authors

Being an Indie Author with Theresa Ragan

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My guest today, author Theresa Ragan, writes medieval time travels, romantic comedy, romantic suspense, and her first romantic thriller, ABDUCTED, was recently released under the name T.R. Ragan.

Theresa has garnered six Golden Heart nominations with Romance Writers of Americafor her work.

She lives with her husband, Joe, and the youngest of her four children in Sacramento, California.

Being an Indie Author
You can make this easy or you can make it difficult.

Yes, becoming an indie author is a LOT of work, especially if you decide to do everything yourself. But it’s all fun if you take one thing at a time and deal with it. Right now, many indie authors are scrambling around, trying to find that magic “thing” that is going to make their book sell. I have days where I feel like OMG I need to get my book on this site and that site. I need to write more blogs and do more interviews. I need to giveaway free books and I should probably fix my blurbs and change my covers.

Maybe I should do ALL of those things. And maybe those “fixes” won’t do me a bit of good. I won’t know until I do it. But I only have so many hours in a day. Stressing and spreading myself too thin is not going to help matters. In fact, it will probably hurt me more than it will help me.

“Happiness is a choice that requires effort at times.”

Random, I know. But I love that quote. I think of it often. Because I think we can find happiness in absolutely everything we do. Even laundry (well, maybe that’s pushing it). Since becoming an indie author, I am busier than I’ve ever been in my life. But I am also happier. I have readers who have read my books. Just typing that last sentence gave me goose bumps. After 19 years of writing, I was beginning to think that might never happen. But it has and the thought that people are enjoying my stories makes me smile.

Like many of you, I have a “to do” list that is growing faster than Jack’s beanstalk. I am choosing not to stress over my growing To-Do list. I am going to take one thing at a time and do the best I can. That’s all I can do. That’s all any of us can do.

I am going to make writing my priority because that’s what I love to do and it makes me happy and I really have an obsession with being happy. Life is way too short to be anything else. If I spend more time focusing on story and characters, delving deep into their wants and desires, the book sales will follow.

I know it. I feel it. I believe it.

My advice is to enjoy the ride. Enjoy it now. Today. Slow down. Breathe. Smile. Have fun.

You can find Theresa:

Email
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Blog
Twitter
Facebook
Goodreads
Smashwords

>Being an Indie Author with Theresa Ragan

>

My guest today, author Theresa Ragan, writes medieval time travels, romantic comedy, romantic suspense, and her first romantic thriller, ABDUCTED, was recently released under the name T.R. Ragan.

Theresa has garnered six Golden Heart nominations with Romance Writers of Americafor her work.

She lives with her husband, Joe, and the youngest of her four children in Sacramento, California.

Being an Indie Author
You can make this easy or you can make it difficult.

Yes, becoming an indie author is a LOT of work, especially if you decide to do everything yourself. But it’s all fun if you take one thing at a time and deal with it. Right now, many indie authors are scrambling around, trying to find that magic “thing” that is going to make their book sell. I have days where I feel like OMG I need to get my book on this site and that site. I need to write more blogs and do more interviews. I need to giveaway free books and I should probably fix my blurbs and change my covers.

Maybe I should do ALL of those things. And maybe those “fixes” won’t do me a bit of good. I won’t know until I do it. But I only have so many hours in a day. Stressing and spreading myself too thin is not going to help matters. In fact, it will probably hurt me more than it will help me.

“Happiness is a choice that requires effort at times.”

Random, I know. But I love that quote. I think of it often. Because I think we can find happiness in absolutely everything we do. Even laundry (well, maybe that’s pushing it). Since becoming an indie author, I am busier than I’ve ever been in my life. But I am also happier. I have readers who have read my books. Just typing that last sentence gave me goose bumps. After 19 years of writing, I was beginning to think that might never happen. But it has and the thought that people are enjoying my stories makes me smile.

Like many of you, I have a “to do” list that is growing faster than Jack’s beanstalk. I am choosing not to stress over my growing To-Do list. I am going to take one thing at a time and do the best I can. That’s all I can do. That’s all any of us can do.

I am going to make writing my priority because that’s what I love to do and it makes me happy and I really have an obsession with being happy. Life is way too short to be anything else. If I spend more time focusing on story and characters, delving deep into their wants and desires, the book sales will follow.

I know it. I feel it. I believe it.

My advice is to enjoy the ride. Enjoy it now. Today. Slow down. Breathe. Smile. Have fun.

You can find Theresa:

Email
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Blog
Twitter
Facebook
Goodreads
Smashwords

Writers Are Troublemakers, Too

>My guest today, Erin O’Riordan, currently has a FREE erotica anthology available at Smashwords through 7/31

…And I don’t need a single book to teach me how to read
Who needs stupid books? They are for petty crooks…”

(“Troublemaker,” lyrics by Rivers Cuomo. From Weezer’s self-titled 2008 album)

Okay, so at first glance, Weezer’s pop-rock tune “Troublemaker” hardly seems like inspiration for us writers. No one wants to be called a “petty crook,” and the L.A.-based alternative rock band’s sound isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. (Some of the lyrics, though not the ones I’ll be discussing, are also slightly risque.) The guys of Weezer have come up with some quite original and witty lyrics over the years, though, and on closer inspection, “Troublemaker” has some good lessons for writers after all. Consider some of the lines that follow the “petty crooks” remark:

–“…So turn off the TV, ‘cause that’s what others see.”

