Monday, December 12, 2011

Twas the Night Before Shutdown

‘Twas the night before shut down, and all through our house,
      All the editors were sighing, and letting go of their mouse.

The cover models were hung (hee hee) on the covers with care,
      In hopes that the readers would drool and stare.

The great manuscripts were edited and all have been read,
     As visions of more submissions danced in our heads.

With RJ at her computer, and Rhonda in her pjs,
     The editors are poised for a few easy days.

When over in Crimson there arose such a clatter,
     A villain on the prowl was as mad as a hatter,

Away to the department the editors flew like a flash,
     But the bad man was caught and tied with a sash.

The hand on the breast of the heroine vampire,
     Her body parts tingled, as if on fire.

When what to our unbelieving eyes should appear,
     But one lonely cowboy with all the right gear.

With a mighty stud, so lively and thick,
     We knew in a moment it must be erotic.

More rapid than eagles the senior editors they came,
     And we whistled, and shouted, TWRP would never be the same.

Now Nicole! Now Diana! Now Stacy, Amanda, and Leanne!
     On Callie Lynn! On Lori! On Kathy and Roseann!

To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall!
     To the faery department we went, to all have a ball!

As elves, ghosts, and other creatures fly,
     When we see these characters we look to the sky

So all around us in the air they flew,
     With a variety of costumes, and some dragons, too.

And then in a twinkling we heard in the hall,
     A Civil War soldier with a lilting southern drawl.

As we were turning our heads and looking around,
     A modern day hero was what we found.

He was dressed in his finest from head to his boot,
     His clothes were tight fitting, and we let out a hoot.

A bundle of manuscripts he had flung on his back,
     The host of good stories TWRP would not lack.

The manuscripts—so many! The plots how they varied.
     Thank goodness, the hero and heroine were not married.

The older heroine is welcome her too.
     Her experiences are old, but her love life is new.

Lords and ladies, and a man in a kilt,
     Oh we love how those Scottish heroes are built.

A sweetheart of a story can warm a reader’s heart,
    But unless behind closed doors the characters are apart.

Give me a cowboy who just rode into town.
     Or a vamp and a were, but please not a clown.

An erotic, oh dear, can make us so hot,
     But please make sure the manuscript has a plot

We looked in the pack for a manuscript to take,
     Saved the stories on our computers for after the break.

Putting our flash drives in a very safe spot,
     The Christmas cheer made us feel like a tiny tot.

We sprang to our computers for one last time.
     We needed to end our little rhyme.

So here us exclaim as we shut down and go out of sight,
     Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

~composed by Allison Byers
    Historical Department Editor

Monday, December 5, 2011

Is It Hollywood Enough

Is it Hollywood Enough?
by Editor Maggie Johnson

…your manuscript, that is.

You can hardly argue that plenty of money is being grossed by Hollywood movie makers. And weren’t you planning on accruing a little money yourself from the sales of your book? Then why not follow a proven money-making formula? When writing and editing (and re-editing) your manuscript, keep the following filming fundamentals in mind.

Actions speak louder than words…especially in the opening scenes. Many authors want their readers to become as intimately acquainted with their characters as they are, so they start off giving us the hero’s or heroine’s back-story for several pages. Imagine that each of these paragraphs is an intertitle (the printed narration or dialog between scenes in the silent film era). Take your musing one step further and decide how many of these narration cards you are going to be willing to read (Thirty? Ten? Or is even three too many?) before you get up out of your seat, go back to the box office, and politely (or perhaps not so politely) ask for a refund?

Plunk your reader’s into an action scene immediately. Their back-stories will emerge in future scenes and dialogs with other characters. But be sure each of these factoids is really necessary for us to understand the protagonists. Some of this stuff really does belong on the Cutting Room Floor. Believe me; those Hollywood Film Editors are not hired just because they’re pretty, any more than your book editor was (present company excepted).

While we’re on the subject of opening scenes, let’s talk about the Set Designer. Good set designing is subtle. When you finish reading those twenty-something intertitles, are you ready for the camera to slowly pan the entire scene and take in the rich jade-colored brocade sofa, the plush, cream-colored carpeting, the wild rose-patterned wall paper, the leaded cut-glass lamps and then move onto the details of the Costume Designer’s wares?

Maybe not…maybe you would rather experience these things when the heroine catches the spiked point of her stripper heel in the cushion of the hero’s rich jade-colored brocade sofa as she clumsily attempts to strike an alluring pose. (We’re watching a romantic comedy, by the way.)

If there is one passive verb I could excise from an author’s vocabulary it would be “wear” in all its forms and tenses. I would much rather have another character use their vision to translate their perception of the outfit for me.
Yes: He looked so hot in his torso-hugging white T-shirt and skin-tight jeans. But what was with the hideous fuchsia cowboy boots?
No: He entered the room wearing a white T-shirt, jeans and hot pink boots. (I told you it was a comedy...maybe not a complete laugh riot though.)

Now, let’s bring in the Dialog Coach. There’s got to be plenty of it to keep the viewer/reader engaged. It’s got to be realistic, and it’s got to be deep. (Superficial dialog serves no purpose except to irritate the reader.) And it’s got to be linear. Not every movie (or book) can be a re-make of “Groundhog Day.”

We don’t want to witness a conversation between the two love interests and then listen to Mary tell her best friend Sally exactly what she and Harold discussed. Yes, yes, we know that in real life Sally is going to go home and tell her live-in pool boy her own version of the conversation; but we’re selling fantasy here, the reader is getting bored, and we need to move the story forward. We’ve got to fit this all into an hour and forty minutes. Oh yeah…that’s the movie version…sorry.

And my final rant is about the Product Placements. In Book World…it’s pretty much the opposite of Movie World. The President, Mr. Big Shot of Big Shot Company, Inc. is not going to fill your pockets with endorsement fees. In fact there’s a likelihood he will do the exact opposite. Do you really have such a powerful marketing plan that your book sale profits have budgeted in the costs of the lawsuit when Mr. Big Shot sues you for trademark infringement? Awesome! Could you share it with us? I mean…since you’re in the sharing mood and all.

