On “Writing to be Read”: Romance is in the air in April

romance

Romance is one of the most popular genres around, not because everyone is reading them, but because romance readers read a lot. Romance comes in a wide variety of sub-genres: contemporary romance, historical romance, paranormal romance, fantasy romance, western romance, Christian romance, adventure romance, dark romance, and of course, erotic romance, just to name a few. Each type of romance can be very different, because they are after all different types of stories, and there are romantic elements in many types of storiest a romantic subplot has strong emphasis, such as romantic thrillers, romantic mysteries, romantic fantasies, or romantic time travel novels.

So, why is romance so popular? I think it is due in part to the fact that romance is such a vital part of life. Most people have experienced romantic relationships, and if they haven’t, they are searching for such a relationship, because we all need to give love and feel loved. But, romance readers aren’t just love starved singles whose dreams lay just beyond their reach, they also include plenty of happily married people, (mostly women, both married or single), who just like to relive those positive feeling they get from a good love story. Romance is something we all can relate to in one way or another. Romance novels offer a way for us to satisfy our inner longings viscareally or relate and relive our own experiences.

Every romance story or subplot has three things in common: two flawed main characters and a happily ever after, or at least a happily for now. In between, the characters must overcome many obstacles and conflicts. Sometimes these are external, such as others trying to keep them apart, but often they are internal, trying to convince themselves that they should be together, because they won’t admit that this is what they want, even to themselves. In the past the two characters were a boy and a girl, or a man and a woman, but in these changing times it is acceptable, perhaps even desirable, to write or read LBGT romances, where the characters may be of the same sex, or even questionable gender. Today romances may also be rated by the how much and how graphic the sex scenes are, from sweet to steamy to downright hot, and everything in between.

Romance is the genre theme for April, with interviews with “Chatting with the Pros” guest author historical romance author, Maya Rodale, and paranormal romance author Chris Barili (A.K.A. B.T. Clearwater). This month also featured reviews of an historical erotic romance, Ripper, by Amy Cecil, and a science fiction time travel romance, The Christmas Cruise, by Tammy Tate. As a special bonus, Jordan Elizabeth talked about writing her paranormal western romance, Treasure Darkly on her segment of “Writing for a Y.A. Audience“. Two reviews is hardly enough to be examples of all of the wide variety of forms and sub-genres which romance takes, so below you will find links to other past reviews of the romance genre, both good and not so good,  to allow you to explore a wider variety of romance. As you can see from the varied selection, even though each contains the basic romance elements, all romances are not alike.

For my reviews of contemporary romance novels: Destiny’s Detour, by Mari Brown; Freedom’s Mercy, by A.K. Lawrence; Leave a Mark, by Stephanie Fournet; Ice on Fire, by Amy Cecil;

For my reviews of inspirational romance: Once – Ask Me Anything, Not Love, by Mian Mohsin Zia; Wrinkles, by Mian Mohsin Zia

For my reviews of an historical romance novel: Blind Fortune, by Joanna Waugh

For my reviews of a science fiction romance novel: Ethereal Lives, by Gem Stone

For my review of a LBGT science fiction romance novel: The Hands We’re GivenThe Hands We’re Given, by O.E. Tearmann

For my reviews of YA romances: Rotham Race, by Jordan Elizabeth (dystopian, apocalyptic); Runners & Riders, by Jordan Elizabeth (steampunk); Bottled, by Carol Riggs (romance fantasy); Treasure Darkly, by Jordan Elizabeth (dark western steampunk fantasy romance)

For my reviews of paranormal romances: Love Me Tender, by Mimi Barbour; Smothered, by B.T. Clearwater; Don’t Wake Me Up, by M.E. Rhines; The Demon is in the Details, by Harris Channing

For my review of a science fantasy romance: Gyre, by Jessica Gunn

For my review of supernatural romances: Bait, by Kasi Blake; Wolves for the Holiday 1.1, by Josette Reuel

For my interview of a comedy crime romance: Bailin’, by Linton Robinson

For my review of a contemporary sports romance: A Slapshot Prequel Box Set (Slapshot Prequel Trilogy Book 4), by Heather C. Myers

For my reviews of contemporary erotic romance: Bullet, by Jade C. Jamison; Everything Undone, by Westeria Wilde; Tangled Web, by Jade C. Jamison

For my review of romantic comedies: Behind Frenemy Lines, by Chelle Pederson Smith; Dream Job: Wacky Adventures of an H.R. Manager, by Janet Garbor

For my review of a romantic thriller: Freedom’s Song, by A.K. Lawrence

I hope you enjoyed our exploration of romance this month, and I hope you will join me in May for a closer look at Westerns. My “Chatting with the Pros” guest will be western author Juliette Douglas, with a supporting interview with Patricia PacJac Carroll, who writes Christian western romances. My book reviews will be on Chance Damnation, by DeAnna Knippling and Not Just Any Man, by Loretta Miles Tollefson. I’m looking forward to it, and I hope you are, too.

In April, we also had a special Saturday bonus interview with Shiju Pallithazheth to celebrate the release of his new book of magical realism stories, Katashi Tales. We also talk about the work he is doing to aknowledge contributors to world literature. We need more stories which spread love and acceptance of one another. I hope you’ll drop by to catch that one, too.

Remember, tomorrow is the deadline for the WordCrafter paranormal story entries. So, submit your paranormal short now, before it’s too late. I’ve already received some good ones, but there’s room for more. Winner gets a spot in the WordCrafter paranormal anthology and a $25 Amazon gift card. Other qualifying entries may get invitations to the anthology, as well. It’s only $5 to enter, so you really can’t go wrong. Full submission details here.) Send me your story while there’s still time. Hurry!


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Interview with romance author Chris Barili (AKA B.T. Clearwater)

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing author Chris Barili, and although he’s written in other genres, and his latest release is the fantasy novel Shadow Blade, which I reviewed last month, he also writes romance under the name B.T. Clearwater. You can read my review of his paranormal romance, Smothered, here.

In January, we talked to women’s fiction author Barbara Chepaitis and western author Loretta Miles Tollefson about the fact that women authors still are encouraged to use sex neutral pen names when writing certain genres, but here we have a male author who uses one when writing romance. We’re going with talk to Chris about writing romance and why there aren’t more male romance authors today. Or are there? Let’s find out what Chris Barili has to say about it.


Kaye: You have fiction published under your own name, but when it came to Smothered, your publisher suggested you publish as B.T. Clearwater. This is the reverse of what many female authors experience when publishing in certain genres, such as western. Did you feel like there is discrimination toward male romance authors?

Chris: My publisher didn’t encourage the pseudonym, actually. That was advice from a mentor and college professor, who recommended different pen names for different genres due to perceptions in the industry that if you write one genre well, you’re limited to that genre. I also publish westerns under a different pen name, T.C. Barlow.

And while I didn’t experience discrimination toward me as a male romance writer, I did get some raised eyebrows and comments like, “You write THAT?” So I had my youngest daughter think up a pen name that used my initials, and that sounded gender neutral. She came up with B.T. Clearwater.

Kaye: Do you think it is harder for male authors to make it in the romance genre than it is for female authors? Why?

Chris: I think it’s harder because not enough men have tried, so there’s no benchmark for it, no evidence to the doubters that men can do it. Men tend to avoid it because of the stigma associated with writing “that” kind of fiction.

Kaye: What is the biggest challenge of writing romance for you?

Chris: Probably making it “juicy” enough for a modern audience. I’m an old-fashioned guy, so I like love stories, and I tend to focus on the emotional relationship rather than the sexual one. Many (not all, but many) romance readers are looking for the steamy stuff, and that just isn’t me.

Kaye: You have a family, and are involved in cycling and martial arts, yet you find time to write and attend conferences and seminars. What are your secrets for juggling writing with your home life?

Chris: Mostly, I neglect my dog. 😊 No, that’s only a little true. As with anything, finding time for writing is a matter of discipline and sacrificing things that are less important. I had to remove a video game from my computer because it was distracting me from writing. Similarly, my DVR is 90% full of programs I fully intended to watch, but can’t get to because of writing. You have to make writing THAT important. My priorities are: my family, my health, the day job, writing. Everything else comes later.

