I’ll start by saying I did not just recently discover John Green. I’d known about him since his guest appearances on PotterCast (going back to around 2008? 2009?), the NerdFighters, and The Fault in Our Stars, which I read and reviewed in 2013. I’d just never kept up with his other works.
I’m not exactly sure what made me pick up Turtles All the Way Down last month. I think maybe I was just in the mood for something somber (read: not another cutesy urban fantasy romance). Once I’d finished the book, I wanted more. Not necessarily more of those particular characters or of that particular story, but just more of John Green. His voice.
So, I started reading Paper Towns. I ended up staying up all night to finish Paper Towns. I HAD to see what would happen next. While the ending was a little anticlimactic, I just loved how Green took the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope, chased it all the way into a corner, and then busted it. The book said something. And that voice…I cannot get over the voice of his writing, the quirky, random, poetic voices of his characters.
Next, I read Looking For Alaska, his first published work. It’s basically the same story as Paper Towns, but with a grimmer outcome for our MPDG, one that never gives her a chance to rise above her trope. There’s almost something Poe-esque in Green’s romances, how the protagonist would rather love his Dream Girl from a distance, in love with his romantic idealizing of her more than he is actually capable of loving her as a real person. In all 3 cases — from Turtles to Towns to Alaska — the mystery driving the stories, coupled with the captivating narration, kept me turning the pages.
Finally, I concluded my Green binge with Will Grayson, Will Grayson, co-authored by David Levithan. This was a slower read for me, as it was more character-driven without the same sense of dread or mystery evoked by the other 3 books. I don’t know if it was Levithan’s touch that made this book different, but it dragged quite a bit, and the ending…well, I just don’t know about that ending. The story ended up being about someone who is distinctly not one of the Will Graysons. I will say, I admired how the chapters alternated between each Will’s POV and how different they were, so that you never got confused between them. Also, the deep examination of depression, anxiety, and mental health that most if not all of Green’s books include was present in this title, as well.
Are John Green’s books pretentious? Are all of the characters – from the precocious yet socially awkward MC, his/her quirky love interest, to the obscenely energetic, verbose best friend – copied from the same exact formula? Do his teen characters talk like no actual teenagers talk? Yes, yes, and yes. Did any of that make me love these books any less? Heck no.
John Green has been elevated to my favorite author status. I even ordered print copies of Paper Towns & Alaska for my shelf, because they’re both brilliant and deserve to be gawked at daily from my desk. At this point, I plan to read anything he publishes in the future…so long as it’s written in first-person and is fiction. 😉
My 9-year-old son and I loved the first 2 acts of Amazon’s 2021 Cinderella adaptation. It was funny, colorful, upbeat, and lighthearted. However, the movie completely fell apart at the end. It’s like the writers threw their hands up and said, “Never mind!” and just decided to abandon all conflict and any sense of climax, tying it up in a too-neat bow that made me question the point of this adaptation in the first place.
In this version, Camila Cabello’s Cinderella didn’t need anything but herself from start to finish. Audiences don’t really care about what happens to someone who’s already entirely self-sufficient, who never faces any real threats or challenges, and doesn’t have to transform or overcome a hardship of any kind. Not once do we actually fear for her or her outcome.
Her stepmom, on the other hand, played by Idina Menzel, was the realest character in the story. She actually had motivations and a reason for being the way she was. Her backstory is heartbreaking when she comes out with it. In the end we see her transform—in a small way, but it’s enough.
Of course, there were no strong or developed male characters. Because a strong, complex male character is out of vogue right now. The one masculine character (Pierce Brosnan’s king) is only there to be made a fool and a mockery of. The clueless prince and all his clueless friends are…clueless.
There was one original song I really I liked, sung by the stepmom. It was about how women with a talent or a dream must: “bury it, marry it, or carry it to the grave.” It was powerful. The stepmom was an example of someone who had to bury her dream. The queen, portrayed by Minnie Driver, married her dream away, and the princess (a new character to the canon, called Princess Gwen) carried it, supposedly expecting to carry it to her grave (I won’t spoil the ending). I would’ve loved to have seen that whole concept better developed with the titular character, but Cinderella had it way too easy.
