Monthly Archives: February 2012

Guest Author Interview: Callan Primer by Cassiel Knight

For our guest author interview today, I’m pleased to introduce Callan Primer. I first learned about Callan after she got a review by the ladies at Dear Author. I was intrigued by her story and when I’d learned she self-published, I knew I had to interview her for See Jane Publish. So, here is her review and if you want to learn more about her and her books, visit http://wwww.CallanPrimer.com.

Tell us about your publishing journey.

It started years ago, when I first set pen to paper and wrote a thrilling story of a pair of red-haired, teenaged-girl detectives (I was addicted to Nancy Drew at the time and thought if one was wonderful, two were awesome.) If I recall correctly, I never finished the story, leaving them trapped in a medieval stone cell beneath the Seine, with water coming under the door…I wonder if they’re still there?

Over the years, I learned to finish what I wrote and what narrative structure was all about. Then the first time a friend I shanghaied into reading one of my stories put it down and said, “This is good. Are you sending it out?” I began bombarding all known publishers of science fiction and fantasy with reams of stories. Most, wisely, ignored my work, or sent back helpful checklists of what I could improve.

Then the publishing industry shrank, and I began a similar campaign with agents. By that time, I had improved enough to get answers such as “This is good, but I can’t sell it in New York.” One agent, who took a greater interest than most, tried to help me shape my most recent novel, A WIND OUT OF INDIGO, into something that would “sell in New York.” But it turns out she was looking for a genre I call “tough chicks in leather,” in honor of their standard covers, and I just couldn’t pour my heroine into something that tight-fitting. My heroine felt quite firmly that stout hobnailed boots, a good wool skirt, and a dagger were all she needed to face what the world had to throw at her.

I had to agree with her and decided I would probably never write what the industry wanted. But in the way the universe has of throwing open a window whenever all exits seem to be blocked, I stumbled across Kris Rusch’s blog and discovered the world of self-publishing–which revolves around the notion that you should sell to readers rather than New York.

What’s the funniest thing to happen to you along your road to publication and what was the most exciting?

Well, I have plenty of embarrassing things–I’m sure they’ll become funnier as the years go on–but the most exciting was the first time I copied A WIND OUT OF INDIGO to my mother’s Kindle, and it opened. Just like a real book. And my mother was impressed.

What has been the most challenging thing related to publishing you’ve had to deal with on your journey?

Dealing with the Smashwords Meatgrinder.

Those of you who are self-published know what I’m talking about (and are probably wincing in agreement). For those of you who aren’t, the Meatgrinder is Smashwords’ conversion software that turns MS Word docs into multiple eBook formats. Or not. It’s an awesome piece of software, but as mysterious and capricious as some ancient idol. You approach it with songs of praise on your lips and bearing your novel file before you like a first-born child. You lay your child on the altar, and if you’re lucky, and your prayers fervent enough, the kid lives.

Who is your favorite author, and what are you currently reading?

I have dozens–right now I’m finishing off Brandon Sanderson’s ALLOY OF LAW and counting down the days until Patricia Briggs’ FAIR GAME is released.

What’s coming up next for you?

I have two more novels and two novellas planned in the WINDS OF HALFLIGHT series, but before them comes A MEMORY OF ICE, a novel set in a 1930s that never existed, with a heroine who can’t be stopped, no matter how many oversized and annoying policemen pursue her. I hope to have it up in late April so it can stop nagging me and I can get back to writing A WIND OUT OF NIGHT.

 

Thanks for being here, Callan! WIND OUT OF INDIGO is in my TBR, and I’m so looking forward to reading it. Wish you all the best!

Second Door On The Right by Susan Lute

It’s Sunday night at 6:03pm and I’m watching the 84th Annual Academy Awards. The Oscars. Given to the best films of the year. The best of the best. Movies start out with an idea, a story, and travel over many hurdles to become films on the silver screen, or DVD’s watched in the comfort of our own homes. Challenges are met and overcome until we, the avid viewer, are presented with something bigger and better than the original idea.

The winners are using words like inspiration, wow, incredible honor, joy and privilege, thank you, you’re an idiot, this is crazy, an epic thrill, proud, this is a beautiful thing, life is wonderful.

Though it has nothing to do with the Oscars, Thursday will be my last day at the day job. The office is closing.

Like many writers, I’ve long dreamed of quitting the day job to be at my desk full time, coffee or tea at my elbow, something chocolate close to hand, laptop humming, stories pouring from my fingertips. In my imagination, there would be time to prepare, challenges, though of my own making, overcome. I’d already have a steady income from the sale of my books. I would know what the heck I was doing. I would have a plan.

That’s not exactly how the dream came about. The decision to close the office was a sudden one, not totally unexpected, but certainly life altering. A part of me is excited. Another part is…not nervous…but nervous, you know? I’m not sure I know exactly what I’m doing, but I do have a plan…of sorts. Okay, I always have a plan. It’s true. If one door doesn’t open, another will. Life is that way, isn’t it?

The plan: down the hall, and through the second door on the right, I’ll write, revise, make covers, convert manuscripts, upload to Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords, get books ready to print at Lightening Source, teach workshops, write blog posts, interview other authors, tweet, facebook, write and revise some more, and then repeat it over and over until I’ve told the very best story I can. Until my stories have grown to be bigger and better than my original idea.

All that’s left to say is…inspiration, wow, incredible honor, joy and privilege, thank you (for being here for me), idiot, this is crazy, a beautiful thing, an epic thrill, I’m proud to be here. Life is wonderful.

Next week, take this step along the journey with me, and stay tuned.

Land of the free, Home of the brave…. by Nancy Brophy

I grew up in an easier time. A time where we played outside every day until the streetlights came on and our mothers hollered at us from the front porch that dinner was on the table.

There were no computers, no cell phones, and no rules that required us to only ride bikes with helmets. The sound of crickets wasn’t drown out by air conditioners and jars with holes in the top were kept for fireflies on the back porch.

If we wanted pecans, we gathered them off the ground and shelled them ourselves. We drank from water hoses. Our swimming pool was public and running though the sprinkler was the at-home version. We climbed trees, skinned our knees and pumped our legs as hard as we could when swinging because our goal was always to reach the sky.

A quarter allowance in those days meant we’d taken out the trash, mowed the lawn and picked up our room. If you misbehaved at school and were sent to the principal’s office, it wasn’t nearly as scary as when the principal picked up the phone to call your parents.

Just wait til your father gets home was a threat that had most of us quaking in our shoes. Shootings, drugs and gangs were not our fears. We simply didn’t want to make our parents mad. My first job paid minimum wage, $1.25 an hour. I was grateful to have my first spending money.

Mothers on TV cleaned the house in high heels and pearls. And women, according to Foster Freiss, held an aspirin between their knees to keep from getting pregnant which proved to be remarkably ineffective.

But we grew up and so did America. Lots of us remember our past in the pictures I’ve conjured, but if you were a person of color in the fifties, your experience was very different from the one I’ve described. The country donned rose-colored glasses and ignored the problems that simmered under the surface.

With the late sixties, a paradigm shift swept the nation. Females who were always charged with keeping their sexuality under control were told – it’s okay now. You can have sex. And enjoy it.  We have the pill (different from the above-mentioned aspirin).

But the pill wasn’t readily available to young and unmarried women.  Having a child out-of-wedlock changed your life and rarely for the good. Sure men could go on to college, but a pregnant teenager didn’t. Sometimes the only option she had was a home for unwed mothers. Abortions were available from back-alley butchers with coat hangers or one could fly to California or New York.  Travel, see the world, have surgery.

The feminist movement was born in an effort to counteract injustice facing one-half of our population.

This is not a time in our history I would like to re-visit.

But apparently Congress feels we should. Last week Republican Chairman Darrell Issa convened an all-male birth control panel. No women were allowed to speak in support of birth control coverage. And the non-biased men used examples including non-inflammatory words like “soul rape”. One even made an allusion to Joseph Stalin. At the same time the State of Virginia wants to require transvaginal ultrasounds to be given before abortions can be performed.

Folks, we have serious problems in this country. Unemployment. The economy. The national deficit. We are in wars so complex that I’m not sure of how many, where or even why. Banks and mortgage lenders are in trouble yet continue to dig a deeper hole.

On a personal note, I have books that need to be sold.

Why are we wasting our time on legislating morality? We have thousands of years of history to prove it can’t be done. Americans are not stupid. We understand that Congress doesn’t want to solve problems as much as it wants to engage in a bloodbath fight with those from an opposing party.

Please. Our country needs you. Get off your high-moral ground ass and go to work. Play nicely together. Share your toys. Treat others as you would like to be treated. Milk and cookies solves many problems. These are the good lessons the fifties taught us and they are the ones that need to be revisited.

Industry Interview – Crimson Romance by Cassiel Knight

I’m very pleased to bring to you today an interview of a new romance imprint, Crimson Romance, to a long-standing publisher, Adams Media (now a Division of F + W Media, Inc.) who publishes nonfiction. In fact, I checked out some of their offerings in the writing section. There are quite a few of them you’ll recognize.

Please join me in welcoming Jennifer Lawler, Crimson Romance’s Imprint Manager. I hope you enjoy reading the interview as much as I did.

For their submission guidelines, check out http://www.adamsmedia.com/call-for-submissions

Follow us on Twitter @Crimson_Romance
Like us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/CrimsonRomanceBooks
And pin us on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/crimsonromance/

 
What made you decide to become a publisher?

