Friday, April 24, 2009

Working Hard For The Money

~Claire Collins

Sia is recovering from surgery so I will be your hostess today.
Who am I? Some of you may know me already and for those who don't, my name is Claire Collins. I am the author of Images of Betrayal and Fate and Destiny.

Don't worry, Sia will return soon. Grab a cup of coffee and pull up a chair.

So what do you do for a living? That whole real job thing is tough isn't it?

I have a real job. Yes, believe it or not, I don’t just sit around all day living the lives of my imaginary people. Shocking, I know. Yes, I have an actual job where I leave home every morning to go work for someone else and I come home at the same time every night. Like most people I know, I fight rush hour and have more than one boss.

Do I want to write instead? Absolutely. Don't you? I’d gladly trade my eight to five job for ten hours of sitting at my computer clicking away at the latest story. The problem, of course, is that I have bills to pay. Oh yes, and children. Lots and lots of children. They like to eat... and argue. So even if I didn’t have to feed them, the chances of me sitting at my computer and clicking away at keys for ten hours is simply never going to happen until they all move away.

I know there are lots of other people out there who have the same desire to get lost in a good novel whether they are writing it or reading it. No matter which end of the spectrum you are, I thought I would share the Association of America Publishers sales reports for the month of December and released February 12, 2009. You can read the whole article here: I’ll share a few things here with you.

Domestic net sales

  • Adult Paperback sales increased 12.5 percent for the month ($132.8 million) and increased by 3.6 percent for the year.
  • The Children’s/YA Paperback category was also up by 37.0 percent in December with sales totaling $54.4 million; sales increased by 6.4 percent for the year.
  • E-books sales jumped up by 119.9 percent for the month ($6.5 million), reflecting an increase of 68.4 percent for the year.
Oh, did I mention that in my real job, I’m an accountant? I have this ‘thing’ for numbers…

Check out the increase in ebook sales compared to the changes in the other categories. Interesting, isn't it? So what does this really mean?
Any thoughts?
Claire Collins lives in sunny Arizona with her husband and their four children. She put aside her love of writing while she obtained a dual Bachelors degree in Business Administration and Accounting.

Claire began telling stories as soon as she learned to talk, and she hasn't stopped telling stories-- or talking--since. After decades of writing in the closet, Claire entered a story Romance Writing contest where she ended up a semi finalist. That little stroke to her ego was enough to make Claire stretch out and seek publication in earnest. She has two books published by Second Wind LLC, a small Indie press, and her third will be released the fall of 2009.

Abandoned by her family, Tysan supports herself waiting tables. One evening, a beguiling, rugged young man walks out of a blizzard and into her life. He possesses the remarkable ability to take photographs of events that have not yet happened.

Snowed in at his mountaintop cabin, Andrew finds Destiny—a young woman left for dead. He assumes that she is in great danger—at least until she shoots him. No one is what they seem in this romantic thriller.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Grappling with a Big Idea

It's my pleasure to have debut author, Gina Robinson, as my guest Over Coffee. As a writer, it's always fascinating to me how authors get their ideas for their stories. I love to catch a glimpse of their writing process, if you will, and hear how the develop those ideas into a novel. Today, Gina discusses how she gets The Big Idea, the love/hate relationship she has with it, and how works the idea into a great story, such as Spy Candy.

As a writer, I often feel like a tiny feather-weight wrestler trying to take down and tame an awesome, intimidating sumo of an idea. At other times, I feel like I’m trying to grasp and wrestle something so light and ethereal that I’ll never get a hold on it. How can you shape a wisp of smoke into a solid brick foundation?

I don’t know about other writers, but my process for crafting a story usually starts with the Big Idea. I read or hear or see something that seems to shout at me, “Now there’s a story!” For example, I read about a fantasy spy camp in a travel magazine. That sparked the idea for my book, Spy Candy, which, oddly enough, is about a woman who goes to a fantasy spy camp and runs into some real intrigue.

But often, the idea’s not even that solid. Sometimes, it’s downright silly. I wrote an entire 100, 000 word manuscript because I read about an Old West detective escaping an angry mob by crawling beneath a wooden boardwalk. I just had to work that into a book. The annals of literature absolutely needed it. So, of course, my hero escaped a hanging mob in the same fashion. It provided a great excuse for our hero to look up the heroine’s skirt as she walked all over him. And for her to retaliate by raining dirt into his eyes through cracks in the boardwalk. Maybe the silly idea that sparked the story explains why the manuscript remains unpublished. And it may very well also explain the phrase, “Here’s mud in your eye!”

My Big Ideas always start out as fuzzy, beautiful things. I almost literally feel them and the emotional responses they’re supposed to elicit. The idea sits floaty and heavenly in my mind, a vague notion. A couple of scenes seen through a fog. At this point, I’m convinced this story will be the best story I’ve ever written. Its story germ is so fabulous, how could it be otherwise?

But even a notion needs some substance to become a real story. So I start researching, note taking, doing a bit of rudimentary plotting and the all-important thinking. After awhile, the researching gets old, and the thinking starts to feel like mere procrastination. It’s time to put the story on the page. But where to start? In whose point of view? Should the opening scene take place in the heroine’s apartment, the lab, or at the coffee shop? Do I need a prologue? Suddenly I hate that mean, nasty sumo wrestler with its arrogant, big idea ways. At that point, I feel like screaming in frustration, “What’s the big idea! Why won’t the story glide onto the page like it’s supposed to?”

That’s the stage I’m at right now. Trying to grapple the Big Idea into some entertaining opening pages. It has me struggling to keep from being pinned when it should be the other way around. I hate that stupid Big Idea. It’s too much for me. I don’t have the skills to write and get it onto the page the way it feels in my head. Why did I ever believe that I could?

