Why Do I Jump Genres?

Guest Post by Barbara Edwards

medium_6338763999I’m Barbara Edwards and I wish I knew more than the excuse that it has to do with the way my mind works. I do love variety in my reading and have a penchant for history. That’s why my first two full-length novels were historical romances. Another Love is set in New England and Annie’s Heart in 1972 Kansas. Although I’m familiar with both locations I needed to do a ton of research. I wanted all the details right. Funny how my interest in history had me spending more time reading than writing before I was done.

I did reveal a tendency to write dark plots. The next turn was into paranormal. I don’t think my stories are scary, but my editor does. Readers do. So I guess they are. I’m in the process of writing a Series set in a small mythical, New England town. My editor and I had a hot discussion about my first title and she won with Ancient Awakening. I still don’t ‘like’ it, but stuck with Ancient Blood and next year’s Ancient Curse. I think after that I’ll pick another lead.  If you have any suggestions let me know. Then I can argue with you.

I tried writing a humorous contemporary romance that got rejected.

And in there I wrote a contemporary romantic suspense called Rachel’s Rescue. I recently pulled it to do major rewrites. It has technical references that are dated. Wow things have changes in ten years.

Last year another well-known writer suggested writing shorter books to fill in the gap between the longer novels and keep readers aware of your name. I tried it. Let me tell you, for an author who writes 90 to 100 thousand works to drop to less than 50 thousand is hard work. And it took me longer to learn the new skill. The only reason I hung on through three rejections was because I’m stubborn as heck. Maybe I’ll go back to that funny one after all. Why not? It’s written. It does need rewrites, but I only have time. And talent. Snicker.

My short holiday romance is available now on kindle and free on from October 8th to October 12th. Journey of the Magi is available here:  http://amzn.com/B00ES5DZEQ  I hope you take a free download.

I did start another short holiday romance, hoping to have it come out next year, but I may get side-tracked by another genre. A paranormal romance is already in the works with another werewolf. I’m not promising anything.

About the Author

  • Caribbean 12-23-2012 026I’m Barbara Edwards and a native New Englander. I’m a graduate of the University of Hartford with a Master’s degree in Public Administration. I write poetry for myself and novels when I need to tell a longer tale. I’m fascinated by the past so naturally turned to writing historical romance. The dark paranormal stories evolve from nightmares. The romance comes from my belief in people’s basic goodness and longing for love.
  • I lived in Florida for several years and am past president of the Central Florida Romance Writers and a member of Romance Writers of America.
  • When I returned to Connecticut, I founded the Charter Oak Romance Writers, a Chapter of Romance Writers of America, along with several close friends.
  • My husband is a retired Police Sergeant. We share an interest Civil War re-enacting and travel the Eastern states to participate in events. I love visiting museums, galleries and battle sites, gathering information for my stories.
  • I taught Romance Writing at Manchester Community college for three years.
  • I’m fond of gardening and growing antique roses with limited success.

Please follow, friend or like me. I love to hear from my readers.

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Read What You Love, Love What You Read (And Write)

Guest Post by Gloria Marlow

medium_8468101322I have a confession. My reading material is far from lofty. It always has been, and I would hazard a guess it always will be. I haven’t read most of the books considered “classics” and most certainly can’t discuss the ones I did read when I was in high school decades ago.

You see, in high school, I was quite busy devouring books by my favorite authors. Victoria Holt, Phyllis Whitney, and Mary Stewart to name a few. I didn’t really have the time or interest to read Orwell, Salinger and Bradbury.

For many years after becoming an adult, I was rather ashamed of this fact. I wondered if I could really be a writer if I hadn’t at least attempted to read Hemmingway or Melville. After all, how could I possibly know anything about writing if I had never finished a book by those considered “masters of the craft”?

Lately, however, I’ve been thinking about the classics I did read. The Scarlet Letter, The House of the Seven Gables, Ethan Frome, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Rebecca (and du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn), The Great Gatsby, the plays of Shakespeare and some Dickens.

