Lots Of Synonyms…

All the Syns

Happy Wednesday, fabulous readers!

This post is especially for the writers out there. My lovely friend and writing-partner-in-crime, Robin Woods, has a wonderful BLOG where she shares lots and lots of writing resources for FREE. I have her permission to share some of what she has written on her blog, and I thought the resources below would be especially helpful.

Today, we’re talking synonyms. I’ve touched on the subject before, and one year I even received backfire from some overzealous, newbie NaNo writers who took Leonard’s advice on just using “said” for dialogue rather religiously (and erroneously).

Look…here’s the deal. I have taught English in various forms for the past 14 years. I have been writing fiction since the age of 10. I have incorporated classic literature into my teaching curriculum. I’m a trained copywriter. I’ve edited over 25 books in the past year and a half. I have written 3 books and counting. This year alone, I have read 34 novels in varying genres. Though I don’t like thrusting my credentials out there, sometimes I feel it’s necessary to assert myself and my experience. I know there is ALWAYS something new to learn, but when it comes down to it, I have many, many years under my belt of knowing the English language intimately. Therefore, I tend to roll my eyes when inexperienced writers tout some other writer’s philosophy at me, arguing that they know best. (And, yes, I am FULLY aware of the intentional repetition of “have,” in the above paragraph, thank you very much.)

Rules were made to be broken. Rules were also made to make our prose tight, intelligent, and evocative. Finding the balance between the two can be tricky, but it can be done. Trust me on this one.

So, back to synonyms, which I definitely think should be used in order to cut all the repetition in our writing, as well as improve its flow. Synonyms are necessary at times, unnecessary at others. And this is where practice comes into play. Unless you devote the time to practice writing, unless you devote the time to read as often as you can, you will have a hard time mastering the art and craft of the written word. Is it fine to use “said” after dialogue more often than other words? Sure, I think so. But a talented writer will either use a different where needed, OR weave the sentence in such a way that it isn’t needed at all. Like I said, there’s a fine line.

For further thoughts/examples on my case for using synonyms, you can check out this post: Arguments for Using Synonyms.

And now, here are some FREE resources for you, courtesy of Robin Woods. Feel free to send her a tweet of gratitude, or leave a comment after this post (I love it when you guys talk to me). Enjoy!

Other Words for Asked, Replied, Sat, Was, & LaughClick HERE to download the file for personal use.

Other Words for Whisper

Click HERE to download the file for personal use.

Other Words for Happy Sad MadClick HERE to download the file for personal use.

Fifty Shades of Grammar


Greetings, wonderful readers! Today’s post is from Grammarly.com. There’s a lot of hype with the release of the movie 50 Shades of Grey … along with the controversy of the books’ and movie’s taboo subject(s). However, a huge point of contention for writers, literary nerds, and grammar cops is centered around the writing style of author/creator EL James.

Many have argued that the writing style is poor and that the grammar is atrocious. However, 50 Shades of Grey is not as poorly written as you may think. Let’s see what research has to say. The results just might surprise you!

Grammarly investigates:

“Although it topped bestseller lists around the world, E. L. James’ erotic romance novel, Fifty Shades of Grey, was widely panned by critics for its poor use of language.

The Grammarly team reviewed the book for spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors, and learned that — although there were some mistakes — the errors were in alignment with similar gaffes in celebrated romances. It seems that the language of love really is a language of its own!”

Check out the 50 Shades of Grammar infographic below. Click HERE to view the original post on Grammarly.

Grammarly: Fifty Shades of Grammar

What do YOU think? Weigh in and post a comment!

Until next time… xx

The Best Book Boyfriends I’ve Ever Had

Happy Valentine’s Weekend! For us self-proclaimed book nerds, many of us—guys and girls—have those ultimate fantasy characters. The ones we wished existed in real life. For me, the girl characters are those who I can either relate to or wish I could be. For the guy characters, they are those who I like to call my book boyfriends. The guys who are easy to fall in love with, no matter how difficult they can be, who have something special despite their character flaws.

