25 January 2013

The opinions of others

Writing is basically a solitary profession. I do have help when I need it -- everything from brainstorming plot holes to proof reading and the occasional cheerleader. But in the end, the story and the words I use are mine and mine alone.

A big part of this business -- besides the actual writing and publishing -- includes promotion. This is where writers need the most help, in my opinion. This is also the toughest part of the game. Where should you promote? How? What works and what doesn't? Those seem to be the age-old, often changing questions. No wonder an entire profession is dedicated to marketing.

We need readers, obviously. Of course we want you to buy the story we worked so hard to perfect, but we also love it when our readers give us some feedback. Reviews, in other words. The opinions of others -- which our mothers have long told us do not matter -- DO matter in this business. If you don't know the writer and aren't immediately captivated by the story premise or cover art, then a review just might convince you to buy or not to buy.

Reviews don't have to be intricate and detailed. We do prefer you don't tell everyone each surprise or how the story ends. ;) Reviews should just be honest. Sure, I'd rather hear what you loved about a story, but if something didn't work, I want to know that, too. In the kindest way possible, please. :)  But I want to know. Just in case I need to tweak my writing a bit or do a fifth run-through in editing. Writers need to know. We thrive on praise and words of adoration. We die a little inside with criticism, and then we overcome and grow a little more. As a result, each story can and should get better.

I've received many wonderful reviews for my latest novel, Broken (a Sentinels' story). One of my favorite lines from a review to-date:

"BROKEN is a beautifully written tale of mystery, betrayal and passion." (Billie Jo, RJ Reviews)

Yes, it makes me grin like an idiot every time. :) And it inspires me to keep on writing...one page at a time.

Do reviews encourage you to try a new author? A book you aren't sure about? If not, what does?

~~Meg Allison

Indulge your senses...

24 January 2013

13 Edits I Made In My Manuscript Recently

I'm writing a book set in the world of Pack and Coven. In this story, the hero is -- like the hero in Pack and Coven -- a shifter. He can turn into a wolf. I've been enjoying revisiting this world, but I'm finding myself somewhat indecisive about certain aspects of the manuscript... Read on for a glimpse into the writer-brain! Or just to feel sorry for me.

1: Just wrote a scene in hero POV when he's in wolf form and licks his no-no. Hahaha! So funny. I am amused.

2: Scene in hero POV where he's in wolf form and licks his no-no. Have I seen this in a book before? A book sort of like mine, I mean, not a spoof of paranormal romance. I didn't read Twilight. Did Jacob lick his no-no? Maybe I should take this scene back out. It might not be what genre readers are expecting.

3: Scene in hero POV where he's in wolf form and ... What's missing here? I have a note to myself to fill this spot in, and I don't know why. I should write better notes to myself. What's this about a no-no? OH WAIT. I remember. I've slept since then. Maybe I should put that back in, since it actually fits the pacing of the scene.

4: Yeah, delete delete delete.

5: I'm going to move on to the next scene. I AM! The scene where he... And finds his... Dammit. I can't move on to the next scene until the previous scene is done.

6: Scene in hero's POV where he's in wolf form... He's trying to really LOOK and ACT like an actual canine. Wouldn't it be realistic if he did lick his no-no? Yeah, better add that back in. Luckily I saved it.

7: There. That scene is done. Moving right along. Hero has managed to--while acting realistically like an animal instead of a shifter--sneak past the bad guys to the place where the heroine is. And when she sees him, since he's acting so much like an animal, she...

8: She'd know it was him, right? Does he need her to believe he's an animal? Should he act very much like a real animal HERE? Should I put the scene of him acting very much like a no-no licking animal HERE, to fool the heroine, so her expression doesn't give them away?

9: Come on. She knows it's him even if he does lick his no-no. And if he licks his no-no, she's never going to let him live that down. Her snort of laughter when he actually licks his no-no is going to clue the bad guys in that something is amiss, and I'm not ready for the big confrontation scene yet. So he absolutely cannot lick his no-no here.

10: But what about in the original spot, where he's just sneaking past the bad guys? And--I hate to say this--but I think I need to add details, so I should probably consider senses beyond vision in this scene. Hearing, smell, taste... OH GOD I AM SO CUTTING THIS PART.

11: NO! I am GENIUS! I'll make him PRETEND to lick his no-no, consciously, because he's good at subterfuge! He's layered!

12: He's... Yeah, I'm taking that back out.

13: This scene is so damn long! I think I may have a writerly disorder called "Cantshutupitis". I conceive of a story idea and flesh it out and worldbuild it and start writing it and it goes on and on and on and suddenly I'm at 80K but the story is only halfway over, so I have to keep going if I want to find out what happens. You know how it is. But I'm not about to toss 80K worth of work out the window just because it's not done yet since that would be wasted effort on my part, so I roll up my sleeves and plug in my laptop and get serious and try to finish it in 20K...40K...some reasonable amount of time, fearing, of course, that "rushed ending" syndrome I've seen readers complain about with books that are paced well until the end when it seemed like, I dunno, the author had to wrap things up in 10K because she had a 90K publisher-set limit? Something like that. Anyway, I just don't know what's wrong with me! Why can't I write 80K books? Where do all these words and plot twists COME from and why do they all have to be every book? I don't...


Hopefully when I finish this book, I'll land my publisher of preference and you'll be able to see this scene in action!

Jody W.
www.jodywallace.com * www.meankitty.com

21 January 2013

What's Happening in Bianca D'Arc's Worlds Lately...

So much has been going on over here since the last time I visited this blog... I'm sure I'll miss a few things, but the biggest recent thing has been the release of TALES OF THE WERE: ROCKY, which is still burning up the charts. Here's a little bit about it:

On the run from her husband's killers, there is only one man who can help her now... her Rock.

