Thursday, September 14, 2017

On the Road Again!

     After a long, hot, slow summer, Never a Sinner came out to good reviews, and all the work is done for A Place Apart for its November first release.  Great covers on both books which capture Teddy Billodeaux's joy of life, and the isolation of Jacob Day, a damaged veteran to wants nothing more than to be left alone on his deserted island which is suddenly claimed by a socialite also seeking solitude.  Sparks fly!  I've also made a start on The Heart of a Sinner, Annie Billodeaux's story, but must put it aside to satisfy my wanderlust again.
     I am off to Iceland shortly to tour the island and bathe in the Blue Lagoon and other hot springs. When I return home, I have a week's break before going to St. Louis to see the ancient mounds of Cahokia and eat good barbecue. The question recently came up as to whether I plan to site a book in Iceland.  Probably not, but I never know.  When I started writing Sister of a Sinner last year, I had no idea that my brief cruise to Cozumel and my tour of the ruins there would come to play a part in Xochi Billodeaux's story, but that is where her kidnappers take her.  Sister only came out this spring, again to good reviews, but I don't want to spoil the story for you, so no more on that. A trip to Wisconsin provided Alix Lindstrom with a home state, though it doesn't figure heavily in the story. A spring visit to Minneapolis might give me another. It is quite a vibrant, multi-ethnic city, not bland and white at all.
      I finally got the courage to write A Place Apart several years after a visit to Maine.  When out of my comfort zone of south Louisiana, I always fear getting the details wrong, but favor Road Scholar for my tours. They are dubbed Learning Adventures, and you do learn! I save reams of information they give me for future use. In Place Apart, I recreate a sloop ride on Penobscot Bay early in the book and spin off on a legend I heard there--besides eating lots of lobster, one of my favorite foods. Although a man of education and many talents, Jacob Day chooses the hard life of a lobster fisherman to avoid others. The title came from a quote I heard at the Island Institute, founded to preserve the way of life on the many coastal islands, places apart indeed. It is my first book based entirely on one of my trips. I yearn to write one about western Ireland where I went a couple of years ago, but again, the devil is in the details.
      On my Road Scholar tours, I also meet so many interesting people like a Navajo code talker, sadly now deceased, the first woman to run the Iditarod in Alaska (she lost badly but did finish the grueling race), a shaman with a sense of humor, and many glib-tongued Irish men.  My traveling companions are equally interesting, folks who have worked with NASA, a nurse who who served in World War II, people who are so talented they can learn to play a penny whistle overnight or write an limerick in minutes to amuse the group. Any of these are worthy of a book of their own.
     So, off I go again.  Undoubtedly, I will fill my Facebook page with tales of Iceland in the next month. I'm counting on my daughter, an excellent photographer, to supply the pictures. See you later!
     

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Revising

     I recently finished writing Putty in her Hands, a story about a woman who is a master plasterer and restorer of old homes. When an architect purchases an hisotric hotel she wants to revive and put up modern condos, they bump heads and other body parts.Then, I mentioned on Facebook that the next step in getting it published was the rewrite. One non-writer friend asked me why I had to rewrite my book, and I replied, "Only a fool would send in a first draft." Maybe a little too blunt, but true.
     My first drafts are usually pretty clean because I revise the pages I've written the day before prior to settling down to write the new words of the day. Also if I do a plot change, I will go back and incorporate into the book at the moment I decide to go ahead. I pay attention to Spell Check, too. So, my revisions only take about three or four days, my usual time for reading any book,
     What do I look for when revising?  Anything and everything: making sure blue eyes don't turn to gray, saying a person had been to Italy in the beginning of the book, but hadn't in the end (caught that one in Putty!), consistency of plot in case I missed one of those changes, making sure my characters stay true to their back stories, etc.  Reading the manuscript as a whole over a few days as a reader would is invaluable since it has been written in bits and pieces over three or four months, and those months might have been fragmented by a vacation, an illness, a need to do edits on another book in line for publication, or take time out to publicize a new release. Does the new story hang together and make total sense?
     Spell Check doesn't catch every error either. It is perfectly happy to allow the author to use to, too, or two anywhere you want since all are spelled correctly. When I am typing fast, hot on the trail on my story line, I often drop the second o on too. It won't save you from dropped articles. Again when working fast I tend to omit the, an, and other pesky little words my mind fills in for me, but my fingers don't pay any attention to in a writing frenzy. My editor catches lots of these since I seem to skim right over the gaps any time I read the passages.
     I always think I've ferreted out all the little glitches, but usually my editor finds a few more, and I am ashamed to say, I've caught some really awful ones in the final galley proofing. Folks, always reread every word in your galley which is the last time you see the book before it goes into print. In A Place Apart, due to be released November first, I discovered I'd changed the hero's sister's name from Jeanine to Jeanette mid-story. It wasn't a conscious change since she is mostly called Jen. If I want to change a name and am aware of it, I do a search and find and make a global change, though this can be dangerous.  At one time, I decided a man's name should be spelled Grey instead of Gray and did a global change. Suddenly, gray eyes, clouds, dogs, horses, and clothes were all spelled grey, creating a total mess during revision. Also, global changes don't account for the possessive apostrophe s unless you also do an intentional change on that, too. Fortunately, I only needed seven changes to get Jeanette back to Jeanine.  So glad she wasn't the heroine! Same book, I also called the dog salon The Pampered Pooch in the beginning of the story. Somehow, it changed to The Pampered Poodle at
the very end, only one correction required. And that is why I revise.
     Time for the advertisement.  Never a Sinner, the fourth in the Sinner's Legacy series, is coming out on August 30th. This is Teddy Billodeaux's story. Born with spina bidifa, he has been on crutches or in a wheelchair his entire life.  No, he will never be a player on the Sinners'team, but he has carved out a career as a sport announcer and writer. His life is about to be upset by the arrival of a pregnant teen and newly crippled young woman, both of whom need his help. He rises to the challenges each presents, though it isn't easy. Hope you enjoy the read.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Audio Books

     At last my publisher has given its authors a chance to get their books recorded. I really wish this had happened when my mother was still alive as I dedicated Queen of the Mardi Gras Ball, one of my best, to her. By the time the book was in print she'd developed macular degeneration and could no longer read, one of her main pleasures gone. But, to be honest, she couldn't hear either and would never admit it, so an audio would have done no good at all. Still when I got the news, I put Queen at the top of my list. It's a fan favorite along with Trashy Affair and my Sinners books.
     Obviously, I couldn't choose all of my twenty books in print.  I asked my readers to help me select, and in addition to Trashy decided on the first Sinners book, Goals for a Sinner, and the second Mardi Gras book, Mardi Gras Madness. After making the selections came the contract extension on these books for seven years. No problem there. New York isn't knocking on my door. This is evidently required by ACX, Amazon's audio arm. Recently, that giant purchased Audible, a big name in audio, so one in the same now.
     Next step, to fill in an audio spec sheet. Not too hard until you get to the sample to be read by potential narrators. I misread the instructions as a maximum of 2,000 words and couldn't figure out why only a few paragraphs showed up on my form. Ah-ha! That was 2,000 characters including spaces, sort of a Tweet sample. The instructions urge you to include both dialog and description, a lot to fit in that small space. After some frustration, I expanded the teaser scenes in the front of my books a bit and went with those.
     These scenes are now put out on a call for narrator. I'd guess some are not chosen, another reason to submit four. They do a reading of the sample which is passed through the publisher to the author to accept or reject. If rejected, another narrator gets a chance. I did note my pet peeve--that of giving people in Cajun country where most of my books take place a twang or a drawl. Really, we speak standard English around here unless older and have a Cajun accent which is not easy to do. My dialog will give the narrator some hints on how to do dat, no? Forgot to tell them my last name is pronounced Sher, not Sure. Somewhere along the line, it lost its German umlaut.
     Once the narrator is contracted for presumably a percentage of the profits, we come to the hard part, listening to the whole book for corrections exactly like a galley. I write long most times. Only Goals is a short book. I can just see me now frantically writing down every mispronounced Cajun name or word in a 100,000 word book. But, that is way off in the future if any of my chosen books fly.
      If anyone out there is jealous of this opportunity, don't be. I believe any indie writer can strike up the same deal with ACX. My audio rights belong to my publisher and so must go through them. They get a cut, Amazon gets a cut, the narrator gets a cut--and I get the thrill of having my books on audio. Not being sarcastic here. I'll let you know how the rest of the process goes as it is a long one. If any of my books comes out on audio some time next year, you will definitely hear about it.
     I hope this information is useful to all who read my blog occasionally, including that one hit in Kazakhstan. I've had readers all over the world, but this is a new one. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Another Contest, another Answer

     Better to this before I forget about it.  The Romance Reviews is having a Sizzling Summer Reads Party and will be giving away many books if you answer a simple question about them. I am donating  a first edition, signed paperback copy of Paradise for a Sinner which takes place on a tropic isle. Drum roll, please.  The answer to the question is American Samoa. I think my book will be up for grabs on June third. Keep an eye out for it. The party runs the whole month of June with new books every day.
     Yes, there are two Samoas, one its own nation, one an American protectorate. And possibly one a cookie-Samoans do love their coconut.  This small island provides an inordinate number of football players for it population, and they are 56% more likely to make it to the NFL than other college players. Known for their size, agility, and a cultural ethic to work as a team, they make great recruits. Adam Malala, the hero of my book, is just such a person. I hope the winner enjoys this read.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Signs of the Times

