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Screen Shot 2013-11-12 at 12.38.12 PMAfter releasing my latest novel THE SECRET MISS RABBIT KEPT, I put ‘Enter the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest ‘ on my Bucket List. I’d never considered a contest before, but I thought there might come a day when I might regret having not given Miss Rabbit the opportunity to try her luck.

**Background for those not familiar with the contest: Any non-contracted author can submit their work into one of five categories. The entries are then whittled down in stages: 10,000 to 2,000, then 500, then 25. From there, 5 Finalists are announced and held up for a popular vote. And all of this takes place over a 5-month period.

Torture, right? You have no idea

If you haven’t seen my FB posts, my Tweets, my LinkedIn or Goodreads profile, my Pinterest pages, or my Instagram shots (yes, authors have to be social media freaks),  you might not be aware of my current spot among the remaining 100 entries in the General Fiction category. There’s still a long way to go (or not), but as a member of the ‘100 Club’, I received a review by Publisher’s Weekly. Mine, completed last week, is included below: 

“Smart but self-doubting Sophie — nicknamed So-So by her family — narrates this winning coming-of-age-story that takes place where people really do come of age: the nursing home. Although loved by her parents, Sophie lately feels the sting of being abandoned by her birth mother when she was an infant. “Assuming the residents were unloved toss-aways” like her, Sophie starts a job on her 16th birthday as a nurse’s aide at Sterlingwood Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, where one Mrs. Gertrude Steiner promptly pees on Sophie’s leg and dies in her arms. Although she’s devastated by her first three days at the home, Sophie’s new friend and guide, Emma Jean Baker, is able to show her — and the reader — the humor and humanity behind the horrors of aging and dementia. She’s also Sophie’s guide into the world of Miss Mable Rabbit, a slight but sharp resident who resolved decades ago never to speak to anyone. In her, Sophie finds a purpose: to unlock her secrets and hear her talk again. By uniting the young and old souls, the sly and ever-caring Emma Jean hopes that each woman will come to an understanding not only of the other damaged soul, but also of their own. Though the plot is predictable, the novel’s sharp, funny characters, their warm and friction-filled relationships, and the madcap — but very real setting — provide insights and surprises aplenty.” 

My current placement could be the last stop on this journey (the competition is fierce), but I’m thrilled with this reviewer’s kind words.

We writers put our hearts and souls into our stories, and The Secret Miss Rabbit Kept took every bit of mine. While I would love nothing more than to see Miss Rabbit among the next 25 (dare I say the final 5?), my readers love her as much as I’d hoped they would. Winning hearts — more so than winning contests — is the stuff of any writer’s dream.

PS Lest I jinx anything, let me say BOTH would be very nice 🙂

 

© Robin Cain 2014

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ddc6c2b2e0870ad8986ce2.L._V201243649_SX200_My next guest in this Authors Helping Authors series is best-selling author Sherry Gloag, a transplanted Scot now living in the beautiful coastal countryside of Norfolk, England.  Sherry and I ‘met’ through our mutual involvement in the Internet Writing Workshop.  I invited Sherry to share some insights and experiences.

Welcome, Sherry. To give the audience some perspective, tell us how many books you’ve written.

Taking your question literally, I have written about fifteen books, nine of which have been published so far. Five of those books were submitted and rejected.  I lost those manuscripts during a PC changeover, and they were never re-worked or submitted again.  Of the nine books published so far, one of those, The Brat, was rejected by a big-name publisher of romances here in the UK, but was accepted by The Wild Rose Press a couple of months later.

 Have all fifteen been in the same genre? 

No. I write contemporary romances with a dash of mystery and, at most, one to three flames. Within that category, I have written both full-length novels and some novellas.  Two of my other novels are Regency Romances. One, Vidal’s Honor, enjoyed best-seller status on both Amazon, and Amazon UK, for several weeks.

A great many authors don’t feel they’ve actually made any headway until they’ve subbed to agents or been published. When did you first feel you could call yourself ‘a writer’?

Before I was published I called myself an ‘aspiring author’.  That made me feel my goal was more feasible.  I’ve had to think back for this one, and don’t know, for sure, that I ever described myself as a writer. Don’t ask me why!

How did you go about get your first book published? 

The Wild Rose Press  published The Brat in October 2010. I tried a leading UK publisher of category romances early in 2010 without success. I then offered a whole revision of the story to The Wild Rose Press a couple of months later. The editor, who was absolutely charming, declined it too, but offered a host of suggestions, including trying another category within TWRP.

