Mars versus Venus: Attracting Readers of the Opposite Sex 2/2

Today, we’re continuing our discussion on reading novels by the opposite sex and what we can learn from that experience. Western historical author Peter Leavell talks about his experience reading my medical thriller Proof. You can read about my experience reading Peter’s western novel here.

1. Have you read this genre before? If not, why not?

ProofHRphotoPeter:  Suspense I have read. Medical thrillers I have not. Perhaps I’ve avoided the genre because of Grey’s Anatomy. Being a man, I never differentiated drama and thriller, giving the two an unfair shake. I didn’t watch Grey’s Anatomy because of a man the ladies chatted about—McDreamy—which instilled as much interest in me as a bunch of guys talking about a great new clip for a .22 rifle might in a lady.

I did look at a picture of McDreamy. I’d say he’s more McOkay. But the buzz about a show with a sexy man (no one ever discussed the plot) destroyed my interest in medical anything. Because I wasn’t really interested in a handsome, flawed doctor. Wait. Now that I put it that way, it doesn’t sound so bad.

2. What did you find surprising about the book? About the genre?

Peter:  A thriller? Medical thriller? As a historical fiction author, the novels didn’t enter my scope of reading—perhaps a Civil War amputation with a dude taking a shot of whisky then biting down on a bullet. When I picked up Jordyn Redwood’s book, I expected some dude who stole morphine and gets caught at the end.

His romance or her romance would be the crux of the novel. Granted, I would still find a romance interesting. Not so with Jordyn’s book. Serial rapist. Twists and turns. Thrilling action and flawed characters looking for redemption. Yeah, the novel had a lot more than I thought.

Being squeamish in the extreme, I thought I would get lightheaded a lot. I had a few bullets on the ready to bite down on, and was thinking about whiskey. But I didn’t need them. In fact, the first scene had medical thrills that pulled me in so fast I couldn’t put the rest of the novel down.

Jordyn: Wow, I didn’t know you were squeamish about medical things. I could have warned you a little bit.

3. Would you read this genre again?

Peter:  Only if Jordyn recommended. Like I said, I’m squeamish, so I have to tread carefully. It’s one thing to thrust a sword through an enemy. I’m okay with that. But to go into details about stitching a laceration? Or worse, drawing blood? Yeah, pass me a paper bag to breath into.

4. Did you feel like you gained any insight into the opposite sex having read the book?

Peter: Tons of insight. Proof’s main character, Dr. Lilly Reeves, is keenly aware of her relationships with others. In fact, the entire novel flows in terms of relationships, giving the writing a flowing style that makes every action from a character reflect on another character—or somehow affect them. Guys (generally speaking) are vaguely aware some people are more important than others in his life, like say a mother.

Lilly gets advice from friends. A guy’s opinion, again generally speaking, is his standard, and any good advice given him is simply an oversight in his movement forward. He simply adjusts and keeps moving forward.

Emotions play such an important role in a woman’s life and in Jordyn’s novel. Men seem to see emotions as an obstacle and try to rid themselves of them as quickly as possible. Women seem to work through emotions with long thought processes and long talks with friends. Interesting to read, at least for me, but if the entire novel is this process it can be tedious and frustrating.

Jodyn’s novel has characters’ thought processes, but they’re anything but tedious. They’re short, and blessedly to the point. A man gets a thought in his head and simply goes for it, and he’ll deal with the consequences with apologies and flowers later. That gives him time to ramble aimlessly about facts that don’t relate to anything.

Also, women characters in Jordyn’s novel are keenly aware of their bodies. Where their elbows are, for example, at any given time. Touches. Blood flowing through veins. They are also aware of everyone else’s body language. Many men simply blunder through life, knocking things over because they forget to steer their legs. Men are cute that way, I guess, and really need a woman to steer.

Interestingly, Jordyn’s characters, men and women, reflect real life. Both men and women are trying to run from something. Events, emotions, the past. Both sexes deal with problems differently. Both reflect reality.

5. What do you think might be lacking from reading this book authored by the opposite sex that you like in novels written by your sex?

Peter:  Jordyn takes great pains to show how people are cared for. A man would skip that part. Also, how will the feelings of those she knows be affected by her decisions? A man would focus on how lives will be changed. In his mind, the stakes must be higher than feelings. Jordyn’s novel is the perfect mixture of both.

