Monday, December 29, 2014

Happy New Year! Some advice...

This is a blog I posted about a year ago...I read it (to remind myself of a few things) and realized this was some perfect "new year/new start" advice...

Happy New Year! Enjoy! ...

A few weeks ago, I had a bad cold and spent a Saturday and Sunday in bed. If you know anything about weekend TV, you know I was bored to the point of tears and ended up watching a "special" about Garth Brooks. But, man, am I ever glad I did. The show was designed so that Garth himself didn't do much talking. His friends talked about him, his work ethic, etc. After a while I started making notes. :)

And here they are ...

8 things about Garth Brooks that might change the way you write.

1. He loves music and wants everybody to love music.

That sounds pretty simple, until you really think it through. Because he loves music he promotes well...but he also writes, produces and sings the best songs. The best songs. And what does that mean for his audience? He doesn't shortchange them. They always get the best.

So...If you really, really, really love WRITING and your genre, you should be looking for the best ideas. You should be doing YOUR best when you write. Your love of writing (or your genre) should shine through your work.

2. He has respect for other musicians and songwriters.

You have to have a healthy respect for what you do and everyone who does it in order to be your best. If you only half-heartedly love romance, I genuinely believe it shows in your work.

If you're working hard, if it takes you months to write a book, if you study writing, if you tear your scenes apart again and again to make them perfect...So are your peers. Lots of people are working full-time jobs and writing. Lots are caring for kids, elderly parents or disabled adult children. We should never, ever, ever discount the trials and tribulations of other writers.

It just plain makes us better people to be kind to each other. And God likes that. :)

3.  He has a good range.

Garth might be a country singer, but his songs transcend the genre.  Because of #4...

4.  He loves telling a good story.

That's so true. His music is all about storytelling. And he does it well. He picks subjects that resonate, and he makes them vibrate with reality and emotion. Literally. LOL

I heard Elton John talk about storytelling and music once and it totally changed the way I looked at music. He said smart songwriters tell a story because people love stories.

Well, lucky us! That's our business. But that takes us back to not shortchanging your audience (something I talked about a few weeks ago in the Hybrids blog), to figuring out what they like to hear, to learning to write your story is the best it can be.

5. He is an entertainer.

And so should we be. People get a show when they go to see Garth. People want to be entertained when they read our books.

So many times we get caught up in word counts and craft that we forget we're entertainers. Nora Roberts wasn't afraid to break a few rules. Suzanne Brockman took regular romance "hook" or trope stories and turned them  on their ears. Laura Kaye's writing vibrates with sensuality, even as her characters charm you to death. LOL

When I pick up a book, I want to be swept away. And it took me a few books (like 20 -- sometimes I make my younger self sound like a real idiot) before I realized, as a reader, I wasn't special. All readers were like me. A book doesn't have to have tons of action or ideas that transcend the norm. The writer simply has to take her genre or subgenre's conventions and use them to entertain readers.

We are entertainers. So...entertain. :)

6.  He has a respect for his audience (very much, his friends said, like another successful guy...Frank Sinatra)

The pundits  used to tell us our audience was bored housewives. We now know that's not true. Our audience is lawyers, doctors, accountants, engineers, secretaries, nurses, business owners...Everybody.  You should appreciate the fact that a reader picked up your book. You should give her her money's worth. But most of all, you can't talk down to her.

Readers are very smart. If you write poorly, they will spot it. If you don't research, they will know. If you don't like what you're doing and "phone in" your book, they'll see it.

And they won't come back. So even your books with the tightest deadlines have to be your best work.

(I'm talking to myself here because I'm a week late and tempted to write fast and get this turkey in. Instead, I slowed down...God help make sure the book is the best it can be.)

7. He's never afraid to be passionate.

And don't we love that? Being passionate, I think, is part of being a good entertainer. And we're all in the entertainment industry.

I love category romance. :) I love the point in the story when the tension is so tight you know it could snap. The story could change. The characters could do something they regret. It puts me on the edge of my seat.

That's what I want to see in books I read. That's what I want to get into my stories when I write. Granted, I'm not always successful...but I'm not afraid of that passion. Not afraid to confront it.

In fact, smart romance writers use it! We are, after all, in the passion business! LOL

8. Even with success he remained a nice guy. :)

Ah, would that we all could be. Sometimes I think it's easy for the uber successful to be nice guys. Let's face it. They're making the money. Readers are stroking their egos. Their Facebook fan page numbers are through the roof. Amazon loves them. Agents call them out of the blue. Editors call their agents and ask them to write something for them...

Sigh. I could be nice if I were on top!

That's what we all think. But the funny part of it is, the people on top have greater struggles than those of us hovering in the middle. There's constant expectation. Not just from their publishers, but from readers...AND THEMSELVES. When you are on top, you want to stay on top and there are thousands of wannabes nipping at your heels.

So whether you're on the top or in the middle or just starting out, know this:

You're going to have bad days. There will always be somebody who is doing better than you are. You will question your talent. There will never be enough hours in a day or days in a deadline...

That does not give you license to be mean.

In fact, given that we're all in this together, being nice to people is a way to form support groups, critique groups, lifeboat groups and make the friends who may someday save you. :)

But being nice is just plain the right thing to do. Jealousy, meanness and condescension only make you sadder than you already are. In other words, you're hurting yourself.

So grab your talent by the handle and get going. Don't worry about what anybody else is doing. Don't think you're better than anybody else. Don't worry that you're not getting the recognition you deserve. Just write your best book. Enjoy the process. And be a well rounded person. Enjoy your family. Love your spouse. Go fishing (or swimming or bingo playing or shopping). Have other passions aside from writing.

Because nobody's ever clearly the best. Rankings change. Genres go in and out of style. Things like Facebook get invented and change everything. :) Don't be so one-dimensional that you can't be happy unless you're the best. :)

And think of Garth Brooks. :) Be passionate, love your industry, love your audience, love your craft, love your peers, be a storyteller. A great storyteller. Be proud of yourself. :)

Happy Reading...And happy new year! May 2015 be your best year ever. Be blessed and be a blessing.


Monday, December 22, 2014

Layering demystified

This tidbit appeared in a much longer blog published in February or so. It's not complicated...Since we're all probably close to having holiday brain. LOL


The trick to having a layered character is to give him an interesting, difficult, or jumbled up past, something that kind of collides with the heroine's story and affects both of well as the romance.
In Daring To Trust the Boss, the hero was a former foster child, who was almost obsessive compulsive in the way he dressed and behaved, not wanting ever to look like someone who didn't fit into the billionaire world he'd edged his way into.
The heroine had been sexually assaulted (she got away before she could be raped) by the town rich kid, who, of course, was never prosecuted. She embarrassed and humiliated herself by coming forward, then the people of her little town harassed her, saying she'd lied about him attacking her and was only trying to extort money from him.
So we have a 3-tiered hero. Former foster kid, who isn't comfortable with who he was or is, and who isn't sure he (the real "he") fits anywhere.
And a harassed heroine, determined to make her way in the world...but also very determined to be herself, the real person she is, because if she doesn't, then the old boyfriend wins.
He's hiding behind a façade. She's "out there."
Notice how many layers there are to that. And also notice that they all relate to things that happened in their pasts.
You don't "tell" readers every detail of their pasts on page one. It's your job to make sure your conflict is strong enough, deep enough that at least one aspect can slowly reveal itself. 

In DARING TO TRUST THE BOSS, we held back the idea that he didn't know himself, that the life he lived was a façade. Then being around her, he begins to long to be himself; he yearns to be with her because she likes the person he is underneath all his polish. But he fears letting go.

Do you see how "layered" that is? How slowly revealing these things makes his character more complex? 
She, at first, doesn't trust him. Then once he lets her take over a big project and she gets a taste of the freedom of having the money and authority to be the business person she always knew she could be, she soars. Because she's ready. And that only makes him want what she has -- that confidence and freedom -- all the more.
Now...All that is a very long way of saying that a book is about steps...Journey Steps (I call them...even do a workshop about it) of two characters going from who they are at the beginning of the story to who they are at the end of the story.
Your book could be set up like my old Sil Romances used to be. A cute premise, close proximity, banter, flirting, near misses with sex, conflict ...but if you don't have those layers of character that come from things that happened in their pasts, then the story really is only a surface story.
What your editor wants is for you to go from the cute meet, set up, cute premise, banter, flirting story to one that has something in the characters' backgrounds that takes readers deeper and involves them in the characters' lives in a real, genuine, personal way.
And that's layering. :)

Happy Monday...and Happy Reading!

Monday, December 15, 2014


Again, this nugget I lifted from a longer blog I wrote earlier this year. I'm still so far into deadline mode I worry that I'll never get out. LOL

I love this! THIS is my philosophy of writing.


Anybody can write a book. All you've got to do is think up a plot, give your characters some arcs, divide it into scenes and get it into your computer, and eventually onto paper. But how many people do you know who really know how to tell a story?

In my younger days, I had a friend who was a joke teller. It didn't matter where we were, fifteen minutes into any party or wedding or even funeral, my friend would have a crowd around her. Laughter would spill out into the room and her crowd would grow. Because her jokes were good? Some were. But, really, her jokes were good because she made them good. She knew set up. She knew how to deliver a punch line.

In thirty seconds, she could draw you in and then hit you with something that would cause you to belly laugh.

That's storytelling.

I talk about this a lot...especially after I judge contest entries...published or unpublished...because I think a lot of us "get it" that we have to be craftspeople, but few of us realize that, somewhere along the way, our process has to involve that magical part of us that knows how to lift the mundane into the sublime.

Is there something about your story, the way you tell your story, or your characters that lifts all those words on the page from the expected? Is there magic in your story? Have you every really tried to write beautifully? To create characters so real you expect them to show up for Christmas Eve supper?

If you've only ever crafted, if you've never let yourself look for the magic...give yourself that gift in 2015. Don't just be a writer. Be a storyteller.

Happy Reading

susan meier

BTW HER SUMMER WITH THE MARINE is still FREE! Don't know how long it will last, so grab it while you can!

Monday, December 8, 2014

What to do when you're too tired to think...

I have two proposals due this month, a story to write and ... well, there's a major holiday in here too. So as I mentioned last week, I skimmed all my blogs and came up with some short, but helpful things I'd said this year that bear repeating...

When you are too tired to think, you can do your manuscript a great disservice. You can delete good stuff and keep bad stuff...and not even know you're doing it.

So what do you do when you're too tired to think?

1. Step away. Get so far away from the computer that you can't even see it! Don't tempt yourself to work when you're too tired.
2. Give yourself options of ways to rest your brain. Normally housekeeping is my go-to mundane activity to heal my brain. Yesterday, it wasn't cutting it. Why? I think because it was still part of a routine. And my brain wanted something different. My something different and your something different could be two totally different things. Some people like bubble baths. Some people shop. Some people eat out. There are lots of things you can do to rest your brain. Write a list of 20, give yourself choices so you really will rest your brain.
3. Once you've decided what you're going to do...throw yourself into it. Forget your book. (Buy the popcorn!)
4. Remember to move. My trainer is a very smart woman. She can take one look at me and know when I need to push physically to help myself mentally. If you don't belong to a gym and/or don't have lots of workout tapes, ride your bike, take a walk, run up and down your stairs! LOL Do something to get the blood flowing.