Kaye: What is your favorite genre to write in? Why?

Chris: I’m actually published in every fiction genre: fantasy, science fiction, romance, horror, western, and crime. I don’t know that I have a favorite, but I do most of my writing in the fantasy and romance genres. They’re all fun to write, and one of the things I learned during my MFA studies under Russell Davis at Western is to let the story find its genre. Don’t try to force it into one you’re comfortable writing.

Kaye: If Smothered was made into a film, who would you like to see play male and female leads?

Chris: Interestingly, when I develop a character, I often choose a model, actor, public figure, etc to roughly model their looks. In this case, I used actor James Denton as a rough look-a-like for Mike, and Annie was loosely modeled on Jeanine Garofalo. So yeah, them.

Kaye: What’s is the single most important element in a romance story?

Chris: Damage. The lead female character has to be broken somehow, and the only way she can heal herself is to be with the male lead. It’s corner, and not a great way to base a real relationship, but that’s kind of the trope of romance. She has to realize she cannot live without him.

Kaye: Where did you find the inspiration for Smothered?

Chris: Again, my MFA studies, only this time in a class with Michaela Roessner. She had us write a sex scene that gets interrupted somehow, and I had mine interrupted by the ghost of the woman’s late mother, who appears at the foot of the bed. That interested me so much that it grew into a novel, which was my MFA thesis.

Kaye: What was the most fun part of writing a romance for you?

Chris: Romance is a very formulaic genre, and the fun part, for me anyway, is finding a way to make that formula sound new. They say there are no new stories, only new ways of telling old ones, and I think that’s what I like about romance. Proving to doubters that it CAN be original and unique.

Kaye: Is there a future for B.T. Clearwater? Can readers expect to see more from this author?

Chris: Oh yeah, B.T. has a novella published in Gwyn McNamee’s Last Resort Motel series, called “Room Fifty-Eight.” That came out a few months ago, and will appear in a box set soon. And B.T.’s latest novel, Rise and Fall, needs to go off to the freelance editor soon for a work-over. I decided to take B.T. full indie, to self-publish those stories, because self-pubbed romances can do very well. Gwyn has given me some tips on how to get it right. So when Rise and Fall and the next two in that series are ready, I’ll upload them and see how they do.

Kaye: Chris Barili has a fantasy novel coming out in June, Shadow Blade, which I recently reviewed. Would you like to tell us a little bit about that one?

Chris: Shadow Blade was actually my backup thesis. Yeah, I had a backup. Outlined both, but wrote Smothered and saved Shadow Blade for after graduation due to the world-building it needed. It tells the story of Ashai Larish, an assassin for the feared Denari Lai order. The Denari Lai are a religious order that keeps their killers loyal by addicting them to the very magic that makes them so effective at killing. In Ashai’s case, he is sent to kill a king and his daughter, but falls in love with the princess, and finds himself fighting to keep her alive rather than to kill her.

Shadow Blade is being published by WordFire Press, as a “Kevin J. Anderson Presents” title, where the best-selling author highlights a new author “to watch.” It’s on a review tour now, and should come out in e-book and hard cover in May, and by the time this article airs, it will be out as part of WordFire’s “Epic Fantasy” bundle at StoryBundle.com.

I want to thank Chris for joining us and sharing today. It is interesting to learn about writing romance from a male perspective. You can learn more about Chris and all of his works on his author blog and website, his Amazon Author page, his Goodreads Author page, as well as on Facebook and Twitter. You can learn more about the works of B.T. Clearwater on Amazon, Goodreads, Simon & Schuster, and Smashwords.



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“The Christmas Cruise”: A science fiction time travel romance

The Christmas Tour

The Christmas Cruise, by Tammy Tate is a really cute romance story which could have been so much more. This story combines romance with science fiction when the two main characters, who are attracted to one another but won’t admit it to themselves, both happen to be swept from their Christmas cruise in the Burmuda Triangle onto a deserted island from the past.

It’s a good plot and it could work if the characters were more developed and didn’t just accept what was happening without a second thought. The story moves from point A to point B in a fairly straight line, at a fairly quick pace, lacking any real twists or surprises. Just the fact that they are the only two to be swept away gave me trouble buying in, and when they return without any logical explaination as to how it happened, it lost me totally.

If the author had taken the time and effort to expand the plot, and portray believable reactions to absurd circumstances, The Christmas Cruise could have been a really entertaining story. As it is, it lacks depth of character and is difficult to swollow. I can only give it three quills.

three-quills3

Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


Interview with Multi-Genre Author R.A. Winter

RA Winter

I recently made the acquaintance of the energetic, sassy author, R.A. Winter. She writes in several genres, including fantasy, magical realism, dark fantasy, , time travel romance, contemporary Native American romance, and paranormal Native American western. And it seems she never rests when it comes to writing. Please help me to welcome R.A. Winter to Writing to be Read.

Kaye:  Hello and welcome. Would you start by sharing the story of your own publishing journey?

R.A.: I started out writing genealogy nonfiction books under my married name.  I love research and old libraries! I also love reading romances.  With so many ideas flirting around my head, I thought I’d give creative writing a go.

Kaye: Is there anything unique or unusual about your writing process?

R.A.: I write the raunchiest first draft, the humor is way over the top. Then I cut it down, and my crit circle cuts it down further.  My editor slices more.  They say that a bit of humor goes a long way.

Kaye: You have sites on both WordPress and Wix. Can you give us the advantages and disadvantages of each? Which site do you prefer? Why?

R.A.: Wix is easier to deal with, super simple to navigate and change.  WordPress is a bit of a pickle to deal with, and every time I change something, I mess up the page.  I do prefer WordPress because I can easily  share review and pages on a whim.  Wix doesn’t give you that option.

Kaye: You’re on the review team at The Naked Reviewers, where authors can submit a book and request an honest review. Would you like to tell us a little about that site and what the review process is?

R.A.: We have a group of published author on Scribophile.com who formed the group.  Right now, I think there is twelve of us.  When someone submits a book, we all read the first chapter, the ‘look inside’ feature on Amazon.  Then we rate the writing, the blurb, and the cover.  If two of us agree, we review the book.  Each Wednesday, two of us leave our review as a feature, if anyone else read it, they leave their thoughts in the ‘comment’ section.  It does mean that most books that we review get a 4.0 or higher rating, usually.  We wanted to show off the best books.

Kaye: You had bad experience with Amazon regarding reviews. This is something we’re hearing from many authors, although complaints vary. Many reviewers, including myself,  have had book reviews pulled by Amazon, with the claim that their terms of use were violated because of an existing relationship which would bias our opinions. I even heard of an reviewer whose reviews were pulled because Amazon saw that they were Facebook friends, which they claimed indicated a prior relationship. (This doesn’t make sense to me. Many authors who I have done reviews for have become virtual online friends because of the review, not the other way around.) Your experience was a bit different because it wasn’t books that you were reviewing. Would you like to tell us a little about your experience?

R.A.: I ordered products from Amazon.com.  A coffee grinder, a milk frother, and a small coffee taper, they just happened to be from the same company in China.  Now, I review every product I receive, but when I went to upload my reviews, Amazon wouldn’t allow it.  After contacting them, they said that I had a ‘relationship’ with the company in China and that I’d violated their terms.  Apparently, I ordered too many things from them. I just don’t understand. They ask you to review, you review… then they’re like… you review too much! They banned me for LIFE for writing any reviews.

My point to them was- IF I was screwing reviews, wouldn’t my books have like 300 hundred reviews instead of each of them having less then 10? I mean seriously. THAT’S what would have benefited me!

Kaye: What is one thing that your readers would never guess about you?

R.A.: I have five children… all boys. I’ve lived in 5 different countries too. I don’t know which one was harder to live through. And all my boys look like my husband.

Kaye: What are your secrets for juggling writing with family?

