Today I have the joy of welcoming a guest blogger from the Lucky 13s–the Golden Heart Finalists of 2013. Ella Sheridan is a finalist in the Paranormal category with her manuscript UNBROKEN – she’s also my twin sister. We thought we’d do something a little different, and just talk about the joys and struggles of writing, and the novelty of having someone be a part of your life from the moment the egg splits.
Please join me in welcoming my sister, Ella Sheridan!
Dani: I can’t believe you’re here! Seems like we’ve done everything together. We went to school together, took the same classes, got the same major and minor degrees. Married within 6 months of each other and had all our kids pretty close together.
Then you had to copy me and start writing…
Ella: Now, I did start when we were teenagers. I just had to develop stamina. You didn’t start until you were older.
D: Still, we’ve always read voraciously.
E: I think you learn a lot from reading. A lot of the things I do now I do instinctively because I absorbed it. From a very young age we were learning about story details, arcs, and characterization. We were reading adult books at 12 or 13.
What I think is interesting is your process hasn’t really changed all that much through the years. Whereas mine has evolved…and in some cases, is all over the map.
D: I basically do brainstorming, then plot, and get it all down in extensive notes. Then I do a really fast, really rough draft before revising.
E: And your story doesn’t really change. Once you plot it, you don’t make any huge changes (to the story) after that. But I typically have a major change—
D: In just about every chapter! I really don’t know why you want to write the book twice…what’s the point of that?
E: If I could get it right the first time, it would be a lot easier. I’m just a glutton for punishment, I guess. I’ve done that with all except for 1 Nano book, which I only had to rewrite the ending of because my critique partner read it and said, um, I don’t think so.
D: You are a plotter, though, like me.
E: Yes, I plot—
D: –Then you re-plot.
E: Then I plot some more. And then I change those plots.
D: But you know when it’s right.
E: Yes, that’s the thing that has changed a lot with my GH book. I still struggle with the worry over whether its good enough, but I don’t worry if the story is moving in the right direction, because if it’s not right, I can’t stop thinking about it. I can’t settle and have that calm in my head because I know something is off. Even if I don’t know what it is. And when I get a scene right, I have peace. I’ll worry about whether someone else will like it, but I know I’ve gone in the right direction.
That’s the biggest change with this book. I don’t know if it’s a confidence level or an evolution of my process or just this book.
D: I can’t help you there. I’m actually published and I haven’t figured it out. I get it ready to send in and think, “What if I screwed that up?” But it’s too late by then.
E: Well, I’m still working on plotting the next books a little at a time, and the thought of plotting book 2 of a 9 book series terrifies me. Because I do not want to repeat what I did with this one: force myself to write a rough draft that I knew wasn’t right but I thought, well I’ll just get it on the page and revise it. Oh, man, what a load of crap…
I have never struggled with revisions this bad, even though I’ve done major revisions on all of my previous 4 books, but this one was a major overhaul and a half – agonizingly painful to revise. Part of it was that I didn’t know the rules of my world well enough. I hadn’t figured them out to my satisfaction. I tried to just push through it and hope that those details came. And that didn’t work.
The other part was that I wasn’t as familiar with my characters as I should have been. I mean, I’d been thinking about UNBROKEN’S characters for 3 years. I thought I knew them, and could write them. Then I started the book and…nope. Probably my first clue should have been that I had no music for this book. When I started writing I searched and searched. For me music is vitally important to plotting, getting through certain scenes, setting a mood in my mind—
D: Another thing we do the same.
E: Exactly. And with this book I could not find music that worked that way for me. Until I started the rewrite and then it finally fell into place. That was a huge warning sign that I ignored. You learn, though, and hopefully the next one will be easier.
Of course I always think that the next one will be easier. No. No its not.
D: Come on, girl. You’ve got to get it together. I say, as if I have it all together, and don’t call her every couple of weeks asking her to talk me off a ledge because I’ve freaked out over something.
E: We’re both needy. Something else we share. But it does kind of amaze me that our processes developed separately, but are still so similar. We both use the music, plot to an excessive extent, fill out forms and notes, and both need pictures of our characters. I need to be able to picture them, no matter how minor.
With Unbroken, I have pictures of places too. For the lair I googled underground bunkers, and came up with a home built into the ground in Sweden, but it’s all brushed concrete inside. I started looking at pictures of the inside, because they rent it to people –
D: You could actually go stay in your house!
E: Exactly! And this is where they got on the leather couch and… Research!
D: We get asked a lot, are you twins? Which is funny because I think the older we get, the less we look alike.
E: Me too. I think it’s the husband influence.
D: What would you say has been the neatest and the least favorite part of being a twin?
E: The least favorite part? I think now, there’s not anything about it I don’t like. But when I was just reaching adulthood, that was a hard time to kind of find out who I was –
D: Hey, you stole my answer!
