Wednesday, June 30, 2010

How Laundry Saved Me

I have been astonished over time at how people work so differently. My kids are classic kids, well adults now, but their habits haven’t really changed. No matter what they are doing they have music going. My younger one lives with her ear buds firmly in place. Folks, this is a medical student who is reading stuff so complicated that I have to sound out each syllable to follow along. How she can concentrate is beyond me. My older child is about the same, maybe a little quieter.

Do you write with background music? I definitely don’t. It’s just too noisy inside my head to handle more than the sound of my dogs chewing on their bones.

Let me tell you about a battle of the wills in terms of noise. Many many years ago, we bought a 100-year old house desperately in need of renovation. My daughter would turn on a hairdryer and my computer would crash. But, as things go, we couldn’t afford to make the changes right away. I was writing my doctoral dissertation, our kids were little and my husband decided it was time to create his own firm, leaving the one he’d been with for 18 years. Oh, and I was working full time as an associate dean at Yale while commuting six hours away by train for my PhD. Got the picture?

My husband loves opera. Loves it loud and constantly (plus he sings along). Well, he set up his new business in a room adjacent to my home office (which was an illegal kitchen upstairs put in place by a previous owner). I mention the kitchen bit because there were long counters plus a washer and dryer in the room. I was truly roughing it, but hey, it worked.

Well, it worked until Jon planted his new start-up company in the next room. The photocopier we both shared lived on the long counter—in my space. He uses a photocopier a lot. And, this was a noisy old big son of a gun.

So, picture me—the one who likes total silence when I work—a room away from Puccini. I kept closing my office door and turning off the grating sound of the photocopier. My dear husband would be in and out asking why, first the door was closed, and second why he had to keep waiting to let the machine warm up. Please would I leave the door open and not touch the photocopier, he asked. I started wearing ear plugs, but they hurt after many hours. What to do? Divorce was not an option.

The washing machine and dryer!! They were across the room. I started doing laundry. The chug chug of the washer combined with the whirl of the dryer solved the problem. My poor kids became the slaves, hauling everything they could find for me to wash. I began washing clean clothes! Nothing was folded and put away, just placed back in the washing machine. It’s a new concept on recycling. I wished Erma Brombeck was still around so I could share my household solution.

I should also admit that this was a time when showering and eating were a wild pleasure. My older daughter (who was quite young at the time) wonderfully slid a peanut butter sandwich into my office without saying a word. I still remember how sweet it felt to have her thinking of me. Deadlines—they are tough.

Within a few months, Jon rented office space. Thank God. We renovated the house years ago, but the lessons do live on.

So, tell me, are you a music person? Are you okay with distractions? Do you prefer the solitary life when you write? What are the quirks you have that only you can tame?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tuesdays Tidbits With Multi-Published Author & Bookstore Owner Kris Neri



Kari: I see you've traveled around quite a bit and now live in Sedona Arizona. You own a general interest book store called The Well Red Coyote. Can you tell us what it's like being a book buyer? What do you look for when you buy books for your store?
Kris: That's such a huge topic, it's impossible to do justice to it in a few words. But briefly...an experienced bookseller comes to understand what will sell well in her store and what won't. To find titles that will work for us, we read loads of reviews and descriptions, in Publishers Weekly and other review outlets, and the publications published by the major wholesalers, Ingram and Baker & Taylor, as well as ARCs and other material publishers and authors send us (I review all the hard-copy material sent to us by authors, but I don't always make it through all the emails.). Good reviews and starred reviews influence me, of course, but I make up my own mind. Customers make suggestions, and they're often good. My best guide is what I call my "tingle" test. If I read a description, and I feel a little tingle, I know that book is for us. My tingle has rarely failed me.
Kari: You also teach writing online for the writers' program of the UCLA Extension School and your popular classes have been made into a DVD called Writing Killer Mysteries. Can you tell us more about what your classes involve?
Kris: I teach a variety of classes, but the mystery writing classes are my favorites. In September, the Writers' Program of the UCLA Extension School' will be offering my popular entry level writing class, "Committing the Perfect Crime: Writing Your First Mystery." One of the things I present in this class is my unusual approach to planning a mystery, with my three-angle method. That can also be found on my writing DVD, "Writing Killer Mysteries with Kris Neri," which a pair of my former students, owners of T2G Productions, produced. I'll also be offering a getting published one-week online course, "Approaching the Mystery Marketplace," in mid-August. I'm currently teaching a characterization workshop for the Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime. Whew! The next several months are truly my season of classes. All of my writing classes involve good assignments and lots of feedback and personal attention.
Kari: Your Tracy Eaton Mystery Series sounds fabulous. Can you tell us about the latest book Revenge For Old Time's Sake?
Kris: This madcap series features Tracy Eaton, the daughter of eccentric Hollywood stars,who uses unconventional means to solve crimes. Tracy has been trying to loosen up her stodgy lawyer husband, Drew. She succeeds to the extent that Drew pops his boorish boss, Ian Dragger, in the nose. The next time anyone sees Ian, he's floating face down in the Eatons' pool, and Drew becomes the prime suspect. Still, Tracy expects to clear her sweetie in short order. But that's before help arrives, her mother, over-the-top movie star, Martha Collins, who wants to be her daughter's sidekick, and Drew's mother, rigid-with-dignity, Charlotte. And when the mothers get together, the fireworks go off. These were the women, after all, who came to blows at their children's wedding reception. Obstacles mount higher still when Drew's ex, CeeCee Payne signs on his defense attorney. Given her strange choices, it isn't clear whether CeeCee wants Drew back, or whether revenge is what she's after. With the police and the media dogging Tracy's every step, she's unsure whether even her zaniest antics will be enough to save Drew.
Kari: Your newest mystery series sounds right up my alley. Can you tell us about book one High Crimes on the Magical Plane: A Samantha Brennan & Annabelle Haggerty Supernatural Mystery?
Kris: I've had such fun with this series, and that it received a Lefty Award nomination for Best Humorous Mystery of 2009, from Left Coast Crime 2010, was enormously gratifying. It features Samantha Brennan, fake psychic, and Annabelle Haggerty, genuine Celtic goddess and FBI agent. When Samantha happens onto the kidnapping of a movie star, she decides to rush to the FBI to appear to predict it. There she meets Annabelle Haggerty, her polar opposite, whom she considers a workaholic drone. Suddenly, the fake psychic begins experiencing genuine visions, and those visions drive the Bureau's case. Too bad the visions aren't hers, but Annabelle's, who is not the drone she appears to be, but everything Samantha claims to be, and more. Annabelle is a genuine goddess, keeping that under wraps in the FBI. Making it harder still is the fact that each woman is living the life the other secretly covets. Though they're up against some serious bad guys, they discover the fake and the goddess make a better team than either expects.
Kari: Do you write in other genres or do you plan to someday? If so, what ones?
Kris: I write both mystery and paranormal mystery/urban fantasy now, but my books also contain humor, action and romance (or paranormal romance). Any writer who doesn't put every possible tool into her toolbox is missing an important advantage. I use suspense techniques in my humorous mysteries, for instance. On a pure craft level, the difference between a taut thriller and a farcical mystery isn't as great as it might seem on the surface. Someday, I'd love to write a humorous general fiction novel, but every time I've tried to write mainstream short stories, dead bodies turn up in them. I'm going to have to work on that. For now, though, I'm plenty busy with urban fantasy and mysteries.
Kari: I love discovering new authors. Who are your favorite authors?
Kris: Oh, gosh! Where do I begin? I've always been a voracious reader, but becoming a bookseller has caused me to expand my reading tenfold!
In mysteries, I read across the soft-hard spectrum, everyone from Carolyn Hart and Earlene Fowler to Kent Krueger and Steve Hamilton, and in urban fantasy and classic fantasy, everyone from Charlaine Harris to Kat Richardson and Shirley Damsgaard to Diana Gabaldon and Naomi Novak; and way, way more in between.
Recently, I've enjoyed Sophie Littlefield's A BAD DAY FOR SORRY and David Cristofano's THE GIRL SHE USED TO BE. I'm looking forward to reading your forthcoming tweener title, THE SAMANTHA GRANGER EXPERIMENT: FUSED! I love kids' books!
Kari: Thanks so much for being here with us, Kris! You've inspired me to keep writing and making my books the best they can be. And I can't wait to check out the latest in both your series.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Interview With Berkley Author, Kandy Shepherd