R.A.: My kids are older, so they don’t need me. I like to write at night, when the house is quiet and no one interrupts. My earbuds are essential, and a song list that corresponds to my writing mood.

Kaye: You have some really great covers, some of which you’ve shared here. What do you do for cover art? DIY, or hired out, or cookie cutter prefab? Do you have a great cover designer you’d like to recommend?

R.A.: Some  are creations of Kayci Morgan, from KreativeCovers.com.  A few I did myself, which you can probably tell.  Kayci is wonderful to work with and very reasonable.  I am learning Photoshop and I’m doing my own teasers.  I’m getting better but I just don’t have the finesse to do covers well.

Kaye: You have a paranormal romance fantasy novella, Twisted, which I’m excited to be reviewing here on Writing to be Read. (So watch for that review on Friday.) What can you tell us about that story?

TwistedforRAwitheyesR.A.: Twisted is a novella, and one of the hardest things I’ve

written.

It’s a Freaky-Friday, body switching piece… full of adult humor. A witch’s land is cursed. Males are no longer born to the vampires, nor are females born to the wolves. To end the curse, the witch must solve a riddle, and she has to have the cooperation of the vampires and the werewolves.

The only way to make them work together, is to make them work with themselves, so she switches their bodies. The male werewolf becomes the female vamp, and the vamp a male wolf. Then, the fun begins. It’s been called a cross between the “Underworld Series’ and ‘Once upon a Time.’

Kaye: What is the strangest inspiration for a story you’ve ever had?

R.A.: My Spirit Key series was a way to keep my cat alive in my memories.  He’d just past away, and Dingle had the oddest personality for a cat. He always reminded me of an old man, you know the one.  The spunky old guy in the nursing home who’s constantly bugging the pretty nurses and running behind them with his walker, never able to catch them.  Occasionally, he’d pinch their behinds, but act like he didn’t do it. I taught Dingle how to wink, but usually he had this grumpy look on his face.  He used to love to jump out and scare me, then give me that ugh, you’re-stupid-to-fall-for-that-again look.  He’s now a ten-thousand year old spirit who has a bit of trickster in him.

Kaye: Your Spirit Key series are westerns with a bit of a different twist to them. Would you like to tell us about them?

R.A.: Contemporary Native American’s in a western setting with magical realism is the gist of the Spirit Key Series.  In book 1, we follow young Sara,  as  the ghosts of ancestors  haunt her days and try to keep her away from young RedHorse.  There’s a new spirit in town, a nefarious one who has his own agenda.  The Old One wants the land for the dead and he’ll do anything to have it, including taking away what Sara loves most.

Kaye: There are two books in The Spirit Key series: Painted Girl and Redhorse. What type of research did you do for these books?

R.A.: The first two book are contemporary, set in modern day Kansas on a farm.  Books 3 and 4 (which are almost finished) go back to 1950, and we delve into Grandfather’s life, and that of the ten-thousand year old spirit who watches over them.  My research centered on the old Indian Schools, and the horrors that the children underwent.  It’s all to stop the spirits from invading this world, and to give grandfather his happy ending.  The Native American research is from my family.

Kaye: You also write contemporary romance with a Native American twist. What about Little Sparrow, A Kiowa in Love or Red Dress, Two Wives?

R.A.: Those were my early books.  I’ve taken the ebooks down, and now I’m writing those into the Spirit Key Series.  Everyone is related, so it made sense to do that.  I kept the hard copies up because a few people really liked them the way they were.  My writing evolved, and I thought those two would be great as part of the Spirit Key Series with some rework.

Kaye: What is the attraction for adding a Native American element to your writing?

R.A.: Two fold.  My grandmother was ‘found’.  It was assumed that she was Native American.  This was in the 1880’s, a time when the tribes had to travel west and were forced onto reservations.  Our family farm was near one of the routes and my grandfather brought home a baby girl one day, saying that he’d found her. My cousins are Sioux.  I barely remember the eldest two girls but I do remember their beauty.  One day, when I was only six years old, they disappeared.  Just up and gone.  Our family went nuts, as you can imagine.  It wasn’t until twelve years later that we learned that they had been taken west  to different orphanages and divided up.   (This was the early ’70’s when the government still took NA children on a whim.)  Anyway, my stories revolve around finding your identity when you don’t know who you are, when you have no memories of your family.  My Native American family is rooted by my life stories. You know that you’re different, but you feel the same as everyone else.  You just have to find your own special, because it’s there, you don’t have to go looking for it.  It just may be hiding in plain sight.

Kaye: I’m also very interested in your time travel romances, As Long As I Have You and Always With You. What can you share with us about them?

Always With YouR.A.: These were part of an anthology, and part of a series inside the anthology. The rules  are simple, Cupid owns a bar, and his mate has a special tattoo that glows when soul mates are touched.  In book 1, Ann Paolo comes to the bar with her dog.  Unbeknownst to her, the dog, Han, is the spirit of a long dead Native American,  who has been cursed to follow Ann through time, always to love her, and be loved, but never to be with her.  Cupid sends them back in time, so Han can erase his curse.  In book 2, Ann’s back, because so many lifetimes couldn’t be rewritten.  This time, Cupid calls on the fates to bring Han to life in this day and time.  The fates have a bit of trouble writing him into time-line, so they turn to Netflix for ideas.  Han is now, Dan Winchesty, from the TV show Super-Unnatural Killers and Revealers  Suckers for short.  You know, Dan Winchesty- the one with the perky nipples?  It’s a spoof on Supernatural, and I think it’s hilarious, but that’s just my opinion.

Kaye: What is your favorite genre to write in so far? Why?

R.A.: I love magical realism and fantasy.  Creating my own world, and rules, takes a lot of thought and design.  You just can’t pop something on paper, it has to make sense, have rules, have life, and you have to bring a reader into your world and make them happy.

Kaye: How much non-writing work, (marketing & promotion, illustrations & book covers, etc…), do you do yourself for your books?

R.A.: I do all my own marketing, which isn’t much.  Word of mouth is my best friend, because lets face it, my works are different.  I just had a review from a guy, who said that someone at work bullied him into reading it and he loved it, even with the romance in the book.  I think that was a compliment.

Kaye: If one of your books was made into a film, which book would you want it to be? And who would you like to play the lead?

R.A.: Hmm, I’d love the Spirit Key to be a series on Netflix, but for a movie, I’d chose Twisted. Sam Witwer and Meaghan Rath. They had great chemistry in Being Human.  Now, however, Meaghan would be a vampire, and Sam would be a wolf.

Kaye: What’s next? What does the future look like for R.A, Winter?

R.A.: Oh, I have at least six books in various stages of completion. Twisted will be turned
into a series, readers have asked for that. I’m also writing a series about Death Takers
coming alive and finding love. It’s a dark romance series that takes the reader on a
journey to Tartarus and the bowels of hell. Book 1 is finished, book 2 is halfway. Once
book 2 is ready I’ll publish.

Kaye: If writing suddenly made you rich and famous, what would you do?

R.A.: I’ve done a lot of things on my bucket list. I’ve traveled the world, lived in five different countries and enjoyed most of my life. If I had a lot of money, I’d pay off my family’s student loans. Right now, it’s around 200k, and I’m serious. It would be life changing for them to pay off their debts. BTW, I have one family member, with 100k debt who graduated from Pitt with a bachelor’s in psychology. Anyone have any job prospects for him? E-mail me.

I want to thank R.A. Winter for joining us today and putting up with my interrogation. Seriously though, she was really a good sport about answering all of my questions with open, honest answers. You can find out more about her and her writing on her website, her Spirit Keys site, or her Amazon Author Page.

 

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“Everything Undone”:

Everything Undone

Everything Undone, by Wysteria Wilde is an erotic romance with just the right amount of each. So many times the erotica is overbearing, often to the point you can’t seem to find the underlying story line, but Wilde does a wonderful job of sprinkling the erotic scenes tastefully throughout a well-structured romance plot that keeps the tension ratcheted on high.

