Sunday, December 15, 2013

:Michelle Styles: Christmas and a review of a new writing craft book

This autumn I became an empty nester when my youngest went off to St Andrews to study zoology.  So Christmas is particularly special for me as all my children will be back home. And I don't know for how many more Christmases I will have like this with all my children home. After all I left the US for the UK when I was 24 and my eldest is now 23. And to think when he was 6 weeks, I thought I had forever until he went off to school at age five! You have to enjoy the time allotted to you...

So I am determine to enjoy every moment of my very special Christmas.  When my daughter arrived home on Thursday, we went out and chose a tree. It is not perfect but it works. The non-breakable ornaments are on the lower branches as my cat who often displays editorial tendencies loves to rearrange the ornaments. However we have to guess where he wants the ornaments. He just knows where he doesn't want them. Once the tree is to his satisfaction, he loses interest and finds something else to edit. Cats!
I like getting new ornaments every year. This year I  found the sled and skis. They were supposed to go on the tree but they work better with the Kachina dolls which once belonged to my father.  I had put them there is see if my dh even noticed!  My dh added the polar bear which my sister gave me many years ago to see if I would notice that he had noticed! Sometimes men!

As some of you know I can be a bit of a writing craft addict person. I love learning about the whys and wherefores. However earlier this year, I decided no more craft books. I felt like they were undermining my confidence and that I should just go back to the older craft books to refresh my memory rather than seeking some new insight. HOWEVER when Cheryl published her book, I knew I had to get it. I have loved Cheryl's writing for many years and I know that she does emotion very well. Plus she is a fellow Harlequin Historical writer.

I'm so glad that I downloaded the book and took the time to read. It is a book that I wish had been written years ago. Cheryl relies heavily on Dwight Swain as his earlier book The Techniques of the Selling Writer taught her about craft. I love Swain. I discovered him when I was in high school and rediscovered him when I became serious about my writing. BUT he is dated and some of his explanations don't exactly work.

Cheryl builds on his work and provides exercises for the author to use to enhance her own work. She also uses movies and tv series to illustrate her examples. Personally I find it easier to see technique in a film because if the author is doing her job correctly, I am utterly immersed in the Story World.

Cheryl's book is divided into several sections Conflict, Feelings, Setting, Tension, Dialogue and finally Drawing Emotions from Characters. Cheryl is a very character-driven author and so this book is aimed at other authors who are character, rather than plot driven. It is not a book about how to plot but rather how to create characters who leap from page and compel the reader to keep turning the pages. Reading is all about the emotional tensions that the reader feels.

The book is destined to be a classic. I personally preferred her take on Goal, Motivation and Conflict to Debra Dixon's. It is interesting that Dixon owes a great deal to Swain as well. The exercises are clear and helpful.

I can whole heartily recommend the book. Capturing the hearts of your readers is so vital and this book gives a detailed explanation of how to go about it. How to really ratchet up the tension and keep your reader involved. It is definately worthy of inclusion on any romance writer's  craft bookshelf.

It is availabe in both print and ebook and is published by Writer's Digest. You can learn more about Cheryl on her website She also has a blog 

Currently  kindle have one of my books HATTIE WILKINSON MEETS HER MATCH on super special discount of 59p. I can't see the US pricing. But I  thought I would highlight it as I always like knowing about bargain books.

My next Harlequin Hisotrical release is in May 2014 --The Return of the Viking Warrior.

You can learn more about my books on


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Liz Flaherty said...

Anything Cheryl St. John tells you about writing is to be valued--she walks the walk in her wonderful romance novels!