How Reading Has Shaped My Writing

vintage books

I’m always seeking advice from fellow authors. I’ve been told many times that ‘to be a good writer, one must read a lot’. Certainly, like most authors, I can say I’ve read a lot of books. Out of curiosity, I wondered if I’d be able to tally the number of books I’ve read in my lifetime. I figured this would require some crazy calculating, so I prepared my pen and paper, drawing neat lines of novel categories, eager to begin.

I started with literary classics, including titles I’d read in high school—Wuthering Heights, Grapes of Wrath, To Kill a Mockingbird, Lord of the Flies, Animal Farm, etc. After reviewing my list, I stumbled. Surely I’ve read more than 10 classics? Of course I have. But try and recall them all? Impossible.

Time to move on to horror novels. Scary books are easy to remember. Chilling psychopaths and evil-eyed clowns were added to my list. Okay, maybe I can do this.

What about romances? After all, this is the genre I write in, so I should be able to recall every single romance book, surely? Ahhh . . . not really. I’ve read oodles of romance books (and women’s fiction books highlighting romance). I’m attracted to a cornucopia of titles sitting on the N.Y. Times Bestseller’s List, in addition to novels by unknown authors and celebrity tell-all’s. In fact, each time I venture into my local bookstore and peruse the New Releases, in any category, I realize (alarmingly), I’ve read nearly every book on the shelves. My rewards card is bulging with points!

After a while, I gave up with my list, concluding that although I may love to read, I cannot even come close to guessing the number of books I’ve read over the years. Being a fan of numbers (and anything that can be categorized and counted), it bothers me slightly that I cannot come up with a nice sum. Say, one thousand and twenty three books. Or more specifically, two hundred biographies, five hundred romance novels and three hundred and twenty three horror novels. I just can’t do it. So the question then becomes, What have I learned from so much reading? That I can answer.

  1. I’ve read a lot of books. All genres, many different authors.
  2. My reading preferences are eclectic. Romances, horror novels, self-help books and endless survival-themed autobiographies streaming out of China, North Korea and the Middle East, fill my list.
  3. When writing, avoid word repetition. All authors make this mistake. Even great ones.
  4. Heroes sometimes materialize in the most unlikely people.
  5. I like to read about people making it to the other side intact. Survival stories are always inspiring.
  6. I’m terrified of clowns.
  7. I’m a sucker for a happy ending.
  8. Avoid overuse of adjectives.
  9. It’s nice to lose myself in a fairytale plot between a hunky hero and a gorgeous, feisty heroine. Romance novels reinforce that love is always possible.
  10. Reading has shown me the importance of description (settings, people, moods), as well as character and plot development.

Without a doubt, reading enhances writing and makes for a better writer. And though I may not be able to pull a magic number out of my hat, the number of books I’ve read isn’t what’s most important—it’s whether the books I’ve read (and will hopefully write) leave me with a memory, a feeling or an impression. If, at the end of the day, I’ve been informed, entertained, shocked or inspired, that’s all that counts.

By Kim Hotzon




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The Write Word with Wareeze

The Characteristics of a Heroine

Hello readers and writers alike. Once again, I welcome you to behind the scenes of the writing world. Many thanks for joining me on this journey through our Soul Mate Publishing blog posting. Today, let’s explore the heroine, her characteristics, her appeal, and what makes her the heroine. It’s not enough for her to appear on the first page introduced as the heroine simply because she is there. More is required—much more.

In order to keep the reader’s interest, the hero must be attracted to the heroine at first glance. Certainly by the second and third go around. What catches the hero’s notice, also grabs the reader’s interest as well? Beauty, at least in the eye of the beholder. If he’s a breast man, she has a very nice rack. If he’s a hip and leg man, she has legs that go on forever. If he’s a face man, she is beautiful with large, lovely eyes, smooth complexion, straight nose, and kissable lips. Pretty hair is truly her crowning glory. Ask a face man and see what he thinks of long, flowing locks, thick, bountiful, and begging for his touch. A man notices lovely hair.

