Yes, it's out, and Esparan's rocking it! I got some awesome 5-star reviews up, and I'm tickled pink! Remember to leave your review (5-star or not!) These help authors SO MUCH. I've also included the freebies of the month at the bottom; get them before November!
Meantime, I got sick. Not COVID, just a nasty cold that made me sleep for a few days. I'm back at it now in time to hit up the Surrey International Writing Conference this weekend, so YAY! And my little one is better, too, so I don't have to feel guilty about leaving Daddy to solo a sickie!
But it got me thinking; when do I read about colds in writing? Usually, if they are a plot point! If the character is stuffed up, but the villain is about to use some kind of aerosol; or if the person is dying of a chronic illness and has to come to terms with it; or the plague is moving through, changing their society, then you'll find disease in the story. Characters don't just get sick, get over it, and move on without it being relevant.
Characters don't do many things unless there's a point to it. They don't go to the bathroom, burn dinner, or forget their glasses one day, unless some part of the story needs them to, whether to make a plot work or build a character. And we judge these details quickly in books, assuming that each is important.
Douglas Adams pointed this out in the Hitchhiker's Guide series; that his main character Arthur Dent didn't do a lot of things 'on screen' as it were. And he had a point. I used to laugh about how few bathrooms were on the map of the USS Enterprise, and no one ever seemed to have to take a break! (some harder core fans will probably correct me!)
That's probably for the best. A book that just emulated everyday life wouldn't be entertaining. And I'd get frustrated reading about tiny details that are irrelevant anyway. But I might put in a common cold at some point. Seeing how people behave when they are sick adds to a character! It's just not a detail I'd thought about much until now!
Stay healthy out there!
I had a great time at teh Sooke Fall Fair, although it was a brief time! Chasing around a nearly-two year old meant it was a blitz! But the kid's baking and lego won some ribbons and I got a few first places for my stories (plus one third!). Since I don't know what else to do with this one, I'm sharing it here! It's not my usual MO, since it's a wholesome family story with a slight magical twist but enjoy!
The Best Pumpkin Patch
Mr Weisman lived next door, a wizened old man with a long beard and oversized nose. He was often seen in his bathrobe and slippers as he shuffled around his vibrant garden filled with wrapping vines and tangled bushes.
On occasion, he slipped Bobby seeds from his garden. Bobby planted them in sidewalk cracks and beside roadways. No matter how thin the soil, the tiny flowers grew in purples and pinks, blues and yellows, providing colourful flashes in a grey landscape.
One year, Mr Weisman gave Bobby pumpkin seeds. "They need good soil. Like a vegetable patch."
The vegetable patch in their yard exclusively belonged to Bobby's mother. Bobby could play anywhere else but was forbidden from entering the garden except when sent to retrieve a dinner item from the meticulous rows. Every vegetable had its place, year after year. Each row was planned, scheduled, and maintained. There was no space allotted for pumpkins.
Bobby tucked his seeds through the back fence of the vegetable patch that night.
The first green sprout appeared a week later. Bobby listened from his high window as Mother cursed the little green leaf and pulled it. Her brow creased in irritation, then she glanced over her shoulder where Mr Weisman's amazing garden reached up his fence and house, the passionfruit flowers climbing vivid butterfly bushes and decorated by red ivy. She tossed the vine into her basket and went back to her hoeing.
The next day, the sprout had returned, twice as long.
Losing no time, she pulled it out, reefing until the root gave. Satisfied, she tossed it into her basket, brushed the dirt from her flower-patterned gloves, and nodded firmly before returning to her immaculate rows.
The next day, the back fence of the garden patch was covered with lush, green vines and umbrella-like leaves. Already there were two green gourds forming. Mother attacked it with her hoe, cutting and tearing until every scrap of the greenery had been found and removed. She shoved her curls back under her handkerchief on her head, smearing dirt on her cheek as she recovered. The rows of carrots and beets were not weeded that day.
By morning, it had all returned. Now four pumpkin were hidden along the fence, each showing orange.
She marched down like a soldier heading to war, trimmers and rake over her shoulder, kicking her weeding basket ahead of her.
Bobby met her on the path, staring up at her with wide, pleading eyes. "Can we have pumpkins this year? I want to learn how to grow them!"
