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Is Silver The New Grey? Older Heroes & Heroines in Fiction

There’s a growing trend in fiction, and it’s not grey, but almost. Silver is in, with older fictional heroes and heroines (not in their twenties) in romance novels, and even in some other genres, too. Which makes sense when statistics show a significant portion of readers who read books regularly are women, and over the age of fifty-five, as shown in this recent Book Bub study. Many readers enjoy stories with characters who are more like them, who have more life experience and are facing problems and challenges they can relate to.

Several social media pages or groups have emerged to provide a place for those interested in reading or writing romances featuring mature or “seasoned” main characters. For example, the “Seasoned Romance” group page on Facebook declares that it is a “place for readers and writers of love stories with heroes and heroines in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond. Sex and love can get better with age. So let’s read, write, and talk about it!” They have already passed five hundred members as of this writing, proving there is interest in stories with older characters.

I am working on a new series featuring “seasoned” characters, so I did some research to find out what readers are responding to. Here’s what I found:

New York Times Bestselling Author Roxanne St. Claire features “silver fox” heroes in her popular Barefoot Bay Timeless Series. This series promises “plenty of laughs, a few tears, and a chance to fall for a man who’s lived and loved and knows exactly how to treat a woman. I promise you’ll break out a tissue or two with these emotional stories about three handsome, accomplished, and sexy men in their forties who kick off their shoes and fall in love again.” I agree there’s a certain appeal to a man who knows what he’s doing in the bedroom, and older guys usually do. Judging by the models on the covers of Roxanne’s books, they still look hot, too!

The blog Smart Bitches, Trashy Books has a post discussing the appeal of older heroes and heroines. Here’s the link: http://smartbitchestrashybooks.com/2017/04/rec-league-silver-foxes/   Scroll down to check the comments for recommendations from actual readers─there’s a ton of info here.

Even more proof that Seasoned Romance is now a thing─there will be a Vintage Love panel at this year’s RWA convention in Orlando in July, and also at next week’s (May 1-7) Romantic Times Convention in Atlanta. I will be attending RT, and attending the Vintage Love panel to take some notes. If anyone is going to the one at RWA, I’d love to share info with you! And if you are attending RT, let’s meetup.

Author Natasha Moore has a Silver Fox Series, with the tagline, “Love Can Happen At Any Age”. She also has a book in a multi-author collection of mature romances, entitled, Hot Silver Nights.”

Sometimes only one of the main characters is older, leading to complications due to age differences. It also plays into the fantasy of attracting younger partner. This list on Maryse’s Book Blog, from a few years ago, has several older woman/younger man books recommended by readers. The theme of an older man/younger woman has fans, too─as this list I found on Amazon shows: https://www.amazon.com/gp/richpub/listmania/fullview/RQFUP0JV5QOEA

Heck, even Nora Roberts is on this list of Mature Romances on the Booklist Reader Blog, and of course Goodreads has a list of novels with Older Hero and Heroines (over 40).

Perhaps part of the appeal of older characters is they have more to offer─more experience, more connections, and thus they often have more at stake. They may have children or a business, something significant to lose, more so than perhaps a younger, twenty-something character. They also may have more emotional baggage, since they’ve been around; second chance romances or widows/widowers are a common trope with older characters.

I know diversity of characters is a hot topic these days, and rightfully so─fiction should reflect a wider view of the world than it sometimes does. And that includes characters of all races and origins, in the prime of their lives, who still have dreams, ambitions, and yes, hot sex!

This is one trend I can get behind, because for many of us it’s true that love, sex and romance do not belong only to the young. I’ve had some of the best sex and most romantic moments of my life after I turned forty, and I’m not done yet!

How about you? If you have any recommendations of books featuring older characters that you loved, let me know!

 

 

 

Five Tips For Handling The Book Promotion Phase

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You finally published your book, and holding it in your hands for the first time is such a thrill. Mission accomplished! Right?

Yes. You should enjoy it, savor it, and bask in the attention. Because the next phase of authorship, called The Promotion Train, is about to leave the station on the 13 ½ platform and you’d better be on it!

Promos, Promos, Everywhere!

Once you have your books in the marketplace, your work has just begun. Ideally, your promotion efforts  should begin way before your first book is published, but that’s a whole other post. If you are traditionally published, this may also apply to you, because most publishing houses won’t do all the promotion for you. Establishing your brand and connecting with readers is important, no; it’s crucial, for any author. But since I’m indie and that is where my experience lies, this post is slanted in that direction.

