Friday, August 26, 2016

Between Books

     Technically, I am on hiatus.  I finished writing Sister of a Sinner, did the rewrite, synopsis, blurb, and sent it off to my editor--who sent it to readers unfamiliar with the Sinners series, and they remarked, "Who are all these people?"  Even the list of in the front of the book didn't help them nor the quick sketches of each person as they entered the story. I swear I've explained what a traiteur is a dozen times and always put it in italics as a foreign word, but one reader kept calling my heroine a traitor until she finally caught on. For those who don't know, a traiteur is a traditional healer who uses prayer, herbal cures, and other folk remedies to heal in Cajun country where many of my books take place.  The trouble with long running series is they gather characters like a snowball rolling downhill, and I keep thinking fans of the series want to know what they are doing along with the main characters.  Yes, I know this is a failing of mine. I try hard to snuff some of them out, but don't succeed.  Most likely Sister will be rejected or have agonizing edits. Not looking forward to that.  I try not to think I've wasted three or four months writing a book that will never be published.  It has happened before.
      What am I doing between books? Maintenance.  I updated my web site,  I forced myself to send a query and sample chapters of one of my Regency books to a high-powered agency recommended by a dear friend.  Eight books sitting in the closet waiting to be discovered. I don't have high hopes. Query letters are not my forte, though I've read numerous articles on how to do them well and attended workshops on the same. Bracing for rejection--again.  Might end up being a two bogie month. Got to put on my alligator hide.
      But, I did design and order promotional postcards for An Ashy Affair to be released on September 28th and up for pre-sale on Amazon now.  It's a really good one with a great cover, and I do think it will sell well. There's a plus to offset the minuses.
      I caught up with some reading, my favorites, Norah Roberts, Jayne Ann Krentz, and looking forward to the new Susan Elizabeth Phillips. I read about six books a month, all I can handle and still write my own. This usually includes one for my book club, this month the tender love story, Eleanor and Park, a YA title banned, I guess, for bad language by people who really think teens don't use those words.  On my car's CD player, I am listening to the Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd, a eloquent story of the abolitionist Grimke sisters and their family's slaves. Yes, I wish I wrote that well. Just finished Cavalier by Lucy Worsley, nonfiction. Who knows when I might want to write about the 17th century conflict between the Roundheads and the bewigged Cavaliers? Also worked in Sweet Tomorrows by Debbie Macomber. It is sweet.  When I was laid up with pneumonia earlier this year a person suggested if I read more, I might improve my own writing. Sorry, I don't think I could read more and still produce two or three books of my own each year.
      Then, I started research on Never a Sinner about Teddy, the Billodeaux's handicapped son. Trying to figure out wheelchair sex led me to many porn sites, but also some very useful blogs by people actually in this situation.  I was touched by their stories and advice to others. I planned to take a month's break, but once I began the research, I couldn't help but start writing the story, not pushing, going slowly because after all, I am on hiatus. Maybe I should write one called Never on Hiatus.  Two weeks away from the computer seems to be all I can mange. Of course, if Sister is not accepted, that will break the series--and then what?  A topic for another time.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Plotting, Always Plotting

     Barely managed to squeeze my July post in this month.  Among my many excuses, a four day medical procedure that turned out fine but forbid typing, and the greatest urge to get the first draft of Sister of a Sinner done--just in case that procedure went bad on me.  I completed the book yesterday, still have the long process of revising, writing a synopsis and the blurb, but that shouldn't take more than a week or so.  While I am doing all this, and indeed, before Sister was halfway done, my mind started plotting the next book which will be another Sinners story.
     I suppose I am a pantser since I don't outline, create a spread sheet, or write down my character's eye color in advance.  In my mind, I know my beginning, middle, and end.  It's just a matter of moving my cast from one point to another until I get to the finish.  I do write in a linear fashion, beginning at the beginning writing through to the finish. Others like to write all their major scenes, then patch them together, but I find this often results in rocky transitions and abrupt scene changes.  You can usually tell when a person uses this method. Sometimes, they don't always appear to get the scenes in the right order.