I know…you want your leading lady to be trendy…but what about the readers who buy your book three years from now? Will Denise’s trendy 2012 Big Shot Company dress be so passé by 2015 that she will seem to have no sense of style, giving an uncomplimentary twist to her character development? How sad.

A good friend of mine, Mr. Dickens (we called him Charlie) did not rely on the use of brand names, but instead meticulously described his characters’ togs and material possessions to point out their precise stations in life. Charlie could still be pulling in a pretty penny (as his books are still very popular) if he hadn’t had the misfortune of passing away more than 140 years ago. And then there are those pesky public domain laws. Alas! And…indeed!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Characters Who Inspire, Tuna Fish Sandwiches, and Not Giving Up by Lori Lebonde

How many times have you considered tossing in the towel on a manuscript you know is good but you’re sick of working on it? Or maybe it’s close but just not coming together like it should, so you shove it away, hoping it will age well, like fine wine?

Or do you shudder at the idea of revising, editing, and proofreading your manuscript as many as seventy-two times? (Yes, that’s the latest statistic I’ve heard from successful, multi-pubbed authors.) Perfecting your craft and fine-tuning your manuscript is tough work and not for the faint of heart.

So what should you do?

Take a leaf out of your own book and do what your characters do: they persevere. They don’t give up.

When your characters confront external obstacles, do they shrug and walk away? No. When their goals are too distant to grasp, do your characters decide those goals aren’t really worth the effort after all? Unlikely. When your characters’ motivations evolve and reshape their thoughts and actions in scary or unfamiliar ways, do they race back to their comfort zones—and stay there? No—not if your plot and character arcs progress properly.

Or what about the young men on my local high school football team, which was undefeated…until yesterday? Those boys worked hard seven days a week, often in the cold and pouring rain, to finish their season only one game away from the state championship—a new record for our town. The student fans, parents, and community members who attended every game (sometimes driving hours each way and usually filling the visitors’ stands more than the home team stands were) were so supportive of those boys that newspaper articles mentioned the team’s “twelfth man on the field” and its impact on the team’s success and morale. One fan’s story sticks in my mind: She didn’t have a son on the team, yet she made a protein-packed tuna fish sandwich every week for the team’s running back—despite being at her mother’s side nearly 24/7 for weeks following the mother’s October heart attack and subsequent bypass surgery. Some weeks the woman used high-end tuna, or more expensive bread, or fat-free mayonnaise, all in an effort to keep the sandwich interesting and to give the player even a tiny edge—or so she said. In reality, she demonstrated and reciprocated the boys’ inspiring commitment to their goals, and overcame roadblocks and challenges and turmoil.

So where do these football players and fans—and your own book’s characters—draw their strength to trudge onward, despite the obstacles, the big goals, and the unknown path to the end zone—or the happily ever after?

I don’t know, actually, where the real-life characters draw their strength from. It’s different for each of us, I bet. But your fictional characters get their determination from you. You created them and festooned them with their traits—good and bad—and imbued them with appropriate goals, motivations, and conflicts. You’ve given birth to them. They’re yours. And, once born, they will always exist.

You can use them to help inspire yourself—to persevere, to not give up, to forge ahead, and to tackle the obstacles, including the internal ones. You’ve created those characters and guided them to a happily ever after, so you have it in you to do the same for yourself and finish your manuscript. Right?

And along the way, eat a tuna fish sandwich or two.

By Lori LeBonde
Scarlet Rose Editor

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Nano Ending Coming Soon!

To all of you hard at work on a project for Nano - please keep going.  You can do it.  To keep you motivated here's a couple quotes from Mark Twain on writing:

My works are like water. The works of great masters are like wine; but everyone drinks water.

Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out th wqrong words.

We write frankly and fearlessly but then we "modify" before we print.

Experience is an author's most valuable asset; experience is the thing that puts the muscle and the breath and the warm blood into the book he writes.

Now stop reading blogs and go finish your project.  November 30 is only a week away!


