I’m so excited! After 2 1/2 years of working on it, I’m almost ready to launch my new Finish Your Book program — yay!! You may know that I’m a big believer in the idea that we can write books that change the world, whether it’s making a reader’s day better or changing how people think. So I want to help all the writers I can to write and finish more books. AND to do so with more peace and joy.
Before I launch Finish Your Book on December 1, I want to make sure that I’m not missing anything important. Can you do me a favor and answer a 2-question survey? I’d really appreciate it! And you’d be helping other writers, too!
Look for me on Facebook Live and YouTube Live over the next three weeks where I’ll be talking about my WHOLE PATH System to writing, finishing, and getting your books out into the world. I’ll also be teaching a free Master Class at the end of November explaining the WHOLE PATH System. It’s going to be a great new year for all of us! Here’s to writing and publishing more books!
It’s always exciting when a new story you’ve labored over for months… and months finally makes its debut… like a Broadway show opening out of town.
Philadelphia has had its share of out-of-town openings, so it’s only fitting THE ORPHANS OF BERLIN with my Philly debutante heroine had its opening this weekend on NetGalley.
To celebrate, I pulled out memorabilia from Berlin… my red cloche hat and red leather driving gloves… Berlin postcards.
And three of my favorite dolls that I carried around in a special pink trunk when I was a kid every time we moved.
Doll friends I could hang with since I was always the new kid in school (I went to 15). I’d eventually make friends, but these 3 ‘sisters’ were always there for me as they are today when I introduce you to the three Landau Sisters during WW2, Jewish girls in danger when the Nazis come to power…
Rachel, Leah, and Tovah.
Through a twist of fate, their fate is changed forever by Kay Alexander, a candy heiress with a dark secret that haunts her. Kay has no idea what’s in store for her when she visits Berlin in 1937… once she meets the Landau family, she’ll do anything to help them survive.
I spent part of a summer in Berlin years ago, visiting the city’s museums and shopping on the Ku’Damm, but the most memorable part was visiting East Berlin before the wall came down. I remember what the hotel clerk told me when I asked him for directions to Checkpoint Charlie. ‘They’ve forgotten how to smile,’ he said. I didn’t understand then what he meant until I was lost in that world of gray between East and West like a lost shadow.
During WW2, the Landau Sisters also forget how to smile as their freedoms are slowly taken from them because they are Jewish. In The Orphans of Berlin, you’ll meet Rachel and watch her grow up during the 1930s until the day her parents make the hardest decision a family should never have to make.
To send her and her sisters away… so they may live.
But how? Will they survive? Where will they go? Find out in THE ORPHANS OF BERLIN.
If you’re a book reviewer and you’d like to request an ARC here’s the NetGalley info:
THE ORPHANS OF BERLIN
Yesterday, I was so happy to host another in-person and Zoom writers retreat at my home. I’ve been to lots and hosted several over the last few decades, and I just love all the creative energy driving people to get more done faster in a fairly stress-free environment.
In case you want to host one but don’t know where to start, this is what I did.
For me, the key to success was to make sure I created an atmosphere where I, too, would get a lot of writing done. That meant that I picked my writing friends carefully and didn’t have too big a group. (We found that 4-6 additional people besides me and John fit comfortably in our apartment.) After we did this successfully once, THEN I asked if they wanted to do it again.
When first asking the group about a date, I found it was better to limit the date choices to a few I knew would work for me rather than to look at the entire calendar and ask everyone to pick one date that they could all commit to. (I made that mistake first!)
I also made sure that my husband John and I only committed to the amount of hospitality we wanted to provide. In our case, John loves to cook and he chose to make both breakfast and lunch! But he chose meals that were easy for him to prepare and easy to clean up after. (If you’re wondering, yesterday we had peanut butter chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast, and his amazing grilled cheese with sweet potato soup for lunch!) For the first two retreats, yesterday and this past July, we decided to buy all the groceries and prepare all the food and ask everyone to chip in a set amount that was approximately equal to what we’d spent. Next time, we’ll do a potluck because now all my different friends know each other and everyone wants to contribute and work together.
