Monday, June 30, 2008

Build a Bible

by Helen Woodall

Yes, I know you have done your research – spent hours delving into facts about the heroine’s career, the location where she lives, where she shops, etc. etc. But the devil is in the details, as the old cliché goes. Did you write it all down?

What about those minor characters? If the heroine has green eyes and so do three of her friends, is this an important plot point or are you just stuck in a rut on eye color? And that friend with green eyes? Why does she have blue-green eyes in chapter four and gray-green eyes in chapter fourteen?

Have you made a bible for this book? Or even a simple spreadsheet? Or did you think you would remember all these things? After all, these folk have been in your head and clamoring to be heard for months now. Still, to keep a grip on the tiny details that make a book look good (and to avoid driving your editor to chocolate), a bible for contemporary stories is nearly as important as it is for books where you are creating a new world. Especially if you have thoughts of writing a sequel.

Continuity, consistency. You described the clothing your heroine was wearing at work. She is attacked by the villain and runs away – in stilettos? Are you sure? It is a good idea to list character clothing and other details by scene (has she got a purse? laptop? briefcase?) so you can refer back and check each scene carefully. Once again, watch out for the minor characters. You know the hero drives a sleek red sports car but what about his friend Pete the plumber? He probably drives a truck. Why was it a blue pickup in chapter six and suddenly it’s a white SUV in chapter twenty-five?

Another point to watch is meals. Yes, I know your heroine absolutely adores Chinese food but she ate it in chapter four. And in chapter six. And in chapter twelve. Hmmm, are we seeing a plot point here or is she in urgent need of some nutritional advice?

When describing a town, be sure to make yourself a map. If the heroine drives north from work to visit Grandma in chapter ten she needs to do the same in chapter nineteen. And if it took twenty minutes the first time and thirty the second there needs to be a good reason for this. Again, note it in your bible.

List the names of even the minor characters. You may have four friends named Leah, but if there is more than one Leah character in your book it will drive the readers crazy working out which is which. And while we are talking about names, please check their meanings too. It is really hard to like a heroine whose name means something nasty in another language.

So check all those details, and then write them down. And be sure to give a copy of your story or series bible to your editor, so she can double-check things.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

'E' in Publishing News

That's 'E' for Erotic and 'E' for E-books.

Publishers Weekly article on "The New E- in Erotica"

The popularity of erotic romance/erotica is hardly "new", but the article is definitely worth reading. We're quite happy that Ellora's Cave gets several mentions, including: "The be-all and end-all of online erotica, says Peters, is Ellora'sCave."

And an article in the Washington Post on projected Amazon sales of e-books:
"Amazon E-Book Sales to Hit $2.5 Billion in 2012"

Monday, June 23, 2008

Picking a Pen Name & CONTEST

by Raelene Gorlinsky

Many fiction authors use pen names. This is especially true of authors of romance and erotic romance. It's a way to protect your privacy and safety, and to separate your personal and business lives. Most authors have "day jobs", and their employer or clients perhaps may not be thrilled with whatever genre the author writes. So having a pen name is often advised.

Authors who write in multiple genres may choose to use separate names for each, to clue their readers about what type of book they are picking up. They don't necessarily hide their multiple identities, they do want fans to try them in any genre, but they don't want to confuse readers. Nora Roberts in romance is J.D. Robb for her futuristic suspense In Death series. Jayne Ann Krentz writes contemporary romances, but her alter ego Amanda Quick writes historicals and Jayne Castle writes futuristics. Of course, some authors do feel that their readers will object if they found out about their books in another genre, and this could affect their sales. For example, an author who writes both middle-grade YA fiction and erotic romance does not want to mix those audiences, or deal with outraged parents.

Some readers of certain genres may have a bias toward writers of one gender or another. Romance readers worry that a man might not be able to write the emotions and heroines they want to read, so are less likely to buy a romance novel with a male name on the cover. There was an attitude among science fiction readers that women could not write this genre. (Now that so many women read scifi, that anti-female bias is less common.) So an author of the "wrong" sex may choose a pen name that could be either gender, or use initials.

But take time and care in picking your pen name! Be sure you like it and that it represents the image you want. Once you are published and start to develop a fan base within a genre, readers will lose track of you if you decide to change names. Even if you publicize the change, some readers won't get the news.

