Adding Je Ne Sais Quoi to Your Writing

A single mosquito turns a man into a eunuch.

Sometimes, when I’m listening to other’s conversations, which I do quite frequently because I love to use people’s unique expressions or cadence in my writing, I hear something that really makes me stop and think.

This often happens when I’m lucky enough to be sitting close to people of other cultures who either speak English perfectly or who speak it well enough to get their point across. I also love when they intersperse their English with wonderful words or sayings from their own cultures.

I grew up with a grandmother who used Yiddish as a way to really explain what she wanted to say because, in her mind, the word was more expressive than the English term she knew. She grew up in a Yiddish-speaking home but spoke English during school and throughout adulthood. The cultural words she used were branded into my psyche as well, and if I can’t come up with the right term for something, especially around friends who also had Yiddish-speaking grandparents or parents, I’ll find myself using the Yiddish term. More often than not, the person I’m trying to explain something to will have a “lightbulb” moment and go, “Oh! Of course!”

For example, sometimes saying, “He’s a great guy,” just doesn’t cut it. But, to certain friends, and to me anyway, “What a mensch” tells an entire story all on its own. The word conveys that you’re speaking about a person of integrity and honor and that the person is someone to admire and emulate, someone of noble character.

My German-speaking grandfather once admonished me by saying, “Don’t be a schadenfreude.” I know I had a blank look because he thought a moment and then explained, “It literally means ‘shadow joy.’ Don’t take joy from someone else’s misfortune.” Shadow Joy. How wonderfully descriptive is that?

What got me onto this topic was a recent chance overheard conversation where one man said to another, “A single mosquito turns a man into a eunuch.” Since I absolutely couldn’t fathom what the heck that meant, I leaned across the gap between our tables, confessed to eavesdropping, and asked if he would explain to me what that meant.

Both men laughed, and the one explained that in their culture, eunuchs are social outcasts, but their blessings and curses are powerful things. People ask for their blessings and will pay for them. When a eunuch wants money in return for giving a blessing, he spreads his fingers and claps his hand. Therefore, when a mosquito flies in a man’s face, and that man claps to kill it, he is acting like a Eunuch. Apparently, there is a deeper meaning to the saying, but I’d have to do some research to be able to fully understand it.

But…

When your characters explain things to other people, invent a backstory that allows them to use interesting and descriptive colloquialisms. I’m going to use those two men as a fun aside in my latest Alex Wolfe mystery and give their explanation as to what that phrase means. It won’t be a huge part of the book, but it will add a little je ne se quoi to the overall understanding of the Alex Wolfe character. Have fun with your writing, and don’t be afraid to think outside of the box whenever you possibly can. Readers enjoy little surprises, and I always try to accommodate them. If you don’t already, give it a try.

Brand New Sapphic Epic Fantasy Series!!

 

Cover of Ebook Elyon's BladesElyon’s Blades, book one of the New fantasy series, The Daughters of Elyon, is an epic fantasy adventure that takes place in the Cibían Empire.

The story follows the military sect of all-woman warriors who live in the Temple of Elyon, led by their fierce Arch Priestess, Sábria.

As protectors of all women in the empire, the Daughters of Elyon are constantly on the move, rescuing women from dangerous situations and seeking vengeance for those who were not saved in time. They are an unbreakable force, bonded by their shared mission and their devotion to the Goddess Elyon.

Elyon’s Blades is a thrilling F/F epic fantasy adventure that explores themes of loyalty and courage. With its richly imagined world and compelling characters, it is sure to captivate readers who love strong, independent heroines. It is a thrilling start to an exciting new fantasy series that will leave readers eagerly anticipating the next installment.

 

The Audiobook of The Door at the Top of the Stairs Receives Award!

Audiobook Choice Award Symbol
photo of Christa Lewis narrator
Audiobook Choice Award Symbol

Award-winning narrator, Christa Lewis, and I are proud to announce the Audiobook version of The Door at the Top of the Stairs has received the AudioBook Reviewers Choice Award.

“The narrator, Christa Lewis provides a moving performance with unique voices for each character. She interjects enough fear, anger, nonchalance, and more into the words and characters. She enhances the emotional nuances of characters and situations perfectly. Lewis gives a strong performance that engages the listener fully.

