Tag Archives: romance

Weekly Book Promotion Highlight

For this week’s book promotion highlight, I’m featuring the Discover Your Next Favorite Series giveaway!

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Not sure what to read next? Check out these series starters across a variety of genres!

Discover Your Next Favorite Series - eBook Giveaway

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(Note: This giveaway is hosted through Book Funnel. Authors will usually ask for your email address, and in many cases, the author will collect these addresses for their newsletters.)

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I hope you find a good book.  🙂

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Thoughts on Writing – How Genres Are Like Different Types of Stores

The other day, I had the thought that book genres are like different stores. I’m not really sure how I got to that particular idea, but it stuck around. So, today, I’m going to delve into that analogy.

Genres are like stores.

You have all kinds of stores. Big stores, small stores. General stores, clothes stores, game shops, book stores, specialty stores.

Each type of store has certain things that make it that particular type of store, just like a genre will have particular elements that make it that genre. While two genres may have similar traits (example, science fiction and fantasy both tend to have speculative ideas, surprising tech/magic, and vivid worlds), they aren’t the same. A reader may enjoy seeing those traits in either book, but there are certain traits they expect will be there, regardless.

For example, someone going to a grocery store versus a convenience store isn’t going to expect the same product availability.

A grocery store sells food–usually a decent variety, along with various other household goods that might be useful… like toilet paper.

A convenience store has a large variety of items, but a limited number of each, and they’re oriented towards quick, on-the-go products and essentials. Plus, they sell gas.

(There’s a nice article on the difference between grocery and convenience stores here)

If you want gas, you’re going to go to a convenience store, and you’ll be sorely disappointed if there are no gas pumps to be found. However, you might be pleasantly surprised to discover they have donuts available, something the grocery store also has. On the opposite end, if you want a bag of spinach, you’ll probably head to the grocery store, because that’s where you expect to find what you’re looking for.

If you want a book with shiny magic and mystical worlds, you’ll choose a fantasy book. You might be pleasantly (or unpleasantly, if you’re not a fan) surprised when there’s a decent romance on the side. But if you’re looking for a romance with a  lot of tender, loving kisses, you’re going to look for a sweet romance book… and if that just so happens to be found in fantasy trappings, great!

Each book has a primary genre, but it may delve deeper to appeal to a specific audience. The same is true of stores.

For example, a clothing store sells clothes. Obviously.

But break that down, and you get different types of clothing stores. It’s kind of like the romance genre. There’s a large market for romance books, but they can each be broken down into sub-categories to better target their reader.

You might be looking for clothes, but if you have the option to choose, are you going to grab the first thing you’re offered? Probably not.

More likely, there’s a particular store you drift toward.

Here’s what I mean. Out of clothing stores (and their comparable romance sub-category):

  • Children’s stores, which cater to kid’s sizes and trends. (YA Romance)
  • Fancy upscale stores, which cost a lot of money for brand name alone. (Category romance, in this case, with a rich man or woman as the love interest)
  • General clothing stores… with just about everything you need to make sure you at least have something. (General romance)
  • Western stores, everything blue jeans and leather. (Western romance. Cowboys, ranches, etc…)
  • Adult stores with “special” lingerie. (Erotica)
  • Eclectic stores, with alternative culture clothing (Romance with fantasy elements)
  • Pop culture stores, with clothes tied into popular movies and games. (Romance with science fiction elements)

The list goes on. (And of course, these are just examples, by no means cut-and-dry).

I like incorporating elements of different genres into the same book. A story will have it’s primary genre, but you can use pieces from other genres to help flesh out the story.

For example, if you go into a fancy upscale store, and notice that the products have been highlighted with specialty lighting which really makes a certain pair of slacks catch the customer’s eye, you might consider using the same technique in a children’s store. Sure, each store targets a different audience, but good techniques often have multiple uses.

In books, this might be stylizing writing to match a certain mood. If you want a fast-paced action sequence in your western romance, it probably wouldn’t hurt to read a few thrillers and see what keeps the pace moving along.

If you want to include a warm, heartfelt romance in your science fiction novel, reading a sweet romance might give you a few ideas of how to build character chemistry.

In the YA science fiction novel that my husband and I are writing, Distant Horizon, I used elements of horror to build tension. When the main character reaches a facility where people are being transformed into sub-human monsters, I include elements that are typically associated with horror. I want the reader to sense the creepiness.  The story isn’t horror, but using those techniques helped to set the mood.

Just remember, when you’re trying to pitch your book to an agent (or to a reader), it helps to know what type of reader they are. Just because a person likes romance, doesn’t mean they’ll like all types of romance. Some people may only like westerns. Others, science fiction. Others prefer contemporary.

