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Puzzling about the Twilight Series Phenomenon July 22, 2010

Posted by Ronica Stromberg in Uncategorized.
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My husband took me to the “Eclipse” movie the other day. (Not without him dragging his feet, mind you, but it was my birthday.) I’m interested in the Twilight phenomenon because I also write for teens and have dabbled in romance. I keep puzzling why the series has become so huge.

I read the first two books and enjoyed them and the third movie. Some writers fault Stephanie Meyer on her writing style and mechanics, and other people (or maybe the same people) fault the Edward-Bella relationship as obsessive, controlling, and just plain dysfunctional (among other things). Personally, I have to wonder how much of this is sour grapes. I see faults in Meyer’s writing, but she has to be doing something right or she wouldn’t have any readers.

Where I think Meyer does a terrific job is capturing the feeling of first love, when every touch and glance matters. I think she also does well at tapping into the female psyche and ideas of passion. Edward desires Bella like no other woman and has to struggle to reign in his desires. What woman doesn’t want the man of her dreams to find her hard to resist? Every woman wants to be desired, and for more than physical beauty. Edward is attracted to the smell of Bella’s blood, the very essence of her. I think most women would like a man to be driven to distraction by the total package they present, to be that special to a man that no other woman will do. I get that.

I am puzzled why the series has become so popular when Edward is opposed to premarital sex and insists on waiting until marriage to “do it.” As a Christian, I share this value, but with half of U.S. children now being born out of wedlock, I wouldn’t guess that a lot of other people share it. Yet this is one of Edward’s strongest traits, one that (so far as I’ve seen without reading the last book) he is unwilling to compromise for Bella. How did he become the quintessential romance hero to so many American women?

Just yesterday I was shopping the summer clearance racks in a department store, and two middle-aged women and two teen girls came across a T-shirt with a photo of Edward and the words, “I’m in love with a vampire.” The four shoppers oohed and aahed over the T-shirt and ended up in a squabble over who was going to have it. I’m watching them, thinking, Really? What is going on here?

It reminds me of the McDonald’s incident from years ago when an elderly woman sued the restaurant after being burnt by their coffee. She won hundreds of thousands of dollars in the settlement (http://www.caoc.com/CA/index.cfm?event=showPage&pg=facts).  At the time, I would have never dreamed that McDonald’s would one day expand their coffee sales with a new line of coffees. It just wasn’t what I would logically expect. Similarly, I wouldn’t have expected chaste Edward to become a hero in a nation that, for the most part, doesn’t seem to value chastity.

But I’m enjoying the books and the coffee. Kudos to Meyer and McDonald’s.

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Book Series July 17, 2010

Posted by Ronica Stromberg in Uncategorized.
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I read today that the market for series and the market for picture books have gone soft. Then I picked up my mail and received my royalty check from Royal Fireworks Press. I was pleased to see my Kirsten Hart Series for MG (middle grades) and YA (young adult) readers has been selling better than I expected.

Even more surprising, my tween mystery, The Glass Inheritance, increased sales in 2009 over the previous three years. This, for a nine-year-old book. The reason for the uptick may be that The Glass Inheritance is still sold on Amazon.com while my Kirsten Hart books, A Shadow in the Dark and Living It Up to Live It Down, can only be purchased through the publisher (online, by phone, or by mail), some bookstores, or myself. People who heard about me or my books may have found it easier to order a copy of The Glass Inheritance than the other two books. In addition, when a series comes out, an author’s earlier books will often pick up sales too.

As might be expected, the first book in my series, A Shadow in the Dark, sold more copies than the second book, Living It Up to Live It Down. Children who read the first book in a series may not go on to read other books in the series, but if they read a later book in the series and like it, they will frequently back up to the first book and read that. Typically, the first book is the bestselling.

Publishers like series because, if a series catches on, sales are almost self-perpetuating. Some children make it their goal to read every book in a series. I know because I was one of them. I read most of the Nancy Drew and Phyllis Whitney mysteries and all the Trixie Belden, Donna Parker, Meg, and Kim Aldrich mysteries, besides others.

Writers interested in selling a series now should make sure it has a strong hook (something that will pull readers in) and be willing to sell the first book alone. Even though publishers like series, most publishers have been struggling with down sales and are now less willing to take risks on an entire series (especially if it’s written by an unknown author). If a book sells well, though, they may then be willing to talk series, or at least sequel.

Pay It Forward July 8, 2010

Posted by Ronica Stromberg in Uncategorized.
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I occasionally receive writing opportunities through networking. This happened a couple of weeks ago when I befriended a woman at a baseball game of one of my sons. She works at Back to the Bible, read some of my writing, and offered me the chance to write a Christmas script. I would be writing on spec, but if Back to the Bible chose my script, they would air it nationwide on the radio and churches might enact it during services or programs. I would be paid for my effort regardless but would be paid more if my script was chosen. Only one other writer would be competing with me for the contract.

I saw the type of gleaming CD that would go to radio stations and churches with my name on it, and I was entranced. But, who was I kidding? I don’t write poetry or plays. Just no interest. Still, I agreed to try to my hand at the Christmas script.

I was working for the Secretary of State during the week, so I had little time to work on the script then. When the weekend came, I felt no enthusiasm for the project. And I kept remembering a woman from one of my writing groups years ago who loved writing Christian plays and skits and had won several awards and contests for her work. Every time I picked up the CD, I pictured her face. I prayed about what God would have me do. I hadn’t spoken to the woman in probably ten years, but I decided if I could find her phone number, I would call her and see if she would be interested in the project. I had no trouble locating her and was talking to her within five minutes. She was so excited and enthusiastic about the work. I told her I would pass along her information to my friend at Back to the Bible (and I did). This woman now owns her own playwright business and, remembering I copy edit for corporations as well as write for children, she requested my copy editing rates for her own use and other companies she works with. I don’t know if I’ll ever receive any work through this contact, and I know I passed along a tremendous opportunity rather than taking it myself. But I think I did the right thing. I’m looking forward to hearing this script at Christmastime.