Short Story Reviews: Authors 4 Authors Publishing

Short Story Reviews:

Authors 4 Authors Publishing

In the theme of changing up reviews, I'm tackling four short stories today. As a precursor, I should say the only short stories I normally dealt with in the past were capital-L literary fiction which I teach to students. Okay, every now and then there's a romance novella, but these novellas get to do more than short stories because they can be half a novel length. In short, I kind of didn't know what to expect when reading contemporary popular fiction short stories. Spoiler alert--I was pleased with them.

Seeing Through Him by BC Marine--This story sucked me in right away. It's an amazing Beauty and the Beast type story imbued with nuances of subtle magic. A man with the power of invisibility he can't control is forgotten by others. A girl who has magical charisma but refuses to use it and instead perfects her work as a mirror maker crosses paths with him. Romance ensues. The tale reads like an abridged novel, so I was left wanting to draw out every part of it more. I hope the author expands it to a full-length novel one day.

I Loved You Tomorrow by BC Marine--This story was interesting. Unlike the former story, this reads as a short tale. There's an interesting grapple with seeing the future, a concept I love to dwell over. What would you do if you foresaw you spouse and your entire lives together and then suddenly met him/her? This story tackles that and all the awkwardness it would bring when said future spouse can hear your thoughts.

The Measure of a Princess by Rebecca Mikkelson--The style of this tale was refreshing. Told in a mix of contemporary language and fairy tale adage--Grimm comes to mind--a princess is summoned to compete for a prince she doesn't want. This hardcore feminist poses her servant as her sister in hopes to trick the prince and no more could be said without spoiling an amazing twist that dropped my jaw in equal amount of shock and appreciation.

The Princess and the Frog by Renee Frey--I do not think I ever wrote this or will again, but the coolest thing about this story was a frog's point-of-view. Okay, he's really a human in a frog's body, but he's been a frog so long the narrative from him felt uniquely half human. The plot of this one and how it unravels does call for an entire book. I wanted the prequel--to see him become the frog--and to draw the action and romance out a bit more. However, there is already a beautiful tale of love, betrayal, and redemption all within few pages.

Overall, I realized, I've been missing out on a genre of short stories. I didn't think I was a short story person or that I'd enjoy a romance short story. A lot of short romances get into the nitty-gritty right away--not a fan. These stories don't cross any lines like that, but portray a beautiful or painful lesson of love that resonates even after you put it down.

You can buy these stories and others, including full length novels, here.

Tales in Publishing: A Never Giving up Story

Tales in Publishing: 

A Never Giving up 

Some much-needed background info for this tale, condensed: At 23, I attempted my first novel. And failed. I had written stories and screenplay-type manuscripts my entire life. When I tried to flesh out the description and create a narrative voice, I struggled. I tried again and again, but wasn't satisfied. I never finished them. Then, 3 years later, I went for it creating an ambitious 4 character 1st POV mythology-based YA paranormal romance. I finished a massive 120k manuscript. This I named Quiver.

After having 7 betas read it, a grad student editor go through it, I trimmed, added, and trimmed more. Then I queried. With my first attempt at a letter and go for an agent, I did fairly well. Out of 30 agents, I got 5 positive replies for the manuscript. The waiting killed me. 3 were interested, even my dream agency who only took on books that they could sell to movie studios and the Big-5 publishers. A dream come true!

Or so I thought. Agent #1 asked for a revise and resubmit, wanting me to change it to 1 POV which would take the entire mythological aspect out of it. I wanted readers to see into the minds of Greek gods. I passed. Agent #2 wanted me to cut to just the boy and girl POV's which would've lost me my crossover adult audience and simplified the novel into only being a love story. I passed. Agent #3 wanted it, spoke of how it would transition well onto the screen, and we had 3 conversations about it. I wanted this dream agency and everything seemed almost set in stone. And then disaster. The agency votes on projects. 3 agents were on board out of 6, and they drop a project if there's not a majority. The agent asked me to send again in a year. She was kind and sounded a bit angry she was losing me. I couldn't deal with that kind of let down again, so did not resubmit. Rejection is one thing all authors must get used to, but believing you hit it big to have it taken away...rough.

I queried about 40 more agents, I was ignored for the most part or rejected with standard forms. Then I had a child. There was barely enough time for writing over the next three years, so researching for an agent? Forget it. I tried to revise, to limit POVs believing that maybe the agents had been right. I hated any cuts. I put it aside, focused on other works.

Then I got a novella I wrote in a week published by entering a submission call. This same publisher accepted, via a Twitter pitching event, a full-length book I had written, revised, and edited in 4 months. I got a second novel picked up by a different publisher during another pitching event. This book I only wrote on and off for about a year, probably taking 5-6 months total on it. That's when I realized something. I was finding success when I didn't "overcook" my novels. I needed to be more confident in my initial writing and not over revise, not employ too many betas since I cannot filter their advice well, and not make major cuts agents suggested. For these published books, I had 2 betas, 2 drafts, 2 edits. Not suggesting this method for everyone, but I learned about myself as a writer, while I grew my resume.

Back to Quiver, my first completed novel. I reread the original version before anyone had a hand in it. Then I read the newest version; something in between them was my target. I made cuts, mostly of two of the POVs making the characters subordinate. This was taking a smidgen of agent #2's advice who said to drop them completely. I didn't get rid of them, but lessened their import, slightly. I went from the 118k it had been to 88k, then redeveloped areas totaling 93k.

