PART II! I Get Goddess Literary and Shy Killer With Romance Writer Marne Ann Kirk

Friday, no angels, but we have a Marne.  Marne Ann Kirk is back for part two of the interview!  We’ll start, in media res, ’cause we go Greek sometimes.

AARON: So in the beginning, getting all biblical, in the beginning, you wanted to write, heavy, grand, ivory-tower literary fiction. What changed? How did you come to love, honor and obey the power of romances?

Marne: I did want to write literary. You’re right. I wanted my writing to make a difference in a Poe, Hawthorne, Whitman, or Joyce Carol Oates kind of way. I wanted to force my readers to wallow in the agonies of their insignificance, and then be reborn, enlightened… (wink)

And it’s happening now… just not quite how I’d envisioned it. While I wanted to be the “literary author,” and went to college with that plan in mind, I grew up sneaking romances (which I read like an addict). They were a fantastic escape from a not very happy childhood. The best thing about them? The happily-ever-after. I always knew these people would be happy, and that gave me hope. So, I needed to decide what to write. I decided I’d much rather give people hope and happiness, a happy-ever-after, than plumb the darkness of my soul to scare the holy hell out of my readers and make them search for meaning in a meaningless life.

AARON: I have new project for you, Marne. I’m thinking you should write this book: The Shy Person’s Guide to Writers Conferences. Can you give us a brief overview of what that book might look like?

Marne: The book would focus on two things: Persistence and Volunteerism. I was so shy when I first began going to conferences, I literally ran from the workshop to my room for the ten minute breaks, just to avoid talking to people. I was…we’ll say 29, and I brought my step-mom for support. I have gone from that person to searching out new attendees to make them feel welcome, and I volunteer for any position I can help with, just to get to know people. Why? Because I recognized right away, being an author is about the whole package. You can have an amazing book, and it will never sell if you can’t talk about it, if you can’t put yourself out there and get to know people, network. So, I decided to go to the next conference and the next, and I began volunteering right away. For anything I thought I might be able to do. At first, that was stuffing bags, so I didn’t have to meet too many people. Now, I’m the Vice-President of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, the Secretary of RWA’s Future, Fantasy, & Paranormal Chapter, the conference co-registrar of the Crested Butte Writers Conference, and I do as much as I can to help with the Colorado Gold Writers’ Conference. My point? It’s so difficult to put yourself out there when you’re painfully shy, but you MUST in today’s market, if you want to become a published author.

AARON: As VP of RMFW, can you have people killed? I know you get that question a lot, but I’m curious to hear your answer. Seriously, what are the benefits of holding such a high office? The drawbacks?

Marne: I can totally have people killed, and it has people very, very afraid. Mwa-hahahaha…Okay, maybe not. But you’re scared, just a little, right? The benies of being V.P. of RMFW…there are so many, and I’m not even joking. I’m totally serious. For instance, whenever I meet writers without a “home,” I get to talk up RMFW and invite them to join, and I always start with introducing myself as the V.P. It just seems to give me more courage in talking to strangers. Weird, I know, but that’s one perk. Another amazing beni is I get to influence where RMFW goes and what we do as an organization. That’s a huge bit of fun. The drawbacks? How could there be a drawback to helping RMFW be even better than the amazing organization it is?

AARON: You’ve been with the same critique partners for years and years. What are the pluses and minuses of having the same people read your stuff year after year?

Marne: I belong to a critique group of seven, right now. The core group, four of us, have been together for eight years and the other three members are all relatively new. The new people help with giving new perspectives, which is great; but the core group is fantastic about never getting “old.” Even though we’re friends, that’s left at the door, so to speak, when the critique begins.

AARON: Okay, Marne, I want your best brilliant-marketing-campaigner-carnival-barker-used-car-salesman pitch for your paranormal romance novel due out this autumn, Goddess on the Run. Hit us with your best shot! Hook us like a carp looking for Velveeta.

Marne: How about this?

All Fomorian Hells are about to break loose on earth, making human souls the daily special, if the Tuatha de Danaan can’t stop it.
Teagan, a Celtic demi-goddess hiding from her destiny in small-town Colorado, wants nothing to do with her mother’s forgotten realm or the drama of a battle of the gods. And Merric is forbidden fruit she’s too smart to taste.
Merric, leader of the Tuatha de Danaan warriors, has other plans. Teagan holds the key to salvation, for both him and their worlds, whether she wants to or not. He’ll do whatever it takes to convince her of her duty.
But can he find the key to her heart?

