Monday, December 12, 2016

My Worst Sellers--and Why

     Most authors love to brag about hitting a bestseller's list of any kind at all. I once made it to the top of the free-giveaways in romance on Amazon with Trashy Affair, not exactly a great triumph. Few of us want to talk about our failures though we analyze them endlessly and swear never to do that again! I will say that in every book I write I strive to create wonderful characters and interesting plots. I have never "phoned" one in as some well-know authors do knowing the public will buy anything they put out. I can't afford to disappoint, but sometimes despite my best efforts, I do.
     First, I have learned the hard way that covers with a single women on them don't sell nearly as well as those with studly guys. My books have sex scenes, but aren't particularly steamy so I prefer less explicit covers--but my worst sellers have lone women or discrete flowers on them. This applies to Will of her Own, Always Yellow Roses, A Wild Red Rose, and The Courville Rose. Might as well reveal my worst sellers now.
     Choice of characters also plays a part.  Few like the bad girl turned good because it takes a while for her to become likable, example Wild Red Rose. The kick-ass heroine is very in. Not many want to watch a naive young woman grow up and gain strength as in Will of her Own. Loosely based on my my college years and wanderings after that with a self-centered first husband who was not a rock musician like the one in the book, this is women's fiction, girl growing up if you want to call it that, not romance, and maybe a little too real. There is humor though of a dark variety and a happy ending, but that does not suffice. More than one reader has said they will stick to my Sinners football romances.
      Plot can also cause a crash and burn. Reincarnation doesn't seem to be popular right now.. In Courville Rose, a ghost condemned to haunt her ancestral home forever because she committed suicide when her fiance dies in the Civil War (she wasn't very stable to begin with), notices the souls of people she knew being returned to earth in modern times. She vows to seize a new body and drive the other soul out so that she can search for her lost love in hopes that he has come back, too. However, the only soul she deems weak enough to take over, turns out to be a fighter and refuses to leave. So, she must share the body of the child, grow up again, and try to convince her host to marry the man she wants, not the choice of the girl. Maybe it is the time spent in childhood that harms this book. It's only gotten two reviews, both favorable, so I don't know. Usually if someone hates my books they say straight out why, but few have purchased or read this one.
      My worst failure, ranked at 5,938,618 among Amazon's millions of titles as compared to Trashy Affair at 106,000 (if you don't think that is good, let me tell you it is) is Always Yellow Roses, a family saga that starts in Louisiana in the 1830's, goes up to the Civil War, then in the second half switches to the 1980's when a teenage girl meets a guy she is sure is her reincarnated lover from the past--and proves it, more or less. The book contains lots of strong and persistent women, but perhaps Noreen is too young when she comes into the tale as a teenager. She, too, grows to adulthood and gains her HEA, but I am thinking her youth and the reincarnation theme, and maybe even the Civil War killed this one. I don't know. Personally, I love it. Or it could be when the first of the Roses series came out (The Convent Rose), a short, light-hearted romance, it was immediately within hours of release attacked by a troll who couldn't even get the name of the hero right, garbled, and revealed the plot so that series never thrived. The ugly review is still there, the longest one of course, and despite the several good reviews, readers see this one first as it is the only negative one.
     Then, we come An Ashy Affair,which I talked about in Writing Disasters. It should have been a hit being a companion piece to Trashy Affair, having a sexy guy cover, a good and complex plot with a mystery subplot and well-developed adult characters, plus the HEA, but defective early reviews copies containing only 122 of the 364 page book drew so many ugly reviews about how incomplete and plotless it seemed, I don't know how to stop the flood. Evidently many Net Galley reviewers downloaded it and the ugly continues to flow. I contacted every one and informed they should ask for the complete book.Only one responded and raised the rating from two stars to four. Another said she knew it was defective but was just going to judge the entire book on the first 122 pages because that's what she has. Terrible review followed of course. With that attitude, no wonder. Destroys my faith in Net Galley for sure. Not their fault, but the publishers for sending out the bad copies, but what kind of reviewers do they attract? And to think I had to pay for their opinions!
     Well, enough crying in my wine. I wish I had some right now. The Sinners series still rules in my ratings, seven titles in all with the eighth, Sister of a Sinner, coming out in the spring. Another rule I've learned is just keep writing your most successful series. It is what your readers want no matter how much you want to spread your author's wings and fly in other directions.