We have a “great room” rather than separate areas for kitchen, dining room, and living room, so everyone was able to spread out over that whole area, and I connected my laptop to the TV so everyone could see our Zoom friends and they could see us. John and I worked in our offices, giving the others more room and allowing us to work in a setup we already enjoyed. Both times we started about ten minutes late because we were all happily talking over pancakes for an hour. Haha! But some friendly nudges every time it was time to start again got everyone back to their computers and we completed all the sprints close to the times on the schedule. (I set an alarm on my phone for each sprint.)
My schedule, in case it’s helpful as you’re planning your day, was:
10-10:30 Sprint 1, shorter to give people time to get back in the writing mindset
15-minute breaks between them to stretch, etc. and to share accomplishments
10:45-11:30 Sprint 2
11:45-12:30 Sprint 3
1:45-2:45 Brainstorming, plotstorming, etc. (we used part of this time to do a “How to Create a TikTok Video”, and everyone who wanted to created an account and followed each other)
2:45-3:30 Sprint 4
3:45-4:30 Sprint 5
4:45-5:30 Sprint 6, getting tired, asked people if they want to do one more or stop, they always continue
5:45-6:30 Sprint 7 — Done!
6:30 – Ask each person what they accomplished for the day, CELEBRATE! Then some people have to leave, ask others if they want to order pizza, collapse on the couch and decompress, eventually everyone leaves, YOU finally collapse and tell yourself you’ll clean up the kitchen tomorrow 🙂
My little group works so well together that we decided to do this quarterly, so our next one will be in January. For friends outside my time zone who want to sprint via Zoom, I tell them the time and they decide when they want to arrive and leave. One person was going to write from when she woke up until we finished, about noon her time. Another is a night owl, so she wrote with us the entire time — 3am until almost noon her time! A few of us will probably get together at my place a couple Saturdays in November now that we know this will work — but for that we’ll get pizza or sandwiches or takeout so no one is cooking and we can write even more.
I hope this was helpful as you consider what you could do to create a writers retreat. Remember that one of the main points is that YOU also get a lot of writing done! Enjoy!
Happy October. I’ve got a question for you. What’s your heat level? Recently, I was asked a similar question about my books and I have to admit I was a little off base on a few of them.
A few posts back, I mentioned I had hired a PA. She’s been extremely helpful. In the beginning of our working arrangement, she asked me about the heat level on one of my books. I have to admit I was at a loss. What I thought and the reality were completely different.
In the past, when someone asked me that question I would refer to my books as more sensual sometimes a little steamy. However, there was a book my PA was setting up a swap for and I wasn’t quite sure of the heat level. She sent me a heat level chart and I was a little surprised where some of my books landed on the chart.
Talk about an eye opener…this little chart revealed a truth I didn’t really want to know, the majority of my books are not just Steamy, they’re also Sexy. Sometimes very Sexy. However, I have a book that unbeknownst to me, lands in the gray space between Sexy/Steamy and Erotic. I really didn’t want to admit this so I asked my godsister who had read an ARC for the book and she agreed it fell into the gray zone.
The heat level of some of my books is the reason I had to hire a new editor. In my defense, not all of my books fall into the Sexy/Steamy category. I have some that are Wholesome/Clean and Sweet. Those are either novellas, prequels or series starters.
Here’s how I write some of my series. I loop you in with a Sweet book and as the series progresses the stories get steamier. It’s like a slow build up. I’ve hinted at the sensuality so by the time the reader gets to book three or the end of book two [if it’s a big book], they are begging for the characters to go further.
