Dear Readers:

We appreciate the fact the current political environment is highly charged, but we want to keep Spacefreighters Lounge a stress-free place for everyone to visit and exchange ideas about SFR.

Therefore, we ask that you please refrain from making political references that may antagonize those with differing viewpoints. Thank you for your consideration.

Monday, December 31, 2012



A Brave New Year

The pending apocalypse now forgotten, 2012 was a very eventful year for the co-bloggers here at Spacefreighters Lounge as we ticked off several important boxes of our Mission Success goals list, taking a few giant leaps forward in our writing careers.

Looking back is always a tad bittersweet. We'll never again experience achieving those monumental firsts -- signing with an agent, releasing a debut novel, being named as a Golden Heart finalist -- but as amazing and career-changing as those big moments were, they're just one more step in the right direction. Just one more block in the foundation of our careers. We look forward to more big moments to come in the next year.

May 2013 bring you much success and take you far down the road toward reaching all your goals.

Happy New Year
From Spacefreighters Lounge

~~*~~


Sunday, December 30, 2012

SFR Holiday Blitz Winners

Announcing the winners of the 2012 SFR Holiday Blitz on Spacefreighters Lounge:

The winner of Prize Pack 1 is Carrie.

The winner of Prize Pack 2 is Bratty.

The winner of Prize Pack 3 is Vicky@aaronsbooks.

The winners should be hearing from the authors or organizer soon. 

Thanks to everyone who stopped by Spacefreighters Lounge to participate in the 2012 Holiday Blitz!


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Happy Holidays!

It's a December tradition! 

We're back with another SFR Holiday Blitz. This year we have three special e-book prize packs to make the holidays bright for three random commenters.
Prize Pack #1


Eva Caye Bundle
Dignity
Majesty

Even Villains Fall in Love - Liana Brooks

Girl Gone Nova - Pauline Baird Jones 

___________________________________________

Prize Pack #2

Angelia Sparrow’s The “Disunited States” bundle:
Glad Hands (m/m)
Nikolai (m/m, some bi)
Niko-Chan (m/m some bi)
A Dark Roasted Christmas (m/f)
My Dark Roasted Valentine (m/m)
Barista's Choice (m/m/m)
Like An Iron Fist (m/m/f ménage w/ romantic elements)
____________________________________________

Prize Pack #3

Ghost Planet - Sharon Lynn Fisher

Keir - Pippa Jay

Queenie’s Brigade – Heather Massey

____________________________________________

How to Enter

It's easy!

Leave a comment with the following information:

* Your preferred format—PDF, ePub, or .mobi (We’ll do our best to accommodate your first choice, but it’s possible the default format will be PDF.)

* Your email (e.g., maryloves_sfr “at” gmail.com)

Deadline to enter: 12 midnight PST on Friday, December 28, 2012

We'll notify the winners via email contact information and announce them in comments.

Be sure to visit these other blogs who are hosting The SFR Holiday Blitz:



Wishing You a Wonderful Holiday 
From Spacefreighters Lounge
~~*~~


Friday, December 21, 2012

SO MANY SONGS, SO LITTLE TIME



Granma got run over by the Mayan apocalypse,
Coming home from our house Christmas Eve . . .

Well, we’re halfway through December 21, 2012 and the world is still intact.  Yay, Earth!  Looks like we may have dodged another wonky doomsday prediction.  The Mayans have just gone the way of Jim Jones—turns out that old prophecy just meant today was the day to carve another calendar and make a new blood sacrifice after all!

I must admit to a quiet fascination with the End of the World.  Some tiny little part of me secretly wants to wipe it all out and start all over again (a fraction the sane, rational ruler of my brain keeps firmly under control, don’t worry!).  I’m not sure where that destructive impulse comes from.  It might be the question of whether I’d be able to survive the challenges of a disaster or a post-apocalyptic world.  (One of my favorite books as a child was Swiss Family Robinson.  I read the lists of things they took off the ship over and over and imagined what I might need to survive on a desert island.)  Or it might be a messianic zeal to heal the earth or build a new utopian society on the ashes of our current greedy, self-centered culture when I’m stuck in traffic.

