Friday, August 13, 2010

Ooh, Pretty!

My guest is Judi Fennell. She is both friend as well as an excellent writer for whom I have a great deal of respect. I knew she was up for the Prism Award and for my favorite of her Mer series, Wild Blue Under. I also knew she didn’t think she’d win it. I couldn’t believe she didn’t even go to the awards. Since I wasn’t able to go to Nationals this year I had to rely on second hand accounts of her win, I told her she owed me an account, lol!

Judi, is also part of my village. Writers rely on others to tell them the truth about their proposals, do beta reading, doing critiques, and be there when a problem is kicking their arses and they need problem solving input. Knowing your *village* and their skills is important too. I don’t know what I’d do without my *village*.

The title’s an inside joke with my online Writing Wombats group (go, Pat!), but the award in this picture is no joke. It’s a PRISM Award, given by the Fantasy, Futuristic & Paranormal chapter of RWA for excellence in paranormal romance, and if you look closely, you can see my name there.

Trust me, I’ve looked closely. Have run my fingers over it repeatedly. Breathed on it and shine it up quite a bit—and my name doesn’t disappear. How utterly cool is that?

I’ve won writing contests before and the thrill never goes away, but with this one, I’m still trying to catch my breath. I mean, I was up against Kerrelyn Sparks and Angie Fox, both New York Times best-selling authors, who are incredible writers with great stories. I ended up tying with Kerrelyn for this award, which is just icing on the celebratory cake, because, honestly? That whole, “It’s just a thrill to be nominated” thing? Seriously, it was. I saw my name on that list and just giggled myself silly. Me. There. With them. Ha!

Of course I wasn’t going to walk away with that shiny, pretty thing. I mean, Angie Fox and Kerrelyn Sparks! Come on, it was an honor just to see my name there. There was no way I was going to win.

I even went to my publisher dinner instead of going to the awards dinner, that’s how sure I was that my name wouldn’t be called. (Side note: I did, however, write an acceptance speech for a friend to give on the “Hell-freezes-over, off-chance that someone would do the math wrong and take pity on me and call my name” because if I hadn’t, I would have won and looked like an idiot and winning wasn’t worth looking like an idiot.)

See, this was my first book written under contract and under deadline. Close friends have heard the horror story I had with this book, typical “Second Book Syndrome.” If you haven’t experienced it, lucky you, but it’s the “I wrote the first one for me; there’s no way I can do it again and people will like it” thing. (We authors, we’re neurotic!)

But I persevered and turned this book in on time and was happy with it. My editor, however, was not. Major problems with the heroine.

What? I loved my heroine. I thought she was funny and witty and had just enough angst to make her sympathetic but still be her tough-as-nails self.

This, my friends, is why writers need editors. I shudder to think of the response if that book had gone on to be published as I’d turned it in the first time. Man, was my editor right.

Oh, don’t get me wrong; at first I didn’t understand what she meant when she said I had to change the heroine. I mean, that was my heroine. What did she mean, change her? I had done what you were supposed to do; I’d written the best book I possibly could. I liked it. I was proud of it.

But it wasn’t good enough. Talk about a mental adjustment! I gave myself about ten hours to process her feedback, come to terms with the work I had left to do, and then I got down to it and restarted the book—

Twenty-four different times in half that many days.

And none of the new starts worked.

And then, finally, on December 16, I changed the heroine’s name, and voila! There she was. My new heroine.

I’d love to say that her story flowed from my fingertips, but, alas, that’s not true. It was blood, sweat, and tears to drag her into this story.

And stress. Lord, was there stress. You did see the December 16th date, didn’t you? What comes nine days after the 16th? And six days after that? And the book was due by January 4th.

I spent every waking hour on the revisions. And unwaking ones, too. I didn’t sleep well and my cell phone voicemail box had tons of whispered mutterings from the wee hours of the morning when I’d call myself about an idea that had woken me and I didn’t want to wake my husband, but was too freakin’ tired to pick up the notebook and pencil beside my bed to jot down a note.

