Certain Business Lessons That Don’t Apply to Writing (IMHO)

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Thirty years in the business world taught me a lot. Not everything was useful for launching a writing gig, however.

Business lesson one: Be a chameleon and change your colors when your customers want you to. But if I change my voice, stories or genre too much, how long would my readers stick around? They’d be confused, right?  

Business lesson two: Keep the status quo at all costs. Change is costly. It takes time to retool manufacturing plants, get the right staff in place, and market products. With writing? Personally, I get tired of reading the same story with just different characters. Surprising readers, introducing them to new thinking or feeling, and designing whole new worlds is a writer’s goal.

Business Lesson three: The customer is always right. This is a tricky one in author land. For one, you’re not writing for anyone who reads. You are writing for (hopefully) first yourself and then secondly for a specific readership. Pleasing everyone seems the fastest way to a lukewarm story at best.

Business lesson four: Your personality shall fit in with what is acceptable. Oddballs need not apply. As an author? Bwaahahahahahaha. My favorite author bloggers and tweeters expose their quirks with abandon. It’s what keeps me coming back.

Business lesson five: If it doesn’t feed the bottom line, exit. Can you guess what you’re about to read next? Yep. Most authors don’t write to make money. They write because they can’t not write. (You like that double negative?) Money is great—downright awesome. But it’s not why I write.


Lessons From My Business Life That Inform My Writing Life

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Thirty years as a communications professional has given me good marketing, public relations and strategic planning experience that is coming mighty handy around launching a writing career. But plenty of other lessons I’ve learned along the way are proving to be equally useful.

Lesson One: Be kind even if that kindness isn’t returned. Much talk is made of authors needing a “thick skin.” That doesn’t mean you have to be callous or unfeeling. It means learning to be nice even when others aren’t returning that favor.

Lesson Two: Take the long view. No one is an overnight success. Not even E. L. James. Look behind every victory and you’ll find years of preparation mixed with courage to take the opportunities presented. Send your eyes to the horizon and keep walking (and writing).

Lesson Three: Pay attention to your instincts. You know when something isn’t right. Listen to it and act accordingly, even if other people think you’re crazy.

Lesson Four: Similar to lesson three, you know when the job isn’t done even if you wished like it hell it was. You know that niggling feeling that the book isn’t ready yet? Pay attention to it. Thou shall not publish the book before it’s ready.

Lesson Five: Embrace your uniqueness. Much money is made from the status quo. Change is expensive in the business world. So, out of that comes a strong desire to conform. Resist this as an author. Your voice, your story, and your ideas matter. You don’t need “the industry” to confirm that fact. Somewhere out there are readers who, once they’ve discovered you, will wonder where you’ve been all their life.


Fantasy Versus Reality in Erotic Romance

In case anyone didn’t know, erotic romance novels are not real. Gideon Cross does not exist. Christian Grey is a figment of an imagination. [Insert favorite hero here] is only on screen or paper. Sigh. Life isn’t fair, is it?

However, that’s not to say we don’t dive head first into those fantasies. But when does the story move from a story we’re willing to buy to a totally unbelievable tale? I’m sure you’ve read the latter at some point. Has anyone here ever wanted to throw their Kindle across the room? (Raises hand.)  

 For me, the jig is up when the story is filled with moments that seem impossible.

As writers we spin fictional worlds. But there’s a difference between writing something we wish would happen and writing something that we know cannot happen – not ever.  

(I’m going to keep my assumptions to contemporary fiction. Sci-fi, fantasy and paranormal already assume the reader is going to suspend disbelief. Yet, I submit even in those genres there is a line a writer can’t cross.) 

In contemporary fiction identifying those Kindle-throwing moments is simple. If I come across a bit of, ahem, action in a story that causes me to remark – “no f-ing way!” – well, that’s when I know someone’s blown it in writing land. (I try hard not to blow it in my own writing. You let me know if I ever do, okay?) 

In erotic romance, virgins have multiple orgasms, men say the perfect things at the perfect time (in fact, they talk), arms and legs entwine in all the right ways, and other parts fit like cosmically-destined puzzle pieces. 

Pretty fantastical. But could it happen? Sure. Probable? You be the judge. Regardless, the story you read has to be grounded in possibility. In short, the fantasy has to be what we’d wish for in real life and “if only XYZ happened” we might get that ideal romantic moment. The story feeds our faith. 

Have you ever read a story that made you believe something you hadn’t thought probable, but gave you hope? Who does fantasy well in the erotic romance world? Do share in the comments section!  

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Wherein I Share Hot Erotica (and a bit about me) on the #BatonBlog Hop

Spencer Dryden, fellow erotic writer and all around hilarious guy, has passed me a blog baton. Thanks, Spencer!