What I’ve come to realize is that all the required books I read had one thing in common with the books I chose to read on my own. Romance. Whether reading it or writing it, I love romance.

Judging from my reading list, I particularly love gothic romance. I love it when the dark brooding hero, innocent heroine, house filled with secrets and peril, and some hint of the paranormal come together to transport me to another place and time.

That leads me to another confession. My reasons for reading and writing aren’t any loftier than the books I choose.

I read to be transported, to become someone different, somewhere else, at some other time for just a little while. I write hoping to do the same for some other reader out there. A teenager, a housewife, a harried secretary reading on her lunch break, people just like me, who might not know much about the “masters” but know about their favorite authors.

One of the first pieces of advice we writers get is “write what you know”. I would add “read what you love”.  Know the kinds of books you read. Write the kinds of books you love.  If you write what you read, you’ll love what you write.

About The Author:

Gloria Davidson Marlow is the author of several romantic suspense novels, including Sweet Sacrifices and soon-to-be-released When Swallows Fall. She resides in Northeast Florida with her husband, works as a paralegal at a local law firm, and spends as much time as possible with her three grandsons. Visit her blog or her website to learn more. You can also follow her on Twitter.
photo credit:

Oh, the Hats You Will Wear!

Living As a Reader, Writer, and Editor

Guest Post by Sandi Layne

reading writing and editing by sandi layne

© Nireus | Dreamstime.com

When I was in Middle School—we called it Junior High, back in my day—a friend of mine told me something that has stayed with me ever since. She said she didn’t want to be a penpal with me when she moved because she thought I’d red-pen her letters.

I kid you not.

For the record, I never red-pen correspondence. Editing has just been something I’ve done without thinking about it since I was quite young. For this, we can blame thank my mother. Not only did she send me to the dictionary when I didn’t understand one of her polysyllabic utterings, but she also corrected my grammar from my earliest spoken sentences.  When I began writing for school, she combed over my paragraphs and essays and short stories (written for extra credit or contests) until my work met her high standards.

I think the first paper I remember her really getting serious about was when I was in third grade and writing an essay about Jesus. (Not for a Christian school; he was just my chosen Famous Person.) From that time until I was in grad school (working on an advanced degree in Theology, yep) my work was often shared with my mother. And often, I did not come up to snuff in her estimation. Thankfully, my teachers loved my words.

Today, people even pay to read them. It’s kind of amazing.

The Green Hat:  Reader

I have been a voracious reader most of my life—just check my bio. When I started this peculiar journey, I began by writing what I read, in a lot of ways. The thing was, I found I didn’t want to read those books anymore, because I wanted to make sure my ideas were mine from that point onward. This severely curtailed my leisure reading and I had to expand my fictional horizons.

Still, I found myself reading hyper-critically once I began writing. On the flip-side, I was also paranoid lest I inadvertently borrow a phrase or idea from another author as I wrote my own romances. Most writers I know have said to themselves (or someone else!) “Oh, I would have said that like this…”

Come on, ‘fess up. You know you have!

But I also marvel when I see how a favorite author has managed to wrap me up in their world. I am just now re-reading Under the Dome, by Stephen King, and even if his style is familiar, it works for me. I lose myself in the tension while simultaneously keeping part of my brain back and taking notes.

“See how he did that?”

Maybe, someone will read my words and think something very similar.

The Blue Hat: Writer

Being critical of someone else’s words makes me feel guilty, as a writer. It really does. Because I know my own words aren’t always the best, either, but they are what I have in my head and so I use them, you know?  I use them fully aware that my readers are like unto me and that they will be saying, “Oh, I could have said this so much better!

Still, I have been known to gloat preen over a choice phrase or two… And I find that, when I do? The phrases are not the ones that stick with my editors or readers. This both depresses and encourages me. I remind myself that some of my favorite phrases might not have been the author’s chosen jewels, either.

