Liliana Hart's Blog: The MacKenzie Brothers Release!
August 17, 2013
I'm at Authors After Dark this week meeting with tons of readers and signing books. It's been raining like crazy for a couple of days and my hair is huge and unmanageable, but I've had a blast touring the city. Especially since my Addison Holmes series is set here. I've taken lots of pictures and gotten some great new ideas for future adventures.
If you happen to be in the area on Saturday, you're welcome to stop by the Savannah Marriott Riverfront from 2-4pm for the booksigning. Books are available for purchase or you can bring your own.
Speaking of Addison Holmes, don't forget to pre-order your copy of WHISKEY FOR BREAKFAST! It'll be out everywhere on August 27th.
Are you in the Detroit or Chicago area? I'll be signing books along with several other authors on September 21st and 22nd. Check out the eventbrite page and RSVP so we can make sure we have enough books for everyone.
Congratulations to Linda Hayes, the winner of this month's $100 Amazon gift card! Thanks to all of you for following this newsletter!
I hope everyone has enjoyed their summer! I don't know about you guys but school can't start soon enough for me. Stay tuned for updates to the MacKenzie Website as well as the reopening of the street team on Facebook.
Thanks for reading!
June 4, 2013
I’d love to invite you to a new world—a world that you and I inhabit—only there are some things that can’t be explained inside that world. It’s often called a sixth sense, a knowing or intuition, but what if those feelings happen because of something we never could have imagined? And what if we’re oblivious to the true danger that lurks around every corner?
Born to be mates...Destined to be enemies...
Rena Drake is descended from a society that was created 500,000 years before Atlantis—the Drakán. Since their Banishment to the human world, Rena has become an Enforcer for her people, keeping the peace among her dragon brethren and making sure their identities stay a secret.
When a group of rogue Drakán begins killing others of their race who refuse to join the army of The Destroyer—the man from Prophecy they believe will finally be the true king—Rena has no choice but to take action. Killing others of their kind is an automatic death sentence, and Rena’s job demands that she draw up a warrant of execution before they kill again. Every clue leads Rena to believe that Julian, leader of one of the five clans, is The Destroyer. But when Rena confronts Julian to kill him, she discovers that he is her lifemate, deemed so by the gods from the blue mating fire that engulfs them—a power thought lost since the Banishment.
Matters are further complicated by Noah Ford, a psychic who works for the FBI. Rena knows he’s keeping his true identity a secret from her, but she’s drawn to him just as she’s drawn to Julian. Noah vows to become her protector against The Destroyer, but it’s going to be difficult for Noah to keep his promise when her life force is tied to the man she’s destined to kill.
Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/15xF4lt
Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/Zrt2eK
New Booksignings Added!
I love to meet readers. Several new signings have been added to my calendar. I hope one is at a location near you.
Author Tea and Booksigning - Wylie, Texas
June 22nd 12:00-3:30pm
Smith Public Library
Book Bash - Orlando, Florida
June 29th from 12:00-4:00pm
Doubletree Orlando Universal
RWA National - Atlanta, Georgia
July 17th 5:30–7:30 p.m.
Atlanta Marriott Marquis
Texas Book Tour (with Jaye Wells, Daniel Marks, Nicole Peeler, and Kevin Hearne)
July 25th 7:00pm
Northpark Barnes and Noble
July 27th 4:30pm
Murder By The Book
July 29th 7:00pm
The Indie Voice Signing - Seattle, Washington
August 1-3 Time: TBA
(with Tina Folsom, Jasinda Wilder, Debra Holland, Jane Graves, Jana DeLeon, Denise Grover Swank, Colleen Gleason, Theresa Ragan, and Dorien Kelly)
Authors After Dark - Savannah, Georgia
Baltimore Book Festival - Baltimore, Maryland
*More locations to be added, including North Carolina and Tennessee.
Make sure you follow me on Facebook and Twitter. I’ve been known to give away lots of goodies, including Coach Purses and gift cards on a whim!
Have a safe and wonderful summer!
March 23, 2012
I'm so proud to be a part of Brenda Novak's Auction for the Cure this year. If you've never participated in this online auction, I encourage you to check out the website http://brendanovak.auctionanything.com/ The goal this year is to raise more than 2 million dollars for diabetes research, and it's a goal that all of you can help achieve. Your pocketbook doesn't have to be big to donate, even the smallest amount helps.
