Perhaps it’s time to stop using “romance” as an insult.

I recently had the opportunity to attend an event for writers. As in the case of any event for writers I’ve attended, I was excited to be there.

Until the inevitable happened.

Someone used “romance” as an insult.

The event catered to writers of every genre, beginners as well as some vets. In discussing a piece of work, one of the participants said, “It was well written. I expected it to be more like a romance. Or even a Harlequin.”

When it came time to introduce ourselves, I looked that person in the eye and let him know I was a romance author. I glimpsed a bit of shame there, I’m happy to report.

Come on, fellow writers. It’s bad enough romance authors get dissed on a constant basis by fans of other genres. Do we really need to get these slaps in the face from other writers, people who understand our struggle? Of all people, you know what goes into writing a book. You understand the pain and sacrifice and sweat. You know how we bleed. You know how we cry when our characters do exactly what we need them to do.

You get it.

And yet some of you still insist on badmouthing an entire genre.  Why? “Oh, I read a romance back in the 1970s and it was pure rubbish.” Perhaps it’s time for an update, fella.

Oh, and by the way, some of you take issue with romance as a whole, but have no problem asking romance authors for favors. It happens to me all the time. I’ve been asked for favors by several wannabe authors who have no interest in my work or in my genre. They were just looking to cash in on a potential contact in the industry.

“You’re published? Well, romance really isn’t my bag but would you be willing to critique my manuscript? You know, seeing as you’re a published author. By the way…do you know any published non-fiction authors? Could you introduce me?”

Talk to the hand, as they say.

I don’t mean to sound bitter but I’m growing tired of hearing the same recording over and over. Romance isn’t “real” writing. It’s fluff. It’s easy to write. It’s formulaic.

I’ve never followed a “formula” in my entire writing career. The only hard and fast rule I follow is providing a happy ending. If you don’t, you’re not writing romance and romance readers will let you know it.

I’ve always found the writing community to be an inviting and supportive one. Not everyone resorts to this bad behavior. Have an opinion, by all means, but if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say it at all. And certainly don’t say it at an event attended by writers of every genre.

As for the romance authors out there, we won’t waste our time badmouthing you.

Why? Because, darling, we’re too busy writing the stories the world is reading. Have you heard we’re one of the highest selling genres out there? No? Well, now you know.

Happy writing.

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There is power in frailty.

I can usually be found in a corner, struggling with my latest manuscript. Honestly, it really is usually a struggle. There is always something that trips me up along the way. No matter how detailed I have been in my plotting, obstacles present themselves.

My current obstacle is my heroine. Her name is Bernadette “Bernie” Nolan and she is one of the protagonists in book 2 of my unpublished series Handymen. When I began writing this book, one of the themes I wanted to explore is that of taking one’s life back. Bernie was bullied as a young woman and she has been on a quest ever since to make sense of her struggles. It hasn’t always gone well and she’s made some bad choices. At times, she has underestimated herself, as we all do here and there.

I really wanted her to kick some ass and take charge. She deserves it, after all.

However, at about the 20,000 word mark, I made a realization. Bernie is still having trouble sorting out the mess of her past. She still carries shame and fear.

In other words, she isn’t quite ready to kick life in the ass. In fact, one could argue life is kicking her ass right now.

As much as she wants to be strong, she is beginning to understand just how frail she could become. However, there is a sort of power in such frailty. For Bernie to move forward, she may just have to embrace the emotions holding her back.

Some of these realizations will come to her as she relates to hero Eli Zorn. I love the character of Eli. He’s a good guy and understands the pain of loss. Something tells me he will be the one to help Bernie on her difficult journey.

Now if only I had someone to help me on my author’s journey! I had this story sorted in my head. I pictured Bernie bursting forward in a blaze of glory, ready to defeat her former tormentors. Instead, she and I are huddling together, wondering how we ended up on a more introspective path. We’re clearly learning things together.

Hopefully, once we embrace our frailty, we will emerge victorious.

Trolling a hashtag and the women who use it.

It’s not very often one gets the opportunity to see something good turn ugly.

I had that opportunity today on Twitter. (I know, Twitter can be an ugly place. Why am I surprised? Perhaps it’s because it can also be a place of tremendous support.)

While scrolling today, I caught a glimpse of a hashtag that piqued my curiosity: #ThingsOnlyWomenWritersHear

As a woman and a writer, I couldn’t help having a closer look. Although there were a lot of cringe-worthy moments posted by women in writing, it was empowering to see so many of us dealing with the same misconceptions. While I would never credit a hashtag with any sort of real importance, it was interesting to see this one act as a sort of bond between women writers of every genre.

It didn’t take long for the trolls to chime in.

Some criticized “middle class” women for sitting on their duffs, complaining. Others bashed them for creating a furor out of nothing. Others appropriated the hashtag in order to advertise a product. Others just criticized women and their “bellyaching”, in general.

As one women writer said,  and I’m paraphrasing, “Folks, if this hashtag doesn’t speak to you, then it isn’t for you.”

Writers, men and women, have to deal with a lot of interesting comments. We get it. We’ve all been there and understand not everyone is appreciative of the effort and passion that goes into writing. I’m sure many male writers shake their heads when people make judgments about their work as well. However, as in so many professions, women still get the shaft on far too regular a basis. We all know this but apparently it’s a sin to rally around each other to point out the discrepancies.

God forbid women writers have their own hashtag.

Give it a rest, trolls. We have to deal with you in every arena of life. Must we deal with you and your ignorance in this way as well?

I propose a new hashtag: #TakeItSomewhereElse

Lisa Emme. The Yacht Club.

Thank you, Rosanna, for giving me this opportunity to stop by and introduce my latest release, The Yacht Club. Originally published in digital format exclusively for Amazon, I’m very excited to be able to share these three novellas for the first time under one cover and with a much wider distribution. Set in the beautiful, posh suburbs of Vancouver, Canada, each story delivers a HEA featuring a strong, confident woman who isn’t afraid of her own sexuality.  The Yacht Club guaranteed to spice up your spring.

Available for pre-order now at your favourite online retailer including Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks. Release date April 25.

 

The Yacht Club
Welcome to the Yacht Club – Vancouver’s exclusive BDSM club and best-kept secret – where few are asked to play, fewer still invited to stay.  Each sexy story brings a bit of ink, a lot of kink, topped with a hint of magic.

Daisy

Daisy Andrews has been burned by love before. Now she prefers to play it safe and keep things casual. So how then, does a woman that prefers her sex with a little kink, satisfy her need to be owned?

Kimi

With a vicious killer loose Kimi Jones is on the hunt, and she’ll stop at nothing to get her man. But when she meets a sexy stranger on the beach and a one-night stand turns into more than she bargained for, will Kimi be able to keep her own secrets?

Pax

Pax Lightfoot struggles to make it day-to-day without losing her mind, until a chance encounter brings her the peace she’s been yearning for. It doesn’t hurt that it comes in a ruggedly handsome package. But can Pax win the heart of a man that craves more than just vanilla?

Excerpt from The Yacht Club: Kimi – Two for One

She stood in the dark – at least it was dark with the blindfold on – unmoving except for the thumping of her heart.  The air in the room was on the cool side and she felt her skin pebble with goosebumps.  The anticipation of what would happen next was killing her.  She flinched at a sudden scraping sound off to the left and she cocked her head towards it.  It was silent for a moment and then she heard the murmuring of the two men speaking, followed by the chiming sound of metal on metal.  She frowned to herself.  Were they trying to put her on edge?  If they were, it was working.

 

 

Ryan Lanz. The Dos and Don’ts to Dialogue Tags.

I’m pleased to welcome author/blogger Ryan Lanz today. I hope you enjoy this post on one of my favorite writing topics, dialogue tags.

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Writers use dialogue tags constantly. In fact, we use them so often that readers all but gloss over them. They should be invisible. However, there are ways to misuse them and make them stand out.

In an effort to avoid that, let’s take a closer look at dialogue tags. Toward the end of “Tag travesties” is something I sorely wish someone had told me before I started writing.