My current publisher has a first right of refusal clause, which is common, so I submitted the manuscript thinking it would be amazing if they took it, but if not, I still had my query and some titles under my belt and could try elsewhere. I waited anxiously...for a day! My publishers wanted it and we signed immediately.

Thirteen years after the first words were written, I signed a contract to see them in print. 

Hold onto your writing. I was sitting on 14 completed manuscripts. Once one was published, the dam holding me back was broken. I can only manage 2 novels a year with all of life's other obligations and another career, but I'm determined for these 14 to be in print one day. If all goes as planned, 9 so far will have homes. So authors, please hold onto your writing. If it isn't ready or not getting picked up, put it aside, work on something new, come back to it. Look for the flaws in your writing or your process. Learn to turn them into strengths. When you have improved your abilities, pull that writing back out. One day, someone will see the beauty in it. But no matter what they say, never give up.

Genre Review: Sweet Romance

Genre Review: 

Sweet Romance

I'm not sure if I dislike the genre as a whole, only having read ones that weren't amazing, but the last book I read left me blah. I refuse to name the title as I would probably only give it 2-stars and I'm questioning myself the validity of my low rating. Was this book a great example of the genre and I happen to not to like the genre or was it a poorly written book?

I'm a sucker for a love story, and I'm not a fan of erotica (not knocking on it as a genre, but personally not a fan). I like reading romance. A lot of romance novels buck (pun intended) the line, shifting so close to erotica that I wonder what the line truly is. For a change, I've been reading sweet romances ("clean" just sounds awful and insinuates romance is dirty, so not using that term although some use clean/sweet interchangeably). I've read four sweet romances now and only enjoyed one.

So the question I had to ask myself was who is the intended audience for these sweet romances? This I couldn't pin-point. Are they for people who simply don't want the nitty-gritty sexual details like myself? Or for asexual readers or any readers who want to read about love without any hormonal influence? 3/4 sweet novels I read seemed for the latter group. It made me feel as if love was in a vacuum, and I lacked connection to the character, never truly being privy to all their feelings. I have a hard time envision love without attraction. So is this genre not for me?

The Duds:
To generalize, the plots of a couple of these books were dull, so ordinary, real-life that I didn't feel transported outside of my bland-but-happy reality. I read to escape the world and to enjoy another character's life. This didn't happen. In one of them, the plot was so ludicrous I couldn't believe it. Second, the characters ages were in their 20's and 30's, but they acted like they were fifteen or younger--extremely immature, stubborn, absolutely ridiculous in one. I could not view them as real people but caricatures. I could not align myself with them or understand them (and I write/read YA and can fully understand and align myself with protagonists that are truly 15). In one of them the heroine and hero were both so normal and dull I was bored.

The great one:
The one great sweet romance I had the pleasure of reading had emotion, drama, and feelings, even the hormonal kind. There was a teaspoon of steamy attraction, but the characters did not act on them due to rules/customs of the time period, their morals, and wanting that confession of love and marriage before acting upon impulses. This one ended with a steamy kiss. This is what I see as sweet. This is what I want to read. The longing for indulging in our feelings but refraining is such sweet tension that I feel is almost necessary in romance. In the end, I liked the romance aspect, but the plot and a few other character inconsistencies prevented me from loving it.

So am I alone? I googled the definition of the genre and wow! So many conflicting versions. I even found articles about these conflicting definitions. Here are some things that cropped up in all of them--no sex, HFN or HEA endings after a conflict or struggle, no majorly offensive language--after that all the definitions vary. Those are some broad parameters to work with, so no wonder what I had read varied so drastically.

I'm contemplating writing a sweet romance because I want to see more tension and denial of feelings--heck, it's what I do in my upper-YA novels--but I definitely will have to read more of these to get a grasp on how I would define the genre or who my intended audience is.

How do you define "clean" or sweet romance?

Grammar Woes: Commas (Part 3)

Grammar Woes: 
Commas (Part 3)

Please see this link for a list of comma rules, or the last post for rules #1-3.

4. After an introductory phrase

This is by far the most forgotten comma I come across when grading student papers. Poor comma! We are supposed to offset an introductory phrase or word with a comma. Why? It helps your reader find the subject of the sentence. In the English language, we unconsciously look for subject--> verb--> object in order to make sense of what we read. By offsetting important fluff that comes before it, we help our reader.

  • Before she submitted her manuscript, Amy spent hours perfecting her commas. 

We want to keep the introductory phrase because it makes it interesting, adds detail, and varies up sentence structures (rather than always starting with "Amy" for example). We just need that comma to pause the reader's brain so he/she can focus on the upcoming subject.

5. To offset parenthetical "asides"

We use these for the same reason as above. We want our subject-verb-object sequence clear for our readers. Sometimes we modify part of the sentence that could technically go in parentheses or parenthetical commas, that works like an aside would in a play. Grammar books say these are nonessential items, meaning not needed for the sentence to make sense.

  • Jenny, along with her cousins Gregg and Jordan, was coming to the party.
The "meat" of the sentence is in bold. An indicator that this should be an aside and the author is focusing on Jenny is the word "was" instead of "were" (but this is another grammar function we'll tackle later). A good way to check if it is parenthetical (nonessential) is that it could be cut and the sentence could still make sense: Jenny was coming to the party. 

I think that's enough for our brains today. Stay tuned for more comma rules.


Tales in Publishing: Query example

Tales in Publishing:  Query example I'm sharing my successful query to others in hopes it exemplifies what to do and helps other au...