Clearing Up confusion about “Ice”

I was so excited about publishing my first novella, Ice, as it had been three years in the making. I had decided in the beginning that the use of multiple first-person narrators would be appropriate for this particular story. The story recounts simultaneous action from the point of view of three different characters. When I published Ice, I couldn’t wait for reader feedback. I expected both good and bad reviews (Hey, you can’t please everyone…)The feedback I have received about Ice, while generally positive, has been that my use of the multiple narrators is causing confusion. To my readers: I would like to express my deepest appreciation for your support and feedback, and I apologize that my narration was confusing.

To clear things up:

Part 1 (chapters 1-4) is narrated by Elliot Atkinson. Of the three narrators, he is the most objective.

Part 2 (Chapters 6-9) is narrated by Andy Thompson, chief of police. A lot of this part focuses on Andy’s thoughts and feelings as he tries to deal with a crisis situation while terrified that his daughter may die.

Part 3 (chapters 10-16) is narrated by Carolyn Holcomb, one of the victims of the crime. She recounts in gruesome details the horrors that the victims experienced and (towards the end) some of the lessons she learned from the terrible experience.

Part 4 (Chapters 17-20)- narrated again by Andy as he and others are trying to figure a way out of the crisis without causing further harm to the victims. Basically, Part 3 is the “inside” version and Part 4 is the “outside” version. It is simultaneous action told from two very different perspectives.

Part 5-(remainder of the book)-told by Elliot as he recounts the aftermath of the terror and how Minterville coped, and eventually began the healing process.

I hope this clears up any confusion, and that you will read and enjoy “Ice”

http://www.amazon.com/Ice-Jessica-Wren-ebook/dp/B00O1CCAU6/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1414617782&sr=1-1&keywords=ice

In the UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ice-Jessica-Wren-ebook/dp/B00O1CCAU6/ref=sr_1_4?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1414617897&sr=1-4&keywords=ice

Author Spotlight-Mrs. Carol Parkes

I just got through reading Tissue of Lies by Carol Parkes. It is a suspense thriller about a housewife who, having always suspected that the couple who raised her were not her biological parents, one day reads an article about a decades-old infant abduction and suspects she may have been the infant. The search for the truth leads her into a nightmare she never imagined.

Very well-paced and easy to read, Tissue of Lies offers many plot twists, shocks, and a few scenes that are sexily erotic without being pornographic. It is a true page-turner, and several times I made myself late for work because I had to read just a few more pages. Congratulations, Mrs. Parkes, on a job well done, and I look forward to your next novel.

To read Tissue of Lies: http://www.amazon.com/Tissue-Lies-Carole-Parkes-ebook/dp/B00C7ATLN8/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1414552954&sr=1-1&keywords=tissue+of+lies

For UK customers: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Kindle-eBooks-books/b?ie=UTF8&node=341689031

Ice Character Spotlight-Elliot Atkinson

Elliot Atkinson

Age: 17

Occupation: High school student

Family: Lily Thompson Atkinson (mother), Elliot Atkinson, Sr. (father, deceased), Andy and Jill Thompson (uncle and aunt), Stephanie and Madison Thompson (cousins).

Friends: Tommy Watson, Robbie Jenkins, Liza Cobb, Tate Shields, Logan Canfield, Tanya Shields (girlfriend).

Hobbies: playing football, sleeping in, drinking coffee

Importance in the Story: Elliot is the narrator of Parts 1 and 5. He is the first to notice a major clue that something is wrong.

Elliot is loosely based on my husband Patrick as a teenager.

To read Ice: http://www.amazon.com/Ice-Jessica-Wren-ebook/dp/B00O1CCAU6/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1414454304&sr=1-1&keywords=Ice

For UK customers: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ice-Jessica-Wren-ebook/dp/B00O1CCAU6/ref=sr_1_4?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1414454281&sr=1-4&keywords=Ice

Note: I am also working on a Spanish version of Ice. I am fluent enough in Spanish that I can do this.

Ice-Character spotlight

Tommy Watson

Age: 17

Occupation: high school student, football player

Family: Tom and Diana Watson (parents), Kendra Watson (sister) James and Pamela Minter (grandparents), another unnamed grandmother and two unnamed aunts, Ly Kim (fiancee), unborn child with Ly Kim

Hobbies: playing practical jokes, especially on his sister. Playing football

Best friends: Elliot Atkinson, Robbie Jenkins.

