Friday, May 14, 2010

Are We There Yet?

Contemporary Fiction writer, Ellen Meister, is my guest today Over Coffee. She has a ready smile and an irreverent sense of humor, which has cause some strange looks to be cast my way in places like the doctor’s office. More than once. What makes me laugh? A clever turn of phrase, no wait, it’s her acerbic wit and deadpan delivery, or...the way she portrays sibling relationships so accurately. Okay, it’s all the above. :-)

Ellen’s book, The Smart one, was chosen as one of the top 10 beach reads by Woman’s Day. Her third novel, The Other Life will be released 2011.

Ellen's topic also receives her trademark dry humor she speaks about something writers know a lot about--waiting.

Back when I was a tender unpublished thing of say, 42 , I was naive enough to think the writing life was about Art. Art and prestige. Maybe Art and prestige with a little fame and glamour thrown in. But now that I have two published books under my belt and two more in the pipeline, I know better.

Writing is about waiting.

Indeed, as any published or aspiring author knows, most days all you do is wait.

And as the claw marks on my desk will attest, patience doesn't come naturally to me. I don't think it comes naturally to you, either. Or anyone. Not anyone we like, at any rate. Oh sure, there are people walking around on this planet who claim to be patient—people who look just like the rest of us—but we know the truth. These are people whose homes are always clean. They read instructions. They never forget to bring all their coupons to the supermarket, neatly organized in little accordion folders they finger their way through only after the last item has been rung. They pay with exact change. And they are always in front of us in line.

There is something I wish on these people. Something so cruel I'm ashamed to even think it, but here goes ...

I wish they would become writers.

Evil, I know. But I'd love to see those folks spend two years bleeding sweat into their beloved manuscripts only to have to endure the following ...

• Waiting to hear from the 100-200 agents they queried, including those who believe the appropriate way to reject a query is to ignore it, thus increasing the wait time to infinity.

• Waiting three months to email the agent who promised she would read the manuscript in two weeks, only to learn that she plans to read it as soon as she returns from sabbatical.

• Waiting another three months before following up yet again, only to learn that the agent has lost the manuscript, but promises to read it within the next six months if you resend it right away ... and promise her an exclusive.

• Waiting to hear from the agent who had telephoned to say she was reading the manuscript and would call back in 24 hours to say whether she wanted to offer representation.

• Waiting for your writer friends to reassure you it's okay to contact the agent after a month has gone by with no word from her.

• Waiting for your non-writer friends to understand that getting an agent is actually a very big deal and worthy of some kind of small celebration, like maybe a surprise party at Le Cirque.

• Waiting eight months while your new agent submits the manuscript to every editor in New York City and beyond before getting a book deal.

• Waiting four months for the contract that was supposed to
arrive in four weeks.

• Waiting for your advance, which, according to your contract, will be divided into eight equal installments paid annually beginning in the decade after the book's release.

• Waiting a year-and-a-half for pub date only to be told your book was moved to the schedule for the following year.

• Waiting to finish your next book, so you can start all over again ...

On second thought, maybe I don't wish this on anyone. Maybe the pain-to-pleasure ratio of the writer's life is so skewed toward torture I don't even wish it on the guy in front of me on the highway, who’s driving fifty miles an hour in the left lane when I'm late for an appointment with my therapist.

But as for me? I'll keep doing it as long as they'll let me.

  • How about you?

  • Do you plan to keep writing? And are you getting any better at waiting?


The Smart One Blurb

Bev is the Smart One, who finally leaves her artistic ambitions in chalk dust (and her humor-impaired husband in the arms—and legs—of his nubile protégée) to become a schoolteacher. Clare is the Pretty One, who married well and seems to be living a designer version of the suburban dream. Joey is the Wild One, struggling to stay clean and sober now that she's used up her fifteen minutes of fame as a one-hit-wonder rock star.

They love each other but mix like oil, water, and hundred-proof gin . . . a combination that threatens to combust over family tensions, suspected infidelities, a devastating accident, a stunning confession, and the sudden reappearance of their handsome, now all-grown-up former neighbor, Kenny Waxman, who's back in town making his mark as a TV comedy writer.

It seems they'll never understand where their differences begin and their own destructive tendencies end. Then it happens: the sisters discover a decades-old body stuffed inside an industrial drum and begin a bold, heartbreaking, and sometimes hilarious journey that will either bring them together . . . or tear them apart for good.

