Monday, June 28, 2010


I'm over at the Damned Scribbling Women blog today talking about determination and being inspired by the awesomeness that is John Isner & Nicolas Mahut. Never give up! Never surrender!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Once More Into the Breach

Today I'm over at the Ruby blog talking about how ancient Chinese military strategy applies to aspiring writers. Swing on by and yell, "Charge!"

Monday, June 21, 2010

Q&A with Wanda Ottewell

Today Wanda Ottewell, the Senior Editor of Harlequin's Superromance line, is answering questions at the Ruby blog. This is a don't-miss for aspiring scribes contemplating category romance. Check it out!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Serious Romance

You know those moments in romance novels where everything is soooo perfect and sooo romantic that it almost trips over into the ridiculous? The hero and heroine are so involved in the moment of passion so pure and divine it has never been matched in the history of love affairs... Do you ever kind of wish one of them would fall off the bed? Or they would bump noses during one of the perfectly choreographed kisses? Well, then, boys and girls, this commercial is for you. Enjoy.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Pink is the New Black

I sometimes wonder if I've been contaminated by an over-exposure to Romancelandia. Reading and writing used to be private activities for me, but the whole Author Persona thing has changed that somewhat.

Three years ago, I had no idea the Romance Community even existed and I knew a great big nada about the Publishing Industry (though of course I thought I knew more than I did). Now, my growing awareness of the vast community of romance readers & writers trickles into my reading and writing experiences. And honestly, I'm not entirely sure whether that's a good thing or a bad thing. (Probably a bit of both.)

I used to pick which projects I worked on in a sort of haphazard, impulsive way. My first romance came about because it burrowed into my brain and refused to leave. Up to that point I had only written books with...erm, let's call it a "questionable market appeal".

When I decided to stop being a hobbyist and start writing for publication, I realized I had to actually consider not only whether my writing was good, but whether anyone would ever buy it. That was the birth of my awareness of market trends.

As I heard some big author (I wanna say Susan Mallery? Stephanie Bond? Someone else whose first name is an "S" name?) say at a conference (paraphrasing here) "I have a lot of books I want to write, I might as well write the one that's going to sell." Or something like that. And I pretty much agree with that. I have a stack of ideas, and they all appeal to me, so I might as well write the one that's likely to make me some cashola.

But how do you know which one is going to sell? And "selling" exists on two levels. You have to hook the editor (agent, publisher, etc.) and get them to offer a contract, but then you have to take it the next step and hook the reader. With each contract, the publisher is trying to predict the reader trends (which I tend to think is wholly impossible, so you should just buy great books, publisher-friend, and pray like hell that they catch on, but maybe I'm just too ignorant of the publisher's inner workings to realize that they do, indeed, successfully predict and direct trends).

So to be a Mega Star Author, you have to be lucky enough to ride the wave of the Big Trend all the way to shore. (This metaphor is gonna get unwieldy. I can feel it.) Surfing that wave means having the skill (writing chops) to avoid getting rolled and knocking yourself unconscious on the coral. But it also means being able to see the wave coming so you know when to start paddling - i.e. identifying the trend when it is still just a swell in the ocean miles off shore.

TANGENT: My dad tried to teach my mom to body surf on one of their first dates. He did not understand that my mother, though an excellent swimmer, was blind as a bat and couldn't see the waves and therefore couldn't catch them. #dadfail END TANGENT.

So, if we keep working the metaphor to death (cuz who doesn't love standing over a bloody metaphor with a machete?), publishing executives are essentially standing on the shore (because the writers are the actual surfers, yeah?) staring out at the ocean and trying to predict which wave out of which set they think is going to break biggest so they know when to shout, "Paddle now!" (i.e. when to buy). Sometimes being the surfer who catches the wave is just a matter of being the one who happens to be sitting on her board staring at the horizon at that moment - right place, right time. (Of course, you still have to know how to surf in the first place. Ain't no substitute for writing chops.)

One of those waves (actually several of them, if you ask me) was named Vampires. It was a doozie. A honey set of awesome revenues. And now the publishing masses are staring out at the horizon, squinting at the swells and whispering to one another. Does that one look like the Vampire wave did before it hit?

And then they build hype for the wave... (Total breakdown of metaphor. I have no idea how hyping the wave has anything to do with surfing. Psyching yourself up, maybe?) Werewolves are the new Vampires! Demons are the new Vampires! Zombies are the new Vampires! Gods/Superheroes/Minotaurs (<-- click for the funny. Dude, I love the Onion.) are the new Vampires!

It reminds me of Josie & the Pussycats. The movie. Did you see that one? Pink is the new black! Orange is the new pink! Green is the new orange! Consumerism, yay! Ride the trend, baby! Ride it hard!

