Tag: Jenny Jensen

Home > ArchivesTag: Jenny Jensen

Laughter Rx by Jenny Jensen

October 19, 2021 by in category On writing . . . by Jenny Jensen tagged as , , , , ,

It’s fall. And it’s a beautiful fall. Cottonwoods are going gold, sunflowers are bursting out along the ditch banks and best of all, the Sandhill Cranes are returning. They do this amazing ballet in the sky, circling and calling out their own special symphony – music to rake leaves by.

I love the Fall and though it is marked by so much beauty; it is also tinged with melancholy. I’m not sure if that sadness is from mourning the end of summer and all that season gives us or if it’s just the knowing that dark, cold days are coming. Whatever the cause, fall can make me feel blue. What I need is a good laugh—hopefully a full on belly laugh.

There are plenty of comedy films and shows that are wonderful for a LOL, even a good ROTFL. I get a lot of joy from comedy films. I enjoy visual and physical comedy.

And I have to admit loving the thousands of classic film quips – words in the end after all – but it’s the humorous, witty, often ridiculous written word that uplifts my spirits for the long run. Books are the best place I’ve found for humor that sticks with you like a good diner meal.

Words stay with you – the perfect combination of words that describe a place, or show a feeling or capture the essence of this (often ridiculous) human condition we all share ‑ become a memory. (I guess that’s why Bartlett felt compelled to gather his faves into a big fat book. There are just so many good quotes. So many perfect words.) And unlike a visual motion media, the written word is taken in at your own pace – you have time to absorb the funny and appreciate it.

So I am making a new fall book list designed for the laughter that lightens the spirit. I’ve included some old favorites I haven’t looked at in years. Auntie Mame (Patrick Dennis) came to mind first. I thought I’d follow that with a couple of Flavia de Luce (Alan Bradley) adventures I haven’t read yet (nothing says cutting wit like an eleven-year-old British girl genius). What is needed next is some full on silly and for me nothing can do that better than a funny witch. I love Robyn Peterman’s Magic and Mayhem series and add one or three of those.

That’s as far as I’ve gotten. I’m stumped and so I’m reaching out to other readers for suggestions. Who better to ask than the authors, devotees and avid readers of Slice of Orange? If you’ve chanced to read this post, I’d love to hear your humorous book suggestions. I’d especially like to read a romance that will make me laugh as well as sigh with satisfaction. I have a feeling it’s going to be a long, dark winter. We need to keep the laugh meter spiking. Enjoy the fall and thanks in advance.

3 1 Read more

Why Do I Love Ranger? by Jenny Jensen

July 19, 2021 by in category On writing . . . by Jenny Jensen tagged as , ,

Currently working with a writer on the development of a new series. Book One has to really grip the audience if the series stands a chance. This is a great first draft with solid premise, good action, clever mystery, really likeable secondary characters and a perfectly creepy villain. The problem is the MC. Because the author is writing in 1st PPOV the narrator – that 1st person person – needs to be so compelling that the reader will stick with their voice for 370 pages and come back for more. That’s a tall order. My client just doesn’t know who this guy is…yet. My job is to help him find his perfect MC.

The author is busy working on a character sketch. That’s the best exercise I know to flesh out a character. I’m in awe of those writers whose characters spring full born from the creative ocean in their head. Most of us have to work out the details that make the character irresistible. Client and I are scheduled to talk on Wednesday and in the meantime I’m considering examples: which characters do I find irresistible, and why.

Janet Evanovich’s Ranger. Why do I love Ranger? Well, who doesn’t? Why is that? Handsome? Check. Talented? Check. Decisive man of action? Check. Smart, kind. Check. Attitude? Check. Sexy? Check, check, check. It’s all that and his eloquent monosyllabic dialog. “Babe.” That says it all. Then I realize that Ranger has been crafted to perfectly fit his purpose in the story. He serves as foil, friend and unattainable hero and Evanovich has drawn him with such magnetic traits that we’ll never tire of him.

Then there are the classics: Peroit, Miss Marple. Both have distinctive talents, and an attitude that makes their approach to the problem unique. Each can be kind and caring and each is a bit obsessive. They are very familiar, like comfortable old friends and I like to visit them when I need something predictable and comfortable. The flip side of that are the characters whose make up fits the same bill but we can see them grow and change with time and circumstance. There’s a malleable aspect to Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone that keeps her compelling more than comfortable. At closer look all four of those characters share important qualities.

Flavia de Luce and Lisbeth Salander. Were two more diametrically opposed heroines ever written? Yet both characters share some basic traits. Both have a sassy intellect, are obsessively curious, have a stronger than normal sense of right, are frighteningly brave and more resourceful than a Swiss Army knife. Each of them nurses a psychic wound and each is tough but tender; both Flavia and Lisbeth truly care about the world outside themselves. And they are both sterling hell raisers.

Just considering what makes a character so magnetic to me is enlightening. To see that archetypical qualities, those characteristics that speak to all of us, can come in a million different packages is key. Miss Marple is wrapped in comfortable flannel and her qualities have been shaped to fit her world perfectly. Lisbeth is her sister at heart only she is covered in leather and streaks her motorbike through a very different world. Peroit in his silk and Flavia in her calico are blood relatives and fit their entirely different worlds like a glove.

Now when I conference with my client I have some structure to my thoughts. I can help him see that there are crucial aspects to a main character that those traits should fit his world. If these characteristics are carefully thought out and artfully drawn his MC will win reader’s hearts and keep them coming back for installment after installment. Whew! Thanks for listening.

1 0 Read more

Short and sweet…and funny by Jenny Jensen

June 19, 2021 by in category On writing . . . by Jenny Jensen tagged as , , ,

Courtesy of The New Yorker

Short and sweet…and funny

I love Dickens. I really do; the man could use 400 words to describe something that needs maybe five and never miss a beat, never lose a reader’s interest – like spotting all the little details in a medieval tapestry. Then there are the Russians; I nearly drown in those narratives. All those names! Still, what grand stories. But after Anna’s head meets the track I have to read some Elmore Leonard to clear my palette. So many long narrative styles and each a joy to read.

Sometimes though, we all like something short and sweet and to the point. The limerick fits the bill perfectly. OK, it’s technically narrative verse, but a good limerick can express rich volumes in five simple lines. Mostly they’re funny and that’s a plus. And they’re therapeutic, as every frustrated student can attest. Penning limericks during long obtuse lectures got me through an entire semester of statistics.

Regarding statistics Professor Rum writes
While a perplexed class his piercing eye smites
There are lies and damn lies...
But in this student’s eyes
It’s only statistics that bites

It was Mr. Edward Lear (c. 1840-50) who popularized the form for children and thus introduced it to all and sundry. Anyone can, and everyone should, and most everyone has, unleashed pent up feelings in this deceptively innocent form.  How to tell a truth, share one’s opinions, confess a saucy thought: let it out in a limerick.

I’ve been told an old man had sent emails
To some various dubious females.
He was asked what they said,
But he just shook his head.
I would rather not go into details  
                          (author unknown)

The madness of our current world offers so much fodder for a simple AABBA structure. From celebrity culture to politics to foodie commentary it’s an embarrassment of riches. Just think what you can do with Twitter? Jeff Bezos? Bit Coin?  NFT’s? Of course, the really good limericks are the prurient ones. I won’t share any of those here – no need to risk offense – but I bet you all know at least one. And those limericks from elementary school? Sex Ed 101. A narrative form for all ages.

The limerick packs laughs anatomical
Into space that is quite economical.
But the good ones I’ve seen
So seldom are clean
And the clean ones so seldom are comical.

                        (author unknown)

Penning a good limerick is useful. You can entertain family with a razor sharp limerick about Uncle Arnie, or share one with work mates about the Soup Nazi in the cafeteria – entertaining and therapeutic.  But the best use of all is to prime the pump. When I’m faced with that fog wall of writer’s block I jot down a limerick. I work it until it shines and the word faucet flows.

A writer sat despondent in Rossclurds
She’d lost her facility for words.
She penned a snide limerick,
the lurid content did ‘er the trick,
And words flowed like Miss Muffet’s curds.

Lame? Well, yes. But it works and no one needs to read it. The next time you’re assaulted by the news, bemused by your sister’s latest breakup with yet another unsuitable guy or you’re faced with a blank page and the words just won’t coalesce, get your Limerick on!

3 0 Read more

Criticism: Big Girl Panties for Ruth by Jenny Jensen

February 19, 2021 by in category On writing . . . by Jenny Jensen tagged as , , , ,

Or How to Take It on the Chin and Grow

(From our archives. We hope you enjoy this rerun from Jenny Jensen)


I attended an author’s chat the other day at our local library. It’s always fun to hear an author talk about their craft— especially if you like their books. The bonus is mingling with other attendees. Who among us doesn’t enjoy chatting with fellow book lovers? I found myself in conversation with two women, each funny, gracious and interesting. When talk got to the inevitable “so what do you do?” I learned Kit was a nurse and Ruth, a writer. I added that I’m an editor and while Kit smiled acknowledgment, Ruth scowled.

Ten minutes later—after Kit had smiled apologetically and bowed out—I’d learned all about Ruth’s experience with editors. “They call themselves editors, but they’re really just critics. They couldn’t even follow the story, let alone the subtext. They’re just mean, simple-minded wannabe writers” and so forth. Yowza! I’d never encountered that before.  I know a lot of editors, and none of them fit that bill. Best to just nod and try to look sympathetic while keeping an eye peeled for a graceful escape.  Ruth had either met the world’s worst editors, or she’s simply unable to handle criticism. I suspect the latter.

Writing is hard, solitary work. It’s just you creating in a vacuum. Writing requires hours of reading, writing and revising, searching for just the right words to make a character live and breathe, the perfect plot twist, the right feel. Writing writing writing, and then hours of revision. The whole blood, sweat and tears combo.  Then there’s the criticism; every writer has to face it if they want to share their work outside that creative vacuum.

It can be a hard pill to swallow. I know. I’ve been singed by some very savvy, very critical edits. Hard to have your heart and soul — not to mention all that BS&T—picked to pieces by others. But like mammograms, taxes and dirty diapers, it has to be faced.

As an editor, I’m really loath to offer a ‘critique’. That word has such baggage. If words have color, then criticism is a red-tinged pulsating mash-up of bruised blue and black. I prefer to think of what I do as editorial assessment, or an overview. (Words really are powerful, aren’t they?!) But no matter how I spin it, it comes down to criticism.

Criticism is like cholesterol; there’s the good kind and the bad kind. The LDL kind, the bad kind, is empty criticism. “ I don’t like it”, “Flimsy and transparent” or “I don’t get it”.  My favorite being, “yeah, I read it. Interesting”. Ouch! Then there is the polite, painless approach: “Very nice!” What could that possibly mean?

Constructive criticism is HDL cholesterol, good for every writer’s circulation. Good criticism points out pitfalls and weaknesses, but it also explains why they are pitfalls and weaknesses. It sheds light on why it doesn’t work. Really good, healthy criticism offers solutions. I never expect an author to accept a solution I offer (and most don’t, they find their own). I offer it as a straw man—something to consider, breakdown, reject and replace with a better approach because suggesting a substitute shows the author the problem needing a solution.  It’s because a writer creates in isolation that they can’t always hear a misstep. I’m guessing Ruth’s missed subtext was so sub it wasn’t there. Point this out to a writer and the light bulb goes on; they revise, and the story is stronger.

How should you, as a writer, react to criticism? You wrote it, you shared it—you must learn to account for it. How do your words strike people? Did the reader see nothing where you intended a scene to be revealing or suggestive, and so the story is confusing? You can’t dismiss the reader as thick, dense or stupid. You have to look at your words and consider improvement because clearly, those words didn’t do the job you had intended.  Whether it’s a missed plot point or character motivation that can’t be seen, maybe it isn’t on the page; it’s still in your head. Revise, rewrite. Listen to the audience your words are intended for. The best writers respect their readers. Your work will only get better.

A good editing critique helps you identify weaknesses. Don’t take it personally. Constructive criticism is useful precisely because it isn’t personal. Your BFF is unwilling to risk a response that might be hurtful, but is that what a writer needs?

Writing’s about kicking doubt in the ass and shoving him out the door. Editing’s about inviting him back in for tea and scrutiny. *

I wish Ruth had invited her editor back in.

*from @novelicious, that magical twitter feed that is double chocolate for every writer’s sweet tooth.

0 0 Read more

The Extra Squeeze Team: February Featured Author

February 7, 2021 by in category Featured Author of the Month, The Extra Squeeze by The Extra Squeeze Team tagged as , , , , , , ,

Each week in February we’ll be featuring The Extra Squeeze Team.

Ever wonder what industry professionals think about the issues that can really impact our careers? Each month The Extra Squeeze features a fresh topic related to books and publishing.

Amazon mover and shaker Rebecca Forster and her handpicked team of book professionals offer frank responses from the POV of each of their specialties — Writing, Editing, PR/Biz Development, and Cover Design.


Have you a question for The Extra Squeeze Team? Send them to us by using this handy link.

Do I have to write in the same genre? | The Extra Squeeze Team | A Slice of Orange

Dear Extra Squeeze Team: Do I HAVE to Keep Writing in the Same Genre?

Rebecca Forster | Extra Squeeze

Rebecca Forster 

USA Today Bestselling author of 35 books, including the Witness series and the new Finn O’Brien series.

Switching genres is not a black and white issue but a function of the writer’s objective.


Writers by nature are a curious, opinionated and creative bunch. That means there is a tendency to write about whatever inspired them. Sadly this impulsive creativity wars with, and can undermine, the business of being creative.


So, if you are a writer whose primary concern is to explore all levels of your craft, writing in many different genres will be fulfilling. But if your primary concern were to use your writing to build a creative business, it would be wise to stick to one genre. Here is why:


1) Concentrating on one genre creates a dedicated fan base.

2) One genre allows the author to create a cohesive personal brand

3) Readers will know where to find you on the bookshelf whether it is in a brick and mortar or a digital bookstore.

4) Writers usually excel in one genre. To write in a completely different genre that is not as strong as your primary one only serves to dilute your brand.


This is not to say you can’t have diversity in your writing career. If you’re a thriller writer, it can take months to craft a 100,000-word novel. Writing shorter genre romantic suspense might satisfy your desire to write in a separate genre, allow you to bring out more books each year, and your output will still appeal to your fan base while growing a cross-over fan base in romantic suspense. Do you write fantasy? Then try magical realism. Do you write romance? Cross over to women’s fiction or sagas. Just remember to make your secondary market tangential to your primary.


New writers may want to try on different genres for size to find out where their strengths lie. Established authors who want to try a completely different genre may want to consider a pseudonym. Either way, the first thing to do is decide what your career objective is and then make a genre plan to meet it.


[tweetshare tweet=”Dear Extra Squeeze Team: Do I HAVE to keep writing in the same genre?” username=”@A_SliceofOrange”]

Jenny Jensen | A Slice of Orange

Jenny Jensen

Developmental editor who has worked for twenty plus years with new and established authors of both fiction and non-fiction, traditional and indie.

No, of course not. You can write in any genre you desire. The outcome of that would depend on how much weight you place on each side of art vs business of writing equation.


If you weigh in about equal between writing as your expressive art and the business of making that art pay (either recognition or income) you’re well aware of the importance of branding your work for a particular audience. You know the effort involved in creating an online author presence, beginning with a body of solid work, which is publicized and supported by blogs, reviews, interviews, twitter, newsletters, Face Book etc.  It takes time and consistent work to build an author platform and a fan base. Your fans find you and stick with you because they want to read the genre you’re writing in, they expect to read that genre and because you are good enough at that genre to either be building, or have built, a solid following.


Traditional publishers shy away from letting an author branch out into a different genre. They don’t want to upset an established cash cow. In that respect the traditional marketing model is similar to the Indie model. Poor A. A. Milne — he really wanted to write murder mysteries (he published one: The Red House Mystery) but his publisher would never let him taint the image of Christopher and friends.  There are major exceptions; J. K. Rowling and Anne Rice are two. Both of these fabulous authors had a huge, loyal fan base before they made the genre jump. When you write that well most of us will follow blindly! I know I do and I’ve not been disappointed.


If you know you have great stories in you that cross genre typing you can always publish one genre under a nom de plume. That’s very common. Eventually a well-known writer gets outed as the person behind the false moniker but by that time she’s hooked a whole new audience so everyone is happy.


