Like Michael Landon when he thought up Highway to Heaven, or like David Boreanaz when he signed on to do Bones, I am about to embark upon my third series. I’ve written four books so far in my award-winning and Amazon bestselling romantic comedy In Love in the Limelight series and two books so far in my series set in the heart of the Cotswolds, the Drakenfall series. So if I’ve not yet written all the books for these two series, why start a third? Well, it all began last October …
For the holiday season of 2016, I contributed a Christmas short story “It Doesn’t Show Signs of Stopping” to a limited release holiday anthology It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Chick Lit. As I always do whenever I am part of an anthology, I read all the stories in the anthology as soon as the book comes out, if not sooner if I can sneak peeks at the stories by bugging my fellow authors. So, last November, I started reading another of the stories in the anthology, “The Miraculous Power of Butter Cookies” by Holly Tierney-Bedord, an author I kind of knew from some of my writer’s groups. Hm, I thought. Another Christmas cookies story. Then I started reading and OMG I was swept away by prose so warm and wry and gosh darn evocative and deceptive in its simplicity that I immediately thought of Flannery O’Connor. I kid you not. It was that good. When I was done with her story, I messaged her and told her how totally amazeballs she was. Then I read a chick lit book of hers about a woman who goes on a reality show to win the man of her dreams, Bellamy’s Redemption. I don’t even like watching reality shows, but I could not put this book down and I could not stop laughing! And the romance was subtle but squeefully wonderful! Seriously, the book amused me to such an extent that sometimes I will be doing the dishes or walking through the grocery store and I will think of a scene from the book and just burst out laughing! Then I read one of the best books I can ever remember reading – Holly’s Surviving Valencia, a masterpiece that starts out as compelling women’s fiction and twists and turns into a thrilling, suspenseful, and ultimately chilling mystery. The scenes of the narrator growing up in the shadow of her adored, incandescent sister Valencia are achingly perfect, and the journey of how the narrator learns to survive her sister’s untimely teenage death captivates to the very core. But then the book becomes tricky and eerie, when a past thought long-dead surfaces like the Loch Ness monster and keeps you guessing until the VERY. LAST. CHAPTER.
It is rare that I discover an author who so transports me, let alone one that I kind of know! Then early this year, I got a message from Holly. “Would you be interested in co-writing a cozy mystery with me?” Umm … are you talking to me? I mean, yeah!!! Heck, yeah! Are you sure you mean me? Turns out, when she read my romantic comedy Miss Adventure, for the fist time in a long time, her internal editor did not even engage. She was swept away by the ease of my prose and she lost herself in my story.
Does this sound like kismet, or what? We have since become fast friends online and she even let me read her upcoming, soon to be released women’s fiction saga, Sweet Hollow Women. Let me just say, Mmmrrh!!!!!
We have been tossing ideas back and forth over email for a few months now, and finally … this past weekend, I flew to Wisconsin to meet Holly!!!!! It was like Sleepless in Seattle,but without the kid, and the romance was in the form of what we decided to put in the book. We hammered out the final outline of the first story in what we aim to make a helluva series – I have never before been so galvanized by writing!
Holly … cozy mystery … writing with someone I admire to the high heavens and like a heck of a lot besides … Mmmrrh! Stay tuned for more details as the story develops …
When she was a kid in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Geralyn Vivian Ruane Corcillo dreamed of one day becoming the superhero Dyna Girl. So, she did her best and grew up to constantly pick up litter and rescue animals. At home, she loves watching black & white movies, British mysteries, and the NY Giants. Corcillo lives in a drafty old house in Hollywood with her husband Ron, a guy who’s even cooler than Kip Dynamite.
The day I stood in the choir loft surrounded by my fourth grade peers I had no idea that I was about to learn a lesson in suspense, terror, fear, retribution and resolution that would lead me to a career as a thriller author.
The day was hot, air-conditioning was unheard of, and we wore our itchy, ugly, brown wool Catholic school uniforms year ‘round to save our parents money. I was a very good girl. I never drew attention to myself, folded my hands with fingers pointing heavenward when I prayed, picked up trash on the playground and helped pass out papers in class. But that day, I made a blunder that put me in Sister Carmelita’s crosshairs. As she raised her arms and positioned her baton in anticipation of another rousing chorus of a hymn I have long forgotten, I rolled my eyes. Yep, I rolled them to the back of my little ten-year-old head in frustration and exhaustion.
