Friday, January 29, 2016

Dear Romance Blogger: Maybe You're Reading the Wrong Books

Recently, I read a blog post from a romance blogger/reviewer complaining that she was "done" with contemporaries because they were all full of the following (this is not the complete list, just what I remember off the top of my head):

Step-brother romance
Women who can only find self-esteem thru sex with a man
Poorly written sex scenes
No emotional connection between the characters
Bare-chested men on the cover

Might I suggest...?

You're reading the wrong books. I have none of the above in any of my contemporary romances, and I'm not alone. In fact, I could give you a good, solid list of writers like me who think the emotional connection drives a satisfying happy ending. 

My heroes are construction workers, auto body shop owners, radio deejays, a small town police chief, and even a hospital janitor. Not a billionaire or sheikh in the bunch. Even my "wealthy" investment banker is homeless when he meets the heroine! 

The sex stays off the page so it doesn't get in the way of the emotional relationship between my characters, and there are no poorly written scenes struggling to come off as erotic. Double bonus: all my covers contain fully clothed individuals, if there are individuals at all.

So, why are bloggers and readers griping about this? You have to *look* for my books. Try typing "sweet romance" into your Amazon search engine and see what comes up. You'll find small town heroes, emotional arcs instead of pages of poorly written sex scenes, and no bare-chested men. The problem is, you haven't been looking for what I write. Not until you glutted yourself on stepbrothers and hot sex and billionaires. And the publishers noticed. So they kept feeding you the same pablum.

In my household, we call this "the Vanilla Swiss Almond effect." When my husband and I first married, a few decades ago, I made the mistake of introducing him to Haagen Dazs's Vanilla Swiss Almond ice cream (at the time, my favorite.) After that, it was all my husband ever bought--until I reached the point where I couldn't look at it anymore. It's been thirty years, and maybe...I might be ready to try a spoonful again in another year or two.

The lesson here is this. If you want books that are "different," try expanding your horizons. Come to the sweet side. We have cookies. And lemonade.  

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Sunday, January 24, 2016

Finding My Muse in the Bathtub

Photo Courtesy of Morgue File
I'm currently 28,000 words into the next installment of the Calendar Girls series, HOMECOMING IN NOVEMBER. After spending a year working on a manuscript I just couldn't bring to fruition, it feels great to have my groove back.

Writers are sensitive creatures. Every book we write we fear will be our last. Every time we get stuck, we worry that our muse has left us for good, that we'll have no more stories to tell, that our creative well has gone dry.

This year was tough for me. After releasing WAITING IN THE WINGS last spring, I thought I was ready to finish the story for my editor at Harlequin, only to discover (some eight months later), by trying to make the story fit my editor's requirements, I'd created a Frankenstein story that I hated. So...back to the drawing board for Harlequin.

In the meantime, winter arrived and with it, one of my favorite winter activities: a hot bubble bath. And because I like to read while I'm soaking in the tub, I pulled up what I'd previously written on HOMECOMING, rather than taking my Kindle or an anticipated paperback with me. Within minutes, the story started flowing through me. I was caught up in the excitement. I loved the characters, the plot, the humor I'd begun writing last year. With a clipboard, pen, and stack of scrap paper, I wrote. Page after page, adding hot water when the tub grew cold. I must have stayed in there for about two hours. The spark was back.

And now, I'm eager to get this finished, off to my editor, and contact my cover artist to get her started.

So stay tuned, dear friends. I hope to complete at least three stories this year, and thanks to that fateful bubble bath, I'm on my way! 

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Sunday, January 3, 2016

An Open Letter to My Readers (For All Our Sakes)

Dear Readers, 

The following is copied from a forum I discovered through a Google Alert (links and actual names of pirate sites have been removed--emphasis, mine): 

I was planning to go for a small trip on my holiday. So I decided to read a couple of books on my Kindle. I started searching the internet and I found a lot of rubbish websites. So I am an obsessive reader, but lately I haven't had enough time to go to the store and buy a book so I really want to know a place where I can download or read book online. I am interested in the book Charming for Mother's Day (A Calendar Girls Novella) by Gina Ardito. Thank You
That particular title is under copyright, which means that's illegal. If you want a free copy then start with your local library. Most loan ebooks in addition to physical ones. If they don't have it then they may be able to get it for you via inter-library loan.

You can spend the whole day looking around for pirated e-book websites, but be sure you won't find anything better than XXXXXlibrary
It's a simple and invaluable goldmine of hundreds of thousands of great e-books. Just give it a try.

Dear Readers, please don't do this. 

I do giveaways almost every month. Whenever I have a new book available, I put a call out on Facebook and Goodreads for readers to get advance copies in exchange for reviews. I give away copies to my newsletter readers on a regular basis. I'm an email away via those same channels and my website if you really, really want a copy and can't afford to pay for it. My books are generally priced lower than a price of a cup of coffee in your favorite shop and I have scads of backlist copies in my house that my husband would be thrilled to see disappear. 

What bothered me about this particular post was that the original poster didn't say (s)he couldn't afford my book, just that (s)he didn't "have time" to go to the store to buy one. This person has time to check out pirate sites and post on a forum but can't go to Amazon, B&N, iTunes, Smashwords, or any of the other places where my books are sold through legitimate channels online? The thing with these pirate sites, as writers have been shouting about for years, is that authors do not see a dime when you download from the pirates--not on the download, and not toward future sales. Your (ahem!) acquisition (because it sure as hell ain't a "purchase") does not register on our royalty reports, and therefore cannot be used in contract negotiations, even if we received the (dis)honor of "Most Stolen Book."

These days, I work a full-time job that's more than an hour's drive from home. I leave at 6:30 am and come home twelve hours later. I squeeze in my writing before work, during lunch, and for a brief hour or two after dinner's been cooked, served, and cleaned up after. I also do editing for other authors, cutting deeper into my slice of the writing time pie. What does this mean to you, dear readers?

It means I'm way behind on books I should have released this past year, and I'm struggling to find time to market the books already out there. I'd love nothing more than to have the luxury to stay home and write all day so that I can churn them out as fast as I can think of them. But as long as pirates are still stealing the money from my pockets with posts like this, I'm stuck working a full time job outside the home to keep food on the table and a roof over my head. 

For my readers who would never dream of going to a pirate site, thank you. If you want to help your favorite authors keep churning out those stories that you love, buy their books through legitimate channels. Follow them on social media and share their posts. Recommend your favorites to friends, and please, if you have the time, write reviews on the sales sites. 

Thanks for listening.



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Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy New Year!

My apologies for ignoring this blog for the last several weeks. 2015 closed with a lot of work that required my attention. What did I learn this year?

I'm resilient. I can take the hard punches and get up again.

I'm fortunate. I am surrounded by love. What else do I need?

I'm not too old to learn new tricks. New job, new challenges, new friends. Every day is an opportunity to discover something new.

I'm poised for another year with new stories to come, roads to travel, and new people to meet. 

I'm hopeful. I've got a lot going on in the coming year, but I'm ready. How about you? 

Come on. Let's kick this year's butt and sit back on December 31, 2016, stronger and prouder of all we've accomplished together.

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