Those of us with a TV habit can attest to TV’s writing-time-wasting effect. As artists, we may applaud TV’s ability to allow millions across the globe to share the same bank of stories and images. In other ways, TV’s visual, corporate-sponsored approach to communal storytelling may lessen our collective ability to imagine a plot line for ourselves, without a Hollywood studio’s help. Before you completely dismiss television as a drain on our imaginations, though, consider this: at a book festival in my hometown, prolific—and best-selling—author Linda Lael Miller was asked where she gets her ideas. She cited TV as one of her inspirations, along with country music.

–“…I will learn by studying the lessons in my dreams…”

There truly is a craft to writing. Before we can write that best-seller, we have to learn the nuts and bolts of grammar, punctuation, structure, etc. We begin learning this in school. We read great books and dissect their greatness. We practice, fail, practice some more. Our teachers, tutors, professors, and mentors help us along the way, imparting the knowledge of the craft to us. Books, writers’ conferences, and websites can teach us still more. At some point, though, our writing has to come from somewhere inside of us. Call that “somewhere” what you will: the right hemisphere of the brain, the subconscious, the soul, the muse. Whatever name it goes by, it gives us our best ideas, often when we least expect them. Sometimes they literally come in dreams as we sleep. I’ve had some great ideas just before falling asleep and as I’m waking. Ideas can come at any time, and it’s in our best interest to follow these flashes of inspiration. We can also speak our dreams into reality: the moment we have the courage to name ourselves “writer,” we start to make it true.

–“…Doing things my own way and never giving up…”

Every piece of writing we submit will be expected to follow the publisher’s guidelines. The key word there is “guide.” Writing may be a craft, but it is also an art, and artists have many times been rewarded (professionally or personally) for disregarding the rules and following their intuition. We should do things our own way and write to please ourselves first. Along with that, we have to have persistence. If we’ve studied our craft well, edited judiciously, and written something interesting and worthwhile, our work will be acknowledged, even if that acknowledgment takes longer than we’d like. Never give up.

–“…I can’t work a job, like any other slob, punchin’ in and punchin’ out and suckin’ up to Bob…”

One of the unfortunate truths of the writing profession is an extremely small percentage of us will ever reach the level of success of the top popular authors. Hugo Award-winning science fiction writer Joe Haldeman, at the book festival I mentioned earlier, likened his income to that of “a good used-car salesman.” Most of us will never be able to quit our day jobs. This doesn’t mean working as a full-time writer, spending all day every day doing the thing we love most, isn’t a worthwhile goal. Some days feels as if life has unfairly saddled us with a desire to do nothing else but read and write, then forced us to do some other work to pay the bills. With persistence and a little luck, though, many of us will find ways to carve out a living…even if we always feel like the proverbial “starving artist.”

–“…There isn’t anybody else exactly quite like me…”

Writers each have our own unique voices, just as the singers of rock bands do. By listening to our dreams, doing things our own way, and working at our craft, we will all create our personal styles. If we get our styles just right, our readers will know our voices without even seeing our bylines. You know Hemingway when you read him, don’t you? Or Edgar Allan Poe? Find your voice, and you’ll find yourself an audience.

In pop-rock songs, the words of the chorus are often repeated. In this case, the last line of
“Troublemaker” bears repeating. When you think of your writing career, remember these three final words: “Never giving up.”


Erin O’Riordan lives in the Midwestern United States with her husband, her co-author on a series of crime thrillers. She also writes the Pagan Spirits romance novel series. Her short stories, essays, and film reviews have been published in numerous anthologies, magazines and websites. A trap designed to catch her should contain dark chocolate, espresso drinks and Christian Bale movies.

You can find Erin:
Melange Books
Web
Blog
Twitter
Facebook

>Writers Are Troublemakers, Too

>My guest today, Erin O’Riordan, currently has a FREE erotica anthology available at Smashwords through 7/31

…And I don’t need a single book to teach me how to read
Who needs stupid books? They are for petty crooks…”

(“Troublemaker,” lyrics by Rivers Cuomo. From Weezer’s self-titled 2008 album)

Okay, so at first glance, Weezer’s pop-rock tune “Troublemaker” hardly seems like inspiration for us writers. No one wants to be called a “petty crook,” and the L.A.-based alternative rock band’s sound isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. (Some of the lyrics, though not the ones I’ll be discussing, are also slightly risque.) The guys of Weezer have come up with some quite original and witty lyrics over the years, though, and on closer inspection, “Troublemaker” has some good lessons for writers after all. Consider some of the lines that follow the “petty crooks” remark:

–“…So turn off the TV, ‘cause that’s what others see.”

Those of us with a TV habit can attest to TV’s writing-time-wasting effect. As artists, we may applaud TV’s ability to allow millions across the globe to share the same bank of stories and images. In other ways, TV’s visual, corporate-sponsored approach to communal storytelling may lessen our collective ability to imagine a plot line for ourselves, without a Hollywood studio’s help. Before you completely dismiss television as a drain on our imaginations, though, consider this: at a book festival in my hometown, prolific—and best-selling—author Linda Lael Miller was asked where she gets her ideas. She cited TV as one of her inspirations, along with country music.

–“…I will learn by studying the lessons in my dreams…”

There truly is a craft to writing. Before we can write that best-seller, we have to learn the nuts and bolts of grammar, punctuation, structure, etc. We begin learning this in school. We read great books and dissect their greatness. We practice, fail, practice some more. Our teachers, tutors, professors, and mentors help us along the way, imparting the knowledge of the craft to us. Books, writers’ conferences, and websites can teach us still more. At some point, though, our writing has to come from somewhere inside of us. Call that “somewhere” what you will: the right hemisphere of the brain, the subconscious, the soul, the muse. Whatever name it goes by, it gives us our best ideas, often when we least expect them. Sometimes they literally come in dreams as we sleep. I’ve had some great ideas just before falling asleep and as I’m waking. Ideas can come at any time, and it’s in our best interest to follow these flashes of inspiration. We can also speak our dreams into reality: the moment we have the courage to name ourselves “writer,” we start to make it true.