As a writer, I find I am more deliberate as I craft some scenes. The scenes that require me to physically get up and work them out on my living room floor, or the moments that I have to push, word by stubborn word, from a crevice in my brain to the emptiness of the screen in front of me. I try to write in a way that will make my ideal reader lose themselves in what I give them.

And while I’m writing? I’m also reading. The green hat is always on my head. It has, after all, been there longest!

The Red Hat: Editor

In many ways, this is the easiest hat for me to wear. Perhaps because I am critical by nature. Perhaps because I’ve been doing it consciously for almost forty years. Perhaps it’s just because it is vastly easier to improve someone else’s writing than to improve my own. Or all of the above!

As I write a first draft, I remind myself it is a first draft. First, meaning there will be more. I am lenient with myself as I write, but I never forget the tips and notes my editors have given me on prior works, either. Be it something as mundane as a notation from the Chicago Manual of Style or something as complicated as separating internal monologue—a valid storytelling tool—from the “telling, not showing” that writers strive to avoid, I have so many things to sort through as I let a scene spill from my imagination to the keyboard and then to the screen in front of me. My internal editor pricks my writing-conscience with reminders that can sometimes get in the way of some serious “writing mojo.”

But! I’m a professional, I remind myself. I focus, create, and then I look over what I’ve typed and tweak it with the recent editorial reminders still sharp in my head.

And then…? I move forward.  There’s a The End I’m trying to reach.

Balance or Personality Multitasking?

Picture me sitting here at my iMac at a tiny computer desk in a small room. Behind me, the Spousal Unit has a movie on the flatscreen. In other rooms, the Offspring Units are occupying themselves in that Summer Vacation, Responsibility-Free zone that occurs when duties have been completed, dinner has been eaten, and all there is left to do is relax.

(And they say they want to grow up. Ha!)

I have a novel in progress behind the window in which I am typing this post. The novel involves a real historical character and a cast of fictional folk whom I have grown to care about. I have wanted to write this book for a long time, truly.

On my Kindle, there is a list of books I am going to read as soon as The End has been achieved for this novel in progress. Due to my “No Reading Policy,” I haven’t wanted to read anything that might be remotely connected to what I’m writing. But when the first draft is done? I’m all over the novels that are waiting—I can even see the covers behind my eyes. Tempting…tempting.

I find myself writing a bit more slowly for this story. My head is full of conflicts. Not only are there the conflicts inherent in the plot, but also the way I am approaching this. My lead editor knows the series I’m writing has a certain style and I can’t really deviate from that, but I am thinking always of her comments as I write this final book in the series. How can I improve so that my manuscript will have fewer critiques from her? (If you’re reading this, E, know that this is a good thing, in my estimation. It just slows me down some!) As an editor myself (yep, people pay me to red-pen their words, too) I know how much work she puts into these comments. I’d like her not to have to work so hard on my account.

All of this is in my head with every sentence I write. The anticipation of completion, the attention to detail, the wish to improve as I go—it’s a balancing act.

I do it all joyfully. The challenge is invigorating, the results boost me with such a feeling of accomplishment that makes any effort worth it. I hope the end result is worth it for others, too.

About the Author

Sandi Layne lives in Maryland with her husband and two sons, but no pets. She writes historical fiction and contemporary inspirational romance and can be found on her website: http://sandyquill.com, twitter: http://twitter.com/sandyquill, and Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/sandi_layne  Look for her latest title, An Unexpected Woman, to be released by The Writer’s Coffee Shop on July 11, 2013. The date is also her 21st Wedding Anniversary, which she will celebrate by doing the marketing with her husband.

