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First Monday Mentoring for June – the joy of series for readers and writers

This week a new writer asked me if he should tell the publisher he was submitting to that his book was the first in a series. This is a fair question, as many books come out in series these days and are enormously popular with publishers and readers.
The answer depends on your relationship with the publisher. If you have a track record, even in other areas of writing, the publisher may be open to considering your book as part of a series. More likely, however, they would want to publish the first book as a stand-alone to see how it does before committing to more of the same.
Of course if you indie publish, you can do as you like, although I advise you to write two or three books in the series before self-publishing the first. Just as online streaming of movies and TV shows has led to “binge watching”, many readers prefer to collect an entire set of books before starting on the first. Recently I read two books in a series only to find I didn’t have book #3, although I did have book #4. I jumped on to Amazon and downloaded the next book to my Kindle so I could read the in-between book before continuing to the final one. Impatient? Who me? But I have a lot of company.
The results can be rewarding, with follower numbers growing as more books come out. Think of Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander” series or Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” books. Characters such as Sherlock Holmes, Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt, and many others have passionate followings.
If you’re writing series characters or settings, there are a few things to keep in mind:
1. Each book needs to provide a complete story within the pages, even if you have an over-arching story that all the books will span. This leaves readers satisfied but also keen to read the next book in the series. Readers regard your characters as friends, and your settings as places they can feel at home.
2. Filling in backstory in the second and subsequent books needs to be done with a light hand. Too much back story bores the people who read the first book. Too little annoys readers who’ve just discovered your series.

3. Each book should raise the stakes, while introducing new characters and story elements, to avoid any feeling of repetition.
4. If you use familiar elements such as vampires, royalty, small towns etc. you need to give the books your own unique twist.

 

The best aspect of series writing is being able to fully develop your fictional world. My current Beacons series of sci-fi romances is set in my own South Pacific Kingdom of Carramer, which began as the setting for several series of romantic suspense novels. Although frankly, if I’d known I would set eighteen books in Carramer, I would probably not have outlawed divorce. Over the years, getting characters out of marriages that aren’t working has been an interesting challenge.
When I decided to write the Beacons series, Carramer was a natural choice of setting. I’d always wanted to explore the province of Atai and its population of indigenous people. I saw them as very spiritual, making it easy to place a private space program there and include their natural mysticism in the story.

 

The next novella in the Beacon series, Continuum, is out next Thursday, June 9, published by Momentum, Pan Macmillan’s digital-first imprint. The three books in the series span the role my Beacons and their superpowers play in defending the Earth against a massive alien threat. Having two novellas in between let me explore individual characters and their histories.

This is another advantage series have over single titles – readers get to know your characters more thoroughly than they might in a solo book.

Cover Continuum
However you approach your series, readers should want to find out what happens next in your world. From the outset, it helps to have an idea of the overall story arc, as J K Rowling did with the Harry Potter books. You don’t need to know everything that happens. With the Beacons series, I certainly didn’t. But I did know how the story would play out at the end, rather like setting out on a journey with the destination in mind even if you aren’t sure of the exact route you’ll take.

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Finally, here are five Cs to include in your series:
• Characters – real people your readers come to care about and want to spend time with.
• Continuity – also known as Consistency – if you introduce elements in one book, make sure they are consistent with what happens in the next or previous books. Keep a series “bible” of physical descriptions, back story and other elements in file card form, as charts or on a program such as Scrivener, for quick reference as the series progresses.
• Complications aka Conflicts – even characters with superpowers, like my beacons, must have failings and difficulties to overcome, ideally in each book, the challenges growing to almost unbearable level by series end.
• Change – also known as Character Development. Your story people should grow and change as they overcome the obstacles in front of them.
• Completion – unless you want to keep the series going – and readers will love you if you do – you should tie up any loose ends by the final book. It’s easy to lose track of an individual and leave their story hanging, but trust me, you’ll hear about it from readers. In my romantic suspense series, Code of the Outback, I dealt with the stories of a woman and her two foster brothers. In the final book I mentioned a third brother but didn’t give him his own story. I was still getting emails about him years after the series ended, until I finally wrote his story in a novella, so readers could stop worrying about him.
How do you like to read series books? Do you have favourites? As a writer, do you have a series on the drawing board? This blog is moderated to avoid spam but your comments can appear right away if you click “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.