This film basically took away everything beloved about the idea of a “Cinderella story.” The whole crux is that a girl with a miserable life and miserable circumstances, who is treated poorly, perseveres with grace. In the end, her own grace and perseverance, along with a sprinkle of fairy dust, are what earns her an escape from abuse, in the form of true love and being truly cared for, in every sense of care (affection, financially, etc.).
But, this Cinderella didn’t have that bad of circumstances to begin with. Her family wasn’t wicked, and they did care for her, in their own misguided way. She had a talent. She was driven. Also, super cute and spunky and pretty. Her worst conflict is that she has to choose between the best of two worlds: pursue her dream, or marry a prince she loves. I mean, how is that a conflict? Why can’t she do both? Again, I won’t spoil the ending, but the resolution is too simple.
At any rate, I’m glad I watched it, because now I understand the importance of delivering expectations to fairytale lovers. You can’t update a timeless story with a timely lens and expect it to radiate the same magic that everyone’s looking for. It just doesn’t work—unless you really raise the stakes and do something wholly original beyond dated trends and platitudes.
“‘Tristan and Isolde’? More like stuff and nonsense…”
At age eighteen, Isolde of Ayrland is expected to master the healing arts and uphold her mother’s legacy as a healer, but she’s nowhere near ready for the undertaking. Though her mother’s always urging her to “trust herself,” Isolde doesn’t know the first thing about herself worth trusting.
When Isolde heals the wounds of a gallant stranger, little does she know he’s actually Trustan, nephew of the King of Lyonesse. Trustan’s uncle, King Marc, has been suffering a mysterious malady no one’s been able to cure. Isolde makes the voyage to the Isle of Lyonesse only to meet a prickly king who doubts her almost as much as she doubts herself. To make matters worse, whatever afflicts him is unlike anything she’s ever encountered—and completely impervious to her powers.
As castle intrigue and rumors abound, Marc and Trustan begin to confide in Isolde. She’s only there to do her job—not to befriend anyone, and certainly not to fall in love. But as danger looms and no one is who he appears to be, Isolde must decide whom to trust. Only, what if her own heart is the most deceptive one of all?
AS TOLD BY ISOLDE is the next YA fantasy romance novella in my award-winning Mythic Maidens series. Includes a short bonus prequel!
To all aspiring writers: Have you always dreamed of writing a book but aren’t sure where to start? Do you know there’s a story or message inside you, if you only had the tools to uncover it? Do you want to be an author but doubt whether you’re talented, educated, or qualified enough?
Anyone can write a book—that includes you! In my new friendly, clear, and straightforward handbook, I’ll walk you through my 8 simple yet action-packed, tried-and-tested steps to turn your writing dreams into reality, from conception to completion of your own book.
Discover my secrets, tips, and tricks on topics including:
Brainstorming prompts for both fiction and non-fiction
Where to seek inspiration and how to organize your thoughts and ideas
Establishing your writer’s voice using tone, tense, and point of view
Determining your work’s genre, audience and length
Pacing and structuring your personal writing schedule
Combatting writer’s block, guilt, and distractions
Working with critique partners, beta readers, and editors
How to rock a book signing
…and much more!
Take the first step toward your writing dreams: Download my new e-book today!
As the publishing industry is ever-changing in this increasingly digital landscape, we writers must adapt to new ways of sharing our words with the world. Earlier this year, an innovative app developer reached out with an offer I couldn’t refuse. I’m eager to announce that my newest historical romance, The Poet Bride, is now available exclusively on the FREEReadictapp.
If you’re interested, you can download Readict at no cost via the app store on your phone, tablet, or device. My story and many others will be available to you there for free. (You may have to view ads between chapters, but a paid subscription is available if you prefer to read ad-free.)
Keep reading to learn more about the story. Thanks for being part of the journey!
About the Book
Baltimore, 1901: Aspiring poet Elly Owen is eighteen when her family takes on a boarder in the flat above their shop. The new tenant, dockworker Ben Porter, is the muse of Elly’s dreams: charming, masculine, and mysterious. They embark upon a whirlwind forbidden romance as secret lovers—until Ben abruptly disappears, leaving Elly reeling and disconsolate.