–“…Doing things my own way and never giving up…”

Every piece of writing we submit will be expected to follow the publisher’s guidelines. The key word there is “guide.” Writing may be a craft, but it is also an art, and artists have many times been rewarded (professionally or personally) for disregarding the rules and following their intuition. We should do things our own way and write to please ourselves first. Along with that, we have to have persistence. If we’ve studied our craft well, edited judiciously, and written something interesting and worthwhile, our work will be acknowledged, even if that acknowledgment takes longer than we’d like. Never give up.

–“…I can’t work a job, like any other slob, punchin’ in and punchin’ out and suckin’ up to Bob…”

One of the unfortunate truths of the writing profession is an extremely small percentage of us will ever reach the level of success of the top popular authors. Hugo Award-winning science fiction writer Joe Haldeman, at the book festival I mentioned earlier, likened his income to that of “a good used-car salesman.” Most of us will never be able to quit our day jobs. This doesn’t mean working as a full-time writer, spending all day every day doing the thing we love most, isn’t a worthwhile goal. Some days feels as if life has unfairly saddled us with a desire to do nothing else but read and write, then forced us to do some other work to pay the bills. With persistence and a little luck, though, many of us will find ways to carve out a living…even if we always feel like the proverbial “starving artist.”

–“…There isn’t anybody else exactly quite like me…”

Writers each have our own unique voices, just as the singers of rock bands do. By listening to our dreams, doing things our own way, and working at our craft, we will all create our personal styles. If we get our styles just right, our readers will know our voices without even seeing our bylines. You know Hemingway when you read him, don’t you? Or Edgar Allan Poe? Find your voice, and you’ll find yourself an audience.

In pop-rock songs, the words of the chorus are often repeated. In this case, the last line of
“Troublemaker” bears repeating. When you think of your writing career, remember these three final words: “Never giving up.”


Erin O’Riordan lives in the Midwestern United States with her husband, her co-author on a series of crime thrillers. She also writes the Pagan Spirits romance novel series. Her short stories, essays, and film reviews have been published in numerous anthologies, magazines and websites. A trap designed to catch her should contain dark chocolate, espresso drinks and Christian Bale movies.

You can find Erin:
Melange Books
Web
Blog
Twitter
Facebook

RITA Nominee Kendra Leigh Castle & Dark Awakening

>Sometimes you meet people and automatically click.  It was was like that for me with Kendra.  She is so personable and warm I felt like I’d known her for far longer than a few emails.  I think you’ll feel that way about her after reading through the interview below, and I hope you all enjoy her as much as I have!

We have several giveaways today — 2 books and 5 handmade bookmarks.  Comment to enter!
 

Kendra’s Harlequin Nocturne RENEGADE ANGEL finalled in the 2011 RWA RITA, Contemporary Series Romance: Suspense/Adventure Category.  And her newest release, DARK AWAKENING, just released last Tuesday.

I am a professed vampire novice, though you can’t be a living, breathing author of any genre without catching news of the hottest paranormal creature alive…or not.  So when I read my ARC of DARK AWAKENING I was immediately taken with the many and varied twists Kendra put into the storyline.

Here’s a desription of DARK AWAKENING:

Tynan MacGillivray has spent the better part of his three hundred years serving at the pleasure of the queen of the Ptolemy dynasty, her prized hunter in a world where blood is destiny. But the lowblood cat-shifter gets far more than he bargained for when his new target, a human woman whose rare abilities make her the only hope for saving the greatest of the vampire dynasties, turns out to be far more than she seems. 

Lily Quinn is an innocent whose beauty hides secrets that could change the world of night forever…and Ty will have to choose between the loyalty that has kept him alive, or a love that promises more than he ever imagined…if it doesn’t destroy them both.

So many aspects of this novel fascinated me: the way Kendra infused the Celtic Highlander history into a modern vampire hierarchy; the complication of social classes within this society and the internal and external conflict it brings to the characters; the constant spark between the hero and heroine from their first intense meeting; her superb worldbuilding.  Far too many elements of fine storybuilding to outline here.  I hope you’ll purchase this novel and enjoy all its intricacies personally.

Kendra, congratulations on finalling RITA! You attended the RWA National convention in NYC last month. Can you tell us what was different about attending the conference as a RITA finalist?

Thanks so much for having me over today, Joan! It was such a huge honor. And attending the conference as a finalist was amazing. This past year has seen a lot of wonderful forward movement in my career…a lot of things seemed to happen at once, and getting the RITA final for that particular book was really the icing on the cake. It’s so incredibly validating to be singled out by your peers as someone who is capable of writing something really special. The whole thing was magic.

Romantic Times said, “Castle’s world-building is superb and leaves readers wanting more.”

I find paranormal world building one of the hardest elements to establish in a concrete, believable, seamless way in writing. How do you do it?

I love that world-building quote from RT. It’s a huge compliment, particularly because having your characters interact in and with a world quite different from the everyday isn’t the easiest thing, at least not if you want to do it well. No one wants to get pulled out of the story and see the woman behind the curtain pulling the levers. Preventing that is always at the back of my mind!

