Have I ever mentioned how I'm thrilled I am to live in today's world?
All those computers and tablets and electronic readers, and so many marvelous books (who hasn't read Remember the Shagmeister? Such a wonderful book! I know the author personally. It's ME!) We have cell phones so we can all be in touch with each other 24/7 (if we happen to want to be in touch 24/7—but some of us don't). We even have Casual Friday. On Demand allows us to watch our favorite television shows at midnight, midday or mid-whenever. And God bless Facebook so we can stay in touch with our high school friends who now live in Outer Mongolia, the ones we wouldn't recognize on the street even if they wore name tags. Don't forget Twitter where the most mundane among us can interact with famous people (assuming those famous people actually do their own tweeting—but, alas, many don't). By the way, how arrogant and rich do you have to be to pay someone to be your tweeter?
There really isn't much from "before" that I miss. Oh, yes, there are a few things, of course—things like dresses with full skirts, gathered waists and belts (I'm short, dumpy and curvy in all the wrong places) and, like facial hair, a properly gathered-at-the-waist, full skirt can hide a multitude of sins. Heaven help me if I'm forced to wear some long, straight, tight thing—all you see is an unfortunate excess of jiggling boobs and hips toddling toward you. I also miss simple, uncomplicated microwaves. My first microwave had "Off" and "On" and it did everything I wanted it to do. My current one would cheerfully drive me to work if I knew how to ask it, but I don't really need that particular function. All I need my microwave to do is what my original Off/On microwave did—nuke frozen stuff and pop popcorn (although I have recently learned that it makes the tastiest, most succulent corn on the cob I've ever tasted). As for everything else? Fear not—the stove and I have the rest of it covered.
But oh how I miss one stupid little bit of the past! Pantyhose! Oh, yes, of course, pantyhose are still around. I know they are, because I still wear them. My serious question to you is what woman in her right mind can truly think her dry, scaly, veiny, bare legs are attractive? I have to wonder how this wretched habit of no panty hose got started. Who was that first idiotic, arrogant little nincompoop who decided one day either that (1) her legs were just so beautiful that she should share them in all their naked splendor with the world, or (2) she was simply too tired that day to go through the process of putting on a pair of pantyhose. Whatever her reason, she must have enjoyed the naked inelegance of her legs so much that she did the same thing the next day. And the next. And the next. And so on...
I have one friend who can get away with it. She has lovely tanned, well-oiled legs and she wears slacks most of the time. So, Vickie, my dear, you get a pass. But as for the rest of you ... particularly if you're wearing a skirt or dress...and MOST PARTICULARLY if you're dressed for an evening out...OMG! I have seen the loveliest ladies with their snow white, razor-bumpy legs sticking out from below the most stunning outfits, completely ruining everything. If I can somehow get past Snow White's pale, dry legs, her feet present the next unaesthetic obstacle. Ladies, the tops of our feet are bony, with tendons and other unnamed thingies flexing and moving around when we walk. May I say UGH! A discreet pair of pantyhose tones it all down, brings it all together, hides the imperfections!
I know this is the brave new world, but, ladies, what happened to pride? I completely understand summer and shorts and sandals. Even I, with my pantyhose fetish, would never wear the things with sandals or shorts. But ladies in lovely suits or designer evening wear complete with exquisite stilettos–sans pantyhose—look as unfinished as Gwen Stefani without her red lipstick (by the way, don't get me started on this "natural" pinky-flesh-colored lipstick stuff—Gwen and I think lipstick should be RED! Right, Gwen?) or Indiana Jones without his hat.
Finally, who among you can truly say you like that sweaty feel of your naked feet in your shoes? And that icky, squishy sound as your sweaty feet stick to them when you walk. I am so averse to all that moist discomfort that even when I'm wearing jeans or slacks and slip on a pair of loafers without my pantyhose, I end up immediately removing my shoes and dumping powder in them so my feet will stay nice and dry. It also allows them to slide around inside my shoes without squishing. The downside of that particular attempt to placate my feet is that I end up with little puffs of powder encircling my feet like Santa with "smoke encircling his head like a wreath." It can get a little embarrassing, but I will do almost anything to avoid the squish!
