Jeff’s Pep Talk: Who Influences the Influencers?

Jeff's Pep Talk2

Who Influences the Influencers?

By Jeff Bowles

The first Wednesday of every month, science fiction and horror writer Jeff Bowles offers advice to new and aspiring authors. Nobody ever said this writing thing would be easy. This is your pep talk.

Are you an influencer? You might want to think about it a moment before you answer. In our culture, to influence is to make a big splash, to inform what individuals and groups value, how they think and interact. I’m an influencer because I’ve got a Mom and Dad, a wife, a brother, friends. I’ve had a huge impact on them, and it goes without saying, they’ve impacted me. We all influence each other, right? We can’t help it. If I know you and you know me long enough, we’ll start to get under each other’s skin. Science even suggests we’ll start to look alike, as terrifying as that sounds.

Human beings are the influential type. We’re social creatures, and usually, when one of us has trouble, there’s a whole baying wolf pack of supporters and naysayers coming up behind. One of the things I dislike most about our modern storytelling ecosystem is the fact writers today tend to favor death, tragedy, betrayal, all the nasty things in life. Whereas love, respect, loyalty, they seem to get left in the dust. So you’re a writer. You like to tell stories and communicate complex ideas that might otherwise mystify people. You’re an agent of truth, an avatar of righteous disclosure, and you need a clear mind and a firmly rooted foundation.

Enter the influencers. They come in all shapes and sizes. They can be that grade school teacher who first read you your favorite book. Or the acclaimed author who, after forty years of alcoholism, workoholism, and abject failure, produced that one brilliant novel that sets your soul singing every time you read it. You can be your own influencer, too. Who is it that forces you to sit down at the computer and write? Is it your work ethic? Where’d you pick that up? I’m an all-or-nothing guy, much more comfortable working in bursts and spurts. Also more likely to face periods of intermittent burnout because of it. But even I get uncomfortable when I’ve allowed myself to rest on my laurels too long. Knock me down, I get back up (eventually). Who influenced me to perform this way?

It may sound sappy, but I don’t believe people come into our lives by accident. I learned to work hard from my family. They taught me to laugh as well, which means my stories are par-boiled and strange as hell. I didn’t know I had talent until people close to me told me in no uncertain terms. Even as an adult, there have been those moments a special person has come out of nowhere and made me feel suddenly and delightfully valuable. A little encouragement goes a long way, right? And thank god for that.

But let’s not forget the negative influencers in our lives. The people who tell us we can’t, shouldn’t, mustn’t, that we’d never. Sometimes, especially when we’re just starting out, our naysayers seem more numerous than our supporters. I was an indie singer/songwriter until I turned twenty-three and decided I was a writer. Just about everyone in my life, my family, friends, even my fiancé, were puzzled by the sudden turnaround.

“Don’t you still want to do music on the side?” they asked, oblivious to the fact I might interpret their concern as doubt in my abilities.

I wasn’t born to write, not really, and neither were you. We worked at it, honed our abilities to finely pointed instruments of literary destruction. Sure, people like us have a natural aptitude for this sort of thing. But for crying out loud, my first completed short story was such a godawful mess I haven’t had the strength to look at it in all the years since. No, my family wasn’t super supportive of my choice. I think they wanted to be, but perhaps they didn’t know how. To say they were unequivocally negative about my chances wouldn’t be fair, but I was their golden boy when I had a guitar in my hands, something substantially less than that when I started cranking out sub-par stories. Like you do. Because we all have to crawl before we can crawl just a tiny bit faster.

Here’s the thing. I’m grateful for their doubt. I recognize now that if not for a little healthy adversity, there’s no way I’d be the writer I am today. Do you feel the same? Who influenced you? Who told you you could or couldn’t? You may be surprised to realize you needed both groups in equal measure. We never really know how bad we want something until it’s denied us. Ask any hard-case of unrequited love out there, it’s always so much more romantic when the answer is a resounding “no.”

I’ve got a brief writing exercise for you, a small motivational tool to unearth where you’ve been and help you ponder where you’d like to go. Write down the top ten people who have influenced you on your writing journey. Could be anybody, teachers, authors, loved ones. Now for each one, assign a numerical value from one to ten. Your high school language arts teacher, what was her name? She gets a seven because she’s the first person to compliment your out-of-the-box ideas. Tally up the final score for all ten influencers and answer one very simple question: did you do this alone?

