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Friday, April 23rd, 2010
The making of an excerpt booklet

So my dear friend, critique partner, fellow RITA nominee, role model, and general inspiration in life, Ms. Courtney Milan, is spending her pre-RT Con weekend at the Chicago Spring Fling conference. And she took with her copies of our new excerpt booklet (You may remember that last year we joined forces to create The Dangerous Book of Excerpts, still available as a PDF download here).

Here’s a pic of the new one, Highlights, snapped by SB Sarah:

Here’s a peek at the back:

Even though Courtney is the one handing these babies out, I want to make sure credit for this masterwork is distributed evenly and appropriately. So here is how the grand collaboration went.

Tessa: Hey, do you want to make some excerpt books again, to put in the RT Bookseller goody bags?
Courtney: Sure!
Tessa: Okay, I’ll tell them we’ll be sending some. Any ideas for a theme this year?
Courtney: No, but something will come to us.

**weeks pass**

Courtney: So, if we’re going to make the deadline, we should make those excerpt books…um, now.
Tessa: OH. And here I forgot to schedule my brainstorm. What’s popular right now that we can riff on? Um. Cupcakes? Can we call it Pride and Prejudice and Hot Lovin’?
Courtney: Uh. Your ideas suck.
Tessa: I know, I know.
Courtney: Here’s one that doesn’t.
Tessa: Oooooh, that’s good!
Courtney: *hours later* Here, I made eight alternate covers. Which do you like best?
Tessa: B, I think. Or maybe C. D is also good.
Courtney: *sighing* Great. Can you send me your files, so I can do all the layout and all the formatting, because you, Tessa, are completely useless with desktop publishing and image software?
Tessa: (10 minutes later) Sure, here!

**a day or two later**

Courtney: *panting* Here is the product of my many, many hours of work, stolen from my precious deadline-meeting efforts. What do you think?
Tessa: Can my name be bigger? And golden?
Courtney: *grumble*
Tessa: Oh, and pay for everything, will you? And I’ll cut you a check at RT. Sweet. You’re a peach.

So it’s an equal partnership, obviously. For the record, I did try to convince her to take top billing. But she had some problem with that, design-wise. It apparently didn’t look symmetrical. *shrug*

This is a limited print run, so if you’ll be at the Spring Fling or RT, look sharp! But who knows, maybe we (read: Courtney) will do another downloadable PDF.

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010
Cat’s out of the bag

Next week I’ll be traveling to Columbus, Ohio, to attend my very first RT Booklovers’ Convention, the annual reader/author event sponsored by RT Book Reviews magazine (formerly known as Romantic Times). Some months ago, I learned that my debut, Goddess of the Hunt, was nominated for an RT Reviewer’s Choice award in the Best First Historical Romance category. I was so honored.

This week, RT published the full list of the nominees and winners. I was even more honored that GotH was chosen to receive the award! I should caution, though — at the moment it says something like “Best Historical” next to my category. Tempting as it is to grab that glory and run with it, I feel the need to clarify that the award is still for “Best First Historical Romance,” which is a tremendous honor and in and of itself, especially considering that I was nominated next to these wonderful authors:

Lavinia Kent, A TALENT FOR SIN
Tina Gabrielle, LADY OF SCANDAL
Lindsay Townsend, A KNIGHT’S CAPTIVE

Congratulations to all the nominees and winners in every category. And to anyone who’ll be in Columbus next week, I look forward to seeing you there! Although I still have no idea what I’ll be wearing to accept this very cool award.

Oh! While I’m posting, I should mention that the new June issue of RT has a 4-1/2 star, Top Pick! review of One Dance with a Duke!

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010
Two easy ways to do good today

The other day, my friend and fellow author Jennifer Haymore announced on her blog that she’s been diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. (You may remember that I hosted a giveaway just a few weeks ago to celebrate the release of her newest book, A Touch of Scandal.) Her prognosis is good and her attitude is fantastic, but I’m sure she’d appreciate all the support, prayers, and well wishes she can get. Whether you’ve read her books or not, if you’d like to send a good thought her way, you can visit her blog to do so, or click on over to Smart Bitches Trashy Books today. SB Sarah is collecting helpful hints and tips for getting through cancer treatment, and giving away several copies of Jennifer’s book.

YA author Rosemary Clement Moore is celebrating the paperback release of Highway to Hell with her wonderful Mosquitoes Suck Contest.

From Rosemary’s blog:

In Africa, the bite of one mosquito can transmit malaria, a disease which kills one person every 30 seconds.

Can you believe that a $10 mosquito net could save someone’s life? It can.

