Some Write It Hot

September 9, 2010

Meet Debbie Vaughan By Lillian Grant

Filed under: Who we are — dangerouslysexy @ 04:10
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Today I get the privilege of introducing you to the lovely Debbie Vaughan, writer of the most amazing urban fantasy. Until I met Debbie I had never read Urban Fantasy but I have read all three of her novels and now I am completely hooked. I can’t wait until she writes number four and gives it to me to critique.

So, I figured the best way to get to know her was to ask some questions and see what she reveals about herself.

LG What do you write?

DV I write Urban Fantasy which is a combination of mystery, romance and fantasy

LG How would you describe each of your characters?

DV The four main ones?
Connie is a young woman with a past. A child of abuse and neglect who has somehow managed to see passed it all and still find the good in others.
Tom, is perfection walking, only he walks at night. He is a vampire after all. A self-made man, he is wealthy, philanthropic and a great example to all little vampires everywhere who strive to make a “life” among humans. Of course everyone has secrets.
Raf, oh God! How do I keep this short? Raf looks like a young Tony Curtis, channeling Richard Simmons. He starts out sort of the comic relief but he is much more than that. He has his own past to overcome, from about 3 thousand years of it, but like Connie, he still believes in the good in everyone.
Last but not least is Willy, a paraplegic, standard, red dachshund. Many have asked how I know some much about paraplegic dachshunds. The answer is simple. Willy was real and passed January 6th of this year. He will live on forever in my heart and my books.

LG I love Willy.  Ok, so who is your writing inspiration?

DV Oh dear! I have a bunch of folks who could fall in that category. Laurell K. Hamilton because she is the grand high poobah of my genre. At about the time she was writing Guilty Pleasures I was sending my first manuscript to publishers. No one knew where to put it. It didn’t fit into any preconceived slot of the time. It had time travel, romance and mystery. Eventually I gave up. She never did. So because of her, now there is a place for me. The second would be Charlaine Harris. I read her Dead Until Dark and was so hooked I joined her board. For me that was a big deal. I’m not much of a joiner. She is very “hands on” with her followers. I had never met another author so giving of her time and encouragement. I met a lot of great people on her board. One led me here.

LG Do you think hanging with a bunch of erotic romance writers has changed your
writing style?

DV I’m not as shy! I have always had a lot of sex in my books. I like sex. I have
noticed a change between Midnight Sun, my first book and Haven my third. Whether
that’s a reflection on y’all or just advancement of my characters, I haven’t a
clue. What do you think?

LG I have to say each story gets hotter, not that I’m complaining. How long ago did you start writing?

DV I wrote several pieces when I was in highschool, eons ago. I had a great literature teacher who encouraged me to go for it. My senior theme was on witchcraft, complete with spells! Kudos Mr. Palmer. I wrote my first novel about 25 years ago, the one I never found a home for, Dare to Dream.

LG I know that you are as yet unpublished but only because you weren’t chasing it. When did you start taking writing more seriously and what or who inspired you to write with a view to publication?

DV I got serious about 2 years ago. The two writers I mentioned. Laurell had made a place for those like me and Charlaine, answered all my stupid questions and encouraged me to write, write, write so I did, did, did!

LG What is the silliest thing you have ever done?

DV I climbed aboard a horse standing in a pasture when I was six. How was I to know it wasn’t broke? He didn’t seem to mind…his owner was less enthusiastic.

LG I can only imagine. Thank goodness you survived! Do you plot your stories or go with the flow?

DV I am a pantser, meaning I fly by the seat of my pants! I usually have an idea when I start but it’s not always the one I end up with.

LG Do you have a muse? If you do, describe them.

DV Raf. From the moment his character walked onto the page he has been directing traffic. He is the best thing that ever happened to me.

LG What is the best thing about being a member of ERA?

DV You ask hard questions! I love this group. One thing? The support.

LG Where is your favourite place in all the world?

DV I’ve never been anywhere but I have always wanted to go to Ireland. It just seems like a magical place to me.

LG What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

DV I love to read, it takes me out of myself. I like to spend time with my animals. Nine dogs, two horses. I love to go junking.

LG Favourite food?

DV Dark chocolate

LG Favourite book?

DV Far too many. Goodness. Black Gold, l think I read that book about 30 times when I was in school. I can still quote the epilogue and it still makes me cry.