No! Of course you didn’t. There were people ushering your progress the whole time, laughing at you, cheering you, doubting you, praising you. There were ghosts of old writers in all the books you collected, urging you to follow in their footsteps, to find truth in their work, such that it could be found. The sheer joy of the struggle, the artistic and cerebral strains, buoyed by hearts buoying hearts, the ability to sit down and craft a narrative that takes everything you are, were, believe, love, hate, condense it into chalky baby formula, slap it in the food processor, and then ka-blam! Gourmet word smoothies (literally speaking, of course).

It’s no small thing to think about these people from time to time. For so many of us, real support doesn’t manifest until we’ve been working for years and years. Imagine you were raised to go into business. Mom, Dad, I want to be a writer instead. Professors, Dean, sorry I’m leaving your wonderful but boring academic program. I’ve got the bug, you see, and there really is only one cure.

The older I get, the clearer it seems to me our desires don’t come to us by chance. Plenty of people try their hands at penning their first novel and never make it further than a chapter or two. So take for granted the fact that if the urge to create is so strong in you you’ve never been able to lay it down, obviously, much gratitude and respect, you are MEANT (that’s all caps, MEANT) to keep working. Saying nothing about MEANT to be super rich or super successful, MEANT to win awards, MEANT to change the world. No, simply MEANT to write, which is no small MEANT at all, thank you very much.

Do yourself a favor today and give some gratitude to all your many influencers. Without their love, support, disinterest, and bad advice, you wouldn’t be able to influence others in kind. Oh no, you didn’t think you were getting out of it that easy, did you? Of course you’re the biggest influencer of all. We don’t live in bubbled slip-space isolation, present state of geopolitical affairs notwithstanding. You never know who’ll come knocking on your door. That special individual may become the most important author of the millennium. Then again, they might just be a friendly guy or gal who needs a friendly pep talk and a kind word or two.

Don’t make your job harder, and don’t make them feel they should abandon theirs. Writers who make a point of discouraging others give me indigestion. Probably for the best, in the long and short of things. I never really listened to their sort anyway. Until next time, folks. Dream large. After all, if you don’t, who will?


Jeff Bowles is a science fiction and horror writer from the mountains of Colorado. The best of his outrageous and imaginative short stories are collected in Godling and Other Paint Stories, Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces, and Brave New Multiverse. He has published work in magazines and anthologies like PodCastle, Tales from the Canyons of the Damned, the Threepenny Review, and Dark Moon Digest. Jeff earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at Western State Colorado University. He currently lives in the high-altitude Pikes Peak region, where he dreams strange dreams and spends far too much time under the stars.

Check out Jeff Bowles Central on YouTube – Movies – Video Games – Music – So Much More!


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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 Shiju Pallithazheth, author of “Katashi Tales”

Shiju Pallithazheth

It pleases me to present a special Saturday interview with a man who has made huge contributions to literary communities world wide. He is the author of the recently released magical realism story collection, Katashi Tales, as well as the founder of Motivatinal Strips social media forum, which promotes the unification of authors and people across the globe. I am honored to have him as my author guest today. Please help me welcome Shiju Pallithazheth.

Kaye: You are not only an author, but a scholar, striving to improve yourself and others through the promotion of world literature. Can you share a little about your journey to becoming an author? When did you discover your love of literature? When did you know you wanted to be an author?

Shiju: To this context, I would like to narrate my favourite penned quote..

‘My friends used to play with toys in their childhood, while I was playing with tiny English alphabets made of plastic. We all grew up together. They became engineers, doctors, accountants etc. and I ended up being a writer.

Guess that quote narrates the answer.

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

Shiju: Yes! I write fast lest I forget where I started… lol

Kaye: What do you feel is the single most important element in a story?

Shiju: Characters that fit aptly in a plot.

Kaye: What is the most unusual or unique thing you have done so far?

Shiju: I have unified writers from 105 countries for what they love doing. Guess that’s unique and interesting.

Kaye: You are the founder of Motivational Strips, a social media forum designed to celebrate humanity and world literature. What do you hope to achieve with this very selective group of authors?

Shiju: The readers are going berserk to identify quality reads as well as writers. The whole agenda of Motivational Strips is literary unification. It started as a crawling baby ten months back. It withstood will power and today it has daily visitors crossing 130 thousand. So that sums up to 4 million visitors a month.

Kaye: Why do they visit the forum ?

