Showing posts with label romance. Show all posts
Showing posts with label romance. Show all posts

Monday, February 17

Best Fonts For Genre Book Covers

One of the most difficult things about creating a book cover is selecting a font. I'll try Impact and maybe Engravers MT and then reach for Lucida and then ... you get the idea. It's a hodge-podge of guesswork. Eventually I'll trip over something that works but there's got to be a better way.

Derek Murphy has come to the rescue. 

DM takes some of the guesswork out of selecting a font by arranging them by genre. His article, entitled 300+ Fool-Proof Fonts to use for your Book Cover Design (an epic list of best fonts per genre), is a keeper.

He includes fonts for the following categories:

- Romance
- Science Fiction
- Thriller
- Fantasy
- Horror
- Paranormal Romance

More good news: many of the fonts are free!

In the image, above, I've included Derek Murphy's font recommendations for fantasy. Head over to DM's site to see the others. A valuable article.

If you liked this article you might also like: How To Design A Great Looking Book Cover.

Photo credit: Fantasy Fonts by Derek Murphy over at

Friday, March 22

The Rules Of Romantic Comedy

The Rules Of Romantic Comedy

Michael Hauge's Analysis Of Romantic Comedies

1. Hero's goal is to win the love of another character

This is the hero's main goal. He can have other goals, but this one needs to be introduced first and this conflict has to be the last one resolved. When it is, that's the end of the story.

2. The hero must have another goal, one besides winning the affections of his/her romantic attentions.

For instance, in Groundhog Day Bill Murray relentlessly pursues a relationship with Andie MacDowell but he also very much wants the day (it repeats Sisyphus-style) to end.

Two goals are better than one because they keep the pace lively. I thought some of the best scenes in Groundhog Day were those where Bill Murray was trying to escape the town. (BTW, rumor has it that Mr. Murray was bitten by the groundhog and had to have rabies shots!)

Another benefit of the hero having two goals is that the writer can make sure, at some point, they become mutually exclusive.

For instance, in The American President the president wants his crime bill passed but it turns out the only way that's going to happen is if he sells out his romantic interest.

3. When the people on the screen are laughing the audience isn't

Michael Hauge writes,
The driving motivations in romantic comedies actually grow out of immense pain and loss. The plots of the most successful romantic comedies of all time involve unemployment, disease, prostitution, physical abuse, physical deformity, humiliation, ridicule, the loss of one's children, attempted assassination, suicide and death.

The humor then arises from the way the heroes OVERREACT to their situations. They devise fantastic plots, pose as women, adopt false identities, juggle two lovers simultaneously, tell enormous lies, fly across the country to meet a voice on a radio, or do everything imaginable to sabotage their best friend's wedding. (Writing Romantic Comedies)

4. Romantic comedies are sexy

At some point your characters are going to have to confront their sexual desires for each other. The important thing is that if they end up going to bed, "we must see the events that lead to that decision, at least until the moment the two lovers embrace and the camera dissolves away".

5. There must be a happy ending

This doesn't mean that the hero always has to win over the heart of his object of desire and walk off with her/him into the sunset. It does mean that the audience must be left feeling satisfied with the resolution. You want them to feel that the ending was the best and most appropriate one.

6. Romantic comedies always involved deception

Most romantic comedies involve deception. One of the two people involved in the relationship, usually the hero, is lying to, or withholding information from, someone--usually the person the hero is falling for.

This lie will, of course, be found out but this usually happens after the midpoint. Michael Hauge writes:
When the secret is finally revealed or the lie exposed, it will split the lovers apart. In You’ve Got Mail Joe Fox doesn’t tell Kathleen Kelly that his corporation is the one threatening her independent bookstore. In The American President, Sydney Ellen Wade doesn’t know that President Shepherd is using her to get his gun control bill passed. (The 6 Categories Of Romantic Comedy)

5 Things That Must Be True Of All Romance Characters

I'll just list the major points, I encourage you to read Michael's article.

1. The audience must identify with the hero's desire for the romance character.

2. You must convince the audience that the hero and his/her romantic object are a perfect fit, that they are destined for each other.

3. Insurmountable obstacles must separate the two lovers.

4. The romance character must be intertwined with the hero's other goal. For example, in The American President the president's love interest is a lobbyist.

