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Friday, 30 November 2012

Contemporary Romance defined

Elizabeth Jasper Writer

Contemporary ~ adj.   1. living, occurring, or originating at the same time.  2. Belonging to, or occurring in the present > modern in style or design.

Romance ~ noun.   1. A pleasurable feeling of excitement and wonder associated with love > a love affair, especially a relatively brief and light-hearted one. > a book or film dealing with love in a sentimental or idealized way.  2. a quality of feeling of mystery, excitement and remoteness from everyday life.  3. A medieval tale dealing with a hero of chivalry, of the kind common in the Romance languages.  4. Music, a short informal piece. ~ verb. 1. Be involved in an amorous relationship with (someone).  2. Seek the attention or custom of, especially by use of flattery.  3. romanticize. (OCED, 11th Edition, Revised)

From the point of view of a writer, the ‘contemporary’ part of the genre title is straightforward.  If you, or someone you know, or know of, who has lived through the events or period described, then that is contemporary.  So, when I wrote a story about a girl growing up in the 1960s, it could be described as contemporary because I, along with many other people, can remember the 1960s and the events that took place back then. As the girl in the story was only eleven, there was no question of there being any ‘romance’ in there whatsoever. 

Romance, though, is a particularly difficult term for the writer to quantify.  When does a story become a romance?  Is it when the protagonists exchange warm glances, or when they first kiss, or when they achieve their (ahem!) happy ending?  How much romantic content is necessary in a book for it to be described as a romance? How much does romance have to do with sex? Does a focus on the sexual aspects of a relationship mean a book cannot be described as a romance? When does a book move beyond being described as a sexy romance into the realms of erotic fiction? How does Chick-Lit fit in to contemporary romance? Or, is it a question of a reader instinctively knowing what contemporary romance is when she reads it?

I’m currently writing a sequel to the 1960s story, and it does have some romantic aspects. Teenage girls and boys are discovering one another throughout the story and by the end they have boyfriends and girlfriends.  How can I describe this story?  YA Romance, Coming of Age Romance, or just YA or Coming of Age? When my mum’s best friend devours Mills & Boom Romances by the dozen, it would appear to be straightforward, but Mills & Boon have ‘levels’ of romance, from innocent, romantic relationships to quite steamy ones. Then there is the infamous ’Fifty Shades of Grey’.  Romance, or erotica?  If a relationship is examined in depth within a book, does that qualify as romance, even if the relationship is abusive but the protagonists love one another?

So many questions, and the answers will be different from every reader’s or writer’s point of view depending on their personal experiences and preferences.  So, how can a writer judge whether or not their work is a romance?  Answers on a postcard…

Elizabeth Jasper

Thursday, 29 November 2012

I hate sex! It's icky, repetitive, time consuming, sweaty and pointless . . .

in books.

Unless it's erotica, and then it's kinda the main ingredient. So I always cut to the chase, boy meets girl, boy like girl and vice versa, a couple of kisses, and then it's the next scene. Job done.

I can not make sex sexy. The name of every body part has me giggling. How many times can you say 'velvet sheath' or 'lady garden' without laughing? 

I blogged about it last year in my post I can't Perform in the Sexual Department, and even though it made people giggle you'd have hoped I'd have a different story to tell this year, wouldn't you? But no, I STILL, prefer to miss those scenes out. Maybe it's because, as a reader, I skip them to get to the main gritty story.

But then, I began getting a few reviews for Eden from people saying the sexual tension was thick but they were disappointed that it didn't lead to anything. Oh, dear! And even more shocking Eden has a few tags of 'erotica'. Not my intention! Flattered, that I got the sexual tension right, but the book is about acceptance, love and survival above anything else, and the theme Beauty and the Beast, is so far away from erotic fiction.

In my latest release, The Fall of the Misanthrope: I bitch, therefore I am, I wrote two sex scenes. One was so raunchy it involved oral sex, but I cut it. And I'm glad I did. You see, you HAVE to stay true to the genre you're writing for.

I'm pleased my books are romantic and 'thick with sexual tension', but I'll leave the full blown sex scenes to the experts!

Article by Louise Wise

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Researching Romance – Putting The ‘Ex’ Into Experience

Joanne Phillips

Have all romance writers led wildly romantic lives? Have they loved and lost, had passionate affairs, endured multiple marriages and nursed broken hearts? Possibly – but not necessarily. You don’t have to have lived through heartbreak to imagine its devastating effects, or have found the love of your life to be able to write touchingly about happy ever afters. If writers had to possess first-hand experience of everything in their novels, most crime authors would be locked up!

But romantic plot-lines, while inspired and driven by imagination, still need to be authentic. Readers can spot a fake instantly, and many an author has come unstuck trying to turn their hand to the romantic genre, believing (mistakenly) that it is easy to churn out novel after novel following a prescriptive formula. Today’s contemporary romances sparkle with originality – to stand out from the crowd you need to apply the rigours of research to your writing to make sure the romance rings true.

