Do Authors Have a Responsibility to Their Readers?

The life they’ve chosen

I sometimes feel sorry (just a little) for celebrities who have paparazzi in their faces whenever they go out – to a restaurant, the gym, even a supermarket. Imagine if they were going to get a bikini wax or some other personal appointment. And forget about hooking up for a kinky rendezvous. The whole world is always in their business making it difficult for them to live normal lives. If a celebrity does something stupid (who of us has never done anything stupid?) like lick a donut in a bakery and then put it back for someone else to buy (okay maybe not to that extent. That’s not only stupid, it’s disgusting and shows a lack of concern for the health and well being of others.) But when they do slip up, the whole world knows about it and often it takes a long time for the world to get over it. But as I stated, I only feel a little sorry for them, because for the most part, this is the life they’ve chosen.

The responsibility of YouTubers

My son likes watching YouTube videos, and some of the YouTubers, although entertaining, annoy me because they use foul language. I know, I know… freedom of speech and parenting your child, etc. But these video gaming entertainers know that a large part of their audience consists of young children. Therefore, they should be careful about what they do and say because impressionable children watch and imitate them. If this is what they choose to do, they have a responsibility to keep their material appropriate for the youngsters.

What about authors?

Lately I’ve been thinking about the responsibility authors – especially published authors – have to readers. They buy and read our books, and sometimes, if we’re lucky, they write reviews. Our readers are our motivation to create great stories.  When we advertise or promote an upcoming book, via interview, social media, the back content of current book or any other means, we have a responsibility to our readers to deliver what we said we would.

Cancelled

A few years ago, I read all four books in a popular series. Like many fans of the series, I was disappointed to learn that publication of the fifth book – a version of the first book told from a different point of view – had been cancelled. The author had decided not to finish it because someone had leaked part of the story. By the time I’d discovered the series, so much time had passed since the occurrence of the leak that I had hoped the author would just shake it off and finish the book. Especially since so many fans had asked, begged and pleaded for book five. I’d checked her website from time to time, looking for info, but there’d been nothing. Eventually I found a version of the story which I believe had been “completed” and posted by a fan, so I stopped checking the author’s website and moved on.

When an author chooses to introduce his or her writing to the world, be it a story, a sequel, even just an excerpt, he or she should make every effort to deliver.

 

Responsibility to my readers

Forbidden Kisses EBook.jpgOver the last few days, I’ve been reminded of my responsibility to my readers. On three occasions within as many days, someone mentioned Off Base, the sequel to my Military Romance, Forbidden Kisses.
coverThe most recent was this comment I read on my website from sjlmorgan.
The comment both made my day and broke my heart a little. Here was this reader who enjoyed book one and was ready for book two. Referring to the free sample chapter I’d included in the back of book 1, the reader was basically saying, “Why did you even include the sample chapter for book 2? Now I want it and it’s not available.” The sad thing is, I haven’t even been working on Off Base. I started it, but then out of the blue, I got an idea for a brand new story. I put Off Base on the back burner so I could work on Remember Love.

 

sjlmorgan isn’t the only reader waiting for the continuation of Layla and Ethan’s story. I went through my reviews and noted that there are at least fourteen reviews in which the reader expressed a desire to read Off Base.

  1. Can’t wait for the second installment; hoping for another winner!
  2. Can’t wait for their sequel!
  3. I’m looking forward to following this love story into their next phase of the authors “Off Base”.
  4. I’m looking forward to reading the next book in this series. 
  5. I’m interested in what happens next to Eathan and Layla in the follow up story Off Base. 
  6. I look forward to reading about the progression of their love story.
  7. Waiting for the sequel to follow these two souls in their HEA.
  8. I’m anxious for the sequel that was briefly mentioned. I fully expect wedding bells for them. I won’t accept anything less.  Love this couple to moon and back. Thank you.
  9. I can’t wait to see how the author extends the story line.
  10. I can’t wait to read your next book.
  11. Anxiously awaiting the sequel.
  12. I can’t wait for the next book.
  13. Can’t wait for Off Base!
  14. I look forward to reading Sha Renee’s next book.

Because of all these comments and the responsibility I have to my readers (and my love for Layla and Ethan’s story),  I’ve decided to hold off on Remember Love and get back to writing Off Base. Thank you, sjlmorgan for that reminder.

