Jann Ryan is still on vacation this month, so we’re running an interview from our archives. The interview with Carol L. Wright first posted April 2, 2017.
Jann Ryan is still on vacation this month, so we’re running an interview from our archives. The interview with Carol L. Wright first posted April 2, 2017.
My first interview on the new A Slice of Orange is with Carol L. Wright, editor for Bethlehem Writers Group, LLC. Carol is a recovering lawyer and adjunct law professor who traded writing on law-related topics for writing fiction. She has published several short stories in a variety of genres and is the author of the Gracie McIntyre Mysteries. She is a life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America and Sisters in Crime, a member of SinC Guppies, and a founding member of the Bethlehem Writers Group. She is married to her college sweetheart, and lives in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania. You can visit Carol’s website at http://carollwright.com, or follow her on Facebook at https://goo.gl/TtR9JL.
Jann: Welcome to A Slice of Orange, Carol. Tell us a little bit about Bethlehem Writers Group, LLC.
Carol: Thanks. I’m very happy to be here.
The Bethlehem Writers Group started out eleven years ago as a drop-in critique group at a local bookstore. While some of our regulars had several published works, many were writers who were just getting started, still learning the basics. As our membership grew, and our skills developed, we began taking on group challenges, such as meeting minimum word counts. That grew into accepting the challenge of compiling an anthology. Since we were based in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, also known as “Christmas City, USA,” we decided to make it a Christmas anthology. Our writers work in many different genres, and had equally different takes on the theme, so when we decided on a title, we called it A CHRISTMAS SAMPLER: SWEET, FUNNY, AND STRANGE HOLIDAY TALES. Sweet, funny, and strange pretty much describes our merry band of writers, too.
Since then, we have published three more anthologies, each with different themes, and are in the process of compiling our fifth anthology, UNTETHERED: SWEET, FUNNY, AND STRANGE TALES OF THE PARANORMAL, forthcoming in 2018. In addition, many of our members have published their short works elsewhere, and we have many who have published novels, nonfiction, or memoir.
In addition to our anthologies, in 2011 we began publishing an online literary magazine. Bethlehem Writers Roundtable. Shortly thereafter, we started an annual short story contest that offers cash and publication to the top three winners. But through it all, we have never forgotten our continuing mission of meeting as a group of mutually supportive fiction and nonfiction writers to help each other perfect their craft.
Jann: BWG publishes a quarterly e-zine, Bethlehem Writers Roundtable, are you accepting submissions?
Carol: We are always open to submissions of prose or poetry. We limit submissions to no more than 2000 words, and the work must be previously unpublished.
In addition to publishing stories and poems, we have other features, including an interview of a writing professional, a column on commonly confused words, and another column from the mythical “Betty Wryte-Goode” (BWG!) with links to useful websites for writers.
Jann: Must the author be published or unpublished?
Carol: We are happy to accept good work, whether the author has been published before or not. We have had the pleasure of publishing award-winning authors, as well as writers who have never published before. Our goal is to bring good work to the attention of our readers—it’s as simple as that.
Jann: Is this a paying market?
Carol: Yes, as of this year, we are happy to be able to offer payment for published work. Our Featured Author receives $20/story. Those whose work we publish, but who are not featured, receive $10/story. Poets receive $5/poem.
Jann: How does an author submit?
Carol: Submissions are through our online form at https://sites.google.com/site/bethlehemwritersroundtable/submissions.
Jann: Where can we read the e-zine?
Carol: It is published quarterly at https://bwgwritersroundtable. Our Spring issue just came out on April 1. No fooling!
Jann: What about The Best of Bethlehem Writers Round Table Winter Collection?
We have been fortunate enough to get some really terrific stories to publish on Roundtable through the years. A couple of years ago, we compiled several in one volume: LET IT SNOW: THE BEST OF BETHLEHEM WRITERS ROUNDTABLE (Winter 2015 Collection). It’s available in print or ebook formats through Amazon.com. (And also in the A Slice of Orange Book Store.)
Jann: As one of the Roundtable editors, what are you looking for in a short story? A poem?