This character is important to the story because: he assists in the rescue, the relics two past practical jokes end up being useful in saving three lives.

To read Ice:  http://www.amazon.com/Ice-Jessica-Wren-ebook/dp/B00O1CCAU6/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1414346688&sr=1-1&keywords=Ice

For UK customers: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ice-Jessica-Wren-ebook/dp/B00O1CCAU6/ref=sr_1_4?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1414344548&sr=1-4&keywords=ice

Ice

Just in time for Halloween!. Ice is literally a bone-chilling crime thriller about a small town that is brutalized by a vicious drug lord over a decades-old debt.

Here are a few character spotlights:

1. Sebastian Quiroga-sadistic, murderous, and violent even towards his own family, he is pure evil.

2. Stephanie Thompson-A cat-loving high school senior whose friendship with Quiroga’s battered daughter reaps her great rewards.

3. Robbie Jenkins-his biggest fear is losing Stephanie Thompson, the love of his life.

4. Barbara Jenkins-not very friendly, but her gardening skills are quite literally divine.

5. Kendra Watson-comforts herself after her grandfather’s death by making jewelry, a hobby that eventually makes her very rich.

6. Natalia de los Santos-fear of her violent uncle Sebastian prevents her from following her conscience, but she is determined to make amends as best she can.

To read Ice: http://www.amazon.com/Ice-Jessica-Wren-ebook/dp/B00O1CCAU6/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1414252176&sr=1-2&keywords=ice

Currently Working On..”Tragedy”

I am making fairly reasonable progress on my second novel, Tragedy,in spite of being a full time teacher and a full time mother to a seven-month-old. Writing is my outlet; it helps reduce stress better than anything else.

Inspired by the Law and Order series, Tragedy is a crime thriller about a veteran homicide detective and his new partner who are simultaneously working two complicated cases that will come together with bone-chilling results. Unlike my first novel IceTragedy will be narrated in the third person.

A brief synopsis: Sgt. Ben Zeigler and his new partner, Detective Angela McGuire, are investigating the murder of a 20-year-old loner. A suspect confesses to the murder, but forensics show that he could have have possibly been the shooter. The detectives know that he did not act alone, and look into his strange family for clues. Meanwhile, a spike in the number of apparent suicides on the (fictional) University of Savannah campus makes the detectives believe that a serial killer may be at work. But what they eventually find out shocks even Ben, who has been on the Homicide Unit for many years.

I am finding that I am writing the story in bits and pieces, writing down the chapters as they come to my mind, not necessarily in any particular order. In fact, I wrote the epilogue last night. With ice, i used the same back-to front approach, and it seemed to work best.

I will keep my readers posted on the progress of Tragedy. meanwhile, please check out Ice. You won’t be disappointed.

http://www.amazon.com/Ice-Jessica-Wren-ebook/dp/B00O1CCAU6/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1414099598&sr=1-1&keywords=ice

How a story is born…

In the summer of 2009, I was house sitting for a professor and his family in Statesboro while attending a summer class at Georgia Southern University. The family lived at the end of a mile-long road, which lead into a mile-long driveway in the woods. One of my duties was to walk the two family dogs to the end of the street and back. I realize I am exaggerating, but in the July heat of Georgia, that walk sure felt like two miles. One day, after reaching the end of the road, I stooped to give myself and the dogs a break and thought “If i didn’t know what was at the end of this road, I would swear it lead to some place mysterious and interesting.” At the same time, I was reading One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

This was the embryonic beginning of my first completed novel, Ice.

I once compared the process of a story being born to that of a baby growing in the womb. But you can also compare it to making stew in a crock pot, You add “ingredients,” and let them “simmer” until the work comes out as you like it.

The ingredients of a good story are inspiration from different sources. In the case of Ice, I was first inspired by the long road in Satesboro (a life experience), then by Garcia Marquez’ work (another novel), a horrific dream where i saw a girl tied to the steps of a swimming pool and screaming, an October Saw marathon, a documentary about Griselda Blanco, and many other sources that I just kept adding to the stew. The idea for The Minter can from Stephen King’s TommyKnockers, In this novel, the digging up a long-buried alien vessel causes the residents of a small town to behave in strange manners, and makes them broadcast their thoughts to everyone else in town.