Monday, November 21, 2011

What are you looking for as a Publisher

What are you looking for?
That’s a question I hear a great deal in my role as managing editor of the historical division.  Well the truth is pretty simple.  We’re looking for a well written romance set against an historical back drop with historically accurate details, a compelling conflict, and a satisfying happily ever after ending.
Usually that answer causes some glazing over of eyes.  Well of course we’re looking for all that, and the historical details aside, that’s pretty much what TWRP is looking for overall.  So allow me to answer a slightly different version of that question.
What aren’t you looking for?
I’m so glad you asked! J
While we never like to say never, there are some plots that are always popular (marriage of convenience, best friends falling in love) and others that have been “done” so much that readers (and, admittedly, editors) tire of them.
Heroine in  disguise.  It’s been said that more than 100 women donned uniforms and marched off to fight during the Civil War…  we’ve seen submissions for each and every one of them L . It’s not that we haven’t published some of these stories with great success and it’s not that we don’t enjoy or appreciate them, but they’re difficult to make work no matter the genre.  Yes some big name authors have used this plot device many times over  but I’d advise anyone interested in submitting such a story to one of our historical lines to please, please make sure you’ve found a fresh, unique approach to telling it.  We’re pretty tired of the same twists that particular plot entails.
The female doctor.  Again, we’ve published a lot of these.  And again, history tells us there were not a lot of female doctors until the mid 20th century.  In the US, nursing as a profession wasn’t even thought of until mid-Civil War, so it’s understandable that authors are drawn to this plot device to show caring, nurturing  heroines.   But we see queries almost daily where the heroine wants to buck the constraints of society by becoming a physician.  I’d like to challenge our authors to find another way to show how strong  and brave your heroine’s are.  She can still be a healer and she can still help others... but unless you’ve come up with something truly unique and new….this one has been done to death.
Weak conflict.  We say this all the time, but it really is what makes the difference between a great read and a mediocre one.  If your hero and heroine’s conflict can be resolved with a simple conversation “by the way, I gave birth to your child five years ago” or “I didn’t really sleep with Peggy Sue” then you have weak conflict.  Give me external reasons to keep these two apart as well as internal.  Maybe she can never love a gunfighter, maybe he’s got a death sentence hanging over his head.  Keep me turning those pages to find out how they’re going to work things out and stay together.
It’s a miracle!  Speaking of conflict resolution…If your heroine can’t have children and refuses to marry the hero because he wants a large family, don’t have her miraculously turn up pregnant on page 351.  If the hero is dead set against marriage and children because his last wife died in childbirth and he blames himself , don’t have him change his mind out of the blue on the second to last page without some life altering event to explain the change of heart. We all love happy endings but please make them satisfying. And if you have kept the reader guessing for 350 pages, don’t insult her intelligence by eliminating the conflict just because you’re closing in on 90k words and want to wrap things up.
The first draft.   If your writing is full of passive voice, telling rather than showing,  abrupt PV shifts and talking heads (dialogue with no layers of detail, emotion and/or setting),  brush up on your mechanics before submitting.  We know how excited you are to have finished your baby, but the time to polish is before submitting .  Don’t make the mistake of thinking the editors will tell you what you need to work on; that’s what critique partners are for.  We see such a high volume of submissions and can only publish the cream of the crop.  You’ll drastically increase your chances if you submit a highly polished MS.  Remember, there is no such thing as good writing…. only good rewriting!
And last but not least….
I have no clue, I just submitted my story to a bunch of places.    It is a waste of both author and editor time when we receive a submission that doesn’t fall within our guidelines.  If you don’t know whether or not your story fits the romance mold, find out before submitting.  And if you aren’t sure what the word count limit is for the line you’re targeting, please double check.  If you’re over word count, the time to trim is before you submit.  I can assure you that the editor will not read your entire 150k MS and tell you what scenes to cut.  Instead you will receive a friendly note suggesting you trim and resubmit.
So let me reiterate that we’re looking for well written, historically accurate romance… but there are a few plot twists  we’ve seen a little too much of lately.  Short stories are a hot with readers right now (have you heard about our new Love Letters series? See below for the guidelines) and holiday themed stories rae always a treat since we see so few.
Wishing you all an enjoyable holiday season and lots of writing time in the new year!
News of an arranged marriage
Dear John letters
Unexpected inheritance
Mail order bride
Death of a loved one
We regret to inform you
Sometimes… a letter changes everything.
In the historical series Love Letters a character’s life is forever changed by the receipt of a letter, Let your imagination run wild as you consider what life-altering news would be in your hero or heroine’s envelope and how it would lead to the love of a lifetime.
Stories must be historically accurate and suited to one of the following lines: American Rose, Cactus Rose, English Tea Rose, Vintage Rose. Story length should range between 20,000-25,000 words. The letter must occur within the first three pages of the story.

Please follow the general submission guidelines on the website for formatting and submit through the “Love Letters Series” should appear in the subject line, as well as your title.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thanksgiving and writing Romance

Lara Parker
BLack Rose Editor

This being my first blog post I couldn’t come up with anything to write about, even started to fret since my date was fast approaching. Then it dawned on me early one morning while I sat on the couch with my two dogs and a fire roaring in the fireplace (yes, even us Floridians build fires when it’s chilly outside)…November, the month of giving thanks.
Thanksgiving isn’t a holiday you see a lot of stories centered around but maybe that should change, at least perhaps I should consider it since I have so much to be thankful for.  In these times of commercialism (Christmas decorations were out at Target one day after Halloween decoration displays were revealed in late September) I wonder if folks, including myself, really appreciate what Thanksgiving is all about. Giving thanks for the good things in life, being thankful that the Mayflower and her sisters traveled long tedious miles to bring settlers to this great country, even if it is in a shambles at the moment.
So while I know this post is really short, I am thankful I could write it and I am anxious to see if I have any Thanksgiving themed stories come across my desk next year (even though I edit for Black Rose, it’s possible to have a shapeshifting settler with a zombie turkey sidekick, right?). I hope you count your blessings each day and are thankful for your family or friends, that great job or just for the air in your lungs. 
Until next time,

Friday, November 11, 2011

Happy Veterans Day

Two of these handsome Marines (the ones on either end) are from Adams Basin and I've known both of them since they were literally born.  Thankfully they are all home this year safe and sound having served in Afghanistan all last year.

Happy Veterans Day to all of you who have served our country and our gratitude to the families who stayed behind and worried and loved you.  All of you deserve this day of thanks and I sincerely hope you feel the love of those of us who you so bravely protected.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The First Five Pages

I love this time of year. The days are getting shorter, leaves are falling, and the holidays are just around the corner. Thanksgiving and Christmas are my favorite celebrations. I began working at The Wild Rose Press around this time several years ago. My name is Anne Seymour, and I currently work as an editor on the Crimson Rose line. I always love a good mystery, especially when the hero is as hot as the suspense.

The one aspect, in my opinion, that marks the difference between just a manuscript and a GREAT MANUSCRIPT is THE FIRST FIVE PAGES. During this critical point in a story, the author must pull the reader in and hook their interest, or the reader will become apathetic toward the characters—and probably not finish reading the book.

Sounds shocking, right? How can an author open a grand story, introduce sympathetic characters and evil villains, begin the action and conflict, but yet confine all above mentioned aspects to a mere FIVE PAGES? An insurmountable task one might say, right? But maybe not; let’s discuss the basics now.

First, we must unlearn all that we have learned previously about writing. I studied all the great works in Literature during college. James Fennimore Cooper, Herman Melville, Henry James, etc. wrote stories in omniscient point of view employing the writing method of “telling” the action instead of “showing” it. This technique removes the reader from the action of the story instead of insisting the reader to take part with the characters in the act. A reader must be immersed in the action and emotionally involved with the characters by the end of the fifth page of a story. Make the reader unable to do anything but participate with your characters.

Next, find an opening line that will grab attention. For example, “Take it easy. It’s not like I’m going anywhere.” Sunny jerked her arms back hoping to slow the pace of the large-framed detective who continued to drag her from the bar with unwavering force. “Calm down, Wildcat. You’re only making it harder on yourself.” He didn’t slow his stride, or ease the firm grasp he had on her arm as he walked beside her.” In this example, (Some Like It In Handcuffs by Christine Warner—coming soon from The Wild Rose Press) the author introduces the hero and heroine within the first four sentences while adding humor and sexual tension. The reader is hooked now, determined to learn more and join the story.

