Thursday, July 28, 2011

Self Publishing with Debra Holland

I’ve invited Debra Holland, self-published author of Wild Montana Sky (a Golden Heart winner) and Starry Montana Sky, sweet historical Western romances, to answer questions about her experience. To date, Debra has sold 9000 books in 12 weeks.
I have a friend who’s thinking about self-publishing, and I know she’s been going back and forth on the issue. Her main question is when should she stop trying to find the right agent and just do it?
            Self-publishing and finding an agent are not mutually exclusive. You can self-publish AND still keep trying to find an agent. You can self-publish and have an agent. I certainly do, and so do a lot of my self-published friends. Self-publishing has become another OPTION, giving you more choices.
            That means you can exclusively self-publish, or you can have a traditional publisher and self-publish. Or, you might self-publish your backlist, self-publish some new books (and/or short stories and novellas) and have a traditional publisher.
            From some people who attended RWA national, and someone who attended a writer’s conference in San Diego, I’ve heard reports that several agents have said sales of 5000 or more on a self-published single book is something that makes them notice that author. You’ve proven you can write a good book. You’ve shown you have a readership, and if you wrote a niche book, then you’ve shown that there’s a readership for your kind of stories.
            Although it’s not common, there are cases of a New York publisher buying a book that’s already been self-published. (It that happened, the author would no longer self-publish his or her version of the book.) More common is for editors to watch the Amazon lists and see what authors are doing well. They read those authors’ books and may offer them a contract on a new book or series of books.
            If you find an agent, he or she might want you to write books in the same genre as your self-published ones. Your new agent also might be interested in books that tie into your self-published books in some way. For example, my agent wants me to write a sweet contemporary Western set in my fictional town with the descents of my historical characters. She told me that sweet, contemporary, small town romance is popular in a way that sweet historical isn’t. (Or at least it isn’t according to New York publishers, but not according to my readers. J)
            However, I do have to issue a warning. Self-publishing is addicting. Once you start, you may not want to pursue traditional publishing. You may find you like having the control over your content, cover, and blurb. You may start compulsively checking your sales numbers. You may enjoy receiving a check or direct deposit every month (and watching it grow bigger.) You may find yourself moved to tears by a 5 star review or a fan email. And you may find you have more excitement and creativity about your writing career.
            As someone who’s been published all of 12 weeks, I can say that the only regret I have is that I didn’t do it months earlier. However, I was in the middle of a crazy deadline for my nonfiction book on grief and didn’t have the time to self-publish.
If you wait months before committing to self-publishing, that’s money you won’t be earning on those books. It might not be a lot of money; self-published books by unknown authors usually have slow growth. But you never know. You may hit a niche or have another stroke of luck that brings attention to your book that causes it to take off sooner.
Debra will be answering questions on self-publishing for the rest of the day.

Debra Holland, Ph.D

Debra Holland has a master’s degree in Marriage, Family, and Child Therapy and Ph.D in Counseling Psychology from the University of Southern California (USC), and is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. In her private practice, Dr. Debra counsels individuals and couples. She specializes in grief recovery, and communication and relationship issues.

Dr. Debra consults as a corporate crisis/grief counselor for businesses. She counsels employees who are upset or traumatized by the deaths of co-workers, accidents on site, robberies and other types of violence, and layoffs.

You can purchase Debra's books by clicking on the links below.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Critiquing and the Critique Partners with Kinley Baker

Critiquing and the Critique Partners with Kinley Baker
First off, tell us a little about yourself.
BIO: Kinley Baker read her first romance novel at the age of thirteen and immediately fell in love with the hero and the genre. She is the author of the Reign of Shadows trilogy. The first book, Ruined, will release soon from Crescent Moon Press. She lives with her husband and her dog, Joker, in the Pacific Northwest. As a firm supporter of all supernatural lifestyles, she writes fantasy romance, paranormal romance, and urban fantasy. You can find Kinley at
What are your thoughts on online critique groups’ verses meeting in person?
I’ve never had the luxury of meeting in person for a critique group. But I’ve had great experiences on-line the past few years. I think sometimes your ideal critique partner just isn’t in the same state or country. Finding the right fit is the most important part of any critique relationship.
What is your ideal critique group? How many is too many?
Right now, I have a critique group of four, and it’s a great fit. We send in chapters through a private yahoo loop when we need help. We all got busy at about the same time, so it’s definitely hectic managing contracts and trying to get submissions in, but the group is awesome and supportive. I don’t think you can ask for much more in a group, except perceptive editing, but my group is full of that, too!
How often do you feel it’s necessary to meet (e-mail) you’re critique partner(s)?
We generally send in two chapters at a time. Sometimes, someone is on deadline and can’t respond, but there are still two other people to read, so it works out well. I think it depends where you are in your writing journey. The critique partner I’ve had the longest, I’ve been working with for over a year, and when we first started working together, our critiques were returned slashed with red. Once we learned more about the craft, critiques weren’t quite as extensive and we didn’t need to e-mail as often.
What advice would you give someone just starting out in regards to critique groups and the critique concept?
Learn about craft. Find the right fit for a group. Form a tough skin but don’t tolerate rudeness. Yes, people should be honest about your work, but if they make you cry every time you read their critique, the partnership or group probably isn’t the best fit.
My advice would be to create your own group with people who are at the same stage. On-line loops like the ones associated with Romance Writers of America really helped form my current group. I’d recommend trading the first chapter of a manuscript to see if everyone is on the same page. It’s not easy to find a group that works, but that which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger J I’m a better writer for all those critique horror stories I’ve acquired. I won’t share them, but some are painful, some are motivating and some are funny. I think the experiences are all just a part of the writer journey. If you find a critique partner or group who understands you and your writing, be nice to them! Without my critique partners to put things into perspective sometimes, I’d be a less productive writer. Thanks CPs!
For more About Kinley Go to her web-site at
To purchace her book, Ruined, click on the link below.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Critiquing and the Critique Partners with Marsha West