When a hidden betrayal surfaces, Elly resolves to go west to find Ben. Chaperoned by Jonathan, a young seminarian with hopes to marry her, she ventures to Maumee, Ohio in search of the truth. But what she discovers is a rustic life far removed from her romantic expectations, and a rocky marriage that just might rewrite everything she believed about love.
The Poet Bride is a character-driven period piece set in turn-of-the-last century America. The narrator’s candid examination of marriage, perseverance, and commitment to her heart at all costs will charm readers of historical romance and women’s fiction alike.
Note: The above link is for mobile devices and tablets only. If you’re on a laptop or desktop computer, the link may not work for you. If you don’t already have the Readict app installed, the link may take you to the app store. It will open directly to The Poet Bride if you have the latest version of Readict installed. Thank you!
F.A.Q.S about the new NOVEL & platform
Q: Is The Poet Bride available on Amazon? A: No, The Poet Bride is my first-ever publication that will not be available on Amazon for the duration of its contract. It has been exclusively licensed to Readict.
Q: Will it be published in other formats (print, audio) or through any retailers? A: No, not likely. The Poet Bride, for the foreseeable future, is digital-only as an ebook through Readict’s app only.
Q: Are you getting paid for ads viewed and/or downloads of Readict? A: No, I am not getting paid from any ads, free downloads, or paid subscriptions of the app. I was compensated a one-time licensing payment up-front for my story. If readers download the app, subscribe to the paid version, view or click ads, it has no bearing whatsoever on my earnings.
Q: Are all of your books moving to Readict now?/Will your future stories be on an app? A: No, all of my previously published titles will remain as they are. Most of my work is exclusive to Amazon Kindle as always. I’ve recently released some free ebooks on Nook, Kobo, Scrib’d, and other retailers, which you can view & download here.
While I can’t speak for all future works, at least the next novella in my Mythic Maidens series (TBR summer/fall 2021) and the sequel to Whisper (TBR sometime in 2022)will be joining their predecessors on Amazon as per usual. In other words, this is an experiment but is not likely to become the norm!
Q: Can I be a Readict author, too? A: I thought you’d never ask! Readict is actively seeking submissions from new & published authors alike. Go to https://www.readictnovel.com/#/writer-opportunities to learn how to submit your story. Please be sure to include that C.K. Brooke referred you. I do earn referral bonuses that way! 😉
As some of you know, in addition to writing, reviewing, and publishing many novels, I am also a certified editor with over five years’ industry experience editing for small publishing houses and indie authors alike. Oftentimes, I’m asked about the most common, frustrating or egregious mistakes I come across while editing novels, particularly romances, since that seems to be the genre I’m most frequently hired to edit. While I could certainly do with never reading The Evil Sentence again (“She released the breath she didn’t even know she was holding…”), or the misuse of the word ‘bombastic’ (look it up—it probably doesn’t mean what you think), the biggest mistakes I actually encounter are the ones that I can’t fix.
Contrary to what some may think, a romance isn’t merely a story about two people falling in love. At the heart of all romance novels is how love transforms the main couple. We’re not off the hook in terms of plotting and character arcs just because we’re romance writers. And yet, I see far too many romances spending way more time on cute, snarky dialogue and steamy, wish-fulfilling sex scenes than on actually making the reader care. While fun dialogue and hot sex can definitely enhance a romance, it’ll mean nothing to readers if those individual characters don’t have an arc, or any flaws and conflicts to overcome.
For the purposes of this post, I’m not going to delve into why these aspects of storytelling are so crucial for creating stories that readers care about. If you’re curious about how and why the human brain is wired for a particular kind of storytelling no matter the genre, I recommend Lisa Cron’s books, Wired for Story and Story Genius. With that in mind—that there is, in some respect, a formula that triggers readers to care, to get what they’re looking for out of your story—here are the top 4 biggest mistakes I see most frequently in romance novels, and that a simple copy edit cannot fix.