What about you? Do you typically read novels authored by the opposite sex. Why or why not?


PeterLPeter Leavell, a 2007 graduate of Boise State University with a degree in history, was the 2011 winner of Christian Writers Guild’s Operation First Novel contest, and 2013 Christian Retailing’s Best award for First-Time Author. Peter and his family live in Boise, Idaho. For entertainment, he reads historical books, where he finds ideas for new novels. Whenever he has a chance, he takes his wife and two homeschooled children on crazy but fun research trips. Learn more about Peter’s books, research, and family adventures at


Mars versus Venus: Attracting Readers of the Opposite Sex 1/2

A couple of months ago, I noticed that Peter posted to FaceBook a blog post that he and some other male authors had written giving reasons why females should read their novels.

I’d been feeling this way about my own medical thriller novels—that men weren’t reading them because they were authored by a female and so I posed this idea to Peter that we should trade our books and have a conversation about author gender and readership. I read his western novel West for the Black Hills and Peter read my debut medical thriller, Proof.

west-for-the-black-hills-hi-resToday, I’m posting about my experience in reading West for the Black Hills and on Thursday, Peter will post about his experience reading Proof.

1. Have you read this genre before? If not, why not?

Jordyn: I have not read a western novel before. Honestly, I didn’t think I would like them. The vision I had in my mind was of a dusty ranch in the middle of nowhere—what exciting things could happen? I definitely need tension, conflict and mystery in my novels to keep me engaged as a reader. I didn’t think this was the crux of the genre. My preconceived notion was that they were slow, almost literary novels (flowery prose with long sections of description) about the good ole west. I’ve tried to watch a few westerns on television and couldn’t get into them.

Peter: I should have added more tumbleweeds and stray dogs. Ha! Honestly, I get bored with the average western, too.

2. What did you find surprising about the book? About the genre?

Jordyn: What I found most surprising was the things I love about suspense novels are present in this novel. Mystery, intrigue—a few good twists and turns that definitely popped my eyes open a few times. West for the Black Hills definitely had me turning pages. I set other books aside to finish this one—which says a lot for an author who has a very large TBR (to be read) pile.

Peter: Thanks, Jordyn. I must admit, I was transported to another world with your novel. I even skipped my history reading at night because I had to know what happened.

3. Would you read this genre again?

Jordyn: This is a conundrum. Is it just Peter’s writing that I like or is he a good representation of the genre and other western novels are like this? Do I risk picking up another western novel to see what I think about it? I’m not sure of that yet, but I’m definitely a Peter Leavell convert for sure. Maybe that’s our next challenge—he recommends another western author to me—his favorite western novel—and I’ll see what I think about it.

4. Did you feel like you gained any insight into the opposite sex having read their book?

Jordyn: I felt like there were some themes that ran through the novel that provided some insight into the male mind. What follows are a few excerpts from West for the Black Hills and my thoughts on what I thought could be the male perspective.

“I prayed for forgiveness. The violence of deadwood had led to this punishment, no doubt, God’s poetic justice doled out for my sins. Turn the other cheek. And I had defended myself, defended Raven with violence. Should I have just let her go? I pulled the thin blanket over my shoulders. Was God trying to tell me my possessions belonged to others? I didn’t care about most of my possessions, but my horses were different. I loved them.”

From this passage—I thought—do men think more than women that God punishes for sin?

“‘Is self defense right? Jesus died without defending Himself.’”

There seemed to be a running theme of self defense and proper use of violence.  When is it okay to hurt/kill someone if you believe in Jesus who was decidedly non-violent—allowing Himself to be convicted innocently for the crimes of all humanity which led to him suffering one of the most violent deaths possible?

“’I’m no expert on the Bible, but you’re thoughtful enough about your actions that I know you read it. God used plenty of people in the Bible to dole out justice. Stop thinking about the philosophical reasoning behind everything and do your job.’”

I think this might be a male thought process because a woman defending herself that leads to another’s death probably doesn’t think this way because she knows she would have died without action on her part. A woman is probably thinking, “He had it coming and I’m lucky to be alive.”

“He crossed his arms. “Sometimes we’ve got to do the thing we hate most. Almost preordained. God seems to enjoy making sure there’s something we have to do that makes us uncomfortable.’”

