Posted in books, creative writing, ebooks, romance, writing, writing advice, writing tips

Creating character chemistry

Creating chemistry in romance is important because this is what makes the reader root for the characters to find their happily-ever-after.

How do you create great chemistry?

Portrait of beautiful and fashion model womanCreate strong characters

Strong, interesting characters are key to creating chemistry in romance. If the reader doesn’t like your characters all that much, they won’t care if they end up happy.

This often means getting away from stereotypes and adding more depth to characters. Characters need flaws. Nobody likes the perfect, better-than-everyone-else character. Perfect characters don’t have enough conflict to be interesting. A strong character has strengths and weakness that will play a role in the story and their character development arc.

Create realistic attraction

This doesn’t mean no insta-love ever, especially if that’s going to be a source of conflict later when the character realize love at first sight doesn’t mean no problems, but the reason for their attraction should be believable.

Good looks aren’t enough. Being hot doesn’t prevent a person from being an asshole. Draw from personality, compatibility, intrigue, uniqueness…something that will last and create conflict later in the story.

Depressed woman portrait

Build realistic tension

Tension can come in a variety of ways, including miscommunication, lies, secrets, arguments, moving too fast/slow, etc. The key is for these to be realistic and fit with the overall story.

One rumor that’s never fact-checked or confronted and causes the MC to run away without looking back and fall into utter despair isn’t realistic and tends to frustrate readers. Especially if the MC is an otherwise strong and intelligent person.

If a point of tension can be fixed in less than a paragraph, it probably isn’t complex enough to be believable.

Create high stakes

There should always be something that can completely ruin a relationship, whether it’s developed from page one or a surprise two-thirds of the way through. The risk that everything could fall apart, and both or one of the characters knows this, will affect everything they do and act as a constant reminder to the reader that they shouldn’t assume everything will turn out all right.

8c182-coupleholdinghandsDevelop intimacy

Intimacy doesn’t mean sex, although there’s nothing wrong with sex being part of intimacy. A look or a touch, a meaningful word can build intimacy between characters just as much as physical intimacy. Every time characters are together, give them a moment that notches up their connection in some way.

When characters are not with each other, use internal dialogue, conversations with others, or small reminders/tokens (a piece of clothing or memento left behind) to develop intimacy. Building intimacy should remind the reader of what the characters could be together.

Ride the roller coaster

Chemistry shouldn’t be a straight shot to HEA. Nobody likes another person all the time. Having moments where they dislike a trait or action is realistic and lets the chemistry ebb naturally. A thoughtful or sweet act will bring it back up, maybe even stronger. The give-and-take keeps readers interested and engaged.

Keep the roller coaster ride to a reasonable level that won’t throw readers off the rails. Ups and downs are natural and important in story building. The swings shouldn’t be so drastic you give readers whiplash, though. Keep the chemistry moving in a steady, upward direction toward the climax, with believable bumps and dips along the way.

Character relationships should model reality while still working with in the overall plot to allow character growth and development.

Posted in books, creative writing, ebooks, marketing, publishing, query letter, self publishing, writing, writing advice, writing tips

Writing a blurb that catches reader’s attention

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It’s always a challenge to boil down and entire story into a few hundred words when writing a blurb. Most writers hate this part of publishing. We took all this time developing details and intricacies and now we have to take all of that back out and convince someone to buy it in two paragraphs or less.

How do you do that well?

Here’s a few things I’ve learned over the years.

A blurb is a sales pitch

The first sentence must grab the reader’s attention. Think of this sentence as an elevator pitch. It should capture the most interesting part of the story. That may be the conflict, mystery, romance, etc. Whatever it is that will most make readers want to check out your book, mention it in the first line.

This first sentence often sits by itself before the bulk of the blurb, giving it a better chance to catch the reader’s attention. The preview on most ebook retailers barely gives you more than a sentence or two before readers have to click “read more,” so make that first sentence count.

Format the blurb according to genre conventions

Contemporary romance tends to use short, 1-2 sentence paragraphs that highlight main points of the storyline. Historical romance tends to use longer paragraph with a more in-depth summary of each point of interest. Study blurbs on Amazon in your genre to make sure you’re formatting correctly.

Of course, sometimes you need to break out of conventions and do your own thing. Just make sure there’s a reason for using a unique format and that it conveys the tone or action of your story.