Shiju: They love the literary works of the writers, and feel it’s a safe and secure place to network. The forum has achieved commendable milestones within a short time. All credit goes to its members as well as administration. Today it has World Nations Writers Union as well as Union Hispanomundial De Escritores (UHE) as its associates. World Nation Writers Union had Late Dr Koffi Annan ( Former UN General Secretary) as its co president in the past. UHE has former Costa Rica President and Nobel Prize laureate Dr Oscar Arias Sanchez as its present Hon. President. The above mentioned merger speaks volumes on the mission of Motivational Strips. It has affiliated six other qualitative groups in Facebook for writers so that worldwide writers have variation and choice. So we are liberal on writers’ interest. In a nutshell, Motivational Strips keeps writers interest over its own. The forum has novice beginners to many literary icons and award winning authors. Many Nobel Prize Nominees interact and coach the writers for literary progress. It has more than 60K poems and articles penned by writers from more than 105 nations. Now, does that sound small?

Kaye: Motivational Strips honors and encourages those who have made a significant contribution to world literature. I received a Certificate of Honor, myself. What do you feel has been your own greatest contribution which you have made?

Shiju: I have been one among them, that’s the greatest contribution!

When you want to steer a mighty unification process in literature or any other creative fields, you have to know how to strengthen its roots. The leaders can’t stand away and ask the members to keep the roots firm. The ideal leader is one, who has a desire to learn and to teach relevance. Just like how an editor takes responsibility to edit a book to relevant material, a leader has to jointly interact to keep the basics right.

Katashi Tales

Kaye: Your collection of magical realism stories with life lessons, Katashi Tales, is coming out in April. What are some of the life lessons you hope to convey with these tales?

Shiju: Katashi Tales is all about morals. It has a storyline that will take the reader through a journey of magical realism. It ends with realities and values to cherish in life. It has varied forms of narration to keep away monotony, as well as expectations. The expectation level of the reader goes up as the chapters progress. The reason why the expectation level goes up is because of the way the stories have been placed. It gives exposure to the reader in meeting different characters and feeling the ambiance in unknown places. Many new places one has never heard of or read about in life will be revealed in the plot. The book speaks for itself. Each of the fifteen stories teaches a different lesson.

Kaye: The stories in Katashi Tales carry with them lessons or morals, similar to western folklore. Do the lessons just unfold as you write the stories, or do you craft the story to fit the lesson?

Shiju: No, it unfolds in unexpected twists and turns in the plot. The story line was never meant or designed with planned thoughts. The characters revealed themselves in my imagination. I felt as if my presence was in the plot, and witnessed them weaving great stories with tiny outlines. It was fun to write those fables. I experienced the feelings and ambiance of the cute characters in the jungle. They were dying to tell their stories. They are adorable innocent characters, that teach us humans, that they have great stories, principles, ethics and morals, as well.

As Katashi Tales is released worldwide, I’m glad to say that, today being second day of its release, the book is already in the No 2 position among best sellers in KOBO.

Kaye: What is the most challenging part for you of writing magical realism?

Shiju: Magical realism is an art in literature that needs great understanding of the readers’ expectation. I feel bringing reality to a fantasy script is the greatest challenge in writing.

Katashi Tales is a typical attempt of magical realism.

Kaye: You write in many genres. What is your favorite type of writing?

Shiju: I do not limit myself to any favourites. Moods and ambiance decide my choice for the season. But humility and interactions has taught me to be a greater learner. I enjoy writing for writers, as well readers. If you go through my posts in Motivational Strips, you will understand the fact, that my favourite is what the writers/readers desire syncs with.

Kaye: What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing?

Shiju: I love researching people’s behaviour, as well mine. Doing a comparison helps a lot in correction of oneself and adaptation to the public mass behavioural patterns.

Kaye: What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment to date?

Shiju: I’m still learning, I feel that’s a great accomplishment in my life.

Kaye: What is the best piece of advice that was ever given to you?

Shiju: ‘Learn to see the good side of people rather than digging their faulty holes to bring out the trash.’ That was my late grandpa’s advice. I cherish it close to my heart.

Kaye: What is something most of your readers would never guess about you?

Shiju: I’m a busy corporate executive and do rob myself of sleep to promote writers in Motivational Strips, as well affiliates, because of my love for literature.

Kaye: What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Shiju: Observe, interact and write. Mistakes are bound to happen as well as success. Take them both in positive spirit. Don’t sell your soul, you can sell your writings though.

