Wednesday, March 24, 2010


My guest is Lisa Brackmann. Her Debut book will be available June, 2010, from Soho Press. Be on the lookout, I will be reviewing this book for the blog soon.

Lisa is a friend and she's like the fifth friend of mine that received a contract this past year. It's been quite an eye opener to watch all the work that Lisa and other friends have had to do after they've sold the book. I hear about it from them all in varying degrees.

Why do I say that? Simple. Most writers are focused exclusively on the work involved in writing the story, editing and polishing the manuscript. Then they embark on the querying process and creating the right query letter. Looking for an agent and publisher. Granted, there is a lot of work involved in this part of the process. Somehow, you get the idea this is the brunt of the work. Once you sell, it's just a matter of waiting for the book to be released. Oh so wrong.

One of the benefits of having friends selling their books is seeing another aspect of work involved and just as hard, but in a different way, as the creating and selling it that book. Wow. If you think it's easy street after the sale, think again. It's a lot of hard work.

Lisa explains what it's been like for her.

A few years ago, back when I first seriously started writing novels, I came across Stephen Pressman’s book “The War of Art.” Pressman talks a lot about overcoming resistance and facing your creative fears, but for me what really resonated was one simple principle: writing is a job. The first rule of a job is, you show up. Whether you feel like it or not.

For whatever reason, viewing my writing this way was a huge breakthrough for me. It wasn’t about waiting for a Muse, or having to be in the mood. It was about putting my butt in the chair, opening up the document and doing the work. Discipline alone could nourish talent and inspiration. I liked that.

Seeing my writing as a job to do, while perhaps not the most glamorous or inspirational perspective, certainly has come in handy on the road to publication.

Last summer, my novel,
ROCK PAPER TIGER , was acquired by Soho Press , for Spring/Summer 2010 publication. That is actually a pretty fast turnaround in the publishing world, and it meant that I had a lot of things to do in a fairly short amount of time, with lots of deadlines.

Acquisition and publication processes vary greatly from house to house, so some of my experiences may not apply to every situation. But I hope to give you a sense of what your job, as an author will be like, once you score that publishing deal and have signed your shiny new contract.

Generally you will have editorial revisions, requests for changes concerning story and character. Sometimes these come in the form of an editorial letter, where the concerns and suggestions are outlined. Without going too much into the specifics of my experience, I’ll just say that my editor was awesome and this was not a huge deal for me (for which I am seriously thankful).

At the same time, you’ll have to deal with a number of “housekeeping” issues – things that have to be done that are not directly connected to writing and revising.

The wonderful publicist at Soho (excuse me if I run out of superlatives, but everyone I have dealt with there has been fantastic) told me the single most important thing an author can do in terms of publicity is to have an easily findable web presence. That means a website that comes up when people search your name and the name of your book(s). So, mine is , and in addition, Rock Paper Tiger permanently redirects to the page about the novel on my website (try it! You’ll see!).

Unless you are a web/graphic designer or someone with a lot of talent for design, I strongly recommend that you bite the bullet and hire a pro to design your site. Yes, it costs some money. But you’re going to need tax write-offs anyway, and a professional-looking website signals that you are a professional author. Which, once you sign a contract, you are.

Show the world that you’re a pro. It’s worth it.

Likewise…you’ll have to get an author photo. Yes, you really will. Even if, like me, you are a fairly publicity-shy sort of person. It Must Be Done.

Again, while you may not need to hire a professional photographer (I did, and I’m glad), your photo needs to have a certain amount of polish – in other words, a good portrait, not a casual shot of you and the kids and the dogs and/or cats. Think about your genre too. What sort of “look” helps promote what you are writing?

You will need a short bio.

While I was never asked to write a synopsis (and for that I am extremely grateful!), at many houses, you will be. I definitely have needed blurbs – thankfully I’ve been generally been able to use variations on my original query.

You might be asked to fill out an author survey. Again, this varies a lot from house to house. The purpose of the survey is to identify potential markets for your book and to provide information that will help Publicity and Marketing sell it. Any authors you can compare your work to, whose readers might like yours? What are the most original features of your book? Who might you be able to enlist to review or publicize it? Are there conventions or conferences that might be relevant? In what cities do you have particularly good networks?

You may be asked for a list of authors who would be appropriate to blurb your work, including authors you might actually know and can personally ask.

I found the Author Survey to be one of the toughest things I did. It forced me to think of my book in ways that don’t come naturally to me (I’m notorious for writing stuff that doesn’t quite fit neatly into genre categories).