     I also basically know my characters well in advance of writing the story.  Still, as the tale progresses, I learn more and more about them and the secondary characters. Some of the secondaries are as expendable as security guys on Star Trek.  Others will develop into major players in the plot.  You never know in advance, at least, I don't. Of my main characters, I will visualize what they look like and research their professions before I start, but they, too, grow.  In my rewrite, I will bring some of these issues to the front of the book to make them more complete.  Same goes for the setting which will be become more fleshed out.
     Often, I've thought I should write down some of the many plots rabbiting around in my head, but no.  As I finish one book, I simply grab another by the ears and start envisioning my new story.  I haven't run up against writer's block yet and never hope to.
     Sorry this is a bit short, but I am itching to start the revision of Sister, and can get a few chapters in before I have to cook dinner for my husband.  If accepted, and not all are, this one will be out early in 2017.  Meanwhile, keep an eye out for An Ashy Affair to be released September 28th.  It's a companion piece to one of my favs, A Trashy Affair.  This one has a hunky fireman the heroine thinks is a little too good to be true: brave, handsome, kind, and he can cook both in the kitchen and the bedroom.  Has to be something wrong with him, right?  Leah Allain sets out to find what that is before she succumbs totally to his charms. It's a good one.  Enjoy!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Animal Characters

     Seems my blog gets posted later and later every month.  I have a really good excuse this time.  My at least ten-year-old computer (still running Vista) had its last and fatal crash. Of course, my husband was out of town at a conference. I waited three days for him to return as I knew he'd want to be in on the selection of a new machine. The computers at the local library allowed me to keep up with e-mail  and Facebook where I exist as Carla Lynn Shurr Hostetter if you want to friend me.  In the end, it took nine days to find a new computer, have the data transferred, install at home, and learn to cope with Windows 10.  So, a long delay in doing my blogs--I also contribute to working on Sister of a Sinner, the new Sinners book, Xochi's story. Enough excuses! On with the topic.
     I often have animal characters in my stories. They contribute warmth and humor to a tale, but should also have some relevance to the plot. I'm not fond of making them prescient or giving them other occult powers. I leave that to the fantasy writers even though I do think animals often are more aware than people, scenting oncoming storms, knowing when other people mean harm. Just be sure when you decide on an animal character that they fit the plot and help move it along. For instance in A Place Apart (unpublished), a sailor with PTSD finds a Portuguese water dog that loves to sail with him and aids in his recovery. A large standard bred poodle might do the same as they were once water dogs, but certainly not a teacup-sized one.  Stacy in Son of a Sinner owns a Bichon Frise, a powder puff of a dog but very clever if not prone to being housebroken. She teaches the dog to do tricks,and the hero wonders if she is manipulating him in the same way. Every breed of a dog has special characteristics, and these can easily be checked at the American Kennel Club website or sites devoted to that breed. Make sure you know what you are talking about.  In the upcoming Ashy Affair, a Jack Russell mix plays a part. I learned these dogs are mischievous and also territorial. Owning two can lead to chaos. In other words, research your animals just as you would any character in your book.
     I once had a disagreement with my editor over a cat character.  In Mardi Gras Madness, the heroine finds a kitten that crawls out from a hole in the base of church. She promises to give it a home if she gets a job. She does. Now, editors don't read your book through and then go back and edit it.  They just start right in and might use your synopsis for a guide, but all the details never make it into a synopsis. My editor said basically, cute scene but it doesn't move the book along, omit. I had to tell her that cat and this scene would matter very much by the end of the tale, but that would not be apparent until the end. She let me keep Snake, the coal black cat, after all.
     Horses can be great characters, too.  They have very distinct personalities like people.  In Courir de Mardi Gras, the shy hero seeks a white horse he can use to sweep the heroine off her feet literally during the Mardi Gras ride. The only white steed available pulls the local vegetable wagon and has the name of Puffy for his tendency to puff up his belly when being saddled.  He is not a glamorous animal, but certainly adds some fun to the story of a man trying very hard to be a hero. Do be careful of using horses and any other animal if you aren't familiar with them. Readers will take you to task right away if you mess up the details.
     Parrots are great characters because as you might have heard, they can testify at a trail because they can repeat what is said. They might also be very inappropriate like the African Gray Parrot I used in Ashy Affair.  His name is Mr. Gray, better known as the bordello bird.  He comes on to women he likes by saying, "Give it to me, baby".  Poor Leah, the director of the animal shelter, cannot find a home for the suggestive bird and fears she will end up with him as a retirement gift as parrots have very long life spans.  He adds humor and plays into the plot as his bordello residence was burned down.  Again, research your birds before adding them into the plot.  Canaries may sing, but they don't speak.  Crows, however, can.
     Animals are also used for cute meetings in romances.  I know I am going to short change a well-known author here, either Jennifer Crusie or Jayne Ann Krentz, who used a roving Basset hound to bring her characters together. And yes, I've forgotten the title, but did enjoy the book.  Or they might add a little twist. When a fireman saves a tiny tuxedo kitten from a burning house and offers it to the owner, the heroine says, "That's not my cat.  You keep it."  The hero of Ashy Affair has five dogs, and now, he's stuck with cat.
     I think I could go on forever on this topic, but really have to get back to work on Sister of a Sinner.  Do you have any favorite animal characters or have used them in your own books?  Let me know.  Now, back to the manuscript.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Doing What Must be Done

     Where has May gone? Five days of it went on a trip to Madison, Wisconsin, to see my son get his doctorate in physics.Yes, I'm bragging a little. Having no math skills at all, having taken advanced biology and dissected a cat to avoid taking physics in high school, I am immensely happy he got my husband's brains for this subject. The weather was terrible--windy, cold, and rainy, but we rejoiced anyhow and mostly celebrated indoors. Spent one extra day of this trip stranded in Houston when our last flight was cancelled--and then there was the week long catch up on mail, e-mail, laundry, and groceries. You would have thought we were gone a month instead of less than a week.
     Regardless, I didn't work on my new book, Sister of a Sinner, for over a week.  It is hard to get back in the groove of a writing schedule even after such a short time.  A Will of her Own came out in April, and The Courville Rose is due out first week in June, both needing some publicity efforts. An Ashy Affair went through two edits and is now off to line editors and the galley stage. I guess it will be my autumn book, appropriate since it takes place in October. While all this was going on, I worked in spurts on Sister, five-hundred words here, a thousand there, and some days nothing.  It has picked up speed now since my only other resolution is to find an agent for my Regency series. I'd rather write than face all those rejections again.
     Yes, seventeen books in print, soon to be eighteen, and I still fear rejection.  A good friend has given me the name of his agent. As soon as he wrote the name, I realized this is a revered old agency, one that rejected me many years ago more than once.  I have grown a lot in my writing skills since then, have a modest fan base (and ten followers of this blog!), yet I am still scared to approach them.
     Being fairly good at forcing myself to do what must be done which includes painful cuts and rewrites of my work, I will take this plunge, but probably not before I finish Sister. I'm over twenty-thousand words in on what will probably be a seventy-thousand word book, so I should have it done in around sixty days or two months, say by the first of August. In the more laid back field of e-publishing, I've learned to set my own goals and deadlines.  Discipline is the key to getting 'er done, whatever it is that is holding you back.  Write every day. I strive for 1,000 words each time I sit down at the computer. Some writers won't have the time to do that much, so do whatever you can. Promise yourself  you will complete that book by a self-imposed deadline, good practice should your publisher ever impose one. When edits and galleys come through, do them at once, and then get back to writing your book. No dallying!
      I revise yesterday's work before beginning today's writing. This makes for a very clean first draft needing only light revision.  Once I polish the second draft, I move on to writing the synopsis and a blurb that can be used in a query or on a back cover. With this is complete, boom, off it goes to my editor to accept or reject, and oh, yes, I still get rejections.  I've had three I thought were sure things turned down. Two were accepted that I felt were long shots as they aren't my usual type of book.  However, those long shots went through grueling, unpleasant edits that often made me wish they had been turned down.  Both became very good stories, I think, and the reader will never know what blood, sweat, and tears went into them--as it should be.
