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.
I don’t know about you, but I’m still on a high from all the cyber-celebrating yesterday. Thank you to everyone who dropped by the blog to share in the excitement! (And for those of you who were hoping for a call yesterday but didn’t get one, don’t fret! That call will come someday – even if it’s in a totally different form. Persistence and perseverance is key. Join the Rubies tomorrow for our “So You Didn’t Get the Call” post and some great prizes.)
Today, I’m passing around the cyber-bubbly and calorie-free chocolate because the Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood would like to extend a very warm welcome (and cyber hugs) to the newly inducted class of 2013 – congratulations to those of you who are new (or re-newed!) Golden Heart® or RITA® finalists! (If you haven’t already joined your 2013 sisters, here’s the link to join their loop.)
We hope you’ll introduce yourselves in the comments below, and to entice you to share your call stories, and a little about yourselves, we’ve had a very generous offer from a previous Golden Heart winner, Ruth Kaufman. She has donated her time and energy to help FIVE lucky finalists who comment below prepare their acceptance speeches. It’s always good to be ready! In fact, one of the reasons Ruth made this generous offer is because, when she was a finalist, she didn’t think she would win and had nothing prepared. Don’t be caught in the same situation. If you’d like to be entered in this drawing, please indicate it in your comment by including: PLEASE CONSIDER ME FOR THE DRAWING. We’ll be selecting five random winners who will each receive a 30-minute Facetime or Skype consultation session with Ruth. (Please see her bio below.)
The Rubies are thrilled to share in your excitement, and look forward to hearing where this milestone leads you next in your journey. Perhaps you’ll consider GUEST BLOGGING with the Rubies in the coming months, so we can get to know you even better. We’ll be contacting your new loop in the coming weeks with more information.
Please let us know a little more about you – including your call story, if you’re willing to share. Ruby Sisters, members of other Golden Heart classes, and well-wishers of every kind will be stopping by throughout the day to offer congratulations and advice. You deserve it!
Coming tomorrow on the Ruby Sisterhood…a day of camaraderie and consolation for those of us who didn’t get the call yesterday…and many more fabulous prizes guaranteed to take the sting out of disappointment. Come join us!
ABOUT RUTH KAUFMAN:
2011 Golden Heart® winner Ruth Kaufman‘s true, short story, “The Scrinch,” is in St. Martin’s anthology The Spirit of Christmas. A medieval was runner up in RT Book Reviews’ national American Title II contest. An attorney with a Master’s in Radio/TV, Ruth is a Chicago on-camera and voiceover talent, freelance writer and editor and workshop presenter. Learn more at www.ruthkaufman.com and www.ruthtalks.com.
Welcome to the Ruby Sisters’ 2013 Golden Heart/Rita announcement celebration! If you entered RWA®’s Golden Heart or Rita contest, then this is the day you’ve been both anticipating and dreading. This is the day where new friendships could be made, where dreams could come true, and all of your hard work has paid off. This is the day where talented writers from all over the world will anxiously wait for a call from an RWA board member informing them they are a finalist.
It is an exciting day for all romance writers, because even if you didn’t enter the contest, you inevitably know someone who did. It’s time to spread the joy and keep hope alive by celebrating the announcements of those who did receive a call today. If you entered, then on behalf of the Rubies, we wish each of you the best of luck and a happily-ever-after kind of day!
FOR THE FINALISTS: If RWA® has notified you that you’re a finalist, please post your news in the comments below, and include the following info:
The word FINALIST in all caps / your CATEGORY also in all caps. Also, please give us your book title and the name you want listed if writing under a pseudonym.
If you’re a RITA finalist, we’ll also need the publisher and your editor’s name.
Prize Disclaimer: Unfortunately, we are unable to ship prizes to addresses outside of the United States. Books won by those with non-U.S. shipping addresses can only be delivered electronically. Should you win a prize that can not be digitally sent, then a substitution will be made.
