New Release for Writers: AUTHOR IN PROGRESS


“Nourishment for the writer’s soul and motivation for the writer’s heart.” –James Scott Bell, best-selling author and writing instructor on AUTHOR IN PROGRESS

From the team at Writers Digest:

“AUTHOR IN PROGRESS, a book for novelists in progress at every level, releases today! Published by Writer’s Digest and written by the group at WRITER UNBOXED, it features brilliant, new essays on how not only to push through your current challenges but to thrive throughout the process of writing a book. Are you just starting your novel, struggling with how to begin or what to focus on? Are you struggling with how to finish your first book, or even your third? AUTHOR IN PROGRESS features essays at every level of story creation, and is broken into 7 sections to help you to:

3. INVITE (critique)

Over 50 writers contributed to AUTHOR IN PROGRESS, including bestselling authors and industry professionals:

Porter Anderson
Julianna Baggott
Brunonia Barry
James Scott Bell
Tom Bentley
Sharon Bially
Dan Blank
Anne Greenwood Brown
Kim Bullock
Sarah Callender
David Corbett
Kathryn Craft
Lisa Cron
Keith Cronin
Margaret Dilloway
Jo Eberhardt
Anna Elliott
Bill Ferris
Jane Friedman
Tracy Hahn-Burkett
Gwen Hernandez
Kristan Hoffman
Steven James
Dave King
Jeanne Kisacky
Robin LaFevers
Allie Larkin
Erika Liodice
Donald Maass
Sophie Masson
Greer Macallister
Juliet Marillier
Julia Munroe Martin
Sarah McCoy
Kathleen McCleary
Jael McHenry
Catherine McKenzie
Liz Michalski
Annie Neugebauer
Jan O’Hara
Barbara O’Neal
Ray Rhamey
Erika Robuck
M.J. Rose
Vaughn Roycroft
Lancelot Schaubert
Susan Spann
Victoria Strauss
John Vorhaus
Therese Walsh
Heather Webb
Cathy Yardley

“AUTHOR IN PROGRESS is going on my keeper shelf. Because no matter what question I’m struggling with today, I know I will find the answer in its pages.” – Alex Kourvo

“There are tons of awesome writing books out there about everything from creating suspenseful plots to using humor, but few of them cover every single part of your writing journey. And none of them do it quite like AUTHOR IN PROGRESS…Less than $20, unlimited answers.” – Emily Nielson”

Learn more about AUTHOR IN PROGRESS on Amazon:…/…/ref=writunbo-20

Remember Why You Started



Writers: Are you looking for inspiration?

I’m “live” at Writer Unboxed today in a humbling post.

Remember Why You Started


The Ugly. Keeping it real. (BAD reviews.)

Thumbs down smiley by SunKing2 - Thumbs down smiley.  Good for rating stuff.

I’ve just returned from a multi-city book tour. There were happy meetings and reunions, great Q&A sessions, bookstores converted to speakeasies, and at the last stop, a basket of champagne and strawberries from my publisher. I enjoy posting photos from readings and cities I visit to support those who support me–the towns, the bookstores, the reviewers, and the people–but I always hesitate before hitting “upload” because there are quite a few writers out there still trying to find an agent, facing rejection, and unable to get a publisher. This is the exact arrested state of publishing misery in which I resided for nearly a decade, and while I was happy for others and their success, on bad days, seeing it felt like lemon juice in a paper cut.

So, to counterbalance all of the “happy-happy”, and to illustrate that publishing is not all speakeasies and chocolate covered strawberries, I’m going to post excerpts from some of the negative reviews I’ve gotten along the way. These statements are what I think of every single day when I sit down to write. They reinforce the demon in my head that tells me I’m not worthy. They haunt me with every revision, every book proposal, and every public or private sharing of my work.

Hemingway said that if you believe the good reviews, you have to believe the bad. He also ripped off his shirt at a fancy dinner and punched a critic who called his overt masculinity a mask, hiding his true nature. I don’t advocate punching critics, but I won’t say that I haven’t fantasized about it.

In a sick way, I do think it is just as important to have negative feedback as it is to have the wonderful reviews that so many of you have given. I treasure the positive, and they are the sweet balm I need after what you’re about to see, but we need to be reminded that published art is for the public and doesn’t totally belong to us once we send it into the world.

After reading this, I don’t want any of you to comment with, “No, no, you’re work is lovely!” If you have the cajones to share some of your own bad reviews, do it. If you have a favorite bad review of mine, mention it. If you’d like to silently read and shake your head, go for it. Just remember at whatever stage of the publishing process you reside, it is always, always hard. Every day you have a handful of good and a handful of bad. It is an emotional roller coaster at every stretch, so make sure you fasten your big-girl pants for the ride.

