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Advice to Myself as a Newbie Author

August 22, 2008 by in category Archives tagged as , , ,

by Shauna Roberts

Today’s Guest: Dee Ann Palmer

A former nurse, Dee Ann Palmer now writes full time under her own name and as Carolina Valdez and Carol Holman. Her latest publication as Dee Ann Palmer is the mystery story “Marathon Madness” in the anthology Landmarked for Murder (Top). This month, her Carolina Valdez alter ego publishes “Tie ‘Em Up, Hold ‘Em Down” (Amber Quill Press), an erotic e-novella about two firefighters in love.

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

I would tell my prepublished self that I should learn how to research.

My latest project illustrates the importance—and the difficulty—of researching a story well. As I began “Tie ‘Em Up, Hold ‘Em Down,” I wondered whether I was crazy to tackle a story involving slow-pitch baseball, firefighting, and search and rescue. After all, it was a big chunk, and I was the one crafting the story. I didn’t have to do this! Call me dogged—or maybe just plain stubborn—but I stuck with it.

You need to understand those subjects weren’t entirely new to me. That’s what gave me the courage to use them. The men in my family had played baseball while I cheered from the sidelines and brought refreshments. Training to be a MIC (mobile intensive care) Nurse many years ago, I’d spent twenty hours in a fire station in a neighboring town, hanging out and riding with their paramedics. That gave me an atmosphere from which to create my own station and a glimpse into how they lived while on duty.

There are no women in this novella, but I’d recently seen a presentation to eighth-grade girls by a female firefighter, and I even knew the seventy-pound weight of their backpacks was the same whether carried by men or women.

I’ve watched “Dog Whisperer” on TV, seen TV specials on search-and-rescue teams, and, in my Sisters in Crime chapter meetings, heard an expert witness on search hounds who breeds Bloodhounds.

No matter how familiar the subjects I’d chosen were to me, I researched them. The tools I used included the Internet, personal interviews and the local library, with its interlibrary loan system, periodicals, books, and videos. I could have accessed the Internet in the library if I hadn’t had my own computers.

As an example, I decided to use a Bloodhound, but what colors did they come in? How much did they weigh? An email contact with a breeder gave me that information. I decided which color I liked and gave my hound a name. An Internet look at search and rescue teams gave me clues as to other hounds used and revealed that some are air scenters and others are ground scenters. Because Bloodhounds are ground scenters, I chose an air scenter as my second dog.

A look at online photos of the SAR team in my county as they assembled to train sparked the opening scenes of my story.

As for firefighting, I spoke by phone with a battalion chief in my town and stopped firefighters when I saw them ready to leave a call or found them in the supermarket. Did they sleep dormitory style? Who was in charge on a call? Yes, they still come down poles and only have one minute to hit the mat at the bottom once the alarm sounds. A loudspeaker tells them the nature of the call and what to roll. The captain confirms it via print out.

Because I was writing about gays, I didn’t have the courage to ask for a tour of the main firehouse in my town. I did tell one man I was writing a romance filled with macho firefighters. He just laughed.

And, yes, I read three novels about gays, bought the ebook The Joy of Gay Sex, and looked up gay toys and sexual practices on the Internet.

I checked our local firefighter job descriptions online. Googling firefighting equipment and gear led me to ask about the mat and the boots and suits they use on different calls. I saw yellow suits in the back of an engine when I spoke to some men leaving a call up my street. Yes, they leave their suits in the truck or engine.

Well, what do you know—there are trucks and there are engines! Different purposes for various calls.

Obviously, I wasn’t going to use all the information in my story, but it would’ve been stupid not to look in depth for more than I’d personally experienced. I guess the short answer to whether all that research is necessary is YES. It makes your story ring with authenticity.


Dee Ann Palmer’s Website is at http://www.DeeAnnPalmer.com and her blog at http://www.dee-ann-palmer.blogspot.com/. The anthology Landmarked for Murder can be purchased from Dee Ann or online at Amazon.com.

Her Carolina Valdez Website is at http://www.CarolinaValdez.com and her blog at http://www.carolina-valdez.blogspot.com/. “Tie ‘Em Up, Hold ‘Em Down” is available at Amber Quill Press and will be available at Amazon.com.

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Advice to Myself as a Newbie Author

July 22, 2008 by in category Archives tagged as , ,

by Shauna Roberts

Today’s Guest: Jacqueline Diamond

Jackie Diamond Hyman, who also writes as Jacqueline Diamond, has sold eighty-one novels, including romance, suspense, mystery, and humor. She’s also a former Associated Press reporter and TV columnist. Her upcoming releases for Harlequin American Romance include Baby in Waiting (August 2008) and Million-Dollar Nanny (January 2009).

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

Sometimes I wonder whether I would have progressed faster in my career if I’d known at the beginning what I know now. Probably, and yet I’ve traded a certain amount of raw energy and wild creativity for my expertise. They aren’t entirely gone, though, as I discover from time to time, to my delight.

Plus there’s no way I could have gained the life experience thirty years ago that I have now. And I still manage to make new mistakes—and keep on learning.

But here’s what I’d tell my younger self, if I had the chance.

1. Get as much professional-level feedback as you can. Take classes, attend seminars, and don’t yield to your fears. Every piece of useful feedback is a nugget of gold. Even if it doesn’t seem helpful at first, put it aside and read it again later.

2. When you receive negativity, whether it’s a snide remark in a rejection letter or an unhelpful critique, don’t take it personally. It actually reflects more about the sender’s inability to put things in a positive light than about you. Once you get over your hurt feelings, try to look beneath the surface for the underlying point: Is there a valuable lesson to be mined here? If something about your work irritated the editor/critiquer, how can you keep from doing this in the future?

3. Don’t compare your career to that of another writer. Remember that we always notice the person who appears to succeed faster and more easily, while scarcely registering the large number of fellow writers who struggle as much as, or more than, we do.

4. Don’t give in to discouragement. You are not a failure just because you’ve failed so far. Once you succeed, failure is just a story to tell your readers.

5. Network. Support other writers, and compliment your favorite published authors. No one but a jerk would resent being approached in a polite, appropriate manner to be told that you love his or her books. Positive output generates positive responses. Don’t expect an immediate payback, but people have long memories for those who support them—and those who do them dirt.

6. Study the market. Don’t necessarily chase it, but be aware of what’s selling and what isn’t. Of course, if you’re a genius or if there’s a book you simply have to write, go ahead.

7. Before you start a novel, jot down the central idea and make sure it’s focused and workable.

8. Analyze the books you love, particularly those that were published recently. Diagram a couple of plots chapter by chapter. Retype a few passages that you find particularly effective—openings, in particular. This is tedious and time consuming, but you’ll be amazed how much you learn.

9. Once you sell, read your contracts. Don’t let them scare you. Even if you have an agent, watch for glitches or areas that confuse you. Hunt down model contracts and study them, but don’t expect perfection.

That’s all I can think of now. Good luck!


To learn more about Jackie, please visit her Website at http://www.jacquelinediamond.com. She blogs on the 1st and 15th of each month at http://harauthors.blogspot.com/. Her newest book, Baby in Waiting, will be available at all major bookstores and can be pre-ordered online from Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

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Advice to Myself as a Newbie Author

June 22, 2008 by in category Archives tagged as ,

by Shauna Roberts

Today’s Guest: Farrah Rochon

A native of south Louisiana, Farrah Rochon’s debut novel, Deliver Me, garnered rave reviews. The second novel in her Holmes Brothers series, Release Me, was released in May 2008 by Dorchester Publishing. The third and final installment in the series, Rescue Me, will be released in June 2009. Farrah also has a Christmas novella, “A Change of Heart,” in the forthcoming holiday anthology The Holiday Inn (October 2008).

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

I’ve had quite an education in the business of publishing since the release of my debut novel last spring, and there are a number of things I wish I’d known a year and a half ago. Here’s a list of the top five pieces of advice I would give the previously unpublished Farrah Rochon:

1. Be ready to promote, promote, promote. Not every writer who publishes with a New York house will get the royal treatment, but you’ll be expected to get a respectable sell-through, no matter what. Self-promotion will be a huge key to your eventual success.

2. Don’t be surprised when not everyone is as excited about your good news as you’d hope they would be. Remember that you cannot count on others for your happiness.

3. Keep your ears open for advice from those who have gone before you. You are lucky enough to belong to an organization of writers who share their wisdom freely. Listen when they discuss how to tactfully approach your editor about disagreements with her revisions and to deal with the other issues you will eventually encounter.

