Romance and our Middle Grade

I’ve been dipping into other pools lately, and even though I still have no focused direction, I have lots of questions about what kids are reading now a days.

  1. who reads middle grade?
  2. who reads YA?
  3. What do kids want in a story?
  4. What makes a story compelling?

So, One at a time because I like how these questions have answers that also lead me into a deeper understanding of if this is something I want to do. Who would I be writing for? What is my target audience?

1. Who reads Middle Grade?  Word on the street is that 8-13 year olds are reading middle grade. That’s the standard, so to speak. And I imagine they are!! But I also remember reading a lot as a kid. When I pick up a MG book and it is about an 1/8 – 1/4 of an inch thick, I stop imagining it. Avid readers, at this age, are well beyond this story… A 5th grader is 10 or 11, and even my own kids had started in on Harry Potter by then. Okay…

2. Who reads YA?  This one is also broad, because we all know the twenty-something who loves YA. But technically, YAers are 14 – 20[ish]. I think the appeal of YA holds the readers into adulthood. [just an opinion, of course…maybe I need to do a poll!] I’ve never quite gotten into YA, so no matter what I discover about this genre, I can’t imagine writing it. However, is there an overlapping spot between MG and YA that I could squeeze a book into?

Overall, I feel like both of the labels are skewed and depend too much on the markets and namecallers to be valid. What do I mean by that? I mean people–kids, teens, young adults, and adults–are never going to be pigeonholed. So, what do we do? We balance between writing what we want to read and writing for the market. Selling the book is important if we want people to read it. And publishers want to know WHO is going to buy your book!!

3. What do kids want in a story?  This one is tricky. I know what I want in a story. I know what I wanted when I was in 3rd grade and reading trixie belden mysteries, when I was in 6th grade and reading Agatha Christie…and in 10th grade and reading Michael Phillips. Part of me hopes that kids still want a riveting story, characters who bring depth, and emotions that jump out from the page and make us feel. And something fun. I found a blog post answering the question “Can my middle grade book have politics?” Besides the fact that the answer is YES, I would question, why? I’m bored already and I haven’t even read the book. The matter of a book should be so ingrained in it, we don’t see it until we’re done and we step back and go…wow. For me this is where Christian Fiction goes wrong. There are a few good Christian fiction authors who can put a story on the page without slapping me with the dos and don’ts. [hey, Beth…you’re rambling now!] Ooops.

4. What makes a story compelling?  Nothing like asking a question that has a million answers!!! However, I’m going to wrap it up in one word, CONFLICT. Emotional, moral, relationship, external…no matter what you choose to highlight, there better be the idea that something better or worse is out there, waiting to ruin everything.

 

About Beth Rhodes

Beth jumps into life with both feet...or head first. Impulsive and spontaneous to a T, she joined Passionate Critters and never looked back. She loves writing and reading, which made this wonderful group of woman a perfect match for her.

Best Ever Sci-fi Romance Tropes

Best Ever Sci-fi Romance Tropes

Uncontrollable, book three in my Beyond Human series releases this month. The series is a mixture of contemporary sci-fi and romance and contains some of my favorite sci-fi tropes. I won’t go into details as it might give away the story, but here are a few of the sci-fi tropes I love…that may or may not appear in my Beyond Human series.

