Weekly Roundup – The Long Road to a Short Story

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Next week I intend to introduce the first installment of the short story I have been working on, entitled DRAGON CHILD. It’s a fantasy tale set in the quasi-middle ages about a young orphan boy, a kingdom at risk, and nest full of dragons. I’m going to release it here FREE, in serial fashion, with a couple chapters each week. Depending on reader response, the story may serve as a prequel to a full length novel later on, so be sure to share your thoughts with me!

There were a few things I wanted to accomplish with this project. The first, as I mentioned last week, was to prove to myself that I was capable of writing a short story in the first place. I have numerous future projects riding on successfully reaching that goal, so it was critical for me to learn how. In addition, I wanted to have something to use as a give-away for promotional purposes or as a thank-you to my beta readers.

The idea for Dragon Child presented itself all at once and I was hooked! There are several first’s with this one:

  • First foray into the fantasy genre
  • First dragon story
  • First child as the main character
  • First time using the middle ages as a setting

With a plethora of dragon books out there, there probably aren’t too many new ideas to introduce. I wasn’t about to let that stop me! One recurring theme is a dragon’s love for treasure – especially gold, but few authors want to explain the reason for this strange obsession/hoarding behavior. I decided to use the premise but add a twist of my own by introducing a perfectly logical explanation for their love of gold. All dragon stories include a little bit of magic to make them work and mine is no exception. I think you’ll like it.

I don’t want to give away all the goodies, so you’ll have to read it for yourself. Join me next week for DRAGON CHILD!

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Today is not only the first day of spring, but my sister’s birthday! With ten siblings, it’s almost always somebody’s birthday and I enjoy sending cards and chatting on the phone. In person would be better, but she’s 600 miles away and I don’t get back home very often. Anyway, HAPPY BIRTHDAY SIS – your little brother loves you!

PS – be nice to me, or you’ll end up as a character in my next book…

Weekly Roundup – Novel vs. Short Story: What’s the Difference?

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

For a reader, the most obvious difference between a novel and short story is the number of words. For a writer, it’s so much more!

Since I started writing seriously in 2015, the desire and opportunity to craft a short story have been curiously absent. My novels have kept me inordinately busy and it took me a while to recognize the need for short story material. Mix in my fear of failure and you have a wonderful recipe for procrastination.

What’s so scary about writing a short story?

  • I’d never intentionally tried before and couldn’t face the music of failure.
  • Which idea out of a hundred would I start with?
  • Where would I find the time?
  • What if it morphed into a novel?
  • What would I DO with it if successful?

Perhaps my fears seem silly, but they were/are quite real and prevented me from trying – until now. Yes, you heard me correctly. I am smack dab in the middle of writing a terrific short story and am cautiously confident of success! Why the change?

During the interim between my recent release and starting the next book in the series, a great story idea presented itself. As usual, I wrote it all down, intending to pursue it some day when I had the time. Trouble is, I couldn’t let it go and decided to take a short detour to test drive a short story project. If it turned out to be a miserable failure, no one would ever know and I would continue on with my novels as before.

After three false starts I almost gave up! Book three in my series was clamoring to be written, leaving me little time to waste for this experiment. Finally, things fell into place and I began to figure out the other things (besides word count) which made a short story different from a novel. The process is something like writing a three hundred word jacket blurb for a hundred thousand word book. It ain’t easy folks! Gone is the leisurely description of back story, character history, and general background material.

With a short story every word and sentence counts. The extraneous must be whittled down to the essential, leaving little descriptive elbow room – not quite bare bones but awfully close! It’s all about finding the balance between what the reader MUST know and what I really want to tell them (which is so much more). At the forefront of my thinking is the goal of telling the entire story in 7500 words or less without the reader feeling they’ve been cheated.

As of today, I’m about half done with a fantasy tale involving a kingdom at risk, very cool dragons, and a curious child. Once it’s finished and edited, I will be sending the story to some select beta readers for feedback. The plan is to release it as a mini-serial here on my blog, so you will be the first to see it! Depending on reader response, it may become the prequel for a future novel. More important, success with this project assures me I really can write short stories and move ahead with some exciting plans later this year.