Mother shook her head. "We don't need pumpkins. They're useless!" she told Bobby. Every vegetable in her garden had a purpose: peas for summer snacking, carrots for dipping in humus, beets and spinach for stew, lettuce for summer salads…
"But they make nice jack-o-lanterns," Bobby replied so quietly, she could hardly hear him.
Her frustration went out in an instant. She swept her eyes over the vines and leaves that had taken over the back half of her garden patch. Then her eyes fell back on her son. "You planted this?" she asked.
Bobby nodded mutedly.
She slowly lowered her rake. "You want pumpkins?"
Bobby shyly smiled and nodded.
She let out a breath and put down her trimmers. "Ok. Let's see what grows."
That year, the pumpkins came in bigger than any seen in Sooke before. Bobby chose the largest for his jack-o-lantern, so big he had to climb in to finish scooping it out. He made sure Mr Weisman got his share of the roasted pumpkin seeds.
Last call for pre-orders, because the fourth book in the Son of No Man goes live OCTOBER 1st! Check out ESPARAN here to follow the founding of a kingdom the old-fashioned way; by the sword. ARC readers; if you didn't get your copy, let me know!
Oh! and I JUST sent in the manuscript for KING, the next instalment! Coming soon! And promotions are at the bottom of the page!
Meantime, I had a Facebook post from the Victoria Creative Writing Group inspire this post. The post was this video. The amazing moment when you put your foot in your mouth and undermine whatever it was you were saying by not knowing or using a word correctly. Words matter.
This was good timing since I was editing, which means I used Grammarly again. I have a love-hate relationship with Grammarly. While I appreciate what it catches, there are some things it never gets right.
For one, its 'suggestions' for alternatives are often laughable. Before is not the same as When in a sentence you doggone AI. They are different timings! And I know you don't like words like 'obvious,' and you keep wanting me to change it to 'apparent,' but if I did that all the time, it would be weird. And they don't mean the same thing! There is a difference between being unknown and not being known. Weird!
But the big one I flip by instantly is the "Knowledgeable audience" comments about vocabulary. What happens with these is that it has an idea of how smart we are or, perhaps, how smart we aren't! So it suggests that words "a knowledgeable audience might not know" are removed and replaced. Basically, dumb it down.
I ignore it every time. Why? One, because this is an adult book, I don't need to write for a child. Two, because reading is a massive part of how we grow our vocabulary, and if everyone dumbed it down, it would castrate the language.
I've heard people suggest we should all aim for the lowest reading level in our writing, and I think that's what Grammarly is trying to do. And I understand their argument. I want my book to be accessible too! I don't want to scare people off by putting in "big" words that might (shock!) make them think or look it up! But I also don't want to dumb it down. If the correct term was Ricochet, I will put that in. Same for Groused, Deferential, or Thunderous. And yes, I'll use Phosphoresces (once only!) because it's a spectacular word, and it fits the glow of a wizard's light! And maybe someone will look it up.
Apparently, most popular books run Grade 7-9 reading level.
For fun, there's an app called Hemingway Editor, and you can find it here. https://hemingwayapp.com
It does a similar job as Grammarly but mostly looks for complicated (or not complicated) sentences to help guide people to a target writing level. I put my work in sometimes to check out where I'm landing. Mostly, I write at a Grade 6 reading level. Sometimes, a chapter or two will drop to Grade 5 or rise to 7. But often, it's Grade 6, and I think that's ok. I don't need to be college-level. I want it accessible but also a bit more challenging!
I admit that some of the words on the list Grammarly thought a "Knowledgeable audience" wouldn't know were embarrassing. It included Hushed, Flinch, Irate, Shaggy, Muddled, Ladle (it's not a spoon!!), and Tinder.
So I took to writing the words down, and I've included the entire list below. I didn't change them unless they were in error; every one of these show up in the submitted manuscript for Book 5 (King). I was shocked by how long the list became.
We need these words! Keep using these words! If you don't know them, look them up! Then use them and impress your friends. Although, I'm not really sure how impressive Perceptive or Tizzy is!
Without further ado: the words I used that Grammarly thinks a knowledgeable audience might not know:
Well, after kayaking the Broken Group Islands (HIGHLY recommend! Pictures below!) I'm back at it. I have promised to take it easier on myself since summer life is filled with family, travel, and kids. Lots of kids. So my usual writing times are limited.