The Importance of Professional Cover Design

Judging a Book by Its Cover

(J recently appeared on the Writers’ Collective blog with advice on cover design. Read the beginning of the blog below. If you’re interested in the rest, head on over to the Writers’ Collective blog by clicking the link at the bottom.)

professional book cover design

freedigitalphotos.net/Salvatore Vuono

It really does happen; people judge books by the cover. Maybe it’s not fair to assume a crappy package means a crappy present inside, or maybe the cover tells a potential reader exactly what they need to know: This author didn’t think enough of the story to find a great designer.

Before you skewer me, or worse, run off to look at my cover designs ready to judge, consider a few things. First, why exactly would you attempt designing your own cover? Second, how much would a professional cover designer cost? And last, just how important is a cover that reaches out to potential readers? Your answers should be: I wouldn’t, as much as it takes, and very, very important. Now, let’s consider how you can get a great cover for an affordable price.

Genre First

I write this blog under the assumption that any reader interested in this subject is considering self-publishing. After all, even small publishing houses have in-house cover designers. If you’re going it alone, your first step is to determine your genre. This is so bloody important, and yet so many cast it aside with a flick of the fingers. Write a romance novel? Why on earth would you design a minimal cover without a hint of love or sex? Penned a thriller? Whimsical fonts will confuse readers every time. Plan your cover around your genre, and you’re one huge step closer to hooking readers right away.

Check the Trends

When you’re certain you have your genre nailed down, cruise the bookstore to find other books in your genre. No bookstores close by? It’s a tragedy, but we do still have Amazon. In fact, Amazon will show you all those covers you don’t want to imitate. Take note of the images, fonts, and colors you like. Absorb the many different ways to show the very same thing. You’ll be shocked and amazed, but most of all, you’ll be inspired.

For the rest of the post, click here.

On Writing: Defining Your Conflict

Conflict 101: Survival

Guest post by Stacy Teitel

developing conflict in writing

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When I was in middle school, we had an assignment in our English class to read a book and give a ten-minute speech about it at the front of the classroom. *gulp*

I absolutely hated talking in front of groups of people, even small groups. I was not only socially awkward, but an extreme introvert with a side of nervousness—the kind of nervousness that makes me lightheaded. I used to think that if I stood very still, like using a reptilian defense mechanism, people’s attention would pass over me (and I could slowly back out of the room).

Sadly not. I went through with my speech because I was too afraid to ask the teacher to give me a break. So there I stood, timidly describing a teen werewolf horror and things that happened in it.

Abruptly the teacher told me my time was up.

I realized I hadn’t even gotten to the juicy parts of the book! I’d barely shaved away at the surface! As the nervous haze that caused millions of dots to appear around my vision started to clear, I asked myself “where did I go wrong?”

If you’re in a writing critique group, maybe you’ve experienced a similar situation.

You get asked, “What’s your story about?”

Well, there’s this guy and he comes home to find a group of robbers in his house and before he can call the cops, they make off with a valuable antique that has magical powers to… BAM. TIME IS UP.

Well, there’s this woman and she bumps into a handsome stranger who yells at her for being so clumsy, only to find out that he’s her boss at her new job she’s starting today… BAM. TIME IS UP.

But what is the story about? You could’ve sworn you said it somewhere. After all, you’ve been writing this book for months.

If we as writers can’t answer this question, then we can bet something is structurally wrong with our story. Even if we have an interesting protagonist, a plot with great potential, and months of research under our belts, all of those elements won’t hold together without the beating heart: conflict.

Conflict is a struggle between opposing forces. I won’t paste a dictionary definition and insult you. But that’s what it is in simple terms. When we try to apply this bare-boned definition to our stories, sometimes things get muddled. We get wrapped up in all the exciting things our characters are going to do, the obstacles they will face.

Whether you’re a pantser or plotter, just getting down the conflict in a line or two will keep you on track as you draft up your scenes.

Here’s a formula I use when I edit and analyze manuscripts. (If the author has nailed down her conflict, everything will plug in to this formula and it’s a beautiful thing.)

