I’ve been a card-carrying member of Romance Writers of America since 2005 when I started this writing journey. I found out about them when my sister suggested I enter the first story I ever wrote into the Golden Heart Contest. Thank goodness the entries were full because the manuscript everyone in my family loved, turned out to be 100,000 words of crud. LOL! But this post isn’t really about that.
It’s about an organization that 7 years ago I absolutely needed. Mostly because it pointed me in the direction of my local Maine chapter where I met some amazing writers who were more than willing to share their experience and teach me about the craft of writing. That led me to writing contests where I learned sooooo much from some very honest and giving judges. And followed that up with RWA chapter conventions.
I learned how to write query letters and where to send manuscripts. I devoured every issue of the RWR, the monthly magazine put out by RWA, filled with articles written by authors who had walked this path before me.
A year later I signed my first contract. And that’s when I got the first cold shoulder from RWA. I had signed with Liquid Silver Books (whom I adore) which is an electronic publisher. They didn’t offer an advance and for some reason that meant I wasn’t “career-minded” and didn’t deserve to have my contract listed as FIRST SALES in the RWR. Yeah, that stung.
But RWA couldn’t ignore the digital train filling up with authors who weren’t wearing blinders and could actually read the signs on the publishing horizon. They slowly accepted that authors who were published only in digital formats might actually be making money. They even allowed us into the prestigious “Published Authors Network” when one of our books earned $1000 in royalties, which was the minimum advance they felt was worth an author’s time. They lost a little of their luster at this point. More and more magazines were arriving and sitting around unopened before they got recycled. Still, I was happy to be in online RWA chapters that offered classes and support that I desperately wanted and needed.
Fast forward a few more years. I’ve found several author and reader groups online that aren’t affiliated with RWA. They support the needs I have, social, promotional and educational. Facebook and Twitter exploded, offering me even more opportunities to connect with authors and readers. I have a whole array of friends that I’ve never met face-to-face, but who are as dear to me as some of my highschool and college friends.
Now self-publishing has added another avenue to the road to publication. People are questioning the need for agents. Is Harlequin with it’s meager advances and low print runs the gold standard anymore? It used to be that authors who were members of RWA held more credibility with the big romance publisher. I’m not so sure that’s true anymore. I’m meeting more and more highly successful romance authors who are not members of RWA.
And then there’s the convention. But even that has lost its shine for me. With conventions like Romantic Times, Lori Foster’s Get-Together and Ellora Cave’s Romanticon authors are offered many opportunities to meet and greet not only other authors, but readers as well. And isn’t that who I’m really working to get to know? The RWA convention is for members only.
Now, RWA is trying to figure out where self-publishing (that dirty word that also meant you weren’t “career-minded”) is fitting into their model of publishing. With so many NYT Bestselling authors re-releasing out of print and backlist titles, it’s no longer a publishing avenue they can ignore. I’m not sure where they’ll end up when it all shakes out, but the question is, have they become an organization that romance writers no longer need?
I don’t know the answer to that question.
I’ve been questioning my membership over the last couple of years. Mostly because RWA continues to raise their yearly dues (like everything else in the world that’s increasing). And I’m using them less and less. I have enough connections now that when I’m inquiring about a new publisher or perhaps (some day) shopping for an agent, I know there will be all kinds of people who will be able to steer me in a direction that works best for me. For now I continue to plunk down my money so I can continue to be active with the Maine Chapter. Some of my dearest friends are in that group. And I would miss seeing them. But I’m not sure it’s worth the $110 (RWA and Chapter dues) a year for me to be a member of that chapter.
What do you think? Are there advantages for romance authors to be members of RWA? Do you think those that bow out are missing anything? I’m really trying to figure this one out.
Today my man is going for a job interview. We pawed through his closet putting together the whole shirt/tie/suit jacket/pant ensemble. Did it match? Did it make a statement and if so, was it the right one? He’s a big guy and some clothes pinch around the collar or snug too tight around the arms. I thought if he was going to sit in a 2-3 hour interview he should be comfortable.
But he was much more concerned about the impression his clothes would make than his own comfort.
I know that’s how it’s supposed to be, but I just can’t wrap my head around that. The fact is, he could do the job just as well in a pair of jeans and a T-shirt as he can in a suit jacket and tie.
At home, I sit most of the day at my computer typing away, dressed in nothing more than my pj’s. The cats don’t care as long as I get up once in awhile to play with them and fill their food and water bowls. My editor and publisher don’t care what I wear as long as my writing is solid and tells a good story. And I suspect my readers don’t pick up my books wondering what I have on that day.
