What Are Agents Looking For? Find out With Greyhaus Literary Agency, Agent Scott Eagan

Hello and welcome to the final day of the Southern Sizzle Romance Blog anniversary. First let me say a HUGE thank you to all the guests, commentors, and other Sizzle authors. This month we’ve had the pleasure of so many great posts and today is no different.  Today’s guests blogger is Greyhaus Literary Agency agent Scott Eagan. Thank you to him for joining us today. A few months ago I had the pleasure of sending Mr. Eagan a partial submission of my latest urban fantasy, although he ultimately passed on the work I’ve continued to follow him on twitter and his blog. I’ve read a lot of blogs over the years and Mr. Eagan’s blog is by far one of the most informative so when it was time to send invitations out for our blog guests I knew I had to invite him.

Today’s topic is What Are Agents Looking For, which is one thing we are all wanting to know!

WHAT ARE AGENTS REALLY LOOKING FOR?

 

            One of the most common questions agents (and editors) hear at conferences as we sit on panels is “so what is it you are looking for in a submission?” Of course, every time you hear that question the answer always seems to be the same response. “I’m looking for a story with a great voice, a fantastic high concept and characters that grab me.”

            Now, for most writers, this is not the answer they were looking for. In all likelihood, they were looking for something such as, “I’m looking for a paranormal romance with a ghost and a vampire taking on the forces of the angels and demons. The story should be in 3rd person and have an amazingly hot looking character like Hugh Jackman.” Sorry, but that response in not going to happen. Still, if the writers were really listening to what the agents said, they had everything they would need.

            As an agent, we have several things we are looking for. Despite what many writers tell each other, “If you have a great story it will sell,” there really is much more than that. When we read those submissions, for the most part, we are all looking for the same things:

  • High Concept
  • Voice
  • The Story
  • The Marketablity
  • The Author

Let’s look at each briefly

HIGH CONCEPT What do we want here? Not some flashy line that you have crafted in a workshop. We’re talking about the story here. Agents and editors are looking for something new and unique. Not strange, just a new twist on what is selling out there. I had an author once that was rejected by an editor for just this thought. The editor stated, “Your writing is fantastic and is equal to [insert NY Times Author] but we already have that person. Find a way to give us a new twist.

I was talking to a Harlequin editor in Orlando and her comment was the same thing. “All of the submissions we see seem to be copies of what we already have. Give us that new twist.” Agents want the same thing.

VOICE What we want with voice is something that comes across naturally off the page. We aren’t interested in your ability to use the right words, we want to see a great voice that sounds like you are talking to us. One of the last authors I signed, Stephanie Stiles,  has a book coming out next year called TAKE IT LIKE A MOM. Now, when I read her story it was the voice that sold me. It just screamed personality and the editors also loved it. We started marketing it on Jan. 11,, 2010 and had sold it to NAL by the 25th of the month.

THE STORY This is key. We aren’t just looking for two great characters with no plot. Along the same lines, we aren’t looking for a book of action with no point. The story has to be a great blend of character, plot, conflict and all tied together with a purpose. Think back to junior high and your first discussions about literature – THEME, CHARACTER, PLOT, SETTING, CONFLICT. That is what we want.

MARKETABILITY Remember, this is a business. We have to have a product we can sell. You might have a fantastic story, but if the story is not something the public will buy, then the editors will not pick it up either. This is even more the case with new authors. It is simply too big of a gamble to try to sell a new author with something completely out there. I don’t care if you have friends who want to read the book, we need to have a sense that the general public will want to buy the book.

THE AUTHOR As an agent, this is a big one. Remember that this is a team and the agent and the author have to work together. We have to have the same goal and the same focus. If you have a great book but can’t work with an agent, or listen to what they have to say, you will really struggle in this business. I have heard a lot of great stories out there, but had to pass because the personality of the author really clashed with the approach I take.

Thank you again for stopping by. For more information on Mr. Eagan please check his website out and be sure to follow him on twitter. http://www.greyhausagency.com and on twitter as  http://twitter.com/greyhausagency

The Sizzlers Welcome Kelly L. Stone, Author of LIVING WRITE

Today the Sizzlers continue our Anniversary Celebration with one of our favorite former guests. Not only is Kelly L. Stone a great fiction author herself, she has written a series of three nonfiction books that can really help you get your time, your head and your life all straightened out and ready to draft your masterpiece. And because she is such a great person, she has agreed to give the first chapter of her new book, LIVING WRITE: The Secret to Bringing Your Craft Into Your Daily Life to not just one lucky commenter, but to everyone who leaves a comment today. So type away kids, ‘cause if you haven’t read any of Kelly’s books, you are in for a treat. With her guidance, even real people, who have lives and dayjobs and families and all the rest can make their writing dreams happen!

BIO: Kelly L. Stone (www.AuthorKellyLStone.com) started a successful writing career while working a full time job. She is a licensed counselor and author of the TIME TO WRITE series, a set of inspirational and motivational books for writers designed to help you achieve all of your writing dreams. The third book in the series, LIVING WRITE: The Secret to Bringing Your Craft Into Your Daily Life (Adams Media) will be released on September 18th.
SS: Welcome back! You’ve been busy since we last talked, with the most recent of your Time to Write series about to be released. What can you tell us about Living Write?