Happy writing,
Valerie
on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook
Follow Valerie’s Beacon sci-fi series
Beacon Starfound OUT NOW
Beacon Earthbound OUT NOW
Beacon Continuum OUT JUNE 9Beacon Homeworld coming June 30
via Amazon.com.au Amazon.com & Amazon.co.uk – also
Barnes and Noble (Nook devices)
Google Play (All devices except Kindle)
iBooks Store (iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac)
Kobo (All devices except Kindle)

Why making new book babies never gets old

Welcome to First Monday Mentoring for April.

You’d think after writing ninety-one books that having a new one out would be ho-hum.  But it never is.

Any published author will agree there’s a special excitement about seeing your new baby out in the world, whether in ebook or print. I’m told the feeling is  a bit like having babies  – you’ve brought to life something that never existed before.

It’s an amazing feeling.

You want to touch the newborn; count fingers and toes, show them off to anyone who’ll  indulge you. In book terms, that means reading over words you already know by heart and talking to others about them.

I’ve  been asked if I read my own books. Not in the same way as a new reader, but I certainly marvel that the jumble of thoughts in my head could turn into anything so beautiful. Until you find your first typo. No matter how many times you and your editors have gone over every word, there are always typos and they stab your new-parent self to the heart. You will also see things you could have written better, or differently. But basically you marvel that you did this amazing thing.

Then you wonder if you can ever do the amazing thing again. If you’re a writer, you will, of course, but don’t expect it to be any easier the second – or the hundredth time.

You will know what to expect; what the pitfalls are; but every book is its own creation. That’s what keeps the process interesting.

You need more than a good idea

Many non writers assume a good idea is all you need. Having an idea is wonderful, a new toy for your brain to play with. But just as raising a child involves more than giving birth, having an idea is only a beginning.

I totally get writers like James Patterson, who has so many ideas that he collaborates with writers all over the world. Australia’s own Katherine Fox joined them when she wrote Private Sydney. I was delighted for her. A new challenge, working with the single best-selling author in the world, bar none,  for more than a decade. What’s not to like?

Fox Private Sydney

Ask any parent and they’ll tell you they love all their children equally. Truth is they love them all differently. Some they never connect with at all, no matter how hard they try. Some they love from the moment they open their tiny eyes.

Ideas are the same. Some we can’t wait to write, yet they flounder on the screen. Others we don’t want to write but they nag at us, sometimes for years, until we give them life.

My Beacon series is one of those. I love science fiction, but I was busy writing romantic suspense. Who were these strange, half-alien people with extraordinary powers? Where did they come from? From that same biological soup we come from as people. Ideas exist in the ether, waiting for a writer to inhale them and give them life.

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My Beacons – a listener, a watcher and a messenger from another planet – connect with the universe in superhero-type ways. From the start I knew them. Wanted to tell their stories. What came was a series of three ebooks and two novellas, the first published last month by Pan Macmillan’s Momentum ebook imprint. They’re publishing the whole series between now and the end of June, delighting readers who hate waiting for the next books in a series…cough, cough…me, for instance.

Beacon Earthbound

Here’s where the baby-analogy gets twisted. Unless they’re quintuplets, no new parent has five children in four months. Yet I’m loving that part, although my book-parenting skills are pretty stretched. I get to show off all five book babies in places I’ve never ventured before – iBooks Store and Google Play well as Amazon US, UK and Australia, and a host of other places.

That’s the beauty of book babies. We get to share them all over the world. Readers can buy or download them; review them; share their discoveries with friends. And book babies never get old.

As a book parent, what stories are you nurturing right now, or struggling to? Do you have favourites? How do you feel when you get a shiny new idea? Share your thoughts in the comment box below. It’s moderated to avoid spam, but you can skip this step by clicking on “sign me up” at right. I don’t share your details with anyone.

Happy book parenting!

Valerie

on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

Valerie’s sci-fi series continues with Beacon Starfound, April 14 and

Beacon Earthbound out May 12.

via Amazon.com.au Amazon.com & Amazon.co.uk – also
Barnes and Noble (Nook devices)

Google Play (All devices except Kindle)

iBooks Store (iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac)

Kobo (All devices except Kindle)

Full list of titles and publication dates http://www.valerieparv.com

 

 

First Monday Mentoring for October – 4 ways to declutter your writing life

It’s First Monday again, when you’re invited to ask me anything about the writing life from craft issues to working with publishers.

