The 27th Annual Fabulous Five contest for unpublished authors and authors not published in book length fiction in the last five years is open for entries. WisRWA is pleased to be able to offer entrants of the 2018 Fabulous Five contest a chance to win one of eight detailed critiques from a published WisRWA author. We wanted to introduce everyone to each of these authors, and share a little bit about their writing journey. Without further ado, please meet our first author: Amy Sandas.
Amy writes historical romance about dashing, and sometimes dangerous, men who know just how to get what they want and women who at times may be reckless, bold, and unconventional, but who always have the courage to embrace all that life and love have to offer.
She lives in Northern Wisconsin where she spends her early mornings writing then heads to her “other” job, dreaming of the day she can write full-time. The rest of her time is spent trying to keep up with the kids and squeeze in some stolen moments with her husband.
WISRWA: How long have you been writing? Can you tell us a little about your journey to publication?
AMY: I started writing romance in little scene snippets and false starts when I was still in high school. It wasn’t until college that I finally committed to starting and finishing a complete manuscript. It took me seven years. And the story was horrible. At that time, I was not yet a member of RWA so I researched online how to write a query letter and synopsis and how to submit to agents. I received a lot of lovely rejections and tucked that poor wreck of a story into a dark corner—never to be seen again.
My next finished manuscript was better—still not great, but good enough to hook an agent. Unfortunately, she left the business while she was still shopping that title around and I was left hanging for a while. I’m positive that manuscript wouldn’t have been published as it was, but I hope someday to revise it and give it another go. The story that followed interested my current agent and was my debut novel with Samhain in 2012.
WISRWA: What is something that you learned along the way that proved to be a light bulb moment and still is relevant to your writing today?
AMY: A light bulb moment for me came when I got The Call from my agent telling me we had an offer on what became Rogue Countess. I had envisioned that moment so many times in the years leading up to it that when it finally came, it was sort of a let-down. I didn’t scream or jump up and down or pop open a bottle of champagne. My only thought was “Okay. What’s next?” Because in that moment (and in all the significant moments that have come since in my writing career), my focus was on the fact that there was more to come. More to DO.
Each milestone I reach pushes my gaze forward to the next one. One novel does not make a career. And a career as a full-time author is what I have wanted from the start. For me, that pragmatic approach keeps me motivated when that ultimate goal feels so far away.
WISRWA: What is one piece of writing or industry advice you can offer to unpublished authors?
AMY: Since the industry is often still a great mystery to me, I’ll offer some writing advice that continues to help me out. Whenever a story feels off and I can’t pinpoint exactly what the problem
is, I go back to my characters. I’m usually struggling because I am trying to force my hero and/or heroine into behaving in a way they wouldn’t.
So, I stop everything and complete a handful of character development worksheets that I’ve found to be helpful. I dive deep into who these people are and then I look at my story on a big scale to seen where they might have gotten off track. After that, I go through each scene to see if they are acting and reacting in a way that is true to who they are. Once those necessary adjustments are made, things tend to get rolling again.
It’s all about the characters!
WISRWA: Any new books coming out in the near future?
AMY: In June 2018, the first in my Western Historical series will be coming out. The Gunslinger’s Vow kicks off my Runaway Brides series about three high society ladies from Boston who decide to take a chance on freedom, adventure, and love in the American West of the 1880’s. The second in the series, The Cowboy’s Honor, is expected to release in fall of 2018, while The Outlaw’s
Heart should be out in the first half of 2019.
For a chance to win a detailed critique by Amy, don’t forget to enter the Fabulous Five contest. She will be offering a detailed a detailed critique for one lucky entrant in the Paranormal category. For more information about the contest and to enter, click here.
I love history. I write historical fiction. I have a degree in American History. And, I’ve always been fascinated in the origin of things. St. Valentine and Cupid, one real and one a myth, are the two figures most closely associated with Valentine’s Day. Who was St. Valentine? The answer to that question is unclear.
The Catholic Church recognizes three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all martyred. One was a priest who served in the third century Roman army. Emperor Claudius II believed single men made better soldiers, men not distracted by a wife and family, so he made it illegal for his young soldiers to marry. Legend has it this soldier priest defied the decree by secretly officiating at the marriage of young soldiers who had fallen in love. When the emperor learned of this, he ordered Valentine put to death. Other legends suggest Valentine, while imprisoned and awaiting his execution, may have been killed helping Christians escape from the tortures of Roman prisons. According to another legend he actually composed and sent the first “Valentine” after falling in love with a young girl, perhaps his jailor’s daughter, who visited him regularly. He is supposed to have signed his greeting “From your Valentine”. The one thing the legends all have in common is the portrayal of Valentine as a sympathetic, romantic hero. By the Middle Ages, Valentine would become one of the most popular saints in England and France.
