When The Scenery Takes Over The Story

Welcome to Ravenna’s Monday Mumblings!

We all have different ways of writing, and not one of them is all wrong or all right. But I have to be honest and say nothing pulls me out of a story faster than an author who feels he/she has to describe every color, each piece of clothing, what the walls in the home have on them, every blade of grass, or how many clouds there are in the sky. It’s especially distracting and annoying when they try to cram all those adjectives and descriptions into a few sentences.

Who taught people to write this way? And WHY did they do it?

Anyone who has read at least a few of my books already knows I’m a minimalist when it comes to description. You’re lucky if you get eye and hair color from me in the first chapter. I once had an editor, yet, tell me to have the heroine look into a mirror at the beginning of a book so readers would know what color hair and eyes she had. Um… NO. Newbie mistake number 173, anyone?

Unless she looks into that mirror she sees a different person than herself, or better yet a demon lurking in the shadows, you will not read that in one of my books.

Truthfully, I pay loads of attention to such things in real life. I’m a color junkie. I love the subtleties of different hues of the same color, or the way the sky looks a different shade of blue in the summer than it does in the winter. The first thing about a person I notice is their eyes, including the color of their irises. But when I write, I prefer to allow the reader to use his/her imagination, and fill in those blanks for themselves. We all have our preferences, and mine is not to waste time on descriptions when I could be using those words on dialogue and internal thoughts instead.

As with most things in crafting a story, less is more when it comes to description. Consider the following example…

Sally leaned back against the soft, dark brown leather cushions of her Ralph Lauren sofa, crossed her long, shapely legs clad in royal blue leggings, and flipped back her ash blonde hair with one hand. Her nails, recently painted with fire engine red OPI polish, gleamed in the soft light of the brushed bronze and subtle beige torchiere floor lamp.

All righty then! Sally has great taste, and we just spent 58 words telling you that, but we gave you nothing else. There’s no substance here. We have a woman named Sally leaning back against sofa cushions, and that’s as far as we get in the action. In the forward motion of the story. Or, is this really an ad for Ralph Lauren, OPI polish, and whatever brand those leggings are? LOL!!

Let’s try again…

Sally leaned back against the sofa cushions and crossed her legs. The soft leather felt cool against her bare torso, but she was glad she’d left on the leggings for now because Jim’s tongue was practically hanging out of his mouth. She flipped her hair back with one hand. “Do you like my new nail polish?”

“What nail polish?” Jim’s eyes hadn’t left her boobs yet.

Sally laughed, extending her arms and legs. “The red stuff on the ends of my fingers and toes.”

Ah-ha! A bit different, right? We don’t have the lamp in there yet, her hair color, or the color of her leggings, but we have the red nail polish and the leather sofa. We also have a much more interesting scene. There’s a guy here, Sally is naked from the waist up, and the dude likes it.

See how you CAN incorporate subtle details of furniture, appearances, and setting without trying so hard to describe it for your readers? Is it really that important in the second example that you don’t yet know there’s a floor lamp in the room, what color that sofa is, what color leggings she’s wearing, or that Sally has blonde hair? Aren’t you far more interested to learn what happens next with Jim and his tongue?

A lot more is going on here than simply a woman leaning against the sofa cushions, surrounded by tasteful objects. In the first example, you’re like WHO CARES? In the second, you want to know what Jim’s next reaction will be, and when Sally will slide off those leggings. But I’m also betting you don’t give a rat’s ass what color they are. LOL!!

The next time you find yourself on a mission to describe every color in the room, or on your hero or heroine, STOP. Instead, find a way to weave those details in alongside action that moves your story forward. And, which gives your reader a visual that doesn’t sound like copy for an advertisement. They will thank you for. I will thank you for it.

Until next week, Happy Writing!! 


Because It’s The Right Thing To Do

No, you haven’t just woken up inside your worst nightmare, where it’s actually Monday and you thought it was Saturday. LOL!! I’m filling in for Kacey Hammell, who is unable to post today.

This wonderful song, by the amazing Carly Simon, is from her 1972 album, No Secrets. I chose the song because although the lyrics have nothing to do with my post today, the song title does. LOL!!

Specifically, I’m talking about doing the right thing in terms of pimping your fellow authors. Call it conscience, karma, instinct, or something else, it’s the desire to help another author succeed, without expecting anything from that author in return.

