27 January, 2015

Romance Weekly Blog Hop: Great Openers

Thank you for hopping over from J.J. Devine's post. Her novel, Into the Darkness, is available at Amazon.

Vampires and Witches: Are they mythical creatures or something that walks amongst us every day without our knowledge? 
To Raven, a twenty-five-year-old, extremely sheltered woman, they are nothing more than something to be read about in a book. To Dragon, an eight hundred-year-old vampire, they are a way of life. 
Raven truly believes she is going mad. Erotic dreams fill her nights, causing her to question her sanity by the light of day. They lead her into a world she never knew existed and a heritage that can only be found in nightmares. 
Dragon wants nothing more than to own the mortal soul of the beautiful Raven, a woman who can make his ancient scars disappear, proof that she is far from mortal. 
Together they seek out the dark heritage of her past. What they find is much more than either of them bargained for. A destiny lies at her doorstep, one that could bring her salvation and an eternity at his side. Or, it could seal her fate and rip her from his world forever.

This week's challenge comes from Sarah Hegger (*gasp*) 

I recently finished reading her novel, Sweet Bea, and am currently helping with an ARC of Nobody's Angel.

Even without having read the first paragraph of Nobody's Angel, the synopsis generated enough buzz to make me want to beg for an advance copy.

Which brings us to Sarah's challenge:
Great Beginnings - A great opening line draws the reader in, makes them want to know more and compels them to read further. Share a great opening line, can be a classic or a more recent novel, tell us why you like it and then share the opening line to your newest WIP.

The opening from Nora Roberts' Something New reads like this:
"She knew it was crazy. That was what she liked best about it. It was crazy, ridiculous, impractical, and totally out of character. And she was having the time of her life."

Also catchy to my untrained eye is the opening scene from Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides.
“I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.”

In all fairness to every author out there who has ever or still struggles with a great opening, I am not one to notice or care.

I just don't see it, realize it's great, or remember it afterward.


What draws me in and makes me want to buy/read are two entirely banal and selfish things: the cover, and the blurb on the back.

THEN I'll open the book and skim the first few paragraphs to see if it hooks me.

The reason I picked the two examples above is only because they are thought-provoking but not why I like the author or the story.

A pattern I notice is that with both examples, the author immediately introduced me to the main character, offered up a personality quirk or dilemma, and made me want to find out how the story would unfold.

Like Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis:
"As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect."
This is definitely not a favorite of mine, but it is listed as a great opener by a lot of literary folk. I read the book, but it just wasn't my cup of tea.

Even if he opened that way and had me interested to discover more.

Thinking about it now, it seems easy to achieve in our own writing. To attempt to draw the reader in with a great intro to the main character. Nora Roberts' quirky leading lady, Cal and Calliope in Middlesex, and Gregor's metamorphosis from human to bug.

But! And, this is a huge but for me -- terrific opening lines run parallel with being able to create the perfect blurb or synopsis -- to be able to condense an entire novel into select key bits of info that will capture the reader's interest even before they open the cover.

I don't think I excel at either and struggle just as much trying to figure out how to start a novel as I do coming up with a great way to get people to read my work via the brief.

So, here is the opening scene from one of the 3 stories I'm working on right now, temporarily titled The Curse
"As soon as Kaisa Dalen read the daily blog prompt on her iPhone, she smiled. If there was one person she wished was still alive, it would definitely be her maternal gran, Elise."
I look forward to hearing what everyone else has to say about this interesting yet frustrating topic and discovering their choice of favorite opening lines.

And now, let's hop on over to visit with Dani Jace and read what she has to say about favorite opening lines.

She's got a sexy Novella -- White Doe -- available on Amazon and elsewhere. Please check it out while you're there.

25 January, 2015

The Cost of Ones Work

For more than a decade I devoured romance novels the way I still devour potato chips.

Throughout the mid 80's and 90's, my favorite author was Johanna Lindsey, who might be labeled by some as the undisputed queen of romance.

This was my introduction to her writing, and this book was all it took to get me hooked and want more.

Even if money was tight, there still seemed to be a way to hit a bookstore, browse her selection, find something I hadn't yet read, and buy it.

But, then she did something I still equate to as having stabbed me right through the heart.

The paperbacks were replaced with hard cover novels, and at a cost of more than double the paperback version -- which weren't being offered btw.

Suddenly it wasn't even an option to buy any of her works.

A hard cover the size of coffee-table books I still believe should be relegated to photography and nothing else started at $14.99 and went up to unholy sums, pricing me right out of the market.

Heck, even if I had been able to afford that price, I couldn't imagine myself being able to read comfortably in bed anymore with something that large and heavy in both hands.

Prior to the e-Age, I remember becoming increasingly dismayed by the fact that what once cost $3.95 was suddenly $4.99 and then $5.95 for any paperback novel. Now at $7.95 to $12.99 a pop, the library is my new best friend.

