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Advice to Myself as a Newbie Author: Jennifer Lyon

December 22, 2009 by in category Advice to Myself as a Newbie Author by Shauna Roberts tagged as ,

by Shauna Roberts

Today’s Guest: Jennifer Lyon

Jennifer Lyon always wanted to be a witch. When her witch powers didn’t materialize, she turned to creating magic in her books. Soul Magic (Ballantine Books) debuted in October, the second in an enchanting, passionate supernatural series. Jen also has a super secret alter ego known as Jennifer Apodaca, the author of the award-winning Samantha Shaw Mystery Series.

If you could travel back in time to before you were first published, what advice would you give yourself?

Once when I was a teenager and complaining about something or other, my mother stopped what she was doing and said, “Whoever told you life was fair? Quit whining and work harder.”

Boy, I had no idea back then how much that advice would end up shaping my career. I’ve had my share of setbacks, some which were my mistakes and others that were beyond my control. But each time, I heard my mother’s voice say, ‘Quit whining; work harder.’ And each time, working harder paid off–and sometimes not in the way I expected.

That’s my mom’s advice. Now here’s a few of the things I’ve learned so far, things that I wish I’d known or fully grasped before I published.

1. Write faster and learn to juggle. Everyone says this, but I have to stress it. Like it or not, it takes at least two books a year to really build a strong fan base. And once published, you must juggle other things along with the writing, such as revisions, line edits, copy edits, galleys, and promotion.

2. Build a team. This has two parts. Part one is your professional team, which consists of your editor, agent, research contacts, web designers, or designers for bookmarks, whatever you need. I try to keep a Rolodex of people I can rely on in a professional capacity. Part two is friends and critique partners. I have many, but there are about five core people I critique with and go to for advice or just to talk to. I can trust these people implicitly.

3. Be flexible. Few careers in publishing move in a straight line. There will be changes; editors leave, agents retire, lines close, the economy tanks, a genre suddenly stops selling–it happens. Every day. It’s taken me a while to learn to roll with these things. Canceling a series or rejecting a project is just part of the business. Stay flexible and move on.

4. Be professional, reliable, and self-confident. The first two I did from the start; the self-confident part has been harder. I have learned to project a bit more self-confidence in dealing with editors and agents. It makes everyone feel more secure if the author is reasonably sure she can do something.

Lack of self-confidence caused me to turn down an anthology I probably should have accepted. I wasn’t sure I could make the deadlines, which is really valid. However, it was with a New York Times bestseller, and that exposure may have been worth the risk.

5. Make decisions based on facts and research, not emotion. In the changing face of publishing, it’s a little harder to grasp all the facts. But the old adage still applies: ‘If it’s too good to be true, it’s probably false.’  Do your research, really listen to people with experience, and try to base your decision on facts, not emotion. Before I sold to a traditional publisher, I went with an electronic publisher that was less than reputable because I just wanted to believe and ignored some red flags.

6. Don’t give up. Ever. If one thing isn’t working, then you need to step back and evaluate the project. What’s not working? The idea or the execution? If it’s the idea, consider putting it away and working on something else. If it’s the execution, then roll up your sleeves and get to work. Abandoning a project that isn’t working is not giving up. It’s simply a risk that didn’t work. Take what you learned and then turn the next project into a success.

So that’s it. And for the record, I’ve done okay with the ‘work harder’ portion of my mom’s advice. But I still have a tendency to whine.

Thanks so much to Shauna Roberts for having me as a guest today!


You can learn more about Jennifer and Soul Magic at her Website and blog at You can find Soul Magic at your local bookstore as well as online from and other online stores.

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Karen White-Owens: Advice to Myself as a Newbie Author

November 22, 2009 by in category Advice to Myself as a Newbie Author by Shauna Roberts tagged as ,

by Shauna Roberts

Today’s Guest: Karen White-Owens

Karen White-Owens was born in Detroit, Michigan, and resides in the Motor City with her husband of twenty years. She earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology and master’s of Library and Information Science from Wayne State University (Detroit). In addition to writing, she is a reference librarian at the Mount Clemens Public Library and devotes her free time to teaching essay writing to incoming freshman at Wayne State University. Her newest book is I Can Make You Love Me (Dafina). She is also the author of The Way You Aren’t, Now Until Forever, Love Changes Everything, Circles of Love, As Long As There Is Love, and You Are Loved.

If you could travel back in time to before you were first published, what advice would you give yourself?

