Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Guest author Bernadette Walsh

Today we have author Bernadette Walsh as a guest on RtM

“The score is not what matters. Life does not have to be regarded as a game in which scores are kept and somebody wins. If you are too intent on winning, you will never enjoy playing. If you are too obsessed with success, you will forget to live, If you have learned only how to be a success, your life has probably been wasted.”
                                                    ---- Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton was a big deal at my alma mater, St. Bonaventure University. He had taught there for a short time and had mentioned the university in his autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain. I am embarrassed to say that I didn’t read a word of Merton while at Bonaventure. I was too busy taking business classes and studying for the LSATs and chasing boys.

Thankfully as an adult I discovered Merton and when I donated twenty-plus years of books to my local library, some of the few that survived were his books. I took one out today, a book of essays entitled Love and Living and found the above passage, and it really spoke to me.

You see, for most of my life I have been a classic “type A” overachiever. But once I hit forty, I began to revaluate how I lived my life. I think being a working mother taught me the valuable lesson that sometimes “good enough” really is good enough and through simple lack of time, I had to let my perfectionist ways go. I joined a local choir and learned to appreciate being part of the group, rather than striving to be the soloist out front. And when I first started writing, I swore that I would not get caught up in the quest for publication and would instead savor the pure joy of writing.

Of course, despite my original good intentions, my type A tendencies crept into my writing life and I became a slave to my Amazon rankings and how many people on Goodreads added my books on their “to-be-read” pile. Taming my inner perfectionist demons and just going with the flow is probably the most difficult part of writing for me. But last week on Goodreads a friend from college gave one of my books a five star rating. When this woman last saw me I was a skinny twenty year old. But now she has been able to experience who I am and how I’ve (hopefully) grown as a person through my writing. And really, how cool is that?

So Miss Inner-Type-A-Perfectionist-Tyrant, the next time you scour the Amazon rankings and lament how few books you’ve sold, remember what Merton said: “If you are too intent on winning, you will never enjoy playing.” It is true for writing as much as anything else in life.

Thanks for being here today.

Bernadette is currently busy promoting her series Devil's Mountain
Devil_s Mountain-logo-300dpi-5.jpg

Devil’s Mountain
Book One of the Devlin Legacy

Genre: Paranormal Romance/Horror

Publisher: Lyrical Press

ISBN: 9781616503697

Number of pages: 122

Word Count: 39,000

Blurb/Book Description:

You will hate Him for all that he's taken, but you will love Him. God help you, you will love Him.

Mary Devlin accepted her fate years ago, to serve Slanaitheoir, the mountain spirit who saved her ancestors from the Irish Famine. The hauntingly beautiful woman submitted to His every caress, His every humiliation, but He’s gone too far by threatening her family.

Mary’s daughter-in-law is now an unwitting pawn in the fickle spirit’s game. Mary must challenge her fate and that of all future Devlin women, but Slanaitheoir is the most powerful being in the land. And when part of her still yearns for His touch and love, how can she fight him and win?


Bernadette Walsh has been writing contemporary and paranormal romance for four years. She has published three novels to date (The House on Prospect (Echelon Press) and Gold Coast Wives (Lyrical Press)) and the first book of her paranormal trilogy, Devil’s Mountain -- Book One of the Devlin Legacy. While Bernadette has hopped around genres, all of her books to date have a common theme: strong women handling what life throws at them the best way they can.


@BWalshWriter Twitter

https://twitter.com/#!/BWalshWriter http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bernadette-Walsh-Author/196567653686807

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Guest author Christina Leigh Pritchard

Today we have author Christina Leigh Pritchard at RtM.

I asked her my favorite question,
What is the most difficult part of writing for you?

I try to create outlines for my stories, really, I do. The only problem with this is that once you've created a character, they take on a life of their own.

Sure, I want my story to end happily or with a twist. The characters, to my dismay, take control of how the story works. Sometimes, I want to save one that originally was supposed to die, disappear, move, etc., but in all actuality, I've zero control over what happens. This makes serials hard for me. I know what direction my story needs to go in to coincide with the next novel but, when writing; I come to be so engrossed in the characters that they literally shock me by what they end up accomplishing or doing. Sometimes it’s so real, I hate the words my fingers type knowing I’ll have to readjust all future novels. I scream at them for making me pen such things!

Unfortunately, crying is a necessary evil when scripting serials. In order to keep with the outline of the current and existing novels, sometimes I have to follow through on a plan I no longer wish to do. Sometimes the characters dishearten me with their treachery, some I fall deep in love with, others I love then hate... It's a necessary evil in the world of writing but also the hardest struggle. When you hold the power over life and death for even a fictional character, it's not any easier than if they were real living, breathing beings.

When you love the ones you create, it’s hard to destroy them, even when they’re rotten to the core. I think of a new mother when I write. The child is born with such promise. Sometimes, that same baby grows up into the parents’ worse nightmare. Do they love them any less? I doubt it. My characters are my children, writing their misfortunes, even when they probably deserve it, rips my heart in two.

Thank you for being here today, Christina!

Christina is busy promoting her C I N series
Genre: YA


Seventeen year old Lisa Brown’s life is falling apart. First, her mother and father divorce, then their house forecloses and now, her mother has decided to commit herself to a psychiatric hospital.

If that weren’t enough, she must leave sunny south Florida to attend a boarding school full of geniuses in cold, Lynn, Massachusetts. The city where the locals chant “Lynn, Lynn, city of sin; you never come out the way you went in.”

And, they aren’t kidding. Lisa must live in a tiny shack with two strange teenagers, a dog named Pig who growls when you look at him and a cat named Rat. “Mind the cat,” everyone says. What the heck is wrong with this place?

Lisa thinks she’s landed in her own house of horrors with the anti-social Alex and his facetious sister Ally. But, the real drama begins the day she is struck by lightning…

About the Author:

Christina Leigh Pritchard was born and raised in South Florida. Her first stories were written at the age of nine in $0.15 wide ruled, spiral notebooks (which were supposed to be used for class), and in the various diaries she kept. Stories she wrote from age nine to twelve fill about four storage boxes!

Since she's upgraded to a computer, she's completed over fifty books and still going strong. Her genre's include dark fantasy, young adult, drama, suspense, historical romance, multicultural, comedy, poetry and many more.

 Web and social media links:

Book trailer: http://youtu.be/yRdrGVinWdQ

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Christina-Leigh-Pritchard/118941638145057

C I N Series Blog: http://cinseries.com/

Author Blog: http://teeny120.wordpress.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/teeny120

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Lynn-city-never-Series-ebook/dp/B003T0G84A

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Guest author Pandora Richardson

Today I have author Pandora Richardson here at RtM.

I asked her:

What is the most difficult part of writing/publishing for you?

Writing seemed like it would be easy. Come up with an idea, characters, and a plot, mix in a little hubris and naiveté, and then set fingers to keyboard on your Mac or PC. Or at least this is what I thought. I wish someone had told me that committing to a novel meant research, tons of editing, and most importantly time.

Granted, writing the next New York Times bestseller is easier for some than others, but I doubt even for those authors it's as simple as so many of us first time writers are led to believe. Even if you manage to survive the literary gauntlet and after months or years find yourself with a completed manuscript, remember that the party has just begun.

The difficulties when writing are numerous and I am by no means an expert, but moving forward, I have decided to seriously plan out how much time I'm willing to commit each day to my novel and decided to spare no expense toward editing.

