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Why I Choose to Write Romance

“So, you also write romance? Well, I guess you have to eat.”

Condescending much?

I regret that when another author made that comment to me, I let it slide. We met online and decided to swap newsletters, since our work had some themes in common. We exchanged several pleasant emails, did the newsletter swap, and then he disappeared. I don’t know why we stopped communicating, but his initial comment still bothered me several months later.

Here We Go Again

There have been countless articles and posts written about the unfair bias against the romance genre, so I won’t rehash any of those here. But yes, it ticked me off when another author implied that romance as a genre was inferior to other genres, and the only merit it had was producing content in order to make money.

In other words, no “serious” author would stoop to writing romance. This was from an indie author, too—someone who knows how much work it takes to bring a book to market and how scary it is to put yourself out there without the backing of a publisher. He wrote the book that was in his heart, and it was well done, and well received. But you know what?

So did I.

It Goes Both Ways

My first book, Unexplained, (Book 1 of the Higher Elevation Series), was written with a central love story in mind. The heroine is a skeptical journalism student, and the hero is a psychic with the ability to project his mind outside of his body. They become tangled up in danger while trying to understand the meaning of their strange mental connection. The book ended up being a suspenseful Cold War spy story, with a twist. I never meant to straddle the mainstream and romance genres, but that’s how the story turned out. Readers who normally don’t read romance enjoyed it, and those who love romance enjoyed it, as well.

Because Unexplained attracted some non-romance readers, I was able to get some feedback from them, and I noticed something—there was often a “disclaimer” that they don’t normally read romance, but made an exception for this book. Why is that even necessary? The romance readers didn’t make any comments about having to read the non-romantic parts of the book. Will the stigma of romance being part of a story, or the entire story, ever go away? Gore and violence are often accepted, but not falling in love.

It doesn’t make much sense.

Romance Is Strong

However, the bias against romance won’t slow it down, because readers will continue to read voraciously, and authors will continue to write romance stories, myself included. My next novel, Not So Broken, is a steamy Contemporary romance, the first in a series. I chose to write this story because I love to hear how couples got together.

Isn’t that a universal question we often ask others—“How did you two meet?”

Don’t we all love to hear how a couple met, especially when there seems to be an element of fate? It’s fascinating to think that being in the right place at the right time led to a relationship. What if he had missed that train, or if she had decided to stay home instead of going out to that club? How can a chance meeting turn into something life changing?

I like to get inside the heads of my characters and figure out how to get two mismatched souls to come together despite the odds. The HEA, or happily ever after, is the destination and the story is all about the couple’s journey to get there.

Every group of people on the planet has those kind of stories—about two people falling in love. Love is love, and romance is universal, even for those who look down their noses at those of us who write about it.

That is why I choose to write romance. I’m damn proud of the title, “Romance Author”, and many of us are eating very well, thank you.

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The Amazing Power of Readers- A Peek Behind The Curtain

 

 

As a reader, why should you care what goes on behind the scenes in book publishing? As long as you can find affordable books to suit your interest, things like book piracy, book stuffing and fake reviews won’t affect you. Right?

Wrong.

It may not affect you personally, but those factors, and much more, have already had an effect on authors, especially indie authors.

Scandals Galore

2018 has been a year of upheaval for the publishing industry, and the romance genre in particular. Authors and others related to the industry have been deeply concerned about several issues and forces that, if not resolved, may mean many authors will simply quit writing, rather than continue the often uphill battle that is book publishing.

If unfair practices and scammers overrun the marketplace, it will become much more difficult for readers to find the books they want to read. If authors quit writing simply because they can no longer afford to fight the tide of scammers, pirates, and automated, indiscriminate policing from retailers, there will be less books for you to choose from.

Want to find out more about what Indie Authors face today? Click here

Why Now?

Not caring about any of this is a valid viewpoint. Authors do not expect readers to know how much work it takes to bring a book to market and keep it there. But in my experience, and from what I have been hearing on social media and on blogs, a majority of readers do care what happens to their favorite authors, and by extension, authors in general. Many, up until recently, have been unaware of some of the challenges authors have been facing. But the frustration over what appears to be ongoing unfair practices has caused things to come to a boiling point, and the voices of dissension have been getting louder.

Readers really should care, because what has been happening has already begun to affect their choices.