Typewriter illustrationStart with a formula that works

First, introduce the situation, then tell readers about the main problem or source of conflict, and indicate the twist without giving too much away. Effective blurbs often end with a question or with a sentence that sets the overall mood of the story.

Don’t give away the ending. This isn’t a synopsis. It’s a tease.

Leave the side characters out of it

Introduce the main characters and leave the side characters for the reader to discover once they start reading. It’s important to get readers interested in the characters right away. Give their name, a few important traits that make them unique or interesting, what their situation is, and what dilemma or conflict they’re going to face.

Don’t try to introduce side characters in the blurb. It only clutters the pitch and may make readers lose interest.

Use a cliffhanger

This isn’t a must, but for many stories a cliffhanger ending in a blurb will be a good nudge toward purchasing. Avoid giving away too much in a blurb. Present the problem and leave readers wondering how the character will overcome it.

This answer shouldn’t be too obvious, though. Even with books that are more formulaic, it’s important to make the reader curious about how this particular story will unfold. Most romances end in a happily-ever-after scenario, but they don’t all reach it the same way.

Open Blue BookChoose your words carefully

Communicate the tone of the story with words that fit the genre and situation. A dark thriller will use more intense wording while a rom-com will use light, fun words. Word choice should also match the time period and regional setting. It’s also all right to use hyperbole when appropriate, such as “unimaginable” for a shocking crime or “intoxicating” for a sudden and passionate romance, but don’t overdo it.

Keep it short and to the point

Blurbs should run 100-150 words in most cases. Don’t try to tell the reader everything you think might interest them. Stick to the important highlights.

It may be helpful to start writing a blurb with bullet points to sift out what should and shouldn’t be mentioned.

There’s no one correct way to right a blurb that will help sell a book, but starting with proven tactics and expanding from there can help you craft an enticing blurb.

Posted in book covers, books, contemporary romance, cover design, date shark, date shark series, ebooks, editing, publishing, romance, writing

Re-releasing the Date Shark series

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Earlier this year, I got the rights back to my Date Shark series, and I knew it wasn’t going to be as simple as simply republishing them for several reasons.

The editing on the first book had been horrible, and I realized when I started re-editing that the edits I had sent back to the publisher five years ago had been ignored. I’d received multiple complaints about the editing from readers when it first published, but it was out of my hands at that point.

The editing did improve over time as the publisher I was working with upgraded their editing staff, but there were still enough errors remaining that I knew the entire series needed to be re-edited. That process took me almost five months because I didn’t have a lot of spare time after starting a new job at the newspaper and taking on a few too many freelance projects.

I also needed new cover art before I could republish the series. I was happy to redo the first book’s cover, but I had chosen the model art for books two through four, so at least I didn’t have to start completely from scratch. My main challenge was not being able to use the cool shark fin A in the original cover art and trying to find something comparable. My husband helped me choose a new font and rightly steered me away from trying to include any water-like effects and just go with the sketched shark logo instead.

My next challenge was when to re-release each book. I asked other authors and got advice on scheduling, but in the end, it took me so long to format each book that they ended up spacing themselves out well enough, for the most part. Books two and three released within days of each other because, honestly, I was sick of working on them and just wanted to be done.

Going back through these books was actually a fun experience overall. I hadn’t chatted with these characters in almost three years and had forgotten how much I loved them! Sabine and Michael’s story is still my favorite of the series, and rereading the books reminded me that poor Leo never got to have his own story.

I had planned to give Leo a voice as the final book in the series, but because of issues with the publisher and limited writing time back then, I stored the idea away for later. I do have some other projects that need attention, but I want to eventually come back to Leo’s story and finish off the series by giving him his own happy ending.

For now, the series is back up on all the major retailers and ready to meet new readers!

You can find all the links here.

Posted in books, contemporary romance, ebooks, mystery, new release, romance, torino dreams

Torino Dreams is Available Now! #newrelease #romance

Kate can fix the damage to Sam’s car after their accident, but can she protect herself from falling for him and putting all their lives in danger?

Torino Dreams

Torino Dreams Front Cover Final Kate hates hiding, but the risk of her past sneaking up on her is too great to risk getting involved in anyone else’s problems. At least, until getting involved is the only way to avoid a run-in with the police.

