Black Sheep by Georgette Heyer

People don't remember when paperback books used to be 50 cents. When I'd get my allowance, I'd purchase at least six books and I'd always take home a Georgette Heyer book when one was on the shelf. However, the delicious fair was often not on the shelf for very long.

Do you know, Georgette's book published during a general strike in 1926 and never received any newspaper reviews or advertising whatsoever sold 190,000 copies? She had no Twitter account, no Facebook account, no quad code (or whatever than thing is called). She didn't rely upon her family and friends for sale and there wasn't any serial printings in magazines for These Old Shades and yet it was a hit among hits.

In 1966 when Black Sheep was published, she had nixed interviews and photo shoots keeping her personal life within her family arena. I find that amazing. This particular Regency Romance sold for $1.25 and sold hundreds of thousands of copies. What an astounding wit she must have been. The dialogue absolutely sparkles.

Abigail Wendover (but, please call her Abby for she hates the name Abigail) meets such an interesting man in the sitting room of a hotel where friends on her's and her sister's were to reside while visiting Bath. While writing a note to them, a man of some considerable baggage enters and retires to the sitting room where she overhears his name is Miles Caverleigh. The very man she never thought to meet! This man's reprobate nephew was about to steal her young niece right from the school room which just would not do at all. Hearing his name, she appeals to him to try to do something to break up the romance, to shoo the man away from her vulnerable niece.

He flat refuses to because he'd never laid eyes upon his nephew and he didn't care a fig for sticking his nose in business that didn't concern him.

Then who does she meet in her best friend's parlor? Mr. Caverleigh for he had brought her friend's son home from India. He smiled with his eyes, and he said the most outrageous things that tickled her fancy. Thus begins a most satisfying romance and one of the best Heyer wrote... but, then, you'll see me write that about nearly all her books.

Five of Five Stars!


The Masqueraders by Georgette Heyer

Fair use image public domain
To be sure, Georgette Heyer is on par with Jane Austen in situation intrigue and comedy. I can't think of another author so prolific and so interesting. Even today, she captivates millions with her books written a century ago. That is more than an accomplishment, it is a miracle because today our flighty society raises and tosses away favorites like last night's tissue. She has staying power.

Heyer did her homework. She could have lived during the "powder and patch" period of late 17th century and early 18th century for the close attention to detail she imparts in her early books.  When reading a Jane Austen book you get the complete flavor of early 19th century, all the etiquette and manners and society ins and outs. But, that isn't such an accomplishment for Austen because she actually lived during that period. Heyer pays close attention to minor details of hats and clothing as well as speech. It doesn't detract from the story at all, but enhances it so much you can almost see the foppish flick of the handkerchief.

Fair Use image for review purposes
The Masqueraders was written in 1928 but takes place just after Bonnie Prince Charles tried to take the throne of England beginning in Scotland. Interestingly, Heyer mocks the vanquished Bonny Prince with this story because Charles barely escaped England dressed as a lady's maid. 

The story begins with the rescue of an heiress, Letitia. She had ill advisedly eloped with sinister Markham. Peter and Kate Merriot, brother and sister are actually Jacobites in flight from the failed attempt of Prince Charles for the throne. Exactly why they must disguise themselves as the opposite sex is not important to the plot and therefore is not completely addressed. It suffices they have turned from their wicked ways of the Jacobite and are now bid by their father, The Old Gentleman, to take London by storm. Since both are extremely attractive as either man or woman, this bidding isn't hard to do once introduced to society by lovely Lady Lowestoft.

The sleeping giant, Sir Anthony, easily pokes through the disguises because he simply fell in love with Prudence aka Peter Merriot. Oh, but don't sit back and think all is well!

Markham has designs on Letitia. Rensley thought he was heir to the wealth of the Burham estates and must face inquisition because The Old Gentleman declares he is the younger son and heir to the estate. Lord Burham is a bit tiresome in his narcissism, but one must admit he is very clever and he does do everything he says he will accomplish.

Heyer is such a clever author, she winds this tangled web into such a tight coil and with veritable ease loosens the whole for a most satisfying end.

