Emerald Musings

~ 01 Butterfly, Monarch_05Welcome to my writing blog, Emerald Musings! 

Grab a comfortable chair, a cup of your favorite beverage, and enjoy while I explore one of my great passions- storytelling.  At Emerald Musings, I focus on writing and art of storytelling.  I do reviews, rant about the business, and rave about gems of the fiction and non-fiction worlds.

If you are interested in me reviewing your book, please check out my post about reviewing books.  Also, because I want to support my fellow authors as much as I can, please note that I will review only copies I pay for from now on.  If your book isn’t published yet, that’s fine –just let me know the price you’re intending on selling it, and we can possibly make arrangements.

So, as always, please enjoy, and happy reading!


    Five Things I Wish I had Known before I Started Writing Novels

    by Greg Barth
    One – Building a story is a separate process from writing a story.

    I used to think that you built a story as you wrote it. This was wrong. I’ve since learned that building a story is a thing in itself that has little to do with writing. Stories have defined components, certain ingredients that are required, big scenes that happen in certain places. It wasn’t until I knew the fundamentals of building a story that I was successful at writing a novel.
    These days I spend a lot of time turning scenes over in my head while driving, listening to music. In the evening, I jot down some notes about the scenes I dreamt up earlier in the day on a notecard and pin it to my corkboard. I move the scenes around, making sure the big scenes hit at the right points in the story. I note out the sequences that connect the scenes. It’s not until I have the story built that I begin writing it.
    Two – A strong story will work no matter who tells it.
    I don’t consider myself a talented writer. There, I’ve said it. And it’s true – I don’t. I do, however, consider myself a better-than-average story builder. Here’s the thing – a good story will overcome mediocre writing. Stories can be written as songs, novels, poems, you name it, and we all love the stories that work.
    Some of my favorite movies won’t be found in the Criterion Collection. Why? Because they don’t break ground cinematically. But they are my favorites because I love the stories they tell. Have you ever read the latest release from a best-selling novelist, one you’ve looked forward to, maybe pre-ordered, only to find that you were a little let down by the story? Maybe the writing was as excellent as you’d come to expect from this author, but the book didn’t end well, or the pacing was off. My theory is this: It takes a tremendous talent to tell a mediocre story in a captivating way. On the other hand, if the story is great, it almost doesn’t matter who tells it.
    This is why I spend time getting the story right up front because I know my writing skills are pretty basic. But basic skills are good enough for an exceptional story, especially if you don’t want your flowery prose getting in the way of what’s going on.

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    5 Things I Wish I Had Known Before Writing a Novel with a Female Protagonist

    by Chris Roy

    1. I wish I had known the difficulties in writing first-person vs. third-person POV, female.

    The very first female character I created was in a collection of short stories titled By Hook or Crook: the criminal ventures of Razor and Blondie. The point of view was third-person, with Razor as the main protagonist. His observations, thoughts, and feelings were more prominent in the narration than hers. I had never studied the craft of fiction writing before penning Crook, had zero experience. So I wasn't aware anything was missing for her character. Strangely, writing a female in first-person POV made me aware of several things that improved my third-person stories.

    Shocking Circumstances was my first full-length novel. After reading L.A. Outlaws by T. Jefferson Parker, I wanted my first novel to feature a strong, edgy female protagonist. Books on writing and publications such as Psychology Today were a staple of my daily routine at that point. I thought I could pull off a compelling story told by a female. I enjoy a good challenge and knew this project would be difficult. But, damn…

    You have to be bold, I told myself. So I introduced the Shocker… in first-person. As the story progressed and her character developed, the scenes placed her in situations that increased in physical difficulty, each circumstance tougher than the last to explain how a female would overcome it. I remember laughing as I realized her physical difficulties increased my mental difficulties.

    Four chapters in, I realized “getting into character” was not the way to write a female character. Not for me. I'm not an actor. I did a lot of brainstorming. A lot of pacing, and used my friends as idea sounding boards that bordered on abuse before determining a new approach.

    Don't be the actor. Be the cameraman. “Watch” her through a kind of mental camera lens.

    This way of thinking worked for me. I could disassociate and still observe her in first-person. I re-wrote the beginning chapters, confidence returning. The discomfort had eased. Then I attempted a sex scene.

