Especially for Writers

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Posted in Authors, write tips, Writing, Writing Tips | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Genre-Locked?

tangledSomeone in a Facebook group asked if they were stuck with one genre. They didn’t want to be; they wanted to write a little bit of everything. I could relate.

I remember moaning about that a few years back. My first release was a rodeo romance, the next a contemporary women’s fiction, and the one after, a conspiracy theory. Then I went back to the ranch and wrote another women’s fiction. The two rodeo/ranching/cowboy books do better than all the others combined. So, when someone asks me whether it’s best to remain in one genre, my answer is yes. It’s a business decision, not an artistic one.

But if you really want to branch out and write in other genres, here are some tips.

Go ahead and write what you want

This provides the most freedom and the least amount of return, especially if your genres are wildly different. We authors hang out together so much that we forget there are people out there who just want to read and aren’t particularly interested in the writing process. They have their preferred genres and some of them never read beyond those genres. If you start with a gritty mystery, then shift to sacchriny romance, they aren’t likely to follow you. Each book is on its own to grab a following. Oh, you’ll have your core of people who read everything you write because they know you and love you, but you’ll be slow to expand.

Brand yourself

This is something all of us should do a certain extent: become so well known as a person that we don’t need to worry about the products we put out. There are people, aside from outright celebrities, who have done this successfully. K.M. Weiland and Joanna Penn come to mind. They work tirelessly to provide information to other writers and have built up a reputation and following based on their work outside their publications.

If you have something you can capitalize on, some information, hobby, whatever, that others would find interesting, center on that. Edie Melson reaches out to military families. Because she has sent a loved one off to war, she knows what it’s like, and she knows how to encourage others facing the same experience. Periodically, she can toss out “Hey, I have a book releasing soon. You interested?” to tons of people who have grown to love her through her because of the service/encouragement she provides to them.

Develop a pseudonym

And I used “develop” on purpose. Unless you intend to let everyone know you and your pseudonym are the same person, you have to develop your alter-ego and gain a following for both of your selves. If you’re a type A personality, you can do this.

How far do you want to carry this idea? Do you want separate websites? Separate social media pages? Writers and friends and die-hard fans who investigate their faves like groupie subscribers to People Magazine will know the two names belong to you, but do you want to develop an illusion for the rest of your readers? Can you put out enough books per year to keep followers of each of your personas happy?

Have a common theme through similar genres

Give the Lady a Ride and The Final Ride are the only examples I can provide of my own work, and I’m not sure they count since they’re part of the Circle Bar Ranch series, but I’ll use them for now. One’s romance and the other is women’s fiction. They have in common ranch, rodeo, cowboys, and Texas. Readers who love these elements don’t care if the two books are different genres. The next one, Ride to the Altar will be a mystery of sorts. Since it’s in the same series, it should keep at least the readers the series has gathered so far.

Kathleen Y’Barbo writes romance, but some of it is historical and some is contemporary. Francine Rivers writes historical, contemporary, and contemporary women’s fiction. Her common thread is her actual genre: Christian fiction. Her faith is steeped and obvious in everything she writes. Pull out the thread of Christianity, and her story unravels.

Perhaps you’re a nut about airplanes and intend to use them in every novel. Why not? As long as they’re a commanding part of your setting, like the ranch is in mine, you can write historical, contemporary, mystery, romance—all of which could be centered on flying.

Keep your novels in one genre, but play in other avenues

Novels are only one way to get your stories out there. Magazines, contests, collections, all these can fulfill your need to write something other than your norm. My short story, Slider, is a pre-WWII historical pertaining to a baseball star who became a railroad tramp. It is published in Saturday Evening Post’s Great American Fiction 2016 anthology, but it started out as a contest entry. Skydiving to Love is a plain ol’ contemporary romance, as are all the stories in The Bucket List Dare collection. My next release, Kayla’s Challenge (which comes out later this spring in the Coming Home collection) is a contemporary woman’s fiction, serving as the prequel to my next ranch/rodeo/cowboy romance series, Southern Challenge.

If you stay in one genre, are you locked forever?

Not necessarily, though some shifts are easier than others. For instance, someday I’d like to become a mystery writer. Mystery is my favorite genre, and I’ve tried to write it before but failed miserably. Still, I intend to try again.

So, here we go: right now, I write romance. I can toss a little mystery into the next romance novel I write making it a mystery-romance mashup; then the following novel could be a cozy mystery with no romance involved; then I’d follow with a regular mystery. Once I’ve done that, I could follow with suspense or thriller if I’d like.

I’d also like to try my hand at historical. Shifting from contemporary women’s fiction to historical women’s fiction is a matter of researching the era. Once I land in the genre I can write any historical piece I want.

I wouldn’t be locked in my new genre since I’ve already developed a readership in my old one. Some of those readers will follow me to mystery, but I can still write romance. In fact, I can write romance, mystery-romance, cozy mystery, and mystery, and be known in all of them, if I continue to produce a novel in each category, because I’ve developed a readership in each over time.