Perhaps the most familiar symbol of Valentine’s Day is Cupid, that fat little winged angel with the arrows that supposedly cause their target to fall in love. This vision of Cupid, son of Venus, Goddess of Love, comes from Roman mythology. However, Greek mythology envisioned Cupid much differently.Eros, the son of Aphrodite, Greek Goddess of Love, was a handsome young man who made the mistake of falling in love with a mortal woman, Psyche, said to be even more beautiful than his jealous mother. Aphrodite sent a plague to Earth and made it known the only way to end the suffering was to sacrifice Psyche. The King, Psyche’s father, bound her and left her to be devoured by a fearsome monster. Eros rescued Psyche and married her. His one requirement, though, was that his bride never see his face. This did not bother Psyche as she was happy with her husband who was a wonderful lover by night and left her to live in unimaginable luxury by day. Unfortunately, Psyche had two sisters who were just as jealous of their sister’s beauty as was Aphrodite. They convinced Psyche her husband must in truth be a horrible monster. So one night Psyche lit a candle to see for herself. Instead of something ugly and fearsome, she saw the face of a god. As Psyche gazed at the sleeping Eros, her candle dripped hot wax and he awoke. Angry at her betrayal, Eros flew away. Devastated, Psyche begged her mother-in-law for another chance. Aphrodite set Psyche on a quest to complete four tasks in order to win back Eros’ love. Psyche managed to accomplish the first three tasks with the help of ants, a reed, and an eagle, but the fourth task became her downfall. Aphrodite sent Psyche to the underworld to steal a box of Persephone’s beauty cream. Again with help, Psyche found the entryway to the underworld and snuck past the guards Charon and Cerberus; but, as Aphrodite predicted would happen, Psyche could not resist the temptation to open the box. Psyche reasoned that if the most perfect goddess Aphrodite could be made even more beautiful by this cream, imagine what it would do for her, an imperfect mortal. Upon opening the box, Psyche fell into a deathlike sleep. With the help of Zeus, Eros brought his sleeping wife to Olympus, where she was given nectar and ambrosia and thus made immortal. On Olympus, in the presence of the other gods, Aphrodite was forced to accept Psyche as her daughter-in-law. Psyche would soon give birth to a daughter named Pleasure.
In Latin the word Cupid means “desire”, that emotion celebrated on February 14th with cards, flowers, candy…perhaps that much-anticipated ring. Desire…it’s what romance writers struggle to create for our readers every day.
May your lives be filled with the love and desire promised by the gods, St Valentine, and Cupid. Not just on Valentine’s Day, but every day.
New to romance writing, Jane Yunker has been a WisRWA member since 2015 and the Chippewa Falls area contact since 2016. She is a blogger, published poet, and published short fiction writer. She recently completed her first full-length romance novel, “Mary Bishop,” which finaled in the 2016 Fab Five Contest historical category, and has started work on her second. She grew up in Wisconsin but spent almost thirty years living in Rochester, New York, before returning to Wisconsin in 2011. She currently lives in St Croix Falls with her husband.
Jane is also a member of the Wisconsin Writers Association (WWA), the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets (WFOP), The Northern Lakes Writers Guild, and the St Croix Falls Historical Society archival committee.
Barbara M. Britton and Laura Iding (w/a Laura Scott) will be participating in a book signing and panel about Christian fiction at the Barnes and Noble in Brookfield. The event will take place February 10 from 12-4 PM. The panel will begin at 2 PM.
Each month, WisRWA will announce the new books our members have published. We call it New Release Tuesday.
Congratulations to the following WisRWA members on their new releases this month.
Fight For You by Kayla Bain-Vrba
Fury Frayed by Melissa Haag
Bad Boy Billionaire’s Lady by Mary Hughes
Passion on the Prairie by R.E. Stevens
Marrying a Mountainman by R. E. Stevens
For many of us, when we consider purchasing a book, we look at the cover, read the back blurb, and scan chapter one for the hook unaware of the process and the professionals involved in creating the book. We may recognize the author or perhaps the publisher, but what role did the editor-in-chief play in the creation of the book? I had the privilege of interviewing Nicola Martinez, Editor-in-Chief of Pelican Book Group. Pelican is the premier publisher of Christian, inspirational fiction and the first publisher to dedicate an entire imprint to promoting purity.
