Thursday, February 24, 2022

Romance Doesn't Have to End - Neither Does Sex

Recently I listened to a short story, Slingshot by Souvankham Thammavongsa, being read on the podcast Selected Shorts too hot for Radio. The story centers around a 70-year-old woman who meets a 32-year-old man, her neighbor, Richard, and they start a short, but intense, relationship. The woman has been a widow for 30 years and in her words, “I hadn't had sex for such a long time that I could consider myself a virgin. I couldn't remember how it all happens." 

That story, originally published in Harper's magazine in 2018, made me wonder how many other stories are now being written about older characters being in love and having sex. That's not something we tend to acknowledge very often. It's as if we don't think older people have those desires.

But they do.

Recent studies, such as this one in Prevention Magazine, indicate that people well into their 80s and 90s still want romance and physical intimacy. "Sex isn't like a carton of milk that goes sour after a certain date. In fact, sex is more like fine wine—it improves with age." 

Those same people still like to read, too.

When Kensington Publishing started their line that featured women in their 50s and above who were starting new lives after a disastrous relationship or the death of a husband or wife, they were ahead of the time. That was almost twenty-five years ago, and Boomers were still young enough to want to read about women in their 20s and 30s.

At that time, unlike the Boomers, I was ready to read stories with older women in central roles, and when I heard about the Kensington imprint, I was excited about the idea that a heroine in a romance novel didn’t have to be some sweet young thing with the perfect figure and gorgeous face. The characters in these stories could be everyday women, just like my friends and myself, with wrinkles and bulges and gray stands of hair. I was equally thrilled to have a novel accepted for publication under the new imprint, but shortly before I was to turn in the final manuscript, the editor contacted me to say that Kensington had decided to drop the line. That story, Play It Again, Sam, was later released by Uncial Publishing.

Most of my stories are prompted by real events and experiences of real people. Play it again Sam was inspired by what happened to a good friend of mine when her husband decided he didn't want to be married anymore. She gave me permission to write her story as long as I gave her a happy ending in the book, and I was happy to do so.

Fast-forward many years when another friend’s experiences inspired me to write a short story, To Love Again, that’s included in the collection, Beyond The Crack in the Sidewalk that was released by Next Chapter Publishing. That friend was in her seventies and had lost her husband a few years prior. When a man was interested in “courting” her, as she put it, she was more than a little hesitant. “What if he wants to…you know?”

I chuckled when she asked that question in a phone call, and the question made me wonder what dating would be like for people older than 60. I was happily married at the time, and dating wasn't anything I'd thought about in a long time.

In a 2019 blog post, 11 Must-Read Romance Novels Featuring Older Couples, Kelly O’Brien says that romances featuring older heroines are called Seasoned Romances, a term I’d never hear of before, and they are gaining in popularity. That gain is partly because Baby Boomers are now aging and no longer want to read about characters with whom they now have little in common. Kelly writes, “It has to be hard to relate to a 22-year-old graduating college, but someone who has grandkids and is dating again after losing their spouse is more relatable.”

The list of books Kelly recommends is well worth checking out, and I've added a couple to my wish list:

Sex and the Widow Miles by Nan Reinhardt

After a heart attack claimed her husband, even getting out of bed each day becomes a struggle for Julie Miles. Looking for a change of scenery, she leavers her Michigan home for Chicago, staying in a friend's unoccupied apartment. It's there she meets her new neighbor. Will Brody is a little younger and helps her learn to embrace life again. But then she discovers her entire marriage was built on a lie. Will she be able to let Will in when her trust in men has been shattered by the person she thought was her one true love? Only one way to find out!

Only Beloved by Mary Balogh

A widower, the Duke of Stanbrook is considering remarrying, longing for happiness. He thinks back on the woman he briefly met last year and never saw again. A scandal dashed Dora Debbins' chances of marriage long ago. Now she makes a modest living teach music. Then an unexpected visitor shows up at her door, changing the course of both George and Dora's lives forever.  

Have you read books that fit this category of Seasoned Romances? Do you like them? Have you written one? Please do share in a comment. Happy reading and happy writing.

