What do my readers want?

As a romance writer, I’ve come to appreciate my own preferences, and tend to easily write into those every chance I get. But I’m also realizing this limits me from exploring other ways of seeing and experiencing the genre.

I’m curious what kinds of tropes and characters my readers enjoy.

Personally, I love clumsy, awkward female leads, and strong, but funny, heroes. I like romances that reunite characters after years apart, and ones that bring unlikely characters together. I also especially enjoy an undercurrent of faith, a deeper love than just physical attraction– one that draws the characters together spiritually too.

I’m starting to swoon. Look what this question does to me!

But the curiosity remains– what do YOU enjoy, readers? I’ve just finished a draft of my tenth novel and while I’ve got some ideas of tropes for futures stories, I also want to take into account your thoughts. Drop them below!

Also, don’t forget to follow me on FB too!

https://www.facebook.com/Kimberly.Miller.Author/?ref=bookmarks

Because I’m a writer…

In the last few days I’ve gotten three texts from three different people who stand in completely different places of my life, but all of whom asked the same question:

With all this extra time, you must be writing a lot lately, huh?

And I laughed and laughed. They’re so adorably cute.

They all apparently forgot that I also have two full-time jobs that have moved from being demanding in person to being demanding online, which is a fate I can’t begin to describe.  I’ve also got a family who are now all at home with me. So, yeah. That’s a ton of distraction.

So I didn’t say anything in answer to this question. Instead, I looked at my ‘it’s in my head I know what I’m doing each day’ schedule and thought ‘I wonder what would happen if I wrote out a schedule and sectioned my time so that I knew what I was doing at specific hours during the day?’

Interesting results abounded.

One, my jobs had flowed from one task to another all day long so that at the end of the day I felt as if I’d washed up on shore but wasn’t entirely confident I’d completed a lot of work. I wasn’t drowning, but daily I drew closer to this fate.

Setting a daily schedule with times earmarked for particular tasks meant I would have actual, daily, writing time (guess what I’m using right now to draft this blog? Yep! It’s my ‘free writing time’! Dang, my readers are the smartest people out there!)

Two, things that before kept getting pushed aside (either because I didn’t want to do them or because they could be put off until later, or worse, because taking care of them felt frivolous, now fell under the safe umbrella of ‘writing business’ or ‘chair responsibilities’ (I’m a department chair at a college)- and those tasks actually got done. Score!

So now, if anyone asks me, I can actually say that YES, I am getting a lot more time to write- and in the midst of so much chaos and work, it’s pure bliss.

Feel free to try this tactic for yourself and see if it works for you. Obviously there will be days that don’t fit the mold; however if you find yourself working from home and at times feeling frustrated over it, do a basic layout of the things you’d do each day anyway. Put them into categories, and consider when you most prefer to do those things.

Ask: Do these tasks take a half hour? An hour? Do you need two hours? Can some of them be lumped together because — even though you don’t want to do them– they don’t take very long?

Some of my categories include: Bible reading/ devotions, a half hour for social media in the morning (this was a time-suck and no longer is because I am being much more careful about sticking to my schedule and not wasting time), Class preps/ grading, Email, stretch/ yoga, chair responsibilities, free reading/ writing (I get two of these per day), cardio, writing business, home essentials/ cooking, etc.

These are things I personally do and may not reflect your needs. This also isn’t an exhaustive list or one I follow daily (It’s not even in order lol). I’d encourage you to write out something, take it for a test-run and switch it up or adjust as needed. I hope it works for you!

Happy reading– and happy daily organization, friends.

Should I self-publish?

You don’t even need to read this rest of this post to find the answer because I will admit openly that I don’t know.

Even before the earth-shaking changes that have happened recently, I didn’t know. For years I’d had an agent and was trying to go the traditional route. But with so many online opportunities to distribute and publish your work, the old ways could openly be questioned- and many authors were doing so.

But out of a certain… I’ll call it ‘respect’ for the process, I stayed the course.

Until I didn’t.

Recently, (yes, shortly before the pandemic because I have great timing) my agent and I mutually agreed to part ways. No hard feelings or upset, merely an agreement that he’d done what he could for me but the ever-changing and evolving market made further progress difficult. And with two books and a novella published traditionally that weren’t getting a lot of traction despite all of my marketing efforts (and yet wonderful feedback from the small number of readers and book clubs I was able to tap into) it was simply hard not to be frustrated.

Couple that with the fact that after those first three published works, I had seven– you read that correctly, SEVEN novels waiting in the wings for publication. It increasingly became more difficult to convince myself that waiting for traditional means to publish made any sense at all.

So, with some trepidation I reached out to a few favorite authors and what do you know? I got some encouragement! One even said I had publishing gold with that many novels finished and basically read to go (save for some formatting and cover design decisions). Her main problem with being published independently was keeping the writing going so she had another novel ready in a timely manner. I’m already there.

While I haven’t entirely jumped on board just yet with independent publishing, you can probably tell from the direction I’m going that I’ve got one foot off the ledge while the other is lifting me to my toes in a less-than-graceful attempt to jump.

But I’ll probably do it. I’m interested in my readers thoughts on this. Does independent publishing matter to you? Do you prefer to only read books by huge authors who go the traditional route? Doesn’t it matter?

Along those lines, I’m also curious what kinds of marketing works for you. What do you respond to when an author posts or offers a deal?

Any and all of these insights might help me make some key decisions as I move forward into self-publishing.

Or not. I haven’t committed yet.

 

Happy reading!

 

 

Whatever casserole

I used to make dinner every day with no real problems.

I’d plan (sort of) a week and a half to two weeks’ worth of meals and then buy those ingredients in one of my grocery runs, and we’d be set. Snacks, lunches, etc. were included.

What has happened to me?!

Now that we’re all home, I am so much less inspired to plan ahead. Yesterday I swear I followed a recipe (as God is my witness) and yet when it came out it looked like I threw whatever I could find into the casserole dish. It tasted fine, I guess. Not the best meal, or the worst.

Meh.

I used to make chicken parm, tacos, meatball subs– Identifiable things. Not ‘whatever casseroles’ that lacked inspiration and were minimal on taste.

I suppose in the current world we’re in where things are questionable on a daily basis, my lack of quality meal prep isn’t the worst problem.

I have no real reason for this post other than needing to vent a bit, along with a fine dose of curiosity.

Are you cooking the same kinds of things you did before the stay-at-home orders came down for so many of us? Is your meal time better, more creative, different?

What are some of the best things you’ve made during this time? Leave a comment below! (a picture too if you’re so inclined. LOL wish I took a pic of yesterday’s ‘dish’)

Happy reading and happy eating!

Writing in a time of crisis

With so much out there currently about the health crisis, I promise you I’m not coming at it from the same angle. While I could, I won’t. It’s too easy. And who ever knew me to pick the ‘easy’ path?

After a rather rough two years in my professional life, in January I was embarking on my first peaceful month (what I hoped was a season) in a very long time. I likened it to friends as ‘washing up on shore’ after being tossed about at sea for two years too long.

I was able to enjoy this ‘season’ for approximately two months before the situation changed yet again. I was not ready. I was not impressed. I was not happy. At first.

This isn’t to say that I’m happy now, but only that, thanks to all that drama in those recent years, I can see things differently than I might have otherwise. As a disclaimer, I’m writing this without thinking it completely through- so please allow me a bit of leeway.

Personally, I needed this time to absorb what I’d been through. I needed this time to clear my mind. I needed this time to reconnect with my family. I am grateful for this time because as I’d gone through all that stuff in recent years, I’d prayed frequently for God to show me what I needed to know and learn through all of it. And He did that. But, truly internalizing it isn’t a snap and done situation. It takes time. Time, that I now, unexpectedly have to ponder those lessons and be a different person, hopefully a better one.

Maybe this is something you can ask for too during this time. What are you supposed to learn during this time of forced quiet, isolation, and opportunity? How can you make the most of it all?

Am I scared? Am I being careful? Of course. But am I bemoaning working from home? (No, I’m grateful I have a job). Am I upset that I can’t enjoy my ‘normal’ schedule? Of course. But, I’m also grateful for one of the greatest lessons I learned recently.

This will end.

So, while we wait, I encourage you to do embrace what is good. You are safe at home. You are with family. You can read, you can walk, you can write, you can eat, you can love others with text messages, phone calls, and video chats.

You can LIVE.