In this passage, I thought there was a more universal theme that touches most Christians I know. Personally, I’ve felt God ask me to step outside my comfort zone to do things that I would never do—all legal of course.

5. What made the novel less enjoyable for you that you think may have stemmed from the author being of the opposite sex?

Jordyn: Sometimes I felt like Peter’s writing was very stark and factual but it didn’t detract me because I’ve been told this can be my writing style as well. It could also be how Peter wanted to portray the main character, Philip Anderson, and that’s why he wrote in this manner. Philip’s had a hard life so perhaps this writing is meant to convey that. I do feel like there is more emotional insight into a character from a female authored novel—more insight into thoughts and feelings. The emotional punch is heftier. Some of this is portrayed through the eyes of the heroine in the novel—that Philip won’t even share his feelings with her. So, really, I tend to wonder if this is more just Peter’s writing genius in disguise in a sense.

Peter: To find out it I’m a genius in disguise, you’ll have to read my historical fiction Gideon’s Call to see if the writing voice is different! How’s that for a marketing ploy?

What about you? Do you typically read novels authored by the opposite sex. Why or why not?

Dangerous Curves Ahead

You hear a lot in writing circles in regards to the pursuit of publication—just persevere. Keep at it. You’ll get there.

DangerousCurvesI heard this a lot when I was going for my ultimate job in nursing. I really wanted to be a flight nurse. After I got the required experience, I began the application process—something like seven interviews later I still didn’t have a flight nursing position.

I’ve spent lots of time theorizing why and I still would love to do this job, but in my heart I think it’s not going to happen. It’s just not God’s will for my life no matter how much I desire it.

It may not be popular to talk about quitting the pursuit of publicaton on a writing blog. But then ER nurses rarely do what’s popular—we do what’s necessary. I was pursuing flight nursing when I was supposed to be serving God writing. Maybe you’re pursuing publication when God has another dream for your life that will impact people more than what you’re pursuing right now.

But just how do you know? I’ve been obsessed with learning God’s will. I often say I wish I’d wake up with a gold note card on my pillow with the answer, but it is never that easy.

TheDipAll truth is God’s truth no matter who writes it. Isn’t that an amazing statement? I think I found some of God’s truth in a little (literally—it’s seventy-six half-size pages) book called The Dip by Seth Godin.

In the beginning, he makes some pretty profound statements. The phrase all of us learned, “Quitters never win and winners never quit,” is profoundly wrong. Godin says winners quit all the time.

“They just quit the right stuff at the right time.”

The trouble is telling the difference. The dip refers to the process of learning when you’re taking on a new project you’re excited about—like novel writing. The dip is that moment you wonder why you started to write the book. You don’t think you can pull it off. You’ll never finish it.

If you can push through these moments of the learning process, then extraordinary benefits accrue to the tiny minority of people who are able to push just a tiny bit longer than most.

But, Godin states, the opposite is also true. Extraordinary benefits also accrue to the tiny minority with the guts to quit early and focus their efforts on something new.

Again—it’s telling the difference.

To help, Godin discusses three curves.

1. The Dip: The valley of learning. Successful people don’t just ride out the dip. They lean into it. Push harder—changing the rules as they go. Part of knowing you’re on the right path is that you do get small amounts of positive reinforcement along the way. You final in a contest but maybe don’t win it all. You get positive comments from an agent and/or editor.

2. The Cul-de-Sac: This is where you work and work and nothing much changes. For me in my nursing career—I have never gotten any promotion I ever applied for—in twenty years! Honestly, you would think I was the worst nurse ever. I’m actually a very strong nurse but something has kept me stuck. If that hadn’t happened I would have never pursued publication where the doors opened much easier for me. But perhaps this is the pursuit of publication for you. You’re in the cul-de-sac.

3. The Cliff: It’s a situation you can’t quit until you fall off and the whole thing falls apart. The example Seth gives here is cigarette smoking. Cigarettes are highly addicting, but you do get a good feeling even though it’s detrimental to you—which, in the case of smoking, could be lung cancer and then death.

Godin hypothesizes that The Cliff and The Cul-de-Sac both lead to failure and it’s best to quit these pursuits early and move on to the thing you’d be successful at. That thing for which going through the dip would be worth it.

