One Year in the Trenches: The Life of an Author

As of June 4th, I have been a traditionally-published author for an entire year.

That was one helluva a fateful email, lemme tell ya! After years of ‘Thank you for considering such-and-such publishing for your manuscript, but this is not the story we are looking for at this time,’ I finally hit the jackpot with ‘Congratulations on such a well-written romance novel!’

In hindsight, I suspect the only other phrase that alters someone’s life that much is ‘Congratulations! You’re pregnant.’ I wouldn’t know, though.

While I am new to being a traditionally-published author, I’m no stranger to seeing my work in print. I’ve been around the writing block more than a couple times, with all the headaches, hard work, and hiccups that go along with it. I thought that I had a grasp on things, that I knew what I was doing.

Yeah, right!

Shortly after getting that fateful email, I found myself sitting at my laptop being trained for ‘marketing detail’. Times have changed drastically for authors in the last few decades, mostly due to social media, which creates the ability—and therefore the need—for authors to be more visible, and the increased ease of self-publishing, which creates more competition. (NOTE: I myself was once an ‘indie’ author. I know and admire a great many self-published authors. I’m not bemoaning the fact that self-publishing has risen up to challenge the traditional publishing industry. I’m simply pointing out reality. Technology has changed the game for everyone.)

I managed to settle into a routine after a while. It felt very, very alien at first, because the change in my lifestyle was so sudden. But I got used to it, or at least I thought I did. I even got through the launch of Desire Me Again (an anthology featuring one of my stories) with flying colors. I was on a roll, or so I thought.

And then my full-length novel When the White Knight Falls launched…

It was then that I realized my new lifestyle was quickly becoming unsustainable. I couldn’t handle the workload, and I was exhausted. February of 2021 was a very rough month for me! I felt like I was going to crash. (If you’d like to know what a typical book launch looks like, read Anatomy of a Book Launch, the blog posted immediately below this one. It’s a minute-by-minute log of how mine went.)

So I asked myself, ‘what if you went back to the way things were before?’

I was absolutely aghast at the thought! Writers write so that people can read their stories. Period. Without readers, writing is an utter waste of time. I was overwhelmed and stressed out, true, but I was also exactly where I wanted to be.

So I paused, and re-assessed the situation…

The first thing I did was count my blessings. Gratitude is the antidote for discontent; this I learned very, very young. I had a publisher who believed in me. That’s HUGE!!! Some authors—ones far more talented than I—go their whole lives without finding a suitable publisher. Even better, Black Velvet Seductions is the most author-friendly romance publisher out there. Most publishers these days put it into their contracts that authors need to help with promotions. And that’s it. That’s all there is. A contractual requirement, but the ‘how’ of the matter is entirely on you.

That’s not BVS.

We have a training director, a wonderfully talented and patient fellow author who directs our promotional efforts and keeps all the authors working together as a team. She’s become one of my absolute favorite people, and I owe her a lot.

In addition to having a great publisher AND assistance with marketing, I was also blessed that my life experience has led me to this point. Some authors find themselves in print a mere few years after they start writing. That’s not me. I have decades of experience. I’m also computer-savvy, with a background in graphic design. (I didn’t realize how useful my PhotoShop skills were until I had to start cobbing up ads on a weekly basis.) Not only that, I spent years working as a sales-person; I read people well, which comes in handy when assessing one’s readers and target demographics.

Once I thought about all that I had going for me, I felt a twinge of guilt. Why was I so miserable and overwhelmed when I had so much working in my favor?

Because I’m human, that’s why. There are only so many hours in a day.

So I took a step back. What was I willing to do because it struck me as fun, and what did I need to escape because I hated it? I slowly but surely began the process of farming out the chores that were stressing me out (publishing assistants are WONDERFUL people!), and getting a better handle on managing my literary affairs.

I’m in a better place now. About the only thing I have to do that I can’t ‘sub out’ is author proofing, which I hate. But that just is what it is. At the end of the day, they’re my stories and it’s my job to go over the edited manuscripts with a magnifying glass, making sure they’re ready for print. Other’n that, I’m more or less back to behaving like a literary four-year-old, because for me that’s sustainable. I put in an average of thirty hours a week into my writing chores over and above my day job. If it’s fun, it isn’t work and it doesn’t stress me out. If I don’t like doing it, it wears me out and I start to hate my life.

