Melonie Johnson‘s exclusive cover reveals for Smitten by the Brit and Dared by the Bad Boy, books 2 and 3 in her Sometimes in Love series will take place on October 24th on the USA Today’s Happily Ever After page.
Barbara Raffin will be presenting a program at the Kress Family Library in DePere, WI on October 20, from 10:30 a.m. to noon. The presentation will be a hands-on workshop on utilizing the lesser-used senses in your writing. Book signing to follow.
Recently, I attended the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference (ACFW) in Nashville. If you are hoping to publish in Christian fiction, this conference gives an overview of the inspirational market. The Christian fiction market is growing due to its loyal readership and the hope these novels bring to a chaotic world.
Historical Romance and Romantic Suspense remain strong genres in the Christian market. Contemporary Realism is trending due to the news of the day (bombings, school shootings, suicide) seeping into novels. Legal thrillers are on the rise as well.
Unfortunately, my genre of Biblical fiction barely received a mention at the conference. Librarians and readers love Bible stories, but publishers are still shy in pursuing this genre. The cry for more Christian YA still goes unheeded by publishers. Where do your teens shop for books? In the small religious section?
Retailers are seeing more time slips and “sister” stories in the market. Diversity is increasing, but at a slow pace. A call was put out for more diversity not only in race, but also in religion. Retailers would like to see stories with older characters, characters that struggle with weight, and more Middle Grade stories for boys.
Shorter series are getting hotter. It is difficult for reviewers to comment on books in a series if they haven’t read previous installments. The term “duology” was new to me. Readers are preferring shorter, two-book series. And, more indie-published books are making it into the “Top 10” in categories on Amazon.
I attended a panel on whether an author should only write in the genre in which they are published. A couple of authors said you shouldn’t jump ship. Another author said she writes the stories God places on her heart regardless of genre. I like to think there is some wiggle room especially with the use of pen names. Some genres are similar in nature and have reader overlap. What do you think? Is your path wide or defined?
While authors are working on their novels, they should mind their social media followers. One agent liked pre-published authors to have an aggregate of 5,000 followers among their social media platforms. Instagram seems to be the hottest media at the moment. Non-fiction authors should shoot for a total of 10-20,000 followers or have a special tie-in to their story that might bring credibility and endorsements.
The job demands of being an author are increasing. We should never forget to enjoy the creative process and find joy in our writing journey. What’s hot or trending this year in Christian fiction may be on the back burner next year. Embrace your characters and your story. Only you can bring your novel to life.
Barbara M. Britton lives in Wisconsin and writes Christian Fiction for teens and adults. She has a nutrition degree from Baylor University but loves to dip healthy strawberries in chocolate. Barb brings little known Bible characters to light in her Tribes of Israel series. She is a former board member of WisRWA, and a member of RWA, SCBWI, and ACFW. You can find out about Barb’s books on her website, or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.
Writing is a personal profession. We write what we know, use experiences in our lives to add the spices and emotions. If you take pleasure sitting in front of your computer and bringing your characters to life, then you will succeed in your profession. It takes a lot to learn all of the ins and outs. I’ve found that once I know who my characters are, I let them give me their ideas on what is right for the path I put them on. Usually, when I’m not working my scenes right, they stop talking. I listen to the silence and rework the scene until we are all happy.
When obligations take me away, I actually miss my characters. When my muse does go silent, I put on my Phantom of the Opera (Gerry Butler style) CD and it doesn’t take long before the characters start talking again. I’m not sure if it’s because they are tired of hearing the music or it’s because they considered it a treat.
I joined RWA almost nineteen years ago. It’s one of the best things I have ever done for myself. I suggest that anyone who is serious about writing romance should join this great organization and attend as many of the national conferences as they can. My mentor gave me this advice when she told me about Romance Writers of America, and I listened. I’ve lost track of how many RWA conferences I’ve attended, but would guess ten. Beside learning about writing, I’ve loved being able to spend time in so many different towns around our country.
I have found that writers are the best kind of friends. They know emotions and when I needed someone to lean on, it was the writing community that pulled me through the worst time in my life. Over the years, I have found the greatest, and most supportive friends possible.
A bunch of us started The Playground. We are authors scattered across the country, and one in England. Being able to meet up at conferences became one of the reasons why we would attend. We cheered when one of us won an award and hugged when a book was rejected. Support is like a crutch when you’re an author. There are so many emotions you go through writing stories. If you find people you trust and who will be honest with you about your manuscript, I would suggest you join them. The Playground group consisted of twelve of us. We had different strengths and weaknesses. I mostly had weaknesses because I was fairly new and needed a lot of guidance. We all received a precious teddy bear that resembled our hero in the book that was a first sale. I have a Scottish cowboy bear from when I sold Night Angel. He sits by my desk and listens to my idea for plot lines.
When I sold that first book six and a half years ago, a gift came with the contract. I have a writing partner. He has the most marvelous imagination, lots of experiences in writing his 24 books, and we both worked for the same publishing house. We’ve not met in person yet because of those 1,500 miles between our homes. I live in Wisconsin and he lives in Louisiana. Because we can stay in contact by messenger, working together has become the best part of my education. He does not waiver on letting me know he does not like a scene or praises me when he thinks a scene is perfect. I trust his judgement and he trusts mine. We both write romance, but with different styles. He also has polished what I write. I edit his work as an author and I proofed his college work while he studied for his Master’s Degree in Education. I’m mentioning this, because it’s made writing enjoyable for me and could be for you, too. Look for that perfect partner and learn how to communicate as you work toward a perfect story. I practiced writing for twenty-two years, and it’s been the last six and a half where I’ve learned the most. I suppose it comes down to trust.
by: Marlene Urso
A RWA member for almost nineteen years and WisRWA member for four, Marlene Urso is published in historical romance. She lives in Lincoln County with her husband. She served as event coordinate for Sacramento Valley Chapter for thirteen years, which included setting up monthly meetings and welcoming members to the meetings. She has been a member of several online chapters, including From the Heart where she’s been membership chair for the last fifteen years. She is getting acquainted with the Wausau area chapter members and enjoys the monthly meetings. Marlene has always enjoyed doing volunteer work because it gives her a chance to give back to the industry that helped her to achieve her dream of being a published author.
Many years ago, when I had published just one book, I attended an RWA conference for the first time. Of course I was awed by the many writers with long lists of books and awards, with the appropriate fame to go along. You know, the fan girl persona so many of us get at RWA events.
One of these star authors, a woman I admired for her novels and promotional accomplishments, spoke at an informal session, where several panelists were trying to define the ingredients of a good love story. Let’s call my celebrated star Fiona, in case she’d want anonymity. The conversation snagged on the lack of romances made into films.
“I know why,” Fiona said. “Because love happens in your brain. It’s no action movie theme.”
Then she broke into laughter. “Let me tell you a story,” she went on. “A few weeks ago, I needed to have a new computer connection installed in my office. The workman arrived and started crawling around on the floor under my desk. Then the phone rang, and it was an interviewer from a major newspaper. I didn’t dare ask her to call back. So I sat near my desk and answered her questions, all about the emotional side of love stories and how the brain is the primary sex organ. I finished the interview and hung up about the time the workman crawled out from under the desk, his tasks completed.
“’Listen, lady,’ he exclaimed, “I don’t know about you, but my brain is definitely not my primary sex organ!’”
The entire room of romance writers erupted in raucous hilarity. You can be sure I have continued to read almost every book Fiona publishes.
But this topic is still worth considering for every story we try to write. How does an author express her characters steps along the way toward that goal we all seek, a meaningful and reciprocal relationship? The inner dialogue, the outward evidences of passion, the evocative looks of concern…we must make them come alive in the mind of the reader. And it all happens in the brain! And must be related in words and reflected in conflicts that force those characters apart…to make life-changing choices that enable their love. And how are those choices made? Why, in the brain of course.
A few years ago, I read five or six novels in a row that used the word frisson (French for shiver, usually a thrilling one) to describe “that” feeling. By the third or fourth time I read it, the word just irritated me. But I think I used it once too, and I hope my readers didn’t have the same reaction.
I wonder if Fiona’s computer installer would describe the reaction of his primary sex organ as a frisson?
What do you think? Is the brain the primary sex organ in your WIP?
Victoria Hinshaw has been published since 1983. Her latest short story will be released soon in From Florida With Love: Moonlight and Steamy Nights, an anthology produced by the Southwest Florida Romance Writers, Vicky’s winter chapter. Visit Victoria at her website, at her blog or on Pinterest or Facebook at Victoria Hinshaw – Author.
Congratulations to the following WisRWA members on their new releases this month.
When the Dead People Brought a Dish-to-Pass by Christine DeSmet
Red River Crossing by Maxine Douglas
Write what you know, right? Then it’s only natural I’d choose psychic phenomena to weave into a plot line.
I’m fascinated by weird stuff—those who foresee the future, life after death, reincarnation. I’ve savored several psychic reading appointments in my lifetime. I’ve experienced the ‘awe’ of Long Island Medium Theresa Caputto up close at Treasure Island Casino. I’m glued to her reality television show and take copious notes. On top of this, two friends in my immediate locale actually have a psychic gift. How lucky is this, huh?
I submitted the first fifty pages and the synopsis of Roll Over, Play Dead to a publisher for a critique that I’d won at auction at the Milwaukee WisRWA conference. She liked it. Really liked it, but commented from what she’d read, I had not written a romantic suspense but more of a cozy mystery. Would I be interested in reformulating my manuscript into a cozy?
With that nibble, I said yes! And then said to myself (and others in my Chippewa Falls chapter), exactly what is a cozy mystery?
From a little research, I found it’s similar to the old Columbo television show, or to Murder She Wrote. One main character (amateur) solves the crime. Clean language for the most part. No sex.’
Ack! What? No boy meets girl with interest in his eyes? Or a psychic medium that is attracted to a hunky male cop, but her life and her goal don’t work with his? No fun under the sheets? A cop who can’t say much more than ‘darn, we lost him?’ Not realistic in my mind. Not what I enjoy reading. Not what published author Ann Simas writes. Her books are the best.
Re-writes, Peggy. Back to editing this manuscript to hone in on the growing love relationship, adding more conflict and characters, more herrings and a little sex.
There’s gotta be a fuzzy genre publisher somewhere—or a market that offers the reader an amateur sleuth who gets entangled in romance along the way.
Maybe I should ask a psychic.
A former reporter/editor-now retired-Peggy Strand is editing her completed romantic suspense featuring a psychic medium, a detective, and a ghost dog who gives clues like treats for humans.
I generally have a good handle on my characters before I begin their stories. But there comes a point during my writing and/or plotting that I’m looking for details about the character, something to help me focus their personalities or flesh them out. That’s when I turn to Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs and Love Signs.
Yes, they are astrological signs books. But, this article is not about creating characters based on their astrological signs. I simply find Linda Goodman’s descriptions inspiring. Often times, I even get physical features from her writings.
EXAMPLE: Linda describes Librans as being “full of curves, rather than angles.” Or they have a “bright lilting laugh” and “that Venus smile has enough candle power to transfigure even plain or downright homely features—literally, not figuratively.”
Descriptions like that inspire me. How about if you got a plain-Jane heroine? Now you have an idea how to make her beautiful.
Pisces she describes as having eyes that are “liquid, heavy-lidded, and full of strange lights” and “you’ll usually find more dimples than wrinkles.”
She writes that Scorpios have “husky voices” and Aquarians have a “marked nobility of profile”.
LOOKING FOR SOME CHARACTER TRAITS?
How’s this for a common romantic hero whatever his zodiac sign? “Don’t expect this man to bare his soul when he first meets you. Cancerians never confide in strangers, and there are certain things even their best friends don’t know.” Sound like a mysterious hero to you?
Check out a few more.
There’s an “inner core that belongs only to him.” “Love is not a strictly physical relationship with this man. He hears more, sees more, and feels more through his senses than others do. This man uses the word “if” like a smoke screen. “If I loved you, we could….” Your heroine will have to learn to “blot out the word if.” I don’t know about you, but I think I just fell in love with this guy.
Anybody got a character who goes around patching things up between others? Check out a Libra for details.
Is your heroine strong and independent? Might she have a secret regret that she wasn’t born a man? Don’t let that secret desire fool you. This girl has a slow seductive walk. She looks “seductive in jeans, jodpurs or baseball shoes. And she’s the one with the husky voice.”
BLEND CLASHING PERSONALITY TYPES?
Take a lesson from the Scorpion female who “can’t excuse weakness in a man.” She looks for “ambition and courage.” She “wants a mate who can dominate her and make her proud.” Pit her against a Pisces male sign who never “recognizes that the tide is at its flood even when it sloshes over [his] feet” and you’ve got trouble. It isn’t that he’s weak. “He may just linger too long on a fading, silver star, and miss the bright sunlight of success.” Yet, Goodman’s Love Signs book lists these two signs as a successful mating.
Why? The powerful attraction of opposites. They’re both generous to a fault, but he with everyone and she with only family and friends. She talks everything out. He’s not about to reveal anything until he’s got it all worked out.
Even though it will be hard for these two to be completely honest with each other, they will quickly guess each other’s games then pretend they haven’t guessed. Leaving something unspoken adds a mystical quality to their lovemaking.
NEED A PLOT POINT?
Surprise. The scorpion may come on strong, believing she can swallow this poor little fish…but whether in a contest of wills or one of surprise, the fish will spring the last surprise. Could this be a black moment?
Above all, these two characters are “infinitely aware of each other,” even when onlookers would swear the two didn’t notice each other. I consider that infinitely aware part the key to a sensual romance.
This is just a sample of how I use Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs and Love Signs to inspire me in my creation of characters I hope my readers will fall in love with.
Now, I encourage you to go forth and search out your own odd resources for fleshing out your characters.
Blessed with a vivid imagination, award-winning author Barbara Raffin creates stories and adventures where she can explore her love of words and the human psyche. Whether a romantic romp or gothic-flavored suspense, her books have one common denominator: characters who are wounded, passionate, and searching for love. Her current work is a contemporary/contemporary suspense series about the St. John Siblings and their friends.
I don’t know about you, but I read fiction for the characters and the adventure those characters go through. Like most readers, I want vivid heroes who draw me into their situations and, often when I don’t get into the main character, I put the book aside. But how do writers create those attention-grabbing heroes?
Here’s what some of my favorite writing experts have to say.
I love reading stories that feature intriguing characters and I hope these tips will help you when you write your next tale. Also, if you’ve found the suggestions useful, I hope you’ll consider checking out the resources quoted in this article for further study.
Mia Jo Celeste comes from a family of writers and English teachers, so it was no surprise when she chose to pursue both careers. Recently, her novel Other Than became a double finalist in the 2018 Prism Contest in the Historical/ Steampunk and Best First Book Categories.
My neighbors are blowing stuff up in the cul-de-sac while my dog cowers under a chair, so that can only mean one thing: it’s July, and conference time is almost here. As the fireworks settle down and the picnic leftovers run out, romance writers everywhere are preparing (aka getting mani/pedis) to head to the annual national conference hosted by Romance Writers of America.
I’ve attended five RWA national conferences: as a wide-eyed newbie in 2013, a chapter president in 2014 and 2015, and a Golden Heart ® finalist in 2016 and 2017. Now, as I get ready to attend my sixth “Nationals” this year, with my shiny new PAN pin on my badge, I thought it would be a great time to share a few things I’ve picked up along the way.
I know. Articles about how to prepare for conferences abound. They spring up on the internet this time of year like mattress sales (what is it about patriotic holidays and selling mattresses, anyway?). So why should you keep reading this one? Well, remember how agents and editors are always saying they want “the same, but different?” This is kind of like that. I’m going to take five traditional pieces of conference advice, and add a little something different, my own little spin, collected over the five years I’ve attended Nationals.
I’m an extrovert at heart, so this isn’t a problem for me. But if talking to strangers gives you hives, don’t be afraid to use the introverts’ tried and true method of talking to strangers: the internet. Engage in social media while at the conference. Use hashtags like #RWA18 and #RITAGH to post about the conference and share fun pics or nuggets of workshop gold. And maybe you will run across fellow introverts tweeting via the same hashtags and can strike up a conversation that way (and perhaps turn that into an in-person convo at the bar?).
There you have it! If you are headed to Denver, I hope to see you. Look for me at the bar, I’ll have a wine glass in my hand, and there’s a decent chance it will be filled with water.
Award-winning author Melonie Johnson—aka #thewritinglush—is a two-time RWA Golden Heart® finalist who loves dark coffee, cheap wine, and expensive beer. And margaritas. And mimosas. And mules. Basically any cocktail that starts with the letter m. She met her future husband in that most romantic of places—the mall—when they were teenagers working in stores across the hall from each other. Today, they live happily ever after in the magical land midway between Chicago and Milwaukee with two redhead daughters, a dog that’s more like a small horse, and a trio of hermit crabs. After earning her Bachelor of Arts magna cum laude from Loyola University Chicago, Melonie taught high school English and Theatre in the northern Chicago suburbs for several year. Now she writes smart and funny contemporary romance and moonlights as an audiobook narrator under the pseudonym, Evelyn Eibhlin. Watch for her contemporary romance debut, THE SOMETIMES IN LOVE series, coming summer 2019 from St. Martin’s Press. Melonie is represented by Pamela Harty of the Knight Agency. A Star Wars junkie and Shakespeare groupie who quotes both Yoda and the Bard with equal aplomb, you can visit her at at her website and find her on Twitter and Instagram at @MelonieJohnson.