Friday, October 7, 2011

Way WAY Out of the Zone

Did you feel it?

In the last year or so, there’s been a cataclysmic shift in the world of publishing. Ereaders and electronic publishing have opened up a whole new world. Writers are taking advantage of these new options to bring their stories directly to readers without jumping through the restrictive hoops of traditional publishers. Plus, both readers and writers are embracing lower prices and higher royalty rates.

I like to think of myself as a fairly flexible person, one who is open to new and different ideas. However, I found myself openly resisting the electronic publishing and reading revolution. To me, there is nothing quite like the experience of holding a book in my hands. I love flipping the pages, the weight of it, the smoothness of the paper. Reading is a multi-senses experience for me that an electronic format simply could not duplicate. Then two things happened to change my mind.

First, two of my best friends received Kindles as Christmas gifts. When I heard the news from both of them, I thought, “What a waste!” These two women were just like me, die-hard book readers. But they both tried and loved their Kindles. In fact, neither of them has bought a print book since receiving their Kindle!

What the heck?!?! I thought. There might really be something to this e-book craze…

Then the second thing happened and made a believer out of me. On March 7th, either my publisher or Amazon (I was never told which) decided to offer the electronic version of my debut novel The Wild Sight free for one week. I wasn’t even aware of this promotion until I received a notice that The Wild Sight was #1 in the overall Kindle Top 100 of Free Reads. It was also #1 on the Amazon UK Top 100 of Free Reads.

In other words, thousands of readers were downloading my book! More than all the other “free” books (both fiction and non-fiction) offered on Amazon and Amazon UK! My work suddenly had thousands of new readers, a huge audience I never expected. Best of all, when the ‘free’ week ended, The Wild Sight continued to stay in the Kindle Top 100 Paid Sales for another two weeks. Plus, sales of my other two books, The Treasures of Venice and The Wild Irish Sea also surged. The latter even made it into the Top 100 for Romantic Suspense. Honestly, you could have knocked me over with a feather; I was so surprised by the sudden flurry.

Coincidentally, The Wild Sight hitting #1 happened just as I received my latest round of agent rejections. I would hope agents know which books and authors are hitting those Top 100 lists, but apparently it didn’t matter. None of them mentioned representing my new work, at least none that I queried. Since I had sworn I would not sign another publishing contract without an agent to help negotiate the terms, I started to investigate self-publishing electronically. I debated with myself for a long time on how I should go about it, and which of my works to use for this ‘experiment.’

Finally, I decided if I was going to step out of my comfort zone, I might as well step way, WAY out! Several months ago, I started posting hunks of a story strictly as a bonus for the members of my newsletter group. This dark and somewhat foreboding fairy tale about a tortured young girl and the wicked fae princess she must out wit, was kind of a prequel to The Wild Sight, but it was not a romance nor even a novel. Nevertheless, my newsletter readers liked it and I did too, so I polished it up with the intent of making this 14,000 word novelette my first foray into the self-publishing world.

I am thrilled to announce that The Sidhe Princess is now available on Amazon--after a lot more time and work than I expected. 

To do self-pubbing thing right, it's a helluva lot of work! But my philosophy is: if you want your work to be treated the same as a traditionally published book, you have to treat it as if it were.

 I am way, WAY out of my comfort zone and I hope readers will join me!


In the rural Northern Ireland of the 1960s, sixteen-year-old Moira Mullins is newly released from her second stay in a mental institution. Her problem is that she can’t seem to escape the notice of the other-worldly inhabitants of the wild lands bordering her family’s farm. Creatures nobody else can see or hear.

When one of these beings, a fairy princess called the Maid of Ulster, offers to foretell the future, Moira jumps at the chance. But the Maid has ulterior motives that could have tragic results for Moira, who learns the future is sometimes better unknown. EXCERPT

BUY: Amazon

Please help me celebrate the release of my novelette today. There’s plenty of cyber-champagne and chocolate, and maybe even a few of the cabana boys from the Romance Bandit Lair! I’ll even give away a $10 Amazon gift certificate to one lucky commenter.

  • When was the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone?
  • What did you do and how did it turn out? Would you do it again?

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy
A long-time reader of romances, Cindy discovered and joined Romance Writers of America in 2001. But her stressful career as the manager of a multi-million dollar State and Federally funded program prevented her from doing much writing or traveling. She still managed to squeeze in a little of both, but not enough of either to be truly satisfying. Finally, at the end of 2003 she decided to take an early retirement from her career to fully pursue her twin passions of travel and writing. Cindy likes to set her novels of romance and suspense in some of the fascinating places she has visited.

