I know I'm in my own little world, but it's OK.
They know me here...


Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Thank you to everyone who dropped by to say hi to Maree and check out her latest release, FROM THE ASHES.

Maree has generously donated one (1) give-away e-copy of FROM THE ASHES to a reader, and the winner is...

Cathy M

If you can contact Maree by email - maree (at) mareeanderson (dot) com - she'll be more than happy to arrange getting your prize to you! Congratulations!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Interview with...Nalini Singh

This is an interview I conducted with Nalini Singh for the RWNZ Heart to Heart magazine (August 2009 issue).

First call to publication in 2002 with Silhouette desire with DESERT WARRIOR, Fijian-born, New Zealand bred best-selling author, Nalini Singh continues to rock the paranormal romance world with her success.
With her work hitting the USA Today bestseller list, the New York Times short list, and with multiple awards for her books, Nalini’s joins the ranks of other highly successful paranormal romance authors such as Sherrilyn Kenyon, Angela Knight and Christine Feehan.
Nalini has been writing as long as she can remember and can’t imagine doing anything else. This is great news for her fans and the romance genre in general!
She spent 3 yrs working Japan and has returned to live in NZ. She’s worked as a lawyer, a librarian, candy factory general hand, a bank temp and an English teacher.
Nalini takes time out from her hectic schedule to share her thoughts into the world of romance.

What were some of the significant milestones in your writing life prior to publication?
Completing and submitting my first manuscript the summer after I finished high school was a biggie. It was rejected, but it taught me I could write a book from beginning to end, tell a whole story, and that really boosted my confidence.

Finding out about, then walking into my very first RWNZ conference was a huge deal, too. It was so wonderful to speak about writing with other people who not only understood, but were working toward the same goal.

Another memory that's really important to me is the year I won the short story contest. It was the first time I'd really had that kind of recognition for my romance writing and I still remember how excited and happy it made me. As an aside, that short story was called "Angel", so it seems I've always been meant to write about angels!

You classify your single title books as paranormal romance. Can you talk more about this description and what it entails?
Actually, while the Psy/Changeling books are classified as paranormal romance (PNR), the Guild Hunter books have urban fantasy romance on the spine. The difference is a subtle one, but all the readers I've heard from to date have agreed with the different classifications.

With PNR, it's all about telling a romantic story set within a world that is beyond the norm. However, in spite of the intriguing worlds, the focus has to be on the romance, and a HEA (happy ever after) is a must.

With urban fantasy, the focus tends to be on the protagonist's adventures or journey, with the romance playing a secondary role, often with the HEA not resolved in one book. However, Angels' Blood, while having the elements of an urban fantasy, also has an extremely strong romance, which is why my editor felt it straddled the line between the two. With this series, I'm going to be doing something different and carrying on the story of the main couple into the second book, ARCHANGEL'S KISS.

Do you think a writer's style changes over time and what have you learnt as you've evolved as a writer? What’s worked best for you?
 I think it's inevitable that a writer's style changes with time - because each word we write helps us develop as writers. And that I think is the best way to grow as a writer - to write as much as you can.

Sometimes we use traditional fantasy or world cultures and mythology to assist with world building. What processes do you go through when developing your characters, their lives and putting your own unique slant to the world they live in?
I'm quite an organic world-builder, in that I often let the character show me everything around them. I don't sit down and build a world. I start writing, and discover the world through the characters' eyes. I'm always conscious that the world has to be "whole" - everything has to have a purpose, a function. I often ask "why" and that's a crucial question when it comes to world-building.

With characters, it's all about building well-rounded individuals. No one is one-dimensional, and I try to show the different facets of my characters through their actions.

In ANGEL'S BLOOD, the world that Elena and Raphael inhabit is full of wonderful possibilities. What was the "aha" moment that made it come alive for you so you could bring it to the page?
Honestly? In my mind, I just saw an angel in a high rise one day and that was it - I was hooked! I mean, an angel, an archangel, looking out over New York?! I was compelled by the image, by the need to find out what was going on.

I'm fascinated by the hints in ANGEL'S BLOOD about Elena's dark past—in terms of her childhood experiences with vampires. What are your plans to explore those experiences, and what it means to be 'a born hunter' in future books?
ARCHANGEL'S KISS (Feb 2010) will answer almost all the questions about Elena's past. It's quite an emotionally intense book, and you'll get to see new aspects of several different characters, including Jason and Illium.

Our RWNZ conference is coming up in August and you’re one of our author guests. What can we expect from your workshops Writing the Paranormal and World Building?
The world-building workshop will be focused on exactly that. We'll be talking about the concept as it applies across the board--to contemporaries and historicals, as well as paranormals, because it's a skill you can use no matter what your sub-genre.

