Monday, March 29, 2010

What's your name?

Dear Authors: it's dark-hearted muttering time. Ready?

I appreciate your creativity and the thought you've put into your pseudonyms. Honestly. And really, I know you think you're being very clever when you come up with something like:

Stormie Skyes.
Sunny Daye.
Misty Dawn.
Red Hott

But the truth? When I read names like this on submissions, I roll my eyes and gag. It's like being stuck on the Bad Pun Train. Please...when can I get off?

They're nearly as bad as the single name pseudonyms. Pim. Poppins. Pumbleby. (For some odd reason, they always seem to start with a "P".) Poppy. Pippy.

Poop.

People! A pseudonym is a marketing device as well as a means of hiding yourself from the public eye. You want it to sound professional. And unless you're a stripper or a porn star, Candy Cane isn't professional. It's cloying. And annoying. And--it makes you sound like a first class twit.

Think in terms of product. Your pseudonym represents your product. Do you want people to think your books are nothing but trash written by a bubble-brain? (I hope you don't. The fact that you've taken the time to think of your cutesie name proves otherwise.) Do you want reviewers to have an automatic anti-your-book bias before they even read the first page? No, of course not. You want everyone to say--hey, this is a great book! And the author's name is...

Stop and think about what image you wish to project. And think about how people remember (or don't remember) names.

Lots of letters...probably not. If I told you my real last name, you'd run in the other direction. Seriously. I dated my husband (who was then just a boyfriend, of course) for four weeks before I could remember what his last name was. I knew it started with a D...had a couple of l's in the middle and and o and possibly and i near the end. So when I was deciding on a nom de plume, you can be sure I didn't want to use my real last name. No one would remember it, never mind knowing how to spell it to buy my books.

Same thing for my editing name. Yep--that's a pseudonym, too.

One thing I knew was that I wanted to keep my first name; mostly because I feared being at a conference (or on Oprah) and someone would call me by a fake pseudonym first name--and I wouldn't respond. Duh. So my first name--Cynthia, often Cyn--stuck. But the last name...ah. That was the hard part.

In the end, I went with my maiden name. Why? It's got a literary reference. (You know, that Yeats guy. Pronounced the same way but spelled differently.) It's a common enough name, easy to spell, easy to remember. And besides--I happen to like it.

Perhaps this is an option for you. Instead of Coco Crisp or Strawberry Blonde, perhaps you could just use your real first name and your maiden name. (Assuming, of course, you're a married woman and your maiden name wasn't like my married name. Two t's, one l, two i's and an o. And an a. And a d...)

Another thing to consider is the rhythm of your pen name. I've heard it said (and have discovered it to be true) that if you use one less syllable than the other name, it sounds better. (Whut?)

For example, consider the name, Mary Smith. Mary has two syllables, Smith has one. Sounds nice, doesn't it? (Boring but pleasing.)

Mary Deery, on the other hand--not so nice. Two syllables balanced together--too repetitive. (The double ry's don't help, either.) But if it's Mary S. Deery--you've evened it off again, throwing that extra syllable in there to offset the sing-song quality. Play around with this concept and listen to the pattern/rhythm of the words. You want to create something that will lilt in the reader's (aka "purchaser's") head, make them remember you. Like a bit of poetry, maybe.

Okay, I'm waxing wierd, here. C.D. Yates ain't no poetic name. But it's better than Hott Leggs.

Red Sails got four stars!

...from Manic Readers.

I really love this book. It was a little bit like Dracula meets the Pirates of the Caribbean, with some werewolves thrown in for fun. What I really enjoyed, however--forgive me while I begin sounding like the English major that I was--is Edward Erdelac's use of language. It's a genuine sea story, with a rhythm and texture that reminded me of Melville (only less dense and more modern. I kept thinking of Billy Budd.

Before I make you run in the other direction (Melville! Ack! High school flashbacks...run awaaaaay!) here's what Cheryl at Manic Readers wrote:

Red Sails by Edward M. Erdelac is a must read. Wow at only 47 pages, this story reads like a full length novel. It started out strong and ended on a high note....this story would make a good movie...It was kind of like Lord of the Flies meets Pirates of the Caribbean. Sampari, Jan and Timoteo were fully developed characters. I look forward to seeing what Mr. Erdelac comes out with next.