So now I can focus on growing both my body of work and my reader base. It was a long year and a couple of months in Hell, but now I seem to be moving forward. I’m so excited to see what the future holds!

So what did I learn over the last year?

Ha! How much time do you have…?

#1 – Listen to your publisher and their marketing staff. If I knew everything, I wouldn’t need a publisher, would I? Sometimes you disagree with an editorial decision. Sometimes you don’t understand why you’re being asked to do something that you’d rather not. That’s how it goes. It’s funny, I have a pretty easy time with that one, but I know a lot of other authors who don’t. I think it’s because I’m lazy, honestly. If I just do exactly what I’m told, then it’s not my fault if it doesn’t work. Easy-peasy.

#2 – It ain’t always about you! Jesus said to ‘love your neighbor as yourself’. If God in the flesh said something is important, then I suppose it’s best to take His words at face value. Review others’ work when you can. Got a blog? Feature other authors. We’re all in this together. And we should always remember that ‘loving your neighbor’ is never a quid pro quo. It’s not about ‘hey, I’ll do this for you so now you gotta do that for me’. Rather, it’s about doing your part to foster a positive, helpful environment in which everyone can flourish.

#3 – Swallow your pride. ‘Pride goeth before a fall, and a haughty spirit before destruction’.  When it comes to writing books, ‘destruction’ might be too strong a word but ‘failure’ is definitely not. Sometimes you thought you had your I’s dotted and your T’s crossed, only to be rejected, or hit with a request to do re-writes. Some people say ‘you can’t win all time’. I say, the fuck you can’t! But not every victory is easily won. The Battle of Petersburg was a turkey shoot for the Confederates, but Normandy wasn’t so easy for the Allies. And that’s how it goes sometimes. Clinging to an over-inflated ego just makes everything that much harder.

#4 – Work with others.  Everyone has a different skill set. Some authors are aces at marketing, while others struggle with it. Others are fast and efficient writers, while others move more slowly. Some authors are good at graphics, while others struggle with them. Whatever your talents may be, bring them to the table so that you can assist others, and seek help from those who possess skills that you do not. A wise writer knows that we all either stand together, or we go into the ‘slush pile’ one by one.

#5 – Mind your graphics. In a social-media driven world, graphics are everything! A spiffy book ad catches the eye in ways that even a blurb does not. If you’re good at PhotoShop, wonderful! If you’re not, find a way around the deficiency. I’m always deeply appreciative when someone sends me a copyright-free image that reminded them of one of my characters, and I always try to reciprocate. No, it’s not fair that now we have to be artists in addition to being authors. But that’s how it is.

#6 – If you hate doing something and you can afford to hire it out, do so. Odds are that none of us are getting rich anyway. In the meantime, the key is sustainability, not burnout. ‘Nuff said!

#7 – Love thy day job (if thou hast one). My day job is the backbone of my entire writing operation. It allows me the luxury of recruiting paid help when I need it. It allows me to keep my creative integrity, rather than simply chasing the next buck with my stories. It allows me a respite from writing—and yes, I do need one. I can only spend so long in my head before I feel myself slowly going insane. My day job funds my passion, and allows me to regularly engage the real world. I need it, and I give it the same care and attention that I do my writing.

#8 – Love thy reader. It is so tempting to insert one’s own opinions into stories, like some dipshit actor spewing political bilge while they’re accepting an award they earned by entertaining people. Don’t. That alienates readers, and it’s not worth it. Watch your reviews, zero in on your demographic, and give ‘em what they want. Having readers is a blessing, and we should never lose sight of that fact.

#9 – Think of your work as a calling. My writing took off in 2020. Contrary to popular belief, that was not the worst year in American history. But it wasn’t a good one, either.

I have a policy of never commenting on social issues, but sometimes you just have to point out the obvious: Never have I witnessed such un-bridled Fascism as I’ve seen recently. Never did I imagine that governments would write themselves the authority to put entire populations under house arrest. Never did I imagine that political leaders would high-handedly order lawfully-operating businesses to close, stripping legions of workers of their livelihoods. Never have I seen houses of worship ordered to close. That brazen tyranny led to a catastrophic rise in depression, suicides, addictions, spiritual malaise, and poor mental health in general.

