Chasing the dream, no matter what

Please welcome Renee Uitto. Renee lives in Troy, Michigan, and has been writing romances for 10 years. She also writes for three newsletters pertaining to persons with developmental disabilities and persons with mental illness. In her spare time, she likes to spend time with friends and family, read, shop, and listen to music.

Here's Renee: Because of my physical disability, I believed my writing would hinder me in many ways. I was happily amazed to see it wasn’t so. In 2002, I attended my first romance writers meeting and I felt comfortable that first night. So, here we are in 2010, and I’m still chasing the dream like so many writers are… trying to get that first sale. I still attend my chapter meetings and learn so much about the craft, read books on particular subjects that I need to brush up on, and learn so much from my critique partners.

It would be so easy for me to give up. Last year was very hard on me emotionally. I couldn’t write anything worth c—p. My friends at WritingGIAM saved me through a very hard time and assured me that I would be okay, no matter what. Right now I am in the midst of a manuscript that I love and I am motivated to write. I go to these Friday night working chats and take part in 100 day 100 word challenge.

So, if you feel your writing is starting to suffer, think about the things that motivate you to write and why you fell in love with writing in the first place. Something is sure to spark your muse!

Resolving the Midlife (Career) Crisis

I'm delighted to welcome Lori Gray to the blog. Lori is a yet-unpublished writer of romantic fiction. She began writing at an early age, but set her dreams aside for a “real” job. Now well into her forties, she’s giving her earliest dreams another shot at the big time. She plans to be published by age 50. You can travel along with Lori as she journeys toward her writing goals at

Here's Lori: One of my earliest childhood memories has to do with books, not just reading them, but writing them. As a preschooler, I was fascinated with Dr. Seuss. My teenage uncle (and regular babysitter) was going on a trip and asked my parents for books to read on the plane. I desperately wanted to write him a book myself, but I didn’t know how to write any of the big words yet. So I copied every word from The Foot Book, my favorite, onto construction paper and tied the pages together with a shoe string. My four-year old mind didn’t much care whether my book had illustrations. All I knew was that I was a WRITER!

Years passed. Childhood dreams gave way to teenage angst. Adult responsibilities quickly followed. Having just passed the 25 year mark being a full-time office cubicle dweller (the female version of Dilbert, eyeglasses and corporate uniform included), I began to question my own professional existence. So, I decided to make myself a Bucket List. Skydiving and safari had no interest for me. But, there were things I DID want to do:

1) Finish my bachelor’s degree

2) Write and publish a novel

3) Re-learn to play piano and perform professionally

Over the years I wrote now and again. I published dozens of articles in paralegal magazines and worked part time as a stringer for our local paper. I even managed to complete several novels, albeit decades ago. I guess none of it ever seemed as prolific as Dr. Seuss’ words, “foot, foot, foot!” So, I kept working. Even my childhood piano sat idle in my living room.

What’s interesting in this journey of life is that some of the roads not taken in our youth reappear later on. About a year into my college courses, I was offered a opportunity at work to learn technical writing. Two years later I am now writing full time instead of filing!

Now my co-workers are words instead of people. Spending my entire workday managing grammar instead of grumpy bosses has released floodgates of new ideas. I find myself less frustrated and more excited to see what else is possible in the future. Enthusiasm for romance writing has found me again, and I am attempting new things, like blogging! You lucky souls are reading my very first!

Are you wondering what else is possible in your life? Make a list. Take a risk. You never know what’s around the next corner. Just follow your feet!

Q&A with Margie Tomlin

Please help me welcome historical writer, Margie Tomlin.

Q Do you consider yourself shy/introverted?
A I'm shy to the bone.

Q In what ways does this or has this hindered you as a writer?
A I'm often relunctant to ask questions at writers workshops and conferences when I'm attending in person and not on the web. I just can't bring myself to participate in group criticizing. I freeze at the thought of having to read some of my work aloud.

Q In what ways does this or has this helped you as a writer?
A I think it's hurt me as a writer not being able to speak out in a group when I really want to. Again, I learn a lot by observation. I've seen some writers who constantly "toot their own horn" concerning their writing. I've witnessed this in some writers groups I used to attend. One writer was published and most of the rest of us were not. She dominated the group's time informing us how wonderful she was and how her writing was above the top-selling authors. It got sickening after a time and finally killed the group. I want to be proud of my writing but on the other side I don't want to drown other people with it.

Q Are you shy/introverted one-on-one or in crowds or both?
A I generally stick to myself in a group unless I go with a friend. It helps to have a support buddy so if you don't find someone to visit with then you can talk to a friend and not feel out of place.

Q What's your biggest fear/obstacle as a shy writer? Why? And tell me if you've tried to face this fear and what were the results.
A My worst fear is being a speaker at a writers conference and having to answer the audience's questions. If I was asked a question and didn't know the answer or didn't really understand the question, I', afraid I'd appear like a bug under a microscope. I'd come off looking like I was really stupid. (I might be?)

