Baa Baa, Black Sheep: On Writing Indie Romance

http://www.flickr.com/photos/cordery/362762645/in/photolist-y4fGn-85R4Yj-8ByuRV-4ZwkyA-b27Jzc-9sfnyg-6nfwZm-eh2irv-bAAmr-2ZvEp8-5MKgpQ-cVkHUh-8E3w4T-N3FZG-8wkqRE-a9DfGa-bLdvw-ekLdGQ-8whpdg-6rarM7-9j7xag-9j7x1a-9j7xex-9jaET1-6uXLZB-9irswn-6v2WyJ-4ZwkBh-CJQ9y-CJPnd-CJPmU-CJPn7-CJPn1-CJQ9T-CJQ9E-CJQ9K-CJQDW-CJQDU-CJPmV-CJQDS-CJQa6-CJQE2-CJQ9Z-CJPn3-55JymV-qzz1U-wFWJL-nFG6M-8pvJjB-7DmW5d
Black Sheep – CC/Flickr

Romance and its authors have garnered lots of publicity recently, especially in light of Laurie Kahn’s recent (and excellent) documentary, Love Between The Covers. Numerous articles are swirling around the internet, refuting many of the myths about romance novels and the people who write them. Here’s just a sampling:

I love that people are challenging the notion that romance is lesser, that romance writing is simplistic, that romance is dismissible. Those of us within the community have long known those things are false, of course.

The same can be said of indie publishing: its image is transforming from consisting of only poorly written, barely edited trash thrown up on the internet, to being a viable alternative to traditional publishing, featuring numerous talented, cutting edge authors. Many indie romance authors have become certified rock stars in the genre, including Courtney Milan, Bella Andre, Katy Regnery . . . I could name many more.

But as a newbie indie romance author, I’m suddenly realizing what an uphill battle I have to get people to take me seriously: not fellow romance authors, perhaps (although of course I need to prove myself to them, as well), but friends, acquaintances, and anybody not tuned in to the romance and indie communities.

I know this, because I’ve been talking–online and in person–about my debut novel, A Man of Character, which hits the market May 26th. People are excited for me, and I’m so grateful for that. But several times, after friends and acquaintances asked me what I’m writing and/or who’s publishing it, their expressions changed, their faces fell or took on a humoring expression, when I replied, “romance, and I’m indie publishing.”

Writing romance is dubious enough, apparently–add indie to it, and you’re really not welcome at the table.

I could be misreading their reactions. I could be projecting my own self-doubts and fears as this book goes public. Yes, I’m nervous. Yes, I realize there will be people who don’t like my book. Yes, I’m sure I can (and will) improve my writing as I continue down this career path. And that’s OK. Because that’s what it is to me: a career path.

Don’t hand me that black sheep fleece, because I won’t wear it.

I am a writer. I write romance, and I love it. I’m an indie author, and proud of it.

Thank to you everyone who’s supporting me, encouraging me, and cheering me on. Thank you to my critique group, to my beta readers, and to my editor, Tessa Shapcott: all of you helped shape A Man of Character into what it is–a book I’m thrilled to claim as my own. Thank you to my fellow romance authors, an amazingly welcoming group of women (and men) willing to provide guidance, advice, and valuable insider information to newbies following in their footsteps. .

And thank you to everyone who’s purchased A Man of Character, or will purchase it–your willingness to take a chance on a debut author means the world to me.

Guess What I Got in the CRW ‘Finish The Damn Book Contest’?

Chesapeake Romance Writers BannerI’m so excited to share with you that A Man of Character won 2nd Place in the Chesapeake Romance Writers’ ‘Finish the Damn Book Contest’ in the Mainstream with Romantic Elements category!

I haven’t entered many contests – fewer than five, I believe – but this is the first time I’ve been a finalist and actually won something. What a thrill!

I’m looking forward to attending the CRW’s Pages to Publication conference in March, where we will get to meet the contest winners, as well as others who placed in their categories.

Will you be there? Let me know!

2015: The Year of the Book

Just a mock-up cover; a graphic designer will do the real one, but it was fun to make!
Just a mock-up cover: a graphic designer will do the real one, but it was fun to make!

That’s right. According to the Chinese calendar, we may be entering the Year of the Sheep, but I’m declaring it my personal Year of the Book.

What does this mean? It means by gosh, by golly, by gum, I’m going to publish A Man of Character by summer. It means I’m going to edit and revise both A Matter of Time and The Demon Duke to the point where I feel comfortable entering them into contests and, heck, maybe I’ll even publish them, too!

It means I’m going to read. And read. And read some more. The Goodreads goal is 50 books, the same as last year (I missed it by ONE!), but I’m actually hoping to devour many more – whether romances, research, classics, or something else that catches my fancy.

It means I’m going to write. I’m going to write for Flash Fiction, I’m going to write on Book FOUR. Yes, yes, yes. I’m going to write.

This is the year. This is MY year. In 2015, I. Will. Become. A. Published. Author.

This is huge for an anxiety-ridden scaredy cat like me, people. Others throw themselves into these ventures, ready for every twist and turn, certain they can conquer whatever the publishing industry, readers, reviewers, and/or social media can throw at them. (OK, I hear rumors that there exists at least one author who feels that way.) Not me.

OK, I overcame SOME of that scaredy-cat-itis last year. I started a local critique group. I queried nearly seventy agents. I got three requests for a partial, three requests for the full MS, and one small e-press publication offer (which I turned down after realizing just how badly I want to hold my own book in print). No instant success, but not entirely bad, right? I even finaled in a writing contest.

But still, to actually PUBLISH the book? Brave New World. And one that I’m determined to enter.

What’s 2015 going to be for YOU?

The NaNo Hangover – What is YOUR Cure?

NaNoAnneI NaNoWriMo’ed my little heart out, people. Not only did I write the entire first rough (very rough) draft of The Demon Duke (69,000+ words), but I also served as unofficial co-ML and ran all sorts of online write-ins, as well as attended a number of in-person events. It was exhilarating! It was awesome! It was exhausting!

At the beginning of November, I promised a friend the fun wouldn’t end come November 30th, that I’d run a DeNoWriMo event for the month of December so that we wouldn’t lose our momentum, that we’d leap right into more writing or begin the editing process, so that these novels would get whipped into shape in lightning speed!

It’s December 5th. I’ve done nothing.

I haven’t opened my novel, much less started editing it. I haven’t run any online write-ins on Facebook, nor have I even thought about what sort of in-person events I could do. I have three books from other people I’ve committed to read and provide feedback on as soon as possible, and I ain’t started that, either.

What gives?

I’m calling it the NaNo hangover; November was so intense that all I want to do now is sit back and play Words With Friends. Or maybe Candy Crush, since there aren’t even words in that game. December is intense, too, of course, only in different ways; now I’m on the hook for carpooling kids to various Christmas performances, baking cookies for fundraising bazaars and Christmas class parties, shopping for and wrapping Christmas gifts, etc., etc, etc. It feels as if the writing/editing SHOULD go on the back burner in the face of all of this holiday hubbub. Eek!

So tell me, what do YOU do to haul yourself out of a writing/editing rut when you fall into one? Because I really need a swift kick to the derriere, an injection of writer-itis, to get back to it.

Happy Thanksgiving! And a Note of Gratitude to All of You…

Happy Thanksgiving to all! I hope this holiday (for those who celebrate it) finds you happy and healthy, and grateful for the blessings in your life. I’m certainly grateful for mine; a loving family, great friends, and especially a husband who encourages me to do what I love best: write.

This morning, as I was up working on my NaNoWriMo novel before any other adult had risen (my kids are always up by 6:30, dag nabbit!), I began to think of all of the writing-related things that have happened over the last year for which I am thankful. Wow, are there many! Here they are, in no particular order:

Flash Friday – I participated each and every week in the Flash Friday Fiction contest, first as a contestant and then, for the past quarter year, serving as a judge. This was a contest I’d stumbled upon in the fall of 2013, and here I am, a year later, addicted more than ever to the rush of crafting short (short!) stories, and to the welcoming, supportive, encouraging community of fellow writers that makes up Flash Friday. My confidence as a writer has increased in no small part because of the accolades I’ve received there.

With the Queen of Regency Romance, Sabrina Jeffries
With the Queen of Regency Romance, Sabrina Jeffries

Festival of the Book / Sabrina Jeffries – In March, I headed over to Charlottesville for my very first writing-related conference at their annual Festival of the Book. I delighted in spending an entire day in romance-focused sessions, and got to meet one of my idols, Sabrina Jeffries!

Shenandoah Valley Writers Critique Group – In the spring of this year, I launched an in-person critique group that meets once a month to provide constructive feedback on member submissions, as well as accountability in terms of monthly goals. I’ve met some fabulous people and feel the group is serving us all well.

Virginia Romance Writers – In the middle of the year, I joined my local RWA chapter, the Virginia Romance Writers. In October, I made it to an actual meeting, and met some very wonderful writers, with whom I look forward to developing further friendships.

NaNoWriMo group – This fall, I served as an unofficial (because I missed the application deadline) municipal liaison for National Novel Writing Month, through which I’ve met even more great local writers. It’s been a wonderful experience to both cheer people on and be cheered on as we’ve all worked toward that 50,000 word goal.

Online Writer Friendships – Guess what? Social media is an excellent way to meet fellow writers! Who knew? 😉 I’ve met a number on Twitter and Facebook, and I can say it’s so thrilling to be friends now with people (such as Katy Regnery and Angel Nicholas and many more) whose careers are taking off and whose love for romance matches (or exceeds) mine! Such an inspiration for me to keep going…

A Man of Character – I promised myself I would query agents this year for my first book, A Man of Character. And I did. I’ve sent out numerous queries, and while, yes, I’ve gotten a number of rejections back, I’ve also had requests for partial and full manuscripts, and have learned an incredible amount in the process of crafting a query letter and synposes of varying lengths. The fact that I also managed to send these queries out into the real world, in spite of rejection, is something of which I’m also proud.

A Matter of Time – I also vowed to finish a draft of my second book, A Matter of Time, the book I had started during last year’s NaNoWriMo. And I did!

The Demon Duke – Not only did I finish a draft of my second book, but I’m very nearly finished with a draft of my third, The Demon Duke! This was this year’s NaNo project, and I said I would write the whole thing, not just most of it, so that I didn’t sit on an unfinished draft for months again. By December 1st, I will have written (drafts of) three books! THREE!

Wow. Looking at that list, I’m amazed by the amount of progress I’ve made in this new career path. And I’m so, so thankful to each and every person who has made this writing life possible.

Here’s to 2015 for being the year at least one of my books hits the market, and for continuing to develop and expand the delightful friendships I’ve made this past year. Y’all rock!!!