E: Well, we are twins. I think that was a hard time to find myself, and I think it took me longer than the average person.
D: Yes, because you have to find who your identity is on your own. We had an identity as a set. But then we had to find our single identity outside of this other person, which is difficult when you’re with that person all the time. And used to being addressed as, well, one.
E: And thought of as a set. Sort of interchangeable, in a way. Even by people who should have known better.
D: It wasn’t until people got to know us, realized we had different personalities and different ways of approaching things, that we got the more individual approach.
E: The thing I like the most is I don’t have to go anywhere by myself if I don’t want to.
D: When I first started writing, it was the first major thing I ever did by myself. Even though getting married and starting a family were done separately, I was just adding another partner. And it was a normal pursuit.
But writing was outside the norm, and I had to do it alone, I had to walk into my first writers meeting by myself, make my first submission by myself. That is what helped me establish my identity more than anything. So when people talk about writing and how being a writer is something that is wrapped up in who you are, I think this is truer for me than it is for most people. Because it helped me establish myself as an individual person.
E: For me, it was more like following in your footsteps, so I felt like I had to work really hard to prove that I was good enough, that I wasn’t just going along. I had to really work hard.
That’s why the GH means so much to me too. It’s something we share, and that makes it more special to me. Probably less special for you, because you’re like I have to share this too? But for me, I feel like I’m following behind you and giving honor to a legacy, so to speak.
D: Aw, I have a legacy!
E: Don’t let it go to your head or anything… especially the next time you send line edits to me.
D: You do make my books better.
E: That’s an area I feel like I’ve come into my own. Not just with this book, but with my work as a line editor that helped set me apart and give us some differences. It’s something I specialize in. Also it helps that we aren’t targeting the same publishers either. So we’re doing the same thing but coming at it from different angles.
D: And even the things that are similar both have their own voice. We may look the same, but we don’t write the same.
E: Just like we have different personalities, we also have different voices and ways of carrying out our stories.
D: How about some fun facts?
1. We’re mirror image twins. Dani is left-handed and Ella is right-handed. We’re opposites in certain physical areas. We have the same moles on opposite sides of our faces.
2. Ella is allergic to a lot of things that Dani is not.
3. We have similar tastes in clothes, and are both struggling through that “I don’t want to look old” stage.
4. Ella is an inch taller than Dani but Dani is 2 minutes older than her.
5. We do have siblings, but the oldest is 18 years younger than we are. Our youngest sister is creative too, writing songs and poetry.
6. We handle conflict very differently. Ella is the fighter. Dani is more likely avoid conflict if at all possible.
7. Ella’s interest in martial arts adds a whole new element to her evil twin status. Dani is more of an elliptical kind of person, but Ella tells her how to hurt people in her books.
8. Dani’s 2009 GH book features a heroine who is trying to save her twin sister from a kidnapper.
D: The one thing that’s been the best about being a twin is I’ve never had to be alone, really. Through good times and bad. There’s always this person who is not only there, but actually gets it without you having to say anything.
E: We don’t have to explain things to each other.
D: All I have to do is look at you and you know what I’m thinking.
E: Just the lift of an eyebrow or the turn of the head and I get it completely. I could talk for hours at my husband and he wouldn’t get it. I want to say, “Can’t you read my mind?” But no. No, he can’t.
The older we get, the stronger the twin telepathy gets. “I’m not feeling good today. Think I’ll give Dani a call.” Yep, she’s sick.
D: That really has gotten stronger. It didn’t really develop fully until we were adults. I only remember 1 incident of telepathy as a teenager, but other than that it was mostly once we were older. Now it’s strengthening to the point that instead of being triggered by extreme emotions, it’s more everyday things.
One day, Ella texted me and said, “Did you hear from your editor today? Because I’m feeling unusually antsy.” I replied, “I got my celebratory sale shoes.” Oh, so that’s what the excitement is all about…
Dani and Ella will be hanging around today, answering questions about plotting, characterization, being Golden Heart sisters, and anything twins.
Ella Sheridan is a 2013 GH finalist in the Paranormal category with her manuscript, UNBROKEN. She’s a member of RWA and writes contemporary romantic suspense and paranormal with an erotic flare. Her spare time is filled not just with freelance editing, but also teaching karate/jujitsu classes. You can learn more about her here.
The human world is populated with myths that allow them to pretend their plain, mundane world is more than it seems—except those myths are true. They stem from one shape-shifting species, the Archai. The Archai’s special abilities gave birth to the legends humans revered, but man can never truly understand what it means to be Archai. Their gifts. Their purpose. The depths of their betrayals.
Arik counts on no one but himself, and he likes it that way. Isolated, alone, he watches and waits for the opportunity to gain the only thing he’ll allow himself to desire: revenge. Then, in the dark of night, the perfect weapon falls unexpectedly into his grasp.
