Thursday, November 30, 2006

What sells...

There’s always talk at the annual RWA conference about what’s hot and what’s not in Romance fiction. Paranormal romances are on an all-time high right now. In case you don’t know, that means witches, vampires, shape-shifters, elves, faeries, anything magical or “other-worldly.” Erotic Romance is on the rise (no pun intended), too. We also hear that historical is “dead,” though I refuse to believe that! I, for one, LOVE historical romances – though I don’t know that I would have the patience to do enough research to write one, even though I minored in history in college. {g}

Publishers frequently try to predict what the next big trend will be. Sometimes they’re right and sometimes they just miss the mark. Lines open and accept submissions one day and the next you don’t know where they went, what’s happened to those stories, those authors…case in point, the Bombshell line from Harlequin. If you aren’t familiar, think Lara Croft, Tomb Raider – the main character is a female who takes no crap, dishes out a butt-kicking if needed and who knows her way around guns, boats and cars. The Bombshell line was going great guns (from a non-publisher standpoint, anyway) and then we heard it was folding. The sales just weren’t there, apparently.

What will be the next big trend? Who knows? There’s a writer I know who did her research on a particular line from Harlequin – she found out what kind of stories they’d sold in the past with great success then set about tweaking her manuscript to include most, if not all, of those elements in her novel. It worked – she sold that manuscript.

Romantic suspense is hot. Romantic comedy is hot. Erotica is hot (again, no pun intended). Paranormal is hot. Sweet romances are still big sellers and Medical Romances are always on the shelves…

In other words, I don’t think it matters what you write as long as the story is GOOD and well-written. Trends come and go, but good books will always sell.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Skimming off the fat

Writing is an exercise in discipline.

When you sit down with an idea for a story, you know all there is to know about your characters. Occasionally they'll surprise you and come up with something you weren't expecting, but generally you know where they've come from, where they're going and how they're going to get there. You also know where your story is going. You know (sort of) where the black moment will come in, you know where the tension will be, you know where the love scene or tenderness will come in. That's plotting, right? Well, here's where the discipline comes in.

Since you know everything there is to know about your character, you want to share that with the reader. However, the reader doesn't want to know that the reason your character doesn't eat salads is because of a food fight when they were 13 that resulted in them wearing ranch salad dressing stained shoes for a week. That's just an example, but NOT telling your reader that is definitely skimming the fat from your story.

I have a tendency to do what's called an info dump. There's just so much I want you to know about my character and their life up to this point that I tend to toss it all into the story. You, the reader, don't care about that. You want to know what's happening NOW. I've had to be very conscious of NOT doing info dumps in stories.

George Santayana said, "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it." I'm trying to avoid that in my writing. Yes, it matters to me that the main character won't eat salad, no it doesn't matter to you the reader. You'll simply think I'm showing you a character quirk and you won't delve into the "why."

So, I'm skimming off the fat in my current writing. You'll never know the entire history of the character you're reading about unless you write to me specifically and ask me about that character...even then I may not share it all.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


(see, even the TITLE of this entry is stressful!)

Stress can be a great motivator. Actually, trying to focus on something other than what is stressing you out is the motivator. While trying to take my mind off one problem, I came up with a brilliant ending to a short story. Okay, no modesty here, but it really is a brilliant ending {g}.

In any event, I don’t recommend stress as a motivator on a regular basis, but for a quick burst of creativity, there’s not much else like it. I hear published authors talking about their deadlines and I think (when the time comes) those might be a stressor for me as well. Don’t get me wrong, I DO work well under pressure, I just don’t LIKE working under pressure.

Finding a way to channel that stress into another activity, another outlet is the key, right? Releasing anger against someone by doing something nasty to them on paper…creating the perfect work situation on paper…creating the perfect romance or romantic scene on paper…that’s stress-relief at it’s best.

This week, here in the US, we celebrate Thanksgiving. An interesting holiday, Thanksgiving. Supposedly it’s when the Pilgrims met with the American Indians and sat down to give thanks for safe passage and surviving in “the new world.” Now it’s become an excuse for people to glut themselves on turkey and all the trimmings, watch football and parades, and for some people to plan their shopping trips the next day.

THAT really stresses me out. I hate shopping, but I like going to Malls…go figure. I like going to the Mall because I can people watch. I let others do the shopping and I do the people-watching. This is another stress-reliever. You can watch people going by and make up the story of their life.

So if you’re feeling stressed because of upcoming holiday events or family events or work related events, take a moment to release some of that stress by coming up with a brilliant scene for your latest work-in-progress. You’ll be surprised by how good you’ll feel when that stress is gone – even if it’s only for a few minutes.

