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Guest Blog Post: How to Build an eBook on the Cheap by Alina Adams

Today, I have a special guest Alina Adams, discussing self-publishing her backlist titles.


Two summers ago, I was on a panel at Comic-Con in San Diego, talking about writing tie-in books (in my case to a pair of soap operas, As the World Turns and Guiding Light).

The moderator asked a question about future projects, and I mentioned that I was taking my series of Figure Skating Murder Mysteries, originally published as paperbacks by Berkley Prime Crime, and turning them into enhanced e-books, where not only did you get all the text of the original but, in partnership with The Ice Theatre of New York, I was adding professional skating videos to represent my fictional characters.

Afterwards, a fellow writer from the panel came up and told me she too had been thinking of doing a multimedia book, but she’d priced out the necessary technical services, and “Those IT guys are just so expensive.”

I pointed to my husband, standing nearby, and explained, “I sleep with my IT guy.”

“Oh!” She exclaimed. “That’s so much cheaper!”

Indeed. I highly recommended it. (Not that there aren’t many wonderful companies out there that could get the job done for you. Many of them even charge reasonable prices. But, even a reasonable price is an expenditure I’d rather avoid.)

When I first decided, in 2011, to get the rights back to not only my previously published figure skating series, but to my romance titles, as well, and turn them into enhanced e-books, it was only because I knew my husband had the technical know-how to physically build them.

When a Man Loves a WomanAnd if he didn’t have the technical know-how, he’d educate himself until he did. Or deal with my complaining about it. (And no one wants that.)

When it came to my romance novel, When a Man Loves a Woman, originally published by DELL in 2000, he literally ripped the book at the spine, then sat up several nights in a row, scanning each page by hand while he watched TV (and I went to bed).

I proofed it, compiled it, added a name to each chapter that corresponded to a popular song that could comment and compliment the action, found the songs on-line, created links to them, and handed the whole thing back to my husband. Who spent many more late nights formatting the book according to Amazon specs, and testing and retesting it in a variety of machines, according to the way he’d been taught at MIT. (Nuclear engineering… Building enhanced e-books… Practically the same thing, no?)

With my figure skating mysteries, Murder on Ice, On Thin Ice, Axel of Evil, Death Drop, and Skate Crime, he taught himself how to transfer videos from DVD into a format compatible with both mobi (for Amazon) and ePub (for Nook). He also figured out how to build the table of contents the platform required, not to mention indent, bold, italicize, and double-space. (Sounds simple. I gather it is not.)

CounterpointWe’ve been married for almost fourteen years. My romance writing career actually predates our meeting.

Back then, when I wrote about romantic heroes, they were either witty, urbane, Regency-era Marquis, or dashing fighter pilots, or sensitive, sexy surgeons.

Little did I know at the time, that the most romantic thing a man can do is sit up for hours tediously scanning pages torn from a tattered book, then spend hours pouring through coding specs in tiny font, followed by going back and redoing a day’s worth of work because I found a misplaced comma and really, really need it fixed. Now.

My latest enhanced e-book is Counterpoint: An Interactive Family Saga. It is a romantic serial where, at the end of Volume One, I ask readers to tell me what they’d like to see happen in Volume Two. I incorporate their suggestions into Volume Two, and ask them for input regarding Volume Three. And so on.

I am really looking forward to what my readers come up with.

But, if I may offer a bit of friendly advice based on life experience, if you truly want a Happily Ever After – go for the IT guy.

You won’t regret it.


Alina AdamsAlina Adams is the New York Times’ best selling author of soap opera tie-ins, figure skating mysteries, and romances, including Annie’s Wild Ride and When a Man Loves a Woman. Her latest project is Counterpoint: An Interactive Family Saga. In addition to turning her own backlist into enhanced e-books, she has produced enhanced e-books for others, including Dan Elish, whose middle-grade fantasy novel, The Worldwide Dessert Contest, now includes its own original musical score. Learn more at http://www.AlinaAdamsMedia.com


Guest Blog: Am I Mad by Lillian Grant

Male Order by Lillian GrantWhen I started writing stories I wrote anything that popped into my head. Some of the ideas I had were beyond bizarre, and the plots fizzled out with no ending in sight. However, as I worked on my technique and learned the art of crafting a story I became a lot more disciplined. I still wrote by the seat of my pants, plotting sends my creativity scurrying for cover, but I knew where the plot would end, even if I had no idea how I could get there. So, imagine my horror when, in the midst of working on a still incomplete serious futuristic sci-fi suspense, I got an idea for the most manic story ever with no ending, just a cast of crazy characters.