Browse the book

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Ellen Meister is the author of two novels, THE SMART ONE (HarperCollins/Avon) and SECRET CONFESSIONS OF THE APPLEWOOD PTA (Morrow/Avon). Her third novel, THE OTHER LIFE will be published by Putnam in early 2011.

A former advertising copywriter, Ellen left the business world to raise a family and chase her fiction-writing dreams. In addition to her novels, she has published numerous short stories and was the editor of an online literary magazine. She currently curates for a literary radio program, mentors aspiring authors and does public speaking about her books and other writing-related issues.

Ellen lives in New York with her husband and three children, and is at work on her fourth novel, FAREWELL, DOROTHY PARKER.

For more information, visit her website at

You can also find Ellen on Facebook

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Working Hard For Your Dreams—Cindy Gerard

Romantic suspense author, Cindy Gerard, is my guest today. She has six back to back NYT Bestsellers. Quite an accomplishment and proof dreams can come true if you're willing to work hard for it and not give up.

My first contact with Cindy was through her books many years ago when she wrote for Silhouette and I read a few of her books here and there. I’ve always liked the way she built her characters and her heroes were tough and a bit out of the norm. The first one was MARRIAGE, OUTLAW STYLE followed by THE OUTLAW JESSE JAMES.

I kinda lost track of her as I reading other things. I was on a business trip and forgot my book—aack! Nothing to read? Fate worse than death, so I looked at the limited books available and recognized her name and I picked up TAMING THE OUTLAW. Are we seeing a pattern here? Yeah, I like tough men who can take care of themselves and had a code of honor. Fast forward to 2006 and I found her name again only this time she was writing a totally different type of books, filled with danger and suspense--OVER THE LINE. I’ve just recently started her
Black Ops series.

When I found Cindy on Facebook, I was thinking, hmmm, I know that name, and then I discovered she was writing even more cool books. The thing I like about reading authors from their start to the present is seeing how their writing changes and grows—matures if you will. Sitting in on some panels at RT it was an eye opener as I listened to her talk about different aspects of writing suspense. Finding something, an idea, you love to write and following through on it. It’s about daring to dream but being willing to put in the hard work to make the dream a reality. Not giving up. I can respect that.

Please welcome, Cindy Gerard, to Over Coffee.

Hi guys. It’s great to be here but since some of you might not know me, how about a little intro?

I’ve been around the romance business since 1991 when my first Loveswept was published. After 7 books I moved to Silhouette Desire and wrote around 25 books for them before I stepped onto the slippery slope of single title romantic suspense in 2005 because while I actually loved writing category romance, I found myself gravitating toward bigger stories, bigger romance – bigger everything – and there just wasn’t room in category to write those stories.

Fortunately, I came up with a series, my agent shopped it around and it sold. The over arching concept for the Bodyguards came about after 9/11. I read so many stories about returning military veterans and I wondered what these super alpha males did when they came back home after living by their wits and being fueled by adrenaline. I found out, via researching the web and contacts with former Spec. Ops guys, that a lot of them go into securities work. From that, the Bodyguards were eventually born.

I loved writing that series and hated leaving my Garrett clan but Black Ops, Inc, has proven to be yet another love of my life and I’ve had a blast writing about those shadow warriors and their women.

On a personal level, my dh and I live in Iowa on a mini farm with our Brittany Spaniel, Margaret, our two cats, Buddy and Sly and Tom’s quarter horses – too many too name :o) We have one amazing son and an equally amazing daughter-in-law who, fortunately live within 2 hours of us so we get to see our 4 adorable, brilliant, huggable grandchildren on a pretty regular basis. (Yes, I’m biased) I write full time now and feel privileged to be making a living doing so.

I wasn’t always a writer, though. I’ve been a clerk in a county treasurer’s office, a bookkeeper in a lumberyard, a sales clerk/alterationist at a men’s clothing store and my longest career was with the Department of Human Services working with state and federal assistance programs. During the course of my years with DHS, I was a caseworker, a policy specialist and one of 8 trainers in the state. Needless to say, it was a busy, grueling, often rewarding career and many times frustrating career.

It wasn’t easy to make the decision to switch to full time writer, but I’ve been very blessed with good fortune and am so glad I made the move several years ago. Having said that, though, writing is still a tough job and one that takes much discipline and dedication if a writer is going to succeed – especially in today’s economic climate and shifting publishing perimeters.

There’s always room for wonderful books, though, so to anyone out there who is trying to get published, my advice is to stick with it. Yes, it’s hard sometimes. I know. Been there. Done that. Have the stack of rejection letters to prove it. It took a long time for me to make my first sale. And it’s a struggle to keep selling because the competition is tough. But, I’m living proof that someone with no college degree and no writing credentials can not only sell, but can make a living loving what they do. And if you’ll indulge me for just a second here – I’m also proof that that same high school educated writer can hold her own. Case in point: I’ve got a string of 6, back to back NYT best-sellers going. Still have to pinch myself over that. Talk about dreams coming true :o)

  • What about you all? What are your dreams? Are you readers? Writers? Both?
  • If you have any questions you’d like to ask me about writing in general, about my books – whatever, I’d love to hear from you.

    In the meantime, thanks for having me and please know that I love to hear from my readers. I’m receiving buckets of mail these days and sometimes I’m a little slow answering but I do answer all of my mail.

Let's give away a copy of Risk No Secrets to someone who comments.

RISK NO SECRETS, is on sale May 18th from Pocket Books.

Twelve years of chasing bad guys didn’t erase beautiful Sophie Baylor from Wyatt Savage’s memory. If he had another chance, he’d never let her leave. So when she tracks him down from El Salvador and begs for help, he doesn’t ask questions—he just goes.

Sophie is grateful her daughter survived a kidnapping attempt, but she won’t forgive herself until the girl who was mistakenly abducted is safe. Wyatt is the only man brave enough to take on the mysterious terrorists behind the crime—and the one irresistible man she wishes she had never let go.

Sophie knows Central America’s steamy jungles and sticky politics better than anyone. Yet she refuses to hide in fear. Then she becomes the enemy’s number one target. Wyatt lost her once, and he won’t lose her again—even if he has to fight, kill, or die to save her.

Booktrailer and Video Interview about Risk No Secrets
Buy this book: B& Simon and Schuster

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

New York Times and USA Today Bestseller Cindy Gerard has forty plus titles in print. In addition to 6 RITA nominations and 2 Rita wins, Cindy has numerous RT nominations and various awards to her credit. Each book of her single title romantic suspense series, Black Ops Inc, has appeared on the New York Times Bestseller top 20 list. Cindy writes sexy, heart-pounding romantic suspense and has had her work twice featured in COSMOPOLITAN Magazine as Red Hot Reads.

For more information about Cindy and her books (including her back list) , you can visit her website at or her blog at, or her facebook page at!/pages/Cindy-Gerard-New-York-Times-Best.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Interview with Charles Paz, Mr. Romance 2009

This year I attended my first Romance Times Booklover’s Convention. I really enjoyed it although you return tired, very tired. Promotion and schmoozing is tiring as is attending various panels during the day and then dressing up and attending the various balls each night. Still, I met a lot of people I only knew online and reconnected with those I had met in the past. RT is full of lots of interesting events and people. I had fun.

One of the greatly touted events is the annual Mr. Romance Contest. The winner graces the cover of a romance novel and hopefully continues on a successful path in modeling or the entertainment field. Think Fabio, John DeSalvo, and Jimmy Thomas.

Now, I’ve heard much about the Mr. Romance contest—pros and cons. I’ve seen women curl their lips disdainfully at the whole beefcake contest, contestants, and speak disparaging of the whole process both verbally and in print. I also read some of the comments on the RT forum posted while the judging of 2010 contest was taking place. Then there are others that love the whole process and the photo ops with the contestants. Talking to them, they loved having the models intermingling with them during panels/workshops, and their willingness to dance with the RT guests during the Balls.

One of the interesting people I met was, Charles Paz, 2009’s Mr. Romance. I thought I was tired, my word, he was everywhere helping out, talking to people, posing for picture after picture with what seemed like hundreds of readers and authors.

I was curious about him and how he got into this and what his plans were now that his reign had ended. I had a chance to sit down with him and talk a bit after he finished being an emcee for an event. Charles is a genuinely sweet guy, a gentlemen, with a great personality, smart, and a wicked sense of humor. He is also very buff with well-defined body with a chest and arms all the 90 lb weaklings would love to have and many women practically swoon over. Let’s just say, if I was stupid enough to be in a dark city alley, I’d feel much better if he was with me, lol! Although, after speaking with him and getting to know him a bit, I can tell you, he’d also be delivering a big brother lecture on harebrained moves and safety to me.

I was surprised to find he hadn’t been involved with weight lifting while growing up but had only been doing it the last few years. In fact he told me the reason he had gotten into body building to begin with was to lose weight and get into shape—boy, he succeeded.

Sia: You really were close to 300 lbs and overweight?

