Thursday, October 18, 2018

Moving Up the Rejection Food Chain and Perceptions of Women by Jannine Gallant

So, I had an interesting phone call the other day. First of all, I always thought getting a call from a publisher was supposed to be good news. I must be special because I've had not one, but TWO rejection phone calls from editors in the last couple of months. Honestly, I felt pretty good about it. Used to be, I received a rejection form letter email saying "Sorry (insert author name), but your book (insert title) isn't right for us. Good luck." I bet you can all relate. But this time the editorial director of the romance division of a large publishing house picked up the phone and apologized for not getting back to me sooner! She also said she was very interested in me, BUT (you knew there was going to be a BUT, right?) she wasn't thrilled about my proposed series. She didn't think it would sell well. And that isn't a risk a publisher wants to take with a print series.

So, let's talk about what sells in today's market because I honestly found our conversation fascinating. It also made me lose sleep over what market perception says about society (and women) in general. First, I write romantic suspense. Maybe other sub-genres have different requirements, but I'm guessing a lot of this crosses over from one to the next. I (in my infinite ignorance) decided to change things up a little (okay, a LOT) when I wrote the first book in this new series. You may remember COUNTERSTRIKE is a series about a black ops type group that rescues kidnapped victims. She really liked that idea, by the way. BUT (that word again) I did not create a band of brothers headlining the group. I have both men and women working together.

The heroine of book one, Deadly Encounter, is a bad-ass sniper who kills bad guys and saves people. She quits the team, but danger follows her, and she continues to be a bad-ass throughout the book. The hero, an author of thrillers, sort of comes along for the ride. He pulls her but out of trouble a few times, and he offers moral support. He is very self-confident and successful in his own right, and he doesn't feel threatened by her bad-ass-ness. Okay, maybe he does a little, but he works through it. And he does save her butt in the end! Apparently strong, kick-ass women who used to be snipers aren't relateable. And that is key in the romance market. What sells in romantic suspense is Alpha males who save every-day, relateable women. I turned the trope on its head. I thought I was being original. Turns out, the editor was very clear in saying publishers don't want original. They want what sells. She wants heroes who are military or cops and other similar hero-ish professions. She wants heroines who have spunk and personality but have careers women can relate to.

So, then we talked about book two. My heroine is a professor and a scientist who has discovered a cure for dementia. Until she loses her memory after she's kidnapped and takes a blow to the head. The editor was not a fan of that trope, even though I use it as an ironic foil to her life's work, and she does get her memory back, and the story isn't about how she forgot she loved the hero or anyone else, for that matter. The hero is the team medic who saves her and continues to protect her as trouble stalks her throughout the book. The editor didn't think a scientist, super-smart woman was very relateable, either. She's not every-woman.

So, I have to ask myself, do women who read romance really only want to read about strong men and unexceptional women who need to be saved? My oldest daughter read Deadly Encounter and said it was her favorite book of mine. She loved that my heroine was a bad-ass woman sniper. But then Tara is a super smart, bad-ass woman who races triathlons and kicks most boys' butts. She could relate. Apparently Tara isn't my target market. The editor said, as a woman, she isn't thrilled about the stereotype, but as an editor, she has to buy what sells. So, do publishers assume women who read romance can only identify with heroines who are average (not scientific geniuses) and need a man to save them? Or is that what most women truly relate to? I always assumed romance readers came from all demographics, but perhaps I was wrong. So, chew on this, each of you lovely ladies who believes in strong women... If I had reversed the rolls of my main characters in Deadly Encounter and made the man the sniper and the woman the author, I'd probably be signing a contract right now.

As it is, I've decided this series isn't the right vehicle to pitch to an agent or attempt to sell to a different big publisher. I'm going to self-publish it and HOPE that there are romantic suspense readers out there who CAN identify with a bad-ass heroine. I guess we'll find out. I won't release this series until 2019 since I still have my final Siren Cove book coming out in November about a very relateable heroine who sells antiques! The editor I talked to did say she would happily read another submission from me in the future. As long as I make my heroines more womanly and my heroes more Alpha. I've done it before. I may even do it again.

In the meantime, my entire BORN TO BE WILDE series and BURIED TRUTH are still on sale for .99 cents for the rest of the month. Give them a try. And if you like them, leave me a review. I swear, most of these heroines are relateable! Happy reading!

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Wait? You're a Writer? by Betsy Ashton

All of us who write get a series of questions, most of which are asked out of curiosity, a few out of envy, and even fewer to debase us.