Friday, November 25, 2016


     I've said before that I write to travel.  Every penny I earn from royalties or selling at events goes into a fund for my next adventure.  If I have a good year, I go farther. If not, I stay close to home. I'm sure not getting rich as a writer, but I am feeding my soul.  I accumulated enough funds for a week long trip to Spain, reported I fear, ad nauseam, on Facebook. Although I went on and on about octopus tapas, great museums, gypsy beggars, and pickpockets, I didn't deal with what travel means to a writer--inspiration of course.
     This doesn't mean my next book will take place in Spain. Who knows? That gypsy beggar who hounded me for a block as she moaned about her children starving and needing milk might appear in another book in a totally different role. Understanding just enough Spanish to get what she said and not believing a word of it, I finally gave her a euro from my little coin purse to be rid of her. I did not flaunt my cash or its location for the very skillful pickpockets of Barcelona for whom she might have been shilling. Yes, one of our company was robbed and never felt a thing, not a single bump, another incident that could be used in any big city. That said, Barcelona is a city of great beauty, a worthy setting for any romance, from its lovely street tiles and lampposts along the Diagonal to the crooked, skinny lanes in the Old City that take one back to Medieval times, minus the stench and far worse beggars than that gypsy woman.
     Madrid was not so beautiful, another big, noisy city that doesn't shut down until three a.m. though they have preserved their neoclassical buildings along the Gran Via and have many nice squares full of, I swear, the same gypsy women beggars. It also has an extensive Old City where we ventured for a lecture on Flamenco at a club dedicated to that dance, had tapas and red wine, then a performance by three female and one male dancer (muy macho). I liked that one of the women was older and still had lots of fire. The dance is never the same twice as the dancer interprets a story being sung and accompanied by guitar. The rest of the company supplies a rhythmic clapping, the men a steady beat, the women faster and more complicated. The fellow sitting next to me whispered that a novel about a flamenco troupe would make a great book.  It would!  But, I'd have to be a lot more knowledgeable before I took that on.
      More likely, people I meet will show up in a book like the ninety-two year old WWII nurse who kept up with us just fine or the plumber who for some reason never got the meal he ordered.  They can be inserted anywhere, in any story.  I collect characters like I do plots I gather from overhearing conversations.  Yes, the threat that you might show up in one of my novels is real, but you probably won't recognize your fictionalized self.  At least, I hope not! Anyhow, I always announce at the introductions that I write romance novels, so they have been warned.
     Just a caution--you cannot write off your travels as research trips on your taxes unless you are a real travel writer who is not being reimbursed. Wouldn't it be divine if you could? On my list--Australia and Italy, Scotland and Iceland. I'd better get busy writing and rebuilding my modest travel fund. Too bad Ashy Affair got off to such a bad start with the defective e-books. I hoped it would be a nice moneymaker like its companion, Trashy Affair, which got me to Alaska. Actually, a trip to Spain costs less than Alaska as did my stay in Costa Rica. This coming year, I might have to drive somewhere.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Publishing Disasters