Recently, I’ve been rereading a series I discovered when I was younger. It’s a five-book middle grade fantasy series based on Welsh mythology entitled The Chronicles of Prydain. Since I’ve become a writer myself, I can’t help but noticing the author’s craft. Something really jumped out at me this time. The author, Lloyd Alexander, is a real master of character voice.
Each of his characters has his own unique way of expressing himself, and that voice helps them leap off the page. You get an immediate sense, through a character’s dialogue, of who that character is.
Take, for example, Eilonwy, the heroine of the series. She’s a secret princess, a bit of a motor-mouth, and one of the first feisty heroines I read about. Oh, and she often showed more sense than many of the male characters. I loved her. I wanted her to be real so I could be her friend. One of the ways the author sets her speech apart from the others is her penchant for spouting similes and metaphors—and they’re often just this side of implausible.
Today we’ve got the fourth of our featured guest bloggers from the Golden Heart class of 2012.
A. J. Larrieu is a finalist in the Paranormal Romance category, with FIGS FROM THISTLES, which I’m just dying to read! She’s also a member of my home chapter, San Francisco Area RWA. And you can find her and like her on Facebook here, because, really, you should.
Fear, Rage and Death: Why I Write Paranormal Romance
Thanks so much to the Rubies for having me today! It’s a real honor to guest blog in this community and get to meet so many fellow writers. Actually, one of my favorite things about being a writer is other writers. Get a group of us together, and we can’t shut up. Getting to know all the Golden Heart finalists of 2012 over the Yahoo group has been just what you’d expect from sixty-four strong, smart, talented ladies: funny, sad, and taking over my in-box. We’ve all been through a lot over the past year, but one thing is clear: this is a group of survivors. And many of us have talked about writing as a way to make it through the tough times.
I know this is true for me. Every book I write is my way of dealing with something slippery and intangible, some fear or hope or longing. I write paranormal fiction because when I’m trying to understand the sometimes ugly and frightening world, it helps to put a face on the fear and make it tame. It’s hard to fight something you can’t see, so a good paranormal romance or urban fantasy takes that fear, that anger, that taboo desire and gives it a beating (or perhaps unbeating) heart.
Vampires are an obvious example. Can you think of a better personification of fear? They’re dead. They only come out in the dark. They drink blood—probably your blood—but as long as you stay in your house, they can’t hurt you. The real danger, of course, is that you’ll invite them in. A good vampire novel lets you do just that, and turns the monster into an ally. The things that go bump in the night are on your side now, and in your bed. Talk about facing your fears.
Today we welcome Karen Fleming, who writes as KD Fleming, the third of our special guests from the Golden Heart finalist class of 2012.
Karen is a finalist in Inspirational Romance with her novel LOVE’S ADVOCATE. She describes herself as a “Happily Ever After” addict whose favorite books are historical romances set in Regency and Victorian England. (Excellent taste, Karen! *grin*) Her other addiction is movie theater popcorn: “I’m a popcorn pig at the movies. I don’t share with anyone. I will buy them their own so they leave mine alone.”
We decided to do today’s guest blog in interview format, so grab a cup of coffee (or some popcorn if you’re ready to run defense) and join us for a little conversation.
Congrats, Karen on the Golden Heart final! What was it like getting that coveted phone call telling you you’re a finalist?
I was sick with a sinus bug and my head was pounding. I didn’t expect to final. I had a friend who entered last year and she said her scores were all over the place, so I entered more because I had set a goal for myself to enter this year and I was going to achieve it, but hadn’t thought past that point.
When Maggi Landry introduced herself and explained why she was calling me at 9:14 in the morning ( and yes, I looked at the time) I didn’t hear much after her congratulations and question of what name I wanted them to include in the announcement. I cried when I hung up. It was the most amazing validation of all that I’ve been working toward. It still feels surreal at times.
Oh, it’s very real, Karen! You’ll know when you get to Nationals and strangers come up to congratulate you. (Okay, I guess that’s a pretty surreal experience, too.) How fabulous that Golden Heart pushed you to finish a terrific book! Can you share the blurb for LOVE’S ADVOCATE?
