Category Archives: Voice

Harlequin’s Search for a Killer Voice

Announcing! The Search for a Killer Voice!

This is Katy Lee, and as many of you know, I sold to Love Inspired Suspense on one of their pitch contests. I have since gone on to sell two more books and hopefully many, many more to come. Seeing as I am a “success” with these contests, I can’t help but be a cheerleader for the latest and greatest contest, The Search for the Killer Voice. If you are an Inspirational Romantic Suspense writer, I do hope you will give it a shot and send your first page in.

Now, here are the details:

The Search for a Killer Voice photo

Love Inspired Suspense is on the search for some new superstar authors, and we want you! If you think you’ve got the chops to wow us with your high intensity, fast paced inspirational romantic suspense manuscript, we encourage you to pitch it to us in The Search for a Killer Voice!

For this pitch opportunity, Love Inspired Suspense editors Emily RodmellElizabeth MazerShana AsaroGiselle Regus and Emily Krupin will be on the lookout for fresh talent. We invite you to show us that you’re the total package in these four stages:

1. Voice—Demonstrate that you’ve got the voice to keep readers on the edge of their seats by submitting your first page. Authors who wow us will move on to Stage 2.
2. Plot—Show us that your plotting skills are as strong as your voice by submitting your synopsis. Authors that have an amazing plot and conflict will move on to Stage 3.
3. Substance—Prove that the first page wasn’t a fluke by offering us a bit more of what you got and submitting three chapters. Authors who keep the story racing along will move on to Stage 4.
4. Full package—Convince us you’re the real deal by submitting your full manuscript. The sky’s the limit for these authors. A contract could be within your reach if you bring it all together into a rockin’ Love Inspired Suspense manuscript.

If you make it through, you could be the next contracted author for Love Inspired Suspense. But we won’t leave you to do it all on your own. We’ll be sharing helpful master class blog posts along the way telling you exactly what is required in a “killer” Love Inspired Suspense manuscript. And once we decide who will be getting a synopsis request, each editor will choose a team of authors. So you’ll know exactly who is looking at your book throughout the stages, and you can ask questions on our individual bio threads. Every author who makes it to stage 4 will receive an initial decision (contract, reject or revision request) on their submissions by August 8.

Here’s our timeline: 
ROUND ONE
February 12
 – START WITH A BANG round. Submit the first page of your inspirational romantic suspense manuscript targeted toward Love Inspired Suspense to LISPitch2014@harlequin.ca from today until March 14.
March 14 – All first pages must be in house. Editorial team will review the entries over the next 2 weeks and choose the most exciting voices to move on to the next stage.

ROUND TWO
March 28
 – HOLD ON TIGHT round. Editors will announce which entries will be moving on to the next round. Chosen entries will be selected by the 5 editors to form our teams. The authors on the teams will be invited to submit their synopsis by April 7 to the email box.
April 7 – All synopses must be in house. Editors will review the submissions from their team over the next 3 weeks and choose the ones whose plots back up the potential in their voice to move on to the next stage.

ROUND THREE
April 28
 – REEL US IN round. Editors will review the synopses and announce which authors on our teams will be going to the next round. Qualifying authors will be invited to submit their first three chapters.
May 8 – All entries of the first three chapters must be in house. Editors will review the submissions from their team over the next 3 weeks and narrow down the ones that maintain the intensity we saw in the first page to move on to the final stage.

ROUND FOUR
May 29
 – SEAL THE DEAL round. Editors will announce which of our team members will be going on to the final round. Qualifying authors will be invited to submit their complete manuscript. Authors who are not moving on will privately receive personalized feedback. Authors who are moving on will have until June 9 to submit their full manuscripts.
June 9 – All full manuscripts must be in house. Editors will review the submissions from their team and decide next steps. During the next 60 days, decisions will be made to contract, send a revision letter, or reject each of the stories. All authors who submit full manuscripts will receive notification of our decision within this time frame.

FINAL RESULTS!!
August 8
 – We will announce the results of the pitch in a blog post that wraps up the pitch, shares our thoughts on the highs and lows, highlights any sales and gives stats on the results for the full manuscript submissions.

Sound exciting? If you think you could rock this pitch, get ready to show us your stuff. Read our team bios, the info on formatting guidelines, and the blog on an amazing first page, then start those books. Be sure to follow the guidelines for Love Inspired Suspense. Only one entry per author, please. Deadlines are tight, so keep writing while you’re waiting to hear back. And if your book is complete now, don’t forget to tell us in your email. You never know. We might want to pounce on your killer voice right away.  Ready, set, GO!

Killer First Lines

PJ Sharon here, chatting today about “Killer First Lines”. So what constitutes a great first line? Is it action-packed? Does it evoke emotion or imply conflict? Maybe it sets the scene or reveals the tone of your story. Or does an awesome first line combine all of these elements and more in order to grab the reader and compel them to read on? Consider these first lines:

1)      It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. —Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (1813)

2)      It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. —George Orwell, 1984 (1949)

3)      I am an invisible man. —Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (1952)

4)      You don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain’t no matter. —Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885)

5)      If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. —J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye (1951)

6)      Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show. —Charles Dickens, David Copperfield (1850)

These classic first lines might seem antiquated in terms of today’s genre fiction standards and rules, but they remain powerful examples of compelling prose. They say something about the author, expressing their unique voice, and setting the tone for what’s to come. They inherently ask a story question and open the eyes of the reader to a new world in which the author’s imagination comes to life on the page.

I spend a good deal of time contemplating first lines. I want my first line to pose a question to the reader—a question that compels them to read on and keep turning pages until that question is ultimately answered at the end of the story. In my current WIP, PIECES OF LOVE, the first line is, I’ve heard it said that it takes twenty-one days to make or break a habit. Hopefully that makes you wonder what habit our teen character must break. Maybe you’re asking what good habit she would like to adopt, and why she would be concerned about making or breaking a habit in the first place.

Here are a few more first lines. These are from more recent books and by authors some of you will recognize. Analyze each of them, not for what they say, but for what they tell you about the author and the story.

1)      The day Honor Grace Holland turned thirty-five, she did what she always did on her birthday. She got a pap smear. Kristan Higgins, The Perfect Match, 2013

2)      My fingers drum into the desktop, beating out the rhythm of my hammering thoughts. TL Costa, Playing Tyler, 2013

3)      The Garretts were forbidden from the start. Huntley Fitzpatrick, My Life Next Door, 2012.

4)     He lifted the limp body out of the trunk, wrapped the girl in a woolen blanket, and tossed her like a rag doll over his shoulder. PJ Sharon, Savage Cinderella, 2012

5)      I’m a liar. I know it. I hate it. And I can’t seem to help myself. PJ Sharon, On Thin Ice, 2011.

Yes, I realize those last two are mine, but they are, nonetheless, decent examples of first lines that hopefully compel readers to read on. Notice the tone in each of the above first lines. With Kristan Higgins books, you know you’re in for some laughs and you can bet that every reader who read that first line had an instant smile plastered on their face. TL Costa’s book, PLAYING TYLER, puts you squarely into the mind of a teenage boy with ADHD. You can hear the noise in his head as he struggles to find focus. And in Huntley Fitzpatrick’s contemporary YA romance, you can feel that you are in for heartache and conflict based on this enticing first line that immediately makes you want to know the Garretts.

Savage Cinderella FINAL 200x300

The opening line of SAVAGE CINDERELLA gives you a chilling look into the calculated actions of a serial killer and makes you instantly care for that little girl and wonder what happens to her next.

And in ON THIN ICE, teen readers are faced with a mirror into their own lives. What teenager can’t relate to the ever-tempting desire to lie?

on thin ice front cover jpg

Look at books you love. Analyze them for how that first line makes you feel. Does it propel the story forward? Does it grab you and pose a question that you have to know the answer to? In my opinion, as long as the first line makes the reader a) think, b) care about the story/character, and c) read on, the author has done their job.

Have you written any fabulous first lines you’d like to share? Can you think of any books you’ve read that had a killer first line?

Review of TL Costa’s PLAYING TYLER

Good day mates! PJ here, and I have an Australian accent in my head this morning. Does that happen to you? It’s pretty much the norm for your average writerly type. You see, we writers typically hear several voices in our heads every day. We’ve come to understand that ‘no, we aren’t crazy.’ We are creative. Writers hear multiple points of view, snippets of dialogue, crazy characters popping into our minds and saying the darnedest things. It can be maddening, but it can also be amazing. Translating those voices to words on a page is where magic happens and characters are brought to life. When an author does it just right, the reader is transported into the mind of the character and experiences the story alongside them.PlayingTyler-72dpi-1 Such was the sense that I had when I read PLAYING TYLER, by TL Costa. Here is my review:

Part thriller, part geek fest, and part sweet romance, PLAYING TYLER was the must read of the summer for me. The main characters, Tyler McCandless and Ani Bagdorian captured my heart from the start in this fast paced teen drama. Although on the surface, this book was about the slippery slope of Drone warfare and one boy’s journey to discovering who his real friends are, it was mostly about teens trying to find their place in the world. At seventeen, Tyler must face family relationships that are filled with tragedy and struggle, and the wonders/horrors of first love. TL Costa rocked the male teen voice and I was totally swept up in her stream-of-consciousness narrative style that put me squarely in Tyler’s ADHD brain. I found myself bouncing my knee right alongside him and anxious to see how he would negotiate the twists and turns that life tossed his way. Since the chapters were alternating points of view, I waited to see if any of Tyler’s dialogue would spill over into Ani, or vice versa, but each character was well-drawn and unique. A debut author to watch!

 Highly recommend for older teens, especially boys who aren’t typically readers. I think this one will grab them! Great job, TL!

TL Costa pic DSC_3372T.L. Costa graduated from Bryn Mawr College, got her Masters of Teaching from Quinnipiac University and taught high school for five years before becoming a full-time mom and writer.
She has lived in Texas, New York, New Jersey and Spain.  Currently, she lives in Connecticut.
T. L. can be found online at her Facebook page (www.facebook.com/tlcostaauthor) and on Twitter (@TLCosta1).

Purchase PLAYING TYLER at the following outlets:

Amazon, B&N, and Indiebound

For more of PLAYING TYLER, check out sample chapters here!

Thanks for being here TL, and thanks for writing such a great book!

The Voice by Vivienne Lynge

Hello Scriblers!  Happy Saturday to you.  Vivienne Lynge here.  Over the next few weeks, I want to tell you about a few things I learned at RWA National Conference.  I took some WONDERFUL workshops and I thought I’d share a bit about my favorite three.  Today, I want to share a bit of Deb Dixon’s workshop on Finding Your Voice.

Voice is one of those things that authors hear about a lot.  “Oh, her voice is so authentic!”  Or from agents, “To represent a project, I’ve got to love the author’s voice.”  That’s all well and good, but unless the story is in audio-book form, there is no voice to hear.  And if it is an audio-book, the voice is probably an actor, not the author.

But of course all these people are not talking about something they heard with their ears.  An author’s voice is often described as the author’s style, the syntax and vocabulary they use.  Deb Dixon says that voice is more than that.  She says that voice comes by accessing your own authentic emotions and using them to inform your writing.

For example – the next time you have an honest-to-God, over-the-top, toddler-style freak-out about something (come on – we all have ‘em from time to time) when it’s over, take a moment to jot down those thoughts, actions and emotions that triggered it.  What was that last straw that threw you over the edge?  What were the pressures that built up to that last straw? 

krackatoaNow when you write a character who’s having a melt down, reread your comments about your own melt down and use that information.  Let’s say I have a close relative who just gets under my skin, pushes my buttons like nobody else in my life can do.  Every once in a while, that comes to a head and like Krakatoa, I explode – often loud enough to be heard miles away.  If I write down how it happened to me, next time I have a character get angry, I can style the fictional triggers after my own. 

That’s my voice.  That’s unique to me.  Nobody else is wired exactly the same way I am.  We are all similar and that’s what makes one person’s emotional experience relate-able to another’s, but we’re not exactly the same. And my voice will carry through my body of work.  It’s often what gets people to come back, book after book, shelling out their hard earned dollars for a few hours of entertainment.

Now of course anger isn’t a particularly personal emotion.  I’m very willing to share it with others. Sometimes too willing – ala Krakatoa.  ;)  Embarrassment, humiliation, hurt, love, passion, emotional risks and failures – those are much more private and may be more difficult to share with a world of people, many of whom may comment on your product.  But that authentic emotion is a big part of voice.  It will inform your character arcs, the themes you write, the plots you create, your scenes.  Don’t shy away from voice – embrace it.  

Today’s secret: if you ever get the opportunity to hear Deb Dixon, do so!  This was a wonderful workshop, that frankly, I’d like to take again.  I’m sure I’d get even more out of it a second time through.

Who do you think has a great authorial voice?  Whose writing speaks to you?  Who do you find recognizable even from a small sample of their work?  For me – the first one that comes to mind is Lynn Kurland.  I love her romances.

Websites, tag lines, and titles, oh my!

PJ Sharon here today, and I’m asking for your help with some of my more immediately pressing concerns. First off, prioritizing my duties as an indie-published author and entrepreneur is challenging to say the least. There are many moving parts to this job and I wear more hats than guests at a royal wedding.
While I await my second round of edits for WESTERN DESERT, I have time to work on my marketing strategy for the release next month. Priorities include scheduling a short blog tour, setting up an advertising budget for paid ads, a possible launch party of some sort, sending out press releases, and finishing my back cover copy and art. The list goes on, but sometimes, I just need to let my instincts take over and tell me what is most important for the day.

Of course, writing this blog is always on my Sunday to-do list—though it often falls over to Monday night at midnight—but today I was talking to my DH about a new website. Those of you who know me, know that I have talked about switching over to a WordPress site for my website and blog for at least the past year. Currently, I have a blog on Blogger and I have a website that I love, but it has some significant limitations. My Circle Pad site, which I pay the requisite $8.95 a month for hosting, has some quirks that make it not compatible with Apple products for one. Search engine optimization is lacking, and the interface, as user friendly as it is to work with, is antiquated and doesn’t stand up to today’s market equivalents. Even with all of that, I have resisted switching to WordPress because,

a.) I’m tech-phobic and,

b.) I can’t seem to make decisions about details such as colors, design, theme, or whether to go with .org or .com?

In a come-to-Jesus moment, I have decided to just suck it up and do it! No matter how overwhelmed I feel, the website change is a must-do. In forcing the issue, I have come to realize that part of what holds me back is that I still haven’t clearly identified my brand. I’ve gotten as far as to say, “I write romance fiction for teens and beyond,” but other than that I don’t really know what defines me as a writer these days.

This brings me to my second dilemma of the day:

Should I change my tag-line, and what should I change it to? My first three books, being contemporary YA romance with hopefully ever after endings fit fine with my “Extraordinary Stories of an Average Teenage Life” tag line. But now that I have added dystopian to my repertoire, “average” doesn’t seem suitable—not for genetically altered teens in a futuristic setting. There is still a romance, but the story clearly fits in the YA category of dystopian fiction rather than upper YA/NA stories. Romance readers are not necessarily sci-fi readers and vice versa, so I feel like maybe I need to change my image a bit to reach out to a broader audience. It occurs to me that maybe I’m having trouble pinpointing my target readership because I haven’t truly discovered my “hook”—that message in our style and voice that makes us unique and offers readers the promise of something different.

Once I understand what makes my stories extraordinary, and have narrowed down my tagline to who I am and what I write, then the web design should be easier. I also just finished taking an online web-design course to get me over my tech-fear, and DH has vowed to help me get set up on a WordPress site by the end of June when I launch Book Two in The Chronicles of Lily Carmichael, WESTERN DESERT.

This takes us to my third issue of the day, month, year…a title for the third book in the trilogy. Here are the parameters:

1) Title must be in adjective/noun format (Waning Moon, Western Desert)

2) It would be nice to keep with the “W” alliteration, but I’m not attached to that.

3) The title should reflect that Lily and Will are embarking on the final stage of their journey across a post-apocalyptic US. This time they are leaving Las Vegas and heading east along the southern route, which will take them through the Southern Swamps. (I already thought of that as a title but I think that would only work if there were a fourth book since this one will culminate in the final battle with the Industry and will take place in Chicago and then Vegas again. I do wish I had made it a series and not a trilogy…another lesson learned.)

4) Basically, I want a title that sounds catchy alongside the other two, is different enough to not be competing with a dozen other books by the same title, and one that metaphorically shows the shift to a hopeful ending rather than a title that focuses on gloom and doom.

These are a few of my ideas. I’d love to hear yours!

CHANGING/SHIFTING/RISING TIDES (you get the drift)
SHIFTING/RISING WINDS
STORM SURGE
HEALING WINDS

Thanks in advance for any help, advice, or suggestions!

Katy Lee’s at EPICon 2013 finding Her Voice

Hello all, I am writing this from my hotel desk in Washington State where I am trailblazingRealVirtue3_850 the wild world of e-publishing with professionals from all facets of the electronic publishing industry. I’m also up for an award for my first novel, Real Virtue, so that doesn’t hurt! We’ll find out the winners tonight at the awards ceremony, but of course, I’m just tickled to be nominated.