Me, too.

You can buy Red Sails here: Lyrical Press

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Promotion is a never-ending process--so get started: an article by Lyrical author, Gwenna Sebastian

The following article was written for me by author, Gwenna Sebastian, who is already jumping on the promotion train. And I'm glad--her book is fabulous. (I should know...I demanded to be her editor. )

A few days ago, I mentioned to Cyn that I'd managed to get myself booked for several blog interviews. She immediately wanted me to spill my secret on how I managed to do that. In all honesty, I'm just fumbling around a lot as this really is my first time in the e-publishing realm.



But I can tell you what I am doing and will continue to do. With my first novel, Lost and Found, coming out in late June, I decided to get brave and start tagging some of these bloggers who were specifically asking for authors to interview and books to review.


Where am I finding these bloggers? To start, I'm a Lyrical Press author, so I'm on their various lists. That's where I found out about Rayna, who is putting together an entire month on her blog, Naughty Editions, dedicated to GLBT authors and their works. Since Lost and Found is a M/M romance and coming out in June, I took the chance and contacted her. That was the first one.


Another thing I did was join the Yahoo group, Marketing for Romance Writers. If you aren't a member of yet, you should be. One great thing about them is their monthly newsletter which features, among other things, upcoming releases. I will definitely place my novel in it, along with my cover art. There is a large readership here; you can't go wrong. They also list upcoming writers' conventions which are always looking for promo items.


While I don’t have an interview set up with MFRW, yet, there are bloggers who are members, and they’re always looking for authors to interview and promote. It was to one of these folks, Toni V. Sweeney to whom I responded. Toni booked me for an interview on her excellent site, Guests, Blogs and Interviews, in late May. She's also going to do a review of Lost and Found once it's out in June.


I commented about these two interviews with Rayna and Toni in my own blog and one of my followers nudged me toward Reviews by Jesse wave, noting they love new authors. And because this is a blog that reviews only M/M, I contacted them. Yes, they said, they’d be happy to set up an interview with me—in June. They also wanted to review the book.


Reviews are an excellent form of exposure, too. When a fellow Lyrical Press author posted that she got a review at Author Interviews, Book Reviews and More. I followed her link back and again found they are looking for authors to interview and books to review. Once again, I made contact. Just last night, I discovered that they, too, would love to interview me and review Lost and Found.


So what did I say to all these site owners? I told them all pretty much the same thing: I'm a new author and this is my first release. That I write M/M romances with characters that are based in the military. I gave them the book’s release date and included my website, blog, and Live Journal urls and—most importantly—the link to my book's page at Lyrical. That way they know who I am and what my book is about, up front. I also kept my eyes open, googled and followed back links to places I knew did reviews.


Here is a list of the contacts I made so far and hope can be helpful:


rayna@naughtyeditions.com - Rayna who is doing the entire month of June for GLBT authors and their books.
tvsweeney@neb.rr.com - Toni V Sweeney. I'll be interviewing with her on May 28th.
MichelenJeff@live.com --Michele Montgomery and Jeff (who doesn't give his last name).


And I can't say enough about Marketing for Romance Writers Yahoo list at yahoo groups.

You can be sure that I'll be harrassing Gwenna to give me updates to share with you (and use, myself). Thank you, ma'am. You're a marketing maven!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Funny thing happened on the way to my birthday...

So I turned 45 on March 14th. Gasp. (They grow up so fast...)

My husband threw a birthday bash for me; it was going to be a surprise party, but he decided to tell me about it that morning by whispering, "Happy Birthday. I invited my mom and your parents over for your birthday. My friend Steve might come over, too. Make sure the house is clean." and falling asleep. (He works third shift.)