The story was born when I wondered how a girl who had never had a fulfilling sexual relationship would cope if she got persuaded to invest in a male escort business. Even worse, despite assuring my heroine, Meg, she would stay within the law, what if her best friend offers their escorts for more than just movie and a dinner? So, we have a sexually repressed heroine who has accidentally become a pimp. Hmm, how about if she shares a flat with a man who is far from repressed and is willing to help her lose her inhibitions, has a mother who is frigid, and a great aunt who chases anything in trousers? Oh and an Irish male stripper who signs up for a job as an escort and takes every opportunity he can to try and seduce poor Meg. Does it sound crazy yet?

These were just some of the cast that jostled for attention in my head. Convinced the only way to get over this madness was to write the book, I set to work. In less than six weeks, Male Order was done. I edited it and sent it off, telling my critique partner that people would either think it was really funny, or send the men in white coats.

I am sure we have all been told a movie or TV show is hysterical and yet when we’ve watched it can’t imagine why anyone would find it in the least big amusing. Comedy isn’t a universal language and different people find different things funny. Hence, my trepidation about the response I would get from publishers. Within a week I had the answer to my question can I write comedy from two publishers, both offering contracts. I signed up with Liquid Silver Books and Male Order began the journey to publication.

Now finally the question can be asked of the reading public. I really hope people find my strange cast of characters amusing and will even take a chance on book two, once I finish writing it. Apparently writing the first story just encouraged Meg, Sam, Laura, Michael, Aunt Maud and all the other weird cast of characters to move in. Goodness only knows how many stories they expect to star in!

Visit Lillian Grant at lilliangrant.com


Guest Blog: The Year I Spent $10,000 on a Dead Dog, or What Inspires Me by Josée Renard (Plus Giveaway!)

Treat Myself by Josée RenardEvery story begins somewhere; every writer finds their inspiration in a different place. We might all begin in the same place — with the same phrase or picture or idea — but each story by each of a thousand writers will be unique and individual. Some writers are inspired by history, others by the future. Some writers are inspired by writers who have come before them, wanting to follow in the footsteps of their heroes.

Where to begin? Who? Why? What?

For me, it’s all about that tiny flicker of a lighter in the darkness of an auditorium. It’s always one tiny thing. I don’t have a big idea. I never say I’m going to write a book about…anything. I never think, wow, what a great piece of history and I really want to tell that story. I never write an outline or figure out a plot or begin with a couple who need to get together.

When I look back at the dozens of stories, the hundreds of poems, the novels and novellas, I realize that every single one of them has started in a similar way.

What turns my mind to story is a phrase, a title, a single word, a quick glimpse out the car. It’s a nugget, a quick flash of gold in a stream, a sentence heard in passing. It might be a piece of graffiti, a small part of a quote or a story. I’ve written a novel because of a phrase I read in The New Yorker; a series of stories based on a piece of graffiti on a city wall; another book because of the 30 second glimpse of an abandoned drive-in outside a bus window.

The year I spent $10,000 on a dead dog.

A friend used this phrase the other day and I’ve been carrying it around in my head ever since, knowing that it will stick with me until I begin the story. I have absolutely no idea what the story will be, don’t know if it will be a short story or a novel. I don’t know if that sentence will even end up in the story — often it doesn’t. Or it starts the story and then gets cut as I get further into the writing of it.

Why does this happen? I think, though I really can’t be certain, that the thing that grabs me by the throat is a feeling. I can’t tell you what that feeling is, can’t be as clear as sorrow or joy or fear, but it keeps me writing until I reach the end. And then the thing that got me there may or may not belong in the story I’ve written.

The series of ten linked stories I’m writing right now began with a brief mention on the radio of Stevie Wonder. I started singing Part Time Lovers — don’t ask me why that song because my favorite is I Just Called to Say I Love You — and voila! Ten stories, 80,000 words, all from that single title.

Inspiration is as individual as a snowflake and what works for me probably won’t work for you. For me, I just try to respect that process, try to pay attention to the singularity of the moment when that phrase or glimpse passes by. Because I don’t ever want to miss one of them — they’re miracles.

About Josée Renard:

Josée Renard writes women’s fiction, magic realism, paranormal and erotica. She writes short fiction, poetry and novels. Josée blames her good friend Anna Leigh Keaton for getting her into writing erotica — she loves Anna Leigh’s books and wanted to try one herself — now she can’t stop. She blames her mother and her two grandmothers for her reading and writing obsession — all of them were avid readers, and they passed the books and the obsession on to her.

She also writes women’s fiction as Kate Austin. You can check out her alter ego at www.kateaustin.ca.

Josée has generously agreed to give away one e-copy of Treat Myself. Comment to win. The winner will be drawn on September 12th. (open international)


Guest Blog: Get the Words Down by Leia Rice

THE QUEEN'S CONSORT by Leia RiceOccasionally, I am found in WriteChat, writing my pretty little head off during challenges. After twenty minutes, we all share our word count, and mine are, most of the time, in the 700-1000 word area. Yes, you’ve read correctly. Though I’m definitely not the only writer out there who writes at the speed of light, I’m one of the few. So, how do I do it?

Throughout my MA writing program at Johns Hopkins University, our professors always told us in workshop that you should “keep writing” and “don’t go back until you are finished.” If I had a dollar for every time those two pieces of advice were given, I would have been rich by the end of the program. But, it’s true.

There are a few different types of writers: the “oh-my-god-my-sentence-is-not-perfect” writer, the “is-this-word-good-enough” writer, the “chapter’s-done-time-to-revise-it” writer, and then there’s the “I’m-gonna-keep-writing-until-my-manuscript-is-finished” writer. Trust me, and you know, there are a who lot more types, and you may be looking at these four and thinking to yourself that you fit in more than one category, and that is okay! In fact, I’m not saying it’s not okay to be any of these things, but I am saying that if you try to be the last one, you’ll start to write faster and more efficiently.

Get your words down. Your sentences can be perfect later. You can substitute words as you go through your first pass. Your chapter is going to be there when you finish your manuscript, I promise. All of these things can wait. When we interrupt the creative process, it’s like sticking a fork in a blender. Every time you stop your writing to look back or revise, you are seriously screwing up your blender. Why not let the blender run a little while, and you can go back and add some goodies to it and walk away with a banging milkshake?

Let’s face it. Everyone loves a milkshake.

But, in all seriousness, the next time you sit down and write, set a timer for yourself and write ALL THE WAY THROUGH the timer without going back, without stopping to use the synonym-finder in your word program, without having to get up and grab a snack, feed the husband (or wife!), or anything. Just write. Try doing this in twenty minute spurts and compare it to how much you normally write in a day. I bet you that you’ll churn out more words, and on top of that, every time you do this exercise, you’ll get better at it and not everything you write down will be crap.

There are programs out there that challenge you in this way, and I look at them as being the weights on our workout machine. Write or Die, for instance, is this annoying little program that blares out annoying little sounds when your writing slows down, or you stop for too long. You can set the time and write, write, write and keep ahead of the clock, unless you like the sound of a million babies crying over screeching violins. This will not only break your habit of stopping in the middle of your writing, but it forces you to keep going forward, and the more you move forward, the more words you are getting down on the page, just like the more weight you put on your machine, the easier it will get to lift them after doing it over and over again.

Me, personally, I prefer the Write Chat method, where you can come in and chat with other writers (most are romance writers, but don’t let that stop you if you are writing something else), participate in the 20-25 minute challenges, and share little blurbs of what you wrote. I find it to be an extremely rewarding experience, to sit down, write something, and then get some feedback on it right there and then.

I wish you luck in your writing, and I sincerely hope that you try some writing sprints to get yourself in writing shape. Set a word count goal for yourself and see if you can’t raise that by the end of the week after using these methods to “keep writing” and not “go back until you are finished.”

Leia RiceLeia Rice is a historical fiction and YA writer from Baltimore, MD. She lives with her wonderful husband, her rambunctious puppy, and her annoying lovebird who won’t shut up, even when she’s writing. Leia holds her M.A. in writing from the Johns Hopkins University and is currently published with Harlequin.

