Category Archives: writing

Spreading Some Love Between the Covers

“Love stories are universal. Love stories are powerful.
And so are the women who write them.”

Last spring I wrote about how I was dying to watch LOVE BETWEEN THE COVERS, a feature-length indie documentary film that explores the little-known, surprisingly powerful world of women who write and read romance? I finally attended a screening thanks to the fine folks at the Orlando Public Library. I left inspired, enlightened, and I may have had a watery eye from time to time.

Love Between the Covers is the fascinating story of the vast, funny, and savvy female community that has built a powerhouse industry sharing love stories. Romance fiction is sold in 34 languages on six continents, and the genre grosses more than a billion dollars a year–outselling mystery, sci-fi, and fantasy combined. Yet the millions of voracious women (and sometimes men) who read, write, and love romance novels have remained oddly invisible. Until now. For three years, the film follows the lives of five very diverse published romance authors and a unpublished newbie as they build their businesses, find and lose loved ones, cope with a tsunami of change in publishing, and earn a living doing what they love—while empowering others to do the same.

During the three years the filmmakers shot the documentary, they witnessed the largest power shift in the publishing industry in the last 200 years. And it’s the romance authors who are on the front lines, pioneering new ways to survive and thrive in the rapidly shifting environment.

Many aspects of the film had me in awe. Bella Andre writes 25 pages a day?!!

The segments following the video diary of aspiring romance author Joanne Lockyer had me feeling all swishy inside. I found myself discretely dabbing the corners of my eyes after she saw her book, her quest, her baby in print for the first time in all its tangible beauty.

There were so many more nuggets of goodness, conversations about diversity, desire, power shifts, and how to write a damn good book.

I tried to jot down a few of my favorite quotes as I watched, but alas, as I read over my chicken scratch, I’ve realized that these should more be considered paraphrases. My profound apologies if any of these are too far off. (Feel free to kill me off in your next book if I offend.)

We’re not looking for a stupid heroine … we’re looking for a story where the woman has her shit together and the man is the cherry on top of the sundae.

Beverly Jenkins

Loyalty, love, loss, courage–all books in ALL genres circle around to these eternal themes.

Eloisa James

I love fiction because it’s fiction. Fiction is not real and it’s not supposed to be. Fiction is a dream. Fiction is a desire. Fiction is hope.

Len Barot/Radclyffe

Yes it’s a fantasy. But so are Arnold Schwarzenegger movies. It’s no great surprise that he never dies in the end. So what’s wrong with our
Happily Ever After?

Beverly Jenkins

This is the one place where you will consistently find women’s sexuality treated fairly and positively.

Sarah Wendell


But one of the main themes of the movie was the camaraderie. Through RWA (Romance Writers of America), these women, be them multi-millionaire business builders or publishing-shy newbies, shared a refreshing desire to share what they know to help others succeed. (I also see this in the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, but this wasn’t their movie. Go WFWA!) They stress that there’s no finite number of readers, so we can publish an infinite number of stories.

After the movie screening, the Orlando Public Library hosted romance panel discussions about Tropes We Love and Hate and Vampires and Angels and Weres, Oh My!, followed by a book signing featuring local romance writers.


pro rwa


I’m offically a PRO member of Romance Writers of America.

Come on in. There’s room for you here too.


Love Between the Covers (& some contest love!)

First, a bit of braggy news: my women’s fiction (with elements of romance) manuscript, THE LAST RESORT, is a finalist in the Wisconsin Romance Writers of America’s FAB FIVE contest! The Silver Quill Award winner will be announced in June.

Fab Five Finalist

::fingers crossed::

Speaking of romance, have you heard about LOVE BETWEEN THE COVERS? This feature-length indie documentary film explores the little-known, surprisingly powerful world of women who write and read romance. The film covers the story of five very different authors (whose day jobs include surgeon and Shakespeare professor) as they invite us inside the vast romance community that runs a powerhouse industry on the cusp of an irreversible power shift.

During the three years the filmmakers shot the documentary, they witnessed the largest power shift in the publishing industry in the last 200 years. And it’s the romance authors who are on the front lines, pioneering new ways to survive and thrive in the rapidly shifting environment.

I don’t know about you, but I need to figure out how to see this film.

I’m also going to check out The site showcases romance novels in a broad context across time and place—with a huge archive of Love Between the Covers interview excerpts, teaching resources, and blogs by romance authors, scholars and industry insiders.

And for those of you who still live under the delusion that romances are just trashy, cheap paperbacks written for those who “can’t read a real book”, a few stats:

Total Romance Novel Sales in 2013: $1.1 billion
That’s roughly one-fifth of all adult-fiction sales.

