What I’ve Learned About The Publishing Industry From The Wizard Of Oz

Ravennas Monday MumblingsWelcome to Ravenna’s Monday Mumblings!

Anyone who’s been inside my writing room at home, or come to my desk at the EDJ, will instantly know I’m a fan of the movie, The Wizard of Oz. Every spring we’d wait for it to air on network TV. Yes, I was alive before VCRs, DVRs, cable TV, or Blu-ray. Now of course, I have it on DVD, but like with most movies, if you watch them too often, they lose their magic.

Sure, by today’s standards, the movie seems hokey and too simplistic, but I rarely judge entertainment by today’s standards. I judge it by how it makes me feel inside, and by the memories and emotions it evokes inside ME. Because seriously, what do I care how it affects someone else? I’m not watching or listening to it for someone else.

When searching for a topic this week, I already knew I wanted to take a look back at the years I’ve been writing, but I wasn’t sure how to approach the subject. I’ve learned a lot, both good and bad, about the way the publishing industry really works. What I didn’t want to do was write a blog post today that came off sounding jaded, bitter, or preachy, so instead I’m going to let one of my favorite movies explain it to you.

woo-tornadoTornadoes are a great analogy for the personal chaos in our lives, and in the publishing industry.

A therapist once told me that the reason I used to always dream about tornadoes wasn’t due to a fear of them. She surmised they were my personal symbol of the chaos in my life at the time. I believe she was right because once that period in my life resolved, the dreams stopped.

It’s no secret to anyone that the publishing industry is anything but calm and smooth. Once the Big Six became the Big Five, and Amazon set out to rule the world, it was mass chaos. The gatekeepers are all but gone, and literally anyone with a computer and the ability to use a keyboard can “write” a book then “publish” it online. You can tweet a book now, 140 characters at a time. You can write it on Wattpad. There are no boundaries or limits any longer. You don’t even have to be a good writer.

What does this mean for those of us who know where to put the punctuation, and how to construct a sentence so it makes sense? For those writers who understand character development, story arcs, and what dialogue should accomplish in a story?

If we’re lucky enough to grow a readership with brain cells that synapse, they will recognize our talent. But the market is so saturated that most of us are left in the dust, no matter how well we write, or how hard we try to give our readers something unique each time.

It’s difficult not to resent that as a writer, because our time and talent are no longer rewarded. Since anyone can do it, it’s no longer considered special. And in fact, there’s a growing number of readers who feel we should all be giving away our work for free, as if all the hours spent crafting a book mean nothing, and we shouldn’t be paid for that work.

dorothy-and-munchkinsWhen you find yourself in a strange land, make friends with the locals.

I still remember getting the first YES. It was five and a half years ago, and I can vividly recall it. Most writers can, and most writers never lose the thrill of getting an acceptance. But it’s a foreign land the first few books, and we often don’t know where to turn or how to ask for help. Your best and safest bet is to make friends with other authors, so you can ask questions and seek guidance from those who have gone before you. It’s also not a bad idea to pimp them along the way.

I’m not talking about pretending to like their work or them. I’m talking about an honest exchange of lifting each other up, which is what all authors should be doing anyway. The romance genre has taken enough shit in the past seventy years, even though for most of those seventy years it’s been the NUMBER ONE SELLING GENRE. We don’t need to add more fuel to that perpetually-burning fire by hurting each other.

It sickens me when I see authors bad-mouthing other authors by name, fighting with their readers or other authors online, or generally acting like disgusting divas by placing themselves above everyone else for any reason. Newsflash, chickie. You’re the same as each of us. I don’t care if you sell a billion books each time, or have made every list there is. You still shit stinky poop, and you still have to floss your teeth to get the food out from in between them. Get off your fucking high horse.

This is a very tough business. Don’t fool yourself about that one. And none of us can go it alone, no matter how many sales we make. We need each other. Plus, it’s the right thing to do. We weren’t put on this earth to be alone. We were put here to love, and to lift each other up. See THIS post.

yellow-brick-roadFollow the yellow brick road.

There is a path. Even though Dorothy and the gang lost it once in a while, it WAS there. So is yours. You simply need to know how to look for it. It’s called your muse, that voice inside you, your conscience, and similar names. You know in your heart what the right thing is. We each do. Be still and listen for it. It will speak to you. Then once you hear it, stop dicking around and follow it.

Each and every time I’ve strayed from what my muse led me to write, I’ve regretted it. Each. And. Every. Time. I promise you, my readers, I will not do that again, from this day forward.

wicked-witch-and-flyng-monkeyThe Wicked Witch and those flying monkeys aren’t as scary as you first think.

