Romance Authors Expand Their Story Worlds

Hi readers! It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to write, lots of great things brewing over here. However, I received two amazing email updates from some of my favorite authors and just had to share!

Lady Bridget's DiaryThe first comes from Maya Rodale, who is launching a new series with the first book, Lady Bridget’s Diary, coming out in February. I can’t wait! I’ve written about how Rodale has incorporated transmedia elements into her writing and previous series and it looks like she’ll continue to do that with this new series. So for those of you who love to live in the world of your favorite characters, you are in for a real treat!

As part of her recent newsletter she shared the latest edition of the London Weekly, her fictional regency newspaper, which includes the juiciest tidbits teasing her new book and series. It’s a fun, quick read that will leave you rubbing your hands together in greedy anticipation of being formally introduced to Lady Bridget early next year. Remember to pre-order from Amazon to get the book delivered immediately on release day!

The Rogue Not TakenAnother author who is coming back to the romance scene with a new series is fan-favorite Sarah MacLean. Her Scandal and Scoundrel series kicks off this December with the first book, A Rogue Not Taken. This road trip romance re-introduces us to two characters who made brief appearances in her Love By The Number Series, Sophie Talbot and Kingscote, “King,” the Marquess of Eversley. If you can’t wait until December for the book release, MacLean is giving her readers a little something to whet their appetites – a romance roadmap illustration, which shows all the major stops along the way for Sophie and King. WARNING: This map does contain what I consider to be some spoilers or plot points, so if you like the surprise of not fully knowing where the characters go and encounter, you may want to wait until after you read the book. I allowed myself to read the first few bullets, but then decided to stop because I love living in-the-moment with MacLean’s characters and plot.

December Releases

Some of my favorite authors are putting out December releases that you may want to pre-order including Stephanie Laurens who is releasing a new historical adventure series with The Lady’s Command. Tessa Dare also has a new novella out, perfect for a Christmas read, Lord Dashwood Missed Out, from her Spindle Cover series.

New Favorites

The Madness of Lord Ian MackenzieEarlier this fall I decided I wanted to go on a Scottish Highlander binge. To be honest, it was inspired by Tessa Dare’s When a Scot Ties the KnotCaptain Logan MacKenzie may be one of my favorite heroes. Ever. So I highly recommend.

Back to my desire for more Highlanders in my life – I ended up doing some researching on Goodreads and rolled the dice on a new author (to me) Jennifer Ashley. She has an eight book series featuring one the most fabulous Scottish families I have ever read about, The Mackenzies. The first book, The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie, first had me a bit nervous if I was going to like the hero. Not because he is unlikeable, but because he is a very different kind of hero. That’s all I will say besides the fact that you WILL fall in love with Ian Mackenzie. The series is still going strong too, so I highly recommend you start reading now!

Happy Reading!

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Transmedia Romance: Expanding & Extending The Story Universe of Traditional Romance Novels

Transmedia Wallflowers

As any true lover of the romance genre, I think we can all agree that there’s something a little sad when we finish a book or a series and have to say good-bye to characters we have grown fond of (and maybe even fallen a little bit in love with). Ever since I got caught reading picked up my first romance novel (Julie Garwood’s The Wedding) I’ve always wondered what happened after the epilogue…then I stumbled across trilogies and series and a whole new world opened up. More characters to love, more stories to devour, more information about other characters/stories I had once read…more everything! It was a dream come true.

But as a romance junkie this only satisfied me for a short while. And with romance readers being some of the most vivacious readers of them all, I was constantly looking for new books and authors. (My secret? A Google Doc that tracks new releases by date and another that tracks by author. Yes, the project manager in me had to make some kind of organized chaos with the amount of romance novels I consume.)

However, what may be even harder than letting go of your favorite characters, is the usually very, very, very long wait in between books in a series. Every so often I find a new series that all the books are out and then I consume them all in a three day period – much like I did with the books we’ll be talking about today, The Wallflowers Trilogy by Maya Rodale. But most of the time, I’m just bidding my time, twiddling my thumbs, and constantly checking Amazon pre-order links until the next book is out.

In my opinion, while the wait in between books can bring a certain anticipation (I literally was jumping up and down on release day for the final book in Sarah MacLean’s Scoundrels Series), it also causes several interruptions and frustrations as a reader.

So, here’s why long release dates cause problems for readers and authors and what we (yes, we) can do about them….

Where Did the Magic Go?

Long wait times in between books cause readers to lose touch with the magical story world authors have built. You know – that special place where you can taste the punch in the ballroom, hear the first notes of a waltz playing, see the gorgeous dresses…THAT place! The wonderful, warm place called the story world, where authors expertly transport me and I become deeply engrossed in their writing and characters. I LOVE that place.

But I tend to lose that sense of wonderment and immersion when there’s a long waiting period between books. This is by no means the author or the publisher’s fault – authors can’t produce quality stories in a time frame that would align with how readers consume them. But as a reader, I end up consuming anywhere from 2-3 books a month, which means I’ve read anywhere from 24-36 additional books from when I read the first book in a series until the next comes out, assuming a series has a year-long waiting period for the next book. (Which, many do.)

That’s a lot of books. A lot of characters. A lot of love stories. Don’t get me wrong – I adore them all. I will always read faster than authors can distribute. But it makes it more difficult for me to jump back into the magical place of each series when I’ve waited for such a long time and consumed a large amount of additional stories.

Was She a Duchess or a Countess? 

In addition to losing the magic of the story – I forget the story when there is a long wait between book releases. I know the general plot. I know the characters. I don’t remember the details. And sometimes it’s the details that make the thing.

Especially if it is an author with either a very long series (more than three or four books) or an author with similar stories, I struggle to remember all the jokes and nicknames and plot points. Right now, I’m totally struggling with this for Julie Anne Long’s Pennyroyal Green series. I LOVE those books. But I am trying to remember what happened in the last few books, especially since they go back and forth between characters in two families (brilliant, by the way).

With so many books, so much in-between-time, I can’t fully appreciate when authors weave in characters from another story (or series if they are really good) to the next. I can’t appreciate the smallest details that hint at the next heroine or hero. I can’t remember the jokes! A lot of time goes into the jokes!

So, yes, sometimes I forget part of the story or I get the characters mixed up with ones from other series…and then when I’m reading in the back my head I’m going Where have I heard that name before? Is that the same Duke? So she’s his sister…right. Or his cousin. Dang it, they’re related, right? Maybe she knows his sister…

Okay, it’s not as bad as I’m making it out to be. But I do find that when I can consume a series or trilogy in short order, I remember more. I appreciate it more. I even think I fall a bit more in love.

It’s Begins and Then It’s Over

As we’ve determined, romance readers can make their way through a large stack of books in a very quick time frame. We love to read. We love to read romance. Ain’t no shame.

But because we love it so much, it’s over as it’s just beginning. I turn on my kindle and dig into Chapter 1 and the next time I look up it’s 3am on a week day and I’m debating calling in sick so I can finish the last six chapters. A blessing and a curse.

Of course, reading a series we know it’s not over for good. There’s at least one more story to tell! But after consuming a book in eight hours we are right back where we started. Waiting. For the next book. Oh, the torture!

So what’s the solution here? As readers, we can’t expect authors to meet this demand. We can keep piling up on our author lists (although many of us already keep track of 15 to 20 of our favorites…hence my Google Doc). We can keep trying to remember certain elements of the story. We can re-read. OR. We could expand the story world in a number of ways. Authors, publishers, readers – together we can create a transmedia experience to keep readers engaged, knowledgeable, and in that magical place in between waiting for books to be released.

What is this Transmedia You Speak of?

Transmedia storytelling is the technique of telling a story or expanding a story experience across multiple platforms and formats with each addition contributing value and meaning to the overall story world. Transmedia storytelling isn’t the retelling of a story such as turning a book into a movie. Transmedia is the addition or continuation of story worlds and characters through different platforms with the viewer/participant gaining new information and insight with each element that unfolds.

If you’re looking to learn more about the basics, here’s a white paper I put together on the subject. It talks about transmedia from both a storytelling and marketing perspective.

I think transmedia storytelling would be an amazing addition to the romance genre and in helping solve The.Long.Wait.Period. in between books. How would this work in romance? Let me give you an example…Maya Rodale’s The Wallflowers Trilogy. (Read the review here.)

In addition to her historical trilogy that follows three young Regency-era ladies as they look to land husbands before a very important ball, Rodale has incorporated transmedia elements that enrich her story and give her readers something to look forward to during the wait period in between books.

The first is that she wrote a contemporary series that cannons the historical one. These contemporary novels feature the “author” of the Wallflowers Series, Jane, and her love story. Through this contemporary series, readers learn more about the Wallflower series – what events influenced it, how Jane wrote and completed the novels, the inspiration behind plots and characters. While not traditionally transmedia as it doesn’t expand directly on the Wallflower world, it would still be considered a transmedia element as fans of the books could consume this new expansion of the story world and still relate it back to the historical novels.

TransmediaWallflowers_current

The second transmedia element is Rodale published a version of The London Weekly, the fictional London newspaper that plays its own starring role in all three Wallflower books. Fans of the book can read a digital version of the newspaper that so influences London society within the Wallflower books. Through this channel, readers can experience another element of what Ladies Emma, Olivia, and Prudence experienced during the season including the Fashionable Intelligence column the girls read religiously. Additionally, Rodale even promotes one of her books, The Rogue and The Rival, to “ecstatic reviews” and touts the book as “suitable for ladies” within the newspaper’s pages. Gotta love it.

Fans of the story can consume this new piece of content and gain new insight into the world of The Wallflowers. They can read about news that would be relevant in that time such as marriage and death announcements, theater reviews and so much more – giving them new details into the world as well as gaining a new experience that expands their understanding of the overall story.

While this doesn’t seem like much, perhaps, to the average romance reader, imagine Rodale promoting this a month after the first or second book came out? Imagine it held a teaser for the next book such as a piece of gossip that the Mad Baron was coming back to town and rumor has it he’s looking for wife #2. (How juicy, right?)

Rodale also has a Pinterest board, which includes inspirations for her Wallflowers books and its contemporary counterparts. A fun idea here might be to pin from Jane’s perspective (contemporary book) or to use it as a “digital wardrobe” for one of the girls in the historical books.

Another transmedia element could be the publishing of The Mad Baron, a gothic tale referenced in several of the Wallflower books and loosely based on Lord Radcliffe (aka The Mad Baron).

Another transmedia element could be a brochure or advertisement for Lady Penelope’s School for Young Ladies of Fine Families or other promotional materials the girls and their families may have received when deciding whether or not to attend. Even a virtual tour of the school, the ballroom, or one of the girl’s (or hero’s) homes. Perhaps Jane (again contemporary novel) could have a blog that she posts to once or twice a month to keep readers engaged and attach them to the contemporary novels while waiting on the historical ones. What if Olivia’s mother kept a diary or there was a blog of “overheard statements from so and so…” Maybe readers receive emails that contain the gossip columns or an announcement of the Duke’s new machine or a flyer for its first showing.

TransmediaWallflowers_additional

See? Lots of really interesting and fun ways to keep readers engaged as they become more involved with the story. These transmedia elements would only serve to enhance the story giving readers a taste of that magical story world every so often.

What’s really great about creating a transmedia experience is that it helps with all of those pesky audience problems listed above. Readers can continue to indulge in the story world and can build upon their knowledge. Transmedia can also introduce sub story lines and plots, new characters, and new experiences outside of what the books have to offer. It’s important to note that transmedia isn’t simply just about creating online content, the content can be physical such an event or a mailer, but no matter the medium, transmedia content must have a purpose and drive the story forward in some way. Reference content is wonderful (and we so appreciate it!) but we have a hunger for more about the story. TV shows and movies like The Matrix and How I Met Your Mother are current examples of how transmedia storytelling expanded and enhanced those story worlds. From graphic novels to blogs to websites to so much more.

It’s my belief that romance readers crave the more. And it’s to everyone’s benefit to give “the more.” To give readers a chance to continue to explore the story, to learn about new characters, and to keep falling in love even while they wait for the next big release. And what’s great for authors is that it builds buzz and excitement for a series over an expanded period of time. It gets fans and readers talking about the books early and often and sharing their transmedia experience with each other and, even perhaps, with new readers, introducing them to the work.

The argument could (and should) be made that readers couldn’t possibly follow every transmedia story for every author they read. Totally true. Participating in transmedia does require some effort on the part of the reader. However, spaced out appropriately and feed to readers via social media, email, author websites, direct mail and other mediums that they normally seek out or opt-in to, it would be very feasible for readers to experience several or more stories of their choosing.

Additionally, my counter argument would also include that the transmedia experience doesn’t live on forever. It lives on for as long as the series lives on. Once the final book is written, unless an author wants to continue the experience or end the story on a different channel, readers have come to expect that eventually the final chapter will be written and read it’ll be time to move on. Every great story should have an ending so another great story can begin. And of course, let’s not forget fan fiction. While an argument can be made for the pros and cons of fan fiction as transmedia storytelling, I think in certain cases, such as Amazon’s KindleWords, it could fall into that category as writers must write within the story boundaries and then expand the story.

As for authors and what they can produce – the beauty is that it can be small, it can be digital (cost-effective), and as long as it’s consistent, it doesn’t have to be all-consuming. Transmedia is all about sharing the story, even the smallest details or the larger ones, if an author is so inclined.

So – to all my romance readers, authors, publishers, fans, and more…would a transmedia experience be of interest to you? Would you participate and what would you want to see? I can just envision an MTV Cribs episode featureing Jane and her millionaire hunk, can’t you?

Contact me about turning your story into a transmedia experience!

 

 

 

 

 

Review: Wallflowers Series by Maya Rodale

Wallflowers

I just finished reading Maya Rodale’s Wallflowers trilogy – a historical series set (mostly) in 1820s. I love a great historical trilogy and these hit the spot. What’s interesting about this series is there is a contemporary element as Rodale has three modern day novels about the “author” of the historical Wallflowers series. I haven’t read those yet, but the concept is really interesting and also has a touch of transmedia storytelling to it (more on that below). But first, the reviews!

The Wicked Wallflower

The Wicked Wallflower - Maya RodaleThis might have been my favorite book. The series starts out as three friends, Ladies Emma, Olivia, and Prudence despair of being the only three graduates from Lady Penelope’s Finishing School for Young Ladies of Fine Families to not have wed by their fourth season. Adding to their panic is the school’s 100th anniversary ball that is only a few weeks away. Determined to not be the outcasts on their way to securing (the most) unflattering school history record, the girls scheme and plot to land husbands. The problem? They’re known as notorious wallflowers and are labeled as London’s Least Likely.

In this first book, we watch Lady Emma announce her marriage to the Duke of Ashbrooke in the popular The London Weekly newspaper. Of course, this all comes as a surprise to Duke Ashbrooke who has never met Lady Emma nor proposed marriage. Thanks to a bit of too much sherry and her devious friends, Lady Emma faces the decision of utter humiliation when the Duke denies the marriage or of even larger humiliation of attending the school ball husband-less. To Emma’s delight (or maybe horror), the Duke plays along with Emma’s scheme for reasons of his own.

Redeemed rakes are some of my favorite heroes, and this book doesn’t disappoint. Reading Emma and Ashbrooke fall in love (and the hilarious ways they go about it) is pure entertainment and quite a delight. What I really enjoyed about Emma is that despite (or perhaps because of) being a wallflower, not only does she believe in true love, but she also has a strong mind and wit. I enjoyed her kind nature, her spirit, and her unshakeable belief in HEA for her and her friends. Additionally, I love when the hero has a purpose and passion outside of the heroine (multi-dimensional characters for the win!),which Ashbrooke does with an invention that will change the world.

This book puts the series off to a great start and builds a wonderful cast of characters that soon are the stars of their very own love stories.

Wallflower Gone Wild

Wallflower Gone Wild Maya RodaleShortly after Emma’s story wraps with a HEA, we see Olivia have her chance at marital bliss…to Lord Radcliffe, otherwise known as the Mad Baron. Rumors swirl that the Viscount murdered his first wife and has now returned to town to claim a second victim. To put off her would-be-husband, Olivia and her friends scheme once more and come up with deplorable and completely unladylike scenes to assure Lord Radcliffe that Olivia is certainly not the biddable, docile, and perfect English wife he thinks her to be.

The only problem? Lord Radcliffe is not only innocent (sort of) in his first wife’s murder, but he’s put up with far worse than Olivia’s attempts to dissuade him from the match. What we come to realize is that Lord Radcliffe feels an instant spark for Olivia, which soon ignites to full passion which is quickly followed by full-blown love. Despite not getting what he thought he had bargained for, Lord Radcliffe couldn’t imagine a more suitable wife. Which of course completely terrifies Olivia. But as Olivia roams about town wearing too much make-up, drinking too much wine, and causing tongues to wag amongst the ton, she starts to question everything she really knows about the Mad Baron…and if he is truly mad at all.

I really enjoyed Olivia’s antics because as a young lady myself once, who doesn’t want to break the rules and shake things up (even if we don’t really want to break the rules, right?).

What a Wallflower Wants

What a Wallflower Wants Maya RodaleA slightly darker turn than the previous books, as the last wallflower, Prudence gets ready to attend her school’s ball… alone…and as the only unwed lady in the school’s history. We learn quickly that there is a reason behind why Prudence so readily embraces being a wallflower…a secret that no lady should ever have to keep. However, her burden is slowly lifted and trust in men quietly repaired by Lord Castleton, who Prue meets while stranded due to a unflinchingly long storm outside of London. (How did she get there? You’ll have to read to find out!) Slowly, Lord Castleton and Prue develop feelings as he helps reclaim not only her body, but her soul. However, Lord Castleton has a secret of his own (as many of the best heroes do). One that could destroy himself and most definitely bring harm to Lady Prudence…for Lord Castleton is not who he says he is.

I applaud Rodale for taking on such a serious topic that many ladies of the time faced and for having Prue learn to love herself and another despite over coming a terrible thing in her young life. It was delightful to watch Prue grow and conquer her fears because fighting for love is the worthiest fight of them all.

I really enjoyed this entire series and was a little sad to have them end…the good news? Rodale has expanded her story world through the use of transmedia storytelling, which I teased at the beginning of this post. Stay tuned because a full exploration of The Wallflowers as a transmedia experience is coming soon!

Review: Love by the Numbers (Sarah MacLean)

It has been a while since I’ve done a romance review, but I just finished a new series (new to me anyways) and thought I’d share!

I was fortunate enough to actually take a romance writing course with the author, Sarah MacLean, and not only was it a super fun class (how could writing romance NOT be fun?!) but it was so incredibly insightful in how authors bring to life such amazing stories.

What I really love about MacLean’s books is they are full of incredible writing and storytelling. We’ve all read the romance novel that while we might love the story and love the characters, we know (and gladly accept) that it is not the most eloquent prose. Personally, as a romance reader, as long as the story hooks me and I’m invested in the relationship I can usually overlook everything else. But the best romance novels are those that not only feature a unique story, but are so well written you feel almost scholarly (a sexy scholar, obviously), which is exactly what you get with this series!

9780061852053The Love By Numbers trilogy follows three siblings of the Ralston House as they find love. The first book, Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake, is the tale of Callie and Gabriel, Marquess of Ralston. What makes this first book so fun is Callie is not your typical heroine. Labeled a wallflower (a title she has all too willingly accepted), Callie is spurred into taking control of her own life upon the engagement of her younger sister. Overhearing a conversation regarding what to do with her and her spinsterhood, Callie decides if she’s going to be put on the shelf she might as well live life to the fullest. Her adventures ultimately lead her to partnering with the Marquess of Ralston, Callie’s long term crush and ultimate male fantasy. One kiss is all is takes for their own adventure to begin. This was by far my favorite of the three books. There is something so relatable to Callie that makes you want to be her best friend.

9780061852060The second book, Ten Ways to Be Adored When Landing a Lord, was my second favorite book. Following Nick St. John, Gabriel’s twin brother, we trade in the London season for the Yorkshire country side where we meet Lady Isabel Townsend. Lady Isabel is used to shouldering burdens, both of her family and beyond. Never the one to ask for help, you can imagine her surprise when London’s “Lord to Land” shows up on her door step ready to assist her in assessing her marble collection. Although wary of her secrets getting out, Isabel rolls the dice and allows Nick into her life (Best.Decision.Ever). We all know that ladies with secrets make for some of the best heroines (and stories), which is why this was such a great read (believe me, Isabel has plenty of secrets!).  This tale has a more dramatic flair to it and pairs a strong willed heroine with a caring and compassionate hero. It’s a delightful read through and through.

9780061852077The final book, Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart, took a while to grow on me. I found the heroine, Juliette, entirely unlikeable at the beginning of the book. Additionally, the story’s hero, the Duke of Leighton, isn’t exactly full of the warm and fuzzies either. However, about 10 chapters in I began to become fully invested. I will say that even though it was hard to immerse myself immediately in this book, both of these characters probably underwent the largest transformation of the entire Love By Numbers series (which is pretty awesome). Additionally, one of the best surprises of the book is that Penelope Marbury makes an appearance! For the longest time I couldn’t place where I had read Duke of Leighton until Penelope came into the picture. It was then I realized she is the heroine in MacLean’s current series The Rules of Scoundrels (which I am completely obsessed with). There is an even BIGGER surprise at the end of this book (especially if you have read the Scoundrel books, including Temple’s story) that was such a brilliant connection that I am giddy with anticipation for the final Scoundrel book release this November.

For fans of the Scoundrel series looking for something to read before Chase’s book comes out, I highly recommend Love By Numbers. And if you haven’t read either series – you can’t go wrong – but if you read fast like I do, go ahead and plunge into Love By Numbers so that when you move onto Scoundrel’s you won’t have to endure the agonizing wait for the final book!

Enjoy!