Wednesday, May 23, 2012

REV UP WEDNESDAY - A weekly booster shot for inspiration... CATCHING UP WITH ELYSA HENDRICKS

Hello world!

My guest today is a veteran author who's both traditionally published and self-published - the wonderful Elysa Hendricks. Elysa is a gal with a sense of humor and a bit of irreverence. I vote that she has one of the best attitudes ever! She's been through her share of rejections but she's the type of person who prefers to focus on the positives in life. Why, her powder room is the ultimate proof of this!!! SEE PICTURE BELOW. I guarantee belly laughs, and the irresistible urge to pull your hats off to this lady. 

Here's her story...

How long have you been writing?

A long, long, long time, since before I knew how to make letters on paper I was telling stories to my stuffed animals and pets. I created complicated scenarios and worlds. Then in high school I took a creative writing class and started putting things down on paper. I still have a few of those stories and I've used elements from them in some of my current books. In college I took some journalism classes, but quickly decided that type of writing wasn't for me. I prefer fiction.  I didn't consider writing a book until I was in my mid-somethings.

When did you decide that you wanted to write for a living (that "aha" moment)?

I don't know that I decided I wanted to write for a living. I don't know too many authors that actually make their "living" by writing. But once I started writing down the stories that kept popping into my head I knew I'd never stop.

What did your family say when you told them you wanted to be a writer?

My husband has always been supportive. For the first few years when I was learning the craft of writing, attending workshops, classes and conventions and leaving him home with the kids - a lot, he might have gotten a little cranky. But when I sold my first book he couldn't have been prouder. My mom is my biggest fan and even my dad has read one of my books.

What is your preferred genre both for reading and writing?

I'll read just about anything: classic literature, westerns, mystery, thrillers, horror, science fiction, fantasy. Of course romance is my favorite, but picking a sub-genre of romance is harder. If I had to pick just one I'd go with science fiction. I love reading about people in different worlds and times.

Did you start by writing full time or did you have a day job?

I didn't start writing until I was in those mid-somethings I mentioned. At that time I was a stay-at-home mom, so other than a few part time jobs I took to help make ends meet and motherhood I didn't have a full time day job. 

Did you take any writing courses or did you just sit and write a book?

First I just sat down and wrote a book. That first book took me three months to write and I made every mistake a newbie author can make. Then I joined Romance Writers of America, a critique group and started taking writing classes and workshops and spent the next three years learning how to write. Though I love the characters and story in my first book it will never be published. It sits under my bed guarded by killer dust bunnies.

Did/do you have a crit group or mentor to guide you?

I was part of an awesome critique group for over ten years. Sadly, that group has scattered, but the members are still some of my closest friends. I never had an official mentor, but I was fortunate enough to have some kickass teachers and role models. Cathy Linz, Lindsey Longford, Susan Elizabeth Phillips are a few of the authors I met early on in my writing career. Their comments and suggestions were invaluable.

Do you use a/several pseudonym(s) and if so, why did you choose to have one/them?

I decided early on to use my own name for all my writing. Didn't want to get confused about who I was. If I was starting out today I might do things differently. Back in the dark ages, before the Internet and all the social media sites, I wasn't worried about people knowing who I was.

How long did it take you to make your first sale? What was your first thought when you did?

It took me about nine years to sell my first book, which was actually the third book I wrote. Like I said book number one has been pulled from consideration. I sold a western historical romance to Hard Shell Word Factory as an ebook. At that time ebooks were practically new, so I didn't get too excited over the sale. I've just recently received my rights back for this title and will be re-releasing it as an ebook with a new title.

How many drafts did you write of your first novel before you felt you got it right? What about now - do you still write several drafts of a story?

I don't do actual drafts where I write the whole book then go back and edit and revise. I tend to edit and revise as I write. Each day I write something, a scene or a chapter then the next day before I continue I'll re-read, edit and revise it. When I finally get to the end I send the manuscript out to a couple reader/authors I trust for feedback. I'll do some edits/revisions. Then I put it aside for several weeks or months before I go back over it one last time.