Hundreds of authors are auctioning off special gifts to raise money, so make sure you go and check out the loot! It's going to be fantastic, and I already have my eye on a few things I'd love to take home. For those of you interested in what I'm auctioning off, here's the link http://brendanovak.auctionanything.com/Bidding.taf?_function=detail&Auction_uid1=2483964 so you can pre-register for the auction and get you trigger finger ready:-)
Even if you can't participate in the auction this year, you can still help get the word out by tweeting and facebooking about the auction. I love doing events like this because the writing/reading community is so supportive, and I know we'll be able to help Brenda make this the best auction ever.
Author Liliana Hart has donated this gift basket featuring a Nook Tablet - Value of $199
Pre-Loaded with 8 E-books by Liliana Hart Value of $25
*All About Eve
*All I want For Christmas
*Who's Riding Red?
*Goldilocks and the Three Behrs
*The Madam Duchess
Autographed Copies of Paperback books by Liliana Hart Value of $50
*Cade: A MacKenzie Novel
*Dirty Little Secrets
*The MacKenzie Brothers
*Catch Me if You Can
Barnes and Noble Gift Card - Value of $25
Designer Nook Color Cover - Value of $40
Total Basket Value $340
November 2, 2011
Everyone has a chance to win! The contest is open for the entire month of November. Here's all you have to do to be put in the drawing to win.
Send me the first sentence of the last chapter of this book:
A winner will be picked at random at midnight on November 30th, and someone will have a very Merry Christmas!
Send all answers to firstname.lastname@example.org
October 17, 2011
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This is one of my favorite times of the year. My allergies are a complete mess, but I love seeing all the changes going on around me--the leaves turning from green to orange to red, the weather turning blustery and the wind whipping through bare branches.
Our neighborhood embraces the spirit of this time of year, and yards are decorated with graveyards, cobwebs, headless brides, ghouls, and a really cool hologram of a floating apparition longing for her lost love. It's amazing, and I'm totally caught up in the fun.
To celebrate such a creative time of the year, I wanted to have something out in the month of October that was a little bit wicked, a little bit fun, and a whole lot sexy. I've got two new releases this month, both erotic fairy tales, that put a little twist on the traditional stories we've all grown up with.
The first is WHO'S RIDING RED? which is a twisted tale about Little Red Riding Hood. Here's a quick blurb to whet your appetite.
Phillipa Redmond (Little Red Riding Hood) has lost her entire family to a terrible plague. Survivors from her village are evacuated to the country, and Phillipa has no choice but to go with them. But in the forest lurks something much more deadly than a terrible sickness. They gentry call him Wulf, and he's said to be the cruelest, most vile monster imaginable—a soulless demon who tortures his prey.
When Phillipa is kidnapped by Wulf and held hostage by his pack of wolves in an enchanted forest, she finds out that there's a very fine line between pleasure and pain, and she has to decide once and for all if she feels more at home with the humans who want her title and riches, or with the monsters who want to worship her body for eternity.
The second book in the series is THE ADVENTURES OF GOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE BEHRS. Goldilocks gets into a whole heep of trouble when she makes herself at home in the Behr family's cabin. Here's a quick peak.
Victoria Goldenrod (Goldilocks) is forced to leave the security of her wealthy family and embark on a journey to the Wild West. Her wagon train is robbed at gunpoint while Victoria is out on a walk through the forest, and she's the only survivor of the brutal killings. She's also the only witness, and she needs a place of refuge where the Blackstone Gang can't find her.
Victoria stumbles across a cottage deep in the forest and makes herself at home, assuming the family is away on a trip, but what she finds in her bed when she awakens the next morning could be more than she's prepared to handle. The Behr family isn't like others. And they'll do anything to make sure Victoria becomes one of their own. Even if every one of them have to seduce her.
Have a delightfully frightening Halloween!
September 20, 2011
Just to start this blog out on a positive note, I'm not saying that writers are dummies. Far from it. But in my career, I've never met more Luddites than in the writing community. I'm the perfect example. I hate technology. I loathe it. And from the way my computers and smartphones often lose critical information at critical times, I'm pretty sure technology hates me too. But 95% of the books I sell are done so in some kind of e-format. So I've adjusted. Mostly. And my husband has taken over anything technology oriented that I can screw up. But there are some things he can't do. He can't promote and market my books for me. I have to do that. Hopefully, this blog will help all the writers out there who are as terrified of technology as I am.
Joining the world of social media seems like a gigantic undertaking, but I believe it is absolutely necessary for every writer to use these tools. If you learn how to use them correctly, you'll have at your fingertips marketing tools that corporations pay thousands of dollars for. I started the self-publishing journey on June 1st of this year (you can read my story in earlier posts if you're so inclined), and as of a week ago today I hit the 10,000 books sold milestone. I truly believe that the use of social media is what got the word out about my books. I'm going to share some of my tips and different research guides I used before I put my books for sale. In fact, here are those books now and their links. I found different bits of advice in all of them. Some I used, some I didn't, but they all helped carve my path.
