Friday, June 4, 2010
Writing in today's market with guest, Karin Harlow
Please welcome my friend and very talented author, Karin Harlow who has a brand new RS Paranormal series from Pocket. She's gonna talk about the new series as well as writing in today's market. She doesn't hold back so ask her anything. You might even win a mug!! Here's her bio.
A full time writer, Karin spins dark tales of suspense, love and things that go bump in the night. Drawing from her life as a cop’s wife, her stories resonate with authority and reality. When Karin isn't writing, she enjoys traveling the California coast line with her husband and one or more of her four children or getting together in far off places with her writing buddies.
You can find Karin at www.KarinHarlow.com, www.facebook.com/KarinHarlow, www.Twitter.com/KarinHarlow
Book one in the highly anticipated L.O.S.T. series.
Pocket Star, Out now!
It’s Jax Cassidy’s first mission for L.O.S.T.—one that will give the former cop who went rogue a chance to prove herself. Her assignment: gain the trust of assassin Marcus Cross . . . eliminate him . . . then take down Marcus’s mentor, Joseph Lazarus, a man with a bold eye on the White House. But the woman who’s known by her team for being a femme fatale succumbs to passion, only to discover Cross’s deadly secret. He’s a vampire, and Joseph Lazarus is his creator.
Left for dead by his platoon in the violent hills of Afghanistan, special ops sniper Marcus Cross was given a second chance at life. His newly heightened skills make him the perfect killing machine, and as Lazarus's right hand man, he’s quickly rising to the top of his dark empire, purging enemies with speed and precision. Only when dangerous beauty Jax Cassidy is sent to bring him in does he begin to question Lazarus’s motives and his own actions. But when Jax’s life is threatened by the one thing that can destroy them both, Marcus must make a bitter choice—her death or his.
Karin* aka Harlow
Mysteries and Margaritas!
Thank you mysterious margarita drinking, Liz for inviting me to hang out with you and your fellow margaritajitas! I’m going to talk a little about the current state of the romance industry as it pertains to New York houses, and also talk about American Idol as it pertains to writers and getting published.
Let’s begin with American Idol. I’m a fan. I get it. I get it so much, I constantly look inward to make sure I’m not kidding myself.
We, the writers, are the contestants with stars in our eyes, waiting, hoping , praying to be the next one to land that oh-so-elusive New York contract! Let’s make it simple and just call a spade as spade, the New York houses are Simon. To many wanting to catch his eye and make him smile, we more often get that clipped British cut down we were not anticipating. He is the ultimate kill-joy. But to those who pay attention by watching previous shows, paying attention to the play lists and honing their craft, and who listen to what he says, he is the ultimate guru of what will work and what won’t.
Simon is commercial pop. Notice I said, commercial pop? So is romance. Commercial appeals to the masses. Pop is popular. Romance appeals to the largest percentage of mass market consumers and in that, is extremely popular. And within the broad romance spectrum there are many subgenres some of those subgenre spinning off to create all new genres. Some are trending, some not. One subgenre that is pretty much dead is chick-lit. At least the fluffy who-needs-a man-lets-go-buy-shoes-and-feel-better kind.
When chick-lit tanked many of those very talented authors slid over to paranormal, many made a seamless transition into YA right on the heels of the Harry Potter phenomenal, and others? They dove head first into women’s fiction. Survival in this business hinges on continuing to produce quality commercial pop fiction. Maybe those terms aren’t the precise terms, but for my purposes today they are, so don’t come at me with, “But isn’t commercial fiction blah blah blah.” Sure it is, but it’s also general reference to who the next American Idol is.
Which brings me to this years AI. Lee and Crystal were the two finalists. IMO, Crystal had more talent. But she was not what America, who were the ultimate judges, saw as commercially appealing. She had her appeal, but not to the masses, and so, I believe that is why Lee won. Don’t get me wrong, I think she has a great voice and will no doubt be successful, but she didn’t have that universal appeal Lee did.
Simon says things like, “That was karaoke.” An editor may say, “That just didn’t wow me.” Or “I’ve seen this same story a hundred times in the last month.” How many times do we hear Simon say, “That was forgettable.” Or “Make it your own. Own it!” “Show us who you are.” “Find what you do best and stick to it.” All the same things editors and agents and, hell, the reading public are saying. To thine own self be true is really true!
Does that mean you write something you don’t like? Nope, it means write a smart book. There are books of our hearts and books of our smarts. Sometimes the book of our heart must step aside for the book of our smarts to get us in a position where the book of our heart can have a place at Barnes and Noble.
But I digress. Let’s talk about talent. Ok, some folks when it comes to singing don’t have it. Never will. I’m one of those people. And frankly when I began to write I wrote like I sang. Like crap. But, I believe that talent is overrated when it comes to writing. I believe if you work hard, really, really, really hard, hone your craft, pay attention and come up with a high concept idea that you execute beautifully, an editor will jump through hoops to have your story. You can do it. I did. But without natural talent, it takes a monumental amount of work. You must first find your voice, and stay true to it. Then you must hone your storytelling skills. Some of us naturally do it better than others. I think I have innate storytelling ability. I think my voice, which was always there but I ignored, is strong and distinctive. The hardest part for me with the entire process was the writing. I still struggle with the writing. Not physically writing but the words! So I learned early to play to my strengths. Dialogue, passionate love scenes, high-octane action scenes. I learned to layer my characters. I learned to give them depth and dimension. I listened to Simon. I didn’t turn an arrogant back to him. I didn’t let my hurt feelings get in my way. I didn’t argue. I took the advice of those who knew far more than me and applied it.
It’s what you need to do, because guess what?
It doesn’t matter if you have a chick-lit civil war, time travel story. If it’s good? An editor will buy it. But it has to be good. Different. Fresh! It has to be one of those stories that as the editor sits back in her chair and yawns thinking she’s got another dud on her hands within the first page she is sitting up, her eyes racing across each page so that before she knows it, she’s calling your agent wanting to make an offer asap. It happens all of the time. Even in this sluggish uber competitive market.
So here’s what hot and what’s not. Small town sagas. Those feel good stories where the town is a character in of itself. Contemporary romance, not to be confused with romantic comedy. For what its worth, don’t use the term romantic comedy in a query letter. You’ll end up in the trash can next to the queries with chick-lit in them.
Vampires are still the hottest paranormal entity. Romantic suspense is holding steady but it really needs to be off the hook good to catch the eye of an editor. Same with paranormals. Regency set historicals are getting the biggest bite of the historical pie, but highland stories are still popular. Houses are holding onto their proven authors. They’re going with a sure thing as opposed to a maybe. Shelf space is crammed tight with authors who are selling, and the booksellers aren’t so keen on taking an unknown author and putting a book on the front table when they know they have proven list authors releasing the same day. Getting the edge these days is hard for mid-listers. Speaking of mid-listers, even the high-end ones who write fabulous books but for some reason or another they didn’t break, are being let go. It’s a travesty really. I know of several remarkable authors, multi-published with good solid numbers who aren’t getting picked up again.
Conversely, while it’s so tight and competitive out there, a fresh new face with a fabulous voice and story will get everyone excited. The door is there, you just need to decide how you’re going to got through it: Kicking it down or waiting for someone to open it for you (Like that is going to happen!).
Now that I have probably depressed you, get over it. Selling to New York is possible. It’s possible for all of us, I’m a perfect example. I started out like William Huang singing She Bangs! And now? I’m not Carrie Underwood but I made it to Hollywood!
Feel free to ask me any industry or writing related question and I’ll do my best to answer. If you ask a question, you’ll be entered to win a very cool custom L.O.S.T. latte mug!