Now I will admit, sometimes I don’t see the intense heat some of my readers see. I’ve had reviews that were a little shocking but that’s a matter of opinion. I had one review that said they couldn’t make it past chapter four. She went so far as to call it soft porn. I may write a little steamy, but I don’t write porn. No offense to those that write and read porn. Back to this review, I felt sorry for her, because she missed out on a great book. I also had a review praise me for the sexy love scenes. That one makes up for the other review. When it comes to heat levels it’s a little subjective. What one person finds Sexy/Steamy someone else considers Sensual/Medium Heat.
I have one book to this day I really don’t know how Amazon managed to class it as Erotic Poetry. My mother and I have had several conversations about it, however she agrees with Amazon. She said it’s the implied tone. Just last week, my book LOVE NOTES, was the #1 free book in three categories…Love & Erotic Poetry, Poetry About Love and my personal favorite category…One-Hour Parenting & Relationships Short Reads on Amazon.
I can understand Poetry About Love and I’ll even acquiesce to Love & Erotic Poetry. However, I’m flabbergasted at One-Hour Parenting & Relationships Short Reads. My mother told me to stop complaining, because the book gets me noticed. She’s right. I’m also often trading top spots in the Love & Erotic category with The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe. So I guess I’m in great author company.
Back to my original question…what’s your heat level? Check the chart below and see where your books land.
ROMANCE NOVEL HEAT LEVELS
Chats kisses, holding hands, and hugging. No love scenes – not even closed door. Just lots of emotion
Sex is implied. Closed door/morning after for intercourse. Any sexual activity would be vague on detail, heavy on emotion
! ! !
Sexual chemistry is heating up. Love scenes on page and described but still lighter on detail with strong emotional component.
! ! ! !
Sex is man component of the plot and is on-page and explicit. Swearing/dirty talk is frequent. Light kink/user-friendly sex toys might make an appropriate appearance. HEA.
! ! ! ! !
LOTS of sex, graphic, detailed, often kinky, non-conventional, and boundary-pushing. Sex is a big part of story line but still a HEA.
Fae Rowen discovered the romance genre after years as a science fiction freak. Writing futuristics and medieval paranormals, she jokes that she can live anywhere but the present. As a mathematician, she knows life’s a lot more fun when you get to define your world and its rules.
Punished, oh-no, that’s published as a co-author of a math textbook, she yearns to hear personal stories about finding love from those who read her books, rather than the horrors of calculus lessons gone wrong. She is grateful for good friends who remind her to do the practical things in life like grocery shop, show up at the airport for a flight and pay bills.
A “hard” scientist who avoided writing classes like the plague, she now shares her brain with characters who demand that their stories be told. Amazing, gifted critique partners keep her on the straight and narrow.
Fae: This is going to sound funny, but it seems that all my friends are more excited than I am. I’m very happy to finally share this story, but even though I have lots of work still to do—there’s marketing and social media to do, PRISM 2 to write, another series to revise the first two books that are already written, and a third series that I’ve finished the first two books “in my head”—for now, I’m learning how to make social media more user-friendly for me. Next week I’ll start plotting and writing PRISM 2 and begin the final revision of Keeping Athena, the first book in my adult science fiction romance series. I’ve been working such long hours for the past eighteen months, it’s nice to just take a breather and bask a little in the congratulations. And…there is a kind of sadness that I’m not hanging out with these people in the same way anymore.
Fae: More than five years ago, Jenny Hansen, Laura Drake, Sharla Rae and I started a blog for writers: Writers in the Storm. Jenny said we needed a platform for when we got published, so I climbed on the blog train along with them. It took a year before I finally understood the technology and idea behind a blog for writers.
Everyone says to write the best book you can, so I did. Every chapter went through the WITS critique shredder. I probably re-wrote the beginning of the book eight times. When I finished the book, I had an hour-long “session” with Michael Hauge. I felt like I’d been steam-rolled, but his questions and suggestions helped me clarify the soft-points in the book that I hadn’t seen. It’s amazing what he can cover in sixty minutes! I entered it in half a dozen contests to get feedback. Young adult science fiction is not a large sub-genre, so I didn’t expect much, but it finaled in just about every contest. I took it to an Immersion Class with Margie Lawson. Because I wanted to put out the best book I could, I worked with Tiffany Yates Martin, my editor, through four revisions to bring out themes I hadn’t even known were there. Remember, I’m a math major who avoided writing classes. I’m a pantser who abhors plotting and cringes when someone asks the theme or turning points of my novel. Luckily, I’ve always been a voracious reader, so those story-telling “landmarks” have been absorbed by osmosis. (More on this below in the answer to question #3.)
