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January 2016

So Long, Farewell….

Bad Girlz of the world…I’ve been keeping a secret.  A secret that is exciting and scary all at the same time, kind of like a record breaking roller coaster.  A secret that is bound to change my course forever.  A secret that it’s time to share with all of you.

I, Jenna P, am retiring from Bad Girlz Write.

This has been a difficult decision for me.  I love our blog.  I helped find our blog.  I love every writer and reader and faithful follower of our blog.  But for the past year or so I’ve been feeling a little out of touch, a little – one of these things is not like the others, if you will.  No one has made me feel this way but myself, and I’m not really sure why all the sudden it’s happened either.  Maybe it was the Women’s Fiction debacle with RWA a couple years back that got me to thinking.  Maybe it’s that I’ve seen most of my fellow bad girlz get their well-deserved book deals and move on in their careers, while I’m still stuck in limbo back in the pre-published world.  Or, maybe I’ve always felt this way but was too afraid to admit it aloud.  All I know is that something had to change.

So, I spent the holidays doing a little bit of soul searching and coming up with a plan.  I’ve been revamping my website and reaching out into the writing community to find other women’s fiction writers to connect with.  I’ve talked to some of the other bad girlz about my feelings and rediscovered what amazing, supportive friends I have.  I’ve also been asking for advice from authors who have been where I am and come out on the other side.  And what I’ve realized is this:  in order for me to find my place in this industry, I need to fully submerge myself in my market.  In order for me to fully submerge myself in my market, I need to let go everything outside of it.

Unfortunately, this includes Bad Girlz Write.

The lovely ladies on this blog all write fantastic romances with amazing careers behind and ahead of them.  And though I’m confident that I too will have an amazing career in upmarket women’s fiction at some point, I’ve come to accept that the path for me will be much different than my fellow bloggers.  And for the first time, I’m really okay with that.  Yeah, it’s scary.  Yeah, it’s going to be a challenge to go at it alone.  But it’s the right thing for me.  I believe it.  I can feel it.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m leaving the group all together.  Jeanette has made me promise to be a “Bad Girl Emeritus – like those professors who retire and don’t teach anymore but still show up all the time.”  And I will be back from time to time to guest blog should my lovely friends ask.  If you’ve enjoyed my blog posts here, please come check out my new website and blog at jennapatricknovels.com.  My first official blog post went up today!

It’s been a blast!  Until we meet again, this is Jenna P signing off.

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It All Comes Back to Twilight

Almost eight years ago (whoa…when did I get old?), I was heading to Dallas for a girls’ weekend with some fellow photographer friends. (Do you see a trend here? No matter my occupation, I find ways to write off girls’ weekends, be it photography or writing retreats…) Two of the girls kept going on and on about this awesome book I had to read and how ahmayyyyyzing Edward was. My response? Edward? What kind of a name is that for a hero, anyway? *makes a face*

So I was at Target picking up all the cute little travel items (as one does), and I saw none other than Twilight for the bargain price of 6 bucks on sale. Welp, cheaper than two magazines, I figured. So I snatched it up and brought it along for my flight.

Fast-forward a couple months, and I’d not only fallen in love with a hero named Edward, but I’d also fallen down the rabbit hole that is known as the Twilight Fandom.

This month, all the Bad Girls are telling you what author or book inspired them to start writing. And while I can’t necessarily say that Twilight was the single inspiration to my becoming a writer, I can say unequivocally I would not be an author today without it.

Hyperbole? NO, SIR.

You see, seven years ago (almost to the date! I posted my very first Twilight fanfic in January 2009), I dipped my toe into a place I hadn’t ventured in years. I wrote in middle school and high school. I was assistant editor of our literary magazine and on the newspaper staff. And, honestly, I’d always loved to write. But that day in January was like nothing I’d ever done before. I sat down and bled 10k words in a day and published my first piece of fiction, despite the gnawing in my gut. And then I continued to do it for approximately half a million words.

My love for those characters from that book is what once again sparked my love for not only writing, but reading. Since then, I’ve read thousands of fics (I really wish I would’ve kept track because it would be both amazing and a little terrifying, to be quite honest) and hundreds upon hundreds of books. It awoke something inside me I didn’t even realize needed to get out.