Today, via Kindle and Nook, ePub and PDF, the issues with size and weight are no longer valid, but cost still is.

What my work is worth depends in large part on readership or fan-base. Being a newbie, I don't have one of those . . . yet.

Believing that everyone feels the way I do about it, I priced my first novel as reasonable and fair as if I, myself, were the buyer and not the other way around -- thinking only of the return on a very personal and lengthy investment -- my time and effort into that first novel.

Learning the importance of a fan base is another reason for keeping it at as reasonably low a price as I am able to do without giving it away for free.

And, once there are a few other novels under my belt, offering free copies won't be as much of an issue or affect my bottom-line as deeply as it would were I to do it today.

Then there are ARCs: a surprisingly great way to get yourself noticed, and as long as you don't make the mistake of offering them to people IN RETURN FOR a favorable review.

Saying I don't want to make my mark in the world of Romance Novel Writing and never considered the idea of making a living as one would be lying.

I do on both counts.

Just not overnight sensation, and not in made-into-a-blockbuster, Twilight, or Harry Potter fashion . . .

and more in another Johanna Lindsey, Lisa Kleypas, or Nora Roberts kind of way.

The above-mentioned Divas have a right to decide on whatever way they intend to sell their work since they've earned it.

Just know that if the day ever does come when my name ends up among such prestigious ranks, that my memory of having been stripped of any and all rights to reading my used-to-be-a-favorite author's work is likely to prevent me from ever becoming a Diva with an attitude.

23 January, 2015

Planning A Novel is Too Much Like Work

Scrivner Cork Board

Last night I found an article about outlining via Writers Write titled Five Really Good Reasons To Outline Your Novel - before you write a word .

When it comes to actual work and the lack of enjoyment it entails, I tend to shy away from things that appear to be -- and usually end up being -- far more complex than they need to be.

The Scriver image above is a case in point.

An outline effort prior to writing a story means a quick jot-down of everything currently roaming around inside my head so that I don't forget what might be key later on.

When I was young enough not to care, I taped magazine pics of pretty people and things to my bedroom wall.

Today, there is Pinterest  ;-) 

This year, I'd like to try something new, and here are the five reasons why . . .
  • There is very little chance (for) writer's block.
The culprit appears to be plot and not knowing what it is or where to go with it. Like me, right now, trying to decide how to end this ch.3 issue so that it makes sense and is engaging for the reader.
  • You reduce the number of rewrites and edits.
Wouldn't this be grand!

Instead of writing until you type THE END, make an outline plan instead. With a majority of the work done right at the start, the need for two year's worth of edit/rewrite is resolved.
  • You spot problem areas before you begin.
There's nothing more sad than having just spent lots of time on a WIP only to have it die half-way through because you realize it just isn't going anywhere.

Do you delete or throw them away? Not me. I have a folder for them, and more than a dozen lined notepads filled with ink that contain half-written stories.

Maybe some day . . . 
  • It improves creativity.
At least with a thorough and well-planned outline, we know what comes next even if it doesn't exactly fit into our story anymore.
  • You can develop compelling characters with clear story goals.
I never do this. 

I know what they look like, their initial conflict, and as I'm writing, I wonder about ways for them to either fall deeper into trouble or slowly make their way out of a potentially hazardous situation.

The things I struggle with tend to be the ones I pay the least amount of attention to until zero-hour arrives, and then I cry.

The idea of using a cork board intrigues me, just not one so tiny as Scrivners. And, having to open more than one tab is cause for stress, too. 

Having a large board filled with lots of sticky notes and 3 X 5 index cards right in front of me is the way to go, so it's off to the stationary store now to get this new attempt underway.

22 January, 2015

Life Imitates Art

So, in line with the above quote and the anti-mimesis title, I will begin by explaining that I have always had an immature time trying to deal with reality/life/problems, etc.

What I hope isn't the case is that the same holds true for the characters portrayed in my novels.

The issues I inflict on my characters, their personality traits, the struggles they'll face, and even the roads they'll take to solve the issues . . . I know them.

I understand the emotion involved. And, if I haven't been there personally, you can bet I know at least one person who has and that they unburdened their soul to me at some point.

Even knowing, understanding, and having experienced life, I still struggle in reality and in my writing to come to terms, deal with, handle in a mature fashion, and rise above them -- as do my characters.

I'd like to believe it all makes sense when I write even if none of it does in reality, but more often than not I've had to go back and re-read certain scenes just to make sure that is the case.

Because I don't think I know all the answers to all of life's problems, or that I'm properly or even successfully dealing with my own.

Well, let's just say it's much easier to WRITE a resolution to a conflict than it is to discover one in reality and then implement it.

Case in point: tonight I am preparing to attend the funeral of my ex father-in-law.