So where can you look for research material into matters of the heart? Apart from the very young, most of us have a failed love affair or two in our dark and murky pasts. In fact, most romance writers I know were drawn to the genre in the first place by a need – conscious or otherwise – to right the wrongs of the past, to work out their demons on the page. For romance to do its job – which is to give the reader a powerfully emotional experience – it needs to go deep. A writer must plumb the depths of their own experience to find the emotions and unearth the words that will best describe them.

This isn’t an easy task. When writing is most painful is when it is closest to the writer’s most challenging memories. I recently cut an entire subplot in my latest novel, the sequel to Can’t Live Without, which saw one of the characters suffering from post-natal depression. While I felt – and still feel – this is an important topic which is often overlooked in ‘mum’ fiction, I was too close to the subject to be able to write objectively. My daughter is only four, and I have suffered from PND myself – while I might be the perfect writer to bring this experience to life one day, that day has not yet arrived.

One of the wonderful things about writing romance is that we can bring the good and the bad experiences from our past to life, and then re-write them – often a very cathartic process! I have written about a character based on a man who hurt me quite badly, and then had him lose everything and become a figure of ridicule at the end. Oh, that felt good! Before I met my husband, as a single woman in her thirties despairing of ever meeting ‘the one’ I invented Paul Smart, the hero of Can’t Live Without, who has proved a massive hit with readers. Only recently a reviewer said she ‘loved Paul and wished she could meet him in real life.’ Could I have brought to life so vividly this fantastic romantic lead if I hadn’t known how it felt to be single and lonely? If you delve deep enough there are emotions buried that, while painful, may just be the seed of the perfect romance – should you be brave enough to try.

A final thought: In my early thirties, insecure and listening to my biological clock ticking away, I had a boyfriend say to me: ‘If you were anything special you’d have been snapped up by now.’ This was a defining moment in my life (he became an ex very quickly after), and is certainly wonderful material for a character in a novel! He will certainly suffer at my author’s hand one day. That’s what I call putting the ‘ex’ into experience.  

Sunday, 25 November 2012


Pam Howes

Oddly enough I never intended to be an author. When I began to write it was never meant to be fiction. I thought I might do articles based on the 60's music scene in my home city of Manchester and try to sell them to Mojo magazine or the NME. I'd always had a creative bent and spent a long time running my own Interior Design business. But a change of lifestyle and circumstances in the mid-nineties kind of threw me in the direction of writing and once I started I found it hard to stop. But the factual music-scene-book I'd thought myself destined to write actually turned into more and characters began to develop. Suddenly I had a tale flowing and the more I wrote the more I enjoyed the process of weaving a story around fictional rock band The Raiders, and their lives and loves. That original story Three Steps to Heaven was re-written God knows how many times until I was happy enough to let people read it. The trouble is it was hard to class it in a genre.

It wasn't really a family saga, although it featured families and it was a saga! It wasn't, strictly speaking, romance, although there are romantic passages throughout, nor could it be classed as historical, as the sixties isn't quite that yet, or so I'm told. It could be drama - well maybe, there's plenty in it and I'm told it would make good TV viewing. It wasn't chick-lit, no fluffy girls in it, just rock chicks! And although there are a few sexually explicit scenes between the drummer and his girl, I wouldn't describe them as erotic. So what the devil to class it as? It was certainly a problem. Then it struck me - I'd have to invent my own. And so, the genre of Rock Romance was born. Amazon, of course, doesn't recognise it as a genre, and my books currently sit in sagas and romance, but it's how I promote my work. I now find it easy when someone asks me what type of story I write. It always provokes a question and answer session and with most people having a feel for a bit of nostalgia for the sixties, I can usually make a sale or two.

Since that first novel I've written two further books in my Rock'n'Roll Romance Series and am about to publish the fourth in December. I love writing in this made-up genre. I love my music and my fictional band. I've really been able to get involved and create lives and ongoing happenings for all my characters and I've taken them from late teens to men just bordering sixty years old. They're still rocking and romancing the ladies though. There's little slowing down with my lot. Love and romance is not just for young characters. Middle-aged guys like to enjoy life too and so do their ladies.

Last year I had a slight change of direction and wrote a sensual romance based on a true-life love story. This also had a music theme. I'm looking forward to expanding this series of sensual romances next year.

I totally enjoy writing, I'm lucky enough to be able to do it full time and it’s taken over my life. My head is constantly filled with scenes and conversations, sometimes to the point where I wish they'd all go home for the night and leave me in peace! I don't think I'd ever want to do anything else now though.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Rage against indie writers

Stella Deleuze
One bigmouth with an even bigger rage against Indies

I love a good poke. Did it work? Please say yes, because that would make me happy. Relax, I'm only kidding. But I meant it when I said I have a rage against Indies. Just to clarify, it's not all of them, that would be stupid; after all I'm self-published, too, but many of them. Why? Well, you may want to sit down and pour yourself a chamomile tea, just to be on the safe side; I don't want you to fall off your chair or hurt yourself jumping up in order to throttle me.