Do you read industry or writing related blogs? If so, can you share some useful links?

I don't read a lot of blogs. There are just not enough hours in the day to read blogs, participate in social media, write and keep up with all the great books out there. Something has to give. So, while there are thousands of wonderful blog sites devoted to the art and craft of writing I'm not a follower.

Did you get an agent first or did you submit directly to publishers?

I submitted and sold my first five books directly. I didn't get an agent until I already had an offer from the publisher of my sixth book. I've since parted company with both that publisher and agent.

Did you ever get rejected? If so, how did you handle it?

Rejection is part of the business of writing. At one point I thought about wallpapering my powder room with rejection letters, but once I became published I decide instead to decorate it with my book covers.

What, in your opinion, do agents/publishers look for in a new author in the current market? Is it all to do with talent or with trends? 

If I knew what agents/publishers were looking for I'd be a millionaire and I wouldn't even have to write any books. I'd just sell that information to other authors. All I know is that agents/publishers want books that will sell to readers. But that's an ever changing market. What's hot today is out tomorrow. Talent is certainly important. A writer needs to write a great book, but even great books with great writing get rejected.

Do you think writers should consider self-publishing?

The book industry is always changing and growing. I don't think print books and big publishers will disappear, but they'll change in ways I can't predict. Since I've just jumped into the self-publishing stream with some backlist titles as well as several newer pieces, I think self-publishing is a viable options for writers. The only difficulty I see is the lack of writing skills of many newer writers. When I first began writing and submitting it's a good thing self-publishing wasn't a viable option. My work back then was rough and raw, nowhere near ready for publication. It took me years to hone the craft of storytelling.

Though I've recently self-published three books, each has been critiqued by other authors and has gone through numerous edits and revisions. They've been considered by editors and agents, but despite being well-written they didn't fit the guidelines and were rejected.

How do you feel about so many bookstores closing across the US?

I feel terrible about the closing of bookstores in the US, but with people turning to online shopping I'm not surprised.

Are your books available in print or in digital format?

All my current books are available in digital formats. My titles with ImaJinn Books are also available in print.

What advice do you think aspiring authors should heed today?

The most important thing is to write and hone your craft. There was a study done about what it takes to become an expert. In it they determined that you need to work at your craft for 10,000 hours before you really know what you're doing. If you spend twenty hours a week writing it'll take you ten years to become an expert writer. Another person said you need to write a million words. All I know is you have to write, write, write then write some more. Oh, and reading doesn't hurt either.

What are you working on now?

Right now I'm working on a contemporary humorous romance about a matchmaking cat. I've also co-authored a humorous women's fiction book that we're shopping around to agents and editors. And in between actual writing I'm re-releasing as ebooks several of my backlist titles.

What is/are your favorite book(s)? Do you read only books from the genre you write in?

I have so many favorite books I couldn't name them all, but top of the list is Kathleen Woodiwiss's The Flame and The Flower. It's the first historical romance I read and what spurred me to attempt to write my own stories.

Do you read when you are plotting or writing a story?

I read all the time though I do try not to read the same genre of story as what I'm working on.

What hero/heroine/character was the most fun or challenging to write for you?

Serilda from my book THE SWORD AND THE PEN has to be both the most fun and the most challenging character I've written. She's the first character that demanded she be written first person. And since she's the hero of the story's fictional character and carries a big sword I didn't have the guts to argue with her.

How do you juggle work, writing, chores and family/personal life? Do you have a secret to time management that you want to share with readers?

Time management? What's that? I keep trying to organize my life, but it doesn't work. I thought when my kids were grown I'd be able to focus more, but I'm finding that the older I get the more scattered I become. I will say that family always comes first with me then writing. Chores are a distant third. Cooking, Cleaning and Ironing are distant cities in China.