Thanks so much for having me here! This is one of my favorite blogs!

LIVING WRITE is about how to capitalize on the power of small steps to achieve big writing goals by creating a daily focus on writing. This can be through actually writing every day or in some way “touching” your writing every day, such as reading a craft book, editing your own work for a few minutes, or adjusting your writing goals.

SS: How is this book different from the earlier books in the series, Time to Write and Thinking Write?

TIME TO WRITE demonstrated how to make time to write no matter how busy you are. THINKING WRITE teaches you how to capitalize on the power of your subconscious mind to maximize your writing and creative efforts. LIVING WRITE anchors all the concepts presented in the first two books by showing you how to bring writing more and more into your daily life so that you can become the writer you want to be, and achieve your writing goals over time. It’s about incorporating the craft of writing into your day to day life.

SS: I have loved using the CD from Thinking Write in my own writing. Is there a CD in your new book?

Yes! I’m really excited it. There are 4 guided meditations for writers, and they incorporate some of the unique techniques that I teach in the book. There is a track called “Get Ready to Write” that you can use before every writing session to get into the zone, and another on how to create subconscious mind guides or what I call Writing Counselors. There are also two tracks that help you set clear, do-able goals as well as define your overall Vision of Success.

SS: Your books are always full of practical ideas we overworked working mom-authors can use. Can you give us a hint or two of some of the advice contained in Living Write?

Sure. One suggestion is to write every day for 90 days. Just carve out some time daily for 3 months and write. At the end of that 3 months, see how you feel about your writing. One effect you cannot escape is that you will have ingrained writing as a habit; also, writing will have suddenly become a very important part of your daily life. You may not stick with daily writing, but your attitude toward your writing is forever changed. Give it a try. It’s a neat experience.

SS: Since you are the authority on making writing a part of one’s everyday life, hit us with your best shot. What is the best piece of advice you can give to aspiring writers?

Write on a schedule! Whether it’s 15 minutes every morning before the family gets up, for an hour after your kids are in bed at night, on your lunch break from work, for 2 hours every Saturday…whatever. The key is to make a schedule and then stick to it! Don’t let yourself off the hook when that time rolls around. Discipline yourself to write when you said you were going to write. Reward yourself with some chocolate or a cup of tea or a glass of wine or a date with your hubby or 30 minutes of your favorite soap opera every time you complete that writing schedule. That is called positive reinforcement and it will build writing as a habit; once writing becomes a habit, you’re home free. Just like you don’t go to bed at night without changing into your pajamas, you also won’t let a day or week pass without thinking, oh yeah, I’ve got to write tomorrow morning or whatever. A writing schedule also gives you permission to say “no” to tiny, daily distractions, which are the bane of the aspiring author. When someone calls asking you to go to the movies, and it’s your writing time, you’ll be able to say with a clear conscience that you have something else to do. And then go do it!

SS: And the opposite – in your opinion, what conventional wisdom should we disregard? In other words, what is the least helpful advice writers get?

Well, at the risk of sounding like I’m contradicting myself, one piece of advice I think doesn’t necessarily work for everyone is that of writing every day. While I certainly advocate daily writing, and I usually write every day and a lot of writers I know write every day, and I believe there is power in daily writing (that’s the first chapter of LIVING WRITE, for heaven’s sake!), I also think that if you can’t make that work for you it does not mean that all is lost. You have to find the writing schedule that works for you and your life and go with that. Some writing is better than no writing. So if you can only write once or twice per week, but you do that consistently every week for months at a time, you can still get your books written. It’s just a slower process.

SS: So what is next for you? More how-to books, back to your own fiction, or what?

Right now I have turned my focus to fiction and have a paranormal romance in the works; I also have a non-fiction book that is not writing related that I want to tackle. After that, there may be another book in the TIME TO WRITE series. I guess TIME will tell, no pun intended. 

Thanks so much for having me here!

SS: So, am I right (or, write)? Isn’t she fantastic? If you would like to meet Kelly in person, she is going to be speaking at the Moonlight and Magnolias conference hosted by the Georgia Romance Writers October 1 – 3, 2010. Get her books, get inspired, and get to work on that WIP!!!

Patience Smith, Editor, Harlequin Romantic Suspense

SFCATTY: I had the awesome assignment on this blog of seven women to interview Patience Smith. I was so glad that this particular guest was assigned to me. She was one of the editors taking pitches at the Silken Sands Conference at Pensacola Beach in March of this year. I had the privilege of meeting her then and I also pitched a romantic suspense to her.  She was utterly charming and I liked her a lot. She ultimately rejected my manuscipt but her rejection letter made my heart soar. I know that sounds weird but she was so kind and gave me advice in that letter that I have implemented. That she took the time to encourage me was special. I still hope to work with her someday but even if that never happens, I like her as a person and I really respect her work.  She has some great news to share with us at the end of her interview here. Welcome, Patience.

SFCatty: How did you get started as an editor?

PATIENCE SMITH:  I taught high school French for six years, loved the kids and my colleagues, but realized that it wasn’t my “calling.” I admire teachers so much and knew I couldn’t stay the course for another thirty years. Because I have always been a bookworm and critic, I thought publishing would be perfect. I was right!

