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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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Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 12.33.03 PMAs author Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn, author of The Piano Player’s Son, points out in another stop on this tour, “the blog tour is the electronic progeny of the old chain letter, where you’d receive a letter and have to pass it on to ten of your friends to make something magical happen.” Here, the writer’s hope is to spread the word and attract readers along the way — in other words, make something magical happen!

I was asked to take part in this Writing Process Blog Tour by Chioma Iwunze Ibiam, a fellow writer in my Internet Writing Workshop group. The IWW, comprised of writers across the world, is good like this. Not only do we, as participants, nudge each other to greatness in our writing endeavors, but we look after each other’s marketing efforts. As everyone knows, the only way to sell books is word-of-mouth and good press. I thank Chioma for looking out for me. 

Chioma has a new novel slated for publication in September of this year. You can read more about her work here 

 

This tour requires answers to four questions about my writing and my process.

1) WHAT AM I WORKING ON?

Marketing, marketing, and more marketing!

My second novel THE SECRET MISS RABBIT KEPT  was recently published and sadly, those characters are still inhabiting my head. I can’t seem to move on from their lives and into another story. I trust this will happen soon, but in the meantime, marketing calls. Books don’t get sold unless the word gets out.

Being a bit of an all-or-nothing gal, I’m hyper-focused while writing, and marketing is a distraction. I spent many weeks preparing my pitch and manuscript for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. This last week, I learned that Miss Rabbit is now among the Quarter Finalists in the General Fiction category! While marketing and promoting are not among my favorite activities, this ABNA achievement lends credibility to my efforts.

2) HOW DOES MY WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS IN ITS GENRE?

Screen Shot 2013-11-12 at 12.38.12 PMTHE SECRET MISS RABBIT KEPT is quite unlike anything out there in the General Fiction genre (in my very humble opinion, of course). Told in first person POV by sixteen-year-old Sophie, the story centers around her work in a nursing home. Someone not familiar with the story might scoff and say that’s not the kind of stuff anyone wants to read. Though there are some heartbreaking scenes, the story revolves around Sophie’s quest for answers to her abandonment as a newborn,  her frustration with Miss Mable Rabbit’s refusal to speak, and the life lessons Sophie learns along the way.  The book is a bit of a coming-of-age story, but the questions posed speak to readers of all ages.  Ripe with poignancy and humor, it’s a story of unexpected friendships and second chances.  As one of Amazon’s contest ‘expert reviewers’ said, “The psychology of this piece is brilliant.”

3) WHY DO I WRITE WHAT I DO?

This particular book came about as a result of many things: my experience with adoption, my own work in a nursing home when I was sixteen, and the political climate of this country (as it relates to women’s issues). I wanted to offer my readers food for thought, as well as immortalize some of the dear souls who entrusted me with their care on their final journeys so many years ago.

I hope after reading my book, readers come away with a new respect for the elderly, as well as respect for the choices others make. I find we, as a nation, are often too quick to judge these days. Everyone has their burdens, yet so few take the time to consider this.  As my mother always liked to say, “Never judge a person until you’ve walked a day in their shoes.”

4) HOW DOES MY WRITING PROCESS WORK?

In this case, the title of the book arrived out of the clear blue. I had a vision of Miss Rabbit, but she refused to speak. From there, I used creative license in crafting the reasons for her silence. I built characters around her and filled in the blanks. As for the actual mechanics, I start in longhand on blank, unlined paper and flesh out the plot basics.  I transfer my rough work to a WORD file, where I spend days, weeks, and often months, writing, editing, and tossing what doesn’t fit. With Miss Rabbit, I subbed a chapter at a time to the writers at IWW, then made changes based on their feedback.

There are likely more efficient ways to craft a story, but none of them work for me. Every writer has their own system. The key is finding what works.

If I’ve sparked your interest in my latest book, I encourage you to download a sample at Amazon, or visit my website www.robincain.com

For the next stop on the ‘Writing Process Blog Tour’ please visit these participating authors. I’m certain you’ll find your next great read!

 

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PETER BERNHARDT: Having grown up in Stuttgart, Germany, Peter spent the first twenty-three years of his life writing in German. That changed when he emigrated to the United States. After learning a new language in college and law school and after a civil litigation career with the U.S. Department of Justice, he finally found the time to harness the creative juices necessary for writing fiction. The combination of a German upbringing, a lifelong love of opera, and his experiences as an attorney inspired Peter to write ‘what he knew’. Now the best-selling author of The Stasi File:Opera and Espionage: A Deadly Combination — a spy thriller that takes place during the collapse of the East German police state after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Stasi File was a finalist for Book of the Year by the British Arts Council and a quarter finalist in the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest. There is also a German edition Die Stasi-Akte -Oper und Spionage: Eine todliche Kombination. Peter also wrote Kiss of the Shaman’s Daughter , a tense mystery/thriller that interweaves the activities of a vicious gang of smugglers in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with the story of a lost treasure and a Native American family’s struggles during The Peublo Indian Revolt of 1680.

You can learn more about Peter and his work here. Read his contribution to this Blog Tour here.