Of course I wouldn’t go out in public that way … I’m not that inappropriate. (Though I used to slip on boots and a winter jacket and cap over my pj’s and bed-messed hair to drive my kids to school, but that’s another story.) But I bump around in jeans and a sweater most days.
When I go to conferences I always end up buying new clothes. I want to look “professional”. I don’t do the suits and dresses like so many attendees, but I do wear colored jeans and dress shirts.
I know — always dress for success.
But aren’t I the same person in jeans as I am in slacks? Can’t I still write the same words and weave the same story despite my outer appearance?
Why exactly do the clothes make the person?
When you go to a book signing to meet your favorite author does it matter to you what he/she is wearing? Do you prefer to see a professional woman in a skirt rather than slacks? (As my father-in-law always insisted I wear a dress to an interview.)
As a teacher at an outreach Center I wore jeans every day. My dad came to visit and was appalled that one of the teachers came to the Center dressed in jeans. (Schools often relax the dress code for their teachers on field trips, so this wasn’t surprising to me.) When I questioned why he found it offensive he said the children won’t respect them and be polite. I had no issues with classroom managment and the kids didn’t know me from the tooth fairy … okay, maybe the tooth fairy … but you get my drift. The clothes didn’t make me a good or bad teacher.
Do the clothes, if they’re clean and neat, really make a difference to you? Because you know me, I’m curious about stuff like that.
Where does an author go to keep in touch with and find new readers? Where do we hang out to gain words of wisdom from successful authors? And how do we do all this without sucking so much time from our day that we don’t have time to write?
These are all questions authors ask themselves. Social media sites have exploded exponentially with the growth of the internet. And in my opinion this means authors and readers are having a harder time finding each other. I absolutley love to talk to people. As an extravert it’s how I recharge my energy levels. Since writing is such a solitary endeaver and I’m now disabled and not getting out of the house to work, it’s the social sites that keep me in touch with the outside world. But how much is too much?
Here’s a list of some of the places I hang out on the internet and some of them I understand and use effectively, but others I’m still not sure about …
MySpace – I LOVED MySpace when I was first contracted two years ago. I had a teenager in the house who walked me through setting it up. I went there every day to touch base with my “friends”. This means I read comments left on my page and usually went over and commented on other’s pages in reply. MySpace has a blog feature which I tried to see if blogging was something I wanted to jump into. I really enjoyed it. But over the past year or so MySpace has become cumbersome. It loads slowly and often times locks up my computer when I try to visit other people’s pages. I have no doubt that it has invited several unwanted viruses onto my computer. I’m moving away from MySpace. I’m not sure if I’m going to delete my page, but I’m definitely not using it as much.
Blogging – Wow, this one is hard. If I were to do it all over again I don’t think I’d have my own blog. Though I do love having this space that’s all about me and a place where I can display all my book covers and buy links, a place where I can share my life with my readers, I’m not sure whether or not if I’ve run out of things to say. (Don’t laugh … yes, I can talk … blogging is something a little bit different. LOL!) If someone were asking me whether they should blog I would caution them about the time it takes to post blogs. In order to get followers YOU MUST BE CONSISTENT. IMHO there’s nothing worse than someone stumbling upon your blog and finding the last post was one month earlier. You’re going to be hard pressed to get them back when you have posted something that would be helpful. If you don’t have your own blog I would highly recommend finding a group of authors willing to start (or joining in) a group blog. But again, it’s very important for everyone to agree that posting on their scheduled days is important. Building a readership is hard. Losing a readership is very easy … don’t be consistent in your posting.
Yahoo Loops – When I first started writing I joined RWA and through that my local writing chapter. We stay in touch with each other through email on a Yahoo loop. The wonderful thing about loops is you email one announcement and it goes to the inbox of every member of the loop. It’s a great way to communicate. Many authors started their own loops. It gave them the opportunity to share news with readers. As I started looking into Yahoo loops I realized there were soooo many that I chose not to start my own group. As a matter of fact, at one point I was on so many loops I could receive up to 1000 emails a day! Though these groups allowed me the opportunity to post excerpts and chat with others about books and writing I found myself spending my day answering emails. (Mostly because it’s important to me not to be a “fly-by” poster. I try to chat with people on the loop even as I post my own promo.)
