Thursday, February 25, 2010

Playing to the Room

Today's guest blogger is Lisa M. Campbell, who writes Celtic romances... MOST of the time. Lisa has some interesting ideas about how to decide what to write.

Those of us who write undoubtedly have a passion for it. Why else would we put ourselves through the difficulties of creating a cast of characters with seemingly insurmountable problems?

As an author of historical romance, I have noticed the high volume of paranormal books lining the shelves of our local bookstores. Publishers and readers alike clamor for these stories and though the saturation level is high, there doesn't seem to be any sign the genre is tapering off. Moreover, it's not just brick and mortar stores packing them in. E-book sites all over the internet display page after page of paranormal titles and what once thought a fad is now a cornerstone of the billion-dollar a year romance industry.

No doubt, it sounds as if I'm opposed to such books. However, I write erotic paranormal under the pen name Marie March and have four titles due out this year. As well, I eagerly await the next Sookie Stackhouse adventure from Charlaine Harris, and the last installment in Karen Marie Moning's Fever series. What I enjoy about these authors is their ability to create stories in which I'm able to suspend my disbelief and immerse myself in an all too real fantasy-world.

This brings up the question of writing strictly for profit or playing to the room. Should an author who stands out in his or her own category write to a specific market? From what I have read and heard, most Editors view this as a no-no. Yet, how many publishers out there, big and small, have calls out for paranormal manuscripts above anything else? With werewolf, vampire and shifter stories in demand the conclusion may be any submission will have a better than average acceptance rate. Such logic will set anyone up for disappointment and failure.

As a romance writer, you have to enjoy reading what you set out to write. With a paranormal, you have to believe in the unbelievable yourself otherwise the rudiments of your story just won't work. Therefore, I believe success in any form of writing depends on the blend of two essential elements…your talents and interests.

Lisa M. Campbell's author info: - Where romance begins - sin~sational romance

Monday, February 22, 2010

Self Sufficiency in Character Creation

I've received some excellent guest blogs recently, and here's another, this time from Robin Cain. Cain lives in Scottsdale, Arizona with her husband, daughter, three dogs, three horses and a donkey. As a novelist and regular contributing writer for online publications, she spends her days searching for the perfect words to amuse, enlighten and touch her readers. You can learn more at Her new book, "When Dreams Bleed" examines sexual temptation and the ensuing consequences in today's world. But today she tells us about the lives of some of her fascinating characters

As a novelist with a newly published book, I now spend a great deal of my time doing things that are greatly annoying the forthcoming characters of my imagination. Instead of getting lost up in their joys and sorrows, I have to set them aside – literally put their journeys on hold – so that I can spend time introducing the world to the ones whose story now resides in book form. I tell you, they don’t like that one bit and they’re becoming quite vocal about it.

The already-brought-to-life characters of WHEN DREAMS BLEED, thrilled to now be out in the world, are just rubbing it in the faces of my new characters who sit cooling their heels, waiting to do the same. The new characters mumble and complain, pop into my head and distract me, waiting for their story to be told, while I spend my time booking social engagements for the others.

I have to tell you - it’s causing a great deal of angst among all of us.

The WHEN DREAMS BLEED characters, finally out of my head and living their own lives now, want nothing more than to be shared, experienced and introduced. Frank (the main character) tells me constantly that it’s HIS time to be on center stage and living large. After waiting nearly four years to be in print, his power hungry, Type-A personality wants his efforts recognized. Proud of his accomplishments and tenacity, he’s looking forward to being pretty smug. Despite his accident and the misery he’s caused others, he thinks he’s got it together now and wants to share it with the world.

Meanwhile, Sadie tells me that she just wants everyone to comprehend her reasons for doing what she did. She cries out for compassion and understanding of all she left behind; the decisions that nearly killed her. My heart still breaks for her.

Citra, on the other hand, frankly just doesn’t give a whole good gosh damn what anyone thinks. Self-absorbed and greedy, she’s only out for herself and willing to squash anyone and anything in her way. She is 100% convinced that everyone will agree with her actions. Frankly, she tells me, one would be a fool to not see it her way! She keeps telling me if it wasn’t for her their book wouldn’t be selling. Between you and me, I never liked that bitch, anyway.