Maggie is on the run from those who killed her husband nine months ago. She knows the only one who can help her is Rocco, a grizzly shifter she knew in her youth. She arrives on his doorstep in labor with twins. Magical, shapeshifting, bear cub twins destined to lead the next generation of werecreatures in North America.

Rocky is devastated by the news of his Clan brother's death, but he cannot deny the attraction that has never waned for the small human woman who stole his heart a long time ago. Rocky absented himself from her life when she chose to marry his childhood friend, but the years haven't changed the way he feels for her.

And now there are two young lives to protect. Rocky will do everything in his power to end the threat to the small family and claim them for himself. He knows he is the perfect Alpha to teach the cubs as they grow into their power... if their mother will let him love her as he has always longed to do.

Buy it now from: Amazon - Barnes & Noble - Smashwords - and other etailers.

How about we look at some upcoming releases? I actually have one next week that will mark a bit of a milestone for me...

On Tuesday, 1/29, the last of my old Dragon Knights novels is being re-released. DRAGON STORM was revised for the release a bit more than the other five books in the series and marks the end of the re-releases. From now on, we will be having all NEW books in the series. Three new stories are slated for 2013 - one new novel, KEEPER OF THE FLAME, releasing on 2/26 and two new novellas - THE DRAGON HEALER and MASTER AT ARMS - which will be out in July and August of 2013.

First a bit about DRAGON STORM, in case it's new to you:

Their love will span the ages... and two very different worlds.Caught in a magical storm and deposited in modern-day Oregon, twin dragon princes Darius and Connor are looking for a way home. Instead they find something most unexpected - their mate. The one woman who holds both their hearts in the palm of her healing hand - along with secrets about her origins that link their shared destinies.

When Josie patches up the injured man on her doorstep, her snowcat instincts tell her he’s much more than a man. And so is his brother. She also knows her dragon lovers cannot fly free in the modern world. The only way to return them to their rightful place is to face the failures of her past, and leave the safety of her forest cabin to seek her estranged grandfather’s counsel. There she learns the painful truth: returning Darius and Connor to where they belong could mean giving up everything. Even her only chance for true love.

But fate has other plans for the trio. Magic swirls all around them. Whether it is for good or ill, only time will tell...

Warning: Contains a fiery hot ménage a trois, a wild cat-woman and two hunky dragon studs in black leather. A little time travel makes everything more interesting, doesn’t it?

Available for pre-order from: Amazon - Samhain

And in a surprise move, THE DRAGON HEALER is already up for pre-order, so here's a little bit about it:

What’s better than a knight sweeping you off your feet? Two knights.

Silla is a healer riding circuit on the border, helping those in need. When she hears the pained cries of a dragon in distress, she comes to his aid, using most of her precious supplies to help the badly injured creature.

The dragon’s knight, Brodie, is fascinated by the woman—the miracle worker—who has come to help his friend. She is both beautiful and kind hearted and he quickly realizes she is his destined mate. And if she is Brodie’s mate, she is Geoff’s as well, for Brodie’s dragon was mated to Geoff’s dragon many years ago.

Geoff doesn’t believe in the tales of love at first sight among knights, but he knows that when either he or Brodie finds a wife, they will share her. Hearing about the dragon’s injury, Geoff and his dragon race to help, only to find the dragon on the mend and Brodie in bed with the most stunning woman Geoff has ever seen.

Love at first sight turns out to be real and it strikes them all as they come together and realize that no matter what the obstacles, they are meant to be together. Silla is the missing link that will join their lives and make them a true Lair family.

Warning: Knights like to get frisky and these two are no exception. Beware the passion, playfulness, a bit of bondage and a whole lot of three-way loving with a tiny bit of exhibitionism thrown in for good measure.

Pre-order it now from: Amazon

And if paranormal or epic fantasy menage isn't  your thing, I also had a recent short story release in THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF FUTURISTIC ROMANCE, which is also available as a standalone ebook called END OF THE LINE. Here's a bit about that one:

Jit'suku Captain Fedroval - Val for short - shoots down a one-man fighter out near the Galactic Rim, but the pilot, much to his surprise and horror, is a woman named Lisbet Duncan. The alien jit'suku have a strict warrior code. In their culture, making war on females of any species is a shameful stain on one's honor. The captain doesn't quite know what to do with Lisbet, but he can't let her die alone in space. He orders his men to tow her life pod into his much larger battle ship.

Val is the last of his line - heir to a legacy that cannot be continued on his own world - because no respectable jit'suku woman will have him after the destruction of his family. He has put all his considerable resources into building his state of the art battleship and joining the fight to take the human galaxy, hoping to restore his honor in some small way. This is Val's first foray into human space and his first encounter with a human female. And wouldn't you know it? He falls for her, head over heels for her.

Lisbet is attracted to Val as well. When he puts the moves on her, she can't resist his masculine charm, but she doesn't like being a prisoner - even if she is being kept in a gilded cage, treated more like a guest. She doesn't know a lot about jit'suku culture and it's pretty clear they don't understand much about humans. It's going to be fun educating her captor about just how headstrong, fierce... and loving... a human woman can be.

Buy it now from: Amazon - Barnes & Noble - Smashwords - and other etailers...

I have hopes for a few more releases this year but no solid news except for the sequel to WOLF HILLS, which is called WOLF QUEST and is currently scheduled for release in December from Samhain Publishing.

So we're all caught up for now, I think. If I missed anything, you can always find information on my website: www.biancadarc.com or catch me on facebook. I'm on there as "biancadarc" if you want to find me. ;-)

Happy New Year!!!