I have no delusions that my rant will change the course of fashion. But the next time you see some woman, beautifully dressed—but bare-legged—you might just remember this silly blog and think to yourself, "You know what? That old gal was right. This fashionista's naked legs don't look nearly as good as she thinks they do. As for mine...hmmmm...I wonder..." If you then take a few seconds to look around the room and check all the corners, you might just find me tucked away in one of those corners, smiling and giving you a big thumbs-up. I'll be easy to recognize—the only one in the room wearing pantyhose (and, of course, red lipstick.)
I have been writing romance for a long time, and I'm well settled into writing what I like. But not everybody likes what I like, so I decided a simple survey might be interesting. You can respond by commenting below (if you can figure out how to do it), comment in the "Contact Me" section, or you can email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
1. What is your favorite romance subgenre? Historical – if so, what time period? Suspense? Time travel? Contemporary? Paranormal – if so, paranormal in what sense—vampires, ghosts, other world? Please explain. No need to limit yourself to my suggestions. I want to know what is your favorite subgenre, and I might not have mentioned it in the list I gave.
2. Do you prefer the story be written in third person or in first person? Why? Does it matter?
3. What is your favorite hook (i.e., marriage of convenience, secret baby, etc.)?
4. What hooks do you hate and refuse to read?
5. What level of sexual heat to you prefer? Sweet? Mild? Hot? Scorch your socks? If you chose sweet or mild, do really hot, descriptive love scenes offend you? If you prefer spicier writing, do you automatically decline to read a book with milder or non-existent love scenes?
6. Which do you prefer, a book ripe with sexual tension but light on description of what happens in the bedroom, or a book that focuses on the bedroom action more than the sexual tension leading up to the bedroom scenes?
7. How much does the cover factor into what books you choose to purchase?
8. Do you prefer a book you can hold and turn the pages or an e-book?
9. Do you read independently published books that are published by the author and not through a brick and mortar publishing house? If not, why not?
10. Do you pay as much attention to the cover of an e-book as you do to a book on the shelf in a bookstore?
11. Do you prefer the Harlequin/Silhouette-type books or stand-alone books?
12. Does your preference set forth in your answer to the previous question relate more to word count or to whether or not the books follows a "formula" in the way it is written?
13. How do you feel about romances that break the "rules"? For instance, if one of the parties is engaged or married to someone else?
14. Do you expect an author's books to be similar to her former books? In what way?
15. Who are your favorite authors – the ones whose books you buy the minute they hit the stands?
16. Of all the books you have read, what is your all-time favorite?
Thanks so much for participating in the survey. Be sure to let me know your e-mail address and I will send you a free Smashwords coupon for your choice any one of my three books. Just let me know which one. Check out the website and see which one you prefer.
Editors are so very specific in that they want only stories that are compelling. Well, duh! Of course, they want compelling stories. Isn't that a given? Who publishes a boring story, with any hope of making money from it? Of course, your story is without a doubt the most compelling result ever born from the magical mating of keyboard and imagination. Anyone who doubts such a thing should simply ask you. Right? So what's the problem? What the editor is really saying is she wants a story that is compelling to her (for purposes of this blog, editors will be female—because it's my blog and that's the way I want it.) I cannot stress with enough fervor, DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Choose a specific editor you intend to submit to, based primarily on what type of book you have written, and find out every possible thing you can learn about her. What type of story does she prefer (in other words, what does she finds compelling)? Does she specialize in romance? Police procedurals? Spy stories? When you have established her preferred genre, break it down even further. Romance can be marriage of convenience, cowboy, secret baby, and on and on. Police procedurals can focus on drugs, gangs, "everyday" crime (murder, rape, kidnapping, etc.), serial killers, etc. I don't read enough spy stories to know what their subgenres might be, but you are the one writing the spy story, so find out--now! When you have established your target editor's general preferences, read at least a couple of the books—more if possible--she has edited. She must have really liked those books. But, take heed! The very worst thing you can do is try to write your own copycat version of one of those same books. Do, however, pay attention to pacing, chapter length, point of view (first or third person), whether the book has action and adventure as well as passion, and in what quantities. A calculation of rough percentages of each would be even better. How long is the booK? Obviously, if you have written an underwater adventure story, please don't choose to submit it to an editor who specializes in romance. You are wasting everyone's time, especially your own. No need to shoot yourself in the foot and lose your paddle before you ever get out of the gate. (By the way, editors also hate clichéd phrases we've all heard a hundred times. Also mixed metaphors. But you would never make such a faux pas, I'm sure. I certainly never would!)