This isn’t a zero sum game. There is room for all of us. Helping to promote your fellow authors brings rewards that aren’t immediately seen, but have far-reaching consequences.

Aside from introducing me to books and new authors I might otherwise miss, promoting other authors provides me the opportunity to network. Most authors are more than happy to reciprocate pimpage, so when I have a new release, I know I’ll receive their promotion and support in return.

Romance as a genre has a bad enough rap from misguided beliefs about what we write, in-fighting among authors, readers, and bloggers that goes public, and certain authors behaving like divas from time to time. We don’t need to add to that by keeping all the glory for ourselves, and refusing to pimp each other.

Helping another author doesn’t even have to be in the form of a guest blog on your website. You can do something as simple as share another author’s release. I do that every day for my fellow Evernight authors, even when I’m not Facebook friends with them and can tag them so they see my post. Why? It’s the right thing to do. I write for that house, too. A win for one Evernight author is a win for each of us.

If your schedule allows it, you can join in their events, or at least share them so other readers who might not follow that particular author can join. The list of how you can support other authors is endless. The rewards are, too. You never know where a friendship with a particular author will take you.

Until next week, Happy Writing!!


Don’t Be Afraid To Spread Your Wings

Welcome to Ravenna’s Monday Mumblings! 

I’m one month shy of being published for six years. I have to tell you it feels much, much longer than that.

So many things have changed about the way I write, and then changed again (for the better) once I got off the treadmill of trying to slam out a book every two weeks. I still learn something new each time I write a story. I hope that never ends. Learning new things keeps our minds sharp and our creativity from becoming stale.

Publishing is a business, and if we expect to make any money at it, we have to treat it as such. But today, instead of talking to you about royalties, promotion, or trends that are hot this hour, I’d like to flip the rug over and talk about trying something entirely new. Even if you have no clue where it will end up, or whether you will even submit it to a publisher or click the “publish” button on Amazon.

Unless you’ve actually done this, you have no idea how liberating it can be. Or how cathartic. I will try to explain what it feels like to me, in the hopes it will inspire you to follow your muse down that path, if you’re lucky enough to have her lead you there.

A few weeks ago, one line from a song that I have heard probably thousands of times since it was released as a single in the mid-70s haunted me as I drove home from the day job. I listen to a radio station that plays songs from the 70s and 80s, and this particular one came on. As the lyrics washed over me that day, a story began writing itself in my head.

This story is a huge departure for me. It’s still a romance, per se, but I’m writing it in a point of view I’ve never tried before. And to be honest, didn’t even care to read until I picked up The Hunger Games trilogy, and realized some people can write in first person, present tense, and still write beautifully.

I’m also writing the story in a way that chronicles the life of the hero and heroine from the time they were ten years old. As I said, it’s different. Perhaps too different. The more I write, the more I wonder whether this is right for my publisher, or whether my readers would come along for the ride, even if it was accepted.

Right now, I’m roughly 40,000 words in, and still have that much to go to bring our hero and heroine back to the present day, where the story starts. The partial manuscript is currently with a trusted friend. Not to tell me whether she thinks it’s any good, but to help me decide what to do with it once it’s finished.

The early feedback I’ve received on the first few chapters was extremely positive, but I’m spreading my wings with this one. I have no idea where that flight will take this story, or me, but I have to tell you this feels incredible.

And who knows? Perhaps it will end up in the “stories I wrote but did nothing with” file. And you know what? That’s okay if it does. Because writing this is teaching me things I can’t learn in another class, or by reading another blog, or through the edits of a story that Evernight has accepted. No. Not this time.

I’m neck-deep in this one, living it and breathing it. I’ve immersed myself in it. I’m not thinking this time about my target audience, where the sex scenes should be, how many there should be, or whether we’ve reached the high point of the story/romance/character arcs yet.

I’m simply WRITING this story as its being told to me through these amazing characters. I’m chronicling their journey. It’s so freeing to do this. To simply tell a story, without worrying over where it’s going once it’s done.

Obviously, this may end with me never submitting it. But don’t you worry. I’m not going to stop writing for Evernight. This is merely something I need to do right now. Something that one line in the song compelled me to do. And I will never, ever regret it. Not when the emotion surrounding it, and the learning that’s taking place as I forge ahead, is this powerful. This visceral.