But the book got written (which is really poor grammar, but I’m reliving the utter “phlumfff!” of getting the story on paper), and thanks to one of my Writing Wombats (Beth Hill, check out for her editorial expertise!), I turned it in on time.

I still had a few things to touch up after my editor read the new version, but what ended up following that gorgeous cover was 720 degrees from what had originally been turned in so those touch-ups were practically nothing at that point.

That’s why this award means so much to me. It means hard work. It means a big learning curve. It means a few hours of Christmas and New Years’ Eve celebration and very little time with my family. It means the generosity of a very good friend. It means the faith my editor had in my ability and the patience she had in letting me work through it and not tossing my contract into the shredder.

This award is as much my editor’s as it is mine and I’m utterly grateful to her for working on this book with me and making it so much better than it was.

That’s the value of a professional editor and anyone who thinks they don’t need one is fooling themself.

Because we are so caught up in our world, and our story, our characters, and making sure all the loose ends are tied up and the emotions are there, that we don’t have enough distance to see what needs work. I now run my stories through four people before I submit them to my editor, and, still, she finds ways to make it better. Both of my 2009 releases were up for awards this year: NJ’s Golden Leaf, National Readers’ Choice Awards, the Prism, Beyond Her Book PW Readers Choice, and Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, and I credit that to the wonderful, insightful editorial feedback from both my beta readers and my editor.

You know, writers sometimes call their books their babies, and there’s that old adage that it takes a village to raise a child, so cultivate your village on your way to publication so that you can write the best book you can.

And you won’t have to give up your Christmas holidays to do so. :-)

  • Who’s in your village?

Judi Fennell's new series:  GENIES ARE COMING! January 2011, "I Dream of Jeannie meets Indiana Jones, and the action is on!"

Read back cover and story line.
Judi Fennell has had her nose in a book and her head in some celestial realm all her life, including those early years when her mom would exhort her to “get outside!” instead of watching Bewitched or I Dream of Jeannie on television. So she did--right into Dad’s hammock with her Nancy Drew books.

These days she’s more likely to have her nose in her laptop and her head (and the rest of her body) at her favorite bookstore, but she’s still reading, whether it be her latest manuscript or friends’ books.

A three-time finalist in online contests, Judi has enjoyed the reader feedback she’s received and would love to hear what you think about her Mer series. Check out her website at for excerpts, reviews and fun pictures from reader and writer conferences, and the chance to “dive in” to her stories.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

When I’m Not Writing About Hunky Wolves, I am…

It's my pleasure to have para romance author, Terry Spear, visting today. I thoroughly enjoy reading her werewolf series and have been looking forward to Leidolf's story. 

Terry shares a bit of what she does when she's not writing and how many of those relaxing things lead to even more stories, except for the bears...

Thanks so much, Sia, for having me here to share some thoughts over coffee. I thought I’d talk about what I do aside from writing about werewolves!

Truthfully, I love work. I wish I had more time to write, but I enjoy the company of my fellow co-workers who share with me every wolf story that crosses the library counter, and who make me Highland hunky cake and a faux Highland book for my birthday, and even give me title ideas and story ideas and make my job even more fun—both with writing and with the day job. Heart of the Highland Wolf (coming Spring 2011) was a by-product of one of my co-workers saying I hadn’t written about a poor werewolf yet. All of them were wealthy. So what with the current economic crisis and the number of white collar criminals who have been exploiting tons of business and individuals, wiping out their bank accounts, and the fact I’d been mulling around the idea of a story about a pack of Highland wolves—how about a laird whose one salvation is to allow for a movie production at his castle? Now, he’s not happy about it. But what is a broke laird to do? Then here comes Julia Wildthorn, werewolf romance author, who’s suffering writer’s block, and what better way to jumpstart her muse than to write about hunky Highlanders? Only she doesn’t know until she arrives what she’s really getting herself into.

I also love to garden. Now, how does this relate to my stories? Whenever I moved, I’d take part of my home with me in the form of plants I love—like pine trees mysteriously appeared in gardens in Oklahoma and Texas because of my love of hearing the breeze whoosh through the pine needles in California, my original home. And the smell of the aromatic pine in the air. It reminds me of home. I’ve also brought daffodils and irises from my garden in Oklahoma, treasuring the beauty of the flowers in spring.