Characters and plots are more than names and situations, they have to be layered, three dimensional, and most importantly make your reader care. Even if your novel is expertly formatted, grammatically sound, and has zero mistakes, none of that will matter if the reader could care less about the story and all that it entails.

Looking back I have found that writing a novel is an exercise in balance. I feel more circus performer than English professor as I try to keep my ideas, concepts, and themes well rounded, entertaining, and delivered in a way that proves that I have made it past the second grade. I can't stress the importance of editing enough. Even after publishing my first novel and several rounds of edits, mistakes were still found.

Ultimately writing is not for the faint of heart and even with all the difficulties present in crossing the imagination minefield on your journey toward published author, I can say in all sincerity that this has been the most enjoyable experience in my life. Knowing that your story is being read and enjoyed by the masses produces a feeling in a writer that is incapable of being described adequately in the English lexicon. Remember to follow your passion and keep the faith.

- Pandora

Thanks for being here today!

Pandora is currently on tour for her book 

Amelia Jones Private Detective Series, Book 1


Genre: Mystery, Paranormal

ASIN: B00802VL80

Number of pages: 172

Word Count: 61,000

Purchase Links: http://amzn.to/AmeliaJones

Book Description:

Amelia Jones finds her world turned upside down after meeting a wealthy client who needs evidence of her husband’s infidelity. Even though Amelia's offered a lot of money to go undercover in order to catch him, the situation is more than she can handle and unlike anything the young, virginal detective has ever experienced. Deep down Amelia knows that she should not accept the case, but the allure of money is too hard to resist. Distracted by a series of mysterious events and delicious eye candy, Amelia is lost with choices that threaten to reveal secrets that should remain hidden.

Author Bio:

Pandora Richardson grew up in Northern New Jersey with a pen and a pad stuck in her hand. Throughout her childhood she was either writing the next great American Novel or painting the next Mona Lisa. She always imagined that she would be famous as a writer, an artist, or both. However, life eventually got in the way of her dreams and Pandora found herself working as a consultant in Washington, DC where she now resides with her canine familiar, Loki. The past several years have found Pandora once again committed to writing, this time with her fingers glued to a keyboard. When she’s not creating the next bestseller or engaged in the thrilling misadventures of the Rat Race, Pandora loves to curl up on her sofa reading the next Vampire, Shape-shifter, Wizard, Zombie or Romance novel from one of her favorite authors.


Twitter: @authorpandora

Facebook: authorpandorarichardson

Goodreads: Pandora Richardson

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Guest authors Kathleen McFall and Clark Hays

Today I have authors Kathleen McFall and Clark Hays.

Finding balance, and other myths about the writing life
It’s Friday night and everyone we know is out having some well-deserved fun after a long work week. A nice meal with locally-sourced ingredients, microbrews and trip-hop at a music venue, chalking up at the climbing gym, returning from wind-surfing at Hood River or some other equally Portland-centric activity.

Here at chez Cowboy and Vampire, the TV is on mute, the laptops are fired up and we’re pecking away on another blog post and a new interview while keeping an eye on the tweet stream.

We’re often asked how we balance creative writing (which is super fun and, to be honest, our only reason for living) with marketing (which is hard and soul-sapping). The simple truth is, we don’t. There is no balance. Ever.

We both work day jobs in communications. We’re “lucky” because we write for a living. The unlucky part is that we spend nine-plus hours each day writing on someone else’s timetable and for their purposes, and we’re exhausted by quitting time. That means our creative work and self-promoting usually happens only on nights and weekends.

That also makes trying, and failing, to find balance between working on the next book and marketing the current book more precious than diamond-covered unicorns.

Any second spent not writing creatively seems skin-flayingly torturous, but with hundreds of thousands of books coming out each year, getting Blood and Whiskey noticed demands, tragically, plenty of marketing: blog posts, guest blog posts, interviews, blog tours, media pitches, Facebook posts, tweets, etc., ad infinitum, times a thousand.

We both nurture a secret belief that writers shouldn’t have to be marketers, but the days of martini-swilling publishers and fedora-wearing agents running interference, if they ever existed, are long gone. Today, the writing world requires making peace with self-promotion. We joke that a successful writer is 50 percent talent, 50 percent marketing and 50 percent stubbornness. And probably ten percent “needs to brush up on math skills.”

Our trick to finding balance (keeping in mind that balance is unattainable) between writing and promoting is to convince ourselves that promoting is creative. Or at least endeavor to make it creative. So we find topics that intrigue us (near death experiences, sunstones), sharpen up our skills on every blog post, use interviews to perform a forensic dissection of our books as a way of arming ourselves with the best approaches for the next book. It requires a sustained derangement of the senses, but isn’t that what writing is in the end?

There’s only one rule: never give up. Do something to self-promote every day until it’s time to move on to the next book. And after years of working together, we’ve come up with a highly scientific process to determine exactly when to unbalance the two and switch back to straight creative writing: when you just can’t write one more self-promoting word without vomiting on the keyboard.

Actually, that would make a pretty good blog post.

About the authors: Clark Hays and Kathleen McFall wrote The Cowboy and the Vampire: A Darkly Romantic Mystery, and Blood and Whiskey. They are currently working on the next book in the series, when they aren’t marketing. Find out more at www.cowboyandvampire.com.

Currently on tour for their book Blood and Whiskey


Blood and Whiskey
A Cowboy and Vampire Thriller
by Clark Hays and Kathleen McFall
Publication date: May 1, 2012
Fiction, Trade Paperback (362 pages) $14.95; e-book $4.99
ISBN: 978-0-9838200-1-7; Library of Congress Control Number: 2012902814


Wanted: Lizzie Vaughan, Dead or Alive

Relationships are always hard, but for a broke cowboy and a newly turned Vampire, true love may be lethal.

After barely surviving an undead apocalypse in The Cowboy and the Vampire, Tucker and Lizzie hightail it back to quirky LonePine, Wyoming (population 438), to start a family. But she’s got a growing thirst for blood and he’s realizing that mortality ain’t all it’s cracked up to be when your girlfriend may live forever. With a scheming Vampire nation hot on their boot heels and a price on her head, how far will Lizzie and Tucker go to protect their unlikely love?

Blending evolution, religion and an overly sensitive cow dog named Rex, Blood and Whiskey drags the Vampire myth into the modern west, delivering double-barreled action, heart-pounding passion and wicked humor. 


Long before Twilight and Vampire Diaries, Llewellyn published the first book of a thriller series, The Cowboy and the Vampire, in 1999, in trade paperback, with a print run of 10,000 (which sold out). It then went out of print. In response to the Twilight and Vampire Diaries mania, Midnight Ink, an imprint of Llewellyn, released a second edition in 2010 with a print run of 6,000, and, for the first time, with an e-book edition. Blood and Whiskey, the second book in the thriller series, is now being published by Pumpjack Press. Both books are by husband and wife writing team Clark Hays and Kathleen McFall.


Clark Hays grew up in Montana in the shadow of the Tobacco Root Mountains. In addition to his fiction work, he is a cowboy, a published poet and occasional food critic. Recently, he was nominated for Pushcart Prize for short fiction and not so recently for a Rhysling award for poetry. Clark brings a deep knowledge about the modern west, weaponry, country music and existentialism to his writing.

Kathleen McFall grew up in the heart of Washington, D.C. She worked as a petroleum geologist and, later, as a journalist, and has published hundreds of articles about scientific research, energy and natural resources. An interest in the overlap of science and mysticism are an essential aspect of her fiction writing. She received an Oregon Literary Arts Fellowship for fiction writing.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The importance of drafts

One of the questions I’ve found most repeated among authors is the standard, “What annoys you most as an editor?” I’m sure some editors keep a catalogue of actions, expressions, tropes, words, and so on that make them grit their teeth and fantasize about strangling the author through the computer. I find with most of the manuscripts that land on my desk, the majority of the issues are repeated throughout.

