Thursday, June 30, 2011


The Contemporary Challenge: How to write 300 pages of romance without demons, death, or world destruction with Julie James and Beth Kery/Bethenny Kane

5 topics that anyone writing a contemporary romance should consider

Characters: How to make ordinary characters likable and immediately compelling. Give your characters characteristics we all can identify with. 2 tricks -- make me feel bad for them or make me like them. Open with a scene that makes characters sympathetic – unable to sleep at 3am because hotel neighbors are having a sex marathon, someone knowing they are about to get fired. Open with a scene that makes them likable – showing them being successful at work it shows they are ambitious, show that other people like them. Readers like people that others like. Show the character doing good things, catching the bad guy, something heroic within the modern world.

The alpha hero in the contemporary romance. Paranomal heroes can be almost beastial, primal. If your hero is very alpha, give him a quirk or vulnerability. Very macho, brusque character can also be an artist and wear glasses. Make him appealable to a larger audience. Make him sick so the heroine has to heal him a little bit. An alpha guy head over heels in love who will do anything for his lover softens his alpha qualities. Make sure if your best girlfriend described his as her new guy, you wouldn’t tell her to run. Give him a best friend who is not an alpha. Humanize them through their friends or pets.

Stakes: complicate a plot, keep the pace building. There is usually a plot and a subplot. Plot is the romance, subplot is whatever else is going on. You need a strong conflict right from the beginning. You have to show how these two people who we know will end up together, will not be getting together on page 50, or 100 or even 200. What keeps them apart once they start liking each other. There can be more than one conflict – initial conflict can be that they annoy each other, and then becomes concerns about getting involved with anyone due to work or something.

Subplot is often the set-up of the book. She witnessed a murder and the FBI agent needs to protect her. Often involves a job. The stronger the characters motivations in the subplot, the stronger the emotions will feel. If the heroine is trying to get a job, show why she needs this particular job in order to make it a motivation. Subplot increases the conflict, tension, motivation.

Adventure in a contemporary romance is falling in love. High emotional stakes. Build and inner world that is believable for why these people aren’t having a happily ever after by page 50.

Pacing should be two steps forward, one step back. In a high emotion scene, cut away to a scene involving other people. Gives readers a relief from being angsty and overly emotional. There has to be some degree of emotional risk.

Romance & relationships: Building sexual tension helps keeps the focus on the relationship. Sexual tension is all about conflict. If things are too easy, there is nothing to drive the story. H/h immediately at odds – like fighting for the same job – sets them at odds and create tension would be external conflict. A past falling out creates internal conflict.

H/h feel conflicted about how they feel about one another. The slow burn, Mr. Darcy / Elizabeth Bennett effect. They do not want to like each other, but they can’t seem to help the attraction.

Body language is very important, the way people look at each other can really ratchet up the tension.

Relationships with your main characters and others. Friends and family. People have friends, siblings, kids, co-workers, old friends, enemies, they don’t exist in a vacuum. Gives a different impression of the character when seen with people she likes, rather than someone she’s conflicted by.

Prior relationships can factor in as well, because it is reality. Exes are very useful in contemporary. Past relationships shape who we are and provide conflict. Walking in on your fiancĂ© sleeping with another woman and she vows to never have anything to do with another womanizer. So of course, the hero in her story would have to be a womanizer. You can’t have cheating, be careful that the reader won’t feel bad if the person the character is currently dating is dumped, but they also can’t be evil because that means your character has bad judgment about people.

Levels of sensuality – sweet and innocent to sexy and erotic. Be comfortable with whatever sexual interaction you are writing. Make sure every sex scene drives the plot, reveals character, is emotionally driven (even if it is driven by anger or desperation) and there for a reason.

Settings/series/extras: Create a rich, textured world. Create a locale that readers want to visit, a place to escape to. Pick a location that matches the tone of your book. Big cities for a fast paced, sarcastic book. A small town for an emotional, family-driven story.

Locations for individual scenes should match your setting – wine bars in a big city. Cities could have hustle and bustle or elegant anonymity.

Extra things you can add to make the plot feel richer – light suspense. If heroine owns a wine store use Napa Valley, giving a wine tasting, going to a wine party. Show them being good and comfortable in their environment. Build intimacy, comfort for your characters and your reader.

Building a series can build readership – family, a group of friends – you can also use locale – a beach resort or a small town. Bringing in characters from a previous book links them, and readers love it.

Choose something that you know and are comfortable with. It will come through and make the story more genuine.

Craft/Research: Ideas come from anywhere and everywhere. Things that happen to you, things you read about, things that happen to people that you know. Take interest and watch people’s behaviors.