Finally, make sure to include ONLY necessary information at this time. The first five pages are not for any of the following:

n Back-story: while back-story will be needed in any novel, it should never appear in the first five pages! Use back-story sparingly and only when needed throughout the novel, but never allow it to be longer than a few paragraphs at a time.

n Secondary Characters: Introduce these characters later in the story. Reserve the main characters (hero, heroine, & villain (if there is one)) for the beginning.

n Descriptive or Non-Action Scenes: Describe the setting later. The first five pages should not be filled with paragraphs of how beautiful the sky, trees and meadows are. Also, no Non-Action scenes! Start with a fight scene, a murder, etc. Grab attention.

While this is a brief overview, I hope I’ve mentioned good points to consider. If any are interested in another more in-depth discussion, please comment and let me know. I would be happy to offer another blog discussing this further. Until then, enjoy the season and keep writing!

Anne Seymour

Monday, October 31, 2011

Part 2 NaNo - Are you ready?

(Part 1 of this blog was posted on Wednesday - regarding NaNoWriMo) by Nancy Swanson, Editor

"If one gets used to translating into a novel one's experiences, one's ideas, what one has to say becomes a novel; one is left with no raw materials for another form of literary expression. ...when I was 28 and not at all sure that I was going to carry on writing, I began doing what came most naturally to me. Instead of making myself write the book I ought to write, the novel that was expected of me, I conjured up the book I myself would have liked to read, the sort by an unknown writer, from another age and another country, discovered in an attic." ~Italian writer Italo Calvino

P. G. Wodehouse "was writing a story [...] about two young men [...] getting into a lot of trouble, and neither of them had brains enough to get out of the trouble. I thought: Well, how can I get them out? And I thought: Suppose one of them had an omniscient valet? I wrote a short story about him, then another short story, then several more short stories and novels. That's how a character grows."
About writing, he said: "Always get to the dialogue as soon as possible. I always feel the thing to go for is speed. Nothing puts the reader off more than a great slab of prose at the start. I think the success of every novel — if it's a novel of action — depends on the high spots. The thing to do is to say to yourself, 'Which are my big scenes?' and then get every drop of juice out of them. The principle I always go on in writing a novel is to think of the characters in terms of actors in a play. I say to myself, if a big name were playing this part, and if he found that after a strong first act he had practically nothing to do in the second act, he would walk out. Now, then, can I twist the story so as to give him plenty to do all the way through? I believe the only way a writer can keep himself up to the mark is by examining each story quite coldly before he starts writing it and asking himself if it is all right as a story. I mean, once you go saying to yourself, 'This is a pretty weak plot as it stands, but I'm such a hell of a writer that my magic touch will make it okay,' you're sunk. If they aren't in interesting situations, characters can't be major characters, not even if you have the rest of the troop talk their heads off about them."

François Mauriac, considered one of France’s great novelists, said: "Every novelist ought to invent his own technique, that is the fact of the matter. Every novel worthy of the name is like another planet, whether large or small, which has its own laws just as it has its own flora and fauna."
And, "If you would tell me the heart of a man, tell me not what he reads, but what he rereads."

Novelist R. K. Narayan,  born in India in 1906, said: "Everyone thinks he's a writer with a mission. Myself, absolutely not. I write only because I'm interested in a type of character and I'm amused mostly by the seriousness with which each man takes himself."

Perhaps not in total agreement with the above advice is the work of Belva Plain, whose critics were not always kind — one called her books "easy, consoling works of generous spirit, fat with plot and sentiment, thin in nearly every other way and almost invisible in character development." But her readers loved her books, all best-sellers. Her first book, Evergreen, was published in 1978, by which time she was a grandmother in her 60s. She wrote longhand in spiral notebooks, and produced a novel about every year or so.  ~from The Writer’s Almanac of October 9, 2011

George Mackay Brown, a Scotsman who wrote poetry, essays, fiction, and travel books, told Contemporary Authors: "I believe in dedicated work rather than in 'inspiration' [...] I believe writing to be a craft like carpentry, plumbing, or baking [...] In 'culture circles,' there is a tendency to look upon artists as the new priesthood of some esoteric religion. Nonsense — and dangerous nonsense moreover — we are all hewers of wood and drawers of water; only let us do it as thoroughly and joyously as we can."

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

NaNoWriMo Time

contributed by Nancy Swanson, Editor

NaNoWriMo  is coming up, and some of you are going to try again to put together the requisite number of words per day and by the end of the month. Well, good luck to you, and here are some quotations to help and encourage you, mostly from and about famous writers..

Elmore Leonard has written more than 40 novels — as soon as he finishes one, he starts on another. He's famous for his advice for writers. In 2001, he published a piece in The New York Times called "Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle." He gave 10 rules, things like "Never open a book with weather"; "Never use a verb other than 'said' to carry dialogue"; "Avoid detailed descriptions of characters"; and "Try to leave out the parts that readers tend to skip." He wrote: "Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them. What the writer is doing, he's writing, perpetrating hooptedoodle, perhaps taking another shot at the weather, or has gone into the character's head, and the reader either knows what the guy's thinking or doesn't care. I'll bet you don't skip dialogue. My most important rule is one that sums up the 10. If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it." 

He said: "I feel that I learned to write Westerns by reading and rereading
 For Whom the Bells Tolls. [...] But I was not influenced by his attitude, thank God. My attitude is much less serious. I see absurdities in serious situations, influenced in this regard by Vonnegut, Richard Bissell, and Mark Harris, and this shows in my writing. It's your attitude that determines your sound, not style."

