What does the author say?

Friday night I was one of five authors invited to a local Meet the Author charity event.  Since the night’s proceeds went to a local no-kill shelter, how could I say no? My pom, Homer, would have bit my ankles.

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You’re going to help, aren’t you?

As the night progressed, I found myself answering some of the same questions multiple times.  So I thought I’d share them to prepare other Soul Mate authors for the type of questions you may be asked as you venture out into the wild.

I’ve given you the question and my first off the cuff answer. You know, the thing I wanted to say?  Then I gave you answer number 2 (A#2), the politically correct answer. You can use either one but your mileage may vary.

Q:  Where do you get your ideas? (Number one asked question)

A: There’s a little shop down by the library. They sell ideas by the bucket. Sometimes you have to dig a little to find one that works for the type of book you write, and sometimes their used ideas, but most of the time you can find something that works.

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10 ideas, 10 dollars!

A #2: I walked them through the melding of ideas for my first born (The Bull Rider’s Brother) So you see, it all started when a guy I was dating took me to a weekend rodeo. And then I added in the little hot springs that was in a different part of the state and wondered what kind of people lived out in the mountain boonies. And then I applied the piece about write what you know. Finally, a book was born.

Q: Do romance writers try out all the sex scenes? Or is it just fantasy?

A: Funny, no one ever asks me as a mystery writer if I’ve ever killed a person using arsenic.

A #2: Most writers focus on the emotion of the sex scene, the actual process is just choreography or a tab A, slot B process.

Q: Do you know Nora?  Or Stephen King? Or Harlan Coban?

A: I had the three of them over for dinner last week. They are all terrible gossips. Can’t get a rumor out of any of them to save one’s life.

A#2: I’ve seen Nora from afar at a conference. I’ve actually met and talked to Harlan as he’s a friend of a friend. But Stephen King?  I think my tongue would freeze in my mouth if he said hello.

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My fan girl moment with Brenda Novak.

Q: How do I get my book published?

A: Practice, practice, practice.

A#2: Funny, this one was the same answer. Write a book. Find a critique group, send it out. Then write another. Rinse and repeat until you get The Call.

What would you ask your favorite author?

Lynn

Posted in A Little Note From Lynn | Tagged , | 4 Comments

I Cannot Tell a Lie

InkedByAnAngel_3_850I cannot tell a lie.

I have a thing for bad boys.  Well, within reason.  Am I the only one?  Surely not.  And by bad boy, what I really mean, is:

He needs to look like a bad boy on the outside.  i.e. tattoos, piercings, drive a fast car or ride a motorcycle, like cool music, and be good with his hands.  You know, H-O-T.

But, he also needs to have a soft side…one only I can see.  Be kind to old people, children and animals.  Maybe help me around the house, take care of me when I’m not feeling good, be totally understanding during my time of the month, and he absolutely must think the extra padding I’m carrying is ultra-sexy.

That’s not too much to ask, is it?

Well, if you’re writing a romance hero, maybe not.  Especially if you’re writing one of my heroes.  Well, sort of.  LOL!

But, the part about having a soft spot for bad boys, or what I like to think of as the “non-Ken doll” heroes, is totally true.  I’ve written tatted, pierced, tattoo studio owners, a long-haired mysterious Navajo native, a fallen angel, a brainy Elvis look-alike, and a landscaping accountant (who was pretty hot, too!)  My next hero is a tatted up contractor…I can’t seem to help myself there.

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So, in honor of my love of tattoos, I’ve created a little list of helpful hints straight from my first novel, Inked by an Angel, to help you if you’re thinking of getting inked:

Be very certain you AND your tattoo artist know how to spell whatever you’re having inked onto your body…and check it before the needle hits your skin.

Tattoo artists are a lot like barbers. Don’t pick the one with the best haircut or most impressive tat. Remember, they don’t work on themselves. Check their portfolios.

Tattoos might be painful to get, but they’re just as painful to remove, and even more painful to look at if they’re hideous.  Think it through before you put something permanent on your body.

If your new lover is sporting a shiny new tattoo, make certain it isn’t covering an old flame’s name. That ink could mean nothing but baggage.

Don’t tattoo your girlfriend’s name on your arm, it’s bad karma and you might change your mind.  Ditto her face.

And, as an added bonus, this week only, Inked by an Angel is on sale for 99 cents at Amazon…I hope you’ll pick up your very own copy!  Enjoy!

