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Melanie Jayne: Decision Time (Contest)
Monday, August 19th, 2019

It seems that every time I turn around someone I know is making the declaration, “I’m going to quit writing. I quit. I’m done with this.” The list goes on and on. Perhaps it is the humidity or that summer seemed to last about three weeks before schools went back in session. We didn’t get any lazy days or time to recover.

A week ago, I celebrated a birthday, and I try to use the night before “my” day to take stock and reflect. Over the last few years, I’ve been trying to purge blatant negativity from my world. No-I don’t have a magic wand but I can turn off, unfollow, and choose to not read things that a.) I cannot change b.) I can’t control c.) I don’t have the energy to engage in anymore.

These are small changes, and I have seen progress. I identify the negatives faster, and I am more decisive about dealing with them. I also am much better at using the stopper, where I ignore and don’t feel that I am missing out by not continuing.

If you follow any form of social media, I am sure that you have seen an author declare they are quitting the business. Some are tired of working and getting nowhere, or putting in the same effort and back-sliding. Others believe that their work is devalued for a variety of reasons, and they can no longer afford to publish. Some are tired of going unnoticed, of not being heard.

I understand their anguish. There have been many days I wonder if anybody cares if I produce another word. I see the lists, and sometimes wonder at those titles. I’ve looked at a royalty statement and felt disappointment. The lure of sitting on the porch and watching the clouds is strong, but I decided to pursue this dream. I decided to try writing romance because I had voices in my head. I would watch a TV show, and then, before I fell asleep, rewrite it. As I drove to work, names, places, and personalities popped into my head. I’d weave these ideas into stories to help me fall asleep at bedtime. I decided to make a concentrated effort to write a manuscript. Of course, that try was a disaster, but I enjoyed the process—the fulfillment of seeing a blank page become full of words that came from my soul, the thrill of finding the perfect adjective to describe an emotion, the joy of creating a scene and knowing that it will make someone smile or cry… I was addicted. I took classes, found mentors, made mistakes and learned from all of them. I rejoiced every time that I typed “The End,” and celebrated every small victory (and some were tiny). I do the same today, six years in.

There have been disasters, heartbreaks, and frustration. In order to succeed, many pieces of the puzzle have to fall together perfectly. I can produce a great story, design an eye-catching cover, and market the hell out of the book, but it might not catch on. Readers are very much like horses being led to water—you can’t make them do anything.

The other lesson I have absorbed is that life is not fair. The world of Publishing is a crapshoot. Readers can be fickle and unreliable. The hot trend today can be dead tomorrow. The editor that loved your book can be without a job overnight. What your Beta Readers praised in your last book doesn’t work for them in this one. It is a topsy-turvy world.

This career isn’t for the weak. I spend time outlining, writing, revising, and worrying about an early draft of a story. I then send it to my trusted editor, and although I know in my heart she is on my side…I dread reading her opinion. I know she is working with me to make this product the best it can be, but with sixteen stories published and four more in the pipeline, it still takes me hours and sometimes days to open up her e-mail. After two rounds of edits, three or four proofreads, plus my final read-through — the book is birthed and ready for public consumption. There are huge parts of my heart, soul and bank account attached to the baby, but now it belongs to the world, and it can be ignored, loved or hated.

And that is hard for writers. We pour so much time and self into each project that when we feel it isn’t getting the proper attention, a part of us wilts. Each time I hear another writer say they are done, a part of me hurts for them, but then I hear another voice that comes from deep inside of me saying, “Keep pushing, keep working… Don’t give up. You can do this. You are doing this.” The voice sounds a little like Vin Diesel. I like to think of it as my Dark Guide — the part of my soul that will keep me upright when my world crumbles, the gritty slice that will fight back until my last breath.

Every morning, I rely on it to make me settle into my chair, to focus on my manuscript, and to do so the next day and the next. Deciding to quit is not easy, but sticking with writing isn’t for the weak.

Contest

Comment for a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card!

About Melanie Jayne/M. Jayne

M. Jayne/Melanie Jayne has the best life. She spends her days chatting with feisty females, waking up to sexy men, eating chocolate and wearing pajamas. Her books predominantly feature characters over the age of thirty-five, facing life head-on. They are woman-positive and advocate empowerment. She writes paranormal romance, The Novus Pack Series, and several contemporary series.