So too did Bella Wilder when she left Colorado to live in Oregon in Heart of the Wolf. Her greenhouse had some of her treasured plants to remind her of home. And when she returns to Colorado, she takes some of her plants from Oregon to enjoy in her new home. In Dreaming of the Wolf (coming Fall 2011), Jake Silver loves to photograph wildflowers in Colorado, and Alicia Greiston loves hikes through the Colorado country, enjoying the beauty of nature. I only wish I could take photographs as great as Jake does, but I enjoy doing my amateurish part and sharing them on my blog from time to time.

Bears! Yes, yes, I know I’m supposed to be talking about wolves, but I love to make teddy bears that have made it into Teddy Bear Review Magazine and Texas Monthly Magazine, Texas Co-op Monthly, and The MacNeill Gallery. Ah, there’s the connection. Well, kind of. Ian MacNeill is the hero in Heart of the Highland Wolf…I know, he’s a wolf, but I’ve made MacNeill Celtic Clan bears for several MacNeills, and who knows if one of them might be related to Ian? In fact, I’m sure of it. Okay, well, I’ve been asked if I would make a wolf teddy bear…a teddy bear in wolf’s clothing? Anyway, it’s still on the agenda when I have time. But I LOVE making teddy bears. Oh, which reminds me, I have to make one for a new baby.

Let’s see, I’ve taken up hiking again, with my library crew. I told you they were the greatest! And how does this relate to my stories? I’m in search of hunky wolves!!! I love returning to nature, the woods, envisioning running into sexy werewolf types and including them in my stories. Inspiration comes in all shapes, sizes and forms—and from all kinds of different venues!

And definitely reading is an inspiration to me. Seduced by the Wolf was inspired by a true story about a wolf biologist who finds a gray she-wolf, her mate dead, and she’s trying to fend for herself and a litter of pups. In Wolf Fever (December 2010), the flu epidemic that was going on at the time, gave me the idea for writing the story.

I have to mention my love of genealogy also. Although I haven’t been as active in working on it—lack of time, you know. But learning about my family’s roots has inspired me to incorporate a small bit of one of the tales concerning my family history in Heart of the Highland Wolf. And in Seduced by the Wolf, Cassie Roux is named after my Roux family from Selencourt, France, since Roux means red and she’s a red wolf. :-)

So I really do participate in other stuff other than writing! All of which help inspire me to write all things wolf, Scottish, and vampiric! ;-)

Thanks so much for having me, Sia! As always, it’s been my pleasure!

  • And here is my question for everyone: What is YOUR favorite pastime?

We will be giving two copies of Seduced By The Wolf to two commentors today. Thanks to everyone who takes the time to drop by and say hi!


 His first priority is to protect his pack…

Werewolf pack leader Leidolf Wildhaven has just taken over a demoralized pack. With rogue wolves on the loose causing havoc and the authorities from the zoo suddenly zeroing in on the local wolf population, the last thing he needs in his territory is a do-gooder female, no matter how beautiful and enticing she is…

She’ll do anything to help wolves…

Biologist Cassie Roux has dedicated her life to protecting wolves in the wild. On a desperate mission to help a she-wolf with newborn pups, the last thing Cassie needs right now is a nosy and entirely too attractive werewolf pack leader trying to track her down…

With rogue wolves and hunters threatening at every turn, Cassie and Leidolf may find their attraction the most dangerous force of all…
Excerpt (under the book, click excerpt tab)         Buy: Amazon Barnes & Noble

A retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves, Terry Spear has an MBA from Monmouth College. An eclectic writer, she dabbles in the paranormal as well as writing historical and true life stories for both teen and adult audiences. Spear lives in Crawford, Texas. For more information, please visit Terry at these various places on the web:

Sunday, August 8, 2010

DORCHESTER: Is It Really A Surprise?

