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Posts tagged with: debut

Trouble with the (Learning) Curve

I’m thrilled to be hosting today’s guest blog by debut author Arlene Hittle. Not only is she a long time commenter on the Ruby blog, but she’s a good friend and great company when we’re out writing at the local coffee shop. She’s also an amazing example of perseverance and dedication…

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Arlene HittleThe last time I guest blogged with the Rubies, I’d just been named a 2011 Golden Heart® finalist, and we chatted about the Power of the Average Joe. I still believe in the appeal of Joe Schmoe, so it’s rather funny that the hero of my debut novel, DIVA IN THE DUGOUT, is a jock.

But I’m not here to pimp my book (much, anyway).  😉 We’re all writers here, so we dish about writing techniques and the road to publication.

DIVA’s road to publication began the day I got the coveted Golden phone call—or shortly thereafter. When BEAUTY AND THE BALLPLAYER finaled, it was one of two stories I’d entered. Being the practical sort who went into journalism to make money writing while I tried to break into fiction, I decided that if it was going to be the successful story, I’d darn well better have another two or three baseball books to go with it.

Backlist is everything, right?

So DIVA was born—and titled by Ruby Anne Marie Becker at one of our RWA® chapter’s brainstorming meetings, if I remember correctly.

I wrote the story, polished it, pitched it at RWA Nationals in 2012 and it started making the rounds. Rejections trickled in, but mainly the good kind. You know the ones: “We love your voice, love the writing, but …”

At the same time, the popularity of indie publishing was exploding. I believed in my stories enough to start making preparations to go that route myself. I opted to sit out RWA Nationals 2013 in Atlanta to devote the cash I’d have spent to going indie. I hired a web designer to redo my website, signed up for an indie publishing class through Author EMS and began working with cover artist Rogenna Brewer.

Wouldn’t you know it, that’s when Turquoise Morning Press offered me the contract for DIVA. I got the call (really an email) the Tuesday of Nationals week.

What’s that saying? Success happens when you stop chasing it?

Since DIVA wasn’t on my indie-pub radar yet, I was okay with that. More than okay. I was—and still am—ecstatic.

Of course, now I’m on parallel paths, working with TMP on DIVA and going it alone for HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS, the holiday novella I plan to put out in November. But busy is good.

Here’s where that trouble comes in.

As pre-published authors, we’re told to hone our craft, tell great stories and, above all else, just keep writing. Excellent advice. The promise of publication, of getting our stories out there in the wild, fuels us through disheartening rejections and encouraging rejections, and through the craziness that is life.

Publication is the all-consuming goal. We want it, and we’re willing to sacrifice free time to get it.

What I didn’t realize—although I probably should have—is that once you reach that goal, you just get a new set of concerns.

It’s a whole new ballgame, so to speak. 😉

Problems with writing GMC, pacing correctly and creating sympathetic characters  may still plague your work, but you get all new things to obsess over, too.

On editing: Did the editor get my email? What if she hates EVERYTHING about my story? OMG, what if I have to rewrite the ending? How fast can I turn around the revisions?

Then there’s promo: How often do I tweet about my book? How many guest blog posts should I set up? They say you should go where the readers are (and it may not be where other authors are), but where on earth do I find the readers?

And, of course, the big question: How do you keep writing the next book when you’re neck deep in trying to sell this one to the masses?

What am I getting at? Writing books and selling them are two very different skill sets.

That, too, shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Life is great at throwing us curves. Success depends on our ability to take the pitches as they come. Adapt. Learn. Grow.

 

Let me ask you, dear Rubies and friends, what is the one thing you wish you’d known before the sale?

 

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Diva in the DugoutIn case you’re curious, here’s the blurb for DIVA IN THE DUGOUT:

Arizona Condors shortstop Dave Reynolds faces the toughest test yet: fatherhood.

After a successful stint in drug rehab, Dave is still trying to outrun his bad boy reputation. When the team’s new owners tell him to shape up or be fired at season’s end, he vows to change. He doesn’t count on fatherhood playing a part in his transformation.