19 January 2013

A Tale of Two Novels

It was the best of novels, it was the worst of… Okay, it was neither. The thing is, my daughter gave me a Kindle for the holidays last year, and I am now a sucker for free books. I now have an opportunity, even on my miniscule budget, to try new authors. Yes, I do read them, and yes, I do buy other books by the authors I discover this way.

This blog is a story of two of those free books. Both novels, both had good titles and covers, both sounded interesting. I hadn’t read anything by either of the authors before. One was excellent. I finished the first in the series (free) last night. I bought the second in the series today and will start reading it tonight. I loved the story and the characters. I’d never heard of the author before, but I’m now a fan. Was it the best book I’ve ever read? Probably not. I wrote that one. (Yikes, did I say that out loud!) Seriously, I’d be hard pressed to name my favorite novel. It’d be like choosing between my daughters.

The other free book I read, not so great. Big fact holes, a heroine I’d love to slap, and just not that appealing. Not horrible, but not great. I won’t go out of my way to read another of her books.
The first, great, book was self-published. The second, not so good, was by a NYT bestselling author. Shocked? I’m not.

Please understand, I’m not saying the second author is a bad writer. Maybe I just got hold of her worst book. Maybe one day I’ll read another of her books and love it. Or not. Who knows? I won’t mention her name.

I will mention the first author’s name, Barbra Annino www.barbraannino.com/ the book I read was Opal Fire, the first in the Stacy Justice series.

It was eye opening for me, a dead tree book person who is now an ebook convert. Better for the environment, easier to hold and carry, and the fun of reading a book seconds after hitting the buy button is amazing. I still love paper books and bookstores and libraries. But it is a changing world, and the readers are going to be the winners.

Have a great weekend!


18 January 2013

Writing Fora

Neither flora nor fauna, although 'forums' is an acceptable alternative - Let's talk about writer's groups today.

Some of you may know this story, but the day I started writing, I sat down and scribbled out my opening...and it reeked. Just awful. So I decided that even though I'd been a journalist and was already experienced at writing all kinds of articles, I knew diddly squat about writing fiction.

Even back then, I knew how to wield my Google-fu, so I typed in "how to write a romance novel."

What? Being direct works on Google.

One of the first results to pop up linked to e-Harlequin. Now, I knew even then that I didn't write what HQ (or Silhouette, which was still around at the time) really wanted, but I also knew that if anyone knew romance, it was Harlequin.

I lived in England at the time, and a group of us formed in the UK who were all up in the morning, 5 hours before NY even stirred from its bed. We were the Brit Pack and we all learned together. We were guided by women who were Mills & Boon veterans and had been in the business since Betty Neels was in her hey-day and they were an invaluable source of information. The one thing I learned from them that I'll never forget is that in some ways, genre means nothing. Good writing is ALWAYS good writing.

eHq worked beautifully for me until I published with...not Hq. I'd entered a phase of my career where I had a good handle on the mechanics, but I needed help on the business end. Since Harlequin wasn't my target, I needed different information.

Right about that time, I discovered a group that had recently formed called Romance Divas. Women and men who wrote all kinds of romance, and aimed at all kinds of publishers, came together to talk about writing craft, marketing, and the business end of things, as well as get to know each other on a personal level.

Romance Divas is an invaluable resource for me, both personally and professionally. I get to interact with people who are staring in terror at the blinking cursor for the first time, as well as multi-published, award-winning authors...who are doing the same thing some days! We host an annual online writing conference that has drawn amazing talent from all facets of writing. 

Through the years, RD has grown by leaps and bounds and sometimes, it's nice to find smaller groups where it's easier to connect.

Cafemom is a massive website with content geared for moms in general, but within the site, there are hundreds of smaller groups - some with a dozen members, some with hundreds - and a handful of them are geared to writing. Most are of the share and critique variety, but my favorite is the Author's Den, run by women's fiction author Ellen Meister. The Author's Den focuses on the querying, submitting and business end of writing and has proven to be a great resource.

Beyond the wide world of the interwebz, I belong to my local RWA chapter, and a smaller "plotting" group within that. I say "plotting" because half of us plot and half of us don't. Actual face to face time is incredibly valuable for me because I just don't get out much! This way, two to three times a month, I put on real pants instead of stretchy ones, do my hair and makeup, and go talk to other humans who share my interests and goals. They're a great group of people who have really helped motivate me.

However, aside from gleaning information from people who have experience and talents that I absorb like a greedy little sponge, I've also found that these various groups give me the opportunity to pay it forward. As others taught me, now I can teach other writers new to the craft, or new to the business. I'll always be grateful for the lessons I've learned along the way, and the different venues I've explored to learn those lessons.

What are your favorite writing fora?

~~ Sela Carsen

17 January 2013

Business As Usual: An Insider's Look at Publishing

I think publishing has changed in ways that we haven’t begun to come to grips with. The changing landscape of the media-intensive culture we live in necessitates that we become content providers in ways we didn’t need to worry about even five years ago. While that’s exciting, on the one hand, on the other I find it, frankly, daunting.

So here is Aunt Noony’s down-and-dirty look at publishing, from my perspective. The biggest change I’ve seen is the eclipse of New York traditional publishing by the digital-first providers, which then turned so-called “traditional” publishers into digital-first by necessity. But what does all that bla-bla mean?

I’m going to pretend for a moment that my reader is a reader, and not an author, just so we can all get on the same page. To writers of my acquaintance, and at writing conferences, the term “New York,” “traditional publishing,” and even, sometimes, “real publishing” is used to mean the big houses, or “the Big Five”: Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Penguin, Random House, and Simon & Schuster. Technically, as of November, 2012, it’s the big four, since Penguin and Random House merged.