The PNR workshop will cover a wider range. I'm still in the midst of writing it, but some of the things we're going to look at are the elements that make a strong paranormal, what you can do to make your proposal stand out, as well as discussing the state of the market.

What’s next for you? A new book in one of your series? A novella in an anthology?
Because of the way deadlines fell this year, I'm actually working on book #8 of the Psy/Changeling series while books 6 & 7 have yet to release! Branded By Fire (#6) comes out July, and Blaze of Memory (#7) releases November. I have to be careful answering reader questions, because I could inadvertently give away huge spoilers!

I've also got Angels' Judgment releasing in the MUST LOVE HELLHOUNDS anthology in September. The other authors are Charlaine Harris, Ilona Andrews and Meljean Brook - I am so excited to be in this anthology!

ARCHANGEL'S KISS has been turned in and I'm waiting to hear back from my editor on that. I'll probably begin work on the third book later this year.

Nalini, thanks for sharing your time with us!

Thanks for the great interview, Kylie.

To visit Nalini's website click here.

PS. There’s more good news, folks! Nalini’s been contracted to write four more Psy/Changeling books, two more Guild Hunter books and a Psy/Changeling novella (due for release in early 2010).

Friday, November 26, 2010

Guest Author: Maree Anderson

Who is Maree Anderson?
I’m a Kiwi. *Waves at y’all from Auckland, New Zealand* I write romance of speculative fiction persuasion (i.e. paranormal, fantasy, SciFi) and I’m currently published in erotic romance with Red Sage Publishing. I loooove chocolate — really really dark chocolate. I do karate with my family, go to dance class most Thursday nights, and I have a rather warped imagination.

Who influenced you in, or what appeals to you about, the genre you write?
The idea for my very first manuscript was inspired by something author Stephen Donaldson wrote in the afterword of his SciFi series, The Gap. That idea spawned a trilogy of fantasy manuscripts, and hooked me on wanting to be an author — so I guess poor Mr. Donaldson is to blame for me unleashing my stories upon the unsuspecting public!

Anyway, I can’t honestly imagine writing a story that isn’t a romance. But as much as I’ve tried my hardest to come up with ideas for stories set in a ‘normal’ world I always end up playing the  “OMG, what if…?” game. Meaning the story idea inevitably morphs into a paranormal. I love the scope of speculative fiction — it’s really only limited by your imagination. And did I mention I have a very warped imagination?

With regards to writing erotic romance, I’ve been heavily influenced by Angela Knight. The first book of hers that I read, Jane’s Warlord, was a revelation. And this quote from her amazing book Passionate Ink: A Guide To Writing Erotic Romance basically wraps up all my feeling about the genre into a nice neat little bow:

“EroRom readers like vivid sexual storytelling, yes, but they also want believable, well-developed characters and strong plots. They’re not just reading these stories as stroke material. They want the whole story, not just the sex. They also see the love scenes as a natural part of the romance that deserves just as much attention as any other part of the story.”

As for being published in erotic romance? Well, I didn’t start out intending to be an erotic romance author. If I had, I wouldn’t be writing under my real name — I’d have chosen some fabulously awesome pen-name. I’m open to suggestions, BTW. I mean it. Seriously!

Tell us about your new release/latest book.
FROM THE ASHES is my first novel-length release — yee-freaking-ha! You’d never guess that I’m thrilled to bits and beyond, right? LOL. It’s a SFR, speculative fiction romance, with an alien hero and a take-no-prisoners heroine. Hey, did I mention the spaceships? *VBG* It’s a bit of a departure from my previous two paranormal romances, which were more ‘normal’ and only featured demons, lycans and angels ;-) 

Here’s the blurb:

Calista’s a freelance space courier recovering from a disastrous marriage during which her ex sold her as a slave. Sure, she’s emotionally damaged, but you should see the state of her ex! She’s also an expert pilot who can illegally reprogram and augment all manner of tech. She’s been ripping off the system and flying under the radar her entire life. Until now.

Asher’s her “cargo”, the mouthwateringly gorgeous Phoenixae alien who accidentally hatched from the egg she was transporting, and bonded with her. He’s been bred as a sex slave and he can read her mind. Which wouldn’t be so bad if 1) she didn’t abhor slavery and everything it represents, 2) she wasn’t horny as hell, and 3) he wasn’t doubly tempting because of his extra er, male parts! Oh, and then there’s the small issue that if Asher is killed and his body burnt, he can be resurrected. He’s one hot commodity that illegals will kill to possess.

Take one sex-deprived space courier who’ll risk everything to save a Phoenixae alien from a life of slavery. Add one mouthwateringly hot alien sex-slave who knows her deepest desires, feels her pain, and lives to please her in every way. Mix with a ruthless ex-husband intent on vengeance. And stir in a sadistic Libertine noble who will do anything at all to get his hands on a Phoenixae.

