The Joys and Perils of Genre Jumping

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Change is hard. Even when you want to change, it’s still a challenge to teach your mind that what you’re doing is okay. That it will all work out. That you shouldn’t panic!

OSV - Grape Arbor

Last summer, I wrote a contemporary romance called Over Easy. I did it because I wanted to grow my writing skills and to try something new and challenging.

All of my books have been paranormal romances. And while I love the genre (and I don’t intend to leave it all together), I need to stretch myself once in a while. So I had this idea about a woman and a struggling diner in a small town in Vermont.

The idea percolated in my brain while I wrote Mystic Hero and Lachlan’s Curse (which I recently sold – yay me!).  I knew going in that it would be hard to switch from one genre to another. Sure, they are both romances, and in theory, the heart is still a love story. . . but. . .

. . . But here’s the thing. They aren’t the same. With contemporary romance, I wouldn’t have magic, evil villains or explosions to rely upon to get my hero/heroine in and out of jams.

Nope.

I’d have to rely on good, old fashioned emotions. Every day problems. Accessible issues. Hearts and flowers.

Hmmm.

Those were kind of scary to me. In real life, I don’t like drama. I hate confrontations. And I don’t like overly emotional situations. Heck, I’m not sure I’m even that romantic.

Well, personal fears aside, I wrote the book.

It came out too short. And while it was okay and my beta readers liked it (it even placed in a contest), I knew it wasn’t as good as it could be.  So I did what most writers do in that situation.

I let it sit. And sit. And sit some more. Then panic and doubt set in, until it morphed into THE. WORST.BOOK.EVER.

That’s when I knew it was time to ask for help. I’m lucky that my RWA chapter has a mentoring program. And I’m even luckier that my mentor is well-versed in the genre.

After a frank assessment of my work, I have new path to follow. I’m learning how to be less plotty (yes, that’s a thing) and be more real. AND to face all those emotions that scare me. Yup. I’m digging deep. It’s uncomfortable, but I’ll live.IMG_1086

In order to write the best book I can – to hatch a beaut
iful butterfly – I need to return to the cocoon and start again.

See? Maybe there are some hearts and flowers in me after all.

Has anyone else faced the same problem? How did you deal with it?

All Hail the New Year!

The new girl.

Happy New Year everyone!

Okay so it’s day 12 of the New Year and what have I done so far? Loads.

1. I’ve submitted Lachlan’s Curse to my publisher. Fingers crossed that it’s accepted.

2. I’ve purchased and am wearing a Fitbit. So far so good, but I’m not moving enough yet. I plan to rectify the situation by walking more and having younger son teach me some of his weight lifting moves.

I got the pink one!
I got the pink one!

3. I’m using My Fitness Pal to track my steps and food intake. It’s easy to use and it’s free. The good news – I am burning more calories than I’m eating. Go me!

4. I am officially one more cat away from being a crazy cat lady. In one week, we managed to rescue one cat from death row (via the wonderful folks at Mary’s Kitty Korner) and take in another stray that I’ve been feeding/seducing into my house for the last year.

The new girl.
The new girl.
The not so new boy.
The not so new boy.

 

5. I have officially started another book – Making Whoopie (book 2 after Over Easy which still needs serious spit and polish).

And that’s how my first twelve is going. How about you?

Also, this being a new year and all, if you haven’t joined my mailing list – you can find the link here.

If you’d like an invitation to join Tsuhere you go.

The “Good Parts” Version

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I recently read Cary Elwes book, As You Wish:Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride.  When I heard this book was out, I did a very strange thing. I ran to Barnes and Noble and bought the hardcover. And I paid full price! 

Normally, I buy digital. Largely because I am drowning in books. So obviously, to me, this was a special “must have” book.

After purchasing my copy, I dropped everything I was doing and read it. I laughed, I cried (especially the parts about Andre the Giant) and I remembered my own life back then with this strange nostalgia.

It’s hard to believe that when the movie was released in 1987 that it wasn’t a theatrical success. It’s popularity arrived after the video release of the movie. Then, I’m sure there were plenty of people who’d wished they’d seen it in the theater.