The snow was to blame for the car wreck, but desperation forces Kate to make Sam an offer she’s sure she’ll regret. If she can fix Sam’s car and send him on his way without the getting the cops involved, she can get back to her normal, safe life.

It should be easy enough. Kate knows cars better than almost anything else. She can repair the damage to the car, but can she protect herself from falling for Sam and putting everything she’s worked for in danger?

This is a standalone book, so no waiting for part 2!

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Posted in book covers, books, cover design, delsheree gladden, ebooks, eliza carlisle mystery, mystery

Eliza Carlisle is Back and Stirring Up Trouble

Exciting news for Eliza Carlisle fans!

The Catalyst is available again (post-Kindle World rewrite version) for purchase as an ebook on Kindle, B&N, and Smashwords. Apple Books and Kobo are coming soon as well! The Catalyst is also available in paperback for the first time!

Catalyst reboot available now

Looking after Eliza Carlisle is about as easy as bathing a cat!

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MORE exciting news is that book 4, Incendiary, is close to being finished and will be released in early 2019!

Here’s a sneak peek!

Incendiary (Coming Soon)

Eliza Carlisle Mystery, Book 4

Incendiary FRONT

How long can Eliza keeping looking over her shoulder before she finally sees her own death approaching?

New Year’s means resolutions, getting on track, making decisions.

For Eliza Carlisle, starting a new year means making tough choices, even if those decisions mean losing friends and possibly getting kicked out of culinary school. She’s all set to take her life in a new direction when her demented half-brother Simon’s reappearance changes everything.

Broken and more alone than she’s been since fleeing her childhood home, Eliza struggles to hang onto the fragile threads that are holding her life together. Only a comically disastrous young chef and the threats against her life pull Eliza out of her fog of self-loathing. Saving seven-year-old Clara means ignoring the threat Simon now poses and surrendering to burnt grilled cheese sandwiches and whipped cream-splattered kitchens…not to mention family secrets, death threats, and a whole host of spy gadgets. And who can forget about Baxter?

With so much mounted against her, Eliza has as much chance of surviving the criminal elite, her psychotic half-brother, and Baxter’s determined advances as she does escaping Chef Harper’s quest to kill her culinary dreams.

Posted in books, ebooks

Notes from a Book Buyer

At the “Writer’s and Scribblers” retreat this past August, I was able to attend a lecture from local book buyer, Jeanne Costello, buyer for a medium-sized indie bookstore in Durango, CO. She had a lot of great insights! I go into a little more depth in the podcast, but there’s a written set of notes below.

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  • There are 40-50k books published every year by traditional publishers (This doesn’t take into account all the self-published books)
  • Maria’s Bookstore (mid-size store) carries about 10k books in their shop
    • 2/3 are older books
    • they pick up about 5k new titles per year
      • 25-30% of those are returned to the publisher with ZERO sales
      • many books only sell ONE copy/year
      • decent sales for regular books are 2-3/year
  • When thinking about approaching a bookstore to carry your books, consider how people discover books and where your would be found on a bookshelf
  • Each bookstore has specific needs
    • Durango:
      • literary fiction, travel/outdoors, natural sciences, unplug/retreat/de-stress
  • With Fiction:
    • representation matters a lot
    • to the buyer and the reader
      • is it a professional product?
  • Cover art is IMPORTANT
    • needs to speak to the person who will love your book – not just to YOU
    • should be used as a marketing tool
    • Being simply an extension of your art doesn’t always work if it’s not communicating the right message
    • must indicate clearly to readers WHY they want to read your book
    • acts as a “short cut” to telling readers about your book
  • It’s important to understand destination and discovery
    • DESTINATION
      • have a particular book in mind before approaching a book buyer
        • specific topics/need
      • work to have “critical conversations” about your book to garner interest
    • DISCOVERY
      • there are SO many books to compete with
      • cover must speak to readers and buyer
        • pay attention to conventions of genre
      • know where your book would be placed on the shelves (specific category)
        • ask yourself where readers who will love your book will go looking for it
      • know comparable books
        • easier for staff to recommend to readers
  • Identify what your ambitions are
    • big chain store? small to mid store?
    • 2-3 sales/yr? 100s sales/yr?
      • if booksellers love your book it’s a great way to make inroads and gain exposure
      • having a book on the shelves alone will NOT help you reach critical mass goals
  • Self-published
    • what the book buyer needs to know:
      • how to buy your book
      • how to reorder
        • direct from author is very hard on buyer!
        • returnable is very important to stores!
          • allows them to “try out” books
        • local stores sometimes offer “consignment basis”
  • Book sales are up…
    • but not in proportion to number of books being published
  • Amazon doesn’t sell books to make money
    • they sell them to attract shoppers who will then buy more expensive/profitable items
  • Indie stores are more relevant the last five years – important to communities and creating buzz in communities
    • 6-7% up in sales
    • paperback book sales are up
    • ebooks sale have plateaued

For a more detailed discussion, listen to the podcast!