I would never tell anyone to stop writing—ever. Writing is a creative outlet that soothes the soul and spirit. It can ease tension, stress and frustration because spilled words on the page is cathartic. But—the pursuit of publication is a whole other animal. It takes time, money, resources, and sleep.

And perhaps God is calling you to do something else.

What dream have you had where you’ve persevered through the dip and had great success? On the flip side—is there something you’re pursuing that perhaps you are considering quitting and why? Good things to think through.

All italics are quotes from Seth’s book. I hope you’ll take the time to read it.
This blog first appeared at Seekerville. I hope you’ll check it out!

Winning Writing Contests

I’ve both entered and judged several writing contests over the last four years. Not only that, but have been asked to review a myriad of early manuscripts for newer writers.

award-152042_1280Most recently, I entered the Blurb to Book contest sponsored by Love Inspired. I’m happy to report that I made it to Round Two (Go Team LIS!) What I thought was interesting about this particular contest is that the sponsoring editors sent out an e-mail to all the participants before they released the round two results that outlined several reasons why you may not have progressed in the contest.

I found this information highly valuable and also found it to be consistent with entries and early manuscripts I’ve judged/read that didn’t fair too well. So, I thought this list would be interesting to you because it speaks to universal problems among writers. The LI editors should receive credit for these items and I’ll be expanding on their list with thoughts of my own.

1. No strong hook. For this contest, we had to write a blurb (something akin to back cover copy) and were limited to only one hundred words. You realize very quickly how few words that really is. But this comment of the blurb or hook not being strong enough can be carried over into other things. Your cover letter didn’t have enough punch. Each word has to be powerful. A short blurb like this is easy enough for other people to read and critique.

2. Too much back story in the first page. This is so common I almost gave the editors a standing ovation when I read it. This is a very common mishap in writing. In round one of this contest, we submitted the blurb as noted above and just the first page of a first chapter. That’s it. Imagine how strikingly engaging this first page must be! My professional writing opinion is that it takes authors time to “warm up” to their stories and this is a lot of what’s happening in those first pages. It’s really character profiling. My suggestion is to look at page five of your first chapter. The first event that happens is really the start of your story. Back story can be dropped in as the story progresses.

3. Not following the guidelines. Every time you submit something as a writer, there’s likely a document that covers the submission process–whether it be for an agent, an editor or a contest. Read them. Double check them. Even if your writing is fabulous, if you haven’t “followed the rules” you can be kicked out of the contest just for formatting issues. Seriously, don’t let the wrong font drop you from a contest. You also cannot “break the rules” in the sense that if a publisher says a character cannot do such and such–they really mean it. If you don’t like the guidelines of that particular publisher–don’t write for them.

4. No conflict. Every story, regardless of genre, must have tension/conflict. It’s why we read story. Readers don’t want to read about happy people in happy places where nothing ever happens. Even the sweetest romance story has conflict. James Scott Bell has a whole book about it called Conflict and Suspense. Check it out.

5. Telling rather than showing. A common issue for writers. I’ve written a blog post on showing versus telling here that will better illustrate this point.

6. Confusing. Have another writer read your entry. If it’s not clear to a reader, clean it up regardless of how you feel about the passage.

7. Writing . . . not quite there. As the editors said in their e-mail– everyone has to start somewhere. Writing is a craft that must be learned and honed. Did you know just learning a craft takes 6-10 years? Think about musicians, dancers, or painters. Did they succeed at their first attempt? I think people don’t give learning the craft of writing enough credit in the sense that because we know English and can craft a sentence since grade school– we should be able to write a great novel the first time out of the gate.

Have you ever watched The Voice? We can all sing, right? Of course, some better than others. But if you listen to the mentors work with these young singers, you’ll hear them talk a lot about practice, about craft, about emotion in singing. “Come back next year when you practice these things.” You know what? The singers that take this to heart do practice, they do come back, and often times they do better the next time around.

So… keep writing! Keep entering those contests regardless of the result. Take the information from the judges as a learning opportunity to grow.

Have you ever entered a writing contest?

How I Discover New Books– Hint, Not in a Bookstore

It’s been said that the reason an author should stick to traditional publishing is book discoverability and distribution by way of a publisher’s marketing budget and sales staff.

bookstore-482970_1280I was fortunate to get a three-book deal with a mid-size Christian publisher who did get behind my book generously with marketing dollars. They even landed me in Sam’s Club with my first two books in hundreds of stores nationwide.