As a college professor, I’m working hard to make my classes that had been planned for a classroom, into something that kind-of, sort-of works online. It’s not the best. But it will do. I am being flexible with my students in this new environment. They, thankfully, are being flexible with me too. Again, I am grateful as I get to know my students in a new way, through this new format. It’s different. But different can be good.

And I’m writing. A LOT. And that, I hope, is encouraging to you. I am exploring new ways of telling stories for my readers, with a hope of self-publishing soon. It’s scary, but it could be great. I hope it will be.

Happy reading, happy writing, happy days to all. Stay safe and well, friends.

 

 

Keeping things organized

Lately I’ve been jumping immediately from writing one book to writing the next.

This is because I’m falling in love with the supporting cast and recognizing a need to tell their stories too. It’s a process of discovering who those ‘minor’ characters are behind the scenes that make them influence the current story I’m telling.

Enter my binders.

And Pinterest boards.

I’m fairly certain I’vbinderse already unpacked my need to establish characters and setting through Pinterest in a previous blog post, so there’s no need to do that here.

But, I haven’t yet talked about my colorful binders. You know, in case the internet goes down or I go camping and am unable to access technology. A writer still needs her inspiration, after all, right?

So, I three-hole punch images and character information sheets and organize them into sections in binders for access as I write. Although I often change character qualities and end up hyper-focused on some images over others, the binder system allows me to stay on task with character motivations, backstories, and provides easy and quick access to names for minor characters and more.

While it’s likely not the most innovative process, I do find some readers asking how I keep it all straight in my head. Ha. While it remains to be seen whether I actually DO keep anything straight in my head, my binders are a concerted effort to try.

And there you have it. Binders and Pinterest.

Happy reading, friends!

Author interview: Lisa Lickel

lisa lickelI’m pleased and honored to have fellow author Lisa Lickel join me on the blog today!

Lisa’s latest project, ‘Everything About Us’ is part of the ‘Ponder This..’ series. She answered some questions for me about this story, and more!

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Everything About Us is the second of a planned trilogy romance between Shelly Colter, a Hollywood advertising agent on the rise, and Danny Winston, an accidental movie star. The first story, Everything About You, released in March 2016. The third story, Everything Noel, is due to release in December.

Danny Winston, America’s newest heartthrob, thinks he can have it all—his dream business and the girl. He’s sure he can convince Shelly, the woman who made it all possible, to marry him. When things keep going wrong, Danny can’t ask her to be a partner in failure.

Shelly Colter isn’t sure she can give up her California-style life with all the glamour, for a move to quaint, rural Wisconsin. At first, she thought Danny, her leading-man protégé, was all she needed, but when things get serious, her secret might ruin everything.

When Danny and Shelly realize they have a common enemy thwarting their dreams, they can choose to fight for each other or risk losing out to fear. It’s an epic he-thinks, she-thinks, with the truth somewhere in between.

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Lisa shared some other thoughts with me about writing this, and other, books.

Why did you write this story?

Susan Baganz, the editor, put out a call for a series based on the Philippians Bible verse shortly after a similar series based on I Corinthians 13 was published. I immediately thought of my characters from that earlier story and came up with an idea that would continue Danny and Shelly’s romance. It was an unusual plan, but Susan liked it. I’ve always been interested in fish farming and knew it was a growing industry in Wisconsin, so I had Danny, our hero, put his unexpected windfall from his accidental acting gig into fulfilling his dreams—with some trouble on the way, of course.

As this particular story grew, and concludes in December, my research involved studying and visiting fish farms, doing virtual visits to special theaters and settings mentioned in the book, and talking to the NYT best-selling mystery author who lives in the same neighborhood and visited the proposal scene restaurant in New York. I like to make sure facts will be true to readers who know the industry or settings, or at least be plausible.

What projects are you working on now?

I have two projects going at various stages. The first is an April release of the fourth Fancy Cat mystery, Meow Missing, in which my newly married sleuth, Ivy Thompson, inadvertently visits South America to find her missing aunt, but winds up joining the fight against unfair migratory work practices. Back home in Illinois, Ivy and her aunt’s cat, a Sphynx named Fairlane, hunt for clues about a smuggling ring. The second is finishing the draft of UnderCut, a romantic thriller that continues the story of characters introduced in UnderStory. While UnderStory focused on the theme of prejudice and the horrors of sex trafficking, UnderCut takes the story of former lit professor Cameron Taylor and journalist Lily Masters in a new direction while they plan for their new lives together. Lily undergoes elective surgery and wakes up under dire circumstances when bioterrorists attack the hospital. UnderCut showcases the dark underworld of the human organ black market.

