Recently I read through a bunch of novels to judge for the RITA contest sponsored by Romance Writers of America. Out of the 7 books sent me, I truly liked only one. That’s not to say I didn’t attempt to be fair and to objectively evaluate the others according to the supplied criteria. But only one out of the seven books appealed to my taste as a reader.
This exercise made me realize what I like about my favorite genres, and also what factors I don’t like that will make me put aside a book.
No plot: In many of these romances, the romance portion was beautifully done but not much else happened. Reading page after page of angst and relationship problems quickly lost my interest. Now keep in mind that my cup of tea may be your cup of coffee. You may be an avid fan of contemporary romance and love these types of stories. I am not.
I like adventure, danger, and intrigue along with my romance. Or at the very least, I like something to be happening other than the emotional rollercoaster of the main couple. My taste runs to historicals, scifi/fantasy, and paranormals. That’s why romance can delight everyone. Different subgenres broaden the appeal.
Of course, the opposite problem can also be a deterrent: too much plot and not enough emotion. Haven’t you read stories where you don’t get a feel for the people? The action keeps moving along but you want more reaction? Balance is the key.
Graphic Language: Erotica may be a hot selling genre, but I don’t get off on the f-word or other graphically depicted details. You don’t even need a plot when these people are in bed for most of story. Or they’re thinking of doing it. Where’s the falling in love when two people are hot to trot right from the start? I’d be happier with a Jane Austen novel.
Contemporary Settings: I like to escape reality when I read, hence I prefer historical romance or futuristic/scifi/fantasy settings, or a contemporary setting with a paranormal element. My reading pleasure is focused on escape and entertainment, not enlightenment on heavy issues or a rehash of societal woes. All stories reflect on society in some manner. I prefer my tales Star Trek style, i.e. in disguised parallels to humanity’s foibles. As for location, Texas doesn’t draw me in although it seems to be a favorite among readers.
Unlikeable Characters: If the people are too far out from what’s normal for me, too eclectic or weird or damaged or tortured, I am apt to not be engaged. I want people I can admire and aspire to be like, not whom are unpleasant so that I can’t wait for the story to end.
So if these were the main things I disliked, what do I look for in a story? You may ask yourself the same thing. What draws you to a certain type of writing? A certain genre or a time period?
Out of Time/Place/Experience: As I said above, I like to escape the toils of daily living, and so historical settings or futuristic/fantasy stories appeal to me. Ditto these elements or a paranormal angle in a modern setting.
Humor: I’m a sucker for humor. In any kind of story, if you make me smile, I’m more likely to keep reading.
Strong Plot: I want something to matter other than the relationship. Let the main couple race to find an artifact, missing sister, stolen chalice, spear of Atlantis, or anything that adds suspense. Throw them into situations that make me turn the page.
Archetypes: While I’m not fond of reunion stories, I do like hidden identity, royalty, rags to riches, and certain other archetypes. Some of these turn me off, like cowboys. What about you?
Mystery: A smidgen of mystery, even about a character’s background, adds tension. If you know everything up front and the characters like each other right away, where’s the story going?
Now that I’ve finished the books I had to read, I can’t wait to dive into my TBR pile. Adventure, romance, fantasy, mystery, scifi—here I come.
So what kind of stories do you gravitate toward and which types do you generally avoid? How much will you read before you put a book down?
So many good books to read, not enough time! Especially now with all the titles loaded onto my Kindle plus the books overflowing our shelves at home, I wish I had more time to lie on the couch and read. Still, I’ve managed to get through the below titles in the past few months. I’m sharing them with you in case you’re in a quandary as to what to read next—besides those listed in the sidebar to your right. There’s nothing like a good book to transport you to a magic place, whether past, present or future, and immerse your mind in another world.