What do you write? What do you want to write? Can you find a natural progression from where you are to where you want to go? You can choose the slower route—progression—or you can follow any of the other avenues to becoming a multi-genre writer.

However, true wisdom is making the business decision to stay in one genre for a while. If you want to go the traditional route, it helps you get published. But if you’re going indie, then—believe me—it’s fun to watch those numbers climb when you stick to one genre and grow your reputation as a writer.

Whatever you decide, keep writing!

Posted in The Business, write tips, Writing, Writing Tips | Tagged , , | 18 Comments

Want to be a Team Member?

elizabeth-quote

Elizabeth hasn’t been a member of my team for very long. She was so quiet, I wondered if she had actually joined. Then she wrote that she’d been reading through all the posts and was “in awe.”

Made me feel good.

My group, the Caffeine Dream Team, is amazing. I bounce ideas off of them, get them to read scenes or chapters for their feedback, have them edit and proofread for me—whatever I need, they’re there to help me. They also help me with promotions during ad campaigns, which alone is worth my undying gratitude. They see everything first, know everything first, and learn things about me that I share with no one else in cyberspace.

If you’re a writer, getting a team—what’s been dubbed a “street team”—is a must. Teams are composed of people who are dedicated to you and your work. They’re enthusiastic, supportive, and encouraging. This job is hard, marketing is a challenge. Having a team eases the burden.

My team is by invitation only, and it’s composed of those who have read at least one of my novels. That’s the only real requirement; being a lover of caffeinated beverages is optional. Do you qualify? Are you interested? Let me know. I’d love to have you on my team!

Posted in Promotion/Publicity/Marketing, The Business | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Especially for Writers

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Posted in Authors, write tips, Writing, Writing Tips | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

Coming Home: a Tiny House Collection

I’m in another novella collection with my ACFW critique group, the Penwrights, Coming Home: a Tiny House Collection. We’re excited about it and have had so much fun doing it that we’ve come up with a logo so we can publish a collection once or twice a year:

penwright-publishing-logo

Penwright Publishing. Cool, right?

Now to show you our new cover, designed by the incomparable Ken Raney:

Tiny House Collection small

I really like the image. Most associate tiny houses with the boxy-looking things that are intended to ride on trailers, and those are cool too. But some of our stories involve tiny houses that are built on concrete slabs. I found the cutest possible one for Kayla Mullins in Kayla’s Challenge:

kaylas-tiny-house

I love this enchanting Tudor so much, I wouldn’t mind living in it. It’s 300 square feet, but I think I could make it do. I wrote houseplans.com, hoping to get permission to use the image, but they never responded. When Kayla’s Challenge comes out in my novella collection (after it’s run its course with the Coming Home collection), I hope to use it as a cover image.

The collection doesn’t come out until May, but I’m so stoked! I’ve read several of the stories already, and I can promise you, this will be a great collection of romance and women’s fiction. You’re gonna love it!

Posted in Coming Home: a Tiny House Collection | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

A Verse for Christian Fiction Writers

Rm 1:5 verse

As Christian fiction authors, we have a job to do: to bring about the obedience of faith throughout the nations. The way we do that is to illustrate Christian principles in action through the stories we write. This is our calling and our worship.

As believers, we approach both personal and universal problems from a Christian perspective; so whenever we’re presenting human frailty and folly, we’re to have in mind a scriptural solution. This is what makes “Christian Fiction” Christian; it’s what makes our works different from everyone else’s.

Does this mean that our works must be chock-full of sunshine and daisies? Of course not. Granted, I’ve seen reviewers who ding authors for presenting anything other than Phillipians 4:8-worthy stories. These stories are necessary, too. The world doesn’t offer the kinds of things we’re to meditate on, so we must create them.

But those aren’t the only forms of Christian fiction we can present. We can, and many do, present life with all its dirty, gray, and sometimes downright black realities. Hard times come, sins and temptations abound, life is crazy and confusing. Because we study the craft, we are equipped to write about such things, and because we study the Bible, we are equipped to lead others out of the darkness into the light. And because we get tempted and fail and sin and repent and return to our “first love” over and over—because we live—we are uniquely qualified.

Faith authors aren’t to skirt the issues, but to present them boldly, then illustrate God’s way, His glory—His light in the darkness. Whatever the plot, whatever conflict and challenge the character faces, when we settle it all with scriptural precepts, we are offering alternatives to the world’s way of responding to the same set of circumstances. That’s our job.

Let’s be fearless in obedience to our calling.

 

 

 

 

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Especially for Writers

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Posted in Authors, Writing | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Taxes! Bah Humbug!

Debt.It’s time. Our appointment is next Monday, and I’m scrambling like a madwoman to figure out income and deductibles from my writing/editing/speaking business. And while I pop Tylenol regularly and wear my pencils to nubs, I fuss at myself. This would be so much easier if I could discipline myself to be a better record keeper during the year.

I’m like a thousand other authors out there. I just wanna write (insert teary whine). I don’t want to deal with marketing and promotions, pricing and distribution strategies, and record-keeping and accounting. Don’t wanna. However—and again, like a thousand other authors—I can’t afford to have someone do it all for me.

