In an odd twist of events my two writing worlds collided when my romance writer friends came to me with the idea to create an anthology to share the uber-useful process we had developed among ourselves to revise and edit our stories. Standing firmly in my romance pen name persona I was totally on board, then Cassia asked me to submit something from my thriller style too. Hmmm.... But I did! It's a story that came a bit out of nowhere and hit on futuristic, sci-fi elements that I don't venture towards often, but I liked it, she liked it and Daiva liked it—it was accepted.
Getting my own stories accepted and edited was the easy part—I knew what to expect. I’ve worked a ton with both Daiva and Cassia and we work well together. The next step—helping other writers revise their stories was another story. I’ve done tons of beta trades and critique swaps, but this time was a bit different. I was on the editing team and had this new thing called *responsibility*. The other authors were looking to us like we know what we are doing!? I mean; sure we do, but this felt a bit like a test. Especially because fantasy is not really my area. But… here’s the thing. Story is story, and plot is plot. When you break it down to its pieces, it doesn’t matter if it’s fantasy, or sci-fi or contemporary. And OK, there might have been some stores that were not exactly my… thing. But I begged my brain for professionalism and diplomacy and I think (hope) that even when I didn’t have anything to say on certain points, that what I did offer was useful.
Now that we are closing in on the end, it’s amazing to see the finished stories and get feedback from the writers that this entire process was not awful, and they enjoyed it (mostly), and really, I did too. Who knew?
I digress, the anthology is coming out soon and it feels like the perfect time to celebrate this awesome collaboration we've managed. Some really great authors jumped up to participate with us so if you are a (maybe closeted) romance fan like me, you should totally check them out, and of course stick around for the anthology when it comes out on May 31st! (I will add links as soon as I have them)
Cassia Hall is the author of the Seasons Cycle, an LGBTQ-friendly series, a spin-off from her main Lake Traveler Saga. Her poetry collections include Poems of Myth & Magick and Songs of Love & Longing.
She composes songs for her characters, using music – the universal language of love – to convey their messages. She believes that, just as music goes beyond barriers of language, colour and creed, stories go straight to our hearts, allowing us to understand and accept ourselves and one another.
She lives in Toronto, Canada where the winters are long and the other seasons very precious.
The author of numerous Flash Romance stories from High Fantasy to Cyberpunk, Naito Diamond focuses on prospects for our future in the technological field (esp. Augmented Intelligence series), evolution of civilization, and the existence of alternative civilizations.
With a background in software development and an interest in AI, medical innovations, and neuropsychology, she adds authentic details to her stories. Her fondness for human nature enables her to create flawed but lovable characters.
She lives in a small European country, in a house surrounded by forest, with a German Shepherd, a ginger cat, and a rooster.
By day, Jan juggles consultancy work with her family, but by night she sneaks off into the past. Her penchant for sprinkling history with magic is fueled by coffee and Cadburys. When not writing, Jan takes her dogs and small monsters into the countryside, especially if there is a castle or historic building there with a cosy coffee shop in which to escape the rain of Manchester, England. Jan is the author of the Tudor-set historical fantasy Naturae Series and other historical fiction works, as well as the Mitch and Mooch Try childrens books.
Adam Gaffen is the author of the near-future, LGBTQ-inclusive science fiction series, The Cassidy Chronicles. A prequel, Memories of Aiyana, was recently released by one of his main characters and he’s not sure how he feels about that.
He’s a frequent guest at cons and enjoys sending his stories out into the world to entertain, educate, and enhance reader’s lives.
He lives in Colorado with his wife, five dogs, five cats, and wonders where all the time goes.
“You know me. Jump first, knit a parachute on the way down.” Kendra Cassidy, A Quiet Revolution.
As a writer, Rebecca Fuentes enjoys exploring the dynamics of human interactions and our relationship with the divine. She turns coffee and daydreams into fantasy stories, including her upcoming Oracle Trilogy.
Rebecca has a background in education and child development and enjoys anthropology, history, and psychology. Her childhood interest in mythology and fairy tales fueled her love for the fantasy genre.
Rebecca lives in the Rocky Mountains with her husband, six children, two dogs, and two cats. She collects books and interesting friends. When she isn’t writing and spending time with family, she draws old-school art of her characters.
Heran Phillips likes a touch of realism in her romance. She has been writing speculative science fiction and fantasy for a decade under the name Ye Olde Bard, and enjoys researching subjects to the fullest to better depict her characters and worlds.
