On Writing Romantic Suspense

Writing romantic suspense involves the skillful juggling of romantic elements and nail-biting suspense. A daunting task but so rewarding when all the essential ingredients come together in a well-crafted, character-driven novel.

Here are eight tips:

• Ask yourself: what is intriguing about the premise? What will attract readers to the book? In Sue Grafton’s Alphabet Series, protagonist Kinsey Millhone is a twice-divorced private investigator who is permanently stuck in the 1980s. In the Gilda Greco Mystery Series, the protagonist is a teacher turned lottery winner who moves back to her hometown and then finds herself embroiled in murder investigations.

Continue reading on Jane Reads blog.

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Self-Publishing: The Great Equalizer

I’m happy to welcome Canadian author Janice Richardson. Today, Janice shares her thoughts on self-publishing.

Here’s Janice!

“Indie”. Depending on your point of view, the word carries possibility. Yes, you saw that correctly. Possibility. Never mind the connotative responses. This isn’t a self-published vs. traditional vs. independent press article. This is a celebration of potentials.

Remember the old joke punchline “I may be crazy but I’m not stupid?” If not, here it is – https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/tire-nut/.

53.7% or 70% or 64.2% of all authors make less than $1000.00/year. The accuracy of those stats is dependent on variables. Do you work as a writer full-time? part-time? Are you published by one of the Big 3? Big 5? Do you have a monthly advertising budget? A publicist? Is your author platform Prada vs. Thrift store?

Back to that old joke. Not all of us have disposable incomes. We may be poor, but we are not stupid. We can write. It has only been in the past few years that we can publish, using the same platforms as traditional and independent presses. All authors share the same air on Amazon, Ingram Sparks, Draft2Digital etc. It is no longer rarefied. Of course, there are a few differences. Getting books into stores is a challenge self-published authors face. But, and this one of the best things about being an author, you can get your books into libraries. Everyone and anyone, regardless of income, can read your books via Overdrive. You can donate your print books to your local library.

My advertising and build-your-author-platform budget was $0 for 15 months after my first book went live. It became $25, then $40 after 28 months. One good promo can make a world of difference. All authors should be reading blogs, authors FB posts and websites and learning from experts like Rayne Hall, who gives away books from her Writer’s Craft series if you can’t afford to buy one. Get the help for marketing from people like Derek Haines, Nicholas Rossis, Marylee MacDonald, Jane Friedman, and many more experts who freely share their skills online.

I cringed when I saw a series of blog post comments from published, well-respected authors who will no longer take indie requests for reviews. It wasn’t because the individuals making the request were indie. It is because they were rude. Read the submission rules! Being indie is no excuse for bad behaviour. Nor is being traditionally published or hybrid/independently small press published.

Traditionally published authors are now involved in their own promotion. Even some independent/hybrid press authors are required to present completely formatted manuscripts for uploading and then promote their books, equalizing the process.

If you put the work in, you reap the rewards. It takes time. Personally, I don’t measure success by my bank balance. Cliche – the joy is in the journey? Yes – authors have no arrival. Self-published authors have freedom as well. We don’t have contracts. We have all the rights to our books. We can change the prices of our books at will and we can make a book permanently free or discounted for a limited time.

“You are taking sales away from published authors!” “That’s not fair!” Just two of the comments I have faced by giving away the first book in my series. It stings. I don’t want to ‘take’ anything away from anyone.

A recent promo translated into sales as follows: with four books in the series, it was a 20/1 ratio. I gave away 2300, sold over 100 in a two week period. The benefits – readers whose budgets don’t accommodate purchasing books got the first book free. I heard from a few of them on Facebook. They made my day. The book made bestseller on Amazon in all categories and top 100 free Kindle. The promo resulted in nine ratings and two reviews on Goodreads. Even my non-fiction sold. All this was below budget. A tiny step – peanuts perhaps, compared to my published counterparts. Nonetheless, a reason to rejoice. I was doing my job.

As a special needs mom, I am reminded every day there are great divides in society. To translate my point to publishing, that great divide closed with the option to self-publish. It is no longer all about being published by the biggest, middle, or smallest. Giving freely (books and assistance) is my goal as an author and I remain steadfast and unapologetic.

Yes, having a publisher opens a wealth of opportunities. Hybrid/independent publishing can open the door to the Big 5. I read recently that one of the big publishing houses acquired another publishing firm, leaving them the option of accepting about 100 new authors/year. If it is true that every 8-15 seconds a book goes up on Amazon, (700,000 to 1 million/yr), the majority of authors must publish somewhere else. The discussion of indie vs published or somewhere in between will never go away, it is the elephant in our online rooms. There is no right or wrong, We are published.

Joanne – thank you for the opportunity to guest post on your blog.

Janice’s Books

Where to find Janice…

Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon


All About Anthologies

I’m happy to welcome author Ryan Jo Summers. Today, Ryan chats about anthologies and Crossing Jordan, her contribution to the anthology Craving Forbidden.

Here’s Ryan!

Anthologies are great both to read and to write. The first anthologies I read was two fictional horse collections sometime around age nine or ten. They fed my insatiable appetite for horse literature. Then I discovered my mom’s collection of Reader’s Digest anthologies. Those volumes opened up doors to my young eyes that have shaped and helped my writing career.

They introduced me to new genres and new authors and lead to a more open mind in both my recreational reading and my writing. I never want to say I “only read X stories” or I “only write X books”. The world of literature is limitless, even more so it seems, and anthologies seem to play a part of that growth. And perhaps that is why my romance novels tend to blur the lines of subgenres…

The first anthology I wrote for was a Christmas-themed collection with a publishing house I had already published about four regular novels through. The anthology was a fantastic experience from start to finish. There were a total of seven authors and we really got to know each other through the process. One of the way we promoted the book was via a series of newsletters and that was great for sharing personal bits about ourselves among our group and to readers and we learned about our fellow contributors beyond the author hats we wear. Of the four anthologies I’ve been part of, that one remains my favorite in terms of working with my fellow contributors.

Anthology # 2 also came from a house I’d had a couple of novellas released through. There was about nine authors and the stories were all food-themed. This house handled the anthology title and cover art, which was something we authors in the Christmas collection collaborated on. This second time it all just came in the email with a “here it is” announcement. It was still a good experience, though we contributors never achieved the level of friendship that the writers from the first anthology had.

Anthologies #3 and #4 are from another house, one that I had not already published with. I discovered them from an on-line call for submissions. They are both larger volumes, with twelve and thirteen authors respectively. The first one released in January 2018 and the second one just released in September. So there is a very fast turnaround. And again the experiences have been different from anthologies 1 and 2. There have been no newsletters or getting to know the other authors much pre-publication. Perhaps some more with this last one in the last few weeks, via social media events.

Of course, I am personally busier this year than I had been for the first two collections, with less time to try and socialize. This house also tends to do a bit more promo on the anthologies, so there isn’t the drive for the authors to be so directly involved. I did volunteer—a moment of insanity—to organize this last release. I feared I might become bored and wanted an organizational challenge. Indeed I got the challenge, mostly due to my already overflowing organizationally challenged life. Yet we all survived and had a bit of fun. Still, I cannot name one single personal, non-author thing from any of the last three anthologies like I can from the first one. However, I have enjoyed reading their contributions, hearing their writing voices, and seeing their collective styles.

And I will certainly be on the lookout for more anthologies to write for in the future. First, they are relatively easy to write. The theme is already provided for. That’s a big jump on getting the wheels turning. Most are around 10,000-12,000 words long, so I can write that around my current, longer works in progress. Edits are quicker as well. And I always discover new writers that I can follow for their other works and perhaps some lasting networking contacts and new promotional ideas.

Anthology Blurb

Forbidden—Banned. Prohibited. Not allowed. Off limits.

There’s one word which means something completely different, yet it always seems to go hand in hand with the forbidden…

Temptation.

It follows the untouchable, clings to the taboo, slowly luring you in, only to corrupt the last bit of self-control you might have. Nothing is more enticing or more alluring than the one thing that has forbidden stamped all over it.

Like the beautiful daughter of your mortal enemy. Or the gorgeous best friend of your older brother. There’s also the much older man who makes you want to throw all your inhibitions to the wind. Whatever your vice, this collection is everything you need to indulge.

