Thursday, May 17, 2018

Death and Authors

     When famous and beloved authors die, we always mourn both them and the fact that there will be no new titles forthcoming, although that is not always the case. I remember when V.C. Andrews of Flowers in the Attic fame passed away. Her books continued to come out for years afterwards under her name but obviously "ghost" written by others. Long lasting favorites like Agatha Christie never go out of print. Her heirs are probably still receiving royalties. I'm not sure what the British copyright law is, but last time I heard in the USA, it was forty years for the author and then another forty for their family.
     But what becomes of the rest of us, the indies, the small press authors, the one book wonders? In my contracts, there is a clause that says all of my works, which now number twenty-three, will immediately be taken down. My heirs will receive my last quarter royalties, probably not enough to buy flowers to cover my coffin. That will be the end of my books and me. I have taken the precaution of naming one of my children as my literary executor. She has a background in journalism and can reclaim my rights from the publishers. Should she choose, she can reprint them or offer them to other publishers. Of course, covers would have to be changed and the books reformatted which is considerable work. As she has a career of her own, she simply may not have the time or interest to do any of this, knowing I certainly did not get rich from my efforts. She is also instructed to share any royalties with her two siblings. I certainly hope they don't get into a fight over that eighty-eight dollars I have coming!
       Mostly, I hate to think of all my characters dying with me. They become so real when I am creating a tale. As it is, I sometimes get inquiries about what happens to them after I've written "The End". What did they do in the future? How many children did they have, etc. So, I occasionally work them into new stories and give them cameos. For instance, Merlin and Jane of A Trashy Affair, easily my most successful book, appear in Putty in her Hands. Jane is now a mother of two boys and still an environmental activist. Merlin serves on the parish council. Both help Julia in her fight to save an old hotel from demolition.  Celine Landry, now wife of billionaire Jonathan Hartz from A Taste of Bayou Water, also joins the cause. They are aided by Miss Lolly and Miss Maxie, two every elderly former teachers, who are willing to chain themselves to oak trees to save the building. These two characters have appeared in my Sinners sports romances and jumped into several of my single titles as well. They always add humor, driving around in their big boat of an old Lincoln and feeling free to say whatever they want as age hath its privileges. They must be pushing a hundred by now, but I still hate to have them die with me.
     My family will have to deal with the stacks and stacks of books I have in our storage area, some good sellers, some gathering dust. As I grow older, I order fewer copies to resell at conferences and book signings as storage is becoming a problem. I imagine each child might each take a set of my complete works, all pre-autographed, and donate the rest to the library book sale where they will resurface for years until they fall apart. It is nice to think of someone reading my now out of print books.
      All of this makes me rather sad.  But, it also gives me incentive to keep on living as long as I can just to keep my characters and their stories alive.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Signing in the Rain

