Tag Archives: Romance Writer’s Association

A little present and a tease….

May 6, 2015 is the official release date of my second novel THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME. Yippie!

Most of you know the Wizard of OZ is one of my favorite books of all time because it is so rich with psychological subtext and family drama, two of my favorite things to read. The title for my book comes from Dorothy’s famous line, spoken at the end of the movie, and I have always felt this statement is true. There really is no other place like your home. Home means warmth, shelter, comfort, safety, acceptance, love and nurturing. My heroine in THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME, Moira Cleary, is at a crossroads in her life and has come home to rest, recover, and reconnect with her beloved family. She has been globetrotting around the world for over 4 years with a traveling symphony, when something happens to question the lifestyle she has made for herself. Coming home provides her with safety and surrounds her with love. Love of her immediate family, and of her best friend, veterinarian Quentin Stapleton.

Here’s a little present from me to you. Hope you enjoy it and are intrigued enough to order your own copy of THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME.

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“Remember when your cousin Tiffany got married in the backyard here?”

Confused, Moira nodded.

Quentin rubbed her bottom lip with the pad of his thumb. “When the Reverend told Cole ‘you can kiss your bride,’ and he swooped her off the ground, spun her around and kissed her silly? Remember what you said?”

“I think I said it was the most romantic thing I’d ever seen.”

He nodded. “The exact quote was, ‘I hope someone kisses me like that some day.’”

Her grin was quick at the memory. “Pat snorted and said I’d better be satisfied with licks from the horses and Rob Roy because no guy was ever gonna kiss me.”

“He wasn’t known for tact back then.” He rubbed a hand down her back as he held her. “Remember what happened later on behind the barn?”

Because she did, she couldn’t stop the heat from spreading up her face like wildfire. When she nodded again, he said, “You wanted to know what it felt like to be kissed like that and since I was your best friend, you thought I should be the one to do it, because you – quote – felt safe with me – unquote.”

“What was I? Eleven?”

“Thirteen. And I was more than willing. Almost broke my heart in two when you said afterward, ‘I don’t see what all the fuss is about.’”

“Q—”

“Hush.” He kissed her forehead. “Ever since that day, all I’ve wanted is a second chance. Now,” he pulled her body closer, wrapped both arms around her small waist, his hands resting just above the dent in her spine. “We’re both a little older, a little more mature. Some of us are much more experienced—”

“And conceited.”

“Experienced,” he said, the laugh in his voice quiet and seductive, “and things can be so much better.”

 

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Why we should support each other as Writers….

One of my lovely, talented and fun-to-be-around NHRWA member chapter-mates just found out she is a finalist in the RWA GoldenHeart Contest. For those of you who don’t know what this means, listen up. The Golden Hearts awards are given to extremely talented and deserving romance writers who have not had a book-length romance published as of yet. It’s like the Golden Globes awards are to the Oscars. In romance, the Oscars are the annual RITA awards. So when my chapter-mate’s name was announced the other day, everyone who knows her was instantly thrilled for her, including all of us who belong to the New Hampshire chapter. Prestige, honor and open doors in the publishing world all accompany this nomination and, subsequent win. She – and we – will find out the winners at the annual RWA conference in July in NYC. It proves to be a truly memorable event.

Her nomination/finalist state and our happiness for her got me to thinking. Writers of romance are truly the most convivial and supportive group of humans I have ever met. We applaud each other’s successes, understand the emotional toils  the non-successes ( I don’t like the word failure) take on our souls, and we cheer each other on through the often grueling process of creating love on the page.

Romance writers are a rare breed. And I am so thankful they/we are.

Competition many times fosters a sense of isolation and removal from the group of people you are competing against. The goal is to win it all, many times at whatever cost. Friendships are lost and destroyed all just to grab that proverbial golden ring.

Not so with romance writers. Yes, we compete against one another in the basic sense because we all want to get our book published and into the hands of readers. But for every NYT bestseller and USA list out there where a romance writer makes it to the top, the rest of us know we can make it there, too. The trail blazers like Nora Roberts, Beatrice Small, and Kathleen Woodiwiss have made what we write relevant to the masses and  a force to be reckoned with in the sales division. We literally stand on their writing shoulders and are lifted up by their triumphs to gain success for ourselves. The better they do, the better we do.

So. I congratulate my writing friend with all sincerity and love. She is truly deserving of the nomination AND the win. When we are all in NYC in July I will be among the other 2,000 or so attendees who will be standing and applauding her victory, for her victory is also ours and we are better for knowing her.

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Filed under Author, Contemporary Romance, female friends, NHRWA, Romance, Romance Books, RWA, Strong Women

I love a challenge…

I love a challenge. There’s just something about committing to it, planning for it, and then executing it.  The ultimate goal – completing the challenge – is a high like none other. I’ve done 2 half marathons and the only goal I had with the first was to finish it upright and not on an ambulance stretcher. The second marathon had the same primary goal – run across the finish line – but I’d vowed to shave some considerable time off of my finish. And I did.

And I love a writing challenge most of all.

My local RWA chapter has a writing challenge every summer. You pledge to write every day, no matter what, for a week at a time. Every day you enter your word count for that day and it is totaled at the end of the week. The prize: accomplishing your goal. No trophies, cash prizes, or fabulous trips abroad ( although, wouldn’t that be nice?!) No, just the internal knowledge that you set out to do something and you did.

I’m a huge lover of NANOWRIMO. I’ve done it for the past several years and to me this is the ultimate test of your writing commitment. In order to “win” you must complete 50,000 words of your WIP from 11/1 until 11/30. You track daily and at the end of the month you must have a minimum of 50,00 words committed. This is a wonderful way of getting that first draft on the page.

Currently, RWA is having a writing challenge. You promise to write 2000 words each month in your WIP and then enter the actual word count at the end of the month on the RWA site. This is another motivator to get those fingers flying across the keyboard and unleash your imagination. And I can do 2000 in one sitting, never mind an entire month so this will be not only a fun challenge for me, but a relatively facile one as well.

So, what motivates you? Do you like a challenge? Does the idea of throwing down the gauntlet and committing yourself to a worthy ambition appeal to you? Do you need that proverbial kick in the a** to get you started? If so, CHALLENGE yourself.

 

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An interview and an Anniversary with author Susan A. Wall

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Fellow NHRWA member, Susan A. Wall is visiting me today, talking about the one year anniversary of her third Puget Sound book, The Sound of Suspicion. Susan is a multi-published author, the number 1 Bon Jovi fan, and one of the greatest cheerleaders I know for fellow authors.  Stick around after you read the interview: Susan is doing a giveaway. It’s an honor and privilege to host her today.

 

Susan, it’s the 1 year anniversary of the publication of your third PUGET SOUND book The Sound of Suspicion. First of all, congratulations! Tell us why you are so drawn to this setting. What does Puget Sound – itself – mean to you as a woman and as an author?

For our third wedding anniversary, my husband took me to Seattle (he’s from eastern Washington). I instantly fell in love with the city, the water, the mountains, all the green (they call it the Emerald City for a reason), the casual nature of the people. I knew someday we would live there and we did for a year (2003-2004). We plan to move back after the kids are all grown up.

We met your Hero and Heroine for the first time in book 1, The Sound of Consequence. Why did you decide to continue telling their story in book 3?

When I wrote the first book, I knew then it would be a three book story for Owen and Stacie because each of their pasts are so complex and have had such a tremendous impact on the people they are. At that point, it was only going to be a three book series, but then I fell in love with Jenny, Bryan, and Morgan and knew the world needed to hear their stories as well. Right now the series is mapped out to include 9 stories because those secondary characters keep wanting to be the center of attention. So we will be seeing Owen and Stacie again in the fifth book, The Sound of Circumstance, out later this year – that story finally gives Stacie closure on her past.

The title of your book, The Sound of Suspicion, informs the reader right away issues of trust are coming their way. Owen and Stacie both seem to have this problem with trust in spades. How did you decide how each character would handle their issues? Did any personal past experiences guide you in how they dealt with their concerns?

