Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Whether your characters are real or something imaginary, bringing them to life for our readers is the ultimate challenge. Yes, we need a plot. Yes, we need a story, but without characters to drive it—
Aha! I’m talking about creating character-driven,not plot-driven stories!
Has an editor or agent ever told you that he or she can’t get a feel for your characters? Might be that the characters are too much of a cookie cutter cut-out. Maybe not “deep” enough. Maybe the editor or agent just can’t relate to the kind of character you’ve proposed. So there are quite a few things we can do to create characters our readers want to read.
1. Give them a reason for us to want to read a 400-page book. Goal
2. Give them a reason for wanting to reach this goal. Motivation
3. Make us sympathize with the character so that we want to see them reach the goal. Empathy
4. Give them weaknesses to make them real. Flaws
5. Give them strengths to make us want to be them. Strengths
6. Give them stumbling blocks that allow us to see how they deal with it. Conflict
7. Give us background, not in lengthy backstory, but in a way that we “see/feel” their past and why they are the way they are today. History
8. Allow the character to learn from their past mistakes and current ones. Character Growth
9. Create a world around them, secondary characters, their surroundings, work, play. Defining the Character
10. Make them real, but that stand out in a reader’s mind. Unique
When readers really, really hate a character (hopefully, you intended that), you’ve done your duty. You’ve created someone real. Someone despicable. Someone to loathe.
When readers want to take your hero home with him at night, want to be the one he falls in love with, you’ve done your job. You’ve created the ultimate hero.
When readers want to be your heroine, want to deal with the troubles she’s encountering, want to be her and make the hero hers, you’ve made a winning heroine.
When readers enjoy your secondary characters so much they want to see them in subsequent novels—that’s the ultimate making of characters that captures the readers’ imagination.
Not all readers will feel the same about your characters. Why? Not because they aren’t great. But like our characters and their checkered pasts, readers have pasts.
Take a for instance: My mother hated petite heroines in stories. It wasn’t that she was tall either. But when she was a kid, she’d had a growth spurt over the summer, and that fall she was taller than all the other little girls in school. In the spring play, she was made to play the part of the storm cloud and wore a gray sack. The other girls got to be cute little colorful flowers.
Now, her story is really unique, and because of the embarrassment and animosity she felt over that one incident, caused her to abhor petite heroines in stories.
We can take that further—what if she really hated all women who were petite in real life? My mother couldn’t—I was shorter than her. And as she got older, she ended up being a petite. J But when we create a character, we can use this to emphasize how much it affected him or her throughout life. Let’s say she had a boss who was cute and petite, and wore all the cute petite clothes and Mom towered over her. What if all her friends were petite little things and she felt like a big raincloud hovering over them? And then, what if she found a shrimp of a hero and…
Probably wouldn’t work. She really, really didn’t like short men either. Had to do with her father being a shrimp. Okay, so another big issue and again a really unique situation. But let’s say a hunk of a hero walks into the office and he’s tall, like her. At first she figures he’ll fall for all the petite little things who are so…cute. But he’s more interested in the willowy blonde with the dark brown eyes who can look him in the eye.
So by creating a background for our characters, and secondaries who can help showcase our main characters, conflict that will make us want to see how they deal with it, worthwhile goals and deep motivation for having to reach them—we make believable and entertaining characters. And hopefully, memorable.
In To Tempt the Wolf, currently released, the hero’s sister has run off, his pack mutinied, fire has consumed their homes, and he’s injured and lost his memories. But when the heroine finds him injured and naked on her Oregon beach as a winter storm descends on them, he’s more than intrigued with her—not like he should be for someone who is not one of his kind. The rescued quickly becomes the rescuer when he learns someone has broken into her home—and he is one of his kind.