But if this story runs true to my pattern, after a few chapters, I’ll gain some strength and pick up writing speed. By mid book, I’ll begin liking my idea again. By the end, I’ll even love it once more as I pin it to the mat. Then I’ll be sorry to see the match end, worthy opponent that the Big Idea was.

But for now, it’s back to—coffee shop or lab?

Gina Robinson lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and children. In her everyday life, she enjoys quiet, homey pursuits—reading, baking, container and basket gardening, working out at the gym, attending her children’s many activities, and visiting with family and friends. In her fiction, she’s very fond of explosions, gunfights, extreme sports, suspense, humor, and romance. She writes humorous romantic suspense for Zebra Books, Kensington Publishing, NY, NY. Her debut novel, Spy Candy, is available now. Her second novel, Spy Games, will be released in December 2009. For more information about Gina and her books, check out her website at:

Monday, April 20, 2009

Never Lose The Dream

My guest today is Chris Milson. He talks a bit about his odyssey from short story writer to writing his first novel. His topic is one we can all relate to as writers, the dream of being published and what we go through to realize the dream.

“Never lose the dream”. These words are from the song “Can you feel it” by The Jackson 5. How true those words are.

As a writer, nothing is as satisfying as being able to sit down and write a great story. But being able to write is not easy, as one would hope sometimes. It is not something that can be done by the wave of a hand or thinking, okay, today I am going to write 5 chapters. Writing takes time, dedication and inspiration. Without these three things, one cannot write.I can remember the days when I started writing. It was back in 1989, and I wrote 26 short stories in a matter of a few months. Now, back then and being very naive as to how anything in the real publishing world worked, I thought I'd have the best thing since sliced bread on my hands. Of course, I was wrong. Many told me the stories I wrote needed to be made longer. That was hard for me to take, but it was also true.

In 1989 I had no clue how to do that. I wrote from the first person POV, but what I wanted was to write in the 3rd person POV like Stephen King. The first book I read of his was Misery. That alone was enough for me to know that this was how I wanted to write. Of course, living in the “hopefully-someday-I-may-be-published” mindset, I knew that in order for my dream to come about I had to live in the real world…. And so I did… I lived in the real world and put writing on the shelf for 5 years. In fact, I completely forgot all about it for the most part, although I do have to say that I always had a certain niggling feeling that I had to write again, but I decided to ignore that.

To learn how to write like a professional, I needed to read other writers and see their style. I am not going to say that writing is easy, as it is not. There are many times when we have to sacrifice what we want in order for our dream to be fulfilled, and one is going to get the barrage of negative comments and insults, not only from friends but also some family members also. Not only is there outside influences that give you all the reasons why you can’t, but you have your own inner demons that give you all the excuses why you shouldn’t. I’m sure we’ve all heard these ones we tell ourselves: You need to work to reach your goals. Can’t today, got too many other things to do, but I will get to it later. As I found out, later, sometimes never comes.

In 1994 I was unemployed and living with my father. Back then, the only thing I had to fill my time was writing. So day and night I wrote, until 9 months later I had a two-part novel. Coming up with a title was also not easy. The original short story was titled Shack of Evil in 1989. In 1994 I changed it to Phantasmagoria, then Darkworld, then Phantasdominion, then The Chosen One. It wasn’t until 2007 when I edited the book and I changed the title to The Chosen.

Although I had done what I wanted to do by writing in the 3rd person POV, I once again put my writing life on hold… For what seemed to be an eternity. I locked my writing away to live in the real world again, and for the next 14 years I worked in marketing. Now I'm not going to say that I regretted working in marketing, as I learned a lot. I got to work with some great companies in Australia, New Zealand, UK, Canada and the US. In 2000 I moved from Australia to the States. During my time in the US I worked for a few companies and learned a lot about real marketing. That experience helped me become one of the few multi-national marketing experts today. As great as working freelance and traveling the world can be, writing still holds a strong pull.

One may be wondering how the heck did I get published? To be honest I am still amazed. It was 2007 and I was living in New Zealand. I decided to send out query emails to publishers just to see what response I would get. Naturally I got a wave of the “No thank you” replies from 50-odd publishers, until I got an offer from a small Print On Demand Publisher. That day changed my life. Of course, that did not mean I could pack my bags and head for Hollywood—that rarely happens.

The Chosen was released in July 2008. But then came the real work. How to promote it. I learned a valuable lesson in this. A majority of publishers will expect you to do most, if not all, the legwork. Sad, but it is true. For me, learning how to promote my own work is like relearning everything about marketing. Even though I have 15-years experience behind me in marketing, this is a different arena entirely, and one I am still learning, and sometimes learning comes from making bad choices.

I guess one does not realize the quality of their work until they get feedback. Now I have had some wonderful reviews on the first release, and the feedback from fans and supporters is always a pleasure to read.

Feedback, whether good or bad, is valuable to any writer. It helps us grow in our craft. It makes it all worthwhile.

Never lose the dream.
Born in Brisbane, Australia, these days Chris resides in Russia, where he spends most of his time freelancing his marketing services to companies in Canada, the UK and the US. When he’s not working in freelance, he is busy promoting of his novel online.

Chris is a writer of supernatural horror and has also written 28 short stories, and is currently working on his You Tube project about Urban Myths and Legends.

The Chosen follows the life of Alex Manning. A hero called to stand and face a destiny he wants no part of. Currently, The Chosen will be available in English and Russian through Amazon, Bookhabit, Mobipocket, available in Paperback and E-Book, in May 2009. The second novel in the series is titled Bloodline of Darkness and will be available later this year.

The Chosen can be Pre-Ordered through my website: