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!!!

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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.

CHARACTER DESCRIPTION:

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?

DIALOGUE CUES:

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.

VISCERAL RESPONSES:

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.

Second Example, FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT:

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.

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN!

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

FYI:

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: http://www.MargieLawson.com.

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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: http://bookstrand.com/ruby-uncut-and-on-the-loose

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!!!

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 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!!!

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 http://www.avonromance.com. 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.

CAT JOHNSON:

MORE ABOUT THE COWBOY BOOKS
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) http://mybookstoreandmore.com/shop/product.da/unridden-sp 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 http://new.mybookstoreandmore.com/shop/product.da/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!

                                                                                                                                         

 

 

 

                                                                                     

 

 

Kick Off of The Countdown to Conference

Hello everyone! Today the Sizzlers are kicking off our Countdown to Conference. What  conference you ask? Why the 2010 Silken Sands  Conference at Pensacola Beach March 19-21 of course. Today we are honored and elated to have an interview from one of the fabulous editors who will be attending the conference. So I welcome you all to read, comment, and learn from Kensington Publishing Corp, editor Megan Records.

First off on behalf of everyone reading this I would like to thank Mrs. Records for taking the time to participate in the countdown and attending the Silken Sands Conference. So without further ado, I give you the questions and answers we’ve all been looking for:

[Sizzlers]. Tell us what you think is hot and what’s not. ?

[M. Records]

Hot: dark paranormals. I am seeing a larger variety of creatures these days: angels, genies, etc, but werewolves and vampires still dominate. I hardly ever see funny paranormals. Shame, because I like those too!

Hot: historicals in which the characters have “modern” issues. I say “modern” because these issues existed back then, but were not really discussed or brought to light until more recently. For example: domestic violence.

Hot: historicals where the heroine is not a virgin, or is a virgin but grew up on a farm and/or reads, so is not completely ignorant of the mechanics of sex. I’m seeing much more of these than I have before, and loving it. I don’t mind the naïve virgin, and I know that’s historically correct, but I can only read so many where the heroine wonders exactly what is in a man’s pants.

Not: I never say something is “not.” I say that it might be more difficult to make these elements work. For instance, it is probably easier to make a white tiger shifter a sexy hero than, say, a 3-foot tall leprechaun. But will I say it can’t be done? Never. I’ve bought books in which the premise didn’t sound like my thing, but the writing sold it to me (a historical set in Mongolia? Who would have seen that one coming?). It’s all about the writing. If the writing makes it work, then you can sell me anything.

[Sizzlers] What types of work are you most interested in seeing at the 2010 Silken Sands Conference?

 

[M. Records]

 

I have a lot of room in Brava at the moment. Brava is our more sensual imprint; sexier than Zebra, but generally without the kinkiness found in Aphrodisia (ménage, sex in animal form, bondage, etc.).

I also buy for Zebra, and I’m certainly willing to read manuscripts for this line, but right now there is so little room that I’m having to turn projects down even if I like them.

I would like a good urban fantasy, or perhaps a historical fiction novel.

I don’t work on Aphrodisia, gay fiction, non-fiction, mysteries, etc. I am perfectly happy to give you the name of an editor at Kensington that does, but my insight into these genres is limited, so I probably won’t be able to give you much feedback.

[Sizzlers] This question goes back to the “writer rumors”, but so many times I’ve heard that agents/editors will throw out a manuscript if they see grammatical errors. Personally, this is a huge one for me as I am grammatically challenged.  Many times authors will edit and edit then send to a contest and have their manuscript ripped to shreds because they used “ing”, “ly” or “was” to much for the judges liking. Do you look for these issues when reading requested material or is it more about the story?

[M. Records]:

I like to use an analogy of a job interview to explain this. If you walk in and your shoes are a bit scuffed, or you are just really having a bad hair day, that shouldn’t be held against you. However, if you are in torn, wrinkled, dirty clothing, and smell like you haven’t bathed for days, that’s going to be a big black mark.  Similarly, if you have a few typos or grammatical errors, most editors will not hold that against you. But if there are glaring errors repeatedly throughout the manuscript, that’s going to be a problem. In dialogue, ok, because most people don’t speak in perfectly grammatically correct English, but otherwise, too many errors are going to hurt you. It may sound unfair, but you have to set some standards. If a singer hit too many wrong notes, you probably wouldn’t want to continue listening to them. Same principle applies.