But if you, like me, are feeling a little, well, let down by today’s humdrum lack of apocalyptic excitement, you can always turn to Hollywood for a vision of doomsday.  From the ridiculous to the sublime, these films will take you all the way to The End.

2012.  (2009)  Directed by Roland Emmerich and starring John Cusack, Thandi Newton, Amanda Peet  and a host of others, this blockbuster from a few years ago has the best special effects and the worst science of any of the doomsday films reviewed here.  Something about the Earth’s core, blah, blah, blah, I can’t remember.  But who cares when stuff gets destroyed with amazing abandon?  The best part of this movie was the tagline, used in theater previews:  “How would the governments of our planet prepare 6 billion people for the end of the world?  They wouldn’t.”  That’s been worrying me a lot as the “official denials” of the apocalypse have gone out this week.

THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW. (2004) Roland Emmerich directs (again!) Dennis Quaid and Jake Gyllenhaal in this epic of global warming/superstorm disaster movies.  In this case the science is better than 2012 and the effects are just as good, making for pleasure without the guilt.  The acting is even decent, with a young Jake Gyllenhaal getting the false bravery thing just right.  Dennis Quaid as his prickly scientist dad provides a cheer-able combination of maverick intelligence and gritty physical courage. Love this movie!

KNOWING. (2009)  Well, these are movies about the end of the world, aren’t they.  So—SPOILER ALERT!!—they can’t all end well.  This outing, directed by Alex Proyas and starring Nicholas Cage and Rose Byrne (of TV’s DAMAGES) is in a different category from our two previous films in that it’s all about figuring out the mystery hinted at in a series of numbers left in a time capsule buried in a schoolyard in 1959.  Nick Cage is a mathematician, and what he finds in this “code”, written by a little girl so long ago and unearthed at his son’s school, sends him on a quest for survival.  Dark and suspenseful, but ultimately futile.

THE ROAD. (2009)  What was it about 2009?  As a movie-going public we were obsessed with the End of the World, though the ticket sales on this particular film probably didn’t show it.  Like the novel by Cormac McCarthy on which it is based, this film, directed by John Hillcoat and starring Viggo Mortensen, Charlize Theron and Kodi Smit-McPhee, is relentlessly grim and dark.  It is set in a post-apocalyptic world, but I include it in this list because the world is actually in a process of slow death throughout the film.  We don’t know why, and we don’t know if the world, and the people in it, will ultimately survive or not.  Fun times!  Not even an extended shot of Viggo’s naked backside can save this film.  Watch it when you think life couldn’t possibly get worse for you.  You’ll change that outlook in a hurry!

THE LAST WAVE. (1977) Peter Weir (MASTER AND COMMANDER; THE TRUMAN SHOW) directed this little gem of a film starring Richard Chamberlain early on in his career. I think I might have seen it on television years ago and I’ve never forgotten it.  Like KNOWING,      the focus in this film is on a central mystery, gradually revealed as Chamberlain’s character, a lawyer in Sydney, Australia, prepares to defend a group of Aborigine men on a murder charge.  Meanwhile the rain is falling and a prophecy foretold in the dreamtime is about to be fulfilled . . .   I have recurring dreams of tidal waves; the final scene still plays in my head.
 Jingle bells,
What the hell,
No killer asteroid today?
No zombie fun?
Don't have to run
From the undead, I'm not prey!
Hey!

On the other hand, it is the holiday season.  If the rest of today goes well, you could fall back on tried and true favorites like IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE or MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET.  Or maybe a little disaster mixed with Christmas like CHRISTMAS VACATION or HOME ALONE.  Hollywood always has something for everyone!