DEATH OF A SCHOOLGIRL by Joanna Campbell Slan (Historical Mystery)
This debut title in The Jane Eyre Chronicles will charm you into wanting to read more. Jane is now married to Mr. Rochester. She enjoys an elevated status in society and has given birth to a son. However, she leaves the comfort of home when a mysterious message arrives from her husband’s ward, young Adele Varens. The frightening missive indicates the girl’s life may be in danger. Jane travels to the child’s school where she is mistaken for a new teacher. With the help of an old friend who recognizes her, she goes undercover to catch a killer. Someone has murdered Selina Biltmore, one of the superintendent’s favorites. As Jane gets to know Selina’s classmates along with the house staff, she notes a wealth of suspects. The victim may have appeared a cherub, but she hid a dark side. Jane has to catch the killer fast if she wants to save Adele from harm and prevent an innocent teacher from getting the blame.
Death of a Schoolgirl will immerse you in Jane’s world, and you’ll be sorry to see the story end. I’m eager for the next installment in this delightful series.
THE FIRST CONFESSOR by Terry Goodkind (Fantasy)
This prequel to Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series features Magda Searus, widow of First Wizard Barracus. Magda senses something isn’t right about her husband’s death. Her investigation leads her to a dark conspiracy, a threat to the Wizard’s Keep and to the very fabric of life itself. The undead play a role in this captivating tale. I enjoyed reading how Magda became the first Confessor and how the Sword of Truth was created. It’s a true origin story and Goodkind’s initial venture into digital first publishing. I love his writing and can’t wait for the next installment in his fantasy world, whether it’s another prequel or a sequel. His exquisite attention to detail and to character depth and the fast-paced action will pull you into the story, and you won’t want it to end.
104 PUZZLE QUIZZES HD by the Grabarchuk Family
If you’re looking for a diversion when waiting in a doctor’s office or on a trip, download this puzzle book into your eReader device. Dozens of puzzles await your pleasure: mathematical, geometry, words, spatial, logic, and more. It’s a fun challenge to see if you can solve these brain teasers. You can download the book onto your Kindle or iPad. It’s very easy to operate with an iPad. You touch the responses to see if you have the correct answer. Navigation is a breeze on this device and do-able on the Kindle as well.
It’s a great book to have available when you want a quick puzzle fix or need to kill time. If you like brain challenges, add this book to your collection.
SUNRISE ON THE MEDITERRANEAN by Suzanne Frank (Historical Novel)
Time Travelers Chloe and Cheftu end up in the Biblical era of King David and the birth of Jerusalem. Mistaken for a mermaid goddess then captured as a slave, Chloe eventually ends up as a trusted advisor in King David’s court along with her husband Cheftu, appointed court scribe.
Old enemies aren’t far behind, and our heroes must prevent a plan that would destroy the holy city. And when they succeed, they’ll face a choice. Chloe can’t return to her own time, so will they stay in this era or move on?
WHY MERMAIDS SING by C.S. Harris(Historical Mystery)
Lord Devlin once again gets embroiled in a series of tragic murders. This time young men—the sons of prominent noblemen—are found dead and their bodies mutilated. Clues point to a sea voyage their parents had in common. What happened on that ship that is driving someone to make a statement in such a gruesome fashion? As Lord Devlin rushes to find the killer, he arouses someone’s interest and soon becomes a target himself. The secret of that voyage is one that people will kill to keep, even if it means sacrificing their own children. Can Lord Devlin save himself and track the murderer before more young people die? And can he hang onto the love of his life, actress Kat Boleyn, who gets herself immersed deeper into intrigue and her own danger? This captivating mystery will have you reaching for the sequel.
A NECESSARY HUSBAND by Debra Mullins(Historical Romance)
Lucinda Devering’s future rides on the success of her protégée, young Meg Lynch. The Duke of Raynewood has hired Lucinda to train his American granddaughter to fit in with the nobility and position due her as a lady. However, Meg’s sea captain brother shows up with other plans. He wants to take Meg home to Boston but delays their voyage at his sister’s pleas. In the meantime, the Duke instructs Lucinda to tame this ruffian who is his only heir. Can Lucinda accomplish this difficult task when Garrett Lynch makes her heart beat faster and her hidden desires flare into life? Garrett finds himself drawn to his sister’s mentor against his will. He doesn’t want to like this life in England or take his role as Lord Kelton. But the longer he stays, the deeper the danger that Lucinda will tempt him to remain.
HEART FATE by Robin D. Owens(Fantasy Romance)
Lahsin Yew escapes from an abusive husband into a hidden sanctuary where she seeks peace and her Second Passage to acquire the magic known as Flair. But she’s not the only resident in BalmHeal. Tinne Holly is there, too, allowed inside only because he’s anguished over his divorce. Both emotionally wounded by broken relationships, they are drawn together by their unacknowledged Heart bond. Will they be able to reconcile their pasts in order to move ahead into the future? With Lahsin wary of men, Tinne has to approach her carefully even as his heart yearns for her. Forbidden by law to mention their connection, he can only hope that time will heal them both so they can be together. But when Lahsin learns the truth, will she turn away from him? Excellent world building and likeable characters will pull you into this imaginative tale.
ARK ANGEL by Anthony Horowitz(Teen Spy Fiction)
Teen spy Alex Rider is recovering from a gunshot wound in a private hospital when thugs burst in meaning to kidnap the boy in the next room. Wanting to protect the son of wealthy Nikolai Drevin, Alex takes his place. The bad guys, who don’t know one kid from another, forcibly take Alex to a deserted warehouse. There they await a response to their ransom demands. But Alex isn’t one to sit idly by, especially when the thugs threaten to cut off one of his fingers and send it to Drevin as proof they have his son. To forestall the horrendous act, Alex reveals his true identity and learns that the gang belongs to the terrorist group, Force Three. He manages a harrowing escape after the terrorists lock him up and set fire to the deserted building.
In gratitude to Alex for saving his son from a traumatic ordeal, Drevin invites Alex for a holiday on a private island in the Caribbean. Drevin’s space station is set to become the first hotel in space. But is that all Drevin plans? Engaged by both MI6 and the CIA, Alex attempts to discover Drevin’s secrets while pretending to be his son’s friend and an honored guest. His visit quickly turns dangerous as the Force Three gang shows up and Alex becomes the hunted instead of the hunter.
Another rousing episode in the Alex Rider series, this story is just as fast-paced and exciting as the rest. It’s pure escapism at heart.
WHEN GODS DIE by C.S. Harris (Historical Mystery)
Viscount Devlin is once again tapped to use his unique sleuthing abilities to discover who has murdered the Marchioness of Anglessey. Is it the Prince Regent, who is caught with her body nearly in her arms? Or is it one of the prince’s political enemies who seeks to discredit him and put another claimant on the throne? Or is it the lady’s husband, jealous because she took a younger lover? Or maybe it’s the lover, whom she cast aside?
Lots of suspects abound in this intriguing mystery set in 1800’s London. Amid a deepening conspiracy, Devlin seeks justice and determines to find the killer. The stakes rise as traitors in high places attempt to silence him. Detailed settings and a dashing hero will have you seeking the next book in this engaging series.
SHIP OF DREAMS by Brenda Hiatt (Historical Romance)
Della, a medicinal herbalist, escapes from a possible murder charge in San Francisco onto a cruise liner headed to Panama and eventually the States. Needing a quick disguise, she proclaims a stranger onboard to be her husband. For reasons of his own, he plays along until the ship sails and he gets her alone in his cabin. When she reveals her ruse, he explains that he needs a wife for business purposes. They agree to an arrangement but their fake marriage soon changes into deep affection. Their marriage becomes real when the ship’s captain performs a secret ceremony.
Unfortunately, their wedded bliss is cut short when the ship founders in a storm and sinks. The two are separated, and she believes her husband to be dead. She makes her way to the eastern U.S. to meet his family, where she is not very welcome. She’s about to run away when her husband turns up, alive and well. Will their troubled start allow them to settle down, or are they each better off on their own? This heartwarming romance, along with vivid scenes of a shipwreck based on true stories, will keep you turning pages.