Digital-first is a term used to refer to houses that publish books in digital form first, and was coined as a way to step away from the idea that publishers that started out as e-publishers were simply “small presses.” Small press is a publishing house that releases a limited number of titles in a year, usually to specific market segments. Before the advent of digital publishing, authors really only had two possible markets: try to get into one of the big houses, or choose a small press and potentially smaller sales. (It’s worth noting that not all small presses mean smaller sales and not all “big five” contracts translate to big money.)

In 2010, Amazon announced that ebooks sold more than hardcovers, which shocked many people in the industry and observing it. (WSJ and NYT stories.)  Would that spell the end of traditional (i.e. paper) publishing? Speculation ran high as to when paper would end, how it would end, and how large a piece of the pie ebooks would consume. Fast forward to January 2013 and ebooks are an established part of the marketplace and a large portion of the reading public doesn’t know what they did before their e-reader. That’s not to say books in paper form are gone, but the trend is clear: ebook sales are growing, paper sales are flat or declining across all sectors, and New York houses have paid attention. The Big Five have started putting real money behind their ebook initiatives and digital-first publishing has hit the mainstream.

I could speculate as to what I think will happen in the next two years, but I don’t think that adds to the discussion. What will be, will be. My job, as an author and content provider, is to write the content, not worry about the channel. I need to understand the channel, but I don’t need to worry about it. The changes in the channel don’t change the fundamental nature of what I do as a writer: I still craft stories. How they get from my mind to the reader’s mind is not as important as that they get written first.

At the risk of sounding like I’m contracting myself, I do think it’s incumbent on us as authors to pay attention to the changes in the marketplace and to understand the channel. As interested readers, we can follow it as well, if for nothing else than to be witness to the greatest shift in media consumption since the printing press. So here’s what I’m going to do instead of make predictions. I’m going to show you a window into the predictions of the “big boys.”

While any publicly-traded company that trades on an exchange in the United States is required to disclose a ton of information on a regular basis, I found that none of the Big Five are publicly traded (though a couple parent companies of the publishers are). If the company is private it’s a little harder to get information on their official opinions, but you can always start by visiting their website and digging around.

Yahoo Finance and Morningstar have a wealth of information available, as does Bloomberg Online. Using the Big Five as an illustration:

  1. Hachette Book Group is now a private company. more>>
  2. HarperCollins is now part of Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp. more>>
  3. Penguin and Random House merged in November, 2012, creating the largest publisher of consumer books. The merger still has to be approved because of ongoing litigation against Penguin for price-fixing of ebooks. more>>
  4. Simon & Schuster is a part of CBS. more>>
Barnes and Noble and Amazon are publicly traded, however, and their quarterly reports to Wall Street and investors are archived on Morningstar. I recommend you check them out.

  1. Amazon.com; Ticker Symbol AMZN; Q3 2012 Earnings Call Transcript
    (Q4 comes out the end of January, 2013; keep your eyes peeled for the transcript)
  2. Barnes & Noble, Inc.; Ticker Symbol BKS; Q2 2013 Earnings Call Transcript

I suppose, in closing, I will leave you with the thought that as authors, we must understand that we are, also, in the publishing business. The better we can understand that business, the better – more effective – we can participate.

What questions do you have about the publishing industry in general or any of the specifics I’ve included above? Don’t be shy. It’s a complex subject, but we can figure it out together.

Write on!

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
- E.E. Cummings

My links: Blog | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | LinkedIn | Pandora
Knoontime Knitting: Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Ravelry
Noon and Wilder links: Blog | Website | Facebook
The Writer Zen Garden: The Writers Retreat Blog | Forum | Facebook | Twitter
Team Blogs: Nightlight | Nightlight FB Page | Beyond the Veil | BtV FB Page | LGBT Fantasy Fans and Writers | LGBTFFW FB Page
Publishers: Samhain Publishing | Torquere Press

Check out BURNING BRIGHT, available from Samhain Publishing.
Check out EMERALD FIRE, available from Torquere Books.
Check out "Taking a Chance", part of the Charity Sips 2012 to benefit NOH8, available from Torquere Books.
Watch for COOK LIKE A WRITER, coming February 2013 from the Guerrilla Chicks.
Watch for TIGER TIGER, coming July, 2013, from Samhain Publishing.

14 January 2013

What's In A Name? Everything if it's Remembered...

Greetings Kittens,

Remember me? It’s been a long time, even longer in publishing terms. It used to be that an author who could crank out a book a year, was considered prolific. With the advent of digital publishing and the flourishing of novellas,  a book a year just doesn’t cut if you’re not a big name on the national bestseller list. And let’s be honest, even most of them have come up to the two book minimum.

Why a two book minimum? In publishing, and business in general, this is referred to as staying “front of mind” with your audience. When a reader thinks of getting a new book, whose name comes to mind first? Who have they just heard about recently? Who lingers at the front of their mind? In many circles, a book every six months, be they stand alone or alternating series, is considered basic to accomplishing continued name recognition.

2012 was a rough year for me medically and emotionally. I all but disappeared as an online presence and I didn’t write a single new word of original fiction for the entire year. Things drew to such a halt, that a book I’ve been trying to get published for years finally had its shot, and I was too ill to move it forward, leaving the contract on indefinite hold. That left me with just one published story for the year...that quite fortunately turned into two publication dates and kept me from disappearing altogether.

LOVE NOTES, a four author Valentine’s Day anthology by Musa Publishing, came out on January 27, 2012. It reviewed well, but didn’t sell to expectation. As a result, my contribution ITS SWEETEST FORM, came out as an individual ebook on September 11th, 2012. That’s a little longer than the ideal new publication every six months, but it was enough.

