Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Throw Me Some Beads!

Captain America and I went to the Gasparilla Parade this weekend (along with 400,000 others), and cleaned up in the bead department. This picture was taken early on, but you can see how even a camera pointed in my direction doesn't deter me from my quest for beads... I'm looking upward and lifting my arm to snag any beads being thrown in our direction. :) What you can't see is the water behind me (the parade is held along Bayshore Blvd.) or the colorful floats, the beautiful weather or the many, many people who turned out for a day of fun. My sister took this photo with her cellphone, and my husband took a lot of others, but Sis managed to hit "delete all" before uploading the rest. *sigh*

Captain America was particularly proud that the very first beads he caught were right up his patriotic little alley... here's a closeup in case you can't see them. We had a great time, lunging for trinkets, laughing and people watching, then we walked home and took a late afternoon nap. :)

Friday, January 26, 2007

Asked And Answered

“Published Authors Tell It Like It Is”

(This article is the first in a series in which published authors will be asked to share the benefit of their wit, wisdom and experience on various aspects of the publishing business. The questions will vary, but the intent will remain the same: to share, to educate, and to inspire.)

There’s no “magic bullet” in publishing. Becoming a published author takes hard work and dedication. It requires commitment, perseverance, and the ability to withstand criticism. There are glorious highs and disappointing lows—the journey between “unpublished” to “published” can be a rollercoaster, a maze of choices, an overwhelming undertaking, particularly when we’re feeling discouraged.

But don’t despair. As members of RWA, we belong to a generous community. Many of our chapter mates are women who’ve already trod that difficult path to publication, and are willing to share what they’ve learned along the way. Becoming a published author is a dream come true, and for those of us who’ve achieved it, it’s a dream worth sharing.

Because I knew there were many wonderful women out there who stood ready to share, to encourage, and to help, I posed a question to the published members of RWAOnline, and many of them were kind enough to answer. The question was: “WHAT DO YOU FEEL MADE THE FINAL DIFFERENCE IN GOING FROM ‘UNPUBLISHED AUTHOR’ TO ‘PUBLISHED AUTHOR’? The answers were more varied than you might think, though the most common themes seems to be determination, improving your craft, and making your own luck.

Claire Delacroix equates the level of determination required to become published to the craft of writing itself. “I think that writers’ careers – like good books – have Dark Moments. Some authors have one dark moment – before making that first sale, before changing houses or agents, before breaking out – and some authors have lots of them. What these episodes have in common is that everything hangs in the balance. The author in a dark moment is a whisper away from giving up writing forever. The authors who can push through their dark moment and who find the confidence to carry on will invariably win big.” As the author of twenty-three historical novels as well as several contemporaries under the name of Claire Cross, Claire has proven that persistence pays off.

Determination was also a factor for Janice Lynn. “There were so many times it would have been easy to quit torturing myself with the pursuit of my dream. But quitting would have been a bigger torture. I made the decision to stick it out no matter what, and no rejection or public criticism would rob me of that determination.” Janice’s determination paid off big when she won the American Title contest with her sweet and funny Jane Millionaire. Janice is also a big believer in finding encouragement and camaraderie within writer’s groups. “Being a part of eHarlequin and RWA—attending conferences, meeting writers, editors and industry professionals, online groups—played a big role in getting published.” Once Janice got her foot in the door through the AT contest, she continued to persevere, and she’s now happily under contract for a series of medical romances for Harlequin Mills & Boon.

Another American Title finalist, Michele Ann Young, counts perseverance as a major factor, too. “I really had to pick myself up after a rejection. I tried to learn something from each experience and continually work at improving my writing."

For Harlequin Blaze author Tawny Weber, determination took the form of finding and focusing on the right editor. “The thing that made the biggest difference for me was finding an editor who got my voice, really liked my writing and encouraged me to keep trying,” said Tawny. “I kept myself in front of her through contests, including winning the Harlequin Blaze contest. I worked to hone my writing until I hit the right story for her.” Medallion’s Ann Macela and Triskelion author Kim Amburn agree. Ann says, “I had to find my editor, the one who liked my stories and my voice, the one who was willing to take something slightly different that didn’t fit into ‘conventional’ rules.” Kim Amburn targeted her editor at an advantageous time. “I approached an e-publisher at the beginning of an expansion,” says Kim. “For me, it was the editor.”

Cathy Clamp, who writes as a team with C.T. Adams, has made a howling success of her paranormal career at Tor Books. Captive Moon, third in the Tales of the Sazi series, is currently a finalist for the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award for Best Werewolf Romance. Cathy feels a great editor is critical for new authors, and that working to improve her craft was the key to her first sale. “For Cie and me, It was learning what we were doing wrong. Our editor walked us through and helped us see what the reader would find lacking, even though they wouldn’t be able to completely explain WHY it was lacking.”

Many published authors stress the need to improve writing skills through critique loops, online classes, books, and perhaps even more importantly—a critique partner who will tell you the truth. Lynnette Brogan, who writes paranormals for Triskelion, says “I searched for writing groups, crit partners, and books about the craft to improve my skills. I didn’t walk away, even after bad critiques and rejections. I took a step back, looked at the advice given to me, then applied the suggestions I thought helpful.”

Linda Ford feels that once she learned how to write a good synopsis, she was able to see her stories in a way she otherwise couldn’t. “I sent my synopses to RWAOL for critiquing and slowly, with gentle help, I figured out how to see the story as a whole, how the give the characters a motivated journey from beginning to end, and hopefully, how to develop a romance between them. I wouldn’t think to go ahead with a story until I’ve had several people look at my synopsis.” Linda’s theory obviously worked, as she’s now publishing inspirationals for Heartsong.

Kate Pearce believes in taking risks. “Though my historicals were doing well in contests, they were still a hard sell in the current market. I made a decision to spend a year writing different things just to see if I could.” Kate turned up the heat and made the switch to erotica, writing for Ellora’s Cave and recently signing a two-book deal for Kensington’s Aphrodesia line. Kelle Z. Riley thinks risk-taking is essential also. “Risk taking is uncomfortable, but I think critical to success. Don’t play it safe by writing the stories you’ve seen are already successful. Risk creating something original.” Keziah Hill says her success was achieved by being “true to her voice’, and “writing from the heart”, regardless of what others are doing.

Erotica author Emma Sinclair believes it all comes down to luck—the kind of luck you make for yourself. “You have to love the book and then find the right editor that loves it just as much as you do. And to do that, you have to know the market. Who’s buying what, who wants what? Your chances of getting ‘lucky’ are greatly increased by knowledge.” Kelle Riley agrees, “Luck is finding the right editor, agent, publicist or reading public. There is little you can do to control luck. The trick is to be in as many places as possible, to maximize your chances of getting lucky. Unlike cards, this is where stacking the deck in your favor is a good thing. Follow all of the leads that you can, because each can lead to another. Be nice to the editor who rejects you. She will remember your professionalism. As you build a reputation for being a professional, as your name slowly gains credentials and becomes more visible, the editors and agents will begin to remember you. Sometimes all you need is a little edge. That professionalism or exposure may make the difference between an editor reading your work when she’s frazzled at the end of the day vs. putting it aside to read with her morning Starbucks. And if you’re ready and your work is ready, that little bit of ‘luck’ may be all the difference you need.”

For some of us (including me, Terri Garey), finding an agent who believed in us was key to that first sale. I was lucky enough to sign with the agency of my dreams, and it was their encouragement, belief in my story and business savvy that now has me writing paranormal contemporaries for my dream house, Avon HarperCollins. Michele Ann Young feels the same way. “The big difference was getting my agent. Having an agent opened more doors, and while at the end of the day it is the work that sold, having someone else in your corner is a huge help.” Lynnette Brogan says, “I found an agent who believed in me and my story as much as I did.”

Determination, improving your craft, making your own luck, finding the editor or agent that’s right for you — I wish I could call them “secrets”, but secrets are things never meant to be shared. The published authors of RWAOnline are happy to share their stories. Thanks so much to all the authors who participated in this month’s topic, and I hope everyone enjoyed the first-hand insight into the journey from “unpublished” to “published”. The next Asked and Answered question will be: “WHAT WAS IT ABOUT THAT ‘WINNING’ MANUSCRIPT THAT TOOK YOU FROM SUBMISSION TO SALE?” Look for it in the next edition of RWAOnline’s LoveBytes.

Ooh, I can’t wait to find out what our published authors have to say. Can you?

Terri Garey is the author of two upcoming paranormal tales, Dead Girls Are Easy and Where The Ghouls Are. Both novels are about ghosts, voodoo and an extremely unlikely psychic - a former Goth girl who becomes an unwilling ‘ghoulfriend’ to the dearly departed. Dead Girls Are Easy will be an Avon September 2007 release, followed by the sequel, Where The Ghouls Are, in March 2008. Visit Terri on the web.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

And The Winner Is...

I've been holding a contest over on my website to give away a free registration to the Romance Writers of America "Signature of Success" conference, to be held in Dallas the week of July 11-15, 2007. Over three hundred people signed up for a chance to have their registration fee paid for, and I promised to hold the drawing as soon as RWA opened the conference to sign-ups.

I'm very pleased to announce that THERESA MOBLEY of Kansas will now be able to attend one of the best writers conferences out there! Here's what she said when I sent her an email letting her know she won:

"Oh my God!!! You must be my fairy godmother. I'm so excited I can't stand it. I had almost made up my mind that I couldn't afford it this year and then this comes in out of the blue and now I get to go!!! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!"
Theresa also promised to "pay it forward", which made me very happy, because that's what I was trying to do by offering registration as a prize. I absolutely love writers conferences, and feel they're invaluable. Workshops, networking, fun with friends, and who knows who you'll meet who might help your further your writing career? So if Theresa does something nice for someone down the road because someone once did something nice for her, I'll feel like I accomplished two very good things today.

And just for the record, I've never been called a fairy godmother before, but I kinda like it. :)

So I'm registered, Theresa is registered, and I can't wait. Anyone else planning on going to Dallas this year?

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Fireworks From My Front Porch

It's Gasparilla time here in the Big Guava.

What that means is that here, in the town where I live, it's time for our local version of Mardi Gras.

Our town calls itself the "Big Guava" because we have a large Cuban population, and we call our Mardi Gras celebration "Gasparilla" in honor of the dread pirate, Jose Gaspar, who supposedly sailed up and took over the city in the late 1700's (I say "supposedly" because evidently no one can really decide whether it's just a colorful legend designed to attract tourists or an actual event.) Either way, it's an excuse to PAR-TAY! We have our "krewes" of Tampa elite (led by the original, Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla) who hold lavish, period dress balls and coronations (and take over the society pages of the newspaper) for a month or two beforehand. We have three separate, gigantic parades held at three different times (the Children's Parade, the Night Parade, and the huge, day-long spectacle called Gasparilla Parade), a mock flotilla invasion involving thousands of privately owned boats led by a pirate vessel stuffed to the gills with drunken/shouting/sword-wielding businessman/pirates. It's been an annual tradition since 1904, and I've grown up loving it (well, except for the "elitism" of the krewes, but that's something I can ignore in favor of the fun). :)

Anyway, yesterday was the Children's Parade, and it's always held along Bayshore Blvd., which is just a couple of blocks from my house. I didn't need to attend the parade to enjoy the best parts of the show... the Red Baron aviation show in the late afternoon, and the fireworks blowout that evening. The Red Baron bi-planes were awesome... 4 to 6 old-fashioned barn-burners, diving, circling and swooping in perfectly timed, synchronized moves that left trails of smoke across the bright blue sky. I watched them from my back yard while I did a little gardening. But the best display was in the early evening, just after dark, when giant booms announced the firework show.

