Monday, April 30, 2012

In the Spotlight with Angelica and Zi

In today’s In the Spotlight Interview we feature the Award Winning writing team Angelica Hart and ZI.

Their combined accomplishments include book publications in print and/or electronic versions of thirty-seven titles, twelve romance specific, EPPIE finalist for three books, Cecil Whig award, Hob-Nob Reader's Choice Award, Champagne Books Novel of the Year, Champagne Books Author of the Year. Plus, they have written over 500 shorts with numerous published in both nationwide and small press magazines, articles published in various local, city and statewide newspapers, including four as a Guest Columnist in addition to trade articles. Both are members of various writing groups.

I have had the pleasure of being mentored by these two wonderful people. If not for them I’d still be lost in the Mist somewhere.

Please join me in welcoming Angelica and Zi. Good morning you two, so glad you agreed to join us.

Thank you for your kind and generous words, but being fair, you are a unique talent in your own right and would have never been lost for very long. As for the mist, let's think After the Mist, we suggest everyone read it.

Thank you for that, that was sweet. Now let’s get on to you. First off I'd like to hear something personal about each of you. You know, your deepest darkest secrets.

Z: Like the fact that I'm positioning a corn pad on my right pinkie toe? That sort of secret?

A: First of all, ick! Secondly, he's not doing that. Thirdly, I believe she means something personal like in college when you led your fraternity in panty raids.

Z: Who told you that?

A: Just guessed...I was right, wasn't I? hehehehehehe

Z: No comment. Change of subject. A very private fact is that I was almost eleven before I could read, and I believe that event provided an epiphany that helped me fall in love with literature and books. I suspect I have written some fiction at least ninety-percent of the days since I have been twenty. So, given that, I have piles and piles and piles and PILES of creative goodies.

A: I used to be (takes a deep breath and exhales slowly) a know one of those writers who adores writing by the seat of their pants. Never doing an outline, only having a thought and then flying with it. Yes, I admit it. I am Angelica and I am a compulsive pantser (Z: Hi Angelica) I work the 12 step program everyday with Zi's help to keep me on track. It isn't easy, but (sigh) I know it is the only way to truly get a cohesive novel. There, now you all know. (Hangs head and gets teary-eyed)

When did you first know you were destined to be writers?

A: The moment someone read me my first storybook, and I decided no way am I going to let someone rescue me. I want the sword and horse and the adventure. So, out came the crayons and paper and I wrote my own story, whereas I became the shero. Albeit, no one could read the scribbles but me.

Z: I love your choice of the term destined. Because authoring is so personal, your term is so apt. There was no one moment of demarcation that could define my revelation, but a deep-seated passion that was constantly omnipresent. If I were to give an example, it would be the three boxes of rejection letters dating back to the eighties that all gave me encouragement to go on, yes, they said no, but they read my writing! And I never stopped, and it was their no-s that motivated me to work harder and harder.

How did the two of you become a writing team?

T'was a gloomy Thursday when a sudden crack of lightning startled me, followed by a maneuver of my black Volvo swerving to avoid an ominous rain puddle. The effort went for naught, and water was forced up the underside of the engine, mist and steam rose and the need to pull the car over was eminent. By some act of divine intervention, I found myself in the parking lot of Borders Books. A big yippee-ki-yay for any book fan. I trudged and dodged through blankets of water -- a veritable downpour with hellacious lightning and stomach's butterflies scared by thunder crackling about me as if the world were about to split apart and I would fall into an abyss. Managing to enter, I paper-toweled myself dry in the men's room then returned to the sales floor. I noticed a woman manning an area of the cafe, perched on a high stool, touting her art work. She was Angelica Hart. The ensuing conversation went something like this: Hey...hey...nice art...thanks...are you interested in illustrations...yes...give me your, I'll call you...Do. There it was. Left the store to a world that was bright and sunny, filled with possibilities. And eight years later, it's still sunny.

How do you work together as a team? Do you meet somewhere? Both throw out ideas at the same time? How do you find unity?

Z: Your questions have defined the awesome challenge partnering and creativity presents. How do we work together -- sometimes chaotically, other times as if we were Siamese writing buddies joined at the skull, and then there are times when we flat out argue with bared teeth. But the one key is that we agreed early on that we would agree to agree, thus the work willed out not us. In there lies possibly the genius that has allowed us any success.

A: Yes, we meet somewhere over the rainbow... which is Zi's home office. It is a delightfully warm place with three computers, a laptop, files, books galore, four dogs, places on the wall for my family's pictures, a chair I picked out, he bought, along with Brian, our gofer, Rachel, our intern from the University of Delaware and a working teapot, end of story. Now, for me personally, the very best part of the office is the candy bowl...oh, and our synergy, too...well, really the candy bowl!