Meanwhile, what about that book you wrote? You did your editorial revisions, the MS has been officially “delivered and accepted” (which you love, because that means you get Part 2 of your advance!). So you’re done, right?

Uh, no.

Here’s another instance where different houses have different processes. In my case, I next worked on a line edit. This involved minor editorial changes (clarifications, fact checks, fixing awkward prose) and copy edits. After that, the copy editor did another pass.

Then come the galley proofs.

This is kind of exciting, because the “galleys” are the typeset version of your book – what your book will look like when it’s published. But it’s also a challenge, at least for me – by this point, I had read the book so many times, I worried about my ability to catch mistakes. I strongly recommend that you come up with a careful system of checks and double-checks, because this really is your last chance to fix problems and make small adjustments in the text.

(Well, sort of. In my case, a proof-reader did an additional pass and had a few questions, plus I had a little issue that I just had to address. Again, procedures differ; your mileage may vary!)

Finally, your book is off to Production. Does that mean you’re done?

Well, I’m not.

I’m just a little over two months away from my publication date. I’ve had letters and essays to write for various promotional efforts. Bookstore events to calendar (and I guess I’d better start thinking about what I actually might say when I get there!). Interviews to conduct, conventions to attend, blog posts to write. Like this one!

So, yes. Being a professional author is a lot of work. It’s a job. And like any job, there are deadlines, and tasks that are kind of a pain in the butt.

But you know what? It’s the best job I’ve ever had.


Iraq vet Ellie McEnroe is down and out in China, trying to lose herself in the alien worlds of performance artists and online gamers. When a chance encounter with a Uighur fugitive drops her down a rabbit hole of conspiracies, Ellie must decide who to trust among the artists, dealers, collectors and operatives claiming to be on her side – in particular, a mysterious organization operating within a popular online game.

“Few writers would be up to the challenge of blending the worlds of urban China , Iraq , and a virtual online kingdom–but Lisa Brackmann wildly succeeds. Prepare to taste the smog, smell the noodles, and rub the Beijing dust between your fingers. Rock Paper Tiger is a fresh and vigorous work that vividly captures the roller coaster that is life in modern China .” –Eliot Pattison, THE SKULL MANTRA


Lisa Brackmann has worked as an executive at a major motion picture studio, an issues researcher in a presidential campaign, and the singer/songwriter/bassist in an LA rock band. She still takes pride in her karaoke-ready repertoire of bad pop hits and an embarrassing number of show tunes. A southern California native, she lives in Venice CA and spends a lot of time in Beijing, China. Her three cats wish she’d stay put.

Blog: Papertigertail

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Autograph Lunch

SEALed with a Ring

By: Mary Margret Daughtridge

Publisher: SourceBooks
Price: $7.99
Publication Date: March 2010

My guest is Contemporary Romance author, Mary Margret Daughtridge. She writes military based heroes that are hot and sexy and her latest is SEALed With A Ring.

Mary Margret made me laugh with her tale of her reaction at seeing her book for the first time--early--and her enthusiastic show and tell to everyone she met. But, let her tell the story:

When SEALed with a Ring was released at the first of March, an email came from a friend inviting me to meet her for lunch, and instructing me to bring along three signed copies of the new book.

A few days later while we ate I babbled away, as I always do, and my friend listened with every appearance of enjoyment—as she always does. After a while, she said, “How do you do it, Mary Margret? I read your books and I wonder, ‘How does she think of the things she puts in the books?’”

I’m not sure of the answer to that question. Parts of my books, like a lot of my life, seem at the time to “just happen” and it only becomes a story later when I put together the pieces.

For instance:
My first book, SEALed with a Kiss, unbeknownst to me, appeared on shelves at the local Barnes and Noble two weeks before its official release date. I was browsing the store when I saw it. I stood there, looking at the new release shelf bewildered by a spacey feeling, like “what’s wrong with this picture?” I had visualized it in exactly that spot so many times, I knew something was unusual about the display, but I didn’t know what.

After what felt like a long time, I spotted what seemed out of place. The cover of one of the new books looked just like the cover of mine! And the title was the same too.

Heart pounding, I stepped closer. Even the author’s name was the same as mine!

Let’s see. My cover plus my title plus my name…Finally, one drop at a time, it dawned on me that my book—OH MY GOD, MY BOOK!—was on sale.

I’ve told this story before, but I haven’t told what happened next.

I snatched up a copy, floated over to the cashier and paid for it.

I walked out of Barnes and Noble like I was walking on air, but crossing the parking lot to my car, I realized some of my lightheadedness might be due to the fact that I had missed lunch. I drove to a little mom and pop restaurant where they don’t mind if I tie up a booth while I scribble for an hour or more.

