Tag Archives: Julia Quinn

Confessions of a Story Binger

Hello, I’m J Monkeys.   I’m a story binger.   Phew.   Boy, it feels good to get that out.   They say you can’t solve a problem until you recognize you have one.   Well, I do.   I binge on stories.   Only good stories, by good storytellers…but still.   I’m a story binger.

You may wonder what brought me to this point in my life.  Lots of things, really.  Specifically, Julia Quinn, Lynn Kurland, Jude Deveraux, Aaron Sorkin, Eric Northman, Temperance Brennen, Piper Halliwell, Jack Bauer, Benedict Cumberbatch, the fellas of Ripper Street, the ladies of Downton, Walter White and Francis Underwood

Back in the days before Netflix, I binged mostly through books.  In my high school and college years, I’m not exaggerating when I write that I read at least a thousand romance novels.  It’s a good thing I’ve had a job since I was 8 years old, to support my habit.  And I discovered second hand book stores about the same time I learned to drive.  very handy, that. 

When the last couple of Harry Potter books came out, my boys weren’t born yet, so I declared each of those days “Harry Potter Day” and nobody was allowed to interrupt me until I had finished the book.  I recall wandering the house, cooking and eating all while sobbing my way through the end of Book 6.

the west wing castIn my 20’s I would occasionally by a season of 24 on DVD, then watch the whole thing in 36 hours or so.    And Mr. Monkeys bought me wonderful Valentine’s Day gifts a couple of years in a row, the complete series of The West Wing and Charmed.  Not together, that would be a strange combination, but two different sets.  Charmed comes in it’s very own book of shadows.  😉

I’ve had to limit myself to not watching episodes in order, because that leads to another one and another one until half a day has gone by with me watching shows that I can probably recite.  Sigh. 

And True Blood?  I’ve bought the last few seasons and watched the whole thing in less than two days.  Pretty much every moment that the children were unlikely to walk into my office, I was sitting at my laptop, with my headphones on watching the show.  If you are unfamiliar, it’s the kind of show that you never know what someone might say (HBO – f-bombs galore – and that’s not the worst of it!) or what might pop up on the screen in the time it takes to hit pause on the remote. 

bonesBut now, Netflix is enabling me in heretofore unheard of ways!  I watched 7 seasons of Bones in a month.  A MONTH!  That’s like 7 episodes a day.  I watched all of Breaking Bad in a few weeks.   I watched so much 24 in two weeks that I had to take a break from it.  House of Cards, the whole season in a weekend!   I’m chomping at the bit for the next seasons of Sherlock and Ripper Street

Is it any wonder that I seem to have trouble finishing writing projects?!   Okay, I’ve admitted my problem.  Now it’s time for a solution.  Here’s the one I’ve come up with: I vow to stay away from all stories (but my own) until I have written 500 words every day.   No word-y, no story.  That’s my new philosophy. 

Anybody else have this problem?


Must Buy Authors by J Monkeys

Hiddey Ho Scribblers!  J Monkeys here.  This past week or two, I have “discovered” a couple of new “Must Buy” authors.  These are authors who’s work I LOVE and will buy and devour the moment it becomes available.  I thought I’d share ’em with ya.

dangerous curves in the wildNow I’ve known Sugar Jamison for a while…obviously – she’s been our Monday Scribe since we started!  I read Dangerous Curves Ahead this summer and loved it.  But for me, it takes more than one book to be a “Must Buy” author.  Last week I read her new novella, Have Yourself a Curvy Little Christmasand I LOVED it!  Somehow, Sugar took a very unlikeable character from the first book and made her into a heroine!  There were so many things that I liked about this story – I don’t want to spoil it for you, so I won’t tell you what they were, but trust me.  If you’ve got a spare $1.99 laying around and a Kindle app, do yourself a favor and read it!  In fact, you should probably write Dangerous Curves Ahead first to fully appreciate the wonder of Have Yourself a Curvy Little Christmas.

tessa dareLast week, I also read a book I picked up at the RWA National Conference last summer – Any Duchess Will Do by Tessa Dare.  I’ve read one or two of her books before, but this is the one that grabbed me.  When I have some space in my TBR shelves (I brought home more than 80 books from RWA and I’ve got another 50 from my local library sale in June) I’ll be looking for Ms. Dare’s back list.  I don’t mine telling you that I’ve read so much regency romance at this point, that if it wasn’t written by Julia Quinn, I usually can’t get into it.  But Tessa Dare has just edged her way into my heart.