  1. Time travel. My favorite TV program growing up was Doctor Who. I wanted to be the Doctor’s assistant (actually, I wanted to be the Doctor, but I was trying to keep my dreams attainable). I’ve been obsessed with time travel ever since. And there are so many ways to travel through time, whether it’s by a time machine, like the Doctor, or a genetic mutation as in The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. Or through some sort of mystic tear in the fabric of time as in Outlander by Diana Gabalden or Karen Marie Moning’s Highlander series. And my particular favorite—wormholes in space.
  2. The idea of telepathy fascinates me. How the human race would be different if we couldn’t hide our motivations, our thoughts, our nefarious plotting and planning. What if there was no need for torture, if the secrets of the mind could be found as easily as looking into someone’s eyes…? Some of my recent telepathy favorites are the TV series, Sense8, which follows a group of eight people from around the world who are all linked telepathically, and In Your Eyes, a film by Joss Whedon, where two seemingly unconnected people form a telepathic bond which allows them to share each other’s experiences.
  3. Space pirates. So if Doctor Who was my favourite TV program growing up, then Firefly is my favourite as an adult. Firefly was my inspiration for my Dark Desires series. I love the idea of a close knit crew having to do some shady things just to survive. I wrote Break Out, book 1, after watching Firefly for the first time. I wanted to write a space opera with space pirates and…vampires (My editor refers to the book as vamps in space)
  4. Genetic Modification. Scary and probably happening right now. Genetically modified heroes pop up in sci-fi romance all the time. I’ve even written a few. It’s an excellent way to get a larger than life, super hero and still be believable. A great example is Christine Feehan’s Ghostwalker series.
  5. Alien and human love matches. Who doesn’t want to fall in love with a stunningly gorgeous (usually) larger than life (especially certain parts of their anatomy) alien. And learn their weird mating rituals and strange customs… I love Ruby Dixon’s aliens in her Ice Planet Barbarians series—they are pretty gorgeous and easy to fall in love with. But what if the Aliens are not quite so attractive?  I recently read Cottonwood by R. Lee Smith. Absolutely loved it. Her aliens looked a lot like cockroaches, and she still managed to write a totally convincing romance—that is seriously impressive.

So what are your favourite tropes in sci-fi romance?

Uncontrollable is up for pre-order now and you can get it here!

 

About Nina Croft

Nina Croft grew up in the north of England. After training as an accountant, she spent four years working as a volunteer in Zambia which left her with a love of the sun and a dislike of 9-5 work. She then spent a number of years mixing travel (whenever possible) with work (whenever necessary) but has now settled down to a life of writing and picking almonds on a remote farm in the mountains of southern Spain. Nina writes all types of romance often mixed with elements of the paranormal and science fiction.

First Look at Catch Him if You Can! #romance #romcom

Hey, all! Jennifer here!

Mark your calendars!!! My next romance release, Catch Him If You Can, is coming August 13th!

Here’s a sneak peek!! 

Title: Catch Him If You Can

Author: Jennifer Shirk

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Release Date: August 13, 2018

Publisher: Entangled Publishing

Series: Accidently Yours

Format: Digital eBook

Digital ISBN: 9781640636156

 

Synopsis:

 

Veterinarian Wade Roberts is done with love. But try convincing the elderly folk of Cape Harmony who are determined to play matchmaker. Now the young single women in town are bombarding him with baked goods and love notes, and being “taken” is the only way to stop the meddling grannies—which is why he needs a fake fiancée. Fast.

Arden Pearson loves planning weddings. Other people’s weddings, that is. After her own engagement ended in disaster, she prefers to live vicariously through her work. But when she needs to persuade a big client that she’s capable of planning the celebrity wedding of the year, she’s willing to go as far as pretending to be engaged herself to her best friend’s older brother.

Soon their ruse has everyone in town believing they make the perfect couple—including Arden. She’s always been nothing more than a kid sister to Wade, and it might take a village to convince him otherwise…

 

Add to your TBR list:  Goodreads

 

Pre-Order:  Amazon  |  Barnes and Noble  |  Kobo  |  iTunes

 

Excerpt:

Copyright© 2018 Catch Him If You Can

Jennifer Shirk

 

“I don’t understand what difference it makes if you’re married or engaged or whatever on how you do your job,” he said.

Her shoulders slumped. “Normally, it wouldn’t make a difference, until I received that bad press a few months ago.”

“The Bahamas Bolter?”

Yes,” she grumbled. “Anyway, it’s a long story, but these particular clients were hesitant to sign until I kind of sort of blurted that I was engaged.”

Wade snorted. “Seriously? It’s not like my clients think I need to own a pet to be a good veterinarian.”

“Exactly! Thank you.” She bit her lip. “Normally, I’d dismiss clientele who thought like that. However, they are pretty big clients, Wade. Huge. Huge enough that if all goes as planned, everyone will easily forget that wedding snafu I had a few months ago. I had no choice but to tell a teensy lie. And, well, since you had wanted me to pretend to be your girlfriend earlier, I figured…”

“You figured I could be your fake fiancé.”

“Yes. Will you?”

“Uh, here’s the thing. I wanted a girlfriend,” he said, folding his arms. “I didn’t say anything about a fiancée.”

“Oh, Wade, really?” She spluttered. “What’s the difference?”

“What’s the difference? It adds a whole other element to the charade. And besides, don’t you think you’re moving a little fast in our fake relationship? I had no idea you were so pushy. Fake boyfriends don’t like to be—”

“Okay, I get it!” She huffed. “So sorry I didn’t fulfill your time requirement to be fake courted properly, but like I said, this is an actual emergency.”

He took a bite of banana bread and chewed, pretending to think it over. “I don’t know…”

Arden planted her fists on her hips with a harrumph. “What don’t you know, Wade? Whether you actually missed out on the fake wooing or how unreasonable you’re acting right now?”

“Now, now. A short temper is not something particularly attractive in a fake girlfriend slash fiancée.”

“Well, maybe when a person’s career is in jeopardy and she asks a friend for help and gets turned down flat, she wouldn’t feel the urge to punch the fake boyfriend slash fiancé in the throat.”

He wanted to grin but didn’t dare. It was rare to have the upper hand with Arden—and he found he was quite enjoying this sudden little nuance, along with her begging him for help.

 

 

About Jennifer Shirk:

 

Jennifer Shirk is a USA Today bestselling and award-winning author of sweet (and sometimes even funny) romances for Montlake Romance and Entangled Publishing. Her novel, FIANCE BY FATE—a 2015 Readers’ Crown Finalist—became an Amazon #1 best seller for Series Romance. And recently, Wrong Brother, Right Match, WON the Sweet Traditional category of the 2017 Golden Quill Contest and became a #1 Amazon bestseller for Holiday Romance.

 

She resides in a beach resort in NJ, so when she’s not writing or working on her tan, she’s taking care of her most treasured possessions: her husband, daughter and puppy (Sox).

 

Check out her website for News and Links: www.jennifershirk.com

 

And don’t forget to join her mailing list for a chance to win monthly giveaways and free ARCs: eepurl.com/Q6TH1

 

Connect with Jennifer:  Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads  |  Amazon  |  BookBub

 

About Jennifer Shirk

Jennifer Shirk is a USA Today bestselling sweet romance author for Montlake and Entangled Publishing who also happens to be a mom, pharmacist, Red Sox fan, P90x grad, and overall nice person. Check out her latest sweet romance: CATCH HIM IF YOU CAN

Harleys or Horses?

Hi everyone – hope you’re all enjoying the summer.

I have a new book releasing at the end of this month. HANDLE WITH CARE is a single title contemporary romance and as you can probably guess from the title of this blog, it’s got Harleys and horses in it.

Tanner my bad boy hero, has a lifelong love affair with Harleys, whereas Emily, my good girl heroine, loves horses. They do have one thing in common though—they’ve been fantasizing about each other for years. Of course nothing would have come of it, if it hadn’t been for Emily’s meddling grandmother who decides to buy herself a Harley…

So if you had to choose one as a means of transport (say you’re being chased by an army of flesh-eating zombies and your only hope of escape is a bike or a horse) which would you choose? – Harley or horse

Let me know for a chance to win an ARC copy of HANDLE WITH CARE.

And here’s a picture of Fin, my baby – guess you know which I would choose.

 

 

 

 

 

HANDLE WITH CARE

What if all you want is the one thing you can’t have?

First grade teacher Emily Towson always does the right thing. The sensible thing. But in her dreams, she does bad, bad things with the town’s baddest boy: Tanner O’Connor. But when he sells her grandmother a Harley, fantasy is about to meet a dose of reality.

And then he goes and calls her “sensible”…

Tanner can’t believe sweet Emily is standing in his shop. Yelling and waving her hands and looking so god damn sexy he’s having trouble focusing. He’d spent two hard years in prison, with only the thought of this “good girl” to keep him sane.

He really should send her away…

Before either one thinks though, they’re naked and making memories on his tool bench with apparently the oldest condom in history. Now Tanner’s managed to knock-up the town’s “good girl” and she’s going to lose her job over some stupid “morality clause” if he doesn’t step up.

But can this bad boy teach his good girl they’re perfect for each other in time?

Available for Pre-order now:

Amazon

About Nina Croft

Nina Croft grew up in the north of England. After training as an accountant, she spent four years working as a volunteer in Zambia which left her with a love of the sun and a dislike of 9-5 work. She then spent a number of years mixing travel (whenever possible) with work (whenever necessary) but has now settled down to a life of writing and picking almonds on a remote farm in the mountains of southern Spain. Nina writes all types of romance often mixed with elements of the paranormal and science fiction.

Rolling With The Punches

Lori here today to talk about feeling overwhelmed. And then doing the thing anyway.

Last month, it seemed like the hits just couldn’t stop coming. My daughter had to have surgery that put her in casts on both legs, up to her knees. My dad was in the hospital twice for almost two weeks. And… there was a small glitch with my publisher. Without going into details, my trilogy (which only had 2 of 3 books edited and released) was suddenly mine again.

Long story short, I had to pay a good chunk of change to have the final book edited and copy-edited. I was able to design new covers (below) and the first two are widely available for purchase.

I’m in love with the new covers and can’t wait to reveal the final cover and release date later this month on my blog. (Hint: It’s this summer!)

Instead of just pimping out my books, though, what worked for me is really what this is about. I still love the stories, it was relatively painless to self-publish them, I enjoyed making the covers and I’ve gotten positive feedback on them. My daughter is doing great–she has these shoes that fit over her casts and, as long as there are no stairs involved, she can go anywhere. She always was one to roll with it. And my dad is out of the hospital and doing very well.

Life sometimes hands us a big bowl of lemons. It’s a cliche, but we’re often given more than we believe we can handle. But, do what you do to get through. I, personally, make lists and schedules. I figure a thing out from all the angles. Then I leap. That’s the fun part–okay, it’s all the fun part.

And I happen to like lemons. They smell nice and with just a smidge of sugar… lemonade.

About Lori Sizemore

Lover of nail polish, pens, her Kindle, and fresh coffee. She likes romance filled with messy, real characters and lots of snarky banter. Reading was (and still is!) her BFF; when she discovered writing she fell in love. Come for the snark. Stay for the story.

Reading is Powerful

Recently, I got a lot of bad news. The kind that adds to my already not so great year thus far. When it rains, it pours and that kind of stuff.

I wasn’t sure how to cheer myself up. The books I’d been reading were all fine and dandy, but nothing of the page gripping caliber. Not since that lovely contemporary by Alyssa Cole earlier this year. So when I found myself out of Candy Crush lives, and wanting to do anything besides turn on the television or actually write words (avoiding writing like the plague at the moment) I opened up a book on my Kindle.

Side note: Before I started taking my writing seriously I reviewed books. One, because I liked it. Two, because I would get to read books from my favorite authors months in advance.

Back to the book, which is one of my review books for the month of May. I started it and immediately became enthralled. It’s been a little bit. I’d forgotten the thrill, the rush of emotion. The heart pounding and endorphin rush when the hero and heroine clash.  The anxious clench in the gut before the first kiss. The disappointment when they are so close, followed by the eager drive to read faster just to get to it. Beyond that, it’s the tiny bits of the story – the dialogue, the plot, the tropes, the active writing. Oh, and the conflict.

Regardless, somehow I forgot about those things in the last months of life events, publishing woes, and responsibilities. My , I fell into a rabbit hole of a story. Hours passed and I crawled into bed around 2am with still 50% left. 5 hours later I awoke and I wasn’t tired or exhausted. I was eager. Eager to dive in some more. Dive, drove, devoured is what I did. I finished the book in a little over 12 hours. Life interruptions influenced my finish time. Reaching the end, I was immediately eager to know the rest… and that is the power of reading.

What verbs do you describe with reading? What emotions do you like to experience when picking up a book?

About Landra Graf

Landra Graf consumes at least one book a day and has always been a sucker for stories where true love conquers all. She believes in the power of the written word, and the joy such words can bring. In between spending time with her family and having book adventures, she writes romance with the goal of giving everyone, fictional or not, their own happily ever after.

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