Posts Tagged With: Sara Walter Ellwood

Plotting….A Pantser’s Guide to Writing #MFRWauthor

As a reader, if a story doesn’t have well executed character goals, motivations, and both inner and external conflicts, then most likely you aren’t ever going to finish that story. All writers use the GMC formula in some way to craft a story. Finding these GMCs is a important part of plotting. Some writers use elaborate methods to plot a story, to the point of practically writing it before they write the first draft. But today I’m going to explain my process, something I call a pantser’s guide to plotting.

 

 

An oxymoron for sure. Since the definition of a pantser (a nickname for “writing by the seat of the pants”) is someone who DOES NOT plot. Anyone who knows me knows I define myself as a tried and true pantser. Most of the time I never know what my next scene will be. I don’t do mind maps; I don’t have bulletin boards with index cards of every action; I don’t like Scrivener, and I don’t have an outline. I like to let the story unfold before me as I fill the blank page with words. However, I always know how the story will end.  I know what has to change in my characters’ lives to bring them to the end, but I don’t always know how they get to that happy ending.  What I do know is something changes in their lives to bring them to this point. I know their character arcs, and what they had to overcome to have that HEA. The hows and whys of them getting to the end comes to me as I write.

Okay, now you’re scratching your heads. Trust me I’ve done that more than once myself.  I may not plot a story, but I do learn about my characters. How I do this is by making sure I have a clear understanding of what makes them tick. Once I decide on an idea for a story, I soon figure out who the key players will be—the hero/heroine and antagonist/s. I figure out what their back-stories are. What led these characters to find themselves in this story idea? Then I think about where I want them to be at the end of the story.  How do I want them to be different from the characters I’ve created from their pasts? I don’t do character interviews, but I write down everything that I can think of about the characters—descriptions, personalities, jobs, relationships, what would bring fear to them, what would bring them joy. I figure out what their goals are, what motivates them, and what would bring them conflict and how they might respond to that conflict. I even decide on the quirks in their personalities, and more importantly, why are these quirks important. I do this for every major character. I still have no idea how their stories will enfold, but I do know that I, indeed, have a story.

The only thing left is to figure out how the characters best want to tell it and let them do the talking.

Of course, I do occasionally take this process a step further and jot down a simple two page synopsis of what the story might be. I still don’t consider this true plotting, since I simply figure out what the turning points are and write them. How the characters get to each turning point is totally a mystery until I start writing. But as an established author, my last two novels were sold on proposal, and I just submitted a third proposal, for which I’m waiting to hear back. For Heartsong, I had a blurb, synopsis and first four chapters. For Heartland, I sold it on a blurb and a very skimpy synopsis.

My process has changed somewhat, but for the most part, I am, and forever shall be, a pantser.
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My Seven Guilty Pleasures… #MFRWauthor

We all have ’em. The things we do that make us happy. Little things that put a smile on our face as we’re doing them.
Here are the seven things that I love that always make me happy when I do them:
1. Taking long, hot, sudsy baths.
2. Sitting on the deck in the summer in the warm sun, just enjoying the outdoors–with or without a glass of wine.
3. Speaking of wine….Enjoying a glass of my favorite–Moscato.
4. Eating chocolate… Anything chocolate.
5. Shopping! I love to shop, especially with my teenage daughter, who actually likes shopping with me.
6. Spending lazy afternoons reading a book or listening to one.
7. Binge watching Netflix or On Demand.
There you have the seven things I consider my guilty pleasures.  Name one of yours.

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The Things that Make Me Crazy When I Read… #MFRWauthor

Today’s blog challenge topic is to write about the words that make you go “ick.” Since I don’t like to write about these words–most of them are vulgar or just plain awful–I’m not about to spell them out on my blog….. Yes, I’m a prude. And proud of it! Well, at least you should be able to use your imagination to figure out what those words are with that confession.

Anyway, I’m going to change the prompt a little and talk about the things that pull me out of a story I’m reading and make me go “WTF?!?” There isn’t much I won’t tolerate, story-wise. I don’t mind if people die or animals are killed–IF it’s absolutely needed to drive the plot or is essential for character growth. But these things listed below will pull me out of a story quicker than anything, and unfortunately I usually can’t get back into it.

