I recently made the acquaintance of the energetic, sassy author, R.A. Winter. She writes in several genres, including fantasy, magical realism, dark fantasy, , time travel romance, contemporary Native American romance, and paranormal Native American western. And it seems she never rests when it comes to writing. Please help me to welcome R.A. Winter to Writing to be Read.
Kaye: Hello and welcome. Would you start by sharing the story of your own publishing journey?
R.A.: I started out writing genealogy nonfiction books under my married name. I love research and old libraries! I also love reading romances. With so many ideas flirting around my head, I thought I’d give creative writing a go.
Kaye: Is there anything unique or unusual about your writing process?
R.A.: I write the raunchiest first draft, the humor is way over the top. Then I cut it down, and my crit circle cuts it down further. My editor slices more. They say that a bit of humor goes a long way.
Kaye: You have sites on both WordPress and Wix. Can you give us the advantages and disadvantages of each? Which site do you prefer? Why?
R.A.: Wix is easier to deal with, super simple to navigate and change. WordPress is a bit of a pickle to deal with, and every time I change something, I mess up the page. I do prefer WordPress because I can easily share review and pages on a whim. Wix doesn’t give you that option.
Kaye: You’re on the review team at The Naked Reviewers, where authors can submit a book and request an honest review. Would you like to tell us a little about that site and what the review process is?
R.A.: We have a group of published author on Scribophile.com who formed the group. Right now, I think there is twelve of us. When someone submits a book, we all read the first chapter, the ‘look inside’ feature on Amazon. Then we rate the writing, the blurb, and the cover. If two of us agree, we review the book. Each Wednesday, two of us leave our review as a feature, if anyone else read it, they leave their thoughts in the ‘comment’ section. It does mean that most books that we review get a 4.0 or higher rating, usually. We wanted to show off the best books.
R.A.: I ordered products from Amazon.com. A coffee grinder, a milk frother, and a small coffee taper, they just happened to be from the same company in China. Now, I review every product I receive, but when I went to upload my reviews, Amazon wouldn’t allow it. After contacting them, they said that I had a ‘relationship’ with the company in China and that I’d violated their terms. Apparently, I ordered too many things from them. I just don’t understand. They ask you to review, you review… then they’re like… you review too much! They banned me for LIFE for writing any reviews.
My point to them was- IF I was screwing reviews, wouldn’t my books have like 300 hundred reviews instead of each of them having less then 10? I mean seriously. THAT’S what would have benefited me!
Kaye: What is one thing that your readers would never guess about you?
R.A.: I have five children… all boys. I’ve lived in 5 different countries too. I don’t know which one was harder to live through. And all my boys look like my husband.
Kaye: What are your secrets for juggling writing with family?
R.A.: My kids are older, so they don’t need me. I like to write at night, when the house is quiet and no one interrupts. My earbuds are essential, and a song list that corresponds to my writing mood.
Kaye: You have some really great covers, some of which you’ve shared here. What do you do for cover art? DIY, or hired out, or cookie cutter prefab? Do you have a great cover designer you’d like to recommend?
R.A.: Some are creations of Kayci Morgan, from KreativeCovers.com. A few I did myself, which you can probably tell. Kayci is wonderful to work with and very reasonable. I am learning Photoshop and I’m doing my own teasers. I’m getting better but I just don’t have the finesse to do covers well.
Kaye: You have a paranormal romance fantasy novella, Twisted, which I’m excited to be reviewing here on Writing to be Read. (So watch for that review on Friday.) What can you tell us about that story?
R.A.: Twisted is a novella, and one of the hardest things I’ve
It’s a Freaky-Friday, body switching piece… full of adult humor. A witch’s land is cursed. Males are no longer born to the vampires, nor are females born to the wolves. To end the curse, the witch must solve a riddle, and she has to have the cooperation of the vampires and the werewolves.
Kaye: What is the strangest inspiration for a story you’ve ever had?
R.A.: My Spirit Key series was a way to keep my cat alive in my memories. He’d just past away, and Dingle had the oddest personality for a cat. He always reminded me of an old man, you know the one. The spunky old guy in the nursing home who’s constantly bugging the pretty nurses and running behind them with his walker, never able to catch them. Occasionally, he’d pinch their behinds, but act like he didn’t do it. I taught Dingle how to wink, but usually he had this grumpy look on his face. He used to love to jump out and scare me, then give me that ugh, you’re-stupid-to-fall-for-that-again look. He’s now a ten-thousand year old spirit who has a bit of trickster in him.
Kaye: Your Spirit Key series are westerns with a bit of a different twist to them. Would you like to tell us about them?
R.A.: Contemporary Native American’s in a western setting with magical realism is the gist of the Spirit Key Series. In book 1, we follow young Sara, as the ghosts of ancestors haunt her days and try to keep her away from young RedHorse. There’s a new spirit in town, a nefarious one who has his own agenda. The Old One wants the land for the dead and he’ll do anything to have it, including taking away what Sara loves most.
Kaye: There are two books in The Spirit Key series: Painted Girl and Redhorse. What type of research did you do for these books?
R.A.: The first two book are contemporary, set in modern day Kansas on a farm. Books 3 and 4 (which are almost finished) go back to 1950, and we delve into Grandfather’s life, and that of the ten-thousand year old spirit who watches over them. My research centered on the old Indian Schools, and the horrors that the children underwent. It’s all to stop the spirits from invading this world, and to give grandfather his happy ending. The Native American research is from my family.
Kaye: You also write contemporary romance with a Native American twist. What about Little Sparrow, A Kiowa in Love or Red Dress, Two Wives?
R.A.: Those were my early books. I’ve taken the ebooks down, and now I’m writing those into the Spirit Key Series. Everyone is related, so it made sense to do that. I kept the hard copies up because a few people really liked them the way they were. My writing evolved, and I thought those two would be great as part of the Spirit Key Series with some rework.
Kaye: What is the attraction for adding a Native American element to your writing?
R.A.: Two fold. My grandmother was ‘found’. It was assumed that she was Native American. This was in the 1880’s, a time when the tribes had to travel west and were forced onto reservations. Our family farm was near one of the routes and my grandfather brought home a baby girl one day, saying that he’d found her. My cousins are Sioux. I barely remember the eldest two girls but I do remember their beauty. One day, when I was only six years old, they disappeared. Just up and gone. Our family went nuts, as you can imagine. It wasn’t until twelve years later that we learned that they had been taken west to different orphanages and divided up. (This was the early ’70’s when the government still took NA children on a whim.) Anyway, my stories revolve around finding your identity when you don’t know who you are, when you have no memories of your family. My Native American family is rooted by my life stories. You know that you’re different, but you feel the same as everyone else. You just have to find your own special, because it’s there, you don’t have to go looking for it. It just may be hiding in plain sight.
Kaye: I’m also very interested in your time travel romances, As Long As I Have You and Always With You. What can you share with us about them?
R.A.: These were part of an anthology, and part of a series inside the anthology. The rules are simple, Cupid owns a bar, and his mate has a special tattoo that glows when soul mates are touched. In book 1, Ann Paolo comes to the bar with her dog. Unbeknownst to her, the dog, Han, is the spirit of a long dead Native American, who has been cursed to follow Ann through time, always to love her, and be loved, but never to be with her. Cupid sends them back in time, so Han can erase his curse. In book 2, Ann’s back, because so many lifetimes couldn’t be rewritten. This time, Cupid calls on the fates to bring Han to life in this day and time. The fates have a bit of trouble writing him into time-line, so they turn to Netflix for ideas. Han is now, Dan Winchesty, from the TV show Super-Unnatural Killers and Revealers Suckers for short. You know, Dan Winchesty- the one with the perky nipples? It’s a spoof on Supernatural, and I think it’s hilarious, but that’s just my opinion.
Kaye: What is your favorite genre to write in so far? Why?
R.A.: I love magical realism and fantasy. Creating my own world, and rules, takes a lot of thought and design. You just can’t pop something on paper, it has to make sense, have rules, have life, and you have to bring a reader into your world and make them happy.
Kaye: How much non-writing work, (marketing & promotion, illustrations & book covers, etc…), do you do yourself for your books?
R.A.: I do all my own marketing, which isn’t much. Word of mouth is my best friend, because lets face it, my works are different. I just had a review from a guy, who said that someone at work bullied him into reading it and he loved it, even with the romance in the book. I think that was a compliment.
Kaye: If one of your books was made into a film, which book would you want it to be? And who would you like to play the lead?
R.A.: Hmm, I’d love the Spirit Key to be a series on Netflix, but for a movie, I’d chose Twisted. Sam Witwer and Meaghan Rath. They had great chemistry in Being Human. Now, however, Meaghan would be a vampire, and Sam would be a wolf.
Kaye: What’s next? What does the future look like for R.A, Winter?
R.A.: Oh, I have at least six books in various stages of completion. Twisted will be turned
into a series, readers have asked for that. I’m also writing a series about Death Takers
coming alive and finding love. It’s a dark romance series that takes the reader on a
journey to Tartarus and the bowels of hell. Book 1 is finished, book 2 is halfway. Once
book 2 is ready I’ll publish.
Kaye: If writing suddenly made you rich and famous, what would you do?
R.A.: I’ve done a lot of things on my bucket list. I’ve traveled the world, lived in five different countries and enjoyed most of my life. If I had a lot of money, I’d pay off my family’s student loans. Right now, it’s around 200k, and I’m serious. It would be life changing for them to pay off their debts. BTW, I have one family member, with 100k debt who graduated from Pitt with a bachelor’s in psychology. Anyone have any job prospects for him? E-mail me.
I want to thank R.A. Winter for joining us today and putting up with my interrogation. Seriously though, she was really a good sport about answering all of my questions with open, honest answers. You can find out more about her and her writing on her website, her Spirit Keys site, or her Amazon Author Page.
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I’m not a huge romance fan, although I do read them, and I write romantic elements into most of my fiction. But, every once in a while, I happen onto a really good romance, which grasps me in it’s plot line and doesn’t let go. You know what I’m talking about – the kind of well-crafted story that is so enthralling you seriously don’t want to put it down until you’ve turned the very last page, that you stay up reading even though you have to be at work early in the morning. “Leave a Mark”, by Stephanie Fournet is just that kind of story – a contemporary romance with compelling characters and all the great troupes that mark the genre, with a few sex scenes which are tastefully done.
Wren is a twenty-something tattoo artist, who carries around some inner demons, resulting from her being molested at an early age and growing up with an addict for a mother. Lee is a gynecologist who doesn’t want to let go of his inner child, and has never stood up to his father. Not exactly two people you’d expect to find together, but once they find each other, their love is powerful. How can two broken people such as these, overcome all the obstacles and make their relationship work? The answers may surprise you or not, but you’ll have fun along the journey.
Leave a Mark is a really enjoyable contemporary romance that will grab your heart. I give it five quills.
Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs at no charge. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.
I’m happy today to be interviewing Amy Cecil, author of the Knights of Silence MC romance series, as a part of her blog tour surrounding the release of Book 2 in the series, Ice on Fire. (See my four quill review of Ice on Fire.) Amy is married, and she and her husband have three dogs and a horse. She is also the self-published author of four novels. She writes both historical and contemporary romance.
Kaye: Your new release, Ice on Fire, is the second book in your Knights of Silence MC Would you like to tell us about the contemporary romance series, and how Ice on Fire fits into it?
Amy: The Knights of Silence MC series is my pride and joy. It is my first attempt to write my own characters, develop them and subsequently fall in love with them. And, it’s in a genre that is totally different than what I started in. It has been a challenge for me and the result is a product that is all my own. That makes me a very proud writer. The series right now is going to consist of four books, but who knows, that may change. Ice, the first in the series was published in September. I am currently working on book 3 in the series, Celtic Dragon, and I am hoping on a spring 2018 release.
Kaye: You wrote your first novel in thirty days and went on to be a two time NaNoWriMo winner, in 2015 and 2016, where contestants are challenged to write a novel in a month’s time. What is the secret to writing a novel length work in thirty days?