Why do we use dialogue tags?
The simple answer is that we use them to indicate who’s speaking. In visual media, such as movies or television, the viewer can easily tell who’s talking by lip movement and camera angles. When reading a book, obviously that’s not an option.

Tag travesties
There are certainly ways to misuse dialogue tags. When I was a new writer, I felt compelled to overwrite. I ‘m sure every new writer goes through a version of this. I observed how successful writers used simple tags like “said/asked” and thought to myself, that’s boring. I’m going to be an awesome writer by making them more interesting. You don’t have to admit it aloud, writers, but we all know that most of us have. Let’s look at an example of this:

  • “We can’t cross this river,” Alanna exclaimed repugnantly.
  • John crossed the room and shouted disgustedly, “I’ll never take you with me.”
  • “This has been the worst day ever,” Susie cried angrily.

For those of you who still aren’t convinced, let’s up the dosage with a paragraph:

Hank crossed the room and sat down. “We should have never waited this long for a table,” he seethed, leaning over to glare at her. 
“If you wanted a better spot, you should have called ahead for a reservation,” Trudy returned pointedly.
“Well, perhaps if you didn’t take so long to get ready, I could have,” he countered dryly.

Can you imagine reading an entire book like that? *shiver*

So why do new writers feel the urge to be that . . . creative with their dialogue tags? Back in the beginning, I thought the typical tags of “said/asked” were too boring and dull. It didn’t take me long to realize that dull (in this context) is the point.

Image your words as a window pane of glass, and the story is behind it. Your words are merely the lens that your story is seen through. The thicker the words, the cloudier the glass gets. If you use huge words, purple prose, or crazy dialogue tags, then all you’re doing is fogging up the glass through which your reader is trying to view your story. The goal is to draw as little attention to your actual words as possible; therefore, you keep the glass as clear as possible, so that the reader focuses on the story. Using tags like “said/asked” are so clear, they’re virtually invisible.

Now, does that mean that you can’t use anything else? Of course not. Let’s look further.

 

Alternate dialogue tags
Some authors say to never use anything other than “said/asked,” while others say to heck with the rules and use whatever you want. Some genres (such as romance) are more forgiving about using alternate dialogue tags. I take a more pragmatic approach to it. I sometimes use lines like:

“I’m glad we got out of there,” she breathed.

The very important question is how often. I compare adverbs and alternate dialogue tags to a strong spice. Some is nice, but too much will spoil the batch. Imagine a cake mix with a liter of vanilla flavoring, rather than the normal tablespoon. The more often you use anything other than “said/asked,” the stronger the flavor. If it’s too powerful, it’ll tug the reader away from the story and spotlights those words. In a full length book of around 85,000 words, I personally use alternate dialogue tags only around a few dozen times total.

By saving them, the pleasant side effect is that when I do use them, they pack more of an emotional punch.

 


Related: How to Write Natural Dialogue


 

Action beats
I have a love affair with action beats. Used effectively, they can be another great way to announce who’s talking, yet at the same time add some movement or blocking to a scene. For example:

Looking down, Katie ran a finger around the edge of the mug. “We need to talk.”

That added some nice flavor to the scene, and you know who spoke. The only caveat is to be careful of not using too many action beats, as it does slow down the pacing a tiny bit. If you’re writing a bantering sequence, for example, you wouldn’t want to use a lot of action beats so as to keep the pacing quick.

 

Dos and don’ts
Sometimes, action beats and dialogue tags have misused punctuation. I’ll give some examples.

  • “Please don’t touch that.” She said, blocking the display. (Incorrect)
  • “Let’s head to the beach,” he said as he grabbed a towel. (Correct)
  • Sam motioned for everyone to come closer, “Take a look at this.” (Incorrect)
  • Debbie handed over the magnifying glass. “Do you see the mossy film on the top?” (Correct)

 

Conclusion
Like many things in a story/novel, it’s all about balance. Try alternating actions beats, dialogue tags, and even no tags at all when it’s clear who’s speaking. By changing it up, it’ll make it so that no one method is obvious.