     So, discipline, self-imposed deadlines and word counts, editing as you go along, then taking the big leap to submit will get you where you want to go--eventually.  Good luck to all of us.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Dreams Deferred

     Some of you might have noticed I have only six regular followers of my blog, no surprise to me as I don't follow anyone else. Just so many blogs, and I don't have time to read them all, but I am gratified when anyone takes the time to read mine, usually about one hundred people a month. That does't make me any great shakes as a blogger, but I am complimented that anyone takes the time to do it.
     Recently, I lost one of my six followers, a person I knew, Robin Emerson. Robin was president of the Randolph Writers of Asheboro, North Carolina, when we met. My mother lived in that town, and once when I visited there, I contacted Robin about giving my Adventures in e-Publishing speech when my first book, Goals for a Sinner, came out six years ago. Her group listened attentively, asked good questions, bought a few copies, and then regaled me with a wonderful spread of Southern cooking. Robin at the time was working on an historical novel.
      We stayed in touch through Facebook and had lunch together when I visited Asheboro again. Meanwhile, her dream of getting published faded. I don't believe she ever completed her book. Instead, she started a small business making the most delightful tutus for little girls that turned them into fairy princesses. When we spoke, I assured her she'd make more money in tutus than in being published. I intended to order one of her creations when my new granddaughter was old enough to wear one. That was never to be.
      Robin went in for routine gall bladder surgery. Terrible complications ensued that brought her to death's door more than once over the next few months and finally claimed her life. I can only say she is now free of pain and suffering, but oh, how I wish she'd completed her book and self-published if she couldn't find a publisher. I know her family would have appreciated her creative effort, just as they did those lovely tutus often modeled by her beloved granddaughters.
      I suppose what I want to say is be careful of how long you defer your dream to complete your book. At a recent signing and many times before, I've had people say they have a story they want to tell but feel they are too old to get started. I often give the old Ann Landers answer. "How old will you be next year if you don't start." We can have dreams at any age. I beg you not to defer them. Get to work if you want to write a book and finish it! Leave your story for your family if no one else.
      I'm by no means young, but it does look at if I will have three titles out this year. The Courville Rose, my ghost story, found a publisher and will be out this spring. A Will of her Own is up for pre-sale now on Amazon and Barnes& and comes out on Friday. While unknowingly suffering from walking pneumonia, I completed the first edits of An Ashy Affair before dragging myself off to a doctor. With all that in the bag, I can rest and recuperate now, but I am so glad I persevered in pursuing my dream to be a published author.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Is the e-publishing Bubble Bursting?

     How did it get to be one day past the Ides of March so quickly? I admit I fudged on February since I posted twice in January, and it is a short month anyhow. But to get down to the topic at hand.
     I admit I was stunned by the announcement that Samhain, one of the older and better e-presses was closing down. Kudos to the publisher for not simply declaring bankruptcy and trying to straighten out their financial problems first while still paying their authors royalties, a soft closing you might say. About the worst thing that can happen to a book is to be declared an asset in a bankruptcy case. Often that title is tied up for years along with the rights to sell it elsewhere. I understand rights will gradually be returned to the authors who can then move on. Samhain had quite a few big e-authors and a large stable, maybe too large.
     I am now grateful that they rejected two of my romances for not being hot enough. I won't be orphaned again as I was with my beloved  L & L Dreamspell where rights were returned immediately and help given to the authors to find new placement. Wild Rose Press picked up nearly all of my titles, I think ten at the time, but it was a ton of work getting them all back in print again. Each book receives a new cover and is re-edited to suit its new publisher.  Took nearly two years to restore all of them for publication and newer projects had to be put aside for a while. My sympathies go out to all Samhain authors. They have a rocky road ahead. Several of my fellow Dreamspell authors turned to self-publishing and had the skills to do that. Sure, it is faster, and if the book has already been edited your product is fairly good, but getting the word out is difficult when you are an indie. It still carries a stigma of not good enough to find a publisher, though this shouldn't be the case, but sometimes is.
