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!