AARON: Last question, let’s bring it all home. You live in Delta, Colorado, metropolis of the Western Slope. Which of your characters, from either novel, would be best suited to living in smalltown Colorado? Which ones would be the worst?

Marne: Delta County has a whopping 31,322 people, roughly in 1,150 square miles. This translates to 27 people per square mile, a 24-hour Wal-Mart, and one McDonald’s open until midnight within city limits. It’s a great place to raise kids with amazing imaginations. Teagan, the heroine of GODDESS ON THE RUN, would thrive in this town. She loves small towns, loves the people, loves the energy. Issie, the heroine of LOVE CHOSEN, is used to the bustle of her inn, the fast-paced, port-city life. She’d likely go stir crazy in a slow town like Delta.

Aaron: Thanks, Marne!

Marne: Aaron, this was so much fun! Thank you! It was a blast! My husband said I gave you cauliflower ear, talking. I hope that isn’t the case… And if it is, put an onion on it. It’ll take care of any ear ache 😉


Check out Marne’s website
Marne on Amazon
Marne’s blog, Cowboys and Dragons at the Cafe
Marne On twitter



No cauliflower ears here.  Thanks for the two part interview!  Come and meet Marne and me at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Gold Conference in September.  It’s the hoot of all hoots.  Later!

I Get Zodiacal and Go Rogue with Paranormal Romance Author T.L. McCallan

Tamara. The “T” in the T.L. stands for Tamara, like marinara sauce. You know when I first met Tamara? Of course, I started out embarrassing myself. (He did [TL]) I was at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers conference, I was at a table, and in walks this smokin’ hot blonde (Aw, shucks) who sits down in this cool dress. (It was.) Before I know it, I say, “That dress has a fabulous neckline.” Well, it did. And it wasn’t about the cleavage. (There was no cleavage…it was a halter neckline that went up to my ears, for crying out loud…MEN!) Okay, maybe a little, but not for long because Tamara is a force of nature. (Only when I’m drinking or writing) She could be one of my daughters. (Wha?!) And if you know my daughters, that is saying something. (Okay) She went rogue and published a book last summer and she is rockin’ the house right. (I totally am.)

A little about the book here. Tamara, insert a short blurb about the book here. Just your normal, short synopsis.

The Eighth House is a steamy, action-packed, paranormal romance which revolves around several of the twelve houses (signs) of the Zodiac. Specifically, The Eighth House focuses on the sign of Scorpio. And in the world of astrology, the Scorpions, both male and female, rule the baby makers, which means, if they’re attracted to someone, they want to get them horizontal…and in a bad way.
Anyway, Nash Graffias is a womanizer. But it’s not his fault—he’s a Scorpio, and an Elemental, (not to mention, a man). Wherever he goes, he projects a current of erotically charged thoughts…thoughts that lure and trap any woman within a ten-foot radius. In self-imposed exile for betraying his fellow Scorpions, he is addicted to the energy of a water Elemental he cannot have.
The day he meets Rousseau, a hot Leon Elemental, things get steamy. She’s strong, she’s fearless, and she’s a redhead. (And who doesn’t love a hot, fearless, redhead?) From the moment he meets her, he senses the fire within her, but can he resist the call of his addiction to another? Furthermore, exiled Elementals are hunting…hunting for souls. Can he protect her? Can he protect her soul? But more importantly, can he find the strength to let go of his?
Each novel in the Elemental Series is loosely based on one of the twelve signs of the zodiac and the four elements with which each is associated. (fire, water, earth and air).

So Tamara and I talked for nearly an hour. (Because you wouldn’t stop talking.) My time, it is so very precious, but I gave it up to bask in the glory that is Tamara McCallan. (Oh, Lord.) This is what we talked about.

Aaron: Okay, The Eighth House is not the first book you wrote. The Twelfth House is the first book, which is actually going to be the second in the series. Is this sounding like a math problem? If The Eighth House was being read by an attorney in Chicago, traveling by train to Detroit…enough of that. (I’m sorry…what? You lost me at attorney.) Why did you go out with The Eighth House and not the Twelfth?