Q Tell me about a time recently that you stepped outside your comfort zone as a shy person, whether in your writing or personal life.
A I was at a writers conference and I'd made an appointment with the Avon editor to discuss my historical romance set during the Civil War. I made my presentation and when I finished she told me that Avon was not accepting historical manuscripts set in America. I felt like a dunce because I'd pitched my entire manuscript. The editor kept looking around while I was speaking, giving me the impression she was bored to tears. I kept expecting her to say she'd heard enough. For some reason I decided to finish my pitch. She was very gracious and told me it was a wonderful story and she wished Avon was buying American historical. She suggested I try for Harlequin Historicals. I was pleased with her suggestion and thought it was nice. Now, if she meant what she said is another story.

Now to the lighter side of being shy. I once attended a writers workshop in Little Rock, Arkansas. I remember one of the ladies was a published author and her lawyer husband managed her contracts. I was speaking to her about being afraid to approach editors. I said I didn't want to be a pest. Well, her husband spoke up and said, "Be a pest! You need to be a pest!" I thought that was cool and funny. I still can't follow his advice fully. I often think of how many times the editors are infringed upon, but then that's their chosen profession.

About Margie: I started writing when I was 14 years old with some short stories which sadly I didn't save. I didn't really decide to take my writing seriously until the mid 70s. I found an ad for a copy of Romance Writer's of America. I ordered one and from then on knew I wanted to write romance. I cranked up enough nerve to join RWA and I've been a member ever since. My husband bought me a portable typewriter, so I decided I needed to learn how to type. My first manuscript was a historical romance set in New Orleans in 1840. I joined two more writing groups and then really got busy. My next two manuscripts were comtemporaries, but I was reading mostly historicals. I realized that was what I wanted to write. Today, I have three finished western historicals and three contemporaries. I also have a half dozen unfinished manuscripts. I plan to go back and finish those books some day. Right now, I'm working on a historical romance set in the south (naturally, being a Texan) during the Civil War.

I've attended RWA national three times and plan to attend this year in Nashville. Mainly because my WIP is set in Nashville. Have I ever gotten to the point wherre I thought about giving up trying to be published? Sure, but for every time I quit writing, I go back. It's in my blood and if I'm not writing I'm thinking writing. Will I ever see my work in print? Who knows? If it happens, fine; if not, I can live with it as long as I can continue to write. Writers keep writing!

PR Options for the Shy Author

I'm absolutely thrilled to introduce today's guest blogger: Marcia James
Marcia James writes hot, humorous romances and finaled in eleven RWA contests before selling her first comic romantic suspense, At Her Command. Her short story, "Rescue Me", appeared in Tails of Love, a Berkley benefit anthology, and her latest story, Love Unleashed, was released in February 2010. In her eclectic career, she has shot submarine training videos, organized celebrity-filled nonprofit events and had her wedding covered by People Magazine. An advertising copywriter and marketing consultant, Marcia presents online and in-person author promotion workshops.

by Marcia James

There's never been more pressure on authors to shoulder the burden of promotion, and no one can possibly take advantage of every available PR opportunity. Even a small amount of daily or weekly promotion cuts into valuable writing time. That's why authors must decide carefully which PR options are right for them based on specific variables, such as:

* Budget
* Time constraints
* Author knowledge & skills
* Book distribution & format

* Book genre/subgenre & niche market elements
* Author personality

With so many promotional opportunities, why not choose those that go well with your personality? If you're an introvert, don't add stress to your life by attempting to do PR better suited to extroverts, such as: presenting workshops, doing book readings, participating on conference panels, holding single-author booksignings, power-schmoozing at conventions, being interviewed on broadcast media, doing live chats, etc.

Instead, introverted authors might try some of these PR options:

* Participating on a reader forum/message board, informally posting on topics as time allows.

Many shy writers find it easier to converse with readers online. If you join a publisher's reader email loop -- or a reader forum, such as the ones on the RT Book Reviews' Web site -- you'll have the chance to chat up people in a non-scary situation.

* Participating on writers' email lists, sharing craft and business information as time allows.

Fellow writers are also readers, and you can develop a following by participating on writing email loops, such as those of Romance Writers of America (RWA) chapters. Sharing your knowledge and commiserating on your author-friends' ups-and-downs is an easy form of networking.

* Cross-promoting with other authors as time allows.

You can promote other authors -- and they can promote you -- in a number of ways: linking to each other's Web sites, guest-blogging on each other's blogs (Thanks, Rebecca!), giving quotes to use in articles or workshops, etc. One way I cross-promote is through my James Gang interviews . Each month I interview an author or publishing insider with some form of "James" in his/her name. The interviewees promote the interviews to their readers, writing loops, and friends, and I promote the interviews to mine.

Another example of my cross-promotion efforts is my April 5th - 18th "
Guilt-Free Author Promotion" online workshop. I approached PR-savvy authors and publishing insiders and asked if they would like to write a "guest lecture" for the workshop. Over a dozen did, and I include their bios and latest release information with the lectures, as well as promoting them in all workshop announcements.

