Posted in For Writers, On Writing, Writing

Romance is necessary

I’m currently serving as president of Midwest Fiction Writers, a chapter of Romance Writers of America. The time I spend in service to my chapter comes at the expense of time spent updating my blog, but maybe I can double dip from time to time.

Each month, I write a “From the President” letter for our newsletter. Some are more chapter oriented, but others are not. All require me to think about what it means to be part of Romancelandia and the world of publishing.  I know a number of authors who are frustrated with the business and the world at the moment. Please don’t quit. This one is for you.

Between the #metoo movement, children dying at school, and all the other forces at work highlighting the chaos and cruelty in the world, writing romance can be a real challenge. Whether in social media or in conversations, I’ve heard a lot of writers question how they can continue to write romance in this climate. I myself have days where the news of the world both far-flung and close to home overwhelm my senses. Combine this with the struggle I’ve had to find a publishing home for my last two manuscripts, and giving up seems like a rational solution. Except, it isn’t.

To paraphrase Damon Suede, Romance is the literature of hope. Our happily ever afters (or nows) come only after the characters have struggled and sunk to their lowest points. Only by finding inner strength can our characters overcome obstacles and find themselves in better places by the end of the story. We can much learn from our fictional creations.

Our stories can help readers find hope. We provide a valuable service to our readers and the community at large. We don’t know exactly what word or plot line will resonate with any given reader. Maybe our words bring a smile to someone’s face. Maybe that person shares the smile with the next person they see. Maybe our stories offer aspirational relationships and help someone leave a toxic relationship, or maybe our stories help deepen already strong bonds by reminding a reader of what made them love their partner in the first place. Maybe our stories make someone feel less alone and that is enough to help that person reconnect with the world. That was certainly the case for me.

For those days writing hope does not come easy, please find ways to take care of yourself. Turn off the news and meet up with a friend or fellow writer for coffee. Take a walk in nature—sans earbuds—and tune into the sensory experience around you. Go to a concert or a party and leave your phone at home. Try something new or rediscover an old passion. We need you. We need your stories. We need your hope.

Posted in Books, Conference, For Writers, Guests, Talking with, Writing

Talking with Nancy Holland

Today I have my fellow Midwest Fiction Writer and contemporary romance author Nancy Holland on the blog. Rather than the usual questions, Nancy stopped by to share some of what she learned at the Romance Writers of America conference held earlier this month in beautiful San Diego. Take it away, Nancy

Three Things I Learned at RWA 2016

Thing One — Beverly Jenkins is the best!

I was able to go to two of the talks by romance legend Beverly Jenkins and both were amazing. She spoke at the Golden Network Retreat (GNR) on Wednesday about creating vibrant characters, and the first thing she said was that characters aren’t characters — they’re people. Light bulb! Then she went over a very helpful list of things that make your characters the people they are:  their inner and outer influences, their physical attributes, the things that symbolize their personalities (such as their homes or clothing), and their setting. She also had wise things to say about how plot is what lets your characters discover who they really are. Needless to say, she was also wildly inspiring in the bargain.

Beverly Jenkins also gave the keynote speech at the Thursday lunch, where she talked about the history of romance and specifically the role of African-American authors and stories in that history. Once again she was awesome and inspiring, especially for those of us who follow her on social media and know the challenges she’s faced lately. And the best part was everyone got a free book and cool Beverly Jenkins notepad!

Thing Two — Branding can be fun (no, really)

Damon Suede and Heidi Cullinan also spoke at the TGN Retreat (they did a workshop for the PAN retreat, but I had another obligation at that time). Damon and Heidi walked (well, more trotted) us through some fun exercises to help determine what our brand is and, amazingly, mine was pretty much what I already thought.  They also shared some great information about how to use your brand in promotions and marketing.  I strongly recommend checking out their website, http://www.your-A-game.com.

Courtney Milan and Alisha Rai did a workshop on how to identify the audience for your books, how to use that information in designing covers, etc., and how to connect with your audience on social media. The session was too short to cover everything they wanted to, but they gave a lot of helpful suggestions that dovetailed nicely with what Damon and Heidi had to say. Thanks to these workshops, I may just have this branding thing down. Sort of. Maybe.

Thing Three — Hanging out by the pool is totally part of the conference

Since the AC in the meeting rooms was set on “arctic,” I left one session early to sit out in the sun by the pool. On the way out the door I met an author with a charming British accent, and we fell to talking (as one does). She looked vaguely familiar, but it took a while before we exchanged names. Turns out she was Stella Cameron, one of my late mother’s favorite romantic suspense authors. We had a lovely chat about anything and everything (as one does), including her personalized recommendations of places to stay when my husband and I go to England next year.

The take-away? Always take time to make new friends at RWA — you might meet someone like Stella Cameron or, as two of my fellow Harper Impulse authors did, end up having lunch with the real-life Rita for whom the Rita Awards are named!

***

Found-OSBLola here, hopping in to add that Beverly Jenkins is amazing. She is a master of research and character and hope. Nancy learned some new promo tricks, but in her note above she was too humble to mention her latest book, Found: One Secret Baby which came out days before we left for the conference.

I make no guarantees regarding the cost and how long the discount will last, but I picked up my copy for the unbelievably low cost of $.49.

LA lawyer Rosalie Walker will do whatever it takes to protect her adopted son. She promised his mother before she died that she’d look after him and keep him safe from his paternal family. So when delectable Morgan Danby walks into her office in search of his nephew, she must keep the baby in her care a secret—even if one look from Morgan makes her want to share everything with him…

As a favour to his step-mother— the woman who actually raised him, unlike his real mother who abandoned him as a child—successful businessman, Morgan is searching for the son of his incarcerated step-brother. He can tell Rosalie is hiding something and the temptation to seduce her for her secret is strong, but will he be able to handle the consequences once all is revealed…?

Found: One Secret Baby is available at Amazon and Barnes&Noble 

 

Posted in Guests, Reading, Talking with

Talking with Kathryn Kohorst

Today I’m talking with debut author (and fellow Midwest Fiction Writer) Kathryn Kohorst. Ever since Kathryn shared a chapter from Marianne and the Mad Baron during one of our monthly meetings, I’ve been eager to read more of this crazy-fun Steampunk adventure. And don’t you love the cover? To celebrate her release, Kathryn shared her answers to my tough questions. Read on!marianne cover art 4

What inspired you to write Marianne and the Mad Baron?

I’ve always loved adventure stories. This series started out as an idea for a female ship captain during the early eighteenth century. The idea to turn it into steampunk happened after rereading Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne. I love Jules Verne and the sense of wonder that the Victorians had for their world and technology. I thought, how fun would it be to have the ship sail through space?  The story grew from there.

What types of books do you enjoy reading? What is on your nightstand?

Romance! I suppose that’s an obvious and rather boring answer but there are at least three books open throughout my house at any given time. I never know when the urge to read will strike me and I like to be prepared. I probably read two or three romances a week although I occasionally spice that up with something different. There really isn’t a genre that I won’t read.
Currently I have The Best Man by Kristin Higgins on my nightstand, Romancing Mister Bridgerton by Julia Quinn in my living room, and The Bride Wore Starlight by Liz Selvig in my office.  I love these books so much I can just open them to a random page, start reading and fall in love all over again. I do switch them out from time to time with other books from my keeper shelf but these are the current favorites.

How do you make time to write?

I get up at 4:30 in the morning. The house is quiet and I can focus for three hours before the husband wakes up and distracts me. I also find that by starting early it is easier to get words on the page. Most of the time if I don’t start writing early, I won’t write at all. I think it’s important as an author to learn what system works for you and I’m glad I figured out mine. Now if only I can figure out how to write engaging heroines from the get go without having to re-write them several times.

What is your favorite part of being an Author?

I love that I can explore the stories in my head. It’s rather busy up there and until I started writing it could get a bit hard to concentrate. Having an outlet for my imagination has been a godsend. I’m surprised I didn’t go crazy with all the voices talking in my head.

If a celebrity did the audio book reading, who would you pick and why?

I would choose Benedict Cumberbatch, because the man has a voice like melted chocolate. Rich and decadent, it always leaves you craving more.

Let’s play “Dump the purse” – What’s in yours?

Small wallet, phone, inhaler, lip balm, ibuprofen, and bookmarks. It’s kind of boring. I used to carry more but my shoulders were killing me so I downsized.

My kid’s built a time machine out of Legos.  When and where are we headed and why?

 This is a tough one for me.  I’m a bit of a history nut and there so many periods I’d love to visit.  Could you imagine being one of the first people to walk through the doors of the Crystal Palace at the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London, or being present for the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge?  We could go see the launch of Apollo 11 or the Wright brother’s historic first flight. I could go on and on and on. I’m not sure I’d ever be able to choose just one place or time.

You are the first person to pick the Crystal Palace and the Great Exhibition. That would be high on my list too. Dessert time! Give me your “either – or” answers.

  • Chocolate, fruit or other? Chocolate! Seriously, why is this even a question?
  • Warm or Cold? Both! Chocolate Lava cake with vanilla ice cream anyone?
  • Buttercream or fondant? Neither, they’re both too sweet.
  • Cookies or Brownies? See above about chocolate. Brownies are generally richer than Cookies and softer.
  • With nuts or without? If chocolate is involved, I really couldn’t care less. If I had to choose, then I’d take it without nuts. Nuts sometimes hurt my teeth.

marianne cover art 4 Marianne and the Mad Baron

Arthur Tavish, Baron Summerfield doesn’t look like a hero.  As he walks the crowded streets of Victorian London, his cyborg enhancements cause looks of fear, laughter, and perhaps worst of all, pity.  But Tavish no longer cares for the world below.  He’s found refuge as first mate aboard his beloved Aethership, Sheba.  Floating high above London society, among the hardened sailors of the Sheba, he can concentrate on his work and forget about his foolish dreams of love and family.

Marianne Lindstrom’s debutant life is over. Her father’s suicide following financial ruin has left her orphaned and destitute. She must find work but with no skills, her future looks bleak. Without protection from family and friends, her ruin is imminent.

On the cruel London streets, Marianne is rescued by a monster more frightening than the thugs who attacked her. But after her initial shock at the man’s huge stature and mechanical parts, something about the stranger calls to her.

Tavish can’t leave the woman. The London streets would eat her alive in less than a day.  He offers her a job aboard the Sheba. As Tavish teaches Marianne what life on an Aethership can offer, the two fall under each other’s spell.

But a dark force is after Marianne, set on killing her, or worse.

As they travel the Aether, collecting friends along the way, Tavish and Marianne must unravel the mystery of the demon chasing them and why it thinks Marianne must die.

 Buy Links:   Amazon  Kobo  

Kathryn Kohorst Bio:

Kathryn has always loved to read. Growing up she could most often be found curled up with a book. She craved adventure, romance, and mystery. Each book transported her to a new world with new wonders to explore. Unhappy with the weak female characters she found in many of the stories she read, Kathryn started writing her own. At twelve, she was putting her own heroines in danger and allowing them to save themselves.

She attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison earning a history degree and then a law degree from Hamline University School of Law.  After practicing law for several years and hating every minute of it she put down her law books and picked up her creative pen, this time to write a book she would publish. She’s been scribbling ever since. Kathryn currently lives in Minnesota with her husband, and a lovable but neurotic cat named Brooklyn.