Make Your Own Luck

The Harder I work the Luckier I getAs we ring in the New Year, like so many others, my thoughts are on plans and goals for 2015. You know that old adage…the harder I work, the luckier I get. Just recently I shared with a writing pal that more and more I believe this is an industry where we must make our own luck. There are tons of writers out there. I find the amount of books published in the span of one year overwhelming, mainly because I want to read them all! Given that, how do we get our work noticed in the industry? As I’ve mentioned before, I’m in RoseAnn 2.0 mode. Meaning, while I have a published series, I have certain goals for the next phase of my writing career. First, I’d like to find a publisher for my new Young Adult work. Second, I’m looking for a publisher for my new Contemporary Romance work. Lastly, I’m looking for an Agent, someone who can represent both genres.

The biggest challenge is always getting your work in front of the right industry professionals. So, here are some thoughts I have on how we writers can make our own luck.

Contests

Our Femmes group has had a good run when it comes to contests. There’s a lot to be gained from entering contests. With so many out there, it can be hard to determine which one is right for you. Research the final round judges. If they are on your target list then a final placement guarantees they will have read your work.

Back in October I entered my new Young Adult into a few contests. That piece placed second in both contests, however it earned two full manuscript requests. So, while I didn’t win, those contests contributed to my 2015 goals.

The Cold Query

There is much to be gained from pitching at conferences. However, don’t discount the cold query. I’ve had a bit of success going this route in the past. It can be cumbersome, so you want to make sure you’re funneling your energy in the right direction, and putting your best food forward. Here is a bit of advice on the cold query process.

  • Do your research: Don’t waste your efforts or any industry professional’s time. Make sure those you query represent and/or are looking for what you write. RWA has a list of agents and what they represent. However, I have found the contest trail once again a great resource for this. Agents and editors who volunteer their time to contests usually judge a category of interest. Also, follow industry news. I get a lot of information on my twitter feed, and from my writer friends. When I come across someone I feel a good fit, I add them to my spreadsheet which includes their bio, what they represent, their query process, and any special notes or comments, such as…did I meet them at a conference, do they represent an author I admire, etc.? I track the progress of the queries in the spreadsheet as well. It’s good to have all this information in one place so when I decide it’s time to start the process I don’t feel unprepared.
  • Write a great query letter: I realize that sounds rather obvious. There are a lot of resources on the web when it comes to writing a solid query letter. In researching agents you will find many of them have examples of what they consider good query letters on their websites. I come across blogs written by agents on writing good query letters. The thing to keep in mind about a query, similar to a pitch at a conference, is that the Agent or Editor wants you to succeed. They want you to have the story they are looking for.
  • Personalize it: The best piece of advice I can give on writing a query letter, beyond including your GMC and ending in the story summary, is to personalize each letter. Make sure an agent knows why you have selected him or her out of the vast sea. Why do you think they are the right person to represent your work and career? Always make sure to include any professional publishing credits, organizations you belong to, where you can be found on the web, and a short bio. Always thank them for their time.

Keep Writing

It sounds simple. We’ve heard it a million times, but keep writing. Just because you’ve had some requests and/or you have material out there, that does not mean it’s time to take a ciesta. Unless you’re feeling burned out. If that is the case, some time off might be exactly what you need to recharge your batteries. You never know what opportunities might present themselves down the road. When they do, you’re going to want to be ready with plenty of material.

So, what are your writing goals for 2015? How have you made your own luck? I’d love to hear your stories!

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Femme Stalking: Virginia Kantra

Femme Stalking {noun} The act of stalking favorite authors until they agree to stop by the blog and let us go all fan girl on them.

FemmeStalkingLOGO_Trim_FinalWhen we created the idea of Femme Stalking, I knew right away I wanted to take the opportunity to interview Virginia Kantra. I am beyond excited to have her as a guest on the Violet Femmes today. Getting to know Virginia a bit better has been a true fan girl dream come true. As a longtime fan of Virginia’s writing, I have stalked her at writing conferences, and via social media, so an official Femme Stalking now makes the experience complete. At the end of the interview, please enter the Rafflecopter for a chance to win a digital copy of one of Virginia’s Dare Island Novels of your choice and/or an audiobook from the same series.

