Sunday, January 29, 2012

How to Promote Your Next Book

My life has been hectic since late summer through the beginning of the new year.
In advance of the release of my debut book, I asked Angela James, and just about anyone who would listen, how do you promote an ebook? Some people told me create unique swag. Others suggested chapter books especially since I had no tangible book to sign. Still others told me blog tours and tweet three times a day for weeks. Angela said write the next book.
In August-September I created my marketing plan for my book, KNIGHT OF RUNES. It was to be released on November 14. I researched and developed the different pieces of swag, mapped out a blog tour, and planned the ad space I would buy. I realized that I needed to reach readers and reviewers. I hired a publicist to handle that aspect.
October was filled with the excitement of a leadership role (assistant chair) in the NJRW conference. I worked with some of the romance industries best-known authors. I read their stories but I never thought I would meet these authors. I had fan girl moments with Suz Brockmann (yep, she asked me to call her Suz!), Rachel Gibson, Eloisa James, and Victoria Alexander. Through it all, I remained diligent and worked my marketing plan. I wrote posts and was active on loops and blogs to keep my name in the forefront.
November was even more exciting, my book released and our family gathering for Thanksgiving was wonderful. Besides the cooking and prepping, I had a world wind blog tour that kept me very busy. I monitored the blogs and answered all the comments. I wrote more posts and read reviews.
December the madness continued with the holiday shopping and cooking. The blog tour continued but I could see the light at the end of the tunnel and it wasn’t an oncoming train! I took some days off at the end of the year and spent some quality time with my family. Our son spent his vacation with us which encouraged his sisters and their families to move in for a few days. It was wonderful.
Well, the holidays are over. My book is published. What have I learned? I should have listened to Angela and wrote the next book.    

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Why I Like Medieval-Renaissance Heroes

My friend Joanna Chambers thinks that Regency men are the Uber Romance Hero. She gave me her top three reasons in a guest post in November. I agree Regency men look good, live in a world filled with titles, and appear to live a life of leisure.  I enjoy Mr. Darcy but Regency men are all too tame. Let me give you my top three reasons why I think Medieval-Renaissance knights are the best.
1. Appearance
Some enjoy the breeches, shiny boots, tight coats and acres of snowy white linen. I love the shirtless look of a well-defined chest and ripped abs. It speaks protection, comfort and well, truly, their great to look at. I enlarged my book cover to 8.5x11 and keep it posted next to my desk. Every so often, after his shower, my husband comes over in his towel and poses next it. He thanks me for not including his full face. We can both dream.
2. Ascendance
Knights were members of the noble class. Likely candidates were chosen at boyhood and trained. A lesser or unlikely man could aspire to knighthood and reach his dreams, if he is found worthy. Knights, their code of conduct and chivalry, "Protect the weak, defenseless, helpless, and fight for the general welfare of all," inspired literature and the foundation of courtship through the middle ages up until the turn of this century.  What would a romance be without a (k)night?
3. Adventure
Knighthood comes with its requirements: save the damsel in distress, right the wrongs, and do away with the villain. Of course there were trials he had to go through to prove himself worthy. Usually he would somehow loose his shirt giving the damsel a glimpse of those perfect pecks and adorable abs.
Knight, not only had to prove themselves worthy on the field of battle (for his king, the damsel or even for himself) but also learn how to balance the command and control needed to succeed with his own wants and desires. It's a lesson Lord Arik learns in Knight of Runes.
What do you think?  Regency heroes or Medieval-Renaissance Knights?  Or something entirely different? 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Creating Characters that Jump Off the Page

For me, while plot is definitely important, character driven stories make me turn the page. I recently reread a post by Robert Gregory Browne that I found educational and entertaining. I didn't want you to miss a word of it so I've posted it below. 
I'm interested in your opinion. Let me know if you write/prefer plot driven or character driven stories.
I hope you enjoy this re-post as much as I did. Now, without further ado, Mr. Browne.
Imagine, if you will, The Fugitive with Ace Ventura as the lead.
While much of the plot of this exciting movie could remain intact, the entire flavor of it would be radically different. Scenes would change, dialogue would be altered... and, despite the plot similarities, chances are pretty good these two versions would wind up on completely different shelves in your local video store. Which isn't all that surprising.
Because when we watch a movie or read a book it isn't really plot that we invest ourselves in. It's character. The characters set the tone, and our acceptance or rejection of those characters is essential to our acceptance or rejection of the story itself.
Great characters make us laugh and cry or even frustrate and infuriate us. Great characters make us squirm in suspense and excitement. Great characters take us on an emotional rollercoaster ride and are absolutely essential to our suspension of disbelief.