Posted in ebooks, publishing

Google Play: God of eBooks? I think not.

Amazon gets a lot of crap for their relations with indie authors at times. In my personal dealings with Amazon, they’ve done a great job of helping me when I need help, fixing things that get screwed up, and answering questions. I don’t love every single thing about Amazon and how it works in relation to ebook publishing, but I’ve had a very good experience with them.

Play StoreEnter Google Play…

I feel like I should follow that up with a “dun, dun, dun” because the experience I just had with them certainly wasn’t pleasant nor the kind of thing that would lead me to recommend their service to, well, anyone.

What drove me to Google Play?

Many of my Wattpad readers aren’t in the US. In fact, a hefty majority of them are not. Not everyone can get on Amazon and order books. The Play store is easier for some of them to use and several mentioned their parents had set up monthly allowances for them on the Play store and they could buy my books there if only they were available. So, I went on a search to figure out how to add my books to the Play store.

That seriously took forever. The setup when I first looked into it was ridiculously complicated and the system was pretty buggy. I gave up after a while. Recently though, I got asked again if my books were on the Play store and re-investigated. Surprisingly, the platform had improved enough that I could at least get through the process of adding all my books.

Done, right?

Not quite.

The last few months I’ve noticed my sales figures on Amazon dropping bit by bit. That happens pretty much every summer, so I didn’t think much of it at first. But it kept dropping.

This summer has been super busy for our family so I wasn’t paying great attention to what was going on with my books on Amazon until I went in to setup and price my Aerling Box Set and realized several of my books were being pretty steeply discounted on Amazon.

Given that I hadn’t changed the price on any other platform for Amazon to price match, I wondered what on earth was going on? I shot off an email to Amazon asking what the deal was, and as always they sent me back a quick reply saying the book in question was currently discounted more than $1 (That’s a lot in ebooks) on…you guessed it…Google Play store.

So, of course, my next online stop was my Play account to figure out how the price had gotten changed. Hacker? Kids playing around when I left my computer on? Magic?

Question MarkThe answer…?

Google Play Store itself. Yep. They apparently think of themselves as the GOD of ebook publishing. Every single one of my books that wasn’t already free had been discounted between 0.50 and $1. You can bet I was pissed. A quick internet search and a Facebook post brought back some interesting answers.

Buried inside the user agreement for the Play store it says, Play gets to price your content however it wants. You can set your own price, sure, but they’re going to ignore it. Thinking, surely that can’t be true, because what kind of company tells their content producers that sure you can sell your stuff with us, but we get to pick the price and you just have to live with it even if it negatively affects your sales with other merchants?

Surely not, right?

Surely YES.

When I opened up a chat session with customer service and put the question about the discounting straight to them, their answer was, “WE’RE GOOGLE. WE CAN DO WHATEVER WE WANT.”

Okay, that wasn’t the exact wording, but it was indeed the answer to my question. NO they would not change the price back. NO they would not compensate for royalties lost because Amazon price matched them. NO they didn’t care that this might be an adverse effect of their pricing policy. NO. Just NO.

My answer to them?

NO

See ya later Google!

I pulled all my books as soon as I closed the chat and I will no longer be offering any of my books on the Play store or any platform that so blatantly disregards and takes advantage of the people providing them with content. I’m far from the only person who’s had to deal with this–as I found out after posting the question on Facebook–and I won’t be the last.

I know I’m not the kind of author who can say, DON’T sell your books on Google Play and suddenly everyone will abandon it, but I help authors get started in indie or hybrid publishing fairly often. I teach publishing and writing class at our local community college–which I know isn’t a huge deal–but you can bet I will never again include Play as a legitimate and worthwhile publishing platform in my recommendations or classes.

Thank you for the lesson learned Google Play.