So, forget about the rules. Ignore the warning signs.

Embrace the illicit, and allow yourself a taste of the…

FORBIDDEN.

“Crossing Jordan” tagline by Ryan Jo Summers

Jordan Kelly couldn’t get her ex-boyfriend, and the town bully, to leave her alone or allow anyone near her. Will Larkin has just come home temporarily between Army tours, to help his Grams and mom with their café. Neither one dreamed they could offer the other something permanent. Or safe.

buynow

Bio

Ryan Jo Summers writes romances that blur the lines of subgenres. She mixes contemporary with time travel, Christian, suspense, sweet, and paranormal like blending a fruit and yogurt smoothie. Her non-fiction works have appeared in numerous trade journals and magazines including ‘WNC Woman Magazine’, ‘Critter Magazine’, ‘Journey Devotions’, and ‘Vet Tech Journal’. She is a regular contributing author for the ‘Asheville Pet Gazette’.

Her hobbies include baking, crafts, gardening, enjoying nature, and chess/mah-jongg/word-find puzzles. She pet sits/dog walks when she’s not busy writing and she fosters homeless pets for area animal rescues.

She lives in a century-old cottage in North Carolina with her own menagerie of rescued pets and way too many houseplants. “Crossing Jordan” for “Craving Forbidden” is her fourth contribution to an anthology and her second with the Craving series with Limitless Publishing.

Media Links

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Google | Amazon | BookBub


Kate Morton Visits Kitchener

Yesterday evening, I attended “An Evening with Kate Morton” at the central branch of the Kitchener Public Library.

A packed auditorium and overflow room greeted the international best-selling author of The House of Riverton, The Forgotten Garden, The Distant Hours, The Secret Keeper, and The Lake House. Her latest release, The Clockmaker’s Daughter, is one of the Top 10 books of 2018 (Indigo).

After reading a short excerpt from The Clockmaker’s Daughter, Kate participated in an armchair conversation with Kitchener writer, Kayleigh Platz. The time flew quickly as Kate shared her writing journey and details about her novels.

One of three daughters, Kate was born and raised in Australia. A voracious reader, Kate lived inside her books but didn’t even consider writing as a career. In fact, it never occurred to her that real people wrote books.

At age twenty, Kate was inspired by a visit from her fourteen-year-old sister, who had written a sexy romance. The sisters bought notebooks and started brainstorming ideas for future novels.

As soon as Kate put pen to paper, she realized she had to write. She wrote two manuscripts that will never see the light of day. After the second manuscript was rejected, Kate researched what was selling and then made a list of what she wanted to see in her own books.

Two-thirds of the way through Book 3—The House of Riverton—she sent the manuscript to an agent who passed it on to a publisher. Intrigued, the publisher asked Kate how long it would take to complete the novel. The House of Riverton was one of the most successful UK debuts of all time.

Kate’s Writing Process

The first three to five months is a scribbling period, Kate’s favorite part of the process. Using pen and paper, she sorts through fragments of ideas and thoughts. A picture starts to form as Kate outlines the plot and becomes more acquainted with the characters.

As soon as the characters feel real, Kate starts writing on the computer. It takes nine to twelve months to complete the first draft which is really like an eighth draft. As Kate finishes writing each scene, she stops to make changes. Final editing takes another five to six months.

Asked about a sequel, Kate explained that each book is complete on its own. When it’s finished and shared with the reader, she is ready to focus on the next book.

A long-time fan of Kate Morton, I’m reading and thoroughly enjoying The Clockmaker’s Daughter. It is her most intricate book with multiple storylines alternating between the past and present.


On Writing Memoir

Yesterday evening, I attended a memoir workshop facilitated by Writer-In-Residence Camilla Gibb at the Kitchener Public Library. The author of four novels and a memoir (This is Happy), Camilla has a PhD in social anthropology from Oxford University. She teaches creative writing at the University of Guelph-Humber, University of Toronto, and Humber School for Writers.

Camilla started by suggesting the sub-title of this workshop could easily be “At Your Peril.” For over an hour, she shared well-crafted anecdotes, insights, and advice about the memoir writing process. A short Q & A period followed.

Here are several nuggets that captured my interest:

• Present trends in memoir writing include alcoholism, opioid addiction, cancer, degenerative diseases, Alzheimer’s, death of aging parents.

• To determine the plot, ask yourself what is compelling you to write this memoir now. What needs to be answered? Examples: How did I find myself here (addict, single mother, broke, cancer patient)? Why does my mother appear saner now that she has Alzheimer’s?

• Once you have the question, you will be able to decide which memories belong and which do not.

• Access the answers to your question through research. Read widely—fiction and nonfiction—about the subject that has captured your interest. Read as a writer not as a reader.

• If you don’t know the question, list your most compelling memories in chronological order. Then, search for the thread that links the past and present.

• Voice is the most critical component of memoir. Our lives are much more than the chronological rendering of facts.

• Think of yourself as a character. Examine the broader forces—class, gender, ethnicity, geography—that have shaped you. Consider changing the name of the character and then give her your biography. Do you see yourself differently?

• We get attached to certain narratives in our lives. The truth is underneath the stories we tell ourselves.

• Memoirists engage in the editing of their lives for narrative effect. Examples: Cutting back on repetition, leaving out uneventful periods, and making omissions for the sake of self-preservation.

• When writing memoirs, we will inevitably trespass into the lives of others. We need to be careful not to include anything that betrays the spirit of a contract (employment, marital). Also, we must not share anything that could result in the loss of income or reputation for people in our circles. These could be grounds for legal injunction.

• Big publishers have in-house legal counsel. If self-publishing, hire a libel author to go through the memoir.

Memoirs Mentioned

The Liars’ Club by Mary Carr
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
A Million Little Pieces by James Frey
Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer
Wild by Cheryl Strayed


Life Lessons from Maeve Binchy

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

When I attended my first critique group, one of the writers commented: “Your stories remind me of Maeve Binchy’s books. Have you read them?”

Read them!?

I have devoured the sixteen novels and four collections of short stories written during her lifetime. I’m especially fond of Book #17, A Week in Winter, released six months after her untimely death in 2012.

Like many of her fans, I mourn the fact that there will not be another Maeve Binchy novel. I will also miss Maeve’s wonderful advice.

Here are my favorite life lessons from Maeve Binchy:

Be supportive

Maeve was blessed with parents who thought “all their geese were swans.” As an overweight child who did not excel athletically, Maeve appreciated the warmth and positive feedback she received. Later, she met and married Gordon Snell, a writer who also believed that Maeve could do anything.

In her novels, Maeve extended this positive reinforcement to her characters. She once explained: “I don’t have ugly ducklings turning into swans in my stories. I have ugly ducklings turning into confident ducks.”

Accept all gifts

In the early 1960s, Maeve worked in a Jewish school in Dublin where she taught French to Lithuanian children. At the end of the academic year, the parents gave her a trip to Israel as a present. At the time, Maeve had no spending money, but she went on the trip anyway and worked in a kibbutz—plucking chickens and picking oranges.

To reassure her parents, she regularly describing her adventures. Impressed with her writing, her father cut off the “Dear Daddy” bits and sent the letters to The Irish Times. Equally impressed, the editor published her letters as travel articles and later hired her as a columnist.

Visualize

When Maeve began writing stories and novels, she was still working as a journalist. She woke up each day at five-thirty and worked for three hours at the typewriter before going to work. To motivate herself on those dark mornings, she started to visualize the launch party for her first book. She imagined large crowds of people gathering and paying her compliments.

After several rejections, her first novel (Light a Penny Candle ) was accepted, but the publisher had no intention of hosting a launch party. Maeve didn’t miss a beat. She spent two hundred pounds, one-fifth of her advance, and organized her own party in a room over a pub, complete with wine and crisps. She invited family, friends, booksellers, and the publisher “who cringed with the shame of it all.” In the end, it was such a good experience that Maeve sat down and wrote another book.

Share

Success is not a pie where everyone who gets a slice has somehow diminished what’s left for everyone else. Maeve believed that success was “more like a cairn, a heap of stones where the more each person gets, the more it adds to the general body of work out there.” She urged aspiring writers to “borrow” the techniques of successful writers and present them in their own unique voices.

And, most important of all, keep at it.