid. Do your part! Your opinion matters!
* If you are an author, if you are friends with an author, if you have an author you like but want an excuse to talk to… I don’t care! Send them my way and tell them to fill out the form. I genuinely miss the days when I was posting one of these a week.

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The Betrayer by Hannah Carey in the Featured New Book Spotlight

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Woot! I love it when authors come back to West of Mars to feature their new books, and Hannah Carey’s doing just that today. She’s been here before with The Hunter, and today she’s back with The Betrayer.

(Psst, we’ve missed a few books in between, I think, so you’ve got to go find those. Hear me? Hunt ’em down, buy ’em, read ’em, and leave reviews.)

So. The Betrayer. That’s a rather… ominous title, no?

Hannah Carey, what song makes you think of your book?

There’s a lot of vying-for-the-throne vibes in The Betrayer (and in its companion novel, The Ascendant) and this was a song I found myself listening to on repeat during the writing and editing process, as it felt like it fit for multiple characters. The line of “Someday, they’ll tell my story” particularly resonated, as The Betrayer focuses on the next generation of characters in my Tales of Pern Coen series. Many of the characters are descendants of legends themselves and in The Betrayer, they get to begin carving out their own stories of bravery, sacrifice, and love.

Ooh, I like this song! I shall have to add it to my streaming playlists and keep it once I decide which streamer to stick with.

Okay, I LOVE this song.

So, Hannah Carey, what’s the book about?

Niall never imagined he would become king, nor did he ever imagine that he would be granted the abilities of a seer. His unnatural power, however, has proven to be no great gift, for it has already cost him the woman he loves and it threatens to cost him his kingship. His people already don’t trust him and if they knew of his power, they would view him as nothing more than a monster.

Niall’s future looks grim, but a twist of fate returns Ciara to his life when he least expects it. He latches onto the hope of a different future, only to discover that things have changed while he has hidden away in his castle. When the man Ciara trusted the most disappeared, she turned to his brother, a man she never saw herself falling for.

Bleddyn has shown Ciara that there is more to him than she first thought and she has carved out a life at his side, but things are unsettled on the island of Pern Coen. A dark power is stirring, one that hasn’t been seen in decades. One man is at the center of the growing darkness, but is it the man that Ciara, and the people, think? Is Niall innocent or is he hiding more than just his powerful abilities?

Let me just say that if this seems to be a book about Niall, it’s pretty evenly balanced between him and Ciara. And yet, the book description is dead-on perfect. Weird how that is working out, but you gotta trust I know what I’m talking about on this one.

Pick up your copy!
Amazon

Barnes & Noble

iBooks

Kobo

The Violet Fox Bookshop (Local Indie Bookstore, but does ship)

Ooh, yay! Buy indie, folks! I’m a huge fan of indie bookstores.

And remember, although I’ve said it before: Be sure to leave a few words of review. I’m confident you’ll like this one, but if you’re a hardass like me, be critical. I am probably not the only person who only reads the one- and two-star reviews! And, as always, if you’re struggling to be coherent in your review, I’m here to help.

And, of course, connect with Hannah Carey online. I can vouch for what a prolific reader she is, and she writes great reviews, too.
Facebook
Instagram:
Website

That’s it! Go get it!

But if you need more, and of course you do, submit a Featured New Book Spotlight request yourself. Or send the link to your author friends. I’m not picky, and yes, I’ll post spotlights for authors I’ve never met. Why not? How else are we supposed to meet?

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A Rose By Any Other Name by Alana Lorens in the FNB Spotlight!

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Let’s welcome Alana Lorens back to West of Mars! Woot!

Alana is one of my favorite people and if you catch us at the right moment, you’ll see us chatting on Twitter. Come join the conversation, of course!

But today, the focus is on business, which means Alana Lorens’ new book, A Rose by Any Other Name. If you’re on social media at all, you’ve seen this making the rounds, but only I have the scoop on what song makes Alana think of this new book baby. Ready for the answer? I am!