From the ashes, an unexpected hero will emerge…and he’s full of surprises!

Where can we buy it?
FROM THE ASHES will be exclusively available through Red Sage for the first few weeks after its release, then it’ll gradually become available at other outlets. I’m continually adding links on the My Books page of my website as they become available.

Here’s the link where you’ll be able to buy FROM THE ASHES direct from the publisher from 1st December (US time): http://www.eredsage.com/store/MAREE_ANDERSON.html

And here’s the link to the My Books page of my website: http://www.mareeanderson.com/books

Tell us a bit about the hero and heroine.
Asher…. Where do I start? He’s a Phoenixae, a race of aliens bred as sex-slaves. Once a Phoenixae hatches, he imprints and psychically bonds with his master. Asher’s genetic imperative is to do anything within his power to ensure his master’s happiness. If his master is discontented or angry, it rebounds on Asher, who then feels physical and mental pain. For anyone with a sadistic bent, Asher is the ultimate slave because he can be killed and resurrected over and over again. (Talk about enough to give you nightmares. *shudders*)

Calista is a woman of many talents — most of which she hides so she’ll not draw unwanted attention from the Imperial authorities. And her ex-husband once sold her as a slave, so you can imagine how she feels about slavery. She feels responsible for Asher. She’s determined to rescue him from his fate and teach him that he doesn’t have to submit to a life of slavery. But of course things soon get reeeeally complicated for them both.

Where can fans find you next?
Best place to check out where I’m at is the My Books page of my website. Any interviews, guest blog spots, or places I’m giving away copies of my books are listed there. As for signings — it’s pretty hard to sign an eBook. Maybe once my first print book comes out in June next year? :-)

What's next for you?
In the coming months I’ve got another two releases scheduled with Red Sage:

SCENT OF A MAN (Feb 2011) is a darker fantasy. It’s about a young nobleman living in a harshly religious society where the Council and their clerics enforce chastity, and women are treated like chattels. Overnight, he transforms into a creature that exudes powerful sexual pheromones that make him irresistible to women.

KAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF (June 2011) is a light paranormal romantic comedy that has been contracted for Red Sage’s Secrets Volume 30 anthology. I’m hugely excited about this novella as it’ll be my first story coming out in print.

As for works in progress, I’m currently outlining a contemporary romance that has No. Paranormal. Element. Whatsoever. Or at least, that’s the theory behind the outlining process. How it turns out when I begin writing it remains to be seen! 

Marie, it's been great having you here! Thanks for sharing some insight about FROM THE ASHES and your writing plans.
Thanks heaps for letting me ramble on, Kylie — it’s been wonderful to have the opportunity to (hopefully!) wax poetic about my new release.

Now for the bonus, readers!
Maree would love to give one (1) electronic ARC copy of FROM THE ASHES away to a lucky commenter.
All you have to do is tell her one thing that's special about Asher. Leave your answers in the comments section and we'll draw a random winner and announce it here on Tuesday, 30th November 2010!

To find out more out Maree check out her website for her other books and latest news, or her Writers Gone Wild Blog, Facebook page or Twitter link.

Maree Anderson's other books (also available from Red Sage publishing):

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Did I Nail It?

OK, I'm trying to practice what I preach, seeing as I've just posted a two-parter on How good is your opening line? (part 1) & (part 2).

After a lot of agonising, four different beginnings to the WIP, and many rewrites, here's the opening line of my next WIP (draft).

Fear reeked of a pungent bitterness that lingered in the nostrils but Varian wasn’t able to detect even a whiff of it on the gentle breeze.

These are the 3 questions I asked you to consider when reflecting on an opening line.
  1. Do the words chosen by the author catch your attention?
  2. Does the sentence raise a heap of questions you want answered?
  3. Is there any implied conflict in the information given?
Did I succeed?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

PROMO: Maree Anderson

Red Sage author, Maree Anderson, is visiting on November 26h, all the way from New Zealand.

She's sharing a little bit about her newest release, FROM THE ASHES, as well as a few other interesting details about herself.

And one lucky visitor will win a free copy of FROM THE ASHES, so don't forget - November 26th!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Read a good book lately?

There's nothing more exciting than finding a great book and being able to sit down with it and read it from cover to cover.

I think most avid readers have a huge To Be Read pile sitting somewhere in the house - beside their bed, on a shelf in their office, perched on coffee table...

I keep mine on my bookshelf, and I think I've managed to whittle my pile back to about 15 waiting-to-be-read books. Most of them fall within the paranormal romance genre, although I do like reading the odd erotica romance, the occasional romantic suspense or category romance and sometimes straight sci-fi or fantasy.

Do you have a To Be Read pile?

What book have you recently read? Did you enjoy it? Why or why not?