Tamara: Well, if I’m being honest, I thought my “starter novel” (The Twelfth House) sucked bad enough to strip the heat tiles off the Space Shuttle so I shelved it indefinitely. And I don’t think I’m in the minority with respect to writing a practice novel. Sometimes, you just have to write a 90,000 word work-o’-crap in order to prime the literary pump. You know, in the hopes that when the words finally do run clear, you actually have something people don’t want to nail-gun to the base of a tree, and then blow up with a cherry bomb or two.

What? You don’t do that with books you dislike?

So, The Twelfth House, after MUCH revision is being released at the end of May. But I may, just for the hell of it, nail-gun it to a tree and blow it up because explosives are just cool. Of course, that means I’ll have to buy a new laptop.

Aaron: You found Beta Readers from your audience. How did that work? Did you troll the local methadone clinics?

Tamara: No, but I did skulk around the local elementary school and may or may not have been seen casing a Catholic church or two. And in my defense, that arrest outside of that naval base in San Diego was a complete misunderstanding. (I should be cleared of all charges.)

Kidding. I’ve never been arrested.

But, yes, two of my beta readers were (are) fans of my work. One is a 3rd grade school teacher in Nebraska and the other, a Senior Chief in the Navy currently stationed in San Diego. They emailed me after they read The Eighth House and expressed how much they enjoyed the story. On a whim, I asked them if they’d noticed any issues with it. They were kind enough, at my request, to send me their thoughts. And that’s one of the benefits of e-publishing, because within 24 hours, I’d fixed the issues and had a cleaner, happier novel for my customers’ reading enjoyment.

Oh, and if any of you are considering this beta-reader option, in order to avoid enlisting psychopaths, shell out that $12.95 for a complete criminal history check. Totally worth it.

Aaron: How has the fan email flowing into your account helped you? Hindered you?

Tamara: Define, “flowing.”

Most of my contacts with fans are via that little known social media site called Facebook. I have a lot of Facebook friend fans who have almost instant access to me. Not that I’m really on Facebook all the time.

Why are you laughing?


Anyway, their interest helps me market the novel because they ask questions about it and I love when they want to know more, like: What’s up with Calypso and Athan? What’s their story? And will Night have his own novel? This makes me giddy and it affords me the opportunity to let them know that The Twelfth House will be released at the end of May. It also allows me to tell them a little about it like: it’s more fantastical, a little longer, and damn if it doesn’t have some REALLY hot sex in it…hotter, even, than The Eighth House.

So the contact I have with fans via Facebook and email is actually a big help. Word of mouth, as you already know, is one of the best forms of advertising. And just to give you an idea how great it is, I ran a free promo at the beginning of March. In just 4 days, I gave away almost 1,300 novels. Most were here in the States, but 134 of them landed in Great Britain, 4 in Denmark, and 1 somewhere in south-central Europe. I utilized my Facebook and email contacts to fan the flames and after a day or so of stalking my friends, family, and fans, and asking for their help in spreading the word, the promo took on a life of its own and became a huge success, ultimately reaching Amazon Best Seller rank #420 free in the Kindle store. (Up from #269,712)

Aaron: You thought, originally, your book would be for women. Chicks. XX’s. Can I say chick? (Yes) XX chromosomes is prolly okay, only I can’t add another X. No way. (Why?) Then it would be XXX. (Sweet!) But when we talked, you said you were surprised that dudes have been picking up your book. Has that changed how you are writing other books in the series?

Tamara: That’s true. I did think my main readership would be women between the ages of 30 and 50. It is, after all, a romance, and a paranormal romance at that. I mean, hell, why would a dude be interested in reading a girly novel?

Why? Because it appears that it is not a girly novel.

I discovered this when I ran the free promo on Amazon. It seems that dudes love free things. (shocker) And when they read the novel, I began receiving emails. Most said they went into the novel assuming it was a chick read because it had been recommended by a female and was touted as a romance. But much to their surprise, they came out the back side of it wanting to kick some ass, get laid, and buy firearms. (Not always in that order, but I got the picture.)