That’s all on the surface. Let’s dig deeper for the true worth of a heroine. She is sensitive, resilient, strong, not necessarily physically, but mentally. Modern-day readers want a lady born in the 1800s to kick-butt in the most Wonder Woman fashion of today. Impossible you say, but let’s look at the opportunities she takes to discreetly do just that while not stepping out of her assigned position in the era in which she lives.

Example: A Lady’s Vanishing Choices


Darkness and eerie silence trapped Bethany. She couldn’t breathe. Water surrounded her, over her, under her, everywhere. Forcing her eyes open turned the nightmare into harsh, deadly reality. I’m going to die.

Where am I? Why am I in the water? For a second, she didn’t know how to escape from the clinging, life-threatening blackness. Think.  Fighting to remain calm, she twisted around in the water until she spied light from the moon filtering through the shadowy depths of the lake. Bethany kicked toward the surface. Struggling to swim, she raised one arm over the other and kicked with all of her might. She swallowed a mouthful of water when her head broke the surface of the lake.

Quickly searching her surroundings, she shivered in the chilled night breeze. Her drenched hair clung to her neck and goose bumps raced along her skin. She glanced around and could detect the shoreline only four or five feet away. Fighting to keep afloat, she struggled toward the bank as best she could. Her pulse pounded, and she couldn’t fully catch her breath. Weak and almost helpless, fear overwhelmed her, but she forced herself onward. Nothing made any sense. The murky smell of mud at the edge of the water drew her towards the embankment.

She sputtered and tried to still her cough. Staggering to the edge of where the deep water gave way to a shallow, sandy bottom, she fought to remain upright. Bethany covered her mouth to quiet the sound of her breathing, to listen, to search for the menacing presence of whatever threatened her. Frozen in terror, with the sensation of evil lurking in the shadows, she shivered.

The pounding of hooves on the turf broke the spell, and she gazed toward the shore. The shape of a huge black horse and rider drew closer, coming to an abrupt halt at the edge of the water.

“What the devil?” Royce swung down and stalked over to the edge. “Come out of there.”

Exhausted and cold to the bone, she couldn’t move. In spite of her efforts, she couldn’t keep her teeth from chattering or say a word. Her wet garments clung to every curve with chilling tenacity, but she hardly noticed. I’m safe. I’m safe. Royce is here. I’m fine now. Safe.

“Bethany.” Royce said in a startled voice.


The distant sound of a softly shutting door, footfalls, and the faint stirrings of the household rousing for the day pulled Bethany from a deep sleep. Tempted to cuddle down once more in the warmth of the bed, she opened her eyes and gazed at the ceiling. The smells of preparations for the early morning meal wafted to the upper levels of the house. Her stomach rumbled in answer.

Only then did the happenings of last night hit her. She sat bolt upright in the bed, glancing at the unfamiliar chamber. The walls, covered in ivory wallpaper, added light to the room where rather heavy oak furniture over-filled the space. I’m not at the manor. I’m at the hall.

She grimaced and threw back the covers. Her heart tripped, and she drew a shaky breath. Nearly drowning must have addled her brain. Someone wanted to kill her. She covered her mouth with her fingers, and her heart stroked even harder. It must be someone with access to the manor.

Someone she knew. Panic grabbed her, but she forced the sensation away. She must think. Royce didn’t believe her—the clod. She straightened her fingers to avoid her nails biting into her palms. She never wanted to witness that sarcastic smirk on his face again. For several minutes, she twisted a lock of her hair around her fingers.

A light scratch sounded at the door. She cleared her throat and called, “Come.”

A young maid carried a tray containing a chocolate pot and a lovely cup decorated with roses. “Morning, Ma’am. Tis a lovely day.” She smiled and placed the tray on the table beside the bed before pulling the drapes aside. “I was in here earlier, but you was dead to the world. I brought fresh clothing just as Mrs. Carrington told me. Here on the chair.” She raised her brows. “I’m here to help you with your morning toilette.”

Bethany scrambled out of bed and plucked the garments up to inspect the gown. “If you will be so kind, I shall need help with the ties.”