 

When Annabelle LaFrance met Nick Bignanni there was every reason in the world why the two of them should never become a couple. But, their feelings told them both different, driving them toward one another. By the time they realize their feelings are mutual, it’s too late to stop the romance already set in motion, but there is more at stake than their love, and Nick must figure out how to transform from the person he was to the person he now wants to be without causing collateral damage. Annabelle is in danger, and the only way to save her is to betray her. And when Annabelle learns the truth, will she still want him?

The one problem I had is that I couldn’t buy in to Annabelle not knowing the true orientation of her bff, Brooks. I loved Brooks as a character. He talks and acts so stereotypically gay that it’s almost cliché, and I loved that Wilde threw in a relationship for him as a subplot. However, as close as they are, I couldn’t believe Brooks would keep his secret from Annabelle, even if he chose not to tell anyone else, and her reaction to the revelation wasn’t enough to convince me. Her acceptance of him for who he is unquestionable and I think he’d know that, given the nature of their relationship. It was a minor detail, hardly enough to stop me from enjoying the rest of this well-crafted romance.

The characters are well developed and likeable, the story filled with conflict, and the erotica tastefully done. I give Everything Undone four quills.

four-quills3

 

Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


Ask the Authors: Final Answers

Books and Coffee

We’ve reached the final segment of Ask the Authors, which will bring our series to a close. This has been a fun series and we’ve covered a lot in regards to writing. In this segment, our panel members will answer follow-up questions for each segment and wrap things up, so let’s get started. We’ll skip over the introductory segment, as there are really no follow-up questions as to the panel members identity, but if you missed that one, you really should pop in and check it out.  Our panel had a great line up, with DeAnna Knippling, Chris Dibella, Carol Riggs, Cynthia Vespia, Tim Baker, Janet Garber, Art Rosch, Margareth Stewart, Chris Barili and Jordan Elizabeth.

I want to thank each and every one of our panel members for their participation. This blog is a labor of love for me, which means I can’t pay for guest posts, etc… The time and energy each author took to respond to all of my, sometimes lengthy and open ended questions is greatly appreciated. When asked if they would be up for another round in the fall, many said yes, so it looks like we have another round of Ask the Authors still to look forward to.

Our first segment takes A Look at the Writing Process, where each of our panel members found different things most challenging, from sharing and allowing yourself to be vulnerable, to self confidence, to marketing and finding readers, to the actual act of writing. The process is never the same for any two authors. Some prefer to write without distractions, while others like to write with music or other things going on in the background. Many authors like to write in public places, such as coffee shops, while others like Tim Baker find this too cliche or just need their privacy for writing, like Carol Riggs. We approach our writing in different ways, as well. While Janet Garber writes in vigenettes, Cynthia Vespia writes her first drafts by hand, and authors like DeAnna Knippling just let the characters go and see what happens, and most of our panel members are morning writers, like Chris Barili. Most of our panel members claim to lean toward character driven stories, but I’m with Cynthia Vespia in thinking that all stories must be a little of both. Most, like Art Rosch and Chris DiBella say the titles of their books just come to them, usually before actual writing begins, while the book is still in the design stage. Be sure to check it out and see what each of our panel members’ best pieces of advise for upcoming authors.

The follow up question for this segment is: What are your top five writing rules for success?

Cynthia Vespia: 

1. Write what you want, don’t follow the trends

2. Characterization is key

3. Have fun with world building

4. Think outside the box

5. And of course show don’t tell

Chris Barili

1. Learn your craft. Whether through college studies, mentorship, reading a lot, whatever. Learn what makes good stories.
2. Learn the business of your craft. All the writing in the world does you no good if you don’t know how to get it sold.
3. Find your writing tribe. A support crew of fellow writers is crucial for keeping you going.
4. Submit. Everywhere. You don’t get published if you’re not submitting.
5. Get your ass in the seat and do the work. Don’t wait for the stupid inspiration fairy or muse to sit on your shoulder and whisper bullshit in your ears. Write. Then write some more.

Janet Garber: 

1. Jot down phrases and ideas when inspiration hits no matter where you are.

2. Work on making the language sing.

3. Submit like crazy

4. Don’t take rejections personally. Just move on.

5. Don’t ever give up!

 

Art Rosch: 

One, be yourself.  Write to please yourself.  There is no other way to achieve authenticity other than to make your writing a means of exploring yourself, your humanity and the nature of your life experience.

If you’re writing fiction you need a great villain.  Nothing propels a story like a character that you hate, someone whom you want to see brought to justice.  I pay special attention to writing my villains.

Write with feeling or your readers will not feel anything.  Emotion is the fuel of story.  Be a storyteller, engage readers with plots that invoke high stakes.  The ultimate investment in a story can be the life or death of the characters, or the survival of a society, or the triumph of a civilization.  All the elements of story break down into conflicts of virtue versus destruction.  What makes a story interesting, however, is when it’s difficult to tell who is good and who is evil.  Things aren’t always simple.

A good book has three attributes.  It should be entertaining, informative and inspiring.  I can loosely define inspiration as the evocation of insight.  Insight feels good and you know when a writer provokes an understanding of the human condition.

That’s not exactly five rules, but it’s an overview of things I put in my writing.

Tim Baker: I really only have one rule…keep writing. If you want to be succesful as a writer you have to keep writing. Not only is it the best way to hone your skills, but the more you write, the more chance you have of being succesful.

Chris DiBella: I don’t have any rules for writing “success” because the term success will vary from person to person. What works for me may not work for other writers, and vice versa. There are a million blogs posting the same 5 to 10 rules for how to be a writer, but none of them seem to be putting out any books themselves, so why take advice from someone who isn’t successful doing what they are trying to tell you to do? There’s no secret magic formula, but you can’t be successful if you don’t write…..so just go write.

Carol Riggs: 

1. There ARE no rules.

2. Everyone writes lousy first drafts; get the words down on the page and learn to revise.

3. Always have other people check your work for inconsistencies, grammar, punctuation, etc.

4. If you truly love to write, never give up!

5. Not everyone will love your book; it’s subjective and there’s no way your writing will speak to every single person.

Margareth Stewart: 

1. Write. Don´t stop.

2. Don´t copy anyone else. Find your own voice.

3. Craft your stories.

4. Be humble. Be proud.

5. Keep it up.

P.S. Just write if you have something to tell, and then forget about it all. I don´t believe so much that we can predict success though we need to do our best for it. I see authors who might be famous, and they might not be the best ones, or even the most influential ones, or the ones that are still going to be recalled a century from now. I would rather quote Jorge Amado and say that writing is like living: 

“The world is like that – incomprehensible and full of surprises.” Jorge Amado – Brazilian Author. 

Jordan Elizabeth:

  1. Never give up on your dreams.
  2. Write what you know.  Write a book that you would want to read.
  3. Don’t write a shocking scene just for the shock value.
  4. Don’t write in a genre just because its selling; write in that genre because you’re passionate about it.

DeAnna Knippling:

1. Read.
2. Study what you read.
3. Practice what you study.
4. Get what you practice published.
5. Honor the people who read what you published.

The second segment was on Character Development. Many of our author panel develop characters from real people and composites of people they know, or at least give them realistic qualities and flaws to make them feel more human, easier to identify with, and most admit to having a little of themselves in their characters. Chris DiBella, Jordan Elizabeth, Janet Garber and Art Rosch even offer up real life examples. None of them openly admited to creating characters from archetypes, but I maintain that all characters fit into archetypes, whether the author does it consciously or not. Chris Barili offers his method of character development using a character triangle to determine what the character’s motivation is, what the character’s fear or flaw is, and what it is the character truly needs. It is clear that for all of our panel members and myself, our characters often come alive and take over what happens on the page, surprising even their creators at times. While Art Rosch and DeAnna Knippling like to take a more psychological approach to character development, authors like Tim Baker use life observation to ‘keep it real’. And I don’t think any of the panel members would disagree with Carol Riggs when she stated, “The more rich development you can give to a character, the more the reader can identify with them.” After all, that is what we’re striving for – characters that readers can relate and identify with.

Emotions

The follow-up question for this segment: How do you evoke emotion in your readers?

Cynthia Vespia: This is one of the most important parts of storytelling, and one of my favorite parts as well. Developing characters that readers resonate with is what stirs emotion. If they can see part of themselves in the character they will gravitate towards them more and that makes them care what happens to them in the end.

Chris Barili: You do that by creating a character they empathize with, then killing him or her, usually. No, wait. That’s the George Martin approach. Seriously–build a character about whom readers care, then put them in situations where they are threatened.

Janet Garber: This is admittedly not always easy. I concentrate on creating relatable and sympathetic characters.

Art Rosch: If you write with feeling your audience will respond with feeling.   Fiction is mostly about overcoming obstacles.  You cause your heroes to act bravely and unselfishly and your villains to act with malice and manipulation.  If you create a lovable hero, (that is, someone with flaws who intends to do a positive thing) your readers will respond. I don’t know if emotion can be taught.  Writing is a very psychological pursuit, and our emotions are unpredictable and all but uncontrollable.  So…be a psychologist.

Tim Baker: By giving my characters real emotion and letting the reader see it. Whatever emotion the characters are feeling in a particuklar scene I try to have them think and react the way any of us would (as much as allowable for the story anyway).

Chris DiBella: I just try to make my characters as real as possible and hopefully my readers like them enough to care about what happens to them.

Carol Riggs: I write in first person for (what I think is) the most close, personal experience. I also try to include a lot of sensory images—smell, taste, sounds, and sights to make things more real. With crying and sobbing and sad emotions, often less is more; otherwise it starts feeling melodramatic. And if the character is going through general experiences the reader can relate to (betrayal, loss, anger at a friend or parent) that helps make an emotional connection.

Jordan Elizabeth:  I rely on my own experiences when writing.  Many of the emotions I write about are ones that I have experienced, so I’m able to write from the heart.  If its a funny scene, then I’m laughing out loud.  If its a sad scene, I have tears drenching my cheeks.

DeAnna Knippling: One of my pet peeves is when an author is obviously playing for my emotions rather than letting the combination of plot, character, etc., do the work in a more logically consistent fashion.  You’ve seen it every time a beloved character gets wiped out and it really doesn’t affect the narrative, other than to “inspire” the rest of the characters to carry on or set the grounds for “anything could happen!!!!!!!”

If I want a reader to cry, I better have already wept bitter tears over the manuscript as I was writing it.

Our third segment was on Action and Dialog. While all authors want dialog that flows smooth and sounds realistic, different authors take different approaches to the task. While most of our panel members agree that listening to people and being able to hear the dialog spoken in your head are great ways to approach this, Carol Riggs offers the really great advice to read your work aloud, and Art Rosch offers the advice that dialog should always serve a purpose, rather than being just a space filler. In true life, we tend to talk just to hear ourselves sometimes. In writing, that sort of thing just takes up space on the page and the only purpose it may serve is to bore the reader, and of course, we don’t want that. Achieving a balance between action and dialog seems to come natural for many of our panel members claim the only trick or secret is to keep the story moving and not let it get too bogged down with details. Tell readers what they need to know, but keep things moving. If you missed this segment, be sure to drop in and check it out, because it features excerpts of dialog scenes from authors Chris Barili, Janet Garber, DeAnna Knippling, Cynthia Vespia, Tim Baker, Art Rosch and Margareth Stewart.

The following is a reader comment left regarding Dialog. While a couple of our panel members replied directly in the comments, DeAnna Knippling’s reply seemed spot on to me and I wanted to include it here.

Reader Ken Hughs said:

Lots of excellent advice there.

I’m always on the lookout for ways to analyze dialogue a bit deeper than that. For instance:

Who talks more? Does she say a lot on her favorite subject (an expert, or just concerned about it) and less on other things, or is she nervous or social enough to chime in a little after everything– or so full of herself she does both?

How organized are his sentences? A longer sentence can mean he has a more complex complete thought, unless it’s a run-on; several short sentences could each mean new thoughts still coming in behind the last ones. Or the most eloquent person might be the one with the simple line that says it all.

Adjectives and adverbs? Someone passionate, or more in tune with their senses, is more likely to pile on the modifiers, while others are plainer-spoken. Similes and metaphors take this even further– if you can keep someone from becoming cliche about using their job or background to compare things too.

DeAnna Knipling: It sounds like the commenter, Ken Hughes, is doing some good things with pacing.  Huzzah!  Once you get past the point of being able to make dialogue that sounds natural and gets the point across in a scene, the next step is to start working on the pacing of the dialogue–and all the issues Mr. Hughes mentioned are relevant there.

To back up a bit for writers who aren’t quite down in the weeds of studying pacing yet:

  • Pacing is the art of connecting content (what you’re writing about) to form (the layout of the little black marks on the page, for writers).  When the word lengths and patterns, sentence lengths and patterns, scene lengths and patterns all line up with the meaning of the story somehow, the story is “paced well.”  Pacing is about building your story like a woodworker, choosing your material and construction techniques to fit the final purpose of the project.  Any element of a story can have pacing.
  • Each character’s dialogue will also have its own pacing, just as Mr. Hughes says, and it should depend on the nature of the character.
  • The examples that Mr. Hughes gives are excellent examples of what to consider with pacing dialogue.
  • I’d like to add that anything that you add between pieces of dialogue also reflects the pacing of the dialogue, so if you have chunks of description between bits of dialogue, the reader will take them as pauses in the conversation, or as the POV character’s mind wandering during the conversation.
If you can handle the things Mr. Hughes brings up, you’ll be doing well indeed 🙂

Mr. Hughes and DeAnna bring up another issue here, which we haven’t really touched on.

Action

Naturally my follow-up question is:What methods do you find effective in controlling your pacing?

Cynthia Vespia: I don’t. I just write what comes to me.

Chris Barili: I don’t know. I just go with what the characters are feeling, I guess. Their tension tells me how to pace a scene.

Janet Garber: Ah. You must make every scene count. Have it lead readers somewhere, to the destination you intend.

Art Rosch: I’ve watched a thousand Samurai movies.  They’re great for offering templates for action sequences.  Samurai didn’t waste effort in useless display and they were completely focused on surviving the next duel or battle. Unless you’re writing about super-heroes your characters need to operate within reasonable physical parameters.  I act out movements and gestures at my chair in front of my computer.  Does this look reasonable?  Can my characters do this-and-that?

In my novel Confessions Of An Honest Man, I have a 70 page battle sequence that takes place in Afghanistan.  It’s a much admired passage with editors and readers. It has an arc, or several arcs.  There’s the build-up to an initial confrontation.  A mini-climax occurs early in the scene.  But it doesn’t end there.  A greater threat appears unexpectedly and my hero must cope with expanded dangers.  Each time a resolution seems to occur another and greater threat appears.  The point of this sequence is that my hero learns things about himself, learns that he has more courage than he thought. There’s outer action but there’s also my hero’s thoughts and emotions as the scene(s) unfold.  This pendulum between action and a character’s inner dialogue offers a means of pacing.

Tim Baker: When writing action I try to write only the action. By this I mean if I’m writing an action packed scene I don’t stray away from the action with anything that will slow the reader down. I want the reader to be able to be in the action.

Chris DiBella: I’ve never thought about trying to control my pacing. When I get to action scenes, I just try to write them in a way where I’m describing enough that it paints a picture for my readers. I don’t have a formula for how many pages an action scene should be. I just write them until I feel it’s time to move on with the story.

Carol Riggs: I try to keep some sort of tension, question, or compelling forward movement on every page, whether internal for the characters or external to them. I use cliffhanger-type chapter endings to keep the reader turning pages. It’s also important not to rush the “big moments”—sometimes the pace needs to be drawn out on powerful scenes to heighten the impact or emotions. In an action scene, short punchy sentences help move the pacing along.

