Thursday, January 31, 2008

Taxes

For American Writers Only



Did you know that you don't have to make a profit to write off your
writing expenses?  You don't even have to be published or
contracted to publish. 


All you have to do is prove that you are a working writer.  This
can be as simple as having copies of your rejection letters. 


I'm not an accountant or tax attorney so here are some experts to give
you the details. 


"Authors and the Internal Revenue Code" (written by author Linda Lewis
who is also a tax attorney) 

http://www.eclectics.com/articles/taxes.html



Article on self-employed writers, recently updated

http://www.tarakharper.com/k_tax.htm


"Taxes for writers" by Cyn Mason (copyrighted 1996 so may be out of
date)

http://www.forwriters.com/taxes.html

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A Brief History of Narrative

Narrative has dwindled in importance since the first novels. Compare a novel of a hundred years ago to one today, and you'll see what I mean.

What you'll find is that descriptions, dialogue, and narrative have all simplified.

Descriptions aren't as detailed, and you certainly won't find long pages of descriptions of the countryside, the houses, or the clothes.

The narrative has become more intimate with the author less intrusive. The reader is put dead center into the character's head and thoughts, and the intimacy tends to only be for one or two characters, not every character in the novel.

Instead of omniscient, the current standard in fiction is third and first person. Most fiction is written in warm third person with occasional forays into cold third person. Hot third person tends to be only used in romance which is about emotions.

The paragraphs are also shorter.

The dialogue carries more story weight because it must give the reader more information about what the characters are thinking and seeing as well as advancing the plot.

In other words, much of the fat of the novel has been trimmed because modern readers want only the meat and bone of the story.

The fourth wall is never acknowledged anymore in genre narrative because of the more intimate viewpoint. You will never see this in a contemporary novel-- "Do not despair, gentle reader, for Becky will soon get her comeuppance."

A rare exception is in some chick lit and Buffy lit urban fantasy where the main character "talks" to the reader.

Constantly shifting viewpoints in third person has never been used in fiction except in the romance of the last twenty-five years where a bastardization of omniscient and third person developed more from ignorance of narrative techniques than deliberate choice. At its best, it is close to the norm of omniscient, at its worst, it is annoying and rather nauseating in a motion-sickness sort of way as the reader is jerked back and forth between two heads and offered considerably more information than is necessary.

Few writers can write well using shifting viewpoints, and it is the kiss of death for most editors when they are looking at submissions because it shows the writer doesn't know what the spit they are doing.

As an interesting side note, video techniques are changing viewpoint. Editors frown at sentences like, "His hand ran up and down her back." They prefer, "He ran his hand up and down her back." Body parts should not act independently according to editor thought.

However, many writers now prefer, "His hand ran up and down her back," because they see this as a close-up in their mental video of the action, and it is beginning to creep into published writing.

In a few years, this type of video technique may be as common in genre narrative as the other changes we have seen.

REMEMBER: Mariynn's online worldbuilding course will be closing registration soon. To learn more, go here
http://marilynnbyerly.com/marilynnbyerly/worldbuildingwor.html

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Voice, craft

I've read somewhere that an author doesn't have a voice or true style until they have written over a million words. This is true to a certain extent. By the time we've written that long, we've stopped trying to copy our favorite authors or second guess ourselves, etc., if for no other reason than we're tired of doing that.

Some writers don't read the kind of fiction they write while they are working on a book for fear that they will start copying a writer's voice instead of using their own.

Voice is more than just the use or misuse of metaphors, etc. I know I choose the language I use because of the character's viewpoint I'm in. (I write strict third-person viewpoint.)

One character might see a plane wreck and describe it in my narrative as

*The plane's pieces were scattered over the valley like clothes dropped by a drunk on the way to bed.*

Another character who is more analytical would think

*The gouge of earth left by the plane's moving fuselage led him to a boulder. The left wing tip lay against it. The furrow veered violently left there, and bits of wing then fuselage littered the area around it. When there was nothing left of the plane to break apart, the gouge ended.*

The author must also choose voice by the genre expectations of the readers. Choosing the wrong voice can be quite jarring.

