The Joys and Woes of Collaboration

When I was a kid, I used to hate group projects in school; I strongly believed I’d rather do all the work myself than juggle a collaboration with a classmate.  As an author, I’m in awe of people who make collaborations work.  One of my Book View Cafe colleagues, Irene Radford, has made a collaboration work.  I asked her to share a bit about how and why she chose to work that way, when she wrote The Lost Enforcer with Bob Brown.  Of course, Irene and Bob collaborated on their response to my question :-)

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lost enforcer 3

In your favorite book shopping venue you stumble across a book written by 2 of your favorite authors. Joy, oh, joy. This has got to be the best book ever written.

Or is it? Have the authors brought their best to the table or have two egos warred with each other, each suppressing all but the worst of the other?

We’ve seen both happen. As an author Irene has tried collaboration twice. The first time was an unmitigated disaster and had to be abandoned by both parties to avoid bringing in the lawyers. The second, with Bob, though, has proven much more successful.  What was the difference?

Remember the old carpenters’ advice: measure twice but cut once.  When contemplating entering into collaboration think twice, and commit for one project at a time. Think long and hard about what each will gain, what each can contribute, and why you want to share.

In both cases for Irene, she was the more experienced or better selling author. By attaching her name to the other author she gave their careers an endorsement. They gained from her reputation and visibility. In return, she gained fresh perspective, enthusiasm, and imagination.  This at a time when she’d started to feel sluggish and repetitive in her writing. We both gained.

This situation also set up a working process where Irene was the “senior” writer with a more honed skill set, but Bob was the creative driver.  This led to each having a limited veto power.  For questions of style and technique, Irene was the senior, for progression of the story, Bob took the lead.  But like any leadership role, it requires the consent of the governed.  Many a bad plot idea was patiently commented on until the faults were self revealing.  While Bob, would apply the same process on points of style.  Both gave in to the partner’s points only after expressing any concerns and no matter how tempting the moment might have been.  The words “I told you so,” were never uttered.

For the second book in our collaboration we will follow much the same pattern, but now Irene will have a stronger voice in story and Bob will have a stronger sense of style points.  Both will blend as we approach parity. We both understand that this is not Irene’s book, or Bob’s book, but our book.  And like parents, we want it to grow into a solid work that the readers will like.

The next thing to think about, is trust.  A collaboration is much like a marriage, only more intimate and open. As in a marriage, you have to trust your partner to bring to the table the same level of commitment as yourself. Do you trust your new partner to listen to your concerns as well as your exiting (to you) ideas? This is one of the most important things in a collaborative relationships. In Irene’s first collaboration the relationship dissolved when neither could trust the other not to sabotage then entire project over an active or passive narrator, a point of view character, a word choice, or a level of sensuality. We made sure that a high level of trust was established early on, and it paid off with a successful collaboration. So successful that we look forward to doing at least two more books in the series.

Respect goes hand in hand with trust. Every writer has a different creative process—Irene’s is long and slow, Bob’s comes in flashes of brilliance. We also have different working schedules and contracts for other work. We have to respect that and work with it, rather than against.

Respect is born through communication. Lots of it. Every brilliant idea needs to be shared before including it in what we called the Master Document. Sometimes one of us will write a scene and then share it and talk about it, other times we spend an hour on the phone thrashing through the consequences further into the story if we include it. Either way we talk. Often. With honesty—no secret agendas or subplots. We email. And we meet up several times a year as SF/F conventions for longer and more involved conversations with dueling laptops. We live 200 miles apart and have a mutual friend half way between who loans us her dining table where we spread out pages, reference books, notepads, etc. We foresee Skype in the near future—but this requires rigid scheduling and may not happen.

Like any great partnership, a prenup is in order. This doesn’t have to be written in stone or signed in blood, but you need a strategy for walking away if things do not turn out well or you discover that a premise does not a story make. You can start with a simple statement of how you intended to share royalties. Then decide how you will split the assets.  Who can take which characters or sub plots to other projects, or if the book must die and be buried intact. Being able to end a collaboration on friendly terms is a valuable asset in and of itself. It leaves doors open while closing only one behind you.