     What authors do to sell their books! March in Louisiana is fair and festival season, primarily because the weather usually fine, clear, warm, but not too warm. It's the best time to promote my books, too. I signed up for four events to do so, one a wonderful arts and crafts fair where I usually sell a number of books and sometimes small pieces of art. Setup must be completed by nine, and the fair runs until four o'clock.  It's a long but worth it day most years, and I don't have to pay for my space. This year, the first weekend in March was simply freezing. I bundled up, but found doing my setup too hard with gloves and was fumble-fingered hanging the art and doing my book display. I finally settled into my chair, threw a blanket over my legs, drank some of the hot tea I'd brought along, and consoled myself with a cookie purchased from one of the vendors.  Of course, customers did not venture out until almost noon when it warmed up. I had all my sales then and met a bunch of people who might buy later, but the whole time prayed I wouldn't get walking pneumonia again as I did at a chilly event in December.  Not doing anything outdoors in December again--though it can be warm here. You never know.
     Event number two took place on a week night to entertain six hundred visiting bicycle riders--who after riding forty miles really had no interest in art or reading. My husband was scheduled to set up his telescope for sun viewing. I said I'd put up my tables nearby as he usually has a line and hope for the best. Clouds closed in and threatened rain. My husband packed his telescope and helped me drag my tables under a nearby awning in front of an office in case it rained.  It did. While huddled there, again with hot tea from my thermos to ward off the damp, a woman approached and asked what I am doing there and who am I?  I replied, "Participating in the art walk and taking shelter from the rain."
     "Well, my boss wants to see some ID."  I gave her my business card.  She asked if all my info was correct. Yes. They wouldn't do me much good if it wasn't. She contacts her boss in the bowels of the office building--which is closed. He wants to see my driver's license. I get it out, and she photographs it and me. Now, I have lived in this town over thirty years and know a lot of people. First time
 I've ever been treated like a criminal, especially since I'd been asked to participate. I'd had enough and said I'd pack up and leave.  Oh, no, now I can stay.  I did for another hour. Had one sale to a rider who bought my shortest book for his wife--because he has to tote it in his backpack. Nice guy from California.  The sky grows dark again. I pack up as a misty rain falls. I do believe this is my last participation in a cycling event. Just not worth the hassle and being hassled. And by the way, public sidewalk, and I was not blocking his door or the right of way. Guy was a lawyer--figures.
     Event number three was several days later, a literary festival with fifty authors lining the main street and offering every kind of book for sale. I was set up in my paid spot between an interesting mystery writer from New Orleans with an impressive setup and tent and a self-published friend with a card table and no canopy. Not wanting a repeat of the last rainy venue, I'd brought mine. Supposedly, my tarp can be set up by one person--one very tall and strong person, which I am not. My husband raised it with the help of the fellow from New Orleans. I set up my display and waited. Some traffic, not much interest, and weather that turned cold and threatened rain. I had my first sale around noon when the hospitality committee brought us all a nice lunch of pasta and chicken salad and a cookie, but I kind of wished it were nice hot gumbo. Again, saved by that thermos of hot tea. An hour later, the wind is whipping and a drizzly rain if falling. Those without tarps pack up and go home. We were supposed to be out there until three. I call home for help getting the tarp down and begin to pack. Suddenly, two people who said they'd come back and buy later (they rarely do) rush up and buy a total of seven books. In one case, I had unpack to find the ones she wanted, but I did appreciate the sale. I'm home by one-thirty, as I think most of the writers were, and had a nice, cozy afternoon where I actually got some writing done instead of trying to sell it. 
     The last event, thank heaven, was indoors at a library. The authors were clustered in a rear meeting room which library patrons avoided. Mostly we visited each other, and some of the newly published had their families show up. For me, a three hour round trip drive and one sale, but I did hand out a lot of cards and appeared to score some sales on Amazon later. At least, I wasn't cold and damp.
      So aspiring authors, this could be your life. Think you can just stay home and write?  Nope, you have to put yourself out there to get noticed.  Be sure to buy a canopy of your own because you might be signing in the rain!








Sunday, March 18, 2018

Losing an Editor

     Recently, I lost my editor of seven years, not to death but retirement. She has a new man in her life and wants to enjoy time traveling with him. I can't blame her and wish her well. We'd built up a friendship, too. I will miss that.
      Now seemed the time to experiment a little, and I submitted a Regency novel to my publisher. I was assigned a new editor in the history division, and a contract was awarded but came with red flags I should have heeded i.e. the manuscript needed a lot of work, would require three edits, and I wouldn't like some of the required changes. Well, I have twenty-three novels in print with the last one Putty in her Hands, the final book done with my old editor, getting very good reviews. I've done tough edits before on a couple of books. One sells regularly, and the other tanked. I've worked with other editors on my single titles and believe I am easy going. How bad can it be?
      Very, very bad--starting with receiving pages of information how to write and links to the publisher's manual. There were hints my old editor had been too easy on me. Nearly every page had comments that I was ambiguous or omniscient (that was actually intentional to give it Regency flavor-but had to go) and most scenes were required to be rewritten in the heroine's viewpoint. In my experience, nineteen-year-old debs aren't that deep even if wildly in love. I began to find her view tedious. Burdening the story with her emotions added one-thousand words before the halfway point. Where had my funny, fast, breezy story gone?
       Each day, I opened the file with apprehension and closed it with a stomach ache. When I reached a cherished scene that needed to be cut because it wasn't in her viewpoint, I finally could do it no more and asked to be released from the contract, something I have never done, being a person who prides herself on finishing what she starts and meeting all deadlines. I'm not faulting the new editor. She did the job as she saw fit while I could not comply with her directions. Despite her warnings, I signed on for a job I was unable do.
      My confidence shredded, I will return to writing contemporaries, but must face another new editor. I'd put aside the next Sinners book half-written to work on the Regency. Now, I am fearful that it, too, will be considered sub-par, and the new editor will not work out either.
     In publishing, I've been orphaned, trolled, had a book come out with only one-third of its pages, and gotten poor reviews on my first audio book. I don't make much money for all the hours involved in writing and editing. Still, I've managed to survive these crises. Last year was super-productive with Sister of a Sinner, Never a Sinner, A Place Apart, and Putty in her Hands being published. After this re-do,I'll be lucky to get one book out before the end of the year.
      Perhaps, I need a break. Often, I've said I'd quit writing when it wasn't fun anymore. Not having fun now. One more try, and we'll see how it goes.
     