I was inspired to write this post because tonight, for the first time in months, I took a few minutes to sit on my deck with a glass of wine and just be (see it on Instagram, under Renee Regent). I actually relaxed.  I can’t even recall the last time I did that. Before I started writing to seriously pursue publication, I sat on my deck as often as I could. But writing a three book series for indie publication requires dedication, and a ton of time, and I am happy I accomplished that.

To Help You Navigate

I’m in the process now of learning what it takes to promote and sell those books and to gain readership. I’ve blogged for years, and have been active on social media, but having books published means switching gears in a few ways. And it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the possible ways to promote yourself and your books, so I wanted to mention a few things I have learned so far:

Take a breather now and then. You can’t do it all, all the time. If your stress level takes the fun out of writing, step back, even if it’s just a few hours, or a day. Being frazzled means you won’t be effective.

Don’t neglect your S.O. (significant other). Whether that is your husband, boyfriend, your best friend, your mother, or your cat or dog, remember to make time for them. Writing is a business, yes, and it requires your attention. But so does your support network, the ones who were there before you wrote the book and who will be there after your big success. Or your quiet retreat into retirement. In any case, don’t neglect your loved ones for the sake of promoting your book. The book is going to outlive all of you, anyway.

Research before you try. There is a proliferation now of groups for promotion and companies providing author services. Some are wonderful, some are predatory, and some are ineffective. Talk to other authors, read blogs, search keywords on Facebook. I belong to a Yahoo Group of authors who regularly discuss marketing they have tried. If you try something, don’t forget to let others know if it works or not. Pay it forward.

Remember everyone’s path is different. This is so easy to say, and not so easy to follow, but I believe it’s true. Just because another author seems to be on the fast track, or another seems to be doing everything wrong, the two can’t be compared. So many varied factors that play into an author’s success. Yes, there are trends and best practices to follow, and you should seek those out. But what works for one book or one author may not work for another. Remember, your path is your path, and no one else’s. Celebrate the successful and help to support everyone who is still finding their way.

Don’t be afraid to fail, and don’t take success for granted. We all come to the writing table with different skill sets, and we all have something to learn. And the wheel goes round and round….

I’m so glad I took a moment to step back, because I was getting a bit frazzled. I love writing too much to give it up, but I don’t want it to drag me down, either. What about you? Have you felt overwhelmed with all the choices for promotion? How do you determine what to try?

Happy Writing!

 

 

 

 

 

Switching Gears Without Derailing- New Series Coming Up!

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Ever have to switch gears so rapidly your head was spinning?  That’s where I am now, and it’s nerve wracking, but also a lot of fun.  I’m finding that growing as an author means adding layers, by branching out and trying new things. It’s also learning how to discern which opportunities are the right ones to take advantage of.

Times are tough for indie authors right now, but they are also fantastic. As I mentioned in an earlier post, discoverability is the Holy Grail. There are so many books available, and tons more being added in a constant stream, that the admirable accomplishment of publishing a professional, well-written story is just the first step in a long journey.

It’s Raining Promo

It’s amazing how creative this industry is when it comes to promotion. Ads, Facebook Groups, Blog Tours, conferences, and other co-op type promotions are springing up faster than you can fill out a form to join them. Giveaways are raining all over social media, like confetti and beads at Mardi Gras.

Now that I have three books out (the Higher Elevation Series), I’m signing up for various events and promotions. I’m not sure what will work best, and what works for someone else’s book may not work for yours or mine. The best thing of course, is a recommendation from another author who has tried whatever marketing tactic you are considering, but that doesn’t guarantee results. So you make the most informed decision you can, keeping in mind your audience and your budget, and cross your fingers.

Unfortunately, this is how marketing and promotion work, most of the time.  It’s an educated crap shoot. But I started to wonder if it would help to have more than one product (series) to promote. Here’s how that played out:

A few months ago, after I launched my three-book series, I came up with a new Contemporary Romance series idea. I sketched out several good story lines, but nothing jumped out at me, begging to be written. But I also had the plot for Unraveled, Book Four of the Higher Elevation Series, in my head so I wrote an outline for it, and a few weeks later I am 10K in and it’s going well.

BUT!

As much as I was loving Sophie and Kane’s story (Book 4), I put it down to work on something else. What prompted the sudden switch was I had a new logo and a new author tagline, “Love Grows in Unexpected Places”. To me, the logo of a tree inside a heart represented enduring love that is meant to be. I love writing about mismatched people who beat the odds to be together, and my books represent that.