The actual writing process will be different for every book as well as every collaboration. We do a lot more outlining on the collaboration books so that we both know where the book is going, how it gets there, and why. Side trips are allowed if discussed. Once the plot arc and characterizations are set out we choose the scenes we want to write and where they fit in the book. One will write, the other will edit, and then the initiator will go back over it. Then it can be included in the Master Document. Final edits of the complete Master Document can eliminate or re-arrange scenes. We always know who has custody of the one and only Master Document and formally acknowledge the passing of it back and forth. That saves a lot of headaches in continuity and which is the latest version.

Planning is essential in a collaboration. Remembering why you trust and respect each other enough for honest and frequent communication has to come before letting the story flow. That opens avenues of creativity above and beyond the limits of any one writer, and truly can achieve the best of each, and possibly something more.


Buy link: The Lost Enforcer (on Amazon)

Bob Brown lives, works, and writes with his two pugs, two cats, and several dozen chickens in Washington State. He is the author of numerous short stories and the recently released children’s book, The Damsel, the Dragon, and the KnightHe is well known in the science fiction convention community as RadCon Bob, due in part to the nature of his work as a Health Physicist at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, where he supports clean-up of nuclear waste left over from the Cold War. Bob is an avid gardener and a teller of chicken jokes.  You can follow Bob on Facebook: Bob Brown or


Irene Radford has been writing stories ever since she figured out what a pencil was for. A member of an endangered species, a native Oregonian who lives in Oregon, she and her husband make their home in Welches, Oregon, where deer, bears, coyotes, hawks, owls, and woodpeckers feed regularly on their back deck.  A museum-trained historian, Irene has spent many hours prowling pioneer cemeteries deepening her connections to the past. Raised in a military family, she grew up all over the U.S. and learned early on that books are friends that don’t get left behind with a move. Her interests and reading range from ancient history to spiritual meditations to space stations, and a whole lot in between.  In other lifetimes she writes urban fantasy as P. R. Frost and space opera as C. F. Bentley.  You can follow Irene Radford on Live Journal: rambling_phyl or on FaceBook: Phyllis Irene Radford, or at Her latest publication from DAW Books is The Broken Dragon, Children of the Dragon Nimbus #2.

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More Bridal Ramblings!

Today, I’m over at Magical Words, posting about plot in Perfect Pitch, especially how to balance plot elements in a tightly-focused manuscript.  Stop by, read, comment, etc!

Also – I’m over at Pamela Freeman’s blog, discussing pen names and writing for middle grade kids at the same time that I write spicy romances for adults:

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Past posts about the Diamond Brides Series include:

Patricia Burroughs:  How a Baseball Virgin Becomes a True Fan

Joshua Palmatier:  Author Interview

Doranna Durgin:  It’s Not the Length, It’s What You Do With It

Magical Words:  On Characters (Baseball Players and the Women Who Love Them)

Mary Robinette Kowal’s My Favorite Bit

Book View Cafe:  How I Learned to Stop Worry and Love Baseball

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Secrets of the Diamond Brides

Wow!  Perfect Pitch has been in stores for over a week!  With 23 reviews on Amazon, it’s averaging around 4.5 stars – yay!  This week, I’ll be offering a few more glimpses on how this series came to be, including today’s post:

Patricia Burroughs:  How a Baseball Virgin Becomes a True Fan

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Past posts include:

Joshua Palmatier:  Author Interview

Doranna Durgin:  It’s Not the Length, It’s What You Do With It

Magical Words:  On Characters (Baseball Players and the Women Who Love Them)

Mary Robinette Kowal’s My Favorite Bit

Book View Cafe:  How I Learned to Stop Worry and Love Baseball

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A Weekend with a Few Hundred of my Closest Friends

Whew!  I spent last weekend at a “retreat” and I’m more exhausted than when I started!

Okay, it wasn’t really a “retreat”.  It was actually a conference — the annual Washington Romance Writers retreat, “In the Company of Writers.”  I came home more excited about publishing opportunities than I’ve been in a long, long time…

First off, I signed copies of PERFECT PITCH at Nora Roberts’ Turn the Page Bookstore, in Boonsboro, Maryland.  Signings at TTP are always a joy, and this one was no exception.  The store staff keeps things running like clockwork, and the readers are amazing! There were more than a dozen of us authors signing, and many, many customers came through the line buying dozens of books!  I did learn one thing:  If one is offering foil-wrapped baseball chocolates to people standing in line, one really needs to specify that they’re wrapped in foil!  I was surprised that people didn’t realize that fact — but only one woman chomped down before I could warn her!