Sitting comfortably? Good. Now, listen, I'm not a bitch. Okay, maybe I am, but only a bit. What are you on about? you wonder. Well, let's put it this way: I've probably made a few enemies by publishing my massive rant about self-published authors. Not because I hate them so much, but because I hate what they're doing, or not doing. The trigger for my writing Rage Against The Indie in the first place was that I experienced something I've never experienced before: deleting book, after book, after book on my Kindle. Self-published books, that is. And as you can imagine, I wasn't a happy camper. You see, I only read thirty to fifty minutes in bed, just before I close my eyes and drift off into wonderful dreams. I've counted on a few occasions: I read about ten pages of a normal paperback in an hour. That's roughly 3000 words. I know, very slow, but I'm thorough and read every single word. 

That's probably one reason for my being so picky about what I read, the other two hundred and fifty-seven reasons are that I'm an editor and know a thing or two about writing. Once you gain access to that knowledge, there's no way back; you can't flick a switch and . . .  boom . . . be a pure reader again. It's impossible, and that means you have some sort of expectations. Don't get me wrong. I love my light, easy-to-read chick lit, and I also like young adult fiction, nothing fancy. Something nice to relax to, but light and easy doesn't mean it needs to lack quality. Even chick lit fares better if the characters are well developed and the author knows how to craft a decent story. I hate to see a good premise being destroyed by awful and repetitive writing. Good storytellers aren't necessarily good writers, but at least they have the basics: a good story to start with. Some might blossom into decent writers, some won't.

And then you have people who think they're good storytellers, or writers, but aren't. Those who go and invent the most hideous, far-fetched, and unbelievable stories, broadly announcing they're sure they've written a bestseller, no, even worse: they're convinced. And because they get rejection after rejection, they want to prove to the world that they're worth it, that their writing is brilliant, mostly without success.

I personally lost count on how many books I've deleted. Most of the authors were too lazy to learn the basic skills a writer needs to know: character and story-development, show/tell, natural sounding dialogue, plus the attributes (punctuation and tags), apostrophes, etc. 

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

The Highs and Lows of KDP Select

KDP – Publishing for the Masses
Bella Harte
Ever the Optimist

Since the inception of KPD, Amazons own publishing platform, the book publishing world has been transformed forever.  Kindles are the new paperback according to some schools of thought, but whether that is actually the case or not, the fact remains that eBooks are a very strong contender in the future of publishing.

Essentially, Pandora’s Box has been opened in the digital publishing world and the lid is not going back on any time soon, if ever.  What this means is that anyone can now write and publish anything at all.  Gone are the days of the dreaded ‘Vanity Publishing’ known as the Kiss of Death within the industry for any unsuspecting author unfortunate enough to get caught in its clutches.  The new and much more user friendly term is indie author for those that choose to go it alone and take their writing career in their own hands.
Getting a Literary Agent and/or Publisher today, is nearly an impossible task unless you are one of the very fortunate few whose timing is beyond perfectly sublime: -  the right pitch, to the right agent/publisher, at precisely the right time. Take Stephanie Meyer and her immensely popular Twilight Series for instance, she is the perfect example of this particular scenario.  However, this for the majority is not the case and the reality is;  a manuscript in the slush pile waiting to be returned with a standard rejection letter.

As any writer knows, this can go on for years, until there’s no-one left to pitch to. Then what? All that time toiled.  The blood, the sweat and the tears for years to end up back in Nowheresville with a novel you’ve poured your heart and soul into.  It can be soul destroying for those who take rejection poorly, and even for those made of sterner stuff, it can be an unpleasant experience.  But the true hard-core writers never give in.
The good news is, now that KDP is alive and kicking, there’s no need to spend endless amounts of time or even years pitching to people who are unappreciative of your work and can take months to send you that crushing blow.  At this point in time, you can dive right in and just publish your masterpiece with a simple click of a mouse (well a little more than that, but you get the picture).  With a little help from an experienced editor to spruce up your prose, someone to design a cover if you are artistically challenged and you are pretty much good to go.  A book can be live and for sale on Amazon within 24hrs, how cool is that? 

But then what?  How do you get sales and your name in lights with no big mainstream publishing marketing team behind you and a budget to match?  This is the not so fun part, the majorly time consuming part – Self Marketing.   You suddenly become not only the author, but the marketing team, constant self-promoter and the single driving force behind your novel. 

There are firms you can pay, but from what I’ve seen this isn’t always a good idea, some are akin to sharks circling, much like the Vanity Publishers of old, filling your mind with delicious promises of untold riches and wild successes and it’s only going to cost you ’XXXX’ amount of £’s or $’s to reach that superstar status you crave. 