I don’t pull everything together all at once. I’m a pantser at heart, despite the fact that I now have to write outlines for my editors (*sniffle*). So I normally start with a more nebulous framework for the world that gets added onto over time. In the case of the Dark Dynasties, I knew I wanted a caste system, a dark world ruled by disaffected nobles and populated by a vast underclass either serving or trying to avoid them. The idea of the bloodline marks came early, and in fact the first character I really “knew” was Queen Arsinöe. 

I, um, had thought she might be a bit nicer when I started. That happens sometimes. Anyway, that loose idea of the world I was operating in, and the relationship between the Ptolemy dynasty and their “pets”, the Cait Sith, got the ball rolling. And as Lily and Ty made their way through the story, the details got filled in. Someone once called my process “organic”, which is a really nice way of saying “fumbling around in the dark”, but it works for me. And frankly, I have a lot of fun discovering things at the same time as my characters!

I love the way you’ve given these paranormal characters such human quirks—Lily, the heroine, and her hopeless sense of direction, and Ty, the hero, his love for late night television and movies. These elements add depth and dimension to your characters.

Can you tell us more about your thought process behind those quirks? Are they characteristics of yours or someone close to you? What other quirky elements have you added to other characters in the past that have added dimension? How do you choose quirks for your characters?

Thanks! I don’t really pick and choose quirks for my characters. It’s more like they turn up with them and I just have to put them in the right situation to discover them. With Lily, some of her terrible sense of direction was born of necessity (she wouldn’t have met Ty if she’d gone the right way!), and some is just…her. Well, and me. I couldn’t find my way out of a wet paper bag, even with a map and a flashlight. Sharing that particular quirk with her was an early way of relating to the character, since she’s quite different from me in other ways.

Ty’s love of late night television and his knowledge of pop culture was one of those things that just clicked into place. The guy is up all night, every night. Often, he isn’t doing much. What’s a bored vampire to do in the wee hours? Jaden, his friend, likes to cook. That was one that just sort of happened, and I got mushy over it. “Aww, a vampire who likes to make comfort food!” Weird, maybe, but revealing of his personality. I love things that humanize the dark and dangerous heroes.

In addition to having a heated sexual chemistry, your hero and heroine seem to spark in every interaction. What is your philosophy on creating characters whose interactions light up the page and keep the reader invested?

It’s a delicate dance, and I always know if it’s not working. Imaginary characters can be surprisingly stubborn to work with! I think for me, I try to hit a balance between the hero and heroine having enough in common to relate, but enough differences to intrigue and infuriate one another. I know dialogue is key for me…I love to have them talk, and dialogue is one of my favorite things to write. Between the verbal sparring (which all of my hero/heroine combinations do) and dealing with a magnetic sexual pull between them strong enough that even getting close sets off fireworks, I always hope readers will pick up on and enjoy all of that sexual tension. I’m glad you think I’m managing it!

You are married to a Navy fighter pilot—an undeniably heroic career. What has prompted you to write about vampires, werewolves and magic instead of something more Suzanne Brockmann-like where you’d have your own expert in-house? 

(As an aside, I ask this question because I’m married to a career firefighter and for a very long time wrote about cops and FBI agents. My critique partner kept asking me, why don’t you write about firefighters? My first sales were of heroes as ex-firefighters. So I thought I’d pass the question along.)

It was amazing to watch Brian when he was flying (he developed some serious back problems around the ten-year mark, and after a couple of surgeries has moved into defense acquisitions). There were things I got a kick out of (flight suits!) and we had a wonderful, tightly-knit community I enjoyed.

But you know, it’s really funny…living with the Navy day in and day out has made it far less appealing to write about. Not that it’s bad, but I write to create a fun escape, and being a Navy spouse is my everyday reality. Apart from that, I’ve always been drawn to stories with a magical and/or supernatural element. I’ve never been much interested in writing tales without it! And by the way, thanks to you and your husband for pursuing (and supporting) such a challenging and heroic career.

As the wife of a military man, you’ve moved around a lot. How do you think that has affected your writing?

I don’t know if or when I would have started writing seriously without the Navy! I was very good at finding excuses not to buckle down. And with having babies early on in our marriage, the excuses were pretty valid. But then we got stationed in the Nevada desert, which was like being sent to the moon for this New Englander, and I knew it was put up or shut up time. If I couldn’t write a book in a place with…we’ll be nice and say “few distractions”…it wasn’t going to happen. As far as the further moving affecting my writing, I think it’s helped me set things in different locations. I’ve seen a lot of places!

You have three children and your husband must be gone quite a bit with his career. How do you manage your writing and promotion schedule?

“When do you find time to do this?” is the number one question I get from pretty much everyone I know! Actually, my husband is around most of the time now that he drives a desk instead of a jet, and that has helped immensely. Still, he’s at work all day, and I play chauffeur to the kids (11, 9, and 5, respectively). We have three dogs and a cat. Life is wonderfully (sometimes insanely) full. So I write when the house is quiet, which means staying up late. Sometimes, as a deadline approaches, very late! But I expect that when the youngest heads off to kindergarten in the fall, I’ll find myself with something that could be a regular work day…and not that I’m anxious to see my baby go, but being able to get all that writing time in when I’m at my most awake sounds awfully nice.

Thank you so much for having me, Joan! Those bookmarks are gorgeous, and I also have a signed copy of DARK AWAKENING to give away to one lucky commenter! I’ll be here all day to chat, so if you’ve got questions about the writing process, my books, or paranormal romance in general, fire away!