I’ll be with family next Friday, so I won’t be blogging.  Here’s wishing everyone a Happy Holiday season and a Joyous New Year!  See you in 2013.

Cheers, Donna


A MORE SERIOUS NOTE

This irreverent look at the possibility of “apocalypse” is by no means meant to diminish the suffering of the victims of the very real disasters of Hurricane Sandy and the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  For those families and individuals, to an extent those of us on the outside cannot fathom, the world as they know it truly has ended.  We can only pray that they find the strength to rebuild and regain a sense of peace, security and love in a new world of their own making as the New Year dawns.



Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Pippa's Journal - The End of the World...or just 2012?


This will be my last journal here for 2012, regardless of whether the world really does end on the 21st or not - personally I expect to wake up on the 22nd still intact but I won't be blogging for the 26th - I'll be recovering from Christmas Day! With my own blog set up with posts until the 6th January, my submission for the SFR Brigade anthology undergoing a final polish, and kids and hubs home for two weeks over Christmas, my chances of writing are small. Frankly after two attempts at NaNoWriMo this year, I think muse deserves time-out, although Christmas Day last year was when she sprang on me with a shiny new sfr, the one day I really cannot be writing. I'm hoping not to have a repeat. O.O


Action!
Neither Pitchmas or Pitchwars gained a request for Tethered, but that's not a bad thing. Both contests were an unexpected bonus, and the Pitchmas workshop for my 35 word and Twitter pitches was a genuinely useful experience. I also had good feedback from my three selected mentors in Pitchwars, even though they were all rejections. For one thing, all three gave me the same reason and a totally expected one - Tethered is too damn short. The expected industry length for scifi is 70-80K, and Tethered is just 43. What I did learn is that 70K is judged the minimum length required for decent world-building. As someone who has been complimented several times on my skill at world-building (excuse the lack of modesty on that point!), I dispute that fact. But in an industry where snagging an agent, particularly one who's heart lies in speculative fiction in the first place, is already a demanding task, do I really want to make it harder for myself by pitching something I know is under the word count required?
As someone with a tendency - a preference even - to buck the trend, it's a tough decision that leaves me with a quandary. The plan for Tethered was to submit it to my top two choices of publishers in early 2013. My number one choice of mentor paid me the highest compliment she could - that she didn't feel she could do anything to help me because I didn't appear to need it. She also, out of the blue, suggested my MS as a good fit for one of the publishers I'd already decided to submit it too. That made it seem like Fate. But do I stick with Plan A and submission, or do I look at the possibility of extending Tethered and making it my novel to pitch? I couldn't decide, although I know one area where I could add to the story without breaking it - not an extra 30K worth though. So, Tethered is now with my fabulous editor Dani to see what her feelings are on expansion. And while I fret over her findings and whether I have a 70K scifi left in me that isn't part of the Keir series already drafted, I have plenty of other things to work on.

My submission for the SFR Brigade is undergoing a final polish today. I need to have that finished and in by the 21st when my kids break up for Christmas. Edits for Gethyon will be arriving in the New Year and Tethered will either be going out on submission or being expanded. The future of Keir's Fall remains undecided. My two NaNoWriMo projects - dark superhero romance When Dark Falls and gritty space opera The Overlord's Consort - are projects for completion in 2013, and I'm hoping to finish and self-publish another short story after the good reception for Terms & Conditions Apply. And who knows what else muse might throw at me. I've also started plans for another SFR Brigade Blog Hop later in the year. The suggestion was for an Out Of This World theme, perhaps to boost the Brigade's anthology, and taking place over several days this time. Thoughts?

I'll also be doing a makeover of my blog and Facebook page, streamlining my social media platforms, and hopefully getting my website up and running. Here's a sample page of the site so far.