I want to thank Shiju for sharing with us today. He’s a man who has done some impressive things for the literary world and the human world, as well, perhaps. Katashi Tales sounds like a wonderful book filled with delightful and meaningful stories. You can learn more about Shiju Pallithazheth or get your copy of Katashi Tales at the following links.

MOTIVATIONAL STRIPS: https://www.facebook.com/groups/252154565336217

AUTHOR PAGE: https://www.amazon.com/MR-Shiju-H.-Pallithazheth/e/B07QQZDS86

AMAZON UNIVERSAL LINK: http://Author.to/Katashitales

KATASHI TALES KINDLE: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07QPVCNGC

KATASHI TALES PAPERBACK: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1094684120

                                                        https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1094684120

KOBO: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/katashi-tales

BARNES & NOBLE: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1131274084


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The Confusing Faces Of Poetry

The Many Faces of Poetry 2

I struggle with such questions as “What is poetry?” Or “Why is poetry?” I don’t HAVE to struggle; it seems like a waste of energy, except that any honest inquiry into the nature of important things is…well, important. Yesterday I read three poems in a prestigious literary magazine. They were written by a prestigious lady who is a professor at a prestigious school. I’d better take these seriously, I thought. They have the imprimatur of critical acclaim. They’re supposed to be good.

I read the three poems several times. They are contemporary poetry. They have rhythm without rhyme. They are abstract. They are boring as hell. In order to run a quality check, to ensure that it wasn’t just me, quietly going insane, I referred to some poets that I love. I read some Lorca, and then Charles Bukowski. Okay, okay, it’s not just me. The latter poets wrote great poetry. I can sense THE PERSON inside these poems. I know who, where is Bukowsky, what he’s thinking. Lorca, even translated from Spanish, had poetry full of blood, I mean “Blaaahhhdd”, okay?

globes 2

Poetry has always been the bastard child of my prose work. It’s the long prose, the novels, that challenge me. Poetry’s easy. I write a poem, like that! boom, done. A few corrections the next day. Trim it a little. I can go years without writing a poem. This month I’ve struck a seam, I’m writing poems. My poetry is ME, it penetrates to the core of myself and exposes my sense of failure, confusion, ambivalence. Sometimes it’s mystic, it’s pure celebration of what I know is GOD but I don’t want to preach.

These  poems were written in the last ten days. I got pleasure in writing them, and more pleasure reading them. The second poem is among the best I have.  It’s one of “those”.

 

It Don’t Rub Off

More and more each day

my life looks like a stage set.

Props

my green rubber key chain,

the white bowl from which

I eat Cheerios .

More and more it looks less real;

it’s nothing like I wanted, not at all.

It’s more like a joke that’s on me, the opposite

of my desires. It waits to see

if I’ll laugh. I do; I laugh. It’s so silly, wanting,

but it can’t be helped. Wanting is like breathing

or waiting

while something giant hurtles towards me

too far away to sense

but it’s coming.

And I need it.

I’m in no hurry to see through things;

they control the pace.

Who I am

is not a mistake. I came here for an exercise

a knowledge that slips through my fingers.

One day my hand will close around it.

My car is banged up

my knees hurt.

I’m poor but never broke.

My broke friends know

that I’ll pay them for work on my car

or my house.

I carry some of their Stupid for a while.

It don’t rub off.

I always think I’m injured but I’m not:

except that life is injury, an obscure pathway

through a forest full of thrilling birds

and venomous snakes.

Is this real?

Yeah, I guess so.

For now.

 

Shit

There’s shit on my shoes;

cat shit, dog shit, I hope that’s all shit.

Every step I take I risk stepping in shit:

Is this not life? There’s nothing wrong with shit.

Like bugs, we need shit, desperately

to nourish with its stink the most unlikely growth.

This poo is for you, it says, as I wipe it off my shoe

foolishly trying to keep it from my hands, then washing

again and again. How often in a day do I inwardly exclaim,

“Shit!”? More than I would admit. My mind is full of bricks, pies and purges.

Cats, dogs, owls, horses, all shit. People shit,

the universe shits on these very shoes

which I try so hard to keep clean. Many are obsessed

with the microscopic haunt of e.coli. I don’t bother to say

“Relax, we intermix with e.coli and far worse

every day, we are sturdy,

knocking off shits right and left, undaunted

by the invisible spores of imagination”. Instead I give this benediction:

“You must be crazy in whatever way you want.”

Not every disease is preventable, nor is every affliction brought on board

by the shit on our shoes. Every time you stroke the cat, the dog, the horse

your hands investigate bacteria, resist infection.

After all, shit is the most common thing in the world.



A Midwesterner by birth, Arthur Rosch migrated to the West Coast just in time to be a hippie but discovered that he was more connected to the Beatnik generation. He hearkened back to an Old School world of jazz, poetry, painting and photography. In the Eighties he received Playboy Magazine’s Best Short Story Award for a comic view of a planet where there are six genders. The timing was not good.  His life was falling apart as he struggled with addiction and depression. He experienced the reality of the streets for more than a decade. Putting himself back together was the defining experience of his life. It wasn’t easy. It did, however, nurture his literary soul. He has a passion for astronomy, photography, history, psychology and the weird puzzle of human experience. He is currently a certified Seniors Peer Counselor in Sonoma County, California. Come visit his blogs and photo sites. www.artrosch.com and http://bit.ly/2uyxZbv


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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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Writing for a YA Audience: Romance Darkly

Writing for a Y.A. Audience

My mom and uncle are obsessed with Westerns. They grew up watching Westerns and still make time for them every weekend. While watching a Western with my mom, I had the idea of writing a young adult Western…with a steampunk twist. I brainstormed a ranch with a family secret. Along came TREASURE DARKLY.

After the first draft, it was recommended I add in a romantic theme. Thus, Clark and Amethyst fell in love. It worked. I didn’t have to force them together. They were already best friends, and it flowed that they should develop romantic feelings for each other.

treasure darkly

Then came the challenging part. My first editor for the story wanted more romance.  I wasn’t a romance writer.  Sure, my main characters each had a love interest, but I wouldn’t call my early works romances.

I set out to read romance novels to get a feel for the genre. I read some young adult romances, some Harlequins, and then I discovered a love of paranormal romance. I devoured those and wanted more. Eventually, I felt ready to write my own romance.

Young adult romances are tricky. Some people don’t want any sex in YA novels; some people say its okay. I struggled with that fine line before firmly stepping onto the “no sex” side. Yes, the book does get a bit steamy, but there is never explicit sex.

“But teens already know everything about sex,” I’ve been told.

Okay, that might be the case, but it doesn’t mean every young adult book has to contain graphic sex scenes. I want my books to be more about the adventure and setting than erotica.

man and woman embracing each other

Photo by Anderson Weiss on Pexels.com

Jordan Elizabeth is a young adult fantasy author who dapples in the steampunk realm.  You can connect with Jordan via her website, JordanElizabethBooks.com.


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Chatting with the Pros: Interview with romance author Maya Rodale

chatting with the pros

Today on “Chatting with the Pros” my guest author is a historical romance novelist, Maya Rodale. She writes strong female characters who stand up for themselves and still manage to maintain their feminity. Her books have appeared on the USA Today bestselling list and have been published in several languages. Her novel, The Wicked Wallflower won the RT Reviewer’s Choice Award for best historical hero, and What a Wallflower Wants was labeled as a romance novel for the #MeToo movement. I’m pleased to have the opportunity to chat with her today and learn her thoughts on romance, female authors and women’s place in the world.

Maya Rodale Framed

Kaye: Your stories favor strong heroines for your main characters. Do you think romance is usually a female domain?
Maya: Romance has been traditionally a female domain, though 18% of readers today are men! I would love to see more men openly reading romance, but I also hope it never loses it’s focus on the female experience and the empowerment it brings to so many women in publishing. 
Kaye: Perusing your website and checking out your book covers, one gets the impression that your romances are a bit risqué. How steamy can you get before you cross over into the land of erotica? Do your books cross that line?
Maya: Romance Writers of America provides the best succinct definition of erotica: “Romance novels in which strong, often explicit, sexual interaction is an inherent part of the love story, character growth and relationship development and could not be removed without damaging the storyline.”
So it’s not a matter of how much sex is portrayed but how the sex engages with the plot. My historicals definitely have some steamy sexy times on the page, but I wouldn’t classify them as true erotica.
The Tatooed Duke
Kaye:  How do you decide the titles for your books? Where does the title come in the process for you?
Maya: A title needs agreement from both the publishing team and myself; sometimes the title I pitch is the one we go with. Sometimes the story is nearly done and we’re frantically brainstorming at the last minute to find something that works.
Fun behind the scenes story: I wrote The Tattooed Duke thinking the title would be Brave New Lord which I LOVE but my pub team thought The Tattooed Duke had better sales potential, so that’s the one we went with.
Kaye: Your books feature strong female heroines, who stand up for themselves and what they believe against the men around them and societal beliefs. Why do you think your readers relate to them?
Maya: I think this is the experience for most women: we are constantly having to stand up and assert our humanity. I like to think that my heroines help real women have the courage and confidence to do this. And for those readers who don’t feel it’s necessary, I hope they see that it is.