Her current book out is her Spice Brief titled The Queen’s Consort.


Carina Press 1st Anniversary!

Carina Press

Today I have Angela James, the Executive Editor from Carina Press, to share her experience at Carina and what she’s learned.

Angela JamesIn celebration of our one year anniversary, I asked as many of our Harlequin team members and Carina Press freelance editors as possible to write a short blog post, talking about what the past year or so has been like for them, working on Carina Press. I deliberately didn’t provide any direction other than that, because I wanted to see what people came up with, in the spirit of Carina’s 1st anniversary. I was so pleased when I saw what they’d all come up with, and had to say (and some of these posts made me just a little teary)! I hope you enjoy the post, and look for your opportunity to win a Carina Press book at the bottom of this post. ~Angela James

I wasn’t going to do a post on an author blog, because I wrote the anniversary post for the Carina Press blog. But when I went to write that post, I discovered there was a LOT to say and it made the post kind of long to include all of this. So thanks to Nadia, who kindly agreed to host me, I get the privilege of having two blog posts today!

So what did I learn this year? Ha! That I have a lot to learn. I swear, some days I feel like I know absolutely nothing about the industry, authors or how publishing works. I feel just as green as I did on the very first day I started editing almost a decade ago.

I learned that I hate packing for trips as much today as I did a year ago, and I’ve not gotten any better at packing “light”. People who can travel with one teeny, tiny, half-size carry-on are mutants. I’m convinced.

I’ve learned patience. I’m an impatient person by nature. If I have an idea, or a concept, or a thought flitting through my head, I want to jump on it and do it now. That’s not quite as easy at a larger corporation like Harlequin. We’re not quite so nimble as some of the smaller folks. Oh, we get things done and make things happen, just not quite as quickly as my impatient nature liked. So I’ve learned patience (well, having a six-year-old daughter has helped with that too)

I’ve learned that while I’m a good editor, and I miss editing, I’m also a pretty darn good administrator, boss, presenter and task-master. I knew I had what it takes to build an imprint, but I really feel like I’ve proven it to myself again.

And holy cow, I’ve been reminded how important a good team is. From the Carina Press acquisitions team, to the freelance editors, I’m surrounded by talented, hard-working, dedicated people. I have been so very fortunate in my co-workers and freelancers, and some of them have become very good friends who listen to my phone and email rants without complaining. Without the talent of this group, Carina Press would not exist today. I get a lot of the glory because I’m out in front, but I’ve worked to try and make sure you all see who’s behind the scenes, actually making it happen. Thanks to all of them, and the wonderful, wonderful authors who’ve trusted us with their books, today we have Carina Press!

Speaking of the authors, I’ve learned that they can come together to be enthusiastic and supportive of each other, and their publisher, in a pretty awesome way. I wish each of you could see the brainstorming and goodwill that occurs on the Carina author loop. It’s inspiring!

As I mention in the main Carina Press blog, I’ve discovered I love working for Harlequin. It’s been a year and a half, and I feel so lucky to be working there every day. I’m fortunate to have not just one, but several wonderful bosses. Malle Vallik has been an incredible boss and mentor, and I look forward to the times we’re together, when we can share a meal and a glass of wine, and talk not just about work, but about life. Loriana Sacilotto has been gracious and welcoming, making me feel as though Carina is just as important in its place in Harlequin editorial as any other imprint, and not just listening to my opinion on digital publishing, but also seeking it out. Last, Brent Lewis and Donna Hayes, who provided snippets for our Carina blog post today, have gone out of their way to let me know how much they value my skills.

But most of all, I’ve been reminded all over again how much I love digital publishing, and you know, learned to feel a little justified in all that preaching about the “digital dark side” that I’ve been doing for years.

Today’s not just a celebration of all we’ve accomplished in the past year, but also a celebration of digital publishing in general, because without all of the readers, retailers, authors, and other industry people who’ve embraced digital publishing, I wouldn’t be where I am today. So here’s to all of you, thank you!

To celebrate Carina’s one year anniversary of publishing books, we’re giving away some prizes. Today, on each of the nineteen blogs our team members are featured on, we’re giving away a download of a Carina Press book to one random winner (that’s nineteen total winners!) All you need to do to be entered to win is comment on this post. You can enter to win on all nineteen posts. In addition, on the Carina Press blog, we’re giving away a grand prize of a Kobo ereader and 12 Carina Press books of the winner’s choice. Visit the Carina Press blog to enter to win, and to see links to all 19 of today’s blog posts.

And a sincere thank you from all of us, to our readers and authors, for making Carina Press’s first year a success!


Guest Blog: World Building and Keeping a “World Bible” by Vanessa Barger

Into the EtherThanks Nadia, for letting me crash the blog today. I hope you all enjoy!

You’ve all heard it before — when writing sci-fi/fantasy or paranormal you have to world build, and you have to do it well. Sadly, those voices are right.

Readers can sniff out a hitch in your world building like a bloodhound on the trail. They know. I love fantasy and paranormal, and whether writing adult or YA, there’s always a little fantasy in there. I used to wing it. Then, after having to complete a massive edit several weeks after finishing a book, I realized I had written down nothing about the world the story was taking place in. I spent countless extra hours scouring through the manuscript for silly things like hair color and whether or not that building was where I thought it was.

Some people swear the first thing you should do is fill out a character questionnaire for each character in your book. While I do find those, with their millions of questions a little tedious, I have learned to keep a list of each character’s physical traits (excellent when you’re filling in a cover art form), as well as little things about them I think are important.

But world building goes deeper than that. With world building, you have to think about EVERYTHING. I’m starting a sci-fi set on another planet with a different social system and small town. I’ve gone through and named everyone in town. Each person. At first, I did it as an exercise in making myself fill up the slim moleskin notebook I bought to use as a “world diary.” Then, after I finished, I realized that I had built family relationships into the different people, I had created a community in my head just by putting their names down on paper. While I don’t expect everyone to do that — name every person in their town — it is something to think about. If your character interacts with them, no matter how small a part they play, they have to have a little depth, or they’re little more an a dummy propped up in the corner for your character to speak to during the scene.

For this story it was also important to know the layout of the town. In the past, I’d just wing it and hope for the best. This time I sat down with a paper and pencil and sketched out the town. Amazing the difference it made. As I used my ruler and laid down the streets and footprints of the buildings, I could see each one.

Now when I sit down and make plot notes (for all that I’m telling you to do this, I despise outlines. They’re too confining for me) I can see more clearly what’s going on. There’s a mine in my story, and I haven’t done anything with that. I can already see that I will have to sit down and sketch out the mine, because the town is so clear to me that without that step, any reader will be able to notice the fact that I didn’t plan the mine as well.

Is it more work? A little. But its strangely amusing too. I can make the shop keep my main character sees everyday from a distance be a peg-legged former pirate. The MC doesn’t know, the reader doesn’t know, but I do. And I think it’s hilarious that he’s given up sailing to take care of an obnoxious pet parrot who gets seasick in his old age.

It makes the story and world more real to me, which will give it more life to the reader.

Besides making your writing easier and more vibrant (I hope) the world bible also does one other very important thing — as you’re writing, when you have a question about something you’ve put in there, you can go back and check whether it fits like you think it does. You can check to see how far your hero has to run before turning left at the school. You know, because the map of town is right there in front of you. It makes putting in details easier, and helps keep you from making silly mistakes because you can’t remember something.

So — try it, even if its just once. Keep it in a spiral notebook, a moleskine, even a software program like OneNote (I love OneNote, but writing it down means I don’t have to toggle between programs). I think you’ll notice a difference. And enjoy it!

If you want to see what else I’ve got going on, check out my blog.

I also have a YA steampunk romance out from Astraea Press called Into the Ether.

As a Touch-Know, Genevieve has never been required to steal more than a few paltry coins. But when a powerful stranger requires their help, her family of street-wise thieves sends her to get the most important thing they’ve ever decided to liberate. It was supposed to be a simple overnight job. Instead, Genevieve is required to appear attached to her mark, the curator of the British Museum. For Genevieve it becomes more than an act, and her problems are far more significant than the possibility of her lies being discovered.

When her family betrays her, she must make an important choice — turn to the man who has destroyed everything she holds dear, or strike out on her own.