Goal Setting and Productivity – Tips from the Published Authors of LERA

Posted by: Shannon Moreau on Jan 19 2018, 7:27 am in , ,

This is the year I’m putting together a business plan for my writing. I began with this Plan on a Page from Jane Friedman’s website. I spent four morning hours filling it out, and finished just in time for my new planner to arrive so I could transfer my goals schedule and deadlines accordingly. So far I’m staying on track. In the past, however, I’ve had a notorious pattern of setting internal writing deadlines that I then proceed to blow, so what perfect timing that the first LERA program of the year was a panel of published authors on goal setting and productivity.

The LERA panel consisted of

Jeffe Kennedy, Fantasy, Fantasy Romance, Contemporary Romance, Erotic Romance

Darynda Jones, Paranormal Mystery, Young Adult

Robin Perini, Romantic Suspense

Tamra Baumann, Contemporary Romance

Shea Berkley, Young Adult and Fantasy

Check out the highlights here.

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5 Questions To Ask the Hero of Your Story

Posted by: Shannon Moreau on Nov 19 2017, 6:50 pm

This past weekend I attended my LERA writing group’s Enchanting the Page Conference and our guest was Michael Hauge, a story doctor and script consultant who was worked with, among other people, Will Smith. (!!!) On day two of the conference, a group of thirteen of us (ooooh, insert Twilight Zone music) gathered in a freezing cold hotel “library” and spent ten hours breaking down the stories we’re working on, with Michael Hauge guiding us through character development and plot points. It was intense. It was scary. It was emotional. It was exhausting. And at the end, I was overwhelmed by sadness, the kind of sadness that hits you on the last day of summer camp, when you’re saying goodbye to your friends before getting on the bus to go home.

I could work on story stuff all day. What Michael Hauge helped me zero in on is character development. In my blog post, I list 5 things I’m asking my story protagonist. Check it out here.

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Shea Berkley Tells How to Layer Your Scene

Posted by: Louise Bergin on Oct 16 2017, 9:22 am

(This content was taken from the blog of Louise Bergin. For more information click here.)

My writing chapter was fortunate to have adult/young adult paranormal and fantasy author Shea Berkley as our program speaker for October. She talked about her layering process to write a scene, which I think is a unique approach. After all, a writer needs a collection of scenes put together to tell a story. (Yes, a short story can be told in only one scene.)

But first what is a scene?

Ms. Berkley had an excellent definition. A scene is an event that occurs in a slice of time that creates change. Authors write about change, which can be such things as revelation of character or an additional obstacle. I thought this brilliantly clarified what the purpose of a scene is.

Ms. Berkley writes her books in scenes, viewing them as though they were a movie playing before her. She has five steps to writing or “layering” the scenes in her creative process. The first step is to get the dialogue down as quickly as possible. That’s all she writes. No tags as to who is speaking or what they might be doing. Just the dialogue.

Next she rewatches the scene and writes all the action. The characters must be doing something, even if it’s just eating breakfast.  If action isn’t put into the story, only talking heads would exist. Yes, Orson Scott Card started Ender’s Game with just two people talking dialogue, but even he didn’t write the whole book that way. Eventually, something must happen on the page.

Description follows on her third pass. It’s not a catalog of the setting, but what important details does the point of view character notice and why. How does that detail resonate with the character’s backstory, goals, or other pieces of who he is? What emotional response does the description invoke in the character? And remember, description can be about more than the setting. Also include the other people present in the scene when writing description.

Thought comes through with description, but Ms. Berkley makes it have its own pass. If she didn’t include thought as part of the emotional response to the description, she makes sure it’s written now. Readers like to know how someone else thinks. This forges a stronger emotional bond between character and reader, but be careful not to compose too much thought. After all, thought means thinking and not action, which slows the pacing and the forward thrust of the story.

Lastly, Ms. Berkley adds exposition, which she considers the backstory. This piece should be very lightly sprinkled into a writer’s prose because backstory means the author is referencing something that happened in the past, which once again, will slow the story from moving forward. Ms. Berkley was not talking about flashbacks which are scenes (an event in the past time line) vividly lived on the page. She meant during the story’s present, do not slow the dialogue/action/etc. for more than a brief phrase or sentence of backstory. Knowing the character’s past helps the reader understand why the character acts/believes the way he does. His motivation. Just no wallowing.