Due to the embassy attacks, I didn’t do promotion the day of release. Almost immediately afterward, I fell sick again, everything changed at the day job, and all sorts of life rained down upon me. I didn’t get back online the way I’d hoped, and for the second time, the story was left to stand on its own. A second time made all the difference.

Although I couldn’t do the guest blog and promotional rounds, the book’s existence served the vital purpose of keeping me “front of mind”. Readers who enjoyed my previous work, but perhaps who don’t buy anthologies, or who didn’t notice me lost in the bigger names, saw the stand alone and made room for me. Fans of A WAY TO ADRAGON’S HEART, who made it a multi-category bestseller at All Romance Ebooks, did the same for ITS SWEETEST FORM, just when I’m well enough to get back in the game.

Thank you.

I’m still rebuilding my strength, but both stories will get their sequels written this year. And my limbo baby, will finish edits and find publication, likely around Halloween to be most realistic. That’s three projects in line for completion, plus this, my first blog post of 2013. I’m slowly coming back.

Staying realistic, my own blog will have the dust blown off and at least one regular post a week by the end of February, and guest posts as soon as my writing friends wish to start. Bit by bit, everything will build back into place, until it looks something like it used to, only adapted to my new circumstances.

Publishing, like life, is all about adaptation and getting back up after you’ve been knocked down. It’s about putting in the work, managing the time, and staying front of mind. For my fellow writers, be sure to stay front of mind through everything you do, in this, our chosen passions. For my fellow readers, which is all of you, be sure to keep yourselves front of mind in your own lives, and don’t let the rest overshadow. If you have to pause, then pause, you can always push play later. You can always come back. We’ll be here.

Ramble Done, Kittens!


13 January 2013

When is a series not a series?

Two of my most successful books started off as NaNoWriMo project - the goal being to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Whether you choose to push the book towards publication or not is your choice; the "win" is getting those 50K words down in a single month.

I never intended either "Blaze of Glory" or "Blood of the Pride" to be a series.

This, as you can guess, had a major effect on how I wrote the books originally. In the case of "Blaze" I set out to tell the story of a young woman forced into playing a superhero and then having to actually *be* a superhero with the entire storyline wrapped up at the end of the first book. When I was lucky enough to be picked up by Samhain Publishing and the most excellent editor Sasha Knight I didn't have any plans for a sequel.

But not long after the first book was released Sasha came back to me and asked if I'd considered continuing the story of Jo Tanis and her brave new world.

I couldn't say no.

It didn't take long for me to draft up an outline for the next two books in the series, "Heroes Without, Monsters Within" and "Heroes Lost and Found", building on the world I'd created in the first book and delving deeper into the politics and mechanics necessary to make the first book work. By the time the trilogy finished I felt I'd explained so much more about the worries and fears on both sides of the fence, both supers and of the people monitoring them. I'd never have gotten that chance if I'd stopped with the single book - but I'm still thrilled that you can read "Blaze of Glory" without feeling forced to purchase the next two in the series.

"Blood of the Pride" followed a different track.

It was originally published by a small press under a different title and when they decided to drop paranormal stories from their site I received the rights back and, after another stiff round of editing, submitted it to Carina Press. You can imagine my thrill at getting a phone call from Angela James, offering me a contract.

It wasn't long after that I began working on a sequel, feeling that the story of Rebecca, a cat shifter who couldn't shift, and her new love Brandon had more to be told. When I approached my Carina editor, Alissa Davis, with the sequel she asked if I intended more stories.

I told her yes - and we negotiated a three-book contract with Carina Press. The sequel, "Claws Bared", comes out January 21st and the third book, "Family Pride" is scheduled for June 6 with the next book tentatively set for an October release.

In both cases I never set out to create a world that demanded a series for the reader to enjoy them. But the opportunity to write more books in those worlds have given me the chance to explore them in more depth, to share much more with the reader than I could ever stuff into a single book.

I'm proud of the fact that both series have stand-alone stories to start with - if you never go past the first book you'll still have an enjoyable read and won't feel obligated or forced to buy the next to figure out what's going on or find that resolution left out at the end.

That's the way I created two successful series. Both of which I hope to keep going in one way or another - I've written a short story set in the "Blaze" world for the 2013 Origins Game Fair Anthology, a limited-edition book being published this year for the convention theme of "superheroes". "The Seat of Your Pants" is a short set before the events of "Blaze" and details one not-so-regular battle for Jo Tanis and her sidekick/Guardian, Metal Mike.

"Blood of the Pride" has four books currently set in Reb's world where Felis and humans mingle freely and her job as a private investigator places her in a position to help both societies. I don't see an end at present and hope to continue writing her story for a good long time.

Not too bad considering I never set out to create either series. They both came out of a single idea for a 50K marathon writing session.

I think they're stronger books because I didn't plan out sequel after sequel, making each book dependant on the previous one. I've seen series that do this and don't like it - so I wouldn't put it in mine. Some authors make it work and more power to them... but it's not for me.

So that's how my series started off not being a series.

Thanks for reading!

