Friday, September 30, 2005

Q&A with Janet Mullany

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Happy Friday! Please join me in welcoming Janet Mullany to our Friday Q&A!

1) Can you give us a blurb about your current book?

First, don't let the cover art fool you. It is by no means as sweet and innocent as those two lovely young things on the cover would suggest. Dedication is about a couple who meet up again twenty years after a brief and badly-ended affair when they were both very young. Adam, the former rake, is now a rather stuffy country gentleman, and Fabienne was a naive convent-educated French emigree (she fled the French revolution) who is now a very sophisticated and independent woman. She is a patroness of the arts who holds a fashionable literary salon, and she starts an intimate correspondence with a writer of gothic novels, Mrs. Ravenwood. But when she tries to meet up with Mrs. Ravenwood she runs into Adam. Meanwhile she spills her guts to this woman she knows only through letters, and at the same time finds she's involved with Adam again, and a lot of issues from the past are unearthed. And Adam is in a very tricky position--he's Mrs. Ravenwood, and whether Fabienne knows this or not, he's in big trouble.

2) What is your favorite thing about being an author?

Other than the entourage, adoring fans, and huge amounts of money? Quite honestly, it gives me enormous pleasure that people have bought my book and enjoyed it. I did my first booksigning today and it was wonderful how excited people were to buy my book.

3) What is the toughest thing about being an author?

At this point, writing! I think what happens now to the book and its sales is really out of my hands, although I'm doing what I can to promote it, and I hope people who enjoy it will recommend it to their friends, which is a great selling technique. But the process of writing is time-consuming and solitary, and you have to carve out time to do it and be very focused. It's very hard to do that if you're continually jumping onto amazon to see how your book is doing!

4) Do you remember your first kiss? Can you tell us the story?

Eew. Best not to ask.

5) So many authors struggle with writing love scenes. Do you have any tricks you could share?

Don't rely on cliches for body parts (do we really need more pebbled nubs?). I'm also a great believer in having my characters talk while they make love, and having different sorts of love scenes; you don't need a high emotional intensity every time--let your h/h just have fun once in a while! Susie Bright wrote a great book called "How to Write a Dirty Story: Reading, Writing, and Publishing Erotica," which I highly recommend. Above all, don't be afraid of love scenes. We reveal so much about ourselves as writers that a hot love scene is just another minor embarrassment on top of all the others.

6) Who is your movie star boyfriend and why?

Sean Connery, who only gets better and better as he ages.

7) Tell us about the first time you saw your book on the shelf. Was it a better moment than getting The Call?

I wasn't stuttering and drooling quite so much! Quite honestly, it didn't feel like anything particularly personal. I thought, "oh good, I'm next to Catherine Mulvaney," and then plucked the two copies off the shelf and asked a salesperson if I could sign them. My daughter, who was with me, was mortified.

8) When you read for fun, do you evaluate the books you're reading? What do you look for?

I try to turn off the radar because I've only been writing for five years but I've always read for pleasure. However, my time is precious, and if I don't like something, I won't waste time on it, unless it's so spectacularly bad I can't stop (like slowing to look at a car crash). I read a lot of other genres--I've always loved mysteries, for instance, and now I enjoy them more because of the complexity and expertise of the plotting.

Thanks, Janet!

For more info on Janet, visit her website.

Next Friday's guest is paranormal author, Gena Showalter.

Date Me, Baby; Birthday Months and Presents to Myself

Okay, since I'm so excited about paranormal coming out with Warner in May, I've decided to institute the DATE ME, BABY update so y'all can get all the scoop about the process a book goes through up until the date it goes on the shelves, and because I'm so excited it gives me an excuse to talk about it. So, it's one of those, I'm doing it for you but really I'm doing it for me, things. You know. Like when you give your husband new curtains for his birthday? Yeah, sure it's because you think he'll like them... That's like the time my mountain-biking dh gave me a bike rack for his bike for my truck for my birthday... oh, sure, I had a bike too at the time, but that gift was so not for me. I think I was cranky for at least a week. Speaking of birthdays, guess what tomorrow marks the start of? My birthday month! Yep, I don't have a birthday, or a birthday week, I have a birthday month. The month of October is all about me. Istarted the tradition when I was in a particulary miserable period of my life at a job from hell, and I really needed a pick-me-up for my life. Hence the creation of my birthday month, and I have faithfully honored the tradition ever since. Since tomorrow marks the start of it, I think I should do something to celebrate. Hmm... maybe a new workout outfit? Or a new car (hah!)? Or maybe I'll just bake myself a cake and eat the whole thing in one day. Yes, yes, I think that's the best option. Does anyone else celebrate their birthday month? And if you're feeling cranky about how many birthday's you've had, shame on you! Another birthday is better than the alternative, right? I mean, heck, as long as you're still hanging around this planet, you might as well honor yourself, right? Of course, right.

Okay, enough about birthdays! It's time for the first DATE ME, BABY update. Drum roll, please...

DATE ME, BABY update #1: I talked to my editor yesterday and finally got the revisions for DATE ME, BABY. I'm so excited. The revisions are totally manageable, I agree with all of them and I think they will make the book much stronger. This is my first book with my new editor, and I'm completely thrilled. I love her editing style! We did the big picture items over the phone today and she's mailing me the marked up mss fed ex for the smaller changes. So now, I'm off to continue working on the revisions. And you know what's great? As I'm rereading DATE ME, BABY, I still love the story! Usually by now, I'm so tired of the story that I can't stand to read another word, but I still really like this book. Relief!!

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Inspiration Thursday: Gerard Butler

I love blog readers! They have the best suggestions for Inspiration Thursday. Thanks, Ann P for suggesting Gerard. He's quite the hottie, oui oui? Question of the day: which picture do you like best?

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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Ask an Agent: Hollywood Part II

Join us for the second installment from Michelle Grajkowski as she talks about books and Hollywood.

Last week I introduced you to the key players in Hollywood, the manager, the agent and the producer. Today, I’ll try to wrap up the mystique of the big screen by showing you how agents and authors interact with them to make movies happen.

Besides the manger, agent and producer, there is another very important person who scours the literary marketplace for hot new projects – the scout. Scouts are normally contracted with a certain production company or film studio. Their job is to uncover novels that could be adapted well into film. Since they work directly with the powerhouses, they know exactly what their firms are looking for. I’ve been contacted by many scouts on projects that they’ve seen listed on places like Publisher’s Marketplace or by reviews that have been given on a book. In general, they are interested in looking at projects that are not yet on the shelves.

Normally when a book is published, a production company or management firm will contact an agent about the particular project. Last winter, for example, one of my clients and I signed an agreement for one of her novels with a production company. The production company, in turn, hired a screenwriter to adapt her novel into a screenplay. The screenplay is currently being written, and the production company is hoping to be ready to start marketing it within the next few months.

In another case, we had a screenwriter who works for a production company approach is about a different client’s novel. She is writing the screenplay and then we are going to work on the marketing of the project. We signed this agreement for this project almost a year ago, too.

Finally, since I have a good number of contacts in the industry, when a high-concept project that I’ve sold or am marketing comes up I start shopping it right away. It’s important to get the word out as soon as possible.

Hollywood tends to work on many projects in the early stages that never find themselves on film. They like to buy while a trend is hot, but since it takes so long from start to finish, oftentimes the trends change and a project is abandoned mid-stream. Just like in publishing, the wait can be immense, but it can really pay off!!

Monday, September 26, 2005

A Day in the Life: YAHOO!

I am SO fired up right now! I have been working on this new fantasy proposal for ages. I've had the world fleshed out for a couple months, but I could not get the chapters right. I kept starting and then realizing I wasn't hitting it the way I wanted. I must have written that first scene twenty different times. I was glad I kept starting over, becuase the book wasn't right and I could see that, but for the life of me, I could not figure out how to get it right. I mean, it was fine, but it wasn't jumping off the page the way it should. I tried so many different scenes. I revamped the characters. You name it, I did it.

Then finally, last week, I sent my agent the most recent version that I felt wasn't right. She read it, we brainstormed, and at the end, she said something that totally turned a light on in my head.

I spent a day reworking my main CH a bit, then starting writing again. And it was right. I was so psyched! And now, it is finished! I am so pleased with the chapters and I feel like I did a great job with the world description and synopsis, both showing the complexity of the story and conveying the tone as well. After struggling for so long, to finally succeed, is the best feeling! I feel was my biggest writing victory to date, and I'm so happy!

