Remind me why I started writing? Oh yeah, I was stuck on the pampa in Argentina for 4 months, with 2 yr old twins and lots of free time. Susannah took care of the housework and cooking, so all I had to do was watch the twins splash about in the pool while my husband was alway days at a time to look for horses. I had a couple notebooks, some pens, and an idea for a book. So I sat on the porch and wrote my first novel longhand on yellow paper. It never got published – I never rewrote it on the computer. By then we were travelling again, the twins were growing and I had no time to spare. Then my daughter was born, and once again I was sitting at home watching a newborn sleep. We had just gotten a new computer so I started a short story about Alexander the Great. It turned into a seven book series, was published in Australia, and did pretty well until the publisher folded. Undaunted, I wrote an erotic romance and sold that one, then a few more, (30 to date, I think) plus a few YA books, and some science fiction and straight romance…And it was all because my imagination just ran away with me and the best thing to do to stop thinking was to write it all down, because when I start thinking, I usually end up reading the Guardian and posting in the comment section because I want to change the world, my blood pressure shoots up – so believe me, it’s better I write fiction. Continue reading
Having been to many conferences, I have (from experience) seen with (my own eyes) what makes for a big Splash. So if you want to make a Big Splash (from herein known as BS) you should do as these authors* have done: Continue reading
Here is a view from the conference hotel window:
I had a great time – I got back yesterday and hugged my kids, noticed the house was clean and took them out to dinner to say thanks for mowing the lawn and cleaning the house while I was gone. Continue reading
A little while after that book signing, I stopped telling people I was a writer. When I told people what I did they were always impressed. So how come I stopped? I think it was because people were impressed with the notion of writing a book, but their first question was never: “What is the book about?” it was always, “How many copies did you sell?” or “How is the book doing?” which took away the entire artistic, creative part of things and made me feel like a salesman or someone who’s worth was measured in dollar signs. I’ve never put much emphasis on dollar signs. I’d rather be measured by the things I’ve accomplished. Hopefully, I’ll have more friends at the end of my life than published books.
And then, one day this summer, I went to a big bookstore. It was so big and important, I didn’t dare tell them “I’m an author”. But I went to the children’s book section, and there was my book. I went to the erotic section, and there were two more of my books. And then my stepmother asked at the information desk if one of my historical books was available. The woman checked the computer and said, “Jennifer Macaire. Let’s see. We have ‘The Secret of Shabaz.” Here she paused, and then, to my immense delight, she said, “I know that book. It did really well here. My daughter read it and loved it.”
I couldn’t stop grinning, my stepmother introduced me as the author of the book, and I floated away on a cloud. It wasn’t finished though. The bookstore manager came looking for me in the aisles and said, “I noticed you have another book coming out soon. Would you be interested in doing a book signing here?”
He gave me his card and told me to contact him when I got back to NY.
My glamorous life as a writer came rolling back. It was worth it after all. Worth the rejections, the edits, the flashers, the measly pay and the heartbreak. It was worth it. Someone’s daughter had read my book…and loved it.
However, I can’t speak about my life as a write without mentioning ‘The Promise’. It’s a book I wrote when my sons were about nine. One day, they asked me to write a story where there were no grown-ups. “None at all?” I asked.
“None,” they replied firmly. And then Sebi gave me the idea. “They all got killed off by a virus,” he said.
So I sat down and wrote ‘The Promise’. It was a slim, unassuming story about a boy named Ryan who didn’t give up. He made a promise to his father, and he meant to keep it. He and his younger brother and sister made a voyage to the south of France, meeting other survivors along the way. It was a small book, but it had great consequences. My mother, an English teacher, decided to use it in her class in a maximum security prison for minors. In my book, the narrator is the hero of the story. But the boys in the prison identified with Red Sky – the villain. But Red Sky redeems himself in the book. The boys in the prison loved the book so much they asked my mother if she could find the film. My mother said the book wasn’t a film, but she knew the author. Incredulous, the boys demanded to know who it was. When she told them it was her daughter, they wondered if I couldn’t come in and talk to them about the book. It required several months of preparation, special permission, and lots of organizing – but the day arrived I went to prison to speak about my book.
I was a little wary, and had no idea what to expect. And it certainly wasn’t the barrage of thoughtful, interesting questions the boys asked me. From the metaphor of setting free the wolves, to Red Sky’s motives in saving the horse…everything had to be discussed at length.