Her stories focus on the struggles of life and romance as a person with disabilities. It is her hope that such stories will help shine a light on disabled people like herself.
Natalie J. Holden
Natalie could never find herself in the real world, so she created her own. Two hundred of them. Taking inspiration from everything, from nuclear physics and evolution to anthropology and myth, she created an entire universe of magic and wonder, and then populated it with people and beings she’d like to meet.
So far, she’s published a novel “The Outworlder”, a short story collection “Other Worlds”, and a novelette “Octopus Song”. When not writing, she spends her time reading, cooking, and walking in the parks.
Sarah Rajah infuses themes of love into everything she writes because she believes that love is the glue that holds all universes together, no matter how fantastic or mundane. Her characters realize that love in all its forms overcomes the darkness in all of us.
With a background in human resources, Sarah has unique insight into people and diversity, which she crafts into her stories.
Sarah has two very special boys and a husband she loves beyond words. They inspire her to push boundaries and love more deeply every day.
Isla Ryder grew up around horses but never owned one of her own, instead settling for riding lessons and every horse book she could find. When those books stopped being enough, she began writing her own. Throughout school, she loved creative writing classes and earned a BDIC degree from UMass Amherst. She has published a series of sweet cowboy romance novellas and loves working with other authors as an alpha reader and developmental editor.
Lately, I have been working with a group of authors on an anthology. They are all at different stages in their writing careers. I am on the developmental edit team, and working across the experience spectrum has been eye-opening. It has made me reflect on my writing journey, and how to help others with theirs. There’s so much I know now that I wished I knew back when I was working with my first editors and beta readers.
It’s easy to be in awe of your own work. However, the beta-reader/commenter/editor is flagging things for a reason. The story lives in our head; we know 100% of it, but we’re lucky if 60% makes it to the page in the first draft.
Those comments are showing us what isn’t making it, highlighting what the reader doesn’t understand (literally or stylistically). The comments don’t mean something is bad or wrong; they mean something is lost in the story's translation from your brain to the page.
When we see comments, we get upset and want to defend our story-baby on each one. We have the justification, and maybe it’s right. But if you find yourself justifying the same idea over and over—pause.
That is where you need to work. If it’s a matter of the reader not understanding what’s going on, you need to do a better job of explaining/describing. If it has to do with missing info/facts, that’s usually a quick fix - just move things around or expand a little, give us that tidbit that will help us make sense of what’s going on.
If the issue seems to be confusion about the world or character, you need to add details, a better description of setting, body language, etc. Use action tags in-between dialogue not only to add interest but to place your characters relative to each other, so the reader is able to set the scene in their mind.
If the reader is not engaged with your characters, you need to work on your character development. POV needs to be tight, well defined, and consistent. You need to get into your MC’s head and know their motivation and internal conflict/inner struggles and how this relates to how they present the story. If the character is going to tell the story in a particular way, you need to make sure the reader understands why the character is like this, or else that added layer of story you’ve worked so hard on will be lost. You must set the tone for the reader.
Revising is a huge part of writing. Writing is easy; words flow, drafts build... but revising is how you make sure that your vision, and story, is clear to a reader. This is hard, and impossible to do on your own
Understanding how to use editor comments is probably the most important skill for a writer to develop. Just as you shouldn’t blindly follow every suggestion, you also have to shut down that part of your brain that wants to shout, ‘No, I love this! Let me tell you why it works!’
Don’t tell them why it works in the comments. Show them in the story!
To make the most of the comments that your editors/betas leave on your manuscript, you need to understand how you are reacting to those comments.
I’d wager that everyone has that defensive gut reaction, whether they are newbies just starting out or established writers with a string of books to their name. I sure did when I first started out. I was working as a ghostwriter and the client connected me with the editor. When I tried to explain things, I was told that wasn’t my job; to stop, read the notes, and make it better. No ifs, ands, or buts.
While that was a direct hit, it was also easier because it wasn’t my story-baby on the line (well, it was, I was too close, but I digress). It was his story and his editor. I had to learn quickly to get at the root meaning of those comments and make the fixes. In the end, I got some really nice compliments from that editor. It helped me push forward in my own stories, and in my acceptance of revision comments.
