Most authors are readers first, and I am no exception. I try to read widely, especially in the romance genre so that I stay current with what is out there and replenish my creative well with plenty of awesome stories. I’m a big fan of tracking my reading on Goodreads so I can look back on what I read all year. I don’t set New Years resolutions, but I do set an annual reading goal, and sometimes have a theme for the type of stories I want to read more of.
This year, I set a higher reading goal for myself, mostly to encourage me to share more reviews. I know how much every review means to authors and so I try to spread the word about books that I love as much as I can. Unfortunately I’m not allowed to post reviews on Amazon (it’s a long story) and so I use book review sites instead. I posted reviews on StoryGraph last year, but didn’t find it the most intuitive platform, so I don’t think I’ll continue using it this year. Right now my favorite review sites are Goodreads and Bookbub.
I love Goodreads because it does a great job organizing similar books, including listings by series and author. It also seems to be the most popular site with readers, and because it is owned by Amazon, I can rate a book from my kindle very easily.
Bookbub on the other hand is the place to go for sales and freebies. The listings by author are extensive and detailed, and I really like the wishlist feature so that if a book I’ve had my eye on has a sale, I get a notice about it. Books that I’ve read don’t automatically get listed on BookBub so I make an effort to post reviews there once or twice a week. While I love reading reviews on Bookbub to help me select books, it doesn’t quite have the same sense of community as Goodreads. It is more about finding the best buy–and there are always bargains!
I’m always on the lookout for new review sites and places to discover books. Do you have any favorites? Are you on Goodreads or Bookbub or do you have another site for finding books?
Jaycee Jarvis has been an avid romance reader since devouring all the Sweet Dreams books her middle school library had to offer. Also a fantasy fan from an early age, she often wished those wondrous stories had just a bit more kissing. Now she writes stories with a romantic heart set against a magical backdrop, creating the kind of book she most likes to read.
When not lost in worlds of her own creation, she resides in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, three children and a menagerie of pets.
Jaycee is a Golden Heart® finalist and author of the Hands of Destin series. The award winning first book in that series, Taxing Courtship, released in June 2018. The final book in that series, Crowning Courtship, came out in May 2021.
Two or three books ago I introduced a secondary character. He wasn’t the hero. He was the competent, mild mannered younger brother who followed up on the heroism of others to clean up the mess left behind in the wake of conflict and malice. A solicitor to begin with, he ended up an earl’s land steward. I loved him. I knew he needed his own book. But how to make him the hero of his own world?
Traditional heroes are (if covers are to be believed) big, burly, and perhaps a bit arrogant. Certain the rulers of their domain. The truth is, I’ve never been a fan of the arrogant duke or the powerful viking. Nor do I hold with binary choice of alpha or beta hero. My favorite protagonists are nuanced and complex. They may be anguished, determined, scarred, baffled, or clueless (I love the clueless ones). They may be former soldiers, but if they are, they carry wounds inside and out.
So what about my mild-mannered land steward? I created a heroine who writes romance novels. She isn’t as naive as she seems and luckily knows better than to take the fictional heroes at face value. Still, when she asks for help with her troubles, he explains with great patience that the man who sired her left her out of his will and that she has no legal call on the estate, she can’t help but wish for a hero. She sizes him up this way:
He wasn’t particularly tall. His pleasant face had nothing of the tortured hero nor his looks anything of the blond Adonis she pictured for the next book. A hero strode forth with an air of command … A hero would not, she was certain, sit and consider the legal aspects of the lady’s situation or whether or not she was entitled to his help before acting.
She underestimates him. Certain the estate has a moral obligation to her, he doesn’t let go until he’s cared for her problems. When villains lurk and danger threatens, courage and steadfastness come to the fore. He’ll protect her or die trying. Of course, falling in love is an unexpected complication.
Heroism comes in many forms. I’m pretty satisfied with how this one came out!
To me, a story is always character driven. If I don’t like the characters, I can’t get into a story no matter how much the concept and plot appeal to me. I’m not alone. Plenty of writing advice is aimed at how to make characters likeable.
Last year, I posted about my favourite romance tropes, subgenres, and scenes (A Few of My Favorite Things). This year, I thought I’d try something a little different.
Since I love talking about fictional characters, especially amazing heroines, I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on what makes these awesome ladies perennial fan favorites.
Harley Quinn, played by Margot Robbie in the latest DC movies, is one of my favorite characters, despite being a relative newcomer. The character was created in 1992 for the Batman – The Animated Series Saturday morning cartoon. She was a brash, unhinged sidekick for the main bad guy, the Joker. Her perpetual adoration of him was played up for laughs in much the same way as Amy and Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory or (for my fellow GenXers) Miss Piggy and Kermit in The Muppet Show.
