Tag Archives: fantasy

Discovering Your Niche As a Writer

I was on a panel at the Mission Branch Library last Saturday.  Our RWA (Romance Writers of America) chapter is doing a series of  four talks called “Amore and More.”  The topic of our talk was “Discovering Your Niche.”  Aside from the fact that I didn’t remember to promote it on my FaceBook page, it went very well.  We had four articulate authors (Amy Bright, Lisa Cotrell-Bentley, Lorelie Brown, et moi) who all write in different sub-genres and we all came to find our places in the writing universe by different routes.

Amy Bright, like me, started out as a literary snob (her words, not mine) but came to understand that the romance genre can boast of some of the most highly educated readers and authors and some of the wittiest dialogue out there.  She loves research, which is good because she writes in the Regency period, which has some of the most devoted (and knowledgeable) fans.

Lisa Cotrell-Bentley has been interviewed in this blog and she publishes and writes chapter books for (and featuring) home-schooled kids.

Lorelie Brown understands the practicalities of marketing, but likes to buck the trends.  Her first book, Jazz Baby, is a historical set in the 1920s during Prohibition.  Her next (coming later this year) is a western called Catch Me.

And then there was me, Frankie Robertson, writing in the paranormal sub-genre.  Paranormal romance has a broad definition.  It includes stories about vampires, shape-shifters, ghosts, psychics, witches, fairies, time-travelers, demons, angels, and aliens.  Usually one or both of the protagonists are “different,” the romance is essential to the plot, and of course there has to be a happy ending.

As all of the speakers remarked in one way or another, finding your niche can be journey of self-discovery.  It may take several tries before you find the best fit for you.  The standard advice is to write what you read, but when you read widely, as I do, that advice can lead to quite a trip.  I’ve written fantasy, horror, erotic historical fantasy, romantic suspense, and contemporary paranormal romance.  And while it’s easier to advance your career when you stick to one path (or so the conventional wisdom says) my favorites are romantic fantasy and modern day paranormal.

But whatever I write,  I like to put Romance, Mystery, and Magic in my stories.



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Wednesday Review: A Pirate’s Primer by Jill Knowles

My friend Jill Knowles primarily writes erotic romance, and I recently read her ebook A Pirate’s Primer.  Set in a world of magic and wooden sailing ships, A Pirate’s Primer is a M/M erotic fantasy like her more recent release Concubine (reviewed here).  Unlike Concubine, however, Primer doesn’t have any consent issues.  This is more of a true romance, where the characters’ union is one of equals who come together out of mutual desire.

There ‘s more to this book than the erotic interludes, however.  While those are for the most part well written, the characters Jill has created bring more to the relationship than just their physical needs.  My only complaint is that the final love scene  is a little too similar in the particulars to an earlier one, but this is a minor issue.

A Pirate’s Primer is the first in the Grey Lady series, and one of Jill’s strongest stories.  I recommend it.

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TusCon 37 and A Sale!

The 37th iteration of the TusCon Science-fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Convention is now history. We had over 40 writers, artists, and scientists talking about and demonstrating their work.  The convention had a great energy, partly attributable to a big increase in attendance.  The guests of honor, Jim and Shannon Butcher, were both gracious (Jim signed autographs for nearly three hours) and a lot of fun to be with.

I’ve been on the committee that organizes the convention for some time, and for the last four I’ve also been a participant as a newbie writer.  Next year I’ll still be a newbie, but I’ll also have new book out to talk about!  I learned on my birthday that The Wild Rose Press will be publishing Veiled Mirror, a romantic suspense with paranormal elements.  The excitement is only creeping up on me slowly, and I’m happy to know that reaction isn’t unusual.  One of the panels at TusCon was “Hooray!  You’ve sold a book.  Now what?”  Fully half the participants initial reaction to their first sale was “Ohmygod,” instead of “Hooray!”

So now I’m taking the next step in my career, and I’ll be sharing with you what I learn along the way.


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TusCon This Weekend

For those of you in the southwest, I’ll be at TusCon 37, a science-fiction, fantasy, and horror convention. It runs from Friday afternoon through Sunday afternoon (Nov. 12 – 14).  The Guests of Honor are Jim Butcher (author of The Dresden Files series) and Shannon Butcher (author of The Sentinel Wars series).  They have a variety of activities planned, including author panels, art show, masquerade, and computer gaming.  I’ll be on at least one panel and possibly doing a reading, so come on down!

I won’t be blogging on Friday, but I’ll be back on Monday.