The United Nation Foundation’s Nothing but Nets Campaign is a global, grassroots effort dedicated to saving lives by preventing malaria in Africa. When you make a $10 donation, 100% of your contribution goes directly toward purchasing and distributing an insecticide-treated mosquito net and teaching the recipient to use it properly…

Make any size donation to the Nothing But Nets Campaign, and you will be entered in a drawing to win one of a growing list of prizes.

Included in that “growing list of prizes” is a gift certificate donated by yours truly, as well as gift cards and books from a whole slew of authors. Any donation – even one dollar – will enter you in the drawing. All the rules and easy-to-follow instructions are here. This is one of those wonderful opportunities where the amount you might spend on a book or a movie can make a real, lasting life-changing — make that life-saving — difference for someone else.

I’m so inspired by Jennifer and Rosemary’s courage and conviction, and I hope you can find the time to support them both.

Anyone want to share a way to do good today?

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010
Identity Crisis

I need to update my bio. I’ve been putting this off for years now. You know, the little bio I have on my “Author” page? I wrote it late one night when I was putting together my very first basic website, when I was an unpublished author with no actual books to mention–let alone any awards or honors or other nifty bragging points. And I was a frazzled mom with a toddler and a tiny infant. Between caring for them and writing, not much else got done. So I let my bio reflect that.

While I still like this bio because it sounds very “me”, it’s getting pretty out of date.

Tessa Dare is a part-time librarian, full-time mommy and swing-shift writer living in Southern California.

Tessa lived a rather nomadic childhood in the Midwest. As a girl, she discovered that no matter how many times she moved, two kinds of friends traveled with her: the friends in books, and the friends in her head. She still converses with both sets daily.

Tessa writes fresh and flirty historical romance, a blog, and the stray magazine article. To the chagrin of her family, Tessa does not write grocery lists, Christmas cards, or timely checks to utility companies. She shares a tiny bungalow with her husband, their two children, a dog, and many dust bunnies.

Tessa enjoys a good book, a good laugh, a good long walk in the woods, a good movie, a good meal, a glass of good wine, and the company of good people.

Tessa is represented by Helen Breitwieser of Cornerstone Literary Agency.

Tessa did not expect to enjoy writing about herself in third person, but what do you know? Tessa does.

Looking at this now, I realize I actually have edited it twice. Once to remove mention of our cat, who died a few years ago now. *sniff* And again to mention my wonderful agent, once I got one.

Fluffy and insubstantial as this bio may be, it has become increasingly inaccurate.

Technically, I am still a part-time librarian, but it’s more like part-part-part-time. Right now, I work one evening a week at my local library. When certain budget cuts take effect, even that may cease to be the case.

As for “full-time mommy” – I have had my darelings in some form of childcare or preschool, part-time or full-time, on again/off again, since I sold, so I could find time to work and meet my deadlines. However, I never feel like I stop being a mom, since my day is usually broken up with classroom volunteering, gymnastics classes, grocery shopping, laundry… I used “mommy” at the time because that’s what they called me. Now the darelings are a little older, and I’m just “mom” most of the time.

And for the most part, I’m no longer a “swing-shift writer”. I’ve arranged my schedule so that I can do most of my writing during the day (See points A and B above.) So probably that whole first sentence needs to go.

Other things have changed, too. While we still live in Southern California and in the same tiny bungalow, I pay a lovely pair of ladies to come in every other week and corral the dust bunnies. I do make the occasional grocery list. Mr. Dare now pays our utility bills online. And to the utter amazement of about two dozen people, last year I actually sent some Christmas cards.

I still enjoy the good books, movies, meals, wine, and people! And I still have my wonderful agent, thank goodness.

I’ve resisted changing this for years now because, even though about half of this bio remains unchanged, I feel like I need to just scrap it and start over. The result should probably sound…sigh…more professional. I should probably mention some of the books I’ve published. I should probably give myself a teensy bit more credit for household management. Teensy.

Any suggestions? Any author bios you particularly find entertaining or enlightening? What kinds of things do you want to know about an author, when you visit her website?

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010
In which Tessa talks contests

Firstly, winners! Thanks to all who entered the Jennifer Haymore/A Touch of Scandal giveaway! We will have four winners, since Jennifer is kicking in two extra copies. (Thanks, Jennifer!) Winners, as drawn by Random.org, are:

Liz (#9)
Liza (#14)
Peggy H (#15)
Hannah (#20)

Winners, please use the contact email form (click contact in top menu) to send me your snail mail address.

While I’m announcing winners, and since I’m still on a little high from the RITA final last week, I think I’ll blog a bit about contests. (If you’re not an aspiring author, this may bore you to tears. Sorry! I will not be hurt if you sneak out the back.)

