I am thrilled to share that my paranormal romance, THE RAVINE, took first place in the new adult category of YARWA’s Rosemary Contest! YARWA’s Day of YA was held at RWA Nationals in Denver, and though I couldn’t make it out, the coordinators posted a live stream that made me feel like I was there. Thank you to the contest judges and coordinators and congratulations to all the finalists!
This past Saturday, I joined the fabulous Virginia Romance Writers for their June Awards Luncheon. We all got lei’d (fun tropical theme) and listened to guest speaker Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches give a humorous and thoughtful talk on reviews. Soon after I was honored to learn that my new baby, THE RAVINE, had taken first place in the light paranormal category of VRW’s Fool for Love Contest!
Okay, so super-cheesy awesomesauce to add to this day–my supportive hero husband came down with me for the ceremony, and afterward, we went to check out the botanical gardens in Richmond. It was supposed to rain that day but turned out to be gorgeous-hot. There was a butterfly exhibit in their conservatory that was breathtaking–insects of iridescent blue as big as my hand. I savored the moment. It’s easy to forget, when you’re working hard toward something, to stop and look around you. Here’s to hope and a long journey filled with bright little moments.
So excited!! My newest story, THE RAVINE, recently finaled in six contests: Young Adult RWA’s Rosemary Contest, Virginia Romance Writers’ Fool for Love Contest, Desert Rose RWA’s Diamonds in the Desert Contest, Valley Forge Romance Writers’ The Sheila Contest, Chesapeake RWA’s The Rudy Contest, and New Jersey Romance Writers’ Put Your Heart in a Book Contest!
Every book I write is a book of my heart, but this story holds special significance for me since it took me to a much deeper place emotionally than the others have. I can’t thank my critique partners enough for helping me to get this project into shape: Kimberely Ash, Arell Rivers, Aryn Youngless, and Noella Phillips. Love you guys!!
Coming out of the writing cave for a quick post about my new project, The Ravine.
Both can see ghosts after dark. Both struggle with silence. They’ll need to work together if they hope to defeat his malicious poltergeists and stop her ex-boyfriend’s blackmail by the end of the summer.
This new adult paranormal romance is the sixth project I’ve completed in my adult life and has special significance for a few reasons. I aim to write atmospheric books, and the landscape in The Ravine moves between two of my favorite settings in New Jersey: The Delaware Water Gap and the shore. The setting rises as its own character, a metaphorical divide between the hero and heroine of the book who are also divided by class and whose houses face each other across a ravine. Silence about the past and overcoming that silence factors largely into this work. My hero is mute, but he is empowered in his ability to communicate through other means. It is the heroine who actually struggles the most with silence as she’s been taught that it is better move on and forget, burying your feelings rather than examining and validating them.
Ghosts factor largely into this project as both the hero and heroine are plagued by poltergeists. They will need to work together to bind friendly ghosts to them in order to keep the poltergeists at bay. It was too fun to write their ghost-hunting scenes, especially with such a dramatic landscape as a backdrop. Without getting too deeply into it, small-town drama and the hero’s fear that a particularly malicious poltergeist will bring harm to those around him threaten to put out the spark that glows between these two characters. They will need to overcome more than ghosts in order to find their happy ending.
Here’s a link to my Pinterest inspiration board for The Ravine:
I’ve debated about writing about the genre of new adult for a time because I have a sense that there many writers and readers with strong opinions on this topic. I am not an industry expert and feared that if I wrote about this, I’d only expose what I didn’t know. But I am, as anyone must be who devotes hours a day to something, passionate about the genre. The bossy part of me wouldn’t let me get away without blogging about it. I set out in this entry to put down my personal observations about new adult based on my experiences as a reader and a writer of new adult.
First, I suggest reading this article from Publisher’s Weekly which, though a couple of years old, does a fabulous job of outlining a generally accepted understanding of the genre as well as its potential in the marketplace: click here.
NA features characters in their late teens and early twenties who are transitioning into the adult world. Whether we are talking about college experiences, a first career job, or a first big romance, these experiences present challenges to the characters. NA can be higher in intensity and emotion than adult since the stakes are often higher. Think about how many life-altering decisions are made in that short period of time. People choose careers. They choose where they will live. They make friends and connections that may last their entire lives.
NA is not a stepping stone from YA to adult. To assume so is insulting to the audience, whose ages range wider than the characters’ ages. It’s also missing the point of the NA genre which is to define this hot spot in the continuum of a character’s life. It’s the place storytellers so often revisit because it’s exciting to imagine oneself at that point of change. It is not so much a coming-of-age story as it is an okay-I’m-of-age…now-what? kind of story. NA characters are complex. They have a deep understanding of the world based on experiences, and that understanding will be challenged. Like most good fiction, there will be sacrifice and change.
NA has been breaking ground in the digital market, and I love my digital books! In print, it’s been tougher for NA authors to break through. As a consumer of fiction, if there was a clear place for NA in the bookstore aside from the occasional end cap, I’d gravitate there. But NA, for the most part, has been mixed up with YA or adult books.