Kandy Shepherd lived her early years in Sri Lanka, India, England and Ireland before settling in Sydney, Australia. Although she had a passion for animals, children in India were not allowed to pet them for fear of rabies. She was desperate for a cat or dog of her own, and after moving to a Sydney suburbia, she got her wish and has never been without at least one pet since, believing her life is not complete without an animal to love. A fortune teller once told her that in every one of her "former lives" she was surrounded by animals!

After working her way up to be editor-in-chief of several mass-market titles in Australia and England, ending up as editorial director of a major magazine publisher, she turned to fiction writing. After numerous rejections, she was finally published, first with short stories, then a category-type romance with a small Australian publisher. But it wasn't until she joined first Romance Writers of Australia and then Romance Writers of America that she began to understand the market. And when she got feedback from editors praising her "comedic voice" she realized angst might not be her forte!

When the call came from Berkley to publish Love Is A Four-Legged Word, she was thrilled beyond belief. She's here today to tell us about her latest book.

Liz: Tell me about your July 6 release from Berkley Sensation, Home Is Where the Bark Is.

KS: Liz, first off, thank you so much for inviting me to Mysteries and Margaritas. Home Is Where the Bark Is is a tale of romance, mystery and dogs. Serena Oakley owns an upscale doggy day care and spa in San Francisco and is suspicious of her hunky new client with his mismatched Yorki-poo. Serena is right to be wary as Nick Whalen is an undercover PI investigating an identity fraud, and Serena is his prime suspect. But when Serena’s safety is threatened they have to trust in each other enough to thwart the danger.



Liz: Both Home Is Where the Bark Is and your debut novel Love is a Four-Legged Word feature dogs as part of the plots. Did you set out to write “doggy” books?

KS: I set out to write warm, light-hearted romance with endearing—human!—characters. However, animals are such an important part of my life that they became part of my fictional peoples’ lives, too. Before I knew it, the doggy characters became important secondary characters, and essential to the plot.

Liz: Do we see the story through the point of view of a dog?

KS: My doggy characters don’t talk. We don’t see inside their minds. They’re animals. Not people. But like the real animals I love, my fictional animals are distinct personalities with their own quirks and loveable qualities.

Liz: There’s a well-known warning about working with kids or animals.

KS. I had to be careful writing Love Is A Four-Legged Word that Brutus, the ugly little mutt who inherits a multi-million dollar fortune, didn’t overshadow the heroine Maddy and the hero Tom. In Home Is Where The Bark Is Mack, the injured, orphaned mutt who helps bring Serena and Nick together couldn’t be allowed to steal the show.

Liz: What about the mystery element in Home Is Where the Bark Is?

KS. The book is more focused on romance than mystery but the mystery is important too. I’m the kind of person who nearly always guesses “whodunit” (much to the annoyance of my family and friends!) and I really try to keep my readers guessing throughout the course of the novel.

Liz: Tell me about your own animals.

KS: I share my life with a dog, three cats, four horses, two miniature bulls and twelve chickens. I love them all and would have more if my husband didn’t make his objections known! (Here she is with Molly.)


Liz: Serena, the heroine of your second book, is a secondary character in your first book. Did you set out to write a linked series?

KS: Not really, though I love reading them. I really liked writing Serena; so much so she stayed in my mind after I typed “The End”. To help her best friend Maddy out on her magazine, Serena posed semi-nude in a bathtub of chocolate and the photos ended up as an ad campaign. I wondered how that kind of publicity would affect her. Then I drove past a new doggy day care center. What a great job for a dog nut like Serena!. What if I wrote Serena her own book where she had given up modeling and owned her own doggy day-care? And what if I created a gorgeous hero who was as scathing about the idea of pooch pampering? And so the idea for Home Is Where the Bark Is was born.

Liz: One last question. I think our readers would love to hear how you sold to Berkley WITHOUT an agent!!!!!

KS. I hope it is encouraging to hear that I sold my debut novel Love is a Four-Legged Word through the slush pile at Berkley. I could not interest an agent in the manuscript so sent the required three chapters and a synopsis to Berkley, who were accepting unagented submissions. Fifteen months later, when I had virtually forgotten that I had sent the partial, I got a request for the full manuscript. A further six months later I got “The Call”. It was actually an email but no less exciting! Once I had the offer, I contacted an agent I had met at a conference whom I liked very much. She liked my manuscript enough to represent me and I signed with her. Publishing is definitely a waiting game and I think there is also a degree of luck involved. My manuscript landed on the desk of a newly promoted assistant editor who loved it and it went from there.

Me: And that, folks, should really make your day. Having an agent in your corner is the best case scenario, but it can be done without one. Thanks, Kandy for stopping by to chat with us. I hope the readers will have lots of comments for you because one lucky one will win a copy of Home Is Where the Bark Is. Fire away.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Welcome Guest Blogger Author A.C. / Artist Arthur

Hi all. Attorney, Jeff Mehalic, will be with us at a later date when he launches his new blog concerning authors and contracts and what to watch out for. In the meantime, I am thrilled to bring you an interview with the fantastic award winning multi published author, A.C. / Artist Arthur.
Kari: You write some amazing books for adults under the name A.C. Arthur and some fabulous books for young adults under the name Artist Arthur. Can you tell us a little about your latest projects for each?

A.C.: Thanks Kari! In just a couple of weeks I have two releases - under A.C. Arthur there's Summer Heat, the first book in my Lakefields of Manhattan series which features some fan-favorite characters from the Donovan series. Sam Desdune has chosen the woman he wants, unfortunately, Karena Lakefield has other plans. An art thief brings them together again when Karena needs Sam to prove her innoncence.





Artist Arthur is making her debut in the paranormal young adult genre with Manifest, the first book in the Mystyx series. Krystal has a crush...on a ghost. Dealing with her parents divorce, being the new girl in town and peer pressure is not enough for fifteen year old Krystal; she has a supernatural power that's now branding her a freak. And she's not the only weird one at her school.

Kari: What's it like working with multiple publishers at the same time? How do you juggle multiple deadlines?


A.C.: I'm not even going to try and fake it, saying that it's easy or it just takes discipline. It's hectic and takes concentration and lots of prayer to get it right! I have a calendar with all things family related on it--kids doc appointments, school events, bills due, family meetings, etc. Then I have another calendar with all things book related (one on the computer, one on my cell phone and one printed out and hanging over my desk). YA deadlines go in blue, romance deadlines are in red, appearances and signings in green and conferences in purple. I look at every calendar every day just to see what I need to be doing for the next twenty-four hours. See, I told ya, hectic!

Kari: You are one busy lady. You work full time in the legal field, have a husband and three children, and yet still make all your deadlines. How do you juggle it all? What's your writing schedule like?

A.C.: It's definitely a juggling act and sometimes I'm literally dizzy from trying to do it all. LOL I'm very focused and dedicated to whichever job I'm doing at the time. So when I'm at the law office I really try to give it 100% (ok, like 85%, lol). I don't like to skimp on my family time either. When the kids are in school there's homework time and school events. My two youngest are girls so there's talk time. :) I write everyday, sad to say even when I'm sick. Sometimes I'll write by hand if I don't feel like pulling out the laptop. My best writing hours are early morning, like between 2-5am. If I'm on a deadline I'll write at night too, but I really hate to stay up past 8pm, makes me really grouchy.

Kari: You've been nominated for and/or won several various kinds of writing awards. What ones are you most proud of and what's been the most exciting news you've gotten?

A.C.: I'm proud of all the awards I've had the pleasure of winning. It's such an awesome feeling to be recognized for your hard work. I think the most exciting was the first time I found out I was nominated for a Romantic Times Reviewer's Choice Award. I didn't win it but man, I felt like I'd finally arrived when I was nominated. LOL

Kari: I love discovering new authors. Who are your favorite authors to read?

A.C.: Oh, I just read Dee Davis for the first time. She's not a new author but I really liked her easy writing style. I love, love, love Nora Roberts. J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood series is phenomenal. Pearl Cleage and Bernice McFadden are other favs.

Kari: Any final words of wisdom for your fellow writers?

A.C.: Don't give up! I tell every writer I meet this. The industry we've chosen is not an easy one to survive in, the subjectivity can be absolutely heartbreaking at times. But if the stories are truly in you, if you possess the passion to write, then do it! Take the good with the bad and start another story. :)

Thatnks again so much for being with us, A.C. To find out more about either A.C. or Artist Arthur, go to: http://www.acarthur.net

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Mary's Rants - Take the whine out of writing

Again, it's just me folks, no wonderful guest or anything like that just me. Yes I'm whining. Most of the writers I know whine a lot. That's what I'm going to chat about. I have been known to enjoy a good wine. But I don't like a whiner. Especially when it's me. 


Are you asking what is the Whine in writing? I'll explain:
When am I ever going to get published?
How can (fill in blank here) land a contract before me, when I've been waiting longer?
I never have time to write, someone is always interrupting me!
New York editors will not even look at my work unless I have an agent.
Everyone in my writing group has found an agent, but me.

The answer to four of these whines is: No one can predict when you receive a contract. Most things in this business is out of our control. So you can't whine about it. You're wasting valuable time and energy. And if you are busy complaining about not being published or not having an agent, whose writing for you? If you have nothing to submit you'll never get an agent nor will you get published. 

The answer to the I whine is: You can control when you write. Only you can let people interrupt you. You've heard from many authors and workshops these things:
  1. Tell friends and family you love them but... you have to write.  They need to respect that.
  2. Set a schedule and stick to it. And if you let people continue to interrupt you after you've told them your schedule, you are letting them control your writing.
  3. Be flexible, life is going to throw snowballs at you every chance it gets. Roll with the punches. Do not waste time moaning about the lost writing time. Dust off and revise your schedule. 
Your writing time is something you can control, most of the time. So do it.
And stop all of your whining! If you don't you will never be a published author. 

Now on to something I promised you last week. If you remember I launched my new web design. Anyone who left a comment on this blog and my personal blog this week had their names put into a hat for a drawing. The winner receives a coffee mug and a $10 GC to Starbucks. I wrote all the names down and put them in Ron's (hubby) golf hat and he drew a name. 

The winner is....

Congratulations! Marie H. 

