Tag Archives: Kristan Higgins

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Should Writers Have Opinions?

Hey there fellow scribblers! Casey here.

Once upon a time, in the dark days before the Internet, writers used to be inaccessible Titans of Storytelling. There was a mystique, a veil of awe, that separated the reader from their beloved authors. Many times, a faceless (unless there was an author photo) God who churned out books we love and who solely existed to bring us readers joy.

An intrepid fan could contact a writer via their publishers, snail mail or by attending a convention, book signing or other public appearance. Even then, the hallowed author of your favorite books/series/universe was somewhat of a celebrity, often rendering you speechless. After all, chances were good that you’d approach the table, state your name so they could personalize your book, then you’d mumble something lame like – “I really love your books”, then move on**.

** quick aside – as a writer, we don’t think that’s lame at all. We appreciate knowing that readers enjoy our books.

Rarely did a reader learn or probably even try to discover the author’s political, religious or any beliefs at all. Nor as a reader, did we necessarily care – we just wanted them behind a keyboard churning out another book.

Ahh, how times have changed. Right?

Today, with multiple forms of social media, your friendly neighborhood author is just a mouse click away. The veil of mystique is shattered which begs the question – should author’s have opinions? How much is too much sharing?

Heck, do we even use our own names?

No doubt about it, there’s a fine line here between being yourself as a person and being a persona as a writer.

Some writers love to let it all hang out and are very vocal in their beliefs (example – Orson Scott Card). His very vocal views on homosexuality led to a firestorm that in all likelihood alienated fans. I know it made me think twice about him.

Other’s let the world know just enough about them to be enjoyable but don’t cross the TMI line (example – our dear friend Kristan Higgins). Since we Scribes know Kristan – we can say, yes, she is that down to earth, enjoys her man candy and loves her family. An ordinary person and a generous author with both her time and advice.

Does this mean writer’s shouldn’t have opinions? Are we not allowed to air our beliefs? Well, of course we’re allowed to have opinions and, hey, it’s a free country, right?Rooster Crowing

But again, it’s a fine line when it comes to what you say in public. So before you rant on Facebook or engage in a heated twitter battle, know the potential repercussions.

I like to apply the old adage – think before you speak (or type). And do unto others is also sound advice.

Put yourself on the other side of the fence – think of yourself as a reader too. Ask yourself:

  • Does learning that your favorite author has a total opposite view than you change how you see them?
  • Would you stop buying their books if they expressed/ranted about XYZ?
  • Do you really want to know XXX level of detail?

For me personally, as a writer, I’d rather walk on the positive side and keep my personal views to myself, especially in the political arena. During the last election, I un-friended people on Facebook (fellow writers) because of too much political ranting.

And when I apply the reader test to myself, I find I’d rather hear about when the next book is coming out and what my favorite author has planned next. It’s not that I don’t think writers should have opinions, but I’d rather save it for face to face conversations or private correspondence.

I say –  be polite, accessible but leave a little of that old mystique.  Let the reader enjoy your books without too much information ruining their good time.

What do you think? Do you like to let it all hang out? Have you ever faced repercussions? Or have you found a happy medium?

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 Katy Lee’s WARNING SIGNS

After the lovely Indian Summer day we had yesterday, this morning’s chill here in the Berkshires and the skeletal trees are a reminder that summer is long gone and winter is just around the corner. Time to stock up, settle in, and spend some time with a few good books.

My fellow Scribes pals, Susannah Hardy and J. Monkeys have been talking a lot about what they’ve been reading lately. Since I always appreciate book recommendations, I thought I would share one of my own. I recently finished WARNING SIGNS by our very own Katy Lee. Yes, I do try to read books written by my friends, but I only write reviews for books I truly enjoy.

Review of WARNING SIGNS by Katy Lee

Warning Signs CoverLee’s main character, Miriam, is first and foremost a formidable heroine. A deaf Principal in a hearing school, Miriam has her work cut out for her. But when it seems that the town has it in for her, she doubts the wisdom of returning to the little town of Stepping Stones where she visited her grandmother as a child. The town is hiding a secret and Miriam may be the key to unlocking it. Enter Owen, a handsome DEA agent sent to infiltrate a drug smuggling operation on the island, and Miriam is forced not only to prove her innocence, but to protect her heart as well. This fast paced romantic suspense had heartwarming moments, action-packed adventure, and a mystery that kept me guessing right through to the end. Great job, Ms. Lee!