Worth twice the money and quite a keeper.

Five of Five stars


Thomas Nelson give away--Take the survey

From Thomas Nelson:

One of the highlights of our days in the Fiction department at Thomas Nelson? Receiving reader letters—either directly addressed to us or passed along from our talented authors. It’s critical to be reminded that at the end of our long days acquiring, editing, designing, selling, marketing, and publicizing books, those stories are reaching readers, striking nerves, changing lives. We want readers’ feedback. How stories have given you hope. Which authors’ series you can’t help from sharing with everyone you meet. We want to know what makes you stay up late in the night to finish a story, and conversely what turns you away.

We’re conducting a series of surveys—seeking answers from readers who love Christian fiction. Up for grabs is a free ebook for every respondent who completes the survery, as well as a $10,000 prize for one entrant. The responses we gather will help shape the future of the books we publish for years to come. As well as the data we’re collecting here, we’ll also seek more in-depth feedback from a panel we’ll develop over the next year. More details to come. The note below from one of authors gives a specific picture of how reader feedback shapes her work. In short, your opinion matters! We thank you for your time and appreciate your responding.

--Thomas Nelson Fiction

Dear Friends--
Your opinion matters. It really does. I love hearing from readers about what worked for them in a story and about what doesn’t work. Reader feedback changed the balance between romance and suspense in my novels. After the Rock Harbor trilogy, I wanted to write more suspense in my novels because that’s what I personally like. But readers really wanted more relationship and romance in the books so I moved back that direction to about the same mix of 50/50 that the Rock Harbor novels contained. I write for you even more than for myself.

I had no intention of setting a whole series of books at Bluebird, Texas. It was going to be only one book, but readers sent me requests in droves for more books. The fourth book in the Lonestar series, Lonestar Angel, will be out in October. The Rock Harbor novels were going to be complete at three. There are now five and I’m thinking about another one! All due to reader demand.

I’ve often asked for reader input on names and locations too. When I was struggling for a name for my hero in The Lightkeeper’s Ball, I turned to my readers. Harrison really fit my character, and my readers told me. Love that! When I was trying to decide on a location for the new Hope Beach series I’ve started, I asked readers. Their overwhelming response was for a series set in the Outer Banks so guess what I’m writing?!

That’s why we’re coming to you for answers. We want to give you what you really want! Don’t be afraid to let us know what you really think. We value your honesty and the time it will take to share with us. Looking forward to hearing what you have to say!

Your friend,
Colleen Coble


Powder and Patch by Georgette Heyer

This delightful novel was published in 1923 under the name Stella Martin. It was re-issued by Heinemann in 1930 and renamed Powder and Patch, and with the original final chapter deleted (ref: PWGH p25),

US Publisher:  Dutton, New York, 1968

I just wonder what was in that last chapter!

Cleonie loves Philip. Philip loves Cleonie, in fact he has eyes for no other woman. But, enter a distasteful fop who has all the airs and la-dee-das of the most worldly of gentlemen, and Philip shows badly against him because Philip loves the land, and his horses, and all the earthy things with no care at all for clothes or which colors go best together or what silver waist coat would do or not do with a peach-colored coat. Alas, Philip is nothing but a country clod and Cleonie says she won't marry him unless he's polished.

Off goes Philip to Paris to become a changed man. He becomes the darling of the ton, a fashionable diamond rather than the diamond in the rough. What should have taken more than a year, he accomplishes in six months, but Cleonie hears of a duel and speculation that Philip was dueling over a French miss and it fills her bosom with flames of jealousy. Why oh why did she send Philip away to become Phillippe?

The comedy of Georgette Heyer, the original situation comedic genius, is dry and subtle but that does not dull the chuckles and laughing out loud. Note: do not read this in the doctor's office because everyone wants to know what you are laughing about!

I was quite enthralled with this offering. I know you will, too. Savor it because when the last page is turned, you'll miss Cleone and Philip.

Five of Five Stars!


