Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What I've Learned Skiing this Week

So, I've been in Colorado this week skiing with the kids. They'd never even seen snow before, so it's been very much a special time for them. Surprisingly, they've all taken to skiing so I feel future ski vacations could be in our future *groan*. Unfortunately, there are other things I would prefer to do, but I'm a firm believer in being able to learn something from any situation, so I'd like to share what I've learned this week:
  • Everything somehow looks "magical" covered in snow. Even the dumpster out back of the hotel looks picturesque with a dusting of snow. Of course, I don't have to drive in it or shovel it!
  • Snow really is cold. Now I know why I live in Miami.
  • You really can never have too much chapstick.
  • Skiing is indeed like riding a bike. The problem is, I was never that great at riding a bike :).
  • You will fall. It's just a matter of time. Especially if you strap on a pair of skis.
  • No matter what you do, your hair is going to look like crap anyway, so don't bother.
  • I might be in reasonable shape, but man, I'm really unfit. I hear a new year's resolution coming on...
  • Skiing is like eating crab. It's a lot of effort for not very much pay off, particularly if you don't absolutely love crab.
  • If you look good, you ski better. OK, not really, but you might feel better about having to do it LOL.
  • Skiing is something you have to have a passion for. I'm actually a pretty solid intermediate skier. I even went down a black run yesterday. Of course, hubby tricked me into it. I'm just not driven to it, not like every other person here seems to be.
  • I'd really rather do something else. Like write!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Naming Characters

It always fascinates me to hear how other writers work, how they write and what happens during their creative process. One of the things I always wonder about as I start a book is where the character's names came from. I think it's because I know where mine do--from everywhere and anything and sometimes from nowhere and nothing! That makes sense, right? LOL. I'm one of those people who'll scan the credits of a TV show or movie for interesting names, look at the contributors list in magazines, gosh I've even been known to scan my kid's school contact list! I have a number of baby name books as well. One of them has 20,000 names in it! It's the one I used to name my kids, so it's kinda special.

Sometimes I'll just hear a name somewhere or I'll see it and I'll file it away for later. That's what happened with Rio from PAY UP. I've had that name identified as one I would use eventually for a long time. I just needed the right guy. I actually have a document that lists possible names and I usually look at it before I start a book UNLESS the story has started with a character so strongly, that the name is already there. It happens like that sometimes. The character will just pop into my head, fully formed and already with a name. I'm sure it's something from my subconscious, but it sometimes feels like it's come from thin air. Occasionally, I'll be developing a character profile and I'll get to a certain point and the character suddenly 'becomes' someone. It happened that way with Jillian from PICTURE THIS. Jillian is not a name that would have normally gotten my attention, but when I created her profile, she just 'seemed' like a Jillian. To me, anyway.

I try to pick names that are easy to pronounce and wouldn't have a reader wondering how they sound, but past experiences also come into play. There are particular names that have connotations and associations that would make it impossible for me to use them for heroes or heroines. It might be people I know, family, those from the past that have too many echoes (positive or negative) that would prevent me from relating to them enough to write them. I also have this issue sometimes as a reader. If there's a book with a name that I too readily associate with a living person, it can make it challenging to really engage with that character and become invested with them. Of course, a good writer telling a great story can usually get me past that.

So, you really care about character names, one way or the other? Would other writers like to share how they name their characters?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Just Published - Cara Bristol

I'm welcoming Cara Bristol to Just Published this month and for the start of what I hope will be a productive and successful year! I got to know Cara online and she writes in a very interesting sub-genre, so let's find out how she got into writing, became published and what adive she'd give those pursuing this dream! The details of Cara's first published piece are:

Title: Secret Desires & Intimate Submission (part of the Spanked! anthology)
Genre: Erotic Romance
Words: 19K - Secret Desires & 16K - Intimate Submission
Publisher: Black Velvet Seductions
Date Published: October 2010

Congrats! So, how would you describe what you write?
I write explicit, hot erotic romance. Basically I’m an erotica writer in erotic romance author clothing. I’m not afraid to push the envelope a little. I don’t write BDSM, although I do explore the concepts of dominance and submission in my romances. Lately, I’ve been focusing on erotic stories involving spanking.