Kat is always on the outside looking in. She’s resigned to being invisible, until an innocent walk home from work is interrupted by a savage attack, forever changing the person she’s always been. Now she’s the focus of a man bent on destroying her world to settle his own score.
Two wills clashing. Two empty hearts in need of each other. Surrendering to the hunger between them is a given, but a deadly enemy lies in wait, and surrendering their souls may be the only thing that saves them.
My second book in the Muses of Mayfair series, Scotsmen Prefer Blondes, released last month, but life is finally slowing down enough to take a breather and celebrate! I thought it would be fun to have Cerise d’Amour interview me – she’s the star of “Sh*t Romance Writers Say” on YouTube (and just may bear some resemblance to me if you can look beyond her tiara and sunglasses). And she has a, shall we say, unconventional approach to interviews…
Cerise d’Amour: Sara Ramsey…we meet again.
Sara Ramsey: Indeed, Cerise.
Cerise: Let’s get to this, shall we? Your second book, Scotsmen Prefer Blondes, is out now! If the back cover copy was written solely as a haiku, what would it say?
Sara: That’s a difficult initial question – where’s the small talk?
Cerise: No time for small talk – it’s five o’clock somewhere, and I need to get my #amdrinking on. Haiku, please.
Sara: Okay, fine.
Secret novelist Compromised by Scottish earl Sexytimes ensue.
Cerise: Ooh, lovely! I love a good forced marriage plot! But what’s this about a secret novelist?
Sara: The Muses of Mayfair series features a group of women who are secretly pursuing their artistic passions, and Scotsmen Prefer Blondes is about Lady Amelia Staunton, a prim spinster who writes scandalous Gothic romances.
Cerise: So is she a Jane Austen ripoff?
Sara: Err, no. Unless Jane Austen went to Scotland to save a friend from an arranged marriage and ended up compromised by the would-be fiance herself.
Cerise: Well, excuse me for making the obvious comparison. Do people often misunderstand your intentions?
Sara: I wouldn’t say so – although I have been taken to task by a couple of readers for using the rather outdated “manroot” euphemism once in every book. It’s an homage to the great Johanna Lindsey, but readers who don’t know it’s an homage assume that I am totally crazy.
Cerise: I would *never* assume you’re crazy.
Sara: How lovely of you to say that.
Cerise: I don’t have to assume it – I know it. But enough of that. Rum or Champagne?
Sara: Is that a writing question?
Cerise: No, but the clock is ticking and I’ve got weightier issues on my mind than your books – like what cocktail to have after we’re done here.
Sara: Uh, Champagne is my favorite – but a Hemingway daiquiri, which contains rum, might be more the kind of thing I need to recover from your questioning.
Cerise: I knew there was a reason I liked you. What are you working on now?
Sara: I’ve got a couple of projects in the works (shh…don’t tell my agent). The main project is the Muses of Mayfair #3, The Marquess Who Loved Me, which should be out late summer/early fall. It features a painter whose long-lost lover returns after ten years in India. But I’m also working on a super-secret paranormal YA project, as well as a novella featuring the “villainess” from my first book (Heiress Without A Cause) – even villainesses sometimes deserve happy endings, right?
Cerise: You’re more kindhearted than I am. Last question: if the Prince Regent leaves Brighton in a carriage moving at 6 miles per hour, and Beau Brummell leaves London on horseback at 12 miles per hour, how many hours will it take before at least one of their cravats is hopelessly ruined?
Sara: Seriously? That’s your last question? It doesn’t even make sense.
Cerise: Well, I never! Readers, please do not, under any circumstances, buy Scotsmen Prefer Blondes – the author is a shrew and a harridan.
Sara: [mutters] I really shouldn’t have created you.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on favorite drinks, or a haiku of your WIP, or anything else that strikes your fancy – please share in the comments. In belated honor of my release, I’m giving away a copy of Scotsmen Prefer Blondes in any available format to a lucky commenter! You can find Scotsmen on Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and in paperback at Amazon.com.
And if you want to see more of Cerise d’Amour’s antics, check out her “Sh*t Romance Writers Say” video on YouTube. Cerise will be at RomCon, RWA Nationals, Readers and ‘Ritas, and possibly Emerald City, and will be interviewing authors and bloggers there – please get in touch with her if you want to meet her.
I’m thrilled and delighted to host the release party for Superlovin’, the latest novella from Vivi Andrews. Vivi shared an advance copy of this book with me, and I ADORED it…and then kept trying to recommend it to people who were looking for things to read, only to be reminded that it still wasn’t out.
But now it *is* out, and you can find out how amazing it is for yourself! Superlovin’ is all about an evenly matched superhero and supervillain who have to get over their preconceived notions (and their own reputations) to recognize that they just may be perfect for each other. It’s fast-paced, fun, and thought-provoking, and I loved every second of it.
Enough gushing from me, though — you’re here to see Vivi. Even though she’s holed up in her secret lair in Cannes (lucky woman), she took the time to respond to a few of my questions (which let me pretend to be an intrepid newspaper reporter – every superhero story needs one of those, right?). And if you leave a comment, you have a chance to win an ebook of Superlovin’!
Sara: What drew you to superheroes after spending so much time with your more paranormal-tinged Karmic Consultants series?
Vivi: I don’t think of them as so very different – psychic powers and super powers. The super world really is just turning up the volume and taking everything to the extremes, and I do love me some extremes. I’ve always loved superhero stories – good versus evil! With great power comes great responsibility! – and so when my editor put out a call for superhero stories, it seemed like the perfect time to try my hand at writing one. And I got addicted. I absolutely love playing in the super gene pool.
Sara: I love how you played with traditional superhero tropes – particularly the idea that people get typecast as ‘good’ or ‘evil’ and then can’t shake their reputations (deserved or not). What was your inspiration for these characters?
Vivi: I’m totally fascinated by the Good Guy/Bad Guy polarity and the PR maneuvering that goes into public perception. Yeah, Superlovin’ is a romance about superheroes, but I wanted it to also be about the grey areas. Lucien and Darla are both legacy supers – their parents are famous… or in Lucien’s case, infamous. As I was playing with the idea, I couldn’t stop wondering what life would be like as the kid of a supervillain… or the daughter of the world’s most famous superhero power couple. How much choice would you have about who you grew into? How long would you fight against being typecast before giving in to your inevitable role? How would a super kid rebel? The odd blend of celebrity and righteous crime-fighting duty was just too tempting to ignore.
Sara: Lucien and Darla are so evenly matched – it’s really refreshing to see a hero and heroine who can match each other. They fight each other rather aggressively while trying to meet their goals, which I haven’t seen in a lot of romances – the only scenes I could think of that would come close are in “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” (and just to be clear, I adored both that movie and this book!). Did your editor or beta readers have any issues with the hero and heroine’s fight scenes?
Vivi: Dude. I LOVE Mr. and Mrs. Smith. And you know, none of my betas or editors seemed to have a problem with the fact that Darla and Lucien wale on each other. It probably helps that the two of them are pretty much impervious to harm so the beat down is all chaos, no bruises. Interestingly, one advanced reviewer was bothered by the fact that Darla is initially very superficially attracted to Lucien’s mega-strength (though she said I pulled it out in the end, despite her initial reservations). But nope, so far no one has been wigged out by the fight scenes. At least not that I’ve heard about.
Sara:Superlovin’ was tightly plotted and well-crafted, and I didn’t feel like it was missing anything – a feat that not all novellas (or novel-length works!) achieve. I’m in awe at how you get such a tight, cohesive story into a novella-length work. Any tips for those of us who struggle to write short?
Vivi: Thank you! I try not to think of it as cramming a whole book into a novella. Writing short to me is an opportunity, not a limitation. An opportunity to write a more tightly focused story – really zeroing in on the hero and heroine. Or an opportunity to skip the parts that I don’t feel like writing. 😉 You can’t wander with a novella. Each scene has to have a purpose – preferably two or three purposes. It’s a great way to force yourself to stay focused as a writer, knowing you only have so many words to tell the story you want to tell. Big stories need big books, but not all love stories are massive and epic. I think of novellas as pocket-sized romances.
Sara: I’m super jealous of your current escapades – spending a few weeks in Europe sounds way fun. How do you balance your writing with your amazing traveling lifestyle?
Vivi: It’s easier than you might think. And it probably helps that I’m a compulsive list-maker. Mostly, I just bring my little mini laptop with me everywhere and when I feel like I’m falling behind on writing tasks I’ll take an apartment for a week or a month to get myself caught up and then I’m off again. Right now I’ve got a cute little apartment in Cannes to use as my home base during release week (and do laundry) then next week I’m off to Italy – with plans to work on edits on the train. I’m a lucky brat.
Sara: What’s coming out next? More superheroes, or something else? Is Lucien’s sister Mirabelle going to get her story?
Vivi: Yes! There are more superheroes on the way – including Mirabelle’s story, Superbad, which will hit ereaders in July – but in the mean time, just next month actually, I have a sexy reboot of Rumpelstiltskin coming out called Spinning Gold, in which the prince is the villain and a studly gold-spinner steps in to save the fair maiden. Not your everyday once upon a time.
Sara: I cannot wait for Spinning Gold! Or for Superbad, but I’ll take whatever I can get as soon as possible 🙂
Vivi, thanks for answering these questions!
And now, here’s an excerpt from Superlovin’:
He heard the distant electrical whine of a train coming down the tracks. Three minutes, give or take…
Lucien let the icy-hot pain starting to spike in his temples show on his face. “I could come quietly,” he said, making his voice tight with strain. “For a price.”
“I don’t negotiate with supervillains.”
“Not even for my surrender? My complete surrender.”