Make absolutely sure that readers will be able to remember, pronounce, and spell your name! Repeat after me: remember, pronounce, spell. That sounds simple, but a lot of writers screw it up by picking elaborate or oddly spelled or supposedly "meaningful" pen names, in an effort to be unique. Well, that name is not meaningful to readers if they can't find your website or look you up on Amazon because they don't remember your name or aren't spelling it right. And they won't discuss you or recommend you to others if they are afraid of embarassing themselves by mispronouncing your name.

Readers turn against authors if they feel they've been misled by the author's name.

~ No, do not use the pen name Norah Roberts or John Grishan. Yes, readers will be very angry when they are tricked into buying your book thinking it was written by you-know-who.

~ Do not use a pen name to falsify an ethnic background. Even if you set your stories in another country or culture, if you are white-bread American do not misguide readers by taking an ethnic-sounding name. They will find out who you really are, will be angry at being misled, will feel you are insulting that ethnic group, and will question the validity of your books.

~ Cut it out with the cutesy! Don't call yourself Suzette Sexpot if you write erotic romance. It will not sell more books for you, it will just make readers think you are ridiculous and that perhaps you are actually sneering at the genre.

Okay, contest time! Come up with your ideas for the wrong pen name for an author of a specific genre. Post the name and genre in comments on this blog by June 30 (a week from now). [For example: Suzette Sexpot - erotic romance] Our editors will select the most creative and entertaining ones. Prizes will be copies of the EC/Pocket print anthologies. (Note: If your shipping address is not in the U.S., prize is an ebook download from our EC or CP site.)

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Power of Words

by Raelene Gorlinsky

I am passionate about the power of words. Words not only educate and inform, they powerfully influence beliefs, emotions, actions. Words can change the world by changing how we see the world. I collect quotes, and among my favorites are:

All words are pegs to hang ideas on. ~ Henry Ward Beecher
Handle them carefully, for words have more power than atom bombs. ~ Pearl Strachan
Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. ~ Elie Wiesel

The words we write and speak are indeed the way we define and promote ideas and opinions. Analyze the underlying meaning and the “ulterior motives” of words to determine the stand and beliefs of the author of those words. The most famous and moving speeches are just as powerful when read on paper—because the incredible word phrases do not need the “live presentation”, they influence us just as much when merely ink on paper.

First-generation feminists (did you know we're now said to be in the third generation of the feminist movement?) objected loudly to the generic use of he/him and words like "mankind". Why? Many people claimed the feminists were going overboard in attaching such significance to common, well-understood terms - after all, everyone knew that "mankind" meant all humans of either gender, homo sapiens sapiens. Ah, but - that word subtly and subconsciously does have the power to make 'man' the male more important and primary than the other, non-male half of humankind. Same thing with the continual use of 'he' to represent any generic person.

Yes, it's clunky to always write "he or she", "her or him", "humankind". (And let's not get into the efforts of some to create new words, like 'shim'.) But there are lots of resources available to help you craft non-gender-specific language. I recommend reading Gender Exclusive Language, from Empire State College:

If you are referring to a generic person or group of people, or a role or position that could be either gender (that includes everything except sperm donors and birth-givers), then don't influence your reader toward a specific gender. Remember the power of your words and use that power wisely. Be careful what ideas you let hang from the pegs of your words.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Goodbye, Tasha

by Raelene Gorlinsky

Tasha Tudor died yesterday at the age of 92. A remarkable children's book author, she was the recipient of two Caldecott Honors awards. Her first book was 1938's Pumpkin Moonshine, her last one was Corgiville Christmas in 2003 - I believe she had close to 100 books published. But what I enjoyed most were her Corgiville stories, about an animal village with lots of corgis. Many of her other books also included corgis in the illustrations. Can you tell I am the devoted owner of three wonderful Pembroke Welsh Corgis?

I remember when Dr. Seuss died, when Jim Henson died, when... Sigh, all those great producers of fantasy and fairy tales for young children. I'll miss your stories, Tasha.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Future Readers

From The Bookseller

At a bookseller conference last week, statistics from a new consumer study into reading and buying habits were announced. These are based on only a small sample - 1000 adults. There were some interesting portents for the future, based on the responses of those in the 18-24 years-old range:

~ Only 56% of 18-24s think people will still be using bookshops in 20 years' time.
~ 28% were favourable towards the idea of e-readers, compared to 9% of 65+ year olds.
~ 40% liked the idea of downloadable chapters of books, compared to 7% of 65+ year olds.