Voracious Readers
46% of romance consumers read at least one book per week.
In comparison, the typical American reads five books a year.
Romance Readers At A Glance
Age: 30-54
Education: College-educated
Average Income: $55K
Relationship Status: 59% are coupled, 84% are women, 16% are men
*Romance readers are more likely than the general population to be currently married or living with a partner

Top 10 Fiction Genres
1. $1.09 billion, Thrillers
2.$1.08 billion, Romance
3. $811 million, General
4.$548 million, Literary
5.$442 million, Mystery & Detective
6.$377 million, Fantasy
7.$185 million, Comics & Graphic Novels
8.$156 million, Historical
9.$143 million, Contemporary Women
10.$113 million,Action & Adventure

Reading Behavior
29% of romance readers usually carry a romance novel with them.
Romance readers typically begin and finish a romance novel within 7 days.
On average romance readers read more than one book:
A Week—25.5%
Every Week—20.9%
Every 2-3 Weeks—17.8%
A Month—16.1%
Sources: Love Between the Sheets Publicity, Nielsen, Bookstats, PEW Research Center, RWA,Entertainment Weekly, Author Earnings’ July 2014 Author Earnings Report, Harlequin


A Novel (Rocket) Surprise

I haven’t been writing.

There. My big dirty secret is out.

You see, I got busy. I know, I know, we’re ALL busy. Real writers don’t find time, they MAKE time.

It could be considered a sabbatical. Since writing was my “full-time job” for a few years, technically I’ve been on an extended period of leave from one’s customary work, especially for rest, acquiring new skills or training, etc. Yeah. That’s it. I’ve been on sabbatical. It’s amazing what one can learn about the publishing industry by working in a library. Seeing which books people REALLY read (at least in my local market) has reshaped my entire concept of what’s marketable. But more on what I’m learning from deep in the stacks another day.

I’ve also been cutting back on screen time, trying to connect with the friends and family close enough to hug instead of living within my extended cyberworld.

I’ve been on a journey to find balance in my life. I’m still searching.

But enough with these excuses. The true reason I’ve been shying away from my quest to become a published writer is that I got scared. My manuscript isn’t good enough. I’M not good enough. (This is why so many writers become drug addicts and drunks, right?)  I should just bury that damn manuscript in a drawer below the pretty panties I never wear like thousands—perhaps millions—of other wannabe writers.

Then a package appeared on my doorstep.

I hadn’t ordered anything. The square brown box was far too large to contain a book for review. My birthday wasn’t for months. I opened it tentatively.

Inside I found hope.

It came in the form of a delicate sculpture. My Novel Rocket Launch Pad trophy arrived at the perfect time.

 novel rocket trophy CollageI photographed the trophy around my yard, attempting to capture the sway of the delicate blown glass, the sparkles of sunlight shimmering off the surface.

Amidst the spring blooms, turquoise waters, and clear blue skies I realized that despite its outer artistry, its true beauty was intrinsic. Inside the rocket’s seemingly hollow body swirled inspiration, affirmation, passion, pride. . . and hope.

I am a writer.

I decided the glorious reminder of not only what I won, but what I can be, would shine in any environment. It should be placed where it will serve the highest purpose: on my desk.

Perhaps it will evoke more magic—aided by hefty doses of perseverance, hard work, tenacious editing, and perhaps a smidgeon of talent. Instead of being weighed down by too many fears, this work of art will remind me to fill myself with hope, light as the stars.

launch pad trophy

A heartfelt thanks to everyone at Novel Rocket.

novel rocket card

And to Joy Alyssa Day at for sending me such a graceful work of art.

And now a reminder from my son’s 4th grade teacher:

why do we write


Mama’s Losin’ It
Prompt: Write about something you have too much of: fear & hope.



How Do I Decide? Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing (A Field Guide for Authors) | REVIEW

You’ve written a book. You thought that was the hard part. But now you must navigate through the rapidly changing  publishing landscape, a quest that may seem like being dropped into Siberia with swimsuit and a snorkel.  It’s a Brave New World out there: as bookstores close, longstanding publishing houses merge or fold, and the e-book platform explodes, most of us are left questioning our path to publication. Once upon a time, a writer’s dream was to land an agent, a book deal with a big name publishing house (and the advance that came with it), and utilize their vast network of editors and publicists to become a household name.  If you were self-published, it was because you weren’t good enough to make it to these big leagues.

Not anymore.

Many previously traditionally published authors are detouring from the conventional route and self-publishing. Now anyone, from NYT bestselling authors to the crazy cat lady down the street can put their work up for sale on Amazon or Smashwords.  But to poorly paraphrase a quote from Jurassic Park: [Many writers] were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.

