Two Years & Six Publishing Contracts Later…

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Yes. I know. I took forever to get back here – you can punch me in the face now. But I spruced up the joint, and brought in a new theme to signify that I am committed to blogging here at least once a month. Mostly.

To be honest, I never thought when I started this blog that my alter-ego’s pen name (she writes erotic romance for those of you who are just tuning in) would become a viable source of future income. No – EL James and I are not exactly hanging out at swank luncheons just yet, but I can actually see the potential. Especially given the recent turn of events.

First I’ll do a quick recap. When I last left you, I was working on turning in my third manuscript for my ER publisher. I had also recently become inspired to write a sci-fi/dystopian mainstream romance that I would actually want to submit using my real name *gasp*. When I say submit – I mean seek a literary agent, but anyway, that’s off in the future still.

Then life hit me like an IED that came out of nowhere. I won’t go into the gory details, but personal crap took me down like a wrestler on crack. How many other similes can I come up with? I’ll leave it at those, and just say that my inspiration to write came to a complete halt. I wrote a total of about a thousand words in the span of three months. During that time, the publisher was sort of hoping I would actually turn in the second part of my series, especially since the first one was coming out in March. Oops. My editor told me not to fret too much, as the second one wasn’t on any specific schedule yet. So at least I hadn’t completely destroyed the first real writing opportunity I’d had in my life. Yay me.

Then the strangest thing happened. It typically wouldn’t be thought of as strange, except it was the last thing I was expecting to happen to me. I woke up one morning a couple days after book one in my series came out, and there was an email from the marketing dept. of All Romance ebooks. Odd. Why would they be contacting little ol’ nobody me?

I was on the bestseller list.

*choke*. They gave me a little badge and everything. Sure that this must be some sort of horrible prank, or misguided error, I went to their site, and there I was sitting at #8. *double choke*. And on from there it went. It climbed up to #1 and stayed there for a week. ( I had to take screen shots – as I feared it may never happen again) In the meantime, it made it to #2 in one category, and #3 & #5 in two other categories at Amazon. It hit # l at Amazon UK in the gay romance category, and stayed there (with a few intermittent drops as new releases came out) for close to a month.

No one was more shocked than me. Now, I don’t how shocked my publishers were, but they suddenly had a renewed interest in my alter-ego. More importantly, I suddenly had a renewed interest in writing. The best thing that came out of all of this is that I cared again. I’ve worked for years to get out there as a professional writer, and I was not going to let the crazy curveballs that life thonks you on the head with screw it up for me.

I also have to mention  – not in a false humility way, but it is true – that a lot of my current success has come from being in the right place, at the right time, writing the right genre. There was a lot of luck involved as I couldn’t have predicted it. I couldn’t know that the 50 Shades thing would be so epic and far-reaching. Although I researched publishing houses before I chose the one that I sent my first piece to, I had no way of knowing that they would like what I wrote, that I would get the best editor ever, or that they would suddenly become aggressive and pro-active in promoting their authors. Something that few publishing houses of any size do.

You see, the best news was yet to come.

About a week ago, The publishers set up an appointment to speak with me about my career with them. (More gasping and choking) I spent hours making notes and practicing how not to say something incredibly stupid. Having little luck there, I just hoped I wouldn’t completely annihilate my credibility as an author – or human being – and still maintain a future with them. I’m happy to report that my dumb comments were kept to a minimum, and they are now working with me to brand my author name, put in place PR strategies to promote the upcoming release of part 2 of my series ( I cracked that bad boy out with 33k words in 3 days – at the end of it, I was seriously having an out of body experience), and to keep me to a regular writing schedule with hard deadlines. This was all proposed to me, and I happily accepted.

Fortunately, a couple months ago I finally, once and for all, stepped down from manager to assistant manager at work. This has afforded me about 8 -10 extra hours per week for this madness.