Spencer is a humble guy. He writes, “some men are born great, others strive for greatness; still others have greatness thrust upon them. Spencer Dryden is none of these men. In fact, he is so unimpressive, he leaves no footprints on newly fallen snow.”

I can tell you that’s not exactly true. You should check out Spencer’s Novella, Bliss, published by Breathless Press. It is a story of a woman’s struggle with sexual shame. I shan’t say any more. Just go ahead and one-click that story right to your Kindle or IPad. Go ahead, I’ll wait…

Back? Well more about Spencer! He was trained in fiction writing on the job with the many sales reports he produced for his managers, winning the coveted “keep your job contest” three years running. His expense reports are still considered masterpieces of forgery by the bankruptcy trustee of his former employer. He lives an unremarkable life in a suburb of a northern city. His friends and family would drop dead in horror if they knew of his secret life as a writer of erotica. (Welcome to my world, Spencer.) He hates the family cat but still loves to pet his wife.  

You can find him on Twitter @SpencerDryden and Google at https://plus.google.com/u/0/+SpencerDryden/posts

Now on to questions the Baton Blog Group asked of me. First, what am I working on? So glad you inquired. I’m wrapping up my first contemporary erotic romance novel, Lovely, which is to be published in January 2015. It’s the first of six novels in the Elite Doms of Washington series. The other books are in various stages of development. The idea is to publish them all next year. Yes, I’m your resident erotic romance overachiever.

How does my work differ from others of its genre? My work is usually set in Washington, D.C. The idea of playing out romantic power exchange in one of the world’s most powerful cities appeals to me. Besides a little dominance and discipline could do that city some good, don’t you think?

My heroines also are a tad sassy. Well, more than a bit. I like to read and write about strong, smart women who meet their match in dominant men. I don’t believe strength and love are mutually exclusive. You’ll never catch my characters shrinking into their non-communication caves, either. My characters talk. Sometimes their desire to meet things head-on gets them into a lot of trouble. My characters love life and aren’t afraid to reach for the highest rung on the ladder.

Why do I write what I do?  I can’t help myself. That’s the real answer. I spent the last thirty years in the business world, much of it in Washington, D.C. I entertained myself in long boring meetings by making up stories about the people I met or wished I could encounter. Before I knew it, characters were born and demanding to have their stories told.

For instance, the idea for Lovely came to me while sipping cocktails at Sequoia on the Washington Harbor near Georgetown. I looked over the water and saw a woman on a boat, who I swore had been lashed to the mast. (A trick of the eyes, perhaps?) That was the day Jonathan Brond, the dominant hero in Lovely, first appeared to me. He asked me if I liked what I saw. Yes, sir.

How does my writing process work? Usually a scene or conversation pops into my head. I ask questions and characters talk back to me—sometimes. They’ve been known to ignore me. They’ll carry on, and allow me to observe. I’ll write down the scene, and more parts of the story emerge. Some days I intend to jot down a line or two of dialogue only to look up at the clock two hours later to find I’d written an entire chapter or sketched out a whole story arc.

Okay, enough about me. I now hand the baton over to a fantastic sci-fi and fantasy erotic romance writer, Patricia A. Knight. Her Verdantia series is engaging, sexy and full of unique elements and story lines. Check out Hers to Command first and find out why for some, existence without their mate might seem like the end of the world . . . for the members of Verdantia’s Tetriarch, it would be.

Patricia’s writings offer yet another one-click opportunity for you to fill your Kindle or IPad with delicious tales of adventure, romance and swoon-worthy men and strong heroines. (Dibs on Ramsey.)

Patricia says her pen name is for an eternal romantic who lives in Dallas, Texas with her horses, dogs and the best man on the face of the earth – oh yeah, and the most enormous bullfrogs you will ever see. Word to the wise: don’t swim in the pool after dark.

She loves to hear from her readers and can be reached at http://www.trollriverpub.com/ or http://www.patriciaaknight.com. Or send her an email at patriciaknight190@gmail.com. Check out her “Hot Hunk of the Day” and latest releases, contests and other fun stuff on her facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/patricia.knight.71619


Check out her blog to see who she passes on the baton to next!


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New Author Lessons from The RT Booklovers Convention

Last night I arrived home, spent and in need of a beignet detox, after spending five days at the RT Booklovers Convention in N’awlins. My luggage didn’t arrive with me, but that meant I got the night off from doing laundry. (It arrived later. Whew. I had books in there!)

Most convention attendees will tell you it’s the most fun you can have with a group of writers and readers in the romance genre. Yes, it was! But it also gave me some valuable lessons about how to be an author.  I attended many sessions on the craft of writing, marketing, publishing and social media. They were great. But, the most valuable lessons came in how to be with other authors and readers.