Charles: I really was out of shape and weighed 290 lbs. I started working out at the gym. It built my up confidence and self image.

Sia: So, how did you get from working out at the gym to becoming a model and being Mr. Romance?

Charles: After getting into shape I entered 2007 SACRAMENTO NPC BODYBUILDING SHOW and took 5th place. A friend of mine from the gym encouraged me to post my pictures and profile on Model Mayhem. I did another show in July 2008 and after that, I had one shoot, which led to another shoot and so on. Model Mayhem is what got me noticed. Over a year later, I got noticed to do a Tear sheet for RT and then that led to the invite for MR.ROMANCE.

Sia: I know for aspiring authors and published authors, conventions such as RT is an opportunity to get to know industry people to further your career. How does that work for a contestant?

Charles: You get to know the authors and the type of books they write and opportunities for doing the cover model work.

Sia: So you made connections?

Charles: After the MR.ROMANCE COMPETITION. People promised me *big things* and said I needed to fly out to Florida and shoot book covers for Bobbie Smith, whom I met personally at RT.

Sia: They flew you to Florida?

Charles: No. I spent money out of my pocket. For nothing. It was at a time where I had nothing and eating was a struggle. The price for *the big things* promised was more than I wanted to pay.

Sia: Hmmm, sounds like the *casting couch* isn’t just for Hollywood, huh? Moving along, Pageants traditionally have a lot of cattiness and jealousy behind the scenes. Is it different in a contest such as Mr. Romance? Did you see that jealousy continue AFTER you became Mr. Romance? How did it affect, or how did it make you feel?

Charles: There is jealousy at these things. Lol! I think only one guy from last year was the one who made a big deal of losing. Feel? It goes back to me wondering if this was a fluke for me winning. At the same time, a lot of people online were jealous as well. Apparently, getting shown love [and support] from women makes any man Jealous. Lol! You deal with it.

Sia: What are the duties of Mr. Romance during the year?

Charles: I had NO DUTIES. I tried my best to do shoots for the fans and show them pretty pictures.. At the same time, I wish there was more for me to do. I didn’t have publishers or anyone fly me out to book events or signings or even do anything to promote me. I learned the hard way that I am my own manager and should have done a better job at selling myself, I guess.

Sia: I noticed you were very busy during this RT convention. Was this required? Or did you feel you needed to step in and help where you could?

Charles: At RT, I could do what ever I wanted. I could have stayed in the hotel room. I could have gone sightseeing. OR, I could have spent my time kissing up to the publishers and [industry] people who could get me more covers. INSTEAD, I made sure to keep my face seen for the fans and people who wanted to get pictures and autographs. I did workshops where I would be involved with the people and made sure they had a GREAT time. That was my JOB this year. I loved every minute of it. And wouldn’t change a thing.

Sia: How many book covers are you on?

Charles: Only on one cover...that I know of, lol! [There are] some *photographers* and I use that word loosely, who think that they can take my pictures and use it for profit. It’s really sad for them to take advantage of me like that, but its ok. I’m sure there are people who have stolen my image as well and used it for their gain. I wish them much success at that =-)

Sia: Are you still modeling?

Charles: Yes, still modeling. I’ve got agency testing next week for fashion and a commercial. Wish me luck.

Sia: You got it! You mentioned you are a body trainer and personal trainer. Do you work for a company or gym or is this something you do on your own?

Charles: I’m not 'CERTIFIED' but I do train people on the side and help them lose weight. I know my stuff and am good at what I do.

Sia: Any lessons you’ve learned from this experience or advice you'd like to share with us?

Charles: Advice? [Watch out for those who promise you the moon.] Don’t listen to the people who hide behind computers and talk down about you. There is a blog up after this RT talking about [the] cover models. It’s pretty sad, but okay, the person who wrote it is unhappy with herself and has a vendetta against cover models. Its okay though, I’m still Alive =-)

Sia: And doing well, I’d say. What are your plans now that your reign as Mr. Romance is over?

Charles: Shoot my own covers and get a DIFFRENT LOOK out there for all the authors to have. I’m changing the GAME so to say. There are certain shots that aren’t out there for authors to use. I listened to what they wanted and I will deliver. I think it would be nice to see something out of the NORM for these authors. I can only hope for the best and give them what they want.

Charles, thank you for taking the time to speak with me. I wish you the best for your future.

  • Charles Paz, 2009 Mr. Romance and Jamie Ungaro, 2010 Mr. Romance. Stay tuned for my interview with Jamie a bit later.
All pictures provided courtesy of Charles Paz.