Saturday, May 10, 2008

I found him in the slave market on Orpheseus Prime....

Danielle's bird poop story is a tough act to follow, but here goes!

For those who haven't met us yet, I'm Cheryl Brooks, a new author with Sourcebooks Casablanca, and that totally hot dude to the left is Cat! My first published novel is The Cat Star Chronicles: Slave. A native of Louisville, KY, I was transplanted to Indiana nineteen years ago and live on a farm with my husband, two sons, a dog, five cats, and five horses.

I didn't start out as a writer—unless you count charting on patients or writing term papers in nursing school! I've been a critical care nurse since 1976 and an avid reader all my life, and romances have always interested me more than any other genre. I've always been a bit of a dreamer, and at the age of twelve, saw Star Trek and fell for Mr. Spock at first sight! Several years later, I went to see Star Wars and knew that the combination of romance and science fiction was something I wanted to see more of.

However, if there was such a thing as a science fiction romance in those days, I hadn't seen it, so I decided to write one. That was back in the days of typewriters (at least mine was electric!) rather than word processors, and, being the lousy typist that I am, I didn't get very far! I did have fun writing a few short stories using the people I worked with as characters, and I can say without reservation that nurses get a real kick out of reading about doctors getting the shaft!

Some years later, with the aid of a computer, I wrote two novels, one a romance between a horse breeder and a drifter who comes to work for her, the other about an office manager on holiday who gets tangled up with drug dealers and a suave, Latin lover bent on making a conquest. Only one of those had any paranormal aspects—though that chapter is the one most people recall whenever the book is mentioned! I'd never been completely happy with those two books, and it took me writing a third one in first person to make me realize that the point of view was what had been bothering me all along. I'd grown up reading Mary Stewart and Daphne Du Maurier, and had always preferred their first-person style to any others. Encouraged by friends who had read my work, I sent a query letter to Harlequin. Their polite lack of interest stopped me cold and that third novel was never finished, nor did I write anything else to speak of for the next ten years.

Then, in 2004, the writing bug bit me again, and, to be honest, publishing wasn't my purpose. My overactive brain just needed a creative outlet of some kind and my husband said, “Write!” So I wrote! This time, I not only wrote in first person, but increased the erotic content. Romance novels had always bothered me with their lack of detailed love scenes--along with their refusal to use certain terms--but giving myself a free rein, the books just poured out of me. I'd write one, print it up, put it in a box, and it would get passed around the hospital. Before long, I had people chomping at the bit for the next one.

My characters were very ordinary people; nurses, farmers, farriers, writers, carpenters, and even a guy who ran a health food store. I was still writing contemporary romance rather than paranormals, and I'd never heard that there even was such a thing as erotic romance—I thought I was writing something entirely new! I wasn't, of course, and a trip to the bookstore proved it. However, most of what I found there didn't seem to have much heart to it; it was just continuous sex with men I didn't even like and women I could have cared less about, so I kept writing.

With each new story I'd push the erotic envelope a little farther until I wrote one called The Boy at the Bar about a fifty-year-old nurse and a twenty-eight-year old home builder who had some rather unusual sexual preferences. In writing that one, I lost any inhibitions I might have had left; it's so hot that some who've read it still get all hot and bothered just thinking about it! Later on, I explored my masculine side, writing from the point of view of a big, blond ex-quarterback who fell in love with a male coworker, and then they got a girlfriend!

Again, I was encouraged to try to get a book published. My first attempts were met with disinterest by agents, but then I came into a little extra money and self-published an erotic paranormal romance called If You Could Read My Mind under the name Samantha R. Michaels with AuthorHouse. I had high hopes, but, as anyone who has gone that route can tell you, without someone to promote them, books simply don't sell! After that, I decided to go back to the science fiction that had gotten me started in the first place and wrote The Rescue, a 72,000 word futuristic erotic romance. With that story, I finally had the chance to let my imagination go beyond the confines of this world and into space, and writing it was an absolute blast!


With everyone around me egging me on, I submitted to a few more agents and the occasional publisher and then wrote one book specifically for an erotic romance line. I don't think the editor read beyond the first three pages before sending it back, telling me to rewrite it in third person—which should have been my first clue that writing in first person was a Romance genre no-no! Then I read in my trusty Romance Writers Report that Sourcebooks was a newly recognized romance publisher and that they were taking erotics and paranormals. Based on that article, I sent them The Rescue, not knowing that they were only interested in single title length manuscripts, and promptly forgot about it.