Another hint about editors: SPELL HER NAME CORRECTLY!!! If her name is Theresa, be sure to include the "h"—or be sure to leave it out if her name is Teresa. You insult her by not taking the time to learn the spelling of her name. I suspect even the good Pope Benedict himself would be aggravated to receive official correspondence addressed to Pope Benny Dict.
Another good hint is to be sure your very best work is reflected in the first chapter. Although tempting, do not use that first chapter to establish the entire back story. Boring. Yawn. We need to meet the main characters at the very first and learn something about them. After we meet them, you can pepper little nuggets of their back story throughout. Readers don't need everything dumped on them in one big bucketful. Start your story at a vital, pivotal point. A writer once cautioned that every story should start with a murder. Of course, if your story has no murder, you might find a murderous beginning to be a challenge. No, it's not. The proverbial murder she discussed is any life-changing moment that alters everything. My book REMEMBER THE SHAGMEISTER is about as far from a murder mystery as anything can be, but it starts with the heroine asking a man she doesn't really love to marry her. She is horrified to hear herself utter those words, and has no idea why she is saying such a thing. The consequences of his response could be horrendous. However, she finds herself babbling on and can't seem to stop. My hope with that opening was that those words will instill enough curiosity so the editor will commit to sticking around at least long enough see what her motivation might be to do such a thing. In READY OR NOT, the first words are "It might have been a gunshot." So...was it a gunshot? If not, what was it? Wouldn't you read on at least until you found out what it was? Don't rely on the tired, overused, old "It was a dark and stormy night." You may have written the next TWILIGHT but no one except you will ever know because that manuscript it took you five years to complete will be discarded before you can say "Team Jacob."
If you've ever studied writing at all, you already know about the ever-popular GMC (Goal, Motivation and Conflict) that every work of fiction must possess. There are excellent books on this subject, by writers certainly more knowledgeable on that topic than I am. But an over simplification of the whole process is that each main character must have at least one (or more goals), some sort of motivation for doing whatever she does, and a stout dose conflict—the thing that pushes her away from the resolution of the story. And somehow it must all tie together. I write romance so my simple example of GMC would be: Mary, the product of a broken home (conflict) is working hard to establish herself in a well-paying job (goal) so she can support herself and not be forced to depend on anyone (motivation). She meets Bill, who is divorced. Bill is fun and she dates him casually but when the relationship grows serious she must force herself to back away because she cannot trust a divorced man (conflict) and she must not allow herself to be dependent on anyone (even more conflict) because of the way her father abandoned his family. As the story unfolds, we will learn how, despite her conflict, Mary will overcome her innate distrust of divorced men and allow Bill into her life forever, but not without some significant angst and soul-searching. In the end Mary will have no choice but to follow her heart as it whispers to her that Bill is a good guy and worth the chance she will have to take in trusting him, while at the same time ignoring her head screeching into the other ear that Bill is divorced and all divorced men are wretches. Suffice to say, Bill has his work cut out for him. He will be forced to do some desperate things to prove his worth. Best-case scenario would be he somehow manages to save her life while risking his own. But nursing her through life-threatening pneumonia or some terrible and painful injury will probably do the trick if no life-threatening scenario presents itself.
To wrap it all up and tie it with big red bow, compelling is a subjective concept. What knocks my socks off may be of no interest to you at all. You simply must, must, must know your market. And, most difficult of all, you will constantly be aiming at a moving target because that market changes daily and moves on. As you wrap up your final chapter of a vampire series that will make Stephanie Meyer weep with shame at her pitiful effort as compared to yours, suddenly vampires are out and space aliens are the only show in town. Welcome to the wonderful world of writing, my dear.
This blog has addressed just the first ten yards of your climb up Mt. Everest (notice I didn't say tip of the iceberg, which was my first thought—but what an old and overused cliché—see the end of the very first paragraph above) of the countless obstacles you will be forced to overcome for your work to be recognized and, with luck, published. I will address others in future blog entries.
I would welcome your comments on this subject.
When I first started writing romance, my perception was that writing the male POV would be difficult, maybe impossible. Well, let me tell you...writing male POV has become my favorite part of the entire writing process. In fact, the hero of my work in progress jumped in and took over. The story was supposed to be her story--and, of course, it still is. But my hero showed up with all his little quirks and baggage and overpowered everybody else. He ended up being so much deeper and complex than I had originally planned, or even wanted him to be. Beyond his penchant for taking center stage, I loved, loved, loved seeing the world through his eyes.
