Book Village               Lately, I’ve been thinking about expectations. What do I expect from myself, and what do others expect from me? These two are not always the same, and can be a large cause of the stress in our lives.

The question I ask myself is, “Who’s expectations am I trying to fill?”  Am I doing something because I really want to, or am I trying not to let friends or family down? The answer isn’t easy because we take on the view other people have of us.

For instance, a pretty or handsome child is sure to be confident and popular. Won’t they? And the not-so-attractive, overweight girl will naturally be a book worm and smart. Oh, and she must have glasses.

Yes, we need these stereotypes in our lives. Humans’ brains are wired to categorize. But must we live up to those expectations? Shouldn’t we spend a little time deciding who we are, and what is right for us?

I’ve been wondering what expectations my characters are trying to live up to. In my current book, Highland Yearning, my hero is seen as responsible. But does he really want to be that way, or does he yearn to do something out of character – for once?

What do the people around your characters expect from them? Does your hero try to be what others want him to be, or is he a bad boy that refuses to let expectations rule. The irony here is that the people around him may be perpetuating his misbehavior, because that’s the way they see him.

I’d love to hear about the expectations in your life, or the lives of your characters.

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It’s Not You, It’s Your Writing – How to Not Take Critiques Personally – by Dorlana Vann

I have observed some really upset writers after they’ve received written or verbal suggestions about their stories. And I think most writers at least wince (I know I do) when they receive a lot of edits. But you can actually learn to see these as gifts, huge favors, and even unexpected muses instead of personal attacks on you and/or your writing. I’ve used a few famous quotes to help demonstrate my views on how to develop thicker skin by looking at them in a different light.

“The first draft of anything is shit.” ― Ernest Hemingway

I would like to add to this – The second draft is readable. The third draft is better but not perfect. So negative feedback is positive. You want your novel/chapter to come back from your critique partner completely marked up. However, the first reaction to getting your pages back that looks like someone rewrote your story might be either, “I should have caught this; I’m a horrible writer.” or “This is bull. They don’t know what they’re talking about.” These responses are normal, and you’ll probably never be able to completely shut them off. Give yourself that second to pout, but then you have to get over it – you’ve been given a gift that you could never give yourself – another person’s perspective.

“Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.” ― Neil Gaiman

After you’ve read over the critique and are finished cursing, think about any notes as a whole. Mull them over. Do you agree with them?

Yes – Awesome. Do the necessary tweaks.

No? Whatever you do, never completely dismiss a suggestion. If something takes the reader out of the story – makes them stop reading to write a note – then something is wrong.

“In writing, you must kill all your darlings.” ― William Faulkner

You still don’t agree? You might be too close to your story (your baby) to be objective. Ask someone else. If they agree with the critiquer, you really have to consider deleting/changing it. This might take some time. But just keep an open mind, think about it, talk it out, and struggle with it a little bit. You might be surprised with the outcome.

If others agree with you, the critique could still be useful. Turn it into your muse, an idea for a new direction, or fill in a gap somewhere else. On one occasion, I didn’t agree with what a writer friend said about my character’s career choice. I asked several other people, and they agreed with me. But then after weeks of trying to figure out why she thought this way, I decided that my friend’s opinion would work great as the character’s father’s opinion on the same subject. This set a lot of other changes in motion too, which gave my story more depth.

 Furthermore …

Learn From Your Mistakes: (This is more for the grammar side.) If you don’t know why a critiquer/editor changed something, even something as small as a comma, ask them why they changed it, or, better yet, look it up. And guess what? Sometimes even the grammar pros make mistakes. It is really important that you take control of your story by getting involved in every aspect of your craft. Every correction is a chance to learn. And things are constantly changing, so you might have missed something.

Always Say Thank You: Thank your critiquer as soon as you receive your critique – no matter how crazy you think they are. You asked for the critique, and they used their time (The more marked up the copy the more time they took.) to do you a favor.  And if they are a writer, you can always get them back when it’s your turn to critique. Mwah ha ha!

Love and Laughter,


snowmen banner sept 18

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Sentence Structure and Punctuation

Hi, everyone. Today, I’d like to discuss proper sentence construction and punctuation. Pretty boring, right? But, it’s also a very important skill to have, whether you’re an author, a businessperson, or both.  So, I’ll briefly go over what makes up a sentence, common errors in punctuation, and how to easily correct them.

What is a Sentence?

  • A sentence is a group of words which expresses a complete thought.
  • It contains a subject and a verb.