RoseAnn DeFranco: Virginia, welcome and thank you for being here! I just finished reading Carolina Blues, your new release in the sexy, heartwarming Dare Island series. I have so many questions for you about the series, Dare Island itself, and your writing career, so let’s dive in!

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer, and when did you actually start writing? Can you share a little bit with us about your path to published? How long were you writing before your first sale?

Virginia Kantra: Thank you so much! (And I never thought of it as stalking…More like catching up.)

I’ve been writing all my life. I scribbled fairytales in middle school and actually started writing YA fantasy while I was an English major in college—long, involved epics I wrote in longhand and typed on a typewriter. But it wasn’t until the youngest of our three children started kindergarten that I began writing seriously for publication. At my husband’s urging, I joined Romance Writers of America in 1995 and went to my first conference.  Wow. That was eye-opening. It took me four years and five manuscripts before I finally sold. But four of those manuscripts were Golden Heart nominees and were eventually published.

RD: Wow. FOUR GH nods? We have our own GH winner here, Joanna Shupe. Many of our followers are young writers. What is the best piece of advice given to you early in your career and by whom?

VK: Like most of life, writing is all about showing up. I actually have a quote by Calvin Coolidge, of all people, posted by my computer: “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

RD: With a Romance Writers of America’s RITA Award, eight RITA nominations, and two National Readers’ Choice Awards, you are a well decorated writer who has transitioned from Romantic Suspense to Paranormal Romance to Contemporary Romance throughout your career. Since I have read nearly all your books, I can say your voice remains distinctive and authentically you regardless of genre. I am currently exploring a career in Contemporary Romance and Young Adult romance, so I’m interested to know, what do you think is the key to remaining true to your voice across genres?

VK: Aw, thank you! Two things comprise voice: what you have to say and how you’re going to say it. The most important part of defining and refining your voice is to identify that core message, that experience you can deliver, that you want to deliver, again and again.  And then you choose stories and characters that let you express your central truth in the details and images that capture your imagination.

What makes your personal landscape unique?

I’m into family dynamics, the ways we struggle for intimacy and control. But I came to reading through fairy tales.  The ordinary person, the shepherd’s son or the children on the train from London, who is forced by extraordinary circumstances to do extraordinary things. That worked for my paranormal series, the children of the sea, but it’s an equally important part of my contemporary romance where the hero or heroine’s life or sense of self is overturned by circumstances: a secret baby, the loss of a parent or a job, the return of an ex-lover.

RD: Now on to Dare Island! I am in love with your island. I have enjoyed extensive trips there right from the comfort of my own sofa. What was your inspiration for this fictitious island? And, yes, I know it’s fictitious because it can’t be found on Google maps. I checked. 

VK: Well, on my map, Dare Island is located where you would find real life Portsmouth Island, a (now abandoned) fishing and shipping village in North Carolina’s Outer Banks.  But you can find bits and pieces of it up and down the barrier islands.

RD: Many years ago you gave a workshop at a monthly NJRW meeting on Point of View (POV). It happened to be one of the first meetings I attended. In a way, you really motivated me to continue writing by imparting some wonderful advise and writing tools. In the workshop, you included a section on your guide to “Guy-Speak.” All your heroes are hot and REAL. I fell in love with Jack in Carolina Blues. Many romance writers are women and find writing from the Male POV difficult, yet your men are honest and grab-me-a-fan male. What is the single best piece of advice you can offer for creating an authentic Male POV?

VK: Ah, Jack…I’m not allowed to play favorites with my heroes, but I am married to my own real life Italian Guy, so Jack Rossi was wonderful to write.