I personally have read some of your stories and have very much enjoyed them. The one that stand out to me is Chasing Yesterday. Can you tell us where the idea for this story came from?
 Z: The male character was remotely modeled after a best friend from college days, who was a gentle hero then and now. The book was dedicated to him. The female character, Elizabeth, was the amalgamation of our daughters' passion for life and love. The story came from an idea we tossed around about the din and milieu of the beach at 5 AM, which for those who have been there is mist and vapor wrapped in a world that you can easily escape into, thus being lost in beautiful confusion. We felt that love is often that beautiful confusion. The original working title was Chasing Gravitas which was about wanting that perfect partner to complete love. We believe the chase is important and that special someone is everlasting.

Resently you have rather stirred up the pot and gone in a rather steamy direction. I must admit I’m reading one of those steamy books now, and I’m enjoying it more than I’m willing to admit. But what I’d like to know is how did you make such a change in course?

Ooooh dirty girl! Whereas, we absolutely enjoy the literary construct of a beautifully told love story like Chasing Yesterday or the fantasy of a romance such as Snake Dance or the thriller chase of Killer Dolls, we felt that the large contemporary audience has experienced a maturation from traditional bodice rippers, seeking the more direct randy. Yes, we adore innuendo but sometimes sex is just in your face.

A: Did you actually write that?!

Z: What????

If you could pick just one, what has been your favorite book to write, and why?

A: Like you, my favorite was Chasing Yesterday. I appreciate that it had a mysterious feel to it, but it was also pure romance and the characters just seeped into my soul or maybe partly out of it.

Z: Steel Embrace was a fast moving, boldly erotic endeavor and was fun to construct. But Book Nookie ,which is about to be released, was so divine in that it included fantasy, adventure, humor, contemporary locales as well as imaginary ones. It was all wrapped in bold eroticism though it was ultimately a nice romance. Both books were written by our alter egos Vixen Bright and Zachary Zane.

A: Why are you bouncing your eyebrows?

Z: Cause I'm well-embrowed!

A: Shame-shame-shame and tsk-tsk as well.

Can you tell us some of the advantages of signing with a digital/small press publisher over a New York publisher?

A: You! The Cathys we met. The intimacy of relationships with other authors is profoundly wonderful. E-book technology is right at the crest of the wave and we are so tickled to be there, surfing toward the future, hangin' ten. Cowabunga dude! Mostly, its folks like you that interact daily, giving advice, guidance, support and, yes, the atta boys, atta girls.

What do you find is the most rewarding part of being fiction Novelist’s?

Z: The adulation of all the groupies that fill our email box on a regular basis.

A: We have no groupies!

Z: Shhhh! Let 'em think we do.

A: People that find value in the pure creation of intellectual properties are unique in that passion is ceaseless. There would be infinite stories to tell, and we find that so alluring. (The corgies just returned from their long walk...thank you, Brian. I just love our office! Wanna write a corgi story?)

Please tell us in your own words– why we should read your books?

A: Our books bring you adventure, romance, titillation and we'll give you cookies... chocolate... We are not above bribery!

Z: Of course, I agree with Angelica that our literary products are brief sojourns into romantic imagination, but disagree with the bribery -- she is in charge of all bribes, forward all emails to her attention.

Anything else you’d like to say?

A: Go Eagles! Oh, and is it lunch, yet?

Z: Go Flyers! And to everyone, I want you...I want read!

 I don’t know about all of you, but, I’m wiping away tears from laughter! Thank you both for the laughs. Be sure and check out their books, especially my favorite Chasing Yesterday.

Be sure to join next week when In the Spotlight will feature J.A. Garland .

Monday, April 23, 2012

In the Spotlight with J Ellen S

Today’s In the Spotlight Interview is with J. Ellen Smith, Publisher/Owner of Champagne Book Group, an independent small press located in Calgary, AB Canada. CBG books are available in electronic and trade paperback forms. Established in December 2004, CBG threw open their cyber doors in April 2005 with four titles. Since that time, and with the belief that ebooks are the future, they have continued to grow and now boast authors in all corners of the globe. I’m proud to say that includes me. My first book with them, After the Mist, is getting rave reviews. You can find more information about them, see the terrific books and enjoy the lovely covers at Champagne Book Group.

This interview was courtesy of Chloe Jones See Jane Publish

 What made you decide to become a publisher?

Call me a disgruntled reader. I got tired of reading the same thing over and over, just with the details slightly skewed. I wanted to read something fresh and original, which I wasn’t finding. Then, as an author with one too many bad experiences behind me, I figured there had to be a better way. One day over vanilla lattes with a friend, who had listened to me moan and groan for years, the idea of creating my own house was born. It wasn’t for another year or so that the ‘idea’ was brought into fruition.

You’ve recently changed your name/logo. Why did you decide to change? What’s the significance?

The logos for each imprint are still the same. We still have Champagne Books (our romance and mainstream fiction imprint), Carnal Passions (the erotic romance imprint) and our newest imprint, BURST (science fiction and fantasy). Since all three imprints are managed by the same executive team, it only made sense to ‘group’ them, hence the Champagne Book Group. The logos for each individual imprint are still the same; however, we’ve got the corporate logo for the book group now.

