Friday, April 29, 2011

Have the Self-Esteem of a Whale

by Raelene Gorlinsky

The article below has appeared in a number of places on the web since summer 2009, but I only recently discovered it. No, it isn't directly about writing or publishing. But it does illustrate having a positive and accepting attitude about yourself, and empowering yourself with whatever your assets and realities. How you perceive yourself has an enduring impact on your ability to succeed.

Recently in a large city in France a poster featuring a young, thin, and tan woman appeared in the window of a gym. It said, “This summer, do you want to be a mermaid or a whale?”

A middle-aged woman, whose physical characteristics did not match those of the woman on the poster, responded publicly to the question posed by the gym:

To Whom It May Concern,

Whales are always surrounded by friends (dolphins, sea lions, curious humans). They have an active sex life, get pregnant and have adorable baby whales. They have a wonderful time with dolphins, stuffing themselves with shrimp. They play and swim in the seas, seeing wonderful places like Patagonia, the Bering Sea, and the coral reefs of Polynesia .

Whales are wonderful singers and have even recorded CDs. They are incredible creatures and virtually have no predators other than humans. They are loved, protected and admired by almost everyone in the world.

Mermaids don’t exist. If they did exist, they would be lining up outside the offices of Argentinean psychoanalysts due to identity crisis. Fish or human? They don’t have a sex life because they kill men who get close to them, not to mention how could they have sex? Just look at them … where is IT? Therefore, they don’t have kids either. Not to mention, who wants to get close to a girl who smells like a fish store?

The choice is perfectly clear to me: I want to be a whale.

P..S. We are in an age when media puts into our heads the idea that only skinny people are beautiful, but I prefer to enjoy an ice cream with my kids, a good dinner with a man who makes me shiver, and a piece of chocolate with my friends. With time, we gain weight because we accumulate so much information and wisdom in our heads that when there is no more room, it distributes out to the rest of our bodies. So we aren’t heavy, we are enormously cultured, educated, and happy.

Beginning today, when I look at my butt in the mirror I will think, ¨Good grief, look how smart I am!¨

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Cave Tales: Assume the Position

by Raelene Gorlinsky

We (the Publishing Department) have a weekly status meeting. Well, it's theoretically about the status of various projects and any issues that have come up during the week, but it tends to go in unexpected directions. We have learned to keep my office door shut during the meeting.

So at a recent meeting we were discussing how editors must watch out for what we call "choreography" problems in scenes. You know, where the author describes Tom sitting down in the chair, then several paragraphs later has him rise from the couch. Or Sue takes off her shoes three times (just how many legs does she have?). Or puts on a t-shirt in the morning, but removes her lacy blouse later on. I have several times conducted a writer workshop on this issue of choreography--always hysterical to watch. But new and interesting situations always arise in books being edited, and sex scenes are the most entertaining to analyse for choreography correctness.

At this particular meeting we discussed a question that had come up recently on a scene in a book--can a woman lick her own nipples? Because I know you're dying to know--yes, some women can. It doesn't depend on the size of her breasts, it is far more dependent on her flexibility. If you want to be sure a reader will believe your character can do this, establish earlier in the story that the woman practices yoga. If she can get into some of those yoga positions, she can get her tongue to her nipples, no matter how flat her chest!

Often an editor has to determine whether some position is humanly impossible or if the problem is with the way the author describes the action. As I teach in my workshop, the best way to test this is to act out the scene exactly as the author wrote it. So after we finished discussing tongues and nipples, editor Meghan brought up a sex scene in a book she was working on. Before you know it... "Jennifer, you lie down on the floor and raise your legs. Jaime, you kneel here and..." Jaime and Jennifer are our Publishing Assistants. When we hired them, we didn't exactly tell them all the duties of the job. Well, the J ladies are both young and slim and flexible--like most romance heroines--and were able to prove that the position could work.

Do you see why we keep the door closed?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Cave Tales: Bad Bunny

by Raelene Gorlinsky

We often have people asking about our offices, or wanting to come tour the building. We point out to them that it's pretty much a standard office building with an attached warehouse, people sitting at their desks and doing their jobs. There isn't anything weird to see -- well, except the snakes, and the visiting pets, and the Egyptian decor, and the stored "sets" from various RT parties, and... Okay, maybe we're not quite a typical office. And some of the things that go on here are unusual.

We have an onsite daycare center for the young children (babies through kindergarten) of employees. This is an incredible benefit for a small company to provide! (Sure wish the huge corporation I worked for when my son was little had offered such a thing.) And it provides some interesting moments, such as this week.

My office is down the hall from the stairs leading to the daycare center. If someone forgets to close the door, I occasionally hear a baby crying or a toddler's excited squeal. But not much. Until this Tuesday. I was jolted from my work by the hysterical screaming and crying of multiple little voices. It went on and on. Clearly someone was torturing our children! As it got even louder, it was obvious the kids were up on our floor of the building. What in the world was going on? Something must be terrifying these kids.

And something was.

The Easter Bunny.

Yep, a photo opportunity had been set up. As had been done at our Christmas party, one of the staff dressed in costume and the kids got their pictures taken with him. Santa Claus was no problem, but apparently a giant bunny is extremely frightening. There were heartbreaking sobs from little girls who wanted nothing to do with this creature. It took much parental soothing to get unsmiling children to stoically sit for their picture with the beast. Who knew that the Easter Bunny was a traumatic experience?

Kids and costumed characters - yep, definitely adds to the uniqueness of Ellora's Cave.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Book Signing Crowds

All you authors and aspiring authors have got to read The Onion's funny take on an author booksigning. Unfortunately, it is too often true that the author spends most of her time alone and waiting. What do you do when only a couple of people show up?

Author Promoting Book Gives It Her All Whether It's Just 3 People or a Crowd of 9 People,19985/

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Show vs. Tell

by Grace Bradley

(This was first posted on the Passionate Reads blog.)

Any writer who has been in the business more than five minutes has no doubt seen these words in a comment bubble of a critiqued manuscript. Don’t tell us what your character is feeling. Show us. I’d like to take this concept and apply it to the pursuit of publication. Don’t tell an editor you’d like a contract. Show them.

1. You present your best work. Your query, synopsis and submission have been proofread. Many times. By multiple people. This is the first exposure an editor has to your work. Make it count. If there are typos, grammar errors or missing words in what should be the best representation of your work, chances are the rest of the manuscript will be worse.

2. You behave in a professional manner online. Google is a valuable tool for editors, and a necessary step in the consideration of a new author. Do you make negative comments about the industry, your current publisher, other authors? Are you a “Debbie Downer”, bemoaning how difficult this business is and how you, personally, are affected? Does an editor want to work with someone with this temperament? You probably know the answer to that one.

3. You research publishers prior to submitting. It’s very important to not only know what you write, but also which editors and agents are appropriate for your particular book. It doesn’t matter how well your manuscript is written, if it’s not something your target publishes or represents, it will be a pass. In all likelihood it will also leave the editor or agent wondering if you’ve put any time into your research.

4. You handle rejections in a professional manner. This business is subjective, and an editor’s opinion is just that…an opinion. If you receive a rejection with editorial feedback, you’re fortunate. The editor has taken the time to let you know where the book fell short for them and how you could improve moving forward. Give their comments some thought. Do you agree? Do your critique partners agree? If so, implement those changes. If not, disregard. What you don’t want to do is respond with a long, detailed email addressing each comment and stating why you disagree, and worse, why you think you are right. What this tells an editor is that you will be difficult to work with during the editing process. Once a book goes to contract, the editor and author work as a team to make the book the best it can be. Since editors choose who their teammates are, you will want to show you know how to take constructive criticism well.

5. You persevere. I can’t speak for all editors, but I respect authors who do not give up, who take editorial feedback and try to improve their work. I pay attention to authors who continue to submit, despite being rejected. These authors clearly want to be published with Ellora’s Cave and are willing to do what they must to make it happen. This is the type of author I want to work with.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Top-Earning Crime Writers

Courtesy of The Guardian news organization in the UK, we can now all be green with envy of these writers, even the dead ones.
Earnings are "based on recorded sales, box office returns, licence fees and company accounts".

The top 10 UK crime authors

Ian Fleming £100m+
Agatha Christie £100m
Jeffrey Archer £70m
Jack Higgins £50m+
Ken Follett £50m
Dick Francis, just under £50m
Ruth Rendell £30m+
Lee Child £30m
Ian Rankin £25m
Alexander McCall Smith £20m

Top 10 US crime writers

John Grisham $600m
Dan Brown $400m
Patricia Cornwell $300m+
Robert Ludlum $300m
Michael Crichton $300m
Michael Connelly $250m
Thomas Harris $150m
Elmore Leonard $100m
Ed McBain $75m
James Ellroy $50m

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


by Raelene Gorlinsky

All the authors around the luncheon table stared at me, mouths agape. "What did you say?"
"There was too much sex in the book."
"Uh, don't you think that's an odd thing for a publisher of erotic romance to say?"

Well no, actually I think I'm one of the people best able to make that statement. I work with erotica and erotic romance stories every day, I recognize what works and what doesn't, what the sex is supposed to be in a story.

The book we were discussing was the latest in my favorite paranormal series (from another publisher, not Ellora's Cave), and was by a bestselling author. The previous stories in the series had a huge amount of sexual tension leading to the climactic act near the end. That building sexual awareness and longing helped define the developing relationship between the hero and heroine, and affected the plot and the behavior of the othere characters. And totally grabbed the reader: "When are they finally going to do it?" But in the latest book, well, the h/h have done the deed, they are now together as a couple, they can have sex whenever and wherever they want. And they do. Too much. Yes, some of the sex scenes worked, they fit the emotions or illustrated the continued growth of the relationship. But several scenes seemed unnecessary--they interrupted the plot, rather than being a part of it.

The book is classified as urban fantasy romance, not erotic romance. Maybe if it were labeled erotic, I'd have been more tolerant--whether we like to admit it or not, erotic romance readers buy the books for the sex, and they want a lot of it. But on second thought, no, I would not have been tolerant. If I were editing this as an erotic romance, the author would be getting back revision notes from me explaining that having lots of sex was great, but the sex needed to more relevant and integrated into the story--so please rethink and rewrite, Madam Author.

Our Author Information brochure (available under Submissions on our website) provides the three elements of our definition of erotic romance. The first item is:
The sexual relationship must be integral to and an important element of the storyline and the character development. Sex scenes should contribute to furthering the plot or affecting the development of the romantic relationship or the growth of the characters.

So have lots and lots of relevant sex--but not Too Much Sex.