The trick to writing male POV is the trick of any writing. Tell the truth. Ask yourself if any man you know would actually say whatever it is you have your hero thinking. My Guide to Guy-Speak is available on-line here if anyone wants to check it out.

http://virginiakantra.com/guyspeak.html

http://virginiakantra.com/guyspeak2.html

Carolina BluesRD: The first three Dare Island books focus on the Fletcher family offspring starting with Matt in Carolina Man. They are very family centric stories. I feared when you ran out of single Fletchers, the series could come to an end. The introduction of the delicious Jack Rossi, a former Philadelphia Police Officer, in Carolina Man left me with hope. In Carolina Blues, you focused on Jack and Lauren Patterson, a woman who famously became knows as Survivor Girl for having intervened during a bank robbery. Both have tortured pasts. I was transfixed watching them lower their walls and fall in love. Both are newcomers to the island. What inspired you to write this story?

VK: The appeal of writing a series is creating a place you want to return to again and again. I originally planned to conclude Dare Island after Taylor’s (Luke Fletcher’s daughter) storyline was resolved. But I simply wasn’t ready to leave this world behind.

Focusing on island newcomers gives me a chance to play in the same sandbox but allows new readers, who may just be discovering the series, a chance to get to know the island along with the characters.

Plus…Jack. He’s pretty much the reason I wrote this book.

RD: I discovered the same thing when I wrote my Brothers of Audubon Springs series. I didn’t want to leave the town. I’m so happy you decided to stay on Dare Island. I love your previous work, but there is something very special about this island.

The writing process varies writer to writer. Every time I think I’ve got my process nailed down, it changes. Could you share a bit about your process? How much has it changed over time? What type of prep work do you do before getting down to the business of writing? From there, do you consider yourself a plotter or pantser?

VK: You have to go with what works. And what works for you can definitely change from story to story or over time. I’m very organic. After I’ve got two characters in mind and a chapter or so written, I wander around the house for months mumbling and making notes. I do try to think up plot points that will force the characters to change and grow, events that will challenge them or their relationship.

Sooner or later—usually later—the story starts to snowball as the characters make choices that force the action in one direction. And then there’s this avalanche fueled by panic and caffeine at the end of every book. That makes me a pantser, right?

RD: Thank you! I am  forever going to carry the image of you on caffeine, careening to the end, when my own panic sets in on a book!

As someone who writes Contemporary Romance in addition to Young Adult romance, it has not escaped my notice that you have a teen love story evolving in the background of the first four Dare Island novels between Josh Fletcher and Thalia. Do you have plans to ever write their story, and if so, would you try your hand at a Young Adult Novel, or keep your readers waiting until they are well into their twenties and ready to settle down?

VK: I love Josh and Thalia, and I’ve really enjoyed their relationship as teens. But they’ll have to be all grown up before they can really be together and find their Happily Ever After.

RD: I’ll be looking for their book when they do! One more reader question. What is the story with Meg and Sam? I expected them to have married, or at least be in the throes of planning a wedding by now, but two books later following their story, Carolina Girl, and they are still engaged, and not much was mentioned regarding their future in Carolina Blues. Will Meg walk down the aisle soon?

VK: Oh, you noticed! I wondered if anyone had picked up on that. I can’t say much right now, but I’ve got some ideas for Carolina Dreaming. 🙂

RD: An online presence in this social media era is a must for authors. So many of us struggle with this, but you seem to handle the balance between professional and personal on Face Book with ease. Did this evolve naturally over time, and how do Italian Guy, Boy Wonder, and the others feel about being part of your presence?

VK: I asked Italian Guy this question, and he laughed and said he was resigned to my stealing all his best lines. Which is so not true. I always feel as if he gets the punch line in our little on-line dialogues. Because, you know, they’re taken from life.

I do think it’s important to be authentic in what you write, even Facebook posts. So I’m pretty honest. But of course you have to protect privacy as well. This was a bigger issue when our kids (Only Daughter, Grad School Guy, and Boy Wonder) were younger. Now that they’re adults, they do sometimes comment on or share my posts, which is lovely. But I think how much they share should be under their control.

