Wendi Kelly and Deborah Dorchak–Part 2

Today we continue our conversation with authors Wendi Kelly and Deborah Dorchak, creators of the saga The Bonds of Blood and Spirit. Part 1 (HERE) focused on matters of craft and Deb and Wendi’s partnership. Today we learn a little about the challenges of marketing fiction, what these writers do in their off time, and what fans have to look forward to from these paranormal powerhouses. Read on past the interview for my review of Uncivil Wars, book two in this fantastic shifter series. And here’s my review of book one, Loyalties.

Are you going to be in the Las Vegas area this Saturday June 20th? ‘Cause Deb and Wendi will be signing books at the Henderson Barnes and Noble  567 N. Stephanie (just south of the intersection of Stephanie and Sunset) from 1pm to 3 pm. Click HERE for directions/map.

Author Deborah Dorchak at a book fair in Kingman, AZ...where she SOLD OUT of copies.

Author Deborah Dorchak at a book fair in Kingman, AZ…where she SOLD OUT of copies.

These days marketing and promoting a book is almost as much work as writing it. How do you split up these responsibilities—especially living in different cities? Is their a joint marketing plan?

Wendi: I have a saying with my clients, “Marketing is relationship building, not sales.” For me, it is about building genuine relationships with people who we help, and they help us, and friendships grow and the ships all rise together. There are so many other people out there advocating for us and the “Pack” that it sometimes blows me away. We’ve had Packmates go into libraries and stores holding the books in their hands, asking, begging, demanding that they start carrying the books. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but the old adage, “word of mouth and referrals are the best marketing in the world” is as true today as it ever was. And…maybe more. It’s a noisy world out there, a personal referral is sometimes the only way people are listening.
And I’ll be honest, it doesn’t hurt that Deb’s book covers kick butt and every time I put the book down, someone picks it up to look at it. A good cover is worth a ton of money in advertising.

Deb: The both of us are constantly marketing and promoting. Everywhere we go we’re looking for opportunities in our respective cities. For me it’s a little easier since I’m right here in Las Vegas and I’m never too far from events or the local writing community. Out here I do a lot of book fairs, writers’ conferences, gamer conventions and festivals throughout the Southwest.
No matter where we go, we’re looking for networking opportunities. Waiting for a flight? Oh…excuse me, what are you reading? Paranormal? I’ve got the perfect book for you…True story. The woman I spoke to ended up being seated next to me for the entire flight. By the time we landed she was eager to get home and order the books. She did, and loved them.
The first time our books appeared on the shelves in Barnes & Noble here in Henderson, I had gone to take pictures. There was a woman browsing the Romance section the next aisle over. I asked her if she was looking for something new and exciting. When she said yes, I said, “Come here, I want to share this with you. This is the first time my books are on the shelf…”
I was thrilled to share the experience, she was thrilled to meet an actual author. I said, “No pressure or obligation at all, I just wanted to share,” and left it at that, I didn’t want to hover.
She picked up Loyalties and the moment she had it in her hands, I knew she’d buy it. She did and then from what I heard from the store, she came back a week or so later and bought the other three.
Yup, it pays to be bold.

What is your favorite way to connect with readers? In-person events? Online social networks? What’s the funniest/oddest/most surprising feedback you’ve ever gotten from a reader?

Wendi: I love meeting our readers in person, and especially enjoy it when they have so many questions and philosophical thoughts about the deeper understory of the Pack. The story of misfits who never knew love and trust, who find love, trust and family has a universal appeal. There’s something about it that everyone relates to on some level, and it often brings up stories of “Packmates” own personal stories of how they related. I love to listen!
I also get a huge kick out of reading our on-line discussion groups, where the Packmates get together to share with each other what they are experiencing and their emotional ups and downs as they read. We have one for each of the books, and it is fun to watch their comments and interact with them. We get to know a lot of our Packmates. A few of them call us the “Alphas”. It is not necessary. But to them it’s fun.
I agree with Deb, the most surprising thing in the beginning was people “complaining” that we needed to put warning labels on the books, because they weren’t getting work done, weren’t sleeping, eating, or getting anything done. I turned to Deb and said, “Um…that’s a good thing…right?”

Deb: You know, I never figured myself for a people-person, but these days I’m discovering it was a myth I’ve told myself for far too many years. I love connecting with readers (we call our fans Packmates). My favorite way is at events face-to-face. I enjoy the moment of discovery, when someone picks up a book, falls in love with the covers (not only did we write the books, we designed them inside and out), then starts asking questions about the story. Even better is when I get to meet Packmates who have read the books. It starts out the same, “I can’t put this book down!” or “I can’t wait to get everything done so I can get back to the Pack!”
Seriously, people have to clear their calendars and to-do lists before they start reading or else nothing gets done. (Yes, Wendi, that’s a very good thing! Think about it, we could solve the world’s problems if everyone sat down and started reading)
Each time I meet with a Packmate in person or chat with them online after they’ve finished a book or the whole Saga, we sometimes spend hours discussing the story and characters. You know how that goes, Carrie Ann. We had three hours zip by at B&N and probably could have gone on for longer.
I would have to say, the oddest feedback we’ve gotten was on a three star review on Amazon. The reader said they couldn’t give us a full five stars because she got to the end of the series and we didn’t say when the next one was coming out.
Okay, if that’s the worst you can say, we’re doing pretty good.

What do you like to do when you are not writing fiction or carrying out Blue Sun Studio projects? How do you kick back and recharge?

Wendi: I am an artist. I paint. I paint a lot. I also volunteer at my church, directing the theater group and teaching music and drama to the kids. I have been in theater for forty years and enjoy acting, writing plays and directing. (This is why Deb calls me the Director.) I also cook, garden and have a camera attached to me wherever I go. I am blessed to truly live the creative life. That’s the kick back part. The recharging part, that is meditation. Every single day, without fail. Meditation is also the place where a lot of creative ideas come from. So not only is it recharging, it is inspiring.

Deb: How do I recharge? I write more. Whenever Wendi and I take a break from working on the series, that’s when other story ideas come to mind and I go off on another tangent rather than fill up the current work in progress with more scenes we’ll only end up cutting later.
Recharging for me also comes in the forms of attending meetings with the Henderson Writers’ Group. I find it refreshing to talk shop with other authors. It’s so easy to get caught up in the bubble of our own “worlds” and forget there are real people right outside our doors. That in person connection gives rise to new ideas for everyone involved, it’s fun and invigorating.
I also like to watch movies (yeah, I’m one of those people who is constantly referencing movies), nature and historical documentaries. Discovery and The National Geographic channels are my favorites.
Some other hobbies I have that I’d like to get back into are archery and Iaido (the art of Japanese swordsmanship).

What’s next on the fiction front? Anything exciting for your “packmates” to look forward to?

Wendi: Tau’s Pride is really pushing the envelope to the next level. It questions everything. Why do we believe what we do? Why do we settle? What if we didn’t? What if we truly, truly loved…no rules, no walls, no boundaries, no barriers. What would love look like?
And who would that hurt? Who would not benefit from a world where Unlimited Love was actually governing the world? More than you might think. Get ready for a ride.

Deb: Currently, we’re working on the second four-book series Tau’s Pride. Rather than release it one book at a time, we’re completing the whole series. We’re finding this has its benefits. As the story evolves, we can go back and change pieces to fit, sharpen the uber-plot, work in better twists and turns, rather than being boxed in knowing we’ve written something and have to stick to it because the previous book has already been released.
Our Packmates know we won’t release anything before it’s time. We don’t rush just for the sake of getting stuff out there as quickly as possible. Quality over quantity…though quantity isn’t a problem. We crank out a massive amount of words.
For example, we started writing Tau’s Pride at the end of last October. By the end of February, we had the first drafts of the first three books. What slowed us down? We got to part four in book three and it just wasn’t right. It didn’t fit the vision.
So, we put on the brakes and went back to the beginning, chopped out all the crap (which probably equates to a whole novel in itself) and now we have an ending we’re satisfied with and worthy of our audience.
Wendi and I also have a couple of non-fiction projects in the works and I have a solo fiction story I’m working on.
So yeah, there’s plenty of good stuff in the future for our Packmates, we’re not hanging up the keyboard any time soon.

A review of Uncivil Wars

It may not be happily ever for wolf shifter Regina Capalini and her motley crew of supernaturals when a surprise double wedding sets the stage for a double kidnapping that opens wounds from a 140-year-old conflict.

Sheesh! It can be rough reviewing books in a saga like Bonds of Blood & Spirit. Even that log line above treads dangerously close to spoiler land. You really need to read the books in order starting with LOYALTIES, where authors Wendi Kelly and Deborah Dorchak introduce us to a world that exists alongside our own–a world full of animal shifters, vampires, and the awakened humans who (if they survive long enough) love them.

UNCIVIL WARS picks up about six months after the conclusion of LOYALTIES. Regina, Harry, and Diego have barely come to grips with their brand new pack (and related extended family), when Cole, being the delightful-but-rash pain in the neck (hint hint) that he is, decides to take their respective relationships to a new level. The above-mentioned double wedding brings the gang to a hotel in Coastal Maine run by the foundation Diego and his lifemate began nearly a century and a half before. Things go wrong almost at once, starting with poor Diego who comes face to face with his own tragic past. Her name is Collette and she’s a wonder from the second she takes the stage. By the end of the book she’s my favorite character. Maybe of any paranormal book I’ve read.

UNCIVIL WARS brings us other new friends. There’s Selene, the daughter of the pack’s number one enemy, a corrupt-to-the-core US Senator.
Jake, a Zen-type from Sedona, AZ, who is as gifted with his sword as any shifter is with claws…though signs are that he may soon have both at his disposal.

And weapons will be needed.

A double kidnapping is only the first move in a nasty plot that has enemies closing in on the Pack from all sides. Things get personal as Diego’s sad history asserts its power over his tenuous present and he learns that even the best intentions may go awry if you don’t take into account the feelings of the others involved. The intrepid alpha finds himself at odds with those closet to him and facing questions about his fitness to lead. This leaves Regina torn between her loyalty to Diego and her responsibility to her pack. Not easy for a girl who has only just learned that there is such a thing as trust and love.

The action reaches a climax in a park in Massachusetts aptly named “Purgatory.” Here we meet a new kind of villain. The Talutha are the stuff nightmares are made of. Hard to describe them without ruining the fun, but this is how I personally picture them: Ever see the movie GREMLINS? Well, envision the critters after they’ve been in contact with water or exposed to sunlight or fed after midnight. Only BIG and MEAN and EVIL. And they smell of rotten oranges.

The final battle is desperate and violent. Characters we love have to channel their darker sides to survive. It’s not pretty or neat. In fact, the book ends in a massive cliffhanger. I normally hate cliffhangers. But, remember, Bonds of Blood & Spirit is not a series of linked standalone novels. So in a sense it’s one REALLY long book…the story of a bunch of odd ball supernaturals who find each other and, through test after test, grow into something special and completely new. The cliffhanger here is no big deal, because by the time you’ve read that far, you cannot stop if you wanted to.

I read through the night and until my eyelids were glued shut.

That must tell you something.