Whenever I spout off about the all-important need for great characters, someone invariably disagrees. True writing success, they say, lies not only in great characters, but in your ability to come up with a great plot and structure, compelling dialogue and so forth.
And they aren't wrong. In fact, I couldn't agree more.
But the simple truth is this -- and I'm not the first to say it: your characters define all those things. They are your story. Even if you succeed in giving us a wonderful plot and structure, you've got nothing unless your characters jump off the page. In writing fiction of any kind, characters are everything. Everything.
It is impossible to imagine Gone With the Wind without the feisty, self-centered yet courageous Scarlett O'Hara. Or Citizen Kane without the domineering presence of Charles Foster Kane.
But not only are these lead characters all-important, every character that surrounds them seems to be full-bodied and alive. The authors have somehow managed to pump life into every single character that occupies the page.
Now the question is this: how do you and I do the same thing?


Truth is, I can't tell you how to do this, but I can tell you how I do it -- and I'm often complimented on my great characters. But my method, like any other method taught out there, is not surefire for everyone who tries it. In fact, many people will reject it out of hand as being far too simplistic. And they may be right. Yet it works for me. And, who knows, it might just work for you.
There are writing gurus who will tell you that the only way to create a great character is to sit down with a legal pad or a bunch of note cards or a character chart and start filling in the blanks.
How old is the character? What's his occupation? What are his likes and dislikes? What school did he graduate from? Where's his hometown? Who were his best friends in grammar school. What kind of parents does he have? Does he have any siblings? The list goes on and on and on.
All of these questions are designed to help you get under the skin of your character. To help you understand him or her to the fullest extent possible so that when you write your scenes, your character will be alive in your own mind. And if he's alive in your own mind, then surely he'll be alive in the minds of your audience.
Well, yes. Of course. But, I'm sorry, call me lazy, call me stupid -- I just can't bring myself to sit down long enough to answer all these questions.
Oh, I've tried. But halfway through I find myself wondering, what's the point to all this? I may say my main character attended Dartmouth -- but how exactly does that bit of information help me unless it's directly related to the story at hand?
I have yet to figure it out. Instead, I approach the task in this way:


Let's go back to Scarlett O'Hara for a moment. How did I describe her? Feisty, self-centered yet courageous? You could throw in flirtatious and childish as well. These are all attitudes that our audience can immediately latch onto and understand. We don't need to know that she comes from a pampered Southern background and a rebellious Irish father to understand -- and perhaps identify with -- that attitude. Her attitude alone is enough to draw us in.
Why? Because attitude is action -- the character in a state of being. Giving your character an attitude -- preferably one that conflicts with the other characters in your story -- is a great way to help you and your audience understand who that character is.


Adding emotion to your character can help your audience identify with him or her. Looking at Scarlett O'Hara again, when Gone With the Wind opens we see the flirtatious and selfish side of Scarlett's personality. But as the opening scenes continue, we discover that despite all the attention she's getting from the men in her world, she's actually in love with another and has been rejected by him. Scarlett is wounded by that rejection yet hides the hurt from all but the object of her affection.
This is an emotion/reaction we can all identify with. If we haven't experienced it ourselves, we have seen it in others we know and love. The emotion is what gives depth to... the attitude.


Every character must have a goal. Not just the main character. This is a given. Without a goal, your main character will wander aimlessly and your audience will disappear.
But every character that inhabits your story should have a goal. The character's goal is often what defines both attitude and emotion.
Let's take a relatively minor character for example. A grocery store clerk. The hero is buying a carton of milk. For a beat of conflict in an otherwise innocuous scene, we might give the grocery store clerk a goal: she wants to go home. She's been on her feet all day long, the new shoes are killing her and all she wants to do is punch that time clock (and maybe anyone who gets in her way) and get the hell out of there.
This goal can help you define the character's attitude. Is she weary? Is she grouchy? And how does this affect (read: conflict with) the hero?
Giving such a minor character a goal and an attitude/emotion may seem silly, but the result is a much richer story with much richer characters.


Defining an attitude/emotion and a goal are all wonderful, helpful things. But none of them mean squat if we don't see these things in action.
Sure, we can have Joe Blow say our hero is a selfish, manipulating bastard, but that means nothing unless we see this for ourselves. The way your character acts and speaks is what finally defines her/him.
When I describe Scarlett O'Hara as flirtatious and self-centered, these attributes are defined by what Scarlett says and does. She flirts with just about every man who enters her world, she manipulates them into paying attention to her despite the unhappiness this brings to the other women around her. By seeing her in action and hearing her words, we quickly understand the attitude and emotion she brings to the story.
The cliche, Show Don't Tell, couldn't be more true here. We must always show our characters acting and reacting -- not simply talking about their motivations and desires.


Defining a character's goal/attitude/emotion/action are all wonderful things, but how exactly do we go about doing that without resorting to those cards and charts and character sketches the writing teachers tell us we so desperately need?
Again, this works for me. It may not work for you. And it's deceptively simple:
Every character I write is me. From the hero and heroine down to that grocery store clerk, every single character I write is... me.
Yes, you say, but isn't that a bit limiting? Doesn't that make for a rather monotonous set of characters?
Maybe. But I have yet to hear any complaints. If my lead character is a divorced father of three who finds himself unwittingly involved in a conspiracy to overthrow the government, the first thing I ask myself when approaching a scene (even though I'm happily married and wouldn't know a conspiracy if it jumped up and bit me) is this: how would I react in this situation.
Then I add the color (read: attitude/emotion). How would I react, if... I was a self-centered bastard... a no-nonsense cop... an officious political hack. And I apply this technique to every character I write.
In short, I'm like a method actor playing all of the parts. By using myself and a healthy dose of imagination, I can approach characterization from the inside out. And once I'm able to get into the skin of my characters, it's much, much easier to create someone whom I, and hopefully the audience, can identify with.


If you still feel like you have to drag out the cards and charts, then so be it. If knowing every single little detail about your character is important to you, then by all means write them all down, cover your entire wall with important tidbits of information. I would never belittle anyone for doing what feels right for them.
But while you're at it, take into consideration the things I've talked about here. Remember attitude, emotion, goal and action.
Because these are the things that will make your characters leap off the page and propel your audience through the story. The key to success is to get your audience to say (and I'm cringing as I write this):
Frankly, my dear, I do give a damn.

About the Author
Robert Gregory Browne is a Nicholl award winning screenwriter whose debut novel, KISS HER GOODBYE, is scheduled to be released on February 6, 2007, by St. Martin's Press. You can find out more about Rob and his books at

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Interview with Debut Author Calisa Rhose

Last month, HOME, written by good friend and fellow Writing Diva, Calisa Rhose, was released by The Wild Rose Press. She's here to tell us about her writing life and HOME. I'm excited to feature her debut book and have her visit with us today.

What could a gypsy and a Vietnam veteran have in common?

Silvertown’s outcast, Poppy Tippen, has loved football hero Sam “The Force” Callahan forever. But he never seemed to know she was alive. Now he’s home from the war and she suddenly finds herself comforting him from the demons of “that damn war.” Is his attention merely an escape from the haunting nightmares? Or does she hold the interest of the only man she’s ever truly loved?
Sam Callahan’s only solace from the war nightmares wrecking his life comes in the unlikely form of a gypsy girl with stigmas of her own. He’s known Poppy his entire life, but there’s something different about her now. Something special he desperately wants to hold on to. Can he convince her she’s the only thing he needs to put the past behind him?
1.     How long did it take you to write HOME? It took nine months from the first word to submission to write HOME.
2.     How much research did you conduct for HOME and what was the most interesting thing you did while conducting your research? I did quite a bit of research about clothes and music in the 60’s. The most interesting part of that research was also the most disturbing. I had to know what the Vietnam war did to the soldiers, what emotional turmoil they endured after returning to their homes. I also wanted to know what happened over there that impacted them the worst or best. Some of the information out in the internet is chilling. You may be surprised to know what those men went through. The fact that they put that out there for the world says a lot about the kind of people who fought that war.
3.     Why did you decide to write historical? You may not understand this, but I didn’t choose to write it. I write contemporary and paranormal. This era, the story, chose me in this case.
4.     Do you write multiple drafts or barely need revisions when typing, The End? Of course I need revisions, edits. But I edit heavily as I write so it might be less than someone else needs. With HOME in particular I had maybe an hour of edits through all rounds combined by my editor, Nan Swanson. My first round took me thirty minutes to do. But that doesn’t mean I always get that lucky. A previous submission took several months of revisions before I said enough and pulled it from the publisher. It just wasn’t getting where we wanted it no matter how many rewrites or drafts I wrote.
5.     When you are writing, who is in control? You or your characters? Lol I’d like to say I am. Wouldn’t we all (writers)? But the honest truth is that as compulsive as I am to be in charge of everything in my life, oddly, while writing it’s the only time I’m truly NOT in control. It may seem strange that I choose a career that takes that control from me, but I think it really chose me. I love that freedom to let my characters take over. It’s a charge like nothing in life for me when a character takes over and runs with a scene. I fall into a zone and it’s heaven! Plus the word count at those times can be pretty impressive, even to me! J
6.     Have you had any "ah ha" moments as a writer? Oh sure. Who hasn’t. It took me forever to figure out what my first cps meant when they kept telling me to SHOW this, or SHOW there. Show? I thought that’s what I was doing. And then one day it finally clicked and it was a total AH-HA! moment for me. Since then I’ve become a SHOW-a-holic. It’s maddening now when my cps say “you’re TELLING this, SHOW me!” I know that, and yet I still do it. I wonder some days if there’s any hope for me. Lol
7.     What advice do you have for other writers? Read what you write and write what you read know. And write. Write. Write. I won’t say write every day, I don’t, but write. If you don’t write and never get published you have nobody to blame but yourself when you fail. You can only fail by not trying.
8.     What was the most exciting thing that happened to you after you signed your contract – besides receiving your first check as a published author? Oh wow. There were a few firsts besides the first actual sale. Getting that email with my cover attached was a highlight. I was afraid to open that attachment because What if I don’t like it? I’d already been informed I couldn’t ask for a different one if I didn’t like it. I could ask for corrections to text, but not a new cover. Of course, I needn’t have worried. Tina Lynn Stout did such a perfectly fabulous job! Don’t you agree?
9.     How does your family feel about your career as a romance writer? Most of the years they were shrug their shoulders and go on. Then hubby began pushing me to really submit so I finally got serious in 2005. I think my family was proud, but skeptical I’d publish. I know I was. Now? They are proud and tell their friends I’m a romance writer.
10.  What do you want your readers to take away with them after reading the story? When all seems lost, when everything, everyone you know fails you—there is still someone and somewhere to whom you belong. Home is more than a place. Belonging begins in your own heart. If you can’t accept you, how can anyone else?
11.  What was the defining moment that you considered yourself an author? When I mailed my first submission and got a rejection within three weeks.
12.  With so many changes in publishing over the past year, where do you see the future of publishing going? Into a scary mist where no one will be able to figure out what will happen next. I mean, last week we hear how ebooks are taking over where last year print was the only way to go. Now this week it’s all about indie publishing. It’s enough to make my head spin trying to keep up. No I haven’t self published, but I won’t say I’ll never do it. Why? Because five years ago I said I’d never epublish and look where I published first! Lol
13.  What makes a man attractive to you? Sensitivity. I don’t care for the alpha males who take without giving equally. Oh- and dimples! I adore dimples. ;)
14.  What is the most interesting thing you’ve ever done? I’m five feet nothing and lucky to weigh a hundred pounds, so I get odd looks when people find out I broke horses when I was younger. I mean, saddle up and hang on- broke horses. Of course, I preferred they not buck so I spent a LOT of time earning trust and using ways to keep a horse from bucking if at all possible
15.  What’s your biggest dream? To have a horse rescue. There are so many horses dumped during droughts and severe winters here that they were literally running the city streets during the blizzard of 07. That broke my heart. After a two year drought and then a blizzard there wasn’t enough hay to feed the animals and people were dumping their pets in the streets like a stray dog. Horses can’t fend for scraps like a dog or cat so they were dying of starvation.
16.  If you were a millionaire would you still write? Yes. I can’t not write. I’d just have a high tech secretarial system to take dictation. LOL
Author Bio:
Small-town country girl Calisa Rhose lives in a semi-remote area of Oklahoma with her husband, five dogs, one cat and one horse. All of her three daughters and their families live within throwing distance. She’s a member of RWA and the local chapter OKRWA. She intends to nurture and continue to grow as an author with the help of her family and supporters.
Get your copy of HOME at The Wild Rose Press and on Amazon.
Find Calisa at her website/blog
On twitter @Calisa_Rhose and Facebook @Calisa Rhose
She loves to hear from readers so drop her a line at