RD: I loved the sneak peak of Carolina Dreaming at the end of Carolina Blues. How long do we have to wait to read the next Dare Island novel?

VK: That makes me happy. Thank you! I think this one has the potential to be really good. Carolina Dreaming is scheduled for early 2016. But next July, I do have a nice long Dare Island novella coming out in the Ask Me Why anthology from Berkley. It’s the story of waitress and single mom Cynthie Lodge and sexy scientist Max Lewis. (My first nerd hero! Hooray!)

RD: Oh! I can’t wait to read your nerd hero! This is something I’m exploring a bit in my new contemporary series. 

I had such a great time talking with Virginia this week. You can learn more about Virginia and her stories by going to http://www.virginiakantra.com

Writers…when you see Virginia’s name listed as a speaker at a conference, I highly recommend any of her workshops. Readers…you really don’t want to miss this Dare Island series! Take a moment to enter the RaffleCopter drawing below. Because I think everyone should read this series I’m giving away one digital copy of a Dare Island book of your choice. Virginia has graciously offered to sweeten the pot with an audiobook as well! Winners will be announced next week.

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Have a great day!

Believe

Photo credit: 2 little banshees / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Photo credit: 2 little banshees / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

I love this time of year. That is to say, I usually love this time of year. Last year was the first Holiday season where my Christmas Baby had been ruthlessly pulled under the truth about Santa tent. With her birthday on the holiday, she’s always had double the fun, double the spirit, and double doses of believing in the season. Nothing could pull her out of her holiday slump last year. This year…she’s back, and it has made all the difference as we prepare for the season. This naturally turned my thoughts to writing and inevitably…my sock drawer. Completely logical, right? I promise, it is…let me break it down for you.

I’ve been in a sorting, organizing frenzy over the past few weeks, throwing things into the donation pile with an abandon I usually never attain. It’s been liberating. Finally, it was time to tackle my sock drawer. When I started I BELIEVED I had NO socks. As I started to sort, match, organize, discard, I soon realized that I was a sock junkie. True, I found some socks with holes, like those you’d find in a plot that you’d need to discard. I also found items that didn’t belong, like long sleeve black gloves I’d worn when I was a bridesmaid a MILLLION years ago, kind of like those scenes that should be ruthlessly cut from a manuscript. BUT I also found a lot more of value than I ever expected. In fact, the draw is filled with a wealth of riches. The truth is, I’m a bit of a sock geek. I mean, who doesn’t want to wear their warm and fuzzies during the winter while curled up on the sofa reading a good book…or writing one?

While sorting, my thoughts turned to a new Young Adult Mystery novel of mine. I started it back in February for the NJRW JeRoWriMo writing sprint. I’d written 15 K words in one week and then left the story for crap. I stuck it way down in the bottom of the sock drawer, so to speak, and focused my energy on a new Humorous Contemporary Romance series. In short, I slid back into a comfy pair of old socks and got down to the business of writing. Nothing wrong with that, I LOVE this new contemporary series, and I hope to one day share it with my readers. However, this summer I pulled the YA out and found I truly LOVED the story. I darned the holes I could now see, polished it a bit, and submitted it to two contests. Guess what? That story, WINGING IT, I’d left for crap, is now a finalist in both writing contests!

Writers (or at least this one) are emotional. It is so easy to doubt ourselves. If we don’t believe in our work, who will? So, at this time of year, when we are focused on the magic of the season, I’m going to remind everyone, regardless of your passion, please remember that fulfillment in any endeavor starts first with your own ability to BELIEVE.

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The Power of Perseverance

Perseverance

[pur-suhveeruh ns]

noun
1. steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.

Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained. — Marie Curie

Photo credit: tricky (rick harrison) / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Photo credit: tricky (rick harrison) / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Yesterday I received some wonderful news about one of my close friends from my college / theatre days. Joe Calarco was hired as a resident director and director of new works at the Tony-winning Signature Theatre in Washington DC. I realize most people who follow this blog are readers and writers, so let me emphasize that this type of position at this theatre is HUGE. This announcement moved me on many levels. The first being pure joy for my old friend. He has put in his time as a freelance director-playwright having directed his first musical with Signature back in 1998, plus countless other productions across the country and abroad. Prior to that I remember the days when he was writing, adapting, and doing whatever it took to find venues for his own work. Nothing would stop him. It is a lesson in perseverance I greatly admire, one I’m sure came with many sacrifices along the way. As stated in the article, this will be Joe’s first full time job since high school. All those years of sowing the seeds, working constantly in a freelance capacity, earned him a reputation of excellence in his field which brought about this hard earned opportunity.

It made me think of not just my theatre friends, many of whom are still out there, pounding the pavement, knocking on doors and WORKING in a relentless field, but my writing friends as well. It is hard to work in a field where rejection is paramount such as the theatre and publishing. We have to develop thick skin as writers. Back when I received my first publishing contract one of my writing friends said, “I always knew you’d be published. You never gave up on your goal.”

Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after the other. —Walter Elliot

In many ways now that all three Brothers of Audubon Springs books are out, I feel like I’m back to a place where I’m starting all over on my path to publication. I have my list of lessons learned from my publishing experience, and three new series I am actively writing at the moment. While working on all these projects at once makes me feel like I have writers ADD, until I decide on the absolute best route and project for my future, I’m not willing to let any of them go. Just as I’m feeling overwhelmed about the RoseAnn DeFranco, Author 2.0 path, and questioning “Do I have the energy to do all this?” I’m reminded of Joe’s success, as well as the success of many of my author friends. None of it would have been achieved were it not for the power of perseverance.

What are the things that keep you charging onward in the face of a long uphill climb? Do the successes of others inspire you as they do me? Is it the support of family, your writing circle? What gets you through…other than chocolate, a writer’s best friend, of course!

Readers at the Movies: The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Out StarsThis weekend my daughter and I went to see the movie The Fault in Our Stars. I laughed, I cried…she laughed and cried. I thought the movie was moving and poetic. I loved the strength and courage of the main characters and their journey to love, even while knowing theirs would not be a story of happily ever after. I left the theatre feeling satisfied with the storytelling, the actors, and the soundtrack. When I expressed all these things to my daughter she responded with the strength and conviction of all her eleven years of wisdom, “Really? I was pretty disappointed. The book was better.”

And there you have it. I did not read the book. I do not know what I’m missing.

I’ve been in her shoes before. There are very few films that have lived up to books I’ve read. Certainly no movie has ever exceeded a book from my perspective, although there are a few that got it pretty darn close.

This got me to thinking…why is it a book is nearly always better than the movie?

What is Left on the Cutting Room Floor?

As readers, we want every moment or detail between our beloved characters that elicited an emotion to make it onto the screen. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve turned to my hubs after watching a movie and said, “What you don’t know from the movie about this relationship is…” Often times, having not read the book, he didn’t find the moment a missing piece to the story he’d just watched on the screen. It’s just that I’m a reader and I want it ALL!

movie theatreThe Importance of Interpretation

When a reader watches a film, it is important to keep in mind that this is the director’s vision of the story. We have to accept this as part of the film journey and leave our expectations at the door. What might be important to me as a reader (“In this moment the character is thinking of X”) may not be important to the story the director wants to tell. When reading we are able to interpret, assume, and envision a moment to our liking. On screen, the actions and visuals are absolute.

My Cast!

This leads to the importance of casting. Remember the uproar with the Fifty Shade of Grey casting? TMZ reported the last minute change with the same intensity CNN reports breaking news. Why? Because the fans felt as if they had a say in the casting of their book. I can only imagine the insanity that will ensue when the movie is released.