Award-winning author Maryann Miller has numerous credits as a columnist, novelist, screen writer, and playwright, and also has an extensive background in editing. You can find out more about Maryann, her books, and her editing services on her Website and her Amazon Author Page read her Blog, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.  

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Old Dogs, New Tricks: Diving into the Kindle Vella Pool

In mid January, our newest member of the Blood Red Pencil, Brynette L. Turner, published an informative post on Amazon's Kindle Vella. The serial format reminded me of the 1940s, when my brother and I walked to the little theater in the small town where we lived on Saturday afternoons to watch episodes of whatever serialized movie was playing. We waited all week for Saturday to arrive so we could see what happened next.

Those fond memories caused me to rethink my initial belief that Kindle Vella, while an interesting idea, wasn't for me. That about-face woke me up one night, thinking about this different approach to a book series. First, a storyline for a book series I've been planning for a couple years ran through my mind. Then a second story idea budded and bloomed without the slightest bit of encouragement from me. Both will lend themselves well to serialization. Now I'm excited with the idea and can't wait to get started.

But first things first. I need to learn a lot more about Kindle Vella before starting to write, beginning with the rules of the game, so to speak. I also want to read some entries from other writers to get a feel for the format.

My incentive to explore the perks offered by Kindle Vella grew out of the realization that, as an older writer, I could benefit from shorter sessions at the computer. The eyesight, legs, and back would appreciate more frequent but significantly reduced writing times. Also, I could easily do two stories simultaneously, especially when each posting needs to be just an episode. The serials shouldn't get confused because the stories and characters are very different. One has a senior protagonist, and the other has three young main characters. The settings bear no resemblance to each other. However, both will contain some mystery and perhaps even some danger.

Unless one owns the business, retiring in the workplace may, at some age, become mandatory. Retirement from an independent writing career, on the other hand, is quite often optional. Having said that, the option may come with some adjustments as we grow older. When we were young, we might have raised children, held down a part-time or fulltime job, and written books, articles, etc. As we accumulate wisdom and experience through years of living, we also lose energy and sometimes enthusiasm. Maryann Miller's recent post titled "3 Tips for Creating More Creativity" offers some great suggestions for keeping the writing talent alive and well and working in ways it couldn't have when we were younger and less trained by life. 

When we're struggling with the desire to keep writing but forced to acknowledge reduced physical endurance and perhaps changed circumstances, we might consider Amazon's Kindle Vella. As noted above, my reluctance at first to consider it gave way to waking up early one morning with my mind telling how I might have made a decision in haste that I'd regret in leisure. The cons I had thought valid began to yield to the pros that danced through my head. I once heard that a well-known actor said acting was what he did, not who he was. As a writer, I know that writing is not only what I do, it's part of who I am. Acknowledging and dignifying that part of me may well make my later years my most productive ones.

P.S. If you're a writer and you haven't read Brynette's article titled "My Venture into Kindle Vella", as well as last week's "Promoting Kindle Vella Stories", I suggest you take a few moments to peruse their content. Serial writing can become a lucrative avenue in which to gain name recognition and market your works that lend themselves to serialization.

Editor Linda Lane has returned to her first love—writing—while maintaining some editing work. Her novels typically are character driven rather than plot driven, but their quick pace qualifies them as genre fiction.  Now she is working on adding serialized novels to her works as she explores the potentials offered by Amazon's Kindle Vella.  You can contact her through her website: 

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Promoting Kindle Vella Stories

Most independent authors recognize that promoting our novels is a crucial factor in our success. The Kindle Vella platform for serials is no exception. However, I’ve found that it presents a few challenges for novelists as we venture into this new format. How do we find new readers or encourage established fans to try serials? How do we promote episodes? The approaches are varied, so I’ll discuss what I’ve done and some of the efforts I’ve seen from other KV authors.

Consistency with images and colors helps with branding, right? I repeat them across a variety of platforms. Twitter allows hashtags for retweeting groups, targeting followers, and reaching people who enjoy serials and romance. Facebook pages/groups allow interacting with readers/writers already familiar with Kindle Vella, updating friends and previous followers, and sharing excerpts. I put links on Twitter to an excerpt on my website and add Kindle Vella links in my newsletter. My first project’s promoting has focused on (1) encouraging novel readers to try the Vella platform, (2) advertising how well the KV project is doing, (3) requesting help to meet goals, (4) informing novel readers that the first season is available for them to binge read, and (5) announcing when the second season will begin. 