The news has broken that Dorchester will be going 100% to an ebook/print on demand model with trade paperbacks when printed books are ordered, starting September, 2010. It’s sent shockwaves through out the industry.

What's interesting in this Dorchester brouhaha is it's not unexpected, really. I’ve been observing the effect of Print On Demand and e-books on the publishing field the last three years. Some of you may remember I was the marketing/promotion director of a small indie press with a lot of potential, which sadly it didn’t live up to and so we parted ways. I knew the potential impact of Print On Demand technology and e-books on the traditional publishers' business (toner-based/offset printing vs digital). For them to survive they would have to look at this new technology and create their own business platform around it.

If you've been carefully watching, most of the big publishers have been busy behind the scenes shoring up e-pub business platform (which represents a little less than 3% of the US book market with with toner-based/digital claiming 6%, according to Forbes).  All are securing that part of the business. They’ve created minor scandals with authors’ e-book rights. Publishers are first and foremost big business. They’re in it for the money. They’ve seen the handwriting on the wall. Fact is Print On Demand is a more viable business platform than traditional toner/offset.  

Even if they contract with a print on demand company, publishers will save money by filling an order with trade paperbacks for bookstore A and another amount for bookstore B without costly warehousing and will dramatically cut the cost of returns. Backlists will be more easily accessible too.

Out of print?  Not with digital unless the publisher wants to retire a book. If they’re smart, publishers will be signing new contracts with e-format releases and trade paperbacks after an author proves themselves as a moneymaker or they will start some debut authors out in e-format first and if they make their money back they will release those books to print, but I doubt it will be mass paperback, for long.

Most of the publishers are doing a percentage of trade paperbacks as it is. If they use a trade paperback format at all, you can bet they're considering POD/trade paperbacks in long run. All I can say is regardless of your publisher make sure your agents are using a fine toothcomb when it comes to your digital rights. It has to have profit benefits for the author as well as the publisher. I think agents are becoming savvier in the area of e-formats, if the agent blogs I’ve been reading are an indication.

I also think the big publishers have looked long and hard at companies like Samhain who uses POD technology and puts out the print version, for those who order it, in trade paperback. Samhain has a staff of editors, has guideline standards for submissions, and has access to art professionals to turn out outstanding book covers. They don't publish any old thing submitted. E-books are not vanity press. I'm afraid many people associate trade paperbacks with vanity or very small publishers that don't have staffs in insure the quality of their product.

Australia has used trade paperback format for years rather than mass paperback format. When their books make here, they convert it to mass. Several Aussie authors told me about that. I didn't know before then.

What does it mean for writers looking to be published in the next few years? Royalty/advance changes. Tighter standards for POD technology books even in e-book or trade paperback. Bigger houses will still have the advantage. They have a long standing reputation and the name to make the transition to POD profitable. But their standards will be just high as they are now. They have to demonstrate quality and profit and I think they will. Bottom line is, regardless of the format they're presented, in content books are books. Authors are still authors and will still have to be paid for their work. That isn't going to change.

What about promotion of e-books and digital vs mass market print? Word-of-mouth has always been the best way to sell a book--and the Web represents the best word-of-mouth medium.  There will be countless opportunities for books to get viral publicity on Blogs, social networks, and YouTube.

My personal opinion, as most of this is, based on assimilation of what I’ve read over the last few years, print books aren’t going to disappear in the next decade, maybe not in the next twenty. I do believe the method of creating and delivering those books will change. A lot.

I don't like the manner Dorchester used to announce their decision. That wasn't kosher. In this transition period authors should have been warned and given options. But of course Dorchester will have factored in the future revenues based on those signed contracts over the next two years and perhaps they didn’t want to lose it. That's speculation on my part. I know from reading several sources, Dorchester is hoping to keep it's recently signed authors.
It will be interesting to see how this big publisher handles the transition and I’m sure others will be watching and taking notes as well.

  • What are your thoughts on this?

  • What do you think about reading your favorite author’s books in a trade paperback as opposed to mass paperback? As an e-book?

This weeks guests:

Wednesday: Terry Spear
Friday: 2010 Prism winner, Judi Fennell