Monday, February 28, 2011
Thursday, February 24, 2011
Status: 87% First Draft
For example, a few months ago I was in the process of prewriting what started out to be a Contemporary YA with a strong mother/daughter conflict. I’d come up with plot twists and characters and my protagonist’s internal and external goals and conflicts. Included were a mad-scientist mother; a rebellious daughter; an accident with a time machine; zombies (of a sort); a missing father and brother; and a love interest who turns out to be half-alien (revealed at the end, which leads into the sequel).
Then I took an online class to learn more about an up-and-coming genre: Steampunk.
Although I’d taken the class out of simple curiosity (I roomed with a steampunk writer named Mae Pen at the Emerald City Writers’ Conference), by the end of the first week of class, I knew I’d found the right genre for my story.
But I’m okay with that. Maybe ‘the fixer-upper boyfriend’ was never supposed to be a title; maybe the phrase was meant only to inspire one heck-of-a-good story!
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Writing alternate history is a lot like starting with one of those huge arrangements where dominoes are set up to topple and knock one another down to create a design and then you take a handful of tiles and move them. And you realize that in order for the moved tiles to knock others over, you have to keep moving tiles. Sometimes you can leave tiles in their original position, but most you have to change. Eventually you end up with an entirely different design using the same tiles.
The first glimmer of my current project came about when out of the blue one day I wondered what would the world be like if Queen Victoria hadn't lived to be 82 (domino #1) and what if she hadn't married Prince Albert (domino #2)? Writing any kind of historical fiction—even alternate universe historicals—requires a certain amount of research and it's funny where that research can take you. Because you can't just change one or two things in history (Victoria and Albert) and expect everything else to happen the way it did in our world. So I kept researching and making more changes until I felt I'd done enough to allow for the end result I wanted.
Let's switch gears slightly and play a little game. Off the top of your head, do you know the difference between a Zeppelin, a blimp, and a dirigible? How about when the first known submersible was built, or the first military submarine? No? Well, I didn't either before all this research. Don't worry—I'll give you the answers at the end of this post.
What do Zeppelins and submersibles have to do with anything? Well, I knew I wanted fantastic devices and Zeppelins or dirigibles or blimps (and aren't they all the same?) in my world. I wanted to get the details right, or at least understand the basics so I'd know where I wanted to change things. And let me tell you, keeping track of the changes is no picnic, either. There are times when I'm so immersed in the world I'm creating that I have to stop and remind myself which history really happened and which is made up.
Do you ever get so involved in the world you're creating, or even a world of someone else's creation while reading a book, that it seems a bit more real than reality? (hmmm...maybe I shouldn't admit that...)
Oh, yeah, the answers. :-)
Well, Zeppelins, blimps and dirigibles are all forms of airships. The differences are: Zeppelins are rigid airships with full skeletons (originally pioneered by Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin). Blimps are small airships without internal skeletons. Dirigible is simply another name for airship (or "lighter-than-air" aircraft). Therefore, all Zeppelins and Blimps are Dirigibles.
The first recognized submersible was built in 1620 in England. The first military submarine was the Turtle built in 1775 and used in the American Revolutionary War by the Continental Army. Imagine that!
Monday, February 21, 2011
Friday, February 18, 2011
Status: waiting for June
If you only had 60 seconds to choose something from your home, what would it be?
I know what I would take—my grandchildren. If they were not at my home, I would make sure the dog and the cats were safe. After that, I would go for the pictures, the old family albums.
What would you take? A piece of heirloom jewelry, which might bring back memories of other times and precious family memories? Perhaps you would take the computer since many family portraits and documents are stored there. As a writer perhaps an unfinished and unpublished book would be in the hard drive.
This thought came from a movie I watched the other night and it made me think. We hear about wild fires and people fleeing from their homes sometimes with little more than 60 seconds to get out.
Sometimes we see their cars filled with important items from their homes.
What a person would take tells a story all its own. It speaks to the kind of person he/she is and the values they hold.
So let us take a look at some of the genres.