After writing a crapton of fanfic, I ventured into original fiction thanks to the urging of my ever faithful, ever amazing CP. The first thing I wrote was Plus One, and it later became published by Carina Press.

Honestly, I owe every bit of my career to Twilight, because without it, I wouldn’t be a writer or a reader, and I definitely wouldn’t have found the amazing people I surround myself with on this rollercoaster of a career path.

Last week, my eighth published novel was released, which is reason enough to celebrate. But what made it all the more special was the three other fandom authors I shared release week with. So many of my fellow fandom authors and friends (seriously…I have really talented friends, you guys) started out writing in a world that wasn’t ours with characters that weren’t ours and have since evolved to be multi-published or soon-to-be multi-published authors. And I think that’s pretty awesome.

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How McGovy Wound Up In Writersville

The topic for this round of blogs is what authors or books inspired us to become writers. I have several authors and series that inspired me, making me long to weave tales with even an iota of their skill:

Karen Marie Moning’s HIGHLANDER series

KMM pic

Lisa Kleypas’s WALLFLOWER series

LK pic

and JK Rowling’s HARRY POTTER – duh.

But I’d be lying if I didn’t confess my largest inspiration and motivation toward writing as a career was fan fiction.

Even before the wave of Twilight fan fiction, there were pockets of fans writing about movies, TV shows, and books they loved. I believe I’ve mentioned it here before, but the very first bit of fiction I wrote was a corrected version of the events in X-Men 3. (Gee golly, look at that. For me, it all goes back to Marvel. Who’d’ve thunk it?) From a deep desire to right the wrongs of that movie, came the courage to put pen to paper (literally) and write a different ending.

The resulting narrative was so-so, the dialogue fun, and I shied away from writing any sex (BAH HA HA!), but I’d written a story.

Hands shaking, I hit ‘Post’ – or whatever it was you did to put stories up on Live Journal back in the day – and the comments trickled in. And then they poured. Comments are to FF writers what reviews are to traditional writers, and fandom liked my story! I didn’t suck!!!

After that, I wrote a few more short stories, then a couple of opuses with a co-author. I had regular readers and people encouraging me and, though I didn’t know it at the time, I was learning the basics of my craft.

THEN I discovered J.R. Ward’s BLACK DAGGER BROTHERHOOD series.

<Cue the choir of angels>

JRW pic

Ward’s voice was unique, gritty, the characters larger than life. I read the entire series (6 books long at that time, I think…wait…Wrath, Rhage, Zsadist, Butch, Vishous, and Phury – no, I’m not even kidding about the heroes’ names)  in a matter of two weeks. Then, about three months later, I re-read them all again. Ward created this world, with vivid characters who I cared about, and I wanted to return again and again. If you’re one of the few people out there who hasn’t tried this series, and you like steamy romance with some paranormal flavor, do yourself a favor and GET THESE BOOKS NOW. If I know you, I’ll even lend you my copies.

Upon my third reading of Rhage’s book, LOVER ETERNAL (*swoooooooooon*), I put the book down and proclaimed, “I want to do THIS! I want to write stories about love and acceptance, healing and redemption. I want to reach a reader who is grieving (like I was at the time) and give them solace and reprieve. I want to provide some happiness, a brief escape. In a world full of doubt and darkness, I want to be…a romance writer!”

And that’s exactly what I did. 🙂

Do you have an author, book or series of books that made you take the leap from dreamer to writer? Who? What titles? Share the names and joy with us – namely with me because I’m in the market for a new addiction! 😉

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The Books that Inspired Me to Become a Writer

I have talked to many fellow authors over the years who can point to a single book or author that inspired them to become writers. I can’t really say that. What I can say is that I’ve had a fascination with books for a long as I can remember. I loved how they could transport me away to places and times I’d never see for myself. But as I look back, there are many books and authors that stuck with me, and I believe that soaking up all those great stories led me down the path to becoming an author. While I, too, found my way to romance writing through the likes of Kathleen Woodiwiss in the 1980s, I’m going to focus on a much earlier relationship with books.

