Friday, August 18, 2017

Defeating Writers Block: Love to Read by Suz deMello (#iamwriting #writersblock #MFRWAuthor)

In another installment of what to do when you're blocked, another option is to seek inspiration. Or, rather, do what you did when you were an author in training. 

I didn't know I was an author in training as a child and as a teen, when I read obsessively. I clearly remember the first book I really loved--I believe I was about three years old. I don't remember the title, but it was about a train, all the things the train carried, and the people on the train. 


I went from there to read just about everything I could lay my hands on. When I was a teen I was a little bit more organized. I had a science fiction phase in which I read sci-fi from A to Z, literally from Asimov to Zelazny. Then I read
every British murder-mystery I could, starting with Holmes of course, moving through Sayers and Christie. Then I started to read Regency Romance. Going to college interrupted my unplanned unconscious reading schedule. But I still read novels almost exclusively with the exception of British histories, mostly by Thomas Costain.


I didn't realize what I was doing at the time, but the obsessive reading of pop fiction educated me in the basics of writing pop fiction. I unconsciously learned everything from the overarching notion of story down through plot characterization conflict and even proper sentence structure. 




I make the point in my book About Writing, as follows:



Writing a book starts long before you open your new journal, or begin a new document on your computer and type “Chapter One.” You need to have read a lot of books, and I don’t mean craft works like this manual. Read, but not just anything.

Aspiring writers are often told, “read in your genre.” But Faulkner said, “Read, read, read. Read everything—trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You'll absorb it. Then write. If it's good, you'll find out. If it's not, throw it out of the window.”

I don’t completely agree with the above advice. Mine is: Read well-written books.

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/628973
What books are they? Try using the internet to search for lists of the best books ever written in English, or whatever language in which you’re planning to write. Do not read translated books. While many are great, you want to read excellent books by those who have mastered all aspects of writing. Book translators possess extremely refined skills, and writing an original work from start to “the end” is not often among them.

Be selective. While reading works such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in the original middle English may be interesting and educational, you want to read books that are written in the version of English we use, so as to accustom your ear and your mind to modern, grammatically correct language.

The purpose of extensive reading is not to entertain but to enlighten. Pay attention to what you’re reading. Read books that call to you more than once, to figure out why they’re compelling. Look at the big picture aspects first: character and conflict, plot and story. During the next reading you can analyze narrower mechanical concerns such as word choice and sentence structure. Ask yourself, “How does this writer use these tools to elicit a particular reaction from the reader?”

Third reading: start looking for subtleties such as symbolism, subtext, and theme. How does the writer express these? What images does the author employ? What words does she choose? How long or short are sentences, paragraphs, chapters? Why?

It’s not the purpose of this treatise to teach everything there is to know about every aspect of fiction writing. It’s not possible. But reading programs your brain in particular ways. I emphasize reading modern works, works that use the same sentence structure, grammar, and vocabulary common in contemporary fiction. Read to increase your knowledge of, and command over, your tools: words, sentences, paragraphs, scenes. Read great books over and over again. Learn an appreciation for the English language and good writing, even down to correct apostrophe placement and comma usage.

Reading well-written books will imprint strong storytelling, correct grammar, and good sentence structure upon your mind, and it’s a lot easier to learn by reading than by taking classes. A lifetime of good reading can create a good writer. You’ll become a more able author, especially if you’re writing as well as reading, such as keeping a journal or making notes. It doesn’t really matter what you’re writing at this phase. If you’re writing fiction, great. If not, that’s okay too.

All of this is to encourage becoming thoroughly fluent in the English language. If you aren’t, the sad truth is that you needn’t try to write anything more complex than a shopping list or a thank-you note. Readers know what good writing is and isn’t, and they can be as unforgiving about sloppiness as the plastic surgeon’s patient.


Law school interrupted my reading. I did not realize how much I missed it until
after I had graduated and I found that something in my life was missing. My eye fell upon a copy of Ursula Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea, one of my favorites, and I realized that I had not read a novel in 3 years. 


Because I'm blocked, I'm back to reading. I used to read books that I loved, and rewatch TV and movies that I adored, but now I don't do that very often. A book has to be amazing for me to reread it, and the same is true of films. I like new things. I like novelty, and I like to learn something new when I can.

And so I've returned to my roots, and am again reading fanatically. And enjoying every word.


Right now I'm reading all of Nora Roberts' The Obsession. What are you reading?

Monday, August 14, 2017

Memorable Rejections Received Over the Years by Marianne Stephens

Here's a questionable rejection from a very high profile, RWA-recognized, well-known agent.

I sent the requested three chapters. I received a rejection thanking me for giving her the opportunity to read my complete manuscript. I wrote back and noted I'd only sent three chapters and wondered if we were talking about the same submission. She wrote back...and I quote..."Once a letter has been mailed, we do not offer any additional feedback on a submission."