Kindle Vella authors make videos for TikTok and YouTube, participate in vlog/blog interviews, create readers’ groups for their established fans, and collaborate by sharing links and reading each others’ stories. Creativity, diversity, and consistency are helpful in reaching new readers no matter the method of promoting. Gage Greenwood is a new author/vlogger whose success is enhanced by YouTube.

Winter's Myths by Gage Greenwood

I also considered whether having a story that will be completed and one that’s an ongoing serial will influence the promotion plan. What does each format require? Now that KV has a “completed” section, I intend to review season 1 of Duty to Love for editing issues, mark it complete, and publish those episodes as an e-book. Then, I’ll have two promotion strategies for the same story—one for the e-book (season 1) and one for episodes being released biweekly (season 2). Consistency for the brand will continue to be part of my strategy no matter how many seasons are written.

In addition to everything already described, I intend to utilize the services of Promotion Strategist LaShaunda Hoffman. She founded SORMAG (Shades of Romance Magazine) and teaches authors how to reach their readers. I learned a lot of useful information early in my career as a novelist and from her tips for KV authors. Another goal is learning how to effectively use SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and keywords to direct readers to my work. They can’t read if they can’t find me, right?

Readers are cultivated in a variety of ways and found in a variety of places. In 2022, I plan to use multiple tactics to reach them. Below are several images that represent my efforts.


Introducing readers to me on Vella

Screenshots and tweet showing
Duty to Love being well-received

An excerpt on my website and link added to a tweet

Tweet, promo, and FB banner stating that Season 1 is
complete and Season 2 is coming

Posted by Brynette L Turner, author of romance novels that are contemporary, African-American, or suspenseful in theme. She loves crafting strong characters and plots that celebrate diverse personalities and interesting perspectives. Duty to Love, her first serial on Kindle Vella is a spinoff of the award-winning and USA Today-recommend Dream Catcher Series. Her novels and novellas can be found on Amazon, and many are enrolled in the Kindle Unlimited program. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter, or send an email to

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

I Fell in Love... With Kindle Vella

I’ve been a writer and editor for decades. In fact, I’ve done so many jobs in the publishing industry, one wonders why I haven’t published more of my own work by now. Seems like that would be a logical step for any writer.

So, what always stopped me? Well, the rewards were just never strong enough, I guess. The actual process of writing, too often unenjoyable. Sometimes I loathed sitting down and struggling with the words. I had the ideas and loved brainstorming and researching but pounding away on a keyboard was just too tiresome and time-consuming. I didn't have the passion for the work.

I enjoyed editing books for other authors, though, a lot more than editing my own writing. I even enjoyed marketing books for them. Certainly, I loved brainstorming when I worked for publishers who were looking for creative ideas.

And, mercy, I love reading more than anything. I could sit and read all day long!

Even after 15 years of participating in National Novel Writing Month and Book-in-a-Week, resulting in more than 30 unpublished manuscripts, I never managed to get much of anything off my desk. Except for a short story anthology to test the KDP free book program and that was years ago.

So why the sudden interest in Kindle Vella? Curiosity about new things maybe. It was mostly my love of reading romance that led me there via a Facebook friend. I shared gardening and cooking conversations with this person, and she mentioned her latest writing project on Kindle Vella. I knew she’d be a good writer having read her social media conversations, and since the romance novel she was promoting had three chapters free, I tried it out.

It took a split second to fall in love with the platform. I read a lot on gadgets and the formatting in the Kindle Vella book is easy on the eyes. The book was good, too. Each episode had a definite story arc and a bit of a cliffhanger ending. I enjoyed the first few chapters of Duty to Love immediately.

Still, I was ambivalent about the serialization aspect. When I want to read, I don’t want to wait for the next chapter. It felt too much like a soap opera.