Lesson One: Have a graceful answer when someone asks if you have a sex cradle at home. The number of personal questions lobbed at authors astounded me. For instance, did they act out their love scenes at home? Even erotic romance authors can blush. I witnessed it. (No, I didn’t ask such personal things. Grammie would roll in her grave!)

Lesson Two: When encountering your favorite authors try to act semi-normal. Squealing is okay, but only for about five seconds. After that talk to them about their books. It’s why they’re there. I kept my squealing under control (sort of). Some other attendees? Well…

Lesson Three: Do not be shy about promoting thyself. Swag, postcards and bookmarks, flyers and free books were par for the course whether or not someone was promoting their 100th book or their first. Readers seemed to love it, stuffing them into their goody bags. Humility and bold marketing needn’t be mutually exclusive.

Lesson Four: The best places to meet people is at the hotel bar or standing in line. Expect to stand in lots of long lines at RT. Consider it a networking opportunity. What else are you gonna do? I handed out (and received) a dozen cards trying to get into ballrooms and parties. As for the bar? I met the most interesting people over wine, like long-time romance author Kat Martin. Such a lovely person.

Lesson Five: As an “aspiring author” (my RT label since I’m not yet formally published), always remember every best-selling, top-ranking author was once “aspiring.” I was fortunate to have the opportunity to say hello to Shayla Black and Lexie Blake at an RT event. They asked me what I wrote. I told them and walked away completely high from them caring enough to even ask. I’ll work hard to mirror their kindness to other new authors.

More lessons and anecdotes abound. But for now, let’s leave it at that. If you are a lover of the romance genre, or aspiring author, consider attending next year’s Dallas convention. My ribbon better say “published author.”

5 Ways I’ll Enjoy the RT Booklovers Convention Differently This Year

Last year I attended the RT Booklovers Convention for the first time. I thought I was prepared. Sure, Elizabeth.

First, the event was so much more fun than I anticipated. Everyone was friendlier and more helpful than I expected. The books and swag giveaways were greater and the sessions and parties were grander than I could have imagined. So, this year, well…

1. I’ll be smarter about shoes. Everyone meant it when they said wear comfortable shoes. Even the kitten heels are staying home this year. Okay, maybe I’ll bring one pair of heels for the parties. I’m not going to be shy about slipping them off mid-dance, however.

2. I’ll prepare for goodies. Forget bringing the perfect wardrobe. Make sure you have room in your suitcase to bring home the books and tchotchkes. To this day I regret leaving a load of fun things for the maids to divvy up. Especially the little lava lamp from the Ellora’s Cave party. Not this year. I’ll pay the extra baggage fees to haul them home!

3. I’m talking! Last year I was too shy to utter a word to authors I’ve been following (okay, stalking) for years. There they were in the flesh – being lovely and generous and accessible. I froze. Not this year, baby. See that woman running to the front of the room to gush and genuflect before the famous author? Yeah, that’ll be me.

4. I’ll be at the hotel  bar a little bit more. It’s the happening place. Authoress Lynne Connelly spoke at the session for first-timers (go to that if it’s your virgin voyage!), and she gave this advice. She was right.  I met a dozen fellow readers and writers at the hotel bar. Pull out your kindle or iPad (or rolling suitcase of books) and compare bookshelves. It’s a blast! I must have downloaded ten books in the time it took to down one glass of wine. (For those of you who know me, you’ll recognize this as fast.)

5. I won’t be shy about talking about my own work. I’m still going to RT as an “aspiring author,” because my writing doesn’t come out for months. But, rest assured I’ll be telling anyone who asks how to access my books and short stories. My business card this year is a tad more helpful, including links to here and other places. I guess that’s a round about way of saying, once again, I won’t be as shy.

Okay, writing and reading friends, here I come! I hope to see you there.

My Beloved, Bloated E-Reader. Long May It Reign.

I have so many books downloaded onto my iPad – using both the iBooks and Kindle apps – I’m surprised I can lift the darn thing. I’ve been hearing this mysterious new term lately – Kindle fatigue. What the heck is that? You mean people actually are tired of amassing a library of books? Not me. Bring it. In fact, I get a little itchy when the queue thins. I mean, what if I’m stuck in an airport or doctor’s office with no wi-fi and I can’t download anything and – gasp! – I don’t have at least 50 books to choose from? Perish the thought.

 What about you? How many books to you have on your e-reader? Can you have too many?

Hello Hollywood!

Great Material Over Here!

Do you ever wonder why your favorite erotic romance novels aren’t made into movies? Yeah, me, too.