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Last week I ran a FREE promotion for Traitor’s Moon and had over 3300 downloads. On Sunday, the book reached the #1 spot in three categories and #49 in the top one hundred free eBooks! Now, if I could just make a little money and get a good number of those folks to write a review…

Weekly Roundup – Routine Housekeeping

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Some weeks simply don’t have a lot going on and this was one of them. I have managed to keep myself busy, mostly with small projects which were shunted to the side while I was finishing my last manuscript. As has happened every time during the transition from one book to another, I feel guilty for not having started on the next one! Seriously – I just spent the last ten months of my life creating Traitor’s Moon, so you would think I deserve a small break, but my author-self isn’t happy with the lull in action.

One of the projects was to create an author page on Goodreads. My books have enjoyed many reviews since 2016 and I felt it was time to make myself more available to my readers. There were, and are, reasons I didn’t want the exposure. Let’s just say it’s all wrapped up in my desire to remain anonymous and leave it at that. Yes, it’s true, Alexander Elliott is a pseudonym (gasp!) and I intend to keep it that way for the foreseeable future.

I’m also looking into making my books available in print! The main reason I haven’t up to now is the cost, but I believe I’ve found the solution in The Book Patch; a print on demand service. Many people prefer an actual paper book, including me, and believe it or not, some refuse to read eBooks at all. Print versions would provide broader exposure and give me something to autograph! Besides, my bookcase is crying out for physical copies I can admire and show off.

Now that the decks are mostly cleared I can focus on getting the next manuscript started. First, I need to combine and organize all my notes and ideas, gathered over the last several months. Some are on the computer while the rest are hand-written, residing in a manila folder. (What can I say? I am a curious mix of old/new school, but since it works I’m not prepared to change the process.) After that, I will create a rough outline to make sure I have the major plot points accounted for, followed by the actual writing. There are some exciting goodies in store for the Gladstone Shifters, and I’m eager to let my ideas loose on the page!

Weekly Roundup – Plot vs. Characters

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

I had an interesting discussion with a co-worker recently concerning the merits of certain Sci-Fi films. For me, the only ones which matter are Star Trek and the three original Star Wars films. Many will disagree with me and that’s OK. The point of our discussion was what made them great movies, and I believe it’s the development and interaction of the characters which made them fun to watch and created loyal fans. The plot was important and the action exciting, but they only really mattered because of the way they affected or involved the characters.

What does this have to do with my writing? A great deal! I must confess, at the beginning I was convinced that the plot and action were key, while the characters were only so much window-dressing. Frankly, I was wrong – guilty of both ignorance and arrogance. As I became more comfortable as an author, a curious thing happened. Each book I wrote became progressively more character driven and I was then forced to reevaluate my basic assumptions on what constituted a great story.

It’s now obvious that the plot and action points become the vehicle for character development, interaction, and growth. It isn’t either/or, but both, and in the process they merge together to create a memorable reading experience. When readers finish a book, it’s the characters they remember and what they experienced along the way. Of course, writers cannot neglect a plausible and interesting plot or neglect to include sufficient drama and action. The story will fall flat without them, but it’s the characters which bring it all to life and are remembered long after the book is finished.

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Traitor’s Moon is almost ready to publish! I have made some terrific improvements and cleaned up the manuscript in a dozen different ways, thanks to some terrific beta readers. One of the sticking points was the need to streamline the final chapters and improve the end matter. After three or four configurations, I finally got it right. It was necessary to write some additional material, relocate portions relating to book three (teasers), create an additional chapter, and simplify the Epilogue. Whew! I’m glad that work is done, and I’m very pleased with the results. Unless I hit a major snag, the release date should be sometime before the end of February.

As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, I am also re-editing Expectant Moon. I want the first book to benefit from everything I have learned since it was released, so I am reading through it and making changes. Most of it is correcting small spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors which were missed somehow. I also changed a character’s last name (he appears briefly here but has a much larger role in Traitor’s Moon), made minor phrasing changes, and provided more detail between breaks in the action. In addition, the Prologue was tweaked to make it easier to understand.