Who are your Must Buy authors? (you can find a list of mine either on the blog or my website)

Friday, November 19, 2010

CRAFT: How good is your opening line? (part 2)

Searching for how to write that good opening line? Well, look no further. Here's a couple of examples and what to look for in your own writing to make sure yours has that "hook the reader" appeal.

Here's an opening line from another Maya Banks novel.

"Do you know of anyone who fulfills sexual fantasies?" Serena James asked.

Do the words chosen by the author catch your attention?
There are three that leap out at me. Bet you can pick them. :-)
  • fulfills sexual fantasies - lots of curiousity attached to these words
  • dialogue - the story starts with it; a great hook as it's active as opposed to narrative which can be passive
Does the sentence raise a heap of questions you want answered? Hell, yeah!
  • Why does Serena need someone to fulfill sexual fantasies?
  • Is she the one needing her sexual fantasies fulfilled?
  • Is she asking for a friend?
  • Who's she asking this question of? And why/how would they know someone with this skill?
  • Is she in a relationship?
  • Is she fed up or left unsatisfied by this relationship?
Is there any implied conflict in the information given?
Again, look at the questions I raised. If she's already in a relationship then what's prompted her to seek out someone who fulfills sexual fantasies? Does she find the relationship, or lack of one, unsatisfying? Assuming she meets this someone, how will she handle that meeting? With confidence? Embarrassment? etc.

My last example comes from a sci-fi romance novel.

Cyn always liked watching women move, but there was nothing sexier than an angry woman moving with purpose.
(BEYOND THE SHADOWS by Jess Granger)

Do the words chosen by the author catch your attention?
  • sexier - one of those words that just draws the eye
  • angry woman - adjective, noun
  • moving with purpose - what an image that conjures up when linked with an angry woman

Does the sentence raise a heap of questions you want answered?
  • Why is Cyn watching the woman?
  • Why is the woman angry?
  • Is there are going to be trouble?
  • Did Cyn have something to do with it?
  • What else does Cyn like about women?
Is there any implied conflict in the information given?
An angry woman is conflict on two legs, folks. And from the tone implied in the opening sentence, Cyn is probably in trouble of some sort, or he caused it, or he's going to and there's going to a confrontation of some sort. Lots and lots of conflict loaded into this one line.

Check out at these examples and ask yourself are they good opening sentences?
  • Travis Jones had come home.
  • Joe Smith was smiling.
  • His horse, a Black Arab mare whose name he couldn't pronounce, was saddled and waiting, cropping dry grass sprouting on the banks of the wadi.
  • The book signing was mobbed.
  • Kane sat on the flattest rock in the center of the pool.
  • She was wearing red shoes.
If any of these don't quite do it for you then how would you improve them so that they would?

The Goldilocks factor ("it's jusssstttt right") is hard to accomplish first off but with some elbow grease - and a lot of hair pulling, deleting, rewriting, throwing of things, and maybe some judicious analysing of your favourite author's work - you can create a ripper of an opening line that hooks the reader and pulls them into your story.

Now that you've read this post here's some homework for you - analyse your own work using these questions. If you have a good opening line post it in my comments section, I'd love to see it!

Monday, November 15, 2010

CRAFT: How good is your opening line? (part 1)

No, I'm not talking about a pick up line for a date but the opening line of your latest work in progress.

When I realise my WIP has a sucky start, and I get stuck trying to create one, I like to head for my bookshelves and explore. Analysing what other authors have written can sometimes trigger my own creativeness or give me one of those infamous "lightbulb" moments.

But what makes a good opening line? The way I see it you need to ask yourself these three things...
  1. Do the words chosen by the author catch your attention?
  2. Does the sentence raise a heap of questions you want answered?
  3. Is there any implied conflict in the information given?
If you're like me you need some practical examples so let's look at an opening sentence from one of my favourite authors.

Julie Stanford took a deep breath before shoving aside the curtain to walk into the massage room where Nathan was laid out in all his glorious, naked splendor.

Do the words chosen by the author catch your attention?
What words jumped out at you as your read this? For me they were - deep breath, shoving, massage, glorious naked splendor. Why? I'm going to make a list.
  • deep breath - this is sensory and implies nervousness or bracing oneself for something
  • shoving - a strong verb
  • massage - my curiousity is pique
  • glorious naked splendor - adjective, adjective, noun
Does the sentence raise a heap of questions you want answered? Absolutely.
  • Why is Julie Stanford feeling nervous or feel the need to steel herself?
  • Who is Nathan to Julie?
  • Do they share a past history?
  • Why is Nathan naked and not covered with a towel or pants?
  • What sort of massage parlor is this? 
These are enough to draw me on.