I first became a fan of the character in the 2002 too-short-lived TV series Birds of Prey, where Mia Sara played the intellectual and amoral Dr. Harleen Quinzel in opposition to the trio of superheroes. She was funny, sexy, and utterly ruthless, which made her an entertaining villain. And of course, Margot Robbie has completely dominated as Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad, Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn, and The Suicide Squad. Robbie’s Harley Quinn is smart, playful, and quick to commit violence.
Doesn’t exactly sound like the sort of character we should be rooting for, does it? But we do. Even when the character lies, steals, maims, and murders on screen, we’re on Harley’s side.
So how did the writers and actors make Harley likeable?
They gave her limits.
Harley doesn’t have much of a moral compass, but she does have one. Margot Robbie has played that up more than Mia Sara did, but in both cases there were lines that the character wouldn’t cross. She wouldn’t hurt a child or animal and her schemes were often more of the con-artist type.
The audience can forgive a lot if it seems like the character has good reasons for acting the way they do. Heroes can cause a lot of damage in the process of fighting the bad guys. Some actions make a hero or villain unredeemable (for example: genocide, hurting animals/children, one on one assault, etc.) The list varies by subgenre and audience, but by being aware of where the line is, a writer can make sure their character stays on the right side of it.
2) They made her the underdog.
Harley has to face a lot of people who don’t like her and don’t respect her. Since she runs with a fairly psychotic bunch of supervillains and master criminals, they express their dislike through threatening to beat her up, torture her, or kill her.
People will automatically feel more sympathetic for someone who is facing overwhelming odds and opposition. It’s much easier to identify with the underdog than with their Goliath. By placing Harley in overwhelming and constant danger, the writers ensure that her own violent tendencies seem like a reasonable defence mechanism. It also creates less sympathy for those she attacks, since we are already primed to see them as pure “bad guys” instead of individual victims.
3) They made her funny.
In the trailer for Suicide Squad, Harley’s head jerks up and she suddenly says “What? I should kill everyone and escape?” All around her, people come to a halt and the guards nervously raise their guns. She laughs and smiles. “I’m just kidding!… That’s not what the voices said.”
It’s a beautifully delivered joke. The two Suicide Squad movies can be quite dark, but Harley provides some much needed comic relief in both of them. And the Birds of Prey movie is hilarious, with Harley often delivering the punchlines.
Audiences can and will forgive a great deal if you can make them laugh. A quirky character who doesn’t quite follow everyone else’s sense of reality often becomes a fan favorite.
4) They made her smart and capable.
Harley’s skill set might not be one that we admire or encourage people to learn, but we can still recognize that she’s very good at what she does. She has a medical degree and was a licensed doctor and psychiatrist. As she puts it in Birds of Prey: “Don’t call me dumb. I have a PhD, m*****.” She’s also an exceptional gymnast and martial artist, as well as an impressively good shot. She pulls off major heists and scams.
Even when we don’t agree with someone’s actions, there’s a certain respect that happens when those actions are done with skill and panache. When it comes to a character, having them be skilled and intelligent can often tip the balance into likeability.
The margin between a character being likeable or despised is often thin. A little subtle shading and reframing can make a huge amount of difference. A character like Harley Quinn pushes the boundaries, but she also shows us how much more we can do.
If you are also a fan of Harley Quinn and other comicbook heroines, you might enjoy my superhero romance series, The Lalassu. The first book Revelations is available for free on all platforms. And if you enjoy capable, skilled heroines with dry wit, then you’d probably like Katie, the heroine from Deadly Potential, who runs a global pop-music tour and has acquired the attention of a serial stalker (plus a super-hot bodyguard).
I’ve read a great number of posts in blogs and social media outlets discussing New Year’s resolutions. Many of us have expressed dismay with even making resolutions for this year; however, I’ve decided to make “goals” instead of resolutions. So many of us had hopes that we could throw away the masks and return to “normal” with the advent of vaccines. Unfortunately, too many people ignored science and didn’t take the vaccine. As a result, this virus has had a chance to mutate. We saw armed revolt in our own country and an assault on the democratic process. In these crazy times, we have to adjust to a “new normal” and soldier on. I have decided to finish the manuscripts I started and concentrate on a new project. As writers, we never know if our hard work will be accepted or not, but I’ve learned long ago that we must write the story emerging from the heart. We must satisfy our own need to tell the story that resounds with our souls.
The “story” may change over the years, but the mark of a creative mind is adapting to change. Often, we need to change direction to grow. We may need to explore a new era or a new genre. I love historical fiction, and I’m working on a project far removed from the time period that is my comfort zone. In these “crazy and uncertain” times, we still need to adapt, create, and thrive.
This time last year I wrote about resolutions in a time of darkness, early in the year 2021. With the development of vaccines, I hoped we would see a brighter year, a year when we could lay aside some of the fears of 2020 and rebuild our world.