**I hate when a historical novel is too politically correct, meaning the author colors the characters’ actions/words with today’s standards. A great series of books that has never fallen victim to this is the Outlander series. Jamie Fraser is an amazing hero, but he acts and talks like a 18th Century man. And although Claire (the time-traveling WWII nurse heroine) probably gets away with more than most women would if they were married to anyone other than Jamie, he still views a man’s role in a marriage in what we’d consider archaic by today’s standards.

**Another thing that destroys a story for me is when details get messed up. I have nearly a photogenic memory when it comes to reading. My comprehension is my strongest skill. I don’t forget much. Someone told me once it’s because I actually read every letter and word due to my dyslexia which helps my brain to form a better picture of the story. Anyway when an author screws up their details, it yanks me out. For example, one time I read a book by a best selling author published by one of the big houses when the heroine changed clothes while walking along a road… No, I don’t mean she stripped and changed. I mean she started out her walk wearing a pantsuit and when her friend picked her up a  page later, she was wearing a skirt. It was so jarring because the author seemed to make her wearing pants matter by mentioning how much she despised that the dust would ruin them. Then only to have her get in the truck and fussing with her skirt because it’s short length made her uncomfortable. I was like “uh??” and reread the passage. That scene bothered me so much, I couldn’t forget the flub. I don’t think I ever finished that book.

**Head hopping! This irritates me to no end. I don’t mean a point of view change after a section of a scene. I mean paragraph one is in the hero’s POV and the next is in the heroine’s POV, then jumps back to the hero’s. Every beginning author is clobbered about this and are taught not to do it. But some authors seem to get away with it… Well, I’m not buying their books. even though most of them some of the oldest and biggest sellers.

**Stupid, lazy, poorly written characters and/or a paper-thin plots–I actually think these two things go hand-in-hand in most cases. I will admit, I don’t read many self-published books by newbie authors. I’ve been burnt too many times with buying a book or downloading a freebie because the blurb sounded good and the reviews may even be good, but the story wasn’t up to snuff. But I’ve read a few stories by established authors published by New York houses that have this distinction as well.

**The last thing that will make me stop reading is if the heroine is weak and mousy and/or the “hero” is a jerk. If he can’t say or think anything nice about the heroine and treats her badly–he isn’t a hero in my way of thinking. Being a jerk doesn’t make him an Alpha male, it makes him an asshole not worth the time of day of any woman. But usually the heroine is too enthralled by him, because she has no backbone, to see she should run the other way, not be daydreaming about how handsome he is and if only he’d look at her. I usually just want to shake the girl and tell her to go find someone else because he sure as hell ain’t worth it.

So, you tell me, what makes you toss a book across the room or hit the delete key on your Kindle?

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Categories: Insights | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Welcome to the World Baby Book–Your Title Is… How I Choose a Title #MFRWauthor

Titles are tricky.  They represent your story. And more importantly they need to hook a reader enough to read the blurb, if not buy your book.

I really don’t have a process for picking titles. Mostly they come to me as I’m coming up with the story. Some of my titles weren’t chosen by me initially for the book, but evolved either by suggestion from an editor, or from the need to redirect my thoughts.

Gambling On A Secret, Sara Walter Ellwood, contemporary western romance, romantic suspense, cowboy romance, Texas romance, small town romanceMy book Gambling On A Secret had been  originally submitted with the title of “Butterfly.” In the story, the metamorphosis of for the two main characters is an important theme of the story. Heroine even mentions this to the hero when she describes what her vision for the broken down ranch is. She wants to turn the ugly into something beautiful. Like a caterpillar that turns into a butterfly. She even calls her ranch the Butterfly Ranch.

But when I submitted the book, the acquiring editor asked me to change the title since it didn’t sound “western-y” enough. I don’t regret this. In fact, I’m glad for it. The title we came up with worA Hunter's Angel, The Hunter's Dagger Series, A Hunter's Demon, A Hunter's Blade, Cera duBois, Sara Walter Ellwoodks just as good if not better for the book and it allowed me to have a similarity in the titles for the other books in the series, which up until then had been untitled because I could never think of anything that worked with “Butterfly.”

