Monday, April 20, 2015

The Feels. Do we want them? How do we get them?

So...the other day my friend Irene posted to Facebook that she was reading the 4th book in a series by an author we both really like. That motivated me to get my but in gear and read the same book - I'd been saving it for a special occasion, and a Hawaiian vacation seemed special enough.

Loved the book. Hard.

(Jump HERE to see the book's Amazon link. I don't mean to be coy, but I blog about this author a lot, and there should be a limit to the fangirl action, you know?)

(Okay, fine. It's Jackdaw by KJ Charles. Fantastic story. Go read it. Seriously.)

At any rate, after I finished the book (for the 2nd time) I messaged Irene to ask what she thought. She loved it as much as I did, because unlike the other books in the series, this one was all about The Feels. A while later she dropped a different author's name, saying how much she admired her ability to write The Feels.

Those words again.

The Feels

Now, I haven't been living in a box, so I've seen people use the phrase before, but I'd never really connected it to my own writing. Should I try and write The Feels? What does that mean, exactly? And how would I go about doing it?

The best way to understand something is to start with an accurate definition. I went to Urban Dictionary, however had trouble finding something short AND grammatically correct AND F-bomb-free.

Not that there's anything wrong with that...exactly...

Then I found, where there was both a definition and some information about the origin of the term. Check out the link if you want to feel like an expert on The Feels. For the rest of you, here's their definition:

“Feels” is a shorthand for the word “feelings” that is used to describe an intense emotional response, such as sadness, excitement or awe. The term is also commonly associated with the phrase “right in the feels,” which indicates that something has deeply affected the speaker.

Intense emotional response. That's what I want for my readers, maybe not on every page, but often enough to keep them turning those pages. Assuming my characters are more perceptive than poor Sherlock up there, how do I communicate their emotional response to any given situation?

After reading through a few blog posts (links below), I came up with six basic guidelines for adding emotional depth to your fiction.

1. Show, don't tell.

Every writer, everywhere has been told to 'show, don't tell' at one point or another. But how do you do that? It's not easy, or it wouldn't be something every one of us needs to be reminded of. As an example - and making use of Mr. Ackles, above - it's the difference between saying,

"He got all excited and started playing air guitar."


"He high kicked and grabbed his own damned leg, strumming his thigh like a guitar and shouting out the lyrics of some rock song."

The first sentence tells you he's excited, the second one communicates his emotion through word choice and detail. Giving your character physical cues that illustrate what's going on inside their head is much more powerful than baldly stating what they feel. T
he Emotion Thesaurus is great for this, providing a lists of behaviors associated with a host of different mental states.

You can and should amplify a character's emotions with visceral responses, with cues like a racing heartbeat or a twist in the pit of their belly, and you can use the choreography of the scene to provide clues to what they're feeling. A character who spends an entire conversation folded in a ball at the far end of the couch is giving a much different message than one who is straddling her love interest's lap.

You need to really know your characters, because the same situation can produce different responses in different people and you want to capture each character's unique truth. You also need to be willing to get down and dirty with your own feelings...but we'll get into that more in #3.

2. Give the reader something they can relate to.

There aint' nothing sadder than a bummed-out baby.

Look at that kid's face. You don't even need to know the cause to see his little heart breaking. Almost everyone's got some experience with babies, and as a story element, they're something most readers can relate to. I'm not saying every book needs a baby, but even the oddest, least-human character needs some aspect the reader can grab onto and say, "yeah, I know that."

If the reader connects with your main character in chapter one, they'll be sobbing or screaming or tearing their hair out when they get to the climax of the story. Readers are pretty forgiving, and will add their own layers to the information the writer gives them, but there needs to be a foundation of believability for them to work with.

Establishing a reader connection can make your antagonist more powerful, too. Not too many writers can get away with creating a Sauron. Most of us need to construct bad guys who have a little bit of good to offset all the evil, or whose motivations - selfishness, greed, addiction - can be understood by the reader.

I may not be telepathic, but I do know what it feels like to be the odd one out, to be the one who doesn't quite fit. So by the end of the first chapter of Dead Until Dark, I was pretty sure Sookie Stackhouse was someone I could be friends with, someone who would understand my own feelings of alienation, because she'd been there and done that. I rode that feeling of connection all the way through thirteen books and quite a few seasons of the television show.