All of my characters, from the main protagonists to the barely-mentioned minor characters, are based VERY loosely on real people. The “real” Tom Watson, whom I only met once, was an upstanding citizen. He was sheriff and during his election campaign, he and his family were subject to threats suspected to have come from his opponent. He was never involved, in any shape, form, or fashion, in the drug trade.

The setting, the idyllic but fictional Minterville, Georgia, was modeled after Argyle. Texas, where I grew up. When I lived there, Argyle had a crime rate of virtually zero, and there were no secrets; everyone knew what everyone else was doing (I moved away in 1994 and I hear Argyle’s changed quite a bit, and not all for the good).

All these ingredients just came together in the crockpot of my mind, until it simmered to perfection and made the perfect “stew” (or, at least one that was ready).

Notice that the first stirrings for Ice started in 2009, yet the final product was not published until 2014. Why did it take me so long? Because, to continue to use my soup analogy,you can’t just mix up a bunch of ingredients and call it soup. It has to simmer so the flavors can meld. Some stories take longer to “cook” than others, and for that, you have to trust your instincts as writer. Also, it takes the right combination of ingredients. To make a vegetable soup, I wouldn’t add peanut butter. To get the correct inspiration, you have to find sources that add to your desired idea or product. In other words, you have to read and educate yourself. Throwing together random things is going to make your work sloppy. You have to do your research. I had to learn about the drug trade, criminal procedures, first-aid procedures, and different aspects of government (don’t want to reveal specifically what I studied, or it might give away the plot).

The bottom line is that creating story takes time, patience, willingness to research and study, and most importantly, inspiration. But now, I have to go check on my soup, so until next time… Jessica

To read Ice, go to http://www.amazon.com/Ice-Jessica-Wren-ebook/dp/B00O1CCAU6/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1413664141&sr=1-2&keywords=ice

Ice Excerpt

I tried to keep my composure as Walter, in a breathy, barely audible voice, told me that his daughter Kira did not come home from her classes in Statesboro. She had been gone for eighteen hours. I went through the usual round of questions. When did you last see her? Where was she supposed to be? Any new friends? Could she be at a friend’s house? Deep down, though, I felt my heart sank. Kira Holmes was the most responsible, trustworthy person in Minterville, and she would have called home if she were going to be late. Kira could not stand the thought of her father suffering. She was completely devoted to her family and to her boyfriend, DeWayne Burgess, and often talked about how much she missed her older brother.

“Did you see Shay this morning?” I asked, thinking of how Mary O’Brien did not take her usual route that morning. Shay is the opposite of her sister. Kira is tenderhearted, timid, and a tad naïve. Shay, though kind and thoughtful, is feisty and has the ruthless bloodlust of a politician. She can shoot down anyone in a debate over any topic. We witnessed this firsthand when she was class president at Minterville High four years in a row. Shay has political ambitions that made us wonder if Tom may have had an opponent in the next election.

“Yes, she’s at the house in case Kira calls or shows up,” Francine answered. I inwardly breathed a sigh of relief.

“Did you check Dewayne’s house?” I asked.

“Dewayne was the one who called us. He thought she was at our house,” the way Walter answered left no doubt to his complete trust in DeWayne. He knew Dewayne would never hurt Kira. In fact, when we still had The Minter, he would post i love kira holmes at least twice a week, not in a clingy, possessive way, but out of genuine emotion that he wanted to share. We groaned, but it was sweet. DeWayne treats everyone he encounters with charming courtesy. Georgie Burgess always boasts about how she has the best son in town.

“Is there anyone who would have wanted to harm Kira that you can think of?” I asked.

Walter and Francine both shook their hands. I began to write up a missing person’s report-something I have not had to do in years, when little Elenita Velasquez vanished- and it crossed my mind to call Mary O’Brien to check on her. I excused myself to make the call. A sleepy Curtis O’Brien answered the phone. When I asked if his wife was home, he sounded confused but then said, surprised, no she was not, but all the dogs were still there.

“What’s going on?” he asked.

“I don’t know, but can you please come to the station?”

When I finish processing the Holmes report, I decided to start calling around. The first person I called was DeWayne Burgess.

“When did you last see Kira?” I asked Dewayne over the phone.

“Yesterday, before she went to her night class.”

“And did you talk to her after her class? On the phone?”

“Yes, sir. She called last night about 9 or so. When her class got out.”

“What did you talk about?”

“Just the usual stuff. I asked her how her class was. She was complaining about having a lot of homework.”