Kaye: What are some tips for writing strong female characters in a time period when there weren’t many to be found, and making them believable?

Maya: The more I dig deeper in my research of history the more I believe that this is a myth. Women have always gotten out of the house and done great, wonderful, terrible things; but it hasn’t been recorded, or their stories haven’t been told, or (male) historians deemed it unimportant. Women have never been boring, silent bystanders to the world. 

I think we’ve been (maybe deliberately) shut out of history books and as a result we don’t know the long and full history of women being active participants in the world. Start with a look at the New York Times Overlooked Obituaries, for example. 

The problem isn’t that strong historical female characters aren’t accurate, the problem is that we have been made to believe they are. And in the name of “historical accuracy” we unwittingly perpetuate that in our novels. 

My tip for writers: find those stories, write those stories! And then explain your research in the author’s note. And my advice for readers: check your biases and preconceived notions and let yourself get swept up in the story. You may just learn something new about history too. 

Kaye: What’s the biggest challenge in writing romance for you?
Maya: Protecting my time! It’s my day job and still there are so many demands on my time and energy that make it hard to focus on my books.
Dangerous Books for GirlsKaye: You wrote a nonfiction book titled Dangerous Books for Girls: The Bad Reputation of Romance Novels Explained. Can you explain briefly why romance has a bad rep and it is justified?
Maya: Romance novels have a bad reputation because they’re so powerful—they are the only art that consistently portray women triumphing in a world that doesn’t want women to triumph. Mocking them as “trashy books” or just “mommy porn” or “unrealistic” is a way to diminish their power. If we valued women and women’s work more, we’d value romance novels more!
Kaye: How many different countries and languages are your books sold in?
Maya: Many! A list of covers for foreign editions is on my website at www.mayarodale.com/books
Kaye: What’s the most fun about writing romance?
Maya: I do love being the all powerful Goddess of fictional worlds. And not having to get dressed up for work 😉
Kaye: What do you think is the single most important element in a romance story?
Maya: The development of the romantic relationship! And the happy ever after, of course.
Kaye: Where does inspiration for your stories come from?
Maya: Story inspiration is everywhere if you open your heart and mind to it! Right now I’m finding the New York Times “overlooked obituaries” of historical women to be a gold mine of story ideas for historical romance. I just need more time to write them…
Some Like It ScandalousKaye: You have a new book in your Gilded Age series coming out in June, Some Like it Scandalous. Would you like to tell us about it?
Maya: Longtime enemies embark on a sham engagement and end up falling in love! The only way for society darling Theo Prescott to survive his most recent, unspeakably outrageous scandal is marry someone respectable. Someone sensible. Someone like Daisy Swan. But she has plans that do not include a loveless marriage to anyone. Instead, she aspires to sell cosmetics that she has created. But this brainy scientist needs a smooth talking charmer’s flair for words and eye for beauty to make it a success. Before long, Daisy and Theo are trading kisses. And secrets. And discovering that despite appearances, they might be the perfect couple after all.
Read more at www.mayarodale.com/scandalous
Kaye: As a romance writer, what kind of research do you find yourself doing for your stories?
Maya: I do A LOT of research. Everything from reading biographies, non-fiction, histories, other novels to trips to the library or visits to museums. Or just googling. There’s general research to do about the time period—for example, I had to learn all about the Gilded Age (1860-1900) in Manhattan for my new seriesThe Gilded Age Girls Club.And then there’s research necessary for each particular book. For the next book in the series, Some Like It Scandalous I had to do a deep dive into the invention and popularization of cosmetics, since the heroine launches a cosmetics company with the hero.
Kaye: What advice do you have for aspiring romance authors?
Maya: My best advice I think comes from Nora Roberts: “Ass in the chair. Words on the page.” Also, my friend once told me “If you’re not getting a rejection once a week you’re not trying hard enough.” Brutal, but effective. 


I want to thank Maya for joining me today and sharing her views with my readers. I think some may walk away with a different perspective on the romance genre. You can learn more about Maya on her very creative website: http://www.mayarodale.com/ and on her Amazon Author page, her Goodreads Author page, or on her Fantastic Fiction Author page.


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