Charlaine Harris won my loyalty by her ability to consistently get at honest emotional truths (and Eric Northman). In order to do that, she had to be willing to go there first.

 3. Open yourself up.

Basically, if you're not feeling it, your readers won't, either. 

I've heard writers say their best scenes are the ones where they made themselves cry, and there's something beautiful about that. To take your character into their blackest moments by digging into the time you hit rock bottom takes a fair amount of courage. Readers know what bad feels like, what hurt feels like, what fizzy infatuation feels like, and when you find a compelling way of communicating basic emotional truth, the words pop right off the page.

Which is not to say your writing should be limited to those things you've already experienced. You just need to come up with the next best thing. Probably Charlaine Harris has never met a vampire, but she makes a pretty good case for what it would be like. Most of us have met someone who was extremely charismatic and kind of frightening. Like, you know, a vampire would be. Ms. Charlaine's ability to convey the competing dynamics of attraction and fear gives her work the weight of truth, even though the situations are complete fantasy.

What's that I just said about competing dynamics? It's just a fancy way of saying a character's emotion rarely plays only one note.

4. Layer emotions.

Remember the time your sister came home and told you she'd made the cheerleading squad, and you were happy for her because you're sisters, after all, but you were also a teeny weeny bit jealous, because you're sisters, after all, and you were also also kind of excited because maybe your own dating cred would go up because of some trickle-down cool?

Because you're sisters, after all. Remember?

It's entirely possible for your characters to have mixed emotions about any given situation. To use an example from the KJ Charles book Jackdaw, Ben hated Jonah, except for how much he loved him. And Jonah loved Ben so much, he destroyed their relationship to keep him safe. The complexity of these extreme emotions (The Feels) drove the plot hard and made for compelling reading. 

(This post from Janice Hardy's Fiction University does a great job of detailing how to identify the different emotional layers in a scene. Check it out - it's worth a read.)

5. Use your setting


In #1, I talked about using behavioral cues, visceral reactions, and choreography to illustrate a character's mental/emotional state. Another way of reinforcing what's going on inside their head is to highlight details from the setting. The details you choose should help deepen the reader's connection with the character, thereby heightening their emotional response to the action on the page.

Think about it. Wuthering Heights is a very different book if it's set in contemporary L.A. (And I'm already playing with that idea, so don't even go there.) The whole dark-and-stormy-night vibe fosters a feeling of dread in the reader, one that reinforces the pathos and destructiveness of Cathy and Heathcliffe's doomed love.

More subtly, if most of your action takes place in a fairly benign suburban ranch house, maybe there's a dying potted plant in the corner that comes to represent the stress between the husband and wife who live there. A little bit of setting can go a long way, but a couple choice details can really hook your reader, increasing the emotional resonance of the scene.

6. Show some restraint.



It's not usually what you're after. Melodrama happens when your character's emotional intensity is constantly turned up to eleven. (That's a random Spinal Tap reference.) If the hint of love has them singing about daisies and rosebuds, and a bad cup of coffee brings on tears, you might have a problem.

A character doesn't have to express over-the-top feelings in order to be dramatic. You're striving for the truth, right? And just as people quite normally feel more than one emotion at a time, there are also ten steps on their emotional volume control before they get to eleven. To avoid a melodramatic, potentially comedic, overreaction, make sure you calibrate the character's response to the situation you're creating.

There may be times when you want a character to overshoot, for a deliberately humorous effect. Janet Evanovich is pretty much an expert at this, and Stephanie Plum's sidekick Lula gets just as excited about a bucket of chicken as she does about a bad guy with a gun. In general, though, it's best to leave the melodrama to Snidely Whiplash and his pals.

So there's my take on how to hit your readers right in The Feels. Show, don't tell. Give them something to relate to. Open yourself up. Layer emotions. Use your setting. Avoid melodrama. And while you're doing all that, strive to put the truth on the page, because that'll give you the biggest feels of all.


If you've got any tricks for getting The Feels on the page, leave 'em in the comments!

Wish I'd known she was going to do this so I could have worked it in friend Irene took my post and did it one better. Here's a link to The Feels (topic shamelessly stolen from Liv Rancourt)! She pretty much nails it....

