A Final Pass

by Miko Johnston

By the time you read this, the manuscript for my fourth A Petal In the Wind novel will be back from the editor and ready for its final draft before publication. Prior to sending it out, I made several passes through it, each time searching for ways to fix or improve the work.

In my first pass I searched for everything from formatting issues to misspelled words. In light of recent events I found parts of the story, which I’d begun writing in 2017, had become dated. I couldn’t gloss over a worldwide pandemic and the social rifts that emerged from political discord. Several new characters who were introduced in chapters written years before the book’s conclusion sounded too generic; I’d gotten to know them better as the story progressed and that needed to be reflected in their earlier dialog and mannerisms.

Other passes looked for repetition, excess verbiage, more precise word choices, missed misspellings, lapses in logic, and incorrect information. With that complete, I sent out my manuscript, anticipating a few more changes would be needed once I heard back from my editor. I took advantage of the wait time to put together all the additional material needed – logline, book blurb and synopsis.

Whenever I have to write marketing stuff, I cringe. It’s not what like to do, or do well. I view it as a necessary evil, and many authors I know feel the same way. However it must be done, and the good news: I’ve found an advantage to it beyond promoting the book.

When you have to encapsulate your x-hundred page novel into a one page summary, then a teaser for the back cover, and finally a one-sentence logline, it forces you to look at your theme in a different way. Gone are the long passages of prose, the snappy dialogue, the transitional scenes and flashbacks. You must have a laser focus on what your story is about – what you’re trying to get across to the reader in terms of theme, character, and plot. By doing so you sometimes will see aspects of the story that are important but may not have been shown in a compelling or complete way. So beyond my editor’s input, I saw that I wasn’t done with my revising.

I came to that conclusion when I encapsulated a 106,500 book into a few paragraphs with just a hint of where the story will eventually wind up. I had my external conflict and internal struggle, and pointed that out in my blurb. Then I wrote my logline:

Amidst the social and political upheaval in the aftermath of WWI, a woman who identifies as an artist marries the love of her life, but chafes at being relegated to wife and mother.

We can understand the difficulties a woman would face in giving up her career to marry and have children, especially at a time when such notions weren’t as accepted as they are today. But had I adequately shown how she feels in the book? Could I have made it not only clearer, but on a much deeper level?

The logline hints at the deeper issue. What she rails against is not being married to the man she loves, or even the challenges of motherhood. It’s losing her identity, having to see herself as only a reflection of her husband and children. When Jane marries John Doe, she becomes Mrs. John Doe. Her baby’s mama. She’d wonder—what happened to Jane?

My character Lala is a woman who’s accomplished a great deal despite her youth. She not survived the trauma and hardships of WWI and kept her family alive, but her home town as well. It’s described as a factory town north of Prague throughout the series. In America we’d call it a company town, where a single business – in this case a furniture factory – provides the economic base of the area.  Circumstances force her to take charge of the factory and oversee its conversion to wartime production. If it had closed, which it nearly did, the town would have been devastated. How can someone like this ignore all she achieved, the skills she developed, the talent that resides within her?

When the manuscript returns from the editor, I will review the comments and make some changes, including a few of my own – adding more layers of my character’s internal dilemma to the story. Then I’ll probably rework my promotional material. A writer’s work is never done…that is, until it goes to the publisher.

 

Miko Johnston, a founding member of The Writers In Residence, is the author of the historical fiction saga A PETAL IN THE WIND, as well as a contributor to anthologies, including “LAst Exit to Murder” and the soon-to-be-released “Whidbey Landmarks”. The fourth book in her series is scheduled to be published later this year. Miko lives in Washington (the big one) with her rocket scientist husband. Contact her at mikojohnstonauthor@gmail.com

 

A Thank-You Note That Led to Story

by Jackie Houchin

Do you like receiving a thank you note for some little thing you did (or even said)?  I recently received “three thank yous” via email (one was from my very well-trained, sweet granddaughter for a gift I sent).

It used to be something we would pound into our kids’s heads when they got birthday or Christmas gifts. “Write Aunt Dottie a thank you!”  “Tell grandma you loved her gift!” 

One boy at church ALWAYS wrote such sweet notes to me as his Sunday School or AWANA teacher. They were well thought out, and even used “bigger words” than I expected. Many had little drawings of something I might have given him. I would tell his mom that she sure trained him well, but she told me, “Oh, that’s his idea. I don’t say anything.”  Sadly he’s graduated out of my class now.  I miss his notes and illustrations.  (Yes, I’ve saved them.)

I enjoy writing thank you notes as well. I’m always surprised when someone I sent a card to exclaims “Oh, what a wonderful surprise! That was so nice of you!” Sometimes I send an email, and very occassionally a quick text message. But I enjoy writing out my thoughts on real-life cards. And since my granddaughter now has a little business* making greeting cards, I get to use all kinds of them. She’s the artist and designer.

I also write birthday and holiday cards . Dear Kerry!  Don’t make so many cute ones I just HAVE to buy and use!!

    *     *     *

Recently there was an article in our newspaper, The Epoch Times, January 26, 2022, titled “The Importance of Thank-You Notes”. I loved the sentiments and agreed with what was written.

This morning, February 25, 2022, there was a response in the form of letter in The Readers’ Turn section.  It is a wonderful story of one particular thank you.  Here it is (I hope it’s clear enough to read.)

As we here at The Writers In Residence are always encouraging our readers to WRITE, have any of you recently received something in the mail – snail, email, or text – that you could turn into a short story, essay, blog post, or even a poem? Ok, yes, even a utility bill that came. (Have you seen how Natural Gas prices have skyrocketed?? You could write a letter to the editor, or the company!! Haha.)

But I had something else in mind. Something creative. I recently got a snail mail letter from my sister who will be 89 next month. She is super spry physically and mentaly. She is now taking a writing class, and had to write a small piece from each of 30 prompts. She did it, and now she says her local newspaper wants to publish a few of them. Wow! Who knew? MY sister!!!

So… a thank you note that caught your attention, a birthday card, a GALentine’s Day card (yes, my granddaughter makes those!) or perhaps a mailing from a charity with a photo of a needy child, a disaster, or a pet who needs a home might spark a thought. Maybe even a gardening catalogue with seeds from an old variety of flowers that your grandma grew might inspire you to write a mini-memoir.

Go look through your mail. If you’ve got an idea now, let us know below. If it turns out nice, I might consider posting it in one of our GUEST BLOG spots this year. Just go do it! Write!

#

*PacificPeachDesigns.com

The Joys of Waiting

It’s almost August, 2021. That’s the month my next book is being published, although it’s available some places already.

It’s HER UNDERCOVER REFUGE, the first in my new Shelter of Secrets miniseries for Harlequin Romantic Suspense.  That miniseries is a spin-off of another, also for HRS, that was called K-9 Ranch Rescue.

 And I’m delighted to have HER UNDERCOVER REFUGE published!  My last novel was published in February 2020, and that’s a long time between books for me.

It’s my 54th traditionally published novel, so most often there have been several a year. Was this gap a result of COVID? I don’t think so, unlike a lot of things that seem to be delayed these days. It just was.

 So how can you plan for a lot of traditionally published books to be published, and have several come out each year? I don’t really know!

Oh, it helps to write for more than one publisher. I’ve tended to write cozy mysteries and Harlequin romances at the same time.

And it helps also to write for different lines for the same publisher.  I’ve written for Harlequin Romantic Suspense and Harlequin Nocturne at the same time. However, Nocturne, their paranormal line, will no longer be published.

These days, a lot of people self-publish. I ponder that now and then, and may do it someday. But while I have good relationships with traditional publishers, I’ll probably hang out there some more.

Am I writing for anyone other than Harlequin now?  Yes. My first Alaska Untamed mystery, BEAR WITNESS, will be published next February by Crooked Lane.

Oh, and in the meantime, my next Harlequin Romantic Suspense, UNCOVERING COLTON’S FAMILY SECRET, part of the Coltons of Grave Gulch miniseries, will be a November 2021 release.

So although there’d been a bit of a gap between my last published novel and my current one, I’m delighted to say there’ll be more soon. I am working on my next Colton book in the next HRS miniseries. And I’m hoping for even more beyond that!

And you? What’s your preferred way of writing and publishing?

Either way, or both, I hope you’re highly successful!

Social Media and Me

by Linda O. Johnston

Leprokhan. klee-4163741_640

First off: Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone, and the best of luck to you!

Now, into my topic of today: social media and me. And I have to admit I’m far from being an expert. But does that keep me away from some of the sites? No! 

I’m always on my computer, or nearly so. Yes, I spend most of that time writing and editing and pondering the fiction I’m writing. 

But then there’s social media and me.  I spend too much time on Facebook, though I admit I’m not good at it. I look at other people’s posts and comment on them. On my own home page I’m likely to post stuff about anything special about the day, especially if there’s something going on about animals, particularly dogs.  Most recently it was National K9 Veterans Day.  Why?   Because I’m a full-time dog lover.

social-media-488886_640

I belong to Facebook groups, too. Some involving writing, of course, but that’s  not all. Can you guess the topic in which I’ve joined the most groups? Well, what if I told you there are lots of Facebook groups featuring Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, the dog breed I’m addicted to? Right!

I do have my own website: www.LindaOJohnston.com  And one of these days I’ll add an author page to Facebook. I hope.

 I also get on social media to help promote my published novels. Yes, I do that on Facebook, especially when there’s something new coming out. This year, I’ll have two new Harlequin Romantic Suspense books published, one in August and one in October. You can bet I’ll let the world know via Facebook then.

And then there’s Writerspace. I subscribe to the site, which calls itself Communities for Writers and Readers. They do a lot of promotion for me. There’s a monthly Author News newsletter that I always participate in. I can do blogs there, and have new books featured, and participate in their monthly contest.

You can figure out, since I’m here, that I like to blog. A couple of the sites where I used to blog regularly have shut down, such as Killer Characters. I still blog on Killer Hobbies each Wednesday, but now there are only two of us posting there.  I also blogged on the InkSpot blog fairly regularly, but that was one helping to promote books published by Midnight Ink, one of my former mystery publishers–that now has gone out of business. 

What about other social media sites? I haven’t really gotten into them. I have a Twitter account but never use it except to read others’ posts. I also have a Goodreads account but am seldom there. I don’t do Instagram–or really much of anything else.

 I admire people who do more than me in social media. And I’m generally open to trying something different as long as I don’t have to spend much time learning to do it. 

lindaphoto ###

So–What do you think of Social Media? What’s your favorite site and why? What do you like to post? How often? And do you think it helps your writing and selling?

I Write Romance and I’m Proud of It!

Guest Post by Hanna Rhys Barnes**

I’m an author. I have books published by a publisher. “What an accomplishment,” you might say. But when I say “I write Romance,” I get this look like “Oh…how…nice.” As if the qualification “Romance” somehow diminishes the accomplishment.

Unfortunately, romance authors are subjected to this sort of backhanded treatment, especially by other authors. As if a #1 NYT or USA Today bestselling Romance title is not quite as worthy as some literary or memoir or inspirational author’s work!

As a romance author, I find this kind of behavior tiresome, especially since hands down, romance is the publishing industry’s largest, most profitable, steadiest genre.

Let me tell you, when the US economy was flagging, authors in the literary, poetry, and non-fiction section of the bookstore were happy the romance genre existed. While the bottom dropped out of many other categories, romance readers continued to buy one or more romance novels per month. The Romance imprints kept many-a-publisher afloat. And we still do today. Go into the book section at any big box store and see which fiction genre has the most shelf space. I’d be willing to bet a whole month’s salary it’s Romance. Per the Nielsen Books & Consumer Tracker, in 2014

  • Annual sales of Romance Novels were over $1 billion
  • Romance Novels were nearly 40% of e-book sales & over 30% of mass market
  • The Romance unit share of all adult fiction sold: 29%

Nearly 100 romance books are published every month. And publishers make sure they get on the shelf (whether brick & mortar or digital.) Why? Because romance readers are loyal buyers and always on the lookout for someone new to read. Because romance readers are prolific readers. Many read 4-8 books per month. And who’s buying billions of dollars’ worth of Romance?

  • 84% of romance book buyers are women 16% are men.
  • The U.S. romance book buyer tends to be aged 30-59 years.
  • Romance book buyers have an average income of $55,000.
  • More than 55% of Romance book buyers have read Romance for             more than 10 years

Romance fiction is smart, fresh and diverse. Whether you enjoy contemporary dialogue, historical settings, mystery, thrillers or any number of other themes, there’s a romance novel waiting for you! If you’re an author, next time someone says “I write Romance,” shake their hand and say “Thanks.”  Thanks for the hard work we do to help keep the lights on in the publishing world.

About the author

P1000920-230Hanna Rhys Barnes is one of those people with an evenly balanced right and left brain.  She has a BA in English but retired as a high school math teacher.

Hanna loves doing rewrites as much as she loves getting that first draft down and has been a freelance developmental editor and author coach for the last six years. She has worked on books for several well-known agents and published authors.

a Knights KissA member of RWA’s national organization and of several local chapters, she currently lives and works on Whidbey Island in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Hanna’s historical romances, Widow’s Peak and A Knight’s Kiss are currently available from the Wild Rose Press.

 

 

 

**This blog article is posted for Hanna Rhys Barnes by Jackie Houchin and Miko Johnston.

%d bloggers like this: