Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Four Letter Words

     Warning!  This post will contain many offensive words. If you can't handle the topic, please do not read and especially do not whine about it if you do.
     I was recently dinged by a head editor (not my own who knows me well) for using the word dick and the one-time use of the word cunt. Now, I don't like the last word either, but I did feel it might be used by a vile man angry at a woman who would not put out for him. I was trying for realistic dialog, but it must be removed and replaced by something milder like bitch or honey, I suppose. So be it. Son of a Sinner will come out without the C word. Not that big a deal.
     However, I was under the impression that dick was a mild euphemism for penis. Now, I write about football players, and I suspect they do use this term about their own and others.Those of you who have read my books know they are not awash in foul language. My athletes might utter an occasional WTF or use the F word from time to time, but not very often, less I believe than in reality. I know I could just do a global change and make all the dicks into penises, but that seems so clinical. Somehow, I doubt athletes would use pee-pee, wiener, or ding-dong. Other suggestions I received were his prick, his jewels, or his junk, though that last implies the whole package (another idea).
     The best ideas came from my water aerobics group made up of very mature women. One wrote romances in the 1980's and said she had to use "his throbbing shaft" or "his velvet rod". I doubt a football player would be so eloquent, but it would be funny, and I do like to put humor in my books.  Other suggestions: tallywacker, one-eyed pocket mouse, and my favorite, a hurrah rod, a term the lady claimed her daddy used. Some of the suggestions were so gross, even I won't tell you. Women are not the delicate flowers many believe.
     Anyhow, Son of a Sinner will come out with a disclaimer for bad language and violence since part of the plot deals with the mistreatment of a woman by a professional athlete. My heroine fends off rape and breaks the guy's foot in the process.  She is not an abused woman to make that clear. I was attempting to deal with current events. For a while it looked like the book would not be printed, but a compromise was reached and so it shall. Please let me know that you think when reading it sometime next spring. Whew! It's good to get this off my chest, my rack, my boobs....

Monday, September 8, 2014

When a New Book Comes Out...

This week Always Yellow Roses, my historical romance with a paranormal twist, was released into the world. What should have been the first book in the Roses Series came out third in the sequence, so it can be read as a stand alone with no trouble.  Frankly, it was easier to write and sell The Convent Rose and A Wild Red Rose, short contemporaries, than this 100,000 work that required lots of research and spanned two time periods, antebellum Louisiana and the 1980's (yes, sadly that is now considered an historical era and I did have to do research on it even though I lived through those years of big hair and huge portable phones).  I knew Noreen and Rusty's story from the start, but writing it down was something else altogether.

Anyhow, by now I have updated my author pages to include this title, plugged it on both my blogs, mentioned it multiple times on FaceBook, sent tweets to my publisher's PR person who tweets for me since tweeting drives me nuts, dropped off promotional postcards at the local bookstore and thrust them into the hands of everyone I meet. I also posted the Wild Rose Press kickoff sale of the new title for $3.00, half price for the e-book good only this week. Prior to this frenzy of activity, I have steadily mentioned the new book every time I gave a talk and occasionally on FB when I got the new cover which comes out months before the actual book.  Yes, I could be doing more, but at some point I need to work on my WIP, a new Sinners sports romance book entitled She's a Sinner. Son of Sinner is at the publisher and will begin edits soon. Looks like 2015 will be a double Sinners year.

All this done, I now wait and hope to get reviews on the new book.  As I have discussed before, reviews don't come easy.  Too many books, too few people who feel comfortable reviewing them. I hope for the best, but live in dread of getting a bad review right out of the gate. Always Yellow Roses takes place in the antebellum South initially. The families are aristocratic, own plantations and numerous slaves. I once entered this story in a contest and literally got lots of zeros from one judge who informed me that my hero and heroine could not be good people because they owned slaves and that I hadn't portrayed the cruelties of slavery and so my work must be historically inaccurate. Ahem, the book is not about slavery, though I took pains to portray slaves as individuals. They are in the book because wealthy people who have plantations own slaves. Not to mention that I give tours at a sugar planter's home owned by the National Trust and my knowledge is pretty darn accurate and backed up by documentation. Another judge enjoyed the story and couldn't wait to read more, but with all those zeros of course it won no prizes. So, I am waiting for that shoe to drop.  Always Yellow Roses is a tale of young love and reincarnation that happens to take place in the old South. I hope you enjoy it.