So, in the spirit of Valentine’s, I am sharing a list (not exhaustive, mind you) of some of my favorite book boyfriends of all time. They are in no particular order, but I will be ranking them using my “hot tamale” system. I just made that up, by the way.

Here’s how the HOT TAMALE system works.

1 Hot Tamale=Meh

2 Hot Tamales=Cute, but not my type

3 Hot Tamales=Cute, has potential

4 Hot Tamales=Handsome and sweet; definitely dating material

5 Hot Tamales=Super hot and sexy

6 Hot Tamales=So hot, so sexy, so perfect…that I’m on FIRE

Okay, so here we go: My book friends, ranked by the HOT TAMALE system

William Herondale (The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare)

Dark and sexy, with demons—literal demons—haunting him from his past, William (Will) Herondale was introduced to the book world through the fabulous series, The Infernal Devices. Will is super hot, super angsty, and super badass. He fiercely loves his friends and will fight for them to the very end. As a shadowhunter, Will has seen lots of danger and horrible things for someone as young as he, but he has a heart of gold, which Tessa, his love interest, slowly discovers and brings to the surface throughout the series.

Hot Tamale Rating: 5 Hot Tamales

Geoffrey Mitchell (The Spirit Lake Series by Tamar Hela)

Geoffrey is a bad boy of my making. He is first introduced in my series, Spirit Lake, in the book Feast Island (which has since been renamed Spirit Lake and will be re-released by Cosby Media Productions this year). He is definitely rough around the edges but has a big heart hiding under his defenses. And, he is definitely the damaged hero with a traumatic past. But he’s strong enough to move beyond his demons in order to protect those he loves.

Hot Tamale Rating: 6 Hot Tamales

Rowan Whitethorn (The Throne of Glass Series by Sarah J Maas)

Ugh…I think Rowan from the Throne of Glass series is totally a new type of hero for me. Sure, I’ve met the brooding, self-punishing guys before, but Rowan takes the cake. He has to be an instructor, protector, hero…while also figuring out who he wants to be loyal to. And, he’s a magical being—like Legolas, but with 10xs the IT factor—so he has to deal with the complication that magic brings to his world. It’s hard to predict what he’s thinking or what he’s going to do, but he proves himself over and over, even if his actions are unconventional or somewhat difficult to swallow. He is the kind of guy who will die for you if he loves you, no questions asked. 

Hot Tamale Rating: 6 Hot Tamales (and maybe 1 more!)

Jamie Fraser (The Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon)

Oh, Jamie Fraser…with that hot Scottish accent and a kilt to boot. He is super sweet, straightforward, and treasures his woman, Claire, above all else. But he refuses to compromise when it comes to her safety and does what it takes to protect her—even if it’s from herself. He’s rough around the edges, but not in a bad boy sort of way. More in like a will-fight-for-justice sort of way. And in the 1700s, in the highlands of Scotland, if you want to survive the Redcoats, that’s the kind of attitude it’s gonna take.

Hot Tamale Rating: 5 Hot Tamales

Aaron Warner Anderson (The Shatter Me Series by Tahereh Mafi)

WARNER. He is so alpha and sexy and demanding in every way. He knows what he wants and he’s not afraid to take it, except when it comes to Juliette, the girl of his dreams. With her, he learns that he must patiently bide his time, believing that he can convince her to choose him. With that kind of confidence, and mouth-watering good looks, it’s no wonder he’s a great book boyfriend. And the things he says…those words could easily melt away any fears or doubts of his love interest. And tattoos! Yes, please! Warner has plenty, and he’s not afraid to show them. Though he’s another damaged hero, he’s easy to love and has a soft spot in his heart for those he loves–which, really, is just Juliette. Also, he has compassion for those who are suffering, making him the perfect example of “saving the cat” in excellent character development. Can he be real, please?!