If you'd like to do some more reading, here are some links...

Friday, April 17, 2015

There's No Place Like....


Yeah, I'm back. I'm not sure if this'll be an actual blog post, or just an excuse to show off more of the photos I took in Hawaii last weekend. Like this one...

Waimea Bay from the Puu O Mahuka Heiau
I ate and drank and reconnected with old friends. I climbed Diamond Head and took my first-ever hot yoga class. Even more exciting, I actually relaxed enough to step away from my iPhone for at least a couple brief periods of time.

Sweaty selfie with Bex from the top of Diamond Head

There was some writing involved - there's always writing involved - and two days in, I finished the first draft of my current project. I also got feedback on the first seventy pages of that project from my girls Amanda and Rhay. I've decided to upgrade them from beta readers to alpha readers, because, first draft. Hello! They had some pretty rough going, but they hung in there.

(HERE'S a link to a Janice Hardy post on the alpha reader concept.)

Sunrise over Kailua
The other writerly thing I've been thinking about is what to do with Aloha, Baby, now that the whole thing is published on the blog. I'm debating whether to make it a free download on Smashwords, post it on Wattpad, or just make a page for it here on the blog. While I work out the details, you can always jump HERE for the first section of my sweet contemporary(ish) romance. It's split into eight sections, but they're all linked so you can keep reading. It's a free read, and free is good.

My feet in the sand on Makapu Beach. TMI?
And on that not-so-serious note, I'm going to wrap things up. Mahalo for your support of Aloha, Baby and for visiting my blog. Below is a 30-second video I took from the trail on Diamond Head. It's looking out toward Koko Head Crater, with Black Point and Kahala in the middle. I took a number of these short videos, mainly to share little bits of the island with my kids, and this one captures how windy it was up there, and the intensity of the colors. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Show Me How To Love by Synithia Williams

Love. This. Cover.
Now you know I'm nothing if not a rebel, so when I heard my friend Synithia was having trouble with Facebook because there was too much skin on her new book cover, I immediately started thinking of ways I could help. Like, maybe, making a blog post and sharing it in the comments? We'll see if my sneaky idea works...

Above and beyond that, I'm pleased as peaches to promo this book, because it's one I beta-read a while ago and I thought it was a fantastic story. I love her writing (& I LOVE her heroes! *ahem Kareem ahem*), and I hope you check this one out, because it's too fun!


Just when Mikayla Summers is convinced dating her boss is a good idea, she discovers him having sex in the closet with someone else. Refusing to stick around for further humiliation, she escapes with the one other person affected by what happened, her now ex-boyfriend’s cousin, the sexy, Andre Caldwell. 
Though Andre believed the feud between him and his cousin over, he wasn’t surprised by what happened. What is surprising is how much he’s attracted to Mikayla’s personality and charm. As he gets to know her better, he realizes there is more than betrayal bringing them together 
But the Caldwell feud runs deep, and when family obligations threaten the fragile connection between Andre and Mikayla they’ll both question if their love is real or a result of revenge.


He smirked and shook his head. “My family doesn’t marry for love. You only briefly met my dad and step-mom, but a few minutes in a room with them will quickly reveal there’s no love between them. They started as an affair that resulted in both of them dumping their old spouses for a newer model.”

“Don’t you want to love someone,” she asked.


Simple, abrupt, with no explanation. 

“I’ve been in love.” Some of the wistfulness of what she’d once felt floated with her voice. “It’s not so bad.”

He leaned back and crossed thick arms over his wide chest. “Ryan?”

She shook her head. “No. My college boyfriend. We met our junior year and dated all of our senior year. He asked me to marry him.”

“What happened?”

“He died in a car wreck.” She said simply. 

Andre’s dark eyes lowered briefly. “I’m sorry.”

She shifted and toyed with the edge of her shirt. “I’ve come to terms with my loss. Cried enough tears to fill Lake Michigan and yes, I still miss him. But his mom insisted that I live after it was over. He wouldn’t want me to cry every day.”

“What was his name?”

Brown eyes that crinkled when he grinned in a thin face tanned from spending so many days outside flashed across her mind. “Brenden.” She smiled. “He made me laugh, all the time at the silliest stuff. He was such a great guy.”