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Cassy's Corner- A conversation with Madeira James, Top Website Designer


"Maddee James is the owner of xuni.com, which designs and builds cool author sites! She thinks she has the best job ever. Period." Well, that's what Maddee sent me. What she doesn't say is that she designs and manages the most amazing array of websites for writers. She has a canny ability to tune into what the author wants to portray. There is no cookie-cutter approach to her work. Please check out the fantastic websites of her long list of clients, all of whom are posted on her site www.xuni.com. Maddee is going to chime in this afternoon for questions and comments. She is tied up until 11:30 Mountain Time. But, don't let that stop you from joining us earlier than that.



Cassy: Maddee, you design some of the best websites I've ever seen. You specialize in sites for authors. How did you end up specializing with this group of people?


Maddee: Thank you so much. I love what I do and I think it shows! What could be better than working with color, design and code for people who write for a living? Art and words -- nothing better.


As to the history of it all... years ago while I was working as a geologist I met thriller writer Ridley Pearson at a dinner party. I was the only one at the table who had read his books and had looked at his website, so he and I spent a lot of time talking. I had recently taught myself web design with the old Adobe program GoLive and while I wasn't very knowledgeable (or very good!) yet, I brazenly offered to re-do Ridley's website. I put my name at the bottom of it... and the rest is history. I only had a few clients the first few years but more and more authors started coming to me, and now I have over 200 on my roster. Since I started with Ridley I did many mystery and thriller writers to begin with, but now I do sites for every type of author, and have recently become kind of big with YA writers. Love doing those sites! Lots of pink and flowers and stuff!



Cassy: One of the things I love most about your sites is the uniqueness of each one. You don't have a single look. How do you work with a writer to make the site reflect who he or she is? I love how the edgy gritty writers look so different from the sweet or cozy ones. You know how to pull this off.


Maddee: People tell me that even though all my sites look different (something I must admit I pride myself on) they all have a "xuni" feel. I love that. One of the things I love about my work is how it's always different and there are always new things to learn and improve upon. How do I make the sites match the authors so well? When someone hires me to do their site, I send them a very detailed questionnaire asking about specific needs and desires -- from navigation wording to color and images. Then the fun challenge is to pull together everything they want into something that I -- and they -- love.


Cassy: Could you tell us about the actual services you offer? I know designing the site is huge, but isn't that only a portion of what you provide for your clients?


Maddee: It's actually pretty simple -- I design, build and launch the site -- and then I maintain them by adding whatever the author wants over time. I used to do online promotion as well but I realized over time that it's really better to leave that work to the experts who really know what they're doing: author publicists (of which there are many great ones!). That way I can do what I do best -- design and maintenance of beautiful sites.


Cassy: What should a writer consider in putting together a website? How do you get your "message" across?


Maddee: So many things to think about, but the most important things are probably sharing what is most important (your words: bio, books, etc.), organizing it in a way that visitors can easily find what they need, and having a site design which expresses you and your writing. Having a professional-looking website says SO much about the seriousness of your writing -- while a poorly designed website can be pretty damaging. I always say it's better to not have one at all than to not have it look GOOD. That said, there are certainly authors who have the time and talent to do their own, which is great. And for those of you who can't, there are people like me.


I'd like to say a little more about this, actually. When I first started my business in 1998, there weren't too many of us who specialized in author website design. Now there are MANY. And you know what? I love that! I don't consider it competition at all -- in fact, I love that there are so many designers for you all to choose from. The joy of it is we all have our own style and so do you -- and you can choose the person/company which best fits YOU.


Cassy: When should someone think (and then do) a site? You have both published and unpublished writers. Do you have advice as to when a website should be launched?


Maddee: While the majority of my work is with published authors, I do occasionally take people on who are still looking to be published. I admit I'm pretty choosy -- the strength of the person's commitment to their craft is important to me, because I'm serious about my work and I like to work for people who have this same feeling about theirs. Whether you "should" have a site before you have a publishing contract is completely up to you. Some people feel it will show them to be serious so they may be more likely to get an agent and publishing contract. I would stand by the thought that how well you write is what gets you a contract -- but that a website (a beautiful one that is!) certainly can't hurt!


One thing I quite definitely suggest, however, is to buy your domain right away if it's available. Domains are very reasonably priced through companies like GoDaddy and it's best to own your name.com if at all possible.


Cassy: Do you work with other types of PR or branding, separate from website design?


Maddee: As I said above, I leave most PR to the experts. I do a certain amount of branding, however. I regularly do website-matching newsletters, business cards, and ads, among other things, for my authors.


Cassy: How are the sites maintained? By this I mean, do your clients do their own editing, are blogs and newsletters linked, how does new information get added? Lots of questions bundled into one.


Maddee: Every website designer does this differently but in my business, I maintain all the sites that I build. One reason for that is that I'm super picky -- I like my sites to be as perfect as possible -- so if clients got in there and messed about it would drive me nuts. The clients who choose to work with me like to concentrate on writing and are happy to leave the edits to me. But for those authors who want to do their own edits, there are lots of designers they can work with who will build their site in Wordpress or some other content management system. Totally up to the authors how they want to go about it. (I do, however, build blogs which match the author sites, which the client then adds to whenever they want.)


Cassy: Do you have any opinion about how much time needs to be devoted to the website updates and newsletters to keep an author "out there?"


Maddee: It's certainly good to update a site relatively frequently to keep things fresh. This is not only true to keep visitors coming back, but it's also good for search engines -- you will rise higher in the rankings if you update your site pretty often. As far as newsletters go, I am a big proponent of them -- it's a great (and simple) way for authors to keep in touch with their readers. I design newsletters in the style of the author's site, so it's a great branding tool as well.


Cassy: What is the role of social networking and how does that tie to a website? I'm talking about Twitter, Facebook and so on. How important do you think this is to the recognition of a writer?


Maddee: As we all know, social networking is the big thing right now. Authors all feel like they have to blog, tweet, and commune with fans on Facebook, Shelfari, Red Room, oh the list goes on and on... I would say if you want to get into all that (and yes it's fun and can certainly help gain new readers), just make sure you put your real writing first. And your families. :) If you're giving up TV time to tweet, more power to you. But if you should be writing and you're blogging or friending instead, get some discipline. These things are major timesinks! JMO. :)


By the way, if you're pondering blogging, use the writers on this blog as an example and think about starting a group blog. They are so much more fun, and you attract more readers for all the obvious reasons. Some other great examples besides this one we're on would be http://www.jungleredwriters.com and http://pensfatales.com. (Okay, so I designed these, but they really are worth a look!)