In the time since I sold my first book, I’ve sometimes been asked by aspiring authors about contests. Did I enter RWA chapter contests as an unpublished writer? Did I find them of benefit?

The answers are yes, and yes–with caveats.

I entered a total of five chapter contests with Goddess of the Hunt, and one with a very early draft of Surrender of a Siren. The entries placed everywhere from first place to “bottom third” (where they mercifully do not reveal your exact ranking). I got something out of each and every contest.

What I got out of contests:

Some helpful feedback
Some unhelpful feedback
The invaluable experience of learning to sort out which is which
A few wonderful networking connections with published author judges
A chance to thicken my skin before dealing with Amazon reviews
On one occasion, a nifty plaque
On another occasion, cash!

What I did not get out of contests:

A sale

Here is the thing I always say about contests (and I don’t get dogmatic that often, so this is a clue that I really, reaaalllly believe this):

Contests are NOT a substitute for querying and submitting.

A great many writers enter contests with the goal of getting their pages in front of the final judge, who is usually an editor or agent. This is a worthy goal, no question, and I do know of authors who started great careers this way. But in my personal experience and judging by the anecdotal evidence of friends and acquaintances–speaking generally, contests are a less effective (and much more expensive!) way to sell a book than the standard query process.

Case in point, in one of the contests I entered (and eventually won), I did get a request for the full manuscript from editor judge. However, between the time I entered the contest and the announcement of the final results, I had already signed with an agent and sold the book. So if I’d waited – I just might have sold that manuscript through this one contest connection. But I guarantee you, I would not have gotten the same deal.

So if anyone looks to me for contest advice (and I’m not sure you should be, but…), here it is: By all means, enter contests! Sometimes they yield valuable advice and perspective. Sometimes they are a $25 dollar course in “Learning to Suck It Up,” which is valuable in its own way. The are often a good motivator to make progress by a deadline. Occasionally, they can lead to a great networking connection or manuscript request. But I beg you, don’t rely exclusively on contest judges to tell you whether or not your manuscript is any good, and please, please don’t use “I’ll just wait for the feedback/scores/final results” as an excuse to hold off on querying or submitting through normal channels.

Whew. With those exhortations out of my system, let me point those of you still interested in contests toward THE contest I believe to be the best of any I entered, and among the best of any out there. It is, coincidentally, my own chapter’s contest: The Orange Rose.

Things that are awesome about the Orange Rose and make it stand out from the pack:
+ALL the judges are published authors. Yes, ALL.
+Entrants submit 50 pages and a synopsis.
+So at minimum, your entry fee gets you 3 critiques of a 50-page partial from published authors. Can’t beat that deal.
+The ten finalists are chosen by total score, regardless of subgenre (so you don’t have some people breezing through a category with only 5 entrants, while others are struggling to break out of a pack of 50)
+Each of the finalist manuscripts is sent to not one, but two editor judges – and they are guaranteed to be judges acquiring in your category. If you have a series manuscript, the contest coordinator finds two acquiring series editors to judge it. If you have an inspirational manuscript, she will make sure it goes to editors who buy that.
+Cash prizes. ‘Nuff said.

All the entry information is here. This year’s deadline is April 10th. So get those entries in the mail! Who knows, I may be one of the lucky judges who gets to read your entry. :)

Any other writers wandering by have advice to add? Contests to recommend? Or points to refute? ;) Please fire away!

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010
Giveaway! Jennifer Haymore’s A Touch of Scandal

I am so jealous of my friend Jennifer Haymore. First, because she gets the most unbelievably beautiful, hawt stepbacks. If you’re a clinch lover like I am, you must visit her website and mouse over the cover of A Touch of Scandal, so you can see this one in all its blond-hero glory.

But my envy of her doesn’t end there, not by a mile. Jennifer is not only a beautiful writer, but she has a gift for creating gut-wrenching, heart-wringing, romantic scenarios for her characters. You know, the kind of books where you wonder halfway through, “How can this possibly end happily?” …and then it does! And the end is so much sweeter for all that angst.

Last year, her debut, A Hint of Wicked, was a runaway success and the talk of Romancelandia. It featured a love triangle between a widow, her new husband, and the first husband thought dead, who returns eight years later. Let me tell you, I still get chills thinking of the first chapter of that book. I’m pretty sure you can read it on Amazon with the “Look Inside” feature.

But of course, with a love triangle, you know someone’s going to get left out in the end (in a mainstream romance, anyhow!), and now this year we have Garrett’s book, so he can have a happy ending of his own! Yay! The blurb for A Touch of Scandal:

The last thing Garrett, Duke of Calton, expects to find while tracking his sworn enemy is the delectable, mysterious Kate. This beautiful servant girl rouses a longing the battle-scarred ex-soldier had never hoped to feel again. But when she turns out to be the sister of the man he seeks, he’s convinced he’s been betrayed.

