Somewhere between work and love…

January 25, 2008 at 12:54 pm | Posted in books, getting organized, Karen Foley, Meg | 2 Comments

When all is said and done, I think I’m an organized person. I color code my calendar to keep track of all my family’s appointments, my crazy work schedule (I currently have three part-time jobs) and social occasions. I have notebooks for each job and home to jot down things I can’t juggle in my head. Bills are kept in a separate file and junk mail is immediately discarded. I even maintain all the records at my main job- attendance, registrations, evaluations, etc.- all in a carefully constructed system. I can do this in most areas of my life, so why can’t I do it in my writing?I do have a notebook for all my literary pursuits. The front opens to conference issues; the back lists topics for the blog. Somewhere in the middle section, notes on writing ideas begin in a jumbled fashion depending on what I’m working on (the new YA or submitting the women’s fiction). Yet this is the extent of my organization. I wish I did more.

For example, I’ve always heard it’s best to research your genre and know what’s out there so I’ve been reading numerous YA authors. I know what I’ve liked about the books and what I didn’t like. Problem is, I haven’t been keeping track of the important aspects of the books to see if there is a general theme to them. Sort of like what our Heartlette Karen Foley did when she targeted the Blaze line.

Recently, I had the pleasure of hearing Karen share the research she did before jumping from historicals to Blaze. She read a large number of Blaze novels (maybe 60?) and kept a spreadsheet of important aspects- when the hero and heroine meet, first kiss, first sex scene, number of sex scenes, etc.- so she could learn the ‘rules’ of these typical novels before she wrote one to target the line. An impressive organized approach to writing. And I’m jealous of it.

I’m not a spreadsheet person (see Bria or Jessica for those) and the thought of designing one to monitor my YA reads gives me a headache. However, unless I start focusing on what may have made the books different enough to attract a publisher’s interest, all my reading may be a waste of time (and we know how I hate wasting time!). But the thought of dissecting each chapter and reading it as a ‘researcher’ instead of a reader makes me want to cry. I worry it will ruin the enjoyment of the book and will turn it into work instead of play.

Take my current read- Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight. I’ve fallen in love with her characters. Why? I don’t know. The heroine is a flawed, unpopular, sad fish in a zoo, if that makes sense, and I desperately want her to be happy. And the hero? He’s enigmatic, hot and cold, and a bit arrogant (aren’t they all- and note, I’ve only started the book so I haven’t gotten to the why he’s like this), but I think I’m falling for him. Every time he enters the scene, I catch my breath and wait, just wait to see what he’ll say or do. Why? What is so special about Stephanie’s writing that makes me want to crawl into the book or read them out of it a la Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart?

So if anyone has any ideas on how to organize my reading so it can be both enjoyable and useful, let me know. I would love to balance both!


And the Winner is. . .

November 9, 2007 at 3:04 pm | Posted in books, Honorary Heartlette, Karen Foley | 2 Comments

Thanks to everyone who stopped in to meet our Honorary Heartlette, Karen Foley.  There was obviously a lot of excitement around her new book “Flyboy” and it made me think to myself: “Hmmmmm. . . Does Ally have a future in Book Reviewing?”

And so, without further ado, the winners of the two copies of “Flyboy” are:

MamaD and Teresa

If you lovely ladies would send Bria your mailing info, we’ll get those books out to you soon!

Karen Foley – Book Giveaway

November 8, 2007 at 10:08 am | Posted in books, Honorary Heartlette, Karen Foley, writing | Leave a comment

Tomorrow is the day when our Honorary Heartlette for November – Karen Foley – will give away two copies of her debut novel, Flyboy.  If you haven’t done so already, post a comment to her blog entry and your name will go into the drawing.  Winners will be chosen at random. 

A special thanks to those of you who have already stopped in and visited us this week.  We are happy to see you!  

Book Giveaway!

November 6, 2007 at 7:54 am | Posted in books, Karen Foley, writing | Leave a comment

In case you missed it, our November Honorary Heartlette, Karen Foley, is giving away two copies of her debut novel, Flyboy, this Friday!

To be eligible, all you have to do is post a comment to her Purple Hearts blog. The winners will be chosen at random at the end of the week.

Come on and join us!

