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A Day with Damon Suede

August 4, 2018 by in category Apples & Oranges by Marianne H. Donley, Events tagged as , , ,

A Day with Damon Suede | Music City Romance Writers | A Slice of Orange

Music City Romance Writers

September 2018 Event

A Day with Damon Suede


Registration now open for our MCRW September Event featuring Damon Suede!


When: Saturday, September 15, 2018 from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. with optional evening session and Sunday morning breakfast (additional fees required).


Where: Four Points by Sheraton, 760 Old Hickory Blvd., Brentwood, TN 37027.

Registration link


Who: Damon Suede grew up out-n-proud in right-wing America, and escaped as soon as it was legal. He has earned his crust as a model, a messenger, a promoter, a programmer, a sculptor, a singer, a stripper, a bookkeeper, a bartender, a techie, a teacher, a director… but writing has ever been his bread and butter. Though new to romance fiction, Damon has been a full-time writer for print, stage, and screen for almost three decades. He has won some awards, but counts his blessings more often: his amazing friends, his demented family, his beautiful husband, his loyal fans, and his silly, stern, seductive Muse who keeps whispering in his ear, year after year.



Saturday, September 15
9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.


Bestsellers start with fascinating people. Boost your writing process and anchor your career at any stage with a new characterization method that jumpstarts drafting, crafting, revision, and pitching. Go beyond looks, persona, and boilerplate traits so you can bust your ruts and build the perfect cast to dazzle your readers. This session includes:

·        skill-builders to intensify language, stakes, and emotion for your readers.

·        battle-tested solutions for common traps, crutches, and habits.

·        a dynamic story-planning strategy effective for plotters and pantsers.

·        exercises to help you upgrade stories in any genre.

In this deep-dive morning session, we’ll take your fictional folks to the next level with a simple, powerful technique that will strengthen your people, your plots, your hooks, and your voice. Whether you like to wing it or bring it, you’ll leave this workshop with a new set of practical, language-based tools to populate your pages and lay the foundations of unforgettable genre fiction.

12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. Lunch (included with registration fee)
1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.


This hands-on workshop on presence and platform will teach you how to identify a personal archetype to embody your brand and launch your projects in the genre marketplace. In this session you’ll learn to:

·        evoke story patterns that protect and project your professionalism.

·        harness the power of personal goals and a public platform, on- and offline.

·         tailor your message to open doors and attract the right kind of attention.

·        cultivate a healthy A-gang to minimize headaches and boost promo.

A strategic authorial presence can be a game changer for your career. This class will show you how to groom and broadcast your unique appeal, so you become your own best advertisement

7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

SELLING STORIES (Optional Evening Session – additional fee required)

Does your marketing copy earn its keep? This session tackles the wild, woolly world of blurbs and explore the way a high concept premise can anchor a project before and during the writing process. We’ll drill down into the challenges of summarizing your story’s strongest selling point. We’ll unpack the knack of crafting a clear hook, a free prize, and boiling a project into a logline that closes the sale, before and after publication.

Sunday, September 16
Time TBD

SMALL GROUP BREAKFAST (Optional Morning Session – additional fee required)

Get all of your marketing questions answered in this small group breakfast discussion with Damon. Space is very limited for this option, and will be filled on a first come, first served basis. The cost of breakfast at the Four Points by Sheraton on-site restaurant is not included with the registration fee.


Register between

July 1 – July 31

Register between

August 1- September 7

 MCRW Members: $65.00  MCRW Members: $75.00
Non-Members: $75.00 Non-Members: $85.00
Optional Evening Session: Selling Stories $20.00 Optional Evening Session: Selling Stories $20.00
Optional Sunday Breakfast (cost of food not included): $20.00 Optional Sunday Breakfast (cost of food not included): $20.00
Registration closes for members and non-members on September 8, 2018



Guest rooms are $129.00 plus applicable state and local taxes.

Click here to reserve your room or call 615-964-5500 and ask for the Music City Romance Writers group rate. Our discounted rate is only available until August 14, 2018.

For more information about becoming a MCRW member, click here.

To Register for A Day with Damon Suede: CLICK HERE

Refund Policy: Due to our timeline for securing meals and materials, we are not able to offer refunds after August 15.


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I gave the readers what they wanted

June 4, 2018 by in category Writing

A little while ago, I published the final volume in my fantasy series, The Fireblade Array, and I purposefully left the ending vague. Up to that point, I had not yet had to write a final, final ending, what with seven large books running sequentially over seven years, so perhaps this is in part responsible for what happened next.