Marisol and Russell, known as Rusty, dated in high school, but he broke off their relationship to chase the popular homecoming queen. When they get together at their 20-year high school reunion, Rusty is importuned by the committee to reprise his famous interpretation of Pee Wee Herman’s “Tequila” big shoe dance. It may not be as ubiquitous as the Chicken Dance or the Macarena, but it’s definitely a performance number.

HOW CAN YOU NOT WANT TO READ A BOOK THAT WILL MAKE YOU THINK OF THIS SONG???

This might be a new height of perfection.

So.

Ready for the description? I sure am. I mean, after THAT, how can you not be?

Up-and-coming mommyblogger and single mom Marisol Herrera Slade returns to her old hometown in Western Pennsylvania for her 20th high school reunion in 2005, reluctant and yet compelled to see her high school sweetheart, Russell Asher, who dumped her for the homecoming queen.

Russell’s marriage to the golden girl, however, ended in a nasty divorce, and he has been systematically excluded from his sons’ lives. In his Internet wanderings, he’s found a feminist blogger named Jerrika Jones, who glorifies single motherhood, essentially putting a stamp of approval on what’s happened to him. His group of single dad advocates have vowed to take this woman down.

What Russell doesn’t know, when he thinks to rekindle what he had with Marisol, is that Marisol and Jerrika are one and the same. When his group discovers the truth, will their drive for revenge derail any chance the couple have to reunite? Or will they find they have more in common than they ever expected?

Oh, my. Russell, Russell, Russell… Maybe you need better single dad advocates, my man.

Or does he? Gotta read it to see!

Before you grab a copy, check out the book trailer.

Grab your copy:
Kindle

Paperback

B&N

And like I said, feel free to connect with Alana Lorens! She’s fun.
Website
Facebook
Goodreads
Amazon Author Page

Bookbub
Twitter
Instagram

And remember, the best way to say thanks to an author for their hard work is to leave a review. Even a few words, or a bulleted list of what you like is super!
As always, if you’re an author, have a friend who’s an author, or want to help promote a book you love, here’s the link so you or your author friend can step into the spotlight themselves. All are welcome!

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DNA by Katie Zaber in the Featured New Book Spotlight

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I. Love. This. Cover.

The story’s a lot of fun, too. Yeah, I might have prior knowledge of it. And now, today, author Katie Zaber is stopping in to tell you all about her new release, DNA, so you too can have some fun with it.

You want to do this. You do.

Let’s start with the important stuff: Katie Zaber, what song makes you think of your book??

There are two songs that have been running through my head while writing.
Heart of Glass – Crabtree Remix
Alone Time – Lovelytheband

The string instruments in the Heart of Glass remix have this haunting effect. They sound so eerie and beautiful at the same time, just like Evie’s mysterious pregnancy.

Love becomes mistrust and then divorce when she reveals to her husband she’s pregnant, even though he had a vasectomy.

After a heartbreaking divorce, she notices odd things. Things that should never happen. Things that make her think she’s going crazy. Possessions, nightmares, and odd electrical problems make her feel like she’s losing her mind.

Needing time to figure out her life, Evie goes on a road trip where she meets Lucas. Their relationship is almost a pause on normal life. A break from everything Evie has known. Something completely foreign and refreshing as she rebuilds her life while trying to understand what is happening to her and how she became pregnant.

The moment she meets Lucas, it makes me think of the song Alone Time.

She’s unstable but needs something good in her life and someone to enjoy the small moments of happiness with.
And she chooses him.

This Blondie remix? Katie’s not kidding about how haunting it is. I mean, Debbie Harry herself is, and this remix really showcases her voice. WOW.

So. If that hasn’t told you enough about the book–and it’s telling you plenty but not the really good stuff!–then here’s the back cover copy.

It’s weird how every woman reacts differently. How each pregnancy differs.

Mine is definitely unique.

My sense of smell became stronger, picking up the faintest odors, and my stomach was in constant turmoil. Those were the first signs.