Spanking, huh? I'm intrigued :). What’s your writing process in a nutshell?
I start with a concept (often a sexual scenario), jot down some ideas as they come to me, and try to figure out roughly how to get from the beginning to the end. I never do character sketches. I like to discover who my characters are as I write. I do like to know how the story will end. It helps me to get to my destination if I know where I’m going. My “outline” for the novel I just finished was thirteen 3 x 5 cards, one to three sentences on each.

I love hearing about different processes. What has your submission history looked like? Rejections? Manuscripts written? Number of years ‘seriously writing’, etc?
I have a degree in journalism and worked as a newspaper reporter before switching to corporate public relations, so I’ve been writing professionally for almost 30 years. I’ve been writing fiction for 20 years, beginning with a mainstream novel. I was contracted with two different agents, but it never did sell. I ended up self-publishing it and won an honorable mention in the Writer’s Digest Self-Publishing Award competition, but I don’t recommend self-publishing to anyone. I switched to writing short stories, won quite a few awards, and had a few big sales (Good Housekeeping, Women’s World).

After leaving the corporate world, I did some newspaper/magazine freelance work. About a year and a half ago, I came up with the idea for Intimate Submission, an erotic romance novella, and sold it to the first publisher I submitted it to.

And how did you pick your publisher?
I wrote Intimate Submission simply for my own amusement. It was basically a sexual smorgasboard that included some spanking scenes. When I finished, I thought, “Hey this isn’t bad. Maybe I can sell this.” I did a search for erotic romance publishers on Writer’s Market and found that Black Velvet Seductions had put out a call for submissions for a “spanked wives” anthology. Based on the description of what BVS was looking for it seemed like a perfect fit.

It did! What’s your ‘call’ story?
I had a very strong gut feeling that I was going to sell Intimate Submission. It was about a married woman who goes to a job interview ends up sleeping with the interviewer. At the end of the story the reader finds out that the interviewer is her husband and they’re celebrating their anniversary with a little role play.

Maybe a month after I submitted Intimate Submission, I got a rejection letter! My editor at BVS liked the writing, liked the story, but DISLIKED the ending. She wrote a full page critique and told me if I wanted to rewrite it, she would look at it again.

REWRITE the ending? I love the ending. It’s the whole point of the story! That was my initial response. But I recognized that I had received a “good rejection” and no editor had EVER given me a full page critique. I knew I had nothing to lose, and everything to gain by rewriting it. I sent her a thank you, rewrote the story, resubmitted it, and…got a contract in the mail. The whole process from first submission to contract was about three months. I immediately started writing Secret Desires. When it was finished, I submitted it and it was accepted right away.

Did you have an agent when you sold? Now?
No & no.

What’s it like working with a publisher and editor? Are revisions really as bad as you hear?
Knock on wood…it’s been pretty smooth. The first revision of Intimate Submission before it was accepted was a little tricky because even though many of the scenes remained the same, the story had changed! My editor gives me some rough ideas in the contract of changes she’d like to see, I do my best to incorporate those and send her a new and improved manuscript. She then edits that, sends me her changes (quite detailed), I make the changes and send it back to her. She’s edited two novellas of mine, thus far, and I haven’t had them come back for a second go-around yet. I once had a boss tell me I never make the same mistake twice!

How did you feel the first time you saw your cover? How much input did you have?
I was SUPPOSED to participate in an online chat to discuss the cover of Spanked! with my editor, and the other two authors, one of whom was also the cover artist. But I totally spaced on the time change between east and west coast and missed the meeting! So, short answer…no input, but it was my fault. Given that Spanked! contains four diverse stories and styles linked by the theme of spanking, I think the cover does a good job of representing all four stories.

What was release day like?
It was fun. Very satisfying to see it all come together. I’ve had short stories published. And I was newspaper staff writer and freelancer for a number of years, so I’ve seen my name in print a lot. But there’s something special about a book. We had a Cyber Launch Party on Authorisland.

I agree. There's just something about a book. How did you market it?
I rely on my blog a lot. I use it as a web site. I’m linked in to a couple of spanking blogs and I get a lot of traffic from them. Anytime I can put “spanking” in a blog, I get a lot of hits. I try to use my blog as an entertaining source of information for readers.

I post on Goodreads, Facebook, Passionate Ink, CoffeeTime Romance, and other people’s blogs. I’ve joined and posted on some reader’s groups on Amazon. I sent both Intimate Submission and Secret Desires out for review. Intimate Submission got 4 stars from JERR.

My publisher set up the Cyber Launch Party, set up a loop chat with Two Lips Reviews and sent Spanked Out for review. It was named a “Top Pick” by Night Owl Reviews. Two Lips Reviews gave it four kisses.

I think it’s important to focus one’s efforts. No author has the time to do everything, and what works for one person may not work for another. I’m still in the process of determining what works for me.

My strategy is to develop a niche, create a Cara Bristol brand, leverage what other authors have done and basically make it very, very easy for people to buy my book.

That's great information. What’s the most surprising thing you learned during the publishing process?
How much competition there is for readers. Of course, I knew this already, but it really hits in a visceral way when you’re trying to market a book. There are so MANY romances out there, it’s a wonder that any of them manage to float to the top of the pile and attract a reader’s attention. Hence, my strategy to develop a niche, a la spanking stories.

Yeah, I think a brand is important in today's market as well. What do you think were the factors that got you published?
Two things: First, going with my strength. I write sex really well. I can make readers feel what the characters are feeling. I should have been writing erotic romance years ago. It would have saved a lot of time. (Can you hear my husband saying, ‘I told you, so!’?) Second, I was willing to set aside what I thought it should be (the ending of Intimate Submission) and try it my editor’s way.

What’s your 5 year plan look like?
My goal is to earn a living wage by writing. But that’s always been my plan! My strategy is to build a backlist ASAP, and make a name for myself and my books.

That's great, Cara! So, what’s next for you?
I am currently working on an erotic domestic discipline series centered around a secret organization composed of men who spank their wives. The first novella in the series, Spanking Melania, is under contract with Black Velvet Seductions. I just finished the first draft of the second book, Disciplining Emma, which turned into an actual novel. The third and fourth books are knocking around inside my head. SOMEWHERE I have some notes jotted down for the third. And I have an idea for an erotic romance involving an older (forty-something) H/h.

What’s the best advice you can impart to writers aspiring to be published?
Go with your strengths. Be open and flexible to criticism. Don’t give up.

Now for some fun! If you were stranded but could only take 1 thing from each of the following categories, what would it be & why:
This is hard to answer, because I need to know WHERE I’m being stranded and for how long so I can plan! My answers would change if I were on a desert island or stranded say, in a large foreign city. Assuming I’m on a desert island and don’t know how long before I’ll be rescued….
Person My husband because he’s the most competent person I know.
Animal Maybe a hunting dog so he can help us get something to eat.
Food A huge Costco-sized jar of peanut butter…good protein and it wouldn’t spoil
Book Assuming I’m going to be stranded for a while, I’d bring something really long that I had intended read…maybe War and Peace or a foreign language textbook—relearn all the Spanish I forgot!
Music Nothing…it would make me long for home, too much.
Personal Item…Assuming I couldn’t bring my CELL PHONE (which probably wouldn’t work anyway), I’d bring my pedometer. No reason to give up physical fitness just because I’m stranded.

LOL. I guess you're the sensible type! If I was stranded, I'd hope it was with you. Beautiful picture, by the way!

Cara, thanks so much for being here today and I wish you all the best in 2011 and beyond. If anyone would like to get in touch with Cara or learn more about her or her books, you can visit her here:
Blog -
Twitter -