After explaining these five steps of layering (dialogue, action, description, thought, and exposition) Ms. Berkley gave us an example of a scene she’d written for the workshop. Starting with dialogue that the class originally didn’t realize contained three characters instead of two, she showed us how a her process works. Although I don’t write quite this way, I can see adapting this approach to reviewing my scenes will make certain they are fully developed. Thank you, Ms. Berkley for giving us another tool to adapt and use.

Shea Berkley


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Opting In Twice

Posted by: Louise Bergin on Aug 28 2017, 10:38 am

Taken from the blog of Louise Bergin

A previous blog post spoke about the CAN-SPAM act that governs the use of electronic newsletters, but Erica Ridley’s July presentation covered so much more than the law, which she mentioned. Ms. Ridley is a historical romance author with more than 25,000 newsletter subscribers. One of the most frequently given advice to gathering sales for today’s author is to have a newsletter. Your subscribers are readers who already like your stories, so let them know when you have a new book out.

There are two schools of thought about how often a newsletter should be sent out. Some authors believe only when you have a book out, to avoid cluttering your fans’ inboxes; other authors believe a newsletter is another form of social media and therefore, only a portion of the newsletter distribution should be a “buy my book” message.

Ms. Ridley sends out a monthly newsletter, which covers something personal happening in her life (family visiting her in Costa Rica where she lives!), something interesting about Costa Rica (it’s unique to have a writer of English Regency historicals living there), and then something about her books (progress on the current manuscript, new book or box sets, etc.) With so many subscribers, her newsletter is apparently very successful.

How did she do it?

She is a big believer in reader magnets. In technical terms, a free item like a story or a book is called a reader magnet. Learning new vocabulary doesn’t stop just because you’re no longer in school. Everywhere she posts or advertises, she has a link front and center, asking if the reader wants free stories. That is the basic key to her success. What’s in it for the reader to be your subscriber? For authors, free books and stories are obvious reader magnets. They get something good to read in exchange for giving out their e-mail address.

I have five or six very short stories of between 800 and 2,000 words. These are flash fiction ideas that came to me, usually while I was on my morning walk. One does not refuse the gifts from the writing muse! I wrote these down and shared them with my critique group. They gave their suggestions for improvement but also asked what I planned to do with them? I couldn’t give an answer, they were too short to publish, and I didn’t have enough to bundle into a self-pubbed book. Still I kept the story files on my computer.

Unfortunately, these stories tend to be either set in the present day or outside my usual historical period. I asked Ms. Ridley, if these would be appropriate for a historical author to use. I worried about diluting my brand. She said it was more important to give something to the readers rather than just asking them to sign up for the newsletter.

I decided to use my short story Love Lies, which is set in the present day, as my free reader gift. At almost 2,000 words, it’s one of my longest short shorts.  The story idea came from a writing prompt in an online class I took about short stories. The prompt gave the first sentence of the story: Her husband was lying to her.

Immediately, we have two characters, a husband and wife, with conflict—lying. What is he lying about? The answer came to me right away—and why he did so. After I wrote the beginning, I knew how his lack of truthfulness would affect their family and how they had to learn to forgive and love again. Hey, I’m a romance writer. I like the happy ending.

I formatted my story in Scrivener, which was also my first time doing that.  Using what I learned from Ms. Ridley, I set up the newsletter subscription link on my web site. Since I am not a computer programmer, I wanted to use “plug-ins” for my web site to make the task easier. Plug-ins are inserted on your site, which contain the programming commands already written. You select which one to use based upon what task needs to be completed.

For instance, rather than cluttering up my web site or other electronic communication with long web site addresses that no one can remember, I signed up for a Smarturl account. This enables me to use the following easy-to-understand link where subscribers can register for my newsletter, also known as the Louise Bergin VIP List.


I also have a MailChimp account where the subscribers’ e-mails are gathered and my newsletter will eventually be created. I don’t have to keep a spreadsheet up-to-date. The account does all the work.

What work is that?