When the editor, Deb Werksman, called to say she wanted to read the rest of the book, I had worked the night before and was asleep, so my husband was the one who got that first call, and you can just imagine what fun he had telling me about it when I woke up! I emailed her the rest of the book and she liked it, but it was too short and she had some “editorial concerns,” and said that if I liked, I could call her and talk about it—which, of course, I did! The things she wanted me to change surprised me a little, (and some who've read the original are still miffed about what I had to rewrite!) but I said I'd work on it and get it back to her. Writing like a fiend, I made the requested changes and added a couple of new scenes and got it up to 92,000 words and sent it back in. Little did I know that Deb had hung up the phone thinking she'd never hear from me again! Now, you writers out there, tell me, can you imagine not altering your book just a little if it meant getting that first one published?

Well, I did, and the result is Slave, and now I'm here with a whole gang of talented authors blogging about it. Who'd have thunk it?

14 comments:

  1. Great post, Cheryl. I enjoyed reading about your writing journey. Like you, I've been really free about letting other people read my stuff. Their encouragement and positive comments kept me going in the years it took to sell. Congratulations on having your perseverance pay off. I look forward to reading Slave.
    Marie

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  2. Hey, Marie!
    Boy, you're up early! I just got home from work and thought I'd better make sure this thing posted like it was supposed to before I went to bed, and I've already got a comment!
    Cool beans!
    Thanks!
    Cheryl

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  3. Truthfully, Cheryl, lots of writers never submit work that's requested, whether it's revisions or just the original pitched mss. I listened to a panel of editors and agents at a writer's conference and they said you would be surprised at the number who never submit to them. In fact, one said that she loved the idea proposed by an author, and expected to see it. So when she saw her at another conference a year later, she asked her about it. "Ah, decided not to write it." The editor said to us, "Do you think I ever asked her about another story?"
    Super story, Cheryl!!

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  4. Cheryl,

    Loved your post.

    And I see now why you have such wonderfully imaginative elements in Slave. You had flamed out all your inhibitions before you started.:-)

    But as for the question of rewriting at the request of an editor. I know several writers who weren't willing. And they're not published either.

    Mary Margret

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  5. Great post Cheryl!

    Thanx for sharing a bit of your writing process with us.

    I have to agree with Terry and Mary Margret, I've heard stories (okay, I even KNOW a couple personally) of a lot of writers who never follow through on a request from an editor or agent. I can't imagine doing that myself, but it does happen. :-(

    GOOD ON YOU, Mate! As my Aussie buddies say, for not giving up and for following through with the requested changes. I've read Slave and it was a fun romp, start to finish!

    Cindy

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  6. Terry,
    Well, I never said I was HAPPY about the changes I had to make, but I did it anyway! Actually, I don't think my husband would have let me pass on the opportunity--nor would any of my friends!
    Thanks!
    Cheryl

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  7. Mary Margret,
    Yep, all inhibitions are gone with the wind!:) ....well....at least on paper.....!
    Cheryl

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  8. Aunt Cindy,
    To be perfectly honest, I'd never talked to ANY writers until I started trading emails with you guys--so what would I know? What I DO know is how hard it is to sacrifice one of your babies to the great publishing god, but Cat's pretty tough; he can take it!
    I'm glad those of you who've read Slave have keyed on the "fun" element. Honest to God, I've seen enough blood & guts, and death & dying to last a lifetime--I want some FUN!!!!
    Unfortunately, some readers don't seem to be ready for that. To them I say: Lighten up! Life is waaaaay too short as it is!
    So, live long and prosper--and have really great sex with as many aliens as you can find! :-)
    Cheryl

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  9. Hey, Cheryl. I am so grateful to anyone who has finally and openly merged science fiction and romance. They have always gone together so well, but not many would admit it! Keep it coming!
    Christina

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  10. Christina,
    I'll do my best!
    Thanks!
    Cheryl

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  11. Thanks for this post, Cheryl! I love learning where all of you are getting your inspiration and what it took to get started writing. :)

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  12. Hi Cheryl. Your article turned up on my "science fiction romance" Google alert, so I had to come check it out. Enjoyed the read. It sounds like we share a lot in common in how we became Sci Fi Rom writers. I hope our sub-genre continues to grow. (By the way, love your hook line.)

    Best wishes with your writing.

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  13. Laurie,
    That hook line has been both the blessing and the bane of my existence lately. I didn't set out to write a great first line, that's just what popped into my head! Now, our editor wants me to come up with a line just as good for the second book, and trust me, it's damn near impossible! But I'm trying!
    Thanks for stopping by!
    Cheryl

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  14. LOL Cheryl. An editor's way of saying, "Let's see what you do for an encore."

    Good luck with that. I'm sure you'll cook up a gem.

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