“Did she seem distressed? Did anything strike you as unusual?”

“No, sir,” he paused briefly as if deciding something. “She told me she was going to Shay’s house. Early this morning I went there and found her car in Shay’s yard. Do you want me to come to the station?”

“No, that’s not necessary. Her parents are here. But please let me know if you hear from her or if you think of anything.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Oh, and one more thing before you go. Did you see your mother this morning?”

“No, do you need me to check on her?”

“Yes, please!”

I hung up with no doubt in my mind I was handling the situation poorly. I called for backup, five retired Mint officers who stayed on as reserves, though until today they were not needed.

Because Minterville is so quiet and crime-free, my partner, Jack LaFevre, and I are usually able to hold down the fort. For the most part, our job consisted of locating Natalie Pacelli and her gang of friends when they went off in the woods for another wild party. Occasionally, we had to put some people in a holding cell when a fight broke out. Real crime, though, we were not accustomed to in Minterville. The Velasquez case went cold a long time ago, and Juan and Gloria Velasquez long resigned themselves to the fact that their daughter was gone. Jack was not due in until noon, but I called him in early. Grumbling, he agreed to be there as soon as he could. I told him to hurry. Without going into details, I told him we had a missing person case, possibly two. I am certain he heard the alarm in my voice.

From my office, I heard the front door open. Expecting to see Curtis O’Brien, I went to the front to greet him. Instead of Curtis, I saw Mihn Lam, looking like he just saw a ghost. Expecting nothing but the worst, I listened as he reported that Tuyen Lam, his wife, was scheduled to open the pet store this morning, When Mihn got an irate call from someone from Minterville Estate complaining that he was low on horse feed, he knew something was wrong. He drove to the store to find that his wife was nowhere to be found and the store was still locked.

“I told her to stay home today. She had a fever of 103. But she wanted to go to work anyway, and there was no talking her out of it,” Mihn told me with an edge of guilt in his voice.

We knew that Tuyen Lam, a wispy 22-year-old with the ethereal air of an angel, would not skip work even when ill. She loves to play with and take care of the animals and besides, her exceptional work ethic would not permit it. Tuyen had taken a liking to Stephanie and would often give her discounts on cat food.

The thought of Stephanie provoked a sense of anxiety that I could not pinpoint. I briefly thought about calling the school to find out who was not there, so I could make sure all students and teachers were accounted for. The concern about inciting a panic made me rule out the idea. Instead, I tried to make a mental list of who besides Mary O’Brien would normally be out at this hour of the morning.

I started to call Stephanie’s cell phone when I remember, guiltily, that I confiscated the phone this morning. I had Mihn fill out some paperwork while I called my house. Thankfully, Lily, Jill, and Madison were all still there. I changed my mind and decided to make that call to the school.

Only when I did call, the phone rang and rang but no one answered. A few minutes later, Elliot called me at the station.

To read the rest…http://www.amazon.com/Ice-Jessica-Wren-ebook/dp/B00O1CCAU6/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1413244223&sr=1-2&keywords=ice

a look inside Ice, my first novella.

I am an emerging writer, and I have just started writing my first novella Ice. Ice is part crime thriller, part Latin-American style magical realism, Ice is sure to be a satisfying read. Here is the synopsis:

The people of Minterville, Georgia know that something is wrong in their once-idyllic community. The reclusive and mistrustful people of Minterville are uneasy about the presence of two suspicious families, the Quirogas and the de los Santos. Since their arrival six months prior, the people of Minterville have lost The Minter, a form of telepathic communication available only to them. Because The Minter cannot function in the presence of evil, the community concludes that the Quirogas and the de los Santos have sinister motives for settling into the community.

Mayor Tom Watson and Police Chief Andy Thompson have been trying desperately to figure out the reason for the families’ sudden entrance into Minterville. The reason becomes clears one Friday morning: they have been sent by Manuela Escribano (aka the “Ice Queen”), a powerful and vindictive drug lord, to collect an old drug debt. Unfortunately, it is too late; Escribano’s diabolical plan to ensure payment has already been set into motion. Time is of the essence; Tom, Chief Andy, and the rest of Minterville must act quickly before innocent people die and their beloved community is destroyed forever.

