Sunday, June 29, 2014
Stephanie Tyler’s Advice for New Authors: “Write what you love.”
Stephanie Tyler is a well-known romantic suspense author. Her credits include the Hard to Hold Trilogy, The Shadow Force Series, The Section 8 Series, The Defiance Series, and The Harlequin, Blaze Series. Stephanie writes most of her books surrounding military heroes, which is what she enjoys reading most. She has recently ventured into the paranormal with her Eternal Wolf Clan Series. She also writes M/M-Romance and has a string of novels out using her pen name, SE Jakes. (M/M-Romance is a subgenre that contains romantic relationships between males.) Her latest quest is her Skulls Creek Series and book one, Vipers Run, is scheduled for release on July 1, 2014. Stephanie also co-writes paranormal erotic romance for Bantam Dell under the name Sydney Croft.
Stephanie graduated college with a double major: English literature and creative writing. She has a master’s degree in English Literature and finished half of her doctorate. As she was trying to find a way to support herself as a writer, she did many different things, including teaching grades from middle school all the way up to college. Her daughter was born in 2001 with some medical problems, which caused Stephanie to re-think her situation. She left teaching, went back to writing, and fortunately for us, she hasn’t stopped since.
How long did it take you to publish your first novel, and who was your first publisher?
I started reading romance in late 2001 after my daughter was born with serious medical problems. I wrote just for me in 2002, and in 2003 I got online and started thinking seriously about publishing. I sold to Harlequin, Blaze in 2006 and they published my first two books in 2007. Three weeks later I got ‘the call.’ I sold the Sydney Croft trilogy (with Larissa Ione), and then my own first three single title SEAL books, both to Random House. I had a plan—I loved category romance, but at that time, a lot of authors who exclusively wrote category were having trouble getting into single title New York publishing. I realized that I would almost have to simultaneously publish category and single title in order to not get boxed in. My, how things have changed.
That must have been an exciting time. Harlequin, Random House… that sounds like a dream come true. What is your latest project?
I’ve got a lot of them. As Stephanie Tyler, I’m working on my third Section 8 Romantic Suspense, and my second in the Vipers series for next summer. As Sydney Croft, we’ve got a story out in Riptide’s Holiday Charity Bundle this November, and as SE Jakes, I’ve got 5 more releases in 2014, and only 2 of those are written so far — it’s what I love about ePublishing! However, basically, as you can see, I’m always working on multiple projects. It keeps me creative and if I get stuck on something, I keep a forward progress. I’ve tried the ‘one book at a time, write in order’ thing, but after 50 books, it’s not my process, although I think it would most definitely be a bit easier.
It sounds like you are very prolific. Having so many works in progress must keep you very busy. What would you say are the benefits of having a pen name?
Larissa and I would’ve been fine publishing the Croft books under both our names, but back in 2006, neither of us had a ‘name.’ So the publisher wanted a single name, but they had no problem with people knowing it was us. When I started writing as SE Jakes back in 2011, it was for different reasons entirely—I wanted a fresh start, and I wanted to see if I could re-create my success without any help from my established audience. SE Jakes really saved me at a time when the online romance world, in my opinion, got really dark. I’m extremely grateful to the indie authors who broke through, because I know they changed the whole tenor of the online world for romance. I recently just revealed the SE Jakes name, because it had gotten too big to steer secretly.
A lot of people pick pen names (and my last name for all are pen-names), mainly because my real last name is very unique, and it’s also really hard to spell. Friends of mine use pen names because they have other careers in which they wouldn’t want their employers to know they write romance, and some because of family pressure. But for the most part, I think it’s a privacy issue.
That is certainly something every author should think about. Being totally anonymous with new ideas certainly looks like it has some advantages. In today’s market, when an author can write multiple novels in a year, it makes one wonder if many authors use pen names to test out unchartered waters. What do you think about self-publishing in today’s market?
I love it. You don’t understand (or maybe you do!) what a wonderful option it is! It’s completely freeing. There are no gatekeepers for that, so for someone like me, who knows the process of what it takes to get a book out (aka editing!), it’s taken so much pressure off getting the next contract. Honestly, I also think that sometimes too much editing can suck the life out of a book—some of the more unpolished writing is getting praise because it’s fresh. So I encourage people to have an editor they trust, someone who will bring out the best in their story. It’s important to work with people who love your writing and love your voice. At this point, I’m still what’s termed a hybrid author, and I don’t see that changing—I’ve never liked putting all my eggs in one basket.