Andre slid closer, wrinkling the patterned quilted bed cover and her will to slide away.  “The look on your face. You didn’t have that look with Ryan.”

She lifted then lowered her shoulders. “No, I didn’t.”

Andre lifted a hand and brushed the hair from the side of her face. His fingers trailed down the side of her cheek, sending shivers across her skin. A warning flared somewhere deep that they were getting too comfortable again. Mikayla ignored it and turned to rest her cheek against his palm. 

She met his gaze. His dark eyes were alive with desire. Heat sparked between them. She took a stuttering breath and blood pounded in her veins like a rushing stream. Too many emotions swirled inside of her. She hadn’t talked about Brenden in years, mainly because she didn’t want those old feelings brought up. Andre was the last person she should trust with those feelings, but after he’d spent the night keeping her nightmares away it seemed silly not too.

“You don’t talk much, but when you do you get right to places I don’t like going,” she said in a wobbly whisper. 

“If you’re going to talk, it might as well be about something.” He slid a hand to the back of her head. Long fingers gently twisted in her hair, which was probably now a mess. He pulled her closer.

Anticipation ignited and flared along her skin. As much as she’d wondered about Ryan’s kiss, she’d never longed for his lips to touch hers the way she did now for Andre’s. She called on reason to stop her now.  “We shouldn’t do this.” 

“No, we shouldn’t.” If she loved his voice before, she was completely enamored with the thick layer of desire flavoring the deep rumble.  “That’s why it’s just going to be a kiss.”

(Blogger's note: Sigh...)

Buy Links: 


Synithia Williams has loved romance novels since reading her first one at the age of 13. It was only natural that she would begin penning her own romances soon after. When she isn't writing, this local government gal balances the needs of her husband and two sons. You can learn more about Synithia on her website:, Facebook: and Twitter: 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Aloha, Baby (A Short Story Serial - The Big Finish!)

Blue eyes, dimples, and a hot surfer's body means trouble, right? There's only one way for Katie to find out...

Here we are, at the final installment of Aloha, Baby. If you've been following along, MAHALO! and if you're just checking in for the first time, you can catch up by reading  Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7 first. Or you can read the big finish, and wonder how we got here. (LOL!) At any rate, by the time you read this, I'll be on a plane to Honolulu for a little fun in the sun. Have fun with the story, and have a great week!

Our VRBO has a pool....hoping this guy is waiting....

Losing seventy pounds was sure something to celebrate, but at the same time it created problems Katie never expected to deal with. Like, what to do when the hot-bodied surfer, Jack, turned out to be the DJ at her roommate's favorite dance club. Katie was positive he had ‘Trouble’ stamped on his butt. Didn't he?

When we left Katie, Jack had just dropped her off after a most romantic ride home...

The next morning my head ached a little. The sky was partly cloudy, although the clouds would likely burn off and let the sun through by the afternoon. I said good morning to Hula Girl. When I passed by to open the lanai door, she winked at me. For a plastic doll she was kind of a smarty-pants.

I stepped out so I could watch the water and smell the plumeria. The traffic zipping along the highway hummed like a swarm of distant bees. My presence triggered a startled cough from Darla, who was out on her lanai in a purple and hot pink flowered bathing suit finishing her morning cigarette.

“Goodness, lady, you look like crap. I hope it was worth it.”

I was a little embarrassed. “Yeah.” I glanced down at my Swatch. It was ten thirty in the morning.

“Want some coffee?” Darla held up her cup.

“I would love some.”

Darla ducked into her apartment and, in a minute, she was back with a second mug. It tasted fine, clearing the fuzz off the back of my tongue and propping my eyes open. “Thanks,” I said, raising the mug as a toast to Darla.

“No problem. You have fun last night?”

I grinned, unable to find the right words.

“It’s about time.” Darla raised her mug, toasting my success. A muffled thump came from Meli’s room, and a minute later she stumbled into the bathroom.

“Look who’s livin’ large,” I called to her.

Darla laughed. “She’s a kicker, your roommate. I used to know her Auntie Esmie. We had some wild times, back in the old days.”

“Meli must have inherited her auntie’s genes.”

“She got her name. Esmerelda.”