  • How long does it take to write a book?
  • What's your "real" job?
  • How long do you write every day?
  • How much money do you make?
  • Are you a best-selling author?
  • I've never heard of you. You must not be very good.
The list goes on and on, like the road leading out of the Shire. Let's dig into these and see if I can clarify my answers:

  • How long does it take to write a book? As long as it takes. Use "How long is a piece of string?" to give the questioner a sense of just how silly this question seems to those of us who write all the time
  • What's your "real" job? Writing is my real job. Between my family, writing my allotted number of pages, interacting with readers, Skyping with book clubs, and promoting my materials through social media, it's a "real" job. It's even what I list on my IRS returns where the forms ask for occupation. I answer, "Author."
  • How long do you write every day? I put in a good four or five hours each day in creating new material and editing older material. New material begins with a blank screen. On a terrific day, I fill up that screen and many more with words. On the next day, I look at those words and see how many I can keep. Sometimes it's most of the new work; other times most is designated "what the heck was I thinking?" and moved to the parking lot, a graveyard for what seemed good ideas at the time.
  • How much money do you make? Best answered politely with "I never discuss money," when you really want to say, "How often do you have sex?" Same degree of "none of your damned business" questioning. Some people think it's fine to be snoops. They usually end up dead in a subsequent novel.
  • Are you a best-selling author? If I was, you'd know it.
  • I've never heard of you. You must not be very good. Well, that is a matter of opinion. My readers think I'm pretty good. As I add more with each book, I rise in the ranks of authors. So, if you haven't heard of me, shame on you. You're not paying attention.
It's hard sometimes to paste that smile on your face, but you have to do it. These people are future readers, most likely. They may not remember what you write but they will remember that you dissed them. Don't diss them. Honor the comment with a polite one of your own. No matter that we don't like being in public, the first time that pesky novel hits print, you are now a public figure. Enjoy it.
Betsy Ashton is the author of the Mad Max mystery series, Unintended Consequences, Uncharted Territory, and Unsafe Haven. She also wrote a dark psychological suspense novel, Eyes Without A Face, about a female serial killer, who unpacks her life and career in first person.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Book Festivals and New Release by Diane Burton

Is it worth it to do book festivals? I've participated in six events in two and a half months. Most were local, so mileage wasn't too bad. Plus, most I shared a ride with another author, which cut the gas and table cost in half. But, here's the kicker question: did I break even? Half and half. That's disappointing. I have three more this fall, then it's time to re-evaluate.

When sitting at a table, watching potential readers sail by is disheartening. But sometimes they stop and pick up my book. I tell them a little about it--like it takes place nearby, which always gets a smile. Just when I think they'll buy it, they set the book down and say they'll be back. I know they won't. They're just being polite. 

But then there's a person who buys all three books in a series because she's going on vacation and wants to read mysteries. Yay! Or the person who says she's read all my books and wants the newest one. Double yay!

A book event is a mixture of surprised elation and heartbreak. Besides the cost of gas and the table, there's also the time. Should I be home writing the next story or working on promo? Or playing with the grandkiddies? The latter is the most fun.

In anticipation of these events, I finally put two of my shorter books (ROMANCE REKINDLED and MISSION TO NEW EARTH) in paperback. ROMANCE REKINDLED is a Christmas story, so I have big hopes for that one the closer we get to the holidays.

Now for the best news. In August, I received the rights back to ONE RED SHOE, a romantic suspense. I love this book. I love all my books, but this one has a special place in my heart. Our own Alicia Dean did the original editing and made the story so much better. Because the cover art belonged to the publishing house, I needed a new one. Our own Alison Henderson did the cover. I hope you think it's as good as I do. I love it!

Here's a little about ONE RED SHOE:

It Happened One Night meets Knight and Day
When elementary teacher Daria Mason left Iowa for a writers’ conference in New York City, she didn’t expect to come home with a wounded spy. Sam Jozwiak works for a shadow agency that gathers intel vital to U.S. security. From the moment he steals digital files from a Russian Mafia kingpin, Murphy’s Law takes over. No matter how he covers his tracks, the kingpin’s assassins find him. What’s worse than getting shot in the butt? Accepting help from an Iowa tourist. Thus, begins a road trip that takes Sam and Daria cross country with the assassins right behind them.


For the second time in her life, Daria Mason came face-to-face with a man pointing a weapon at her. A pervert, with unzipped jeans, wielded a green box knife. Because she’d raced into the restroom without checking out the situation, he now stood between her and the exit.
She was at the end of the proverbial rope. After walking in circles, she finally found a restroom and nobody was stopping her from using it. Especially not someone playing copycat with that guy in the movie who wore one red shoe.
“I am having a really bad day,” she declared in the don’t cross me voice she used on her brothers. As soon as her words echoed off the hideous pink and black tiled walls and floor, she lowered her voice. “You are in the wrong place, mister. Now zip up and get out.” She pointed straight-armed toward the door.