Don’t get me wrong. My characters in WHEN DREAMS BLEED are nice people –at least in their own right. Honest. Yes, even Citra at times. No one would ever accuse of them of not being able to liven up a cocktail party, add interest to a lonely solitary night or not be remembered long after they’ve left the room. The lessons they’ve learned are good ones and all they want to do is share. Their actions have created a real page-turner and they are darn proud of it. If only they could just tell you themselves…

You see, each of them had dreams – dreams to be rich, dreams to be successful or dreams to be forever loved. Not unlike a lot of people, they thought happiness would be theirs…“if only”. Yet their dreams began to bleed – and for many of them, it was just a little too late.

So now they harp and whine and pester me in my sleep,
“Who are you telling about us now?”
“Where have you placed us?”
“You haven’t forgotten us, have you?”

They sit among the pages waiting to tell their story while just hounding me to get the word out. And at the same time, the new characters poke me on the shoulder, tap on my brain and wake me in the middle of the night…

“What about us?”
“When do we get our chance?”
“C’mon, leave those others to their own devices! We have a story to tell, too.”

Next time, I tell you, I’m making everyone far more self-sufficient…

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Next Big Thing in Promotion?

When I saw the first couple of book trailers I thought it was a quantum leap in book promotion. Now that almost everyone has a trailer or two for their book, I see little hard evidence that they spur sales for most writers. I was beginning to think that internet technology simply wasn’t the answer, but now I’m thinking that maybe it just went too far too fast.

I just listened to what may be the next great idea and it’s a techie step back. Medallion Press is doing something called the “action interview” as an audio download. Interview probably isn’t the right word. Instead of the author discussing his or her work with an interviewer, the author is joined by actors and sound effects to create more of a radio play feel.

The one I listened to, which I think is the first, featured Kathy Carmichael talking us through her book Diary of a Confessions Queen. The book is a mystery with lots of humor, and the action interview has that feel. We hear the interviewer (who really makes the production IMHO) walk into a crowded tavern to meet the author. Crowd noise and general babble put you into the location immediately. After he sits with Ms Carmichael she actually introduces him to the characters in her book and they play through a couple of scenes.

This way she doesn’t just ell you what her book is about, but you experience it. It’s hard to imagine a better way to pull a reader into the story. The interview/performance ran nearly 15 minutes but it felt much shorter. More importantly, it was FUN and made me want to pick up Diary of a Confessions Queen. I think this idea may motivate a lot more people to seek out a book than a 2 or 3 minute trailer regardless of the production quality.

I recommend that every writer check out the action interview and consider if they can get on this bandwagon early.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Another Great Loss for Mystery Lovers!

The mystery genre has faced a number of tragic losses in recent months. We will see no new books from Robert B. Parker. We will have a much harder time finding Waldenbooks or Borders Express stores. And now, we will never be able to buy another book from The Mystery Company. That means something to me because this particular independent bookstore was the first to order my novel Blood and Bone. On a less personal note, Jim Huang was a great friend of mystery writers.

Don’t know Jim Huang? Then you probably didn’t attend Bouchercon 2009, which Jim worked hard on. Nor did you attend the smaller but equally fun Magna Cum Murder mystery conference in Muncie, which Jim helped to organize. Jim ran The Mystery Company in Carmel, Indiana for seven years until he was forced to close its doors in the last few days. For those seven years Jim Huang was a great friend to mystery authors and a voice of reason in the industry. His love of the genre was evident, as was his leadership among the small fraternity of mystery booksellers.

The store’s closing had nothing to do with Jim’s business acumen, level of effort or determination. I’m sure it had everything to do with the economic downturn, the consumer shift to online shopping, the huge discounts big book retailers can offer, and the slow but steady growth of e-books which cuts the brick-and-mortar retailer out of the sale entirely. In other words, the loss of The Mystery Company is a symptom of what’s happening in the industry in general.

My understanding is that Jim hasn’t abandoned book selling, but that in a few days he will be managing a college bookstore - at Kenyon College in Ohio to be exact. We wish him the best.I know that Jim gave The Mystery Company everything he had. More to the point, he gave mystery writers and their work everything he had. I hope he maintains a presence at conventions and conferences, and I look forward to shaking his hand again at a future event and thanking him for his years of support.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Musical Marketing Muse

I promised you more guest blogs and here’s the first of the year. Sara Taney Humphreys is the author of the Amoveo Legacy and the upcoming An Amoveo Heart, due out in a few days. Both are part of the award winning Amoveo series.

Sara has received top reviewers pick from PNR, 5 Blue Ribbons from Romance Junkies, 5 Hearts from Romance Book Scene, and major inspiration from a musical connection, as you’re about to see.

Soundtracks for movies and television shows are standard. In fact, a really great movie or show is often instantly associated with kick ass music. Well thanks to my old college buddy and DJ John Campbell...I found the soundtrack for Book 2 in my shifter series.

Actually, I had been in a major writing rut. Completely blocked. Book 2, Amoveo Heart was not coming to me as easily as the first book did. At any rate, John wanted to interview me on his weekly radio show and had gotten some musicians who were willing to let me use their music as an intro for the interview. He sent me the links and the second song I listened to stopped me dead in my tracks. I couldn't believe it. It was as though this song was written just for the heroine in Book 2. Amazing! The combination of the lyrics and her hauntingly beautiful voice were absolute perfection. I immediately contacted the artist and asked if I could use her song for Amoveo Heart's book trailer. Gratefully both she and her record label said yes!

Then I had an idea to take it a step further. Luckily, she is located not far from me and as a new musician is looking for new opportunities for exposure. Why not have her play at my book launch/signing? Gratefully she agreed. Amy played at a couple of my book signing events and it really brought a great bit of texture to the signings.

The song that sparked my creative juices and woke up my muse is called "Honey on the Skin". You can find Amy Petty and her spectacular music on her website

John connected me with another awesome musical muse. The Strike Nineteens. TSN are a band of adorable guys from Scotland. Ladies...think William Wallace/Braveheart accent....yummy. Their music is gritty and intense. These darlings actually wrote me two songs! One of which will be on their new album "Screams for Denver" which will be released this Spring. I look forward to checking them out LIVE when they come to the USA later this year.

You can check out their music at

Cross marketing with music is fun and a little outside the box...just the way I like it.

Sara Taney Humphreys

Monday, February 1, 2010

Break's Over - Back to Work

It has become traditional for me to take January off from writing. Often toward the end of the month I can barely hold off but the break does serve a purpose. By February 1st I am chomping at the bit to get back into action, to greet new readers, and to find out what Hannibal Jones, Felicity O’Brien and other old friends have been up to during my vacation.

So now the blog returns to its weekly activity level. That will at least make looking here less boring for you, but you may be wondering what else 2010 will hold in store for this writer’s life.

Well for one thing, 2010 holds an ironclad commitment to complete the sixth Hannibal Jones novel. The story was worrying me a bit at the end of last year but now I’m ready to bull my way through to the end.

I will also be on the hunt for a new agent. I’ve written a pretty strong letter and subscribed to the Writers Market on line database to help me find the right person to handle my work. Said service is worthy of its own blog entry so I’ll be explaining it more fully in the future.

I’ll get back on the road to meet more readers, but I’m keeping it local this year. There’s plenty happening in the neighborhood, so I’ll be presenting at the Bay to Ocean Writers Conference, the Virginia Festival of the Book, the Malice Domestic mystery convention, the Gaithersburg Book Festival, several local book clubs and even the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.

And to keep the blog itself more interesting I’m inviting a broader selection of authors to come in and guest blog about their writing lives. I find that we each have a unique perspective and can generally learn something from or be inspired by each other’s point of view.

So keep the feedback coming and I’ll keep giving you the view from my desk.