Tuesday, March 24, 2015

My Turning Point


In a private group I belong to on Facebook, today's question was: "Describe a moment when your life took a turn." I didn't have to think twice about my response.

It was just over 20 years ago. I had just broken off an engagement to a man I fondly refer to as that "asshole-piece-of-shit-bullet-that-I-dodged Jim." I broke off the engagement less than 3 months before the wedding and never regretted my decision. Not. Once. But ending that relationship threw me into a starting-over mode. I got a new job, a new apartment, and even a new city. I hadn't begun my writing career at the time. I was basically doing what a lot of people do: I was working, hanging out with friends, did some charity work, and watched a lot of TV.

The turning point came when I attended a conference. I can't remember the name of the keynote for the life of me, but I remember that he was a paraplegic and that he said something that changed my life forever.

"A goal is a dream that burns in your belly." 

Shortly after that conference, I got out a piece of paper and wrote down all my life's goals. It was a short list, mostly filled with places I wanted to see in the world. But those seemed more like bucket list items than goals. But no matter how many times I drafted the list, only one item kept coming to the top, like cream on fresh milk:  Be a published author.

That was my life's goal. It had always been. When I was a kid, libraries had those huge wooden card catalogs for looking up books. I would take one of the stubby pencils they provided, write my name on a scrap of paper, and insert it into the card catalog where one day I knew it would be. I just knew it! I would also go into book stores, find the place in the fiction section where my books would be shelved alphabetically, and spread the books apart to make room for my future volumes.

Yeah, I was that focused. But somewhere along the line I lost the focus. Oh, once in a while I would start a novel, and soon after I'd give it up. Like a lot of people, I talked about being a writer, and just like most people who talk about it, I did nothing about it but talk. And we all know that talk is cheap if not accompanied by action.

After identifying my life-long goal, I set about to make it a reality. The first step in doing that, whether it be writing, climbing Mount Everest, winning a gold medal in the Olympics, or taking first place in a local garden show, is commitment. 

Let's all say that together: COMMITMENT.

From that moment on, I made the commitment to becoming a published author and took the necessary steps to make it a reality. I set up a place to write. Set aside time to write. Decided what I wanted to write. Researched the proper formatting of manuscripts. I read a couple of books on writing. I did not take any writing classes or join a writers' group. Although I feel both of those things might help many budding writers, I knew I would not grow or flourish in those environments. I armed myself with the tools I needed and set my eye on the goal of finishing my first novel within 12 months.  It took me 9 - like a baby. 

Soon after, I found my first agent and tackled the next step - getting published.

From the time I made my commitment until the time I was published about five years, three manuscripts, and one fired agent were left in the dust. 

My first published novel was TOO BIG TO MISS and it was self-published through iUniverse. I followed that up by self-publishing the 2nd book in the series, THE CURSE OF THE HOLY PAIL. Both were self-publishing successes in a time when self-publishing was a negative, not like it is now where so many authors are flourishing and respected.  

I landed a new agent, who is still my agent to this day, and TOO BIG TO MISS and THE CURSE OF THE HOLY PAIL went on to be traditionally published by Midnight Ink, which also contracted for ten more Odelia Grey novels, as well as launched my Ghost of Granny Apples and Madison Rose Vampire Mystery series.


Twenty years later, I have written and published 20 novels/novellas and seven short stories, and continue to have a growing relationship and contracts with two publishers, as well as some self-published work.

How did I make that happen? What magic beans do I possess?

None!

I identified my goal and made a COMMITMENT to seeing it through.

And you can too.

Anyone can if they want it bad enough.



Thursday, March 05, 2015

Questions? I've Got Answers!

Can an established cozy/soft boiled mystery author write a steamy romance series?

That's the question.

The answer is YES!

RUNNING WILDE, the first novella in my new erotic romance series, is now live on Amazon and early readers are loving it! YAY!

Buy it here.

What pleases me most in early comments is that people are engaged by the characters, not by the sex scenes. Another big YAY!