And most of all #5...don't be mad at yourself for needing a day off. I usually work six days a week. Lately, I've been working seven. How fair is that to my poor brain?

Taking a day off rather than pushing can usually reap the reward of a fully cooperative brain the next morning. It worked for me. :) Don't push yourself so much that you hit that wall that totally stops you...maybe for a long time.

Happy reading...

susan meier

Monday, December 1, 2014


Because I have several projects due before 1/1, I went through my past blogs and chose bits and pieces of longer blogs to post this month. They are short...we're all busy in December...but have at least one important concept.

Happy Reading...Enjoy the post...

Time management lovers (myself included) can tell you a million ways to squeeze in another ten minutes of writing every day. Or we'll show you how to carve out blocks of time so you can write five pages, one page at a time, in between running your kids to soccer practice and dance class. We tell you to keep a notebook (small one) in your purse or pocket so that every time good ideas come to you, you can jot them down. I even recommend doing lists of twenty on the run, over the course of days, so that my bouncing brain can draw on multiple inspirations at church, the supermarket, a park, or from people I find at those places...

But the truth is, there are times when I really need to focus. I can't proofread quickly. I like to weigh every word. But you can't weigh every word when you have a cat on your lap, supper simmering and your smart phone pinging away with new Facebook messages.

When drafting, I can write a page and then do dishes. Write another page and vacuum the living room. Write another page and feed the cat. But when I revise, or proofread, or even read for continuity and consistency as I'm writing, I need a quiet room. I focus. I sink into my book. I [sometimes] pretend to be one of the characters and experience the book from his or her point of view.

I give my book all of myself, my attention, my focus, my dedication, because when a reader opens my book I want HER (or him) to give it all of her attention.

So think about that this week. When a reader opens your book, she slides into your story. She focuses on your characters. She falls into your world. If you haven't submerged yourself into the book before her, looking for inconsistencies or things that might jar a reader...she will find the things you missed.


Happy Monday

susan meier

Monday, November 24, 2014


This month I had two books release. Having two books out in one month seriously almost made me crazy. LOL ... Wait. I shouldn't laugh. Book launches are hard. And I was tired. My mom's in transitional care after being deemed too weak to have the heart surgery she needs. And I have a book due 12/1.

But amid the noise of everything that needs to be done...too much...and my worries...too serious for me to breathe some minutes...I heard that still small voice that said, Susan, do you know how lucky you are?

Lucky? I'm so busy and so stressed I barely get two minutes to myself. There isn't time to realize how lucky I am to have talent, to get to do what I love to do, to see my name on book covers and to get letters from readers who say my stories are magnificent...


Maybe I am lucky?

Actually, when I stop long enough to think all this through, I KNOW I'm lucky.

So this week rather than give you a tip or a tool to make your writing smoother or easier, I'm going to suggest you walk to a mirror, look yourself in the eye and remind yourself that you are lucky.

I don't care if you've just been rejected.

I don't care if your last book didn't sell and/or all of your ##s are dismal.

If you have the talent to tell a good story, and you have a computer and can steal a few hours a week to whisk yourself away to another world...

You are lucky. You are blessed.

Happy Thanksgiving

susan meier

Monday, November 17, 2014

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

I only said that because I'm hoping to have a book and a proposal done by Christmas. LOL If I get them done, that will be a happy, lucky day for me. And I have a Christmas release THE TWELVE DATES OF CHRISTMAS. Not to mention today's $.99 release CHASING THE RUNAWAY BRIDE. For $.99? ...go buy it. LOL

When I'm in the throes of deadline after deadline...which I will be until June 1, 2015, I have discovered that two things will keep me from going off track. Those same two things will give me "something to write" every day.

What are these magnificent things?

The one-line story summary...It's a book about a shy heroine who only makes sensible decisions because of her life as a foster child, who meets a temperamental chef who sweeps her off her feet, but she's terrified to commit to him.

And story high points.

These are the framework of your story. So even if your storyboard goes wrong or your synopsis suddenly becomes irrelevant -- because, as the story took life as you wrote it, something took an unexpected turn -- you can keep your story on point (even with the new direction) if you lead it back to your one-line story summary and/or your story high points.

For instance, in my story about the Italian chef, the hero kissed the heroine before he was supposed to. LOL But I didn't panic. I knew the next high point was to be that she told him she was already engaged and I used the kiss as the event that causes her to tell him. Then my story was back on track. Except the first kiss in the synopsis now became the second kiss. LOL

If, however, I have a character make a decision that goes against the one-sentence story summary, I might actually delete the scene.  If my shy character who only makes sensible decisions suddenly decides to go skinny dipping long before her character arc allows for her personality to begin changing...I axe that baby. Why? Because if you lose your connection to the one-sentence story summary, you lose your connection to the story.

I'm all for characters helping the story along with unexpected behavior. But note...The temperamental chef's unexpected action FIT the one-sentence story summary. The heroine going skinny dipping did not.

That one-sentence story summary should be the heart of your story. It should be the essence of the story you want to tell...if you go against have a totally different story.

You don't want that...At least you shouldn't. When you wrote that one-sentence summary, it should have made your heart sing...if it didn't...maybe that version of the story wasn't the one you wanted to write?

Plus, if you can find the heart of your story before you start writing, you can save yourself a lot of woe. :)

So chew on that. And go buy my $.99 book.

But stick to the heart of your story...Oh, and btw, if you don't like the heart of your story...or don't feel it's strong enough, I'd keep working on THAT before I wrote. Know that heart and your writing day will become a lot easier. :)

Happy Monday...and Happy Reading
susan meier

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Scientific Benefits of 20-Minute Writing Sprints

With a couple of deadlines looming, my friend Tamara Girardi volunteered to share her experience and wisdom on sprints. With NaNoWriMo on deck, it's the perfect time to think about productivity.


The Scientific Benefits of 20-Minute Writing Sprints 

Guest Blog by Tamara Girardi


            The camaraderie of sprints such as #1k1hr on Twitter (which encourages you to write 1,000 words in an hour while other writers on Twitter do the same) has always appealed to me, but staying committed for the full hour proved difficult. I wanted a drink. One of my kids needed a snack, a diaper change, a fill-in-the-blank. Or I simply lost focus and momentum on my work-in-progress.

            Recently when I signed on to participate in NaNoWriMo, I decided I would sprint a bit with #1k1hr, but then something even better happened. A writer friend of mine and I started sprinting on our own - for twenty minute spurts. Twenty minutes work so much better for my brain (and my hectic environment) than hour-long intervals.

            Science just might explain why.

            Productivity blogger J.D. Meier promotes 20-minute intervals as very useful slice[s] of time noting the productive possibilities are endless, if you can sustain your focus. The key is to know that sustained thinking takes energy, and it burns out.

            In other words, the goal is to write nonstop and really push your mind (and your fingertips/pencil and paper) for 20 minutes. Then, the next piece of science comes in.

            To address the burn out, J.D. Meier says to take breaks to recharge and renew. Five-minute breaks are a great way to stay focused.

            Research supports J.D. Meiers advocacy for frequent breaks.

            University of Illinois psychology professor Alejandro Lleras references his research, suggesting, when faced with long tasks, it is best to impose brief breaks on yourself. Brief mental breaks will actually help you stay focused on your task!

            One hour might not seem like a long task, but for me, writing nonstop for one hour, is unnecessarily challenging. My one-hour sprints tend to yield around 1,000 words (as the #1k1hr hashtag suggests), but when I sprinted for three 20-minute sprints with five-minute breaks in between, I wrote 1,943 words!

            That was a particularly productive session. They dont all go that well, but it certainly went better with shorter sprints and brief breaks than it would have with one hour of solid writing.

            For me, anyway.

            Of course, this does not suggest you shouldnt participate in #1k1hr. Just dont feel badly if you have to stop after 20 or 25 minutes for a 5-minute break.

            Additional research supports the value frequent breaks by categorizing our brain modes as focused mode and diffuse mode. According to research, diffuse mode is that time when our minds are daydreaming and wandering, and studies show that activity in many brain regions increases when our minds wander.

            Some scientists argue that the brain solves problems in diffuse mode, which could explain why writers are able to progress through their manuscripts more quickly with small breaks. Perhaps the brain works out manuscript challenges during the diffuse time, so that when we return to our focused time (in this instance, another 20-minute sprint), the brain can be even more productive than if the break never occurred.

            Perhaps 20-minute sprints arent your key time interval. Maybe you work best in 15 minutes. Or 30 minutes. In any case, try to determine what your most productive intervals are. Take quick breaks in between. Get up from your desk to grab a drink, throw the laundry into the dryer, watch the kids play. Transition your mind from focused mode to diffuse mode for just a few minutes before diving back in for another sprint.

            NaNoWriMo participants or not, we can all use a little boost in productivity, right?

            What is your sprinting style? How often do you like to take breaks? Share your experiences with focused and diffuse modes in the comments below.




Sites I refer to if you want to link to them:





An English instructor for Harrisburg Area Community Colleges Virtual Learning program, Tamara Girardi holds a PhD in English from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a Master of Letters in Creative Writing from the University of St. Andrews. Her YA fantasy DREAMSEER won the 2013 PennWriters Novel Beginnings Contest and is on submission with agents. Tamara is a member of Backspace, Sisters in Crime, and PennWriters. Follow her (and challenge her to a writing sprint!) on Twitter @TamaraGirardi.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Hey guys! I could use some help

I have a new book out from Harlequin Romance...THE TWELVE DATES OF CHRISTMAS. Harlequin has been losing shelf space so it's not in many bookstores. I'm sort of counting on online sales and it's not doing so well.

Could you share the cover on your Facebook page? Or tweet about it?

Catch Susan Meier's new holiday read THE TWELVE DATES OF CHRISTMAS.

All help appreciated. :)

The weekly writer blog is below.


Monday, November 3, 2014

One trick today

The guys from DitDat told us at Ninc that posts don't have to be long. They have to be useful.

So here we go with something useful...

We've talked about the could/might/must and should list for jotting down potential scenes for your book and using the list when you storyboard. But what do you do when your idea is just a glimmer?

Do you have a system for "catching" ideas before they run away from you? You should.

To me, there are two ways to get an idea.

The first one is simple. You get a full-blown idea. "The hero and heroine must catch a killer but she's already been arrested for the crime and he's the DA prosecuting her." That's a full-blown idea. When you get one of these, scenes will pop into your head. You know the conflicts just from the one line.

The second one isn't so simple. It's an idea that you get piecemeal. You see a mom with twins and Walmart and you think, "Hmm...I'd like to write a murder mystery about a twin who frames her sister for murder." And from there you get bits and pieces of the idea. You see things that fit into the story, one piece at a time.

Do you capture these the same way? (Do YOU even try to capture them at all? Some people don't. They assume their subconscious will work everything out and they end up losing a lot of good ideas that way.)

Actually, you can capture both types of idea the same way. You create a form or system and put it in a notebook.

My "idea" page starts with "Gist of the story." That could be "Hero and heroine must catch a killer but she's already been arrested for the crime and she's the DA prosecuting her." Or "I'd like to write a murder mystery about a twin who frames her sister for murder." Though one's the full-blown idea and the other is just a thought, they are both the "gist" of a story.

Then I have  a section called Conflicts. In the one case you could fill them in right away. In the other, the very fact that you have a section called conflicts reminds you that you have to ponder these, and as ideas pop into your head you fill in the conflict-related tidbits.

I have space for characters and, as ideas come to me, I write them in. I sometimes write out my thought process. ie Should they be identical twins? Do you really want to write about another yellow-haired vixen? Is the hero tall, dark and handsome, or is his lack of physical perfection part of his sexiness? Or his conflict?

Setting is also a good category. For some story types setting is almost a character. But even if your setting is just background, you still have to know what it is. :)

Then I have the section for potential scenes. The could/might/must and should list.

I write these "categories" of story in sections that are about a page or two in a spiral notebook. I don't always have the notebook with me, but I have it with me lots of times. (Because I always carry a big purse.) I may also have more than one story in a notebook. (Because most of us have lots and lots of ideas.) If I do have more than one idea, I put a post-it where one idea ends and another begins.

I do like to talk to myself, so there are a lot of my arguments for and against hero types, settings, potential scenes on my pages...but I know shorthand so anyone who finds my notebook won't think I'm crazy...but also I can fit a lot of words on a page! LOL

If you start a notebook like this, ONE notebook to capture ideas, when it comes time to write your next story, you will be surprised and pleased at how far you've already taken your idea(s).

Happy Monday and Happy Reading...

susan ... who is hoping that was short enough to please the guys at DitDat. :)

Monday, October 27, 2014

Susan Meier's Sometimes Crazy, Sometimes Spot On Thoughts about the Ninc Conference

Long title...interesting post. LOL

The Ninc (Novelists Inc.) Conference is long and intense. People from the industry attend and for the most part they are the speakers during the day. At night, we have what we call night owl sessions. These are led by authors and frequently are roundtable discussions, not workshops.

There is so much great information at this conference that I take notebooks full of notes. But, invariably, I come away with two or three takeaway points that I can actually implement. So I don't have to type pages of notes to you. This might not even be a long blog. LOL

So what did I learn from the CEO of Sourcebooks, Porter Anderson, Hugh Howey, a little contingent from Amazon, etc?

1. The industry is changing...No, duh, right? Well, this change runs deeper than the fact that authors can now self-publish. Because there are more ways to publish, an author (and if she has one, her publisher) needs to interpret the sales numbers differently. If you sell well in Walmart, for instance, you should be targeting Walmart readers and you or your publisher should make sure tons of your books go to Walmart. BUT...This also means certain types of advertising won't be effective. If you're an impulse buy at Walmart is an ad on an obscure blog site effective? Maybe not. (Okay...Probably not.) However, if the majority of your sales are esales to readers whose impulse takes place when they pick up their ereader or when they read your latest blog (or interview), then the same ads that won't work for that Walmart author will work for you.

But it goes beyond the simplistic. Seriously. Do Indies complain that they only have esales? No. They rejoice. If there's no print copy of their book, or if they have a Createspace book (Print on Demand) for their loyal print readers, they don't stress over what might actually only be a courtesy to their print readers. They focus on the numbers that count.

Which the end...traditional publishers can no longer look at a "sales" number which lumps everything together, they need to break that number down and analyze it.

Do they? Will they?

Who knows. LOL

2. We need to take a second look at our social media efforts. Readers hate buy my book, buy my book, buy my book...Oh, hell, I'm just going to say it...I HATE buy my book, buy my book, buy my book on Twitter and Facebook. Now, that's not to say, you can't have a post that says, Halleluiah, my book is out TODAY or next week or here's my new cover. What it is saying is that you shouldn't schedule a post every 15 minutes that says buy my book. I know. I know. The first post is going to get lost...but ... You do not want to turn readers off.

So...If we can't hawk our books...How should we be looking at social media?

After going to a number of workshops given by publicists, publishers and the guys from Dit Dat, I analyzed my notes (You're shocked I know...) and saw a thread that basically says, your social media posts should tell people who YOU are. (For better or for worse, my beer Friday posts may have led many people to buy stock in the company that owns Michelob Ultra.)

Readers (ultimately...eventually) are interested in your next book. (Thank God.) But when they see you on social media they are curious about YOU. Day-to-Day YOU. Hey, here I am in my PJs, eating peanut butter toast, about to start my novel.

You hate that, right? You don't want to see "I'm eating peanut butter toast" from your author friends. You think that's stupid. Yeah, but you know your author friends. You LIVE the same experience. So it's not fascinating to you. But it is to readers.

And like it or not, readers hunt you down on social media for just this kind of tidbit. Not to hear buy my book, buy my book, buy my book.

So how do you sell books to them? With your sparkling personality? Some of you may be lucky enough to do that...LOL...but most of us just don't sparkle that brightly. LOL What we need to do is befriend them enough, or post enough, or post interestingly enough that eventually they go to our website, FIND EVEN MORE PERSONAL STUFF...and eventually go to our books page.

Whew. That sounds like a lot of work. Especially, for one reader.

Yes. But here's the deal. If your book is in Walmart. A small crowd doesn't gather around it, chat about you, say kind things about your last book, and then ultimately clear the shelf of your novel. No. One customer at a time walks up to the shelf. She looks at all the AUTHOR NAMES (Sorry, but contrary to what lots of traditional publishers think, I believe readers first look for author name.) Then she looks at covers and titles...almost simultaneously. ie The cover will attract, then the title will create curiosity...then she picks up the book and reads the back cover blurb...and, well, you know the rest.

My point, though, is that you are selling to one person at a time. You always have been.

So social media is the place where readers befriend you, get interested in or curious about you. From there they may jump to a book site and look at your books...but (according to the people I heard at Ninc) more than likely they will go to your website. Where they still want to know MORE about you, which means...

3. The website isn't dead.

And, in fact, it can be your most effective tool. But, readers still don't want to read buy my book, buy my book. They want to see a bit more about YOU, your interests, your life. They want your grandmother's pie recipe. Or a free read. Or a public service announcement like...Support the American Cancer Society...because the very fact that you are kind enough to have a message like that says something about lots of different ways. Maybe even that you knew someone who died from cancer and that's why you support the cause.

So what does all this mean?

Well, first off...interpret your numbers correctly and, secondly, YOU are the commodity readers want until they buy your book. And even after a reader buys your book and reads it, she wants to know a little sumpin' sumpin' about the person who wrote the book she loved. Why did you write it? How did you get interested in cowboys, space aliens, tycoons, serial killers?

It's now a relationship. If you're lucky, it becomes a love match. <3 font="">

Now, do you have to tell them everything? The color of your undies? Your addiction to THE BLACKLIST? I say skip the undies and stick with things that can potentially connect you to your readers. A shared love of a TV show. A shared love of crocheting. Or even introducing them to something like the history of firehouses that potentially builds a hobby for them.

YOU DO NOT HAVE TO GET SO PERSONAL. You don't have to post pix of the grandkids if you don't want to. But that means you need to find other ways to connect with them. Because the key here is CONNECTION...

Oh, crap. It's almost 8:30 and I have to write. So I'm off for now.

But chew on all of that. :)

And Happy Monday

susan meier

Monday, October 20, 2014

On my way to Ninc

Ninc? What's Ninc?

Novelists Inc. The conference is in Tampa. I leave Wednesday. My capris are packed, along with my tank tops. LOL

So what are we going to do at the Ninc Conference?

Well, first ,you should know that to become a member of Novelists Inc. you need to have published at least two books. (Sorry, I know the rules have been updated, but I'm not familiar with the requirements pertaining to self-published.)

Because everyone in the group is multi-published, there are no workshops on "how to write." It's assumed we all know how to write. LOL Our workshops are on the industry.

And what an industry it is lately. LOL

There are speakers from Amazon, Apple, Kobo, Audible, Sourcebooks, Writer's Digest, Create Space, Audio Book Creation Exchange, Draft2Digital...not to mention agents, editors, publicists and best-selling authors.

We are going to hear some great stuff...some very technical stuff. So I'll be taking shorthand. LOL Because there is a lot I don't know!

A friend and I were talking a few weeks ago about using raffle copter to handle our giveaways. We talked about the ins and outs of it and suddenly paused. My friend said, "OMG, who would have ever thought we'd need to know this technical stuff?"

Well, none of us. LOL But the truth is we do need to know it.

So I'm away this week but I should have a doozy of a blog for you next week.

Happy Reading
susan meier

Monday, October 13, 2014

Never Say Never... :)

Many years ago, in the stone ages of print-only publishing, there were several nevers. Never write about a sports hero, an actor or a musician...the worst being country singers. Vampires were dead. (No pun intended.) Don't have anything supernatural in your book at all. Don't kill a dog. Don't mention God.

And don't even get me started about the "words" you weren't allowed to use. At. All. Ever.

Then pretty soon, the internet came along, and there was email, then Amazon, ereaders, epublishers, indie published writers and Konrath...and suddenly nothing was taboo. There are no sacred cows. There's no restriction on country singers. I'm reading a book about one now. LOL I've seen dogs killed and cats that talk. Witches and demons. Inspirationals and even, yes, Christian erotica.

If you want to write can.

So the question becomes...should you?

The bottom line is money. (Drat.) Or maybe I should say the bottom line is your goal. Why are you writing this book?

If you want to change the world, have a story burning a hole in your heart, have a spouse who will pay the are free to move about the Internet.

If you want to earn a living, you're not going to have to pay attention to rules as much as you are going to have to watch what's selling.

Now, before you get angry and flick me off your screen...I'm not telling you to copy anyone's work.  You could be the trailblazer who writes the next big thing. There are a lot of us who don't follow the crowd. I was actually laughed at when I wrote my first baby book. I've made a living out of those squirming, peeing suckers.

The trick is, your book has to be worthy of attention to become a trendsetter. If you're not first (and, trust me, just about everything's already been done on the Internet) then you have to be the best. You have to bring an insight to the table no one's ever brought. Or a tone. Or a plot. Or a character.

And, really, it's not that hard. (Stop throwing old shoes.) All you have to do is follow a few rules.

What? I thought you said there were no rules.

There will always be rules. LOL But, seriously, I'm not talking about no country stars or sports heroes or demon daycare workers. I'm talking about rules of great writing. There really are rules about what makes a great book. They differ from genre to genre in some cases, but it's very easy to find a how-to book on basic structure.

And, yeah, like Picasso, you might be the author who bends the rules until they break, and become a grand success. But Picasso also said, "You can't break the rules until you know them." (And have perfected their use or some such thing...Can't remember the quote verbatim.)

So where am I going will all this?

I believe there is a market for every book. :) You can write crap (or I can write crap) and put it on the Internet and somebody will buy it. Maybe lots of somebodies.

But if you want to be great, if you want your books to be loved, to be need to take your time, learn the rules of your genre, and write a great book.

Happy Monday

susan meier

PS I looked up the Picasso quote...“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”

Monday, October 6, 2014

Using Your External Conflict as a Vehicle

Since I promised you a serious, informative blog this week, I’m taking a lesson from a workshop I just did on writing the romance novel synopsis. Lots of good stuff in here…


Using Your External Conflict as a Vehicle

The first three things an editor wants to see when she reads your romance novel synopsis are…

What gets them together?
What keeps them together?
What makes staying together difficult?

Questions 1 and 2, basically, should be your external conflict. But the answers to these questions shouldn’t just be “what” your external conflict is. It should show that your external conflict can drive your story.

For example…
In the first scene of my June 2012 release, THE TYCOON’S SECRET DAUGHTER, (a Rita finalist btw) the hero and heroine meet accidentally in the lobby of the local hospital. Divorced for eight years, they haven’t seen each other since the night she left him. She doesn’t want to see him. He was an alcoholic who made the last years of their marriage miserable. But HE wants to see her. He’s in AA…and as part of 12 steps, he needs to make amends.

THAT’S what gets them together. The inciting incident. Meeting in the hospital lobby.

What keeps them together is the daughter who runs out of the elevator, innocently saying…Hey, Mom, Grandma wants to know if you’re making that coffee.
Hero takes one look at the little girl, knows this is his daughter and his good AA intentions to make amends go flying when he realizes she’s kept his daughter from him for 8 years.

Do you smell more than coffee brewing! LOL

Of course, you do. That innocent encounter is our first sniff of the conflict. But it’s not the internal conflict. It’s the EXTERNAL CONFLICT a situation strong enough to drive an entire book.

External conflict (in Susan Meier World…which is something like a theme park but not exactly) is the thing that draws the hero and heroine together and keeps them together, even as it puts them at odds.

Now that he knows about his daughter, both the hero and heroine know they need to get him into Trisha’s life (now that he’s sober) as seamlessly and safely as possible. That’s their external goal. But…wow, he’s not too happy she kept his child from him and she’s not too happy to be forced to let him see the daughter she’s been protecting from him.

That external goal also becomes the “vehicle” for them to be forced to interact, albeit unhappily. His seeing their daughter forces them to spend time together. Without that daughter, they could meet, have a short conversation and walk away. With the daughter, they are forced to interact.

That’s what an external conflict does. It KEEPS THEM AT ODDS.

But, in this case, his wanting to see his daughter is also a VEHICLE to keep them together.

Sometimes, though, the external conflict doesn’t work to keep them together and you need a vehicle.

In a book I wrote many, many years ago, ONE MAN AND A BABY, the heroine was promised the job as manager for her dad’s horse farm, but one day her dad up and hires the hero. When she confronts her dad, he remembers the promise (with a wince) and says, Okay, I’ll give the hero six weeks to train you to take over. If he thinks you’re good enough to have the job it’s yours. If not it’s his.

Well, duh! What’s in it for him to train her? LOL They are now competing for the same job … which is the EXTERNAL CONFLICT.

But if they are both only competing for the job …the external conflict…there’s no reason for them to interact. They could do different jobs on the horse farm, on other sides of the property, visit different vendors, work with the horses at different times of the day…and never once see each other.

Which was why we needed a vehicle, something to keep them together and force them to interact, and why I added the Dad’s directive that the hero TEACH her.

The order of her dad for the hero to teach her how to run the farm forces them to spend time together and to interact. Because it’s only through interacting that they reveal their secrets, their goals, their pasts…and only through doing those three things that they can fall in love.

External conflict…thing that puts them at odds.

Vehicle…thing that forces them to interact even though they are at odds.
Lots of times they can be the same thing…but sometimes you’re going to have to create a vehicle. J

Here’s another value of the vehicle…

If you’re having trouble with your story, if you can’t quite seem to figure out what should happen next…you might be missing a vehicle.

Lots of us try to manufacture vehicles for our stories…We decide to write about a heroine and hero who have an intense backstory and intense internal and external conflicts. Say they were married and he cheated and she’ll never trust men again and he may never trust himself again.

That’s intense and wonderful and meaty, but we can’t figure out a reason they’d BE TOGETHER…let alone spend enough time together to reveal their inner cores and heal those inner wounds?

So we decide to have them agree to chair the town fundraiser together. And though it ‘works’ to get them in the same space, it doesn’t always have the emotional impact or even the edge-of-the-seat tension that we need for a really great story. (Sorry to be beating up on fund-raising committees.)

You’re always better off to figure out an external story for your hero and heroine that springs naturally from their lives and encompasses their internal conflicts.

What do I mean by that?

Well, the dad telling the hero he has to teach the daughter springs naturally from the external conflict that they both want the same job. Forcing the hero to teach her adds another dimension to their fight. Even as it forces them to interact.

In MAID FOR THE SINGLE DAD the heroine agrees to work as a maid/nanny for the hero because she “owes” her boss a favor.

How does owing her boss a favor get her working for the hero? She was in an abusive relationship with a “rich” man and her boss helped her out. Not just out of the relationship, but out of her depressed, god-awful feelings about life that result from being abused.

So when the hero comes to the maid company, the heroine (who is running the company while her friend is on her honeymoon) doesn’t want to lose a client for the friend who has been so good to her. (Because none of the maids on their payroll have been trained to be nannies.) Especially since the friend’s new husband has been trying for a decade to get a foot in the door for the hero’s construction business.

So she takes the job as nanny, cook, and housekeeper for the client HERSELF, knowing she’s doing a good deed for the friend who’s done so much for her, and also to help the friend’s new husband.

The hero, however, is a much richer, much more powerful man than the heroine’s ex who abused her.  But he reminds her of her ex all the same. Except magnified. So when she moves in (as part of the job) all her old feelings and fears about relationships come tumbling back.

Now, I could have had them in a story where she’s trying to find him a nanny (since she’s the one running her friend’s maid service while her friend is out of town) and everybody she sends over fails and the two of them are in contact nearly every day. That would be a vehicle.


Does that really give readers an intense experience?  Not really.

You want your hero and heroine together in a way that hits on their internal conflict.

Putting my heroine in the same house with a guy who on the surface is the picture of her abusive ex … really highlights her internal conflict.

Having her nervous, the way his unfaithful ex-wife was, puts him on red alert.

The scenario wouldn’t have the same impact if she was looking for a nanny for him. SHE had to be in HIS HOUSE for the two of them to clash and for the internal conflict to become the issue it needs to be.

A lot of stories don’t put the hero and heroine into a close enough situation that their real issues bubble to the surface. Then, the writer scrambles for artificial ways to get and keep them together, like seeing each other at the diner or drugstore.

Not that these aren’t viable ways to get them together sometimes. But a story comes with its own readymade opportunities, if you take your thinking a step or two further and come up with a great – emotional – external story.

Especially one with a great conflict like THE TYCOON’S SECRET DAUGHTER, where a heroine who doesn’t want to interact with her ex must spend oodles of time with him because she won’t leave him alone with their daughter because she doesn’t trust him. You can FEEL the tension in that even without reading the book.

Or the hero who is forced to train his replacement (in ONE MAN AND A BABY) when he doesn’t want to be replaced! Oy! That one came with tons of tension.

The real draw for readers in any book is tension. A reason to keep flipping pages.

So you want to use every tool at your disposal!

For your homework, check your ‘external’ conflict/situation/goal/vehicle which should be the answer to question 2. Do your hero and heroine have a real reason to be together…something that’s strong and realistic and makes their situation even more dire? One that highlights their internal conflicts?

If not, can you think it through to come up with something stronger?

susan meier

TWELVE DATES OF CHRISTMAS, 11/14 Harlequin Romance
CHASING THE RUNAWAY BRIDE, Entangled Red-Hot Bliss 11/14

Monday, September 29, 2014

On Vacation Last Week

And I didn't write. I didn't read a romance. I read a YA. :) I didn't look at email, except for a class I was teaching. I turned everything off, tuned out, vegged.

So I also didn't write a blog.

But the interesting thing was, yesterday as we were driving to my son's house (2 hours away) I got a spark of an idea. I quickly grabbed a notebook (all writers have notebooks in their cars, right?) and started scribbling.

By the time I was done I had 2 3-book series ideas.

That's the power of time off!

So...the next time you're truly burned out, consider unplugging for a few days or even a week. I was amazed at how good those new ideas were.

And meet me here next week when I swear I'll have a proper blog.

Happy Reading...


Monday, September 22, 2014


I'm working on a proposal for a workshop for RWA Nationals...I won't tell you what it's on. The idea is just too delish. LOL But I will tell you that every time I turned around this past week (including while writing the workshop) I found myself talking about organization.

I have a notebook for the 3-book series I'm working on for Entangled. Not because I forget the truly memorable heroes and heroines, but because this series takes place in a small town and ... well, small towns have people and people have parents and brothers and sisters and eye color, hair color, cars and jobs. If I mention it in a book, it gets recorded in the notebook. So that when they pop up in book 2 and 3, I can easily find them and get all the facts correct.

I also began creating a cheat sheet of important events and plots points. I wrote down the chapter and sometimes even the page number of important events in the story and the plot points/turning points. When revising, I found myself saying...has he told her about his grandfather yet? And all I had to do was flip open the notebook to the important events/plot points pages, and voila, I had my answer.

I'm careful about how I name my documents in my computer. I like the date, but sometimes I'll add a marker. Like: June 10 2014 version took out the lettuce fight. (I really didn't take out the lettuce fight. It was too funny.) But when I'm looking for a specific version of the draft (like if I realize I need to put the lettuce fight back in...I know to look before that draft.

I'm also a stickler for folders in folders in my saved documents. I belong to a group called the Chocolate Box Writers. (Thanks for that smattering of applause. We are a fun group.) I manage our newsletter. We're only on our second issue, but in my documents section of my "big" computer, I have a file folder marked Chocolate Box, a subfolder for the newsletter, a subfolder in the newsletter subfolder for covers to go into the newsletter and a subfolder for text.

That might seem nitpicky, but if you need to find someone's cover really quickly it's easier to dig through 3 files than 14 items in a folder.

I do the same for my books. Because I like to write series I have a series folder...Donovan Brothers...Book 1, Book 2 and Book 3 each gets a subfolder. Within each book's subfolder is a proposal folder, along with a chapters folder (which is where I store the actual book). After I get comments I create a revisions subfolder.

I have blog own blogs and guest that if I ever need to reuse one I can find it quickly. I have a folder of biographies. I name them 100-words, 2 paragraphs, long, light hearted, serious. LOL So that when someone asks me for a bio, I can find the one they want quickly. I can also see when they were last updated...and know if I need to read it over before I send it.

Life is just so much easier when you're organized, if only for ease of finding things. And, really, organization takes a second...sometimes looking for something can takes days or hours...if you ever find it at all.

So, do yourself a favor. Buy a spiral notebook for every project, albeit a series or a standalone book. Keep track of your characters. Keep track of your plot points. Keep track of everybody's hair and eye color. You will be so glad you did.

Happy Monday...From the Beach! Yes, I actually did get that vacation!

susan meier