9102dS+JkXLLike many writers I know, the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder were an important part of my childhood. I had a natural affinity for American history, and so these books fit perfectly into my “have to read” list. In combination with the TV program based on the books (even though there were definitely differences), I learned about setting and characters that stick with readers. The books also fostered my interest in westward expansion and how tough life could be for settlers. As an adult, I came to realize how the settlement of the West came at a great cost to the Native Americans, but as a young girl I was simply enthralled by how different Laura’s life was from my own.

Julieofthewolves72Another book from those early years that stuck with me was Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George, a Newbery Medal winner set on Alaska’s North Slope. It helped form my fascination with Alaska, wild places and Native peoples. I’ve also always liked survival stories, whether they are a historic man vs. nature story or, more recently, man vs. zombies/the apocalypse/dystopian society/etc. I like reading about how mankind can either rise to its best self or devolve into animals in a real crisis.

bluedolphin2The other book from my childhood that I can remember loving was Island of the Blue Dolphins, another Newbery Medal winner and story of survival, based on a true story about a Native American girl who was stranded on an island off the coast of California for years during the 19th century.

Summer_of_My_German_SoldierAs I got older, I read Summer of My German Soldier about a young Jewish girl in Arkansas who befriends a German POW. A couple of the themes in this story — prejudice and self-esteem — are ones that I feel strongly about and that make their way into my own writing. Love of this story probably led me toward a future reading The Diary of Anne Frank and the beautiful The Book Thief.

What books did you read as a youth that stuck with you? Do you believe that they helped send you down the path to becoming a writer?

 

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Tanya’s Guide to a Mostly Panic-Free Romance Synopsis

Writers are a brave lot. I mean, not me personally, of course—I can’t even go into a bathroom without making sure there’s not a monster or psychopath hiding behind the shower curtain. But collectively writers brave rejection, terrifyingly bad covers they have no control over, the possibility of scathing reviews, etc. Yet I’ve seen even tough writers wince in fear at the mention of a Synopsis (written summary of the book’s plot, usually in present tense.)

If you’re unpublished, a synopsis can be how you get your foot in the door with an editor or agent, intriguing them with the story so that they ask to read actual chapters or the whole book. If you’re already published, sometimes all a publisher needs to offer you a new contract is a synopsis, allowing you to write the actual book once the advance check has been cashed. Both of these situations, however, mean the synopsis should be good. Or at least not suck.

Why is a synopsis so daunting? Well, some of them are as short as two pages; it ain’t easy to cram 300-plus pages of action and emotion into two pages and have it make sense. (I cannot imagine what a George R.R. Martin synopsis looks like, if in fact he was ever asked to write one. His plot summaries might be longer than my actual books. Or maybe his summary is simply: “There’s a big, bloody fight for the throne of Westeros. Everyone dies.”)

I have written approximately forty romances, all of which have been synopsized at some point. Occasionally the finished manuscript even bears passing resemblance to the synopsis! So I now share my, um, “expert” “wisdom” for writing a strong romance synopsis.

Boy meets Girl. (Or possibly boy and boy meet. Or girl and girl. Or they already know each other because it’s a friends to lovers story—although, if you give one or both of them amnesia, perhaps they could remeet. ANYWAY. There’s an inciting incident. Maybe it’s the “meet cute” or maybe it’s the moment when two people will have reason to start viewing each other differently. From then on, Emotions Develop.)

In a romance novel, the emotional journey is key. So even if you’re writing a romantic suspense and your synopsis explains how the couple outwits a serial killer, don’t overlook the romance! Much feelings, many conflict. (If it’s a hot romance, you can also add Wow Sex.) Keep building those emotions and that attraction until the Dark Moment, which is when you rip out the characters’ hearts—and the readers’—because writers, in addition to being brave, are also cruel and vicious. I kid! Sort of.

Many writers are actually lovely people, but the bleaker and more hopeless that dark moment, the more rewarding the hard-earned happily ever after. To misquote Jack Sparrow, the dark moment arises, ensues, is overcome. Yay for happy endings!

So, there you have it. A good romance synopsis describes (articulately, if possible) people who have strong emotions for each other but have to overcome strong obstacles–and may or may not have crazy hot sex in the meantime.

