Are You Branded?

Writing a book? That’s hard.

Figuring out the author site, the social media thing, the marketing? Hahahaha. I think this is true of many authors (and other artist types), but it is more true for some of us than others.

Photo by Sara Kurfeß on Unsplash

To counteract my tech unsavvy, I have leaned upon my children. This month I asked Megan to help me with a logo. Just a simple one. She is good at it. It would be fun, right?

Apparently, I didn’t understand what is involved in creating a logo. Megan had assignments for me, and tests. Okay, they may not have been tests; they may have been questionnaires about branding. So, I have expanded my view of my work, my image, my brand.

I found that in branding terms, I am foremost a Creator. Then pretty equally, I am also an explorer, and the girl next door. How does that work? I’m a writer. It’s simple, right?

I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, trying to get it straight in my mind. This is how I’ve started thinking. Maybe you have some more insight you can share.

First, an obvious statement: I write clean regency romances. Someday I may write in other eras or other genres, but I know there will always be a romantic element in any story I write. I just love relationships. I believe in love as a power. I write about love. That’s me, the writer. (Creator).

However, a writer is only one part of who I am and the life I live. Is the writer so very different from who I am as the neighbor, the friend, or part of a family? In some ways certainly, but one constant is that relationships are important to me. I believe love is a power. I’m in love with love. (Is this the explorer? The girl next-door?)

I may write alone, but you are always there in my thoughts. Who are you? What does your journey look like? I know you have a lot of interests and responsibilities. I think you must have a sense of humor. You like the power of words to help you to see the world through someone else’s eyes. You care. And you love love too. It’s not a lot to know about you. I’d like to know more. Part of why I write on this site is because I’d like to build a relationship with you. I’d like for you to know me, and I’d like to know you better.

So, then I find myself asking how do we intersect and interact? What relationship do I want/can I build with you? And how? (Probably the girl next door thing)

Add the element of my books, as if they are a separate entity. Often they seem to have a life of their own. The characters and their experiences and the themes have a part to play. I try to write about people who are learning new things, often about themselves. I need my characters to grow and change over the course of their story. They are going to make mistakes and do stupid things, but they are going to love deeply. And love will conquer all. Factor that in.

Finally, there is the experience that I want you to have when you read. Some descriptors are: entertained, charmed, hopeful, relaxed, renewed. I like the words whimsy and delight.

All those pieces will hopefully come together in my “Brand.” And I may get a logo. I will be changing my site–different colors, different look. (Watch for changes). It will still be me writing romance, but hopefully everything I do here will reflect all of it–who I am, who you are, the books, the characters, the reading experience (and the characters’ experience), and mostly the relationships (of you and me and of the books and characters). And hopefully it will reflect our belief in love.

Photo by Susn Matthiessen on Unsplash

Would you like a rating system for your romance fiction?

Movies have a voluntary rating system. Books, not so much. We may argue about the way the movie rating scale has changed over time or the usefulness of the MPA’s system, but the ratings provide at least a starting point when choosing what we’ll watch.

Parents are urged to be cautious. Some material may be inappropriate for pre-teenagers.

In romance novels, there is a binary, perhaps ternary, system. There are clean or sweet novels and stories (read this as no sex on the page). There are steamy works (read that as sex included and described). And some might include erotica in the genre. (I could argue it belongs somewhere else, depending on your definition of romance, but that’s a discussion for another day). Today we’ll call it three categories, but in each sub-genre, there are endless variations and gradations of the expression of attraction, relationship, romance, and love. Note: Later, I might also need to include the measurement of violence, swearing, use of alcohol, etc. in my rating system. Today, I’m just discussing sensuality.

As a new author of clean/sweet regency romances, I want to create a more nuanced, helpful assessment in my sub-genre for those who read clean romance fiction. I could call it the clean romance affection continuum (CRAC)? Or maybe the sweet romance ardor scale (SRAS)? The physical affection rating system (PARS)? The romance heat spectrum (RHS)? Kissing Quotient (KQ)?

Whatever I call it, my scale would let a reader know how much physical intimacy, as part of the growth of the relationship, they can expect to be present before they pick up a novel, novella, or short story so they can make an informed decision. Join me in a little (and little longer) discussion about “heat” in a clean romantic work.

Photo by Barna Kovács on Unsplash

I’m thinking a 0-10 continuum line, with 0 being absolutely no physical interaction beyond what courtesy demands. There would be no interior dialogue or narrator insertions about attractiveness or physical reaction to the romantic interest. None of the characters’ feelings of attraction or behaviors acting on such would be included. Dialogue between characters would have no overt examples of anything more than a high-minded regard. In a novel or story on the zero end of the line, any warmth would have to be created in the reader’s mind. I call this zero on the scale because I’m not sure it really would qualify as romance, per se. I can think of no examples here because I’m pretty sure I would put such a novel down without finishing it.

At 10 would be a story where, (remember I’m only including novels that fall into the clean/sweet category), there is no sex on the page, but sex might be implied. There might be some descriptions of kissing, even arousal. These descriptions might even be frequent and detailed–a major part of the building of the relationship.

Somewhere in between 1-3, I would place Jane Austin’s novels. (No one does it better than Jane Austin). Though, Austen doesn’t write descriptions of physical interactions between her main characters, the attraction and sexual tension is palpable. The growth of the romance is carried by looks and witty exchanges between the eventual lovers. Hints, and sometimes outright commentary, by minor characters show the growing attraction (Bingley’s sister’s jealous/mocking comments, Maryanne’s family and friends’ concern, etc.). Additionally, the undercurrent of sexuality in society is revealed, especially in the lives and choices of minor characters, ie. Georgina’s innocent and Lydia’s heedless tumble into the clutches of the depraved Wickham or Mr. William Elliot’s final attachment of Mrs. Clay, etc.

