The different types of romance (subgenre) are as varied as the people who read romances. Even young adult romance has its place. These stories are light on intimacy, usually nothing heavier than a few kisses and holding hands. They deal with topics like problems with teachers, sports, weight, and shyness, but sometimes the themes move into more serious areas—bullying, death, parental divorce or even abuse.

A short step above the young adult romance is the sweet romance—books like Harlequin or Silhouette Romance. Graphic sex is a no-no here. Story lines are simple and usually revolve around issues of courtship.

From there, books gradually become longer with themes that are more complex. They contain love scenes that are more explicit and can range from a simple love story to the leave-nothing-to-the-imagination XXX-rated mental romp.

In addition to these basic rules, romance has branched out to encompass other genres.

Contemporary romance indicates stories set in the here and now, books about the sort of people we see every day. They can range from the sweet, discussed above, to varying degrees of sensuality.
Inspirational romance, as the name implies, are books aimed at the Christian market. Usually light on the love scenes, they are stories of faith and how it helps couples through difficult periods in their lives.
Fantasy romance is a subgenre that has become popular over the past few years. These are stories of dragons and wizards, castles and magic kingdoms. They often require the creation of an entire fantasy world.
Futuristic romance is much like the fantasies, only they’re set in this world, hundreds or thousands of years in the future. These books take things in this world—travel, weapons, government, environment etc., and imagine what they will be like in a future world.
Multicultural romance is another new subgenre. These are “romances of color” and have heroes and heroines of a Latino, African American or Asian culture. Most have their own trade name, like Kensington’s Arabesque and Genesis.
Time travel romance has several variations. Sometimes a character from the past or future ends up in the present, or a character from the present goes back to the past or into the future. To take this to the extreme, theoretically, someone from the future could travel into the past.

While we are talking about writing romance, I want to mention “Regency Romance.” The Regency was a brief period of English history that was characterized by elegance and upheaval. Named for the Prince Regent, who ruled the country from 1811-1820 after his father, George III, went insane, the era saw much political, social, and military change, including the beginnings of the industrial revolution, agricultural reform, the movement of population from country to city, and the beginnings of a social conscience and women’s rights.Much of the aristocracy took its cue from the Regent, a fat, fashion-conscious, fun-loving man whose interests encompassed art, architecture, food, music, clothes, and women. In many ways, the scandals surrounding the royal family today mirror those associated with their Regency ancestors.

Notable figures of the period include:

• Napoleon—the megalomaniac who tried to take over Europe
• Wellington—the man who prevented him from doing it
• Jane Austen—the first Regency romance author
• Beau Brummel—the dandy who dictated fashion
• Lady Jersey, the Countess Lieven, Princess Esterhazy, Mrs. Drummond-Burrell, Lady Sefton, and other Almack’s patronesses—the women who determined everyone’s social standing
• Writers—Sir Walter Scott, Byron, Shelley, Keats, Wordsworth, Mary Shelley, and others
• Musicians—Beethoven, Schubert, Paganini, Rossini and others
• Artists—Blake, Turner, Constable, and others

When we add an amusing collection of bucks, blades, dandies, rogues, rakes, rapscallions, and dowagers with jewels, we begin to taste the flavor of Regency Romance. Bright, witty, light-hearted, and usually chaste, Regency Romances are comedies of manners and mores that capture the opulence, glitter and elegance of a fleeting but romantic moment in history.

If you think you want to write romance and are just starting out, read several books from each genre to get a feel for what interests you most. Once you determine that, do your research for the story you are writing and make sure you are accurate. Your story might be fiction, but your research must be authentic. That is true no matter what kind of book you write. Most of all, enjoy the process. Have fun!

Thank you for stopping by. Next time I will talk to you about writing science fiction.



Claiming just under 60 percent of the total mass market paperback sales, romance is by far the most popular genre. Perhaps this is because no genre is as varied as romance. Or it simply might be that there’s a part of all of us that wants a happily-ever-after ending.
So what exactly defines a romance novel? Rita Clay Estrada and Rita Gallagher, the co-founders of the Romance Writers of America, say: “Any story where the main theme is love (One True Love) is a romance.” Along with the main theme of love, a romance novel has two important ingredients: sexual awareness and sexual tension.
There are four basic rules for writing the romance novel:

Rule One: From the first time they meet, the hero and the heroine are deeply aware of each other. They don’t have to like each other instantly, but this awareness escalates and culminates in the resolution.

Rule Two: The hero and heroine should be together as much as possible. When they are apart, the absent one should be kept in the reader’s mind through memories, yearnings, etc.

Rule Three: Each time the hero and heroine are together, their feelings should take on another aspect or reach another level. Their emotions will strengthen, shake, threaten—and as the book progresses—solidify the relationship.

Rule Four: The senses of the hero and heroine are sharpened when they are together. Whether fighting or on the verge of making love, sexual tension escalates with each scene.

At one time the term “romance” was used for any imaginative novel, and included genres now known as adventure, historical and science fiction. Romance was also used as a synonym for troubadour tales, dealing with courtly love. These days, the literary use of the term is confined to novels in which the main plot is concerned with a love affair.