The man shook his head and set the flimsy knife on the counter. “Lady, you have more guts than sense. You are in the wrong place, at the wrong time.” His voice was even softer than hers. He eyed her with a look so dark and intense it paralyzed her like a hawk freezes its prey. She swallowed past the fear in her throat, certain it sounded like a gulp.

ONE RED SHOE is available for pre-order at Amazon

Monday, October 15, 2018

What I Know So Far by Alison Henderson

I'm at that most wonderful/horrible point in the writing process--plotting and planning the first book in a new series. Possibilities abound. Yikes! Possibilities abound!! 

Who are these people, and what will they get up to? Those are the questions. My head is spinning. I've got a fun crescendo of events lined up for the first half of the book, and I know the exciting conclusion, but ugh, that third quarter. At the moment, it's a black hole. And I'd like to figure most of it out during the next two weeks because, while I don't do NaNoWriMo, I do belong to a wonderful group of supportive authors who promise to urge each other on during the month of November. Since OG and I are currently in Chicago working on PO&O's new condo AGAIN, I don't have much thinking time.

Here's what I know so far:

  • The series will be set in and around Monterey County, from Big Sur to Monterey, and feature three artist sisters--a kinetic sculptor, a raku potter, and a glass blower.
  • I know all the titles and the characters' names. Yay! This is critical for me. I can't seem to start a book until I've decided on these things.
  • The heroine of the first book flees her controlling, and probably criminal, fiance and comes home to Big Sur. She takes a day job in an art gallery in Carmel.
  • The hero of the first book is a Minnesota-farm-boy-turned-forensic-accountant for the FBI who looks like Chris Pratt. 
  • The rotten fiance come to Carmel, where he is murdered by an agent of the Russian mob, who then comes after the heroine.
  • The owner of the art gallery and his antique-dealer partner are mixed up in money laundering and meth dealing as a result of their gambling-related debts to the Russian mob.
  • There will be a variety of minor but hilarious incidents straight from the Pine Cone police log.
Beyond all that, who knows? LOL


Sunday, October 14, 2018

A Halloween Treat #2 by Christine DePetrillo

I hope you've still been good, people. If you have, Halloween treat #2 is Abra Cadaver, a paranormal romance novella.

Holly Brimmer never expected to be brought back from the dead. After a fatal car crash, a mysterious stranger gives her a second chance at life—but it comes with a price. To stay alive she must pay it forward, accomplish an important deed, thus making her mark in the world. Until she does, her savior is bound to her. Now she has a backyard full of dead bodies and one unwanted houseguest.

Keane Malson kills bad guys to keep the innocent alive, but he’s still a monster. Cursed by a witch moments before an honorable death on the battlefield, he’s lived thousands of years, roaming from place to place with no end in sight. It’s a lonely life…until he meets Holly.

When a wanted man targets Holly, Keane will do anything to protect her, even if it’s the last thing he ever does.

Holly Brimmer stared at the dead body resting in the grass in her backyard. She knew it wasn’t truly human, but shit, it sure looked like a real person. This one was actually good-looking. His rusty brown hair was only slightly matted with dried, greenish blood. 

Must not have put up too much of a struggle. 

His skin wasn’t that post-life purplish color yet either. He still appeared fresh, as if he might pop open his eyes and say, “Just kidding! I’m not dead.” 

But that wasn’t going to happen. 

This fellow had definitely taken his last twirl on the carousel of life. She inhaled the summer-heated air and exhaled slowly. How did I end up here? 

“I don’t know why you insist on burying them, Holly. Demons only last eighteen hours after death, and I like to burn the bodies before then anyway.” 

The mere sound of his voice tensed every muscle in her already stress-beaten body. If she could take back one horrible decision, Keane Malson would be it. 

Keane leaned on the threshold of the back porch door. If he stood up straight, his head nearly hit the top. For a man of his size, he moved like a butterfly—absolutely no sound whatsoever. The snake tattoo circling his left bicep twitched as he folded his arms across his chest. Holly loved snakes, but that one slithering in black ink across his pale flesh confused her. She wanted to stay away from it and inspect it more closely at the same time. 

Stay away from it, Holly. Snakes bite and Keane probably does, too.

Pick up Abra Cadaver today and see how sexy monsters can be! 

Happy Halloween, Pumpkins!


Saturday, October 13, 2018

New book alert!

My Robin Hood book is out and ready for your reading pleasure.

It's my second book this year (Flyer came out in February). This book is about Tucker Frye, a female pub co-owner with Alan Dale. Tuck is transplanted Southerner and occasionally her accent (and some of her expressions) make an appearance. One of my favorites is this one:

"Sorry, Tucker. I didn't mean to hit you." Guy pushed himself up from the mulch, standing cautiously until he got his balance. "I was aiming for Rob." He brushed wood chips off his shirt and pants, frowning at the smudges.
I shot him a hate-filled glare. "If I wanted to hear from an asshole, I'd fart." As usual, when I was under stress, my Southern accent kicked in.