Why? Because authors have their favorite ways of expressing their characters’ actions. One of my editors pointed out that my characters routinely smirk and shrug. And they do. I always see my characters shrugging or smirking or even at times doing both. Therefore, I know to look out for these things when going back through it. But I’m not perfect (though I often boast otherwise), and since it is my work, there’s no way I’m going to catch all of my own boo-boos. So I’ll send my manuscript to two or three crit partners and maybe one casual reader to gage their reactions.

Does this mean the manuscript is perfect when I submit? Heck. No. I don’t even expect the manuscript to be without the occasional typo when it’s officially published. No one is above the typo. Not me, not you, not Stephen King, not the bible, nothing.

But this does bring me to my major pet-peeve as an editor: authors who submit without doing at least one of the following:

1) Rereading their manuscript. After you type “the end,” close the program and let the document sit for 24-48 hours, preferably longer. Go do something to take your mind off it. Have your S.O. take you to dinner to celebrate finishing a project at all. Go for a hike. Read a book. Watch a movie. Buy yourself a present. Just don’t look at the manuscript. After you actively avoid looking at the manuscript for a period of time, read it carefully from start to finish. Do this at least once.
2) Send it to someone who doesn’t think the sun shines out of your ass and have them read it.

A completed manuscript is just the first step. It’s what we call a “rough draft.” Do more than one draft. Make sure you leave nothing dangling, and if you do, you have a good reason. Make sure the characters’ eyes don’t change colors unless they’re supposed to change colors. Make sure that a drink a character was holding in the beginning of the scene didn’t disappear midway through. Read, absorb, and understand each word, identify your weaknesses and ask others for help.

Most importantly: work with your editor. We’re not perfect. You’re not going to write the flawless novel, and your editor isn’t going to necessarily catch every little thing. The editing process is a give-and-take relationship. It’s not an editor’s job to fix something, rather improve. It’s not an editor’s job to rewrite, but help you rewrite. It’s not an editor’s job to make you feel good, but identify as many of your manuscript’s warts before it becomes available to the public. 2) Send it to someone who doesn’t think the sun shines out of your ass and have them read it.

A completed manuscript is just the first step. It’s what we call a “rough draft.” Do more than one draft. Make sure you leave nothing dangling, and if you do, you have a good reason. Make sure the characters’ eyes don’t change colors unless they’re supposed to change colors. Make sure that a drink a character was holding in the beginning of the scene didn’t disappear midway through. Read, absorb, and understand each word, identify your weaknesses and ask others for help.

Most importantly: work with your editor. We’re not perfect. You’re not going to write the flawless novel, and your editor isn’t going to necessarily catch every little thing. The editing process is a give-and-take relationship. It’s not an editor’s job to fix something, rather improve. It’s not an editor’s job to rewrite, but help you rewrite. It’s not an editor’s job to make you feel good, but identify as many of your manuscript’s warts before it becomes available to the public.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Finding time

There are times when you click your inbox's refresh button repeatedly and jump at the first sign of something new, even if it turns out to be an Amazon ad or an unwanted piece of spam. Then there are times when you can't think about checking your email because of the eight thousand nine hundred and seventy one other things taking up your time.

My life at the moment definitely falls into the latter category. This is hardly the first time and god knows it won't be the last. During such hectic times, the idea of getting anything accomplished -- not just worked on, but finito, signed, sealed and delivered -- seems completely impossible. You remember Past You, merrily pounding away at the keyboard and shrugging off impending obligations, thinking Future You will handle those inconveniences. When Future You becomes Present You, and those impending obligations become Gotta Have This Done YESTERDAY, time at the keyboard dwindles, and you hit that all-too familiar feeling you have a big test coming up and you haven't so much as glanced over a semester's worth of lesson plans.

"Next time," you dutifully promise yourself. "Next time, I'll remember what happened this time, and what happened this time won't happen again."

Of course, by the time Next Time rolls around, your song has changed from I'll Do Better to Maybe This Time It'll Be Different.

The only advice I can impart -- speaking to myself as much as anyone else to whom this applies -- is stop worrying so much. The words you get out now don't have to be perfect. No one sees this draft but you and those you opt to share it with. And even if things don't work out the way you planned, there are always options. There are always roads less traveled by. That's a part of the excitement that comes with being a writer. There is not an obstacle too great for the all mighty backspace.

So, faithful Musees, if you don't hear from Rosalie for the next few weeks, rest assured she will be back. Sometimes we have to cry uncle and ride it out. For this blogger, this is one of those times.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Walk A Thousand Miles To Fall Down At Your Door

When Titanic first premiered, I saw it in the theaters a total of seven times. Granted, I was thirteen or so at the time and, being a natural romantic, the story touched me...and for those of you not alive or in a coma in the 90s, you know I wasn't the only one. The whole, "The Ship Sank, Get Over It" craze was inspired by people like me. It doesn't help that I have an obsessive personality; I exhausted myself on the movie, the Celine Dion song, and even a few really, really bad cheesy romance novels set on the Titanic to cure me of Titanic fever.

After my Titanic obsession ended, I swore it off. The thought of watching the movie again made me sick, just because I was so freakin' burnt out on it. And if someone played "My Heart Will Go On" one more time, the radio was going through the window.

There's an episode of How I Met Your Mother where the single of "I Would Walk 500 Miles" is jammed into a car's cassette player, where it loops and loops and loops for years. While on a road trip, character Ted tells Marshall, the car's owner, that the song is making him physically ill. Marshall assures Ted, "it comes back around." Sure enough, in the next scene, Ted and Marshall are cheerily singing along with the Proclaimers.

Writing is much the same. During intense writing marathons such as NaNo or a race to meet deadlines, writing becomes as much a part of the day as eating or going to work. Take a break, though -- whether or not it's planned -- and it can be incredibly hard finding motivation to resume the habit. One minute, you're happily singing along, and the next you can't stand the song. How can you fall in love with something you can't fathom listening to/watching/working on again? How do you find the love for Titanic after you overcome your need to violently punch the next self-righteous asshole who proclaims himself, "King of the World"?

The trick? Well, there is none. You can force it if you like, but the best advice I can offer is the knowledge eventually it'll loop around again. Singing along with feigned enthusiasm rarely convinces anyone, least of all yourself. Sooner or later, though, you'll remember why you loved writing in the first place.

Monday, March 12, 2012

"I just sit at a typewriter and curse a bit"

You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what’s burning inside you. And we edit to let the fire show through the smoke. ~ Arthur Plotnik

A while back, I had a friend who would go through my chapters and work her grammar magic to get them in relatively clean condition. This friend was an avid reader, fantastic crit-partner, and incredibly skilled at identifying other things such as characterization, plot weaknesses, and even cultivating ideas for future projects.

In my naiveté, I was stunned to learn she didn’t write for one simple reason, prompted by her own admission that, well, she couldn’t. Storytelling as an art and creative writing simply wasn’t her forte, despite my observational evidence to the contrary.

