Friday, June 27, 2014

Question Of The Month: The Smart Phone Edition

As I (Kris Fletcher) struggle to master my first seriously-smarter-than-me phone, I posed this question to the Super authors: 
What feature do you most appreciate on your phone OR - if you can't choose - what do you wish they would add to phones next?

Pamela Hearon: I love the MyFitnessPal app!  It lets me keep up with my calorie count for the day, and also syncs with my FitBit to automatically add in my activity.  Easy to use--great price!  Do I sound like an advertisement?  I received no compensation for this endorsement :-)

Cathryn Parry:  Honestly, we most the smart phone to text with our neighbor as we co-parent Otis the cat.  I also love the "coach" app to record and play back figure-skating moves in slow-motion, as well as the Navigator app to get directions while driving.  It seems the only thing I don't use the phone for is to make calls, lol.

Anna Sugden: For someone who resisted having a smart-phone, I LOVE all the various apps. In fact, I don’t make many calls at all. I tend to use my phone for everything from checking the latest hockey scores (even live-streaming hockey!) to reading books to playing games to … well, you name it, I’m sure there’s an app for that! And yes, I’m app-addicted!

One of my favourite features at the moment is the photo-stream, so we can see pictures of our gorgeous, 9 month old grandson.

Sarah M. Anderson: I love the combo of being able to take pictures and immediately send them to people. It keeps grandparents very happy!

Geri Krotow:  I love my Fitbit app. I can see how many steps I have to go to hit my daily 10K goal. 

Vicki Essex: When I got my first smartphone, my whole world changed. I could keep up with Twitter, check my emails on the go, find out when my bus was coming... I think I actually increased my productivity by filling my travel time in. The downside to that, of course, was that I was also playing games and spending a lot of time looking down, focused on a tiny screen. If I could get a phone to do anything, it'd be to give me all that time back so I can appreciate life again!

Jennifer Lohmann:  I don't have internet access at home, so I most appreciate that my phone can become a mobile hotspot when I need to do things like check email, write blog posts, and research points in my book. I'm sure I underutilized my phone and I'm interested to see other people's favorite things.

Rogenna Brewer: LOL--Jennifer, I think we could benefit from not having internet access at home (or wherever it is we write ;)  I do have internet access at home, but have begun using my phone to screen for important emails so that I"m not tempted to log on first thing in the morning unless I really have to. 

I set the alarm on my phone for every 3 hours so that I know to get up and move.   

I use the MapMyWalk app every morning and discovered though GPS my route is much longer than I'd thought.  Heck, I walk a 5K every day.  I also recently used the Kindle app to read a book during a long wait at the doctors office.  I'm sure there are more apps out there than I know what to do with.  I just wish they could find themselves when lost :)
Kris Fletcher: Well, I've had the phone a full week now, and I no longer curse with every attempt at sending a text. I've watched a Youtube video, played a couple of games, and even installed the Flashlight app. I think this might be the start of a beautiful friendship. :-)
And now, readers, tell us - what awesome apps have YOU discovered? 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Writing Romance and the F Word

No, not THAT word. I’m talking about another word frequently attributed to the romance genre:


Early in my writing career, I lacked the vocabulary and ability to articulate what makes a romance story great. I once made the error of using the word “formula” in a media interview, and I regret it to this day. Since that gaff, I’ve made it my mission to change the perception of what it is to write romance.

While the belief that all romance stories are based on a “formula” isn’t entirely inaccurate (huge honking caveats on that), it’s the word itself that is problematic. “Formula” has a particular negative connotation, as if the crafting of complex characters, conflicts, plot and resolutions can be distilled into a simple equation that equals happily ever after. It reinforces the idea that it’s so easy, anyone can do it, like adding 2 and 2. This idea is so persistent, I’ve even heard some wannabe romance writers have actually contacted editors asking for “the formula” as if it might be written down on a recipe card and passed along.

If only!