“Ack, Darla, don’t tell her that.” Meli stepped out onto the lanai and dumped herself into our one plastic chair. She was wearing a man’s t-shirt and a flowered sarong skirt tied at the hip. “You have fun last night with Mr. Trouble?”

I felt my cheeks turn to flame. “Yeah.”

“Gonna see him again?” By now Darla was leaning over the lanai railing, anticipating my answer.


“Our work here is done, Darla.” Meli pushed herself up, gave Darla a high five, and went back into the apartment. She called over her shoulder as she left. “Let’s go out for breakfast.”

That sounded pretty good. A couple of over-easy eggs and some orange juice would be okay if I just had a salad for lunch. Meli would probably order eggs benedict, and normally I would weaken and help her finish what she couldn’t eat. Having Jack around was likely to be pretty motivating. As they say at Weight Watchers, nothing tastes as good as being thin feels. I got a fluttery feeling somewhere under my belly button. For sure, I’d be buying myself a couple new bras.

“You want to come with us, Darla?”

“Oh no. You girls go have fun. I’m glad you got out last night. For a sweet girl, you’re kind of distant, you know? I can tell you’re holding everything back.”

Sounded like someone you’d call Shave Ice. “I’ve heard that before.”

When the coffee was gone, I took a long shower. The red light on the answering machine was flashing when I got done. The message was from Jack, just checking in. He left phone numbers for his apartment and his car phone.

“I’ll call him back later,” I told Hula Girl.

Her skirt swished in the breeze as she laughed at me.

“What? It’s not like he’s really got ‘Trouble’ on his butt.”

“Who are you talking to?” Meli asked as she came out of the bathroom.

Hula Girl kept laughing.

“No one, Meli. Let’s go.”

Of course, by the time we got done waiting for the elevator and rode to the ground floor, I started freaking out. Maybe I should have returned Jack’s call before we left.

“What if he doesn’t call again?” I wailed at Meli. Guys could be so fickle.

She rolled her eyes and headed across the lobby, her flip-flops slapping on the tile floor. “He’ll call again.”

I followed her, wishing I had her confidence. She looked casually sophisticated with her flowered skirt tied on her hip, carrying a purse that should have looked too dressy, but didn’t. Beside her, my faded sundress was shabby. At least my hair looked kind of cute, done up in a messy bun, and I’d slapped on some tinted lip-gloss.

When we pushed through the double glass doors of the apartment’s main entrance, I wished I’d paid a little more attention to my appearance. A dark-colored Camaro pulled up in front of us. We stopped near the passenger door, and Meli glanced at me over top of her sunglasses. The tinted passenger window rolled down, and Jack leaned over from the driver’s seat.

“What’s up, chicas?”

“Morning.” I clipped Meli gently with my elbow because I knew she was about to start giggling.

“We’re going over to the Wisteria for breakfast and thought we’d see if you wanted to come. Since we were in the neighborhood.”

The restaurant he’d named was on the other side of town. Realizing there was no way they happened to be “in the neighborhood,” I started to grin. After a glance at Meli, I nodded. “Let’s go.”

“Get out of the car, Kalani.” Jack shoved his roommate’s shoulder.

Kalani was staring at Meli like she was a cobra and he was about to get bit. “You get out of the car. The girls can sit in back.”

“Get out.”

Kalani opened the passenger door, climbing out with an exaggerated sigh.

“Now be a gentleman and help her in.”

Kalani stuck a hand in Meli’s general direction and she gave him a look that said she’d slap him if he touched her. I bit my upper lip to keep from laughing out loud. They were going to be fun to watch.

When Kalani was in the back, I settled myself in the passenger seat and smiled over at Jack. He picked up my hand and kissed the back of it. The air around me started to glow, and I was pretty sure I could get used to the warm buzz that started in my heart and traveled south.

I had to clear my throat before I could speak. “Sorry I didn’t call you back. I was in the shower.”

“It’s alright, Cuddles.”

“Gah, are we going to have to listen to you get all mushy?” Meli bleated from behind us.

Jack and I started to laugh, and I let my hand rest causally on his thigh. As he put the car in gear, I heard Hula Girl tell me how much fun it was to fall in love.

Thanks again for reading!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Baron and the Mistress by Karyn Gerrard

Release date: April 7th, 2015
Approx: 29,700 words
KG Publishing
Great price! 1.99!

