Sunday, March 18, 2018

The End Of The Road

It saddens me to say this, but Crimson Romance is no more. 

I had great hopes for the line when it was bought by Simon & Schuster. And S&S did some nice promotion for my Cotillion series during the year Crimson was under their control.

But alas, on Monday a tweet came out announcing Crimson was being shuttered, effective immediately. The editors had no advance warning, nor did we authors. I guess S&S figured if Donald Trump can fire people via Twitter, so can they.

We're all just kind of spinning in circles right now, trying to figure out what our rights are and where to go from here. I had a book due April 15, which they no longer want, and I don't know quite what to do with it now.

This really took my breath away, as I'm sure it did for quite a few people. Crimson was my first publisher. They took a chance on me when I was green and we grew together. The editors were fabulous to work with, and the professionalism they showed was phenomenal. I hope our paths cross again.

In the meantime, I have a house to put together, which is fortunate, since the move is occupying my mind now instead of putting the finishing touches on my book. When one house opens, another closes. Cést la vie.

RIP, Crimson Romance.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

New Home!

Finally, I am into my new home in North Carolina!!! It's been a long journey with a significant layover in VA, but I now have a bed and a barstool in my new place. I may be bare-boning it for a while, but so far, so good.

I love all the light that comes into the Carolina Room, which will become my office as soon as the desk arrives. It overlooks the golf course, so the views as I look up and ponder the next sentence or word will be so much better than looking out onto a blizzard in Ohio. Right now there's nothing to even sit on, but it will all come together before I know it.

The sooner the better, since my next Regency is due to the publisher in mid April. Losing Lily has been in process since NaNoWriMo. It's now being put through the ProEditing program and then a final read-through should do it. It's about the sister who works out of doors all the time. She wears men's clothing because it's more functional, but she longs to be able to put on a dress and dance the night away.

And if you get a chance, head over to USA Today's Happy Ever After column, where Mary and I make a guest appearance.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

The Waiting Game

As most of you know, I'm in transition on the home front. Buying a house is not as simple as it used to be. After the collapse of the market as we all knew it, the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction. My lender tells me things have gotten a whole lot tighter than they used to be. So, as a consequence, I've been running to banks in West Virginia to get the necessary forms. I don't normally bank in West Virginia, but the bank I had my money in while in Ohio only extends south a little ways. So the choice was either Pittsburgh or Morgantown. These new regulations seem to have left logic at the door, but until the pendulum swings back, I'm stuck with them.

All these different regulations got me to thinking about the state of our industry today. Publishing a book is more simple than it used to be. No longer do you need to print out your manuscript, bundle it up and mail it off to a publisher or agent, who may or may not get back to you in six months to a year.  Now, if you want to go the traditional route, all you need do is attach a file and hit the 'send' button on your email. And if you wish to skip the traditional route altogether, publishing a book on your own has become so simple, almost anyone can do it. The publishing pendulum has swung in favor of the author, finally.

But this new found freedom comes at a price. There are more books hitting the market than ever before. In 2015, more than 700,000 books were self-published, and new books published for that year crept over the one million mark for the first time. What that means for an author is the threat of being buried under an avalanche of other books is greater than ever. Some of the finest voices of our generation will never be heard, while others who aren't accomplished writers achieve head-scratching success. It's a constant battle to get books reviewed by legitimate sites, and every author I know struggles daily with the best way to market their books.

The pendulum will swing back sooner or later, on both fronts. But until it does, we've got to deal with the situation the best way we can. As my lender says, "If you haven't applied for a mortgage in the last three years, you're in for an awakening." The same holds true for publishing. If you haven't been in the market for the past three years, the old ways no longer apply. I've heard a lot of established authors, when talking about how they got started in the business, quantify their remarks by saying things are different now. Not better, necessarily, but different.

This is our new normal, and as I've learned from going through the mortgage process, you adjust your thinking accordingly. The house will happen, my next book will be released, I'll make my deadline for the WIP, and life will go on. I'll still struggle with marketing, but at least I'll do so with a golf course view out my back window.