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I am addicted to books. I’ll confess right now that I can’t go anywhere without a book. The format doesn’t matter. Kindle, iPad, or tree-based physical books will all serve the purpose. You’ll find books in my car, in the bathroom, in the bedroom and the den. Sometimes I’ll read three at once, usually in different genres. But as my Amazon wish list grows longer, so do the piles of books in our house. We have crates of them spilling over into every room.
Some books I’ve gathered at conferences, others in goodie bags at various book events. Some authors have sent me their work for endorsements. And of course I have to buy the books my friends write. Then there are my favorite authors and new writers to try. So many good books to read, not enough time!
You say I can save space if I give up the physical tomes and settle for digital? The futurist in me fears an electromagnetic surge/weapon/solar flare that will knock out our electronics. Where would I be then without a paper book to hold?
No matter what format books take in the future, I can’t live without them. I need a story to transport me to other places and other times, to experience adventures I’ll never have in my lifetime, and to learn about different ways of life and people. Storytelling lies at the root of the human experience. Even if the delivery methods change, the need for this form of expression will not go away. So join me, and read a book today!
“Brainstorming on the Beach” Conference with Novelists, Inc.
Here are my notes, keeping in mind this is what I heard and my interpretation.
Lou Aronica, Publisher, The Story Plant
Donna Hayes, Publisher and CEO, Harlequin Enterprises
Al Zuckerman, Literary Agent and Founder of Writers House
Carolyn Pittis, Senior VP, Global Author Services, HarperCollins
Heather Graham, NYT Bestselling Author
Alan Kaufman, Literary Attorney
Loriana Sacilotto, Executive VP, Editorial & Global Strategy, Harlequin Enterprises
Angela James, Executive Editor, Carina Press
“Publishers are moving toward digital publishing because consumers want it.” Ereaders will be hot over the holidays.
A digital world offers no returns, no print production, and a different distribution avenue. It’s a very big opportunity for writers and publishers. Genre readers have adapted to the technology faster than others.
Neilsen Bookscan (if I got this right) reported $40.6 million eBook sales in one month. The Kindle is responsible for this explosion.
The competition, i.e. B&N, Borders, Amazon, and Google, are growing awareness of this product. What will really shake things up will be Smartphones. This is the next big opportunity. People who don’t own dedicated eReaders will have global Smartphones. Even eReaders may disappear in favor of these devices. The deciding factor is how long brick and mortar stores stay open.
See this article “Verizon Wireless Brings Kindle Experience to Android Smartphones and Other Devices” at http://bit.ly/9LypQG
Lou: He doesn’t distinguish between print or eBook writers and publishing houses re prestige. Readers want interaction with writers. You must connect in some significant way with your readers. The only way you can stand out from the pack is to market yourself, no matter the publisher or the format.
Regarding whether you should self-publish or go with an epub, Lou reminds you that epubs can manage the different streams of income. Convenience is a major factor to going with an epub for now. If eBook sales equivocate to print sales, perhaps these epubs should begin offering advances.
Print publishers have to set up a new infrastructure while maintaining their legacy print operation, but there may be casualties as their margins are very small.
Angela: Digital first authors may choose to go with an epub because they want to write something different or they want to start out in a smaller market. It doesn’t mean they’ve been rejected by the major houses as many perceive it.
“You don’t want to just publish a book. You want a career.” Authors are small business owners and have to market themselves.
Carolyn: How do pubs and authors collaborate together as partners in a new business model to sell more books? The major houses have to figure out how to reduce costs on the print side while increasing their investment in digital. Readers care about what reviewers think and what their own friends like. They care about a good story. She believes too much technology (i.e. enhanced eBooks) may interfere with this experience, at least for fiction. It might work better for nonfiction.
Alan believes things may look similar in five years if the general trade publishers acquire the eBook publishing houses. Then those pubs may in turn be acquired by Google.
“Publishers act as gatekeepers. This is their most important function. If they aren’t around to do that, who knows what’ll be out there?”
Harlequin is already ahead of the game because it has Carina Press. Angela says other issues like DRM and pricing will change the landscape.
