For those of you who followed my path from brand newbie writer, to published with small press to published with Kensington (as Cassie Ryan) to stay at home author – you’ll really understand this journey. But for those of you who didn’t – wow, there’s some interesting history there!
I, like many people, have always wanted to write, and always dreamed of having my book on a shelf in the bookstore – my name in big letters on the spine 🙂 So, one day, my husband finally got sick of me talking about it and told me to get off my butt and go do it, or stop talking about it. Now, while this may seem harsh, it really wasn’t. He knows me, and knew if he gave me that “challenge” of sorts, I’d push outside of my comfort zone and do it. (Smart man…lol) Although now, he may regret it now and then… 🙂
Anyway, I asked the only published author I knew – Holly Neuman – how to get started. She no longer wrote, but worked with me in Corporate America, and was willing to answer my questions. First thing was first, I needed to tell her what I wrote. Well, I knew it was a romance, I knew it had psychic powers in it and it definitely had suspense. But I wasn’t sure what to call it at the time. She gave me a name for it – paranormal romantic suspense. (Yeah – I felt a bit stupid…lol) And told me that the best writers group for me was Romance Writers of America. And that there was a terrific local group called Valley of the Sun.
Great! I pulled up their website immediately, and emailed the “contact for more info” person. Vijaya Schartz, who I know very well today, emailed me back within the hour telling me the meeting was a few days away and inviting me to come see how things worked. So, I went. Back then, they met at Denny’s in a back room, and I found a seat in between Judi Thoman and Teri Chapman, with Tina LaVon on the other side of Teri. Everyone was welcoming and wonderful and I felt like I belonged already. So, I turned to Judi and asked her how I could get into a critique group. She grabbed my wrist and asked me where I lived. I told her, and she said, “Great – you’re in mine, just write down your contact info and we’ll get it set up.”
I was very fortunate, because that was the grassroots beginning of the Butterscotch Martini Girls, and I remember showing up to that very first critique group at Ray’s Pizza, holding the most horrible three chapters every written by anyone with opposable thumbs. That story was what became Into a Dangerous Mind 🙂 Now, our critique group went through many mutations, and members came and went, but Judi, Dani & I are stock originals. These ladies as well as Alexis Alexander, who we will suck back in as soon as she comes to her senses and moves back to Arizona :), helped me rip those chapters apart, rewrite them about a billion times and turn it into a book that recently won the RT Reviewer’s Choice Award for Best Small Press Contemporary Paranormal for 2006. Thanks ladies! Have I mentioned you guys are awesome! 🙂 Over time, Lex moved to Seattle, a few people decided we weren’t the right group for them and dropped out and we gained some great new members, Lynn Logan, Isabella Clayton, Kayce Lassiter and Samantha Storm – who were brave enough and strong enough to not only survive, but thrive within our wacky group 🙂
Moving onward, I shopped that book around to everyone and their vet and I amassed a tidy pile of good rejections. You know the type – “great story, I was really intrigued, but it’s not quite ready for publication,” “I love the characters and the story sucked me in, but it needs just a little more work that we have time to give it right now, please submit your next book.” And one of those great rejections was from my current agent – so let that be a lesson to you! Just because they say no once, if they ask you to submit more, it means you still have a shot! Finally, I shopped it to a small press, who bought it October 4, 2004 (yes, I still remember the day). As a matter of fact, I was on a conference call with work and as most people do, was multi-tasking on email. I saw the email offering me a contract and said “Holy Sh#$!” Luckily, everyone on the call knew I was a writer and they were really excited for me once I told them the news 🙂 Anyway, Into a Dangerous Mind came out in May 2005 in eBook.
I went on with the help of the Butterscotch Martini Girls (who still didn’t have that name back then) to write Stone Maiden, which was pubbed in both e and print and helped the small press I was with achieve RWA recognition. I was really excited about that, and also published with them Fire Maiden, a story in an anthology called Warriors Gone Wild and a short story called Take It Off.
In the meantime, Brit was having me critique all these great erotic romance stories and I was curious to see if I could write one. After all, my normal Tina books are very sensual and steamy anyway, so how hard could it be to ratchet up the heat a notch or two? Well, harder than I thought, as it turns out. I wrote a first chapter and got comments back from Brit like, “she needs to mastrubate here,” or “what’s happening with his cock right now?” 🙂 Ahh, the memories. Anyway, I only had the first two chapters and the “ascension ceremony” at the end which involves one alter, my heroine, my hero and twenty really hot guys, “lending their essence.” But when we attended RWA Nationals a few weeks later, and I heard Audrey LaFehr from Kensington speak on a new line she was creating called Aphrodisia, which would feature erotic romance stories. She invited everyone to send in submissions – even partials, and she would tell us if we were on the right track. So, when I got home, I pulled a name for this story out of my…err…the air, whipped out the fastest and also…out of the air…synopsis for the rest of the book I could find and mailed it off hoping I’d get some feedback if I was on the right track or not. Anyway, I totally and completely forgot about that story and almost a year and a half later, Audrey emailed me and called me wanting to know if the story was still available and if it was finished. Well, since I’d been working on the Maiden series and some other books, not to mention working full time – it wasn’t finished, in fact I hadn’t added one word since I’d sent it off, but on the bright side, it was still available. So after assuring her that of course I could turn it into a three book series (as soon as I figured out how…lol), I started looking for agents. So, to make a really long story that people have heard before, a bit shorter – that’s how I got my agent Paige Wheeler and how Ceremony of Seduction, which comes out July 31st – came into being.
So back to my drowning topic, in 2006, I was so busy both writing and working, I was carrying two laptops to work every day. My work laptop – and my writing laptop, which I would take to lunch every day and write. Writing was becoming more all consuming – especially with mounting deadlines, and work was becoming, well, more work. But like most people, we didn’t have a huge nest egg built up. But I did have some offers to do consulting work for a local company which would make up for a part of my salary if I quit the day job, and it would allow me more freedom to write and more flexibility with my schedule. So, my husband and I decided it was a good thing to try, and I took a deep breath and took the plunge. I quit my day job, and then just before I would’ve received my first regular check from the consulting job – they decided they couldn’t pay me. GRRRR.
Setback, but as with all things, this too shall pass. (Yeah, I still tell myself that…lol) We had to do some major restructuring on our finances to make this work, but I was now a full time writer! I’ll admit, it took me a few months to get past the stress and guilt of no longer having that full time job and that full time salary, and we are still tight in the finances department now and then. But now I get up in the morning withhout an alarm clock and check email and grab breakfast and then I’m off to write for the day. I know every Starbucks in a ten mile radius that has laptop plug ins, nice clean bathrooms and comfy chairs in their lobby. I also have great soundtracks on my iPod that I write to including the Mummy, Pirates 1 & 2 and Van Helsing. I can be home when my son gets home from school, I can take him when he misses the bus, I can stay up late writing when I’m on a really good streak – and it won’t impact my ability to get up for work the next morning. Did I mention I LOVE IT?!?
But that doesn’t mean it’s all fun and games. I’m currently juggling rewrites for Into a Dangerous Mind for my agent, edits for Take It Off for Sapphire Blue and writing Visions of Seduction (book 2) for Kensington. I spend more time on this laptop that I do talking to real live humans and you know what? I love it. I’m busier than a man with thirty wives, I’m in multi-tasking overload and I abolutely and completely love it. I’m not sick as often as I was, and my stress levels are way down–except now and then around finances – but who doesn’t have money stress? LOL. And I may even have to do a part time job to get us through the summer, but it’s all worth it.
Don’t get me wrong, I know I wouldn’t have quit my job without knowing I had another income stream that wouldn’t put us in the red with our bills. So, maybe the Universe did me a favor by kicking me out of the next, so to speak. But I don’t recommend taking my path – and don’t take this as a free pass to go out and quit your day jobs. Seriously, I’m very glad my husband is so understanding! But for me, in some weird warped way, it worked out. This is where I want to be, and I’m going to do everything I can to stay here doing this. So, hey, if you want to help me out – go buy a book 🙂 and tell all your friends to buy a book!
But seriously. I was just sitting here this morning, trying to decide what to blog on, and thinking about all the things I have to write, edit, work on or otherwise touch in relation to my writing career. So, this was a natural outcome. And since all my beloved BMG’s helped me get here – I’m raising a butterscotch martini to all of you!
I’m off – gotta see the hubby off to work and then get writing!