I learned from Harlequin editors Paula Eykelhof and Victoria Curran that if you’re going to use an F word, use the word 


Every story is built upon a framework, with a beginning, middle and end, a character who encounters a problem and strives to fix (or not fix) that problem. There are tons of resources out there for the burgeoning writer to understand how stories work—check out Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’sJourney and Robert McKee’s Story to start—but that’s a whole different blog post.

I like to think of a framework as being the skeleton of a house. Frameworks are strong, sturdy, bare-bones structures, without which everything else would simply fall apart. Building houses and stories both require sound blueprints and solid frameworks, and at least some basic idea of how things go together. Regardless, just because the framework is there doesn’t mean the rest is easy to build. And what each room will become or hold depends on how you finish, furnish and populate them. As a result, no two houses end up exactly alike.

“But Vicki,” you say, “all romance stories are alike. I just read two books that have the exact same plot!”

Unless you read the exact same book twice, I’d argue what you witnessed was a variation on an idea. Yes, there are many romance stories that sound alike: the powerful alpha male falling for his secretary; the secret pregnancy and the lovers’ reunion; the single dad falling for his home decorator—we’ve seen stories like these time and again, and yet, we keep reading them. Movies have similar variations on ideas: the buddy cop movie, the global disaster flick, the high-tech heist film, the space opera alien adventure, etc.

Each of these themes or subgenres have “frameworks” that we, as readers and viewers, inherently understand will have certain common elements: character archetypes, goals, themes, tone, settings, and so forth. None of these stories can be easily defined by an a + b = c formula, and it’s unlikely any of them will use the exact same devices or details. Just because you’ve seen Star Wars doesn’t mean you’ve automatically seen all the Star Trek movies.

Author Jude Deveraux says, There are no new stories. It all depends on how you handle them. In romances the characters are going to fall in love with each other; you know that when you see the syrupy cover. It’s how get there that’s the fun.” I tend to agree with her. Originality has its limits; but instead of worrying about it, just enjoy the ride. And the next time you’re tempted to use the word “formula” when it comes to romance, say FRAMEWORK instead.

I leave you with this hilarious rant about "Pachelbel’s Canon"—the framework for so many songs...:


My Infinite Book Loop

At any given time I have a book (or four) that I'm reading. I'm an author, so there are the books for research, and I'm a librarian, so books for book clubs, and I just like to read. However, this month I had a rare occurrence where the messages in my books all reinforced one another. When I realized it was happening, I got so excited that I gave it a name: The Infinite Book Loop

First, the books:

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain

Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John J. Ratley

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

And now the awesomeness of the Infinite Book Loop:

Quiet is a book about the importance of valuing introverts and making space for them in a place like the United States, which rewards extroverts. Cain doesn't make the case that introverts are better, but that introverts are better at some things, things the United States needs as a country to thrive, things like perseverance, long-term thinking, and creativity. One of the examples Cain uses is the TIMSS (Trends in International Math and Science Study) test. Countries that place a higher value on introverted traits (concentration, individual study, quiet) do better on the TIMSS test than countries that place a higher value on extroverted traits (quick decision making, teamwork, group projects).

Obviously this is not all there is to doing well on the TIMSS test as I'm learning in Spark. The authors of Spark write a lot about Naperville, Illinois where a new way of teaching physical education prepares students to better learn and those Naperville kids do as well or better on the TIMSS test than kids from countries like Singapore. Physical fitness, they argue, prepares our mind to learn and process what we are learning. It helps us control our body chemistry, staving off depression, helping to control ADHD, and calming anxiety. As running is the best thing I can do for my writing, I believe this wholeheartedly.

So, we have Spark and Quiet circling the lessons of the other book. What about Fangirl? Well, Fangirl is the story of Cath, an introvert starting her first year of college. It's hard for Cath and that's a bit of an understatement. Cath is a perfect case study of the introverts Susan Cain writes about in Quiet. Cath writes fan-fiction and while she's not good at making friends, she's incredibly popular online. To close the Infinite Book Loop, Cath's dad is manic-depressive. He self-medicates by running. Bam! Fangirl loops back to Spark.