If you can spare a minute to follow me on BookBub, I'd greatly appreciate you clicking over and following me. My goal is 1,000 followers and I've got a ways to go. Here's the link:

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Gambling On Forever Cover Breakdown

From time to time, I'm asked what kind of input I get to have with my publishers when it comes to cover design. The prevailing myth is that you as an author give up control of your cover if you elect to use a traditional publisher. Maybe that's the case in the "big" houses, but the small press publishers I'm with consider it a joint effort. My latest release, Gambling On Forever, is a prime example. Here's how it went:

I filled out the form about what I pictured the cover being. Here were the questions.
Were there any elements of the story I considered cover material?


gambler with a smirk

 Indian woman. 

What did the hero/heroine look like? Dark hair on both, she dresses in gauchos and carries a whip.

Did I have a short tag line? I struggled with this but finally came up with Riverboat gambler chases the woman who stole his money

What was the setting? The mighty Mississippi

Are there any links to images or covers I liked? I already had a list from my other publisher of the photo sites used by most small-press publishers, so I rushed over to one of them–Period Images–and scrolled through the selections. I gave the designer the number of the photo I had picked out. She had already been to Period Images when she read the blurb, and had picked out the exact same image! Talk about being on the same page!

My heroine, Elise, didn't fit the images of the Indian women on file, since she works on a ranch, wears gauchos and carries a whip wrapped around her waist. So I elected to use only the hero on the cover, assuming most of the audience would be more attracted to a man anyway. I felt it essential to have a riverboat in the background and it took a couple tries to find the right boat. Funny how the boat was harder to find than the guy.

What do you think of the Gambling On Forever cover?

It was truly a collaborative effort. Most of my other covers have been the same process. It's been a boon to have the list of stock image houses so I can take my time and go through them to find the exact right image. I'm not saying I could design the covers on my own. That takes a whole different skill set. But the end result is truly reflective of what I had in my head as I wrote the story.

Has your experience mirrored mine, or do you have a different story?

Sunday, February 18, 2018

I Can Relate Anything To Editing!

Right now, I'm frantically going through the mortgage process. Form letters, 1099s from years ago, bank statements, etc. If you've ever purchased a home, you know the drill. At the same time, I'm going through my manuscript a chapter at a time, trying to piece together the story line. These two simultaneous events have made me realize how similar they are. Allow me to explain.

My manuscript is a Regency, which has its own set of rules and regulations. I have to stop every time I mention a device and check (had the steam engine been invented by 1823? What style of gown was worn for everyday versus evening? Were shawls used or coats?)
Each detail needs verification. Same thing with the mortgage–every bank in which I have money has to be documented.
This particular manuscript features a Scottish hero, which presents its own set of problems–what do you call the pouch that's part of a proud Scotsman's attire? How is the Scottish accent different from the English accent and how can it be described in words? Same thing with the mortgage documentation. Some of the forms that I need to get to them are 3 feet long. How do you copy something like that? I tried several different times, copying 11 inches at a time and then piecing them all together before finding the same document on-line and could download it as a pdf file. The mortgage company wouldn't accept my copy and paste job but they gladly took the pdf.

Then there's the final checklist.
As I mailed off the package to the mortgage company, I compiled a list of everything that it contained. Only then did I realize I'd forgotten one thing or another. Same with my manuscript. I have a checklist that I use and scour each chapter with, looking for overused words, wrong words, equal representation of the senses, etc. Both of these steps are laborious, tedious, and absolutely essential to getting the proper result.

Hopefully, both the mortgage and the manuscript will be finalized within weeks of one another. Then, I'll wipe the slate clean and move on to the next project–unpacking my stuff that's been in storage for months and unpacking my ideas for the next book in my Regency series and start putting everything together again. Stay tuned.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Time To Get Moving

It finally happened! I found a place in North Carolina to call home. It only took four trips, four different realtors, and seeing the inside of more homes than I care to enumerate. Now my days are spent compiling documents for the mortgage company instead of planning my next trip. Much more sane, but still as stressful.

If all goes well, I'll be permanently ensconced in my new dwelling by mid-March and life can return to normal. Which is excellent timing, since the release of my new western, Gambling On Forever, happens on March 1. And the next book in my Regency series, Losing Lily, is due to the publisher in mid April for a June release date. I've been working on that story here at my friend's home and at the local library, but I miss my desk, my reference books, and my own office.

But in the meantime, here's the cover of Gambling On Forever, and a little bit about the book:

When Elise Lafontaine spies her father’s missing saddlebag with its all-important papers slung over the shoulder of a man boarding a riverboat, she follows him, hoping to retrieve the contents. Her plans come to an abrupt halt when she is declined entry to the boat, since she is an unaccompanied female.