Just, why, didn’t I hit the bestseller lists? I think the books are good. Proof and Poison got starred reviews from Library Journal. Both were nominated (though never won) for awards. Lots of favorable reviews.

In fact, I might even say that landing in Sam’s Club hurt me a little. Why? The issue with Sam’s club is it’s a BIG order. It’s a risk for the publisher. If you’re not a well-known name who can move those novels many are going to get returned and your royalty report is going to look like a defaulted home loan and the bank is knocking on your door.

I began to analyze how I discover books, and does it match with the way a traditional publisher markets novels?

Sure, your best chance of getting into a bookstore is partnering with a traditional publisher but how often are you going to bookstores anymore? I used to go weekly, when they were close. There aren’t any close ones anymore. The one at the mall I would stop in while shopping for other things . . . gone . . . both of them. The closest bookstore is a 15-20 minute drive. And as NYT’s bestselling author Jamie McGuire blogs here— even she wasn’t seeing her novels in bookstores during release week.

Here is a list of how I now discover books.

1. Goodreads Reviews. Goodreads is the place for people who LOVE books and where book lovers leave reviews. I find I have more Goodreads reviews than Amazon reviews. I have close to 2,500 friends on Goodreads. Every day, I get an e-mail of their reviews. I’ve come to know whose reading tastes are similar to mine. A good review of a book will cause me to look further on Amazon. Plus, since I’m friends with so many, I get exposed to a wide variety of books outside my general reading genre (suspense) that I probably wouldn’t have heard about– even browsing bookstore aisles.

2. Amazon Lists. Amazon lists are fun to browse. Of course, there is always the 100 top paid and free Kindle lists but I also look at genre specific top 100 lists. I also pay attention to novels getting a crazy number of reviews and try and read those to see what is catching the reader’s eye. So, from my first two examples, I don’t think any author can say that reviews don’t matter . . . they do.

3. Advertising Lists. There are a couple of advertising lists that I belong to– BookBub and Inspired Reads. On these sites, you can narrow down the types of e-mails you receive to genres you like. Every day you’ll get an e-mail about books that are on sale. Bookbub lists are the primary way I’m buying books. If I see an interesting book cover then I click the buy link for Amazon and check out reviews. Based on the number of reviews, I make a decision about whether or not to buy the novel. BookBub has a very good reputation among authors that though pricey– is generally a good investment of your marketing dollars. I think the same is true with Inspired Reads for their reach/price ratio.

4. Word of Mouth. I’m like every other human being. If a good friend says, “You must read this book.” it will climb up to the top of my TBR list. The more people that say it– the more likely I am to read it. One author I’d almost given up on until a good friend said, “Just read this one. If you don’t like it, I give you permission to never read this author again.” Reading that novel changed my opinion of the author and their work.

What I find is that I’m rarely in a bookstore anymore but I’m discovering a lot more books because these things are available to me every day.

For my fall release, this is how I’m spending my marketing money. I’ll likely not be arranging bookstore book signings, but that’s a topic for another time.

How are you discovering books? Does that determine your marketing plan?

Five Possible Reasons Why I Didn’t Endorse Your Novel

This title could also be used for a few other things. Why I didn’t influence for your novel. Why I didn’t review your novel. I’m going to go from the most important reason to the least.

Writing1I think it’s helpful to give actual reasons for this. When I first started in publishing, I felt sad and perhaps a little rejected when someone didn’t review my work or fulfill a promise they made. Now that I have 1 1/2 feet in the publishing industry (I’m one of those authors still working a “real” job on the side) I have a lot more insight into why people may opt out of my request.

#1: Time. This is definitely the number one influencer on whether or not I do any of the things listed above. It’s a reality for most authors that they are working a “real” job to support their family. It is an expectation of publishers that you build a platform, build a social media presence, and market your novel. That’s a learning curve for most so our “extra time” is spent working on learning, doing and perfecting these things. Reading for fun and helping other author’s promote their work falls to the bottom of the time consumption list. In reality, if an author did take the time to do any of these things for you, they gave up something else to do it. Be grateful . . . always.