I’m one of the lucky people who did see it in a theater. And, while many years have passed, I remember that experience. My college housemates and I went to a matinee (probably to escape studying) in nearby Virginia. It was LOVE at first viewing. I remember thinking it was the most amazing movie I’d ever seen. In short, I knew I’d seen something special. Almost life changing.

It wasn’t any one thing either but a combination of the perfect actors, with the right director and, by golly, the dialogue. So many gems. These  are some of my favorite:

“Inconceivable!”

“Get used to disappointment.”

“Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

And, the most romantic way of saying, I love you – “As you wish.”

Now close to thirty years later, as a writer, I can’t help but think, “Damn. This is like the most perfect fairy tale. Ever.”

And not just the movie version, but the book too. Somehow, I managed to completely miss reading the book growing up. I rectified that when the 25th anniversary edition came out. One of the writer lessons I learned (and must have internalized) was the subtitle: The “Good Parts” Version.

And it means exactly what it says. No long, boring dissertations about landscapes, clothing, room decor, etc. In short, all the things I hate as a reader. All the parts that I gloss over or skip right past.

I’m in the process of editing my first contemporary romance- Over Easy. And I’ve been cutting like a fiend. I’ve been creating what I hope is, The “Good Parts” Version.

And really, that is what editing should be all about. Creating the best, grab the reader by the pants, version of a story.

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Third Time’s A Charm

Mystic Hero

perf5.000x8.000.inddIt’s kind of hard to put into words how I feel about the third book in the Mystic Series. Last year, while I was writing the book, it seemed like I would never finish it.

There were two reasons for that:

One: I was simultaneously writing another paranormal romance –  Lachlan’s Curse (which I did complete early 2014 but that’s a whole other blog post).

Two: the book ended up longer than my target goal of 83,000 – 85,000 words. In fact, the word count after the last round of publisher edits was @92,000 words.

Because I am a die hard plotter, in my mind, this shouldn’t have happened. Obviously I took a wrong turn in Albuquerque or something.

Why so long?

Well, the short answer: that’s how long the story is. For those of you following this series (and I thank you very much!) this is Devlin Ward’s book.

Devlin is a virginal satyr who has a boatload of childhood drama to deal with before he can obtain his happily every after. Lucky for him, his heroine, Mary (aka Ma’at) is more than ready to take accept the challenge.

And believe me, it was a challenge for me too.  Even though I know this world well it didn’t make writing their story any easier. When I realized that the first draft would clock in around 95,000 words, I had a choice to make – stop writing and figure out what was wrong or keep writing because maybe nothing was wrong.

While that sounds incredibly insane, I know from first hand experience that I can be my own worst enemy (hello, Doubt Monster).

In the end, I decided to keep writing and see what would happen because I’m crazy like that. I figured, why not? I can always delete stuff later (which I did).

This past weekend, I read the book again after a final round of edits. And guess what? The length felt just right for Devlin and Mary.

So is there a moral to this blog post? Yes!

Don’t fear the delete key. And don’t be afraid to just see what’s going to happen next.

 

The Horror of #Word Crimes!

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Recently, Weird Al released another album which shot straight to number 1 on the Billboard Chart. Not since 1963 has a comedy album taken the top spot. Kudos to Weird Al!

And lucky for us writers, he’ s addressed a pressing issue – #Word Crimes! Please watch the following instructional video.

Be sure to laugh out loud if you feel so moved!

 

And then, please reflect upon Weird Al’s wisdom.

In an age where social media reigns supreme, it does seem like grammar is becoming a lost art. Sure, for us writers, solid knowledge of grammar is a must.  But it wasn’t until I chortled my way through this song, that I realized how many of these  mistakes also drive me mad.

Now, to be fair, before I began seriously writing, I’d forgotten some of those rules too. Comma placement continues to stump me. See the previous sentence – I probably used too many commas.  I don’t always punctuate dialog properly and the distinction between blond and blonde often baffles me (largely because publishers all handle it differently).

I am, by no means, a grammar nit-picker but one thing that does drive me nuts is spelling words wrong on purpose.

I’m looking at you SyFy Channel. For shame!!

I’m curious to know – which grammar mistakes drive you batty?

 

 

Focus, people, focus.

Remember to take time to enjoy the flowers.

They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. And while in my experience that seems to be true, it’s not always obvious that a behavior has moved over into the “insane” column.

ClockHere’s an example of what I mean. Between my family and my writing career, I manage several mailboxes (five to be exact, six if I count the day job). For the last four years, I’ve been deleting annoying and unwanted emails.

Every. Single. Day.

It had become such a habit that I didn’t realize I’d entered the insanity zone. I mean, did I think that by deleting them they would magically stop coming?

I dunno. Maybe.

Like everyone else in the universe, my time is limited and very valuable. So is yours. The world is filled with miniature, time sucking vampires like unwanted, unneeded, unread email.

Of course this got me thinking. What other subtle activities are robbing me of focus? And what can I do to get rid of them?

Do you have the same problem? I bet you do. Naturally, I have some tips:

1. De-clutter your inbox – i.e. stop receiving so many damn useless emails. Do you find yourself deleting the same kinds of emails over and over. Magazine subscriptions, sales at every store known to mankind: Macy’s, Land’s End, Kohl’s – you name it. Go to the bottom of the email and click unsubscribe then follow the directions. See? Easy Peasy.

One word of caution. Do not do this with spam. No, no, no. Actual spam (if it’s coming into your inbox) should be ruthlessly marked a such and sent to the spam oubliette where it deserves to rot.

2. Go to your social media sites and check your settings and eliminate all the needless notifications. Many social media sites send these because you fail to notice all those little check boxes when you first sign up. Or they change policy (looking at you, Facebook) and decide you need to know all kinds of useless stuff. Unless of course you like to know that your brother’s wife’s sister’s cousin has a strange alligator rash on her skin. Ewww.

3. Be in the moment. What does that mean, Master Yoda? It means don’t multitask. GASP. I know. Crazy, right? Believe it or not, it’s not really possible to write a book, talk on the phone, and make dinner all at the same time. Multitasking is a myth people! Focus on the task at hand. The end result will be better.

4. Disconnect. Yup. You heard me. If you want to get in your word count and you can’t stop visiting the world wide web – then turn off the wi-fi. Duh. Don’t worry. Your brother’s wife’s sister’s cousin’s strange rash will still be waiting for  you.

5. Unleash the hounds, Smithers! If your significant other or family can’t leave you alone when you need to work, then sorry, you have to let them know to please leave you alone. If escaping your house isn’t an option, might I suggest a pair of earplugs? They got me through years of younger son’s Call of Duty shouting matches with his friends.

That’s all I’ve got for today. If you have other tips, please share.

Remember to take time to enjoy the flowers.
Remember to take the time to enjoy the flowers.

 

Meggan Connors Talks Music And Inspiration

HighlandDeception

Today, I’m sharing my blog space with one of my favorite people and authors, Meggan Connors.

HighlandDeceptionI’m a huge fan of all her books (The Marker, The Mackay Brothers, and Jessie’s War) but she really outdid herself with her latest book – Highland Deception. A definite five star read. Don’t miss. Seriously. Just don’t.

Okay, enough from me, time for Meggan to share her view on music and inspiration. By the way, I totally get what she’s saying about the whole quiet think.

Right, right, shutting up now!!

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Some authors require absolute silence when they write.

Not me.

My day job is very noisy. With a chatty husband, two kids, two dogs (one a floppy puppy and the other a German Shepherd) and a talkative cat, my house is very noisy. In general, I am not a quiet person.

So silence, for me, is…disconcerting.

When I first started writing, I needed something to drown out the extra sounds in the house. I turned to music, and now I can’t write without it. I even tried to the other day, just to see if I could. The husband and kids were out of the house, and the silence actually made me uncomfortable. So I turned the radio on and the words started flowing.

Every manuscript I write has a different soundtrack. For my first book, The Marker, my debut novel, I listened to Carolina Liar and the Dixie Chicks. It took me nearly half the novel to actually assign certain artists to it, but once I did, I finally felt like I had a clear direction for my story. Had to go back and rewrite some of those first chapters, but since I’m a pantser, I probably would have had to do that, anyway.

Jessie’s War, my western steampunk, had a song assigned before I even started, which was good for the story. I listened to that song over and over again. In the car. In the house. On my commute, and in my office. I finished that manuscript in what is, for me, record time: twelve weeks.

But I realized that maybe I needed to switch it up when, three weeks into my manuscript, my son started singing the song in the middle of the supermarket, from start to finish, loudly and off key. For those of you who might be interested, the song was This is Why We Fight by The Decemberists. If you don’t know it, it’s a great song, though not necessarily something a four year old would generally belt out.

And for my latest, Highland Deception, I started out listening to the sound track from The Last of the Mohicans, but ended up listening to Christina Perry’s Arms and Phillip Phillips’ Home in order to finish.

And now, my muse is obsessed—and I mean obsessed—with Barry Manilow. Again. Yes, sadly, it’s not the first time.

Barry Manilow has been on continuous replay now for months—only in my head, though. I keep trying to convince myself that I won’t stoop to buying Barry Manilow’s Greatest Hits—after all, Barry Manilow brings back memories of sitting in the back of my mom’s Renault LeCar, listening to John Denver, Neil Diamond, and Barry. And trying really hard not to throw up, because, as I recall, I was carsick more often than not.

It’s not my intention to write about the late 70s, early 80s. Yet, the other day, I caught myself singing Sweet Caroline and Mandy in my car. And then I wrote a scene where, in my head, Barry Manilow is playing in the background.

I guess there’s no stopping the muse when she decides she’s going to do something. So I guess I’ll have to bow to my muse’s rather persistent requests and start listening to “the right kind” of music again.

I guess I’ll have to listen to some Barry.

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Meggan Connors’ latest novel, Highland Deception, came out in March of 2014. She loves to hear from readers, and you can find follow her on her website (www.megganconnors.com), Facebook (www.facebook.com/pages/Meggan-Connors/120715354695518) Twitter (@MegganConnors).  Where you’ll get to hear about her latest camping trip, books she’s reading, musical musings, and her small obsession with cute shoes she can’t wear (because they’re cute, you know?).

Highland Deception is available through Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Highland-Deception-Meggan-Connors-ebook/dp/B00J3D2JS6/

Blurb:

When Kenneth Mackay, long-banished rogue and thief, returns to the Mackay holding at the request of his brother, he has no idea what he might find. He certainly doesn’t expect to be confronted with his twin’s imminent death, or with the plan his brother has concocted.

Ten years before, Malcolm made a tragic mistake, and, to preserve the family name—and his own skin—he allowed Kenneth to take the fall. Now that he is dying without an heir, Malcolm plans to atone for his mistake: by giving Kenneth his life back. All Kenneth has to do is assume his brother’s identity. But complicating matters is the unexpected return of Lady Isobel Mackay, the daughter of an English marquess… and the wife Malcolm didn’t want.

Isobel barely knows the husband who abandoned her even before their marriage, and she’d long since given up on having a real marriage with him. Yet when she returns to the Mackay holding far earlier than expected, she finds her husband a changed man. Despite the hurt between them, Isobel’s heart responds to this man who cares for his entire clan as if they were family. Who, for the first time since their marriage, cares for her as if she is, too.

Falling in love with her husband had never been part of Isobel’s plan. But when their future is suddenly in peril, Isobel must find a way to save him—from himself and from the deception threatening to tear them apart.

If you got questions for Meggan, please fire away. 

Are Authors Allowed to Have Opinions?

Lollipops

Once upon a time, in the dark days before the Internet, writers used to be inaccessible Titans of Storytelling. There was a mystique, a veil of awe, that separated the reader from their beloved authors. Many times, a faceless (unless there was an author photo) God who churned out books we love and who solely existed to bring us readers joy.

An intrepid fan could contact a writer via their publishers, snail mail or by attending a convention, book signing or other public appearance. Even then, the hallowed author of your favorite books/series/universe was somewhat of a celebrity, often rendering Roosteryou speechless. After all, chances were good that you’d approach the table, state your name so they could personalize your book, then you’d mumble something lame like – “I really love your books”, then move on**.

** quick aside – as a writer, we don’t think that’s lame at all. We appreciate knowing that readers enjoy our books.

Rarely did a reader learn or probably even try to discover the author’s political, religious or any beliefs at all. Nor as a reader, did we necessarily care – we just wanted them behind a keyboard churning out another book.

Ahh, how times have changed. Right?

Today, with multiple forms of social media, your friendly neighborhood author is just a mouse click away. The veil of mystique is shattered which begs the question – should author’s have opinions? How much is too much sharing?

Heck, do we even use our own names?

No doubt about it, there’s a fine line here between being yourself as a person and being a persona as a writer.

Some writers love to let it all hang out and are very vocal in their beliefs (example – Orson Scott Card). His very vocal views on homosexuality led to a firestorm that in all likelihood alienated fans. I know it made me think twice about him.

Other’s let the world know just enough about them to be enjoyable but don’t cross the TMI line (example – Kristan Higgins). Since Kristan and I are in the CTRWA together, I can attest that, yes, she is that down to earth, enjoys her man candy and loves her family. An ordinary person and a generous author with both her time and advice.

Does this mean writer’s shouldn’t have opinions? Are we not allowed to air our beliefs? Well, of course we’re allowed to have opinions and, hey, it’s a free country, right?

But again, it’s a fine line when it comes to what you say in public. So before you rant on Facebook or engage in a heated twitter battle, know the potential repercussions.

I like to apply the old adage – think before you speak (or type). And do unto others is also sound advice.Lollipops

Put yourself on the other side of the fence – think of yourself as a reader too. Ask yourself:

  • Does learning that your favorite author has a total opposite view than you change how you see them?
  • Would you stop buying their books if they expressed/ranted about XYZ?
  • Do you really want to know XXX level of detail?

For me personally, as a writer, I’d rather walk on the positive side and keep my personal views to myself, especially in the political arena. During the last election, I un-friended people on Facebook (fellow writers) because of too much political ranting.

And when I apply the reader test to myself, I find I’d rather hear about when the next book is coming out and what my favorite author has planned next. It’s not that I don’t think writers should have opinions, but I’d rather save it for face to face conversations or private correspondence.

I say –  be polite, accessible but leave a little of that old mystique.  Let the reader enjoy your books without too much information ruining their good time.

What do you think? Do you like to let it all hang out? Have you ever faced repercussions? Or have you found a happy medium?

AmaZOD Prime

I'll get you my pretty!

Sorry if I haven’t posted for the last two weeks. Hubby once again “gifted’ me with sickness – nothing serious – but enough to slow me down. Stuffy nose that has lasted forever, sapping all my energy and leaving me with a case of the blahs.

I'll get you my pretty!
I’ll get you my pretty!

I’ve also been busy reading the final third of Lachlan’s Curse so I can send it to my beta readers. After that, it’s time to start plotting my next book.

During the last two weeks, while sitting on the couch in a pile of tissues, I’ve had some time to catch up on television. I binge watched True Detective – awesome freakin’ show!! I can’t wait to see the conclusion tonight.

The other thing I’ve been doing is reading. Like a fiend. I may have mentioned a time or two that I have a Kindle Fire (8.9) and I love it. Thanks to e-books, I’ve purchased more than a hundred books since I bought the fire last year – far surpassing the amount I bought with my Nook.

I have to applaud Amazon. The Kindle is a perfect Amazon delivery device. Not only is it easy to buy or borrow books (I’m a Prime Member), but I can buy stuff too all with a few easy screen touches. I can even use my Kindle to cue up video content onto my watchlist so I don’t have to scroll through menus on my blu-ray player.

Like I said – Way. Too. Easy.

Now, I totally understand why some people worry about Amazon taking over the world. Even though I’m a frequent user: buying tons of e-books, ordering seasons of Doctor Who, watching Amazon instant videos (just started Season 1 of Orphan Black), even bought a pair of  sneakers, I don’t think that will happen.

The reason – no company is invulnerable. If Amazon gets flabby, fat and lazy, some other entrepreneur will see the opportunity and take them on. Just like Amazon did way back in the early 1990s with brick and mortar stores.

The best thing about Amazon is the boxes.
The best thing about Amazon is the boxes.

So while I consider Amazon a giant time and money suck – and that’s only because I’m allowing it – I’m not worried about the evil AmaZod. Or the fact that once Amazon has mercilessly crushed all competition, they will ruthlessly raise prices on us unwitting consumers. This line of thinking has been dubbed “Amazon Derangement Syndrome” by The Passive Voice. Be sure to visit this informative blog for plenty of examples of this thinking.

I love to read, watch movies and TV, and get the best deal for my money. I don’t  plan on changing my buying habits anytime soon so until someone else can do a better job, I’m going to keep “using”.