First off, tell us a little about yourself.
Over the years, I’ve been a PTA mom and volunteer, served on the Fort Worth school board, taught theatre arts in high school, and worked as a principal of two very different elementary schools.  I’ve been writing for about five years, morphing from what I thought of as romantic suspense to single titles where characters are never too old to find love, and danger threatens.  My web site is close to being ready, and (please don’t say I told you so, Jeannie and Jerrie.)  FB may not be too far off in my future. 
I’m “Mimi” to two adorable grandkids, a boy and girl, and my husband and I are excitedly awaiting the arrival of another granddaughter in late summer.  Since retiring, I’ve split my time between concentrating on the writing career, being an officer in my writing chapter, loving on the grandkids, and taking trips with my husband to many beautiful places, some of which find their way into my books.
What are your thoughts on online critique groups’ verses meeting in person?
I don’t have a lot of experience in an actual online critique group.  I have to think doing the whole thing online and never meeting face to face must have its challenges.
What is your ideal critique group?  How many is too many?
It depends on how much time you have to give to not only the meeting but also the time to critique your partners’ pages.  We each have two sets of approximately 20 pages and we read those over at least two times.  (I’m always amazed what I find the second time around. J  How’d I miss that?)  We line edit as well as point out the story elements that don’t ring true for us or inconsistencies that get by.  We meet anywhere from two to three hours together.  One more person might be doable, but that’s another whole story to juggle and adds time away from our own writing.  Of course, reading others’ work makes us a better writer too.  Sooo, as I said at the beginning, “It depends.” 
How often do you feel it’s necessary to meet (e-mail) you’re critique partner(s)?
We meet weekly, but are flexible.  Sometimes life happens and one or more of us can’t make it to the meeting.  Two of us will meet in person and do the missing person’s pages on line.  Or none of us gets together, and we do it all online.  The vast majority of time, we work in person with hard copies in front of us.

What advice would you give someone just starting out in regards to critique groups and the critique concept?
1) Develop a thick skin.  Remember your CPs are not out to crucify you.  They’re trying to help.  They give you the benefit of another set of eyes looking at the babies you’ve spread all over the page.  Because our intent is to put good stuff down on the page, when someone questions us, it hurts.  We frequently make a comment about someone’s writing, followed by, “But it’s your book.”  Bottom line, our opinion is just our opinion.  The book belongs to the writer. 
2)If the critique group is not working for you for whatever reason, look for another group or add a group.  (There are time concerns with adding, but these are people you’ve more than likely grown quite close to if you’ve worked together for any length of time, and it might be difficult to leave them flat out.)
3)Agree to some rules.  I don’t think it matters so much, what they are, so long as you all agree to them.  You know: how often will you meet, how many pages, will you just do big concept or will you line edit, too, etc.
4)Find a group.  Maybe some people can develop as a writer without a critique group.  Despite on line classes and conferences, I wouldn’t have.  It’s not just seeing things marked in my own work, it’s looking at their work, too.  It’s the discipline and structure a group gives regardless of how often you meet.  There’s a time limit.  When I’m writing a new book and know I have to take new pages the next Wednesday, that’s a good motivator for putting my rear in the seat in front of the computer.
There is no one better than your critique partners for picking you up after one of those bad contest experiences or agent rejections.  And no one better to celebrate with when you win contests, an agent requests chapters from your query, or the call comes saying someone wants to publish your work.  So get yourself some CPs, and keep on writing.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Book Cover

I had to share, I'm just too excited. I don't have a release date yet, but I do have a book cover. Soo, coming soon to Gypsy Shadow Publishing......

For eighteen years Kimball Crossley trained for the day she’d come face-to-face with the demon who murdered her parents. Nothing could’ve prepared her for the dragon who would change her life forever.

Dmitri of the Langhier Clan is one of the elite Dragon Hunters. For eighteen years he’s stood against evil, believing he’ll forever be a warrior for his people. That is, until the night he’s confronted with his future.

With whispers of war in the air, can Kimball learn to trust what she’s always hated and accept her love for the Dragon Hunter? Dmitri’s skills as a hunter are superior, but can he accept that women, particularly his woman, can be as strong in mind and body as any well-trained hunter? Can they put aside their differences long enough to save both their worlds?

Thank you so much Charlotte Holly for putting up with me.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Critiquing and the Critique Partners with Karen McCullough

First off, tell us a little about yourself.
Here’s the quick bio: Karen McCullough was born in New York, grew up in New York and Massachusetts, and now lives in Greensboro, North Carolina. She is the author of ten published novels in the mystery, romantic suspense, and fantasy genres and has won numerous awards, including an Eppie Award for fantasy. She’s also been a four-time Eppie finalist, and a finalist in the Prism, Dream Realm, Rising Star, Lories, Scarlett Letter, and Vixen Awards contests. Her short fiction has appeared in several anthologies and numerous small press publications in the fantasy, science fiction, and romance genres. Her most recent release is a cozy mystery with a bit of romance titled A GIFT FOR MURDER, published in hardcover by Five Star/Gale Group Mysteries.
What are your thoughts on online critique groups’ verses meeting in person?
I've done more with in-person critique groups in the past, but have done some online critiquing as well. More and more critiquing seems to be moving online where it’s easier to find authors working in the same genre and/or types of stories you are.
 I find online critique groups difficult. You have to be brief yet careful about what you say since comments you make have no context for the person reading it, at least not in the same way that you have for an in-person group. The person receiving the critique online in a chat or email can't see your face, read your body language, or hear your tone. As humans we depend so much on the non-verbal in our interactions, and I'm surprised at how many people don't understand what a difference that can make. The bare words just don't always convey the totality of what you want to say.  There’s a reason we invented things like emoticons to use for online communication, but even they can’t replace the subtleties of inflection, the warmth of a smile, the hand gestures that say I was a bit confused by this bit.
I currently work with a couple of critique partners, and while we do exchange manuscripts and critique text via email, we also pick up the phone when we really need to talk to each other about something that’s not working or where we might have suggestions for improvement.

What is your ideal critique group? How many is too many?
It depends to some extent on what you are critiquing.  For short stories, it’s not hard to have a number of people in the group.  I think six to eight works best for giving a variety of points of view and different perspectives. However, for novels, I don’t think you want more than three or four.  In part because of the amount of time it takes to read and comment on a novel, whether all at once or chapter by chapter, but also because if you do it chapter by chapter, it’s hard to keep track of more than a few in progress.
My ideal critique partner (and I’m fortunate enough to have a couple) gives honest feedback, is willing to brainstorm with me when needed  but tries to avoid imposing her own vision of the story on what I’ve written, listens to what I say, but will call me on it when I’m really off base.
How often do you feel it’s necessary to meet (e-mail) you’re critique partner(s)?
Working with just a couple of critique partners, we tend to be somewhat informal about it and don’t do it on any strict schedule.  We trade stories or chapters when we need feedback.
When I’ve been with more formal critique groups (and I’ve been part of several) we generally met once or twice a month.  That gave enough time for everyone to read and think about material submitted and to work out their responses.

What advice would you give someone just starting out in regards to critique groups and the critique concept?
Critique groups don’t work for everyone, and if you don’t find it helpful, then don’t worry about it.  And sometimes the chemistry isn’t right, so don’t hesitate to leave a group if it’s not working for you.
But I think they can be invaluable for a beginning writer!  I know the ones I belonged to early in my career were very helpful for me.  When you’re starting out it can be particularly hard to spot problems in your own writing. Because the mental image of what’s happening on the page is so clear in your head, it’s difficult to tell whether you’re conveying a clear picture with your words, and if you are, whether it’s the picture you want to convey. Critiques groups can point out weaknesses in your writing, your plotting, your characterization, etc.  Things you might never see on your own.
The other piece of advice I would give is to be very respectful of the other members’ writing. Keep in mind that you’re critiquing something they spent a lot of time on, something they likely poured heart and soul into. Don’t criticize lightly and always make suggestions for improvement. Remember to praise the things someone does well in addition to pointing out problems.
Karen invites visitors to check out her home on the web at and her site for the Market Center Mysteries series,        

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Channeling Your Inner Child With Guest Blogger Kathy Lane

ATTENTION READERS: Join me on my July Blog Tour and play my Scavenger Blog Game. Visit each of my blog/interview sites for the month of July and leave a comment. At the end of July, one lucky winner will receive a prize package which includes a copy of Bloodsworn I and II, a $25 Amazon gift card, and more! Happy July!