You should research a contemporary. People love to talk about themselves. You won’t get in everything you learn – you’re not writing a book on how to be a lawyer – but that you know it creates a tone that carries through in your descriptions.


MONEY TALKS: the best kept secrets of digital authors with Maya Banks(Samhain/Desire/Berkley), Toni Blake/Lacy Alexander , Lindsey Faber (Samhain managing editor) & Heather Osborn (Samhain editorial director)

Samhain is a digital first publisher specializing in romance and now horror.

Samhain’s most recognized authors. Maya Banks, Lauren Dane, Loreleigh James, Vivian Arendt, Dana Marie Bell, Shelli Stevens

Sales come from

1) Amazon Kindle
2) B&N - grows every month
3) Samhain direct bookstore
4) Fictionwise
5) Sony
6) Kobo
7) Apple
8) Other bookstores combined

Vendors are hard to compare because they pay differently with different invoicing – monthy, quarterly, annually. Sales are growing exponentially.

Amazon December 2010 210K copies, 310K copies January 2011

B&N January 2010 8K copies, January 2011 72K copies

Samhain sales numbers in the first 2 years, as of March

Best selling Erotic range…8K-25K copies…a novel-length book on sales on Amazon is about 1.35/copy, Non-erotic…2K and above…over 50K copies

Midlist Erotic range…6K - 15K…achievable for most who write erotic romance for Samhain, Non-erotic…1K-2K

Lowest selling Erotic range 200-2K, Non-erotic Below 1K

The key to making a living as an author is consistent publishing. 2-4 releases a year is the sweet spot for staying on a reader’s radar.

Pricing – based on length, 2.50-6.50. The 99 cent frenzy in self-publishing is flooding the market, but not effecting publishers, just other self-publishers. Books need to be affordable, but readers are willing to pay for quality.

Kindle giveaways – give away 3 titles every month. 1 for the month, 2 for 2 weeks. Great exposure. Like to entice with the first in a series or a backlist book. Lauren Dane’s Giving Chase is free tomorrow for a month.

If you’re going to self-publish, you need to be your own publisher and you don’t want a crappy publisher. Hire the best editor, copy editor, and cover artist you can.

Self-publish or e-publish. Keep your time in consideration, Do you want to write books or publish them? Do you want to deal with editing, formatting, marketing, cover art, dealing with book sellers?

Aside from Kindle giveaways, what kind of promoting do you do for your authors?

Web banners on websites, ad in RT, discounts on preorders and new releases from Samhain’s store, promote Samhain for brand awareness. Co-op with Barnes & Noble. Relationships with review sites, newsletter, blog
How do digital releases feed into the sales of your traditional releases? Each feeds the other. Ebooks come out faster, so you can build and audience while waiting for a traditional book to come out. Better promo than anything else, plus it makes money rather than costing money.


How to build your brand using social media and the web – Jayne Ann Krentz, Stella Cameron Sheri Brooks (Purple Papaya), Cissy Hartley (WritersSpace)

Facebook changes in the last year – spam filter, option to convert a personal profile into a professional page, sponsored stories for advertising, streamlined promotion guidelines meant no more contests on Facebook pages.

Frequency of posting on Facebook and Twitter – not more than once a day so people see more from their friends than from you.

What to put on Facebook – share with your readers, but don’t over share. A little bit about yourself, but nothing about family kids, where you live, if you’ll be out of town. The key is getting the interaction.

Mailing list :: You have 50 characters in a subject line to grab attention and get readers to open your newsletter. Determine what you want to communicate, your goal, and build your newsletter around your subject line.

Contests have always been the best way to grow your mailing list. What you want to do is have all of your Facebook fans on your mailing list. The more you can do to cross link them, the better. You need to have those readers cataloged on your mailing list in case anything happens to Facebook.

Use a service or software to send the posting. Phpmail is software you can use if your host allows. Icontact, writerspace, they go up in price as your list grows.

Facebook contests :: Facebook never allowed contests, people just didn’t look for the rules until they were updated in May. People used to have people comment to win, but that is not allowed, and can compromise your status with Facebook. You can have an app created for you (upwards of $10K), or have a form created using a form service with an opt in and privacy policy

Basic legal issues :: Have your privacy policy, and know where your contest will be open – international, US, NA…every company has its own sweepstakes law. To offer a contest in Quebec you have to register with the government 30 days ahead and provide them 10% of the win. Post official rules.

Advertising options

• Facebook – advertise your page, your book…ads link directly back to your page. 30 words and a horizontal picture (vertical is too small)
• Website – banners and chatrooms
• Contests – big prize giveaways (Kindle) grow your mailing list faster, but keeping it to people who love your books make for a cleaner list.
• Goodreads :: growing in popularity, but it gets to the point where you need to decide if the time it takes to work it is worth it for the number of people you reach.