The Romantic Novel
First, there is the romantic novel. The romantic novel typically contains a love affair that is treated with realism. This love interest will be presented as one part of the protagonist’s story. The affair may end happily or unhappily, or the romance may appear as an existing, ongoing, relationship. The protagonist may have more than one serious romantic attachment in the course of the novel. The romantic novel is sometimes known as “women’s fiction”. A lighthearted or acerbic version with a heroine in her twenties or early thirties is sometimes called “chick lit”.

The Romance Novel
The romance novel, on the other hand, is a novel in which the love affair is by far the most important part of the plot. The hero and heroine are rarely apart for more than a handful of pages and other characters are kept on the sidelines. The end will be happy, and there will be some kind of positive commitment and resolution. This may be a marriage proposal, a wedding or simply an affirmation that this love is forever.

Most of these romances are known as category romance, and are sold in “lines” which have their own guidelines and expectations. Straightforward modern-day category romances come in different models.
The “long contemporary” will be at least 70,000 words.
The “short contemporary” is usually around 55,000 words.
Then there are “sweet” and “sexy” romances which range from G-rated innocence to M-rated explicitness.

Different lines are slanted so that readers will know by the packaging whether they can expect mystery, detection, or thriller elements with their romance.

The placement of the love affair and the happiness of the ending are set in the contemporary category romance. In addition, heroes and heroines are expected to be well-matched in age, intelligence and ability. Some lines expect the heroine to have a high-powered job. Most still require the heroine to be attractive, even if she isn’t classically beautiful.

Heroes need not be classically handsome, but they are still more likely to be taller and more striking than average, just as they will be more commanding and powerful than the usual run of males.

The editors of many lines frown on manuscripts where either hero or heroine is connected with the arts. They also prefer not to have heroes who seem to be mechanics or farmers when the heroine and reader first meet them only to turn out to be something else later in the story.

The overbearing hero has gone out of fashion, and so has the virginal “schoolroom miss” heroine—except in a few subgenres like the regency.

All of this might feel restricting for the author, but the strict guidelines have come about from surveys and buying trends. Statistics prove that the books with the tall dark handsome heroes sell better, and those with the artist heroines, older heroine and mechanic or farmer hero sell substantially fewer copies.

The different types of romance (subgenres) are as varied as the people who read romances. In my next blog, I will discuss the different romance subgenres.

Thanks for stopping by.



This has been an extremely busy year, and as we approach the end of 2014, I wanted to give you an update on what books have been published over the past several months and represented by the Barbara Casey Agency. All of these books were published by traditional, royalty-paying publishers, either highly rated independents or major houses. You will see that the subjects are many and varied. These books are available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or by ordering at your favorite bookstore.

In addition to representing established authors, one of the things I especially enjoy as a literary agent is successfully representing new authors. My new authors this year have really made me proud.


Product Details
Never Try to Drink a Chinese Woman under the Table: Plus Other Fun and Practical Tips for Doing Business in China and at Home, written by Richard Bradspies and JD Fox. This was released in early March and has already gone to its second printing. Rich and Jim are marketing dynamos; they think outside the box and have managed to come up with a new idea to add to their marketing each week since their book’s release.


Product Details
Troubled Water, the third book in the Lark Chadwick Mystery Series written by John DeDakis, a former White House Correspondent and copy editor for CNNs Wolf Blitzer, was released in June of this year and is doing exceptionally well in sales. This is a thrilling mystery series told from a female’s perspective.


Product Details
Patriot Priest: The Story of Monsignor WIlliam A. Hemmick, The Vatican’s First American Canon written by Patricia Daly-Lipe, came out in February of this year. A biography of Patricia’s famous great uncle, this is a well researched, fascinating read of one man’s personal experience over several epochs and periods of history and his close connection to royalty, Hollywood, and politicians.


Product Details

Tarnished Heels: How Unethical Actions and Deliberate Deceit at the University of North Carolina Ended The Carolina Way, written by Rob J. Anderson, was released in June of this year and is already in its second printing. Ranked among the 100 top sports books on Amazon since its release, this is a comprehensive insider’s report of what has taken place over the past few decades leading up to the scandal UNC now faces.


In addition to my new authors, I represent over 100 additional authors who have had successful careers in publishing with several titles. Three of these titles released in the recent months are below.


Product Details
Among my established authors, Hawk Mackinney’s The Missing Planets, the second book in his science fiction series The Cairns of Sanctuarie, was just released and is currently on an international book review tour.


Product Details
Hunting the President: Threats, Plots, and Assassination Attempts from FDR to Obama, by British author Mel Ayton, just recently came out and will be followed next year by a sequel that will cover the period between President George Washington to the Depression. This is an exceptional book which reveals information about presidential assassination attempts never before reported.


Product Details

Beyond Reasonable Doubt, also by Mel Ayton, brilliantly addresses the Warren Commission’s report on the John F. Kennedy assassination as well as new information about the assassination.