Writing in the Present

By Raelene Gorlinsky

Remember when first person POV was unusual in romance fiction? Then chick lit came along and made first person more common and popular. There are still some readers who don’t care for it, but most of us are used to it and even like it.

Now I’m starting to see a new “style” of voice for romance stories – present tense, either first or third person. Wow, this is different and can be a lot harder to connect with while reading. Here at ECPI, we have an anthology story coming this month that is written in first person present. Sample:

“I stroll down the well-worn path from my cottage to the lake, trying not to break into a run. My pulse races for no real reason except for the hope that rises within me. The tall grasses brush against my bare legs, reminding me of his fingers trailing along my skin.”

Another upcoming book originally had the prologue and epilogue in third person present. The rest of the book, the main story, was ‘normal’ third person past tense; the different style at the beginning and end was a way to bracket a shift in perspective and time. After much discussion by two editors and the author, we’ve decided to change those sections to first person past, in order to make it more accessible for the reader. It was:

“She pads forward and turns on the desk lamp. The room is a modest box too small for its simple furnishings. Books sprawl everywhere, some open, most in untidy stacks. She fingers their spines.
Her head lifts as the door opens and he steps inside.”

That has now been changed to:
“I padded forward and turned on the desk lamp. The room was a modest box too small for its simple furnishings. Books sprawled everywhere, some open, most in untidy stacks. I fingered their spines.
My head lifted as the door opened and he stepped inside.”

I must admit that as a reader I’m having a difficult time coping with the present tense. I think the theory is that having things happening "right now" will draw the reader into the story, make her feel part of it. For me, it has the opposite effect – it distances me from the character and the action, makes me feel I’m intruding on someone else’s life. But maybe I’ll get used to it if I start seeing more stories written this way. And I do appreciate variety in writer styles and voices, something different to read.

So what do you think? Would you enjoy reading stories written in present tense? Does it matter if it is first or third person? Could you write a story this way?

Monday, June 16, 2008


by Raelene Gorlinsky

Next month I'm doing a presentation at an RWA chapter about e-publishing, including some of the "myths" that abound amongst writers. Things like "you can't make any money with ebooks" and "a book accepted by an e-publisher wasn't good enough for NY publishers" -- both very untrue. But of course, I'm in the publisher world, I don't know what things authors and aspiring authors commonly hear about e-publishing. So help me out here - post some of the supposed wisdom or "facts" you hear about the e-book world. I'll incorporate them into my presentation, and respond to them on this blog.

Thanks for your help.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Our Favorite Paranormal Romances

Favorite Paranormal Romances

1. Arcane Society series by Amanda Quick/Jayne Ann Krentz
2. Bitten by Kelley Armstrong
3. Dark Hunters series by Sherrilyn Kenyon
4. Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris
5. Eternity by Maggie Shayne
6. Fever series by Karen Marie Moning
7. Forbidden Magic by Cheyenne McCray
8. Gatekeeper by Debra Glass
9. Goddess by Mistake by P.C. Cast
10. Haunting Rachel by Kay Hooper
11. Jane-Emily by Patricia Clapp
12. Now You See Her by Linda Howard
13. Supernatural Bonds series by Jory Strong

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Copy Editing and Style Guides

There's a good article by a copy editor on an author's blog:
Inside the Twisted Mind of a Copy Editor
By: Marie Force
June 10, 2008

Sounds like she mainly copy edits periodicals, so her perspective is slightly different that the copy editor for novels. But most of what she has to say is applicable and interesting. Good stuff for authors to be aware of.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Our Favorite Contemporary Romances

Boy, trying to limit any of these "favorite books" lists to just 13 is impossible. But more so with contemporaries, since so much of the romance genre falls into that category and so many of the "big names" write there.
Favorite Contemporary Romances

1. Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie
2. BitterSweet by LaVyrle Spencer
3. Breathing Room Susan Elizabeth Phillips
4. Carolina Moon by Nora Roberts
5. Crazy books (Crazy Sweet, Crazy Kisses, etc.) by Tara Janzen
6. East of Easy by Linda Bleser
7. Mackenzie stories by Linda Howard
8. Men in Kilts by Katie MacAlister
9. Midnight Angel by Lisa Marie Rice
10. Mr. Perfect by Linda Howard
11. Open Season by Linda Howard
12. Tell Me Lies by Jennifer Crusie
13. Trust Me by Jayne Ann Krentz