I have a hard time doing anything in between light-hearted romance and darker suspense. I used to dream when I was stressed out that I was an ax murderer, and I liked it. I knew I had to work some of that, um stress, out on paper. Nowadays I am just fine, happily committing mayhem in fiction.

Author Bio:

Lisa Lickel is a writer and editor who lives with her husband in the rolling hills of western Wisconsin. A complete list of her novels: mysteries, award-winning romance and children’s books, and contemporary fiction can be found on her website. She has written newspaper features, short stories, magazine articles and radio theater. An avid book reviewer and blogger, freelance editor, and writing mentor, she loves to encourage new authors. She has two grown and married sons and oodles of grandkids. Find more at www. LisaLickel.com.

 

Thanks so much for joining us, Lisa!

Happy reading, friends!

 

Author interview: Susan Karsten

susan Karsten  I’m delighted to have fellow author Susan Karsten join me on my blog today to bring you up to date on her latest writing projects, and a little bit of fun to brighten your day!

Thanks for taking the time to meet my readers!

 

Susan’s first published novella, Charlotte’s Dilemma, is a Regency romance. Miss Charlotte Broughton, sticking her delicate toes into society’s marriage mart, is caught up in a scandal, not of her making. Though she was innocent, her parents banish her to the country where they hastily arranged a position for her to teach at a small estate school. She makes the best of her reduced circumstances and is befriended by a neighboring family who are members of the nobility. The son and heir of the family, Lord Hipwith, is kind to her—lending her books and visiting the school. The intrusion of another scandal threatens Charlotte’s fragile hopes, and visitors from London bring the fear that her shame would become know in the backwater village she now calls home.

Excerpt:

Dear Mother, You’ll be happy to learn that I have arrived at my destination. The arranged hideaway exceeds expectations. The village is remote and on the outside edge of civilization and therefore perfect for stashing away a shamed maiden.

~

Charlotte chewed on the end of her pen. What more did she want to share with Mother Dear? A mother who allowed her to be shunted out of sight, shipped to the hinterlands without a hearing. The court of public opinion took precedence over maternal loyalty and above the truth.

 

A few more questions for Susan…

What inspired you to write this story?

Charlotte’s Dilemma, a Regency novella, was inspired by the chance to have my work published in a novella collection with several other authors who are also with Prism Book Group. The genre could have been anything I wanted, but of course I picked my long-held favorite — the Regency Romance.

The over-arching theme of this book has to do with injustice turning into blessing. Banished due to a scandal, Charlotte keeps her courage to go on. Not understanding how her current reduced situation is God’s will, she trusts and “does the next thing.”

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There are several reasons to read this novella: It’s fun! Even though the victim of a scandal in society, Charlotte’s lighthearted acceptance provides smiles and chuckles. Then there’s the handsome hero, Hugh (and in true Regency mode, you don’t learn his first name until the very end of the story). Another reason to read is to immerse yourself in a clean, pure romance. And finally, if you like the Regency genre, there’s no reason not to enjoy Charlotte’s Dilemma.

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Interesting writing quirks/ habits while writing this piece? How did these help the story progress or increase your investment in your narrative or characters?

Beginning several chapters with letters written by Charlotte to her mother were enjoyable to write. The letters were a convenient way for the character to vent about her dilemma, while keeping her chin up on a daily basis.

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What is your favorite aspect of this story and why?

I am enamored with stories in which injustice turns into blessing. Banished due to a scandal, Charlotte keeps her courage to go on. Not understanding how her current reduced situation is God’s will, she trusts and “does the next thing.”

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List some (or all) of your previous writing projects or experiences

A Match for Melissa, 2017

A Refuge for Rosanna, 2019

An Escape for Ellie, coming soon

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What projects are you working on now?

My first cozy mystery, The Missing Quilt Mystery, will be published in 2020.

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Include links for your blog, website, etc.