Other issues mentioned in the panel were consumer pricing and the strong trend toward price reduction, demographics and the behavior of younger readers and their purchasing habits, and the foreign market which is hungry for content.
Books on Tape, Large Print Books, Book Club Selections, Digital Editions…Are you aware authors may have split these rights with their publishers, meaning the publisher has to pursue them? Readers often ask me why I don’t put my books into audio or why they aren’t available for a book club choice through the mail. I have to explain that it’s up to my publisher to obtain these deals. Unless my agent retains 100% of these rights in my contract, I don’t have any say in this matter. And our retaining these rights isn’t always the best choice.
Publishers deal in volume and have more widespread contacts, so they may be in a better position to sublicense those rights. Sometimes that means they’ll push their favorite authors or their bestsellers and the rest of us midlisters get dreck, but there isn’t anything we can do about it. Don’t you think all authors would love to see their books on audio, made into a film, or available to book clubs nationwide? And even if we could pitch them ourselves, not all of us have the skill or the connections. A bigger agency with a subrights division could do it, but they’d probably be interested in the same thing as the publisher: push their bestselling authors. And there’s a reason for that. I once queried an audio publisher myself. Their response: they only take on bestselling novels. So it’s a self-perpetuating issue.
What can you as a reader do about it? Write to the author’s publisher about how much you’d like the book in xxx format. Put up good reviews on all the online reader sites. Hand out the author’s bookmarks to your friends, libraries, and local reading groups. Suggest their book as your local book club selection. And keep buying the author’s newest release or insist that your librarian order it. It’s the sales figures that count. So if it takes a bestseller to obtain subrights, who else to better help the author get there than her fans?
Novelists, Inc. members include multi-published authors of all genres of popular fiction. Ninc has just begun a new newsletter, NINC BLAST, which includes information about our authors’ new and upcoming releases, as well as a “Did you know?” feature with tantalizing, little-known factoids about some of your favorite authors. To subscribe to NINC BLAST, please go to our Website: http://ninc.com/ Then scroll down to the middle of the screen, where it says, “Let NINC BLAST you. ” Simply click on the pale blue envelope, then follow the protocols.
In a romance, the Big Dark Moment is the crucial juncture when all seems lost between the hero and heroine. He stomps away and she strides in the opposite direction, and it seems as though they will never be together again. How can they overcome their insurmountable obstacles? Will love triumph in the end?
Of course it will. The prerequisite for a romance is the HEA (Happy Ever After) ending. But for this HEA to have emotional impact, our characters first must experience the painful Big Dark Moment when their relationship seems hopeless.
Tossing a cog in the story wheel isn’t the way to go about it. This confrontation must arise naturally from the character’s internal conflicts. Take Paz and Jen from my WIP.
Jen is a fashion designer who looks as svelte as her models. For years, she struggled for parental approval. Growing up in a wealthy family, she internalized her mother’s superficial values that appearance matters. But she yearns for a man who can appreciate her for herself and not for her looks or money.
Drift Lord warrior Paz Hadar isn’t the rich businessman she’d expected to snag, but he brings out her strength and resourcefulness and admires her bravery. Yet when she tries to discuss their future together, he clams up. He’s planned for nothing beyond this mission, and so she figures he’ll leave her in the end. Paz, in turn, gets angry when she pushes him for his plans, believing she can’t accept him for the person he is and wants to mold him into the ideal man. And if he’s not good enough for her, forget it. And so he stomps off. Jen feels he doesn’t care enough about her feelings to truly confide in him.
Thus they go their separate ways, until each one realizes how much they need the other. But by then, Paz seeks to prove himself by attacking the enemy all on his own. Jen rushes to his side, but it’s too late. He’s been…well, we don’t want to give the story away.
Action and reaction propels the story forward, leading to the Big Dark Moment and the final confrontation with the villain. And when Paz and Jen finally commit to each other as we know they will, we’ll heave a deep sigh of satisfaction. Sour before sweet, despair before joy. It makes the ending all the more Happy Ever After.