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Posts Tagged ‘romantic suspense’

Killing Me Softly Cover2I just received this lovely email from a reader and I felt the need to share.

Dear Leisl,

You have done an intricate job in composing Killing Me Softly. I love how you brought those who suffered tragedy together to grow from each other’s weaknesses and unite.  Your words kept me wanting more. Wondering if Cat would ever push through, if Lexi would drop her barriers to Dameon’s love. You have strong characters with good souls. I look forward to reading more of your work when they come out.  Thank you for a wonderful read.

Thank you so much to the reader, Stephanie – you have made my day. I’m so glad you enjoyed Killing Me Softly. I really enjoyed writing it. I love Daemon and Alexi and their plights and it makes me so happy to hear when others connect with them too.

I was going to write a great and insightful piece on what I love about writing descriptions, but once again the brilliant Kristen Lamb has beaten me to it and has really hit the nail on the head.

I bow down in awe and wonder and freely put on my padawan hair tail once more – although, I don’t think I ever took it off, still being firmly in the learning process of this writing thing I do. I’m in the process of writing a new romantic suspense and re-editing Healer Moon and Seer’s Blood, so I will most definitely be keeping this in mind while doing that. No, ‘her black hair hung around her face’, or ‘she sat on the green chair in the corner’ for me. I will endeavour to be far more clever than that (note, I said endeavour. Perfection is a long long way away!)

I hope you enjoy her blog on descriptions as much as I did and get a huge amount out of it. If you get even a little inspiration and learn something, then my job here is done. 🙂

DarkMoon_coverThe last few months have been a bit of a blur in regards to all the guest posts I’ve written for Dark Moon. It’s been fun looking at my novel and characters in different ways and answering a whole heap of questions about my process and where my ideas come from, but they are all a bit of a scramble in my mind. So, I was having a little look over some of them the other day and thought that some of them bore repeating. So I am going to share some of my favourites with you here. There will be a link to the original blog post if you’d like to go and look at the original blog post on the original blog site, but the main thrust of the blog will be below.

The first one was a blog I did for LoveCats Downunder. It isn’t really a blog about Dark Moon at all, but about my love of the romance genre and what it means to me and it was hugely cathartic to write. I hope you enjoy it too.

THE TIMES SHORT ROMANCE SAVED ME

I was writing a blog the other day about my love of paranormal and romantic suspense (the 2 genres I write in). It was titled ‘When Romance Isn’t Enough’ and was about my need for that third character in a romance book – the world building or the evil mastermind or killer who gets a look in. However, within that blog, I mentioned there were times when the romance alone was very much enough and it made me think there was a blog in that. So, here I am at the Lovecats where romance is front and centre.

You hear all the time the put-downs people have about romance books, most especially short romance in what has been traditionally known as the category variety – what all the lovely and talented ladies here on Lovecats write. They often say those books are filled with predictable tropes, you already know the ending – they’re going to end up together – and the fact they are centred on two people falling in love sets unrealistic ideals for women.

Rubbish!

Cover of one of my favourite Georgette Heyer books.

Cover of one of my favourite Georgette Heyer books.

Those people are talking out of their you-know-whats. They fail to understand that the people who write, read and love those novels (people like me and you and the Lovecats) actually want those things. We want to know the hero and heroine are going to get together at the end – the suspense is in how the author will get them there when there’s so many obstacles in the way. In regards to the tropes, it’s said there are only 7 true story types, so how can you write anything but a trope if this is true? But even if it isn’t, we still want the tropes. They are comforting and fun and not predictable at all in the hands of a clever writer who can twist and bend them into a pretzel and then say to their characters, ‘Get out of that one! Ha!’

And the fact that the books are centred on two people falling in love is not setting unrealistic ideals for women. Women aren’t stupid. We know they are the fantastical end of reality. But we want that fantastical end for just a little while in amongst the chaos that is the modern woman’s life. Those romances, the tropes, the predictable endings, they all saved my sanity time and again throughout my life.