 She allowed the maid to lace the bodice before she smoothed the skirts and adjusted the sleeves. “There. That will be all. Thank you for your assistance.” Before the maid could leave, Bethany whirled around. “Is Mrs. Carrington available this morning?”

“She’s been away. When she arrived this morning, she went straight to her chamber.

She hardly ever is below stairs until well after eleven o’clock.”

“After she stirs, I have a message I wish delivered to her.” Bethany penned a quick note and folded it. “Make certain she receives this the moment she’s about.”

The maid curtsied, took the paper with a smile, and left the chamber.

Bethany poured a cup of the hot liquid, sipping at her chocolate while she sank into a chair. Taking up the thread of her thoughts again, she considered her next course of action. She must return to the manor this morning. She swallowed. At least, I’m aware the killer is after me. I must search him out before he does away with me. Shivering with a chill of foreboding, she set her chocolate aside. When she could identify him, she would make Royce listen to her. He’d believe her if she had a face to add to the tale. She quietly tiptoed down the back stairs and ducked out the rear door.

She certainly decided to take matters into her own hands. Kick-butt all the way. I’d say she went against Royce’s instructions and opinions full force. When he ask her why, she spread her hands and told him she couldn’t remain in a bachelor establishment—now could she?  That’s taking charge without being in the wrong. What could he say? The Ton would certainly more than frown on such a situation. She used the tools allotted to her in the era in which she lived.

Meeting the requirements of a heroine, she processed beauty of face and form, sensitive to her surroundings, dealing with someone wishing to do her harm. She had to face being investigated as a traitor as well. All her dealings with life in general needed strength of character and wit to overcome her situation. A true heroine in my humble opinion.

Few women of today could live up to such high standards. But we can all dream and live vicariously through books.

Example: An Enduring Love

An Enduring Love #1 copy

I don’t have the allowance for enough wordage to display another excerpt. I thought an explanation would do for another of my heroines.

Rebecca, half Latvian-half English, married an English diplomat while he worked in Latvia. He had to return to England to attend his father’s death-bed. She could not accompany him because her widowed mother was ill.

He was informed his wife had died. He wasn’t allowed back into Latvia. His superior in London wouldn’t allow him to leave England. His superior did visit Rebecca’s grave and reported back to Royce. He grieved, but after three years, he buried the wound in his heart, buried the memories of his love for her, and moved on with his life.

Rebecca arrived in London, their son in tow along with a young servant girl. What was she to do? Should she have slapped him in the face and departed with their child? She was a stranger in a foreign land with no place to go, little likely hood of getting a job as a nanny, a housekeeper, or any respectable position either. She did the only thing left to her. She decided to rekindle his love for her with her own deep, enduring love.

All of my books—historical romances—contain suspense, mystery, and often murder along with deep emotions between the hero and heroine, not hot, hot, hot physically, but with emotional heat instead of graphic details of parts joining. Don’t get me wrong, there are love scenes in bed and out.

Thanks for taking time from your day to read this posting. Let me know what you think.

Happy reading,

Wareeze Woodson

For more information about my writing, please visit my website:

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The Trouble With Cars

Good morning all!

You know the saying you never know how much you miss something until it’s gone? Well, I’m experiencing this feeling now.

We all need our cars.

We lead busy lives. Lives that include going places. To work, to the store, to the library. The need to drive is substantial. We rely on our vehicles more than we realize. And often we take the ability to hop in the car and go for granted.

Well, for the time being, that ability to go where and when I need to is on hold for me.My car decided to break down.

Now, many times I have thought to myself: It sure would be nice to not have to go anywhere. To just stay at home for a change.

While this sounds good, when your vehicle breaks down when you have things you HAVE TO DO, it is no longer a good thing.

To get anywhere, I am left with minimal choices.

  • Beg for a ride

  • Walk

  • Bike

Although others don’t mind giving rides, before too long it becomes an inconvenience. And although walking and biking are good exercise, it’s hard to do that when it’s raining, grocery shopping, or it’s hot enough outside to cook an egg on the sidewalk.

