**For a chance to win either a copy of Private Property or Personal Protection, all you need to do is comment on this blog post and we'll enter you into our random drawing. The winner will be announced at the end of the day on Friday.**
How tumultuous has your writing journey been, or have you been one of those “lucky” writers?
I think I've been one of those "lucky" writers that are few and far between. But maybe that's because I waited so long to jump into the deep end of the pool. I have written fiction for years and years, I just didn't show it to anyone. I taught school - including grammar and business English, and wrote technical journals so I know "technically" my sentence structure is sound (Twittering and emailing has definitely changed my writing patterns.) I didn't show anyone my writing until 2004, and didn't try to submit anything to an editor until 2007. I pitched in a face-to-face pitch session to an editor at Dallas, and received a request. (She and the publisher later parted ways and my submission was lost.) I then submitted Private Property for a special project call at the same place and received my first rejection. But I really liked the story and the characters and thought they deserved another chance so I took another look at it, made a couple of changes - mainly strengthening the hero Mark's scenes. I submitted it to Samhain in April 2008 and a couple months later, Angela James offered me a contract, saying she hoped Sam had his own story. When Private Property was released in January, it hit #1 on My Bookstore and More's Best Seller's list for close to a week. I'd say that's pretty "lucky" wouldn't you say?
What’s the best part of being an author?
That I get to stumble out of bed, make a cup of tea and head to my office without having to worry about make up or dress shoes or pantyhose. I love that I get to indulge in making the worlds that I envision in my head come alive on paper for others to enjoy.
What is the most extreme sport you’ve ever done, or adventure you’ve ever taken, and what did you learn about yourself?
I've never been a particularly "adventuresome" person -I lived in a ski-country and saw too many of my friends come to school with broken bones to want to try downhill skiing. (they actually had the front section of the school bus reserved for people in casts as soon as there was snow on the hills.) I guess the most extreme sport I've ever done is karate. I was quite into it in my younger days - my husband had taken it for years and encouraged me to take it up too. I used to be able to do 200 sit ups without breaking a sweat, could stand with my back against the wall and lift my leg above my head until my foot touched the wall behind me. I liked knowing I was fit; I especially liked the idea that I could protect myself. I think it helped my focus and made me more confident.
I saw somewhere that you created your own book video for PERSONAL PROTECTION, your latest release from Samhain. Was that your first? Tell us about that experience. :)
Both my sons are trained in Photoshop and Final Cut Pro, so when I first suggested they do a video trailer for me, they said, "You can do it yourself." They gave me about 15 minutes of instruction before they wandered off and left me to it. I've tried various software programs - starting with Windows Moviemaker, moving to Roxio, then to a flash program that I used to create the trailer for Private Property.
Last Christmas, my husband bought me a used Mac from a graphic artist and she gave me all the software as part of the deal, so the trailer for Personal Protection was done with Final Cut Pro which is what the pros use to edit movies. THAT program has a huge learning curve. But honestly, I think you can turn out a pretty decent product with Windows Moviemaker. If you want to see the differences in the programs, I blogged about it HERE.
I always try to storyboard a video out and as part of trying to create the storyboard, I search out music and images that I can use that won't infringe on any copyrights. Once I heard that tango, I knew immediately what I wanted - the two sides playing off against each other and with Natalie Winters' cover of Sam in front of Rosie, it all fell in place. That's what I found with the video for Private Property as well - the music makes all the difference, it sets the mood and the pace for the whole piece.
Of course before I put them up on YouTube, my sons look at them and critique them with as tough an eye as any writers' critique partner. They see things I wouldn't notice or worry about, but when I make the change I have to admit, they're usually right. For instance, originally I'd had Sam swirling in doing a 360 turn so for a little while he was turned upside down, "on his head." But my youngest son said that drew attention to the fact that he really doesn't "have" a head. So I switched that movement out to the slide that is there now. And I have to admit, I think it does work better.
I don't know if there's any definitive proof that book trailers have actually resulted in the sale ofa book, but I figure anything that can get someone's attention is a good thing. As part of teaching, I learned that some people are more visually oriented so there are those who would be attracted to a video more than they might be to a blurb. Of course, finding just the right music or image can take a tremendous amount of time out of your day.You also have to be aware that that you don't infringe on any other artist's copyrights when choosing music and photos.I used to write as my way to de-stress after coming home from teaching all day and then looking after the boys. When writing became my "day job", I needed something else to do as a hobby. So I don't work on them until my wordcount is accomplished for the day and I need that break from writing and then I have a lot of fun with them.
Tell us about your books. Can you give us an excerpt for our readers?
Private Property started because I'd been reading a few menages and I wasn't happy with the way everyone was thrilled all the way through them, especially with alpha males being happy "sharing" their girlfriend.It seemed so out of character. I wanted to write something different, something darker. So I wrote that the hero, Mark, who has been in a no-strings-attached affair with the heroine, Jodi, proposes a menage with his college buddy Sam. But once they get into the game, once he sees Sam with Jodi, he realizes that he doesn't like it as much as he used to when they shared their girlfriends in college. Playing with those emotions--jealousy, anger, even shame--both at Sam and Jodi, and at himself, was a lot of fun. But it was also a fine line to walk because if I wrote it wrong it could make Jodi come out looking like a tramp. That's where Mark's alpha personality really came in handy because there was no way in heck he would want to admit in front of either of them that he was regretting his decision after he'd been the one to make the arrangements. And there's another emotion--pride--which can be a VERY powerful motivator to make us do things we know in the back of our heads we shouldn't be doing. So although she senses there's something a little off in his reactions, he keeps telling her everything's okay rather than admit the truth and she feels confident in her decision to continue.