But that was not to be.
2021 seemed somehow worse – giving us hope with vaccines, and taking it away with variants, anti vax conspiracies, and increased levels of climate change induced natural disasters. All this after a year when fear and worry had already burnt deep and hard for most of us.
So its another year when personal growth resolutions seem to be pointless, and even something that might bring a wave of bad luck. Why plan when you don’t know what the future holds, or indeed, how long that future may be?
But hard as it is to think, every year – the dark ones and the joyful ones – all have the same possibility of an uncertain future. Its just that we have seen up close and personal the effects after decades of being relatively free of wars and disease. Every day is a risk, although these last few years have rather rubbed our noses in it.
We all live on in the memory of someone. Is it a person in the street where you stopped to help pick up their dropped groceries? Or your family and your recipe for their favourite meal? Or even without family, the loving gaze of a pet is enough. It would be lovely to think that all the memories of us are good ones, but we all also know some people that leave nothing but ill will in their path.
This is a bit of a ramble, but it I feel that’s what I would like – to be remembered fondly. So each day we can all work on being nicer, taking care of ourselves and the planet. Adding something to the world of value, rather than demanding it gives to us. A compost heap may be a small thing, but that small thing magnified reduces landfill and might save a species on the brink. A kind word might save a stranger’s day in ways you will never know. A ripple of kindness going out into the world may be just what we all need this year.
Cindy Tomamichel is a multi-genre author, with her SMP series Druid’s Portal a time travel action adventure romance set in Roman Britain. Short stories of fantasy, scifi and romance can be found on her website, where she blogs on aspects of world building. The Organized Author provides much needed help for authors trying to navigate social media and build an author platform. Doing NaNo this year? Check out her free book NaNoWriMo Ready. Or pick up a copy of the free 30 Organizing Tips for Writers.
The last two years have blurred into one, with dual tracks of survival and rescue. I find it difficult to recall exactly when events happened in the twenty-four month period from beginning in January 2020, as I arrived home from a medical mission to Puerto Rico to assist with earthquake relief.
The airport workers were buzzing about the SARS COVID 19 virus outbreak and how they were all at risk. It did catch my attention, recalling how the Ebola outbreak began in the United States from persons arriving from stricken countries-and how it was properly handled. I wasn’t worried.
My personal concerns about an upcoming job change, as well as getting my latest Contemporary Western novel written during were foremost in my mind. So much so, the rash of adolescent patients during February 2020 with severe respiratory illness, not due to seasonal influenza that took forever to resolve, I attributed to “a really nasty virus.”
All the staff had some version of it in February, one serious enough to miss three weeks of work. I only missed a few days for a bad cough and severe, unexplained back pain. I kept writing furiously on my novel–a pursuit that continued through the first months of the pandemic. My critique group kept me going through 2020 offering the structure of deadlines in the midst of absolute chaos.
The first book in the series was completed by 2021, but the second COVID wave, along with the advent of vaccines that required all credentialed health care workers to jump off the dock to save the ship led to more 12 hour shifts that morphed into 14-15 hours. I lost count of how many vaccines I’ve administered: Around 1000, sometime last summer.
Edits on the Western contemporary novel went forward in a haphazard fashion. Distance from the material helped, but the third COVID wave swamped me once again, and I was only about one third through the edits, and less than halfway through the first draft of the second book in that series. I have not written so little fiction since I began in 2005.
An unexpected beacon of light came as another novel, which I’d completed in 2015, was contracted. And sales of the Unfinished Business series were as good in 2021 as they were the years that each were released, with The Widow’s Walk doing the best. My newsletter list burgeoned to almost 700 last week, up from about 300 at this time last year. While I was otherwise occupied, readers were looking to escape into fiction, and I am grateful for their support
I took those that as signs that all is not lost, and that a temporary hiatus from writing doesn’t mean I’ve given up. So, I have a new novel coming out in April 2022. And the upside of the “COVID years” has created a superb plot line in the second book of the contemporary Western.
Here’s to a better 2022 for all of us, writers and reader’s alike!
I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions—I’m more about improving daily, over the long haul. Continuous improvement, as it were. I am a work in progress, and hope to always be that way, because it means I am never too old to learn.
Nonetheless, these are extraordinary times. As we go into the start of another year with the pandemic looming large, I have to admit that I never saw 2022 to be the way it is shaping up now. It’s hard to imagine now what I thought this year would look like, but it wasn’t this. I always look forward to even numbered years—and this one, as a milestone year for me age wise, wasn’t supposed to be any different. It’s difficult to say what the year holds now, except for that birthday. Birthdays don’t care about anything other than the passing of the days. Every birthday is something to be celebrated, and this one is no exception.
