Fiction and Truth; Non-Fiction and Your Imagination

“Fiction is a story someone made up.” Miss Wood tapped her desk for emphasis.

“Non-fiction is fact. You find non-fiction in an encyclopedia or in a newspaper so you know it is true.”

This is how my sixth grade teacher Miss Wood once explained the difference between fiction and non-fiction.

I’m going to pause now until you stop laughing (or crying). Nowadays the line between truth and untruth is painfully blurred. But when you are in sixth grade, you don’t feel that way.

To be fair, I should explain the context. The class was assigned to write reports about animals for science class. I’m sure Miss Wood didn’t want me using Wind in the Willows as a resource.

But now I am about the age Miss Wood was when she made this pronouncement, so I feel justified in my rebuttal.

Encyclopedias and newspapers may or may not be factual, but good fiction is true.

Non-fiction writers generally try to preserve the illusion of detached reasoning. But no fact operates in a vacuum and authors of non-fiction often get away with ignoring inconvenient aspects of their theories. They have to do this because the world is full of unexpected quirky facts which get in the way of theories.

A writer of romance novels, cannot afford to be as random as real life. In a sense, the whole point of a good story is its reassuring predictability. Because when fiction begins with fully fleshed out internally consistent characters, the paths of those characters and their interactions must be, if not predictable, at least inevitable.

The result of that inevitability is a kind of truth. Maybe the closest we get to it.

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. If you liked this post, come visit the rest of the blog at Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.


Finishing a Novel and Letting It Go

Finishing and Letting Go are Not the Same Things.

So much of writing a novel is about beginning it – plotting, character exploration. Beginnings are optimism incarnate. But finishing has a distinct flavor too, a bittersweet tang.

Today I finished novel number three. Really finished. Drafting, spelling and grammar checking, fixing sequence errors, sending it to the editor, fixing all the sequence, grammar and spelling errors I missed the first time, the second time, the third time.

I knew I needed an editor but until I worked with one, I had no idea how sharp eyed and persistent editors have to be. Or maybe they aren’t all sharp eyed, but mine is.

Waiting For You is the best writing I have done so far. And now that the story is complete, I feel like I should be celebrating but somehow I’m not there yet.

Because part of finishing a manuscript is saying goodbye to your characters – letting them go.

It’s true Aidy and Max may return as side characters in a subsequent novel, but the part of their journey which I was the first to witness is concluded. Which leaves a kind of emptiness in a place they filled. As though one heard a voice, turned around, and found no one there.

I feel this same sense of wistfulness, sometimes, when I finish reading someone else’s writing. And if I do, I know those characters will stay with me, will speak their minds when I least expect it, not so much a haunting as a comfortable inner presence. I think that defines good writing.

So as I set my own characters free to roam about the world of fiction, I wish the same for them – that they should live on in the hearts and minds of their readers, distinct voices and distinct personas. I’m not sure an author can ask for more or better than that.

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. If you liked this post, come visit the rest of the blog at Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.


Molasses Cookies From Not As Advertised

Ernestine had lifted the covered platter from the counter and held it closely once more before proffering it to Mel. It smelled like molasses.

“My Momma says to give you the cookies.”

“Thank you.” Mel accepted the platter gravely. She lifted the cover and smiled. “These cookies are lovely. Did you make them?”

“Yes.” There was no pride in Ernestine’s thick voice, only a dull acceptance.

“Well, I expect they are delicious. They certainly look good.” Mel winced at the false cheer in her voice, but Ernestine seemed oblivious. They sat at the kitchen table, Ernestine with her hands clasped tightly, Mel pouring tea and doling out the enormous cookies.

With the lemonade experience firmly in mind, Mel nibbled the edge of the cookie, her other hand poised over her cup of tea. But the cookie was delicious, chewy and fragrant with cloves and nutmeg. Mel’s eyes widened appreciatively.

“Ernestine.” She addressed the young woman who was stolidly working away at her own cookie. “This may be the best cookie I have ever had in my life. Did you actually make this?”

“Uh, huh,” Ernestine stopped chewing and looked at Mel questioningly.

I bet you wondered why everyone in Blue Hill wants one of these molasses cookies.

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup shortening

1/2 cup dark molasses

1 egg

2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/8 teaspoon ginger

1/8 teaspoon cloves

Extra sugar in a small bowl.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a cookie sheet.

Cream sugar and shortening until fluffy. Add molasses and eggs and mix well. In a second bowl, sift and combine flour, baking soda, salt and spices. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir well to combine. Pinch off walnut sized lumps of dough with sugared fingers and roll in the sugar bowl to coat. Place on greased cookie sheet, three inches apart (dough will spread). Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes.

Let cool before devouring.


Woodchuck, Gopher, Groundhog. Aliases all.

A Royal Visit from a Woodchuck is an honor. Although maybe a painful one.

There is no animal quite as full of himself as a woodchuck when he is sauntering into your garden to pillage. He carries himself with the bearing of a duke coming to check out his feudal holdings. Even when he climbs over the fence you have so carefully constructed, he does so with a regal air.

But apparently, when it comes to hibernation, Mr. Woodchuck is king. Once the air temperature hits forty degrees, he’s out for the count until March or April and during that time he loses half his body weight. Then, I guess, he has to buy a whole second wardrobe to complement his new physique, because he must look pretty svelte.

Of course, hibernation is not only a great weight loss idea. It’s also an effective way to hide from criminal prosecution since a woodchuck is out of sight for about six months and when he reappears he looks like a totally different guy.

Of course, woodchucks aren’t usually identified as criminals in the first place because they wear beaver masks when they rob food banks. And, obviously, there are the aliases. Groundhog. Gopher. Whistle Pig. Toothy Malone. Everyone knows beavers are trouble.

This explains why one rarely sees a wanted poster for a woodchuck at the local post office.

However, if you should happen to see a woodchuck in person, exercise caution. And courtesy. Consider how best one might approach a gangland Mob boss. Well, probably one should avoid approaching one at all, But if you should have to do so, here is the etiquette.

Be polite. Keep a reasonable distance. And bring an offering of uprooted plants from your garden. He’ll like that.

It won’t stop him from eating everything else you planted, but that doesn’t mean you should be rude.

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. If you liked this post, come visit the rest of the blog at Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.


Scary. And It’s Not Even Halloween Anymore.

Scary times in the Writer’s Corral.

I sent a manuscript off to an editor for the first time ever and waited with baited breath to see what she said. It’s one thing to write a contemporary romance. It’s a totally different thing to let a person who reads books for a living assess what you wrote. Aaack! Maybe not terrifying but definitely scary.

What if she hates it? Perhaps it will bore her to tears. The plot might be weak, the characters insipid. God! Why did I ever think I could write, anyway?

Writing is such an “in your head” craft, it is hard to be sure you have conveyed the voices in your head accurately. Not to mention any concerns one might have about the relative worth of those voices. So sending your work off to an editor, a beta reader or even an agent takes a leap of faith. But once you have done the sending, the anxiety really sets in.

Scary visions of irritable unsatisfied readers skitter through your head. Sort of like Piglet imagining a Heffalump.

When I studied singing, I learned to think of my work as a point in time. It was as good as I could make it at that very moment and that would have to suffice until I got better. Thinking of one’s product this way is a discipline. Sometimes it’s the only way you can make yourself try again.

That’s an important way to think about writing too. Each book is better than the last. The book that’s with the editor is my third. It’s better than my first two, probably. Hopefully not as good as my fourth will be.

Can’t wait to find out!

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. If you liked this post, come visit the rest of the blog at Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.