Two common errors are Comma Splices and Run-on Sentences.

To understand how to correct Comma Splices and Run-on Sentences, you must first be able to recognize a Clause.


No, not that clause.

  • An Independent Clause, which is the main clause of a sentence.  It can stand alone as a complete sentence. It makes sense by itself, and therefore expresses a complete thought.
  • A Comma Splice is the use of a comma to incorrectly join two independent clauses, without the proper conjunction.
  • A Run-On sentence is where two or more independent clauses are joined without the appropriate punctuation or conjunction.

To reiterate: A Comma Splice uses only a comma to join the independent clauses. The Run-On Sentence uses no punctuation at all.

They are both incorrect. I will talk about how to correct them a little bit later.

There Are Four Sentence Types

A Declarative Sentence: States a fact and ends with a period;

An Imperative Sentence: A command or a polite request. It ends with an exclamation mark or a period;

An Interrogative Sentence: Asks a question and ends with a question mark, and

An Exclamatory Sentence: Expresses excitement or emotion. It ends with an exclamation mark.

Now We’ll Break Down Our Sentence Components.

  • A Simple Sentence has ‘one’ independent clause and no dependent clauses.

Example: -“I enjoyed the movie last night.”

“I” is the subject – “enjoyed’ is the verb.

  • A Dependent Clause is a group of words with a subject and a verb. But it does ‘not’ express a complete thought, so it is not a sentence and it cannot stand-alone. It is Dependent on the Independent Clause to complete the sentence.

To refresh, earlier I talked about an Independent Clause, which can stand alone as a complete sentence. It makes sense by itself, and therefore expresses a complete thought.

A Dependent Clause on the other hand, does ‘not’ express a complete thought.  It is not a sentence, and it cannot stand-alone.

  • A Compound Sentence has at least two independent clauses joined by a comma, semicolon, or a conjunction.

Example: I am counting my calories, yet I really want that dessert.

Fan Boy
We all know what a conjunction is, but here’s a quick refresher.

A Conjunction is the glue that holds words together.

A little hint…FANBOYS. For; And; Nor; But; Or; Yet; or So.

A comma is used to separate two independent clauses connected by a coordinating conjunction.

A Complex Sentence
contains one independent clause and at least one dependent clause.

Example: While she appreciated the tasty lobster in garlic sauce, Cheryl thought the real highlight of the meal was the garlic-mashed potatoes.

  • Compound-Complex sentence contains multiple independent clauses and at least one dependent clause.

Example: Although I like books, I do not like romance novels, but my daughter loves them.
HeartThe phrase “Although I like books” forms an introductory clause, a type of dependent clause that does not complete a thought.

A comma is needed to offset the introductory clause. The phrase “I do not like romance novels,” makes up the independent clause, a clause that completes a full thought and gives a complete sentence.

The compound structure of this sentence stems from combining the independent clauses “I do not like romance novels” and “my daughter loves them” with the coordinating conjunction “but.”

How To Correct Comma Splices and Run-on Sentences?


  • You can join two independent clauses with a semicolon. I wouldn’t construct a lot of sentence this way, however, because it stands out, and you want your sentences to flow. But it can be used on occasion, with care.

Example: Cheryl reads romance novels; her husband reads muscle car magazines.

  • Better, would be to break out each independent clause into a separate sentence.

For Example: Cheryl reads romance novels. Her husband reads muscle car magazines.

  • Or, make one of the independent clauses a dependent clause.

Example – While Cheryl reads romance novels, her husband reads muscle car magazines.

  • Alternatively, you could connect two independent clauses with a comma, plus a coordinating conjunction.

Example – Cheryl reads romance novels, but her husband reads muscle car magazines.

While it’s not mandatory that you recognize all of these sentence types; it can be very useful to understand your options and know how to construct your sentences.

Many times, sentences may sound clunky and awkward. If you take a closer look you may find that your sentence contains incorrectly connected dependent and independent clauses.

Break out clunky sentences into separate sentences – if they are independent clauses. Or, make sure you have dependent and independent clauses joined correctly with the proper punctuation and conjunction.

Or, reversely, for more sophisticated writing, you can take a few simple sentences and combine them into a compound or complex sentence, adding a dependent clause for variety.

You don’t want all of your sentences to look alike…mix it.Sentence

I hope this little refresher has helped you become more familiar with sentence construction, using proper punctuation and conjunctions when connecting clauses, for creating seamless and beautiful sentences.