Today we’ve got the first in a series of guest posts by 2012 Golden Heart Finalists! We’re thrilled to have the chance to get to know them and hear their stories.
Up first is Robena Grant, finalist in the Golden Heart in Romantic Suspense with EXPOSURE.
EXPOSURE is set in the Southern California desert near the isolated Salton Sea. A bar owner with an adventurous spirit must find her missing grandfather without jeopardizing an undercover sting. The story explores justice, revenge, and the lengths one will go to in protecting a loved one.
Robena will be talking today about what it took to grab that Golden ring.
Welcome, Robena, and congrats on your final! Take it away!!
…oh, wrong song. Ours is Golden Heart Fever. Boogie Fever was by the R&B group the Sylvers, recorded back in 1975. It’s a golden oldie, like me. And now I’m an RWA® Golden Heart® finalist golden oldie. Yay! So if you are out there thinking you’re too old for this game, forget about it. It can happen. I’m living proof.
Huge congratulations to all of the contest finalists. Honestly, I had no idea of the enormity of this event. I’ve been kicking around the RWA National conference, lurking in the corridors of Marriott hotels, for years. Friends got published, joined PAN, went to the Harlequin party, and as the years passed I wondered if it would ever be my turn to play in the big pool.
I’ve held the office of President of my local chapter, LARA (Los Angeles) and have served on the board in various capacities. But I never knew what it was like to be a finalist. With all of the congratulations, and celebrations, I had to keep telling everyone this week, “Hey, I’m a nominee, I didn’t win.” But that did not deter them. Then I joined the GH loop. I finally got it: this was huge. It’s an honor to have your work recognized. Winning doesn’t matter; being recognized does.
For the past six years, I’d prepared my entry for the GH contest and sent it off with hope in my heart. I didn’t submit the same manuscript, because I write two manuscripts every year. Over the years I’d noticed and mapped my improvement. In the beginning the numbers were all over the chart. The next year most were in the middle range but with one lower score. By the third year, I was solidly in the upper middle. In the fourth year, I submitted two entries and the numbers were really decent. I’d begun to enter contests geared to giving me feedback on certain sections of the manuscript. I fine-tuned, revised, and revised again. I learned everything I could about the craft of writing, and often asked ridiculous questions of famous authors like Jenny Crusie. She’d never laugh. She’d just say, “No! That’s not right.” And then she’d explain at length. I loved her honesty and how she didn’t sugarcoat things. Writing is too important to be sugarcoated.
Last year my manuscript made it into the top tier of the GH with excellent numbers, but I’d entered the Contemporary Series Suspense/Adventure. There were only four finalists. I often wondered if I would have been number five. But, I swallowed my disappointment and forged ahead. I got braver in my writing with an attitude of, “I might as well write what I want to write and how I want to write it, and to heck with contests.” Then the 2012 GH loomed on the horizon. I couldn’t resist those golden beckoning fingers. I entered the last book of my desert series, Exposure, but this time I decided to play with the big kids. I entered it in Romantic Suspense. The rest is history.
Robena Grant has been a member of RWA, and LARA, since 2002. She was born in Australia but has lived in the United States for many years. She has two young adult children, and lives in the Southern California desert town of La Quinta. Her interests outside of writing are exercise, book club, travel, wine, and karaoke. But she can’t sing. She writes a weekly blog as part of her website: www.robenagrant.com and can be contacted under the same name on her FB page, Twitter, and Google+.
I’m honored to host debut author Donnell Ann Bell on the Ruby blog today. Donnell is not only supremely talented, but also an amazing source of support and encouragement to other writers. Her novel, THE PAST CAME HUNTING, will be released by Bell Bridge Books on September 15th. She’s here to share her experience with “door-closing, window-sliding” moments.