The Hardest Thing To Do by Penelope Wilcock

One thing that is very hard to do is jump into a series that has three books ahead of the one you are about to read. I never had the opportunity to read the first trilogy, I am not Catholic, and there are numerous characters that have apparently already been developed so there is really no lead in for them. You are just popped into the story knowing names of the Brothers, and that this is one year later from the first three books.

I'll let you read what the book is about in the last paragraph.

You do need to read at least one of the first three to understand sooner what is going on at the Abby. However, Brother Thomas is having a bad day in the first paragraph, and his thoughts are quite humorous because they run down the same vein as mine do when I am having a bad day with people I don't have a whole lot of respect for. It really doesn't take long to get drawn into the story.

I am so familiar with story lines that hop back and forth between two or three places and giving you gallons of back story, filled with so many characters that your head is spinning from trying to remember them all and this story is no exception. It is a personal peeve of mine, so read around the groans, please. Wilcock does an excellent job of raising certain questions then leaving them there to ponder while the story moves along. Such as one can have compassion for those one doesn't know intimately, but just when does compassion dissipate leaving the "good riddance" grim smile on one's face when something catastrophic happens? Do we judge even while we say we do not?

Wilcock raises some very good questions that will have you pondering even after the last page is read.

3 out of 5 stars

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
The Hardest Thing
Crossway Books (July 31, 2011)
Penelope Wilcock


PENELOPE WILCOCK is a full-time author living in Hastings, Sussex, on the southeast coast of England. Her blog, Kindred of the Quiet Way, is about a simple and spiritual Christian lifestyle. Her other books in The Hawk and the Dove series are The Hawk and the Dove, The Wounds of God, and The Long Fall.


This latest in Wilcock’s The Hawk and the Dove series takes readers into the world of a fourteenth-century monastery struggling to forgive an old enemy seeking refuge.

The first of three sequels to the celebrated The Hawk and the Dove trilogy takes place one year after the end of the third book, in the early fourteenth century. A peaceful monastery is enjoying its new abbot, who is taking the place of Father Peregrine, when an old enemy arrives seeking refuge. Reluctantly taking in Prior William, the upended community must address old fears and bitterness while warily seeking reconciliation. But can they really trust Prior William?

In her fourth book in the series, Penelope Wilcock wrestles with the difficulties of forgiveness and the cautions of building trust. Taking the form of journal entries, her story will delight the imaginations of readers captivated by a time and place far distant from our current world. Her timeless themes, however, will challenge our prejudices today as we, along with her characters, are forced to ask ourselves, “What is the hardest thing to do?”

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Hardest Thing, go HERE.


River's Song by Melody Carlson

First I must give an abject apology to Melody Carlson and to Glass Roads for missing the blog tour date. I had not put this on my calendar and enough of excuses. My deepest apologies!

This novel will grab you with the first page but not with a tempest's claws but with the gentle swaying of a boat in the water until you get to the sound of the chugging diesel engine and the smell that goes along with it. Notwithstanding, the story draws you ever closer to Anna's heart.

The tale is told well by this author of more than 200 books. She has learned the art well and it shows mightily. I'm honored to be able to review it. I will definitely read more from Carlson who had an uncanny ability to develop characters in such a way you understand their motives before they even do anything. Very rare these days.

The story takes place in a small town of Anna Larson's youth after her mother's funeral. For the first time, she finally takes the time to sort out her life and her heritage. What an amazing thing that she decides to transform her old family home into something wonderful for others to enjoy. As the story flows like a river, the characters are caught up in the hopes for future happiness and Anna understands that happiness is a chosen state of being, and so is peace.

I do recommend this novel.

4 out of 5 stars.


Thomas Nelson $10,000 give away!!!

From Thomas Nelson:

One of the highlights of our days in the Fiction department at Thomas Nelson? Receiving reader letters—either directly addressed to us or passed along from our talented authors. It’s critical to be reminded that at the end of our long days acquiring, editing, designing, selling, marketing, and publicizing books, those stories are reaching readers, striking nerves, changing lives. We want readers’ feedback. How stories have given you hope. Which authors’ series you can’t help from sharing with everyone you meet. We want to know what makes you stay up late in the night to finish a story, and conversely what turns you away.