12 January 2013

Dirty Little Secrets

Sometimes it isn't about the writing. 
No really.  One of the dirty little secrets about this business is, of all the things that can torpedo a writer's career, very few of them are under a writer's control.
For example, in the tight publishing market of the past ten years, the trajectory of a traditionally published writer's career depends entirely on their sales.  Each book must sell more than the last or the contracts dry up faster than a mist in the Mohave. 
The problem is outside events can divert any trajectory, even in an expanding market.  Take the romance market of the late Nineties.  Publishers couldn't push the books out fast enough.  Then Princess Diana died, and for the last three months of 1997, you were hard put to give a romance novel away.  The Eighties' fairy tale royal romance had flamed out in a Paris tunnel.  Who could believe the manufactured version?  Who wanted to?
Were the books published in the last quarter of 1997 in any way inferior to those published in the months before Diana's death?  No, but their writers' numbers suffered just the same.
Fast forward a decade and you have the death of Borders, the nation's flagship bookstore chain.  In the days before its demise, pundits estimated it accounted for roughly 20 percent of the hard copy book market.  In the wake of its disappearance, genre fiction sales figures have dropped roughly 50 percent, largely to the detriment of new and mid-list authors. 
Bestsellers still sell.  Any book designated for supermarkets, drug stores and big box stores are guaranteed to sell well, in large part because they may be the only books people can find.  But what if a publisher doesn't see a book as a potential bestseller?  It won't be printed or distributed to sell in any volume, and the book that follows will see even smaller print runs until the writer's contracts are cancelled altogether.
The indie publishing market created by Amazon and other e-tailers has partially offset the sales lost to the shrinking bookstore market.  It's also been a boon for folks like Amanda Hocking, who racked up impressive sales by dint of hard work and, yes, good luck.
It takes luck to get noticed in a market where anyone can publish a story.  It takes even more luck for the right people to notice and spread the word in such a way to create a market tipping point.  But marketing is always a crapshoot, even for the big guys.  Otherwise, all their books would meet their sales expectations instead of littering remainder tables.
And now Amazon, the eight hundred-pound gorilla of the ebook market, has decided that since a few--a very very few--authors have resorted to underhanded tactics to get the requisite number of reviews needed for a place in Amazon's banner displays, all writers must be punished.  Henceforth, all writers are to be considered competitors and banned from reviewing each other's work.
Sure, writers support each other.  We have to given the obstacles we face--and the ones I've cited are just the tip of a Titannic-sized iceberg.  I didn't even get down dirty and personal about bad agents, preditory publishers or jealous family members.
But very, very few of us engage in wholesale fraudulent reviews.  Frankly, none of the professional writers of my acquaintance (and they number in the hundreds--I'm a journalist, after all) has the time for that kind of nonsense.  Sure, most of our reviews are positive; we aren't about to waste our precious writing minutes on something we don't like.  Even a bad review is free publicity.  Why give that to a book you hate?
On those occasions where we try to help a friend, our intent isn't to deceive, but to draw attention to a worthy work which might otherwise be overlooked.  More than most, we know our opinion of a book is just that, an opinion.  Even if a book leaves us conflicted, there's a reader out there for whom it is exactly the right story at exactly the right time.
We know this, because writers are readers, too, complete with a taste for brain candy, junk food and other guilty pleasures.  Scratch any writer--professional or aspiring--and I guarantee they got into the business because a) they fell in love with a book, or b) a book got them so angry they had to respond.  As readers, don't we deserve to have our opinions heard?
But that's a blog for another day.  More important, is how can we rise to challenges the publishing business throws our way.
There, too, it isn't always about the writing.  When I entered government service, I was told that cream rose to the top, but s*it floats, and sometimes those floaters do a number on the cream.  The trick to surviving was to remain creative and adapt. 
Creative in the government--who knew, right?
But who knew it wouldn't always be about the writing?

Jean Marie Ward
PS, The evening after I put this post to bed, up pops this entirely appropriate blog by Diana Pharoah Francis on bookstores, order and what a writer can and cannot do.  Enjoy!

11 January 2013

Business as UNusual: Inside Publishing

When you get right down to it, being an author is one of the few occupations almost everyone feels they could do. “I’ve been thinking about writing a book.” If I had a little cash for every time I heard that, I could retire to that castle I’ve been dreaming of. Maybe because of what it’s called—writing—most people genuinely believe it’s not that hard. After all, most of us been writing since we were in grade school!

Uh-huh…and although most of us learned to speak in infancy how many truly, wonderfully articulate people do you know? Or, as my husband said of a family member, people able to speak in Technicolor?


Even if you have that rare ability to write a good story, no matter what anyone says you still need to learn how to write properly. Natural talent is excellent and a great start, but it isn’t everything.

Publishing is in a constant state of flux but some aspects haven’t—and shouldn’t—change. The majority of readers still expect value for the money and time spent buying and reading a book. Agents, editors and readers now too, since in many cases the buffer between producer and end-user is no longer there, still expect not just an enthralling story but a well written book.

And no, that’s not what editors are for (although as a freelance editor maybe I shouldn’t say so). To authors there are several reasons why taking the time to really learn the craft makes sound business sense.

Knowing how to properly craft a story means you can produce more, quicker. You’ll know, instinctively and intellectually, whether a story concept is viable, what will make it really exciting and how to frame it effectively. You’ll find beginning to write a story and not completing it will happen less frequently, and it’s easier to get quickly from concept to final product.

In addition, if your story is poorly written there is only so much an editor can/will/will want to do with it, and this will affect you in a variety of ways. Firstly, if you’re trying to break into a publishing house and your book needs extensive line editing, chances are it’ll be rejected. In the present climate editors may be willing to work with you on plot and pacing but expect you to know the basics of grammar and syntax. Having the ability to properly craft a story gives you a definite edge on the competition when you send out submissions.

Secondly, if you want to hire a freelance editor, you may find yourself paying more than the person who’s taken the time and has the ability to self-edit. Many freelancer editors ask for a sample and use it to determine how much they’ll charge—poor writing = higher fees. Economics dictate you should spend only what you must to produce your book, and if you can save money on editing, that’s something you should be seriously considering.