Amazed by the visit, and amused by the demands I write a book ‘just for Red Sky’, I sat down and wrote a sequel and presented it to the classes for Christmas. (Just what they wanted – an unedited first draft!) My mother had them editing it for an English lesson one day. (How many of you can spot the misplaced modifier in this page? How many typos can you find?)
I’ve been back to the prison three times. Each time I’m thankful for the prison authorities who take the time to organize the day for me, and who make everything go so smoothly. A special thanks to the director and to my mom, of course, for letting me be part of the program. It really means far more to me than dollar signs to hear a young boy tell me, “Mrs. Macaire, I want to say something. When I’m out of here, and I have a wife and kids, I want to be sitting on my sofa one day and watching television and see your film, ‘The Promise’ with my kids. And if it doesn’t become a film, I’m still going to sit down and read the book to them. Because it was important to me. It made me see to the future.”
Well, after that – who needs a best seller?
My husband thought it was terrific. His wife the erotic romance writer. He told ALL his friends. They started calling me Samantha. The first time that happened I thought the person had forgotten my name and I corrected him. He winked and said, “Yes but Samantha is so much more exciting, according to your husband.”
I was torn between wanting to hit my husband or hit his friend. Writing was serious business! I was an intellectual! I soon got off my high horse. A well written book is fine. But in the erotic romance business the readers want emotion, characters they can care for, and lots of hot and interesting sex. Dithering over things like description, pacing, and atmosphere held me back. My editor told me to stop mucking around and Just Write!
Fine. I could do that. I had to adjust my attitude, but I was used to that. Anyone who has had kids knows that having an attitude is setting yourself up for a hard fall. Who can feel young and glamorous when your kid asks you what it was like living with the dinosaurs? Or when they see you in your bathing suit, their eyebrows go up, and they blurt, “You’re so fat!” (And the minute before you’d just been thinking how well you looked.) So attitude wasn’t the problem. I put my dreams about writing ‘literature’ aside and wrote…and published over fifteen erotic romance books.
But having kids also meant they were always begging me to write a story for them. So I did. I sat down and wrote ‘The Secret of Shabaz’. It was one of the hardest books I wrote. I wanted it to be for all ages, especially for teens – that group of children with an attention span of about thirteen seconds. I wanted it to be fun but at the same time I wanted to give readers something to think about. I love fantasy, so I wrote a magical tale full of adventure, a dash of horror, a pinch of romance, and with a heroine I would have wanted as a best friend. I finished it after two years of writing on it between erotic romances and sent it to Medallion Press. They loved it.
I was on cloud nine. I was a published author of a YA book! Now I could tell my whole family, even the ones who had weak hearts. This was exciting. I started getting an attitude again. I was going to NY for the summer, what better way to kick off the new book than with a book signing in a big bookstore? I looked up bookstores in the neighborhood and called them. Two agreed. I gave them the ISBN numbers and practised looking modest. (Hard to do – I was getting an attitude.) I found a passage to read that was not too long, not too short, and had some humor in it. Perfect. I found a little black dress that made my tummy almost look flat. I asked all my family and my friends living nearby to come. I brushed my teeth.
I arrived on time.
The bookseller had set up a little auditorium with a table and MY BOOKS sitting upon it. I had a poster the publisher gave me which I propped up near the books. I sat on the chair. I waved to my parents, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles…and several strangers. The strangers sat up front. My family, in an élan of generosity, left the whole front row free. I introduced myself, picked up my book, and started to read.
The man front and center opened his legs wide.
He had on baggy shorts. He lifted them a bit to make sure I noticed he was not wearing any underwear.
I lost my place in the paragraph and had to start over. My first book signing and I was getting flashed.
I was determined not to let that little detail ruin my book signing. I would have understood if it had been for my erotic books. But this was a kids’ book, for goodness sake! My glamorous life as an author was taking another beating. I was at my first signing, damn it. I wasn’t going to let some pervert ruin it. And then the bookstore’s cat jumped on the table and sat on my pile of books. It wasn’t comfortable there. It jumped down and prowled around the table as I read. There were several titters. And I hadn’t gotten to the funny part yet. I risked a glance at the audience. Wrong move. Flasher had pushed his shorts up and was practically waving his equipment at me. The cat jumped down to my lap. Better. I kept reading. I didn’t miss a beat. Then the cat got bored and left. I finished reading and stood up, determined not to look at Flasher and ask the audience if anyone had any questions. There were more titters. I looked down. There was cat hair all over my black dress. It looked like I was wearing a gray apron. Resigned to my fate, I asked if there were any questions. There was a long silence. One person raised their hand.
“Yes, mom?” I said.
(to be continued…)
That was about the time I decided to write a short story about a journalist who goes back in time to interview Alexander the Great.
The story turned into a novel. The novel turned into a series of seven books. Writing that series was like breathing. It was both the easiest thing I ever did and the most necessary. I needed to write that series. It was like a baby inside me that grew and had to be born.
When I’d written all seven books I was stunned. There is a whole month out of my life where I can’t remember what I did or where I was. I think at that time we were in England, in a small stone house with hollyhocks all around it. The twins were nearly seven. It was time to take them back to France so they could go to school.
We moved to France, found a house to rent in a small village, and I bought a computer and typed up my series. It took about a year to type it all out and get it ready to submit. In the meantime I got the twins enrolled in school, made friends in my new village, and became pregnant with my daughter.
I thought that it would be easy to sell my series, but it was a time travel, a paranormal romance, a historical novel, and a campy, tongue-in-cheek spoof all at the same time. I tried every publisher in the book and then some. My daughter was born, learned to walk, and began to talk. And then I found a small publisher in Australia who took it and loved it.
I was a published author!
I told everyone I knew and those I didn’t know. I wrote postcards and letters and posted excerpts and made a web-site. I sent copies to reviewers and friends, and sat back waiting for the royalties to arrive. I was ecstatic. Especially after my publisher wrote to me and said I’d written an Australian best seller. Wow.
Let me just take this time to say that a best seller in Australia is a book that sells more than 200 copies.
To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. But the publisher was so happy I felt I should be happy too. I took my first royalty check and sent it to the bank, and tried not to calculate how many hours I’d worked on the book versus how much I’d made…which would work out to something like 0.03 cents an hour. Then the publisher folded and I got all my rights back to my series. I was back to square one. My glamorous life as an author had taken a serious drubbing. I picked myself up and called my mother.
“I will never write another book. I don’t care how good it was. It was a waste of time, that’s what it was.” I gave a self-pitying sniff.
Listening in to our conversation was my mother’s protégé, Sam. He spoke up. “You should never give up,” he said, sounding very sure of himself. “But if you want to earn money, you should write erotic books. They sell like crazy.”
Sam’s friend, Winston, chimed in. “That’s right. Don’t stop writing. You write too well.”
“If I write and erotic book, I’m using a pen name,” I said. “And if I take a pen name, it will be Sam Winston.”
“That works,” they said.
I hung up and thought about it.
Could I write erotic novels? Some of my short stories were sensual. Maybe I could. But first I had to read an erotic novel. I looked on the Internet – that vast repository of everything and anything – and found several online bookstores. Only one was specifically for erotic books. I bought one. It was pretty good. I liked the writing. The characters were well developed. The sex was hot—and there was sex all through the book. Despite that, there was a plot that had nothing to do with sex and I appreciated that. If I wrote an erotic book, I’d still like it to have a plot and interesting characters. I decided to give it a try.
I wrote ‘Casey Come Home’ and sent it to Ellora’s cave on July 17th 2002 at 3:30 p.m. At 5:30 p.m. I got an e-mail back from them. “We’d love to publish your book. Here is a contract, print out two copies and send them back signed on the dotted line.” (Or something like that.)
I ran outside and grabbed my husband who was busy washing the car. I spun him around and screamed, “They want to publish my book!”
The sun was shining. The sky was blue. I was once again a published author. I rushed back inside and grabbed my promotional sheet, ready to write notes and postcards to everyone I knew…and stopped. This was an erotic book. Half the people on my list were family members. Some had weak hearts. This was a dilemma. Who could I tell about Samantha Winston? Undeterred, I decided to join author groups online and ask their advice. That was a stroke of genius. Writers love to give advice, and ideas flowed from everyone. It was wonderful. And then I got my first edits.
Edits are interesting. After the first shock, I found I loved doing edits. I was disappointed that the title of my book ‘Casey Come Home’, would be changed to ‘A Grand Passion’, but the new title soon grew on me. And besides, I was a published author.
I just couldn’t tell anyone.
(to be continues…)
My Glamorous Life as a Writer
I wrote my first book out longhand on a yellow notepad. I was in Argentina and really didn’t have much else to do. We were staying in the countryside, which basically meant no neighbors for a hundred miles, and my twins were still toddlers – they would turn three in a month. We had a housekeeper who adored cooking for my husband and playing with my children, so for the first time in my life I didn’t have to cook, clean, or run after the twins. The house was surrounded by mile after mile of flat plain and tall eucalyptus trees that rustled in the wind. The wind was a constant presence. There were also swarms of mosquitoes at night and rainstorms during the day that flooded our pool and garden.
The twins spent half their time in the pool and the other half sitting on the couch wearing motorcycle helmets and watching cartoons in Spanish. The helmets had been in the house and the boys thought they were cool.
My husband was buying horses, which meant he was away most of the time, horses being spread far and wide in Argentine. On most days, he drove anywhere between five to ten hours…one way, to see a horse and try it. If the horse was any good, they loaded it in the truck and brought it back to the farm for a week to see what happened when the drugs wore off. It was a given that most horse-dealers drugged their animals or did something to them to make them act like polo ponies. In those days, finding a real polo pony was harder than nowadays. But the drugs and tricks have remained the same. At any rate, we had a barn full of horses, grooms, and I could ride whenever I wanted. But I didn’t want to leave the twins alone all day, so I stayed in the house. I was bored. I decided to write a book. My first novel was a fun book to write, and I kept at it doggedly.
I liked sitting on the veranda watching the twins play the pool, while writing my book.
People who came to visit were impressed. “A writer!” they would exclaim.
I liked being called the writer. Usually I drew pictures, but “An artist” doesn’t carry as much weight as “A writer” does. It sounded important, not flaky. Artists were flaky. Writers were intellectual. As much as I hate to admit it, I preferred being thought of as an intellectual, and not as a flake. My career as a writer was born. I thought it was glamorous and intellectual.
During the three months we were in Argentina, I taught my twins to swim, finished my novel, and wrote a couple articles for the Polo Magazine. I sent the articles in and they were accepted and published. Writing seemed a cinch. Then we went back to France, I bought a type-writer, and I typed up my story.
It was the first time I’d ever typed anything. It took a long time, a lot of paper, and much ink. When it was finished, I sent it to a friend who proof-read it and submitted it to an agent she’d met at a party.
The agent met us in NYC the next month, and was very kind. She told me the book was good but that it needed work. I had a knack for character development and plot, but I needed work on my writing skills. She thought I should try writing short stories for a while and then polish up and re-submit the book. She gave me her card and wished me luck.
I was thrilled. I realized that the agent had done me an enormous favor by meeting me in person and giving so much of her time. I also realized that writing was not as easy as I thought. Her idea about fixing the book was good but daunting. However, the short story part of her advice sounded perfect. I’d always liked writing short stories. That’s what I’d do.
I read a lot of short stories. I’ve always enjoyed them.
I sat down and wrote a short story and sent it to the Bear Deluxe Magazine in Oregon. They accepted it. Well, I thought, that’s easy.
My next twenty short stories were rejected by twenty different magazines.
I polished them up, revised them, and sent them out again. Slowly, I started selling them. Then one of them won a prize, and another was nominated for the Pushcart award, and I started to become more sure of my craft.
That was about the time I decided to write a short story about a journalist who goes back in time to interview Alexander the Great.
By now, the twins were four and we were still travelling. Writing was simply a hobby for me, like my drawing and painting.
(to be continued…)
I’m off to Germany today for the German Booklover conference –
It’s a lot of fun,and this is the third time I’ve been there so I know most of the people there. It’s also a small conference, not overwhelming like RT. I’ll be sharing a room with Kris Alice, a promotions manager, so hopefully she’ll give me lots of tips about promoting my books. (I’m so bad at that!)
Do you or don’t you believe in the tarot?
I tell myself I don’t – but I have two decks of tarot cards – one I’ve had since I was thirteen. I read fortunes at the RT conference for a charity – to raise money for the troops. It was fun – but I was amazed at the number of people who took it seriously!
At any rate, I got a book proposal out of it, so I’m hard at work writing a chapter by chapter outline, and then the first ten pages, to send to the woman who asked me for that.
The tarot definitely opens doors – whether or not it’s magic is up to debate.
Personally, I believe in coincidences.
I went, I saw… and I partied !
One thing I hadn’t realized about the Romantic Times convention – it is one big party from beginning to end.
One thing I wished I’d done: The Early Bird Tour, which shows you the city the convention is in, and also introduces you to people outside the hectic, party atmosphere.
One thing I loved: meeting so many wonderful people.
One thing I hated: Not getting enough time with everyone on a one-to-one basis. In fact, you are almost always surrounded by a crowd. Publishers, agents, booksellers, readers, helpers, writers, and cover models all mingle and there is no barrier between the public and the show. For example, I was thrilled to be able to meet Kathryn Falk in person. Before I went to RT, I imagined that I would only be able to see her from a distance, but she mingles with the crowd – easy to talk to and gracious. Continue reading