We’re conducting a series of surveys—seeking answers from readers who love Christian fiction. Up for grabs is a free ebook for every respondent who completes the survery, as well as a $10,000 prize for one entrant. The responses we gather will help shape the future of the books we publish for years to come. As well as the data we’re collecting here, we’ll also seek more in-depth feedback from a panel we’ll develop over the next year. More details to come. The note below from one of authors gives a specific picture of how reader feedback shapes her work. In short, your opinion matters! We thank you for your time and appreciate your responding.

--Thomas Nelson Fiction

Dear Friends—

Publishing books is a team effort, and there are a lot of players—authors, editors, cover designers, marketing staff, and a host of other behind-the-scene folks who help get the books on the shelves. And readers are also a large part of the process. Your input matters, probably more than you know.

When I hear from readers, I really listen to what they want. This is particularly true with my series books. For example, Seek Me With All Your Heart (book #1 in the Land of Canaan series) wraps up nicely at the end, but one of my minor characters (Katie Ann) was left pregnant after her husband left her. I received lots of emails about Katie Ann from readers, so book #2 in the series—The Wonder of Your Love—is Katie Ann’s story.

With the popularity of social media resources such as Facebook, it has allowed me to keep in close contact with readers and to seek opinions and advice. Several times, the publisher and I couldn’t decide on a cover, so we posted the cover options on Facebook and let readers decide. And if you’re posting anywhere on my Facebook Fans Page, your name could end up in a book. I often scan the names there, so you are unknowingly helping me just by being on the site.

Readers also made it clear that they wanted books in digital format, large print, and audio versions. Authors and publishers listened, and most (if not all) of my books are available in multiple formats.

As an author, I hope to write entertaining stories that will be enjoyed for many years. As a reader, I have favorite authors, and I’m not afraid to let them know what I want in future books. We listen to the likes and the dislikes in our effort to bring you the best stories we can, so don’t be shy. Tell us what you think!


Beth Wiseman

The Talisman Ring by Georgette Heyer

This is the third in my series of Georgette Heyer reviews. I had to read this one third because I remembered it with such delight! Here is a sample...

     "I was not aware of it, ma'am. Nor do I know why my cousin should leave her home at dead of night and undertake a solitary journey to London."
     "She was wishful to become a governess," explained Sarah.
     He stared at her in the blankest surprise. "Wishful to become a governess? Nonsense! Why should she wish anything of the kind?"
     "Just for the sake of adventure," said Miss Thane.
     "I have yet to learn that a governess's life is adventurous!" he said. "I should be grateful to you if you would tell me the truth!"
     "Come, come, sir!" said Miss Thane pityingly, "it must surely be within your knowledge that the eldest son of the house always falls in love with the governess, and elopes with her in the teeth of all opposition?"
     Sir Tristram drew a breath. "Does he?" he said.
     "Yes, but not, of course, until he has rescued her from an oubliette, and a band of masked ruffians set on to her by his mother," said Miss Thane matter-of-factly. "She has to suffer a good deal of persecution before she elopes."
     "I am of the opinion," said Sir Tristram with asperity, "that a little persecution would do my cousin a world of good! Her thirst for romance is likely to lead her into trouble. In fact, I was very much afraid that she had already run into trouble when I found her bandboxes upon the road. Perhaps, since she appears to have told you so much, she has also told you how she came to lose them?"
     Miss Thane, perceiving that this question would lead her on to dangerous ground, mendaciously denied all knowledge of the bandboxes. She then made the discovery that Sir Tristram Shield's eyes were uncomfortably penetrating. She met their skeptical gaze with all the blandness she could summon to her aid.
     "Indeed!" he said, politely incredulous. "But perhaps you can tell me why, if she was bound for London by the night mail, as her maid informed me, she is still in this inn?"
     "Certainly!" said Sarah, rising to the occasion. "She arrived too late for the mail, and was forced to put up for the night."
     "What did she do for night gear?" inquired Shield.
      "Oh, I lent her what she needed!"
     "I suppose she did not think the loss of her baggage of sufficient interest to call for explanation?"
     "To tell the truth - " began Sarah confidingly.
     "Thank you! I should like to hear the truth."
     "To tell the truth," repeated Sarah coldly, "she had a fright, and the bandboxes broke loose."
     "What frightened her?"
     "A Headless Horseman," said Sarah.
     He was frowning again. "Headless Horseman? Fiddlesticks!"
     "Very well," said Sarah, as one making a concession, "then it was a dragon."
     "I think," said Sir Tristram in a very level voice, "that it will be better if I see my cousin and hear her story from her own lips."
     "Not if you are going to approach it in this deplorable spirit," replied Miss Thane. "I dare say you would tell her there are no such things as dragons or headless horsemen!"
     Miss Thane cast down her eyes to hide the laughter in them, and replied in a saddened tone: "When she told me the whole I thought it impossible that anyone could be so devoid of all sensibility, but now that I have seen you I realize that she spoke no less than the melancholy truth. A man who could remain unaffected by the thought of a young girl, dressed in white, all alone, and in a tumbril --"
     His brow cleared; he gave a short laugh. "Does that rankle? But really I am past the age of being impressed by such absurdities."
     Miss Thane sighed. "Perhaps that might be forgiven, but your heartlessness in refusing to ride ventre à terre to her deathbed -"
     "Good God, surely she cannot have fled the house for such a ridiculous reason?" exclaimed Shield, considerably exasperated. "Why she should be continually harping on the notion of her death passes my comprehension! She seems to me a perfectly healthy young woman."
     Miss Thane looked at him in horror. "You did not tell her that, I trust?"

