I LOVE audiobooks! It’s the only way I read these days. I just finished reviewing the audiobook for Alice Feeney’s Rock, Paper, Scissors.
The biggest challenge in creating my own audiobook for my 2021 release, sports romance Rivals, was the expense. I paid two narrators and an editor to pull both parts together. But the fun experience made it all worth it.
If I write another novel one day, I hope to create an audiobook version.
This month’s question: In your writing, what stresses you the most? What delights you?
What stresses me the most is the extended path toward finishing a novel. I’m rather impatient, and I wish writing didn’t take so long. I’ve never been one to whip through a crappy first draft without editing as I write. I guess the hundreds of hours that go into a novel make it all the more satisfying when it’s done.
What delights me? Readers identifying aspects of the story I hadn’t planned or considered. The first story I wrote, Bad Blood, was about one man betraying another. At the end, the hero fought for his life after being poisoned in his prison cell. It wasn’t till a reader commented about his poisoned blood representing the title that I saw the unintentional connection.
What stresses or delights you as a writer?
I need to make an appetizer for our upcoming holiday book club. Do you have a favorite Christmas recipe? Here’s a delightful one from my friend, Chelsi:
Brussel Sprout Salad
1 pound Brussel sprouts (thinly sliced – “shredded” – I find them at Trader Joe’s)
Dried cranberries – a few handfuls
Chopped pecans (pan toasted) – a few handfuls
Diced, cooked bacon – about 5 slices
Shaved parmesan – almost a whole tub. Mix most in and then sprinkle the bigger, prettier shavings on top
1/3 cup olive oil
Thinly sliced shallots – 2 small
Fry the shallots in the oil until they’re crisped, then stir in the rest of the ingredients (2 TBSP apple butter or fig preserves, 2 TBSP apple cider vinegar, salt, pepper) and let marinate for a bit
This month’s question: What’s harder to do, coming up with your book title or writing the blurb?
Eek, I’m getting the shakes from this question. I thought Halloween was over? Both tasks can bring a writer to her knees, but I have to choose creating titles as more difficult.
Blurbs kick my butt at first, but after scuffling with the sentences, my critique partner and editor always help turn the blurbs into something coherent and catchy. (Whether or not the blurbs are appealing enough to make readers want to buy my books is another matter.)
Titles, though? I’ve ridden the struggle bus drumming up titles for at least four of my nine novels.
The toughest title was for my swimming military murder mystery romance published in 2012. (Maybe covering 11 genres in one novel was the start of the problem?) The initial title was Swimming Against the Tide, then Against the Tide. However, when it came time to publish, both titles seemed cheesy.
My hero faced countless obstacles, including an abusive father, and he had a talent for exploding off the walls on his flip turns. I suggested the swimming term, Streamline, to signify a tight body position allowing him to slice through even the roughest waters.
My publisher thought “streamline” evoked a corporate takeover more than a new adult sports romance. She was probably right. But, I couldn’t think of another damn title! So we went with it.
In addition to blurbs and titles, I want to add another TOUGH task of publishing: creating a book cover. I’ve had countless back-and-forth convos with book designers over the years. My publisher grappled with the cover concept for Streamline, but I love the design they landed on, representing an underwater kiss scene from the book. Still, I wanted the image of the characters to be bigger.
How about you? Which writing task gives you the willies the most?
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.
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?
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.
November 4 question – Albert Camus once said, “The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.” Flannery O’Conner said, “I write to discover what I know.” Authors across time and distance have had many reasons to write. Why do you write what you write?
Fantastic question! I never expected to become a writer. What I didn’t realize, however, was that I lived the writer experience long before publishing novels. As a psychologist, I write a case note after every psychotherapy session. These are narratives about the past, present, and future; narratives about tragedies and triumphs. I’ve also written a few scientific journal articles and book chapters.
So, maybe it wasn’t so far-fetched that I started writing novels, since they share a common motivation with my case notes: trying to make sense of why we do what we do.
Over time, I’ve developed other reasons for writing:
Sharing the healing power of love
Exploring how functional and dysfunctional families work
Creating happy endings when I can’t find them in real life, and…
CONNECTING with the reader. I think we’re all seeking connection.
What about you? What motivates you to write or read?