Is there any implied conflict in the information given?
You betcha. Just look at the questions I just asked. There's a possible shared history between Julie and Nathan, or something that makes her nervous or apprehensive about this meeting.
Despite her trepidation she's attracted to Nathan when she describes him as being "...in all his glorious, naked splendor." If he'd been butt ugly or repulsive there's no way she'd have used these words to describe that.

So, this meets my criteria for a good opening sentence. It hooks me into wanting to read more.

We'll continue looking at more examples of good opening lines next post.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Interview with...Angela Knight

This is an interview I conducted with Angela Knight for the RWNZ Heart to Heart magazine (March 2009 issue).

Angela’s love for paranormal romance is evident in her cross-genre novels, combining futuristic, fantasy and romantic fiction with incredible success. Over the last decade she’s been a multi-nominee and winner of the PEARL Award & RIO Award for many of her books.
Besides writing romance, her publishing career includes a stint as a comic book writer and ten years as a newspaper reporter. In 1996, she achieved her dream of romance publication in the Secrets 2 anthology with Red Sage. She’s also sold books to Changeling Press and Loose Id.
After publishing several more novellas in Secrets she was discovered by Berkley editor, Cindy Hwang, for whom she now writes two highly popular series – the Mageverse and Time Hunters series.
She attributes her success to the wonderful editors she’s had over the years, all of whom encouraged her to believe in herself and her talent for romance writing.
Angela continues to rock the paranormal romance world with her success. With her work hitting the bestseller lists, she stands alongside other highly successful paranormal authors such as J.R.Ward, Sherriyn Kenyon, Lora Leigh, Nalini Singh and Christine Feehan.
Angela takes time out from her hectic schedule to share her thoughts into the world of paranormal romance. 

I'm always fascinated by the books/authors/life experiences that influenced writers. What inspired you to become a writer? Do you have a particular author you like to read or were influenced by? What are you reading now? 
Nora Roberts is a big influence on me. Others include Lois McMaster Bujold, Laurell K. Hamilton, Linda Howard, Jennifer Blake, JR Ward, Tanya Huff, Jim Butcher, and many, many others. I'm a voracious reader, particularly of urban fantasy novels.

What draws you to write paranormal romances? 
I love letting my imagination run, thinking about the implications of things. How would being a vampire affect the way one makes love?  What if King Arthur were a vampire?  How did he get to be a vampire?  Playing with those kinds of ideas is great fun.

Mentioning paranormal romance to the un-enlightened can sometimes elicit lamentable cracks about the genre eg. "Eww, that's sex with aliens/shapeshifters (inset appropriate label here)." Have you experienced these sorts of comments in the past and how have you dealt with them? 
Yeah, I do get that sometimes. Mostly it's just distaste for the fact that I write about sex at all. I just smile and shrug. There's not much else you can really do.

You started out being published by Red Sage, a small press publisher. How has this helped you in your career as an author? Would you recommend this pathway for writers trying to break into the world of publishing? 
Oh, it was a huge help. My Berkley editor, Cindy Hwang, read my Secrets novellas and decided she wanted to see if I'd write for Berkley. So she actually approached ME. This does NOT happen. Yet it has worked out very well for both of us.
I think it's good for new authors to write for small presses and e-presses. Writing is a difficult craft, and it takes time and effort to learn. Working with editors at small presses lets you learn skills that New York editors are not going to take the time to teach you.

Jane's Warlord was the first novel of yours that I read. Captive Dreams (with Diane Whiteside) was the second. Baran, Mykhayl and Jarred are all alpha males. Yet Jane, Corrine and Celeste are heroines more than a match for each of them, capable and resourceful women in their own right. What are your thoughts on why alpha heroes and strong heroines have such a fascinating appeal to readers?
I think if you're going to write Alpha Males, you HAVE to write kickass heroines. Otherwise, you get the eighties effect -- hapless, dishrag heroines who get run over by these butch males.
You can't get a good romantic conflict going with a pair like that, because the heroine is too far out of her weight class. But an assertive, strong heroine can get up in the Alpha's face and give him a good fight. It makes for better drama, and readers will enjoy it more. 

In the Mageverse series you combined the mythos of Merlin and King Arthur and made your heroes vampiric knights. In addition, you have them interacting with shapeshifters, sorceresses, and magic in a contemporary world and alternate universes. What inspired you to give the vampire tale a new twist? 
I love vampires and always have. But they've been DONE. You have to find some way to make them different and special. For me, adding in the Arthurian legends let me turn everything sideways and have a great deal of fun.

You've recently released The Time Hunters series, with Warrior debuting in July 2008. Guardian comes out in May 2009. How hard was it to begin planning or building a new series after writing (and continue to) the highly-successful Mageverse series? What does the future hold for The Time Hunters series? 
There will be a third book that will wrap up the series. For me, the Time Hunters series was a great way to play in the Jane's Warlord universe without having to set the series completely in the future. I was afraid a futuristic series wouldn't work with readers. So by pairing these superhuman characters with heroes and heroines in the present, I got to play without going too far.