I've got Esparan, book 4 of the Son of No Man, slated to hit the shelves (electronically and in person) on October 1st! I've got Pre-orders available HERE!
(ARC readers; keep an eye on your inbox. The book will be out to you first. Not an ARC reader but want to be? Click HERE.)
I'm getting through Book 5 too! I got to reintroduce myself to Arnika Trulin.
Of all the enemies Tohmas faces, the one who posed to defeat him is Arnika Trulin.
It got me thinking about the women I have written about. I love writing a good power figure, but Arnika Trulin differed. So, this is the blog post. Let's talk about heroines and their archetypes. Have I got them all yet?
Ok, so I'm going to discuss seven archetypes. I will say that any woman likely embodies all of these at different times and levels. You might reach for one at work but fall into another at home or on a date. You'll have the ones that come easily and others that slip away. We're a combination, and so are the characters. But there's going to be a dominant one for everyone.
Here we go: Seven in summary.
The sensuous, passionate female, she is creative and full of life energy. The lover is charismatic and seeks intimacy and thrilling relationships. She's confident but not careful. She can be emotional, for better or worse. She will provide a connection, an intense one.
Examples: Samantha from Sex and the City, Aphrodite, Rose from Titanic
My characters: Celebrant Loni (Son of No Man series), Shimmer Weaver (Son of No Man series)
Independent and powerful, the huntress is successful and passionate. She can be fearless and self-sufficient. But she has no time for romance and might be impulsive to her detriment.
Examples: Artemis, Wonder Woman, Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games
My characters: You might not have met her yet, but Lania from Lione. Also, Sori (Son of No Man series)
Knowledgeable and critical in her thinking. She listens to her head, not her heart, remaining objective in her approach. But she struggles to connect with other women, and others might find her intimidating.
Examples: Athena, Glinda the Good Witch from the Wizard of Oz.
My characters: Elora Ashure (Dragon's Voice)
Independent and wise, the mystic seeks inner peace, not other people's approval. She might be seen as aloof as an introvert, but her purpose lies within; peace and self-fulfillment.
Examples: Hestia, Oracle from the Matrix, Belle from Beauty and the Beast,
My characters: Akara (the priestess from Lione)
The caretaker. Her duty is to care, protect, and nurture. She often puts others before herself, sometimes to her detriment. She might be stubborn, but only in her need to provide compassion and support.
Examples: Demeter, Molly Weasley from Harry Potter, Mary Poppins
My examples: Fayela Galanth (Son of No Man series)
An influential leader, she is confident and extroverted. Married, she is a powerful wife who runs the household. She finds it hard to bond with other females and shuns her feminine side. She can be jealous and vengeful.
Examples: Hera, Queen Amidala from Star Wars
My examples: Kasha Mirk (Dragon's Voice), Celebrant Corolys (Son of No Man series)
Eternally youthful and pure, she's empathetic and innocent. She's an idealist but might be too passive to get things done. But she's cheery and energetic through the thick and thin.
Examples: Persephone, Snow White
My characters: Arnica Trulin (Son of No Man series)
I realized I hadn't written many Maidens. I don't gravitate to them. I had to work on making Arnika (and her cousin Altana) meek, quiet, and youthful. I was used to writing strong women. Sometimes they had to be subtle with the application of their strength, but Loni manipulated armies, Shimmer competed with the greatest wizard, Fayela ruled Galanth, Sori controlled the third clan survivors, Lania overthrew an empire, Akara inspired her nation, Gensiana ran a revolution… And then there was Arnika, mild Arnika, who just wanted to help her family. She didn't want to rule anything. She wasn't planning on getting involved.
But when everything falls to her and the extraordinary influence she has. The Maiden. The meek, sweet, innocent one.
So I wonder, can a Maiden rule the world?
Do you feel one archetype more than another?
Pictures from the trip!
1. I got Esparan back from the editor, so it’s one step closer to becoming a reality. It’s the book where I broke Kitable, so I kind of feel bad, but then again, he comes out better for it!
2. I’m recruiting ARC readers! If you don’t know what that is, it’s a reader who gets a FREE copy of a book BEFORE anyone else in exchange for an honest review posted. I’ve got a sign-up HERE. There’s no commitment; if you’re not interested in a given book, don’t take the copy! But if you’d like 1-2 free books per year from me, this is the place to get it!