LG What is the best thing about writing?

DV The world belongs to me.

LG The worst thing about writing?

DV Trying to get published

LG I hear your pain. If you won the lottery what is the first thing you would do?

DV Pack up all my animals and move to a thatched cottage in some rural area of Ireland and write, write, write.

Find out more about Debbbie’s fantasies at Get Bit!

Query This by Debbie Vaughan

Filed under: Free read — dangerouslysexy @ 03:50
Tags: , , ,

Query This, Sucker: Memoirs of an Angry Author

Opening scene:

Oprah: “Today we are visiting via Skype, New York Times bestselling author, Keisha Melissa Denise Davis. Welcome Keisha. Goodness, that’s a mouthful.”

Keisha: “What can I say? My Dad taught at Berkley in the 60’s. I’m lucky, I could be named Moonbeam.”

Audience and Oprah chuckle.

Oprah: “So Keisha, how did you get your idea for Query This, Sucker?”

“Well Oprah, despite what some writers would have you believe, most get their ideas from everyday life, people around us, things we see, personal problems. Writers tend to work through a lot of personal issues on the page.”

“Care to mention anyone specifically?”

“No.”

“Okay. So, when did you first decide to pursue this idea?”

“I had just come from the post office. I mailed a batch of agent queries and submissions. I was feeling hopeful…until I arrived home and checked my mailbox. Fifteen envelopes, all the same.”

“The same?”

“Right down to the handwriting.”

Oprah’s eyes grow round. “A stalker?”

“Rejections. Nothing good ever comes in a self addressed stamped envelope.”

“Oh dear. What did you do?”

“Made my next mistake– I checked my in box on the computer. Nine e-rejections—e-jections?”
Tittering with laughter, Keisha adjusts powder blue scarf at throat. “So, I filed them all neatly in their appropriate files– I am a very organized person– poured a glass of red wine and pondered my next move. It was quite obvious after 56 rejections from agents and editors I needed to do something to get their attention. I mean really, my writing is excellent. I don’t mean to brag, but everyone who has ever read any part of my other series has said it was wonderful. Not that it was perfect in the beginning. Heavens no! That’s why I joined a critique group, took some courses, joined the guild, and became a member of author’s blogs, Twitter, My Space, and FaceBook, all to advance my knowledge of the craft.

Writing the first draft is easy; getting to print is the hard part. You have to search for overused words and sentence length variation. Clichés and redundancies all have to be corrected. There are many, many obstacles to overcome before your manuscript is worthy of publishing, be it e-pub or traditional press. I met the challenge head-on! I re-wrote my first novel three times before moving on to my second and then my third.”

Oprah: “I haven’t read any of your other novels. What press are they with?”

Keisha squints, re-adjusting her scarf. “What part of rejection didn’t you understand? They all want the same thing, differently!”

“How can the same thing be different? I’m afraid I don’t understand–”

“Of course you don’t! You’re not a writer! Agents—editors—they’re all the same! They expect you to condense your 300+ page missive down to a one page query letter and if you’re really lucky a 3-5 page synopsis, in which you must give every plot point, describe the setting and the characters while managing to maintain your voice. As if that were even possible.”

“So they all want you to submit a query and synopsis? How are they different?”

Keisha rolls her eyes, adjusts scarf, and looks over her shoulder to someone off camera. “They all want the same thing, the same information, submitted differently.” A heavy sigh of exasperation escapes her pursed lips. “You see,” she leans toward the Skype cam, “It’s a conspiracy to make sure only the strongest survive.” She nods her head knowingly. “The agents won’t represent you if you haven’t been published and to get published you must be agented. They have you over a barrel.” She mutters something that sounds like, or desk, frowns, and fiddles with her scarf.

“Some want the first five pages, some ten, some want the first chapter, others the first and last. Some want the first 50 pages or the first five chapters. Some want it printed in Times New Roman, others want Courier New, double spaced, one and half spaced, 10 point, twelve point, rtf or doc. file. Some want snail mail, others want it e-mailed. I used to love e-mail submissions because each full I mailed via the postal service ended up costing me around $50.00 by the time I paid for paper, ink and a proper container, and don’t even get me started on the postage!”

