Sunday, February 24, 2013

Confessions of a Fantasy Romance Author

That’s the headline for my guest appearance and giveaway at my fellow WisRWA member Mary Hughes’ blog this week. Drop in starting on Tuesday, Feb. 26, for some revelations about where THE PRINCE OF VAL-FEYRIDGE came from (besides my fertile imagination), read an excerpt, and leave a comment by March 1st for a chance to win an e-copy of the book.

Hope to see you there!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Some Friendly Advice for Those Who Are Entering Writing Contests

I’ve judged WisRWA’s Fab Five and RWA’s Golden Heart multiple times, and I’ve learned a lot from doing so—sometimes what I SHOULD be doing, but more often what NOT to do in my writing.

The first and obvious piece of advice should be this: Read and follow the rules.

Now I know entrants are at various stages in their writing careers and have varied knowledge of the conventions of writing, but here are some items to pay attention to fixing BEFORE you submit because if you attend to these issues first, you give your judges a better chance to focus on your story rather than on trying to figure out what is on the page. And what you really want them to judge is the story and characters.


Observe in published novels how dialogue is broken into paragraphs. Put the character’s spoken words in the same paragraph as his/her actions. Readers will be better able to follow who said what if you do this. And following who said what helps the reader see the story without getting lost.

He/She/They used too frequently without identifying who he/she/they might be.

If two male characters are talking, be sure to tag each one clearly with a name or descriptive title because if “he” appears multiple times in a row, you (the author) may be clear as to which “he” is which because you are visualizing the scene in your head, but the reader has most likely lost track. (The same goes for female characters and any time you have more than two characters in a scene.)

The unreferenced “it”

This useful little word can also be a source of major confusion if “it” is not placed close enough to the thing “it” is replacing or standing in for. We, the writer, know exactly what we mean. But readers can’t see inside our heads, so it’s our job to replace all the vague words in our text with clear ones.

When we enter contests, it’s partly because we want to be read, to connect with an audience. We want the judge to assess our story, our characters, our scene setting, our hook, and give us feedback on the story as a whole. The last thing we want to do is interfere with the judge’s ability to see those aspects of our work. My best advice is to pay attention to these few items when you polish that entry.
What about you? What advice would you add?

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Price Reduction…and Contests

Good news!  My publisher has lowered the e-book price for books more than a year old. That means that across the board from Amazon to Barnes and Noble to The Wild Rose Press, THE PRINCE OF VAL-FEYRIDGE is now $2.99 in any electronic version. I’m hoping the new lower price will tempt readers to give it a try. Please pass the news on to your friends.

Now to contests. The Fab Five is open for entrants until the end of February. Sponsored by WisRWA, Wisconsin’s chapter of RWA, the contest focuses on the first 2,500 words of a manuscript, those crucial opening pages that will either hook an editor or agent or turn them off. If you want to polish your opening pages before sending them off to the “big time,” this contest offers trained judges, a low entry fee, and editor/agent final judges. To check out the rules, categories, and final judges, visit and click on the Contest tab.

THE PRINCE OF VAL-FEYRIDGE hit the finals in Fab Five, one of the first contests I entered. I didn’t know what to expect, and I was lucky to place, but I learned a lot from the feedback. And what I learned made the story better—especially since I tried several different openings over the various drafts and other contests I entered.
Even if you don’t win or place, taking that step to put your work out there for readers you don’t know and will never see is necessary to getting up the nerve to submit to editors and agents. You can’t sell if you don’t submit.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Interview Jitters

As an author, sooner or later you have to give an interview. Now I’ve done e-mail interviews for blogs, and I’ve done an interview with the newspaper at a book signing event, and I’ve been part of author panels at events, but I’d never done a televised interview. To say I was nervous was an understatement.

Like most authors I know, I’m a shy, reserved person, preferring to hang around the fringes of a group and watch rather than be the center of attention. Unless, that is, I know everyone around me and/or the topic of discussion is something I know pretty well. Still, I’m not built for public appearances. That’s why I write. Alone. Listening to the voice in my head, not the one coming out of my mouth, which always sounds strange to me when it’s recorded.

When the library’s new volunteer coordinator decided to pursue local authors to give talks, she found me. I agreed to do a presentation at the library, but I was reluctant to do an interview for the local cable access channel. I’d heard one of the “professional” announcers do interviews and knew he wouldn’t be sympathetic to a romance author. So I said no and explained my reasons. She told me she would be doing the interview and she’d provide me the questions ahead of time.

Okay, I said, wondering if I had just doomed myself.

Well, I had a week—in between a gazillion other things—to prepare for 20 minutes of airtime. Being a person who knows she has to be prepared in order to sound articulate, I drafted a 7-page, double-spaced set of answers, including a reading from the book.

Fortunately, they were going to prerecord the show, so any glitches could be edited out. Of course, a few days before the taping my DH gave me his cold. So I went, sniffling and with a scratchy throat, through about an inch of steadily falling snow, to the studio, armed with lozenges and my bottle of water.

The staff and the library coordinator immediately put me at ease. The interview went off without a hitch, and I used most of my material, including some statistics on the romance fiction market from ROMANCE WRITERS REPORT. (I wanted to stress the wide reach of romance.) In the course of doing this interview I learned a few things:

#1 Actors aren’t kidding when they say those studio lights are hot!

#2 My writing “fit my mouth” because the excerpt was remarkably easy to read.

#3 As long as I don’t have to do it live, I think I can do this.
What about you? How have you handled the interview jitters?