Wednesday Welcome to Margie Lawson!!!

Good morning all!! Had some technical difficulties, but here we are!!

No eye-candy today, chicas. In anticipation of RWA11 next week, I am being serious and talking about craft today. And no one knows more about craft than my guest today, the fabulous Margie Lawson!!!

Everyone I know who has attended one of Margie’s workshops raves about them, so y’all put July 23 on your calendar – that’s when Margie will be doings workshop for our buddies at the Southern Magic RWA in Birmingham!

So with no further babbling by me, here’s Margie!!!


New York Times Writing and the EDITS System
By Margie Lawson

A big THANK YOU to Donna for inviting me to be her guest today. I’m pleased to be here.
Today I’m diving into how to write so well, that your strong writing craft and fresh writing boosts you toward the New York Times Bestseller list. Sound good?
New York Times Writing and the EDITS System
By Margie Lawson

If you’ve taken some of my editing courses on-line, you may recall I recommend adding NYT to your margin tracking list for your WIP. Why? Because when your writing is powerful, it gives you a boost toward the NYT Bestseller list.

I developed six writing craft courses (two courses debut this fall). Each course is loaded with Deep Editing techniques that teach writers how to add power to their writing. One of those techniques is the EDITS System.

When creating the EDITS System, my goal was to determine what components of a scene set the strongest emotional hook. What made a book a page-turner.

The EDITS System is the ultimate SHOW DON’T TELL power tool. Writers use the EDITS SYSTEM to analyze scene components. It shows writers what they have on each page. It shows writers where to add power. It shows writers what’s working, what’s not working, and what’s missing.

When writers use this highlighting system, patterns emerge for each scene. They may be surprised to see that in an emotionally-driven scene, they kept the POV character in their head, locked in internalizations. All thoughts, no visceral responses. If the writer slipped in a few visceral responses, they’d take the scene from the POV character’s head, and the reader’s head, to the reader’s heart.

The EDITS System helps writers find a compelling balance of Emotion, Dialogue, Internalizations, Tension/Conflict, Setting, as well as dialogue cues, action, body language, senses, and more . . . that works for their specific scene dynamics.

Given that the story is compelling, the plot is strong, and the characters live in your heart or dreams or nightmares – what writing craft processes could make the difference between a skimmer and a winner?

How can writers present their story in ways that keep the reader so committed to the read, that they’d rather finish your book, than sleep late, eat chocolate, or have sex?

The answers? I teach writers dozens of techniques that contribute to gluing the reader to your pages. They include writing fresh. Adding psychological power. Using the incontrovertible power of the visceral response, in the right places – accelerated heart rate, sweaty palms, dry mouth, tight chest, clenched stomach, weak knees, blood rushing to chest, neck, and face, adrenaline pumping, heart pummeling rib cage . . .

I’m sharing a few examples of NYT writing in this blog. You’ll find one character description, five dialogue cues and three visceral responses.


Tana French, THE LIKENESS:

I’d been expecting someone so nondescript he was practically invisible, maybe the Cancer Man from The X Files, but this guy had rough, blunt features and wide blue eyes, and the kind of presence that leaves heat streaks on the air where he’s been.

Kudos to Tana French! Don’t you wish you’d written that description?


Here’s one more Deep Editing goodie. I coined the term DIALOGUE CUES to describe the phrases and sentences that inform the reader how the dialogue was delivered. Think: subtext.
Dialogue Cues are not just dialogue tags. Dialogue Cues share how the words were spoken, the psychological message behind the words.

Writers may write short dialogue cues that describe the voice in a basic way:

ν His tone was rough.
ν Her voice jumped an octave.
ν His voice had a sarcastic edge.
ν Her words sounded harsher than she intended.

Writers can go beyond those basics, and add interest and psychological depth to their dialogue cues. They can write dialogue cues in fresh and empowered ways.

Dialogue Cues from Tana French, THE LIKENESS.

1. All the laughter and façade had gone out of his voice, and I knew Frank well enough to know that this was when he was most dangerous.

2. “You’ve always been a funny guy,” I said, hoping the wave of relief wouldn’t leak into my voice.

3. “Hey, fair enough,” Frank said, in an equable voice that made me feel like an idiot.

4. His voice didn’t sharpen, but it had an undertow that made my shoulders go up.

5. Out in the kitchen, Doherty said something shaped like a punchline and everyone laughed; the laugher was perfect, unforced and friendly, and it made me edgy as hell.

NOTE: Examples 3, 4, and 5, have a similar structure. All three share a STIMULUS and RESPONSE in the same sentence. Powerful technique.

That’s one deep editing technique that can take your writing from good to stellar.

Tana French writes fresh. It’s not surprising that her debut novel won a Macavity Award.


In my EDITS System, VISCERAL RESPONSES are the only things highlighted in PINK. Not a kick in the shins. Not an expletive. Not watching someone get shot.

Everything can carry emotion but the only component of the scene highlighted in PINK is a visceral response. Dialogue, action, facial expressions, thoughts (internalizations) – all may carry emotion. But it’s the visceral response that carries the biggest emotional punch.

If the writer neglects to have the POV character experience a visceral response after an emotionally-loaded stimulus – the passage is not as powerful, not as credible. Not a page-turner.
Here are three examples from a debut novel by RWA Golden Heart winner, Darynda Jones. FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT was released Feb. 2011. It’s the first novel in a three-book series sold in a pre-empt to Jennifer Enderlin at St. Martin’s.
Darynda Jones is a Margie-grad. I received a note from Darynda thanking me for what she’d learned in my on-line classes. I’m always so proud when Margie-grads receive awards and contracts and hit bestseller lists.
Darynda Jones, FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT, First Example:

Still reeling from the potential identity of Dream Guy, I wrapped myself in the towel and slid open the shower curtain. Sussman poked his head through the door, and my heart took a belly dive into the shallow end of shock, cutting itself on the jagged nerve ending there.

I jumped, then placed a calming hand over my heart, annoyed that I was still so easily surprised. As many times as I’ve seen dead people appear out of nowhere, you’d think I’d be used to it.

Visceral Response: . . . and my heart took a belly dive into the shallow end of shock, cutting itself on the jagged nerve ending there.


When I opened the door, Zeke Herschel, Rosie’s abusive husband, stood across from me with vengeance in his eyes. I glanced at the nickel-plated pistol clenched in his hand and felt my hearbeat falter, hesitate, then stumble awkwardly forward, tripping on the next beat, then the next, faster and faster until each one tumbled into the other like the drumroll of dominoes crashing together.

Visceral Response: . . . felt my hearbeat falter, hesitate, then stumble awkwardly forward, tripping on the next beat, then the next, faster and faster until each one tumbled into the other . . .

Third Example from FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT:

My breaths stilled in my chest, my lungs seized, suddenly paralyzed, and a prickly sensation cut down my spine. “What . . . are you talking about?”

“PD got called to his house this afternoon. We found his wife in their bedroom, marinating in a pool of her own blood.”

The room dimmed and the world fell out from beneath me.

“One of the worst domestic cases I’ve ever seen.”

I fought gravity and shock and a pathetic panicky kind of denial. But reality swept in and kicked my ass, hands down.

Visceral Responses:

1) My breaths stilled in my chest, my lungs seized, suddenly paralyzed, and a prickly sensation cut down my spine.

2) The room dimmed and the world fell out from beneath me.

The examples in this blog share fresh psychologically empowered writing. It’s cotton-candy-on-your-tongue writing. It makes the reader want more and more and more. It’s the caliber of writing you find in some debut books, and in some New York Times Bestsellers.

In my six writing craft courses, I have over 2300 pages of lectures loaded with strong examples, dig-deep analyses, and teaching points. Please drop by my web site and check out the line-up of courses offered by Lawson Writer’s Academy.


1. You may post an example of fresh writing from your WIP or fresh writing from one of your favorite authors.

2. You may write something fresh – and post it.

3. You may post a comment — or post ‘Hi Margie!’

You could WIN:
1. A Lecture Packet
2. An Online Course from Lawson Writer’s Academy

I’ll post the names of the winners on the blog tonight – between 10 and 11 PM Mountain Time


Visit my cyber Open House for Lawson Writer’s Academy, July 14, 15, and 16.

You’ll have a dozen more chances to win a Lecture Packet or an online class!
Margie Lawson—psychotherapist, writer, and international presenter – developed psychologically-based editing systems and deep editing techniques used by everyone, from new writers to multi-award winning authors. She teaches writers how to add psychological power to create page turners.
Margie taught psychology and communication courses at the undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral levels. Her resume includes adjunct professor, clinical trainer, facilitator of trauma response sessions, and director of a counseling center.
In the last six years Margie presented over sixty full day Master Classes across the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Writers who have studied her material credit her innovative editing approaches with taking their writing several levels higher—to publication, awards, and bestseller lists.
To learn about Margie’s 3-day Immersion Master Classes in Colorado, online courses offered by Lawson Writer’s Academy, full day Master Class presentations, Lecture Packets, and newsletter, visit:


Wetsday Welcomes Danica . . . and her guests

As dear SFCatty/Jillian Chantal told y’all Saturday, the amazing world-wide acclaim for this blog started with one fan, who kept commenting and telling us she liked what we were doing. Danica Avet, a fairly sizzling Southern girl herself, will therefore always be one of our very favoritest people. And I get the honor of hosting her here today, on a major big red-letter day in her life: GROUNDHOG DAY!!!

No, just fooling around. We don’t care what Punxatawny Phil does with his shadow — here on the Gulf Coast, writers like Danica are keeping things nice and steamy. And since steamy is the operative word for Wetsday, here’s Danica:

I’m honored to return to Southern Sizzle Romance. I love these ladies and enjoy reading their posts. Well, okay, I’ll admit it. I stalked them for almost a year. But it’s their fault. No, it really is! If they weren’t so funny and interesting, I wouldn’t have felt compelled to read everything they posted.

However, they’ve graciously allowed me to return to Southern Sizzle for Wetsday. I do love Wetsday because I do love soaking wet men. *ponder* I’m trying to remember if there’s a shower scene in my book, but no, there isn’t. I rectified that in book 2 and 3 of the series. Alas, I can only imagine how my lovely hero would look with water cascading over his body.

*several minutes later*

Oh, sorry. Forgot I was typing something.

Now what to blog about? Oh, I know. I’m a nervous wreck. My first book, Ruby: Uncut and on the Loose, is being released today. When I started writing, I think I saw publication as something that would happen…I don’t know…maybe forty years from now? I’m glad it didn’t take that long, but still, I don’t think I was properly prepared for it.

When we start writing, we’re so focused on the excitement of creating and giving our characters a problem to solve, a love to find, that we (or at least I did) forget that there’s a purpose to writing. We write to be read. Right? Or that’s how it should be. Where’s the fun in writing just for your own amusement? Then when you get the call, or email, saying someone wants to put your book in front of the general public, you’re ecstatic. Yay! It’s finally happened! People are going to read your book! Wait…people are going to read. Your. Book! O.M.G.

I won’t go into the fits of nervousness and fear. Instead, I’ll concentrate on the changes that I’ve seen since finding out three of my books are being published. Er…okay, so Oprah still hasn’t called and neither has Jay Leno. I’m still driving my old car and living in the same house. I haven’t had to duck the paparazzi and no one’s asked for my autograph. Oh, wait, that isn’t true. People have asked for my book in print autographed by moi. *laughs hysterically* In fact, not much has changed and I’m so glad. There’s enough going on right now that I’m not sure I could handle more.

I haven’t changed either (okay, except for my hair color). I’m still the giggly, man-ogling woman who tells embarrassing stories about herself and her family and posts sexy men on Fridays. In fact…today is Wetsday, right? That means I get to put sexy men up! Woo-hoo!

So what do you think? Did I pick good Wetsday men?
Oh! I almost forgot! I’m giving a prize away. Leave a comment (about anything mentioned in the post) and you’ll be entered in a random drawing.

So, now that you see what a great writer and connoisseur of hot gentlemen our Danica is, you better jump on in and buy her booK:

Ruby Fontenot, a Cajun hermit, loses control of her life when she’s tapped to become the last Lineage Chieftain in a paranormal world she had no idea existed. With the power to change the face of The Veil by choosing its leaders, Ruby is now a wanted woman. Once she meets a member of the Veilerian High Council, what began as a fight for her life turns into a fight for her heart and her freedom.
As the High Council Representative, Lucian Ravenswaay has spent decades searching for the elusive Lineage Chieftain only to discover she’s his life mate. But this vampire has bigger plans than settling down; he wants a Council seat and to get it, he’ll have to turn Ruby over to them. The line between what he wants and what he needs is blurred and making the wrong choice could mean the destruction of an entire society.

Buy link:

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 ( 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!!!

Vanessa Kelly Gives Us Advice — and FREE BOOKS!!!!

All right, children. Settle down and listen to RomanceMama now, because we are honored to welcome one of my favorite authors today. As y’all know, I will read a Regency Romance from time to time, and some of the very best of the recent crop come from Vanessa Kelly. I got to meet her, get her autograph, and declare myself fangirl #1 at the Silken Sands Conference this past March. She not only writes killer stories about rakish lords and plucky heroines, she is one of the most genuinely nice people you could meet. As evidence, I point to her spending all that time at Silken Sands answering my dumb questions about becoming an author. Patience, thy name is Vanessa.

And as further proof of what a sweetie she is, Ms. Kelly has offered not one, but two books for giveaway to random posters today. A copy of Mastering the Marquess and a copy of Sex and the Single Earl are up for grabs. I’ve read both, and if you are a winner, you are in for a treat. (And if you aren’t lucky enough to get one free, get to your bookstore immediately, cause they are must-reads!)

So without further ado, here’s our conversation with Vanessa Kelly!

Tell us about your path to publication.

Like most fiction writers, it was by a long and winding road. I spent several years in graduate school studying English literature and doing lots of non-fiction writing. After grad school, I went to work as a researcher for a large public-sector organization. I wrote many more words in that job, again all non-fiction. Not to sound corny, but I did yearn to do something more creative and I tried all kinds of different hobbies, including playing the piano and needlepoint. Of course, I was a huge romance reader, and I’d been reading and loving historical romance since I was a teenager. It came to me in a typical “Road to Damascus” moment that I should try to write what I loved reading – a Regency-set historical romance. The core idea for my first book, Mastering The Marquess, was something that came from my research in grad school, so away I went! It took me about 18 months to write the book, several months to find an agent, and only two months after that to sell the book to Kensington. Of course, along the way I completely revised the book two times, so it really wasn’t as easy as it sounds.

Is this a hot cover, or what?

What is coming up next for you?

My third Regency-set historical romance, My Favorite Countess, will be out in May 2011. It’s a continuation of the series I started in my first two books. I also have a novella coming out in February in a Kensington anthology called An Invitation To Sin. I’m really excited about that one because the other writers are Jo Beverley, Sally MacKenzie, and Kaitlin O’Reilly. My novella is called The Pleasure Of A Younger Lover. As you can guess from the title, it’s a pretty sexy story!

I also write contemporary romance with my husband, under the pen name of VK Sykes. Our first book, CaddyGirls, was released by Carina Press in July. Right now, we’re at work on a number of projects, including more books for Carina.

What was your smartest career move?

I don’t know if I can break it down into any one thing. Finding the right agent was key to taking my career to the next level. I also put a lot of effort into promoting my first two books, and I think it’s paid off to a certain extent. I’ve tried to develop a career strategy that supports my ability to write the books I want to write, and also helps me build my “brand” as an author.

What was your worst career move?

I wish I had a dramatic story, like accidentally knocking an editor down an escalator, but I’ve got nothing like that! There hasn’t been one move (so far!) that’s had a really negative impact on my career. But I do sometimes regret the amount of time I’ve spent on promotion and social media at the expense of my writing time. It’s hard to find the balance, and sometimes it feels like a necessary evil.

I guess the other thing I regret is the time I’ve spent trying to chase a particular writing trend, when my heart wasn’t really in to writing those kinds of books.

What advice would you give to a writer pursuing publication?

Work on your craft. Let me repeat that: work on your craft. Too many genre writers are so obsessed with getting published that they’re spending way too much time on blogging and trying to build a brand before their writing is at the level needed to get published. Set your goals and do the hard work you need to achieve them. There are no short-cuts. Educating yourself about the publishing business should be enough to convince anyone of the truth of that.

Thanks, Vanessa! I have to admit, being the Regency-mad reader I am, I haven’t gotten to Caddygirls yet. But the download is ready and waiting, so I know what I’m reading this weekend! And I cannot wait for the next in your Regency series – I know which of your characters I want to get what’s coming to him/her!

So post away, kids, and I will pick 2 lucky readers, each of whom will win a Vanessa Kelly book!!!!

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 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!!!

Welcome The Incredible Esi Sogah!!!

When I first started reading romance, the name to know was Avon. They introduced the Sweet/Savage romance genre back in the seventies – and yes, I will admit my age and say I grabbed those as soon as they came out, hid them from my very straitlaced mother, and became a lifelong devotee of pirates, runaway heiresses, and ripped bodices. And the Avon tradition of fabulous romances has only grown stronger as I have grown older.

Today we are particularly honored to welcome Avon’s Esi Sogah, Associate Editor. I am a major fangirl –Ms. Sogah’s authors are consistently on my must-read list, and their books always seem to end up on the keeper shelf. So listen up, because this woman is the authority on the romance genre!

SS: Thank you for joining us! First of all, what’s going on at Avon? Are there any upcoming releases you are particularly excited about?

First, thank you so much for inviting me to participate today. There are almost too many exciting things for me to choose. Personally, I’m really looking forward to The Dangerous Viscount by Miranda Neville, coming out in October. Sebastian gets his story and it’s everything (and more) that you could hope for. In November, the second book in Juliana Stone’s Jaguar Warrior series, His Darkest Embrace, is released. As is obvious from the hot cover, this book has all the sexy passion and danger of Juliana’s first book, His Darkest Hunger.
We have quite a few debut authors, like Katharine Ashe and Jenny Brown, plus new books from some of the amazing authors you’ve come to love at Avon–the fourth book in Stephanie Laurens’s Black Cobra Quartet, Call Me Irresistible by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, and so very much more. I could go on for days. The Avon Blog is a great place to see everything we have coming up. And in our latest re-vamp, we’ve added commenting capabilities on book and author pages, so you can start your own conversations about what you’re looking forward to!

SS: And tell us about yourself – how did you get here, where do you see yourself in the coming years, and what do you read for personal enjoyment?

Well, there’s a loaded question! 🙂 I came to publishing from academia–while getting my Masters at The Pennsylvania State University, I worked at the Penn State Press and realized that I really enjoyed the publishing industry. So I went from there to the Columbia Publishing Course, and started at Avon soon after the course was complete. I’m hoping to continue to discover great new authors–I’m especially excited and proud of two of my new 2011 authors, Karina Cooper and Katy Madison. And, as you know, I’m all over our blog and Twitter, and the newsletter, so I’m sure there’s more coming in the digital part of my job as well. When I’m not reading for work, I tend to read thrillers–Kathy Reichs, James Rollins, Patricia Cornwell, Stieg Larsson. I’ve also been reading classics that I missed–I read The Age of Innocence earlier this year, and I’m currently reading Jane Eyre.

SS: Avon has always been on the cutting edge of publishing – I remember how exciting it was when Avon introduced the Woodiwiss/Rogers books in the early seventies. (Obviously, I was very precocious – reading before I could walk!) What do you expect to be the next big news to be in the romance world?

I think you’re going to start seeing a lot more original and enhanced ebooks. Of course, we’ll continue to put all of our print books in digital form, so readers can access them in whatever they choose. But I think the publishing industry as a whole is very curious about the many possibilities of digital books, and the romance industry is a perfect innovative books. About five years ago, we published Lady Amelia’s Secret Lover by Victoria Alexander, an ebook original with video commentary from the author herself. I expect to see more projects like this, as well as ebook versions of books with extra material, much like you often see trade paperback reprints of hardcovers with additional essays and information in the back.

SS: Conversely, what do you think is reaching the end of its run? (Say, maybe, glittery vampires?)

Well, I have to say I’m with Charlaine Harris–I don’t think vampires sparkle. But I certainly don’t see paranormals going anywhere. After all, if you look at the films and tv shows being made these days, many have supernatural elements, whether it’s vampires or superheroes or witches. I think what’s happening is that those of us who grew up on the great comics, and on Buffy and Firefly and Teen Witch are now running the show and the things you liked in childhood are the things you do as an adult.

SS: Avon is also known for discovering new talent. What is it that makes you grab something out of the slush pile and say, “This is it”?

Oh, that elusive It Factor. There are two things that let me know that a book is right for me. One is the voice. I love a great story, and a fresh new concept. But it’s the author’s voice that really grabs me, because that can’t be taught. Over the years, I’ve read things that haven’t worked for me, story-wise, at all, but were difficult to put down because the voice was so great. Those are the authors who will find their place. The other thing is if a book sticks. If it’s been a few days, a week, since I’ve read something and it keeps popping into my head? Then I know I’m onto something.
For example, when I read Katy Madison’s Tainted by Temptation, I read about 200 pages of it one weekend. That Sunday night, I was headed to bed and trying to pick something fun to read. I spent five minutes trying to figure out what that great book I had been reading earlier was before I remembered that it was a submission. Then I went into work the next day and said I wanted it.

SS: A couple of the Sizzlers have gotten published, a few haven’t, but we are all fairly new to the industry. What’s your best advice for people waiting for their big break?

Always keep writing. You can spend years polishing that one book, but chances are, a publisher is going to want to do more than a one-book deal. Or, at the very least, they’re going to want to know that you’ve got something in your back pocket. If you show us that you are a hard worker with the ability to complete more than one project, that’s a good sign. Also: talk to people. Not just authors, but all kinds of people. If you let yourself get isolated, or your surround yourself with people who talk about “the craft” and nothing else, it’s going to be hard for you to create vibrant, realistic characters. Make sure you don’t get so focused on getting that big break that you start to live in a bubble. Be in the world–I think you’ll find that you’re a better writer for it.

SS: And the reverse – is there any conventional wisdom out there that you disagree with – the worst advice new authors are given?

I think some of the worst–and by worst, I mean most difficult to sift through–advice is for new authors to do everything at once. It’s easy to burn yourself out, so make sure you know your limits. Some people can write books, have a blog, chat on Facebook, and twitter like Teresa Medeiros. Some can’t. Try things out, see what works for you, and don’t think that you have to be on every social media site, and popping into every bookstore within a 50 mile radius, and cold-calling fellow authors for blurbs. Find your comfort zone–that’s where you’ll do your best, and get the most out of it.

SS: Sometimes I think I don’t even know enough to ask the right questions! Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?

Ha! You’ve done a great job with the questions. I’ve learned quite a few things about myself. The only thing I’ll say—and not to shamelessly plug too much—but I really would encourage everyone to check out our blog, at Besides many great giveaways, it’s pretty much the only single place you can interact with our authors and the entire editorial team. With cameos from our marketing, art, and publicity departments, it’s a really comprehensive look at everything that’s going on at Avon. And you–our blog readers and your comments–are what make that the great community it’s become.

Ok, everyone. Now that is the straight skinny from the one who knows. So stop spreading yourself too thin, keep writing, and maybe one day you will be the one getting the longed-for message: “Hey mom! Some lady named Esi Sogah is on the phone!!!!”

Countdown to Conference Interview Two, Author Cat Johnson’s Cowboys

SAYDE:  Hello everyone. I’m so sorry to be posting this midday but I was sick this morning and still not feeling well so bear with me. Today we have as our guest blogger author Cat Johnson. If you’ve never read any of her erotic romances, get prepared to go get them because they are GREAT. I just can’t say enough wonderful things about the characters Cat  created and brought to life in her books, so I’ll let her tell you more about them.


Here is a confession… I fear I may be a bit of a cougar. This suspicion came to light when I met online and started working closely with a bull rider twenty years my junior who helped me write my cowboy books.
It’s not my fault, really. I mean younger men are hot. Have you looked at them? If so, then you have to agree. Sure, you may have to do things like explain to a younger man who The Who was during the Superbowl halftime show. And maybe they were born during the year you graduated college, putting them firmly in the “yes, I could have birthed him” category. But again, I remind you of the tight stomachs, the stamina (you know, in case you’re jogging with them), and of course, an eagerness to please you just don’t find in older men.

Do my not-so-secret cougar tendencies creep up in my writing? You bet they do. The older heroine/younger bull riders theme in my cowboy threesome Unridden (Studs in Spurs, Book 1) is evidence of that. Also the frequent reappearance in both books 1 and 2 in the series of the young rookie bull rider Chase who likes older women is further testament that although I don’t have the liberty of acting on my cougar nature, I enjoy it immensely in my fantasy world.

Okay, maybe I do flirt a little bit with my cowboy consultant. And yes, I’ll admit the character of Chase is totally based upon my cowboy, who thank God had another birthday. So now, thanks to the wonders of mathematics, is no longer exactly half my age the way he was the year I first met him. But aside from that, I must satisfy my inner cougar with my writing.
Yes, I’m not done with Chase (or my cowboy) yet. There are a few of his personal experiences written into BUCKED which spent its fifth day in the number one slot at MBaM today! And I just this week started writing Chase’s story for Studs in Spurs Book 3. I only hope I can make the fictional cowboy live up to his inspiration. 


SAYDE GRACE:   I’d like to add that my favorite of Cat’s books is Roughstock. I love the blend of emotion and desire she weaved within the characters in that book. All of her books have great emotional depth but for my personal tastes Roughstock is my pick.  But all who read this and leave a comment I will put your name in a drawing and Saturday morning I’ll draw for a winner to recieve a gift certificate to buy one of  Cat’s terrific books. Bucked was just released and after reading it I can say without a doubt she’s done it again! Don’t forget to leave your comments and next week we have agent Joyce Holland from the D4EO Literary Agency as well as author Amber Leigh Williams.

So take a look at Cat’s books and enter to win one!








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