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Letting Go of Fear

Letting Go of Fear


  Figure 1: Flying down from 5,600 feet.            Figure 2: On solid ground.

Imagine this: you’re engrossed in a fabulous book, consumed with the characters and the plot. You have to keep reading to find out what happens next. Suddenly, you sense a slight tingle on your forearm. Glancing at your arm, you notice an unnaturally large spider crawling across your skin. How would you react? If you remain calm and continue reading, you’re likely in the minority. Fear is instinctive, but is also a behaviour that is learned.

Like most children, you may have feared many things while growing up: dark places, strangers, and learning to ride a bike. As you matured, your fears probably changed to reflect milestones in your life: a job interview, a first date, getting a driver’s license, to name a few. Perhaps you questioned your abilities and felt inadequate. Too easily, self-doubt can become the devil on your shoulder. Grown-ups often lose sight of overcoming fears, unlike children. Do you remember receiving your first bicycle and watching in horrified fascination as your parents unscrewed the training wheels? Somehow, you made the decision to get on the bike. Your desire to try something new overrode the part of your mind that warned Hold on a minute, this might be scary. It’s interesting how closely related fear and excitement are. If you can push through your fear you’ll often discover a surge of joy and a certitude that the risk was worth it.

Increasingly, adulthood becomes defined by correct behaviour and rules. Many adults generally avoid taking risks in favor of what is expected of them. Risk involves change and change is layered with stress that occurs when things are uncertain. But wait a minute. You got on that bike, don’t forget. And you managed to get through your first date and survive. Give yourself some credit. It’s never too late to rediscover joy through new experiences. When was the last time you took a risk?

I was once a child filled with fears of every sort, most notably aerophobia (fear of flying) and acrophobia (fear of heights). But if there was one aspect of my personality that was often misunderstood, or perhaps, underestimated, it was my courage. I have never let fear prevent me from trying new things. I got over my fear of flying simply because my desire to travel outweighed my trepidation in climbing into an airplane. Despite my concerns and doubts, I recently achieved some long-held dreams, including a humanitarian trip to Africa and securing a publishing contract for my first novel. Perhaps surprisingly to my relatives, I also made the decision to jump off a mountain (albeit while attached to a hang-glider). The act of stepping away from terra firma is indescribable: weightlessness rushed through my body providing me with the closest experience I would ever have of what it must be like to soar as free as a bird. I chose not to reflect on what might happen if the hang-glider didn’t catch any updrafts, or if my harness wasn’t attached properly. These risks were definitely worth it for me. And like most people I know, I continue to live with fears of every sort (spiders for sure). But I practice constructive self-talk, reminding myself to power beyond the what if’s.

Another way to view this mindset is thinking about the construction of novels. Great books tell great stories, but they would never get off the ground without complicated, flawed, yet believable  characters. Readers tend to root for the heroines that take risks, despite their fear of danger. Keep going, Press on. Don’t turn around. We all want to see the woman get her happily ever after, with a little drama along the way of course. But who would applaud the heroine who sits back, crying her despair as her hero drifts away? No, we want her to get off her chair, throw on some lipstick and charge after her love.

So, like our favorite heroines, we need to embrace the concept that life is to be lived. If I can fly in a plane, jump off mountains and tolerate spiders, and if Scarlett can sew a dress from curtains, then you can face your own fears too. I encourage you to confront your fears and try something that you have always wanted to do. Start by making a plan of what it is that you desire. Then list the steps you need to complete before reaching your goal. Are there specific people who might help you take action? Write down their names and get in touch with them.

Your goal can involve dangerous activities and far-away adventures but it doesn’t have to be prohibitively expensive or require malaria pills and Yellow Fever shots. Maybe you want to try dancing lessons, taste a new food, or call up an old friend. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to attend an event or a conference in a different city, or take up a new hobby. The main idea is to stretch your comfort zone. Enough to try something out of the ordinary, your ordinary. Above all, don’t forget to celebrate as you move closer to your goal. You will likely be surprised by your success and you can build on that positive energy. Surround yourself with people whom you admire, and if you reach out, you’re likely to find others more than willing to offer support.

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Books and Chocolate, by Patricia Charles

books-and-chocolateChocolate. I love chocolate. I love any kind of chocolate: white, milk, dark, covered, drizzled, with cherries, with anything. I just love chocolate. I would rather have one piece of chocolate than a steak, caviar or champagne.