And boom! Right there is where the light came on. I was thinking like a reader instead of a writer. Kindle Vella was making waves precisely because many readers DO like a serialized read. We're busy, we're distracted, we have gadgets we can use standing in line at the grocery story, or passengers in a car, or a quick chapter before bed. Fast, snappy chapters are just the thing.

So, then I seriously began pondering how I could use KV for my own waiting stories. Revising and editing wasn’t a problem. I could tackle that easily enough. I’d have to suck it up to do all that formatting for e-books though. Right? Memories of putting together that KDP anthology were not pleasant, even with all the help I had from other contributing authors. Was I ready to torture myself with that again, at this point in my life? I didn’t even know if I still had an Amazon KDP account.

So, I checked, and I did, and wonder of wonders – the Kindle Vella platform was attached to KDP and ready to use. Wow. One hurdle down, and now what?

I needed a polished story, of course. My REAL Princess stories were fairly-well developed, though more along the lines of a picture book. I would have to expand the writing to a middle-grade chapter book, which was easy enough. I spent the first half of January revising and loving the process for the first time in my writing life. Before long I had a book. I even had a cover ready to go.

Then I took a deep breath when it was time to upload to Vella. I was a little terrified.

Oh, my God, it was so easy! I just pasted each chapter into its own text window in a separate “episode” file. That gave me the chance to proofread one more time. (Of course, I caught a few more glitches.) Then I hit preview the first time, and got goosebumps, seeing exactly how my story would appear on someone’s cell phone or Kindle. Even the little graphic was a snap. (More on Vella book covers in another post.) The entire process was incredibly fast and simple and rolled out as smooth as satin.

I had zero reservations about hitting publish on ten chapters in a row. The following week, I’d published a book that had been languishing for years! And you know what? It felt great. Give it a peek here and share with any child you know who might covet their very own horse. Remember, the first three chapters are always free.

Well, guess what happened next. I decided a little romance novella could release on Valentine’s Day, so I dug out a backstory I had written years ago as a character exploration for a mystery series. It turns out there were some decent scenes (or maybe not-so-decent since some of the explorations were a little spicey), and, with a little more plotting, I could make it a readable story.

Then I fell in love all over again, this time with my characters. I jumped into that story and hardly climbed out to eat for a solid week. I am still obsessed with these people, so much so that I boldly hit publish on the first two chapters even as I frantically continued revising the rest of the story. That might sound like a crazy thing to do, and certainly it’s a bit stressful, but it’s not uncommon among Vella writers. In a way, we really are like soap opera script writers, and I am okay with that. More than okay, really. It fuels my writing energy, and in a curious way, keeps me focused.

Have I mentioned that I love Kindle Vella?

Did I tell you how easy it is?

Now I look forward to writing when I get up in the morning. What a change for me.

For the first time I can remember, the writing is its own reward. I have three tubs of wordy papers that I now view as treasure chests filled with slightly tarnished gold, just waiting for a polish. Two fat manuscripts that need revision. More children’s books in two well-thought-out series. I am not even counting the folders full of ideas for other novels, complete with story boards, mind maps, character studies, and bits of dialogue as they popped into my head. Three big tubs full of writing. It's rather mind-boggling to sift through it all. Wow, I have cranked out a lot of work. Maybe it’s not brilliant writing, but its mine, and I liked creating it. Isn’t that a gift in itself?

I can’t wait to publish more on this new platform. Which brings me to my last hurdle: Making money. I stopped pitching to publishers forever ago after more than a few rejections because it all took so damn long! First hearing back from the publisher, then going through the endless process of revisions and printing, and maybe finally some piddly royalties a year or more down the road. Was it worth it, just to hold that new book in your hand? Not for me, apparently.

But this immediacy with Kindle Vella works for me, and, on top of it, Amazon is putting some serious bonus money into the program to encourage authors to participate. I know more than a few contributors who have made money after just a few months. That’s a good thing. Icing on the cake if it happens to me.

But, right now, most important is this age-old advice:

I do love how the writing and revising is flowing from day to day.

And now to promote! Considering this new venture in my writing life, what better book to promote than one called From This Day Forward? Click over to my new romance novella and read the first chapter for free. The next two free episodes drop later in the week. Maybe give me some thumbs up love?