Melinda Cline makes a rash decision: take solace in the arms of a sexy-as-sin ballplayer whose name she insists she doesn’t want to know. Big mistake. Now a single mom to a four-year-old, Mel strives to live as quietly and cleanly as possible. But fate intervenes and she comes face to face with the man who insists on being included in their daughter’s life. The attraction between them is still strong, but it may not survive Dave’s reputation or his attempts to do the right thing.

Can the Condors’ bad boy step up to the plate and knock out a home run for fatherhood? And if he does, will his daughter’s mamma be ready?

Find DIVA IN THE DUGOUT at Turquoise Morning Press, Smashwords, All Romance Ebooks, Amazon. Smashwords will begin distributing to BN, Kobo, iTunes and other e-tailers within the week, I’m told.

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Arlene Hittle is a Midwestern transplant who now makes her home in northern Arizona. She suffers from the well-documented Hittle family curse of being a Cubs fan but will root for the Diamondbacks until they run up against the Cubs. Longtime friends are amazed she writes books with sports in them, since she’s about as coordinated as a newborn giraffe and used to say marching band required more exertion than golf. Find her at arlenehittle.com, on Twitter or on Facebook.

Guest Author Lynda Bailey: Ergonomics for Healthy Writers

Hurray! Today I get to host our guest Lynda Bailey, a 2010 Golden Heart finalist and therefore one of my fellow Unsinkables!

I’ve been having fun in the last few months reading Lynda’s delicious erotic shorts FULFILLED and GLAD TO BE HOME, and I’m cheering her on with the self-publication this month of her super-sexy first full-length book, BATTLE-BORN LOVE!!

Lynda’s got a gift for hot love scenes (woo-hoo, the hot tub scene in this new one!!), and I loved the sassy, smart-mouthed heroine of BATTLE-BORN LOVE who runs her own repo business and complains that panty-hose make her feel like “ten pounds of dirt stuffed in a two-pound bag.”  It’s great watching Rory find love-sweet-love without giving up her backbone of steel.

In addition to generating heat for her readers, Lynda gets folks’ blood pumping another way: she’s a fitness instructor and all-around expert in living a healthy, balanced, high-energy life. (You can find great tips for good living at her website, lyndabailey.net .)

She’s here today with some great, practical advice for taking care of our bodies even while we write, write, write….

Take it away, Lynda!

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Ergo—what—tics?

Thanks so much to Elisa and the Ruby Sisters for having me here today. The topic I’m discussing is ergonomics.

Uh. Ergo—what—tics?

Ergonomics. (And no, that’s not economics misspelled.) Ergonomics, according to Webster’s Dictionary is “an applied science concerned with designing and arranging things people use so that the people and things interact most efficiently and safely; called also biotechnology, human engineering, human factors.”

Got all that?

In a nutshell, ergonomics is how we relate to our environment—most specifically our work environment.

Allow me to clarify.

As writers, we spend an inordinate amount of time sitting. We can’t really do much writing, either by hand and definitely not on a computer, while walking or running. (Though one of my goal-gals has been known to do her edits while on the treadmill. WTG, Katrina!)  If your day job is working in an office, you can spend between six and eight hours a day in a chair. Add your writing time and you’re sitting almost more than you’re sleeping. And if your “environments” aren’t properly setup, you can experience increased stress on your muscles, joints and ligaments. In other words, if you’re working within ergonomically incorrect environments, you’ll have discomfort, pain, muscle fatigue/tightness, headaches and general irritability—more so than what’s normal.

You need to have your chair at the proper height for your height in relation to the desk so that, when your feet are flat to the floor, your hips and knees are at approximately 90 degrees. The chair should swivel so you’re not twisting your spine and over-reaching what is a normal range. Additional lumbar support, in the form of an ergonomically designed pillow, will also help diminish lower back pain.

A monitor that’s too low can lead to a pain in your neck and upper back as well as to headaches. The best height for your monitor is at your eye level, about 18-24 inches away, with the top of the monitor no higher than the top of your head.

Got problems with shoulder and neck pain? Chances are your keyboard is too high. I have personal experience with this. When I’d write on my laptop—and my laptop was on the kitchen table—I got this horrible, awful burning neck pain. Wasn’t until DH and son bought me a desk, with a lower shelf for an external keyboard, that the pain diminished. Trouble with carpal tunnel in your wrist? Use a pad so your wrist stays in a neutral position while you type. And make sure your mouse is adjacent and at the same level as the keyboard.