Adams Media, the publisher behind the Crimson Romance imprint, is an established midsize publisher that has been successfully publishing nonfiction for many years. You may have heard of our “Cup of Comfort” series or our “Everything” series. Many of our readers of nonfiction are of the same demographic profile as readers of romance, so when we decided to expand our publishing efforts, publishing romance seemed like a logical step. When the decision was made, I was working as a nonfiction development editor for Adams Media and gave some input as to how to shape the line, and eventually was asked to launch and manage it. As a romance reader and writer, this is like heaven for me!

Tell us about your name/logo. Where did you come up with it? What’s the significance?

We are working on our logo now! We’re preparing for a June launch and have a few agenda items left to accomplish, that being one of them. We’re hoping to come up with a clean visual that says “smart and contemporary.” For the name, the publisher and I just went to all our contacts and said, “Let’s brainstorm!” So we did, coming up with long lists of potential imprint names. In the end, we went with Crimson because, of course, that is the color connected with love and romance but also because it’s a name that can be shaped–it doesn’t conjure up unwanted associations.

Could you please tell us specifically what types of books Crimson Romance publishes?

Right now, we’re acquiring in five subgenres: contemporary, historical, romantic suspense, paranormal, and erotic romance. We’re looking for full-length titles of about 50K words. We love tried-and-true romance themes but would love to see smart new takes on them. We are not interested in old-fashioned stories of domineering men; we’d rather see conflict between likeable characters arise because of conflicting goals (with which a reader can feel some sympathy)–not because one of the characters is a jerk.

If you could get your hands on more stories in a certain genre–or with certain characters – what would it be?

We would love to see more historicals. We’re interested in all historical periods and just don’t get as many historical submissions as we do the other subgenres. If I could get a wish granted, it would be to get more great historicals into our lineup.

What are you absolutely not looking for?

Right now we’re not looking for YA romance, although this is starting to become a bigger trend. And, of course, everything has to be romance–we’re getting some erotic romance submissions that are erotica, but not romances.  

Will you be doing both e-books and print books? Where can you find Crimson Romance books?

We are what I would call an eBook-mostly publisher. The bulk of our distribution and promotion will be in selling eBooks. However, all of our titles will also be available as print-on-demand. You’ll be able to find us at all the usual third-party retailers, such as Amazon, iTunes, etc. We’ll also have a dedicated Crimson Romance website for readers–we’ve got some exciting plans for building a community of readers.

Most new writers have visions of agents and New York publishing houses dancing in their heads. Can you tell us some of the advantages of signing with a digital/small press publisher over a New York publisher?

If you can get that agent and New York publishing house, who am I to argue that you shouldn’t? Give it a go! It’s your dream, so you have to pursue it in the way that’s right for you.

As far as our advantages go, a big one is that while we’re not Harlequin or Random House, we are an established publishing company and we’re not going to disappear tomorrow, leaving your rights in limbo and your book in that weird twilight zone of kind-of-published-but-not-really. We’re a start-up in one sense–we’re new at romance publishing–which means opportunity, but at the same time we’re not going to be deciding whether to pay royalties or the electric bill. We are a solid publisher. In the eBook arena, that’s very important.

As far as advantages to going with a smaller publisher: I have the final say on all acquisitions. If I like a book, there’s no nail-biting agony of “Ohmygod, will it get approved by the acquisitions committee???” If I want to publish it, I send out a contract. We also acquire faster, so you’re not spending months languishing, wondering what’s going to happen to your book. I’ve signed some titles two weeks after they’ve been submitted. I also have more latitude in what I acquire.  Most of the big publishing houses have very particular ideas about what they want (check out the Harlequin writers’ guidelines to see what I mean!). I don’t. I just want to publish books that readers will enjoy.

By the same token, if I think your work shows promise but isn’t quite there yet, I won’t just reject your work. I’ll send out a revision letter with my editorial suggestions and invite you to resubmit. NY publishing houses are rarely able to devote that kind of time to writers. We’re also eager to work with prolific writers–we have a very aggressive release schedule, so there’s no “one book a year” rule here–unless that’s what you want.

What do you look for in a prospective writer?

For me, the story comes first, so I’m not focused on past publication history, etc. I just have to decide, “Is this a book I want to publish?” If the answer is yes, then the writer is perfect just as she is :-) Of course, like all editors, I prefer to work with writers who treat their work professionally–they respond to requests in a timely fashion, are clear about what’s going on (for example, a ms they submitted has been contracted elsewhere, and they let me know with an email withdrawing the submission), understand how the process works or ask questions about it instead of assuming, etc.  In other words, even if they are beginners/unpublished, they treat it like a profession rather than a hobby.

