Tuesday, December 22, 2009

And the Winners Are -- Holiday Title Contest

Thank you to everyone who participated!

Title we love but could never use:
Penny for "Santa's Erotic Adventures...One Elf's Untold Story

Best Double Entendre:
Cari Quinn for "She Came Upon A Midnight Clear"

Would make a great real title for an anthology:
Ms. Snarky Pants for "Tales From the Naughty List"

We wish we could fit it on a cover:
Sharon for "Five golden rings, four call girls, three French maids, two satin gloves, and a big ridge in a pair of jeans"

Because we love 'em all:
Bill Greer for his 'body of work': Astroglide for the Yuletide; Elves and Eggnog: The Untold Story; Jane Finds Her Clitoris Under the Christmas Tree

Winners, email Martha@ellorascave.com to let her know what EC or CP ebook you would like (and the format you need).

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Reminder: Hot Holiday Contest

The deadline for the "most intriguing, sexiest, wildest title for an erotic holiday story" is Monday, Dec. 21. Post your entries in the Comments of the contest post:

Authors Advising Authors #10 - Carol Lynne

I've been a reading fanatic for years and finally at the age of 40 decided to try my hand at writing. I've always loved romance novels that are just a little bit naughty, so naturally my books tend to go just a little further. It's my fantasy world, after all.

When I'm not being a mother to a five-year-old and a six-year-old, you can usually find me in my deep leather chair with either a book in my hand or my laptop.

Email: carol@carol-lynne.net
Website: http://www.carol-lynne.net/

How many books did you write, and how long were you writing, before your first acceptance?
I was one of the lucky ones to have my first book accepted. I wrote Branded by Gold in June and submitted it to Ellora’s Cave in July.

What is the most important piece of advice you would give an aspiring (not yet published) author?

In my opinion, too many aspiring authors suffer from lack of confidence. I believe strongly in not going over and over a manuscript once it’s finished. I’m not talking about not checking your work, I’m simply saying, there was a reason you wrote the story the way you did. Second guessing yourself is counterproductive, in my opinion. You can go back and revise until the end of time, but you’re not enhancing the original story you wanted to tell, you’re merely changing it to what you think others want from you. Be true to yourself and your original story.

Is there a “warning” you would give an aspiring or new author about the writing profession or the publishing industry, something to watch out for?

Never allow a reader, a reviewer or another author to change the way you view yourself or your story. Not every book will appeal to every reader. As long as you know you’ve put your heart into the story, stand proud.

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

That people actually wanted to read the stories that fill my head on a daily basis. I was in a place in my life where I felt like nothing but a mother and housekeeper. Through writing, I once again discovered Carol. That’s by far the biggest surprise that came out of becoming published. Suddenly, people cared about what I wrote. I had a voice. I had a dream of making a better life for me and my children, and I made it come true.

What is your best advice or enlightening story about dealing with revisions and working with editors?
I’m a firm believer that you should drop everything and do your edits when you get them. If you were at a regular day job and your boss told you to fix a mistake you’ve made, you sure wouldn’t put it off for several days. Buck up, knuckle down and dig in. The sooner you get the edits finished, the quicker you can go on to the rest of your work.

What is your favorite promo tip?
Answer your emails! I can’t stress this enough. As a reader, I can’t tell you how many authors I email that don’t email me back. When you do email back, try and engage the reader in a short conversation with several emails back and forth. It not only gives you a chance to get to know your readers, but they’ll remember you and not just your book. Branding your name is a lot more important than spending all your time, money, and energy branding a single book.

Did you have an agent when you sold your first story? Do you have one now? At what types of houses are you published: e-publisher, small print press, traditional (NY) publisher, Harlequin/Silhouette category lines?

I’ve never considered trying to get an agent. I actually love writing ebooks. NY doesn’t hold the same appeal for me as it does other authors.
I’ve been extremely fortunate in my writing career. From the beginning, I’ve been lucky enough to make a living from my stories. Although my hours are long and my days off almost non-existent, I’m home with my girls doing what I love. I tend to focus my energy on series books and currently have over sixty-five stories released. It seems for every story I write, I think up two more I’ll probably never have the time to pen. It’s my life, and I absolutely love it.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Authors Advising Authors #9 - Katie Allen

Katie Allen grew up in the Midwest with a horde of sisters (five) and one beleaguered brother. After an enjoyable four years working on her creative writing/art degree, and two not-so-pleasant years struggling toward her MBA, Katie somehow ended up as a mechanical engineer in Denver, Colorado. When her job disappeared during the recession, it was the kick in the rear she needed to head back to Minnesota and jump into writing full-time.

When she’s not writing (many books are necessary to pay for her unfortunate equine addiction), Katie rides horses, reads (of course), does gymnastics and looks for new (and occasionally insane) ways to research her books (cop school, anyone?).

Email: katie@ktallen.com

Website: http://www.ktallen.com/

Twitter: @KatieAllenBooks

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

I was writing seriously for about a year and wrote two books (including my first published book, Seeing Blind) before I was accepted.

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

That my pre-published insecurity never went away. I’m working on my seventh book, and I still drive my editor nuts with my various writing-induced neuroses (sorry, about that, Kelli!). In all other facets of my life, I’m a fairly stable, easy-going person, but where my writing is concerned…sigh.

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

I don’t know if it’s enlightening, but I have a story! After my first book was published and I was working on revisions to my second, I was assigned to a new editor. I was shocked at how traumatizing losing an editor was for me. I absolutely adore my current editor, and she did her best to make the transition easier on me, but I was a mess for a while. The moral of this story is that Kelli can never leave me. ;-)

What’s your favorite promo tip?

Tell everyone you meet about your books. The best promo is word-of-mouth, so do your best to get things started. I gave a signed paperback copy of Seeing Blind to the cop who responded when my house was burglarized the other day. She was thrilled.

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

Nope (to both questions).

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

With some people, sure. I don’t care, though—I tell everyone I meet what I write. I’ve had a couple of shocked reactions, but overall, people think it’s great.

How do you handle writer’s block, or do you believe there’s no such thing?

I’ve never really experienced it, but I can’t say for sure that it doesn’t exist (I’m a writer’s block agnostic). For me, I need to be on a schedule. Some days I have to drag the words, one by one, out of my sullen brain and can barely hit a thousand words. On other days, my fingers can’t keep up with the flow of words and my total count is closer to four thousand. Either way, the important thing is that I block out time to write. If I waited to be fondled by my muse before starting, I’d never get anything written.

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

I’m going to cop school! Okay, you were probably referring to the sex research, but I’m excited about my upcoming law enforcement classes, so I had to mention them. I absolutely hate getting details wrong, so I’m a research fiend.

Hmm…what wouldn’t I do? I think I’d have to say “No, thank you” to most hands-on (whips-on?) BDSM research. (Actually, that probably should be “No, thank you, Sir.”) I just don’t really care for pain, and I’m a little claustrophobic, so the bondage thing isn’t for me. I can’t get facials because the esthetician has to get too close to my face. It freaks me out.

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

Quit editing in place and finish the manuscript. It’s so much easier to edit a completed first draft than it is to rewrite the first part over and over (I still have to remind myself of this when I’m a few chapters into a new book).

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

Don’t quit your day job—at least not right away. It takes a while to earn enough money from the books, and heat and food are good things to have.

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

Sure! Chasing Her Tail was recently released by EC. It’s a were-dog ménage with plenty of humor, action and wagging tails (oh yes, and lots of hot sex!). I’m currently working on a series featuring five men who’ve escaped from a lab, where they were subjects of an experiment intended to create the perfect soldier. You can check out all of my books on my Katie Allen author page on the EC website.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Authors Advising Authors #8 - Debra Glass

Growing up in the south where the air is thick with stories steeped in legend and truth, Debra came by her love of romance novels honestly. Well...sort of. At an early age, she pilfered from her grandmother's extensive library and has been a fan of the genre since.

A full time freelance writer, Debra especially enjoys combining history, mystery, and a touch of taboo to weave stories with unforgettable, haunted heroes. She lives in Alabama with her sexy real-life hero, a couple of smart-aleck ghosts, and a diabolical black cat.

Email: debralglass@gmail.com

Website: http://www.debraglass.webs.com/

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

I wrote countless books before my first acceptance. I started writing when I was eight (my first book was about a seahorse named Dinah Shore) and I sold the year I turned forty. I got serious about writing for publication in the 1990s and joined Romance Writers of America. The knowledge and support I gained from my local chapter was invaluable in learning the ins and outs of the romance genre. I realized there was so much more to writing than simply putting words on a page. There were submission guidelines, learning the lines at the different houses, learning what was taboo and what was allowed, and above all, learning patience.

What is the most important piece of advice you would give an aspiring (not yet published) author?

My advice to someone just starting out would be to join the local Romance Writers of America chapter and begin attending conferences and workshops. Even if your genre is not romance, RWA members can teach you much more than the basics of submitting for publication. They offer programs on everything from craft to workshops given by field experts and editors. The best advice as a writer, however, came from my real-life hero and husband, who told me, “If you want writing to be your job, then treat writing like a job.” That’s when the proverbial light bulb illuminated.

Is there a “warning” you would give an aspiring or new author about the writing profession or the publishing industry, something to watch out for?

Hooking up with a critique partner can be a wonderful thing but always remember that you are the author of your story. Take the advice of others with a grain of salt and listen to your inner voice.

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

The most surprising thing I learned after getting published was just how difficult and time-consuming promoting my books is. It is easy to get sucked into Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and maintaining a website and blog. If you are not disciplined, promo can eat up your writing time. Networking with other authors is the best way to learn what the most advantageous promotional tools are.

What is your best advice or enlightening story about dealing with revisions and working with editors?

I feel I am often too close to my story to see it objectively. I always welcome the editor’s input on how I can make the story or my writing better. After all, editors are editors for a reason. They are professionals who study and know what readers like and what they’re buying.

What is your favorite promo tip?

Visit and comment on other authors’ blogs and websites. Not only will you make new author friends, you’re getting your name out there. The brand to sell is your name followed closely by fantastic, tight writing.

Did you have an agent when you sold your first story? Do you have one now? At what types of houses are you published: e-publisher, small print press, traditional (NY) publisher, Harlequin/Silhouette category lines?

I do not have an agent but am working in conjunction with another author and her agent on a non-fiction project. I would like to write young adult fiction and feel I might need an agent for that. Currently, I write for Ellora’s Cave and do not feel the need for an agent.

I write mainly in two romance genres. Paranormals were my first love and my initial books with Ellora’s Cave were my three Phantom Lovers novels. I enjoy basing my paranormal heroes on actual historical figures and although my paranormals are contemporaries, if you like historical romances, you’ll find my Phantom Lovers deliciously haunting. Vying for my favorite genre is historical, light BDSM. I relish writing Regency romance but since I’m a Civil War historian, I especially enjoy writing steamy stories in that time period.

My latest release with Ellora’s Cave is Lucid, an Exotica which features mad, bad, and dangerous-to-know Lord Byron as a ghostly hero. For more information about what I’m writing, check out my website at debraglass.webs.com.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Hot Holiday Contest

by Raelene Gorlinsky

Yes, indeed, definitely time for some holiday cheer in the form of a contest or two! Create your most intriguing, sexiest, wildest title for an erotic holiday story! Could be any of the end-of-year holidays--Christmas, Winter Solstice, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year, whatever. But make the title something that would cause a reader to sit up and take notice, that will melt that winter snow and heat the cider!

Post your entries in Comments. Deadline Dec. 21.

Give us some great titles, we'll give you some great ebooks.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Future of Print Runs

by Raelene Gorlinsky

Oh, please go read this.

Print on Demand Publishing - The Underdog with a Big Bark
by Doralynn Kennedy

What a nice way to start a dreary and cold week - an informative, sensible article about an aspect of the publishing industry. (And that mentions Ellora's Cave in a positive way.)

The days of huge print runs, and then books going out of print when the copies are gone, are changing fast. I think that model will soon be gone completely for any but the top of the list. It makes so much more sense to do a smaller initial run to fill existing orders, then print more as needed for additional orders. Far more cost effective! Paper is expensive, and so is warehouse space. And don't we all cringe about the discarded copies from too many printed? What a waste of resources. And authors would love it if the Print on Demand/Print to Order distribution model kept their books available basically forever.

Many smaller presses, like Ellora's Cave, do PTO. Lightning Source/Ingrams has long filled orders that way. I know of two of the big traditional publishers who now have a press line in their warehouse to immediately fill small orders. Yes, most of the big publishers, and most of the writer organizations, are still strongly biased against POD, but the comet has struck and these dinosaurs will need to evolve or risk dying out.

This is the sane and sensible way to produce print books. Or, of course, everyone could convert to the even more efficient and cost-effective digital books. ;-)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Authors Advising Authors #7 - Anne Calhoun

After doing time at Fortune 500 companies on both coasts, I found myself living in the suburbs of a small Midwestern city. The glamour of various cube farm jobs had worn off, so I gave up making a decent living to take Joseph Campbell’s advice and follow my bliss: writing romance.

Email: Anne.m.Calhoun@gmail.com
Website: http://www.annecalhoun.com/

How many books did you write, and how long were you writing, before your first acceptance?
I wrote 3 books over about 18 months before hitting my stride and writing Liberating Lacey. That sold 2 years after I started writing.

What is the most important piece of advice you would give an aspiring (not yet published) author?
Write. You don't have to write every day, but I highly recommend writing 4-5 days a week. Not long ago someone asked me if I wrote when inspiration struck.
"Do you only go to work when you feel motivated to work?" I asked.
"Of course not!" he said.
"Me either!" I said.

Now, he worked for my husband (who was present) so this may have been obligatory, but it made my point. Frankly, most days I feel I have a better chance of being struck by lightning than by inspiration.

If you want to write and be published, you have to work at it. Craft, promotion, voice, story structure, finding a process that works for you...all of these things take time, and trial and error. If you're not writing a majority of days in the week, whether you feel like it or not, then publication will be difficult to achieve.

And while a career as a writer will involve all kinds of fun-with-sharp-objects stuff like contracts and promotion and figuring out your process (plotter or pantser? storyboard or writing software?), by "work 5 days a week" I mean "put words on the page 5 days a week". The rest of it is all extracurricular, that is, important but not the stellar grades that get you into college. I set a daily page goal of 5 pages, and work in the rest of the job after that's done.

Is there a “warning” you would give an aspiring or new author about the writing profession or the publishing industry, something to watch out for?
Watch out for fitting your story ideas or voice to whatever is popular at the moment.
Write what comes to you naturally, what fascinates you, what you love. Knowing your inclinations plays to your strengths and, in the early stages of your career, keeps you focused on writing, not on learning all about a world/market/craze you didn't care enough to read, so why would you write?

Also, watch what you put into the compost heap that is your story-generating brain.

Yes, you need to be familiar with your sub-genre and the current trends, but it's vital to read outside the genre as well. Find authors who blow you away, writers who, when you finish the book, make you think, "I want to read that again and FIGURE OUT HOW SHE DID IT." You'll learn from writers who make you think, "I can do that." You'll be energized and inspired by writers who make you think, "I can't do that...yet."

What was the most surprising thing you learned after you became published?
How much I had yet to learn. I feel like I'm just beginning to really hone my craft. Some days that's terribly depressing. I try not to dwell on it. I also self-medicate with chocolate.

What is your best advice or enlightening story about dealing with revisions and working with editors?
It's impossible to overestimate how busy editors are. Be kind to them. By and large they are overworked, underpaid, and in this for the love of the written word, much as you are. Also, an editor is supposed to read your work with a critical eye. That's her JOB. Submit your book knowing you've done the best you can in writing it (very important!) but that other people (editors and your critique partners) have a crucial distance that allows them to suggest ways to improve it. I have yet to undertake a round of revisions that didn't teach me something about craft or my own process. That's not to say I haven't stood firm on a suggestion or revised then gone back to the original version--I have--but for the most part, revising is where I learn the most.

My best advice for dealing with revisions and working with editors: get a very, very thick skin if you're serious about writing as a career, and above all, be professional. Aim to be remembered for your exceptionally polished behavior. One editor rejected my work in such scathing terms I was left sobbing like a bleating sheep (imagine the gasping hunnnnnnh, hunnnnnnnh noise small children make when they're in complete meltdown mode). The next day I sent her a thank you card for taking the time to call me...because she DID take the time to call (and in hindsight, some of her comments were dead on). This goes for email, blogs, posts to groups/loops, chat boards, forums, Twitter, elevator conversations at conferences, etc. If you wouldn't say what you're going to say in front of your dream editor/agent/publisher, don't put it in writing, electronic or otherwise.

When in doubt, hit delete, not send.

What is your favorite promo tip?
Write the best book you can. Spend more time writing than you do promoting. If you write a book that makes it to keeper shelves, you have a built-in sales force of readers.

Did you have an agent when you sold your first story? Do you have one now? At what types of houses are you published: e-publisher, small print press, traditional (NY) publisher, Harlequin/Silhouette category lines?
No agent, pre-pubbed or now. I'm published in electronic format only, with Ellora's Cave and Harlequin.

