Romance (a vlog)

I felt an explanation was due regarding my comment on the genre of Romance (On Writing Erotica) and why I don’t read it. This was originally intended as a blog and after reading the draft, I felt a video would better convey what I was trying to express. I hope you enjoy this video – it will be the last vlog for the month of February!

[So sorry guys. There were technical difficulties with YouTube and I had to re-upload and redo the edits. Boo. As I mention in the video, I have new editing software and I can’t wait to start using it.]

Click here.

Read what makes you happy. Always.

Christina Schmidt, MA

Don’t Like It? Don’t Read It.

When I committed to book reviewing I knew this particular eventuality would happen. I sometimes start a book and then lose the inclination to finish. It doesn’t happen often but when it does I feel the obligatory sense of guilt for not finishing the book and then eventually frustration with the novel for not living up to its potential.

I read an average of 20 novels a year (I know, that’s a small number compared to some) and I don’t struggle to read. Reading is a joy. Struggling to read, however, or finding the time to read, is often the number one complaint when people cannot get through a novel (I quite enjoyed this article on the subject). But that’s not the case for me. What I experience is something akin to, It’s you, novel, not me. You started out with so much promise only to fizzle out and die. Like I said, it’s you, not me.

A big issue I have is inconsistency. When the energy and pacing of a novel experiences rapid spurts or “good spots” with long stretches of dry spells, well, that experience probably pisses me off the most because I can read for myself how much potential a story has.

I am a huge fan of delayed gratification, such as we might expect in the mystery genre or erotica but delayed gratification is not the yo-yo like experience I’m recounting here. At least when a novel starts out dry you know what you’re signing up for but that teasing of rapid energy immediately followed by a long trip to the Sahara Desert…that kind of pacing is exhausting and is truly a road to nowhere. I wish the novel well and pack it up for donation or resell.

If you are familiar with my series, Get to the Point Book Reviews, it’s not about liking or disliking a novel. I have finished many a novel that I wouldn’t recommend. Not finishing a novel rarely speaks on my behalf in the form of like or dislike, although that is absolutely the case for many. For me, however, the “liking” or “disliking” of a book is rarely the issue.

It comes down to: Is this story worth investing in?

My sticking to a book comes down to sustainability. Does this work sustain me? Does it do something for me? Is it keeping my engaged? Is there enough here to work with? Authors don’t intend to be boring or demonstrate inconsistent pacing but that’s not to say it doesn’t happen even so.

I sling the old truth, life’s too short. And life is decidedly too short to invest a story that is going nowhere – whatever that means to you. If a novel is not working for you, put it down and move on to one that does. The choices are endless and the promise of a new and sustaining adventure awaits.

I will not be reviewing Milan Kundera’s, The Unbearable Lightness of Being. I did not finish it therefore I have no business reviewing it; I called it dead at p.182.

The novel stopped sustaining me despite it’s amazing beginning. You could read for yourself on Amazon that there are plenty of people who think and feel to the contrary. This discrepancy in popular reception is why I always state in my reviews: The book may (or may not) work for me personally but that’s not to say it didn’t do wonders for (or fail) someone else.

I will part with The Unbearable Lightness of Being with a sigh of what could have been. I will share some of my favorite quotes from the book:

“He smelled the delicate aroma of her fever and breathed it in, as if trying to glut himself with the intimacy of her body.” Pg. 7

“For there is nothing heavier than compassion. Not even one’s own pain weighs so heavy as the pain one feels with someone, for someone, a pain intensified by the imagination and prolonged by a hundred echoes.” Pg. 31

“But man, because he has only one life to live, cannot conduct experiments to test whether to follow his passion (compassion) or not.” Pg. 34

“…but it is right to chide man for being blind to such coincidences in his daily life. For he thereby deprives his life of a dimension of beauty.” Pg. 52

“She was amazed at the number of years she had spent pursuing one lost moment.” Pg. 86

“…the criminal regimes were made not by criminals but by enthusiasts convinced they had discovered the only road to paradise.” Pg. 176


Christina Schmidt, MA

The Kiss (a poem)

I’m re-blogging myself because f*ck it…it’s Valentine’s Day.

Stay warm out there.
With Love, Christina

“All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream,” Edgar A. Poe

Only moments known to them.
Precious and fleeting.
Moments here.
Moments there.

Two sets of eyes fixed.
Signaling their unspoken truths.
Warm smiles, issuing weathered conversation.
Close and never touching.

Weeks, months worth of such moments.
Was all they had.
Enough to see them through.
Until the next moment.

An alignment formed by Chaos.
Taking pity on the would-be lovers.
Holding back time itself.
But time can be held for so long.

A gap.
A sliver.
A promise of an undisturbed moment.
What they make now must last.

They find themselves at the wall.
Aquiver with excitement.
Without witness.
Without fear.

Seconds to minutes.
Their hearts thunder demands.
Cries for reparations.
At being so long divided.

He initiates.
A downward tilt of his head.
Taking the space halfway between them.
She meets him there, face upturned.

The kiss.

A poem by,
Christina Schmidt

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How to Write a Killer Villian by Christina Kaye via Jane Freidman

A re-blog

How to Write a Killer Villain

Image: Lego man holding gun in film noir lighting

Today’s post is by author and founder of Top Shelf Editing, Christina Kaye (@topshelfedits).

You can’t have a good thriller without a nasty and formidable opponent for your hero. But it isn’t enough to just write a character and call him “the bad guy.” Just as it’s important to create a well-rounded, three-dimensional hero, you must create a villain who is well-developed and not just your standard killer, robber, or kidnapper.

So how can we write a well-developed villain who is a worthy opponent to your protagonist?

Create a backstory

Unless you’re writing fantasy or sci-fi or the like, your villain will also be human. They will have a personality all their own and, in most cases, they’ll have a painful past, so you must tell their story, just as you would with the hero. You want him to be everything that makes us human—fallible, flawed, and complete with a backstory that explains their motives and their reason for being so downright nasty.

First, think about what made your villain turn out the way he did. Why is he killing people? Or why is he so hostile and angry? Most often, the answer comes from an earlier time in his life, prior to our entry into the story. It’s also possible he was born that way—which may not make for a compelling backstory—but usually something happened to him early on that made him snap, even if he already had a tendency to be bad.

Whatever you decide to use as your villain’s backstory, it should be an experience every human can relate to on some level. But somehow, for some reason, Mr. Bad Guy reacted to this tragedy or event in a way most humans would not.

Create motive for his actions

Beyond the backstory, the villain must have a motive for his bad behavior. There must be a “why” aside from “he is a bad guy.” Give your villain a specific motive for why he is kidnapping, robbing, killing, etc. This serves two purposes. One, it gives the bad guy even more character, and two, it gives your protagonist something to follow or a mystery to solve. So create a specific motive for your villain’s actions, and you’ll notice it helps you further develop your plot. Examples of motives for villains include:

  • Revenge for a prior wrongdoing
  • Desire to be loved and accepted
  • To gain notoriety and/or fame
  • To instill his own sense of justice
  • Fear of losing his power
  • Desperation and self-preservation
  • To achieve/fulfill his destiny

Give him strengths and weaknesses

Just like your protagonist, a villain should have both strengths and weaknesses. His strengths probably keep him from being caught by the hero during the first part of the story. Ideally, his strengths should be a good foil for the protagonist’s weaknesses. Let’s say your hero is a female sleuth and she’s smart and witty, but she has a weakness when it comes to her self-esteem. Have your villain know this and take advantage of it. Perhaps he, as a former cop, leaves her clues and taunts her because she’s not “a real cop.” This allows your villain not only to have strengths, but to use them to his advantage.

Weaknesses should make the villain fumble a few times and ultimately lead to the protagonist putting an end to his reign of terror. Eventually, your hero discovers the weaknesses and turns them against the villain. There must be something that makes the hero able to stop the reign of terror once and for all.

Parting advice

Be careful to avoid overused tropes such as:

  • Plans to dominate the world
  • Living in an underground dungeon
  • A disfigured, gnarly appearance
  • A tragic childhood story
  • Obsessed romantically with protagonist
  • Has a minion or “sidekick” who does his bidding

Villains with these types of storylines are overused, unoriginal, and predictable. Some of these can be used if you find a unique twist.

A complex and complicated villain will be a worthy adversary for your hero to fight and ultimately defeat, and your readers will not only talk about what a crazy, unique villain you created, but they’ll be grateful for your efforts.

Note from Jane: Subscribers to Christina’s email newsletter receive a free self-editing guide.

Inkbox Tattoos, An Updated Review

[Before we get started, I gave Armed an overhaul. Hope you like the new layout.]

Inkbox recently launched an updated application method to their temporary tattoo product. Necessary, im my opinion, as when I first reviewed their product I found the original application method to be a finicky. A bit fussy.

I concluded with a 2-part recommendation that you can read here.

*This article is not sponsored. The following product “Goddess” was purchased by me and reviewed by me. All experiences documented are my own.*

For more on Inkbox and their products, click here: Inbox’s Info Video.

Get to the point, would I recommend Inkbox?

Answer: No. Clarity of the product declined sharply after the 3rd day, costing an average of $6.70 per day (for 3 days worth of viable product) or $3.33 a day for the 6 days I could technically see it. “Goddess” is a 5×2 temporary tattoo product that cost $20 ($23 in total with shipping).

The experience really speaks for itself. I was generous with the photo proofs and they pretty much capture the experience. In all, I find the older – more finnickier – application method to have a higher payout. To compare the product experience, click here.

What I purchased:

Screenshot 2020-02-02 at 6.42.39 AM
“Goddess” a 5×2 product that cost $20.

The Materials:

 Application Method:

 The First 48 Hours:

Days 3 to 7:


Like last time, Inkbox products (and similar products) give you the idea of what to visually expect from a permanent tattoo. However, you can achieve the same idea from any temporary tattoo. I cannot see recommending Inkbox (at the prices they charge) for something that fades incredibly fast. Honestly, you could buy something a lot cheaper elsewhere because – in the end – be it Inkbox’s “semi-permanent” (arguable) ink, or the cheap self-adhesive stuff we all grew up with, THEY ALL FADE. It’s just a matter of how much you’re willing to pay for the fade. Unless Inkbox is offering a design that you specifically want to see on your body, I just don’t see the point.

Disappointed by the smeary transfer. Given the sealing process (excellent) I’m surprised there were any issues with the ink transferring incorrectly.

As to the new application, well that is an appropriate boast. Compared to the original application method, this new method is A LOT faster. The guess work was reduced considerably so there’s that.

To appease any doubt, yes I’m careful to reduce friction from clothing and contact, and generally being cognizant of the ink while showering, etc.

Working on a college campus as I do, I see Inkbox products everywhere. And that got me thinking…the designs are becoming so common place that I can spot an Inbox product. Kind of justifies a real tattoo, knowing a real one is a unique piece of art and not a prepackaged concept of art that anyone, anywhere can put on their body at anytime. Something to think about.

Christina Schmidt, MA

Armed Announcement

When your website is due for a user overhaul and massive upgrades and you know it…but you don’t want to deal with it. #thisismenow #larrydavid

giphy Soon to be overhauled. Easier to read layout, dropdown menus, and an all-around booster shot of sexy, coming soon (that’s what he said). #sorrynotsorry

No release date. I’ll announce it when it’s done. All posts should remain visible, although some matrix-style glitches may occur here and there until I’m done tweaking the new look.

Christina Schmidt, MA

Poetry — Perpetually Past Due

A re-blog.

It’s the warmth of a summer sun pressing through and pouring between the gaps of illuminated tree leaves; it’s the peaceful, calming noise of pouring rain that trickles through gutter and pipe; it is imagery conjured into something more real than the spell of any grey-bearded sorcerer or maiden, mother, and crone. Attempts have been […]

via Poetry — Perpetually Past Due