Now, does that not beg a smile from your lips if not a chuckle out loud however indecorous it may be?

Truly, this is a most delicious offering from our most talented Georgette Heyer. It was written later in her career, if 1936 can be called later. She had already written 20 novels, several of which she suppressed from further publication after the initial debut. Later we'll discuss why Beauvalet may have been suppressed, but today we're discussing The Talisman Ring.

Heyer does an excellent job with written humor. Actors will tell you that comedic acting is far more difficult that dramatic acting. Timing is the key, and comedic acting can be more toiling on the emotions than dramatic acting because of that fact. Heyer could very well be the number one comedic writer of her time.

She sets up the scene in a very nonchalant manner, then zings you with something so surprising the burst of laughter causes quite a stir in the doctor's office, or where ever you might be whiling away the waiting hours with your trusty Kindle or Nook.

I quite enjoy the subtleties of  her writing. Today authors think they must spell everything out in vulgar details giving readers the impression only authors have brains. Heyer takes her time in displaying the underlying character of each player in this novel. The reader is immediately drawn into Sir Tristam Sheffield's character. His strength, no nonsense attitude is calmly noted in his conversation with his grandfather. He promises to marry his cousin because he has yet to meet his one true love. No woman has ever displayed the slightest bit of sense to him so he assumes all women are silly, extravagant females, his cousin is no exception.

And from there we are off on a wonderful adventure filled with smugglers, Bow Street Runners, a shady innkeeper, a villain slowly revealed and a hidden Talisman Ring that proves the innocence of one of the heroes.

Again, don't miss it!

This one receives six of five stars. Don't miss it! It's a keeper and well worth the money.

Creating: Unlocking the Mighty MRU - Randy Ingermanson

One of the most popular classes I teach at writing conferences is a mentoring workshop. Typically, I have
5 to 10 students that I work with intensively for several hours over the course of the conference.

I've taught this enough times that I schedule time to teach little 5-minute lectures on various topics that I know in advance most of my students are going to have trouble with.

Right at the top of the list of topics is the "Motivation-Reaction Unit," often abbreviated to "MRU."
(This term seems to be due to the legendary writing teacher Dwight Swain.)

Between 80 and 90 percent of my mentoring students need help on their MRUs. In reading published novels, I'd guess that about 75 percent of all authors also need some polishing on their MRUs.