 

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The End of the Road

I’m sure you all can identify with this. Years ago I started something that rolled on its own beautifully and only needed an occasional push. This blog is that thing. Then the contributors started being published and happy and busy. One by one, they dropped off the list of contributors. Continue reading

RT Booklovers Convention

RT #17 was held in Atlanta this past May and I have to tell you, it was an amazing experience. I met readers, bloggers, and did my fair share of fangirling when meeting some of my favorite authors. By the end of the first night, I discovered why everyone recommended wearing comfortable shoes. The events/sessions start early in the morning and doesn’t end until well after midnight.

For anyone who has the opportunity to go, I cannot express how much I encourage you to do so. It’s an experience I will never forget. Participating in my first ever book signing, author events, and introducing my novels to new readers still has my heart smiling. I simply cannot wait for RT#18 which will be in Reno next May.

My latest novel, Chasing Wicked – The Mitchell Brothers – Wicked Series, Book 1 came out a week prior to the event…just in time to introduce my bad boy Stone Mitchell. I’m planning to have Garrett’s story, Finding Wicked out by the end of the year and following will be Chad’s in Keeping Wicked.

Anyone interested in attending RT, here’s the link where you can keep up to date on any hot topics for planning early.

https://rtconvention.com/

Happy Reading and Writing to all,
Kathryn L. James (KJ)

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Description in Romance, by May Burnett

How Much?

Some writers naturally excel at description, others avoid it or struggle to find the right balance. Too much can be a drag on the book and modern readers are a lot less patient with description; too little can leave the characters floating without anchor in time and space, or lead the reader to imagine a setting that is later shown to be wrong – a subtly upsetting experience that can lead them to put the book aside.

My natural tendency is to include only a minimum. A regency novel typically takes place in a well-known setting, as far as the fan of the genre is concerned; no need to give yet another detailed description of Almack’s, of a society ball, of a young lady’s gown, unless it bears on the story and characters. But a little is still necessary. In the Urban Fantasy series I co-write with my writing partner, we need a bit more, so that readers can imagine our alternate world – luckily my partner is a deft hand at description and tends to include just enough to satisfy the readers, without impacting the pace.

Lately I have paid more attention to how much and what kind of description the books I read contain. It varies from lots of atmospheric, almost excessive setting description (typical for the historical mystery romance, and mysteries in general) to barely any (e.g. in a self-pubbed hugely successful SF series).

Best Practice

Here are some of the lessons I have learned:

  • The place where you really need a bit to anchor the reader is at the beginning of a scene, so we know where and when it takes place. But not more than a couple of sentences, if possible.
  • Less is more. In genre fiction, the readers want to get on with the story, so you need to use the telling detail, rather than long lists of things the characters notices.
  • In close third or first POV description does double duty by showing what kind of detail your character focuses on – e.g. an alpha male would not notice or care about the details of a girl’s sleeves and hems, though another lady would notice they are not according to the very latest fashion.
  • People notice things that are unusual for them – that gives you a chance to slip in a bit of backstory, or show a new side of your character. Cinderella at the ball contrasts this splendor with her own circumstances, the nouveau-riche character finds the style of old wealth too understated for his tastes, etc.
  • Even if your character would not normally notice anything much about his usual environment, at the start of the chapter you have a little leeway to slip in necessary information for the reader’s benefit. Just don’t use expressions too far from the POV character’s style and nobody will notice your sleight-of-hand and brief deviation from the strictest POV.
  • Short weather (or better, “changing light”) descriptions can be useful to demonstrate the passage of time.
  • Visual cues are important, but don’t forget to include odors, noises, and textures – try to involve all the senses, and not only in intimate scenes. To the falling darkness on a London street you can add the creeping fog, the cawing of a rook, the slithery wetness of the dirty cobblestones, the pungent smell of horse urine, the flicker of the gas light, etc. But only pile it on if you need to set a certain mood, e.g. to show your character’s fear or uneasiness. Otherwise, one or two telling details must do duty for all the rest of the scene.
  • Don’t use details that contradict the desired mood. If you want a foreboding effect, with a nervous character, don’t use cheerful details like daisies, sunshine, lilting melodies, etc. (Some writers can combine these with frightening details to heighten the effect, but that is tricky to pull off.)
  • Don’t include current cultural references to real people, companies, etc. if you can help it. It dates your story. To compare somee to a current pop star or singer, an actor etc. risks making the story incomprehensible if someone reads it in twenty years. Even now, someone from another generation, and large swathes of the world’s potential readers are not going to get it – remember that fame is ephemeral, today’s household word is tomorrow’s has-been.
  • Go for the concrete over general – instead of having the character arrange flowers on the mantelpiece, have her select and cut specific flowers that are appropriate for the country, season and social class of your character. No tulips or violets in autumn before we had airplanes, for instance, while roses (what size and color?) will do year-round in most places and periods (if it is plausible they had greenhouses nearby).
  • When people talk over a meal, include a bit of the typical fare, and what they drink. Who cooked and served it? Is the steak rare or well done? Are the flowers in the vase real or artificial? What is the tablecloth like? While you should not include all these details, you ought to be clear on them in your own mind.
  • Don’t forget that the right verb is also a part of description, often a crucial part. A young lady in a formal garden might amble, stride, rush, meander, kick the pebbles, etc. – each verb paints a very different picture. Choose carefully.
  • One-of-a-kind witty descriptions and quips can work wonderfully for people with a special talent, and in genres like humor. They can be essential for the unique voice all writers strive for, but can also look pretentious and stupid if you cannot properly pull it off. Such descriptions may also break the reader’s immersion. If you tend to do this, be sure to get honest beta readers to check that your originality truly achieves what you aim for.