Well, I’ve rambled enough for one Monday! I only want to repeat to all the writers out there, published or not, never be afraid to try something new. To spread your wings and let a story take flight. Even if you never publish it, those moments are rare and precious. They are there to teach you something. Don’t let them get away.

Until next week, Happy Writing!!


Price Point Rears Its Ugly Head Again

Welcome to Ravenna’s Monday Mumblings!!

I see THIS POST needs a revisit. Grumbling about the price of e-books has reared its ugly head once again.

I spelled it out pretty well in that post, but let’s dig a bit deeper into what exactly goes into writing each story for 99% of us.


Biggest factor, by far. Unless you’re one of those who can bang it out in your sleep. And I’m not. Neither are the other fabulous authors on this blog.

I can type 1,000 to 1,500 words an hour, but I then go back and spend probably two hours revising and self-editing those 1,000 to 1,500 words. This doesn’t even take into account the thinking about the story, revising the story in my head, or outlining beforehand. It doesn’t take into account the character planning, or the story-boarding I do for each book.

Each of us works a bit differently, but I know all of these ladies well enough by now to assure you they each take their time with these stories. They do similar things to what I mentioned above.

You really think all that time I put into each story, not to mention all the other things I’m about to detail for you, is worth no more than 99 cents? When you pay up to $8 for a cup of coffee you drink in ten minutes? Well… I would love to see the look on your face if your boss paid you 99 cents for… let’s say one week of work. I’d laugh.


In addition to the fact that I come up with these ideas, I then let them percolate for a while. Some go nowhere. Others nag at me until I start outlining, doing character spreadsheets, and making notes on the story. There is no set time for this. We’re talking hours, days, weeks, and sometimes months.

You can’t put a price on this. Because unless you’ve experienced it, you can’t understand it.

Let me give you an example.

When I was in college the first time, earning my Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, I dated a man who was a music major. He had talent. Real talent. He would sit down at a piano and play the parts of a song. He heard how the different instruments would sound IN HIS HEAD, as if someone was playing the song for him, already finished. It was fascinating to watch, and I understood it. Not from a musical perspective. My own musical talent was nowhere near that level. But I understood it from a LITERARY perspective because that is EXACTLY what happens to me when the characters in a story start talking.

That story plays out in my head like a movie. I hear it. I see it. I FEEL it. I’ve always been this way. Writers, like musicians, are BORN.


I don’t have an administrative assistant. I don’t have voice to type software. I do this on my own. I type out these stories, one word at a time. I also work a full time, outside the home, 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM job with a commute from hell. I can’t always sneak in writing during the day. I have a life to live, just like you do. I have a family to take care of, just like you do. I have other obligations, just like you do.

Yet I make time to write these stories because I love to do it, and I love the people who appreciate them. I do this as much for my readers as for myself.


I’m only one human being, just like you. To do the thing I love, as often as I can, I must make room for it in my life. That means I give up a lot. I get up at 4:00 AM so I have time to promote, do social media, and WRITE. I give up weekends to do the same. I give up events to write. I spend more time with my laptop than with my husband.

SO… Let me turn this around for you. Think of the talent YOU have. We all have at least one. Think of that one thing you love to do every day of your life, no matter what. Maybe it’s knitting, or some other craft-related talent. It’s always in you, isn’t it? You think about it all the time. You would rather be doing it than anything. You can see the finished product in your head, can’t you?

Do you sell those items, or that talent?

Is it worth more than 99 cents? I’m betting it is.

If someone tried to force you to lower the price to 99 cents, what would YOU tell them?

I’m betting you would reiterate to them what I just explained to you. All the time and mental energy you put into that ONE item. You would explain how much WORK you put into it, and how much of the other aspects of your life you had to SACRIFICE to get that item finished.

Is this making more sense now from an AUTHOR’S point of view????

My time, mental energy, work, and sacrifice for each story I write is worth a hell of a lot more than 99 cents. If you don’t think so, you must live a life in which you do nothing that you enjoy. In which you’ve never created something to sell to others. Or even to give to others. I pity you, if that’s the case. I really do.

Creating something is unlike any experience out there. We pour our souls into these stories. And yes, we love to do it, but we have to eat as well. We have bills to pay. We have to buy clothes and shampoo. This is our LIVELIHOOD. And it’s obvious by the fact that most of us also have to work a full time job just to survive, that we aren’t being paid much for it.