It was past two, the place was almost empty when I got there. At the sight of familiar faces, I finally completely bubbled over.

“Look!” I said to the woman at the register, “my book!”
“Look,” I said to my waiter, “my book!”
“Look,” I said to the busboy, “my book!”

Most people want to be kind, I think. They all oohed and ahhed—and if their faces were a little blank—I had enough enthusiasm for all of us.

A patron, a pretty woman in her middle years with great skin, perfect makeup, the tips of her short blond hair turned up in a free-spirited, windblown style, stopped by my table on her way out. “Excuse me,” she said. “Did you say you’re a writer?”

“My book!” I said, holding it up.

“I don’t think I’ve ever met an author before,” she told me. She introduced herself and asked if she could join me. “Tell me all about it.”

I told her I was a great believer in the power of visualization and what had happened at the bookstore.

She smiled with approval as I babbled away. She was a successful distributor of makeup and skin care and she was well acquainted with visualization techniques.

“I don’t read for entertainment much but I have to buy this book,” she announced after a while.

“It’s at Barnes and Noble,” I told her, thrilled with wonder that here was someone (not friend or family) who wanted to buy my book.

“No,” she said. She tapped the paperback on the table. “I have to buy this book. I don’t want a book I got from the store. I want the book from your hands. I want you to sell it to me, and I want you to sign it right now.”

That’s the story of how I sold my first autographed copy of my first book.

A few days later she emailed me that she had stayed up all night reading it. She loved it and was recommending it to all her extensive contacts.

You can understand why I was delighted, but hardly surprised when, last week, she asked me to meet her for lunch, saying I should bring three copies of SEALed with a Ring for her to buy. One she told me was for her; the other two were gifts for friends.

After we were seated at our table, I whipped out a pen and opened the top book to the flyleaf.

“For Linda,” I wrote, “my first official—and still my best—fan. Love, Mary Margret.”

Cover Blurb:

She’s got it all…except the one thing she needs most

Smart, successful businesswoman JJ Caruthers has a year to land a husband or lose the empire she’s worked so hard to build. With time running out, romance is not an option, and a military husband who is always on the road begins to look like the perfect solution…

He’s a wounded hero with an agenda of his own

Even with the scars of battle, Navy SEAL medic Davy Graziano is gorgeous enough to land any woman he wants, and he’s never wanted to be tied down. Now Davy has ulterior motives for accepting JJ’s outrageous proposal of marriage, but he only has so long to figure out what JJ doesn’t want him to know…

My Thoughts:

I will admit this is the first of Mary Margaret’s books I’ve read. I wasn’t sure what to expect, other than hot Navy Seals and the women who love them, or do bodily damage to a forgetful one.

In Sealed With A Ring, we have problems and plans. Davy Graziano is a hotshot hero with a plan—he’s been brain-injured line of duty and may lose his career. He’s forgetful of things he knows he knows and it’s frustrating. But being a Navy Seal is his life and he will do what he must to return to it and then there is the matter of providing for his special-needs brother.

Enter savvy heroine with problem and also armed a plan. JJ Caruthers has a manipulative grandfather who threatens to sell the family car dealership—unless she gives into the pressure and gets married. Grandfather has a “perfect” man for her to marry. Ugh. She’ll marry, what choice does she have really if she wants to remain CEO? But prefers a man who won’t interfere with her business as CEO. What better solution than to marry sexy Davy Graziano who has forgotten not only that they’ve met—twice—but had hot mind blowing sex. JJ gets the business, and Davy gets to play hero in the hot spots of the world. Of course, nothing ever quite goes as planned in romance and so starts the fun.

Mary Margaret writes a good contemporary romance filled with laughter and glitches. She depicts her knowledge of Seals and military without the textbook preach. Her characters are three-dimensional and after a few pages are very real. This was a fun romance to read and just when you thought you could put the book down—one does have to do chores after all—she would throw in something and you’d find yourself saying, I’ll just read to the end of the chapter. Pfft. Do you know how many times I said that before I actually had the discipline to put it down and things done? Let’s just say, not much got done that day.

  • Two copies of SEALed with a Ring will be given away today. Two winners, US and Canada only. Please leave me a way to contact you.


Mary Margret Daughtridge, a Southerner born and bred, has been a grade school teacher, speech therapist, family educator, biofeedback therapist, and Transpersonal Hypnotherapist.

She has been a member since 2002 of Heart of Carolina Romance Writers, Romance Writers of America, and Romancing the Military Soul, an online writing group, and she is a sought-after judge in writing contests.