And, of course, if you decide not to hire an editor at all before publishing your book, and it doesn’t sell in the numbers you were hoping for because it’s poorly written, not only have you lost the opportunity to sell this book, but potentially the next, and the next. Readers have long memories and most won’t give an author a second chance if they feel they wasted their money the first time around. This crazy business we’re in can be unforgiving!

You’ve heard the expression, 'Old age ain’t for sissies'? Well, I’m thinking the weird, wacky and wild world of publishing isn’t either. Arm yourself accordingly!

10 January 2013

Reading a Series: How Much Change Is Too Much?

Earlier this month, I took stock of what I did last year rather than set goals for this year. I needed the internal pat on the back and, more, I needed to find concrete proof that I'd done something in 2012.

This came out in November
Turns out, I did. Three books, 180 blog posts, a comic story, two romance writing conferences, an anniversary trip with the husband, and a family vacation to New York Comic Con.


Looks like I better get busy on 2013. I'm working on the next book in the Phoenix Institute series and on a super-secret comic project that I don't want to talk about until a full script is written.

I have about 45,000 words in the new Phoenix book and the rest plotted out. The advantage of a series is that the world already exists. The disadvantage is that I have to make things consistent in that world. Begin as you mean to go on, as the saying goes.


I intended to string the series together by taking a supporting character from an earlier book and making them the main character of the next book. That gives them a nice continuity. SF/F and mysteries readers tends to use the same main characters throughout a series, like the Harry Dresden urban fantasy series by Jim Butcher.  A romance story, however, demands a new couple to fall in love with each book. At least, most of the time. There are exceptions, the most prominent being the In Death series by J.D. Robb/Nora Roberts.

My superhero noir story.
A different couple each story but make sure to have one of them be a familiar character. I can do that.

Okay, I veered from that formula with Luminous but that was a novella, a side story, and readers are forgiving of new characters in a side story.

Phoenix Rising featured Alec & Beth. Phoenix Legacy featured Philip Drake, a supporting character from the first book, and a new character as the heroine.

When I started Ghost Phoenix, I needed a new heroine but I intended to use Daz Montoya, a supporting character in Phoenix Rising, as the hero. Daz Montoya is an ex-Navy special forces guy who was, well, a GUY in the best sense of the word.

Unfortunately, Daz wasn't messy enough emotionally to carry a book. Turns out, he's surprisingly well adjusted. Good for Daz. Not so good for story conflict.

And so the villain of Ghost Phoenix became the hero. He's the brother of the villain who dies at the end of Phoenix Legacy, so there is some connection but bringing in his point of view also brought in all his complicated backstory (he's an immortal) and all of the supporting characters that go with *him* and not the Phoenix Institute.

I traveled a bit farther afield than I originally meant to do. Oops. It seemed to be the right plot and characters for the story. But it is a real shift in focus.

It's too late to stop now but I worry. Will those who read the other two books like this new focus even if I did make sure the Phoenix Institute characters appear and gave Daz a prominent role? Have I promised readers one story and delivered a different one?

I'm worried. But another part of my brain, the part that is okay with starting a manuscript with only a small idea of where I'm going, is saying "trust me, it will work out." I hope that the real hook for readers of a series is my writing voice and world that I've created. I trusted my instincts in creating the Phoenix Institute. Absent other evidence, trusting them again seems the way to go.

I've decided this isn't a deviation from the storyverse,

It's an expansion.

Corrina Lawson is a writer, mom, geek and superhero. Her website is located at www.corrina-lawson.com and the GeekMom Blog can be found at www.geekmom.com

09 January 2013

Back to Business...uh, well....

So this month we're talking about writing itself, and publishing, right? I probably had something bigger and grander planned for this post, but then, well, life happened. My husband had to have surgery, and instead of having time to write this up yesterday, I wound up waiting for the hospital to find my husband a room post-op. For three hours. After spending the morning in the waiting room waiting for him to come out of surgery. Shot the whole day.

Maybe that's a lesson right there. Life happens. Writing is not a 9-5 job for most authors I know, although many of us wish it could be (there are days I do too, but I actually like my job). I have a goal of 500 words per day. Not a huge amount, but when you hate writing first drafts like I do -- I am a champion reviser-- sometimes those words feel like pulling teeth. And I'm kind of in a funk right now. Graduate School ended in the beginning of December, and there were the holidays, and all this other stuff, and I had given myself permission to wait until January 1 to dive back into writing.

And then...well, stuff gets in the way. And now I'm turning into a champion procrastinator. I've tried to write some  every day, but I think I've made the 500 words, like, once. I'm just not feeling it, and I'm easily distracted. I think I need to go back to the beginning and read over the whole first 25,000 words and find the story again. Yeah, like I have time for that.

What was I saying...oh yeah. My advice for writers -- be flexible. Don't throw up your hands in despair if the time you set aside for writing gets eaten up by life's crap. I finally DID have time to work on my manuscript yesterday (and should have done it while waiting in the hospital, but there were too many distractions, and I had a book to read), and it was during my son's basketball practice. I find those times ideal for writing, when I have to be somewhere and not engaged with what's going on. But sometimes that's what you have to do to get it done.

Some people can sleep anywhere, I have learned to write anywhere. And now it really IS back to business for me. I have three books to work on this year, and one new edition to get out into the world. No more time for distractions.

Look, shiny!

07 January 2013

You're Only Jealous Because Stories Don't Talk to You

I am so excited. Seriously, jumping up and down pumping the air excited.

Did I win the lottery? Hubs hired me a house-cleaner? I found out I'm a bestselling author?

No. That would be the day. And oh man, I wish.

Don't laugh or call those guys in white coats to come take me away and I'll tell you my secret. Are you ready?