When Leonard started writing, he was also working as a copy-editor for an advertising agency. He woke up every morning at five to start writing — he wouldn't let himself turn on the coffee pot until he started to write. At work, he would stick his hand in his desk drawer and write in a blank notebook. He wrote five books and 30 short stories that way, before he quit to be a full-time writer. ~from Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac for October 11, 2011
"I would encourage you all to read, read, read. Just keep reading. And writing is another skill. It's practice. It's practice. The more you write, the better you get. Drafts--our kids are learning the first draft means nothing. You're going to do seven, ten drafts. That's writing, it's not failure, it's not the teacher not liking you because it's all marked up in red. When you get to be a good writer, you mark your own stuff in red, and you rewrite, and you rewrite, and you rewrite. That's what writing is." ~Michelle Obama in a speech on May 25, 2011

"Keep on writing, no matter what! That's the most important thing. As long as you have a job on hand that absorbs all your mental energy, you haven't much worry to spare over other things. It serves as a suit of armor." ~Playwright Eugene O’Neill

Monday, October 24, 2011

Cover Points by Angela Anderson

Everyone, yes EVERYONE, judges a book by its cover. Even when the book is written by your favorite author, you still check it out. Why? Most readers are visual and detail oriented. The cover helps complete the image in their head of what they "think" the story is about. It is then up to the written page to either fulfill or disappoint.

So what should authors be thinking about when the consider their "perfect" cover? Believe it or not, this thought process should begin as soon as you begin sketching out the storyline and your characters. If you want a cover that is not just an honest reflection of your story but also one that will help it sell, consider the following:

Scenes/locations: Can the cover artist find an acceptable representation, regardless of whether your story is set in Colonial New England, the depths of space, or contemporary Manhattan? Depending on the stock art site, this might be a challenge, offering you the choice of something that isn't "historically" accurate or a background that must be pieced together. Collages have their place in cover design, but too much is NOT a good thing and rarely looks realistic. So make it easy for your artist--stay true to your concept but offer a simplistic backdrop that can be easily replicated.

Time: Period pieces are a big draw for many readers because it puts us in a time and place we've never experienced. However, be aware that due to photo stock limitations, you may not always get an authentic representation. So, again, keep your settings general to give the artist more latitude with the images. The final product will stay truer to your vision and the reader will have an easier time buying into the idea.

Characters: Here's a challenge for you...go to your favorite stock photo site and find a voluptuous redhead with violet eyes in a white laced "pirate-style" shirt being held by a 6 foot 6 inch muscle-bound man wearing leather pants with long black hair and a shock of white just over his left eye. Nothing...yeah, I thought so. Cover artists have just as hard a time finding that "perfect" couple shot, and the job can be made even more difficult if your sexy duo is so specifically detailed. Offer good descriptions, but understand that some "people" just don't exist in the real world.

Level of heat: Asking for a barely clothed couple in an embrace so hot that it melts the screen will get you exactly that. It's vivid, eye catching, and bound to draw in the reader. For many publishers and authors, heat sells. Ensure that the cover you request can keep pace with the sensuality of the content. Otherwise, the whole package becomes a lie that the content can't live up to.

Angela Anderson
Editor/cover artist

Monday, October 17, 2011

Author / Experience Diversity

Author / Experience Diversity

I have always considered myself a very accepting person when it comes to different cultures and life choices. I try not to judge people for who they are or what they do with their life. If it works for them, and they are happy, then good for them.

Not too long ago, I attended a conference that opened my eyes to lifestyles I’d heard/read about but never really experienced firsthand. Doms and Submissives, polyamorous marriages, bondage. I realized I have led a very sheltered life. I have read about people in Dom/Sub relationships, and how some Doms will make the Sub act as their end table, or will make them eat out of dog dishes. I was fascinated at this particular conference to see a Sub being led around by a leash.

I never expected to be shunned for being straight and monogamous. I consider myself to be friendly. When I come out of my shell, I will talk to anyone. And more often than not, people respond to my smile and the gesture. However, at this conference, I had two people shun me when they found out I was straight and married to my high school sweetheart. I couldn’t understand why that would bother anyone.

There are so many different cultures, races, and lifestyles out there…so many I am ashamed to admit I know nothing about. Though my parents raised me to be accepting of everything, to never judge a person simply by the color of their skin, I remained ignorant to how they lived.

I still choose to accept that everyone makes their own choices in life, that just because they are different than me doesn’t make me better than them. It’s a lesson I think everyone needs to remember. No one will love everything that you do, or believe the same way you do. If that were the case, this world would be a boring place.

The next time you find yourself crinkling your nose at the oddness of the person you see wearing a fuzzy bunny costume hitting on the 6’6” cross dresser on the corner, take a breath and remember: they probably think you are just as odd.

Love yourself for who you are, and everything else will fall in line.

Johanna Melaragno- Editor

Crimson Rose

Monday, October 10, 2011

Did I do that?!

Hi! Callie Lynn here. First I'd like to wish everyone a Happy Halloween and a Blessed Samhain!

I'd like to talk about something I've come across quite a lot recently in Black Rose submissions. I believe that for the most part this is done unintentionally and not in anyway meant to copy another author's work, but it may be construed as plagiarism or at the very least a copyright issue. So with that said, let me move on to the point.

I have noticed several story submissions on my own desk recently that have mirrored other works dangerously.

With a lot of emphasis and I might add a good amount of very good books, movies, and shows out there in the last several years on the subject of vamps and shifters, I notice more and more submissions are coming in with all too familiar themes, storylines, and even down to character and setting. While watching everything you, as an author, can in the genre you enjoy writing in the name of research, which by the way I do myself, we must keep in mind that NEVER and I do mean NEVER are we able to adopt any piece of that original work for our own. Nor may we borrow characters from those works. Characters are part of copyrighted creative works and may not be used unless express permission is given by said creator.

For instance, I have recently delved into several older vamp series which many have perhaps forgotten about and noticed similarities on some of the mythology of the creatures who we adore. "Moonlight" depicts Nick St. John as a PI gumshoe-type vamp who sleeps in a freezer and is able to move around in daylight as long as it is overcast much like those in "Twilight." "Blood Ties" goes the opposite direction with the human, Vickie Nelson, a police detective turned PI due a progressive eye disease and who partners with 450 year old vamp, Henry, a descendant of royalty who sniff out nothing but otherworldly evil-doings. These are great stories and unique in their own way. But though some of the finer points may mirror other stories you can not borrow the obvious.

Things such a daywalking, no heartbeat or pulse, changing to counterpart animal on the full moon or whenever the mood urges you is fine. No reflection or having a reflection, all fine. Needing to feed every day or once in awhile due to age, again fine. The thing is to beware of having a group of teens or adults who live in Forks that are vamps. That is Twilight to millions of people and especially Stephanie Myers who owns rights to her story and her characters.

More recently the infamous "True Blood" has give us even more unique twist to vampirism, as well, wolf/shape shifters, demons and so much more. We eat all these shows up as well the many authors such as Laurell K. Hamilton, J. R. Ward, Anne Rice, Christine Feehan, and so many others who have created such lustfully attractive monsters with hearts and hot bods. But as writers, we need to figure out a way to create unique storylines and different themes with a risk that no one has thought up yet. How do we do that while our minds are wrapped around the awesome books, TV series, or movies we have rolling around in our heads? Well, my friends, there in lies the question. Only you can answer through your own means of filtering out what's already been done.

The moral of this post is to be aware of what you write. Be careful not to weave a wonderful tale that comes too close to something that has already been done and by all means, NEVER borrow characters from other's work. You do not want to find somewhere down the line that you have stepped on someone toes or copyright.

Callie Lynn Wolfe

Senior Managing Editor

Black Rose Imprint

The Wild Rose Press

Friday, September 30, 2011

Write What You Know

Hi. Kathy Cottrell here, a couple days early and representing the Last Roses of Summer in our garden. I'd like to talk about using what you know in your writing.
Having attended a number of writers conferences over the years, I've had the privilege to sit in on any number of workshops, the Craft Tract being a personal favorite. One which stood out the loudest came when Nora Roberts told the audience, 'write what you know.' Coming from one of my writing heroes, the advice made sense―except I wondered how I, as a nurse [then] could ever turn a doctor into a hero. If you don't know where someone had their hands last--not an appealing thought as far as I was concerned.
Then came the day when I heard Tess Gerritsen speak at a New Jersey Romance Writers conference. She spoke about how her roots in writing dated back to her medical residency days in the ICU and observing what the nurses―whom she spoke of with great respect and affection―were reading: category romances. Wow. A physician who spoke of nurses with respect. I had to read one of her books. Let me tell you, after devouring “The Apprentice”, I was hooked. Tess Gerritsen writes what she knows!
As a teenager, living in a rural area with little to do and no way to get anywhere, I read anything I could get my hands on. I discovered a book by Frank G. Slaughter in my parents' library, a Civil War story about a female spy and a male battle surgeon. Very bloody, lots of guts, gore and suffering. Right up the alley of a fourteen year old with an over-active imagination and way too much time on her hands. Thoroughly hooked, I proceeded to sign out every one of his books from the school library as well as the library in a neighboring town. It wasn't until I later that I learned Mister Slaughter was actually a medical doctor.
This author had the ability to put me in the moment of a battlefield hospital scene, suffering right along with the physician and his patients. One of Dr. Slaughter's contemporary novels, “Daybreak” featured the trials and tribulations of a physician working in the mental health system prior to the advent of effective anti-psychotic medications when pre-frontal lobotomies and electroshock therapy were considered last ditch efforts to treat intractable psychiatric problems. Very chilling stuff for this young woman who was about to head off for three years of nursing school in―you guessed it―a state psychiatric facility. By the end of my schooling, I'd passed more Thorazine and Mellaril than any thousand nursing students―and no fresh lobotomies, thank you very much.
As a young wife with a graduate student husband and two small kids, money was tight. I lucked out when I discovered a second-hand book store which stocked copies of Robert K. Tannenbaum's legal thrillers featuring Assistant District Attorneys Butch Karp and Marlene Ciampi. With each book I learned about the steps in the legal process, evidence that can degrade over time or be lost by dumb luck or stupid accident, “eye witnesses” who don't see everything, and a how-to manual for criminals who want to beat the system. It came as no surprise when I learned this man spent many years in the Manhattan DA's office, prosecuting the worst of the worst. Writing with a sharp wit and biting sarcasm, after more than thirty years, Mr. Tannenbaum's books continue to hold my interest. Another instance of writing what one knows.
Lastly, I'd like to blow the horn for one of my nursing as well as writer heroes: Eileen Dreyer. After many years in category romance [writing as Kathleen Korbel], Eileen―an experienced ER nurse―was called up to the big leagues with a series of medical thrillers set in and around St. Louis, Missouri. Invariably her heroines are nurses with advanced training [such as Eileen herself] in forensic evidence collection, death examinations, and critical incident management. Using gut-busting humor, Eileen makes the everyday come to life and answers the question, “What if?”
In closing, I challenge any author to look at their everyday life and incorporate something they find there into his/her writing. Okay, so maybe you don't have an exciting job which includes passing bed pans or inserting suppositories, but do you have a volunteer job you really love, something that gives back ten times more than what you put in? I have a friend who volunteers at a soup kitchen, another takes calls on a domestic violence crisis line, a third takes an AA meeting into the county jail every week.
Do you have an Aunt Helen [like me] who retired from the Navy Nurse Corps at the rank of Lieutenant Commander after serving in World War II and Korea? [It was very rare in those days for a female to rise to that rank.] Do you have religious connections you might tap for a secondary character? I know an author who pumped her priest uncle for the scoop on how to get around the priest-penitent privilege and the sanctity of the confessional―and yes, under certain circumstances, it can be done.
Could where you live or go for a vacation be turned into a setting so vivid readers want to move there? One of the Class of '85 stories was set in the Adirondack Mountains. Believe me, the author nailed it.
What turns you on? How do you fill all those empty hours in your life? Do you attend festivals or state fairs? How about protest marches? Out of the Dark, a September 2010 anthology from the Last Rose line featured a protest march that turned into a riot. The author was a veteran of protests from back in the 80's and 90's; it was clear she knew what she was talking about. The description spoke to me as an editor as well as a woman.
As an editor and a reader, I have developed a second sense for what rings true and what comes from someone who took the easy way out when it came to doing his or her homework―and not all were unpublished. Do not depend on legal whodunits on the big screen or mystery illness of the week on TV for accuracy. If you want to know which shows portray accurate situations, ask someone who's already in The Biz. I myself DO NOT EVER EVER watch any of the “CSI” shows, “House”, “ER”, “Law and Order, SVU”. The shows earning the highest ratings do not always consider the truth because they would lose viewers.
In closing, I suggest that to put realism and depth in your WIP, add what you know.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Top Ten Peeves We Would Rather Not See, Part Two

Hello and Welcome Back!