I have been told that male POV is perhaps my storytelling strength. I've even been asked if I'm really a man (I'm definitely not). Obviously, any success I've found in that department springs from the fact that I love to write the male POV. I tried something a little different recently. I wrote an entire story in first person from the POV of each protagonist. Obviously, that is uber-verboten in the world of romance, but for this story it works to perfection. When it came the hero's turn to tell us what was going on, we heard his story in his own personal voice. He used shorter words, terser sentences. The introspection was blunter. He cursed a bit. He didn't have quite the vocabulary skills the heroine possessed, and at times he fumbled around for the proper word. In the end, he always got his point across, but doing so wasn't accomplished as seamlessly as the heroine managed to do. As far as sexual tension and intimacy, all I could do was have him react in whatever way I would want him to react in that particular circumstance--and he did indeed rise to the occasion. (pun definitely intended).
In READY OR NOT (available now at Smashwords, Kindle and other e-book sites),there were no first-person issues to deal with, but I approached the male POV the same way--change in voice, words used, and particularly how to relay his feelings to the reader.
I look forward to the male POV in all my stories, but I do have to know my hero extremely well. I end up knowing so many things about each of them that the reader will never know, The essence of those "unknown" aspects of his life are important elements of who he is, which is what I must portray to the reader. Sometimes that portrayal becomes a challenge but I enjoy that test of my skills as writer.
Would you like to know a few things about Sheriff Sam Pepper from READY OR NOT?
He doesn't wear a sheriff's uniform. He wears jeans and button-down shirts to work.
He has never had a really serious relationship with a woman. That's not to say, he hasn't had relationships-- just nothing that stuck.
He loves children and helped his older sister with her children when they were small.
He played football and baseball when he was in high school (not quite tall enough for basketball). Football was his favorite until his friend Ginger married a baseball player, then he became an expert on all aspects of the game, how it is played, even obscure baseball stats. He enjoys watching both sports and does so as often as he can.
He went to college at the University of Tennessee and even made it through two years of law school before he decided that law wasn't for him. He quit school, to his parents' dismay, and returned home to Laurel County to work with his father in the family feed and seed business, until his father retired his parents moved away. At that point, Sam ran for Sheriff--and won.
These are just a few of the many personal things about Sheriff Pepper that never made it into READY OR NOT. But they are things that are intricate parts of who he is and how he reacts.
This is not to say that I don't have the same challenge with the female POV. I do, however, have experience being a female, although certainly not all the experiences I dump on my heroines. But I can indeed think like a woman, and that's half the battle in writing her POV.
I guess I can't really think or react like a man, but I've certainly enjoyed my adventures in trying to, and as every woman has certainly found herself doing at least once or twice--when the chips are down, I just fake it.
I stay fairly busy. I have a full-time job, I spend a lot of time writing and doing writing-related things, I have a husband who needs at least a little bit of care (although he's more self-sufficient then he wants me to think he is.) Like the rest of you, I spend a bit of time every day on Facebook keeping up with my friends. But...UNLIKE the rest of you (probably), I'm addicted to Bejewled Blitz. What an evil, evil game! I get started and it won't let me quit. One would think that five-million-and-then-some points would be enough. But, no. That dang Phoneix bird thing pops up periodically and I simply MUST wager 75,000 of those hard-earned points to see if I can win even more points. The whole thing is ridiculous, and so am I for indulging myself and wasting what ends up sometimes being hours playing Bejeweled Blitz. I have to admit, I played Bejeweled back before it was cool. But now, on Facebook, I can compare my Bejewled skills with my friends' Bejeweled skills! Whee! Do I sound like an adult? Not really. And it's not like I'm even very good at it. At one time, I think I was, but something has happened lately to my Bejewed mojo. My scores are adequate but not outstanding. But there is always that possibility, just over the horizon, that I will outscore my friends. So what would that be worth? Absolute nothing. I should be spending my spare time writing. I have stories to finish, stories to format for Smashwords and Kindle, I have housework to be done. It's not like I'm bored, with beaucoups of spare time on my hands. But every evening, I simply MUST check in at Bejeweled Blitz (if I don't, I can't do the slot-machine thingy that gives me even more points and they build up over consecutive days that I spin the wheels, so you see why it's a necessity). Thank you for letting me vent on the evils of Bejewled Blitz. I need to run along now. I really do have a number of things to do this evening,..but first (you guessed it), I think I'll play a few games of Bejeweled Blitz. At exactly a minute per game, how long can it take? Probably about at least hour....(*sigh)