And then I started eating. And eating. If I don’t, I get a migraine and people’s faces become blurry. Electronics seem to malfunction in my presence. And the nightmares—they don’t stop.

Something is changing my body. Something that should have never happened.

Something that my husband and I had prevented from happening.

Something people say is miraculous.

The bigger I get, the more frequently I encounter people who become possessed. And the more often I wind up questioning if I am carrying a miracle baby.

The closer I get to the due date, the more I love this child and the more confident I am that I will protect my baby from anything.

Even its fate.

WHEW! Is that too much, or what? I’m telling you, this one is a crazy fun ride. Jump on now, so you can say you were one of the first to do so!

Here’s your buy link. Katie’s Amazon-only, which… well, she knows how I feel about that so I’ll shut up and support her. Because this book is worth supporting and this author is worth supporting and ALL THE SUPPORT FOR KATIE ZABER. (And I am not saying that because she promised me homemade wine. She’s really very talented.)

Connect with Katie Zaber! She might promise YOU homemade wine, too! But if she does, save me a sip?
Website
Goodreads
BookBub
Twitter
Facebook
Instagram

As always, if you’ve read DNA, leave a review! (Yes, I think it’s okay if you leave a one or two-star review, but you won’t want to with this one. I only read one and two-star reviews.) Reviews help books find new readers, so be sure to leave your thoughts. If you’re struggling with how to write a review, reach out and I’m glad to help.

And if you’re an author or know an author, I’d love to host you AND them. It’s okay if we’ve never met; this is how friendships begin, after all! Here’s the link to the handy dandy submission form. I schedule posts on Sundays for the next open Monday.

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More about Effect and Cause

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Graphic of a crossed sword and a pencilWhile we were talking last week about Effect and Cause, I forgot to mention something I’d actually written down so I’d remember!

So here’s the sentence. I changed it from the original, of course. I’m not here to make fun of my clients! However, they do inspire me. Daily.

A flush crept over her cheeks after she leaned back and met his gaze.

See how that’s problematic? We get the result before we’re told what’s happening. And while his gaze can be a delicious thing to end a sentence on, I think in this case that the important detail here isn’t him, but her.

So I’d rewrite it as:
A flush crept over her cheeks, but she leaned back and met his gaze anyway.

Aha. Now there’s some meat in there. She’s embarrassed by something, but not so much that she’s ready to run and hide from him. If anything, she’s owning it. She’s a brave one, our unnamed heroine.

And here’s what I wrote to the author. Yes, this part is verbatim because it’s my words and I liked them so much I wanted to share them with all of you. (Yes, as in why confine my brilliance to just one person?)

Here, you can have the effect happen as part of the whole moment. Doing it this way is super; it makes each moment bigger, fuller. It’s a broader brush stroke instead of making the reader’s brain stop and take in each individual movement.

Or, like I said above, it’s putting some meat on the same set of actions, giving us something that helps bring these people (well, at least her) alive. And that’s what you want: Characters to feel alive. You want the reader to be able to learn more than a simple set of actions; you want to give us some characterization as well.

Holler, as always, if you need help.

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Love, Death, and the Art of Cooking by Linda Griffin in the Featured New Book Spotlight

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Let’s welcome Linda Griffin back to West of Mars! She was just here last March, which means she’s either really prolific or likes us. Or both!

Her new book is called Love, Death, and the Art of Cooking, and how can you NOT love that title? Not only does it flow really well off the tongue, but it’s intriguing as all get out. Let’s learn more about it, shall we?

Linda Griffin, what song makes you think of your book?

“Friends and Lovers” by Gloria Loring and Carl Anderson, because Alyssa wants to be just friends, even though they keep ending up in bed, and Reid wants so much more.

Wow, that’s an oldie.