Margareth Stewart: Word count and daily targets; otherwise, it does not flow. Sometimes, I feel like I am a General to myself: “for instance, no chocolate if I don´t finish 2.500 word count today”, and there it goes. Other times, I need to be a little more flexible because things do happen in between word counting, not with the plot or story itself, but in terms of living – ordinary living – bills to pay, a tire to fix, and so on. Another good and productive management is during November Writing. Besides that, I use the same method for editing – this week I have to review 50 pages and by the way I am late, so I will have to do extra work at the weekend. Therefore, I have told my kids, we can only go to the cinema if I can complete the goal before Sunday. By the way, that´s another point about being a writer, we feel quite weird and funny.

Jordan Elizabeth: I tend to just write, write, write.  I don’t plan my stories ahead; I just go off a basic plot idea in my mind.  Pacing falls naturally into place.

In our third segment, our author panel members discussed Setting,  where author Carol Riggs suggests basing fictional worlds on real life places as a good method of world building, and travel for authors is recommended in order to expand on their true life experiences that shine through in their writing, although most of our panel members have written about places they have never been or don’t really exist, like Jordan Elizabeth, who writes YA fantasy. DeAnna Knippling loves to write about Victorian England, and all agree that sensory details should be added to make the setting feel more real. This segment also features setting excerpts from Cynthia Vespia, Art Rosch, Chris Barili, DeAnna Knippling and Janet Garber. (Strangely enough, I just realized I gave no follow-up question for this segment, although we could do a whole series on world building and setting. Wow!)

Our fourth segment covered the topic of Publishing, which many authors opt to do themselves these days. Our panel members were a nice blend of traditional, small press and self-published authors, with three strictly self-published authors: Art RoschChris DiBella, and DeAnna Knippling; one author who is strictly small press: Jordan Elizabeth; and five who have done a hybrid combination of small press and self-publishing in one form or another: Cynthia VespiaMargareth Stewart, Tim Baker, and three authors who have done a combination of traditional and self-publishing: Janet GarberChris Barili, and Carol Riggs. Together, they bring their own experiences to the table to talk about the pros and cons of each publishing venue.

I have two follow-up questions for this segment: 

Are your books available in print or digital format, or both? Why?

Cynthia Vespia: Both. Because I like to have my work available in as many formats as possible to appeal to different readers. Next I’ll do audio books.

Chris Barili: Both. And why wouldn’t you do it that way? You’re robbing yourself of readers if you ignore one medium.

Janet Garber: My books are in print and in digital form and the first traditionally purchased book is on audiotape as well.

Art Rosch: I need to emphasize a huge fact with regard to the whole publishing venture.  It takes money to market books.  I don’t have money, I’m living on a fixed income.  I started my enterprise by going to Smashwords.com and e-publishing three of my books.  I did the same at Amazon.  An author can publish digitally for free.  I designed my own book covers, using my stock of personal photography and my skills in Photoshop. Such as they are.

I am now about to turn my novel, Confessions Of An Honest Man into a paperback on Amazon.  I have no illusions about getting sales.  I just want to have a physical object, MY BOOK, in my hands and have it be available to people in my environment.

Tim Baker: My books are available in print, digital and audio (not all of them are currently available in audio, but the ones that aren’t are in production.) The reason why is simple…give more options to people and increase your chances of being read.

Chris DiBella: Both. There are still people out there (somewhere) who like to read physical copies of books.

Carol Riggs: All my books are available in both print and digital formats. This is important, because some readers prefer print and some prefer digital.

Jordan Elizabeth:  Both (except for Kistishi Island.  I have to sell 500 ebooks before it will be in print).  I like having a combination of formats.  Some people prefer print and some prefer ebook.  I’ve heard from a lot of readers that they have to use ebooks because of eyesight problems.  Print books are great for book signings.

DeAnna Knippling: Yes and yes.  See writing rule #5.  I really ought to be working on audio as well.  Readers should be able to read conveniently.

Which publishing platforms do you use? Which do you recommend? Why?

Cynthia Vespia: I’m focused on Amazon at the moment because that’s where the majority of buyers/readers go. I’ve also used Smashwords and Barnes and Noble for digital.

Chris Barili: Amazon and Smashwords for my self-published stuff. I prefer Smashwords because they distribute to a bunch of other retailers, saving me time.

Janet Garber: I used Lulu.com and was satisfied with their speed and the look of the final product.

Art Rosch: I think Smashwords is great.  There’s all the support and information you need.  Amazon is, of course, the giant, but as with everything in digital publishing, it’s all automated.

Tim Baker: I use CreateSpace, Kindle Direct Publishing and ACX (for audio). Since those are the ones I use – those would be the ones I recommend.

Chris DiBella: I use Amazon and CreateSpace. It’s easy to set up and get my books out to potential readers from those sites.

Carol Riggs: Three of my books are traditionally published, and the publishers distribute in various ways (Entangled Teen uses Macmillan, for instance). For self-publishing, I use CreateSpace and Amazon KDP; it’s relatively easy to release a book on these platforms.

Jordan Eizabeth: My publishers use Ingram and CreateSpace.  I can’t speak to the ease of use.

DeAnna Knippling: It’s not so much which ones, as how you decide which ones to use.  I’m starting to look at these things as, “How does this company treat its readers?  Are the readers happy with the experience?”  Another good set of questions is, “How does this company treat its writers?  Does it pay them promptly? Does it have good reporting?  Do they have good avenues for books that aren’t bestsellers to reach readers? Is the damn site hard to use?”

I’ve dropped a number of publishing platforms that don’t adhere to these things, or at least stopped using them directly, but approach them through other distributors.  [Cough] Barnes & Noble [Cough]

Our fifth segment of Ask the Authors covered the topic of Genre Differences. Again, we had a nice mix for this topic. Among our author panel members we had: Jordan Elizabeth, who writes YA Fantasy and Steampunk; Carol Riggs, who writes both Fantasy and Science Fiction; Tim Baker, who writes crime action adventure novels; Cynthia Vespia, who writes speculative fiction for adults and teens; and those who dabble a little in all of them: Janet Garber, Chris Barili and DeAnna Knippling. They discuss the use of tropes when writing in the different genres, and also the differences in the creative process, the different types of research required, and the differences in audience and marketing. No follow-up questinos for this segment.

In the sixth segment, our author panel discusses The Business of Writing. According to Jordan Elizabeth and Carol Riggs, marketing can make or break you in the world of writing, and in today’s digital world, much or all of those duties fall upon the author, requiring us to treat writing not only as a job or a passion, but as a business. Today’s author may be responsible for everything about their book, from writing the book, to editing and cover art, to publishing, to marketing and promotion, and everything in between. While many of these tasks can be hired out, not all authors can afford to do so. I didn’t have any follow-up for this segment, mainly because the next two segments were follow-up to this.

For the seventh segment of Ask the Authors, our author panel discusses the many ways there are to Building an Reader Platform.  Most of our panel members prefer face-to-face events, over online activities, but it seems they continue to use the Internet and social media to promote their books, feeling that both are needed. Some panel members come up with some very creative ideas, like Tim Baker, who had a tire cover made for the spare on his Jeep with his logo on it, or Chris DiBella, who had customized tee-shirts made telling the world that he is their next favorite author. Who knows? It might work.

Book Reviews

The follow-up question for this segment is: What methods have you found successful for obtaining reviews?

Cynthia Vespia: Asking. I ask other writers, or I seek out bloggers who do reviews.

Janet Garber: Approaching authors who write in a similar humorous fashion; writing reviews myself as a pay-it-forward tactic; bugging people who enjoyed the book.

Art Rosch: I completely suck at this and it’s my own fault.  I must have social media halitosis.  There are billions of people who don’t know about me.  I’ve been hammering at this for many years and haven’t cracked the code yet.  I do recommend one author-marketing guru (among the many who haunt my email inbox).  That’s Mark Dawson.  He refunded my money long after the expiration date for one of his courses and he didn’t have to.  He teaches at a good pace and he has much to offer to authors who want to market independently.

Tim Baker: I haven’t found a successful way to get reviews. People generally don’t like to write them. I’ve done everything from blog posts, social media requests and even offered to include people in a book if they wrote enough reviews. It’s the thing I find most discouraging about writing.