In this article, Nicola provides an insight into her world in producing Christian fiction books, and how her faith is an integral part every step of the way.
Tell us about your path in becoming an editor-in-chief
I started acquiring Christian fiction for a publisher in 2006 as an editor for their inspirational imprint, White Rose. In 2009, I purchased White Rose from that company, and started the journey of publishing as an independent. White Rose Publishing became an imprint of Pelican Book Group, and over the years, we added new imprints.
Can you describe a typical day in the office?
After personal morning devotions, I spend time answering emails. Depending on deadlines and other schedules, I might spend more or less time getting through emails. I’ve gotten it down to a routine of answering emails only twice per day unless there’s something time-sensitive or pressing. With my morning email stint finished, I work through my to-do list, which could include office/accounting work or editing tasks, considering requests for contract, figuring out cover art, working on marketing either in-house or coordinated with the distributor.
Just before midday, I’ll stop to get together with staff to pray. We pray daily for the needs of the company and our authors and staff and for any special requests we receive through the prayer submission form we have on our website. Pelican is a ministry first, so our prayer time could be an hour or sometimes longer. We deliberately don’t put a time-frame on that part of our day. (You know what they say: If you’re too busy to pray, you’re too busy!)
Once a week, I’ll conference with our marketing director. We take that time either to consider current marketing strategies or to brainstorm ideas and discuss/decide upon the opportunities passed along to us through our distributor or PR.
In May 2017 we launched a weekly TV show, and so a couple days a week, working on that production is in my schedule.
How many different hats do you wear?
Only about four hundred, or so. 🙂 As publisher as well as editor-in-chief, I’m responsible for the business side of everything from contracts to accounting, etc. Because I feel a strong responsibility to the Gospel, I also try to vet every story we publish, so I do a good deal of reading and evaluating manuscripts as the final step before offering a contract. When I can’t read a manuscript an editor would like to acquire, that editor and I have discussions about what should be acquired. Then there’s editing and coordinating marketing efforts with our marketing team, coordinating releases with the distributor, working on subsidiary rights…the list goes on.
What do you look for in new writing?
I’m always looking for passion. Be enthusiastic about your story—believe in getting your message out there through the entertaining word—so much that it rubs off on others.
I want to see great story-telling. Make me laugh out loud, empathize with your character, hate your villain, and to fall in love with Christ a little bit more.
Don’t “tell” me your mission. “Show” me. For example: If you have to repeat the same thing three different ways (over-writing) or explain in minute detail why a character is doing something or saying something (over-simplifying), rather than having that information flow naturally, then you’ve missed the opportunity to immerse me in the reality you’ve created.
What excites you about the publishing industry?
I get excited when authors get excited, when they are so happy to see their work come to fruition, when they are raring to get their book into the hands of readers. As an author myself, I still remember what it feels like to get that contract offer, to see edits for the first time, to receive a release date, to see the cover art and the final product. It’s exciting! And I love getting to share that with authors.
On a more company-centric note, I’m excited that we’re seeing more of our books in audio.
Can you share any trends with us?
We’ve been hearing about it for a little while now, but audio is definitely on the rise. It’s one of the reasons we’ve made the decision in 2018 to produce more of our current and favorite titles in audio.
Christine Schimpf was born and raised in a small town in southeastern Wisconsin, graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, and is an award winning essayist. Her debut novel, Nick, The Journey of a Lifetime is based on the life of her grandfather-in-law. Five years after its release, the book remains the #1 best seller in her hometown at a local book store and gift shop. Christine is a member of the national and local chapters of the American Christian Fiction Writers Association and the Romance Writers of America. She lives on five acres in the country with her husband and golden retriever and is now fortunate to devote most of her time to writing. She always has a work-in-progress, but in her spare time, she enjoys golf, tennis, kayaking and simply being outdoors as that is her source of inspiration. Her advice to those wanting to take the leap into writing is to join a writing/critique group, read as often as you can, and study the craft.
