Monthly Archives: May 2014

#RT14: Workshopping Your Best Book on Book Country

Posted by May 14th, 2014

Good morning, New Orleans! If you are here at the RT Booklovers Convention, let’s meet up!

Today is the first of two RT14 Book Country panels:

Workshopping Your Best Book on Book Country

Book Country is an online writing and publishing community featuring of all your favorite romance categories. Lucy Silag will demonstrate how to join Book Country, workshop your book, and connect with fellow romance writers to get constructive feedback on your writing. Writers are doing their best work with the help of Book Country’s thriving member base, and agents and editors are taking notice. This panel will include Book Country giveaways—books written by published Book Country authors—and exciting raffles for feedback sessions on your manuscript.

Event Date: Wednesday, May 14, 2014 – 12:00pm to 1:00pm

Panelist: Lucy Silag, Book Country Community and Engagement Manager

Location: 2nd Floor

Room: Studio 4 – (Preservation Hall)

Add this event to your RT14 Personal Agenda.

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Jill Shalvis on Romance Heroes: “No one wants to see a big strong hero using a baby voice”

Posted by May 13th, 2014

We’re spending the morning with the hilarious Jill Shalvis, author of the Animal Magnetism series of romance novels published by Berkley. Jill is one of the headlining authors at this year’s RT Booklovers Convention in New Orleans this week. We can’t wait to see her at the conference!

Animal Magnetism books in the Penguin bookstore

Lucy Silag: Your Animal Magnetism books star characters who work with animals—a kennel owner, sexy vets, shelter workers. That’s not your everyday premise for a series of romance novels, but it totally works! Tell us about how love blossoms among the animals in Sunshine, Idaho.

Jill Shalvis: In my mind, there’s nothing sexier than a guy who loves and can take care of animals.  That’s how this series was born.  I kept circling back to this idea of a bunch of guys for whom animals were their whole life.

LS: It seems like it would be terribly difficult to gracefully write about pets—if it were me, I would devolve into baby voices and cooing. How do you do it? Continue reading

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RT Booklovers Convention 2014: What Alys Arden Is Excited About

Posted by May 12th, 2014

Join me in welcoming Book Country member Alys Arden back to the blog! Alys workshopped her first book, THE CASQUETTE GIRLS, on Book Country (I blogged about reading it here, and she celebrated its release here), and is now hard at work on the sequel, THE ROMEO CATCHERS. A New Orleans native, Alys is the perfect writer to help us get ready for our trip to NOLA for the RT Booklovers Convention this week. Read on for her tips about what to add to your conference itinerary.


Conference App screenshotYou know you are the biggest nerd on the planet when you get completely overwhelmed with giddiness after the RT Booklovers Convention releases the 2014 iPhone app, and you are dancing while it downloads.

Besides the content and participating author list, I am particularly excited about the convention this year because it’s taking place in New Orleans, Louisiana, my hometown! And if you know anything about me, or have read my work, you know that my affection for New Orleans runs deep.

Post-download, I subsequently spent the rest of the afternoon reviewing every single panel/event, cross-referencing timetables and maps to create a customized schedule with the perfect blend of inspiration, information, boundary pushing and networking. I had to calm myself down a few times when I realized that two (or four) of my top picks were happening simultaneously, like, why is the Veronica Roth chat happening at the same time as the Urban Fantasy Panel? WHY?!


I am currently in the process of writing a sequel to my first novel, THE CASQUETTE GIRLS, (which I workshopped on Book Country last year!) It’s a YA Paranormal Romance that takes place in the New Orleans French Quarter, so you’ll see a pattern in my top picks for #RT2014:

the casquette girlsBOOK COUNTRY: “How to Workshop Your Best Book” Wed. May 14th, 12 p.m.

Why you should be excited: Have you ever finished writing a chapter/novel/poem/short story/love letter/whatever and wished you could read it with totally fresh eyes? Or even better, have someone beta read it with unbiased eyes? That’s one of the reasons I joined Book Country (okay, also, I’m an Internet junkie and I will try anything once… okay, not anything.) As a first time writer, I thought I’d have to beg and plead for people to read my work – this wasn’t the case at all. Not only did several people from the community give me feedback on my then work-in-progress novel, but one morning I woke up to find a message from Lucy, saying that she wanted to workshop THE CASQUETTE GIRLS.  Her detailed feedback was invaluable. I still go back and read it, to this day. I only bring this up because three of the prizes being raffled at this panel are workshopping sessions with Lucy! YOU WANT TO WIN THIS PRIZE, just sayin’. Continue reading

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Sexy Mamas: Moms Who Write About Sex by Shelly Gitlow

Posted by May 9th, 2014

DISPATCHES FROM PARADISENo daughter ever wants to think about her mother having sex or even fantasizing about it. So what happens to the poor kid whose mother is a writer who writes racy books and films? My new book DISPATCHES FROM PARADISE is an erotic comedy about three generations of women living together in Miami – where sex IS the city. Inquiring minds have asked me if my daughter cringes when she reads the spicy parts in my books or sees the sexy scenes in my movies. I’ve never asked her, but I’m pretty sure she’s okay with it because we have always spoken frankly about everything, including sex.

There are some parts that are so steamy I’m kind of amazed that I wrote them. But I have an out. Since the book is written in the distinct voices of the three women, grandmother, mother and daughter, I tried to inhabit each character and put her innermost thoughts and feelings on the page. So you see, they weren’t really my words. They just passed through me. Liz’s sexual awakening, Claudette’s hypersexuality, and Darcy’s confusion about her sexual identity are the issues my gals are dealing with, and they don’t pull any punches. Continue reading

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Jane Green on Writing and Motherhood: “Don’t Feel Guilty”

Posted by May 8th, 2014

I’m such a fan of Jane Green. In fact, the one time I met this Women’s Fiction author in person, it was one of the few times in my life where I have really been starstruck by an author. Jane’s bestselling books have been my faithful companions since I discovered them in college. As Jane’s characters are often British, it was from her that I learned essential vocabulary like “naff” and “spot of shopping.” We chatted about how she’s grown and changed as a writer over the years, how she accommodates the busy dual roles of mothering and writing, and what’s changed for her since she’s lived in the US.


Lucy Silag: You must hear from a lot of readers like me: people who’ve been reading you for a long time, and who’ve grown into adulthood with you. In that time, how have you changed as a writer?

Jane Green: I’ve changed enormously as a person – ageing, motherhood, divorce, etc., etc. – all have softened and changed me, and subsequently, of course, my writing. I think I am rather more circumspect as a writer these days, and definitely more accepting. My earlier books are filled with a judgment that now makes me shudder in horror.

LS: Chick lit is supposed to be such a fluffy genre—and yet it seems like books in this subgenre of women’s fiction talk about subjects that a lot of other writers are afraid to address.For example, your book BOOKENDS was the first mainstream book I ever read that talked frankly about HIV testing. That meant a lot to me as a reader. Do you feel like you get to explore a lot of social taboos by writing “women’s fiction”—or is it something that you’d be doing no matter what genre you wrote?

JG: I write about the things that matter to me, issues that have personally touched me (often), or things I am trying to work out in my own life. The recurring themes in my book are no coincidence – I do think it is the most spectacular opportunity to work out the issues of my childhood, getting closer and closer to healing with every book!

LS: What are the biggest differences about publishing in the US and the UK?

JG: I don’t really remember anymore, having lived here for 13 years. I think perhaps there is more focus on the craft of writing over here, and certainly on editing – I rarely edited in England, and now I have had to practically rewrite entire books. It is something I have come to value above all else, despite the drudgery of having to go over it again and again; there is no question I am writing the best books of my career because of the work my US editor requires of me.

TemptingFateHCcoverLS: Tell us about your most recent main character, Gabby, from TEMPTING FATE. What was the first detail you knew about her? How did you grow that into a full character?