Right now it’s spring in Australia, when we think of freshening up our homes, possessions and gardens. This week I was asked how you can spring clean your writing life. Here are 4 sure-fire ways:

1. Let go of old, tired projects
Many writers have pet ideas and half-finished manuscripts we hope to sell “some day.” As you know, some day never comes. If you’ve worked and reworked an idea, chances are you’ve also drained it of what Hemingway called “it’s juice.”

How do you know when an idea passes its use-by date? Look at the idea itself. Is it still current or has life overtaken the concept? Have the characters lost any resemblance to real people? Are you simply tired of the project? Look at the date on the pages. You may be surprised how many years have gone by while you tried to make this book work. Give it a decent burial and move on. A truly good idea will resurface in a new way, or you’ll free up your mind to take you somewhere fresh and exciting.

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2. Let go of critique partners who no longer suit you
This is a tough call. When you got together as a group or online critique partnership, you were probably at the same stage. Are you now? Have you moved on while they’re still at the gunna stage – gunna write their best seller any day now, except they’ve been saying so for several years. On the other hand, you’ve written steadily and can see progress. You may be getting good feedback from editors and agents, perhaps had your first acceptance.

Two things can happen here. The left-behind CP may be jealous and seek to keep you at their level. Or their advice may conflict with your new editor’s. Can you stay friends with your CP or group while acknowledging that your work has moved on? Of course, if you’re the gunna, all the above applies in reverse.

3. Be honest with yourself about what you want from writing
If you’ve told friends, family and co-workers that you’re writing a book, do you feel obligated to keep going? Do you watch them having a life and feel jealous because every hour outside your day job is spent writing, thinking about writing or on some related activity? These shackles are entirely optional.

Why not take some time away from writing to test your commitment? This works as mental decluttering, and can make a huge difference to your words. Either you’ll find that you enjoy exploring other interests, or you’ll miss the act of storytelling so much that it feels like a physical loss. As I’ve said here before, writers write. We can no more stop spinning stories than we can give up breathing. Taking time out, maybe doing some real-life spring cleaning, will tell you what you want from writing. You’ll return to your projects with fresh ideas and hopes, or at the least, with a nice clean house.

4. Stay current with your writing
The publishing world is changing before our eyes. If you’re clinging to outdated writing methods and content, you may need to declutter this area of your life. Step away from your projects and take a big-picture look at where you are. Are you writing what you think the market wants? Life is short. Should you move on to that project you’ve always wanted to try, but were afraid wouldn’t sell?

Indie publishing, once derided as vanity publishing, is today’s big thing and getting bigger. Bestselling writers are reinventing themselves as hybrid authors, published by both traditional houses and under their own imprints. Others are going small-press to keep more control over their work.

The only book worth writing is the one that sings to you, keeps you awake at night and won’t let you go. If your pet book doesn’t grab traditional publishers, can you publish it yourself? Look up indie publishing, Smashwords, Amazon and the like to see what’s out there. You will need to pay for professional editing and a first-rate cover, as well as do tons of promotion including social media to give your book a real chance of success but after that, the sky’s the limit.

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What is clutter to you? How do you manage it in your writing life? Comments are moderated to avoid spam. Click on “sign me up” at right if you want your comment to appear right away. I don’t share your email details with anyone. Questions? Thoughts? It’s over to you now.

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com
on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook
See the new cover of Valerie’s latest book, Birthright at http://tinyurl.com/mxtmbx6

Check out Valerie’s online course, Free the Writer in You

at http://valerieparv.com/course.html

Share with me the joy of having written. For one day only – join in my Big, Beautiful Birthright Buyfest and be the first to read a brand new related novella

In this blog I write a lot about the struggles and challenges of being a writer. Today I want to celebrate the best part – having written.

There’s no doubt this is when writing really rocks. Your story world, your characters, and all the events once trapped in your head are alive on the page for readers to enjoy.

Then your publisher says the magic words, “We love the book, we want to publish it.”

YES!!!!!!!!!!!

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It happened this week with my new science fiction romance – Earthbound, the sequel to Birthright, books I and II in my Beacons series, published by Corvallis Press, USA.

