Interviewed on Krystal Shannan’s Blog

Krystal Shannan, author of the Pool of Souls and Vegas Mates paranormal romance series, interviewed me on her blog today!  Join us and discover what inspired me to write romantic fiction. Hear my story about how  DANCING WITH DANGER was published, find out if I’m a plotter or a pantser, and learn my answer to the age-old question “boxers or briefs?”

Leave a comment on her blog for a chance to win a free copy of DANCING WITH DANGER!

Krystal_Shannan_Bloghttp://krystalshannan.com/3/post/2013/03/krystal-shannan-interviews-laura-sheehan.html

Five Minute Love Stories by LARA

The first day of spring is just around the corner, and with it will come fresh blooms of flowers and sunshine breezes.  All over the country, nature’s animals are pairing off and becoming twitterpated.

spring

In the spirit of the season, what better way to celebrate than with the new romance anthology “Five Minute Love Stories?” This series of super-short romance stories will sweeten anyone’s day.

Five Minute Love StoriesWritten by Los Angeles’s finest romance authors, there’s a story for everyone in this collection.  For those of you who enjoyed Dancing with Danger, check out my sweet time-travel romance story entitled “Five Years, Five Minutes.”

Other authors in the anthology include: Robin Bielman, Veronica Scott, Christine London, Leigh CourtChellesie B. DancerDebbie Decker, Beverly Diehl, Samanthe Beck, Debra KristiBrenna Johns, Scarlett Llewyllyn, Brenda Scott Royce, Lisa Weseman.Robert Hacker,  Kathleen Cadman,  Kristin Elizabeth, and Janie Emaus.

A Dancer’s Guide to Writing

I began dancing when I was ten years old, and have never stopped.  Ballet, jazz, tap, modern, musical theatre, I love it all. To me, my passion for dance plays perfectly into my passion for writing.

How, you ask?

Dance is communication.  Dancers have the ability to manipulate their body with musicality and form; good dancers can do this while also conveying emotion; and great dancers will make all of that seem inconsequential as they transport you to another world.  And writers do all of this with their words, rather than their bodies.

I firmly believe that everyone can dance.  All you need is the desire to do so, and the courage to get your butt onto the dance floor.  The same is true for writing: Everyone can write, all you need is the desire and courage to do so. But the difference between a dancer and a great dancer is the same difference between that of a writer and a great writer: passion and training.

So in that vein, here is my Dancer’s Guide to Writing:

  • Know your craft. You cannot become a prima ballerina without knowing how to plié. So don’t assume you can write the next bestseller until you understand the importance of grammar, character development, and story pacing.
  • Practice makes perfect.  Even Baryshnikov, one of the most celebrated ballet dancers in history, knows he must take class everyday. Writers are no different.  Your first draft will never be perfect.  Recognize that revisions are just a part of the writing process and be prepared to sweat through them regularly.
  • Merde. Just as actors tell each other to “break a leg” before a performance, ballerinas will wish each other “merde.”  In French (ballet’s mother tongue), merde means “shit.”  Legend says that this tradition began back in the days of the horse-and-carriage, where the success of a show could be measured by the size of the audience (and therefore the number of horse-led carriages).  In short: the more horseshit in front of the theatre, the better.  So what does this have to do with writing?  The more successful you are, the more shit you will have to put up with.  Erroneous reviews, ridiculous criticisms, unfair expectations… shit will happen.  Expect it.  Welcome it. It means you’re doing something right.
  • Dance like no one is watching.  Don’t hold back out of fear of what people might say or think.  As an artist, you must be willing to lay yourself bare.  Don’t cater to an audience, your passion must come from within. How can you inspire others if you do not inspire yourself?
  • Do it full-out.  In dancer terminology, there are two ways of dancing: marking it, and doing it full-out. Typically, dancers only “mark it” when they are learning a new piece of choreography, but once the steps have been committed to memory, dancers are expected to do it “full-out.”  In other (more vulgar) words, “marking it” means half-assing it, whereas “full-out” means balls-to-the-wall.  Marking it might be easier, but you’ll never learn what you’re capable of until you go full-out.
  • The show must go on. The lead has laryngitis, your costume ripped, the stage manager is drunk, someone spilled water on the stage, and there are only eight people in the audience?  Doesn’t matter.  Life is always going to throw roadblocks that may make you feel like there is no chance of success.  Ignore them.  Don’t let anything distract you from your goals.  The page is your stage, and no matter what, the show must go on.
  • Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.  Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers had it right: don’t let mistakes keep you down.  “Work like a soul inspired, ’til the battle of the day is won.”