No editor is highlighting things to tell you the story is bad—they are there because they want to help (however blunt some comments may seem). For me, if I write some crazy comment manifestos to someone, that’s a good sign. The more I rattle on, the more I am invested in the piece.
Dig deep, writers! Put your ego aside and take a moment to breathe.
As writers, we know our stories all too well. We see everything in our mind’s eye, forgetting that the reader is not privy to any of this. Translating this highly-detailed picture in our heads into words is difficult. It is impossible to do on without feedback. This is why editors’ and beta-readers’ comments are so valuable. They are basically your short-cut to a better story.
P.S. Dear writers, even this blog post has gone through my best editor! We cannot, and should not do it alone!
I write thriller/suspense and horror. That has always been my wheel-house—the stories that get you with a creeping feeling of trepidation, or ask some question about an odd ‘what if?’
Then someone suggested I write equestrian romance because I know horses. Their logic; you know the horse bits + you can write = simple... right? Well, no. Not really. That is a whole different genre with different rules, expectations and skill sets—not to mention mind set. But it intrigued me. Could I write a horse-y book where the horse stuff actually works? Hmmm.
No, though. Erica could not. She (excuse the self referred 3rd person, I know it’s annoying, but bear with me) writes stuff that creeps people out. But maybe someone else could. Then Isla was imagined. She could write romance, maybe, and I gave it a shot.
By creating this alter-ego I could pull out a different writing style and sweep into the romance genre with only a few missteps (sorry to those first early readers, who definitely did not get a romance!) A review on her latest book calls it ‘hopelessly romantic.’ That was the nicest thing to read, but to me, Erica, also hilarious. No one would ever use those words for me or the work I usually write. But here we were, with a beautiful review for something that did, in fact, come from my head. Thanks Isla.
Here’s where it gets interesting. I’m working on an anthology—a romance anthology. So of course Isla wrote a couple of stories for it—all well and good. I know her voice now. It (largely) works. Then one of the other anthology creators said she expected something from Erica too. Hmmm. But of course, you can write romance, she said. Just do it in her style/voice.
So I tried.
And got quick, emphatic rejections.
Not romantic. Creepy. Going to give me nightmares. Were among the critiques for Erica’s stories. And in their own way, great comments, but not for this anthology. I still needed something. But what? I was moody and annoyed that it wasn’t working. Then I just started writing. Something.
I didn’t know what to call it. I couldn’t even tell where it came from. It wasn’t Isla, and it sure wasn’t Erica either—it was some strange conglomeration of the two who turned out a... wait for it… A sweet space opera MM romance. It got accepted; excitedly—quickly. Huh. I’m not sure what this new voice is, or if I can replicate it anytime soon, but it is interesting.
Compartmentalizing writer voices allowed me to write distinctly in two genres/styles and now that both are comfortable in my head, they are playing nice. It’s created parts of a personality that I couldn’t have related to before, but now somehow inhabit as needed. I’m not an artist who will talk your ear off about my Muse, I don’t communicate with my subconscious very well, but I may just have found a way to pull some of that subconscious out and get her to play.
So I’ve been reading a lot of romance lately, in many forms (indie, best seller, ARC, sweet, steamy... the gamut) to get a feel for the genre as I continue my journey writing in it. Let me tell you, I’ve always seen myself as extremely open-minded and ruthlessly liberal—however, some of this stuff has really set me on edge. I get the whole don’t kink-shame people and I will not. But there are things I don’t see as kinks—dub-con and non-con most specifically. I will argue against that in romance (I’ll come back to this in a moment**) until I’m in the ground. HOWEVER, I understand some people’s fascination/attraction to it. I mean, who doesn’t love a horror movie that is all about murder and mayhem, right? I sure do. Do I want to live it? Not in the slightest.
I think this is where the attraction is. Reader see the forbidden, and on the page is a safe way to interact with it. They can get their heart rate up and become involved with these characters in sometimes terrible relationships and feel safe at the same time because it’s on the page.
Two of my favorite moves are Jaws and Jurassic Park. I re-watch them ALL THE TIME. I’m invested, I’m engaged. Do I want to visit Isla Nublar? No way. Am I going to swim in the open ocean? Also, no. But I come back to those movies again and again. And stepping back, I realize that these ‘romances’ I cringe at are those movies to other people.