In addition to gathering the subscribers’ e-mails, MailChimp has plug-ins which my web site can use to create the sign-up and welcome e-mails.  Many authors prefer to use a double opt-in approach for subscribers, so that people can really know what they are signing up for. No accidental registrations.  Having a double system also helps prevent authors from running afoul of the CAN-SPAM Act.  What are the steps of a double opt-in?

  1. The person clicks on the Join the VIP List link, thus making the first request to be a subscriber.
  2. Using MailChimp’s plug-in, I’ve designed a welcome to my list automatic e-mail response and a link, where my free giveaway story can be requested. This is the second opt-in request.
  3. If the subscriber wants the free story and clicks on the story link, another e-mail is generated with the download link and a welcome message.  She has her free story, and I have a new subscriber.

All of these steps the subscriber goes through are automated through MailChimp.  To create your own automatic system, log in to your MailChimp account and select the List tab at the top.  If it’s your first time using MailChimp, name your newsletter and follow the create prompts. Then click on Signup Forms, followed by selecting General Forms. The gray rectangular box has a drop-down list of what kind of forms you can create. Have fun playing with the wording, the colors, and the font to display your brand of the welcome e-mail.

I hope you will give my newsletter with its double opt-in—and free story a try!


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Staying On the Ladder of Success

Posted by: Louise Bergin on Aug 14 2017, 12:31 pm

Taken from Louise Bergin’s Blog

For August, my RWA chapter had author Jodi Thomas as our guest speaker. Her program was titled “How to Keep From Falling Off the Ladder of Success.” Ms. Thomas is a multi-bestselling author of over 40 books and a member of RWA’s Hall of Fame with five Rita wins to her credit. She certainly has the background to give us advice about success.

She talked a little bit about the five years it took to sell her first book. One important reminder to everyone was that published authors have to write by the clock. What this means is that no longer do you have the luxury of playing around until you discover the perfect sentence. Now deadlines loom.
Ms. Thomas is also the Writer-in-Residence at West Texas A & M University in Canyon, TX near Amarillo. As such, she deals with students and teaches them about writing.

One of her interesting tips deals with stopwatches. Students would declare they spent two to three hours a day writing, yet never seemed to have many pages to show for this effort. Slow writers? Ms. Thomas thought maybe they weren’t spending as much time writing as they thought. Each student obtained a stopwatch. Every time they sat down to write, they clicked it on. If they got up to get coffee, snack, bathroom break, or whatever, they clicked the watch off. If they stopped writing and surfed the internet or played a game, while seated in front of their computer, the stopwatch had to be clicked off again. It could only be running during actual writing time when words were being added to the screen. Very quickly this exercise taught the students that they weren’t actually writing two to three hours a day. They were lucky to hit twenty minutes of work daily.

She spoke also about the importance of avoiding people who drain you. Their negativity impacts your creativity and wears you down. By the same token, acknowledge those who help you. Not just your editors or agent, but those who encourage your creativity. Recognize them and appreciate them. They are gifts to your life.

Her talk was the best kind of program. Both inspiring and practical. I left the meeting, eager to return to my manuscript and buy my stopwatch. Knowing it was ticking will give me incentive to continue producing.


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CAN-SPAM Act of 2003

Posted by: Louise Bergin on Jul 17 2017, 7:42 am

This month’s LERA meeting covered electronic newsletters and was presented by historical author Erica Ridley. It was an all-day affair, filled with brand-new knowledge for me. Electronic newsletters are considered one of the best ways today for authors, whether traditionally or self-published, to alert fans to new books and gain new readers. We had a good turn-out for people to learn about how to put a newsletter together and what to use to entice readers to registering as subscribers.

However it is important not run afoul of the 2003 CAN-SPAM (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing) law, which governs electronic transmissions for commercial purposes. It does not ban spamming, but it does an deceptive advertising practices. Yes, writers’ newsletters are covered by the law, even if you only have a few subscribers. They have rights that must be respected.