Many writers would’ve taken the rejection and not resubmitted, but you did and were successful?

Yes, I followed the suggestions and met with success, but I didn’t do that the first time it happened to me.

So, there’s advice you would give your ‘younger self’?

Yes,  when a leading UK publisher of romance rejected a manuscript with a note offering suggestions for improvement, I should’ve recognized that as an invitation to rework the story and then submit it again. Sadly, I missed out twice on that one for lack of knowledge. So it follows on I would also advise my younger self (and all new writers) not to give up. Even though it wasn’t so much a case of giving up, as lack of knowing the form, at the time. Also my younger self would have benefited from realizing that just because certain members of the family didn’t take me seriously, I should have ignored them and believed in myself.

Where do your story ideas come from? 

Anywhere and everywhere. It could be a phrase that pops into my head. A snippet of overheard conversation. Something seen on TV – don’t watch that much so it’s not a big source of ideas. – A picture or a tune may inspire me, but quite often the characters or an ideal title may come to mind and I ‘go from there’.

How has your method of publication and/or writing changed over the years?

In the three years since The Brat was published I think my writing has changed. I’d like to think it has improved. It’s hard to analyse the changes in my writing, but I think it is edgier.

Do you have a favorite among your titles? 

My favourite book is usually the one I am writing. That said, The Brat, Duty Calls, From Now Until Forever and Vidal’s Honor are all close to my heart. The first two because they took much more time to write, and I fell totally in love with my characters. The other two, because my heroines were gut-deep strong women. They both constantly surprised me with their actions and solutions to the obstructions I put in their path.

Which of your works has outperformed the others and why do you think this is?

Vidal’s Honor quickly became a best selling book. I’d like to say it’s because of my writing, the story content and the plot, but I have to acknowledge that the stunning book cover plays a great deal in the success of the book. When I take the printed copies on my books to fairs it is always the cover of Vidal’s Honor that draws the most comments and interest and also generates the most sales.

With all this success, one would have to guess that you’re very disciplined about your writing. How much time do you spend writing? Do you plot your stories ahead of time? 

I’d like to say I have a set time of day for writing. I used to. But sadly this year has been – on the writing front, at least – disruptive, disjointed, and at times downright disenchanting due to ‘life’ getting in the way and dropping several other issues and commitments into my lap.  I seriously hope 2014 reverts back to a more fluent writing routine for me.  No, I don’t plot my stories ahead of writing. I do, though, as I write one chapter make a series of notes about events I intend for the nest one.

 What would you tell aspiring authors about the best way to reach readers?

Promotion is an essential part of a writer’s life these days, and for me, one of the most traumatic. And yes, I do mean, traumatic! Like many other writers, I am a solitary person and the promotional aspect of writing is more than hard for me to come to terms with. As always, I keep promising myself I will improve, and once again I am looking to 2014 to see major inroads to my attempts to improve on this.

 I don’t think you’re alone with those fears, Sherry. Many writers dread the marketing aspect of being an author — myself included. What are you working on now?

At the moment, due to events throughout this year, I have done something new. I have several writing projects on the go, so if I get stuck with one, I can move to another. SO of the eight projects in my files, I am working on two of them more than the others. Born Again is a hard hitting story with a romance woven through it. It has involved a ton of research and is constantly changing direction. So when that becomes a pain, I switch to another project which incorporates a series of stories under an umbrella title based around myths and superstitions. The stories are varied. Some are pure romance; others have romance in the background, while others are downright different. I’m enjoying working with this one.

Considering the amount of books published every year, why should readers buy your books?

Because one reviewer described my writing as ‘having a ‘unique voice while maintaining and upholding the characters and story.’ Others have described my writing as ‘gentle, almost poetic, while handling hard-hitting subjects while upholding the true romance within the tale.’

There is a saying, and I paraphrase it here…”The first chapter sells the book, the last chapter sells the next one.” I’d like to think that my readers like my writing enough to look out for my next book. My latest book, entitled Name The Day, was published by Astraea Press and is available from many online outlets including Amazon, Amazon UK, Barnes and Noble 

Sherry’s latest news is her short story contribution, Queen of Diamond, to a fifteen author anthology called Love and Diamonds.  Released February 6, 2014, it can be found at  Amazon  or  Amazon UK .Love and Diamonds

Sherry Gloag’s writing resume attests to the success achieved through tenacity. She didn’t let initial rejection stop her from pursuing the career she wanted. Her advice? Listen to those who offer advice and press on. Believe in yourself.