But until my poor, sick car gets well, I must do what I can to do what I have to.

So the next time you think you want to be stuck at home and not go anywhere, just be careful what you wish for. It may not always happen the way you would like.

Wish me luck!

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My name is Rose, and I’m a word junkie By: Rose Lange

As I sit here at my kitchen table, a cup of coffee by my side, and our snoring dog keeping my feet warm from under the table. I’ll be honest. I had no clue what I wanted to write this blog post about. I did a quick search on Google, but that gave me too many options and confused me more. I decided I couldn’t narrow it down to one thing, so here goes. A mash up of new beginnings, ideas, growth, and the best advice I ever received.

First of all, I’ve decided I must be crazy to start the entire writing a book process again. With two book children under my belt, a third complete, another in the works, and many more ideas to be written, that’s the only way I can describe it. The starting of the rough draft, and the cycle repeats itself from the last time, and that last time after. The doubts, the fear, the joy, and the fear again. Thinking, why bother? So, you ask, why am I bothering? Honestly, I have no damned clue other than I’m courting insanity. Because when I start a new work in progress, it’s like book baby writing amnesia. I forget what I’m in for until I’m there, and sitting at the keyboard. I forget how incredibly rough a first draft can be. I forget that this beast I’m trying to wrangle, and whose form I’m not sure of yet, is not set in stone. That I can go back later, revise, and polish. I forget it doesn’t start off in a nice looking, neat little package. More like a package that’s been re-taped like a hundred times, has beaten up corners, a worn off label, and a mystery stain. In short, it’s been through the ringer a few times.  I forget that a rough draft only has one rule: it needs to be written. It doesn’t need to be perfect or pretty, right out of the gate. I can allow myself to dig deep, and get as messy with it as I’d like, because I can go back in later. That nobody will see the first attempts, and I can be easier on myself. Sometimes, of course, that is easier said than done.

I’ve received a lot of writing advice over the years, but the one that has stuck out at me came from a high school English teacher’s sister: she should keep writing. Twenty years later (and holy cow, can’t believe it’s been that long) between marriage, college, having a child, and many other life changing experiences, including an eight year writing hiatus, I have kept writing. I’ve concluded a long time ago that I can’t not write, and that little voice would not stay silent. It’s as much apart of me as anything else, hair color, eye color, height, build, etc. I used to feel guilty for allowing so many years to pass, and not write for the pure joy it gave me. I’ve shed the guilt long ago, because in those eight years, life happened. I grew, and changed from those experiences, and the many more that followed. Experiences that made me the strong person, woman, and writer I am today.  This is in turn, has enriched my ideas, my stories, and provides new adventures to explore. So, in an odd way, those years have served a purpose.

Facebook: Rose Lange, Author

Twitter: wrtitingdiva82



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Feminizing the Sheroes – Elle Hill


If your brand of femininity doesn’t involves tiaras, you may be doing it wrong.

I’ve written a bunch in the past about alpha males and how I, well, don’t quite gel with them. I mean, they’re great and all. Some of my best friends are alpha males.* But, as I might have made clear in other posts, I’m not a big fan of what sociologist R.W. Connell calls hegemonic masculinity, or the pinnacle of all things manly. As a sociologist who studies social inequalities, I just… can’t.

Contrarily, because I am nothing if not contrary, I maintain a fondness for pretty traditionally feminine women characters. I like femininity, or at least the femininity that I, a White, middle class woman, have access to. As I discussed in a recent conference presentation, I understand my brand of femininity is rooted in Whiteness, in middle classness, and in opposition to non-straight, non-cisgender, and fat and larger persons. So, yeah, the history of femme-y women shouldn’t remain unchallenged. But it’s the air I’ve breathed, the water I’ve drunk, the vocabulary I’ve wielded to express myself. 

Internalized and problematic brand of femininity: Check. So here we are, celebrating a brand of historically lauded femininity. All is well, right? Well, not really. See, this type of femininity may have clothed, fed, and watered middle-class, White women for a couple of centuries, but that doesn’t mean it’s universally loved. Because, you know, it’s still set up in opposition to that hegemonic masculinity I mentioned above. Traditional femininity, or the celebration of gentle, nurturing compassion, is in fact, what defines the boundaries, what polices the boundaries, of this masculinity. It is everything “real men” (read: alphas) should not be.