As to using “was” etc, too much, that speaks more to the writing style than grammatical errors. If the writing feels repetitive, or the sentence structure is always the same, it makes it hard to stay interested. I don’t think I’ve ever said someone used “was” too much, but other repetition can really get to me. For instance, if you use the word “stunning” 3 times in two paragraphs, and it isn’t a situation where the character is dumbstruck and can’t think of what to say, then that stands out when I’m reading. If you end every bit of dialogue with an adverb, e.g.“he said quickly,” “he said glaringly,” “he said grudgingly,” “he said invitingly,” after a few pages, my brain will go on overload.

After that long ramble, if you want it in one sentence: The writing should never hinder the story; it should only enhance it. Case in point: this interview. I can almost guarantee that it’s not entirely grammatically correct. But that doesn’t detract from its general readability (I hope!).

[Sizzlers] What is your opinion on emarket vs. traditional print? I know this is a hot topic and we all appreciate whatever comments you can give us.

 

[M. Records]:

To me, they are two similar but different animals. E-books have the advantage of being able to take risks that traditional publishers are not. I’ve seen more than one trend start in e–books and then move to print once it was deemed “successful enough.” And I’ve bought several authors that originally started in e-books and are now writing for Kensington. On the other hand, print publishers have distribution, and a certain reputation that can make readers stick with them instead of going to e-books. The goal of both is the same: to sell books. But how they go about it and what they are able to sell is different.

I like to think of it as the young rebel teenager vs the senior citizen (can you tell I like analogies?). The teenager has fresh ideas and a new perspective, and often evolves and adapts more quickly than the senior citizen because they haven’t been around as long and aren’t set in their ways. But does that mean that all the experience and methods of the senior citizen are useless? Of course not. Both have something to bring to the table, and once they both realize this, they are able to learn something from each other.

Full disclosure: I have an e-reader. I use it for manuscripts, library books and free e-books, but I haven’t bought an e-book in the 3 months or so that I’ve had it (and I didn’t usually buy them before that because reading entire books on the computer gives me migraines.) The books I read in my spare time are generally from traditional publishers. Partially this is because many of my longtime favorite authors are from print houses. And partially this is because I am more aware of new authors in the print market, seeing as that’s what Kensington does and what most of my contacts focus on, and I get a lot of these books for free. It also helps to have something physical to point to when my husband asks, “Wait, how many books did you buy this month?”

[Sizzlers] I know that when I am researching an agent or editor, I Google them, check their Facebook page, and tweet them. I read their posts and blogs.  I try to see if their tastes would lean toward my writing style or not. And I try to get a feel for their personality to see if we might “mesh well” if the opportunity ever arose. If you have a manuscript on your desk, do you ever check the same accounts for that author?  Do you ever check to see what he/she is posting? If so, have you been influenced by what you’ve learned?

 

[M. Records]:

I freely admit I am an Internet addict. Generally speaking, though, I only look up authors after I’ve already made an offer. The exception to this is if something in their cover letter feels sketchy. For instance, if you say you are a published author, but do not mention any houses, I go look it up. If you say you are an award-winning author, but don’t mention any specific awards, I Google it. Or occasionally, I get a submission and think, “Why do I know that name?” and of course cannot rest until I’ve found the answer on the web. But for the majority of manuscripts, I do not do any initial sleuthing. With the number of submissions I get, it’s just not feasible unless I already have an interest in the book.

[Sizzlers] If an author has queried you and you’ve rejected that query/partial and the author emails you asking for details on why you’ve rejected their ms, what is your process here? Do you give specific reasons on why the manuscript may not have been for you?

 

[M. Records]:

This is probably the biggest single pet peeve of any editor you will encounter. When an author does this, however nicely, it puts them on my mental blacklist as “high maintenance—stay away!” If I had any details about why I passed on it, I would have said that in my initial letter. Authors seem to feel it’s an editor’s job to give them feedback, and it is, if you are an author under contract. Otherwise, I have no obligation to do so. And let’s be honest, sometimes I don’t get far enough into a manuscript to give any viable feedback, or I can’t say what I really want to say without being horribly impolite, so I send a rather generic letter.