I hope you enjoyed this post. Have you found any good analogies for various genres? 🙂

(For examples of other types of stores to fuel your imagination, see this article)

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Thoughts On Writing – Using Subplots To Tie Everything Together

Last time I blogged, I talked about figuring out what happens next in a scene. That process helped me out considerably with the scene I was working on, along with a few scenes before that. However, I’ve been running into a new problem–figuring out how to get the ending to fit together.

The story I’m currently working on is supposed to be a romance with science fiction elements. One of the scenes I visualized for the ending was… well… not romantic. The characters stay together, but there’s this looming shadow of oppression hanging over them both.

Not exactly a happy ending.

I tried day-dreaming alternative ways the scene could play out. I originally had Special Forces tapping Cole’s phone, and so they overhear when Amy says that Mr. Rivera is a member of Challenge, a supposed terrorist organization. But then my husband pointed out that, as Cole’s supervisor, Mr. Rivera would be the one to hear the message first.

No Special Forces agents descending on the group, leading to a major fight scene that doesn’t end well for anybody. Not unless Tamara called the police earlier, but that didn’t make sense with her motives.

So I started plotting what might be said if Tamara and Cole sat down confront Mr. Rivera directly. One of the things I pictured Mr. Rivera saying was that not all members of Challenge were the bad guys. Then I realized that I already had the elements in place to include an actual bad guy who was working for Challenge.

All in the form of a separate subplot that I’d largely forgotten.

This is a scene from earlier in the story, one which made me realize I had an undeveloped subplot waiting to be used.

“What took you so long?” Amy looked up from her phone and raised an eyebrow. She was probably playing an EYEnet game, or something like that. “Get lost in the cafeteria? Or did you meet somebody cute downstairs?” She eyed my empty laundry basket suspiciously.

 

“Unless you count the police officer, not really.” I dropped onto the bed and yawned.

 

Admittedly, the guy had been cute. Light brown hair, closely cropped to his head. Square jaw, and a smattering of super-light freckles across his cheeks. Didn’t look badly built, either. But I’d been too worried about the ‘painting’ to dwell on his looks.

 

“Police officer?” She frowned and lowered her phone to her lap. “What happened?”

 

“Someone drew a picture on the wall.” I sighed, already removing my phone from my pocket to show her.

 

“A policeman came for a picture?”

 

“Not just any picture.” I passed her the phone. Her green eyes widened as she stared at the picture I’d taken. “You okay?”

 

I wrestled the phone back from her fingers. Her knuckles had gone white from how tight she was gripping that thing.

 

“Yeah,” she whispered. “Wish I’d thought of that.”

 

I blinked. “What?”

 

She laughed dismissively. “Using laundry detergent to paint a picture. It’s imaginative. Even if it is… well… you know.” Her voice dropped off, and her lips twisted into a frown. She was still eyeing my phone.

 

“Should I delete the picture?” I asked.

 

“What?”

 

“You know… so it doesn’t look like I’m supporting them?”

 

She scoffed. “You? Supporting them? Please. You’re like… the community ideal. Or you will be, if the whole EYEnet Match thing works out. You already reported this to the police, didn’t you? That’s how they found it?”

 

I nodded.

 

“Then you’re fine. Long as you weren’t the one who painted it.” She swiveled around to her computer.

 

“I’m fine? Someone around here is painting terrorist symbols on campus. In our dorm.”

 

Amy shrugged. Her blond ponytail bobbed inconspicuously. “I’m not worried. It’s probably just a student wanting to cause a ruckus. And even if it is someone from Challenge, I still wouldn’t worry too much. Didn’t you read those articles I gave you? Most those people probably aren’t going to do an outright attack. They need allies, not enemies, and attacking innocent people isn’t going to win them brownie points.”

Originally, I had planned for Amy to be the one doing the painting, since she has ties to Challenge. But as I wrote this scene, I got the distinct impression that Amy wasn’t the culprit. While I want readers to wonder if she is the culprit, this scene is also foreshadowing. If I weave in other incidents similar to this one, I can hint that there’s someone else on campus who is leaving behind these symbols.

Someone being reckless.

When I get to the scene where Tamara and Cole must choose between reporting to the police that Mr. Rivera is part of Challenge, or working with him, it helps if they have someone to rally against. In this case, a rogue member of Challenge who might actually be a threat.

The stakes are high for both sides. If this rogue is discovered, they draw attention to the ‘good’ Challenge members–Mr. Rivera and Amy. In addition, if this rogue makes an attack, innocent people are at risk. Since Tamara is interested in finding out the truth behind Challenge, she’s likely to get involved. Cole may get involved to protect Tamara and learn more about his supervisor’s (Mr. Rivera’s) secrets, while Amy would get involved because she wants to dispel the notion that all members of Challenge are terrorists.

Thus, by following a subplot that got planted earlier in the story, I may have a way to bring both sides together, raise the stakes, and still have the potential for a happy-ever-after.

But that’s still to be determined.

