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Showing posts from January, 2014

Sex and Writing Romance Novels

Venus and Cupid by Lambert Sustris It’s almost time for Valentine’s Month and once again, we plan to focus on the romance genre. Well, we might even get a bit spicier than that and explore the topic of sex in literature. Let this be a GRAPHIC CONTENTS warning of things to come, readers! I've been thinking a lot about romance novels over the past few months, though not exactly by intent. Researching a mystery series, my male protagonist took over and the plot began to take a decidedly sensual turn. He was so fixated on his heroine that I decided to write a standalone novella dealing strictly with the romance he was having with this new-found love. I realized the real stories in the mystery books wouldn't get told until their love life was a bit more settled. As I wrote scene after increasingly torrid love scene, I started thinking a lot about human sexuality, sexual objectification, and the differences between romance, erotica, and pornography. I have an education in fine

Countdown to a Book 17: Blast Off!

I share a certain trait with the character of Angela in my debut, The Art of Falling —a propensity for celebration. Maybe you caught on to that when I announced my book deal here a year-and-a-half ago.  The countdown to its publication is now complete, and I recently celebrated with more than a hundred writing friends at my hometown launch at the Doylestown (PA) Bookshop, and at an after-party at the historic, newly renovated Doylestown Inn. Like that first joyous entry, I’m going to let pictures tell the bulk of the story, while tying in some of the topics I’ve visited in this series. Some of my Wegman's writing group While writing is a solo sport, in my first post I suggested that you join hands  with other writers. Here I am pictured with several of the writing friends I meet with once a week at a local grocery store, laptops side by side, all of us working on our various projects. Because we should spend all our time writing, shouldn’t we? Not fritter away time net

A New Player in the E-Book Publishing World

Back in 2010 I wrote a piece for this blog on The Evolution of E-Books , and it amazes me how much has changed since. New publishers. New technology. New outlets for sales. I was an early pioneer in the e-book evolution. My first e-book was published in 1997 with The Fiction Works , just one of a handful of companies doing e-books at the time. The publisher was sure that there would soon be kiosks in shopping malls where people would be able to buy electronic or print-on-demand copies of books and we would all get rich. That did not happen. There wasn't even a dedicated reading device until a year later when The Rocket eBook came out in 1998, so orders were fulfilled by sending disks to customers so they could read the book on a computer. Not a convenient or pleasant way to read a book. Now that handful of publishers has grown to hundreds, and I have had good business relationships with  Books We Love , Uncial Press , Venture Galleries, and now Untreed Reads.   I don

Remember the Arc

© Ragne Kabanova Dreamstime Stock Photos Who wants to read a book where nothing happens, and everything is rosy? Well, maybe some readers prefer such an escape, but more often readers look for change. One way to achieve change and pique your readers' interest is by providing a character arc, and offering hints or reasons for how it was achieved. Note the holes and cracks in the arc in the front of the above picture. Then check the arc by the window in the same picture. One has flaws, the other appears perfect. Not everyone is perfect. Your job as an author is to make sure your characters have flaws, and show how they can or cannot overcome them. Here are two characters who could be works in progress if they were in a book. One is Miley Cyrus. If you were writing about her story, you'd depict how and why she evolved from the Hannah Montana nice girl of the Disney Channel to that of the infamous twerker at the MTV VMA's award show. Was she secretly wild all

The Obstacle in Our Path

In ancient times, a King had a boulder placed on a Roadway. Then he hid himself and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock. Some of the King's' wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it. Many loudly blamed the King for not keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the stone out of the way. Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. Upon approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded. After the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the King indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway. This fable seems to apply to our writing journey as well as to life in general. Perhaps, when we start out, we receive a critique that hu

I Want to Write a Book…Someday

How many times have we heard someone say that? How many times have we said that? I can ask because I’m sitting here with half a dozen novels started (as in years ago) and only two completed, one of which (the first one) needs a major overhaul. Speaking of years, they pass much too quickly. Children are born. They grow up, go to college, leave the nest. Jobs change, goals change, sometimes mates change or simply move on. Did we write that book? Grandparenthood brings new joys, and pending retirement comes with its own unique challenges. Time constraints ease—perhaps we can even call some days our own to do what we please.  Did we write that book? Many began their writing careers before the bloom of youth disappeared in a mist, never to be revisited. Others waited…or are still waiting. Is it someday yet? Let’s look at the advantages of writing after experiencing life’s roller-coaster ride—whether it’s our debut novel, a new release on our list of published works, or a story writte

Romance Book Covers with Polly Iyer

What makes a striking romance book cover? What does a cover say about the subgenre of romance book? Is it Contemporary, Paranormal, Historical, Romantic Suspense, Regency, Gothic, New Adult, Western, or Fantasy? Oh, and there are subgenres to those categories. Whew! Is your book sweet, funny, or dark? Is it erotic? These are questions every writer should ask when either choosing a designer or creating the cover, especially if s/he is self-publishing. I’ve had three erotic romances published by e-publishers, and I had nothing to say about the cover, though I fortunately liked two out of three of them. The third, not so much. Maybe bestselling authors have more input. I wouldn’t know, not having reached that status. I bought back the rights to Sexual Persuasion and redid the cover. It happened to be a cover I first used for my sexy romantic suspense, Hooked , but too many people thought it was an erotic romance. So I changed Hooked and later used that cover minus the New York scene.