Interest lit her up-tilted emerald eyes, but her jaw remained clenched in an unyielding line. “No deals. I won’t bribe you to play nice when you’ve already lost.”
“But all I wanted was a kiss.”
She went motionless above him, as if she’d forgotten the need to breathe.
“One little kiss,” he purred. “And I’ll go meekly to my jail cell. No tricks. No trouble.”
He couldn’t read her expression. Something odd and almost hopeful colored the suspicion in her gaze. She hesitated. The train rattled closer. Her fingers eased their death grip on his hair.
“Are you kidding? I’ve always wanted a shot at the great Darla Powers. Who hasn’t? That Maxim spread changed my life.”
Her eyes darkened. “That damn magazine—”
“Hey, don’t damn that magazine. I could compose sonnets to that magazine. Especially your issue. I think you single-handedly launched a generation of twelve-year-old boys into puberty with that spread.” The picture had become a cultural icon. Darla Powers, the super answer to Marilyn Monroe. “Tell me you still have the bustier and I’ll die happy.”
She blushed. “That is none of your business.”
Dear God, she still has it. Unwholesome interest stirred below Lucien’s belt. He’d been joking, but now he couldn’t get the image out of his head. Her incredible figure overflowing the snug black lace with a shimmering red D curled under one breast in a parody of her suit. Maybe she still wore it. Maybe she put it on for the schmuck boyfriend who’d let her walk out on their date. Jealousy gave his gut an ugly twist, but he ignored it. She wasn’t with her schmuck boyfriend now.
“One kiss,” he said, the words coming out as more of a demand than he’d intended, his voice so dark and hungry he barely recognized it. “One kiss and I’ll do whatever you want.”
The words were supposed to be a lie, but at the moment he almost believed them himself. Darla Powers was a woman who could own a man’s soul if she put her mind to it. If she could let herself be that bad…
Hot, right?! Comment to win an ebook! And thanks again, Vivi!
Sara Ramsey writes fun, feisty Regency romances. Her latest book, SCOTSMEN PREFER BLONDES, is out now, and features a secret Gothic romance novelist and the earl she’s forced to marry (because nothing says love like being compromised). To find out more about her books, visit www.sararamsey.com.
Oh, wait. This isn’t a fairy tale. This is a true story. Here’s how it goes:
One day, the husband of a woman in limbo drags her to a sales promotion. The young salesman is personable, and they get to talking. Somehow, the talk turns to the fact the woman in limbo has just helped another author get published. The topic sets the young man off on a rant about his mom, her Golden Heart®, and the fact she still can’t find a publisher.
The woman in limbo (who has a son about the same age) is touched by the young man’s outrage on his mom’s behalf and offers her services. And that’s how a critique partnership and abiding friendship came to be.
I was the woman in limbo Events had trashed my faith in myself; my writing moldered while I helped others grab the brass ring.
Laurie Kellogg is that lovely young man’s mother.
In the beginning, I doubt either of us had any idea the impact her son’s unassailable belief in her talent would have on our lives. But serendipity is what it is, so it’s with a full heart I announce the release of the book that earned Laurie her second Golden Heart,
The Memory of You
She can’t forget him
He can’t remember her
Together, they must discover the
healing power of unforgettable love
Second Lieutenant Matthew Foster was captured in Vietnam and mistakenly declared dead. Six years later, he’s finally released with the other POWs during Operation Homecoming. Unfortunately, his memory has been erased by the torture and emotional trauma he endured. Due to prior facial injuries and the beard concealing his gauntness, he looks nothing like the boyish photo in his military file.
When the Army informs Matt he has a wife, he’s sure Abby must have made a new life for herself. And he doubts the bitter man he’s become can salvage enough of the boy she once cared for. To be fair to her, he decides to simply write a note to wish her well and leave. But before he does, he can’t resist going to Redemption, PA, to catch a glimpse of the woman he’d loved enough to marry.
The irony of the small town’s name is totally eclipsed by Matt’s dread that he’ll discover he’s lost something truly worth remembering. That fear becomes reality when he learns Abby is engaged, and he’s a daddy! Luckily, his wife doesn’t recognize him, so Matt could still walk away from the beautiful stranger who’s been starring in his X-rated dreams. However, he could never, ever abandon his sons.
The clock is ticking. Any day, the military will inform Abby he’s alive, and her wedding is in only six weeks. It doesn’t give Matt much time to discover if he can reclaim the love the war stole from him.
Today I’m thrilled and privileged to host our very own Sara Ramsey as we discuss her inaugural release, the fun and fabulous regency romance Heiress Without a Cause.
After winning the Golden Heart in 2009 and being named a finalist again in 2011 (with the first two books she wrote, but lets all pretend we aren’t green with envy over that), Sara is launching her delightful Muses of Mayfair series with those Golden Heart recognized novels, featuring artistic, rebellious highborn ladies and the rakish lords who love them.