Hot Tamale Rating: 6 Hot Tamales (and maybe 1 more!)

Peeta Melark (The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins)

Okay, really, who doesn’t love Peeta? The bread-making boy who has loved Katniss for…forever. The one who sacrifices himself for the girl he loves, even to the death if need be. The one who is gentler, but still strong. The one who helps Katniss chase away her demons. And, no matter how much she pushes him away, he still comes back. Peeta is the kind of boyfriend who will treat you right…and also bake you the most beautiful cake for your birthday.

Hot Tamale Rating: 4 Hot Tamales

Fitzwilliam Darcy (Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen)

If you don’t love Darcy, and you’re a hot-blooded, straight woman, then I don’t know what’s wrong with you. Darcy is like that ultimate, alpha male, brooding introvert who can bring any woman to her knees. He’s intense, he’s moody, but he’s complicated and sensitive. He’s the kind of guy who will always remain loyal, but if you break his trust, that’s it. And, he’s a very attentive admirer. Swoon!

Hot Tamale Rating: 5 Hot Tamales

Tamaki Suoh (The Ouran High School Host Series by Bisco Hatori)

Yes, it is possible to fall in love with a cartoon. This is the only anime I have read, but I just love the series, and though I love all of the characters, my favorite is the King of the Host Club: Tamaki Suoh. He has model looks, but can be as dumb as a doorknob when it comes to his own feelings for the series heroine, Haruhi. Tamaki is playful, innocently mischievous, loves to throw out lots of innuendo, and desperately wants those he cares about to be happy. Tamaki will even sacrifice his own happiness for the benefit of others. To say the least, he is endearing, and everyone will end up rooting for this charming and happy-go-lucky hero.

Hot Tamale Rating: 4 Hot Tamales

Chaol Westfall (The Throne of Glass Series by Sarah J Maas)

Chaol, Captain of the Guard…who doesn’t love a man in uniform? Chaol is the kind of guy who is mysterious—the kind who you just want to ruffle his feathers a bit to get a reaction out of. Because once he learns to let loose, he’s amazing. He’s also smart and sexy; he’s the kind of guy who can handle a strong woman and knows how to let her be independent while also forming a partnership. Chaol isn’t perfect, but he’s pretty darn close and we love him, down to his flaws and, at times, reserved personality.

Hot Tamale Rating: 5 Hot Tamales

Eric Northman (The Sookie Stackhouse Series by Charlaine Harris)

If you’re going to fall in love with a vampire, forget Edward Cullen; it’s all about Eric Northman, the sexy 1000-year-old viking vampire, who has managed to capture the heart of Sookie Stackhouse. Eric oozes sexuality, and though any woman would throw herself at his feet, he has to put forth some effort in order to get Sookie to give him the time of day—or, rather, night. He’s confident, he’s calculating, he’s arrogant, he’s alpha, and he’s devoted and sexy. No wonder Sookie can’t resist him!

Hot Tamale Rating: 6 Hot Tamales (and maybe 1 more!)

Tyran (The Watcher Series by Robin Woods)

Okay, FOR REAL, this is my ultimate book boyfriend. Another sexy vampire, who takes what he wants and has barely a moral code. But beneath his bad boy exterior is a hardened heart that needs a touch of love from the right person. Tyran is named appropriately because, at times, he can be a real tyrant. But he’s oh-so-irresistable, so it’s frustrating to want to forgive him, especially when he gives one of his charming smiles. He will fiercely protect those he loves, and will sacrifice anything and everything when it comes to a fight. And the fact that he looks like an Armani model doesn’t hurt AT ALL. You just KNOW that he’s a teddy bear on the interior, and if I could, I would definitely watch a movie and cuddle with Tyran while he held me with his well-muscled arms. *fanning self*

Hot Tamale Rating: 6 Hot Tamales (and maybe 1 more!)