Several years have passed since then. Now I am a multi-published author as well as a professional editor. Balancing these things can be gruesome, especially if a long break stretches between doing one or the other. For example: I finished my NaNoWriMo project toward the end of November last year. I was creatively exhausted, and more than happy to take December off from writing to work on editing. Now, midway through March, I find it increasingly difficult to get back into the writing groove. I’ve written here and there, but not nearly as much as I wanted to have done by a quarter into the new year. On the other hand, my editing assignments keep coming, and I’m knocking them back with little trouble. Switching from critical to creative is a bitch, because most authors already have a tendency to self-edit along the way. For those of us who edit and write, it’s nearly impossible.

Of course, this is hardly limited to the published editors among us. Well before I edited for anyone, I had a bout of tremendous writer’s block due mostly to the errors I caught in manuscripts submitted for publication, even those that were eventually accepted and published. I’d see my mistakes, I’d be on the lookout for flaws that had been pointed out to me by my editors and try to alter my style as I wrote. This led to a writing stalemate.

Some lessons have to be learned and relearned. I can’t stress this enough—to get any words out, you can’t worry about how it sounds. You can’t fret over word choice or sentence construction, nor can you ignore these things when it comes time to clean up the manuscript for submission. Creativity won’t survive if you keep shoving your work under a microscope. You’ll lose sight in the endgame while worrying over the small things. Whatever you write is subject to change, but you can’t improve anything if your manuscript is blank.

Keeping this in mind is beyond difficult. However, editing fiction and writing fiction are two very different beasts. It seems otherwise because both involve knowing one’s way around grammar and story mechanics. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t find your voice after your last manuscript has been edited within an inch of its—and your—life. We’ve all been there.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Interview with Kacey Hammell

I'm turning things over to Ms. Kacey Hammell this week to discuss the love and hardships of all things writing. Ms. Hammell is also celebrating a new release, Illusions, which premiered last week with Decadent Publishing.

MUSES: Tell us a bit about the process behind your debut publication. What did you learn? Is there anything you know now you wish you’d known then?
K. HAMMELL: Going back a few years when I first wrote ILLUSIONS, I wish I understood Isabella Knowles a bit better. I had suffered loss in my life, but at that time, not a parent. It’s a very different loss when it’s a parent. In ILLUSIONS, Isabella still tries to move past the loss of her mother and I didn’t understand her, the tragedy as I thought I had.
This time, in going back to revise ILLUSIONS extensively for re-release, she and I had a deeper friendship and understanding of one another. I was able to let her lead easier and she gave me the same trust.

MUSES: Tell us a bit about your new release. How did it challenge you?
K. HAMMELL: As said above, ILLUSIONS was a great challenge. But beyond just Isabella and I becoming friends, the story challenged me as it was my first and I didn’t want to push the envelope too much. I allowed the characters to lead me but I held back a bit. In writing a first story, I found that I was hesitant to go too outside the box and offend anyone—publishers and/or readers!
But in the end, I’m more than pleased with the story and the sequels to come.

MUSES: How quickly did it take you to realize that writing the book is just the first part in a very long battle?
K. HAMMELL: As soon as I received the acceptance from the publisher, nerves set in and my head spun. *g*
In finding avenues to feature the story, get the blog constantly updated, advertising set up, editing/re-working the story while trying to keep the insecurities at bay, it is very exhausting! LOL
I found the writing/signing paperwork the fun parts! It’s all so worth it though!

MUSES: What is your opinion on reviews?
K. HAMMELL: As a past reviewer, I respect those reviewers who are respectful of the authors/stories they are reviewing and know that they do lend to the popularity of the work. Most reviewers who review understand how to do it – with tact, respect and comprehensively – don’t let the “power” go to their head and keep things professional. There are many reviewers who are the exact opposite and don’t get my time at all.
Reviews are very much needed to spread the word about publishers/authors/stories.

MUSES: Is there some aspect of writing you find more challenging than another? Can you share what that is?
K. HAMMELL: Seeing my own mistakes is a challenge for me. I zip through a story when writing, I don’t go back and correct anything until the story is written, which lends to there being times when I can’t see every error/flaw. Also, trying to stay within a certain word count or inside of a box (example: for a specific submission call/theme) too limiting. I like the freedom to just write without staying within a guideline for specific theme/storyline.
I find writing blurbs a challenge too. I never get it right on the first try.

MUSES: How much of what you write is from experience?
K. HAMMELL: A lot of it. I hope I’m not the only one that let’s real life into their work. But in writing contemporary, it’s hard not to. Whether it’s personal – tragedies, evenings out with spouses, high points of celebration, friendships – things tend to creep into a story. I think it adds a deeper quality to the story(ies) to sprinkle in some experiences/personal aspects.

MUSES: You have developed quite an Internet presence. How do you find the time to write when you seem to be everywhere?
K. HAMMELL: Scheduling. I’ll use a few hours during the day to do the tweeting/FB posting, discussing real life happenings etc., then write for a few hours. I don’t write every single day, I have found that I can’t unless I’m inspired by a story. Once done one story, I’ll set it aside for three to five days then go back to it to do the self-edits. Once those are done, unless a new story has instantly struck, I’ll take another break from writing for a few days then look at WIP folder and go from there. In doing things like this, I can balance the online presence with writing. For now at least…what works today might not work in six months! LOL

MUSES: What does an author have to do to capture your attention?
K. HAMMELL: A compelling blurb & rocking cover capture my attention first. The story within has to wow me – plot, depth, layers and characters -- in order to continue buying the author. I am a series bookaholic. I love authors who write top-notch characters, settings, adventure that are all a part of a series. I like revisiting characters we meet in book one who get their own stories.

MUSES: What authors have most influenced you in your journey? Do you try to emulate them in your own writing?
K. HAMMELL: I deeply respect authors like Jaci Burton, Nora Roberts/JD Robb, Suzanne Brockmann, Sara Brookes, Cindy Gerard, Cherry Adair, Patricia A. Rasey, and Rosalie Stanton. I have followed their careers for years, some since they began writing, and respect their views and appreciation for their readers and the chance to write continually. Each author has been inspiring to me in the way they handle themselves, the attentions they have for the readers and the consistency with which they write each book. They put their stories and readers first, which is awesome, and I’m never disappointed with anything they write.
I don’t try to emulate them at all, but I do hope that I follow the same type of respect to the readers and my stories as I believe they have in their careers.

MUSES: Tell us a bit about your favorite literary character, and what qualities made him/her stand out as more than just a name on a page.
K. HAMMELL:I have three characters that stand out for me. In all the years I’ve been reading, I can’t pick just one.
Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery. She is a red-haired, freckle-faced orphan who faces the world with absolutely nothing but the sheer force of her personality.She is feisty, funny and above all unabashedly passionate. I love her. My parents always said I reminded them of her when I was growing up. High compliment indeed.
Thomas Harris's Hannibal Lecter…perhaps not the most common, maybe a surprising pick, but there is just so much to the man. His exquisite taste, well read, and surrounds himself with utter beauty. Plus being such a vicious and mean killing machine, the most devious within all of the literary world, makes him memorable and formidable.
Elizabeth Bennett, from Pride and Prejudice. Lizzie is such a complex character, but one of humour and spunk. She’ll tell a joke, make provocative remarks and loves to laugh out loud. She is utterly delightful.
MUSES: When you’re not writing or reading, what typically keeps you occupied? What do you enjoy doing in your free-time?
K. HAMMELL:I like to walk/hike with my kids and hubby, we go to the movies a lot and I enjoy snuggling in front of the TV together.