Sara grew up in a small town in Iowa, and confesses to an obsession with fashion, shoes (of course), and all things British. She graduated from Stanford University in 2003 with a degree in Symbolic Systems (also known as cognitive science) and a minor in history. After graduation, she worked at Google for seven years in a variety of sales, management, and communications roles. She left Google in 2010 to pursue her writing career full time.
And now she can add “published author” to her impressive CV.
Heiress Without a Cause
One title to change his life…
A disgraced son with a dark reputation, William “Ferguson” Avenel is content to live in exile – until his father dies in the scandal of the Season. With rumors of insanity swirling around them, his sisters desperately need a chaperone. Ferguson thinks he’s found the most proper woman in England – and he won’t ruin her, even if he desperately wants the passionate woman trapped beneath a spinster’s cap.
One chance to break the rules…
Lady Madeleine Vaillant can’t face her blighted future without making one glorious memory for herself. In disguise, on a London stage, she finds all the adoration she never felt from the ton. But when she’s nearly recognized, she will do anything to hide her identity – even setting up her actress persona as Ferguson’s mistress. She’ll take the pleasure he offers, but Madeleine won’t lose her heart in the bargain.
One season to fall in love…
Every stolen kiss could lead to discovery, and Ferguson’s old enemies are determined to ruin them both. But as their dangerous passion ignites their hearts and threatens their futures, how can an heiress who dreams of freedom deny the duke who demands her love?
One of the most exciting days for a debut author—after the CALL and the first check—is the day the book goes up on the online bookstore websites for pre-order. Now some of the Rubies and Ruby readers are old hands at this book publishing stuff, but Redeeming the Rogue is my first book, so I was thrilled when I finally saw the title on Amazon with that quirky little “no image available” icon. And then, to my utter shock, I noticed my name was wrong. Very, very wrong.
Let me back up a minute. Before I sold, I included my ethnic maiden name (Eernisse) as part of my name. Through six Golden Heart finals and one win, I made the poor RWA awards ceremony MC’s stumble through an anglicized version of the Dutch pronunciation of a French name (my ancestors moved around Europe) because I wanted something a bit more memorable than C.J. Chase when I was submitting. But once I sold, my editor and agent told me to nix the funky name. Too difficult to spell. Too confusing for readers.
So how in the world could Amazon mess up a name as simple as C.J. Chase? I checked the title again. Yep, Redeeming the Rogue. I checked the release date again. Yep, August 2, 2011. But the author name—Donna MacMeans—why, it wasn’t even close! And then I noticed the publisher information said Berkley where it should have said Love Inspired.
It seemed two different marketing departments decided to release books with the same title on same day. What are the odds?
Today we celebrate Autumn Jordon’s third release, IN THE PRESENCE OF EVIL, a thrilling romantic suspense in which the Russian mafia infiltrates the heart of a small Pennsylvania town and forces an independent young banker to accept the help of the strong-willed rogue she loved — and lost — as a teen.
In handcuffs for a murder and nowhere to turn, Gina Rizzo’s only hope to stay out of jail is to accept the help of the man who years ago broke her heart, and who still makes her tremble with desire.
Staring death down is easier for Marine Cole Hanson than facing the woman who stole his soul and then betrayed him. However, when Cole returns home for the holidays and sees Gina in handcuffs, old feelings flare and even though he doesn’t trust her with his heart, he willingly steps up as her alibi.
When Gina’s life is threatened, Cole vows to protect her. However, staying alive becomes an undertaking for the two while they track a murder. Their only hope is to trust each other again, but if they do, will their rekindled love lead to their demise?
Autumn Jordon recently sat down with me to answer my burning questions about her newest thriller.
“Rowan is definitely an author to watch!” ~ Alyssa Day, New York Times bestselling author.
Cate Rowan is a successful Indie author whose latest fantasy romance novel, THE SOURCE OF MAGIC, releases today. Cate has generously agreed to share her knowledge of the much-discussed, little-understood world of Indie publishing and her accomplishments in that arena.
In addition to a Ph.D. in the biological sciences, Cate has washed laundry in a crocodile-infested African lake, parasailed over Cabo, had monkeys poop in her hair, and swum with dolphins, but she says her best adventures occur in the worlds she creates in her lush fantasy romances. Her novels about magic, danger and passion in faraway realms have won more than thirty awards, including the esteemed Romance Writers of America Golden Heart® contest—twice!
I was eager to discover just what magic Cate had discovered in this new realm of Indie publishing and she was generously eager to share.
WIN: Comment to enter the drawing to win 1 electronic copy of The Source of Magic or 1 3-day coupon for Smashwords discounting The Source of Magic on that site.
Joan:Cate has won enough awards to make me dizzy! Between 5 manuscripts, she’s placed or won in more than 35 contests, including a double RWA Golden Heart finalist with her previous release, Kismet’s Kiss.