 

Ryan Lanz is an avid blogger and author of The Idea Factory: 1,000 Story Ideas and Writing Prompts to Find Your Next Bestseller. You can also find him on TwitterFacebook, and Tumblr

Image courtesy of Onnola via Flickr, Creative Commons.

The cost of being an author.

When I started writing with the aim of being published, I read every article and writing book I could get my hands on. I asked the experts. I took courses. I listened to others. In other words, I did my homework.

I don’t recall any of those experts ever mentioning the cost of being an author. I am talking about finances, by the way. The emotional cost is a whole other post.

No matter how big your publisher is, no matter how many resources they throw at you, at some point, you will be forced to crack open your own wallet and pay for things in support of your writing. I know I underestimated how much it would cost me to promote my books and quite frankly, I’m not sure I could ever have predicted an accurate amount. And it’s okay. You spend money to make money, right? At some point, it begins to pay off.

But here’s the thing. If you’re anything like me, and you have a family or responsibilities of some sort, you will often get stressed about money. It doesn’t even matter if you’re financially comfortable. Money is a huge source of stress. And if you have a bad royalty quarter…or even a few…that stress is compounded. Doing the math isn’t always fun for a writer.

I remember the marriage course my husband and I had to take years ago through our church. The minister told us, for most couples, money is the number one source of stress  in a marriage. If you don’t have any money, and don’t have a plan to make some, everything else goes down hill.

Writing is sort of the same. You need a plan and it can’t just be about what your book cover will look like. It has to account for finances.

Here’s another big thing. Your significant other must be on the same plan. You must both drink the Kool-Aid. In other words, it’s really nice when your spouse believes in you and is willing to support you. There will be times when that support involves your finances.

 

I’m a lucky woman. I have support from my incredible husband. Not every writer has that.

So when you embark on this magical journey of publishing, be realistic with yourself and with your family. As much as writing can seem a lonely pursuit at times, in this sense, it’s very much a group effort.  Talking about the costs ahead of time will alleviate much of the stress. If you go in with eyes wide open, it won’t be as much of a shock later.

Only then will cracking open the wallet be exciting, rather than stressful.

The quest for something different.

This past week has been frustrating for me, at least in terms of writing.

I’m sort of between projects right now and, of course, that means I’m already dreaming up the next project. It has not proven easy this time around.

I’m obsessed with the idea of creating a new paranormal series. Sounds easy enough, right? I’ve done it before. Several times, in fact. However, that little voice in the back of my head keeps saying, “It has to be different from anything else out there.” After all, how on earth will it stand apart from all the other paranormal romances?

Part of me wants to rely on the tried and true characters, the vampires and werewolves and demons. People still love them but will they snare the attention of agents and editors? Probably not. They all want to see something new, something different. And yet, if readers are to be believed, they want more of the same. They love vampires and werewolves and demons, thank you very much.

So then I put my writing cap on and think, “Write about the characters you love. Just put a fresh spin on them.” Fresh spin. Easier said than done. I have to be honest, folks. I’m not feeling so fresh these days.  For some reason, creating “something different” also creates a lot of stress. And to me, a lot of the fresh spins I see out there are really just more of the same. Same vampire, new city. I want to give my readers a dynamic new reading experience.

I recently finished a horror story, a novella I submitted for a Halloween anthology. That was fun and I’m not opposed to writing more in that genre. However, romance is my passion and I don’t want to alienate my readers. They came to me for HEAs. I love HEAs (that means ‘happily ever after’).  I take happy endings very seriously. The world is miserable enough. I want to provide happiness, even if I can only do it in book form.

I suppose this is just one of the struggles we writers encounter. It’s our jobs to come up with compelling stories, ones that resonate with as many readers as possible … even if they do contain the odd vampire. We have to carve out our own little niches in an oversaturated market. We create and we strive to create something different.

I guess that’s why they pay us the big bucks.

Oh, wait. I was thinking of my kid’s orthodontist just then.  He gets paid the big bucks.

I wonder if, when sticking braces on a teenager’s teeth, the orthodontist ever gets obsessed with the idea of creating something different.

No. That would result in a lot of complaint calls.

It must only apply to writers.