I first really started to get into reading category romance when I was in VCE. I like to read before going to bed – it’s part of my ‘go to sleep’ routine. When my eyes were practically popping out of my head from the study grind and I was feeling more stressed than VCE alone was culpable for (my VCE year was filled with personal stresses I won’t go into here suffice to say, it was amazing I even turned up at times and got through the year). My Nanna gave me some of her favourite Nora Roberts category novels and a bunch of others too, because she thought they’d be good to read at the end of a hard day when my mind was too busy for my usual diet of fantasy books. Boy, was she right.

I inhaled those books like they were lollies – a special candy made up of whizz fizz and popping candy put together with a dollop of strawberry chuppa-chups and chocolate on the side. They were bright and sparkly and always made me feel special and cheery at the end (but kind of sad, in a good way, because I didn’t want to leave those characters there.) Those books got me through some very hard times during that year.

The book that got me into Romantic Suspense

The book that got me into Romantic Suspense

They were the bright in the dark, and to this day, Nora Roberts is one of my favourite authors.

This trend continued throughout university when I was doing a double major in English and Drama and was reading great thick books from Chaucer, Thackery, Austen and Shakespeare through to Alice Munro and Margaret Attwood, not to mention plays like Hedder Gabler, The Caucasian Chalk Circle and Waiting for Godot – heavy stuff. I would put down the heavy at the end of the day and sink into the delights of a romance, full of its twisty-turny pretzel-shaped tropes and delight in the triumph of both author and characters when they finally got their happy ever after. I continued with this trend after I finished uni – whenever the stresses of life were getting to me, I picked up a new category and off I went; an instant sanity refresher!

Years later when I began to write after giving up the theatre world to have a family, I tried my hand at these ‘simple’ romances I loved, only to find that they are not so simple to write. I failed at writing them (had some great ideas, but I just couldn’t manage to keep that third character out of the room!) and had to wave my career as a famous category writer good-bye.

I turned instead to the other genres I love to read – paranormal and fantasy and romantic suspense – and have succeeded in starting to carve a little career for myself in these. But I tip my cap in awe to the authors who manage to wrestle their story into the pages of a category romance and manage to come up with an enticing, sparkly read with that ‘aahh’ feeling at the end. You ladies saved my sanity (you’re still doing it) and I thank you from the bottom of my filled-with-romance heart.

 

branded_katie_hamstead (2)

This seems to be the week of hosting other authors on my blog – but that’s okay. It’s fun and interesting to meet new people and hear about their world and about the thing that makes them part of my bigger family – the family of those of us who write.

Today, I have Katie Hamstead’s here to tell us a little bit about writing on a controversial subject and how she managed to create balance in her novel, Branded.

Take it away Katie.

Writing About Sensitive Issues

Branded touches on controversial issues, but I never intended it be a statement of any kind. While planning who the invaders could be, I wanted to make it something believable. With the way the world is, I had one clear option; extremist Muslim terrorist groups. Now I am far from a person who hates groups of people from any race, religion, or culture. I believe every group has unique individuals who are good as well as bad. So I didn’t want it coming across as Muslim hate.

When you first meet the antagonist, the General, he is hard and brutal, justifying all his actions by what he believes as centuries of persecution. I knew if I wanted to make him the “big bad guy” I needed someone who could counter that and create a balance.

brandedHighResEnter Nick. Nick is a Muslim, a gentle, peaceful Muslim. He doesn’t believe in the invaders’ cause, but goes along with it so he and his family don’t get killed. But he helps Ali and doesn’t want to kill anyone because he had non-Muslim friends growing up. Nick is meant to be everything the General isn’t, creating balance in the story. Because of him, Ali doesn’t learn to hate anyone except the General. Nick shows her that groups of people vary widely and individuals have the ability to make things better and can oppose the greater force.