Honorary Heartlette – Karen Foley

November 4, 2007 at 8:48 am | Posted in contests, Honorary Heartlette, Karen Foley, writing | 22 Comments

When Opportunity Knocks…

Hi everyone! I’m so excited to be blogging here at Purple Hearts! My debut book, Flyboy, hit bookstore shelves last month, and was a Romantic Times top pick for October.

How I reached this point is, I think, worth sharing because sometimes it really is a matter of seeing an opportunity, and taking advantage of it.

I’m a big fan of RWA-sponsored contests, and when I was first writing, I entered as many contests as I could. Between 2003 and 2006, I think I entered more than sixty contests. At that time, I was primarily writing historical fiction. Overall, my manuscripts did pretty well on the contest circuit, and I received a lot of positive feedback from the judges, and a handful of requests for partials from editors and agents.

The downside was that I also received my share of lousy scores and hurtful comments. While I was tempted to shove those scores deep into a desk drawer and ignore them, I forced myself to read the comments and try and figure out which remarks were valid, and how I could use them to strengthen my writing. The result was that I began to win or final in many of those contests. It was late in 2005, when I noticed a trend developing; whenever I entered a contest where Brenda Chin, senior editor for Harlequin Blaze, was the final judge, my manuscript finaled or won. She even included personal notes with my score sheets, saying she loved my voice and my characters. Unfortunately, Brenda wasn’t acquiring historical romances.

While I’m not an advocate of chasing market trends, I do believe that occasionally stepping out of your comfort zone can help you grow as a writer. I’d never written a sensual contemporary romance before, and had never read a Harlequin Blaze novel. But the fact that Brenda Chin apparently liked my writing style was incentive enough for me to give it a try.

During the two months leading up to the 2006 RWA National Conference, I devoured Blaze novels at the rate of 3-4 books per week. I even developed a spreadsheet to analyze the different aspects of these books, like what constituted the sexy premise, how explicit was the language, and how many sex scenes were included in each novel? What I found really surprised me. There was no “formula” to writing a Blaze novel. There were no prerequisite number of love scenes, and each story was as unique as the author who penned it. They ran the gamut from light and funny, to dark and edgy, with everything in between. They included paranormals and time travel romances, bad-boy alpha heroes and boy-next-door beta heroes.

By the time the conference rolled around, I felt I had a good handle on what constituted the Blaze novel, and had the outline of a story taking shape in my head. That year was the 5th anniversary of Blaze, and Brenda Chin was hosting a contest where she solicited ideas for the next great Blaze novel. I remember scribbling my 1-page synopsis down on a piece of paper and dropping it into the box with a feeling of hope and anticipation. But nothing could have prepared me for the phone call that came just three days after the conference, requesting the full manuscript. I wrote that book in a fast and furious ten weeks, and received The Call three months later.

It’s been exactly one year since I first submitted that manuscript to Brenda, and it’s hard to believe that Flyboy is now gone from bookstore shelves. But the result of stepping out of my comfort zone to write that one book is a contract for three more Blaze novels, due out sometime in 2008 and 2009.

So what am I trying to say? Keep doing what you’re doing, but don’t be afraid to take some risks and put yourself out there, whether it’s through contests or queries, writing articles or presenting workshops for your local chapter. And most of all, learn to recognize opportunities, and be ready to grab them when they come along.

I will give away a copy of Flyboy to two lucky readers at the end of the week. Post a comment here to get your name in the drawing — winners will be chosen at random on Friday.

Karen Foley
Karen’s group blog: The Moody Muses

Honorary Heartlette – Karen Foley

October 27, 2007 at 7:28 pm | Posted in Honorary Heartlette, Karen Foley, writing | Leave a comment

We are very excited to welcome Harlequin Blaze author, Karen Foley, as our November Honorary Heartlette.

Karen turned an inspirational pitch moment at the RWA Conference in Atlanta in 2006 into the opportunity of a lifetime – just a little over one year later, that pitch has turned into her first release, Flyboy, which hit the shelves on October 1. For more information on her release, check out Karen’s October 1 post on the Moody Muses blog. You can also find out more about Karen on our Honorary Heartlettes page.

We are thrilled for Karen and delighted that she will join us. Please tune in for her blog post on November 4!

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