Product DetailsProduct DetailsProduct DetailsProduct Details

On a more personal note, two of my own novels, The Coach’s Wife and The House of Kane, were re-released in trade paperback in July. They are now available in hard cover, trade paperback, and ebook. My young adult novel, The Cadence of Gypsies, will be re-released with a new cover in hard cover, trade paperback, ebook, and audio book in 2015. The sequel to it is under contract. There is also a third book in this series underway. Finally, for all of you who like scary stories, my short story, Late in the Tenth Month, was published in CATACOMBS ANTHOLOGY.  This collection of short stories is available in hard cover, paperback, and e-book through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and your favorite local bookshop.  The audio version will be ready next month.

Thanks for stopping by. Next time I will talk about writing romance novels, the most popular genre in the publishing world. I will cover such things as what makes a good romance novel, what is required to make it a romance, who is publishing romance, and what are the different types of romance novels.
See you soon!

WRITING NONFICTION: From Boring to Exciting

In my previous blog, I talked about writing book-length fiction for adults and how to make your writing stand out from all of the other submissions. In this blog, I want to talk about writing nonfiction.

Nonfiction is a different animal, but it has some of the same requirements as fiction. For example:

You want a strong beginning that carries throughout your story.

You want to be able to tell your story factually and creatively.

You want to be able to verify your facts.

Most important, you must have strong credentials to be able to write on the subject of your choice. If you are going to write a book on the history of the Empire State Building, at the very least you want to have a close blood relative who helped build it, thus giving you a credible reason for your interest in writing about it in the first place, not to mention never-before-seen photos of the building’s construction, rare blueprints or schematic drawings, and interviews of people who were involved or associated with the project.

There are other things that reflect on how your work of nonfiction will be received by a potential publisher.

1. Write about something that really interests you. Emerson said, “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” He was right. Pick a subject that bores you and you’ll write a boring book (if you manage to finish at all); but if you’re fascinated with your material you’ll not only enjoy writing it, you will write a book that conveys that excitement to the reader.

2. Be quiet and listen. With all that is available on the Internet, a great deal of research can be accomplished without ever leaving your computer. But to write a comprehensive, book-length work of nonfiction, you will want to go beyond the Internet for primary and even secondary sources, as well as tidbits of information that will make your writing fresh. Biography, true crime, narrative, how-to and self-help are different types of nonfiction that can be improved with the inclusion of information received through personal interviews. This requires you to be both sociable and a bit of a recluse. It’s definitely not for the morbidly shy. You have to cold-call a lot of perfect strangers, and in some cases get them to tell you their darkest secrets. Why should a stranger tell you anything, especially since you are going to broadcast it to the world in book form? That is where “be quiet and listen” comes in. You sympathize, and you listen for however long the interview takes. You will be amazed at how often people will seize the opportunity to talk when they think someone is interested. So, when interviewing, don’t just tick off a laundry list of questions; let the person talk, be quiet and listen, and respond to what he or she is saying. You’ll be amazed at what you learn.

3. While working on his final novel, THE LAST TYCOON, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in his notes in all caps: ACTION IS CHARACTER. It is, and it is applicable in both fiction and nonfiction. Human beings are far too complex to explain away with just a few adjectives. Yet this is probably the most common mistake I see as an agent and professional editor in the submissions I receive. Although “show, don’t tell” doesn’t apply in every situation, an experienced writer will use the technique more often than not. Let your reader see and hear how your characters behave, and let your reader (for the most part) draw his or her own conclusions.

4. Be prepared. Fiction writers can get away with a certain amount of spontaneity in their writing; indeed, half the fun (and agony) of fiction writing is finding out where exactly your story or novel is going as you write it. If you’re Faulkner, it’s okay to fill a glass with bourbon and branch water and get slowly potted while you (or your genius or daemon or what you will) channels the deathless prose of Absalom, Absalom! However, nonfiction writers don’t really have that luxury, and biographers certainly don’t. First, you have to do your research. Then you find your structure (is it chronological, thematic, a little of both?). Finally, you put all those quotes and factoids in their proper order. I find it helpful to start with a bare bones outline. Then I start adding to that outline such things as main events. From that I am able to plug in my research. This is an over-simplification because in reality even just these basic steps require months of writing and revising before a final, coherent story forms. The important thing to remember is that you must be prepared: good research leads to a strong structure which leads to a coherent story.
5. Final notes before submitting your manuscript. I am a perfectionist and perform my work tasks under the belief that “first impressions count.” With this in mind, there are a few things you need to complete or at least prepare for before submitting your nonfiction manuscript to an agent or publisher.

– Cover page: This should include your book title, your name, address, e-mail address, telephone number, and any other methods of contacting you, like fax or mobile numbers.

– Table of contents: Most word-processing packages will work this out for you. However, not all of them will update automatically. The last thing you should do before printing out your manuscript is to make sure the table of contents is accurate. It is annoying and time-consuming for an editor to try to find a chapter based on an incorrect table of contents.

– Figures and tables: Your publisher will probably have guidelines for how these are to be produced. The standard way of numbering figures is to use the chapter number as a reference. For example, the first figure in chapter three will be Figure 3.1. The first table in chapter three will be Table 3.1. If the publisher has asked for figures and tables to be provided separately as well as in the body of the text, make sure you do so. And always double-check the numbering. A numbering convention that changes halfway through the manuscript is unsettling and unprofessional. So are duplicate numbers. If you add in an extra figure or table, make sure you re-number all the subsequent ones.