So what’s the book about? How do Alyssa and Reid handle this familiar (and beloved; it really is one of my faves) trope? Let’s see…

Software engineer Reid Lucas loves to cook and has a history of falling in love with married women. When he leaves his complicated past in Chicago for a job in California, he runs into trouble and must call a virtual stranger to bail him out of jail. Alyssa Knight, a tough street cop waiting for a church annulment from her passive-aggressive husband, is the roommate of the woman Reid calls for help, and she reluctantly provides bail for Reid. He falls for her immediately, and cooking for her is an act of love. She just wants to be friends, but they keep ending up in bed together. When his boss is murdered, Reid is a suspect—or is he the intended target?

YES. Cross-genre stuff happening here, it looks like. Some mystery with your romance, some romance with your mystery. Maybe some romantic suspense entirely?

Gonna have to read it to see… Grab your copy today!
Amazon
B&N
Apple
Bookshop.org

Remember, the best way to say thanks for a good book is to recommend it to others. And one way of doing that is to leave a review. Leave reviews, friends!

And connect with Linda Griffin. Authors are fun people to chat with.
Website
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Cause and Effect, or Effect and Cause?

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Graphic of a crossed sword and a pencil

I’ve been seeing this crop up lately, so let’s talk about how your narrative sequences things: cause and effect, or effect and cause?

Need an example? Here’s one: He turned when he felt…

Now, that seems like it’d work, right? It heightens the drama… He turned! Why did he turn? Well, keep reading and we’ll tell you it’s because he felt (whatever it was that he felt).

But do you see what’s happening here? You have effect and cause, not cause and effect.

Or, in other terms: The character reacts to something before the reader knows what s/he/they are reacting TO. It’s not only a reaction. It can be any motion out there. She walked up the front steps after closing the car door.

As an author working on your first draft, it’s one thing to do this. The first draft, after all, is for figuring out where the story’s going, what’s happening on the page, how the characters are moving (and why)… it’s for learning. This is why I always encourage authors to not be afraid to puke on the page. Get it out, get it down, go back and craft it later.

It’s that later that often becomes a problem. Because it’s one more thing you have to look for, be alert for, know if you have a tendency to do this or not. (Most of us do.)

Go on. Take a look at your work-in-progress. Do you have cause and effect, or do you have effect and cause? And can you think of a time when effect and cause is the better option? I actually can! Don’t rest on your laurels, though. Check your WIP. I bet you’ve got some.

Remember, if you’d like to work with Editor Susan over here, I’m now booked up until November. I’m only taking rush jobs from existing clients; I’m holding up too many careers as it is! And don’t set a bloody presale date until AFTER you’ve gotten your manuscript through the editing stage, just in case your editor is backed up and/or you wind up with unanticipated rewrites.

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Encounter by Alana Lorens in the New Book Spotlight!

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Let’s welcome Alana Lorens back to West of Mars and the spotlight!

By now, Alana’s a veteran, so let’s get right to it. Alana Lorens, what song makes you think of your book, Encounter?

The various characters in ENCOUNTER are disparate, so finding one song to symbolize the entire story is not so easy.

Teo and the lawyers obviously come from an upper-class cut, and they can hardly be able to empathize with the have-not illegals like Inez, running from a bad economy in Mexico, or Davi, who has made it in America, but is still tied down to his Mexican roots.

Jake is perhaps an Everyman, a man who’s struggling to maintain his sobriety on the best of days— and these are not his best days.

Maybe the song that will sum it up the best is Mad World by Michael Andrews (I love the Pentatonix version tho) Each step people take in this story brings them closer to a life-and-death struggle none will ever forget and some will not survive.

Lots of cultural stuff going on here… I like it!

But.. what’s the book about?

Teo Haroun and the other lawyers in his firm look forward in varying degrees to the retreat at the Sherman Ranch in northern New Mexico. The boss has laid down some rules — no phones, no computers, no communication with the outside world — that makes them uneasy. But the corporate team-building exercises are necessary for this firm to survive its inner sniping and turmoil — and to protect the secrets they hold.