So what are your plans for 2013? Or do you think there's no point planning until after the 21st? :P

Happenings
The Mistletoe Madness Blog Hop is on! I want to know your favourite Christmas film to get into the spirit for your chance at a $5 gift card here, and a Kindle Fire with books. From the 21st until the end of the year, Lyrical Press Inc. has a Doomsday sale - 75% off all titles -including Keir for just $1.25. Then it's Carrie-Ann Ryan's New Year Blog Hop on the 1st January. On the 31st I'll be taking a quick look back over the past year and noting some of the landmarks. Wow, but it was a cracking year!

Six Sentence Sunday is ending! For those of you who may have missed the announcements, the last Six Sentence Sunday posting will take place on the 27th January. I owe a huge debt to the site, in terms of boosting my confidence, compelling me to blog on a more regular basis, meeting a host of new authors, genres, writing styles and techniques, but also for introducing me to Laurie A. Green. But for that, I might never have discovered the SFR Brigade and the existence of the genre, nor met so many talented and fabulous people. I'm sorry to see it go.

Discoveries
Last week I posted an article to the SFR  Brigade group about the use of male pseudonyms in order to market scifi titles - check out the full details here. I already use a pen name but since it's a derivative of my real name I still feel it's 'me'. The idea of taking a completely false name, or a male or gender neutral one - even if it sold more books - feels completely wrong for me - and that's not a judgement on anyone who does it, just the reason I wouldn't do it myself. What are your thoughts?

On a purely selfish note, I discovered I have a page with my new publisher Champagne Books, and Gethyon is already up there with the blurb. I'm so excited! You can check it out here.

Ping Pong
Laurie, your post on not knowing what to blog about certainly struck a cord. As authors, we're encouraged to be active on social media - I've even noticed more small press publishers now making an active internet presence part of the submission requirements - but deciding what to blog about, or even coming up with ideas can be a struggle. A lot of social media gurus say you should be consistent, both in schedules, themes and content. Perhaps it's part of being a panstser, but I'm much more in favour of sponteneity - it's more natural, and you can't always plan for events in the news or new announcements of your own. But sometimes even the well of creativity for a short post runs dry!

Donna, what an inspiration Vey is! But I think it's also a wonderful example of the power of books and how the reading and writing of them can do wonderful things.

Merry Christmas and a Happy Successful New Year to my fellow co-bloggers on Spacefreighters Lounge, and to you all!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Song of Scarabaeus: Peer Review

After many years of passing by my copy of Song of Scarabaeus for other books, I finally settled down to give it a read.

It's not that I wasn't curious. First of all, author Sara Creasy landed Kristen Nelson as an agent, and that isn't an easy feat. So I figured the story had to have a lot going for it.

I can't blame the cover for my procrastination either. The art wasn't a turn off, though it was a bit dark and doomsy for my taste.

I think what failed to shout YOU HAVE TO READ ME NOW was the title. After reading the book, I now understand why the title was fitting, but it didn't carry any meaning until I got into the story instead of pulling me in to flip the first few pages like a great title can. The author's use of "song" in the story is creative and almost poetic. I'd never thought of technology in those terms.

And once I finally did start turning pages, I didn't stop.

I found Song of Scarabaeus well-crafted, imaginative and techie enough to satisfy many purist (and male) SF buffs.  The world building was rich, layered and appropriately dark, with the biology, politics and counter-culture elements realistic, with a well-rounded cast of characters. The vocabulary was particularly cutting-edge, and some of the descriptions were pure genius. For me, the Science Fiction really ticked all the boxes.

But I'm not sure this novel could be labeled SFR. Perhaps SF with romantic elements. Or romantic hints. Or something. Because the romance was practically non-existant. The characters did share a strong bond, they cared for each other, and they occasionally had some real moments of heat between them, but the closest thing to a romantic interlude in the first 150 pages quickly got shut down by the heroine. For me, that seemed to leave the story a bit lacking, because I did want the H/H to get together and it seemed they could have shared a pretty spectacular love affair. All the elements were in place, but it short-circuited somewhere along the way.

