Tag Archives: Business of Writing

5 Publishing Myths every new writer should know!

rp_keepscore-287x300.jpg All of us were new at one time and had to learn the hard way what was actually the truth of things in the publishing industry. Lately I’ve heard each of these 5 Myths about the Publishing Industry and hope that this blog will save at least one new or aspiring author the pain and suffering that a lot of us went through before we learned this stuff.

Myth 1: Authors Don’t need to do promotions, their publishing company will do it all for them.

Reality: Usually that’s a big fat NO! In fact, until my current publisher – Random House – this has hardly ever been true for me. To be fair, my first series published with a new York Publisher (Kensington), they did pay to have my books faced out for the first month after release. I think that’s part of why my Seduction Series did so well and why Ceremony of Seduction went into a second printing – my only book so far to do that. Granted, I did a TON of promotions for it, but I have for every book I’ve released, even when I was still with a small press publisher. With a lot of the larger publishers, they simply have too many authors to outlay major money on promotions for each one. It’s usually not cost effective. You sink or swim on the strength of your own promotions and the strength of your author brand you’ve built even before you sold it to them.

But the bottom line is – you can’t count on a publisher to do all your promotions. Even with Random House spoiling me rotten – I’m still out actively promoting!

Myth 2: Every book published goes immediately to print and will appear in every bookstore.

Reality: Many books are either released in ebook only or need to meet a threshold of sales before they go to print. Ebooks have become very popular, so neither of things are really a BAD thing. Yes, several books do go immediately to print, but not all of them. It’s very important to check your contract before signing so you know what to expect. Also, a print run (how many books are printed) is set for every book based on a combination of factors – usually the strength of your author brand and how many the sales people for each of the outlets are willing to buy into their store. Smaller booksellers can request your title from Ingrams, but many don’t want to have take the risk on an untried author unless there is some major draw behind either the book or the author. Bookshelf space equates to money and if they aren’t sure they can sell your books and make money, they will pass and save that space on books they KNOW they can sell.

Myth 3: After I write my book I can just hire a professional editor and that will make it easy to sell it to a publisher.

Reality: Even a professional editor (and not all those who call themselves professional editors truly are) who uses the Chicago Manual of Style etc can guarantee that the line editing they suggest will be what a particular editor or agent will want. So you could end up shelling out a LOT of money for editing and either still not be able to sell it, or have to do edits all over again to meet the needs/preferences of that agency or house.

Best advice on this one. Get some beta readers to work out the pacing and the kinks in your story and find a friend, or beta reader who is good at spelling and grammar. Get the book to its best possible state under those conditions and submit, submit, submit. Once an agent or editor acquires the book, they will give you their own edits and then copyedits.

Myth 4: When I sell my book I’ll get to choose my cover, my title and have full say over all content in the book.

Reality: Maybe, but not necessarily. The marketing department of the publisher will weigh in on the title of the book, your cover, and possibly even your pen name. If you are lucky, they will ask you what you would like to see on your cover, what your characters look like – and you might even get characters on the cover that actually match the ones you’ve written. Titles are changeable and in fact I think I’ve only gotten to keep my originally suggested title on 3 out of my 16 published books. Luckily, Kensington liked my suggested Cassie Ryan pen name so I was able to keep that one after all my research to choose it. I suppose they do it that way so they don’t get something that sounds like your pole dancing name – which makes sense, but it surprised me when I found that out. I’ve been very lucky to have been given an opportunity for input on nearly every book cover, blurb, plot flow, title etc, but my ideas didn’t always end up as the one hitting the bookstore shelves.

Myth 5: Once I sell my first book I’ll be able to easily sell everything else I write

Reality: Maybe. I’ve published 16 books to date between my 2 pen names. But even after all of that – Book number 14 I couldn’t sell. My agent said Sleeping With Shadows was the best book I’ve written to that point and she tried her best to sell it. But there were several things against it. First, that was a book I was selling as Tina Gerow. It wasn’t as hot and kinky of all of my other Cassie books but was a little hotter than my other Tina books. So the decision was made to publish it as Tina Gerow. Well, even though Tina has published several books, they were with small presses, so Tina had no New York numbers. But wait, Cassie Ryan has several sets of New York sales numbers, you say. Well, in New York, even though Tina & Cassie are the same physical person, apparently the bean counters look at the sales numbers and Tina doesn’t exist there so is a bigger risk to publish. Also, paranormal was on its way out, as were hotter books. So I self published Sleeping With Shadows – my only self pubbed book, but definitely the book of my heart. A smoking hot reincarnation with a twist story! But nope – couldn’t sell it, even with 13 published books under my belt – several with major New York publishers.