Here’s a list of some NA books I’ve read and loved (in no particular order):
FRIGID by Jennifer L. Armentrout
FANGIRL by Rainbow Rowell
HOPELESS by Colleen Hoover
A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES by Sarah J. Maas
UNTEACHABLE by Leah Raeder
DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE by Laini Taylor
JERSEY ANGEL by Beth Ann Bauman
SHE LAUGHS IN PINK by Jessica Calla
BEAUTY TOUCHED THE BEAST (BEAUTY SERIES) by Skye Warren
SCARLET RAIN by Kristin Cast
AT ANY PRICE by Brenna Aubrey
PERFECT CHEMISTRY by Simone Elkeles
Biggest reason: I write because I enjoy reading so much, but more on that later. 🙂
I write because it feels good to let my muse run wild. And I don’t have to be perfect–not on the first go. I can write and rewrite a scene until it works. I can put better words in my characters’ mouths and give them stronger motivations. Stronger hearts.
I write because I love to play with words and with plots. An English major to the end, I can’t help deconstructing movies and books. There’s a thrill that comes with uncovering metaphors, themes, and more that I hope to reproduce for my readers.
I write because I hope. That’s the essence of romance–that Happily Ever After.
My first exposure to romance was through fairy tales. I love the darker nature of true fairy tales along with the magic, adventure, and happy endings. Later, I got a taste of romance in novel form including my gateway drug to paranormal romance, L.J. Smith’s Soulmate. (Love you L.J.!) There were also the Harlequins poorly hidden in the back of the family closet and romantic movies from Disney to Dirty Dancing.
I write because I love where I live. Maybe I’m partial because I’m from NJ, but there is so much change over the landscape here. It’s more than the variations over the shore, farmlands, mountains, and cities. It’s the local color and how local–how different it can be from town to town. It’s gorgeous, white-sand pine trails and moldering, ancient, abandoned cinemas. There is darkness to my writing and the alternate Jersey (names changed to protect the innocent, etc., etc.), but it’s infused with splashes of light. With color. With hope and the strange and, of course, magic. I love to play with fantasy, tropes, atmosphere, desires, geek life, grit, and the Jersey world I grew up in to create something entirely new.
Finally, I write because I think there is a place in this world for every strange little story. There are many goals tied into writing for me, but the biggest by far is to connect with an audience who wants this mix of darkness and light in their books. I believe in happy endings and write them, but there’s nothing saccharine about then ends of my stories. Instead, I write endings that make sense with the characters and the story world. Sacrifices are made and happiness is earned.
I would consider myself incredibly lucky to connect with readers who would love romance, world-building, and the way that I twist it all together. Maybe one day. 😉
Hey, fellow writers! The following is a list of my all-time favorite craft books with some of my thoughts on each and links to Goodreads for more information.
VERBALIZE by Damon Suede.
A fresh way of viewing and crafting fiction that will blow your mind and offer a blueprint to reassemble the pieces. Forget what you know about building a character. With humor, wisdom, and vivid examples from popular fiction, Damon offers a better way to go about building a book—from a character’s core outward and utilizing verbs. Helpful exercises make it easy to apply his craft advice whether you are a plotter, pantser, or an inbetweener. This book is a game-changer not only for the writers who pick it up but for genre-fiction as a whole.
ON WRITING ROMANCE: HOW TO CRAFT A NOVEL THAT SELLS by Leigh Michaels
This is one of the first craft books I ever picked up. Once upon a time, I figured out that the romance plot was central to all my stories and began seeking sources to help me. This book was an incredible eye-opener. On Writing Romance begins with the history of the romance novel and moves to particulars about its craft including subgenres, character-building, and conflict.
Read more about this title on Goodreads by clicking here.
THANKS, BUT THIS ISN’T FOR US by Jessica Page Morrell
The full title of this book says it all: Thanks, But This Isn’t For Us: The Compassionate Guide to Understanding What’s Wrong With Your Writing and Leaving the Rejection Pile for Good. Morrell is one of my all-time favorites. You’ll see two more titles by her on this list. In this book, she uses her unique sense of humor and relatable examples to share common errors newbie writers need to know. Also, the cover is adorable.
Read more about Morrell’s title on Goodreads by clicking here.
GMC: GOAL, MOTIVATION AND CONFLICT by Debra Dixon
This is an indispensable look at the very heart of any story. I’ve read blog and portions of craft books that cover this topic, but I enjoy the depth to which Dixon takes it. You can have all the beautiful prose in the world, but if your story lacks a strong foundation, you will lose your reader.
Read more about Dixon’s title on Goodreads by clicking here.
BULLIES, BASTARDS & BITCHES: HOW TO WRITE THE BAD GUYS IN FICTION by Jessica Page Morrell
Did you get a kick out of the title? I did. 🙂
In this book, Morrell goes deep into the antagonist–offering character types, pitfalls, and advice on strengthening your bad guys. Go deep into the dark side.
For more on Morrell’s book, click here.
ON WRITING: A MEMOIR OF THE CRAFT by Stephen King
An incredibly inspiring book by some writer of whom I’m sure you’ve never heard. 🙂 But in all seriousness, this is an incredible all-around book that is part life, part writing, part wisdom.
For more on King’s book, click here.
WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL by Donald Maass
This is an all-around great book that offers writing techniques to help your work stand out in the slush pile.
Read more about Maass’s book by clicking here.
BETWEEN THE LINES: MASTER THE SUBTLE ELEMENTS OF FICTION WRITING by Jessica Page Morrell
This is a fabulous book to read during the revision process. It’s a lot to take in, so I suggest reading a bit, applying, and going back for more. In this book, Morrell “shows you how to craft a unified and layered novel or short story by mastering subtle storytelling techniques” (Goodreads blurb).
Read more about Morrell’s title by clicking here.