So while I was cleaning the house (and not wearing an apron and high heels like June Cleaver, by the way), I picked up a bottle of Mr. Clean and decided I'd use it to wash the kitchen floor. But, I wondered, did I need to dilute it? And--by how much? I lifted the bottle...and then straightened my arm until the label came into focus. And I realized. Holy Crap, I need glasses.

Funny how my eyes decided to let me know this exactly on my birthday; it was like they were waiting until the 14th to sing, "Happy Birthday to you, you're going to die soon. Your bo-dy's deteriorating and it's all down-hill! Enjoy your cake." Personally, it would have been nicer if my body decided to give me a cool gift, like magically losing thirty pounds and making the baby-belly pouch vanish, but I guess that's asking for too much.

Life is full of little surprises...(I guess I'd better enjoy them, because--as my body has decided to point out) I'm only mortal. Seize the day! (If you can see it.)

Friday, March 19, 2010

An interview with Lyrical author Nyki Blatchley

Today, I'd like to introduce you to Nyki Blatchley. His latest book, Kaydana and the Dragon Prince, was released this week by Lyrical Press and is available now.

I'm pleased to say I worked on this book with Nyki; spending time with Kaydana was amazing. She's a great character and I'm looking forward to editing the next book in the series, Kaydana and the Pool of the Gods so I can spend more time with her.

Take it away, Nyki!

1. What inspired you to write the Kaydana series?


I’ve been writing (mostly) non-erotic fantasy for many years, both epic and sword & sorcery, and when I started to take an interest in writing erotica, it occurred to me that I could write a series of stories using the various basic S&S plot types (the rescue, the treasure hunt etc.) with sexual themes woven in.


Although I’ve used a variety of main characters, I have a bit of a tendency to go for strong, free-spirited female leads, so I had the idea of writing about a wandering sorceress. Once I’d decided on that, Kaydana was simply there, and she really hasn’t changed since the initial inspiration, although I’ve got to know her better.


I try to tie Kaydana’s sexuality in with the story in an intimate way, especially her struggle with the dark side of her sexuality. I’m not sure why I’ve made the sub/dom element so important, as it’s not something that especially attracts me in real life. Perhaps it’s that it gives the opportunity to explore sexuality at its extremes. I think it’s important, though, that it’s a strong person being dominated – a story about a weak person being sexually dominated would just be icky.


True. Icky is bad. LOL.

2. Tell me about Kaydana. Who is she? Why is she the way she is?

Kaydana was born with a powerful natural gift for magic, and constantly got into trouble as a child for causing accidents with it. Her parents eventually sent her off, at the age of nine, to be apprenticed to a sorcerer called Lourim. He was competent and a good teacher, but by the time Kaydana was fifteen, she felt she’d learnt everything he could teach her, so she stole his magic staff and went off to make her living as an itinerant sorceress.

Although neither she nor Lourim knew it, the staff was actually the Staff of Ishlun, one of the most powerful magical artefacts in the world, and this helped her develop her already formidable magical skills. She gradually gained a considerable reputation.

Kaydana has never felt any desire to return either to her parents or to Lourim, and she loves wandering, seeing new places and meeting new people. She’s very adaptable, able to be at home at a king’s court or in a tavern brawl. She has a huge appetite for living, and especially for sex with both men and women. Although she doesn’t run away from emotional attachment or commitment, Kaydana mostly treats sex as fun and relationships as temporary, even if they’re intense at the time. She’s never ruled out the possibility of a lifelong relationship, but she does place a high importance on being free to wander and gain new experiences.

3. What was your favorite scene from Kaydana and the Dragon Prince? What did you like best about it?

My favourite? But... they’re all my babies.

Well, I suppose the front-runners would include the erotic scene on the mountain, and the big scene near the end where Kaydana confronts the evil king. I think my favourite, though, is where Kaydana rides the dragon. I’d like to think her joy and excitement come through and communicate to the reader. It’s odd, since I’m pretty scared of heights, but maybe it’s true that there’s a thin line between fear and excitement.

I have to agree. Those riding the dragon scenes were absolutely wonderful. The writing was practically poetic. I could feel the wind on my face and the powerful dragon beneath me. I loved them. The erotic scene on the mountain was good, too, but like you--I'm afraid of heights.