After you receive a query/synopsis–approximately how long does it take you to reply to the author?

We respond to queries within a few days, and to fulls, usually within a month.

Most authors seem to feel it’s the publisher’s responsibility to do the marketing–that all an author should do is write. In your opinion, how important is marketing and what’s the writer’s responsibility in this area?

Marketing/promotion is crucial–if people don’t know your book exists, they won’t buy it. But we’re of the opinion that writers don’t need us if we expect them to do all the work. We are very very good at editorial, production, distribution, and promotion. So we will hold up our end of the deal. On the other hand, the days of a writer simply closeting herself in her office to write and never coming out are over (if they ever actually existed). The writer is the person with whom an audience connects. A reader wants to read a particular author–Jane Doe–not a particular publishing house–Crimson Romance. Of course we’d like to establish Crimson Romance as the place to go to find romances you’ll love, but in the end, it comes down to a connection between the reader and the writer. If the writer can foster that by being part of a community, that’s terrific, and extremely helpful for sales. The main thing is to find *enjoyable* ways to connect with your audience. There is no need to spend thousands of dollars putting together a book signing tour when you’d much rather connect with people on Facebook. There are so many tools available now that you really just need to find the ones that work for you and use them.

Across the Internet, the most common expressed concern is the perceived lack of quality control in eBooks. Would you like to comment on where Crimson Romance is with respect to performance in this area?

Since eBooks are relatively easy to produce, and anyone can do them, there’s no real barrier to entry, so people just put anything out there. Crimson Romance has the same high editorial standards of any traditional publishing company. We are selective in what we acquire–we acquire only a small amount of what we see. All of our titles go through a complete editorial process, including developmental editing. All of our titles are copyedited, proofread, etc.  The only difference between our methods and traditional publishing is that we’re focusing on the eBook market.

As a publisher, what is the best advice you can offer a writer on how to be successful in the business?

Educate yourself–and don’t stop! The world of publishing is changing rapidly and what worked even five years ago may not work today. So, be flexible, pay attention to what’s happening in publishing–but never forget that you have to tell great stories. Your focus should always come back to craft. If you don’t work on craft, the rest won’t help.

Please tell us in one sentence– why we should read Crimson Romance books/authors.

We’re publishing heartfelt yet smart romances for sophisticated readers, melding beloved, classic themes with a contemporary sensibility.

Anything else you’d like to say?

I love making connections with writers, so please feel free to send questions my way. By the same token, a rejection from me just means “not the right project for right now.” I encourage writers to keep writing and to submit new projects as they have them. Please don’t ever think “no” means “don’t bother asking again.” Like most editors, I can’t give detailed feedback on a rejection–and really, one person’s opinion is just one person’s opinion!–and I will offer a revision letter if I think the project is close to suiting our needs.

We’re also bringing out-of-print romances back into existence with our new Prologue imprint–writers with an out-of-print backlist can connect with me about this opportunity.

See Jane Readers; please join me in wishing Jennifer and Crimson Romance much success!

Crowdsourcing? by Susan Lute

Here’s something I haven’t heard of before. Crowdsourcing. Have any of you heard of this unique way of gathering solutions to problems?

I recently read an article by Ashley McConnell (I’m sorry I don’t have a link, but here’s her website), for The NINC Binder: A Comprehensive Guide to the New World of Publishing, titled, Crowdsourcing: In the Crowd, or Leading It?

Crowdsourcing is essentially, according to Wikipedia, an open call for contributions to solve a specific problem, or leveraging mass collaboration to achieve a business goal.

Making use of group intelligence sounds like a good idea, doesn’t it? But how does it apply to novels? According to McConnell, Penguin and Avon Books have both tried crowdsourcing a novel – inviting anyone who’s interested to contribute plot line ideas. You can check that out at Wired.com.

Perhaps more importantly, McConnell also postulates crowdsourcing is about creating a community. Which sounds a little like making street teams. Author Lawrence Watt-Evans’ website, the World of Ethshar is a good example of how he used crowdsourcing tools to develop his community.

All very interesting. Another option to explore on our publishing journey.

By the way, The NINC Binder is a must have for any author on the writer’s path. Thanks to Susan Fox Lyons for bringing it to our attention.

 So in the spirit of crowdsourcing, what kind of posts would you like to see on See Jane Publish? What kind of information can we bring you? Do you think it would be interesting, or fun, in fact, to have input into a story plot line? This curious Jane wants to know.

Social Networking Will Be The Death Of Me… by Nancy Brophy

Facebook has peaked. I know this because I’m on it.

I never lead a trend, so by the time I get to where all the cool kids are, they’ve moved on. And it’s months before I figure out the next ‘be there or be square’ place. And look what Facebook has become – the dreaded Christmas letter in sound bites.