Okay, so I love my femme-y women and my beta men. None of this would be a problem, except I write in the genres of paranormal romance and urban fantasy. I treasure these genres without reservation, but the women who populate them aren’t really known for their emotional caretaking capabilities. In fact, characters like Hunter’s Jane Yellowrock, Hamilton’s Anita Blake, Andrews’ Kate Daniels, and Briggs’ Mercedes Thompson populate action-heavy genres with their immaculate fighting skills, their witty repartee, and their difficulties maintaining and sustaining emotional relationships. Heck, in many ways, these sheroes are downright masculine. This is, of course, why they need an ultra-mega-major masculine hero as romantic foil, because we can’t upset the heteronormative balance of power too much. But I digress. I mean, these women are thin (ridiculously thin, especially in the case of Jane Yellowrock, who is six feet tall and weighs 120. Yeeaaahhhh.), often hot, and have buried maternal instincts that conveniently emerge throughout the series. So, yeah, they’re still coded as at least partially feminine. But overall, these sheroes feel a lot like masculine action heroes, albeit hip-length-hair-sporting, little-black-dress-wearing ones.

2017-03-06 23.05.23

Why is there a picture of my cat reading his Kindle? Who cares? Lookit the cute kitty!

While it feels amazing to read about 26-year-old, thin women who can kick everyone ever’s ass, – girl power, amiright? – I just can’t totally relate to them. I’m a 43-year-old, fat sociology professor whose superpowers include epic listening skills and a shocking ability to include gratuitous pictures of my cats in just… about… everything. I wouldn’t know a right hook if it… hooked me. Or whatever.

So, yeah, some of my women characters are tough mofos. Gray, my shero in Hunted, is as emotionally stunted, violent, and introspectively challenged as any action film starring Dwayne Johnson. After that, though, and as I accepted my right to sculpt my characters in my own image, or in images with which I can at least identify, my sheroes undergo a notable softening. By the time we reach The Tithe, my complex main character is a woman with a profound physical disability and a sharp tongue. And in my current, as yet untitled, novel, Marin, my shero, abhors violence. She literally coddles a man who attacks her with a knife. Heck, Marin even refuses to eat using forks because they require stabbing. Literally and figuratively, she embodies the feminine softness and strength I associate with my close friends, my sisters, and me.

And, you know, I adore Marin. I recognize she encompasses several hundred years of messages about White, heteronormative**, nurturing, dainty femininity, and I know this is problematic. To be fair to myself and my sociological conscience, my latest novel also includes other brands of femininity, not all of which are rooted in Whiteness or tenderness. But I love Marin. I have never identified as much with a character as I do with her. I know she isn’t a staple in paranormal romance, or at least one that is celebrated for her soft and sensitive strength. I worry readers won’t love her. But I find her luminous, refreshing, and, for me, empowering.  

Urban fantasy and paranormal romance have, in my experience, moved toward the masculine in hyping violence, gore, and situational tensions. As a result, all of the characters have scooted ever-closer toward hegemonic masculinity. This is fun and exciting, but I kinda miss seeing people like me who are presented as anything but feminine foils or damsels in need of rescuing. I like creating super feminine characters and celebrating their strengths as emotional healers, wise women, and peaceniks. I know the history behind these representations are troublesome, varied, and, as we would say in academia, multivalent, but as a reader and a writer who seeks to find herself represented, I ache to see feminine women painted in all their soft, strong, loving, flexible glory.

* I cannot lie. This is so not true.
** Although, in all honesty, she’s not straight. 
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The Well-Organized Writer by Rebecca Heflin

Untitled design (2)I used to be an advocate of the DayTimer. Remember those? The bulky all-in-one organizers where you kept your calendar, contacts, to-do lists, notes, maybe even your expense reports? If it wasn’t in my DayTimer, it didn’t happen or wasn’t going to happen. But with the advent of the smartphone, the trusty old DayTimer fell by the wayside. I keep everything in my phone now. My calendar, contacts, to-do lists, notes (even voice memos), grocery lists, reminders, etc. You name it, it’s likely in my phone.

