Saturday, February 11, 2017

Check Out My New Site!

Hey Everyone!

I have a brand new blog site at, where I'll continue to post my crazy quirks and writing insights every Monday and Wednesday.

Starting next week, you'll also find posts specifically geared toward explaining writer-related jargon... challenging you to take your book-in-the-making seriously... and encouraging you that, yeah, you really can do this.

While you're checking all that out, feel free to download the special report "Writing Tips 101" or reach out for a free consultation about the novel or non-fiction project you're working on. Wherever you are in the process, I'd love to hear about it.

Happy writings!

Jeannette DiLouie
Chief Executive Editor
Innovative Editing

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Big One Zero Zero

Today marks a special occasion: the hundredth post here on Muses and Musings.

For some reason, this surprises me.

It’s like I wasn’t aware I was driving you all up the wall blogging twice a week since January 12, 2015’s “An Anglophile I’m Apparently Not.” And since there are 50 weeks in the year that traditionally come after January 12, it makes perfect sense that I’d hit the big one-zero-zero right around now.

So I have no excuse for being taken unaware. Then again, I never claimed to be good at math.

What I am a bit better at (sometimes, anyway) is recognizing my blessings, so here’s a recount of the writing-related accomplishments I’m thankful for this year:

That all begs the question… How am I going to top that in 2016?

I have no idea, but I’m excited to find out. In the meantime, however, I’m going to celebrate my hundredth blog post by taking off for the rest of the year.

If you need to reach me for any editing projects, I’ll still be checking my email at And if you find that you desperately need to read one of my books (and you totally do, right?), all of the links are listed above.

Other than that, I’m going to focus on having a fabulous Christmas with my family… and then working like crazy to finish the second draft of Designing America before the end of 2015.

So Happy Holidays and an amazing New Year to you all!

Thanks for sticking with me these last hundred blog posts, and here’s looking forward to the next hundred…

Monday, December 21, 2015

Am I Being Too Mean to My Villains?

About two months ago, I handed the fifth-draft copy of the upcoming Faerietales Book 4: Wing and Dagger to a certain influential individual in my life, figuring she could have fun reading it while I waited for my way-too-savvy editor to savage the thing.

Since the person in question is the whole reason why I wrote another installment in the series, I figured she’d be happy. And she was.

I think?

The reason why I’m not so sure is because she talked less about the aspects she liked and more about how, in the first three chapters, I’d been so mean to two particular characters.

Out of all of the possible criticisms I could have gotten, I never saw that one coming. Which was probably stupid considering her past reactions to how I’ve treated previous villains.

Yup, I said villains. The two characters she was upset about are bad guys. Unrepentant ones too. Martin was in Not So Human, where he pushed Sabrina to her literal snapping point, and Ryan was a manipulative little liar who tried to mess with her head in To Err Is Faerie.

Neither of them were main antagonists. But they certainly weren’t nice or good or likable.

Which means I don’t understand feeling bad for them. I didn’t throw them to crocodiles (which, admittedly, they don’t have in Scotland). I didn’t even have anyone beat them up, which they would have deserved considering how they’re still willingly employed by the HPAC.

All I did was make them think Sabrina was going to kill them. And in the creative world, that’s low-key. Practically chick-lit material, really.

If you want “mean,” how about having your protagonist track down his wife and daughter’s killers, inject them with paralyzing drugs and then saw them into pieces while they’re still alive?

I’m not making that up. I actually hope I couldn’t make it up, since it’s a level of disgusting I don’t care to dwell on.

(Never watch a movie just because it has a pretty face and form in it. Even Gerard Butler might not be able to make up for the rest of what you’re in for.)

I also can’t stand burning characters – villains or otherwise – or permanently disfiguring them in any other way, shape or form. If you want that kind of stuff, go read or watch Game of Thrones.

All of this is to say that I do think you can be too mean to your villains. However, I don’t think I crossed that line.

If I ever have, Ii can guarantee it’s my heroes who’ve suffer the worst. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Lesson I Learned From My Impromptu One-Line Role on House of Cards

If you opened up this blog post because of the title, I might as well admit right up front: It’s a lie. Sorry, kids, but that’s showbiz.

Since you’re here though, you might as well keep reading… Right?

The truth is that House of Cards is filming its Season 3 finale in my office building this week, two and three floors below me. I’m just not allowed anywhere near the actors. Apparently, someone got ahold of my police record from the time I threw myself at Gerard Butler and declared my undying love for his shoulders. And accent. And abs.

Okay. That’s a lie too: the part about the restraining order, I mean. The rest is true. So true that I was prevented from entering my office this morning by two very nice but very firm House of Cards security personnel. Apparently, the show was in the middle of shooting a scene and it was “quiet on the set” for another three minutes.

Once I was allowed in, I had to snake my way up the backstairs, past camera crew and other techies to the fourth floor. I didn’t get to see much, and I definitely didn’t get a glimpse of Kevin Spacey or Robin Wright, but what I saw wasn’t that much of a turn-on.

That’s not meant as a slam against any of the dozens of additional individuals at my office building. The ones I’ve briefly interacted with seem pleasant (and one of them apparently told off one of my more obnoxious coworkers, which makes me giggle). Not to mention that the food platters I saw set up for cast and crew looked delicious.

All the same, it was a madhouse! There were people everywhere: outside lining the sidewalk, around the front and back doors, inside… This little introvert-writer wasn’t overwhelmed, but I also wasn’t craving what I saw (except for the food. That really did look good).

There was no Little Mermaid moment for me: I really have no desire to be part of that world.

Then again, I’ve never understood the appeal of Hollywood. I don’t care how many gorgeous mansions they get to live in or dresses they get to wear or cars they get to drive; they’re also told what they’re allowed to weigh, do and even be.

“Don’t stand like that, honey. The camera doesn’t like you from this angle.” “Let’s Photoshop that nose; it could be a lot more attractive if we just…” “She’s thirty-two now. Cast her as a mother. That’s all she’s good for anymore.”

Those are the kinds of comments you get to hear when you’re in front of the camera. Hence the reason why I think it’s so much more worthwhile to be a writer, where I call the shots.

The only tempting aspect about having even an impromptu one-line role on House of Cards is that maybe… just maybe… I’d be able to help myself to those food platters.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Unless You’re a Robot, Don’t Do This

I started reading a book yesterday. I also finished reading it yesterday.

It wasn’t because I was transfixed. I put it down after five pages because I was bored.

I picked it up because I was in the mood for a thriller, because the title caught my attention and the description seemed compelling. It’s by a fairly famous author who I’d heard about before but never actually read.

If you’re into the thriller scene, I’m sure you’d recognize his name if I wrote it here.

I’d say he doesn’t deserve such recognition, but I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and say that, maybe, the novel I bought was an off-book for him. Maybe he’s normally just as thrilling as his reputation says he is, and this was an anomaly.

Problem is, even if that is true, I won’t ever be picking up another one of his stories again based on this one example. That’s what happens when an author employs:

·         Stilted sentence structure
·         Clipped conversation
·         Too many “main” protagonists
·         Over-detailed descriptions
·         Gratuitous explanations of obvious world issues, like readers are idiots who live in caves
·         Not a single contraction!!!!

Here’s the thing about that last point… People don’t think or speak in picture-perfect grammatical sentences. They slur their words together with contractions.

When you’re chatting with a friend, you don’t say, “I am sorry I was not able to go to your party last night.” Or if you’re discussing a project with your boss, you don’t explain, “I am sure this will not work unless we assign Casey to it.”

You don’t talk like that because that’s how robots talk, and you’re (hopefully) not a robot. So you instead say, “I’m sorry I wasn’t able to go to your party last night” or “I’m sure this won’t work unless we assign Casey to it.”

As fact goes, so should fiction. So the same applies to character creation. Unless they’re robots – or readers are supposed to roll their eyes and toss the book aside after five pages – the personalities depicted in novels should use contractions when they’re speaking. And so should the writer.

Trust me: It’s just the right thing to do.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

An Only Somewhat Self-Serving Guide to Buying Christmas Presents This Year

Don’t know what presents to get your family and friends for Christmas?

I highly recommend books, whether of the print or electronic variety. Why, you ask?

The real question is why not!?! Books are awesome!!!!!