Friday, November 17, 2006


Setting goals is an admirable exercise. Actually reaching those goals is even better. I set myself up this month by joining NANOWRIMO – that’s National Novel Writing Month ( The GOAL is to write every day and to reach 50,000 words by the end of the month. In order to do that, you should average 16,000+ words a day.

16,000 words…that’s approximately 15 pages a day. Sometimes I can sit down and write five pages before I literally feel as though my head will explode. Sometimes I can get twenty pages done and feel as though I’ve just started. Sometimes I stare at the computer and wonder what in the heck I was thinking by trying to write anything! Don’t get me wrong, setting writing goals are important. Feeling guilty about not reaching those goals is the hard part to get past.

However, the good thing about challenging myself to do the NANOWRIMO is that I did get a decent start. I actually wrote. I got past the writer’s block that has been plaguing me for some time and wrote…and it was GOOD{g}.

So, I’ll try it again. I may tank again, but I’ll try it anyway. And I’ll keep setting writing goals until I reach them. I’ll keep writing until I sell, and then I’ll keep writing until I can’t sell anything else.

I hope you get a chance to read what I’m writing someday. I hope it is soon.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


I write reviews of other people’s books. I write reviews under my own name and as part of a group using a “generic” name for the reviews. I do this for many reasons. One, I love to read – pretty much any book, any genre. Two, I feed my reading habit by getting free books (in most cases) to review. Three, I like getting “first dibs” on a book – you know, reading it before the official release date. And finally, I do reviews because when I’m finally published, I want someone to review my book.

What do I write in these reviews? Well, I NEVER give any spoilers and I resent those who do. Tell me what the story is, but don’t ruin it for me. I had a friend in high school who was the world’s worst at giving away the ending of the movie. I love her dearly, but would never ask her about a movie. By the same token, I wouldn’t want to read a book review she’d written. I’d be afraid that she’d tell me more than I really wanted to know!

A good review should tell you about the main characters, give an overview of the plot and the conflict, but should never tell you the resolution of the plot – that’s for the reader to figure out on their own. Opinions on whether you liked the book or not are also okay – just don’t pan it completely.

As a result of the various writing workshops I’ve taken over the years, I’ve found out all about Themes, Scenes, breaking books down into Acts, the Hero’s Journey, and how to recognize Turning Points, Plot Points, Red Herrings, MacGuffins, etc. Some writers can’t read for pleasure any more because they are too busy analyzing the story line and plot points. I’m not one of those writers. Sometimes it is obvious to me where the writer is going, but I never take anything for granted and I am occasionally surprised by what I’m reading. Sometimes I am thrilled by the twists and turns an author takes to get to what I knew would be the ending.

That’s another reason to write a review of a book you’ve just read. Even if you know what’s going to happen, even if you’ve broken the book down into the various acts/turning points/big black moments, whatever – sometimes you are surprised by where the author takes you.

Sometimes, even when you KNOW how the book is going to end the author will surprise you by taking you in an entirely different direction before getting to that ending. Sometimes that doesn’t work, and those are the books that many people refer to as “wall-bangers.”

If a hero or heroine disappoints, if the plot fizzles, if the story just doesn’t make sense – that’s when I am unhappy with a book, but I’ll rarely write a scathing review. I figure if the author has taken the time to tell his/her story, I can take the time to find something good to say about the story. I might tell you that I didn’t care for it, but I will always find something good to say about it (case in point, Reviewball on this blog – April 2006).

So read a good book. Write a good review. Post it somewhere that people will see it – just remember the immortal words of Thumper in the movie Bambi… “if you can’t say something nice, then don’t say nothing at all.”

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


I have a confession to make. I am sexist. Don’t jump to any conclusions, I’m a sexist only when it comes to fiction.

I like reading about sexy men. Specifically, I like reading about sexy men who love ordinary women. I don’t particularly care for romance novels where both the hero and the heroine are ‘perfect.’ I LIKE flaws – real or imagined – in one or both of the characters I read about.

However…I do love reading about sexy men. What makes a man sexy? It’s more a matter of mind than of body, don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against a man with an amazing body, but it’s the mind that really does it for me.