 
There have been hoards of info thrown at me in the workshops this week, from marketing specialist, Jennifer Fusco of Market or Die Author Services to doing a writer’s taxes…UGH! I could try to throw it all on you, but I won’t do that. Instead, I want to share one thing that really gave me a little peace in my heart about my writing.

 
MOD_Author_Services_logo_72dpiI’m sure I’m not the only writer out there who looks at their favorite authors and wonders why I can’t write like them … right? I’m not, right? Please tell me I’m not.

 
Either way, I heard Editor Debra Dixon of Belle Bridge Books speak at the luncheon yesterday about understanding your voice, and I know I will never do her speech justice, but her words finally helped me understand why I will never write like my favorite authors.

 
Now I know it’s not anything I haven’t told myself, but the fact is I can’t write like them because I write like Katy Lee. She said our best writing comes from writing what we know, but not knowledge like many people think. She said the things we know are the experiences we have lived through and come out of. Each writer will be very different from another.

 
Now if we don’t know what those things are, just look at all your writing. What is the recurring theme or conflict that comes up in your writing? Do your stories always have some type of redemption premise in them? Or a character finding their place in the world? Or someone out to prove something about themselves?

 
That may very well be your voice. That thing that readers come to know you by.

 
Now I shouldn’t be so surprised. I recently spoke at a church where I shared how writing for me used to be more than escape. It was a way for me to be in control. I could create a character, give her the same conflicts I struggled with, and try to make her victorious. I say try because most times I couldn’t finish the work.

 
And why couldn’t I finish? Because as Debra Dixon pointed out, I didn’t have the experience to write what I know.

 
The Unlocked Secret: After today’s luncheon, I think I have found my writer’s voice. My inspirational stories follow the same patterns of victory. No matter how drastically different the story lines are, I can see the theme flowing through the work. But what gave me the peace in my heart had nothing to do with finding my writer’s voice, but everything to do with knowing if I could write about victory, then I must finally “know” victory. I can finally write what I know.

And even if I don’t win the EPIC award tonight, I did win the tiara at the luncheon yesterday! Yay!Tiara I’m all set to reign in victory!

 
Question: What do you “know” about in your writing? Compile all your work and start digging. You just might find your voice, too. And wouldn’t that be a huge victory!

And as always, Thank you for your Tweets and Shares!

Awkward Party of One

My name and graceful should never ever be put in the same sentence. In my head I’ve always wanted to be one of the sexy, stunning pin up girl types. One of those women who could lure a man from across a crowded room with just a lift of a perfectly arched eyebrow. You know the type, those women who could stop traffic just by walking out of building. I probably could stop traffic, but only by falling into the street.

Girl crush! Who I want to be in my head.

I’m clumsy. Terribly clumsy. And shy. I lack that flirting gene that so many women seem to be born with. I’m blunt, at times overly honest. You know that filter people seem to have? Mine’s malfunctions daily. I talk way too fast. Sometimes I don’t think before I speak. I can never manage to say the right thing at the right time.

I’m AWKWARD, though I do try to hide it, my lack of cool comes out at the most inconvenient  times.

I bought a brand new laptop not two weeks after opening it I dropped it then stepped on it.

I somehow got caught on a door at work and ripped my dress to shreds exposing my SPANX to the world.

computer!
Just the bottom of my broken laptop screen.

I walked into a parked car.
I always come home with random bruises on my hips and legs and arms, because I bang into desks and doors and walls. I have a knack for breaking my shoes when there isn’t a spare pair or a shoe store around for miles. (I’ve done this three times in the last two years.)

I used to lament my lack of grace. Hell, I still do. But I had a conversation the other day with somebody. I was talking about another writer that I know who is always kind and helpful and never has a bad thing to say about anybody. I mentioned that I wanted to be more like her. But that person told me that I shouldn’t want that. That I’m snarky and snappy and have a wicked sense of humor and that those things made me me and that shaped the kind of writing that I do. My awkwardness is how I got my voice.

You know what voice is, right? That thing agents and editors always say they are looking for when they are looking for the next big thing. Voice is that style, that attitude that tells the world who you are through your words.

So what’s my message in all of this? Embrace your awkwardness. It’s okay to snort when you laugh or trip over your feet. It’s okay to be goofy. Your individual-ness  can help to make your dreams come true.

So share with me. I want to hear about some of your awkward moments. Any and all comments are welcome.