Oh, sure, my agent might have revisions for me and I'm sure I'll continue to tighten it up, and who knows what the editor response will be, but overall, I finally nailed it the way I wanted to, and that is the best feeling ever! A year or two ago, I wouldn't even have been able to see that it wasn't working. I would have whipped off that first or second version and called it a day. But I've improved enough that I could see what was wrong, and I didn't give up. Yay! I'm so excited!

Now it is time to go celebrate by ironing curtains. Ah, the glamorous life of an author.

Tips for Writers: C.Vogler & D.Swain

First of all, I'm so sorry I never got Janet Mullany's Q&A posted this weekend. I ended up going out of town and wasn't on the computer. She is rescheduled for this Friday! And now, tips for writers!

I was at a writers retreat this weekend and I got into a conversation with a few other writers about Christopher Vogler's book The Writer's Journey and Dwight's Swain's advice about Scene & Sequel.

Just because I'm feeling snarky, I'm going to cause some trouble here! Okay, *so many* extremely successful authors swear by Vogler and Swain. I'm talking NYT best sellers and all. As a newbie, I listened, I responded, I bought those books and I read those suckers. After reading Vogler, I looked at the mss I'd already written and thought "Holy moly! That's why I haven't sold! I've been jumping right into the action instead of setting up the ordinary world! Dork!"

I immediately rushed to the computer and changed how I did things. I spent time in that ordinary world. I did a beautiful job describing where they were, what their issues were, why they were frustrated etc. Chris would have been proud.

Then I sent them out. And guess what? More rejections, and they all said it was a pacing problem. It started off too slow!

I realized I was spending a bit too much time in the ordinary world, so I cut it down.

Still had pacing problems.

Cut more.

Still had pacing problems.

Finally, four or five manuscripts later, after suffering more rejections and hearing editors say they can't stand getting books based on the Hero's Journey, I realized that in today's genre fiction market, there is no place for starting with the ordinary world. You have to start right smack in the middle of the action. In the middle of the moment that will change that character's life forever. What about the ordinary world, you ask? Well, this is ALL you're allowed to do with it: one sentence here. One sentence there. One sentence at a time until eventually, by page 200, you have fully educated the reader as to all the past and backstory and ordinary world that they need to know. My rule of thumb: if the reader doesn't need to know the backstory/past/ordinary world to understand what is going on or why something is important, then they don't need to know it yet, which means you aren't allowed to put it in the story yet. It's okay if the reader is chock full of questions about what's going--that's the whole point of a great book! Unanswered questions make the reader turn the page because they need to know. But the reader can't be so confused that they close the book or think the heroine is a psycho bitch because you haven't explained her motivation. For that reason, you're allowed to drop a hint here and there as is necessary. BUT NO MORE!

My lesson? I learned that the Vogler thing didn't work for me. I shut that book, put it away, and have been happily surprised to learn I'm not the only author who had to do the same thing.

Part Deux: Dwight Swain's scene & sequel

Okay, I admit, I never read much of this book. I bought it, I think it's still on my shelf, but heaven help me, I couldn't get through it. Now that I know more about it, I'm so glad I didn't because I fear it would have set my writing back the way Vogler did. Why? Because of that pesky scene & sequel thing.

Before I completely diss the S&S thing, please note that plenty of successful authors do subscribe religiously to the S&S bit, so if you like it and it works for you, keep it up. But here's my opinion:
scene & sequel is outdated and should best relegated to a museum setting, at least if you're trying to sell genre fiction. I can't tell you the number of editors I have spoken to that have told me that. Why? Because today's audience demands fast paced stories, action, page-turning suspense (even in a non-suspense novel). If you have a sequel in which your character spends several pages ruminating on the previous action scene, guess what? Snore.

Yes, your characters need to have a response to whatever earth-shattering event happened to them in the last scene. But that response should be part of the action of the next scene. Do NOT have the boring sequels where the heroine is pondering the meaning of life while sitting in traffic. Have the heroine pondering the meaning of life as she slams her car into the side of her stalker's truck because she simply won't accept being threatened anymore. So there, you b*stard! See the difference?

So there we go. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Q&A with J. R. Ward

Welcome to Friday's Q&A with J.R. Ward, author of Dark Lover.

Editor's Note: I was in Waldenbooks in North Conway, NH a few weeks ago, and they were having a "buy four, get one free" sale. I had three books I wanted, so I asked the bookseller to pick two others for me. She pratically sprinted across the the store to retreive Dark Lover. She threw that puppy down in front me and said I *had* to read it. I took one look at the awesome cover and agreed. I went home, plopped down on the couch and read it. Truthfully, it blew me away. It was one of the best books I've ever read in my life. It was sexy, compelling, thrilling and absolutely engaging. The characters, plot and writing was flawless. So, I marched up to my computer and sent JR an adoring fan letter. She responded right away, being the incredibly nice person that she was, and now we have her doing a Q&A on my blog!

Dark Lover is her debut book under the name J.R. Ward, and it is taking off like a shot. It hit the USA Today list its first week and has been climbing the charts. This third week, it was up to #48 on the USA list and hit the NYT list. Way to go, JR! You deserve every success!

And now, off to our Q&A. P.S. Don't forget to stop by for Bonus Saturday Q&A with Janet Mullany.

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1) Can you give us a blurb about your current book?

DARK LOVER is an erotic paranormal romance that launches the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. There are six warrior vampires in the Brotherhood: Wrath, Rhage, Vishous, Phury, Zsadist and Tohrment. DARK LOVER features Wrath, the Blind King. When one of his most trusted warriors is killed, Wrath takes on the responsibility of ushering the male’s half-human daughter into the vampire world. Beth Randall has no idea she’s about to turn into a vampire and the towering, black-haired man who shows up on her doorstep is not a welcome surprise. She fights the pull she feels for him as long as she can... and then the real adventure begins!

2) First of all, huge congratulations on Dark Lover making the USA Today list for two consecutive weeks. How did you find out that you’d made the list? Was it the most amazing moment of your career so far?

I found out via email. There was this email on a loop I belong to with the subject: Jesssica! I double clicked and it said: You made USAToday! I blinked and felt a shot of true excitement. Then immediately another email came from the same person and the subject was: Re: Jesssica. I thought, oh, she made a mistake. I didn’t open the email. I let the dog out. Took a deep breath. Went back to the computer and opened the second email. It said: I got so excited I put an extra “s” in your name. I blinked. Typed: What?! And then: Where did you see this? I hit send and thought, well, duh. Go to USAToday’s website. So that’s how I found out!

(Editor's note: Dark Lover went on to hit the NYT extended list its third week, and moved up to #48 on the USA Today list as well. Congratulations, JR!)

3) Before you wrote the Dark Lover series, you’d sold a number of books under the name Jessica Bird. Can you tell us about the path that took you from those gentler contemporary romances to this compelling, sexy, suspenseful series?

I love writing contemporary romances, and I still do under the Jessica Bird name, but after four of them had come out, it was time to make a change. My husband and I had just moved down south, and I’d stopped working as a lawyer. It was kind of like, okay, I’ve been doing the writing thing for a while in addition to Corporate America stuff, but now let’s see if I can make the books a career. I had saved up almost two years of living expenses and decided to throw myself at fate. I changed agents and tried to expand my horizons about what sub-genre I was in.

Then I went to a bookstore one day and saw a romance with a vampire on the cover. I was like, wait a minute, you mean a vampire could be the hero? And someone would actually read it? I went home, stared at the computer screen and thought, I love vampires. I hate that they are usually the bad guys. And I think they are really hot. But how am I going to make this fly? I decided, okay, since no one is going to actually read this, I’m just going to write what I see in my head, no matter how out there it is. And then... BANG. The Brotherhood hit me. The world and the characters and the rules, it was all fully formed. I was astounded.

And all the while, through the planning and the drafting of the first three chapters, I had an ache in my chest. I was so convinced that no one would like it except for me. I was also convinced it went a little far (I mean, if you’ve read the book, remember Beth and Wrath’s mating ceremony???) Finally, I sent the proposal and three chapters to my agent and just waited. I don’t think I breathed at all because I was kind of sure she’d tell me I was crazy. When she called me back and told me she loved it, I was so very grateful because I was one step closer to actually writing the books. Frankly, the changes in my professional life, the switching of agents, the Brotherhood’s arrival, it was all leap of faith stuff. And I still don’t understand why the brothers showed up in my head. I’m just awfully glad they did!

4) From a craft or story-telling point of view, can you share with us any ah ha! moments you had that took you to a USA Today best selling author?