The movie was actually kinda sweet. About authenticity of expression in a way. You can like us or not like us (and we hope you like us) but we're gonna do our thing. Not the trendy thing. Because you gotta be true to yourself, yo.

I saw this thing Jennifer Enderlin of St. Martin's Press (I am not above admitting I have a mad editor-crush on her) said at Book Expo America recently about how she's "excited by authors who buck trends and not doing what's hot." But how does the Not Hot Author get her book onto Ms. Enderlin's desk? You have to be willing to swim really hard against the current for a long time to get there. (Not that I'm lazy. I'm just, you know, lazy.)

So do we go for the trend? Against the trend? Try to predict the trend? Forget about the trend because it's impossible to predict anyway?

Heck if I know. All I know is that for a while I've been hearing contemporary romance is out of favor, especially funny contemporary, so don't even submit it to us because we don't want to see it. And now I see all these folks making funny contemp deals and I'm sitting here thinking, Damn, I should have been riding that wave.

Does it matter? Not really. I plan on surfing a long time. Eventually I'll be in the right place at the right time to catch a big wave. In the mean time, I'm practicing on the waves I've got.

Right now, I've got a shifter story to finish...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Do You Romance Responsibly?

On Monday, contemporary romance author Kelly Fitzpatrick posted an interesting blog about female empowerment and how it relates to sexual safety/education in romance novels. It sparked an interesting conversation about heroine/hero condom use in romance novels.

So now I'm curious: Do you like it when a romance author "Romances Responsibly" or do you think references to the realities of STDs & unwanted pregnancies are mood killers in a hot and steamy sex scene?

Should romance heroines be role models who practice safe sex at all times? Or should we trust our readers to know the difference between fiction and reality? Surprise pregnancies abound as plot twists - but always result in happy marriages with two loving and devoted parents by the time we get to the happily ever. Do STDs even exist in Romancelandia?

These books are entertainment, clearly, but do the authors have a responsibility to their reader to show that safety can be sexy? What say you, reader-friend?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Own the Audience

Dude. Y'all. This article here: it blew my mind. I was all yeah. That.

He's talking about the direction the publishing industry is headed (which is sooooo much nicer than the Publishing is Dead! mantra so many people are screaming in apocalyptic hysteria). Essentially the point is that publishers need to consider that their value moving forward into a digital age will be in the audiences they command ("eyes they own") rather than the content they own.

From an author's perspective this is fascinating stuff, because it takes the publishers role from being one of gatekeeper you have to get past to get your words to the reading public (which, let's face it, is less and less the case as self-publishing becomes a more viable option through digitization) and moves it into the realm of a facilitator who helps the right audience for your work find your book. If you think of the publisher as owning the audience and you own the content, then the partnership between author and publisher takes on a whole new dimension.

And it shifts the publisher's marketing goals toward attracting a loyal audience rather than throwing everything they have behind a few books they hope will be best sellers. Publishers as brand names makes so much more sense to me than authors branding themselves. It seems like a natural evolution into the digital world.

Interesting stuff, boys and girls. Very interesting stuff.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Several Small Pieces of Awesome

Today I bring you a bullet list. Because few things make me squeal with glee quite as loudly as writing bullet lists. (This is not a joke. Obsession, thy name is bullet lists. And venn diagrams. And spreadsheets. Yeah. I'm a nerd.)

Ready? Awesomeness, comin' at ya.
  • Maureen Johnson (who I will confess I have a really hard time not thinking of as Maureen Scarlett because she writes the Scarlett books - you know, the YA ones about the chick in the Manhattan boutique hotel? Yeah, her.) wrote a MANIFESTO of awesome, saying she is NOT A BRAND. And I'm gonna give a great big wooohooooo! Because there are moments when I think we, as authors, are sucking the life out the internet by being all I must have a brand and BUYMEBUYMEBUYME all the time. (And I know I myself have been guilty of this at times and I hate it when I get all fakey because I feel pressured to sell myself as a commodity. Ugh.) My (very abstract paraphrase of her) New Manifesto: The internet is fun! Enjoy it and stop trying to shout your message in everyone's face and omigod, you might actually make a connection with some of the slices of awesome lurking on the interwebz. (And accidentally sell something in the process.)

  • I might move to Beijing. This is still in the earliest of planning stages, but I am so freaking excited about the possibility of this that I had to share. Yay, China! (Maybe.)

  • The Sexorcist won Book of the Week! Cuz you guys rock. And for no other reason than cuz you guys rock. So check out the cool badge thing we won, y'all! --> -->

  • I am a force that sucks people into Romancelandia! My aunt got back into reading romance when I started, my mom started reading it when I started writing it, and many a friend have I gotten hooked on the HEA, I am happy to report. But now, I'm taking it to a new level. Corrupting writers! I have used my awesome powers of influence to lure one of my oldest friends, The Enabler (best superpower ever), over to the dark-side. She's joining Romance Writers of America and officially becoming one of us! Mwah-ha-ha! I am triumphant! My master plan at work!

That is all. Have you any awesomeness to report?

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Shape of Things

Last night I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I finally finished the first draft on a book that was giving me fits. Normally I love first drafts. Charging forward, the feeling of accomplishment as the words fill up the pages, but this time was like pulling teeth. I got to thinking about why it was so much harder and I realized I was three-quarters through the first draft before I found the shape of the book.

The "shape" of the book is my woo-woo metaphyiscal way of describing the theme, the tone, the feel - all the dimensions that make up a story other than plot and characters. The intangibles. The things a college freshman would bullshit about in a term paper about my book. (Yeah, I write romance, so I know the term papers about my books are not terribly likely, but a girl can dream, right?)

More often than not, I know the shape before I get more than a few hundred words in, but there are some times when the shape eludes me and I feel like I'm flying blind. Not a fun feeling.

Those are the times when finding the shape of the book is like looking at a block of solid marble and trying to see a sculpture in it. Without a guiding vision, I just start hacking away at the marble with the blind hope that there must be a pretty shape in there somewhere, fingers crossed that I don't chisel off any important pieces.

It took a long time this time. I was really deep into the book and starting to worry that it was never going to take shape. Then two days ago, like magic, I saw it. Voila. There it was. And it was pretty. Maybe not as polished and smooth as it needed to be, but the rough outline was there. I had a shape! I could fine tune it in revisions. From there the ending of the book practically wrote itself.

I don't know if it's any good yet. Probably won't for a while. But today what matters is that I made it through that first draft and there is actually a shape in the middle of that mess.

I don't know why it's so much easier when I can "see" the intangibles in my head before I start. If you're a writer, do your books have a shape? Is it a conscious thing for you like it (usually) is with me or something that just sort of happens along the way?

As a reader, are you aware of the symbols and themes that run through a book? Do they matter to you? Enhance the experience? Or is it just a piece of a whole book that you've never broken down to analyze? (I analyze everything. It's a sickness.)

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Book of the Week

Long & Short Romance Reviews does something pretty cool every week. They pit their best reviewed books of the week against one another (which sounds violent, doesn't it?) but I love the idea because it's a sly way of cross-promoting for all those authors.

You see, we get these emails saying "You're up for Book of the Week!" And we squee and gush and giggle, cuz it's awesome to have someone love your book. And then we tell everyone, "My book is up for Book of the Week! Go! Check it out! Vote!" And so our loyal reader-friends go and check out the reviews and vote... but you know what else they do? They are exposed to all those other books in a highly positive way. How cool is that?

So today I say to you, reader-friend, "Go to Long & Short Reviews! Vote for The Sexorcist! Or vote for another book that sounds hella awesome! But be exposed to the explosions of awesome that are the Best Books of the Week!" Cuz it's a pretty cool concept.

Friday, June 4, 2010

E-Pub Questions? We've Got Answers!

Today I'm hosting a Q&A over at the Ruby blog about epublishing options for aspiring authors. Got a burning question? Want to lend your expertise on the changing epublishing options available? Or give your two cents as an avid ebook reader? Please swing by at and join the discussion.

Also, I'm talking about voice, style & other intangibles that make authors auto-buys for me at the Damned Scribbling Women this week. Check it out:

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

There's an -osis for that!

In the writing of every book, there comes a time when I am convinced, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I am writing the worst piece of sh*t book that has ever been written in the history of man. So I call my mom (yes, I run straight to mommy, you got a problem with that?) and I wail, "It's awful!" and my mother says, "You always think that." And I moan, "But this time I'm right!" And she says, "You always say that." So I say, "This time is different!" But it never is.

Turns out, there's an "osis" for that. Or, in this case, an effect. The Dunning-Kruger effect, to be exact. Apparently, if I have confidence issues about the writing thing, it might just be a sign that I'm hella brilliant. Or something. Check it out:

AKA: it's a good thing I suck.

But since I am a constantly swinging pendulum of confidence, I'm not always convinced I suck, so now I'm worried about which side I fall on - the incompetent who oversells herself or the savant who understates. Is it possible to be both?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Newfound Hotness

The Sexorcist got 5 books at Long & Short Reviews! Woot! Click here to read the full review. It was, ahem, quite favorable. ;)

It is also the second (of two) reviews to comment on the hot and heavy sexxoring that my hero and heroine get into. Is it weird that I didn't realize I'd written this one particularly hot? Accidental steam! I guess my mind is just a lot dirtier than I realize sometimes.

Did you read The Sexorcist? Did you find the sizzle quotient rather high? Have you ever accidentally written something a bit hotter than intended?