Out of the Box: Multiple-genre writers and why I’ll never use a pen name

Lots of authors establish their careers with one genre. Take J.K. Rowling – fantasy. Lorraine Heath – historical romance. Robert Ludlum – thriller/suspense.

They’ve all reached a monumental amount of success because they’re monumentally talented writers. Pretty much every book they’ll ever put out at this point will be an instant bestseller in their respective “specialty” genres.

Of course, J. K. Rowling knew this. That’s probably part of the reason she chose to write under a pen name as Robert Galbraith for crime novels. As Galbraith, she publishes novels with more mystery than magic. They’re adult contemporaries and a clearly different audience than the Harry Potter books.

Rowling is just one example of a multiple-genre author. Meg Cabot and James Patterson also join her ranks, along with many others.

Yet a lot of articles have been written against this practice. “Author branding” involves an author being known for only one genre, or “One Specific Type of Book Cover.” Readers and other writers seem to reach a general consensus: to guarantee sales, stick with one genre per name. There seems to be this idea that if you choose to write a different genre other than the one you’re known for/the one you started out with, you must adopt a pen name.

As an author, that’s incredibly frustrating.

Next month, my first historical romance and second novel, One Last Letter, will be published by roses2 Crimson Romance. It’s a far cry from the New Adult thriller The Innocent Assassins from Astraea Press. The covers are different; the tone is different; the settings are nothing alike.

I considered putting out One Last Letter under a pen name. It’s such a different book from my last. After careful consideration, I decided against it.

I love reading thrillers, historical romances, and so many other genres. I’m not going to create different Amazon buyer accounts for every different genre I read. I’m fine with being known for preferring different – okay, wildly different – book subjects and settings as a reader. The same goes for writers.

For me, that’s the joy of being an author. I can create different worlds under different genres. Some will like it; some won’t. It doesn’t affect my writing or the stories I choose to publish. You (the writer) are the only target audience member you need. So you’ve got to write something you want to read.

I have serious respect for authors who do cross multiple genres. The incredibly talented Moriah Densley made her way to bestseller lists under historical romance. She could have easily stuck with the genre and continued writing historicals with the same reception of success. But she’s branching out into contemporary and paranormal as well. Personally, as a fan of her work and writing style I’m not going to be put off by a different genre – because I love her writing style, I’m just as willing to read her paranormal novel as I am to read her historical one! (Not to mention she’s honestly an inspiration for all e-Published authors.)

Rainbow Rowell is another example of an author crossing genres. While known for her Young Adult fiction, she’s decided to publish Landline (an adult novel) under the same name. In fact, her first book (back before the Fangirl fandom explosion) was an adult novel! She didn’t let her initial genre stop her from publishing YA under the same name. She, along with several other authors, no longer feel “boxed in” by the genres they initially published.

This article doesn’t just apply to novel genres. It also applies to novelists who turn to long-form poetry, playwrights who decide to become novelists, or screenwriters who switch to newspaper columnists. Any new form of writing includes a whole new audience.What scares writers is building that audience again.

If you prefer adopting a stage name/pen name for your different types of work, that’s fine. All the power to you and whatever choice you make.

Personally, I think there’s a reader out there for every story – whether book, play, or poem – no matter who the author is or what pen name he or she chooses to adopt.

(For more reasons why I’ll never use a pen name, check out Kristin Lamb’s awesome article about the power of one author name versus multiple pen names.)

Sound effects and music and Booktrack oh my!

I’m excited to announce The Innocent Assassins is now available on Booktrack. Read it to experience the first chapter/beginning of the second chapter with added music and special effects!

It’s not just any audio excerpt. The words on the page aren’t read; instead, audio accompanies the text to establish the ambiance and record the special effects sound of each scene. You don’t need to just read about the car skidding, you can hear it right as you read it on the screen.

The new eAC_TheInnocentAssassins2_1600x2400xcerpt is genuinely the background of a television show or movie. Especially for the first chapter of The Innocent Assassins, which has so much action packed into the first few scenes of the novel. Immerse yourself in the world of Covert Operatives and the roller-coaster romance between Jane and Adrian as if you’re right there with them. Experience all the sounds of the first chapter without any distraction of voices, allowing you to read the dialogue/descriptions at your own pace.

Experience the first chapter in audio form now! 

Happily (N)Ever After? (in defense of Young Adult/New Adult)

And-they-lived-happily-ever-after

{Featured on one of my favorite literary blogs, Clear Eyes, Full Shelves}

Ruth Graham’s “Against YA” caused many eyes to roll and many heads to nod. But a particular passage from the article has stayed with me:

“These (Young Adult novel) endings are emblematic of the fact that the emotional and moral ambiguity of adult fiction—of the real world—is nowhere in evidence in YA fiction. These endings are for readers who prefer things to be wrapped up neatly, our heroes married or dead or happily grasping hands, looking to the future.”

Whoa. Talk about a diss.

But she’s got a point. For someone who supposedly disdains the genre, Graham has clearly done her share of Young Adult research. The core expectation of the Young Adult/New Adult genre is the HEA (happily ever after) ending. Whether it’s The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot or Impulse by Ellen Hopkins, YA/NA novels usually end on some sort of note of lasting hope.

ellen

She’s not really known for uplifting covers…

All right, less so for Ellen Hopkins novels, let’s be honest here. But even her books sometimes end with the guy and girl holding hands, “looking to the future.” Graham takes a slam at these endings as being nothing like “the real world.”

You know what, Ruth Graham? You’re probably right.

Happy endings are just that – happy, tied-up, optimistic endings. They don’t pretend to be reality; they don’t exist in Jerry Maguire’s “cynical world.” They’re just satisfying.

Take Cora Carmack’s Losing It. Girl (almost) sleeps with professor, the two run into obstacles, somehow at the end find themselves in a 9780062273246_p0_v3_s260x420relationship and holding hands by the end. It’s neat. Maybe it’s not the most inspiring of messages, but it leaves us with closure. There’s drama; there’s conflict; but it all exists with the promise of a rainbow at the end.

What’s wrong with the rainbow? That’s why readers flock to these novels. We know we’re guaranteed our neat ending by the last page, that’s part of the reason we pick up YA/NA books. Even if they’re not outright happy with a romantic relationship and a marriage on the way, there’s still a sense of satisfaction.

In Jerry Spinelli’s Stargirl, the main character reaches some weird sense of satisfaction when Stargirl sends him a porcupine tie (I didn’t get really get it either). But the tone at the end is clearly optimistic, with the unspoken hope that Stargirl and the main character will meet again.

There’s none of Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye cynicism about society. There’s no it’s-too-late mentality. Morrison’s novels (and other adult novels with “un”-satisfactory endings) deal with adult resignation, controversial emotions, and general disillusionment. In contrast, Young Adult and New Adult novels teach us to hope. They teach us that happily ever after can exist, and that happily never after isn’t the only option. Adult novels with disillusioned endings can be written masterfully and honestly (such as the great Toni Morrison’s). But these novels don’t teach you about the potential for happiness. http://img2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20130314122128/glee/images/2/23/Hope.gif “Happily ever after” exists in many different forms. It can exist through satisfaction; it can exist through acceptance; it can exist through forgiveness. These endings teach readers that we can overcome whatever conflict has been thrown our way. By the end of our own story, we’ll have reached our satisfactory ending. No matter how bleak matters seem, we can still emerge with our head held high.

If it’s not okay, then it’s not the end.

{Review} Calling California by J.P. Grider

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[I received a free copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.]

Calling California by J. P. Grider

I’m a huge fan of the heady romance, roller coaster emotions, and realism of New Adult books. They’re practically the Three Noble Truths of New Adult novels. Have no fear, steady NA fans – J. P. Grider delivers on all three aspects with her latest release, CALLING CALIFORNIA.

But that’s also the major issue with the book’s genre – every New Adult book is starting to sound the same. Boy meets girl in college, someone’s dad/mom disapproves, sad times for everyone, simple misunderstandings which could have been cleared by simple communication, and then they actually COMMUNICATE and problem is solved everything is happy.

Yet there’s definitely books that break this mold, and those are the New Adult books worth picking up now. Thankfully, J. P. Grider shakes off several overused romance tropes in her novel.

For one, Griffin (the male lead) feels like a real character, versus a blown-out-of-proportion hero. He doesn’t have knight-in-shining armor chivalry, but he is a concerned boyfriend. For an all-consuming relationship, it’s refreshing to finally find one that doesn’t fit a Fifty Shades mold.

Come to think of it, I really don’t ever want another novel to fit a Fifty Shades mold…

The novel also finally offers a flip on the rich girl, poor boy trope. It was cute in The Notebook and then started getting old everywhere else. In this book, Cali is a working-class girl who’s worked full-time as a bank teller instead of experiencing her first year of college. Cali has a tough life. Her dad’s dying; her mom’s never around. But her mom’s finally saved up enough for Cali to attend college while Cali still works part-time.

One of her new classmates is rich boy, slightly bad boy, mostly hipster boy Griffin. He sees Cali and thinks she’s pretty much the greatest ever. They date, fall in love, go to New York City. The entire time, Cali’s pretty preoccupied with how much money Griffin has. She’s put off by it; she wants to be seen as an equal and worries he pities her poverty.

Then a major secret is revealed, involving both Cali’s and Griffin’s families. After this part, the novel finally picks up as Cali tries to come to terms with the shock and Griffin’s driving around trying to figure out where she’s run off to.

Throughout the book, it was refreshing to see a girl that finally stood up for herself. The relationship between Cali and Griffin is actually healthy. She’s stubborn and stands up to him, but he never lets himself get pushed around by her either. For once, there’s no dominant/submissive archetype happening.

When the entire New Adult novel is literally about her submission to a guy she’s known for two weeks… (NOT the case in Calling California)

I love the whole “They’ve known each other since childhood” idea. It’s actually one of the book’s only cliches, but it’s a trope I love. The two characters meet as children, where his interest in her is already hinted at. It’s a great tie-in to the rest of the story.

The novel has some memorable quotes, particularly: “When two people love each other, there’s no keeping score. There’s no, ‘I did this for you, now you do this for me.’ No. If you need me, I’m there. Unconditionally. Can’t you accept that?” There is a high sense of melodrama among the exchanges between the main characters, but that’s to be expected in New Adult.

CALLING CALIFORNIA is a refreshingly realistic portrayal of college students. There’s a major twist in the novel, which keeps the storyline from being predictable. It steps out of the New Adult mold to present a relationship based on actual equality, versus the more-than-slightly-sketchy dom/sub trope.

Release day for The Innocent Assassins

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There are three rules to staying an assassin at the corporation of Covert Operatives: (1) your parents must be deceased, (2) your contracts must remain confidential, and (3) you must be under the age of eighteen.

After a murder mission goes awry a month before her eighteenth birthday, Covert Operatives assassin Jane Lu finds herself caught by the federal government and forced to spy for the CIA while remaining in Covert Operatives. Once her spying mission is over, she will be allowed to live a civilian life without facing criminal consequences—a life she’s only dreamed of having.

As Jane leaks information to the CIA, she uncovers secrets with enough power to both destroy Covert Operatives and her own boyfriend, Adrian King, who’s next in line to be CEO of the company. When her identity as a double agent for the CIA is discovered within Covert Operatives, she must decide where her allegiance, and her heart, truly lies.

For additional book excerpts and purchasing information, check out The Innocent Assassins page!

Kindle (Amazon) // Nook (Barnes & Noble) // Smashwords // Kobo

The Innocent Assassins
*Note: You don’t need a Kindle or a Nook to read the book – Amazon Kindle is also a free app you can get on your smartphone to read it, and the Smashwords link also has formats available in PDF and RTF to read on your computer!

Cover Story: Do we actually need book covers? + new cover for The Innocent Assassins

TheInnocentAssassins4dThe Innocent Assassins has a new look! What do you think? It’s thanks to my amazing cover designer, Amanda Matthews. She’s insanely talented and incredibly patient. Thank you again, Amanda!

I love the new cover, but picking a new one had me thinking - are book covers necessary?

This is you right now:

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<p>Looking for a particular Sherlock reaction gif? This blog organizes them so you don’t have to deduce them out.” width=”245″ height=”190″ /></p>
<p style={Full article featured on Curiosity Quills}

“Never judge a book by its cover.” Yet you know it’s unavoidable. When you step into a bookstore or scroll through an online catalog, your first impression of the novel is the cover. Even I do it as an author myself. It’s scary to think a reader can judge my work in the blink of an eye, before even flipping the page. Authors spend a lot of energy worrying over whether readers will admire their book covers. But as a reader, I’ve also learned a great cover doesn’t make a great book.