GooglePlus – another social network, will probably be more personal than facebook.

Utilities to customize your facebook page – ihtml – adds tabs to your page – used to make it so you can’t get to the entry form before you like the page.

Is there still any value to myspace? No, it’s the abandoned amusement park of the internet. Value for indie music types, but not really for writers.

What To Expect When You're At Conference :: Goody Room

Ah, the goody room. This year, the stash of author promotional material was supposed to be paper free since the amount of paper trashed after conference is usually cringe-worthy. But, there is a plethora of paperish stuffins.

Bookmarks, excerpts, pens, nail files & candy are the norm. I love when people get creative. Here's what I found ::

What To Expect When You're At Conference :: Food

It's impossible to make everyone happy all the time, and so conference chicken was invented. It takes many forms, but it's something you can count on. Kind of like frizzy hair in humidity. At a conference there will always be chicken, otherwise, how would we break the ice with the strangers at the table?

With conference chicken as our benchmark, the nosh at parties is either better or worse.

Romance Diva's Cocktail Hour? One barstool up from conference chicken.

Samhain Author Breakfast? A chair up from conference chicken.

Passionate Ink Buresque Soiree appetisers? One chair down from conference chicken.

ESPAN Chapter Tea? A wingback chair up from conference chicken.

PASIC Industry Reception's desserts? Two chairs up from conference chicken.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Secrets From The PAN Retreat

I’ve never figured out why the PAN and PRO exclusive panels are called retreats. When I think retreat, I’m thinking a babbling brook, yoga, and comfy clothes. This was standing room only in a

STEVEN AXELROD, The Axelrod Agency
  • 40% of ebook reader owners say they read more now than they did when they read print books.
  • A small percentage of self-publishing authors are making a living from it.
  • The fiduciary responsibility between a author and an agent gets blurred when the agent tries to be a publisher.
MATTHEW SHEARER, St. Martin's Press
  • Publishing has undergone changes and always grown from it. The last big change was the advent of the mall bookstore which led to big, blockbuster sales and series books that never existed before mall bookstores. Now, with the injection of ebooks, people are reading more and trying books that they never would have tried before.
  • 75% of our business is still in print books.
  • ebooks are the equivalent of what mass market was when it was introduced.
LIATE STEHLIK, Avon/Harper Collins

  • Looking at how other forms of media made the digital transition and learn from what they did. We need to listen to the consumer and make digital content available to the consumer.
  • Free as a business model does not work, free as a marketing strategy does work.
  • On TV, we see that people are willing to pay for premium content (HBO) and as an author, quality is what you should be known for.
From Avon, look for...
  1. Digital shorts to tie in to full-length works
  2. Bookperk – Groupon model for author experiences
  3. Avon exclusive content
  4. Facebook contests


Samhain authors gathered with the publishing VIPs this morning to share a few laughs and food. It was great to be able to put a face with the names of all of those we contact for help throughout the year. Everyone was just as nice and helpful as they are online.

Samhain is giving out free ebook downloads of your choice, so I snagged a few more of those cards. Everyone loves something for free! Plus, it’s a great way to make friends with the folks sitting next to you in workshops and luncheons.

Whats the news at Samhain? All is good, but look for a bit of a website update as the Horror and RetroRomance lines grow. Nothing big, just giving the lines more of a presence.


After spending the re-eye flight discussing Pokemon strategy with the tall boy, the morning exploring Times Square and the Empire State Building and the afternoon visiting with my brother before he and the tall boy escaped to Washington DC, I wasn’t sure I’d have the energy for the signing.

Lucky for me, caffeine worked wonders! I made it to the ballroom where the signing was hosted and my eyes nearly bugged out! There were so many authors there! Tables and tables of authors sitting elbow to elbow. I found my space…on the outside wall facing a dirty wall. Um, wow, brought my feet right back to the ground!

But, the placing turned out to be a blessing since it made it easier for readers to get to me. I was tickled to have so many readers seek me out to say they enjoyed Compromising Positions. They really made my conference. As did passing out Samhain’s free downloads cards and telling people they didn’t have to use it for my book, but they should! It’s only Tuesday, and I’ve already decided New York has been good to me 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Pink Heart Society: Whatcha Readin'?

The Pink Heart Society: Whatcha Readin'?: "In which Pink Heart Society editor Jenna Bayley-Burke ponders her reading material now that her boys can read over her shoulder. Quiet tim..."

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Watch Out For That Tree!

Instead of indulging our Cheesecake Factory habit to celebrate brithdays, my girlfriends and I have been having bucketlist adventures. Not swimming with sharks or bungee jumping kind of things. Tamer, mommy-friendly stuff. Paula got a walking tour. Molly got a makeover. I decided to stretch our boundaries a bit with a zipline/ropes course!