So yeah, men love the novel. Trust me. I am just as shocked about that as you are. But when it comes to dudes, I love dudes. And the dudes in my life know how much I love them. Since I can remember, I have associated better with XY’s than XX’s so it seemed inevitable that I’d write strong male characters that XY’s could easily relate to. It also helps that I’ve spent most of my adult working life in male-dominated professions. I was a law enforcement officer for just under a decade as well as a field risk manager in the powerline and utility construction industry for several years. Consequently, those experiences and subsequent relationships defined my writing style…a style that males seem to like.

As for whether I’ll change the way I’m writing the remaining books in the series, I don’t intend to. In fact, because of the outpouring of male interest, it’s sort of solidified and validated my approach for the remainder of the novels in The Elemental Series, half of which will read from primarily a male POV.

Aaron: You did a cover swap in April. One cover for XX’s. One for XY’s. How did that work? Were you the cover model? Can I be the next cover model?

Tamara: Again, the beauty of e-publishing. I changed the cover from a hot, half-naked guy, to a hot, half-naked chick in order to placate the “masses”. Meaning, all the men who wrote me asking: What does Rousseau look like? Even though I described her rather vividly in Chapter 2, we all know that men are highly visual. They like pictures. And that is how April’s cover swap promo was born.

And no, I was not the cover model. I bought the rights to a female model’s photo and while I can’t order her around or make her clean my house, she is mine to use at literary will for 250,000 copies. After that, I need to renegotiate my contract with her. When I do, she is totally cleaning my house and weeding my garden. But for now, she’s packed away and once again, the cover sports the half-naked hot guy.

As for the sales? They really didn’t change much, and I have no idea if males or females were behind the purchases that did occur. I will say that most of the sales came from Nebraska. (Wha?!)

And yes, Mr. Ritchey, you can be my next cover model, but you’ll have to let down your hair in order to cover your nipples. My work is a XX ½, after all.

Aaron: What is your zodiac sign, and if you could swap, what zodiac sign would you swap out for? For example, I’m a freakin’ Libra. Yeah, a scale, always caught up in the drama and indecision. (True) I’d swap out for Sagittarius and I’d have washboard abs and I’d totally be this athlete, ladies man, afraid of nothing. That was my brother. Dang Sagittariuses. Sagittariusi?

Tamara: Ha! You men! Always wantin’ to know a gal’s sign. Well, if you must know, I am a Pisces. (February 20 – March 20) We are the dreamers of the zodiac. We’re sensitive, imaginative, compassionate and supposedly ultra-popular. I haven’t noticed the popular part yet, though. Maybe that happens later in life. Like just before we die and people are suddenly swarming our hospital room. Maybe that’s when.

But hey, don’t let that all that sparkly stuff about us fool ya. We have our downsides, too. It’s seems we’re also gullible, temperamental, and prone to escapism through self-medication. It’s true. And it explains why I will never have a full wine rack.

And If I could swap zodiac signs, I’d totally be a Leo. Why? Because they have great hair, and they’re bad-asses. Plus, they’re a fire sign and it would be so cool to be a hottie all the time.

Aaron: You are one of the new breed of warrior writers, e-publishing and working it. What three tips would you have for anyone who wants to pioneer out on their own and sell it like it’s Amway?

Tamara: Tip #1 – Don’t compare anything you hope to sell to Amway.

Tip #2 – If you expect to write a book, throw it up on Amazon and become an overnight best seller, you’re hittin’ the pipe. Whether e-published or traditionally published, becoming even the slightest bit successful is a lot of work. Marketing and networking become your top priority and frankly, it is time consuming and at times, exhausting, but it is a necessary part of this business of being an author.

Tip #3 – Hold your head high when people say, “Oh, you’re not a “real” published author because you’re “only” e-published.” (I love when people give me an opening like this.) Because to that, you can say, “I’m sorry? I don’t believe I understand what you mean. I just received a royalty check that says otherwise. Not sure where you’re getting your information. Perhaps you should check your facts.”

And then have them call me. I’d be happy to set them straight.

Look, if you wrote a book and people are paying you real money for it, you are a published author. Period.

Aaron: Last question, and this is about a topic I love dearly. Fear. Terror. Despair. At your very first writer’s conference, where we met, you almost walked out. What made you stay? Are you glad you did?