Writing in different genres is, I think, an excellent way to exercise and grow your writing skills. Just the difference in voice between the lady of an Edwardian romance and the female warrior of a dungeons and dragons fantasy would require a major stretch of skills. Add plot mechanics, atmosphere and secondary characters and you’re running a writing marathon. That’s the kind of practice that really sharpens a writer’s eye. I’d never discourage that.


The important thing to remember if you want to successfully write in more than one genre is to be sure you can excel in one of them first.

Robin Blakely | The Extra Squeeze Team | A Slice of Orange

Robin Blakely

PR/Business Development coach for writers and artists; CEO, Creative Center of America; member, Forbes Coaches Council.

No, you don’t have to keep writing in the same genre. But, why would you leave?


Over the years, authors have privately shared many reasons for making big shifts in their writing careers.


  • Sometimes you start out in the wrong place, and your efforts just aren’t working.
  • Sometimes you change so much as you grow professionally that your story interests carry you to a new genre.
  • Sometimes the original genre changes and you no longer feel at home creating the types of stories you once enjoyed.


As a writer, you are a talent-driven brand, and talent-driven brands are fueled by passion.  So, it always makes sense to follow your passion.  However, passion can sometimes be mistaken for a whim.  So, think hard about the shift you are contemplating.  Prepare for what could be ahead.


From a PR, Marketing, and Sales perspective think about desired outcomes before you decide to leave your readers and move.


  • Consider the risks and the benefits to the business side of your creativity.
  • Take a critical look at what you are building—there is more than your written work at stake.
  • In addition to the books you are creating, you are also steadily building a community of readers.  Jumping ship to another genre will be like moving from your beloved neighborhood to a new community.  The readers you got to know over here may not go with you over there when you leave.  They may like you enough to come visit, but it is likely that they won’t come by often.

PR-wise, you are starting over when you begin to write in a new genre.  Even if you keep writing for your original genre, you will still be starting over reader-wise with your new work. Still, just like in the real world with an apartment or a starter home, a simple move can be just what you needed to live happily ever after.

H. O. Charles | A Slice of Orange

H.O. Charles

Cover designer and author of the fantasy series, The Fireblade Array


When you find out, please let me know because I am about to publish a(n) historical fiction novel (after years of writing in fantasy!).


There’s no reason why an author wouldn’t have the *ability* to write in another genre, as long as the enthusiasm and skill for it is there. The main thing that I’d be concerned about is audience. The audience you build up whilst writing for one genre may not enjoy your new genre, and it may be that only die-hard fans will want to make the crossing, so to speak. And if they did, the resulting reviews and sales could go either way. Essentially you’d be back at square 1, or perhaps square 1.43, in building a readership for your books.


I wonder if JK Rowling’s endeavour with crime fiction (Robert Galbraith) might serve as a useful source of information. The books were released under a different pseudonym (just as Nora Roberts’ publisher insisted), although this was at JK’s behest since she wanted to “go back to the beginning of a writing career in this new genre, to work without hype or expectation and to receive totally unvarnished feedback.”


On one hand, she received positive reviews as a ‘debut author’, but only sold 1,500 copies in the three months before her true identity was revealed (I say only – that’s not bad going for many authors out there!).


When it was revealed that Galbraith was Rowling, sales shot through the roof, but still only half as many people have written reviews for those books as have done so for the Potter series. From that, I would suggest that if your performance in your first genre is good, then it can only help build a readership for your new genre, but don’t expect sales to match those of your first genre. However, if your foray into your new genre is flawed for any reason, I suppose *potentially* it could negatively affect your existing reputation.


Without having published my non-fantasy book yet, I say go for it. It’s a great way to learn and explore new techniques, approaches, worlds and really grow as an author. I’m really enjoying doing something different.

The Extra Squeeze | A Slice of Orange

Ever wonder what industry professionals think about the issues that can really impact our careers? Each month The Extra Squeeze features a fresh topic related to books and publishing.

Amazon mover and shaker Rebecca Forster and her handpicked team of book professionals offer frank responses from the POV of each of their specialties — Writing, Editing, PR/Biz Development, and Cover Design.

Send them your writing and publishing questions 

0 0 Read more

Copyright ©2017 A Slice of Orange. All Rights Reserved. ~PROUDLY POWERED BY WORDPRESS ~ CREATED BY ISHYOBOY.COM