She lives a quiet life on a grain farm in central Indiana with her very patient husband and mastiff, Duncan Keith. She is grateful to all that have helped her with her writing career and in turn, is giving back to new and aspiring writers.

Learn more about Melanie Jayne:
https://www.facebook.com/MelanieJayneAuthor
www.ReadMelanieJayne
@1MelanieJayne on Twitter
https://www.bookbub.com/authors/m-jayne ReadMelanieJayne on Instagram

Kristine Raymond: Genre Switching (Excerpt)
Sunday, August 18th, 2019

Thank you, Delilah, for inviting me to guest post on your blog today. I’m happy to be here.

When I began writing, romance seemed to be the most logical genre choice. I’m a sucker for happy endings, even if it’s rough going for the characters while getting there. And, as love can happen in any century, I tried my hand at both historical and contemporary, creating two full series and a collection of short stories in the romantic realm before deciding I needed a change. Or, more like, my writing was begging for one.

To this day, I’m not sure what caused me to land on cozy mysteries as a genre choice. I’d never read one; had never viewed an episode of Murder, She Wrote, either, but as with everything else I do in my life, I dove headfirst into the story, making the appropriate adjustments along the way to stay true to the trope. Now, other authors may not find this to be true, but I’ll admit it was difficult for me to alter my writing style, especially when it came to the romantic aspects of the tale. Not that cozies can’t have a little romance; the challenge was learning to keep it simmering in the background while bringing the mystery front and center — a lesson I aced (don’t you love my confidence?) in Finn-agled, my very first cozy.

As a huge proponent of writing “authentically” — letting the story flow with little regard to the rules, aside from good grammar, accurate spelling, and precise punctuation. (Excuse me for a moment while I collect myself . I’m laughing because no matter how thoroughly I comb through my manuscript after a dozen different pairs of eyes have read it, mistakes still slip through. Okay; I’m better now. Back to my point) Writing from your soul should be the goal of every author. The thing to remember is that readers have certain expectations when it comes to their favorite genres, and while it’s our job to meet them, we shouldn’t let that hold us back from taking the opportunity to write something different; something new and exciting.

Trust me, if I can do it, anyone can!

Finn-agled
(A Finn’s Finds Mystery)

A secret message hidden inside of an antique wooden box, an unidentified dead body, and a mother determined to marry her off to the high school crush whom she hasn’t seen since…well…high school. There’s no doubt about it; Finn Bartusiak’s life in the seaside town of Port New is about to get interesting.

Coming into possession of a 19th-century, bronze and mahogany writing box under somewhat suspicious circumstances, Finn’s accidental discovery of a coded note leads her and Spencer Dane, bestselling novelist and love of her life (though he doesn’t know it yet), on a quest to unravel the mystery behind the jumble of letters. But they’re not the only ones interested in the cryptic message. There’s a con man on their trail, and he’ll stop at nothing, including murder, to claim the ‘treasure’ for himself.

Buy linkhttps://books2read.com/finnagled

Excerpt from Finn-agled (A Finn’s Finds Mystery)

A slip of paper slightly larger than an index card fell from between the seams and floated ever so gently to the floor. Almost dropping the case in my elation (wouldn’t that just be my luck?), I set it gingerly on the table and retrieved the note.

Zubcd Yefemeby
Xlw k Wrlm no
Vpqre Upbpqee

Huh? What kind of crazy language is this?

I attempted to sound it out, tripping over my tongue because – let’s face it – it’s impossible to pronounce words that have no vowels. Thinking I’d stumbled onto either an ancient, and possibly forgotten, language, or a secret military code, I hopped back on the computer for some serious research. It wasn’t until the Gothic cathedral mantel clock perched on the shelf above a row of whiskey barrels chimed twelve that I realized I’d been staring at the screen for the better part of three hours. That would explain my grainy eyeballs.

“Time to call it a night. Come on, Garfunkel. Let’s go home.”

Shutting off the computer, I slipped the note into my pocket, leaving the writing case in my office for the time being. Who knew what other mysterious messages might be hidden inside? Turning off the light, plunging the room into darkness, I walked out front to collect my sleepy hound, dim lumens from the streetlamp outside filtering in through the plate-glass window, illuminating my way and casting shadows along the floor and walls. Headlights from a passing car briefly lit up the interior of the shop, glinting off the wind chimes that hung over the front door.