Here is a quote from one reviewer with regards to characterization in To Tempt the Wolf:
Top Pick from Novel Thought
Reading TO TEMPT THE WOLF was like watching a movie in HD. The characters were all
vivid and lively. I liked how Ms. Spears was able to focus on Tessa and Hunter,
but also introduce other important characters that made this an intriguing story
and to see how far each of those characters would go to care for each other. ~~Sheila
Smith, Reviewer for Novel Thought
And this is what we strive for!! Have fun creating your own HD characters! J
“Giving new meaning to the term alpha male.” www.terryspear.com
To Tempt the Wolf Wildlife photographer, Tessa Anderson has to prove her brother is innocent of the murder charges against him. But when she discovers a half-dead, naked man on her beach who looks like a mythical Greek god, she’s got a whole world of new troubles to deal with, least of all how he affects her with just a look, a touch, a whispered word.
All Hunter Greymere remembers when the enticing female human rescues him is a he’s lupus garou. Whether he was pushed from the Oregon cliffs or fell is a mystery. Intending to keep a low profile at Tessa’s cabin on the coast, he’s drawn into her troubles while investigating the truth about his own past. But he finds that living with humans causes more problems than he ever believed possible. His animal instincts war with his human half–he wants the intriguing woman, who attracts male lupus garous like one of his own kind, but he knows he can’t have her for good–unless she becomes one of them. Secrets abound in the quiet coastal community, but can Tessa and Hunter uncover the truths before it’s too late?
Destiny of the Wolf, Heart of the Wolf--Publishers Weekly "Best Books of the Year!" To Tempt the Wolf, Legend of the White Wolf, Seduced by the Wolf
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Hi FF&P members and blog readers! Today marks the official release of my debut urban fantasy, THE BETTER PART OF DARKNESS. It’s been a long, long road to get this point and I’m very excited to share this story! So I’d like to introduce you to Charlie Madigan and Post Revelation Atlanta.
Welcome to Atlanta, the Mother City, the place where, eleven years earlier, a brilliant scientist named Titus Mott discovered the alternate dimensions of heaven-like Elysia and hellish Charbydon. The Revelation forced the once shadowed beings of these worlds out of the closet and into the light where they’ve since integrated into our society, becoming our friends, neighbors, co-workers and fellow citizens.
These beings of myth and legend had been visiting us for thousands of years, inspiring our myths of angels, demons, gods, and monsters. They did good works and miracle, and they committed horrible crimes. They are nothing like we’d imagined them to be.
An Atlanta native, Charlie Madigan is a divorcee and mom to a pre-teen daughter. She works on the front lines of Atlanta’s Integration Task Force, dealing with the off-world population and the continued integration of our societies. She’s got a lot on her plate with a full-time job, a kid, and an ex-husband who suddenly decides he wants her back. But things get even more chaotic when a new drug is introduced in Underground Atlanta, an ancient threat emerges, and Charlie’s family is targeted.
This is a story I loved writing! Charlie was one of those characters who made herself known in a strong way. She came to me as a divorcee, a mother, and as a woman who doesn’t have all the answers, all the strength, or all the beauty, but one who would fight to the end for those she loves and the city she loves no matter what.
So I hope you’ll give her a chance and see what THE BETTER PART OF DARKNESS is all about!
An excerpt of the first chapter can be found here.
Thanks for reading my blog post, and I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving holiday!
You can learn more about Kelly and her books at:http://twitter.com/KellyKeaton
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
My goal with Lyrical Press has always been to offer authors a reliable home for their work. And as a publisher, I’ve had the pleasure, along with my husband Frank, to give many new voices a chance to be heard. The downside of unheard voices is the fact that many authors might not understand the submission process, and if they do get past that stage, are equally unsure of what comes next, mainly in regards to the contract. Now, I’m not going to go on and on about the actual terms of a contract because frankly, although the foundation of a publishing contract is basically the same, the inner workings are unique to each house. So, today I’m going to discuss the best way to query a publisher and the professional way to approach a contract. Relax, neither are all that bad. Seriously.