3. We’re at the night market again in Sooke! I MIGHT be at the July 22nd one, but I WILL be at August 18th!
4. Exact date is coming, but Esparan’s due in September, and I’ve got a cover on the way! Wheee!
5. Podcast is out from Drinking with authors! Check it out HERE! The "Literary brief" version (ie short) is HERE!
Ok, the post.
I’ve mentioned it before, so I’m finally going to tell you the story of “the story that refuses to be written.”
I don’t remember exactly when or why I started to write fiction. I do know the scene I wrote in the back of my social studies book in grade 9 was the final climax to a story that eventually became the first story I finished. Yes, I wrote the ending first. Whatever.
That story has had a lot of names over the many years. It’s had different points of view, characters, plotlines, and villains. Heck, the main character’s name has changed three times. But for the sake of this, we’ll call it “Shakat’s story.”
Shakat’s story started as most first stories do; as a reflection of the story I liked at that age. It was essentially Cinderella; a farm girl caught up with a prince, changing her fate with wit and guile… you know the kind. But things morphed as I grew up. The farm girl became a wizard. The prince became an a$$. There was a dragon. And Shakat’s story took full form as a prophecy that went very, very wrong.
I knew when I finished it (my first novel!) in 1999 that it needed a complete rewrite; the beginning didn’t match the end because the characters and the plot had grown up. But the story was trapped on an ancient Mac, the rectangular black and white ones with screen and body all in one. The computer couldn’t do internet, and it had a corrupted floppy disc drive with its own format; it reformatted anything that it took in, and no other computer could read it ever again! I tried with local computer experts, but it was a dead end.
So I printed it. I was planning to scan it in one day, maybe once the technology was good enough to scan into a document file (instead of only images), but I know in my bones it’s useless. It needs a rewrite.
So in 2011, I tackled it again after getting home from vet school. I wrote a whopping 30,000 words on it. I had changed the point of view and was developing the secondary character (he’ll be the protagonist ultimately) when the file got damaged when backing it up. I lost all but 5,000 words.
Determined, I did it again, getting to nearly 40,000 words on the tale. Finally felt like I was making progress! Then my computer died. I tried to retrieve it from the backup USB stick. Wouldn’t read. I’d lost it all again.
I want to tell Shakat’s story: how the prophecy got everything backward and the ‘good guy’ will destroy them all; how she’s been labeled the villain and ostracised for all the wrong reasons; how she can’t trust anyone… except Matorin, eventually. I still plug in a few thousand words at times, like maybe fate won’t notice, but it’s risky. I’m not sure if it’s cursed or if I subconsciously have a thing against it. But there you have it, the story that will not be written! Maybe one day, with some luck and a lot of backups, I’ll come here to say I’m finally sharing Shakat’s story officially, but until then, it’ll be the one that got away.
So here it is; one more blog post about Writer's Block. I've not done one before, but pretty much every writer does at some point. But hey, maybe my take on it will help your specific case. First, I'm going to go over what NOT to do, then we're going to break down the specific spots people get stuck and ways to tackle them. I did this as a presentation in 2018 and felt it was time to resurrect it. Why? Because I need to do a big edit on my current WIP and I clearly don't want to do it. I'm in Block #4...
But let's get started! You've decided to write. You may about to put the first word on the page or only need one more line to finish the 200,000 word novel, but now there is no way to finish. You've been blocked.
Writer's Block is (according to Cambridge English Dictionary) "the condition of being unable to create a piece of written work because something in your mind prevents you from doing it." It is, and should always be seen as, a temporary condition. And it has happened to everyone. Mark Twain, Neal Gaiman, Orson Scott Card… So it can’t be the end of the world.
To get things rolling, I'm going to quickly go through things that, in my experience, do not work to get rid of Writer's Block
Now that we know what NOT to do, let's move onto what we CAN do. Let's start at the beginning of a project. These are not mutually exclusive lists, but rather a way of focusing the most likely solutions on the part you're on. You might find something in Block #1 works for Block #2. Or you might want to jump ahead to where you're at. But here's how I broke it down.
Block #1: The Concept. I have no idea.
You feel the urge to write but can't find an idea worth chasing down. Your muse went on holiday and didn't tell you. You are stopped before you even started.