I have no idea if my chapters were what she was rejecting or someone else's full manuscript.

My second questionable rejection is from an agent no longer recognized by RWA.

I sent a requested full manuscript. She called and spent 30 minutes asking questions about the book and other books I had written or was in the process of writing. She said she was almost through reading it and it looked fine. She wanted to finish it and make sure I'd followed through with the story to the end. This was a Monday. She said she'd get back to me by Friday or the following Monday.

A month later she called and proceeded to tell me all the things that were wrong with the book to include plot, too much character-driven material, etc. She suggested I read 4 books on writing and redo the story before I'd be allowed to resubmit to her. I chose not to contact her again.

Another rejection:

I'd written a category romance following the guidelines and sent in a query. My rejection stated that they really weren't looking for books with children in them for this particular line...and mine was about a woman running a daycare facility. Nowhere in the guidelines did it state they didn't want kids in the story or else I'd never have submitted.

I now publish with self-publishing groups.

Anyone else have memorable rejections to share?

Marianne Stephens
http://www.mariannestephens.net
http://romancebooks4us.com
photo: Flickr: Caro Wallis photostream



Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Tell Me A Story



A group of male/male romance authors was given this picture and asked to tell a story about it.
Here's what I wrote.

“I don’t even understand why you invited me to come to the conference with you this weekend. You haven’t spent ten seconds in the same room as me all day.” Jayden crossed his bare arms over his naked chest and glowered at Vincent, not even excited to be wearing the brand new teeny-tiny Speedo swimwear he’d raced out to buy when he heard the conference center had a swimming pool and hot tub.
“You knew I was here for work. The company is paying me to attend so they expect me to participate in the various workshops and forums.”
Jay ground his teeth together to stop him from screaming at Vince. It took every ounce of control he had to keep his voice sufficiently low that the people in the next room wouldn’t hear every word he said. “There’s no workshop or forum on now. Your program states ‘Free Time. Please avail yourselves of our facilities.’ The swimming pool is a facility and you know I said I was looking forward to using it.”
Jay bit his lip. He’d had such high hopes about this weekend away. Vince held a senior management position with TekiSolutionz, and he often worked late nights and all through the weekend. They had so little time together that when Vince had asked him to come to this conference he hadn’t begrudged a cent of the money it’d cost him to buy several new shirts, neckties, and even new shoes so he’d look appropriately attired to be a senior manager’s partner.
But this free time was precious. He’d had such high hopes of the moments they’d spend in each other’s others arms in the few brief breaks in the program. It would be the pay off for him sitting silent and bored beside Vince for hours and hours during the formal presentations and speeches tomorrow night.
Vince shook his head. “Jay, I never promised to spend the free time with you. I’ve gotten permission to use Breakout Room Three with one of the sound system engineers and a video tech to practice my presentation for tomorrow night. They’re going to record me so I can watch the tape and see what I need to improve. You know how important it is to me to impress our major clients and stakeholders tomorrow.”
“Of course I know. You’ve been talking about it nonstop for weeks. But what about me? When will you be able to squeeze me into your life?”
“You’re already in my life. You know I love you. I invited you here in public as my partner.”
“Yes, but we’ve hardly seen each other. When are we actually going to exchange a sentence with each other?”
“We could do that now if you’d stop pouting and acting like I’m standing you up.”
Just then Vince’s cell phone beeped.
“Gotta run. That’s the sound tech ready for me. I’ll see you for dinner tonight. It’s formal remember. At seven, in the ballroom.”
Jay nodded, but Vince wasn’t even looking. He was already halfway out the door on his way to his next appointment. Jay dropped back onto the bed. That’s the way it was far too often. Vince rushing from an important meeting to an even more important meeting. Him coming home from his very ordinary job to cook dinner for them both even though he knew that half the time Vince wouldn’t come home to eat it and the rest of the time it wouldn’t taste nice anyway because it’d gone cold and been reheated hours later.
Was that going to be all his life held from now on? Snatches of Vince’s time when his work didn’t come first? Himself just a space filler for when Vince’s career was up-to-date? Vince said he loved him, but was that enough to live on?