My point is this: while the over-arching solution is to follow God and His teachings, people in the meantime need a break! A sedative, if you would. Authors are more important now than they ever were. As our world begins to crumble—as it periodically does, because all social orders rise and fall—storytellers become an invaluable source of comfort and encouragement. The Roman Empire rose and fell, and now it’s gone. The Hellenistic world is no more…

But what they left behind were their stories. We still have those. They survived even the iron fists of history, and social change.

We are the ones who write those stories. We matter.

Never forget that…

Cheers! – V

CONNECT WITH ME ONLINE:

https://linktr.ee/VK_Wallace1378

Callie Carmen’s ‘Michael’: Review and Author Interview!

Olivia had spent enough time on memories of her ex-boyfriend’s abuse. She was going to put all of her efforts into her new business career. And try to convince her boss, Vice President Michael Evans, that the woman he’d been dating was nothing more than an opportunist and that she’d climb into bed with anyone that could get her to the top. 

Michael, who lost his younger sister to an abusive relationship, was falling in love with Olivia. He kept his distance from her and waited patiently for a sign that she was ready for his love.

Michael is the sixth and last novel in the Risking Love series. The stories chart a group of friends through life and love. These steamy stories will have you laughing, crying, and your heart racing.

Blurb from Callie Carmen’s Michael

It’s FINALLY the release day for Michael, the grand finale of Callie Carmen’s Risking Love series!

It may shock you, my dear readers, to learn that I don’t often read contemporary romances. Oh, I do love me some heart-wrenching stories, now, being a romance writer and all. But I tend to lean toward fantasy, sci-fi, and darker stories. So it’s high praise when I tell you that I have always found Callie Carmen’s writing to be captivating. It’s powerful enough to pull me out of my blackened little fantasy bubble, and that’s saying something.

Callie writes in the first-person tense, and alternates between the hero and the heroine’s respective points of view. It’s a very clever way of telling a story, because while first person creates more intimacy than third, it can also limit the scope of the story. Using dual narratives fleshes out different aspects of the tale, making it more complete than it would otherwise be.

Another earmark of Callie’s writing is her leading men. They are amazingly complex, and very life-like. Her heroines are also complex and engaging, but hey, let’s face it: Risking Love was custom-tailored for the ladies. (I mean, seriously, check out the covers!) From the assertive Patrick to the reticent Anthony to the smart-yet-somewhat-clueless Joshua, Callie’s cast of male leads makes for great storytelling.

And now there’s Michael…

Michael’s a corporate exec. He’s smooth, suave, handsome, and possesses an uncanny ability to read the people around him. He’s also the perfect gentleman, with a courteously deferential way of treating women that’s very endearing. It’s obvious from the opening chapters that lovely Olivia is head-over-heels for him. There’s just one problem. Well, two, actually…

The first is Veronica, the conniving ‘dragon lady’. She’s cold, ambitious, and a rather daunting romantic rival.

The second is Braylon, Olivia’s stalker.

Those twin threads of suspense—the personal angst, combined with the element of danger—make Michael an absolute page-turner. It’s a worthy ending to the series that began with the explosive Patrick, and I suspect that many readers will be sad that the ride has finally come to an end. I know I am.

But that means we get to look forward to whatever comes next!

Michael, by the amazing Callie Carmen. Check it OUT!

BIO

Callie Carmen is a tormented artist who drinks way, way too much! Fueled by a steady diet of booze, caffeine, heavy metal music, and horror films, Callie is often so addled that she doesn’t even know what day it is. She’s also prone to mixing up her days and nights, and is more than a little obsessive/compul…

Uh… Hold on… Waitaminit…

Dammit, that’s MY bio! Sorry, y’all. My bad. Lemme just open the correct file, here… just a sec… Okay, here we go!

Callie started in the book business as a bookstore manager which was the perfect place for her since she was an avid reader. After two years, she moved to the corporate office as a buyer and eventually became a senior book buyer. This was a rewarding career that she loved.