Recently, however, I’ve taken another look at the old-fashioned organizer system, especially after an article in the January 2017 issue of RWA.

With writing deadlines, release dates, marketing and promo, book signings, appearances, blog posts (like this one) etc., I couldn’t see the big picture with my phone (or iPad for that matter). I found myself shuffling between my phone, a Word-created calendar, and a calendar on my computer desktop. So, I ordered an organizing system – one recommended in the RWA article, and I’m loving it.

I have my monthly calendar, which also includes a goals and to-do-list, where I can see the big picture and plan ahead. Then I have a weekly view, where I can get more granular. Of course, it also includes note pages, and a nifty laminated list where I can make notes in dry erase marker. It’s really helped me stay organized with all I have going on this year.

Of course, I haven’t found one system that has it all. The paper-based organizer is bulky, just like the DayTimer was, and I don’t want to carry it with me. My purse already feels like it’s full of bricks. So I leave it open on my desk and refer to it daily to see what’s up that day and where I need to be tomorrow. It also shows me where I could be getting overloaded with too many commitments.

There are pros and cons to each system. Here are a few:

Method cropped

I’m still working on my system, but so far so good. What system do you use to keep yourself organized?

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Is There A Better Marketing Tool Than Your Cover?

Your cover is the first thing the reader sees and…inevitably…the book’s first impression.

MEGA-BOOKSTOREI took the opportunity to poll readers during a recent mega-bookstore signing I attended with over a dozen other authors (six of which were romance). Because I truly wanted the information, I offered those who would fill out the questionnaire chocolate (always works) and the chance to win a store gift card. Out of the 25 readers I approached only one turned down my request.

The first four questions required a “yes”, “no” or “sometimes” response. The last question gave them three lines to express their opinion. Here are the questions I asked:

funny-cartoon-question-mark-awesome-487x5501. Is a book’s cover important in attracting your interest?

2. Do you collect bookmarks, trading cards or other material branded with covers?

3. Do you look for the author, book or book cover on social media (e.g., FB, Twitter)?

4. Do you follow authors on social media or through newsletters?

5. How often do you feel authors should promote their book on social media and are you drawn to the promotion?

The results:

Q1: 19 yes, 2 no, 3 sometimes

Q2: 12 yes, 11 no, 1 sometimes (note added by respondent: “if they’re pretty”)

Q3: 11 yes, 3 no, 10 sometimes (this stat surprised me)

Q4: 18 yes, 6 no

Q5: The majority of the respondents said that anything more than once per day was overkill. Three said that if they see the cover more than once in the day they skip past it. Four said they don’t pay much attention to the cover unless they’re attracted to it because the “KNOW” it’s a sales pitch.

Once the questionnaire was completed, I asked each respondent to look at a single picture and give me their impression. The only thing I asked was: “Would you stop scrolling through FB or Twitter to to look at this picture?” Twenty-one of the the 24 said, “yes”.

The picture?

Cover Reveal AnukahatenOver the course of the past six months or so I’ve devoted quite a bit of time to creating book-centered memes and engagement on both FB and Twitter related to these memes has increased significantly. I’ve quickly come to realize that while I might get a few likes, comments, and engagements out of my cover and buy link, far more people are stopping to read the meme. Traffic on both my website and blog have increased.

Crazy Writer MemeHere’s another meme, aimed at poking fun of us as writers rather than to tout a specific book. All memes were created using nothing more than Powerpoint and a good stock photo site. And, all memes contained my website address but no buy links or sales pitch.

I thinks, as writers, we need to find new ways to engage our readers. And, if the standard cover, blurb and buy link isn’t doing it, we should find other avenues for promotion. Even something as simple as a meme.

Until next time, stay happy, stay healthy, stay well read.


Posted in Soul Mate Publishing | 3 Comments