THOSE DOOR CLOSING, WINDOW SLIDING MOMENTS
Hi, Ruby Slipper Sisterhood, thank you and especially to my friend Anne Marie Becker, Author of the fabulous ONLY FEAR, for inviting me to visit today. It’s so fun to have friends who are debut authors at the same time as my book, THE PAST CAME HUNTING, from Bell Bridge Books is coming out. We can annoy and pester each other, and all you old hats in the business will never know it.
Seriously, though, today I want to talk about the path to publication and the realization that things happen for a reason. Have you ever wanted something so badly, the very topic consumed your every waking moment? I can see you all nodding out there, yes, my book’s publication or I want my series to hit the New York Times Bestseller list, or … I want to be Darynda Jones, when I grow up.
Well, yes, as writers we all have these dreams. What I’m talking about is that heart-wrenching, gut-tingling need for something to happen, e.g., when your college or high school sweetheart finds someone else, or your beloved relative passes on, and you’d do anything to change that outcome.
I’ve had two such events in my life. I was engaged at 21 to a man I thought I couldn’t live without. Unfortunately our relationship was so tumultuous, my friends and family constantly warned, he’s not the right guy for you. Still, no one could tell me–I had to work through it (even as my mother threatened to push me off a balcony during William Shatner’s presentation of DEATH TRAP, when I’d decided to go back to him.) Sorry, Mom.
Years later, when my daughter was going through a break up very similar to the one I’d endured in my twenties, I was able to call upon this time in my life. I was able to say, “I’ve been there, sweetie, and this too will pass. Here’s my story.” I have a good marriage now, and my daughter could see I’d survived just fine. When I was able to comfort and reassure her, a huge weight fell from my heart.
I call events like these door-shutting, window-opening moments.
The second event was in my thirties when I decided to go to court reporting school. I’d found my niche and my chosen career as I rapidly progressed from 80 words a minute to 225 words a minute taking down testimony. I aced my academics, and passed the written state boards for my Registered Professional Reporter’s exam, and I was proficient whether inside the courtroom during trial or in an attorney’s office during civil litigation.
Unfortunately, I injured my left hand in a fluke accident, which took that dream immediately and irrevocably out of my grasp. Devastated, I went to work at a newspaper for far fewer dollars than I would earn as a court reporter. My editor quickly noticed I had an excellent command of the English language. Later, I became an assistant editor and finally the editor of a parenting magazine. Another door shut had led to an open window.
You can see where my nonfiction career has led, and that’s pretty special and exciting to me. Do I regret that I never got to practice my trade as a court reporter? Absolutely. Would I trade it for my fiction career? Absolutely not.
So how about you? Do you, like me, analyze the events of your life? Have you ever had doors closed in your face, only to realize they led to window-opening moments? I’d love to hear your stories.
About THE PAST CAME HUNTING: Fifteen years ago a young Colorado Springs police officer arrested a teen runaway accused of aiding a convenience store robbery and attempted murder. She was innocent, but still served prison time briefly. Her testimony sent the real criminal to jail for much longer. Now she’s a young widow raising a son, and the man she put in prison is free and seeking revenge. She moves to a home in a new neighborhood—then learns that her next-door neighbor is the by-the-book officer who arrested her. Now he’s a Colorado Springs P.D. Lieutenant. Like it or not, he may be the only one who can protect her and her son from the past he helped create.
Donnell Ann Bell is the recipient of numerous awards for her fiction writing and the co-owner of Crimescenewriters, a Yahoo group for mystery/suspense writers, which is 2,000 members strong. Donnell was raised in New Mexico’s Land of Enchantment and today calls Colorado home. www.donnellannbell.com
You might find the following fun facts about the Rubies useful on our Blog Anniversary, coming up September 21. Keep your eye on this space for the next few days to learn more!!! (Fabulous prizes just MIGHT be involved…wink, wink!)
Vivi Andrews has contracted 12 ebooks.
Liz Bemis is a history geek who rides a white draft horse in a joust show.
4 Rubies are currently expecting babies (and we don’t mean the book kind!).
“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.