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So all those Contemporary storylines I jotted down now had a unifying theme, and they began yelling at me to be written. I’m thinking of calling it the “Love Grows” series. The first one, Cougar-ish, is about a couple, a younger man-older woman, who face many obstacles to be together. Once this series is underway, I can go back and finish Sophie’s story in the Higher Elevation Series. (Is it crazy I feel like I have to apologize to my characters for putting them aside?)

I think it’s an excellent idea to have more than one series to promote. I just wish I had four more hands and two more brains, so I could get them all done NOW!

What about you? Have you put down a beloved project in favor of something else? Was it the right thing to do?

 

2017- Taking On A Whole New Level

Ta-da!

Ta-da!

I wasn’t going to do the obligatory end of year post, but what a year it’s been!  When I read over my posts from the past two Decembers, I realize just how far I’ve come. One thing I learned this year─even when your dreams come true, there’s usually a surprise or two in the mix.

Mission Accomplished

In December of 2014, I wrote about how my life in general and my writing career in particular seemed to be gathering momentum. I had goals and plans, and they were taking shape. At the end of 2015, I noted how my goals and plans had changed, but the progress I had made was beyond my expectations. The same was true in my private life as well, as I had begun to consider some major changes to my day job.

Well in 2016, everything happened. I sold some of my business interests, a major change in my day job situation. The universe threw me a wonderful curve ball─as soon as I voiced my true desire and made a commitment to pursue it, the people and resources needed to make it happen came forward without me having to seek them out.  Funny how things begin to happen when you get out of your own way!  The result was I had a bit more time and energy to ramp up my publication schedule for my debut, Unexplained, Book One of the Higher Elevation Series. I also set up my author website and finally learned the whole process of producing an indie book and bringing it to market.  Unexplained, a paranormal romance, was published October 25 and was well received. Book Two, Untouched. followed on November 22.

Fallout Girl

Those surprises I mentioned?  I’m still working through them. There was some fallout from rearranging my businesses, and those you can never accurately predict, because people react to changes in different ways. Some aspects went well, some were difficult. The same was true for my rapid release schedule for my books, which I am still in the midst of (Book 3, Undeniable, comes out January 3, 2017). It was a thrill to finally be a published author, but there was some fallout from that, too. I talked about my unexpected reactions in my last post, Post-Publication Syndrome─Now What?

But that’s how it goes when you’re an entrepreneur, you learn as you go. If you start to think you know it all, you’re heading into dangerous territory. But I say learning is part of the fun, right?

Going Up?

So heading into 2017, it feels like I’m on a whole new level. As seems to be the state of the world, rules and traditions are changing, and all at a pretty rapid pace. The dust is beginning to settle in my personal life, making way for new things to grow.  I have new ideas for some old writing projects that have been fermenting, and a few new stories I’d like to work on.  Looks like the future is wide open, and I’m ready for the surprises yet to come.

What about you? Have you had any surprises this year? What are your goals for 2017?

 

 

Post-Publication Syndrome- Now What?

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You’ve worked hard for months, maybe even years, on your first book. You’ve dreamed of the day you can finally say, “I’m a published author”, and it’s finally here. You had the launch party, your friends and family have congratulated you. You’ve finally made it, your dream has come true.

So now what?

Preparing for that day, which I experienced in October 2016, I tried to imagine what I would do, how it would feel. I asked other authors, I read blog posts and craft books. Most of them said it’s a wonderful thing, and some of them warned that it was just the beginning of even more work and additional challenges. I understood, and was ready and willing to take it on and do the work. But there was something no one told me about. Or, maybe they did, but in my push to get published, I dismissed it.

I’m talking about The Let Down. The Post-Publication Blues. I’ve got it, and I didn’t see it coming.

Mission Accomplished

Now, I’m a practical sort of person. I had no dreams of grandeur, I didn’t expect to be a best seller or even a good seller out of the gate. I’m a business person, an entrepreneur, so I know I’m selling a product and it will take time to find buyers (readers). I’m not feeling down due to lack of sales or recognition.  With time, and perseverance, (and spending money on marketing) it can improve.

It’s just…I accomplished what I set out to, and now I have this sense of loss. It’s purely emotional, and not what I expected to feel at this point in my career.  How I went from hopeful enthusiasm to…a general lack of enthusiasm in such a short time is beyond me. I love my stories, I believe they are worth reading. I haven’t had many reviews yet, but so far they have all been positive. My negative feelings have nothing to do with the work I have published to date. It’s more to do with expectations and realities, and the emotions that go along with them.

So Back to Work…Right?

Being practical, I knew the best thing I could do right now, besides promoting my newly published series (Higher Elevation, Books 1-3), is to keep writing.  I had several projects on the back burner while the Higher Elevation Series was being published, so all I had to do was pick up where I left off.  I needed to get the pipeline going again.  But that proved easier said than done, and I found my post-publication blues were effecting my ability to write. I’d get going and then I’d stall.  I found myself procrastinating, which I rarely did before. Used to be I couldn’t wait to do something, anything writing-related.

It didn’t help that I’d spent the better part of this year editing, rewriting, and all the other business that comes with Indie publication.  My creative muse had been exiled, and when I asked her to get back to work, she had less enthusiasm than I did.  Clearly, something has gone wrong.

What’s Next?

One thing I know I won’t do, is give up. Writing is like breathing to me, so I will keep going, even if the muse stays in exile. And I know negative emotions are usually temporary. But any advice or tips from other writers are welcome. I doubt I am the only one to ever go through this!

Do I just need time off from writing? Or should I push myself and hope it will work itself out?  Have any authors out there experienced a sense of disappointment or loss, even after achieving success? How have you worked through it?

 

The Latest Internet Challenge- Unplug!

Have you ever participated in an internet challenge?

Every so often, one goes viral across the internet, such as the ice bucket challenge to raise awareness and donations for ALS a few years ago. There have been many others whose purpose was a good cause, such as the 30 day push up challenge for fitness, but some internet challenges are just plain silly or even dangerous, like snorting cinnamon or eating ghost peppers. Or they are just for fun, like staging a video where everyone stands frozen in place like mannequins.

Uh, okay….

Since it seems like we are running out of ideas for worthwhile challenges, I have a suggestion. I successfully executed this particular challenge last weekend, and I highly recommend it. Ready?

I stayed off the internet for an entire weekend.

Renee Regent, Unplugged

I not only survived, I totally enjoyed it. It felt better than I expected, and my stress level decreased dramatically.  So what drove me to do something so drastic as to unplug completely?

First, this has been a crazy (in a good way) year for me personally and professionally. My day job/business enterprises went through significant transformation, and I am still in the process of working all that out. I have been trying to sell my home and move, with all that process entails. I also launched my first novel last month, the first of a 3 book series, so all that goes into an indie produced work was added to my workload (editing, formatting, covers, promotion, etc.) I asked for all of this, so I am not complaining. But where social media might have been an escape of sorts in the past, lately it has become inundated with political views, news, and posts about important causes. I am not giving an opinion on anything in particular, just saying what used to be mostly social has now become nonstop ads, articles and opinions. Since social media is integral to my businesses, and I also use it personally, I am on it for a good portion of each day.

Maybe it was all of this on top of post-election fatigue, but I woke up one morning and I simply did not want to deal. With anything. I had a mile long to-do list but could not bring myself to care about any of it. I am not prone to moodiness or depression, but I had no mental energy left. My husband was worried, because it was unusual for me to be in such a funk. So he suggested we go away for a short weekend trip to the beach (which is unusual for him, because he hates to travel). After much resistance, I gave in, thinking maybe I did need a break. But he had one condition─I must agree to unplug for the entire weekend.

How To Let Go

Normally, I am on my phone/ipad/laptop constantly. The internet is such an integral part of our daily lives, and it is tremendously convenient. So the idea of staying off the internet sounded difficult at best, but here’s how it went:

We had our phones with us, and only checked periodically to see if there were any missed calls or texts. If anything urgent occurred, we could respond. This way, that sense of “I can’t be without my phone, something might go wrong” was eased. We limited our responses only to emergencies, or to let family know we had arrived safely at our destination (pictured below).

We did not check emails, social media, or any apps.

We did use our phones to take photos. This little guy on our hotel balcony eating crackers from our hands was too cute to pass up.

My husband and I actually talked, laughed, ate, drank and walked all over the place. We didn’t have to tell the world what we were doing minute by minute, and that actually felt nice, more private. Like a secret tryst, the experience was ours alone.

By not seeing what the rest of the world was talking/arguing/complaining about, we were able to focus on just us for a few days. By not checking our phone every five minutes, we paid attention to our beautiful surroundings and each other.

The dramatic “I can’t deal” mind-set was replaced with “I can handle it” as time away from everything changed my perspective.

 

Peace of Mind- at Least Temporarily

I came home feeling refreshed and ready to face the challenges of my life again. The lack of stimulus allowed me to focus on us, and what we were doing in the moment. I put aside all thoughts of my to-do list, and the future. Being in the moment was incredibly freeing.

So here’s my challenge to you. Free yourself for a day, or even longer if you can. Whether you go away or spend quiet time at home, the internet will still be there when you are ready to jump back in.  But do yourself a favor, and take a break once in a while. You might be surprised at what you find.