All in all, the book will be in much better shape for new readers to the series. Obviously, I’m hoping those who purchase Traitor’s Moon will also purchase Expectant Moon, and I want them to have the best version I can produce. The terrific new cover design should also attract attention. I wish I already had book three written and ready to go, as I have a feeling readers will be demanding MORE. Not a bad problem to have…

Weekly Roundup: Remembering 2018

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

While it’s certainly true I didn’t accomplish everything I wanted to in 2018, it was still a good year! Below are some of the highlights, both personally and as an author.

Author Stuff:

  • In April I published my first paranormal, wolf-shifter novel Expectant Moon. Reviews have been very positive! Book two, Traitor’s Moon, is nearly finished.
  • Instead of scrambling to post something new all the time, I began the Weekly Roundup to keep my readers informed.
  • My writing has improved due to some great and timely advice from a number of sources and I continue to grow and learn.
  • Some fabulous story ideas are now waiting for me to find the time to write them!
  • While it was a difficult decision, my books have been enrolled in KDP Select for most of 2018. Along with other marketing changes, I’ve been able to earn a fairly stable (but meager) income from my writing.
  • My most popular post, the Odious Apostrophe appeared on April 16th.

While I have some goals in mind for the new year, I’m not going put pressure on myself by creating a list of resolutions. Aside from publishing Traitor’s Moon, I hope to write at least two novels and perhaps some short stories. If time permits, I may look into joining a local writers group. Much will depend on my work schedule and finances, so we’ll see.

Personal Stuff:

  • I completed a major move across country to live closer to my kids.
  • My oldest son welcomed a third child, my first Grandson, this year!
  • My younger son got married and they are now expecting their first baby in August!
  • I am blessed with a decent job, lovely apartment, good health, some caring friends, and my extended family. God has been very good to me, as always.

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Current Manuscript – Traitor’s Moon hit a couple of bumps at the end of the year, and I’ve missed my goal of finishing by December 31st by just a few days. One problem was the need for an additional chapter, which is now nearly finished. The other issue involved not being able to get a full night’s sleep for many days in a row. The old brain simply shut down, and I needed all my resources just to get through the work day. I think I’m back on track now! Word count stands at almost 117,000.

Even though I’m still writing book 2 in the Gladstone Shifters series, I’ve been busy jotting down more ideas for book 3. Some pieces of the puzzle are finally falling into place, which makes it easier for me to finish the current manuscript, since it will include hints for the next book. I don’t want to commit myself to any major plot lines unless I’m certain I’ll use them, hence the need to plan ahead and consider the shape of the story carefully.

I don’t like cliffhangers, but I do enjoy giving readers a few hints about what may be coming in the next book – call them teasers if you will. Building in a little bit of anticipation creates interest and hopefully brings readers back for the next installment.

My posts for the next few weeks will be mostly about the shifter world I’ve created for my current series. In conjunction with the release of Traitor’s Moon, I want to share where it all came from and answer some reader’s questions. So get your wolf on, baby, and let’s get furry together!

Reader Roundup 11-28 18 November Birthdays

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Apparently March is a popular baby-making month, since my November calendar is filled with birthdays! In fact, today is my youngest son’s special day, and he insists on getting older every year, dragging me along with him. November also included birthdays for my sister, niece, and granddaughter. Break out the cake, ice cream and balloons – and don’t forget the presents.

Most of my extended family are several states away, so I make an effort to send a card and call them on their day. It feels nice to be remembered on your birthday, even if you hate the idea of getting older. Hey – you’re going to age no  matter what, so you might as well get some attention and gifts out of the deal!

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Had our first winter storm here a few days ago. It wasn’t too bad, but all snow and ice make me nervous if I have to drive in it. My recent move brought me 800 miles northeast, and the winters in my previous home were nothing in comparison. I went from six inches of annual snowfall to sixty-eight! Since I used to live here for many years, it shouldn’t take long to become accustomed to it again. No one here seems to pay much attention to the weather.

