KAREN HAWKINS SPEAKS

NY Times bestselling author Karen Hawkins offered her advice this morning at the Florida Romance Writers meeting. Here are some of the guidelines she offered based on what she’s learned through the years as a professional writer.                           

  1. Don’t ignore the market unless you’re willing to wait for the market to swing around to what you want to write.  Write what you love and love the market, but stay true to your voice.  Find out where your voice will fit in the current marketplace.
  2. Don’t write for one editor. Write for the genre. Be broad enough so that your work has appeal.  (i.e. If you write to one editor’s tastes and she rejects your work, then where does that leave you?)
  3. Start a self-editing checklist.  If you’re hearing the same things over and over from contest feedback and critique partners, it’s time for you to listen.
  4. Treat writing as a business in terms of keeping ledgers, records of expenses, estimated tax payments, etc.
  5. You need at least four books in the same genre for readers to find you.  Don’t genre jump or jump on the new trend.  Every book you write should offer what readers expect from your brand.
  6. Be assertive. Stand up for yourself or get an agent who will do it for you. Don’t sell yourself short. There’s a lot more out there to ask for if you try.

We can learn from the mistakes other multi-published authors have made and the lessons they’ve learned, because we’ve all been down the same road at one time or another.

STORY PROCESS

STORY PROCESS

Writers who are plotters know what is supposed to happen going into a scene. At least, we know what we want to happen to our characters when they move from Point A to Point B. How they traverse that distance often comes as a Bookssurprise and may require a leap of faith.

For example, in my latest paranormal WIP, I entered a scene knowing what information my characters had to obtain. It seemed too easy. Were they just going to stroll into the lion’s den, get their scoop, and leave without opposition? Something bad had to happen. Haven’t we been taught to toss our characters into situations that test their mettle? So what could happen to them to throw them offguard?

Jennifer and Paz split up inside a fictional theme park in Hong Kong. Theme Parks are a key element in my paranormal series. What could be creepier than a happy place where everyone seems to be having a good time but something evil ferments below the surface? Both Paz and Jen each have an objective to accomplish. Starting with the heroine, she obtains the information she needs with relative ease. But just as she figures she’s got the goods and can leave, a ride attendant stops her. What ensues developed from the plot and my notes, but I hadn’t seen it coming. It introduces information important to the next books in the series and adds a new layer to the story. This twist was in my head all along. I just needed faith that the scene would carry forth the logic I’d built until now.

Ditto for the hero, who risks going deeper into bad guy territory to get what he needs. As I entered his viewpoint, I wondered how to complicate matters for him. Was Paz just going to jump in, collect his data, and leave so readily? Of course not! Yet I had not foreseen what would happen to him either. Just as it does with Jen, this twist ties in with later events.

I’ve blogged on Story Magic before, but these are perfect examples of how the blank page gets filled in via unexpected ways. It’s the writer’s subconscious at work, mulling over plot details, and these new twists pop up when we’re least expecting them. I thought of the heroine’s situation while driving in the car with my husband at the wheel (See Blog below about The Writer’s Mind). This is the glorious creative time when the story almost writes itself. Compare the plot outline or story synopsis to a skeleton. The creative process fills in the flesh on the bones.

Now if only I can figure out how Paz and Jen will free the dragon trapped in a cave.

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MOONLIGHT RHAPSODY

MOONLIGHT RHAPSODY is now available in digital format from Belgrave House.

I love the cover!  The colors are perfect and so is the couple.Moonlight Rhapsody

This story is book number two in my Light-Years futuristic series.

What is this paranormal romance about?

Disguised as a trader, Lord Rolf Cam’brii goes to the slave planet Souk on a secret mission to establish contact with the resistance. But his ship crashes during a storm and he’s taken prisoner. Maintaining his cover, he’s thrown into a slave labor camp where he catches the eye of the beautiful human female overseer, Ilyssa.

Ilyssa sees in him the chance to obtain her freedom. She possesses the gift of siren song wherein any male who hears her sing becomes mindwashed. The pasha Ruel uses her to tame his enemies, and he holds her parents hostage against her cooperation. She pleads with Rolf, a pilot, to help her. Entranced by her beauty and charm, he agrees, and they begin a trek to freedom. It’s a journey frought with perils, not in the least of which is their forbidden passion for each other. Ilyssa’s gift comes with a curse, and to follow her heart means to lose her lifelong dream.

The original edition of this book, published by Dorchester, was featured as a prop in the movie, View From The Top, starring Gwyneth Paltrow.  How cool is that?

 

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LAKE CO. FESTIVAL OF READING

The Lake County Library System holds a week-long reading festival each year. It must be the best attended library event in the state.  Friday night, March 19, found my husband and I along with 20 other authors at a delightful Author’s Reception in Leesburg Library. Leesburg doesn’t seem like a big town but the library is a two-story modern building with a café. While waiters circulated with canapes, we met library patrons, readers, staff members, and fellow writers. We had the opportunity to shmooze and hand out promo materials. It was a great event for mingling and getting to know everyone. I knew many faces: Agent and author Lucienne Diver from the Knight Agency, Authors Cynthia Thomason, Julie Compton, Dara Edmonson, Catherine Kean, Michelle Young, Dolores Wilson, Elizabeth Sinclair, Elaine Viets, Mark Schweizer, and more.                                                 
Nancy Cohen & Lucienne Diver

Nancy Cohen & Lucienne Diver

 
 
 

Nancy Cohen

Nancy at Reception

Cynthia Thomason, Elizabeth Sinclair, Delores Wilson

Cynthia Thomason, Elizabeth Sinclair, Delores Wilson

Dara Edmonson & Nancy Cohen

Dara Edmonson & Nancy Cohen

Elaine Viets

Mystery Author Elaine Viets

 

Julie Compton & Dara Edmonson

Julie Compton & Dara Edmonson

We crashed later that evening at the Holiday Inn Express in Tavares located on the tranquil Dead River. A quaint seafood restaurant, Fin’s, is nearby. It was about fifteen minutes away on 441 which was good, because my workshop started in the morning at nine o’clock back in Leesburg.

I spoke on How to Get Published: The Business of Writing. My talk covered the basics on manuscript preparation, query letters, synopsis, how to get an agent, the value of networking, contests and critique groups, self-editing, and more. We had about forty people in the audience and they asked good questions. I enjoyed speaking to such an enthusiastic crowd.

Nancy presents workshop

Nancy presents workshop

For a lunch break, my husband and I cruised 441 and settled on the Red Lobster. Then we headed back to the library for my afternoon session, a panel entitled “Murder, Love, and Laughter” with mystery authors Elaine Viets, Mark Schweizer, Elizabeth Sinclair, Delores Wilson, and Nancy J. Cohen.

Panel

Nancy, Mark, Elizabeth, Elaine, Delores

Nancy enjoys speaking to group

 

Kudos to Judy Buckland, Lake Co. Library System’s Program Coordinator, for a terrific turnout and a great event.  Thanks, also, to Raintree Books for selling our work.

And now for the plug: Support your local libraries! Take out books and DVDs, join Friends of the Libraries, attend their events. I can’t tell you how many readers have written to me to say they first discovered my mysteries on the library shelves. Libraries are more like media centers these days with videos, computers, even digital downloads. Take advantage of this public service and visit your local library. Hugs to all librarians!