If [the protagonist] doesn’t [get something], [the antagonist] will [kill him].

This looks dramatic, but let me explain…

Death can be anything from basic survival, losing a job, to a broken heart. It’s whatever is at stake for the protagonist. He’s trying either to get something or to get away from something, and achieve a goal. I’m going to plug examples into this formula.

If [John] doesn’t [escape the island], [mega crocodile] will [eat him]. <– Physical death.

If [Sarah] doesn’t [earn good grades for the rest of the school year], [her parents] will [forbid her to date Kevin]. <– Emotional death.

If [Harry] doesn’t [destroy all the horcruxes], [Voldemort] will [commit genocide]. <– Genocide to magical and muggle races! 

Some of these examples are silly, but it doesn’t matter. Silly reasons are important if they’re important to your character.

But what about emotional conflict?

If [Marcy] doesn’t [confront her drug addiction], [Marcy] will [lose her husband]. <– Emotional death, with possible physical death if she doesn’t quit that crack. 

In this last example, Marcy is both the protagonist and antagonist. She is her own worst enemy and the conflict comes from within her.

So, next time someone asks us what our stories are about, we will have the conflict nailed down in our summary.

After Holly Brand saves her friend from a serial killer werewolf that’s been terrorizing her small town, Holly becomes the most popular girl in school and a local hero. But another killer is out there—the once-popular Gina, who’s going through a few howling transformations of her own. Holly tries to stop Gina’s pursuit for revenge (and bloodthirsty appetite) so she won’t become a werewolf’s next meal.

Perfect!

Now, if I could go back in time to my middle school English class…

About the Author

developmental editor apoideaeditorial.comStacy Teitel is a book editor at Apoidea Editorial, a developmental editing service to help fiction writers strengthen their manuscripts. When she’s not working with authors, you can find her copyediting and managing content for eMarketingVS. Some of her favorite things to do are watching political and crime shows, drinking good-quality coffee, and snuggling up with her Kindle. @ApoideaEdits www.apoideaeditorial.com

On Writing: Advice from an Agent That Changed My Life

You Cannot Write in a Vacuum

Guest Post by Renee Charles

advice from writing agents

Image credit: stock.xchg/gerard79

You know the drill; write, revise, repeat. We all do it, we sweat over each word till it’s perfect and then the next, and then the next, building sentences into characters and worlds that breath all their own. Tedious labor of love, and once its finished we are so proud …for about 5 minutes.

Then begins the arduous task of querying. And when the publishers and agents don’t respond, or worse respond with a form letter, our high sense of accomplishment wanes. Why is this? If I have studied Strunk and White, and read the greats, and subscribed to the newsletters and magazines that teach and mold, why am I not hearing back? What key component am I missing? I was determined to see it through. I figured if I throw enough spaghetti at the wall eventually something would stick.

Then it happened an agent answered the phone when I called to get the name to send my query. He actually answered his own phone. I stuttered then managed to give him enough info about my WIP that he actually asked me to send him my book. Woo hoo! I just knew I was in. When I got his no thank you letter I was devastated. So after the five stages of grief, I summoned the courage to call him again. And yes he answered his own phone again. He remembered both our previous conversation and my submission. Then he told me the thing that changed my writing life.

“You cannot write in a vacuum.” He told me to find other writers, to critique and be critiqued. To network and become part of the writing community.  At first I didn’t understand the value of his statement. By nature writers write alone. Community? But I knew I was at a standstill and desperate to break out of the stagnate pond that I had been swimming circles in. So, I did what he told me. With my first critique I understood. Think of it as the difference between studying medicine from a book and cutting into a cadaver with a scalpel.

Within six months I had a writing contract. I have writer, agent and publisher friends on Twitter, Yahoo groups, and Facebook, all from whom I learn at least one new thing each and every day that pushes me ever forward toward my dreams (supporting myself and my family with my craft). It all started with one timid request to join an online critique group. They were patient and kind. Although I am still a loner by nature, the connections I have made are invaluable. The great thing about technology is you can try a group and if you don’t click, find another. Have coffee tweeting with writers across the nation and learn from them. You will be a better story teller in the end.