To celebrate, I’m holding a Big, Beautiful Birthright Buyfest, so you can get up to speed on the Beacons and their adventures, before we start counting down to the sequel. The Buyfest takes place over 24 hours only. To take part, simply go to the Birthright page on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Birthright-Valerie-Parv-ebook/dp/B00A0C07BK/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top and purchase the book. You don’t even need a Kindle. Amazon has a nifty free app that lets you read any ebook on your computer or tablet.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE
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If you email me Amazon’s Order Summary Code for your purchase within the next 24 hours, you could win one of seven pdfs of my brand new Beacons novella, Starfound, continuing the story begun in Birthright. You’ll be one of the first people in the world to read this story. The prize is only open to those who buy Birthright and email parv@iinet.net.au with Birthright in the subject line, within the next 24 hours.

Why I love this series, and I hope you will, too

In Birthright I combine the emotional appeal of romance with the wonder of science fiction which has fascinated me for years. Set in my invented country of Carramer, the story deals with a space shuttle mission about to be launched from the island kingdom – a mission that hides a secret agenda involving a threat to the entire world. While writing the book, I came to love my alien characters, Garrett, Elaine and Adam so much that the novella, Starfound, and sequel, Earthbound continue their story, with the final chapter, Homeworld, now in the works. It’s proving to be quite a ride.

What readers are saying about Birthright

“…a memorable read. Very well written and one for the keepers shelf.” Desere Steenberg

“My sensors were in overload, I loved it! I couldn’t put Birthright down.” TashNZ

“Note the 5 stars. I do not give them lightly. A book really has to be a winner for me to rate it this high!” Kathi Harris

“Gripping futuristic tale with an unstoppable plot and fantastic, unique, gripping characters. For anyone who grew up wanting to be an astronaut (like I did!), you will adore this book. I cannot WAIT for the sequels to come out. I’ll be preordering every single one!” Iopele

Buy, enjoy, email. Three easy steps. Way easier than writing the books. But not half as much fun as having written.

Feel free to leave a comment in the space below. If you want your comment to appear right away, click on “sign me up” at right. And welcome aboard.

Valerie

About the author
Valerie Parv is one of Australia’s most successful writers with more than 29 million books sold in 26 languages. She is the only Australian author honored with a Pioneer of Romance Award from RT Book Reviews, New York. With a lifelong interest in space exploration, she counts meeting Neil Armstrong as a personal high point. She loves connecting with readers via her website valerieparv.com @ValerieParv on Twitter and on Facebook. She is represented by The Tate Gallery Pty Ltd tategal@bigpond.net.au

Birthright book review contest…and the winner is…

Congratulations to MARIA PERRY MOHAN

My agent, Linda Tate, chose Maria’s review as the winner in her book review contest. Maria receives a $50 Amazon gift card with compliments of Corvallis Press, Publishers of Birthright. Maria’s personal touches while commenting on the book made her review a standout. Maria blogs at ishmarind.blogspot.com.au and is on Twitter @gaelikaa

You can read about what makes a good book review here https://valerieparv.wordpress.com/2012/12/20/tips-for-writing-a-good-book-review-and-a-contest/ 429113_349871168392347_236124369767028_1038466_391070353_n

Now over to Maria for her winning review:

So there I was, about to embark on the assignment of reading a science fiction novel for perhaps the first time in my adult life and I’m thinking “Valerie Parv?”  Oh, yes! Successful Australian author of romances for Silhouette and Harlequin, not to mention a particularly fine writing craft book!  A combination of sci fi and romance, as I live and breathe.  I wondered about the future implications for readers.  Is Harlequin about to embark on an as yet classified but admittedly thrilling mission?  Are they boldly going to go where no romance publishing company has gone before and give us a new category in romance, sci fi, at two titles a month?  Or maybe four?  What will it be?  Passion among the planets?  Get amorous among the asteroids?  Sex in a spaceship?