Here is the second part of our combined post, Top Ten Peeves We Would Rather Not See, by Sweetheart Rose Editor Vicky Reed and Crimson Rose Editor Laura Kelly.  
6.    Writers who think every line of dialogue must be answered, and every inner thought conveyed to the reader, in case they ‘don’t understand’ what you are trying to say.
If a reader doesn’t understand why your character says or does something, it’s because you haven’t fleshed out that character well enough.  Telling the reader why Indiana Jones hates snakes isn’t enough.  You need to show it.  Through dialogue and action. 

Dialogue is action, by the way, and only dialogue that moves the story forward needs to be included.  Excessive dialogue slows the story down, and only bores the reader. 

What really bogs down a story is when every time the hero or heroine speaks, we get a mental assessment of what they said by the other party, before the other party speaks. 

Don’t have them think their responses and feelings, have them act upon them, preferably with a conflict-enhancing line of dialogue.  (Not bickering, as stated in last week’s post).

7.      Don’t tell us what the characters are about to do, then show them doing it. 

Susie had a plan, first she’d sneak out the back door, then go to the store and buy a wig and some make-up, and then she’d sneak back to Joe’s place and find the missing key, but she’d make sure Dave saw her, so he would follow her, and then Joe would know what Dave was up to and could arrest him.  And on the way, she’d call the SWAT team, just in case there was trouble. 

Just show her sneaking out the back door, shopping at the store, making her phone call to the SWAT team and then showing up at Joe’s apartment.  Make us wonder what’s going to happen, next.

Another thing we see a lot of is writers who think laying out their character’s plan in this way, ahead of time, then having that plan go awry when the character tries to put it into action, equals conflict.  As in “Oh, no, Susie was going to go to the store and buy the wig, but they didn’t have any for sale.  She’d have to go with plan B.” 

If plan A never happens, that’s even more pointless than telling us Plan A, then showing us plan A.  It just frustrates the reader.

8.    Writers who don’t know how to end the scene with a hook. 

A good hook can be a snappy line of dialogue that leaves the reader wondering what will happen next, and pulls them into the next scene, or chapter.  A lot of writers seem to have trouble getting their characters out of the room, or scene. Or ending the day.  Never end the scene with your character going to bed alone. It might give the reader the idea to put the book down and do the same.

9.    Point of view violations. 

When you are in a character’s point of view, you can only see, hear, taste, smell and feel what that character sees, hears, tastes, smells and feels.  And you can only describe what they are experiencing using vocabulary your character would use.  What self-respecting alpha male describes anything as “horrid?”

Beware of using your own extensive writer’s vocabulary instead of limiting dialogue and internal narrative to words your characters would use.  What construction worker hero would describe the heroine’s hair as ‘golden tresses?’ Her golden tresses flowed over his arm as…  This is you, the author speaking, and using omniscient POV, to boot, which only distances your reader from the story.  If your hero wouldn’t notice the color of the wallpaper or delicate brocade of the furniture, then let that be described in the heroine’s POV.   

10.  Overuse of qualifiers. 

Make every word count.  Do a word search and take out every even, just, actually, really, usually, generally, especially, that doesn’t have to be there.  He just wanted to see her one more time.  She didn’t really even know his name.  That wasn’t exactly what she’d meant to say.  She wasn’t generally a fast talker.  He wasn’t especially fond of turtles.

Last, but not least, put your manuscript on a low-that diet, and take out any ‘that’ that does not add to the story.  Otherwise, you’re just padding your word count.

Here’s hoping you’ve found at least one way to improve your manuscript after reading these two posts, or, better yet, found out you’re a better writer than you thought!

Wishing you all the best in your writing endeavors,

Vicky Reed
Laura Kelly

Monday, September 19, 2011

Top Ten Peeves We Would Rather Not See - Part I

By editors Laura Kelly and Vicky Reed

This is a two part blog post, presented by Vicky Reed, Sweetheart Rose Editor, and Laura Kelly, Crimson Rose Editor. Vicky kicks things off with our first five pet peeves, and Laura will continue next week with the last five pet peeves and a bonus tip.  Are any of these in your manuscript?  You might be surprised.

1. The story is filled with happy coincidences that magically solve problems for the hero and heroine.

A good example of this is the romantic suspense where the hero and heroine are trapped. The hero dropped his gun into the elevator shaft to save the heroine from tumbling to her doom, the building is on fire, and a killer is on the loose. It looks like the end for our dauntless duo—but suddenly, a SWAT team arrives.

Anton Chekhov, the great Russian playwright, once said that if you have a gun above the mantelpiece in Act One, you’d better shoot it before the curtain falls. In other words, if you lock your hero in a building with a crazed killer, and set the basement on fire, tell your reader who the hero is, what he does, and why SWAT is keeping track of him—before they break in.

Write down the major plot points. Does everything flow logically from point A to point B? If not, then re-think your story line. 

2.  Writers who manipulate the plot to suit their ideas of what a nice scene would be, and it doesn’t logically follow the plot.

Usually this involves some clichéd love scene.  Maybe after being rescued your hero and heroine are caught in a torrential downpour and find shelter in a ramshackle tenement. It’s cold, they’re both soaked, wind is whistling through the bug-sized cracks but--despite the blue tinge to their anatomy--they stop to have sex.

Like like that Seinfield episode where George yells, “I have shrinkage,” events have to contain logic. Unless you’ve laid the groundwork to establish your hero is a superhuman sex machine, sub-zero temperatures are the opposite of a turn on.  So are sand, insects, reptiles, or rodents in the vicinity, and scenes where they haven’t bathed in days, but the minute they are alone and supposedly ‘safe,’ they have sex.