What do you think it is about your books that give them such appeal? Is it the cross-genre mix? The memorable characters? Your incredible world building?
Thank you for the compliment!  I have no idea why people enjoy my books. I only know why I enjoy my books. I love playing with handsome Alpha heroes with a superhuman twist, and heroines who can go toe to toe with them. I love writing great sex scenes and great fight scenes, and roller coaster plots. I think my enjoyment of those elements communicates itself to the reader. If I'm having a good time, the reader has a good time. That's the key to success as a writer.

I'm always interested to learn about an author's writing habits. Can you tell us a little bit about your routine/research? 
I just spent a week following around a forensic chemist who is also a member of the bomb squad as well as an arson investigator. So I got to wear part of a bomb suit and take pictures of their bomb robot, and watch them detonate an explosive chemical sample they found.
I also tested various samples to find out if they were cocaine or crack. I'm now going to incorporate those elements in my new Mageverse book, which features King Arthur's mortal son, who is a forensic chemist. I spent a lot of time brainstorming with the chemist friend on ways to kill him!  It was a lot of fun.
I think anytime you can research by actually talking to somebody who does that job, your work is so much stronger. I now know how cocaine smells, and what a mortar feels like. And my chemist friend (Lt. Ashley Harris) also helped me come up with a great bomb to use in the opening scene. He seemed to be thrilled at having a hero modeled on him, and I had a fantastic time.

What keeps you motivated when the writing gets hard? 
Money. LOL!  I'm under contract, so I've got to deliver one way or another. So that keeps me writing every day.

The paranormal genre still seems to be quite popular in the marketplace. Are there any particular themes that tend to resonate or remain popular in this genre? Do you feel that it still has a strong future or are publishers beginning to cut back? 
I think readers are still fascinated by paranormal elements, because they want to fantasize about superhuman heroes. Look at all the superheroes we're seeing in the movies -- Iron Man, Batman, etc. The need for fantasy is particularly strong when times get grim.

Is life as a published writer how you imagined it would be or have there been some surprises? Are there things you'd do differently given the chance to go back and do it again? 
I would have had more confidence in myself and finished and submitted more books earlier than I did. When I was younger, I just didn't believe I was any good. The positive response I got on the Secrets books on Amazon gave me the courage to go for it.
I was very insecure -- just like most writers. Taking a chance on myself was worth it, though, because now I’m making great money and hitting the best-seller list. I think young writers need to go for it -- just take a chance on your work. Educate yourself on the market and write the best book you possibly can, and you will eventually succeed.

Do you have any advice for someone setting out in this business who wants a long-term career as an author? Any experiences that you'd like to share in your journey to publication?
Like I said, FINISH YOUR BOOK AND SUBMIT IT. However, you should check out publishers you submit to, to make sure they have good reputations, and you should be careful about the contracts you sign, because you can get screwed by fly-by-night pubs.
Luckily, if you join online writer's groups, you can usually ask around and find out a lot about these publishers. I personally like Changeling Press and Loose Id as e-publishers as a venue for new writers. I know the publishers of both companies, and I'm comfortable recommending them. They're not going to screw you. And of course, Red Sage is a great company.

Is there anything else you'd like to add or share with us about your writing? 
My new book, GUARDIAN, is coming out in May. I did a book video for it myself, with my own artwork. The first edit of it used my voice and some music I had bought from Renderosity. My editor told me the marketing guy hated my Southern accent and the music sounded like a porn vid, so I hired a professional narrator through Circle of Seven, and redid the music. Here's the redone video. I hope you like it!
You can also check out my website

Thank you so much for interviewing me!

Angela, thanks for answering my questions and sharing your experiences with us!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

TOPIC: Going on an agent hunt...(part 2)

My first offer of representation came directly after the RWA Awards dinner. A few Aussies and New Zealanders were celebrating with me in the foyer of the Walt Disney World Swan Resort, when one friend introduced me to the agent. We talked briefly about my work, her agency and ended with her handing me her card asking to see my work. Over the next several weeks the other offers came from my email queries.

I requested phone calls and during them I asked a few questions and made more notes (I had a notebook beside me to jot things down). Elaine Spencer from The Knight Agency was the last agent I talked to.

This was my fourth query to TKA for the year (to a couple of different agents there - can you tell I was REALLY interested in them?).

I’d queried them after finding out I was a Golden Heart finalist, after winning a Golden Heart, and in person at a pitch session at the RWAmerica conference. After the RWA conference Elaine actually ended up with BLOODBORN on her desk but she was getting married that week and, while she wanted to read the work, the timing wasn’t right and she handed the work onto another agent who ended up passing on it.