The X and I were married for 13 years when he walked away.

It was a bitter, one-sided divorce with him having found another woman to spend the rest of his life with and do all the things he never bothered or wanted to do while with me and the kids.

But, that isn't the point of this blog.

The point is to help me (and maybe even you) understand the emotions involved with reality versus what we read (or write) into a romance novel.

I have a terrific opportunity to learn from tonight's lesson because it is something I am in complete denial of right now.

Since he left me, I've never once laid eyes on this woman, and I never hope to, either.

I called my son and asked him to PLEASE tell his father to take that woman to the coffee shop in the basement of the funeral home between 7p and 7:30p so that I can attend the viewing in peace.

See. Lots of dumb stuff here. It'll be a learning experience meant to help me better understand myself as well as the characters I bring to life in my stories.

Going in, I'm obviously nervous about possibly bumping into HER. I truly believe I'll have a heart attack, no lie. She'll be drop-dead gorgeous, a thousand times more mature and pleasant. I also worry that he'll rub my nose in it, or say and do stupid things to make me look as bad as I already feel.

Not that any of this is likely to occur, it is just how I feel.

These are the types of emotions I try hard to instill in my characters to make them appear real to the reader. It's the after stuff I sometimes struggle with, both for them and for me.

So, here goes . . . I'm on my way to the funeral home.

And, I'm back.

This is how it all went down.

I started jabbering to my mother in the car; the way I tend to do when anxious about anything. It wasn't so much what she said or even how she said it and more about me and the way I was behaving that made me just say STOP (to myself).

I don't love this man anymore, and I really don't give a damn who he's with or why he's with her. I'd rather be alone than with him and forced to live in that nightmare, hellish existence again. He made me hate him, and now it just doesn't matter anymore.

So, I entered the funeral parlor and signed the guest book. I accepted a hug from him, but I wasn't able to make full eye contact. I said something about being sorry for his loss, but I knew it wasn't true and am fully aware that he felt it, too.

Shame-based confrontation that makes me feel stupid and resentful for having let him manipulate me to the point of being unable to trust or confide in him, much less show my true self in his presence.

Then I went over and said hello to his mother. Even while we were married and I was a part of that family, she always gave me this distant notion of not liking me entirely. I still felt that way tonight and became tongue-tied.

I was anxious to be away from her but just as anxious to say anything that might help to console her without it being about me OR her. I think I failed.

And then a third issue: having to view the body.

I never liked my father-in-law.

His father, to me, was the epitome of everything that was wrong with his son. Heck, they even look alike.

I remembered the way that man used to talk down to me, outright accuse me of being a bad wife and mother to my children, etc.

The last words spoken between us were ugly and brutal. He had called to demand (yes, demand, and in as self-righteous and condescending a tone as you can imagine) an honest answer for what I had done to make his son walk away from his vows (the guy was a religious fanatic, born-again bible thumper to the enth degree).

I kept warning him not to provoke me, and that if he was so interested in our personal issue, then he needed to talk to his son and not me, but that only made the man more belligerent and mean until I finally shouted, "Because he committed adultery!" (deliberate use of a religious term meant to drive my point home) and then I hung up on him.

I never wanted to see that man's face again.

A few months ago, on a stormy night filled with plenty of flooding rains, flashing lightning, and cracking thunder, I had to drive over to their house and help the x mother-in-law pick his Alzheimer's struck ass up off the bedroom floor. It wasn't easy having to see him after so many years, and it sure wasn't easy seeing him again tonight.

But, I did it. 

I also didn't give a damn about the other woman.

I did, however, find myself glancing about the crowded room once in awhile, to see if anyone was looking at me funny, and I did meet a few unfamiliar gazes, but I never stared back long enough to make a connection.

There was a woman there with the largest ass I'd ever seen before. It was huge, people. I could only hope it was her.


So, I confronted my demons and a past I'd rather forget ever occurred.

It is important to keep it all in mind when writing so as to develop scenes that are as realistic as they are compelling and so that the reader can relate on some level.

. . . the way art imitates life.

21 January, 2015

Getting Noticed

David's got a point.

After spending the last hour clicking on blog links via McLinky that cater to novelists, I came across one post that managed to capture my interest. Well, three actually, out of about twenty-one total clicks.

Not to say that the other nineteen were uninspiring, because not only have I increased my awareness of the vast number of people in the world who aspire to write, I've also come across some like me who are romance writers and enjoy blogging about the process.

This particular post encourages us authors to offer up a copy of a published work, to be read by others and then reviewed.

The response was immediate but dismal, and there were more comments than takers, but a majority of them said it was a terrific idea and one they would really enjoy participating in, except that none of them had the time to read.

When it comes to writers and readers, unless you are a seasoned author with a solid fan-base, the chances of getting noticed (much less read) are slim.

It isn't right or fair to blame new marketing strategy or ePubs, either.