Carol: We describe what we’re looking for on our submissions page, but briefly, we are looking for great stories. We often receive the equivalent of a “still life” in words—mood pieces or character sketches. But unless they are part of a true story, we’re not apt to accept them. We’re looking for three things: character, conflict, and resolution. We want to see that the main character has changed because of the events told in the story. A great story beats flowery language every time.
For poetry, we want emotion, imagery, musicality, and great use of inventive language. Poetry is a subjective genre, but what we don’t want is flash fiction with line breaks, or awkward or worn phrases. If it’s hard to make sense of your lines, we’re not apt to accept them. But if our editors feel your poem, you’ll be published.
Jann: Any writing books that you would recommend? How about classes?
Carol: There are so many great books out there. As a mystery writer, I’ve found the books by James N. Frey (not to be confused with James Frey) to be particularly helpful. He has a series of “Damn Good” books, including HOW TO WRITE A DAMN GOOD MYSTERY. He also has one for novels and another for thrillers. I found his discussion of mythic characters and themes to be particularly useful. Another great resource is the books by James Scott Bell. He has written on every aspect, from writing to editing to marketing. I’m not a horror fan, but loved Stephen King’s book ON WRITING: A MEMOIR OF THE CRAFT. Great books about being a writer include the classic BIRD BY BIRD by Anne Lamott.
I think every writer also needs a ton of reference works—both about writing and about the subjects they choose. My shelves are full of books on psychology and forensics because I write mysteries. But I also have a number of style books that I use—but only during the editing process. When I’m writing a first draft, I try not to let my inner editor get in the way of my muse.
There are also a plethora of great classes for writers out there. You don’t need to spend a fortune to get some terrific instruction. If you write genre fiction, such as romance, mystery, or children’s
fiction, there are strong, vibrant, national organizations for your genre. They frequently offer their members low-cost or free classes on a variety of writing subjects. For instance, as a member of Sisters in Crime (sinc.org), and its Guppies subgroup, I have access to low-cost classes on all aspects of mystery writing.
There are also “free” webinars offered by self-proclaimed experts on a variety of aspects of writing. These might offer some useful information, but in reality, they are ill-concealed advertisements for their extremely expensive services. They will often tell you just enough to make you want to learn more—for only $99/month for six months!
BWG is now developing workshops for writers, and hope to be ready to offer them to the public later this year. So, if you’re in the Bethlehem, PA area, they might be a good place to start.
When the budget allows, I’m a big advocate of going to writers conferences. You learn a lot from other writers, but you also have a chance to make contacts with people who “get” you. Writing is a solitary profession, and it’s nice to get out there and discover you’re not the only one who is weird like that. I mean—how many of your friends will spend a good portion of their afternoon figuring out how to get rid of a body without leaving trace evidence behind? (Uh–if they aren’t writers, maybe you should find other friends.) I always come home from a conference with renewed energy to write.
But the best thing for any writer to do is to read—a lot. It might be trite, but it’s true. By reading, you learn what does or doesn’t work. You improve your vocabulary, and expose yourself to a variety of voices. Reading opens the world up to you, both as an individual and as a writer. There is no substitute.
Jann: BWG also publishes the Sweet, Funny, and Strange Tales Anthologies. Tell us a little bit about these books.
Carol: As I mentioned, it all started with A CHRISTMAS SAMPLER: SWEET, FUNNY, AND STRANGE HOLIDAY TALES. We were so excited when it won the 2010 NEXT Generation Indie Book Awards in two categories: Best Anthology and Best Short Fiction.
When we first published A CHRISTMAS SAMPLER, we weren’t sure whether we would ever do another, but after a couple of years, we wanted to do it again. Having published a Christmas book, we wanted to compile one for other holidays as well. Soon, we had ONCE AROUND THE SUN: SWEET, FUNNY, AND STRANGE TALES FOR ALL SEASONS which was also a finalist for Best Anthology.
Two years later, we published a collection of food-related stories entitled A READABLE FEAST: SWEET, FUNNY, AND STRANGE TALES FOR EVERY TASTE, which earned another finalist medal from the Next Generation Indie Book Awards.