At the 2-5 range, I might place the novels of Georgette Heyer. She has the long looks and the heated exchanges and the witty repartee. We love it! However, Georgette Heyer adds a physical element. Her characters are described in terms of physicality and attraction. And almost all kiss at the end, sometimes twice! The range is also wider because some of her novels are thematically more sexual in nature, think Venetia or even Devil’s Cub.

Many contemporary authors’ works would fall in the 4-8 range. I think most of us want to write books that appeal to readers who don’t want to be the fly on the wall of the characters’ bedrooms. At the same time, we (I) want to appeal to a modern audience that expects that part of romance, as we know it, includes thoughts of awareness and attraction, and the growth of those feelings, side by side with a growth of emotional intimacy.

This is true of my Regency romance novels (and novella). I find it difficult to write the growth of a romantic relationship without the interwoven growth of physical awareness. On the one hand, I would love to have the subtlety and skill of Austen or Heyer. On the other hand, I live in this time. I enjoy a little more overt awareness. I like to see the growth of attraction. I think it’s a sweet part of the process of falling in love to tremble at a touch, to sigh, to desire. And yes, to kiss. (I would like to see appreciation for the small, nuanced steps of physical intimacy restored into our modern views of romance–but that’s another post for another day).

In my Illusions series novella, Philip and Maris discover their attraction and want to explore it, even though her brother keeps interrupting. So, add an element of frustration.

While I may not be so subtle as Jane Austen or Georgette Heyer, I try not to beat my readers with inappropriate (for clean/sweet romance) sensuality. So, my characters are aware of each other physically. They contemplate, may even question this attraction. In the first novel in my Illusions series, Robert and Liza both have secrets and questions and doubts. But they do kiss. More than once.

After years of reading clean/sweet romances, many of them regency/historical romances, I have found that what I love to read spans a good portion of my, still to be named, scale. And that has informed and guided my writing.

How about you? What level of sensuality are you comfortable with in your clean/sweet romance novels and stories? You can use my new rating system if you want. (And feel free to use examples).

Publishing my first book?-Can we call it a “soft opening?”

For more than a year I’ve been writing and editing this first book in my Illusions Series. During the beta reading and editing of this first book, I wrote the second. And then I read somewhere that it is a good idea to have a “book magnet”–a smaller work that you give for free. So, I took some time out and wrote a novella. I also began the third book. (This means there are four books in this series, three full length, one novella. My goal is to have all four up before the end of the year.)

Finally it’s time to begin to publish them. My husband spent the last month, between his own word, to format the first–The Secrets We Keep, and we uploaded it to Amazon this weekend. I was so excited! I announced it on my Insta. I put it up on my family What’sApp, my neighborhood Group Me. My family shared on their timelines. And then (my order of activity was not wise), I downloaded my own book.

Horror, of horrors, the digital format was all messed up. Amazon’s KDP is very user friendly in some ways, and just not clear enough in others. We had to have them take down the digital version, and we had to resubmit it. (At least the paperback is right). But that meant I had to go back and announce, “oops, don’t buy that yet. Or if you did, cancel and rebuy when it comes back up.”

This is not the published author first impression I wanted to send. I had a few moments of panic, and then I wanted to curl up in fetal position. Then we went to work.

I tell myself that in a day or two everything will be as it should. I tell myself that only a few bought the digital version before I could notify them of the problem. (So sorry friends for the inconvenience). I tell myself that by the time the next book (the Novella, Smoke and Shadows) is up–later this week– no one will remember this little hiccup at the beginning of my publishing career. I hope all of those things are true, but it was still a blow for me.

Many, if not most, authors pay someone else to take the finished work and babysit it through the publishing process, but there are those of us who must DIY it. We will make mistakes. We will read all the other DIYer’s accounts and try to learn from them, but we will have to experience our own learning curve. Are you interested in the process? If so, I will share, in a brutally honest way what we experience–good and bad. Maybe this will be the help that another new author needs so her/his opening doesn’t have to be soft.

We learned this:

KDP wants the paperback version in a pdf. The cover has to be in EPub. (We did this).

Even though KDP says for the digital version, you can upload html or EPub (which we did), what they really require is a Word file for the body and a Jpeg for the cover.

Invite Anyway

A while ago I read a book by Deborah Tannen entitled, You Just Don’t Understand: Women and
Men in Conversation
. She explored/researched the different ways men and women communicate.
In communication, as in many other ways, we truly are from different cultures. Funny as it
seems, this book actually helped me understand my conversations with my mother more than
with my husband or other men.

Continue reading

My Foray Into the Twenty-first Century

I’ve decided to join the twenty-first century. That means that I have a smart phone; I have dabbled in social media (still experimenting), and now I am beginning a blog. It took more time to choose a title than it will take to write my first post. I wanted a title that reflected my aspirations to be an author, but “Aspiring Author” was not available. And though most of my posts will be about writing–inspiration, discussion, hints–the truth is that my interests are varied. I have a ‘day-job’ that I find fascinating. I will probably write about that sometimes. I have very strong avoidance skills that coincide with my varied interests, so sometimes I will probably write about what I do when I should be writing but am not (thrifting, quilting, reading, learning new things). Like writing, I think this blog will be an exciting learning experience. Please, join me.