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Hot Water

Four weeks ago, I ran out of hot water. Mr. Rooter came, diagnosed a problem, fixed it and left.

Three weeks ago, I ran out of hot water. Mr. Rooter came, puzzled over the fact that there was no problem beyond a breaker being tripped, reset it, and left.

Two weeks ago, I ran out of hot water. Mr. Rooter scratched his head. At exactly one week intervals, my hot water was getting extremely hot, then giving out entirely.

Today, I ran out of hot water. Mr. Rooter sighed.

Three different plumbers have been puzzling over this problem for a month. They called me during the weeks or dropped by, all on their own time, to check on the boiler. They did research into the issue because they’d never seen it before. Their boss offered suggestions and made phone calls.

While this has been inconvenience for me, it’s been a mystery for them. They’re challenged by it. It’s not a problem any of them have ever seen before. They’re talking about it to others in their industry. Today, they figured it out (a faulty element in case you’re curious), and everything made sense. Of course it was the element. They wondered why they hadn’t figured it out before.

Human beings are hardwired to solve problems. Puzzles are interesting because we’ve never seen them before and don’t know how they work. Old information, when presented in a new way, gets us thinking and talking.

This is exactly why we have to innovate our stories. Sure, readers know how a love story works. (Mr. Rooter knows how my boiler works, too.) But we’ve got to present the information in a way that challenges the reader. Give them something they’ve never seen before and they’ll start talking to other people about it. Our books will start to spread by word of mouth. Add to that an ending that’s both surprising and inevitable and you’ve got a home run.

Valerie Francis

The Mystery of Mrs. Christie

Well, you’re not going to believe this. Reece Witherspoon and I picked the same book for our February book clubs. Sort of.  Late last year, I came across THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE by Marie Benedict and was fascinated by the premise. Benedict writes historical fiction, much like Philippa Gregory,

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Valerie Francis

A Girl Named Howard

This month, rather than recommend one book to read, I’m recommending the entire body of work of one author because Anne Rice, who passed away December 11, 2021, single-handedly revolutionized the role of vampires in literature.  Yes, vampires.  And the impact she’s had is more significant than you might realize.

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Valerie Francis

The Christmas Bookshop

If you’ve had it up to your eyes with holiday preparations and are looking for a light-hearted story to escape into, The Christmas Bookshop, by Jenny Colgan, might be just the ticket. The title is a bit misleading, in my opinion. Yes, there’s a bookstore. Yes, the plot unfolds in

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Masquerade