The psychological aspect of this novel and the characters are not just well written but are compelling and mind-blowing. This book is being awarded the Audiobook Reviewers Choice Award as it deserves a higher rating than the standard five-star ranking.”

~Charla – audiobookreviewer.com

“A writer should write what he has to say and not speak it.” Ernest Hemingway

ink pen writing on paper

“A writer should write what he has to say and not speak it.”

― Ernest Hemingway

 

Ernest Hemingway provided us with so many wonderful quotes. But the quote above is one of my favorites. The words are simple, but they speak to me because they are me.

 

When I’m in a room full of people or talking to someone one-on-one, I struggle with the spoken word. I stumble over my tongue, and at times my mind is frantically searching for something to say. I open my mouth, only to close it again because what I was about to say sounded inane. I often complete the conversation in my mind hours or even days after meeting with the person.

 

Not so when I write. My daughter will often tell me something that I want to comment on or give advice about, but I can’t seem to form the right words to tell her what I want to say. So, I get off the phone, open an email to her, and I write. And usually, what I write is exactly the advice I knew I wanted to give her but couldn’t figure out the best way to say it.

 

I think that’s true of most writers. We think in writing even when we’re supposed to be speaking. As though writing is a language unto itself, like Spanish, or Hindi, or Greek. I wish it were. I wish I could sit at a dinner table with my tablet open, and when someone speaks to me, I could quickly write out my response and then either read it to them or pass the tablet across the table and have them read it. I’m kidding, of course, but you writers out there know what I mean.

 

But, alas, life doesn’t work that way. So, I’ll just accept my gift for what it is and not disparage myself for what I’m not. I can’t sing. I’m not the life of the party or the chatty one at a dinner table.

 

But, I am a writer, and if I ever hand you a pad with a message scrawled across its pages, realize you’re important enough to me that I’ve taken the time to express myself in the best way I know how.

Prayers and Legitimate Charities to Support the Ukrainian People

Ukrainian flagMy heart and prayers go out to the Ukrainian people. If you feel powerless to help such brave, strong people and have even a few dollars to send, there are several charities I like because you can specify where your money goes and they are rated highly with Charity Navigator, a group that monitors and rates charities.

Alison and her 95-year-old dad

 

On a personal note, yesterday I went hiking in the desert with my 95-year-old Dad and my stepmother. I hope I’m so lucky to have his strength and stamina at 95 and her positive and caring attitude. We had a great time photographing flowers. The desert is beautiful at this time of year and we brought along my horse, Loki, who thoroughly enjoyed my Dad and nuzzled him whenever he got the chance. Spring in Arizona is full of cool weather and if it rained enough over the winter we get an enormous amount of wildflowers dotting the desert in the foothills where we ride and hike. P.S. If you’re wondering, Loki is carrying my Dad’s jacket for him.

It’s also time for me to take my writing outdoors. Some people prefer writing in a single spot, at a desk in their office, or wherever they have their preferred writing space. I prefer to be outside, whether I’m sitting in a stream cooling my toes in the water or on the bank of a lake, or even just outside in my front yard listening to the water rushing over the rocks of my fountain.

I’ve been enjoying writing a short story every week and I’ve found it’s a very freeing experience. I get to explore new genres and meet new characters, many of whom will eventually have their own novels because I enjoy their company so much.

Anyway, I’d love to hear from you. Is it spring where you are yet? What have you been doing with your time? How have you weathered the pandemic? Drop me a line ‘cuz I’d love to know!

 

I’m finally on Instagram!

I’m finally on Instagram!

In addition to the usual social media sites, I’m also on Bookbub and Pinterest. All of them offer insights into my twisted mind and writing, so if you’re so inclined, follow me!

.   

 

As far as writing goes, I’m currently writing Credo’s Run, the latest book in the Alex Wolfe Mysteries. Alex hunts for a monster who is drugging children as young as eight-years-old. Lucky for her, she has some help from some four-footed friends who discover that police work can be a ton of fun.

I’ve also started a fun challenge of writing a short story each week. So far, they’ve mostly been stories set in the Ar’rothi series. I’m sending them off to various magazines. After they’ve been published in one or more magazines, I intend to put them into a collection so everyone who loves the Ar’rothi characters can meet some interesting people they’ve never met before.