Most publishers go into a submission wanting to like it. They want to find that shining star…that brilliant new voice. What they don’t want is to be told their opinion before they even have the chance to read the manuscript. As a publisher I don’t want to read in a query how I “will love” your manuscript “because…” or, “if you love Jane Doe’s books you’re going to love mine”. I’ll form my own opinion based on the strength of your story-telling, realism of the characters and your world building skills. Many publishers won’t give a manuscript a first glance if an authors tell us via query how amazing (brilliant, wonderful, etc…) the manuscript is. Or, that the manuscript is going to be the next best seller. Another major turn-off factor is the lack of a query. By that I mean: “Dear Publisher, Here’s my manuscript. Hope it meets your approval”. Queries like this, they often aren’t accompanied by a signature, so I don’t even know the author’s name. Not good at all.
This is what I like to refer to as getting in your own way, and it often prevents an author from proceeding to the next stage - acceptance of your manuscript for publication.
Let’s say you’ve sent a professional and clean (and by clean I mean a query devoid of typos and grammatical errors) query along with your manuscript (which, of course, you’ve polished to a beautiful shine). And let’s say the publisher loves it and offers you a contract. Congratulations! Now the work begins. What work? Be prepared to read. It’s your duty as an author to look out for your interests, just as it’s the publisher’s duty to look after theirs. This doesn’t mean you both needs be at odds during this stage. In fact, it’s just the opposite. You both need to work together to establish a solid foundation for a prosperous working relationship. To do this, the best way to proceed is to take the contract to a lawyer and/or advocate experienced in publishing contracts. Trust me when I tell you legitimate publishers want you to seek some sort of legal counsel. The last thing any publisher wants is an unhappy author later on down the road, who was ignorant of what they signed back when the contract was presented. Contracts are serious business and should never be taken for granted. Never – ever – sign something you are not willing to adhere to for the entire term of the contract. Both the publisher and author are responsible for upholding to what they agree to by signing that legally binding contract (really, I can’t stress this point enough – contracts are legally binding and cannot be broken on a whim).
If you or your lawyer- assuming you’ve taken the contract one - are not comfortable with certain terms, it is your responsibility to negotiate them out of the contract. That doesn’t mean you need to be combative about it. Being polite and professional will get you a lot further during this stage. Think of it this way, would you want to work with a publisher who was combative or rude during contract negations? Of course not. Well, a publisher is no different. It’s all about manners and again, putting your best foot forward for both parties involved.
If, however, certain terms cannot be negotiated out, then a middle ground must be reached between you and the publisher before you sign that legally binding contract (I know. I know. I’m beating this over yours heads). If you’ve gone to a lawyer, it is your lawyer’s job to negotiate with the publisher. If you haven’t gone to a lawyer, that’s fine too, so long as you understand what you’re signing and are able to professionally negotiate the terms of the contract should you choose to do so.
Let me stop here for a second and beg you to not inform a publisher that you are taking – or have taken - the contract to a lawyer if you haven’t. We can see right through that ruse and it makes us a bit uncomfortable. Why? Not only are you beginning the working relationship dishonestly (never a good thing), it tends to come across as extremely unprofessional; regardless of how professional you are trying to seem. Just be honest and let the publisher know you have read over the contract (not, “my lawyer has read the contract and would like these clauses removed or altered…”). I promise you, negotiations will go much smoother and be much more pleasant, rather than something absolutely dreadful if done in a straightforward and polite manner. And if a contract is still not to your liking after negations, don’t be afraid to walk away. Better you turn down a contract than be stuck in a miserable situation for years.
I think by now you get that the key to getting published is more than just a great manuscript. It’s also about professionalism. Publishers want the assurance their authors treat themselves as the business they are. And yes, being an author is a business. The moment you decide to work toward publication, you have made the decision to become a business. A manuscript is not your “baby”. In fact, once that manuscript is published it no longer even belongs to you. Rather, it belongs to readers and is the tool upon which you will build your career.
Good luck with your writing everyone!