After buying amazing baked-good treats at Christi’s bakery, I headed over to Westminster for the retreat proper.  In addition to seeing a *lot* of old friends (and making some new ones), I collected amazing publishing intel from the force-of-nature Liliana Hart (and a special guest, whose very identity must be kept confidential from those who weren’t in the room!)  I took so many notes that I ran out of pages in my notebook.  And I have enough new ideas to last for the next five years…

So — a grand time with friends old and new, new story ideas, new publishing strategies…  The only other thing I could have asked for would have been winning one of the dozens of gift baskets raffled off.  ::shrug::  That’s a good reason to head back next year!

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On Writing: My Writing Process Blog Tour

Thanks to Jamie Brenner, er, Logan Belle, for bringing me into this fun blog tour. Jamie writes young adult and historical (1920s) fiction under her own name. As Logan Belle, she writes contemporary romance and erotic romance. Her website is

1) What am I working on?

I’m writing Diamond Brides, a nine-book series of hot, contemporary romances.  Each short novel tells the story of a different player on the (imaginary) Raleigh Rockets baseball team.  The first book, Perfect Pitch [buy now!], is in stores now.  The second, Catching Hell, will be released on April 13.  The third, Reaching First, will be in stores on May 4, and all other books in the series will be released on the first Sunday of the month, from now till November.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Each Diamond Brides book features a heroine who is a smart, competent woman in a professional field.  Each Diamond Brides hero is a sexy, confident baseball player who comes into conflict with the heroine, usually as a direct result of their professional interests being at odds.  A little bit baseball, a big bit very spicy romance, the Diamond Brides series strikes a unique balance in fun, fast storytelling.

3) Why do I write what I do?

Growing up, I had no interest in any sport, including baseball.  When I met and fell in love with the man who became my husband, I had to accept his lifelong love for baseball.  While I originally learned about the game by rote memorization of facts, I came to appreciate the stories, the players’ individual histories, and I realized that I could build some fun, sexy, romantic stories around an imaginary major league team.

4) How does your writing process work?

I need to limit interruptions when I write — each break in concentration serves as an invitation to check my email, my Facebook page, my Twitter feed, my inbox again…  Therefore, I structure my work week so that I have “Writing Days” on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.  On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I take care of everything else — publicity, promotion, paperwork, and a jumble of household obligations (laundry, anyone?)

On each Writing Day, I set a goal — generally a single 5000-word chapter (or, occasionally, editing of four chapters).  I draft straight through, working from my outline (which is relatively sparse — three or four sentences for each chapter, describing the main action and character motivation for each major scene).

I do some “Spot Research”, tracking down specific details, such as the average number of home runs hit by a third baseman in a season.  I also ask occasional questions on my Facebook page, having readers help me name businesses or confirm familiarity with words or phrases or similar input.  (I sometimes give away a free copy of the book I’m drafting to people whose suggestions get incorporated into the work.)  In my ongoing attempt to limit interruptions, though, I often leave blanks for Spot Research, going back to fill those blanks when I edit.

Upon finishing drafting a novel, I edit the manuscript, punching up characters’ motivations, emphasizing specific plot points, correcting clunky sentences, etc.  After my editing passes, I circulate the work to my beta readers, who comment on general things (character, setting, plot, etc.) as well as some specific things (sentence structure, word choice, etc.)  After I receive comments from all my beta readers, I revise the manuscript one more time, before sending it out to a copyeditor.  After that, it’s just a matter of time before my baby is a book :-)

Next week (April 14) visit:

Laura Anne Gilman, “Writer, Editor, Tired Person”, a novelist in many genres (and my first professional editor).

Amy Sterling Casil, a short story writer and novelist who blends various flavors of speculative fiction.

Sara Stamey, “Novelist, Editor, Teacher”, Book View Cafe’s newest member.


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As Threatened…

Yesterday, I said I’d be traipsing about the Internet, making various posts about the Diamond Brides, PERFECT PITCH, and writing in general.

Today, you can read my posts at:

Doranna Durgin:  It’s Not the Length, It’s What You Do With It — now get your mind out of the gutter!  I’m talking about writing long novels and short novels and how the two relate to each other (or don’t)

Magical Words:  On Characters (Baseball Players and the Women Who Love Them) — part of a four-part series on craft.  And may I just say, it’s great to be back visiting old friends on the revamped blog!