As the author of twenty-three short stories ranging from 3,000 to 40,000 words that have been published over the last seven years, I am often asked “Is there really a market for short stories?” The answer is YES – and that market is growing! (By the way, I’m going to use the term “short story” throughout this piece to describe any story under 50,000 words. There are more technical terms, such as novella and novelette, but we won’t get into that today.) There is a growing market for short stories as more people are looking for a story they can read in an hour or two. They want to read a full story all at once when they have some spare time—not read a chapter today, find themselves too busy to read for a week, and then try to pick up with chapter two. Enter the short story. Not only are there dozens of indie publishers out there publishing short stories of various lengths, but traditional publishing houses are jumping on the bandwagon as well. Hachette, Avon, and Harlequin all have imprints that publish these fun-sized romances.
We’ve established that there is a growing market for short stories. But why should you write one? If you’ve never published before, I think short stories are a great place to start. When I first started writing, I tried and failed to finish numerous full-length romances. However, the first time I tried my hand at writing a short story, not only was I able to complete it, but it was accepted for publication! Short stories are a great way to build your self-confidence while you develop your writing style on a smaller scale. For published authors, there are a number of reasons to write short stories as well.
Writing a short story is different from writing a full-length novel. My best advice is to think FOCUSED when writing a short story. You’re not giving your readers a distant view of a forest; give them a detailed view of one tree. Many authors make the mistake of thinking “short” or “simple” and get unsatisfying results with their short story. Sure, I could retell Titanic in 10,000 words, but it’s going to read like a Wikipedia page, not a love story. You need to FOCUS on one part that still tells a story—such as Jack and Rose having a horrible dinner together with the upper-class folk before escaping to dance the night away.
When writing a short story, you just don’t have the time or space to flesh out complex internal and external conflicts and resolve them in a way that’s satisfying to readers. For Happily Ever After stories, your characters have probably met previously; it’s less believable if your characters meet, fall in love, and get married in 5000 words. If your characters are meeting for the first time, you’re probably writing a Happy For Now story. You are going to have few, if any, secondary characters; these characters do not get their own plots in short stories. FOCUS on the romance, less on the external conflict or other characters. Be selfish and put your couple in the spotlight; let them steal the show! I once heard that if a novel is a journey, a short story is an experience. Go start your experience today!
By: Kayla Bain-Vrba
Kayla Bain-Vrba has been living in daydreams ever since she was a little girl and writing about them for as long as she can remember. It was her discovery of m/m romance that inspired her first published work at age nineteen. When she’s not writing—or is procrastinating writing—Kayla enjoys spending time with her other half, crafting, and planning things to a tee.
With the Fab Five contest set to open in just a few days, it’s time to announce our final round judges. We’re also excited to announce that as an added bonus this year, entrants who opt-in on their entry fee will be entered into a drawing to win a FREE registration* to our one day workshop Unlock Your A Game featuring Heidi Cullinan on October 6, 2018. All entrants will be entered into a drawing to receive a detailed critique from a WisRWA published author. Number of critiques is TBD at this time.
Fab Five judges the first 2,500 words of the manuscript. The contest is open to unpublished writers. For more information about the Fab Five contest, please see our Fab Five contest page.
And now, without further ado, here’s our lineup of categories and judges for 2018:
|Contemporary||Alycia Tornetta, Entangled Publishing
Ann Leslie Tuttle, Dystel, Goderich & Bourret
|Historical||Norma Perez-Hernandez, Kensington Publishing Corp
Nikki Terpilowski, Holloway Literary Agency
|Inspirational||Nicola Martinez, Pelican Book Group
Julie Gwinn, Seymour Agency
|Mackenzie Walton, Carina Press
Samantha Wekstein, Writers House Literary Agency
|Romantic Suspense||Kristine Swartz, Penquin Random House
Cori Deyoe, 3 Seas Literary Agency
|Women’s Fiction||Margaret Johnston, Sourcebooks
|Ashley Hearn, Page Street Publishing
Veronica Park, Corvisiero Literary Agency
Each month, WisRWA will announce the new books our members have published. We call it New Release Tuesday.
Congratulations to the following WisRWA members on their new releases this month.
A Christmas Kind of Perfect by Christine Schimpf
A Touchdown to Remember by Seelie Kay
The Wrong Groom by Maggie Rivers
Z-Bot by S.C. Mitchell
Mrs. Claus and the Moonstone Murder by Christine DeSmet
While long-published authors put my meager knowledge to shame, I did learn a lot in the last year. Needless to say, getting attention for a novel with all the competition for attention is a tough assignment. Here are the most important things I learned during the process of getting my first novel published.