Without further ado…

Hemingway’s Girl:

  • “[E]ven the dramatic arrival to the Florida Keys of a horrific fact-based 1935 hurricane can’t save Erika Robuck’s clichéd plot and soggy prose. Time to let poor Papa rest in peace.”
  • “In “Hemingway’s Girl”, the story is predictable and not very entertaining; even Hemingway ‘s character fails. It’s a quick read and asks little of its readers. Hemingway would hate it.”
  • “[I]t was nauseatingly lovey and cheesy at times, and not compelling to read.”
  • “Grooooooaaaan. Chick lit dressed up as historical fiction.” (**This is my favorite. I want it made into a sign to hang in my office.)

Call Me Zelda:

  • “It was for me a mistake to read Erika Robuck’s CALL ME ZELDA after having read [THE OTHER ZELDA NOVEL].”
  • “This is not a serious treatment of mental illness or of the tragedy of Zelda Fitzgerald. It’s cozy wish-fulfillment, the ultimate expression of Robuck’s desire to fix her subject.”
  • “[T]his book was just Dull, capital-D dull. Maybe two capitals: DDull.”
  • “CALL ME ZELDA is the sort of novel that is enjoyed by ladies who want a somewhat romantic story to pass the time while enjoying a good cup of coffee.”

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need a good cup of coffee…with something strong in it.


The Little Writer That Could

I’m slowly emerging from the writing cave. My eyes are adjusting to the light. I’m sweeping the cobwebs off the blog and making sure everything’s in working order. I’ll be ready to put the wheels back in motion this week with a book review for one of my favorite fall books, but for now, I just want you to know that I’ve missed you and can’t wait to reconnect.

Here’s the deal: I had an aggressive deadline for my edits for HEMINGWAY’S GIRL because in October, my foreign rights agent is going to Frankfurt where, hopefully, she’ll get some foreign publishers interested in the book. The agent needs the complete, approved manuscript by October 1st, so I had to get my edits back to my editor at NAL/Penguin ASAP to give her enough time to read.

Now, if I have to make more changes, which is entirely possible and maybe even probable, we’ll miss the deadline. If my editor can’t get through the million other projects she has before October, that’s the way it goes. All I could do was rely heavily on family and babysitters, neglect my house, and not sleep to get the work done–which I did–but now it’s out of my hands, and I am at peace with that.

I’ll keep you posted every step of the way, as promised, but for now I look forward to a return to semi-normalcy, blogging, reading other people’s books, and diving back into my new manuscript starring Zelda Fitzgerald.

For which the first three chapters and a full synopsis are due on Nov. 1st.


*Photo courtesy of traeton at

New York in June

Every now and then the stars align, and I was the happy recipient of that alignment last week. I was in NY City for about 36 hours and was able to have four meetings, take some research photos for my new WIP, and see MIDNIGHT IN PARIS.

Here I am at the Penguin offices.

My agent, Kevan Lyon, is on the west coast while I’m on the east coast, so we had not yet had the opportunity to meet in person. Since Kevan was in NY for the Romance Writers of America Conference we planned a meeting with each other. My editor at NAL, Ellen Edwards, was also able to meet with us, and we enjoyed a lovely dinner and conversation. I was also so pleased to get to meet my publicist at Penguin. We all seem to share a vision for the book and I feel very fortunate to have such a fantastic team.

With Ellen Edwards of NAL/Penguin

It also happened that the Women’s Fiction writers of RWA (which includes many members of Writer Unboxed) had a speaker and cocktail reception that night. I was able to meet so many fantastic writers who I’ve “known” from Twitter and blogs for so long, and I can’t thank Therese Walsh enough for including me.

With Marilyn Brant, Therese Walsh, and Kristina McMorris

With Jael McHenry

The next morning I had some time so I went to Woody Allen’s new movie, MIDNIGHT IN PARIS. Many friends have recommended this movie to me because of “cameos” by Ernest Hemingway and Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, and it did not disappoint. It was so charming, in fact, that I’m taking my husband to see it next week. After the movie, I took a picture of one of the fountains in which Zelda Fitzgerald took a dip, and the church where Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald were married.

Plaza Hotel Fountain

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

I was able to have lunch with my friend, Lindsay Ribar, who just got a three book deal with Penguin for her young adult fantasy series about genies. (I know—doesn’t that sound awesome?) We share a love of writing and an obsession with the band Carbon Leaf, who originally brought us together.

Finally, the NAL/Berkley Cocktail Party at Sardi’s finished up my trip. I was able to meet my publisher and just about the entire NAL/Penguin team, in addition to scores of fantastic authors, agents, publicists, and reviewers. It was truly overwhelming in the best possible way.

I was deeply grateful for the opportunity I had to make the trip. To my family for holding down the fort, to my publishing friends for fitting me into their busy schedules, and to the weather for being very cooperative, I am grateful.

Great Novel! When Can I Read the Next One?

A question from blog commenter, Natalia Sylvester, inspired me to write this post about how I got a two book deal.  I’ll share my story in hopes that any writers reading this do something very important:

Keep Writing

Before I get to the specifics, I’ll take you back to some wise words from Donald Maass at his Breakout Novel Intensive Conference I attended in September. He said that the most common complaint of his authors was that they wish they had the time they’d had before publication to write stories. Many publishers expect a book each year once they sign you, and this can be quite a challenge.