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Tattoos…

Jed Gentry is doing just fine, thank you very much, running his tattoo studio in Austin, Texas.  So what if people think he’s a bit on the surly side?  He’s been burned by his ex who sticks around to torture him and he lives with a family heartache that he’d rather not talk about.  But he’s got a thriving business, his dream car, and good friends.  Not much to complicate things.  At least, not until she walked in…

Accountants…

Kyle O’Neill has had it with being the sheltered daddy’s girl at the family accounting firm and is ready to spread her wings and fly on her own for the first time.  Unfortunately, it seems she’s about to fall flat on her face when her first and only client is – gulp — a tattoo artist!  Her country club upbringing certainly hasn’t prepared her for this place or the sizzling attraction her traitorous body feels for the grumpy owner.

And…Cupid?

But there is a Divine conspiracy at work here pushing these two together.  And they are hell bent on bucking the Heavenly plan all the way.  Luckily, their angel is a true believer and pulls every trick he knows from under his halo to make this a match made in Heaven.

Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor?

Inked Sale Promo

 

 

Posted in A Moment For Shauna | 2 Comments

6 Key Elements to Every Good Romance

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Photo credit: 123RF Stock Photos, teamkohl.

Everyone might have their own opinion about what should or should not be in a good romance novel or novella. However, I find there are six key elements in every good romance story.

1. A Love Story That Drives the Plot

A romance must, at its core be a love story. And that love story must in some integral way, be in the drivers’ seat. While there are many subgenres in romance that tag-team with the love story, in all romances, the love story is the predominant story line. And according to RWA, and most of us who read and love the genre, a romance must end with a happy-ever-after (HEA) or a happy-for-now (HFN) resolution for the main protagonists.

2. Good Characterization

I believe in any good romance, characterization is important. Your readers must fall in love with your hero and your heroine. Some say you want your readers to fall in love with the hero and want to be best friends with the heroine. You must find a way to make your characters empathetic, even if there is a large growth arc for them to overcome. You want your readers to feel sympathy for their plight and be rooting for them from the start.

3. Strong Emotional Tugs

If you do your job creating empathetic characters, then you shouldn’t have far to go to nail the emotional tension and getting the emotional authenticity right for your characters. It’s imperative that you hit on some universal emotional notes for your readers to have that ah-ha moment with your characters, knowing that these men and women who populate your story are just like them in very real and important ways. If you can do that, then you will take your reader on an emotional journey that will have them laughing, crying, and shouting at the pages. And that’s what they really want–to escape life by entering into the lives of someone else and experiencing their joys and sorrows for just a little while.

4. Hot Sexual Tension & Attraction

No good romance is complete without lots of hot sexual tension, palpable attraction, or steamy sex scenes. Now, don’t get me wrong. There’s a whole spectrum of heat in romance. From the very sweet to erotica. So you choose which suits you and your storytelling. But whatever it is, you need to learn to build in sexual tension and attraction between your main characters. Because without the back and forth tug of attraction, your romance characters will leave your readers cold. And that’s not what they come to romance to find. They want to experience love and sexual attraction. So give it to them. Even if it’s by using the unbuttoning of a glove as Loretta Chase did so well. Any scene can be innocent and yet very laden with sexual tension. Work hard to get it right, no matter what your heat level.

5. Character Growth (Arc)

Every main character needs to show some kind of growth, or potential for growth, in a romance. Now there are characters who may choose not to grow, who remain static for the entire story. However, you need to build in a potential arc. The choices they make will either determine whether they grow or remain as they are–which in most cases is stagnant.

6. Conflict & A Story Problem

Without conflict, you have no story. I’d argue you also have no romance. There needs to be both internal and external conflict to most romance novels. The internal conflict will often deal with the love story and the barrier that keeps these two characters apart. But there must also be external conflict, or a story problem, that is solved by the end of the book for a reader to feel a certain sense of satisfaction with your story. When there’s resolution in these two areas, a reader feels like–no matter how long or short–that they’ve been given a complete, whole story.

If you’re able to work these six elements into your romance, you’ll keep your readers happy and give them the romance they came to you looking for in the first place. You’ll provide a satisfying love story for your readers and they’ll keep coming back for more.

 

Posted in Mementoes by Mackenzie!, Soul Mate Publishing | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

Modest Proposals?

Like a lot of people, I’ve spent an approximate total of thirteen months of my life daydreaming about that perfect marriage proposal. Sometimes the fantasy involves firelight and chocolate, while other scenarios feature a stage, hot spotlights, and the din of five hundred people chanting “Say yes, say yes!” Oh, and I’m not gonna lie – there’s been a flash mob or two in there. And maybe Mary Lambert.

However, rereading my novels, I realized my characters aren’t quite so creative when they broach the topic of nuptials. At the end of Hunted Past, my shero tells my hero it’s about time they got hitched. Hunted Dreams ends with my hero gently popping the question after stumbling upon a big ol’ secret. Sweet, but, you know, not that creative. I mean, where are the clowns, the fireworks, the dancing chickens? Where’s proof of all the brain power I devoted to this?