JG: I knew she was English, and knew she had a crazy, over-dramatic, glamorous, bohemian mother, who paid her no attention whatsoever as a child. I had a very clear picture of their house in Belsize Park, London, and it all grew from there.

LS: If I remember correctly from your Facebook posts, you have four children. How on earth have you written 15 novels with so much activity in your house?

JG: It requires a huge amount of discipline. And energy. The energy bit has been harder the last few years as I’m living with Lyme Disease, or rather, more specifically, Post-Lyme Auto-Immune Disease, and Hashimoto’s Disease, so I spend a lot more time in bed than I used to. Continue reading

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Excuses, Excuses: A Reason to Write

Posted by May 7th, 2014

Once I Was CoolAuthor Megan Stielstra’s forthcoming collection of personal essays, ONCE I WAS COOL, was named one of Time Out Chicago’s Most Anticipated of 2014. In addition to being an incredible storyteller, Megan is one of those people whose no-nonsense approach to writing inspires me. I asked her to share the excuses she has not to write — and how and why she still manages to get the work done. -BKL.


I have a thousand excuses not to write. They are, at best, predictable, and at worst, ridiculous: my house is gross. I have to prep for that work thing. I have to organize my Dropbox files. I have to organize my kitchen cabinets. My kitchen cabinets are gross. I am gross. I should take a shower. I should pluck my eyebrows. Why do I have to pluck my eyebrows? What subliminal societal conditioning is responsible for this desperate need to pluck? I should write about that. I should make a list of things to write about. I should make a list of things to buy at Target. I should make a list of things I have to do: work, home, writing, deadlines, deadlines, deadlines and now I’m freaking out. I need to calm down. I’ll watch an episode of Broad City, that’ll calm me down. Just one episode. Okay, two. After three, I’m done. Then I’ll write. Then. Okay, now I’m too tired to write. I’ll write tomorrow. Yeah, tomorrow.

Sound familiar? Continue reading

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Bestselling Romance Author Julie James on Remembering the Big Picture

Posted by May 6th, 2014

It happened one wedding coverHappy Book Birthday to today’s blog guest, bestselling author Julie James! IT HAPPENED ONE WEDDING is Julie’s seventh novel. We caught up with this beloved Berkley Romance author to find out more about her writing process, how she manages to balance writing and motherhood, and her plans for the RT Booklovers Convention next week.


Lucy Silag: Your previous books are workplace romances, but IT HAPPENED ONE WEDDING takes place in a firmly personal realm. What was different about writing in this setting?

Julie James: That was a deliberate choice—before I knew anything else about the story or the characters, I told my editor that I wanted to write a book where the hero and heroine did not meet through work. As you mentioned, my previous books all had been set up that way, and I wanted to do something different this time. Main characters Sidney and Vaughn meet when her sister gets engaged to his brother and are  then thrown together repeatedly as the maid of honor and best man in the wedding. This idea came to me pretty quickly, but the specifics of the story beyond that took a bit more time to develop. Continue reading

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Meet Janet Umenta, Book Country Assistant

Posted by May 5th, 2014

Janet Umenta: Book Country AssistantHello! I am excited to join the community as the new Book Country Assistant. I am originally from Queens, New York, and I graduated from Princeton University in 2013.

After college, I wanted to express myself creatively and be of service to others. I am grateful to start at a place that values community and is opening doors for burgeoning writers. I love reading young adult, literary and historical fiction, as well as books with a strong moral message. I am looking forward to enjoying the best part of my job: reading your work.

I am eager to learn from you and do my best to make Book Country the best online platform for your work. I know from experience that the writing process can be as daunting as it is exhilarating, and I hope to help you navigate the process smoothly on Book Country.

I, along with the Book Country Team, will join you on the discussion boards as well as making sure the review process is fair and helpful. I will post regularly on the Book Country blog about up and coming Book Country books, member spotlights, and new tips that will help make your writing journey a success.

Along with reading and writing, I like to bike, watch soccer, and garden.You can find me on Book Country here. I blog regularly about my garden adventures at, so if you are also a gardener, you can connect with me there, too.

Feel free to message me on how I can better serve you on Book Country. I will be reading your work, and I look forward to getting to know you and seeing your writing develop!

Editor’s Note: We’re so excited that Janet has joined the Book Country team! Not only were we impressed with her resume and how much she has accomplished in such a short time, we loved how passionate she was about our writing and publishing community. We’re looking forward to you getting to know her as she gets more involved with the daily Book Country activities in the upcoming months. –Brandi

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Book Country + Romance Writers = LOVE

Posted by May 2nd, 2014

welcome romance writersOne of our absolute favorite genres here at Book Country is Romance. Since our inception in 2011, romance writers have been flocking to our online writing and publishing community to learn about the craft of writing and the business of publishing in this ever-popular genre!

Romance writers will find lots of great resources on Book Country: we’ve got dedicated discussion boards where you can chat with other romance writers about everything from writing sex scenes to romantic cliches to how to plot the perfect romantic triangle. You’ll also be able to find fellow writers to meet up with at conventions and conferences (such as the RT Booklovers Convention in New Orleans, where Book Country is headed in a couple of weeks!). Explore the Genre Map to learn more about how Romance intersects with YA, Fantasy, Westerns, Women’s Fiction, and many other genres.

This blog is also a great spot to learn about what’s happening in the Romance genre. We’ve enjoyed guest posts and Q&As with some amazing traditionally published romance authors, including Maisey Yates, Christina Lee, Z.A. Maxfield, Roni Loren, Cara McKenna, and Savanna Fox. The blog is also where we’ve learned incredible tips for self-publishing romance books from our members Jessica Hawkins, Ellise Weaver, and Samantha Jane. Curious to learn more about Romance subgenres? Take a deep dive with our explanatory guides to Paranormal Romance, New Adult, and more.

Best of all, Book Country is a place where romance writers can read each others’ work. If you’re looking for romance eBooks to load on your e-Reader, head right over to the Book Country bookstore. And if you are looking for a place where you can read and review other Romance WIPs and get feedback on your own romance manuscript, the Book Country workshop allows you to upload drafts, collect reviews, and get tips from other like-minded romance writers.

Romance writers, please join our community!

Have you uploaded a new Romance project to Book Country? Be sure to announce it to the community here!

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The Extroverted Writer: An Interview with Ayelet Waldman

Posted by May 1st, 2014

Today’s blog guest is one of my absolute favorite writers: Ayelet Waldman. Ayelet and I have crossed paths many times over the years. An author of acclaimed fiction, memoir, and cozy mysteries, I’ve been following her exciting body of work for the last decade, always eager to see what she’ll do next. Her new book is LOVE & TREASURE, a heady mix of Literary Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Mystery, and Historical Fiction set partially in Hungary, a place I love to read about. Read on for Ayelet’s singular take on the writer’s life.ayelet-waldman-love-and-treasure-2501


LS: LOVE & TREASURE is a novel in 3 parts, each functioning almost like a novella. Why did you structure the story the way you did?

AW: You said the dreaded word, “Novella!” No! No! No!


Sort of.

Not really.

The truth was that I had the structure before I had the novel. I fell in love with three-story structure first when reading The Hours by Michael Cunningham, then in Three Junes by Julia Glass. I read them when I first started taking the project of writing seriously, when I had emerged from my apprenticeship writing light-hearted mysteries, and had started to imagine trying something more ambitious. Those two books gave me a deep appreciation both of structure, and of the importance of theme in creating the world of a novel. They taught me that what is true and real about a story can transcend even characters. That’s a terrifying thing to contemplate, in a way. That what we care about in a novel can be something deeper even than the people in it, that our commitment to the story can survive the disappearance of characters we are invested in and care about. Continue reading

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