Now you, my dear blog reader, are going to get some “hints.” These are not spoilers, just little tidbits that i hope will arouse your curiosity:

1. A trusted, beloved member of the community is hiding a deadly secret.

2. One character loves to play practical jokes. Two of his pranks later help save lives.

3. In the process of trying to save their community, the people of Minterville also solve another decades-old crime. The results will shock you…

4. One of the 40+ members of the crime gang makes a startling videotaped confession. Some of the things she says will rattle the town to its core.

5. Finally, Ice has a happy, heartwarming ending that will leave you feeling satisfied.

Pick up your copy of ice in the Amazon Kindle Store. You will not be disappointed.

http://www.amazon.com/Ice-Jessica-Wren-ebook/dp/B00O1CCAU6/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1413122055&sr=1-2&keywords=iceIce_cover2

Things that Bother Me as a Reader

Since these things in literature are so annoying to me, I try to avoid using them in my writing. However, no writing is “perfect” so every author, from the greatest bestseller to the novice, will have these. At least some of these are present in every single book ever written, so while you can’t eliminate them altogether, avoiding them as much as possible will make your writing so much better. DISCLAIMER: This is my personal opinion and not professional advice.

1. Excessive, unnecessary use of profanity.-There was one ebook I was checking out the other  day and the first chapter had the F word no less than six times. Granted, the main character was a jaded 15 year old and the author was going for a Catcher in the Rye-type voice. But even Holden Caulfield didn’t use that much profanity. I understand that profanity does have its place in writing. Just use it sparingly and only to make a  point.

2. Out-of place sex scenes- Stephen King is the biggest offender in my experience as a reader. The most memorable is in Christine where Leigh says “for Arnie” (her boyfriend)-just before having sex with Arnie’s best friend. Like profanity, sex scenes have their place in literature as long as they have a purpose and are not just placed in the story just to include a sex scene. They don’t really appeal to readers that much.

3. Being too esoteric-I was reading this story on an self-publishing online site. The author was a trained paramedic. The story was extremely well-written an would have been a great read, but contained so many terms that only an EMT would understand. If your reader needs a dictionary (or specialized training) to get through your story, he or she is probably going to lose interest quickly. In other words, remember the old rule “think about your target audience.”

4. Going off on tangents too many times- For this, I would say Isabel Allende is a huge offender, although she is still one of my favorite writers and her works are wonderful. Mrs. Allende will start a scene and then take a different direction for 2-3 pages before going back to the main point. In the writing industry, they call this an information dump. Background information should be given in an appropriate place. I realize that this isn’t always possible and I am guilty of this myself, but if it happens too often, your reader is going to be confused. If you have to give background information, keep it very brief and limit it only to what is required for that particular scene.Alternately, you can explain how or why that bit of information is relevant to that scene.

5. Too much background information-Remember in The Grapes of Wrath the two pages it took to describe a turtle crossing the road? Sometimes less is more.

6. Not enough background information-This leads to plot holes, unanswered questions, flat characters, and an inability of the reader to visualize your scenes. The point is, include relevant background information in an appropriate place. This takes practice.

7. Unrealistic or highly improbable coincidences or scenes- This is  called “McGyvering,” after the character who can get out of any dilemma with a rubber band, a straw, and duct tape. In The Hunger Games (as much as I loved the book), Katniss just happened to have iodine in the backpack she randomly picked to purify her water.The Careers really believed that Peeta was going to help them find Katniss after he publicly declared his love for her. Cato, a skilled killer, left him with a quite-not-fatal wound.Marvel was all alone when the Careers usually hunted as a group? Clove spent more time talking about how she was going to kill Katniss instead of actually doing it, which somehow infuriated Thresh enough that he stormed out and killed her himself. Then, Thresh had a clear shot at killing Katniss but instead lets her go because he feels like he “owes’ her because she sang to Rue as she was dying. (It does explain that if Thresh won, he would have to go back to District 11, who sent Katniss bread, but how would Thresh know about the bread?) The Game-makers set themselves up to be humiliated and it’s Katniss’ fault (but not Peeta’s) Congratulations to Mrs. Collins for successfully pulling off such a long string of coincidences. And sometimes a coincidence is necessary to keep the plot moving. But overusing them is just lazy writing.