#2: I didn’t like it. Reading is art and art is subjective. I’ve read novels by people I really liked but I didn’t love their work. If I’m good friends with them, I’ll probably provide an explanation. We as writers need to learn to emotionally separate what we put on the page from a personal attack against our person. Just because I didn’t like your book doesn’t mean I don’t like you. Also, this doesn’t hold true for all the author’s work. A good friend of mine chose not to endorse the first book of my trilogy. She kindly reviewed the subsequent books and gave glowing endorsements. If I don’t say anything to you, it’s likely because I think you can’t take criticism in a healthy way and I don’t want to deal with the fall out.

#3: The book went against my platform. This is different than #2. There are some books I’ve liked, but I couldn’t support because of the platform I’ve built– which is medical accuracy in fiction. My blog, Redwood’s Medical Edge, deals with how to write medically accurate novels. If your book has something entirely medically inaccurate, even if I love the story, I can’t endorse it. It would make me look foolish. It would be like a pro-life person endorsing a pro-choice book. In this instance, it doesn’t mean I won’t review it or even influence for it but I’ll generally comment on the medical details falling short in those cases.

#4: You sent me the book without asking. This drops you to the bottom of the list pretty quickly. If I get a book in the mail and didn’t accept a request to review it, I’ll likely not get to it. Often, it’s not something I would read anyway and I’m very picky about what I read because my “fun” reading time has been drastically cut short.

#5: The first five pages didn’t engage me.  There are plenty of books I start that are good in the beginning but leave me feeling ambivalent in the end but I do end up finishing them. However, if you don’t grab me in the first five pages, I don’t have time to get through the rest. I was recently asked to review a book that was published by a smaller press and the novel was edited (because the author credits two editors in the front of the novel) but the novel was difficult to read. Meandering, no conflict, no idea where the story was headed.

If you’re a published author (indie or traditional)– what are some reasons you’ve chosen not to read, review, influence or endorse a book?

Failure Analysis

frame-541745_1280Whenever the New Year rolls around everyone gets caught up in the newness of a potentially fresh start. Many are busy fashioning resolutions or, the new trend, picking a word to focus on for the rest of the year. Commit. Encourage! Lose weight. Oh wait, that’s two words.

It’s known that New Year’s resolutions don’t last very long at all. People who go to the gym know this in spades. Come January, you have to stand in line until someone gives up a piece of cardio equipment. However, in just a few weeks, it will be like crickets chirping again and those aerobic instructors would be happy if crickets did show up to their classes so they’d have someone to teach.

I think in current American society, examining failure is passe. First of all, no one is a failure! Every child gets a trophy. Every child is equally good at everything. Authors are happy to post negative reviews on their Facebook page, not to say, “This person had something valid to say about my novel and I’m going to learn from it,” but rather as proof of how idiotic the reviewer was. Other authors gripe and complain when their book covers get nominated for “Worst Cover” awards. I don’t know. I’ve seen some of those covers and those just might be valid nominations.

Is this really learning? What is the value in learning from our mistakes?

I think we need to get back to not dismissing failure out of hand. My own reasons for failure are, if I’m honest, rarely external. They’re internal. I am the reason I failed.

Let me give one example everyone can attest to: weight loss. I’m not at my goal weight. I haven’t been for years. Why is that? I actually go to the gym regularly. Typically, three days a week. I don’t eat out often. Why am I not a size 4? Or, even a single digit size?

How many times have you heard these excuses? I’m too busy. It’s hormones. Gym memberships are too expensive. I’m big boned! It’s my thyroid. It’s genetic. Everyone in my family is overweight.

What are the real reasons? I’m lazy. I don’t want to cut refined sugar out of my diet. Soda is my one  bad habit (and therefore I should keep it). It’s been a long day–I deserve (insert sugary, decadent treat here).

The reason we’re falling short on all our good intentions is largely because we haven’t accepted the reasons we’ve failed at them in the past.

Why isn’t your book published? These days, there is no reason why you can’t get your words out there with indie publishing. You literally cannot have an excuse.

So what’s holding you back?

What I encourage you to do at the beginning of this year is look at that big dream you’ve been holding onto with everything in you and do an honest analysis of why you haven’t achieved it yet. I challenge you to first list five things that pertain to yourself.

So, if you’re brave, in the comments section share your unachieved dream and give a short failure analysis. How will you change these items to get closer to your dream by the end of 2015?

I think that will be better than picking a new resolution.