     Recently as I read the RWR magazine, I noted that there were fewer contests aimed at new authors and not as many small conferences cheaper to attend than the biggies.  Maybe it is just my imagination as I never enter contests anymore and rarely go to a conference, but it made me reflect on the demise of our RWA Chapter in Baton Rouge.
     At one time, our small group supported a contest and did its darndest to give good advice and a nice plaque to the winner.  As our group dwindled, we no longer had enough people to do the judging and could not attract big names to judge either. These contests were also fundraisers for most chapters to bring in guest speakers and agents for the group. I don't see so many anymore.
  Some people left the group or never joined because they didn't want pay the nearly $100 to join RWA. As a librarian, I always joined my professional organizations and carried this over when I began to write. I think the Romance Writers of America do look out for their members and try to elevate the profession. Much of their advice pertains to any type of writing. However, new rules that a person must prove they are writing and that officers have to turn over every so many years does hurt the small groups. I admit a few of our members simply enjoyed the company. I had no problem with that, but as rules tightened, they left. The smaller the group got, the more the internal struggle to get new officers.
      Always too small to host a conference, we did put on a very nice readers' luncheon with a great speaker, awesome gift baskets, good food, and plenty of authors to meet.  I always had nice sales there and met terrific people.  When Baton Rouge suffered severe flooding, the luncheon was postponed indefinitely.  It never returned as the group disbanded as of Christmas that year. I've noticed that two other groups in the state no long run their lovely small conferences which I did enjoy attending. New Orleans still hosts some given by individual authors, but you need a large group to keep this going. The huge RWA conference and Romantic Times seem to be thriving, but the lesser lights have faded away.  I suspect the many who rushed to indie publishing found they don't make enough money to attend. I've got a small publisher, and I sure don't,  But, the expenses can be written off on your taxes if you are published. You just have to have the upfront money to attend. I've been once to both RWA and Romantic Times, awesome but huge and exhausting. I do miss the smaller, more intimate experience.
      So, am I right or am I wrong?  Are there indeed fewer contests (not talking about the commercial ones for the published which are basically popularity contests to draw people to a site) and less state level conferences? You tell me.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Blogs, Bloggers, and Blog Tours

     When my first published book, Goals for a Sinner, came out way back in 2010, my publisher encouraged me write a blog about writing. Not too keen on the idea, I said in the very first one that I felt like I was speaking to myself in a dark closet. I rarely got a comment and still don't, but to my surprise 100-150 people do look at my blog each month--if they aren't foreign hackers just bouncing their stuff off my site. I've often wondered about that. I post only monthly, and for a few years also wrote monthly for romancingthejock.com which is now defunct. Blogging about sports or writing takes times and effort and often research. I much prefer my brief daily posts on Facebook under Carla Lynn Shurr Hostetter, where both fans and old friends can find me under either name to post a friend request.
     I've often been a guest blogger at various sites. If you plan to do so, be sure to have your press kit ready. A very basic press kit includes a fairly professional photo of your face, a brief biography, your books covers, and blurbs for said books. Often guests are given a long list of interview questions to  answer, or you are asked to write something fresh just for them. Their followers are urged to make a comment. I have to say I've rarely solicited a comment on these guest spots either. All in all, the blogger gets a break from their column, and you get some free publicity.  It does take work on your part and time away from whatever you are are writing at the moment. While I have meant and become friends with some lovely bloggers, I honestly don't think this effort has ever sold one of my books.
     Recently while sitting between two writers at an Author's Row, one of those multiple author book signings with sometimes up to fifty authors participating, all competing for the attention of a thin crowd, mostly the friends and families of specific people, we discussed blog tours for lack of anything better to do.  The lady to my right was eager to try one. Jaded as I am, I said with my experience simply guest blogging the whole idea of doing dozens of these in a row simply horrified me. I'd never seen any financial return, and the tour organizers expect to get paid, sometimes pretty much. Whenever I get such an offer from a company doing this for money, I just delete the message. If an individual asks me to do a free spot, I might, but my expectations won't be high.  I don't think they sell books.  If you've had big success with this, let me know and I might reconsider, but I doubt it.
     I've also sat on numerous Authors Rows that usually require some travel time and a lot of sit time. I believe places like Barnes and Nobel and libraries sponsor these to get the self-published and/or little known authors off their backs for a book signing. I place myself among the little known small press authors. Simply put,with the ease of printing a book nowadays, we are too many. While libraries provide a free spot, B & N charges 40% of anything you sell. It is possible to lose money if you only get a 35% discount on your print copies, but they benefit by having your friends and family walk to the back of the store full of temptations to reach your table. The best I do is usually two books sold to friends who came to support me. I do make new contacts among the authors and hand out lots of book cards. Sometimes, a sale on Amazon crops up later from a person who'd rather read the work on their Kindle and get it at a cheaper price.  That is perfectly fine with me.
     I've yet to discover a gimmick that really sells books, doesn't cost a fortune, or take up tons of time better spent writing the next book.  I am all ears if you know of one.
   

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Contest Answer

Not really a post, just the answer to win a copy of Ashy Affair in the Romance reviews big March blowout contest.  In Trashy Affair, the hero's occupation is pilot.  Go to http://theromancereviews.com/event.php to learn more. My question should appear on day three in March.