Anne Calhoun gave up business suits and cube farms to write but instead went to graduate school...then stayed home with a baby...then finally got around to doing what she loves most: writing hot romantic stories with unforgettable characters. Her husband thought hot meals would come with this career choice and has been sorely disappointed. Liberating Lacey is her first release with Ellora's Cave.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Authors Advising Authors #6 - Allyson James

Allyson James writes romance, mystery, erotic romance and mainstream fiction under several pseudonyms. She has made the USA Today bestseller list, has won several Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice awards, and won RWA’s RITA award. Her books have earned starred reviews in Booklist and Top Pick reviews in Romantic Times Book Reviews magazine. Allyson loves to write, read, hike, and build dollhouses. She met her soul mate when she was eighteen, traveled the world with him, and settled down with him and two cats in the desert southwest.

Email: allysonjames@cox.net

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

I started writing books about age eight. I started writing seriously for publication in 1999 (won’t say how old I was then). I wrote seven romances and one mystery before my first acceptance. Sold romance ms #7 early in 2002, and mystery ms #1 later that year. Romance mss #1–#6 are best left gathering dust under the bed. I’ve sold about thirty-five or so books and novellas since then.

What was the most surprising thing you learned after becoming published?
1. That you really can make money being a full-time author; and 2. How books become USA Today or NY Times bestsellers (being a good book that readers like is only one part of it).

Got any advice or an enlightening story about dealing with revisions or working with editors?
I’ve been lucky to work with some terrific editors. I’ve had mss with very light revisions (one or two questions) all the way up to rewriting a third of the book.

A rule that’s helped me enormously is one I got from a college English professor. When he returned our papers, we weren’t allowed to contact him about them for 24 hours. He knew that we’d have a knee-jerk reaction to his grade, but after thinking about it for 24 hours, we’d be calm enough to either see what we’d done wrong or argue reasonably. So I employ the 24-hour rule for myself. I read through my editor’s suggestions, then think about it for 24 hours before contacting her with any questions. This has saved me from much embarrassment.

Working with editors is like being married—there’s a lot of give and take. If I’m convinced I’m right about a point, I will argue. Sometimes I win; sometimes the editor makes me understand her POV. I don’t think editors are always right (sorry, Kelli!), but I know I’m not always right either.

What’s your favorite promo tip?
Do what works for you (and what you can afford), and don’t sweat the rest. Keep your expenditure reasonable. Don’t spend $20K promo-ing one ebook that might make only $6K.

Did you have an agent when you sold your first story? Do you have one now?
I did not have an agent when I sold my first romance (Perils of the Heart, to a NY pub). My agent came on board after that and sold my first mystery series and a bunch more romances after that.

Do you feel there’s a stigma attached to writing erotica/Romantica™?
I think there is a stigma, but I can’t be paid to care. I enjoy writing erotic romance, the readers love reading it, and erotic romance readers are the friendliest bunch around. If someone doesn’t approve, tough darts. They can read something else.

How do you handle writer’s block, or do you believe there’s no such thing?
I have experienced writer’s block, which I call Writer’s Attitude or Writer’s Panic. I deal with it by making writing a habit. I can sit down for an hour, lock out all distractions with music on my iPod (no Internet allowed during the hour!), and write. I’ve trained myself over the years to crank out 1500 words an hour without realizing I’m doing it. If they’re terrible words, I’ll fix them later. The main thing is to get it down. If the novel turns out to be a very, very bad idea, I have no trouble throwing the whole thing away and starting again. Even if I’m in Writer’s Panic. Because I know I can crank out the words, because I’ve made it a habit.

What lengths have you gone to in the name of research? What wouldn’t you do?
My research tends to be the dull kind, sitting in libraries reading (well, I don’t think it’s dull, but anyone watching me would). I like to travel to the setting when I can or take up something to get into the mind of the character (I’ve learned how to oil paint, belly dance, and fence [with swords]). I’m a big chicken, so I doubt I’d skydive to write about a skydiver. I think I’d just interview people who’d done it. Nor will I attempt bank robbery to see how that feels. Of course, I’d probably get a lot of writing done after I was caught.

What’s the most importance piece of advice you have for aspiring (not yet published) authors?
Don’t. Give. Up. Ever. You really can get published (at a reputable publisher, for money). You really can have a career and make money. You just have to do it and never, ever, ever—even when it seems it’s frigging impossible—give up. And hone your craft. It does you no good to send in book after book that isn’t your very best work.

Would you offer any word of warning for aspiring or new authors about the writing profession or the publishing industry?
There are scammers everywhere, many with honest faces. Don’t EVER pay an agent or a publisher. They are supposed to pay you. (The money flows toward the author.) It’s terribly tempting, and they’ll spin you all kinds of tales, but the rule of thumb is—if they ask YOU for money, you walk. No negotiation. (If you’re thinking but…but…but… go back and read my first sentence again.)

Anything you want to share with readers about yourself, or previous, current or upcoming EC releases?
My most popular series at EC is the Tales of the Shareem series. The Shareem are big, bad gorgeous guys who were genetically created in a factory to do one thing—give sexual pleasure to women. They come in one of three flavors. Level 1, slow sensuality; Level 2, fun and wicked games; Level 3, the complete Dom.

I’ve done six of these tales—the first one is Rees, about the Shareem that never should have been made, one the researchers feared. The 5th book, Calder, was released in September 2009, and Eland, a short story, will be a free read (Naughty Nooner), released December 14 (2009).

The Shareem have their own page on my website (along with visuals) at http://www.allysonjames.com/ShareemSeries.html

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Royalties First and Second Hand

by Raelene Gorlinsky

The financial picture for e-publishers and authors keeps getting more complex, as the digital market expands and develops. For a long time, ebooks were sold from the e-publisher's site and a few vendor sites such as Fictionwise and All Romance eBooks, to name just two. Then the BIG boys got in the game - Amazon Kindle, Sony Store, Barnes & Noble.

The complexity in this is the income a publisher and author get for sales, depending on where that sale took place. If your ebook is sold direct from the publisher's site, you as author normally get X % of the gross cover or sale price of the book, as defined in your contract. But third-party ebook vendors function just like print bookstores - they take a very large percentage of the cover price of the book. And by large, I mean typically anywhere from 40% to 65%. So that leaves a lot smaller net amount for the publisher to receive and then pay author royalties on.

You quick-minded and business-oriented authors should have immediately made the intuitive leap to understanding that this is the whole reason behind why ebook prices have become so high. In order to get the same money they used to get for direct sales from their own website, e-publishers (especially those with older contracts where royalties are based solely on gross cover price) have had to basically double their book prices to get that same income now that large percentages of their sales are at third-party vendors. But maybe that's a whole other post for another day.

Rather than try to give a bunch of examples of how the money works myself, let me point you at an excellent post on the topic. Author Moira Rogers (who is actually a collaboration of two writers) provides very clear explanations and numbers. Every author and aspiring author needs to understand how their income will work, so please go read this.

Why 3rd Party Royalty Rates Matter

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Authors Advising Authors #5 - Marie Treanor

Marie Treanor was born and brought up in Scotland, but for some years moved around the UK, working and studying. Now she is back home and happily married with three young children. Having grown bored with city life, she lives these days in a picturesque village by the sea where she is lucky enough to enjoy herself avoiding housework and writing stories of romance and fantasy.

Email: marie@marietreanor.com
Website: http://www.marietreanor.com/

How many books did you write, and how long were you writing, before your first acceptance?
I’m happy to say that the first story Marie Treanor wrote was accepted by the first publisher she submitted it to. But that’s slightly misleading! I had been writing seriously for maybe seven or eight years before that, under a different name, and had hawked two historical novels around traditional British publishers without more success than a few encouragingly kind rejections. I then discovered ebooks and sold my novels to an epublisher. Not long afterwards, my third child was born and my writing time severely curtailed. I was also getting into ebook romances and being blown away particularly by the wealth of imagination I found in the genre. So, with time constraints in mind, I tried my hand at a short, paranormal romance as Marie Treanor (instead of a long, research-heavy historical) and was fortunate enough to have it accepted.

What is the most important piece of advice you would give an aspiring (not yet published) author?
I think I'd tell them not to give up. Which doesn’t mean not taking advice, but learning from other writers and readers and from the comments of publishers and editors, and always to keep writing.

