Blog Archives

Becoming a writer: Why I write romantic suspense

Circled list item“In 7th grade I wrote a novel. It was horrible, but I’ve always wanted to try again.” That’s a line from a note I created in my early days on Facebook called “25 Random Things About Me.”

Thank goodness I quit “wanting” and tried again!

I’m not sure when I first realized I liked to write, but it happened somewhere between a disastrous report on the parts of the eye in 6th grade and my pre-teen attempt at a novel (a super-short story, actually).

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Text from my first “novel.”

That first manuscript included an orphaned heroine, a cross-country adventure while eluding the police, and a crush on a bad boy who helped her out of trouble.

How it took me so long to figure out that I should write romantic suspense, I’ll never understand.

Maybe it’s because I never considered writing as a career. Other people made a living at it, not people like me. Success as a writer seemed as likely to happen as that singing career I’d once envisioned. The idea of making a living writing is still daunting—and as yet unrealized—but here I am plugging away at the keyboard most days, ever hopeful, because it’s the best job I’ve ever had.

For years, I dabbled in poetry, wrote a slew of technical documentation, and emailed random flashes of story ideas home for safekeeping. When I finally quit working for someone else back in 2008 (wow, time flies!), I knew I needed something to keep my brain engaged and challenged. Something that could satisfy my insatiable desire to learn, my unending curiosity, my hunger for a behind-the-scenes look at professions and scenarios I’ll never (I hope) experience firsthand.

Like reading, but better. It was time to seriously pursue writing.

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Some of the many authors who’ve inspired me.

Fiction was my dream, but I didn’t have any big ideas. Not the kind I thought I wanted to take on. I’d spent most of my adult life reading mysteries, thrillers, and historical adventures. I couldn’t imagine where authors like Sue Grafton, David Baldacci, Ken Follett, Michael Crichton, Robert Ludlum, Tom Clancy, Joseph Finder, and Khaled Hosseini got their ideas. Talk about intimidating.

It wasn’t until I picked up a couple of old historical romance novels from the “Free” box at the library that I realized there was a genre for the stories in my head. It was an epiphanic (yes, that’s a word), slap-your-head sort of moment. I knew historical wasn’t for me (love to read it, can’t write it), but when I found romantic suspense authors like Suzanne Brockmann, Christina Dodd, JoAnn Ross, Laura Griffin, Roxanne St. Claire, and so many others, I found my home.

I started writing immediately, and haven’t stopped since. Releasing my own romantic suspense (Blind Fury) earlier this year was the culmination of a five-year effort/dream that really goes all the way back to junior high.

What if I hadn’t picked up those free books? Would I have come to romance another way eventually? I hope so. It’s likely. But who knows how much longer it would have taken?

I’m just grateful for the ways of the universe, and happy to have found my niche.

Is there anything you’ve always wanted to try (or try again)? What’s holding you back?

Letter to a CP: Sometimes the Best Comes Out Last {Again}

Since next week is the Rita/Golden Heart announcement day, my K&T sisters have asked me to repost this letter I “wrote” last week to my CP (critique partner). I hope that all who are waiting for a call, especially those who don’t get one, find some comfort in these words. They come from a writer’s heart.

“Monkey buttshine!” my son screams at his sister.

“Rat hag!” she yells back.

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I drop the laundry basket and head downstairs.

They know the m-b word is not allowed. To be honest, I’m not exactly sure what a monkey butthshine is, but to my twins, it’s the worst thing they can call each other. In their odd twin language, rat hag is the second-worst. So the one who starts the fight, the one who says “monkey buttshine” first, always wins.

“Take it back!” As usual, they speak at the same time, in the same false tone, with the same heavy breathing. Faced off like two cage fighters, they circle each other.

My daughter has on the ugly face, my son’s fists are clenched.

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And my mother’s heart breaks. “Why do you speak to each other like that?”

They both turn and look at me, two pairs of blue eyes wide, as if noticing me for the first time.

My son answers first. “Because she tricked me. She’s always tricking me.”

“Am not!” my daughter replies.

“Are too! It’s why you’re the oldest,” he pauses for affect. “Monkey buttshine!”

Good grief. Not this again. “Your sister was born first because she was lowest. There was no grand conspiracy to make you younger.”