This is likely to be a year of change for me with the merger of my day job company still moving forward. 2022 is the year of the Tiger in the Chinese calendar, which is also my animal in the Chinese zodiac. Tigers are supposed to be bold and daring, and Tiger years one of great change, so perhaps that will hold true for 2022. One can hope! This Tiger isn’t sure what to expect, but I’ll go along for the ride! If that means my company faces a new future once the merger finishes, I guess that is fitting with a Tiger year. Change is inevitable, and to fear it doesn’t help, since change is the one thing that is certain to happen. I’ve told several employees that whatever happens, we will be fine. I truly believe that. Things generally do work out for the best, even if there are some rough waves along the way. (I wasn’t always so pragmatic, but I have learned that no amount of fretting will change what is going to happen, and it only stresses me out.)
In terms of resolutions, as I said, I don’t really make any. However, I do look back at what I didn’t like about what happened in 2021 and try to work on those aspects. My promise to myself in 2022 is to try and meet people where they are, instead of where I want them to be. I can get very frustrated and shut down when I feel I’m not being heard and I am sure that it is visible even over Zoom. I can’t change how people are, so it’s up to me to modify my reaction. I hope that lasts!
Writing wise, I’m going to continue as I have been for a number of years. This year should see the release of the fifth Universe Chronicles book and the pair I have for you is hopefully going to thrill you. Their journey is going to be a bit of a different spin on things, and I am excited for you to go along for the ride. The portal talent Katrina, last seen in Generating Gravity, is the focus this time, along with a healer who is rescued by her and stumbles into more drama in Richmond than he could imagine, and a love they never anticipated.
For those who haven’t read Generating Gravity, the fourth book in the Universe Chronicles series, is available exclusively on Amazon Kindle Unlimited – as is the entire series. Here is the Amazon link for the book: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09DTJBV1W
I hope you and yours had a happy and safe holiday and a great new year! Here’s looking forward to an interesting, and hopefully productive, 2022!
The urge to purge struck after surveying my office/craft room. Unused supplies cluttered the counters and floors. I’d joined the nearest Buy Nothing Facebook group. Seattle’s holiday snow provided perfect timing to let a few things go…
An art teacher friend works in a before/after school program. Many of her grade school children are on site from 6:30 AM to 6 PM. This fact provided inspiration to donate supplies for creative projects without cost. Wide ribbon, buttons, beads, and extra rubber stamps and paper formed a pile. She is thrilled, knowing that I assisted in art programs when my kids were school age. I’ve given her drift wood and other popular items in the past.
I removed enough excess stuff to garner new counter space. The biggest bonus came when I realized I could remove a narrow folding table and a small, white crafting desk. That’s when I posted on Buy Nothing.
A young woman responded quickly to my ‘gifting’ ad on the site, placed on New Years day. She and her sister are both medical students. (insert Sally doing a happy dance) She does embroidery to relieve stress after working in local clinics. Her mom emigrated from Punjab, India. Her Indian father was raised in England and immigrated to America when he was sixteen. He’s a retired police officer. In texting back and forth, I learned that she also collaborated to publish a picture book at the onset of Covid, featuring a young boy who needs to learn proper hand washing. (Another happy dance – I raised two sons) I offered her a copy of the book I wrote telling the story of my friend, Iris, whose beginning nursing training turned into life saving skills during WWII. She jumped on that offer, and will put to use the box of embroidery floss I squirreled away ten years ago. I hope to see her, her mother and sister, unmasked, in the near future. I’d like to hear more of their stories.
And now my gift to you…The first book in my series,The Hitman’s Mistake, will be freeon Amazon from January 12 – 14th. If you or a friend enjoy slow-burning, sweet romance, determined villains, and smart animals, give it a read!
I hope you had an amazingly lovely holiday no matter how you celebrate! We did, though we ran around like idiots for three weeks prior. We had grandkids here for cookies, family here for random gatherings (safe gatherings), and then Christmas Eve. Then Christmas Day, which is also our youngest’s birthday. We had surprise visitors in the form of our son/daughter-in-law/grandboys! They had the big “C” three weeks prior and hadn’t wanted to commit to anything. They were well outside their quarantine and feeling good. We spoke on the phone and the next thing I knew, they were texting to say they were on their way. It was awesome! We hadn’t seen our boys for ages!
So by Sunday, we were in a coma! Ha! And then today, we’re back at the day job. But it’s all good. I’m exhausted. Like I feel like I could sleep for a week and still be tired.
And now we start on New Year’s Eve. Our celebration this year will be very quiet. There will be five of us. Super low key and I’m so happy about that. Of course, New Year’s Day, the kids will all come, but that’s okay, too. They are all doing their own thing this year, which is fine! Honestly, their chaos makes me tired. Ha!
My wish for all of us is that 2022 is an easier year than the past two have been! I wish you peace, love, health, and less stress! And huge book sales! 🙂