Do you have a ritual that you follow when it comes to writing?

No ritual, but I do like to eat SweeTarts when I'm writing.

Where do you see yourself, careerwise, in 5 years time?

I'd love to still be writing and publishing, both traditionally and self-publishing and it would be nice if I was making enough money to live on. For me writing isn't just a career or a job, it's part of who and what I am. Even if I never publish another book, I'll keep writing, I'll keep bringing to life the people who populate my imagination.

What's your website URL?

Are you on Facebook? 

How do you connect with readers?

Readers can reach me on Facebook or through my web site.

About Elysa:

"Elysa Hendricks is 5'6" tall, has curly hair and brown eyes. She's an author, a wife, a mother and a daughter. Everything else is subject to change without notice."


Christina's eyes widened at the sight of the bulge threatening to escape the gap in the man's trousers. She could almost still feel it pressing against the juncture of her thighs. Her hands trembled in rage.
"How dare you touch me?" She tightened her grip on the gun with one hand and with the other dragged the blanket up in an attempt to cover her torn nightdress.
He shrugged his shoulders. "I apologize for my ungentlemanly behavior."
He didn't sound sorry, he sounded amused.
What should she do now? Shoot him? The thought tempted her, but what about the men downstairs? He'd saved her from them. But for what purpose? Perspiration prickled under her arms.
"You know how to shoot a pistol, Kitten?"
"Be quiet or you'll find out. And stop calling me that ridiculous name. I need to think."
"Anything you say, ma'am."
Nothing in her convent training prepared her for this situation. The only men she remembered dealing with were Father Jose, her brother Christopher, and her stepfather. This man was nothing like them.
In the dimly lit room, she couldn't make out the man's features, but he appeared tall, with broad shoulders and lean hips. He exuded an aura of strength and power. Even Mother Superior would have trouble giving orders to this man.
She gulped and felt her skin grow warm. Bruised and battered, physically and mentally, she longed to curl up under the covers and weep. She couldn't. Christopher was gone, dead, killed by the men below. The sound of a shot had jolted her from sleep just before a man burst into her room.
Alone now, she didn't have time to weep. She needed to be strong.
Struggling to make sense out of the events, her brain refused to function. The terror of the last hour, combined with her travel exhaustion, left her lost and confused.
The floorboards squeaked as the man shifted his weight.
"I said don't move." Her voice shook, along with the gun.
"Yes, ma'am."
Christina focused on him. Unless she took care she would join her brother...or worse.
"If you don't mind, it's a mite chilly." The man gestured toward his shirt lying near the foot of the bed.
Christina stared at his bare chest. Chilly? She felt hot. She nodded curtly.
He bent over and picked up his shirt.
"Back over there and get dressed." She used the heavy gun to motion him toward the room's far corner.
He complied, but the small room still left him too close for her to relax.
Tears started at the back of her eyes. She blinked them away. Christopher was dead and the blame lay with her. He hadn't wanted to stay in this seedy little town, but after two weeks on the trail, she begged for one night in a real bed.
After she overheard their stepfather's plans, she persuaded Christopher to flee the Rocking A ranch, though he argued they should stay and confront the man.
If they had stayed, would Christopher be alive? Or would they both be dead?
Four years younger than Christopher, Christina didn't know her brother well. For the last twelve years Christopher lived in St. Louis with their uncle, while their stepfather left her to be raised in the convent. Though they corresponded, only within the last month were they reunited.
Their childhood affection remained intact, but they were strangers. Still, she would miss him.
The gun barrel tipped downward. Her gaze followed. She swallowed at the sight the gun now targeted on the man. Tightening her grip, she lifted both her eyes and the gun upward.
Dangerous. The word came to mind as Christina watched the man button his trousers and pull on his shirt. He moved with the fluid grace of a big cat.
She remembered the strength his rugged body held and how easily he took control. The memory of his hard muscles holding her helpless against the bed made her shudder. Still, he hadn't hurt her. His grip, while inflexible, wasn't painful. Not like those other men who pawed her with hurtful hands. Yet, if not for the gun she held, how long before he finished what he started?
"May I sit?"
Christina jumped. She did it again, allowed her mind to wander. The man stood in front of her, his chest practically touched the muzzle of the gun. His closeness reignited her fear. Scrambling backward on the bed, she lost her balance and tumbled sideways. The gun slipped from her moist fingers and fell with a clunk to the floor at his feet.
Afraid to raise her eyes, she sprawled helpless across the bed. What would he do now? Rape her? Shoot her? Unsure what rape entailed, she didn't know which fate would be worse.
"I think you dropped this." The man's voice, low and soothing, penetrated her haze. She forced herself to look up at him.
One knee on the bed, he loomed over her, a dark, threatening presence. The gun rested loosely on his open palm.
Her eyes widened in shock. He was giving her the gun! Was it a trick?
"Go ahead. Take it if it makes you feel better." He grinned at her. "If you like I'll even show you how to shoot it." He laid the gun next to her hand and backed away.