Is there a “warning” you would give an aspiring or new author about the writing profession or the publishing industry, something to watch out for?
I would say, research the publishers you’re considering submitting to. Find out if you can how long they’ve been in business and if other writers are happy there. Also, although it’s good to build up a reader base at one publisher, it’s also good to spread your favours, just in case one of your publishers (God forbid!) goes out of business. Despite the bankruptcy clause in most contracts, such an event could tie your books in legal limbo for several months while the courts decide what to do with your rights, and you don’t want to have nothing out there!

What was the most surprising thing you learned after you became published?
That I wasn’t immediately rich. :)

What is your best advice or enlightening story about dealing with revisions and working with editors?
I’ve learned from all the editors I’ve worked with, especially when I’ve grasped how the changes they ask for actually make my writing stronger. I don’t always agree with their suggestions--though more often than not, I do--but it always helps to discuss any points of difference so that we understand each other. After all, we’re both trying to make the book as good as it can be.

What is your favorite promo tip?
I don’t have one--I stink at promo :(

Did you have an agent when you sold your first story? Do you have one now? At what types of houses are you published: e-publisher, small print press, traditional (NY) publisher, Harlequin/Silhouette category lines?
No, I didn’t have an agent when I sold my first story. I do have one now :) And the inspiring part of this story is that he actually contacted me after reading one of my ebooks on Amazon Kindle. I’m currently published with several e-publishers and next year, thanks to the aforementioned agent, I will also be published with a NY house.

Marie Treanor writes steamy paranormal and futuristic romance. She currently has over twenty-five titles published with four different publishers. Her first vampire story for Ellora’s Cave, Hunting Karoly, was released in June 2009. Two sequels, Guitar Man and Freeing Al, will be published in 2010.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Baaad Sex in Books

by Raelene Gorlinsky

Jonathan Littell has won the seventeenth annual Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction Award, for The Kindly Ones.

The award was created in 1993 to draw attention to the "crude, tasteless, and often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in contemporary novels, and to discourage it."

The other finalist books include those by some well-known names:
The Humbling by Philip Roth
The Infinities by John Banville
Rhyming Life and Death by Amos Oz
The Naked name of Love by Sanjida O’Connell
A Dead Hand by Paul Theroux
The Death of Bunny Munroe by Nick Cave
The Rescue Man by Anthony Quinn
Love Begins in Winter by Simon Van Booy
Ten Storey Love Song by Richard Milward

You must go read the entries at http://www.literaryreview.co.uk/badsex.html ! Some of the best phrases:

"Her vulva was opposite my face. The small lips protruded slightly from the pale, domed flesh."

"This sex was watching at me, spying on me, like a Gorgon's head, like a motionless Cyclops whose single eye never blinks."

“turning his trousers into a tent with lots of rude organs camping underneath”

"Georgie has to roll Mr Condom down Mr Penis for him and she has to help insert him into Mrs Vagina."

"It is exactly as he imagined it - the hair, the lips, the hole - and he slips his hands under her wasted buttocks and enters her like a fucking pile driver."

"her bullet-proof pussy"

"her nipples, which are the size and texture of liquorice Jelly Spogs"

"River squeezes Bunny's cock with her muscular vagina. 'Wow,' says Bunny, from the depths of space. 'Pilates,' says River. 'Huh?' grunts Bunny. 'Cunt crunches,' says River, and contracts her pelvic floor again."

"he has been transformed into a delicate seismograph that intercepts and instantly deciphers her body's reactions"

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Editors Answer - Agented Submissions?

by Raelene Gorlinsky

"Writers across the great blogosphere are tossing around the question of submissions. The most common advice is do not submit un-agented work directly to editors & publishers. [...] Ellora's Cave publishes many novella length (and shorter) stories. Many agents state 'no novellas or short stories' in their preferences.

Give it to me straight, if I want Ellora's Cave to publish my work (and I do), which is the best route: Agented, or an un-agented, direct submission?"

The best route is always to research what a specific publisher, editor or agent accepts and how. Don't bother with advice from others on how to submit - go straight to the horse's mouth, which is the company's or person's website, and get the facts. If the publisher/editor says "agented subs only", that is what they mean, they are not going to make an exception for you. If they give story lengths they accept, don't waste their time (and yours) by sending anything different.

The best route for submitting to Ellora's Cave? Go to our website and, at the Help and Info>Submissions menu, download the Author Information brochure. It tells you everything you need to know - what we are looking for, what we accept or don't, exactly how to submit to us. Make sure your story meets our length and content requirements and so forth. Then follow the submission directions to the letter.

Yes, we take unagented submissions - in fact, over 96% of our subs are direct from authors, not agents. Having an agent does not directly improve your chance of acceptance with us. It can have an indirect effect, if your agent helped you edit and polish your sub and improved its quality before sending it in.

So read our Author Information brochure and then send us your submission, please!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Editors Answer - Critique Partners

by Raelene Gorlinsky

"I have a question regarding professional feedback. I submitted a manuscript and it was rejected with the "sorry not what we are looking for...etc." thing. Currently I have only a family friend looking at my work and wanted a professional eye and critique. How is this possible w/o an agent or editor of your own?"

That's what critique partners or critique groups are for! Authors and aspiring authors read each others' work in progress and offer advice and suggestions. They may not always be correct or helpful, but it's a lot more useful and dependable than advice from someone who has no familiarity with the publishing world or current trends. And advice from "friends" is not a good idea - because they are friends, they are not likely to give you the hard truths you need to hear.

Critique groups function in a number of ways. Some are organized by writer groups; your local chapter of RWA or MWA or such may help put people together for this. Some critique groups meet in person, some trade their work via email or online groups. And the purposes of the group can differ. Is the critique group really for "critique" - giving frank (although hopefully tactful) feedback on your work? Or is it focused on providing encouragement and support? Is it mainly for networking, professional or social?

Be aware that you have to give, not just take, to be part of a successful critique group. In return for reading and commenting on your draft story, the other group members expect you to expend time reading and analyzing their work. So it can be a considerable time commitment, but is well worth it. Reading others' work in progress can help you spot strengths and weaknesses in your own writing.

If you have the money, you can invest in a professional freelance editor or book doctor. Be sure to choose someone who has experience with the genre in which you write. Ask fellow writers for recommendations; ask the editor for references, ask them what now-published books they'd worked on. There are a lot of scams and incompetent editors out there preying on anxious aspiring authors.

Of course, you should also be doing research on your own into what different publishers are looking for, what they are currently releasing. That will increase your chance of submitting someplace that is actually looking for the type of writing you do.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanks for the Slush--Truly!

By Raelene Gorlinsky

It’s the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday. In reading various blogs by agents, editors, authors, I see myriad people who love writing and reading, love the publishing industry and being part of it, and are talking about that today. I feel the same way. What I said here last Thanksgiving is still true:

“So I say thank you to all the authors in the world. Thank you for entertaining me, enlightening me, making me laugh or cry or sigh. Thank you for showing me places I will never be able to visit myself, introducing me to people - real or imaginary - whom I wish I could really meet and know. Thank you for building fantastic worlds I sooo wish were real. Thank you for all the heroes to drool over, and their heroines I envy.”

This year I want to extend that thanks a little. Thank you to all the writers who are brave enough to submit their work to a publisher for judgment. It takes courage and commitment, and a thick skin. As you hear from any reputable publisher, only a miniscule percentage of submissions are actually good enough to accept, so a writer needs to be able to handle rejection. But every editor lives for the excitement of finding that unexpected jewel in the slush pile. The story by an unknown name, with an unremarkable title and perhaps an uninspiring cover letter—but then you read the story, and it blows you away! It may not be perfect (let’s be realistic, no story is) but you can see the greatness there. You know you have the editorial skill and the connection to the story to help the author polish this gem and make every facet sparkle.

So I am thankful not only for the stories I’ve loved and read, but for the stories I’ll have a chance to read in future, in hopes that I will find another jewel. So submit something to us now!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Authors Advising Authors #4 - Ari Thatcher

Ari Thatcher

Ari Thatcher is a native Los Angelean who is avidly approaching her “cougar” years. When she’s not hunting her next prey, she can be found writing down her fantasies. She hopes her readers gain as much…satisfaction…from them as she does.

Email: ari@arithatcher.com
Website: www.arithatcher.com

How many books did you write, and how long were you writing, before your first acceptance?
I had two complete books and a few started before selling my first ebook. I'd been writing forever, since childhood, but somehow no one begged to publish the stories hiding under my bed.

What is the most important piece of advice you would give an aspiring (not yet published) author?
Find a good critique group to polish your story, then market it. You'll never improve if no one tells you where you're weak. You'll never be published if you don't submit.