Perish the thought, earthlings, it was nothing like that.  I thought I was going to get a romance novel with a backdrop of Star Trek. What I got was a serious piece of contemporary literature.  Contemporary as in written today but futuristic in the sense that it’s science fiction.  Serious but readable.  Scientific but accessible, even if you are almost innocent of all things scientific as I am.  A story of one man’s search for his true self.  And does he find himself?  Yes he does.  And when he finds his true self, he finds his mission.  Adam Desai (I initially thought he’d be of Indian origin, the real Desais are from Gujarat, not Carramer) is not your regular alpha hero, ready to sweep you off  your feet and give you great orgasms!  But he’s an enigmatic individual who will intrigue you and have you rooting for him.  Yes, Adam’s love story takes place in the course of the story too, but it’s as enigmatic and beautiful as he is.  There’s Shana, a talented administrator, the acting governor of  Carramer, an indigenous woman in a formerly colonial nation, proud of her origins, beautiful and Adam’s soul mate.  There’s his working colleague and ex-lover, who walked away from their relationship with great sadness when she realized that Adam was never going to buy into the dream of a semi-detached home with a white picket fence and 2.2 children.  Yet she still loves him and is ready to support him professionally.  I loved the fact that he loved her, even if he wasn’t ‘in love’ with her.  I also loved the fact that bitterness was absent on the ex lover’s side.

There’s a host of intriguing and unforgettable characters in this sci fi thriller. 

Burton Hackett, the villain is an evil yet strangely fascinating character.  There are the half aliens, Garrett and Elaine, who always knew they were different but who have been supporting each other all through, having all the human characteristics but with highly developed psychic abilities.  What this duo need is to convince Adam to come to terms with the fact that he is not of unknown parentage but of alien origin and to combine forces with them on a mission to save their adopted planet from certain disaster.  I was holding my breath until practically the final scene.

I am in awe of Valerie Parv’s talent as an author, of her versatility and creativity.  An author who has what it takes to satisfy a reader of category romance and at the same time who can come up with a novel as hard hitting as ‘Birthright’ is a formidable talent indeed.  The author voice was so strong, it was neither male nor female.  It was a human voice, a compassionate voice.  It did not scream ‘contemporary romance author’.  It spoke with quiet reason of the dilemma which affects every human being sooner or later – who are we, where have we come from, where are we going.

Set in the fictional south Pacific nation of Carramer, a country created by the author as the setting for many of her novels, I found everything about this novel fascinating.

This is a novel which can please readers of a very different calibre than the ones who read category romance.  Not that category romance readers aren’t a discerning group. But they are readers of a particular sex and age group. ‘Birthright’ is a novel which can please a wider spectrum of readers than those for which  Valerie Parv has usually written.  As it is an impacting science fiction thriller, I expect male readers would certainly enjoy reading this.

 There you have it. Congratulations again, Maria. What do other readers think about reviews? What’s your best or worst experience of a book review. Add your comments below.

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com

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on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

Read some reviews already up at http://www.valerieparv.com/birthright.html

First Monday mentoring for 2013 – focus your writing life

Happy New Year.

Is this the year you finish your manuscript, self-publish new work, try a new genre? Whatever your hopes and dreams, this is a great time to bring them into focus.

First Monday Mentoring is our water cooler. Join me here on the first Monday of each month to talk about your plans, ideas and aspirations. Some talented writers and teachers visit this blog. Whatever your question about craft, writing life or getting published, you can ask it here.

To get us off and running, here are some ways to bring your plans into focus and reach your goals.

Set goals for yourself, never mind what others think

Set goals for yourself, never mind what others think

1. Know what you want to achieve.

Before setting off on a trip it helps to have at least some idea of where you want to end up. Depending on where you are in your writing journey, your “destination” may be to enter a contest and get feedback from the judges, or have a set amount of work written for a critique group or online support group every time you meet. If you’re more experienced, your goal may be to find an agent. Researching which agents work in the areas where you want to be published is a good start. Next would be writing or emailing them, or arranging to pitch an idea to them at a conference. Some writers may want to check out epublishing your own book or backlist. Again, what time frame would get you there?

2. Set definite steps to reach your goal

If you want to finish a novel or novella this year, how many words do you need to write? Breaking the total up into a weekly or daily word target will help you stay focussed and reach your goal in your preferred time frame. Remember to build in some time for family emergencies, illness and life getting in the way. If you want to meet a certain agent, you’ll need to plan ahead, find out any conferences where they may take pitches, and sign up. Or send out a certain number of emails each week until you get a positive response. Submitting work to publishers or teaching yourself epublishing can be handled in the same way.