Along the way, Callie became a stay home Mom but couldn’t give up working around books altogether. She volunteered to run the book fairs in her small farm town. At the same time, Callie started and ran, A Child Oasis Company, with the sole purpose of placing a small book library in the homes of all the needy children in the nearby city.

As her children became teens, Callie found she needed more in her personal life than the volunteer Mom for the schools. She sat down at the computer and began to write. To see what she’s been up to go to Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07BN5PXDF

INTERVIEW

What was your first published work? What do you think of it now?

Enemy That I Know, a mobster romance as part of the Craving Loyalty Anthology. It is a wonderful book. My story takes place in the nightclub my grandfather had owned. It was my first attempt at a short story and at the time I found it difficult to tell an entire love story in 10,000 words. If I had a larger word count, I would have included the rescue battle scene. With that said, I think it’s a passionate second chance at love tale and I’m proud of being able to accomplish it. Since then I’m been working with a different publisher, Black Velvet Seductions and have learned a great deal working with their staff.  

Do people you actually know make appearances in your stories?

Yes. I’m a firm believer that you need to watch what you say or do in front of an author or you may end up as a character in their next novel. Each of my stories includes the personality of at least one person who I know well, or even a casual acquaintance. Like my five college friends, that appear in my Risking Love series.

Do family members or friends help with your writing? Your marketing?

They don’t help with my marketing, but they come up with some great villain ideas like the serial killer in my novel Patrick. My husband reminded me of a rather disturbing date I had gone on with a man when I was in my twenties. The man had given me a serial killer vibe. He was a perfect role model for the serial killer that was after Jaq in Patrick. Or my friend’s creepy ex-boyfriend was the perfect person to be my muse for Olivia’s betraying ex-boyfriend from my latest novel Michael.

Do you have stories you want to write that you haven’t yet?

Yes, I keep toying with writing a Greek Family Series. It would feature the sexy brothers and cousin of Nicolas, from book two in my Risking Love series. Especially Damon. So many women that read that novel wanted to date him. My own daughter put dibs on being Damon’s love interest. Lol. I’m also working on an alien love story for the upcoming Dark Desire Anthology from BVS coming in 2022.

Is there a story you’re afraid to write? Why?

I could never write a BDSM story. I know nothing about that type of relationship, and I think one should do their research on the subject before attempting to write about it. To me those that write BDSM have a responsibility to the reader to get it right. There are a few BVS authors that write that genre well.

Are you a ‘normal’ person who likes to write, or do you consider yourself more of the tormented/driven ‘artist’ type?

I would not do well as a person who is a tormented artist. I attempt to be a cheerful person who lets pain roll off my back after a few minutes.

Do you drink? Why or why not?

I have a jumbo frozen margarita with I go out to the Mexican Restaurant. And at Christmas when I’m with my entire family in upstate New York I have a fancy drink with them all.

What’s your favorite movie? Why?

There are too many to name them all, but I’ll mention a few. As far as a children’s movie goes it was always the Disney original version of Cinderella. That movie and my mother’s teachings about being kind to others, even the bully stayed with me. My mother would say, “You never know what’s going on in their life to make them act that way.” It has always worked for me in my life. Later it was the movie Ever After, which is an adult version of Cinderella. I love how she continued to show her kindness, but also her wisdom, strength, and passion for the man she loved. Other than that I have a long list of fantasy or science fiction movie that I love so I’ll only name a few: The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Star Trek, etc.  

Have you ever had to exhaustively research something (say, history) for any of your books?

I’ve had to do research for each of my stories, from the history of dream catchers to the world of rodeo life on the road. However, you did say exhaustively so hold on to your hat.
When I first started writing love making scenes, I wanted to be accurate how men felt when they made love. So I grilled my husband, and that got me nowhere as he didn’t want to discuss it.
So I hit the internet. I read first-hand accounts from many men describing the physical aspects of sex. What it does to their body, how it feels before, during, and after the big moment. Many of them also got into the emotions of making love, too. I took all of that information in.I found that even though no two people are the same, there were several common things that went on for men while making love. I had what I needed to make my passionate scenes realistic.

Thanks for gracing our pages today, Callie! It was an honor to host you, and here’s wishing you all the best in the future! – V

How can we stalk you?

