Gwen Hernandez

Author of romantic suspense. Scrivener expert.

My first Nor’easter

This week’s blizzard (aka Storm Juno) was my first Nor’easter. And boy was it a good one! Sometimes pictures are better than words, so I’ll turn this post over to the visual media…

(click on any photo to enlarge)

Critique, round 1: Bruised but standing

women sparring

Ever taken a punch to the face? I have.*

Reading comments from my critique partners (CPs) on my latest manuscript can be like going a couple of rounds in the sparring ring. I’m a bit bruised. And I need a nap. And maybe some dark chocolate.

Well, I did ask them to be honest.

Taking criticism isn’t easy. Even when you ask for it. But that’s okay. I must deal with it if I want to create a good book. My trusted cadre of writing friends wants the same on my behalf.

The difference between a helpful critique and a TKO is intent. ;-)

I’m lucky my CPs are honest with me. Their insights are gold. I’ll take their punches and ask for more.

They can see the issues that I can’t, the things I’ve failed to address because they’re clear in my head if not on the page, the threads I dropped three chapters back because I was so focused on writing a kick-ass finale.

But my friends don’t leave me bleeding on the mat. They brainstorm solutions and tell me what they like, what’s working, and what made them laugh or cry (in a good way).

A CP/editor/beta reader is sort of like a trainer. They break you down to build you up. They reveal your weaknesses and force you to grow stronger. In the end, they help you become the best you can be.

The pain is worth the result. I’d rather get beat up by my friends now than in the ratings and sales after I publish the book.

*While sparring in Tae Kwon Do and Kung Fu, just so you won’t worry. ;-)


Scrivener winter/spring classes open for registration

Online course graphicAll winter/spring online Scrivener courses are open for registration right now, up through the first day of class.

For the full scoop on curriculum and format, see my online course page. Ready to sign up now? Click one of the links below to register. :-)

Scrivener I: The Basics and Beyond
Date: February 23-March 11, 2015
Length: 17 days
Price: $25
Mac | Windows

Scrivener II: Intermediate and Advanced Concepts
Date: March 30-April 15, 2015
Length: 17 days
Price: $25
Mac | Windows

Scrivener Master Course: Compile
Date: May 11-20, 2015
Length: 10 days
Price: $20
Mac | Windows

Seasons Greetings!

holiday greetings image

Thanks for being part of my online family!

The travel tree

pic of Bermuda airportI love to travel. I will forgo a new car, a fancy house, eating out, and an updated wardrobe for the chance to visit somewhere new. On many of our trips, we’ve bought a Christmas ornament to adorn what I call our Travel Tree.

Looking at the tree is a visual reminder of our travels over the years, and it always makes me smile.

Here are a few of my favorite ornaments from places we’ve gone specifically during the winter holiday for vacation. (We tend to alternate between visiting family and going somewhere new.) And while I was going through old travel photos, I noticed that we apparently like to put our boys in stocks for Christmas, so I added those pics too. ;-)

Do you have a favorite tradition from this time of year? Do you tend to stay home for the holidays or travel?

(click any photo to enlarge)

Making connections (or Six degrees of Rudyard Kipling)

group of wordsHave you ever learned of a new-to-you word, historic event, interesting fact, or famous person only to see a reference to it again within days?

In school, I loved being able to make those types of connections between classes, especially if they were in different disciplines. Now I find them all over the place.

For example, I was watching Prison Break⁠1 a few weeks ago and one of the characters mentions that he stole a baseball card collection that included a Honus Wagner, not realizing it was worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. That one card bumped his crime up to grand larceny, which carries a much heavier sentence than petty theft.

The name Honus Wagner wasn’t really that important—and given a month or two I would have forgotten it—but they made a bit of a deal out of it, so it stuck with me beyond the episode. A week later I was reading The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry for my book club and the main character likens a rare copy of Poe’s Tamerlane to a Honus Wagner baseball card.⁠2

I swear, it was like having a slot machine hit the jackpot. My brain went bing, bing, bing and I got a little thrill down my spine. (I did manage to resist jumping up and down and screaming.)