Almost all the reviews that came in binned it. Readers complained about being left in the dark, about its depressing nature, and about their upset over the lack of redemption or happiness for the key characters. Some of the most hardline fans said nothing at all, which was even more heartbreaking for me to bear. I felt as if I had let down those who had supported me through each publication.

And so I did what we are told we should never do: I went back and altered the ending to give the readers something closer to what they wanted. It is an opportunity that the digital publishing world offers that the paperback world never could – the ability for me to make a rapid change, and for buyers to obtain an updated and improved version of the book at no extra cost.

At the time of writing, the ending had made compete sense to me, but now I see why I was wrong. It is said a writer should have confidence in their writings, and enough of it not to make changes to the final script. But I say, why not have the confidence to accept I needed to learn and improve the way I write a book?

I’ve yet to receive many reviews of the new version of the book, but I am hopeful that the little extra work I put into it will reap some positive results.

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Fun writing tool

April 4, 2018 by in category Writing

Whoops, I’m a bit late with my monthly update. Soz!

Here’s a fun thing I found on the internet this week: I Write Like

I Write Like uses a Bayesian statistics algorithm to match up your writing style with that of a famous (and prolific) author. Its accuracy has been called into question by some high-profile authors over the years – authors who have found their own work likened to Dan Brown, for example – so I offer no guarantees against the result. However, it is an enjoyable time-waster, and the procrastinator in me is always on the lookout for those. Feel free to share your likenesses below…

I got Anne Rice for one of my excerpts, and Agatha Christie for another.




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What’s in a Name?

March 4, 2018 by in category Art, Cover, Design by H. O. Charles tagged as , ,

I recently completed an interview where I was asked why I had chosen the pseudonym H. O. Charles, and it got me thinking.

My original reasons for choosing it were twofold: 1) To mask my true identity. Indeed, I sometimes get changed in telephone boxes, have an aversion to green rocks, and wear superfluous spectacles. That, and I was working in academia and didn’t want my terribly serious scientific work to be associated with the fiction I was writing. 2) Fantasy authors do not look and sound like the real me. They are often bearded, and bear a striking resemblance to just about every wizard trope committed to celluloid or print. Not J. K. Rowling, I hear you mumble at your screens, but she is a rarity, and as I shall soon discuss, had to publish under the gender-free initials plus surname arrangement, because… reasons. Plus, she was technically a children’s author (more on why that counts later). Compare the spectacular beards of writers of fantasy novels for adults: George R R Martin, Terry Pratchett, Robert Jordan, and Patrick Rothfuss.

Image result for george r r martin Image result for terry pratchett Image result for robert jordan Image result for patrick rothfuss

They are/were all excellent writers who did not get where they did in the absence of talent or hard work, and putting confirmation bias aside, there ARE plenty of other unbearded fantasy writers who have sold as many books as these men (Terry Brooks, Brandon Sanderson, JRR Tolkein etc.). But try as hard as I might, I do not, and cannot, look anything like these guys or the others. I should point out here how I’m defining fantasy – something closer to high fantasy, set in a pseudo-medieval setting, and with epic length novels that make up a series. Pratchett played fast and loose with the genre, but that was part of what made his work…well, work. Therefore, how can someone who doesn’t ‘fit’ hope to join the fantasy author club that is so overwhelmingly male, Gandalf-haired, and white?

We are fortunate to live in an age of increasing awareness about differences, our own attitudes to them, and the barriers those differences can create. However, there are some implicit assumptions that have grown up around book genres that still pervade and will continue to do so because it’s a business of selling. If I were to tell you there was a new fantasy novel out from a major publishing house, and that the author was young and female, you would probably guess that this novel was either urban or paranormal fantasy rather than high, and that it would feature a female protagonist upon the cover. You would guess this because of the books we tend to see on sale, and thus we do not have the expectation of young, female writers in the high fantasy genre, but we do have that expectation in urban and paranormal fantasy. Regarding the female characters on front covers, isn’t it interesting how Neil Gaiman, Jasper Fforde, and China Mieville almost never have their male protagonists upon their front covers? A publisher’s decision, for sure, but it makes me wonder how this works in terms of audience selection and preconception.