Monday, August 4, 2014

KDP-Didn't Work for Me

     Months ago, I promised to let you know if Amazon's KDP program catapulted me to fame and fortune. For those who aren't familiar with KDP, basically Amazon gets exclusive rights to your book for three months. First month, it releases only on Amazon. During the second month, your book is offered free for a week and on sale during its last month. After that, the title is distributed to all outlets. Okay, no problem the first six weeks though many of my readers use Nooks (big local Barnes and Noble presence in this area) and they had to wait or buy a paperback at the local bookstore or get it from me.
     This book happened to be A Trashy Affair, one of my best efforts. The free week approached, and I advertised the heck out it. Trashy was downloaded over 10,000 times and reached number one on the Free List and the Free Contemporary Romance List.amid some better known writers. I did get more reviews than usual, most of them positive, some odd.  My favorite complaint was that the book was not trashy enough by far. Made me laugh. Despite the title, I never do trashy..The book is about recycling on many levels. However after the free week, I had only a handful of sales and made little money on the book. Everyone who wanted it had it for free already.
     Seeing these results, I wasn't joyful when my publisher put my new Sinners football romance, Love Letter for a Sinner, into the KDP program, too. Frankly, the Sinners books are where I make the most money as they have a following. So, I didn't promote this one as hard. It got 6,000 downloads for free and did reach second place in free contemporary romance. Again, sales were depressed after that. I garnered one truly hateful review among many good ones. But, the person was coming into the series at Book Five, and it didn't make sense to her. She will never read another of my books again. Big sigh of relief from me.
     The Convent Rose, the start of the new Roses Series came up next and was again put into KDP by my publisher.  Downloads: 5,000 plus without much push from me. First review-awful and long.  I understand some people don't get my sense of humor or that my romances often aren't typical. Fine if they don't like one of my books, but I do hate when a reviewer then gives away the entire plot trying to make the story seem as ridiculous as possible-and gets it wrong in many places right down to name of the hero.My editor whose shoulder I cried upon, said not to worry. I have fans and they would enjoy the book. They did. Six favorable reviews finally popped up, but the first one anyone browsing sees is the long and ugly. Sales-not good on the whole series now.
     After that, I was given a choice whether to participate in KDP or not. I opted out. I made half what I usually do in royalties during this time (not a fortune during my best quarters), gained a few lovely new fans and collected a few trolls who always start their reviews, "I hate to write a bad review."  No, they don't. They love it. Frankly, if I read a book I hate, I don't review it all  It takes so much time and effort to write a novel and tastes are not the same. I would never tear apart another author. I also feel that people don't value what they get for free. They expect bad and so see bad. Others simply won't pay for a book with so many free out there. Sales have been sluggish ever since because I suspect some readers keep waiting for a free week on my new or reprinted books.  Ain't gonna happen anymore. Amazon may discount them. My publisher might offer them for sale, but I will not be doing free again.
     Now before I close, let me say Amazon does more for authors than any other venue. KDP just wasn't for me. Still not rich (a little broker really) and still not famous (figured that wouldn't happen anyhow). Always Yellow Roses will be coming out September 5th, the third in the Roses series, but really more of a stand alone historical romance novel. In other words, you don't have to read the other two first to enjoy this one--and I hope you do buy it--because there will be no free days.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Getting Reviews-Wish I Knew how!