I went out and sat on my front porch, watching the colorful explosions light up the night through the canopy of oak trees in my yard. It was a breath-taking, awe-inspiring spectacle. No matter how many times I've seen fireworks, I get the same feeling. But this time, I was struck by how incredibly lucky I was to be sitting in the quiet comfort of my darkened porch, sipping a glass of wine as flowers of fire glittered in the air above my head.

Next weekend I'll go brave the crowds and attend the main parade, shouting for beads and boogeying with the marching bands along with everyone else. But last night I had my own private fireworks display, and that's what I'll remember long after the beads get tossed in a drawer.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Happily Ever After Cafe

I'm participating in a joint blog with other published authors, called THE HEA CAFE (where happily ever after is always on the menu). Each month, authors who have a book being released that month will be featured, and each week a question will be posed to the group as a whole, then opened for discussion. We're already having a great time over there - this week's topic is "How did you make your first sale?".

Head on over, grab a virtual mocha latte, and read about what it took for some published authors to get published.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Billy Is 'Wirth' It

No, that's not a typo in the title of this blog post. :) Today's blog is about actor/director Billy Wirth, who is probably best known for his role as a young vampire in the cult classic Lost Boys (with Kiefer Sutherland, hottie), and his incredibly sexy role as the 'other man' in The Red Shoes Diaries (with David Duchovny, another hottie). If you've ever seen the scene in Red Shoe Diaries where Billy helps the heroine try on a pair of shoes, you'll never, ever think of shoe shopping the same way again! Whew!

Anyway, Billy is and always has been the inspiration for the character of Dr. Joe Bascombe in DEAD GIRLS ARE EASY and WHERE THE GHOULS ARE. He has incredible hair, incredible eyes, and a killer smile that is quite simply, 'to die for'. The man oozes sexuality in a way few men could ever hope to manage. There's this one scene in Red Shoes where Billy is wearing nothing except a pair of unzipped jeans, and the heroine is slowing kissing her way down and... um...what was I saying?

Well, needless to say, Captain America knows he has only to pop in that movie to get lucky pretty quick. :)

So who does it for you? My friend Janice is obsessed with Matt McConaughey, my friend Tawny is a Johnny Depp-a-holic, while Leslie and Carla are die-hard Gerry Butler fans. I admit to admiring a variety of good-looking men, but Billy Wirth holds a special place in my heart. The part called "so sexy it hurts". :)

Friday, January 12, 2007

My Husband Cracks Himself Up

I was talking to Captain America last night about the concept of 'branding' as a marketing tool. The idea with branding is that you project a style and image that is consistent with what you do, and you stick with it. McDonald's golden arches, Chik-Fil-A's goofy cows, the logos of innumerable products on the grocery store shelves... in short, if you've done your branding right, you don't even have to remember the name of something, just the image, and you know what you're getting. Where it breaks down for me is trying to 'brand' myself as an author. How do you brand a person/concept vs. an actual thing?

An excellent suggestion I read recently was to have someone who knows you very well (i.e., Captain America) provide you with a list of five adjectives that describe you as a person, and go from there. I knew I was in trouble the second I saw the wicked gleam in his eye.

For Captain America (former Marine officer, Ph.D., highly respected businessman) is the only person I know with a more bizarre sense of humor than mine. One of his favorite habits (aside from singing nonsensical ditties to the pets, playing Sudoku and writing poetry) is to make up words. He's fond of saying that one of his goals is to make me laugh every day, which he usually manages. In short, he's an Uber-Goob. Anyway, when I returned from my morning walk, he'd left me his list of five adjectives, which, to his adorably twisted mind, describe me best:

Gorgean - gorgeous + Aegean, as in "The gorgeous woman dives off the cliff into the blue Aegean Sea, long yellow hair streaming."

Beauquatic - beautiful + aquatic, as in "The beautiful woman rises to the surface from the blue aquatic deep."

Popsicklic - an ongoing fascination with no-sugar-added tangerine popsicles, as in "You have an orange popsicklic tongue."

Buddhistic - a collector of little buddha figures, as in "Oddly, I've never known anyone who is buddhistic besides you, sweetness."

Eggwellian - someone whose writing success each day depends on the scrambled eggs her husband fixes her each morning. Otherwise, the world might end. No example sentence needed.

For the record, (1) Captain America accomplished his daily goal, and (2) I do not collect Buddhas (I only have 2 or 3) :)

Though these words are not the five words I'd use to describe myself, they were certainly personal and very, very sweet. If you had to pick five words to describe yourself, what would they be?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

One Step Closer

I finished the copy edits for DEAD GIRLS ARE EASY today. Yay, me! They've been handed off to the UPS man to be trucked back to NYC and into the hands of the 'production editor'. It seems as if things are truly moving forward now, and after a long year of waiting, things are starting to happen.

The copy edit process went like this:

I got an automated early morning phone call from UPS last week, telling me that an overnight package from HarperCollins was being delivered and would require a signature. I chewed my nails and waited by my front door like a good girl, and few hours later, I signed for a thick package from my editor; my electronically edited manuscript (using Word's 'Track Changes'), 2 pages of written instructions on how to handle HC's new editorial process, and 2 sheets of shorthand notes from the copy editor himself, documenting what he'd corrected or changed. It looked like Greek. Teeny, tiny Greek. And they wanted it back ASAP.

After a quick freak-out, I had to familiarize myself with copy editing symbols (what the heck does that squiggle mean? Why is there a line above this word and a line below this one? What if I want to add a line of dialogue? I liked that comma where it was, thank you.) Anyway, I had to go over the manuscript with a fine-toothed comb, red pen in hand, and make sure every line read exactly as I wanted it to. One final time to edit my baby before it goes into production.

The copy editor had included his name and his email address on his notepages. I sent him a thank you note via email (he did a very nice job correcting my chronic misuse of em-dashes (seriously!) and he was pretty surprised to hear from me. Evidently, most authors do not offer thank you notes to the guys with the red pens. :) Even more interesting, he's a writer himself, and has published a 'psychedelic memoir' of living in Haight-Ashbury during the '60's, entitled I THINK, THEREFORE WHO AM I? Isn't that clever? I ordered it. I find it fascinating that the highly detail-conscious and very skilled copy editor who worked on my book is a former hippy. And a very nice man. Thanks for the relatively painless edit, Mr. W. :)

So anyway, I survived a week of careful copyediting (and so did my eyesight), and the manuscript is gone. I always wondered what the process would be like, and now I know. And I'm one step closer to seeing DEAD GIRLS ARE EASY on the shelves!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Butter My Buns And Call Me A Biscuit!!

I've been given a cover quote for my upcoming book, DEAD GIRLS ARE EASY! Are you ready? Because here it is:

"Nicki Styx is a heroine to die for in this witty and wonderful new series. DEAD GIRLS ARE EASY will both thrill and chill you as talented Terri Garey brings to life a fresh and funny cast of characters." - NYT Best-selling author Teresa Medeiros
OMIGOSH! Did you just read that? I've read it about fifty gazillion times already and I'm still not sure if Teresa Medeiros is talking about me and my book! Is she? You'd tell me if I was nuts and just imagining those words on the screen in front of me, right?

Teresa Medeiros is the New York Times best-selling author of 17 books, and I've been a fan of her fabulous, breath-taking historicals and deliciously sexy paranormals for years. Her current release is THE VAMPIRE WHO LOVED ME, the sequel to one of my all-time favorites, AFTER MIDNIGHT. Teresa is a seven-time Rita finalist, two-time PRISM winner, and two-time recipient of the Waldenbooks Award for bestselling fiction.

And she read my book! *insert squeal here*

And she liked it! *insert even bigger squeal here*

Am I babbling? 'Cuz I think I'm babbling. :)

Anyway, I had to tell the world (ha! As if the world reads my blog!) and say a big, humongous public 'THANK YOU' to Teresa Medeiros. Who is awesome. Awesome!