With my title for Heartsrings, I chose to change it when I did the final rewrite of this story. At the time I didn’t know I’d turn it into a series, but I knew the working title of “The Long Road Home” just didn’t feel right for the story. This idea of coming home, is still a major theme in the story, but it seemed stale. I did some brainstorming and came up with the title Heartstrings. Then when I decided to create a series by adding books Heartsong and Heartland to the mix, I was glad I’d decided to change it.

A Hunter’s Angel got it’s title before I even knew what the story would be. This title came to me at the same time as I got the idea of a vampire who hunted vampires out of a need to redeem himself. Only it wasn’t doing good that would redeem him. It was the love of a woman.

A Hunter’s Blade got its title in a similar fashion. The newly turned vampire hero of that story, who we first meet as a cocky human in A Hunter’s Angel, only wants one thing–the right to carry a hunter’s dagger or blade.discovery-of-witches-web-1

One of my favorite books that I’ve ever read, I was attracted to simply because of the title. The novel is called A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness and is the first book in the All Souls series.  I read the title in a blog comment about four years ago and it sparked my imagination. The blog commenter didn’t say much about the book, only the author’s name and that he liked it. I was piqued and looked the book up. Next, I bought it and devoured it. Then I bought the second and pre-ordered the third and went on an amazing ride. The books are a jumble of my favorite genres–fantasy, history, paranormal, time travel, and even a little science fiction. I recently read that the story will be made into a TV series–I can’t wait to see it.

Do you have any books that you’ve read simply because of a great title?
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Categories: A Hunter's Angel, A Hunter's Blade, Gambling On a Secret, Heartstrings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Songs that Have Inspired Me #MFRWauthor

Music plays a big part in all of my contemporary westerns, particularly country music. I don’t always listen to music when I write, but I often plan or plot my stories while listening. I’ve even gotten story ideas from listening to either a certain artist or from a particular song.

Sometimes I’ll even hear a song after I’ve written a story that makes me think about a certain character.

Here’s a list of songs that have either inspired me while/before writing or make me think of a character.

  1. 11 by Cassadee Pope, Album: Frame by Frame (2013)

This song makes me think of my heroine from Heartland. The song is about a young girl whose life is turned upside down when her parents divorce. The same thing happens to Emily as a child. Because Emily is a country-turned-pop singer, I almost always picture her singing it when I hear it.

  1. Black Tears by Jason Aldean, Album: Night Train (2012)

The first time I heard this song I instantly thought about my heroine from Gambling On A Secret. The song is an emotional ballad about a stripper and how much she hates what she’s doing and often cries her mascara off; hence the black tears. Charli from Gambling On A Secret had run away from home when she was fifteen and ended up working as a stripper in Las Vegas. The song fits Charli so much it could have been written about her.

  1. Bless the Broken Road by Rascal Flatts, (the version I have comes from the Album: Greatest Hits, Vol 1, 2008)

Heartstrings was inspired by this song. The original title of this story was “The Long Road Home.” In the story my hero is trying to find his way back home—and to the daughter he never knew. The heroine also has a broken road ahead of her—she has to forgive the hero for leaving and herself for pushing him away. This song also inspired the song Seth writes with his teenage daughter in the story.

  1. Drunk On A Plane by Dirks Bentley, Album Riser (2014)

My currently out of print novella, Chasing A Cowboy (published in the anthology set Cowboy Up) was directly inspired by this song. I heard it one day not long after it was released as a radio single and instantly pictured a country singer groom jilted at the altar and going on the honeymoon alone… Only there’s a little less drinking on the plane and I send the run-away bride’s fraternal twin sister after the groom.