Now that I know someone other than Amy is leaving the symbol in public places, I’ve got to decide who they are, what they want, and how far they’ll go to get that.

Lesson learned? Subplots can be a helpful tool to move your story along and flesh out the world.

I hope you enjoyed this post. 🙂

Have you ever found a piece of foreshadowing or minor subplot to be useful later when writing a story?

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Thoughts on Writing – Developing Character Relations

While waiting for beta readers to finish reading Magic’s Stealing, I’ve been doing a lot of edits on The Multiverse Chronicles. However, editing is not writing, and I got the itch to write. I didn’t want to move to book two of The Wishing Blade series until book one was complete, and I just finished reading On Writing Romance, so I decided to attempt to write a new adult, science-fiction romance. It’s set in the early days of the Distant Horizon universe, where super villains have secretly taken over the US government and wiped out people with super powers, all by claiming they have a hallucinogenic plague. In hindsight, writing a romance was probably a terrible idea, given that I am not an avid romance reader, and romances tend to end badly in the DH universe. But it was a personal challenge, and I accepted.

Anyway, I’ve been writing scenes here and there, and I’ve been developing the characters. Since romance focuses heavily on character interaction, I soon found that I had an issue. My characters felt weak and unrelated to the plot. They interacted, but only loosely.

That wasn’t going to work.

So I started examining the individual characters, and how they interacted with the other characters in the story.

These are the original characters:

Tamara: The heroine. College freshman with an undeclared major. Considering business or graphic arts. No powers. As a kid, she was raised by her mother, and due to shaky relations with her father, her mother instilled the whole ‘stranger danger’ fear in her daughter. Because of this, Tamara longs for stability, so she signs up for the new “EYEnet Match” program at her college, which promises to find her a near-perfect match.

 

Cole: The hero. College junior studying communication and leadership. Telepath, but he can’t tell anyone due to government regulations. He’s forced to join the EYEnet Match program as a means to get close to Tamara’s best friend, Amy, so that he can secretly scan her mind and see if she’s working with Challenge, a so-called terrorist cell. He doesn’t want to participate because he likes Tamara and he’s afraid he’ll end up hurting her if the government’s suspicions prove true.

 

Amy: Tamara’s best friend. College freshman. No powers. Lost a sibling to the ‘plague.’ She believes in true love, and thinks the EYEnet Match program is basically another online dating site. She’s interested in linguistics. She’s a bit of a rebel, but she has no interest in Challenge. She starts to fall for Joan.

 

Joan: College freshman. Skeptical of EYEnet Match, but decides to give it a try. Develops feelings for Amy when they meet in linguistics club, causing problems with her own ‘match.’ Joan carries a shield, which blocks powers, and she secretly works for Challenge (the ‘terrorist’ cell that the government is eyeing. Most of them aren’t really terrorists, but that’s how they’re portrayed).

 

Mr. Rivera: The counselor who organizes the EYEnet Match program on campus. He is Cole’s government supervisor, and he believes he lost his daughter during a terrorist attack. He orders Cole to keep an eye on Amy, and arranges for Tamara and Cole to hook up so that Cole can get in close without raising suspicions.

The problem with this particular arrangement of characters, however, is that the main plot lacked a focus on Tamara and Cole. Plus, when I described Amy and Joan to my husband as I went through the basic points of the plot (and it doesn’t help that I accidentally kept calling the main character Amy), he initially thought that Amy and Joan were the same person. Not only were the characters weak, but the plot lacked a strong conflict. Why wouldn’t Mr. Rivera have Cole keeping an eye on Joan, instead?

My husband suggested that I ‘kill my darlings’ and merge Amy and Joan’s characters. Then he suggested that I develop Tamara’s character a bit differently, since she currently had very little effect on how the story played out.

These are the modified characters:

Tamara: The heroine. College freshman with an interest in journalism. Secretly keeps a stash of old articles detailing the history of super powers, so she immediately becomes suspicious of Cole, who seems to read her mind. Nosy, she’s gets herself involved with the plot as she seeks answers to Cole’s secrets. She still has her family background of instability, which increases her need to know what he’s hiding because she longs to make their relationship work.

 

Cole: Hero. Not much changed from above. He believes his powers are a result of the plague, at least until Tamara gets involved.

 

Amy: Tamara’s best friend. College freshman studying linguistics. Has powers– the extended ability to block other people’s powers. She’s not a member of Challenge, but she’s trying to get their attention because she wants in, and it’s leading her to make a few rash decisions. In the past she was close friends with a cousin who was part of the program, but he kept her powers a secret from them and refused to let her join because he wanted her to get an education first. She has no interest in EYEnet Match, and because she’s not interested in men, Mr. Rivera can’t have Cole approach her directly.