Most important in blogging and tweeting: have something to say. PLEASE! :)


Cassy: For those of us who are just learning the ropes, what advice would you offer? I suspect you have many stories of those you love to work with and those you don't. NO names, please. Just what are the rules of the road we should take to heart?


Maddee: I think the best advice I would give an author who does not yet have a website is first to look at lots of author sites to see what appeals to you, and then contact the designers whom you like best. Btw I definitely suggest working with someone who works with authors regularly -- we know so much more about what you need that say someone who designs business websites. They may design lovely sites, but if they don't know what an author needs, or how an author site should be set up, it's not going to get you anywhere. I've been occasionally tempted to take on a photographer (for example) as a client but I realize they really are best served by companies who specialize in photography sites. I love having my little niche and am happy to stick with it! I can't tell you how many authors have come to me with a current website which needs to be completely redone -- it was designed by a cousin who didn't know what they were doing, or a faceless conglomerate who didn't pay attention to their needs. That said, here is my quick little list of what to look for in a designer...


a. go with a professional author website designer (as I said above, look at author sites you like and find out who designed them).

b. make sure their style fits what you have in mind.

c. have them commit to a timeframe as to when the site will be LIVE (oh the horror stories about designers who never get sites done...).

d. find out how long they "normally" take to do edits (my normal timeframe for edits, for example, is 24 to 48 hours and right away if needed)

e. get the price upfront.

f. email some of their other clients to see how they like working with them.

g. make sure you feel a connection to them -- it should be a long-term relationship and you want someone you can trust and relate to.


I'm sure there are more things but that's all I can think of right now. Most important: it should be a fun process and the final site should be exactly what you had in mind. There is nothing I like better than to show a client a design and have them tell me I "got them." I adore that. I live for praise. :)


**

I'm happy to answer questions in the comment section, or of course you can email me privately at madeira@xuni.com. And do check out my website -- http://www.xuni.com -- you'll see examples of my designs and lists of all my fabulous clients and lots of good information in the FAQ section. And then check out other designers to compare and contrast our styles -- there are many wonderful designers out there. And most importantly, have fun with the whole process!


thanks!

maddee








Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tuesdays Tidbits with Kari: Featuring Author/Publicist Theresa Meyers

Please help me welcome the multi-talented author / publicist Theresa Meyers!

Kari: You have an impressive background, having worked as a journalist, a publicist, and a novelist. And now your are part of Blue Moon Communications: a public relations firm focused on promoting fiction authors. http://www.bluemooncommunications.com Can you tell us more about that?

Theresa: Well, I tried hard for a very long time to keep my fiction writing and my professional job in public relations separate. I went to school for mass communications and then worked for corporations and in the largest public relations agency in Arizona before striking out on my own and opening Blue Moon Communications in 2001. The fusion of my background in public relations and my knowledge as a writer came about because of my dear friend Cherry Adair, who asked for some help promoting her book Hide and Seek. After that I gave up trying to separate the two. I started finding ways were I could make what I already knew about consumer product promotions and getting national media coverage blend with what I knew about the publishing industry in a way I hadn't seen other publicists try. Up until now we've had a fairly full roster with little room for new clients, but we've just brought on a new Account Executive, Dorina Dizon Potz, in May, so we're able to expand again.

Kari: 2 of your clients were chosen for the Kelly Ripa Book Club on LIVE! with Regis and Kelly. Can you tell us more about that?

Theresa: The pursuit of getting chosen for Kelly's Book Club initially started with my client Carly Phillips. Carly is a huge Kelly Ripa fan and has been following her on the soaps for years. When Oprah halted her book club for a few years, all the daytime television shows came up with their own book clubs. Carly was watching the day Kelly joked on air that if she had a book club, she'd like it to be trashy fun beach books. Carly called me up and asked if we could send in her book The Bachelor. I started by contacting the producers at the show, and after several months of back and forth found out precisely who was going to be producing the segment, how they wanted materials sent and what they were looking for. I ended up sending a basket of lip-shaped cookies that mimicked the cover of Carly's book, each with a phrase about a character written on them along with an autographed copy of the book directly to Kelly Ripa.

With Vicky Lewis Thompson I was working with the same producer, so I knew Vicky's book would fall into line with what they were looking for. This time I sent a half tropical floral, half bath goodies basket with a copy of the book to Kelly welcoming her back to the show after her maternity leave. Both times, we'd done the homework and made the contacts with the media to know what they wanted and how they wanted it, and we were lucky enough to get both clients we sent in chosen as two out of the total seven books that were picked for the club before they ended it. Kelly's schedule just became too full with her other projects to continue reading through all the materials being sent in, so they tabled the club segment. At this time there are no plans for it to return. Getting a client onto national television is a rush all on it's own, but it takes a lot of work and research in the background to make those shining moments happen.

Kari: You've been published in dozens of magazines and newspapers, and now books. You've finaled in the American Title II contest. And you write in several genres: scottish historicals, paranormals, contemporary romance and even middle grade. How do you juggle it all and which is your favorite genre to write in?

Theresa: I always knew I wanted to write. For the longest time the fiction was just for me. I didn't believe I could make a living selling it, so I wrote instead as a journalist for newspapers and national magazines, eventually going into public relations full-time (which requires a lot of writing!). Once I finished a few books, I entered my second historical into the American Title II contest and became one of eleven people in the nation to go through the elimination process in the American Idol of books. While I didn't win, I was thrilled that my fellow Greater Seattle RWA member Gerri Russell did. That book, The Spellbound Bride, is now out with Diversion Books.

As for how I juggle it all, well, that's still a mystery to me at times! The best way I can explain it is that a lot of writers work a day job and still write their books. Blue Moon Communications is my day job. On my lunch hour, evenings and weekends I write my books. Some of my friends laugh that it's because I'm a gemini (the twins), which means if I'm not multi-tasking, I'm sleeping. I'm usually working on more than one book at a time (either writing, plotting, character development, research, editing or promotion and marketing). I use different sound tracks and different scented candles to help me switch between books easily.

Paranormal books tend to be my favorite to write only because they allow me the latitude to do some things that lay outside the normal lines we draw for ourselves and our characters. Stepping into the unknown cuts across multiple genres. I mean how cool is it to be able to have characters that can phase through walls or materialize objects at will? I'm especially excited about the new Steampunk world I'm working in for the trilogy I'm writing for Kensington that will be out starting in Nov. 2011 and the Harlequin Nocturne vampire books I have coming out in March and June 2011 that will expand on the world I've already created in my Nocturne Bites, Salvation of the Damned and The Vampire's Mistress.

Kari: Can you tell us about your latest new release?

Theresa: My latest releases include The Vampire's Mistress (4-10), a Harlequin Nocturne Bite which is set in Sicily and includes a chase scene through the famous Capuchin Catacombs beneath the city of Palermo and The Spellbound Bride (5-10) from Diversion Books, a Scottish historical set during the North Berwick witch trial in the period right before King James takes the throne of England after Elizabeth I. Both stories involved research but in very different ways. I love learning new things so, for me, research is one of the benefits of writing.

Kari: Your Italian American heritage originates in Sicily. By the way my agent is Italian also and she too has blond hair and blue eyes :-) I've always wanted to go to Italy. What are some fabulous tidbits you can give us about Italy?

Theresa: Ancient history and culture are alive and well in Italy. It's utterly fascinating for someone from a country with a history less than three-hundred years old to be walking around in a villa where people lounged by the sea over 2,000 years ago nibbling on figs or bread drenched in rich olive oil and rosemary. The feeling in the air itself is just different. There's a richness to it, a sense that it isn't about what you create or what your job is today, but what you leave behind for eons to come in your legacy, art and family that matters. Oh, and food and love. Romance writers are very popular and well-thought of in a country dedicated to amore.

My favorite places to visit in Palermo with my cousins were the Dumo (cathedral) the Ducal Palace and the Capuchin Catacombs beneath the city. All of them were so different and yet the blend between east and west (Norman and Moor) is in evidence everywhere you look. My other favorite location was Tourmina, a Roman city perched atop the cliffs overlooking the azure water. The Roman open-air auditorium was being set up for a musical concert the day I went so it's still in use today!

The funniest thing that happened is when we were approaching a six-way intersection in Palermo. Some of the streets are so ancient that you can barely drive down them without folding in your car's mirrors. There was a traffic jam in the intersection and the cars were just inches from each other's bumpers in all directions. From behind us came the sound of emergency sirens. I knew there was no way that vehicle was going to make it through the traffic snarl. Boy, was I wrong. The ambulance just curb-jumped onto the sidewalk and drove while people on the sideway stepped aside. I'd never seen anything like it, but it worked. Italy is a lot like that. It's different, but it works.

Kari: Reading about you on your website had me grinning a lot. You sound like a hoot. I too love adventure. I see you scuba dive, ride horses, and your four-wheel ATV with the hot pink flames on the seat and big red lips on the fender sounds awesome. Do you ever incorporate any of your adventurous hobbies into your books? What's on the horizon for you?

Theresa: I really enjoy just experiencing new things whether it's traveling to a new place, trying a new food or meeting new people. It's all fodder for my imagination (which is probably more adventuresome than I really am in real life). Some of my hobbies might seem adventuresome, but some are rather tame, like sewing, gardening and enjoying tea with my friends. Riding the Oregon sand dunes on the ATVs with my family is one of our annual trips that's a lot of fun. Scuba diving was something I got into because my husband had been a certified diver for several years before I met him and he wanted to go for our honeymoon and I loved it. I haven't yet had a reason to incorporate scuba diving into my stories (for the historicals, it's too early and for the paranormals my vampires don't need to breathe!) but perhaps I might find a way to make it part of the Steampunks. You can never tell!

As far as what's coming up in the future, that's uncertain too. I'd love to go visit my family in Italy again soon, but I'd also like to see Australia, perhaps go to Japan with my husband or go to Scotland. As far as trying new things. I tried and failed miserably at snowboarding this last winter. One thing I know I'll never try is skydiving because I'm afraid of heights! For now I'm on a tight writing schedule, which will cut down on the amount of travel I get to do. I do know that I'll be attending the Steamcon II conference in Nov. in Seattle. I've already been sewing on my steampunk costumes.

Thanks so much for being here, Theresa!

Thanks for inviting me over to your blog today, Kari! It's been fun.

Theresa Meyers
www.bluemooncommunications.com (phone 360-895-0879)

Look for Salvation of the Damned, http://bit.ly/salOfDmn ***A Vampire's Mistress, http://bit.ly/AVampireMiss *** The Spellbound Bride, http://amzn.to/SpellBride

Find me on Twitter www.twitter.com/Theresa_Meyers

Monday, June 21, 2010

Liz’s Monday Morning Ramblings with Intrigue author, Angi Morgan



Please welcome a chaptermate and friend who has a unique story to tell about her first sale. For those of you who are members of Romance Writers of America (RWA), the Golden Heart is the most prestigious contest out there. Even if you don’t win the contest, just finaling gets you noticed. We all know authors who have gone on to sell after the finalists were announced and shared their good news at the huge Awards Ceremony at Nationals.

Well, here’s where Angi is unique. She sold BEFORE the finalists were announced. How is that possible, you ask? Well, according to the rules, you have to be unpublished at the time of the deadline for the contest which was in November. Angi heard her manuscript, titled See Jane Run at the time, sold to Harlequin Intrigue on November 12th but signed her contract on December 1st with a release date 10 months later. She’s here today to tell us about her amazing journey and to answer all your questions. I’m the lucky one who gets to interview her.

Me: So, Angi, have you come down to earth yet after your amazing last six months?

Angi: Not at all, things just keep happening. It all feels surreal. Just last Monday I saw my (Most Excellent) cover for the first time. It is amazing.


Me: Tell us a little about Hill Country Holdup (originally titled See Jane Run.)

Angi: HCH never stops. I wrote the book with the intention of never having a sagging middle, so Steve and Jane never slow down. I like unusual backdrops: fireworks, floods, The Wax Museum...oh and a junkyard. Throw in a double kidnapping and a villain who just won’t stop...and there you have it.


Me: You mentioned the perception of your hero through some readers’ eyes surprised you. Can you elaborate?