– References and further reading: Many nonfiction books use references or lists of further reading. It is your moral obligation to reference another author or researcher’s work where you have used his or her words or ideas in your own manuscript. There are several different styles for referencing. Harvard and St. Martins are two of the common styles. I use the Chicago Manual of Style, but check if your publisher has a particular format they want you to use. Double-check that any reference used in the text is also present in your bibliography or references list at the end of the manuscript. Your further reading lists should be set out in the same way to give the reader enough information to find the book or article if she wants to take a topic further.

– Index: Indexing can be a nightmare. It is also almost impossible to do at manuscript stage as you will not have the final page numbers. However, you can compile a list of index entries and sub-entries. This will help you later if you are expected to do the index. Some publishers use professional indexers so this option might be available to you. However, professional indexers will rarely know the subject matter as well as you, so they might miss key phrases. It is better, if a lot more work, to compile the index entries yourself and then let the publisher decide how to take that list forward.

– Proofreading: At this point you are too close to the text to give your work an accurate proofreading. Give it to someone you trust for a final proofread or hire a professional book editor to proofread your work. Ask your proofreader to also be on the lookout for paragraphs that make no sense or that are not clear. As you are a subject-matter expert, it is often easy to churn out whole pages that make perfect sense to you but mean absolutely nothing to your reader. There is no point in having beautifully polished prose if it is not accessible.

– Your final read through: Once you have your manuscript back from the proofreader, you are free to incorporate anything the proofreader has suggested or not. As you read through the suggested changes, try to read the text yourself with a fresh eye. There comes a point where you have to stop editing, but if you think you can improve something, you probably can.

– Presentation: it goes without saying that your final manuscript (in paper format) must be double-spaced, neatly printed with sufficient margins and numbered pages. If you are e-mailing your final version, the same rules apply. Avoid widows and orphans on pages. Set the margins wide. Double-space, add page numbers and proper header, and make sure that section and page breaks are logical without leaving blank pages in the middle of your manuscript. Whether you are using snail mail or e-mail, include any other files, like photographs, copies of figures and tables, and your biography for the cover. I like to include a dedication at this stage as well.

Hopefully, I have been able to give you some constructive pointers to use the next time you are writing nonfiction. For my next discussion, I want to bring you up to date on the new exciting things that have been going on in the Barbara Casey Agency.

Thank you for stopping by.




As an agent I receive hundreds of manuscripts throughout the year from authors seeking representation. For the most part, the manuscripts—both fiction and nonfiction—are well written, interesting, and entertaining. But in today’s market, that isn’t good enough. A manuscript must stand out from the rest in such a way that I have full confidence I can successfully place it with a publisher. In this blog, I want to discuss writing adult fiction, and a few things that will make your manuscript stand out from the others.

1. Write something that is new, gripping, and exciting.
You can use themes and subjects that have been used before, but put a different twist on it. Use your own background and experience to make it unique and different and believable. For example, in my novel The House of Kane, I pull from my experiences as an author, editor, and agent, and the knowledge I have garnered over these many years of what takes place inside a publishing house. This realism is interspersed throughout my fictional story of Aislinn Marchánt, a writer and editorial consultant who is hired by the major New York publishing company, Kane Publishing House, to help determine why several submissions sent to them have mysteriously disappeared only to be published later by another publisher. Are the editors at Kane simply not being diligent enough with the in-coming submissions, or is there something more sinister going on? Working between her West Palm Beach home and New York City, Aislinn quickly becomes involved with the House of Kane as well as with Caldwell Kane, the man who hired her.

2. Start the story on the day that is different.
In Anne of Green Gables, Montgomery begins her story on the day Anne Shirley, an orphan, is to arrive at her new home.

Alcott starts Little Women with this passage: “Christmas won’t be like Christmas without any presents,” said Jo lying on the rug.

In my novel, The Gospel According to Prissy, I start the book with my main character, Laramie Larkins Kruger, driving up to the hospital emergency door—the moment when everything in Laramie’s life changes:

It was the second time in twice as many weeks. The hand that had been holding a bloody towel against the left side of her face somehow managed to push the car door open….

When beginning your book, think about peril—physical as well as emotional—or adventure, excitement, or change. View your story as a snapshot in time. Everything was normal until this happened.

3. Set the tone in the very first sentences.
Setting the tone means letting the reader know if the story is a western or mystery, a contemporary romance or spoof, early on.

I was a leader of a critique group at the SCBWI National Convention several years ago. In one participant’s YA story, it started out very funny. Then we found out the protagonist had been a victim of rape. We felt like a bad joke had been played on us. The tone to this story was totally misleading.

How do you set the tone?
By choosing words carefully—strong active nouns and verbs.
By paying attention to subtle differences/meaning.
By descriptions, and
By dialogue.

In my novel Shyla’s Initiative, I begin my story in a setting that introduces one of the major themes that runs throughout the story—an ancient, little-known off-shoot religion tied to Santeria. It lets the reader know that there is something strange, mysterious, yet to be defined, and a little threatening.

As it was in the beginning, it had always been; and so it was now. Four people, three men and a woman, made their way single file on the stone path that marked its way through the dense foliage of flowering hibiscus and oleander, large crotons, and sweet-scented lantana. Some of the planting were large, some of the small; some of them grew in wild abandon, others in cultivated rows. The plants had been carefully selected, as had each stone, and brought together at this place in this form and pattern for the sole purpose of pleasing the orishas, those emissaries who ruled over every force of nature and every aspect of human life.
At the end of the path the four people came to a clearing surrounded by cypress trees, tall and aged. This is where the altar stood. It was that time of day when things appeared diminished in definition and somewhat muted. Colors were no longer distinct, having faded into indistinguishable earth tones. Birds ceased their song, other creatures simply paused as though listening and waiting for the unfolding events of night; and like the disappearing sun far off in the horizon, everything was suddenly less visible. It was dusk.

The tone escalates as the plot develops, and in this case the reader feels the foreboding, anxiety, fear, uncertainty, and mystery.

4. Get the first paragraphs right—TECHNICALLY.

There are at least four things the reader should know by the end of the first few paragraphs:

– Who is the protagonist? Boy or girl? Man or woman? What’s his or her name? How old is he or she?
– What is the time—historically speaking?
– Where is the story taking place?
– Finally, we want to know if reading the story will make us too scared to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night or make us pine for the handsome and sensitive Dirk, our heart throb.

5. Trends revisited.
As in children’s books, themes and subject matter have changed over the years in adult books. One of the current popular categories is “thriller.” There is the medical thriller, political thriller, science fiction thriller, mainstream thriller, psychological thriller, religious thriller, and even romance thriller. Divorce, drugs, abuse, and death are popular themes in today’s market, and in general, anything with a cutting edge. Science fiction and fantasy are also popular, and romance has evolved into several different levels that include everything from bodice-ripping heart-throb romance to chick lit and inspirational/religious romance. It is important to be aware of trends, but it is equally important to remember that trends don’t usually last. Already I am hearing from publishers they are tired of thrillers—they want something new.

Finally. one word of caution: Don’t take the current best seller and think you can improve on it or write something similar that will be just as popular. It won’t. When Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code was first released, I must have received well over a thousand submissions with the word “Code” in the title. Come up with your own story—unique and unlike anything else on the market.

Next time I’ll talk about writing nonfiction and some of the important elements that will make a publisher or agent sit up and take notice.
Thanks for stopping by.



For this blog, I want to discuss some of the basics in writing children’s books such as the different types of children’s books, current trends, and what needs to be included for the age they are written.

As an agent, I receive several hundred manuscripts a year written for children—everything from illustrated picture books to new/young adult novels. As an author, in addition to my six published novels written for adults, I have had two middle-grade novels, and two young/new adult novels published. Over the years, I have learned a few things that make a children’s book appealing to an editor, and I have observed many changing trends. It is some of those things I want to share with you.

To begin with, children’s books are not a genre, but a specific kind of writing. The books themselves embrace almost the same genres as adult fiction and nonfiction, with the added dimension of being age-specific. The term “Children’s Book” is broad, and it covers everything from the picture book, which is simply captioned pictures, to the sophisticated young/new adult science fiction novel. Within that range, you can find historical fiction and nonfiction, adventure, romance, mystery, detective, science fiction, fantasy and horror.
Themes and subject matter change rapidly in children’s books. What might be popular today will probably be forgotten tomorrow. Gone are the days of Pokey Little Puppy and The Shy Little Kitten. A vivid, and sometimes harsh, reality has spread through all age groups. Now for picture books, we have Suzie Cockroach, the story of a black child living in a New York slum area with no friends other than a cockroach that lives under the kitchen sink. Or, more recently, Everybody Poops and Poop Is Fun. And we don’t want to forget that book that came out not too long ago titled, It All Began with a Bean, and it answers that all-important universal question of what would happen if everyone had flatulence at the same moment. What was once considered a nice book for children has been shoved to the background and replaced with cutting-edge reality and off-beat humor.

In order to be successful in writing for children, it helps to have a broad knowledge of modern fiction. Except for books written for the very young reader, children’s novels these days are expected to have logical plots, themes, character development, and style. So what are some of the genres you will not find in the children’s book world?

– You are unlikely to find erotic horror (although there are vampire stories at the YA level), and you won’t find straight erotica.

– You won’t find romance at the younger levels (although it certainly flourishes on the YA shelves).

– You probably won’t find police procedurals, but certainly mysteries are popular at both the middle grade and young adult levels.

– Books about friendship are common, and may lay the ground for later romances.

Although there are always exceptions, in general children’s books usually follow certain rules:

– Children’s books are usually shorter than books for adults.

– Characters are usually young; the rule of thumb is that the main protagonist and the viewpoint of that character(s) should be one or two years older than the intended readers.

– Books for young (pre-teenage) readers will probably have a simpler vocabulary and less introspection.

– Endings will often be “for now” or “until the next time”. For example, a romance between two 14-year-old protagonists can rarely end in any kind of permanency. If seeking a happy or satisfactory ending for a children’s book, you should look for the best solution “for now” (at this point in the protagonists’ lives).

– Happy or satisfactory endings still rule in books for young children, but teenagers are just as likely to find their books ending sadly or resignedly.

– The “freedom” of childhood is less likely to be used as a theme in modern children’s books.