Can you imagine a romance novel written like a "noir" detective novel.

*I can say this for Lord Garven, he was built, built like Cleopatra's Needle, but I walked away alone in the dark, dank London fog. I had my partner to avenge, and he had a date with Lord Southby.*

One big mistake I've seen used by beginning writers is emulating the wrong writers, especially writers from the past.

A friend had this thing for Sinclair Lewis who wrote in the early 20th century, but I had to explain to him that Lewis' style was hopelessly outdated with its languid pace, florid style, and sentence structure, and with the current tastes of editors and readers, he would find no readers.

It's equally disastrous to emulate the current literary style of the moment like writing in first person immediate.

*I look at Lord Garven. He is built. Like Cleopatra's Needle. But I shake my head no and walk through the door. I must find my partner's killer.*

By the time you're publishable, the moment is long gone.

What I'm saying is find the right voice for each work, and your own voice will emerge.

A NOTE ABOUT "VOICE" AND EDITORS AND AGENTS:

These days, some editors and agents will tell you they don't like your voice. What they often mean is that you aren't writing in the current popular voice of the genre.

For example, most urban fantasy with a female protagonist is written with the chatty, sarcastic tone of first-person chick lit. Some really excellent and popular urban fantasy is written in third person, but, unfortunately, most editors seem to ignore this fact.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Finding market info on traditional publishers

Months before you finish your novel, you should be thinking about the right market for it.

If you read a recently published book that has similar elements to the book you are creating, look at who published it and make note. Look at the publisher's line it is printed under. Is it their fantasy line or their romance line? How many pages long is it? When was it published?

Does the writer thank his agent or editor by name in the acknowledgment or dedication page? Has the writer published other books or is this the first?

Make a note of all this information as well as a brief plot summary and your impressions of the book and put it in a file for later when you begin to plan the marketing of your book.

Also mention where the book is physically. This will save you from ripping your keeper shelves apart when the book came from the library or was loaned to you by your best friend.

Now is a good time to get that subscription to "RT Bookreview," or "Locus," or some other review magazine in your genre.

If you read a review of a similar book, clip the review, date it, and toss it into the file, too.

You may be eclectic in your reading, but the NY publishers aren't eclectic in their buying. Every line, whether romance or otherwise, has neat little pigeon holes for each kind of book, and if you choose the wrong pigeon hole to put your book in, they'll toss it back to you.

Being published for the first time is hard enough when you have an incredible book that's perfectly crafted. Don't shoot yourself in the foot and waste your time and some editor's by sending a book written for one market to another.

Also, notice what the first-time writers have sold to publishers. Nora Roberts can do incredibly innovative things because she has the name and audience to do it so editors let her do it. The first-time writer shows you what you probably can get away with and sell. Of course, if that new writer's book failed badly, I wouldn't use it as your poster child to a successful career.

Now is also the time you should start searching out the market news. If you are a member of RWA or other organization, start studying the market news offered.

The Internet offers an incredible number of market resources, and some offer listserv newsletters. I subscribe to Cindi Myers romance market news. To join, send a blank email to cynthiasterling-subscribe@yahoogroups.com .

Online lists of market news include

The Market list for sf, fantasy, and horror http://www.marketlist.com/

Speculations sf/f
http://www.speculations.com/fresh.html


Cluelass.com listing of links to publishers, etc. for mystery

http://www.cluelass.com/MystHome/Mags.html

Mystery Readers International another list of links to publishers, etc.
http://www.mysteryreaders.org/period.html




REMEMBER; You can receive this blog daily by joining Marilynn's Yahoogroups' list. To join, send a blank email to
ByerlyWriting-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Cost of Power, Worldbuilding

I've been watching superhero movies recently, courtesy of some of the cable stations.

