Tag Archives: Patricia Briggs

Business…and…Mysteries with Romance

I finally got my official contract from Kensington.  It takes what feels like a long time between receiving a 3-book deal to getting the official 20+ page tome of subject heading after subject heading that I mostly have no clue about.  That’s when I’m grateful I have my agent, Lauren Abramo, from Dystel, Goderich, and Bourret.  I think most of what Kensington offers is set in stone–like the Ten Commandments–but what I concentrate on are my writing deadlines. And when do my books come out?  I know my deadlines–and I’ve given myself more time between books now that I’m writing mysteries, but I still don’t know when my books will come out.  Kensington won’t decide that until 2018.

My 6th and last romance, SPECIAL DELIVERY, is due out Nov. 7th, and I wanted to give it a fair shot, so I paid for a blog tour.  In truth, I thought Kensington would promote my romances, but not so much.  MOST writers have to promote themselves these days.  That was a learning experience for me, so I’m promoting this one a little myself.  Of course, BookBub is the BEST, but I can’t afford it, and it’s harder to get accepted by BookBub than to pass through the eye of the needle these days.  The price for my tour isn’t terrible–$60.  But it takes a day or two to decide which tour you want and to get everything ready for it if you want each blog stop to be unique with a different excerpt or blog at each spot.   And, yes, this is time well-spent.  You want to start a good two months before your book comes out.  I’m using Goddess Fish Promotions again, and they’re great to work with.

Now, with the business stuff behind me, I can concentrate on my favorite thing–writing. The first mystery is done and sent.  And this time, probably because I just finished writing them–I’ve added a romance subplot to the clues and red herrings.  This is where it got a little bit tricky.  I’ve been reading (okay, I’m a little obsessed with) Jenna Bennett’s Savannah Martin series.  She mixes mystery and romance into almost a fusion.  There’s lots of TALK about sex (nothing graphic, though), lots of steam, and gritty murders.  It makes for an intoxicating cocktail.

This is the thing, though.  I’m finishing book #10, and Rafe and Savannah still aren’t married.  It almost feels like the TV show Castle.  The chemistry is intoxicating, and they keep growing closer, but how long can you flirt with HEA and not deliver?  I’m thinking they get married in the next book.  Thank God.  But this prolonged tease let me know that even though in romances, the HEA comes at the end of the book, that’s not the way it works in other genres.

I make no secret that I’m an Ilona Andrews and Patricia Briggs fan–from the days I wrote urban fantasy.  And werewolves and werelions don’t just walk in and sweep the heroines off their feet either.  It took a few books before the hot guys won the hotter women.  So, I didn’t let my characters–Jazzi and Ansel–walk down the aisle in book one and have their HEA.  I don’t think I can come up with one diversion after another for 10 books, but I know that stalling is a good thing.  And dead bodies are great distractions to keep heroines and heroes too busy to plan ahead.  But what happens after the “death do us part” clicks in?  Do things get (yawn) boring?  I’m thinking of Castle and other TV shows.   Can you keep them interesting after marriage?  What do you think?  I was a sucker for Tommy and Tuppence, Nick and Nora, and marriage didn’t hurt them.  Any opinions?

Happy Writing!

 

My webpage (posted every Thursday):  http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

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Writing: Same, but Different

I’ve started to write my fifth Mill Pond romance.  I still like the town.  I still like the people.  I enjoy having characters from previous books mingle with new characters for a new story.  My worry–keeping each story fresh and unique.  Catherine Bybee manged it in her Weekday Bride series.  Seven different romances, one for each day of the week.  Seven stories that have a similar premise, but a unique take on it each time.  My writer friend, writing as Julia Donner for her Regency romances, has done it with her Friendship series. Her eighth novel goes live on June 18, and I’ve already pre-ordered it.   I love her work.  Each one has a different feel, even though they all have healthy doses of her sly humor.  As a matter of fact, I think her writing keeps getting better and better, the longer the series goes.  Something I’d like to achieve.

(If you’re interested in Regencies, here’s the link for her latest: https://www.amazon.com/Barbarian-His-Lady-Friendship-Book-ebook/dp/B01GIFX2DM/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1465673622&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Barbarian…++julia+donner)

A long time ago, I wrote a bundle of novellas to experiment with writing romance.  That’s how I ease myself into writing something new.  I try working on shorter pieces before I commit to something longer.   I liked Emerald Hills, got good feedback on each one of them (which I lost when I combined them into a bundle–didn’t think about that:), but one reviewer mentioned that she’d have liked more variety in the stories, that they felt too similar to her.  Now, I know that a writer can’t please everyone, but I wrote these as a learning curve, so her opinion stuck with me.  If I ever wrote a romance series, I told myself to vary things up–have one with some humor, another that was a little more serious, throw in some different types of characters, and mix up the plots and themes a little.  I think–at least, I hope–that I’ve achieved that.

For my Mill Pond romances, in book 1, I tried for a heavy dose of humor.  For Brody and Harmony, in book 2, I tried to create two people who’d keep butting heads.  And in the book I’m working on now, I wanted to throw in a few serious themes, but lighten them up with Miriam–a character with more snark than I’ll ever have.

When I read a series, I look forward to returning to the same setting, the same characters.  I’m reading Patricia Briggs’s Fire Touched right now, and I’m enjoying how Mercy and Adam interact as a couple, how Warren smooths things over, and how Ben has such a potty mouth.  It’s a world I want to visit and linger in for a while.  That’s the joy of a series, returning to something familiar that I’ve missed.  But each story has to be different enough to make me want to return again for new experiences.  Everything’s about balance–keeping the old and introducing the new–a happy blend.

 

My webpage: http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

My Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JudiLynnwrites/

Twitter:  @judypost

I should never read Elizabeth George

Okay, everyone knows that writers need to read.  We learn.  We grow.  We re-energize.  We learn markets.  We internalize rhythms, techniques.  But there are some authors I should just stay away from.  And Elizabeth George is one of them.  I asked for a banquet of consequences for Christmas.  My sister bought it for me, but I was so swamped with manuscripts, I couldn’t get to it.  My good writing friend, Paula, read it and loved it.  We both appreciate Elizabeth George’s depth and language, her layers and nuances.  This last week, I finally got to start the book.  Poor me.

Elizabeth George makes me feel like I should sit in a corner and suck my thumb with a dunce hat on.  She makes me feel juvenile and inadequate, and I love her for it!  Every time I read her, she makes me want to strive harder, to show, not tell, to use small scenes to create big emotions.  She has a way of developing fully realized characters with strokes of dialogue, small gestures, telling details.  Sigh.  It’s a good thing she takes a long time between books, or else my ego might not survive.  She writes mysteries, but I consider her more of a literary writer.  The story’s characters outweigh the clues.  To be honest, I loved her early books, studied A Great Deliverance because I thought it was near-perfect, then had a rocky time for a few of her last books, but with this one, I’m back in reading Nirvana.

I feel the same way when I read a Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson novel.  Briggs writes urban fantasy–and who knew a writer could make that almost literary?  But for me, she pulls it off.  Yes, there are battles, struggles, and plenty of mythology.  But once again, Briggs’s use of language and her emphasis on characterization lift urban fantasy into literary status.  Everyone has their own likes/dislikes.  And I usually avoid literary with a vengeance, but when an author can combine the two–boy, am I impressed!

I hope your favorite authors never disappoint and always inspire you!  Happy Reading!  And as always, happy writing!

 

Writing: Who are your favorite writers & Do they influence you?

I’m at the end of reading a novel that I loved–The Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence.  And it’s reminded me that I’ve read LOTS of dark fiction in my time.  Dark fiction, to me, is different than horror.  Horror aims to scare.  Dark fiction means to disturb.  I think “disturb” lasts longer.  But that’s not my point for this blog.  I was thinking about which authors have stood out, for me, above others.  And it made me wonder how much they’ve influenced my writing.

I’ve said before that I was a James Fenimore Cooper fan when I was in middle school.  His most famous novel was The Last of the Mohicans, but he wrote an entire series with Natty Bumppo (later known as Hawkeye) as his protagonist.  Natty’s parents were settlers, but he was raised by Delaware Indians and became involved in the conflicts of the Mohican and Huron Indians, and the white settlers and the Indians.  He developed a set of ethics that were his own and a moral ambiguity that combined his Indian upbringing and his white heritage.  And that’s what appealed to me about those books–that feeling of straddling two worlds, sympathizing with the good of both and irritated with the wrongs of both.  I like stories about protagonists that don’t fit in anywhere.   Patricia Briggs’s Mercy Thompson was raised by werewolves, but she isn’t one.  Ilona Andrews’s Kate Daniels has magic and a bloodline that she tries to hide, and Faith Hunter’s Jane Yellowrock has a heritage that she’s slowly starting to remember.  That type of protagonist–the loner who struggles to live by her own rules–spilled over into my Fallen Angels novels.  Enoch is fighting a losing battle.  He doesn’t want to stay on Earth, but Caleb doesn’t ever want to go Home.

During high school, Latin and Shakespeare filled my mind with myths and legends, tragedies and political intrigue.  I enjoyed the epic battles to wrest power from one another, both on Bosworth Field and at Troy, as the Greeks tried to defeat the Trojans.  Myths have crept into many of my stories, especially Empty Altars and some of my novellas.  And as I read Prince of Thorns, I couldn’t help comparing The Prince of Thorns with Shakespeare’s Richard III.  Both Jorg and Richard decide to become villains and to excel at it–at least in literature.

The next author who captivated me–and held me for years–was Agatha Christie.  With a few deft strokes, she created characters that I felt I knew, and she taunted me with red herrings and clues as I tried to solve her mystery’s puzzle before her protagonist did.  But it wasn’t just the murders that dazzled me.  She often wrote about exotic locations, and she firmly believed…and stated…that anyone was capable of murder, if put in the right circumstances.  Christie taught me the fine art of plotting.  I followed my Christie years with books by Nancy Pickard, Martha Grimes, and Elizabeth George.  They might not be the masters of puzzles and plots that Christie was, but they took mysteries and pushed them into literary gems.  Their use of language and characterization made me long to string words together to higher levels.

The last authors I’ll mention in this post are Jane Austen and Georgette Heyers.  They fascinated me for an entirely different reason.  They excelled at social mannerisms, which was just plain fun, but they also excelled at the independent, feisty female protagonist.  I tried out a few female P.I. novels, but they didn’t give me the same sense of enjoyment.  I don’t mind sarcasm or cynicism–it often appeals to me–but the P.I.s I read felt just plain jaded.  And that didn’t intrigue me.  I didn’t find heroines I liked nearly as much until I found urban fantasy.  And those females added more.  They didn’t just have wits and smarts and a thumb-your-nose at the world attitude, they also carried weapons and knew how to use them.  A literary bonanza.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that, among all the authors I found and loved, I also found a supply of short stories that became a steady stream of entertainment for me.  Every Christmas, I asked for the anthology, The Year’s Best in Fantasy and Horror, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling.  And I slowly indulged myself in the best twisted, dark stories available for that year.  As I said, I like dark…

What authors are your favorites?  And how have they influenced you?  Or your writing?

Write What You Read

You know the saying, “You are what you eat.”  *shivers* (Makes me think of Patricia Briggs’ vampire in Silver Borne, who took that very literally).  Sorry..I digress…my brain does that, but I think it would be appropriate to describe most writers as “you write what you read.”  I started out reading mysteries…lots of them.  So, when I wanted to write my first book, that’s what I wrote.  That’s the form that I intuitively felt comfortable with.  My friends who devoured one romance after another write romances.  One of them reads romances and watches tons of horror movies…and she writes both.  Odd combo, right?  Write a romance with a happy ending.  Write a horror novel and go dark.  Might balance things out.  Sci/fi readers tend to write sci/fi.  It makes sense.  We write what we love/what draws our minds and imaginations to it.

Another reason I advocate to write what you read is that each genre (and I include literary novels in this category–they have their own rules and structure too) has its own rhythms and intricacies.  We “learn” them while we read one book after another.  They become an internal compass that guides us from page to page.    We can feel when a red herring should appear or a twist in plot should occur.

Years ago, when I was trying to find a “home” for a mystery I wrote, I sent the manuscript to Tor, and the wonderful editor who worked there at the time, wrote me back and told me that she loved my writing, loved my characters, but she’d just been moved to head up the paranormal romance line for the company.  Did I have one?  Now, I had lots of spare mystery manuscripts stuffed in file drawers, but I had no idea what a paranormal romance even was, so I wrote and told her so.  And bless her, she said, “Here’s a list of the things that make a paranormal romance.”  There were no books on shelves for me to look at, nothing to go by but her list, but hey–I have lots of creativity, right?

I’m a writer.  I read the list and said to myself, “This doesn’t look too hard.  I can do this.”  And I tried.  Needless to say, my first attempt was maybe a good book, but it sure wasn’t a paranormal romance.  So she sent me another list and a few titles to look at.  I stuck the ideas on a solid mystery plot (something I knew), and she liked that one–wanted to buy it, actually–but she got shot down because the sales department had just pedaled a book with Tarot cards in it and didn’t want another one.  Such is the world of publishing.  And then she left Tor, and her type of paranormal romances morphed into the type I read today.  And I was behind the transition again.

The thing is, once more paranormal romances reached the market, I discovered I’d never be good at them.  I’m not romantic.  Have a heck of a time writing it.  But urban fantasy–now that I not only loved, but got hooked on.  And it took lots and lots of reading until I felt comfortable there.  Now, I never want to go back to writing mysteries.

My point is, even with a list of “this is what’s in an urban fantasy,” you won’t get it right.   There are lots and lots of small, key elements, rhythms, nuances that you only learn by reading…and reading more.  How you label your book or story matters, because readers come to your work with set expectations.  I learned that on Goodreads.  If you say your book is a paranormal romance,  the romance has to be the key ingredient that turns your story.  If you label it as urban fantasy, romance is a subplot and a battle between a good paranormal and a bad paranormal drives the plot.  So my advice?  Once you decide what you want to write, read as many books in that genre as you can.  And then read some more.

http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

Five Books That Matter To You

I read a blog post yesterday that stuck with me.  The author listed five books he thought people should read.  When I was younger, I read my share of classics (mostly British, not American).  Fell in love with Pride & Prejudice, fought my way through Dickens (his wordiness was a struggle for me), became enamored of James Fenimore Cooper.  Took a class on Shakespeare, read Vanity Fair, The Mayor of Casterbridge, and Tess of the d’ Urbervilles, among others.  All worthy reads, and I’m sure they made me a better writer.  But when the time came, and I actually put pen to paper (all right, fingers to keys) years later, they were dim memories.  The books that influenced my writing the most were the ones that made me crave the next novel in the series, the ones whose characters lived in my mind, and whose plots made me keep turning the pages.  I have a sad feeling that I’m a genre junkie, and this list will prove it.  (These writers are listed in the sequence I discovered them, not in order of preference, and if I staggered between 2 authors in the same time period, I listed both–sort of a cheat, but there you have it).

1.  Agatha Christie.  For me, no one can compete with Agatha’s complicated, convoluted plots, red herrings, hidden clues, and complex puzzles.  It was fun to strive to match wits with her, hard to beat Poirot or Miss Marple to a conclusion.

2.  Nancy Pickard and Carolyn Hart.  These two women both wrote brilliant, traditional mysteries.  Nancy Pickard’s Jenny Cain had depth of character that I strove to achieve in my own writing.  Her short stories were extraordinary.  Carolyn Hart’s Max and Annie series mixed a playfulness with serious plotting ability that I admired.

3.  Elizabeth George.  When I read Great Deliverance, it blew me away.  Elizabeth George writes literary mysteries, and her writing bedazzles me.  I can burrow into her language for the long haul and return to the light a happy girl.

4.  Martha Grimes.  I have to warn people that it’s better to start at the beginning of Martha Grimes’ novels, because occasionally, her characters have become almost caricatures of themselves in her later books.  Each of her titles is the name of a pub in England.  Her writing can go from poignant to hilarious in the turn of a page.  Few authors do children as well as she does.  And quirks and eccentricities and all, I thoroughly enjoy her.

5.  Patricia Briggs.  I have to admit, I’ve only read her Mercy Thompson series and a few of her earlier novels.  I was charmed by When Demons Walk.  It felt like a fun and witty romp.  But I fell in love with Mercy Thompson.  She’s a heroine who feels REAL.  And the interplay between Briggs’ characters of all varieties seems genuine.  Briggs is the author who hooked me on urban fantasy.

My bookshelves are crammed with many more books, many more authors whom I can’t bring myself to part with.  So this is only a bare-bones list of the writers I love to read.  I chose these five because they influenced the direction of my writing.  If you had to pick a top five–of your own making–who’d be on your list?