That is to say that good books are awesome. Bad books bring dissatisfaction and sometimes downright hatred, which, of course, you don’t want to be spreading.

So here’s a genre-specific guide on how to spread good will to your loved ones this season… and avoid making them despise their Christmas presents (and possibly you):

1.      Fantasy – Do they love dungeons and dragons and magical lands? I’d recommend Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files except that they probably already have those, so try these…

a.       Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire
b.      Carpe Demon by Julie Kenner
c.       Not So Human by Jeannette DiLouie (Toldja it was a somewhat self-serving list.)

2.      Suspense – Are they into thrillers filled with murder, mayhem and maybe a few shootouts?

a.       Once a Spy by Keith Thomson
b.      Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
c.       The Politician’s Pawn by Jeannette DiLouie (Hey, I never claimed to be entirely altruistic.)

3.      Historical Fiction – Can they not get enough fact with their fiction? Since they probably already know about the amazing Philippa Gregory, check these out instead…

a.       Daughters of Rome by Kate Quinn
b.      The Tsarina’s Daughter by Carolly Erickson
c.       Maiden America­ by Jeannette DiLouie (Best book ever! Not that I’m biased.)

4.      Christian Fiction – Do they enjoy good tidings of great joy?

a.       The Adulteress by Jeannette DiLouie (Sorry to say, but I’ve got nothing else. I’m so consistently unimpressed with the genre that I don’t really read it anymore. That’s not to say that there aren’t good ones out there; I just haven’t found them in a while.)

5.      Chick-Lit – Are they hopeless romantics? Then they will not want to put these down! (Warning 1: There is some 18+ content in these.)(Warning 2: Make sure to also gift some fabulous snacks if you wrap up Choice C. Your loved one will get the munchies.)(Warning 3: Disclaimer, I'm very happy to say that I know Choice C's author.)

a.       The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig
b.      Sex, Murder and a Double Latte by Julie Kenner
c.   Waiting for Paint to Dry by  Lia Mack

Monday, December 7, 2015

Ooh La La!

Don’t think that romance novels are a new thing.

The first (known) examples were written during the English Renaissance by men to keep us chicky-poos in line, since we were beginning to learn how to read in noteworthy numbers.

So much for the age of enlightenment.

By the time 1740 came around, there had been some notable exceptions to that rule, but men were still having their wicked way with the genre, as evidenced by Samuel Richardson’s Pamela.

According to WikipediaPamela “tells the story of a beautiful 15-year-old maidservant named Pamela Andrews, whose country landowner master, Mr. B. makes unwanted advances towards her after the death of her mother. After attempting unsuccessfully to seduce and rape her, her virtue is eventually rewarded when he sincerely proposes an equitable marriage to her.”

By the way, she says yes.

Ugh!!! On so many levels, ugh!!!

I’d blame it on the times and the gender of the author except for two things:

1.      The “chicky-poos” just a few decades later were the kind of feisty I prefer in my friends today, which is demonstrated repeatedly in Joseph Plumb Martin’s autobiographical A Narrative of a Revolutionary Soldier. So much so, in fact, that it prompted modern-day editor Thomas Fleming to write that American women back then “were not the shy, fainting maidens that contemporary feminists like to imagine… The women of 1776 had imbibed quite a lot of the notions of equality that were widespread among their menfolk” (Martin, xiii), which sometimes showed in hysterically laudable ways.

a.       Seriously, these women rocked!
b.      Who knows though. Pamela was written in England by an Englishman. So maybe it was just American women who were so feisty.

2.      I once read a novel, presumably written in the 1990s, on the same basic subject as Pamela, though the heroine didn’t escape the bad guy’s “unwanted advances” and yet STILL ended up marrying the jerk of her own free will. It was supposed to be romantic. I, the reader, was supposed to be swooning over the supposedly happy union. Moreover, it was written by a woman.

Again, ugh!!! What the heck is wrong with people?

Fortunately, there’s no such nonsense in Designing America. Main-character Abigail Carpenter is way too smart for any such stupidity.

Cross that American woman, and she’ll just cross you back until you’re left marching down Hampton Road in Yorktown, Virginia, drunk, humiliated and thoroughly beaten.