Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Happy Thought

Though I write romance as Susan Kelley, I make sure things are not smooth sailing for my protagonists. I can't claim to create storylines as diabolical as on Once Upon a Time where no one ever gets a happy ending but I like to make things tough on the good guys and gals.

I like my own life to be happy like most people and for my last post of August, I'd like to share some happy moments. Like my son working at the Broadmoor in Colorado and feeding the giraffes. He's one of those guys that children and animals love. Though maybe it was just the lettuce.
James at the Broadmoor Zoo

Tomorrow I'm taking my daughter back to Boston University, much to her delight and my loss of companionship. But I know she'll be happy. In the meantime, she sent this to me (from the living room to my office) and we both wondered why it can't be this way.
From facebook

What was your happy thought this week? Ever feed a giraffe? Do you text or email members of your family when they're just in the other room? Ever have anyone buy you a drink in a coffee shop just to meet you?

Monday, August 26, 2013

Getting Comfy

My daughter, much to my dismay, is going back to school later this week. I'll miss her dreadfully but I know she's eager to return to her friends, her studies and Boston. She's spent the last few weeks reviewing her Arabic so she can jump right back into it. We have a large house, but she couldn't seem to find the right spot to concentrate on the difficult language. So she packed her bags and headed off to a nearby Starbucks. She returned home a few hours later, triumphant with how much she accomplished. All she needed was the right atmosphere, the right chair and she could do her work.

Writing areas are often subjects of blogs. I know some people who can write anywhere. I've done my own share of pounding on the keyboard at baseball games but I get more done sitting in my office at home. I do a lot of my blogging in front of the TV, catching up on favorite shows or watching some on-demand movies, but for actual writing I need my office. Second to that is going to the café at BAM. It was better when it was Borders, including the coffee, but it still works okay. For some reason the chaos of the store helps me concentrate on what is in front of me. Just like going to Starbucks helped my daughter. Finding the right place, your comfy but get to work place, can really get those creative juices going.

My daughter is shaking her head at me right now because I'm watching TV while I write this blog. She tells me I'm ADHD because I can't just sit and watch TV. I always have to be doing something else in addition to whatever is on. Just like I needed some chaos in the bookstore or music or a movie playing in my office when I write.

So are you a 'quiet' writer or do you write amidst the music of the world moving around you? Can you just sit and watch TV or do you have to be busy with something else at the same time? Where's the strangest place you've worked on your writing?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Won't You Stay a Little Bit Longer?

I had to make a quick trip to the grocery store yesterday. As I rounded the corner just past the produce section I came upon the area where large bins are filled with bargains. I stopped in my tracks, shocked by what I saw.  Candy corn!

Yes, that horrid Halloween treat, made of sugar and sugar and sugar with a little food coloring thrown in. It just can't be time for Halloween candy. I know some schools have started and I only have ten more days before my daughter returns to college, but where did summer go? I'm about three weeks behind where I expected to be in my writing goals and in the little fix ups projects I had planned around the house and yard. Time has just flown by.

Do you feel like the summer has hurried on its way, making room for turning leaves and candy corn? I did see some trees with their leaves turning already. Are you keeping up with your goals? Ever torture your body with candy corn?

I love the cooler nights, but I do wish summer would stay a little bit longer. Are you ready for the change of seasons?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Cloudy With a Chance of Cloudy

I'm busy working on edits on The Marine's Heiress. Actually it's a total rewrite using the rough first draft as an outline. I'm suffering a lot of uncertainty as I work through the middle third of the book. It's not a saggy middle. Lots is happening and the story is moving forward. I think my characters are interesting and worth investing in but....

This book is being written under my pen name, Susan Kelley, and is intended to be a science fiction romance like its predecessor, The Marine's Queen. My concern is the romance. Is there enough in the book? I hope to send this novel to my romance editor by this time next month, but I'm worried about it. Have I let the science fiction story overwhelm the love story?

I'm fortunate enough to have a lovely swimming pool. I vacuumed it one week ago and within two hours, it started to turn green. A very pretty, translucent green. Realizing I didn't shock it as recommended after vacuuming, I attended to that. It cleared up for a bout an hour and then turned green again. I double shocked it. Cleared up and then clouded again. I knew I was out of my league in pool diagnosis though I guessed the ph balance was upset. So I went to the pool store, ask the experts, and heard how all the recent rain, especially acid rain, would disrupt the pool balance. The nice man advised me to double-doubled shock and then bring in a sample of the pool water to them for analysis if that didn't work. They would be able to tell me exactly what I needed to add to clear the water. Today my pool is no longer cloudy.

Asking the experts was so much easier than stressing while I tried to figure it out on my own. The pool experts can tell me exactly what I need to fix the problem. Applying the same principal to my writing, I'm going to stop worrying about the balance of science fiction and romance in my new book and let my editor tell me if it needs something added or something deleted. I'm going to write the book as feels comfortable to me and wait for the test of the experts.

Who do you go to when you feel uncertain about your writing? What part of your writing do you most often question? What percentage of romance does a book need to have to be a romance?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Model Mate

Today is my husband's birthday. Not sure what festivities will ensue but I suspect my sons will take him out for a round of golf. In keeping with the writing focus on this blog, let me combine a post about him and my writing.

This business of writing requires a lot of time. When I was teaching full time, my writing took up many hours of my evenings and weekends. My husband watched a lot of baseball and basketball games alone. Mostly without complaint.

He listens to my success stories, read reviews and cheers me on through thick and thin. He brags about my books to everyone he can manage to bring the subject up to. I have to name him my number one fan.

No one can succeed in this business without support of family or friends. I'm fortunate to have both. Today I'm going to thank my husband, again, for supporting me.

Who is your support in your writing career? Do you give up some family time to write or squeeze it in in other ways?

Monday, August 12, 2013

Long Ago

I wrote my first book in long hand and then typed it out on this old iMac that I loved. And I did research how to format the book and all those little things I needed to do so an editor or agent wouldn't throw it in the trash when they first looked at it.

That first book was a romance and I read all the books and attended a conference where I learned some basic expectations of a publishers. One 'rule of thumb' was that each chapter should be twenty pages long. As a lover of fantasy novels, I already thought the rule a little silly but it was followed rather closely in those days. I wrote my earlier romance novels in the confining style.

I'm not sure if the twenty page chapter is still recommended or not but I seldom think about it anymore. I've read a book in the past week that had a chapter on paragraph long. Some books don't have chapter numbers but titled each chapter by the name of the viewpoint character. It's so much easier to end a chapter when the action or drama calls for it, the whole hook ending, instead of sculpting the story around a page count.

Do you remember being told chapters were to be a certain length? Do you give any thought to how long you make your chapters? Do you care as a reader how long chapters are?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

IWSG: Where Are We Headed?

Welcome to August's edition of the Insecure Writers' Support Group. This awesome group help each other out with advice, support and sometimes just by listening to each other vent. Alex Cavanaugh is the brain behind this endeavor. You can get an entire list of participants on his blog.

My inspiration for this post came to me when I visited my local Barnes and Noble this past Sunday. My daughter and I went, not because either of us intended or even wanted to purchase a book, but because we love hanging out in bookstores. We arrived around ten in the morning, shortly after they opened. The parking lot was already filling up as we made our way inside. We parted ways inside the door and then met in the café a short time later, each of us with a stack of magazines and books that caught our interest. Of course, we had to get a drink. Like many B&N, maybe all, the café is actually a Starbucks. I stood in line behind six other customers and there were that many more behind me when I ordered. Every seat in the café was filled when we decided on one book to purchase and went to the checkout. At the checkout, no one was in line. No one was buying books.

Where is our industry going? The book I bought at B&N was the first 'real' book I've purchased in at least two months. All my other purchases have been ebooks. I'm sure many of us started out writing hoping to see our books on the shelves at a bookstore one day. Maybe going on a promotional tour. But more and more, writers have their books come out only as ebooks. And in my personal experience, if you're working with a small press, as an author, you're going to make most of your sales and your money from ebooks.

How long until all books, except from a few select writers, are paperless? How long until bookstores close their doors? Will I ever go to Starbucks again if they aren't located inside a bookstore?

Don't forget to visit more blogs here and share the joys and miseries of being a writer.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Genre Blending

Most writers pitch their book at one time or another, either in person or with a query letter. In order to do, you have to be able to label your book. Where will it fit in on the shelves of a bookstore, be it a brick and mortar store or a virtual store?

I remember going to my very first writers' conference having just completed my very first novel. I didn't know it at the time, but it was in a really, rough draft form. I signed up for pitches to an agent and an editor. Before deciding which agent and editor to speak with, I investigated their areas of interest and made sure my book fit into their purview. I had to fit my book into a genre accepted at the time.

My book was a fantasy romance. The editor asked for a partial but the agent told me there was no market for that genre of book. Fortunately, a small independent press, New Concepts Publishing, worked with me and that book was published as The Greater Good. It continues to earn money every month.

I can't fault the agent who didn't want to represent such a book. That was right before the fantasy and paranormal markets took off. But my point was the blending of the two genres, fantasy and romance. So many books today don't fit into exact niches as was once required of them. Many books have multiple genres, paranormal and romance, fantasy and romance, dystopia and fantasy, historical and fantasy, and the list goes on and on. More publishers are open to those blended books, especially smaller presses.

But a writer still needs to categorize their books. Why? Mostly for marketing and promotion. My fantasy books have some romance in but no more so than Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series. They are epic fantasies. The current romance series I'm working on have a futuristic science fiction setting but they are first a romance. Even though they did better on Amazon as science fiction, they are published by a romance publisher. Two genres blended in different ways and by different percentages.

Every writer needs to be able to label their work both generally and specifically. I write epic fantasy, fantasy romance and science fiction romance. What do you write? Do you have trouble putting your book in a niche? Have you ever read a book promoted as one genre but you felt it should have been labeled as something different?