That said, I do appreciate that authors want to improve, and when I have something specific to say about the manuscript, I say it. If I think the manuscript could be great with some revision, I mention in my letter than I’d love to see it if/when the author revises. If I think the writing is just amazing but the particular project just doesn’t fit well with us, I ask to see any other projects the author has in the works. I always try to be very honest in my rejection letters, without being harsh.

Related to this is the “rejection rebuttal,” in which you explain why a comment in my letter is incorrect, or tell me you don’t think I “understood” your book. Only do this if you want an ironclad way to ensure that I will never buy your book, and you don’t want any other editor at my house to buy it either (because yes, we talk).

[Sizzlers] As a final wrap up could you tell us some of your pet peeves in the industry? Or is there anything happening in the industry you’d care to comment on or discuss?  We’d love to hear some of your views and opinions on the state of the craft and the market.

 

[M. Records]:

Oy, pet peeves could go on for a while :] Besides the one mention above, another one is the “equality complaint.” Various versions of this are:

“I sent you my manuscript in Oct, and this author send you hers in Nov, and you sent her a letter already and not me. Why?”

“This author at your house got 25 galleys and I only got 15. Why?”

“I heard you got a quote from [insert big name author here] for this book, why not for mine?”

I will say to you what my mom sarcastically said to us kids whenever we made this type of complaint: “It’s because we love him more.” Publishing is not equal. Marketing attention varies. My response time for manuscripts varies. Do not make comparisons.

Caveat: I can hear the voices now…“But what if I think her response to me might have gotten lost in the mail/email or I just want to double check that she got the manuscript?” Sure, go ahead and ask. Just don’t mention another author when you are doing so. And for heaven’s sake, wait at least 3 months before asking for an update, unless you have an offer. Excessive checking in will get you blacklisted. I am a very stubborn person; if you nag and push me to do something, I will resist just to be obstinate. Childish? Yes. But at least I can admit my faults, right?

On to happier topics, the industry. Romance is still selling. It is one genre that where sales were actually up for us last year, when many other categories were falling. Ironic, when romance is what I like to call “the bastard child of the publishing industry.” But I’m convinced it’s this very stereotype that has helped romance remain successful. Romance authors and readers are a community like none other in the publishing world. We band together to help each other succeed. We blog, we cross-promote, we give each other quotes. Do you know how rare it is to find a group of general fiction authors sharing a blog? And yet, that’s pretty commonplace in the romance community. We can go to local conferences where readers can actually meet New York Times bestselling authors…usually you don’t get to do that unless you buy a book at a signing. We all know that there are a lot of naysayers out there that think romance is fluff and nonsense, so we do everything we can to promote ourselves and the genre as a whole. Would romance be the top-selling paperback genre if this wasn’t the case? Somehow I don’t think so.

Okay I forgot to mention that Mrs. Records will be checking in from time to time. Feel free to ask questions as she may answer them. Thanks again to her for this great interview and remember Thursday we will have author Cat Johnson guest blogging. All right off to ask Mrs. Records one more question 🙂

The Sizzlers Welcome Allison Knight!

One thing you have to say about the Southern Sizzlers, we have got some of the coolest friends you could ever hope to meet. Today it is our pleasure to introduce to you our friend Allison Knight, whose medieval story of love and jealousy, Heartsong, was voted the Best Novel of the Year by her publisher, Champagne Books, Inc. The eagerly-anticipated sequel, Battlesong, will be coming out August, 2010. Then you have to add to that our excitement about her upcoming “sweet Gothic” novella, working titled The Haunting of Hastings Hall — part of the Shadowed Hearts series. And we just got word today that Allison’s “A Treasure For Sara” has been nominated as Best Historical of 2009 by Love Romances and More.

In other words, Ms. Knight is one busy and popular author, and we are so pleased that she took a few minutes from writing to talk to us!

SS: Welcome to Southern Sizzle Romance, Ms Knight. Let’s talk about these releases. First, tell us about Battlesong.

ALLISON: Thank you for the welcome. About Battlesong, as the name implies this it a tale about a few battles. Of course, I write romance so these are battles between the hero and the heroine.

SS: What can you tell us about the story?Was there any incident or idea that inspired you?

ALLISON: I just knew Arthur, the youngest brother of Rhianna, my heroine of Heartsong, had to have his own story. Lo and behold the beginning (which I hope is a shocker!) came to me after my husband and I discussed various romantic hooks, some I’ve read, some I was thinking about using. (You have to understand I run most of my plots, especially the beginnings, by my husband before I actually start to outline things. He is great and often his comments will lead the story in a completely different direction than what I planned.) This beginning was a perfect start for Arthur’s story. Then I had to get him out of the situation I got him in, in the first place. Hence the title, Battlesong. Not sure that makes sense. You just have to read the book. I do love the beginning of this book.

SS: What drew you to the Middle Ages for these books?

ALLISON: I loved reading about the Middle Ages. And I write about the time periods I like to read myself. Besides, you can get away with a lot in a historical tale, that doesn’t work for a contemporary novel.

SS: Your readers can tell you do your research. But as writers, we’d like to know more about how you do it. Do you do all the research, or at least the bulk of it, before you write, or are you a look-things-up-as-you-go kind of girl?

ALLISON: I usually try to start with as much information as I think I’ll need. Notice I said – think! The book I’m working on now takes place during the reign of Charles the second. I did the research on clothing, London at that time, the plague and the London fire before I started. But, and that’s a big but, I get into the story and find I need to do more research. Not really sure if I need to do more research, or if something sparks an interest but off I go. I do love the research part. HMMMM Maybe that’s part of why I write historicals.

SS: In writing historical fiction, what resources do you find most useful, and why?

ALLISON: The computer…. I wrote my first three books on a typewriter. I hate to think of how many times I typed a page over and over and over. Being able to pick out sentences, rearrange paragraphs, change chapters. Oh, glorious.
With my second book, published by Kensington, I decided the second chapter was really the beginning of the book, not the original first chapter, which finally became the third chapter. I would have loved to have a computer then.
I also value my books. I have a wonderful book called the reverse Dictionary. I don’t know much about horses, or saddle parts, so I look up the word saddle in the reverse Dictionary and it lists everything and how and why. Invaluable. I have four different word finders – in case. You’d be surprised how many times they’ve come in handy.

SS: Got to get me a Reverse Dictionary! Having grown up loving Victoria Holt and Daphne DuMaurier, I am intrigued by the description of your novella as a “sweet Gothic.” How is it different from what you usually write?

ALLISON: A sweet Gothic is a Gothic without any sex. The most my hero and heroine do is kiss. Some of the Gothics by modern authors take the hero and heroine into the bedroom. I don’t. I figured my granddaughters could read them at 12 and 13 without their mothers yelling at me.

SS: Will we be seeing more Gothics from you? What great stories do you have up your sleeve for the future?

ALLISON:I love Gothics. I truly enjoy writing in the first person. I love becoming the heroine, struggling with danger, trying to figure a way out of a dilemma. At the present time, I’m working on the historical romance taking place in England during the fire, I also have the next ‘song’ book in the works. Not sure yet if this will be Arvil’s story or another of Rhianna’s brothers. When I get tired of writing third person, I’ll write another gothic. It might be next week, or next year.

SS: I am seriously looking forward to your Gothic – I love ‘em! Now, we never tell our ages here on the Sizzle – such an insignificant factoid, to our way of thinking. But we have to say that you have had a long-running successful career as an author. How does one maintain that kind of achievement over the long haul?

ALLISON:Like any thing else that is worth doing, you keep at it, and you have to enjoy what you do. I love writing. I love story telling, I always have. My kids will tell you, I told them stories as we occasionally drove to my mother’s (a three hour trip) as well as the trips to the lake for swimming in the summer. (a two hour trip). We’d go two or three times a week to the lake so I finally ended up verbally rewriting some of the bible stories for inspiration. My kids still laugh about some of my tales. But I truly enjoy what I do.

SS: And your readers enjoy what you do, too! You have been involved in e-publishing as much as anyone I can name. What should aspiring writers know when they are comparing going e-pub with more traditional publishers? The upside of e-pub, and what to look out for?

ALLISON: Probably the best advice to give is KNOW YOUR PUBLISHER. Note, I’m shouting. When I first started with e-publishing, the concept was new, the publishers inexperienced, some of them dishonest. I was lucky. I got my books back without too much damage. But there are companies now with track records. Those are the ones you want.
Another thing. Be realistic. If you don’t promote your work, no matter who the publisher, you will not make any money. Also if you write to get rich, you’re not realistic. According to research, the average author makes about six thousand a year. Not a living wage. E-publishing pays more now than when I started, but it still can’t compete with the money paid by traditional publishers per book. However, you can receive royalties on books five, six, seven years old because they are still out there. And if you continue to publish people will look for your old books. Old paperbacks only come from used book stores. No royalties on that.

SS: We have all heard horror stories about authors who sign over their rights to an e-publisher, and then the company disappears, with no sales, no royalties, and no right to re-sell the works to someone who will really market them. How prevalent is that, and how do authors guard against these problems?

ALLISON:You always hear about the bad ones. But with this business, again the best advice is find out everything you can about the publisher, ask questions, contact other authors who write for the same company. Do your research. There are crooks in almost every profession.

SS: So let’s say one of us finally gets the letter we are all wishing for – an e-publisher wants our baby! What should we look for (and look out for) in an e-pub contract?

ALLISON:Like New York’s big publishers, many of the better e-publishers have boilerplate contracts. The important thing is to learn what royalties mean, what rights mean, ask about the company’s business model. And don’t sign anything where you have to pay one penny to be published. Don’t pay to have your work published. It’s worse than giving your hard work away for nothing…….

SS: We are all somewhat familiar with the ways an author promotes her books with a traditional publisher – ARC’s, signed copies, etc. But how does a successful e-book author promote her books? What works for you, and is there anything you tried but found not to be successful?

ALLISON: Well, let’s see. Making ARC’s for reviewers, signing copies you make of your cover, chatting online, having a web presence. What works for traditional publishers works for e-published authors as well. Today, all authors have to promote their work. It doesn’t matter who their publisher is. After all, a book is a book, whether you hold paper in your hand or an electronic device. How your eyes see the words really doesn’t matter.
The one thing I don’t have much faith in are bookmarks. You can pay a lot for them and they really don’t do much for you. People tend to throw them away.

SS: Well, kids, now you have heard the inside story on e-publishing from someone who has the credentials. We cannot thank you enough for your insights, and the way you encourage all of us who want to grow up and be just like you!

If you want to meet Allison Knight and other great writers (and the Sizzlers themselves!) join us at the beach for the Silken Sands Writer’s conference in March. White sand beaches, good friends, and all the romance industry guidance you could ask for – so why aren’t you registered yet?????

http://www.gccrwa.com/silkensands/

Southern Sizzlers interview Cynthia Eden

We, at the Southern Sizzler Romance blog, have the privilege and honor of interviewing one of our dearly loved chapter members. The Inimitable Cynthia Eden. We are so thrilled to call her friend and mentor.  For those of you who have never met her in person, I have to tell you, you are missing out on one cool chica. 

Cynthia is generous with her time and talent and we are all thrilled to have her as our guest here.  We hope you enjoy her interview. 

SFCatty: Welcome to our little blog, Ms Eden. What an exciting time for you. You have Hotter After Midnight being re-released as a mass market paperback and you just had a new release on December 29, 2009 called Eternal Hunter.

CYNTHIA:  Thanks so much for inviting me over!!! It’s a pleasure to be at Southern Sizzlers (and I do so love that name.)
SFCatty:  First, tell us about the mass market release. What does that mean to you?

CYNTHIA:  It means excitement.  Every time a book is released, I get a giddy burst of excitement. Just can’t help it.  HOTTER AFTER MIDNIGHT was my first NY released book, so it’s very special to me.  And since it is being re-released now, well, that hopefully means more readers will have the chance to learn about my monster doctor and her wolf shifter cop. 

SFCatty:  It IS a great book.  Love the characters.   Any thoughts or inklings of the others in the Midnight Trilogy series being released as mass market?

CYNTHIA:  I haven’t heard any details about the other books yet. If I do, I will definitely let you know.  I *do* know that BELONG TO THE NIGHT, the paranormal romance anthology that included my story, “In the Dark,” will be re-released in mass market form next September. 

SFCatty:  That’s exciting and we’ll be looking forward to that this fall. 

SFCatty:  You also had a new book out on December 29, 2009, Eternal Hunter. This is the first in the Night Watch series. Tell us about that series.

CYNTHIA:  I love this series—and I am having such fun writing about these characters! The idea for the Night Watch series was pretty simple. Actually, the series developed from this one sentence: Sometimes, it can take a monster to catch a killer. And, yep, from that, the entire series was born.  I created a group of paranormal bounty hunters and their job is to hunt down criminals—both human and supernatural killers.

SFCatty: Is this a new direction for you?

CYNTHIA:  I like to think this is just continued exploration into the paranormal world that was created with the Midnight books. Many of the same supernatural beings appear and they follow the same “world” rules that were created in the Midnight books.   However, the beings are seen from a different perspective.  Good guys aren’t always obvious—neither are the bad guys. 

SFCatty:  Sounds intriguing.  Mysterious, even.  How many books will be in this series? I see on your website that there are two for release in 2010. Will we see more in 2011?

CYNTHIA:  I’ve written three books so far, and I plan to start on a fourth within the next few weeks.  The books will be released in 2010 and 2011. I may actually wind up with three released in 2010 (ETERNAL HUNTER is just released, I’LL BE SLAYING YOU will be out in July, and the third book—tentatively titled ETERNAL FLAME—may be out in December of 2010).

SFCatty:  Maybe in time for next year Christmas shopping.   YEAH!

SFCatty:  Tell us three intriguing facts about the hero in Eternal Hunter.

CYNTHIA:  Fact one: I liked his character so much that while I was writing the book, I actually kept pulling the hero into real-life conversations that I was having.  Seriously, I would say things like, “Well, if Jude were here, he’d say that was bullshit.”  Um, my husband had to remind me that Jude was *not* in fact, present. 

Fact two: He’s one of the most powerful supernatural heroes I’ve created—and also one with the potential to be the most vicious.  Hmmm…does that count as facts two and three? Oh, well, let’s throw in another one anyway…

Fact three:  He’s not just a fighter; the man is one serious lover, too!

SFCatty:  Ooh, la la.  We like serious lovers on this blog.   And what about three facts on the heroine?

CYNTHIA:   Have to be careful with her…don’t want to give away any spoilers but…

Fact one: Erin Jerome is intimately acquainted with Death. 

Fact two: When she wants to do so, Erin Jerome can  kick some serious ass.

Fact three:  Her character was semi-inspired by the show Law & Order. Yes, I am a Law & Order addict. 


SFCatty:  With all the Law and Order franchises, there should be something there for all those fans to love, too.   I can’t wait to check it out.

SFCatty:  Are there any new anthologies on the horizon with your work in them?

CYNTHIA:  Thanks for asking! Yes, I will be in a new anthology. This will be my first non-paranormal anthology for Kensington Brava. In October of 2010, my story, “All I Want for Christmas” will be released in the anthology titled, “The Naughty List.”  I wrote this one in November, so it sure helped to put me in the holiday mood!

SFCatty:  Any thoughts you want to share with your fans?

CYNTHIA:  I’d just like to say thank you. Thank you to the readers who’d picked up my books, to the wonderful folks who have emailed me about my stories.  Thank you!

SFCatty:  What’s next for Cynthia?

CYNTHIA:  2010 looks like it will be a busy release year for me (which is good—I like busy!).  I’m excited about the launch of my romantic suspense series in August of 2010 with the release of DEADLY FEAR (from Grand Central Publishing). The Deadly books will be dark, sexy, and I sure hope readers enjoy them. 

SFCatty:  So, we will get our “Cynthia” fix in 2010 for sure. No matter our preference-  Paranormal, suspense, or Christmas fare.  How awesome for you and for us, your readers.  Congratulations on what sounds like a great year ahead.

CYNTHIA:  Thanks so much for taking the time to interview me. I had a great time answering the questions!

SFCatty:  Thanks for agreeing to the interview.  I know you are under a deadline and you are too kind to take the time to chat with me and your readers.

We hope you all enjoyed the interview with Cynthia.  Check out her books.  They are wonderful reads.   I’ll be back on Saturday with a new bad boy for the weekend.  I think you’ll like him.  He has some paranormal qualities.  He can’t die.   Intrigued??  Tune in on Saturday.

EDITED TO ADD:  If you want to meet Cynthia and a plethora of other writers join us at the beach  for the Silken Sands Writer’s conference in March.   http://www.gccrwa.com/silkensands/        I have it on good authority that autographed books will  be available!  

Also Romancemama will post your WETSDAY fix later in the week so this interview can stay up.

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