Inez Suela and thirty other Mexicans have paid a coyote hundreds of pesos to take them across the border into the United States, where they hope to make a better life. The crowded truck heads north into New Mexico to meet their local driver, the occupants unaware that a freak March snowstorm is waiting in its path.

Jake Patrin, the caretaker of the Ranch, fights demons of his own as he struggles daily with addiction. Working far from the city on the lonely Ranch, hosting those who rent the facility, is his protection and solace. But he’s about to lose the only peace he’s been able to grasp.

Davi Pilar needs to make some fast money to appease a couple of St. Louis loan sharks, so he agrees to pick up a truckload of illegals and take them to St. Louis. He drives to New Mexico, not knowing that Inez, the woman who rejected him years before, is one of those on that truck.

The intersection of these people, the collision of their cultures, the revelation of their secrets—all these things lead to violence, death, and even redemption in their New Mexico ENCOUNTER.

Border issues are hot topics right now, no? This book was originally published in 2014, according to GoodReads, although I don’t know if the version I’m going to link to has been updated to reflect what all we’ve learned in the past six years. And really, we’re talking seven years since the original publication. So hmm…

Pick up your copy and when you leave your review (always leave a review!), let us know.
Amazon
Smashwords (Affiliate link)
Kobo
Apple
B&N

Be sure to connect with Alana Lorens, too!

Alana Lorens has been a published writer for more than forty years, after working as a
pizza maker, a floral designer, a journalist and a family law attorney. Currently a resident of
Asheville, North Carolina, the aging hippie loves her time in the smoky blue mountains. She
writes romance and suspense as Alana Lorens, and sci-fi, fantasy and paranormal mystery as
Lyndi Alexander. One of her novellas, THAT GIRL’S THE ONE I LOVE, is set in the city of
Asheville during the old Bele Chere festival. She lives with her daughter on the autism spectrum,
who is the youngest of her seven children, and she is ruled by two crotchety old cats, and six
kittens of various ages.

Website
https://www.facebook.com/AlanaLorens/” rel=”noopener” target=”_blank”>Facebook Goodreads
Amazon Author Page

As always, send your writer friends — even if that’s yourself! — to me for their own chance to stand in the spotlight. I’d love to host anyone (well, within reason) who’s got a book that’s new to my audience.

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Counting

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Graphic of a crossed sword and a pencilCounting? Like the Count on Sesame Street?

YES.

Here’s the deal, because you know there is one, and you know it’s sticking in my craw and making me cranky.

Increasingly often, I’m running into writer’s groups full of authors who get busy counting the number of times they use a word in a manuscript. And then… they obsess over that number, like they are afraid they are over the magic threshold and if they can’t get under it, their book is going to suck.

“I have used THAT sixty-five times in 60,000 words! Is that too many?”

I alternately want to slap and/or shake these people and wrap my arm around them and say, “Honey. Relax.”

Because you know what? There is no magic number.

Like so much else in the craft of writing, the counting of specific words doesn’t matter (and is potentially a waste of time, even if you run that cute little feature in Word that tells you how many times you’ve used a word and really, how much time does it take and what’s the big whoop, Sooz? The big whoop is the mental space you’re diverting from the actual job at hand). What matters is nuance. How it sounds. How it works on the page. What it brings to the story, how it operates, how it enriches.

See how those are all positive things? Not a negative among them.

That’s because the instant the negative shows up, you’ve overused it. That can be the second time you’ve used it, or it can be the thirty-fifth, or it can be the seventy-second. Or it can be the two hundred and ninth.

It’s about how you use a word. Period. There’s no magic to that; it’s craft. It’s hard work. It’s reading your prose out loud to yourself, or using a text-to-voice program or whatever you need to do in order to let your ear hear what your eye may not see. It’s listening. It’s taking the time to write, rewrite, resculpt, reimagine how to say something if need be.

Stop counting. Start listening.

As always, feel free to drop me a line if you’re struggling. I’m booked up for a few months right now, so you’ll have to wait. But who cares? I’m worth the wait.

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