If only I’d had the forethought to hang a set of chimes over the back door as well. Then, perhaps, they would’ve warned me about the person who jimmied the lock, crept up behind me, and wrapped his fingers around my neck, squeezing until everything went black.

About the Author

Kristine Raymond didn’t figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up until later in life. Since writing and publishing her first book in 2013, she’s gone on to complete two romance series – one historical western and one contemporary; a humorous non-fiction story; a collection of seasonally-themed short stories; a contemporary erotic drama; and a cozy mystery. She also hosts a podcast called Word Play with Kristine Raymond.

When not writing, she’s navigating the publishing and promotional side of the business. When not doing that, she enjoys spending time with her husband and furry family, reading, gardening, and binge-watching shows on Netflix.

Social media links:
Facebook
Instagram
Book + Main
BookBub
Website
Twitter
Word Play podcast

Dee S. Knight: Communicating the Right Words… (Excerpt)
Friday, August 16th, 2019

As writers, we’re totally consumed with words—the style, the quality, the grammatical correctness, the tense, the appropriateness, the number, the… ACK!! Before you know it, you’re curled up in a corner with a glazed look in your eyes, mumbling verses like:

I write them short
I write them long,
But still can’t weave
An author’s song.
My keyboard’s hot
But still no words
That sound much more
Than worthless turds.

Been there, done that. No matter how hard it is to write and re-write, words are our business and their importance can’t be overlooked. Here’s an example of how vital communicating the right word can be.

It was a hot Saturday evening in the summer of 1964 and Fred had a date with Peggy Sue. He arrived at her house and rang the bell.

“Oh, come on in!” Peggy Sue’s mother said as she welcomed Fred. “Would you like something to drink? Lemonade? Iced tea?”

“Iced tea, please,” Fred said.

“So, what are you and Peggy planning to do tonight?” Peggy Sue’s mom asked when she brought the drinks.

“Oh, probably catch a movie, and then maybe grab a bite to eat at the malt shop, maybe take a walk on the beach…”

“Peggy likes to screw, you know,” Mom confided.

“Really?” Fred raised his eyebrows.

“Oh yes,” she continued. “When she goes out with her friends, that’s all they do!”

“Is that so?” asked Fred, incredulously.

“Yes. As a matter of fact, she’d screw all night if we’d let her!”

“Well, thanks for the tip!” Fred said as he began thinking about alternate plans for the evening.

A moment later, Peggy Sue came down the stairs looking pretty as a picture, wearing a pink sweater set and a pleated skirt, and with her hair tied back in a bouncy ponytail. She greeted Fred.

“Have fun, kids!” her mother said as they left.

Half an hour later, a completely disheveled Peggy Sue burst into the house and slammed the front door. “The Twist, Mom!” she yelled to her mother in the kitchen. “The damn dance is called the Twist!”

Poor Peggy Sue. Poor Fred.

So, how can we tell if we’re communicating the right words? Well, there are a few of ways I use. I won’t kid you, they’re all difficult as heck, but they work most of the time.

1. Find overused words like really, that and just and only. I use two ways to do this and both are good.

a. Use the Search feature. Each time one of those words is found, read the sentence and make sure the word is required for the meaning you’re trying to convey. If not, cut!! Yes, really!

b. Read your work out loud. Yes, all of your work, even those hotter than blazes sex scenes. If you have to take a flashlight into the closet to be alone, I can’t emphasize enough how helpful this can be, and for more than finding unneeded words.

2. Reading aloud helps you notice words repeated in close proximity.

*He wore a serious expression.

“We’re in serious trouble,” she said.

“Yes,” he answered, “I’ve hardly ever been in such a serious position.”*

And that’s before they got into bed.

3. Unneeded words bog down your writing. Pay particular attention to the ending of sentences and words immediately after verbs.

*He shrugged his shoulders before answering.* What else would he shrug? his shoulders is not needed.

*“Get out,” she said to her.* If there’re only two people present, to her is not needed.

*Her heart pounded in her chest.* Well, yeah.

*I must get out, she thought to herself.* Yes, if she’s thinking, she’s doing it to herself. No need to say it.

4. Turn your work over to someone else to read. The trick here is to find someone you trust. It’s okay if they like you, but it’s not a necessity.  As long as they’ll be honest about what they read and help you make your work as powerful as possible—meaning with the right words used in the right way—you’re okay. The sad truth is, the same way you easily see errors in someone else’s work, your critique partner will see them in yours. Damn it.

5. Think about what you want each scene to mean. Does each sentence, each paragraph help you accomplish your goal? I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had to cut words I really, really loved because they didn’t help the scene get where it needed to go. The same goes for scenes within chapters. This is tough to get used to, but if you read your work and you’re into 2-3 pages of narrative, take a step back and make sure you can’t turn that into dialogue or action. Readers have short attention spans and often don’t appreciate your genius in narrative. What’s a writer to do? Cut!

6. And of course (which are unnecessary words, but hey…), make sure the word you’ve used is the word you meant to use. As shown above, there’s a big difference between screwing and twisting!

Only a Good Man Will Do

Seriously ambitious man seeks woman to encourage his goals, support his (hopeful) position as Headmaster of Westover Academy, and be purer than Caesar’s wife. Good luck with that!

Daniel Goodman is a man on a mission. He aims to become headmaster of Westover Academy. For that he needs a particular, special woman to help him set high standards. Into his cut and dried life of moral and upright behavior, comes Eve Star, formerly one of Europe’s foremost exotic dancers. Her life is anything but cut and dried, black and white. Daniel is drawn to her like a kid to chocolate. Nothing good can come of this attraction. Or can it? He is after all, a good man.

Buy links:
Amazon: https://amzn.to/2q7ovi4
B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1129630612?ean=2940161770603
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/898008
Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/only-a-good-man-will-do

Excerpt:

Daniel took his seat in the Academy dining room with a few of the boys from his dormitory. Each table sat six, with a permanent place for a dorm master or table monitor. Each month, the boys rotated tables, assuring they spent casual dining time with their dorm master and others, and learned proper table manners. Usually, Daniel enjoyed meals with his young charges. They were more willing than the older students to talk about what happened during the day, and he often picked up on budding problems by listening to their conversations. For this reason, even though late afternoon-early evening was the part of the day he had free, he usually liked to attend dinner.

However, he’d changed his calls to Eve from four-thirty to after dinner, and now Daniel counted the minutes until the evening meal ended. He urged the boys not to tarry after dessert and then cursed the fact he had to walk sedately rather than sprint back to the dorm. Once there, he made sure to lock the doors and get comfortable before punching her number on the telephone face. A minor dorm crisis requiring both him and his assistant had prevented their saying much more than hello yesterday, and today, though he’d just eaten, he felt like a starving man.

“Nothing a little sugar won’t cure,” he muttered, using Southern slang for kisses.

At the same moment, a deep, male voice answered. “Well, honey, you ain’t gettin’ it from me.” The man laughed. “Hey, doc. Eve told me to tell you she had to go out, and if she missed you, she’d call back as soon as possible.”

“Hi, Jed.” Of course Eve shouldn’t be hanging around waiting for his calls, but he couldn’t help the disappointment that hit like a sledgehammer. “Say, why’d you call me doc?”

Jed laughed. “Ask Eve.”

“I’ll do that. Thanks.” Well. Daniel set the phone back on the side table. All dressed up and nowhere to go. He looked at the remaining term papers he had to grade, but reading the opinions of high school boys on any subject, much less Romeo and Juliet, a love story that ended tragically, didn’t appeal. What he wanted was to hear the voice of the woman who’d ridden him hard and put him away wet on Tuesday evening.

About the Author


A few years ago, Dee S. Knight began writing, making getting up in the morning fun. During the day, her characters killed people, fell in love, became drunk with power, or sober with responsibility. And they had sex, lots of sex. Writing was so much fun Dee decided to keep at it. That’s how she spends her days. Her nights? Well, she’s lucky that her dream man, childhood sweetheart, and long-time hubby are all the same guy, and nights are their secret. For romance ranging from sweet to historical, contemporary to paranormal and more join Dee on Nomad Authors. Contact Dee at dsknight@deesknight.com.

Author links:
Website: https://nomadauthors.com
Blog: http://nomadauthors.com/blog
Twitter: http://twitter.com/DeeSKnight
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DeeSKnight2018
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/265222.Dee_S_Knight
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B079BGZNDN
Newsletter: https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/h8t2y6
LinkedIn: http://linkedin.com/in/dee-s-knight-0500749

I’m off to a writers’ retreat!
Saturday, July 6th, 2019

I’m heading off to join a writers’ retreat! I’ll be away Saturday to Saturday, but have no fear! I have guests lined up who will keep you entertained while I’m away! I’ll poke my head in now and then—I can’t help myself. However, the focus for the next week will be WRITING, something that has taken a backseat over the last months, what with all the turmoil (my father’s loss, illnesses in the family, etc.) in my personal life and my heavy editing schedule.

I’ll be working on a SEAL book, writing my little stubby fingers into stubbier little nubs. I’ll post a puzzle, a contest, just to keep you coming back, but remember, I’ll have guests! Make sure they feel welcome, y’all!

I’ll be joined this week by my sister, Elle James, Cynthia D’Alba, Parker Kinkade, and Mandy Harbin. I’m sure there will be lots of great food, a few drinks, and tons of brainstorming! My MacAir will get a workout!

So, here’s me bidding you adieu, but not for long! Wish me luck with the words!

McKenna Dean: Writer’s Block
Wednesday, May 15th, 2019

As creative types, we’re all familiar with writer’s block—when we open our notebooks or documents and stare at a blank page because the words won’t come to us. Sometimes we do find ourselves procrastinating writing: we tackle the backlog of laundry, mow the lawn, re-grout the shower—anything to avoid looking at that blinking cursor. Or we’ll binge-watch TV shows, take up yoga, commit to a new diet, all in the name of doing Something Else.

It’s incredibly frustrating. We chisel words out of stone, chipping away at the block in the hopes it will go away. Or sometimes we simply refuse to look at the current project. We might even start a new project. We want to create. We hate being idle. We want the block to go away.

The advice out there to deal with writer’s block is legion. Work through it. Take a break. Take a break but not too long a break. Write every day no matter what. The problem is knowing the right way to proceed.

In order to do that, we have to understand why we’re blocked.

As I see it, there are three basic forms of blockage. The first comes after you’ve finished a major project. You’re riding a high from successfully completing a draft, or turning in revisions. A day or two goes by but you can’t seem to settle to starting a new project or picking up on an old one you’ve set aside.

Give it some time. Farmers know they can’t keep planting the same fields over and over without allowing the soil to rest and replenish its nutrients. I know in today’s publishing environment, we’re supposed to be producing a story a month—heck, we’re supposed to be writing in our sleep—but creativity needs a chance to rest and replenish, too. Honor that. Read some books. Watch television. Take the dog for long rambles in the woods. When you’re ready, the next project will speak to you.

A subset of this type of blockage is when you’ve submitted something to a publisher and are waiting for the acceptance or rejection letter. While you should rest your mind for a bit because of the successful completion of a project, putting everything on hold for weeks or months while you wait and see if your book is contracted is a huge waste of time. Give yourself a week to recharge and then put the submitted story out of mind. Get the next one in the queue.

The second kind of blockage comes when your well of creativity is dry. This is NOT the kind of writer’s block you just plow through. You can’t pump water out of an empty well. Take a hard look at why your creativity has dried up on you. Are you burned out? Is your day job or personal life taking its toll on you? It’s hard to write a love story if your own love life is on the rocks. It’s hard to be creative when the world is falling apart around you or you’re working twelve hours a day. The words you drag out of an empty well will be just as dry and lifeless as the source. Author Louis L’Amour once advised, “Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”

To a certain point, he is right. I’ve been telling myself something similar for years without knowing the origin of the original quotation until recently. But there are times when that well is dry. You have to either wait for the water table to rise or drill a new well. You have to figure out how to solve the root problem. Sometimes there’s no easy fix. In which case, see if there is something you’re going through that can be incorporated into a story someday when there is more distance between you and the problem. This is also a great time to explore other areas of creativity. Write some no-pressure fanfic. Recount memories from your childhood. Keep a journal. Paint. Learn a new craft. Take photographs. Remember what it is like to play, to have fun. One time I created storyboards for action figures and photographed them in a series of scenes to tell the story I wanted to tell. Creativity begets creativity. It all counts in the end.

I think the third type of blockage is the kind most of us think of when we picture writer’s block. There’s an old Joe Flanigan movie called Farewell to Harry in which Flanigan has decided to ‘become a writer’ and travels to a small town looking for a story. He goes through all the classic moves of the blocked author: he sits in front of a typewriter staring at the blank page. He ripped the paper out of the machine, balls it up and throws it away. He drinks too much. He smashes a glass against a wall. His frustration is there for us to see.

But the real problem is he doesn’t know what story he wants to tell. He’s unable to write because he doesn’t know what he wants to write. It isn’t until he becomes involved with the titular character that he finds the story he wants to tell.

To be honest, that’s a very romanticized version of writer’s block. Most of us know the story we want to tell. We just can’t find the words to do so. If you can’t move forward on a story and you feel blocked, it’s a sign something doesn’t feel right to you as an author. You’ve gotten something wrong. There’s either a plot problem or you’re asking your heroes to do something out of character for them. Many times you can’t become unstuck until you figure out what that is.

Sometimes the answer is to write a different scene, the one you see clearest in your mind, and worry about how you bridge the two later. Sometimes the answer is to slog through it, tweaking and revising the scene until it falls into place. Sometimes you need to set the thing aside and do something mindless and physical to allow your brain to work through the problem without the blank page teasing you.

The hard part is knowing which to do when. But eventually, the writer in you will break through and the solution will be clear.

There’s no better feeling in the world than when that happens.

About McKenna Dean

McKenna Dean has been an actress, a vet tech, a singer, a teacher, a biologist, and a dog trainer. She’s worked in a genetics lab, at the stockyard, behind the scenes as a props manager, and at a pizza parlor slinging dough. Finally she realized all these jobs were just a preparation for what she really wanted to be: a writer.

She lives on a small farm in North Carolina with her family, as well as the assorted dogs, cats, and various livestock. She likes putting her characters in hot water to see how strong they are. Like tea bags, only sexier.

Links:
Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/c8GDYX
Website: http://mckennadeanromance.com/
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B075CRHQ7B/
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/McKenna-Dean-Author-262328784224302/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/McKennaDeanFic
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mckennadeanromance/?hl=en
Tumblr: https://mckennadeanromance.tumblr.com/
Email: mckennadeanromance@gmail.com

Recap of March, Look at April…
Sunday, March 31st, 2019

Men in UniformMarch was not a wonderfully productive month. Beyond the awful events of the last week, for which anyone would be excused for “non-prolific-ness”, I still didn’t manage to write many new words. I’m supposed to be a writer, first and foremost, but last month I was mainly an editor. I edited two long novels and one novella for other authors. I also began editing the short stories for the upcoming A Boys Behaving Badly Anthology: Stranded.

The big news for the month was the release of the anthology, Men in Uniform, which includes my novella, “Along Came a Spider” —a fun, sexy, action-y tale about a SEAL and the lovely ex-Army woman he rescues that I think my readers will enjoy!

But writers are supposed to write. So, I’ve loaded up my schedule for April with some ambitious goals.

  1. Priority #1 has to be getting Stranded ready for release. Yes, I have to edit others’ stories, but I also have to write one of my own to include, something bounty hunter related, entitled “Quincy Down Under”. (Stranded is available for pre-order and only $0.99!)
  2. Next up is Big Sky Wedding, which lives in my Montana Bounty Hunters and Uncharted SEALs worlds.
  3. Then there’s the last installment of Stepbrothers Stepping Out: With His SEAL Team–Part 6.

If I can get that far this month, I’ll feel pretty accomplished, and I’ll have earned back my title of WRITER.

Stranded Big Sky Wedding Stepbrothers Stepping Out: With His SEAL Team 6

Holly Bargo: Finding My Niche
Friday, March 22nd, 2019

Some authors just know what they want to write and their work falls neatly into a predefined category. When I started writing, my work (awful as it was) splattered across several categories. I flirted with science fiction. I wallowed in fantasy. I careened into romance. In short, I often wrote the kind of stuff I liked to read—or wished I could find to read.

I basically still do the same.

Genres have expanded greatly since the digital revolution in book publishing, especially with self-publishing. Where once librarians catalogued books as either historical, romance, or fantasy, many search engines find books that span all three genres. Or, rather, the genres now have sub-genres to accommodate authors whose work doesn’t fit neatly into the overarching genre or category.

That said, I’m exploring other genres or, rather, sub-genres than what I’ve written and published earlier. In February, I finished a collaborative project with bestselling author Russ Towne who writes in two different genres: children’s literature and westerns. He manages to keep them quite separate; a feat I can’t seem to accomplish.

We released a compilation of 12 short stories (a couple edging into novella territory) taking place in the “old west,” the era between the Civil War and the turn of the 20th century when men were men, women were women, and the sheep were scared. Since I make my living as an editor and ghostwriter, we decided that I had the most flexibility. Therefore, I jumped over into his genre. Because I also have just enough graphic design training to be dangerous, we also agreed that I’d design the cover—with his input. We ended up with Six Shots Each Gun.

I had a lot of fun. If Russ ever asks me to collaborate again, I’ll jump at the chance. But I’m not sure that westerns are my preferred genre.

So, in my (voracious) reading, I came across yet one more alien abduction romance. Once again, the alien hero is a kinky alpha type who gets his jollies from controlling, dominating, and spanking his submissive heroine. (Why, for heaven’s sake, is the heroine always submissive?) Once again, the story followed the typical trajectory: the heroine gives up her entire life for eternal bliss as a doormat.

Ugh.

There followed the all too familiar spark of “I can do better than that.” (That spark is responsible for some of my other books, too.) Despite the improbability of science which states that humans are more biologically compatible with cabbages than with any alien life form, I hopped into the sub-genre of alien romance. I have to admit, it was slow going. However, in the last few of weeks of drafting the story, it caught fire. Finally.

I knew that book wasn’t going to be terribly long—and it’s not. At just a smidgen over 55,000 words, it barely edges in to novel length fiction. Because it’s supposed to sell, I stuck to some of the tropes of the sub-genre before going off the rails. If one hero’s good, then three must be better. So, we’ve got a reverse harem romance now. The heroes don’t abduct our heroine, her own government does. The heroes are, of course, tall, strong, alpha types: who wants wimpy heroes? But our heroine is no doormat, either, even when she has neither bargaining power nor authority.

The key twist in the trope hinges upon compromise. Everyone’s got to give up something for a relationship to work. Granted, the heroine gives up the most, but heroes who want to make their heroine happy must also do more than simply give her multiple orgasms.

The experiment in jumping into the alien romance sub-genre has been interesting, if only because I’ve got my SEO keywords ready: alien abduction reverse harem romance. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Because my stories dwell on the conflict between characters rather than outside events affecting the characters, the jump perhaps didn’t seem so jarring. After all, people are people, regardless of historical period or planet. See how well (or not) I managed that hop with Triple Burn, due for release in mid-April.

Will I return to alien romances? I doubt it. Strangely enough, my bestselling books are mafia romances that cross over into “New Adult” romance. I left the series open for a spin-off, but probably won’t return to that either. The exercise of writing in other genres (or sub-genres) stretches my mind and writing. I discover things about myself by pushing ever so slightly beyond my comfort zone. I fancy those discoveries hone what I already do well and improve what needs to be improved.

In exploring different genres and sub-genres, I have found my home in paranormal and fantasy romances. That’s where my imagination takes me and where my heart takes flight. That’s my niche, improved through exploration within other genres.

About Holly Bargo

Holly Bargo is a pseudonym, but really did exist as a temperamental Appaloosa mare fondly remembered for her outsized personality. Holly’s life still involves horses. She and her husband live on a hobby farm in southwest Ohio with the aforementioned horses, a clowder of cats, and one yellow-bellied coward of a Great Dane. And an elderly llama. We mustn’t forget the llama. Holly and her husband have two adult children, one graduating from university in May 2019, and the other enlisted in the military.

Her latest book is Six Shots Each Gun, co-authored with bestselling author Russ Towne. Click on the links for the e-book and paperback versions.

Holly is the author of over 20 titles, the latest of which include Bear of the Midnight Sun and Daughter of the Dark Moon.

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