Is there a "warning" you would give an aspiring or new author about the writing profession or the publishing industry, something to watch out for?
You shouldn't have to pay to have your book published. Watch for fees charged by the publishing company. If they're asking you to pay for copyright filing or anything normally covered by the publisher, keep shopping.

What was the most surprising thing you learned after you became published?
I'm not the only person who loves my heroes!

What is your best advice or enlightening story about dealing with revisions and working with an editor?
Read the suggestions, then let it go overnight. Make a list of the changes so you can focus on tackling them one by one.

What is your favorite promo tip?
Be yourself! Let people get to know you, the writer, and they'll want to know about your books.

Did you have an agent when you sold your first story? Do you have one now? At what types of houses are you published: e-publisher, small print press, traditional (NY) publisher, Harlequin/Silhouette category lines?
No agent, as I'm epublished.

I love to explore the sensual side of romance. In my newest release, Kyle's Redemption, Kyle and Lily discover the little things that love brings to sex, and how erotic it is to know you're pleasing your partner. Hot sex is great, of course, but the best sex comes from the heart.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Authors Advising Authors #3 - Judy Mays

Judy Mays

Foxier than a Hollywood starlette! More buxom than a Vegas showgirl! Able to undangle participles with a single key stroke! Look! At the computer! It's a programmer! It's a computer nerd! No! It's—Judy Mays! Yes, Judy Mays—Romantica™ writer extraordinaire who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal writers. Judy Mays! Who can write wild, wanton werewolves; assertive, alluring aliens; and vexing, vivacious vamps. Who, disguised as a mild-mannered English teacher in a small Pennsylvania high school, fights a neverending battle for Heroic Hunks, Hot Heroines, and Sexy Sensuality!

Email: writermays@yahoo.com
Website: www.judymays.com

How many books did you write, and how long were you writing, before your first acceptance?
I've been writing since I was a child. I had three other books written before my first was published. All but the first (which is hidden in a box on the shelf in my closet) were published.

What is the most important piece of advice you would give an aspiring (not yet published) author?
Don't quit.

Is there a "warning" you would give an aspiring or new author about the writing profession or the publishing industry, something to watch out for?
Don't be a prima dona. If your book is accepted by a publisher, don't throw a hissy fit when an editor suggests changes. You are not perfect. A good editor makes a book stronger.

What was the most surprising thing you learned after you became published?
Old friends treat me like I'm something special. I don't think of myself that way, but they're impressed that I wrote a book.

What is your best advice or enlightening story about dealing with revisions and working with an editor?
Back to the question above. Don't fight revisions. Your book isn't perfect.

What is your favorite promo tip?
That's a good one. Do anything and everything you can to get your name out there.

Did you have an agent when you sold your first story? Do you have one now? At what types of houses are you published: e-publisher, small print press, traditional (NY) publisher, Harlequin/Silhouette category lines?
No agent. I've been published at three different epublishers.

My latest release was really a re-release: Rednecks 'n' Roses, which orginally had been part of an anthology, was released as a single by Ellora's Cave. It was then paired with Rednecks 'n' Rock Candy in paperback under the title of Rednecks 'n' Romance. My vampires in these stories are "rednecks". They are comedies, and when you read them, you see that the idea does work. Next year sometime, the next in my very popular Gray family werewolf romances, Undercover Heat, will be released. This one is Melody's story. She's busy trying to keep Nick Price, a CIA operative who believes he's been sent on a wild goose chase to capture a werewolf from finding out there really are werewolves. In the process, she learns some very interesting things about Nick. It seems that humans with a Vodun (Voodoo) background who receive a transfusion of werewolf blood will gain the ability to shift into werewolves. Needless to say, Nick is more surprised than Melody. Throw in a half insane, self-proclaimed Vodun prince who thinks he can conquer the world—or at least New Orleans—and you've got some very interesting developments.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Authors Advising Authors #2 - Samantha Kane

Samantha Kane has a Master's degree in History, and is a full time writer and mother. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and three children. She currently has ten stories released at Ellora's Cave.
Email: skane@northstate.net
Website: samanthakane.us

So, Samantha, give us some wit and wisdom about a writing career.

How many books did you write, and how long were you writing, before your first acceptance?
I sold my second book. The first is in a file in my cabinet waiting for rewrites before it sees the light of day.

What is the most important piece of advice you would give an aspiring (not yet published) author?
Finish the book. Type THE END and move on. You can only tweak a book so much before it becomes an obsession rather than a work in progress. Set goals, meet them, finish the book and start another one immediately.

Is there a "warning" you would give an aspiring or new author about the writing profession or the publishing industry, something to watch out for?
Selling the book isn't as important as selling it to the right person. Do your homework and don't be afraid to say no.

What was the most surprising thing you learned after you became published?
How much I liked the notoriety. ;-)

What is your best advice or enlightening story about dealing with revisions and working with an editor?
Just do it. It's business. You're a writer. You can write it just as well the second (or seventy-fifth) time as the first. Revising and editing your book will not ruin it. Look at it as an opportunity to make good, better, and better, the best.

What is your favorite promo tip?
A professional-looking website that is easy to navigate and that focuses on selling readers your books is and will always be your best promotional expense. The biggest bang for your buck. Never a waste of time. Am I getting through? Social networking sites are fun and will help you connect with readers. Your website will sell your books.

Did you have an agent when you sold your first story? Do you have one now? At what types of houses are you published: e-publisher, small print press, traditional (NY) publisher, Harlequin/Silhouette category lines?
No, I did not have an agent. No, I do not have one now.
E-pub and small print press.

What can we be looking forward to reading next from you, Samantha?
My next release (Dec. 11) is Love In Exile, the newest installment in my Regency historical series Brothers In Arms. Love In Exile features new characters, but characters from previous books appear in supporting roles. Only one of the main characters in Love In Exile is a veteran of the Peninsular War, Gregory Anderson. Gregory is a famous naturalist and explorer, and he's half-Polynesian. He meets Nat and Alecia Digby, a young married couple, just days after he returns to London after a long absence sailing and exploring the South Pacific. The three set out to enjoy a brief, meaningless, erotic liaison. But much to their consternation, love refuses to be left out.
And for all those who have asked, Very, Wolf and Kensington's story will be coming next year.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Authors Advising Authors #1

At our RomantiCon convention in October, we had a popular workshop on "So You Want to Be an Author?" We asked each published author in attendance to give a few tips to aspiring authors. There was some great information, including stuff useful to other pubbed authors.

We're extending that concept to our audience here at Redlines & Deadlines. We've interviewed some of our Ellora's Cave authors, and will be posting their advice and tips.

To kick it off, here is the combined wisdom from ECPI editors, things we want to tell aspiring authors to encourage and help them. And again, useful for pubbed authors too.

Advice from ECPI Editors

Treat this as a profession, and earn your “degree”. Attend classes and workshops on writing novels: how to structure a story, POV, internal and external conflict, the black moment, the sagging middle, world building, character growth, research sources…

BICFOK – Butt in chair, fingers on keyboard.

Keep trying, be persistent, ask for honest opinions of your work and learn from mistakes.

Critique groups can be invaluable, but find and join the right kind for you. What is the group’s purpose: social networking, support and encouragement, or blunt critiquing?

Get a good, honest critique partner who isn’t afraid to say what s/he thinks.

Get—and use—a really good basic writing book on grammar and punctuation, a thesaurus, and an unabridged dictionary (online).

Make your submission sparkling clean! NO typos or grammatical or spelling errors. Have several skilled people proofread it; pay a professional proofer if necessary.

You’ve written your first book? Box it up and put it under the bed. It’s impossible to look objectively or critically at something you’ve just slaved over for months or years. Then write another book. When you’re done with book two, go back and reread book one. Do you still think it’s a good, well-written story?

Read lots of books in your chosen genre. Analyze why you like them, what draws you.

A story cannot be compelling if the characters are underdeveloped. Spend a lot of time getting to know your characters before writing about them.

Research, research, research—whether the story is historical or contemporary.

For paranormals and fantasies, do detailed world-building and keep a “bible”.

Don’t use names readers can’t pronounce and spell.

Read, Write, Submit. Read in your chosen genre and as many how-to books on craft as you can. Write constantly—every day, whether it’s for 10 minutes or 10 hours. Submit—you won’t get published if you don’t send it out.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Crazed Covers

Friday entertainment!

24 Odd and Funny Book Titles and Covers

Ooh, don't you want What's Your Poo Telling You? or Fancy Coffins To Make Yourself or Scouts in Bondage? Hey, I own one of the books shown here: Knitting with Dog Hair, subtitled Better a sweater from a dog you know and love than from a sheep you'll never meet. Actually a good book if you are into knitting and have long-haired dogs.