Movies like THE FANTASTIC FOUR and SPIDERMAN seem to get the emotional cost of power right. For example, Peter Parker and Ben Grimm face emotional difficulties by having that second identity and the need to save the world, one villain at a time.

Peter has a rough time with relationships and finances because he's always running off to wear that red Spider suit, and he has a weird, but not likely tendency to have friends and professors who have a supervillian within or as a member of the family.

Poor Ben Grimm gets changed into The Thing who makes the Incredible Hulk look like the Incredible Hunk, and at two tons with massive hands, he finds the simplest task like eating or lifting a coffee cup just about impossible. He also loses his wife who can't deal with his physical change, and he's stared at and shunned.

What these movies and the comics they are based on sometimes don't get right is the physical cost of having a superpower.

Johnny Storm, The Human Torch, of THE FANTASTIC FOUR, is a perfect example. He puts out an incredible amount of heat when he ignites himself and flies. At the end of the movie, he is involved in a long chase scene then becomes a supernova, but he is only winded by the end of the final confrontation with Dr. Doom.

Where does this energy come from, and why isn't he starving or weak after such an expenditure?

The reality is that he should be since these comics are based on pseudo-science, and energy isn't infinite even in pseudo-science.

By giving a superhero limitations in power, the writer is also making the story more exciting because a certain weakness means possible defeat.

Just think of Superman and Kryptonite. Superman isn't very exciting when he's fighting criminals because we know all the bullets will bounce off the chest, but toss in Kryptonite, and he's as mortal as the rest of us.

In your own writing, remember to include the physical cost as well as the emotional cost for your characters, superheroes or not, and your story will be much more exciting.

Now, "Flame On!" but remember to have your character completely depleted and moving on courage by the end of the final fight and have him stop by the all-you-can-eat buffet to celebrate his victory.

A WRITER'S LIFE TIP: A VCR and TiVo are a writer's friend. Record that show you absolutely have to watch and fast forward through all the commercials and other garbage. You can save yourself loads of time you can use for writing this way.

REMEMBER: Marilynn is giving an online worldbuilding course in February. To learn more, go to
http://marilynnbyerly.com/marilynnbyerly/worldbuildingwor.html

Saturday, January 26, 2008

To Market, To Market, Part Two of Two

EPUBLISHERS

Epublishers release their books in digital format although some also offer print options mainly in the form of print-on-demand publishing.

The advantage to epublishing is a wider range and number of publishers as well as less pigeonholing of book types. Since the costs of producing an ebook are much smaller than with paper-published books, the publisher can afford to publish books that don't fit tight market requirements.

Most epublishers handle the cost of editing and cover design, but only a few offer a very small advance of royalties.

You will usually have a great deal of impute into the cover art, editing, and the book blurb.

Distribution is nonexistent in bookstores, of course, but the books are available either at the publisher's website and ebook distribution sites like Fictionwise where they will be sold with the ebook versions of books from traditional publishers and small press.

One major disadvantage is less money. Not enough people are buying ebooks yet so the money isn't there.

Even erotica, the growth market for ebooks, isn't offering much profit for most new authors because of the glutted market.

Those most successful in ebooks are prolific writers who are able to produce three or more high quality books a year that are sold to the same audience. That audience buys all their books, and each new book draws in more readers who buy the backlist. Darrell Bain and Charlee Compo are good examples of this kind of success.

Epublishing companies also have the same disadvantage as small press. They are run by individuals so an illness or family tragedy can put your book on hold, or the publisher can fail completely.

SELF PUBLISHING IN EBOOK FORMATS

You can format your book into an ebook then sell it from your website.

The advantage is total control and a much cheaper setup cost than a paper book. The disadvantages are much the same as with any form of self-published book. You will also be unable to sell it through venues like Fictionwise where a majority of ebooks are sold.

A WEB NOVEL

The final market really isn't a market because no profit is made.