As I can tell there are several categories of postings:

Humor and wit is big and it doesn’t even have to be your own humor and wit. You can repost another’s cleverness.

What did I do today worthy of praise? I have never posted something negative. Johnny didn’t get into Harvard? You’ll never hear it from me. I’m a socially aware American – I know spin. My post would be in praise of Johnny’s newly found interest in third world counties. I might neglect to mention that Johnny moved to Kuala Lumpur to attend night school or Bogota, Columbia to investigate agriculture.

And then there are photographs – of food, friends, family, children, dogs, and locations. I follow several of my own family members. It’s how I know what is happening in their lives because they may not be able to call, write or email but they do find the time to post.

I’ve always felt Christmas letters were a form of one-upmanship.

Here are all the good things that happened to me and mine this year.

Hope your year was as glorious.

Well, yeah. Of course, it was.

Uncle Walt got fired for drinking on the job. For years he’d been talking about quitting. This has given him the time and opportunity to investigate activities he’s dreamed about. He and Aunt Heloise lost their home in foreclosure after he couldn’t make the payments. The move finally cleaned out the basement, which had been a fire hazard for years. Lo and behold the largest collection of child porn west of the Mississippi was unearthed in the process. He moved to a Federal Correction Facility while he waits for trial. In the meantime Aunt Heloise has taken up any slack in the drinking department and moved in with us. I am pregnant with Number Nine. Kind of a cute name, don’t you think? We’re just one big happy family.

With enough spin I could get two months out of that factual minefield and I guarantee that you’d never connect the facts with the posts.

Facebook is the world’s biggest time suck. I read though hundreds of “friends” whom I might know, or don’t know, but admire or for some unknown reason, I’ve stumbled into following. Ask me about their vacations, what they had for breakfast, or what cute thing their dog did. How is this relevant in my life?

There is, of course, a simple solution. No one is holding a gun to my head saying Facebook or die. But it is addictive. And when others “like” me, I react like I been given the Pulitzer. Whoo Hoo.

But if you are self-published, the one rule of thumb is social networking. If you follow me on twitter, I’m the one with the world’s stupidest tweets. I, honest to God, can’t think of anything to say in 140 characters. To give you an example on Martin Luther King day, I tweeted. “MLK day. It’s time to remember your dream.” Really? Your day would have been incomplete without this knowledge?

We live in a revolving world. New, doesn’t make it better, but I do wish somebody in a dorm room somewhere would invent something I actually want to use. I don’t like all my personal information online. I once attended a party where, when asked about my career, I answered, “fireman”. Sometimes it’s fun being someone other than who you are.

Firemen everywhere disavow all knowledge of me.

I needed a cheap thrill and figured you did, too

A Rant: Craft is Not Just for New Writers by Cassiel Knight

I want to state one thing up front. I have absolutely nothing against self-publishing and while my rant is based on what I hear self-published authors say, I’ve also heard this from traditionally published authors. However, right now, the source of the rant comes from self-published, and you’ll see what I mean below.

Okay.

On one of the many loops I follow, I heard a recurring comment from members of RWA chapters throughout the country. I have to admit, when I first read the comment, my jaw dropped.

What I read, and others chimed in and agreed they heard, is that self-published authors are leaving local chapters because:

“they don’t need to learn craft anymore.”

Yes, that’s right. You heard me. There’s apparently this movement out there that is supposed to support the idea that because someone chooses to self-publish, it automatically means that the author’s writing is perfect. That they can’t learn anything else about craft.

Sorry folks, they are dead wrong.

I talked to a publisher about this and her jaw dropped too.  And you can go to any number of higly respected blogs like Dear Author.com and a common note in the comments is readers fear self-published books because of the poor writing.

That’s the reality, dear readers.  Choosing to self-publish or being a published author doesn’t mean you don’t need to continue to learn craft. In fact, for self-published authors, I think it means you need to work that much harder at times because you’ve chosen to go at it alone. You don’t have the luxury of an agent or editor back-up. It’s you.

You think I’m wrong? Well, here are some quotes from those you might believe:

  • Gina Ardito wrote a great blog post on this subject. She says: “A truly successful author seeks the new, the different, and dares to step to the edge of the precipice every single time. (S)he is always learning, always growing.” http://ginaardito.blogspot.com/2011/06/mid-week-rude-awakening-growth-is.html
  • Marie Andreas: “But for any author to say, “I know all there is to know about writing”- FOR any reason is insane!…We have to keep learning. This is true in darn near all fields, but especially a world like publishing. I would be horrified if the book I wrote five years ago is no different than one I just finished. As authors we have to keep pushing the envelope, learning new skills, trying new approaches – EVEN if we don’t stick with them. Try them, keep what works, then move on.” http://www.castlesandguns.com/2011/04/never-stop-learning.html
  • RITA Award winning author, Sophia Nash (http://www.sophianash.com): “I think writers grow and change, even if it is just in miniscule amounts, with each book they write. It’s only natural since the writing process is a learning experience. It’s what I like the most about the creative process. I’ll never get bored writing because I’ll never stop learning new things about the craft.”
  • Bob Mayer, Who Dares Wins Publishing (http://www.boymayer.org) – Always learn to become a better writer. 
  • James Scott Bell, bestselling suspense author and former fiction columnist for Writers Digest, says: “…never think that business knowledge and marketing can cover a multitude of writing sins. One still has to be able to consistently deliver the goods, and that means learning the craft by writing, revising, studying, getting feedback, and more writing.”
  • Robin Perini (http://www.robinperini.com) of Discovering Story Magic fame says: “I think that the most important piece of advice that I can give is to NEVER STOP LEARNING, and to BE OPEN TO GROWING and CHANGING.”
  • New York Bestselling Author Susan Mallery says: “Never Stop Learning.” She recommends that you master as much craft as you can so you don’t disappoint your readers. Figure out what you’re good at and what you’re bad at. Focus on your strengths and shore up your weaknesses. If you bring your passion and enthusiasm to a project, it will show up on the page. http://jennyhansenauthor.wordpress.com/2011/10/11/5-great-bits-of-wisdom-from-a-new-york-times-besteller/
  • Dean Wesley Smith – A self-published success story most who self-published know very well has this to say: “Learning and continuing to learn is critical. This business keeps changing and the only way to stay abreast of the changes is to go out and keep learning and talk with other writers and find advice that makes sense to you and your way. Go to workshops, conferences, conventions and anything else you can find to get bits of learning. Read everything you can find about the business. My goal on this is learn one thing new every week at least. I’ve been doing that since my early days and it has worked for me, and kept me focused on learning. Find what works for you…Keep learning. Keep practicing your art.”http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=1311

So, the point of this rant is, next time you don’t think you have anything to learn from craft workshops, think again.

I suspect you do.

BTW – isn’t that little girl up there absolutely adorable? :-D

Guest Author Interview: Jenny Gardiner by Susan Lute

It’s Valentine’s Day and what better day to welcome our guest author, Jenny Gardiner. Fun facts about Jenny from her website: She loves accents and drive her kids nuts by repeating sentences spoken in foreign-accented English that she hears while listening to the BBC and NPR. She loves to cook, and brake for farmer’s markets. She’s a huge advocate of the Buy Local movement. She has nearly 4,000 songs on her iPod. If given the choice to wash muddy dogs that have rolled in the muck, or clean her house, She’d choose the dog-washing (me too, Jenny).

You can find Jenny at her website, on Twitter, and Facebook. Please help me give a warm SJP welcome to Jenny Gardiner.

Hi Jenny! Tell us about your publishing journey.

My first novel, SLEEPING WITH WARD CLEAVER, won Dorchester Publishing/Romantic Times’ American Title III several years ago. As a contestant in ATIII I really cut my teeth as a marketer and publicist–ultimately that’s what that contest was (as much as I love that novel, it wasn’t about book content! It was about getting enough votes to win). That novel did well and was a Barnes and Noble bestseller its first week out, and went into a second printing in the second week. Ultimately it ended up being a victim of all of the problems at Dorchester, sadly, but at least I was able to get my rights back and publish it myself to Kindle etc and recoup some lost money from the Dorchester years.

My second book was a memoir, WINGING IT: A MEMOIR OF CARING FOR A VENGEFUL PARROT WHO’S DETERMINED TO KILL ME (think Marley & Me, with a deadly beak), published by Simon & Schuster. Loved the collaboration with my editor on that and was very sad (and frustrated) to be orphaned a few months before the book came out. Losing your editor before a book comes out means you don’t really have a “point man” inside the house to usher that book along as best as possible. So the book definitely didn’t have the mojo it could’ve had had she remained there. Oh well!

My next book, SLIM TO NONE, got shopped when the economy fell off the face of the earth. Despite being very well-received with editors who read it, nobody was buying anything. We found one imprint interested in acquiring it, but then they got flipped from commercial women’s fiction to literary fiction, which ruled out buying my novel. So I had a novel I loved that was lying fallow in my laptop when my agent mentioned to me that the principal of our agency was launching a digital imprint. She asked if I wanted to consider putting it up with the launch. I wrestled with it because while I’d gotten a Kindle for my birthday that previous December and LOVED it (this was when the Kindle was pretty new), I knew it was going to be early days in digital publishing, and I knew it would be hard to reach my readers, since few people owned digital readers at that point. But I knew it was such a fabulous and revolutionary product, it was only a matter of time till the price came down, so when Apple announced their upcoming new product, the iPad, I knew I’d made the right decision. At the time my hardback was coming out with S&S and I was swamped trying to do what I had to for that launch, plus with so many things going on with my kids, I knew i didn’t have the time to learn the HTML that was required to do it myself, which is why I did it with Diversion.

In the meantime, my agent had shopped another novel of mine but the publishing industry was only getting worse, so that became a real practice in futility. It took a long time until sales picked up digitally, however. There was a lot to learn about pricing, etc–the early days people were shelling out $350 for a Kindle but wanted their content for free (don’t get me started on that one). It wasn’t until pricing fell to that now-universally-accepted range, with $2.99 being most logical, that things started to really cook. Along the way, the whole Dorchester debacle unfolded, which was super frustrating. So glad I was able to get my book back, as that was the 1st book I put up myself digitally.

I eventually ended up putting up several more books myself digitally because with that one I realized that I like having control over my career and I don’t like having to have any gatekeepers if I can help it. The simplicity with which the system is currently designed finally affords authors the chance to take charge of their careers, and I really relish that. Publishing with a digital imprint can be a good thing because they can have access to Amazon promotion that is generally not available to indie authors, so doing it this way does have its place. And for that person who really doesn’t want to deal with all the dirty details of doing it yourself, it’s a nice option. But I have learned that for me, I really want to know what’s going on and want to be able to do what I want with the book when I want.

What’s the funniest thing to happen to you along your road to publication and what was the most exciting?

I guess funniest was my first ever book signing, when a very strange looking man who looked eerily like Charles Manson showed up at the store with a watermelon tucked beneath his arm. He made eye contact with me as I tried to avert my gaze and he wandered away, but I knew he’d be back. Sure enough he showed up later and didn’t say a word to me but first picked up my book (SLEEPING WITH WARD CLEAVER is not exactly targeted at deranged-looking vagrants toting watermelons!) and pretended to peruse it, then he looked at me, looked at my bowl of freebie Hershey’s Kisses, looked at me, then proceeded to take one of my business cards and started to sketch out what appeared to be two breasts. I was a little creeped out, until I realized he was actually drawing some Keith Haring-like stick figure. When he finished it, he scribbled a signature on it (I could barely look at him as his saliva glistened in his greasy beard), handed it to me, and gazed down at my chocolates. Of course I offered up the bowl, he grabbed a handful, and off he went, watermelon tucked beneath his armpit.

And the most exciting was DEFINITELY when SLIM TO NONE hit the #1 Bestseller on Kindle ;-) . Next was a happy surprise when after a free promotion of ANYWHERE BUT HERE that it hit the bestsellers list in the UK!

What has been the most challenging thing related to publishing you’ve had to deal with on your journey?

It’s been hard work. I’m not gonna lie. I have really busted my butt to get where I’ve gotten. It’s been frustrating when those things beyond my control impact me: a house going bankrupt owing me money I”ll never see, for instance. Or losing an editor at a pivotal stage of the publication path. And maybe sometimes it’s been frustrating to watch others reach that pinnacle without having to put in that same degree of hard work. But…I realllllly appreciate where I’ve gotten because of that. I am all the more grateful for every tiny success I’ve had along the way. I understand to savor it.

Who are your favorite authors, and what are you currently reading?

I LOVE Allison Pearson. Love her voice. Really adored In Zanesville by JoAnn Beard. Best book I’ve read in ages: Amor Towles’ Rules of Civility. Just beautifully told/written story.

I tend to enjoy humorous novels, I love a strong voice, I really enjoy 1st person POV too.

What’s coming up next for you?

I’ll be publishing a collection of essays hopefully in the next week or so, titled NAKED MAN ON MAIN STREET. And I’m putting together an ebook about indie publishing and my perspective on it. I also have a bunch of books in various states of completion that I want to get out and get published as soon as possible!

You can find Jenny’s books at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Love Is In The Air by Susan Lute

In two days it will be Valentine’s Day. Before I go out to buy chocolate for the Mr., I thought it would be fun to go on a road trip. It’s nippy out there, so bundle up and bring your coffee.

Our first stop is History.com and the Origins of Valentine’s Day: A Pagan Festival in February. While some believe that Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine’s death or burial–which probably occurred around A.D. 270–others claim that the Christian church may have decided to place St. Valentine’s feast day in the middle of February in an effort to “Christianize” the pagan celebration of Lupercalia. Celebrated at the ides of February, or February 15, Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.

To begin the festival, members of the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, would gather at a sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf or lupa. The priests would sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification. They would then strip the goat’s hide into strips, dip them into sacrificial blood and take to the streets, gently slapping both women and crop fields with the goat hide. Far from being fearful, Roman women welcomed the touch of the hides because it was believed to make them more fertile in the coming year. Later in the day, according to legend, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The city’s bachelors would each choose a name and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage.

How would you like to be one of those gals. Can you imagine being slapped with a blood soaked strip of goat’s hide and NOT getting pregnant that year? Next stop Wikipedia.

Valentine’s Day is a holiday observed on February 14 honoring one or more early Christian martyrs named Saint Valentine. It is traditionally a day on which lovers express their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as “valentines”). The day first became associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished. It was first established by Pope Gelasius in 496 AD, and was later deleted from the General Roman Calendar of saints in 1969 by Pope Paul VI.

Of course then we have to take the gravel road to courtly love, a medieval European conception of nobly and chivalrously expressing love and admiration. Generally, courtly love was secret and between members of the nobility. It was also generally not practiced between husband and wife. Interesting! Courtly love began in the ducal and princely courts of Aquitaine, Provence, Champagne and ducal Burgundy, at the end of the eleventh century. In essence, courtly love was an experience between erotic desire and spiritual attainment that now seems contradictory. The term “courtly love” was first popularized by Gaston Paris in 1883, and has since come under a wide variety of definitions and uses, even being dismissed as nineteenth-century romantic fiction.

This is where romance writers come in. We are romancers, writers of romantic fiction. We romance our readers with stories about love, courtly or not, with happy-ever-after endings. So I’d like to wish you a Happy Valentine’s Day from the Janes at See Jane Publish. What traditions do you have for celebrating this very special day?

Ya Got Trouble…. by Nancy Brophy

I watched a portion of The Music Man on television last night and had to turn it off. Not because it was a dated relationship between men and women. Professor Harold Hill states openly he prefers women with a touch of sin because there was less chance of his being dragged to the Altar. Centuries of men have felt the same way.

I snarl, I hiss, how can ignorance be compared to bliss?


I spark, I fizz, for the lady who knows what time it is


I cheer, I rave, for the virtue I’m too late to save


The sadder but wiser girl for me

And I’m willing to believe that maybe the show hit me wrong, coming on the end of a week of controversy now being called Komen-gate.

For those of you who live under a rock, Susan G. Komen Foundation cut off breast screening funds to Planned Parenthood in a “non-political” move because Planned Parenthood was under investigation by Congress, largely based on abortion issues. Despite Sen. Jon Kyl accusing PPA of spending 90% of its services on abortion when the real figure is 3%, facts aren’t important.

Now I know all you folks are the right kind of parents


I’m gonna be perfectly frank


Would you like to know what kind of conversation goes on


while they’re loafin’ around that hall


They’ll be tryin’ out Bevo,

tryin’ out Cubebs,


tryin’ out tailor-mades like cigarette fiends


And braggin’ all about how they’re gonna cover up


a tell-tale breath with Sen-Sen


Now one fine night they leave the pool

headin’ for the dance at the Armory


Libertine men and scarlet women and ragtime


Shameless music that’ll grab your son, your daughter


into the arms of a jungle animal instinct- massteria!


Friends, the idle brain is the devil’s playground, trouble!

Here’s what I know about abortion. There is no winning this debate. People either believe that birth begins at conception or they take the stance it’s not your right to legislate my body. No one is standing in the middle offering a compromise because there is no middle ground.

Regardless of which side you supported on Komen-gate it was a fascinating process to watch. Many people hadn’t realized that breast cancer and women’s health could be politicized. Considering that in December Congress’s approval rating was 11%, the lowest since Gallup began keeping polls, this news did not sit well with the public. And the fact there appears to be a question of whether or not Nancy Brinker lied to the public when she said Karen Handel was not involved and then Karen Handel refuted her statement by taking full responsibility in her own blog.

And I probably need to say at this point that the first job I ever had when I got out of college was working for Planned Parenthood in…. (If you’re following this, the answer will come as no surprise) Gary, Indiana.

Gary, Indiana, Gary, Indiana,


Not Louisiana, Paris, France, New York or Rome,

But Gary, Indiana, Gary, Indiana, Gary, Indiana,

My home sweet home.

As though the Republicans weren’t having enough trouble, Mitt Romney endorsed the Komen decision on exactly the wrong day. So if we close our eyes to the fact that Romney asked for Planned Parenthood’s endorsement in 2002, he’s totally Pro-life. It is difficult to believe that his stance as front-runner is slipping.

But like all musicals, there is a happy ending. Komen and Planned Parenthood did kiss and make up. However, I suspect only Planned Parenthood with it’s $3 million in new donations will be singing:

There was love all around,


But I never heard it singing.


No, I never heard it at all,


Till there was you.

 

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