Okay, they’re making that “one” movie that we all know about. (In case you live under a rock in a cave in the deepest recesses of the Pacific ocean, it’s the movie with “50” and “Shades” in it.) But, what about all the other films that could be made?

So, I penned this open letter to Hollywood. Because you know they are waiting with baited breath to hear from me, after all, right?

Dear Hollywood,
Let’s face it. You’re in a bit of slump. You’ve made, re-made, re-imagined and basically regurgitated every other concept, story and idea I’ve seen in my, ahem, years on the planet. I mean, do we really need another Superman movie? No offense to those time-honored stories. (Henry Cavil, if you are reading, I really, really didn’t mean to insult your turn to play Superman. I think you should play one of my heroes, actually. Call me.) Hey, there’s an idea. Superman in an erotic romance! But, I digress.

Making an erotic romance movie would be new. And, exciting. And, fun. And…well, new.

Let us assess the facts, shall we?

1.     The romance category is the second best seller of all book genres, and the erotic category is building some serious steam around being a favorite genre in that category. This means choices, materials, and fans. Speaking of which…

2.     The fans of romance border on the obsessed. Seriously. We put NASCAR to shame. We love an author? Well, hello backlist. We order and preorder books, stalk authors on Goodreads, and leave gushy emails and Facebook posts on their fan pages. We are in a word: loyal. Hello, Hollywood! Built in audience over here!

3.     Sex has always sold. If a movie studio is filming that “one” movie aforementioned, they can certainly make a movie from a novel by Sylvia Day, Beth Kery, Joey W. Hill, Patricia A. Knight, Kresley Cole, Cecilia Tan, Lisa Renee Jones, ohh, jeez, I’ll stop there if I have to. A plethora of authors await your attention.

4.     The sets are pretty easy, except when they won’t be. Hear me out. Sci-fi/fantasy/paranormal could get pretty location-heavy. But, hey, that means it’s a blockbuster. You like those, right? If not, many erotically-charged novels are set in just one place: the bedroom, the playroom, the [insert room of choice]. Consider these the “little films,” the ones that win Academy Awards. Unless, the big blockbuster wins it first. In other words, an erotic romance film could be anything we’ve seen bestowed with gold statues.

5.     So many genres to choose from: Sci-fi. Paranormal. Fantasy. Contemporary. Historical and Regency. Cowboy. Steam punk. I won’t list them all here. But, there are at least two dozen more. I also won’t get into ménage, same-sex, happy ending, downer endings and more. Erotic fiction’s colors and layers rival general fiction. Your choices are endless.

6.     Series potential. So, I mentioned the loyal fan base. Well, so many erotic romances go on and on and on and… Well, you get the idea. We fans love our happy endings. We love our continuing happy endings even more.

I could continue, but I think you get the drift, Hollywood. So, let me know when you’re ready. I await with my wallet in hand. In the meantime, you’ll find me over in the corner reading or writing.

Smoochies!  

Why Write Erotic Romance?

Very few people know my real identity, but the handful of friends who do have asked me (more than once), why write erotic romance? Why not write general fiction? Good question.

It’s because my characters tell me what to write. They are passionate (albeit fictional) people. They talk to me. They challenge. They refuse to go quietly. They have stories, and they want them told. They also have a lot of sex.

My alpha hero dominants are the most vocal. They insist I get everything right. I swear sometimes I feel hands descend on my shoulders as I type. They let me know when I veer off course – their course.

Naturally, my heroines have their own version of the story. They are spirited and independent, though they are willing to discuss where they might go next, hard and soft limits, and even wardrobe choices. The heroes? Not so much. They demand. Perhaps that’s why I find the male point of view faster to write.

And, write I must. The greater question is: would it be possible to NOT write erotic romance? No, it would not be possible. My mind fills with scenes, dialogue, silk panties begging to be ripped off, candles extinguished from bath water splashes, and commanding Dominants fulfilling fantasies of willing submissives.

I have dictated dialogue between characters into my iPhone as I drive. I have tapped out possibilities for scenes on my iPad in airports. I have annoyed my husband to no end by snapping on the nightstand light at two a.m. to scribble an idea on the notebook that is never, ever far from my grasp. I simply have to get it out of my head.

Never is anyone stripped to their essence more than when fulfilling their most primal urges. They swoon, they mate, they take and they give. My character’s erotic encounters are often both the beginning and the end of how they relate to one another. They show me how intimacy can be the light and can be the dark. Yet, they crash into one another again and again in hopes of finding that final, passionate communion.

So, that is why I write. It’s an obsession, one to which I’m happily addicted. I am honored they allow me to be part of their journeys.