“By eleven minutes,” my daughter adds with a wonderful teenage sneer. “But mom said it felt like eleven hours!”

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Did I mention my twins are thirteen?

“Go finish your chores.” I pick up the laundry basket with a heavy sigh (I can add drama to any situation as well). “And I don’t want to hear those words again.”

“Why not?” my son asks as I leave the room. “I’ve heard you say worse things to yourself.”

Without responding, I stumble up the steps and make it to my bedroom. My heart races and everything blurs.

I’ve heard you say worse things to yourself.

Those words cut me as surely as if I’d taken the sharpest knife to the softest skin on my forearm. Not only because I’m horrified that they’ve heard me, but because they’ve spoken the truth.

I drop the basket in front of the window, the morning light highlighting the folded white laundry, and I see all the variations in the white cotton, where the bleach never penetrated. Perfection is a self-defeating behavior, but self-destruction by words is far worse. Especially when one is a writer with an entire arsenal of rhetorical devises armed and ready.

I am, and always have been, harsher on myself than anyone else. Usually I keep the brutal self-talk inside, but I have a tendency to mutter when I’m upset. I just figured no one else was listening. But, apparently, I was wrong.

As I reach down to start putting away the yellowed whites, my cell phone vibrates. A text from one of my CPs.

21 days until GH/Rita  finals announcedI don’t think I have a chance of finaling. I feel like puking.

I take a deep breath. Those words carry so much emotion, and I remember her disappointment when she didn’t final last year. I remember her smiling on Facebook and cheering on her fellow writers with the grace and humor she’s known for. I also remember the horrible things she and many of my published/yet-to-be published friends confided to me about themselves and their own manuscripts while others celebrated online. And I don’t know how to respond.

Yes, I’ve finaled in the Golden Heart three times over the last three years but I’ve also not finaled five times. I know the disappointment and can still taste the tears, but I hesitate to type back. How can I encourage her when I treat myself with the same kind of contempt? With a kind of harshness I wouldn’t shower on my worst enemy?

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As I put away laundry and struggle with what to say to my CP, I hear the kids downstairs negotiating whose turn it is for dog doo-doo duty. In the midst of back-and-forth promises and threats, my son says, “I’m sorry I called you a monkey buttshine. You’re prettier than a monkey’s butt.”

“I know.” My daughter quickly responds, “And I didn’t come out first on purpose. I was at the right place at the right time. But sometimes the best comes out last.”

My heart skips. Sometimes the best comes out last.

“At least we have each other,” my son says. “Can you imagine how hard this would all be if we had to do everything alone?”

And, again, I’ve learned from my children. My twins were born with a confidence I’ve always envied. Everything they’ve ever faced from speech therapy, entering middle school, to getting braces, they’ve had a sibling. A friend. A partner.

I stand by the bedroom window and watch them outside. In yellow puddle boots and arms wrapped in plastic newspaper bags, they work together to clean the yard while the dog chases them. And I smile. They’ve shared everything. Haircuts at the scary cartoon place. Death of the beloved hamster. Whispers in the dark. Birthdays. They may argue, but they don’t fear because they are never truly alone.

Suicide by words is just plain old fear wrapped in vivid imagery and clever metaphors. 

And isn’t it my job as a CP, as a friend, as a colleague, to stamp out this fear in both myself and those I love? It’s my privilege to encourage in the face of trials and disappointments. To celebrate in times of joy. To sit by quietly, just holding her hand, as she struggles. And even though I’ve failed myself doesn’t mean I can’t do better, can’t try again. Maybe by helping her, by not letting her face her fears alone, I can help myself.

I reach for the phone, but I don’t text. Instead, I compose an email for her and all the other brave writers who entered RWA’s Golden Heart/Rita contest this year.

“Dear Friend, Let me take your hand,

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and whisper softly,oatlands-030

Regardless of what happens on March 25 or in two months or next year, I will not let you listen to the words of the serpent.

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Regardless if that editor reading your newest manuscript offers you a contract or rejects you, I will not let you hide.

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Regardless of the path your publishing career takes, you are still a writer. Your words (and drawings) still matter.

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Your words aren’t meant to draw blood. Your words are meant to change peoples’ hearts. And isn’t that the most important thing? Isn’t that why you became a writer?”

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Whether or not the phone rings on March 25, please remember these words for they come from my heart. Sometimes the best things come out last.