3. Celebrate your milestones

When you get a positive response, even if it’s a “no” for now, celebrate. You kept your deal with yourself, sent out the emails, wrote the daily or weekly word count. Break out the champagne, chocolate or celebration of choice, see a movie, meet friends and share the joy. In the writing game, progress can be dauntingly slow.  Don’t wait till the book is in the ereader or on the shelf to celebrate your achievements. By then, readers will be looking for your next work. Take time now to enjoy the journey.

Can you think of any other steps to get you closer to your goals this year? Do you have questions you’d like answered? This is the place. I’ll be over by the water cooler ready and willing to help.

If you’re not sure what you’d like to achieve this year, why not read in your choice of genre and learn as you go, studying how the books are written, who is publishing them, and how you can make yours special within the demands of that genre.

Hint: if romantic suspense with a hint of science fiction appeals, you can read my latest book, Birthright (Corvallis Press) on Amazon for Kindle and Barnes & Noble for Nook. Post a review anywhere on line before the end of January and share the link here, to be in the running for a $50 Amazon gift voucher judged by my agent, Linda Tate. The winning review will be reposted here.

Let’s make 2013 a year to remember.

Valerie

http://www.valerieparv.com

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on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

Read some reviews already up at http://www.valerieparv.com/birthright.html

Tips for writing a good book review, and a contest

For something new, I’m chatting with my lovely agent, Linda Tate (pictured below), about my near-future romantic suspense novel,  Birthright, which has already received some great reviews. To celebrate, I’m off on a blog tour starting January 8. I’ll tweet and Facebook the stops. Feel free to visit and comment to win a download of the book and a personal authorgraph.

LINDA: to help things along I’m launching a contest for the best review of Birthright posted anywhere online during January.

Linda at Valerie launch

VALERIE: a contest means prizes, right? I’m thinking a date with Hugh Jackman.

LINDA: Me too, but being practical, I’m thinking $50 Amazon gift card from your publisher, Corvallis Press, and posting the winning review here for all to enjoy.

VALERIE: No Hugh, sigh. But this is a challenge. What do you think makes a good book review?

LINDA: I like to see the book details and cover photo up front, giving the reader a feel for the book without having to hunt for the information.

VALERIE: then show us what the book is about, without retelling the story or giving too much away. A review isn’t a plot summary.

LINDA: yes, for example I like the way fantasy author, Erica Hayes, calls Birthright a “romance with aliens and evil astronauts”, covering the key elements in a clever way. To grab me, a reviewer also needs to write about what they liked and didn’t like about the book, and why.

VALERIE: the blurb gives an overview of the story, but avoid spoilers. Using brief quotes is one way to give readers a taste of the author’s style.

LINDA: I like reviewers who write in their own style, as if talking to a friend. The reviewer’s excitement, or otherwise, should come through, a bit like when I read a new manuscript.

VALERIE: I like to know how well the reviewer thinks the author built the book’s world/setting. And did they relate to the characters enough to care about them.

LINDA: when I first read Birthright, I felt you brought characters such as Adam to life. He’s gorgeous and brilliant, but a Neanderthal around women. Having strengths and weaknesses makes him very real.

VALERIE: he’s one of my favourites, but then all the characters are. I like reviews that comment on the theme, what the book is really about, and whether it kept you reading to the end.

LINDA: and it helps to give the book a rating, whether as a ‘keeper’, with stars, coffee cups or whatever the site awards.

VALERIE: not every review has to cover every point, as long as they have the general idea.

LINDA: so reviewers, here’s your challenge – review Birthright and post the link (not the whole review) in the comment space below, or on Valerie’s timeline on http://www.facebook.com/valerieparv to win the $50 Amazon Gift Card. Good luck.

VALERIE: See you on the blog tour. Happy holidays and happy reading!

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http://www.valerieparv.com

on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

Read some reviews already up at http://www.valerieparv.com/birthright.html

Welcome to a writer’s virtual world

Yesterday I had an extraordinary experience. My new romantic suspense novel, Birthright, was published by Corvallis Press and went “live” on Amazon for Kindle with more formats and print to come. Having a new book out isn’t that unusual, but having it published “digital first” is. Even more unusual for me was having a virtual launch on Facebook.

The event took place on my Pacific Island kingdom of Carramer, poolside under a vast atrium. The buffet groaned with tropical goodies and a brand new cocktail, the Carramer Sunrise, was a major hit.

