A group of crazy, neurotic, absolutely hilarious erotic romance authors working together to corrupt the world... one reader at a time.

Friday, July 19, 2013

A Letter To My Beginning Writer Self -- Three Years Ago...

This letter is meant to give advice to my newbie writing self from my older, wiser self. To shake my head about all the mistakes I made and gently chastise my naivete for the stupid decisions my young, writer self will go on to make.

Oh I feel so unqualified to write this letter.

I've only been writing for three years.

Wait, can that be right??

I went back and looked at the dates, searched my emails, even checked my Amazon.com "How to Write a Novel" order. (Yeah, really.) And yep. Three whoooooole years. I'm almost embarrassed to admit that--like I don't deserve to be here.

So most of the huge mistakes I'll make, I have yet to make. The incredible highs and lows of my writing career are probably mostly yet to come. Deep breath.

Here's what I know so far...

Dear Piper Trace,

Yes, that's your name--surprise! Not that other name you chose originally. I think Piper fits you much better.

You will think big, setting your sights on your dream publisher, Ellora's Cave. Believe in it--you'll get there. And you'll get there without anyone else's help except an editor who saw something in you, no matter how inexperienced and overwhelmed you are with your book when you meet her.

But take note--you can avoid a six-month period of heartache if you slow down, do your research, and understand that you don't NEED an agent to get where you will go.

You won't tell anyone you've decided to "become a writer", not even your husband. You won't research agents because you'll know you're not ready yet--you haven't even written one book! You will just write secretly in stolen moments and at night after everyone has gone to bed.

You'll marvel at what you've found in writing. It's your favorite thing. You'd rather write than do almost anything. There are reasons you'll have to leave the house--work, kids, errands--but you'll rush home from every outing, needing to get back to your computer like a junkie needing a fix. You'll pull more all-nighters writing "Come When Called" than you pulled in college. Only because you love writing it so much.

But when you finally approach a writer looking for advice, things go wrong. She will try to help you because she believes in your writing. This will sound amazing to you. You might actually have what it takes! But you won't do your research (future self is shaking my head at you). Instead you just jump in, thrilled to discover you have a connection with someone who's already in the erotic romance writing business! Someone multi-published! Someone agented! What harm could there be in contacting her, right?

Oh Piper.

Multi-Published Author (MPA) will love your work. She will send an email to her agent recommending you! She'll tell you to send the agent your stuff!

You will cry and jump up and down. It will be one of the happiest moments of your life--but hey, this is future me warning you--DON'T GET ATTACHED TO THIS HAPPINESS. You will come crashing back to Earth very soon. On your face. It will hurt.

Afraid to miss out on any of this intoxicating momentum, you will, of course, send your query. THEN you will do your research. Do you see the problem here? You will leap before you look. Tsk tsk. And you'll pay for it.

You are a researcher, and you have a VERY specific career path in mind. You are normally EXTREMELY careful and cautious, and you would (in any other situation) research the hell out of this before you act. But in this case, during your high of excitement, you won't. Your inner practical voice will be drowned out by the angels singing.

Your research (after it's too late) will reveal that this agent is not right for you. I won't go into the details publically because she is an active agent for many other successful authors, but you will know in your heart that she is not right for YOU. She's a nice person--extremely professional and connected with the folks in publishing--but you will know quickly that she's not "Your Agent".

Please understand this--not every agent is right for every writer simply because he or she is an agent. Do your research before you ask for help--you are putting your career in the hands of this person. You are getting into bed with him or her for a long time--do not just "give it up" to the first agent who expresses interest!

And do your research on other authors before you ask for help! Trust me--it's a bad situation to be offered help from someone only to find that you don't actually want their help. It's bad for all parties and it's not fair to said author who spends her time helping your naive ass.

Take your time and make sure when you find an agent, if you find an agent, that he or she is right for you. You don't actually need an agent--which you'll discover six months later when you've "finished" Come When Called and it's accepted by Ellora's Cave, unagented. (Only to be completely re-written and still not out yet...) But don't worry. You'll have four other books published by EC that contain your work before Come When Called finally sees the light of day. Yeah, pretty cool, right?