Chris DiBella: I don’t like to hound people for reviews. There are some authors who post constantly about it, and I find it annoying. We all want reviews, but it seems some authors will only ask for reviews from people they know will give them a favorable review. I simply do not like that approach. The way I look at it is the reviews will come in time – or maybe not. They’re nice to get, but I don’t stress about it. I also have my own little rule of thumb of not to trust any book with less than 15 reviews of all 5-stars (unless there’s some bad reviews in there too). Anyone can get 15 friends or family members to write a good review. It’s that first bad review I usually trust the most. Same goes for my books. My first bad review was actually pretty spot-on with the critique. She liked the story, but drilled me on editing. No friends or family members would have left a review like that. I pulled the book and re-edited it. Of course it sucks to get bad reviews, but they can be turned into a positive. And for the love of everything you consider holy, please stop arguing with readers who give you a bad review. Let your fans battle it out for you.

Carol Riggs: My publishers used NetGalley for obtaining reviewers from bloggers. A newsletter also works decently for requesting reviews. I try not to ask for reviews too much, however, because it’s off-putting. Either a reader will leave you a review or he/she won’t. No one should be obligated; an author doesn’t get honest reviews that way anyway.

Jordan Elizabeth: Author friends have told me they have good luck when posting free books on Facebook in exchange for reviews.  I haven’t had luck that way.  I usually reach out to bloggers.  Most of the time, they are willing to review.

Just a note: I also see the other side of this issue, as I do honest reviews in exchange for ARCs right here on Writing to be Read. The problem I’ve run into is that since I’m supplied with a free copy, at times Amazon will not aknowledge my reviews because they can’t verify the sale. I imagine those exchanging reviews on Facebook might run into the same type of issues. So, even if you can give away some e-copies in exchange for a review, there is no gaurantee that Amazon will acknowledge it.

DeAnna Knippling: Asking nicely.  I was using Instafreebie for a while, but I think that exhausted its readers fairly quickly, because it was mostly a platform for trading newsletter subscribers, not a sustainable model.  What new readers was Instafreebie bringing to the table?  Not as many as the authors themselves had brought.  I did well by it, but I think that was a matter of getting in at the right moment and not “what a great site for reviews!”

I think your best bet is to treat reviews like a pyramid.  At the base, write good books and make it easy for readers to read more.  Next level, make it easy for your newsletter subscribers to get review copies.  I have an ARC list.  Up from that, whatever social media sites you’re on, keep an eye out for ways to attract reviews OR newsletter subscribers.  At the top of the pile is a review that will be seen widely, a review on a radio show or in a newspaper, things like that.  Go for it when you see it.  But be more loyal to your base of writing good books and making them easy for readers to read them.

Don’t put all your eggs in a basket that’s essentially just moving piles of email addresses around, or reviews that you have to pay for (and that Amazon will delete as soon as they get a chance), begging for reviews from your writer-friends (which screws up your also boughts something fierce), or whatever short-term solution everyone is chasing at the moment.  Play the long game, take advantage of what you can when you can, then drop back into your long game.
Believe me, I know how freaking slow this all goes.

 

In the last segment, our author panel members discussed many of the issues involved in Book Marketing and Promotion. This is a big topic for many authors, including me, because unlike writing, it does not come natural to us. It is such a big issue that a couple of our panel members, DeAnna Knippling and Janet Garber, bowed out of this segment, rather than express the frustration of not having the answers. But those panel members who did participate had some insightful things to share. They talk about their favorite social media sites for promotion, marketing and giveaway sites, marketing platforms, the effectiveness of author websites and blogs, newletters, press releases and interviews. Be sure and catch this segment, or you’ll never know why Chris DiBella’s mother is his greatest marketing tool.

Book Sale

The follow-up question for this segment is: Many of you said in last week’s segment that you preferred face to face events over Internet and social media marketing and that you found face to face marketing to be more effective. What type of face to face events have you found to be effective?

Cynthia Vespia: The reason conferences don’t work is because there are waaaayyyy too many writers all vying for attention at these things. Also, the majority of the writer conferences only alot 1-2 days for signings and sales that are usually only a few hours long. That is not enough time to make a dent in sales or really do any type of networking with your readers, especially when there are so many other authors there doing the same thing. Some of the more popular ones get all the attention. So imagine you’re a little fish in a sea of whales…how do you get noticed? I’ve run into some very bad etiquette at some of these things before, as well. The guy next to me would skate every sale I tried to make by talking over me and offering a free book. How do you compete with free? You don’t.

So the face-to-face events I prefer are my own individual signings, smaller book fairs, or (and I hate to mention this because it was a well guarded secret before) but I do the comic conventions and they work the best. Plus, they’re alot more fun.

Chris Barili: I’ve found genre cons to be MUCH more effective at selling books and gaining followers than writing conferences, and if you think about it, it makes sense. A genre con is full of fans of whatever genre you like. They’re LOOKING for genre stories. At a writers conference, writers are there looking to SELL stories.

Janet Garber: I find book fairs and readings most enjoyable as I get a chance to speak with the potential readers. Being a guest at a book club meeting is great too because you hear your characters discussed as if they were real people and you learn what readers liked and didn’t like.

Carol Riggs: I personally like/prefer book fairs or festivals over bookstore signings, because they’re more informal. I feel less “on the spot,” and I don’t have to make a microphone presentation. Instead, I can conversationally chat with people who come up to my book table. It feels more like a relationship that way, instead of a “buy my book” spiel. For instance, last summer (as well as this coming summer) I will be participating in the Lane County Fair in Eugene, Oregon, with a book table. Last fall I was also part of the Literacy for Libraries author event in Eugene, and I enjoyed schmoozing with fellow authors and with the crowd who wandered through the building. Sometimes authors can band together and create their own events at libraries and bookstores; it’s less intimidating than going it solo. The purpose of these events aren’t to sell as many books as you can, but rather get to know your readers and get your name out there—that’s an important marketing tip that a seasoned author shared with me.

Jordan Elizabeth: I prefer craft shows and library events.  The crowds are manageable, and as I write young adult, many teenagers and children come with their parents.  Parents and grandparents are also eager to buy gifts.  Because these events are smaller than most conferences, you’re able to have a one-on-one conversation.  You get to really understand what types of books these people read and you can gear them toward the book like might like the best.

DeAnna Knippling: Some people are great salespeople.  I am not.  That’s not some kind of subtle insult or anything.  I’m learning.  But I’ve always found networking more valuable to me than selling per se.  If a sale comes out of it, great.  And I’m not like, “Here’s my business card, call me!”  To me, a face to face event means that people are far more likely to put their hair down and tell me things.  Interesting things.  Gossip.  Rumors.  Scandalous lies!  And I love connecting other people and providing a safe place to talk.  I have a SF/F/H writer group, the Colorado Tesla Writers, that is basically just a Facebook page and a monthly meal for people to hang out and feel like Real Writers(tm) and let our hair down.  That’s it.  I’m not sure what it’s effective at, but people tell me that it is, so I keep doing it.

To wrap up this last segment, I want to thank our panel members for the great writing rules. If you create characters who are not only realistic, but who the readers can identify and empathize with, and if you write with emotion which comes from your soul, you can evoke in your readers and make them care about your characters and your story. And while pacing is important and can be controlled with tension, conflict, action and dialog, most of our author panel don’t consciously write with pacing in mind, but rather it seems to come naturally. Also, we may need to pace ourselves to get the story out, as well as controlling the pacing of the story itself.

It does make sense to offer your books in as many formats as possible, because readers aren’t all the same. Amazon and Smashwords appear to be the favorite for digital publishing and CreateSpace was preferred for print publishing, although I believe they have made some changes and now Amazon is also providing print books as an option, so that may change.

Reviews are an author’s calling card these days, and it seems the best way to get them is to ask, whether in a newsletter, in person, or in the book itself, but it’s best not to be pushy. Genre conventions, book fairs and festivals, book signings, and library events are the preferred face to face events to make connections with readers. 

Well, it’s time to bring our time with our Ask the Authors panel members to a close. I do hope we’ve provided some helpful information and advice for all you authors out there, and maybe even made you smile once or twice. Thank you all for joining us. Be sure to watch for round two, this fall, where we will have several of these panel members back, as well as inviting other authors to join our panel. The best way to be sure not to miss out on this and all the other great content here on Writing to be Read is to sign up for email notification of follow me on WordPress. I hope you all will drop in frequently.

Next Monday, on Writing to be Read, I’ll be interviewing author Mark Shaw, who has optioned his book, The Reporter Who Knew Too Much, for film. Something all authors dream of and some actually get the opportunity to do. How exciting. We’ll also be talking about his new book, Courage in the Face of Evil, which is to be release in June. Don’t miss it!

I want to extend a big thank you to our panel members, Carol Riggs, Tim Baker, Jordan Elizabeth, DeAnna Knippling, Chris DiBella, Art Rosch, Janet Garber, Margareth Stewart, Chris Barili, and Cynthia Vespia. You guys and gals were a great panel and together we created a great Ask the Authors series. I feel it was very successful and I had a lot of fun with it. I hope all of you did, too. Until next time.

 

 


Book Marketing – What Works? (Part 5): Interview with Romance Author Amy Cecil

Amy Cecil and Books

So far in this Book Marketing – What Works? series we’ve heard about: social media marketing vs. face-to-face marketing methods form dark fantasy author, Cynthia Vespia in Part 1; digital marketing strategies from co-authors Mark Todd and Kym O’Connell Todd in Part 2; social media marketing and street teams for reviews from YA author Jordan Elizabeth in Part 3; and branding and free promotions from author Tim Baker in Part 4.

Today, I’m pleased to bring you a chat with contemporary and historical romance author Amy Cecil, who is a self-published author, who uses book blog tours and street teams to promote her work. I met Amy when I interviewed her for her book blog tour through Full Moon Bites Promotions for the release of the second book in her Knights of Silence MC series, Ice on Fire. So, without further ado, please welcome Amy Cecil.

Kaye: In addition to your Knights of Silence MC contemporary romance series, you write historical romance. Would you like to talk about those books a little?

Amy: Of course I would!  I have two historical romance novels published that are variations of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice.  You know, the kind of stories that you always wonder, “what if?”  Well I did and I decided to create my own “what if” story in Jane Austen’s world.  I am currently working on a third historical romance, also a Jane Austen variation, titled On Stranger Prides.

Kaye: What made you decide self-publish?

Amy: At first, I really didn’t have a choice.  The publishing companies that I originally contacted were not interested or were not taking new authors at that time.  I didn’t know that self-publishing was an option until I did some research.  Self-publishing was the only chance I had to get my stories out there.  I have no complaints with the self-publishing world, but I do believe it requires a lot more work on the part of the author.

Kaye: How much non-writing work, (marketing & promotion, illustrations & book covers, etc…), do you do yourself for your books?

Amy: Originally, I did everything myself.  But as I got savvier, I have since hired a professional editor and cover designer both with Creative Digital Studios. And marketing, well, I never did anything in the early days.  I never realized how important it was until I decided to hire a PA.

Kaye: How much work do you contract out? Book Covers? Editing? Marketing? Etc…?

Amy: Creative Digital Studios does all my promotional materials, however I may do a teaser or two myself.  My two PA’s Alicia Freeman and Monica Diane do all my marketing and promoting.  I do a little myself when I am not trying to meet writing deadlines.

Kaye: How do you feel about the marketing tasks you have to do? Do you embrace them or loath them? Why?

Amy: That’s a trick question.  LOL… I’m just kidding.  Sometimes I am all excited about doing some marketing of my books, other times not so much.  It really all depends on my mood and what else I have to do.

Kaye: You and I met through Full Moon Bites Promotions, when they hosted your book blog tour for Ice on Fire. For that tour I did a review of your book and we did an author interview. Is that the first book blog tour you’ve done? What kind of results did you see from it? Was there a rise in sales? Do you feel it was a successful marketing venture?

Amy: It was the first blog tour I have ever done – and I assure you, I will not release another book again without one.  I really can’t say that I saw a rise in sales, but what I did see was my new release ALL OVER SOCIAL MEDIA!  And if I saw it, then I am sure millions of others saw it.  So, yes, I feel it was completely successful.

Kaye: You recently did your first book signing at Barnes & Noble. How did that go? How successful do you feel that was, as a marketing strategy?

Amy: That was freaking awesome!  For an indie author like myself to actually get into a major bookstore is huge!  I met a lot of great people that day, including the B&N staff.  On the marketing end, I believe it was very successful.  It’s definitely opened up a lot of doors for me.

Kaye: You have a street team who help you promote your work, Amy’s Amazing Street Girls. Can you talk a little about what your street team does and how you build a street team?

Amy: I can definitely talk about my street team, but a little – not so much!  My street team is amazing!!  I didn’t realize when we named it Amy’s Amazing Street Girls, that I would continually use the word “amazing” to describe them.

This team is my safe zone.  I go to my team when I need someone to bounce ideas off or to get me through a rough writing patch.  When I need something shared or a contest voted on I can always count on my team.  I host several giveaways in my team and we even have a weekly SWAG giveaway that we do.  They help me promote my books everyday.

In return, we (my PA’s and I) entertain them.  There is activity in this group every single day.  Some days are themed others are not, but we have a lot of fun with whatever we happen to be doing on that particular day. We currently have over 470 members and we add new members every day.  Just to show how much I love my street team, my latest release, Ice on Fire is dedicated to them.

Kaye: You have a P.A. who helps promote your work, too. How much of a help in your marketing is this?

Amy: No, I don’t have a PA – I have two, Alicia Freeman and Monica Diane.  These ladies are my biggest support in all aspects of writing.  They promote my stuff, they run my street team, they do Author Takeover Events – they do everything.  I would be lost with them and still don’t know how I survived as an author before them.

Kaye: Do you pay your P.A.s or your street team?

Amy: I do pay my pa’s, but not members of the street team.

Kaye: So what is involved in building a street team?

Amy: I believe that you need to constantly be recruiting new members – keep them engaged daily and offer lots of perks for them to be a member of the team.  My PA’s have worked really hard in building the team and I am just along for the ride.  LOL.

Kaye: You promote a lot on social media, including book release parties and the like. How effective do you find social media marketing to be? Do you feel they increase your sales or are the biggest benefits in gaining new followers?

Amy: I’m not really sure if social media has increased my sales, as I believe people are buying books like they used to.  Indie authors have got them self in rut by giving away free books that I believe a lot of people on social media are looking for the freebie. But on the flip side of that, social media has definitely given me exposure. To me, the exposure outweighs the sales because I am a firm believer that eventually that exposure will lead to more sales.

Kaye: What other marketing strategies have you used?

Amy: I have done Facebook, Goodreads and Amazon ads and giveaways.  I have also done advertising in Inks and Scratches magazine and have attended several signing events.

Kaye: What would you say works best to sell books, as far as marketing goes?

Amy: Me.  I know that sounds odd, but I find that I sell more books if I am physically in front of the person telling them about my book.  I have done a lot of signings this year and that face-to-face contact between me and the reader makes a huge difference.

Kaye: What advice would you give to new authors trying to get their work out there?

Amy: Don’t be afraid to spend some money.  First and foremost hire a good cover designer and editor.  It is so worth it in the end.  And definitely hire a PA!  Their rates are reasonable and their value is priceless!

Thank you so much Kaye Lynne!

No thank you Amy, for joining us on Writing to be Read, not once, but twice. And thanks for sharing some of your marketing experiences with us. If you’d like to learn more about Amy or her books, visit her Amazon Author Page, her Goodreads Author Page, or her website.

Don’t miss next week, when my guest will be hybrid author, Chris Barili in Part 6 of the Book Marketing – What Works? series. If you don’t know what a hybrid author is, you’ll have to check back in to find out.

 

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