My book, Ready or Not has been up and available for a few weeks now - and I've actually sold a few - but where are those thousands of dollars I was expecting? I am learning the hard way that indie publishing is all about self-promotion - and I'm terrible at self-promotion. Oh, yes, I am indeed on Facebook but I can't quite bring myself to hawk my book and paste Facebook links to it every day or two. My Facebook friends are mostly people I work with (who already know about my book), racing friends (yes, I'm a Nascar freak) who don't read romance, and my wonderful writer friends who already know my books ad nauseum because they have critiqued them and helped me give birth to those books every step of the way. I have a friend with a Facebook writer friend who promotes her book almost every day in her Facebook posts. He finds her efforts hilarious, and this enthusiastic, self-promoting writer has become the butt of his jokes. I really don't want to turn into "that person." Ads are expensive and until I make some definite money from the book I'm not inclined to fritter my modest earnings away on ads. At 99 cents a pop, it will be awhile until I'm in a league to afford advertising. My days of anticipation of overwhelming sales have been squelched for the moment, although the book does plod along with a sale here and there, for which I am extremely thankful. I wish I knew who was buying it, so I could thank them personally. Ready or Not is a good and very readable book. However, it is old-school romance - lots of sexual tension and build-up to "the deed,. Then of course "the deed" itself coupled with a bit of angst and conflict, summed up with a dandy little resolution that leaves the reader a little bit in love with the hero. There are no vampires, detectives, murderers, cowboys, or ballsy, smart-mouthed women. Maybe that's the problem - my people are just people. I have another book almost ready to offer for sale on Smashwords, although I have seriously considered just shelving it and moving on to something more productive, like housework. But, not yet. Stay tuned - Remember the Shagmeister is coming....whether the world wants it or not!
Finally, after the long, dismal winter that dropped more snow on Tennessee than we might expect in several years -- summer is here! And so am I. Me blogging! How bizarre! Not only am I trying to blog--I finally took the plunge and published one of my romance novels, Ready or Not. at Smashwords. Others will follow soon. I'm working on that now, but, first, I wanted to get this website up and running. I am anxious to interact with my readers. I am a publlished romance author--in print--no less! And very proud of that fact. However, getting there was a tough and taxing journey--and that was the easy part. Staying there is so much harder than anyone can imagine. I was lucky enough to find a great publisher, wonderful people to work with, lovely cover artwork--the whole package. The only down side was that the finished product was a hardback book that sold for $1 more than John Grisham, Sandra Brown, Norah Roberts, and all those other iconic authors. The publisher did indeed have a sales plan, although that plan had limited scope and bookstores were not included as a part of it. Even with no bookstores, I was fortunate enough to sell several books, and the experience was a postive one. But I kept wondering how much better I might do with a less expensive product. Don't get me wrong--I stand behind my work 100%! But we all know the problems with the economy and that dreaded phrase "disposable income" (the thing most of us don't have much of.) Smashwords is an inexpensive and very user-friendly way for readers to find authors, and for authors to find readers. Book are available there in many different formats, compatible with almost every method and device for eletronic reading. I hope you will take a minute and look over the information there about Ready or Not. It happens to be one of my all-time favorite books that I have written. I love the story! I love the characters! I love everything about it! You might call me an old-school romance author. I can't write suspense or vampires worth a flip--although I have writer friends who are some of the best ever in these areas. I hope you will hop over to my Bookshelf page and look over the books listed there. These are books I can highly recommend, having been involved with many of them through the commiserating-with-the-author angst stage--sometimes even suggesting a word here or there that might be more appropriate, through the critique process, and on to publication and the success they have each found. Other books there are simply books I have enjoyed reading. I don't plan to blog exclusively about writing, although I do enjoy every aspect of if immensely. If you happen to read one of my books and have questions about the characters, I would love to answer those questions--and you might have trouble shutting me up. I know all my characters as well as I know my own family. They all possess back stories that never make their way into the books in actual words, but those bits of their history make them who they are. That is the sort of information you will find in the Behind the Scenes section. And if you would like even further clarification, I will be glad to answer almost any question you might think up to ask about any one of my characters. Thanks for dropping in and I'll be back soon to talk with you again. In the meantime, I would love to read your comments.