Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Jacked Up with Tracy Sharp

A while back I decided to allow other authors to write books in my universe, using my characters. I've gotten sixteen short stories and two novels so far. I'm hoping to get them all published in November.

The very first story, JACKED UP!, is live right now. It was written by Tracy Sharp, and features her character Leah Ryan (from the novels REPO CHICK BLUES, FINDING CHLOE, and DIRTY BUSINESS).

Currently, all four titles are only 99 cents each, for a limited time.

Here's the jacket copy:

Leah Ryan used to steal cars for a living. A former repo chick, she'd hung up her lock picks for a new career as a private eye. But when her old boss calls up with an offer to repossess a Rolls Royce, the thrill-seeker in Leah can't refuse.

Things get crazy and dangerous when Leah's trip to Chicago turns out to be more than just a simple boost. As the dead bodies start piling up, she runs afoul with a homicide cop named Lt. Jack Daniels, and her uncouth ex-partner, Harry McGlade.

JACKED UP! teams up Tracy Sharp's unorthodox heroine with J.A. Konrath's stalwart cop, in an action-packed, hilarious mystery-thriller.

This short novel is 20,000 words long (about 75 pages), and is a great introduction to the worlds of Leah Ryan and Jack Daniels, while also being a treat for longtime fans of both series. 

Warning: Contains what may be the funniest sex scene ever written. And a ninja.

Joe: So tell us about Leah Ryan.

Tracy: Thanks for having me, Joe. Leah Ryan is a woman with a shady past. She’s a former car thief who spent time in juvee. She was a repossession agent whose work lead to the discovery of some pretty shady dealings, which led her to private detective work. She’s a basically good person with a bit of a bent moral compass.

Leah doesn’t flinch in the face of danger, and actually enjoys the adrenalin rush. She has a knack for finding it. Or it finds her. She hates bullies and the exploitation of people who can’t fight for themselves, and so she often ends up in really precarious situations trying to right wrongs or bring some bad guy to justice. Someone always ends up dead.

Joe: What's your publishing experience?

Tracy: Besides the Leah books, I’ve also written a YA horror novel called Spooked, a horror short story called Camilla, and a horror novel called Soul Trade.

The Leah books were published by two small presses. When the last small press went under, another publisher was taking them over. I had the option to go with the new publisher if I wanted to, but decided to go it on my own. I’d been following Joe’s blog for a while, and I was inspired. It was the best decision I could’ve made. I’ve done far better on my own than I ever did with a publisher. I’m certainly not rich, but I’ve definitely done better.

Joe: I've heard the Leah books were originally erotica. True or false?

Tracy: Actually, Repo Chick Blues wasn’t erotica. But I sent the book to a the publisher a friend of mine was with, not realizing that they did “romantica.” The editor loved the book and said that if I added five sex scenes she’d publish it. Finding Chloe came a year later. Same thing. I wrote the book, added five sex scenes. It was pretty seamless, actually, but the books definitely stood alone, without the sex.

I wrote Dirty Business for Nanowrimo, and sent it to another publisher, who didn’t push the sex as much, so Dirty was much more tame.

Still, the Leah books were never originally meant to be that steamy, so I’ve taken out the really graphic stuff and toned down the steamy stuff considerably. Much of it is suggested, now.

Joe: What's Jacked Up about?

Jacked Up brings Leah to Chicago to repossess a Rolls Royce, the owner of whom hasn’t been seen or heard from in a while. During the repossession of the Rolls, the body of an aspiring model is discovered in the car. This puts Leah under the scrutiny of the Chicago Police Department, and Lt. Jack Daniels. Jack tells Leah to leave her city, but of course, Leah won’t go. She instead pairs up with Jack’s nemesis and ex-partner, Harry McGlade, to investigate the murder on their own. The intensity just jacks up from there.

Joe: What was it like writing for Konrath's characters?

Tracy: It was a complete blast. I loved it. I’ve been reading the Jack Daniels series for years, and I have always loved them. Especially Harry. He actually makes me laugh so hard that I can’t breathe. I have such a fondness for these characters that my only fear was whether or not I’d able to do them justice. But Joe an excellent mentor and he jumps in whenever needed. Nobody writes Harry like Joe, so it was important for him to take over for Harry. I was thrilled by what he came up with for Leah, too. He speaks her voice perfectly!

Joe: What's it like working with Konrath?

Tracy: Oh, he’s brutal. My eyes are still puffy and red from all the crying. I’m still deaf from all the screaming.