Talking on the phone a lot? Use a hands-free phone set to keep yourself from cradling the phone between your ear and shoulder.

But even with the most ergonomically correct environment, not all stress will be alleviated from your body. If you’re deskbound for long stretches of time, set a timer for 30 minutes and get outta that chair. Go get a drink of water or walk to your co-workers office instead of emailing. Our bodies are built for activity, not inactivity. So move people! (If pain/trouble persists, though, make sure you check things out with your health care provider.)

If anyone has a question or comment, shout ‘em out, but make sure to leave your email in your comment. One lucky person will win a PDF copy of my indie release, BATTLE BORN LOVE. Thanks again to the Ruby Sisters for having me here today!

Stay healthy!
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And now a few words about Lynda’s new book (woo-hoo!!!)

Spirited repo owner, Rory Dawson, agrees to be what she isn’t—the girlfriend of a handsome banker—in order to save her father from a prison sentence. Now Pop is safe, but is her heart?

Kane Williams has made a deal with a most provocative devil in hopes of securing a coveted promotion. All his life Kane has endeavored to be the best, to erase the failure of his father. Will years of work be forfeited for a woman, albeit the sexiest one he’s ever known?

From opposite sides of the tracks, Rory and Kane forge an unlikely friendship. Soon, that friendship becomes a steamy relationship. Through trial and pain, they battle to have the love of a lifetime.

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Remember, leave a comment on the blog today to have a chance at winning a PDF copy! You can also snap it up at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

 

Top Five Lessons Learned From My Debut Release

My first book, Heiress Without A Cause, came out as a Nook exclusive at the end of January, and there was much rejoicing throughout the land. Or at least I rejoiced, and my friends all tolerated my rejoicing. The champagne flowed, the congratulatory calls/emails/tweets came in, and I even sold enough copies to be thrilled with it (it reached #69 in the Nook Store and is still in the top thirty there for Regency romance!).

Heiress is coming out on Amazon any second now (EDIT: it’s up now!! check it out here), since the Nook First promotional period is over, and I can’t wait. But on this anticipatory day between the end of my first month as a published author and the start of the rest of my life (cue dramatic music), I thought I would share what I learned and what I hope to change/replicate/avoid going forward.

Lesson 1: Promo Can Suck Your Brains Out If You Let It

Yes, promo can suck your brains out even if you write fun Regencies instead of dark paranormal zombie thrillers. All those guest blogs, Facebook contests, and Goodreads giveaways are like snarling, starving wolverines, and they will happily latch onto your throat, pull you to the ground, and gnaw on your bones. And yet you have to get through it, even if getting through it probably feels like being part of the Donner Party in January — you just have to hope you survive it, and hope your reputation survives whatever missteps you make.

But even though there are a lot of demands during your debut month, try to bat away the wolverines long enough to keep working on your next book. It helps (said with a crazed, maniacal laugh) if you have a deadline for the next project. Otherwise, you could easily keep promoting your first book forever and never write anything else. And that, my friends, makes for a very sad writer.

Lesson 2: The Best Promo Comes From Being Yourself

The best promo comes from being yourself — unless you’re Genghis Khan, I suppose. Although we all still know who he is  800 years later, so as a brand marketer, he was totally a genius.

That’s not my point. My point is that if you’re thinking of how to work yet another mention of your book into a comment thread on someone’s blog, or tweeting your book with every hashtag that has every existed in the history of twitter, you’re probably not having fun with it. And if you’re not having fun, your followers aren’t having fun. People sense when something’s forced and unnatural, or a strategy/gimmick. But if you write the way you want to write, in all media, and stop trying so hard to sell your *book*, you might just con people into thinking you’re a nice, interesting, funny person who must have written a nice, interesting, funny book. And then they buy it. And then you win. And you didn’t even have to conquer all of Central Asia to do it.

