What Is Your Book About?

Recently, I read a book’s blurb that all it told was she’d returned to her hometown, she’d changed (I suspected she was outgoing when she was young and now wasn’t – that was an assumption from the vague blurb), and the handsome guy had noticed her. That’s it.

What did the guy do for a living that might be important to the story? Were they high school friends, lovers, or enemies? Besides being good looking, is there something more about him to draw the reader’s interest? Habits, hobbies? The author didn’t have to add all of that, but some little something more that tells us about the male lead besides how he looked.

Nothing was said that would draw me in to read it, unless returning to a hometown is one of my favorite tropes. It’s not really. So it didn’t. Have you noticed more and more books lately have blurbs like this. A bunch of nothing about the plot. Just emotions that aren’t really deep.

When you write your blurb, ask another author who you trust to read it. Remember each main character (MC) needs a trope. In other words, you need at least a hook per main character that will interest the reader. Your blurb (each MC) should have a GMC (Goal, Motivation, Conflict). That doesn’t mean to give the ending away. Each MC will have a Goal in the beginning that will most likely change before the ending. That’s often how the characters show growth.

Of course, the MCs need emotional goals too. So let me break it down for you. Just remember, you’re not telling the whole story, but having the GMC spelled out helps you write the blurb with a mixture of the plot and emotion.

Goal: MC wants?

Motivation: Because?

Conflict: But?

Here’s my book Jake’s GMC.

  • Angel’s Goal: She wants out of the criminal world and to discover the person/people who murdered her grandfather.
  • Jake’s Goal: He wants to leave the life his father forced on him, yet determined to do away with the person/people who killed his father and stop the organization trying to overtake his county.
  • Angel’s Motivation: Because she knows it’s the only way to protect her younger brother.
  • Jake’s Motivation: Because if he and his brothers continue in their father’s footsteps, they would be dead too.
  • Angel’s Conflict: But her grandfather wrote a codicil requiring her to marry a despised Whitfield, though she doesn’t really hate Jake. She’s been in love with him since a sexy incidence in high school.
  • Jake’s Conflict: But his father wrote a codicil requiring him to marry a crazy Tally, though he cannot forget how attracted to her he’d been since that one scene in high school.

Funny, how these two people have so much in common and family history has kept them apart. They are destined to be together, right?

Here’s the blurb.

Forget the Hatfields and McCoys, in a small Southern town, the Whitfields and Tallys are the real family feud. So for some unholy reason, Jake Whitfield’s old man and Angel Tally’s grandfather wrote codicils to their wills the night before they died in a suspicious fire. The codicils require Jake and Angel to marry or lose their inheritances.

Jake feels like a man with two faces. One he presents to his brothers and the public: the criminal willing to step on anyone for a buck while mercilessly protecting the business. The other: the lonely man wanting a better life for himself and his family and working with an FBI agent to make it happen.

To Jake, marrying Angel makes sense. With her family’s help, he can fight the new criminal organization that’s moving into his town. Immersed in the criminal world, there is no hope for Angel, but her brother is still young. She will do anything to protect him from that way of life and whoever killed their grandfather, even marry a despised Whitfield. And Angel never forgot about the sexy incident with Jake in high school ten years earlier. And if she has to go along with a Whitfield-Tally marriage, she wants a replay.

As you see, you basically take the WANT-BECAUSE-WHY and then you smooth out the information into two or three paragraphs.

The Tropes above are Forced Marriage that turned into Marriage of Convenience, Criminal Hero (in this book Heroine is too), Enemies to Lovers/Forbidden Love, First Love (her), Partners in Crime, and Revenge. Whoa! This was packed with tropes.

Remember, vague will not sell books.

A Question About What is a Bestseller (TikTok)

@carlaswafford

When can an author call themselves bestseller? Does it matter to you? A copy of the list is on my website. See my profile #bestseller #booktok #applebooks

♬ original sound – AuthorCarlaSwafford

What do you hear?