SFCatty:  I can totally see you as a French teacher, but did you ever have another career in mind?

PATIENCE SMITH:  Several. Up until college, I’d wanted to be an actress. Then I aspired to be the next Virginia Woolf, then a junior copywriter at an advertising firm, a short period where I loved being a secretary, then a teacher and now an editor. The editing has stuck for thirteen years.

SFCatty: I bet you like Broadway shows since you live in New York and wanted to be an actress, but much as I would want to chat with you about that, our readers would probably want me to ask this instead: What’s it like to be an editor at such a large, diverse company?

PATIENCE SMITH:  This may sound corny but it doesn’t feel like a large company. There is a lot of camaraderie between the offices. We do a fair amount of video-conferencing and visiting to enhance communication. In New York, we are all living on top of each other so I may talk to a nonfiction editor as easily as I would someone in my department. It’s a cozy place, actually.

SFCatty: Describle  for us a typical day in the life of Patience Smith.

PATIENCE SMITH:  I get to work at 8:30, read until about 9:30 and do my first walk around the office to drop off proposals/forms/mail. My editorial assistant Shana usually stops by around 10:30 to chat and go over what’s due. After that, I’ll check email, go to meetings and then the gym during my lunch hour. In the afternoon, I will edit, return phone calls, and try not to run downstairs to Starbucks for a snack. At 4:30, I pack up, taking a proposal or two home.

SFCatty: How many people at Harlequin are involved in the manuscripts you choose to buy?

PATIENCE SMITH:  It really depends on each project or author. Usually, when more books are involved per contract, my manager and possibly her manager will get involved. Sometimes, I make the decision myself but discuss it with my manager.

SFCatty:  Do you have committee meetings to determine offers to purchase?

PATIENCE SMITH:  Not for the series books, or at least, not with SRS. It’s more a decision between—at most—four people: the editor, me, two other managers.

SFCatty:  Describe the process of what happens when a manuscipt comes in to your office. Where does it go, how long does it take to wend through the process of selection or rejection?

PATIENCE SMITH:  When I get a manuscript, it goes on my shelf or to Shana. I tend to read projects very quickly so I will reach a decision within two months.

SFCatty:  How involved are you in the editing process once you have bought a manuscript?

PATIENCE SMITH:  Very involved. If it’s one of my authors, I will usually edit the book or, if I’m socked with too many projects, Shana will wrest one from my hands. There are few people I’d trust with my authors, but she is definitely one of them and is looking to build her own author base. If the author belongs to another editor, I don’t see it beyond the contract phase until it’s published.

SFCatty:  Tell us three fun, unique facts about you.

PATIENCE SMITH:  I did calligraphy professionally for 15 years.

I love anything Julia Roberts.

I am getting married next January!

SFCatty: That’s awesome news on your wedding, Patience. Congratulations on that. I’m sure  it’ll be a beautiful ceremony. We all wish you the best for the future.  Thanks for being with us today. Great  interview- lots of great information. We appreciate it and hope you’ll come back and visit again.

Our Guest of the Day- August 28, 2010-Katie Reus

SFCATTY: Please welcome to our blog one of the Gulf Coast Chapter Romance Writers of America newest members.  She recently relocated to our area and we’re happy to have her join our group.  We’re all looking forward to getting to know her better.

Welcome, Katie.

KATIE REUS:  Happy Anniversary Southern Sizzlers! Thanks so much for letting me hang at your blog! All month I’ve been reading all these fabulous posts and wondering how the heck I’m going to come up with something just as interesting to chat about.

This past year (and it’s only August) brought forth a lot of changes for me. I moved to a new state and left all my family behind. Yes, I love my in-laws but I’m sorry, no one can replace my mom or sister. The move was thankfully very smooth though. Relocating also brought forth more changes. I went from a relatively large city to a small coastal town where things just seem to move slower. Not that I mind that. I only have to drive half an hour east or west and I’m immersed in a bigger ‘civilization’. The really big change in my life was when I made the move into writing full time. At first it was scary but it was also easy to embrace it.

So far one of the best things about the move is my new local RWA chapter. No, I’m not saying that because one of the fabulous GCC ladies asked if I wanted to guest blog this month. The vibe I got the second I stepped into my first meeting was friendly and welcoming. Way beyond what I expected. It takes me almost an hour to drive to the meetings but now that I’ve met this group, it’s not even a question of whether I’m going. Which brings me to the point of this post. I bet you thought it was about change. But it’s not. Well, not completely.

Unlike so many writers who knew what they wanted to do from practically the time they could hold a pen, I didn’t always know I wanted to write. I started writing in 2006 but I didn’t start seriously writing (with intent to publish) until the next year. Even though writers often have fragile egos and are constantly striving to develop thicker skin (I know I am), we’re still brave enough to send our work out into the world because we think we have a story worth telling.

My first year of writing I didn’t reach out to anyone in the writing community. The only thing I did was join RWA but I didn’t search out a local chapter for another eleven months. I could say it was a mistake but at the time I wasn’t ready to meet other writers. The thought of telling anyone I wanted to be a writer was terrifying. Once I finally reached out, a whole new world opened up to me. I don’t want to embarrass anyone by naming names but in the last three years that I’ve undertaken this journey to publication I’ve met so many amazing women who have helped me in ways that went above and beyond anything I ever expected. In addition to finding two amazing critique partners, one friend totally revamped both my websites for free when I had issues with my old designer, then a new designer I hired after that. Apparently I never learn. She also helped straighten out a mess I’d gotten into including losing one of my domain names. Another friend took time out of her crazy busy schedule to read some of my work and give a quote for a proposal my agent and I sent out this month. There are so many other things I could list but these two are fresh on my mind and besides, if I listed everything else it would be too long for this blog. My point is, romance writers as a whole are incredibly nice, giving people. I could be mistaken but I don’t think the online atmosphere is quite the same for writers of other genres. I hope I’m wrong. All I know is I’m happy to write romance and this community of strong, giving ladies makes it that much better.

My next release isn’t until February 2011 (with Carina Press), but my alter ego just had a release from Ellora’s Cave. Since the ladies here have been cool enough to host me I’d like to give away a copy of Tempting Alibi (digital copy) to one commenter. All you have to do is leave a comment. If you’re a writer, what’s your best experience with other writers? How have they helped you along your publishing journey? If you’re not a writer, what’s the nicest thing a friend ever did for you?

If you’re interested in learning more about me, I write romantic suspense and paranormal romance as Katie Reus. I also have a few erotic titles under that name but for the last couple years all my erotic romance has been written under the name Savannah Stuart. Both my websites are updated regularly if you’d like to check them out. www.katiereus.com and www.savannahstuartauthor.com. I’m also on twitter and facebook.

Thanks again to the ladies at Southern Sizzle Romance!

SFCATTY: Thanks again for being with us today, Katie.  Great cover, by the way.  Please leave your comments for Katie and Savannah and they’ll answer them and one lucky commenter will win a digital book.  Join us tomorrow, 8/29/10  for Patience Smith, Editor, Harlequin Romantic Suspense.

The fantabulous Danica Avet

SFCatty: Danica Avet was one of our first commenters on this blog.  We all love her and Sayde and I had the chance to meet her in person at RWA National – She is as awesome in person as she is on the net- her blog posts are always funny and I enjoy her tweets as well.  She’ll try to tell you she’s shy but she’ll be fibbing.  This girl is a crazy Louisiana chica and her favorite bar in New Orleans is owned by my client/friend.  We found that out at National as well. Any straight chick that likes to hang at a gay bar on Bourbon Street is totally NOT shy!   Welcome Danica. We’re glad you’re here!

Danica Avet:

Limbo Rock or the Agent Shuffle

I’ve chewed on this post ever since I was asked to be a guest blogger for the Sizzlers. My first thought was: Moi? Truly, truly? My second thought was: What the hell am I going to talk about? I mean really. I’m just one of many unpublished authors scrabbling for publication. I don’t have any great insight into the writing industry. I’m not an expert in anything except for Fantasy Men, but since I was told “no frontal nudity” that took all the fun out it. Yes, I’m still pouting, ladies!

So I stewed. Then I read Brandi Hall’s post about Canceled Contracts and realized I do know something. I know how not to get screwed on the agent end of the publishing world. In May, I sent queries everywhere. I mean, I was ready. I was going to have an agent for Nationals because this book was great. I chose to go with my top level agencies first. My queries went out on a Thursday morning. Friday I had a request for a full from one of my dream agents. Monday morning I sent that manuscript out sprinkled with hopes, wishes, and some holy water. By Thursday, the agent called me back. ME! *swoon*

I was so nervous, so unbelievably excited that I just listened to her for half an hour. She loved my story, loved my characters, loved the world I’d built. She didn’t want to change a single thing. Stupefied? Why, yes I was! So when she said she wanted to start sending out proposals immediately, I was baffled. Should I do this? What to do? I asked her (rather hesitantly) if I could have the night to think about it. She said of course. I mean, she knows I’m overwhelmed and excited. So that’s what I did. I thought over it that night. I would say I slept on it, but that so did not happen. I was a nervous wreck. I asked everyone their advice. Do I take it? Oh the agony of deciding!

I called her back on Friday morning. I was going to do it. This was my break and I wasn’t going to be some couillon and pass it up! We did a verbal handshake and she said the contract would be ready on Tuesday. She wanted to send out feelers while we were waiting on the contract to be drawn up and I was like “cooool!”. I sent out e-mails to all of the other agents saying I had found representation. In the meantime, I wrote up a short synopsis for two more books so we could present them as a 3-book deal and sent them to her. She knew exactly who she was sending them to. Tuesday came and went and I didn’t hear from her. She shot me a quick e-mail later that week saying that seven out of the ten publishing houses she sent the proposal to wanted the full. SQUEE! It was really happening!

The contract still didn’t come in. I was waffling, something I try not to do. Do I call her to find out about the contract? Or do I just send her e-mails that sort of lead into the conversation? I settled on the latter. I didn’t hear back from her. Meanwhile, I have “real” life issues going on that distract me from the agent problem. The next time I look at the calendar, it’s been nearly a month since I heard back from her. What was going on? Where was my contract?

When I finally had enough, I got an e-mail from her. Thank God, right? No. She was no longer with her agency. She wished me luck, gave me the name of another agent at that agency if I wanted to stay with them, otherwise I had to look for representation somewhere else. Wh-What? Wait, what? Are you serious? She gave me a list of the editors who had my full manuscript and the others she’d queried for me. I sat staring at my computer like…huh? Now my process had to start all over again, but I was stuck. My manuscript is on the desk of several editors, but I have no agent. I’m an orphaned author! *cue the sad song*

I contacted the editors I could and started querying agents all over again. Except this time, no one wanted to touch me. I take a bath every day, y’all. Swear it. But it was like I had cooties. One of the agents, another one of my favorites, sent me a lovely rejection. She liked the story, but it needed work and she just wasn’t sure she’d have anyone to pitch it to since it was out there already. This became a recurring theme from the agents in the second round of querying. That’s the limbo part.

For a while, I went through the whole “this isn’t FAIR” stage. I might’ve even imagined running outside during a thunderstorm and screaming “nooooo” at the sky. Instead, I sat back and really thought about it. This isn’t actually a bad thing. My book and name is sitting in front of seven very important editors at right at this moment. (Unless it’s being used to prop up someone’s desk.) These are publishers who don’t take unsolicited work. That’s a good thing. Several of the agents who rejected me the second time around may remember me when I query them the next time, that’s another good thing. I now know not to do diddly-squat without that contract in my hand, which is yet another good thing.

So you see, even though the limbo bar fell on me and you know, knocked the breath out of me, I came away with well-learned lessons that will stay with me forever. I know I’ve said this before, but it’s so true: writing is a journey. Two writers can start at the exact same time, finish their manuscripts together, send them out together, but from there the road forks off in different directions. Everyone’s journey is different. Trials and tribulations seem to hang over some writers more than others, but learning from your mistakes and troubles, learning from your fellow writers’ mistakes or troubles, is what makes getting published possible. Stay positive no matter what comes your way. Be supportive of your fellow writer and accept support from them. Learn as much as you can from the agents and editors in your genre to better understand what they want.

And to borrow a phrase from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure: Be excellent to each other…and party on, Dudes! Congrats to the Sizzlers for their one year anniversary and thank you for letting me post! Love y’all!

 SFCatty: Thanks for coming by, D.  And just because Danica’s first comment on one of my posts was about  the nude sports team calendar I posted and because she sent me this picture as a joke, here is another team for your viewing enjoyment:

The Sizzlers Welcome Jonathan Rhys Meyers

Ok, not like our recent guests. I mean, no, he didn’t do a personal interview with us. But I am quite sure that if he knew how much we luuurrrvve him, he would have. Somehow we managed to get ahead of ourselves with the posts, and we ended up this morning without a special guest.

But SFCatty pointed out that we have gotten a lot of hits when we run pix of Jonathan, and y’all know I am never against a little bit of British historical-epic actor eye candy. So sit back, get yourself a nice cold mojito, and enjoy one of our favorite videos:

The Dynamite Cynthia Eden- The Deadly Fear Edition of Bad-urday

EDITED TO ADD: Elaine Campbell has won a copy of Deadly Fear.  Elaine, please contact Cynthia directly here: http://www.cynthiaeden.com/contact/  to arrange to get your copy.  Congrats and we hope you’ll continue to enjoy her books and visit our blog.

SFCatty: Our guest today is my ghost hunting pal, Cynthia Eden, paranormal writer extraordinaire and now a romantic suspense writer as well.  Her first romantic suspense in a series was released recently: Deadly Fear.  She  is awesome and we have actually gotten a slew of our chapter members to agree to accompany us on our next ghost hunt in September- I’m sure we’ll both be blogging about that experience in the future.  Join her now as she discusses the work and the fun of being a full time writer.

Welcome Cynthia.

Cynthia: 

The Writing Life 

Happy Anniversary, Sizzlers!  Oh, how times flies when you are having fun.

And, as fate would have it…”fun” is exactly what I want to talk about today.

Writing is a job.  Let me just go ahead and get that out there. For me, writing isn’t a hobby, it isn’t just a passion—it’s a job.  I earn money for my writing, and I work every day to make sure that I’m meeting deadlines, and I’m doing my best to promote my books.

But…

I also write because it’s fun for me. I’ve always wanted to write (okay, well, for as long as I can remember, anyway!), and when I sit at my computer and type up a story, I truly get lost in the characters and the world that I create. Sometimes, I look up and feel dazed and a bit confused as I try to adjust back to the real world.  And there are days when I talk about my characters (a lot!) to the extent that it seems my heroes and heroines are real people. (What do you mean, they’re not?!)

I think writing is so much fun for me because I truly love the stories that I write. I’m a long-time fan of paranormal romances. I read them for years before I sold my first paranormal book. I know the paranormal market, I love the monsters out there, and writing about them is a pleasure for me.

Recently, I decided to branch into romantic suspense. Why? Because I like it. As I was writing my paranormals, I noticed that suspense elements kept slipping into my stories. I discovered that I enjoyed my serial killers just as much as my vampires. So I wrote about them, too.

The point of my long ramble? Writing is work…but it should be *fun* too—and this means that authors out there shouldn’t write what they think will sell for them. They should write the stories that appeal to them the most. After all, it will be these stories that you’ll have to write, day in and day out…and do you really want to be writing historicals when you hate doing research on historical accuracy? Or do you want to be writing about vampires when the thought of anything supernatural gives you hives? 

No!

Write what you love. Follow your heart with your stories and don’t write just what you think will be an easy sell (because, believe me, there is no easy sell in this business).  When you enjoy what you write, it shows.

So write and have fun.

(And if you have any writing advice you’d like to share, please, post away!) And I’ll draw for a free copy of DEADLY FEAR from the comments.

Cynthia Eden

www.cynthiaeden.com

I’LL BE SLAYING YOU—Available now from Kensington Brava

DEADLY FEAR—Available now from Grand Central Publishing (Forever)

SFCATTY: Thanks for being here, Cynthia and for the words of wisdom.  I’m not sure if the readers here recall, but we Sizzlers gave you our Mentor of the Year Award this year – we all appreciate the guidance you have so willingly given to us on our journeys to publication.  You truly are dynamite in our estimation!

The Hot, and I Mean Hot, Writer, Paige Tyler

 
 

SFCatty: Today’s guest is Paige Tyler- a friend of the Southern Sizzlers as well as a chapter member.  Her tag line is “Stories so hot, they’ll make your cheeks blush.”  And that is true, very true.  Enjoy her post, her excerpt and especially the cover of Dead Sexy–  I defy you to not enjoy that cover.  It is one smoking hot cover- would I lie to you? 

Welcome, Paige.

PAIGE: Thanks so much for asking me to guest blog at Southern Sizzle, Jillian! I’m so flattered!

Readers often ask me how I come up with ideas for my books, so I thought I’d give you a little behind-the-scenes peek at how I came up with my upcoming paranormal erotic romance from Ellora’s Cave called DEAD SEXY.

Before I say anything else though, isn’t that cover too hot for words?! When the art department sent it to me, I probably gazed at it for a good ten minutes in mouth-drooling appreciation before I could email them back telling the artist it not only rocked, but totally fit the book. The hero is “Dead Sexy,” after all!

Okay, back to the story and how I came up with it. First, to set the stage, I need to share a little something with you about myself. Well, about my hubby and me, actually. We love zombie movies, from the George Romero gems to Shaun of the Dead and everything in between. You just can’t go wrong with a movie full of walking dead people, can you? Well, if you’ve ever seen a zombie movie (or even you haven’t), then you know the creatures aren’t the heroes of the film. I mean, how can they be, right? They’re all dead and decayed and downright unattractive, not to mention pretty damn scary. Which was why you can imagine my surprise when my hubby suggested I write an erotic romance about a zombie hero. I was like, you’re kidding, right? What woman in her right mind would fall in love with a dead guy? No way could that possibly work, or so I thought.

Turns out, my hubby wasn’t kidding. In fact, he started working up ideas for the story.

“The hero didn’t have to be a zombie all the time,” he told me. “Think outside the box – take a little literary license!”

Okay, I thought. I suppose I could be open minded.

My hubby told me that in his out-of-the-box world, the hunky hero got cursed by an evil Voodoo priestess and only turns into a zombie sometimes.

“I’m listening,” I said.

“And when he does go zombie, he doesn’t have to be like the kind in the movies,” my hubby added. Well, he has to look like one, you know all dead and stuff, but he doesn’t have to be a mindless creature or attack humans or eat anything gross.”

So, brains are completely out, thanks goodness!

“Think Jensen Ackles or Jared Padelecki, with a really, really, really dark tan – (yes, my hubby knows I’ve got a thing for the Supernatural hunks!) – well, maybe more gray and black than tan, but you get the idea.”

I thought about that for a minute. “So, the hero’s dead, but he’s still sexy, is that what you’re saying?”

“Exactly,” he said, giving me a grin as my eyes lit up with understanding.

By that point, my hubby had pretty much sold me on the idea. Of course, I knew if I ran with it, I was going to have to sell it to a publisher, and I knew that could be tough since the hero is a zombie.

But I ran with it anyway and ended up with a full-length novel. And it came out pretty damn good, if I do say so myself! I still had to find a publisher for it, though.

About this same time, It just so happens that several of my other books were in the process of being picked up by Ellora’s Cave and I thought what the heck? Why not pitch it to editor there and see what she thinks? So I did, and she told me to send it to her. She was interested to see how I handled the whole zombie-thing. Well, long story, short, she liked it. A lot! My zombie romance with it’s dead-sexy hero had a home! I was thrilled and my hubby walked around for a week with a smug, “I-told-you-so” look on his face.

I’ve been getting the word out there about DEAD SEXY and I’m thrilled with the interest from readers who can’t wait to get their hands on it! I can’t wait for them to read it, too! It’s in final edits with my editor, so it should be hitting the digital streets really soon.

Now that I’ve revealed the story behind the story, I thought I’d share the blurb and an excerpt just to whet your appetite for more!

Blurb:

Romance author Simone Kent thinks she might just have found the most perfect guy in all of New York City – in bed and out.

But Drake Parrish is about as far from perfect as any man can get. Eight years ago, he was cursed by an evil Voodoo priestess to live part of his life as a zombie. Since then, he has lived like a recluse on New York’s Upper East Side, afraid to go out for fear he’ll suddenly turn into one of the walking dead.
Being with Simone reminds him of everything he was forced to give up and Drake finds himself feeling things for her that he hasn’t felt in a very long time. When the Voodoo priestess learns of their relationship, however, she comes after him again. She doesn’t believe Drake has paid for his sins and is determined to make sure he won’t have a future with Simone, even if that means killing the woman he loves.

Excerpt:

As she led him up the steps to the second floor, Drake found himself wondering if she would ask him in. And wondering what he’d say if she did. When they came to a stop outside the door to her apartment, Simone turned to give him a smile.
“I had a great time tonight.”

“Me, too.”

She caught her bottom lip between her perfect white teeth and chewed on it thoughtfully as if unsure what she wanted to say next. It was probably an unconscious gesture, something she did whenever she was thinking, but to him, it was sexy as hell and all he could think about was kissing her.

Surely, one kiss couldn’t hurt. He desperately wanted to. He hadn’t kissed a woman in so long. It would be nice to see if he still remembered how.

Before he could stop himself, Drake tilted Simone’s face up to his and pressed his mouth to hers.

She tasted just as sweet and delicious as he thought she would. Her lips were soft and pliant under his as she kissed him back, her tongue eagerly seeking his out.

Drake groaned and slid his hand into her hair, deepening the kiss. Simone sighed into his mouth, running her hands up the front of his shirt to grasp his shoulders. The feel of her touch was like a tonic to his deprived soul and he let out another groan, deeper this time.

He ran his free hand up her side and around to her breast, cupping it through the soft material of her dress. He couldn’t stop himself and apparently, Simone didn’t want him to. She moaned and arched against him. He could feel the heat of her pussy through their clothes as she pressed up against his hard cock. Damn, she felt good.

Drake drew her bottom lip into his mouth and gently suckled on it before slowly kissing his way along the delicate curve of her jaw. Simone clutched his shoulders and tilted her head back. He eagerly trailed a path of hot kisses down her neck, then back up, his mouth finding hers again. Simone looped her arms around his neck, pulling him in even closer as their tongues met.

Down the hall, a door slammed, reminding him where they were.
Drake dragged his mouth away from hers, his breathing ragged as he tried to regain control. He had to get it together because he was about five seconds away from doing something really stupid. Like taking her to bed. “I should go.”

Her lips curved into a sexy, flirtatious smile. “Or you could stay.”

God, how he wanted to. But as much as he’d love to spend the rest of the night exploring every inch of her body, he couldn’t take the chance he might go zombie on her right in the middle of sex. Talk about coitus interruptus, And it had already been almost four days since he last turned, which meant he was already pushing his luck.

“You don’t know how much I want to,” he groaned. “But I can’t.”

Simone looked up at him with those big, blue eyes. “Why not?”

“Because I…” He hesitated, trying to come up with something that would sound believable. “I have a column due in the morning and I haven’t even started on it yet.” She knew all about deadlines, so she would understand that. Besides, he did have a column to write, it just wasn’t due until next week. “Rain check?”
She looked disappointed, but she smiled anyway. “Absolutely. How does coming over for dinner tomorrow night sound?”

It would be crazy to agree when he could be so close to having an episode, but he couldn’t say no. Not when she asked in that soft, sultry voice. “Sounds great.”

“Good. Be here at seven.”

“Seven it is.”

She pulled him down for another long, slow kiss on the mouth. “Don’t be late.”
His mouth twitched. “I won’t.” He bent his head to kiss her again, then groaned. “If I don’t go now, I’ll be here all night.”

Simone laughed. “Would that be such a bad thing?”

“Not to me, but my editor at Money Issues might not be too understanding when he doesn’t find my column sitting in his inbox tomorrow.”

She sighed. “Deadlines can be a real pain in the butt sometimes. Okay, go home and write your column. I’ll cuddle up with a bowl of ice cream instead.”

He chuckled. “Sounds better than taking a cold shower, which is what I’m going to be doing when I get home.” He closed his mouth over hers once more. “See you tomorrow night, beautiful.”
Resisting the urge to pull her into his arms again, Drake turned and walked down the hallway toward the stairwell. At the top of the steps, he glanced over his shoulder to see Simone standing where he’d left her, a sexy curve to her lips.

It took every ounce of strength he possessed not to go back and pin her against the door for one more long, lingering kiss. God, what he wouldn’t give to spend the night with her. Man, it was going to take more than a cold shower to get her out of his head.
Hope you enjoyed the excerpt and that you can’t wait to read more because DEAD SEXY is coming soon from Ellora’s Cave! If you want to be the first to get a copy, check my website and blog for the release date. You can also join my email newsletter at

And if you decide to pick up DEAD SEXY when it comes out, let me know how you like it!

*hugs*
Paige

paigetyler@paigetylertheauthor.com (put newsletter in the subject line) or my Facebook newsletter at http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=28772293974 You can also Become a Fan on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Paige-Tyler-Author-of-Sexy-Romantic-Fiction/138725096160587?v=page_getting_started#!/pages/Paige-Tyler-Author-of-Sexy-Romantic-Fiction/138725096160587?v=wall http://www.paigetylertheauthor.com

http://paigetylertheauthor.blogspot.com

 

 
SFCatty: Whew (wiping brow) that was great- can’t wait to read the rest. Thanks again for being here, Paige.

 

 
 

 

  

Sizzlers Welcome The Fabulous Mr. Hell

Now, some of you may know that RomanceMama has discovered Twitter. I was really resistant to it and made fun of it, then found out how much I was missing. As a friend of mine tweeted, Facebook is for people you went to high school with; Twitter is for people you wish you’d gone to high school with. Try @BestAt, @LordLikely, @BPGlobalPR, and @FakeAPStylebook for some really funny tweets.

In addition to the humorous tweeters, you can also find a wealth of publishing industry information on twitter. There are plenty of aspiring authors who share info about contests, workshops and conferences, in addition to commiserating about the writing life. Also, lots of agents, editors, and big-time writers are on there, and some of them do question and answer sessions where you can semi-anonymously ask the questions you would never ask out loud at a conference. And when you start swapping DH (dear husband) and DK (dear kids) stories with these folks, you realize they are just working parents like you – only more successful. It really has made me more comfortable with pitches and queries.

One of the people who best combines the humor factor with great industry insights is an agent known to the twitterverse as @SlushPileHell. His web site, SlushPile Hell, and the accompanying tweets about actual queries combine snark and smart to give you an immediate bellylaugh – but then you start looking at your work to see if you’ve made similar mistakes.

So when the Sizzlers decided to ask some of our favorite people to join us for the Anniversary Celebration, I got in touch with @SlushPileHell right away. Follow, laugh with, and learn from him!

SS: So, can I call you Slush, or do you prefer Mr. Hell?

Let’s go with Mr. Hell. Sounds like I should have my own comic book, which I’ve always wanted.

SS: Without giving away your true identity, what can you tell us about your current job and your experience in the industry?

I’ve been in the publishing industry for about 15 years, on both the publisher and agent side of the business.

SS: Why did you start your blog “SlushPile Hell”?

Well, as an agent when you get these truly awful queries, you can either start drinking heavily or you can find a creative outlet. I chose the latter (while not ruling out the former).

SS: What’s the most important thing to do to keep our queries off your blog?

Well, the good news is that out of the 30 queries or so a day that I receive, there are usually only one or two that are so horrendous that they deserve a spot on SlushPile Hell. If writers will just follow agents’ submission guidelines, use common sense and professionalism, and refrain from making outrageous claims (“I’ve written the best book EVER!”), they’ll immediately rise above the truly abysmal mark. But of course, then the real challenge is rising above the vast sea of mediocrity that most of the other queries and manuscripts are drowning in. That’s where a lot of hard work, rewriting, rewriting, getting some expert opinions on your work, and more rewriting come in. I’d be willing to guess that most of the mediocre queries and manuscripts I see are really just first drafts. Very few writers seem to want to do the exceedingly difficult and less glamorous work of editing and rewriting until everything really sings.

SS: Now, Mr. Hell is, to quote dear Bridget Jones, very busy and important, so we can’t impose more on his/her time. But if you want more, which I know you do, visit the blog at http://slushpilehell.tumblr.com/ and follow @SlushPileHell on twitter.

Thanks, Mr. Hell, for your time and insight! And please, give me a warning before you post one of my queries on your blog!!!

Hello from the Sizzlers

SFCatty:  Just checking in to say hi- hopefully, the others will too.  Hope you are all enjoying our month of guests. We just know you hate to miss your regularly scheduled posts from us (snort) but we’ll be back September1 to entertain you further.  The point of this post is to let you know there are more guests to come and we hope you’ll continue to check in. Don’t forget us come Sept 1 either.  We all continue on the journey and hope you’ll join us along the way.  Here’s hoping for a NY Times best seller someday!

New York Times Building

Rita VF checking in.  Thanks to all of our friends who posted and everyone who has dropped by to visit.    A guest list (pretty accurate) is posted on the Anniversary Celebration page.  We’ve had some eclectic posts and I’ve enjoyed each one.  There’s more to come.  Tomorrow (Monday), USA Today Best Seller and Rita winner and five-time Rita nominee Cathy Mann will share a heart-warming story with us and the next day (Tuesday) Emjai Colbert will discuss managing writing and children (she mentioned duct tape?)   To draw from their posts, I’m sharing a pic of my daughter and her shelter dog, Bruiser.  Later, RitaVF

Hey from Runere! I’ve certainly been enjoying our guest posts! Especially Dianna Love and *The Boys* from BAD Agency yesterday! Had to be one of the liveliest posts we’ve had.  And just think . . . there are even more guests to come. Y’all visit every day to celebrate our first year together with us. Okay, heading back to take care of hubby. He’s particularly pathetic when it comes to enforced inactivity. Already had to chase him back in from the yard once today! Quite an accomplishment for a man on crutches with a leg brace! lol Keep that Romance Sizzlin’!

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