Blog: graciouswoman.wordpress.com

Facebook: Susan Karsten – author

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Thanks again for joining us on my blog, Susan!

 

 

What if …?

This excellent, amazing question gets me every time I think about it.

In case you ever asked, ‘how does a writer come up with all those great ideas, crazy plot twists, and interesting scenarios’, I’m here to tell you, the answer is simple: it’s the ‘what if’ question.

Well, that’sbeach 2 my answer at least.

I might begin writing with a basic premise for a story, or a picture that’s inspired me to create a character, but inevitably somewhere along the line the ‘what if’ question pops up as I work out details of story, history, setting, character and more. 

If ever a question could be perfect, it’s this one.

What if the main character fears commitment? What if she will do anything for another piece of apple pie? What if he is a germophobe? What if she’s allergic to his dog, Max?

The ‘what if’ question gives

endless material. It’s strengthened weak scripts and stories, it’s helped me take characters to the next level.

And it certainly applies to real-life scenarios. What if you stopped saying ‘we should do that’ and you actually did it? (went on the trip, took that class, moved to that neighborhood?)

What if, indeed.

Happy reading!

Author interview: Rachel James

Rachel jamesI am delighted to welcome author Rachel A. James to my blog today.

A Field of Forget-me-nots by Rachel A. James

When the patron of the Foundling School takes pity upon young orphan, Georgiana (Ana) Weston, Lady Dunston raises her as one of her own. However, years pass and Lady Dunston’s health begins to fail. With the Longworth estate entailed away, Ana is faced with an uncertain future.

Mr. Luke Renshaw still mourns the loss of his parents, and would rather travel the world than live in a place that reminds him of so much pain and loss. But responsibilities await, and when his only aunt becomes sick, he returns to Longworth. After all, it is where he will receive his inheritance.

Luke and Ana used to play together as children, though many years have passed and much has changed. The prospect of marriage without love holds little hope for their romantic ideals, and yet it seems the most sensible solution for both parties.

Buy Now:  https://www.amazon.com/Field-Forget-me-nots-Ponder-This-ebook/dp/B084JRTCLQ

 

A few questions for Rachel:

What inspired you to write this story?AFieldOfForgetmenots_prc5472_300

I’ve always written Medieval Romance, but I love many time periods and quite fancied having a go at the Victorian era. When I was approached by my publisher to contribute toward the ‘Ponder This’ series, I saw this as an opportunity to write a Victorian romance. I was given “Whatever is noble”, and the first thing that sprang to mind was the wife of noble character from Proverbs 31. I’ve always seen this character as an ideal to aspire to, and wondered what this type of woman would have been like. So this is what I set out to do; create a lead character that modelled the Proverbs 31 woman.

 

Any special research you had to conduct?

Yes, I researched the Victorian period extensively. One of my discoveries was that the Victorians considered the idea of home to be very important. Prominent writers of the day, such as Mrs Beeton, modelled how women could run the household, which very much parodied, in my opinion, the Proverbs 31 character.

 

Interesting writing quirks/ habits while writing this piece? How did these help the story progress or increase your investment in your narrative or characters?

While writing this piece, I often frequented a stately home near to where I live, called Brodsworth Hall. This is a Victorian mansion that inspired my own fictional Longworth Hall. The gardens there are particularly lovely, and they play an important part in the story of A Field of Forget-me-Nots.

 

What is your favorite aspect of this story and why?

My favourite part of the story is the relationship between hero and heroine, Luke and Georgiana (Ana). As a pastor’s wife, I have counselled many married couples over the years, and I continue to be surprised at how many of those couples struggle simply because of a lack of communication. I wanted to explore this a little in the novella. Bearing in mind that this is a Victorian setting, I imagine candid conversations would have been more stifled than they are today. I really enjoyed seeing Ana and Luke grow together and work through their difficulties.

 

List some (or all) of your previous writing projects

I’ve written a Christian medieval book series, ‘The Forgotten Kingdoms’, consisting of three novels, Elmetia, Meigen & Rivalyn, and I’ve also just released this as a box set. I currently have a free medieval Christmas novella available for those who sign up to my newsletter.

 

What projects are you working on now?

I’m working on a new medieval book series, and hope to have the first book out by the summer.

 

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