Monday, January 08, 2007

Guest Blogging

I'm guest blogging today over on Avon Fanlit! The topic is 'Guilty Pleasures'.

And speaking of guilt, can I guilt anybody into leaving me a comment over there so I don't feel lonely? :)

Saturday, January 06, 2007

One Day At A Time

Remember the old saying, "Be careful what you wish for?" Just a few short weeks ago I was whining about waiting. It seems that as soon as the new year arrived, so did everything else!

1) All of a sudden, a flurry of emails between my publisher, my agents and myself regarding back cover copy and taglines for DEAD GIRLS ARE EASY (every time it seemed to be settled, more brainstorming was required - fun in a way, nerve-wracking in others). Do you have any idea how difficult it is to write those little plot summaries on the back cover of a book, make it sound witty, fascinating, and manage to please all parties involved while you're doing it? What will the end product be? Stay tuned...

2) My long-awaited editorial feedback for WHERE THE GHOULS ARE arrived. Ack! Do I have work to do! (But damn, it's gonna be good when I'm finished! Did I ever mention how much I love my editor? The woman's a genius.)

3) My even longer-awaited copy edits for DEAD GIRLS ARE EASY came a couple of days later, and by the way, they need them now (okay, I have two weeks, if I don't go blind and pull all my hair out first).

4) I just started a regular newsletter column for RWAOnline called ASKED AND ANSWERED: Published Writers Tell It Like It Is. Six times a year, I'll be asking a writing/publishing/industry question of published authors and writing an article on their opinions. I've already started the ball rolling collecting the answers. It'll be fun, but it'll also be some work.

5) I was asked to do a guest blog on over on Avon Fanlit (which will be up this coming Monday - I'll be nagging for comments then, so I don't look like a total loser!) :)

6) I was on a roll with my third book in the Nicki Styx series, IF YOU GOT IT, HAUNT IT, but now that manuscript will have to wait while I attend to other stuff.

And I just got some great new books I've been wanting to read, too. Thank goodness I got that fire hazard of a Christmas tree hauled out to the curb and the decorations all packed away!

It'll all be fine, just seems a bit overwhelming at the moment. Coping mechanisms, anyone?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Science Tackles The Afterlife

I'm reading a very strange book by Mary Roach called Spook: Science Tackles The Afterlife. Ms. Roach is also the author of Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers (I tried to read that one a while back, but my stomach just couldn't take it.) One might be tempted to feel sorry for Mary Roach because of her - shall we say, 'unfortunate'? - last name, but she dispels any need for lingering sympathy pretty quickly.

The woman is not only far, far too intelligent for her own good, she's without a doubt one of the wittiest, most clever writers I've ever read. Such a talent for puns, for double-entendres, for tongue-in-cheek delivery of one-liners! I'm blown away how anyone can take the dry logic of science, apply it to a subject as controversial as the existence of the afterlife, and make her observations both thought-provoking and funny. Chapter titles run the gamut from: You Again (a visit to the reincarnation nation) to Hard To Swallow (the giddy, revolting heydey of ectoplasm). And revolting it was, let me tell you - I now know a great deal more about the parlor tricks of the early spiritualists than I ever really cared to!

People magazine describes her as 'funny and smart... since she's a scientist at heart, she also lasers through the smoke and mirrors'. Oops. No guest blogging here, I suppose! Obviously a skeptic, she is nothing if not thorough - virtually every chapter requires a visit to a different part of the world and an interview with an 'expert' or two in various fields of paranormal research. Scientific efforts to weight a soul, controlled experiments with renowned mediums such as Alison DuBois and John Edward, research into whether 'ghost sightings' are caused by electromagnetic fields and/or ultrasound, the validity of electronic voice phenomena, possible explanations for near-death experiences; you name it, Mary Roach looks into it and serves up her information with wit and side dish of sass. Some of the arcane facts she discovers in her research are, quite simply, hilarious.

It's not a book for everyone, but I'm loving it. :) Anybody else like to read things that are a little 'out of the ordinary'?