"While there are erotic parts, they are the spice not the main sustenance."

"This is a wonderful, fast-paced read that also shows sex can be great at any age."

"Winnie Wilde is another great character that I'm already attached to and can't wait to read more..."

Now to a few questions I'm getting from readers:

Why erotic romance?  I didn't start this series to shock readers, but to add another level of entertainment to my growing body of work. Writers write. All kinds of stuff. Getting into a rut can lead to boredom for both the author and the reader. As much as I LOVE writing about Granny Apples and Odelia Grey, I can't live on that alone. It would be like only eating oatmeal or mashed potatoes for every meal. As for why romance, it's fun to write and it sells well. Adding sexual situations is fun and realistic. Will it ever become 50 Shades of Winnie? No! At least that's not my current plan. But Winnie will be tasting life and expanding herself as the books move along.

Why Winnie, a 50-year-old divorced woman? Because a lot of women of that age find themselves in similar situations with similar challenges and life-changing decisions. The character of Winnie Wilde is very every-woman in most ways. She's smart, educated, and devoted to her family. But she's also re-discovering herself after selflessly raising her kids and ending a loveless marriage.

Why only e-book release?  Romance novels/novellas sell very well in e-book format. Much more so than in print. I could have written one very long novel containing all of Winnie's adventures, but chose instead to write novellas, each containing a major event in Winnie's life, and release them in a series format over time. If the novellas sell well, I may take the first three and compile them into a print trilogy. The same with the next three, and so on. Only time will tell if that is feasible and if there is a market for them. Also, it is much easier for me to write novellas in between my full-length novels under contract with traditional publishers.

The second novella, WILDE WOMEN, is in the works and should be ready this summer. The cover is already designed. The third novella, WILDE THYME, should be out about 6 months after that. My goal is to release each 6 months apart with a continuing story thread and many recurring characters.

Why self-published? Because I wanted to do a novella format and I wanted them out quickly, not mired down in traditional publishing. A publisher did express some interest in seeing these. If I'd gone that route, RUNNING WILDE would not have been released for at least a year from now, more like two years. I wanted them out now with my vision, not someone else's.  Marketing will be tough and time-consuming at first, but you can help by spreading the word!

Margaret Winifred Chambers
Why the pen name of "Meg Chambers?"  My Granny Apples and Odelia Grey books are a definite brand and I wanted readers to have a sense of difference and division between those books and the Winnie Wilde books. I am going to great pains to make sure readers understand that the Winnie books are rated R, not G or PG like Odelia and Granny. When I wrote my Madison Rose vampire series, even though those books were traditionally published, a lot of my Granny and Odelia readers were upset by some of the more adult content and violence. I wanted to make sure they were forewarned with these books. However, I also need to capitalize for marketing purposes on the large foundation of readers who follow "Sue Ann Jaffarian" books. My compromise is that "Meg Chambers" is the author on the cover, but I'm not hiding the fact at all that I write the Winnie books.

Meg Chambers has her own website: www.megchambers.com, along with a Facebook page. Come say hello.

Where did the name "Meg Chambers" come from?  My mother's name was Margaret Winifred Chambers. You might say that this whole series is dedicated to her. Meg Chambers is the author and Winifred Wilde is the main character. Mom loved reading romance magazines and "trashy" novels. I have no doubt she would have loved this series.

Are you going to write other self-published books?  Yes! Eventually. I am a firm believer that these days an author needs to keep a foot in both traditional and independent publishing. My various short stories have done quite well as e-book independent releases and now we'll see how the Winnie novellas do. I will continue writing for my traditional publishers as long as they want the books, and bring out my indie books at the same time.  Even though years have passed since my last Madison Rose vampire mystery, I am still receiving a lot of requests for them.  I do plan on writing and releasing BETRAYED BY BLOOD, the 3rd book in the series, as an indie author, but right now I can't give a release date as my writing plate is quite full.

I hope you will try the Winnie Wilde novellas, along with my other stories and novels.