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.

Looking to the Future

I have a time travel. It’s a YA–so far. It’s set between now and World War Two. I only mention this because I titled my blog post, “Looking to the Future.” Which I’m doing, in a way. Back in January I registered for Thriller Fest XIII, the big convention every year in New York City. Did you know International Thriller Writers is free to join? I joined back in 2015 after meeting another member and being convinced it was worth it! It has been worth it. Even more worth it, though, was the friendship I made which lead me there. And that makes me think of all the connections I’ve made in this industry.

Here at Through Heart-Shaped Glasses. In my critique group, Passionate Critters. Through Romance Writer chapters, writing groups online, and social media Promotions. It’s a huge big world. And I find myself loving the connections. Friends all over the world…

Writing is a solitary struggle about 80 percent of the time. The other 20, it’s the connections. There is nothing like the camaraderie of the writing industry. From writing to publishing to marketing–there is a place for you! Someone will side with you and then commiserate with you when your career turns south for a time and then cheer you on as you kick-ass back on track.

There’s this hope that someday, I’ll get to meet all my writing friends and associates face-to-face. For now, COME ON, JULY! HURRY UP AND GET HERE!! You’re just weeks away, and I have plans…

Tell me, what are you looking forward to this summer? Do you have any conferences or workshops on your schedule? What kind of connection will you make with ‘the industry’? Will you pitch to an agent? Garner interest from an editor? Buy a drink for that coveted marketing professional?

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.

Reinventing One’s Self – #LynnCrain #AmWriting #NewRelease #MysticRealms

Yes, I’m back again and this time, I hope to continue to add a blog post a month. I’ve told anyone who would listen about how horrible last year was for me and my writing career. Since January, when my husband of thirty plus years was declared cancer free, I’ve been struggling to get back into the groove of things.

Writing is my life and I thought I had found some creative ways to keep the inspiration going but now, I’m not so sure. Since I’d always done writing in my days at home, my whole routine was thrown out the window when my husband would be home every other week for at least three, sometimes more, days out of the work week.

The work week was always my reprieve to do what I needed to do be it research, writing or promoting as I was wont to do daily. When he was home, he would kill my writing day, and sometimes the inspiration too, for long stretches of time. Now, I could always handle the weekend as I figured I could use a break as well. During that time, I would severely cut back what I did but would always get back into my writing routine once the weekend was over. Since he was home more during his treatments, my writing time was in shambles.

During his chemotherapy, I decided to keep the writing alive by taking classes that required me to write a lot. And I mean a lot. In both the history classes I’ve taken, I had to do a weekly paper, a mid-term, a presentation and the final. In the folklore and fairy tale class I’m taking currently, there is a weekly reading response where I talk about archetypes or the hero/heroine’s journey, a written in class response, a mid-term, a presentation, and a final that consists of me retelling a fairy tale. All I can say at this point is thank goodness I have to re-imagine a classic because as the saying goes…I’ve got nothing.

While I’m not one to despair, I’ve decided to pursue an MFA and the research on that alone is enlightening. But I have to say that running across two books by author Jeff Goins is a life saver. In his book, You Are A Writer (so start ACTING like one), he talks about how to fall into love again with writing. While there are many profound things within this book, the one that struck me most was in the very first chapter: ‘It ‘s a choice, writing is. One that belongs to you and me. We get to choose it (or not) every single day. So whether the world hears your message – whether you leave the impact you were born to make – is entirely up to you.’

Now the perfectionist in me wouldn’t quite agree with all that is said there BUT the realist knows it’s true. Sure, I didn’t cause my husband’s cancer nor did I necessarily like that he had to be home every other week, making my concentration lag. While I don’t have an office with a door yet, I do have rooms where I could have shut myself away and wrote, regardless of him being in the house. He might have found it rather mean, but it probably would have been more productive than burying my head in books just to make it through a hard time.

Good writing is born from trials and opposition many times and I missed my chance to use those to my advantages. The perfectionist in me wants to beat myself up for lost chances and things I can’t change now but the pessimist knows I’ll have other chances to make my mark with my writing. Frankly, I know that if I tag myself with anything but writer, I’ll procrastinate forever.

As I’m regaining the life of my writer self, I go back to an old adage I learned long ago: fake it until you make it. Jeff Goins has just made it a little easier for me by giving me a whole lot of inspiration in the book I mentioned above and the one next in line…Real Artists Don’t Starve…both books can be found on Amazon at very reasonable prices. And no, he doesn’t even know I’m plugging his books but I am also going to plug one of mine.

Earlier this month, I had a release within the anthology called Mystic Realms, and my story was called Avenging Aingeal. Now this story wasn’t written last year but several years ago and it was finally edited at the end of last year. Here’s the blurb for the anthology and my story as well as buy links. Also, I do believe that there’s still a $50 gift certificate up for grabs and all you need to do is to comment for you chance at one of these two blog posts:

https://darkestcravings.blogspot.com/2018/04/win-50-gift-card-with-mysticrealms-and_0.html

and

https://11threalm.blogspot.com/2018/04/win-50-gift-card-with-mysticrealms-and_80.html

What goes bump in the night? What causes you a fright? While the answers for each may vary, I promise that these stories will not leave you wary.

From vampires and demons to shifters and creatures that you’d never suspect, this set will leave you breathless in the best possible ways.

So, don’t be afraid. Come, step inside our realm. Allow the mysticism of romance in many shapes and forms fall over you like a veil of sweet, soothing, spine tingling comfort.

We promise…you won’t be sorry.

Aingeal Cochran is on a mission to save humanity from itself when suddenly she’s staring head-on at her forgotten past. Lukas Everhard must bring her up to speed regarding the real enemy before allowing himself to love her completely. In learning about her past and mission, Aingeal realizes the best is yet to be and she will do anything to protect those she loves. For Lukas, Aingeal is the mission.

Amazon   

See you next month!

About Lynn Crain

Award winning author Lynn Crain has done it all in her life. From nursing to geology, her life experiences have added to her detail rich stories. She loves writing full time as she weaves contemporary, fantasy, futuristic and paranormal tales, tame to erotic, for various publishers. Her home is in the desert southwest and she’s just returned from her latest adventure of living in Vienna, Austria while her husband worked his dream job. You can find her hanging out online at www.lynncrain.blogspot.com, https://www.facebook.com/LynnCrainAuthor, and on Twitter, @oddlynn3. She loves hearing from her readers at lynncrain@cox.net.

4 Books to Help Improve Your Writing Craft #writing #writetip

Hi, all! Jennifer here.

I talked a little about one-word goals last month. But this month I wanted to talk about some individual goals I have for the year.

Here within my critique group every year, we all post writing and personal things we’d like to accomplish.

One of mine was to improve my writing craft.

Even though I am a published author, I still feel as if I have only scratched the surface of what I know and where I want to be as a writer. So in conjunction with me attending conferences and taking online courses, I also made it a goal to read at least FOUR craft books this year as well. In fact, I’ve already picked them out and read one of them.

Here are the four I’ve chosen to Help Improve My Writing Craft this year:

Layer Your Novel: The Innovative Method for Plotting Your Scenes by C.S. Lakin

I liked this book. It gave loads of examples from various books on how authors build upon their plots.

Writing Deep Scenes: Plotting Your Story Through Action, Emotion, and Theme by Martha Alderson (Goodreads Author), Jordan E. Rosenfeld (Goodreads Author)

I just started this book. But I chose it because I heard good things about it and was interested in going “deeper” with my writing.

Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel (Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages That Go Nowhere)by Lisa Cron

Picked this beauty up because of a critique partner who was reading it. I’m about halfway through and so far I’ve been nodding and agreeing with everything that was said.

Characters and Viewpoint (Elements of Fiction Writing)  by Orson Scott Card

I picked this one up because I was looking for something beyond plot. I wanted to work on my characters. I hear this author is a master on this subject so I’m looking forward to reading it.

 

Hopefully I’ll be able to read more than just 4, but I haven’t found any other craft books that interest me.

Maybe you have some suggestions of your own! If so, please let me know!

Until then,

HAPPY WRITING

Jennifer

 

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

Self Care During Nano

We all do it.

Roll out of bed, park ourselves in front of the computer, hair not brushed and still adorning our favorite pair of pjs or sweatpants, coffee in hand as we pound out the words to our next novel. Maybe we brushed our teeth, maybe we didn’t (this is a judgement free zone). We cringe when we pass by a mirror, wondering if we were body snatched.

I’ve done it. Plenty of times. #noguilt #bedheaddontcare #pajamadayeveryday. Eventually though, I have to do something that allows me a mental break. I need a moment to reset or I fizzle out (and I was specifically ordered by some of my Nano-ing partners in crime that there will be no fizzling unless it involves a beverage).

Seriously though, if ever there is a time that we, as authors, should pay attention to ourselves, it is during the lovely month of November. We push ourselves to the bring, pulling our hair out, putting in the time and the words to hit that magical 50k+ in a single months time. Every man, woman, and child participating will need to take a step back, regroup, breath, and let themselves focus on something else for even a mere fifteen minutes.

My own personal take on self care probably varies from the many pieces of advice floating around. I tend to look at things I don’t typically allow myself the time for during even a low key writing month or work day. Here are my ideas for self care…

  • Read a book. I’m often so busy writing or dealing with family shenanigans that I don’t do this enough. It’s nice to read a book. It takes your mind on a journey not of your creating. You don’t have to think, you just go along for the ride.
  • Bubble baths. #luxury! I love a good bubble bath. As a parent, you are often lucky to find a single solitary moment in which you can have a peaceful moment in the bathroom, which is why this is a self care luxury in my book.
  • Go get a massage, manicure, or pedicure. Letting someone else do the pampering for you….you will feel like a king or queen for a day.
  • Take a hike. No not in the mean get the hell out of here sort of way. Literally go for a hike. So many great spots out there where one can convene with nature. I’ve found some great ideas from hanging out with ol’ Mother Nature.
  • Go have a girls or guys night out. Sometimes, just hanging with the friends is just what the doctor ordered.
  • Follow the family dog or cat’s lead and curl up for a little afternoon snooze. I don’t do this often, and I will admit to sometimes taking it so far that I wake up feeling a bit groggier than when I put my head to my pillow, but man when I manage a simple power nap, I come back refreshed!

I have many more things that go on my list, but these seem to be the ones that always seem to get my mind working again…and sadly they are also the ones I usually avoid like the plague. However, this month I am planning a #nanoselfcaresunday journey. Every Sunday, on my Instagram, I will post a selfie of how I am indulging in a little self-care.

How do you take care of yourselves during this month of endless writing, yelling at the blank screen, and overall writing chaos? Join with me on my Instagram journey…who knows, maybe we can make it habit and it will just become part of what we do from here on out. I’m game.

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.

The Path You Get #amwriting #NaNoWriMo @pawf1067

The Path You Get

Not that long ago, I got a book deal, my first. I couldn’t tell you the excitement I felt. I had reached my dream of being a published (fiction) writer. Finally, after multiple hours of writing notes and chapters in spiral notebooks, then typing it all in, I’d sold my first book. Someone appreciated the story that I’d spent countless hours constructing and reconstructing in my head. I knew I’d arrived…until I saw my book cover.

It was terrible. Truly terrible.

An attractive looking woman in a dark orange sweater and blue jeans stood winking at the camera. Behind her, a guy nuzzled her neck as he cupped her boobs. This would be the first thing people would see when they saw my title.

My work. My creation.

I sat there, staring at the screen shaking my head and talking to no one. With utmost certainty, this was not my story..at all. Not one stinkin’ thing about that cover reflected anything to do with what I’d spent hours creating. Along with the worst cover in the world, my name had been placed across the front of this woman’s crotch in dark red letters. You couldn’t even see my name!

After the shock wore thin, I had a complete meltdown, the likes of which my poor husband had never seen. Truly, I’m surprised he didn’t run to the airport and catch a one-way ticket to New Zealand. I talked to a writer friend who said I would have little pull being a brand new writer, but to talk to my editor about my very valid concerns. So I did.

Her response was, “Tough. This is the cover you’re getting or you can take your book elsewhere.” She followed that up with, “Oh, and we’re just going to print your book as is. No edits.”

No. No. No. No. NO!

Now, this is the part I want you to listen to very closely. When someone is so unbending, when someone isn’t listening to anything you are telling them about your book, when someone tells you they aren’t even going to edit your story because “it’s good enough”, run. I don’t care if it’s your first book deal or tenth. Run.

I did.

As a writer, you work is your face. Your image. Your craft. Don’t spend hours, weeks perfecting a chocolate cake and allow someone to pour gravy all over it and tell you it’s fine. Don’t let your worry of never getting another book deal ever cloud your good business judgment. Yes, I know you want to make that sale, we all do. If you’re writing in NaNoWriMo, of course you want to see results from all the hard work you’ve put in, but don’t allow your desperation of wanting to be a published author get in the way of a saying no to crappy book covers and awful editors. Every published author I’ve ever talked has at least one horror story like mine. Whether it was a dreadful book cover or bad editing or simply a bad business deal, stand back and think.

With a lot of tears, I canceled that contract and pulled my book. Not long after that, authors talked about bounced royalty checks and within the year, the publisher went into bankruptcy. Even after hearing of the publisher failing, I worried I’d never get my book sold, but I kept writing and writing and writing and finally in 2012, I sold my first full length book to Soulmate Publishing.

Since then, I’ve published four indie books set in Texas and contracted another two with Soulmate. To add to that, my book Burning with Desire from Tule Publishing, came out in April 2017 and just this week, I signed a three book deal with Tule to develop a medical romance series. When I received that first book deal, this isn’t where I thought I’d be. It’s not the path I assumed I’d walk, but it turned out better than I imagined.

Keep moving forward friends. Keep writing.

Patricia W. Fischer is an award-winning romance writer who loves telling a good story. After spending a decade in the ICU and ER’s, she turned to writing full time. She’s the host of Readers Entertainment Radio and has a monthly book picks TV segment on San Antonio Living.

You can find her at www.patriciawfischer.com, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Be sure to check out her books!

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

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