     I've been writing for ten years and been published for six, not all that long a time, yet I have experienced my share of publishing disasters. The worst came this week. An Ashy Affair, a companion piece to Trashy Affair, came out last Friday. Pre-sales were good. While an author doesn't always know how a book will be received, this was my sure thing, a funny, sexy book with a happy ending and a little mystery and pathos thrown in. As usual, I awaited my first review--which said the book was terrible with an awful ending. Huh? It ends with an HEA wedding. I thought the person must be a troll as she gave no details about the story and reported the abuse to Amazon.
      Next review, not as bad, good characters, etc. but made no sense, went nowhere, abrupt ending. Now, I am totally perplexed. Finally, a loyal reader contacted me personally to say she didn't understand why I ended the very short book of 122 pages so strangely during a lunch between two sisters. Ah-ha! The book has 342 pages and 29 chapters. Readers and worse, reviewers, were getting less than half of the book. I reported this immediately to my publisher, their fault, a computer glitch, but the damage has been done, I am afraid. Who is going to look at those comments and want to buy the book? Some good reviews are filtering in, but it may take months to repair this damage. Often people buy and store books on their readers and might not get to the defective copy for a long time--and then there will be more bad reviews. Of course they can trade it in for a good one, but will they bother? Worse, Ashy Affair was sent to NetGalley, a review source from which came some of the worse remarks. I did notify those reviewers that their copies had been faulty, but so far none have changed their opinions.  Yes, I shed some tears over this.  Ashy will never be the book it was intended to be.
     I've talked about being orphaned when a publisher shuts down. This happened to me about nine books into my career.  The day that small e-press shut down, six of my titles disappeared. The authors hadn't received royalties for half a year, a sure sign of upcoming trouble. In my circumstances, the publisher did everything she could to make things right for her authors. She returned rights immediately, tried to place her writers with other presses by making wonderful recommendations, and saw that we all got part of the remaining assets to make up for lost royalties. Still, though all my titles were picked up fairly rapidly (most of the Sinners series), two book, one newly under contract and one lacking only its cover were in limbo for over a year. First, I had to have all the others re-edited and re-covered by the new press. This is akin to putting out six new books in one year and was exhausting before the two new ones could come out.  So, reset my writing career back a year. Believe me, I was lucky.  Some orphans never receive the royalties owed and don't get their rights back without a struggle so that they can move on. They are left in the cold and dark searching for a new publisher.
     I might have mentioned before to always personally correct your galley copy and send in those changes. This is the last time you see a book before it goes to print. No one will do this for you. It gets published flaws and all if you don't do the work of rereading every word in a book that you might be thoroughly tired of by now after several edits. Usually, I find an average of twenty-seven errors, and my books run long. Some are tiny and probably wouldn't have been noticed by the readers, a comma here or there. Some are huge like half the book having quotation marks turned backwards as happened in Wish for a Sinner, a novel of 103,000 words. I noted every time this happened, and the corrections were done, but how stupid would the book have looked if this hadn't been caught. In both this case and above, these were computer errors, one of the chances you take with e-publishing.
      If a cover is wrong, do speak up.  Twice, my light-hearted books received creepy covers.  Once the title was misspelled. Another time, my blond, Nordic clean-shaven hero appeared swarthy with a black goatee. You aren't supposed to fuss about your covers.  No, they can't get a model who looks exactly like your hero or heroine, but they can conjure up the right mood and get the spelling correct. One author I met admitted she had a cover with woman who had three arms.  It's still out there, but she had made a conversation piece of it.
     I have experienced all these horrors, but not, thank heaven, having my pen name taken away permanently by a publisher and having to start all over with a new identity and no name recognition. Nor have I had to sue for long overdue back royalties which the publisher continued to receive but never distributed.  These things could lie ahead, but I certainly hope not.
     If you are an author who has experienced a publishing disaster, please feel free to vent here with your comments.  If you are an author who has never had a printing disaster, I envy you.

Thursday, September 29, 2016


     I have to admit it.  I am often jealous of fellow authors, the ones who post they are number one on some list or another on Amazon or a bestseller somewhere.  The only time I've gained the top of a list was when A Trashy Affair was given away free for one week, 11,000 downloads--and barely sold a copy after that since everyone who wanted it now had the book.  Amazon did take note, however, and bought the e-rights for their Encore program with a fair advance I've yet to earn back as it is now given away for free or sold for ninety cents.  Still, many people are reading it, and I hope it leads them to An Ashy Affair which was released yesterday and is also one of my best books.  That is about my only bragging right.
     When a fellow writer announced her fantasy book sold 250 copies in the U.K. and had been chosen for a book club, yes, I felt those pangs again.  Why not me?  I have readers in Australia, Canada, France most recently, and the U.K. She on the other hand is envious of the number of books I have in print, nineteen as of today.  What to do about these feelings? Tamp them down and say congratulations. Try to be happy for those who have succeeded.  Being at the top of a list is a very brief pleasure.  Then, it is gone, and you have to get back to work and try to attain it again. Writing is often cruel business.  Don't let jealousy consume you.
     Except for being prolific, I can't imagine anyone being jealous of me, though I know it has happened.  A person once posted a very ugly review on a book that had otherwise been well received (Paradise for a Sinner).  She linked it to her web site--and I did not go there to read it in full. I noted she had the same last name as a popular writer who also does sports romances, so perhaps a relative trying to boost another author's work by tearing mine down. Believe me, it wasn't necessary. That author far excels me in sales and fans already.  I am no threat to anyone. In fact, I owe that author a thanks as Amazon often pairs my books with hers.  There is plenty of room in the genre for all of us.  We don't need to knock each other down.
     I once had an art teacher who said, "Never compare yourself to others."  Do the best work you can, enjoy learning a new technique or selling a painting,  Don't say I'll never be as good as Renoir or Van Gogh or Rembrandt or the naturally talented person working at the next easel.  The same applies to writing.  Let go of jealousy, the urge to say something snarky about the other person's book instead of congratulations, and celebrate you own small triumphs without boasting or rubbing it in someone else's face.
      I do hope An Ashy Affair will reach the top of some list or other.  It isn't likely.  But, I know I've written a good, entertaining book that will make you laugh and cry.  My best hope is that you will enjoy reading it (and post good, not snarky, reviews).