5. The romance character must interfere not only with the hero's desire for them but also with the hero attaining his/her secondary goal.

For example--again using The American President--the president has two goals: to win the heart of his love interest (Sydney) and to get re-elected. Sydney, though, is a lobbyist. This creates a conflict of interest--or the appearance of one--and, in any case, their relationship is hurting him politically. By the 3/4 mark it looks as though the president has a choice: re-election or Sydney; he can't have both.

Michael Hauge also writes about character archetypes and the structure of a romantic comedy. His article is well worth a read: Writing Romantic Comedies.

I'll leave you with this 2:16 minute video of Michael Hauge talking abut romantic comedies. You can read more about Michael Hauge here: Michael Hauge's Story Mastery.

Other articles you might like:

- 5 Tips For Creating Memorable Character Names
- Different Kinds Of Story Openings: Shock And Seduction
- Story Structure

Photo credit: "adam green:castles and tassels" by visualpanic under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Saturday, November 10

What's The Difference Between Paranormal Romance And Urban Fantasy?

What's The Difference Between Paranormal Romance And Urban Fantasy?

The question is inevitable. You're at a get-together and someone asks you, "So, what do you do?"

Fair question, right? Then why do I feel so sheepish?

Here's me: Um, well, I guess ... I write.

Usually my interlocutor is interested. "Oh, how fascinating! What do you write?"

Ah, there it is. THE QUESTION. I used to say I was a genre writer but, inevitably, people looked at me blankly and asked, "What's that mean?".

So I thought, well, just pick a genre, something most folks are familiar with, something which more or less describes what you write. If they're interested you can refine the description later. So here's what I said.

"I write fantasy"

My questioner flushed and took half a step toward me. "You mean, like, dirty books?" they whispered.

Back to the drawing board.

Here's my current response: Think Buffy the Vampire Slayer without vampires.

So far it's worked, everyone I've spoken with has either watched Buffy or at least knows what I'm talking about. If they don't--this only happened once--I wave my hand in front of me and say, "Oh, you know, Joss Whedon's stuff". They understand that, or at least feel they should, and so change the subject.

Paranormal Romance Versus Urban Fantasy

If my experience at parties is any guide, most non-writers aren't familiar with the names of the genres they enjoy. And that's just fine. But we're writers and names can make a huge difference.

If you've written a horror novel and it's mistakenly categorized as paranormal romance chances are many readers who buy it won't be happy and may even leave disgruntled reviews.

Not good.

Here's how I think of the difference between these two genre:

Paranormal romance

A paranormal romance is fundamentally a romance. In the beginning of the story the lovers-to-be meet each other, are powerfully attracted to each other, but there is a reason, a very good and perhaps tragic reason, why they can't be together.

This reason, whatever it is, complicates their lives in various ways until the midpoint of the story when either things change slightly or they throw caution to the winds and, er, connect.  It turns out that being together was a bad idea, but perhaps for an all new set of reasons, and the would-be lovers are separated until the 3/4 point when our couple finally admits to themselves and each other that they are hopelessly in love.

Unfortunately, though, for 'a very good reason' (tm)--often something to do with a greater good--they must now say goodbye. Forever. Fortunately, just before all hope is lost and the two are irretrivably severed from each other and all hope of happiness fades the problem is solved and our lovers fall into each others arms and, probably, beds, and live together happily ever after (HEA). The End.

What do you mean, I must have read a lot of paranormal romances? ;) Of course I have, they're great! I especially like Katie MacAlister.

My description, above, was tongue-in-cheek, but I tried to hit some of the plot points a romance story needs to cover. A much better description can be found here: Xtranormal: How To Write A Romance Novel. That's the structure. That's the skeleton of every romance novel, paranormal or otherwise, ever written.

What's paranormal about paranormal romance?

Generally what makes a romance a paranormal romance is the addition of paranormal abilities. One or more of the characters have abilities that are considered "beyond the scope of normal scientific understanding" (Google Dictionary).

According to Wikipedia, a paranormal romance blends together, "themes from the genres of traditional fantasy, science fiction, or horror". That seems about right. No category these days is rigidly defined, but that seems to capture the expectations of readers when they pick up a book they've been told is a paranormal romance.

Urban Fantasy

Urban fantasy is the gritty bulked-up cousin of paranormal romance. Where a paranormal romance is fundamentally a romance, an urban fantasies is fundamentally a fantasy. There is a LOT of variation within the fantasy genre and so there is a lot of variation in urban fantasy. That said, it does have some unique aspects.

