Archive for the 'Candace’s Posts' Category

Thursday, April 14th, 2011 by Candace Havens
Fan Heaven

I decided at the last minute to go to the Romantic Times convention in Los Angeles, which was April 6-10. I’d heard all kinds of stories about crazy things happening and that everyone was wild there. In that respect, I was disappointed. What I found was an amazing group of readers and authors who were friendly and fun. I sat on a few panels and participated in a couple of parties. I hung out with many of my friends I don’t get to see much. And I ate too much.

I met new authors and ones that I’d admired for years but had never had the chance to meet. I talked to editors from other publishers and met the big wigs at Harlequin. I had breakfast with my agent and talked strategy. (Oh my I’m going to be busy the rest of this year.)

But the best part of RT was hanging out with the fans. People who walked up to me and said, “Oh, my Gawd, I love everything you’ve ever written.” It happened a lot. They brought every book I’d ever written to sign. And honestly, that hasn’t happened to me that often. They wanted to talk about their favorite characters and even mentioned a few that I had forgotten. It’s hard when you’re on book 10, to remember what you did in book one.

And I don’t say this to brag, only to point out that sometimes an author gets signs from the places she least expects.

You see, I’ve been putting off some things in my book world, because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. But this conference was a giant green light that I needed to move forward with these projects. And of course, my lovely agent had a plan on how to make it happen.

Those fans also served as a reminder of why I do what I do. Yes, it’s for the love of writing. I would go crazy if I didn’t write. But it is also because I love it when other people read my stuff and it moves them in some way. I get emails every day about one book or the other, and those are the things that keep me going when times get tough.

But one of my favorite moments ever came last Saturday. That’s when Sara, ran to my table and yelled, “Oh, my Gawd. I love your books. I mean, I really love them.” She told me that she had ran (literally) to my table first because she couldn’t wait to meet me. Did I mention Richelle Mead, Cassandra Claire, Rachel Caine and 299 other authors were there? (Richelle and Cassandra’s fans had to get wrist bands in order to get their books signed. I want to have wrist bands some day.) But out of all those authors she ran to me. I thought it was a fluke and then it happened again and again. I honestly didn’t sell that many books because almost all of them had bought the books already. It was great.

I also got to hang out a lot with my BFF’s. We didn’t get tattoos, which was part of the plan. But we did laugh a lot, which is even better. I came home from the trip absolutely inspired to work on new projects. I wish I could tell you what’s coming up in 2012 but the time isn’t right quite yet. :)

If you have a chance you should get out there and network with writers and readers. I promise you, it can be so inspiring.

Thursday, March 31st, 2011 by Candace Havens
It’s never the same

I’ve talked about this before, but every time I write a book it’s different. I never seem to come at it the same way twice. When I wrote my first book, Charmed & Dangerous, the majority of it was done long hand and then transferred to a computer. Everything was chronological. The second book in that series, Charmed & Ready, was chronological too but all on the computer. It was The Demon King and I where I discovered that I could write the end first if I wanted to. It seemed like such a crazy idea, but it worked. Dragons Prefer Blondes I wrote scenes that came to me, and then I had to put them all together.

With She Who Dares, Wins (In Stores Now), it was more or less chronological. Though, I would occasionally skip around. That book I wrote down the bones really fast, which I usually do, then then I went back and layered and layered. Not just revisions, adding depth and really fleshing out the characters.

Truth and Dare, the book that is coming up in May, I wrote their first love scene. Patience and Cade were so vivid in my head and they just couldn’t wait to get at one another.

My November release, The Model Marine, that I’m working on now began with the idea of a runway show and took off from there. I couldn’t quite seem to figure out chapter two. It was driving me crazy. So I skipped to the next thing I did know. Well, not really. Hannah was taking Will to a club. I didn’t know until they arrived that it was a blues club. I also didn’t know until well into that chapter that Will played the blues and he was damn good at it. Once I had that scene, the whole book seemed to solidify for me and flew out of my head and to my fingers almost faster than I could type.

I’d never really plotted until the last year or so. It isn’t really plotting. I use Jim Butcher’s arch, and basically have tics with scenes I know need to go in the book and the major turning points. But it does help. Still, I like not knowing much about my characters and discovering them as I go along.

My point is, never be afraid to shake things up a little. Try something new you learn in a class. Or follow a train of thought that might sound a little crazy at first.

Have you tried something new and it worked? Doesn’t have to be just about writing. :)

Tell me, I really want to know.