As always, let me apologize for the terminology.
"Motivations" and "Reactions" aren't quite what you think they ought to be, and that's confusing.

But there should be nothing confusing about MRUs. Let me define a few terms.

In each scene, you choose one "Point of View Character"
whose brain you can look inside. You know this character's thoughts and emotions. You don't directly know the thoughts and emotions of any other characters in this scene, although you can make one of them the POV character in some other scene.

The "Motivation" is composed of anything that happens in your scene external to your POV character. The Motivation typically includes descriptions of the scene or actions and dialogue of the other characters.

The "Reaction" is composed of anything that your POV character does. The Reaction typically includes the actions and dialogue of your POV character, along with any thoughts or emotions you want to reveal to your reader.

Clearly, Dwight Swain had a reactive model in mind when thinking about POV characters. In Swain's way of thinking, things happen that "motivate" his POV character. Then the POV character "reacts" by doing or saying or thinking or feeling.

The reason this is poor terminology is that your POV character will often be proactive. She'll be doing or saying things that "motivate" the other characters in the scene to "react" to her.

So Swain's terminology is misleading, but it really doesn't matter. What I've found in teaching writers is that they make a quantum leap in their writing as soon as they learn to analyze their writing in terms of MRUs. Scenes that are fuzzy suddenly leap into focus when you break them down into MRUs. Big blocks of complicated and confusing action becomes clear when you put paragraph breaks between Motivations and Reactions.

Some examples would be helpful here. Let's look at a typical example of "fuzzy writing" that clarifies immediately when you try to break it down into Motivations and Reactions:

Harry and Tom pulled out their wands and began casting curses at each other.

Randy sez: What's wrong with this sentence? Isn't it exciting? It's a life-and-death situation. What's wrong with that?

What's wrong is that we're not experiencing it from the inside, we're seeing it from the outside. Furthermore, we're not seeing it in real-time, we're seeing it as a summary of real-time.

First things first. The reason we're not experiencing this from the inside is that we haven't yet chosen a POV character. We have two choices: either Harry or Tom. If there were other characters in the scene, one of them would work as well.

A good rule of thumb is to choose the POV character to be the one with the most to lose in the scene. Another good rule of thumb is to choose the more likable character.

In this case, since both Harry and Tom could be killed, they both have a lot to lose. But we'll say by fiat that Harry is more likable, so we'll make him the POV character.

Now that we've chosen a POV character, we find immediately that the above sentence is all tangled up.
It's showing the actions of BOTH Harry and Tom. Let's break it up into three paragraphs, each focusing on only ONE of the two characters:

Harry pulled out his wand and madly brushed the hair out of his eyes.

Tom peered at Harry through snakelike eyes and pointed his wand at Harry's heart. "Avada --"

"Expelliarmus!" Harry shouted.

Randy sez: Notice that the new version is a lot longer than the original. The original was "narrative summary"
and cost us only 14 words in a single paragraph. The new version cost us 34 words in three paragraphs.

If the stakes were low, then there wouldn't be much point in dragging things out in MRUs. It would make more sense to summarize things using narrative summary.

But since the stakes are high, it increases the tension to show the action in more detail, switching focus between Harry and Tom.

Also notice that we've used only a few of our tools. In the first paragraph, we see two actions of Harry. No dialogue, no interior monologue or interior emotion. If we wanted to stretch the tension further, we could add some of these elements.

In the second paragraph, we have two actions by Tom plus a little description plus the beginning of some dialogue. Again, if we chose, we could fill in far more here. More action. More dialogue. More description. Or not. It depends what you're trying to achieve as an author.

In the third paragraph, we have only dialogue. This is pretty sensible here, since the dialogue is interrupting Tom. There's a time and a place for stretching out the tension. There's also a time and place for compressing.

Now here's a second example that shows a different kind of problem, this time in timing:

Sherlock dived to his right just as Moriarty swung the axe back and then viciously swept it forward, immediately after Inspector Lestrade blew his police whistle far away up the street and both men paused to look before resuming their fight.

Randy sez: Again, there's no POV character, but it's an easy choice to make it Sherlock. The real problem with this paragraph is that the timing is all screwed up.
The order of the actions as they appear in the sentence doesn't have much resemblance to the actual sequence of events.

The events happen as follows:
* Lestrade blows his whistle.
* Sherlock and Moriarty pause to look.
* Sherlock and Moriarty resume their fight.
* Moriarty swings the axe back.
* Moriarty begins to sweep it forward.
* Sherlock dives to his right.

In your writing, watch out for words like "after" that indicate that you're showing the effect first and then the cause. In this case, the cause is Lestrade blowing his whistle. The effect is that Sherlock and Moriarty pause to look. It's far less confusing to show things in the order they actually happen.

Also watch out for words like "just as" that indicate that two events are simultaneous. Often, they aren't.
Even if they are, you can't SHOW them simultaneous. You have to write one event first, then the other. That's the nature of the written word.

In this case, the action of swinging the axe back and then forward takes a lot more time than the action of diving out of the way. The dive can't possibly happen "just as" the axe swing does. Obviously, you don't dive out of the way until you see the axe coming, so it's clear what the correct order should be.

Now let's rewrite the above in several short, punchy paragraphs that get the order right. Also, we'll insert a little interior monologue for Sherlock, to put the reader more inside his head.

Far away up the street, Inspector Lestrade blew his police whistle.

Sherlock sneaked a look. Help was on the way. All he had to do was fend off Moriarty for a few moments longer.

Moriarty swung his axe back over his shoulder and then swept it forward viciously like a scythe.

Sherlock dove to his right, out of range of the gleaming blade.

Randy sez: We've expanded the sequence slightly, going from 41 words to 63 words. But the main thing we've done is to get the timing right.

There's a lot more to say about MRUs, and the ideal situation would be to analyze a full scene from a real published novel, paragraph by paragraph. That's tricky to do for a couple of reasons, but I've figured out how to do it.

My coauthor John Olson and I will soon be republishing our award-winning out-of-print novel OXYGEN as an e-book. We'll include a long appendix that analyzes the MRUs of the entire first scene in excruciating detail.

This appendix will be just for novelists who care about such things. If we had a publisher, it would tell us we're stupid to do this, because only one reader in a thousand is a novelist. But we don't have a publisher to tell us we're stupid, so we're just going to do it.

Since OXYGEN will be an e-book, the price will be just $2.99.

You'll hear about it as soon as it's available. Watch for a "Special Note" e-mail from me sometime in the next few weeks.

Permission for reprint granted by author...
Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the Snowflake Guy," publishes the Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 26,000 readers, every month. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit

Download your free Special Report on Tiger Marketing and get a free 5-Day Course in How To Publish a Novel.


Life Support by Robert Whitlow

Here is a legal thriller that you can get your teeth into. Robert Whitlow has spent some time in the South and he's brought it to life in this novel.

Since The List his storytelling has greatly improved! I was drawn in from the very first page. Suspense builds word by word when Rena and her husband (married less than a year) are picnicking by the waterfalls. Filled with anger and fear from unresolved childhood treatment, she pushes her husband over the cliff. One savvy sheriff and a few pages something startling is revealed. (Don't read the back cover!)

You are then drawn into a parallel story about Alex Lindale, an attorney who makes one little mistake in the heat of courtroom battle which folds together into a tension packed drama.

I do recommend this novel, however Whitlow takes a lot of time describing sunsets and scenery. Since I grew up in Louisiana, I don't have to watch Swamp People to know what life in the bayous and marshes is like, and the same is true for sunsets through the cypress trees. For you in the frozen north, the description may be necessary.

Whitlow does an excellent job in character development; so good, you almost feel sorry for the murderous and conniving Rena. I have to wonder though how a seasoned, savvy divorce attorney can be so completely fooled. I know how the sheriff caught the deception, but there are clues that Alexis misses which I doubt a successful attorney who ferrets out the deceptions of spouses would let slip by. Then again, we all have our own prejudices that we filter truths through.

You won't be disappointed with this offering.

4.5 stars out of 5 stars.
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