Our most recent anthology just came out last fall: ONCE UPON A TIME: SWEET, FUNNY, AND STRANGE TALES FOR ALL AGES. It’s a book of children’s stories ranging from the preschool through middle school target audience—and their parents, of course.
Our next anthology, UNTETHERED: SWEET, FUNNY, AND STRANGE TALES OF THE PARANORMAL, is due out next year.
Jann: Do you accept submissions?
Carol: With one exception, the stories in our anthologies are by active members of the Bethlehem Writers Group. That exception is that the first-place winner of the annual Bethlehem Writers Roundtable Short Story Award competition is considered for inclusion in the upcoming anthology. For some of our anthologies, though, it takes us two years to put out the book. For those, we may have two successive contest winners’ stories included in the book.
Jann: A contest? How does that work?
Each year, we offer a SHORT STORY AWARD to the best story submitted to that year’s contest. As it happens, we are currently accepting submissions of original, unpublished, paranormal stories of no more than 2000 words. Our submission deadline is April 30. Members of BWG do the preliminary round of judging, then pass off the finalists to a guest judge.
Jann: Who is the final judge?
Carol: This year, we’re honored to have New York Times bestselling author, Carrie Vaughn as our Guest Judge. She will determine who our winners are.
Jann: Where do you enter?
Carol: All entries must be submitted through the form on the contest page of Bethlehem Writers Roundtable. Payments are via PayPal. There is a PayPal link on our website to make payments easily.
Jann: How much does it cost?
Carol: There is a $10 entry fee per story.
Jann: What are the prizes?
We offer cash and publication to our winners. First place wins $200 and consideration for publication in our upcoming anthology. Second and Third places win $100 and $50 respectively. Both of these stories are offered publication in Bethlehem Writers Roundtable. Honorable Mentions (if any) receive a certificate, and might be offered publication at the discretion of our Roundtable editors.
Jann: When will the next anthology be released?
Carol: UNTETHERED is slated to be published in the fall of 2018.
Jann: Take off your editor’s hat for a minute and put on your author hat and tell us what you have planned for 2017.
2017 is a busy year. I have just had a short story published in the anthology THE WRITE CONNECTIONS put out by the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group. Another story is due out in July in the anthology DAY OF THE DARK, edited by Kaye George and published by Wildside Press, LLC. All the stories included are related in some way to the total solar eclipse that will be visible in North America on August 21, 2017.
In August, I anticipate the publication of my novel, DEATH AT GLENVILLE FALLS. It is the first of my Gracie McIntyre Mysteries. The story is about recovering lawyer, Gracie McIntrye, whose newly-opened bookstore is vandalized. She is disturbed when the responding officer is strangely indifferent to the crime. When she discovers that he did not file a police report on the incident, she suspects he might somehow be involved. She complains to the police chief, but gets no satisfaction, even as violence against her escalates. She investigates, only to discover that it is all tied to the 18-year-old murder of her former client that everyone thought was solved.
I hope your readers will look for it, and enjoy it.
I would like to thank Carol L. Wright for taking the time to answer our questions. If you have comments or questions for Carol, please use the comment form below.
Jann Ryan grew up with the smell of orange blossoms in Orange County in sunny Southern California, where she has lived her entire life and dreamed up stories since she was a young girl. Never an avid reader, she was in her thirties when she picked up her first romance quite by accident. She fell in love with happily ever after and has been reading romances ever since.
Wanting to put pen to paper, Jann joined Romance Writers of America. Currently, she is working on a romantic suspense series set in Stellar Bay, a fictitious town along the California central coast to fulfill her publishing dream.
So who established word counts? And when did words become so expensive to print that they require massive cuts, like the U.S. budget? Does that mean that in today’s market James Joyce’s, Ulysses wouldn’t make it to publication? Or past the word police? Would an agent even get through the first five pages?
I can imagine an editor skimming through Chapter One of Charles Dickens’, A Tale of Two Cities. “… it was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of unbelief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness,…we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way….Yada, yada, yada.” His critique might be, “A rambling paragraph with enough commas to fill an entire chapter. Excessive word count, repetitive and burdensome. Guy probably sent it to me by mistake. I’ll have to let him know that we don’t publish psychiatric diaries.”