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. 

Monday, January 11, 2016

A Writer's Resolutions

     Yes, I confess every January I make resolutions regarding my writing career. I've long given up on losing weight and going to the gym more often. Last year worked out pretty much the same as dieting and exercise.  I did not get an agent or make more money on my writing and so have consigned them to resolutions I will never keep.  I did get three books out as I promised myself: Courir de Mardi Gras, Son of a Sinner, and She's a Sinner.  Not looking so good for this year, but I will try to do the same number.  I know I've got a start on publishing three since A Will of her Own comes out in April, I think.  But, my other two projects for this year, A Place Apart and The Courville Rose, have failed to find a publisher--yet.  It could still happen, so that is my number one resolution.
     Number two is to find new publishers offering a greater range of books.  I'm not at all unhappy with my current publisher, but they only do romance.  I'm a little tired of being told I can only have two POVs, his and hers.  I'm not talking about on the same page, but in a 100,000 word book. Some of my books are more mainstream fiction or women's fiction and don't always fit the romance template.  I need more elbow room.
     Number Three: enter the Rita Contest.  In fact, I've done this already.  I don't expect to win or even final, but I figure if five judges read my book, they might like it enough to read others or maybe drop me a review. I did this with one of the entries I read--because you have to be a judge to enter.  None of the five books in my box were bad.  I'd say they were all well-written, but when the contest was over, I did write a review for my favorite.  Also, I suspect those books are passed on to friends or library book sales, or in my case for raffle baskets for my RWA chapter and so reach more readers. Wish I could chip them like lost pets and see where they go. By the way if you are a PAN member of RWA, I highly recommend being a judge even if you don't enter.  Lots of good free reads, and you might discover a new favorite author.
     Number Four:  Find a home for my Regency series of a projected ten books, eight of which are written and languishing in a closet.  I never wrote the last two because the Sinners books and other projects took off and I simply haven't had the time do shop the series or do the research for the last two though I have plot ideas.  I'll have to get used to rejection again, and this slows me down.  This is when an agent would come in handy, but that's not on my list anymore.  Might as well get rejected directly by the publisher and save some time.
     Five: Get more reviews.  Not so easy anymore with floods of indie and e-published authors entering the fray. Prestigious review sources cleave to big New York publishers and don't have the time or inclination to sort through the piles of other authors. My two attempts to attract their attention resulted in, well, nothing. Sent two books out into the void, and they never showed up in reviews. I understand ten solid reviews is the magic number to get on Amazon's radar or attract publishers.  Many of my earlier books have exceeded this number, but lately I'm lucky to get one even on a new Sinners title, my most popular books.  I'd love to see Queen of the Mardi Gras Ball reach ten.  She's at nine now.  This is one of my best books.  If you've read and enjoyed it, please give her the boost of that tenth review.  Thanks in advance.
      Meanwhile, my publisher has invested in NetGalley, a very expensive proposition that exposes books to multiple review sources. Each author chipped in $40 for one title. I think the overall price is $500, pretty steep for most of us. I can verify that I've gotten one review for She's a Sinner from this effort, and it was a good one, five stars. There might have been another, but they didn't cite NetGalley so I'm not sure. I'd say if you have $500, might be worth a try.
     Five resolutions is enough for anyone. I'd better get back to finishing An Ashy Affair, or there won't be three books out this year.  When that is done, I might take a vacation some place my 2015 writing income will pay for--but my husband will have to pay his own way.