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Contest Answer for TRR

     I've donated an autographed print copy of Wish for a Sinner, my favorite Sinners Sports Romance, to The Romance Reviews (http://www.theromancereviews.com) to celebrate their anniversary in March.  My question will appear on the fourth day of contest, one among many, but be sure to look for it whether you collect this series or simply want to read it.  Drum roll!
     The answer to the question How did Dean's birth mother die is Shark Attack.  Why go out in a less spectacular way?  This is a long read that converts Joe Billodeaux, philandering quarterback, from playboy to loving father and husband. I hope you have the winning entry.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Audio Updates

     I was warned. Several people told me that if listeners did not like the voice of the narrator of an audio book, they would take it out on the book itself.  My publisher sent out several free copies of  my first audio book, Goals for a Sinner, which was also my first published book and the start of the Sinners series. I don't think it is my best book or the best of the Sinners, but has usually been given a solid four stars in reviews. As the reviews rolled in, mostly mehs, three stars or even two, it became apparent they didn't like the reader. I felt she did an okay job and more than that is needed apparently. The chief problem was in a book populated with football players, she did not differentiate the male voices which sometimes led to confusion in the dialog.  We are taught as writers not to constantly say he said, she said, but that would have helped in this case.
     My romances tend to have more characters and complex plots, perhaps difficult to follow when listening. A couple of reviewers gave me the benefit of the doubt and indicated they thought the book would be better than the audio, and I thank them for that. The audio certainly didn't win me any new fans of the Sinners, and most painful of all, cost me half a star ranking on Amazon. I do take the blame. I chose the reader, maybe too quickly. I should have indicated that they needed to be able to do male voices.  Perhaps, I should have selected a different title.  Heck, I have twenty-three to choose among.
     As for Mardi Gras Madness rejected for the numerous mistakes in the recording and sent back to do over, it remains in limbo. I have no idea if any progress is being made since I have no direct contact with the reader.  Communications go through the publisher. Had the first version been acceptable, it would have come out with perfect timing for the Mardi Gras season, and that is obviously not going to happen. Mardi Gras ends in mid-February, a short one this time around. Sometimes, it ends in March, but we don't get extra joy this year. I hope the project will be completed and turn out better than Goals.
     However, my current thoughts are that I won't do any more audio books and risk damaging the written versions. I'll pull Trashy Affair and Queen of the Mardi Gras Ball, my favorite books, from consideration and simply go back to writing the best books I can.  This has been a deep disappointment for me as I love audio books and always wanted to have mine recorded. I don't know but suppose that New York published authors are given wonderful readers and great actors for their books and don't self-edit.  That's not going to happen for me.
      Anyone out there have a similar experience with audio production?  If so, what did you do about it? I crave some company in my misery..
   

Sunday, December 17, 2017

More on Making Audio Books

     Six months ago, I embarked on getting four of my books out on audio.  It's a long process. I put four of my titles out there: Goals for a Sinner, Queen of the Mardi Gras Ball, Mardi Gras Madness, and Trashy Affair. As I mentioned before, the narrators get to decide what books they will do.  I quickly discovered, they don't like to do long books. Evidently, it takes three or four months to record a short one, say 65,000 words or less, and up to nine to do a 100,000 word book. That eliminated Queen at 112,000 words, no takers there. I did have one try out for Trashy at nearly 100,000 words, but found the voice to be too serious and mature for this humorous novel and turned it down. No others have applied. Now, I had been warned not to be too picky as these are readers and not actors. They literally read the story to the listener rather than create voices for each character, but still you want to get the right person.
     Two people auditioned for Goals for a Sinner. I turned down the first voice as being too young and giggly for twenty-nine year old, jaded with men, Stevie Dodd, but accepted the second, getting a little scared I wouldn't have any more. Hey, she did a nice job recording it over four months. As I listened to every word of the proof, I found only a few errors and in one chapter with some missed paragraphs. I noted this and hope they were put back in as the story makes an abrupt move forward at that point. So, six months from start to finish and Goals for a Sinner is now available on audio easily ordered from Amazon!
     One person offered to do Mardi Gras Madness. At 87,000 words, I was nervous it also would not be chosen. But, I liked her sample reading well enough and went for it. The project was thirty days late in arriving for me to proof, not a good sign. It also showed up just after Thanksgiving when the holidays take over my life, but gamely, I sat down and started to listened to ten hours of tape. The first three chapters were good with only a minor error or two.  Then, chaos entered the process. Every chapter after that had numerous repetitions, some coughs and sneezes and throat clearing, over twenty such incidents in each chapter. Finally, when I got to six errors in the opening minutes of a chapter, I skipped to the next. Thirty chapters later, I found that the final chapter and epilogue were free of errors--but no way could I accept this book! I returned it with the note that it was unacceptable and had to be redone. My publisher took a brief look lest I was being picky--and agreed. She offered to pull the contract.
     The narrator's excuse was that she had changed editing software in the midst of doing the recording. However, it also appears she didn't check her work before sending it on to me. I believe we are giving her a second chance, but no telling if the audio of Mardi Gras Madness will be out for Mardi Gras, which I had hoped, or if it will be good enough to accept. Hoping for the best.
     Publishing is fraught with disasters like Ashy Affair being issued on e-book with only one third of its pages. Audio books are no different, I've learned. In the meantime, enjoy the audio of Goals for a Sinner and the whole New Year ahead of us.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

My Favorite Reviews

      Though bad reviews still hurt me, I've had far more good ones and want to celebrate a few of them in this post. I didn't use any written by relatives, friends, fellow authors, or wonderful bloggers, which are greatly appreciated by the way. No, these were all posted on Amazon or Goodreads by total strangers which makes them extra special.
      By far my bestseller is A Trashy Affair with its just trashy enough hero on the cover. It garnered lots of wonderful reviews, but I selected just a few. One I've seen but couldn't put my finger on said the book wasn't nearly trashy enough, but she enjoyed it anyhow. The theme of the book is really recycling, both trash and people. Here are some I got a kick out of: "The story is a big ass good time. There's heat and politics along with small town flavor, bien sur"-Reader5309. Here's another:"I laughed out loud many times while reading and read some of Jane's battle with Nadia to my husband who worked in state and local government many years"--J.M.Struwe. Just one more for Trashy. "This is a great book mostly because anyone who has dealt with a small municipal government knows the politics involved. Add in some local flavor and this is truly entertaining"-Amanda Altenhofen. There are over forty more for this book which you can read yourself if you want. And yes, a few folks didn't like it.
     My very first published book,Goals for a Sinner, garnered these two. "I am a sports photographer and though I have not been sacked by a play, I have been tackled by a sideline player! It does hurt! The way Stevie protected her camera...I am right on with that too!"-Tracy. "I really got into it on a snow day and couldn't put it down until I finished."-James Corsones. I truly love when men read my books, and many have taken to the Sinners football series.
     Another in that series, She's a Sinner, about the first female NFL player, a punter, earned these remarks. "Such a fun and flirty read. It was also a fun look at what it would entail privately and publicly to be a female in a male dominated sport."-Janet. "I liked this book. I loved Tom and Alix together. They complimented each other,"-andrewsheath, who might be another male reader or not.
     Never a Sinner, the latest Sinners book, about the handicapped son of the Billodeaux family is getting some great ones. "This story was a welcome change from books featuring 'alpha-holes' and shows a hero who is manly, caring, and protective of those he loves."-lilymay. Lilymay often drops a review for me. Maybe I know her. Maybe I don't.
     Sometimes, I just love a quirky review. The Convent Rose was trolled badly the day it was published, but in time, other readers came to its rescue, and it ended with a number of good reviews. This one tried to encompass all the characters. "This was a romantic story about arts; nuns; cow bull riders;ranchers;the way nuns can make people think about themselves."-Amazon Reader. Or to put it more exactly, two nuns facilitate the romance between an ethereal, religious artist and a professional bull rider.
     While my Sinners books by far get the most reads, locally here in Acadiana the Cajuns prefer my Mardi Gras series.  Here's one regarding Mardi Gras Madness. "A romance with a bit of mystery and mayhem. Cajun lifestyle 101 at its best. While the heroine learns of Cajun life, so does the reader. I actually gave up precious sleep to finish this book."-pingmckay. I do like to think that when a person reads any of my books, they will learn something as well as enjoy a good story.
     I can also tell you that the one thing every author wants for Christmas is a good and thoughtful review. Don't be daunted. These need not be book reports like the ones assigned in school. Just a few sentences saying what you liked about our story warms our hearts and fends off the trolls--and I don't grade for punctuation or spelling. It's the sincerity that counts with me. Whether a new release or a book you've just recently discovered, go on--post a review.