** Back to my romance comment. I’m not sure they belong in the ‘typical’ romance genre, though. We don't really have anything set aside to better categorize them and I think we need that. Because much of romance genre is all about glorifying the relationship shown, and we absolutely do not need those darker/menacing relationships to be something that reader may aspire to. A stalker who doesn’t take no for an answer and eventfully ‘wins’ the object of their obsession is not a great role model for a relationship. Is that something that adults ought to be allowed to explore on the page? Sure, you do you. But branding it in with the rest of the romance genre feels iffy to me.
I know Dark Romance exists, but I think very little actually gets relegated to it. I have stumbled upon SO MANY instances of horrible characters (both male and female) in mainstream romance, with adoring fans who likely wouldn’t pick up a ‘dark romance’ book. Years ago people were too shy to read anything darker/steamier than a hallmark movie on the bus, then (for better or worse) 50 Shades changed that. I think we need to further de-stigmatize Dark Romance so that books that belong there can be categorized as such, without detriment to the author, so that when we pick up something ‘mainstream’ we know that it will at least end with a vision of a healthy romance.
I don’t mind if characters START OUT questionable, it’s a great beginning to a moving character arc, but in mainstream romance we need to glorify that CHANGE for the better, not the abusive (verbally/mentally/emotionally/physically/etc) ways that the love interest decides to ignore because the abuser is great in bed and/or super hot and/or super rich.
Write what you want, and read what you want, but categorize it correctly. And maybe, just maybe, that story you wrote is a thriller and not a romance. Hey, that’s fine too!
I know I am due for another review, and I have started SO MANY new books lately, but nothing is catching my attention. I am in a real thriller/horror slump. I can’t even get into something enough to feel like I could give it a DNF. It’s more like a did not start. Ugh. I’m pretty sure it’s not even really the books’ faults.
I’ve been going through my TBR pile and many I had totally forgotten about. I know I’m not in the mood for a police/detective/PI character right now, so those are out. I’ve tried two domestic suspense novels, both ended up being present tense—something I do not like—so I put those down.
I’ve got one now that I’m about 8% in and maybe, just maybe, I’ll stick with it long enough to have something useful to share with you. I am 100% open to recs. Tell me your most un-putdownable read: old, new, I don’t care. I need to get sucked back into SOMETHING! Like I said above, no cops (as MCs, side characters are fine) and no present tense. 1st or 3rd person are both fine. Single or multi POV. Thriller, suspense, horror...all good. Although if it’s horror, I prefer ghosts to slashers, but if it’s good, that’s not a hard and fast rule. I’d even be down for some YA dystopia, as long as it’s light on the sci-fi.
Tell me what you love! I know I need to get back to it, because reading slumps are often followed by writing slumps for me, and I have things I need to get done.
he other day I was helping a fellow writer with their story and they mentioned being stuck on having to use a line over and over since the action was the same and kept repeating in the story. There was nothing wrong with the line, except that they felt like they were repeating it ad infinitum. And that was true, so I played a little game and told them to do the same. How many ways can you convey the same thing? What other aspects of the action can you look at and draw from? What other senses can you call upon? I think, for the meat of our stories, these questions come naturally. Explaining your magic system, or describing your villain in the most solicitous way, is fun. The hum-drum lines that bring us from scene to scene sometimes get overlooked though, putting us in this mess that my author friend is in now.
So let’s look at their example:
The issue: Every motorcycle turn is taken at speed and threatens to run off the road.
The line: She took the corner at such a speed the bike threatened to go off the road.
OK, it’s fine if you do it once or twice, but it will definitely get boring, eventually. So, we play our game!
What does our MC feel—internally and externally?
The bike’s wheel trembled as she took the turn. Maybe she ought to slow down—but there was no time for that.
What does the MC do?
Stella struggled to keep her grip on the handlebars as the bike screeched around the corner.
What does the MC see?
Stella could just catch the glares of pedestrians out of the corner of her eye as she flew around the corner.
What does the MC hear?
Gravel skittered, pining against the brick building on the corner as Stella failed, yet again, to slow enough for the turn.
What does the MC taste?
Stella bit her tongue with the effort to keep the bike upright as the force of the turn threatened to send her skidding sideways.
What does the MC smell?
Burning rubber told Stella that she had once more taken the curve too quickly. If she didn’t let up, the bike was going to fall to pieces beneath her.
Are they all good? No, but are they different? Do they paint a picture? And most importantly, have they gotten you writing and thinking outside the box? YES!