When I finished HEMINGWAY’S GIRL and sent the book on submission to agents and eventually, to publishers, I was tempted to lean back, relax, and play more Jewelquest. After all, I’d just completed two and a half years of devotion to the book. I felt as if I deserved a break.

But something happened; I didn’t want a break. An obsession with a new historical figure had been brewing. While my agent submitted my novel to publishing house editors, I fed my new obsession and felt a story growing around it.

Then, an editor from Penguin wanted to speak to me on the phone. She loved HEMINGWAY’S GIRL and had many questions for me about the story and about my background. We had a great chat about the novel, but she was also very interested in what I was currently writing. My level of interest for my new subject was such that I was able to speak clearly on the new novel. It showed the editor that I was a serious writer interested in a career. I believe that question was the deal maker.

Writers, I know that saving the final revision on a novel is a moment of extreme triumph. Crafting a novel is an emotional journey–ask the spouse and family of anyone involved. When you complete a novel you do deserve to breathe for a bit, recharge your battery, and reset your mind for a new journey. If you need a significant amount of time, however, I’d recommend holding off on the query process until you are ready to jump into a new novel. There are several reasons for this:

First, it will give you something to focus on so you don’t obsess over agent/editor responses to your work. Nothing stifles creativity like a self-addressed stamped envelope carrying a form letter rejection. If you invest all of your energy and emotions into one project it places too much importance on it.

Second, when you do get an editor interested in your work, you will have an answer for, “What are you working on now?” I now know, firsthand, how important it is to have an answer to this question.

There is one final reason you should be working on your next novel: your readers. I self-published my first novel, RECEIVE ME FALLING, and was blessed to have had wonderful reader responses. The most common, however, sometimes made me feel wrung out. It was this:

“When can I read your next one?”

Don’t get me wrong, this is music to a writer’s ears. On the wrong kind of day, however, it actually sounds like this:

“When can you mine history for obscure facts, make dozens of time lines, uncover universal themes important enough to share, while packaging them neatly within three hundred pages splattered with your deepest fears, longings, and judgments for my consumption?”  

Let me reemphasize, the former are words every writer longs to hear and provide the best possible compliment, but if you don’t have something ready to say in response, a dissatisfying experience in communication results for all involved.

Writers, if you are able, keep working on the next project. Life gives us both welcome and unwelcome breaks from writing that are beyond our control. If you’ve finished a story, recharged, and have the time and energy, start your next project. Your editor, the world, and your SELF will thank you for it.

*Photo courtesy of PszczolaM at

After the Deal #1: The Contract

This is my first post in my “After the Deal” series, designed to help inform writers and curious readers about the traditional publishing process. Today, I’ll talk about the deal memo and the contract.

Once all of the hoopla, champagne drinking *hiccup*, and general madness settles after the offer, the business of writing begins.  My agent and I received a deal memo from my publisher that outlined the basic terms of the contract that we’d agreed upon. Some of the information covered included: advance numbers for books one and two, a payout schedule for the advances, a listing of territory & other subsidiary rights, and royalty percentages.


Advances are typically paid in three installments we’ll call thirds (though they don’t always divide up equally into thirds.) The first third is paid upon signing the physical contract. The second third is paid upon delivery and acceptance of edits. The final third is paid on the publication date.

Most people outside of publishing (and let’s face it, most writers) think a huge advance is a good thing; and it is, but with it comes a lot of pressure. If you don’t earn out a huge advance, things can get a little dicey. That’s why it’s so important to have a great agent who can help you strike a balance between a good, fair advance sum and one that sets you up for success.

I am very blessed to have a two book deal, and the benefit of that is that the two timelines run concurrently. While I’m working on edits for HEMINGWAY’S GIRL, I’ll also need to work on planning and drafting the second book. The first draft of my second book will most likely be due before the publication date of HEMINGWAY’S GIRL. I’ll also be able to work with my editor at the publisher throughout the process on idea development, synopsis and scene reads, and troubleshooting for my second book.

My publisher had a scheduling meeting last week and has marked September of 2012 as the release date for HEMINGWAY’S GIRL. Now that we have that date, we are able to set the target dates for edits and drafts of both books.

It will take four to six weeks for the contracts department to complete the contract, and my editor plans on getting me the revision report for HEMINGWAY’S GIRL by this summer. In the meantime, I’m working furiously on completing research for my second book so I may begin drafting it.


One of the most exciting things about publishing is the breadth of possibilities for reaching readers. My publisher has World English, ebook, and audio rights to my books specified in the deal. My agent was able to retain foreign rights and film/performance rights. My agent works at a boutique agency, so she has a subagent who will work to sell my books in foreign markets. It’s nice to have a balance of division of rights so both the publisher and author are satisfied.


Doesn’t that word have a nice ring to it? It’s the target for all authors, because if you’re earning royalties you’ve earned out your advance money and made your publisher very happy. This makes for a healthy long term relationship in publishing.

Writers, if you have anything you’d like to add, please include it in the comments. If you have any questions, please feel free to comment or email me directly.