I purposely didn't read much about Tree to Tree Adventure Park so I wouldn't talk myself out of going.
The weather was gorgeous, sunny with just enough clouds to keep it cool. We arrived and watched a quick video. Then we wrestled on our harnesses and hit the starter course.

I'd thought I could do the ziplines and leave the rope business to the adrenaline junkies. Not so, you have to do the rope sections to get to the ziplining parts. We started a few feet off the ground to get our bearings. Even so, it was hard to trust the zipline!

Once we'd 'passed' the course, we were let out on our own. There are 4 different courses - green, blue, red and black diamond. On the first course we had to climb across the section on rock walls suspended from the trees.
We crossed 'broken' bridges, rope bridges, a tight rope...and then this crazy caddywampus ladder thing that we all decided was the hardest part. Then, we were rewarded by getting to zipline to the ground.

The blue course had similar elements. Who knew there were so many ways to build a broken bridge? It also had a swing you step on that brought you to the next platform which was fun, and a tube you had to crawl through that was not. At times, we felt like a highwire circus act without the net!  

We waffled over whether or not to try the red course. There are two ways to start, oneby climbing a ladder, or by doing the 'junkyard' which qualifies you to do the black diamond run. Even after a year of bootcamp, spin, and Zumba, Tina and I stood back and let the other girls try the junkyard. It consisted of a ladder, logs, tires, and a rockwall. Vertical. Like...4 stories up. I simply didn't think my arms could haul the junk in my trunk that high. Especially after Jen decided to come back down once she hit the tires.

Tonya made it though! I'm sure it helps that she is about a hundred pounds and a former marathon runner. Hey, we can't all be perfectly plump.

The rest of us climbed the ladder to start the course. We were suprised that some of the elements seemed easy now, but by this point it was our 4th rodeo. There were these ridiculous bouey things hanging down from the segments, and we never figured out what to do with them. They seemed to be castaways from an episode of Wipeout, always smacking us in the face!

All of this was just a set-up. You see, at the end of the red course comes the most terrifying element - the spiderweb! After boosting your confidence, you're supposed to hold onto a rope and swing to the next platform. Except there is a web of rope in your way...and you need to LET GO of the rope you are on and climb the web. I don't know about you, but I wasn't so keen on letting go when I'm three stories in the air! When told to let go, I may have said "I can't! I don't want to die!" Maybe. There is no videorecording of this shining example of my bravery.

After a resounding chorus of "That sucked" and "I'm never doing that again." we got to zipline to the end of the course. the ground never felt so good beneath my feet!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Distillery a Pedicab!

Since we've committed to taking time for a date once a month, I find myself looking for new things to try. When we saw that Distillery Row was throwing a party with PDX Pedicab to celebrate their Distillery Row Passport, we signed up immediately. I mean, doesn't it just sound like fun? To make it even better, the coy Oregon sun decided to show up.

We met up at the Jupiter Hotel, which has a funky rock-n-roll vibe. Plenty of seats in the courtyard and a DJ spinning, plus a bartender using the spirits we'd be sampling later to mix up some signature cocktails. Delish!

Once enough of us showed up, they started running the pedicabs to the distilleries. First up was  Integrity Spirits where we got to try absinthe for the first time! I've always been curious, and though it takes some effort to prepare it, I can see why so many are in love with the stuff. YUM! 

 New Deal Distillery had the most amazing coffee liquers -- they even had two different brews! They also have a chocolate one called Mud Puddle...I mixed my coffee and Mud Puddle...and had to buy both bottles!

 Deco Distilling did the tasting a little different - more how to have fun with spirits than how spirits are made. They even sell 'bartender in a box' to make mixed drinks easy.

The best tour was at  House Spirits Distillery. We got to go back and learn the different kinds of stills, and how the different spirits are made. FASCINATING! I had no idea the artistry and mechanics that went into distilling -- or how the clean Oregon water is probably why Oregon has more distilleries than any other state.

We were able to see everything from the stills to the bottling and labeling. In the tasting room there was a display that showed the blend that goes into making Aviation Gin so delicious. They also mixed the whiskeys with Mexi-Coke. YUM!

Then it was on to  Stone Barn Brandyworks where they do small batch brewing. We were able to see the latest oatmeal whiskey as it went through the process. They have a very eco-friendly philosophy there that I really liked.

The pedicabs took us between each stop with ease. We loved the light breeze, sunshine, and easy pace of it all. We never had the same driver twice, and they were all having fun along with us.

I think if anyone comes to visit, I'll take them on this tour. They'll think it's cool, and some of that might rub off on their impression on me!

Tuesday, June 07, 2011