You can visit her on Facebook and her Website 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Interview With Nancy Parra

Good morning! My apologies for posting late!
Those looking for Insecure Writers Post it's HERE.

Nancy Parra is my guest OVER COFFEE. It's been awhile since you've visited on this side of the blog.

Hi, Sia, thanks for having me over coffee today. I like virtual coffee because I’m gluten-free (not by choice) and am limited in what I can have with my coffee. (But hey, I found this great recipe for gluten-free blueberry coffee cake…but that’s a discussion for next time.)

No problem, Nancy. I have to be mostly gluten free myself, which sucks at times. At least my coffee with half and half can be normal (since all those special flavored creamers tend to have gluten). I'd love to have your blueberry coffee cake recipe.  

Describe your writing space. Or, describe your DREAM writing space.

  • I have an office at my house that overlooks the back yard. Beyond our backyard is a strip of woods that is a wildlife highway to the edge of a small lake. I’ve seen deer, coyotes, rabbits, opossums, skunks, etc. traveling through the woods. This time of year we get Canada geese that fly in around ten a.m. every morning for a twenty minute “coffee break.” They splash down and talk and eat and nap. Sometimes there are as many as a hundred on the lake. This is the fifth year I’ve had the privilege of watching them stop by and the craziest thing is you can set your clock by them every year.
With a view like that how do you get any writing done?

  • Some days it is hard, but mostly my characters poke me. They want me to tell their story and they glare at me until I do what they want so I set myself a goal of five pages before I can get do any social media.

Lol! Glare at you? What characters are glaring at you right now?

  • I have this really cute Sherriff that has shown up. He says I need to get writing so he can help that lovely new girl in town with the dead body in her utility room.

So wait- a dead body…that’s not romantic. Are you writing a mystery next? Why?

  • Well, you see, I recently got a full time job working as a Marketing Communications Manager for a toxicology lab. So I have forensic testing on my mind. Toxicology lends itself more to mysteries than romance, but never fear there is plenty of romance going on in my mysteries. If you read my books you know that most of my romances include a mystery of some sort so it was a natural progression.
I've read all of your books and that's true, you have.

Wow, working full time. I’m curious, how is working full time and writing? Has it slowed you down any? Changed your routine?

  • At first it did because my workplace was a two-hour in one direction drive through construction traffic. By the time I got home, I was exhausted. I’ve remedied that by taking a small apartment close to my work. Now the trip is twenty minutes. I do miss my room with a view but I go home weekends and get to see the view. In the meantime, there is no television at the apartment so I have quality time with my characters.

You write in the evening then? Is it hard to change what time you write?

  • When I first started writing I wrote when my kids napped-so it was mid-morning/mid-afternoon. Then as the kids got older I took a part time job and wrote in the mornings before work. Now I work full time and write at night. What I’ve found is that it isn’t the time of day that matters. It really is all about getting my bum in a chair and staying there until something gets written

Still, working full time and writing, where do you find the time? Doesn’t something have to give?

  • Sadly I had to cut back on some of my social networking. I love to interact with my friends on-line, but I love my characters more. My goal is to keep the quality of my writing up and squeeze in social networking. I use social networking as a reward. If I hit my personal goal then I get to get on-line. I’m well motivated. LOL

Well, I’ve chin wagged a bunch. It’s been great fun and I’m on my third cuppa.

It's always fun chatting with you Nancy and thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to be here! 

Thanks for having me, Sia. Your blog and your readers are always on my priority list. Cheers~

Counterfeit Bride (Avalon Romance) [Hardcover]

Lillian Picken discovers the perfect solution for the problem of being a female entrepreneur in the 1870s. She invents a husband, Donovan West, and convinces the townsfolk that he will return as soon as his army commission is up. The ruse works, until the day a man comes to town claiming to be Donovan West. Secret Service agent Patrick Donovan must ferret out a counterfeit ring in the Silverton area. Donovan's search for the perfect cover ends at the discovery of Lillian's secret. He takes the place of her pretend husband.

But the deep attraction he feels for her begins to complicate things. Not only has Donovan's mission put Lillian in danger, but he has vowed never to marry again and when the job is over, he will return to Washington D.C. for his next assignment. Lillian claims not to care where he goes, but will cracking the case leave them both with a broken heart? Excerpt


Nancy J. Parra is always writing something and happy to discover people like to read what she writes. Currently published in romantic suspense and sweet western historical romances, she holds an MA in Writing Popular Fiction and a BS in Journalism.
Nancy is currently at work on her next novel and loves to hear from readers. She lives in the Midwest with her little dog, "Booboo."

Nancy’s book, The Lovin' Kind, was named one of the top ten romances of 2006 by Booklist Magazine.
Her previous book, The Bettin’ Kind, received a starred review from Booklist Magazine. said it was “… a wonderful story that thoroughly sucks you in and doesn’t let go until the last page is read.”

The first in the Morgan Family Series, The Marryin’ Kind, was heralded as “…another winner,” by Booklist Magazine, while  Wyoming Wedding won a Reviewer’s Choice award from  Labeled a rising star of 2002 by Booklist Magazine, Ms. Parra is proud that A Wanted Man received a starred review in the October 2002 edition of Booklist Magazine and Saving Samantha was featured on the chapter-a-day website.

Monday, October 3, 2011

MONDAY MUSINGS: Insecure Writers And Lessons Learned

"...the inability to fight self-doubts is one of the biggest things that prevent a writer from becoming published.  And it’s probably one of the reasons published writers stop writing." Christie Craig, How To Ward Off A Gremlin

I think anyone who creates has insecurities. It’s the nature of the beast. Creative works come from within the artist and are highly subjective because it’s our interpretation of what we see or feel. This is true whether we be actor, musician, artist, or writer. We create from our inner landscape and present it to others for their enjoyment, perhaps education, and for sure entertainment.

When we put our work on display we’re putting a piece of our inner self out there. It’s hard to detach your feelings from this labor of love and yet we must if we’re also to be objective enough to recognize whether something we’ve created is good, mediocre, or just plain sucks.

I’ve written for sometime. I’ve always told and written stories. Most of them sit in the hell no drawer. They satisfied what I wanted to say or do at the time. When I started writing for publication it was a whole different playing field. I know I tell a good story. I also know I’m a good writer. However, those two things don’t always coalesce into a viable story as I discovered with my first critiques—which happened to be from a contest.

I didn’t belong to a writing group then—in fact I had no contact with any other writers, and while I read voraciously but still didn’t *get it* as far as what was good writing in today’s market and what wasn’t. I’d never analyzed it. I should have.

The first public eyes that saw my story were judges in a contest. Oh. My. God. This was a first chapters contest. Other writers entered—something like fifteen hundred—and there were rounds of voting from fellow writers and professional judges. I thought what I wrote was good or I wouldn’t have entered it. I edited the manuscript several times, cut thirty thousand words, and then had a friend who was an award winning journalist proof it.

And then I started reading other entries and the critiques/comments attached to those entries.

Holy shitake mushrooms. What an education. Brutal even.

I knew the first day my story wouldn’t place in the top five (I finished in the top twenty-five percent and didn’t make it to the round three). Not that my two chapters were bad—it wasn’t, but based on what I was reading I knew the manuscript wasn’t good enough and I didn’t have the social network to succeed even had it been.

I knew I had a lot to learn before I would be published. I’m not one to back away from a challenge—and believe me, it was a major challenge.

Lessons learned on my writing journey:

  • Writing is a business. You have to learn and apply the most current information. As with any business, you have to be constantly perfecting your basic skill set to get ahead.

  • You need objective critiques of your work and that excludes your mother who thinks anything you create is wonderful. You need constructive critiques from someone who knows the business and writing.

  • When receiving a critique, you need to be willing to listen and learn.
    The first one I received from a friend, who is also a traditionally published writer, I thought it was bleeding to death from all the red marks—but that’s a story I'll tell another time.

  • You really do need to associate with other writers. You need a good support system in place. After the above-mentioned contest, I—who has never been much of a joiner—became part of a wonderful group (my Writing Wombats). I get support, current info, and a good kick in the ass when I need it.

  • You need a social network and name recognition long before you query your first book.

  • You need tough Rhino skin and a strong will to succeed.

It hurts like hell when you fall off one of these horses. If you never get back on you'll never get hurt like that again but you'll never win the coveted prize, either. Only you can decide if the pain is worth the gain.

  • Believe in yourself. If this is what you want to do—don’t give up. If you get knocked down get back up and fight off the self-doubts.