Unfortunately, usually the sad reality of that scenario is a lot of money changes hands and the author is left drifting in a sea of novels and they are absolutely no better off than when they started out on their marketing campaign.
Author Bella Harte
There is a neat little trick that can be used to help promote your sales and profile within the KDP Select Programme.  Which is the ‘Give-Away’ to help boost your profile among the Amazon rankings:-  Out of every 3 month period, you can offer your novel free for 5 days (these don’t have to be consecutive days either).  While this may be a good idea as it gets your ratings up and everyone loves something for free, someone that may have paid full price for your novel might be quite miffed.    I don’t really see this as too much of a problem if your novel is reasonably priced to start with, but if you’re asking a high price then drop it to zero on a promotion; it could have the potential to backfire with your regular fans.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Questions answered about Amazon's KDP

A Beginner's Guide to Amazon's KDP Select Program


Marquita Herald

I would love to have $1 for every posting I’ve come across in an online forum or author group with the question “Is KDP worth it?”

Now I admit, even when you find your way to the KDP Select area at Amazon, there really is a lot of information to slog through, and participation does after all involve an exclusive commitment; so it’s human nature to want to look for feedback from others who have experience with the program. The problem is we humans are born storytellers, and the stories we tell are naturally laced with personal editing and biases that may or may not provide a good indicator of whether the program will work for you.

So, with that in mind, I invested some time compiling a list of the most frequently asked questions I could find about the KDP Select program. Along with answers and a few tips, I’ve also tried to clear up some common misunderstandings.

What is the difference between KDP and KDP Select?

KDP stands for Kindle Digital Publishing and is Amazon’s basic publishing platform. There are no requirements for exclusivity to publish your books to Amazon using the basic platform.

KDP Select is Amazon’s promotional program for authors, and participation does require that your book be published exclusively to this program for a minimum of 90 days.

How does KDP Select work?

KDP Select features a $6 million annual fund dedicated to independent authors and publishers. The basic enrollment period is 90 days, and participation includes the option of offering books free to readers up to 5 days each period. Participation also includes enrollment in Amazon’s Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (often referred to as KOLL), which means you can earn a share of the fund based on how frequently your book is borrowed.

KDP Select is set up so that books are automatically renewed at the end of the promotional period, but if you decide not to renew, you can easily opt out by simply going to the book’s "Edit book details" page and un-checking the box next to "Automatically renew this book's enrolment in KDP Select.”

What does it mean to publish exclusively on Kindle?

When you choose KDP Select for a book, you’re committing to make the digital format of that book available exclusively on Kindle. This means that during the enrolment period you cannot distribute your book digitally anywhere else, including sites such as Barnes & Noble or Smashwords, or on your website, blogs, etc. However, you can continue to distribute your book in physical format, or in any format, other than digital.

Can I use previews or excerpts to promote my book?

While Amazon support is quick to point out that readers can view a snippet of your book on your book page, and read it for free as a Prime member, they confirmed to me that authors are allowed to use digital previews to promote books elsewhere. The guideline is the preview must not exceed one third of the contents of the book.

Does my book have to have an ISBN (international standard book number) to publish to Kindle?
No. In fact all books published to Amazon are assigned their own book number, called an AISN which stands for Amazon Standard Identification Number.

Will I have to enroll all of my books in KDP Select?

No. In fact many series authors enroll just one of their books to entice new readers to buy other books in the series.

How do I enroll my titles in KDP Select? When does enrolment become effective?

Existing titles can be enrolled from the bookshelf. To enroll a single title, you can simply click “Enroll.” Existing titles can also be enrolled from the book editing process.

New titles can be enrolled from the book details page. Simply check the box to “Enroll this book in KDP Select” and proceed to publish the book as you normally would.

For titles already live in the Kindle Store, enrollment takes effect immediately. For new titles, enrollment takes effect once the book is available for sale on the Amazon website.

And finally, the most frequently asked question of all!

Is KDP Select Worth It?

Saturday, 17 November 2012

How do you like your love fix?

Jan Ruth

Mills and Boon or hard-core erotica? Realistic and gritty, or pure fantasy and escapism? Maybe with a blend of humour, or a touch of the paranormal?

Contemporary romance is all about modern love, sex and relationships; but the diversity is as vast as the open sea. It’s just about the biggest umbrella term in fiction and probably the most subjective; although the sub-genre list is growing so the chances of not finding something to your taste, is pretty slim!

I love the scope of writing in this genre and the reading of it has led me to pastures new in terms of variety. To be honest, there are few books outside this genre that don’t benefit from a romantic interest running alongside the main theme. And yet . . . I struggle with the word, ‘romantic’. It still invites those old images of perfect young couples silhouetted against a sunset, gazing into each other’s eyes. The woman was always rescued by the man, usually a doctor, the ‘happy ever after’ was always guaranteed, and usually well in sight by the beginning of the last chapter.