The three (there are additional requirements) most important items to remember when setting up a newsletter are:

  1. The recipient must have requested the electronic transmission. This is why there are subscriber buttons and links on writers’ web sites, asking if you want to sign up for the newsletter. They cannot spam your inbox with their newsletter; you have to ask for it. Many authors make sure you ask for it by using a double opt-in registration system. The authors can entice you by offering freebies, such as free stories or access to deleted scenes or excerpts of their books, etc.
  2. The recipient has the right to unsubscribe at any time, and the link to do so is easy to find. If the subscriber doesn’t want to receive your newsletter any longer, the author must honor the request within ten business days. The author cannot send any kind of “will you rejoin” message for 30 days.
  3. Lastly, the author must provide the address of a valid, physical postal address on the newsletter transmission. Many authors rent a post office box for this very purpose because they write from home and don’t want to provide put their home address on the internet. My daughter gave me a year’s rental on post office box as my present this past Christmas. A very useful and appreciated gift. Keep the idea in mind for your writer friends.

Because of all the information I learned from Ms. Ridley, I will be able to complete the steps to setting up my newsletter subscription and hope to send out my first issue soon. See the Content page on my web site for the link to subscribe.  (https://louisebergin.wordpress.com/contact-me)

For an overview of the CAN-SPAM Act, this link goes to the Federal Trade Commission:  https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/can-spam-act-compliance-guide-business

This link takes you to Erica Ridley’s web site, where she offers tremendous freebies to her newsletter subscribers:  http://www.ericaridley.com/

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Five Tips to Boost Sales of an Older eBook

Posted by: Emily Shaw on Apr 15 2015, 1:34 pm in , , ,

You self-published your romance ebook months or years ago, and the sales have gone soft. One of the great benefits of ebook self-publishing is that your book is a dynamic, living creature. You have the ability to evolve the inner and outer elements of the book over time as you work to connect with readers. Connection is key. You’re working to build the shortest, most friction-free connection between the reader’s desire and your book satisfying that desire.

Let’s review five steps you can take to give your book a makeover. With actions ranging from simple to more complex, you’ll breathe new life into your book. The tips here work on new books too!

1. Micro-target

Who is your target reader? If your answer is “all romance readers,” you’re probably aiming too broad. Drill down. Imagine the reader who will derive more joy from your book than any other reader. Visualize the reader who will love your story, your characters and your style more than any other. The reader who will give you five-star reviews. Your precise understanding of your target reader will help you clarify how you approach your book’s makeover, and will prevent you from marketing your book to the wrong audience.

2. Check your categorization 

Most distributors and retailers allow you to set your book’s category and subcategory. Some, like Smashwords, will allow two full categories. Choose the most specific categorization possible. Some authors make the mistake of choosing the broadest category when a more specific category gets them more exposure to the right readers. For example, Fiction: Romance: Paranormal will get you on three virtual shelves (fiction, romance general and romance paranormal) whereas Fiction: Romance: General only gets you on two. A paranormal fan will go to the paranormal shelf. In answer to checklist #1 above, does your categorization match the reader most likely to enjoy your book?

3. Examine your reviews across all retailers 

If you’re averaging 4.5 to five stars, you’re in good shape. If you’re averaging three or 3.5 stars, it’s a clue that something is seriously wrong. There are three likely causes if you’re averaging poor or mediocre reviews, but only the one is easy to fix: 1. You’re suffering from miscategorization (extreme example, an Erotica novel categorized as Christian Romance). You don’t want your book read by readers who won’t enjoy it, or listed in a category that misrepresents the true categorization. 2. Your book isn’t resonating with readers. A few years ago, a 3-star romance ebook could sell relatively well if it had a low price. But today, thanks to the rise of indie ebook authorship and the growing professionalism within the indie romance community, there’s a glut of high-quality low-cost romance on the market. This means that good is no longer good enough. If your book isn’t taking the reader to an emotionally satisfying extreme – if you’re not seeing the words “WOW!” and “Amazing!” in your reviews – then your book probably needs a surgical makeover in the form of a revision. 3. You don’t have a critical mass of reviews, or maybe you have no reviews at all. It takes sales (or free downloads) to achieve a critical mass of reviews. Once you earn a good critical mass of positive reviews, the reviews will drive your sales for years to come.