Happy Valentine’s Week! May all your reading and writing always make you happy.

Oh, and that Facebook friend I mentioned above? Brynette L. Turner is now on our blogging team. Stop by again on Thursday when she shares how she promotes her Kindle Vella books.

Dani Greer is founding member of the Blood-Red Pencil. She spends her days drinking coffee, writing, and herding trolls. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.


Thursday, February 10, 2022

The Secret in the Wall: Preparing for release day

On February 15, 2022, the eighth book in my Silver Rush historical mystery series, THE SECRET IN THE WALL, officially descends upon the world.

Here's a little teaser for you:

Former saloon owner Inez Stannert is trying her best to keep her colorful Leadville, Colorado, life behind her and to provide a respectable home and upbringing for her teenage ward, Antonia. Now the owner of a small music shop in San Francisco, Inez can’t seem to steer clear of mayhem as murder victims literally come out of the woodwork. She’ll have to figure out how to lose the bones and keep the gold.

Now, a confession: When I turned in my draft to the editor in late 2020, the pub date seemed soooo far away. Plenty of time to re-group and prepare, I thought. But 2021 disappeared in a haze. Maybe because the year didn't turn out at all like I thought it would (I'm sure I'm not alone in that). Maybe because other projects consumed me. Whatever the reason, 2022 arrived awfully fast and (yikes!) I realized I really should be preparing some promotion.

But what?

In the past (and we're talking long past, given that the first book in the series, SILVER LIES, came out in 2003), I would have already set up appearances at bookstores, and be preparing for upcoming conferences and buying out candy from See's and/or Ghirardelli's to hand out along with bookmarks.

However, this time, I'm pretty much glued to my chair in front of my computer.

Luckily, the book already has several things going for it, thanks to Poisoned Pen Press, which has been busy doing things behind the mystery-marketing curtain, including sending out e-ARCs hither and yon. First, a lovely cover quote from USA Today bestselling author Audrey Blake: "Intricately plotted and intriguingly cast, this richly detailed historical mystery captivates and will leave you wishing for more. This smart, fiercely independent sleuth is pure delight.” Plus, the book has received positive reviews from review publications Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and The Historical Novel Review

So, I started racing around (virtually), intent on doing my part. So far, I've done this:

  • In the February issue of the International Thrillers Writers emagazine, The Big Thrill, I'm interviewed by author Charlie Cochran.
  • I have an essay in Janet Rudolph's Mystery Readers Journal about the cold case that was the initial "spark" for the book.
  • There's a Great Escapes blog tour with Dollycas that will run from February 15–28.
  • I hit on the idea of recording short videos of me reading the first chapter and posting those on my Facebook author page, starting February 1 and finishing up on February 15. So, I've been trudging through that, with the help of my cat (see my DAY 4 recording for a guest appearance by the #DivaMissMia).

#DivaMissMia loves to "help."

  • Finally, I contacted my local independent bookstore, Towne Center Books, and they arranged for people to order signed, personalized copies through them, using this link.

At this point, my mind went into a whirl: What about Instagram, and Twitter, and TikTok, and... and... 

I realized I could drive myself crazy with all the social platforms. Sure, I'd like to experiment with some of them and might tinker a bit with one or another through February. However, there is the day job to deal with. And, oh yes, shouldn't I be writing the next book??

So, I'm taking a deep breath and reminding myself to enjoy the ride. It's always a special day when a book is born!

If you're a writer, I'd love to know what worked for you, promotion-wise. And if you're a reader (and really, writers are readers too, right?), it would be great to hear your thoughts on all this.

In the meantime, I'll be recording my little videos, writing guest blog posts, and trying to keep my cat from stepping on the keyboard as I do.

Ann Parker authors the award-winning Silver Rush historical mystery series published by Poisoned Pen Press, an imprint of Sourcebooks. During the day, she wrangles words for a living as a science editor/writer and marketing communications specialist (which is basically a fancy term for "editor/writer"). Her midnight hours are devoted to scribbling fiction. Visit for more information.

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Romance, Crime, Writing, and Prayer #BlackHistoryMonth

Author, editor, educator Shonell Bacon has been a member of the Blood-Red Pencil since 2009. She writes across the genres of Romance and Crime, along with non-fiction. Check out her book on how to Make Your Writing Bloom! Or click the poster below to browse all her books on her Amazon page.

