Jilly: Labor of Love

Happy Labor Day weekend to everyone in the US. Happy weekend, and happy end of summer, to everyone else.

Thinking about Labor Day led me to realize that it’s ten years since I decided to quit the day job and write fiction full time.

I left paid employment at the end of 2011.

I published my first novel, The Seeds of Power, in December 2019.

I never thought writing fiction would be so hard, that I’d have so much to learn, or that it would take me so long to get my first book published.

I’ve never worked so hard, earned so little, or had so much fun.

I love it. I wouldn’t change a thing.

Best work decision I ever made.

What’s the best work decision you ever made?

Jilly: Unputdownable or Re-readable?

If you had to choose, would you prefer a book that’s unputdownable or one that’s re-readable?

That’s what I was asking myself yesterday. I’ve been working through a TBR list of new-to-me authors who write in sub-genres similar to mine—historical fantasy, low fantasy, fairy tale re-tellings, what Michaeline memorably described as cozy high fantasy. They’ve all had something interesting to offer: an engaging premise, charismatic heroine, fascinating world, compelling conflict, lovely word-smithery—but none of them put the whole package together in a way that had me transported, desperate to read more and sold on the next in the series.

After a dozen damp squibs I started to wonder if the problem was me, so I took a break and paged through my Kindle to refresh my palate with a guaranteed good read or two. I have a new-ish Kindle with all my purchases on it, but I also have a really old device where most of my library is consigned to the archive. It’s my Keeper Kindle. The only live titles are books which have really grabbed me (unputdownable) and those which I re-read again and again (re-readable).

As I scanned my options, I realized I need to narrow the selection even further. There are some excellent, compelling, well-written stories that I return to again and again. Others that I was glued to first time around, but somehow when I’m looking for a special read I always choose something else.

Take historical romance author Loretta Chase. She’s an excellent writer and a brilliant storyteller. I love Lord of Scoundrels, The Last Hellion, and her Carsington books. I particularly enjoy and often re-visit Miss Wonderful, thanks to its Derbyshire setting and Industrial Revolution-inspired plot. It’s clever, funny and energetically upbeat, so I root for the characters as they battle to overcome a seemingly insurmountable conflict. The book doesn’t just have a happy ending, it makes me feel happy as I read it. Contrast that with Silk is for Seduction, the first Dressmaker book. It’s powerful and emotional. It has a brilliant dark moment and one of the best sex scenes I’ve ever read. The problem is that for most of the book it’s impossible to see how the characters can find a happy ending together, even though it’s equally apparent that they’ll never be happy with anyone else. Even though Love Conquers all in the end, reading the book is an emotionally stressful experience. I bet loads of readers love being put through the emotional wringer, knowing it will all be OK in the end. Not me. On first read I found the book utterly unputdownable. I don’t want to read it again.

In the end my choices were Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor followed by T Kingfisher’s Paladin’s Grace. I had a fabulous time. I’ve read both books multiple times but familiarity only enhanced my enjoyment—several hours of warm and uplifting feelgood, like catching up with old friends. I don’t think I’d describe either book as unputdownable, because even on first reading I took my time and savored every page.

The other question I asked myself was whether I’d like my own books to be unputdownable or re-readable. Obviously I’d love them to be both, but if I had to choose, I’d want to be re-readable. Unputdownable stories might bring bestseller status and greater financial rewards, but to stay with a reader over the years and bring them recurring pleasure would be my definition of success.

How about you? Do you have a preference, as a reader or a writer?

Kay: The Indie Paradox

I’ve been struggling this past week about what it means to be a writer and how much time and treasure a person should sink into the process. Let me explain.

Several years ago, the company for which I freelanced forwarded a request to me from a person who was looking for editorial help on his fiction project. He’s a nice guy, my contact said, who has a story to tell.

The writer told me he’d written a draft, but it needed more work and he wasn’t sure how to go about it. It was 216 pages.

I asked him what he wanted me to do. A line or content edit? Write the transitions? Shape it? Continue reading

Justine: What to Give Your Book-Loving Mom on Mother’s Day

happy mothers dayDon’t worry! You haven’t missed Mother’s Day…it will be celebrated in the US and 84 other countries on Sunday, May 12th (so you still have time to get a gift or send a card!). Almost every country in the world celebrates Mother’s Day; however, not all on the same day.

Mother’s Day was first celebrated in 1908 by West Virginian Anna Jarvis, in memory of her mother, who had died a year earlier. Although Jarvis pushed for a national holiday, it was until 1914 that US President Woodrow Wilson declared the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.

However, Jarvis would come to resent the holiday… Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Story Time and Sprints

Friday already?  How did that happen?  I seem to have lost a few days somewhere along the line; I could have sworn today was only Thursday.  I blame it on the warmer weather and all of the turmoil in the news recently.

I’m afraid I’ve wound up spending more time watching and talking about the news recently than working on my writing.  Fortunately, we’ve got a holiday coming up in the middle of next week, which means a few extra days off work and at home, which should be the perfect opportunity to get some words on the page.

I think I’ll get things started right now by giving today’s writing prompt the old college try.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Justine: Making Your “Alpha Male” More Like Nature’s Alpha Males

We all know what sort of man an alpha male is…strong, usually buff, definitely tough, and the one who gives orders, not takes them. He typically gets what he wants when he wants it, and if he’s threatened, he’ll go up against that threat, even if it means getting physical.

The trope of the alpha male is alive and well in many romances these days. But is that what nature intended when she created alpha males? Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Story Time and Sprints

Happy Summer Solstice (depending on when you read this).  What did you do with all of that daylight?  I’d like to say I made good use of it, but the truth is I spent an extra-long day at work and barely got out while there was sunlight left.

Definitely poor planning on my part.

At least I was able to enjoy a pretty sunset and I’ll have all day tomorrow to make up for today’s lapse.  While I’m happy to see the arrival of summer, I’m less thrilled to realize how much of the year has already passed by.  I have a long list of To-Dos for the year from back in January and the arrival of summer means I better get cracking if I’m going to complete them all.

One of the To-Dos that has been languishing is finishing my current manuscript-in-progress.  While the other Eight Ladies all sound to be making excellent progress, I cannot say the same.  I’ll be doing my best to get my manuscript back on track tomorrow with a morning of coffee, croissants, and creativity (writing, that is).

Care to join me? Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Story Time and Sprints

This week has had its share of excitement but I’m not sorry to see it heading for an end nonetheless.

Last week the Warriors, our local pro-basketball team, wrapped up their season with a championship win, which meant that this Tuesday, there was a victory parade with crowds of people and periodic confetti cannons.  More importantly for me, it meant that the streets around my office building were all closed off, requiring me to work from home, since teleporting into my office was not an option.

I was not too disappointed.

It was a beautiful day and I got to see the parade from the comfort of my own living room, while taking conference calls in my pajamas and avoiding a few hours of commuting.   Really, I should do that more often.

Now that the confetti has been swept up, the streets reopened, and the portable bathrooms taken back to wherever they roost, it’s time to get back to our regularly scheduled programming.  For me that means a trip to the dentist for a check-up, but then it’s off for something a little more enjoyable like lunch at my favorite outdoor café.  I’ll be taking my smoothest pen and my new writing journal and giving today’s story prompt the old college try.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Story Time and Sprints

Friday again – how did that happen?

This has been a busy week at Ye Olde Day job, with the arrival of this year’s batch of summer interns.  That, coupled with my meeting with a group of GenX staff members, has left me feeling positively archaic.  And tired.  They’re all so bright and eager and energetic.

My Friday looks to be filled with meetings (oh, what fun!).  When I get home there is a slow leak in the outdoor sprinkler system that needs to be located, which means digging up a bit of the front lawn, and a rapidly disintegrating back fence that needs propping up.

Before I get started on my delightful home-repair projects, I’m going to open up my writing journal, take the story prompt below, and get some words on the page, since I’ve been doing far more reading than writing this week.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Story Time and Sprints

Basketball playoffs are in full swing (go home team!), the hockey playoffs are nearing an end (sadly, no home team there), and baseball season, which seems to last forever, is well underway.  I, of course, have been ignoring all of these and have been reading books like it’s some kind of Olympic event.

Some of my reading has been for research purposes, a handful were contest entries, and one was an advanced copy of a (now) newly released novel.  I managed to read a few items from my TBR pile, but mostly I worked my way through some favorite, comfortable, familiar re-reads.  I started with a few Georgette Heyer Georgian/Regency re-reads, then off for a couple of Amanda Quick Regency suspense, and then on to Loretta Chase’s Carrington brothers series.

Needless to say, with all of that reading, there wasn’t a lot of time left for writing.  Okay, no actual time went to writing, but I’m okay with that.  Sometimes the best thing I can do for the writing part of my brain is to indulge the reading side.   Enjoyable as my reading interlude has been however, it’s time to pick up the pen and put a few of my own words on the page.

Care to join me? Continue reading