For a good while, romantic fiction has been all about the beautiful, thirty-something-year-old woman being let down by a man; but what about the forty-something-year-old man, being let down by a woman?

Romance in novels has evolved and changed along with the role of women in society. What used to be deemed almost as porn, is now acceptable in fiction . . . or is it? What does get me slightly hot under the collar is the idea that erotica is romantic; it tends not to be in my opinion. We know the basic facts, don’t we? That, as women, we need more emotional connection for a piece to feel sexy, or romantic.

Can I get away with not mentioning 50 Shades? No? Okay, I guess not. Well, I didn’t feel the love with this book and I’m taking a gamble that the current fascination with being tied up will fade, along with the vampires and the gargoyles. So, is erotica another name for soft porn? Probably.

On the other side of the coin, romance with no love scene or hint of sex in any shape or form, is slightly unrealistic for these times. If an author has built sexual tension into a novel then I tend to feel a bit cheated when the characters, poised at the scene of the act, skip forwards to the following day or the chapter suddenly ends. I feel like the door has firmly closed, with me, the reader, on the wrong side of it.

Personally, I feel sex in fiction works best when the sexual passages fit within the tone of the book. It’s a very fine line to write good sexual scenes and, for me, it always works best when it just triggers the imagination, but without taking its place entirely. I find romance much more enjoyable to read (and write about) when it is blended within real relationships. After all, the actual chemistry of love is still something of an enigma and one of the most powerful feelings we can experience. Although research can fill in a lot of gaps, there is no substitute for drawing on real life experiences and most readers can easily tell the difference, especially if you are aiming at ‘realistic and contemporary’.

And lastly, what about the men? We have some terrific male romance writers, which just prove that the old images of this genre are becoming less and less contrived. So, in answer to the original question, I like my love fix with some feeling; sometimes funny, sometimes poignant, but above all it has to be real.

Author Jan Ruth

Jan Ruth has written three, full length, novels: Wild Water, Midnight Sky and White Horizon. Find Jan Ruth here:

Jan Ruth on Amazon

Friday, 16 November 2012

The challenges of writing YA romance explained

Naomi Rabinowitz

For many, simply expressing the idea of love is difficult enough. Most of us have said "I love you" to at least one person, but there's no true definition for what that means, and it's the type of statement that has to be backed by actions. Many turn to cards or poems for help. And I know several guys who are still too scared to say the actual words to their significant others.

I could understand this frustration when crafting the romantic scenes in my YA novel, REVENGE OF A BAND GEEK GONE BAD, because for me, these were the most difficult to write.

For starters, teens vary in sexual experience. When you write romantic sections for an adult book, one can assume that the characters have had other partners, and that even if someone is a virgin, he or she has at least done some experimenting. However, you can't assume this with younger characters. Sure, teens have sex, but there are just as many 15-year-olds, like my narrator Melinda, who've never even been kissed!

Therefore, the challenge comes in not only writing about someone's first kiss with a particular person, but in writing about a  complete life-changing first for that character. Writing about a character whose first introduction to romance and sex was, for me, something that had to be handled gently.
An inexperienced teen wouldn't necessarily know what he or she's doing, which means that several things need to be questioned: Just how explicit should the romantic scene be? Is it awkward or sweet, or both? What emotions is that character feeling as the encounter ensues?

All of these need to be addressed, as well as the fact that your young character's first kiss -- or first time -- would be a VERY big deal. This is why I didn't have my main characters, Mel and Josh, share a smooch until the latter half of my story. I wanted readers to savor that lead-up and excitement to it, right along with my narrator.

That said, the biggest challenge is in keeping those romance scenes tasteful, as well as sensual, because you are, after all, writing for a younger audience. You want them to be able to relate to the things that your characters are going through and if the characters, and the sexual language, are steps ahead of them, the scene might just come off as overwhelming. Of course, you don't want to patronize your readers, either; the trick is in finding that balance.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

How romance has evolved over the years! Does the blushing heroine still exist?

Deatri King-Bey

I started in the publishing industry over a decade ago as a developmental editor, but long before that I was an avid reader, and now I’m also an author. I’ve watched the evolution of romance from three different perspectives. Yes, thirty years ago I was one of those teens who snuck into her mother’s Harlequin stash. Even back then I wondered why she hid them. Yes, they contained sex, but the sex was between two loving adults and understated.

Traditional romance isn’t as “traditional” as it used to be. Instead of our heroines being virgins, they moved to being “virginal”, to enjoying sex and not being ashamed of it. Now don’t get me wrong, our heroines still have an innocent quality and aren’t sleeping around, but yet, our heroines have gone through a sexual revolution of sorts. I must say that I love the range of sexuality in romances. Now you can read anything from sweet romance (no sex shown) to erotic and still get your happily ever after. Nothing shocking there. The shocking part comes a bit later. I figured I’d do the easy stuff first.