 

Dellani

DELLANI OAKES : Dellani Oakes makes her home in Florida, but she grew up in Western Nebraska. Bitten by the writing bug early in life, Dellani first pursued poetry as her medium of self-expression. Soon, she moved onto song parodies, short stories, and humorous essays until she took up writing full time when her youngest son started kindergarten. Since then, she has published five books: The Ninja Tattoo, Lone Wolf, Indian Summer, Under The Western Sky,and Shakazhan. Her two romantic suspense novels are with Tirgearr Publishing, though she has a historical romance and two sci-fi novels with Second Wind Publishing. She has also contributed to several anthologies, MJ Magazine, and shares her unpublished works on her blog. Dellani hosts two talk shows a month on Blog Talk Radio. Listen in every second Monday of the month at 4:00 PM Eastern for Dellani’s Tea Time, and every fourth Wednesday, at 4:00 PM Eastern for What’s Write for Me. You can learn more about Dellani here

 

 

Brian

BRIAN HEFFRON: Poet and novelist, Brian is a staff writer/director/producer at Public Television where he creates educational programming.  He has worked in Los Angles since the early nineties as a screenwriter and TV producer/director. A winner of Telly Awards, Aurora Awards, Videographer Awards, Emmys, and the Davis Award, he is also credited with creating the first animated web series on AOL entitled “Hollywood Nights”. Brian is the author of Sustain Me with Your Breath (a handmade poetry chapbook), a  poetry CD entitled, “Something You Could Touch”, and the novel Colorado Mandala. You can learn more about Brian and his work here.

 

 

THANK YOU FOR STOPPING BY!

© Robin Cain 2014

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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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  Chapter One

ImageMy mother was murdered.

That’s what I told nosey old Penny Parker, anyway–mostly because she always acted like she was better than me, but also because the truth was much worse. I’m sure she would’ve loved to hear how my real mother didn’t love me, how she’d thrown me away like an old bag of clothes, but I refused to give her the satisfaction. Penny would say, “She actually dumped you like garbage? Wow, glad I’m not you.”

Heck, I wished I wasn’t me, but Penny didn’t need to know that either. No one did. So to make myself feel better, I made up the story about my mother being murdered—anything sounded better than rejection—and she bought it.

Unfortunately, Penny Parker had a big mouth.

“Why on earth would you tell Mrs. Parker’s daughter that your birthmother was murdered?” my mother asked the very next morning. Although she’d waited until she’d sung me Happy Birthday and lit the candle on my birthday muffin, her question turned my wish into one for Penny Big Mouth’s murder.

“Good Lord, So-So,” she said, using the moniker I’d been given years earlier by a relative who’d curiously decided ‘Sophie’ was too difficult to say, yet hadn’t considered its possible long-term affects on my self-esteem. “Making up a story about your birthmother being murdered? That’s just wrong. Reminds me of the nonsense folks made up back in the fifties. Girls suddenly sent off to live with relatives, parents hoping no one would be the wiser when their daughter reappeared nine months later, everyone acting like nothing happened. You know my dear friend Linda? She reached adulthood before her parents even told her she’d been adopted.”

Sixteen years old and my birthday celebration reduced to a lecture and a muffin.

“Things have changed in the last twenty years, So-So. Putting babies up for adoption is an act of love. If you aren’t comfortable telling people the truth then tell them it’s none of their business, but don’t just make up stories. Especially not awful ones.”

A long silence followed, leading me to believe she might’ve finally exhausted her subject matter.

“Do you suppose she ever thinks of me?” I asked.

“Does who ever think of you, dear?” She tilted her head to view me above the eyeglasses perched upon her nose and which had come precariously close to falling into her sink of sudsy water. “And stop playing with your food. You’re making a mess all over my floor.”

“My birthmother.” I swept the remaining muffin crumbs off the table and onto the floor when she looked the other way.

“No matter how many times you ask, my answer isn’t going to change. I don’t know.”

“Come on. Isn’t it normal for me to wonder about something like this–especially on my birthday?”

“Yes, of course it is. It just seems that you’ve been asking for as long as I can remember–and not just on birthdays, either.” She tossed the towel she’d been using to dry the dishes on the counter and faced me. “I don’t want to seem heartless, but I can’t change the facts. I don’t know the answer.” She removed her glasses and held them up to the light. Once satisfied her view was unimpeded–acknowledged with an imperceptible nod of her head–she put them back on. “Enough now. Go get ready for work. Seeing as this was the only job you could get, you better not start off being late.”

Lie number two I’d told in as many days. The nursing home wasn’t the only place I could get a job. It was the only place I’d applied. Assuming the residents were unloved toss-aways like me, I figured we’d have something in common. This idea—spawned by the anniversary of my birthmother’s choice—made near perfect sense, but my mother didn’t need to know as much, seeing as she’d just busted me for one lie.

Instead, I left the lie intact and dressed for work. The required shapeless polyester uniform, paired with the white rubber-soled shoes, looked ridiculous and only added to my already-sour mood.

Happy birthday to me.

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