* * * *

Vince had trouble putting Jay’s sad face out of his mind so he could concentrate on his work. It was even harder trying to forget the bright pink and black swimwear he’d been wearing. It didn’t leave much to the imagination and Vince would enjoy freeing Jay’s mighty fine cock from the tiny piece of fabric and tasting him.
But not now. Tomorrow night was vital for his career. Only four of the senior managers would be giving a presentation at the formal dinner and he was one of them. He absolutely had to give such an honor every ounce of his effort and attention. No way could he risk stumbling over his words or not producing a smooth, engrossing speech. This rehearsal was very important to him. Only by watching a video of himself would he genuinely know if he’d gotten his timing or actions wrong or if his words didn’t come out how he wanted them to.
But he hated that Jay was sad. Vince knew he’d been ignoring Jay lately. Well, not ignoring him precisely. No one could ever ignore such a delicious hunk of premium manhood. But maybe taking him for granted somewhat. He did need to change up his game and come home on time more often. Or at least text Jay with the time he actually would be home. It was rude to expect dinner to be cooked for him and then not turn up. He did need to act better toward Jay.
He mentally ran through his speech, and then stood on the stage and gave the presentation as if he were in the ballroom. The sound crew clapped him at the end, but he wasn’t sure if they were being polite, or if they’d liked his speech. However when they replayed the video, he had come across well. Now he just had to worry that he wouldn’t fuck-up on the night. Wasn’t there some saying or other that the worse the dress rehearsal went, the better the performance usually was? Oh shit, maybe this hadn’t been such a brilliant idea after all.
“Thank you all for helping me out,” Vince said to the sound crew.
“No problem. We still have over an hour before we need to start setting up for the dinner tonight.”
“Really? I thought it’d take longer.”
“You were as smooth as silk. You’ve got time to get a coffee or whatever before preparing for tonight’s program.”
“Thanks. I might do that.”
But instead of going downstairs to the coffee shop, he went up to the rooftop swimming pool. He half expected to find Jay lying on a sun bed sipping some exotic drink, or maybe surrounded by men lusting after him in that tiny sexy pink piece of fabric.
Instead, Jay had evidently been swimming. He was in the middle of the pool stretching. Damn, he looked delicious. The yummiest hunk of man on planet Earth. Without stopping to think Vince raced down the steps and into the swimming pool, and marched across to Jay, pulling him into his arms and kissing him.
“I love you, Jay. I promise to spend more time with you.”
Jay jumped up, wrapping his legs around Vince’s waist. “I love you, too, Vince, but that suit isn’t going to like being in chlorinated water. Why didn’t you change into your board shorts first?”
“I didn’t want to waste a single minute when I could be with you. I promise to be better about letting you know when I’m free, and spending every spare second of my life with you.”
“Every spare second, hmm? How can a man resist such a wonderful offer?”
Vince tightened his grip on Jay as Jay kissed him back with so much promise if he hadn’t been waist deep in water they’d have been arrested for what might happen next.

Berengaria Brown

Blog: http://berengariasblog.blogspot.com/
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Berengaria-Brown/e/B00541R3YQ/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/berengaria.brown?fref=ts
Twitter: https://twitter.com/BerengariaBrown

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Join in the Crazy Alien Games

by Katherine Kingston

My science fiction novella Checkmate is now available from most ebook outlets and I invite you to come along on a wild ride around far-off worlds, through the obligatory spaceport cantina, to a place where decorating bridges is a high art form and onto a planet whose inhabitants enjoy reality show games with a bit more realism than most of us would find comfortable.

Devonne and Raje, my space-going pirate heroes, are forced to participate in a series of said games when they’re accused of a crime against one of the alien residents of the planet and the only alternative is a forced labor camp.

A quick sample of the ‘games’ they are required to play for the amusement of their captors:

Negotiating a maze that holds more obstacles than just tricky turns and confusing corridors.
Public sex with each other.
Fighting a herd of treckles, small, but vicious creatures.
Demonstrating BDSM sex with each other.
Fighting a corbret, a large, ugly, bad-tempered creature. With teeth. Big, sharp teeth.
Group sex with a different couple.
Fighting that same other couple to the death. Uh, no.


It’s a fast-paced, action-packed story and you’re welcome to join the experience!

Amazon   B&N   iTunes   Kobo    Others

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Naughty Reunions: Return to #Romance is #free on #Instafreebie!

The Naughty Literati are now on Instafreebie! And we're starting off by giving away our Autumn 2015 anthology Naughty Reunions: Return to Romance -- for free!

Just go to our Naughty Reunions page on Instafreebie and sign up to subscribe to our newsletter, Naughty News. Instafreebie will send you your choice of an epub or mobi file.

Naughty Reunions has nine stories including BBW, Contemporary, F/F, M/M, New Adult, Paranormal, Regency, Shapeshifter, Speculative Fiction, and Stepbrother Romance from bestselling authors writing as The Naughty Literati!

Silent Sky by Regina Kammer
Homeward Bound by Alexa Silver
Lady Esther’s Lesbian Lover by Berengaria Brown
Renovating the Relationship by Katherine Kingston
Part 2: The WyndMaster’s Homecoming by Charlotte Boyett-Compo
Back in Your Arms by Marianne Stephens
My Cups Runneth Over by Francesca Hawley
Ocean Dreams by Suz deMello
Hybrid Mates 5: Take Me Home by Nicole Austin

Subscribing to Naughty News keeps you up to date with new releases, giveaways, author spotlights, exclusive excerpts, and contests! And now you'll get a free copy of Naughty Reunions: Return to Romance!