Okay. Perhaps I’m being a little bit glib. Writing a synopsis is a tiny bit more complicated than “things go awry, stuff happens, yada yada yada, grand romantic finale.” I mean, I didn’t even describe the steps about swearing and deleting. But I believe the trick to a good synopsis is not to overcomplicate. Focus on the big picture and streamline your story down to the main characters, central theme and marketing hook. Don’t name the heroine’s five cousins and all the players on the hero’s football team; you’ll only make the editor’s head spin as she tries to keep everyone straight. Remember that writing a synopsis is a slightly different skillset than writing a book. Even if you’re a genius with dialogue, a synopsis is not the place to include large chunks of it. And you don’t want cliffhangers and “you’ll never guess what happens!” taunts. The editors need to know you can believably finish this story. Concentrate on clearly explaining the conflict and major turning points. While small details can make or break a book, they will only clutter a synopsis if you’re not careful. Make sure you explain what changed that makes the happy ending plausible and try to get someone not already familiar with your story to look at the synopsis for honest feedback. (It doesn’t matter if the pages make sense to your best friend, husband or critique partner; what you need is a synopsis that makes sense to a total stranger.)

Finally, if you’re nervous about writing a synopsis, remember that it is your friend—a helpful guide, not a prison warden. Don’t feel captive to details you realize you need to change midway through the book. Writing is a fluid process and even if you started with a good idea, you may stumble across even better ideas as you go.

So that’s my wisdom for the day (hell, probably for the week. I’m not that wise.) When writing a synopsis, focus on the broad outline, not the individual brushstrokes. And don’t forget to check under beds and behind shower curtains for monsters.

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Debut Anxiety

I almost named this Performance Anxiety (heehee), but I digress…

It seems like a good time to reflect on my last twelve months…one word comes to mind cRaZy. I will never have another year like 2015. Last January, I had one book on preorder. Now have eight(!) books listed on Amazon and by the end of the month will have five books released into the wild. Looking in, I’m sure it seems like I’m ‘livin’ the dream.’

And I am! Being a published author *is* a dream come true. I just didn’t realize how stressful the dream is. As in I cracked a tooth this year stressful. As in I’ve put on 10-15 lbs stressful. I haven’t written a post on this before or really talked about outside of trusted author loops, because I don’t want to come off whiney or ungrateful.

Believe me, I’m neither. (Not that some of you who are still in the trenches won’t want to punch my cracked tooth out anyway. Lol:) When I was receiving rejection after rejection during the submission process of my first manuscript, I remember reading a quote from a big-time author (whose name I can’t recall to give credit too, unfortunately).

She said, “Getting published isn’t the hard part. The hard part is *staying* published.” I scoffed. I harrumphed. I might have even flipped a virtual bird. Because there’s no two ways about it, getting published is damn hard!!

Here’s the rub: SHE WAS RIGHT. I apologize profusely to this wise woman for the virtual bird flipping.

At the beginning, it’s all exciting, fun times. Signing the contract. Getting your first advance check (if you’re lucky). Seeing your cover for the first time. Finding your book on pre-order at Amazon. You think, I’ll never come off the high. The warm fuzzies can’t be controlled!!

For me, the anxiety started when my book went out to reviewers. I knew it went out to reviewers because I was stalking my Goodreads page and noticed a bunch of bloggy-type readers were adding my book. The nail-biting commenced. The first review rolled in. A five-star. Yay! I was riding high again. The second one came soon after…a three-star. I plummeted. It wasn’t a bad review. She liked the book even. But, why didn’t she *love* it? It made me sick to my stomach. Now my obsessive checking of Goodreads filled me with anxiety instead of excitement. The crazy thing is I generally received great reviews. It didn’t seem to matter to my psyche.

From the time my book went on review, I had a difficult time writing. Which was very bad considering I was under contract to write four full length books in eleven months. To make matters worse, somewhere between the reviews and release day, I realized that there were Expectations—with a giant E.

I’m ambitious. I have goals. Even when I was seeking an agent or on submission, I put expectations on myself. But this felt different. Before, if I fell short, it was only me who was disappointed. Now I had an agent and editor who had taken a chance on me. And a publishing house that wanted to make money.

The expectations weren’t explicit, but the reality is that this is a business. If your book doesn’t perform…well, they aren’t going to give you another contract because they like you. Release day rolled around. I got a lovely email from my editor. My agent spread the word. Yet…I was not filled with joy. People congratulated me, and I grimaced out something resembling a smile. I drank copious amounts of wine while obsessively checking Amazon. My book spiked low and then after a week drifted higher and higher in the rankings. Higher is not good.