How did I decide? Haha. You’re funny, Peggy. My stories are very character driven and the characters like to control the outcome from the get-go. I like to write strong women because that is the kind of woman I am and I have so many strong women in my life. But even the strongest woman faces challenges. Stacie is mature and responsible, but with the traumatic brain injury, she’s lost some of that and it makes her very interesting, but her strength still shines even in the worst situations. She is exactly the kind of woman Owen needs to help him get through his ex-wife’s manipulations.

You are an extremely prolific writer. Tell us a little about your process. Do you write every day? Do you have a certain word count that needs to be completed before you are satisfied and call it a day?

Thanks. I write in layers, so when I sit down to write a book, I write fast and furious and generally have word count goals each day. Drafting is my favorite part of the process, which is probably why I do it so quickly. Once the book is drafted, I go back to add details such as setting, physical details of the characters, the five senses, etc. This part of the process takes longer than drafting. Then I go into editing mode and polish (obsess) until I’m happy with the story. Once I’m happy, I ship it off to my editor and deal with the self-doubt that plagues every writer. Fortunately, my editor is as good at stroking my ego as she is at finding holes in my plots. I generally write every day, but sometimes I get into a slump and you can tell when that is because I’m antsy and irritable. Writing makes me happy and easier to live with.

You are a big NANOWRIMO fan and participant. Did the Sound of Suspicion start as a NANOWRIMO production?

I LOVE NANOWRIMO, the challenge of hitting word count goals every day, how quickly the story comes together. I’ve participated and won four years in a row, but The Sound of Suspicion was written before I started doing NANOWRIMO. Owen and Stacie’s next story, The Sound of Circumstance was my 2nd Nano book and I wrote it in 12 days (really, the book wrote itself). The sixth book in the series is my 3rd Nano novel. I plan to have that book out this year too! 

I know you are a big music fan, Hallahhh! Bon Jovi!! Did any music inspire you while writing The Sound of Suspicion? What do you usually listen to while writing?

With every book I write, I create a playlist. Certain lyrics grab me and just speak to the story and the characters. There are 30 songs on my “Suspicion” playlist. A few of them are: You Save Me by Kenny Chesney; You Had Me From Hello by Bon Jovi, Hard to Love by Lee Brice, Every Road Leads Home to You by Richie Sambora, Your Arms Feel Like Home by 3 Doors Down, Glitter In the Air by P!nk, Undo It by Carrie Underwood, Phantoms In the Night by Blabpipe.

Not only are you a prolific writer, you also do all your own graphics and designs on your books – which, BTW, are great! How much time do you devote to the covers and designs of your books, and how do you KNOW when you’ve got it just right?

Thanks. I’m fortunate that my background in instructional design has helped me develop graphic design skills. I spend a tremendous amount of time on covers because I tend to be a perfectionist and a bit obsessive. I send it out for people to give feedback and when I can just sit there and not find anything to nitpick, then I know it’s right. I love doing my own covers because it is such an intimate connection to the story and the characters.

What’s next writing/publication-wise for you? What are you working on?

I plan to publish books 5 and 6 in my Puget Sound ~ Alive With Love series this year (The Sound of Circumstance, which is Stacie and Owen’s final story and The Sound of Reluctance, Holly and Keith’s (Stacie’s brother) story). They are both drafted, so just need to go through the revision and editing process. I’m also polishing a women’s fiction story titled Too Many Daughters (my first Nanowrimo novel) and hope to pitch to an agent at the RWA National Conference in July. And, I’m writing Worth the Fight, the next story in my Fighting Back For Love series – those books will be on sale Feb 3- 5 to recognize World Cancer Day.

I love quick fire rounds, so here’s yours. One word answers ( if you can):

Favorite color: purple

Favorite band: Bon Jovi

Favorite character in literature – not your own!: Colleen O’Rourke (Kristan Higgins)

Best date night location: Pub

Boxers or briefs: boxers

Sweet or salty: Salty

Favorite word: Wicked

Least favorite word: die

Chocolate or vanilla: Chocolate

Patriots or Seahawks: Seahawks

Best song ever written: The Star Spangled Banner

Susan is doing a Goodreads giveaway. Here’s the link for those interested:

https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/124533-the-sound-of-suspicion

Following is a complete list of places you can find Susan’s work and visit with her. Stop by and send her some love!

The Sound of Suspicion (free at Amazon Jan 30 – Feb 3) http://www.amazon.com/Sound-Suspicion-Puget-Alive-Love-ebook/dp/B00I56PSLW

Website (and blog): www.susanannwall.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/susanannwall.author

Twitter: (@susanannwall) https://twitter.com/susanannwall

Tsu: www.tsu.co/authorsusanannwall

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/susanannwall/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/susanannwall

Relay for Love and A Flame Burns Inside will be $.99 Feb 3 – 5 to recognize World Cancer Day (Feb 4).

Here are the Amazon links (they are available at other ebook retailers too):

http://www.amazon.com/Relay-Love-Fighting-Back-Book-ebook/dp/B00ICVK7JS

http://www.amazon.com/Flame-Burns-Inside-Fighting-Back-ebook/dp/B00ID7XNC4

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just one piece of advice…

During an interview recently – and I can’t tell you how much I LOVELOVELOVE saying I was “interviewed!” – I was asked about the one piece of writing advice that has stuck with me and gotten me through publishing hurdles, humps and heartbreak. It was actually difficult to come up with just that one exclusive iota of writing  wisdom that has resonated with me.

My first thought is the one I received from a literary agent many moons ago which I’ve written about before. Although this agent didn’t accept me as a client, she wrote a handwritten note at the bottom of her letter (this was pre-email, folks) stating, “…you are an excellent writer and I have no doubt I will be reading your published works one day soon. It only takes one “yes” to make a difference in your writing career…” I have never forgotten those words.

Another piece of writing advice that comes to mind is when I heard Nora Roberts speak at the National RWA conference in 2014. She was asked how she can be so prolific a writer and what was her secret. She replied, “Put your butt in the chair, your fingers over the keyboard and write. That’s it and that’s all.”  Butt in seat, fingers on keyboard, write. Can it be any simpler than this?

I would guess the piece of writing advice I’ve learned to repeat daily to myself, is actually one I gave myself  many years ago and had nothing to do with writing at the time I came up with it. I call it THE TAO OF NGUNGI ( pronounced na-goo-na-guy). It means, NEVER GIVE UP AND NEVER GIVE IN. I was going through a difficult period of my life and the days ahead looked bleak and scary. But when I started saying this to myself, it resonated loudly and I was able to get through the period relatively emotionally unscathed.

Now, when I want to have a writing pity party for myself, I repeat the phrase as many times as I need to in order to dig myself out of my depressing black hole. By practicing the TAO Of NGUNGI, I have pushed onwards all this years and finally have a publishing contract.

Never Give up and Never give in. One piece of really good advice – for life and for writing.

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What motivates you to keep writing?

NaNoWriMo2014 is over and I was lucky enough to reach the goal of 50,000 words early this year, due to a kick-ass and thorough plot line/outline and the ability to devote time to it every single day. I’m not done with the story yet, not by a yardstick. This challenge is a huge motivator for me to keep on writing after November 30th rolls around. The fact I’ve been able to keep the writing momentum up and sailing is a major reason why I’m so far along in my w.i.p.

With the holidays just next door, this ability to devote so much time every day to writing may – out of necessity – take a back seat. I don’t want it to, and I’m planning on it not, but life does intervene. It’s difficult for anyone, whether they’re writing, or training for a marathon, to keep the momentum at such a high level. So this got me to thinking: How do you stay motivated to keep on writing? What, exactly, motivates you to continue?

For me, the story and the characters won’t leave me alone until I commit them and their antics down on the page. This is the truth: I get woken up from a deep sleep many nights by storylines and characters intruding on my slumber. They want their stories known. Now, before you start to think I suffer from delusions or latent schizophrenia, hear me out.

When my mind rests ( as in sleep ) my characters come out to play in my dreams. They say exactly what they want to say, do exactly what they want to do, and basically tell me what I should be writing about them.

Okay. So maybe it does sound a little delusional and schizophrenic.

What can I say?

Anyway. These characters and their stories inspire me to put their lives down on paper.