If you’re looking for a suspenseful, sweet romance, with a strong heroine and a wounded but worthy hero, this book is for you! 

What about you? Do you have a good book recommendation? I’m currently reading Kristan Higgins’ recent release, THE PERFECT MATCH. If it’s like her other books, I’m sure I’ll be laughing, crying, and wishing it wouldn’t end.

Damn That Kristan Higgins! by J Monkeys

Hiddey Ho Scribblers.  J Monkeys here.  It’s a poorly kept secret that we writers like to read.  I mean honestly, one of my top three things to do in this entire world is to read a good book.  Whenever I’m stressed or overwhelmed, all I really want to do is to bury myself in a good story and escape.  My overwhelmed-ness is pretty high right now.  My To Do list is WAY longer than will possibly be able to be done in the foreseeable future.  I finally had a few hours today to make some progress.  How did I spend my time?  You guessed it – reading.

I got a copy of a new-ish Kristan Higgins book this summer and it’s been languishing on my To-Be-Read shelf for a few months.  While I like Kristan very much personally, I don’t generally love contemporary romance and I hadn’t gotten to it yet.  Then this happened.

giggly-boo reading higginsMy son, Giggly-Boo, got a hold of the book.  He’s two months into kindergarten.  His reading ability is limited to ten words at this point.  But he seemed to be enjoying The Best Man. The book was handy (after I brought it in from the car) and I stuck it on my nightstand.  I started it last night – got 15 pages in and fell asleep.  That happens most nights, no matter what I’m reading ~ it’s certainly no reflection on Ms. Higgins!  I woke up early this am and since it was cold in my house, I didn’t want to get out of bed.  So I used that excuse to read.

Here it is, 1:30 in the afternoon, I’m unshowered, the kids will be home in a few minutes, I have accomplished absolutely NOTHING today.  Except finish this wonderful book!  So again, I say, Damn You Kristan Higgins!  Now I can’t wait to read the other Blue Heron novels, at least one of which is currently available. 

the best manThis was a WONDERFUL romance.  If you like to watch realistic, relate-able characters fall in love, fighting it all the way, then The Best Man is totally for you.  It was laugh-out-loud funny at times while other bits put tears in my eyes.  I’m seriously hoping that my buddy Kristan turns her talents to Jeremy.  I’m pretty sure his is a man/man romance that I’d love to read.  

So, now I’m sucked in to a contemporary romance series set in the vineyards of upstate NY.  There are a ton of characters who will need their own story some day.  That’s two contemporary romance authors on my must read list.  Madame Higgins and that wonderful Sugar/Ginger Jamison.  Thanks ladies.

While I didn’t get anything crossed off my to do list today, I did get a much-needed break.  Now, back to the grindstone.

What is Chick Lit Anyway?

Hi there, Sugar here.

My debut novel is due out tomorrow and while I’m excited to finally see it on the shelves there’s something I’m puzzled about. People, a lot of people, have been referring my book as chick-lit. I wrote a romance novel, or at least I set out to write a romance novel. I think I wrote a romance novel.

But maybe I didn’t. Wikipedia defines Chick Lit as genre fiction which addresses issues of modern womanhood, often humorously and lightheartedly.Although it sometimes includes romantic elements, chick lit is generally not considered a direct subcategory of the romance novel genre, because the heroine’s relationship with her family or friends is often just as important as her romantic relationships.

So let’s break that definition down.

In Dangerous Curves Ahead issues of modern womanhood are discussed. Things women my age are often faced with: wanting more out of life, dealing with bad break ups, body issues, financial issues.

The book is humorous. At least I think so. My heroine’s relationships with her friends and family are extremely important in the book. Especially the relationship with her sister. So it ticks that box too.

And then there is the cover which is a cartoon and very pink and very cute. I haven’t seen many other romance novel covers like it.

At first I was alarmed by the label. Salon.com in a 2012 posted an article on it’s site titled The Death of Chick Lit. Editors and publishers were running and hiding from the genre, deeming it no longer publishable. I even heard an editor at a conference tell a writer not to call her work Chick Lit, because nobody would look at it. So why would I want to be associated with a dying genre?

But on the other hand best sellers Emily Giffin, Meg Cabot and Sophie Kinsella are in the chick lit author category and that’s not bad company to keep. And their books are selling, AND being made into movies.

I wrote more than about steamy sex and bare chested men and long smoldering looks, but does that mean my book gets kicked out of the romance category. I’m all for a bare chested man who can make panties drop with a single glance, but that’s not the book I wrote. A lot of romance novelist write about more than that Kristan Higgins, Jude Deveraux, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Susan Wiggs. We as a group of people are more than just mommy porn and pages and pages of sex. (But there’s nothing wrong with that either.)

I don’t have a problem being grouped in with chick lit writers, but at my core I am a romance novelist, because happily ever afters and the journey of two people falling in love is what I love to put on the page. And damn proud of it. So don’t that away my label, because I worked damn hard to get it,

So what are your thoughts on chick lit? Any and all comments are welcome.

Keynote Speakers Block Dangerous Curves! by Vivienne Lynge

Hello cyber-lovlies!  Vivienne Lynge here, wishing you a happy Saturday.  So it’s that time of the week where I sit down to write my blog post and today, I have to tell you, I’m torn.  Being dragged, is more like it.  I’m on page 225 of Dangerous Curves Ahead by our very own Sugar Jameson and frankly, I kinda resent the intrusion blogging is making into my fantasy world of Mike and Ellis. 

dangerous curves aheadSeriously.  Dangerous Curves Ahead will be available in a couple of weeks.  If you like romance, you need to order yourself a copy of this book.  Or get it at B&N when it comes out.  It’s wonderful.  And I’m honestly not saying that because I know the delightful Sugar personally.  Contemporary romance really isn’t my cup of tea, but I’m LOVING this story and quite sad that I have to be responsible from now until about 10:00 tonight.  But on the other hand, I am looking forward to snuggling down into my cushy bed and finishing the last 150 pages then!

But I digress from the topic I had planned to write about.  Keynote Speakers.  Normally, I’m not really keen on them.  I kinda let my mind wander, doodle, or jot down plot ideas whenever I’m in a situation where a keynote speaker is yapping away on some stage.  Ahem.  That was NOT the case at RWA Nationals 2013. 

The official Keynote Speaker was Cathy Maxwell.  I know I’ve read some of her books, but she isn’t a household name to me.  Well, she wasn’t.  Ms. Maxwell spoke about how a family acquaintance decided to follow his dream after a divorce in his late 20’s/early 30’s, but died young, just as he was headiing toward the top of his new field.  He was an artist and had never signed any of his work because he felt that he wasn’t good enough yet.   Of course, he had expected to have plenty of time left to perfect it.

Her message to the 2,000+ writers in the room was that we are good enough.  We should be proud to be writers, no matter where we are on our journey to publication, and that we should be proud to be a part of the often-maligned genre that financially supports the whole damn publishing industry.  She was a powerful speaker, with a powerful message that was touchingly told.  I admit, I grew a bit misty.  She was amazing and I didn’t have a second to daydream.

The next day at the Awards Lunch, there was a speaker, too.  None other that CT’s very own Kristan Higgins.  Now I’ve read some of Higgins’ books and I’ve spent a number of hours in her company, so I know her a little.  I know she’s funny and awesome. And while I didn’t expect much daydreaming time during her speech, nor I didn’t expect to cry which is why I wasn’t at all cautious with the vinegrette or scrumptious chocolate mousse when using my napkin.  BIG MISTAKE!

joe-manganiello-wetSure there were some funny pictures of her glammed up and in grungy writer-mode on the big screen, as well as a wet, shirtless Joe Manganiello.  And of course, she thanked her husband for years of great sex, and she read some funny snippets from fan letters. 

But then, the last two snippets weren’t funny so much as they were something else.  One woman wrote that she was approaching senior citizenship and had never been in love, but that reading Kristan’s books let her glimpse that experience enough that she didn’t feel so left out.  Another woman wrote that Kristan’s brand of hero was strong enough to let her know that her boyfriend beating her wasn’t okay, no matter how sorry he claimed to be afterward.  She said that Kristan’s book gave her the strength to end that abusive relationship and look for something better.

That’s when Kristan’s speech took a turn that few people expected.  She talked about very personal, dark experiences in her life ~ times when she turned to romance novels to get her through.  Jude Deveraux’s stories kept her going when the middle school bullies made every day a misery.  Nora Robert’s books were company during the long, dark wait in the hospital after her father’s tragic car accident and Julie Garwood helped after a devastating miscarriage. 

I think every woman in that room (and the handful of men too) has experienced those kinds of moments.  Moments of grief when the only thing that will help is to escape into a world where you know there will be a happy ending, and that you will see it in just a handful of hours, rather than the months and years that stretch out between you and your own happy ending.  If you can even see that far into the future at that point.  Tears poured down my face while I frantically searched my luxurious white cloth napkin for a mousse-free spot to blot.  FYI – vinaigrette stings when rubbed into your eyes.

I didn’t expect Kristan’s message to as powerful as Cathy’s had been and I was wrong.  Dead wrong.  Kristan’s message to us was that not only should we be proud to write romance as Cathy had said, but that we have an obligation to do it well.  The women of the world need us to see them through their dark times and let’s be realistic, the world is often a very dark place.  If we choose to pursue this career, we damn well better apply our talent, hone our craft, learn about the business, and produce the high-quality fantasies people, women, need.

Today’s secret: Romance really isn’t the red-headed stepchild of the publishing world.  These trashy novels are actually very important to a lot of people, in a lot of ways.  That really shouldn’t be a secret.

So – time to spill.  What’s your all time favorite, post-publication-of-the-Flame-&-the-Flower-by-Ms-Woodiwiss-back-in-’72, trashy romance novel?  I’ve got a lot of faves, but how about these: Velvet Angel by Deveraux, For the Roses by Garwood, A Heart so Wild by Lindsay.  To name a few.

Top 10 tips, quotes, and advice I heard at RWA2013

PJ Sharon here, happy to be home after a fun filled week in Atlanta at RWA 2013. It was such a busy week, I couldn’t possibly recap all the cool events, workshops, and networking opportunities I enjoyed. So instead, I thought I would share the highlights in a top 10 list. I’ve paraphrased the exact quotes, but wanted to share the amazing messages from some notable authors and industry professionals.

1) Advice from Indie author Bella Andre. “Writing is a business. Know who your readers are and write what you can sell. If it’s not selling, change something. Put a new cover on it, change your description, or change the categories on your book’s page.” This is paraphrased, but definitely the gist of her message. I had the opportunity to chat with her and she gave me some very good career advice. She was awesome and I’m now a huge fan girl.RWA2013 me and Bella Andre

2) Kristan Higgins in her incredibly insightful and moving luncheon speech. “What we do makes a difference. Romance novels can help people through the darkest, loneliest, and most painful times in their lives.” Really…if you ever doubt the worth of what you are writing, you need to remember how you feel after reading a heartfelt and powerful love story by one of your favorite authors.

3) Michael Hague on the ultimate tool for understanding your character’s deepest fear and motivation. “I’ll do whatever it takes to achieve that goal, just don’t ask me to_________.”

4) Author Carla Neggars on Writing as Work/Writing as Play: Do they need to be either/or? “It comes down to creating a dynamic dialogue between work and play. It’s about abandonment and concentration, the continent of reason and the Island of intuition. Set a schedule with intention and stick to it.”

5) Tips on e-mail marketing from Heroes and Heart Breakers authors. “Create a catchy subject line that has searchable key words and offers a promise. Meet that promise. Send out newsletters on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. Balance info with offers and engagement of readers. Blend editorial and marketing with a call to action from your readers sprinkled in.” There was some talk about gaining newsletter followers by using Romance Studios, adding your newsletter link to an automated Twitter response for new followers, adding the newsletter link to your Facebook page, Author Central page, etc.

6) Mark LaFebvre from KOBO Writing Life on their now offering pre-orders for Indies. “We’re open minded in Canada.” I loved this guy and can’t wait to start working directly with KOBO to sell my books.

7) Bella Andre says that audio books are the latest big thing and SEO is the key to attracting your readership!

8) Author Barbara Freethy recommends at least three proof readers for Indie-pubbed books. I agree!

9) Agent Christina Hogrebe recommended book bloggers for promoting your YA titles. “If a high traffic blogger loves your book, it can go viral in no time.” Here’s to hoping she’s right!

10) A quote from award winning author and RITA Awards emcee, Christie Craig. “The difference between northern writers and southern writers is that northerners start their stories with ‘Once upon a time,’ while southern storytellers start every story with ‘You ‘aint ‘gonna believe this sh**.’” Christie Craig was hilariously funny and did a fine job as emcee. WTG Christie!

RWA2013 me and Katy Lee Beyond all of these excellent tips and so many more from people like Cathy Maxwell, our keynote speaker, and the excellent agent/editor panels, the best part of the conference for me was the new friends I made and the wonderful companionship of my CTRWA peeps (other than D.S. who it turns out is a terrible covers hog).

Please feel free to share some of your highlights in the comments section below. And speaking of favorite conference highlights, check out all the spectacular shoes! Can you guess whose they are?shoe pic