Most people who know me are aware that I am a “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” extreme fan. “Buffy” was the only show that I watched from the first to the last episode. I must admit that I still mourn the end of the program. In honor of the show and my new release, I Can Make You Love Me, I decided that I would become Karen the Bad Decision Slayer.


Karen the Bad Decision Slayer

Karen returned home from an evening of patrolling the streets in search of new authors and slaying all supernatural evidence of bad choices and mistakes. In order to not wake her husband, Gary, Karen eased through the open bedroom window. She tiptoed across the room, dropped into a swivel chair at her desk, and flipped the page on the calendar to reveal the next day. Staring at the date, she gasped.

“I Can Make You Love Me is due out tomorrow,” Karen muttered to no one in particular. She took a quick gaze at her husband, concerned that she disturbed him. Sighing with relief, she relaxed.

Leaning back in her chair, Karen tossed her weapon, a pink Cross pen, on the desk and glared at the blank computer monitor. An image appeared on the dark screen: a figure creeping silently across the bedroom doorway, against the opposite wall. Despite the hooded black robe it wore, green, hanging skin and a long, upturned nose identified the creature as the demon of self-doubt. Sitting quietly, she watched the creature guardedly while slowly inching her hand to her weapon.

The entity drew closer at a stealthy, steady pace until it stood behind Karen.

She swiveled in her chair, grabbing the weapon as she kicked the demon in the gut. Grunting, it staggered backward, banged into the wall, and then righted itself. No more stealth. Now it rushed forward with a raised arm. The lamplight flashed bright on an eight-inch blade. A second kick to the stomach halted it. The creature collapsed on the floor.

With her pen posed high in the air, ready to strike, Karen hesitated. She lowered her arm to her side and gazed at the black-robed figure. That moment of indecision cost her. The demon’s claw-like nails swung at her legs, missing by inches. She jumped out of the way, gave the demon one final kick, and stabbed it with her weapon.

Bright, shiny aura shimmered over the creature. Self-doubt, eagerness to be published at all cost, and reviews oozed from its body and drifted into the air before slowly fading. Hissing and smoking, the demon dissolved into nothing, leaving behind the black robe. Karen kicked at the now-empty robe with her boot before tossing the garment into the hallway.

Weary from the battle, Karen dropped into her chair and swiveled around to face her desk. Her eye widened. “Whoa!”

Karen kicked away from the smooth desktop surface, putting space between her and the work station. Purple tentacles with pink suction cups cradled the computer CPU as if it were a new infant. The monitor popped on. She watched helplessly as Windows started and began a session of My Computer. A folder titled Promotions opened, and each file was highlighted in blue. One by one the files disappeared from the folder and, she feared, from the hard drive.

“No!” she shouted, pushing the off button on the CPU. When her actions had no effect, she looked around frantically for a way to stop the creature. She dropped her weapon and accidentally knocked over a can of soda. “No! No! No!” Karen cried, righting the can and mopping up the liquid with a tissue.

The tissue dripped soda on the purple skin and ate into it like acid, creating a large orange open wound. Karen grabbed the can and poured the remaining contents onto the creature. Burning and hissing, it roared, crying out in pain, waving its appendage in the air. The monitor went blank. Karen took a quick glance in her husband’s direction. Gary muttered in his sleep and pulled the blanket around his chin.

Karen tossed the empty can at the tentacle hovering in the window. She went to the window and watched the creature make a hasty retreat down the side of the brick of the house. Folding her arms across her chest, she stated softly. “Wow! People always said you could clear your house with cola.” She chuckled. “Now I know.”

Returning to the desk, she noticed Gary’s eyes were opened. The scorn on his face was evident. “Demon?”

Karen shrugged. “I’m not sure what it was.” She answered, returning to the desk and sank into the chair to examine her computer. “It had no place here.”

Nodding, Gary smiled. Oh man! Karen felt her insides melt as she watched him. She knew that look. He reached out his hand and Karen rushed into his embrace. She surrendered to the touch of his lips on hers, enjoying his taste and texture. The air in the room became heavy with sexual tension. He pulled her down on the bed and began to caress her body through her clothes.

“Come to bed,” he asked.

She moaned, loving the feel of him near her. “I can’t.”

Caressing her neck with his lips, he asked, “Why not?”

“I have to finish the edits. They need to go in the mail tomorrow,” Karen explained as she disengaged herself from his embrace and eased from the bed. She returned to her computer and pulled the edits from the desk drawer.

“You’re going to miss out on something really special,” he promised, rubbing the spot where she’d just left.

Karen sighed regretfully. “Mm-hmm.” She remembered the last time she allowed him to sweet talk her into forgetting her work. She paid for it by working nonstop for the next two nights. She gazed at the bed longingly and then shook her head. No. She learned that lesson the hard way. It was better to do a little each day than to let the work pile up until the deadline.


So, if you read my craziness the moral of the story is if I had it to do again, I’d fight down self-doubt and allow my creative juices to flow. I wouldn’t rush to sign a contract. I’d give myself time to think it through and learn all the facts before I made that decision.

The monster that ate the promotion files is one that I believe is very important. I did not realize how important promotion is to your book life. There are many online resources and places to ask for reviews so that your novel receives maximum exposure.

And lastly, don’t let your family cause you to lose sight of your goal. Yes, you must be attentive to their needs, but your goals are important to you. Learn to balance the two part of your life and you’ll be happier.

Here’s a piece of advice. Don’t lose the love of writing. We do this because we love to write. Always remember that.

Thank you for reading this silly, crazy blog. Check out my website at, read the excerpts from my novels, and e-mail me at

I’d love to hear from you. Remember, don’t be a stranger.


You can learn more about Karen and I Can Make You Love Me at her Website at and her blog at Her book is available at your local bookstore as well as online from, Barnes & Noble, and Borders.

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Advice to Myself as a Newbie Author

October 22, 2009 by in category Advice to Myself as a Newbie Author by Shauna Roberts tagged as ,

by Shauna Roberts

Today’s Guest: Shauna Roberts

No author wanted to be featured this month, so I am in the odd position of interviewing myself, in the third person no less.

Shauna Roberts has been a professional nonfiction writer for more than twenty years and has won several awards for her magazine columns. Her first novel, Like Mayflies in a Stream (Hadley Rille Books)—a historical novel with romantic elements—was released earlier this month. She has lived all over the country and currently resides in Riverside, California.

If you could travel back in time to before you were first published, what advice would you give yourself?

I was in the fortunate position of having another writer, an RWA member, to advise me when I first started thinking about writing a novel. She told me to join RWA, and I did, before I wrote a word. As a result, I have no advice to give my past self; instead, I’ll list five pieces of excellent advice I received as a result of my RWA membership.

1. Network. I’m an introvert, and it took some time to make friends with my fellow RWA chapter members—years in some cases. But doing so paid off in big ways. I made friends for life, people who enjoy reading and talking about books as much as I do. I was invited to join a critique group that has helped my writing, and my career, immensely. And by the time I finally got a book offer, I knew well-respected authors who were willing to blurb my book.

2. Volunteer. I volunteered at my RWA chapter for special projects and as an officer. Working together was a great way to get to know my fellow writers better.

3. Attend the annual RWA meeting. I’ve met some RWA members who don’t want to attend an RWA national meeting until they have sold a book. They believe, incorrectly, that meeting attendance benefits published authors most. My experience, though, has been that the annual meeting benefits newbie writers more. The pubbed writers go to see their friends and have meeting with their editor and agent. The newbie and PRO writers go to learn basic fiction techniques and conventions—nearly everything I know about writing fiction I learned at RWA national meetings—as well as get practical information such as how to query, how to write a synopsis, and how to brand oneself. The newbies and PROs also get to meet others at the same career level and be charged by their enthusiasm.

4. Work on marketing from the beginning. It may seem premature to study marketing when you haven’t finished a book. But I did, and I’m glad. By the time I needed to find an agent, and then later when I needed to market a novel, I knew how to present myself and my book. I learned how other people marketed their just-published novels, and when I got a novel contract, I already had ideas for finding an audience for that novel.

5. Establish an Internet presence early. Your friends and family will buy your book, but who else will? Strangers. Strangers who, in all likelihood, prefer to buy books by people they’ve heard of. It’s up to you to make your name familiar, and the earlier you start, the more people you’ll reach. Some good ways of doing so involve the Internet: Join some RWA online chapters and the PRO loop, and post; set up a Website; start a blog; visit other people’s blogs and post thoughtful comments; put your Website and blog addresses in your email signature file. You’ll repeatedly get your name in front of lots of people and establish a reputation (good or bad, preferably the former) based on what you write and how you write it.


To learn more about Shauna Roberts, please visit her Web page at or her blog at You can find Like Mayflies in a Stream online at (hardcover, trade paperback) and at Barnes & Noble (hardcover, trade paperback).