Agents serve a very valuable purpose--have you SEEN a publishing contract?? But I'm a lawyer who negotiates contracts for a living, so I have less of a need for an agent than the average person. What I will need from an agent is an expert advocate who believes in my work and has the contacts to sell it. And I need a CAREER ARCHITECT. Agents are experts at those things.

I liken it to needing a lawyer to write a will. If you have an extremely simple estate, you can probably DIY it. But as your estate becomes more complex--kids, maybe a business, inheritance, home ownership, etc--that's when it's time to call in an expert. I look at my writing career the same way. Right now I own a stereo, an iPhone and a used Chevy. And I rent. Metaphorically speaking. I'll look for an expert when things get more complicated, or when I am ready to make the leap to things becoming more complicated.

That time is not now. I'm not prolific enough for the relationship to make sense. Agents sell books and I don't have any books to sell right now. When and if the time comes that I want to branch out from Ellora's Cave, then maybe I'll consider querying agents, but not now.

Back to my tale of woe to my past self...

You'll write to MPA and spout effusively about how much you appreciate her help and belief in you. Because you really do! And you're really grateful! She didn't need to try to help you, but she did. You will be heartbroken to have to write this motherfucking email, but you'll explain that her suggested agent just isn't right for you, as much as you appreciate her help. You explain that you're going to pull your query from agent's consideration (thinking the situation will only be WORSE if agent accepts you and you turn her down). You'll send this email to MPA with dread, knowing there's no way in hell to get out of this smoothly and that the shit's about to hit the fan.

It will. She's offended that her agent isn't good enough for you (this is not why you don't want said agent, but it's how MPA interprets your message). She will excoriate you via email, tell you how stupid you are to throw this chance she gave you back in her face. She'll wish you luck in the slush pile because that's where you're going back to, having stomped on the opportunity she gift-wrapped for you.

Every word will sting your conscious and bring tears, but you will read her response anyway, like penance, over and over. She will block you over email and Facebook, tell you she's already written to the agent and told her you've decided you don't need her and that you're no longer recommended.

You will cry for three days straight, sad for the drama and sure you have burned your bridges in the publishing industry before you've even crossed one. But you'll keep going back over the situation in your head, knowing there was nothing else you could have done differently, short of researching this author ahead of time and been wise enough to steer clear of any discussion of agents with her. But how were you to know she'd offer to refer you to her agent? This author was your one and only contact that you actually knew in the publishing industry, and your only option in hindsight was to never have contacted her, or to somehow make it clear from the beginning that you weren't interested in agency, though you'd love to discuss writing with her.

So look before you leap, young Piper, and you will avoid a lot of heartache and drama.

Love, me.

Have any of you ever found yourself at the receiving end of an incredible "favor" that you didn't want? How did you handle it? What could I have done differently to have avoided this awful situation?

And by the way.... IT'S FRIDAY BITCHES!!!! Go get some this weekend!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Dear Amy circa 1995

Dear Amy, I see you there, writing weird stories about your friends. The curse of the FTM and all that. Stories which make your high school chums laugh with glee, especially since you illustrate them with dirty stick figures.

Yeah, you look so innocent, but your mind wasn't.

 But I also see you writing that Frankenstein/Phantom of the Opera weird, dark romance thing. The one where you have copious pages of front and back loose leaf pages. Where any scrap of paper you snatch to write in secret. This was before your parents invested in a good computer. The Tandy that they have is starting to bite the bullet and is only good for a fun game of Press Your Luck (Watch out for the Whammies).

 I also know about that reverse Princess Bride saga you wrote. The one that's over 400 pages hand written front and back. These two stories preoccupy your time, but you're keeping the secret of being an author to yourself. You don't think you'll get there. This is just a hobby.

 *Annoying Buzzer*

WRONG. 2006 when your second son (You have three kids btw. Don't mean to scare you, but your fear of children changes and your biological clock kicks all your fears to the side) almost dies you're going to take that little "hobby" and turn it into a dream come true.

 This will be your first book, Masque of Desire from Ellora's Cave:

I know! You're like OMG look at that semi naked man holding a pumpkin and your virginal cheeks are blushing the shade of red. How the hell do you think you got the three kids?

 My point is, your secret little dream, IS a reality.

 Fast forward to 2013 and you're published with Harlequin.

All those hours spent looking at their writing guidelines and wishing, well it's finally a reality and you have to work hard.

 So work hard now.

Sure, nothing ever comes from those stories you're scribbling at now, but don't toss them.

They were your first and they helped fill some lonely hours. It was better than drinking and doing drugs. So enjoy them and know that your dream will come true.

 No matter what anyone says!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Dear Me, circa 1993

"ARGHH! What is this monstrous thing???"

Dear Anya:


Nah, only kidding. Sort of…

So, this is me/you, talking to myself/you from 2013. Yeah, you do last that long, but your ass is starting to go south for the winter, so my first piece of advice is start exercising from now. That ass is going to be in a chair a hell of a lot more than you’re used to over the next years and you’re going to run the risk of getting the writer’s equivalent of a cop’s cruiser butt. If you start working on that now, I’ll appreciate it a hell of a lot.

My next piece of advice—listen to a lot less advice. You’ll be getting it from ALL. OVER. THE. PLACE. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t take it. Everybody has their own path to wherever the heck it is they’re going. Find your own. Stick with it. This is also something I’d appreciate you getting on right away, because if you don’t, we’re gonna waste a lot of time. ’Kay? Thanx.

My next piece of advice is something I didn’t know I’d have to work on and I’m still working on, so, again, if you could just get a jump on it, that would be awesome. Get over that shyness. Forget the dream of being the hermit author in the spooky mansion on the hill who only has to write the book, package it in brown paper, post it off and then write the next book. That no longer exists. There’s this thing coming, called social media, and you’re gonna be afraid…very afraid. But you’re going to have to get over it. Put yourself out there a little. You won’t regret it.

Lastly—Have a little more faith in yourself and your abilities. Re-think selling your soul for that student loan, wasting all that time and money to do something you really aren’t going to be able to use the way you intended. Instead, devote that time to honing your craft and getting ahead. Selling jewellery isn’t that bad. It’ll keep paying the bills while you work at what you really want to do, which is write.

You know you want it, so go for it. That’s the best advice I can give you.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Time Warp

Time warp. Letter to me. Time paradox.

Dear you - me,

Don't be alarmed when you find this letter. Yes, its from me to you, from the future.

You're embarking on a path that will fill you with a multitude of emotions. Good and bad. Lots of highs and lows. If you know this going in then you'll ride the waves with a calm mind. Hopefully. But knowing you, me...er us, you'll be a freak show at times. When your computer dies in 2008, don't fret, you'll finish that story on another one without any problems. Computer you say? Yes, you'll struggle with handwriting, an IBM selectric but push on and don't let it be a hurdle. There's too much at stake.

First. Pick a genre that you're comfortable writing, might stretch you and even pull you a bit out of your comfort zone. I know you don't like research, but suck it up and do it. You have to. Find something fun to research - oh, just so you know, you will do research at a sex club - yes that kind of fun research :) And NO, I'm not going to tell you when and where, you'll know when the time comes.

In 2003, you're going to have a few divas give you a real hard time. Stand fast and don't let what they have to say make you falter. I let it and it set me, us, back about five years. I kick myself for letting this happen, especially after a hugely encouraging 2001 (shhh, you win a contest with Harlequin and get a request too). I wonder where things would be for us right now if I'd stood fast. And speaking of Harlequin, in the early 80's when you receive the guidelines you requested from them, don't let it scare you off. Figure it out and WRITE for crying out loud! I could be published 30 years now if you had, you silly ass.
Remember this pic of me, you...us in Grade 11. Time warp.