I read happy, joyous tweets or Facebook posts from other authors releasing books and wondered what the hell was wrong with me? Why wasn’t my first book release the greatest time of my life??

Anxiety stole my words.

At this point, you’re probably waiting for me to drop some words of wisdom. I wish I had some. After an author on one of my loops confessed her anxiety, a floodgate opened and *so many* authors chimed in with their own struggles. Most of us suffered through the same roller-coaster of emotions with our first release. If you can relax and enjoy the ride, then good for you!

If you can’t, I can tell you this from my experience…Bad reviews still have the power to sting me but have stopped paralyzing me. (And, yes, I know I shouldn’t read them, but I do and nothing seems to be able to stop me!) Approaching my fifth release, I can also tell you that I still do not enjoy release days. I’m not sure I ever will. But they don’t turn into week-long sessions of me curling up in the corner in a ball refreshing Amazon either. (And, yes, I know I should stay off Amazon too, but…yadda, yadda, yadda).

After all the release day anxiety/excitement fades, I hope every single one of you remembers why you started that very first manuscript years ago…for the love of storytelling. So that’s what you do. You sit back down and write another book. Maybe a better book. *That’s* where the joy is. In the work, not the release. Published or unpublished, debut or fiftieth release. The work will carry you through the insanity to the other side.

And if that doesn’t work, there’s always alcohol…

 

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A Dose Of Perspective for the Year to Come

First, I feel like I should mention that it wasn’t entirely my intention to write about New Year’s this cycle. But when I saw I had the first slot of 2016, it seemed like an opportunity I couldn’t really waste.

pexels-photo-startup2016-1000On a lot of levels, the passing of another year is an arbitrary and meaningless measure of time, but in a world of arbitrariness, one has to take one’s meaning where it can be found. It’s important to look back and celebrate accomplishments. To gear up and find a new source of motivation—a chance to make some course corrections and maybe even right some wrongs. Logically speaking, what better time to set new goals or decide to push a little harder than right now?

Or, in my case, to push less.

This time last year, I was riding pretty high. I was six months into my first contract with a major publisher, and I’d turned in the first book of said contract with a solid half an hour to spare. The future looked bright, with everything set for my career to just soar and soar and soar.

Except. It didn’t.

Now mind you, I’m not saying it’s going badly. Over the course of the year, I’ve completed two more manuscripts, edited four, and released three books out into the world. Said books have met with critical success, and their sales are generally optimistic. But my perspective hasn’t fared nearly so well.

The truth of the matter is, I didn’t write ahead, or finish that third book I’d really hoped I would (or hell, even start it). I didn’t accomplish anything more than what I was contractually obligated to. Hell, most of the year, it felt like I was clinging to the edge of a precipice, with deadlines looming like jagged rocks beneath my feet. None of my books ended up on any best-seller lists. All that soaring I felt like I was poised for turned out to be more of a gentle glide. And instead of celebrating my accomplishments, I just looked at how short I had fallen of my expectations, and I let myself drop into a cycle of disappointment and depression that was a lot less cataclysmic than plummeting down into jagged rocks, but a lot more insidiously dangerous.

Simply put, I lost my joy. I lost my perspective. I got so caught up in the numbers of words and the numbers of copies sold that I was having panic attacks on the regular, struggling to sleep, and doing damage to my marriage and my relationships by turning further and further inward as I berated myself for my failings.

But it’s a new year now. A new start.

In the last quarter of 2015, I gave myself some gifts. I finally found a therapist, and have been getting to the root of some problems. Trying medication for anxiety has helped, too, giving me the tools to stop letting my brain spin out of control. I’m still focused on my dreams and my goals, but I’m a little less willing to let the rest of my life suffer in their pursuit. That may not actually mean changing how I spend my time, or how much I accomplish. But it will mean changing my attitude and my expectations. Big time.

So. Here on the cusp of 2016, here’s to goal-setting. Here’s to success and making this year even better than the last.

But here’s to being kind to ourselves, too. Here’s to remembering that there’s more to life than accomplishments and numbers. Here’s to a little perspective.

May it stay with you throughout the year to come.

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