The most recent, fourth query was directed at another TKA agent, but she was indisposed and away from the office. Elaine saw the query, remembered the work and my name from back in August, and emailed me to ask if she could read the full. She got back to me offering representation very quickly. The rest is history!

Now what made me decide to go with Elaine? Well, I had that personal criteria list in what I wanted in an agent. Communication was right on the top closely followed by "passionate about my work", hands-on rather than business orientated only, career as opposed to deal orientated, and that elusive-to-define "connection" element.

In our phone call I felt really, really, really connected with each other – she was friendly, professional, informative, upfront and open, easy to talk to about anything but most importantly passionate about my work (and this gelled with the interest she had in my work back in August around the time she was getting married and had to pass on the project).

I certainly had that "good" feeling about her after our phone conversation, but if there'd been another agent I felt the same way about I was ready with Plan B - examining their agency and the services they had to offer.

Yes, reputation goes a long way but I looked at how they could help me long term as I developed my career as an author. What I liked about TKA was the "family/teamwork" impression I received about the agents and the agency, and it's something that they extend to their clients. All this was excellent, but as I said, the clincher for me was the phone call with Elaine, the way she "just got my work" and the connection I felt with her.

There are a few of things I've learned from this whole process - don't settle for "just any agent". Even if one, or six offers representation doesn't mean they're right for you. The temptation to jump at and sign with the first agent who offers you representation is almost overwhelming.

Only accept their offer if they’re the one that meets your needs based on the research you’ve done. Don't compromise on what you want in your agent and you do need to connect with them - you need someone who's as passionate about your work as you are. Secondly, while this process was painful in some ways, incredibly fast in others, and definitely exhausting, I wouldn't swap it or change how it all unfolded.

I hope sharing my personal experiences with you has given you some insights and maybe some ideas on how you’re going to tackle you “agent hunt”. Good luck and get researching! ☺

Friday, November 5, 2010

TOPIC: Do you have a full manuscript ready to enter the RWOz Emerald contest?

It's that time of year again, contest divas! The RWOz Emerald contest for unpublished authors is just around the corner.

For anyone who's a member of RWOz, it's the major contest for anyone who writes category or single title romance. So, I hope you've polished and edited your manuscripts because The Emmy wants you!!!

The whole contest is designed to mirror the submission process an author goes through when sending off their work to agents or publishing houses. The first two rounds are scored and judged by readers, while the final round is read by an acquiring editor from a major publishing house.

Round 1 - the first 18pgs of your manuscript in ARC format
Round 2 - submit the full manuscript
Round 3 - full manuscript goes to an editor for final placement

# Closing date for Round 1 is Friday, 12th November.

Places are award for the separate category and single title sections but results aren't announced until the August RWA conference (in Melbourne 2011).

So, what's so good about entering the Emerald? Check out what previous entrants and place-getters have said about their experiences...

"The Emerald was great for my writing journey in several ways. Firstly, it gave me deadlines to work to, which provided structure to my writing year. It also gave me really interesting feedback, because it came from readers - the people we're writing for. And not just on the first 3 chapters - they could tell me what they thought of the whole manuscript, all the way to the Happily Ever After. Both wins also started dialogues for me with editors, not for the line I eventually sold to, but fabulous feedback and experience.
Such a great contest and resource for writers!"
(Rachel Bailey)

"Finalling - and then having to finish the ms that I'd supposedly finished before entering within 10 days really made me focus!
Although that book wasn't the one that got me published (and I do hope to have it pubbed someday soon) :-) it gave me the kudos to be headhunted to do a Masters in Writing at Qld. University of Technology. That was a huge ego boost and validation that what I was writing wasn't complete crap (which I suspect just about every writer wonders about from time to time).
I really appreciated the feedback I got from the Emerald. It's a great contest."

"Where do I start? :-) This was great for me as an entrant, because it gave me a taste of the publishing world : mainly, writing to a deadline, which is probably one of the most important abilities for a published author (other than producing a saleable manuscript!) And of course, a chance to hit an acquiring editor's desk.
I was thrilled when I finalled and could tell the editor that the first chapter of that same ms was on one of her assistant's TBR pile due to another RWA comp. So the Emerald helped by giving me a deadline to work to, plus impetus to actually finish a complete manuscript (before then, I'd been writing 3
chapters max.)."
(Paula Roe)

"The very first contest I entered was the Emma Darcy which, like the Emerald, was for completed manuscripts. It was life changing. Someone other than my beautifully biased husband and family had connected with my story, my characters, my voice. Wow! I finalled in that contest - very powerful motivation that sustained me when rejection letters from publishers started turning up... 
Subsequent Emerald feedback helped me learn my craft. Yes, criticism can sting, but if you look back at it in a couple of weeks there will be kernels of truth. If two or more judges have identified the same thing, chances are they're right... The Emerald gives you a goal to aim for during the year. It gives you a taste of the submission process you'll spend your writing life following. Most importantly it gives you an anonymous audience who will give you genuine unbiased feedback! So get writing and good luck." :-) (Helene Young)