Showing and not telling. I think that is the big one. As I wrote DARK LOVER, I remember making a conscious decision to do away with as much exposition and introspection as I could. Sometimes you need either one or both to flesh out a scene, but I wanted to make the book as lean as possible on telling. It was so hard to discipline myself because I was used to showing my characters’ thought processes. In DL, though, if they thought it, they had to say it either to the person they were with or whoever they were thinking about. I liked the way it turned out, because my characters ended up interacting a lot more with each other. I think it brought an immediacy and vividness to the relationships.

Also, I got rid of projections for the most part- which I used to put in frequently. While I was writing DARK LOVER, I would get to the end of a scene and want to put in a tag that would project what the character was going to do next. I took all those out for the most part. I felt like I was flying blind in a way, or putting the reader in an unstable situation because they wouldn’t know what would happen next. But what do you know... it helped with the pacing.

5) What kind of self-promo did you do for Dark Lover? Was it different from what you’d done for your other books?

I didn’t do a lot that was different. One of the biggest investments I made was in the website. I focused on making it user friendly and getting information on the brothers out in a way that was fresh and vivid. For example, I staged interviews with each of the brothers- instead of just having physical descriptions, there are transcripts of the conversations so the warriors really come through. In addition to the website, I also advertised on some online sites and got the word out among reader groups. There were also print ads in Romantic Times and RWA’s Romance Writers Report.

6) Can you give us a sneak peek at your next Black Dagger book? How many days do I have to wait until it’s out?

The second Black Dagger book, LOVER ETERNAL, is Rhage’s story and it comes out in early March ‘06. Rhage is the strongest brother, the best fighter, the one with the heartiest... er, appetites. But he was cursed a hundred years ago and ever since then he’s had to battle with his inner beast. When his path crosses with that of a certain human female’s, he’s enthralled and determined to have her. Mary Luce, however, is not looking for love with anyone- much less a vampire. With a curse of her own, she has enough to deal with already. Fortunately, fate has other ideas for her future!

DARK LOVER (avail. 9/6/05) Signet Eclipse: an RT Top Pick **Wrath's book**

LOVER ETERNAL (avail. 3/7/06) Signet Eclipse **Rhage's book**

LOVER AWAKENED (avail. 9/5/06) Signet Eclipse **Zsadist's book**

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Inspiration Thursday: Ode to the Cowboy

There's a reason why country music is hot. Because the men of country music are sizzling!

First up, newcomer Billy Currington. Um, do we need to say more? Other than, off with the shirt!
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Next up? Tim McGraw. Not only the guy completely hot, filthy rich and mega talented, but he is also a devoted dad to four daughters. How sweet is that? Gotta love him!
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And next, the love of my life, Toby Keith. This bad boy is the poster child for refusing to take no for an answer. If you ever get frustrated with how long it takes to accomplish your goals, read Toby's bio. The man is true inspiration.

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And how could we forget poor Kenny Chesney, who just had his heart broken by Renee Zellwegger. Who's up for comforting him? Me! Me!

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You're itching to watch a little CMT now, aren't you? I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Agent Q&A: Hollywood Part 1

Join us today as Michelle Grajkowski of Three Seas Literary Agency gives us the low down on movie and tv rights. Feel free to post questions for clarification at the end. Today's lesson is a listing of the key players involved. Next week will be more details about how things work.

The movie industry is much different than the literary marketplace. In publishing, literary agents are very open and receptive to working with new authors and helping them to develop their careers. And, it’s pretty cut and dry – you work with a literary agent who then will attempt to sell your manuscript and its subsidiary rights. In the movie industry, however, authors usually will find themselves working with three key people – a manager, an agent and an entertainment attorney.

Management Companies:
A management company is similar to a literary agency. Like an agent, most managers are hands-on people. They work closely with their authors to help nurture and develop their careers. They offer guidance and support as well as constructive criticism to help perfect a project before it goes out the door. Often if the management company is working with a previously published book, they will secure a writer who will commit to rework the novel into a script. Also, unlike their counterparts, managers are not afraid to work with fresh talent.

California has tight laws in place to protect authors and to control the entertainment industry. For instance, a manager is not allowed to negotiate a deal – they can only facilitate it. Therefore, a manager will work closely with an agent when a deal is offered. Most management companies charge on average 15% of the author’s share from the deal. The commission a management company receives is not regulated by California law.

Hollywood agents play an integral part in a movie deal. Normally, they will not work with new talent. They are more interested in jumping in when a deal is ready to be negotiated. As I mentioned, managers are not allowed to negotiate legally, so they call in an agent to do the negotiating on their behalf. And, agents in Hollywood are regulated by state law and cannot receive a commission more than 10% for their efforts.

Entertainment Attorneys:
Often times an author will hire on an entertainment attorney before they sign-off on a deal. The attorney will in turn read though the contract and will work with the agent to negotiate the best terms they can on behalf of the author. An attorney normally charges 5% of the deal.

The Bottom Line
Therefore, if you are an author entering into a deal without a literary agent, you could expect to pay about 30% of your share to a management company, an agency and an attorney.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Upcoming Q&As

Just thought I'd give you guys a sneak peak at upcoming Q&A's in the next couple months:
Agent Caren Johnson of Peter Rubie Literary Agency
Rita nominee Jessica Andersen of Harlequin Intrigue
Paranormal author Gena Showalter
USA Today best selling vampire author JR Ward
Regency author Janet Mullany
Women's fiction author Britta Coleman
Regency author Diane Gaston
Regency historical author Jenna Petersen
Contemporary author and Rita winner Susan Crandall

Look for more authors, agents and editors to be posted soon!

A Day in the Life: Back Cover Copy

Whoeee! Today my editor emailed the proposed back cover copy for my May paranormal. It's very funny, and I'm totally pumped. She also included the front matter, with the excerpt and the back matter, which promos the next book in the series as well. It just makes it seem so real and tangible, that my editor is actually working on this stuff. Yippee! And, she said she's working through the complete manuscript I turned in for my May release and she likes it so far. PHEW! I was really happy with it, but there's always that little worry that my editor might throw it against the wall and burst into tears after reading the first fifty pages (and since this is a romcom, having my editor cry would really not be a good thing). So for the moment, I am breathing a deep sigh of relief and eagerly awaiting revisions. You think I jest about being eager for revisions? Nope. I love them because in my experience, revisions always make the book better. I can't wait to see what my editor comes up with to make this book tighter, funnier and generally better.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Tips for Writers: Look Beneath the Surface

There's this writer. I think she's an amazing talent. She has sold book after book after book. To my knowledge, she's never had a book rejected. Each book published does better than the last. How come it's so easy for her? Why can't I have her success?

These thoughts used to go through my mind every time I thought of this author. Yes, I bought all her books, but deep down inside of me, I got this knot everything I saw her name anywhere. Yep, you got it, the knot was jealousy augmented with a healthy dose of insecurity. Not only was she better than I was in all ways, but she hadn't had to suffer at all. This author had it all, and no matter how hard I tried, I was never going to catch up to her. Comparing my career and talents to hers was unhealthy, and frankly, it stifled me creatively because I was so busy being cranky and feeling like a loser in comparison to her.

Then one day I found out something about this author's personal life. Something awful. Something I would never, ever, ever want to happen to me. From then on, everything changed. Every sale, every list, every success this author had? I thought, "Have at it, girlfriend. I'll take my struggles over yours any day."

Lesson learned.

Don't waste time being jealous of people. They might seem like they have it all, but I'll bet if you look closely enough, they're dealing with something that you wouldn't want even if it came with all the success in the world.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Inspiration Saturday

A friend of mine sent me this photo of a fireman getting kisses after rescuing a dog, and I had to post it. I don't know which I love more, the big tough studly hero who saves Girls Best Friend, or the fact that he indulges in doggie kisses. Sigh. I'll help him clean up...
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Friday, September 16, 2005

Q&A with Toni Blake

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1) Can you give us a blurb about your current book?

Actually, I had a release in both July and August, so I hope you'll indulge me if I share a bit about both : )

My July book was IN YOUR WILDEST DREAMS, a super sexy single title from Warner, and here's the back blurb:

Stephanie Grant's first step onto the secret third floor of Chez Sophia frightens her and strengthens her resolve. Here in New Orleans, in this luxurious world of beautiful women, wealthy men, and heady champagne, she's about to begin a perilous charade to find her missing sister. But her most reckless-and thrilling-journey will be surrendering to the spell of one man's desire.

Her guide will be Jake Broussard, the bartender and ex-cop who immediately sees through her act and becomes her ally. As his eyes and soft Cajun accent send her senses reeling, she'll find herself experiencing pleasure for the very first time in her life and losing control. Her defenses are about to slip away with her satin gown and her lacy lingerie, baring her body and soul.

Next is the anthology, TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS, from Signet Eclipse, which I share with LuAnn McLane and Patricia Ryan. My story is called BRUSHSTROKES and it's, perhaps not surprisingly, super sexy : ) Here's the blurb:

Mia Drake is a down-on-her-luck artist in need of employment. So when her aunt suggests she take a job painting a local tavern, she jumps at the chance to make some money - and maybe get cozy with the bar's hunky owner, Rick Rose. But the last thing Rick wants is any more temptations. Only when Mia begins painting an ultra-sensual mural across the ceiling of the tavern does Rick realize that he may not know art - but he knows what he likes ...

2) The path to publication and writing success can be so long and so frustrating. What was your lowest point in your writing career, and how did you find the energy to keep going?

A few years ago, I parted ways with Harlequin before having another publisher to go to, and I thought my career was probably over. What I did, on the advice of friend Lori Foster, was write something totally just for me, something I just wanted to write, without thinking about the market, editors, whether it would sell, etc. Turned out that story is BRUSHSTROKES, which ended up in TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS : ) The thing about this business is - it's TOUGH. The competition is stiff and never-ending, there's zero job security, and you never know what will happen next. The thing that keeps me going through bad times is simply that I love to write, and I don't think I'll ever NOT write, no matter what happens. And as long as you're writing and submitting, you're still in the game : )

3) ***Harry Potter Spoiler Alert!!!*** Do you think Dumbledore is really dead? And if so, do you think JK Rowling should have killed him off?

With a name like that, would it not be a blessing? ; )

I'm sorry - don't smack me but ... I don't read Harry Potter. I know, I'm unAmerican or something ; ) So many books, so little time - such is my quandary. Heck, I'm only on the sixth Stephanie Plum - but at least I'm making headway there. I've heard she finally sleeps with Ranger in seven so that has me reading fast ; )

4) Your books are very sexy and compelling, but so many authors struggle with loves scenes. Do you have any hints for people on how to write sexy books? How do you keep the love scenes fresh?

People actually ask me this a lot, and I still don't have a good answer ; ) Writing sexy books is just kinda ... what I do - the love scenes are the parts that come easy to me. That said, my best shot at an answer would be to remember it's all about emotion. Make sure the emotion is on the page - on EVERY page. Readers will only care about the sex if they care about the characters and what they're experiencing inside while the sex is happening. I actually think that writing about sex is easy for me because I never think of a sex scene as a "romp" or just two people having fun or expressing their attraction - I personally feel that sex is (or at least should be) the most important thing two people can experience together, and I hope that comes across in my books.

5) What is the toughest thing about being an author?

The uncertainty, which I alluded to above. You honestly never know what each new day will hold. It's a roller coaster ride.

Bad reviews are a close second. Certainly every reader has the right to review a book as they choose, but when a review strives to be particularly nasty and hateful, it really hurts.

6) The hero in In Your Wildest Dreams is a total hunk. What's your secret for writing such studs?

Oh, thank you so much - I will admit I love Jake a lot and that he's my favorite hero : ) I guess this is another question I don't have a great answer for, as part of putting together a hero is just instinctive, but here are some elements I've used in both Jake and my previous hero, from THE RED DIARY, Nick:

Both were wounded - suffering from a great loss in the past
Both were purely masculine and very sexual when it came to their build and looks
Both had tattoos ; ) (not sure that's a necessary stud ingredient, but for what it's worth ... ; ) )
Both were "dark" - in both physical appearance and personality
Both had secrets
Neither talked a lot or volunteered information without having it pried out of them
Both knew how to melt the heroine with just a look
Both knew how to please their women in bed and considered it a top priority ; )
Both had a hidden soft side

Now, the hero in my next book is not quite so dark or angst-filled as Jake and Nick - but he's still pure alpha - so I'm hoping readers will embrace him even if he's not quite so brooding at the last two ; )

7) What was the worst date you ever had?

Yeesh. I guess I would have to say it was the one where the guy turned out to be a stalker ; ) Well, actually, I have two stalkers in my dating past (yeah, lucky me), but with the one I'm thinking of, it went like this: DREAMY guy, gorgeous, handsome, debonair, well-dressed and well-groomed, drove a cute little sports car, and had the most handsome charcoal gray wool coat. I'd considered him total perfection from afar, so nearly swooned when he asked me out. He took me to a wonderful restaurant and we had a delightful dinner, and I was on cloud nine.

Until he started taking me home, but didn't quite manage to take me home ; ) When we headed in the wrong direction on the expressway, I said, "Uh, where are we going?" and he said to his place. I was like, "Uh, why?" And he said he had something there he wanted to give me. This was sounding worrisome, and I was trying not to freak out, but told him I'd really rather go home. However, he was the one driving, which left me little choice. When we got to his place, he made this bizarre claim that his friend was supposed to have brought a dozen roses there for him to give me because he hadn't had time to get them himself. There were no roses. He then made what I'm 100% sure was a FAKE phone call to yell at the FAKE friend. It was all VERY weird, and I was, by that time, wanting to sneak out a window and WALK the twenty miles home. Eventually, he took me home - fortunately I was getting over a nasty cold and I started coughing a lot and saying I didn't feel well. The next day, I was out all day (suddenly cured, don't ya know ; ) ) and when I came home, there were no less than FIVE messages on my machine - him beseeching me to come to dinner with his family that night. I'd already decided I wanted nothing more to do with Mr. Fake Rose Man, but from the messages, you'd have thought I'd accepted his class ring or something ; ) As the messages went on, he got angrier and angrier that I wasn't there.

So, we went through a few weeks of stalking, (LOTS of phone message and cards and lots of me spotting him driving up and down my street repeatedly) but it actually died out a lot quicker than my *other* stalker ; ) And oddly, all's well that ends well - I actually ended up working with him for a number of years in the same department. We got along fine and I would even have called him a friend for a while. I, did, however, discover through working with him that he was a total pathological liar and was well glad I got out quickly ; )

(And I should mention that I do use the word stalker a bit tongue-and-cheek. He was much more of a weird annoyance than any real danger to me, which I just feel I should mention so as not to ... WEAKEN the word stalker in any way, since God knows there are some bad guys out there.)

8) How about a sneak peek at your next release?

Ah, if only I had a sneak peek to give. Here's what I know: it's coming out from Avon - late 2006 or early 2007. Working title is SEIZE THE NIGHT, but just today I was told that will probably change. In a nutshell, it's about two people who accidentally get stuck on an island together - ten years after she tried desperately to seduce him and failed. I'm describing it as Survivor meets Sex and the City ; ) The tagline I'm using is: Of all the islands in all the world, he had to wash up onto hers ...

As you might be able to tell by these tiny snippets, this book isn't quite as dark (just like the hero isn't as dark) as my last two novels, so it's a bit of a departure from my most recent work. I didn't plan it this way, but these characters just happen to have better senses of humor than my previous ones ; ) Fear not, though, there is still plenty of angst and heartbreak and emotional obstacles to overcome. And yes, he has a tattoo - perhaps the best tattoo I've put on a hero yet ; )

Visit me on the web at
Still Available: THE RED DIARY, Warner Books

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Inspiration Thursday: Clive Owen

A tribute to Clive was requested by one of my blog readers, so here he is! I couldn't find one that showed any skin, but do we really need it? What a hunk-o-burnin' love!

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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Agent Q&A Wednesday

Here is today's Q&A with Michelle Grajkowksi of Three Seas Literary Agency. Be sure to check in next week when she de-mystifies the world of Hollywood and movie/tv deals. And don't forget to stop by Friday for a Q&A with Toni Blake.

1) When a published category author is looking to move to single title, will they have to write the complete of the ST or will they be able to sell on partial?

In most cases, an agent will be able to sell a category author on proposal to a single title house. If you are a category author looking to move towards single title, my best piece of advice is to perfect your voice. Make it extremely unique and eliminate any trace of category from your writing. The biggest objection that I've found when trying to place an author is that their voice sounds "too category." A single title book is not just longer, but the plot should be multi-layered and there should be a wonderful cast of distinct characters in the story. In category, the main focus of the story is the romance developing between the hero and heroine. In the single title market, while the developing romance of course is key, pay close attention to adding more - more romance, more plot, more characterizations. Single title books are not just more words, they are more everything.

2) If an author gets multiple offers from agents, picks one, and then realizes she made a mistake a few months later, would it be bad protocol to call one of those agents she rejected and say she has changed her mind?

If an author signs with an agent and after three months decides it is the wrong choice, there really should be a good reason. Why does the author feel it was a mistake? It is OK to reapproach an agent that she originally turned away, but the author's reasons for thinking she made a mistake should be well thought out. Agent B will probably ask her why it isn't working and if it's a case of the author just not giving the relationship enough time to develop, the agent probably will think twice before re-offering representation. However, if there are valid reasons for the author to end the relationship (she's not getting a good response, etc.), then Agent B would probably be apt to take a chance.

