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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Rave Reads from 2009

by Raelene Gorlinsky

December was full of "best books of the year" lists from everyone and everywhere. So we waited a bit to discuss ours.

Did you have a fiction read or two in 2009 that absolutely blew you away? (A book you first read in 2009, regardless of when it was published.) That you rushed around to recommend to everyone you knew? Not the book that you were "supposed" to love, or that was necessarily a mega-seller, or that all the snooty people said you absolutely had to read and appreciate or you were a Neanderthal. No, honestly, what was your favorite fun and fascinating novel (especially genre fiction) of the year? And of course, why did it hit you like that, why do you think we'd all love it too?

I'll start off with mine. I did indeed rave about these two stories to everyone I talked "books" with. And I loved them both for the same reasons. Oh, and since both were the first in planned series, I am enthusiastically and impatiently awaiting the next books!

Soulless by Gail Carringer: Paranormal steampunk romance. The author's website has an excellent description: "comedies of manners set in Victorian London: full of vampires, dirigibles, and tea. They are either Jane Austen doing urban fantasy, or PG Wodehouse doing steampunk."

The paranormals in this world are vampires, werewolves and ghosts. Humans are now aware they exist, and they are tolerated, at least in England.

Angel's Blood by Nalini Singh: Urban fantasy romance. And she had two novellas out as part of this series, so I scarfed those up too! From her website: "lethal, beautiful archangels hold sway over immortals and mortals both, with the Guild Hunters caught in between, tasked with retrieving those vampires who break contracts with their angelic masters."

These angels are not the religious kind -- they are almost-immortal winged beings with strange powers, control over humans, and the ability to create vampires. They are often cruel, power-hungry, greedy, uncaring of humanity; their motives not something we can comprehend.

So why did I love these two books? Unique and complex worldbuilding. Both series are based on concepts I've not run into before, and I am in awe of the authors for dreaming these worlds up. And most especially for having such detailed, consistent, and believable worlds. I don't want to spoil it if you plan to read these, so I won't go into details. But I just start stuttering in amazement whenever I reread these books -- which I've done several times. And I'll be first in line to read the next ones in both series. Oh, Gail or Nalini, if you need a beta reader in future...

So...now you tell us your 2009 raves.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Authors Advising Authors #11 - Mari Carr

Writing a book was number one on Mari Carr’s bucket list and on her thirty-fourth birthday, she set out to see that goal achieved. Now her computer is jammed full of stories—novels, novellas, short stories and dead-end—and many of her books have been published. Mari finds time for writing by squeezing it into the hours between 3 a.m. and daybreak, when her family is asleep and the house is quiet. Join her Yahoo! group to get in on the fun with other readers as well as Mari Carr!

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Heat_Wave_Readers/join

Email: carmichm1@yahoo.com

Website: maricarr.com

Twitter: @MariCarr

How many books did you write, and how long were you writing, before your first acceptance?

I started writing six years ago. It took me two years to finish my first fiasco of a novel and then another year to write the second. Around that time, I discovered erotic romance and was bitten by the bug. After reading everything Ellora’s Cave had ever published, I ran out of reading material and decided to write my own spicy story. I wrote my first erotic book and it was accepted surprisingly fast.

What was the most surprising thing you learned after becoming published?

That I had no clue how to write! Seriously. If there was anything I could’ve done wrong, I did it. I don’t know how I sold that first book as it was one huge mess—head-hopping, misuse of dialogue tags, overuse of adverbs, no use of pronouns! Jeez! And what did I learn? That editors are gods and I couldn’t live without mine.

Got any advice or an enlightening story about dealing with revisions or working with editors?

My only advice would be to listen to your editor. Books are like children. We all think ours are perfect! Editors are our mothers who don’t have a problem pointing out the kid’s a brat. Always listen to your editor…and your mother!

What’s your favorite promo tip?

I think writers can knock themselves out trying to promote books, wasting a lot of time and money, when the best way to sell a book is to write another one. Every time I have a new release, sales on my backlist go up. That doesn’t happen at any other time, regardless of my promotions.

Did you have an agent when you sold your first story? Do you have one now?

I don’t have an agent and I never have. One of the reasons I love writing ebooks is I feel much more personally connected to the folks behind the scenes who run Ellora’s Cave.

Do you feel there’s a stigma attached to writing erotica/Romantica™?

Unfortunately, I do. I’m a high school teacher and I have to guard my pen name closely because I’m afraid of how the school district would react to my stories. I live in a very conservative town.
How do you handle writer’s block, or do you believe there’s no such thing?

Oh, I do think there is such a thing as writer’s block. I walk away from the story for a little while. Turn off the computer. The longest I’ve ever struggled with writer’s block has been a month. It felt like a long month to me, but one day I woke up ready to write. The stories flowed better than ever before. I think writer’s block is simply our mind’s way of saying, you need a break. Take it.

What lengths have you gone to in the name of research? What wouldn’t you do?

Ooh, is this a sex question? I’m torn between brazenly saying there’s nothing I wouldn’t do “in the name of research” and pleading the fifth! Um…yeah, sorry. I think some things are best left clouded in mystery!

What’s the most important piece of advice you have for aspiring (not yet published) authors?

Oh wow, I wish I had something profound to say, but basically it’s the same thing everyone always says. Find your voice and write. The more you write, the better you’ll get. I have literally hundreds of pages of garbage on my computer from disastrous attempts at writing a book. With each failure, I learned and I moved on. Don’t give up.

Would you offer any word of warning for aspiring or new authors about the writing profession or the publishing industry?

I don’t know if this is a warning or not, but I think you simply need to decide where you want to go with your writing and then chart your course. I have a day job, but writing is my first love. For me, ebooks are a perfect fit because they allow me to share my stories with others while still maintaining my other career.

Anything you want to share with readers about yourself, or previous, current or upcoming EC releases?

My current and upcoming releases with EC center around two different series I’m working on. I’m part of the Cougar Challenge series with six other amazing authors and my book, Assume the Positions, is now available [released November 27].

The second series is one that has come to mean so much to me. It’s called Wild Irish and it revolves around the loves and lives of seven brothers and sisters who work together in the family pub. Come Monday, book one, and Ruby Tuesday, book two, are available now.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Your Writing Space?

by Raelene Gorlinsky

Some writers say they can write anywhere, they just lug their laptop wherever they go. Some love to work at their local coffee shop, they like the energy and people and stimulation (and caffeine stimulant). Others need quiet and no distractions, a private spot.

So where do you write and what type of environment do you need to do your best plotting and wordsmithing? Are there things you like to have around you to inspire you or put you in the mood? What does your writing retreat look like? I have little touches of loveliness and whimsy in my home office, they make me happy while I work. For example, my pens are not in a drawer, they are in a pretty gold-rimmed flowers-and-butterflies mug. I love bookmarks, and that mug also currently holds my new silver and crystal bookmark. Do you have special items sitting on your desk too? Are there things about the "writing environment" you would recommend to other authors?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Simply Divine

Here's a truly unique promo opportunity for an author—get yourself on national (and international) TV by having a famous interior designer create a "writer's retreat" in your home!

From author Teresa Roblin (http://www.teresa-roblin.com/), who has two humorous paranormal romances at our Cerridwen Press imprint:

Okay ladies and gentlemen, picture this. It’s a clear summer day on a quiet cul-de-sac in the suburbs. Everyone has left for work and the buses have picked up the kids for school. My doorbell rings. I open it and see that my street is filled with nondescript vans. (Just like in a spy thriller.) My heart starts pounding. Drapes move in my neighbours’ windows, women stand in their open doorways, their necks craning to see what’s going on. Housewives gather on their lawns, sipping coffee and excitedly chattering. Everyone is grinning and anxiously waiting for their first glimpse of, none other than—Candice Olsen of Divine Design.

This past year I was truly blessed and privileged to meet Candice and her amazing team, and doubly fortunate that she turned my front/dining room into a romance writer’s retreat. The first question people asked me about the experience, “How was it?”

Where to begin…

High energy? I wondered if they had a battery hidden somewhere. Brainstorming? They were brilliant. I felt like a ping-pong ball as I listened to producers, directors, coordinators, lighting crew, sound crew bounce ideas off each other. Talented? They were awe inspiring. Charming? Absolutely adorable. They made me feel comfortable in an otherwise unfamiliar situation.

And beautiful? Hell, Candice and the Divine Design team were something else. I was blessed to meet a group of people who do what they love. And it showed.

In between takes I got to observe the cast and crew in action and daydream. Is Candice tall and slim? I kept picturing her as a regal vampire queen. Chico? He’d make a fine werewolf. I’m average height (so I wore the highest shoes that wouldn’t kill my feet), I’m huggable (I’m sticking to that description). When it was my turn to step into the shot I asked Candice if she ever wore sandals and asked the cameraman if he would shoot me from my boobs up.

I’m a busy wife and mother who lives in an all-male household. The room I wrote in was cold, drafty and uninspiring. So every chance I got I escaped to my local coffee shop to write. I wanted a space where I could write, meet with fellow writers to brainstorm, to celebrate victories (with champagne) and commiserate over rejection letters (with chocolates).

Candice and the Divine Team were able to deliver just that. She took an empty, cold living/dining room and transformed it into a stylish and romantic writer’s retreat.

She hung soft, gauzy sheers over the Palladian windows. She infused the room with color by using a silvery-gold patterned wallpaper that changes from silvery to bronze depending on the time of day and how the sun strikes it. Amazing to watch!

My desk blends the best of function and fantasy. With its bookshelves, that hold ‘my keepers’, and the beautiful dark wood surface, I have the best of both worlds. I look up and am surrounded by the finest of the romance industry and I can create my own masterpieces.

Candice worked in an L-shaped seating area in front of a gorgeous gas fireplace. She hung large picture frames for my inspirational wall. I’ve already placed the covers of Hocus Pocus and Now You See It… in said frames. I now have a warm and cozy corner to read in, to chat with fellow romance writers, and somewhere to daydream (I mean plot).

Candice set up my dining room with a lovely wooden table where I can gather with fellow romance writers to discuss the business of writing, and for my very loud, lovable family to gather.

Everywhere you look, from the rugs to the chandeliers, from the mirrored hutch that reflects all the wonderful romantic details—this room is a perfect blend of fantasy and reality.

The wonderful people at Divine Design also graciously captured the front cover of my first book, Hocus Pocus, in one of the shots (don’t blink) and Candice reads from Now You See It… (it’s hilarious to watch).

You can catch the transformation of my romance writer’s retreat on Divine Design:
HGTV
Saturday, Jan. 23 at 8:00 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 24 at 3:00 a.m.
Saturday, Feb.13 at 4:00 p.m.
WNET
Monday, Feb. 22 at 1:00 p.m.