4. When not working on Kaydana's stories, what do you like to read?

Mostly fantasy – my favourite authors include Tolkien (of course), Mary Gentle, Ursula Le Guin, James Branch Cabell, Mervyn Peake, Fritz Leiber, Mike Moorcock. Favourite non-fantasy authors – Iain Banks, Italo Calvino, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Hermann Hesse. I recently read To Kill a Mockingbird for the first time too, and loved it.

Oh, I love that book. Funny how the classics they forced us to read in English class (what do they call English class if you live in England? Literature, maybe?) are actually great books, in retrospect. Which, of course, is why they're hanging around...but I digress. ;)

I read poetry, though not as much as I used to, and medieval romances, especially Chr├ętien de Troyes, who’s surprisingly funny in places, and occasional historical and scientific non-fiction (I’m not remotely a scientist, but I love cosmology, quantum particles, string theory and the like).

I was interested to learn you studied Greek literature and mythology as you describe on your website, but it's evident in the structure of your stories. (If you look for it.) I'll pass on the quantum physics, though--not sure how that fits, unless it has something to do with magic.

I’m currently reading 1610: A Sundial in a Grave by Mary Gentle, which is almost a straight historical novel, but has some fantasy elements in it. So far it’s great.


5. If you could meet Kaydana and spend a day with her, what do you think the pair of you would do? (Remember, this is generally a PG-rated blog.) What would you tell her? Ask her?

Well, realistically I can’t assume she’d want to do anything non-PG with me. It would depend a bit on which world we met in, I suppose, but I’d want to talk to her – though, knowing Kaydana, I’ve no doubt there’d be considerable quantities of booze involved. I’d want to ask her about the places she’s seen and some of the strange people she’s met. I’d definitely want to ask her what it’s like to fly. And I’ve no doubt she’d be curious about this world, and how all its “magic” works. And, if she could arrange it, it would be great to go for a ride on a dragon.

Then again, after a lot of talking and drinking, maybe it would turn non-PG.

No comment. ;)

6. What are you working on now?

Well, I have a TV script to revise, which I’m intending to submit to the BBC as a series proposal. If they reject it, then I’ll start thinking about other markets, but I’d love to sell it to the Beeb.

I have a fantasy trilogy, The Winter Legend, that’s about 90% written, but the first priority for it is to do a final revision on the first volume, to get it ready for submission. Then there’s the sixth and last (for now) Kaydana story – I won’t say much about that, but it’ll be a big finish.

Then there’s just a matter of ten or eleven beginnings of short stories that need to be written, the trilogy to complete and at least five other projected novels to write. So not much at all.

Can't wait to hear more about them! Good luck with that BBC script. :)

7. What do you think you'll write about when you've finished writing the Kaydana series?

Well, you might have gathered from my last answer that I’m not short of things to write about. In terms of erotica, though, I’d like to stick to fantasy, probably still sword & sorcery, but I’ll look for a character and situation that allow me to explore different things. I might use a male protagonist, since I’d like to be able to include MM scenes, which hasn’t been easy with a female viewpoint.

I may eventually return to Kaydana, though probably not for a while. Her situation will be a little different, anyway, after the last story – though that’s all I’m saying about it for now.

Ooh...sounds intriguing. The only thing I can think of which would stop her would be motherhood. Does she have a dragon baby? (Ow.)

8. Do you have a blog? How can readers get in touch with you?

I do have a blog at http://nykiblatchley.blogspot.com/  
though I’ve been very bad about keeping it up lately. I’m going to try to improve in the future.

Yeah...know the feeling.

Other than that, my website is at http://www.freewebs.com/nykiblatchley/ and my email is nyki27@talk21.com

I'll be sure to make them favorites!

And I’d like to thank you for hosting this interview.

I'm pleased and proud to be able to host it, Nyki. I love Kaydana and am happy to tell people about her--and you. :)

Incidentally, Kaydana and the Dragon Prince has already received a review: It got 3 1/2 hearts from Love, Romances and More. Go check it out!