Yeah. I know. We all hated those damn flying monkeys. But let’s examine them, shall we? They’re actually kinda cute, in a magical creature sort of way. And they’re pretty harmless. All they did was pull stuffing out of the Scarecrow – who didn’t die when they did that, by the way – and pick up Dorothy and Toto to fly them to the castle. That’s it. Not really that frightening when you look at it that way, are they? They’re just big monkeys with wings, who were under the witch’s spell. Please. You could take them. Easily.

As writers, we face a never-ending series of frustrations, scary moments, and obstacles. So, okay. That’s called LIFE. Put on your big girl panties and face them head-on. Grow from them. Learn from them. Find ways around them. Put them to work for your advantage. The same way you face everyday life. All those sayings about failure being practice for success are popular for a reason. They’re true. You’ve got a lifetime of experience facing wicked witches and their silly minions. Put all that experience to work for you in the writing industry as well.

And never forget that the witch was taken down by water. It’s highly symbolic, after all. I mean, think about it. Without water, we die. All living creatures, right down to those creepy crawly insects we fear, need water to survive. In the story, water kills evil. You do the math and draw the obvious conclusions here.

wizardofoz_4675Sometimes, the wizards are phonies and don’t keep their promises.

We’ve all been burned by at least one reader, blogger, author, editor, etc., etc., etc. who seemed larger than life to us, and who promised us the moon, then failed to deliver. It happens. Why? Because they’re only human beings, just like the wizard in the movie was just a man who got lost in a hot air balloon. The hot air balloon was another great piece of symbolism, wasn’t it? He was full of hot air. Get it?

Some of the people you admire and trust along the way are also full of hot air. You can’t always see it at first. They disguise themselves, just as the wizard did. They put up a front and make you believe they’re much more powerful than they really are. When you expose them, or your dog does, you realize they’re exactly like you, and nothing more.

To his credit, the wizard did try to get Dorothy home, but in the end he failed at that task, too. Which brings us to our last lesson of the movie, and the most important one.

ruby-slippersThe power is already inside you.

A group of authors I knew when I lived in Tennessee called themselves by the name of those ruby slippers. They were all Golden Heart nominees one particular year. For those that aren’t familiar with the Golden Heart Awards, they’re one of the two main awards given each year by the RWA. These authors chose that name for a very good reason. They understood the analogy of those ruby slippers Dorothy wore for most of the movie.

You already have everything you need to obtain your fondest wish. It’s inside you. But just like our slightly clueless heroine, we have to figure that out for ourselves. And meet a lot of odd people along the way.

Let’s recap…

  • There will be chaos in your writing career. Expect it. Don’t run from it. Use it to your advantage.
  • Make friends with other authors. They’ve been there and done that, and have valuable lessons to teach you.
  • Follow your muse. Always.
  • Scary things aren’t scary if you look at them in the right light.
  • Some people are phonies. Once you realize that, it’s okay to walk away.
  • The power is already inside you.

Now go forth and watch that movie again, or for the first time if you never have! And afterward, sit down and let your muse guide you on the path to your true dreams.

Until next week, Happy Writing!

So Your Hero/Heroine Is A Claims Adjuster…

Ravennas Monday MumblingsWelcome to Ravenna’s Monday Mumblings!

This is the start of a new series where I’m going to give an overview of some of the professions I’ve done over the past 42 years. Yes, that’s how long I’ve been working for a living.

Ever read a book where the hero or heroine does a specific profession you just happen to know something about, and wonder where on earth the author got her/his information about said profession? Yeah. Me, too. That’s why I’m doing this series.

To be fair, there is likely some (or much) variation between the same professions in different countries. Even in the USA, there is going to be variation between states or general locations around the country. But the basics are still same, or at least very similar. That’s my goal for this series – to give you the basics. if you need more specific information as an author, your best bet is to find someone who does what you want your hero/heroine to do, and who lives where your hero/heroine lives, and ask them a ton of questions.

insurance-policyFor the past twelve years, I’ve worked for the largest insurance company in the USA. For four and a half of those years, I worked as a claim representative in fire casualty claims.

First, “Fire” claims is our company’s umbrella for all policies that are not auto and not life. Other companies may refer to these types of policies under a different term. Auto and Life have their own separate umbrellas in the company I work for. Although my direct experience is with fire claims, I’ve worked in a support role for auto claims so I can speak to those as well.