Publisher, Lyrical Press, Inc.
Lyrical Press, Inc. is a New York based small press owned by the husband and wife team of Frank and Renee Rocco. Our goal is to provide authors with a reliable and pleasant home for their books and offer readers an eclectic mix of quality titles. LPI publishes in both electronic format and Print On Demand for select titles over 60,000 words.
From their Submission Guidelines:
We are a commercial fiction publisher, and as such, our goal is to entertain and satisfy our consumers. Please keep that guiding principle in mind while considering Lyrical Press as a potential home for your work.
Although Lyrical Press is actively seeking erotica and romance and paranormal sub-genres, we welcome all submissions except screenplays, young adult and poetry works.
Our main focus is Erotica and Romance. However, we are actively seeking submissions in these genres (in no particular order of importance):
# Romance (all categories)
# Science Fiction
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
At the end of this month I’ll be doing an on-line class about Warrior Writer here, so perhaps you might be interested in exactly what this beast is?
I just got back today from Boise, ID, where I taught a WW workshop yesterday. The weekend before that, I taught it here on Whidbey Island, WA. Earlier this year I’ve taught workshops in San Diego, Atlanta, Dallas and other places.
I developed Warrior Writer by looking at a gap in the publishing paradigm (no one formally trains writers how to be authors); and using my ‘platform’ (key buzz word now in the business).
After 20 years and 40 books published, I’ve learned a lot. Mostly how NOT to do things. If you talk to experienced novelists, they will tell you all the mistakes they made. What I finally realized, though, was that these mistakes were unnecessary. Somehow, the publishing business expects a new author to gain the business and publishing savvy needed to be a successful author by, well, osmosis? Magic? Oh, wait, by learning on their own. And when the new author fails (as 90% of first novels do), it must be the author’s fault. Of course, the fact that no publisher or agent takes the times to ‘train’ a new author is irrelevant. They don’t have the time for it. Right. But they do have the time to work with clients whose failure rate is 90%?
“We contract for the book; not employ the author,” one editor said to me. Then why do I get a 1099 from a publisher? Send it to the book.
I’m being a bit cynical, but in most businesses, there is considerable time and expense spent training employees (all we did in Special Forces was train—until it was time to use the training). But the producer of the product in the publisher world—aka the author—has 0 time, energy and expense spent by agents and publishers on training. It’s the author’s responsibility. So be it. So I developed Warrior Writer.
I graduated West Point, was in the Green Berets and taught at the JFK Special Warfare Center & School at Fort Bragg for many years (As Rambo laments in the first movie: “I wanna go back to Bragg” and I wondered why?). We produced the finest soldiers in the world and the best team in the world: the Special Forces A-Team.
Then, while still in the Reserves, I began writing. I got a three book deal while being totally ignorant of how the publishing business worked—yes, I could write a good book, but how the hell was I supposed to know how the business worked, having never been in the business (plus living in the Orient studying martial arts wasn’t, shall we say, helpful?). Then got another three book deal. Then no more deals from that publisher, but I was already being published by another publisher. For 12 books. Then no more deals there. But then I was being published by two other publishers and so on and so on. Not once was I given any formal instruction on the business of publishing by any agent, editor, publisher. I don’t blame them. I understand (NOW!) the way the system works. Also, it’s important to understand that agents/editors while they do work with authors, don’t really understand the strange, dark twisted way we create. They don’t know the incantations we do for our creativity and have never attended the midnight author covens where we sacrifice one of our own for the muse—the virgin one—wait, there are no virgin authors. Damn. Well, the one who looks, well, virginy. (Is that a word? Need a copy editor STAT).