When I first started writing Sam as Mark's foil, I had thought of him as being dark and dangerous - a Morpheus-like character from the Matrix. Especially the way I bring him in so Jodi can only see him in silhouette. But when I started writing his reactions, his dialogue, he came alive. He developed a sense of humor and suddenly had this southern drawl. In the early drafts, Sam had a much bigger role, there were a lot of scenes from his POV that had to get cut if I was to keep Mark and Jodi as the main characters. So after I'd submitted Private Property, I knew Sam had to have his own story, and luckily Angela agreed. When she sent me "The Email" accepting Private Property, she added a line saying she hoped Sam had his own story. I was about halfway through his story at the time, and two months later I submitted it to her. By December of 2008 I had my second contract for Personal Protection.
Where Private Property is a novella that takes place over one single night, and involves only three people, Sam's story takes place over several months and has more than a half dozen characters and is a full-length novel. Personal Protection takes place a couple months after Private Property, but you don't have to have read Private Property to follow his story. In both stories, Sam's a former FBI agent who now owns a very successful protection and security company and has been buying up smaller security companies along the eastern seaboard. In his story, Sam is back in DC at his company headquarters. Again, I didn't want to fall into the cliche of him protecting the little woman, so I turned things on their head and had "the little woman" protecting all 6'6" of big strong, reluctant-to-be-protected-by-anyone alpha male.
**This excerpt contains adult content and is intended for those who are at least 18 years of age.**
He leaned his shoulder against the doorframe, his forehead furrowing. “Then why are you packing like there’s a four alarm fire on the floor below?”
“I’ve decided to switch off with Kris or Andy. We’ll all be happier that way.” Well, she wouldn’t be. Goddamn, when would men realize that just because she was only 5’1 and didn’t have a penis didn’t mean she couldn’t provide proper protection or run an effective op?
“Happier? You wanna tell me why you think I’d be happier with them? What bee crawled up your— What’d I do to send you running like someone tied a bottle rocket to your tail?”
She whirled, her arms held rigidly at her side. “Oh, let’s see, you wanted someone else protecting you, not a little bitty woman who wasn’t a former Navy MP or D.C. City cop or CIA spook. And then when I asked you earlier if you had a problem with me being on your detail, you lied to me. Outright lied! I’ve put up with a lot of crap, Mr. Watson, but I don’t tolerate lies. You don’t want me guarding you, fine. But you should have said that when I asked.”
“I didn’t lie. I never said I didn’t want you protecting me because you were a woman.”
“But you told Chad you didn’t want me assigned to you, didn’t you?”
“Yes, that part’s true. But—”
“Ay bendito. I knew it.” She advanced on him. “Just because I’m short doesn’t mean I can’t take you down—just ask Kris or Andy. Just because I’m a woman doesn’t mean I’m not a damned good shot. I’ve been trained in counter-surveillance, and bomb disposal.”
“I know that, I—”
“Just because I’ve never worn a uniform or carried a badge doesn’t mean I can’t guard you. I’ve been on details guarding an Oscar winning actor while he was making that movie down in Savannah and got him to safety when the barricades failed to hold back hundreds of screaming fans.” Then the asshole had expected her to put out in the limo. “I’ve protected those three country music singers—did I mention how much I hate country music—and let’s not forget the gentleman from Saudi Arabia with his three wives and sixteen kids, or the dozens of women from the Safe and Sound program.”
“I know you’re good at your job. That wasn’t why I wanted someone else.”
“Ha! So you did want someone else. You admit it.”
“Yeah, I already admitted it. But—”
“But you don’t trust me to protect you.” She closed the cover on the suitcase and zipped it.
“I trust you. But—damn it! I wasn’t objecting to you because you’re a woman, Rosie. Well, yeah, it’s sort of because you’re a woman. Aw, hell, you’re reading this all wrong.”
“For all your bullshit about equal opportunities, it’s still just bullshit. You want to be a big macho he-man who guards the ‘little woman’ but God help you now it’s the other way around.”
“I’ll stay until Chad can get someone else over here to replace me, but then I’m out of here. And not just this assignment but D.C. I refuse to work for someone who doesn’t respect my abilities. I’ll expect you to approve my transfer first thing in the morning. Because if you don’t, then I’ll file a lawsuit for sexual discrimination.” She stopped talking, the words clogging her throat. Oh Lord. Fifteen minutes ago, she was feeling so proud and now she was about to walk away from the job she loved.
“Goddamn it, I don’t want you to leave Hauberk, Rosie. I didn’t want you guardin’ me because I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to keep my hands off you!”
Any parting words for our readers?
I hope you enjoy reading my stories, and I'd love to hear about your favorite scenes, what characters you like. Feel free to email me at Leah@leahbraemel.com . You can read more about Sam and Rosie, or Mark and Jodi on my WEBSITE where you can also sign up for my newsletter, or you can keep track of what's going on by reading my blog (http://leahbraemel.blogspot.com) There's usually a list of places I can be found on the side bar as well as a couple of free stories you can download.