Back in the day, many romance heroines “needed” men. Their lives revolved around finding Mr. Right and being taken care of.  They “needed” the hero to come in and save the day. Today’s heroines have more options. The hero doesn’t complete her, but instead compliments her. He’s her Yin to her Yang. Another change I’ve seen seeping into books is the "beautiful" heroine. We now have plus sized heroines, and heroines with disabilities! All beautiful, but not in the customary sense, it's brilliant! Granted, it’s difficult to find these books on the traditional publishing side, and I believe self-publishing will push traditional publishers to expand the accepted body types and abilities of our heroines.

The alpha male still dominates in romance, although times are a little harder for him. Now he must deal with these strong willed women who don’t need him. The women are with him because they want to be, not because they “need” him, so I think he knows he has it better now than before. He can’t be cruel like before, he can’t be too domineering or make decisions without discussing it with his heroine. He can cry though; show his softer side and STILL be an alpha man. He’s not as much as changed alongside our heroine, but evolved.  

Let’s look at plots. I must admit that I’m shocked at how much plot lines have not changed over the thirty years that I’ve been reading romance—at least not as much on the traditional publishing side of things. I’m still a sucker for secret babies, secret crushes on friends/enemies that blossom and the secret identity (ie: DEA agent under cover) romances, but I would like to see more plot lines where the hero and/or heroine have “flaws” that are considered unforgiveable. For example, how about a heroine who used to be a hooker? Believe it or not, it’s been done. Anyone remember Lori Foster’s title When Bruce Met Cyn? Great book! Every so often, traditional publishers allow certain authors to break the “rules” of what is an “unforgivable flaw.”  It’s difficult to find these titles by traditional publishers, and I think this is another area where self-publishing will push the industry to be more acceptable of the “unacceptable”.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Kindle Direct Publishing and Indie Publishing and what they mean for New Authors. Plus a giveaway!

Kristi Loucks is offering A Life Interrupted to one lucky reader who comments. I will draw a name and Kristi will offer that person a digital book in ANY format. 
Kristi Loucks

Whether a writer is new to the world of publishing or a seasoned veteran, the opportunities offered by independent publishing and Amazon’s KDP Select is opening doors that have never been accessible before. 

Just a few short years ago, unpublished authors were likely to have their work collect dust in the middle of a pile of manuscripts, unread.  Today, writers have the opportunity to get their work into the right hands, those of their readers without waiting.  We are able to share our work on all of the same platforms as traditionally published authors and thus, allowing indie authors to compete with the best of the best.

This is great, right?  Of course it is, but for every step forward there is inevitably a step to the side, too.  These new publishing avenues are great in that they make being a published author possible for many a talented writer who may never have found a voice through a traditional publisher, but they are also negative in the respect that they leave some key ingredients out of the formula.  Most notably editing, cover design and formatting.

These things are pretty basic, but they are not always something that writers can, or should do themselves.  Often neglected because of cost, purposely swept aside with the thought that they can be addressed later.  While it is easy to see how some may rationalize that once they have a few sales they can invest in these services, it can often be too late.  In most cases, a writer will only get that one opportunity to make that crucial first impression after all.
Kristi Loucks is part of the VBT

As an indie author myself, I know that we fight an uphill battle against what is at times perceived as lower quality work.  That perception is changing, but it is on all of us to make sure that continues.  There are an outrageous number of phenomenal authors who have gone the indie route; authors who we may never have read were it not for independent publishing and KDP Select.  

In addition to making the process attainable to many more aspiring writers, there is also a whole new opportunity to market yourself and your books with Kindle’s free sales, but that too has caused a stir for many publishers and writers wondering if it has the potential to hurt the sales of other books. 

While I don’t have any data to prove one way or another, I personally don’t think it truly hurts anyone.  KDP's free sales are powerful marketing tools for new authors who may have been buried in the mass of kindle offerings, but I doubt that a reader would pass over a book by their favorite author for a freebie.  At the end of the day, free or not, I believe the reader will buy a book that interests them based on the storyline and not the price (provided that the book in question is priced appropriately).

As with most things in life, there will always be more than one way to achieve our goals.  The choice that is right varies from one individual to the next, and how each person takes advantage of these opportunities is often what matters most.

The truth is that it has never been easy to make money as an author, while the independent publishing movement has made it easier to get published, it will not guarantee you an audience.  You are still going to have to work long and hard to establish yourself among the sea of talented writers from both the indie and traditional publishing worlds, but as my grandfather once told me, “No goal that is worth achieving is ever free, or easy.”

 Kristi Loucks is offering A Life Interrupted to one lucky reader who comments. I will draw a name and Kristi will offer that person a digital book in ANY format. 