You have to understand the situation from an agent's perspective. We take on a new author because we believe in her and her career. And, each new author is a great monetary and time investment on our part. Because, remember, we are not paid unless we sell. There is nothing more discouraging than to sign with an author you adore only to have her leave after a short period of time for reasons that don't seem to make sense. Therefore, when an author agent hops, it does wave a red flag because, honestly, it's hard to make the decision to commit to an author who may turn around and leave after the agent has invested a great deal in her. My best advice - do your homework BEFORE you sign with an agent. Ask for references, and talk to the other authors she represents. Is this someone you think you can work with based on what you've learned? Don't be afraid to leave a bad situation, but try to discuss your feeling with the agent before you do. Many things can be resolved easily with a conversation.

3) What is the Secret Agent Cartel?

The Secret Agent Cartel was formed a couple of years ago by a top-notch romance agent. We meet annually at Nationals and also have an active loop where we discuss topics that pertain to the romance genre. I feel so fortunate to be a part of this wonderful community. The agents involved are all highly-respected leaders in the field and we are able to grow from the knowledge that we share. It truly is a blessing!

4) What are the advantages of writing under a pen name versus your real name?

That really is a personal decision. Some authors want to be anonymous, while others want the world to know they wrote a book. There really aren't advantages one way or the other. However, if you are writing in more than one genre, it may be in your best interest to write under more than one name. It will help keep your career and your numbers separate from one another. For example, contemporary romance normally has higher sales than historicals. By writing under two separate names, you are better able to control your career growth as booksellers will treat each of your genres individually.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

A Day in the Life Tuesday

When I sat down at the computer this morning, there was one item on my list to do today:
Start writing proposal for next paranormal. It's due 10/1, so it's time to get cracking.

In reality, this is how my day unfolded:
1) Celebrate that my synopsis for book #2 of my Warner contract was accepted and I had an awesome discussion with my editor yesterday. My book is going to be called Must Love Dragons and I'm totally pumped to write it. Since the proposal is due a week from Friday, I better be pumped, huh?
2) Sit to start writing MLD. Realize I don't remember all the details I set up in book #1 (now titled Date Me, Baby, One More Time), so conclude I must reread the entire manuscript and take notes. Sigh. Clock is ticking on the 10/1 deadline.
3) Return critical emails for an hour. Try not to feel guilty about the huge pile of non-critical but still-important emails that aren't going to get handled right now.
4) Start to read book #1, but realize I haven't posted on my blog.
5) Try to post on my blog, but cable is down right now, so I give up.
6) Read book #1 until two in the afternoon, taking notes. Happily conclude that Date Me Baby is the best book I've ever written (truly, this is monumental because I usually have nothing complimentary to say about my books when I read them a few months later). Feel pressure to make this one even better. Consider panicking but decide I haven't scheduled time for it, so I must resist.
7) Have pep talk with myself.
8) Get pumped to start writing. Ready to start writing.
9) Get a call from the publicist at the house publishing my two September books. She has a list of things she wants me to do for her for my September books. She wants them by next Friday, but sooner is better. Same day MLD proposal needs to be turned in (of which there are zero pages written). Gulp. Suddenly ten days is seeming much shorter than it did yesterday. Add them to my to do list and realize I need to buy a second white board to fit it all on there. How come none of them are crossed off?
10) Inhale lunch and two nutter butter cookies.
11) Sit down at computer, then remember I forgot about the cats I'm cat sitting.
12) Run out to check on two cats I'm cat sitting for (my friend is off in Louisiana helping her family deal with the repercussions of Katrina. How can I say no?). As it is, it takes me an hour, but if I'd waited anymore I would have hit rush traffic, and who has time for rush traffic? Not me!
13) On the way home, stop at field to exercise my dogs. If I don't, they won't let me get any work done and I really need to get some work done.
14) Get home. Time to work.
15) Get email from my web designer about how to fix weird formatting problem on blog. Investigate and fix problem. She saved my life. I love her.
16) Stress is rising that I haven't starting writing my proposal. Headache is creeping up and I know I have trouble being creative when it feels like my head is going to explode. Must start writing.
17) Realize I haven't posted on my blog. Darn it! I posted so late yesterday, I don't want to be that bad again. Off to do that.
18) NOW it's time to start writing. Um... what did I need to write? Oh, yeah. My proposal due in ten days. Then the stuff due to the publicist. Then my website updates... Uh oh, my brain is starting to seize up. Bang my head on the desk a few times to clear it.
19) Time to start writing. I open a blank document, stare at it for a minute, then realize I need to reread the 25 page synopsis so I can recall what the story is.
20) Read the synopsis.
21) Finally, it's really time to write. Oops, realize I forgot to send a promised email to my local bookseller.
22) Send email.
23) NOW, it's time to start writing, ten hours later.
24) Ack! Forgot to send my agent the questions for the Q&A tomorrow. Must go do that. Where did I put the list of questions??? Find list, in an effort to stave off the need for a dinner break, I grab a yogurt as I pass by the fridge (I was going to go for more Nutterbutters, but I figure that won't help my headache), and rush upstairs to write the questions. Send email.
25) Realize that I have only a half hour until the dogs will be demanding dinner, at which point I then need to track down my cat and give her a pill (an event which results in loss of blood (mine) and thirty or so minutes of total frustration). Consider doing it now so I can settle down for an uninterrupted stretch once it's done. Decide I simply MUST get started, even if it's only for twenty nine minutes (trust me, my dogs won't let me be late for dinner--ever tried to type with a 90lb dog lying across the keyboard?).
26) Get email from All About Romance with their review of my September YA. As if I'm going to be able to resist reading that! Read it, celebrate, realize I need to send a snippet to my website designer... No! Not now! I must start writing!
27) My dog starts shoving his nose under my arm, trying to render me incapable of typing so I go and feed him. He knows he doesn't eat until five. Sneaky little deviant. I have twenty three minutes and I'm taking them!
28). 4:38pm: Finally, start writing. What happened to the simple plan I had at the start of the day???

Monday, September 12, 2005

Tips for Writers Monday: Using POV to Make Your Characters Stand Out

How many of us have ever had a rejection in which the agent/editor says "Loved the premise, but your characters all sound the same?"

Um, me! I'm raising my hand!

The trick to making your characters sound different is to bury yourself really deeply in their head. Become them. Think like they would thinks. Speak like they would speak. Use words they would use. Today we're going to focus on using POV to make your characters stand out from each other.

For example:
A red pickup truck comes peeling around the corner, being driven by the guy from down the street. How would your characters react?

Your hero might notice the following:
*that the truck is sweet
*the engine sounds like it has been seriously taken care of and he'd love to see under that hood
*that the driver is the guy down the street and he has a hard-on for the heroine and is coming to cause trouble

Your heroine might notice the following:
*that truck is coming too close to her flowerbeds and nothing else matters
*that the jerk is gunning his truck too loud and he should be citated for noise pollution
*that she knows who owns that truck and she hopes her makeup still looks good

How does this translate into your story? Well, first, you must determine whose point of view you're in when the truck rolls around the corner. If you're the hero's POV, then all your descriptions of the truck better be what he'd be thinking (see above). If you're in the heroine's POV, then her observations better be what she'd really be thinking (see above).

Next, think about whether there's some detail that you really want to reader to learn. If so, you need to make sure that your POV character would truly notice that detail... (see below for examples):

If it's super important that the reader understand that the truck has been modified for serious off-roading because there have been some bad crimes done in some areas accessible only by 4WD cars, you'd better make sure that the POV character is someone who would really notice that the truck has been souped up. Is our heroine going to be thinking about that if she's freaking out that her prize winning roses are about to get munched? No.

If it's really important for the reader to understand that the truck is being driven recklessly, then make sure the POV character who's observing the reckless driving would truly notice it. A hero who's only concerned about the sweet new tires on the truck would notice how well the truck cornered on those new wheels, not whether the driver took the corner too quickly, but our flower-obsessed heroine would certainly notice the reckless driving. So pick your POV character depending on what information you want the reader to have, and then make sure that the observations of that character match what they'd really notice based on who they are and what they're feeling at the moment.

Other examples:

Most guys aren't going to know the different types of flowers or the names of different fabrics. So if you want the reader to know that the heroine is wearing a pale chartreuse chiffon gown with a corsage of day lilies, then you'd better not be in the hero's POV unless he owns a flower store and designs women's clothes on the side. What would he notice? He'd notice that her breasts look magnificent in that low-cut red dress of sin.