So seriously. Stop trying to tell us what our books are worth. You can’t possibly know that unless you’re writing as well. And quite frankly, unless you want ME dictating what YOUR created item is worth, stop trying to dictate what you believe mine is worth.

Maybe give up that Starbucks once in a while. That cup of coffee is gone and you can only drink it once. You can read a book as many times as you want.

Put down the bottle of tequila. Once you drink it, it’s gone, and you can’t refill it.

Put down the pack of cigarettes. You can only smoke each one once.

Go enjoy a book instead. It’s healthier and more fun.

Until next week, Happy Writing!!

Erotic Romance – What Exactly Is it?

Ravennas Monday MumblingsWelcome to Ravenna’s Monday Mumblings!

Every time I see someone who writes erotic romance novels say they write erotica, I want to toss my laptop across the room.

What exactly IS erotic romance? Is it the same as erotica? Well, no, if you’re using the definitions that most publishers use to distinguish the two. But more important than the labels, since I see authors EVERY DAY who call themselves writers of erotica, when in reality they write erotic romance, let’s first back up a few steps and talk about what makes it a ROMANCE, period. That might help with the distinctions.

roses-and-musicMost publishers use the RWA (Romance Writers of America) definition, or close to it, to define what exactly a romance is:

A central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending. 

Read their full definition by clicking HERE.

There is also a page on their site that explains the various sub-genres of romance novels. Click HERE to read it.

It’s important to understand the genre you’re writing in.

hearts-fallingIn a romance, the focus of the story is on the couple, triad, or however many characters in the story are the ones falling in love. There needs to be an HEA – Happily Ever After – or HFN – Happily For Now. If there isn’t, it’s NOT a romance.

If there’s nothing keeping the characters from having a cup of coffee and a nice chat before getting together – in other words, no conflict, no story/romance arc, no character growth, you have bigger problems than distinguishing between erotic romance and erotica. You don’t even have a story. But that’s another blog post…

The most common litmus test to distinguish between erotic romance and erotica is the sex. If you can take it out and the story still stands – in other words – you still have two or more people who face obstacles to being together, who grow and change as the story progresses, and who achieve an HEA or HFN, then you write EROTIC ROMANCE. The focus of that story is clearly on the couple, triad, et cetera, and their story.

barbie-in-compromising-positionsEROTICA, on the other hand, may contain one or more of the above, but the focus is on the sex. Without the sex, the story, and the relationship, falls apart.

Here’s an example. Your story is about two people who hook up and have hot sex through most of the book. No reason, except that they want to bang each other. Then they decide to live together on the last page. There are no barriers to their relationship. They face no obstacles throughout the sex scenes. Neither one grows or changes in some way by the end of the story. That’s not an erotic romance. It’s not really a story. Stories need conflict. There’s nothing emotionally satisfying in reading that. The couple could have been anyone. A reader would not be invested in giving a rat’s ass whether that couple stayed together at the end of the story or not. They read that story for the sex, nothing else, because you GAVE them nothing else.

If you write erotic romance, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE stop telling everyone you write erotica. You do not. Not unless you actually do, and then you may make that distinction till the cows come home. But you’re doing everyone a disfavor by interchanging the two terms, because they are NOT interchangeable.

interracial-coupleErotic romance doesn’t get its name from the sex scenes. That’s a common misconception. It gets it name from the language, and the graphic detail not only in the sex scenes, but throughout the entire story. There is no purple prose. Anatomical parts are named appropriately, or the writer uses common synonyms for those parts. The sex scenes often contain kink in varying degrees, and the characters engage in much more than missionary position sex with the lights off. The language in the story may be coarse and rough, and the content may be edgy.

Doesn’t mean you can’t work up a sweat for your readers without rough sex, or multiple sex scenes in a book. You certainly can. But in erotic romance, the overall feel of the book is much edgier and hotter. HOWEVER, and here is the distinction, at the core, it’s still a LOVE STORY.

25-hottest-tv-sex-scenes-of-2015-ranked-from-wors-2-3673-1451491545-6_dblbigBecause the water is now so muddied, a lot of really talented authors who write erotic romance are being kept from groups, promotions, review sites, and events because the organizers/owners “don’t promote erotica.” In other words, they don’t want straight porn/sex in the story. And, some refuse to believe there’s a difference even after it’s explained to them.