“Is it true you were on the custodial staff of your apartment building before your book hit the best sellers list?”

Keisha looks down her nose at the cam. “I was the building superintendent.”

“But you cleaned the apartments–”

“When people moved!”

“But didn’t you clean other apartments to supplement your income and so you could stay in the building rent free?”

Keisha unties and reties her scarf. Turning back to the Skype cam she smiles brightly. “I am so happy to be here to promote my book.” A frown creases her forehead. “Let’s stick to topic, shall we? As I was saying, e-submissions don’t cost anything, but they are just as tedious to put together. A single submission can take days to prepare. Then you wait, and wait, and wait. Sometimes you get nothing. After all your effort they can’t even send you a note? How rude! Mostly you get form rejections. Occasionally you get a few words about why they don’t want you–”

“Rejection must hurt.”

“You have no idea.”

“Tell me. Is that how the idea came to you?”

The camera freezes on author Keisha Melissa Denise Davis. “Cut for commercial.”

“And we’re back!”

Ms. Davis smiles brightly at the cam, adjusts the scarf which matches her eyes, tosses her red hair over her shoulder. “It occurred to me most writers must feel the way I do. They would like to get a little more respect from the literary community. After all, without us, what would you read? So…”

CHAPTER ONE

My fourth attempt with the Dearborn Agency would end the same as the first three, on the acquisition editor’s desk. Nothing seemed to get past Ms. Ferriday. I had yet to figure out what genre she preferred, obviously, not mine. To make matters worse, I knew for a fact Diane Dearborn loved urban fantasy. She posted on Twitter about it all the time, always seeking the next Stephanie Meyer or Laurell K. Hamilton. Me, me, I wanted to shout! She would love my story—if the dragon lady ever put it on her desk. Hmmm…

The newspaper photo was graphic, a large metro bus with Carry Bradshaw- Sex in the City plastered across the side and two legs sticking out from under the left front wheels. Slightly reminiscent of the witch under the house in the Wizard of Oz, only no ruby slippers and one leg appeared to be backward. Such a shame.

Two days later, I received an e-mail from Ms. Diane Dearborn requesting my full. After I hit SEND, I replaced the bottle of sleeping aid in the medicine cabinet and the chocolates in the pantry. Humming, “I’ll Pray for You,” I cleaned apartment 454.

The next week I received a rejection from an e-pub who had kept my manuscript for six months. My critique group had all agreed I was in; Shameless Press rejections were always swift. I was devastated. Not only had they kept me hopeful for half a year, I hadn’t been allowed to submit my manuscript anywhere else during the time! A form letter? A fucking form letter! No reason. No rewrite and resubmit. No nothing, not even my name. Dear Author? What more did they want? I had a pretty heroine, hot sexy vampires, and a dog, everything they asked for.

The perk to living in New York City is the close proximity to publishing houses.

In bicycle shorts and bright yellow reflective vest, I strolled to the elevator pushing my bike and hit the button to take me to the 14th floor. It was really the thirteenth, but builders thought that was bad luck. Like skipping the number made it go away?

The secretary didn’t like it, but she buzzed me in, although she made me leave the bike in the lobby.

The package was marked personal/as requested. Senior Editor, Angelia Santana’s signature was required. When I entered the office she stuck a finger into the air, motioning me to wait. I noted the paper cut, a hazard of the trade no doubt, and grinned. I tapped my watch. She frowned. I leaned over the desk to peer at what she perused on the laptop. Twitter. I should have known. She slapped the lid closed, scowled, signed for the parcel and used the letter opener to cut the tape.

“It’s only blank paper,” she said as she stared at me then fed the top few sheets into the shredder.

I shrugged. “They pay me to deliver lady, not to inspect. Have a nice day.”

I stopped the bike at a news stand to pick up a paper. Ms. Ferriday’s demise had made the front page along with an article about the dangers of sleep aids. The paper securely tucked into my backpack, I rounded the corner to the sound of siren wails. First a police car, then ambulance followed by fire and rescue. They all plowed through the traffic to stop in front of a building two blocks down. The building I had just left. Knocking the kickstand up, humming, I peddled leisurely through the throng of motionless vehicles blocked by the rescue team.

Two weeks passed with no word from Ms. Dearborn, but I knew from those in my critique group lucky enough to be published, it often took upwards of three months for a full manuscript to be reviewed. So, I packed my bag to head for the Romance Writers conference in Jersey. Jane Malcovitch would be speaking along with my favorite agent/blog host, Ethan Bumsford. I checked my cell battery and loaded my laptop, not wanting to miss any potential correspondence from the Dearborn Agency.

Picking up a paper at the bus terminal, I skimmed through to the Police Beat. Ms. Santana’s death was being ruled accidental by the coroner. Hmmm. The article stated blowfish toxin had been found in her bloodstream, although none had been found in her stomach contents. A small cut, possibly from a boning knife had been found on her right index finger and ruled the entry point of the toxin. A warning that only the very skilled should attempt to prepare the delicacy at home, finished the piece.

An article on the business page stated her assistant editor would be holding the reins of the organization while the board decided on a replacement. I made a note to send a query and sample chapter to Ms. Sarah Suggs when I got back. I wasn’t wasting my life waiting around on editors to make a decision. They could bid for the rights to my work. The notion firmly fixed the smile on my face.

I bought wintergreen mints at the concession to ward off motion sickness, popped two in my mouth and boarded the bus.

CHAPTER TWO

I had always wanted to attend a writer’s convention, but somehow lack of time and wherewithal kept me from them. This one was too good to pass up; close to home with both a favorite author– a fellow red-head– and agent speaking. I had to clean a few extra apartments on the side to afford the bus fare, accommodations, and the necessary clothing, but I shoved my pride aside. All true artists had to suffer for their craft. Luckily for me, thrift shops were everywhere in my corner of the city. I wouldn’t look like a poor little desperate waif, regardless of how accurate the description might be.

The ride was tedious. I was certain the fat man in the seat across from me was masturbating under his newspaper. While I had been forced to leave my Tazer at home, pepper spray remained in my handbag should the pervert prove difficult. When at last we arrived, the fat man filled the aisle, turning a lascivious grin on me as I bent to collect my carry-on. I glared at him, watching his eyes go wide and spittle collect on his chin. Good, at least he realized I was a woman to be reckoned with. I disembarked without a backward glance and hailed a taxi to take me to the hotel.

Checked in and bags deposited in my room, I made my way back to the packed lobby. Jane Malcovich was a big draw in Jersey. I surveyed the throng. Well! I was sure to be the best dressed of those assembled. Her latest book tucked under my arm, I strode purposefully to the autograph line. After an hour of being jostled, prodded, and stared at, I found myself face to face with the author. We gave each other the once over.

“Nice suit. Chanel?” She asked.

“Thank you, yes.” I eyed her outfit of blue jeans and blue cashmere sweater. “Lovely sweater, the color really sets off your eyes.”

“How would you like it?” She asked tapping my book flap with the tip of her pen.

“Here, I’ve written it out for you.” I handed her the index card, folded my hands and waited.

She glanced at the card, then at me. “Seriously?”

“Why yes. Is there a problem?”

Her eyes grew round. “No, no problem. What do you write?”

I smiled. “Urban fantasy. May I ask a question?”

The lady behind me harrumphed. I glared over my shoulder and she took a step back.

“Sure.” Jane said as she wrote the inscription on the author’s page.

“Why does Susan insist on going back to Jack when she can have Roger?”

Closing the book, she looked up from the page, chewing her lower lip. “Err, well, they have history and well, Roger is an unknown commodity.”

“That may be, but he would never interfere with her career, while Jack wants her barefoot and pregnant. You might want to consider Susan’s best interest while penning your next.” I walked away with my prize in my hand, looking forward to her speech in the morning. A quick check of my watch confirmed I had time to freshen up, and perhaps– change — before Ethan’s part of the program.

Ethan Bumsford, my reason for being here. I subscribed to his blog, followed him on Twitter and Facebook. He was one of a very few agents who would answer writer’s questions, no matter how stupid, with honesty and humor. Unfortunately, my genre was not his favorite, so I had never bothered to query him; still, I looked forward to meeting him and expressing my appreciation.

I stopped at one of the booths to pick up some literature, sign up for a drawing to have my manuscript reviewed by an editor. Now it had come down to drawing names? What happened to talent and perseverance? I shrugged as I tried to urge the papers into my tote, turned and bumped into a man, my pamphlets and bookmarks scattering across the floor. A scathing remark froze on my lips as our eyes met.

“Nice suit.”

I batted my eyes. “Thank you.”

He handed me a sheaf of crumpled papers. “Sorry. I don’t normally run over pretty ladies. How about I buy you a drink to make up for it?”

“That would be lovely.”

“Allow me?” Ethan took my bag, ramming the papers inside. I cringed.

“Please be careful. My manuscript is in there.”

“What do you write,” he asked as we strolled to the elevator, the eyes of the other writers pinned on us.

“Urban fantasy.”

“Oh.”

I turned to gaze into his gray eyes. “I am aware that is not a genre you favor.” I struggled to keep the chill from my voice. “I brought something new with me. I’m branching out. I’ve drafted a murder mystery.”

“Now that is right up my alley.” The elevator doors opened and he followed me inside. “How ‘bout I ride up with you and take a look while you– change?”

I gaped. He was volunteering to read my manuscript? “Certainly, um, err, well, if you’re sure?”

We exited the elevator on the sixth floor and walked along the hall to room 612. Pulling the keycard from my bag I slid it into the slot, the light turned green, we entered and he pushed the door to.

“I won’t be a minute.”

“Take your time. I don’t have to be anywhere for a couple of hours. But then, I guess you know that?” He raised an eyebrow and grinned. “You have me at a disadvantage. Who might you be?”

“Oh my goodness! I’m sorry. I must have left my manners in New York. I’m Keisha. Keisha Melissa Denise Davis.” I stuck out my hand, which he clasped, using it to pull me to him. “Goodness!”

Had I missed something? He was at least ten years my junior but the bulge in his jeans indicated he didn’t find the age difference a problem. He pushed me back against the door as his mouth plundered mine and my brain whirled. I had tried everything else. Was this how I wanted to find fame? I pushed him back, gently but firmly.

“Ethan, you have a seminar in a couple of hours. Why not take a look at my manuscript while I change and we can get that drink?”

“I could order up?”

I smiled. “I think maybe the bar would be a better idea.”

He sulked then rallied. “Sure, if you let me take you to dinner after my session.”

“That would be lovely.” I hastened toward the bathroom to change as he tugged the slightly wrinkled folder from the tote.

“No title?”

“Not yet.” I closed the door and leaned into it. I finally had an agent interested. In what, I wasn’t exactly sure…The sound of laughter rang out. I smiled.

CHAPTER THREE

I had reams of notes on my laptop. Most, I already knew from his blog, but in case I missed anything, I took it all down. He was an excellent speaker, completely relaxed in front of the crowd. It had taken me years to overcome my small-town-girl shyness after my big move to New York City, but public speaking seemed to come naturally to him. Still attired in blue jeans and cadet blue sweater, he reminded me of Shaggy from the Scooby Doo cartoons. His straight, brown hair fell over his ears; a scruff of a goatee covered his chin. Although lanky, still all in all, he was not unattractive.

Was I considering this? Really? Maybe things wouldn’t come to that. He had laughed out loud as he read my story, managing to get through three chapters while I changed. Even now, the curled manuscript stuck in his hip pocket as if he couldn’t bear to part with it. I tried not to think about the creases. If he wasn’t interested, my creation was no longer in any condition to offer anyone else. I caught his eye and smiled.

He made his way through the audience, stopping now and again to answer a question or give an opinion, until he finally reached my side. “Did I mention how good you look in jeans?”

I peered over my shoulder as I zipped the computer case, feeling his hand slide over my butt. I straightened and noticed several spectators. I felt my smile form and knew it didn’t reach my eyes. In any other circumstance I wouldn’t have hesitated to slap him silly. “Ready for dinner?”

“I’m ready for dessert,” he whispered too loudly. I took a deep breath as he escorted me into the lobby and across to the restaurant.

We both made short work of ordering. He ordered a double Scotch and I ordered a club salad with iced tea. He’d already had two at the bar before his session. Perhaps that was why he was so unselfconscious on stage?

“I like your novel.”

“Really?” My fork remained poised at my lips, forgotten.

“Yeah, it’s hilarious. It takes a knack to write a funny murder. If the rest is as good, you might have a best seller on your hands.”

My fork clattered to my plate. I reached across the table, picked up his newly refilled glass and downed the Scotch in one gulp.

“I’m impressed!”

Frankly, so was I. I hated Scotch. The burn rendered me temporarily speechless. I watched him stand and took the hand he offered, mutely. When his arm came around my waist I leaned into him, feeling the eyes of the world watched as we retreated to the elevator. The words, best seller flittered around my brain like so many hummingbirds.
*****
Eyes closed, I rode. Pushing harder and harder as my steed groaned under me, knees clamped to his side, the rhythm, natural and easy. I did this well, although I hadn’t much opportunity since my move to the Big Apple. All my time was spent writing, editing, critiquing and working to make ends meet. Feeling his muscles bunch, I knew the leap would soon follow. Muscles tight, he shuddered and bucked and I– was left at the fence. Dismounting, I searched for my underwear.

No foreplay, or effort, on his part. No orgasm, for me at any rate. I had done all the work and what had it gotten me? More frustration. This was not how I wanted to become a published author. He had used my shock to his advantage. He told me what I wanted to hear, in order to get what he wanted. Well, now he had. Where did that leave me? A soft snore interrupted my self-recrimination. Panties found, I scuttled to the bathroom. I showered in the hottest water bearable, scrubbing furiously, as if by cleaning my body I could purge the taint on my soul.

Once dressed, I eased back into the bedroom. I couldn’t flee, the room was mine. Ethan snored blissfully in my bed. I picked up my crumpled manuscript, flicked on the desk light and opened the cover. He had made notes in the margins. I read, and read, and read until I came to where he had stopped. Nodding to myself, I retraced my steps to the bathroom and my toiletries case, where I recovered a small cobalt blue vial and a handful of cotton balls. I opened the lid carefully and inserted the fountain pen I had taken from the desk. Holding it over the sink until the fluid no longer dripped, I laid the pen aside, recapped the vial and returned it to the case.

Pen and cotton balls in hand, I returned to the bedroom and crawled up Ethan’s prone form. His eyes opened and he grinned.

“Back for seconds?”

“I never got firsts.”

The pen rammed in his ear. I sat on his chest until he stopped twitching. Pulling the pen free and I quickly stuffed four cotton balls in his ear to block blood flow, then climbed off. I walked to the door and hung the do not disturb sign on the exterior door handle. Returning, I rolled Ethan in the sheet, then off onto the floor, before shoving him under the bed.

After straightening the remaining covers, I removed my clothes and crawled in. It had been an exhausting day and Jane’s speech was early in the morning after breakfast. My bus back to the City departed at noon.
*****

I looked over my notes on the laptop, new information to help me on my quest to publication. I had also discovered Roger fans like me outnumbered Jack fans. I was inordinately pleased by that. Perhaps Jane’s next novel would reflect our preference.

At the New York terminal I used the restroom, flushing the Curare in the vial and the shattered remains of the ink pen wrapped in toilet tissue into the sewers before hailing a cab for the return trip to my apartment, not daring to take my luggage on the subway.

Home at last, I buzzed the elevator and as I waited for the antique to return to the main floor my mind constructed the new chapter to my murder mystery. The doors opened. I waited for the two men to exit, but they didn’t. With a shrug, I stepped in. The doors closed.

“Ms. Davis, you have the right to remain silent…” The cuff ties zipped closed.
I breathed a heavy sigh, knowing I would have to revise my ending.

EPILOGUE

I sat in the garden, smiling and looking over my notes. My plan had worked; agents sent offers daily in hopes of representing me. Editors sent contracts promising exorbitant amounts of money for the right to my memoirs, and now, an interview with Oprah herself. A voice called from inside. I stood and headed slowly toward the doorway breathing a sigh of relief when I saw the blue scarf flagged at me.

“Thank God! Orange isn’t in my color palette. This shade clashes with my hair and makes my skin look so sallow.”

“Miss Winfrey sent it special as per your request. Seems like everyone is anxious to be accommodating, you being so famous and all.” Her deep southern drawl reminded me of my youth. She eased me into a chair in front of the Skype Cam, then, bent to snap my ankle shackles into the steel rings embedded in the concrete floor.

“5-4-3-2-1…”

THE END…OR IS IT?

Follow Debbie Vaughan’s further adventures in publishing at Get Bit!

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