– The main difference between writing for younger readers and writing for adults, apart from the age of protagonists, is that the writer should see things from the viewpoint of a child or teenager. Whatever the situation, you should focus on the way it affects the young protagonists. Certainly adults should be presented as well-rounded and credible characters, but they are not the main focus. If you find yourself empathizing with your child-character’s parents instead of with your hero or heroine, you must change direction—and remember that you are writing about children rather than for them.

– Young adult or teenage fiction is still considered part of the children’s book world. The ages of the protagonists will probably be somewhere between twelve and twenty. Teenagers are generally more skeptical and less accepting than younger children, so this should be reflected in their fiction. In my young adult novel, The Cadence of Gypsies, the story centers around three high-spirited 17 year olds, all three orphans, and all three with intelligence quotients in the genius range. They accompany their teacher to a small village in Italy in an attempt to help her discover the truth of her own past. There is mystery, humor, fear, and sadness throughout the story written at a level that can be felt and understood by older teens and adults. Because it is written for older teens, I was able to write from the viewpoint of the three girls as well as some of the other adult characters revealed in the story.

– Picture books, sometimes called picture story books, will have a short text which usually falls between 400 and 800 words. It will almost certainly have thirty-two pages, it will begin with a statement or setting out of a situation, and it will close with a punchline or affirmation. The illustrations will interpret rather than illustrate the text, and will add quite a lot of information. The main character(s) will probably be a young child, who may interact with an older person, animals, toys, or even fantasy characters.

– Falling between the picture book and young adult novel come chapter books or middle grade novels. These are novels of most genres with subject matter and characters designed to appeal to children. They come in a variety of lengths and formats, from the quick and easy reads illustrated lavishly with line drawings to the more substantial books for older, more confident readers. Mysteries, science fiction, and fantasy are especially popular with this age group. Children’s chapter books may well be longer than young adult novels, but will usually fall somewhere between 10,000 and 70,000 words.

– Most recently a new category called “New Adult” has been added, and this category includes books that are written for readers in their early twenties, already finished with school, and probably out in the work force. These books focus on themes and problems associated with that age group, and are more explicit in word choice. The length of a new adult novel can vary, but it tends to be slightly longer than a young adult novel, around 60,000 words and up.

I hope this information will help you as you try to decide where your voice is and which age group it will appeal to. Good luck!



Many of the submissions I receive as an agent are children’s books. I find that inexperienced writers often decide to write a children’s book because they think it is easier than writing for adults. That simply is not true. There is more latitude when writing for adults. Things like change of perspective or point of view, length of text, language and word choice are just some examples. When writing for children, however, there are certain things that will make your manuscript stronger. For example:

1. Keep the first chapter short. By keeping the first chapter short, the writer gives young readers a boost in confidence, a win, a success. Our youngest readers are often intimidated by the length of a book. By keeping the first chapter short, the reader gains immediate gratification and is more likely to tackle subsequent chapters

2. Do solve the main conflict of your story. Open-ended conclusions are fine for adults, but kids—especially young kids—need closure. They need to feel that all is right with the world—their world.

In Mercer Meyer’s classic picture book There’s a Nightmare in my Closet, a young boy is afraid to turn out the lights and go to sleep. He is absolutely positive there is a monster lurking in his closet. He solves the problem by confronting the nightmare—who is afraid of the dark, too—and inviting it under the covers with him. As the two snuggle down to sleep, the boy says, “There might be another nightmare in my closet, but my bed isn’t big enough for three.” That is a satisfying ending.

3. Do have your protagonist solve the main conflict in the story—not a doting auntie or kindly teacher. Give the power to the children—not the adults.

In my young adult novel The Cadence of Gypsies, three high-spirited 17 year olds, with intelligent quotients in the genius range, accompany their teacher and mentor, Carolina Lovel, to Frascati, Italy, a few weeks before they are to graduate from Wood Rose Orphanage and Academy for Young Women. Carolina’s purpose in planning the trip is to remove her gifted, creative students from the Wood Rose campus so they can’t cause any more problems (“expressions of creativity”) for the headmaster, faculty, and other students – which they do with regularity. Carolina also wants to visit the Villa Mondragone where the Voynich Manuscript, the most mysterious document in the world, was first discovered and search how it is related to a paper written in the same script she received on her 18th birthday when she was told that she was adopted. That search will fill in all of the missing pieces of Carolina’s past, but it also allows her students to discover something meaningful within themselves, accept their own pasts, and look forward to the future

4. Do have your protagonist change in some way by the end of the book. He or she should learn something significant about his or herself and the world. Valid changes must be gradual and tied logically to your plot and characterizations

5. Do remember to end your story when it ends. After the climax, when the main conflict is solved or the situation accepted, the story is over. Tie loose ends quickly. At the conclusion of Cinderella the glass slipper fits, crowds cheer, the wicked stepmother is foiled, and Cinderella and her prince live happily ever after. THE END. Readers aren’t the least bit interested in reading about where the prince took Cindy on their honeymoon, what they ate for breakfast, or who cleaned the cinders from the palace hearth.

6. Do offer honesty… and hope. Not every day is a sunny one, but your protagonist should always triumph, should always get what he or she deserves—and so should your villain.