I believe, when touching on sensitive issues like this, it is important to create this counter balance. I don’t want to provoke controversy or hate, so characters like Nick are crucial to adding an honest depth.

***

Thanks for that, Katie. It’s a very intersting perspective on a hard topic to encompass and I wish you all the best with your new novel.

About the Branded:

Terrorists have invaded Sydney, and Allison King barely escapes her brother’s wedding reception alive. She and her siblings flee, but their parents are killed by firing squad.

Now Ali’s on the run and terrified. While searching for other survivors, she is captured by the General who leads the invasion. He’s smitten by Ali, and when she refuses to submit to his whims, he brands her for death. In a wild act of defiance, she snatches the branding rod and sears the mark onto his face. Marking not only him but also sealing her fate. Ali manages to escape and flees into the bush once more where she finds a group in hiding. Even with the scars left by the General, Ali learns to love and falls in love with the young man who found her—Damien Rogers.

But the General is hunting her. When he discovers their location, and finds her with another man—Damien—his wrath is kindled and his obsession is inflamed. Ali must put herself on the line or the General could kill her family, those who help her, and most significantly, the man she loves.

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17973222-branded

katie-teller-author-photo-2-3About the Author:

Born and raised in Australia, Katie’s early years of day dreaming in the “bush”, and having her father tell her wild bedtime stories, inspired her passion for writing.
After graduating High School, she became a foreign exchange student where she met a young man who several years later she married. Now she lives in Arizona with her husband, daughter and their dog.
She has a diploma in travel and tourism which helps inspire her writing. She is currently at school studying English and Creative Writing.
Katie loves to out sing her friends and family, play sports and be a good wife and mother. She now works as a Clerk with a lien company in Arizona to help support her family and her schooling. She loves to write, and takes the few spare moments in her day to work on her novels.

Blog: http://kjhstories.blogspot.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Katie-Hamsteads-Stories/247238178656484

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KatieTeller1

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6585259.Katie_Hamstead

 

It’s true what they say – what a difference a day makes. Except, I’d change that to say, What a difference a year makes.

I’ve read a bunch of blogs reflecting on the last year: reflecting on what they’d learned; looking at whether predictions they’d made about themselves, friends, family, their aspirations, their jobs, the world in general had come true; whether they’d reached personal or work goals or both; if things were better, worse, middling than they were at the start of last year. All the sorts of things that people making resolutions look at, but also things that people who have a goal of some sort make for themselves – the reflections on that at the end a kind of scorecard to let them figure out if they’ve won some, lost some, come even.

Triple Caramel Chunk - too yummy for words.

Triple Caramel Chunk – too yummy for words.

Now I’m not usually the kind of gal who makes resolutions – for me, they never really stick and are usually about things we have no control over whatsoever (will win Tattslotto this year) or that aren’t going to happen because we won’t make the change that will count (I want to lose 10 kg – right after I finish this Ben&Jerry’s Triple-Caramel-Chunk.)

But many people have already written blogs about this, so I won’t go on about it any further here and besides, that’s not what this blog is about.

In reading these blogs of people reflecting (something I try not to do too much of, because I do have a bit of an anal personality and I will do the whole loss and gains thing, always concentrating far too much on the losses than the gains) it made me think about the last year and the changes that have happened in my life.

On the surface, nothing much has changed.

My Happy Family

My Happy Family

I’m happily married with two gorgeous boys, one of who has ADHD and a Sensory Integration Disorder. This means there is a lot always going on there to make certain he has what he needs to make sense of his world and move forward in it in a positive way. The downs often outweigh the ups, so there is a constant struggle to try to even this out and find the best course ahead. Of course, in all of this, his brother can get lost, so I need to make certain the younger one gets plenty of my focus too – so it can be quite a juggling act, especially given my husband has a pretty full on job and so it is often just me a lot of the time. Nothing changed there.