Life insurance and medical insurance are different animals, and I’ve never handled either, but handling a claim is still handling a claim. The basic procedures are still the same. And since I have never lived or worked in another country, I can only speak to the US insurance industry in this post.

A word or two of caution: the purpose of this post is NOT to give you a crash course on insurance, and I cannot, for obvious reasons, answer any questions about a claim you have, or specifics about your coverage. So please don’t ask.

A liability, or a casualty claim, is a third party claim. That means the policy holder, through their negligence, caused another person bodily harm or property damage. These types of claims are usually handled by specialized groups, but in some smaller insurance companies, claims adjusters may handle both first and third party claims. Auto claims often involve both first party and third party claims, as there is usually coverage for the driver and all passengers, regardless of whether those passengers are on the policy.

roof-pdThe difference between first and third party fire claims can be explained like this. If a tornado blows your roof off, you file a claim with your insurance company to have the roof replaced. It’s your policy. That’s a first party claim.

If the same tornado knocks over a dead tree in your yard and that tree falls on your neighbor’s roof and damages it, your neighbor can file a claim against YOUR insurance policy to pay for the roof damage the tree did. That’s a third party claim. Through your negligence (not having the dead tree removed from your yard) you caused property damage to your neighbor’s house. Your insurance company would pay for that damage from the liability coverage on your homeowner’s policy.

In an auto policy, at least in the company I work for, even if the driver is not negligent in their actions, meaning they are not at fault for the accident, there is medical coverage for the passengers in the car, as well as for the driver. The at-fault person’s policy would pay for additional expenses for injured persons in that instance. Auto claim representatives often work with other insurance companies under those circumstances to ensure everyone’s expenses are taken care of.

So, what does a claims adjuster do?

types-of-insuranceWhether a claims adjuster handles fire, auto, life, or medical insurance claims, whether the claim is a first or third party one, the first thing they do is contact the parties involved in the claim to find out what happened. That may include the policy holder, the injured person making the claim, witnesses, physicians, passengers in the car, neighbors, etc. They may also gather police reports or other documentation that is available to assist them in making claims decisions, and/or in reconstructing the accident.

The second thing they do is read the policy. Yep. We do read them and we do understand them. We have to, for obvious reasons. Next, they need to determine what coverage applies to your loss. And they need to determine if there are any exclusions to that policy that might take away coverage, or exclude certain parts of it.

No insurance policy will protect you against everything. It’s a common misconception that they do, but insurance is designed to protect you against LOSS FROM ACCIDENTS. Again, life insurance policies and medical insurance policies are a bit different, but they also have exclusions, because they have specific losses against which they are designed to protect.

How Insurance WorksWhy don’t insurance policies cover everything? Because it’s such a huge risk that no company could stay in business if they tried to do it. Insurance spreads the risk over a large amount of policy holders. If they didn’t do that, the premiums the company would have to charge to be able to pay claims would be astronomical.

Also, it’s important to know that in the US,  every state has a DOI – a Department of Insurance – that regulates not only how policies are written, but how claims are handled, when they need to be settled relative to the loss, etc. Yes, insurance companies have to follow the rules. If they didn’t, the company wouldn’t be in business for very long.

headlines_2011-04-20_adjusterAfter the claims adjuster determines coverage and any exclusions, they have one or more additional conversations with the person filing the claim. They have as many as it takes, and they may go out and inspect the scene if needed, or send out another person to do that if they are strictly an in-office rep. Things are fixed if they are covered, payment is made if there are medical injuries that are covered, and the process continues until there is no coverage left, the person has stopped treating for their injuries, or the property damage is fixed.

Claims adjusters have to be familiar with case law in the states where they handle claims, as well as statutes for those states covering property damage, traffic laws, and bodily injury. They have to understand the legal concept of negligence and what is needed to prove it in court. They often work closely with attorneys to resolve a claim.

claims-adjusterClaims adjusters may work out of their homes, only going into a local office when needed, or they may work from a desk in a busy office with other claims adjusters. The pay varies as well, depending on location and years of experience. It’s good pay, but no one becomes a millionaire as a claims adjuster.

It’s also a very busy job. They often work long hours at odd times, because auto accidents and fires don’t only happen between 9 to 5, Monday through Friday. They’re on the phone a lot, they have inspections to do, they have training to keep up with, and in some states, they need to be licensed. This requires additional training each year.

They have to justify what they paid, or what they intend to pay, with documentation, and usually with the approval of their supervisor. Supervisors, in turn, have to justly what was paid on claims to their boss, and sometimes it goes up a few levels, especially with a large loss which exceeds or nears policy limits.

