Thursday, March 28, 2019

Why I Write and Read Romance

by Fran McNabb

Not everyone will agree with my opinion here, but that’s okay. Everyone has different likes and dislikes in the books they choose to read and write. Mine happens to be the romance genre. Recently my husband and I watched a rather long movie, almost three hours long. The time didn’t bother me, but the ending did. We watched a soldier fight his way through a bloody war and spend months walking home to get to the woman he loved, just to be killed after only one night with her.
Grrrr. I was mad. The romance writer in me would never have let that happen. I know the point of the story. War is horrible. It shouldn’t be romanticized, but the writers and producers could have made their point another way. I won’t name the movie because it was very well done except for the ending. It depicted the brutality of war. The characters were well developed. The story line was intricately woven. Too bad the ending ruined it—at least for me.
The romance genre is predictable, at least for the endings. Getting to that satisfying ending should not be. I love to read a romance with a unique plot, interesting characters, and, yes, a happy or at least a satisfying ending.
On my website I have a couple of paragraphs about romance and why I write in that genre. I explain that I like a good story that brings me to an "aaah" ending, or leaves me with a tear in my eye or a smile on my face. I like to feel good and be entertained by the books I read or the movies I watch. There’s enough bad in this world so I like to think my books can bring a little joy to someone’s life.
Let me know how you feel. Do you like a feel good ending in your books or one that leaves you with the harsh reality of life?

FRAN MCNABB loved spending time in the city library when she was in junior high. She found the shelf with Avalon’s family-friendly romance novels and read every one of them. Ironically, she started her writing career by publishing with Avalon in 2006. Today she has nine published books, all in the romance genre. Visit her at or at

Monday, March 25, 2019

What I'm Learning as a Grandmother

Before my grandson was born, I never really understood the hype about grandchildren.  We’ve all heard it. “Wait until you have grandchildren then you’ll see that there’s no greater joy,” would be a typical refrain. 
I thought I understood when my grand son was born a year ago.  Holding him for the first time in my arms was a wonder.  But there was, at least in my mind, such a build up about being a grandmother that my own reaction, albeit emotional, didn’t feel that it measured up to all the hype I’d heard.  Now I think I understand what the hullabaloo was about. 
What helped me was a quote shared in a yoga class I recently attended. The gist of it is that the biggest enemy of parenthood is life’s distractions. The remark resonated with me because I’d just come back from LA visiting my grandson.  I was alone with him a lot of that time. I got to pick him up from daycare every afternoon before my daughter got home from work and then spend the next few hours just focusing on him.  
My only responsibility, besides picking him up (in LA traffic) was dinner and that was easy.  My daughter had it waiting, plated, in the fridge.  She took care of his bath and bedtime routine when she got home. All I had to do was to drive in that traffic for fifteen minutes and keep him out of harm’s way for a few hours.
Every afternoon I could take him in his stroller along the canals in Venice and look for ducks or dogs.  Sometimes we went to the local fancy and over priced grocery store where everyone smiled at him. Sometimes we walked along the boardwalk beside the beach.
            I raised three children and spent a lot of time in grocery stores with them, taking them to the park and to the beach. But this was different.  When I was raising my children I had other responsibilities.  Besides meals there was the general upkeep of the house, the up keep of my family’s busy schedule and my writing.  I was always trying to find time to fit in an hour or two a week.  
It was also a time, more than thirty years ago, that most women stayed home and daycare really wasn’t an option.  I was raising my kids because that was my job and my husband was out working and leaving child rearing and home chores to me because that was, as we saw it back then, my responsibility.
            Spending time with my children when they were small wasn’t always as idyllic as it was with my grandson.  I’d get glimpses of it when I’d take them to the park the first time they’d go down a slide or sit on a see saw, or at home, just before bedtime when we’d curl up together with a favorite book.  
But there were also the distractions:  the list of things I needed and wanted to accomplish that filled my brain.  I think that’s the meaning of the quote I referred to earlier.  During those early years when I was raising my children, all those unimportant details of life, were always intruding and preventing me from being completely present.
Do I wish I could get a do-over?  Of course I do.  If I got one, I’d definitely focus more on the time with my children and less on picking up the house or worrying about the minor details of life or even my writing. But since there are no do-overs, at least I get to be a grandma and that’s pretty spectacular and maybe makes up for what I missed the first time around. 

Monday, March 11, 2019

Real (?) People in Books

by Sandra Carey Cody

One of the questions writers are often asked is: “Do you use real people in your books?”

There’s no simple yes or no answer to this question - at least not for me. My characters are cobbled together out of bits and pieces of a lot of people, myself included.  The old actor, Nathaniel Pynchon, introduced in Put Out the Light is a good example. He isn’t anyone I know. He’s arrogant and self-centered. He isn’t nice, but I think he’s interesting. He says and does the mean, hurtful things that I don’t allow myself to say or do.  And, frankly, it’s nice to have a place to release my nasty impulses where no one gets hurt.

Sometimes, a fictional character is the result of a glimpse of another human being. On a recent trip to the grocery store, I was in line behind a young woman with two children - a baby sitting in the seat of the cart and a little girl. I’m guessing the child was about six. When it was their turn at the checkout, the mother put their items on the conveyor, the store clerk rang them up, and, without being told to, the little girl started bagging the groceries. Young as she was, she knew what she was doing. First, she very carefully arranged an assortment of canned goods in the bottom of a bag, then she proceeded to place lighter, more irregularly-shaped items on the base she had constructed. When the bag was full, she selected another and filled it with the same meticulous precision. I watched, amazed, and wondered what her story was. Was she just naturally organized? Had her mother or another adult coached her? If so, for what reason? Old-fashioned character-training? Or had a special family situation made it necessary for her to pitch in beyond her years? Did the child enjoy what she was doing? Had she any sense of her uniqueness? She was certainly different from most of the kids I've encountered in checkout lines; there was no whining, no begging for some of the treats that stores place so enticingly at child-eye-level. I glanced at the mother. Apparently, she took the child’s help for granted. I don’t mean that she seemed indifferent. She smiled at the little girl and nodded approval, but didn’t seem to find her child unusual. 

This incident lasted no more than fifteen minutes, just a small interlude in a round of everyday errands, but it stuck in my mind. The child will probably show up as a fictional character some day. She'd make a perfect amateur sleuth - smart, competent, someone who slips under the radar and is under-estimated until it's too late. When the story is written, chances are her appearance and actions will be completely different than the incident I witnessed. To tell the truth, I don't remember how this particular child looked. I'm imagining pigtails, but that might change. I doubt I’ll use the supermarket setting but, wherever it unfolds, that little girl's spirit will be present.

            So ... back to the original question: Do I use real people in my books? I’m not sure. Every idea comes from somewhere and I suspect most writers would have a hard time tracing the finished product (or character) back to its genesis. 

Monday, March 4, 2019

Notes from a Sitting Duck

by Janis Susan May/Janis Patterson

They're out there, in droves, just waiting for us.

No, I'm not getting paranoid - any more than usual, anyway. Every day writers are being made into sitting ducks. I'm telling the truth, and I'm talking about thieves. Call them pirates, call them freedomers, call them file-sharers, call them plagiarists, call them anything you like, but they're still thieves, talking our work without our permission and giving us no compensation.

It's interesting that those who believe 'if it's on the internet it should be free' or that we should be happy just to have our work read and give away our work so freely have never published anything of their own. When we call them thieves to their faces they are offended and hurt; why, they ask, are we being so selfish? People want to read our books. People need entertainment. We have entertainment. How can we be so small of spirit, they wonder, as to deny people what they want when we have it. We want our work to be read, don't we?

Of course, they never stop to think - or plain just don't care - that we spend weeks, perhaps months, maybe even years writing that book. We spend money, too, if we're self-published, on editors and proof-readers and covers and formatters. That never seems to enter their tiny little brains. They just want to be seen as a kind of Robin Hood, graciously giving to the have-nots and never caring if it is at the expense of the ones who created the books.

Now of course you know I'm not talking about a writer who decides to give away a book of his own, either as a short-time sale, a long-term enticement to a series, a gift promotion, or a whatever. I have my own opinions about free books, but as long as the writer himself is the one making the decision to give it away, that's fine. It's their property and they can do what they want with it.

Another particularly slimy kind of thief is the one who gets a copy of the book and then puts it up for sale in his store... but without the author's permission and without any compensation going to the author. The reader gets the book, the seller gets the money, and the writer, who created the book, gets... nothing. Except for a very few mega-sellers, writers have always gotten the short shrift in the publishing industry and it looks like that's not going to change anytime soon.

A new wrinkle in this perpetual 'screw-the-writer' cavalcade is the plagiarist. Oh, people have been stealing books and ideas from other writers for centuries, but suddenly this kind of theft seems to have gone on steroids.

Now these thieves take chunks of copy from several books of similar genre, then mash them up into a new 'book' (perhaps 'manuscript' would be a better term) and put it out as their own. Sometimes they don't even bother to do their own 'mashing-up' but hire a ghostwriter to do it, so they can claim to have written a book without even having touched it. Even worse, there are thieves who take a book and leave it untouched except for changing the main characters' names, maybe the location and maybe the industry in which they work, then put it out as their own work.

And I have never ever heard of any legitimate writer getting any of the money owed them after the scams have been discovered.

In order to defend his property the writer has to spend time - time that should have been spent with his family, or writing, or whatever he chooses - chasing down these thieves and sendings DMCAs, or he has to spend money hiring a company to do it for them - money that should have stayed in the writer's pocket. What's worse is that most of these criminals operate from overseas, beyond the reach of law enforcement - if law enforcement would take an interest in piracy, which so far it hasn't. In the rare instance where an operator has closed down, you can bet within a month or so it will be back up and running again on another website, gleefully continuing to steal writers' property and profits.

I don't know where or how much farther this trend of thievery will or even can go, but I'm absolutely positive that somewhere someone will think of another way to rip off the poor writer who labors to create something.

Sad to think that the internet - which has given so many of us careers with the advent of self-publishing - is what has also given us this rise in crime. I'm sure that there was plagiarism and intellectual theft back in the day of gate-keepers/traditional publishing, but the purely physical limitations of print publishing kept it to a minimum. The internet and self-publishing has indeed turned out to be a two-edged sword.

I don't know what or how is to be done about this, but something must be. Surely someday some hot-shot computer person will come up with a theft-proof something or other that will give writers and writers alone control of their works. Hopefully it will happen soon, because writers are tired of becoming every crook's target.