Social Media Links

Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100011326206882

Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/CallieCarmenAuthor/

Twitter

Search Twitter for Callie_Carmen (Sorry, the link hijacked my page)

Amazon

https://amazon.com/-/e/B07BN5PXDF

Youtube

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC884L9_4lE3Mclj6yNmMZkg

Instagram

https://www.instagram.com/calliecarmennovel/

MeWe

https://mewe.com/profile/5aea84c00dc9f110e68a9373

Goodreads

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17829431.Callie_Carmen

Linkedin

https://www.linkedin.com/in/callie-carmen-72ba98156/

Tumblr

https://calliecarmenauthor.tumblr.com/

Pinterest

Search for calliecarmennovel (another link hijack with this one)

Website

https://www.calliecarmen.com/

BookBub

https://www.bookbub.com/profile/callie-carmen

Meet Niki Trento!

My friend and fellow author Niki Trento is the creator of the ‘Seasons of the Wolf’ paranormal romance series. The latest book in the series, ‘Spring of the Omega’, was released recently.

The blurb and links to buy are available after the interview. Take it AWAY, Niki!

When did you start writing? What made you first decide to try your hand at it?

I initially began writing (bad poetry) when I was in my early teens. It had been a dream of mine to be the next Stephen King. However, I never had the patience to write more than a couple of pages. When I was in my late 30’s I decided to write a shifter romance novel. Two years later, I was talked into releasing it.

What was your first published work? What do you think of it now?

My first book baby was Summer of the Alpha. I released him on my 40th birthday. Although I still love the story, it is a bit on the soft side compared to the ones that followed.

How do you balance writing with your personal life?

I’m a stay-at-home mom with teenagers. When they aren’t at school, they do their own thing and I do mine. I write when I can, when the inspiration strikes, or when I’m bored.

Do people you actually know make appearances in your stories?

Oh, yes!! In the Seasons of the Wolf series, there are aspects of some of the characters that bleed over from my real-life people. I also have characters sprinkled around who’s names are versions of my support team.

Do family members or friends help with your writing? Your marketing?

To a degree, my brother will retweet some things. I have friends in the writing community that are sounding boards and help when I’m stuck. They are often referred to as my Trifecta, the Devil on my shoulder, and the Demon under my bed in my dedications.

Do you have stories you want to write that you haven’t yet?

Loads of stories dance around in my head. I have some that are in the works right now, and some that are planned.

Is there a story you’re afraid to write for some reason? Why?

My autobiography! Haha!  Seriously though, I have plans for a reverse harem that I am a little hesitant to write as all of mine so far are not rh. However, I am getting over that by making the first in my next series RH. The reason reverse harem is a bit daunting for me to write is because there are so many incredible authors out there. The way they write the…steamy scenes…are pretty believable. I’m not sure I can measure up, but I am going to try anyway.

Do you ever target differing age groups or demographics with your writing?

Definitely 18+.

Have you ever written non-fiction? If so, what?

Only for school projects.

Are you a ‘normal’ person who likes to write, or do you consider yourself more of the tormented/driven ‘artist’ type?

Honestly, it depends. There are certain scenes or storylines that I write that require me to dig deep down into my darkness. Overall, aside from being a bit weird, I am a ‘normal’ person. (Virginia’s note: Everyone answers ‘normal’. They’re often fibbing. Just sayin’…)

Do you drink? Why or why not?

Nope. I had my fun in my early 20s, but except for an occasional wine cooler, I don’t have the desire.

Are you married? How does being a writer affect that? Has your marriage affected the way you write love stories?

I have been with my mister for nearly 20 years. He is fully supportive of my writing. I would say that all of my relationships affect the way I write love stories. Of course, my mister is the epitome of ‘fated mate’ in my life.

If you could see one of your stories made into a movie, which one would you pick and why?

Oh! I would LOVE to see Seasons of the Wolf made into a movie! Shifters, drama, love, magic? Yes, please!

How does your life experience influence your writing?

I didn’t have a glitter and rainbows life. I’ve seen darkness, death, hatred. However, I’ve also seen love, light, and happiness. All of those things are in my writing, without a doubt.

Do you try to keep your stories within their pre-determined genres, or do you just tell the story your way regardless of genre expectations?

I don’t really think too much about it, honestly.

Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what kinds? Does music influence your stories?