We’re doing this to ourselves, folks, by not being more careful with how we define what we write. Don’t sell yourself short. If you write ROMANCE, first and foremost, waive that term around proudly. You write in the BEST SELLING GENRE on the planet.

Until next week, Happy Writing!!

No Flouncing Zone

Ravennas Monday MumblingsWelcome to Ravenna’s Monday Mumblings!

Heard a story a while ago about an author who got so butthurt because her submission didn’t make it into something or other she had her heart set on, that she decided she no longer wanted to play in the sandbox. This was only her second submission to that publisher, AND it wasn’t even a rejection. She was given an R&R – Revise and Resubmit – for a different line at that publisher. She refused to rewrite the story.

WOW…as-god-is-my-witness Give me a break. Seriously.

The reality of the publishing industry is that sometimes your story isn’t right for that publisher, at that time, or for the line you submitted it to. Doesn’t mean it sucks, and it CERTAINLY doesn’t mean the publisher is “wrong” for rejecting things. Yeah. THAT was said, too. When did it become a publisher’s obligation to never reject a story??? HUH???

This is a BUSINESS. Your publisher can’t make money unless the books sell. They know (or they SHOULD know!) which books sell best in which of their lines. That’s their business. YOURS is to write the stories. If they aren’t a good fit one place, and ESPECIALLY if you’re given a chance to submit it to another line, don’t be a damn diva. Submit the story to another line. Does it really matter where it fits, as long as it does? Isn’t that the whole point of submitting it to a publisher in the first place?

diva-blingNO ONE – I don’t care who they are, how many lists they make, or how many figures their royalty checks have – NO ONE has had every single story they ever submitted accepted without question. If they have, I’d run as far away from that publisher as I could. It means they take anything and everything, and they’re nothing but a mill.

Rejection, along with R&R, is part of this business. You can’t handle it? Try self-publishing and then dealing with the Kindle boards or the Goodreads bunch. HOO, BABY! You have NO CLUE how hurtful “rejection” can feel until you tangle with some of the trolls in those places! Authors have quit writing over the intense bullying such places are known for.

welcome-to-realityCliché time… Put on your big girl panties. Suck it up, buttercup.

Vent if you need to. By all means. That’s why we have friends. Rant about it and get it off your chest. But then sit down and revise the damn thing, or submit it to another publisher if you think it’s good the way it is.

But don’t be foolish (or RUDE!) enough to declare you no longer want to play with others at that publisher, simply because you had ONE story that wasn’t right for a particular line.

You may have burned a bridge (or two) there, chicklet. I hope it was worth it.

Until next week, Happy Writing!!

When The Golden Rule Becomes The Goose That Laid Golden Eggs

Ravennas Monday MumblingsWelcome to Ravenna’s Monday Mumblings!!

In that fairy tale by Aesop about a goose that laid golden eggs, the couple who owned the goose got greedy and cut her open, thinking they’d have all the golden eggs instead of waiting for her to lay one each morning. Only her eggs were just that – eggs. So now they had a goose they could eat but no more golden eggs.

The moral of this story? Too much greed results in nothing.

So what does a fairy tale about greed have to do with the Golden Rule? My college English professors did the same thing you’re doing right now. Rolled their eyes at my compare and contrast essays.

goldenruleThe Golden Rule comes from the Bible, but every culture and religion has their own form of it. In its simplest language, it says treat others the way you want to be treated. BOOM.

Pretty simple, no? It should be.

You act like a douche to people online for whatever reason – doesn’t really matter why. Then you should expect people to treat you in kind for their own reasons. Doesn’t matter what they are.

You promise someone you will do X, Y, or Z for them, and when, but fail to deliver on that promise, or give them the courtesy of a reason why. Then you should expect the same treatment in return. If you get pissed off about it, you’re an idiot. After all, you did the same thing to someone else, remember?

quote-if-you-turn-the-other-cheek-you-will-get-a-harder-blow-on-it-than-you-got-on-the-first-one-this-george-orwell-257223So what happened to all that turn the other cheek stuff?