"I love entering the Emerald because the judges are readers, rather than contest judges who are writers. Readers, even in the first round, give you a different insight into whether the book is a good read or not, and if they enjoy your characters and your plot, rather than getting bogged down on writing type details. Readers give an overall perspective on how well a story might do on a published market. 
If theses judges say they want to read more, you know you've hooked their interest and are on the right track. If they say they were bored to tears, you know to cut out backstory and increase the conflict and drama. Then, if you' re lucky enough to make it into the second round, Emerald judges comment on the completed book, which is truly rare in contest circles.
The author then knows if the conflict is strong enough and the story arc complete enough, to hold a readers interest and make the book ready for submission to agents or editors. But either way, it makes you push yourself to write, edit, and polish an entire book, not simply the opening chapters."
(Suzi Love)

"The Emerald Contest is the successor to the wonderful Emma Darcy Award, which I won in 2005, the last year of the contest. I withdrew from the 2006 Emerald because I'd sold my book - a nice reason! I know as an unpublished writer, it was often difficult for me to soldier through and finish a manuscript. I still have numerous 'stumps' under the bed, stories I started with great enthusiasm and then decided weren't viable. So I'd start something else and then decide it wasn't viable either. Repeat ad-infinitum!
Having a contest that gets people to struggle through the doldrums of a manuscript and reach those magical words 'the end' is really great. There's so much you learn from finishing a complete manuscript that you can't learn from starting 100 that you don't complete. Winning or finalling in a contest like the Emerald or the Emma Darcy is a great calling card too when you approach editors or publishers!"
(Anna Campbell)

So, what are you waiting for? Get those manuscripts out and send them off.

* Entry forms and details on how to enter can be found on the Contest page of the RWAustralia website.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

TOPIC: Going on an agent hunt...(part 1)

I don't have the expertise to negotiate the finer points of a contract with a publisher, so I knew I’d need an agent should I ever be offered a book deal. So, I took the methodical approach to finding one.

Firstly, I construct a Top 20 list of names based on my copious notes of research. A great place to start is Agent Query. The site lists a huge number of agents, their genre preferences, some bio information about them/their sales and contact details.

Next, I visited their websites for more information about them, any other agents at the agency, their clients, their sales/deals/books and what services they offered. I scanned their blogs (if they had one) to a "get a feel" for what they were like. I googled their names to see what interviews and other information came up about them. Sometimes I went back several years to see how they'd developed or grown in the business. I checked each out on Query Tracker, Publishers Marketplace & Preditors & Editors.

Essentially I made mini-portfolios on each of them - agent's name, contact details, genres represented, clients, sales, other interesting information - and what each agency had to offer. I made notes on my impressions of them if I'd seen or met them at conferences.

I also drew up a list of what I wanted in an agent. The qualities I felt were important to me, things like communication, passionate about my work, willing to help hands-on with the manuscript rather than just do the “business” side of things, interested in a career rather than just a deal, we had to “connect” and feel comfortable with each other. Based on this list, I prioritised my Top 20 list from "dream agent/agency" on down.

Throughout this year I queried in batches of 5 starting with a mix of  the top ten and bottom ten on my Top 20 list - saved my Top 5 for later. I kept another simple database on who I'd queried, with what (eg.QL & 3 chapters, QL & 5pgs etc), and when, then dated when a request or rejection came in, if they requested, what they'd asked for – a partial or a full.

When I received a rejection I made a comment on whether it was a standard rejection, semi-personal or personal with encouraging feedback. In the cases of getting feedback
of any sort I reworked my query letter or made a note that this agent was "interested & made personal comments". This helped me in my second & third cycle of queries when I sent out a query on a new ms. or with the one I originally pitched with only to different agents on that Top 20 lists.

I went through what I call three cycles of queries throughout the year - the first was in January, the next in early May when I found out I was a finalist in the RWA Golden Heart®, then in August after I'd won a Golden Heart®.

Next post I’ll share how I ended with my dream agent and agency!

Monday, November 1, 2010

The End Prize Winner!

The lucky last prize winner for my October Blog Anniversary is...

Anonymous (Robyn)
You have won two (2) books -
  • OUTCAST by J.Johnston
  • PRINCE INCOGNITO by L.Goodnight

To claim them just send your postal address to kyliegriffin (at) clearmail (dot) com (dot) au and I'll pop them in the mail to you.

Thanks everyone for a fantastic month of partying! I hope you've enjoyed it, I know I have. It's been fun!!!