Sometimes. I really have found that listening to Celtic music gets my blood pumping while writing. I like to sing (even if it’s done badly) when listening to music, so having something with lyrics going messes with my writing. I’ve caught myself typing lyrics instead of what I intended a couple of times. I wouldn’t say that it influences the story. I know a lot of authors who legit have playlists that go with their books, but I am just not that talented. Haha

Have you ever written a story based on a personal experience you had? If so, what was it about?

Like I’ve said before, my real life tends to bleed into my stories to some degree. For example: the relationship between some of my shifters and their fathers. Mine passed when I was almost eleven years old, so I tend to have a soft spot for that relationship.

Do you let real-life events influence your work, or is there a ‘disconnect’ between your stories and world/national/local events?

I have mentioned some things from the real world in my stories. References to Harry Potter movies, Punky Brewster, and even books from fellow indie authors!

Is your writing time planned out or structured? Do you go on writing ‘benders’?

What is this planning and structure you speak of?? (Virginia’s note: Fuck if I know…)

What to you is the most rewarding aspect of being a writer?

People enjoying my imagination. Hands down. When someone says to me, “I love your books!” or “I need more Axel!” then I know my job is done. Or rather, just beginning!

Who is your favorite author, and why?

That isn’t fair! As I mentioned, I’ve always been a fan of Stephen King. As I got older, though, my library has broadened. I adore Angela Roquet, Kory Shrum, Patricia Briggs, Kevin Hearne, and all my amazing indie author friends.

If you could pick anyone to narrate one of your books, who would it be?

Sam Elliott. I don’t care, that voice is just everything!

Which character of yours is your favorite? Why? Whom would you pick to play him/her/it in a movie?

Promise not to tell the others? Barin and Axel are my top favorites. Barin was inspired by Brock O’Hurn, so he would have to play my alpha. Axel…I would have to look into that. In my mind, he is an Italian with blue eyes…

Do you write when you take a vacation, or do you prefer to simply relax?

Vacation? Another of those words that is not in my vocabulary. Writing is relaxing to me, so I probably would write on vacation.

Do you prefer to read fiction that’s similar to what you write, or do you pick different types of stories?

I try not to read wolf shifter books often while I am writing so as not to be influenced. I love just about anything paranormal, so that’s the stuff I tend to read.

What’s one quirky thing about you that your readers might not know?

I am a packrat. I’ve gotten better, but I will never throw away the three inch gummy bear that I bought the year my son was born.

What’s your favorite movie? Why?

Another tough question! Gosh…okay, I love the Harry Potter movies, Disney movies, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, and The Blind Side. Back to the Future, Frequency, League of Their Own…the list really is long. I love movies that make me cry. I told you I was weird               

Do you set up events to meet your readers, or is your interaction with them strictly online?

 I’m an online personality. Lol Maybe some day it would be cool to meet up with readers though.

Have you ever had to exhaustively research something (say, history) for any of your books?

I’ve done research on wolves and other animals and how they compare to humans. For example: gestation periods, running speed, etc.

What’s a question I haven’t asked that you’d like to answer?

Yes, I would like the winning lottery numbers! (Virginia’s note: BEST answer I’ve gotten to that question thus far!!!)

THANK you for gracing virginiawallace.com with your presence, Niki! I’m honored to host you. Here, my dear readers, is the blurb for Niki’s latest literary masterpiece:

They say when you’re at the bottom, you can only go up. But when you are the omega, is that really true?

Cash is an omega, and his Mother never let him—or anyone—forget it. He had one job under her rule, to gather intel from other packs. Until one day when he left and never returned after finding his way into the heart of the Silver Lake Pack, always looking over his shoulder and counting the seconds until he had to run again.

Pandora lived on the streets after she discovered her foster parents hunted her kind. Shifters. Thankfully, they didn’t know what she was.  Her life changed for the better when she found her place with the family that is Silver Lake Pack.

When both Cash’s and Pandora’s pasts collide, will they both go on the run again? Or will they make a home for themselves with the Silver Lake Pack?

Niki’s latest book can be purchased here:

https://books2read.com/u/mZekrR

And y’all can stalk Niki here:

linktr.ee/nikitrentoauthor

THANKS again, Niki, for appearing today!