When not writing and being published (and this author is wondering when that is), Sherry escapes to her garden for “thinking time”. There, she works out the plots for her next novel. Though she enjoys “talking to her characters”, she also loves to hear from readers. You can reach Sherry at sherrygloag@gmail.com

© 2014 Robin Cain, author of THE SECRET MISS RABBIT KEPT and WHEN DREAMS BLEED 

 

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Many an author embarks upon a publishing journey armed with little more than talent, desire, and blind faith.  Unfortunately, snake oil salesmen love the rookies in this business (discussed in Part I of this Authors Helping Authors series) and my next guest learned this lesson the hard way. 

Meet mystery writer Evelyn Cullet. An aspiring author since high school, she began her first novel, Romancing A Mystery, while attending college. After years of hard work, she submitted the manuscript to multiple traditional publishers and, like many other talented writers, her efforts were met with rejection. She went on to self-publish the story. 

Evelyn,what can you tell others about your experience with self-publishing?

For my first book, Romancing A Mystery, I used an all-inclusive publishing company called Outskirts Press. It was an expensive option, but my book was published. Things went fine until I ended my contract. I wanted to re-write the book, so I asked that they remove my ebook from Kindle. They’d  set it up for me in the first place — at a price, I might add — but they informed me that, since my contract had ended, they had nothing to do with the Kindle version. They said, as the author, I had the responsibility to deal with Amazon. When I contacted Amazon, the reps told me that they could only deal with the company who set up the Kindle version. Outskirts Press refuses to help and Amazon says they are following ‘company policy’. So, it’s a “Catch 22”.  I’ve contacted both firms several times and they both say the same thing. It became so frustrating I finally gave up. It’s a big mess and there’s nothing I can do.  Getting old physical copies of that first novel off the market is impossible, too. Buyers are reselling copies on Amazon. Now it’s too late to do anything, but I am re-writing the book.

You’re rewriting Romancing A Mystery?

Yes. In retrospect, I see why it had been rejected by traditional publishers. The story had a lot of good light romance, but there wasn’t much of a mystery.

You went on to write more mysteries, but you didn’t self-publish those? 

No, I’m happy to say they were both accepted for publication by Wings ePress.  My second book, Love, Lies and Murder, is about two capricious friends who turn their small town upside down in an attempt to solve the gruesome murder of the town’s millionaire industrialist, only to discover that people are not always who they seem, and a single error in judgment can prove fatal. The third, Masterpiece of Murder, is the sequel about a heartbroken art student who follows her errant fiancé to Bariloche, Argentina. His reasons for being in Bariloche complicate her life and threaten her very existence as she unintentionally stumbles into a downward spiral of deceit, art forgery and murder. Both books are mysteries, but I’ve added light romance and a little humor.

Where do you get your story ideas?

So far, my story ideas come from my own experiences. Romancing A Mystery grew as a result of a trip to England I had planned with friends when I was twenty-four years old. I wound up getting married instead and since I couldn’t take the trip, I wrote about how it might have turned out had I gone. Most of the action in Love, Lies and Murder takes place in a small company office, much like the one where I worked when I was single — and where I had an office romance that ended badly. The idea for the Masterpiece of Murder came when I was taking art classes and met an artist who had gone to Bariloche, Argentina for a Master art class. Upon seeing the lovely photos the artist had brought back, the writer in me immediately envisioned Bariloche as a great setting for a murder mystery. And it turned out I was right.

If you could, what would you tell your ‘younger writing self’?

I’m sorry now that I didn’t work with a professional editor when I was writing my first novel. I wasted a great deal of time and expense that could have been avoided. I should have done more research before self-publishing. I also should have asked Outskirts to take the novel off of Kindle BEFORE I ended my contract. How many more mistakes could I possibly have made with that first novel? Live and learn.

You have learned. Now you enjoy a successful writing career. What’s your greatest struggle as a writer?

Finding the time to write. I thought that after I retired from my day job, I would finally have enough time, but in fact I don’t, because now I find all kinds of other things that require my attention. Marketing my novels and doing a blog are just two of them.  I just have to try and budget my time so I can get in a few hours of writing. Limiting my online time is important as well.

What do you think is the best way for authors to reach readers?

Guest blogging, doing library talks, book club talks and craft shows. I recently did a large Christmas craft show where I got a chance to talk with mystery readers who had never heard of me. I sold quite a few novels, and I passed out a lot of bookmarks to potential readers.

The experience with your first book obviously hasn’t stopped you from pursuing what you love. What are you working on now?