I’m not talking about someone DELIBERATELY treating you in the same way you treat them. I’m talking about KARMA. Those times when you’re an ass to people and then others are asses to you. Yeah. THAT. You sit around and whine… WHY ME? What did I do? Oh, how easily you forget.

karmaIn a way, that goose was fulfilling the promise of the Golden Rule. The couple had it made. Every morning that goose laid an egg that kept them in comfort and luxury. All they had to do was wait until the sun came up. But they wanted more. They got greedy. And once they killed their precious goose, they had nothing left.

The promise of the Golden Rule, Karma, or whatever you want to call it, is that you will receive the same treatment from others as you bestow on mankind. Plain and simple. The couple committed ansercide (I made that up. Geese are from the genus anser), and were in turn answered with the death of their dreams and their wealth.

(See how I made that work?)

How many times have we seen this played out on social media? Not the killing of a goose. The mistreatment of others, be they authors, readers, or simply cyber friends? Too many times. And how many times have we then seen the perpetrator of the Mean Girls behavior whine and moan about how badly they were treated in turn? Yeah. About the same.


Fairy tales exist for a reason. They tell a story that transcends time and is applicable down through the ages. The Golden Rule is a compass by which anyone can live. It ensures we rise above the dregs and hold our heads high, no matter what. To quote our former First Lady, “When they go low, we go high.”

You want to be the most popular belle at the ball? That doesn’t come from posting 24/7 and giving away so much free stuff to your readers that you need a second income just to keep up with it. It doesn’t come from tagging 1,000 friends to make sure they SEE that tenth post you just put up about the newest contract you signed, because you NEED them to comment on it to stroke your ego. And it doesn’t come from shouting at the top of your lungs every time you write another paragraph on your WIP.

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama speaks at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. July 25, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar - RTSJMFE

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama speaks at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. July 25, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar – RTSJMFE

All that stuff is just NOISE after the first few dozen times. People are scrolling right past it. Trust me on this one. I’m one of those rolling my eyes and scrolling on by…

Practicing the Golden Rule without becoming GREEDY is quiet. It’s in the shadows. It’s unobtrusive. It’s anonymous a lot of the time. It’s gentle, like a breeze, not like that hurricane down south. It’s always there, in every tiny thing you say and do. Each post, each “like,” each thank you is done not to draw attention to YOU, but to lift up someone else. To showcase THEM, not to shout “LOOK AT ME! LOOK HOW WONDERFUL I AM!”

Does it pay off? Yes. Not in ways you might immediately see, but overall. In the long run. Where it counts. This isn’t a sprint. It’s a JOURNEY.

we-rise-by-lifting-othersSome last words of advice, special snowflake. People don’t exist to give you praise, free shit, or unconditional devotion even when you’re an ass to others. We all exist to lift others up. That, right there, is what the Golden Rule is all about. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. 

Until next week, Happy Writing!!

So You Signed This Contract…

Ravennas Monday MumblingsWelcome to Ravenna’s Monday Mumblings!

Today I’d like to talk about publishing contracts. Unless you self-publish, you likely signed a contract for that book releasing sometime in the future. Or the one that released last week. Even if you do self-publish, if you’re one of the authors taking advantage of a host of programs Amazon has to offer, you may have signed something that sets up certain rules or guidelines you need to follow for that book.

But I’m here today to talk about traditional publishing contracts, meaning your book was or will be published by a book publisher, such as Evernight.

tenant-screening-red-flagsOur own April Zyon wrote a wonderful post on Friday about what kind of red flags to look for in a contract BEFORE you sign it. You can read it HERE. I’d like to build off her post to talk about that contract you did sign.

First of all, it’s a LEGAL DOCUMENT. Meaning if you signed it, you agree to the terms inside it. If you signed it without reading it, or without clarifying anything you didn’t understand, DUH. Yeah. Sorry, but DUH. You’re an adult. You’re old enough to put your signature on one of those. The obligation falls to YOU, chicklet, to read that thing and make sure you understand it before signing it.

contract-law-agreements-forming-types-classificationsIn a court of law, that’s what they will look at. The contract itself. Not your Facebook page, your Twitter feed, or what your best friends say about you on Snapchat. None of those things have anything to do with what’s inside the four corners of that contract. If it’s in there, you and the publisher are bound by it. Done. End of discussion.

No, I’m not an attorney. But I do work in insurance and have seen enough claims that went to suit to understand what the courts look at when it comes to allegations of breach of contract. An insurance policy is a contract, as well.