There are many more myths out there, but those are for another day. If you have any big ones, feel free to post them in the comments.

 

Tina

Amazon Reviewers All in or Undecided #reviews

rp_hahahastar-300x283.jpgBy accident today, I came upon an Amazon reviewer who has done well over 100 reviews.

I saw one particular review she’d written for a book I was considering and thought it harsh. Actually I was trying to decide if I would get this book from the library or buy it. I’m way over my Kindle budget this month, after two more purchases yesterday. And it’s a pricier book which is part of a series. The review was brutal!

So I looked at some of the other reviews given by this person. The first two pages were nothing but 1 Star reviews. Occasionally, the reviewer would give a good review, but about 80% of them were beyond brutal, even telling people not to buy the books, over and over again. This was an eye-opening experience for me. After reading so many despicable statements about author after author…I don’t believe anything this reviewer says.

I just pray he or she doesn’t pick up one of my books. I was more suspicious of the 5 Star reviews. Now I need to rethink this. Maybe I need to look closer at the STARS or ignore them altogether.

However if she ever does give me one of her zingers, I think I might even smile about it. I’d be in good company.

The 7 Strangest Things I’ve Done in the Name of Writing Research

Book 2 in the Sisters of Darkness Series

Book 2 in the Sisters of Darkness Series

Most writers do some type of research to make sure their books are realistic. None of us want people to roll their eyes when reading our books! So in the name of accuracy, most authors must do at least some level of research. I’ve heard some pretty strange things that other writers have done in the name of research, but I’m only going to include ones that I was actually a part of. That’s not to say I won’t do even weirder research in the future than those listed below, but I guess that will be blog fodder for another time.

So heeeeeeeere we go…..

 

1. For a book I’ve written that isn’t published yet (a paranormal romantic suspense) I had to research what type/size of nuclear weapons would fit into several well known landmarks around the world. And that included researching the dimensions of said landmarks. Then I also did research on who would have to attack whom to ignite a virtual world war 3. I’m sure I’m on some interesting watch lists from that one. But in order to have high enough stakes to sustain a three book series and allow my characters to be the good guys and creatively save the day, I had to have a big black moment that was large and scary enough that it COULD’VE resulted in BIG world conflicts if my characters had failed to save the day. I’m glad I have in my network some ex military people who could give me most of that information so I didn’t have to go entirely off the information on the Internet, which as most of us know is most of the time not only flawed but outright crap.

2. For my Sisters of Darkness series written as Cassie Ryan, an erotic paranormal romance about 4 Succubus in Hell’s version of the Witness Relocation Program, I spent a few hours interviewing an actual working prostitute. She works at one of the legal brothels in Nevada, and I bought her several Starbucks mochas in payment for her time, as well as mailed her a copy of each of the books in my series when they came out, as well as my entire Seduction Series. Now you might ask how I met her, but it’s sort of anticlimactic… This was back when I was working at Starbucks and I was working the drive thru window one morning. That entire week I had been looking for a good name for a brothel I was creating for use in The Demon & The Succubus, and she heard me mentioning it to another customer while she was waiting at the window for her drink. After all, what would be a good job for a succubus who has lived for centuries and needed sexual energy to survive in the modern day world? A very high end prostitute at a legal brothel would be perfect, right? We got some very strange looks sitting in the squishy chairs at Starbucks because of some of our discussions – especially since they were pretty graphic and descriptive, and we both ended up laughing until we cried. I still have the notes from that conversation somewhere around here!

3. For my book Vortex Blues I called the Sedona, Arizona police department and asked for some pretty detailed information about the layout of their jail, holding areas etc. I spoke to a very nice lady and she’s in the acknowledgements of that book. I was pretty sure I was going to have the police at my door the morning after that call, but so far nothing…knock on wood…

4. One of my critique partners had written a story that had one of those fake vaginas you find in the sex shops in it. (If she’s amenable she can post the name of the book and a link to it in the comments – it’s a GREAT book!) Anyway, she had written this vagina in there and the details weren’t quite right. So I asked her if she’d ever actually seen and touched one of them. And actually none of the ladies in our critique group HAD except for me. Not sure what that says about me, but there you go! So we all decided it was time to take a trip across the freeway to our local Sex supply Superstore and check this out! So we trekked over and I think I was the only one who had ever been in there before because all of their eyes were the size of dinner plates the entire time! And I’m sure we all made quite a sight poking and prodding all the merchandise and talking about details and giggling like little girls! But damn, it was a fun field trip for the Butterscotch Martini Girls!

5. One of my friends was writing a story that involved the seamier side of the world of strippers – that of those women being pressed into the underground sex trade. So what did we do? Well, while we were at a writer’s conference in New Orleans we visited a strip club in order to interview some of the dancers. One lady was particularly open to talking to us, so each of us in turn paid for and received a lap dance and chatted, finding out everything we could about what she did, any interesting stories and behind the scenes stuff that most people wouldn’t know who weren’t part of that profession. We all tipped her well and once we were done there were several men lined up waiting for their turn at a dance – I guess watching her give lap dances to four women appealed to the male patrons… LOL I’ve used some of the research from that trip in several of my books, even though I don’t have any actual strippers in any of my books. Just proof that everything a writer sees, hears and experiences can become book fodder.

6. While writing Into A Dangerous Mind, my very first book, I called the Arizona FBI office and asked if there was a profiler who would be willing to talk to me for a book I was writing. A few days later a profiler called me back and she was nice enough to talk to me for nearly an hour. We talked about FBI practices that related to scenes in my books, “what if” scenarios, their standard firearms, known issues with them and any fun or interesting stories that she was able to share with me. She was a font of information but asked that I not use her name or even list her in the acknowledgements of my book. But since I wrote that book back in 2003 I think an obscure reference is probably fine. As my first real attempt at writing research, she made me brave enough to move forward with others!

7. For a book that I haven’t written yet I was trying to find the best and worst pickup strategies. So….yes, you guessed it! I tried them out. I was actually on a business trip and a coworker and I were talking about my books and I mentioned that I was trying to do some research on these, so she suggested we start right then! She even offered to pay for the drinks if I took the bull by the horns and tried some out! So we decided on four strategies and dove right in. Or at least I did. Before I use them I think I’ll need to field test them again here in Phoenix to see if they work the same here as they did in Orlando. For some reason I just think the Orlando guys weren’t quite a good overall gauge but who knows until I have more data! The first one was the old standby of asking the waitress to send a drink over to an attractive guy. Now I HAD done this back while I was in college and got a smile, a wink and the guy came over to talk to me. It didn’t work out, but did result in us exchanging phone numbers and going out on one date. Well, in Orlando, it apparently results in a note back with his phone number saying if I’m into choking and scat play to give him a call. If you don’t know what scat play or even “choking” in a sexual connotation is, then you won’t know why I ripped up the napkin, making sure he saw me, and refused to make eye contact with him for the rest of the time we were at the bar.

The second strategy was something my coworker and I threw out there as something we KNEW wouldn’t work, but that she wanted to see me do so she could laugh, so what the hell, she was buying the drinks, so I did it. On my way back from the bathroom I walked by a man who was attractive and probably in his early sixties who was very obviously sitting with his wife. They were even very affectionate with each other including the dreamy smiles, and it was a very sweet scene. Anyway, looking back I can’t believe I did this, but yup – I actually did. As I walked by I made eye contact with him, smiled and dropped my hotel room keycard on the table in front of him before walking back to my table. A few minutes later both he and his wife were at our table asking if I wanted to join THEM at THEIR hotel room for the evening. They even offered to include my coworker if she’d like to come with us. After stuttering for a minute under their very amused smiles I came clean and told them what we were doing and why, and they said that they often approached attractive women or men dining alone to see if they would like to join them for the evening. They’d apparently been doing it for years. I swear I’m going to use something like that in a Cassie Ryan story one day just because it was such a fun and interesting idea. And they looked so innocent! But as a writer I should know better than most that looks are definitely deceiving!

The third man I just made eye contact with and smiled. He nodded back, smiled, sat in a booth and sent us both refills of what we were drinking through the waitress with a message that he was flattered but engaged. Gotta totally respect a hot AND faithful man!

The fourth man I just walked up to his table and asked if he’d like some company. He was very sweet about it and said he usually didn’t date younger women (he was definitely NOT older than me…lol) but that he might make an exception if I could convince him that I wouldn’t be a boring date. In the end after chatting with him for about ten minutes he ended up buying appetizers and more drinks for my coworker and I. He didn’t make any real moves on us but was quite amused when he found out we were using him for research! In fact he told us we were the most interesting “dates” he’d had in quite a while and that he was going to have a great time telling all his friends that two women “used” him for research and letting them draw their own conclusions!! Snerk!

So those are, to date, the strangest things I’ve done in the name of writing research. But now that I’ve written them out I think I need to get with my fellow Butterscotch Martini Girls and get out there and do some more so all of us have some great new book fodder! Anyone else have some fun ones to add? I’d love to see them in the comments!!

Tina

Some things I’ve learned in the writing industry…

I’m not going to say this is an all inclusive list, in fact, this only scratches the surface.  A lot of them are total common sense, but I still do a <face palm> every time I see someone break one of them.  Having said that-yes, sometimes rules are made to be broken, but other times, rules are there to make your path through this very complex industry a little smoother.  And besides, you have to know the rules well to know both how and when to break some of them.

Right?

Here’s my disclaimer before I get the flame posts.  Yes, these are my opinion, and in most cases, the opinions of several others within the industry I know.  These have been successful for me, but each author has to make their own path and their own decisions.  Just remember what your parents used to say:  If you make the decision, you live with the consequences…On with a few of the “rules”:

1.  Don’t plagiarize – aka steal other people’s stuff.  This doesn’t mean because there are already vampire books out there that you can’t write one.  Everyone has their own writing voice and even if every one of us was given the same “idea” – we would all get vastly different books out of it.  USE your own writing voice and don’t steal!  That also counts for website content, people!!  Just like books, most company website have their stuff copyrighted.  Play nice with others and do your own work!

2.  Leveraging “ideas” is not stealing.  Just use common sense and refer to Rule 1.  If you see another author is giving out a button or pens at a conference and you see that they are very popular with readers, and then you go make your own buttons with your own slogans and book info on them etc – that’s not stealing.  It’s leveraging a good idea.

3.  Learn from others’ mistakes.  This is across the board.  We’ve all heard the horror story of the author sliding a manuscript under the bathroom stall to an agent at a conference.  (DON’T do this by the way – it will NOT garner you good results!!)

By using common sense you can also reason that sliding it under their hotel room door, slipping into their conference bag etc is only going to get them to remember your name in a BAD way.  Watch and learn…seeing others make mistakes (or hearing the urban legends) will help you avoid making them yourself.

4.  Anything & everything you do & say (especially online & in public) will affect your author brand.  People disagree with me on this all the time, and that’s their right as long as they are ready to deal with the consequences.  If you go to a conference, get drunk and dance topless on the table – believe me, those pictures will be tweeted far and wide before you make it down off the table.

And guess what – that WILL affect your author brand.  Some of your readers might not care, some might.  But agents and editors also are on twitter (and all the other social networks, including the word of mouth author grapevine – which goes faster than a speeding text message!) and they will remember you when their manuscript comes across their desk.  They want to work with a professional, not a frat boy/girl.  Also, if you make a statement on Twitter that is political, controversial, mean, slanderous, whiney etc – people will find that every time they Google you (which yes, agents & editors do before they offer to rep or buy your stuff)

I’m not saying don’t ever stand up for what you believe in etc.  I’m saying make responsible choices about what you’re putting out there and take responsibility for it.  If you Google my Tweets, I’m sure you’ll find quite a mixed bag…lol!  And there are a few things on there I’ve been unfollowed for, and I made that choice and wasn’t sorry to lose those followers.  My agent also follows me on Twitter, and I don’t think I’ve ever said anything horrifying enough for her wonder if she did the right thing representing my work.  (Paige, you’ll have to let me know if I’m right on this one…lol!)  Just think before you act/tweet etc – could this negatively affect my author brand?  Then make your choice.

5.  Writing is a business.  So many people forget this.  If you are writing for publication, you can talk about being an artist all you want, but as soon as you try to publish and get into this crazy maze of a business, it IS a business.  Don’t take things personally.  When you write, put on your artist hat.  When in all other areas – keep your business hat on.  If you act like a hysterical diva because your publisher can’t see your artistic vision of having a fully naked frontal picture of a man on your book cover, they probably aren’t going to take you very seriously…or offer you another contract.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m a red-blooded woman and I don’t mind a nice full on nude picture of some hot guy, but publishers know that there aren’t many bookstores in their distribution networks who will stock that book – which means you’ll have no distribution, which means you won’t sell, which means they won’t make money (and neither will you), which means they won’t be offering you another contract.  Business decision?  Easy call. They’ll go with someone else who can separate their business hat from their artist/writer hat.

**Disclaimer.  I’m not saying that if you have legitimate concerns over your covers you can’t speak respectfully and calmly to your agent and editor.  That’s one of the wonderful things your agent does, by the way-has those tough conversations with your editor…

6.  Don’t take things personally.  This goes hand in hand with #5.  Yes, sometimes others do take things personally and hold grudges against YOU.  But if you were following the other rules, you haven’t done anything totally off the wall and it will be their problem.  Which means in the long run, the Universe is doing you a favor by you not having to work with that person.

However, a lot of things in this business don’t feel fair.  We get rejections, hard feedback, contracts options not renewed, bad reviews, authors who won’t do a cover quote for us etc.  This is a business…say it like a mantra…and don’t take things personally.  Let’s take a closer look:  Rejections come for a variety of reasons.  They might already have their slots filled for the type of book you’re writing.  Your book may have a cat and they hate cats.  Their boss may have told them NO MORE Vampire books!  Whatever.  Business.  Same for all the rest.  I recently asked a round of authors for cover quotes.  All of us are busy, and I know that.  If any of them have time and are willing to give me one – I’ll buy them a drink and send them a cyber hug.  But I won’t get upset if they don’t have time or don’t like my book for some reason.

7.  If you don’t know…ask.  This is a good rule in life, not just in publishing.  If you are afraid of looking stupid, fine – ask someone offline who you trust.  But that’s how you learn.  If you don’t ask…you’ll never know.  And people in this industry do love to answer and share knowledge – avail yourself of that knowledge.8.  Be a good business partner.  Yes, this relates back to several of the above rules, but bears repeating.  When you sign on with an agent, they are actually working for you.  I know it doesn’t really feel like that when you start out and sometimes even after that, but it’s true.  But just like you expect them to do their part of the job (giving you advice, finding you book contracts, having those “fun” conversations with your editors), they expect you to do the same.

This is also true of editors – they bought your book because they think it will reach readers, and, let’s be honest, they also think their company can make money from the sale of your book.  You can help this equation by being honest and upfront.  Meeting your deadlines.  Keeping them in the loop without going on overkill (they don’t need to see your daily redneck jokes etc) and communicating early if you aren’t going to be able to meet a deadline or if there’s an issue.

9.  Know when to keep your mouth shut.  Again – another great life lesson.  But especially in publishing.  This is a very small community, even though there are TONS of us in it.  Social networks have literally thrown us together in what sometimes feels like one big high school campus.  And just like in any community, gossip and scandal flow fast and hard.  I stay very well informed on what’s going on around me and I do have a few favorite blogs where I know I can always go to hear the latest “scoop” on pretty much anything :).

I just do my best not to be the subject of any of those blogs – unless it’s an interview or a review, if you get my meaning.  There are definitely times I do choose to comment on things I feel strongly about – but again (see other rules) I do it in a professional, calm manner that won’t tank my author brand.  And there are other times, I vent to my cat or critique group, I rant at my computer screen, I write a nasty email….then I cool down and delete it, and get back to writing.

10.  Be open to feedback and also be true to yourself.  This is pretty self-explanatory, but I’ve seen instances that make me doubt everyone thinks so.  If you get the same feedback from several or even a few places – it’s probably good feedback.  (Show don’t tell, too much passive writing, not enough conflict, boring dialogue, 150K is not a good length for a debut novel, or pretty much anyone unless your name is Dianna Gabeldon, JK Rowling or Stephen King etc)  However, if you get feedback that says “It just didn’t grab me,” or “Just not my thing,” that doesn’t mean another agent or editor won’t absolutely love it.

11.  Write.  Again – self explanatory, but people tend to forget it.  Write every day, be serious about your craft.  Learn, expand, grow and….write some more.  Many authors get so wrapped up in promotions, submitting, drama etc that they stop writing and they never move forward.  Writing must continue WHILE all the other stuff is going on.12.  No whining!  No one likes a whiner or a poor-me-er.  Don’t be that person.  Put on your big girl panties (or big boy boxers) and do your work, make friends, network, do your best, write, write, write and follow your career path.  But whining doesn’t help anyone.

**Disclaimer.  Whining is only allowed with close friends who you have enough mutual dirt on that they won’t rat you out – and must be done over a good alcoholic beverage (like a butterscotch martini) and much commiseration!!That’s just a small snippet of the “rules” I’ve learned, but I’m off to do #12 🙂

So help me out.  Do any of you have “rules” you’d like to share?  We’d love to hear them!Thanks!Tina/Cassie

The Life of a Writer: Is It All Really Glamour & Bon Bons?

If you’d like the answer to that question, you’re in luck!

During the month of August, I’m teaching an online class on that very subject 🙂

Here’s the info – I hope to see you there!

PERMISSION GRANTED TO FORWARD

Living the Life of a Writer: Is it all Really Glamour and Bon Bons?

When people think about the life of a writer, they might envision said writer dressed in comfortable yet designer clothes, sitting on the balcony of their posh but understated mansion that overlooks a pool and possibly the scantily clad pool boy—or girl.  Said writer sips a fruity drink from a martini glass while typing their next masterpiece in between calls from their agent, movie studios and other authors, while their personal assistant bustles around them taking care of the small but insignificant details.  Unfortunately, unless your name is Nora Roberts, James Patterson or Steven King, this picture is much more myth than reality.  So, if you want the cold hard truth, be sure to check out Tina Gerow’s August workshop for STAR.  Tina will enlighten us about the business of being a writer.  Her workshop will cover topics such as money, sales, agents, editors, deadlines, promotions, and even critique groups.  She will share an insider’s view of the pros and cons of being a writer.

Tina Gerow’s Into a Dangerous Mind, won the award for Romantic Times Best Small Press Contemporary Paranormal in 2006.  Since then, Tina has published several more books, including the popular Maiden series.  She also writes for Kensington’s Aphrodisia line as Cassie Ryan—the first of her three book erotic paranormal romance series, Ceremony of Seduction, released in August 2007, with Visions of Seduction scheduled for a June 2008 release.  Tina is an active speaker on several subjects including promotions, character creation, goals, motivation and more.  She has spoken at several RWA chapters, as well as at the Romantic Times Booklovers convention in 2006 & 2007.

This 4-week long online writing workshop is conducted using a private listserve. It’s easy to participate; if you know how to send e-mail, you’ve mastered all of the necessary technical skills. The class costs $15 for RWA members, $20 for others and begins on Monday, August 4, 2008.  The deadline to register is August 1st. To enroll in this class, send a check or money order (in U.S. dollars) made payable to STAR Writers Workshops to the STAR Workshop Coordinator, Jennifer Lorang, at 20 Mohawk Drive, Lisle, NY  13797 USA (include your name, e-mail address, phone number, workshop choices, and RWA number, if applicable). You may also register via Paypal by sending the payment to starpay@gmail.com no later than August 1st. If using Paypal, please send your information (name, e-mail address, phone number, workshop choices, and RWA number, if applicable) to the coordinator at rav37ven@aol.com.  You will be automatically enrolled in the class during the last week of July. For more information about the Southern Tier Authors of Romance (STAR), or to see the list of other upcoming 2008 workshops, please visit: http://members.aol.com/starrwa/workshop.html.

Drowning & Loving It!

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!

Tina/Cassie