8. Too-perfect characters- I loved East of Eden, but I hated the character Cathy Ames. Not because she was an evil, murderous whore, but because she was so unbelievable. Every man (with a few exceptions) who came in contact with her fell in love with her. Even her brother-in-law, who could see right through her, eventually succumbed to her charms.  She was able to get away with murder twice. She can lie her way out of any situation and always be believed. The house of horrors she operated in the small community of Salinas was something everyone knew about but no one did anything about. The wrapped herself in a web of lies but never, ever slipped up (unless she was drunk). Cathy was untouchable, above the law, and did whatever she pleased and never faced any consequences (expect the beating she got from her pimp). Her only mission in life, it seemed, was to cause as much destruction as possible. Like the overuse of coincidence, the overly perfect character is just a lazy way to move the plot forward.

9. Annoying characters, especially ones who don’t contribute to the plot or any subplot-such as Ackley in Catcher in the Rye. He has no other function in the novel except to bother Holden in one scene. Main characters can be annoying, too, like the hypersexual, pushy, arrogant Roy Hobbes in The Natural. Sure, Hobbes was a great baseball player, but the way he kept pestering Memo made me just despise him. Annoying character are those that (a) are overly emotional or dramatic (b) are overly submissive or excessively pushy (c) are narcissistic and think others exist only to serve them (d) complain too much or are always unhappy (e) are rude to others or have an attitude problem (f) are frauds, phonies, or hypocrites (g) blame others for their own actions, and (h) just plain dimwitted  In fact, I can think of one book where almost every character annoyed me: Sound and the Fury by Williams Faulkner: Quentin was a weirdo who was for some reason obsessed with his sister’s virginity. Jason was a greedy, bitter mooch who complained about everything. Caddie was a dingbat who thought she could somehow hide her pregnancy from her husband. Carolyn was a whining, self-pitying hypochondriac. Miss Quentin was a promiscuous, hateful teenager. Jason, Sr. was an alcoholic who was completely indifferent to everything going on around him. The “idiot” Benji was, ironically, the only sane member of that family.  In fact, it seems that the whole point to this story was to show how much the members of this family irritated each other. Ask yourself: If this character were a real person, would people like him/her very much? Of course, all characters have personality flaws. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t seem human. But if the readers start to dislike your main character(s), they are going to lose interest in your story. Don’t center the story around your character’s personality flaws, and only reveal them if it is essential to the plot or a subplot. Consider omitting characters who do not contribute to your plot Note: I am not talking here about evil characters, whom the reader hopes gets brought to justice. I’m talking about books with scenes where the character’s behavior just bugs you AND there’s no real purpose for the scene.

10. Stories that have no real plot-They just describe what each character is doing at that moment. Unless your story is meant to be a journal or a memoir, have a point and have the story go somewhere. Speaking of Sound and the Fury, I still don’t know what the plot line is to the story. The same goes for The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway. The whole story just seems to be a series of parties and bullfights. If there was a plot or a point, I failed to see it.

11. Subplots that don’t go anywhere or scenes that end abruptly with no explanation-I read almost all of Arthur Hailey’s work with great enthusiasm. I just couldn’t help but admire how much time and effort he put into the research for his stories. However, Mr. Hailey put more effort into researching his novels than actually writing them. They were suspenseful, mostly well-written, and the plots flowed smoothly. However, one thing regarding Hailey’s work sticks out in my mind: in his novel, The Evening News, there was a scene in which a customs inspector was searching the bags of a terrorist. The scene built up a lot of suspense and even described how the terrorists were preparing to take the inspector hostage. Suddenly, the inspector is called away by his supervisors for some urgent business. The reason is not explained at all. I read the rest of the novel in hopes that the reason would be explained, but it never was. This falls under #7: Coincidences. if you have to have a scene like this to keep your plot moving, give an explanation or revise your scene. If you have subplots, wrap them up.

12. Lack of continuity, both within the novel and between series of novels-In Isabel Allende’s Daughter of Fortune, Pauline del Valle was pregnant with her 4th child. In the sequel A Portrait in Sepia, she only has three children and it specifically mentions that she was only pregnant three times. What happened to the 4th baby? Plot holes are often unavoidable and sometimes necessary to keep the plot going in the absence of any other alternative.  For example, in Nineteen Eighty Four, any person who was seen as a threat to the government, but for some reason, they chose to follow him for seven years to collect “evidence.” (like the Superstate Oceania needed any evidence to arrest or execute someone. If they had arrested him when he started his first journal entry, there would be no story. But gaping plot holes that are not necessary to the plot reflect laziness on the part of the writer. In my example above, the plot hole is not that big of a deal. Professional writers know how to avoid these. i have seen some blaring ones in some of the amateur writing I have read.