If you want to be read and money doesn't matter, putting your book on the web for free via a website, a blog, a free download site like Memoware, or a listserv like Yahoogroups may be the route to take.

You will have to promote for readers, but you will get them, and a few will actually comment on your work.

Some writers do this as a learning experience. Others simply don't want to bother with the hassle of the publishing process.

The disadvantages are no money and the possibility your book may end up elsewhere without your permission.

The simplest way to gain popularity, readers, and comments is to write in a popular fan fiction universe like Harry Potter or HEROES. A decent writer can become a big fish in a very small pool with lots of fans and none of the heartache of the professional markets.

FINAL COMMENTS

If you're still confused about which market you should try, think long and hard about what you really want from publishing and go from there.

And welcome to the wonderful world of publishing. Tighten your seatbelt because you're starting one heck of a bumpy but fascinating flight.

Friday, January 25, 2008

To Market, To Market

To Market, To Market

You have your novel finished. Now what?

You have lots of options -- ebooks publishers, small press publishers, traditional publishers, or some form of self-publishing.

I'll talk about each form of publishing with some pros and cons to consider.

TRADITIONAL PUBLISHERS

Traditional publishers are the usual publishers you find in bookstores. In US publishing, many are based in New York City. Some of these publishers of genre/popular fiction include Tor, Pocket, St. Martin, Leisure, and Kensington.

The major advantage to these publishers is distribution. Their books are usually carried by all the major bookchains and distributors so anyone can walk into the neighborhood bookstore and buy or order your book.

The better the distribution, the more books sold.

They will also give you an advance on your earnings and cover all the costs of creating the book itself including editing, the cover, and the printing.

Authors published this way are on the top of the author pecking order.

The major disadvantage is competition. You will have an uphill battle to gain a coveted slot in a publishing schedule and your competition will include many published authors.

In some markets, you'll need to get an agent even before you begin the fight for that slot, and this is an equally difficult and slow process.

Another disadvantage is lack of control. You will have almost no say in your book's title and cover. More often than not, you will also be required to change some of the book's content.

Pigeonholing is another problem. You must write to fit the current trends in popularity. It's a rare book that can be totally different.

SMALL PRESS

Small press is really a small version of the traditional publisher, but rather than being owned by a conglomerate, it is owned by individuals. Many are niche publishers specializing in a particular market like regional mystery or paranormal romance.

Some have the advantage of good distribution through book chains and distributors so they can be found in bookstores, but others do not. It will be much harder to find your book in a bookstore, but it should be available for ordering.

All the expenses of editing, cover art, and printing are covered by the small press, and some offer advances on earning which are usually much smaller than the traditional publisher.

The amount of author impute in the publishing process ranges from none to a great deal according to the individual press.

The disadvantages include poorer distribution, the vagaries of the how each runs its business, and the inherent risk of working with a small company where an owner's illness can stop the presses.

SUBSIDY OR SELF-PUBLISHING IN PAPER

This category runs the gamut of subsidy/vanity publishing to self-publishing. Many of the subsidy and vanity publishers have the system for publishing the book set up so all you have to do is plug in the various components of the book. You will design the cover or pay to have someone design the cover, you will write the book blurb, and you will edit or pay someone to edit your book. They will take all this and print the book for you.

With self-publishing, you must also find a printer to print your book for you.

The major advantage to this method is you have most of the control for every element of your book.

A major disadvantage is that you have control over every element of your book. If you don't know what you are doing, you will have spent a lot of money to make a fool of yourself.

Distribution is the biggest disadvantage of self-publishing. It is almost impossible to get your book onto the shelves of bookstores and in the catalogs of distributors. Even those subsidy presses who claim they can get your books on those shelves rarely do.

You will have to literally hand sell each book. To do this, you must have the soul and charm of a successful used car salesman and lots of time.

A self-published book, unless it achieves best-selling status, is also more harm than good to a writer's reputation and future. Unfortunately, most in the publishing world have a great deal of disdain for the self-published so moving into another form of publishing later is much harder to do.

Tomorrow, we'll talk about electronic publishing.

*~*
If you'd like the content of my blog entries emailed to you as they are posted, please send a blank email to
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This will be a newsletter only listserv so you won't be inundated with chitchat.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

A Tale of Two Vampires

Both CBS and Lifetime networks have vampire series on right now. They are similar in many ways, but they also have differences. Here's a comparison of their worldbuilding and how it affects their storytelling.

MOONLIGHT (CBS)

Mortal Beth Turner is an investigative reporter who becomes involved with vampire PI Mick St. John in various cases. They are attracted, but Beth lives with and loves DA Josh. Beth and Mick's cases usually involve mortals or vampires and don't delve into the darker side of the supernatural.

Mick was turned against his will in 1952 on his wedding night by his bride Coraline who had failed to tell him she was a vampire. He later killed Coraline to stop her from abducting a child (Beth).

He has always sought a cure, and he struggles to retain his humanity and his decency. He lives on blood bought from a morgue attendant.

The city has a large vampire community with loose rules mainly to prevent detection by mortals. Vampires can travel around during the day, but too long in the sun causes damage. They sleep in freezers or tubs full of ice cubes.

Mick's vampire best friend is Josef, who is powerful, wealthy, and hedonistic, as well as being totally unrepentant for what he is and what he does. He humors Mick's antivampire notions because they genuinely like each other.

BLOOD TIES (Lifetime)

PI mortal Vicki Nelson takes Henry Fitzroy, a 480 year old vampire and graphic novelist, as her partner after they share several supernatural cases together. They are attracted, but Vicki has an on-again, off-again relationship with her ex-police partner, Mike Celluci, and she has a very prickly personality.

Their cases usually involve the darker side of the supernatural including demons, shapeshifters, and other creatures.

Henry was turned willingly because he loved vampire Christina but soon discovered that vampires are fiercely territorial and solitary so they were forced apart. Later, they became enemies.

Henry is unapologetic about his life, but he follows a code of honor in taking victims and in his relationship with humans. He is fiercely against black magic.

So, essentially, both series are girl meets vampire, and they solve cases.

Since MOONLIGHT is billed as a paranormal romance, it has a softer view of the supernatural and the evil nature of vampires. BLOOD TIES is more fantasy-based with less reliance on romance and has much darker subject matter.

In the first few episodes, MOONLIGHT introduced the society of vampires and its rules. Vampire predators roam the night and take victims, some of whom die and are then disposed of by a vampire cleanup crew.

When a doctor is accidentally turned and goes rogue by killing indiscriminately and without hiding what he is, Mick stops him and cremates his body.

Josef is even more harsh about protecting vampire society, but he keeps beautiful mortal women around him all the time for snacks, and there is no implication that he murders these women to keep them silent.

Mick has remained in LA, kept the same name, and the same profession despite not having aged for 55 years, and no one seems to have noticed.

Problems like this and the sheer number of vampires are failures in worldbuilding because the more vampires there are and the more people who know about them, the less likely secrecy is possible.

After the first few episodes, the dark nature of vampires was no longer emphasized, and Josef and friends now come across as really sophisticated, rich guys with a slightly dark edge. With this softening came an emphasis on Beth and Mick's relationship.

BLOOD TIES is based on an urban fantasy series by Tanya Huff, and its rich detail and intricate worldbuilding show its origins. The world that Vicki and Henry inhabit is full of all kinds of dark beings, many of whom are more dangerous and evil than vampires, and the cost to the characters are higher.

Vicki is marked by a demon's brand at the beginning of the series, and this draws her deeper into the darkness. Surprisingly, it is Henry who has seen too much who is the light. He is willing to face the evil and stop it.

Interestingly, he also seems to be the only religious character in either series. He carries a crucifix and buddies around with priests.

Another ironic element of the worldbuilding is the solitary nature of vampires. They can't stand to live near each other because of their strong territorial natures. They even use humans to help them acquire territories and keep the peace.

Their inability to be around each other makes them less likely to be discovered from overhunting the local humans and less likely to sire more competition. Truly alone, they must socialize with their prey. This irony hasn't really been emphasized.

Both series have so much in common with current paranormal romances and urban fantasies with their worldbuilding that they are interesting case studies for a writer.

Speaking of worldbuilding, I will be giving an online course on worldbuilding next month for Outreach International. To learn more about this course, go to
http://marilynnbyerly.com/marilynnbyerly/worldbuildingwor.html .

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Why We Write

All parts of being an author, published and unpublished, are
hard.  The writer is the minnow in a sea of barracuda in all
aspects of the financial business of publishing.  Almost everyone
wants to either ignore you, belittle you, or take what little you
have.  Few writers get to the point where they have much power
over their own books or careers.  


From your fellow writers and publishing professionals, you face sneers
and contempt.  If you are e-published, if you write for Leisure
rather than Pocket, or paperback rather than hardcover, if you write
romance or mystery or science fiction or cross-genre or any sort of
fiction, you are looked down upon by someone, and that person has no
trouble telling you so.  


From the real world of family, friends, readers, and strangers, people
will sneer at you for all the above reasons as well as a few more. Most
people think Michael Jordan worked hard for his craft and has a natural
born skill, but writers just put words on paper and anyone can do
it.  Athletes make obscene amounts of money, but the average
professional writer makes less money than anyone in the publishing
chain including the janitor who cleans the publishing house's restrooms
and the minimal wage worker who stacks the books at the local library.
 


Over half the people who learn you are a writer tell you that they are
going to write a book someday, and they think it will be published
instantly.  People believe that most celebrities actually write
their own books, and therefore, if that idiot can write a book, anyone
can.


Ah, yes, the life of the average professional writer is a wonderful
life, right up there with dropping a cinderblock on your foot over and
over again.  


Why do we do it?  While the cinderblock is hitting our foot, we
are dreaming of our brighter future or our characters so the pain
doesn't hurt so bad most of the time. 


And, occasionally, someone will tell us how much they loved our book,
or how that book got them through some terrible hours during a personal
crisis such as a dying loved one, or how our books made them understand
something about themselves or someone else and how that changed their
life for the better.


At times like that, we don't mind being minnows.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

"Why Don't You Write/Read a Real Book?"

For some unknown reason, people like to denigrate fiction writers and what we write. Any science fiction or mystery writer will tell you about the comments they've received from jerks of various sorts.

But the most insulted of all writers is the romance writer.

Over time, I've heard from a number of my friends in the field who have asked for advice on how to reply to comments.
Here are my suggestions. Many will work just as well with whatever fiction you write.

Most will work for readers as well.

The first comment is usually, "Why don't you write/read a real book?"


Rude reply: Why haven't you gotten a cure for foot-in-mouth disease?

Quotation reply: "Literature is an occupation in which you have to keep proving your talent to people who have none." Jules Renard.

Considered reply: First, ask them to define "a real book."

*If they reply "non-fiction because it's useful and the truth. Fiction is a lie."*

Fiction is the truth in parable form. In the BIBLE, Jesus and the Old Testament prophets explained eternal verities by the use of stories. The parable of the Good Samaritan is a perfect example. Is its message any less valuable because the Samaritan was a fictional character created by Jesus?

Fiction writers are telling the truth through their fiction. They create the world as they see it and offer their own beliefs. That belief may be as simple as "everyone has a true love and with courage and compromise can win that love."

Is a novel any less valuable than the true-life story found in "Reader's Digest" which illustrates the same point? I don't think so. The only difference is the medium used to express that belief.

"But fiction isn't useful like non-fiction."