Longmire does Romance Novels

Retitled/"reimagined" typical romance books covers. Yep, give the book a title that matches that cover image!

Judge a Book by its Cover

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Do You Understand Copyright and Publishing Right?

Writer Beware Blogs!

Rights and Copyright
posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware
October 29, 2009

This is an excellent and very clear, understandable explanation of what copyright is, and how that is different from the publishing rights that you grant a publisher when you contract with them. It also explains reversion of rights, and things to look for in publishing contracts. Common sense advice all authors should heed. I'm recommending this article to all the authors, old and new.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Yup, that's book marketing now

Hysterical, but almost frightening real, parody of the marketing plan for so many new print book releases these days.


It starts with:

Subject: Our Marketing Plan
Hi, Ellis—
Let me introduce myself. My name is Gineen Klein, and I’ve been brought on as an intern to replace the promotion department here at Propensity Books.

Okay, now go read the rest!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Contest Winners: Title It!

We challenged all you brilliant minds to come up with suggested titles using the most common romance title words. (Title It Contest! http://redlinesanddeadlines.blogspot.com/2009/09/title-it-contest.html) If you haven't read the entries--in the Comments on that post--you are missing a whole lot of entertainment.

Lots of great and imaginative entries! The winners are:

Born Blue and All Bad (of course, it's the story of Smurfette) - Danica Avet [We couldn't resist the Smurfette]

All the Bad Blue-Bloods' Forbidden Lust for Midnight's Captive Dragon-Mistress - Angelia Sparrow

Forbidden Moon Dream of the Winter Wolf - Sylvia

Winners, you each get one free ebook of your choice from Ellora's Cave or Cerridwen Press. Please email Martha@ellorascave.com, specify book title and format you need, and she will email you the file. Specify that you are the winner of the R&D blog Title It! contest.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Moonlight & Magnolias Conference

by Raelene Gorlinsky

Last weekend I was at the wonderful M&M conference in Georgia. A well-run and enjoyable event. If anything went wrong, it was not visible to the attendees. And that RWA chapter is full of friendly and helpful people.

It started off with pizza and movie on Thursday night. Nothing like a roomful of romance writers watching Romancing the Stone! Numerous people in the audience could recite the dialogue from memory. Friday kicked off with a cold reads session by an editor and agent panel. I've done this type of panel at several other conferences, and it can go very wrong. But M&M did it right--we stayed on track, the samples were limited to one page (max about 250 words), and the editors and agents were frank but tactful and kind. A number of people mentioned later how helpful they found the session. Those of us on the panel were totally entranced by several entries -- Demonville was popular, but the medieval Scottish wetsuit made the biggest hit!

Friday night was, umm, filling. There was a delicious and plentiful buffet of all kinds of yummy things at 6:00. As I was happily stuffing my face, someone said "You're going to the faculty dinner for presenters and speakers at 7:00, aren't you?" What, that event is a dinner? Somehow I'd missed that. So I ended up with a second dinner - I did confine myself to salad and salmon and no dessert for that.

Saturday morning was spent in author appointments. I heard some excellent pitches! More than usualfor a conference, I'd say. I just hope the people I asked to submit to EC actually do so. (It's a fact all editors and agents find amazing, that so many people we invite to submit don't actually do it.)

And in between everything else, lots of time to chitchat with authors and aspiring authors. My favorite part of any writer conference.

All in all, a very productive and pleasant conference.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Editors Answer: Submission Response Times

Question: Your web site says that you will respond within two months. If you, or another publisher, doesn't respond within the timeframe they have stated, should the writer just move on and send it to another publisher? I have yet to submit a manuscript to a publisher. Is it common for publishers to reject manuscripts without response? How is a writer to know how long to wait if stated timeframes aren't met?

Answer: First, be aware that publishers post estimated response times. Sometimes response is much faster, but if the editors are swamped with submissions at some point, it may take longer than stated.

However, always feel free to send a polite email requesting status if it's been longer than stated. (Do not phone call!) We all know emails go astray. Are you sure the publisher received your submission (whether emailed or mailed, for pubs that take paper submissions)? Or they may have replied and you didn't receive it.

At EC, our process is that we acknowledge receipt of each submission within a few business days. Then within eight weeks you will receive either a "no thanks, not right for us" or a notice that your submission has been put in queue for an acquiring editor to take a look at. After that, it could be a few weeks to a few months for a response from that editor.

I can't answer for other publishers. But if you submit to EC and don't hear back, do indeed email to Submissions@ellorascave.com and ask! We respond to every legitimate submission received.

The Editors Answer: Pitch Sessions

What’s a pitch session, what do you say, what do you bring?

Okay, to start with JOIN A WRITING ORGANIZATION. They will teach you all this, have workshops and practice sessions, explain the business to you. If you write romance, consider RWA; for mystery writers, consider MWA. There are lots of other organizations for aspiring and published authors.

Research online. You can find a million articles and blogs about how to pitch to an editor. Okay, to start you off, I’ll mention a fun little video with tips on what to do and illustrations of how not to do it: go to www.writewithus.net and scroll down to the YouTube video link.

Now, the basics:

A pitch session is a very short meeting between an aspiring author and an editor or agent, in which the author briefly describes the book they've written in order to determine if the editor/agent has any interest in considering it as a submission.

1. A standard pitch session is four to eight minutes long. That’s it! There is always a timekeeper who will make sure you get out of the chair and make way for the next person on the schedule.

2. Never, ever bring your book to a pitch session. NEVER! You may bring your own notes to talk from, and some editors will accept a card or one sheet of paper containing your blurb and contact info.

3. Start with the basic facts: genre, length, and status. Most editors expect that anyone pitching to them has a completed or almost completed manuscript ready to submit if requested.

4. Provide a two to three minute summary of your story: the hook, the basic setting and time period, a few words about each main character, and a very high-level and fast summary of the plot.

5. The editor or agent will ask any questions they have, if there is time. They will then express whether they're interested in having you submit the story and will tell you how to do so.

Every editor and agent I've ever spoken to agrees that they cannot tell at all from a pitch session whether a book will be well written or not. The point is to weed out the books that are not appropriate for that publisher or agency. If they don't take poetry or young adult, if they are overfilled with romantic suspense and not currently looking at more, or if your story description contains elements they know they are not interested in - they can let you know that. But they can't tell from your pitch if you can write a good story. Some of the most polished pitches are for incredibly poor books, and some of the most nervous and inept pitching authors send in wonderful manuscripts. We've got to actually see the story before we can judge that.

Sometimes there are more "private" venues for pitching that accommodate lengthier sessions. A writing group may schedule an agent or editor to come to their meeting and hold pitches. Or at something like EC's upcoming Romanticon, where we can allow a little more time to talk to aspiring authors. But the sessions will still be pretty short. You need to convey your book in a concise way. The extra time is usually available for talking about the publishing company or for answering aspiring author questions about the whole process.

Did that help? Questions?

Friday, October 2, 2009

"It's All Jade Lee's Fault"

by Raelene Gorlinsky

I had to promise the tableful of writers to blame it on Jade. She'd made the mistake of dragging me over to them and then leaving, so they decided she should take the fall.

Ever wonder what really goes on at writer conferences? The stuff that's not on the official program, the things that aren't those serious workshops about craft and professionalism and the business of writing? I'm at the Moonlight & Magnolias conference, put on by the Georgia Romance Writers. My first time here, a great conference! But I don't think the conference organizers planned on some of the "events". It's those casual discussions and at-the-table roundtables that are the most fun.

What happens when you've got a group of authors who've had, oh, maybe just a tad too much wine with dinner, and they decide to draft a story proposal? And there's a Harlequin editor and me, from Ellora's Cave, in the room -- and they want to come up with something they could pitch to either of us.

Okay, without further ado:
The Sheik and the Skank by Seressia Glass, Anna Steffl, J. Perry Stone, Jade Lee & Ana Aragon. An erotic comedy. (No bestiality, despite the camel.)

She is her own goodwill ambassador. From trailer to tent. She travels through life looking for a hop, a skip and a hump.

She's not the only one with big hair.

He knows how to rock the casbah. His first words to her were "Get off or you'll get fleas."

The camel wasn't the only thing humped.

There was only one thing that can come between an Arab and his camel and it was the skank from New Jersey. He always wanted a little coucous.