Lately, I hear a lot of characters in TV shows, movies, and books say a statement and then end it with “Yeah” as a question. For example, “I’ll see you inside, yeah?” And a present day popular adjective is “epic.” “That idea is epic.” “The trip will be epic.”

When I was a teenager, the statement with question was “You know?” So it would go like this, “I’m so thirsty, you know?” And the popular adjective(s) was “far out .” “The party will be far out.”

What did you say when you were a teenager? What current “colloquialism” do you hear?

Just a Mention

Though I’ve mentioned this before, I thought you might have missed it. I’m on TikTok too. Not that I do a whole lot there. Like most writers, I prefer to spend my time writing.

Here’s a recent video I did for that media.

Market Resources and Such

Hey, where do you go for your market info? I used to read RT Book Reviews. (I always wondered why she didn’t put the magazine/website up for sale.) Of course, I check Romance Writers of America’s website, magazine, and notices, but I like more than one source. The blogs I have checked out in the past have gone or they do only reviews. But here are a few I check out on occasion.

Smart Bitches Trashy Books

The above has podcasts that are interesting.

Dear Author

The above owner used to talk about the industry more, but since the Ellora’s Cave incident, I think she backed off. Sadly. But I understand.

StephieSmith.com

Stephie had a great chart about contests (due dates, etc.) but has stopped doing that and has a link to another site that keeps up with it. Yet, her resource page is pretty good. Not sure how current.

Harlequin Junkie

Above is only reviews and interviews, but I like it. Heck, they interviewed me a couple times for Loveswept.

Published to Death

This one that follows I just found today. Just old stuff (1-2 years ago) but weeding through it some good info will pop up. I guess that is true to all of the links I’ve mentioned in this post.

Romantically Inclined

Here’s another place to check out. They mix in articles about various writing tropes with the reviews.

What about you? Where do you find your info?

Sweet Home Alabama

Grandfather in uniform 1919

Just like most people during the last year, I found myself with a little extra time. So I decided to work on my ancestry. My sister worked on it years ago which helped get me started.

I’ve learned so much about my family. I will say it’s important to know general local and world history and pay attention to dates if you do this. It will make it easier. All of the info I came across was so fascinating. It’s like my family has reintroduced themselves to me.

My goodness, I have generations galore that grew up and were buried in Cullman (half of Cullman City Cemetery is filled with my relatives/ancestors) and Walker counties. Sure, back in the 1700-1600s and beyond, they lived in Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, England, and Wales. There’s over 1,000 people in my tree. But I remember hearing stories about many of them (those from the last 100 years) when I was growing up, but the research has taught me so much.

Like that my paternal grandfather had joined the Alabama Army National Guard at 16 years old and was sent to Arizona to protect the border. This is during the time (1916) Germany was pushing Mexico to invade the U.S. and Pancho Villa was attacking U.S. cities. Be sure to look this stuff up. That’s a rough explanation of why my grandfather was there. The picture above of him (he looks so freaking young) with his first wife is on their wedding day. He was about to be 19 and she had just turned 18. Not my grandmother. Sadly, the pretty lady passed away at 23 from a sickness. She did leave behind two beautiful daughters. My aunts. By the way, I never thought of them not being fully mine.

Anyway, the crazy thing is, I could throw a rock and hit land where one relative or another owned or rented it at one time or another.

Side note: In 2019, my husband and I moved to be nearer to family. We had lived northeast of Birmingham for most of our lives. So when we moved to the northwest side of the city, you wouldn’t think that would be much of a difference. But there is. City vs country life.

Overall, there is so much to be proud of in my family though I will say some of them have the worst luck. One thing for sure, I wish I had asked my grandparents more questions.

*sigh*

All is good. I’m home now.

So Your Readers Hate Your Heroine

So Your Readers Hate Your Heroine

When I first started writing, critique partners and contest judges would often have a problem with my heroines. When I sold my first book, my editor said I needed to make my heroine likable.

Geez. She’s a cold-blooded assassin (Circle of Desire) and I understood why she was that way. Why couldn’t she?