So, what is it is about a movie like The Fault in Our Stars or The Hunger Games that makes us cry foul loud and hard when the movie doesn’t meet our expectations? For the record, I loved the casting and movie versions of both, but I will forever cry foul to the makers of the Harry Potter movies for all but KILLING the Harry/Ginny relationship. Not due to casting, but due to several omissions of moments in the movies. And why? What is it that makes readers feel as if we have a stake in all this? I blame the brilliance of the author. By creating a rich world filled with characters we love, we feel a sense of intimacy and then ownership for that world.

Books Belong to the Readers! 

I don’t want to spoil the The Fault in Our Stars for anyone who has yet to read the book or see the film, but the story line actually touches upon this idea. The main characters, Hazel and Augustus, grow intimately attached to characters within a novel they have read. These characters, and those around them, are on a similar journey as Hazel, Augustus and their families. So much so that they refuse to believe the story just ends. They are compelled to seek answers…what happens next? And as writers, isn’t that what we want our readers to ask?

A bit of research tells me John Green has been bombarded with these same questions about The Fault in Our Stars. I beyond love his response:

“I promise you: I DON’T KNOW. I have access to the exact same text that you do. I do not have access to any information outside of that text, because then it would just be me speculating about what might happen, and my speculations are no more valuable or authoritative than anyone else’s. Books belong to their readers! Own it! Make it yours!”

 

Dedicated readers do feel a sense of ownership to a book we love. It is this love of a book that takes us to the movie expecting a repeat of the profound experience created on the page. But it cannot. It is a different medium, and when it falls short, we rage and why? Because that is OUR book, and we want the world to see our version of our book.

What books turned into movies have met the grade for you as a reader? Which ones have fallen short? Have you ever felt this sort of ownership over a book that was made into a TV show or film? If so, which ones and why?

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Lesson Learned From Frozen: Write To Your Own Trend

Sisters, Elsa and Anna

Sisters, Elsa and Anna

Last week I stepped outside the 5% of the US population who has not seen the movie Frozen. I had been wanting the see the movie for a long time. With my background in Musical Theatre, this type of movie is within my personal category of MUST SEE.  Unfortunately, my daughter initially saw the movie without me, and she fell into the minority of children in the United States who didn’t feel the need to see it again. We live busy lives, and at a certain point I realized I was destined to see the movie once it came out on DVD. Even then, I BEGGED her to watch the movie with me, and when begging didn’t work, I moved into the phase of motherhood I’m really good at. I tortured her with the promise I would not stop singing Let It Go until she agreed to watch the movie with me.  As a former professional singer, the threat initially fell flat. I sang the song a few times through while doing chores around the house, and while maybe my singing proved a distraction from her current focus (reading The Fault In Our Stars) I transitioned into singing Let It Go BADLY, changing as many words as possible to capture her attention.  When I started to incorporate some truly horrific dance choreography into the performance, she put the book down and raced me to the door to rent the DVD. Even an 11 yr. old has her breaking point!

I was expecting a typical Disney love story movie musical in Frozen. Perhaps my love of another Disney movie, Brave which I blogged about years ago (Brave: Tackling the Complex Mother/Daughter Relationship) should have told me to expect much more than your typical Boy-Girl story. Yes, there is an adorable dancing and singing snowman, and while love and relationships between a man and a woman is within the story, it resides within a subplot. The main focus of the story is the love found within a family, in this instance, the strong bond of love and friendship between two sisters.

The focus of family in this movie sensation caused me to take a look at my own writing and the writing industry in general. When it comes to market trends, we are told not to write to trends but to write ahead of a trend. Study the industry and figure out what might be the next big thing. If you want to jump on the werewolf, shape-shifter craze, you better have written it already because writing it while that market is hot, only means by the time you’re ready to bring your story to the world, you will have missed the trend. So what is an author who is trying to write a break out novel in the industry supposed to do? One of our Femmes, Michele Mannon, wrote ahead of a trend. She had the idea to write Hot Alpha Male MMA stories before it really became a trend and took hold in the market. This stroke of brilliance it has paid off in spades for Michele. Another Femme, Diana Quincy, paved her own trail or trend within the popular Historical Romance genre with her Accidental Peers series. Both wrote from their hearts stories they were destined to tell with unique hooks. So what then about a contemporary writer like me who writes humorous, sexy, family driven contemporaries? I’m not about to write a shape-shifting story in the hopes of making a market splash. It just isn’t in me. My writing time is so limited, I have to write something this is true to my soul otherwise the time spent on a project will feel empty and the story will fall flat.

The explosion of the movie Frozen with the focus of true love and sacrifice residing within the family structure has given me hope. This has reminded me that, regardless of current or past market trends, the trend or the importance of Family within our society will never die out. I will continue to write from my heart and produce funny, family centric stories. My next romance series will focus on more than one family and how all their lives intersect and impact one another within a community. I’m planning to explore more complex family relationships while keeping the focus on one couple’s messy journey to a happily ever after. I started to explore this a bit in the third installment of my Brothers of Audubon Springs series, The Right Chord, which releases on August 6th. Could this be the next trend? I don’t know, but I do know I’m excited to tell the stories within this new series set. As a writer, motivation and excitement for a project are half the battle.

I’m wondering if anyone else was surprise by the twist in the focus of Frozen? Also, what do you believe will be the next big trend and what current trends in the writing, movie, or television industries have captured your attention or surprised you?

Happy reading and writing!

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Why Readers Read, Why Writers Write

Why Readers Read

ReadA few years ago I took April Kihlstrom’s Book in a Week online course.  As part of the prep work, April has writers explore WHY we want to write a specific project.  What about the project is important, what message do we want to communicate, and to whom? In order to answer that question, the first step was to explore why readers read.  Here is a short list of why I read:

Escape – Sometimes I just want to be swept away to another time or place in the hands of a capable author with fully realized characters and setting. Over the years this has become my best form of therapy during stressful times.

Read a powerful love story – Going back to my number one reason of escape during stressful times, nothing warms my soul and puts me in a happy place more so than watching a couple fall in love.

FEEL something intensely – Watching others solve their problems, compromise, explore their humanity, go on an adventure, avert danger, and yes – fall love is highly cleansing. This emotional catharsis takes me away from my own struggles for a moment.

Why Writers Write

WritingJoanna’s post last week helped me own my guilt, but it also had me question (louder than I have before) WHY I write. Are the rewards worth the sacrifices (see: Author Ass, Sleep Deprivation, Dirty House, and Neglected Family). Then it occurred to me I need to write as much as I need to read and for the same reasons. In the last few weeks, I’ve been mulling over things about my writing career specifically in regard to Marketing approach and Brand (a buzz word that truly pisses me off – another topic for another day), but I’ve been distracted, unable to focus on these topics because my family is going through a difficult time right now.  At the height of stress the number one thought that runs through my mind right after “I want my mommy!” is “I NEED to escape into a good book.” Thanks to my little, Divergent is sitting on my end table. I’ve seen it beside my keyboard. I have found it on top of my cookbook during meal prep, and on top of the dryer while dong the wash. Think she’s trying to tell me something? My girl seems to know I need this escape. What better place than a YA Dystopian world?
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Welcome to Booktrader, Where Everybody Knows Your Name!

Booktrader

Remember the theme song from Cheers and the sentiment it conveyed? Sometimes you’d like to go where everybody knows your name…and their always glad you came? This jingle ran through my mind following an afternoon spent at Booktrader in Hamilton, NJ.

We’ve heard so much about the impact the dawn of eReaders has had on the larger bookstores with the closing of Borders and the current struggles of Barnes & Noble. Having just recently discovered this small secondhand bookstore that has been in operation since 1984, I was intrigued to learn more about what makes it special and how it has stayed afloat all these years. Joan Silvestro has owned the store for 10 years and by my count is the 5th owner. I found Joan’s journey to bookstore owner interesting in that she never set out to own a store or run a business. A self-proclaimed Jack of All Trades, Joan has a background in Medical Technology and has worked in a variety of professions. She had been a long time customer of Booktrader throughout the years and its various locations until one day she was in the store while the owner at the time posted a sign in the window, “Business for Sale,” and so began her journey born from a love of books.