This blog post by Author Jami Gold spells out clearly a few of the issues, including Trademarking common words and book stuffing on Kindle Unlimited.

You Are Powerful

There are several other issues authors face daily which can have a severe impact on getting their books to market so you may read them. If even a few readers take the time to find out what is happening and learn how to (properly and respectfully) report the unfair practices that make their reading experience less than desirable, we may see positive change. We are a consumer-based society, and consumer habits and preferences are very powerful.

You deserve to read only the best quality of your chosen reading material. Most authors want to provide this for you. Those who are in it only for the money will always find ways around the system, or to fool unsuspecting consumers, and quite often they trade quality for quick, easy money.

On the other hand, ethical authors agonize probably way more than is even necessary to bring you a quality product, and that requires much time, effort and expense. Several authors I know are already pulling their titles from Kindle Unlimited. It comes down to a business decision, and many cannot afford to continually fight.

Transparency and Gratitude

The purpose of this post is simply to let readers know they have a stake in what happens in this industry. In the days of traditional-only publishing, readers were far removed from the behind the scenes machinations of book publishing. Most didn’t have regular contact with their favorite authors. But it’s a different world now, and you can help. The curtain is wide open, as it should be. Talk to others, both readers and authors. Research the hashtags #Cockygate and #Bookstuffing. Support ethical Indie Authors who play by the rules and want to bring you the best stories possible. We do this writing gig for many reasons, but the main reason is you—the reader.

And for that, we thank you.

 

 

 

The Amazing Resilience of Indie Authors

On the wall in my office

Just when you thought it was safe to finally self-publish your novel, a new challenge rears its’ ugly head to join the long list of problems facing authors today.

Writing a book and having it published is quite an accomplishment, no matter how you get there. Accomplishing that and having a successful career as an Indie (Independent) Author, is a whole other ball game.

Don’t Get Cocky

The latest challenge which played out on the internet recently was over Trademarking. Just search the word, “Cockygate” and you’ll find dozens of posts and articles describing what happened. The issue may take some time to fully resolve, but the bottom line is this case has the potential to forever change the way we use words, and how we as authors (and maybe even the rest of the world) can advertise.

Hopefully, it won’t be the worst-case scenario that many fear. But, it simply adds another brick to the growing wall of obstacles one faces when publishing on the internet.

What else, you may ask? Here’s just a few of the everyday challenges I see when talking with other Indie Authors on social media:

Pirates– illegal copies of books on websites, either for free or for sale (someone else making money off your hard work)

Troll reviewers– leaving bad reviews on books they never read, or due to shipping problems, or revealing spoilers

Retailers (especially the really big one) stripping pages read, stripping reviews, shutting down accounts with no explanation, accusing authors of breach of contract due to pirates having stolen their work, or scammers using their books without their knowledge, page reads suddenly dropping off, sales suddenly dropping off, not changing or correcting issues in a timely manner—all with no notice, little recourse and scant communication options

Losing money on pre-scheduled ads and promotions because of the above

Possibly unscrupulous readers obtaining books through giveaways and then selling them online, or returning them for money (when gifted online- of course they have the right; but did they get it for free to read, or just to get something for it? We never know).

Purchasers reading an entire series, and then returning all books for a refund (try that in any other industry. Not talking here about accidental purchases, but systematic read and returns).

 

I may have missed a few, feel free to add your own. This doesn’t even cover the subject of how e-books have been devalued due to so many free books on the market, but it bears consideration when looking at all the things which affect a career. Indies put so much time, effort, and money into their books, and get relatively little for each book in sales. So, any and all of the above challenges chip away at what could be profits.

However…

Despite all of the above, I have found the Indie Author community to be some of the most helpful, patient, kind, supportive, and resilient bunch of people I have ever come across. They love writing so much, they keep going despite all the problems. They share information on social media, in blog posts, and in craft books, to help other authors fight the good fight to get our work into the hands of readers.

Yes, there are a few bad apples, or those who inadvertently piss others off, even though they mean well. But the vast majority of authors know this:

WE ARE NOT EACH OTHER’S COMPETITION!

We are stronger banding together. The beauty of writing books is, readers keep reading.  Just because a reader has read every vampire romance novel out there, doesn’t mean she is done. If you write a good one, she’ll probably read that, too. So, having books that look similar, sound similar, have similar stories (tropes) are a good thing. It helps the readers find what they are looking for. Just because someone buys another author’s book, does not mean they won’t buy one of yours.

In fact, it usually has the opposite effect of spurring more sales, overall. Readers find new authors, authors find new readers.

Most Indie authors know this and strive to give the readers what they want. Yes, we all do “copy” each other—to a point. Except for plagiarism, of course. Don’t ever do that.

I was proud to be part of the Indie Author community this week, as I witnessed how creative the support for each other was. From sharing links to buying books, to joint promotions—Indies banded together like never before. There was even a hash tag, #ThisIsHowYouIndie.  It was solidarity at its finest. A few of us had been affected by the Trademark issue, so all of us were.

So, go find your Tribe, and love them hard. How else are we going to face all the challenges of Indie Publishing, and celebrate our wins?  We are all in these trenches together, so we may as well help each other.

What To Do If Your Characters Won’t Talk To You

Or do they talk too much?

 

Is there a “right” way to communicate with your characters?

I pondered this question late one night when I couldn’t sleep (the places a mind can go at three in the morning!). The topic was on my mind due to a Facebook discussion, where an author was concerned she had a problem because her characters wouldn’t “talk” to her. She had heard other authors say they had regular and vivid conversations with their characters, and she felt left out because she didn’t.

Many in the responses assured her she wasn’t doing anything wrong. Several authors, myself included, said their characters don’t communicate with them like disembodied entities. The consensus at the end of the thread was, like most aspects of writing, there’s no one right way. How your characters communicate with you is part of your writing process, and what works for one person may not work for another.

Whose Head Is This?

Personally, my characters don’t talk to me, they talk through me. I do a rough character sketch before I begin writing a story, but the characters, whether main or secondary, reveal themselves to me as I write. They don’t get inside my head, but I get inside theirs. When I am writing in a character’s POV, I am that character. I inhabit their mind, see what they see, feel what they feel. I think that is why I am able to write in deep point of view, and also why I can’t stand “head hopping” (alternating POV in the same scene). It may also be why I write slower than some writers, because it takes time to get into, and out of, character. The only downside is, when I write from the POV of an antagonist who is psychologically messed up, or a villain type, it sometimes creeps me out and takes a while to recover!

My reviews have cited “a wealth of character development” and now I know why. I didn’t even realize that I was, so to speak, “inhabiting” my characters until I thought about how other authors communicate with theirs.

Characters Are Crucial

Characters and their motivations, quirks, and personalities are extremely important in fiction. No matter what genre you write, character development is what makes the reader care about what is happening plot-wise. Some genres have more emphasis on character development and interaction than others, but knowing your characters is crucial for all fiction.
So, what can you do if they aren’t jabbering?

Here’s a few tips I have heard about getting to know your characters:

Write a character sketch– it can be a few paragraphs, a list, or a dossier. Some writers swear by this, and it helps them to know what food the character likes, what astrological sign they are, what happened to them when they were six, etc. Much of the information may not be used in the story, but serves as background, which helps to develop the character’s motivations and quirks.

Interview your characters– pretend you’re a journalist or a psychologist, and grill them with questions. Many writers find this helps when they are stuck, to ask the character what he/she wants to happen.

Try deep POV– even if you are not writing your story that way. Really get inside your character’s mind, and figure out why they behave the way they do. Writing a scene or two, which you may or may not use, can trigger you to discover aspects about that character you were missing.

Map it out– use a structural template, such as Debra Dixon’s Goal, Motivation, and Conflict, or something similar, to map out your character’s development and arc. Sometimes breaking it down like that can trigger all sorts of ideas and provide insight into the character’s psychological makeup.

Brainstorm- talk it out with another author or a trusted beta reader. If you feel disconnected or blocked from a character, talking it through with someone else can also trigger understanding. Sometimes just voicing your concerns out loud can make the character more “real” and you can gain insight into what they want or should do in your story.

The bottom line is, there is no one right way to communicate with your characters. Whether they are noisy or quiet, how they get the story through you and onto the page is highly personal and individual. While it is a good idea to try new methods, don’t compare yourself to other writers. If your way makes you comfortable and works for you, bravo!

Do your characters talk to you? What’s your process for finding out what they are all about?

Goodbye, 2017—It Was A Strange Year

Dawn of an Era?

As 2017 winds down, I can’t help but think about how strange it was. For me, personally and professionally, it was a year when everything got turned upside down or thrown out completely. And somehow, it all turned out to be for the better.

No Status Quo

I used to study Astrology when I was younger—mostly for fun and to satisfy my curiosity. I wonder if there was some type of weird planetary alignment this year, because it sure felt like outside forces were at work. For example, every holiday this year, my husband and I just couldn’t bear the idea of doing the same thing we’ve done for the past eight years. We went to a different restaurant for our anniversary. We didn’t host Thanksgiving. We went on a trip for my birthday instead of going out with friends and family. What felt like a comfy tradition last year now held no interest for us, and we couldn’t even explain why we felt that way.

I sold some properties I’d been wanting to dispose of for years. They went quickly, too. I had the overwhelming urge to clean out closets, cabinets, and even my garage. I made so many trips to the donation center, they know me by name. I even bought a new sofa to replace the twenty-year old leather set I had.

Serendipity Rules

As far as writing goes, I had released my three-book series, the Higher Elevation Series, in 2016, so at the beginning of the year my schedule was wide open. I had started writing the fourth book in the series, but switched to writing a contemporary romance with the idea of beginning a new series. Then I got the inspiration for my holiday novella, Running In Snow, and dropped everything to work on that so it would be out in time for the holiday season.

It worked out, and Running In Snow is doing well, but it is a case in point that even with writing, I did something spontaneous and completely out of my norm. For the past three years I had methodically worked on each book in my series, preparing to release them back to back. But this year, “methodical” went out the window!

Was 2017 an oddball year for you, too? Any Astrologers out there with some insight?
It makes me wonder just what 2018 will bring. I hope it brings you all your heart desires!

 

Irony At Its Finest—How I Finally Went Viral

I live north of Atlanta, Georgia, and in case you don’t know, we don’t handle snow events very well. If there is even a hint that it might snow, schools close, and everything shuts down after the stores have been cleaned out of milk and bread. (I can’t explain that one, maybe snow gives southerners a craving for French toast?)

I even got caught a few years ago when the freeway shut down due to snow and ice. It was not fun- what was supposed to be a 45-minute drive home turned into an overnight stay in hotel lobby, because six hours later I wasn’t even three quarters of the way home! I wrote a blog post about the experience, which seems funny now. It sure as hell wasn’t at the time.

Surprise-THE FORECASTER FAILED!

Anyway, the “dusting of snow” we were supposed to get turned into a blizzard, dumping up to 8 inches of snow in some places! What is even stranger, is if we get snow at all, it’s in January or February, not December. This unexpected dumping of white stuff meant I had to cancel my book signing with fellow author Linda Joyce at our favorite wine tasting/gift shop, The Gifted Ferret in Woodstock, Georgia. I was disappointed, because we both had holiday books we were signing, so it wasn’t easy to reschedule. But safety first, so we cancelled the event.

The irony of it was, my holiday novella, Running In Snow, is about people getting stuck in the snow. One of the short stories takes place in a “rare Atlanta snowstorm”. I couldn’t have planned that if had I tried! So I went on Twitter to joke about it. I tweeted that my book signing for my “book about snow has been cancelled because of…snow.” I used the hash tags #irony and #whatarethechances along with a few others, and the tweet sort of went viral. Over 3,600 views and eleven retweets within a few hours.

It also caught the attention of someone who posted it to the webpage of Atlanta’s only major newspaper, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She wrote a nice article, giving me, Linda and the Gifted Ferret some publicity.

Silvery Lining

So the moral of the story is disappointment can sometimes lead to something better. I had some sales and people contacting me about the book, so it turned out to be in my favor.

Speaking of Linda Joyce– she’s an award-winning, Amazon Bestselling author. She writes Contemporary Romance and Women’s fiction, often with southern settings. Her Fleur-de-Lis series has received acclaim, and her holiday book, Christmas Bells, is available on Amazon now for just 1.99. The cover photo is below.

This ironic event goes along with how the year 2017 has gone for me. It’s been a strange one, and I’ll cover that in my next post.

Until then, Happy Holidays to all!