 

Spyder’s Kiss is Published

I’m happy to announce that the latest book in the Seven Realms of Ar’rothi fantasy series, Spyder’s kiss is published. It’s available at all your favorite retailers.

Get it on Amazon

Nook, Apple, Kobo and many more

Here’s the recap:

She was born and bred to be a warrior princess. Will she give that up to follow her heart?

Revenge, insanity, romance, this book has it all.

A master of swordplay, military tactics, and stealth movement, Liris can do everything except listen to her heart.

Sent on a mission by Aurelia “Bree” Makena, the Duchess of Danforth, Liris stumbles on three bodies hanging in a peaceful glade. The mission becomes one where she needs all her skills to investigate the murders and stay alive.

Can a woman who guards the duchess somehow become her lover as well? It’s what her heart desires, but not what fate has allowed…not yet anyway.

Traveling and visiting with my readers

Alison and Oriana

I’ve been traveling cross-country with my dog, Maggie. It’s always wonderful to meet new friends and spend time with my readers. One night in Texas, I pulled my camper into a lot behind a barn at a beautiful alpaca/lavender farm north of Dallas. I found Tx-Ture Farms through Harvest Hosts and if you’re ever up that way, I highly recommend stopping by to say hello to the owners and their alpacas. Oriana was a camera hog. but I managed to get into the picture too.

And I had a TON of fun with one of my favorite fans, Larry, and his wife, Janet, who met me at Tx-Ture farms and hung out. He’s been a loyal fan for many years, and we’ve discovered we have the same warped sense of humor. As you can see by the grins, good times were had by all.

My newest book, Spyder’s Kiss, is available for Pre-order now
cover of book Spyder's Web

Revenge, insanity, romance. This book has it all.

A master of swordplay, military tactics, and stealth movement, Liris can do everything except listen to what her heart is whispering to her.

Sent on a mission by Aurelia “Bree” Makena, the Duchess of Danforth, Liris stumbles on three bodies hanging in a peaceful glade. The mission suddenly becomes one where she needs all her skills to investigate the murders and stay alive.

When love is added to the mix, she’s pulled in two different directions. She was born and bred to be a warrior princess. Is she willing to give that up to follow her heart?

Problems with the novel Spyder’s Web

spyder's web

I realize this may come as a shock to many of you, but I’m not perfect. I make mistakes, and apparently, I made a doozy with my last book in my fantasy series, Spyder’s Web.

Somehow, I only uploaded half the book to all of the various places you folks go to buy books. The story stopped right in the middle of chapter eight, and people were left kind of confused.

confused cartoon dog

Can’t blame them there. Anyway, if you were one of the unlucky readers who only got half a book, mea culpa.

By now, you have received or will receive a notice from Amazon instructing you on how to re-download the corrected version of Spyder’s Web.

Alternately, on Amazon, you have the option to use the “Manage Your Content and Devices” page on Amazon.com to receive your book updates.

I’m really sorry for the inconvenience and won’t be too upset if you write to tell me how shocked you are that I’m not always perfect…

 

Story Lengths

As most of you know, I write in several genres, and within those genres, I write short stories, novellas, and novels. Several people have asked what the difference is between each type of writing. The answer comes down to numbers, and even these aren’t written in stone.  Whenever I list my books for sale, if they are a short story or novella, it will be easy for you to tell because they’re always labeled as such. Let me give you some examples:
 In a nutshell:
Short Stories: 1,000 to 7,500 words
My short story Sansha is an example of this coming in at 6,436 words
Novellas: 7,500 – 40,000 words (some people consider anything over 30,000 words a novel – like I said, nothing is cast in stone.
My novella Lilas comes in at 16,174 words
My novella Credo’s Revenge has 21,564 words
Novels: 40,000 – On Up
Credo’s Hope, for example, has 97,935 words
As I mentioned, this is variable. Some of the greatest books–referred to as novels–ever written are under 32,000 words. The list goes on, but I thought I’d give a couple of examples.
 
 
The Call of the Wild
Jack London
27,000
Of Mice and Men
John Steinbeck
31,465
Animal Farm
George Orwell
27,695
 
 
Anyway, I hope this answers your questions and as always, please keep your questions coming. I love hearing from you guys and always try to get back to you as quickly as possible.