Kate knows her duty to her family, yet how can she ignore Garrett’s powerful pull on her heart? Or the heady temptation of his stolen-and sizzling-kisses? Scandal has followed the duke since the war. Now the greatest shock of all is on its way-the one that can separate Garrett and Kate forever.

Once again, Jennifer creates a gut-wrenching scenario–Garrett finally finds love! Yay! Um, with the sister of his sworn enemy. Oh…tartar sauce, as the darelings would say. A blissfully happy ending awaits–but you have to go through the wringer with these characters to get there. Jennifer Haymore is an author to read when you really want to feel invested in the characters, feel taken on their journey…just feel.

A Touch of Scandal is on sale today, but you could win a copy here! Just leave a comment about your favorite heart-wrenching romance by 9PM PST, March 31st. At least two winners, possibly more, will be selected at random and posted Thursday. No April foolin’.

(While you’re visiting my site, March 31st is the last day to enter the New Year, New Authors contest. And I’ve posted a new, lengthier excerpt from my upcoming release, One Dance with a Duke!)

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010
He’s no Barbara Walters…

Today, I refer you to a most unique and memorable interview. I’ve been interviewed by the resident were-llama at CJ Redwine’s blog.

You all know the penchant I have for were-creatures, in particular ruminants. So this was great fun. And blogger CJ’s husband even made me a Stud Muffin! Okay, a Stud Cupcake (even better, I say!) Check out the interview to learn the significance of that big, gold stud-emblazoned coin.

The Stud Cupcake
There are prizes to be won!

Oh, and the were-llama also coaxed an excerpt out of me — if you’ve been curious to read more snippets of One Dance with a Duke, click on over!

Friday, March 19th, 2010

This year, I am adding a new term to my publishing vocabulary: “crash”. As in, “to crash a book.”

Perhaps you already know what this means. I confess, I didn’t. My agent called me a little over a year ago to let me know yes, Ballantine would publish the Stud Club trilogy. I said, “Great!” (Read: OMG, squeeeeeee!). She said they wanted to publish them in May/June/July 2010. I said, “Um, how is that possible?” (Read: massive internal freak-out) And she said, “Well, they will just crash the last book.” And I said, “Oh, okay. I totally know what that means.” (Read: a total lie.)

I still don’t have a hard-and-fast definition for “crash”, but I’ve gathered it means to rush a book through production. Sometimes this is unplanned, because the author for one reason or another turns in a book after deadline. In this case, however, the “crash” was planned in advance, as it was the only way to get the trilogy releasing back-to-back in the summer months. And since having a trilogy release back-to-back in the summer months is pretty awesome, I was down with this “crashing” thing, whatever it meant.

See, before this crashed book, I’ve always worked in my own little bubble between contract and deadline, then turned in the finished manuscript 9+ months before the book’s publication date. Subsequent revisions, copy edits, page proofs have felt almost…leisurely, in retrospect.

But since we knew this third book would be a crashed book, turned in just four months before publication, the process has gone something like this:

  • My editor okayed a detailed proposal back when I got the contract, last year. We had some discussions about points of plot and character, and I rethought a few things before I even started writing. Almost like pre-writing revisions. (“Previsions”? Can that be a new word?)
  • Cover art was made. A blurb was written. The book was given an ISBN. All before I’d started writing this particular book. Urk. No backing out now!
  • As I wrote the book, I turned in parts of it to my editor at different intervals, to make sure she was okay with how the work was progressing (and probably so she could feel assured the work was progressing, period.) After I turned in the first section, she had some questions and we talked through them. When I turned in 2/3 of the book to her at the end of January, her only complaint was that the chunk I gave her cut off right before a love scene (I hadn’t written it yet!). That’s where I started to feel like everything would be just fine. 8)
  • I worked like a fiend to finish. A few awesome critique friends read the draft on short notice, and I made some revisions before turning in the completed book on March 1st. I did need two extra days to get the epilogue done, but I still consider it a deadline met. :)
  • My editor read the book right away, was happy with how it turned out–by this point, there were no surprises, hopefully–and she sent it straight on to copy edits.
  • I got the copy edited manuscript back yesterday, barely 2-1/2 weeks after turning in the book. (Normally, it’s something like 2-1/2 months.) I have a week to get it back to NY. Once I send it back, I assume the page proofs will be similarly rushed, and the whole shebang will be sent to print.
  • I know many authors work on this kind of a “crash” schedule routinely–sometimes on even tighter margins than mine–but holy cow. There’s so little room for error. I’m so pleased that my publisher trusted me to deliver a good book on deadline, but the whole time I was writing Three Nights, I would have these horrible thoughts like, “What if I fall and break both arms, and I just physically can’t finish the book on time? What will they do?”