And the best is always worth waiting for. Just ask the teenagers. They know everything.

P.S. You are not a monkey buttshine (whatever that is) 

Have you ever suffered from your own internal words? Words you’d never say to anyone else? How do you rise above the negative self-talk? I’d love to know I’m not alone.

The winner of any one book from Christy Reece’s LCR series is Chris Bails. Congratulations, Chris! Contact us within the next 10 days to collect your prize.

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And next Tuesday, March 26th we are thrilled to host DARYNDA JONES. She’s blogging, answering questions and holding a SNARKY T-SHIRT SAYING CONTEST. Stop by and give us your best! Darynda will pick the winner on Thursday 3/28, the winner gets a Darynda Jones book of choice.

Cherry Adair in Person!

Who doesn’t love Cherry Adair books?  She’s an incredible writer, the prolific author of over 32 bestselling, suspenseful action adventures.  In print interviews, she’s fun — but in person?  Well, this firecracker is hysterically funny, will keep you on your toes, and is absolutely not to be  missed.

Cherry sat down with me a few months ago to tell me a little about her books, her life, and how she got both her wonderful Montana accent and a life coach named Murgatroyd.  Remember to leave a comment below to be entered to win a copy of Ice Cold!

Hope you enjoy her as much as I do!

So, today’s question is do you have a secret person, real or imaginary who gives you that boost — or should I say kick you know where — when you need one?

  Thanks Cherry for stopping by!  Don’t forget everyone, to leave a comment below. One lucky commenter will win a digital copy of Cherry’s newest, hottest release in the T-FLAC series, Ice Cold! (See the trailer Here.)  So make sure you’re entered by commenting!  Cherry will be stopping by today and tomorrow to answer questions, too!

Author’s Eye View: Diana Cosby Talks Marketing Your Passion

Manda here, and today I’d like to introduce you to a friend of mine. Diana Cosby and I first met because she and I are represented by the same agent, but what what I soon learned about her was that she’s not only a fab author of super sexy medieval romantic suspense, but she’s also pretty savvy when it comes to getting the word out about her books. Today she’s gives us some tips on setting marketing goals, and using your passions to sell your work.

A retired Navy Chief, Diana Cosby is an international bestselling author of Scottish medieval romantic suspense. Her award-winning books are available in five languages. Diana has appeared at Lady Jane’s Salon, in NYC, and in Woman’s Day, on USA Today’s romance blog, “Happily Ever After,” MSN.com, and in Texoma Living Magazine.

After retiring as a Navy Chief, AGC(AW), Diana dove into her passion – writing romance novels. She is currently working on the sixth book in the award-winning MacGruder brother’s series, and in August released her story in the anthology, “Born To Bite,” with Hannah Howell and Erica Ridley.

Without further ado, here’s Diana!

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Once a suspense author sells their book, they’re faced with the new challenge of marketing their work. To me, it’s imperative that the author defines their goals. What exactly are they trying to achieve? Is it a sales number? Do they want to reach a certain best-seller list? With a clear goal in mind, it’s time to push forward, break down the steps in your marketing strategy.

I prefer to do something I call, “Marketing Your Passion.” Simply, this is doing what makes business sense and what is fun. Let’s be clear, marketing is HARD WORK! There are no short cuts, but well laid out plans for maximum effect. As marketing is hard work, why do something you dislike? It will show in your actions and could come across to the reader as insincere.

One normally believes as we’re suspense authors our promotion should center around our books. I personally disagree. I believe that our readers like to learn who we are, and enjoy the connection of having common interests. You do this by sharing your passions. Write articles, volunteer, or give workshops about what intrigues you. Your biography will give readers follow-on information to read more about you.

How do you find venues to submit articles? Look for blog owners seeking authors to appear on their site. Write an article for a local newspaper. Submit an article to a magazine you enjoy. A personal favorite of mine is Reporter Connection . com: http://www.reporterconnection.com/

Each weekday, a message will appear with a reporter or others seeking people to interview about different topics. If a topic is of something that you’re interested in and have knowledge about, you can choose to respond. If your query is accepted, in addition to an interview, quotes or whatever the person is seeking help on, credit will be given to you in the form of your name and a possibly a link to your website in the article.