#1: The MC Has No Goal.
When we meet your MC (in romance, it’s usually the heroine), her goal should be defined clearly from the get-go. Readers should know by the end of the first chapter, if not the first page, if not the first paragraph: who the heroine is, what she wants, and why she wants it. What does she gain by reaching her goal? Why is it so important? What are the consequences if she doesn’t reach it? Why must she avoid that outcome at all costs?
From that point, everything that happens to the heroine throughout the story will be perceived through the lens of this goal. Even her romantic relationship—which will no doubt complicate things, at least at first—will be perceived through this lens.
Too often, I read about heroines who don’t know what they want, or don’t want anything at all. Their goals are never clearly stated or defined. Or they’re super vague and wishy-washy. The resulting story is a sequence of events that simply happen to the heroine, and the heroine simply reacting to them. The reader isn’t given a reason to care about, identify with, or root for her.
All of the above applies to the hero, as well.
#2: The MC Has No Flaw.
In addition to a goal, your main character must also have a flaw. It can be a character flaw, a personal shortcoming, a false belief, or some other obstacle standing in the way between her and her goal. The point of nearly every story is to show how a character overcomes her flaw in order to achieve her goal (or something better). Yes, this is the point of a romance, too.
Too often, what comes across my desk are perfect, beautiful, sexy, brilliant, well-adored heroines and their equally perfect, handsome, sexy, brilliant, well-adored male counterparts. The characters already have everything, so what more do they need? “True love” for the sake of itself is NOT a valid answer. True love should only be a means to a deeper, greater end—such as to awaken compassion, humanity, empathy, healing, integrity, or some other universal value or life lesson.
Think about it: What would you care if two perfect, beautiful strangers fell in love…unless you learned that their love for each other was actually what rescued them both from a debilitating addiction, or helped them survive and overcome a devastating trauma? This is why we tell love stories: to share the power of love. Love ought to change the characters for the better. If they don’t desperately need to change to begin with, then what’s the point?
#3: Tension is Resolved Too Quickly.
You’ve heard the adage “raise the stakes”. Most authors do respond with life-or-death consequences and plenty of near-misses. Except, often I find the tension is still not drawn-out enough to give the reader any real sense of danger. This might be because some romantic subgenres don’t necessarily lend themselves to having many action scenes or a central villain. That’s OK. You don’t always need a character villain or a car chase; circumstances and character flaws can be conflict enough. Just remember to milk it for everything it’s worth.
Going back to Lisa Cron’s books, part of why readers read—even for entertainment—is to learn from the characters. Just how will the hero overcome that insurmountable obstacle, or make it out of that tight situation? In romance, the conflict can be relationship-oriented and still just as serious and significant as the showdown in a superhero story. But if all tension in your story dissipates rapidly, or disputes are easily resolved, the reader will quickly catch on that they aren’t going to learn anything new from you. They’ll lose interest and curiosity. So, keep them curious. Make them wonder: ‘How can she possibly make it out of this?’ Then unravel your master plan, piece by piece, and enlighten while you entertain.
#4: The Main Characters Don’t Change in the End.
This ties back into #2, but is important enough to bear repeating: The point of any story is to show how someone overcomes a flaw or an obstacle to transform for the better. In a romance, love is the means by which your characters overcome their central flaws—but we need to see proof of their transformation in the end. Ask yourself: Did my characters achieve their goals (or something better)? How has it changed them? Compare whom you introduced us to in the first chapter with our final image of them in the last chapter. Did they overcome their central flaw, dispel their false belief? Have they come full circle? Did they learn what they needed to in order to grow and change? How do they look, think, behave differently, now that love has changed them?
Mechanical errors can always be fixed. The difference between further and farther can be explained. You can alter a sentence to make it show and not tell. But the story itself, which is formed in the author’s heart and mind, can’t be rewritten by the editor. I can’t take a manuscript and make the story work simply by cleaning up spelling and syntax. But I can certainly point you in the direction of tried-and-true templates and storytelling components that comprise a compelling romance. So, keep creating. And don’t forget: You have the power to inspire the world. Use it well. 😉