39 cluesNow, Scribblers, you know that I write kids books.  I read a lot of kids books too.  The 39 Clues series is still going strong.  The first 10 or 11 books wrapped up a year or more ago.  They then came out with the sequel series, Cahills vs Vespers. It looks like that story wrapped up with book 6.  Yesterday, I bought Nowhere to Run, book one in The 39 Clues Unstoppable series.  Our heroes, Amy and Dan, are back with even more Cahill trouble.  I’m about 1/2 way through it.  It’s a very enjoyable read.  If you’ve got 3-5th graders out there, as well as older kids, especially boys, they might like this fast paced, action packed adventure series.  They travel the world, so there’s some geography in it and a nice message about not carrying on the feuds of your ancestors.

infinity ringAnother series for kids that I really like is the Infinity Ring series.  There are 4 books out in it right now.  It’s similar to The 39 Clues in that the books are written by a variety of authors but tell the story of a trio of Tweenage time traveling heroes, working to write historical events set awry by a shadowy company of baddies.  I like the history in these – it’s a nice sneeky way to get it in.  And they come with an online game that is fun, but not so hard that I couldn’t figure it out.  

Today’s secret: By the way, Julia Quinn’s next book is out next week!  I can’t wait.  The teaser on her website cut off at an inopportune time…I’m sure on purpose!

Who are your Must Buy authors?  For me, at this point it’s just these that I’ve mentioned here and Lynn Kurland.

Just Say It, Already!

Welcome to the 7 Scribes and a happy Friday to you! Casey here.

IMG_2221One of my favorite parts of writing is dialogue. Well written dialogue between characters can inform, entertain, anger, laugh or even make you cry. For me, when I begin a story and even while writing it, I can hear the characters talking in my head. They always begin as a voice, long before I have any idea what they look like!

As a reader, I am drawn to dialogue. If I see pages and pages of words with no one speaking to anyone else, chances are the book is getting tossed in the corner.That doesn’t mean I want to read pages of endless conversations. Like everything in life, there must be balance.

So I am offering my tips for writing dialogue.


~ Use humor! But only if you’re funny (and it’s appropriate for the scene). Not sure what I mean? Pick up a book by an author who makes you laugh and study how they do it. Authors who do this well: Kristan Higgins, Julia Quinn and Jim Butcher.

~ Be clear about which character is speaking. And take the opportunity to show action when appropriate.

~ Let your character’s personality shine through their speech patterns. If all your characters sound like the same person, you have a problem.

~ Remember that men and women see the world differently. And that women do tend IMG_2223to be more verbal!

~ Use dialogue instead of long descriptive passages. During editing, I always ask myself if a scene would work better as dialogue between my characters rather than relying on deep point of view.

~ Keep in mind that dialogue is an opportunity to allow characters to interact, to show conflict, to be sexy, act dastardly or to showcase a myriad of other emotions and behaviors.

~ Be crisp and concise. Like all writing, omit needless words.


~ Don’t use dialogue to info dump on your reader! They know it and will skip over it. In my house, we call this shameless exposition. Television shows do this all the time. Some do it better than others. If you watch anime (Japanese animation), the characters break out into long-winded monologues at the weirdest times. Like in the middle of a battle, characters recap the plot line from the episode before. Or in police procedurals where two cops will exchange “information” through dialogue. This can work in television but on the printed page, not so much. Remember, this is where showing comes into play. Using dialogue to tell is still telling!

IMG_2231~ Don’t waste dialogue in banal exchanges. For example, the play by play:

“How was your day? Could you hand me the salt?”

“Good, until I had to spend two hours sitting in traffic. How was yours?”

“Awful. My boss hates me. Everyone is getting a raise except for me. Please pass the potatoes.”

This is about as much fun as watching paint dry. Nothing is happening here. Sure, it’s like a real life dinner conversation but when you’re writing fiction, you need to use conversations to move the plot along, not lull your reader into a verbal coma.

~ Don’t leave off dialogue tags. Establish who is speaking right up front. Then you can drop the “he said, she said.” But not for too long, otherwise the reader will lose track of who is speaking and you will take them out of the story!

Let’s hear from you. Do you love or hate dialogue? And who do you think does it well?

What is in a name?

Hello Scribblers!  J Monkeys coming atcha from inside a snow globe.  Or at least that’s how it looks from my office window.  A fresh batch of snow fell last night and everything in view is covered – trees, roofs, even the sky is white, matching the gently falling flakes.  Quite a contrast from the book I’ve been reading this morning.

How do you select a book at the store?  Usually, it’s one of two things that prompts me to pick something up – either a cover that attracts my attention, or the author’s name.  When it comes to authors, naturally, it’s repeat business for me – I’m buying books by authors I’ve read before and enjoyed.  Lynn Kurland, Julia Quinn, Julie Garwood, Jude Deveraux.  Sometimes it’s a new book written by a friend or acquaintance – especially when they are written in a genre that isn’t typically my cup of tea, but where I know from experience that I’ll enjoy the ride – Kristan Higgins’ contemporary romances, Katy Lee’s inspirational romances or Casey Wyatt’s urban fantasies, for example. 

This morning, I’m reading a book that I chose based on the author, but it isn’t an author whose work is familiar to me.  In fact, the book I’m reading is his debut novel.  Nor was the book/author recommended to me by a friend.  I’m reading Dracula the Un-Dead written by Dacre Stoker – great grand nephew of Bram Stoker.

dracula-the-un-deadI’m almost exactly to the half-way point in the book and it’s a delight!  It’s not scary, which is a good thing for me because I do NOT like scary stories.  Mr. King’s The Shinning still haunts me 25 years after I read it!  While I loved The Stand, there were parts that I found creepy – I remember reading it while sitting in a corner, hidden from any ghouls lurking in the ether.   But Dracula the Un-Dead seems more like a drama than horror as I think of it today.  It’s written as a sequel to the original book.  In truth it’s co-authored by Dacre Stoke and Ian Holt apparently written (according to Wikipedia) “Because of the Stokers’ frustrating history with Dracula’s copyright, Dacre with encouragement from screenwriter Ian Holt, decided to write “a sequel that bore the Stoker name” to “reestablish creative control over” the original novel.”  What an interesting idea.  I don’t know the extent to which it would reestablish copyright – but hey.

But if you’ve enjoyed the rise in vampire stories in the last decade or so, you might want to take a look at this homage to the original.  It’s well done (at least the first half!) and worth a few of your hard earned dollars.  And, again according to Wikipedia, they wrote it based on Bram’s original notes and stuff pulled out of the original novel.  Again, a cool idea. 

Today’s secret: Dracula is Un-Dead and available at the bookstore once again.  🙂  Oh and by the way, they have begun filming season 6 of True Blood, speaking of popular vampires.  The delightful Mr. Skarsgard has revealed a spoiler-ish something from filming.  Click here to find out what.

Today’s question: how do you decide to buy a book?  What changes you from a browser to a buyer?

Idolatry & Me

Squeeeeeeeeeeeee!  {Fists shaking in excitement}  Sorry about that – I needed to let it out.  But today’s the day!  You can’t see me, but I’m jumping up and down whilst clapping my hands in a disturbingly manic fashion.  J Monkeys, here by the way.  I have been a raging fan of romance novels since that fateful summer day during my 13th year when after much pestering and whining because “I don’t have anything to read!” my mother finished Lost Lady by Jude Deveraux and threw it at me.  I was hooked.

I came a little late to JQ fandom – a coworker recommended her in the mid 2000’s and the very first book I read of hers was It’s In His Kiss.  I fell immediately in love with the Bridgerton family and then devoured every story of Julia’s that I could find.  By the time I got to On The Way To The Wedding, I read it as fast as a Harry Potter book to find out what happened.  Spoiler alert: There were even a few moments where I wasn’t sure things were going to work out as I wanted them too, but not to worry.  JQ didn’t let me down.

I first encountered Miss Butterworth and the Mad Baron by Sarah Gorley when Hyacinth was reading it to the wonderful Lady Danbury.  And then I noticed that Miss Butterworth, or at least other gothic novels by Sarah Gorley pop their heads into other JQ novels along the way.  As a writer, I always found it nifty that Julia had made up that writer and reused her from time to time.  When I got to the book What Happens in London, I was enchanted to find that Miss Butterworth was so instrumental in bringing our characters together. 


JQ with a golden idol of her own: RITA #2

However, my true Julia Quinn idolatry began when I read Ten Things I Love About You.  In the opening pages, you learn that Sebastian Gray, previously maligned flirt and somewhat silly man-about-town is in fact a sleep deprived, former soldier suffering from the horrors he saw in the war.  And his insomnia prompts him to become author Sarah Gorley.  He’s the author of all those gothic novels.

I thought this was a stroke of writer-ly brilliance on the part of Ms. Quinn!  I can’t remember for sure, but I got the sense that Sebastian had been introduced to the JQ Regency High Society Gang somewhat earlier than even What Happens in London.  To take an established next-to-nothing character, make him a prominent secondary character and then move him to become hero of his own story is smart, but not entirely unheard of.  But to now make him a part of so many of the stories that came before, by making him Sarah Gorley, is incredibly clever. 

I’ve always wondered how this idea came to Julia.  Did she always plan it this way?  Did she know when she first introduce Miss Butterworth, all those books ago, that Sebastian was really the author?  Or did it just dawn on her one day, that Sebastian and Sarah had the same initials and it might work out?  I’ve always wanted to ask her.

Guess what!   Today’s the DAY!!!!!!!  I’ll be meeting Ms. Quinn in just a few short hours!!!!!!!    Squeeeeeeeee!  {More clapping}.  I’m gonna ask her – and I’ll add a comment later with her answer!

Today’s Question: Do you have a favored author that you’ve always wanted to meet?  Who and Why?