Perry/Peregrine (Under The Never Sky Series by Veronica Rossi)

Perry is the savage who captivates Aria’s heart. He’s practical, clever, and endearing. And once Aria can see past his “savagery,” she falls hard and fast for the young man who has lost so much, but puts everything on the line just his people—and for her. Add in some special abilities and a guy who is truly a “man’s man” and you’ve got a perfect and sexy combination. 

Hot Tamale Rating: 5 Hot Tamales

R (Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion)

This is kind of an odd attraction. I mean, who knew a zombie could be kinda hot? R, though slowly rotting on the outside, still has enough of his sanity to form coherent thought. And, since he’s slowly learning how to talk again, he’s the perfect listener. He’s perfect for Julie, the young but tough-as-nails human who is just trying to survive another day. The thing about R is that he’s actually pretty deep for a zombie, and when his heart starts beating again, he’s ready and willing to love.

Hot Tamale Rating: 4 Hot Tamales

Cas Lowood (Anna Dressed in Blood Series by Kendare Blake)

Sassy and cool-headed Cas doesn’t get too riled up about anything or anyone. As a ghost hunter, it’s his job to remain calm. But when he meets Anna, the girl of his dreams, he definitely finds his heart beating a little more quickly. The only problem? She’s a ghost. But Cas is sweet and wants to find out why Anna just can find peace in the afterlife. He definitely shows that he’s willing to put in the time it takes to develop a meaningful relationship, and he does what he can to help the girl he loves, Anna, to find the peace she deserves…even if it means letting go.

Hot Tamale Rating: 5 Hot Tamales

Michael Moscovitz (The Princess Diaries Series by Meg Cabot)

One of my very first book boyfriends, Michael Moscovitz, is a character who gets sexier with each book. He definitely has a bit of alpha going on, but hey…someone’s got to order Princess Mia around. He has great taste in music, loves all things geek, is thoughtful in whatever he does, and insists that Linux is the only way to go. At the end of the series, when he and Mia are apart, he shows her just how much he is willing to fight for her. Because, after all, he knows they’re perfect for one another and he’s going to make sure she knows it. And, when he reaches his college years, he’s definitely model-status. I’d date this boy any day of the week!

Hot Tamale Rating: 5 Hot Tamales

Well, those are just some of my fave fiction boys. If you want to check out more of my fictional crushes and obsessions via Pinterest, click HERE to view my Fictional Love board. Enjoy!

Who’s your favorite book boyfriend or girlfriend? Leave a comment!!

Happy Valentine’s Day Weekend! <3


Lovesick In The Coffee Shop: A Poem


It’s been quite a while since I’ve shared my poetry on this blog. Too long, perhaps. I like to say that I’m somewhat of a closet poet because most of the poetry I’ve written has been hidden away, like the proverbial monster under the bed. Why? I suppose it’s because my poetry is the most personal writing I have ever done in my life. Maybe as precious as my personal journal entries. However, I DO have one poem published (click HERE to read it), and I am going to share one today with you, dear readers.

I wrote this poem in November and entered it into a poetry contest. It’s a totally made up scenario about a secret crush at a coffee shop, and is supposed to be pure and simple humor (aka don’t read into it). Though I didn’t win or even place, it felt good to put myself out there like that.

For some reason, I tend to be more brave with my novels rather than my poems. Therefore, consider this a peek into my silly, secret, and at times strange, world of poetry. It’s perfect for this month’s theme of love, too. <3 Hope you all enjoy! xx

