Hope your October is off to a great start, writers! Warm weather has continued in Ohio, allowing me to sneak in some outdoor swims late in the season. Friends and I swam in a local quarry last week, and the 72-degree water temperature was brisk but invigorating.
Sadly, I had to cancel a swim vacation in Baja, Mexico. We planned to glamp and swim 2-4 miles a day in the Pacific, but international travel didn’t seem wise in the throes of the never-ending pandemic. But maybe I’ll fulfill my dream of swimming in Spain next year instead.
This month’s question: In your writing, where do you draw the line, with either topics or language?
I rely on my reading preferences to draw the line in my writing. I enjoy reading creative curse words and healing from horrific traumas. Therefore, my characters sometimes swear like sailors, and I embrace the challenge of delving into the aftermath of sexual trauma or criminal violence in my sport romance and romantic suspense novels.
Though romance is my favorite genre, I don’t enjoy reading plentiful, graphic sex scenes. It’s no surprise that I avoid writing erotica.
I also value free speech. While I don’t want to offend readers, I hope to stay true to myself without worrying about political correctness.
Have you been watching the Olympics? I’ve binged on coverage of my two favorite sports: swimming and volleyball. American swimmer Caleb Dressel was electrifying!
I’ve also felt inspired by stories of resilience in multiple sports, especially in the midst of a pandemic. Athletes like the brave and lovely Simone Biles have strived to handle challenges such as mental blocks.
We’re all familiar with writer’s block, but what about mental blocks? Overcoming them in sports like gymnastics, diving, and equestrian is one such opportunity for resilience. Mental blocks, also known as balking or the yips, occur when athletes struggle to complete skills they’ve done hundreds of times before. They try to force themselves, but they just can’t go. Every gymnast has experienced mental blocks. But how difficult to face one on the world stage at the Olympics!
Sport psychologist Alan Goldberg frames mental blocks as a trauma response. The traumas can be a serious injury, scary fall, or even witnessing another athlete survive a near miss. If I made a mistake in swimming, I swam slower. When gymnasts make mistakes, they might sustain horrific injuries. And their bodies remember the past fear, creating the fight, flight, or freeze response. No matter how hard athletes try to throw the skill, their bodies freeze. It’s so frustrating for them.
Traumas can also be personal, like a severe car accident or sexual assault. For an athlete who has experienced multiple traumas, their bodies may lock up. It’s not a lack of effort. It’s a survival mechanism. I applaud any athlete experiencing this struggle who takes care of herself and puts her health first. These superstar athletes are human, with needs for safety and respect just like all of us.
This month’s question: What is your favorite writing craft book? Think of a book that every time you read it you learn something or you are inspired to write or try the new technique.
This month’s question: What would make you quit writing?
This question hits deep because I haven’t written fiction for about eight months. And I’m not feeling a current urge to write. But I won’t go so far to say I’ve quit–there’s a finality to that statement that doesn’t fit me right now. If I speculate about reasons for taking a break or even quitting writing, here’s what comes to mind:
Lackluster sales. There are so many books out there that it’s hard to capture reader’s attention. Still, I’m disappointed by sales of my last two novels, Rivals and Twin Sacrifice. I’m thankful for lovely reviews by readers devoting time to my books–I just wish there were more of them. Reviews, even critical ones, spark motivation in me.
Consuming career. I have high productivity goals and a fast pace in my psychologist position at an academic medical center. Therefore, I want to decompress on weeknights and weekends by swimming, reading, walking, socializing, playing volleyball, and watching TV. (Swimming laps outside in the summer is so relaxing!) The demands of my career have felt even more relentless this past year due to the pandemic worsening mental health for many, especially teenagers.
Time for a break. I started writing in 2007 and publishing in 2010, and maybe it’s just time to slow down. I like to write only when I’m inspired, and I don’t want to force it.
How are you feeling about writing? What inspires you to jump back into writing after a hiatus?
June 2 question – For how long do you shelve your first draft, before reading it and re-drafting? Is this dependent on your writing experience and the number of stories/books under your belt?
I’m more impatient than a toddler awaiting ice cream, so my first draft doesn’t stay on the shelf for long. In fact, I can’t even write one chapter without some serious editing as I go. I marvel at authors who shelve their stories for months or delay publication for years. As soon as I’m done with my manuscript, I’m shipping that puppy off to my editor!
Although impatience has stayed constant over the 11 years I’ve been publishing novels, I hope the clarity and tightness of my writing have improved. I’ve observed that at least my critique partner and editor suggest fewer edits with each successive novel.
On another note, how’s your writing motivation these days? Sales for my latest novel have pretty much sucked–not awesome for inspiring my muse. But I am enjoying reading engrossing books like We Are All Made of Stars and watching riveting TV shows like Mare of Easttown.
Have you heard about the 7th annual IWSG Anthology Contest? I’m excited it’s a romance theme — specifically, first love. But I’m even more stoked to serve as one of the judges. So dust off your heartfelt, lovesick memories and submit a short story!
While you’re at the IWSG Anthology website, check out the brand new anthology, DARK MATTER. Congratulations to these contest winners:
Instead of answering the suggested question this month, I’ll discuss what I learned in creating my first audiobook, Rivals.