As a writer, this has been an amazing journey for me. On a personal level, I am so grateful that I’ve been pulled up out of the tarry fetid swamp I was drowning in just a few months ago. For others out there, all I can say is keep pushing through. You never know what goodies might be waiting for you around the corner.

 

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Paper Trumps Digital

I had quite the surprise today on my day off from retail hell – the author copies of my first book showed up at the door. They are shiny, and physically real. I can hold them in my hands, and show them to the neighbor. (I had the sudden urge to spell it “neighbour”, the British English I use when I’m writing is taking over my brain.) There’s definitely something about holding an actual paper copy in my hands of my book. The digital releases have been very exciting; the first time I saw one of my books listed on Amazon – wow – what a rush.

But this is a very special first time. When I was 12 years old and dutifully, and at times frantically, writing my first Wren the Detective stories, I dreamed (“dreamt” in Brit-speak) of the day when I would hold that first book in my hands. It only took a gazillion years and a lot of real-life drama for me to plow through, but it just goes to show ya’ – never give up on a dream. Ironically, I sort of had. Not completely, since I had to have some ambition to get the thing out there, some hopes, but I had let go of the desperation to make it happen that used to drive me. Particularly in the music biz – oh Lord, what a nightmare that was.

Writing for me now has become something I can completely immerse myself in and enjoy. I’m not saying this just because I got published. I’m not exactly burning up the NY Times bestseller list here, but in my own little corner of the world, it’s really nice. In the realities of the entertainment business – and I had already cut my teeth in acting and music – most, and I really mean MOST – people do not make it big. If you survive with your sanity and don’t o.d., you’re doing awesome.

But this feels like a good beginning. It’s a tangible result. I’ve seen some royalty checks from both self-pubbed and traditionally pubbed efforts. I’m going on a year in the writer business, getting paid to write something that I created. Again, not enough for me to run screaming from the crazed, clothes-throwing, subhuman tourists, but enough to be really grateful to receive each month. I’ve had positive reader and review site response. My editor has been wonderfully supportive and complimentary.  I just signed a contract for the new book series I’ve been yakking about, and filled out the book information form for the publishers. The first 50 K installment is turned in for edits, and I’m starting Book 2. So right now, it all feels as though it’s headed in the right direction.

The most important thing to me personally? What is more exciting to me than any other actual event related to the writing? The floodgates have opened. My mind is going constantly in a way it hasn’t in literally almost fifteen years. In terms of fiction writing – more like thirty years. In the last few days, I’ve tossed out another 8 K words on a mainstream sci-fi romance that’s been festering inside of me the last couple months. I jotted the main ideas down, and pushed it aside to make sure that my gay firefighters from Mesa Arizona could get together and live happily ever after. But as soon as I turned that in to my editor, I started going to town on this other one.

It feels GREAT. Maybe something really big will happen with it, and maybe it won’t. All I really care about is getting it out of me and on paper. Okay, so if I do publish it, it will definitely be an ebook. But it will also be in print, because when you’re living your writing dreams, paper really does trump digital.

And as promised, Lord Chumsley, the Wonder Lizard:

It’s Here! And it Needs to be Promoted…

I thought I would check in with y’all since I am so overloaded currently, that even pretending to write about my far-distant freak show past would be a useless exercise, so instead, I shall bring everyone up to date.

My alter-ego’s first book was released yesterday! Yee-ha! I have been a very well-behaved modern author, and have been booking and following through on a virtual blog tour promo schedule. There are giveaways, excerpts, thought-provoking (one can only hope) posts, interviews and such to deal with on a daily basis over the next few weeks. Once that concludes, than the stand alone comes out a little earlier than I originally thought: June 11th. This means another round of promo events. Then in August, the print version of the anthology comes out – more promos. September? Why that’s when the second book comes out. Hopefully, as suggested recently by the publisher, I will have turned in the first of my three-book series, so that an excerpt can be included in the back. Hmmmm…I sense a pattern here.

Many writers have lamented the fact that they have to be their own marketing gurus. It’s not that you don’t get support from your publisher, but that support can vary massively, depending on the publisher’s muscle. Translated: cash flow. I feel very fortunate with my marketing person and the publisher.  They take their business very seriously, and have been successful at it, when many others in the relatively new erotica genre have failed. My direct contact is communicative, creative and very involved. They have offered me multiple opportunities to get my name out there: writing articles, peer reviews, chat groups and so on. They’ve provided me with free review copies, in addition to the lists they already send out to. But they also have anywhere from 4 -8 new releases EVERY week, some are anthologies, so to think they are spending all of their energy on one book from an untried author is – as my boss at work would say – crack-smoking madness.

It’s here, and it needs to be promoted. It’s also my baby, my responsibility. Which means that every day I’m not taking advantage of the opportunity presented to me currently, is another day I’m slapping another writer trying to get their work out there in the face. In the interest of not slapping any of my wonderful writer compatriots in the face, I want to assure you that I have been staying on top of it. Of course, that means other things suffer. Like my writing.

The time and energy to keep up with writing my memoir pieces at this blog – which are for my soul, no less – has been greatly compromised. So has the writing time I need to put in to the first book in the series my new editor said she was very interested in, and would recommend to the publisher. That cannot be neglected. So now, even at this small level, all of this gives me a glimpse into a full-time writer’s future. It’s not unexpected. I figured it would be like this. Figuring and living are two very different things though.

Other little realizations: I still want to do this. I’m absolutely okay with climbing on to the writer hamster wheel. Also – writing guest blog posts and answering interview questions is helping me to think on my feet more. Writing under pressure and deadline is helping me to keep the writing flowing better. I am becoming –  I feel anyway – a well-oiled machine. Is this good? I think so. It beats sitting around wondering what to write about, and maybe getting a page or two down, or a couple random ideas, and then deciding I hate it later on. The other day I scheduled seven hours of writing on the new book, and gave myself a 5,000 word goal. I felt I was over-reaching a little, but I am feeling the pressure to get these guys out there – they are all going to be between 30-40,000 words each – so I need to quit screwing around. Once I set my mind to it – I hit 5,200 words in the allotted time. I even liked most of the words afterwards.

Speaking of which, I have another 5,000 word goal today. And of course, another promo blog post to do for the new baby…

Publication: The Never-Ending Rollercoaster Ride

So many things keep jumping up and chomping my behind, that then keep me from adhering to any type of decent schedule at this blog. Oh wait a minute – not my behind – my pseudonymous self who is leading a much more thrilling and adventurous life than I am.

So, here is where things stand: when last we met, I had just gotten the final edits turned in for my first release coming out May 7th. Yay! I had a wonderful experience with my editor, she had glowing things to say about me – I was feeling pretty damn-spankin’ good about life in publication land. I began to feel the mounting pressure of scheduling guest blog spots, arranging giveaways, lamenting that I’m too poor to attend the Romance Times convention in Chicago (where my publisher and fellow smut peddlers will be) and twittering like a raging maniac.

Then I opened my alter-ego’s email that contained a message from the art department. The subject line claimed it was the cover art for my book. Odd. I already received the cover art for the anthology my story will appear in about a month ago. I opened it up and actually cried. This wasn’t a “the world is crashing about my ears” crying. This was “OMFG – I can’t believe how GORGEOUS this is!” You see – this was the cover art for my story alone, that will be released as a stand-alone 90 days after the anthology comes out. I just stared at it and was wept. It was not only incredible artwork, but it epitomized the look and feel of my story. If the artist wasn’t in England, I would have run over and hugged her.