Right now I’m editing my next mystery, Once Upon a Crime. Containing several of the same characters mentioned in my previous novels, it’s about a newly published mystery author who goes to Michigan with her friend, to take a much needed rest. She gets anything but rest when she becomes involved with stolen gemstones, two murders, and her friend’s handsome, Machiavellian cousin. I’m working on a release date of Spring, 2014.

Evelyn is a current member of Sisters in Crime. When she’s not reading mysteries, reviewing them or writing them, she enjoys playing the piano, is an amateur Lapidary, and an organic gardener. When she’s not ‘limiting her online time’, you can find her on Facebook , Pinterest, Twitter, Goodreads, and her website.

© 2014 Robin Cain, author of THE SECRET MISS RABBIT KEPT and WHEN DREAMS BLEED

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The following review was done by Carmela Foster.

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It’s official!

Anita Romero, with her entry SAX, took 1st Place. She wins a $50 Amazon gift card, an autographed copy of WHEN DREAMS BLEED and an article in The Examiner showcasing her entry. Her lovely short story is below:

Unable to sleep, his mind was engrossed with the rain. Each drop erupting on the hard pavement outside was another note; a beat within his mind, pure music, fluid, precise, forming around each object as it struck. Splat.’ Ta, tat…tat, splat…ta, tat.

Rising from bed he padded across the floor, much like a small child sneaking out of bed for one more look at his Christmas presents. He had so much to do in the morning but the joy of the rain was a small sacrifice against his mundane life.

Where was she? There, between the crack made by the ragged chair and the wall. Yes that was where she was, shouting, begging, louder than the rain outside. She should have been in her case, safely tucked away for the night, but he knew that rain would fall tonight. Fondling her body, he stopped and admired the inviting mouthpiece, formed only for his lips. He pushed aside his jealousy of the previous owner. She was his now, only his.

It wasn’t long before the sad rhythmic pitch of the sax rang across the room, the rain complementing like a drummer in a band; splat, ta, tat…tat, splat, ta, tat. Soon he would have company. Three in the morning was not the time for his music to penetrate the paper-thin walls of the south side apartment building. Maybe tonight would be different.

His music was sad, but sweet as a memory. If they listened, everyone would dream tonight. It had happened before, and in those times, he knew he had helped them push aside their nightmares, and reach another world. If they listened, he would help them again. It was his gift.

The rain built to a crescendo and ravaged the city outside; splat, ta, splat, tat, ta, ta, tat, splat, ta, ta, ta, splat, tat. His notes followed suit; frustration, failure, and all of his desires came to greet the rain. He wanted more, he wanted to play for more than the walls, and he wanted to dream in the daytime.

The knock finally came, just before dawn. “Marvin, it’s time for bed.” A loving voice echoed through the door.

“OK, Mom.”

He carefully cleaned the instrument, making sure that every inch was chaste, ready for the next rain and padded off to bed.

2nd place goes to the extremely talented poet, Brian Heffron, for his entry. He wins a $15 Amazon gift card, an autographed copy of WHEN DREAMS BLEED and a feature here. His beautiful entry follows:

The punch remembered from then on
Looping round in endless song.
When dreams bleed they are funneled south
Blood still dripping from the mouth.
My heart cannot be wounded more,
I have taken all you had in store,
And rolled over into a newer sorrow,
Understanding this won’t end tomorrow.

There is sadness beneath your childhood bed,
Stored there, like the things unsaid.
But if you come to me at night
I will give you a lamp to light
And point you to a spot secure,
Down here amidst the other poor.
Who will welcome you like a long lost brother
Although at heart, you’ll remain the other.

Brian has recently published a book of his work.

Brian's new poetry book

Back cover


Entitled, Sustain Me With Your Breath, and it’s a beautifully hand-bound compilation of love poems. It can be purchased through his website here.

Last, but certainly not least, 3rd place goes to Lori Kurowski. Having not attempted a fictional piece in some time (or so she tells me), Lori’s entry was a strong interpretation of the theme. Her work is below:

Sheila awakened to the sound of shattering glass downstairs. She grabbed her robe and sat up in bed. Listening carefully, she didn’t hear another sound. She twirled around on her bed and got up slowly, not wanting to make the old wooden floor squeak. Quietly, she tip-towed to the bedroom door and peered outside.

It was dark and drafty in the silenced hallway. Feeling a shiver, Sheila tightened her robe and cautiously headed towards the staircase. The old worn carpet, felt hard on her feet as she approached the landing. The shadows from the ornate furniture downstairs, cast vicious visions dashing across the walls. Sheila shakily grasped the staircase railing and began her descent.