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Remember the old Chuck Connors series?  Neither do I — I’m a bit too young to have enjoyed it, but it was about a man of the late 1800s who was falsely accused of cowardice and dishonorably discharged from the Army. The brand of coward followed him through many episodes.

That’s what we writers need to do for ourselves, but in a positive way.  We want everyone to say, “Oh, YOU write XYZ!” And when someone wants to read XYZ, we want them to think, “When is the next [insert your name here] book coming out?”

Kris Tualla just blogged on this subject and made some thought provoking suggestions on how to approach branding by recognizing the threads that consistently run through one’s work.  In response, here’s my analysis of my brand:

All of my heroes and heroines are older. They’re 26 to immortal.  All of them have some life experience, usually unpleasant.

My heroes are all leaders, if reluctant ones. They rise to the occasion.  (No pun intended!) The best description I’ve heard of the Alpha Male hero is that he’s a protector. That describes my heroes.

All my books and stories have magical or paranormal elements.  Thus my tagline: Romance, Mystery, and Magic.

Half my books (and all my short stories) are romantic fantasy. The other half are contemporary paranormal romance.  I may need to create a second brand for this, though my tagline does still cover all.

As for creating an image for myself, I’ve only just started.  My website features my tagline prominently and shares a color theme with my blog but needs sprucing up.  My business cards have a very different appearance but are more reflective of my tagline.  Next on the agenda: a Frankie Robertson FaceBook page!

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The Job of Writing, Part 2

This week I finished doing some niggling revisions on my romantic fantasy, Forbidden Talents, the second book in my Vinlander Saga.  (FT is the sequel to Dangerous Talents which is under submission to a New York publisher.  Keep your fingers crossed for me!)  Then I moved on to amping up the sensuality in my contemporary paranormal, Lightbringer.  (Jill Knowles, who writes erotic romance, is helping me with that — thanks Jill!)  I’m also struggling with the question of whether to add to/change/enrich some of the primary character motivations.

This is part of the job of writing.  (Not the fun part).  I have to decide if the book is strong enough as it is, or if it really needs to be rewritten and if this is a good use of my time.  Or would I be better off working on something entirely new?

Time management is a huge part of the business of writing. At the most basic level, we have to get our BIC (butt in chair) on a regular basis.  Then we have to decide how much time we should spend wearing each of our many hats.

I had a great conversation about this recently with Janni Simner, who has commented here before.  Her perspective on time is that it’s better spent writing or revising than doing almost anything else.  She believes that writing and submitting to traditional publishers (large or small) is the best business model.  I’m not as convinced, even though that is the path I’m pursuing at the moment.

Questions we both would like to see answers to:  1)  What percentage of manuscripts submitted to traditional publishers are purchased?  (Quality aside, what are your chances of selling?)  I’ve heard numbers ranging from less than one percent up to four percent (for small presses).  But what is the average?

2)  What percent of self-published manuscripts sell a thousand copies or more?  I recall reading that only three percent sell more than 500 copies, but I couldn’t swear to that.

If the results of #1 are less than the results of #2, or even close, is it still the better business model?  In other words, is it better to keep hoping that you’ll beat the odds and get that New York contract, or is it better to get a small amount of exposure (most likely), and make a very small amount of money by self-publishing?

Of course, in earlier blogs we already determined that money isn’t the only factor to take into account when deciding which publishing model to pursue.  So maybe we should ask a third question:

3)  What percent of authors following either model are satisfied with their experience?  And of the few who have done both, what do they think of each model?

Inquiring minds want to know. . . .


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Poetry Monday: The Tale of Tinuviel by J.R.R. Tolkien

J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy had a HUGE impact on me.  I read them the first time at age eleven, and it was a qualifying question for my boyfriends when I began dating:  “Have you read LOTR?” (At the time we met, my husband had read it seven times — more than my mere four times.)

Yes, I am a geek.

For today’s poem I decided to refresh my memory of the tale of Tinuviel and Beren, son of Barahir.  It’s been many years since I read the trilogy, and I was a little surprised to find how much poetry Tolkien had included in the first half.  You can hardly read twenty pages without finding another verse.

The tale, as it appears in The Fellowship of the Ring, is told in an abreviated form by Strider as he and the Hobbits camp on Weathertop.  Beren escaped the disastrous battle with the Great Enemy where his father was killed and came to the hidden kingdom of Thingol, where he saw Tinuviel.

Enchantment healed his weary feet
That over hills were doomed to roam;
And forth he hastened, strong and fleet,
And grasped at moonbeams glistening.
Through woven woods in Elvenhome
She lightly fled on dancing feet,
And left him lonely still to roam
In the silent forest listening. . . .