All writers need a Twitter account. All of you! If you use Twitter correctly, it's going to garner you built in followers and loyal fans almost instantly.
1.) Choosing a Name - Choose a Twitter name that is the same as the name on your books. It seems like it should be common sense, but I can't tell you how many authors I see out there with handles like @catlover2237. Readers aren't going to know who that is. When I picked my name, @LilianaHart was already taken, so I added an underscore to make it @Liliana_Hart (Click on the link to follow me).
2.) Getting Followers - Getting a large following in a short amount of time isn't as difficult as you might think. The first thing you do is pick popular authors in genres similar to the ones you write in. If you're an indie author, try to pick authors who are self-pubbing because you know their followers don't have any problem trying out new indie books. For example: I write erotic romance, so I went to author pages like Maya Banks, Jaci Burton and Shayla Black. I also write romantic mysteries and suspense, so I found authors like Cherry Adair, Jana DeLeon and Brenda Novak. I went through their list of followers and started following all of their readers. Following readers is key. Not other writers or advertisers. Don't get me wrong, I follow a ton of writers and they follow me, but you're looking for readers, and when you first start following people, Twitter sets a cap on the number of people you can follow. You might not think that following all these people are going to do anything for you, but when readers see that an author is following them, an author that writes in a genre they like to read, they will 80% of the time follow you back. Once you reach your cap on following people—I think it's 2,000 until you get a certain amount of followers back—then you can go to a website called Tweeter Karma. Here's the link: http://dossy.org/twitter/karma/ This website allows you to look at everyone you're following and see who is following you back. If someone is not following you that you followed, you have the option right then to unfollow them. Do this. Unfollow anyone who isn't following you back. They're taking up room and maxing out your cap. Once you've unfollowed those people and you've freed up some room, go back to your list of popular authors and keep going through their lists of followers, continuing to follow their readers. This is going to take several days. It took me about a week to build up around a thousand followers.
3.) Following Other Writers - Once you've built up your following of readers, start following other writers. Something I've learned in my career is that this is very much a Pay it Forward kind of business. It's not a competition. Help out your fellow writers. Retweeting is more valuable than gold.
Here's a tweet example:
WHISKEY REBELLION "A hilarious summer romp…a mystery that will make you shake with laughter even as it gives you chills" http://tinyurl.com/3mpa8z5 #RT #kindle #nook #sony #comedy #mystery #romance #ipad
We'll talk about hashtags in a minute, but as you'll notice I put #RT after my promo material. This means Retweet. And if you have a large number of author friends who see this, they'll Retweet your posts just as you Retweet their posts. So instead of reaching only my 1,355 followers, I'm reaching all their followers as well. If you have 10 authors who have 1,000 followers each Retweet one of your posts, you've now reached 10,000 potential readers.
4.) Hashtags - I think hashtags are the #1 thing that confuses the hell out of most of us. It did me too, at first. Hashtags are just a way of categorizing your tweets. If you look at the very top of the Twitter page, there's a space that says Search. This is a built in search engine for all of Twitter. It's amazing. Let's look at the hashtags I used for my tweet above.
#RT #kindle #nook #sony #comedy #mystery #romance #ipad
Any time someone types one of these words into the search engine, my tweet is going to pop up on the page. I've heard writers complain before that they never use hashtags or promote their books on Twitter because it doesn't do any good, and that they ignore all the promo they get from other authors. This is probably true. I mostly skim over all the promo stuff too as I'm Retweeting because…I'm an author. I'm on Twitter to be a writer, not to search for books as a reader. There are thousands and thousands of readers on Twitter. They care what you have to say. Mystery fans search for new mysteries to read. Romance readers search for new romances. And anyone with a #nook or a #kindle or an #ipad will go straight to that search engine and read all the tweets that have those hashtags in them, looking for new things to read on their device. Hashtags are crucial. So with one Tweet, I reached my initial 1,355 followers. I then reached 10,000 followers because 10 of my author friends retweeted my post to their followers. And now my reader potential has improved tens of thousands more because I've used hashtags. You see why Twitter is important?
4.) Build Relationships - Once you have followers you can't ignore them. You must respond to your readers. There will be some days where I might have a hundred comments on something I tweeted, but I take the time to post an individual response to everyone. It's important to build relationships with your readers. They're going to be the ones telling their friends and mothers and sisters about your books.