This is truly a temporary condition for anyone who thinks of themselves as a writer. You only decided to write because you DID have something to say. So you can beat this one.
How to beat it:
If all else fails: Write non-fiction. (I'm kidding… kind of…But it might get things moving.)
Block #2; The Beginning. I have idea, but can't get started:
Especially if this is your first book/poem/whatever, the first words can be the hardest. If you've never written anything outside of English class, this is a step into the unknown. But the part that matters most is that there are words on the page soon, not necessarily that they are immediately the perfect words.
How to beat it:
If all else fails: I'm the first to jump ship on something hat doesn't want to be written yet. If you've tried and tried, then it's not that project's time. Do something else. That doesn't mean don't write. It means write whatever WILL be written (go back to Block #1 if you need to for a new idea)
Block #3 The middle. I have an idea, and I started it, but now I'm stuck!
This is the most classic form of Writer's Block. As such, it has a few forms.
Version 1: The words aren't right.
Maybe you're an amazing painter, but for me, things always look better in my head. Writing is like that. The idea looks good, the words and ideas are there, but it doesn't come out right. This can hit you before you even get a word onto the page or it might be why you can't get that last line. You want it to be perfect. One line or one paragraph or one page… it has to be perfect.
How to beat it:
Version 2: The story won't flow at all
You don't know what's going to happen next. You've set up the situation a bit, but then everything grinds to a halt.
How to beat it:
Version 3: There's just this one spot…
You have one little issue. It's just a detail, but you can't get past it. How do I get my hero out of the well? Where does the money come from for her ransom? Why is there a cat on the highway? Whatever. You have a clash and you can't find a way through.
I regularly drop my characters into something I don't know how to get them out of. I arrested one, stole all his things, and chained him to a wall. Actually, I've done that twice. Once, I solved it by getting his allies to help. The other time, she escaped down the sewer. I was telling my husband about the situation, and how I could get her chains off but not get her out of the cell. We broke down what the cell looked like and he asked simply; how big is the hole? It wasn't that big, but she's small and the stone is very old, and often wet. A big of work and she had an exit. Yay for solutions!
How to beat it:
Lately I wrote a story that didn't flow well, and I was determined to finish it, so I dragged through. I would write until I got a little stuck, then go have my evening shower. In the shower, I would sort out the issue I'd been stopped on. The next day, I'd write that part, then go until I got stuck again and repeat. It took a good edit once it was done. I lost a horse half way through and carried around a single boot for half a book until I figured out why! But I finished it, polished it, and published it. It's Dragon's Voice!
Version 4: The characters stagnate
You've got the story, but the characters don't cooperate. Yes, you can argue with your characters but the better you understand them, the better you'll get along.
How to beat it:
If all else fails: Skip the offending section. Write a place holder. I use 000 to show there's something I need to go back to. Then I write another part/scene. Heck, you could go to the end and work back.
Block #4 Finished! But where do I start on edits?
Ah, the read through. When you realize that you picked all the wrong words and you don't know how to fix it.
How to beat it:
If all else fails: Pay for editing service, but its costly and you really need to know what you are getting for your money because there are scams everywhere. Some companies now offer developmental edits to publication, so understand what those are and find the right service for you. Then find the right editor.
So there you have it! Hopefully, this will keep you writing for months and years to come, words flowing through your fingers onto the page. And when they don't, try something new!
Maybe I'll go have that evening shower now and hope somehow my manuscript edits itself...
Oh, and check below for the monthly freebies! All in one place for your convenience!
Although things got delayed by... well, everything... we're now on track! The Sooke Reads event is running this week, so check it out HERE. It's being done by the Sooke branch of the Vancouver Island Regional Library and includes several contenders. Basically, I was asked "What book do you think everyone in Sooke should read?" and I gave this reply. Check out MY video HERE, then tell me: do you agree? What book would you have chosen?
If you're local, go to the library this Saturday for more events! I'm working so might only get to sneak in briefly at the end!
Meantime, NORTHLANDER's paperbacks are IN! I've got them in hand! Join the adventure in time to see the end of the Northlander War, for better or worse! If you'd like a copy, fill in the form HERE and I'll get it to you ASAP! You can also order online HERE.
Let's start with a quick plug: NORTHLANDER IS COMING OUT!!!
Book 3 of the Son of No Man Series is due May 27th, 2022, so get your preorder copy HERE. I love bringing the Northlander War to a close, mainly because Darknim DoomDragon is a kick-ass 60-year-old warrior who puts the younger generation to shame. But he's got class. If they weren't enemies, I'm sure Tohmas and he could be the best of friends! Dragons, magic, gods, and battle are coming down.
Ok, on to the main event. Poetry. Yes, you heard that right. Poetry.
I get it; that's not my usual gig. I'm not a poet. Ok, ok, I have a book of poems from my teenage years, when poetry was a manifestation of my angst or something. We all try to find ourselves at that age, and poetry was a great way to explore identity. In high school English, I was encouraged to write poetry. I mostly wrote poetry on behalf of characters because I am still a prose girl at heart. I don't know if my teacher knew that. I expect some of what I wrote might have worried her if she didn't.
But the idea of how poetry informs prose came up lately, so I'm running with it for a blog post.
Surprisingly, I didn't find much information about this. Heck, I don't even know a lot about poetry. I know what sounds good. So how does that help prose?
Poetry is what sounds good (or looks good). It's patterns, cadence, emphasis, and so on. A good writer uses all those things in their writing, whether for one sentence or a thousand. It's not a new concept- it's an old one. Stories were told in verse or song, like the Odyssey or Shakespeare's plays. Verse! But there were stories in there too.
A good poet could make great prose if they could stretch their style and sense of rhythm to that length. I honestly believe it would be hard to go the other way around! I'm not a poet. Maybe I should try to be. Because when you read a beautiful sentence that flows just right and gives you chill, it's the poetry of the words coming through. That's good writing. That's something to aspirate to.
I'm going to share my favourite poem: The Road less Taken. I love it for many reasons (probably why it's my favourite!). 1. The pattern and rhyme satisfy my scientific, logical mind. 2. The topic is so relatable for me and my hiking 3. The message at the end hits home. Because we should all go down the road less traveled to see where it leads. That's what took me to publish my books, after all.
Enjoy the poem, then check out below for the month's freebies and deals!
First, I have a quick announcement; Rydan's getting a Hard Cover facelift and we need reviews! If you want a FREE copy of the ebook and a chance to get your comments on a cover, check out this link! Limited copies so get yours now!
Now, for the blog!
I have a confession; I can't handle horror. In fact, most thrillers are a problem too.
It's a bit weird when I get down to it. Stick me in a haunted house, and I'm totally fine! I'm hard to surprise, and I don't spook easily in real life at all. I'm rather brave! I am confident in my abilities. I easily see through cheap scares and can roll my eyes at silly tropes meant to terrify people. I love to challenge myself and will take on new and risky tasks. I even enjoy that thrill of the unknown or a mystery!
But I'm a wimp when it comes to the written word. What gives?
It's gotten so bad that I have to caution people at critiques or show and tells to warn me so I can tune out. And if you're going to toss in a child under threat, I'm so done! It only got worse when I had kids; I cannot control those hormones. Even the classic "grab the crying kid before the falling tower falls on them" freaks me out now. I'm so upset by a hysterical kid that I will turn off a show or close a book if it comes up.
I blame my brain. I am a logical person, so I can pick apart reality, but my imagination is outside my control. I spend a lot of time trying to re-direct my doggone imagination anyway! It's a pessimistic beast, my brain. It loves to latch onto imagery in books and run with it. So if it gets its mitts on something scary, it will sit with it for ages. And that means I'm not sleeping! It feels so damn real, yet (and this is the important part) OUTSIDE OF MY CONTROL. In life, I can adjust what I do to mitigate the threat. I can face it. But I can't control what happens in a book because it's not me in that book.
I hate it. I hate being scared, knowing there is no reason to be because it's just a story, yet having it run in my brain repeatedly. I hate lying awake trying to calm my heart and logic my way out of something I read or saw.
So while I want to support writers of all kinds, please forgive me if I don't read your horror or thriller novel. And if you endanger a child, give me a heads up, or I might be cutting the reading short and having sleepless nights! And be aware; at the end of the day, people have these different triggers. I'm not saying you can't do it! Just recognize the impact you are having and use these remarkable powers for good!
The following comic spoke to me; Words are so amazing! But please DO use this power wisely! All credit to John McNamee
D. Lambert, author
Fantasy novels that entice, inspire, and entertain.