Lesson 3: Laugh At The Bad Reviews And Treasure The Good Ones

Note that I didn’t say “don’t read your reviews.” If you’re strong enough to never read a single review, you’re a stronger woman/man/alien (you must be an alien) than I am. But note that I also didn’t say “respond to your bad reviews” or “get your friends to form a posse and lynch the person who left you a bad review.” That’s the stuff of nightmares and will kill your online reputation faster than anything. I stay disengaged, and I don’t respond to reviews — but if I’m going to read them, I make myself laugh off the bad ones. And for me, at least, I can laugh off the bad ones because the good ones are so precious to me that it’s worth stumbling over a few rocks to find the diamonds.

Lesson 4: Do Everything You Can In Advance

And I don’t just mean on the promo side. I mean everywhere. Wash your sheets. Stock up on groceries. Spend time with your family. Give everything a good dusting. Because the week your book comes out, all you’re gonna want to do is refresh your sales rankings constantly, and you’re going to hate the person who wants to take you away from your laptop to make them a stupid sandwich or do their laundry.

On a more practical note, if you write some blog posts in advance, do up some FAQs, select your excerpts, and write up short/medium/long descriptions of your book, it’s all there waiting for you when someone needs it. And if someone offers you a last minute guest blog opportunity, you can say yes happily, knowing that you have a precious blog stockpile ready to send them. It’s like preparing for the apocalypse, except with words instead of canned goods.

Lesson 5: Learn To Let Things Go

Not everything will go well, and not everything will get done. I hate having a messy house, but I’ve let that go for now — which is fine, since I don’t have time to invite people over anyway. I’m not going to get workshop proposals out to every conference on the planet, but that’s okay too. If you can hit most of the important stuff most of the time (writing, promo, bathing, and seeing your family and friends just often enough that they don’t forget your face), everything else is secondary.

And really, it’s just as important to enjoy the ride as it is to, um, take the ride. Even though I felt ridiculously busy this month, I never said no to a celebratory dinner, or drinks at the bar the night my book came out, or anything else people wanted to do to celebrate. If you have people who want to share your success, share it with them. Success has a funny way of expanding to make everyone happy, if you don’t try to horde it like gold in a dragon cave. And the best part of my debut month wasn’t the sales numbers — it was treasuring those moments when my family and friends were there for me.

For those of you who have published, what did you learn from your debut? If you haven’t published yet, what are you most concerned/excited/scared/thrilled about when you think of your debut? I’ll give an ebook, either Nook or Kindle, to a lucky commenter – so fire away!

Sara Ramsey’s first Regency romance, HEIRESS WITHOUT A CAUSE, is out now on Nook and will be available at any moment on other ereaders and in print. Her second book, SCOTSMEN PREFER BLONDES, is coming at the end of March. For more dubious wisdom and bizarre tweets from what she’s dubbed the #sarapocalypse, follow her on Twitter at @Sara_Ramsey or sign up for her mailing list.

Ruby Release! The Memory of You — Laurie Kellogg

Once upon a time . . . 

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. 

Ruby Debut Release: Heiress Without a Cause by Sara Ramsey

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?

Ruby Release Spotlight: Hope Ramsay & Welcome to Last Chance

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? 

Me, too.  

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.float; right 

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.

Guest Blog: Contest Diva Amanda Berry

LA Cinderella_lowresThe flavor of the month definitely seems to be guests and critique partners! With that in mind, I’m proud to bring to show-and-tell:  Amanda Berry, my critique partner and debut Silhouette Special Edition author.

Amanda and I met at the local chapter meeting and joined forces when she admitted being jealous of the other gals who had critique groups. So the two new kids on the playground started our own hopscotch club. In addition to being a great sounding board and CP, Amanda and I had something in common: we were both contest sluts.

The Latest Comments

  • Autumn Jordon: Also proof to IRS that this is you’re serious about being a businessand not just a hobby.
  • Vivi Andrews/Lizzie Shane: Oh ugh! Editing is NOT my cake. It’s TORTURE. I love the shiny new words when I can...
  • Heather McCollum: Wonderful tips, Kim! I try to get in 2000 words a day if possible (definitely not when life throws...
  • Rhonda Clark: I love editing, so I guess for writing my tips would be: planning a plot twist, exploring different...
  • Kim Law: lol. Tell us how you really feel about interruptions, LOLOLOLOL! But yes…death glare! I don’t...

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