It happened again a few days later. I’m currently reading What It Is Like to Go to War by Karl Marlantes for research and personal interest. A few days ago in an episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.⁠3, Agent Ward was reading Marlantes’ other book, Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War. Just a week earlier, his mention would have gone right over my head.

In the book I’m reading, Marlantes mentions Rudyard Kipling’s poem “Tommy.”⁠4 Not familiar with this poem—or any of Kipling’s work, though I knew his name—I looked it up online. The third stanza refers to the British soldiers in their red coats:

But it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll.

Thin red line. Wait, like the movie with Jim Caviezel and every other famous actor of the day who wasn’t in Saving Private Ryan that year (1998)? Why, yes. Turns out the book by James Jones, on which the movie was based, was named for the line in the Kipling poem.

Bing, bing, bing.

I liked “Tommy,” so I started reading about the poet. As I learned more about the context in which he wrote, I found myself even more interested in his work. I put book of Kipling’s work on hold at the library, and when I went to pick it up today the woman told me they’re hosting a Kipling program in a few months.

I almost laughed. The connections never stop. Things I’ve never heard of are suddenly everywhere.

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace popped up in both book club readings and in a friend’s Twitter feed within a three week span.

Two summers ago on a tour of the UK, we visited the Lake District in Wales. A week later I unwittingly read a historical romance where the hero went to the Lake District in Wales…

These connections enrich the experience of reading, watching, living. They’re one of the reasons I love learning and exploring so much. For me, it’s not about feeling smart, but about finding a commonality of experience in unexpected places.

Have you made any interesting connections lately?

1 Season 1, episode 19 “The Key”

2 Chapter 2, page unknown since I was reading electronically

3 Season 1, episode 2 “0-8-4”

4 Page 87

(Book) clubbing

image of people reading togetherSomehow, despite being an avid reader for most of my life, I’ve never belonged to a book club.

I used to read “book club fiction” and literary fiction, mainly because I thought I was supposed to, not necessarily because I enjoyed it (though there were a few gems). Looking back, I think some of those books would have been a lot more interesting if I’d had people to talk them over with when I was done.

When we moved to the Boston area this summer, I figured joining my local military spouses’ book club would be a good way to meet other readers and force myself to sample outside of my usual literary fare. Turns out, it offers that and more.

Aside from the shared experience of having read the same book, I love getting other people’s perspectives. When they talk about what they did or didn’t like—or how they felt about a particular aspect of the book—I pick up things I didn’t notice during my own reading.

As a writer, I’m better able to articulate what bothers me—or works for me—than I was before I started writing. It also means I notice things that I didn’t before. Hopefully, this perspective lets me add something valuable to the conversation (though I haven’t yet “outed” myself as a writer).

Reading for a group discussion changes how I read. I generally devour a book, often in only a day or two. But when I’m reading for book club, I slow down a bit, take notes on things that might be interesting to talk about with the group, and think a little more deeply about the book’s effect on me.

Normally if I start a title and can’t get into it, I’ll quit reading. But for the club, I try to finish every book. Sometimes I’m glad I did. Other times, not so much.

I like that the group discussion solidifies the story or topic in my mind and takes me deeper. This is especially nice when the book contained a world, subject matter, or set of characters that I enjoyed, but it can also give me a new take on a book I didn’t connect with.

It’s kind of like looking at reviews on Amazon or Goodreads, and then following up with questions or discussion points for the reviewer. But in a friendly way, with appetizers on hand. ;-)

Someday I’d love to be part of a romance book club so I can discuss the books I love most with others who feel the same way. But I’m having fun meeting new people and stretching my reading boundaries beyond romance and research.

Have you ever been part of a book club? What did you like/dislike about it?

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