Christina looked at the gun then at him. She shook her head. Despite everything she knew she couldn't shoot him, even if she could figure out how. Killing was a mortal sin.
The man ran his hand through his hair and scowled. "Damnation woman, let's get something straight." He leaned toward her, then swore again as she tried to scramble further away. The blanket slid through her fingers and tangled around her hips and legs, ensnaring her.
Before she could free herself and escape, he sat down and wrapped the scratchy blanket around her shoulders.
"Listen to me."
Caught between his hard body and the wall, what choice did she have? She refused to look at him.
"I'm not going to rape, or shoot or otherwise hurt you."
His words, while she assumed were meant to reassure her, sounded harsh and angry.
"I didn't rescue you from those animals downstairs to finish the job myself. I am not going to hurt you." He barked the words at her. "I don't take unwilling women to bed."
He wasn't going to rape or shoot her. Venturing a look at his scowling face, she placed her palm against his chest, where his shirt lay open, to push him away. Warmth from his smooth, surprisingly soft skin seeped into her fingers.  "You took off your clothes." She struggled to keep the quiver of fear out of her voice.
The man shifted on the bed. A hint of red appeared on his cheeks. "Yeah, well, not all of them."
"Only because I stopped you."
"Maybe." He flashed her a boyish grin. "I had to convince Conchita you were my woman, not Rico's." He put a finger beneath her chin and lifted her face to his. "Did I hurt you?" His eyes locked on hers.
"No-o," she stammered.
"Well then, what's the problem?"
"But-but, I..." She looked up at the dark stranger in confusion. No, he hadn't hurt her. Yes, he saved her from the men below. But for what? If he didn't want her body and he didn't mean to kill her, what did he plan on doing with her?
Her eyes widened. Oh no! Had her stepfather sent him to bring her back?
"I'm not going back." She went rigid and spat the words at him.
She curled the hand laying on his chest into a claw and raked it across his skin.
The man jumped. "What the Hell!" He grabbed her wrists as she tried to scramble away.
Though unsure of its meaning, Christina shouted a word Conchita had used. "Let go, Bastardo!"
Christina fought his hold. No match for his strength, she wiggled in impotent fury when he trussed her in the blanket like some Egyptian mummy. "Let me loose! How much is my stepfather paying you? I'll double it."
Ignoring her outburst, the man went over to the window to examine the scratches on his chest. Though superficial, they had to sting. The satisfaction Christina took in the fact caused her convent-reared soul only a moment of guilt. He deserved it. As if he heard her thoughts, he turned around and glared at her. She went still and watched him warily.
"What in the hell am I going to do with you? I've got a job to do, if I haven't already blown it. It won't be long before Rico's men realize what they've let slip through their fingers. I need to get you out of here before they demand I give you back. But how?" Though he spoke out loud, Christina realized he wasn't addressing his comments to her.
He stalked over to the room's one window. "Can't get out this way. Room's a good twenty feet up. No ledges."
Opening the door a crack, he peered out. "No way I can sneak you past them now. But they're drinking heavily. Maybe we'll get lucky later and they'll all pass out. A slim chance, but it looks like our only one." He closed the door and propped a chair under the doorknob. "Won't keep anyone out for long, but the noise will give us a few seconds warning."
He moved back to the bed and lay down, pinning her between his body and the wall. She tried to stay stiff, but his heat and scent wrapped around her.
"Move over," he growled in her ear. "I've been on the trail for the last three days, catching up with Rico. I need some sleep and so do you. Besides, looks like we're stuck here 'til morning."
"What are you doing?"
Squirming to put some space between them she loosened the blanket and managed to shove an elbow in his midsection.
"Oof! Be still or I'll tie you up." He put his arm around her waist.
"Unhand me this instant! Go sleep on the floor."
"Not likely. I'm staying right here so I can keep an eye and a hand on you. But you go on wiggling if it makes you feel better."
Under her breath, she muttered one of the words Conchita had used. Though she knew the word was improper, it accurately reflected her feelings at the moment.
"What was that?"
The man's laughter felt warm against the nape of her neck, stirring the fine hairs. The scent of him, leather and beer, mingled with soap and spice, teased her nose. A shiver, unrelated to fear, went through her.
Within minutes his body relaxed in slumber.
Christina held herself rigid in his embrace. She wouldn't go back. She would never agree to marry her stepfather.
As surely as if he pulled the trigger himself John Anderson killed Christopher. She didn't know how, but she would make him pay for his crimes, past and present.
Exhaustion warred with anger, but her fear faded. Held close against the stranger's hard body, she felt oddly secure. His warmth wrapped around her like a thick blanket making her feel safe and protected rather than threatened. The heat of his large hands splayed across her belly penetrated her thin nightdress. His other hand rested below her heart, his fingers brushing the underside of her breast. She wiggled trying to dislodge his hands. He responded by tightening his hold.
Like a big mountain cat, he would pounce at her first attempt to rise. If her stepfather sent this man after her, she was well and truly caught.