Kendra Leigh Castle writes dark paranormal romance and lives in Southern Maryland with her husband, three children, and menagerie of pets. You can find her online at www.kendraleighcastle.com, on Twitter as @KendraLCastle, and on facebook.

Thank You, Kendra! 

Comment on Kendra’s interview or ask a question of your own and you’ll be entered to win one of the following 7 prizes: (U.S. & Canada Shipping Only)
* MUST leave a contact email * 
  • A print copy of DARK AWAKENING
  • A print copy of RENEGADE ANGEL
  • 1 of 5 custom bookmarks

>RITA Nominee Kendra Leigh Castle & Dark Awakening

>Sometimes you meet people and automatically click.  It was was like that for me with Kendra.  She is so personable and warm I felt like I’d known her for far longer than a few emails.  I think you’ll feel that way about her after reading through the interview below, and I hope you all enjoy her as much as I have!

We have several giveaways today — 2 books and 5 handmade bookmarks.  Comment to enter!
 

Kendra’s Harlequin Nocturne RENEGADE ANGEL finalled in the 2011 RWA RITA, Contemporary Series Romance: Suspense/Adventure Category.  And her newest release, DARK AWAKENING, just released last Tuesday.

I am a professed vampire novice, though you can’t be a living, breathing author of any genre without catching news of the hottest paranormal creature alive…or not.  So when I read my ARC of DARK AWAKENING I was immediately taken with the many and varied twists Kendra put into the storyline.

Here’s a desription of DARK AWAKENING:

Tynan MacGillivray has spent the better part of his three hundred years serving at the pleasure of the queen of the Ptolemy dynasty, her prized hunter in a world where blood is destiny. But the lowblood cat-shifter gets far more than he bargained for when his new target, a human woman whose rare abilities make her the only hope for saving the greatest of the vampire dynasties, turns out to be far more than she seems. 

Lily Quinn is an innocent whose beauty hides secrets that could change the world of night forever…and Ty will have to choose between the loyalty that has kept him alive, or a love that promises more than he ever imagined…if it doesn’t destroy them both.

So many aspects of this novel fascinated me: the way Kendra infused the Celtic Highlander history into a modern vampire hierarchy; the complication of social classes within this society and the internal and external conflict it brings to the characters; the constant spark between the hero and heroine from their first intense meeting; her superb worldbuilding.  Far too many elements of fine storybuilding to outline here.  I hope you’ll purchase this novel and enjoy all its intricacies personally.

Kendra, congratulations on finalling RITA! You attended the RWA National convention in NYC last month. Can you tell us what was different about attending the conference as a RITA finalist?

Thanks so much for having me over today, Joan! It was such a huge honor. And attending the conference as a finalist was amazing. This past year has seen a lot of wonderful forward movement in my career…a lot of things seemed to happen at once, and getting the RITA final for that particular book was really the icing on the cake. It’s so incredibly validating to be singled out by your peers as someone who is capable of writing something really special. The whole thing was magic.

Romantic Times said, “Castle’s world-building is superb and leaves readers wanting more.”

I find paranormal world building one of the hardest elements to establish in a concrete, believable, seamless way in writing. How do you do it?

I love that world-building quote from RT. It’s a huge compliment, particularly because having your characters interact in and with a world quite different from the everyday isn’t the easiest thing, at least not if you want to do it well. No one wants to get pulled out of the story and see the woman behind the curtain pulling the levers. Preventing that is always at the back of my mind!

I don’t pull everything together all at once. I’m a pantser at heart, despite the fact that I now have to write outlines for my editors (*sniffle*). So I normally start with a more nebulous framework for the world that gets added onto over time. In the case of the Dark Dynasties, I knew I wanted a caste system, a dark world ruled by disaffected nobles and populated by a vast underclass either serving or trying to avoid them. The idea of the bloodline marks came early, and in fact the first character I really “knew” was Queen Arsinöe. 

I, um, had thought she might be a bit nicer when I started. That happens sometimes. Anyway, that loose idea of the world I was operating in, and the relationship between the Ptolemy dynasty and their “pets”, the Cait Sith, got the ball rolling. And as Lily and Ty made their way through the story, the details got filled in. Someone once called my process “organic”, which is a really nice way of saying “fumbling around in the dark”, but it works for me. And frankly, I have a lot of fun discovering things at the same time as my characters!

I love the way you’ve given these paranormal characters such human quirks—Lily, the heroine, and her hopeless sense of direction, and Ty, the hero, his love for late night television and movies. These elements add depth and dimension to your characters.

Can you tell us more about your thought process behind those quirks? Are they characteristics of yours or someone close to you? What other quirky elements have you added to other characters in the past that have added dimension? How do you choose quirks for your characters?

Thanks! I don’t really pick and choose quirks for my characters. It’s more like they turn up with them and I just have to put them in the right situation to discover them. With Lily, some of her terrible sense of direction was born of necessity (she wouldn’t have met Ty if she’d gone the right way!), and some is just…her. Well, and me. I couldn’t find my way out of a wet paper bag, even with a map and a flashlight. Sharing that particular quirk with her was an early way of relating to the character, since she’s quite different from me in other ways.

Ty’s love of late night television and his knowledge of pop culture was one of those things that just clicked into place. The guy is up all night, every night. Often, he isn’t doing much. What’s a bored vampire to do in the wee hours? Jaden, his friend, likes to cook. That was one that just sort of happened, and I got mushy over it. “Aww, a vampire who likes to make comfort food!” Weird, maybe, but revealing of his personality. I love things that humanize the dark and dangerous heroes.