The philosopher Aristotle believed that history shows us things as they are, whereas fiction shows us things as they could be or ought to be. Offer children a satisfying ending in which hope plays a paramount role: that they have the power to change their lives to what could be… and should be.

Next time I will discuss the different types of children’s books, current trends, and what needs to be included for the age they are written.

Thanks for stopping by.


A QUICK OVERVIEW OF PUBLISHING: The Importance of a Marketing Plan

Never has getting published been more difficult than it is today. With computers, more people working at home, and the use of digital, lap-top, electronic, print-on-demand, and self-publishing, in addition to traditional publishing, manuscript submissions are at an all-time high. Publishing houses are inundated. With competition being at the level it is, less than 3 percent of all submissions are accepted for publication. This is astounding! Because of this, it is absolutely imperative that writers do everything they can in order to create their own edge. That includes preparing a workable, realistic marketing plan.

Whether a writer is approaching an agent or a publisher, professionalism is a must. This means clean submissions, properly formatted, carefully edited, and sent to the correct editor or agent with an appropriate cover letter. It also means following the specific guidelines requested by the agency or publishing house you are submitting to. It is like going to war with defined rules of engagement, beginning with the elements that must be included in a good cover letter: title of manuscript, word count, background information on the author, brief synopsis. Attach sample chapters and, of course, your marketing plan. This is such an important “first impression” step to getting a manuscript read that many times a writer will pay a professional editor to write the cover letter.

It used to be that once a publisher contracted for a work, he took on the responsibility of also marketing that work for the purpose of gaining the most sales. The most an author had to do was occasionally show up at a book signing event that had been arranged by the publisher. Today, most publishers reserve the bulk of their marketing budgets for their big-name authors already under contract. All of the other authors pretty much have to fend for themselves. This means going out and beating the bushes for book signings, speaking engagements, attending book events, writing news releases and anything else you can do in order to sell your book. Creativity is a definite plus.

I first got the idea for my novel, Shyla’s Initiative, when I read an article about a little-known offshoot from the ancient religion, Santeria. The story explained how even today it is practiced throughout the country, especially in South Florida. I immediately began visiting all of the botanicas I could find, interviewing Santeria priests who would talk to me. This background paved the way for Shyla’s Initiative, my story of a writer who was starting to feel trapped in an unhappy marriage. The fact that she had married outside of her culture contributed to the problem, among other things. Throughout the story, there is an underlying, mysterious thread that eventually connects my protagonist, Shyla, with Santeria that eventually reveals her purpose in life. In doing my research, one Santeria priest in particular was helpful and invited me to one of their services that included animal sacrifice. I even offered to pay him for any inconvenience, but he adamantly refused, saying he would be punished by the orishas if he accepted money. He asked only that I give him a copy of my book when it was published.

When my book was published, I returned to the botanica several times in order to give him a copy of my book, but he was never there. Weeks passed, and with the passage of time I began to get an overwhelming feeling of apprehension that I had failed somehow. Perhaps I had even angered the orishas.  I needed to get my book to that priest!

Eventually I did, and even though it had been several months since I had spoken with him, he recognized me. He smiled when I gave him a signed copy of my book, then he spoke in the ancient language of Santeria. I believe it was a blessing and not a curse since my feelings of apprehension quickly disappeared. After that I went back to all of the botanicas I had visited when gathering my research and left books for them to sell. It turned out to be a wonderful marketing tool.

So how do you go about preparing a marketing plan to include with a submission—either to an agent or to a publisher?

BE SPECIFIC: What can you do, personally, to promote your book? For example, if you are a school teacher, perhaps you can promote in the schools. What about business connections? Your activities in the church or synagogue? Does your best bud belong to a book club? Will the owner of the little gift shop you like to browse in be willing to display some of your books and sell them on consignment?

My novel, The House of Kane, is a mystery that takes place inside a major New York publishing house. Aislinn Marchánt, a writer and editorial consultant, is hired by the major New York publishing company, Kane Publishing House, to help determine why several submissions sent to them have mysteriously disappeared only to be published later by another publisher. Are the editors at Kane simply not being diligent enough with the in-coming manuscripts, or is there something more sinister going on? Because of my work within the publishing industry both as a published author and a literary agent, I was able to realistically portray what actually goes on with submissions behind the closed doors of major publishing houses, and because of this realism and the story itself, The House of Kane was considered for a Pulitzer nomination. Two years later, my novel The Gospel According to Prissy was also considered for a Pulitzer.  I didn’t win a Pulitzer, but the fact that both books were submitted for consideration has been a useful marketing tool.

BE PREPARED: Once your book gets published, marketing takes a great deal of time and preparation. Remember, the publisher is saving his marketing money for his big-name established authors, so it doesn’t hurt for you to plan a budget as well. Know in advance how much you are willing to invest in marketing your book. Personally visit the bookstores in your area and outside of your area if you are able to travel to let them know you are available to do book signings. Show the bookstore managers your book and leave information that they can review later. Send out news releases. Send out announcements. And get involved with social media on the internet.

