accordingtojanePlease welcome guest blogger Marilyn Brant, who is not only a lovely friend and avid blogger, but also author of the hilarious, romantic, and moving new book According to Jane. The story of a young woman who receives advice – some good and some questionable – from the spirit of Jane Austen, According to Jane won the Golden Heart, the top award for unpublished romance novels, quickly setting Marilyn – and her book – on the path to publication.

I loved According to Jane when I read it and can easily give it my recommendation. Read on to see how you can win a signed copy of your own! But first, Marilyn has a few things to say…

Over the past few months, Caryn and I had a running email conversation that went something like this:

July

Caryn: “Hey, when According to Jane comes out, how about doing a guest blog on my site? Maybe about what it’s like to be a debut author? Something fun like that?”

Me: “Oh, sure. Sounds great! Just let me know a good time. We can chat about it some more after I get back from the RWA conference. Did you know I have to bring bookmarks and postcards and all sorts of stuff this time? Even ARCs. Oh, there are gonna be a few extra meetings this year, too.”

Caryn: “Really? Like what?”

Me: “A bookseller/librarian gathering, a Book 3 planning session with my agent, a few publisher-hosted events. I get to meet my publicists…”

Caryn: “You get to meet your publicists? In person?”

Me: (nodding) “Kinda cool, eh? My publisher takes that whole marketing and selling thing pretty seriously.”

August

Caryn: “How’s it going — busy? Still want to blog next month?”

Me: “Yeah — to both questions. It’s weird, though, you know? There’s a LOT to do before a book comes out. I’d almost go so far as to say it’s an ENDLESS stream of work… Having a release date looming at the end of September is making my life surprisingly stressful. I’m not really sleeping.”

Caryn: “That’s not good.”

Me: “No. Um, not to change the subject abruptly or anything, but do you have any idea how to make a magazine-quality PDF for an advertisement that’s going to run in a national print publication with a readership of over 10K?”

Caryn: (squinting at her computer) “What?”

Me: “That’s okay. That’s okay. Never mind…” (pause) “How about newsletters? What have you heard about the pros and cons of email marketing?”

Early September

Caryn: “So, did you want to set a date for your blog visit now?”

Me: (fighting to breathe from underneath a suffocating stack of advanced reading copies for reviewers, unmailed prizes to contest winners, thank-you cards, 45 single-spaced pages of interview questions, promo details and Book 2 revision notes) “Huh?”

Mid-September

Caryn: “You okay? Maybe it’d be better to have you guest blog later — you know, AFTER the release. When things calm down a bit for you.”

Me: “OMG, OMG. They’re putting my BOOK on the SHELVES. In STORES!! And LOOK! Amazon reviewers!!” (pointing at the screen in a state of near-delirium) “They RATED it. With STARS! I mean, I knew they did that, but did you see what that one person from Seattle said about my main character?! It was NOT nice! But then this guy from Boston wrote in, and he said…” (wandering off to click obsessively at the different pages showing the Amazon rankings and review comments for the week of September 29, 2009)

Caryn: “Marilyn? Hello? Helllooooo??! You still there??”

Early October

Me: (in a stream-of-conscious monologue to anyone who stood still long enough to listen) “…and I have to do a few book signings THIS WEEK!! And a library presentation! And did you know how popular book clubs are?! I’ve been invited to SEVEN of them already! Why do people keep asking me if I’m okay? I’m FINE…really, totally fine…hey, are those chocolate-covered espresso beans? Could I have, maybe, a handful of those NOW? Also, who knows how to find out first-week sales figures? Someone here has to know that, right? Right?!”

Caryn: (muttering to herself) “I’m not even gonna try to email her…”

Late October

Me: “Oh, whoa. When did fall start?” (glancing around with the surprise of a revived coma patient) “That’s strange.”

Caryn: “So, you seem a bit calmer now with the release behind you. What’s it like being a debut author with your book out and everything?”

Me: “Hmm.” (trying to think of an apt comparison, given my rather fuzzy recollections of the past 4 months) “Well, even though I read Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, I’m hardly an expert on the living dead…but, given that it’s Halloween week and all, this might be the best way to explain it: You know how zombies are portrayed as sort of alive in that they’re wandering around, mindlessly doing lots of unnatural things but, mostly, they’re in this trance-like state of un-restfulness and their people skills really suck?”

Caryn: (typing back worriedly) “Yeah?”

Me: “Well, I think there may be few parallels…”

Hope you all have a Happy Halloween, Everyone! To Caryn and to those wonderful friends who put up with my crazy pre-pub zombieness this summer and fall, thank you!

Love Marilyn’s writing as much as I do? Leave a comment below to enter to win a signed copy of According to Jane. One winner will be randomly selected from all commenters on the evening of Sunday, November 1st. Can’t wait for Sunday, or maybe you want to get an early start on holiday shopping? Pick up a copy today!