Mary Robinette Kowal’s My Favorite Bit – click through to find out my favorite bit about writing PERFECT PITCH (and, actually, all of the Diamond Brides books!)

So?  Go.  Read.  Comment.  Enjoy!

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How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Baseball

I’m going on something of a blog tour, to celebrate the launch of PERFECT PITCH [Buy now!]  For the next few weeks, I’ll be stopping all over the blogosphere, sharing thoughts and feelings about the first volume of the Diamond Brides.

First up is today’s post over at Book View Cafe:  How I Learned to Stop Worry and Love Baseball.  Stop by, read, comment, and enjoy!

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Opening Day for PERFECT PITCH!

At long last, today is Opening Day for PERFECT PITCH!  For those of you who somehow missed this, PITCH is a hot contemporary romance, the first volume in my Diamond Brides Series.  Who could resist a story like this?

Reigning beauty queen Samantha Winger is launching her pet project, a music program for kids. All she has to do is follow the pageant’s rules—no smoking, drinking, or “cavorting” in public. That’s fine, until D.J. Thomas—God’s gift to baseball—throws her a wild pitch. He slams her in an interview, and the video goes viral. Sam’s no shrinking violet. She parlays D.J.’s apology into a national T.V. appearance—and a very unexpected, very public kiss. Soon, paparazzi catch the couple in a steamy make-out session, and Sam’s music program is on the block. The blazing hot relationship is threatened even more when D.J.’s son begs to trade in Little League for music class. Can Sam and D.J. sizzle past the sour notes and find their perfect pitch?

You can read a snippet here:

And you can buy your electronic or print copy here:

What better way to celebrate spring, baseball, and Opening Day?!?

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Charlottesville, Ho!

For people who are in or near Charlottesville -

Two of my dear SFNovelists friends are doing a reading at Barnes & Noble, 1035 Emmet St N, Charlottesville, VA 22903, on April 5, at 6:00 p.m.

First up is Glenda Larke.  Here’s what she has to say about her amazing new book: “The Lascar’s Dagger is evocative of our 17th-18th Century world when the spice trade dominated the economy, and it tells the story of what happens when two very different cultures — and their magic — meet head on.”


The Lascar’s Dagger is the first volume of Glenda’s new epic fantasy trilogy.  (If you haven’t met Glenda before, she’s an Australian, a teacher and an environmentalist (specialising in bird conservation) by profession. She’s lived and worked all over the world, including Malaysia, Tunisia and Austria as well as Australia. Now she’s a full-time writer.

Also at the event will be Jodi Meadows.  Here’s what she has to say: Jodi Meadows lives and writes in the Shenandoah Valley, with her husband, a Kippy (that’s a cat!), and an alarming number of ferrets. She is a confessed book addict, and has wanted to be a writer ever since she decided against becoming an astronaut. You may know her from the INCARNATE Trilogy and the forthcoming ORPHAN QUEEN Duology (HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen).



If you’re anywhere near the Charlottesville B&N on April 5, stop by to see these amazing women.  It sounds like an amazing time!  (Alas, I have a prior commitment and can’t be there.  Pout.)

*A Kippy is a cat.

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How That Facebook Launch Party Thing Works

So, I know what you’re all doing on March 31, from 8:30 – 10:30 p.m. EDT, right!  You’re coming to my Facebook launch party for PERFECT PITCH, right?


But you don’t know what a Facebook launch party is…  Don’t worry.  It’s fun.  And it’ll be even more fun with you there!

At 8:30 EDT, you point your browser toward the party:

I’ll get things going — posting a few welcome posts.  I’ll tell you a bit more about PERFECT PITCH, how I came to write it, why I’m having so much fun with these books.  I’ll ask you some questions (easy ones — no need for you to study!)   Some special guests will stop by, and they’ll have questions and comments, too.

And the best part of it?  My special guests and I will have *prizes*!  There’ll be books and baseball swag and other fun things — and you’re entered for a chance to win every time you answer one of our questions!  (The magic random number generator will select winners, 24 hours after the party’s over.)

So, what do you have to lose?  You don’t have to spend a cent, and you might walk away with a prize.  I can practically guarantee you’ll walk away with a smile on your face.

Hope to see you there!

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