If there's a bar fight going on and you want the reader to understand that the bad guy is more skilled at combat than he should be, you better make sure that you're in the POV of someone who would notice that. If the heroine has just been knocked out and is about to have her throat slit by some a**hole, the hero is not going to be sitting around observing the fighting talents of the man in black off to the right. He's going to be rushing to the heroine's rescue. If the heroine is watching the hero in the middle of the fight, she's going to be worried about his safety and watching for threats to his safety, not engaging in a thoughtful analysis of the combative skills of one of the opponents.

At all times, you need to be thinking about whose head you're in, and you need to make sure that every thought, every observation, every emotion is one that THAT character would have. If their natural response won't pick up the information you want the reader to have, then you need to change POV characters or adjust the situation so the character will be forced to notice that detail, even if it's not really in their nature to do so.

Clear as mud? Hit me up with questions.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Q&A with Silhouette Editor Susan Litman

Who loves Bonus Saturdays? I do! This Saturday's special bonus is a Q&A with Silhouette editor, Susan Litman. See below for her insight on the new Spice and Epic lines, what makes a submission special and on the new Harry Potter book.

1) The word on the street is that H/S is moving toward a more mainstream feel for their category romance. Can you explain what that means, maybe with some specific examples for the lines you edit?

I think it’s less an issue of going mainstream than it is one of “growing” the series, ensuring that all of our category books are relevant to today’s woman with respect to engaging stories and characters. Readers should be able to identify with our heroines and the stories should be more realistic, though real within the context of a romance (WHEN HARRY MET SALLY or ABOUT A BOY are great examples of this kind of story.)

2) After an author submits a requested partial to you, at what point should the author follow up, and what format of follow up do you prefer?

If the author is unpublished and this is an unsolicited submission, I would recommend waiting at least three months before touching base. If the project is a complete, I would wait at least six months. We do make an effort to get to all projects within a three-to-six month time frame, but deadlines can get in the way.

3) How should an unpublished unagented author submit to you?

It’s best to start with a query letter and brief synopsis, not more than two to four pages, double-spaced (for my poor eyes! J) The letter should introduce the writer and project, specify the title, targeted series and word count and include a brief (two or three sentence) pitch. It should also include any relevant information about the author – writing experience, awards, affiliations, etc. And I strongly urge people to proofread for mistakes – NEVER depend on spell check! – and make sure the synopsis contains all relevant plot details.

4) Can you talk a little bit about some of the new lines, like the Epic line and the erotica line? Will those be series or single title? Do you have any tidbits above and beyond the official guidelines?

Sure. Epic Romance is a brand-new, contemporary category series. Each book will follow the life and relationships of one couple, with no time frame. The story can span years, even a lifetime. The focus is on how the relationships – and the people – evolve in the chosen time frame. Ultimately, the stories should be emotionally complex and intense, with a strong emphasis on credible characters and how they influence each other’s lives over time. The series will be open to a wide range of plots and situations; each story will require a significant conflict that creates urgency, excitement and momentum. (THE NOTEBOOK and THE LAST TIME THEY MET are examples of the kind of stories we’re looking for.)

Spice is an erotic fiction, single-title imprint that we will be publishing in trade paperback format. At the core of each story we want to provide a really good, really smart story that will entertain women as well as arouse them. We’re looking for a broad spectrum of erotic editorial—from very modern, sexy love stories (but not traditional romances) to more humorous tales, to gritty, slice-of-life experiences of sex and the modern woman. We’re also open to a number of genres: ethnic, mystery-suspense, literary (humorous, edgy, urban) and paranormal genres. Spice books do not require a romance, or even what we would classify as a “hero” at all, and certainly do not need to have a happily-ever-after ending.

5) What kind of promo can a category author do that will make a difference?

I think anything an author does to promote their name and book is beneficial. Take-aways such as bookmarks or pins (or my personal favorite, pens J) are always good, since it leaves the reader (or potential reader) with your name in their hands. However, successful promotion starts with a great book, so always put a thousand percent into everything you write!

6) Can you tell us about a few new authors you've bought lately, and what it was about their stories that made them stand out?

In the last year I’ve bought several new authors – two of them Golden Heart nominees – and in each case, their work stood out because of excellent storytelling and engaging characters. When a book holds my attention – when I cannot put it down because I MUST know the outcome of the story – it’s usually a keeper. This is the case for every book we buy, whether the author is new to publishing or has an established career. I’m always on the lookout for a great story, engaging characters and overall compelling writing, because these are the things that will sell me on the book – and enable me to “sell” it to the senior editor.

7) *Harry Potter Spoiler Alert* Do you think Snape is bad or good?

No spoilers here, I must have read book 6 ten times already! I do think there is good in that nasty man, because otherwise J.K Rowling made it way too obvious that he’s a villain from the first book – and I really don’t think she’s wanted to make things that simple. Everything else is so complex and layered, it doesn’t seem right for Snape to be so black-and-white. Sigh – but I suppose we’ll have to wait for book seven to find out. How frustrating is that?? J

8) What do you enjoy most about being an editor? Conversely, what's the toughest part of your job?

Not to be corny, but I really do love everything about this job, particularly getting paid to read. J Seriously, though, one of my favorite things is finding the right project to buy, new author or not. Nothing compares to starting a book and realizing that I’ve been reading for an hour - and I cannot put it down because I must know how it ends. Often when that happens, I end up buying the book. I love discovering authors who are so capable of captivating my attention. Of course, the toughest thing to do is keep up with all the reading!

Friday, September 09, 2005

UnderCover Nanny by Wendy Warren

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Q&A with SSE author Wendy Warren

Today I am thrilled to present a Q&A with best selling SSE author Wendy Warren, whose book, Undercover Nanny is out this month. And as a special bonus, Wendy's editor, Susan Litman, will be joining us tomorrow for a Q&A, so be sure to stop in for a Bonus Saturday!

1.) The heroine of Undercover Nanny is a private investigator turned nanny, which is a very cool concept: a woman can carry a gun but still be domestic and maternal. How did you come up with that idea? What kind of research did you have to do for a PI heroine?

Uh oh...was she supposed to be domestic and maternal? STOP THE PRESSES!!!! :-D. Actually, when the book opens, D.J. is not at all maternal or domestic. She grew up as a foster kid who was shuffled from home to home, due in part to her own impossible behavior. Given her background, she has a wee bit of trouble bonding. (Though I fell quite short of giving her Reactive Attachment Disorder, which is a very serious, terribly difficult condition experienced by some adopted or fostered children who are deprived in their early years of the opportunity to bond with significant adults, and who later find intimate connections hard to achieve. Okay, now I really want to go off on a tangent about this, because issues relating to foster kids and adoption are a particular passion...but I will responsibly steer myself back on course :-D) So, D.J. doesn't have any vision of herself as a mommy--or a babysitter. She's hip, sassy, loves clothes and shoes that exceed her budget (because you *have* to develop a fashion sense when your real name is Daisy June), and sitting in a stakeout comes more naturally to her than rocking little people to sleep. Answering emotional demands is not D.J's forte, so I liked the idea of plunking her in a family that's starving for affection. Romantic Times said Max is "a hero to die for"; he's got all the smooshy, cuddly capacity D.J. lacks when the book opens. He and the kids need a woman with heart, which challenges D.J. to find hers. The more discoveries a heroine has to make about herself in order to claim her happiness, the better I like it.

As for the research, I had a friend in college who started her own PI agency...with her mother

2.) You are an amazingly successful author, with two Rita wins, multiple Waldenbooks bestsellers and more than a dozen books under your belt. What has been the most exciting high point of your career?

The rush I'm getting re-reading that question. I think you ignited a hot flash, but I'm enjoying it. Let's see, the high point...I suppose that's not a hard question, really, but there were two high points. Around the time my fourth book came out, both of my parents had cancer. When the book was nominated for a RITA, neither of my parents was doing well. A local TV station interviewed me about the book. At that time, it was very difficult for my dad to stand; he was so weak, he stayed most of the day and evening in an easy chair. The night the interview aired, my mother called to tell me that my father pushed himself up, stood unaided and gave me and my book a standing ovation. Best applause I'll ever receive.

The second high point was the night I heard OH, BABY won the RITA. My dad had passed on and my mom was really struggling with her health. I didn't go to the national conference, but my agent called around midnight to tell me the news. My mom was the first person I told. I sat on her bed with her, and we remembered the times we'd read romances together and dreamed that I'd write one someday. She was so much a part of my career.

In fact, she gave me the opening scene for OH, BABY, so it was really "our" RITA. My mother read everything I wrote--more times than I ever do! My parents have been gone a long time now--too long--but in my mind, they're still my audience. I still write for that standing ovation and for the look of awe on my mother's face when I told her, "We won the
RITA." Now I have a daughter and I hope that whatever she does in life,
she'll know, like I knew, that she ALWAYS has a fan.

3.) Conversely, were there ever any times before you were published when you felt like you'd never make it? If so, how did you find the willpower to keep believing in yourself and not give up?

I sold my first book right away, and I think back then I believed I'd make it. I was so blissfully naive! I struggle more now with self-doubt--wondering if I will find an agent and a publishing home for the single title work I want to do, or whether my Silhouettes are selling.

4) When I looked you up on Amazon, I noticed that you've also published an acupuncture handbook. Can you tell us a little about this background of yours? And if it's not you, have you ever received any hate mail from people who bought your book hoping to get some acupuncture tips?

I so want to make something up about how I went to China, practiced Qi Gong every day, fasted on lotus seeds and studied Chinese Medicine. Since my most exotic trip to date has been to Disney World, however, I'll control myself. There are actually lots of Wendy Warrens out there.
Must be a Peter Pan thing. Do you think I should change my name? Or start practicing acupuncture? There's another Wendy Warren who writes sex education stuff. Maybe I'll say I'm her. But then my husband will choke on his own laughter.

5) Because writers sit all day, it is notoriously challenging to maintain a good level of fitness. At the recent RWA convention in Reno, there was A LOT of talk about your lovely figure. I believe someone at the pool mentioned you have six-pack abs. How do you do it?

I'm blushing. Really, that's just so sweet! ...All right, all right, *I* wrote that question. But I gained four pounds in the last two weeks and started having hot flashes; I need a compliment. Seriously, though, it's a real issue, isn't it? (The challenge of staying fit in a sedentary job, that is; not my six pack abs, which are about as real as the tooth fairy). Stephanie, you're young and darling. How do you manage to write so many books without spreading across your ergonomically correct desk chair?

[Editor's Note: Wendy is completely gorgeous with an awesome figure. Don't let her fool you!]

6) You're one of the many amazing authors who manages to write with a toddler in the house. Do you have any stories to exemplify how she supports mommy's career?

Well, when I told her I was going to be on the NYT list someday, she pooped on me. Could have been a coincidence. You know, I'm more prolific now than I was before she came home (my wonderful, love-of-my-life, amazing daughter was adopted from Guatemala in 2003).
Maybe I'm more organized now (though again, my husband would snort orange juice through his nose if he read that). Libbi knows I work at home, and she loves to help me by bringing imaginary cups of "nice hot tea.` Funny...she just woke up cranky from her nap, so now I'm typing this one-handed while I hold her. There's no easy was to be a working mommy, is there? But it's sooooooo worth it. I try to remember to err on the side of motherhood. Sigh.

7) Can we get a sneak peek at your next release?

It's part of a six-book continuity for Silhouette Special Edition and will be out in Feb. 2006. I penned book two and am delighted that it's sandwiched between Susan Mallery's and Victoria Pade's books. It was great fun to swap info and brainstorm with them. My very cool editor, Susan Litman, and equally cool senior editor, Gail Chasen, allowed me to play with the elements in this story. There's a Jewish bubby (grandma), lots of references to Jewish tradition...and Jewish food, mmmmm :-D...and a single-mom family I really love. I hope the book will give people a lot of laughs.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Inspiration Thursday: Labrador Puppies

As wonderful as it is to gaze at hot guys, sometimes there's nothing that warms the heart more than an adorable puppy. So here are two pics of some very cute Labrador puppies. Do they make your heart melt or what?

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Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Wednesday's Agent Q&A

Welcome to Wednesday's Q&A with agent Michelle Grajkowski of Three Seas Literary Agency. Before we get started, I just wanted to remind you of Bonus Saturday’s Q&A with Harlequin/Silhouette Editor Susan Litman (Saturday, 9/10) and Friday’s Author Q&A with Silhouette Special Edition RITA winner and Waldenbooks best seller Wendy Warren.

1) How has the market changed in the past few years, and has that changed the way you market your authors (e.g. what you’re looking for now that you weren't looking for two years ago, etc).

The good news is that the market is constantly changing. Today, paranormal romance and female-focused fantasy is hot, hot, hot. But, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t room on publishers’ lists for historical or contemporary romance. In fact, publishers are always looking for the next big trend. The best time to hop on a wave is in the beginning, so if a hot new prospect hits an editor’s desk, they usually are willing to take a risk.

One thing that has always remained constant is the hunt for wonderful new storytellers. Western Historicals are probably one of the hardest sells these days, but that doesn’t stop me from representing them! I have a handful of authors who write the Westerns who are amazing! If you write a fantastic book with unforgettable stories, you will find a home on the shelves.

2) What can an agent do to help her author when the author’s line folds or her publishing house isn’t interested in continuing the relationship? So many authors are facing that challenge these days. Do you find other markets, suggest the author changes horses or reinvents herself? How can you tell if the problem is with the author or simply that it wasn’t a good match for her? How do you determine which authors can write something else versus which ones need to find a way to survive with what they are doing?

In this very tight marketplace, the key to success is to be adaptable to change. Even Harlequin/Silhouette is starting to “modernize” their category lines by looking for fresh new storylines and by eliminating romance clichés. Authors are being called to raise this challenge.

Remember, publishing is a business. And, with every business, publishers are trying to grow. In order to grow, they need fresh, unique, innovative products to sell. If an author is unable to adapt, unfortunately, they will be forced to move on. It’s my job as an agent to try to stop that process before it happens.

I encourage my authors to step out of their comfort zones – to try new things. It helps to keep them fresh and also helps them grow as authors. By trying a new cross-genre, it helps authors to gain insights on plotting and characterizations. It also gives us a back-up plan should we need one.

3) Many best-selling authors swear that every author must write for two houses simultaneously to ensure the survival of her career. First, do you agree with this? Second, how do you handle this, because many houses do not want to share their authors? How do you handle this differently when the author starts up with the first house and doesn’t have a second one yet, but you want to keep her options open, versus when you pick up the second house?

Actually, this really depends on the author. Each career is so different. Some authors are extremely prolific and can handle writing for more than one house. Others are better focusing on one series with one publisher. So, I evaluate each client on an individual basis.

You’re right, many houses frown upon authors writing for more than one house. From the publisher’s perspective, they are investing money in building an author’s career. The best way to manage her growth is to have control over what books are being published, and when. When an author writes for more than one house, it is important to communicate scheduling issues with both houses to make sure she doesn’t have more than one release in any given month. Otherwise, she is competing for herself for sales. Also, if the second publisher isn’t as aggressive in marketing, her numbers may fall slightly which could affect the sales figures on her original publisher’s next book.

Therefore, there are cases on each side of the issue. Your agent will help you to decide the best road for you to follow.

4) When an agented author is searching for a new agent, what is the protocol? The temptation is to agent hunt before severing ties with the previous agent in case she can’t find a better situation, but some agents say this is bad faith and some even claim they won’t consider authors who do this. What is your take on it?

In my opinion, the best first move is to talk to your current agent about your concerns. You may be able to clear the air and to get back on the right track. However, if that doesn’t work, then you should let your agent go. Remember, open, honest communication is the key to any relationship – your author/agent relationship is no different.

5) When you are considering a published author’s submissions, do you look at the author’s Web site as part of the equation? Do you do any other external research on the author before making your decision (e.g. doing a Google or Bookscan search)? Along those same lines, do editors?

Yes! I love to visit an author’s Web site to see what an author has been up to. You can tell a lot about an author by her site – what books she’s published, awards she’s proud of, quotes she’s garnered. Also, I like to see the personal pages, too. Seeing a picture and reading a nice bio helps me to get a feel for the kind of person the author is.

I don’t do a lot of external research on an author – I just poke around her Web site. Most of the information I do gather, though, is during our initial phone conversation.

And, yes, I think some editors do look at Web sites as well. I’ve had editors tell me they’ve visited some of my author’s sites. It’s really important to keep them updated and professional.

Don't forget to submit questions for next week’s Agent Q&A, either by posting a comment or e-mailing me at

Monday, September 05, 2005

A Day in the Life Tuesday: Readers

Friday was a very exciting day. My mom had ordered a bunch of copies of my September chick lit, and she picked them up from the store on Friday. She brought them home and gave a copy to my sister-in-law. She picked it up and immediately started reading it. In front of me. The nerve of her! There I was, sitting across from her, staring at her. Why wasn’t she laughing? Was she bored already? Was she actually falling asleep in the middle of chapter one? Would she put it down and never pick it up? Would she finish it and avoid me for the next three years because she was afraid I’d ask if she liked it and she didn’t want to tell me that it gave her nightmares for months (and not in a good way!)? Ack! The neurosis! I was so relieved when the call for dinner came a few minutes later and she had to put it down. I hope she never reads one of my books in front of me again.