BE CREATIVE: Think outside the box. One of my own personal favorite things to do in marketing is to introduce myself to the directors of libraries locally as well as regionally. I do this in person whenever possible thereby building a relationship with the people who work in the library. Then, when my next book is released, I take a copy by to donate to the library or to their “Friends of the Library.” Invariably, that leads to sales.

You will be able to come up with your own ideas based on what is going on in your life. Organize those ideas into a good plan that you can include with your submission to an agent or publisher. You will be surprised how this one element of your submission will contribute to your getting an offer of a publishing contract.

Good luck!


Virtual Super Book Blast Tour: THE COACH’S WIFE BY BARBARA CASEY

SBB The Coachs Wife Banner copy

My mystery/suspense novel, The Coach’s Wife, has just been released in paperback and is available through Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and all leading book retailers.  Reviews and comments throughout the United States and several foreign countries will be posted on my virtual blog tour at www.GoddessFish.com as well as on each of the links below on Friday, May 2. I will be awarding a $25 Amazon gift card to a randomly drawn commenter, so I hope you will be able to stop by and visit.


The Internet Web Hosts who will be carrying the tour are:

1: Laurie’s Thoughts and Reviews
2: Our Families Adventure REVIEW
3: Books Direct
4: The Book Review REVIEW
5: Room With Books
6: Paranormal Romance and Authors That Rock REVIEW
7: Beckstar Reviews REVIEW
8: Deal Sharing Aunt
9: Welcome to My World of Dreams
10: Beer, Books and More 
11: My Devotional Thoughts
12: The Pen and Muse Book Reviews
13: Brooke Blogs
14: Book Bling
15: Booklover Sue
16: Book ‘Em North Carolina
17: The Write to Read
18: Sexy Adventures Passionate Tales
19: Writer Wonderland
20: Andi’s Book Reviews
21: Literary Lunes Magazine
22: Reviews by Crystal
23: Bookgirl Knitting
24: Blood Moons and Nightscapes
25: The Cerebral Writer
26: My Odd Little World
27: Tina Donahue Presents
28: Hope. Dreams. Life… Love
29: Dawn’s Reading Nook
30: Queen of the Night Reviews
31: It’s Raining Books
32: Straight from the Library
33: Long and Short Reviews

Another deafening roar exploded from the coliseum, and when it did Marla threw down her partially smoked cigarette and ground it into the polished tile floor with the toe of her shoe. Quickly she reached for another cigarette from the opened pack in her small red handbag. She lit it, sucked the smoke into her mouth, held her breath, coughed, and then slowly released it. Marla didn’t smoke, but when she paced up and down the hallways of basketball coliseums, puffing on cigarettes seemed appropriate. It gave her something to do with her hands, and it helped keep her sane.

Marla Connors, recently married to head basketball coach Neal Connors, travels with her husband to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where the Piedmont State University Coyote team is playing in the NCAA Finals. Marla has not been accepted by the Coyotes, that loyal bunch of fans who follows the university team, partly because she is almost twenty years younger than Coach Connors and a divorcée, but also because the fans are afraid she will distract her husband from his duties as head coach. They see her as someone who married Coach Connors just for his money. Only Gale, the older wife of assistant coach Stu Simmons, goes out of her way to be a friend to Marla.

The Coyote team is plagued with problems from the very beginning of the season, and when they finally manage to reach the NCAA Finals, it’s even worse. Their center is caught using drugs, Athletics Director Charlie Morgan, who is also in Albuquerque for the games, makes a pass at Marla in her hotel room, and Coach Connors comes down with the flu. No one believes that State can win the big game.

With so much happening, Marla can’t shake the feeling that something evil is taking over her life. She tries to convince herself that it is emotional anxiety left over from the abuse she experienced during her first marriage to Dr. Martin Andrews and that the stress from the tournament has brought it once again to the surface. She soon learns, however, that the evil is real and it threatens not only everything she loves, but her very life.

Illegal drugs, illicit affairs, murder, and scandal that shakes the entire university system are woven inextricably into Marla’s life until eventually she comes face to face with her real tormentor. It is only then that she realizes the full depth of her love for her husband–and his love for her.



i will be visiting 28 different book blog sites on Thursday, November 21, to discuss my latest novel THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO PRISSY, a 2013 IPPY Award recipient for Best Regional Fiction. The schedule is listed below, so if you get a chance, please stop by and leave your comments.

I would enjoy hearing from you.

My best,


1: Bunny’s Review
2: Farm Girl Books
3: fundinmental
4: Queen of All She Reads
5: The Hedonistic Minimalist
6: My Devotional Thoughts
7: Deal Sharing Aunt
8: Full Moon Dreaming
9: Reviews by Crystal
10: Renee Luke
11: Kit ‘N Kabookle
12: My Odd Little World
13: Wake Up Your Wild Side
14: Wicked Readings by Tawania
15: Margay Leah Justice
16: Tina Donahue Presents
17: Hope Dreams. Life… Love
18: Sharing Links and Wisdom
19: Serenity Reviews
20: Curse of the Bibliophile
21: The Women’s Fiction Review
22: The Write to Read
23: Book ‘Em North Carolina
24: Hello Romance
25: Long and Short Reviews
26. Welcome to My World of Dreams
27: It’s Raining Books
28: Straight from the Library