Have you unplugged recently?  How was it?

 

Seven Things To Consider Before Submitting Your Writing For Critique

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Are you nervous about having your writing critiqued?  Welcome to the club.

Just like reading reviews of your work, critiques are one of those things that most writers get nervous about. In my experience, though, critique, both positive and negative, is a powerful tool for improving one’s skills.

A friend who is just starting out recently joined our writer’s group. She was asking about how we approached critiques, and confessed to being a bit nervous about submitting her work. We assured her our goal was to be helpful and considerate at the same time, an approach we have refined over the years. Then a discussion ensued on the differences between helpful and potentially hurtful criticism.

Several of us have been on the receiving end of criticism by our peers which we found less than helpful.  We’ve also had feedback that was inspiring and constructive. My friend asked for more specific advice, so I mentioned my previous blog post on the subject, How To Survive A Negative Critique. Her question called to mind some other things I have learned in the past five years I have been attending my critique group, and I thought it might be helpful to new writers to share some things to consider before they submit their work:

Just Do It. Writing without feedback is writing in a vacuum. Being nervous is normal, but you won’t overcome it unless you put your precious words in front of some eyeballs. When you finally do become published, you will be judged by the entire world, so starting out with a few writers you know is a relatively safe way to begin. You may actually waste more time by writing without ever getting feedback, and end up having much more to correct and edit in the long run.

Start small. Start by submitting something short─a scene you are working on, or a first chapter. First chapters are actually great to start with, since the opening of a story is considered to be the most important part, and also the most difficult thing to do properly. New writers have a tendency to start the story in the wrong place as well, so don’t be surprised if someone points that out. Writing great openings takes practice, and feedback can help you to learn how to do that more efficiently and sooner.

Baby Steps. By starting with something small, you are not facing judgement of the entire project. Learning to take criticism and use it wisely takes practice. Separating your emotions from the feedback takes practice, too, as we tend to identify closely with our work when just starting out. The more you write, your perspective changes and you realize you can always fix what you wrote, or write some more. You will learn over time how to discern which feedback is structural (plot issues, grammar problems, etc) and which is subjective (the person giving the feedback is filtering through their own tastes).

Submit Clean. Always clean up your work before submitting! Go over it multiple times, use a grammar guide, run a spell check. No, it does not have to be perfect, but clean it up to the best of your ability. I’ve had to critique some work where the premise was exciting and interesting, but the grammar, spelling and general writing was so bad that it was difficult to understand what was happening. Some folks think, “I’ll clean it up after they critique so I don’t have to do it twice”.  No. Just don’t do that. It is a disservice to others who are taking the time to provide feedback when there are a billion other things they could be doing. Have courtesy for your readers, even when your work is in a “raw” stage.

-Alpha Readers. If you have cleaned up your work and edited it to the best of your ability, but you feel you still need major help with grammar and structural issues, consider submitting it to only one or two trusted writer friends. Family and non-writer friends may not give you the kind of feedback you need at this stage. They might be overly kind or overly harsh, depending on the relationship, or they may give neutral feedback to avoid saying anything. One or two trusted writer friends may be able to point out what needs to be done to prepare your work sample so you can submit it to a larger group for feedback.

Fair Balance. Be willing to provide feedback to others. Yes, this means taking the time to read their work and give thoughtful feedback. This process provides tremendous insight as to what to look for in your own work, and helps you to realize others are being brave and putting their work out there. Even though it sometimes made me uncomfortable, I submitted my writing to my critique groups and beta readers as often as I could.  I also reviewed the work of others as often as I could. A successful critique group requires this balance. If certain members only review others, and never submit their own work, or keep submitting but never offer critique to others, it can cause discomfort among the group. Besides, those who only do one or the other are missing out on half of the purpose of critiquing─to become a better writer.

Be Specific. When asking for feedback, indicate what you are looking for. If it is just a general impression, say so, but it will help you to consider what you are looking for specifically. Examples might be: Does this opening hook you? Does the dialogue in this scene sound natural? How much work do I need to do to clean up my grammar?  Is there too much backstory?

 

Taking it step by step will help you to build your confidence so that when you do get that first truly negative critique you’ve been fearing, it won’t hurt as much. You’ll be better equipped to take it for what it is worth, and learn from it.

I hope this helps those of you who are new to writing.  I still have a long way to go, and I will soon be facing the next level of critique of my work─the general public. I am sure to learn from that experience as well. Wish me luck!  I wish luck and great learning for all of you.