A Life Interrupted
Jared BelaForte spent his life protecting the people he loves and the place he calls home working for a government appointed task force called The Greater Wilmington First Response Team or GWRT. A group comprised of his friend and half brother, Dylan Spencer. His father’s old partner with the Wilmington PD, Alex Kelley and his cousin Jules Devereaux. Rounding out the team was Shay McElroy, a profiler who also happened to be the love of his life.
Everything seemed perfect in his life, he had love, friends and family surrounding him and his team was on the verge of putting an end to the reign of a known trafficker who dealt in drugs and women. But in one moment, the man Jared had spent years trying to put away interrupted that life.

Sergei Dolenov is that man. He deals in drugs and dolls, a family business you might say. He had been able to stay under the radar in the sleepy port of North Carolina that he called home these days. But when the Governor put together a task force to disrupt his business, he took on a new target. Jared BelaForte.

After two years of torture and pain, Jared believed he would die in Dolenov’s “care”. But just when all hope is lost, an opportunity to escape presents itself. Two years to the day, Dylan got the phone call. Jared was in the local ER, and he was alive. Jared also learns that there was one other person that was left behind when he went missing, his little girl Sera, now just 17 months old. She was the glue that held Shay together when all seemed lost to her.

Can he pick up the pieces before the man responsible returns to finish the job he started?

About the author - Kristi Loucks

Author Kristi Loucks
Kristi Loucks is a Pastry Chef and Cake Designer with a degree from Le Cordon Bleu Chicago.  Her writing and storytelling has always been a way to manage the day to day stresses of working in the world of restaurants and food service.  

Kristi started writing in High School and has continued to share her work with friends over the years.  While she never planned to pursue writing professionally, a supportive friend armed with a copy of her debut novel, A Life Interrupted happened to share it with the right person. 

Since her debut was released in September of 2012, she has also released a novella, Delivery of Fate and is currently working on a new full length novel called The Rose Red Reaper, the first in a new series based in her home town of Chicago, IL.

Ms. Loucks currently resides in a suburb of Chicago and runs a bakery in a North Shore Suburb.
Now for something to whet your appetite!
A short excerpt - A Life Interrupted
Twenty-four months. It had been exactly two years since Shay had last seen Jared BelaForte, the man that she loved. Some days, it felt like an eternity. And in others, she would wake up and smell his scent surrounding her like he had been at her side moments before. The only thing she could count on from day to day was that she missed him.

There had been so many things she had wanted to tell him. Things she no longer believed she would ever get to say. He wasn’t coming back.

She had spent the last twenty-four months reassuring herself that there was hope. But, today she woke up with the sinking notion that he would never again look at her with his cerulean eyes. She would never hear him laugh or admire his beautiful smile and he would never get to meet his daughter, Sera.

When she woke up this morning, she cried. She cried the tears she had been keeping to herself for the last two years. She cried tears for all the things he had already missed. And she cried tears for all the things she knew her daughter would never have.

She would never know her daddy. His half brother, Dylan had stepped into the role of Daddy to Sera. Though he adored her as if she had been his own, they both knew that her little girls’ daddy could not be replaced.

In spite of the hardship, Dylans’ little girl Ellie had become like a big sister. She spent afternoons on the beach with Sera, Shay and Dylan as they splashed in the surf and Sera loved watching Ellie bury her daddy in the sand. Her little girl was the glue that held her mom together. She was the only reason Shay had not crumbled and they all knew it.

Shay felt his presence everywhere she went. Some days, she even thought she saw him on a busy street corner, down the beach or even outside her window when she looked down at his truck that she drove to work.

Her heart ached every time she felt it idle, but at the same time she found it impossible to let go of any of the possessions that she knew he loved, especially his truck. Even if he wasn’t coming back.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Romance, love and sex, oh YEEEEESSSS!


Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn 

Romance is a word frequently derided, especially in literature: 

Oh no, I don’t read romance – all that soppy mush. 

I like thrillers or science fiction. 

Give me a crime novel or an adventure – can’t be doing with love stuff. 

But why? Surely love, falling in love, falling out of love, who we love, who loves us is crucial to human existence. It certainly plays a significant part in the happiness or unhappiness of our lives. And if one of the reasons why we read novels is to gain understanding of what it means to be a human being – to explore experiences and emotions we might share with the characters – then romance is essential reading.

Perhaps predictable and clichéd love stories in some women’s magazines have helped give romance a bad name. Or, perhaps melodramatic dialogue and situations in some romantic novels have contributed to the scorn often poured on romance.

Noah Lukeman in his book on writing a novel ‘The First Five Pages’ says ‘Melodramatic dialogue comes in innumerable forms and the most common is probably romantic. Many writers have a tendency to push love scenes over the edge, to translate strong feelings into strong dialogue. Almost always this is a mistake.’ And he gives this sort of dialogue as an example:
            Oh, Henry!
            Oh, Margaret!
            They ran into each other’s arms and embraced for what seemed like an eternity.
            Oh, Henry, you know I’ve loved you so!
            Oh, Margaret! If only words could express my love for you!
            He picked her up and spun her around in the field of magical, glowing dandelions.