Pick Your Battles

Battle scenes make epic computer-generated graphic scenes in movies. They can devour a great deal of screen time. The same theory should not be applied to a book. Don’t insert a battle to increase the page count or because you think the script calls for it. Whether you write a court battle, a paranormal melee, or a gang encounter with police, make certain your battle scene serves a purpose. When a battle is fought, it should result in change. One side should lose or gain: 1) Information. 2) Weapons. 3) Access. 4) Prisoner. 5) Critical team member. 6) Strategic position. 7) Ally. 8) Enemy. 9) Cohesion as a team. 10) Division as a team. Writing the details of a battle covers more pages in a book than seconds on film and it is easy to lose the reader with the choreography. The further you move the verbal camera  from the protagonist, the less the reader cares. He is more inclined to skim past the choreography to get to the point. How did it end? W

Style Maven: Off the Rack

Photo courtesy of stock.xchng Happy New Year, darlings! The holiday season may be behind us, but the weather outside is still frightful. If I hear one more forecast that includes the words “polar vortex,” I shall simply scream. At least I have this smashing wool coat to keep me toasty. While we’re on the lookout for more congenial weather, let’s have another little quiz; they’re such fun! 1. You’ve won the battle, but still may lose the war. Have you engaged in strategy or tactics ? 2. Wrack or rack ; which one denotes wreckage, and which one indicates torture? 3. Can a grisly scene also be grizzly ? 4. There is enormity , and then there’s enormousness . Which is used to indicate size? 5. The neighbor’s dog is barking. Is the sound continual or continuous ? Right, then. Pencils down, all! Are we feeling confident? Of course! Let’s have a peek at the answers; I’m sure you all did beautifully. If you’ve gained a short-term victory, you can thank clever

Writing Rule: Back Up!

Photo by Stuart Pilbrow , via Flickr Recently a writer friend of mine lost all her work when her computer crashed – because she had no backup. This is every writer’s nightmare. Just the thought of it makes me shiver. Her experience reminded me of a story I once read about Ernest Hemingway. (I don’t know how true it is, because of course I didn’t actually know Ernest Hemingway, but truth or fantasy, the message of the story is the same.) Anyway, the story goes like this: Hemingway had just finished a novel, and packaged up the only copy and gave it to his then-wife. This was way before computers, and maybe even carbon paper – or Hemingway didn’t feel like using carbon paper, I don’t know. Anyway it was the only copy. He asked his wife to mail it to his publisher in New York, while he went off to chase the bulls in Pamplona or something. Well, his wife got on the train to Paris, taking the novel with her and meaning to post it to New York once she got to Paris – but she had

Diary of a Deadline Crisis

Image by Joshua Kopel , via Flickr We’ve all been there. You’re under contract to deliver a manuscript to your publisher in 6 months’ time. When you signed the contract, it looked like smooth sailing. Then life happens: an attack of flu, a plumbing crisis, one of your kids breaks an arm. And suddenly you find you have a hundred pages of story left to write and only 48 hours to do it in. Here’s how it goes for me. Day One: 6 am. Alarm goes off. Get up, brew large pot of double-octane coffee, fire up the laptop and get cracking. 8 am. Dog wants out. Refill coffee pot. Resume. Mid-morning: More coffee, chocolate, and a couple of Tylenol tablets. Lunchtime. Flagging. Take shower, wolf down a peanut butter sandwich, sneak a peek at e-mail, instantly abandon it, and get back to the salt mines. Mid-afternoon. Flagging again. More chocolate. Clap on headphones and dial up the Rolling Stones’ Greatest Hits on I-Pod. Crank volume to max and plunge in again.

Audio Editing

This year's new endeavor is the world of audio books. I'd always thought this was far too expensive to be within reach, but after a friend explained ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange), I discovered there was a way to give it a try at no cost to me. Since I started the process, I've had 4 books go live with one more in production. What does this mean for a writer? First, it opens your audience base. Just like there are those who want print over digital, or vice-versa, there are "readers" who prefer to listen to books. And, with a wider audience base, there's the potential for increased income, which is rarely a bad thing. As writers, we're aware of the importance of a good editor. How do you "edit" an audio book? There are some authors who say they simply sit back and listen. I couldn't do that. Here's my process. With the ACX site open along with both my manuscript and a new document for notes, I close the door, pour a cup of coffee (o

Carola Dunn on Regency Romance

I wrote my first book in 1979, as a way to postpone getting a "real" job. I'd had many and various temp and part-time jobs, from construction to writing and editing definitions for a dictionary of science and technology. Then, after moving constantly, we settled down and bought a house. It was time to get serious. At least, it was time to look as if I were getting serious. I sat down at the kitchen table with a pad of lined paper and a ball-point and started writing. Why Regency? I'd reread Georgette Heyer's often enough to know what was coming on the next page. I wanted more, so I started reading some that were written around that time—late '70s—and they were so awful, I reckoned I couldn't possibly do worse. I didn't really expect to write an entire book, still less to get it published (Warner), let alone for it to lead to a 35-year career and still counting. In case the term "Regency" means nothing to you: Strictly speakin

A Writing Resolution: The Idea Jar

At the start of every new year, most of us make resolutions. For us writers, we think about what projects we want to complete, want to submit to agents/editors, want to self-publish, and the list goes on and on. For 2014, I decided to do one thing that would be playful and might actually create some great stories: start an Idea Jar. On January 1, I started a Joy Jar. I keep a small pack of sticky notes with me throughout the day, and when anything arises that makes me smile or makes me happy (you know, those moments we typically experience at  the moment, but then promptly discard), I write that moment onto a sticky note and place the note in the jar. When I have a rainy "mind" day, I can dip into the jar and remember happy moments I've experienced thus far. Doing so may hopefully put me in a better frame of mind. My Joy Jar I received these years ago, and now have a perfect use for them! The Idea Jar works pretty much the same way. All throughout