I still work at the YMCA as a swimming teacher and customer service officer with a little bit of admin thrown in – something I enjoy, is ideal with hours for my family and have done for ten years. Nothing changed there.

I have a very close supportive relationship with my family and have a lot to do with them – there’s always family catch ups and birthdays and celebrations which is lovely. Nothing changed there.

I am a member of 2 writing groups, which I love, because it gives me much needed time out a couple of times a month. I’ve also made some really lovely friends in these groups, not to mention friends from outside writing who also provide much needed sources of support and time out. Nothing changed there.

I am still a member of RWA and do volunteer work for them in being a contest manager and competition judge. No. hold up. A little change here. Actually, a big one really. I am now on the Committee as Competition Coordinator – so a lot more work, but learning a lot too and gaining some more great friends and experiences, so the extra time suck is okay. A bit of a change there.

I am still a writer spending any moment I can in writing and learning about writing (hence why my desk looks like this…

My desk. Laptop usually sits in the middle.

My desk. Laptop usually sits in the middle.

while trying to get published (sound of a car screeching.) No. Hold up right there.

BIG CHANGE!!!!

And this is where that ‘What a difference a year makes’ thing comes into it – and where the reflection thing comes in, so hang in there. I am getting to my point in my own Billy Connelly kind of way.

So…

This time last year I was at a workshop with my friend, Chris Bell at Penguin Australia, listening to Alli Watts and Anne Gracie and Fiona McIntosh talk about popular fiction, the publisher’s approach and the writer’s approach. Carol George was there too, letting people know about the new digital enterprise Penguin had started which she was running with Sarah Fairhall. This was very interesting to me because I’d pitched to Carol at the RWA conference the previous August and she had asked to speak to me during the day about my work (I was also scheduled to pitch something to her too). I thought she was just going to let me down gently with a face-to-face ‘no’ – which she did. But that wasn’t all she wanted.

She wanted to speak with me about my writing. They loved my writing style and would be very interested in publishing my work if only I had something with a stronger romantic thread. They liked all the plot and character work I’d done on the one I’d pitched to her and they’d had lots of discussions about it, but the relationship between my protagonists was not ‘grown’ on the page. We did not spend time with them as they fell in love, she said. Did I have anything like that I could pitch to her?

I put aside my disappointment and focused on the possibilities ahead of me as I’d been doing for years and pitched her the paranormal I had just finished, even though it wasn’t quite ready to be sent out yet. She was interested, very interested, as long as the relationship grew on the page (this made me think and alarms and bells went off in my head later to be followed by a big lightbulb moment that had me trashing a bunch of chapters and rewriting a large chunk – but that is a blog for another time.) Then she asked me if I wrote anything else.

Now, if I’d been the same writer I’d been even a year before, one who was less likely to grab at chances, I might have answered differently. But I’d made a rare resolution the year before – this year was going to be the year of competitions and building networks and trying to extend myself past what I was comfortable with, and given I hadn’t made that resolution until February, I was still in the ‘go get ‘em’ year.

And so I said, ‘I also have written romantic suspense’ even though as far as everyone had been telling me for years, romantic suspense was a hard sell (I’d experienced this myself over and over and so believed the sentiment wholeheartedly.) And this is where things changed for me.

Carol, who had been very interested in everything I’d had to say and encouraging and lovely, sat up, a big spark in her eye and said, ‘Romantic suspense? Really? We are very interested in romantic suspense. Do you have something you could pitch to me?’

For a moment my brain spun. I knew I did, but I hadn’t worked on any of them for at least 3 years, the last one, my favourite, having been dropped after too many times being told it wouldn’t sell because not only was it a romantic suspense, but the hero was a rock star. But, instead of saying, ‘no’, I grabbed a hold of my ‘go get ‘em’ self and pitched (probably the worst pitch I’ve ever done) that very novel.

My first published novel

My first published novel

And she liked it.