Sister Carmelita cut her own my way. I realize now that she had mastered the art of eye cutting because she couldn’t move her head given her the box-like wimple. Everyone stopped breathing. No one knew what I had done, only that I had done something very, very bad.
“Miss Forster.” Sister Carmelita’s voice was modulated appropriately for God’s house. “Wait after choir.”
My stomach lurched. I felt light headed. I was doomed.
Sister Carmelita is long gone. During her time on earth she faced changes in her church and her life, but I doubt she ever knew how that day changed me. So, if you’re listening, Sister, I want you to know that, 30 years later, that moment sealed my fate. I spend my days writing thrillers, trying to recapture the exquiste sense of suspense I experienced that day. Here is what you taught me:
1) Less is More: Your understated notice of me, the glitter in your eye, the sound of your voice was more intriguing, more compelling, more enthralling than screaming, railing or ranting.
2) Timing is Everything: All 29 of my classmates knew I was in trouble. I knew I was in trouble. I even knew why I was in trouble (disrespecting you, God, choir practice, country, family and all living creatures with a roll of my eyes), yet you didn’t nip things in the bud with a mere instantaneous admonition. My comeuppance was exquisitely timed. You threw in an extra hymn to extend practice, studiously ignored me, meticulously folded your sheet music as my classmates silently went down the stairs. You waited until the door of the church closed, clicked and locked us together in that big, shadowy church before you turned.
3) The Devil’s in the Details: You were taller than me (back then almost everyone was taller than me), but that wasn’t why I was afraid. It was your whole package, the details of your awesome being that were so formidable. Covered head to toe in black, your face framed by your wimple (which, by the way, looked like the vice used during the Spanish Inquisition), your hands buried beneath the scapular that fell in a perfect column to the tips of your shoes, made for quite a package. But there was more: The scent of nun-perfume (I think it was soap, but it smelled like nun-perfume to me), the clack of those huge rosary beads attached to your wide belt, the squish of your rubber soled shoes. I saw all this, I heard all this, I smelled all this and each sense was heightened because of the hush surrounding us.
I remember your methodical advance into my personal space. I remember you lowering your eyes as I raised mine. The suspense was heart-stopping, the anticipation of my penance almost unbearable. Quite frankly, you were terrifying.
But here’s the funny thing: I don’t remember how it ended. Did you scold me? Did you show mercy and forgiveness? I only remember being terrified. Like the brain of the seven year old Stephen King swears gives him inspiration for his horror books, you, Sister Carmelita, inspire every sentence I write in every thriller novel I pen. For that, I can’t thank you enough.
I also want you to know, I have never rolled my eyes at anything since then .
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I took a long walk this morning. Wrote an awesome blog post in my head. The entire time I wished I had my laptop to write down my thoughts. Let me tell you, it was awesome. Of course, as soon as I got home and started to actually write it, well…..the words came out differently. Not as witty. Not as eloquent. My punctuation was off. But trust me. The original in my head? It was awesome. I’m telling you.
See, my blog post was all about my feelings on the subject of telling vs showing. One of those things every fiction writer needs to learn to write a well-written novel. I apparently haven’t been able to figure it out yet. At least that’s what the latest round of contest remarks tell me.
Of course, I can’t show you their comments, so you’ll have to trust me when I tell you this.
So I took my walk to clear my head because somehow these comments have rattled me. I feel (again I’m telling you here) like giving up, stopping, throwing the entire book away. And I’m not sure what to do about it.
I’ve received lots of feedback over the past four years on my writing journey. I’m usually really good about taking it in stride and learning from it. But this time around it has punched me in the gut and taken all the motivation out of me.
And I’m not sure why.
Ironically, most of the feedback I’ve received, has been over the same set of pages. So really, the feedback isn’t just on my writing, it’s on the however many other contest evaluators and writer friends who have taken their time to give me their honest feedback. Each time I’ve made adjustments and changes, I’ve felt like I’ve gotten closer and closer to a solid beginning. So I find it interesting that what’s been pointed out makes my pages sound worse than where I was before.