From his perch on the top deck, handsome riverboat gambler James Garnett witnesses her denied entry. When she shoots him a look of desperation, how can he resist those deep blue eyes and beautiful face? Of course, he comes to her rescue, pretending she is his fiancée—and she is allowed aboard.

Begrudgingly, Elise accepts James’s offer of help to win back the saddlebag and the papers by having him play poker on her behalf, certain the thieving Confederate brothers who stole the bag will lose everything to James. But can Elise be happy with only the saddlebag and its contents? Or has she already lost her heart to the dangerous gambler?

After a sultry kiss, Elise steals his money and the papers and jumps overboard. Then the games truly begin. Now, Elise stands at the biggest crossroads of her life—will she go her own way, fiercely independent and alone? Or will she wager everything on the man who holds her heart--GAMBLING ON FOREVER?

And an excerpt, for your reading pleasure:

“Delta Queen, here I come,” she whispered, hoping she wasn’t making the biggest mistake of her life. She could handle wide-open spaces, and campfires under the stars while rounding up wild horses, but on a big, beautiful large riverboat, a floating palace? This would definitely be a challenge for her, since she’d have to act as a refined lady. She touched her whip again and hoped she wouldn’t need to unfurl it. The nerves tightening in her stomach told her she had just entered uncharted territory and the hairs on her neck prickled again. Never a good sign.
She followed the two men up the gangplank, her fingers itching to yank her father’s saddlebag from the shoulder of the one man. She’d need to be patient and choose the best time to steal it back, and the moment of boarding would not be the best time. Better to wait until they were underway, floating down the Mississippi. Then, those two couldn’t get away. She’d nab it when they weren’t looking, just as they’d taken it from her father. Then, she’d jump overboard and be gone before morning. She took a deep breath and fisted her hands to prevent them from reaching for the bag.
The pair paid the steward for passage on the freight deck, which meant they were saving most of her father’s money for the gaming tables if they were willing to give up a bed in favor of sleeping on top of cotton and tobacco bales. She hoped she had enough money for an actual stateroom.
“Are you with the gentlemen?” The steward asked, raking his gaze over her before glancing at the men.
“Those two?” Elise pointed to the men still standing close by. “No, sir. I’m traveling alone and I’d like a stateroom, please, if the fare isn’t too much.”
The steward seemed confused. “Ma’am, I’m sorry. Our policy is to allow women aboard only if they are accompanied by a gentleman.”
“That’s preposterous!” Elise tried for a smile, hoping to charm the steward. “My money’s as good as any gentleman’s.”
“Your money is not the issue, ma’am. We don’t allow unaccompanied ladies on board. It’s company policy.” The steward clutched his papers to his chest, unaffected by her smile.
One clean-shaven, well-dressed man stood on the top deck, calmly smoking a cheroot and stroking the black string tie around his neck as he surveyed the crowd coming aboard. Elise pleaded with her eyes for the man to take action. She might be going from the frying pan into the fire but at least he’d taken a bath in the past year. She’d take her chances. She only hoped he would.

No Buy Link yet, but it should be available by the last week of February. 

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Anywhere I Hang My Hat...

Many years ago, when I was doing the trade show circuit, I spent possibly more time in hotels than I did in my home. One of the men I traveled with objected to my use of the word "home" to indicate my hotel room. I never could see the difference, because to me, as long as I had my privacy where I could compose my thoughts, I considered it "home." Years later, I still don't see the difference. As long as you're comfortable in your surroundings, you should feel at home.

Call it my gypsy spirit.

Right now, I'm camping out at a friend's house in Virginia–my temporary home base. When I travel to North Carolina in search of a new home of my own, I stay at the same motel, in the same room–my temporary home base there. Both of these places feel like home to me. I know where things are. I can find my clothes and cosmetics in each place, there's wifi so I can work, my little dog, trooper that she is, feels at home too, as long as I cart her bed in and out of the various places.

Right now, I'm on my way back to Virginia after what I hope has been a successful house-hunting trip. Maybe my gypsy days will soon be at an end. But now I'm thinking about gypsies and how I can weave them into a plot line. Stay tuned. On both counts.