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Advice to Myself as a Newbie Author

September 22, 2009 by in category Advice to Myself as a Newbie Author by Shauna Roberts tagged as ,

by Shauna Roberts

Today’s Guest: Shannon Dauphin

Shannon Dauphin is a writer who has been in the publishing business for more than a decade. She writes romance novels under her real name and erotic novels and short stories under her Gwen Masters pseudonym. Her newest books are Carolina Hurricane (Black Lyon Publishing) and One Breath at a Time by Gwen Masters (Virgin Black Lace). When she’s not writing a book, she’s at the helm of a booming freelance business. Shannon resides with her journalist husband and their spoiled children in a historic home near Nashville, Tennessee.

If you could travel back in time to before you were first published, what advice would you give yourself?

When I was a newbie author, I often felt as though I were swimming in uncharted waters, with no idea of what was ahead or how to get there. I’ve learned quite a bit over this past decade or so, and if I could go back and offer myself a few words of wisdom, these would be at the top of the list.

1. Never Stop Writing! So you’ve finished that fantastic novel, and you’re sure it’s going to be a hit! You send out those query letters. And then … you wait. Right? Wrong! You get moving on the next novel. Take a day off to celebrate—God knows you deserve it—and then get right back to work on your follow-up. Before those query letters work their way through the postal service, you should be done with the first chapter of your next book.

2. Write What You Want. Have you heard that a certain publisher is looking for more of a certain genre? Great—but is it what you want to write? If you choose to write something you don’t like in the hopes that it will lead to a publishing deal, you’re writing the wrong thing. In the long run, it just won’t work. Write what you want, write what you love, and in the end, you will be happier.

3. Research Like Mad. Is it time for an agent? Which publishers are best suited for you? What can you expect from the writing and publishing process? If you’re serious about getting your words out there on the shelves, do your research every step of the way. Network with other authors, pay attention to the latest publishing news, and get to know all the players. By the time you’re ready for publication, your publishing savvy will hold you in good stead.

4. Follow Your Instincts. You’ve done the research, you’ve networked like mad, and you’ve narrowed down lists of agents and publishers. Now it is time for the final vetting process, and that comes from your gut feeling about what you’ve learned. Don’t go with what seems to be the best deal because that’s what everyone else tells you is the perfect route! Pay attention to your instincts and you will not go wrong.

5. Ignore the Trends. The trends are great for those who were writing them two or three years ago. But consider that whatever you write today won’t be published for at least a year, and maybe even longer than that. By then, the trends will have shifted, and you’ll be left scrambling for something new. Just write what you like, write what you’re good at, and rest assured that one day, the market will catch up with you.

6. Rejections Are Lessons. When you get a rejection, take a moment to pout. Take a moment to whine and cry and throw something. And then take a deep breath, and consider the lesson learned. The best rejections are those that offer a bit of advice along with them, such as “too melancholy” or “didn’t like the voice.” Now you have something to use! If the rejection is simply a “not for me” form letter, look back over your query. Look at the agent’s Website. Where did you go wrong? The answers may not be clear, but it’s worth a shot—and sometimes, you find that golden key that leads to a revision of that query. And that leads to a big fat YES.

7. Choosing a Pseudonym? Make it Easy to Live With! If you choose to write under a pseudonym, choose your alter ego wisely. Do an in-depth Internet search on the name you want to use. Ask your friends for their opinion. Test it out on your tongue, over and over. If your novel is a hit, and the next one is too, and soon you find yourself on the bestseller lists, your pseudonym will become your constant companion.

8. Surround Yourself with Positive People. The last thing you need is someone asking when you’re going to get a “real” job. You don’t want to deal with those who constantly bring you down. Focus on the positive and surround yourself with people who believe in you without reservation.

9. Writing is a Passion—Publishing is a Business. The rush of pouring your heart and soul into the written word is heady and can be downright addictive! But the world of publishing is a business, and it is important to be prepared for the moment when your passion is translated into cold, hard numbers. When you learn to navigate both worlds and travel between them with ease, you have earned the title of “seasoned author.”

10. Celebrate! When you finish a novel, sign that contract, complete that revision, or see your book on the shelves for the first time, you’ve just done something huge! Something grand! It deserves an honest-to-God celebration. Go out to dinner and toast your good fortune. Open that special bottle of wine and share it with the person who has encouraged you all along. Give yourself the credit you deserve … tomorrow is another day for writing, but no one is going to begrudge you this moment of happiness and success. Here’s to many of them in your future!