I'm pretty excited because this week I've got a bonus promo post, the newest release from Karyn Gerrard. I first met Karyn through Crimson Romance, and she's amazing. I've watched news of her new releases come through my twitter stream with impressive consistency. Whether the stories are set in the Victorian era or feature shifters, motorcycles, or bad boy rock stars, she's a writer you'll want to get to know. Therefore I'm pleased as pudding to feature The Baron and the Mistress here today. I have quite the soft spot for historicals - though most of what I've been reading lately has two boys on the cover, but whatevs. This one looks cool!


Forget the horrors.

A shivering young woman leans against a lamppost in the most notorious street of ill repute in all London. For Asher Colborne, Baron of Wenlock, this is a haunting vision of beauty and wretchedness. Uncharacteristically halting his carriage, he is shocked to discover the thin, dressed-in-rags creature is none other than Chastity Armitage, a beautiful angel who captured his heart at a grand ball more than two years past. For Colborne, her circumstance is a mystery he feels honor bound to unravel.

Chastity and her siblings have been on the run for more than two years. Desperate for food and lodging money, she is forced to sell herself. She never expected a tall, handsome man to appear as if from mist and change her life forever. She is given a choice, continue down the path of never-ending poverty or become the baron's mistress.

Though they are both determined the arrangement remain an emotionless business transaction, the attraction between them is scorching. Many barriers and obstacles lay in Chastity and Ash's path. Can the baron and the mistress embrace true love?

Heat Level: Very Sensual 


Chastity could not believe she allowed the well-dressed gentleman to take her away in his carriage. They did not go far nor did they speak during the short journey. They both sat in a private room at The Pig and Whistle tavern. Her stomach rumbled. The man, who introduced himself as Ash and insisted she call him by that name, ordered beef stew, ale, and extra bread and cheese.

Fifteen shillings? The obscene amount still rattled about in her bewildered brain. With proper planning the money would keep her and her brother and sister comfortable for some weeks. What in God’s name did he wish to do with her? Or to her? What perverse act would she be subjected to? His intense stare made her uncomfortable. This Ash was too handsome by far. After removing his hat and gloves, he ran his hand through his black-as-midnight hair. His eyes were the color of a fine cognac and the gleam of lust that shone from them sent waves of heat through her body. Ash removed his cloak. The silver lining appeared to be the finest silk. His tall frame was perfectly proportioned and how well it filled out the excellently tailored evening wear. A smartly tied silver cravat about his neck completed the look and he did look every inch the rake. Chastity caught a whiff of expensive cologne. The scent of bergamot and lemon invaded her nostrils. Her stomach dipped precipitously. Dear heaven, I find him attractive? Not wise. Chastity’s gaze darted about the small room trying to find a quick escape route.

“What is your name, my sweet?”

His voice was deep, resonant, and cultured. A sensual baritone as rich as melted dark chocolate. 
Should she give her name? What would it matter? “Chastity.”

The man’s eyes widened briefly as he shifted in his seat, but his concentrated gaze did not waver. “Interesting choice of name for a prossie.”

Fury boiled quick and hot in her veins. “It’s my real name and I’m not a...a...prossie!”

The corner of his mouth quirked in amusement. “Of course not, even though you offered me a quick tup—for coin.”

Chastity’s cheeks burned in humiliation. Before she could answer, the door burst open and the barmaid carried in a tray of foodstuffs. The tantalizing aroma of beef, grilled onions, and fresh bread made her salivate. For a meal such as this and fifteen shillings, she would agree to anything. And she would bet this arrogant, handsome man knew it.

AUTHOR INFO: Karyn lives in a small town in the western corner of Ontario, Canada. She whiles away her spare time writing and reading romance while drinking copious amounts of Earl Grey tea. Tortured heroes are a must. A multi-published author with a few bestsellers under her belt, Karyn loves to write historicals, particularly in the Victorian era. She also writes the occasional contemporary.
As long as she can avoid being hit by a runaway moose in her wilderness paradise she assumes everything is golden.
Karyn’s been happily married for a long time to her own hero. His encouragement keeps her moving forward.

Karyn's Site/Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest/Tsu/Amazon Page