So last year I thought: this is a pretty inefficient business paradigm. I decided to combine my Special Forces expertise and my publishing experience and developed Warrior Writer. It doesn’t focus on the writing as much as it focuses on how not only to survive as an author, but flourish. I used my experiences and all I had learned from many other published authors (yes, name-dropping, but it’s my experience and I earned it): Susan Wiggs; Elizabeth George; Terry Brooks; Jennifer Cruise (my co-author who taught me more than anyone else), John Saul; Dorothy Allison; and so on and so forth. And the hundreds of authors whose workshops I’ve sat in and soaked up their knowledge and experiences. Last month alone it was Cherry Adair, Anne Perry, Diana Galbadon, Susan Mallery, Don Maass, and many others at Emerald City Writers Conference, Surrey International Writers Conference, and some others.
So what the workshop will be is a torrent of information to give both published and un-published authors as template for success. I’ve boiled it down to three areas with three steps in each, which will be the 9 lessons, with an introduction, which makes, um, wait, ok, enough fingers, don’t have to take sock off—10 lessons:
WINS: What, Why, Where
WHO: Character, Change, Courage
DARES: Communicate, Command, Complete.
I was just watching a special on Monty Python and how the people who created it worked (you must study the entertainment business), so I think it’s appropriate to see if you sign up for the workshop: “And now for something completely different.”
Or we could just bring out the comfy chair.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Erm... what am I doing here?
I mean, just because I have a series involving a man and a woman who are so insecure that it took them four novels to get to the bedroom doesn’t mean I write ROMANCE.
And definitely not FANTASY. Suave vampires in designer T-shirts, elves and damsels on epic quests - forget it!
Also, while there might be hauntings, hints of dark ritual and the unexplained... that doesn’t make me a HORROR writer.
Oh... and being set in English villages with ancient churches and black and white timber-framed houses doesn’t mean these books are COZY.
You got all that? If not, please try... because this is the problem I’ve been having for over ten years. I have to keep explaining what I DON’T do. All part of the headache of developing an original concept at a time when anything different in popular fiction is regarded with extreme suspicion.
There’s been a change in publishing. It’s no longer run by vague, willowy men and women in half-glasses. Now it’s hard-nosed power-dressers who know how to market.
What they want is The new Dan Brown. Or a book on which they can splatter: As good as Patricia Cornwell or your money back.
What they don’t want is something which book critics start to describe as ‘a new genre.’
A new genre? Oh no! Which shelf do we put that on?
OK, let’s go back.
In the 1980s, the big thing was horror. Stephen King was God. I enjoyed his stuff as much as anyone, but I wanted to do something slightly different, more plausible. What the early King novels did magnificently was to take established scary items, like vampires, and transplant them to contemporary America. Put something old and weird into a place with no history of it.
In which case, I was thinking, why aren’t we in Britain using our rich legacy of indigenous folklore - centuries of it just lying there unused?
At the time, I was working as a radio and TV reporter in central Wales and discovering recent - even contemporary - accounts of some very weird phenomena, like phantom funerals and corpse candles - little moving lights said to herald death. I put them all into a novel called Candlenight, which also dealt with current social and political isues in Wales.
It got picked up by Duckworth a small London literary publisher and was well-reviewed in most of the national papers. Which meant the paperback rights got sold to Pan Books, the paperback arm of a big publisher, Macmillan.
Eyes gleaming with pound and dollar signs, Macmillan said, This guy is Britain’s Stephen King. Let’s go for it... So they replaced Duckworth’s restrained, atmospheric cover with something out of a horror comic which makes me wince to this day.
The next novel was Crybbe, which again used entirely local folklore, but had fewer deaths. Macmillan wanted to splash THE NEW MASTER OF HORROR across the front. ‘Look,’ I said, ‘it’s spooky, but there are no giant rats and nobody gets disembowelled. It’s not strictly horror, is it?’
Besides, it was now 1991, and horror had peaked. A dearth of new ideas meant that many horror writers were drifting into fantasy to save their careers, and I didn’t want to go there. I wanted to write about phenomena I could believe in. Macmillan finally compromised with ‘the masterpiece of the supernatural’ , and the novel was published in the US as Curfew, where it sold very well, with Puttnam describing it as ‘quiet horror.’