Forums – My first publisher had a forum. THAT threw me for a loop. It looked like one long list of goble-dee-gook. It just seemed so confusing. Then I realized chats were in threads and if I wanted to participate I simply needed to open the thread. I found a wonderful forum in Romance Divas. I highly recommend this group. It’s filled with authors both published and unpublished, new and some very established authors. They are a very welcoming group that is willing to share without reservation. Again, this is a place I visited every day, both my publisher and Romance Divas forum. But I found I was hanging out and chatting for so much of the day that I wasn’t writing. So I’ve slowly moved away from forums.
Facebook – This is the newest place I’ve set up housekeeping. I really enjoy it over there. There’s none of the personalizing of MySpace, which is good … because everyone’s home pages come up without having to take time to load. Again, besides posting my own news I do comment on the posts of my friends. I am really enjoying this social media and IMHO, I think more people are shifting to this site and away from MySpace. Mostly because it’s easy to set up and easy to use.
Twitter – The best way to describe this is that it’s an instant chat with 800 (or however many followers you have) of your very best friends. When I post a tweet it feeds to the home page of anyone following me. When anyone I follow tweets it streams to my home page. If you enjoy chatting, twitter is a great place. Some people complain that people are chatting out about what they’re eating or the fact that they’re doing their laundry. Some are. It doesn’t bother me to follow a few people who do that once in awhile. I’m probably guilty of doing that as well. I use Twitter to give links to my blog posts or share a link to someone else’s blog if I think it’s a good post. I also use twitter to follow links to blogs on subjects that interest me. Since I don’t surf blogs I do find this is a great way to visit blogs with relevent posts. I like twitter. But there are a lot of people who don’t and avoid it at all costs. I do have this linked to MySpace and my blog (you can see it in the sidebar) so it posts to those two places whenever I tweet. (But couldn’t figure out how to get it to go to my facebook, but it does have that feature.)
These are the places I’m active. But I also have accounts at
Goodreads – I can’t help you here folks. On most days I can post what I’m currently reading and what I’ve read. But I don’t go there enough to be able to remember how I did it the last time. *g* I know you can post events or join groups and do a whole bunch of stuff, but I don’t know how to do it.
LinkedIn – Again, I’m hanging there … but I REALLY have no clue what to do with it. Not even sort of.
And that’s where I am. Now there’s NING’s and I know some people on Live Journal (who love it). But at the moment I’m pretty overwhelmed with all the places I’m visiting right now. Sometimes my social obligations can take over my whole day. I’m trying to figure out what’s an efficient use of my time. I’d love to hear your opinion. Where do you go and what do you enjoy. Because in the end it’s all about what helps readers find new authors and authors to help readers find their books. And sometimes it’s having the opportunity for experienced authors to share what they know.
So what works for you as a reader or an author?
This week I’m happy to welcome author, Jennifer Leeland! Jen is a dear friend I met through Liquid Silver Books. We released one of our books together and the publisher still hasn’t recovered from that party.
Jen, I see you have many books out with lots of publishers. Could you tell us how long you’ve been writing and how you got started?
I started writing seriously in 2005 and I was published in December of 2006. When my father died in 2002, he left behind a million books and a completed manuscript. My mother told me he’d never submitted it to anyone, afraid it wasn’t “good enough”.
I dabbled in writing, but also never thought anything I wrote was “good enough”. I was determined to follow that dream that both my father and I had; to be published.
I got a few rejections but finally contracted two Christmas stories-one with Cobblestone Press and one with The Wild Rose Press. Since then, I’ve contracted several books with Cobblestone, The Wild Rose Press, Whiskey Creek Press and Liquid Silver Books.
To be honest, though, I started writing a lot of my stories so I could kill off someone who pissed me off. In a book. Not for real. Seriously.
Ah hem. Right. Remind me never to get on your bad side! *vbg* Okay, next question … I know you’re working on a couple of series. What made you decide to continue your main story?
You make it sound like I had a choice! LOL. With “Taking Command”, the villain gave me absolutely no motivation for what he’d done or why he wanted to kill the heroine. Everything in that first book about the villain was what the other characters saw and heard him do. When I wrote “The End’ on “Taking Command”, the villain escaped and popped up with an entire past that sent me into a tailspin. With that, I knew I had two more books to write. (This series is available at Liquid Silver Books.)