I’ve seen authors get their panties in a twist when other authors point out those simple facts, and try to explain that in a court, that contract is ALL they will look at or care about. Welcome to the world of grown ups. It doesn’t matter how the author in question FEELS about what he/she did, if what he/she did constitutes breach of contract.

The reason for this blog post was actually sparked by questions I saw in a Facebook group, where the issue in question had to do with what we, as authors, could or could not do with respect to offering discounts on our books. Very simple answer, actually, as it’s spelled out in our author contracts. Clearly the people asking didn’t bother reading theirs.

12559136-publishing-contract-stock-photoYou need to be aware of not only general contract law, but what your local government has to say about them. In the USA, for example, most states have specifics when it comes to looking at disputes over contracts. These are easily searchable. You also need to understand what it means to that contract if you live in one state but the publisher does business in another, or if you live in a different country than the one where the publisher is based.

Bottom line: ask questions and do your research BEFORE you enter into ANY contract with another person or business. This includes other authors who make series partners sign contracts. It’s a lot easier on the front end to clarify or negotiate certain points of that contract than it is to throw up your hands when things go south and cry foul. That won’t fly in most courts. YOU signed it. YOU are obligated by it. YOU are an adult. Act like one when it comes to something as important as signing a legal document.

contractWhy am I placing all the responsibility on YOU, the author? I’m not. The publisher has their end of the contract to uphold as well, but that’s another blog post.

If you’re lucky, like the Quillers are, to have a publisher who is professional and approachable, you can simply ask them “Can I do X, Y, or Z with my books?” If you don’t have that option available to you, I’d strongly encourage you to return to that contract and read it before proceeding with whatever it is you want to do with respect to your book.

Until next week, Happy Writing!!

Whose View Is This Anyway?

Ravennas Monday MumblingsWelcome to Ravenna’s Monday Mumblings!

Today we’re going to talk about POV – Point of View.

Pretty basic, right? And yet, writers struggle with this. Point of view is the perspective from which a speaker or writer recounts a narrative or presents information. This is also known as viewpoint. The stronger your POV, the stronger your voice.

As a writer, you’re not stuck writing in only one POV unless that’s what your publisher insists on. In romance novels, the standard was deep third person, past tense for a long time, with the story mainly being told from the heroine’s POV. As a reader, I prefer to have the hero’s POV as well, but not necessarily in small doses.

I tend to write about fifty-fifty, third person deep, past tense, from both the heroine’s and hero’s POV in my novels.

With the popularity of YA, and of books like the FSoG trilogy, first person POV past tense and first person present tense are making serious inroads into romance novels.

Personally, unless it’s VERY well done, I can’t stand to read anything in first person POV, past or present tense. To Kill A Mockingbird is still my gold standard for first person, past tense. The Hunger Games trilogy is it for first person, present tense.

It takes a skilled writer to pull either one off, but then it also takes skill to pull off deep third person, past tense, without the internal monologue spilling over into exposition (the dreaded TELL!) arena.

Let’s back up and define all these terms.

points-of-viewIn first person POV, we only have one side of the story – the narrator’s. The POV character is the one telling you the story. That’s why it takes a very skilled writer to give the reader any insight into the hero, if the POV character is the heroine. Kristan Higgins pulls this off beautifully.

In first person, present tense POV, again, we only have one side of the story, but we’re right there, in the thick of it, as the heroine or POV character feels it, hears it, sees it, does it, says it, tastes it, or smells it. Again, Suzanne Collins did a superb job with this POV in all three Hunger Games books.

The challenges with first person POV, past or present tense, are too many “I” statements, and a lack of insight into any other characters. Chick lit romance, as one example, uses this POV to great effect, as the genre tends toward self-deprecation and introspection.

Second person POV is rarely done for entire novels. It’s similar to breaking the fourth wall in movies. It addresses the reader directly. “You, dear reader, may not agree with Sally’s intentions here, but never fear. She will make the right choice in the next chapter.”