I did a couple more which Macmillan continued - despite my pleas - to publish with lurid covers. We were now in the mid-90s and, in Britain, the whole bottom had dropped out of horror market. This didn’t worry me a lot; in fact I saw it as an opportunity to write what I actually wanted to write, dealing with the paranormal in an entirely realistic way.
I mean, I believe these thing happen. As a journalist, I’d met too many people with convincing stories. But I knew if I was going to be able to handle the numinous with any degree of authenticity, I’d have to aim the novels at the Crime and Mystery market.
The next one, The Wine of Angels, was billed as a ghost story but had all the elements of a crime novel. It was set in a village on the border of England and Wales and its leading character was the vicar - a woman. The story made this essential, and, as woman priests had only recently been permitted by the Church of England, it seemed an interesting idea.
The woman priest was called Merrily Watkins, a single parent with a teenage daughter, Jane, who despised the Church and was drawn towards witchcraft and paganism. By the time the book was finished, I really liked Merrily and Jane and wanted to bring them back. But how - realistically - could a parish priest become involved in murder and weird stuff twice?
The answer came in a moment of enlightenment I can recall vividly to this day. I would make her an exorcist.
Now, the big precedent for exorcism in fiction was William Peter Blatty’s excellent novel The Exorcist. But how realistic was it? It was certainly based on a true story, but I found that exorcists in real life dealt with less spectacular events than teenage girls projectile-vomiting green bile while spinning their heads through 360 degrees. Hauntings, mainly. Troubled people. Obsession. Paranoia. And sometimes cases on the fringes of crime - particularly murder.
But the point was - and is - that exorcists exist. In Britain, in the Church of England, they operate under the title Deliverance minister or consultant. Ever diocese has at least one, and it’s a complex job, with all kinds of spiritual and political hazards - especially for a woman.
I was inspired. Still am. I’ve now written ten novels about Merrily and her troubled, low-key musician friend Lol Robinson. Never run out of ideas because I still have the concept to myself - the paranormal, realistically evoked, inside the crime novel. The ‘spiritual procedural genre’ as one critic called it. I think it has mystery and atmosphere and a slightly dangerous air. Crime... with an element of something else.
And it’s still a genre of one.
Which brings us back to the central problem: which shelf do you put these novels on? The marketing guys at Macmillan never got it. Failed to prevent the booksellers stacking the Merrily Watkins series under horror which, alphabetically, put me next to Anne Rice. A good writer, but...
‘No!’ I’m screaming. ‘Crime! Put me in crime!’
It took years and a change of publisher to get where I wanted to be. Now, at last, most bookstores have me in crime... but the problems haven’t quite gone away, especially in the US, where there seems to be a genre known as ‘clerical crime’, in which cozy murders are solved by cozy priests. Often in pictureque communities.
Yeah, right. Serial killers, ritual murder, Church corruption, psychopathy, mental illness, teenage suicide... cozy as hell.
The scenery’s definitely picturesque, though. And Merrily and Lol... well, let’s call it alternative romance.
Phil Rickman is the author of the Merrily Watkins thriller series and nine other novels, (including two for children under the name Thom Madley.)
He was born in Lancashire, but has spent most of his adult life in Wales and the Border country, where he won a couple of awards for his work as a BBC radio and TV news reporter.
First novel, Candlenight (1991) was discovered by the novelist and fiction-editor Alice Thomas Ellis and was followed by four other stand-alone novels before the Merrily Watkins series began with The Wine of Angels.
Phil lives near Hay-on-Wye with his wife, Carol - they met as journalists on the same paper - and a bunch of animals. He still writes and presents radio features including the book programme PHIL THE SHELF on BBC Radio Wales.
His work has been described as...
‘an excellent writer... terrific on atmosphere.’ Marcel Berlins, THE TIMES.