    Fortunately, no such calamity befell me. More fortunate still, I’m blessed with an editor, agent, critique partners, friends, and family who were all so supportive and inspiring and helpful along the way. My goal, of course, wasn’t just to meet the deadline, but to write a good book on deadline. To that end, there were many false starts and do-overs and late nights spent rethinking and revising. I’m so happy with how Julian and Lily’s romance turned out, but I’ll be working up to the last possible minute to make Three Nights with a Scoundrel the best book I can. This weekend, I’m sharpening my colored pencils and immersing myself in copy edits – and after that, I think I will crash.

    While I’m defining words, there any publishing terms you’re curious to see defined? Or that you’ve learned the meaning of the hard way? ;)

Monday, March 15th, 2010
Coming to a town near you! (Um, if you live near these three towns.)

Well, I returned from the wedding (um, a week ago, but who’s counting…)! My dareling made a precious flower girl, if I do say it myself. Actually, several other people said so, too! I’m glad she got to have the experience, and it was lovely to see all our family members.

As I look at my schedule for the next few months, I see it filling up with exciting travel and literary events and book signings. If you are anywhere near any of these events, I would love to meet you! Yes, you! (Okay, maybe not you, who stumbled onto this site while searching for topless pics of that Canadian ice dancer).

Saturday, April 10th - I will be appearing on a Romance panel and signing books at the Literary Orange event in Irvine, CA. This is an all-day event with panels, speakers, food, and book signings. The Romance panel will be moderated by Super Librarian Wendy and also features authors HelenKay Dimon and Linda Widsom. So, you could come to see me. Or you could come to see HelenKay and Linda and Wendy, or keynote speakers Dean Koontz and Karen Joy Fowler, and just pretend you also came to see me. Either way, it’s all good!

April 28-May 2nd
- I’ll be in Columbus, Ohio for the RT Booklovers Convention. Woot! My first RT con. Time to see if all the rumors are true… ;) I’m not on any panels or other official thingys, but I will be around all week and I’ll be signing at the Book Fair on Saturday, May 1st (11:00 AM – 2:00 PM, I believe). The Book Fair is open to the public for a $5 admission at the door. And I will most definitely be attending the Reviewers’ Choice Awards ceremony, because Goddess of the Hunt is nominated for the Best First Historical category. So exciting!

July 28-31st - I’ll be in Nashville, Tennessee for the RWA National Convention. I’ll be participating in two panels, one on Librarian Day (the 28th) along with none other than… Super Librarian Wendy! (See Wendy’s post about it here. The two of us will also be seeing one another when she comes to visit my local chapter in May. I tell you, by August, me and Wendy are either going to be BFF, or not speaking. Or it may prove a tempestuous on-again/off-again affair. Time will tell…) The other panel I’m on hasn’t been officially scheduled yet. More info on that to come. And of course, I will once again be signing at the Readers for Life Literacy Autographing on July 28th from 5:30 to 7:30 PM. The book signing is free and open to the public, if you’re anywhere in the area and want to drop by!

I’ll be flying out for Nashville on July 27th. That’s release day for Three Nights with a Scoundrel (my sixth novel in print) and two days before the one-year anniversary of my debut’s release (Goddess of the Hunt came out July 29, 2009). That is crrrrazy.

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010
Mischief Managed!

*carves sixth hashmark on the wall*

I am so happy to report, the manuscript of Three Nights with a Scoundrel is all turned in to my editor. There will be revisions and edits and page proofs to come, but I can say now that I have authored six books. Hooray! I am so thankful to the wonderful friends and critique partners who helped me through this last stretch, and through the whole trilogy. You know you are. :) I could not have done it without your support. Mwah.

Yesterday was a big release day–so many great books hit the shelves! But a special shout out to my pal Erica Ridley on her debut, Too Wicked to Kiss! I can’t wait to find it on the bookstore shelves and buy it for my very own. By the way, I’m giving away copies of Too Wicked to Kiss and Sara Lindsey’s Promise Me Always in my current contest.

This weekend, the dareling daughter and I are headed cross-country for a family wedding. She’s going to be the flower girl! Awwww. Her dress is so precious, and she is so excited. I’m so glad she’s getting the chance to do this before she grows too old. I never was a flower girl, myself.

So, any advice for mother or daughter from those who’ve done this before?