1) An urban fantasy must be ... well, urban

The bulk of the story has to take place in a city. The urban fantasies I've read generally take place in the cities of today, but in a world where we've realized that vampires and witches and werewolves (oh my!) exist.

That said, the city could be one from the past or the future, or it could be on another planet entirely.

2) An urban fantasy must have paranormal elements

Like a paranormal romance, an urban fantasy will have one or more characters who have abilities that are considered beyond the scope of normal scientific understanding. Being such as witches and werewolves, demons and vampires.

3) In an urban fantasy the outer goal of the protagonist IS NOT the love interest

In a romance the outer goal of the protagonist is the love interest; it is their bond, their eventual union.

Recall the structure of a romance I discussed, above. If this is the structure of a book that has been shelved in the urban fantasy section then the book has been misshelved. That book is NOT an urban fantasy, it's a paranormal romance.

In an urban fantasy something OTHER than the love interest is the protagonist's main goal.

Example: Jim Butcher's book Changes (The Dresden Files series)

In Changes Harry Dresden's outer goal is to save his daughter's life. I chose this book because the protagonist's goal is clear cut (and because it's a great book!). The red court vampires are going to ritually sacrifice his daughter unless Harry does something about it. The rest of the book is Harry doing something about it.

Changes is also the book where ... okay, no spoilers. But, as in most of the Dresden File books, there is a romantic element, a romantic subplot, but this romantic element is decidedly secondary (as one would expect) to saving his daughter's life. So it's usually there, but it's never the main thing.

Clear as mud? :-)

Okay, I've rambled on enough for today, talk to you again tomorrow. I studiously worked away on my NaNoWriMo manuscript and am now at 16,036 words and ever single word I typed was painful! lol Yesterday was NOT a fun writing day, hopefully today will be better. I want to reach 18,000 words by the time I go to bed.

Keep the NaNoWriMo faith! WE WILL FINISH!!

Other articles you might like:
- A NaNoWriMo Pep Talk From Neil Gaiman
- David Mamet On How To Write A Great Story
- How To Earn A Living As A Self-Published Writer

Photo credit: "Nosferatu (1922)" by twm1340 under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0.

Monday, September 17

Lyla Sinclair's 8 Secrets Of Successful Romance Writing

8 Secrets Of Successful Romance Writing

Recently Lyla Sinclair's indie published book, Training Tessa, made the New York Times Bestseller List. Today she was interviewed over at Smashwords.

Here are 8 secrets for indie writing success:

1) Join the Romance Writers of America (RWA)
I was a RWA member for two years and can say from personal experience that they are a terrific group. It's wonderful to have people cheering you on whether you are unpublished or multi-published. Thanks to my RWA chapter I was able to meet and ask questions of multi-published authors and hear their stories. There is no substitute for getting together with other writers and talking craft.

2) Publish new work frequently
This advice might seem obvious, along the lines of, "If you want to stay alive it helps to breathe", but I think it bears repeating. Lyla Sinclair writes:
Typically, when I publish a new story, sales increase for my backlist titles as well, even the more expensive Ellora’s Cave books. If I go a long time without publishing a new title, sales gradually decrease. My first indie story was published in the first quarter of 2011. I continued publishing short stories, than a novella, as fast as I could. So, 2011 was the year I began making a living as a writer, even though I’d written fiction seriously since 2003 and was first published in 2009.
3) Make sure your cover not only evokes emotion but evokes the right emotion
Lyla Sinclair writes:
I think it’s important to remember why people read fiction. They read in order to escape and feel things they may not get to feel in their real lives. Therefore, the most important characteristic of a cover is that it invokes—in the potential reader—the same emotion he or she will feel while reading the book. In other words, the cover for a horror story should creep you out. A suspense novel cover should make you nervous. An erotic cover should turn you on.
4) Price your book right for your genre
Lyla Sinclair writes:
You do need to study the pricing of other books in the top 100 of your genre before you consider your price. Different genres can have different price points. ... When I put my novella Training Tessa on sale for $0.99 (originally $2.99) to see if it could sell better, sales of that story went through the roof, then sales of all my backlist surged drastically.
. . . .
To be successful in self-publishing, an author needs to stay away from the “sheep” mentality and become her own shepherd. I research everything I can, run my own tests, then decide what’s best for me. All my marketing and sales efforts are a work in progress.
5) Social media works but focus on retail sites first
Lyla Sinclair writes:
If I were starting out as a new author today, my primary focus would be on making the most of what the retail sites offer—author pages, tagging, Listmania, putting key search words in my title for the search engines to pick up, etc., then I’d deal with Facebook and Twitter next.
6) Blog, but not frequently
Lyla Sinclair writes:
[...] I decided to use the “movie star” approach to blogging. Notice how movie stars disappear from talk shows for months, then pop up when they have movies coming out? That’s what I try to do. I think it’s interesting to note, though, that I was too sick to blog around the Training Tessa release, except for an announcement that it was out, but it made the bestseller lists. And when I think about it, I’ve often heard complaints from readers that fiction authors aren’t publishing their next books fast enough. I’ve never heard a reader complain that his favorite fiction author isn’t blogging enough.
7) Keep at it even if your first few books don't sell
Lyla Sinclair writes:
It is nearly impossible to be an overnight success as an author. Even when it seems that way, if you dig deeper, you find out the author has been working toward her goals for years. One book will not create a career for you any more than one year at a job will. Honestly, if a writer publishes one book, doesn’t sell much and gives up, I’m not sure he wants it badly enough. I was born a writer, and I would rather write limericks on bathroom walls for a living, if that were my only writing option, than not write. It took me about six years and the writing and rewriting of numerous works in three genres to become a self-supporting fiction author. I have traditionally published friends who had to start over several times in new genres with new names when their books didn’t sell. One thing is true, whether publishing traditionally or indie. A writer needs to be prepared to create multiple stories in order to build a following, then many more to sustain a career as a professional author.
8) "The secret" to making it big as a writer: 'Create the perfect storm'
Lyla Sinclair writes:
I think Training Tessa was the perfect storm that happened at a lucky time. “Perfect storm” does not mean perfect story. My definition of the perfect storm in self-publishing is when you write a good story in a popular genre, create a cover that communicates the story effectively to potential readers, and write a description that is interesting and clear.
Here is the complete interview with Lyla Sinclair: New York Times Bestselling Author Lyla Sinclair Shares Secrets to Writing Successful Erotica.

I think there is a lot of truth in what Lyla said about creating the literary analog of a perfect storm. I have heard that from many different people, Joe Konrath, Dean Wesley Smith and Kris Rusch, and all those folks are supporting themselves form their writing.

Other articles you might like:
- 8 Tips For Blogging Success
- Ursula K. Le Guin On Academic Criticism & Philip K. Dick
- Writing Resources

Photo credit: unknown

Friday, July 20

Writers Sue Harlequin For Underpayment

Three writers--Barbara Keiler, Mona Gay Thomas and Linda Barrett--have filed a suit against Harlequin, the world's largest publisher of romance books. They claim that Harlequin has unfairly deprived authors of monies owed.

The complaint is fairly involved and has to do with alleged legal trickery on Harlequin's part. I'll let Joe Konrath explain it:
Now I'm not a lawyer, but I'm pretty sure ... Harlequin contracts state they'll pay authors 50% for foreign and ebook royalties. This 50% is based on the amount they receive. But then they took those rights and sub-licensed them to another company for 6%, which means the author got 3% of the wholesale price, not 50%.

Confused? Here's an example.

Harlequin has an ebook it lists for $3.99. It sells that to Amazon at a wholesale price of $2.00. The author should make $1.00 for each $3.99 ebook that Amazon sells.

But instead of selling direct to Amazon, Harlequin sells the ebook to Company X for 12 cents. So the author only gets 6 cents. Company X than sells the same ebook to Amazon for $2.00, but because they are a sub-licensing company, they don't have to pay the author anything.

Sub-licensing is common. My publisher, Headline in the UK, sold book club rights to my novel AFRAID. The book club paid Headline a flat fee, and HEADLINE gave me 50% of that fee, according to my contract. The book club wasn't required to pay me royalties on each book club edition is sold. Just like Company X isn't required to pay authors anything.

This is all fine and legal. So why are authors suing Harlequin?

Because Harlequin and Company X are the same company.

In other words, it is sub-licensing the rights it holds to itself. Then it only has to pay the author 3% instead of 50%.

That's seems pretty shitty. It also doesn't seem like something a judge or jury will casually dismiss, even if Harlequin made sure it kept the two companies separate through an umbrella company.

No publishing company would ever sub-license rights for a paltry 6%, unless it was selling the rights to itself. Does Harlequin really expect a judge to believe that it sells a $3.99 ebook and only makes 6 cents? And according to the complaint, the 6% was not equivalent to the amount reasonably obtainable from an unrelated party, as required by the publishing agreements.

Ya think?
I love Joe's explanation, lots of flare but with a smidgeon of restraint. I'd encourage you to read Joe's entire post here: Harlequin Fail Part 2

Here is Harlequin's response to the lawsuit:
Harlequin announced today that they have been made aware of a class action lawsuit brought against them by three former authors.

The publisher wishes to make clear that this is the first it has heard of the proceedings and that a complaint has not yet been served.

“Our authors have been recompensed fairly and properly for their work, and we will be defending ourselves vigorously,” said Donna Hayes, Publisher and Chief Executive Officer of Harlequin. (Harlequin Blog)

Passive Guy, a practicing IP attorney, dissects Harlequin's responce:
Let’s see, this lawsuit has been in the works for months and generally discussed among romance writers during that time. PG has no inside information, but it’s not unusual for settlement discussions to precede the filing of a suit. HQ looks either clueless or dishonest when it claims to be surprised.

As far as the core issue of using one HQ company to license publishing rights to another HQ company in order to substantially reduce royalties paid to authors, PG figured that out the first time he reviewed an HQ publishing contract and authors have been complaining about it for years.

HQ’s statement that the complaint has not been served on it will draw a giant “duh” from any lawyer familiar with litigation. You file the complaint, then serve the defendant. Yet another clueless statement.

Since PG is always a helpful guy, he’ll provide Harlequin with a copy of the complaint below so they can read it. [PG put a copy of the author's complaint up on his blog, you can read it here.]

On a more serious note, most companies that are defendants in a major class-action suit incorporate a sophisticated public communications program to show themselves in the best possible light and minimize damage to their reputation.

Evidently, HQ doesn’t plan to do that.
You can read PG's entire article here: Harlequin Responds to Lawsuit by Authors Seeking Royalties.

That's all the information I have at the moment. I use to be involved with the Romance Writers Of America and many, if not most, of the published writers in that group either published through Harlequin, had at one time published through them or were actively submitting work there. I can't imagine this lawsuit will bolster the RWA's shrinking numbers.

If true, Harlequin's underhanded dealings not only hurt authors but they hurt readers as well. Of course I would be surprised if Harlequin was the only publishing company doing something like this. I hope this suit sets a president that encourages all publishers to deal fairly and honestly with their authors.

Further reading:
- Harlequin author Patricia McLinn, one of those involved with the lawsuit, has written about the suit on her Facebook page.

Thursday, March 10

Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie is one of the best selling authors of all time. Years ago—I'm not sure whether this is still true—it was said that she had outsold the Bible!

I know opinions vary widely, but I have been a fan of Agatha Christie's since grade eight when my english teacher—one of my favorite teachers—assigned us Christie's "The Murder of Roger Ackroyd," to read—and we got to watch the movie! It was great fun—we each had to try and guess who had committed the murder—and I've loved her books ever since.

Every time I read one of Christie's books I ask myself, "How did she do it? What was her secret, why are her stories so popular?" I think I must have read each of her books many times and one thing I noticed is that in both her Miss Marple and Poirot books she tends to include a romance.

I find that interesting and possibly revealing.

Monday, November 8

Query, Synopsis and First Three Chapters are In The Mail :-)

Today I (finally!) mailed off the requested materials for my story, Until Death, to Harlequin.   Yea!  My writer friends told me that I simply had to celebrate this milestone so I treated myself to a tall eggnog latte and holiday gingerbread at Starbucks.  Yum.

I had planned to mail the Synopsis out a week ago but one thing after another came up until I felt like Sisyphus, but instead of pushing a rock up a hill I was trying to put my query in the mail!  Most of the things that came up were silly things like not realizing I had to buy US stamps for the SASE and my printer running out of ink -- instances of Murphy's Law rearing its ugly and unpredictable head.

Talk to you tomorrow. :)