Alan made a snorting laugh noise. "Good one, Tuck."

I did quite a bit of research into factory farming for this book and it just reinforced my desire to always "buy local" whenever I could. I grew up in farm country, amongst family farmers, but what is done in some of those 'facilities' is enough to make you go vegan. The whole inhumane factory farming industry comes under scrutiny in this book because Tuck's nephew, who's undercover at one of the places, is murdered, and she gets sucked into the investigation.

So join Guy Gibson, Rob Huntington, John Smalley, Alan Dale, Tuck and the rest of the cast of characters in Woulds.

J L Wilson

Friday, October 12, 2018

What I Learned at Midnight and Magnolias Writers' Conference.

Vonnie Davis
I'm almost back in the groove from my trip to Atlanta for the Midnight and Magnolias Conference. I spent my first day home holding my spoiled Shih Tzu Evie because she didn't seem content unless we were touching. Oh boy, can she give a pitiful whine. The second day was laundry and holding Evie. Day three, today as I write this, means grocery shopping and a little cleaning

Jam packed into all the holding and spoiling and crooning and holding was a lot of writing and editing--and self-analysis about where I want to go from here with my writing.

Warning: Rambling thoughts ahead!

At 70, I still can't decide what I want to do when I grow up. Am I going to lay aside what is "supposed" to sell and simply write what I want? Boy, would I like to write a political thriller. Yes, the pantser who loves writing comedy and steamy sexual tension would also like to pen a complicated, well-plotted, fast paced thriller.


And who would read it because I'd have to use a different name so the romance readers wouldn't buy it in error. Maybe I'll write it just for me. You know, to get it out of my system.

Before I ramble too much about feeling lost and wondering what to do next, let me share what I learned at Midnight and Magnolias.

  • 175 romance authors can make a lot of noise. Kind of like a swarm of bees on chocolate and steroids.
  • The Georgia Romance Writers certainly know how to be well-organized. They even had an app listing what was happening next and who was there. One could message another attendee. "Martha, I'm so glad you're here. Meet me in the main hallway so we can catch-up" I had two other ladies contact me like that. I'd never have known they were there without the app.
  • Serve women sandwich wraps, a bag of chips, and a cookie for lunch and they will bitch like nobody's business. I was shocked.
  • If you sign up for professional head shots, be prepared for most anything. Or maybe it was just me as the subject matter. I watched the author scheduled before my shoot pose in front of a backdrop. Me? I was escorted out of the room to the end of the bar to have half of my pictures taken and then taken into the ladies restroom (I kid you not!) for the other shots. She claimed the lighting was better in there. I found it hard to smile with all the added "sound effects." And I kept thinking I'd paid $90 for this unique experience. I'll share the best of the pictures when I get them.
  • Pitching to potential agents wasn't as bad as I thought. Yes, I almost cancelled my appointments because I'm not sure I want an agent. My writing schedule is fairly relaxed right now. Do I want to step back into the stress of deadlines, editor demands, and early morning writing sessions? I honestly don't know. Figuring I had nothing to prove, I sashayed into the "pitching room," sat down with an agent from Seymour Agency and said, "I'm a pitching virgin so be gentle with me and take your time." She nearly fell out of her chair laughing. Then asked for a query stating my publishing history, a synopsis of the unfinished book, and the first fifty pages. The next agent wants the same and the third asked for a full.
  • Christian publishers are hot for Romantic Suspense. Could I write for that market one of the agents asked. Sure, under a different name. I wouldn't want a little old church lady to grab a copy of my erotic "Mr OH" by mistake.
  • For grins and giggles I pitched to a Harlequin editor knowing I was not a category writer. She was so intrigued, she said she'd refer me to their other branch Graydon House. A select hardcover and trade paperback imprint dedicated to publishing book club worthy women's fiction. I'd need an agent to submit. But I could send HER the full for her to read and recommend if she liked it.
  • And there's no sight better than 175 romance writers OD'd on sugary desserts and wine dancing with abandon to "It's Raining Men...Hallelujah."
  • I need to attend more writing conferences. I took workshops in the criminal mind led by the supervising crime scene investigator of Atlanta; the world of an EMT and paramedic with a twenty pus year veteran of the job; how a K-nine unit works with a darling German Shepherd who showed us his sniffing talents; there's more to military heroes than SEALs presented by the wife of a submarine captain; how to keep the sexual tension going after the deed is done; the rise in sales of the audio book; and self-editing tips.

Vonnie Davis writes sizzling romance with an edge. 

Visit her at

Releasing in November, a novella as part of the "That Old Black Magic" series with other paranormal authors.