'the best English writer in the crime genre today.' Prof. Bernard Knight, TANGLED WEB
‘...if this makes the books sound cosy, they are a long way from that... A haunting quality beyond crime fiction... rich in atmosphere and practically unique...’ Russell James, Great British Fictional Detectives (2009)
‘Tough-minded, atmospheric mystery... with particularly sharp scene-setting.’ Barry Forshaw, The Rough Guide to Crime Fiction
Monday, November 9, 2009
1. Don't bother going through proper channels. Querying is for losers. Just send the manuscript. Hire a private detective to find the agent's home address, and mail it there so it doesn't get placed in the slush pile by mistake. Be sure to bind your manuscript every which way--you want it to be secure! In fact, you might even have it professionally printed, including a cover. Your twelve-year-old can do the artwork. In your package, include a crisp hundred-dollar bill. Just a little incentive! Agents appreciate that. If your novel isn't finished, send it anyway. It's the editor's job to polish it up, right? And if you have several manuscripts, send them all.
2. Make sure the agent knows that your novel does not fit into any particular genre, that it transcends genre. Even better, tell him that it is experimental fiction and it has taken you fifteen years to write it. Emphasize in your cover letter that your novel is better than anything else on the market today, and especially make sure she knows it is better than the work of Suzy Q Author, who is the agent's client (and a hack). You want your prospective agent to know that your work is destined to be a #1 New York Times Best Seller that will be adapted into an Oscar-winning film.
3. Send your manuscript to at least ten publishers before you send it to an agent. After all, you don't want to pay the agent's commission if you can sell it yourself, right? Send your collection of rejection letters with your manuscript, so the agent will know not to waste his time on those loser publishers.
4. State up front the conditions under which you will allow the agent to represent your novel. Make sure she knows which publishers you want to review the manuscript, and provide a deadline for them to respond. Make it clear you will expect daily progress reports and full-page ads in People Magazine. Oh, and negotiate that commission. Fifteen percent? Come on. Your book is going to make millions, and they'll hardly have to work at all. Three percent should be plenty.
5. If you meet a literary agent at a writer's conference, monopolize all of his free time. Sit in the front row of his workshop, then interrupt his talk with long, complex questions that pertain to your novel, only. Corner him at the hotel bar and keep other writers away from him. (He'll appreciate your protecting him from the riff-raff.) If anyone else horns in on your conversation, don't let them get a word in edgewise. After all, the agent is sure to find every detail about your book endlessly fascinating.
Hopefully you are savvy enough not to make any of the above mistakes. But how do you catch the attention of a great agent without throwing yourself in the path of their oncoming car?
Find out at my two-week online course, "Agents: How to Find Them, Hire Them, Work with Them, and Fire Them.
This course is sponsored by RWA's Futuristic, Fantasy & Paranormal Online Chapter, and will run from November 30 through December 14. You can learn more or sign up for the class here.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
For those of us who write futuristic, fantasy and paranormal stories, we know how important it is to create intricate, credible and intriguing worlds. But writers who combine fantastical elements with hot sex, like I do, have to go one step further. We need to consider marriage, mating and sexual rituals that might be a part of the culture for our FF&P stories.
All writers of FF&P stories have to consider these things to some extent. But the more explicit the story, the more seamless and cohesive these elements must be otherwise the minute a shapeshifter, vampire or alien romance begins to develop and head for the “bedroom,” the reader starts to think. And thinking is the last thing an author wants a reader to do. We want readers to feel our stories. To be caught in our stories. Captured by them. And for erotic romance, to be turned on by them, too. If the story has some profound meaning suitable for deep thought, well, let’s have the reader think later, not when I’m trying to have my hero and heroine make love. Making love isn’t a thinking thing, it’s a feeling thing.
So how do you keep your readers feeling the story? Plan ahead. Figure out if there are any marriage/mating or sexual rituals in this culture you’re creating. I’m only now learning just how important this is. Why? Because I didn’t really think the whole thing through when I created my shapeshifter world. I’m a pantser, not a plotter. In other words, I write by the seat of my pants. I sit at the keyboard and just…go. This can make for some fabulous happy accidents and some major headaches.
In creating my world, I made a few decisions…on the fly. I decided that my shapeshifters have two options for a mate. Option 1…they can choose to mate with someone or option 2…they find their other half.
Chosen Mates are like any human couple (except for the animal elements). Chosen Mates fall in love but can fall out of love too because there’s no biological imperative. No imprinting—so a breakup is possible. Even more important, if one of the pair dies, the other feels normal grief (which is painful enough) rather than a debilitating destruction of half of themselves. A Chosen Mate can go on and lead a happy, healthy life and may find another mate. Even a True Mate.
What’s a True Mate? These are the soulmates in my universe. True Mates are a couple destined to be together—two halves of one whole. In my world, True Mates could be same sex but in the story ideas I’ve had so far, my pairings have been male/female. One or both members of the pair are likely to recognize the other as a True Mate. Not always, but often.
They can try to deny their mate, but the ability to remain apart from that individual is painful. They also begin to slip into each other’s thoughts creating a telepathic bond. The bond is so tight outsiders wonder “if I cut one, will the other bleed?” The answer is almost yes because if one dies, the survivor usually suicides unless there are pups (children). It’s possible for the one who lives to stay alive, but it rarely happens. If they have pups, the living mate may be able to keep their sanity and parent their young, though it will be a painfully lonely existence. Once a shapeshifter has been in a True Mate relationship, they’ll never take another mate. They may have a sexual relationship – friends with benefits – but they’ll never experience that completeness with another. Every other relationship is a pale comparison to what they had with their True Mate. Only after they die and are reunited with their True Mate in the afterlife will they again be complete.
When I created my shapeshifters, I included the sexual aspects too. So far, I’ve only written wolf stories, though there are other animal shifters in my universe. When my wolves pair up, the sex is hot but not unusual. But when the female goes into heat interesting things happen. Sex is very animalistic. That’s true in both a Chosen Mate relationship and a True Mate relationship. The bonding rituals are deeper in a True Mate pairing though—telepathy helps. A True Mate pairing can share thoughts and know when the other is hurt, happy, or intensely turned on. Biting and dominance are a strong part of the mating ritual. True Mates will mark each other so that anyone else will see the mark and know someone is mated. The sex is fierce but not brutal – trust me, biting can be sexy. I wanted it to be clear there is love there in spite of the growling and biting, however I also wanted to maintain a similarity to wild wolf matings. It was fun to add in my own quirks when I created my shapeshifters.
My mistake was that I didn’t plan ahead as I suggested to writers earlier. It was a case of “do as I say, not as I do.” So that now as I begin to write additional stories, I’m forced to reread my old stories to develop consistency about True Mate and Chosen Mate “rules” of engagement – pun intended. Learn from my mistakes fellow writers! Develop a handbook before writing so you aren’t playing catch up later. Plan for not only the weather and the culture in your universe, but wild monkey (or wolf or jaguar) sex, too. Your characters and readers will thank you.
To get a glimpse into my shapeshifter universe, read an excerpt here:
Protect and Defend
Protect and Defend
By: Francesca Hawley
Mikaela Laughlin discovers a whole new world, and an entirely new species, when she tours the crime lab to meet Lieutenant Diarmid Redwolf while researching her next book. She’s lusted after “Delicious Diarmid” from afar for a long time, but meeting him sets her body on fire. It doesn’t take long for Mikaela to discover there’s more to Diarmid than meets the eye. He is far more delicious up close than she ever dreamed.
Diarmid has bad guys to catch, but one look at the voluptuous writer has him wanting to catch her instead. His shapeshifter blood recognizes his True Mate and he wants her naked body arching beneath his. Now. But with a cold-blooded serial killer on the loose, Diarmid has one shot at his future and he will not fail. Because this time, the killer wants Mikaela.