Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Origins of Fantasy Hen Lit

Posted by Susan B James on 3:00:00 AM with 12 comments

by Guest poster Joanne Guidoccio
From the start, I knew there would be problems when I combined genres. Unlike other fantasy and science fiction writers, I didn’t want to focus exclusively on the out-of-world elements. Instead, I wanted to write the kind of fantasy I could actually sit down and read. I’m one of the few people on this planet who could not read past Chapter 1 of the first Harry Potter novel. I also avoid books that feature werewolves, vampires, witches, and other dark creatures.
This begs the question: Why write fantasy?
My response: Why not write light and breezy fantasy for boomer women who are also seeking hope and inspiration?
So, I sat at my computer and came up with a contemporary version of my favorite fairy tale: The Little Mermaid. While the original version by Hans Christian Andersen always fascinated me, I struggled with the ending. I wanted a happily-ever-after ending for the little mermaid and the prince and could not wrap my mind around this depressing prediction
You, poor little mermaid, have tried with your heart to do as we are doing; you have suffered and endured and raised yourself to the spirit-world by your good deeds, and now, by striving for three hundred years in the same way, you may obtain an immortal soul.(Hans Christian Anderson,1836 )
But when the Disney version was released, I still wasn’t satisfied. I realize now that I wanted to read about a different kind of mermaid, one who could enjoy a happy and successful life, with or without the prince. And maybe one who wasn’t quite so young or so beautiful.
Keeping this vision of an older and wiser mermaid firmly in mind, I wrote Between Land and Sea, Book 1 of the Mediterranean Trilogy.
In my early query letters, I described the book as urban fantasy. After reading and rejecting the manuscript, one agent commented that my novel was a bit too light to be considered urban fantasy. She recommended I use “contemporary women’s fiction with fantasy elements” in future queries. After using that mouthful several times, I reverted back to urban fantasy or simply fantasy. I was happy and relieved when senior editor Debby Gibson classified Between Land and Sea as a paranormal romance.
But some confusion followed when the book came out on Amazon. One friend confided: “When I heard it was a paranormal romance, I assumed you were writing about witches or werewolves. I’m so glad to hear you’re writing about mermaids.”
Still wondering about the “right” descriptor, I started reading articles about literary genres that focus on older female characters (aged 40+) as protagonists. In these books, several themes are addressed, among them giving birth after age forty, dealing with three generations living in the same house, and dating after divorce or widowhood. Terms such as “matron literature,” “hag lit” and “hen lit” are bandied about in the literature. I immediately dismissed the first two and focused on “hen lit” as an apt description for Between Land and Sea. To address the mermaid element, I added fantasy.
In The Coming of Arabella (Book 2 of the Mediterranean Trilogy), I continue with the fantasy elements and add a psychological twist: Arabella is somewhere on the Narcissism/Sociopath continuum.
Ideas are percolating about Book 3—The Making of a Mermaid Psychic – fantasy hen lit with a New Age flavor. Hmm...I may need another descriptor.
On the day of her engagement party, an ex-mermaid’s life is disrupted by the unexpected arrival of another mermaid—a sister she has never known. Under normal circumstances, Barbara Davies would be overjoyed, but her special day is already wrought with tension. While Barbara is not the first mermaid from the Mediterranean kingdom to settle in small town Ontario, she has yet to reveal her origins to her fiancĂ©. So when Arabella, the gorgeous sister whose disturbing black eyes banished her to the island of Crete, saunters into her life, clutching the arm of Barbara’s discarded lover, a powder keg of emotion is released.
Relationships falter and careers stall as envy stirs in the hearts of the sisters. On the verge of meltdown after her fiancé leaves Canada for a teaching job in Vermont, Barbara flees to Arizona hoping for a reprieve. There, she finds solace at a retreat for ex-mermaids and a second chance at love with a charismatic preacher. As she contemplates a new life in the desert paradise of Sedona, shocking secrets emerge and tragedy strikes. A stronger and wiser Barbara rises up to face these new challenges and embrace the best parts of her mermaid heritage.

Connect with Joanne
Website:  http://joanneguidoccio.com/
Amazon: http://is.gd/onbces
Twitter:  https://twitter.com/joanneguidoccio
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorjoanneguidoccio
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/joanneguidoccio
Pinterest:  http://pinterest.com/jguidoccio/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7277706.Joanne_Guidoccio

Thank you for being here, Joanne. I love the term Fantasy Hen Lit.
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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Meet Mystery Romance Author Gay Yellen

Posted by Susan B James on 3:30:00 AM with 7 comments
Hi. Thanks for stopping by. Gay Yellen's debut novel, The Body Business is  a 2015 RONE Award finalist in the Suspense category, AND here's your chance to win a copy!

With a great job and a fantastic boyfriend, Samantha Newman thinks she has it all. But when her best friend vanishes, doubt creeps in. Is there some ugly reality behind her company's success?

When she asks the FBI for help, they send a man with secrets of his own. How can she find her friend without getting caught in the web of deceit? 
Carter Chapman's on a mission. But it wasn't supposed to include a beautiful corporate executive with her own set of problems, until a terrible event puts them on the same path to discovery, and they each have to decide if some secrets are worth the price.
Gay Yellen began her working life as an actress in theatre, film and television commercials, then moved behind the camera to be the Assistant to the Director of Production at The American Film Institute. She is a former magazine editor and national journalism award winner, and was the contributing book editor for Five Minutes to Midnight (Delacorte Press), an international thriller. She also has extensive executive experience in marketing and media relations.
The Body Business is Book #1 of the Samantha Newman Series. I am so happy to hear we can look forward to more.

I love firsts, so tell me about the moment when a publisher told you they wanted to publish your book.
I was full of questions like: Should I use a pen name? Do I have to join Facebook? What’s Twitter? Other existential issues kept me up that night: Do I need an “Author” wardrobe? (Until the contract, my writing ensembles were old PJs.) And then, of course, The Big Question: Should I color my hair? Eventually, things sorted themselves out, and I’m thrilled to be a published author.

If it isn’t too nosy. How about the first time you kissed your true love?
So many first true loves to choose from! There was Peter, an absolute dream of a first-grader, whom I chased down on the playground during recess and planted a smacker on. That was before I turned shy. Then there was John, a young gentleman who carried my books and walked me home from fourth grade. One day when we reached my house, he asked if he could kiss me. I really really wanted him to, but I knew it was forbidden. Long story short, I led him behind our garage and let him give me a peck on the cheek. That evening, I was so deeply wracked with guilt that I wrote a confession promising I’d never ever do it again. I gave it to my mother. She must have had a good laugh over that one.
I used to threaten my first boyfriend with kisses unless he did what I said. 

Other than your own, who are your favorite (heroes/heroines/writers) in your genre?
In the mystery genre, you can’t beat Miss Marple for pluck. She faces sexism and ageism, yet remains fierce in her determination to solve crimes. Today, I admire the heroines of Pamela Fagan Hutchins books. She’s created three contemporary romantic suspense series, each one powered by a fully-realized and likable female character. Emily, the protagonist of her newest series, is vulnerable, smart and funny—someone the reader can really root for.
Sounds great. I have a new author to look up. 

What is the most exciting moment, so far, in your writing career?
I love book clubs! My very first one was hosted by a neighborhood club. Over forty people showed up. I had so much fun interacting with readers. We had a blast. Although I’ve been nominated for, and won, several awards for my writing, it’s speaking to a book club that gives me the biggest rush.
I want one of those. I need to pick your brain on how to get one.

What is your favorite pastime, other than writing?
My husband is an excellent nature photographer, and I love to hike with him. One of my favorite personal photos is a self-portrait he shot of us (well, our shadows, really) in the early morning at Death Valley.

 The shot is not only beautiful, it stimulates my imagination.

How do you motivate yourself when inspiration takes a vacation?
That’s when I take a mental vacation, too, and read. Almost anything from my to-be-read pile usually works. Sometimes it’s fiction, but even a magazine or newspaper item can unclog the creative pipeline. As long as the subject takes my mind off the issue at hand and keeps the circulation flowing into the problem-solving area of my brain, it helps. It also reduces the piles of reading material that gather dust around here.

Got a recipe you want to share?
I’m a food lover, but not a kitchen wizard. My critique group complains that reading my chapters makes them crave the food I write into scenes, and there are a lot of food scenes in my books. I plan to post recipes for some of them on my website.

Any advice for new writers just starting out?
Read. Study the craft and the business. Join a writer’s group to network with and learn from those who are further down the publishing road. Seek professional feedback at a conference, in a critique group, anywhere you can. Write, rewrite and rewrite again until it’s your best.

What genre or genres do you write?
While I was writing The Body Business, I didn’t aim for the romance genre, though there is a strong romantic thread in it, and it’s marketed as romantic suspense. I had just finished contributing work to another author’s very successful thriller, and I was comfortable in that genre, so I used it to structure my book. I’m more of a cross-genre writer; The Samantha Newman Series is a mash-up of danger and romance, with a little humor thrown in. I’ve also begun research for a historical fiction idea that has captured my imagination and won’t let go. And I dip into poetry—mostly children’s verse, but sometimes I tackle serious themes.

Here's an excerpt from The Body Business (I love the cover, by the way):

This is ridiculous. Stop being afraid. Put up or shut up. Get it over with.
Samantha quickly scanned the rest of the e-mail she’d written. You must find out what happened to Lista Pearson, the last paragraph began. Please, please help.
It still didn’t say all that it should, all that she knew. But she hoped it would be enough to get someone’s attention. If the FBI knew how much she really, really hated asking anyone for help - least of all them - they would take her seriously.
The clock on the oven blinked six-fifty. Derek would arrive soon to pick her up. It was now or never. Holding her breath, she gripped the mouse again and re-centered the arrow over Send.
This time, she clicked, and the message disappeared into the ether. Her pulse pounded in her ears as she blinked at the empty screen. She leaned back and shut her eyes. A jumble of thoughts sped through her skull at warp speed. She opened her eyes again to make them stop.
The kitchen seemed both familiar and suddenly strange. Like the eerie hush that descends as the eye of a hurricane hovers, she felt weirdly calm. The worst of the storm was sure to come, but for now, she had to drag herself upstairs and get ready for another dreadful day at the office, where the escalating hostility felt like a pair of clammy hands closing around her neck. 

Thank you!
 What’s your current WIP?
I’m winding down the sequel to The Body Business, and I can almost see through the tunnel to those two exquisite words: The End. Book #3 is in the wings, rarin’ to go.

And finally, where can we find  you?
Gay’s Amazon Author Page: Amazon.com/author/gayyellen
Gay’s Website: gayyellen.com
Twitter: @GayYellen
Facebook: Gay Yellen, Author
Thank you for being here, Gay. 
Gay is giving away an eBook copy of The Body Business. You know the drill, friends. Enter below.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Meet SCi Fi and Paranormal Romance author, Veronica Scott

Posted by Susan B James on 3:30:00 AM with 16 comments

Meet Veronica Scott , best Selling Science Fiction & Paranormal Romance author and "SciFi Encounters" columnist for the USA Today Happily Ever After blog. Veronica has nine books and two anthologies up on Amazon. 
 Veronica Scott grew up in a house with a library as its heart. Dad loved science fiction, Mom loved ancient history and Veronica thought there needed to be more romance in everything. When she ran out of books to read, she started writing her own stories.
 Thanks for having me as your guest today!
 You're most welcome, Veronica.
I love firsts, so tell me about the moment when a publisher told you they wanted to publish your book. 
I’d submitted a paranormal romance novella set in 1550 BCE Egypt to the Carina Press slush pile in mid-2011, because they’d put out a call for ancient world romance. Sometime in August, Angela James called me to say they’d like to publish Priestess of the Nile and I was so incoherent on the phone with amazement and joy, she finally laughed and said, “You did want us to publish the story, didn’t you?” Later she told me that they typically only made offers on 3% or so of stories that came through the slush pile. So it was a dream come true for me.
 Love that story. My heart feels happy.
When did you decide to move to self publishing?
I’d written Wreck of the Nebula Dream, a science fiction novel loosely inspired by the sinking of Titanic, but set that aside to concentrate on working with Carina on the Egyptian romance. Then I realized 2012 was the 100th anniversary of the Titanic sinking, and I didn’t want to miss getting my book out there. It was too late to submit the manuscript to anyone – even Carina – and get it published by March, so I went independent! Hired a freelance editor, copy editor and formatter, got a cover and got the book out there in about three months. Since then I’ve independently published three more scifi romance and three fantasies set in ancient Egypt. I love the freedom of running my own tiny publishing business. Although Carina was excellent to work with and I learned so much from them!

How did you find your cover designer? I have two – Frauke Spanuth of Croco Designs does the Egyptians. Carina asked her to do Priestess of the Nile, and so she and I have collaborated since then (except for one book that she couldn’t work into her schedule). Fiona Jayde does my science fiction romance covers, and a friend of mine originally suggested I should talk to her. I love both!
 Fiona Jayde did the cover for my book, Time and Forever. I love her work.

What’s the best thing about Self Publishing? I love being able to write whatever I feel like writing, and publishing on my own schedule, which is much faster than even a nimble traditional or e-book publisher can do.
The Worst? I’m not sure there is a ‘worst’ for me. I enjoy the business aspects of being an independent! I’ve been able to quit the day job and write fulltime as of this year, so it’s hard to say anything negative LOL. Maybe that when a book gets pirated, I don’t have the full weight of someone like Harlequin (which owns Carina Press) to deal with the problem for me.

Other than your own, who are your favorite (heroes/heroines/writers) in your genre? My must-buy is always Nalini Singh, with her Psy-Changelings series. I’m also a huge fan of Rachel Bach, with her Paradox series. In fantasy I love Jeffe Kennedy with The Twelve Kingdoms series and Grace Draven’s Radiance.  And of course my early favorites (and inspirations) as a reader were Andre Norton and Anne McCaffrey.
 I got two Nalini Singh books at RWA and am looking forward to reading them. I loved Andre Norton and I think almost everything Anne McCaffrey wrote is on my keeper shelves. I usually re-read some of hers once a year. (If you are reading my posts regularly and thinking I have a lot of Keeper shelves, you would be right. Stacked and double stacked. five floor-to-ceiling in the living room. Five more in the bedroom. I always know I am going to read them again.

What is your favorite pastime, other than writing? Probably reading! Or building Lego masterpieces with my grandson. And I do love researching all kinds of topics for my novels, especially the ancient Egyptian series.

I always ask. Feel free to ignore the question. Got a recipe you want to share? Panda Express Honey Walnut Shrimp….ohhhh, you mean that I make LOL. Not a big cook here, pretty much just the basics. 

Any advice for new writers just starting out? Write every day and don’t self edit and don’t self doubt on those first drafts. Get the words on the page and then you can revise and improve later. But if you don’t write in the first place, you’ll never finish the story you’re holding inside. Also, there’s no one right or wrong way to do anything in the author world, so figure out what works for you and your book. Agree!!!

Tell us about your latest release.  
I just released Star Cruise: Marooned, which has been doing very well thanks to the Readers! Here’s the story:

Meg Antille works long hours on the charter cruise ship Far Horizon so she can send credits home to her family. Working hard to earn a promotion to a better post (and better pay), Meg has no time for romance. 
Former Special Forces soldier Red Thomsill only took the berth on the Far Horizon in hopes of getting to know Meg better, but so far she’s kept him at a polite distance. A scheduled stopover on the idyllic beach of a nature preserve planet may be his last chance to impress the girl.

But when one of the passengers is attacked by a wild animal it becomes clear that conditions on the lushly forested Dantaralon aren’t as advertised – the ranger station is deserted, the defensive perimeter is down…and then the Far Horizon’s shuttle abruptly leaves without any of them.

Marooned on the dangerous outback world, romance is the least of their concerns, and yet Meg and Red cannot help being drawn to each other once they see how well they work together. But can they survive long enough to see their romance through? Or will the wild alien planet defeat them, ending their romance and their lives before anything can really begin?
Buy Links:
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Star-Cruise-Marooned-Sectors-Romance-ebook/dp/B00ZZ0OCBS/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

What’s your current WIP? I’m juggling several science fiction romances (two at the editor right now, and another one in progress that’s going to be the second in the Star Cruise series). I’m also writing an ancient Egyptian fantasy novella for an anthology. Never a dull moment!
I am so impressed. 

And finally, where can we find  you?

 Thank you for being here. I love your journey. I wanted to interview you ever since I saw you on a panel at The Flintridge Bookstore.

Veronica is giving away two combo prizes: A copy of Marooned and a copy of Ghost of the Nile as one prize together.
Enter Below. Don't you love discovering new authors to read? 

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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Authors, Editors and Books, Oh My! 2015 RWA Nationals

Posted by Susan B James on 3:30:00 AM with 15 comments
Everyone has a different conference journey. This is mine.
I am giving away goodies at the end of the post. Two Books and a Notebook.

I started my stint at RWA Nationals by Volunteering in the Goody Room, a room set aside for authors to promote themselves by offering free stuff to conference attendees. I met some lovely people dropping off wondrous things. From bookmarks and postcards through lip balms, flash drives, chocolate and books. One author, JS Scott, offered beautiful beach bags with sunscreen, a towel and a host of mini goodies. I was lucky enough to snag one of those.
Annette Bower, Cheryl Yeko, me, and Char Chaffin at Juniors.
If you have been to RWA Nationals, you know it’s a jam picked whirlwind of seminars, keynote speeches, conversations with your favorite authors and much more. Drop that event into the heart of Times Square and you have a kind of madness I only want to do once in a lifetime. But oh, what a lovely ride.
On Wednesday, the NY Public Library held an author reading in Bryant Park. The event, hosted by the dry and witty Joyce Lamb, USA Today’s Happily Ever After editor featured, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Robyn Carr, Kristan Higgins, Beverly Jenkins, Elizabeth Hoyt and Meredith Wilde. Imagine sitting outside in a beautiful park listening to three of your top favorite authors read!
Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Robyn Carr, Beverly Jenkins, Kristan Higgins & Meredith Wilde
Plus, the new documentary film Love Between the Covers featured Beverly Jenkins and I was fascinated by her. I got to speak with Beverly and I bought two of her books. I also got to speak to SEP, Robyn and Kristan. I am a huge fan of all three.
Cheryl Yeko & Char Chaffin
Wednesday night I went to see On the Town with my editor, Cheryl Yeko and one of her best friends, Char Chaffin. Char is queen of the Purple Font Nag at Soul Mate Publishing. Getting to know these two was one of the highlight of Conference for me. Another was meeting my publisher, Debbie Gilbert. A truly charming gracious, human.
The main part of the conference began on Thursday. From breakfast buffet and 8:30 AM Keynote speech by Barbary Freethy to 4:15PM the action never stopped. (Note chandeliers. Did they put those up for RWA? So very suggestive.)

First thing you need to know about RWA is you can’t do it all. Heartrending choices have to be made.
I started with the PRO Retreat and a thirty minute session with Christy Craig on Rejecting Rejection (Christy has more than 10,000 rejections and is a NY Times best selling author with her YA Shadow Falls series. I just finished the first one, Born at Midnight. Loved it. I moved on to Laura Drake and Log Lines (dense thirty minutes full of great suggestions. Don’t use names. Use adjectives. i.e. a spunky marine biologist.)
Christine Ashworth

Maggie Marr, President LARA
I skipped my own beloved chapter mates, Maggie Marr Books into Film and Christina Ashworth, Pros and Cons of Small Publishers, figuring I would pick their brains at home. I repeat. You cannot do it all.

Next up – Horrible Choice time. Do I go hear a conversation with Nora Roberts or attend a craft lecture on research with Jude Deveraux? This choice was horrendous. I adore them both and have everything either one of them ever wrote on my Keeper Shelves. I compromised by dropping in for ten minutes of Nora (fabulous husky voice.) and on to Jude. Wonderful lecture. Her notebooks are amazing. (Note: Both Brenda Novak and RaeAnn Thayne mentioned Jude Deveraux's books as having started them on the road to Romance.)

45 minute Lunch break. (No you really can’t go anywhere in the Times Square area and be back in time for the 12:45 PM lecture. Get a coffee and a snack bar.)
Winnie Briggs, Michelle Grajkowski. and Tina James
12:45 Honing Your Pitch. Making the most of your appointment with Tina James (Harlequin Executive Editor), Winnie Griggs (author),and Michelle Grajkowski (Three Seas Literary Agency.) They emphasized high concept. Using the key points an agent or editor would have to use to sell the book. I didn’t take enough notes

2:00 Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Jayne Ann Krentz Ten Things We Learned the Hard Way. I wouldn’t have missed this for worlds. Two of my top favorite authors together in one room? Be still my heart.

3:15 Emotion The Heart of A Novel with Brenda Novak and RaeAnn Thayne. Thank god I have notes. I only wish I could read them.
Some of the Soulies on their way back from dinner.

Deep breath before going on to The Soul Mate Author dinner at Ellen’s Stardust Diner. Debbie treated all forty one of us to dinner. My only regret is so many authors to meet. So little time. I didn’t get to converse with nearly as many people as I would have liked.

Keynote lecture was Julia Quinn another one of my keeper authors. Two of her books were at each place setting.

I started with Sarah MacLean’s  Mastering the Art of Great Conflict. RWA severely underestimated the probable attendance at this workshop. I was lucky to get a seat.Wonderful lecture. Must read her books!
Jennifer Crusie and happy me.
I could only attend one Jennifer Crusie lecture, Metaphor and Motif. Her second one was up against Kristan Higgins and my agent pitch. Fortunately Jen was gracious enough to put her notes for both workshops up on her blog ArghInk.

Another horrible choice:

Susan Elizabeth Phillips lecture on Writing Great Characters was up against a Chat with Robyn Carr. I went to Susan’s. Susan had some exercises for us including describe a character’s clothing in one paragraph and make your choices reveal important things about their character. I love this woman. Read the opening page of Heros Are My Weakness on Amazon for a great example.

I pitched to Jess Dallow of New Leaf Literary Agency. I chose her because hers was the only agency which also did mid grade and picture books. I think my pitch was good, but her response was she didn’t like romances with magic in them and I should pitch someone else. So that night I pitched it to Chery and Char that night. Cheryl said to send it. The delightful thing about Soul Mate Publishing is they don’t mind a little genre mixing.

Annette Bower, Linda O'Connor and me

  That night I went to Sardi's with fellow Soul Mate authors Annette Bower and Linda O'Connor before seeing my favorite musical of the trip, Something Rotten.  Sardi's is an historic actor hangout and they have an actor's menu with lesser prices. I had my Actor's Equity card with me so we could use it.
This was a blip back in time for me. We often ate here between matinee and evening shows during the run of The Robber Bridegroom. When I was in college, my stepfather took me there and we sat next to Ross Hunter and Carol Channing. I eavesdropped unashamedly. He was telling her she had to do his movie, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Or they'd never let her play Dolly in the movie of Hello Dolly. Well, she did Thoroughly Modern Millie and they didn't let her play Dolly. Bad decision on their part.

By Saturday I was mind fogged with exhaustion. Attended some publisher open houses, chatted with some lovely people. My notes for Saturday are almost non existent. Conference ended with the awards presentation. I am so glad I went.  I gave out and received far few business cards than I'd hoped. There wasn't much time for chat. I only saw my own chapter mates in passing. 

If you made it to the end of this post, I am giving away three gifts: Julia Quinn's When He Was Wicked,  Brenda Novak's This Heart of Mine, and a notebook from Melody Anne which has the complete conference schedule and lots of space to write. It's just the right size for a purse. Please leave a comment telling which one you would like if you win.
Which of you have been to a National Conference? What was your highlight?