Ruth St. Denis once said that dance is a form of communication that can “express what is too deep to find for words.”

As authors, let it be your goal to prove St. Denis wrong.

~ Laura Sheehan, author of DANCING WITH DANGER (Red Sage)

Dancing with Danger (cover art) - by Laura Sheehan

[This article was originally published in the December 2012 issue of LARA Confidential, the newsletter of the Los Angeles Romance Authors (LARA) chapter of the Romance Writers of America and may be shared or reprinted with credit to author and chapter.]

Amazon’s New Review Policy: A Mountainous Solution to a Molehill Problem

If you’ve been following the happenings in the world of publishing over the last few months, you’ll be familiar with the phrase “sock puppet reviewing” and the recent controversies regarding such.

If you haven’t been paying attention, in short: sock puppetry refers to published authors using “pseudonymous handles to post positive Amazon reviews of [their] own books and one-star reviews of others” (Carolyn Kellogg, LA Times, Sept. 4, 2012).  A handful of authors, a few of whom were somewhat high-profile, recently admitted to such abhorrent behavior, and the news has spread like wildfire.

Unfortunately, in Amazon’s frantic attempt to contain the flames, they’ve managed to burn down the entire forest.

Forgive me for being dramatic, but I maintain that my analogy is not that far from the mark.

To prove to their customers that the Amazon rating system has not become corrupted, they’ve decided to forbid authors from posting reviews of any other author’s work.

That’s right.

Authors, most of whom became writers because of their passion for reading, are now denied the right of other readers by being prohibited from reviewing books on Amazon.

Readers who frequently discovered new authors through the recommendations of authors they were already familiar with will no longer have that opportunity on Amazon.

New authors who are struggling to be heard in the cacophony of the e-book world can no longer solicit honest reviews from their fellow authors in an effort to get their books off the ground.

One of the saddest conclusions I’ve come to when researching Amazon’s new policy is that Amazon considers authors to be in “direct competition” with each other.  They are treating us as if we are bitter enemies, cats and dogs that can’t be trusted to be alone in a room together.

Now, some people might agree with that assumption, but I bet you that most of those people have no idea what they’re talking about. An outsider might look at the writing business and presume it is like any other commercial enterprise: the author who gets the most readers wins, and the rest of the authors lose.

But it doesn’t really work that way with books.

Unlike TV shows, authors are not fighting for the same 1-hour slot in primetime. A book doesn’t “go out of theatres” if it doesn’t outsell other new releases during it’s opening weekend. In other words, if my book sells, it doesn’t mean your book won’t.

Authors rarely “steal” readers from another author; readers just add new authors to their To-Be-Read pile.  In fact, a reader is more likely to try out a new author from the recommendation of another author than from advertising (RWA Readership Statistics, 2012).

I may be relatively new to the publishing world, but from what I’ve seen within the Romance Writers of America and Los Angeles Romance Authors, the publishing world is not dog-eat-dog. We romance authors are incredibly supportive of each other. The biggest names in the business (Nora Roberts, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Jayne Ann Krentz, etc.) regularly frequent the annual RWA conferences to share their knowledge with amateur authors and encourage them to become successful. Hundreds of mid-list authors donate their time to mentoring newbies and guiding them through the perils of the publishing world. We have blogs, newsletters, conferences, critique groups, and review sites, all created with the intent of helping each other become the best authors we can be.

I know of no author that would intentionally sabotage another author in the hopes that their own work would become more successful.

OK, apparently, there are a few writers out there who would do such a thing, but the keyword here is “few.”

But instead of searching for a tailored and efficient solution to this isolated problem, Amazon has thrown the baby out with the bathwater. They’ve branded all of us authors as untrustworthy, greedy, immoral money-grubbers who can’t be trusted to share our opinions in a responsible manner.

But there are so many other, better, solutions that Amazon could pursue.

For example, Amazon could add a disclaimer to reviews posted by authors, which identifies that reviewer as a writer. (In fact, that would be a win-win-win for the reader, the author of the work in question, and the reviewing author.  If the review was negative, readers could take that review with a grain of salt, recognizing that perhaps the reviewer was biased [especially if said review was poorly justified]. And if the review was positive [and well-written], then perhaps the reviewing author would pick up new fans from other readers.)

Other options include flagging strongly negative (1- or 2-star) reviews by authors who have been published in the same genre, so that readers can be aware of a potential bias or conflict of interest.

Perhaps the content of negative reviews from fellow authors can remain, but the star ranking would not be counted, therefore allowing the reviewing author to make their argument, but not allowing the work’s author’s ranking to be unfairly diminished.

One of the biggest problems with Amazon’s new policy is that it dramatically inhibits new authors from widening their readership.  Established authors won’t feel the impact of this new policy, since the loss of a handful of reviews won’t make a dent when you already have hundreds of reviews. But new authors often struggle to get even a dozen reviews, and so the loss of just a few can be devastating.

New authors can’t get family members to read and review their book, because Amazon considers them to have “financial interest in the product.” And they can’t get fellow authors to review their book because they have “financial interest in a directly competing product.”

Where is the line drawn?

What about friends, are they unfairly biased too? How about friends of friends, are they OK?  Friends of friends of friends? If a family member from outside my immediate household reads my book, are they allowed to post an honest review?  What if I give a free copy of my novel to a reviewer, is that considered bribery? My boss’s, sister’s, step-brother is thinking about writing a book, is he disqualified for being a biased acquaintance with a financial interest in a potentially competing project?

I’ve never been a fan of slippery-slope arguments, but since we’re already sliding down this mountain Amazon made from a molehill, I figured it was appropriate.

~ Laura Sheehan

[NOTE: This article was was originally published in the November 2012 issue of LARA Confidential, the newsletter of the Los Angeles Romance Authors chapter of RWA, for which I serve as Newsletter Editor.  It may be reprinted with proper credit to author and chapter.]

Romance Junkies Haunted House Giveaway!

Romance Junkies is hosting a Haunted House Giveaway!  If you dare, come explore the spooky halls of their mysterious mansion and take advantage of the opportunity to win dozens of free books and prizes.  (If you’re looking for the chance to win an e-copy of DANCING WITH DANGER by yours truly, I suggest checking out the Magic Shop!)

Romantic Junkies Halloween Contest

“Dancing with Danger” Reviewed by Long and Short of It Reviews

Long and Short of It Reviews has given my novel, Dancing with Danger, 4.5 Stars!

Dancing with Danger Cover

I loved these characters so much and wanted more, the story was a very enjoyable read. I’ll definitely look for other titles by Ms. Sheehan and I’d even love to see more of Marc and Lily. If you love a good romance, mixed with the potential danger of an unknown stalker, this is a perfect title to pick up!

- Asher, Long and Short of It Reviews

Check out the full review here.

Long and Short of It Reviews

I’ve been Interrogated by an LAPD Officer!

Kathy Bennett, former L.A.P.D. Officer and authentic crime/romantic suspense author, has me in the hot seat today over at her Interrogation Room.  I told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, but I think some of my answers might have gotten me in trouble…

Kathy Bennett's Blog Kathy Bennett's Interrogation Room - Laura Sheehan

You can’t leave any comments (what did you expect? It’s an interrogation room, not a guest blog!), so if you have anything to say in my defense, please do so here!