Then there’s the romance aspect. Writing and reading about romance are seen as innately feminine activities, and the concept of a romance by a female author has become so firmly ingrained that male romance writers will operate under female pseudonyms. When a woman writes fantasy, I would argue that a typical reader, before turning the first page, would expect it to be inherently more romantic than if a man had written it. But in truth, there is plenty of romance to be found in fantasy novels written by men. In fact, just about all of them contain a romantic subplot. But our preconceptions colour how we read everything.

A 2014 study at Goodreads found that readers preferred reading the work of authors from their own gender. I wonder if that is because men are expected to write in a genre that men are expected to read, and vice versa, OR if we genuinely gravitate to authors we feel a connection to. And if the first is true, I wonder if the publishers continue to reinforce such patterns because it is a business model that has always worked. If it is the second, then it might explain why fewer authors submit their work to publishers in genres where they are already under-represented.

Within my own readership, I have found that reviewers, where their names are gendered (I realise I’m making assumptions here on how they identify, but then I’m generalising anyway), tend to identify me as male if they happen to be male, and female if they happen to be male. Not only is it intensely fascinating to me that they believe they have identified my gender, but also that no one can agree on it! Does it reflect what they want to see in an author and is their assumption why they picked up my book, or is it that they project themselves in their own mental image of the author (which is how empathy works)?

A third possibility is that they thought my subject matter or manner of writing indicated I belonged to either the male or female gender. Interestingly, there is an algorithm that will try to predict your binary gender from the pronouns and nouns you use in your writing. Find it here. I pasted in several of my books, and each time it decided I was ‘weak male’. I’m not telling you what I truly am…

It would be interesting to hear what your results are, so do add them to the comments section below.

Back to romance – the idea that women are more preoccupied with romantic stories than men has always struck me as completely nonsensical. If men were not interested in romance in the real world, then none would get married, yet weddings keep on happening. If male readers are interested in romance in the real world, then why not in fiction? It strikes me that the disjuncture between a male readership and a ‘feminine’ genre has more to do with fashion and cultural bias than any inherent differences. Indeed, it is my belief that broadly the same things worry us, interest us, frighten and excite us, since we are human before we are of any particular gender, and that male and female preoccupations are entirely arbitrarily assigned. A writer would not get far with either characterisation or plot if they believed men were only after sex and women were only interested in having children, and that the two minds could never find common ground. Men are from earth; women are from earth.

I mentioned JK Rowling earlier, though scarcely a discussion about authors comes up without her name being mentioned, and I also noted it in the context of children’s books. This is one genre where author genders are more evenly balanced – a quick appraisal of the top 100 on Amazon will demonstrate this (and Rowling occupies about 20 of the spots in the top 100 children’s books!). It is one of those genres where a woman would not feel she was an exception to the gender rule in applying to be published, but whether the proportions of applicants carry through to publications in that genre is unknown to me. What was revealed only recently, however, was that the characters depicted in children’s books tend to contain heroes and villains who are overwhelmingly male and masculine. Female characters, on the other hand, were entirely missing from a fifth of the books studied. Why is it then, that even the female authors were writing about males more often than females?

I suspect it has more to do with what we read, and how we subconsciously reproduce a part of it. Rowling’s novels, to unfairly pull out one example, owe much to Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea series, which again feature a male hero and villain, and if every other children’s author grew up reading children’s novels featuring male heroes, then perhaps it is not surprising that change has been slow to take place. Perhaps this is a bit of social reproduction, but with gender instead of class, in action.

There is evidence to suggest it helps to have a male author name in certain genres (I do not know which genre Nichols’ book was submitted under – someone please let me know if you do). This article describes how Catherine Nichols received eight and a half times more responses for her manuscript when she pretended her name was George than she did when she was Catherine. Both the male and female agents were guilty of preferring George over Catherine. And yet, there are plenty of male authors out there who have chosen neutral or even female names in order to connect with their audience or fit with their genre.

For these reasons (and the beard problem), I shall remain as a genderless H. O. Charles, or Hadleigh, if you prefer, and for these reasons my profile picture shall remain as a drawing rather than a photo. But what do you think? Is there a certain look or persona an author should adopt in order to publish within a particular genre? Does your gender and the gender of your characters help or hinder you? How male or female was your writing in the gender guesser?!


Some more reading:

The Fireblade Array


Buy now!


Buy now!


Buy now!


Buy now!


Buy now!


Buy now!


Buy now!






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