“The Mask She Wears” is about a group of people who all visit the same house. In a small town, there usually isn’t the BDSM clubs you see prevalent in urban areas. Those with different sexual practices have to find other ways to meet and hook up. “The Secret She Keeps” is the sequel and I’m writing the third. All of them feature a very sexy dominant named David Peters, who hosts parties for those in the Lifestyle. Again, the series began with several characters who all had their own stories to tell, so I write them until they’re done talking to me. (This series is available at The Wild Rose Press as part of their Scarlet Rose line.)
That’s a really long way of saying “I write the sequels to make the voices shut up.”
Which segues right into my next question … are you on any medication, hon? No, just kidding that wasn’t my next question. I noticed you write in many different genres futuristic, BDSM, and I know you have some contemporary stories. Are there any you enjoy writing more than others? (You like how I did that?)
Um, no medication at the moment, though I had some Nyquil induced posts that amused my friends.
I think my favorite genre to write is ALL of them. LOL. “Taking Command” is a science fiction erotic BDSM romantic suspense. (Say that three times fast).
I love to write romance, but I love suspense. Science fiction is a blast because I can do ANYTHING and make stuff up. I love that. (Jen’s world building is amazing … trust me when I say if you visit Asberek … you’re going to want to return again and again!)
Oh, I luuuurve your “Command” series. Could you tell us a little more about those novels?
I’m so glad you loved them!!! The “Command” series is set in the 23rd century and begins with the colonization of the planet Asberek. Cooped up on a space ship, humans have learned to deal with the long trips through space with Virtual Fantasy Rooms. Good thing, since Asberek’s atmosphere has been poisoned by a chemical Synthetic Endorphins Xstasy which increases sexual hormones. The name, S.E.X. given to the chemical as a joke, belies the serious nature of the drug. On the planet’s surface, if you don’t “take care” of your sexual needs, you’ll die.
In the midst of this chaos, two alien civilizations interfere in the human colonization which results in murder and danger. When you add some weird cult-like rituals and DNA mutation, it gets a bit complicated, but the human beings that come to Asberek are more than up for the task. (Oh, I jumped the gun … but you get the idea about this wonderful planet!)
What got you writing erotica and more specifically — BDSM?
I first read erotic romance and have always been fascinated with the BDSM aspects of some of it, especially Joey W. Hill. I loved to read it, so I wanted to try and write it. The Wild Rose Press happened to have a contest and I entered. They published “Garden of Sin” a few months later. The more I wrote, the more I liked it. Writing it, I mean. Well, I LIKE it….okay, never mind. (Jen’s blush starts somewhere around her toes … but I’m not touching that statement … if you’re interested in finding out more about she means, there’s always the comment section. I’m just sayin’…)
I need to get new glasses. Do you like these snazzy designer ones or the these with the rhinestones?
Oh the Rhinestones definitely. (Personally I like how they match the twinkle in my eye!)
Tell us a little bit about your writing habits. Plotter or pantzer? Mood Music? Favorite Food? You know that kind of stuff
I’m a panster. Totally. And I do have music associated with certain books but I usually don’t play it when I’m writing. I will play it to get in the mood to write. I ALWAYS have a cup of coffee when I write. (She agreed to hang out here only if the cabana boys kept her happy with Starbucks … and massages.)
If we asked your friends to name 3 personality traits about you, what do you think they would say?
What would THEY say? Oh my God! I have no idea! Um, talkative? Maybe persistent. Definitely obnoxious. LOL. You’ll have to ask them, I think. (Jen forgot to mention funny. When I’m around this woman I boot whatever beverage I’m drinking at the time through my nose. You’d think I’d learn, but nope. I’ve ruined more shirts hanging with Jen!)
A hot soak in the tub or a mad shopping trip to the mall?
Oh the tub definitely. And not alone. *wink* (Yes, Jen the cabana boys are available as soon as we finish this interview. Just a couple more questions.)
Anything else you’d like to share with your readers?
Well, “The Secret She Keeps” comes out October 17th. “Regaining Command”, the third book in the Command Series is coming out soon.
Jen makes amazing book trailers. Here’s the one for “Resisting Command”.
Jen has agreed to hang around awhile with the cabana boys. Oh, look she’s dancing the Macarana with them. Well, I’m sure I can pull her away long enough to answer your questions.
So my post a couple of days ago made me think of impressions and what we all imagine an author looks like. Does the romance author conjur up a certain image? Do you think mystery writers or historical authors have a certain look? How about authors of erotica? Not that they “should”, but I think it’s human nature to visualize people a certain way.
suckered rounded up 13 very brave authors who’ve agreed to let me post their pictures … and I added little bios in there! (Most of the info came from their websites, but in some cases I ad libbed … forgive me authors!) So in no particular order, here they are … ENJOY!
By day, Shayla Kersten is a mild-mannered accountant. By night, she’s a writer of sexy romances. Torn between genres, Shayla writes erotic stories about hot heroes and their sexy women, as well as hot men and their passionate heroes. She writes for several publishers including Ellora’s Cave, Liquid Silver Books, and The Wild Rose Press.
Susan Vaughan is a romantic suspense author from Maine who is multi-published with Silhouette Intimate Moments. Her books have been both a Romantic Times Magazine Reviewer’s Choice Nominee and a finalist in the Daphne du Maurier Award of Excellence in Mystery and Suspense in 2006! Her newest release, Primal Obsession is a fall 2008 release with The Wild Rose Press.
Marisa Chenery is a very busy mother of 4 who first started writing historical romances, but now finds herself drawn more to the paranormal romance genre. She is published with Liquid Silver Books and New Concepts Publishing. When she’s not on school field trips (like the one above) with her children you can find her at home in Canada working on her next novel.
Michelle Hoppe is one of those authors who is as old as dirt. (That’s straight from her web bio … I don’t know Michelle well enough to say she’s younger than me.) It’s true, she has grandchildren and everything. Can you believe she still wears a boa like the one in her picture? Naked sometimes even…It’s true, she does. (Again … this is not a fact I know from personal experience … it’s in her bio … really!) She’s published through Liquid Silver Books and Changeling Press.
Mima writes the sexy “Within” series, which have consistently garnered four and five star reviews. She’s multi-published with Liquid Silver Books, Loose-Id, and Samhain Publishing. (Even after hanging around Liquid Silver for 9 months and visiting her website and reading her books … like her picture, Mima remains an enigma to me.)
Rae Morgan writes sensual romantic suspense stories (translation … hawt erotic novels that’ll melt your socks off!) for Liquid Silver Books. She also has several books published under “Monette Michaels”.
Jennifer Linforth is my critique partner, my slave driver, and shoulder to cry on. Oddly enough we have shared this parallel life that finally brought us together a couple of years ago. She writes historical fiction and historical romance. (And she had a hard time writing her first love scene … editing erotica has been an interesting exercise for her!) Her debut novel Madrigal: A novel of Gaston Leroux’s Phantom of the Opera is due out from Highland Press in fall 2008.
Shara Lanel obviously enjoys hamming it up with sexy men at writing conventions. She writes erotic stories of love and romance for Liquid Silver Books and Loose-Id. Her newest release “Finding Mr. Right Can be Murder” received a 5 star review from Just Erotic Romance!
Pam Champagne lives on 50 rural acres in Maine with her husband, two Siamese cats, a black Lab and a new addition, Percy, a dog rescued from death row in Florida. She writes romantic suspense and paranormals for The Wild Rose Press and Samhain publishing. One of her many books, Bed of Lies, won a 2008 Eppie Award.
Celia Kyle is everything her picture indicates! She’s a crazy woman with her fingers in all kinds of things. Besides writing hot stories of love and romance, she also does cover art and web design. Celia is one of the two authors who agreed to let me be part of a “shifter” anthology… yay us! Celia writes erotic romance for Liquid Silver Books, Changeling Press, and Cobblestone Press.
Michelle Libby is a Maine author whose other jobs include being a mom, wife (to a sexy cop), and working as a reporter for a local weekly paper. She writes romance for Wings E-Press and Champagne books. (Michelle was my roomie at the recent writer’s convention where we promised to keep all the naughty stories under lock and key … nuff said. )
Judi Phillips is a proud grammie and multi-published Maine author who writes paranormal stories and is published with Wings E-press. Her newest novel, Ghost of a Chance will be a fall 2008 release through The Wild Rose Press.
Lina Gardiner is a Canadian author writing dark fantasy. The first book in her Jess Vandermire vampire series, Grave Illusions, was released in 2007 through ImaJinn Books and has received many stellar reviews. The second book in the series, Beyond the Grave, will be out in late 2008.
Oh … look at that! We ran out of space. Sorry folks, there’s no room for a picture of me! This is Thursday 13 after all and it just wouldn’t do for me to take up more of your time… guess you’ll have to wait until next time to find out what I look like! Mwahahaha…