4. Take a fresh look at your cover image 

Let’s say you’ve written the super-awesome book, you’re averaging 4.5 star reviews, but the book is still selling poorly. Maybe it’s time to give your cover a makeover. Readers judge books by their covers. A great cover draws the reader in to take a closer look at your title, description and sample. A great cover makes an honest emotional promise to your micro-targeted reader. It grabs the reader and screams (figuratively), “This book offers the exact reading experience you desire! This book will make you experience the emotional journey you crave.” It starts with the image. If you were to strip away the title and author name from the cover image, the image alone should carry your message to your target reader. If you think about it, images and words are simply symbols of some deeper message or meaning, and a deeper promise. The primitive human brain processes the symbolism of images faster than words, triggering an instant emotional response (like “oh, that’s a saber-toothed tiger, it wants to eat me, I should run,” or “That attractive [gentleman/prince/king/billionaire/hunk/werecreature/rocker dude/nerd/the object of your protagonist’s object of desire desiring your protagonist] looks like he wants to devour her, I want to read that!”). Words require more cognitive brain juice to process, so your prospective reader will process the image before they process the words in your title. Since your prospective reader is scanning a retailer’s merchandising page and viewing dozens of images all at once, anything that requires extra cognitive processing will be ignored in favor of books with images that speak directly to the reader’s desires. How large is your author name on the cover? Make it larger, but don’t interfere with the absorption of the image’s message. A large author name conveys the subliminal message, “This is a big author, a big name, a name I should know because they’re a big author,” and that message will be absorbed like an image before they consciously read the words of your name and decide if your name is familiar to them.

5. Add enhanced backmatter to all your books

One of the most powerful drivers of book sales will be your other books. Most authors end their books with a period and that’s it. That’s a squandered opportunity. Put yourself in the reader’s shoes. They just finished your book and they’re crying happy tears because your book was so amazing. The reader just spent several hours immersed in your story, and with every paragraph and chapter you kept them turning the page, and with every turned page you earned more and more of their respect and trust. Trust is key in the author-reader relationship. Once you earn the reader’s trust, they want more of you. So at that moment where the book ends, tell them what they can read next!

Every novel should have at least three short sections after the end of the book, and a fourth or fifth if you want to earn bonus points. The three key sections include: 1. About Jane Smith – a short short bio that tells the reader something interesting about you that makes you more human, like you live in Dallas with your wonderful husband, two teenagers and a bossy cat and you like to garden in your spare time. Bonus points if you want to include your picture. 2. Other books by Jane Smith – provide a simple listing of all your other titles. If you write series, organize them by series. Hyperlink the books back to the book pages of your website where you offer more information about the story adorned by a large cover image. 3. Connect with Jane Smith – provide your social media coordinates. I’m constantly surprised by how few authors take advantage of this simple platform-building opportunity that helps forge a closer relationship with your readers. Provide full and direct hyperlinks to your Twitter page, Facebook page, Instagram, Smashwords author page, blog, website and private mailing list. Bonus sections: 4. Add a sample to another one of your books. If they liked the book they just finished, which book do you think they’d like the best next? If they just finished a book in series, the obvious answer is the next book in the series!

For more ideas to breathe new life into your books, check out Mark Coker’s free ebook, The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success which identifies 30 best practices of the bestselling indie authors, and includes a case study on how R.L. Mathewson catapulted her way to the New York Times bestseller list simply by changing her cover image.

Mark Coker is the founder of Smashwords, the leading distributor of indie ebooks.  Mark’s three free books on ebook publishing best practices – The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success (the best practices of best sellers), The Smashwords Book Marketing Guide (how to market any book for free) and The Smashwords Style Guide (how to format and publish an ebook) – have been downloaded over 700,000 times and are essential reference guides for professional indie authors everywhere.  Mark blogs at http://blog.smashwords.com and tweets at @markcoker


My 5 Step Process for Revising My NaNoWriMo Manuscript

Posted by: Shannon Moreau on Feb 26 2015, 6:54 pm in ,

or, I’m Pretty Sure I Don’t Know What the Hell I’m Doing


  1. Realize I’ve spent too much time marathoning Masters of Sex and pull out manuscript to re-read for the first time. Think, “Huh. This sounded so much better when I was writing it.” Nod off and go to bed.
  1. Ignore manuscript for two weeks and read books about one night stands instead.
  1. Receive encouraging messages from NaNoWriMo and start over, with a notebook, a red pen, and two or three shots of Vodka.