Cate, what experience have you gained from your successes with contests? What advice would you give other authors in consideration of entering or not?
Cate: I’m a very practical gal, so after the first few times I entered, contests became a means to an end for me. I entered them to try to get my work in front of particular editors, so I choose contests based on the final round judges. Even though feedback and suggestions weren’t my main focus, they were a terrific bonus.
I never entered contests judged by agents because I wanted to enter ones in which the final judge could actually buy the book. Query letters were my solution for agents, and over the years I received six agent offers and hired three. I also sent queries to editors and didn’t rely solely on the contest circuit. Those queries got me two small press contract offers, though in the end I decided to self-publish.
(Joan: I also have to add a note from Cate’s website that states “…when NYT and USA Today bestseller Alyssa Day read the opening of Kismet’s Kiss in a contest, she loved it so much she offered a cover blurb for it.” Definitely a fringe benefit of contests, IMHO.)
Joan:I have to admit, I know very little about “Indie” publishing. Not for lack of interest, but for lack of time to investigate. Can you give us the nuts and bolts of it? What it is exactly? How does it differ from self-publishing, small-publisher publishing and/or e-publishing?
Cate: I’m an indie author, which means I’ve chosen to self-publish my books. Some people feel that the word “indie” should be reserved for “indie publishers”–that is, small publishers outside NY–but, well, that battle over semantics seems lost already.
Joan:I have heard very positive results from authors who have gone the indie or self-publishing routes. What benefits do you feel you’ve experienced by going the indie route over traditional publishing?
(1) Control. For example, I get to choose the title and have total say over the cover. Of course, having full control also means full responsibility! If something goes wrong, it’s up to me to fix it.
(2) Flexibility. I actually can fix it! If I decide to tweak a wording or I spot a typo, I get to change it. I don’t have to worry about whether there will be another print run so it can be corrected. I simply do it, and the update will be available within a day at most of the e-stores.
(3) Information. I know my sales figures at the major stores to the minute and can see if a marketing strategy is working and would be worth pursuing again.
(4) Money. At Amazon, for example, I get between 35 and 70% of the purchase price for every copy sold. For books priced between $2.99 and $9.99, Amazon pays 70% for every US, UK or German sale, and 35% for sales to other countries. (Rumor has it that Canada will be added to the 70% list soon.)
I don’t have tens of thousands of books available on physical bookstore shelves, but I do make a larger chunk of money per sale and need far fewer sales to make X amount of money. Many romance readers have fallen in love with their e-readers now prefer digital books, so it works out well. Although I have a print copy of my first book available, I sell about 100 digital copies for every print sale. That kind of ratio is pretty common for indies.
(5) Focus. I don’t need to spend time seeking agents or editors now. The time I invest in my writing pays off directly in sales.
Joan:Who would you say indie authordom is suited for?
Cate:Do-it-yourselfers like me love indie–but I think every author should keep an eye on the benefits of modern self-publishing. Cover art and formatting can be done through freelancers if you don’t have the DIY gene. Established authors can make great money with their backlists and other books NY doesn’t think it can market, and newer authors (with polished and edited manuscripts, ahem!) can now reach readers directly.
For me, that’s the very best benefit for authors–readers gaining access to the work we’ve loved and slaved over. After more than a decade of writing alone, my first fan letter sent me into joyful sobs for a good fifteen minutes. Talk about validation! And I didn’t need an agent or a publisher to get it.
Because of the proliferation of self-publishing, I see many genres shifting and blossoming and marketing boundaries breaking down. Readers can now find a much wider variety of storylines than there used to be, and I think that change will continue.
But I beg of all the potential indie authors out there: please don’t put your book up for sale until it’s ready! Get some professional editing, or at the very least a really thorough critique group that pushes you about things to correct and improve long before you consider going indie. Yes, you can fix things later if you must, but you don’t want to ruin your reputation with readers before you have that chance.
Joan:If you’re willing, Cate, would you give us more information on your sales figures for other authors considering the indie route?
Cate: I’ve had an interesting time with sales. (In a good way, not in a “may you live in interesting times” kind of way.) It took me a little over five months to sell 557 copies of Kismet’s Kiss and earn my first $1000. Sales were accelerating, and it took me only a month and a half to earn the next $500.And then something even more fantastic happened. I needed surgery and was going to be away from home for a few weeks, so I worked hard to get The Source of Magic up before I left. I wasn’t planning to do any marketing for it, or really even to tell anyone until today during the official release; I mainly put it up in case readers wanted it as soon as they finished Kiss. I uploaded it on April 17 and basically left it alone. It sold a few copies, probably based on the excerpt in the back of Kiss–and then somehow the B&N sales fairy blessed it. Suddenly I was selling 70 copies a day there. With no marketing at all, and no reviews up. I still don’t know what happened, but I’m grateful!
The surge didn’t last forever, but now I’m selling four times as many copies each day as I did with just Kismet’s Kiss alone, even though I only have two books available. Put up a second book and get four times as many sales? I like that math.
More math: As of yesterday, I’ve sold 2181 copies of my books (1330 of Kismet’s Kiss and 851 of The Source of Magic) and made close to $4000. The vast majority of those copies have been ebooks sold at $2.99, though I’ve toyed briefly with $.99 and $3.99 for Kiss. That’s fantastic to me, but if you want to see more numbers, check out those of my friend Theresa Ragan. Prepare to have your socks blown to the stratosphere!
So even though this is the official release day of The Source of Magic, I guess it’s an early bloomer. Or a late one–see below!
Joan:What is it about the genre of fantasy romance draws you?
Cate:I’ve always loved the idea of magic in alternate worlds, not to mention the idea of how inborn magic could change the interpersonal dynamics between a heroine and hero. Plus, with fantasy romance I get to make s…, um, stuff up. It’s pretty freeing. (grin)
Joan:What heat level would you rate The Source of Magic?
Cate:On a scale of 1-5, it’s a 3 or 3.5. It’s definitely not chaste, yet the main focus is on the love story outside the bedroom. That being said, the particular inborn magic of this hero and heroine, um…adds to the flavor of the love scenes. 😉
Joan:How long did it take you to write The Source of Magic?
Cate:Gosh…great question. I might need an outside verdict on that.
It took me a week or two to write the opening chapters, which I then entered in the Winning Beginnings contest (now known as The Sheila). That was my first contest, and I was gobsmacked that Source became a finalist, and then placed second and got a request.
I like having outside deadlines, and suddenly I had one! I got my butt into the writing chair and finished the book in about three months. I stocked up on microwave dinners and literally didn’t leave my house for a month, except to walk downstairs to the first floor of my apartment building to get my mail. When I was finally done, driving to the post office to send the manuscript to the editor was a freaky experience. Suddenly I was reminded that other people existed in the world!
Of course, that was in 2001, and I’ve made plenty of revisions to it since then. So to answer your question, the writing time could either be a few months or more than a ten years. 🙂
Joan:Are Kismet’s Kiss and The Source of Magic linked? How?
Cate:The Source of Magic is a prequel to Kismet’s Kiss, though both stand alone. They take place a couple of decades apart and in different settings on the same fantasy world–in a medieval “Europeanesque” realm for The Source of Magic and a medieval “Middle Easternesque” realm for Kismet’s Kiss. Because the people on this world live long lives (hundreds of years), I was able to share some characters in the two books.
Joan:Would you say The Source of Magic is the book of your heart? Why?
Cate:Hmm, I’d probably have to give that mantle to Kismet’s Kiss, just because it’s such an unusual romance in terms of setting and storyline. But The Source of Magic was my first book, so it’s definitely my baby. Heck, if it hadn’t been for Source, I’d never have dreamed of this particular fantasy world, and now I could easily write twelve or thirteen books in it!
I’d like to thank Cate for her insight into indie publishing and her candid information regarding sales figures–valuable information to authors which is notoriously difficult to come by–but most of all, congratulate Cate on her new release: The Source of Magic.
Enter to win a copy by leaving a comment. Cate will be popping in and out to respond to questions and comments.
I’m so thrilled to host today’s release party for Cynthia Justlin’s first release, HER OWN BEST ENEMY! Cynthia decided to take the plunge and publish her book independently, and she has more titles on the way (which is very good news for lovers of romantic suspense and really hot action heroes 😉 Cynthia graciously agreed to answer my questions about heroes, heroines, the sometimes-controversial inclusion of children in romance novels, and a variety of other topics. Check out her responses below – and one lucky commenter will win a copy of the book!
You’re tooling down the interstate at dawn, the needle of the gas gauge hovers over E, you need a restroom, and you see a sign that says Last Chance. What would you do?
By the time I found a town, the car was sputtering and my eyeballs needed water wings. Unfortunately, it looked like a place where the sidewalk unrolled only during business hours. Seeing an older woman with a wealth of curls wreathing her face, I coasted to the curb, jumped out, and asked (okay, so maybe I begged) if she could point me to the nearest restroom.
She must have a literal bent because she unlocked the Cut ‘n Curl Salon and pointed toward the back. All but sobbing my gratitude, I ran.
Upon emerging, I asked, “Who would put a sign on the interstate that says Last Chance when there’s nothing for miles?”
“That sign wasn’t for gas or food or restrooms,” my hostess informed me, amusement twinkling in her eyes, “although we do have all three here in Last Chance, South Carolina.”
And that’s how I met Ruby Rhodes, owner of the Cut ‘n Curl and matriarch of the Rhodes family. Of course, Miz Ruby has a business to run, so she agreed to be interviewed while she worked. As a result, I encountered some of the most quirky, unique, and enchanting folks this side of—well, it could be either heaven or the loony bin. That’s something you’ll have to decide for yourself.