 

Conclusion

In romance as in other genres, description is an important part of your story – like the furniture in your house. Too much creates a cluttered effect, but too little is cold and sterile. Readers should not particularly notice or stop to admire description as they follow your story, but must always feel they know where the characters are, what they look like (at least in general terms) and receive just enough clues to mentally picture the scenes you are writing. They will do the heavy lifting, as long as you give them something useful to work with.

Few writers get description exactly right as they set out on their learning curve, although some display a natural talent for it. Luckily, this is an area and technique that can be learned, and we have countless masters to learn from.

 

May Burnett is a writer and editor living in Vienna, Austria. Currently she is at work on the next sequel to her Amberley Chronicles, as well as the first volume of a co-written Fantasy Romance Trilogy.

The Race is On

I am once again up ending my life. Why? Because I can, more or less.

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I’m making plans for another big move. Not quite as big as last years’ move, but still fairly amazing.

And while moving last year did involve abandoning my blog for a month, I kept up with my publishing schedule.

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Now, however, I am writing, not publish, but to create. There is no set release date, no expectations of editing, it’s just me and the words, until I get them right. Which is liberating, but also harder.

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It’s easy to be motivated when you can plan and schedule releases. Now, it’s write what I feel, when I feel it. And I have slowed down… a lot. I used to bang out a miniumum of 2000 words a day.  I can still do that on the good days, but mostly I’m closer to 100 or 200, when I write at all. (Full disclosure: I am also editing a book, not drafting, but still…)

I have this irrational fear in the back of my mind that I might stop working on Red Witch and never pick it up again.

Which is really stupid considering I picked it back up after nearly a three-year break. But if feelings were rational we wouldn’t have needed to create the word irrational, amiright?

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However, the upending of my life is going to happen, and happen soon. What to do with this existential dread? Keep it tucked away, and use it in my book, once I get settled again.

its because we have no other choice

***

author photo cropped
Kate Whitaker writes for fun and profit from the woods of the Olympic Peninsula, for now. You can most likely find her sitting at her kitchen table yelling at kids as she tries to figure out a new way to kill made up monsters. She has a newsletter and a comic, and you can follow her on twitter.

The Writer’s Inner Journey

Creating believable characters is hard and showing how they change emotionally during the course of the story, harder still. Sometimes I feel like I need a degree in psychology to get it right.

In my last two blog posts I discussed character arcs, also known as the internal journey, or in the vernacular, emotional baggage. We all have it, but often it’s human nature to bury our heads in the sand and not think about it too much. However, examining our own inner psyche and the journey we have made through life, may help provide us with a better understanding of the characters we create.

Dara Marks, in her book The Power of the Transformational Arc, maintains that in order for a writer to be successful, they not only have to know their story, but also know themselves. She says:

“A natural story structure is one that reflects the true nature of the human experience.”

Or as Aristotle put it “Drama imitates life.’

One of the first things I learned about story structure was that every character should have a goal, and this in itself is a reflection of the human condition. Psychologist Abraham Maslow describes humans as “wanting animals”. As soon as we get one thing, we move on to wanting something else. To show how we prioritise these different wants, he developed the Hierarchy of Need.

At the bottom is the basic need for food, shelter and safety, we then move on to want love, self-respect and finally, self-actualisation. In character-driven fiction, it is these latter needs that often form part of a character’s inner journey whilst action movies may focus on more basic needs, such as safety.