Children tug at our heartstrings. They’re cute, cuddly, frequently messy, and wonderfully unpredictable. Handled correctly, they can also add depth to a story. Keep in mind the ‘handled correctly’ part. In my humble opinion, sticking a child into the plot for the sake of sentimentality won’t cut it. Characters need a purpose, even the adorable ones.
            So let’s say your story calls for a rambunctious little boy or shy little girl. can be loads of fun, though getting things right from a child’s perspective isn’t always easy. Have you ever read a book where the dialogue definitely didn’t match the child’s age? Very distracting, isn’t it? It’s hard to take a step back from everything you know as an adult to try and recapture the wonder and innocence only a child can possess. Especially when there are decades and decades and, *sigh* decades, between you and your childhood years. All I can say is: Do Your Research! Surround yourself with age-appropriate examples. Invite the nieces and nephews over for a tea party. Have lunch at a place that caters to children. Watch, listen, and learn. Then write.
One last thing. As a reader, I enjoy getting a glimpse into a child’s world which is chock full of wonder and imagination. An author, however, especially romance author, needs to keep in mind just who the story is about—the Hero and Heroine—and not get carried away with a re-visit to her childhood. *grin*
In Linked by Blood, my new book due out this month, you’ll meet a wonderful little boy named Seth. He’s five-years-old, loves to play with frogs, splash in water, and has a boy’s healthy fascination with sharp, pointy things. His mother is Sheren, a young widow who finds herself drawn to the Amber Blade, Bracca Cu-Laurian, despite her vow to keep her distance. Things get even more complicated when young Seth becomes ill. Only Bracca’s Bloodsworn can save him, a move which links Bracca and Sheren even closer while putting all of their lives in danger.

            You can pick up your copy of Bloodsworn II: Linked by Blood at Hope you enjoy the story!
Here’s question (3) on my Blog Tour: Seth’s favorite critter is a jade frog. When you were little, what animal/insect/ect. held the most fascination for you? Mine were doodlebugs, also known as antlions.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Critiquing and the Critique Partners

It's July and as I get closer to launching my first book out into the world, I'm reminded of how much I owe to my critique partners. They really are the reason I didn't give up on myself long ago. SOOOO, July is going to be about Critique partners and how they hold you up through the years. 
To start the month off right, I would like to introduce you all to one of the JMJ team, Mrs Jerrie Alexander!

First off, tell us a little about yourself.
A closet writer in my youth, I set aside my passion for writing when life presented me with a John Wayne husband, and two wonderful children.  A career in logistics offered me the opportunity to travel to many beautiful locations in America, and I revisit them in my romantic suspense novels. 
My characters went with me, talked to me, and insisted I share their dark, sexy stories with others.  I write alpha males and kick-ass women who weave their way through death and fear to emerge stronger because of, and on occasion in spite of, their love for each other.  I like to torture people (in books), make them suffer, and if they’re strong enough, they live happily ever after.
I live in Texas, loves sunshine, children’s laughter, sugar (human and granulated), and researching for my heroes and heroines. 
What are your thoughts on online critique groups’ verses meeting in person?
I do both.  I meet once a week with one group and online with the other.  I think each writer has to find what works for them.  Some benefit from the face-to-face meeting.  Plus I think it depends on where you are in your writing career.
What is your ideal critique group? How many is too many?
Again, it depends.  How many pages are you critiquing?  How often? 
My in person group does twenty pages a week.  That doesn’t sound like much until you throw life, family, friends, and your own writing into the mix.  There are three of us, and for our group, that has proven to be the max.
There are four in the online group I critique.  We are all at different points in our career.  We try for a forty-eight hour turnaround, but again, those are guidelines because of the same reasons mentioned above.
How often do you feel it’s necessary to meet (e-mail) you’re critique partner(s)?
I’m not sure it is necessary.  Depends on what the needs and preferences of the group.
What advice would you give someone just starting out in regards to critique groups and the critique concept?
You gotta get one!!!  Go online and track down some guidelines.  You’ll find lots of information about how to form a critique group on the RWA website. 
Know that the first or even second group may not meet your needs.  It’s not personal, it’s about different stages in your or their needs. 
Find people you can trust.  Trust to tell you the truth.  Trust that they’ll couch their criticism with kindness.  Trust that if you need them...they’ll be there.