Tamara: For clarity, I didn’t almost walk out after I met you. (Though, sometimes I wonder…) On Day One, I almost didn’t make it to the registration table at all because I truly believed I was out of my league. I mean, there I was, surrounded by gobs of people who’d actually finished their novels, had agents, and were offering their literary wares for sale…for real money! Not to mention, I have an irrational phobia about walking into places where I don’t know anyone, especially if I have to walk through large crowds where people may or may not be staring at me. (They aren’t.) To circumvent this ridiculous fear, I was supposed to be accompanied by an author friend of mine. At the last minute, she called and said she couldn’t make it. The tipping point? I had dipped into my retirement fund to pay for the conference and I just couldn’t stomach seeing that money go to waste. So, I picked up my nametag, my XXXL swag bag, (Remember how HUGE they were?) and proceeded to find someone to latch on to and then unintentionally stalk for the next two days. (Fellow author, Betsy Dornbusch).

Am I glad I stayed? Well, this year will be my fourth RMFW conference, so yeah, I am glad I stayed. Each year, I attend with the hope that after two and a half days, I will leave with a tolerable hangover, new friends, and more great tools to help me become a better writer. But it’s interesting, because every year I almost don’t make it to the registration table. So this year, as I walk through the lobby and force my feet to move in the general direction of the volunteers sitting between me and that coveted name tag, you might hear me whispering to myself. What am I saying?

Suck it up, pick up your swag, become a stalker. Suck it up, pick up your swag, become a stalker. Suck it up, pick up your…

Hey, don’t judge. It’s my method. Where’s Betsy?

Aaron: Thank you, Tamara, you warrior–woman you! And yes, where is Betsy? Inquiring minds and all that. Thanks again!


Tamara on Facebook
On twitter
T.L. McCallan’s website
Tamara’s Amazon author page
Buy The Eighth House on Amazon

My Completely UNAUTHORIZED Interview With Mark Coker, Founder of Smashwords

I feel like I’m in St. Louis, Missouri in the 1850s, and I have my nice, little St. Louis life, plain, drab, work-a-day, but then, stories come in with wild tales of The West, gold mines, Indians, gunfighters, and more talk of gold mines. Go west! Be a pioneer! A better life awaits!

We are living in The Wild West of the publishing industry, and for those brave enough, fortunes can be had, but also, dreams can be lost. Those people who are going rogue, indie publishing, doing it all themselves, well, they are like the pioneers. And there’s me, even though I have a small press, well, I’m in St. Louis, wondering what I should do.

I talked with Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, yes, let’s ponder that for a minute. I met the founder of one of the largest venues for independent publishing on the web, and of course, he’s a Bay Area guy who lived through the gold rush of the .coms in the 1990s and his story is pretty common. He and his wife wrote a book. They couldn’t get a literary agent or big press to take them on. So they asked themselves, should they tuck their manuscript under the bed and start another one? Or should they go west with a dream?

Mark Coker went west and hit gold. Yee-haw! Eureka! He didn’t just go rogue with his writing, he set up a way for millions of others to follow him. He set up his own Oregon Trail.

I asked him if he was afraid when he went on his own. His answer was interesting. He said of course he was afraid, and he figured he’d fail, but he had a vision, and he wanted to follow that vision to see where it would lead him.

Loved that he assumed he’d fail. I’m just like that. I tell people all the time I’ll never make it, and they blanch, and wonder why I’m even trying.

Because like with Mark Coker, I have a vision. I am compelled. Everyone who has ever sat down to write a novel had to follow a vision they had for themselves and for their work. I think it’s a miracle that any book gets written ever. I think it’s even more of a miracle when a book gets published.

But Mark Coker is changing that. He is taking the miracle out of getting books published. And why not?

At the Pikes Peak Writers Conference there was a little drama between Donald Maass and Mark Coker, and God bless them for that. Gives us writers something to talk about other than sex. And as we all know, all conversations lead back to sex. Or Donald Maass.

Donald Maass, whom I admire, says that the New York publishing industry acts as a filter so only the best books reach an audience. I can see the logic there. But Mark Coker also is saying that, only his filter is far more democratic. On Smashwords, every book has a chance, from the horrific to the sublime, and the market will decide what works and what doesn’t. Shouldn’t every writer who has spent years working on a book have a chance for success?

In the Wild West world we live in, that is a reality. We’ll see what happens, but I’m still in my little St. Louis office, pondering. Could I make it to California? Is there a gold mine waiting out there for me?