Next week, we’ll talk about what a real registered nurse does in the USA.

Until then, Happy Writing! 

A Rose By Any Other Name…

Ravennas Monday MumblingsWelcome to Ravenna’s Monday Mumblings!

Today I’d like to talk about character names and how to choose them.

This is probably as individualized as each writer’s unique voice. There is no wrong or right way to choose a name, but one thing I would caution is not to choose one that someone well-known or highly recognizable is using. The last thing you want is to become tangled up in legal issues because someone took exception to you using their name, or one very close to it, in an erotic romance novel. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but your good intentions could easily be misconstrued.

So, aside from scouring the tabloids or CNN for name ideas, where do you begin?

roseI like to match up the type of genre with my character names if possible. For example, if I’m writing something historical, I would research common names from that period, and then branch out a bit so not everyone is called William or Mary. Research also has a more practical purpose. If you’re writing a romance set in the Middle Ages, for example, you might want to make sure the name you choose was in use during that time.

Fantasy romance, anyone? The sky’s the limit here. Readers of fantasy love complicated, difficult-to-spell names that are taken from old legends or mythical languages. So have a great time, but make sure your readers can at least make a stab at pronouncing the name while they read it. Either that, or provide a glossary that spells out the more unusual names phoenetically.

Paranormal romance readers tend to like their hero names dark and brooding, to go along with that whole alpha thing. Strong, dominant names are also preferred. Poke around ghost stories, old legends, and gothic stories for ideas.

baby-namesWhen writing contemporary, literally anything goes, but you can still individualize your character’s names by choosing something about them to focus on. Their heritage, for example, or perhaps they were named after a beloved family member, and that person plays a part in the story?

Aside from googling “baby names,” or “most popular girl names in 1969,” you can also search sites like the ones below:

http://babynames.net With this one, you can search by letter of first name, country of origin, or even decade.

http://www.mithrilandmages.com/utilities/MedievalBrowse.php This is an awesome site to use even if you aren’t writing an historical. You can search it to find unusual names from any era.

http://ilovewerewolves.com/wolf-names-and-meanings/ Wolf names, anyone?

http://www.20k-names.com/index.htm This is another site where you can find female or male names from almost any country on the planet.

btn5It can be challenging coming up with names you haven’t used, especially when you’re up there in the double digits of books published, but for me, that’s half the fun of shaping a new character.

Whatever name you choose, make sure you own it. Make that character unique, and the name will stand out because of the person.

Until next week, Happy Writing!!

Shaping Up Shifting Shape-Shifters

Ravennas Monday MumblingsWelcome to Ravenna’s Monday Mumblings!

No, today’s post is not about tongue twisters. LOL!!

Today I’d like to talk about how I finally broke through my fear of writing another shifter series.

Writing shifters was something I was told would sell well by so many people, I felt I had to do it when I was still writing under a former pen name for a different publisher. But I didn’t approach it the right way. For one thing, I didn’t read enough shifter books by authors who sold well, and whose writing I loved.

Other things I didn’t do were research the mythology deeply enough, concentrate on sticking to the tried and true tropes, or ask the authors whose books I loved for advice. Oh no. I set about trying to do something different. Something unique. And that’s all well and good, but when you stray too far off the path, readers don’t like it. They are lost and confused. Their expectations for that type of book aren’t met.

wolfSo this time, and I had to push back a great deal of fear before I’d even try it again, this time I approached it differently from the get-go. This time I asked. I read. I researched. I dug a bit deeper. And then I came up with a unique spin, but not too unique. Not too far off the mark.

Did I hit a home run? Only time will tell.

But so that other writers don’t run into the same issues I did when they decide to take the plunge and write about those hot, sexy alpha men/animals and their mates, here are some tips I gathered from the best of the best.

Possessive, dirty talkers, alphas, show soft sides only to heroines.
Instant bond mating recognition.
Humans can know shifters exist, or not. It’s up to the writer.
Bloodlines and pack structure are important.
An element of danger.
Growling, possessive, tortured heroes.
Cave man like because they’re animalistic.

Can you relax some of these? Yes. It’s your book, after all. But these are the tips that were common among the sources I sought out before writing the first book in this series.

Now for some eye candy! These three hunks were the inspiration for heroes in my new series! Enjoy!! 

Canyon

Arizona

Stone

Until next week, happy writing!

He Did That… She Did This…

Ravennas Monday MumblingsWelcome to Ravenna’s Monday Mumblings!