Read Write Bliss NaNoWriMo Manu

  1. Make notes to myself like, “Develop this or drop it” and “Must figure out S & R’s relationship” and “What is the issue here?”
  1. Occasionally, once in a while, every so often, note, “Huh. That’s pretty good. I don’t remember writing it. Not at all.”

Originally posted February 2, 2015, on Shannon Yvonne Moreau’s blog, Read Write Bliss.

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5 Writerly Things to Do in 2015

Posted by: Shannon Moreau on Jan 31 2015, 6:59 pm in

or, 5 Things I, the Writer, Will Probably Do This Year. At Least, I Should Do Them.

My cat thinks he is going to help me look up recipes in a cookbook. That's nothing new.

My cat thinks he is going to help me look up recipes in a cookbook. That’s nothing new.

My friend T sent me a HuffPo article that lists 52 new things writers can try for 2015. So many of the items were such great ideas that I found it kind of overwhelming. So I picked just 5 things that I will definitely think about/try/do in 2015.

Participate in NaNoWriMo in November 2015.

I had such a great time participating in my first NaNoWriMo last November that I am going to do it again this year. If I hustle on my rewrites sufficiently, maybe I’ll be scribbling out the first draft of a sequel.

Map a book you love.

Already happening. I’m trying to figure out where the heck I went so wrong on overwriting my first novel. Right now I’m mapping Jane Eyre, since the structure of that book has influenced how I view my heroines’ journeys. I’m also appreciating that while the recent movie adaptation was a decent effort, it never captured the magic and wit that is Jane and Rochester.

Read your work out loud.

Last year, I had actually seriously considered participating in my local DimeStories literary open mic night—before the holiday crunch set in, that is. It would be a good way to practice my public speaking. Eep. Hyperventilating. Like I said, I’ll think about it.

Do a literary pilgrimage to see a site where a favorite author lived or wrote about.

Now this is synchronicity. I just read an article in the paper about the D.H. Lawrence house in Taos reopening. This summer—day trip!

Set up a separate bank account for your writing pursuits.

Yep. As soon as I start making money from my writing, I’ll get right on that.

Originally posted January 12, 2015, on Shannon Yvonne Moreau’s blog, Read Write Bliss.



What’s Hot? What’s Not?

Posted by: Emily Shaw on Jan 11 2015, 2:23 pm

We hear the question, ask the question, participate in discussions about the question. What is hot in books today? What are readers poring over when they should be sleeping, cleaning, cooking (writing!) or mingling with live people instead of characters in a book? And when we hear or read the question, don’t we all just lean forward just a bit to hear the answer? Maybe click on that link to read someone the words from on high, if it’s a hot agent or editor?

And don’t we sigh a bit when we learn that shape shifters/vampires/elven lords are out, gone, passe, never to be sold or read again? Especially since we’re just polishing our unique take on shape shifters/vampires/elven lords.

How many of us put that book away and force ourselves to start something that’s up with the times? Only to read a few months later about the sale of an innovative shape shifter/vampire/elven lord series? I’m hoping I don’t see a show of hands out there. Anyone who has been in the writing business for more than five years should have learned by now, there is no way to predict what people will be reading six months from now.

Every time we think we understand market trends, they take a sharp turn to the left and leave us in the dust. The

Sometimes trends can be hard to see

Sometimes trends can be hard to see

new and exciting and innovative books we see on the shelves NOW were bought up to two years ago, often presented by agents who believed in the work. Especially the ‘Big Six’ published books. Anyone who scrambles to emulate those books is already months or years behind the trend. If you follow the publishing news, you might learn when those books are bought, so you’re not as far behind the starting line. Of course we won’t know how the books fare until they are on the shelves and/or in our e-reader.

Remember when Western movies, or television shows, were dead? Or Space Opera, or Relationship or…? Until along came something so exiting, so well done, it grabbed the viewing audience by the the throat and made massive amounts of lovely cash for all participating?

What’s hot? A well written book. A book with characters who grab our hearts, put into situations where we cringe for them and stay up late to read their success. For romances, what’s hot is the HEA in spite of all odds.

What’s hot is what people want to read, written by people passionate about their words. Okay, dino porn is also hot right now, but so were Pet Rocks (for anyone here old enough to remember them) Rather than writing to trend, think about writing to last. What makes those keeper books stay on the shelves?And what makes us want to keep writing them? 


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