Authors Delaney Diamond and Chicki Brown Discuss Love, Romance, and e-Books!

Love, romance, and e-Books…what a combination. It’s also a hot topic for romance writers and readers everywhere.
Last week, I had the privilege of joining my critique partner, Chicki Brown, and GRW author, Delaney Diamond, as they hosted a meeting at the Fulton County Library to address the topic. Both authors have first-hand knowledge of the subject.

E-Book or tree-book; that is the question. I’d never heard of traditional books being called tree-books, but it does make sense after all. With the popularity of Kindle, Nook, and a myriad of other e-readers, book lovers have a wide variety of choices as to how they want to read. Some people consider the book-sized electronic readers a blessing, because they can carry every book they own in their purse or pockets. Others prefer the weight, texture and feel of traditional books in the palm of their hands. Whichever format you prefer, e-Books are here to stay! 
Another highlight to the evening was information shared on the history of the romance genre. First of all, it is one of the most popular genres available. Moreover, unlike other genres, Romance has a plethora of sub-genres, such as romantic suspense, romantic comedies, chick-lit, interracial/multicultural romance, women’s fiction, erotic romance, historical romance, paranormal romance, science fiction romance, military romance…and the list keeps growing! No matter what you prefer, it’s out there. Long gone are the traditional ‘bodice rippers’ your grandmother used to read. Today’s heroines are not damsels in distress waiting for the strapping hunk of a man to come along and rescue them. Today’s woman is strong, goes for what she wants, is not afraid to be alone and still be content. She’s a woman that is capable rescuing her man if he needs it. They hold jobs, take care of house, kids, and continue to be the ultimate lovers. These novels are not just written for women. Men are reading them as well. 
Let’s face it people, at the end of the day (or night) who doesn’t want a little bit of romance in their lives? It’s human nature! 
Another fact about the genre, one I was not aware of, was shared by Delaney Diamond, something she picked up from author Maya Rodale. As most readers know, romance novels have long held a stigma causing lovers of the genre to ‘hide’ their books for fear of what may be thought of them. Authors, as well, have endured ridicule for writing what some consider ‘book porn’. 
Where did this come from? Are all romance novels overtly steamy? Are the stories about nothing but sex? What about relationships? Life outside of the bedroom?
Visit this link, Dangerous Books for Girls: the Bad Reputation of Romance Novels,Explained, for some eye-opening information about the genre. 
 
Author Chicki Brown, who is also one of my critique partners, published her first book, Have You Seen Here? in 2010. Her journey to publishing started long before then…back in 2001. What began as a hobby turned into a dream in 2002 when she was laid off her job.
For seven years she queried and dealt with those dreaded rejection letters. Several years – and two agents later – she decided to take a stab at self-publishing. Have You Seen Here? was published through Amazon and various other e-Book formats and has seen much success. In 2011, SORMAG (Shades of Romance Magazine) voted her Author of the Year. The magazine also awarded Have You Seen Here? as the Fiction Book of the Year. 
Since the publication of her first book, Chicki has published four more novels and been a part of an anthology, The WG2E All-For-Indies Anthologies: Viva La Valentine Edition
To learn more about Chicki Brown, visit her blog, Sisterscribbler, or follow her on Facebook and Twitter. For her books, click this link to go to her Amazon Author page. 


Next up was Author, Delaney Diamond. Delaney has a different story. Not only has she been published by a publishing house, she’s also self-published some of her books. Let me explain.

Writing had not always been her goal. She won several short story competitions while in high school, but her career focused on other pursuits. Years later, after taking a trip with some friends, she decided to write. Those first works have not been published. As with most writers, our first works are practice for perfecting our craft and may never see the light of day. In 2009, Delaney visited the Decatur Book Festival. After visiting the Georgia Romance Writers booth, she decided to join and give writing another try. After joining GRW in January 2010, her first book, The Arrangement – the lead book in her Hot Latin Men Series – was published in November 2010. The books have been nominated for Best Series in the 2011 Swirl Awards

Three books later, Delaney created The Hawthorne Family Series, which surprisingly was not picked up by her publisher. Undeterred by the rejection, she decided to self-publish. As a result, it has seen much success, proving readers are the ones who determine what they want to read, not the publishers. Book two, A Hard Man to Love, hit #1 on the Amazon Multicultural Romance Bestseller’s List and was one of the top 20 on the Contemporary Romance Bestseller’s List. 
To learn more about Delaney Diamond, visit her website, Delaney Diamond.com, or follow her on Facebook or Twitter. For her books, visit this link to go to her Amazon Author’s page
Don’t have access to a Kindle or Nook? Don’t worry, you can still purchase an e-book! Sites like Amazon offer free downloadable applications for your blackberry, ipad, androids, pc, and mac. If your nervous about purchasing an e-book without testing the features of the application, do a quick search for free books and grab a few. Don’t be surprised if you see one of your favorite authors offering their book for free for a limited time. You’ll be glad you did!

MJ

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The Value of Critique Partners and Beta Readers

“Friend’s don’t let friends write crap.”

If you are a new author and are not a part of a critique group..find one immediately!!!!!

But don’t just join any group. Your critique group needs to consist of several key ingredients to make it work:

  • Everyone must write in the same genre.  Okay, this statement is more my personal opinion than fact, but it has also worked best for me. As we all know, each genre has sub categories, so as long as you find a group that focuses on the main part of the genre, you’re good.
  • Your personalities must be able to mesh together. If you aren’t comfortable with your partners, or can’t joke around with them when you’re not talking about writing and connect on another level…they may not be the group for you.
  • Develop a thick skin! The focus of a critique group is to have someone review your writing and offer honest feedback about your storyline, writing techniques and technical errors. No one is out to dog you or bring you down. Everyone’s goal is to lift up and make your writing better. You have to be willing to not only accept this, but to offer it as well.
  • Make time to assist your critique group members with their work as much as possible. One of the major rules of being a part of a group is to review work of others just like you want them to review yours. You can’t be a member and not participate. All writers have lives – be it at home as a homemaker, or a nine-to-five – our main focus is to complete our MS. As a group member, we all make time to critique other member’s work. Does this mean you have to meet a critique minimum, like one a day? Lord, I hope not, but different groups have different requirements. Make sure you review them and see if it will fit into your schedule. 
  • HAVE FUN!!!!! Writing should be a learning experience, a way to release your creativity and let ideas flow. If writing suddenly becomes a chore and is no longer fun… step away, take a break and see if you still have the urge to write. If not, then maybe being a reader and not an author is for you.

So, bet you’re wondering what brought this blog on, huh?

I’m working on the second round of edits for my first book, A Heart Not Easily Broken. The first round involved me having a beta reader- my cousin- take time out of her busy schedule to read my rough, typed up, completely unedited version of my story and give me honest feedback. That went really well. With no major issues or comment from her end, I proceeded to start my own round of edits.  During this process, I submitted my versions of the edited chapters to my critique partners for their feedback. Since this was being done chapter by chapter, I received feedback as I edited chapters further into the story. I reviewed their notes, answered questions and filed what they said away to come back to at another date. If they pointed out an issue with a character or plot point, I made note and picked up the correction in the later chapters I worked on. Last week I completed my first round of edits. Twenty-one chapters and an epilogue. Now I’m on to the second round.

Round two consists of pulling together all the critiques from each chapter and lining them up side-by-side on my computer screen, reading their comments, and deciding what and if it’s something I agree with and typing up a new page. Of course all technical errors are corrected, and sometimes the comments make me laugh, such as, “body parts doing something on their own is impossible”, or my personal favorite, “breast has an ‘s’ because there’re two of them!” LOL! Once that is completed, I review, check for repeated phrase/words and whittle down as many passive words as I can so my editor can do a happy dance that her work won’t be too difficult, and voila! I’m off to the next chapter!

The technique used to write this book is different from what I’ve done in the past. I’ve made it my goal to blog about every step I take so others who are like me, a new author who is unpublished but determined to make it, can see what I’ve learned along the way. Has everything been easy?…Uh, NO! But I’ve learned a lot. It has officially been two years of writing for me and man, oh man, have I come a long way! I hope you will refer to my past post and find something that can help or encourage you as you make your own journey.

Besides having my desire to see this project through to publication, I owe a lot to my critique partners, The Critter Yard, who are some of the most talented and hardworking women I know. All are published authors, some you may have heard of. They are, Chicki Brown, Ednah Walters, Erin Kern, and Zee Monodee, and up and coming author, Jessica J. Clarke. All of these wonderful ladies have seen success in their writing dreams, and have lovingly accepted me with open arms as a novice writer. I will admit, I was nervous when I first submitted my work – one year ago. I was so confident in my story and my knowledge as a new writer I knew I was on my way. My goal of having my work published by the end of the year was destined to happen… Ladies, I know you’re laughing your butts off right now. So am I, but honestly, that’s what I thought!

And then, I started receiving their critiques…

And I realized, I showed promise, but wasn’t there just yet.

Questions like, “What genre is this exactly?” made me pause. “Romance,” I said, then was nicely advised that there are many sub-genre’s within the genre. Yep, I still had a lot to learn. But thankfully, the women weren’t harsh in their comments. They offered me tips and advice, even when they had to repeat themselves because I didn’t get it the first time. When I felt like I had to step away and take a break from writing, they understood. And when I finally felt strong enough to submit my newest project for their honest feedback, they were just as excited as I am to see the obvious growth in my writing.

So to my partners I say: THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT IN HELPING ME BECOME A BETTER WRITER!

And you can never forget Beta Readers!

You know, the ones you scope out and wonder if they will take the time and read your work and give not technical feedback like critique partners, but actual story line feedback?

“Does this make sense? Does my storyline interest you? Would you consider buying this book if you read the cover?”

Family and close friends don’t always make the best beta readers unless you know without a doubt they will give honest feedback. Mine have, thank God. My number one beta reader is the ONLY reason why I’ve continued to go forth with this story! In the past, she’s read my work and had no problem telling me she does not like the story line and why. Each time, her feedback made sense. I took what she – and believe it or not, my husband’s too – had to say and worked diligently to make the characters three-dimensional and realistic as possible.  I slaved away for months, refusing to share  details with her unless I needed to use her as a sounding board for my ideas. When I finished, I asked her to read it. After several hours, she promptly stomped her way downstairs and demanded I finish typing up the rest of the story – it was all written by hand – so she could finish reading it ASAP! When she finished, I drilled her for fifteen-minutes, just waiting on her to say something needed to change or at least have a question about why so-and-so did this. She had none and gave me the green light to move on.

Why was that so important? Because she does not, and I mean, DOES NOT read romance! Having her give me a thumbs-up let me know that I should be able to capture anyone’s attention with this story, romance reader or not.  So, if you are blessed to have someone like her in your life, take advantage of that resource!

To my wonderful Beta reader I say: I COULDN’T HAVE WRITTEN A GREAT STORY WITHOUT YOU!

The following are links that have been suggested to me for those who are unable to locate a critique group in your area or are in need of honest feedback. I haven’t checked them out yet, but feel free to do so:

Time to jump back in to my editing! Until later, Write On!

MJ

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