Let’t talk about sentence and paragraph structure. Somewhere along the line, I know I learned this, but it was brought to my attention this past week that I tend to start A LOT of paragraphs in a manuscript with either the hero or heroine’s name, or a pronoun – he, she, his, her.

Two amazing fellow Evernight authors are going to read the second Tortured Love book for me before I submit it (thank you Doris and Raven!!) and as a prep, I sent the first book in that series, UNYIELDING, to each of them to read and understand what I was looking for in the second book.

Raven pointed out to me how many sentences I begin with a name or a pronoun. When I went back and looked at what I’d written in the second book to date (all 175 pages of it!!) boy, oh boy was she right! It was enough that she was counting them in UNYIELDING. YIKES.

pronoun trainTook quite a bit of time to go back and fix them in the manuscript, but I’m so grateful I did. This second book is a much better read with the variance. But let me tell you, sometimes it’s not easy searching for a substitute, and also making sure you aren’t beginning every single paragraph or sentence with a gerund – those annoying ING words. That sticks out like a sore thumb, too, and can really distract from the reading.

So, just one more thing to keep in mind as you write and then self-edit. Like you don’t already have enough to think about, right?

Until next week… HAPPY WRITING!!

But I LIKE Editing…

Ravennas Monday MumblingsWelcome to Ravenna’s Monday Mumblings!

Today I’d like to talk about edits. Aside from blurbs and synopses, nothing provokes more whining in authors and wannabe writers than the dreaded EDITS. Well, I guess I’m weird because I don’t mind that part. I mean, aren’t they part of the process?

Think about it. An artist does not sit down and design a perfect book cover on the first pass. It’s a painstaking process of finding or making the images, lining them up perfectly, trying again about a thousand times, finding the perfect font, balancing that with the images, on and on and on. And then they let it sit for a while and return to it with fresh eyes.

A musician does not sit down and write a piece, as if he were taking dictation, unless he’s Mozart. LOL! But seriously, it’s a long process, completed in bits and pieces, over hours and hours of detailed work and endless revisions.

film editingA movie goes through numerous cuts in the editing process. Sometimes those cuts are kept in for a separate release known as a Director’s Cut, and often they are released on a blooper reel or included as deleted scenes in a separate featured extra.

Why, then, would anyone who writes expect to sit down at the keyboard and bang out a perfect book requiring no corrections or tweaking, in the first draft? Seriously? If you believe that’s how it’s done, you don’t understand the creative process.

Take this blog post, for example. Ten drafts to get to the one you’re now reading. Sure, plenty of authors write fairly clean the first time around. I’m one of them. But I still edit my work MANY times before it goes to the publisher. Writers, like artists and musicians, are only human beings. And even published books that have had many sets of eyes on them before they were completed contain mistakes.

editing oneEditing is akin to tweaking your image or fine-tuning your composition. It’s the same necessary step in creation that an artist or musician goes through. Writers aren’t exempt from this.

Try looking at this another way. Editing is your chance to take a look at your story with fresh eyes. It’s an opportunity to make it even better. To fine-tune the emotions of your characters, and to add a bit more meaning to their conversations. It’s a chance to place tiny actions here and there that emphasize their personalties, foreshadow an important plot point for your readers, or give your hero and heroine more depth.

track changesWords are our medium, the same way notes on a page are the musician’s medium and brush strokes are the painter’s medium. Words are what we use to paint a picture in the reader’s mind, and compose a song in their hearts.

If you find the idea of going back through the entire manuscript and editing it exhausting, try breaking it down instead. There’s no rule that says you HAVE to complete an entire draft first and THEN go back. You can edit every chapter if you like. You can go back and read over what you wrote the day before, like I do, and edit that part before you move on. You can edit in whatever way you choose because it’s YOUR creation, and the only hard and fast rules are the ones YOU decide on.

edit twoEither way, expecting a perfect manuscript the first time around without the additional work of fine-tuning it isn’t realistic, nor does that do you or your readers a favor. Everyone’s work could use some improvement. It’s not your editor’s job to fix a messy first draft. It’s YOURS. Self-editing is part of the process of writing a book.

When discussing edits you receive from your publisher or an editor you’ve paid, after the manuscript is finished, it’s still YOUR job as a writer to do them. An editor is there to help you improve the story, not turn it into something intelligible, with correct grammar and punctuation. You should already be doing that part yourself. If you’re not, we have bigger problems than your hatred of editing.

Until next week, happy writing! 

Writing Is My Passion

Ravennas Monday MumblingsWelcome to Ravenna’s Monday Mumblings! 

Today I’d like to talk about remembering why I write. Yes, this is all about ME today. LOL! Your feelings and opinions may vary, and that’s cool, but this is me speaking from the heart today.

Ravenna’s definition of PASSION:
That one thing you would keep doing, even if you never made a dime off it.

And that’s where I am with my writing. Once upon a time I had dreams of each book soaring up the best seller lists. Most writers, do. Now, I’m simply tired of asking why they don’t. I’m told I’m a good writer – a great writer, even. Hard to believe when now, at 83 published/contracted books between the three pen names, the highest royalties I’ve made in a year was $16,000. Last year, I made just over $11,000.

AYEBD4 light bulb hovering over open hand

Hmmm… maybe “best seller” doesn’t necessarily equate to “good writer.” AH-HA! Lightbulb moment!

I’m still slightly above the average earnings of most authors. Yes, that makes me feel good. No, it’s not where I want to be. Yes, I know that only a tiny percentage of us earn enough to actually make a living off this. And yes, I know that those who do are not necessarily better writers than the rest of us. In fact, as Kacey’s post so eloquently pointed out on Saturday, and as Moira’s post also perfectly pointed out yesterday, many of the “best selling” authors write the same book, over and over and over again.

But I digress. This isn’t about them. It’s about ME.

So why do I keep doing this? It’s certainly a frustrating business. I watch pirates steal my work, I watch people write crap and make ten times what I do, I watch authors bang out the same books over and over and they can do no wrong, and I watch my dreams and hopes go up in flames. Why would anyone keep doing it???

Evernight-3Drenderboxset-jayAheer2015Well, because I love it. I love to write. I’ve been doing it since I was eight years old. I waited so damn long to get serious about my craft. I’ve been published since April of 2011 (at Evernight, as Carolyn Rosewood, with the Seduced By A Demon series!!), and I can’t imagine stopping. I. Just. Can’t.

I write because I have to. Because it’s the first thing I think about in the morning, it’s what I think about all day when I’m supposed to be doing other things, and it’s what I dream about.

I write because there are stories and characters in my head that demand my attention. I write because I adore creating worlds for those characters, and fashioning their stories into something I hope readers will enjoy.

I write because, with the exception of the sales, this is FUN. ALL of it. I love the editing, the blurbs, the synopses, and the promo. I love all of it!! Dealing with the never-ending question of why am I not good enough to break that ceiling is part of the game. And there may never be an answer to my question. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but that’s part of life as well.

caution-hard-lesson-ahead-300x276Shit happens. We don’t always know why. My husband and I have lived through some really awful crap. Really awful. Much worse than me whining about why I can’t sell more than X number of books. And we’ve come out the other side stronger and wiser because of it. So … yeah. Lesson here to learn, ya think?

It’s time to put on my big girl panties once more. This time, with respect to those elusive big sales and best seller designations I’ve been chasing for five years. It’s time to shed that beast from my back, break the chains, and write JUST BECAUSE.

passionBecause of all the reasons I listed above. Because writing is my PASSION.

And yes, if you see me whining about sales or listings on social media, now that I’ve put this out there, you have my permission to call me on it.

Until next week, happy writing!

Writing Outside My Comfort Zone

Ravennas Monday MumblingsWelcome to Ravenna’s Monday Mumblings! 

Today I’d like to talk about my writing comfort zone. When I wrote for a different publisher under another pen name, I wrote mostly for one of their imprints that is reserved for their exclusive authors. Nothing wrong with that. I’m grateful I had the experience. But there are quite a few rigid guidelines for this imprint, and after a while I felt like I was on a treadmill. I was writing the same book, with the same types of heroes and heroines, and I have to say I didn’t like it.

There are two sides to this argument. Some readers prefer that. They want to read the same book, over and over again. Personally, I don’t understand it, but it’s an individual preference. However, as a writer, it’s against my nature to write that way.

bored kittenWhat skill or fun is there to rubber stamping a story? Change the names and a few details, and you’re done! No thank you. Not for me. I like different. Different is good. The same old, same old, predictable story line and cardboard characters are BORING.

But writing that way for over two years, and banging out two books a month during that time, took its toll on my writing habits. It’s taken me this long to be able to step outside those confines and really let my muse and my imagination take over. Even while writing The Weathermen, the later books started to feel the same to me. Not sure they came across that way to readers, but I won’t let that happen again, even with a long series.

Unyielding-evernightpublishing-JayAheer2016-3DrenderOne of the reasons I wanted to try my hand at dark romance was to break that mold. UNYIELDING, my first foray into dark romance, releases on Wednesday, June 22nd. I’ll leave it to you, my readers, to let me know how I did.

The book I’m waiting to hear on – THE ALPHA’S TABOO MATE – is my second attempt at writing shifters. This time, I sought advice from two people whom I believe write the best damn shifter stories out there – our own Doris O’Connor, and Jenika Snow. I took their advice and kept it front and center as I wrote that book, but I put a slightly dark spin on it, too! I hope Evernight takes it, and I hope my readers like it!

My current WIP is the second book in the Tortured Love series, and it’s about two ex-cons who are blackmailing each other over a recent jewelry heist. Yeah. I’m having a blast with it, and I hope to have this one submitted to Evernight in early July.

vampire_diaries___damon_elena_by_nastylittlethought-d37gwqc-the-dark-romance-of-the-vampire-diaries-shines-through-in-this-incredible-fan-a-jpeg-213373One of the best things about being a writer of erotic romances is the opportunity with each and every book to explore both the darkness of human nature, and the seductiveness. I love to craft different ways to bring two people together because let’s face it – there are only so many ways to write a sex scene. But if you couch that scene in unusual scenarios or circumstances, and if you also toss in something unique to those characters and them alone, you’ve just created a memorable and different experience for the reader than they will receive in hundreds of other books that are too similar to each other.

freedom road signI’m enjoying my newfound writing freedom. It’s liberating to let my muse go wild and see where her latest “what if?” takes us. And I thank Evernight Publishing for having the guts and the vision to allow us as writers to explore new worlds for our stories, and for not insisting all our heroes be perfect and noble, or all our heroines be too stupid to live and inexperienced virgins.

Ask yourself this: Where would YOUR muse take you if you tossed off the constraints and simply WROTE? You might be pleasantly surprised by the answer. 

Until next week, happy writing! 

Choosing A Pen Name

Ravennas Monday MumblingsWelcome to Ravenna’s Monday Mumblings! 

Let’s talk about pen names. I know authors who don’t use them, but I know more of them who do. I’ll say at the outset that it’s a personal choice. You certainly don’t have to use a pen name, and as far as I know, sales aren’t affected by your choice to do so or not.

But how do you choose one? Let’s start with a bit of reality.

Do a Google search. Seriously. This takes no time at all. The last thing you want to do is choose a name someone well known is already using. For one thing, no matter what some misguided fool told you, doing so will NOT drive traffic to your website or entice people to buy your books. What it might do is piss off the person already using it, and you may well find yourself on the wrong end of a lawsuit.

pen name oneCan you copyright a name? Well, yes and no. But seriously, do you really want to get into a legal tangle with someone who has the money to hire a team of attorneys, and tie you up in court for years, over a name? Not unless you’re independently wealthy and have nothing better to do. I mean, come on. Just move on and choose something else. Fair is fair, after all. They did choose it first.

Even if the name isn’t already used by a celebrity, if it’s being used at all, and especially in the same field as yours, I’d still suggest moving on and choosing another one. Again, they chose it first. Don’t be a sleaze bag. Do the right thing and choose one that another author isn’t already using.

Having been on the receiving end of some sleazy author who changed her name to one I had been using for over a year, I know first hand how that feels. She gave me some BS excuse why she’d changed it, and then proceeded to troll my friends list on Facebook to collect “likes” for her page. She did a few other sneaky things, too, before I outed her behavior and then blocked her.

I’ve decided to let Karma deal with her BS, but the author whose name you decide to take, in the hopes of riding their coat tails, might not react so zen-like. So don’t be a scumbag. Don’t risk it. Choose another name.

SaterdayYou want something that is easy to spell. Why? Because if readers can spell it, they can find your books. Having an unusual name with a different spelling may help you avoid scenarios like the one above, but it might also end up keeping readers from being able to find you. The name they’re more likely to find first is the similar name with the more common spelling.

You want a name that flows easily off the tongue because humans tend to remember the lyrical names easier. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson is a fine name, but Lewis Carroll is easier to spell, and it trips off the tongue a bit smoother.

Daniel Handler is easy to spell and say, but it’s Lemony Snicket whose name is memorable.

pen names twoAnd of course, Samuel Langhorn Clemens might never have packed the same punch as Mark Twain.