“You cannot write in a vacuum.” I will never forget those words, or the man who took a moment to change my life and my craft.

What words changed how you write? Who has impacted your craft so deeply that things will never be the same?

About the Author

Author, Renee Charles believes all love is legendary. Being the only female in a house full of giants (husband and two teenage boys) she tends to lean toward the macabre, but inevitably the softer side shines through.

Whether life leads her to a snow covered mountain top, sun dappled forest, or the bottom of a ravine (yes, ditches happen) she always has a pen and note pad ready so wherever the next adventure takes her, she can take notes.

Her own romance began in an insane asylum. Luckily, both she and her husband only worked there. But it makes sense her romance novels have strange beginnings that lead to passionate endings. Romance with a twist.

In the face of zombies, werewolves, and big foot she always seems to find a happily ever after to leave you with a sigh at the end.

On Writing: Thinking Outside the Box

Do We Choose Genres, or Do They Choose Us?

Guest post by Angel Lawson

writing process choosing genres

© Photoeuphoria | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

I’ve never been one to settle inside a particular box. This holds true in most areas of my life but definitely in the creative ones. The more pressure I feel to fit inside a particular mold the more likely I am to kick and push and flex to get outside.

I’ve spent years as a visual artist and teacher. There’s nothing I enjoy more than finding materials and figuring out how to make them into something new. Bottle caps, scrap paper, paint, wood and anything else reusable can be reconfigured into a million different original pieces.  I think this is what held such appeal with writing, taking words and ideas and situations and then forming them into an entirely original creation.

My favorite part about being a writer is the endless possibilities and directions I can venture into. This is especially true as a self-published author. Once upon a time I queried agents and publishers. Going the traditional route seemed the best way to go, right? What did I know about publishing? Nothing. But the more and more I learned about self-publishing the more it appealed to me. One reason was the fact I don’t “fit” in any one box very well, I never have. Playing in a variety of sandboxes makes me happy. Because of this I started playing “What if?”

What if I get an agent and they only want YA paranormal?

What if they want a series and I get writers block? (I don’t do well when people tell me what to do).

What if I decide I don’t want to write anymore and I want to do something different creatively?

I slowly started to realize that the traditional route wasn’t really the best direction for me.

The first book I published fell in the Paranormal YA genre. Before that was published I’d finished another book, a Contemporary, Coming-of-Age YA. Next up was a New Adult novella. Followed by an Adult Urban Fantasy. Because I’m bound to no one but myself (and my readers) I write what I want to write and how I want to write it. Sometimes I like to write things that test the waters. Other times I write what comes from my heart and brain at the moment. It’s all done at my own pace in my own way. Some books come very quickly while others require a lot of plotting and planning.  Like most things in life, I think the books we love and work on the most probably receive the least attention. The others that we write in a manic flurry in the middle of the night receive the most.

What’s it like to write so many genres? Pretty fun, actually. I do think it confuses readers some. They don’t know exactly what they are getting from book to book.  I have to hope that if they enjoy one book they’ll pick up the next one and give it a shot. I never get bored and I never think, “Oh I don’t write X genre so I can’t go there,” or “you can’t use footnotes or illustrations.”

Why not? The best way to me to be successful and happy is to ride the wave of my creativity, which over the years I’ve learned, holds no bounds.

About the Author

Angel Lawson lives in Atlanta with 2 mini-superheroes, one big-superhero wannabe and a growing herd of pets. She spend her days creating art out of words, glue and glitter while chasing away zombies, serial killers and ghosts at night. She is the author of FanGirl, The Wraith Series and an adult romance, Serial Summer. The third book in the Wraith series will be released in December 2013.

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