Nancy: What I Learned from Reading Seven Romances in a Week(ish)

Like some of the other ladies on the blog, this year I was a judge for an RWA contest, the RITA. I was tasked with reading seven published books in different contest categories (read: not competing against each other) and given approximately two months to complete and score them. Easy peasy. I would read one contest book per week, record my scores online, and be done in plenty of time.

Er…Um…Well, you know how it goes. I got behind on writing here, picked up books off my TBR pile there, got distracted by a shiny object across the room, and the next thing I knew, I only had two weeks left to read all seven of my entries. Goal: seven romance books in seven days, with a week of wiggle room. Outcome: seven books in ten days. Deadline, schmedline. I finished with four days to spare.

Because I’ve always read in diverse genres and like to mix it up, I’m not sure I’ve ever read that many books in a row in romance or any other single category. This unusual (for me) approach to reading allowed me to compare and contrast the books as a reader and as a writer. Three of the books were quite good. If I’d been reading them in the wild, I would have stuck with them and probably given up some sleep and, for one or two of them, possibly even some writing time to finish the stories. A fourth was also good and I would have finished it, but it would have taken me a few days and several reading sessions to do so. A fifth was just ‘meh’ for me, and absent the requirement to read it for the contest, I might have wandered away from it if I’d had another book waiting. (And honestly, who doesn’t always have another book or ten waiting?) As for the last two books, oy! They would have been DNFs for me if I’d had a choice.

Following are my top takeaways from going all romance, all the time, for seven books and ten days, starting with the good, moving to the bad, and ending with the ugly. Continue reading

Michaeline: Story store, now remodelling

Plum blossoms with skyscrapers in the background, against a perfect spring sky

Plum blossoms in Saitama, a suburb of Tokyo. Nothing threatening about these luscious (and heady-scented) beauties! (Photo by E.M. Duskova)

Fans of erotica (OK, fans of porn) have a charming turn of phrase for storing up memories. If they have a particularly good experience, they can say something like, “Well, there’s one for the spank bank.” Why don’t we have a similar great phrase for the process of collecting raw material for stories?

I’m fond of the older phrase, “fodder for the story mill”, but it’s out of date. Fodder is feed for livestock. And the mill? I can ever decide if it’s a little device like a peppermill, or something big and automated like a flour mill. Both mills have that grind-grind-grinding action that is an essential part of digesting experiences before turning them into stories, but otherwise . . . it’s vague. And not nearly as snappy as “spank bank”.

“Smash cache”? Ugh. “Spew fuel”? Double-ugh. “Story store”? Hmmm. Better, but too close to things like “Boaty McBoatface”. (I do have to say, I could learn to love it. “Hey, gals, I’m going shopping at the Story Store today; want me to pick up some Ham and Tease Sandwiches?”

My goodness, I just feel like a Blank Tank today . . . not a creative idea ready for prime time.

You see, I’m in Tokyo again today. It’s the third time in the last two months; I’m sleep-deprived, my ankles hurt from walking, and any creative mojo I woke up with this morning was used up in figuring out the best apartment for my daughter who is headed for university in The Big City next month. Continue reading

Justine: (Is It?) All About the Book Cover, part III – The Reveal!

book cover reveal To Protect.png

The big reveal!

Wow, nearly a month has passed since I posted about my desire to redesign the book cover for my first-in-the-series historical romance, His Lady to Protect. You can view a recap of what I didn’t like about the previous cover (and examples of what I was looking for) here, and a first take at the redesign here.

But this post is about how, with the amazing talents of my designer, Mariah Sinclair, I have a book cover that SPARKS JOY! Continue reading

Jilly: Free Shouldn’t Mean Gimcrack

How many of you download free books, stories or novellas from BookBub, or the Zon, or as a reward for signing up for an author newsletter?

Do you expect the quality of the writing to be worse because it’s free?

Stand by for a rant.

I’m on the mailing list of an author whose books I really like. She’s not prolific, but her stories are quality and well worth waiting for. I had a newsletter from her recently, announcing that her new novel would be published shortly. Excellent, I thought. I read on to discover that she’d written a novella-length story in the same world as the upcoming book, and that she was offering it to her mailing list as a free download to thank us for our engagement and to whet our appetites for the new release.

I couldn’t have been happier. I downloaded the free book, made a pot of coffee and got comfortable on the sofa with my Kindle. For about five minutes, tops.

I knew the novella-length story had started life as a character sketch, a discovery exercise to help the author find her way into the next big book. That’s cool. I love those little extras, behind-the-scenes glimpses and secret nuggets. That’s what I was hoping for. Perhaps that’s what it became in the end. I’m not sure, because I abandoned it after skimming the first dozen pages.

I’m not sure whether the author did just dump her discovery notes into Vellum without any thought or editing, but that’s how it read to me. What I read reminded me of the famous Mark Twain quote: “I apologize for such a long letter – I didn’t have time to write a short one.”

Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

Congratulations for making it through another week.  As a bonus, here in the US, that means it’s time for a 3-day weekend, courtesy of President’s Day.

Yay!

Although Valentine’s Day is a well-known holiday, February 15 marks a slightly lesser-known celebration:  Singles Awareness Day.

By placing Singles Awareness Day on the day after Valentine’s Day, the undertone of self-pity and sadness was removed from it, and it instead became more of a celebration and a day of pride. It became an alternative day to Valentine’s Day for single people who may have felt left out, and it reminds everyone that being single is okay. It celebrates the love between friends and family, and love for oneself.  Celebrants also spend the day volunteering, traveling, and treating themselves to things they enjoy.

Although celebrating the day with a little traveling sounds like a great idea, I’m pretty sure my boss would much prefer that I spend the day in the office.  Sigh.  Ah well, at least I can mini-celebrate with some of those left-over chocolate strawberries and heart-shaped cookies left-over from yesterday.

Always a bright side.

Before I call it a day and officially kick-off the three-day weekend I think I’ll give today’s random words a shot.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Michille: Happy Valentine’s Day

https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36899372St. Valentine is thought to be a real person, recognized by the Catholic Church, who died around 270 A.D. It is thought that he was beheaded by emperor Claudius II for helping soldiers wed. There is some question about this as there was another St. Valentine around the same time who helped Christians escape harsh Roman prisons who was then imprisoned himself, fell in love with his jailer’s daughter, and signed his love letters to her “From your Valentine.” There are about a dozen St. Valentines plus a pope. The most recent saint was beheaded in 1861 and canonized in 1988, and the pope of that name lasted about 40 days. Odd history for a romantic holiday – a lot of beheadings involved. Continue reading

Michille: New Year’s Resolutions for Writers

By not known; one on left is published by "Chatauqua Press", as stated near the bottom of the card in tiny typeThe collective edition. I don’t have any stellar writing resolutions for the new year. Enter the Golden Heart. Write some more. Finish current WIP. But I noodled around on the net to see what other writers have on their lists. Many of them are the same we all know. Butt in the chair, words on the page,

Goins, Writer has 17 (from 2013). #6 is ‘write when you don’t feel like it’. I like that one, although I know that isn’t on Elizabeth’s list this year. #14 is ‘make money’. I don’t see that happening for me this year. Continue reading