Sunday, October 23, 2016

Making A List And Checking It Twice

I know it sounds like I'm rushing the season, but I have two Christmas novellas out this year and I'm trying to keep things organized as I determine a marketing strategy for each one. You'd think it would be simple, since one's a Regency and the other is a contemporary. So, how come I filled out promotional information for one book and inserted the cover from the other? Fortunately, I hadn't hit the 'send' button yet, so I could correct the error.

But it made me realize I need to check things over carefully this season. My Regency followers would not be interested in the goings-on in present day Maine. And the inner-workings of a greeting card shop would hold no appeal to members of the ton. So I have to be very careful when I'm filling out information to promote my books that I remain faithful to one or the other all the way to the end.

The up side of this is I can offer readers a Christmas novella, despite their preferences. If you can't wait until Christmas, here's a little taste of each.

A Regency Yuletide 

Northern England, December 1822

Being of good English stock, Sophie Davenport loved the rain. At least most of the time, since it made the rolling hills of Carlisle a pretty, bucolic green in the summer. Today however, she took her knitting to the window seat in the library and gazed into the darkening countryside while her fingers flew, making stitches from the fine wool. It had been raining for days now, which, in and of itself, was not an uncommon event during the month of December. But this afternoon the gloom settled over her as if it were a heavy blanket. She had lost so much time by trotting to London for her first season on the marriage mart at the insistence of her Uncle Harry, that she was unable to tend to her gardens and her charitable pursuits this year. He had hoped to foist Sophie off to a gentleman of means, so he could be rid of both Sophie and her mother.
The season had been an abysmal failure, at least in Mother’s eyes. And in the eyes of Uncle Harry, since Sophie had returned home empty-handed. Not one man had danced with her unless you counted pimply-faced Freddie, her cousin, who had done so out of family duty rather than real interest. Sophie, however, breathed a sigh of relief at returning home without sparking the interest of a gentleman, since the men of the Ton were, for the most part, more interested in their own appearances than in hers. If she had to cast her fortunes in with someone, it would most certainly not be with a man who had a larger wardrobe than she.
Her fingers worked furiously, needles clicking together as she made quick work of the row of stitches. She held up her needle and stared at her progress, turning the blue yarn into a usable covering. If she could maintain her current output, she’d have one more blanket done before Christmas for the Female Visiting Society to hand out to some poor indigent. She nodded in satisfaction, running her fingers over her uniform stitches as the rain pelted the window.
“Sophia Davenport, I do declare your eyesight will fail if you keep attempting to knit when it’s so dark outside.” Her mother, Evelyn, bustled into the room.
Sophie set her knitting aside. Any other response would be futile. It was teatime after all, and Mother was a stickler for following the rules. “Yes, Mother.”
Their one maid, Annie, followed with the tea service. “Tis raining hard this afternoon, ma’am.”
“Yes, that it is, Annie.” Sophie rose from her seat at the window and poured the tea. Evelyn added a lump of sugar to hers, and then a spot of milk. “We certainly can do without another flood like the one we had last February. Thank goodness we’re situated on a hill and our little cottage has a sturdy roof.” She glanced at Sophie. “Your father planned for everything.”

“Yes, he did. Except for his passing.” Sophie sighed as she took a seat opposite her mother.

Love's In The Cards 

She had been so tongue-tied around him she couldn’t find the right words to say. And now she had two devastating long-term relationships under her belt. Should she try for one more? Perhaps the third time would be the charm. Her sister’s voice pounded in her ear. Suck it up, Buttercup. She took a deep breath. “Just how do you intend to make Valentine’s Day fun again?”
He locked his gaze on hers. “By spending time with you. By righting old wrongs. By apologizing to your mother for making the soles of your shoes purple.”
Penny’s breath caught in her throat. Delbert, her childhood sweetheart, had come roaring back into her life. Whatever should she do? Their half-eaten lobster burgers and fries sat on the table, giving her something to play with while her mind buzzed She maneuvered a French fry into the lake of ketchup on her plate. Even though she’d lived in Lobster Cove most of her life, she’d never tired of the taste the town was famous for. She swallowed a bite of the succulent white meat on a bun. “I’d really enjoy spending time with you, too, Del. How convenient that you’ll be in the same block as my folks, since Abbey and I do hang out there a lot. But right now is our busiest season of the year. And, as much as you hate Valentine’s, I hate Christmas.”
Del raised an eyebrow. “Why? Because there’s so much work involved at the card shop? Or because of your bad experiences?”
Penny attempted to corral her wayward musings, but sparks were being set off in her head every time she glanced at Del and goose bumps erupted on her skin. For the first time in almost a year, she experienced very female feelings toward a man. She didn’t need another Christmas casualty.