If you are old enough to remember the days of browsing the shelves of a real bookstore inside a real mall, or driving to your favorite Mom & Pop place somewhere in time, then you will recall the vast assortment of paperbacks, hardcovers, and a bit later, toys, gadgetry, and even crafts items being sold.

You might also recall the places never being cram-packed with bodies, either. Well, not unless it was Meet the Author night or something that would generate a big crowd.

Back in the day, there were only two areas of a bookstore that I ever spent any amount of time browsing in: romance and history.

In those two sections alone, it was a guarantee you'd find a vast selection of books by just as vast a number of authors.

Yet, when I'd eventually decide what I wanted, it was most often by just one author and with a grand total of one or perhaps two of her novels in my hand for purchase.

Ten years after that fact, I still find myself gravitating toward who and what I prefer, rarely ever stepping out of that comfort zone to venture forth into new and uncharted territory by way of a different genre of novel, much less author.

We can't expect our work to fly off the . . . wait. Let me reword that. We can't expect our work to zoom up the Amazon Best Sellers list if we're not well-known.

What I've begun to accept after learning from other indie authors is that social media awareness and visibility are key to reaching that goal -- and receiving helpful push posts from fellow authors works even better to gain notoriety.

Also, it is best to have more than just one publication available to potential readers who then become stalwart fans of your work.

As for finding enough readers with enough time on their busy hands to actually read our work? Well . . . that remains a writer's conundrum . . . for now, at least.

20 January, 2015

Romance Weekly Blog Hop - Quirky Superstitions

If you arrived here via Tracey Gee's blog, thank you kindly for hopping over to read my response to this week's blog hop question.

Collette Cameron, who is currently offering an anthology that is just in time for Valentine's Day, titled Gifts From the Heart

 wants to know - What quirky habits (superstitions, must haves, etc.) do we have while writing

If not being able to write anything at all without background music playing is considered to be quirky, then I'm guilty as charged.

Actually, that one probably falls under the must-have category.

Just as I am unable to fall asleep in a noisy environment or go potty in a public place, I am also unable to write without background music.

The vocal-less, melodic, and sometimes even hypnotic genres that include artists like Darshan Ambient, Lanterna, Ishq, and Lemongrass, to name a few.

Rarely have I ever caught myself delving into a WIP surrounded by dead air which isn't, actually dead  since I can still hear the television blaring outside my writing den (my aging, deaf mother is a big Law & Order fan).

It has happened, though, that I sometimes find myself immersed in a scene without the aid of a preferred background sound. Once I catch it, I'll stop what I'm doing and click the MediaPlayer tab to get the groove thing going.

As for quirks or superstitions, I think my biggest issue with trying to write is to avoid all social media platforms during pre-set writing hours.

It is probably like that for a lot of us, though. We want to write, we know we have to write, and we must write if we're faced with a deadline, yet Facebook is calling, Twitter is luring us away via our phones, etc.

So, from a superstitious standpoint with a modern twist, we can agree that like stepping on a crack that will break our mother's back – giving in to social media temptation will break our concentration faster than an unexpected phone call or the ringing of a doorbell.

Ixnay on the Facebook-tay!

So, perhaps a quirk would be the pre-set writing hours. 

When I hear that some of my fellow authors write first thing in the morning, I am both amazed and jealous. Such discipline is to be admired.

Not being a morning person, it takes hours to get me motivated to do just about anything. 

Now that I have an at-home freelance job, I get that out of the way first thing, but it is the equivalent of having to wake up, shower, dress, eat, get in the car, and drive to an office or wherever.

My internal alarm clock doesn't usually go off until about four o'clock in the afternoon. By then I'm through eating for the day, and I'm over all of the browsing, chatting, pinning, game-play, and in warmer weather walking, traveling, picture-taking, wanting to be outside, etc.

No more tempting distractions, in other words.

Around twilight is when things really start to pick up, and from about that time until 1 - 2 a.m., I'm bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and feverishly tapping away at the laptop keyboard.

Well, maybe not feverishly, or even every single night, but you get the idea.

Maybe that's just habit, though. I've been writing that way and during those hours since the 9th grade!

Thank you, Collette, for an enjoyable prompt this week. 

Now it's time to head on over and find out what Gemma Brocato has to say.

And, please be sure to click on the BOOKS tab while you're there.

Gemma's latest publication, Mission: Mistletoe, is available for purchase at Amazon, and at a great price, too.

19 January, 2015

V.Walker's Views & Reviews: Review, Excerpt, and GIVEAWAY of: The Calum (The C...

V.Walker's Views & Reviews: Review, Excerpt, and GIVEAWAY of: The Calum (The C...:

Hi everyone!  There is a lot  packed into today's post, so I hope you're ready! I’m reviewing THE CALUM, which is the phenomenal d...