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Traitor’s Moon – I’m finally making some significant progress! Chapter eleven was completed over the holiday weekend and I got a great start on chapter twelve. Following that, I should be able to wrap things up with one more chapter and the Epilogue. There is still a lot of story to tell, both major plot elements and minor story threads. It’s all important! I love seeing my characters grow and change, new ideas introduced, and conflict resolved.

I don’t plan out everything in advance with my books. I prefer to work with a rough outline of ideas and then allow the story to tell itself as I write. I’m sure a lot of authors would cringe at the idea, but it works for me. Some of the best elements in my stories are ones literally added as I’m writing, and they often surprise me. For instance, in my current manuscript two of the main characters have a unique and humorous way of interacting which I hadn’t even thought of previously. Initial feedback from beta readers confirms their verbal fencing fits the characters well and made the story more enjoyable. Cool!

You might think my mind is totally consumed with finishing Traitor’s Moon, but you would be wrong. While my new job requires more concentration and less time for my mind to wander and create, I’ve still been churning out story ideas! As always, it’s been a mixed bag; dragons, fairies and elves, various romances, sci-fi, and of course the next book in the Gladstone Shifters series. If I could start writing full time today, and lived to be a hundred, I would still have file folders full of ideas. That’s OK, it keeps me out of trouble.

Weekly Roundup 11-7-18 Ten Unusual Things About Me

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Today I’m responding to an unofficial tag from H.R.R Gorman, who published a list of unusual things about himself. Check out his blog – he always has interesting things to say! Anyway, the challenge sounded like fun, so I’m going to give it a go.

  1. I come from a family of eleven children. This was something my parents planned right from the beginning, and if my mother hadn’t miscarried once, they would have had twelve. I have eight sisters and two bothers and am number nine in the lineup. OK, enough math.
  2. I really hate getting lost while driving, as in stressed out worried I will never find my way back to civilization. It’s even worse if I’m running late, the weather is bad, or I’m in a strange city. If you’re ever riding with me when this happens, you may hear some colorful words!
  3. Not sure what the percentages are, but I never had my tonsils or appendix removed. Sad to say, this is not true of my perfectly healthy gall bladder which was mistakenly yanked from my insensate body at the hands of an HMO physician (don’t get me started!).
  4. I learned to drive on a Ford Pinto, a stick-shift gas-saver without any amenities which my father purchased new and kept running well beyond its normal lifetime.
  5. Since leaving home for college, I have moved a total of thirty times. Yes, I’m getting too old for this, and no, it won’t be the last.
  6. As far as I know, I have only wet the bed once. I was nine years old, and my family was vacationing in Minnesota. On the very last morning, I did the deed thinking no one would notice – including my older brother who shared the bed with me. You must understand; we were staying in a cabin by the lake where it was pitch black at night and a family of skunks was living under the outhouse. There was NO WAY my nine year old scared of the dark (and woodsy creatures) self was going to venture out to pee! I certainly didn’t get any sympathy from my mother, who was forced to delay the trip home while she dashed to the laundromat in town to wash the sheets.
  7. I have a master’s degree which I used for less than a year and will never need again. Yeah, I would definitely do some things differently if I could go back in time.
  8. At one time, I was serious about becoming an actor or a singer. Later came the nature photography phase, followed by the current author career track. Hey, at least my recent choices are a bit more exciting than the mailman or garbage man I wanted to be when I was kid!
  9. People who are afraid of heights normally stay away from them, yet I still enjoy riding roller coasters. The worst part is the slow clink-clink-clink up the long hill to the top. Once you drop over the edge, the certainty of plunging to a gory death outweighs the mere fear of heights. Go figure…
  10. I feel lost with out access to a clock. I not only wear a wrist watch but have clocks in every room of the house. I think it’s part of a need to feel in control of my day and avoid being late. Perhaps I should have been a horologist.

And there you have it -all my weirdness in one list! Well, the list probably could have been longer, but I don’t know you well enough to reveal anything else.

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I wish I could report some progress on Traitor’s Moon, but I’ve been swamped with work and getting settled in my new apartment. Except for wall art, I’m almost done unpacking boxes and finding new homes for things. While I like my kitchen, its layout is opposite of the last one, and I find myself turning in circles trying to find things which used to be next to the stove but are now on the other side of the fridge. Light switches also have me goofed up, and if it weren’t for strategically placed nightlights, I would be slamming into walls in the middle of the night.