In addition to having a heated sexual chemistry, your hero and heroine seem to spark in every interaction. What is your philosophy on creating characters whose interactions light up the page and keep the reader invested?

It’s a delicate dance, and I always know if it’s not working. Imaginary characters can be surprisingly stubborn to work with! I think for me, I try to hit a balance between the hero and heroine having enough in common to relate, but enough differences to intrigue and infuriate one another. I know dialogue is key for me…I love to have them talk, and dialogue is one of my favorite things to write. Between the verbal sparring (which all of my hero/heroine combinations do) and dealing with a magnetic sexual pull between them strong enough that even getting close sets off fireworks, I always hope readers will pick up on and enjoy all of that sexual tension. I’m glad you think I’m managing it!

You are married to a Navy fighter pilot—an undeniably heroic career. What has prompted you to write about vampires, werewolves and magic instead of something more Suzanne Brockmann-like where you’d have your own expert in-house? 

(As an aside, I ask this question because I’m married to a career firefighter and for a very long time wrote about cops and FBI agents. My critique partner kept asking me, why don’t you write about firefighters? My first sales were of heroes as ex-firefighters. So I thought I’d pass the question along.)

It was amazing to watch Brian when he was flying (he developed some serious back problems around the ten-year mark, and after a couple of surgeries has moved into defense acquisitions). There were things I got a kick out of (flight suits!) and we had a wonderful, tightly-knit community I enjoyed.

But you know, it’s really funny…living with the Navy day in and day out has made it far less appealing to write about. Not that it’s bad, but I write to create a fun escape, and being a Navy spouse is my everyday reality. Apart from that, I’ve always been drawn to stories with a magical and/or supernatural element. I’ve never been much interested in writing tales without it! And by the way, thanks to you and your husband for pursuing (and supporting) such a challenging and heroic career.

As the wife of a military man, you’ve moved around a lot. How do you think that has affected your writing?

I don’t know if or when I would have started writing seriously without the Navy! I was very good at finding excuses not to buckle down. And with having babies early on in our marriage, the excuses were pretty valid. But then we got stationed in the Nevada desert, which was like being sent to the moon for this New Englander, and I knew it was put up or shut up time. If I couldn’t write a book in a place with…we’ll be nice and say “few distractions”…it wasn’t going to happen. As far as the further moving affecting my writing, I think it’s helped me set things in different locations. I’ve seen a lot of places!

You have three children and your husband must be gone quite a bit with his career. How do you manage your writing and promotion schedule?

“When do you find time to do this?” is the number one question I get from pretty much everyone I know! Actually, my husband is around most of the time now that he drives a desk instead of a jet, and that has helped immensely. Still, he’s at work all day, and I play chauffeur to the kids (11, 9, and 5, respectively). We have three dogs and a cat. Life is wonderfully (sometimes insanely) full. So I write when the house is quiet, which means staying up late. Sometimes, as a deadline approaches, very late! But I expect that when the youngest heads off to kindergarten in the fall, I’ll find myself with something that could be a regular work day…and not that I’m anxious to see my baby go, but being able to get all that writing time in when I’m at my most awake sounds awfully nice.

Thank you so much for having me, Joan! Those bookmarks are gorgeous, and I also have a signed copy of DARK AWAKENING to give away to one lucky commenter! I’ll be here all day to chat, so if you’ve got questions about the writing process, my books, or paranormal romance in general, fire away!

Kendra Leigh Castle writes dark paranormal romance and lives in Southern Maryland with her husband, three children, and menagerie of pets. You can find her online at www.kendraleighcastle.com, on Twitter as @KendraLCastle, and on facebook.

Thank You, Kendra! 

Comment on Kendra’s interview or ask a question of your own and you’ll be entered to win one of the following 7 prizes: (U.S. & Canada Shipping Only)
* MUST leave a contact email * 
  • A print copy of DARK AWAKENING
  • A print copy of RENEGADE ANGEL
  • 1 of 5 custom bookmarks

A Novel Approach To Marketing = Authenticity

>(Comment for a chance to win a $25 Barnes & Noble Gift Card)

Even before I sold my first novel to Alicia Condon at Kensington, even before I contracted with my agent, Paige Wheeler, I was angling for market share as an author.  As a pre-pubbed, pre-agented writer dreaming of that “someday” call, I would walk down the aisles of WalMart thinking to myself, how did they get here?  Then asking myself, how do I get here?

For years I didn’t have the answer.  I looked to everyone else for tips, tricks, advice, direction.  One writer says blog, another says don’t bother.  One author says promote out the wazoo, another says, I never promote and I’m NYT.  One agent says, your premise isn’t unique enough, another says the same premise is far too “out there”.

I did the website, the blogging, the facebook, the twitter.  I took the dozens of classes on craft and storytelling and promotion.  I read.  I wrote.  I submitted.  I queried.

About 8 years later, by the time I signed with my agent, I realized what all published authors realize at some point…most before they even sell:  there is no shortcut, no trick, no “magic beans” as Lauren Dane says.

In the last six months, as I’ve struggled to cultivate clever marketing strategies in preparation of my upcoming release, I’ve watched the industry and the changes within.  Like so many other authors, companies and entrepreneurs out there, I’ve wondered just how to gain the attention of the customers (read: readers) I hope to cultivate soon.  Ultimately, I sat back, frustrated, disheartened and dazed, doubtful there was really any way I could make a dent in the attention deficit that has become our target market.