Thursday, March 24th, 2011 by Candace Havens
Nervous Nerves

9780373796113(2)Usually around this time I’m  a nervous wreck. It’s that time of dread for most authors – the week before the book comes out. And I probably would be doused with hardcore insecurities, except the online retailers took care of that. They began shipping out the book more than a week early. Sigh. And yay! I’m really excited about people getting to read She Who Dares, Wins. But I wish I’d had a little more time to get the promo ready.

I haven’t even sent out a newsletter yet, which would normally send me into a panic. But for some reason I’m so Zen right now it is scary. I absolutely expect my book to do well. It’s a fun, sexy romp with a great mystery. I’ve written characters I absolutely adore, both of whom are quite different than anything I’ve done before. It’s set in London, which automatically gives it a cool factor. And it’s super hot.

I think part of my Zen is that I’ve learned, after eight books, that you give the book wings and then you set it free. You hope people love it as much as you do, but you also know that you’ve done the best you can. There are also so many things you can’t control as an author. Distribution is one of them. I don’t have to worry about that so much with Harlequin, as they are the masters when it comes to distribution. But I haven’t been so lucky in the past. It’s hard to sell books if people can’t find them.

So I’ll do what I can with promotions. I’ll run by local bookstores and sign stock copies. I’ve set up some book signings ( and I’ll be out at the RT (Romantic Times) convention in Los Angeles. I’ll be showing up on some blogs and I’ll finally be blogging on my own blog. (It’s been awhile.)

If you feel like adding to your good writing karma, you can help a girl out by telling your blog, Twitter, Facebook and My Space pals know that I have a new book out. Tell them I’m one of your besties (because I will be if you do) and that you love me.

Thursday, March 17th, 2011 by Candace Havens

If you’re a writer, and even if you aren’t, you should read this post. There are some people out there in the world who go through life in a Zen-like state. They roll with the punches and nothing upsets them.

I don’t know any of those people.

Most people have some kind of neurotic hang-up. And most of us have things that drive us to ledge. If you’re a writer the job comes with a whole set of new neurosis. I don’t know about you, but my normally cheery self can wake up in the land of dark in evil. Hell, it can happen in an instant. I’ll run across a bad review or someone will say something about how doomed the publishing world is, and I’m there.

I taught at a writer’s retreat a few years ago and that room was filled with 200 desperate writers. You could feel their angst. So much so that I felt drained when it was over, as if they’d sucked the life right out of me, even though the event went extremely well.

But I know how they felt. I had a year there where I barely held my head above water. The writer stress had me down. I fell into that trap of: Why does she get that and I don’t? How come they’re giving her a tour? Why didn’t they invite me to do that anthology even though they promised? If only I could get this, then I could do that.

You guys know what I’m talking about. Those “if onlys” will kill you.

What happens is you put yourself in this hole of negativity and desperation and it is almost impossible to crawl out. When you are so desperate to get an agent, work with a specific editor, make the NYT list or whatever it is that’s causing ulcers, you push it away from yourself. I honestly believe that you put a barrier up between you and the possibilities because you are coming from such a negative and desperate place.

It’s all about the attitude. If you want to be successful, you have to change your mindset. You have to come from a place where you are grateful for your talent. You make known your intent to reach a certain goal, but you go about it from a positive way. When you think about that goal you smile and get excited about it. You believe it’s going to happen and you do the work necessary to make it so. Polishing your books to perfection. Submitting fantastic queries. Network. Going to conference to meet with other writers, editors, agents.

In order to stop the craziness, you have to always be moving forward to the next thing. You finished one project, well, start the next one. Your agent didn’t like that particular proposal? Take a look at what is flooding the market and write something completely different. Or better yet, write something you are really passionate about.

I will tell you that I’ve seen this shift in attitude do amazing things for people. I had a friend who made her intent known and did it in a positive way. The next thing we knew she had a $1 million deal. (I’ve seriously been trying to replicate that.) I have another friend who was submitting to agents. She was so desperate to get one. Then she changed her attitude. She kept telling herself that she was a great writer and that someone out there was going to love her. A few weeks later she got a call from agent who nearly begged her to become her client.

Just recently I went through a complete attitude overhaul. I put my list of goals on a white board stuck to my office board. One of those goals had a time limit. It was to sell my YA. It hasn’t sold yet, but two days later an opportunity out of the blue came up from my agent. No idea how it will pan out but it is YA related. Maybe some of my goals won’t happen in exactly the way I think they will, but they will happen. I feel positive about that.

Be grateful. As a writer, you have one of the coolest jobs on the planet whether you are making money at it or not.

Stop being desperate and change your attitude. There is a world of possibilities out there for you.

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011 by Candace Havens

Last week I talked about Writing Karma and how we shouldn’t trash other authors. But that doesn’t mean we can’t talk about writing in general. All of us have personal likes and dislikes and I’ve recently discovered my taste has changed with it comes to POV, so I want to discuss it with you guys.

When I first began writing fiction seven or so years ago, I didn’t know much. I’d been a journalist for a really long time, but that didn’t help much. There were so many new rules to learn. The first person who read a piece of fiction I wrote was my friend Britta Coleman (Potter Springs), who is a fabulous writer. We had swapped manuscripts and after reading a few pages of hers, I called her and told her I wanted my back. Her writing was so beautiful and I was just embarrassed. She told me not to worry but when she returned my manuscript it was marked in red from top to bottom. That ended up being one of the best things that ever happened to me. It was an humbling moment, but I also discovered how much I had to learn.

One of my biggest problems with that first book was POV. I was trying to write in third person but I was head hopping all over the place. She kept writing POV shift. And honestly, I couldn’t figure out what Prisoners of Vietnam had to do with my manuscript. That is until I looked up POV on the Internet. Imagine my surprise. After that I ended up switching to first person for several books, and to be honest that’s what I prefer. Though, my last three books have been third person.

The Point of View you choose for your book, really depends on the book. Do you need more than one character’s viewpoint to tell a story? Is it really about one character’s journey? Are you telling stories for several characters that intersect?

I’ve noticed lately with third person POV’s that I have new dislike. And please note, this is a personal preference. When there gets to be more than three or four POV’s I lose interest. I’m getting old, I suppose. I don’t want to spend so much time remembering what story line belongs to what character. The shifts are so abrupt sometimes that it makes it hard for me to connect to the characters. And if I don’t like the B or C story of the secondary POV’s then you’ve probably lost me.  I was reading a book recently where there were six different points of view in the first 20 pages. The shifts were so abrupt that I couldn’t follow the story. And I was never sure what character I was supposed to care about. I gave up after about 75 pages and I NEVER give up on a book.

That’s not to say multi-viewpoints can’t be done well. They can, but there needs to be a good reason for all of those characters to have a POV. They need to be on some kind of journey where we are going to see growth and they have to serve a purpose in the overall story. When there are shifts in the POVs there needs to be a reason. An emotional impact of some kind, end of a scene or just the end of a chapter or beginning of a new one. I read a scene yesterday where one of the main characters left the room and this was a reason for a minor character to suddenly have a POV. A character who didn’t move the story forward or reveal anything in particular. That sort of thing makes me want to toss a book across a room.

When it comes to romance novels, any more than two, possibly three if there is a good villain, POV’s (to me) should be the max. I don’t care what genre within romance you are writing, your book will have better flow. Mystery, usually you have your main protagonist trying to solve the crime, but I’ve seen it where the villain and another main character have POV’s and that works for me. Horror, I like it best when it’s one person, but I’ve seen it done well a variety of ways. Again, these are my personal view points on POV, I would never tell you how to write your story, because only you know what works.

How about you? What do you prefer? Have you seen more than four viewpoints done well?

Tell me, I really want to know. :)

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011 by Candace Havens
Writer Karma

I’m tired of the “Twilight” bashing by other authors. There isn’t a one of you, myself included, who wouldn’t sell your mother for the kind of success she’s found with those books. (My mother says I can sell her, as long as its to a rich man who will keep her in the style to which she would like to become accustomed.) Same with J.K. Rowling. People always talk about the writing with both of those books, but those chicks were obviously doing something right. Millions of young readers continue to read those books.

And that brings me to my topic – Writer Karma.

I’m a big believer that if you are writer, you shouldn’t be talking trash about other writers. First of all, nine times out of ten, you sound like a jealous loser when you do. I was in a big discussion at a sci-fi con with some people who were bashing Twilight. It was obvious they had read the first book but none of the others. They looked like idiots when they tried to explain why the whole idea of controlling, shiny vampires were absurd. There arguments were the same I’d heard from other people who didn’t finish the series. I called them on it. You know what? They shut up. They were also writers and I asked them, how would you feel if you became incredibly successful and someone trashed you without ever reading your books?

Do you have a right to not like something? Absolutely. It’s one of the great things about being human.  But if you are a writer, you better than anyone, should know that we all have our way of telling a story. No two of us would tell a story the same way even if someone gave us the same topic. Stephenie Meyer likes her vamps shiny and made of marble and she writes the heck out of those guys.

I heard someone call themselves a vampire purist and that’s why they didn’t like the books. (I spewed coffee on myself with that one.) Really. Um. Vampires are fictional creatures. And the great thing about fiction is you can do whatever you want. I don’t know about you, but that’s one of the big reasons I go through this hell every time I write a book. I get to create the world and the people in it. You might not like what I do, but that’s the great thing about books. There’s something for everyone.

But I truly believe when you start bashing others in your field, a giant load of crap lands on your writer karma. I’ve seen it happen again and again. Someone will say something nasty at a con, and the writer’s agent/editor will be standing right behind them. The same editor/agent they wanted to pitch to. Or even better, the author is standing there.

I was on a panel at a recent sci-fi con where one of the panelists sat there and talked about how much she hated vampires and thought the whole thing was stupid. She went on and on. To her right was the lovely Rachel Caine (Morganville Vampires) and to her left was Jaye Wells (Green-Eyed Demon). Both of them write vampires and they do it really well. They also happen to be friends of mine. That chick is lucky I didn’t jump across Jaye to wring her neck.  I did notice that no one would sit with that author once the panel was over. Everyone kept a wide berth.

That’s the kind of stupidity I’m talking about. (Note: If you’re sitting on a panel, research the other panelists.) I was at another convention this past weekend where my friends told me a story about some guy in one of the classes who was bad-mouthing the speaker during the class on Facebook. Everyone was talking about this guy. He probably didn’t have clue why they were giving him dirty looks.

The results of writer karma can be pretty immediate. Or some time in the near future you’ll come down with a horrible case of writer’s block. Or that contract that seemed like such a sure thing, isn’t.

I know what you’re thinking. It’s all a bunch of metaphysical hooey. But I’ve seen it action. In any case, if you’re thinking about bashing books while I’m around – don’t. I’m one of those people who will get in your face and call you on it. I have discussions with my friends all the time about books when we are in private settings, but even then I usually only talk about books I like. Half the time if I couldn’t get into something, it’s a book they end up loving, so what’s the point?

Just think about what you are doing and saying. Writing books is a tough business. The last thing we need is a bunch of nasty jerks bashing one another.

Thursday, February 17th, 2011 by Candace Havens
Read Now

I’ve been on a reading binge the last few weeks. Some of it’s for school, some of it’s for contests and some of it is for pleasure. What I’ve discovered is that I’ve forgotten how important it is to read while you are writing. One of the reasons why is that you will see more in other works when you are writing your own. Oh, I see how he did that there. Interesting how she uses the odd hooks at the beginning and end of the chapter but you still want to turn the page. I don’t like the way they told that story, or I loved it. This one is lovely language. That one is just a darn good story teller.

When you are a writer you can take classes and hone your craft all you want. You should do that. But you also need to read the good and the bad stuff. That’s where you learn structure and, as I mentioned above, what you did and didn’t like. It’s important to analyze why you did or didn’t like a book. That way you can put the good stuff you do like in your book.

I’ve been reading a great deal of science fiction for school. We’re studying how the genre uses allegory to talk about what is going on in society. Alien and Aliens is about motherhood and fighting back against the man. That sort of thing. I read Octavia Butler’s Blood Child and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, both of these books come at motherhood in a different way. Atwood’s book is also about isolationism and what happens when society goes to the extreme. I don’t usually like stories where women are weak, but Atwood’s tale was a page turner. I had to find out why this woman would go through all of this. I will admit Ripley in Aliens is more my kind of heroine, but it was interesting to see this different point of view.

After reading about dystopian, utopian and futuristic worlds, I decided it was time to read The Hunger Game series. I’m glad I did as it going to become a part of the research paper I’m working on for grad school. While it might not seem like it at first, there are themes of nurturing and motherhood in that book too. And I’ve pretty much read all three books over the last few days, even though I have a crazy schedule right now. Yes, that’s why I’m walking around with bags and dark circles under my eyes. :)

The great thing is reading can open your mind to new possibilities. You could give ten writers the same topic and they would all write something completely different. You can see that in books. Years ago my friend Gena Showalter wrote a book I loved called Stone Prince where a statue came to life. I just read another book called Stone Kissed by Keri Stevens that I loved. In her book this one woman could talk to the statues and they were animated. Two books about statues that come to life, done in completely different ways.

Reading  outside of my comfort zone has done wonders for my creativity. Themes are more important to me now. (I’m teaching a class and did a whole section on themes. One of my students re-wrote her query letter stating her theme and she was asked for a full.) I see how having a strong theme through a book can really make it sing. I’ve also come up with several ideas for new books. None of which are anything like I’ve read recently, but were inspired by certain themes I wanted to explore.

So what have you been reading? What book as inspired you?

Tell me, I really want to know.