Apparently I lack the ability to spin my wild, wacky, and occasionally tacky plans into usable fictional situations. Sure, I know thirty make-believe people dancing to Bruno Mars’ “Just the Way You Are” while the novel’s hero brandishes a two-carat emerald is just the tiniest bit cheesy, but honestly, who hates a little bit of cheddar in their romance? Besides, if movies can do it, so can romance authors, amiright?

That said, I turn to you, my sister and brother writers. Can you think of any fabulous, romantic, creative proposal ideas? Was your own a living poem, a veritable Hallmark© moment, or like me, have you instead spent an indecent amount of time concocting silly, sigh-worthy, sugary scenarios?

Below I’ve listed a few ideas, but I’d love to hear some of yours, whether lived, written, or imagined.

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1. The Classic: This involves all the usual suspects: Candlelight, music, flowers, and chocolate. Set the scene, complete with a trail of candles and/or rose petals that lead to a ring.

2. The Mile-High: Flying is super miserable. The only thing that can rescue a flight? Asking a flight attendant for permission, grabbing the mic, and popping the big question. Yeah, okay, I totally stole this from The Wedding Singer.

3. The Delicious: Create a fortune cookie that features The Question. Pop it on a plate after nomming some tasty wontons. That said, please never have your characters stick a ring in food. Am I the only one who finds that nauseating?

4. The Performance: Anywhere a microphone exists is an opportunity. Attending a local musical performance? Watching a play? At a rally? Ask someone beforehand if you can nab some stage time. I admit this comes directly from one of my fantasies. I publicly perform poetry, and it’s occurred to me that a super nifty proposal could involve a public performance of a romantic poem that ends with some magical words.

5. The High-Tech: I have a couple of ideas in mind. One involves making a website that details the couple’s love story and leads to a proposal. Yeah, all right, I researched and it’s been done, but that doesn’t diminish the awesome, geeky appeal. The other plot involves something like writing a short story that mirrors the couple’s, one that ends on a particular cliffhanger, uploading it to a Kindle, and then asking the other partner to take a gander at this awesome new story.

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Kitschy, cheesy, and gimmicky? You betcha. Too much for fiction? What about real life? Your thoughts: Bring ‘em!

Posted in Soul Mate Publishing | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

The way we were.

I’m cleaning out my house, getting ready to move from the home I built and have lived in for the past 24 years. Just down the block from this house is the home I grew up in. Yup, my heroes live in Asgaard, other dimensions, even as far away as Minnesota, and in my 58 years I’ve never lived anywhere other than my small, northern Wisconsin home town.

 
But that’s all about to change. I’m heading south, going to live on the coast. Okay it’s southern Wisconsin on the coast of Lake Michigan, but it’s a move!

 
Anyway, while going through stuff, deciding what to move and what to throw out, I came across my old typewriter and box of manuscripts.
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Yes kids, this is what writing used to look like. No fancy word processors, spell checkers or printers. Thank goodness for WhiteOut.

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I’d send my typed pages out in the mail, get edits back done in pen, then retype the whole page. Oh, and when I wanted a backup, I had to type that too.
(Boy, I sound old.)
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Now I haven’t looked at this stuff in probably fifteen years. There’s short stories, magazine articles, and my first novel (three different versions, and they are all pathetic). Oh, and rejection slips. I have my share of rejection slips. I’ve been rejected by some of the best.
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Dear Author? Well you know that can’t be good. But seriously, the novel was crap. Thank goodness they didn’t publish it.

 
I did this for about five years, back when I was in my late 20’s, then quit, boxed it all up, and forgot about it. Silly dreams. I wasn’t an author.

 
Of course the stories didn’t stop clogging up my brain, and occasionally I’d write something up, especially after I got my shiny new computer system. Eventually it all spilled over into this new publishing world…and here I am.

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But now I face a dilemma. Do I throw away the box of stories? They’re all pretty badly written, and I have tons of newer, better material on my hard drive. Still, there’s a lot of me in that old box. Yeah, I’m taking it with me.

 
And that old typewriter? I’ll never use that again. Don’t know if it even works. But darn it, we started this journey together. You don’t throw away an old friend.

 
So me, my typewriter, and my old box of crappy manuscripts will be leaving town. Just as soon as my house sells.

 
Heading for the coast…

Posted in A Shout-Out From Steven! | Tagged , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

The Power of the Brand

Marketing is never easy. While one might assume that the Technological Age would make the task less daunting, it has, in some cases, made it more difficult. One such case is marketing a new novel. Author pages, blogs, and Twitter handles saturate the world wide web and are as ubiquitous today as land lines were in the past. Everywhere you look, there is a new book or e-book available for purchase or download. How can a new author stand out among a sea of other hopefuls?