     Believe me, if I knew how to get reviews, I would tell you.  When I was first published in 2010 with Goals for a Sinner, Wild Rose Press sent my book to ten reviewers.  Only one posted a review, a very good one that I still quote today.  I don't think I've had anyone on that list review one of my titles since.  I am not railing at them.  Among my librarian friends is a reviewer for one of the library journals. Every quarter, she is inundated with ARCs (Advance Reading Copies) from the four remaining big New York publishers. She can only choose a few and passes along the others. It is very hard for the e-published to compete with that when the author must provide and pay for the copies sent out. I'm not sure if sending e-books works. It certainly hasn't for me.  Knowing my friend has her hands full, I did not ask her to read mine, but she did give me a name of another reviewer who might take on one of my books.  I did send one along. No response yet.
     At Romantic Times, people are encouraged to make contacts. I found one who again gave me another name to try for a review. Still waiting without much hope.  Another lovely young lady who reviews books on her blog once did one of mine, but she opened the flood gates when she put her name on a list of persons willing to review and found herself drowning in e-books, most of which she found to be too bad to review. Being a kind person, she did not post anything about them. Another blogger I met at RT said she no longer reviews because a person who pushed a book on her and got a bad review continued to hound and argue with her to the point of being abusive.  Reviewing can be a perilous life.
      Free weeks on Amazon will get you reviews. Usually the haters post first ruining your sales. Good ones come later and balance things out but the damage has been done. People don't seem to appreciate what they get for free. I can tell you I am done with that means of getting reviews. Lately, I've been giving out review copies liberally to people I think might be interested. No results on that yet either. I know they fear a book will be bad, and they'll have to face you later and strain to think of something nice to say. Actually, I've been on that end of it, too, reading a book I didn't care for and trying to find some neutral words to describe it.
     Of course we all rely on family and friends though I've gone beyond that point and find most of the people who give me a brief review on GoodReads or just some stars are strangers. Amazon will no longer post reviews, either good or bad, by other authors for reasons I entirely understand.  But, as most of my friends are authors, this cuts out a huge source of reviews. I think my relatives are beginning to dread when I have a new release because I always ask them to post an opinion. When I requested a good friend, an English teacher, to review one of my books, she handed me with a two page book report, very detailed. I had to explain I couldn't post it myself but really appreciated her effort. All I needed was a brief paragraph posted on Barnes and Noble or Amazon-which she did once she figured out how to do it. So simple, but people rarely take the time to hit the Post a Review button.
     I can only conclude that "we are too many" now that e-publishing has busted things wide open.Reviews are harder to get than ever. Without reviews, sales come hard. Believe me, if you enjoy a book the nicest thing you can do for an author is hit that Post a Review button and simply say why your liked the story in a few brief sentences. Only takes a few minutes. Am I begging? Maybe.
   