Proceeding cautiously she still did not hear any more noises, or see movement of any kind. Suddenly, she felt a whisper of fur cross her bare feet. She quickly glanced down to see her cat, Luca, rubbing his face on the end of her robe. “Silly cat”, she thought, “you must have decided to finally come home, and knocked something down on your way into the house”.

With emotions now at ease, Shiela casually walked in to the dark kitchen, her hands searching for the elusive light switch. That’s when she saw his face in the beaming moonlight. Eyes lit with anger, and a slight smile, she knew instantly this was the end. She put her hands over her head, anticipating the first blow, as she fell to the floor in panic. But she felt nothing, nothing at all. She looked up to see yet another face peering in the moonlight. Then a gunshot rang out sending Luca scrambling for the door. Shiela heard a loud thump, and felt the wooden floor shake. She gingerly stood up and found the light switch. The eyes that greeted her where familiar and safe. She ran to them and knew, after years of dreading the release of her ex-husband from prison, the dreams were finally going to stop bleeding.

A grant writer in Phoenix, AZ, specializing in educational grants involving children, community, and women’s causes, Lori has been a Arizona State Certified Teacher for the last 18 years. She can be reached at grantyourfutre@gmail.com

CONGRATULATIONS everyone!

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With the recent release of my book, WHEN DREAMS BLEED, and the upcoming Valentine’s Day holiday, I thought I would sponsor a contest!

Details are as follows:

WHO: Open to any of my Facebook friends or fans (writers or not). NO RELATIVES, please.

WHAT: Essay, Poem or Flash Fiction less than 850 words – entitled


    “WHAT TO DO WHEN DREAMS BLEED”

WHERE: Submit to: robin@robincain.com
Subject line: WHAT TO DO WHEN DREAMS BLEED

WHEN: No later than noon (MST) Tuesday, February 9th

WHY: Don’t we all just need more exposure?

Prizes:

1st place
– $50.00 AMAZON Gift Certificate
– Publication of your winning entry on my column at the Examiner to go along with a Valentine’s Day article I will be writing (1000+ readers at last count!)
(includes personal link to your website or book site)
– Autographed copy of my book, WHEN DREAMS BLEED
– Publicity on my Facebook page and blog (3800 friends and counting!)

2nd Place:
– $15.00 AMAZON Gift Certificate
– Autographed copy of my book, WHEN DREAMS BLEED
– Publicity on my Facebook page and blog (3800 friends and counting!)

3rd Place
– Autographed copy of my book, WHEN DREAMS BLEED
– Publicity on my Facebook page and blog (3800 friends and counting!)

Fine Print:
– All decisions are final
– Contest null and void if less than 3 entries are received (and I quit being nice!)
– All authors retain the rights to their submission (but permission for publication w/credit on above-mentioned sites is assumed).
– Prizes will sent out after Valentine’s Day, but press will begin when winners are selected.

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As an author, I have learned that nothing sells a book like word of mouth. That is why, as an unsolicited act of trying to help others, I have compiled this list of recently purchased and read books from my own personal list.

Some have been out awhile, some are fairly new, some are not marvels of literary masterpieces, but, in my humble opinion, they are worth the time it takes to read. And isn’t that what word of mouth is all about anyway?

One’s taste in books is an individual matter, so I supply it only as a guide to what I happened to have found enjoyable. I am not including any reviews, but I have provided links to each book; reviews on any of them are easy to find. I make it a mission to support authors on Facebook and other media sites because I know how much work it is to get one’s name out there.

NOTE TO READERS: I am gaining nothing by posting the following list (other than maybe points in heaven). Inclusion on this list was not solicited by ANY of the authors.

In no particular order, the following list of books were those I found to be quite enjoyable. Next time you go to purchase a book, you just might want to consider them:

Eye of the Beholder, by David Ellis
Line Of Vision, by David Ellis
The Sex Club, by L.J. Sellers
Bashed: A Love Story, by Rick Reed
A Priest in Hell:Gangs, Murderers and Snitching in a California Jail, by Randall Radic
Before The Storm, by Diane Chamberlain
Secrets She Left Behind, by Diane Chamberlain
600 Hours of Edward, by Craig Lancaster
Lottery, by Patricia Wood
Blood on His Hands, by Mark P. Sadler
Arcturus, by M.J. Mollenhour

I’m sure I’ve missed a couple, but I will continue to add to this list as I get through them. Stay tuned…

P.S. Oh, of course, there is also my book…but this posting isn’t about me 😉

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