Although self-publishing gives the author total freedom when it comes to having their story told, the dream of most authors is to hit one of the top commercial publishing houses. Having an agent appears to be essential for making something like that happen. What was the hardest part about finding an agent?
Unfortunately, today I think it’s much harder (and it was already difficult when I started), because of so much seemingly instant successes of indies and the like; agents are looking for the next big hit. They can usually find it easily enough these days—it’s less of a guessing game for them because those indies already have the sales to back them up. So, they can be more discerning, and they don’t necessarily have the want or need to grow an author from the ground up. But then again, the flip side is that you don’t necessarily need an agent to publish today. I don’t think New York publishing needs to be any romance author’s first goal anymore, and that’s exciting. There are other ways in. That being said, having an agent when you do get contracts is invaluable. I mean, you have to be attractive to them, but you also have to remember that they’re working for you—you can’t be ‘grateful’ that an agent takes you on. You have to remember that they make money when you do, and you work as a partnership, but that ultimately, you are the best advocate for your career. A good agent should bring out the best in you and your career.
One of the downsides to self-publishing or using a small publisher is that advertising is generally the responsibility of the author. What would you say has been your best form or advertisement?
My best form of advertising is word of mouth of my readers. Especially with the SE Jakes readers—the M/M community is very, very vocal and tight-knit and welcoming. My readers make it a joy to go online and communicate, mainly via a Goodreads group and a Facebook group, which are both moderated by awesome readers and writers. I love going there and hanging out, but what I love even more is that they’re all very close, so they don’t need me there all the time. They have fun hanging out, discussing their lives, and the books they’re reading. Although they’re my groups, the conversation doesn’t always have to be about my books.
As Tyler, I started blogging in 2003, along with Larissa Ione, Sylvia Day, HelenKay Dimon, and the like, all before we had anything to sell. I think that really helped us because we had to find a way to engage people without giving them a product. This is how we grew our social media voices.
I understand that you used to be a teacher and that you have a master’s degree in English Literature. Do you feel that education is important for becoming a successful writer?
Nope. I don’t regret my education, but a lot of that was done because I never thought I’d be able to support myself writing. It’s what I was taught, especially in college, that if I were going to write poetry and short stories, which is where I started out, I would need an education. So I love reading, and English Literature was a way I figured I could be close to what I loved. Although I loved teaching, and was creative in my methods, it did zap a lot of my personal creativity. I didn’t write a lot of fiction during those years. While I appreciate that we do have so many highly educated women who are bestsellers, I don’t like that we have to tote that out when the inevitable disrespect of our genre happens. I’ve gotten to the point where I simply blow that off because when people say to me, ‘oh you write those trashy romances,’ my husband will say, ‘and bought us our new house.’ Because romance, in my option, is about two of the best things in life—sex and love, I’m not sure why people look down on it, but that’s their issue. I’d rather work on my books than worry about not having the respect of people I probably wouldn’t want to hang out with anyway. Romance readers and writers are some of the most intelligent, well-rounded, and generally open-minded people. Whenever I’m chatting with someone who reads romance, it’s this instant bond.
With all the books you have written, there must be a few darlings in there. Who is your favorite character?
I have two: Jake, from my Tyler Hold series and Prophet, from my SE Jakes Hell or High Water series. All my characters speak to me, but these guys don’t leave when I’m done with their books. I feel like they’re my muses.
Writing every day can be difficult for some writers, but my understanding is that successful writers do write daily. Do you have a daily word count that you strive for, or do you just sit and write until your characters stop talking to you?
The latter for sure. My word count is pretty high, but it’s usually a culmination of a week or two, rather than a steady amount daily. I mean, I do write daily, but I vary between computer and longhand writing. Right now, I’ve got 20 pages to transcribe and I always add to that when I’m typing in, but you have to write daily, no matter what. Honestly, if you’re working on the right project, for the most part it shouldn’t be something you want to procrastinate. When I find myself procrastinating, it’s usually because I’ve tried to force my characters to do something and they immediately go silent, like, ‘really, lady? When you’re ready to listen to us, then we’ll talk.’ Or else it’s a project that scares me—I call them the growth books—and sometimes they hurt, but you can look back and go, ‘yeah, my writing really kicked up a notch there.’
Often whom we read impacts what we write. Is there a writer who has influenced your career? What is your very favorite book?