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The answer is brand power. What makes an author stand out is his or her brand and the consistency of it. I recently read an article discussing this very topic and how significant brand power is to an author’s success. It is important for a new author to identify his or her brand early on and to be consistent in both developing and marketing it. Brand recognition, although beneficial, does not happen overnight.

Two authors who have achieved great success in marketing their brands are Dean Koontz, author of the Odd Thomas series as well as countless other best-selling thrillers, and Lee Child, author of the very popular Jack Reacher series. Both Koontz and Child have been very successful in marketing their specific brands. Along with selling millions of copies of their novels, both Odd Thomas and Jack Reacher have been turned into films.

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My debut novel, Cold Ambition, is the first in the Jordan James, PI series. Jordan James is a young woman from New Orleans living in Boston and working as a private eye. With her very first case, she must solve the puzzling murder of a prominent businessman that has left Boston’s finest mystified for more than two decades.

While my brand is still in its infancy, I am not daunted by the challenges that lie ahead, but rather, motivated by them. I look forward to not only watching my brand develop, but also having audiences get to know Jordan as she attempts to solve this case and finds herself suddenly immersed in a treacherous underworld brimming with betrayal, raw greed, and political subterfuge of international proportions.

Marketing is never easy, but with a little effort, it can definitely be a rewarding experience.

Posted in Rachel's Reminisces! | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Burning the Candle at Both Ends

Everyone’s lives are so busy these days. If you’ve got kids, you’re running them from soccer games, to piano lessons, to dance competitions. If you have a day job, you’re dealing with the pressures of deadlines and meetings, grumpy bosses and demanding clients. If you’re married, you’re setting aside quality time with the one you love. And if you’re a writer, add writing and blogging, editing and revising, marketing and conferences to the list of things you have to get done in a 24-hour day. Oh yeah, and you might want to sleep, eat, . . . take a little time for yourself. How does one do it all?

I don’t have kids (unless you count my husband), but I do have a demanding day job, that husband/kid thing, and a non-profit foundation my husband and I started over 10 years ago, plus all the commitments to family, friends, and our community. My friends look at my schedule and think I’m crazy (or a vampire who doesn’t need sleep). There are times (like now) when I feel like cashing it in, selling my house, and moving to a deserted island in the Caribbean with nothing but my Kindle for company.

Our Foundation has two events coming up (one this Saturday), I’m editing my latest novel for Soul Mate, Dreams of Perfection, working on my 4th book (the second in the 3-book Dreams Come True Series), producing audiobooks of my previous releases, marketing my current books, as well as my new release, working my day job, and attending community fundraisers, concerts, and sporting events. My husband thinks it’s good for the Foundation to be seen in the community, and I can’t argue with the fact that it also helps me promote my books, but it’s exhausting, especially since I’m really an introvert.

Writing is my escape from the madness. Unfortunately, my escapes are short-lived and few and far between. So what’s an overworked attorney/non-profit director/author to do? Here are some tips for squeezing in a little me-time or a little writing time.

  1. Take 20 minutes and do something for yourself. Read. Take a walk. Listen to music. Sit quietly and close your eyes. Surf the web. Whatever it takes to recharge. It’s amazing what 20 minutes can do.
  2. If you can spare more time, take a weekend for yourself. Send your hubby off with friends. Or take advantage of your friend’s beach/mountain/lake house. Use that time to unwind or as a writing retreat. Unplug. No one to cook for, no one putting demands on your time, no one distracting you. You’ll return to your busy schedule with a can-do attitude.
  3. If you have that day-job thing, take a half day off here or there. Spend that time on yourself, or on your writing. I take a half day once a month or so (when I can), and sneak off for some solid, uninterrupted writing time. I write best in quiet places with my earbuds in my ears listening to my selected playlist, so I like libraries and study rooms.
  4. Dine al fresco. Whether you work at home or in an office, take your lunch and sit outside (weather permitting). The fresh air and sunshine clears your head and relaxes your body, leaving you ready to face the day’s next challenge.
  5. Indulge in your favorite creative activity (besides writing). Cooking, canning, gardening, sewing, painting, whatever it is. It takes your mind off work, that sagging middle, or the blog post you have to write. ( :

My hubby is leaving for a week in mid-April, and I plan to take some time off work, dive into my manuscript, take advantage of a spa gift card I received, watch a sappy movie or two, and forego the cooking, the laundry, and the foundation work. A brief respite in my otherwise crazy life. What do you do to recharge?

Posted in According to Rebecca | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments