Jilly: Multi-Generational Stories

An unexpected corona-bonus is that author book launches have gone digital. Which means fans who would never have the chance to attend a physical talk and book signing can join in the fun.

This week the Cary Memorial Library in Massachusetts hosted a conversation with fantasy romance authors Ilona Andrews (Ilona and Gordon, in Texas), Nalini Singh (in New Zealand), and Amanda Bouchet (in Paris). I watched from London, and now it’s on Youtube. How cool is that? Click here if you’d like to check it out.

There were lots of good questions about world building, what makes a strong character, what makes a great villain…but one that caught my attention was something like: do you have any plans to make your much-loved stories multi-generational? In other words, to give the kids of your bestselling characters their own story or series. Amanda Bouchet and Nalini Singh weren’t at that point, but Ilona Andrews are currently writing Blood Heir/Ryder, whose heroine is Julie, the adopted daughter of Kate and Curran from their bestselling Kate Daniels series. I’m super-excited about this book (click here for an early squee) and already have it on pre-order.

Ryder feels like a natural progression. After a ten-book series Kate and Curran are due a hard-earned Happy Ever After, but many fans aren’t ready to say goodbye to the world, and the series is rich in secondary characters. It’s made easier by the fact that Julie (alias Aurelia Ryder) was a street kid in her early teens when she first encountered Kate, so she’s only half a generation younger. That means the Ryder book can begin eight years after the conclusion of the Kate Daniels series—long enough for everything to be the same but different.

The question caught my attention because I’m currently writing a multi-generational epic fantasy series. Unlike the natural flow of the Ilona Andrews stories, mine crept up on me. After I finish with my Elan Intrigues books (one currently published, one book and two novellas in the works), I have a series in my head, set in the same world, starring the adult children of the main characters of the Elan Intrigues series. Alexis, the heroine, is twenty-five years old at the beginning of the main series. That’s a whole generation after the end of the Intrigues books. It didn’t occur to me to question it until now.

I started to think about how many other multi-generational stories I’ve read and enjoyed. I love Georgette Heyer’s Devil’s Cub, about Vidal, the son of the characters from These Old Shades. Loretta Chase has Last Night’s Scandal, starring characters we first met as children in Lord Perfect. That one didn’t quite work for me, though I’ve often wished she’d write a story for Dominick, Dain’s illegitimate son from Lord of Scoundrels. The most obvious example, which I haven’t read but I know Michaeline loves, is Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan saga. Other than those, I’m coming up empty.

So I thought I’d turn the question over to you. Does the concept of a multi-generational series appeal to you? Have you read any good (or bad) ones?

Jeanne: Using Tropes for Marketing

Falling Again for the Single Dad

A friend who writes category romance for Harlequin recently told me she’d been instructed to include a minimum of three well-known romance tropes in the first chapter of her next book. Since she writes for the medical romance line, that means there are actually four tropes in that crucial first chapter.

 

Category romances, in case you don’t recognize the term, are very short (50,000 words, or around 250 pages), very simple (single main plot, no subplots) novels that revolve very tightly around the building relationship between the two main characters.

A trope is a recurring theme or device in a work of literature. Some well-known romance tropes are:

  1. Single dad
  2. Friends to lovers
  3. Enemies to lover
  4. Second chance at love
  5. Secret baby
  6. One night with consequences
  7. Marriage of convenience
  8. Forced proximity
  9. Billionaire
  10. Fake relationship

And lots of combinations of the above.

Settings can also be tropes, as can the professions of the characters (e.g. doctors, cowboys, CEO’s).

I’m always keen to figure out new ways to appeal to potential readers. Harlequin sells a lot of romance novels. If they think tropes make for good marketing, who am I to argue?

My current work-in-progress incorporates enemies to lovers, second chance at love, one night with consequences and forced proximity.

Here’s my first cut at a blurb featuring my four tropes:

She-demon Lilith has waited thousands of years for a chance to get back at her ex-husband, Sam,  for walking away when Satan ordered them to split up.  Now Satan has assigned Sam to lead Hell’s delegation in trade talks with Heaven, and Lilith to handle the administrative details. It’s the perfect opportunity to even the score.

Faced with an unwinnable battle, Samael, demon of pride and head of Hell’s legal division, did the sensible thing when Satan ordered him to abandon the love of his life—he moved on. But he never got over her. Now he has another chance. When Lilith overlooks reserving a room for him in the conference hotel, he simply he moves into her room. She’ll never be able to resist his demon wiles at such close quarters.

Lilith’s resulting pregnancy comes as a shock to both of them. Their reactions differ but they agree on one thing: Satan must not be allowed to get his hands on their child. Can Hell’s power couple resolve their differences and escape Hell to join the world of PTO’s, school lunches and youth soccer?

And if they do, will Earth ever be the same?

 

 

Jeanne: Cartoon Covers

After I finish my current work-in-progress, I plan to take a break from the paranormal sub-genre to write a series of five romantic comedies based on five siblings, aged 24-32, who are suddenly given shared control of a tour business in Sedona, AZ. Their parents, who have grown tired of their kids’ constant wrangling, disappear for a year to cross items off their bucket list, advising the kids to “figure it out.” Which, over the course of the five novels, they will. 🙂

As you can imagine, book jackets for romantic comedies look very different from dark paranormal romances, so I’ve begun doing some research into what’s trending.

The current #1 bestseller on Amazon in romantic comedy is You Deserve Each Other, by Sarah Hogle. After seeing the cover and reading the blurb, I went ahead and bought it.

Apparently, the cover works fine, though I have to admit that the price–$1.99!–sealed the deal.

 

 

 

The Tourist Attraction is a debut novel by author friend of mine, Sarah Morganthaler, that also falls into the romantic comedy sub-genre.

 

 

 

 

Still another rom-com is The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon.

 

 

 

 

 

I haven’t read any of these yet, but I think the covers are attractive and send the message “lighthearted and funny.”

What do you think? If there are other rom-com covers you think I should look at, feel free to drop links in the comments!

Jilly: The Murderbot Dilemma

How much would you pay for an ebook? Or a series?

I’ve been trying to decide whether to invest in Martha Wells’ Murderbot books. I don’t usually dither over book purchases, but this series has me hovering over the buy button.

The community on Argh Ink (Jenny Crusie’s blog) loves Murderbot. Jenny loves and re-reads the series. These are smart people. They read a lot. They’re sharply observant and constructively critical about their recommendations and DNFs. They tend to like the kind of stories I like. So that’s a strong positive.

I read the first novella, All Systems Red, and really enjoyed it. I wasn’t desperate to read the next book immediately, but I haven’t forgotten it and moved on. I felt like that about Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles—had a hiatus of maybe a couple of years before I bought the second book—but that series became a favorite and one that I regularly re-read.

The Murderbot premise is great—an introverted, self-hacking robot protagonist who’s technically not a person but who has an engaging personality–fascinating, funny and conflicted. The author makes you care about the character. The writing is clever and complex. The stories are sci-fi, with lots of great world-building and action, but deeply character-driven. As far as I can see from a quick scan of the reviews, the first four novellas arc to a satisfying conclusion.

There’s really only one argument against Murderbot. The price. According to the many disgruntled reviews on the Zon, the first four titles are essentially one book, with each act published as a separate novella. According to Amazon US at the time of writing, they are: Continue reading

Jeanne: If It Doesn’t Bring You Joy

USA - 2019 Primetime Emmy Creative Arts Awards - Los AngelesAfter twelve weeks of being cooped up in my house, I’ve been giving some thought to doing a Marie Kondo on my life: clearing out the things that don’t bring me joy. Although my house could probably use some de-cluttering (especially the basement and the kitchen junk drawers), I’ve been focusing more on streamlining my emotional life, asking myself what I want from this last quarter of my time on Earth and what is getting in the way of my achieving that.

So what do I want? Well, in no particular order:

  • I want to return to Europe another time or two. I’d like to see something of Spain and Italy, for sure, but those trips are on hold at least until there’s a vaccine that makes air travel safe again.
  • I want to tell more stories.
  • I want to continue learning to write better.
  • I want to learn more about local flora and fauna.
  • I want spend more time hiking, preferably with a canine buddy.
  • I want to read a bunch of books I never seem to have time for.
  • I want to see more movies (versus TV shows).
  • I want to see friends again. (I suspect that shortfall may be at the root of my malaise but there’s not much to be done about it for now.)

What would I like to do less of?

  • I’d like to cook less.
  • I’d like to spend less time doing book marketing related activities.
  • I’d like to spend less time on life administration–sending in claim forms and arguing with my insurance company about whether I need to do a telehealth well-visit. (Yes, I get that Medicare pays you to make me waste an hour chatting with someone about my perfectly fine health but I don’t want to.)

More than anything, I’d like to spend less time “channel surfing” available activities. When I do get some free time, I spend so much time dithering, trying to choose what to do next, that it all goes to waste.

Maybe if I’m clearer about which activities will leave me feeling satisfied instead of frustrated I can make better use of my time.

What about you? What brings you joy? And what would you like to do less of?

Jeanne: Six Sigma for Fiction: The Action Workout

Depositphotos_27159627_l-2015This is the last of my posts on adapting manufacturing quality improvement techniques for fiction writing (unless I randomly remember another one at some point and see a connection).

The Action Workout was a group collaboration technique. The way it works is, you get a bunch of people into a room to review a process with an end goal of slimming the process down to its essentials, removing both unnecessary cost and opportunities for mistakes.

How, you ask, can this possibly be adapted for fiction writing? Hang with me and I’ll explain.

In the Action Workout as taught by a couple of women who ran the IT Help Desk at the manufacturer where I worked, the goal was to break the process into each of its discrete steps, identifying the steps that provided something of value to the customer. If a step didn’t add customer value, you looked for ways to remove it.

Let’s use a coffee shop as an example. What are the steps to serving a customer? Continue reading

Jeanne: Cover Me

Old wooden gate with lianasI’ve just finished drafting a short story titled “Original Sin.” It’s the origin story of Lilith, the demon who has been a minor character in every Touched by a Demon story so far. I’m planning to offer it as a freebie to all the subscribers to my newsletter.

Because I don’t plan to receive any revenue from this story, it’s really tempting to cheap out on the cover. (Likewise, to skip paying an editor.) But if the story’s purpose is to attract and keep readers, it needs to be shiny and polished—my best stuff.

Ergo, professional cover (and copy editor).

I was thinking about doing a cover depicting the Garden of Eden beneath the arc of fiery angel wings that are the hallmark of my first two covers but Eight Lady Jilly thought that was a mistake.

“I’m convinced,” she said, “that the most effective covers for romance depict the main character.” Her cover for The Seeds of Power, you may recall, features Princess Christal Hollin of Larrochar and it’s worked well for her. Continue reading

Jeanne: Using Instagram to Sell Books, Part 3

Today we come to the paper-pushing portion of this series: how to use the attractive, friendly Instagram account you’ve set up to actually sell books. There are several ways you can do this:

  1. The most direct method is to create a flatlay, an Instagram post that features your book cover with an attractive background and post it. You can include a quote from the book, either as text on the graphic or as comment, but remember that Instagram is primarily a visual, rather than a verbal, medium.

Here’s one for Eight Lady Jilly’s debut novel, The Seeds of Power, that I created back at Christmas:BookBrushImage-2020-2-15-11-1047

 

How, you ask, do you make a pretty picture like this if you don’t have a nice background available? Continue reading

Jeanne: Using Instagram to Sell Books, Part 2

Last week, we talked about how to set up your Instagram account for maximum attraction to book buyers:

  1. Limit yourself to three topics.
  2. Identify and adhere to an overall layout. Good article on that here.
  3. Choose a limited color palette.

This week we’ll add some more pointers and talk about how that may translate into book sales.

First: Build an attractive, friendly profile. Continue reading

Jeanne: Using Instagram to Sell Books, Part 1

IG logoOn Saturday I was asked to speak at a local workshop on the business side of being an author on the topic of Instagram. Although I’m no one’s idea of an Instagram Influencer, and I have no graphic arts skills, I was okay with talking about it because:

a)  I LOVE Instagram. It’s all pictures and no politics. From the first day I joined, back in April of 2016, it felt like a perfect fit.

b) Over the last year I’ve taken a couple of classes on IG, so I know some best practices.

Today I’m going to share some of those best practices with you.

BP#1: Pick a lane or, actually, 3 lanes. Instagram works best if you limit your range of topics. Mine are: my books, my flower photographs and things-I-see-when-I’m-out-walking. Continue reading