Thursday, February 3, 2022

A Little Romance for #BlackHistoryMonth

 From blog team member, Brynette L. Turner. Click over to her Amazon page here.

As an added treat from the author, a little birthday present for her readers. One day only on February 6, 2022!

Happy reading!

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Kindle Select & Kindle Unlimited

There seems to be some confusion over the terms. They are not interchangeable but are related.

Kindle Select is the program for authors. You upload your ebook to the KDP platform and enroll it in the Kindle Select program exclusively for a period of 90 days, which is renewable. Your ebook cannot be available on any other publishing platform during that time period. It does not impact your paperback version.

Readers subscribe to Kindle Unlimited, download your ebook, and read it. They have seven days to return it. If a reader has a high rate of returns, they will be monitored, perhaps blocked from returning. However, seven days is plenty of time to read a book before returning it. Returns are deducted from your pages read and royalty amount. Readers currently pay $9.99 for a 30-day trial membership or $60.00 for a 90-day membership. KDP boasts over 150 million subscribers.

Only a portion of the amount paid by KU subscribers is deposited into the KDP Select Global Fund. Each month, that fund is divided by the total number of  “pages” as calculated by the Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count (KENPC) for your book, up to a total of 3,000 pages per customer per title. They estimate they have 1 million titles available. On average, a book page earns 0.004% of the fund. The number of pages of your print book and the list price of your books are not considered in the equation. Let’s say you have a 400 page book and it has been read 100 times that month. That gives you roughly 40,000 pages at 0.004 per page which equals $160.00. It may be more than your regular ebook royalties as long as it is found in the crowded virtual shelf.

If you look at your KDP bookshelf, under each title enrolled in KDP select you can see the number of KENPC pages under the Promote and Advertise option.

You are not allowed to “stuff” your ebook with nonessential filler, bonus materials, etc.  You may offer a chapter of the next book in the series or a list of other books at the end. Back matter cannot exceed 10% of your ebook total. You will get banned if you break this rule. You can sell  grouped books or a multiple book series but that must be clearly mentioned in the description.

Authors get paid based on pages read for the first time. You don’t get paid if they reread your book, which can stay on their Kindle for months. Readers are only supposed to have ten books “checked out” at a time. Theoretically, even if you remove your book from the promotion, you still get paid when they read the book. Royalties are paid 60 days out. What you earn in January will be deposited in March minus returns. You can run a report from your KDP dashboard at any time. It will list KENP pages read.

Some genres sell better than others. Romance is a perennial favorite along with Mystery. Science Fiction and Fantasy have a following. Historical is making a comeback.

There are additional marketing opportunities with Kindle Select. For one week during your 90-day enrollment, you can discount your book with their countdown deal. You earn the same royalties as if it were full price. There are stipulations you can read about here:

There is also an option for a “free” promotion you can run for one to five days during your 90-day enrollment. You will not get paid for free promotional reads. You can read more about the requirements here:

You may earn higher royalties in foreign markets such as Brazil, Japan, Mexico, and India through KDP select. You can read more about payments here:

If your ebook isn’t selling well, KDP Select may be worth trying. You can opt out if it doesn’t work. Also keep in mind that while enrolled in KDP Select, people can still buy your ebook and paperback the same as always. Not everyone is enrolled in Unlimited and many prefer to own the book. They may purchase the book after reading it or purchase other books in the series after reading the first book.  

There are other publishing platforms for books and they are compared based on cost, payment, rights, distribution, services, etc. in a series of blog posts listed below. One thing to keep in mind is that third party distributors that upload to Amazon and Barnes and Noble get a piece of your royalties that you would retain if you uploaded your files yourself. Some platforms have greater reach in other countries and on other devices. Though anyone with a phone, laptop, or tablet can upload the Kindle App. They don’t need to own the Kindle ereader itself. Using multiple platforms is called "going wide." And there are pros and cons.

The good news is you have plenty of options to play with. You can experiment until you figure out what works for you.

Posted by Diana Hurwitz, author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.