3.    Characters not acting in character.

In Linda Seger’s book, Creating Unforgettable Characters, she explains that every character is the result of how they grew up, their background and their core personalities. We are the sum of our parts. A person’s qualities in turn imply other qualities. A former policeman can be expected to know something about guns and the law. A heroine presented as a savvy businesswoman can’t go around making one bad decision after another.  Every action is filtered through experience and background. Once you create a person, you must remain true to who and what you have created.

4.  Characters who stomp, stalk, clench fists and glare at each other, exhibit no self-control and are victims of their emotions, including passion.

A character who stomps around with her fists clenched, glaring at the hero until the touch of his hand makes her hot for him is two-dimensional. A well-drawn heroine has emotions that are true to her background and core personality. Nobody has only one or two emotional reactions, and as we grow, we learn to exert control over our actions. It’s all a part of growing up.

5.  Writers who think bickering equals conflict.

Every word should push your story forward. Bickering is verbal quicksand. Once the snappy comebacks stop, is there anything preventing your hero and heroine from falling into each other’s arms except word count? Tell me why your hero and heroine can’t be joined, and then—put that gun on the mantelpiece.

That’s enough for today…come back next week for five more of our personal pet peeves…

Thanks and happy writing/revising!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Cover Art From A Marketing Perspective

Every author envisions the perfect book cover with characters on the cover that the artist seemed to pluck right from your head. Mood, setting, tone—it’s going to be perfect. But wait, the cover hits your inbox and it’s nothing what you expected. Take a breath and relax.

TWRP has wonderful cover artists. With the limited information you provide on a cover request sheet, we hope you have a cover you can be proud of. What you might not know is that before it was ever sent to you, your cover has already been through an approval process. So what does marketing look for in a cover?

Every publishing company has a brand. If you look at the evolution of TWRP covers, you’ll see a progression from plain colored backgrounds with text for shorter works and side banners on every book to show the Rose Line the book is from such as Cactus Rose or Crimson Rose. To what we now have—beautiful custom cover art for every title. But now that there isn’t a banner on the side, we still want to showcase our brand of romantic fiction on our book covers. Our covers have that indefinable quality that represents the romance of a Wild Rose Press book.

But marketing also considers other qualities. Is the font easy to read? Can a reader clearly see both the title and your name? If the book is going into print, does the cover showcase well in large full sized image as well as thumb sized for digital etailers? And is the cover clean and concise enough to be recognized scaled down for some etailers? A cluttered cover, a cover that is too dark or too light won’t stand out on a website with thousands of other covers.

To go a little off topic. By the time you’re ready for a cover your book has been contracted and is probably somewhere in the editing stage and it’s a bit late for changes. So here is some advice. When you finish your story and you’re ready to submit, think about the title. A long title is going to clutter the cover. A common phrase will have dozens to hundreds of books with the same title. To give an example, I plugged Homecoming into the search bar and had 191 possibilities show. A title that begins with The, A, or An are going to be lost in the etailer catalog.

So when you get your cover, know that we don’t just consider the beautiful couple on a beach at sunset. But we also want a cover that reflects our publishing house and will be recognizable as your book. Your legible name and title and the overall cover are the best first impression you’ll have for your book.

Lisa Dawn

Marketing Director

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Is It a Romance?

You may be surprised to learn that one of the most common reasons I reject manuscripts isn’t poor writing, a lackluster plot, or lack of character development…it’s that the novel simply isn’t a romance. With the growing popularity of “chick lit” and women’s fiction, the line between romance novels and other fiction marketed to women has become blurrier. However, The Wild Rose Press is still a ROMANCE publisher, which means all our books must have a romantic relationship at their core. So, how do you know whether you’re writing romance or more general women’s fiction? I’ve put together a list of some questions to ask yourself and use to evaluate your manuscript. If you’re at the beginning stage of a writing project, you can use this checklist to determine whether the story you want to tell is really a romance and, if so, how you can make sure the focus stays on the romantic relationship. If you have a completed manuscript, this list will help you decide which publishers are best for your work—and may spare you a few rejections in the process.

1. When do the hero and heroine meet?

In a romance novel, I like to see the hero and heroine meet in the first chapter if at all possible, unless there’s a really good reason to put off their meeting. In women’s fiction, where the focus is more on the heroine, the author may take a few chapters to develop the main female character before introducing a love interest. In romance, the female character still develops and changes—but she does so within the context of the romantic relationship. If your hero doesn’t appear till Chapter 3 or 4, there’s a good chance you’ve got a women’s fiction novel rather than a romance.

2. What point of view are you writing in?

Romance is generally written in third person, alternating between the hero and heroine’s viewpoints. Chick lit is more often written in the first person, which makes sense, since this places the focus more clearly on the heroine. I have accepted romances written in the first person, either exclusively from the heroine’s point of view or alternating between the hero and heroine. However, the vast majority of successful romances are still written in third person. In addition, while some genres of women’s fiction might include a wide variety of characters’ viewpoints, romance usually limits the POV to the hero and heroine. While a romantic suspense might include a few sections from a villain’s POV, unless there’s a compelling reason to use a third POV, it’s usually a safe bet to stick with your hero and heroine’s viewpoints.

3. Is the romance the main source of conflict?

Yes, I want to see a well-rounded heroine who experiences character growth in all aspects of her life. However, if you find that the character’s job, or female friendships, or relationships with parents or children (just as a few examples) are taking up more page space than the romance, you probably have women’s fiction on your hands.

4. Is there a Happily-Ever-After ending?

In a romance novel, readers expect and are gratified to see the hero and heroine come together for good by the novel’s end. In women’s fiction, there’s a broader range of possible conclusions to your story.

I hope you find these tips helpful, and remember, rather you’re writing inside or outside the romance genre, it’s always a good idea to consider the specific expectations of your market throughout the writing process. That way, by the time you finish writing and revising, you’ll have a good idea of where to submit your manuscript.

-Stephanie Parent, Editor, Champagne Line