Angi: That’s actually Erren, the hero of my second book. Two friends read the first pages of his story and said he was one hunky cowboy. It was a shock for me, since he had two-toned hair, was wearing tennis shoes, a leather jacket and an earring. It was nice that the Texan in me shines through. Of course, Erren is a true Texan and the package he was wrapped in isn’t the real one. He’s my chameleon.


Me: A Little birdie told me you have been contracted by Intrigue for your second book, tentatively titled Bad Boy Uncovered. Is this one written? Is it book 2 of a series? Tell us about it.

Angi: That news is part of my tremendous roller coaster ride this spring. Erren does appear in Hill Country Holdup, but this is not a sequel. My agent called May 28th with the news BBU had sold with a February 2011 release. Wow, talk about your quick turn-arounds. I worked on Art Fact Sheets less than two weeks later and had my title on June 11: .38 Caliber Cover-Up. It fits the story perfectly and I can’t wait for that cover!


Me: Since the first book of my series comes out next July, I am particularly interested in what kind of marketing you did for HCH. Any advice for newbies like me?

Angi: Oh wow...do we have to market? LOL Now that I have a cover, I’ll be sitting down with my hubby to decide exactly what we can afford and how my website will be changing. One thing I decided early was to have a unique sound on my book trailers. I wanted something with a suspenseful beat, and didn’t want words. So I purchased several original songs (music only) to help me accomplish that. Take a look on my website: www.AngiMorgan.com. I joined the Intrigue Authors website. You can also follow my “drama” from Sold to the Shelf on SCWWblog.blogspot.com. South Carolina Writers’ Workshop asked me to blog about my experience this year every three weeks. And of course, I’m joining the eHarlequin community of writers on their website. I’m very fortunate that Harlequin has an in-place community.

Me: What’s in the future for Angi Morgan? Do
you have plans to venture out in any other genre or is RS where you want to stay?

Angi:
I have a great agent who’s already talking future books with my Intrigue editor. If those ever slow down, I’ve had other editors interested in a Scottish time-travel series with a unique twist (is there any other kind? LOL). But Suspense seems to be in everything I write...and the romance is a must. I happen to love a Happily Ever After ending. I certainly feel like I’m living one right now.

Me: Tell us one thing about publishing that surprised you the most.

Angi: All my friends have been very supportive of my writing over the past ten years. It’s always amazed me that they never doubted it would happen. They’re all so excited about the book being released in September. But I guess that’s not truly surprising because they’re great. The days following the sell of HCH, I received close to 300 emails congratulating me. It was a surprise, but an awesome feeling that so many people would take the time to wish me well.

Me: Since you accomplished two of my biggest dreams (selling and finaling in the GH) can you tell us what your next big goal is?

Angi: I’ll share that when I WIN the Golden Heart. >big grin< Actually, my current goal is to finish .38 Caliber Cover-Up BEFORE national conference. I’m waiting on one conversation to see what direction my next book should take: they’ll be in Texas, they’ll have strong heroic Texans, and there will be a gyro-copter.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Interview with Christine Witthohn of Book Cents Literary Agency



Oh boy, are you in for a treat today. I talked my awesome agent, Christine Witthohn, into talking a few minutes out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions. Although I actually signed with Christine’s partner in November 2006, I met Christine at Dallas RWA in 2007 and we became fast friends as well as business partners after her partner left the agency that summer.

A little back story on this wonderful woman. Christine always wanted to be a doctor, but after watching her dad die of pancreatic cancer, she decided life was too short and she wanted to do something she really loved – reading books. Better still, she wanted to sell books that had found a place in her heart. After doing her homework for almost four and a half years, including taking extensive contract negotiations courses, she hung out her shingle. Today, she has a great list of authors and is proud of the working relationship she has with each of them.

BTW, some lucky commenter today will get an “on-the-spot” chance to pitch to Christine. Now on to the questions:

Me: Welcome, Christine. I know your time is short, so I’ll get right to the point. Who is your favorite client?

I would have to say the talented and incredible author, Liz Lipperman.

Okay, I can see nobody is buying that and my nose is growing, so I’ll move on to the actual real questions.

Christine: My Texan Fireball has an extra funny bone, but I’m going to answer her question anyway. I don’t have a favorite client – I love’em all. I am very close to the people on my list because they are my teammates/business partners. Truth be told, I’m only as good as my list. I try to treat everyone the same, no matter if they have a hundred books or if they’re a debut author. No two people are the same, but I do treat everyone the way I would like to be treated.


Me: Right out of the gate, everyone wants to know about your sales.

Christine: They are steady, thank goodness – but only because I have fantastic writers on my list. The genres are all over the place because I have such a diverse group. I sold 5 debut authors in a 5 month period, which is huge!

Me: I know you follow AAR guidelines, but are you a member?

Christine:
Yes.

Me: We all know from Book Cent’s website –
what you do and do not represent. What I want to know is what genre really excites you?

Christine: That is a tricky question. As you can see from my sales, my tastes vary. No matter the genre, when I read a story it all comes down to one question… can I fight for it? (In this market, that’s exactly what it takes.)

I have also been known to fall in love with someone’s voice 

If I had to pick one genre that I tend to lean toward, I would have to say either mystery/suspense or thrillers.


Me: How involved are you in the author’s long-term career? Are you hands on?

Christine: I’m not interested in quick sales (if there is such a thing). I’m interested in long term relationships.

When I sign a client, we become a team. Both members of the team have to bring something to the table in order for the relationship to be successful (and I’m very protective of my teammates.) But, because we are a team… sometimes my role is one of a cheerleader, confidant, editor, mama pit bull, friend, whip master, publicist, or slave labor (at book signings.)

Me: I know you must request partials from the millions of queries you get. Everyone always wants to know what stands out for you. Not me. I want to know what turns you off?

Christine: People who don’t do their homework and waste everyone’s time!

When you get anywhere from 1,000-2,500 e-queries a day, you have to have a way to sort them. Here’s what we do at Book Cents…

When I (or my interns) go through queries, the first thing we pull out is: Dear Mr. Witthohn (last time I checked, I was female); Dear Agent; Dear [insert another agent’s name here]; or a mass query (queries which are sent to the masses and have 20+ agents names listed – none of which even rep the same thing!)

Next, we pull out everything I don’t rep (examples: screenplays, sci fi, erotica, westerns, poetry, novellas, and children’s picture books.)