And, two months later, after I’d spent a month and a bit fixing it up and sending it in to them, I got ‘The Call’ – they wanted to publish Killing Me Softly (for my call story: http://www.leislleighton.com/?p=152

Since then, I’ve contracted another novel to them, (the paranormal I’d pitched at that same meeting – Dark Moon, due out in March this year) got myself an agent, (the lovely Alex Adsett) thrown myself into the world of social media, learned to deal with the ups and downs of reviews (much like contest results, mostly good with a few not so great – but you can’t please everyone!) and have endeavoured to blog more regularly with mixed success (there are only so many hours in my day and I do need to sleep.) There have been huge learning curves in regards to me learning about the publishing process – the first edits, second edits, copy edits and proof edits – how best (or better – I don’t claim to be any good at this yet, but I’m getting better) to approach the publicity thing – tour blogs, getting more reviews, give aways and any articles that you can drum up for yourself. I’ve learned from the amazing books and blogs of Kristen Lamb how to better structure my social media and how to build a platform by connecting with people on a personal level rather than trying to sell to them (a really useful and far more fun way of approaching this whole thing in my opinion.) I’ve met tonnes of new people and connected more effectively with ones I already know through all of this which has been fantastic. I’m still like a newborn though, whose brain can only take on so much at once but who will keep on learning and learning, because that’s what newborns do.

And that’s pretty much what I’ve got out of this year. So much the same, but so much different and all because I said ‘yes’ when I would normally have said ‘no’ because I was determined to do better at this writing thing I’m driven to do. And if I have a resolution from all of this reflecting on the past year, it’s that it’s the little things, those small changes you don’t see coming, that matter and that I will keep trying to do better. Not just because this is good for my writing, but because it’s good for myself, and my family. I will try to balance things as I’ve always done, but I will try to do it with more balance for myself, because one thing I’ve learned from this last year (among everything else that is!) – when I am happier with my own reflection, then everything else is better too. And I’m not talking about the outside appearance – something aging and time is always changing for both better and worse – but the person staring out of those greenish-grey eyes. The person who for so many years put everything else before her own desires and left them for last and decided a couple of years ago ‘no more’.

Some people might call that selfishness. I call it forward thinking. I mean – look what I did this last year! Who knows what I can do in the future? I don’t – but I sure as hell am interested in finding out.

Aren’t you?

 

 

I’ve just read this great post on Kristen Lamb’s blog about prioritising. She uses a great a great analogy about reaping and sowing that I won’t repeat here – if you’re interested, check out the brilliance directly here:

http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/2013/11/05/author-success-the-laws-of-sowing-reaping

I know for my own part I often struggle with prioritising. People think I’m so organised, but to use a swimming teacher analogy (I’m a swimming teacher in my other life, so I can use one if I want to), I often feel like I’m taking on water, panicking about everything I’ve got to do and struggling to breathe.

It doesn’t help that I keep on taking on extra responsibilities.

This year for instance I finally got my first book published, KillingMeSoftly_cover(romantic suspense novel, Killing Me Softly) have another one just recently contracted (Paranormal romance, Dark Moon – those edits will be arriving any day) and I’m trying to write a new book, redraft another one and all this while I raise my kids, do family things, see my friends so they don’t forget about me and I don’t turn into one of those Morlock creatures from The Time Machine

Morlock from The Time Machine 2002

Morlock from The Time Machine 2002

who live in the dark, are allergic to light and are serious social pariahs – they eat the good surface folk (sounds a bit like a zombie to me – great monsters for nightmares), as well as work all the hours I did before and work on building my author platform on social media (I’ll take a breath now!)

Not only that, I decided it would be a great idea to not only volunteer to be a contest manager for RWAustralia (something I’ve done for 4 years) but to agree to become the Contest Co-Ordinator and be on the committee – a great opportunity with fabulous avenues for personal development, learning and networking, but still a lot of extra work and burden in an already overburdenend life.