Image result for maslow hierarchy of needs image

Whether a story is character or plot driven, our characters will face obstacles which will force them to make decisions. But sometimes it’s difficult to know which path our heroines and heroes should take. Whatever they choose to do, it must be believable and consistent with the background we have given them. That’s when it can be helpful to draw on personal eperiences.

At birth, inherited DNA aside, we are pretty much a blank canvas. It is what happens next that creates character such as parenting, upbringing, schooling etc.  All these factors will influence the type of person we become, how we respond to adversity and the decisions we make. Our characters need to evolve in the same way.

My favourite TV programme at the moment is First Dates where single people of all ages and background are looking for love. Some talk about their parent’s bitter divorce, a  cheating ex, or tragically, a loved one who has died. These experiences have made them reluctant to open their hearts because they fear being hurt again and to love makes us vulnerable.

Image result for first dates tv show

If we can similarly understand our own vulnerabilities and where they come from, it may help make us become better writers and in turn, create believable characters.

Maslow says: “human motivation is based on people seeking fulfilment and change through personal growth.”

It could almost be a line from a writing craft book.

 

about-the-author

Lizzie Hermanson is a wife, mother and talented procrastinator. She writes contemporary romance when her cat isn’t hogging the keyboard and loves Happy Ever Afters. Find her @lizziehermanson

It takes a Village of Writers by Roxanna Haley

I’ve had the pleasure recently of working with a great group of authors and publishing the fifth anthology in the Bowman’s Inn series. Five times, we have met deadlines, sweated through the editing and rewriting, and done our best to get these great stories noticed by readers. The task was fun, but not easy. Continue reading

Plot Points, Pinch Points and Character Goals

arches photo

We all know we’re supposed to have plot points and pinches and turns and twists and arcs in our novels, but how are they relevant to internal and external goals?

My preferred quick and dirty overall skeleton is Dan Wells’ seven point system, which runs as follows:

Hook

First Plot Point – Around the 25% mark of the novel

Pinch Point One – Around 40% of the way in

Midpoint – Halfway (Else it wouldn’t be the midpoint…)

Pinch Point Two – Around the 60% mark

Second Plot Point – Around the 75% mark

Resolution

Having established where all these points should come in my pantsed novel, I mapped out where my plot points do fall. It turns out that not only do I have plot and pinch points for the external story but also for the internal story line. My overall story goal was to get my FMC in a place where she is confident in her ability to manage a large demesne (medieval romance), so I needed the various plots and pinches in certain places relevant to this goal. This was difficult, because I wasn’t sure what constituted a plot point. Was it a kiss?

kiss photo

Or was it her enemy invading her home and trying to take it by force?

The first plot point must be a game changer, according to Larry Brooks. It must define the hero’s need and quest going forward. Something, or someone, enters the story and alters the hero’s status.

I struggled with identifying what my first plot point was, until I realised I had two. One for my FMC’s internal need/goal, and one for the external.

It turns out that the kiss is the first plot point for her internal goal because it changes how she thinks. Before, she thought she could resist this guy. After – she knows she can’t resist him and must stay away until she knows how to resist him.

The invasion is the first plot point for the external goal – which is for her to manage the demesne alone, without the need to get married again (we’re talking medieval, here, remember!). This invasion alters her status by establishing that she needs help. The question then becomes – from where should she seek help?

The same happened for the pinch points and midpoint. They all occurred roughly at the right times, give or take ten pages or so. When I was done, I had mapped out all the points for both her internal and her external goals!

For anyone reading this, my comments might be a ‘duh, you twit, didn’t you know that’ moment, but I wasn’t aware of this, and now I am, I am determined to add this to my next novel to give it greater depth.

Welcome to Anteros

If you need a quick getaway this month, why not visit Anteros? This mid-size community is the perfect destination for couples who need to reconnect, singles who haven’t lost hope, and cynical tourists who have lost their way to a Happily Ever After. Because in Anteros, we have a high rate of getting soul mates together. Continue reading

Living the Dream

Two years ago, I set out to write erotica: 10,000 words of stroke fiction. A simple enough task (I thought) as I wasn’t completely crap as a writer, and I was (if vocal evidence during the act is to be believed) pretty damn good at sex. All I had to do was write a few piddling little stories and make my mark on the world of Indie publishing. How hard could it be to write 10,000 words?

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As it turns out, pretty hard. You see, it’s not getting the wheels in motion that’s the problem. It’s finding the darn brakes. I guess they don’t grip too well when they’re sliding around in all those lovely juices. Continue reading