13. Literary devices and motifs that are just there for the sake of having a literary device or motif. The following is an except from Dominick Dunne’s A Season in Purgatory: 

“She [Kitt Bradley] opened her bag and took out a pair of glasses and put hem on to scrutinize the buttons. I noticed that one of lenses was cracked.

“isn’t it confusing for you to see life out of a shattered lens?” I asked. 

“I’m used to it.”

“I remember the day you stepped on them. Almost a year ago.”

Kitt Bradley is the daughter of one of the wealthiest, powerful men in America, and the story revolves around a murder her brother Constant committed as a teenager. The family hid it for so many years, and when he was finally put on trial for the murder, the entire family was expected to lie to defend Constant. Certainly, someone as wealthy as Kitt could afford to have her glasses fixed and would not wait a year to do so. This is too obvious of a symbol of the denial in which Kitt is expected to live. Symbolism, motifs, foreshadowing, and other literary devices should be subtle, not blaring.

14. Lack of variety in your vocabulary-Don’t use the same words over and over. Get a thesaurus.

15. A build-up of suspense that leads to a let-down ending.-This just leaves you feeling empty and disappointed. In In Love and Shadows by Isabel Allende, a character named Francisco (I think. i have misplaced my copy of the book and can’t find it online), who lives under a repressive dictator, is trying to hide is secret past as a rebel. He truly lives in great fear of what would happen if his past were revealed (he is in a budding relationship with a journalist who is engaged to an Army captain, so his chances of being found out increase each day).  I read anxiously trying to get to his big secret, only to find out that his experience as a “rebel” amounted to nothing more than a a camping trip with a group of other boys. This leaves you with the same feeling you get when your boss tells you that you are getting a “big raise” and you find out it’s only $40 a month more. Sure, it’s better than nothing, but don’t make things seems bigger than they are. Now, the opposite (understating and then ending with a shocker, is highly effective).

16. Unexplained- In every book I have I have ever read, there has been something-usually the way something is worded, that bothers me and I can’t figure out why. Most of the time it doesn’t cause me to hate the whole book, but sometimes it does. I just couldn’t read Twilight because the wording of it (I just can’t figure out why) just bugged me. it all goes back to chemistry. A book that does not give you that dopamine rush will not interest you, no matter how well-written or popular it is. Twilight just didn’t have the same magic with me as it had with almost everyone else. it doesn’t make it a bad book, just not the right one for me.

Now, here are a list of things that do NOT bother me:

1. Ananchonisms-as long as they are used sparingly and for a reason, i think they are actually cool and fun.

2. Alliteration-For some people, it drives them up the wall. I like it as long as it is not used excessively.

3. Wordiness-A person puts “very’ in front of an adjective. So what? I read somewhere that you should not use adverbs in writing. Why not? As long as a person is not repeating the same phrase over and over again and is going somewhere with his wording, why shouldn’t he be able to use “very’ or “clearly?’ This isn’t English class. Concise is not the point, readr interest is.

4. Using weather as a symbol- Some say this is cliched. As long as you get to the action quickly, it’s OK to set the scene with weather and use it as a subtle symbol. Just make sure it fits realistically with your setting. In my favorite novel One Hundred Years of Solitude it rains continuous for years and years to represent the constant repression and hopelessness of the people of Macondo when the banana company. I loved it so much that I incorporated it into my novella, Ice.

5. Names of Characters- As long as you aren’t trying to be cute with names (someone suggested I name a killer in my one of my short stories “John Wayne Bundy.” WTH?), and the names fit the time period and culture of your characters, you can name them any darn thing you want. They’re your characters.To name my characters, I just flipped through the phone book. Picking names should not be a difficult process.

6. The Way the Cover Looks- I have my covers professionally designed because I’m no artist and I can’t do it myself. However, in a sea of books, no particular cover is going to get my attention. I’m not saying a professional-looking cover is not important, but I’m not going to rule out reading something just because of the way the cover looks. Plenty of wonderful books have had very plain covers. What IS important to me is the book description. If it doesn’t pique my interest, I’m probably not going to read the book.

Now, I have a challenge for you: Read my novella, Ice, and tell me if i am breaking any of my own rules. it is only available on Amazon Kindle, but i hope to have it in print soon.

http://www.amazon.com/Ice-Jessica-Wren-ebook/dp/B00O1CCAU6/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1413039278&sr=1-2&keywords=ice