4. Take a class in time management. You’ll need it.

5. Remember to take a step back and enjoy this process. After all, you will be living your dream.


To learn more about Farrah, please visit her Website at http://www.FarrahRochon.com or her blog at http://FarrahRochon.blogspot.com.

Her books are available at brick-and-mortar bookstores as well as online from Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

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Advice to Myself as a Newbie Author

May 22, 2008 by in category Archives tagged as , , , ,

by Shauna Roberts

Today’s Guest: Maureen Child

Maureen Child is the author of more than ninety romance novels and novellas and has been nominated for a Rita five times, including in 2008 for Christmas Cravings (Silhouette Nocturne). More Than Fiends (NAL) is a Bookseller’s Best Finalist and a National Reader’s Choice Award finalist.

Silhouette Desire recently released three books in Maureen’s “Kings of California” series about millionaire brothers: Falling for King’s Fortune (May), Marrying for King’s Millions (April), and Bargaining for King’s Baby (March).

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

When I was a newbie, I was ready, willing, and eager to hear advice. All advice. Not to say I always took that advice, but I did listen.

I remember watching the published members of OCC heading off to their PAW meeting every month and wanting to be a part of that crowd so badly I could taste it. I thought if I could just be published, everything would fall into place. Then one of our members, Rita Rainville, gave me some advice. She said, “Being published doesn’t mean your problems go away—it just means you have different problems.”

True, but even back then, I remember thinking—I’d rather have those problems, thanks!

So, if I could reach back in time to my newbie self, I’d tell me to listen up and make notes!

1. Ask questions. Don’t pretend you already know all the answers. Don’t make decisions when you don’t have all the information. Don’t assume your agent is going to make the right choice for you. Ask.

2. Don’t be afraid to try something new. Yes, you have to write to the market if you want to be published, but just because you’ve written ten Westerns doesn’t mean you can’t try a Regency or a contemporary. If your current house isn’t interested, look around. Try another publishing house. No one says you can only write for one house.

3. Know when to pack up and move on. This goes for agents as well as publishing houses. Fear is a big factor in the writing world. And we all get comfortable and sometimes stay too long at the party because the unknown is just terrifying. We’re sure that the agent or editor is going to come through for us if we just wait long enough. Sometimes they do. But sometimes, it won’t get better until you find the courage to step out of the comfort zone.

4. Be dependable. If an editor knows she can count on you to come through for her, she’s going to be more willing to work with you. Trust me on this. Editors have to deal with hundreds of people. If she’s got the choice between working with a flake who consistently lets her down while playing the diva or working with a professional writer who always makes her deadline . . . well, whom would you rather work with?

5. Find friends you can count on. When the writing world gets ugly—and believe me, it does, regularly—you’re going to need a few close friends to pull you through. Be loyal. Don’t tell tales. Celebrate their successes and let them celebrate yours. Sometimes the only thing that holds you together is the voice on the other end of the phone. Treasure your friends. You’re going to need them. Life’s too short for competition. The only writer you’re really up against is yourself.

6. Keep reading. So many times, you get sucked into your own fictional world that you forget other writers are out there, making up fabulous stories. Reading those books is what brought you to this place, remember? Don’t lose the joy of reading.

7. Don’t be afraid to say no. Looking back, there were plenty of times I zigged when I should have zagged. We all make the best decisions we can at the time, but try to slow down. To look at the offer from all sides. Make sure it’s going to be the road you want your career to take.

8. Rejection isn’t permanent. My first book, a Western historical, was rejected all over New York City for a solid year. Everyone loved it, but no one had room for it. On the second round of submissions, the first house that had rejected it before made an offer, and I hadn’t changed a thing. Different editor, different day, different outcome.

9. Get out from behind the computer! I don’t care what you do. Go to the mall, the movies, the beach, the mountains. Sit in the backyard and laugh at the neighbors. But don’t lose touch with the life you’re writing about. If you never see beyond your computer screen, your stories are soon going to sound just as flat as that screen.

10. Give every book you write everything you’ve got. I work as hard now on book number 102 as I did on book number 1. I still worry about getting it ‘right,’ whatever that is.

Trust yourself and never give up. For all the ups and downs, writing is the best job in the world, and you’re a lucky newbie to be heading down this road.