That said, if you're not a diehard Must Have Romance sort, Song of Scarabaeus is a great story that will tantalize your imagination to an innovative and sometimes cruel future. Firefly meets Blade Runner comes to mind. There are equal parts intrigue and heart-pounding adventure and characters you love to root for as well as characters you love to hate.

Well worth the read and one of the better SFs (without much R) I've read this year. I'll definitely pick up a copy of the sequel, Children of Scarabaeus.

_________________________

MISSION SUCCESS

I'm so happy to announce I'm on the verge of launching my new web site. This has been in the works since August, and with much tweaking and brainstorming, I think site developer Bemis Promotions and I have collaborated on a striking design. I hope to soon announce it's gone live here on Spacefreighters...and, well, everywhere!

Many, many, many, MANY congrats to peer Laurel Wanrow on landing an agent. This marks the third SFR Brigader in six months to find representation. Exciting times for Science Fiction Romance indeed! It's not an easy feat to find an agent, and I hope Laurel might pop in to Spacefreighters and tell us a little more about her 'agent hunt' story in comments. Laurel, the Billins is on us!

I, of course, am so excited about our own co-blogger Donna recently finding representation. We co-bloggers are now two published authors and two agented pre-published authors--this Mission Success thing has really worked well for us! Behold the power of positive thought. :D

Here's wishing everyone a fabulous week of holiday parties and preparations, and that the world doesn't end on Friday (as prophecized for thousands of years, by many cultures and prophets, all over the globe). When the day comes maybe we'll all hear a tiny little Roseanne Rosannadanna voice in our head saying, "Never mind." Bet the bars will be jumping for Happy Hour on Friday night!  

*Walks off humming It's the End of the World As We Know It*

Friday, December 14, 2012

VEY GOES "BEYOND" TO CONNECT AUTHORS AND READERS



Barbara Vey (right) and author Cathy Maxwell
Not too many years ago Barbara Vey was afraid to step outside her own door.  She was depressed and suffered from agoraphobia, a fear of public places.  Her only escape from the demons that haunted her was in the romance novels she read by the dozens.  Until one day, Barbara says, “romance saved my life.”

In the back of one of her books was an ad for an upcoming “cruise with the authors”.  Barbara had often written or emailed her favorite authors.  Now, she realized, they would have nowhere to go if she wanted to talk to them at length about the stories and characters she loved so much.  They’d all be on a boat in the middle of the ocean!  It was fate—she had to go. 
 
That bolt of lightning changed Barbara Vey’s life and gave us the talented and vivacious writer of Publisher’s Weekly’s Beyond Her Book blog.  Barbara was the guest speaker at the Virginia Romance Writers meeting December 8, during which she spoke to both her background and the subject of Building Reader Loyalty.

Onboard that fateful cruise, Barbara quickly came out of her shell, trouncing all comers in the trivia contests and making connections among both authors and other fans.  This, after all, was her community, a family of people who all shared the same love of reading and romance.  She was having lunch one day with paranormal romance author Marjorie Liu, when an executive from Publisher’s Weekly stopped by the table.  Thinking she was a publisher, Barbara shared what she thought was wrong with publishing from a reader’s perspective.  Rather than being offended, the exec offered her a job.

Today, Barbara’s blog attracts thousands of readers (a figure of 24,000-plus/day was mentioned in connection with the annual anniversary blog week), many of whom are those very authors she admires so much.  She still blogs today as she always has—from a reader’s perspective.  Her advice to authors is simple, straightforward and down-to-earth, as you might expect from someone who lives and works in South Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Much of her advice we’ve heard before, having to do with forming a connection with your readers.  Barbara is a big fan of social media, with an active presence on Facebook, Twitter, a website and the blog.  Like others before her, she recommends forming that connection before you publish, by being active as a commenter on blogs you like, blogging yourself, and making sure you have your own website and other social networking accounts.  Barbara tempered this advice with a caution:  do not use social networking simply as a sales tool.  If the only thing you ever say is “buy my book” or “I just won this contest”, people will begin to avoid you.