MUSES: Any harsh realities would you wish to impart on aspiring authors?
K. HAMMELL:Rejections are a part of the business. Take them, feel that initial sting for an hour or two, then brush them off. Find another publisher to try. If one publisher gives you feedback (not all do), then re-read your story, look for what details they give you and revise if you agree. Never think your story is absolutely perfect and discount what the publisher(s) has to say. Really look at your story for the aspects they found flawed and think about revisions. Getting a rejection is hard and they sting. But in the end, they are sometimes the best advice an author is given.

MUSES: Where can readers find you?

Thank you for taking the time to chat with us, Kacey! Wishing you many sales on your new release!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Quitters Never Win and Winners Never Quit

If you've ever attended a Weight Watcher meeting or any such support group, you're probably familiar with pearls of fortune cookie wisdom. Aside from "Quitters Never Win and Winners Never Quit" -- which is a favorite of mine -- I was often told, "If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got."

These adages might be old, but that doesn't make them wrong.

It's very easy to get discouraged in this business. No matter how well you write, there's someone else who's at a place you want to be and can't get in, or someone who doesn't write as well whose Amazon's rankings tower over yours. You can spend time you don't have and raise hopes you can't afford to raise only to fall flat on your face.

But the old adage is right. Quitters never win, and if you're determined to meet a certain goal, no matter the obstacles that pile in your way, there's nothing preventing you from ultimately reaching it. Don't let the rejections, bad reviews, negative feedback, and so on halt your journey. Most authors have a working understanding of what they do well and what they need to work on. Find yourself a crit partner who excels at something with which you need help. Target your weaknesses and don't blanch when people give you honest feedback. It might smart at first, but learning where you need work and focusing on perfecting your craft will always pay off.

Monday, February 20, 2012

You're Gonna Carry That Weight

Going viral.

The good, the bad, and the ugly.

The good? The act of being or having gone viral is relatively short-lived. People have incredibly tiny attention spans. If an author loses his or her composure over a negative review, a backlash can be expected, but it has an expiration date. A few months pass, and while your name might remain at least fleetingly familiar, it would take a trip to Google for a reminder. Granted, that might not exactly be reassuring, but soon people will be talking about something else.

The bad? Yes, for a while, if you have amounted bad publicity, you will be the topic of gossip and e-water cooler chatter. There will be people who remember you, and not fondly.

The ugly? Some of those people who remember you are those you don’t want remembering you.

Reputations are incredibly fragile things. Repairing any amount of damage, if at all possible, isn’t easy. Ask Robert Downey Junior if you think otherwise.

Ultimately, the reputation you have can and will shape your relationship with publishers. If you’re a difficult author to work with, word can well spread between houses. Where the important things are concerned, the Internet doesn’t forget. The relationships you forge, the people you encounter, the readers you inadvertently piss off, the tweet you shouldn’t have tweeted, the comment you made in a fit of anger on a blog…these things can all come back to haunt you.

The shield of a computer monitor can provide the illusion that professionalism isn’t an essential. We have to be mindful of ourselves as public figures, even if we’re not traditional public figures. Our business is with our readers, and readers who don’t respect the author are not likely to provide their patronage.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Guest Author Charlene A Wilson

Today we have Author Charlene A Wilson here at RtM.
I asked my favorite question ...

What is the hardest part of being an author for you?

When I read the question, I sat and thought about all the editing I’m going through right now with my Aumelan series.  Cut the unnecessary adjectives, avoid adverblys (yeah, my own word there to remind me to hate the “ly” words), check for run-on sentences, axe the dialogue tags…  You know the drill.

Not to mention the final edits I went through with the first two books of the Chronicles of Shilo Manor series—insert commas, add “and”s to the “then”s…  Thank goodness I’m past that as Cornerstone Deep is published and Cornerstone Deep Echoes will be released tomorrow; both a mile stone and an awe striking moment for me.  Are they really the best they could be?  Will I ever really know?  Sometimes I wonder if my work will ever be good enough.  But, I did my best, look forward to the next, and am getting better with each.
Then, I realized something.  The question wasn’t what I thought the hardest thing about being a writer was.  It’s, “What is the hardest part of being an author for you?”  That made me think. 

I always thought of writer and author as being synonymous, though people seemed to select one or the other with purpose when then they talked about the craft.  So, thanks to Romancing the Muses, I decided to look into it and find out, once and for all, what the difference between being an author and being a writer really is.

Now, of course, authors write.  And, of course, writers can author.  But, according to DifferenceBetween.net, “A writer is a person who writes a book, article, or any literary piece, while an author is essentially the person who originates the idea, plot, or content of the work being written. If you are writing a novel or short story based on a plot developed by self, you get to be known as the author of the novel. And if you are penning down someone else’s ideas or stories, you will be known as the writer of the work. Being a writer is at times easier than being an author. The reason being that an author has to create, develop, and communicate an idea, while a writer has to only communicate somebody else’s idea.”

“When it comes to writing books, a person becomes an author only when the book is published. If your work is unpublished, and even if the idea is purely your own, you will still be considered as the person who wrote the work. And when your work is published you get to be known as the author of the work. So if you write a lot, but never get them published and out to the public, you remain a writer.”

Okay.  That didn’t totally make sense to me since a script-writer writes scripts and is known as a writer and not an author even though it’s published.   But they also say…
Isn’t that wonderful?  I finally got an answer to a question I never really gave much thought to.  And the answer to how I should be answering my question, “How do I answer Romancing the Muses’ question?”….  Right, so I found out that what I considered the hardest thing about doing what I’m doing isn’t the hardest thing about what I am.  But, we’ll go from here…  (If you’re not totally confused by my line of thought by now, don’t worry.  I’m confused enough for all of us. *wink*)

Being the creator of my stories, I’m calling myself the author of them.  And in the creation process, I guess I would have to say the hardest thing would be making sure it all lines up.  Stories can flow and practically write themselves when my characters and I are in sync.  I’m one of those authors whose characters talk to them.  They let me know what they should be doing in their lives.

But, getting it all properly laid out and flowing freely to where it makes sense to the reader can be difficult.  We have to make sure the timeline fits—Let’s say I’m writing chapter fourteen.  I have General Hilton in Sun City coming unglued and blowing up at Chad for endangering the population by introducing his people’s energy vampirish ways.  But, in chapter fifteen, Chad is still in the World Beneath the Rock trying to convince the Leading Fathers of Aumelan to trust the people of the Sun with their secret.  He hasn’t traveled to the World Above yet.  Not good.

I double, triple, quadruple checked to make sure characters stay in character.  I’d hate to have Mianna, a daughter of an Arylin colony and avid follower of the Goddess of Love, scoff at someone worshiping their God.  Or, timid Mandy take on her reincarnated twin’s characteristic, who’s far beyond any five year old, of explaining the spiritual progression a soul. 

There is so much that goes into the process of crafting a book.  So much more than I ever dreamed of before I decided to take on this career.  Would I trade it for anything else?  Not a chance.  Whether you call me a writer or an author, I’m here to stay.  The Chronicles of Shilo Manor will keep growing…Cornerstone Deep Destiny is in the creation process now.  Aumelan will hopefully be ready to submit later this year.  Here’s to new worlds, hard work, and loving it.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Learn To Live With What You Are

Nearly fifteen years ago, I knew a woman who managed an online fanfic archive for stories devoted to the notorious creation of Thomas Harris. If that name is not instantly recognizable, try this one on for size: Hannibal Lecter.