Just kidding. In a word, awesome. Joe is extremely easy to work with, and he’s clear about what he wants from a writer and the project. He’s open to ideas and is excellent at building on them. He’s a master plotter, so if you get stuck, he is absolutely the guy to talk to. He’s so approachable, and makes it so easy. He is far more than fair and he’s funny, too!

And as I said, Joe writes Leah fantastically. The story is seamless. I think we collaborate very well. Also, I’m easygoing and really open to suggestions too, so that helps as well.

Joe: Will you work with him again, even though he talks about himself in the third person?

Tracy: Absolutely. I’m so excited about working with Joe. I adore the Jack Daniels universe, and being able to bring my characters in with Joe’s has been a dream come true for me. I’m really over the moon about it. It’s been so much fun! I am already working on the next project. Was that good, Joe? Don’t whip me again, ‘kay? I promise I’ll do better! (Jk!)

Joe: What's next for Tracy Sharp?

Tracy: Joe and I are collaborating on a full-length Jack Daniels/Leah Ryan novel, which I’m really jazzed about. I love the idea of bringing more characters from Leah’s world into the Jack Daniels universe. So much fun and just so very cool.

After that, a new Leah Ryan novel. I’ve had an idea floating around my brain for about six years and I tried it with other characters, but it’s a Leah book. I actually have two ideas I’d like to bring together in that book. It’ll be interesting to see how it unfolds. Sometimes stories tend to write themselves. They don’t always behave, and that’s a good thing.

Joe sez: Please buy all four books. One of the big reasons I decided to work with other writers is to cross-pollinate our fan bases, so it would mean a lot to me to see Tracy's backlist get a sales boost. She's good. You'll like her stuff.

Besides Tracy, I've finished five other collaboration projects that will be released within the next week. They average from 10k to 20k words.

I've been busy with other projects (namely Naughty) which took longer than expected, so I apologize to the authors have waited two months for me to get to them. But I'm quickly catching up.

Here's how my process works, for the curious and for those who are considering working with me.

When an author submits a story, my wife reads it and decides if my fans would like it. If she thinks they will, I read the story and begin to edit, polish, and rewrite. On average I contribute about 20% to 35% to the story. I usually wind up adding a few thousand words, mostly to my characters. Mainly dialog, and plot. I change very little of my collaborator's prose, unless I feel it is absolutely necessary, and then I usually explain why I did what I did.

When I finish my part, the writer gets the story back and accepts or rejects what I've done. Sometimes we discuss cover art concepts, but the final say is mine because I'm paying for all costs out of pocket. So far no one has been unhappy with my rewrite or the covers. I don't recoup my costs. As soon as the book begins earning money, we split the profits 50/50. So the co-writer is in the black immediately, and I have to wait for the book to sell enough copies for me to earn out my investment. With cover art, proofing, and formatting, my investment is about $800 a title.

Then we sign the collaboration agreement, and the story is sent to my agent to upload. The co-writer can cancel the agreement at any time, for any reason. The co-writer decides on the cost of the book, and the platforms it appears on. My agent pays us each monthly.

So far, this has been a ridiculous amount of fun for me. Seeing what other writers do with my characters is a joy, and getting our IPs to interact should be a lot of fun for fans. Every writer I've worked with has been professional, pleasant, and laid back.

Hopefully this will continue to be win-win. I get to release titles a lot faster than I could on my own, my co-writers get a sales books from my brand and platform, and hopefully a lot of my fans go on to read their series.

The final result, after doing this for a year, will be unique to the publishing world. There will be, literally, a minimum of thirty different writers' universes all linked through me. The hundreds of thousands of Jack Daniels fans will not only get more Jack Daniels, but they'll have dozens of new series to try.

But it's not just a linear progression. It's more like a woven tapestry. Tracy Sharp fans will discover Jude Hardin, and his fans will discover Bernard Schaffer and Iain Rob Wright, whose fans will discover Joshua Simcox and Garth Perry, who will then get turned on to Blake Crouch and Ann Voss Peterson and Henry Perez and Jeff Strand and Tom Schreck and F. Paul Wilson. Every new collaboration is another chance for readers to discover dozens of authors who write the kinds of things they like.

Eat your heart out Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.

Readers are desperate for good books, and hopefully this multiverse will be fun for them to explore, while also boosting sales across the board.

I urge readers and writers alike to support this endeavor by spreading the word and buying books, and I encourage writers to keep sending me stories, and I encourage the writers I've worked with to work with each other. As long as quality control is maintained, and good stories are being released, the opportunities are endless.