However, I will fit it in, because like so many women before me, I’m a super woman. Or, I’m expected to be. And I only need somewhere in the vacinity of 4 hours sleep per night – at least that’s what I’m telling myself at the moment.

Maybe I am already turning into one of the monsters I write about!

Anyway, I digress.

I am happy to do all of this right now (although more sleep would be good), because I know that if I work hard now, it will begin to pay off in the future. In small degrees to begin with, but slowly, it will build and I will see return on my investment. Hopefully.

No, negative part of me. I WILL see a return. A good one. A very good one.

And the reason I know this is true is becuase of what has come in the past. Because I know that prioritising is important, but sometimes it’s just as important to take on more than you think you can and go with it for a while.To ignore the little voice in the back of your head that tells you you’re going to fail. To laugh in the face of defeat and hopelessness – although the giddy slightly off-kilter sensation I get from little sleep probably helps with this! 🙂

I struggled for years to make myself put my writing first. It was too easy when other people in my life were treating it like some ‘funny little hobby Leisl has’, to treat it seriously myself. When you hear something so often, or feel the thought from others so often, it’s easy to believe it. I mean, my family were great about it, but it’s hard to see the benefit when there’s so much work and heartache and no real, grab it in your hand, visceral reward.

The only problem was, I HAD to write. There’s no choice for me. My brain is too busy and if I don’t write, it feels like it’s going to explode. Writing is my release. So, I eventually taught myself (a lesson I still have to keep learning) to speak positively about me as a writer and think positively about me as a writer. I began to tell people I am a writer and not physicaly cringing as I waited for their inevitable response (usually uncomfortable laughter that you could be so deluded, or incredulous disbelief).

My desk. Laptop usually sits in the middle.

My desk. Laptop usually sits in the middle.

I made myself a space in our house and told my family they weren’t to touch it, or sit there, or use my computer because it was mine and surely I am entitled to a small bit of space in my house that is my own? I fiercely guard that writing space and I guard my writing time. I prioritised my writing as being something important, put my head down and worked. Nothing much happened for a long time and then suddenly, in the last year, I saw evidence that all my hard work was paying off and I got a contract with Penguin Australia’s new digital imprint, Destiny Romance.

Now I’m reading books on social media and building a platform(Kristen Lamb’s ‘Rise of the Machines: Humans in a Digital World is especially good) because it’s not just enough to write and publish a book nowadays, you must build a platform and keep it afloat by being active and present and share. The sharing is easy for me because I’m a talker and story teller, but being active and present regularly is harder given I’m not a massively social person, not to mention all the time restraints. But I’m trying to prioritise to make it part of my life every day, just as my writing is part of my life every day – because they are all part of the whole, and funnily enough, I’m actually finding it fun. Connecting with people I don’t know or know only a little is cool.

I try to do social media at times that I won’t write – like in the afternoon when the kids are home from school and I write mostly when they’re not there in between work and picking them up, or early in the morning. I know that no amount of social media platform building will mean a damn if I don’t have another book coming.

And I do. (Dark Moon – contracted). And another (Healer Moon – first draft done). And another (Blood Moon – WIP).

Little Monsters

Little Monsters

It is always a juggle though with family and work and the volunteering I do for RWAustralia. But I’m trying to do it in a way that’s not going to drive me crazy and turn me into this:

I know I’m not always going to find that balance, but that I am working on that too and I know, like Kristen says in her blog, that I need to stay fluid with my priorities and try to figure out when enough is enough for some things. I think it is hard to admit that something has a use by date, particularly when we are used to it, or others are relying on us to do it, but use by dates are there for a reason and we should take note of them.

I have no idea what my use by dates will be or what they will refer to first, but I will try to be open to accepting them, because I am in this for the long haul (and I really don’t want to turn into a Zombie Morlock.)

What do you struggle with? Do you get to do the things you love or do they get pushed aside? What things have you had to put aside to make room for others?

Romance Writers of Australia