Lovesick in The Coffee Shop

By Tamar Hela

Bearing the weight of a secret love

Is like the barista spelling my name wrong again

There’s a hope that next time they’ll get it right

But it still hurts

I saw you walk in on a Tuesday, five months ago

You still come in every Tuesday at 3pm,

And I watch how you place your order with confident precision like a war general

I love how you leave a tip, too

Even when the new girl at the register is a bit rude

While you wait for your drink,

Your wavy hair shines in the fluorescent lights

Like you’re some kind of glowing, caffeinated god

I guess I could sit closer to the front,

But I like my darkened corner where I sit far away from smelly Jim

Still, my seat offers a good view of your face, and I think

Your eyes are like roasted coffee beans—the medium blend

If I were a paper cup,

I bet you’d be my perfect sleeve

Once I thought you waved at me but

You were saying hi to the businessman sitting next to my table

My cheeks burned like my extra hot latte with an add shot

Because I accidentally waved back, and you looked confused

Maybe one day I’ll have the nerve to say hi,

But today is not that day

As you walk out of the coffee shop, I’ll just silently bid adieu

And in my sleep, I’ll dream of you

Who Writes Better–Men Or Women?

Today, I have a very special post that is pseudo-sponsored by Grammarly.com. Grammarly.com is a grammar checker, which you can try by clicking HERE.

Now, by saying that this post is “pseudo-sponsored,” I mean that Grammarly will be donating $50 in my name to Reading Is Fundamental because I’ve hosted this post on my blog. Who I am to turn down an opportunity like that? (Of course, it would’ve also been cool to have $50 donated to the “Tamar Hela Foundation,” but writers can’t be choosers, you know?)

Let’s get to the nitty gritty. Who, indeed, does writer better? Men or women? What do you think?

The below infographic shares the results of a poll (from Grammarly) that was conducted through Google Consumer Surveys. About 3,000 people completed the survey online, and about 54% of them were men.


So, what do you think? Were the results surprising? Would you agree, based off of this infographic, that women are better writers?

I personally think that each gender has strengths in writing and that no gender is better than the other. Just…different. Which, is always a good thing in my book.

Feel free to weigh in by leaving a comment. Thanks so much to Grammarly for this infographic. Hopefully they’ll be conducting more surveys like this in the near future.

My YouTube Debut

Hey, readers!

So I made my YouTube debut today! I am featured over at Robin Woods Fiction today, and we thought it’d be fun if I answered some questions via video. Okay, it’s a little cheesy, but it’s fun, too! I talk about parts of my writing process, give advice to writers, and even show viewers my journals. Go and check it out, and give Robin Woods Fiction some blog love! Until next time…


BIG NEWS For The Spirit Lake Series!

Happy Friday, blog world!

So, I’ve been hinting at sharing some big news this week, and it’s finally time to make the announcement.

I have sold my Spirit Lake Series to Cosby Media Productions! Yay! I just signed the contract on Wednesday, so I’m officially a traditionally published author now!

How I feel at the moment. =P

How I feel at the moment. =P

I’m in the process of rewriting my first book, Feast Island, which will be retitled as Spirit Lake. My second book, The Wrong Fairy Tale, will also get some further edits to fit with the changes made in the first book. I will keep you all abreast of release dates, etc. (And yes, while we wait for these books to be released, the now existing Feast Island and The Wrong Fairy Tale will be pulled from Amazon at the end of the month. If you’d like to purchase yourself a copy of each before they are retired, click HERE.)

Once book one and two are finished and submitted to my publisher, I will obviously resume work on book three, titled Freak Show. You guys are gonna love it. Think a lighter, less sexual version of “American Horror Story: Freak Show” meets Narnia meets Dinotopia (minus the dinosaurs). I already have notes for books four and five, but they have yet to be outlined.

Exciting stuff!

Meanwhile, I began working on a secret project last year, which may or may not ever see the light of day. I also began writing an Epic Fantasy, a SciFi, and a Rom Com Suspense-ish book about an assassin falling in love. As you can see, I don’t heed the “one genre” thing. I write what I like and that’s that. So, expect to see other projects from me soon.

I hope you all have a fffffffaaaaabbbbbbbbbbulous weekend. I’m going to a wedding tomorrow and will otherwise be eyeballs deep in editing a project for one of the authors at Cosby Media. But tonight, I think I have a hot date with a good book. May you all fall in love with a new fictional character this weekend. <3

(If you just want to LOOK at cool fictional characters, click HERE to access my Fictional Love Pinterest board.)