Long Overdue Update

It has been a crazy long time since I’ve posted on here. It’s been so long that I even missed mentioning the release of my first book, It’s Technically Love, in October of 2021. I released that book on Kindle Unlimited and in paperback on Amazon. Unfortunately, it did not resonate with an early reader, and they felt the need to give it 2 stars, the only rating. So it’s been completely dead in the water since then. No one wants to read a 2-star book even if it’s free. So thanks a lot, somewhat evil reviewer person. Kirkus gave it a much more favorable review [https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/kat-vinson/its-technically-love/] (not without critique, but it wouldn’t have been a 2 if they’d given a rating). 

It’s Technically Love used to be called Programmed for Love, but my cover designer (of all people) pointed out that that sounded dark, or at least could be interpreted that way, which does not fit the book. Dark romance is a thing that I sometimes forget exists. Here’s the cover:

It's Technically Love book cover

I’ve been holding off on doing anything to fix the 2-star situation because it’s my only romance out. When you do promotion in romance, you really want multiple books, because if somebody likes the first one they read, they’ll check out your other stuff, too. Otherwise they’ll forget about you by the time you release something new. But the rating situation is fixable. Basically, I’ll have to give it away for free and then I’ll get some more reviews that should bring it up. I’m releasing #2 this fall, so I think I will promote both after the release and see if I can get in a better position. I originally was going to wait until I release #3 because I was planning to work on that one after finishing #2, but I had to reprioritize one of my YA books because of topical time-sensitivity. So I’ll just see what I can do with the two and work on #3 as soon as I can. (I actually have ideas for two more in the series, but haven’t even started either, even though # 3 is on draft 1.5.)

You may be wondering what is coming in the fall. That would be Finally in Tune, a second chance romance featuring Casey, Theresa’s friend from It’s Technically Love, and Adam, Casey’s friend and crush from college who was already married when they met. Casey comes back to her home state to take care of her parents’ house and she and Adam are shocked when they’re paths cross again—and this time they’re both single. Of course, the big question is if they can make it work, with Casey’s aversion to career-destroying romance and living 1500 miles away, and Adam’s complex family situation. Here’s the cover (I love this thing):

Finally in Tune book cover

I’m excited to get this one out into the world. I think it’s a stronger book than the first. I’ve got feedback from my last beta reader as of a couple days ago, so it’s just a matter of making a few changes and then it’s ready to send off to my editor. I have a September 5th deadline with her and will definitely make that, and I think she has about a 1-month turnaround (though honestly I don’t remember for sure). I will most likely be releasing it in November, possibly October. 

One last thing: I’ve been in a terrible reading slump and have hardly been reading any romance at all. But my romance writers group is having a book club this Tuesday with Emily Henry’s Book Lovers, so I read that and was reminded how I love good romance, so now I’ve picked up Take a Hint, Dani Brown again, which I’d started a long time ago, and I’m enjoying it again. I hope this reading slump will go away. It’s a drag. But anyway, look for a review of Book Lovers here soon!

ECWC 2018

I got home a couple hours ago from this year’s Emerald City Writers Conference run by the Greater Seattle chapter of the Romance Writers of America. This year’s theme was that hot topic, diversity, which meant there were some interesting speakers. It was, like conferences are, intense.

It started Friday morning with Damon Suede’s master class on using verbs to create powerful characters. Damon’s a really great speaker and very entertaining, but he’s also very sharp, observant, and quick. (I took classes from him at the RT boot camp back in 2017). His master class focused on the idea that the traditional approach of character building by making a list of characteristics (name, height, eye color, religion, etc.) is not the right way to create vibrant and memorable characters. Since actions speak louder than words, focusing on actions (i.e. verbs) instead of other boring words to convey character attributes from the beginning leads you to deeper characterization throughout. There was a lot more to it—if you ever get a chance to do a master class or workshop with him, do it.

There were a couple of sessions Friday afternoon, but I have to guiltily admit that I skipped them because I got the results from the second of two beta reads on my most recent YA book back Thursday night and I was desperate to get started revising it. So that’s what I did Friday afternoon. I went to all four available sessions on Saturday, including one on product description (mostly back cover copy), one on neurodiversity (focusing on autism, AD(H)D, Tourette’s, and learning disabilities), one on human trafficking, and a panel on “seasoned” romance (i.e., anything with heroines/heroes over 35 (eye roll)). Sunday morning I went to a session about story structure.

All the keynotes (Damon Suede, Beverly Jenkins, and Elizabeth Hunter) praised romance as an important genre and also talked about the importance of reading and writing in the world, but especially in a country that’s as divided as ours is now. Damon talked about books that really have changed history, like Uncle Tom’s Cabin, as did Beverly. He said to “write books that create the world you want to live in.” He also talked about praising and bragging about other people’s books and how that usually comes back to help you in the end, and how we have to challenge ourselves to improve as writers. He riled up the room when he told us he was once asked by an interviewer how he felt about making people want what they can’t have—and he responded that that wasn’t what he was doing—he was teaching them to ask for what they deserve. Beverly told a hilarious story about an editor who told her that “on the down low” was incorrect grammar since she clearly meant “on the lower shelf” (which she did not). She pointed out that that was reason 657 that we need more diversity in publishing. She also talked about the dismissive media, with phrases like “bodice ripper,” “nasty books,” and the question, “Do you actually do all the stuff you write?” (always say yes because that’s what they’ll assume whatever you say). Beverly also talked about being a good community member—“Karma’s only a bitch if you are.” The last keynote was Elizabeth’s. She was new to me but I’m excited to read her book (they always give everyone one) because she seems interesting. She grew up white and middle-class but when she started writing wrote a very diverse cast of characters, which got her some attention and a fan base. She pointed out that “White middle class American girls haven’t been around long enough to make much impact in the immortal world” (that’s probably not a perfect quote), which is funny and very true. She also talked about the importance of empathy in writing and gave some steps to take if you want to improve diversity in romance. Overall, they were good talks.

Saturday morning, I also had the weirdest pitching experience of my life. Mine was the first pitch session of the conference, at 8:30. I went in, introduced myself to the editor and we shook hands, then I started my pitch for my first YA book, which is pretty short (the pitch). She asked a bit more about the book, then what inspired me to write it, and some comp titles. We talked a little more and everything seemed fine. She asked what else I worked on and I mentioned that I did both romance and YA but was focusing on YA while working on the MFA. I wasn’t sure if she was interested or not, but she definitely didn’t seem disengaged. Then they gave the two-minute warning and we kept talking. I was wondering if she was going to ask for pages or what, but I thought maybe she was still trying to decide while we continued to talk. Then they called time and the editor said, “Whoop,” and looked at me without expression. Like, oops, we ran out of time, nothing we can do about that. I awkwardly stood up and left. I mean, obviously she didn’t want it, but why didn’t she say so? Was she afraid? Did I look dangerous or something? Normally they tell you they’re not interested with actual words. Later, I met someone else who’d pitched to her and had a clearer negative response, but it also lacked good closure.

Anyway, that was my weekend. Back to the real world tomorrow.

A Status Update for August 2018

So I’ve been posting here for a year or so, and those posts have been mostly book reviews. However, this is supposed to be my writer site because what I’m really doing is trying to learn to write better and to write romance novels. Reading books and writing reviews are both good for learning the craft, but they’re not the only ways. I started an MFA (Master of Fine Arts) in creative writing in July and it’s a lot of work but looks to be great. So I probably am not going to be able to keep up my once-a-week reviews, because I have a lot to do besides reading a romance novel every week. So I’m going to do my best to continue posting weekly, but some of those posts may not be reviews (and if I slip a bit, you’ll know why).

The MFA is a low-residency program through Oklahoma City University. I go to Oklahoma for ten days twice a year, right before each semester starts, to attend workshops and plan out the semester. I’m pretty excited about this semester. For the degree, I’m actually focusing on young adult fiction (though most of it applies to romance, too) and I’m getting to read and study twelve good YA books this semester plus White Oleander by Janet Fitch and The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, two books I’ve read and enjoyed before. This semester I’m focusing on two things: plot/structure and short story form. So I’m also reading loads of craft books and several short story collections (I’m currently reading Chekhov and I feel confused most of the time, unfortunately—hopefully the others will go better).  The way the program goes is I work with a specific mentor (this semester, Kerry Cohen—she’s interesting) one-on-one throughout the semester, writing both about the books I’ve read as well as working on several short stories. On top of all that, I’m taking an elective in pedagogy, because teaching writing is my retirement plan.

So, I’ll be busy for the next 2.5 years, but I’ll come out a better writer.

A Beta Read

Beta reader binder

I just got feedback from a beta reader of the first book (Programmed for Love) in my contemporary romance series about women who work for a tech startup. I’m so thankful to her for taking a great deal of time to provide me with loads of feedback, but man, do I have work to do. She gave me a entire 3-inch binder full of the manuscript printed 1-sided because she frequently writes on the back of pages.

Handwritten feedback on manuscript

I have to hurry to get the book ready to enter in a contest in less than a month. I’m going to enter it in the RWA Golden Heart contest (the Romance Writers of America contest for unpublished manuscripts), which requires the full manuscript,  as well as a few others that require only the first 20-30 pages. Golden Heart Entries are due January 11, so that doesn’t leave me much time to rewrite a 95,000-word manuscript (though it should be shorter, to be fair). I did write 80,000 words in 28 days last month for NaNoWriMo, but I’m tired. And those words weren’t very good, whereas these should be polished. So, I have quite the task ahead of me. Wish me luck.


A NaNoWriMo Interlude

No review this week because I’m busy with NaNoWriMo, an annual challenge to write an entire novel draft in the month of November. This is my fifth year doing it and I’m off to a good start. I’m working on a YA novel this time, but a critique partner has my first romance for a beta read right now, and I’ll get back to it in December in order to prepare it for some contests. But still, November’s a challenging month for anything except writing the new book. NaNo tradition holds that you are supposed to work on a brand new book starting November 1 and on that book only, even though the goal is to hit 50,000 words by November 30. I don’t get as much reading done this month.

The next romance I’m going to read is Sarina Bowen’s just-released fourth True North book, Bountiful. I’m very excited (I think this is my favorite romance series) and a review will follow.