Elysa's latest and upcoming releases:

THE BABY RACE - a small town contemporary romance

            Race Reed doesn’t want a wife, but to save his ranch he needs a baby. To gain custody of her stepsister, Claire Jensen needs a husband, but she wants love. Wants and needs are bound to clash when they run The Baby Race.

COUNTERFEIT LOVE - a small town contemporary romance

            Ten years ago a student's unfounded accusation of sexual misconduct drove Jared Blake out of his hometown, forced him to give up teaching, and destroyed his marriage. Now he's back in town to raise his daughter and return to the classroom. The last thing he expects - or needs - is an attraction to a stunningly pretty student in his algebra class, Maggie McCade.
            To ferret out a computer hacker and further her dream of starting a high tech security firm of her own, twenty-nine-year-old Maggie McCade descends into high school hell by posing as a math-challenged senior. The last thing she expects - or needs - is to fall in love with her teacher.

THIS HEART FOR HIRE - a gritty, western historical romance

A convent reared innocent and a gunslinger with no memory struggle to survive and find love while crossing the dangerous west Texas frontier.

HER WILD TEXAS HEART - a western historical romance

In a lawless west Texas border town, a woman has two choices: death or dishonor. Doctor's apprentice and former Comanche slave, KC O'Connor finds a third--she buries her femininity and longing for love beneath a boyish disguise. But the arrival of an injured greenhorn shatters the shell around her hidden heart.



STAR CRASH - a futuristic romance
When Planet of the Apes meets Star Trek what's a girl to do?



DARK STAR DAWNING - a sci-fi adventure romance
Coming soon from ImaJinn Books

~ Natalie ~ 
No Rules. No Formulas. Just Love, Mystery... and a world of surprises in between!