Me, a neurotic author? You bet.

It’s one thing to put my book out there and be judged by perfect strangers who are readers, reviewers and even other writers. I’m okay with that. I love great reviews (who doesn’t?) but I’m really not to undone by bad reviews. They happen. Even Stephen King gets bad reviews, but his career is going just fine, don’t you think?

But to be sitting in the presence of someone reading my work? Waiting, watching, hoping for a positive reaction? Terrifying.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Tips for Writers Monday: When the Going Gets Rough

Before I sold, I had the following:
over 130 rejections
over 95 contest entries
18 completed mss
8 partials

I faced a lot of failure. I saw so many people sell when I was getting rejections. I burned from so many harsh contest critiques. I had had my hopes crushed so many times. I was getting up at 4am to write before work. I was writing at lunch, at nights and on weekends. I was exhausted and so many times I thought I was done. I couldn't take one more rejection. I couldn't deal with one more manuscript not being good enough. So many times, I told myself it was the last ms I was going to write. If this one didn't sell, I was walking away.

But they didn't sell, and I kept writing another one.

Then one day, one sold. It was amazing, incredible, more than words can ever explain. But I never would have had that success if I'd given up.

There was one thing that really kept me going, and that was hope. Every morning, I woke up and knew that today could be the day.

Why? Because I always had stuff out there: contest entries, agent submissions, editor submissions. Every day that I received bad news, I hung in there because I knew I could get good news the next day, because I always had more stuff out there. And it worked. I can't tell you the number of times I was so low, only to get a request for a partial or find out I finalled in a contest. Don't send out one submission to one agent and wait.

Keep submitting to agents, to editors, to contest. Force those doors to open. Force good news to come your way. Maybe it's not a sale, but it'll be enough to boost you up and keep you going. Keep hope alive, because if you don't give up and you keep working to improve your craft, you will get there.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Hypothetical Moral Dilemma of the Day

Last night at a family dinner, certain family members brought up a situation they'd recently been faced with and asked how the rest of us would have handled the situation. Here was the story as they told it: They went to dinner at a very expensive and overpriced but delicious restaurant in NYC. They had two bottles of wine between the two couples, enjoyed a nice dinner and then split the bill and went home. The next day, one of them noticed that they had been charged for only one bottle of wine instead of the two that they'd drank. So the two couples engaged in a debate about whether they should call the restaurant and tell them they'd been undercharged and give them $$ to pay for the wine, or should they chalk it up to the restaurant's incompetence and call it a day.

I won't tell you how it all came out, or what I said I'd do, but what would you do?

Friday, September 02, 2005

Out of the Night, by Robin T. Popp

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Ask an Author Friday: Q&A with Robin T. Popp

I am thrilled to present debut vampire author Robin T. Popp in today's Author Q&A. Her first vampire book, Out of the Night, comes out this month from Warner Forever, and from her blurb below, it sounds awesome!!

Please note that next week we have a special bonus! In addition to the weekly Q&A with agent Michelle Grajkowksi and SSE Rita winning author Wendy Warren, we will have a bonus Q&A with Silhouette editor Susan Litman!

1. Can you give us a blurb about your current book?

OUT OF THE NIGHT is a vampire story with a twist. It’s about librarian-by-day, firefighter/EMT-by-night Lanie Weber who’s just learned that her scientist father, who has been working for the past six months in the Amazon jungle at a secret government research facility, has been killed in a wild animal attack. Unable to have the body flown back to the states – and needing closure - Lanie resolves to fly to the research facility. She does this with the help of Mac Knight, a former Navy SEAL who now flies private charters. He’s not just flying her there for the money, however. He’s going to make sure that the other man killed in the attack, former SEAL team mate Lance Burton, is really dead and not trying to escape the formal inquiry that is about to start regarding his actions a year earlier that resulted in the death of several men on their SEAL team. When they first meet, Lanie and Mac don’t quite hit it off. He thinks she’s a mousy bookworm and she thinks he’s an arrogant SOB. When they finally arrive at the research facility, they are met with a disaster that forces them to work together. Everyone in the research facility is dead and the bodies of Lanie’s father and Lance Burton are missing. As they search the premises for whatever killed the researchers, Lanie and Mac come across the statue of a gargoyle. As the sun goes down, the statue …well, you’ll just have to read the book to see what happens.

2. The path to publication and writing success can be so long and so frustrating. What was your lowest point in your writing career, and how did you find the energy to keep going?

My lowest point came shortly after my first contest final with TOO CLOSE TO THE SUN. Of the three finalists in my category, the editor judge placed me third. That didn’t bother me so much, but I received the editor’s score sheet and the score I received was so low that had it been a test in school, I would have failed. And I’m afraid, that’s how I viewed it. In addition, I found her comments and feedback frustrating – like my futuristic had too many futuristic type things in it. I was devastated and it’s the only time that I can remember seriously wondering if I should give up writing. Fortunately, my personality is such that being told “you can’t do it” is a direct challenge to prove that I can. So - I filed away that editor’s feedback and kept working on making my writing skills and story telling better. It must have worked because a year later, I had finaled in twelve contests, taken first in six of them and sold my book. Shortly after my book came out, I was going through old files and found that editor’s feedback. I couldn’t resist reading it again and you know what? A lot of what she’d said about the story and my writing had been correct, though I couldn’t see it at the time.

3. Because there are so many authors trying to write vampires these days, it’s a tough market to break into unless you can come up with a “different” approach. What is your unique take on vampires that made Warner snatch you up?

In addition to having traditional vampires, I also have El Chupacabra. It’s a legendary creature that comes out at night and feeds off the blood of livestock – typically goats. The existence of El Chupacabra has never been proven, but there have been “sightings” in Puerto Rico and various places in South America, as well as several unexplained incidents of livestock being found dead with the blood drained from their bodies through two small holes in their neck.

4. What’s the toughest thing about being an author?

Writing the first draft. J I hate writing the first draft; it’s painful. Fortunately, I love revising.

5. Tell us about the first time you saw your book on a shelf in a store. Was it the best moment ever?

It was a pretty great experience, but probably comes fourth in line for great “book” experiences. The first was getting The Call – which actually came in while I was taking my son to an eye appointment. My husband and daughter got home before me and heard the message on the answering machine first. I spoke to my husband on the way back home, but he didn’t tell me about it, fearing I might crash or drive off the road. He’s probably right. Hearing that message was a great moment. The second best moment, for me, was seeing my book on – it was also the first time I’d seen the cover art, which is always a cool experience. And the third greatest moment was hearing my college age sister-in-law tell me about how she walked into class one morning and saw another student (a stranger) reading my book. THAT was a great feeling –knowing that someone unknown and unrelated to me was actually reading my book.

6. How about a sneak peek at your next book?

My next book is the second in my NIGHT SLAYER series. It’s titled SEDUCED BY THE NIGHT and comes out in June 2006. It’s about Dirk Adams, who we meet in the first book. He’s recently resigned from the Navy SEALs and joined Mac, Lanie and Admiral Winslow in their Security (aka vampire hunting/slaying) business. When Dirk and the others are called in to consult following a break-in at a biochemical research company, it soon becomes apparent to them that vampires are after Bethany Stavinoski, the head researcher. Why they want her, no one knows, but the vampires are willing to kill anyone who stands in their way. Despite the fact that she’s engaged to someone else, Dirk is inexplicably drawn to her and knows that he’s the only one who can keep her safe. Unfortunately, there’s more to Dirk than meets the eye and if Bethany ever discovers the truth about him, he may never see her again.

Thanks, Robin! For more info on Robin, visit her website at, or go buy her book, which should be hitting the stores at any moment!

Don't forget to submit questions the three Q&A's next week!

Thursday, September 01, 2005


I am SOOOO excited! After three full days of working on my computer with more tech support people than I knew even existed, I restored everythign! YAHOO!!! I think I repaired the defective blurp on my computer and I even managed to get everything back, including all my Outlook stuff! (how many contacts and emails did I have? Thousands!)! i already had my documents backed up, but now they are right back where they should be on my computer. A worthy result! Life is grand! WAHOOO!!!!!!!!! And as a added bonus, I even learned a bunch about the innards of my computer, and that's always a good thing. I am SO doing the happy dance!!!!