Eighteen months ago, when I decided to self-publish, I attended as many of the self-pubbing workshops and panels at RWA 2016 San Diego as I could. I filled a notebook with tips, timelines, and scheduling calendars. I thought I’d have my first book out (I was thinking it would be Keeping Athena) within six months. Ha! That deadline got pushed back four months, then another four, then two more, then two more. What caused all the changes? I was very picky about my cover, so that took two months longer than I’d anticipated. (But I love the results from Deranged Doctor Designs. They are marvelous to work with.) I reworked my website, with help from June Stevens Westerfield. I looked at other author’s newsletters and websites. I took a social media class. A few months later I started looking at my Facebook page once every two weeks. I started a Pinterest site to collect pictures and quotes that are pertinent to my genre in general and my books, specifically. Both Keeping Athena and P.R.I.S.M. required a fourth pass with Tiffany, requiring another couple of months. I joined a blog of YA authors, and I started telling people in my circle of acquaintances that I had written a book. (I have this secretive streak…)
Fae: I don’t get inspiration about characters. The weird thing is, long before I ever start typing, my characters and their story show up in my brain. Don’t ask me how that works. One morning, I wake up, and they’re there. They aren’t fully fleshed out and I don’t know much more than the beginning and the end of the book, but I hang out with them. If they are persistent enough and I’m engaged in their lives, I write their story.
A very spiritual friend says she thinks I channel my stories. If that’s true, I wish I channeled better writing! I know my characters—and I believe that the exile world of Prism is also a character—very well. I’ve “lived” in their heads and in their surroundings. I know why they react as they do because I know their backstory. In the early drafts, when someone asked a question about some detail I invariably left out—because heck, I live there—I know the answer immediately. This has happened during pitches with agents and editors and they seem shocked at the information I can give them about what doesn’t appear in the book.
When I started P.R.I.S.M. I was hiking fifteen miles a week and eating more than a normal person would of protein shakes and bars. On the beautiful trails I wondered what it would be like if there were no ducks or squirrels or rabbits or lizards. I remembered what the Middle East was like when I spent a month there a few years ago. Long stretches of desolate sand dunes, very different food, a language I didn’t understand. I’ve been all over the world, but I couldn’t even figure out the road signs. All these bits of my past end up in the world of Prism.
Music has always been important in my life. I wrote my first book to only one song. I played that song the entire nine months I wrote that story. I played the song at work, too. Sometimes, brave co-workers asked if I had any other CD’s. Now before I start a book, I’m lucky to hear new songs on the radio that mesh well with the story. I end up with a playlist for each character, so when I’m writing a scene in that character’s POV, I listen to that playlist. For instance, Guardian (Alanis Morissette), Bring Me to Life (Evanescence) and I Drove All Night (Cyndi Lauper) are three of O’Neill’s songs, while every time Cal thinks about Jericho, it’s He’s a Pirate from Pirates of the Caribbean or when he’s with O and their friends it could be Uprising (Muse). Jericho’s POV comes to life with Geronimo (Say Hey to Single Life) and Satellite (Rise Against). Selecting my playlist is not a one-time chore, but more of an organic growth as I drive and listen to the radio. Once I identify a song for my playlist, I purchase it and listen to it until I find the next song. Usually there is a scene in each of my books that is based on a song on the playlist.
O’Neill has a lot of me in her. I didn’t realize just how much until Tiffany kept after me to dig deeper into O’s character arc. And Cal. Ah. He was just perfect for O. They came to me as so-in-love teenagers. Caring, always there, supportive Cal to balance O’s brashness and tight-leashed temper. They were, literally, destined to be together. And then Jericho shows up from Earth, just after O’s father goes missing. Can I just say right now how much I love O’s father? If Jocko Neill walked through my door, I’d be a goner. How did I not see when I was writing the book that he’s got so many of my husband’s good traits?
That was a really long answer. I guess the short answer is I find my characters in my life, in the people around me. But I couldn’t really match one character to one person. My characters are bits and pieces of what several people are—and my impressions of who they could become.
Fae: Thanks for asking. I’m so glad you visited my website. I wish I had time to hang out there more. I love writing the character blogs. And posting my “other” writing from what seems like a previous life.
Keeping Athena is an adult science fiction romance. When I wrote the book, a long time ago, I planned to write “sequels” about her two brothers. I wrote Keeping Athena and Contracting Joy, about Athena’s younger hot-shot cocky fighter pilot, before I started P.R.I.S.M.
Maybe I should mention here that I didn’t start writing to publish books. Did I say before that I might be considered weird? I started writing to tell the stories that accosted me every night when I turned out the light. (I was lucky to have a husband who was willing to eat corn flakes for dinner when, after work, I couldn’t stop writing in the middle of a space battle.) The Keep Sphere is populated with several planets, all having wonderful places and people with stories that could keep me busy for a long time.
Keeping Athena is filled with space battles, lies and betrayal, and two worlds at war. This is the kind of science fiction that made me a science fiction freak, and the romance that made me love the romance genre years later—all rolled into one story. Think Star Wars and Gone with the Wind, if Rhett and Scarlet ended up together and madly in love. Athena, an Agran fighter pilot and trained assassin, crashes behind enemy lines onto Drake’s tiny asteroid, becoming his prisoner. Drake is the second-in-command of the Keep forces, but he hides that fact from her, pretending to be a space bum. She struggles to escape. He struggles to decode the secrets in her nav boards. They both fight against the attraction they feel.
I got the idea for the Hangar Bay that’s on my website (www.faerowen.com) from the flight deck in what will be my third series, The Regent Fleet Academy. I wish I had a clone, because the first two books in that series are fully written in my head, I just need time to type them out. And, as usual, I’m in love. With a bad-boy hero, which I’ve never written before. Can I just share a song from Fire on Roof, the first book in the series? Shut Up and Dance by Walk the Moon is on my main character’s playlist the first half of the book, then it flips and is on the hero’s playlist. There is a scene for each of them based on the song, and they just might be my favorite scenes in the book.
Fae: “The book won’t write itself.” Laura Drake told me this when I complained that I wasn’t getting the daily word count I wanted. She asked how long I was sitting at the computer. Uh…not long.
Fae: I’d love to write about Navy SEALS and special ops. I’d be willing to do the research for that, but I don’t think I could pull off the on-going suspense. I can tell you that I will never write historicals, even though I love to read regency romances. I don’t have the patience for hours of research that passionate readers know much better than I ever will. And because I don’t plot, mysteries are out. My stories are too convoluted with lots of subplots to be short. (P.R.I.S.M. came in at over 125,000 words.) My first book, still under the bed, was a medieval fantasy romance. I liked writing about knights and swords. But I have a lot to deal with in the future, and I’m good with that.
Fae: I love being able to work whenever I want to-late at night, early in the morning, all day and night if I want to. And it’s great not to have to get dressed for “work” with make-up and hair to impress whomever.
Fae: Are you kidding? Beam me up!
Feedback from readers keeps her fingers on the keyboard. When she’s not hanging out at Writers in the Storm, you can visit Fae at http://faerowen.com or www.facebook.com/fae.rowen
Fae also blogs at YA Outside the Lines on the fifth of every month.
P.R.I.S.M., a young adult science fiction romance story of survival, betrayal, resolve, deceit, lies, and love is available now at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
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