To learn more about Shannon Dauphin, please visit her Web page at or her blog at You can find her books at your local bookstore and at online booksellers:

Carolina Hurricane:, Barnes & Noble, Borders

One Breath at a Time (written as Gwen Masters):, Barnes & Noble, Borders

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Advice to Myself as a Newbie Author

August 22, 2009 by in category Advice to Myself as a Newbie Author by Shauna Roberts tagged as ,

by Shauna Roberts

Today’s Guest: Kate Carlisle

After writing for twenty years, Kate Carlisle became an overnight sensation when her debut mystery, Homicide in Hardcover (Signet), hit the New York Times Bestseller List. Romantic Times gave the book 4½ stars and said: “This first in a new series is going to launch Carlisle to bestselling position and have readers looking forward to the next installment of delightfully eccentric characters, droll dialogue and a meticulously planned crime.” A Golden Heart and Daphne du Maurier Award winner, Kate lives and writes in Venice Beach, California.

If you could travel back in time to before you were first published, what advice would you give yourself?

Wouldn’t it be great to go back in time and give myself advice? The problem is, I’m not sure my newbie self would listen. Maybe that’s why it took me twenty years to publish my first book! Or maybe not. I really did appreciate any advice I could get, but publication just wasn’t meant to be—until recently. So that’s why my number one bit of advice would be . . .

1. Have patience, but don’t be passive. Continue to learn your craft. Don’t give up. Perseverance is the key. Just because you’re not published yet doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer. It just means the stars and planets haven’t aligned in your favor yet.

Keep writing, keep sending your work out, keep networking. Make friends with your fellow writers. Polish your work, send it out, start something new. Study the market. Read as much as you can. Don’t be negative. You’re doing exactly what you’ve always wanted to do. Remember all this and you’ll be ready for that moment when it all comes together.

2. Learn to write to a deadline. Before I was published, I felt as though I had all the time in the world to write a book, so I rarely put time limits or deadlines on my work. Now that I’m published, I am frantic with each deadline and petrified that if I don’t spend every spare minute writing, I’ll blow it. I don’t take enough time off to see family and friends. I always feel guilty if I’m not writing. For a while there, I was sure I’d end up with an ulcer, so now I’m teaching myself to budget my time better. My calendar is my best friend. I write everything down now, including estimated page counts on my writing days. It sounds a bit obsessive, but it keeps me honest and happy.

3. Write every day. This is another good habit I wish I’d developed early on. During the last year, I’ve found that if I take a few days or a week off from writing, I’m flummoxed once I get back to the story. I’ve forgotten how to write! I can’t remember the story! What was my hero’s name? I can’t remember! It’s pitiful. I now try to write something, even a paragraph—but hopefully much more—every day.

4. Clean your room before you begin a new book. Now, this may sound like ridiculous advice to give a writer, but I know that if my room is a mess, if my desk is piled with junk, papers, books, three thousand Post-It notes, and other stuff buried in piles that threaten to bury me if they tumble over, I’m not in a happy place. I tend to let things pile up around me. Not just paper, but laundry, bills, everything. Call it feng shui or just plain good housekeeping, but clean up your room! Get rid of all that stagnant Qi!

You need harmony, not chaos, if you want to be creative. Well, I need that, anyway. How can I think with all that crap piled up all around me? And the dust that collects around those piles is downright harmful to my physical health! So clean things up and be happy.

5. Surprise, it doesn’t get easier. If you think “The Call” will change your life, well, you’re right. It’s the greatest moment ever. But if you think that from this moment on, everything will be hunky dory and you’ll never have to work that hard again, you are soooo delusional! It just gets harder. Harder to come up with ideas, harder to meet deadlines, harder to keep publishers happy, harder to keep up the level of work you need to do to be a working writer. You need to know this early on, then ask yourself the question, is there a better way to make a living?

6. Recognize opportunity and grab it with both hands. Someone once told me that when you pass up an opportunity, you gain ten pounds. Think about it. For me, it was true. I passed up any number of opportunities because I was scared, or shy, or worried that someone wouldn’t like my work or wouldn’t like me. I wouldn’t follow up with editors on contest wins because maybe they would think I was pushy or self-aggrandizing. Instead, I would sit in the back of the room and pretend to be invisible. Ridiculous!

And the thing about opportunity is, that takes many different forms. It might be a request from the chapter to drive an editor to the airport. Or a call for volunteers at a conference. Sometimes, just being friendly to a visitor becomes an opportunity for something greater. You never know when an opportunity will arise, and if you don’t take it, you’ll gain weight. Just sayin’.


To learn more about Kate Carlisle, please visit her Web page at You can find Homicide in Hardcover at your local bookstore or can order it online at, Barnes & Noble, or Borders.

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