A clever narrative trick, perhaps, but I’m not sure I’d enjoy it used too often in any book. For one thing, it would pull me straight out of the story, and you generally want to avoid doing that to your readers for any reason.

pov-from-whose-perspectiveThird person POV is the most commonly used. You can still tell a chapter, or the entire book, from one person’s POV, but you’re not using “I” statements. It’s commonly told in past tense as well. It’s the easiest one to write, because we read it so often. And, if you know how to do it, you can still get deep into the POV character and make it as personal and immediate as first person. That’s where knowing how to write internal monologue comes into play.

Third person POV also has several sub-categories, depending on the source you’re reading. Additionally, some sources will tell you that third person POV is “always” the narrator’s voice, but that isn’t true. IMHO, they confuse “narrator” with “author.” You can still write a story in third person POV and make it as personal as first person POV.

There are multiple sources that list sub-categories of third person POV, and some even contradict each other. Here are the ones I was able to find a consensus on…

Limited is similar to what I call “deep” third person POV. The narrator only knows what the character knows, hence, the readers only know that information as well. Even within this, the writer can choose to tell the story more as a narrator, where he or she has access to information outside the POV character’s viewpoint. Think of the Harry Potter books. These were written in third person limited, and with a few exceptions, stayed inside Harry’s head. Stephen King also tends to write this way.

Multiple involves staying in third person, but switching back and forth between POV characters. The trick with this one is giving readers cues as to when the switch takes place. Otherwise, this is seen as head hopping, and is a no-no. Although, anyone who is familiar with Sherrilyn Kenyon or Nora Roberts knows that head hopping without confusing readers IS possible. But it’s tricky to pull off, and you need a skilled writer to accomplish it.

from_my_point_of_view_king_681795Omniscient is where the narrator knows everything. He/she can make comments about what others don’t know, is aware of things others don’t know, and can see inside the minds of other characters. This is the POV which, if the writer isn’t careful, places the most distance between the readers and the characters.

Especially important in romance, you want your readers to identify with your heroine and your hero. You don’t want that distance. By writing in a way that places them squarely in the character’s minds, you can accomplish this.

Until next week, Happy Writing!!

When The Route From Seattle To Portland Includes A Jaunt Through Vancouver…

Ravennas Monday MumblingsWelcome to Ravenna’s Monday Mumblings!!

Today I’d like to talk about the importance of research in novels.

From the title, you may or may not know what infamous trilogy I’m referencing, where the characters travel from Seattle, Washington, to Portland, Oregon, and go through Vancouver on the way.

Many assume the author meant Vancouver in Canada, and don’t realize there is a city called Vancouver in Washington state. It’s north of Portland and south of Seattle, making the journey possible. The author could have done a better job of pointing that out, hence the reason people make the incorrect assumption while reading it. Then again, the author could have done a better job of pointing out MANY things in those books… but I digress.

clevelandLike most authors, I write books set in cities I’ve made up, cities I’ve lived in, and in cities I’ve never lived in. That last one is not that difficult to do. It’s called RESEARCH.

This can be something as simple as clicking on Google Maps to make sure you have the geography correct.

It can also be as complicated as seeking out people who have lived there and asking them everything from famous hotspots to local history.

I try to choose cities I’ve at least visited more than once, so I was able to absorb a flavor for the way people dress, speak, eat, and think. Even so, a native will always spot poor research or inconsistencies in the way an author portrays their city and its people.

skydivingTaking care with research isn’t only limited to the locale of your story. It drills down to the tiniest details.

Never made fresh fish? Then read some recipes before you write your characters doing so.

Your hero is a marine biologist but the closest you’ve come to the ocean or a lake is watching a movie with one in it? Get on Google and read… read…read.

Your characters want to go skydiving but you’ve never jumped out of a plane? Talk to someone who has.

You get the picture, right? DON’T be tempted to simply make something up, or write the experience the way you saw it on a TV show. PLEASE don’t do that. You will not get it right, and your readers WILL call you on that.

card-catalogWe’ve all read books that get things wrong, and it pulls you right out of the story. Those mistakes are so easily avoided in this day and age that it’s embarrassing to make them, and frustrating to read them. The author, or at least their editor, should have caught them.

Does it take time? Yes. But not as much as it did back in the Stone Age before Google and the Internet. Seriously. I had to go to a library and search through a card catalogue to find a book, an encyclopedia, or a magazine article about literally anything I wanted to research, from the smallest detail to the largest period in history.

We have it way too easy now for any author to make mistakes in books that a bit of research would have easily avoided.

Until next week… Happy Writing!