My agent, Linda Tate of The Tate Gallery, helped with the organisation – thanks Linda! Lots of friends stopped in and posted messages. David Tennant – the best ever Doctor Who IMO – did the launch honours and David Barrowman from Torchwood, sang for us. Many celebrities wished the book well.

Award-winning author, Anita Bell, cleverly invited TV’s Dr. House to celebrate my book.

It  felt as if we were truly there. Two hours of fun, mayhem, eating, drinking, just like every other great party we’ve all attended. I even got to show off the designer dress I chose for the occasion.

FYI Here’s the recipe for Carramer Sunrise:

5oz champagne, 1/3 oz. Blue Curacao, 1/6oz Grenadine, 1/3oz blueberry liqueur, fresh blueberries.

Pour Curacao, liqueur and Grenadine over blueberries in a tall glass. Add champagne and stir well. Cheers!

Yet why am I surprised if the launch felt real? Isn’t that what writers do all the time? We put words on a page, black and white bird scratchings that readers translate in their minds into worlds often more real than our own. Hogwarts, Starfleet, Narnia, they’re all real places to us. I’ve set 13 books in Carramer, always wanted to explore the indigenous culture which is mystical and beautiful. In Birthright, I got that chance, adding in what Erica Hayes calls “aliens and evil astronauts” to the mix.

Last week scientists speculated that we live in a virtual universe on somebody’s hard drive. Does it matter? The kingdom of Carramer is real to me, and the launch certainly felt real. As Mr. Spock, another undoubtedly “real” alien, said once, “A difference that makes no difference is no difference.” Sheldon Cooper would probably agree, in less comprehensible terms.

David Tennant kindly did the launch honours.

Is there a fictional world that’s more real to you than our own? Love to hear your thoughts.

And enjoy Birthright, too.

Valerie

Birthright, a near-future romantic suspense,

available now on Amazon http://amzn.to/WDRPdW

Website: http://www.valerieparv.com

Twitter: @valerieparv and Facebook
www.facebook.com/valerieparv

Writing short stories for Living magazine, out now http://www.livingmagazine.com.au/

Teaching and learning about writing – two sides, same coin

Last birthday one of my gifts was an Amazon gift voucher (thank you Virginia!). Coming right after attending RT Book Reviews Convention in Los Angeles in April, I knew exactly what books I wanted – those written by one of the speakers, Michael Hauge,<http://www.storymastery.com&gt; Hollywood script doctor and screen writing coach. At his talk I had a true “light bulb moment” that made developing my current book so much easier. FYI the standout comment was that conflict has to be “visible and solvable”. Ohkay. The inner angst was fine, but I hadn’t shown what problem the characters must  solve by the end of the book, the conflict; as well as how the reader will know they’ve solved it. Michael’s specialty is screenwriting but his advice applies equally well to novel writing, and he recently changed his web page to storymastery.com to reflect this.

“Surely you go to conferences to learn new stuff?” a friend asked me. Of course you do. Except that I was attending the conference as a speaker and to receive a career award for contributions to the romance writing genre. Yet no writer ever knows it all, no matter who you are. Ernest Hemingway was famous for hovering around the printing presses trying to change his books until the very last second. Writers who don’t actually do this probably wish they could.

RTBook Reviews Pioneer of Romance Award 2011

When I talk about my  latest find on writing, people ask why I need another craft book. Frankly, if you could see my groaning bookshelves, you’d wonder why I need another book of any kind. But like any craft, writing is a journey rather than a destination. Discoveries like the one above, even new ways of reaching readers such as by ebooks and manga keep the journey fresh and exciting. Rather than being the latest of 70 books, each of mine becomes an adventure into the unknown. What can I do this time? How can I make this kiss or this love scene read like the very first.  It is for your characters and it should be for the author as well.

Teaching writing is another opportunity to learn. Next month I’m conducting two workshops at the Romance Writers of Australia conference in Melbourne – one on layering your novel with Harlequin author, Jennie Adams; the other on Creativity and Feeding the Muse at the Published Author Day. Whatever wisdom I impart, I know for sure that I’ll learn something new as well. Have you ever had a  “light bulb moment”?  Who are your writing gurus? What teaching moments have taught you as much as your students? I’d love to hear your answers.

Valerie

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