Do you like audiobooks? I’m more of a visual learner, so I didn’t think I’d have the focus required to track a story for hours. But once the pandemic hit, listening to audiobooks from the library while I walked for miles became my JAM. Now, audiobooks are the only way I read.
So when I planned to self-publish my latest sports romance, I just had to create an audio version in addition to ebook and print.
I’m so lucky that I know an audiobook narrator who guided me through the process, including these steps:
Choose a publisher. Despite the problems of the monolithic juggernaut known as Amazon, I decided to go with ACX (Audible) to make things easier my first go-around.
Decide on the narration. Most audiobooks use one narrator. Because I had chapters alternating first-person point of view between a female and male coach, I chose dual narration. (This differs from duet narration, where two voice actors narrate together.)
Identify scenes for auditions that total five minutes or less.
Select payment options. You can choose royalty share where the narrator gets 50% of the royalties, or per finished hour (PFH) rate, or both. For self-published authors, this can get pricey, but even offering $200-400 PFH may total less than $50/hour for the narrator due to all of the editing and technical aspects.
Solicit auditions. I included information about the story and characters, my background as an author, and my marketing plans. I set a deadline for auditions.
Review auditions. I received over 140 auditions (!), and many of them included the female and male narrators together. It’s a trip to hear so many versions of your characters. The talent was stellar! I sought narrators who sounded like the characters in my head, and I was thrilled to hire Laurie Carter Rose and Ryan Lee Dunlap.
Make an offer to a narrator (ACX calls them “producers”.) With two narrators, I hired Laurie as the producer, and she subcontracted wth Ryan.
Select 15 minutes of the novel for the narrator. This is the last chance to listen to the narrators’ takes on various situations and dialects before they produce the audiobook. I made sure to choose emotional scenes with young and old characters.
Sign the contract between the author (“rights holder”) and narrator (“producer”).
Editand publish. Typically the producer edits as part of the per-finished-hour rate. Because my dual narrators recorded in different studios, I hired a third-party editor to help the novel sound cohesive. Eric West did a fantastic job!
The whole process took only two months or so, and now my baby is available on ACX here!
Audible gave me free download codes for readers in the US & UK, so if you’re interested, hit me up.
Also, please let me know if you have any questions about audiobooks. I still have much to learn, but I’m pleased by the outcome.
April 7th’s question: Are you a risk-taker when writing? Do you try something radically different in style/POV/etc. or add controversial topics to your work?
Sometimes anxiety prevents me from being brave in my personal life, but I have taken some risks in writing. My March release, sports romance Rivals, was the first time I wrote a novel in present tense. I like it! It’s fun! And another risk with Rivals (especially financially, eek) was the creation of my first audiobook. I’ll share more about the wonderful world of audiobooks in May.
As a psychologist, I need to broach uncomfortable topics to be effective, and another way I take risks is to incorporate squirmy themes into my stories. Twin Sacrifice dives into recovering from childhood sexual abuse, and the Blocked trilogy explores falling in love across the political aisle.
One big motivator to take risks: the support of fellow writers! Thank you to Nicki Elson, Ellen Jacobson, Shannon Lawrence, Pat Garcia, Valerie Ullmer, Sheri Hollister, Natalie Aguirre, Alex Cavanaugh, and Diane Wolf (I hope I’m not missing anyone) for your great support.
March 3 question – Everyone has a favorite genre or genres to write. But what about your reading preferences? Do you read widely or only within the genre(s) you create stories for? What motivates your reading choice?
While I still have a soft spot for the genres I write (sports romance and romantic suspense), my book club and Goodreads friends have helped me branch out:
February 3 question – Blogging is often more than just sharing stories. It’s often the start of special friendships and relationships. Have you made any friends through the blogosphere?
Blogging has been wonderful for building relationships! The best part of IWSG, for me, is the community of writers I’ve come to know. And blogging offers more freedom and ownership than social media.
In 2010, authors from my small publisher started a blog hop– the beginning of my friendship with awesome author Nicki Elson. Since then, Nicki and I began a productive and fun critique partnership! She recently helped me select audiobook narrators.
How’s your writing? I’m gearing up to publish my next sports romance, RIVALS. We’re working on the cover design, and I’m scheduling a day off work in March for the release. Since I’m self-publishing, I want to avoid the typical Tuesday of traditional publishing launches. What do you think of releasing a book on a Friday? I’m considering 3/19/21.
Question: Being a writer, when you’re reading someone else’s work, what stops you from finishing a book/throws you out of the story/frustrates you the most about other people’s books?
Ooh, I like this question. My first two pet peeves as a reader are the very errors that plagued my early writing:
Adverb abuse. I hope writers won’t waste my precious reading time with She left swiftly when it’s more fun to read She skedaddled.
Cliches. Don’t “beat a dead horse” by using phases like “every cloud has a silver lining” or “it’s raining cats and dogs”. My aunt told me that good writing is poetic–fresh, lyrical, and unique.
But most of all, I’ll abandon a story that lacks an emotional connection to the characters. If I don’t care about the people inhabiting the story, the writing quality doesn’t matter. I love vulnerable characters who grow through facing intense conflict.