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

RT14

     One word to describe the Romantic Times Conference in New Orleans--Overwhelming. Yes, I did go to the orientation for newcomers, but it didn't help me cope with the long lines or the crush at all. For some reason I thought I'd run into FaceBook friends and writers I knew simply by reading name tags--impossible. Not to say I didn't make new friends and meet interesting people because I did. So sorry I never found Jane Lange and Cassandra Carr but did get to talk to Farrah Rochon whom I've known for some time as we both do football romances.
     My pithy observations on the conference: Cover models are thinner and older than on their covers (camera adds twenty pounds and I suspect some air-brushing goes on with them as well as female models), but all were very nice gentlemen who helped elderly writers up on the stage and appeared at every big event doing whatever was asked of them such as handing out Mardi Gras beads at the Pub Crawl which I did not attend.  At the end of that exhausting day, I merely crawled back to my room three blocks away hauling immense bags of free and heavy books and watched an NCIS rerun while trying to decide which new book to read.
     Writers are also older than they appear in their cover shots.  That's because we never get a new photo taken and remain frozen in time. But, all were very approachable and many were good speakers. Though I don't in any way think of him as a romance writer, Lee Childs excelled as an especially good speaker.  The awards ceremony was incredibly long, but I did enjoy hearing the short back stories of so many of the authors. Those who stayed until the end were rewarded with another bag of books.  That and winning a giant basket of erotica caused me to skip the last of the big parties and limp back to my room once more helped on my way by a new friend, blogger Jenna Perlin, who helped me lug my loot. We went out for hamburgers, talked, and I gave her one of my books and one from the gift box.. Actually more my kind of evening than a big soiree.
     I confess I did one thing I swore never to do again--I pitched at the Pitchapalooza where like speed dating you got three minutes with an agent or editor. Having just attended a workshop on writing Regency novels ( yes, people were there in costumes) and learning that genre was not dead after all, I pitched to three editors and one agent.  All gave me cards and expressed interest in my Longleigh Chronicles and even in the contemporaries I have in print. What a pleasant surprise. Now, I must force myself to submit.  So far I've only followed up with the agent.
    A high point for me: a woman sat next to me on the bus to Mardi Gras World for a huge event and told me she'd read all my books.  I doled out some signed postcards, the only thing I had with me for promotion since I didn't want to drag foam footballs to a party.  The low point: another attendee said people only do that to get swag.  Oh well, I got to enjoy the glow of being recognized for about twelve hours before having my party balloon pricked. Nearly everyone I met was very pleasant with the sole exception of a wannabe writer (guess I should say pre-published) who seemed pissed that I had ten spicy romances in print while she hadn't sold her inspirational novel yet.  I later saw her, sour expression in place, at Pitchapalooza and gathered it did not go well for her.
     Would I go again?  Not without a room in the conference hotel and a wheeled cart to haul books, but I would recommend it to others.  Next year's venue is in Dallas.  Not too far away, but I haven't quite recovered from this one yet.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Making a Series

I'd written four books before I attempted a series. One of those books, now entitled A Taste of Bayou Water had a sequel, Blessings and Curses, the first being the sister's romance, the second the brother's story.  But, I deliberately wrote Goals for a Sinner to be the first in a series that would follow the life and loves of the players on a fictional football team, the New Orleans Sinners. I vowed I'd use players other than a flashy quarterback and started out with a wide receiver, then broke my vow when I became intrigued by the quarterback, Joe Dean Billodeaux, who helped the receiver through his crisis. Joe Dean became the hero of the next book, Wish for a Sinner. When I couldn't sell either book, that series came to an abrupt halt. I moved on to cowboys and Regency dukes. Tides turned and Goals became the first book I sold.  Then, I had to get cracking writing the third book, Kicks for a Sinner and so on up to five books in all (so far). I never got over Joe Dean and found my stories followed his career to its end while encasing a new romance inside that overall arc. Some people like that. Some don't.

Series simply do sell better than single titles.  I can swear to that.  In fact, I created an unintentional series with my Mardi Gras books.  The first, Flames, had a mystery sub-plot and less sex than the Sinners series. A pivotal point n the plot takes place at a ball at a small town Mardi Gras.  I explored a country Mardi Gras where the celebration also plays a big role in the plot with another small mystery going on in a story called Masks. These books were only very loosely connected by the Mardi Gras theme, different towns, different characters. Searching for another book to write, I finally tackled the 1920's historical novel, Queen of the Mardi Gras Ball.  It grew out of three sentences in A Taste of Bayou Water, "You got your great-grandma's moxie showing up here. I remember that shawl from when she danced a fandango on a table out at Broussard's Barn on New Year's Eve back when I was just tadpole. Rosamond St. Rochelle was some high-stepper in those.days."  I wondered about Granny Roz for years after writing Bayou Water. What was her story? Because she is the heroine's great-grandmother, obviously she came of age in the Roaring Twenties and would have to be a rebellious flapper.  Nine months and much research later, I finished Queen, one of my best books to date.  Couldn't sell it. No one wants to read about the 1920's I was told, but again a prime plot point takes place during Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

So, no takers on any of these books as single titles.  I wondered if they'd sell as a series, technically a trilogy, if I repackaged them. First I changed the titles of the first two books to Mardi Gras Madness and Courir de Mardi Gras and developed a nice catchy phrase,"Anything can happen on a Mardi Gras Day in...a small town, the country, New Orleans. I rewrote the earlier books mostly to bring them in line with what my publisher wanted-and they sold as a group. The connection between the books is still tenuous and each can be read alone, no problem, but they had no appeal as single titles. Queen and Madness came out in October, 2012. Courir was due out in September, 2013. Anyone who follows this blog knows what happened next. My publisher went out of business before Courir appeared. Queen and Madness went out of print. I still have some new copies and some are available used, but people kept asking me when the third book in this series would be out and even suggested I write another based on Mardi Gras in the 1800's.