Thinking I'm reading (hah!) too much into this? Maybe. Probably. But it was a fun connection to make between books on seemingly different subjects and in different genres. If you've not read the books, I recommend them all.

Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever been reading a bunch of books and had the themes in them all point to one another? If so, what were the books?

Monday, June 16, 2014

Jeanne Watt Give Away Winner

Congratulations, Mary Preston! Please email me at jeanniewrites @ gmail .com (without spaces) and let me know if you'd like the Starbucks card, books or Kindle downloads.

Thanks so much everyone!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Work vs. Working Conditions

As I prepare for the release of my July book, Dating a Single Dad, I find myself thinking a lot about my heroine. Brynn is a very family-oriented woman. She prefers to take temp/contract jobs rather than staying in one position, because this allows her the freedom to drop everything and go wherever her family needs her, whenever they call.

I like that about Brynn. Of course there were other reasons behind that decision, motives that she wasn't even aware of at the beginning of the book, but it was fun to write someone who had  that level of commitment, who was that aware that she valued the working conditions more than the job itself.

Three of my children are now legal adults, which means that three times now, we have done the "what do you want to do?" exploration. We visited schools and did tests and talked to educators, always focusing on what field the boys should go into, what areas interested them and felt like something they could work at happily for any number of years. And of course that's important. But I think we should also have spent more time considering what kind of work environment they might want to end up in. Did they want to be self-employed or part of a big company? Did they want to travel the world, or work from home? Did they want to work indoors or outdoors, in a team or independently, 9 to 5 or flexible hours?

For as much as it can be frustrating and nerve-wracking, I love being a writer. Do I love the actual process of writing? Mostly yes, though there are times … :-)  But just as important as the work itself, at least at this point in my life, is the working conditions. I'm my own boss (though that balance shifts when revisions roll around). I set my own hours. If my kid is sick or we have a snow day or someone has to see the dentist, I can work my schedule around it. I can volunteer in my kid's school library without needing anyone's permission but my own. And when the weather cooperates, I get to work here:

Yes, I do believe Brynn had a good grasp on her priorities when she chose to put a large emphasis on the working conditions. 

If you were designing your ideal working environment, what would it include?

Friday, June 6, 2014

New Cover!

I had planned on writing a different blog post, one more about my June, 2014 release, but I got my September, 2014 cover in my email and was so excited that I wanted to share it with everyone.

Isn't it pretty! Superromance has made me some really nice covers; I also love the cover of my Weekends in Carolina.

The back cover blurb for Winning Ruby Heart:

It's a race to their beginning… 

Exposing world-class athlete Ruby Heart's cheating scandal five years ago made reporter Micah Blackwell's career. Falling in love with her now could end it. Yet watching her determination to return to the top, he can't resist the woman she has become. 
Working with Ruby to tell America her story, Micah falls deeper under her spell. But at a crucial moment, his feelings for her conflict with his job—the very thing that once saved him. Now he must choose between his skyrocketing career and the unlikely love of a good woman….

And a brief excerpt:

Ruby almost didn’t hear the knock on the hotel room door over the runner describing an injury and the painting that had resulted from it. The shuffle of her bare feet was silent on the carpet. Through the peephole she only saw the door of the hotel room across the hall and the thick fingers of a man’s hand, distorted by the glass. She was debating ignoring the prank when she heard, “Ruby Heart, I know it’s you.” It was Micah.

Her shoulders fell, causing a ripple of soreness through her body. I almost got away with it. The story of her life.

Before she opened the door, she closed her eyes for a moment and tried to pull her muscles together around her heart. She was allowed to run in non-Olympic competitions again. They hadn’t banned her for life from all sport. With as many defenses banded around her as possible, she twisted the lock, opened the door and looked down.

I'll return to the Superauthors blog later in June with more about Weekends in Carolina. In the meantime, what fabulous book covers (doesn't have to be romance), have you seen recently?

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