I had explained piece by piece throughout the book how she was a dumpster baby, grew up in an orphanage and foster care. Then she was molested and became a runaway, walked the streets for a small time pimp, and then trained by a psycho to be an assassin. Why couldn’t the readers feel sympathy for her?

Well, if more than one person tells you that they do not like a character, you have to listen. And a big clue is the two words I used above. I understood.

So that means, I didn’t help the reader recognize where she was coming from when she did or said bad things. You can’t guarantee that the reader will read the whole book to grasp all of the fine details that made the heroine become that person. You have to give the reader a reason for her behavior. Of course, I do get aggravated with a reviewer when they say “I skipped through the book.” If she/he had read every word, they would have understood the heroine’s thought process. But it is the author’s responsibility to make it clear in the beginning that the main character(s) is someone you want in your life or sympathetic to their faults.

With encouragement from my editor, I went into the first chapter and added a sentence. That helped. See, it doesn’t take an info dump to get a point across. If you’re wondering, I showed in the narrative that her hands shook. Showing she was human.

I believe women often have a problem writing women because we think our readers (majority women) know the motivations behind the female lead’s actions. But that’s not true. Not every woman feels the same way about a situation. So we have to explain or show her rationale.

Funny how I forgot that lesson from my debut book when I wrote my first Brother of Mayhem book, Hidden Heat. Several reviewers felt that Cassidy was being immature by the fits she dealt the MC. She’s a strong heroine who knew if she didn’t stand her ground the club would run all of over her. I obviously didn’t make that clear enough in the beginning. But thankfully some reviewers/readers understood. Here’s one review that proved it. Debbie’s Reviews in Goodreads.

This means we (authors) have to stay on our toes and give our readers the information needed, within reason and in the most entertaining way. And readers need to give strong (or weak) heroines the benefit of doubt. If you want to skip pages, just don’t read the book.

What Is The Difference Between Mystery, Suspense, and Thriller? I Have So Many Answers.

What Is The Difference Between Mystery, Suspense, and Thriller? I Have So Many Answers.

Yesterday, I was discussing with another author the differences between a mystery, a suspense, and a thriller. I need to mention that this debate is not new to anyone and has been going on for years and years. Everyone has an opinion about it. I believe it all depends on what you read or write or both.

Now you don’t have to take my word on this. Here are other perspectives I found on the internet. I figured I would get you in the mood by seeing others before you see mine.

Author Stacy Woodson

Author Maeve Maddox

Former Literary Agent Nathan Bransford

Several Answers on Quora

See what I mean? Lots of viewpoints and really no one is wrong. Like I said, it depends on where you sit on the fence. Right? Ha!

Moving on, here’s my fence…uh…opinion.

Thriller

First, I want to mention all thrillers have suspense and many have a mystery entwined with the plot, but thrillers have one thing in common. The inciting event leads to a greater, dangerous event. Thrillers are normally involved with killing a lot of people or/and destroying a lot of property. Such as the Die Hard franchise. So if it starts out with one person dead and then gradually more are dead until the whole city or world is in danger, that’s a thriller.

While writing this post, I searched for “thriller movies” and none were the type I think of as the typical thriller. It appears the internet and media often referred to movies I look at as thrillers to be action movies. They are both.

People include a serial killer or serial killer-like character in a movie as thrillers. It can reveal the killer or not to the reader. The same for the hero in the story. He or she could know (or not) who is bringing up the body count. But you have to realize, this is a hybrid. A thriller with suspense. Of course, suspense is included along with mystery. Think of any movie where individuals are dying left and right, and you don’t know when the next murder will happen. I think of the movie Seven for this one. They discover who the killer is mid-way through the seven deaths, but can they stop him in time?

From a personal debate of mine, I’ve had people call my first book, Circle of Desire, a thriller. I’ve always disagreed. I do like action/adventure mixed in with my romantic suspense. So it’s like a Nikita or James Bond story. In Circle of Desire, the bad guy is trying to get rid of his competition and using a female assassin to do it. She’s captured in the first chapter by the other organization and does not kill another person until later the book. He’s not about to kill everyone in the world either. So no. Not a thriller. Romantic suspense, yes.