Next, we pull out everything where the word count is off (examples: 600k thriller, 240k romance, 15k young adult, 1500 word middle grade, etc.)

Next, we pull out “junk drawer genres” (examples: an inspy adventure with erotica; a sci fi romance (with two aliens hooking up) mystery; middle grade where little girl lives on the street and must flee from a violent serial killer (blood and guts shown!)

It all sounds bizarre, I know, but I get things like this every day. There is even one gentleman who sends me the same query every single day. It’s not even something I rep, but I guess he hopes I’ll change my mind!

It takes an incredible amount of time to go through queries and if I don’t keep up with them on a daily basis (after business hours), the pile builds up and becomes an intimidating, agent-eating Query Monster! This is why agents close their submissions periodically :)


Me: What about your contract? Do you rep everything the author has or do you deal one book only?

Christine: I only rep what my teammate and I agree upon (which is most of what they write – unless it’s outside my comfort zone or areas of expertise.)

Me: When you get a new project from one of your authors, how do you choose which publishers to submit to? Do you do a blanket submission?

Christine: When an agent reads a story, they automatically think about the editors looking for that type of story and where they can submit the story.

A good agent never blanket submits. It’s unprofessional. My job is to keep up with an editor’s wants and needs. When I have a honking story I’m excited about, I specifically target the editors I submit to.

I do this by doing my own homework (i.e. – keeping up with what each editor buys; what they tell me they are hunting for; what’s already on their lists, etc..)


Me: Book Cents is a sponsor for the International Women’s Fiction Festival in Matera, Italy every year. Tell us about that and why you are so passionate about that one.

Christine: Yes, Book Cents is one of the main sponsors of the IWFF. I was so impressed after the first year I attended, I became a sponsor! This is my fourth year. The conference is in Matera, Italy (which is a UNESCO World Heritage site) and held in a beautifully restored 16th century convent – complete with arched and vaulted ceilings, private gardens, and a terrace which gives you breathtaking, panoramic views of the Sassi.

This is the only international writer’s conference in the world, and the only conference that puts you squarely in the international marketplace. It’s kind of like being at the UN, with an interpreter’s booth in the back – ready to translate workshops, panels, and various presentations into German, French, English, Spanish, and Italian.

Where else can you sit out on a terrace with breathtaking views, a glass of vino, and chat up a foreign editor about YOUR book? Splurge on a sinful hot chocolate (with a splash of liquor of course) or an espresso while overlooking the Sassi or piazza while discussing what you’re currently working on with a group of agents and editors? Enjoy a mouth watering pizza or sample all the local flavors before you’re off to the IWFF Gala (the Italian equivalent of the Academy Awards – for books!)?

You will never get this kind of one-on-one time with industry pros anywhere else!

For more information on Matera: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matera
For more information on the International Women’s Fiction Festival, Sept 23-26, 2010: http://www.womensfictionfestival.com


If you are a published author and want to increase your sales and get name recognition in the foreign market… this is the conference for you!

Me: Aside from the WFF above, is there a conference you’ve attended that stands out as one an author should think about?

Christine: I go to so many conferences, it just all depends on what you write. If your readers would like to comment and tell me what they write, I’d be happy to make some suggestions.

DISCLAIMER: I do not get a kick back of any kind or from anyone for providing my own opinion on what conferences are really good and/or well organized.


Me:
You’ve sold five debut authors in five months. Any ideas about how a debut author can create a buzz for their books?

Christine: The internet! Know it. Use it. Own it.

Me: One final question – what one thing drives you crazy in your job?

Christine:
Again… when folks don’t do their homework.

Here is an insider tip to those of you who want an edge: Do your homework!
Know the market (read books in the genre you write) and know your competition.


Me:
Okay, that’s a wrap. Thanks for your honest answers.

Christine:
Thanks for having me, Liz!

Christine has agreed to answer questions, so fire away, guys. And don’t forget. Some lucky commenter will win an online pitch to Christine today.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Mary's Rants: I have a new web site!

Good morning.

If you're an author and someone says that you need to have 1. a professional web presence and 2. you need to brand yourself. What do you think that means?

Well when the lovely CW (Christine our agent) told me this the first thing I did was evaluate my web page. I had a home made site and it wasn't bad if I do say so myself. But it wasn't what you would call professional.

I researched many web design companies and found Rae Monet, Inc. Design her designs were awesome and reasonably priced to boot. How could I go wrong? Well she couldn't but I could. I chatted with her on the phone and told her so much information, because I really didn't know what I wanted.

It was one of those things that you know you'll know what you want when you see it. She designed me something that was totally awesome, but wasn't what my husband or agent had in mind. We went with what I was writing at the time. Suspense.

Great site. I was looking really urbanish at the end of an alley. So I said great I'll take it. But every time I looked at it, it just wasn't what I wanted. However, I still couldn't put my finger on why. Other than it was suspense, and I had many ideas and finished manuscripts that were not. Back to what I originally was trying to express. I didn't want to be branded as suspense only I wanted something more broad to brand my name.

My writing has a women's lit flare even in my mystery/suspense. Finally, I realized that I wanted something that would brand my name that wasn't genre related. I called Rae and of course, she thought I was nuts. But she worked with me.

And after really researching and soul searching--I know sounds melodramatic, but I did--I came up with an idea. My original tag line that I've had for a few years is Surrender yourself to the wanderlust of Mary Martinez. I wanted to go back to that. What did I love? Travel, a good story, and a good bottle of wine.

I checked dozens upon dozens of web sites and with the help and suggestions of a few friends and my husband I came up with an idea of taking my dad's old (as in ancient) brown suitcase, a bottle of wine, glass and a book to Red Butte Gardens, Salt Lake City's botanical Gardens, for pictures. (Our daughter Kaci Walters took the lovely pictures used)

Without further ado, check out my new and fabulous web site: http://marymartinez.com/ and my blog: http://marysbooksblogger.blogspot.com/.

Look around my site, and tell me if you like it, if you think it brands me as an author who may write a bit of all genre's. Everyone who comments either on this blog or my personal blog will have their name entered into a drawing for a coffee mug and a $10 GC for Starbucks. I will also send out a newsletter about the drawing, I'm giving everyone a week to comment. I'll announce the winner next Thursday on Mary's Rants!