This last list are singers who’ve inspired the singers in some of my stories:Heartstrings, Singing to the Heart, Sara Walter Ellwood, Contemporary Western Romance, Cowboys, Texas Romance, Native American Romance, Lyrical Press, Kensington Publishing

Toby Keith—my hero Seth Kendall from Heartstrings is loosely modeled after a young Toby Keith. Crazy fact—I had never seen Toby Keith’s movie Broken Bridges (a story about a country singer who meets his daughter for the first time) until long after I wrote Heartstrings.  In fact, I didn’t even know the movie existed until a friend told me about it.  Then I had to see it to make sure my story didn’t too closely resemble the movie.  I was greatly relieved that, other than the trope, the two have nothing much in common. Well, except the heroes look like Toby Keith…

Heartstrings, Sara Walter Ellwood, contemporary western romance, cowboy romance, Texas romance, small town romance, Country Music star hero, Lyrical Press, Kensington Publishing, Heartsong, Heartland, Colton Gamblers, Singing to the HeartBilly Currington/Luke Bryan—these two singers both have inspired my hero Gabe McKenna from Heartsong… Only Gabe is dark haired, but he likes to shake his cute butt on stage like Luke Bryan does.

Taylor Swift/ LeAnn Rimes/troubled young artists like Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears—A mesh-up these artistsHeartland, Heartsong, Heartstrings, Singing to the Heart, Sara Walter Ellwood, Cowboys, Texas Romance, Contemporary Western Romance gave me elements that made up my troubled young songstress Emily Kendall from Heartland. Like Taylor Swift and LeAnn Rimes, Emily has an amazing-crazy talent at a tender age. She’s only fifteen when she gets her first record deal and she blurs the genre lines—making as many country number one as she does pop. But like so many young artists, she marries far too young and begins using drugs—until she finds out she’s pregnant and realizes she has to get away from her pop star ex-husband.

 

Writers get their ideas from everywhere… Music is just one of the places where I find mine.
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Categories: Gambling On a Secret, Heartland, Heartsong, Heartstrings, Insights | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Happy Valentine’s Day! Most of my books are on Sale or are Free for a limited time… Come check them out.

Most of my Kensington books on sale for February:

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Heartstrings, Singing to the Heart, Sara Walter Ellwood, Contemporary Western Romance, Cowboys, Texas Romance, Native American Romance, Lyrical Press, Kensington Publishing

 Book 1 of the SINGING TO THE HEART series

Only $0.99 at all vendors.

amazon b&nitunes     Kobo

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Heartstrings, Sara Walter Ellwood, contemporary western romance, cowboy romance, Texas romance, small town romance, Country Music star hero, Lyrical Press, Kensington Publishing, Heartsong, Heartland, Colton Gamblers, Singing to the Heart

 Book 2 of the SINGING TO THE HEART series

Only $0.99 at all vendors.

 amazon b&nitunes     Kobo

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Heartland, Heartsong, Heartstrings, Singing to the Heart, Sara Walter Ellwood, Cowboys, Texas Romance, Contemporary Western Romance

 Book 3 of the SINGING TO THE HEART series

Only $1.99 at all vendors.

  amazon b&nitunes     Kobo

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Gambling On A Secret, Sara Walter Ellwood, contemporary western romance, romantic suspense, cowboy romance, Texas romance, small town romance

 Book 1 of the Colton Gamblers series

Free at these vendors

 amazon  itunes     Kobo

$0.99 at

b&n

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Books on Sale or Free until February 14:

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A Hunter's Angel, The Hunter's Dagger Series, A Hunter's Demon, A Hunter's Blade, Cera duBois, Sara Walter Ellwood

Prequel Novella of The Hutner’s Dagger series

Free on Amazon

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A Hunter's Angel, The Hunter's Dagger Series, A Hunter's Demon, A Hunter's Blade, Cera duBois, Sara Walter Ellwood

Book 1 of The Hutner’s Dagger series

$0.99 on Amazon

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The Birthday Fantasy, Sara Walter Ellwood, Beach read, Colorado romance, cowboy, contemporary western romance

The Birthday Fantasy

Free on Amazon

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Categories: A Hunter's Angel, A Hunter's Demon, Colton Gambers, Gambling On a Secret, Heartland, Heartsong, Heartstrings, Singing to the Heart, The Birthday Fantasy, The Hunter's Dagger Series | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Out in My Garden…My Favorite Hobby #MFRWauthor

Besides writing, I love to garden. I have a substantial English/Cottage garden that surrounds my house and takes up most of my yard.  I also have a sizable vegetable garden and love to can the bounty that comes from it. I’m always changing something in it. Despite having a book to write this spring, I plan to rip things apart again and redesign some of it.  Today, I’m going to take you on a tour of my favorite place to be in the spring…

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Even in winter, I love my garden when it snows.  This picture was taken a couple of years ago.

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spring, flowers, gardening

From February to November, something is always in bloom in my garden. These are commonly called snowdrops, the botanical name is Galanthus. Although they are not as gorgeous as tulips and daffodils, when I see them every late winter—sometimes even peeking their white flowers out of the snow—I know Spring is not far away.

 

 

 

 

These pictures show some of my favorite April to June flowers.

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spring, flowers, gardening contemporary western romantic suspesne authror Sara Walter Ellwood spring, flowers, gardening spring, flowers, gardening

 

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I love butterflies… In fact, the premise for my story Gambling On A Secret came from watching one of these guys break out of it’s cocoon.

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Here is a great shot of my vegetable garden… And what I like to do with the tomatoes–home made spaghetti sauce. Yum!

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Just a few of the many garden pictures I’ve taken over the years. These pictures were taken about 10 years apart.

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plantsI even bring the garden inside….

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And finally, here are a few photos of my gardening partner….

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Hope you enjoyed the tour.

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Categories: Insights, Out In The Garden | Tags: , , , , | 10 Comments

How I Met My Best Author Friend–@D’Ann Lindun @DLindun #MFRWauthor

I’d like you to meet someone who has been pretty darn important in helping me become published. Although D’Ann Lindun and I have never met in person, I still value her as one of my very best friends. We “met” on line back in 2010 on a writer’s Yahoo Group. I responded to something she said in what was becoming a heated subject, and she emailed me privately to thank me for standing up with her.

From this, we became critique partners and friends. I was pretty damned new at this whole writing to get published business and D’Ann had been trying for several years. She’s from Colorado and writes contemporary western romance, the same genre I found myself writing in… Thing is this Pennsylvania bred and born gal really had no idea what she was doing. I grew up on a farm, and for this reason, I found writing westerns more comfortable. After all, I knew what it takes to raise cattle–and chickens and pigs and, well, we raised a lot of different animals growing up–but not like how cattle are raised out west.

D’Ann saved my ass by setting me straight. I often say I know what I know about what it really means to be a cowboy, or cowgirl, from her. She taught me so much, and I owe her for that.

But my friendship, love, and respect doesn’t stop there. If it wasn’t for D’Ann, I may not have published my first western when I did. I was coming off a bad spot in my fledgling career. I had to fire an agent who wasn’t really doing anything for me. I was in the midst of overhauling the story that would become Gambling On A Secret, but had no real idea what I was going to do with it. D’Ann sponsored an editor friend of hers who worked for Lyrical Press (before the Kensington acquisition) on her blog where she was taking pitches. D’Ann emphatically encouraged me to pitch something. And at the last moment I did. That editor requested my manuscript and within a few months I got my contract for Gambling On A Secret.

The next time D’Ann helped my career was by asking me to be involved with the wildly successful Cowboy Up anthology sets. Through these, I became a bestselling Amazon author.

She has been a pillar of support and encouragement throughout the years I’ve known her.

She also is one of my all time favorite authors. Her books are amazing and I would recommend them to everyone.

You can find her books on Amazon

D'Ann Lindun, Black Mountain Series, Contemporary Western Romance

 

 

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Categories: Cowboy Up, Gambling On a Secret, Insights | Tags: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Sorry Editor–I’m Having Another Dyslexia Moment #MFRWauthor

I’m taking a little different approach on this week’s MFRW Blog Challenge prompt and talk about how my learning disability causes my most drastic editing mistakes.

Mistakes. We all make them and we all hate when people correct those slips. But as writers, we have to quickly get past this feeling. The process starts long before we get our work in front our publishing editor. It begins with our critique partners. Early in my writing career, I had a hard time not taking my critique partners’ suggestions personally when they pointed out what most people would think of as a silly mistake. Now, I actually love when either my critique partner or editor finds those dyslexic moments.

One of these moments is my occasional use of the wrong word. I’m not talking about using “there” for “their”, or “to” for “too”, I’m referring to my heavy reliance on Spell Check. We all know Spell Check can be a both a blessing and a curse. My problem is sometimes I can’t tell which it’s being.

I’ve always hated that sometimes language isn’t easy for me. I didn’t learn to even read until I was in fourth grade. This was when I was moved into special education classes for my learning disability. I’m dyslexic and I also have a similar speech disability. Sometimes the word I want to say isn’t what comes out of my mouth. I sometimes forget totally how to pronounce words or I garble up the syllables. I call it speech dyslexia, because it’s so similar to the way I see words on the page and in my head, which means, I never really learned how to spell complicated, multi-syllable words. Or, more precisely, I’ve had a harder time of it then most.  I’ve overcome so many of  learning issues extremely well, but  sometimes I just lose all my coping mechanisms and mistakes happen.

So, I don’t have just one common mistake that my editors find. I have several, but I think using the wrong word is my most common. The funniest being this example caught in my very first book. I wanted to use the word “inconvenience” but couldn’t remember how to spell it, so when I got the drop down list from Spell Check I picked “incontinence.”  I know, how could this mistake be made? Well, easy, often in these multi-syllable words, the letters jumble together and I only know what’s being said because of context.

For me reading has always been a challenge and writing sometimes an even bigger one… But just like I can’t stop the changing seasons, I can’t stop the stories forming in my head, wanting to be told to the world.

Thank the stars there are editors out there willing to catch my dyslexic moments!
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Categories: Insights, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

The Shows I Love to Binge On #MFRWauthor Blog Challenge

Wow!  Week three of the Marketing For Romance Author’s blog challenge and I’m still blogging!

Today’s topic  is about which TV shows I like to binge watch. I’ve started many shows, but after a few episodes, decided to move on.  Since getting Netflix last year, I’ve binged on more than one TV series. I suppose I’m making up for all those years I didn’t watch any TV at all.

So, here is a list of six shows I’ve binged on and couldn’t stop watching the past year.

Outlander—Hands down this is one of my all time favorite shows. The Starz show brings Diana Gabaldon’s marvelous time-traveling Scottish historicals to life and does the show with a great cast, amazing costuming, and fantastic settings—and let’s not forget Sam Heughan! I’ve seen both finished seasons three times now. Guess I’ll now have to binge on the books again while I wait for season 3… Dang how I hate Droughtlander!outlander-pic

The Tudors—I watched all four seasons of this HBO show over a period of a month last spring on Netflix. I’ve always loved English history. In fact, I did a research paper on good ol’ King Henry VIII, so watching this show was a lot of fun despite it not quite being historically accurate. Besides, Jonathan Rhys Meyers (who plays Henry VIII) and Henry Cavill (who plays his best friend and eventual brother-in-law) are great eye candy!

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The Vampire Diaries—My daughter got me into this show. Interestingly enough, I’ve finished binging on all seven seasons months ago, but she still is only on season four or five. Doesn’t Ian Somerhalder have the most electrifyingly beautiful blue eyes? He could hypnotize me with a look any time.

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Dark Matter—The blurb for this SyFy show caught my interest and now I’m waiting for the next season to come on. It’s about the crew of a spaceship who wake up from hibernation and they can’t remember who they are or what they are doing. Then they find out that they aren’t the good-doers they thought, but are actually dangerous criminals. The show is based on a Dark Horse comic book by the same name.

 

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The Crown—My husband and I just finished this Netflix Original series and absolutely loved it. Claire Foy deserved her Golden Globe for her role as the young Queen Elizabeth II, even if I was rooting for Outlander’s Claire (aka Caitriona Balfe).

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The White Queen— Another great Starz production from a few years ago and is based on Philippa Gregory’s historical novels The White Queen, The Red Queen and The Kingmaker’s Daughter and is about three influential women at the end of England’s War of the Roses. I now want to read these books and can’t wait for the sequel series The White Princess, also based on a Gregory novel and about Henry VII’s wife, Elizabeth—a bit of trivia: she’s King Henry VIII’s momma. Hey, I told you I love English history.

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So how about you: what shows do you love to binge on?

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