Here’s the blurb to Circle of Desire.

As the top assassin at The Circle, a shadowy group of mercenaries, Olivia St. Vincent can hunt down anyone. She’s been trained since she was a teenager to kill without feeling, to interact with men without love. But when she’s kidnapped by the enigmatic leader of a rival organization, she learns she’s been lied to for years. She never worked for the good guys.

Collin Ryker believes the sultry woman he’s abducted knows more than she’s telling about The Circle and its plans for complete domination. Over time, as they work together, Olivia’s tenacity and vulnerability captivate him. But if he isn’t careful, Collin will fall into the biggest trap of all: caring for a woman who can betray him to his greatest enemy.

Mystery

This one is simple and most agree on the definition. Usually, there is one personthough others might help– investigate a murder or locate a missing valuable. I always think of stories about Sherlock Holmes or those written by Agatha ChristieMurder on the Orient Express, anyone?when someone talks of mysteries. But keep in mind National Treasure is a perfect example of a mystery involving an object. I do enjoy them all.

Suspense

The dictionary says, “a quality in a work of fiction that arouses excited expectation or uncertainty about what may happen.” That sure sounds like the two above too. Right? If you search for “suspense” movies, thrillers will come up instead. See, even the media is confused. I guess thriller sounds more exciting.

But what makes a book (or movie, etc.) a suspense, is that the killing or/and danger is personal and slower to come about. Maybe someone is shooting at the hero and he does not know who it is. Even the reader may not know. Or someone is planning to kill a person by setting a trap. And the reader may (or not) know about the trap and is waiting for (or surprised by) what happens. To keep it simple, and yes, tooting my own horn, my books are suspense (with the exception of the hockey romance books – they are not).

I found this article on Reedsy that might help. How to Create Suspense?

Like I mentioned, thriller, mystery, and suspense can be mixed together into a book. You’re probably thinking about the book you’ve written and it has all three. How would you market your book? I would suggest looking at your plot. If the dark moment involves something big, like blowing up a building or having a sniper in a tower killing people for several chapters or the whole book, that’s mainly a thriller. If a death happened in the first three chapters or before chapter one started, and no one knows who killed the person, that is more mystery than anything else. Or if you have a killer after the main character and most of the other bodies showing up were from people getting in the way, you have a suspense. The other elements are icing on the cake. You don’t want to confuse your agent or editor. So it’s best to pick only one. That way they will know how best to market your book.

Inspiration Struck Finally!

Wow! I love it when I’m writing and something that had been bothering me from nearly chapter one finally solved itself.

Well, okay. You twisted my arm. I’ll tell you a little about it. First, let me say, in book one (Jake) of the Southern Crime Family, the hero’s kink is that he likes to spank the heroine. Totally consensual.

In Ethan’s (book two, unless I change my mind again), I’ve already decided his kink will be that he likes to be tied up during the act. Nice twist, for the women are usually the ones, right?

The heroine is what I refer to as a real woman. She knows what she wants and she’s not shy in going after it. And he’s a real man because he isn’t scared to tell his woman that he has problems that only she can solve with a little discipline. By the way, she has a young daughter. I don’t normally have children in my books, but like I said, she’s a real woman.

Then there is Sen, the middle brother. The one I was having a difficulty in giving him a kink. See, he’s in love with an heroine who is deaf. Most of everything I can think of would appear to be taking advantage of her disability in the hearing world or maybe even cruel.

So here I was writing a scene where she’s angry at an old friend (male) and suddenly she remembers the big crush she had for him long ago. She’s getting turned on as her old friend and her new friend (Sen) argue about her, and she’s literally standing between them. She’s short. They are tall. Hot. Hard. Bam!

Let’s say, she’s going to have a fantasy to come true a few times in the book. Sen loves her enough to share. Well, at first. He is an alpha.

Here are the latest covers for Sen and Ethan books.