Amy: NaNoWriMo requires 50,000 words in 30 days to win. That’s seems pretty tough to do, but if you break it down, it’s not so bad. I divide the 50,000 by 30 and come up with my daily goal. It’s 1,666 words a day. Doesn’t sound so overwhelming when you break it down. And then the hard part is to adhere to that goal. Some days I will write more, other days I will write less, but by the 15th of the month, you can bet I will make sure there is 25,000 words written and that I am on track. And then periodically throughout the month, I make sure I am still on track. NaNoWriMo does this for you and it is really helpful.
Kaye: Today many independent or small press authors are using what are called street teams to spread the word about their books. Could you explain what your street team does and how you go about building a street team?
Amy: When I first started writing, I never knew what a street team was, until my PA’s Alicia Freeman and Michelle Cates told me I needed one. These girls are amazing and built my team to over 400 members in just a few months. This is where I can talk with my fans and actually let them share in the writing process. They have not only shared my books and teasers, they have contributed in many ways to my books. They are a great group to bounce ideas off of and they are always there to support me when I am doing an author takeover event. I’d be lost without them.
Kaye: What are some of the differences between writing historical romance and contemporary romance?
Amy: From a writer’s perspective, the biggest difference is how they talk. Historical romance is more formal, more polite. Things are very proper and liberties are not common. Contemporary is more relaxed and casual. They are less formal in the way they speak and you can use contractions. That’s a big no no in historical writing. Also, you can take liberties with your characters that you would normally have to be careful within a historical romance. Because I write Jane Austen Fan Fiction, I have to be conscious of keeping my characters the way Jane Austen created them.
Kaye: What do you see as the pros and cons of independent, or self-publishing?
Amy: When I first started writing, I went the traditional route. I sent my manuscript to several publishers and of course, was turned down by all of them. Discouraged, but not ready to give up, I learned that I could self-publish. Since then, I have self-published four novels. I’m not sure what I would do now if a publisher wanted to publish one of my books. I really like the freedom I have to write what I want and when I want. I have no deadlines. The hardest part of self-publishing and requires the most amount of work is PR. Getting your name out there is difficult if you don’t have a publishing house or an agent behind you. But I have found two great PA’s, Alicia Freeman and Michelle Cates. They not only help me promote my works on social media, they all put together an amazing street team for me.
Kaye: Where does the title come in the writing process for you? How do you decide the titles for your books?
Amy: My titles usually come first. I don’t have any special formula to specific way I do. Some just come to me, some have been suggested by friends and the latest one, Ice on Fire came from my husband.
Kaye: What’s the most fun part of writing a novel? What’s the least fun part?
Amy: I would have to say that my favorite part of writing a novel is coming up with the initial story line. Creating the characters and just watching it all play out. My least favorite part is the editing. I know, it has to be done. But it is always a struggle for me. Luckily, I have an amazing editor Carl Augsburger of Creative Digital Studios who makes this process a little less agonizing for me.
Kaye: What’s your favorite way to get exercise?
Amy: I walk my dogs – I have three of them.
Kaye: Besides writing, what are your favorite things to do?
Amy: My husband is in the Air Force, so I spend a lot of time at home alone. I work full-time for a home improvement company. Also, I have three rescue dogs and a horse that keep me busy. I enjoy other creative hobbies as well like painting and basket weaving.
Kaye: Where do you get your cover art?
Amy: Ellie Augsburger of Creative Digital Studios designs my covers. We use stock photos and get most of them from Adobe Stock. I’m not sure what other resources she uses.
Kaye: What’s your favorite social media site for promotion? Why?
Amy: I guess I would have to say Facebook. I use it the most because I am most familiar with it. I really want to expand my social media reach, but I guess that will come with time.
Kaye: What’s the best piece of advice you were ever given?
Amy: “Write your own.” These were the exact words from my best friend who encouraged me to write my own story. I’m so glad I took her advice.
Kaye: What time of day do you prefer to do your writing?
Amy: I really don’t have a specific time of day to write. Usually it seems to be when the ideas hit me. I don’t write everyday, but that doesn’t mean I am not working on my books. I spend a lot of time doing research.
I want to thank Amy for joining us here, on Writing to be Read, and sharing some interesting facts about herself and her writing. You can find each of Amy Cecil’s books here:
Learn more about Amy’s Amazing Street Girls:
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