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    Five Things I Wish I'd Known Before Starting to Write Crime Fiction

    By Elka Ray

    1) As a writer, your characters become real to you - they're not "characters" but people. Killing people - even unlikeable ones - is emotionally draining; learning why they were targeted even more so. While my stories aren't depressing, they have sad moments. If you want readers to understand your characters' motivations, you need to feel your characters' pain.

    2) No matter what, some readers will be convinced your characters are based on real people. Friends and acquaintances who read your work will know you turned So-and-So into a murderer or butchered poor What's-His-Name. Funnily, this is especially true with the nasty characters. A lot of readers claimed to know the cheating femme fatale in my first romantic mystery novel, "Hanoi Jane". Travelers have sent notes stating "I met a guy just like X in Bangkok" about my short story collection, "Tales of Obsession, Mystery & Murder in Southeast Asia". '

    Other readers are sure some bits are autobiographical. My latest suspense novel, "Saigon Dark", follows a woman ensnared in a web of lies. I've gotten some weird looks since that one came out. I've stopped trying to explain: Writers make stuff up. We take grains of truth and grow them into elaborate fantasies that, hopefully, shed more truth.

    3) If you want to write crime stories, get ready for disturbing research. Can blood be cleaned well enough to be undetectable by forensics? How deep should that shallow grave be? What dosage of what drug could cause a blackout? You'd better hope you're never a suspect in a real-life crime because your Google history will be fascinating.

    4) You'll become obsessed. I used to read a lot more literary fiction but the ratio has tipped to crime and suspense. I listen to true crime podcasts too - and justify this addiction as "research".

    5) You will scare your friends and family. I recently outlined a new plot to my husband. His response? "Jeez, I'm afraid to sleep next to you." Readers have accused me of being "really dark", which I don't think is accurate. As well as writing crime, I write and illustrate a series of kids' picture books - full of cute, happy toddlers and bright colors. I think people - and good fictional characters - are contradictory. Yin and yang. Light and dark. Some of my writing uses disturbing events to reveal the good in people.


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    Five Things I’ve Learned Working With Literary Agents

    1. Agents are like Atlantis; hard to find and somewhat mythical. Sure, most have one-paragraph bios and mini selfies under ‘our team’ on agency websites. Some write a blog. A few keep their name in the spotlight with big-figure deals and best-seller client lists. But be forewarned. The bio hasn’t been updated since 1964, the blog was tossed with the dishwater, and the agent in the spotlight isn’t accepting new clients. Agents are out there, somewhere, but it’s not easy to discover what they want to see in a manuscript today.

    2. Agents come from the Matrix. Okay, so they didn’t pop the blue pill, but few are in-the-know within all circles. The literary game is all about connections, who you know, and agents tend to wine-and-dine a specific list of editors. An agent who has built a list of spiritual (religion) authors, for example, is less likely to have a close relationship with the acquisitions editor for Playboy. This becomes an issue when you’re totally stoked about your latest WIP, but it’s outside your agent’s scope.

    3. Agents are, in fact, human. I know, this sounds obvious, but for me, it wasn’t. I’d spent many years writing and honing my craft and had considered the next step, signing with an agent, to be almost magical, like catching the attention of a living-breathing unicorn. It wasn’t like this. And they aren’t unicorns. They are people with jobs, like everyone else. They have flaws, interests, a to-do list an arm long, and kids at daycare.

    4. I will need more than one. Chances are, I will likely have several agents over the course of my writing career. I had this vision of me and my agent working together for decades, slogging over each WIP, maybe riding into the sunset together. I didn’t know agents jump from agency to agency. I hadn’t realized how many actually find it difficult to survive in this ever-changing book biz. It never occurred to me an author’s path would be so closely linked to his / her agent’s path. I discovered, it seems, why there are so many agents out there: authors eventually spread the love.

    5. There is hope. I know a few authors who adore their agent, even after years of working together. I’ve also read author acknowledgments that contain nothing but praise for their agent. So, there are good ones out there. Great ones even. Keep searching. My next manuscript will be in the same slush pile, praying for a unicorn from the lost city of Atlantis.

    Dee Willson
    Author of A Keeper’s Truth and GOT (Gift of Travel)

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    "Check This _____ Out!" A Call for Guest Submissions

    Hello, Everyone,

    As you know, for the months of April and May, Emerald Musings has a great series of guest posts lined up to keep you entertained and informed.  You can find the brave contributors here, and I strongly suggest you get to know them outside of Emerald Musings.  After all, they are clearly wonderful and talented people :).