So, the next time you’re drafting a marketing plan, define your goals as a suspense author, then choose areas in your life where you have fun. In the end you’ll meet amazing people who share your passion. Take care and I wish you every success!

Manda:

Now its time for you guys to weigh in. As a reader, do you like learning what your favorite authors are passionate about besides books? Can you think of any particular examples of authors whose passion for a certain pastime has changed your mind about them? Or maybe turned you on to their books? One commenter will win her choice from Diana’s backlist.

How my passion for writing led to another kind of book deal

Unexpected things sometimes happen when you follow your passion.

It wasn’t my passion for writing romance that brought unanticipated good fortune. It was my passion for my writing software, Scrivener.

Yes, I’m the kind of girl who goes gaga for apps and gadgets, and I have a long history of writing how-to manuals to teach others how to do my job. So, through a series of blog posts, and later my online classes, I accidentally and somewhat unintentionally established myself as a Scrivener expert.

Word got around, and when the publisher of the For Dummies line of books went looking for someone to write Scrivener For Dummies, the Twitterverse served up several names, including mine (thank you!). During our initial call, when the acquisitions editor at Wiley asked if I’d like to submit a proposal I bit back a girly squeal and calmly said something like, “Yes.”

Apparently they liked it—and possibly also my platform of former students and current blog followers—and I got the job.

Found it!

Last week, my book finally hit store shelves. No, it’s not what I expected to create when I started writing more than three years ago. I thought my first published book credit would be an emotional, exciting romantic suspense with a blurb from my favorite author and a hot guy on the cover (hey, if you’re gonna dream, go big).

Instead I have the pointy-chinned Dummies Man on the spine. Not exactly an alpha male, but he has his own appeal.

Scrivener For Dummies may not be a romance, but my love for my subject is still on the pages. My voice is still there in every paragraph. And my heart still does flips when I spot the black and yellow cover on the shelf at Barnes & Noble.

I followed my passion and something unexpected happened. It’s not the path I expected to take—and I haven’t given up on my dream of publishing romantic suspense—but I’m certainly not complaining about the detour.

Has your passion for something ever taken you in an unexpected, but positive, direction?

Winners from Brenda Novak and Breast Cancer Posts!

Congratulations to Cris (from August 22nd 6:25AM post), you’ve won the THREE WEDDINGS AND A MURDER and FIRST DO NO EVIL giveaways in our fight against breast cancer!

Congratulations to Kitty Katz Mom.  You’ve won a Brenda Novak tote with an autographed copy of WHEN LIGHTNING STRIKES inside!

Congratulations to C. K. Crouch. You’ve won the audio version of WHEN LIGHTNING STRIKES from Brenda Novak!



To claim your prize, please email us here with your preferred email (and snail mail if you are the winner of the tote). Snail mail winner must have a USA address. 

Brenda Novak Struck by Lightning

Brenda Novak was struck by lightning — but don’t worry she’s okay.  It’s the kind of lightning that wins Rita awards, not the kind that puts you in the hospital!  Her new book, When Lightning Strikes, is coming out in one week, August 28th.  To celebrate, she is here, via video interview, to tell us about it, how she researches her books, and her fantastic work raising money for diabetes.

Even better, two — yes that is right TWO — readers who comment below will win prizes.  The first prize is a Brenda Novak tote with an autographed copy of When Lightning Strikes inside, AND the second prize for another lucky reader is an audio version of the same brand new book!

So don’t be shy, let us know what you think, a great prize may be waiting just for you!

And on Thursday, August 23rd, not only will we be announcing the winners, but posting a fourth video in which Brenda tells us about some of her most embarrassing moments and whether she’s wearing anything under her skirt.  <G>

First up, Brenda tells us about her new book and what success means to her.

Brenda discusses her research method including a trip to a very scary prison cell

Diabetes Research is extremely important to Brenda.  Here, she talks about how she raised over 1.6 million dollars and the son who inspired her to do it. (Click here if you’d like to find out more, and  here if you’d like to make a donation.)

Please leave a comment below to join in the conversation and automatically enter the prize drawing.  Just click on the link that says “Leave a Comment” (below, next to the tags).   Stop by on Thursday to see if you’re one of our two lucky winners  and to find out just what Brenda is wearing under her skirt!  (Winners are chosen randomly and must live in the U.S.  Chances of winning depend upon numbers of entrants.)

See you there!  

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