The main school of thought concerning Mardi Gras, is it started thousands of years ago, as a celebration of fertility.  Eventually, the Catholic church became involved, in an effort, to stop parishioners from partaking in pagan festivals.  The Church changed the … Continue reading

Novel Release Party 6/7/11 – “The Keepers”

You are invited to a Novel Release Party!!! For “The Keepers” by Monique O’Connor James Where:  Online When:  Tuesday, June 7, 2011 “The Keepers” is finally making its debut on Tuesdays, June 7, 2011! The Ebook Edition will … Continue reading

The Joy…yes Joy of Critique

The first time, I got a critiqued, bit o’ novel back, I took one look at the red, and was sure my critique partner, had slit her wrists.  I think I cried for forty-five minutes, swore I could never make the “thing” readable, and ate a half pound chocolate bar.

Receiving critiques can often feel, like someone pulled your toenails out with a pair of pliers. However, to be on the receiving end, is a blessing.  I’ve learned things, from the people who’ve shared their time and energy, which I never would have learned otherwise.

I thought my biggest issue was commas, until someone pointed out how many areas needed action, in that first draft.  Showing, not telling…I’d heard that, a time or two. However, until a wonderful writer said, look…this spot right here…you can change it to this, and it will be showing. OH! (slaps head) I got it!

Kay Springsteen (Yes, the one, who churns out perfect novels, like a wild woman), has told me many times, the editor learns as much as the editee (Shut up, it’s a word).  I didn’t realize how true those words were, until I was entrusted with two beautiful pieces of literary wonder.

In sharing your time, you usually find, the very things you pick out, with ease, in another’s work, are the things you’ve ignored, in your own, over and over.  It takes, a good bit, of faith to allow someone to critique your work, but it takes more faith, (in yourself, and your abilities), to lend your advice on another’s work.

The ladies who’ve let me critique their work, are always very humble, thanking me over and over, but they fail to realize, how much I gain from the experience.

So, I just wanted to say, thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read, edit, or love, my work, and thank you, thank you, to those who have allowed me, to read, edit, and love yours.

Happy Critiquing!

Monique O’Connor James

Author of “The Keepers” coming June 2011 from

Why NOLA? The Setting Quandary!

From the beginning, there was no question “The Keepers”, would be set in New Orleans, Louisiana, in the French Quarter.  A friend asked me why I’d chosen NOLA, in lieu of Baton Rouge.  (My next novel is set in Baton Rouge, no worries.).  My answer, at the time, was, “Are you kidding me?”

The fact is, I’m in love with my home state. I think most people like where they live, but I flaunt my love of Louisiana, the same way I tout my love of America.  The place I call home is steeped in heritage, culture, art, music, good food, good people, and stereotypes which make us laugh. God chiseled a boot at the bottom of the American pie; a land to love for those who would, and a place to mock for those who wouldn’t.

A dart thrown at a map of our decadent home would, no doubt, land on a magical place.  So, why New Orleans?

The story, like the French Quarter, centers around St. Louis Cathedral.  I challenge you to find a church as beautiful.

The church is infused history, but beyond that, when one enters you know you’re in a holy place.  Perhaps, being raised Catholic has skewed my opinion, but the spirit is alive and well, under the extensive artwork and intricate architecture of the Basilica. 

During a pivotal scene Jess and Justin are sitting, by the Riverwalk Fountain.  I could think of no better place to find out your boyfriend, is in fact, an angel.


The murals painted on the back of the benches depict the crest of each Spanish province. A few steps away you can feel the breeze blowing off the mighty Mississippi and watch riverboats and tugboats navigate the powerful current.

Jess wanders down Royal Street to pass time and later, Dawson’s apartment is described, as one of the many beautiful buildings with wrought-iron balconies where ferns hang under ceiling fans, all year.

Maybe, that’s Clyde’s brother, he looks a bit young to be the old mule, besides Asher isn’t about.

I could upload pictures for the rest of the afternoon, but the question will come back to why I chose the French Quarter, still.  For the price of gas, I can get in my car and drive an hour and twenty minutes, park in a crowded parking lot, and hop the street car or make the trek on foot, and be transported to another world, where all that matters is forgetting who you are, and remembering how to have fun.