Taking that break from what felt like an upstream swim helped me settle.  I found myself able to look at the whirlpool from a different perspective and I discovered what I was doing that was holding me back: focusing on myself.

When I decided to dip my toes back in the water, it was with a stronger sense of who I am, where I fit and how far I will allow myself to be drawn into the pull of it all.

I’m a giver at heart.  Even as a kid, I’ve always enjoyed giving presents more than getting them.  I’m absolutely positive this is some personality disorder that is documented in the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), but in the end, it’s just me–good or bad.  So when I waded back to the waters edge, I suppose I did it more authentically.  I utilized twitter and facebook and blogging as a way to give to others — information, advice, technique, antidotes, gifts, thanks, whatever I felt I had/have to offer.

Not only did it feel good, it felt right.  I felt as if I’d found my groove.  In this economic slump, an environment of dwindling audience and growing competition for said audience’s attention, simply giving without expectation of return on investment isn’t generally thought of as the first or best plan of action, but it fits me.

The best part is that I’ve discovered it fits a lot of other people out there, too.  I’ve had a tremendously positive response and feel like I’m finally settled where I want to be…right on the edge of all the fun where I can watch and participate without getting run over or worn out.

Today I came across an article that validated my search for marketing authenticity.  I want to share a few quote from the article, as I could not illiterate my point of view any better.  The piece was written by Michael Stelzner, co founder of Social Media Examiner and you can find the complete articleHERE — definitely worth the read.

But here are a few passages that spoke to me…intimately:

  • Have you noticed that everything is changing? Your industry advances, ideas expand, products morph and your customers move on. Similar to space travel, everything’s hurtling forward. Nothing remains still. Just when you think you have everything figured out, it all changes!
Um…yes! This is why I stopped trying when my head was spinning 90mph.

  • We’ve been treating people like fish. We’ve been taught to simply crawl into a boat, paddle out to where the customers are, grab our reel and cast out on top of customers. Then just jiggle that bait the right way and you’ll be able to force a customer into your boat.
As a customer, I recognize this tactic.  And, no, I don’t like it.  It makes me feel…ordinary, forgetable, disposable.
  • If you want to connect with customers and attract raving fans, the solution is very simple: Focus on people.

I LOVE this!!

  • You can meet the needs of people by helping them solve their problems at no cost. When you help people with their smaller problems, many will look to you for their bigger issues.
  • Great content PLUS other people MINUS marketing messages EQUALS growth!
  • When you offer great content—such as detailed how-to articles, videos—that focuses on helping other people solve their problems, you’ll experience growth. Why? Because this type of content meets the needs of people. It doesn’t focus on you, your products or your company. It is a true gift to your audience.
  • Once the marketing messages are caged, the focus of your company shifts from “What can we sell you?” to “How can we help you?” You shift from pitching products to boosting people.

Now there’s a concept — boosting OTHERS, not just YOURSELF!! Wow, how novel!

  • With the old forms of marketing, you pitch and sell. People ignore you and your business is at risk. With the new method, you give gifts, people trust you and you become indispensable.
  • The result: You no longer need to sell! Instead, you demonstrate your expertise by the content you produce, the ideas you showcase, the stories you share and the people you attract. By creating a platform for others, you can also build strategic alliances, quickly grow a large following and dominate your industry.
  • You have the chance to own the place people go to for help, eliminating your reliance on traditional marketing channels. You can become the center of your industry, niche or local market. And when that happens, you’re launched on an unstoppable trajectory that will take you places you never imagined possible.

Well, there you have it…in theory anyway.  IMO, I love the theory, it works for me, it feels good and I’m going to stick with it.

I’m a big believer in karma.  How about you?  What are your thoughts on this theory?

Comment for a chance to win a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card!

>A Novel Approach To Marketing = Authenticity

>(Comment for a chance to win a $25 Barnes & Noble Gift Card)

Even before I sold my first novel to Alicia Condon at Kensington, even before I contracted with my agent, Paige Wheeler, I was angling for market share as an author.  As a pre-pubbed, pre-agented writer dreaming of that “someday” call, I would walk down the aisles of WalMart thinking to myself, how did they get here?  Then asking myself, how do I get here?

For years I didn’t have the answer.  I looked to everyone else for tips, tricks, advice, direction.  One writer says blog, another says don’t bother.  One author says promote out the wazoo, another says, I never promote and I’m NYT.  One agent says, your premise isn’t unique enough, another says the same premise is far too “out there”.

I did the website, the blogging, the facebook, the twitter.  I took the dozens of classes on craft and storytelling and promotion.  I read.  I wrote.  I submitted.  I queried.

About 8 years later, by the time I signed with my agent, I realized what all published authors realize at some point…most before they even sell:  there is no shortcut, no trick, no “magic beans” as Lauren Dane says.

In the last six months, as I’ve struggled to cultivate clever marketing strategies in preparation of my upcoming release, I’ve watched the industry and the changes within.  Like so many other authors, companies and entrepreneurs out there, I’ve wondered just how to gain the attention of the customers (read: readers) I hope to cultivate soon.  Ultimately, I sat back, frustrated, disheartened and dazed, doubtful there was really any way I could make a dent in the attention deficit that has become our target market.

Taking that break from what felt like an upstream swim helped me settle.  I found myself able to look at the whirlpool from a different perspective and I discovered what I was doing that was holding me back: focusing on myself.

When I decided to dip my toes back in the water, it was with a stronger sense of who I am, where I fit and how far I will allow myself to be drawn into the pull of it all.