Enter Rachelle Gardner. Like many other aspiring authors, I’ve read her blog religiously for a while. As an agent with Books and Such Literary Agency, she generously shares her insider’s view of the industry, schooling us with a mix of encouragement and straight talk. Her posts cover topics such as the craft of writing, querying, platform building, and of course, publishing.

Gardner crosses over to the self-pub world with the release of  How Do I Decide? Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing (A Field Guide for Authors). She draws on her years of experience to walk us through the various steps in both publishing processes. She concisely explains the advantages and disadvantages of each method, laying out the financial differences, writer responsibilities, and complications an author can expect. She stress that no matter which method you choose, content is still king: you cannot succeed without a well-crafted book.

As a writer gearing up to enter the publishing arena, I found her checklist worksheet exceptionally helpful. (Apparently, I’m far more equipped to pursue one method over the other, something I hadn’t realized until I read this book.)

I also enjoyed the author perspectives interspersed throughout. Jennie Nash’s 5 Surprises of Self-Publishing was an eye-opener, reiterating the risks and rewards involved.

If you decide you are destined to self-pub, Gardner provides links at the back of the book to editors, book designers, and cover designers. Some traditional resources for finding agents and general publishing info is provided as well.

As Gardner explains, there is no right or wrong answer any more. Every writer should carefully examine their motivations, skill sets, experience, and personality traits before they decide which path to take. How Do I Decide? is a quick, helpful read I will most likely refer to again before I make any decisions regarding my own path. It’s well worth the $3.99 price, and a must read for any writer considering their goals and options.

How Do I Decide? Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing
by Rachelle Gardner
58 pages (est.) 
$3.99 [Kindle]

Rachelle Gardner’s website/Twitter/Facebook

Review: Why We Write

20 Acclaimed Authors on How and Why They Do What They Do

Over four decades ago, George Orwell listed the four great motives for writing in his essay “Why I Write”:

1. Sheer egoism. “To be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on gown-ups in childhood, etc.”

2. Aesthetic enthusiasm. “To take pleasure in the impact of one sound on another, in the firmness of good prose or the rhythm of a good story.”

3. Historical impulse. “The desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity.”

4. Political purposes. “The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.”

Thirty years later, Joan Didion addressed the question, and now Meredith Maran asked twenty household-name authors to write their take on the question of why we write. Some answered the question clearly, cohesively, and obviously with much though. Others claimed they’d never been asked the question before, and let the answers flow.

Most of us know why we write: we’d simply wither and die if we couldn’t. While most of the award-winning authors wax candidly about the WHY, it’s their HOW process of writing and their path to success I found far more interesting.

Isabelle Allende’s tale charmed me with its quirkiness and purity; her dedication to her language and storytelling enchanted me and made me want to pull out one of her books for a lazy reread.

In direct contrast, James Frey’s piece only solidified my dislike of him. It may be just an arrogant facade, but his condescending nature and disrespect for other writer’s AND his audience totally turned me off. He proclaims he’s in the same league as Hemingway, Kerouac, and Miller in one sentence, then boasts how he’s thrilled to make a buck writing crappy scripts under a pen name the plebeians will eat up. His every word drips with condescension.

Kathryn Harrison’s advice seems a direct contrast to Frey: “Don’t portray yourself as who you want to be. Portray yourself as who you are.”

The authors share stories of their depressions and failures as well as their breakthrough experiences (many of which occur at the acclaimed Iowa Writer’s Workshop). All of the authors have reached the level of success where they don’t need a day job, but their anecdotes about their early writing days struck home. My favorite must be Sara Gruen’s description of the closet writing nook she eked out while stuck on Water for Elephants: hidden from her family, emptied of her husband’s clothes, and taped over with old-time circus photos.

Why We Write is a decent book for writers who don’t want to feel alone in their insanity, who know no writer is “normal,” and who seeks some (dis)comfort in the realization that it never gets easy—even for best selling mainstream writers—we just gain discipline and learn how to hide our fears better. For the most part, I enjoyed the variety of writers selected for the project, but I would have loved to have seen some whose careers took off after the publishing industry started its metamorphosis in this last decade. A few less-mainstream writers, like say Christopher Moore or Chuck Wendig could have livened up the candid prose, but at least Maran didn’t include James Patterson.

A portion of the proceeds will benefit 862 National, an innovative youth literacy program.

Why We Write
(release date 1/29/13)
Merideth Maran (editor) 
250 pages, $9.99 [Kindle], $10.98 [Paperback]
Plume (January 29, 2013)