For me, books are like chocolate. I love them all. I love every kind of book: romance, historical, contemporary, pop, supernatural, thriller, suspense, and even young adult. I love any way you can visit a novel: paperback, hardback, digital, audio, movie. I just love books. And yes, sit me down with a box of chocolates and a good book, and I’m in heaven.

Which brings me to today’s quandary. No, it is not about detoxing from chocolate or even about dieting. It’s about writing. What? Writing? How can it be about writing, you ask? It’s my time to ponder what to write next.

unconditionalsurrender  Unconditional Surrender was released in April. It’s a contemporary romance, but set at a Civil War Reenactment. It deals with the pain of the present shadowed by the background of war.

crescentmoon  Crescent Moon, to be released at the end of this month, is a romantic suspense set in New Orleans.

Now, what to write about? Do I write another contemporary? Do I write another suspense to follow this one with characters from the first to set up a series? Or do I write a historical, which I also love? I have one started.

Seriously, putting all jokes aside, it is a dilemma. As writers, you understand. How many books do you have floating around in your mind vying for your attention, vying to be the one written? And how do you choose?

It’s like being in a Chocolate Factory. Chocolate everywhere you turn.

Years ago, I gave my nephew cash for Christmas. We went to a big toy store where he could spend his money. An hour later, he came back with tears streaming down his face. It was so overwhelming. There was so much to choose from. We left with nothing. Chocolate, books, writing-there is so much, I don’t know what to choose. Oh wait, I have a great idea – the form of a book made in chocolate. Want a bite?

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All Because of a Little Mouse

All Because of a Little Mouse

by Catherine Castle


photo by Catherine Castle

This past week we’ve been watching PBS’s documentary on Walt Disney. At our house we love anything Disney. If we didn’t have a Southwest decorating scheme, we’d probably go for Disney décor. In fact, Mickey Mouse has been creeping into certain spots in our house, but I digress.

Walt Disney was a driven man. Driven to not fail like his father had failed over and over. Driven to have his art form—animation—recognized by Hollywood as legitimate art and recognized as Oscar-worthy film making. He was driven to find new ways to make animation better every time he started a project.

With his first feature film, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, he pushed his animators, the composers, and everyone else connected to the movie to go above and beyond the standard of the current animated cartoons, which had their appeal based in slapstick humor and getting laughs from the audience. Walt wanted his animated characters to display the depths of human emotions. He wanted the audience to suspend belief while watching a cartoon and get so wrapped up in the characters that they gasped at the Wicked Queen’s diabolical plan, cried when Snow White died, and rejoiced when the Prince kissed her and she awakened to live happily ever after.

As the documentary ended last night, it occurred to me that we, like Walt Disney, should be as driven when it comes to our writing. After, all we want the same things.

  • We want our readers to suspend belief and be carried into our imaginary world.
  • We want to write 3-dimensional characters that will be so real to our readers that they forget they only exist in the pages of our stories
  • And we should always want to make our books better, exploring new ways to turn a phrase, finding new, fresh plot twists, and constantly searching for that unexpected something that will make our books best-sellers.

We should not become discouraged when success doesn’t leap into our laps the first time. Instead, we should take a page from Walt’s failures, and yes, he had a few. His first venture into his own animation business resulted in the creation of Oswald the rabbit. After repeated successes with Oswald, the cartoon character was lost to him when the distributor, who owned the rights to the character, took him from Disney’s company.

But that didn’t stop Disney from going forward. Instead, Walt created Mickey Mouse. From that tiny creature a magical kingdom rose up and made Disney a household name across the world.

The moral of my rambling?   Never give up and embrace your failures. You don’t know when they will lead you to success.


Catherine Castle

About  Catherine Castle–Sweet and Inspirational Romance

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How Jackie Collins Helped Me Not Hate my Friends

Originally posted on :

In 1988, Austin, Texas was covered in ice. Not just a little ice, but a lot. Two to three inches worth and the bitter cold had no intention of letting up for a few days.
The city shut down. No school. No work. Barely anyone could get around without slipping and sliding all over the place. Wrecks everywhere. People were homebound.
College students, like me and four of my friends, thought, “How cool! A four day slumber party with alcohol and all the crap food we could afford.”
Yeah, you know, after a day or so of that, I prayed for a heatwave. Endless movies and talk of guys and sharing a bathroom with four other people…I was nuts enough to go outside with a blowtorch and melt all the ice in the city. I really loved my friends, but my love was turning to cabin fever and that only leads…

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