    But I digress.  On to the topic of this post.  I wanted to put out another call for a guest post on Emerald Musings for all you fans, authors, writers, or artists that may be interested.  Here's the "theme" as it were:

    "Check This _____ Out!"

    Where the blank in the Title refers to an artist, author, writer, photographer or creative type that you think isn't getting the attention they deserve.  Here are the rules -- and don't worry, they're simple enough.

    1. The post MUST be written about someone other than yourself -- sorry, no self-promotion this time!
    2.  Your choice must have something that the public can enjoy and/or  buy if they so choose -- a book, a painting, a webcomic, etc 
    3. You need to explain WHY you think this particular person deserves more attention, and make a compelling argument.  Simply saying  "you need to check out Miss Smith as an author because she's a really cool person" is not going to be enough.
    4. Your choice doesn't have to be a new writer or artist, either - just someone that you think deserves the attention.
    5.  Please keep your post to 1000 words or less.

    Guest post submissions should be sent to info@writersthread.com and submitted by Friday, June 23, 2017, at 9 PM MST.  Please use the subject line "Check This Out- guest submission -- your name".  I'll be reading through the submissions and contacting acceptable ones for author bios, pictures and social media links for the author boxes. Once a post has been selected, I'll be gathering the featured artist/author's information and where to find their material for inclusion in the post-- so you don't have to worry about that.  Guest posts will be published in July and August of 2017.

    And of course, feel free to tell the creative person that you're writing about that they'll be featured once you get confirmation of the publication date.

    Above all - have fun, and be sure to share the love!



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    The Emerald Musings "5 Things I Wish I Had Known" Series Begins in April

    Greetings, Everyone!

    Since I've managed to get some wonderful guest post contributions over the years, I decided to go to the well again and see what I could get.  And you ladies and gentlemen certainly didn't disappoint!  So, starting in April, we're featuring a new guest post on every Friday that follows the theme of "5 Things I wish I had Known Before I..."  Here are a few of the great posts that are in store for my wonderful readers!

    Dee Willson

    On April 7th, Dee Willson, author extraordinaire and a woman brave enough to return to Emerald Musings is sharing five important things she learned while working with literary agents.  If you're interested in learning more about the nuances of working with an agent, this is certainly a post to check out!

    Elka Ray

    That following Friday -- April 14th to be exact, crime author Elka Ray discusses the five things about writing crime fiction that she wished someone had told her in the beginning.  Whether you're a rookie or a vet at this game, these are five things you'll be able to relate to!

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    Review of Lust, Money and Murder Book 1 By Mike Wells

    Book:  Lust, Money, and Murder  Book 1

    Author:  Mike Wells

    Publisher:  Self Published/Mike Wells

    Availability:   Kobo   Amazon  Google Books  Barnes & Noble

    Author Website and Social Media:  Mike Wells  Twitter  Facebook

    Overall Rating  3.00

    Overall Summary:

    Growing up in the worst slums in Pittsburgh, Elaine and her father struggle to make their home a happy one and provide a future that can match the intelligence and dreams that they share for one another.  When her father is falsely accused of passing counterfeit money and eventually dies in jail, Elaine realizes her mission in life and becomes a secret service agent in the hopes of tracking down the real culprit and bringing him to justice.  But like all pursuits of a passionate nature, not everything goes according to plan.

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    A Review of The Daddy Track by Allison Leigh, Illustrated by Mayu Takayama

    Book:  The Daddy Track

    Author:  Allison Leigh,  Illustrated by Mayu Takayama

    Publisher:  Harlequin Comics

    Availability:   Kobo  Amazon  Google Books

    Author Social Media and Website:  Allison Leigh  Allison's Facebook  Allison's Goodreads

    Illustrator Social Media and Website:   None Found

    Overall Rating:  3.75 out of 5 Stars

    Overall Summary:

    When Nate's friend and colleague dies in an accident after replacing Nate on a business trip, Nate is determined to make amends with his family and gain some sort of atonement.  He offers to help out his friend's sister, Jordan, who is busy raising a pair of twins and running a cafe.  As their interaction grows through business and friendship, and Nate starts to struggle with his growing feelings, will he decide to follow his mind or his heart?

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