I’m telling you, it’s enough to make me really confused.
So as I wallow in my own negative emotions, I reflect back to how I got here. Even in high school my English wasn’t great. I scored higher on my math portion of my SAT then my English. I can spell like the best of them, but making sure I’m staying in either present or past tense throughout the entire sentence is a challenge for me. As well as telling vs showing. That’s what I’m being told.
You’ve probably noticed it all in this post.
I do have a BA in Communication. I landed a great job out of college and my first two bosses were previous English teachers. Go figure. Every assignment I turned in came back with red marks everywhere. But I learned. By the time I went to graduate school to get my MBA, I scored higher on the English then the math. But since I embarked on this fiction writing journey I’ve learned something. Let me tell you – copywriting and fiction writing are two completely different things.
The writing I did in the business world mostly came in bullet points. I told people why they needed to buy a certain product. What that product could do for them and how it would benefit them. In catalogs, flyers, packaging, presentations and brochures. We had to be succinct and to the point. A customer needed to be able to know within a few seconds what this product was and what it could do for them. No room for interpretation, no room for feelings or fluff words as we called it. Just the point.
I was in charge of writing, proofing, and editing our products within our customer catalogs – for thousands of products. To create consistency with my team, I created a catalog copy strategy. Here’s what I instructed them:
For the actual copy block:
Example in bullet form of copy block:
Now here I am writing a novel and my mind is trained in a completely different way. I’m having a difficult time writing the showing parts. I’m pulling my hair out trying to get it. I’m crying over the fact that I have 350 plus pages to go back and redo and think I have it correct, but then find out I don’t. (Did I do it? Showing? Wrong tense, though. Sigh.) I’ll keep trying but the task feels daunting.
So, I need someone to tell me what happens next? I’m stuck. Frozen. Not sure if I can keep going. I know, I know. I just need to keep plugging along. I guess that’s why I wrote this blog post. I needed an outlet to process things. And to write something that’s in my own words, my way and I don’t care what anyone else thinks about it. And when I circle back around to accept things and move on, I still have a manuscript where apparently I’ve been told I’m telling too much. I guess only time will tell if I can show them they were right or wrong.
Denise M. Colby loves learning about history and reading fun, uplifting, encouraging stories that cherish and warm the heart. Combining two of her loves, she is working on her first inspirational historical romance, featuring Olivia Carmichael, a young lady who loses everything, including her faith, travels to California to teach and finds love in many different forms along the way. Passionate about all types of stories – whether they are from songs, theatre, movies or novels, Denise loves sharing these passions with her husband and their three boys. You can follow along with Denise on her writing journey at www.denisemcolby.com
Two years ago I began a journey.
I traveled from the battlefields of Virginia to the ice-capped mountains of the mythical principality of Monterra. I met generals and princes, fell in love, time-traveled, and learned that even Cinderella needs a second chance.
It all began with Kindle Scout. (My Kindle Scout journey begins with this post HERE.)
Now I’m taking a new turn in the road with my Kindle Scout winner, LOVE ME FOREVER. A prequel to my novel will appear in an anthology SUMMER SOLSTICE with stories from other Kindle Scout winners. It’s FREE and will be available around June 18, 2017.
Why a prequel?
Love Me Forever opens in 1862 with my secondary heroine, Pauletta Sue Buckingham, escaping from the Yankees and then segues to the present day. There we find Liberty wearing a Confederate officer’s uniform. She’s about to get her head blown off in the midst of a reenactment of the Battle of Antietam.
The bloodiest day of the Civil War.
How on earth did Liberty find herself in such a predicament?
In the prequel, you’ll find out what happened that morning before Liberty joined in the reenactment battle.
And what she saw that changed her life.
Forever . . .
I’ll be entering another novel in the Kindle Scout campaign soon — and yes, it’s a time travel and it takes place during wartime, but that’s all I can say for now! I’m excited to enter it and I’ll post when my campaign is up.
Any questions about the KS program, please ask!
Not only is my KS winner part of Kindle Press, but I was invited to write for Kindle Worlds “The Royal of Monterra” by Sariah Wilson, another Kindle Scout winner. And what a ride that has been.
Here’s a preview.
That’s it for this month! See you soon.
Once upon a Story blog
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B001IU2P8G