That’s right, ladies and germs. Arguably fiction’s most renowned cannibal has—or rather, had—a modest fanbase. Heck, parts of those forums might still exist. I don’t know, I don’t check. The woman who ran this particular archive (we’ll call her Clarice just for grins) saw roughly the same appeal in Hannibal the Cannibal as others see in Erik from Phantom of the Opera. The grotesque, the tragic, the star-crossed…and for those of you who have read Thomas Harris’ work, that interpretation is not off base.

What struck me then about this woman was she was very grounded, and she didn’t shy from handing out business cards with her name and fandom association. To some of us, the things we do alone with the glow of a computer monitor is a very private affair…even if we’re not looking at porn or doing anything other than write a scene between our two title characters.

I remember once being very embarrassed showing anyone anything I’d written. Anything. Even an innocuous scene between friends. Therefore, the idea that someone would not only confess to their pastime, but advertise it to strangers was beyond me. Even now, though I have grown bolder and less discerning who knows my dirty little secret, I find it hard to believe I’d do the same given Clarice’s circumstances. Heck, when pushed, I’ll confess to writing “paranormal romance”—despite my vocal assertions that erotic romance writers ought not be ashamed.

Yet more than the labels that come with our craft is the mindset of where we are versus where we need to be. I highly doubt Clarice still hosts that website. It’s likely lost to the Ghost of Internet Past. Regardless, it was a stepping-stone. A place marking where she was in her writing career to where she went. In my case, I got my start in Internet publication in the same vein as so many others: in fan-fiction. I was ashamed to admit it until I stopped writing it, but I’m not ashamed anymore. Regardless of what it means to me now, it meant something to me then. I knew I wasn’t going to do it forever, but when I was at my happiest, I don’t think it would have bothered me. You go from that to the world of actual publishing—with its actual deadlines, actual editors, actual royalty statements, and actual panic attacks—and a lot of what you hear isn’t where you are, rather where you’re not. You’re not agented. You’re not a NYT Best Seller. You’re not making what you want to make. You’re not, you’re not, you’re not.

I think we get lost in the are not’s, and some of us have forgotten to learn to live with what we are, and how what we are builds into what we become. There is no race on this thing. If you love it, you stick with it. If you don’t love it, ask yourself why you do it. Is it for who you are or who you want to be, and if it’s the latter, are you satisfied being what you are, knowing it’s a necessary step to getting you where you want to go?

Monday, February 6, 2012

"Et tu, Brute?"

As writers, we focus on making the intangible tangible. We strive to describe things that have never really been successfully described—emotions with definitions completely subjective to the individual emoting them, yet still somehow universal. To some, love might mean “never having to say you’re sorry.” Someone like me would amend that to something like, “love means saying you’re sorry when you mean it and not giving a damn what it does to your pride.”

As an editor, I see manuscripts from authors who have a killer story that falls completely flat due to lack of character. It’s the difference between the original Star Wars trilogy and the travesty that was the prequel films. Unlike the first films, many viewers didn’t care for the characters because they weren't complex or well-written. If they cared at all, it was because they were instructed to.

RedLetterMedia released three crushing multi-part vlog reviews of the prequel films that completely dismantled the protest of any apologist. One of the ways RLM demonstrated the inferiority not only as a part of a once golden franchise, but a movie at all, was asking fans to describe a character by their personality rather than appearance. For Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Leia Organa, this was a piece of cake. For Anakin Skywalker, Qui Gon Jinn, or any of the other prequel characters, it was near impossible…without putting some thought into it.

I’ve heard people complain about the acting in the prequel films, and in so, casting the script as a secondary problem. Liam Neeson a bad actor? Natalie Portman? Ewan McGregor? Hayden Christianson has been remarkable in some roles. Perhaps he wasn’t the best fit, but an actor is only as good as his script. Natalie Portman is a phenomenal actor, and anyone who thinks otherwise should go check out Black Swan.

It’s all in the writing.

The key element of the prequel films is betrayal. At the end, Obi Wan is screaming at a dying Anakin, telling the audience how he feels rather than showing it. And because he feels this way, we should as well. In the next scene, though, he’s just fine. Betrayal is something you can’t shake off, especially if it’s done at the hand of someone close to you. In my experience, it’s hollow and sad with little shocks of anger here and there, but really more just a blanket of nothing. It has left me uncomfortably numb—much more like Harrison Ford’s reaction at the killer’s identity in The Fugitive. If you’ve seen that movie, you know what I’m talking about.

No matter the genre—the fact that this particular example came from a science fantasy film notwithstanding—the power of story is the ability to make the most outrageous scenarios accessible to the audience. It doesn’t matter where the story is set or what it involves; a good writer will make it a human story. So look at your writing. Look at the language you use when describing love, sadness, loss, joy, excitement, betrayal, and so on. Ask your friends if they feel the intended emotion, or if they just know it’s there. Knowing and mastering the difference will only strengthen you as an author.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Staying on task ... on what?

There are some that can focus and stay on task no matter
what you toss at them.  I am NOT one of those people.
Can I finish something on time? Yes.  Can I solely focus on
just that task to get there?  Not in this life time! I seem to stumble
across little paths the deviate from where I was going and being
the adventurous sort I just have to see where this new path leads.

For example...

I've been sending out manuscripts, writing new ones, signing
contracts, promoting and editing like mad for the past year.
This is all great, much better than sitting in front of the computer
staring at the blinking cursor wondering where your muse went...
 until you sit down and figure out what you have just signed yourself
up for in the immediate future.

I sat down last night, and made myself figure out what I have to do
in the next, oh we'll say six months - actually to be totally honest a large
portion of it needs to be done in three months time!

I still have four new releases coming out every other month this year.
This equals edits, promotion and the ticking clock of deadlines.  No biggie,
I work great under pressure!!

This week I will be finished a current WIP - that is only 20,000 past where I'd
planned it to end and then its time to put on my blinders, lock my muse in
the attic and try to buckle down and finish up a few things.

Behind the scenes (aka stuff I've been pretending isn't there) I have a
whopping list to deal with.
Here's a bit of it so you understand just what I've done to myself (keep in mind I
do work anywhere from 40-60hrs a week outside of my writing space as well)
Book 4 in series - polish and submit (my editor is dying to know what happens!)
Book 1 in new trilogy - rewrites and re-submit (this is a biggie! when the
CEO asks if you can rework something .. you try your best!)
Book 3 in trilogy - finish and get to editor (this one already has a projected release date!!)
Book 1 in yet another new trilogy - polish up and submit
Book 5 (and hopefully final book) in series - polish up and submit

And that is the next three months of my life!   Now, for all you perfectly organized
people out there ... suggestions on how to accomplish this on time would be
 greatly appreciated.  I promise to at least read said suggestions, following
them may not work out, then again maybe someone will have that one idea
that will work for me.

Did I mention I am in the process of packing and sorting through the house to move on top of
all of this?

Have a great week everyone!!

P.S. Yes, Rosalie this is the time where I need you to alternate between drill sergeant and compassionate, understanding woman.  

Monday, January 30, 2012


Is it just me, or does this time of year suck balls?

I mean it. After the rush of Christmas – I don’t care if you love it, hate it, or just tolerate it – everything seems to calm down back to normal…yet the weeks spanning January through, let’s say, March, are a plain bitch to navigate. Either you have a mountain of work remaining from all the stuff you avoided doing over the holidays or business has slowed to a crawl. I guess this could be tied back to school days; January typically means the end of the first semester and the start of the second, which is nice and all but just lets you know you’re only halfway there to summer break. For adults, it means tax time (which is stressful, regardless of whether or not you look forward to sending in your W-2s) and several months of waiting before it’s nice enough outside to do anything worth doing.

I suppose it’s a little of all the above for me. After NaNo 2011, I made the conscious decision to take off December. I had exhausted myself completing my inaugural NaNo project and wanted to spend the busiest family-oriented month focused on editing and catching up. Now the holidays are over (finito for eleven more months) and I’m already behind on 2012 goals because it took a million years for my muse to return to me. Apparently, “use it or lose it” applies even to short breaks. Short, planned, deserved breaks.

Keeping momentum going is important, even if you’re not bothering yourself with being overly productive. If you find you’re currently struggling to get the words on the page—either because you took a break or because this time of year sucks and no one should be asked to do anything—I say cut yourself some slack. I can’t think of anyone who genuinely likes January. Focus on small goals. A few words here or there. A book read. An article written. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s using “it” (whatever your particular “it” might be) almost always works to get you back in the groove, even if you have to fight to get there. And sooner or later, you’re right back where you were, wondering how you lost your footing to begin with.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Be careful what you wish for

As we have discussed in the past and will inevitably discuss again, as an author – regardless of whether or not you focus primarily on e-publishing – one of the things you’ll have to deal with is Internet piracy. Granted, to some authors, it’s water off a duck’s back. To those authors who live on their royalties and have families to support, it’s the absolute enemy.

I get so frustrated with people who casually pirate books with this attitude of entitlement. About a year ago on Facebook, I came across an icon someone had made that equated Internet piracy to car theft. “It’s like having your Porsche stolen—only it’s still there in the morning.”

Sorry, but that’s not only wrong, it’s insulting, and worse – it’s plain stupid.

I don’t care what your excuse is. “I’m a big fan, I don’t have money, I reaaaallly want to readdit!” None of these are good enough reasons to steal. And guess what? They never will be. It’s not legal to take a book to a copier and print off the pages for the same reason. Copyright protection. The artist or author is entitled to their percentage, as is the publisher.

Unless you weren’t alive last week, I’m sure you heard of SOPA. When I first heard of this legal measure being taken against online piracy, I was elated. I am, after all, one of those victimized by Internet assholes who don’t care how much their actions affect me and my family. I even explained to my husband that I would unapologetically support any action to halt Internet piracy.

About thirty seconds later, I ate my words.

You see, while SOPA might have sounded like the awesomest thing ever – and it truly did for those precious few seconds – I quickly learned what all it entailed. You put up a video of you and your friends drunkenly belting out “STAND BY YOUR MAN”, and suddenly that ain’t cool. You post a picture of Regis saying, “Is that your final answer?!” and the site could receive a cease and desist notification. Goodbye, Goodreads. So long, Youtube. And you better watch out, Facebook.

Thankfully, the Internet protest that occurred last Wednesday temporarily put a cease-fire on this bill, but that doesn’t mean we can all rest easy. There’s no telling what sort of riders our congressmen and senators will attempt to place into future pieces of legislation. So stay involved. These things do affect us. And if Wednesday was any indicator, citizens do have a voice. We can make ourselves heard.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Romance? What's That?

I remember my introduction to the romance genre very clearly. At the time (thirteen) I had been enjoying Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and so on thanks to my aunt's bookshelf. Then one day I came across a book with a cover I'd never seen before: a man held a woman in a heated embrace, holding her from behind, their faces gripped in passion. The title was The Flame and the Flower. Intrigued, I took the book from the shelf, settled in and started reading.

From the start, I was hooked.

There was just something about Heather, the unfortunate girl who finds herself in a strange American's embrace. An American that, despite his good looks, was alpha and possessive and a bit of an asshole. As their relationship evolved, I was right there with them. It was the first book I didn't want to put down. I couldn't wait to find out what happened next. Full of love and hate, it was the perfect combination of the things I loved. As soon as I finished, I hit up my aunt's library looking for more, and I found them. She was a fan of the greats like Heather Graham, Kathleen Woodiwiss, Johanna Lindsey, and Connie Mason. I poured over them all, eager for more. This continued through my teens and well into adulthood.

Then something horrible happened.

One day I had company at my apartment. I had a book on my coffee table (a romance) and I got blasted for it. I still remember how embarrassed I was, of the looks everyone gave me, of their rude snickers and comments. The jibes were bad but the implication that I was somehow less "smart" for adding romance to my reading list hurt in ways I can't describe. As a result, I put romance away. It was nothing but horror from that point forward. More Stephen King for years. It wasn't until I had my first child that I got a hankering for romance and returned to the genre. Only now, it wasn't exactly the genre I remembered.

People used words they didn't previously (you know what I'm talking about -- think roosters and kittens) and the sex was far more explicit. To my surprise, it didn't turn me off. In fact, the sexual content added a depth and dimension to the books that was somewhat lacking in the past. I immediately returned to reading erotic romance, going through as many as 5 books a week. When I hit The Death Star (Wal-Mart) I always checked the books on sale. This led me to being a fan of The Black Dagger Brotherhood. So many awesome books were uncovered during this time, and I knew that no matter what I'd never stop reading romance again.

I think that a lot of people have issues with romance in general. I'm not sure why. Those I've spoken to believe that romance is for the simple minded, or that the material is purely porn. Readers know this isn't true. While it's true there are books created entirely to titillate, there are also books with a back story, plot, and enough heat to make the pages burn. Those are the books I enjoy, when I can get involved with the characters, care for them, and want them to find their happily ever after.

I recently spoke to a very good friend about the issue and she said she didn't want to make others uncomfortable, therefore she didn't discuss reading romance with them. That I can understand. However, I do think that women should stop hiding what they like. E-readers are great and allow you to read a smutastic romance without anyone knowing, but if a book comes to print first, there's absolutely nothing wrong with carrying that sucker around and getting your romance on. There is a reason romance continues to sell year after year. It continues to grow, to find a broader audience. That's not going to change.

So when you read your erotic romance (or romance in general) I ask that you do so with your head held high. No one can make you feel embarrassed about what you read unless you let them. And if you enjoy erotic romance, you enjoy erotic romance. Hell, come hang out with me. I'll take the weight on my shoulders and tell anyone and everyone that I love the books. Not only do I read them, but I write them as well. There is a reason for that.

Now that I've put away my soapbox, it's back to work. I have a lot to get done. I hope you're all doing well. Happy Hump Day!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Buried Alive

For anyone who has ever worked in customer service of any sort, I’m sure you can relate. It’s dead, then it’s busy. It slows to a crawl, and then you can’t keep up. The office will be quiet one minute, then all eight phone lines are blaring for attention, and you’re the only one taking calls.

I’m not sure if there’s a science to this or not. I’ve held, over my life, seven customer service oriented jobs, and the above has been a universal truth. Granted, with some jobs it was easier to predict than others. For instance, when I worked for a movie theatre, pinpointing rushes was as easy as knowing the showtime schedule. The same thing for the food service industry. Yet working in women’s clothing or my two-year stint as a bank teller, the rushes were harder to predict. As a writer and editor, it gets even trickier.

You see, you spend most of your time waiting. Waiting for news on a manuscript, waiting for contracts, waiting for edits, waiting for cover art, waiting for the second round of edits, waiting for lines, waiting for publication day, waiting for reviews, waiting for your royalty statements, waiting for your crit partners, waiting, waiting, waiting. I won’t pretend it’s easy—patience is a huge part of being a successful author. But then so is time management. ‘Cause guess what? After all that waiting comes the endgame, and if you aren’t ready you just ain’t gonna make it.

You know why? You subbed Manuscript A to Pub X, which had a response time of 4-12 weeks and Manuscript B to Pub Y with a response time of 8-16 weeks, and Manuscript C is in edits with Pub Z. Well, as it turns out, Pubs X and Y get back to you on Manuscript A and Manuscript B within, let’s say, two weeks. And their production time is considerably shorter than Pub Z’s, so now you have three manuscripts in edits. If you’re not exhausted yet, just wait until Pub Z wants substantial revisions, Pub Y doesn’t do much in terms of edits and, being a perfectionist, you have to go through the manuscript with your very own fine-toothed comb, and Pub X is just really efficient at getting things back to you well before their due. And between your second, third, and line edits, you have promo to do, and oh yeah, words on Unfinished Manuscript to get out.

We either have all the time in the world or we have none at all. Is the above scenario inflated? Probably a little, but I recently went through much the same thing—only toss on the fact I was editing two books editing for Mundania, and it’s a bit closer to home. Other authors might stretch their releases out. I admire that, I really do. It’s just not the way I operate. I get something done, I send it to the CPs, and then I’m ready to put a nail in that particular coffin. For as much as I need it, I lack the patience to just sit on a manuscript. And as I said, for writers, patience is a must.

Somehow, though, even with as flawed as my personal approach might be, I am able to turn everything around on time. And everyone works differently under pressure; I was one of those students who would stay up until three in the morning pounding out a 25 page thesis paper due at seven a.m the next day. And ace it, of course. But not everyone works like that. As a writer, you have to pace yourself appropriately. You have to know your boundaries. You have to realize that Saturdays are work days, too. No matter how much we’d like to pretend otherwise.

So if you’re just getting into this game, think about yourself during finals week. ‘Cause sometimes writing can feel a whole lot like that. Only this time not just the teacher’s reviewing your work.

Monday, January 9, 2012

No, actually. I don’t write trash. And neither do you.

DISCLAIMER: This post contains offensive and sexually crude language.

Nikki London, who has appeared before as a guest on this blog, received news over the weekend every author longs to hear. Her debut novella has been accepted for publication. Naturally, congratulations were all around. Aside from being an immensely talented, promising author, Nikki is also my best friend of damn near fifteen years. We went to high school together, were in the same clubs, attended writer’s conferences, and now, in our upper twenties, spend time in the same office because – oh yeah – she happens to be my day-job boss. We’re more like sisters than friends, when push comes to shove. Thus when word came that her novella had been accepted, we had to fight for the right to tell those closest to us first.

Everyone was happy for her. Hell, ecstatic for her.


Except her mother.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that there are many points of diversion between myself and Nikki’s mother. She’s a fanatically religious woman, and I have an irreverent sense of humor. She also seems to think I’m going to Hell, though she’s hardly the only one. And she knows I write stories with explicit sexual content. Most everyone close to me does. She has once before characterized this material as “trashy”, which before propelled me on a ten minute tirade to anyone who would listen.

What I learned this morning is the straw that broke the camel’s back. Apparently, upon telling her mother that she was being published, Nikki was informed that her writing was equally trashy (though her mother has never read it). Furthermore, her mother was relieved to hear Nikki would be publishing under a penname, that way she and Nikki’s father wouldn’t have to suffer the embarrassment of having a smut-peddling daughter.

I admit; when Nikki relayed this, I saw red.

First of all: to any relative or friend who would think, much less say this to a loved one upon receiving news that they’re being published, fuck you very much.

Second of all – and I cannot stress this enough – erotic romances are not trash.

This attitude is frustratingly prevalent. A few months ago, Judy Mays’ career was in jeopardy because some self-righteous asshats decided that an erotic romance author was a borderline sex fiend who shouldn’t be allowed near children, much less teach them. But for a writer’s own mother to call her work trashy? Fuck. No. It pissed me off enough when she indicated what I wrote was trashy. Trashy, indicative of trash, meaning having no value whatsoever.

You know what? I like sex. I’m a woman in my late twenties in the early twenty-first century. I am not ashamed of my sexuality. I am not afraid to admit I enjoy writing and that yes, while I have a lot to learn, I am good at what I do, and what I do is, among other things, write sex. And I like sex. I like writing it, reading it, and having it. Sex is a lot of fun, and that’s the way it should be. More than that, it’s a BASIC HUMAN NEED. There isn’t one person alive or dead today who isn’t or wasn’t alive because of sex.

But more than that – more than the sexy material within an erotic romance – is the romance. If all I wrote was sex, I’d probably be much wealthier than I am in actuality. Pure sex stories on Amazon sell like crazy. Yet in order to write just sex, I’d have to remove the following from my work: plot, character, conflict, suspense, romance, development, resolution, and so on.

Take J.A. Saare’s/Aline Hunter’s work, OMEGA MINE. Yes, there is a ton of sex. Well-written, hot, sweaty sex. You know what else there is? Plot. Story. Suspense. Action. Characters. A need to see how the conflict will resolve. Think about the plot to a porno flick where the pizza guy delivers but the poor housewife has no money. Do we give a shit if the husband walks in? Most of the time in that scenario, the husband joins the romp. And that’s the extent of it. Do we care what happens if the pizza gets cold? Are we emotionally attached to any so-called character in this rush-to-the-cumshot?

No. You know why? That’s what we’d call a guilty pleasure. That is what I would call trashy. And even in the literary world, there are any number of pure rush-to-the-cumshot stories to provide a quick fix. Then there are well-crafted, woven, character-driven stories where there just happens to be explicit behind the scenes sexual content. After the cumshot, though, most readers are eager to see how the plot is resolved. If the book is good, readers will remember the characters, stories, feel the highs and lows as the protagonist goes through their trial to get to the end. Say there had been a hot sex scene in Pride and Prejudice right before Darcy first proposed marriage. When Elizabeth turns him down, do you think a devoted reader would have felt satisfied knowing at least they “did it” once? How about Rhett and Scarlett? They had plenty of sex in Gone with the Wind; if we’d seen what their bedroom life was like in intimate detail, do you think a devoted reader wouldn’t feel Scarlett’s despair at, “My dear, I don’t give a damn.”?

Calling erotic romances trashy is ignorant at best and insulting at worst. Don’t tell me what I write. Try reading it first. You might find parts trashy, and I can accept that, but I work hard to make my stories entertaining for many reasons. And honestly? The sex parts are an afterthought to the story—fun, hot, and spicy, but an afterthought nonetheless. And I can say the same for every author I know. Does this mean we won’t occasionally write something with more trash than substance? No. But that does not make us trashy authors.

And to Nikki London – congratulations. I’m sorry your mother had to rain on your parade, but as we both know now, that’s par for the course. But as an inductee into the erotic romance world, don’t let this first insult take anything away from you accomplished. Be damn proud of that novella. As your friend, I couldn’t be any more excited if it was my own work.

Monday, January 2, 2012

What does 2012 look like for you?

While the rest of the world might still be fighting hangovers, I rang in the new year with a head cold and eight different kinds of cold remedies likely canceling out one anothers' benefits, simply because I'm a big baby when I'm sick. Still, with the worst of the plague behind me, I am, like the rest of the world, turning my attention to 2012.

As with any milestone, the changing of the calendars can be bittersweet. We look to those goals we might have fallen short of accomplishing, yes, but the chance to start fresh is not one to be taken lightly. If you met your goal, fantastic! If you weren't able to reach that goal, take a deep breath, forgive yourself. Tomorrow's another day, today's the start of another year, and it's time to look at our new goals.

Happy new year to all. Hope you're rested. The break is officialy over.