Romance: A love letter, a piece of jewelry, a picture…
Mystery: A little black book, a satchel of evidence, if you were Sherlock Holmes, your pipe…
Science Fiction: A PDA, a teleporting machine, a time travel machine…
Historical: A family bible, a weapon, a family heirloom…
Take a minute to comment and your suggestions to the list.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
Current Project: A ST. PATRICK'S DAY TALE
Status: Planning a release booksigning!
Thanks to Paty for her statement in Wednesday's blog that triggered the idea for this post. She said, "My struggle is trying to promote my books when they are several subgenres."
Is labeling a book with a specific subgenre a great marketing tool that lets readers know exactly what they are picking up? Or does labeling do a disservice to both our book and potential readers?
I could argue both sides of that question.
Perhaps you've heard of studies where young students were randomly divided into groups labeled "smart" and "slow." The labels had nothing to do with the intelligence or knowledge of the students, that's just the label the teachers were given. Lo and behold, by the end of the school year, the "smart" students were performing above grade level, and the "slow" students had fallen below standards. Seems the labels "smart" and "slow" set up expectations of these students, and they lived up (or down) to these labels.
At this point, you might be thinking we SHOULD label our books as "smart," "hot," "action-packed," or whatever is the latest trend is to attract more readers.
On the other hand, maybe we shouldn't try to label our books down to the subgenre of the subgenre, as this may turn away some readers. Maybe we should promote our work under a broad genre and let readers take their own journey of discovery.
Doing this can bring some surprises, as I discovered. One of my books I considered an action romance was purchased by an editor who saw it as a "feel good Christmas story." Later on, this same book was picked up by an erotica reviewer. She loved it and nominated it for best erotic cover. Though I was delighted the subject matter of the story resonated deeply with her, I was also a little baffled she labeled it "erotica" as there was no love scene until near the end of the story and a teddy bear graced the cover. Each of us brought our own life experiences and made our own journey of discovery through the pages of that book.
So should we try to label our books or not? You can see that's a trick question--there isn't one answer.
Most of us will write our own query letters or pitches or do our own marketing. But don't worry about a label to the point where you freeze on writing your story because it won't "fit" somewhere. Write that fantastic book and then look for a unique angle to approach an agent or editor, or to launch a marketing campaign.
Your creative mind can write three hundred pages of a story. It can also come up with a few brilliantly descriptive sentences to bring that story to readers. That's part of the fun!
Want to try it? Come up with two or three marketing angles for your work in progress or a favorite book by someone else.
I'll give you my example in a comment…
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Current Project: Spirit of the Sky
Status: A third of the way
My struggle is trying to promote my books when they are several subgenres.
Subgenres are the more dissected genres.
The major genres are:
Romance stories that focus on love and relationships.
Westerns historical fiction that deals with life in the American west pre1900.
Mysteries these books have characters who investigate crimes or mysteries.
Science fiction these books have scientific data as the basis with stories that have apocalypse scenarios, future worlds, or space travel, etc.
Fantasy or Paranormal has “unreal” or magical things, or things not possible in the real world, and may contain alternate worlds and/or mythical and made up creatures or peoples.
Thrillers have themes with or without spies who usually are involved in investigating various events, many times on a global scale or a government scandal.
Horror deals with supernatural or apocalyptic events, usually graphic cases of murder or mutilation caused by humans or other sources.
Historical fiction invents characters or deeds for a specific time period telling the story of that time period through fictional and non-fictional but fictionalized characters.
Suspense these are books that keep you on the edge of your seat like a thriller or a mystery but not as worldly as a thriller and more murders/violence than a mystery.
Action Adventure The words pretty much sum it up. It's a read that has lots of action and adventure. Not as spy-filled as a thriller, but can have some mystery and more lighthearted than a suspense.
Detective/police stories are just that; books with the main characters carrying out detective and police work.
Woman's Fiction stories about women and their struggles and triumphs. They can be about best friends, mothers and daughters, sisters, cousins, any female relationships.
Literary these are books where a story is told which may or may not have a clear meaning.
Mainstream are books on any subject hat isn't clearly stated in the genres above.
The description of subgenres from Free Dictionary is: A subcategory within a particular genre: The academic mystery is a subgenre of the mystery novel.
So you can combine any of the above genres and you have subgenres.
What do you like to read? A pure genre book or do you browse and read the subgenre books? What do you write? A pure genre or a subgenre? Is there a reason you prefer either or both?
***Disclaimer- This is not all the genres, these are the main ones.
Monday, February 14, 2011
Friday, February 11, 2011
As authors we here this phrase in many different contexts.
“If you want to sell, write what you are passionate about.”
“I love this book because I wrote from my heart. It is my passion.”
Have you ever felt as if you have lived in another time period because you are drawn to certain events in history?
As a competitive swimmer I have always enjoyed a love of water. The ebb and flow of it is soothing and comforting, yet I have a strong fear of drowning. I refused to see the movie Titanic with my husband on his birthday several years ago. Yet somehow he managed to get me there. I hated the movie, no I loathed it and I don’t believe I have forgiven him. How old is the movie. Sometime I wonder if I was on that ill-fated ship.
I have other phobias—perhaps I am just strange. Back to topic. I have found myself drawn to many genres. I have a love of the old west, the Sioux the pioneers as well as the cavalry. I have a passion for the War Between the States as well as the Revolutionary War. And strangely I also find myself drawn to the Vikings.
I have written one short Civil War story, one story about Vikings several Scottish Highland books and a few from the Regency period. I do love history. Perhaps there is nothing strange about me other than my love of the past.
What is your favorite time in history and do you feel a strong pull to a historical event?
Thursday, February 10, 2011
Current Project: Blindsight, Romantic Suspense
Status: 85% First Draft
As writers of popular fiction, we have a plethora of genres and subgenres in which to tell our stories. What does that mean for us as writers? How does our genre or subgenre choice affect our writing?
• The primary aim of genre fiction is entertainment.
• All genre (popular, commercial, mass market) fiction involves telling a story through a plot that has a beginning, middle, and an end.
• These stories must have well-defined characters, including a protagonist (whose choices and actions in pursuit of a goal propel him through the setting) and an antagonist (who opposes the protagonist.)
• A setting, or story world, challenges the protagonist and, together with the antagonist, forces him to emerge either triumphant or defeated.
• A theme unifies the story and the characters’ growth arcs (or lack thereof.)
What sets a genre apart?
Specific conventions such as:
• Plot events
• Character types
• Focus (Ex. Romantic suspense or mystery? Which plot is the strongest, takes up more pages, etc.—the romance or the mystery?)
• Styles of writing (Pacing, POVs, etc.)
Other factors may come into play, such as:
• Intended audience (Mainly young adults, men, or women?)
• Feelings the story evokes in the audience—especially the feeling the reader experiences at the close of the book. (Think thriller or horror or romance.)
So what sets a subgenre apart?
These are the ideas I came up with:
• Different aesthetics (Ex. Besides the setting, a Regency historical has a certain unique ‘feel’. The optimism inherent in a true steampunk reflects the Victorian aesthetic.)
• Different Tone (Ex. A light paranormal vs. a dark paranormal, a sweet contemporary vs. a chick lit)
• An unusual setting for the genre as a whole (Ex. A Czech historical, an ancient Greek paranormal) or an imposed setting restriction in a genre (Ex. urban fantasy, Scottish historical)
• A blending of major features of two or more genres or subgenres (Ex. A western steampunk romance, a paranormal thriller)
Can you think of any other factors that may set subgenres apart?
Wednesday, February 09, 2011
Tuesday, February 08, 2011
I grew up reading genre fiction. To be honest, I didn't realize the SF, Fantasy, Mystery (and Ian Fleming!) novels I pilfered from my brothers' bookshelves weren't just regular old fiction. By the time I figured out that some people thought genre fiction (any kind of genre) was something to look down on, well, I was already hooked and couldn't care less. When I decided to write for publication, I knew I'd write some type of genre fiction.
I've said, semi-seriously, several times in the last couple of years that I'm a writer in search of a genre. That's partly because I enjoy reading so many different genres that I've found it difficult to figure out where my voice belongs. I'd start a story, full of hope that this would be the one, only to end in confusion with an unfinished manuscript. Rinse, lather, repeat.
Since I've had so much difficulty trying to shoehorn myself into a genre, I decided that maybe what I need to do is invent my own. I've had a setting rattling around in my head for a few years, but I've been reluctant to try using it because it's...different and I haven't felt confident that I could pull it off. It's sort of a follow-on to Steampunk, only set later in history—around the mid-1920s—and I've sort of jokingly been referring to it as Decopunk. The images from the movie Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow are close to what I see in my head when I visualize this world.
I've been having a blast nailing down the framework of my Decopunk world, figuring out the changes to history and how things work. And, thanks to some timely brainstorming at the last RWA meeting, I'm getting a pretty good handle on the characters and the kernel of the story, including a romance subplot. Best of all, I can't wait to start writing!
What about you? Do you have a favorite genre or do you genre-hop? If you're a writer and like several different genres, have you ever thought about taking the elements you like best from each and creating your own sub-genre?
Monday, February 07, 2011
Friday, February 04, 2011
Thursday, February 03, 2011
Status: Anxiously looking forward to finishing the drafts of this nine-book series
Happy February! This is the traditional month of romance and Valentine's Day--some people love it and some people hate the thought of "forcing" a show of love.
If you're on the fence about Valentine's Day--as I am--you might want to try this twist that I just heard on Hay House Radio: show some love for yourself. (If you like spiritual development shows, I highly recommend theirs.) Perhaps I'll try this suggestion of self-love this year by doing some of my favorite things. Celebrate house projects being finished with a bubble bath in my whirlpool tub; light some vanilla candles and raise a glass of sparkling apple juice; then visit Konditorei for dessert...I may not wait for February 14!
I can also celebrate holidays in a more traditional way. I wrote a novella for A VALENTINE'S DAY ANTHOLOGY that was released last year and have a March 2011 release coming up called A ST. PATRICK'S DAY TALE.
However, what really piques my interest is more unusual holidays, like Ground Hog's Day. Though this blog won't be published until February 3, I'm writing it on Punxsutawney Phil's day. He predicted an early spring, by the way, in agreement with the crocus that's now blooming in my side yard (similar to the photo above that came from
I found a fun Web site that lists not only unusual monthly holidays, but a holiday for every day of every month http://holidayinsights.com/moreholidays/index.htm
Did you know that January is National Oatmeal Month? Or that January 3 is Fruitcake Toss Day? February 4 was listed as Create a Vacuum Day. Or perhaps you'd like to celebrate National Tooth Fairy Day on February 28.
Wow! All this generates many more story ideas. If I didn't already have lots of books to write this year, I'd suggest that my publisher consider anthologies of unusual holidays in addition to the more traditional holiday anthologies they are releasing. This could start a new subgenre!
Do you have a favorite holiday? What is it and why? (Feel free to visit the Web site above for ideas.)
Wednesday, February 02, 2011
Status: 20,000+ words
I love the topic for this month. Why? You ask. Because I'm a genre hopping lush. I'm not addicted to one genre, no, I go where my characters go, be it historical western romance, contemporary western romance, paranormal historical romance, action/adventure romance, or mystery with romantic elements.
The only key genre for me is romance. And I don't understand why they make people use different names when they write different genres. If you like a writer when they write one thing, I would think their core theme and voice, which is probably why you read, them would come through.
Or not, I like Nora Robert's older stuff, but I don't like what she writes as J.D. Robb. I don't care to read or watch things about the future or sci-fi. But I also read one of her newer Nora books and it was on the verge of too gritty for me. So I go back to her character driven books of her earlier writing years sitting on my book shelf and read those. Yes, I know this about myself while I like a good mystery plot, the other thing that hooks me in a book is the characters. I have to like them to keep reading.
So do you know your genre or are you a genre lush like me and write books for the characters and not the genre?
Tuesday, February 01, 2011
Status: Approximately 72,000 words