The writing is the fun and easy part. Right now, I am still promoting my first two books, editing my third, writing my fourth and partnering on a non-fiction project. There is so much work involved in all these that has nothing to do with writing—there’s a web site, social media (see below), PR plans, book events and planning, essays to help promote the books (you are reading one), “tip sheets” to help sell your book; meeting with book clubs……I could go on and on. You must use every skill you have—and develop new ones—to promote your book to the widest audience.
It’s a year-long process after writing your book. Lots has to happen from the time you finish your book until it is published. For me, the process began when I sent my final manuscript to my publisher in December, 2015. There are two windows for traditional publishing: spring or fall. As time was short to accomplish everything, we chose the fall cycle for my first novel. Even with that, the final title of my book had to locked down by March 1 with the cover design well underway. I know more about the cycle now and released my second book in August of this year because the timing fit perfectly with the PR plan. Choose the most advantageous time to publish your book.
Summarizing your book in one paragraph is the hardest thing to do. I failed at this, miserably! My friend and established author, Kris Radish, stepped in to help me. It is so hard to tell the story of your book in so few words without giving away key elements, but it is exactly this summary that attracts readers to your book on every platform there is, especially Amazon (more on that below). Work hard to create the fewest words to describe your work. Your short book summary is its biggest selling point.
Amazon is the big gorilla. I certainly knew this before becoming an author, but I now have personal experience with the biggest name in books. I learned that establishing an Author Central page on Amazon was critically important, and I did this by “claiming” my book as part of my page creation. My husband is English and we have tons of family and friends in England, so I wanted to make it easy for them to purchase my book, so I claimed my book on Amazon UK as well. Amazon can change the price of a book any time they want, and they did bring the retail price down on my book as part of the pre-sale. Amazon is king, so take advantage of it, but understand how it works.
Social media is king. As publishing is so fragmented, using social media to get the word out about your book isn’t a “nice to do,” it’s a “must do.” This means as a writer you must develop new platforms on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc. and connect your own web site to social media tools. Luckily, I knew a bit about social media through professional and personal experience, but I learned a ton more because of my book. Get familiar with social media and use its power to promote your book every day.
Friends and family rule. They know you and want to help, so give them the tools. I did mailing lists of all the folks I know in cities where I did book events; I sent a customized email to key friends and family about the book and how to buy it; I asked a few friends for their early thoughts and asked them to review my book on Amazon or Goodreads. I used Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to keep contacts informed of good reviews and awards and issued calls to action. You’ll be surprised at some of the folks who step up to help you. The people who know you well are best suited to help promote your book.
Be bold. To get your book out there, you have to take some risks. Unfortunately, many don’t work out, but if a few do, you may hit the jackpot in promoting your book. I sent my book to some well-known authors, reporters and others in the movie industry, and this hasn’t paid off in a big way yet. A few months before my book came out, I sent an email to a small, local magazine about publishing a notice about my first novel. They did a whole story with a sidebar about the book, and I ended up on the cover! Make a lot of shots on goal in promoting your book, as you never know which one will result in great exposure.
Incorporate what you know and love into your book promotion. I spent more than thirty years in corporate communication, so I wrote an essay that was published in an industry newsletter about how my career helped me become an author. I love to cook, bake and travel, and, of course, write, so I incorporate all of these into my book promotions, connecting across social media platforms. Make promoting your book fun for you.
It’s never enough or totally done. Here’s the bad news: promoting your book is never over, you just move on to the next one. Here’s the good news: my publisher tells me that it takes two or three books before an author can get established, so each subsequent book brings attention to earlier works, which can result in additional sales. Never give up on bringing your work to the world as your efforts today could pay off well down the road.
It’s all on you. Whether you are working with a publisher or self-publishing, you are the one who needs to do the lion share of the work to get your book out there. You must do something every day to bring your work to the world. I was lucky that my publisher had great people who taught me about the book business, but at the end of the day, it was up to me. Quick story: I had my screening mammogram recently and got into a conversation with the technologist, and she bought my book! She asked me to talk to her son, an aspiring fantasy writer, and I did. Engage and put yourself out there; you are the best ambassador for your work.
Phyllis Piano spent more than 30 years working in Fortune 500 companies, serving as an officer and chief communication officer in several. Her first novel, Hostile Takeover: A Love Story, was published in October 2016, and received the Gold Medal in Romance at the 2017 Independent Book Publishers Association Ben Franklin Awards and first place in Fiction: Romance at the 2017 Independent Press Awards. Her second, Love Reconsidered, was published in August, 2017, and was a finalist in the 2017 Best Books Award.