I dearly miss writing, and my poor book cries out for me to finish it! Now that I’m getting used to my work schedule and the move-in is almost complete, I should be able to make some progress. My goal is to start again tomorrow, or as soon as I can get caught up on changing addresses and paying bills. Tune in next week to see what happens!

WEEKLY ROUNDUP 10-17-18 May I quote you?

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

This week I want to share a mix of wonderful book quotes:

  • “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.” Groucho Marx
  • “The library is inhabited by spirits that come out of the pages at night.” Isabel Allende
  • “You cannot open a book without learning something.” Confucius
  • “The worst thing about new books is that they keep us from reading the old ones.” Joseph Joubert
  • “Literature is a luxury; fiction is a necessity.” G.K. Chesterton
  • “Why can’t people just sit and read books and be nice to each other?” David Baldacci
  • “A book is a dream that you hold in your hands.” Neil Gaiman
  • “In books I have traveled, not only to other worlds, but into my own.” Anna Quindlen
  • “Everybody does have a book in them, but in most cases that’s where it should stay.” Christopher Hitchens
  • “A book is a gift you can open again and again.” Garrison Keillor

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Traitor’s Moon – I’m deep into chapter 10! Two of the minor characters have been brought together as mates and were named after my parents. If they were still alive they would not be amused! I didn’t do it on purpose…it just happened that way – really! Anyway, I’m unpacking the story box at a faster pace, revealing jewels which had to wait their turn. I’m not sure if I get more pleasure from revealing it to myself or to my readers. Word count stands at 80,000+.

My graphic artist is busy working on the cover for Traitor’s Moon! I love seeing the book come to life visually this way. In fact, she is creating covers for the series, which means Expectant Moon will get a new one too. I may give you a preview but will definitely reveal it when Traitor’s Moon is released. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

Weekly Roundup 8-22-18 Caring About Your Characters

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Creating characters readers will love has a downside in that I grow to love them too. They become something like my own children whom I want to see happy and successful. So what’s the problem?

In my current manuscript, Traitor’s Moon, it became evident early on some of the characters would die. I knew I would have to handle it carefully or risk damaging the story arc and alienating my readers. As much as I want all the good guys to live long and prosper and the bad guys to bite the dust, the story demanded an injection of stark realism. Theoretically it sounds easy enough, but I had no idea it would be so emotionally difficult!

The real kicker is that I haven’t even written this part of the book, and yet I’ve already lost sleep and agonized over what I knew I had to do. Mind you, no major MC’s are involved this time, but the loss will still be wrenching. When I’m writing, and my emotions are engaged, I’m fairly confident my readers will be touched in the same way. This is a good thing of course, but it makes for some very uncomfortable moments as the tears fall and I get all choked up.

Is it reasonable, or even normal, to be so passionate about something which isn’t real? These people don’t even exist for heaven’s sake, so why all the fuss?

As a writer who creates characters out of whole cloth, I can tell you I am emotionally invested in their lives and well-being. If it were otherwise, readers wouldn’t be able to identify with them and the story would fall flat. To be quite honest, I often prefer their company over the flesh and blood beings all around me. So when something bad happens to my loved ones, I’m going to grieve and cry without shame, and hope my readers do too.

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  • Current manuscript: I hit a bump in the road this week with chapter seven of Traitor’s Moon. It’s a common occurrence for me to underestimate how many words it will take to get from point A to point B. There were, I thought, just a few quick threads to cover before the highly anticipated attack scene and its aftermath. I was wrong. The story insisted on telling itself, and I had to follow along obediently or lose some great content. Anyway, those few quick threads became the entirety of chapter seven, meaning the aforementioned scenes will now be featured in chapter eight. Word count now stands at 54,000+.
  • Have a look at some of the great reviews I’ve received this week for Expectant Moon!

“Wow. Just wow. This book was wonderfully written, a ton of fun to read, and the plot was great. I seriously haven’t gotten this much enjoyment out of a book in a long time. I read it through kindle unlimited but liked it so much that I’m buying it. I just have to have this for my permanent collection.”

“OMG, what a wonderful amazing imagination in this book!!! I can’t wait to read the second in this series. Amazing twists and turns.”

“Wow, wow, wow. Absolutely took my breath away…amazing, beautiful, delightful, intense, naughty, and I loved every moment. You Rock!”

  • I love hearing what my readers have to say about my books, as it affirms my work and motivates me to keep writing. I can’t tell you how many times I have been discouraged, only to be uplifted by a great review or friendly email. As a rule, I usually only leave reviews if I can give the author four or five stars. If you feel the need to give a book three or less, consider contacting the author directly to share your concerns, instead of leaving a scathing review. Words have great power so be careful!
  • Bumper stickers are rare these days, but everybody seems to have a T-shirt with something on it. Check these out:

“In my defense, I was left unsupervised.”

“Patience is a virtue, It’s just not one of MY virtues.”

“I turn beer into pee. What’s your superpower?”

“No need to repeat yourself, I ignored you just fine the first time.”

“Some days the supply of curse words is insufficient to meet the demand.”

“I thought growing old would take longer.”

“If I was a bird, I know who I’d shit on.”

“Being cremated is my last hope for a smoking hot body.”

Weekly Roundup 8-15-18 My Publishing Anniversary!

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

art-bright-celebrate-1229838By Rudolf Kirchner on Pexels.

WOO HOO! One year ago I became a published author! It’s been an incredibly busy time of growth, change, excitement, and, yes, discouragement. Though I’ve learned an awful lot, it’s obvious I have much further to go and wonder when, or if, I’ll ever arrive. It isn’t just the constantly changing nature of publishing, but the deep pool of knowledge an author needs to run the business side of things. Self-publishing is not for the faint of heart, and I can’t even imagine trying the traditional route!

One of the reasons I spent a year writing before any attempt to publish was the sheer number of things I needed to learn. I came very close to giving up when I realized how complicated and time-consuming it was. The process would have been far easier and more pleasant if I’d had a mentor to guide me and answer questions. l still wish I had some fellow authors I could talk to when I need to vent or ask advice.

At the beginning, my sales figures were the primary driving force, and I was riding high for a while – until Pronoun closed up shop. Sales tanked after that and I am nowhere near where I’d like to be. Once more, I seriously considered calling it quits, but made a commitment to stick it out for two years before making that kind of decision. In the meantime, I had to find an other source of motivation and settled on two things:

  1. I love to write.

I have tons of ideas for future stories; so many in fact I don’t think I’ll live long enough to ever see them all published. Writing is so fulfilling and downright fun I simply MUST keep going!

  1. Readers enjoy my work.

Even though sales are slow, I realized it wasn’t because my books were bad. I’ll probably never be famous or rich, but I believe I have something to offer and feedback from my readers tells me I’m on the right track.

My goals for the next year include improvement in the mechanics of writing/editing and more effective marketing. Meanwhile, each book will be better than the one before it and adds to my back list. Perhaps I’ll get a lucky break and win an award or be offered a movie deal! What?! I can dream can’t I?

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Current manuscript:

Progress has been slow on chapter six of Traitor’s Moon. At this point of the story, I’m transitioning from the set up to the main action points and the primary romance. It’s tricky weaving all the threads together without leaving out anything important. I’m hoping to finish the chapter in the next day or two. Current word count is 46,000+ which is close to novel length and I’m only half done!

Quotes I liked:

“Too often do reviewers remind us of the mob of Astrologers, Chaldeans, and Soothsayers gathered before the “writing on the wall”, and unable to read the characters or make known the interpretation.” Charlotte Brontë, author of Jane Eyre, September 19, 1850.  (Well said, Charlotte. Some things never change!)

“The breathless voice belonged to a vivacious blonde. Her clothes screamed popular cheerleader. Perkiness seeped out of her pores in puke-inducing waves.” From Lone Wolf by Shelley Munro. (LOL. Can’t you just picture this person? How did she do it with only 23 words?? Thanks Shelley!)