The romance genre will go through huge changes. From what your reading now, bodice rippers, historicals, pirates and cowboys (they never go away btw), and then along comes big epic books - you'll love one called Scruples, rags to riches stories, werewolves and vampires, space operas, aliens, zombies...so, try and be one step ahead of the game. Be the first in and set the pace. Don't pooh pooh anything.

But above all, enjoy it. Love what you do and it will be fine. It's all good.

Happy writing and if you begin to waver, feel that kick in the ass? Yep, its me doing it through the time space continuum.

me, your future self. 

You can find me at:

Friday, July 5, 2013

My Dearest Sasha....Sit Down & Shut Up

Dear Ms. 0 - 60,

I know that we promised ourselves that we weren't published by 30 that we'd give up and do something else, but maybe you should pump your brakes. Writing fiction is nothing like the dazzling papers your English Professors think you meticulously craft over weeks ...and your friends and dry eyes know you write forty-eight hours before.

Fiction isn't like never losing a game of Trivial Pursuit or remaining undefeated at Tetris (save for the boy you fell in love with that summer). Your Jeopardy obsession -- and your firm belief that you will one day grace its stage -- won't matter. Fiction won't care that your brain is a marvelous machine that helps you see things a different way, makes you organize faster, makes you quirky but efficient.

Fiction. Doesn't. Care.

Welcome to a new ball game. One where you aren't the smartest. One where things won't always (or even often) be easy. You will struggle. I repeat, because you will be incredulous, because you will want to think CHALLENGE ACCEPTED! and immediately want to go out and slay the dragons of writer's block and doubt and think you're above it.


But that's okay. There will be swearing. Lots and lots of imaginative moments when you yell "M**her F**king C**k weasels of Satan!"  There will be tears and nights when you can't sleep, afraid you won't wake up and the words will die in you.

There will be days when you want to give up, believe you'll die of disappointment (we know now that's not possible) and days when you'll believe that any of your mental successes from birth to now were a fluke and you are a moron of the highest magnitude.

But. You'll suck it up, buttercup. Because you're stronger than self doubt. And though you flinch to think it more than once a month or so, you're a much better writer than you give yourself credit for. So, know it's going to hurt, it's going to cause new emotional scars you didn't know you could inflict on yourself.

But all that is worth it when you get your first yes. When you have your first cover reveal, your first release date, your first royalty check. You'll still struggle and fall down, but you'll never forget the fever of WANT that burns inside.

And that will keep you moving. Until then, maybe ditch a bit of the intellectual arrogance and think more along the lines of Dreams Can Come True....though they might look more like a misshapen lump of clay than a beautiful sculpture.

Oh and don't quit at 30. We totally get published at 31.


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Guest Blogger: Cynthia Sax

Hey Hotties!

I'm pleased to present Cynthia Sax. Cynthia was one of the first author friends that I made starting out. Being an author is sometimes a lonely business, but when you surround yourself with good friends (and sometimes good wine) it makes the lonely go away and sometimes invites the crazy in, ahem.

Below is an open letter that I think can benefit any author, new or old...
I’m thrilled A.M. Griffin and the Cabal of Hotness invited me to visit them during the release week for He Watches Me! I’m on that new book high! Weee!

And I LOVE this exercise. I’ve learned quite a lot over the past four years. I wasn’t clever enough to learn from other people’s mistakes. I made most of the mistakes myself.

Dear Baby Cynthia Sax,

You’re not quitting. Accept this now. You’ll struggle through stacks of rejections, to-the-bone rewrites, bad sales, edits gone wrong, horrible reviews, reader vents, and you’ll think about quitting. You’ll threaten to quit. But you won’t. You can’t. This isn’t a job. This is part of who you are. So stop the moaning and groaning. Put on your big girl panties and redirect your energy into becoming the best dang writer you can be!

If you can’t sell the story with one short line, you won’t be able to sell the story to readers. You might be able to sell the story to publishers but truly, the readers are the people you should want to please. They’re the people you’re having your stories published for. Go ahead and write the story if you feel you absolutely have to write it but don’t submit this story to a publisher until you can sell it with one line.

You have a long list of story ideas. When you’re choosing the next story to write, look at this list and write the story readers are most looking for now. If vampires are hot, write your vampire stories. If billionaire heroes are hot, write those zillion billionaire stories you want to write. Don’t write anything you don’t feel passionate about writing. This will show in your writing (no secret baby stories for you!). But, as your farming granddad would say, you might as well “Make hay while the sun shines.”

Start blogging now. You know you love blogging. You’re already blogging on business sites. Don’t listen to the people who say blogging is dead. It isn’t. And if you start blogging now, in four years, you’ll have a sizable readership AND a wonderful record of your publishing journey.

This is a marathon, not a sprint so enjoy every small victory, every book release, every great review, every piece of happy reader mail. The joy never goes away.


Older And Not Much Wiser Cynthia Sax


What would you tell your younger writing self?





She desires to be seen. He wants to watch.

Anna Sampson has a naughty secret. Every night, she slips into her neighbor’s yard and swims naked in his pool. She fantasizes that the dynamic young billionaire watches her nightly nude aquatics, his brilliant green eyes gleaming with lust.

She discovers this isn’t pure fantasy. Gabriel Blaine has been watching her via his security cameras, and now that he has returned to L.A., he doesn’t plan to stop. That’s all he wants—to watch. Anna knows she shouldn’t allow him and she certainly shouldn’t want more, but she craves Blaine’s attention, needing his gaze fixed on her body.

 Part One of The Seen Trilogy

Author Website: http://cynthiasax.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cynthia.sax

Twitter: @CynthiaSax

Monday, July 1, 2013

A letter to...er, me!

Hello and happy July! I'd like to say we've been having an awesome summer of weather, but *looks outside at the 60-degree, cloudy day*, we haven't. But do you know what means? More time to write!

In the vein of that, this month we'll be writing letters to our beginning writer selves. I first started pursuing publication about five years ago, and I've learned SO MUCH since then. I've made both good and bad choices. But that's how you learn! Below, my letter to myself:

July 1, 2013

Dear Cassandra,

This is your future self, here to give you some advice and hopefully save you from heartache. Well, actually, heartache as a writer is hard to avoid. But maybe I can mitigate it some!

First of all, realize that publication is a process. For most people, it doesn't happen overnight. Writers do not generally create bestselling books out of the gate. They write crap. And that's okay, that's how you learn.

Take lots of craft classes, but decide what works for you and what doesn't. Not all craft methods will mesh with your writing style. Just because an "expert" says this is how you should do something doesn't mean they're right. Some writers love outlines, some get bogged down in them. Some writers work well with a set writing goal each day, some don't. Figure out what you like and go with that until or unless it's not working for you.

Editors are your friend, not the enemy. They're there to make your book better. Editors are not trying (by and large) to sabotage you, steal your voice, or any of the other paranoid things writers might think their editors are doing. Work with the editor, not against them.

Don't miss deadlines. Don't kill yourself to meet them -- there are extensions, you know -- but do everything in your power to make deadlines. And if you miss one or have to ask for an extension, that's fine. However, making a habit of that labels you as irresponsible.

Covers and blurbs are both important, but throwing a fit over either is not a good thing or a smart idea. You'll get good covers, you'll get awful covers. Do the best you can to communicate your wants and needs and then let it go unless there's something really, really wrong. Same for blurbs. Some publishers have you write your blurbs and don't make any changes, some tweak it, and others will write it for you. Again, choose your battles.

I know there's tons more I could tell you, but I don't want to overwhelm you. So I'll sign off. Check out some of the pretty covers you're going to have in the future!



To learn more about me or my books, visit http://www.booksbycassandracarr.com.