We’ve also heard references to author “branding” before, but Barbara distilled her advice down to one very simple precept:  keep your promises to your readers.  If they’ve come to expect an exciting story from you in the past, with lots of adventure and lusty romance, make sure you give it to them again next time.  The setting might be different, the characters and the plot should be different, but the essence of who you are as a writer shouldn’t change.  Many a writer has survived changing sub-genres because they manage to keep that promise to their readers no matter what kind of story they’re telling.

From my experience, determining what it is that you can promise every time, no matter what kind of story you’re writing, is not easy.  Maybe that’s where your critique partner comes in, especially one of long standing.  What is it that she expects of you, no matter what?  Does he know when you haven’t delivered?  

That core of who you are as a writer is the essence of your “brand” and your promise to your readers.  If you keep your promise, you build loyalty, which carries over, no matter what kind of book you write.

Finally, one of Barbara’s points had me thinking for quite some time, wondering whether it may be something we’re missing in SFR.  She surveyed her blog readers once and found that one of the statements they agreed most with was:  I want to read a series in which the characters feel like members of my family.

Huh.

Now this shouldn’t be a foreign concept for us.  After all, our screen counterparts do feel like members of our family—the crews of the Enterprise, the Serenity, or the Galactica, the teams of FRINGE or DOCTOR WHO and so on.  A few of our iconic novels feature families (Bujold’s Vorkosigan series, Linnea Sinclair’s Dock Five series, Susan Grant’s early novels) to whom we get rather attached.  But are we encouraged to take these folks in, to make them our own?

Leaving aside the whole issue of whether our own problematic real-life families should be replaced by idealized fictional ones (there was a time in my youth when that would have been very appealing), it seems to me most SFR features very independent heroes and heroines.  They’re alone, far from home and the comforts of friends and family.  Many of them are orphans or outcasts.  They can barely be persuaded to fall in love with each other, much less reach out to anyone else.
 
This makes them very prickly protagonists. Fine, as far as it goes, but not so good if we’re hoping to attract a wider audience.  Contrast them, for example, with the typical historical or contemporary heroine, surrounded by friends and family as she stalks what may often be a grumpy hero.  He is always tamed and drawn into the warm circle. (Or vice versa.  It does happen sometimes.)  Only in romantic suspense would you have the loners we have in SFR, due to their tragic or mysterious circumstances.  But by the end of the novel, the lovers resolve their external conflict and find their way back to some kind of community welcome.  Our heroes and heroines most often fly off into the infinite stars--together, but often alone.

What do y’all say?  Am I reading the wrong SFR?  Or is this even a point we need to worry about?

In the meantime, thanks to Barbara Vey for joining us at VRW last week and for giving us all lots to think about.  (Thanks, too, Barbara, for allowing me to use the photo which I shamelessly stole from your blog.  Can we consider this an extension of the Tweet this Post rules?)   

Check out Barbara’s blog at blogs.publishersweekly.com/blogs/beyondherbook. 

Attention All Published Authors

The Virginia Romance Writers Chapter of the Romance Writers of America® is pleased to announce the 18th Annual HOLT Medallion Competition for the best romantic fiction of 2012. Entries will be received now through January 31, 2013.  For the first time this year, self-published works will also be considered. 

Works published in 2012 will compete in the following categories: Historical; Mainstream/Single Title Contemporary; Long Contemporary; Short Contemporary; Paranormal/Time Travel/Futuristic/Fantasy; Romantic Suspense; Extra Spicy/Erotic; Long Inspirational; Short Inspirational; Novel with Strong Romantic Elements; Romance Novella.  Bonus categories (must enter in other categories to be considered): Best First Book and Best First Book by a Virginia Author.   