Who knows why I put things off the way I do, but now I’m sitting before a mound of papers trying to figure out what that purchase was for, who this group is, and what-is-this-and-is-it-deductible?

Did you know, for instance, that some of the folks you purchase things from charge you under a different name than the one you think you’re doing business with? I have a recurring charge from Canada. Canada! I was paying an entire nation for something I didn’t recognize until I dropped everything today and spent an hour digging around. It was legit, it was deductible—but why couldn’t the company just call itself SocialOomph?

Doesn’t matter now, I guess. I don’t use it anymore.

By the way, when you order your books, keep in mind that the order of the books themselves goes under “inventory,” but the shipping and handling don’t. So, if like me, you have a payment to CreateSpace, or whoever, on your credit card, realize that this is for the entire amount, and if, unlike me, you’ve done a good job keeping records, or at least receipts, you know how much you paid for the books and how much you paid for S&H—which is deductible, but doesn’t go under “inventory.”

Do you travel with your job? Keep up with mileage and such? Do the gymnastics required to deduct all that? I don’t. Considering I’m as likely to be in MSB’s pickup as I am to be in my sedan, there’s no point trying. But we deduct hotels and meals. I can see it now:

Mr. IRS Auditor: “I see you’re deducting hotel expenses and meals in Houston, Tyler, Texarkana, Nashville, Hearne, Georgetown, but you’re not deducting any actual travel expenses. How did you get to these cities?”

Me: “Angel wings.”

I don’t know that I’d be able to admit that, even if we did use just one vehicle for business, I can’t figure out how to deduct it. It’s a condition I have. A severe allergy to numbers. One of the symptoms is numerical dyslexia, which is the easiest to deal with. Another symptom is an intense, deep-seated, psychological denial of the fact that I’m in business now and I’m supposed to be dealing with numbers. I understand the “in business” part, it’s the other part that my brain blocks like a terrifying memory. Like I said, it’s a condition. There’s no cure.

So, here I am, scratching my head as I go through a year’s worth of credit card bills, PayPal statements, and receipts, and vowing—again—to do better this year than last.

Tevye was wrong. If I were a rich man (or woman), I’d hire an accountant. And a publicist.

And a maid . . .

 

Posted in Personal, The Business | Tagged , , , , , | 15 Comments

The 2017 Insanity

Dealing With EmailThis year has been so disorganized. Off-schedule. Odd.

For instance, I’m writing my Monday post at 4:30 p.m. CST instead of 5:00 a.m. CST. Last week, I didn’t have a post for Wednesday at all. I’ve neglected social media only partly because of all the socio-political meanness. The primary reason is that I can’t get organized.

And one of the reasons I can’t get organized is because I’ve been sleeping late. Well, late for me anyway. Take this morning. I got up at 7. Not bad for a normal person, but for someone accustomed to waking at 4 and having both my Bible study and the bulk of my cyberspace duties performed by 7, the time is way off and driving me nuts. I have no idea why my internal clock decided to betray me now. Once I got used to it, I liked waking at 4. Now I feel like half the day is wasted by the time the coffee finishes brewing.

Another reason for my disorganization falls into the category of “good news/bad news,” and requires a little background.

Those of you who know me and have kept up with this blog for a long time know about my battle with Crohn’s disease and my remission with the Humira injections. You also know that remission resulted in weight gain, and that I’ve been resolving almost annually to lose weight and exercise. And, almost annually, I have failed within the first two weeks of January. Don’t know whether I’ve confessed that before, but there ya go. Until recently, the best I could say about myself is that I’d stopped gaining.

This year, I got into something different through my church: FirstPlace4Health. It’s a holistic approach to a lifestyle change that reaches you spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically. I tend to focus on the spiritual through the Bible study and the physical through the diet (that I’m not supposed to call a diet, but hey—we watch calorie intake and portion size and measure our food. If it walks like a duck . . .).

The best aspect about this approach is the accountability. Each week, I’m weighed and required to recite our memory verse, then attend a class on healthy eating, followed by a weekly Bible study recap of our morning studies. I even have a prayer partner who knows exactly what I’m going through.

The downside is that all this has a bit of a learning curve. One of the reasons I’ve never been successful at dieting is because I don’t know how. I’ve never had to. But it’s amazing how much weight you can gain when you’re healthy enough to retain all those calories you consume. I’ve enjoyed learning everything I’ve learned so far and I’ve enjoyed revamping some of my recipes to make them healthier. However, it’s amazingly time-consuming, and it’s taking the place of other things—like writing.

Not everyone who reads this today—if they get this far—is going to care that I’m doing remarkably well on this “diet,” or that I don’t have too much farther to go to reach my goal, or that this is the longest I’ve ever kept a resolution (one of those New Year’s things I never admit to making). But if you’re wondering why my posts have been haphazard of late, well, now you know.

Despite my new hours and my outside interests, I hope to figure out how my schedule is going to work in 2017. I won’t have Ride to the Altar written by my self-imposed deadline  if I can’t concentrate on writing, so I’m praying I get all this figured out soon.

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Especially for Writers

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