In the shower while I was washing my hair, the meaning of the universe was revealed, well at least in the universe I am creating. In short, the story I am working on told me what it's about. That my friends is worth an air punch or two.

This would possibly make more sense if I backed up and explained my writing process. Unlike normal authors, I don't necessarily know what I am writing. The story reveals itself to me in strange and unusual ways. To start at the beginning is to find a seedling of an idea, call it a simple kernel of truth, or a nugget so intriguing that I want to turn it over in my hand and hold it up for the world to see.

For example, Soul Stealer, came from a writing contest prompt about a man who kills a beautiful woman. I HATED that prompt. I almost didn't enter the contest because I write happily-ever-after-love stories. How was that going to work if the man kills the woman in the first scene? Unless...

Unless that man was Death coming to kill the one woman he can't live without. Now we're talking. ~rubs palms together.

The next part of my process involves the character sketch. So I have Death. Who is he? What's his background? What is he afraid of? Does he love, hate, or feel indifferent to his job? If he could changes things, would he? I sit down with a pad of paper and sketch out all that I can about this character.

I do the same thing for the heroine. Who is she? She's dying. Why? What would she give Death in order to live longer. He's been around forever and has heard it all. What could he possibly want from her? Why would she want to deal with him?

Once I know my characters pretty well, I jot down the scenes that I know have to be in the story. At this point I usually can "see" the climax and even the ending. I know where I want to go and have a general sense of how to get there.

But! This is the big BUT, the meaning of the universe has yet to be revealed. The deep down core meaning of the book needs to come to life. It's frustrating, really, but it takes time for that kernel to grow into a tree. Many times, if the core meaning is really deep, I need to write half the book to find it. It's like digging and digging in search of treasure buried deep in the pages. When I find the loot? Air pump!!!

This happened to me this morning. In the shower. Yes, the stories talk to me. Thank goodness.


06 January 2013

You mean I actually have to write?

This is something I struggle with as a writer - that sounds rather like an oxymoron doesn't it?

I'm good (maybe even great) at a lot of things writers have to do:

1)  Plotting - I love deciding where my story is going to take place, who the characters will be and what the struggles will be.  It's something I've actually gotten much better at over the years.

2) Promotion - I enjoy meeting new people at conferences, teaching online classes, touring blogs. Interviewing people on my blog.  It connects me to readers on more than a "buy my book" level and I think that's very important.

3) Editing - I would have to say while this isn't my favorite part of the process, I find it much easier than writing itself.  I'm not an author who is attached to every word or phrase.  I'm not even emotionally attached to certain plot devices even though I love that piece.  Ultimately I trust my editors to have the knowledge of what their readers expect from the house as well as my work.

 And then there's Writing - This is the painful part for me.  I'm not talking about the first 30 pages here.  I'm talking about the transition between scenes,keeping sex scenes fresh and which POV do I write from?  I tend to over think this part of the process - a lot. 

If I hit a bump at all here - I tend to avoid it.  I've tried all the tricks to put my butt-in-chair and type.  Fake deadlines, write or do housework, force myself to sit there and stare at the screen for an hour.  It just doesn't work for me.  And of course with a day-job it's a lot easier for me set writing aside as an excuse that I'm tired, don't have time, etc.

I'm not a Write-or-Die writer.  I truly admire those who have to write.  Of course I'm sure they have their own troubles with this business but it's unlikely writing is one of them. :)

Once I do actually sit down - I can usually stay there for a full eight hours finally having the ambition to finish or get close to it.  I love typing "THE END", because then I get to move onto: Plotting, Editing or Promotion.

Who knew to be a successful writer...you actually had to write?  :)

02 January 2013

Inside View

A day in the life is, for me at least, like life for any other stay-at-home mom. I get the kids out the door for school, get laundry in the washer, tidy up the kitchen, make a few calls, and then I try to get to work. I run in one hour blocks, with half an hour off in between to take care of housework, food, and the most important thing: coffee.

When Hub and the boys get home, I'm SuperMom once again - we do homework, make dinner, clean up, and do bedtime.

Evenings, I either crit for friends, edit for the epublisher I work for, or try to get some more wordcount in before I sleep.

Once the book is done, I tend to send an exhausted email to my critique partners, who then read it for me, reassure me that I'm a good writer before telling me all the places I've messed up, and all the work I need to do to make what I've written into something that other people could/should read.

Then there's a week or two period where I decide which suggestions work for the story, which ones I can make, and how to address everything that needs to be fixed. Once that's done, I send the story back out again for another readthrough before subbing it to a publisher, agents, wherever that book is going. (and deciding which is which? That's a whole process in itself!)

Then it's a matter of waiting. And pretending you're not.
I hate waiting. I'm not good at it. I'm one of those people who, when they're in line, can't read a book or play a game or anything else. Because I'm already doing something. I'm waiting. So this part is pretty much agony.

Eventually, you get word back - in my case, for my first book, an R&R which said I'd done lots right, but my ending was weak. (it was, I admit it.) So, I changed it, sent it back in and...waited.

Fortunately, my editor had been waiting for me, too, and sent me a contract offer rather quickly.

Then edits. I'm not going to linger on that process. It requires a lot of chocolate, coffee, and reassurance that I don't suck. Somewhere in that process...I get to see cover art, which is when the whole thing starts to feel like a real book. (My covers were created by the FABULOUS Anne Cain. They're amazing, and I'm so lucky to have them.) Then the wait until the proof is approved by management, at which point I can finally share the image with people.

And then more waiting until the book, now finished edits and on its way through formatting, is released into the wilds. Waiting for the first review...

Writing involves a lot of waiting. Most of it the on pins and needles kind.

Have I mentioned I'm really bad at waiting?!