Saturday, October 18, 2008

Update to Yesterday

Yesterday I mentioned that my Samhain editor left, rather suddenly, leaving me feeling a bit stranded. Well, I came home to find an email from another editor there asking me to resubmit Summer's I will, this weekend, and continue to cross my finger that it finds a home.


In other, rather cool news, I was Googling myself yesterday (c'mon, you do it too, don't you?) and I found a comment referencing One Night in Boston in a blog post over at Dear Author. Actually, the post itself is interesting; check it out:

"One thing I heard out of RWA 2008 was the difficulty in selling the big straight contemporary.

What I hear from alot of authors is that it is hard to sell a contemporary without a hook, like suspense or paranormal. What I heard from readers is that they can’t find enough good straight contemps (without hooks like suspense and paranormal). I have loved the contemporaries that I have read recently such as Susan Mallery and Kristan Higgins. Lisa Kleypas’ contemporaries for St. Martin’s Press seem to be successful (both made the New York Times). Deirdre Martin who writes the hockey books for Berkley and Rachel Gibson who writes for Avon also have had good success, if not the NYT List, they both have made the USA Today list.

Jennifer Crusie is an iconic name in romance fiction as well, hitting the New York Times with Bet Me. One of the most popular romance authors of modern time is Susan Elizabeth Philips. There appears to be a disconnect between what the readers want and what authors are telling me is not selling.

The above mentioned successful contemporary authors have a wide range of themes/feels to them. For example, SEP and Lisa Kleypas are more angst driven. Jennifer Crusie, Kristan Higgins, and Susan Mallery are more family-centric, but not very morose with nice levels of emotion and humor. Deirdre Martin writes the most women-y fiction of the two and Rachel Gibson perhaps relies more on humor than any of the other authors.

There are also the popular such as Susan Wiggs, Jodi Thomas, Debbie Macomber, and Sherryl Woods who write a different sort of contemporary women’s fiction. One editor described them as light women’s fiction or gentle fiction...

...From chatting with a couple of editors, they are definitely open to publishing more contemporaries but they are having trouble finding manuscripts that appeal to them. On the retail end, it seems that readers aren’t buying enough contemporaries to encourage editors to take more chances. There is an abundance of paranormals and a decent number of romantic suspense books but there are few straight contemporaries.

Is it because contemporaries have a greater sense of realism even if the hero is a billionaire that it is too hard to be swept away? Is the thirst for contemporaries adequately filled by Harlequin and Silhouette categories? Is it because the books feature primarily working woman as heroines and they are less appealing? Are older readers more likely to buy contemporaries than younger readers?

If you read contemporaries, what are you looking for? What would make you pick up a contemporary? Is there a certain look on a cover that signals “contemporary”? If you don’t read contemporaries, why not? What would make you read one? If you are a writer of contemporaries, what insights do you have? (feel free to comment anonymously if you like).

And if you scroll down through the first few comments, you'll see someone named "Fiordiligi" who wrote "Two of the best contemporaries I’ve come upon this year were published with Samhain. #1 was One Night in Boston from Allie Boniface (she recently published another contemporary with them), and Larissa Ione’s Snowbound..."

How cool is that??!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Lost at Sea

"Arriving at one goal is the starting point to another." ~Fyodor Dostoevski

Bummer. I just found out my editor (the one who worked on both One Night in Boston and One Night in Memphis with me - the one who "discovered" me, really) - left Samhain. What's worse is that I'd sent her my manuscript for Summer's Song almost 3 months ago...and now I find that it's somewhere in Samhain-Limbo Land.

While she did send an email to her authors, letting us know, it definitely took me by surprise. And I feel like now I have to start from scratch there. I do know this happens an awful lot - from small presses all the way up to NY houses. But I still feel a little lost.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Killing my Babies

"He that can have Patience, can have what he will." ~Benjamin Franklin


Yesterday I cut 6000 words from the manuscript I'm currently revising, One Night in Napa. In part, this was a response to my Tuesday night critique group, who told me I was taking way too long to get into the central conflict of the story and have the hero and heroine meet. And in part it was my own decision that there are places that can be tightened, especially in the middle where the action needs to be picking up pace faster than it is.

But it's always a hard thing, cutting chunks of your work. I've saved them, of course, in a separate file. And I wonder, even as I'm doing it, how much I am giving in to what conventional wisdom says should happen in the opening chapters of a book. I know full well that I don't write traditional romance novels, that mine are both bound by the 24-hour fetters I put on them and by the fact that I'm more concerned with exploring emotion and human growth than getting my characters into bed. I also know this will probably ensure that I never become a best-selling author in this genre.

That's OK. And I can even appreciate what my critique partners are telling me, that there's too much introductory narrative, too much character introspection, and not enough forward movement. So I changed that.

But I didn't change everything. I refuse to alter my storyline so significantly that the hero and heroine meet in the opening chapter. I know this is what some readers will expect, so I'm sorry. At the same time, the H/H didn't meet until halfway through my first novel, One Night in Boston, and while some readers had a problem with that, others have told me they appreciated the character growth that occurred before they did finally face each other.

So I struggle on. I'm still aiming for 70-75K words with this novel, but now that I'm back to around 60K, I have to take a serious look at what I want or need to add to the storyline. Don't get me wrong, I'm pretty satisfied with the edits I made. I just also have to remind myself (and those of you other authors out there) to remain true to the story I want to tell. I can't force myself to follow convention when it doesn't feel right for the story.

And if my readers have to wait a little longer for the hero and heroine to meet and feel the world shift under their feet, well, is that so wrong?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Writers' Wednesday: An Interview with Cat Johnson

Welcome to Writers' Wednesday! Today's a particularly enjoyable interview for me to share, since it's an author I've done several signings with: Cat Johnson. Before I get to the good stuff about her, let me just say that in person, she's charming, funny, and wears five-inch camouflage heels incredibly well :) get to meet her too!

Thanks for joining me in virtual world today, Cat! Tell us about your latest writing project or published title.

A Prince Among Men is my latest release from Linden Bay Romance. It is the newest novel in the Task Force Zeta series. It’s a contemporary erotic military romance.

If I had to put a name to it, I would say that A Prince Among Men was a result of serendipity. I was finishing up edits on the previous Zeta novel, Model Soldier, and as usual I had leaned heavily on a steady stream of reports coming in from my military consultant in Afghanistan, but great details and stories were still coming in and Model Soldier was done.

My soldier was giving me gold daily. Tidbits like about the Taliban harvesting the local poppy crop to make into drugs, the British air support that saved the US forces as well as the Afghan Army and our Romanian allies from attacks, about the PVC pipes sunk in the ground that they all had to pee into on base…vivid colorful details. I realized I still had a lot to say and decided there needed to be a sequel.

I knew I would continue the story from Model Soldier, using one of the squad as the hero for the continuing book, but I wasn’t sure what the main story would be. Then, fate stepped in. As usual, I was in bed in my PJs with my laptop and coffee, checking email while watching one of the morning news shows when the story of Prince Harry’s secret deployment with a unit to Afghanistan broke and I thought, Oh my god! There’s my new book. I don’t want to give the story away, but that is how A Prince Among Men was born. I absolutely LOVE this book.

Military romance sounds like a really interesting genre, especially with all that's going on in the world today. What are you working on now?

Though I will continue with my military romance, I am expanding into another niche genre. I just finished my very first foray into the world of ménage romance. It’s set in the rodeo world. That was interesting, let me tell you, since I knew nothing about the rodeo at the time! I have plenty of military consultants for my fact checking, but since (in a moment of insanity) I decided to make the two heroes in my threesome book rodeo cowboys, I was in desperate need of an expert in that arena. Thank god I found a bull rider on MySpace who didn’t run when a strange romance novelist contacted him out of the blue begging for help. We’ll see, depending on how the public responds, this book may be the first in a series of rodeo stories. And, possibly, another threesome book may also follow.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book(s)?

I’ve learned a lot about myself through my writing, mostly that I’m more multi-faceted and…elastic I guess is the word, than I previously thought. If you had asked me three years ago about the war, I wouldn’t have been able to tell much at all. Today, I correspond with active troops in the war zone who have become my close friends. I read DoD newsletters over coffee in the morning. I can speak the military lingo to a certain extent. I know when there is a “96”, and what a PCS, TOC, FOB and a MOS is. I know the difference between a commissary, an Exchange and a PX and what digital camo looks like. I am just a font of pretty random military trivia. This is NOT impressive for those in military life, but we have to remember, I was a complete and total military virgin (aka civilian, I guess) just a few years ago, so it is impressive for me!

Why the change? It seems the more I learned, the more I wanted to know. I guess it’s because the war now has a face for me. It’s personal, not just a news story.

In the same vein, six months ago, if a rodeo had come on television, I wouldn’t have been able to change the channel fast enough. Now, I can’t wait for televised coverage and I go to websites for updates on competitions I missed. I guess what I am saying is that my interests are a lot more diverse than I ever imagined, I just needed a personal tie to open up these new worlds for me.

Sounds fascinating! So what kinds of books do you like to read? Who is your favorite author?

I read everything from Young Adult (like the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer, and Harry Potter by J.K. Rowlings) to the darker urban fantasy and paranormal (like the In Death series by J.D. Robb and the Anita Blake series by Laurel K. Hamilton) to lighter romantic comedy (Stephanie Plum novels by Janet Evanovich or the time-traveling Navy SEALs by Sandra Hill). And of course, I read the competition, like the military romance series by Suzanne Brockmann and Alison Kent. (I’m rolling my eyes at myself because I am SO not competition for those two… not yet, anyway!)

I LOVE reading and I have to say the one downside to being a writer (which means I am also a one woman promotional staff, web mistress, proofreader, etc.) is that it leaves much less time for me to read.

Cat, I'm so glad you shared a peek at yourself today. Is there anything else you’d like to mention?

I’d love to let your readers know that I have a blog on my MySpace at There you may find me ranting one day and making jokes the next, depending on my mood.

I also am currently the voice of All Romance eBooks’ weekly “What’s Hot in Romance” Blog Talk Radio Show where I interview romance authors each week live on air. The schedule for future shows and the archives for past show recordings can be found at

And, of course, you can find out more about Cat's books at her website as well.

Thanks so much, Allie! It’s been a lot of fun!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Why We Love Blogs

"Blogs are whatever we make them. Defining 'blog' is a fool's errand." ~ Michael Conniff seems as if these days, everyone does it. And if you don't do it, you read blogs by people who do. But I got to wondering, why, exactly, do we read the blogs we do? Oh, there have been lots of articles (and blog posts) written about the advantages of blogging. It draws people of common interests together. It provides information. It allows distant friends and family to keep in touch. It gives people a chance to vent, to grieve, to deal with emotion. It gets authors noticed (!).

My question today isn't why you blog, but why you visit the blogs you do. If you're like me, you probably have a set few you check in on regularly. So...why those blogs? Are they informative? Humorous? Educational, or enlightening? Are they virtual friends whose lives you're interested in? And how did you find them, anyway?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Another Small Press Possibility

"Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, 'What! You too? I thought I was the only one.'" ~C.S. Lewis

Just a couple of tidbits today:

For any aspiring (or published) authors looking for publishing houses, I thought I'd mention Black Lyon Publishing. They're a small press that opened in 2007, and while I don't know a whole lot about them, I've read 3 of their books and been impressed by their quality. Also, they have a sub-genre called "Literary Love Stories" that seems to target those romances that don't really fall neatly into HEA contemporary:

Black Lyon general fiction includes literary love stories that don't technically fall into the romance genre. Novels in this line are emotion-packed and though the love relationship between the hero and heroine is strongly at the core, the plot may contain complicated or intense issues. Sexual content should be appropriate to the storyline, not gratuitous. The ending may or may not be a happy one. Secondary characters should not pull the focus away from the two main characters, but should instead add depth to the story. Contemporary stories set in America are preferred, but if you have a different timeline or setting you think may work anyway - query! We have the luxury of flexibility within reason.
65,000 - 85,000 words.

Might be worth a look, for anyone who has something of that nature. If anyone knows anything more specific about them, give a shout and let me know.


Also, WOW-Women on Writing sent me this nifty little graphic, which will find a home over on my sidebar after today:

They've asked me to host a couple of authors on virtual blog tours, so look for those extra interviews in the next few weeks. I'm always up for helping other authors get noticed!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A Great Book for Dog Lovers

"Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in." ~Mark Twain

Here's a quick book recommendation, before I head to my umpteen things on the To-Do list today:

Unleashed: The Collected Dog Columns (by Beth Quinn)

It's a collection of short pieces written by my local news columnist, columns she wrote over the years about her dogs and their antics. First off, she's just a great writer. Second, they're wonderfully touching even if you aren't a dog person (but if you are, I imagine you'll appreciate them that much more). If you're looking for a great gift, either to give or receive (the holidays are coming, you know!), give it a look.

Here are a couple of teasers for you...

"I really ought to get rid of that dog," I say to myself as I examine a freshly gnawed window sill. And then I hear my 10-year old boy Brendan laughing that deep, hearty laughter that can only come from the soul. The dog and the boy are in the bedroom, and the dog is dragging the boy out from under the covers by his underwear. This is Cassidy's boy, and it's time for him to wake up and play. The world's a marvelous place this morning, and he needs his boy to share it with him.


The trouble with Lassie was, she set an awfully high standard for dogs in the IQ department. All our dogs seem fairly inept by comparison.

Remember how smart Lassie was?

At least once an episode she'd approach a family member, usually Gramps, and have a conversation.

"Woof!" Lassie would say.

"What's that, girl?" Gramps would say.

And Lassie would say, "Woof!"

"Oh!" Gramps would say. "You mean Timmy's foot is caught under a splintered floor board in the hayloft at the Owens farm, Girl? And there's an electric cable about to break and set the barn on fire?"

"Woof!" Lassie would say, and they'd both go off, and Lassie would save Timmy because she was a brave dog as well as a smart one.

The reason I bring this up here is because it might be our own fault that our dogs don't seem quite as bright as Lassie. It might be that we're not quite as bright as Gramps.