My newest release, SECONDHAND ROMANCE, is set in a secondhand bookstore at the Jersey Shore, so I was very interested to learn how Joan’s approach to customer service and her business model differed or was similar to Annie’s.

It All Stems From a Love of Books

PDR_0422In many ways I (and Joan!) see Booktrader as a service to the community. The store is really floor to ceiling a book lover’s paradise. For the most part, Joan likes like to trade in books no more than 5 years old and she does not like to turn away any books customers bring to her store to “trade.” Trust me when I tell you, it really is a trade. Customers receive a credit on all books brought in which then goes towards half of all future purchases. Booktrader has a computer system that keeps track of your credit which never expires. In fact, the computer also keeps track of every book purchased to prevent customers from purchasing the same book twice. The store then allows you to TRADE the books you’ve previously purchased at Booktrader back which then gets added to your credit once again. When people ask why they can’t cover their entire purchase with store credit Joan jokes that she would love to, but electric, water, and phone companies will not accept books as payment!
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Traditions in Life and Writing

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about traditions and how my family traditions have changed over the years. Similarly the pathway to publication has evolved.

As a child, the holiday season was filled with traditions surrounding food and family gatherings. My mother is a baker and a chef beyond compare. Every holiday season, the women in the family – Aunts and cousins – would gather and bake. My Great Grandmother’s Italian Cookie Recipes all started with 5 lbs. of flour. That is a LOT of cookies! My contribution to these cookie baking nights was the famous and often shared story of the time I knocked over the 5 lb. bag of flour when I was five. A true indication of my love for all things domestic to come!

The Traditonal Family Italian Cookies

The Traditional Family Italian Cookies

My favorite family memories as a child were that of my family – My mom, dad and brother. We were together always, and there was a lot of laughter in our home. Christmas Eve, we would make the rounds, first on my father’s side of the family for dinner – family and food, then to my Great Grandmother’s house for more family and food. We were LARGE in numbers back then. I only remember that it was fun…and at times we drove through snowstorms to get there. Have I mentioned I grew up in Buffalo where A White Christmas was a given? The snow did not stop us from seeing family, nor from missing Midnight Mass. Christmas Day was filled with more family and food. Mainly I remember a long day filled of playing with my cousins. Those were beautiful Camelot-like days.
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Say It Again, Sam: A Theatre Gal’s Approach to Dialogue

Photo credit: Rennett Stowe / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Photo credit: Rennett Stowe / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

BOO, and Happy Halloween!  Does writing dialogue scare you enough to make your hair stand on end like this guy on Halloween? Fear not!

At nearly every stage of my writing journey from fledgling to now, I’ve been paid compliments on my dialogue.  Dialogue is one of my favorite aspects of writing, especially during that darn first draft.  If I could, I’d write the whole thing in dialogue.  I think this stems from my music and theatre background because I tend to hear a story first through dialogue. I like to get up out of my writing chair and act out scenes, practicing inflections.  Fun times for sure when my hubs or my little walks in while I’m in the throes of drama.  Honestly, I’ve done some of my best work in my office.  My acting coaches would be so proud!

There are the obvious dos and don’ts to writing dialogue that we as writers are taught.  I promise I’ll get to a few of my fan favorites – there’s too many for me to cover them all.  First I want to share some things I learned in my theatre background that I believe carried over into my work as it relates to dialogue.

What is said ABOUT a character is more revealing than what a character says

I remember this ah-ha moment in Scene Study Class back at my Alma Mater, Ithaca College.  I’d been having a hard time fully developing a character because I had very little in the way of dialogue in the scene.  Once I opened my ears to what other characters had to say about mine, the scene and character came alive.  As a writer, a little insight from a secondary character about the Hero or Heroine through dialogue can carry a lot of weight with the reader, especially if that secondary character has been presented as knowledgeable or trustworthy.
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