And there are a lot of them hanging out in the backroom, tiny recesses of my mind. They will not leave me alone and get out of my head until they are locked into my laptop, so I have to give them a platform. This kind of sounds like a Stephen King plot line: irate characters torment fiction writer until they literally pop-out on the page!

You know…..

So, for me it’s the characters and their desires to be freed from the confines of my imagination.

What motivates you to keep writing? What will be your driving force to keep the momentum going  after NaNoWriMo 2014 is but a memory?

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No, it doesn’t take a village; it takes a …..library

 

There’s an old adage in surgery that goes “you see one, you do, you teach one.” Hey, why do you think they call it the “Practice of medicine?” Why am I telling you this medical saying when I usually blog about writing? I’m glad you asked.

No one can actually teach you how to write. You either have the innate, God-give talent, the desire to create pictures with words on the page, the all consuming need to tell your stories, intrinsically. It must be a part of your makeup, your creative DNA, so to speak. No, the talent of writing can’t be taught.

But you can learn the mechanics.

I’m a much better writer today than I was even yesterday ( and the years before) because of books and manuals I’ve studied which have helped and foster my ability to write.

I’ll admit I’m not the best speller in the world, sometimes my tenses get mixed up and I often tell you more than I show you in my stories.

But…

All those things can be taught, improved upon, and ultimately make you a better conveyor of the stories you need to tell.

I’ve listed some of my all time favorite manuals/books here; the ones that I’ve devoured and have helped me become a better writer, and which have helped me find the road to publication a little easier. If publication is your goal, you will not get past the very first reader/agent/editor, if your craft is shoddy and unpolished. Your work must be clean, mistake-free, and tell the reader/agent/editor that you are a writing force to be reckoned with.

Even the best and most prolific writers in the world need a refresher course every now and again.

Here’s my list. See if some of yours are on it. And let me now your favorites if you don’t them listed here.

G.G.C. Goal, Motivation and Conflict  by Debra Dixon

The Emotion Thesaurus, by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

Writing the Synopsis by Pam McCutcheon

Show, Don’t Tell by William Noble

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How do you “see” your characters?

My friend was sitting in my writing lair the other day and happened to see a bunch of index cards with color photographs of various head shots with written descriptions next to them. She asked me what they were. I admitted they were my cheater cards for characters. When she gave me that quizzical look we as writers can all describe: brown furrowed, a subtle squint in the corners of the eyes, I explained these were what I envisioned my characters in my current WIP looked like. I like having an actual picture to work from than simply a written description.

How do you see your characters? Are you like me and you need a visual prompt? Or can you simply see the person in your mind and bring them to life on the page?

Up until a few years ago I tried to paint the picture of what my peeps looked like in my head and then transfer it to the written word. The problem I encountered was I needed to keep going back to the original description if I mentioned eye or hair color again, because I would invariably forget how I described them. I got the idea to start using photographs of celebrities, or people I’d see in print ads, one day when the person I wanted to describe looked exactly like a very famous actor. I figured as long as I didn’t state he was dead ringer for my character, but describe his attributes instead, I would be okay.

And I was.

I printed out a picture from an on-line site and then went on to describe his features, including height, approximate weight and body type. From that moment on, whenever I needed to refer to a characteristic again, all I needed to do was look at my picture.

Then I had a divine inspiration: I not only printed the picture, I pasted it to an index card and then physically wrote down every description of the character I might need. Body type, weight, height, any physical ticks or quirks, eye color, hair color. For men, if they would typically sprout a five o’clock shadow by, say, 3 pm., I’d add it. If their chests were hairy, matted, or smooth got included so during the love scenes I wouldn’t have mistakenly “shaved” a guy with hair and made him smooth to the touch.

For the women, waist and bust size along with shapeliness or a lack of it was documented. Were their smiles full, sexy or sardonic?

You may ask isn’t this a bit much to fit all on an index card? No, it’s not.

This system has worked so well for me, I haven’t had a mistaken blue eye substituted for a brown one in years.

However you envision them, however you remember their attributes, whatever works for you is fine.

This is the easiest way for my rapidly deteriorating menopausal memory to deal with information that needs to be repeated.

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Christmas is coming and you know what THAT means, don’tcha?

With the holiday season approaching in a ridiculously fast manner, there are a ton of new romance books out with Christmas themes. Books about Christmas brides, Christmas babies, Christmas engagements, even Christmas cowboys ( Yowza!) It got me thinking about why this time of year has such a plethora of romance-related reading material popping up.

Christmas is a time of rebirth, of joy, of giving thanks for the blessings in your life, and ultimately for celebrating Jesus’s birth – remember folks: Jesus is the reason for the season. It makes some kind of sense then that the Christmas baby book bonanza for romance novels is such a widely loved trope. An unexpected surprise is delivered on a doorstop one Christmas morning : a baby. A women who never thought she’d have a child suddenly finds she’s now the “mother” to a slew of nieces and nephews whose parents have been killed, or who have abandoned them. A Christmas miracle happens and a women becomes pregnant when up to this time she hasn’t been able.

Such are the themes of Christmas baby books.

The Christmas bride books are also a popular sell. I will admit this since most people know it already, but I got married the day after Christmas. A few distant relatives and some friends found this date horrific and chose not to attend my wedding due to obligations elsewhere. That was fine with me. I chose this date for a number of reasons which I won’t go into. But it turned out to be a great date for several reasons: 1. All of both our families were together celebrating the holidays; 2. I always pictured a winter wedding, complete with snow and Christmas finery; 3. The Church was already decked out for Christmas – so I didn’t have to pay extra for flowers and decorations ( I’m no dummy, folks, when it comes to saving money), and 4. I knew it was a date my husband wasn’t likely to ever forget was our anniversary.

Getting engaged on Christmas is the second date only to Valentine’s Day where the question is popped. Truly, is there a better present than an engagement ring, all new and sparkly and put on your finger by the guy you want to spend forever with?? I think not.

So, with the holiday rush beginning now that Halloween is but a memory, you will see a large number of new releases on the shelves ( both store and Kindle) with holiday themed covers and stories. I suggest you buy a few that hit your fancy because – trust me – they all have happily ever after endings ( something we all desire ) and they will all make you feel just a little happier during the holiday season.

A few of my favorite new Christmas themed releases this year:

Christmas in Cupid Falls, By Holly Jacobs

A Cowboy’s Christmas Promise, by Maggie McGinnes

The Twelve Brides of Christmas, from The Wild Rose Press

Merry Christmas Baby, by Jill Shalvis

 

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Filed under Author, Characters, Contemporary Romance, Editors, Family Saga, MacQuire Women, NHRWA, Romance, Romance Books, RWA, Strong Women

Finding the funny…

There are times when I wonder why I can’t write as fast as I can think, and others when I wish I was a funnier writer.

I’m considered a wise-ass by most people who know me, and I won’t deny that descriptor at all. I can be bitingly sarcastic – but never cruel – and I’ve been known to make grown women  leave a dinner table and head for the ladies room just so they won’t pee in their pants from laughing.

I can be quick, biting, snarky, and sometimes guffaw-able, in real life.

But on the page, I die to find the funny.

Most humor is based on tragedy, or so the saying goes. Most of my humor is found in dumbass situations that happen everyday in my life. The Lucille Ball moments we all have at one time or another.

But when I’ve got characters I want to invest a little humor in, I’m lost.

Most of us know at least one person, an uncle, a friend, even a co-worker, who can take any situation and see the humor in it enough to make everyone around them laugh. These people are usually the “best-friends” in novels, like the Rosie O’Donnell character in Sleepless in Seattle. Always ready with a witticism – usually spot on and deadly – about whatever is occurring in the scene at hand. These characters lighten the mood, add realism to the situations in the book, and generally are well liked by readers.

Why, oh why, then, can I not write that person??

I’ve tried; believe me. The humor I’ve given my peeps sounds flat on the page and not funny at all. Writers like Jill Shalvis and Janet Evanovich can make me laugh out loud when I’m reading their work. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed at anything I’ve tried to write as funny.

I think it was famed actor Edmund Kean who said, “Dying (Tragedy) is easy; comedy is hard.”

Yup. Truth.

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