The second book in the My...Self series by Jessica Huntley gets five stars! My True Self carries on a while after book one ends. Alicia has moved and unexpectedly settled (due to the pandemic) in Italy.
She grew on me in this book, and I liked to see her figuring out how to deal with ‘regular’ people despite being a psychopath. My main/only gripe is we are reminded often in the text that she is a psychopath and she doesn’t have emotions. Even if I hadn’t read book one, I figured that out. But beyond that I was really engaged the whole time.
I don’t want to spoil anything, so it’s hard to say much. But the new character of Ben was fun, and I loved how he interacted with both Alicia and Josslyn. In those moments, we really got to see how different their voices were and it was really well done. The set up for book three is a big one, as with many book two’s it almost feels like it ends in an odd place, but that happens so much it’s kind of industry standard now so no complaints there. I tend towards stand-alones though for this reason. I can’t wait for the end of that cliffhanger! What I am happiest about though, and a reason I LOVE reading indie authors is, the morning after I finished reading I saw a date for the book three title and cover reveal is just a week away. Being able to interact with authors I read is so fun. I love some Stephen King, but he’s not replying to your comments about reading his latest book.
You can find my review of book one here
So, if you’ve been following the blog, you know I have my next novel out querying all around. Now, the plan is/was to choose however many top agents I like, query only them, then self pub if there’s no interest. I know the thriller market is tough, and I don’t mind self-pubbing. I digress. That list of agents didn’t include any who required a synopsis in the query package. Part of that was luck, part was.... well, I have never been good at a synopsis. So naively I figured, well, it’s not on their list, maybe I’ll just skip it. Here’s the thing, it might not be on their initial list, but they might ask for it!
One agent that I had written off finally replies over 100 days post query—to ask for a full! Yay! And (problem #1) a synopsis. Shit. So, I obviously want to reply asap, which my book is still on their mind. After several lists and pages of how to write a synopsis that doesn’t suck (they say I can do it in a morning!) I get to it, problem #2—I haven’t read my book since I started querying, back in September, and I’ve been busy on multiple other projects. What the heck is my book about!?
Turns out, here is the silver lining. It’s WAY easier to condense your book down to 700-ish words when you only remember the major points! So I did whip that synopsis out in a morning after all and got it sent out along with my manuscript just after lunch. Now it’s back to a waiting game. Who knows, maybe it’ll wow them, or maybe they will hate it (the initial query was only a couple pages and didn’t include what I think is the ‘hard sell’ part of the book). I am just happy they want to read it, and hopeful that even if it’s a no, it will come with some feedback. But, moral of the story, or maybe insane advice—you decide. You definitely need a synopsis if you are querying ANYONE, but if you wait long enough and get far enough from your manuscript, it just may be easier to write.
I have to go with just 2 stars from Mrs. Rochester's' Ghost, I DNF'd this at about 30%, I could not get into it. The setting was nice but the characters altogether boring and nothing was happening. While I may read slow sometimes, I hate to not finish something but this one was just impossible to pick back up for even a few pages at a time.
It wasn't because I *love* Jane Eyre, like many low rated reviews cite - I have *gasp* never read it, and typically enjoy re-tellings of this nature. I did a beta read on a Pride and Prejudice re-telling that was one of my best reads of the year. This though never had any inkling of catching my attention. Poor Mrs. Rochester, I guess, who knows whats going on with her ghost.
I’ve hemmed and hawed about moving books to Kindle Unlimited. I originally went with a wide distribution for Excite and my shorts after lots of research. Now it’s been out for a year and I did some more delving into numbers and results. When I put out my romance novella as Isla Ryder, I went straight to KU as that is more or less the genre norm, and it was eye opening. I did no more marketing for Twin Springs Ranch than Excite and it opened even better.
A year’s worth of Excite sales on other platforms don’t seem to be warranted versus the bonus I can get from the KU program. So, to celebrate Excite’s first book birthday, I have pulled it from the other sites and enrolled it in KDP Select, making it available for free to KU subscribers.
You can find it here (as always - https://amzn.to/3ozCAUA) and if you were on the fence before, maybe having it available in KU will push you to give it a try. I’m very interested to see how this change goes, and if I see some numbers going up, I will look at moving my shorts and flash over as well.
Do you subscribe to KU? Do you like it? I’d love to hear reader thoughts and opinions!