Most of us reading that would throw the book across the room and resolve never to pick up another romance. But there are some beautiful love stories. I remember crying over ‘The End of the Affair’ by Graham Greene, and I loved Rosamund Lehmann’s ‘Weather in the Streets’. I’ve recently finished Helen Dunmore’s ‘The Betrayal’, a sequel to ‘The Siege’. The novels describe the terrible events of the Siege of Leningrad during the Second World War and the brutal Stalinist years that followed, but at their heart is an exquisite love story which keeps the characters’ humanity alive.

My novel, ‘Unravelling’ is a love story, but it’s also a story about love. I wrote it because I wanted to explore the concept of a love that survives a lifetime, despite separation, estrangement and betrayal. Its early title was All That Remains from the notion that whatever life throws at us, what counts in the end – what ‘remains’– is love.

I was interested in the idea taken from Plato’s Symposium that humans were once made up of two halves, one female, one male. The gods, out of jealousy, split them in two, and now we spend our lives looking for our other half, our ‘soul mate’. It’s an idea that’s prevalent in modern culture and perhaps an ideal we all yearn for.

When I read an article about someone’s parents who remarried aged 58 and 73, having first eloped in the 1960s, the love affair at the heart of Unravelling was born.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Contemporary Romance: Fantasy and Reality

Synithia Williams

Contemporary romance doesn’t have the added drama inherent in other subgenres of romance. There are no sexy shape-shifters or wizards to tempt a human female. No threat of scandal if you’re caught in an embrace with the Viscount. And unless it’s a suspense, you’re not solving a murder or avoiding being murdered. No, straight up contemporary romance requires taking the mundane of dating and living in present times and make it exciting, dramatic and romantic.

At first glance it may seem impossible to make real life romantic. In fact, I had a co-worker say I couldn’t make engineers sexy in my first novel, You Can’t Plan Love. But as a contemporary romance writer, I have to make real life seem fun and sexy. All it takes is a big imagination and little fantasy.

A fantasy can make environmental engineers sexy and even water quality conferences—which are usually dry as toast—seem exciting. Throw in a few what if situations and the boring can become dramatic. What if an environmental consultant worked for a tall, dark and handsome man? What if that sexy boss made a play for her heart? And again, because this is fantasy, she kind of wants it so it’s not creepy and a sexual harassment lawsuit isn’t imminent.

This can work for the most commonplace of experiences. A boring family dinner that occurs routinely every week or month can be re-written in a romance with the added drama of an old love arriving on the arm of your favorite cousin. This situation can go many ways. Let’s say your heroine still loves that old flame. Did he show up to see her again? Is the cousin aware of the relationship and brought him there out of spite? Or, is the cousin unaware and fancies herself in love? That makes it kinda hard for your heroine to restart a relationship with someone her favorite cousin loves. There’s enough drama in that scenario to make a juicy contemporary romance. Sweet or spicy, big city or small town it’ll fit any modern day location.

Most writers are always finding story inspiration in everyday events, but contemporary romance writers need just as vivid an imagination as a fantasy or paranormal writer to make the happenings in day to day life—or the love life of an environmental engineer—sexy and interesting enough to capture readers. To take reality, throw in a lot of daydreams and fantasy and write a page turning contemporary romance is a fun challenge worth taking.


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You Can't Plan Love

Barnes & Noble 
After several bad relationships, Kenyatta Copeland decides to control her love life with the same discernment she uses in her professional life.

Knowing first hand the heartbreak that comes when desire and emotion rule a relationship, Kenyatta assumes marrying Brad Johnson will lead to a stable life. But as much as she believes she can plan her future, it’s hard to ignore the way her boss, Malcolm Patterson, ignites her passions with just one look. 

After Malcolm learns of her engagement, he makes a play for her heart and reminds her that passion between a man and a woman has its perks … but also its costs. 

When Brad suspects there’s more than work between Kenyatta and Malcolm, he works harder to keep Kenyatta by his side. 

Torn between her promise to marry Brad and her irrepressible longing for Malcolm, Kenyatta must decide if she can live her life in a passionless marriage of convenience or once again trust her heart. Yet Brad isn’t as perfect as he seems, and by the time Kenyatta realizes this it may be too late.

Author Synithia Williams
Synithia Williams has loved romance novels since reading her first one at the age of 13. It was only natural that she would begin penning her own romances soon after. It wasn’t until 2010 that she began to actively pursue her dream of becoming a published author. 

When she isn’t writing, this Green Queen, as dubbed by the State Newspaper, works to improve air and water quality, while balancing the needs of her husband and two sons. You can learn more about Synithia, and her novel, by visiting her website where she blogs about writing, life and relationships.

Her first novel, You Can’t Plan Love, was published by Crimson Romance in August 2012.