 

Mr. Rivera: Still a counselor and still Cole’s supervisor, but now, instead of believing that he lost his daughter during an attack, he knows the truth– she was killed by the government villains because she was one of the dissidents. But Mr. Rivera maintains the charade of believing the lies so he can act as a double-agent. He pairs Cole with Tamara because he wants Cole close to Amy, mostly so he can find out if she might be interested in joining Challenge.

By combining Amy and Joan’s characters, and fleshing out the details of the other characters, we have relationships that are ripe for conflict, while still ensuring that these characters actually want to be together. Combining characters won’t always work, but it often leads to stronger character development. I plan to move a couple lines from Joan to a minor character, but other than that, I think combining them will make the story much stronger.

Now I’ve got to decide on her new name: Amy, Joan, JoAnn, Amy Jo/AJ… the list goes on. For now, I’m listing her as Amy in the manuscript, and I’ll do a ‘find and replace’ once I make a decision.

I hope you found this post helpful. 🙂

Have you ever thought about combining characters to make a story stronger?

 

 

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Behind the Scenes – SirenSong

Another cover for Melange Books.

For this one, I wanted to convey the idea that the man is the siren, and so I used the fish scale texture and a sort of rippling texture (a slightly Gaussian blurred image of quartz) to hint at the idea of the ocean. The author requested the gold and red tones, and mentioned that the siren works at a theatre, so I played with those colors and the background to give the cover a richer, classy feel. While I usually peruse Dreamstime for stock images, for this one, I looked through the images that Melange Books had purchased earlier during their stock subscription to see if anything matched.

This is the end result:

SBibb - SirenSong - Book Cover

Stock images from Dreamstime:

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photos-young-guy-long-hair-naked-image23337038
http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photos-gothic-castle-interior-image9182498
http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-image-rose-quartz-vertical-image858416
http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photos-skin-blue-siamese-fighting-fish-image7645918

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JoAnna’s Rescue – Book Cover Reveal

Hello again, long time no-see. But, fear not, I have a book cover to reveal. 🙂

SBibb - JoAnna's Rescue Book Cover

Today we have “JoAnna’s Rescue,” another cover for Melange Books. This one is for a romance novel. This is another case where a collaboration between the author and illustrator can work out well. In this case, the author had an idea of what she wanted, and provided links to a couple images (from Dreamstime) that she thought might fit. However, we wanted a snowy, blizzard look, so I photoshopped in the snow and put the images together. In the long run, the publisher suggested we might also want the guy’s face on the cover (to suggest the romance aspect of the novel), but we didn’t want it to be the main focus. So the author found one she liked (Fotolia), and I added it in, blurring the image a bit an lowering the opacity so that, while it is closer to the viewer, it isn’t the first thing to catch the eye. 🙂

Photoshop CS6.

Stock images from Dreamstime and Fotolia:

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photography-country-scene-farm-house-winter-image24715572
http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photo-winter-portrait-young-beauty-image26384705
http://us.fotolia.com/id/27527058

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Ashes – Short Story Now Available on Kindle

“Ashes,” my prequel short story to “Socks” (1000 Words project) is now available on Kindle. I’ve been meaning to upload it for some time, but never did. Until now! So, not only can you find it on Smashwords, you can also find it on Amazon for 99 cents. 🙂

A 7,500-word young adult, post-apocalyptic romance: When rebels attack the city, two teens race to save the last existing library before it is destroyed.

Find “Ashes” on Amazon

Find “Ashes” on Smashwords

 

SBibb - Ashes Cover - Blog

An Excerpt:

The sky is darker than I remember, and a shape forms above me, blurry. “Matthew?” I ask. My head smarts. I cough, tasting acrid smoke, and my fingers touch a sticky warmness on my forehead. There’s a cut there; I don’t remember why. The gray metal of a helicopter glints in the fire from the building a block away. The warning system is playing repeatedly, but for the life of me, I can’t tell what it says. A firm hand grips mine and then it’s Cory who yanks me to my feet, not Matthew. “Come on!” he says. “We’ve got to get inside.”

What else is there to do? He half drags me into the lobby of a restaurant. Traces of fresh pancakes and hot maple syrup and pungent coffee smells mix with the ashy gunpowder odor from outside. The place is astonishingly empty for the morning hour. We navigate past upturned chairs and coffee stains, broken mugs lying forgotten on the floor.

Then we’re in the kitchen, where thick ceramic tiles block out the sounds of chaos. Cory grabs the handle of the bunker and twists it, praying for it to turn. He pulls me to him, holding me tight as another explosion rattles the foundation. My head against his chest; his heart beat competes with the explosions like a drum.

“You okay, Serena?” he asks.

I’m not sure. “What happened?” I can’t seem to remember why Cory is here. All I know is that I trust him more than Matthew, and there’s a sickness in the pit of my stomach at the thought of the other.”

 

“Socks” is available on Smashwords for free

Enjoy. 🙂

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