To learn more about Maureen, please visit her Website at http://www.MaureenChild.com or her blog at http://MaureenChild.blogspot.com. Her newest book, Falling for King’s Fortune, is available at all major bookstores and can be ordered online from Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

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Advice to Myself as a Newbie Author

April 22, 2008 by in category Archives tagged as , ,

by Shauna Roberts

Today’s Guest: Lois Kleinsasser writing as Cait London

Cait London is published in 28 countries and has written more than 60 books—historicals, category and series, paranormal, and romantic suspense—under the pseudonyms Cait London and Cait Logan. Her newest book, published by Avon, is A Stranger’s Touch. It is the second in a trilogy about three sisters who each has a special extra sense that may be a blessing or a curse.

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

Because it’s best to address issues from experience, I am writing from the POV of a traditionally published mass-market author. Since I started writing, the Internet has made a terrific difference in learning how to write and in gathering necessary business skills. The Web has also broadened the playing field and sharpened the competition. Career writing, the markets, the publishers, and the general ball game have changed drastically, ever evolving. But in the (my own) beginning, I wish I’d known the following, which I offer with huge disclaimers.

1. Writing can be a fulfilling career. Surprise, surprise. Unlike others, who have wanted to write since childhood, I began writing in my thirties. I did not intend to be a full-time writer, yet I have been for many years and am still thrilled. Originally, I just wanted to see my name on a cover—just once.

2. Why her and not me? Another surprise: Writing is a business, perhaps more now than ever. It’s not all about a good book. “Building and the long haul” are facets a publisher may consider, not necessarily the story. Today, a publisher may look at developing one writer over another for their promotability. Sometimes, the writer is chosen because he/she has many stories in them or can write quickly.

3. A rejection may have nothing to do with the quality of the story. It may have more to do with the publisher’s budget or another writer filling that slot already. It may have to do with being “orphaned” or the line dying, etc. The line-up is a huge consideration in publishing.

4. On occasion, I wish I’d used these words: “Thank you for the offer. I’d like to think about it. I’ll get back with you.” (Usually, with business flowing as fast as it does, the time lag is just overnight.) The reason? One wrong agreement can set back or stop your career for years. It’s best to consider each agreement carefully. This advice is especially applicable in the case of agency agreements.

5. Spend more time in editing each individual word, the placement of clauses within sentences, and the structure of a paragraph. The structure of a paragraph is important. I learned to place numbers over each sentence and to rearrange them in order.

6. Don’t compare. A published book has gone through many eyes and has been revised and edited many times. To compare that book with your own unpublished drafts is an apples-and-oranges game.

7. Important: Getting away from the desk and computer is essential to refill the well.

8. It took some time to learn this one: The editor isn’t always right. Admittedly, I have written to editorial calls and have not been happy with the result. However, when you’re starting out and trying to build, they are always right. ☺

9. I am only as good as I can be. Others have more, or less, talent. Others have lucky breaks or are not as fortunate as me. Not everyone will love my stories, and that includes editors and publishers. As for sales and career choices, life situations play a huge part in what a writer does or can do. It took awhile to accept that. Many factors affect a writer’s success.

10. The second book published is even more important than the first. Here’s an age-old theory about a writer’s potential career: The first book—it could be a fluke. The second book has to be better. And almost any writer can write five books. After the success of that fifth book, you just may have a career. We’re looking now at people with more than one hundred books on their list.

11. Do not stay with an agent overlong, past the point at which you are thoroughly disillusioned. After that, the arrangement is not based on trust. Hesitancy in changing agents (or publishers) can also derail a potentially fast-moving career.

12. Don’t waste time promoting when you are trying to establish a career. Instead, use that time to produce copy. Get that contract first, work on getting your material on the stands. This advice is especially true in the case of category and series books. Sales are generally determined by the publisher, and the promotions of the author have little to do with it. However, for that first ego burst, or to establish (to yourself) that you’ve “made it,” a few local signings will do.

13. First sale choices: Publishers are not likely to take a trilogy from an unpublished beginner. Better to build that audience first and to use precious writing time and energy in projects more likely to sell. (There are always exceptions to this.)

14. Keep good records. Learn all you can about taxes as applied to the writer. Date articles and note where they were published.


To learn more about Lois/Cait, please visit her Website at http://www.caitlondon.com or her blog at http://caitlondon.blogspot.com. Her book A Stranger’s Touch is available at all major bookstores and can be ordered online from Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

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