For further details click here www.virginiaromancewriters.com

Cheers, Donna


Thursday, December 13, 2012

8 Days to the Apocalypse...and I Have Nothing To Say?

You'd think the season, the goings-on in writerdom, and the pending end-of-the-world-disaster scenario would give a writer plenty to write about. Alas. I claim to never get writer's block, but now I realize that isn't entirely true. When it comes to blogging, I sometimes have absolute writer's freeze.

Like...oh, the last three weeks, for instance.

So kind of like the Jerry Seinfeld show that was "about nothing" this post is about non-blogging. What do you do when you wrack your brain for hours and just can't come up with a topic to expound on?

Well, maybe you write about that.

So...I'm writing about having nothing to write about.

It can be so frustrating! And that goes double for writers. I mean...writing is what we do!

When you have problems with any other sort of writerly affliction, like how to plan character arcs, or eliminate passive verbage, or improve plot development, there are a lot of places you can go to get help and advice. Fortunately, when I started hunting I discovered the same goes for Blogging Dysfunction (BD).

For most writers, I think BD is really TBD. Temporary Blogging Dysfunction. Find a little bit of inspiration and the creativity engines kick in. Maybe it's not so much a matter of What, but just of finding the right Who, Where, or Why to write about.

When I started researching TBD, it turned out that it's a pretty common malady for writers. We can write a 100,000+ word novels, but dashing off a short, self-contained article gets us completely buffaloed.

There's an app for that. Okay, there's not an app (not that I know of -- please let me know if I'm wrong, maybe there is an app for that), but there are a lot of websites for that.  Here's the short list:

Keep It Fresh: Where to Find Ideas for Blog Posts

25 Blog Ideas That Will Rock Your Readers World

20 Ideas For Writing a Blog Post

6 Places To Find Ideas for Blog Posts

Where to Snag Creative Ideas for Blog Posts

10 Blog Post Ideas You Can Use Right Now

The Only Blog Post Idea List You'll Ever Need


Most of the above links can point you in the right direction to find inspiration.

If you still need help, you might consider taking a class on blogging. Such as:

Gotham Writers Workshop: How To Blog

Or buy an instructional video or DVD:

How To Blog for Authors/Writers

(The above are just examples, not endorsements. Use a search engine to find the best match for what you need as a blogger.)

But don't stop there.

Once you find your inspiration and have that great blog written, you need to take steps to promote it. You can be a more effective blogger by learning how to use some of the social media bells and whistles. Here are a few tips on how to get more "reach" once you've written your masterblog:

5 Tips to Make Your Blog Posts Immediately More Social

This covers ideas like embedding Twitter tweets and Facebook comment boxes right into your blog, and providing instant Tweet content for readers to share just by clicking a link. This will help focus more attention on that blog across social media that you've brainstormed and perfected.

So, now it's your turn. Do you ever struggle with writing blogs? Do you have your own tricks and tips for coming up with blog ideas? Do you have a favorite site or application for inspiring blog ideas? Let's hear 'em!


Friday, December 7, 2012

THE LADIES OF THE CLUB



Writers crave feedback.  We’re like junkies, living for that reaction from the reader.  We work hard to elicit that gasp of surprise, that laugh, that tear, that bond with the characters.  We want to know our words have the power to move our readers.

So we seek out first critique partners and beta readers, then contest judges, and finally reviewers.  Not because we’re uncertain of our talents, though that may sometimes be true, but because we want to know:  did we get through?  Did we speak to you?  Did you hear?

It is so wonderfully gratifying to hear a resounding “YES!” coming back from an audience of like-minded readers, be they your critique partners or the Golden Heart judges or the SFR community that has embraced our new authors Pippa and Sharon.  But it is even better when that affirmation comes from a community of readers new to genre fiction in general.

I recently had the opportunity to share my Golden Heart®-nominated manuscript Unchained Memory with members of the Cultural Expressions book club of greater Richmond, Virginia.  The club, consisting of fifteen African-American professional women of a wide range of ages, has been reading and discussing books together for at least ten years.  My critique partner, Linda Thomas, is a member and made it possible for me, my book and the club to come together at the December gathering.  (Thank you, Linda!)

Unchained Memory is not like the usual book club selection for Cultural Expressions.  From what Linda and the members of the group told me, they tend toward weightier fare—historical nonfiction about slavery or African-Americans; African-American authors like Toni Morrison; biographies, such as a recent selection about Dietrich Bonhofer.  They did read Linda’s excellent self-published historical romance set in the Civil War, told from the point of view of an escaped slave.  In general, however, they tend not to read romances, even for their own pleasure (only one reader admitted to it when I asked).  And no one reads science fiction (although two did admit to being STAR TREK fans as kids).

SHOOT ME NOW!  SHOOT ME NOW!
So as I approached my afternoon with the book club I felt a little like Daffy Duck in those “Hunting Season” cartoons with Bugs Bunny.  You know the ones—where he and Bugs argue and he ends up saying, “Shoot me now!”  He spends the rest of the cartoon trying to sort out where he went wrong in the argument, only to end up in the same place—like, fifteen times.  In the end, he simply paints a target on himself, turns to the gun and says, “Shoot me now, shoot me now!”

But though I was nervous about my debut before the ladies of the club, in the end what I discovered was what every writer hopes to find.  I had made a connection, however unlikely, with this group of readers.  Ten of the fifteen women of the club were at the get-together, and they had all finished the book.  They had all connected with my characters and wanted to know what happened next to Ethan and Asia.  They got involved with the mystery and the romance.  They booed my villains and cheered my hero and heroine.  They even felt they knew my secondary characters. 

The internal conflict at the heart of the book was of special interest to several members of the group who work as Licensed Clinical Social Workers and in other mental health professions.   Ethan, my hero, is a psychiatrist who falls in love with his patient, a strict taboo in the profession.  One member, in particular, had problems with this at first and said she might not have picked up the book in the first place because of it.  But she kept reading (because it was a book club selection) and eventually liked Ethan so much she forgave him.  Besides, she said, this is not real life.

True.  It’s romance, where the internal conflict is often built around a societal taboo—the lord of the manor falls for the governess even though he’s still married to his crazy wife, for example.  Love is supposed to conquer that internal conflict.  The ladies of the club seemed to think I’d handled the conflict well enough by making Ethan and Asia agonize over the question, so they let me get away with it.  I got extra points for writing realistic therapy sessions and for making Asia a LCSW at the end!

The heat level of the novel was another major point of discussion.  Only a couple of the ladies were willing to say they appreciated the graphic nature of the love scenes in the novel.  Most said it was too much for them.  But they did understand when I explained that the paranormal romance market expected graphic sex to be part of the mix and that I hoped to capture some of that readership.  Then, too, if a specific editor says it’s too much and wants things changed, it’s a simple matter to tone down a scene.

And what of the science fiction?  Was the group turned off by the references to little gray men?  Only one reader said she skipped the sections set on another planet. The structure in Unchained Memory is such that she could do that with little loss of continuity, but that reader probably wouldn’t enjoy my second or third books, where the SF is more integral. The others were intrigued—some wanted more.  I was asked for recommendations for more science fiction romance.  (First on the list—Ghost Planet and Keir!) My little SFR-loving heart leapt for joy!

This group was not at all put off by the emotional beginning to the novel, in which Asia's children die in a fire.  They saw it as essential to the book.  And no one mentioned the fact that the book is written in first person for Asia's POV, third person for Ethan's.  Guess that didn't bother them, either.

In the end, it appeared I didn’t need to wear that target on my chest.  I guess it wasn’t duck (or author) season after all!  On the contrary, even though the ladies of the club would not appear to be my “core” audience, I had spoken to them.  They had heard me.  And with what I heard back from them, I’ll write with more confidence in the future.
Cheers, Donna