Yes, it is. Fiction is like that perfect school teacher who makes learning interesting. It gives information in small, easy to swallow doses. Historical novels give you history, science fiction science and the future of technology, mysteries and thrillers insight into the human mind and modern criminology techniques.

Of course, some fiction offers little factual data and appears to only entertain. But that's all right too. Few people protest because most television shows and movies aren't useful, yet many feel the written word requires some justification. It doesn't. The written word has as much right to merely entertain as any other medium.

There's no shame in just entertaining.

"But a real book is longer."

The average length of "literary novels" is the same as a Silhouette Presents or a Harlequin Romance. Usually, they're skinnier. Critics praise this shortness for its intensity.

"But these are only women's novels."

Women aren't second-class citizens, and they aren't second-class readers either. You never hear anyone say Louis L'Amour is only a men's novelist because most of his readers are male. Women writers and readers deserve the same respect.

A hundred years or so ago, some male critic made a snippy remark about "those damn women scribblers" and their terrible books. He included Jane Austen and the Brontes in the comment. We should all wish to be in such company as "only" women writers.

*"A real book is literary. It is the kind of book the New York Times reviews and college professors teach. It is great literature. It isn't popular fiction."*

Almost every major noncontemporary fiction writer now taught in universities was a popular writer. The Neil Simon of his time, Shakespeare wrote bawdy jokes in his plays for the commoners.

Hawthorne was the Stephen King of his period. So was Poe. Mark Twain amassed a fortune through writing bestsellers.

Dickens' novels created a furor unequalled in modern times until the Harry Potter novels. For example, THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP was published in chunks in a British magazine. As the ship carrying the last installment docked in New York, a mob of fans waited for it. Men ran down the docks and screamed to the passengers, "Is Little Nell dead?"

Only recently has the strange idea that popularity is a failure of literary standards materialized. I'm not certain where this idea comes from, but it smacks of the elitist mentality which believes the masses are incapable of appreciating art.

Some authors whom literary critics have praised have become massive bestsellers. The same critics promptly change their opinion of the writer "who has sold out to popular acclaim."

"But today's popular novels aren't great literature."

No contemporary critic can truly define a current work as "great literature." Time is the only true test of that term. Books and authors praised a hundred years ago have disappeared except as footnotes in esoteric articles.

Books which were damned as junk are taught in college. Read the scathing reviews of Melville's MOBY DICK if you want to see the perfect example of this. Melville's praised travel books are forgotten, but MOBY DICK is immortal.

"Certainly you aren't comparing any romance to MOBY DICK or Shakespeare?"

Not really. I'm under no illusion that most romances are more than entertainment. But there's nothing wrong with entertainment. Is a chef condemned because he makes pastries instead of main dishes? Of course not. Is he any less a chef because he creates calories with little food value? No.

To carry this analogy a little further, the pastry chef and the romance writer have a great deal in common. Any cook will tell you that creating an original cake recipe is much harder than making a casserole recipe. The ingredients and spices in a casserole can be varied with little problem. Variation in a cake, especially the important ingredients like baking powder and flour, can create disaster.

The romance is like that cake--airy, delicate, and delicious. But fail as a writer with one important element like character or plot, and the whole novel is rock hard and impossible to enjoy.

Other type books, even the so-called literary books, are casserole books. The writer's touch need not be so delicate, and mistakes are much easier to be forgiven.

Lee Smith, a major Southern "literary" novelist, told me that she tried to write a Silhouette Presents when the market was wide open. The book was a failure, and her agent couldn't sell it. Lee confessed that she never intended to write another because they were too darn hard to write.

The romance novel form is capable of generating great literature. Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters are perfect examples of this.

Currently, some romance novelists are showing promise of creating the emotional and literary resonance necessary for great literature. Some of us are pushing the parameters of romance toward more literary acceptability. Only time will tell if great literature comes.

If nothing else, we're entertaining people and giving them love. We're taking them away from their troubles and pain. And what's more real than that?