I'm happy to say Courir might be out next year. I've submitted it to Wild Rose Press and await their word. If they accept it, I will see if they want the others as well. I admit I've been dragging my feet on this while trying to get my real bread and butter series, The Sinners, back into print. I blogged about that struggle last time. After that came the launch of the cowboy series, The Roses, starting with The Convent Rose and followed by A Wild Red Rose.  The third book in that group, Always Yellow Roses, has gone to galleys, so now I have a little time bring those Mardi Gras books forward again. Wish me luck with my unintentional series.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Getting Back in Print

With a sigh of relief, I recently welcomed Wish for a Sinner back into print (and e-format of course). Wish is a key book in the Sinners sports series since it deals with the quarterback, Joe Dean Billodeaux, whose career we follow throughout the five novels. For some reason unknown to me, my new publisher chose to reissue the books in reverse order so that the second book came out last. They still held rights to the first book, Goals for a Sinner. I can be thankful for that since it made it easier for me get the books reprinted. I know authors who had only one book out with my former publisher and are still looking for a home for that book. Wild Rose immediately picked up my whole series and the three books I had planned to publish with Dreamspell in 2014. Naturally, publishers prefer fresh works that have not reached the end of their sales peak.  With a series, new readers are picked up along the way and that makes them more appealing for reprinting.

So, what goes into getting a book back into print? More work than you would suppose considering that the title has already been professionally edited. I received new galleys on all of my reprints that had to be read word for word for errors. Somehow, when a manuscript is put into book form, all sorts of things can go haywire. A paragraph indent might disappear. Two words could run together.The worst I ever experienced was in my first book with Dreamspell. All the quotes in the center of the book were turned backwards. We fixed it, but the process was tedious. Then, there are tiny mistakes you missed in the first edition which is just plain embarrassing. How both myself and an editor could read the book at least four times and not see them, I do not know, but they are always there.

Cover art does not travel with the book, but is redone unless the original artist is paid for its reuse. All mine received new covers which meant I had to fill in numerous forms describing the hero, heroine, the location, etc. for each book. The back cover blurb must be rewritten and sometimes, the author is asked to gather quotes of praise from other authors and reviews. This is highly time consuming--and frankly, I never rely on those quotes or even read them in other books.Regardless, I think the Wild Rose artists did a great job on my books. Sorry to those of you who miss seeing Joe Dean shirtless.

The Sinners reprints came out one a month for four months which meant I had to publicize each one as it appeared and order new promotional items with the current covers. Thankfully, Amazon retained my reviews and switched the covers with no special requests from me. But, I did get more forms to fill in from the Wild Rose PR people listing my favorite scene, quotes, and interesting things about me for their own efforts. I do this blog, am on FaceBook, but don't Tweet. They tweet for me, thank heaven! Anyhow, the work load was tremendous, even more so considering I had three new books coming out at the same time, the new Roses cowboy series, and the stand-alone A Trashy Affair.

 Time to write during these months: zero. I am beginning to wonder if I will ever finish a Regency I started last September. Especially since the next Roses book, Always Yellow Roses is now in edits and another book edited but never released by Dreamspell, Courir de Mardi Gras, is the next to be offered for contract.  Meanwhile, the next Sinners book is simmering on the back burner of my mind. I have a title, Son of a Sinner and a half-cooked plot so far. Am I complaining? Not at all. It means everything to have my books back in print again.