Merry  Christmas, one and all!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Mega Bundle Mania

For some reason, I'm in the midst of Bundle Fever right now. Crimson Romance loves to put together bundles of books that have similar themes. They sell really well, and they offer a reader an inexpensive way to get to know new-to-them authors. Now's the time to stock up and get ready for those cold winter nights, when you're sitting in front of a toasty fire, afghan wrapped around you, and your Kindle offering hours of pleasure. Let me introduce you to three different bundles you might enjoy:

Bundle #1--Rogues, Rakes and Romance. History is full of bad boys who have captured our hearts. Maybe it's the noble title or the chivalry. Perhaps it's the dashing sense of danger. No matter your preference, prepare to fall in love with five heroes who know how to make a girl swoon in any century. Five full-length books in one. Get to know Elizabeth Boyce, Jenny Jacobs, Pema Donyo, Carolynn Carey and Becky Lower.

Bundle #2--Love Between The Pages. Is there anything sexier than a man who likes to read? Crawl between the pages with these literary hunks and live out your next fantasy chapter: Contains both contemporary and historical offerings with the central theme of men who love to crack open a book. Eight different romances proves to have something for every taste. Sample these authors: Peggy Bird, Jenny Jacobs, Jennifer DeCuir, Casey Dawes, Terry Newman, Becky Lower, Kathryn Brocato and Ana Krista Johnson.

Bundle #3--The Cotillion Ball Saga * The Complete Series* Due to be released on December 5. All nine of the full-length books featuring each Fitzpatrick child's road to romance plus the novella featuring Charlotte and George's story in one big, massive volume. No buy link is up yet, but here's a sneak peek at the cover. Don't you love it? There's only one author. Guess who?

What do you think of bundles of books? Love them or hate them, I think they're here to stay. At least until the next big thing comes along. 

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Playing Catch-Up

I took a huge step in my career this past week by releasing an indie-pubbed book. (Excuse me while I pat myself on the back.) To say I learned a lot from the experience would be an understatement. But now it's catch-up time, and I'm working in reverse of my usual routine.

My reasons for going indie with this book are many.

First, the original version got rejected by the small press I'd been with for years, but gave me some good advice on how to revise it. Unfortunately, their window for accepting holiday stories closed before I could incorporate the changes. So it was either publish it myself or have it sit around for a year.

Second, it was a novella, and editors charge by the word, so this was a good fit for me.

Third, I already knew a ton of editors who I've worked with over the years, and knew which ones accepted freelance work. The same held true for cover artists and formatters. I didn't need to beat the bushes. My past experience put me in a good position to be able to make the switch.

Fourth, since 90% of all e-book sales are with Amazon, I decided to make mine exclusive to them, and not get involved in a print book. I don't think novellas work that well in print, and if I went exclusively with Amazon, I'd save myself a lot of hassle.

As I began the journey, I decided not to publicize it until I actually had the book up on Amazon as a viable product. But I did it–got it up on Amazon all by myself. The first reviews are in and guess what? I can write a believable Regency book! Now, I have to find some well-known review sites to look at it, and this is where it gets tricky, since most want to have an ARC and six weeks' notice. Even though I am telling everyone it doesn't matter when the review goes up as long as it does, I'm facing a new challenge. And then there's publicity and marketing. Playing catch-up.

Will I go the indie route in the future? Hard to say. I still enjoy working with a publisher, some more than others. I want to catapult into the big leagues, so maybe writing a Regency series is the way to go, and writing this little novella has launched my career down a different path. But at least now I know indie publishing is not the huge behemoth I once thought it was, and I can do it, if I so choose.

Here's an excerpt from my latest, A Regency Yuletide

 “Whatever shall we do with the rest of the day?” Jeremy quirked his brow in her direction.
“I’m going to talk Emma into coming with me to the Female Visiting Society meeting this afternoon. If I can pry her away from Thomas, that is.” Sophie chuckled. “They do appear to be joined at the hip, don’t they?”
“Are there ever any men at these meetings? Or are they all women?” Jeremy shifted his load of greenery.
Sophie glanced over. “Would you care to come with me? I’ll admit, I did extend an invitation to you yesterday, but I didn’t expect to be taken seriously.”
He shrugged. “I have no wish to be the only male in the room, but I am interested in what you do.”
“You are?” Sophie’s voice rose an octave. “Why?”
He shook his head. “You really have no idea how interesting I find all this, how interesting I find you?”
“Now you’re making fun of me, sir.” Sophie removed her hand from his arm and hurried ahead of him.
“Sophie.” Jeremy’s voice softened and she stopped.
Although tears threatened, she faced him, straightening her spine. “I am not some country bumpkin here for your enjoyment, Mr. Wyatt. If I learned nothing else from my season in London, I learned I am not considered acceptable to the Ton. My body is too plump for modern tastes, my hair has a mind of its own, and my feet refuse to shuffle in time to the music. I’ll not have you make a laughingstock of me.”
“Sophie,” he whispered again and dropped the pile of greenery he’d been carrying. He took a step closer and wrapped his hands around her elbows. “You are not too plump, you’re just right.” He placed one hand on her waist and wrapped a tendril of hair around the other hand. “Your hair is the deepest black I’ve ever seen and was the first of your features that drew me in. And, as for dancing, no one starts out dancing well. I’d wager all you need are a few lessons. As for your charity work, I find it a much more appealing topic than the latest dress or bonnet fashion. I’m not making fun of you. You’re very special.” She blinked and stared up at him.
He leaned closer and their bodies bumped together. She stood, transfixed, the heat from his touch branding her skin. “Very special, indeed. I can’t seem to control myself around you, but I will endeavor to do so.” He backed off, picked up the bundle again, extended his arm, and smiled at her. “Shall we continue?”
Her stomach fluttered, and she placed a hand to her waist. She placed her other hand on his arm and swayed into his body, their shoulders touching. They were scandalously close to one another, but she didn’t step back. She appreciated his hard body against hers. Mother would truly be beside herself if she witnessed Sophie’s behavior, but they had a few hundred yards yet to go before they reached the cottage. A few hundred yards where they could be alone. She closed her eyes to better capture the memory and let him lead her home.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Global Reach

I had to smile the other day when NovelRank pointed out that one of my books sold in India, of all places. I pictured a sweet Indian woman relaxing at the end of her day, reading my book on her Kindle, maybe in front of a warm fire with a hint of curry from her supper hanging in the air. My books are about American history, but the topics of family, friendship and love are universal. So I guessed this woman wanted to get to know what life was like in the US 150 years ago. From Ohio to India, my reach was growing in front of my eyes.

The next event that caught my eye was a gentleman posting on Goodreads that he wanted to be my friend. He lived in India! Was I catching on, striking a chord in the nation of India? I, of course, befriended him and hoped he'd buy the entire Cotillion Ball series.

Then, one of my chapter mates pointed out some of my books are in the Top 100 list in India! Would wonders never cease? Then, I began to think about all these strange Indian coincidences. Perhaps I was single-handedly being hoisted up in the Indian best-selling charts by one individual. By the purchase of one book. Could that be the case?

I honestly don't know the answer. But for whatever reason, someone in India has purchased, and maybe is right now reading one of my books. For that alone, I thank him or her. And if that one purchase lifted my rank into the Top 100, for a brief, shiny moment, I'll take it.

I've been told good things come in bunches. It's been a tough year outside the realm of writing and I'm due for some good. I hope to close out the year on a high note, and return to my 'glass-half-full' demeanor by New Year's Eve.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Moving Day

For the past twelve months, my bed and my office have shared the same space. I couldn't do the steps upstairs with my bad hip. So, the best thing to do short-term was to move my bed downstairs and live on one level. But it caused a few problems, the biggest being I could never shut off my brain. When I had an idea at 2am, the computer was right there, only steps from my bed, waiting for my ideas. Since I combined my two spaces, I've written five books, reworked two more, and have two currently in progress. There's a reason I've been so productive. It's because I have a hard time sleeping with a blinking cursor three steps away.

Now the time has come to rethink our house layout. My sister needs her own space, and so do I. On Wednesday, the Two Men and a Truck company, minus the truck, are coming to play a game of musical chairs. I'm able to do steps fairly easy again, so my bedroom is moving back upstairs, to the room which sealed the deal on my decision to purchase the house in the first place, since it provided me with the biggest bedroom I've ever had. Sis is moving into the big downstairs room and the little dinky room that she'd been in for three years now becomes my office. A few pieces will re-emerge from the basement, and we'll spend the rest of the week getting settled into our new spaces.

Sometimes change is good. I'm looking forward to my new normal.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

My Ghostly Encounter

No, I haven't strayed into the paranormal world. Not yet anyway.

What I have done is to hire myself out as a ghostwriter. This was a new experience for me, and I did it for a number of what I thought were good reasons:

 1) The freelance company who acted as a broker for my services was new to me and I wanted to test their practices.

2) The job was small enough (8000 words)

3) It was within my wheelhouse, being a historical romance.

I'm proud to say I turned the job in before the deadline, the client loved it, and has asked me to consider a longer work. Always, it's the mark of a job well done if the client wants to hire you again.

So, why am I hesitating? This job paid me better than some of the books I've written, so the money associated with it is not the issue.

I won't even go into the amount of my own work that needs to get done and sent off to various publishers, agents, etc. Not to mention the promotional work that comes with each new release, of which there will be three by the end of the year.

My hesitation comes from this sweet little story I wrote for the client. I can never attach my name to it, or claim it as my own. All rights have reverted to the client. It's no longer mine.

It's like sending your kid off to school for the first time and have them never return home to tell you how their day was.

Before I take on another ghostwriting job, I need to answer the question of whether I can live with the anonymity. Can I live with the fact I might write the next bestseller, but someone else will claim it as theirs? And take all the royalties? Would I be better off focusing on my own career rather than provide one for someone else?

It's the nature of a ghostwriter to remain in the background. I'm just not sure if that's where I belong.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Turkey or Ham?

For most of my life, I've preferred Thanksgiving over Christmas.
My preference began when I was a kid, one of five. Food was always scarce, except on Thanksgiving. For one day, we could eat as much turkey,  stuffing, mashed potatoes and green bean casserole as we wanted. I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. Christmas was a far different affair. We didn't have much extra cash for a ton of gifts like my friends were given every year, and I always felt we were the house on the block that Santa forgot.

However, this year I have managed to write two Christmas themed novellas, which will be releasing as the season nears. One is a contemporary, set in Lobster Cove, ME, as part of Wild Rose's popular lineup of stories centered around this fictional town. The other one is a historical set in Regency England. They were both extremely fun to write, they both feature romantic love stories, and have made me believe I may have been wrong all these years.

Rather than focus on the food, or on the lack of gifts, I should have been focused on the significance of the day. Thanksgiving may be in celebration of the pilgrims surviving in the new world, but Christmas is steeped in religion. Engagement rings are a staple gift at Christmas. Who ever would give an engagement ring at Thanksgiving? Mistletoe is another iconic symbol of Christmas. Thanksgiving offers a wishbone from the turkey. Not quite the same.

I have written a love story centered around Thanksgiving, don't get me wrong. I think any day when two people find each other is special, regardless of the trappings. But when it comes to writing a novella, I'll take Christmas over Thanksgiving any day of the week. I'll take ham over turkey.

I hope you'll enjoy my novellas. If your taste runs to contemporary, Love's In The Cards is for you. If you happen to love historicals, A Regency Yuletide will tempt you. I don't think you can go wrong with either story. Here's a little something about each one.

Love's In The Cards

Christmas used to be Penny Beedle’s favorite holiday. But a messy breakup with a country star on Christmas Eve years earlier, and a botched wedding last Christmas Eve have tainted Penny’s outlook about the holiday. But she has to suck it up, since she and her sister now own a greeting card store, and this is their crazy selling season.

Del Madison has loved Penny since kindergarten. Now he’s been commissioned by a big greeting card company for a line of Christmas and Valentine’s cards, as long as he comes out from behind his alter ego and unveils himself to the public. He chooses Penny Beedle’s shop for the big reveal. If he plays his cards right, he just might be able to have Penny be part of his life.

If Del plays his cards right, he just might make Christmas a holiday Penny can enjoy once again.

A Regency Yuletide

After a disappointing season in London, Sophie Davenport returns home without a marriage proposal. No sooner does she settle back into her country life than she learns her uncle has arranged for her to marry the local Vicar’s son, a respectable and utterly forgettable man. He’s returning home immediately after the Christmas holiday and they will wed. She sets about making this last Christmas with just she and her mother memorable.

Jeremy Wyatt agrees to help his friend Thomas and his love, Emma, as they chase to Scotland to marry at Gretna Green before her father comes after them. What he’s really doing is avoiding heading to his parents’ home, where he’s set to be married out of obligation, not love. They get close to the border before their carriage gets hopelessly mired in the mud from the incessant rains. Jeremy sets off to find shelter for them, and knocks at the door of the first house he comes to.

Sophie forms a bond with Jeremy right away. However they’re both spoken for, so despite the sparks they ignite in each other, they have to maintain their separate paths.

But love and mistletoe have a way of upsetting even the most well-laid plans.