Honest to god, they actually wrote this down and gave me permission to post it here. I'm waiting to see what happens when the wine wears off. But meanwhile, stay tuned for tomorrow's post of these authors discussing "one click too far"--what happens when you are doing online, ahem, "research" for your sex scenes and you keep looking a little further.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Ask the Editors

Hey all, just a reminder that we do an occasional "The Editors Answer" blog in response to questions sent to us. Anything at all you want to ask about writing, submissions, editing, publishing... Just remember that we really aren't experienced in areas like non-fiction or children's books, so although we can give generic advice, we can't provide specific information in some genres.

So send your questions to RedlinesDeadlines@gmail.com anytime.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Title It Contest!

In any genre, you can find a plethora of very similar--or even identical--titles. Just try searching on Amazon by some of the more common words, and see how many books you find with the same title. There are just certain words that epitomize a genre. And as we all know, titles cannot be copyrighted, therefore you can't claim someone is copying from you or stop them from using the same title. Otherwise, we'd likely run out of book titles. (You can, however, trademark a title as a "brand" under certain circumstances. You see this with some series names.)

So...here's a list of very common title words for romances (including erotic romances). There will be kudos and prizes to those who create the most imaginative and unique book title from this list. Rules:
~ Title can be any length.
~ You may use only the words on this list and connector or little words (a, and, the, this, of, or, for, with, her, him...).
~ You may use the singular or plural noun form, possessives, or any tense of a verb.

Okay, post your entries in Comments by Friday, September 25! Oh, yeah, extra points for an appropriately creative author pen name along with the title.

Magic (or Magick)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Contest Winners! Worst First Line

Okay, the winners of our Worst First Line contest!


CKHB for:
Lacey was once again thinking of Chad and their recent breakup; she had thought they were meant to be together forever, like strawberries and champagne,but it turned out that they had been more like peanut butter and jelly, which went together beautifully in a sandwich, but were never meant to be together too close for too long, like those jars at the grocery that had the peanut butter and jelly together in the same jar with the striped pattern, which seems like a good idea in theory -- everything you want in one place, after all -- but then when you actually see teh product in real life it just looks ridiculous and unpalatable on the shelf, and you don't even want to think about what it would look like when spread onto the bread...yes, she decided, moving in together had been the thing that killed the relationship.

Extra points for making that all one sentence!


Bill Greer for:

Detective Paul Tightshirt studied the tangled bodies and figured the first guy was already dead and floating naked down the Cuyahoga River when the second guy committed suicide by jumping off the bridge into the river, landing on top of the first guy, and their immoral coupling was a million-in-one shot.

Notice the suck-up? Bill, are you a local guy? Not many people know the Cuyahoga River. (Well, except for those decades-old photos of it being on fire.)


Sandy Campbell for:

It was a dark and stormy night, not your usual kind of stormy but that gloppy kind of precipitation they get on Pselit Prime, not really wet but only kind of wet and oozy when it got on your skin like that rash you get sometimes in the warm, moist crevices of your body . . . that said, Ace Space Pilot Phil Rooterrocket walked into his favorite Intergalactic whore house with a swagger that made tongues hang out and that was just the aliens, anyway, Phil was just there to check out the action and hook up with his favorite space mechanic, Chic Heir Armpit who had been trying for years to hide the secret baby she'd conceived while on a long space haul with three or four (her memory was a little fuzzy at that point) really hot guys from the planet Goober, only the little bundle of joy just wouldn't stay hidden inside the voluminous, luxurious velvet nap of her oversized cape ever since he'd turned twenty.

OMG, this is one sentence even longer than the romance winner!

Special Award:

To Barbara Elsborg, for all three of her entries! Fantastic, especially the SciFi one.

Mary hadn’t realized when she grabbed the zombie by his penis that it would come off in her hand, but not in a good way.

If Jack saw another pink-spotted thong, he’d have to put it on no matter what the policeman thought.

Sci fi:
Long ago, on the planet of Efterhjyern, there lived a woman called Prhhtukjsellg who had two children, Neelhuhwhel and Bob who were determined to find the golden dildo before the monks of Wkkuherkjk-t realized what they had in their hands and sold it to the Hffierhbjhtts from planet Mkkeuuyel.

Okay, winners, you get a free e-book of your choice from Ellora's Cave (www.ellorascave.com) or Cerridwen Press (www.cerridwenpress.com). Email your choice plus the format you need it in to Martha@ellorascave.com, and she'll send you the file.

Friday, September 11, 2009

BBW 2009

by Raelene Gorlinsky

No, not big, beautiful woman, although that's what the acronymn normally means to me. (Being one myself.)

Banned Book Week is September 26 to October 3, 2009.

"Banned Books Week (BBW): Celebrating the Freedom to Read is observed during the last week of September each year. Observed since 1982, this annual ALA event reminds Americans not to take this precious democratic freedom for granted. BBW celebrates the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them. After all, intellectual freedom can exist only where the freedom to express oneself and the freedom to choose what opinions and viewpoints to consume are both met."


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Editors Answer: Submissions Response Time

by Raelene Gorlinsky

I am an aspiring writer who pitched at a conference and was asked to send in a synopsis and partial. Well, I pitched to one editor of a major publishing house and then caught another in the hall who liked me and agreed to have me send the same to her. This was in June and I sent a professional query letter, two page synopsis and first three chapters to both by the end of the week. One month later I emailed and said that I was looking forward to any comments that they might have.

Now here it is, September, and I have not heard from either. My question is this - do I keep waiting, email again or pull the plug? I actually would like to revise the book one more time but am afraid to touch it until I hear back. It seems like a bad idea to send them new chapters because I decided to expand the story a bit. I want to be professional and build a career so doing this right is very important to me.

Start by checking the publisher's website to see what this editor or publisher says is their typical response time, and what they say about checking back with them. I know you are anxious, but for many publishers, especially if you are talking about a big NY traditional pub, three months is not a long time for response to a partial, even if requested.

Generally, sending a polite email asking about status is perfectly acceptable. Make it short. Give your name and book title and summarize the background - where you met the editor, that s/he requested the partial, and when you sent it.

What you should be doing while waiting to hear back is writing your next book. If the editors you submitted this first one to end up rejecting it, or never respond to you, then you can consider revising it and sending it elsewhere. But for now, get moving on another book!

Contest Reminder: Worst First Line


Entry deadline is Friday, Sept. 11. We'll announce the winner next week. Put your "oh my god, I didn't know I could think up something that awful!" imagination to work!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Journey's End

by Raelene Gorlinsky

From Running Hot by Jayne Ann Krentz:

She turned another page. "I already know how it ends."

"You read the ending first?"

"I always read the ending before I commit to the whole book."

He looked at her, baffled. "If you know how it ends, why read the book?"

"I don't read for the ending. I read for the story. [...] Life is too short to waste time on books that end badly."

Ms. Krentz's character and I are completely in sync. Yes, I admit it, I am one of those people who read the ending first. Well, I don't read it first. I generally read a chapter or two at the start in order to find out what the story's about and who the main characters are, then I read the ending, then I read the rest of the story. People who don't do this find it appalling and inexplicable. "But you're ruining the story! There's no suspense left. Why bother to even read the book if you already know how it ends?"

It's the journey--the story--that makes the destination worthwhile, all the experiences and excitement of the trip. But first you need to want to get to that destination. The most lovely drive in the country is no fun if you know you're on the way to the dentist.

Face it, for most fiction genres we already know basically how the book will end. The bad guys will get their comeuppance, the lovers will have their happily-ever-after, the mystery will be solved. So reading the ending first isn't totally cheating, it's just reassuring oneself that the destination is good and is worth the time spent on the trip there.

So besides my musing on the subject (and interest in hearing how many others read the ending first), what's the point of this blog post? Well, we harp a lot on how important the first line or paragraph is to grab the reader. And many writing classes talk about how to fix your "sagging middle". But don't forget the importance of a satisfying ending that carries the excitement and emotion and action to the last word of the book. If the last chapter is slow or confusing or just drags on too long after the climax, end-first readers like me aren't going to bother taking the journey of your story.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Tomes of Terms

by Raelene Gorlinsky

I'm a sucker for word books. Books that provide the etymology of words or phrases, that list unusual words or funny words. So of course I could not pass up the slim paperback on the sale table at the bookstore this week: 100 Words Every Word Lover Should Know, from the editors of the American Heritage Dictionaries.

It's got words that are in not-really-rare use, but are pretty uncommon for most people. The types of words you may see more frequently in non-fiction writing (whether books or news articles or whatever), less frequently in fiction, and rarely hear spoken. Hey, I figure that's because even if we can spell them, we can't pronounce them.

My favorites?

Try incorporating these into your normal conversations.

Oh, you want to know what they mean? Okay, mix and match - here are the definitions, you figure out which word each goes to.

  • a soft rustling or whispering sound
  • the ability to "speak in tongues", such as in a trance, religious ecstasy or schizophrenia
  • alignment of the sun, moon, and Earth
  • nonchalant, blithely unconcerned
  • given to the use of long words; having many syllables
  • a person who creates crossword puzzles, or an enthusiast of word games
  • the characteristic spirit of a time period or generation
  • idle chatter, especially if intended to charm or beguile
  • an extra or unexpected gift or benefit
  • an environment or setting
  • a sudden or unexpected change of fortune
What are your favorite unusual but fun words?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Geography, Anyone?

by Helen Woodall

With the advent of Google Maps I am astounded how many books still have glaring mistakes of geography.

A few years ago there was the famous case of a book that won a bunch of awards. In it, the heroine and her child escaped across the border through a mountain pass – between two countries that do not share a border. Nowhere do these two countries meet!

I am not sure how the author, the editor and the people who judged the awards all managed to miss this, but I can assure you the readers swooped on it. And yes, the awards were withdrawn.

Not all examples of geographical errors are as dramatic as this one, but readers do notice mistakes. And these days of instant maps and atlases on the internet there is absolutely no excuse. Besides Google, there is always:
and dozens more that can answer your every query from the temperature in Cairns, Australia, in the middle of winter (20-30C = 68-86F) to how much rain falls on the plain in Spain. (http://www.iberianature.com/material/Spain_climate/Rainfall_Spain.htm)

These sites have all sorts of fascinating weather details:

There are even historical sites that can tell you whether or not your hero and heroine would have been snowbound in London in 1709. (Yes they would have been. It was a very cold year.)

And before your heroine flees to another country, please check to see whether or not she needs a visa or inoculations or an international driver’s license. It would be a real plot destroyer if she got barred at the border or deported as an illegal alien or caught Dengue Fever instead of kissing the hero on the last page.

So, what are the worst/funniest geographical errors you have seen in a novel?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Wanted: Your Worst First Lines

In an attempt to ward off the end-of-summer blahs, we here at Redlines and Deadlines are hosting our first-ever worst first line contest!

We've had a best and worst last line contest, and we've had a best first line contest, but we figured that sometimes coming up with horrible lines is more entertaining than coming up with great ones.

There are three categories: Mystery, Romance, and SciFi/Fantasy.

To participate, leave a comment with the absolute worst first line that you can create. Be sure to indicate which category. Original sentences only, please, nothing from someone's published book.

Contest will close on September 11. The winner in each category will receive a free Ellora's Cave or Cerridwen Press e-book of their choice.

We're Baaaack!

We took a short hiatus (um, like the month of August) to catch up on real work, rather than the fun stuff like this blog. But we're back now, bringing you more wit and wisdom from the all-seeing editorial eyes at Ellora's Cave. (The I-love-it/I-hate-it alliteration debate can practically bring people to blows in our office.)

So to get everyone's minds working again, we'll start off with a fun contest. See next post.

Monday, July 27, 2009


by Raelene Gorlinsky

I have an ebook reader. (Well, okay, it belongs to the company, but it is mine, mine I say!) It's the first I've really used for my own personal reading. I know, I know--I work for an e-publisher, how can I not use an e-reader? Well, I work on a computer all day, I read submissions and releases on my laptop. I stare at a screen enough, I didn't think I'd want to do that for pleasure reading. Plus, I just didn't see how I could enjoy any screen that displayed less that a full paperback book page. Yep, all the typical excuses of the non-e.

Then, a week ago, this e-reader arrived in the office. And I'm addicted. I've spent more time reading for pleasure in the past week than in the past month--and all on the e-reader. I read myself to sleep at night, and amazingly, it doesn't hurt when the reader slips out of my hands and drops on me as I fall asleep.

Notice that I haven't mentioned which e-reader I'm using. Because that isn't the point. They all have pros and cons. The big negative for me, a device I would not want, is any that can only use proprietary-format files (like the Kindle). My device reads pdf, prc, txt, epub, and more. But the point I'm trying to make is that I, who firmly support digital books but never got into e-reader devices, am suddenly a convert. My boss is going to have to pry this thing out of my hands if she ever wants it back. Company property be damned--it's MINE.

Friday, July 24, 2009

I Am Woman

by Raelene Gorlinsky

Okay, Kelli's got that dang "It's Raining Men" song playing over and over in my brain. So I'll try to supplant it with another tune, today's topic.

We women generally like other women, right? We've had BFFs since we went to kindergarten. There's so much we can talk about with our female friends that we would never say to a man. Most women say they are more comfortable amongst a group of other women than in a mixed group or a group of men.

So why aren't female-on-female romances more popular with women? Yeah, f/f movies (okay, porn) are really popular with men, they apparently love to watch women together just the way heterosexual women readers have made male/male romances such a hot trend in the past few years. But based on sales figures at romance and erotic romance publishers (I don't know about sales at GLBT specialty publishers), those same mainstream women don't buy many f/f romance books. Or even menages of two women and one man, rather than the incredibly popular two-men-one-woman.

A couple of theories are kicked around. Women love the fantasy of being pleasured by two men, but don't see the fun in having to share a man with another woman. Or women don't want the "competition", the comparison to another woman. Most of us already have insecurities about our bodies, our appearance--would we really want a sexual situation where we are compared to another woman, even if she's a lover or friend? Or, worse, by the man in a trio?

But on the other hand--who better to know how to make a woman's body feel pleasure than someone with the same body parts? Would another woman be a more empathetic or understanding or supportive lover because she knows what works best on her own body and emotions, and therefore on her female lover's? Or does the whole idea of sexually touching and being touched by another woman leave you cold?

We're starting to see a few more female-on-female or two-women-one-man menage erotic romances coming out from e-publishers. Ellora's Cave has released some in past, without much sales success, but we have now decided to give it another try. We are actively soliciting erotic romances with female/female content.

But to acquire books that readers want to buy, we need to know what you want to read. So tell us. What turns you on or turns you off in female/female romances--both in the sex scenes and the romantic relationship aspect? Would you read f/f or f/f/m or f/m/f? And of course, the important part--why or why not?

And for those of you wearing an author hat--what are the challenges or difficulties or rewards of writing such stories? Are you at all interested in doing so? How would you research it? Do you think it would attract heterosexual female readers, or only bisexual or lesbian readers?

So...are you interested in such stories? Would you vote with your book-buying dollars?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

It's Raining Men

by Kelli Collins

The recent post on a popular social blog (you may know the one) about a certain e-pub’s love for publishing M/M generated tons of responses. More than 130, last time I checked. Aside from the occasional attack, there were also dozens of thoughtful and insightful posts on the M/M and M/M/F genres in general. A few authors and readers mentioned their dislike for the genres, but in no great detail. As interesting as all of this was (and how), I want to know a bit more—specifically, why hetero female readers/writers, in the immortal words of Depeche Mode, just can’t get enough.

What precisely attracts you to M/M? “It’s hot!” doesn’t cut it for me. Why exactly is it hot? I’m not complaining or judging, and while it's not my favorite genre, I don't hate it, by any stretch of the word. Though the genre’s thoroughly saturated the market, it still sells consistently well, so I’ll happily continue editing it. And I should be clear that my curiosity has nothing to do with M/M submissions, and won't change how I review them.

I just truly want to understand the psychology behind a straight fan's love of gay erotica...or at least toss some theories around. Because let’s be honest with ourselves—this is not gay erotica. Not really. At least, not according to my gay male friends, anyway. (The ones who've read some EC M/M. They can appreciate the story, but thought the romantic elements in no way reflected the relationships they've been in). I've also noticed no similarities to the gay erotic fiction I’ve read that’s written by gay males. (Anthologies, mostly. The writing? Sometimes "meh". The sex? Damn hot.)

For the most part (note those words!), M/M as the erotic romance community knows it features hardcore-hetero alpha males who just happen to be having sex with each other. Take any of those men, stick them in a het book with some hot blonde chick and he won’t change a bit, beyond the fact he’s now rogering the opposite sex. Presumably the lack of reality doesn’t bother readers. No surprise there; who wants reality in their erotic romance anyway?

So what is it? The mere thought of two otherwise-straight males having sex? I've edited my fair share, and I can recognize and appreciate a sexy, vivid, emotionally riveting M/M scene…but I can’t claim to understand the fascination for readers, at least not enough to justify the meteoric rise of the genre over the last few years. I mean, I don’t want to watch my gay friends getting busy with their partners.

And if straight women are attracted by the idea of two men having sex...why haven't F/F or F/F/M or F/M/F been shown the same love? But that's another post...watch for it on Friday.