I’m a giver at heart.  Even as a kid, I’ve always enjoyed giving presents more than getting them.  I’m absolutely positive this is some personality disorder that is documented in the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), but in the end, it’s just me–good or bad.  So when I waded back to the waters edge, I suppose I did it more authentically.  I utilized twitter and facebook and blogging as a way to give to others — information, advice, technique, antidotes, gifts, thanks, whatever I felt I had/have to offer.

Not only did it feel good, it felt right.  I felt as if I’d found my groove.  In this economic slump, an environment of dwindling audience and growing competition for said audience’s attention, simply giving without expectation of return on investment isn’t generally thought of as the first or best plan of action, but it fits me.

The best part is that I’ve discovered it fits a lot of other people out there, too.  I’ve had a tremendously positive response and feel like I’m finally settled where I want to be…right on the edge of all the fun where I can watch and participate without getting run over or worn out.

Today I came across an article that validated my search for marketing authenticity.  I want to share a few quote from the article, as I could not illiterate my point of view any better.  The piece was written by Michael Stelzner, co founder of Social Media Examiner and you can find the complete articleHERE — definitely worth the read.

But here are a few passages that spoke to me…intimately:

  • Have you noticed that everything is changing? Your industry advances, ideas expand, products morph and your customers move on. Similar to space travel, everything’s hurtling forward. Nothing remains still. Just when you think you have everything figured out, it all changes!
Um…yes! This is why I stopped trying when my head was spinning 90mph.

  • We’ve been treating people like fish. We’ve been taught to simply crawl into a boat, paddle out to where the customers are, grab our reel and cast out on top of customers. Then just jiggle that bait the right way and you’ll be able to force a customer into your boat.
As a customer, I recognize this tactic.  And, no, I don’t like it.  It makes me feel…ordinary, forgetable, disposable.
  • If you want to connect with customers and attract raving fans, the solution is very simple: Focus on people.

I LOVE this!!

  • You can meet the needs of people by helping them solve their problems at no cost. When you help people with their smaller problems, many will look to you for their bigger issues.
  • Great content PLUS other people MINUS marketing messages EQUALS growth!
  • When you offer great content—such as detailed how-to articles, videos—that focuses on helping other people solve their problems, you’ll experience growth. Why? Because this type of content meets the needs of people. It doesn’t focus on you, your products or your company. It is a true gift to your audience.
  • Once the marketing messages are caged, the focus of your company shifts from “What can we sell you?” to “How can we help you?” You shift from pitching products to boosting people.

Now there’s a concept — boosting OTHERS, not just YOURSELF!! Wow, how novel!

  • With the old forms of marketing, you pitch and sell. People ignore you and your business is at risk. With the new method, you give gifts, people trust you and you become indispensable.
  • The result: You no longer need to sell! Instead, you demonstrate your expertise by the content you produce, the ideas you showcase, the stories you share and the people you attract. By creating a platform for others, you can also build strategic alliances, quickly grow a large following and dominate your industry.
  • You have the chance to own the place people go to for help, eliminating your reliance on traditional marketing channels. You can become the center of your industry, niche or local market. And when that happens, you’re launched on an unstoppable trajectory that will take you places you never imagined possible.

Well, there you have it…in theory anyway.  IMO, I love the theory, it works for me, it feels good and I’m going to stick with it.

I’m a big believer in karma.  How about you?  What are your thoughts on this theory?

Comment for a chance to win a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card!

February Fresh

January has been both exciting and exhausting.

Together with the fabulous authors showcased here on the blog last month, we gave away 34 books!!  But beyond the books themselves, I’m even more thrilled about introducing so many readers to amazing authors they hadn’t before heard of or read.

February will be a month of fresh new posts, focusing on the positive–ways to keep yourself positive in writing and in life.  I’ll be posting material from my own hypnotherapist and work that I have done to get past writing blocks–which could also be used to get past blocks in everyday life.

I will also have tips and tools to aid in your writing.

Another exciting development this month is my new column with Savvy Authors, PRACTICED MASTERY.  The column will post on the first Wednesday of each month with a review of a new fiction novel from an author’s perspective.  There, I will showcase the stellar use of craft elements in each novel and highlight them to use as teaching points for other writers.

I hope you’ll come back often and share your thoughts, maybe sign up for the giveaways I can’t seem to keep myself from offering. 🙂

Thanks for following for the last month and meeting all my author buddies!

If there is something particular you’d like to talk about on the blog, a book you thought was stellar that you’d like me to review for craft, let me know in the comments.

>February Fresh

>January has been both exciting and exhausting.

Together with the fabulous authors showcased here on the blog last month, we gave away 34 books!!  But beyond the books themselves, I’m even more thrilled about introducing so many readers to amazing authors they hadn’t before heard of or read.

February will be a month of fresh new posts, focusing on the positive–ways to keep yourself positive in writing and in life.  I’ll be posting material from my own hypnotherapist and work that I have done to get past writing blocks–which could also be used to get past blocks in everyday life.

I will also have tips and tools to aid in your writing.

Another exciting development this month is my new column with Savvy Authors, PRACTICED MASTERY.  The column will post on the first Wednesday of each month with a review of a new fiction novel from an author’s perspective.  There, I will showcase the stellar use of craft elements in each novel and highlight them to use as teaching points for other writers.

I hope you’ll come back often and share your thoughts, maybe sign up for the giveaways I can’t seem to keep myself from offering. 🙂

Thanks for following for the last month and meeting all my author buddies!

If there is something particular you’d like to talk about on the blog, a book you thought was stellar that you’d like me to review for craft, let me know in the comments.