Beren looks for her everywhere, and then in the spring he sees her again.

Again she fled, but swift he came.
Tinúviel! Tinúviel!
He called her by her elvish name;
And there she halted listening.
One moment stood she, and a spell
His voice laid on her: Beren came,
And doom fell on Tinúviel
That in his arms lay glistening. . . .

I like this tale despite the usual aura of loss that surrounds Elven/mortal pairings.  The hoary old romantic trope of (one-sided) love at first sight works well here.  Beren’s sorrowful heart is lifted at the sight of the beautiful Tinuviel, and though he doesn’t know her, he faithfully searches for her until they’re reunited.  Initially relucant, Tinuviel softens when he calls her Nightengale in the elvish tongue.

. . . Tinuviel the elven-fair,
Imortal maiden elven-wise,
About him cast her shadowy hair
And arms like silver glimmering.

Though it’s not included in the poem, Tinuviel later rescues Beren, and together they do what armies failed at, casting down the Great Enemy and recovering one of the three Silmarils.  Yet even in their triumph, tragedy strikes, and Beren is killed.  They have to wait for the afterlife for their Happily Ever After (but not, aparently, for the consumation of their love, since Aragorn and Elrond both are descended from them).

. . . And long ago they passed away
In the forest singing sorrowless.


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Why Isn’t Free Will Sexy?

I just finished Shannon K. Butcher‘s paranormal romance Burning Alive, the first book of her  “Sentinel Wars” series.  (Disclosure:  Shannon and her husband Jim Butcher will be the guests of honor at TusCon, a science-fiction, fantasy, and horror convention this November, a convention for which I’m doing the programming.)

I enjoyed the book and went to Amazon right after finishing it to put another of the series in my shopping cart.  But I must admit there were elements that bothered me and got me thinking about whether I should be including more of them in my own writing.

The basic premise of the series is this:  In our contemporary world there are secret groups of powerful, long-lived beings (the Theronai and the Sanguinar) who are sworn to protect us humans from the monsters (the Synestryn).  The male Theronai gather energy from the environment and if they don’t find a mate to bond with who can syphon off the energy and use it to power her magic, the men’s souls eventually die.  The Sanguinar are healers, but because they power their magic by drinking the blood of others, they’re not well tolerated.

I like the complexity of the universe Shannon has created.  It’s not all straight forward good guys vs. bad guys.  But a central element of the romance gives me pause.  The bond between the Theronai hero and the heroine is largely physical.  An emotional bond does grow between them (over three days) but first and foremost is the physical need they have for each other.  Helen’s touch relieves Drake of the pain of his overabundance of magical energy, and taking it into herself (even before she knows what’s happening to her) feels really good.  They hunger for the other’s touch.

I could get all English Lit. major on this and talk about how this is symbolic of our primal need to connect with others, to belong in a greater social context.  I could talk about how it’s representational of the biochemistry of falling in love.  But let’s not.

This trope of being swept away against our will is a common one in the romance genre.  The physical component isn’t unique either.  C.L. Wilson also uses the concept of having the hero’s life depend on complete bonding with his one and only soul-mate in her Tairen Soul series.

Can’t you just hear an obsessed lover shouting, “I’ll die without you!”  In real life, wouldn’t that give you the creeps?

But Romance isn’t real life, and it’s not meant to be.  It’s fantasy.  It’s wish fulfillment.  And that’s probably the key.  We like the idea of being important to someone.  Of being needed and valued.  This trope, of having the hero’s life depend on his mate’s love and commitment, is symbolic of that.

Shannon does give her heroine a choice — but what a choice!  Fortunately, Helen both loves Drake, and loves making love with him.  But she also knows that if she refuses him, he’ll die in agony.  Is that really a choice?


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Wednesday Review: Bedtime Stories by Jean Johnson

I enjoyed Bedtime Stories:  A Collection of Erotic Fairy Tales by Jean Johnson.  I think the subtitle is a little misleading though.  While there are some hot scenes in each of the tales, they are first and foremost romantic fantasy or science fiction.  The emphasis is more on story than on sex.  This is a positive, as long as you didn’t buy the anthology primarily for vicarious thrills.

My favorite of the stories is “The Courtship of Wali Daad.”  Johnson executes the rhythm and voice of this Arabian Nights type tale perfectly.  The ironic ending to “The Frog Prince” makes it my second favorite.

A couple of the stories are set in the same universe as her Sons of Destiny series inhabits.  I haven’t read Johnson’s other books.  Perhaps if I had I would have enjoyed those stories more.

Over all, this is a nice anthology and I look forward to reading more from Johnson.

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