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First Sale: Taste Me by Tamara Hogan

This is one of our last first sale letters for a while here at Dear Author.   We’ve decided to take a hiatus from these posts and do an author/editor/agent (maybe) post about a behind the scenes look at the making of a particular book including, but not limited to, discussion on tropes, themes, and plot devices.   Thanks to Tamara Hogan for closing out our series with her first sale story.   Taste Me, Tamara’s latest book, is in stores now.


There once was an English major who developed a crippling case of performance anxiety, certain she couldn't meet people's expectations. For years, she wrote only checks, documentation and source code, content to read other peoples' stories. "Someday," she promised herself. "Someday, you'll write that novel."

"Someday' came twenty years later, when she-‘okay, I-‘was busy dodging elbows in the pit at a rock show. The drummer's behavior was positively debauched and-yeah, absolutely riveting. "The guy must be half incubus," I marveled.


The next morning, I dragged myself out of bed two hours before work, went to my hometown coffee shop, and started writing. After writing about two hours per day, six or seven days a week, for about two years-‘some days with Deb Dixon's "Goal, Motivation and Conflict" open in one hand and clutching a pen in the other-‘I finally had a manuscript. And I was scared sh*tless. What if the manuscript sucked? Hard? What if that scared young girl had been right all along?

I talked myself down, and entered a couple of smaller writing contests. To my surprise, some readers thought my opening chapter had promise, and I discovered that receiving strangers' feedback, even negative feedback, wasn't nearly as scary as I thought it would be. I polished the first three chapters of the manuscript, then called Underbelly, took a deep breath, and entered the Daphne du Maurier and Golden Heart contests. Completely under the radar, right? Nothing to lose.

Nothing but my anonymity as the phone rang twice, informing me that my manuscript had been named a finalist in both contests. The validation was wonderful, really-‘but honestly? I was freaked to the gills. All those old feelings of inadequacy, of certain looming failure, came rushing back. I felt like a fraud, and so, so – exposed. I'd finished a solitary manuscript, sweating every step of the way. I didn't know how to write a query letter. My synopsis really did suck. I hadn't researched agents, editors or publishers. I didn't know how to pitch. The back half of my manuscript was still a hot mess, my Crohn's Disease was flaring, and I had a whopping case of day job burnout. The months between the phone calls and 2009 RWA National were frankly a blur. Some days I leaned so heavily on the other 2009 Golden Heart finalists, my Ruby Slippered Sisterhood, that I'm surprised they didn't topple over. Other days, despite their best efforts, I felt quite alone, my confidence in a death spiral, the most clueless Golden Heart finalist there ever was.

Thankfully, by the time 2009 RWA National rolled around, I'd snapped out of it. I vowed to enjoy the Golden Heart experience, and to not to drive myself crazy with self-imposed pressure. Having done some industry research also calmed my nerves, and I'd grown very intrigued by Sourcebooks and its managing editor Deb Werksman. By the end of 2009 RWA National, I'd won a paranormal Daphne (my Ruby Sister Darynda Jones won the Golden Heart) and I'd received several requests for partial and full manuscripts. After the conference, I queried Deb by email, attaching a full manuscript.

Several weeks later, I received a cheery return email from Deb, saying she was just about to read my manuscript. Luckily I wasn't leading the meeting I'd just dialed into, because my thoughts were firmly on the East Coast. In late August, I received another email from Deb saying she loved the book, and wanted a proposed series arc, some alternate title ideas, and insight about my desired career track to take into acquisition meetings. In the midst of this flurry of activity, I accepted representation from agent Cherry Weiner, and in late October, I got The Call (or rather, The Email) from Deb, extending an offer for the first three books of my proposed Underbelly Chronicles series.

Only one of which was actually written.

Was finishing that first book a fluke? Could I write another, only this time on deadline and under contract? Talk about feeling shoved out of the nest too soon! But one of the most talented editors in the biz was offering me a book contract and a chance to make a dream come true-‘a dream that I'd been too afraid to pursue for too many years. I also realized that I wasn't that scared college kid anymore. I'd had life experiences that that young girl couldn't have predicted if she tried-‘experiences which made any residual artistic performance anxiety seem pretty self-indulgent in comparison.

So I stepped to the edge of the nest, furiously flapped my wings, and jumped.

I recently typed THE END on my second manuscript, Taste Me's follow-up, Chase Me (proving to myself that I could do it again – yay me!), but I'd be lying if I said the fear was completely gone. Some days my butt's in the chair, my hands are on the keyboard, and the ground seems a looooong way down.

But I jumped. I'm flapping. And though some days my wings feel really, really tired, flying feels- freaking fabulous.

Two randomly selected readers will receive a free copy of TASTE ME courtesy of Sourcebooks Casablanca! (U.S. and Canada only, please.) Comment before 11:59 p.m. tonight to have a chance to win.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Tracey Devlyn
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 06:16:48

    Great story, Tamara! I’m in a similar situation as you — 3 book deal, one book written. Really scary, but you give me hope! Congrats on your debut.

  2. MicheleKS
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 06:49:31

    Congratulations, Tamara! I believe that if you can write one book you can many more. Best of luck to you.

  3. eskimo
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 07:17:12

    What an aspiring piece – Congrats, Tamara! I wish you many sales!

  4. Bev Pettersen
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 07:52:18

    Really enjoyed your post, Tamara. Thanks for sharing. Congratulations on Taste Me!

  5. Gwynlyn MacKenzie
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 07:55:41

    You know all your Ruby-Slippered Sisters are behind you, Tamara, and so exicited to see Taste Me on the shelves. There isn’t a doubt in any of our minds that Chase Me will be just as enthralling.

    Brave and talented. Keep flapping, doll. You’re on your way.

  6. Susan Sey
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 08:08:34

    Tamara, I love this story. Thank you so much for sharing what it really feels like to put your heart & soul in a book & take the chance that it–and you–are going to fly. I can’t wait to snatch up my copy of Taste Me. It’s on my agenda for today, in fact. Hurray!

  7. Elisa Beatty
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 08:14:05

    TASTE ME is just fabulous, Tamara!! I’m so glad my pre-ordered copy arrived early–I enjoyed every bit of it. BEST VILLAIN EVER!!! And the relationship between Lukas and Scarlett is wonderfully intense and sexy. Such an awesome world you’ve built!! (And the very last page of the book…the final paragraph….**sigh!!!**).

    That book was no fluke, Ruby Sister!! You have talent pouring out your ears! I can’t wait for CHASE ME!! (And which couple will it be??? Sasha and Jack? Rafe and Bailey???)

    BTW–I SOOO admire your focus on BICHOK. You can accomplish anything that way!

  8. Diana Layne
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 08:14:46

    So proud of you, Tamara!

  9. Rita
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 08:25:25

    Tammy you are brilliant. All the books you write will be just as brilliant.
    Huge CONGRATULATIONS to you and wishes for many many sales.

  10. Michele
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 08:56:01

    I love reading first sale stories. And I’ve had the pleasure to read Taste Me, and can tell everyone to GO BUY IT because it’s an awesome, sexy read.

  11. DM
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 09:12:50

    Talk about going out with a bang. This is one of the best First Sale stories I’ve read. It’s got internal and external conflict! Off I go to buy the book…

  12. Tamara Hogan
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 10:33:20

    Hi, everyone! WOW. Thanks so much for your kind comments. For someone who fears exposure as much as I do, I always seem to overshare. ;-)

    Elisa, I’m tickled that you enjoyed Stephen! Coming up: In CHASE ME, archaeologist and Valkyrie council member Lorin Schlessinger reluctantly teams up with werewolf geologist Gabe Lupinsky to search for evidence of their ancestors. CHASE ME is scheduled for a March 2012 release. Reformed computer hacker Bailey Brown (and yes, Lukas’s brother, incubus Rafe Sebastiani) will be featured in Underbelly Chronicles Book Three, TEMPT ME.

  13. Karenmc
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 10:33:31

    Excellent tale of overcoming trepidation! Best of luck and congratulations.

  14. Jeannie Lin
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 10:35:18

    Just unfair…completely unfair that some people get to hit it big with their first completed manuscript. :)

    It’s an inspiration to read this story. Congrats Tammy and am totally thrilled to add Taste Me to my Ruby debut bookshelf!

  15. Pamk
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 10:45:20

    congrats. And I’m adding your book to my wish list. sounds like my kind of book.

  16. Tamara Hughes
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 11:19:36

    I’m so happy for you, Tammy! What an awesome story of your first sale. May there be many, many more!


  17. Carolyn
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 11:27:06

    No ebook format. :-(

    It’ll have to go on my wish list because it sounds like something right up my alley.

  18. vita
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 11:32:34

    Wow! Taste Me sounds awesome. Good luck with your trilogy. And beyond!

  19. Mariann Grossman
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 11:51:19


    What a wonderfully honest article of your fears and excitement about this process.

    From someone who has been in your corner for 30+ years (yikes)! I always knew that this day would come for you! Am excited and thrilled for you! Bravo and job well done!

  20. anna
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 12:01:20

    Ooh, sounds yummy. The books, not the self-doubt and anxiety…
    Congratulations on getting published!

  21. Tamara Hogan
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 12:21:48

    Hi Carolyn – TASTE ME should be available in electronic formats wherever people buy their books. We’re aware that the Kindle version of the book doesn’t seem to be orderable at the moment, but we’re following the issue up w/Amazon and hope to resolve the issue shortly.

  22. Maggie Robinson/Margaret Rowe
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 12:26:14

    I think no matter how many books you’ve finished, you always wonder if you can do it again. And you always wonder if you’re “good enough.” You can, and you are! Very inspiring story. Congratulations!

  23. Janine
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 12:35:26

    Lovely first sale story. Thanks for sharing your doubts as well as your triumph.

  24. liz talley
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 12:47:18

    Got my copy and it’s ready to be picked up! Such a wonderful story of overcoming your own insecurities to give your writing a chance…and look where it landed you:) Thanks for sharing and though this may be the last “First Sale” post for a while, I hope it won’t go away forever. It’s so inspiring to read about a writer’s journey to publication.

    Congrats, Tamara! Enjoy the spotlight!

  25. StacieDM
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 13:04:51

    Congratulations Tamara. I’ve heard great things about the Taste Me and I have enjoyed reading the excerpts on various blogs. Great first sale story!

  26. Lisa
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 13:06:25

    Don’t enter me in the contest. I just wanted to say CONGRATS to Tammy!:)

    Great story!

  27. Alison
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 13:15:27

    I’ve been waiting to hold Taste Me in my hot little hands almost as long as you have. Huge congrats! Enjoy everything about this time.

  28. Edna Curry
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 13:32:11

    Very inspiring post, Tammy!
    Congratulations on Taste Me and good luck on the rest of the series.
    Edna Curry

  29. Lindsey
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 13:44:09

    Love the story, Tamara! It’s inspiring how you were able to overcome your writing anxiety, especially because I’ve been trying to work to overcome my own performance anxiety issues that I feel may hold me back from my dream job. :)

  30. Mariee
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 14:30:52

    Congrats Tamara!

  31. Elise Hayes
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 20:03:31

    Thanks for sharing the emotional side of your writing journey, Tammy. It really resonated with me. And I can’t wait to read _Taste Me_. I haven’t dared get it yet–once it’s in my house I’ll have to inhale it and I’ve still got one big deadline at the end of this week. But next week, I’ll be curling up with your book!

  32. Tamara Hogan
    Mar 07, 2011 @ 20:15:32

    Thanks so much, everyone! And please – let me know what you think!

  33. Calliope
    Mar 08, 2011 @ 00:55:13

    This book seems like a great read – can’t wait to get a hold of it!

  34. Brenda Whiteside
    Mar 08, 2011 @ 08:06:46

    I’ve read it, and Taste Me is riveting. Congrats, Tammy. It was good to hear your story again (even though I know it) because little details get lost in my web of a brain.

  35. Helen Brenna
    Mar 08, 2011 @ 09:01:30

    Congrats, Tammy! So glad you took that leap!

  36. Jamie Michele
    Mar 08, 2011 @ 11:04:39

    Tammy, I’m so proud of you for letting DA get up close and personal with you!

    Yes, you’ve hit paydirt with your first manuscript, and that makes yours seem like an overnight success stories, but it’s actually a tale of perseverance and overcoming that greatest of obstacles — self-doubt. Most of us can relate.

    And I love that you found inspiration at a rock concert. Rock chicks unite!

  37. Tamara Hogan
    Mar 08, 2011 @ 12:03:13

    \oo/ \oo/

    (That’s an attempt at double devil horns…)

  38. Tamara Hogan
    Mar 09, 2011 @ 11:36:32

    The two randomly-selected winners are: DM and PamK!


  39. MaryK
    Mar 10, 2011 @ 02:25:14

    @DM: I agree! This is one of the inspiring-even-to-non-writers ones. I can sooo relate to trying to pursue a dream in the midst of chronic disease flareups and day job burnout.

    I hadn’t heard of this one but now I’m going to have to get it. For some reason, I have a fascination with published Golden Heart entries. I don’t know what’s up with that.

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