That’s a hard one, but Gone With The Wind is one I read obsessively over and over when I was around twelve. I also love, in the romance genre, I’ll Take Manhattan by Judith Krantz (very old school and sprawling and fun), and Cherry Adair, Suzanne Brockmann and Tami Hoag were some of the first romance authors I read, and that’s when I realized, ‘This! This is what I want to write.” So I owe them a great deal.
Anyone who reads this interview will already learn so much about publishing and how to be a better writer. Is there any other advice that you might have for up and coming authors?
Write what you love. Today especially that’s even more important advice, because we were always taught that the books of our heart weren’t always marketable. Right now, that advice is pretty much out the window with indie publishing (Hello, new adult!)… So, if you love what you’re writing, someone will love it too. It might not be your most successful book, but until you get past that book of your heart, it’ll probably hold you back. Keep writing—even a couple of paragraphs, fan fiction, anything that makes you creative.
Please be sure to give me links to where my readers can find your books and find out more information about you.
I’m at stephanietyler.com, sejakes.com, and sydneycroft.com. I’m probably the most active on social media as SE Jakes, but you can always grab me for Tyler or Croft questions at that name with no problem.
Thank you so much for taking the time to visit with me today. For my readers and for me, this is certainly an honor.
Thanks so much for asking me! It’s my pleasure
Book Title: Eruption
Series: The Vangretta Curse #3
Author: Christina Mobley
Release Date: June 29, 2014
Genre: YA Fantasy
Presented by:As You Wish Tours
Author: Christina Mobley
Release Date: June 29, 2014
Genre: YA Fantasy
Presented by:As You Wish Tours
To celebrate today's release of Eruption (book 3), Elementris (book1) is FREE on Amazon Kindle!!
When you love someone more than yourself, protecting them is all that matters; it is all there is...
Snow one minute and blazing temperatures the next, horrific storms everywhere, and Ava has no idea what’s causing it. Desperate for answers, she turns to the past. An ancient diary reveals the truth about Element Island and the true origins of those born of the Element. Everything she thought she knew is wrong. Destiny is coming for her unborn child.
Ava’s fairytale has quickly turned into a nightmare. No one can be trusted. Friendships will be tested, and lives will be lost. As nature and destiny collide, a child that will change everything is born. The eruption will mark the beginning and the end, and the battle has just begun.
The woman locked eyes with Ava. “I want you to listen carefully, in a way you have never imagined before. Imagine the earth could speak to you. Imagine every sound it made was words for your ears only. Imagine Earth could show you all she has seen and the pain and life inside her.”
“I want you to let it in. Without fear, without worry of what you will see, let her speak to you. Listen to the earths cry.”
Ava still wasn’t so sure about the earth crying, but she definitely felt tears of her own and wasn’t sure if it was the intensity of the woman’s words or her hormones. “Okay.”
The woman grabbed Ava’s hands and pushed them deep into the fresh earth. Ava felt small roots climb between her fingers and wrap around her hands. .
She tilted her head, listened to the soft scratching of leaves, and breathed in the earthy smell coming from the rich soil beneath her hands. She closed her eyes and really felt…something. She felt a horrible wrench in her stomach. Before she could begin to worry that something was wrong with the baby, the images came. It wasn’t her baby that was in pain it was Mother Earth’s baby. The world. Everything painful inside it. She saw a group of children rail thin and sick. It was so hot and so horrible. She watched a little boy barely more than skin and bone take his last breath. She heard his mother’s miserable cry. Then she saw trees burning and forest animals fleeing. She saw war, violence, and destruction. The images came faster. Glimpses of death and destruction. Then even faster. She could barely make anything out now. The images flew by; life and death in fast-forward. She felt it though, all of it. She felt the pain of the world all at once. Hunger, fear, pain, loss. She saw the changes. First snow and ice, then new life. A small flower worked its way through a pile of snow. Green grass followed it and then a small puddle grew to a mighty river. The river changed its course over and over again, changing everything along its path as it went.
“Ava! Ava!” Alec’s voice rang in her mind.
She tried to open her eyes, but couldn’t. She was trapped. She used all she had to force her lashes open, but couldn’t see a thing.
“Ava?” Alec said again.
“It’s okay. She’s alright,” the old woman said.
“Her eyes, why do they look like that?” Alec asked, “What’s happening?”
“It’s the elements response to her.”
Ava tried to speak but couldn’t. She felt the wind tickle her face. She felt the ground shake beneath her, and heard the leaves shaking on their branches.
“She’s touched it. She has truly touched her element.”
“Ava, can you hear me?” Alec said.
“Yeah, I...” Ava struggled hearing tree branches shaking and feeling the world spinning all around her.
“Let’s get you back.” Alec lifted her.
“I’m okay. She was right. I saw it all.” Ava’s vision came back then. Her eyes watered. The old woman stood in front of her. A misted vision. “Thank you,” Ava said.
“No, thank you.” Ms. Frank responded.
Ava felt the spinning slow and saw the trees reaching for her. She lifted her finger to touch the leaves of one as Alec turned. She squinted as her head rolled back and the dark sky cleared before her eyes.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Christina Mobley is a married, mother of four, who spends her days caring for her children. She grew up in Florida, living on the banks of the St.Mary's river, and as a child always had a fascination for storms and the power they wield. The Vangeretta Curse series was inspired by that fascination.
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Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Michelle Chiappetta has some tips on where to get some great ideas for writing your next novel. Go to www.chippermuse.wordpress.com for some more information on Michelle and her books.
By M.A. Chiappetta
If you’ve ever wondered how in the world writers come up with their ideas, or how they manage to sit still long enough to write a novel, this post’s for you. What a writer goes through to complete something that’s good enough to be proud of when someone else reads it… Well, let’s just say that Criss Angel, David Copperfield, and any other magicians you’d care to name have nothing on us writers.
We do magic. And when you look behind the curtain at how we do it, it’s weird and wild, and a whole lot of work. It’s kind of amazing we get anything done at all, to be honest.
Let me explain why that is.
Most writers will tell you that ideas come from everywhere. And that’s essentially true. Ideas can come from suggestions that people make, books you read, movies, news stories, Internet memes, people-watching at the local coffee shop… Ideas are literally a dime a dozen.
But to make an idea work? That’s hard.
I often come up with ideas by thinking of some observations I have about life and how I might put them into a story. Perfect example: a new novel I’m in the early stages of planning. I’m originally from the East Coast, but I moved to the Bible belt several years ago. This particular area has a church on almost every corner, more churches than fast food restaurants, many of them very conservative. But there is also a good-sized population of LBGT people, hipsters, artists…
It’s a strange, unexpected combination. I like it, frankly.
Add to that the fact that a lot of these churches seem very competitive, and that they decry the American culture while erecting enormous, blindingly bright neon marquees to announce their special events… Well, it feels a bit like Vegas for Pentecostals.
For a while now, I’ve been mulling over how much this area of the country differs from the East Coast, where you see little religious glitter. I’ve wondered what exactly would happen if magic did break out here in the Bible belt. What would people do if elves arrived en masse, or if aliens landed next to City Hall? You know, the usual sort of thing that happens in science fiction and fantasy stories, which is what I write.
But these thoughts and general musings don’t add up to a solid concept for a novel. I needed more than the question—I needed the answer.
The next piece of the puzzle came to me as I pondered the fact that the north part of this city is in large part run-down, poor, and minority-occupied, while the south section is pretty, wealthy, and mostly white. That made me wonder what would happen if a person who grew up or fit the stereotype of the north part of town suddenly had power enough to cause problems for the wealthy on the south side.
Aha! Conflict. That’s what a story needs. And I like writing about situations that involve outsiders. But that still doesn’t a novel make. You can have a concept and a conflict, but you also need a character. And I didn’t quite have that yet.
The third piece of the puzzle showed up when I was doing research for an unrelated writing project. I was looking up monsters and came across a listing for the dhampir, which is a half-vampire, half-human creature. A half-breed.
My character could be a magical half-breed of some kind, forced to contend with both halves of her nature in a place where to be anything different than the norm makes you stand out like a sore thumb. Her powers could be considered demonic in origin, which brings in its own set of conflicts within a setting where people are conservative, traditional, and religious.
Now, all I needed was one more piece to complete the puzzle: What starts all the action?
And of course, the answer is a murder. I don’t know exactly how that came to me, except that murders complicate life. Why not have my character show up accidentally at the scene of a murder, where problems immediately ensue? Perhaps she ends up obligated to solve it if she wants to save herself, or someone she cares about. And there’s the hook that will make readers keep reading, I hope, through the first chapter.
So—concept, character, conflict, and hook. That’s how you start writing a novel. (It’s not how you finish, of course. But that’s another blog post!)
My thanks to Judy for inviting me to guest post on her blog today!
If you’d like to check out my writing, visit my blog at www.chippermuse.wordpress.com or check out my latest short stories in the fantasy anthology, Dark and Dangerous Things 2, available on Amazon.
M.A. Chiappetta is a fantasy writer, copywriter, educator, and blogger with past publications in Blue Shift, Science Fiction, Fantasy Writer’s Chat, and Mensa Bulletin. Her most recent short stories are found in the anthology, Dark and Dangerous Things II, available on Amazon. She shares thoughts on writing at Purple Ink Writers and muses on creativity, SFF, laughter, God, and geekdom at The Chipper Muse. You can also find her on Twitter as @chippermuse.
Monday, June 23, 2014
I've been invited to write about my writing process by M.A. Chiappetta, who has a blog at http://chippermuse.wordpress.com. So, don't forget to stop by her blog, and see what others have to say about how and why they write. Many secrets may be revealed.
The Writing Process
The writing process is different for everyone. Some writers are plotters and some are pantsers, some write full-time, some only part-time, some write solo while others are involved in writer’s groups, and the list goes on. Basically, what it comes down to is that all writers have a system that works for them, and even though it may take a while to figure out what that might be, once a writer finds their niche, there is no stopping the creative flow.
Why do I write?
I write because I must. There is no other way to put it. There is a need inside of me that takes over my subconscious if I ever put it off for too long. I dream storylines and not only when I am asleep. That’s right. If you notice that I appear to be dozing off during a conversation, I am really writing a novel in my head. Don’t think I don’t get in trouble for it. Sometimes church sermons can be dangerous. Someone will look into my eyes, usually my husband, and see my characters running around in there. No kidding.
I can’t say that I really have any peculiar formalities. Basically, I check my social media for updates on what is happening in the world of literature. Next I check all of my email accounts. Since I am an editor as well, I have an Alpha Editing email, an author email, and then there is my college email. Yes, I am back in school, trying to finish my master’s. This can be quite a challenge sometimes when it comes to getting things down on paper. I am most productive either early in the morning or late at night. Since I have four boys, a husband, and five dogs, my afternoons are often quite full. After I have checked in with the outside world, I plug in my flash drive and get to work.
A Lone Ranger
Although some writers do participate in writer’s groups for input and assistance, I prefer to go solo. I love to write, and that is why I write; I simply prefer the scribbling’s of my heart to writing for the market. I do brainstorm often with my husband, but that is as far as I go with help on ideas. Surprisingly enough, he has some astonishing ideas. Where do you think I got the Mexican Mafia from? (wink).
My Writing Process
I know many people who take great pains in writing a detailed outline before they get started. Some writers tell me it takes them many years before they finish and some finish their outlines in just a few months. I am a pantser. For those of you who may not be familiar with the term, a pantser is a writer who doesn’t plan. In fact, I am one of the most unorganized writers I know. I usually dream a storyline or one will come to me during my momentary lapses in attention. I have a special file where I keep all my new ideas, just so I don’t forget them. I then sit at my Mac, put my fingers on the keyboard, and start to type. Sometimes my characters’ choices even surprise me. I start out with a basic idea and just keep going. Sometimes I can write up to 10,000 words in one sitting. I generally average 3 to 4,000 words at a time, but if I have a really hot idea, I will hit 6 or 7,000 words at a time. I can even type while my kids are talking to me. Yes, it is an acquired skill.
What is next?
Sometimes I think I have a few too many irons in the fire. Okay, way more than just a few. I am almost finished with book two of my Linked series. Linked is my vampire series and book two is called First Blood. It is quite steamy, just a warning there. My vampire books are hot, hot, hot…
I am also working on book six of The Easter’s Lilly Series, and that book is called The Last Fall. This book features Junior’s cousin and best friend Octavio Montiago. Don’t worry, folks! Lilly is still there making trouble for the brothers and Junior and Tess are still up close and personal.
Although there is a book two for Ivy Vines, Visions in my future, my next project is going to be a dystopian, young adult novel. Thus far, the novel is in my new ideas file, but as soon as the other two books are complete, I will begin my new journey.
So, plotter or pantser, full or part-time, solo or group oriented, the journey is before you. Just remember that sometimes the back-up plan becomes the plan, so don’t put off what you can write today until tomorrow.