      E-books and indies have flooded the market, often being sold for ninety-nine cents. Sales are down for e-books, and no wonder with authors practically giving their work away and readers coming to expect nearly free--and then complaining that the book wasn't the quality expected.  Well, no. You got your ninety-nine cents worth.  Because we are so many, reviews are difficult to come by, and reviews sell books. New York publishers still guarantee a certain standard of publishing, and they get the reviews, the hype, and the placement they pay for. The new boom seems to be supplying non-traditional authors with reviews for a fee-not paid reviews, but guaranteeing they will send your book out to hundreds of reviewers and hope a few will take the bait. One friend tried this and was not pleased, saying mostly they sent his book to obscure blogs no one reads. I have to say my small one title investment in NetGalley pleased me with twelve reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, but I could never afford their entire fee. Thanks to Wild Rose for making this possible for their authors.
     The old boom of small e-presses and subsidy presses that printed your beloved book for say a hundred dollars and up and/or required you to buy x-number of copies (which is where they made their profit) seems to be fading.  I had two books with eWings, once a subsidy publisher, now a regular e-publisher under the new management of B.J. Haynes, the well-known creator of Whiskey Creek Press, a very successful subsidy press recently sold to Start, I believe. With a loss of leadership, eWings had become moribund, and many of us considered getting our rights back. I had no quarrel with the editing or the cover art, both very professional, or even having to buy thirty copies. I always buy at least that many to sell at signings.  But, absolutely no publicity was done to help sell books other than listing the title on their web site. Might as well have been in indie. I can certify that those two books, A Taste of Bayou Water and its sequel, Blessings and Curses, are as good as any books I've published, but they've never gotten much traction. However, I am taking a chance on the new eWings which is putting out The Courville Rose, an unusual ghost story,probably this summer, since edits are complete.  Watch for it, and we will both see how it goes.
     Meanwhile, yes, I still write for Wild Rose.  A Will of her Own is being released April 15th and is up for pre-sale now. It is women's fiction with a happy ending and the first of my books not to take place in Louisiana. I'd love your opinion on this departure and if you will, write a review.  An Ashy Affair which takes place in my Chapelle, LA universe is contracted to them also.  Wild Rose is well run as a business, and I am praying they are immune to recent pitfalls in e-publishing. Little e-presses go under regularly. I think most who start them have no idea how complicated the business can be and soon bow out, but when a giant like Samhain falls, we all shake.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Contests and Contest Answer

     Count this as my February blog because there won't be another one until March. You see, I donated an e-copy of She's a Sinner to The Romance Reviews for their month long Valentine's Day party. I seldom donate to these affairs as giving away one book probably won't make a difference one way or the other, and I am asked so often for free copies. In the e-world , your publisher does not give you boxes of paperbacks to give away for promotion.  You have to buy them at about $10 a piece, so it can get expensive. I can, however, give an e-copy for free.  The Romance Reviews (TRR) has been good to me and put up three positive reviews of my books (no, not all five stars, but good), and so I am happy to contribute to their party. Now let me cheat a little and do a cut and paste of what other goodies they are offering.
     The Mega Anniversary and Valentine's Party starts on February 1 at 12:00am EST. 
 We have more than 300 participating authors and publishers.  There are more than 300 prizes up for grabs during the whole month of February. Grand prize is $200 Amazon Gift Certificate! Plus over $300 Gift Certificates and more than 300 book giveaways!
     Caveat: You do have to join their site to win a prize.
     To win She's a Sinner, you must answer the following question: In which Sinners Sport Romance does Xochi first appear.  You see, my sports books aren't just about sex and football, love and romance, but also about family and friendship as they follow for five books from Goals for a Sinner to Love Letter for a Sinner the career of Joe Dean Billodeaux, a quarterback, from his backup days to his retirement as a legendary player. The spin off Sinner's Legacy series is following the lives of his twelve children, the first two being Son of a Sinner and She's a Sinner which will be up for grabs on February first.  Xochi appears in both books, but first makes her appearance as a child in Kicks for a Sinner.  There's your answer.  Made you read a lot, huh?  But, I also hope I've encouraged you read the whole Sinner series.  Good luck.  May you win many prizes and not only mine.