5.) Facebook - I have a little over a thousand "friends" on Facebook. Some of them are the same as the followers as I have on Twitter. Most of them are not. Twitter and Facebook can be set up with HootSuite on your smartphone so that your Tweets automatically go to Facebook, but I don't do this. I like to take advantage of the fact that I can post things more than 140 characters at Facebook. And Facebook is a much better place for socially interacting with your readers and building a relationship so they do buy your books when you promote there. On the days that I post something on Facebook like, "Who's your favorite hero? Nick or Jack?" or "Which MacKenzie Brother is your favorite?" I always get tons of responses to questions like this. They're about my books, so I know they've read them if they answer. But when I put up promotional material about my books on Facebook, I can hear crickets chirping. But they're getting the information. I put up a notice today about my romantic suspense, CATCH ME IF YOU CAN, and I had about a dozen sales during the afternoon. That's a good number for that particular book. And the same thing applies to Facebook as with Twitter—respond to every comment you get and say thank you to everyone who friends you. They're readers, and you want them to stay readers for a long time. Friend me here at Facebook.
I hope this helps you get started with marketing your own books. I've got a workshop put together that I'm going to be doing at various conferences that includes this information, as well as incorporating your blogs and paid advertisements into social media, so if you'd like me to speak at a chapter event or conference I'm available.
Feel free to ask any questions in the comment section below.
September 5, 2011
Probably one of the most frequent questions I get from other writers is, "How do you get it all done?" I added it up the other day, and I've written almost 400,000 words this year. I love to write and I write fast, so that isn't the big chin scratcher for most people. The big WTH moment comes when I tell them I have four children under the age of 9 (and a husband).
I'm not an expert on time management by any stretch of the imagination. But I do know that to be a writer—a successful writer who is constantly coming out with new material—you have to be focused, driven and yes…organized. In short, as Nora Roberts loves to say, "You have to put your butt in the chair and write."
If you want to be a writer, you're going to write. Period. I can't tell you the number of times I've heard someone say, "I really want to write a book, but I just don't have the time." I promise, If I have the time, you have the time. Remember, butt in chair.
When I first started writing I only had two small children at home (ages 1 and 2) and I was working full-time teaching high school band. For those of you who don't know what teaching high school band is like, it's the equivalent of, and sometimes more, hours than a coach spends at school. I really wanted to be a writer. So I was working 80 hour weeks on average, getting home from rehearsals, football games or contests sometimes at midnight or one in the morning, then waking back up at 5:30 to be back at school by 6:30. When I was home, I wanted to spend time with my children so they had at least a small inkling of who I was. I seriously hated those days. They sucked. But I was writing 3 books a year.
So…where did I find time to write?
My laptop and a flash drive traveled everywhere with me in those days. I woke up early to write 30 minutes before I had to leave for school. I wrote during my conference period, and ate lunch at my desk to write an extra 30 minutes. I wrote during the five minutes between passing periods. And I wrote on the bus to games and again when I got home and my eyeballs were falling out from sleep deprivation.
I wrote. Because I loved to write. It's really that simple, guys. If you want to write, you'll write. Every day.
A couple of years after I started the writing journey, my husband and I talked it over, and he agreed I could quit teaching to write full time (this was a true sacrifice on his part as our income was cut in half). So I stayed at home with my girls, both of which now recognized me as their mother, and wrote. And somewhere along the way in the next two years, two little boys were added to our family (I'm still trying to figure out how that happened, but I'm pretty sure it had to do with me being at home all the time:-)
The kids got older and we added ballet, softball, soccer, piano, school programs, recitals, PTA, room mother and anything else you can think of to the list. Life got busy, and it's still busy, but I didn't stop writing.
I would never sacrifice the time I spend with my family, but writing often calls for sacrifices to be made. There's a difference between these two distinctions, and it was something my family had to adjust to as much as I did. I've got two kids in school now, but I've still got two at home. The kids know that when mommy is writing, she's not to be disturbed. That's the rule. My husband helps out with this a lot, but even when he's not home, the kids know not to interrupt me unless someone is throwing up or bleeding.
I'll break for lunch and eat with them, we'll have an afternoon story and then they usually go down for a nap for a couple of hours. This is the time I really try to use wisely, because I like to be done with my writing goals for the day by the time they wake up. Which means I have to get off Twitter, Facebook, IM and the Kindleboards, all of which are like crack to me. If I don't finish my goal, then I know I'm in for a long night.
Late afternoon and evenings are family time. That's when we go to various practices and cram in dinner together. And then there is blessed peace in the house because everyone is asleep by 9:00. I've got to admit that I HATE when I don't have my word goals done in the afternoon, because I like to be asleep by 9:00 too. I'm an early riser because I have to fit exercise in my schedule somewhere or my behind would be the size of a barn from sitting all day.
I also make sure I attend my monthly writers meetings, participate in group discussions on various author loops, network, and keep up a relationship with my readers. All of these things are essential and part of the business of being a writer. My next blog is going to be on Twitter for Dummies (And Writers), so I'll expound upon this more then.
This blog basically boils down to one thing. Everyone has crazy lives. Relatives get sick, there are car accidents, loved ones die, you have a baby, or your daughter gets married or…the list is endless. There are always excuses not to write for those who are looking for them. But the question we need to ask is if our need to write is stronger than our excuses.
July 31, 2011
I'm celebrating the release of DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS this week, so in honor of this milestone in my career (my twelfth novel), I'm going to talk about something really momentous—something stupendously exciting—something orgasmically cataclysmic.
The real reason I decided to make this a topic of discussion is because of some of the emails I've received from readers recently. The gist of the questions I get goes something like this: "Why do your novellas always have way more sex than your full-length novels?"
There are actually a couple of different answers to this question. As an author, I love sex. I like how it deepens the relationship between my hero and heroine. I like that I have to really use my brain and think of creative ways for my characters to have sex, because let's face it, there's only so many positions and sexual aids you can use before things start to get weird. And I especially like that sex almost always leads to conflict, which is what books are all about, right?
So my answer to all the sex questions (my readers have filthy minds, I think) is this: It just depends on which of my novels you're reading. You can always count on my novellas being erotic romances. Always. But I write several different genres in my full-length books, so the heat level changes.
If you're looking for sex with a capital S, then PARADISE DISGUISED will be right up your alley. There isn't much left to the imagination in this book. If you're looking for steamy sex, but not the kind you'd be embarrassed to read in front of your significant other, then you might check out CATCH ME IF YOU CAN or ALL ABOUT EVE. (I've actually had people tell me before that they've read my sex scenes aloud to their partner. This weirds me out a little, so maybe don't mention it in your fan emails).
WHISKEY REBELLION has a hell of a lot of foreplay in it, but no sex. Not yet. This is a long series, and the relationship between Nick and Addison is key to the integrity of the story. Be patient. I don't want to ruin the story by getting to the good stuff too soon. But for those of you wondering, they do get the deed done in WHISKEY SOUR (book 2). But like I said earlier, sex leads to conflict, so they might not make it there again in WHISKEY FOR BREAKFAST (book 3). You'll just have to wait and seeJ
DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS is a whole new ball of wax…err…or a ball of something much more sexy. The relationship between my heroine and hero, J.J. and Jack, is still the most important thing in the story. But they're friends first, which means that their love relationship is a slow moving process. They've known each other since they were children, and they both have troubled pasts. Jack is a very Alpha character, and he loves women in general, so we're seeing him play the field in this first book. And J.J. is in her own quasi-relationship when Brody comes to town.Don't get me wrong, there's lots of sex, just not with each other. But the sex that is in this book is super HOT! I put it in just for you guys. Remember to add me to your Christmas card list.
So anyway…as long as I have a story to tell, I promise to keep thinking up those different sexual positions and substitutes for chocolate syrup. I hope you enjoy DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS. It was a blast to write, and J.J. and Jack are very close to my heart. I can't wait to continue their story, and see where they end up. (And no, I don't know how their story ends yet. Stop pressuring me).
July 19, 2011
As of this blog post, I've been self-published for exactly fifty days. We'll get back to what this means a little later, because I want you to see the journey before the results (unless you're one of those people who reads the back of the book first. You guys should just skip to the bottom).
I'm all about being open and honest about my career, because I wouldn't be where I am if it weren't for other authors who did this for me. Hopefully, my story will encourage those of you who've had a similiar journey. Now don't get too excited, my career isn't cause for fireworks and explosions. Not yet. But I have hope that it will get there if I stay the course and keep writing books. This business is about consistency and perseverance. And writing books your fans will love.
I wrote my first book during Spring Break of 2005. I'd started books a million times before (this number is a slight exageration meant for impact), only to stop halfway through and toss it in the trash. I'm talking a lot of books here. I'd been trying to write a book since my freshman year of college, but I NEVER FINISHED. This is key. The finishing.
I was still teaching in 2005, and I'd declared Spring Break to be just for me. I was going to sit down and write. I didn't want to go out with friends. I didn't want to take a trip. Quite frankly, I didn't even want to have a conversation. I wanted to write. So I did.
By June of that same year, my book was finished. It was a 120,000-word thriller about a virgin assassin who'd been raised by the CIA to kill. This was actually a very high concept book (I won't tell you the high concept part right now because I'm actually rewriting it to publish). But as several agents and publishing houses said at the time, the concept was higher than the execution. I needed to hone my craft. But the rejections I got from this book didn't discourage me, they only pushed me to keep writing. And to write better.
So I did a little research and decided to join RWA. I'm very fortunate that my local chapter is full of successful published authors who took me under their wings. After workshops and conferences and reading more books than I can count on craft, I started writing another novel. Now, every author's journey is different. I know there are people out there who are lucky to get one book finished in a year. Some even longer. I'm (fortunately) not one of those people. I write very fast. I write an average of 20,000-25,000 words a week. That's a book every four weeks, or a novella every week. I do take a week off between starting new projects so my eyeballs don't fall out, but I'm pretty much writing all the time.
My writing improved tremendously. And I also discovered something else that's really important during these soul-searching times of one's career. I discovered my voice. You might think that an author should know their voice going in, but it's actually more difficult than it seems. I'll do another blog post about voice someday. Anyway, my voice discovery landed me my first agent (the book was WHISKEY REBELLION, and I still LOVE it). I just shrugged philosophically when the agent was unable to sell it. I knew everyone got rejected. So I just kept writing, hoping that someday, someone somewhere would get to read it.
My agent's husband got cancer, so she closed her agency (her husband is in remission now and doing well). But I was left without an agent and a whole pile of books I had to decide what to do with. So I started the querying process all over again. I was actually offered representation by three different agents for a book I'm going to release myself on August 1st (DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS). I talked with all three agents and finally decided on one at one of the larger agencies (as in one of the top four agencies in the country). We really clicked on the phone and she was super enthusiastic about my book. I was sure I was on the right track.
This was in the fall of 2008. I don't know if you guys remember what happened about that time, but I sure as hell do. The economy went kerplunk--like a big lead ball. Which meant the publishing industry kerplunked with it. My agent tried really hard to sell that book. All the publishers she sent it to loved it. BUT…they didn't know how to market it. It was a little bit mystery, a little suspense, a little romance etc. So we moved on to the next book. My romantic suspense (CATCH ME IF YOU CAN) was actually loved by one of the editors it was sent to, but it was shot down higher up the ladder. This happened to me TWICE. I was discouraged, I was heartbroken, but I kept writing.
And then my agent told me she was pregnant and would be taking extended maternity leave. She'd also decided that she wanted to represent young adult and middle grade (neither of which I wrote). This happens in the business. I understood it. But it was still crushing, especially coming so soon after so many close calls. So I wished my agent well and spent a couple of weeks drinking wine and eating a lot of Jack in the Box. I gained about twenty pounds during this time. What can I say; I'm a comfort eater.
Timeline-wise, we're now in September of 2010. I'd just finished writing a very dark urban fantasy. I'm not sure I would have finished it if I'd gotten the news about my agent two weeks earlier. The book was good. I knew in my heart it was good, but all I heard all around me was that the book business was tanking. Publishers weren't buying anything but a sure bet (whatever that means). There are no sure bets, as far as I've ever heard, in the publishing industry. I had a choice to make. I could start querying another agent, or I could quit. It was a damned hard decision. I was ready to throw everything I'd worked for the last five years down the drain and go back to teaching school.
It was my husband who changed my mind. I've been blessed to be married to someone who's always completely supported my decisions and dreams. He worked two jobs so I could quit teaching and stay at home to write because he believed I would sell. When I told him I wanted to quit, he just gave me a dirty look and told me to get back to the computer and start writing. Later that same day, I got a phone call telling me the urban fantasy manuscript I'd written was not just the 1st place winner of my category, but also the overall winner of the entire contest. The editor and the agent who judged it asked for a full.
So I got on my computer and started writing a query letter. I'd been around the block of agents by this time. I knew what I wanted, and I wasn't going to settle for anything less than the best just so I could say I had an agent. I sent out twelve queries. I got full requests from eleven of the agents I queried within days of sending them. But I wasn't too optimistic. I'd been here before. I didn't hear a word from anyone until the first week of December.
I got an email pretty late in the evening from my absolute #1 dream agent. She said, "I'm sorry it's taken me so long to get back to you. Please tell me you haven't signed with another agent." I read the email probably ten times. This was an email from a woman who only has a small load of clients compared to most agents, but more than 20 of her authors are NYT bestsellers. She's at the top literary agency in the country. I was staggered and humbled to even get an email from her. Needless to say, we talked and I signed with her that day.
We did massive revisions on the book. She wasn't going to send it out until it was the best it could possibly be because of the way the market is right now. I finally finished all the revisions and turned it back into her in June of this year. She's very excited about the book, but she decided it would be better to wait until September to try and sell it because of a few different factors--1.) Most of NY publishers are gone a good part of the summer because of various conferences and vacations 2.) The feel she got from editors at the RWA conference and Thrillerfest were not positive. Everyone is down about the book market right now. So I agreed with her wisdom and the book will go out in September to traditional publishing houses.
But through the months of revisions and of working on other books, I made friends with several of her clients and started listening to what was happening in the author world. I also started listening to what was going on with published friends who were having a hell of a hard time getting new contracts. It's because I started listening that I discovered the self-publishing route. Several of my agent's best-selling clients are going the self-pub route on their backlists and project that didn't sell. And my agent supports that, which is awesome.
So on May 31st of this year I started formatting my books and designing covers. And then I uploaded those books--books that were so close, but never sold--to Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, and ARe. There was nothing else I could do with those books. They'd been shopped. They'd been rejected. But they weren't bad books. They just weren't what NY was looking for. Now they had a place, and if even one person might enjoy them, then at least they weren't just taking up space on my computer.
I was published. Finally.
Since then I've loaded four more novellas (THE MACKENZIE BROTHERS), and I'll have another release August 1st (DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS), and I'll have 3 Christmas novellas in an omnibus out in November. In the fifty days I've been selling books (as of 1:50 today) I've sold a little less than 1500 books. I know there are people who've sold more. I know there are some who have sold less. But selling that many in such a short amount of time exceeded my wildest expectations. Am I making a great amount of money? No. Just a little over $1000 so far. But people are reading my books. Which is all I ever wanted to begin with.
I'm still excited about the book my agent will be shopping in September. Because I know if it doesn't sell then all hope isn't lost. It will have a place in the indie world and I'll get to share it with anyone who wants to read it.
I decided from the moment I started this pothole-filled journey that writing would be my career. Not could be. But would be. I write diligently every day. I take it very seriously, even though I'm just starting to establish myself with a small group of readers. I've made my own deadlines and a publishing schedule all the way through 2012. Between now and then I'll have four more full-length novels and ten more novellas.
It's my hope that as the journey continues, the potholes will eventually be spackled and patched--not completely smooth, because the good journeys are never without risk--but maybe it wouldn't be so bad if the road straightened a little.
July 5, 2011
I spent a lot of time in Dreamland growing up. I blame it mostly on being an only child. But being the only child of two older parents, who were much too tired to deal with someone as high maintenance as me, gave me a marvelous opportunity to frequently use my imagination. My mother probably sees the whole "imagination" thing in an entirely different light. She often found me cutting away at my rag dolls and stapling the jagged tears closed again while pretending to be a surgeon. She also discovered me mixing chemicals in a 5 gallon bucket in the backyard and tossing matches into it (I was trying to see if the bucket would explode). And she frequently found me on the roof of our house, a sheet tied around my neck, contemplating the pros and cons of being a superhero when I grew up. I figured the plus side of being a superhero was people would probably give me free ice cream if I showed up on their doorstep. The downside was I had to wear my underwear on the outside of my clothes, though I did like the idea of the cape.
Needless to say, my mother was ecstatic when I started school. I'm pretty sure the tears she shed my first day of kindergarten were not ones of sadness. Imagine having to deal with 25 kids with imaginations like mine instead of just one. I think that's part of the reason I personally decided to teach high school aged kids instead of elementary. At some point between the age of twelve through puberty, some of that imagination leaks out of their brains to make room for all the hormones, and they're not so difficult to deal with anymore.
I taught public school for five years. I didn't always want to be a teacher. It wasn't a lifelong passion, and I didn't have any specific desire to change the world. My mom and I used to have conversations on what I wanted to be when I grew up. They went something like this.
"You need to make sure you keep your grades up and your nose clean so you can get into a good college," my mother frequently said. She was a genuine Southern Belle, and her accent was thick with the sounds of Georgia. "You could be a teacher. Just think how nice it will be to always have the summers off."
I understood the need to get good grades, but to a ten-year-old I had no idea what keeping my nose clean had to do with college (I hadn't learned what a metaphor was yet). I did later learn, around my senior year of high school, that the reason I was supposed to get good grades wasn't so I could get accepted into an ivy league school and set the world on fire, but so I could get accepted to an ivy league school and catch a rich husband after a couple of semesters.
Anyhoodle…my response to her was always the same.
"Mom," I'd say, rolling my eyes as only a ten-year-old could. "I don't want to be a teacher. I want to be a racecar driver. Or maybe a cop. I'd like to wear high heels and a gun like that woman on Hunter. And I've always wanted to have one of those flashing lights to stick on top of the car."
"Well, that's all fine and good," Mom said, "but what if you got shot? Good men don't pursue women who are riddled with bullet holes." (This is the point where you might be getting a better understanding of my mother. And if you've read my ADDISON HOLMES MYSTERY SERIES, you can see where I got some of my inspiration for Addison's mom).
My response to this frequent conversation never varied much over the years, other than the list of professions I wanted to experience--rock star, lawyer, mad scientist, president, secret agent… You get the picture. Experience is the key word in this paragraph. I wanted to experience everything.
But then I had a life changing conversation with my father the beginning of my sophomore year of college. It went something like this.
"Young lady," he said, his voice dry with age and a tiny hint of the Yankee accent peaking through (the South hadn't been able to beat it all out of him). "I'm paying tuition at a private university. Private universities are not where one goes to find one's self. Why are you taking pottery? And do they really need to teach a class on bowling? There are lanes just up the road."
He'd look at my transcript and shake his head, and then he'd expound on my poor choices for another twenty minutes while I daydreamed about how cool it would be to have wings and a curvy body like Tinkerbell. But there was something he said that managed to sneak through the fog of my brain.
"You need to pick a major, because in another three years, I'm going to be sitting in the audience of graduation whether you're there or not. My advice is that you be there."
So I had a talk with my advisor and decided I could be at that same graduation my father would be attending if I majored in education. So…there you have it. I decided to be a teacher instead of a high-heeled wearing cop with an attachable siren. (I know you feel I've let you down. It kind of bummed me out too).
This blog post does have a point. All this is just a roundabout way of talking about the job of the teacher. Any teacher. I've had amazing teachers in the classroom setting, but I've also had great teachers in my writing career who took the time to bring me under their wing and help me along with my writing. Being a teacher is a damned hard job. And in my opinion, it's one of the most thankless jobs out there. And while I've been fortunate enough to be able to quit teaching to take up writing full time, I remember what it was like to work twelve hours a day (my schedule never started or ended the same time as my students). I remember what it was like to work weekends. To have kids call at night because they had questions. And to have my "free time" summer taken up with kids who wanted extra help. When you add up all the hours, teachers make about .05 cents an hour. But they keep doing it anyway.
I can honestly say teaching was the longest five years of my life. But it was also five of the most rewarding years. Not only did I grow as a person, but I also grew an uncomfortable amount of gray hair (not kidding). It was like magic…pfft…overnight.
I have an enormous amount of respect for teachers, and I watch with heartbreak as states talk about budget cuts and the first thing to go is education funding and teachers' salaries. I won't get on my soapbox about this because my box is pretty big.
I guess you can understand why writing has fit into my life better than teaching, but since I started writing I've found I enjoy being the student once again. My love of reading was instilled in me by my third grade teacher. My senior English teacher is the one who told me I should be a writer. I learn every time I open a Jennifer Crusie novel because she is brilliant at writing dialogue. I learn the importance of good storytelling every time I read Diana Gabaldon. I learn the art of the thrill from Lee Child and how to write detail from Terry Goodkind. These people are teachers in their own right. I learn every time I go to a Margie Lawson or Bob Mayer workshop (If you're a writer and you've never been to see either of these gifted teachers, GO. NOW).
So to all those teachers out there who are nurturing the students who throw matches into chemicals and do open heart surgery on inanimate objects: I salute you. Keep doing what you're doing as the new school year unfolds. Keep molding and inspring and being second (and sometimes only) parents. Keep encouraging and instilling a sense of value in each life you have the pleasure to influence. You don't hear it often enough, but you're important to this society. You've made us what we are and what future generations will be. The future is going to be difficult for education in the future, but don't lose hope. Because hope is what you give to the rest of us.
If you're a teacher, I'd love for you to post a comment below with your name and what you teach. Let us thank you.
Amazon: http I'm excited to announce that all four novellas in The MacKenzie Brothers series released today. I've already been asked the reading order several times, so here it is!
Barnes and Noble: http://tinyurl.com/65d3nbc
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