The editor would most likely want to limit the count of ‘to be’ verbs. By those standards, I guess Shakespeare wouldn’t make the cut it either, “To be or not to be.”
When did we get so busy and pressed for time that we gulp down a book so we can get on to the next one? When did our palate become so insipid that we can no longer relish and savor the taste of words making us miss the whole joy of the language journey?
I recall the film, The Agony and the Ecstasy. No, it’s not a sexy romance. Sorry. It depicts the story of Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel. Several scenes show Pope Sixtus IV impatiently interrupting the artist at work to ask, “When will it be finished?” to which Michelangelo would always reply, “When it is finished.”
Like Michelangelo’s paintbrush, I bristle at the agent mantra to keep it short, be concise. Yes, I know words cost money and time is money. But so did paint back then. What might the Sistine Chapel look like today if Michelangelo had raced to finish it, or had been limited by how many paint colors he could use? “Tone it down. Don’t apply the paint too thickly. Stay on budget.”
Logically, I understand that rules and formats, and word counts must apply. But when I was a teacher I didn’t teach to the test because that’s not good pedagogy. For me, a creative work is finished when it is finished. And as a writer, I don’t want to write to the word count, but I do always want to make every word count.
See you next time on July 22nd.
Manager, Educator, and former High School Social Studies teacher, Veronica credits her love of history to the potpourri of cultures that make up her own life and to her upbringing in diverse Brooklyn, New York. Her genres of choice are Historical Fiction where she always makes new discoveries and Children’s Picture Books because there are so many wonderful worlds yet to be imagined and visited. She currently resides in Macungie, PA.
by Rebecca Forster
Oh, that word erotica. Written, it looks naked and naughty; spoken it sounds enticing and exciting. Close your eyes and â€“ well, only you know what images it conjures up. Which brings us to the topic of the day: When it comes to sexy books, where do both reader and writer draw the line between erotica and steamy romances?
The Editor/Publisher: Normally, this is not a topic I would have visited but a few things have caught my eye in the last few years. First, erotica started being pulled into the mainstream of my local bookstore. Second, category romance became more inventive and definitely steamier. Finally, the advent of E-books and independent publishing allows more sexually explicit material do be read in utter privacy. Think of your Kindle or Nook as the new brown paper wrapper and thereâ€™s lots to put inside. Nookbooks (Barnes & Noble) offers 7,718 books defined as erotica; Kindle (Amazon), 24,901 (as of this writing). One online publisher reports that 12% of his offerings are listed as erotica but, in all instances, romance inventory is far greater.
That still left me curious as to the blurring of the line between erotica and steamy romance. Audrey LeFehr who edits books for Kensingtonâ€™s Aphrodisia imprint as well as other genres was very clear about what she looks for. There are no â€˜romance rulesâ€™ in erotica (one woman, one man, commitment no matter how steamy the sex). Rather erotica explores the boundaries of a womanâ€™s sexual satisfaction without being depressing, degrading or seriously frightening. This could include same sex or multiple lovers.
The Erotic Author:
The reason an author decides to write erotica are basic: a burning story line, creative expression, pushing the boundaries of their art.- not to mention that the adult entertainment market is huge and there is money to be made.
Locklyn Swallow, author of numerous shorts including her most recent Love By Disguise, admits money was her initial motivation and her objectives have been met. While not making her a millionaire, the return on her short stories, published for digital download and reasonably priced, has been greater than expected.
I.M.Beckett, a pseudonym for a traditionally published author, saw erotica as a challenge after reading a classic erotic novel. According to Beckett, there was an extraordinary beauty that came from linking life and death to sexual encounters with an emphasis on writing style, not just sexual description. The Traveler: An Erotic Journey (part I) is a nod to noir erotica.
Victoria Hawke, a newcomer to the erotic scene with her Wet, Wild &Wacky, 3 sexy shorts that have a wonderful, tongue in cheek energy, liked that erotica offered a greater range for readers. With erotica, there are not tonal rules that need to be adhered to as in traditional genre writing.