Jess and Justin didn’t need to forget who they were, but, perhaps, discover themselves.  The answers they found were so magical, not another place on the planet, would do.  And so, to New Orleans, I tip my hat. 

She was knocked down, but a day in the Quarter and you will see, she has risen again.

Monique O’Connor James

Author of “The Keepers” coming in June from

The “E” Word

I once had a fantasy about spending hours of bliss pecking at my keyboard. It ended with a faultless manuscript and huge smile.  After writing my first novel, (soon to be published and no, I’m not above a shameless plug!), the dream was shattered by the reality of the “E” word.

If you’ve never written a paper for school, article, book report, novel, or thesis, I’m assuming you’re four and perhaps, this blog isn’t for you.  All writing has to be put through the editing paces to varying degrees.  Because a novel is, in general, lengthy and requires fifty thousand words or more, the task seems more daunting.  

In the beginning, I assumed running the Microsoft Word spelling/grammar check would suffice.  I curse the program now and use it to catch blatant spelling mishaps, and little else. Unfortunately, I’m yet to find a computer which can go through each line of a manuscript and consider the words with any emotion.  I’m sure the day will come, but until then I’ve developed my own editing checklist. 

The list, without a doubt, will overwhelm anyone who has just written their first masterpiece.  However, the important thing is to take one thing at a time, and move through the editing process, with all the patience you can muster.

So, for all the literary geniuses out there, here it is.  

1)   Are the main characters clearly defined?  – By the time you start editing you may have read your work several times, and you may be able to answer this question without too much grief.

2)   Does the MC(s) learn a lesson?  Show spiritual or emotional growth?

3)   Can your MC(s) solve problems, which arise in the plot?

4)   Does the plot stay on course?

5)   Is their action in the first scene to which draws in the reader?

6)   Are the subplots tied into the main plot?

7)      Is there a twist at the end?

 Now for the specifics:

8)   Head hopping – I didn’t know what the term meant, until I reread my NANOWRIMO novel and realized how many times I’d changed “heads” in one scene. Save changes in POV for scene, or chapter changes.

9)  Repetitious words – The bane of all editors – here’s the short list: that, really, very, nearly, almost, then, and then, about, like, just, actually – there are many more and every publisher/editor will have a few which cause them to scream in agony.  You can’t delete them all, but most times, you can make the sentence stronger by giving them the axe.

10)  Passive voice – Change passive to active whenever possible. i.e.: The dishes were washed by John – No – John washed the dishes. – Better.

11)   Remove autonomous body parts – who knew eyes, could roll across the floor?  Where was she when her hand swept the counter?

12)   A critique partner (I use the term partner loosely. She critiqued. I cried.) pointed out that sentences which begin with the word “When” are telling.  If you use this word, get the red pen out, and revise.

13)  Effect before cause – i.e.:  A shiver ran up her spine when he entered the room – no – He entered the room, and she shivered.  – Better.

14)  Names w/in dialogue – How many times do you really call “Joe”, “Joe” in one conversation? Reading dialogue aloud helps.

15)  Too many ellipses – personally, I like them.  I spend a lot of time deciding which ones need to go.

16)  Talking heads – no scene setting, or description just a couple of characters causing the reader to lose track of who said what.

17)  Dialogue tags with characters that only make faces.  Are they doing anything besides smiling, grimacing and frowning? 

18)  Editors hate when you use animal noises to describe voices.  i.e.: he hissed, growled or roared. 

19)  Spell out numbers, time, chapter headings, etc.

20)  Remove adverbs.  All the “LY” words should go.  They say remove most of them, but they mean all…so here are mine lovely, probably, sweetly and cruelly.  (I feel better, don’t you?)

21)  Make sure each sentence in a paragraph starts with a different word. 

22)    When all else fails, enlist a fresh pair of eyes. Maybe, if you buy them food, or drink, your friends will volunteer 🙂

Finally, I wanted to share the highlight method for those who print out their manuscript.  It works!

Pink – action

Blue – dialogue

Yellow – thoughts and feelings

Green – narration

Too much green?  Revise, revise, revise!

Monique O’Connor James

Author of “The Keepers” coming soon from Astraea Press