* Co-promoting with other authors to create a multi-author Web site, blog or MySpace page -- all of which would require a regular commitment of time.

Joining with other authors to share the cost and time of promotion is a great idea. One way to do that is to create a multi-author site or blog. For example, I'm part of the
Ohio Romance Authors MySpace page. Simpler forms of co-promotion include sharing the cost of a joint print ad or joint promotional materials, such as brochures.

* Writing articles on the craft and business of publishing for chapter newsletters, RWA's Romance Writers Report, RT Book Reviews, online e-zines, etc. -- which you can do as time allows.

If you enjoy working alone, you can write articles, which will promote your pen name and should include a brief bio with your Web site URL at the bottom. I wrote a series of author promotion articles for the RWA Kiss of Death chapter newsletter, and I now have those articles on my
Web site . In addition, you can look for elements with your book(s) that lend themselves to niche marketing. For example, if your book has a quilting heroine, you could write an article for a quilting magazine and mention your book.

* Building and maintaining your Web site and social media sites (e.g. Facebook), if you're technologically skilled and have the time to do it.

An author's Web site is the most important tool in his/her personal "PR Toolbox". If you can design and maintain a site -- including social media sites -- that's a great skill to have. And if you have the knowledge and talent to design bookmarks, banners, postcards, brochures, excerpt booklets, etc., you have a leg up on many other authors. Consider whether a skill you have from your day job or past experiences could translate into a helpful promotional skill.

* Sending PR materials to conferences, bookstores and readers' groups and press releases to the media, as time allows.

Once you have logoed/branded PR materials, you can make sure they get into the goody bags at RWA conferences, etc. You can also write press releases and mail out press kits, if you're willing to be interviewed. (Some online publications/blogs will interview you by email, so it's not as stress-producing as a live interview).

* Paying a romance author PR site, like AuthorIsland or Writerspace, to handle your newsletter mailings, contests, and other promotion, which frees up your time to write.

Not every author promotion site costs an arm and a leg. Many have an à la carte menu of services, as well as different plans, such as promotion for one month, six months, or a year. This option will affect your budget but free up your time.

That's just a sampling of PR options for the shy writer. Those wanting to step outside of their comfort zones can try opportunities that attract extroverts, such as the power-schmoozing I love. But give yourself a break and don't make promotion even more of a pain than it can be. The next time you're faced with intimidating promotional choices, analyze which ones you'd enjoy the most and don't feel guilty about those you avoid. Match your personality to your PR push.

The best way to do that is to learn what PR options are available. I offer my free 280+ page WORD file on author promotion to any writer who requests it. Just email me through the “Contact Me” page on my Web site (, and I'll attach the file to my response.

I'd love to hear about your PR challenges, triumphs, questions, and helpful hints. I'm giving away a free e-book version of my comic romantic suspense, At Her Command, to a randomly chosen commenter on this guest blog. Thanks again, Rebecca, for hosting me on your blog!

Marcia is giving away a copy of her first book AT HER COMMAND (in ebook format) to a randomly chosen commenter. Good luck!

Women's History Month

by Cate Masters

March is Women’s History Month, and this year’s theme is “Writing Women Back Into History.”

Perfect timing, as I just finished up my second historical novel about two little-known subjects. The first, Angels Sinners and Madmen, reveals the history of the wreckers in 1856 Key West, Florida, and follows the journey of Livvie Collins through her shipwreck and island experience. During a visit to Key West, I found the wreckers fascinating. I’d never heard of them before, and spent two days in the library researching them, visiting the few museums and gathering up as much information as I could. Freya’s Bower will release the novel this spring.

The second novel, Follow the Stars Home, focuses on the tragic history of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School from its founding year, 1879. Using news accounts and researching the Lakota people, I placed two fictional characters in actual events that occurred there. I submitted the manuscript this week to a publisher.

If you’d like to take up the challenge to write about a woman in history, begin by Googling Women’s History Month to find many fascinating links, such as the Guide to Worldwide Goddesses. Reading through these descriptions revs my imagination into high gear.

Likewise the list of inventions presented on the Female Ingenuity page. I’d never have guessed a woman invented a circular saw, or the programming language COBOL, or the elevated railway, or the rotary engine!
The National Women’s Hall of Fame is also a great place to find inspiring stories of incredible women, from actresses to athletes, inventors to judges. I found it hard to believe there are currently only 236 women on the list. But there’s a page to nominate more, so I may have to do that! I encourage you to do the same. And to take up the challenge to Write Women Back Into History too.
Cate Masters writes fantasy/dark fantasy, historical, contemporary and speculative fiction, described by reviewers as “so compelling, I did not want to put it down,” “such romantic tales that really touch your soul,” “filled with action scenes which made it a riveting story,” and “the author weaves a great tale with a creative way of using words that makes the story refreshing to read.” Visit Cate online at, or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.