All three met their original objectives but then went on to say that, as authors, the genre allowed them to grow in ways they never expected. Erotic readers, they believe, don’t just want to be sexual voyeurs. These readers also want to be invested in character and plot. Short or long, erotica must deliver on all traditional literary levels and then one more â€“ the sexual narrative.
The Reader:Recently, I saw a reader on an Amazon Kindle thread apologize for being an avid romance reader. That doesnâ€™t happen very often any more. The days of being embarrassed about enjoying a romantic reading experience are just about over. Not so for erotica.
There were some erotica threads on the boards but no one answered my query about why erotica was a genre of choice. Surprising? No. Erotica is, perhaps, the most personal of all reading choices. As with all genres, there is a range within erotica that will blur the lines. What one person calls erotica, another will deem a hot romance and yet someone else will swear it crosses the line to pornography. Then again, isnâ€™t it the same for mainstream genres? What some call literature, others dismiss as commercial fiction.
Bottom line, E-books have brought both erotic readers and authors out of the shadows. I for one will be curious to see what the future brings for this genre. Will it bend toward true E-rotica or will it somehow be embraced and engulfed by E-romance? One thing is for certain, as ownership of e-readers grows erotica options will find ever broader distribution. It will be up readers to determine how successful this genre â€“ like all genres â€“ will be.
OCC RWA isnâ€™t the only one turning the big 3-0 this year.
I was very excited when my Italian editor, Alessandra Bazardi, asked me to record a special Happy 30th Birthday to Harmony to my Italian readers.
All of my Spice books have been translated into Italian, so this was really cool.
Here is my video! I hope you enjoy it.
(PS — the Italian titles follow the names of my novels:)
The Blonde Samurai â€œShe embraced the way of the warrior. Two swords. Two loves.â€ Bionda Samurai
Cleopatra’s Perfume Il Profumo del peccato
Naughty Paris Trasgressione Scarlatta
Spies, Lies & Naked Thighs Bionda Vendetta
I’ve been wracking my brain, trying to figure out what I wanted to share with all of you. Part of that may be that I’m currently in Georgia, at my brother’s wedding. I’m always so fascinated by weddings, because everyone is so different. Do you do pictures before or after? Sit-down dinner or buffet? Big or small? Considering how long people have been getting married, you’d think it would be hard to always be original. But time after time, couple after couple finds a way to make it unique.
It’s this instinct that I look for in the books I read. Love stories have been around forever, but we keep coming back. Tristan und Isolde, Romeo and Juliet, Tony and Maria. Same basic story, told in new and interesting ways.
I guess that’s the secret, the way you can decipher that publishing code. When editors say they’re looking for “high-concept” stories, it doesn’t mean we want every theme you’ve ever heard of thrown together in a big mish-mash. It’s about bringing something special that will resonate, even if you think they’ve heard it a million times before.
Modern Family, ABC’s new sitcom, is a perfect example of this. If I just told you the plot of an episode–father buys son a bike, sees bike outside of arcade, steals it to teach son a lesson about responsibility–you can probably guess where it’s going to go. But watching it unfold, it’s like you’ve never seen it before. Something tiny, like a quirky line-reading, or an extra twist when you thought it was over, makes it special. (Also hilarious, but I could write pages and pages about Modern Family, so I’m going to hold back.) But other than just enjoying the show, I am drawn in by the sheer ingenuity that went into making it.
The creative process is always interesting to me, which is what brought me to publishing in the first place. In Stephen Sondheim’s “Sunday in the Park with George”, a musical about painter George Seurat, this is how he describes the color “white”: ‘A blank page or canvas. His favorite. So many possibilities.’ And it’s true, the possibilities are endless–and a little bit daunting.
That’s why I always remind writers that they are the best part of their writing. Your voice, your point of view, your style–that’s what makes your work unique. Don’t let yourself get caught up in trying to create a plot that has never, ever been seen before. Trust yourself, and you’ll always be happy with the product–and so will your readers.