Could you please tell us specifically what types of books Champagne Book Group publishes?

Genre fiction. We do not publish non-fiction, biographies, children’s books, short story collections. We do publish romance and all its sub-genres, erotic romance, mystery/suspense/thrillers, science fiction and fantasy.

If you could get your hands on more stories in a certain genre – or with certain characters – what would it be?

Historical highland romances are high on our list. We’re also looking for steampunk as well. Our Carnal Passions line is looking for good quality, erotic romances in all the subgenres, specifically male/male and ménage.

What are you absolutely not looking for?

Right now our needs are pretty wide-spread, so the best way to explain what we’re not looking for is to simply say ‘non-fiction’. The proliferation of YA vampire romances has been so strong lately, that we are not looking for those either.

Will you be doing both e-books and print books? Where can you find Champagne Book Group books?

As a digital publisher, we focus first on the electronic book, and then if there is enough interest, the book goes into print. Our eBooks are widely distributed in all the major online stores, and our paperbacks are available on our website, Amazon and Lulu. Those that have high demand get moved into increased distribution for availability in bookstores.

Most new writers have visions of agents and New York publishing houses dancing in their heads. Can you tell us some of the advantages of signing with a digital/small press publisher over a New York publisher?

I can’t imagine that a new author (or any author for that matter), can call up the publisher of Simon and Schuster just to say hello and to ask for help with a problem. They can with a small press. We tend to be a little less formal, a lot more hands-on, and much friendlier than those huge corporations. While submissions times aren’t near as quick as they used to be with small press, they still may get their book out faster than waiting in line at NY, and they definitely have more input into editing and cover design.

What do you look for in a prospective writer?

We look for someone who writes well, spins a great story and understands that the work isn’t done with typing ‘the end’. On submission, we ask authors to send along a ‘promotions plan’ which, hopefully, gets their head wrapped around the idea of promoting their work once it’s available for sale. We want authors who are good to work with and who don’t fight the entire process. We want authors who aren’t afraid to take the initiative.

After you receive a query/synopsis – approximately how long does it take you to reply to the author?

The acquisitions editor confirms that the query has been received within a few days if she’s busy, but she tends to be on that one fairly quickly, so you’ll likely hear that she’s received your query as soon as she’s seen it. Then it is 1-2 months for her to review all the initial submissions. Should the complete manuscript get requested, expect another 2-3 month wait. Our submissions email is very busy, so if those time parameters have come and gone, it doesn’t hurt to email to see where things are. But please only do so if you’ve 1) never heard if your submission was received, 2) it’s been longer than 2 months for your initial query or 3) it’s been over 3 months since you sent in your complete manuscript. DO follow our guidelines for compiling your submission package. If you do not stick to the requested format, your submission will be deleted.

Most authors seem to feel it’s the publisher’s responsibility to do the marketing – that all an author should do is write. In your opinion, how important is marketing and what’s the writer’s responsibility in this area?

Who knows your book better than the author who wrote it? That’s the person who should be out there yakking it up the most. Marketing is very important, but there’s a definite difference between marketing and promoting, although many authors use the terms interchangeably. Marketing is broader in scope, and promotion is just one tool used as part of an overall marketing strategy. While promotion is important to marketing success, it does not constitute an entire marketing strategy on its own.

Basically, the marketing mix is composed of the 4 “P’s”—product, price, place and promotion. Obviously the author has no control over price and placement, which means the price of the product and where it is sold, that’s the publisher’s job. But promotion is the method that is used to let customers know about the product.

So, again, who better to let customers know about your book?

Across the Internet, the most common expressed concern is the perceived lack of quality control in eBooks. Would you like to comment on where Champagne Book Group is with respect to performance in this area?

I think this perception is changing as eBooks go more and more mainstream. Yes, there is still a lot of junk out there since so many people feel that they can produce an eBook and get it for sale without much effort. But the reality is, everyone needs a good editor and everyone needs good cover art.

Since Champagne opened in 2005, we have strived to keep our quality high, which we have done with several editorial reviews prior to publication. We don’t put out a lot of books per month because we want to be able to maintain that high standard.

As a publisher, what is the best advice you can offer a writer on how to be successful in the business?

First of all, develop thick skin. You’ll be criticized and critiqued over and over. Listen to what is said about your work and use it to improve. Then write what you know, and what you like to read, and write every day. If you can find a writer’s group, use one. If you can’t, find an online critique group–peer interaction is not only extremely helpful, but keeps you from feeling that you’re alone. Lastly, once you’ve got something out there for the reading public, don’t hide. Be visible. Take a look at what some of the successful authors in your genre are doing and never, ever stop learning and growing as an author.
Please tell us in one sentence – why we should read Champagne Book Group books/authors.

Quality fiction at fantastic prices.

Anything else you’d like to say?

Dear God no, I’m exhausted!

This interview was courtesy of See Jame Publish