Men have a different way of walking – go to the mall sometime and just watch people walk by. Teenage boys lean forward when they walk – I don’t know if it’s because they are still learning to control those gangly muscles or if they just don’t want to miss what’s coming up. The 20-30-somethings tend to walk with their shoulders back and their heads on a swivel – they’re constantly looking around –at women, at the windows in the mall, at their cellphones. The 40-somethings tend to walk a bit slower, but for the most part, they haven’t lost that swiveling head. Men in their 50-60s tend to be more focused on where they’re going and not running into other shoppers, and those older than that are usually sitting on the bench just waiting for their families to find them again. ;)

Men have a different way of talking to one another. Where a group of women will get together and discuss their entire lives in a matter of hours, men may not know the last name of the person they’re talking to after an hour. It doesn’t matter. They usually size you up in the first ten to fifteen minutes of conversation anyway.

Men have a different way of relating. They’re not going to TELL you how they feel. They’ll try to SHOW you, but they may not always succeed to your expectations. A man offering to check your tire pressure and the oil in your car is telling you that he wants you to be safe when you’re going somewhere. A man offering you a ride somewhere is telling you that he wants to spend more time with you.

There are some writers who definitely “get” the male psyche. They write compelling, caring, sensitive men without turning them into wimps. Suzanne Brockmann, Lori Foster, Sherrilyn Kenyon, JR Ward, Gena Showalter and Susan Mallery all write amazingly Alpha men who haven’t lost their sense of humor, their respect for women, or any aspect of their manhood. They’re also sexy as all get out. Don’t believe me? Pick up any one of their books – go on, any one. You’ll find amazing characters, well-told stories, and yes, sexy men. Yes, I’m a sexist when it comes to romance. I love stories where the hero is “all that,” and the heroine could be my neighbor…or even me.

Monday, November 13, 2006


A word is not the same with one writer as with another. One tears it from his guts. The other pulls it out of his overcoat pocket. ~Charles Peguy

Have you ever read a book and felt as though that author has said everything you always wanted to say and that they said it so much better?

Writing angst is nothing new. There are, after all, no new ideas, only new ways of getting those ideas out in front of others. If you have an idea for a story and suddenly find out that a well-known author has just published a similar story what do you do? Do you worry that your words, torn from your gut, won’t be as impressive as the ones that author pulled from her pocket?

I’ve reached that point. A wonderful idea for a story, something I’ve been working on for over a year. Not just one story, mind you, but a whole series…and a well known author not only just published something very similar, but her HERO has the same first name as mine…heavy sigh.

No matter, I’ll keep tearing the words from my gut and hoping that when this story gets published, the readers will believe I simply pulled those words right out of my pockets and that they’ll love them just the same.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Genre Switching and why it happens...

Writers write, that’s what we do. Some of us write one specific type of story and we do it consistently and we do it well, forever. Some of us write several different types of stories and whether we do them well or not depends on who you ask.

I happen to LOVE reading historical novels. Medieval, Regency, Revolutionary War, Civil War, whatever the time period I enjoy reading them. I don’t think I could WRITE one, but I sure do enjoy a good historical romance novel. Some of my favorite historical authors are switching genres. This makes me a little nervous, but what really makes me nervous is that one of my favorite contemporary authors is also switching genres.

This particular author has been writing for quite some time. She writes absolutely amazing contemporary novels set in Any-town, USA. Her heroes are always Alpha males, her heroines are truly amazing and interesting women. The conflicts she comes up with astound me in both their complexity and simplicity. Now, she’s going to write a “dark” paranormal.

This truly worries me. I happen to love this particular author’s brand of edginess and her love scenes are truly amazing – the sexual tension between her characters is always strong and you just know that they’re going to be great together for a very long time after the book ends. Now, however, I’m concerned.

I’m concerned because this author hasn’t ever really shown a “dark” side. Sure, she’s thrown in a few characters from time to time who are psychic or seem to have a special “gift,” but nothing really “out there” in the paranormal realm.

I happen to love paranormal romances as well (go figure, since that’s what I write). I’m just not sure I’m going to like the paranormal romance novel as done by this particular author.

When asked WHY one would switch genres, I’ve heard the following from multi-talented, multi-published authors: “I just don’t think I can handle another ballroom scene.” “I wanted to try something completely different from anything I’ve ever done before.” “I found myself writing the same character over and over again and nothing he said fit the particular time period I had him in.” and my all-time favorite (from one of my all-time favorite historical authors who is now writing contemporary novels) “Honestly, I got tired of writing sex scenes, I mean there's only so many ways you can fit Tab A into Slot B.” (Side note: sure you can have a romance without a sex scene, but what fun is that? {g})

Anyway, I’m going to keep an open mind about genre switching and hope that when my time comes, I’ll do it with as much grace (and hopefully success) as some of my favorite authors are doing it now.