I think it’s fine to choose a name for sentimental or personal reasons as well. Ravenna is a city in Italy, but it’s the city of the same name in Ohio that inspired me choose it. It’s the county seat of Portage County, and the city next to Kent, where I attended Kent State University. Tate was simply a nice, easy last name that I thought balanced out Ravenna.

brandsWhatever name you choose, make it yours. Own it. Brand it. Make it synonymous with the books you write. It’s how readers will identify you, and it’s likely who you will interact with them on social media as. When you have too many names, or post under several, it can confuse people. Not saying you shouldn’t do that. There are certainly legit reasons to, but bear in mind that readers may not recognize all your other names as belonging to YOU.

I wrote as Carolyn Rosewood before I wrote as Tara Rose, and I wrote as Ravenna Tate while still writing as Tara Rose. To this day, I still hear from readers who had no idea that Carolyn Rosewood or Tara Rose are also my pen names. And no, as of writing this post, I do NOT plan on adding any additional pen names.

Until next week, happy writing! 

How Do You Keep It All Straight?

Ravennas Monday MumblingsWelcome to Ravenna’s Monday Mumblings! 

Today I’m going to talk about keeping it all straight when writing a series. When I recently posted the cover for the last book in my 12-book series, The Weathermen, I was asked how I keep everything on track when writing such a long series.

This isn’t even my longest one, to be honest. As Tara Rose, I have a 15-book series called Racy Nights, and technically it didn’t end. I could go back to Racy, Indiana, pick up where we left off, and continue the series from there if I wanted to.

the-harder-they-fall-evernightpublishing-JayAheer2016-series-evernightbannerWhen I start a new series, I don’t always have an ending book, or a specific number of books in mind. For The Weathermen I did, because from the beginning there were twelve men. Each man got his own book, so I knew there would be twelve books.

The planning for this series, therefore, was a bit more structured than the way I usually plan a series. But the process for all of them is the same for me. I’ll say right here that this may not work for everyone. Each of us is unique, and we have to find what works best for the way we write and process information.

I start with the idea for the series, and by that I mean the overall arc. Who are these people? Where did they come from? How and why are they connected? Why is it important that they are? What will happen if they’re not? How does their connection affect the town, etc. where they all live? What are their relationships to one another?

labyrinthThese are only a few of the questions I ask and then answer when making my notes for the overall series. In the case of The Weathermen, I knew I had to resolve The Madeline Project gone rogue one way or the other, so I also knew I needed to give my readers clues and progress toward that resolution in each book.

I will admit a few of the plot twists and turns the series took were complete surprises to me. My characters revealed them as I wrote. If you’re an author, you know exactly what I mean. That’s half the fun of it for me. Seeing where the heroes and heroines lead me, even when I think I already have a clear plan of where the story or the series is going to begin with.

fountain penOnce I have my questions answered and my series notes in enough order where I feel I can begin to write, I give the series a title if it doesn’t already have one. This involves searching the Evernight Publishing website to make sure I haven’t inadvertently chosen a title already in use, or too close to someone else’s. I do this BEFORE I become too attached to a given name for my series. I also do this BEFORE I title my books in that series, for the same reasons.

I usually title them ahead of time, but sometimes I change a title when I get to that book, as a better one presents itself while I write. Sometimes I’m asked by my publisher to re-title a book, so it has a better chance of catching the attention of readers.

macbook and wordI keep detailed series notes as I write each book. For The Weathermen this included details on buildings, restaurants, etc. for each town. It also included keeping track of things like who lived in which town, what their company names were, and who knew which other men from when and where. The longer a series goes on, and the more intricate the plot and overarching story lines are within it, the more detailed your notes will need to be.

Not enough detail, and you will make consistency errors that readers will spot. Your timelines will be off. You’ll have secondary and tertiary characters that will change names, or their purpose and role in the story will change from book to book. I’ve even seen heroes and heroines change names or roles from book to book if authors aren’t careful. You have a lot of details about all your characters, including your town, to keep consistent. The only way to do that is to keep track of them somehow, and then refer to that system as you write.

Scrivener_LogoI keep series notes and notes on each book in Word documents, but again, find what works best for you and then stick with it. Some people love Scrivener for this reason. It allows them to categorize and sort all those details, move scenes around, and create templates.

The more I know about my characters as people, the easier it is for me to write about them, and to keep all those details straight. Some authors find it easier to do this by way of pictures, some prefer to simply write all it down.

Giant-mazeThe trick is to find something that works for you, and then keep doing it, no matter how many books end up being in your series. Even if you stop it for a while and return to it, those notes or whatever you’ve created to keep it all straight will guide you toward seamless writing as you add more books to the series.

Until next week, happy writing!