It’s really happening. It’s real. Somehow the anthology cover – while exciting to see my girl’s name on there – wasn’t the same as seeing my own title in all its glory. Okay, I realize we’re not talking the next Hemingway here, but seriously, for as long as I’ve waited to get frickin’ published – it was epic. Then came the really fun part, The Booty Box. Yes folks – the Booty Box. They have a merchandise page at the publisher website that includes things like thong underwear, tote bags, mugs and iPad cases with my book cover on it! There was also a T-shirt that said “Such & such publisher author (my name) ROCKS!”

Too funny. But very cool.

But wait, you ask. How is that like a rollercoaster? These all seem like “ups”. Yup. But then there was the email that arrived – I swear less than 10 minutes later. You know how on some emails you can see the first few words of the actual message? So, I see one from the actual publisher who has only contacted me one time to welcome me to the fold. Surely she must be writing to tell me how massively awesome I am, right? Yeah, right. The first few words in this case were “I’m sorry to inform you…”

Gasp. Choke. That seemed like a rather precipitous beginning. I’ve never really experienced a positive outcome from anything that began with those words.

I literally froze. Did I really want to descend from my heights of self-imagined grandeur and crash, burning in flames, to the dirt of this earth? Not especially. Oh well. It was fun while it lasted. So I decided to live on the edge and open the email. Turns out my editor – who must be even more awesome than I originally realized – just received a full scholarship to get her Master’s in English at Oxford. She’s writing her thesis on Mid-Renaissance poetry. Damn. I guess that was a pretty good reason for her to put in her notice.

Sigh. So how self-involved could I be about this? I couldn’t help it. Pretty self-involved. She was the first one that said “I would like to publish your book”, and then sent me a contract. She’s not only the first professional editor I ever worked with, but it was a great experience. She’s also the one that I just submitted a new story to not a week earlier. The one who said she would like to see a synopsis on my 3 book series.

The publisher was very gracious, and let me know that I had been assigned a new editor who would contact me shortly. This new editor might not like my “voice” or story ideas. She may have other writers she’s more interested in working with – where’s the antacid! Also – those vague time references always make me nutty – I am waaaay too impatient. So I was going to have to wait. I thanked the publisher for taking the time to tell me personally what was going on, and that I would look forward to hearing from the new editor. Since the publisher also left it open at the end of her message to be sure and let her know if I had any questions or concerns – I tread lightly into that territory. I decided to save the series question for the new editor, but I did politely inquire about the submission I had just sent in for a Halloween anthology.

Five days went by with no communication. So now I was sweating bullets. Stomach twisting – all the angsty cliches you can possibly think of – I was living them.

The publisher answered me on the 5th day and apologized for not getting back to me sooner, but said that she had forwarded my submission to my new editor who would look it over the next day; but could I please send her the synopsis as well? That would be fine I thought – if I had her email! Since there was a time element involved, and I knew the publisher was busy, I contacted my current editor who is there until the end of the month. I was able to congratulate her and thank her for the experience of working with her, and then ask for the new editor’s email.

She got back to me right away, and I sent off the synopsis. Phew! Then I figured I had done all that I could, and probably wouldn’t hear anything for at least a few weeks. Apparently the rollercoaster had another plan in mind. Five minutes later, my new editor replied with a “speak of the devil”, saying she was just about to email me. Apparently, the anthology was already filled, but she loved my story ( she said something really glowing about it that I’m too embarrassed to put here – but I think I am going to make a poster out of it and hang it above my computer for the next time I get discouraged) and wondered if I would mind if they published it as a stand alone book. Mind? MIND?!?!?!?! Holy 2nd contract Batman – no I don’t mind!

There you have it. And I get that this is how it is. Been there done that in music. But in some ways, I feel that I have more to lose now with the writing. I think it has to do with the resilience we have when we’re young. When we think there’s forever and maybe even an extra day to achieve what we desire. When I got the “I’m sorry to inform you…” email, it felt like a cruel trick the universe was playing on me right after the heady feeling from my cover art on men’s boxer shorts.

Which reminds me, I wonder how much 11 GPB is in US dollars?