In fact, I’ve even found favorite books from stories where I disliked the cover. All the judging makes a reader wonder if we need covers at all.

Wouldn’t it be easier for books to be judged on actual words – a blurb and a title and an author name? It’s the words that are important. Popular books have remained so over time whether or not the book covers are spectacular. Just take a look at authors/publishers who make the decision to change a book cover for the same story. Think of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander. The original cover looked like this. While the illustration is lovely, it’s a far cry from the current cover featured on Gabaldon’s website.

While the exterior has changed, the new cover hasn’t changed the quality of the story. Books without covers would more or less put books at an equal playing field, allowing the reader to judge the story based on the actual content instead of the cover.

Still don’t see my point?

(more…)

Top 10 Lessons Learned from Kick-Ass Heroines

{Originally published on Love Romance Passion}

My upcoming release, THE INNOCENT ASSASSINS, features a former assassin serving undercover as a spy for the CIA. Along the way, she struggles with her feelings for the assassin organization’s next-in-command. To be honest, kick-ass heroines provide even better love lessons than traditional romance heroines. Starlets of romantic suspense and thrillers are strong enough to defeat some serious bad guys and smart enough to navigate their way through love.

  1. Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games): Don’t wear your heart on your sleeve. Clever Katniss is careful about who she trusts in a dangerous dystopia. While we may not all live in District 12, we can all use her advice to proceed cautiously into any romance.
  2. Hermione Granger (Harry Potter): Think rationally, not rashly. Hermione doesn’t follow Ron when he decides to leave. While she harbors a major crush on him, she doesn’t let it stop her from helping Harry save the entire wizarding world.

    #booksb4bros

  3. Sydney Bristow (Alias): Bad timing doesn’t mean a bad relationship. The relationship between Sydney and her on-again, off-again love interest Michael Vaughn includes her dramatic fake death, his confusing fake death, and tons of cringe-worthy hairstyle changes. Once the timing is right, they are able to make things work. (There’s a lot of hairstyle changes before this happens.)

    Well there’s one hairdo.

  4. Buffy (Buffy the Vampire Slayer): First impressions aren’t everything. Or in Buffy and Spike’s case, brutal hatred and a centuries-old mythical struggle. Feelings change over time even if you’re a slayer and he’s a vampire.

    (this really didn’t stop buffy from dating a guy who tried to kill her)

  5. Nyota Uhura (Star Trek): Cultural barriers are surmountable. She and Spock come from different planets (actually, though). While there probably aren’t many favorite TV shows they share in common, Uhura doesn’t let a little culture clash keep her from love.

    But commanding a spaceship > Spock

  6. Daenerys Targaryen (Game of Thrones): Don’t let heartbreak hold you back. Partly because she’s awesome as an independent leader and partly because GOT seems intent to destroy every happy couple on the show, her husband dies after she falls in love with him. Nevertheless, does our girl Daenerys continue emerging as a political force to be reckoned with? Definitely.

    Casual.

  7. Princess Merida (Brave): You can save yourself without a man. Merida doesn’t end the movie by choosing a husband; she chooses a life for herself on her own terms. She saves her mother and her brothers by depending on herself, not a love interest. (Also magic, let’s be real.)

    She also taught us all to keep our hair natural, come to think of it.

  8. Cristina Yang (Grey’s Anatomy): Never let past disappointment keep you from future happiness. After Burke’s last-minute abandonment at the altar, she didn’t let his mood swings stop her from trying marriage a second time with Owen. She “dances it out” and moves on.   
  9. Olivia Pope (Scandal): Get your head in the game. The political game, that is. Olivia loves Fitz, but she understands that sometimes love isn’t enough. Between managing her super successful firm and sorting through real sketchy family issues, Liv has enough on her plate. While romance is important, this shouldn’t come at the expense of one’s own well-being and success.

    Because “it’s handled.”

  10. Claire Underwood (House of Cards): Find someone who complements you. Claire and Frank are both equally ambitious and hard-working. They help each other succeed rather than bring each other down (even when that means a few murders along the way). Lawsuits, murders, social climbing – you name it, they’ve supported each other through it.

What lessons from these heroines do you think are missing? What other kick-ass heroines come to mind for you?