Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Waiting Game

Lately, it seems I've been playing the waiting game. As many of you know, Crimson Romance is no more, so I applied to get my rights back on my books. For those who are unfamiliar with traditional publishing, here's what happens: the contract stipulates the publisher retains the rights to your book for a specified period of time, usually from three to seven years.

If the publisher goes bankrupt or shuts down, rights revert back to the author automatically. In this case, even though Crimson is now defunct, the parent company, Simon & Schuster, is still in business and holds the contract. So in order to regain control of my books, I must send a request. The stipulation to getting the rights reverted to me is that the particular title has to garner royalties under a certain threshold for two consecutive six-month periods.

In my case, this is proving exceedingly hard to figure out, since the books are involved in various bundles. It didn't help my progress any to have the wrong email address for the man in charge of deciding who gets rights back, so I've been late to the game for some time. So, he's working on figuring it all out and I'm waiting.

But what happens if I have to wait until my books fall under the threshold of sales? Simon & Schuster has no interest in promoting my works and my sales have fallen off since the announcement. Do I continue to watch my declining sales and applaud the fact that I'll get the rights back sooner? What do I do with the hole in my bank account? What do I do with the books once I do get the rights back?

So many questions, and right now there are no answers. Some could view this as a setback in my career, but I choose to view it as an opportunity. In the immortal words of Ayn Rand–"The ladder of success is best climbed by stepping on the rungs of opportunity."

I've taken the first step by asking for my rights back, and am poised to take the next rung.

Sunday, April 15, 2018


This weekend was my first to spend dedicated time with a friend's 89-year-old mother. We decided her prize for taking all her pills would be for us to work on a jigsaw puzzle. I often compare my story line to a giant jigsaw puzzle, but today, working with Anne, made me realize something.

She kept finding pieces that looked similar, like they'd go together, but she couldn't figure out where in the puzzle they went. I had to keep reminding her to look at the picture on the box to see how it all fit together.

If you don't step back and look at the big picture, you'll never be able to piece together the puzzle–or if you do, it'll be much harder, take more time, and lead you down the wrong path more than once. The same holds true for writing a story. You need to know before you start what the total picture will look like, where all the hidden pieces are, where the minute little detail pieces need to fit in.

But, if you take your time, refer to the big picture often, and piece together the green pieces and then the blue, etc., you'll end up, sooner or later, with a complete puzzle. Or a complete manuscript. Both are well worth the effort.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Finding Inspiration

Lately, my life seems to be a series of inspirational quotes. 

In the first three months of this year, I've moved five states away from Ohio.  It did take three months to get from one house to the next. Then, no sooner did I get my furniture delivered than I was told my publisher was shutting its doors and I was losing my connection to those editors and authors. So, where does that leave me?

As Terry Goodkind, best-selling fantasy author, so eloquently said, "If the road is easy, you're likely going the wrong way." 

So my publishing road has hit a few bumps. My latest book baby, the second in a new series, has been abandoned. Until I can figure out what to do about it, I've slid it under the proverbial bed and turned my attention to my Mail Order Brides book, which is halfway done. My road so far this year hasn't been easy, but I'm now at the picture-hanging stage in my house and I'm figuring out on a publishing level where to go from here.

My second favorite quote came via my nephew. "Throw me to the wolves and I'll come back leading the pack." Although the weather is more agreeable than the North coast, I miss my fellow authors from one of the better RWA chapters in the country. And with the closing of Crimson Romance, I miss my daily interchange with my fellow authors. I feel like I've lost my pack, my tribe, on two fronts. Thanks to the internet, Facebook and email, though, my tribe is only a click away. It may not be as good as face to face, but it'll do.

I'll meet other authors–there are a lot of us in North Carolina–and life's road will smooth out a bit more. My losses will turn into blessings and I'll wonder why it took me so long to make a move–on both fronts.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Finishing Touches

If you follow me on Facebook, you know already that my trusty hammer is still on a pegboard in Ohio.
I'll be picking up a spare one from my brother-in-law today and will finally be able to start hanging pictures. I consider picture location one of the final acts of getting settled into a new home. I've already begun to position some of them where I think they'll end up, but one never knows until something's on the wall whether it's in the right location.

While all this has been going on, I've also been given the boot by Simon & Schuster, along with all my fellow Crimson authors.
While I work to get my rights reverted to me on the eleven books I have with them, I was putting the finishing touches on the second book in my new Flower Girl series. Book One, Winning Violet,  has been out since December, but S&S isn't willing to continue the series. As I see it, I have two choices here: 1) I can finish book 2, write books 3 & 4 while I wait to get my rights back for book 1 and position myself to self-publish the entire series next year, or 2) I can find a publisher who doesn't care if they have all the books in the series under their flagship and only care if the writing is good.

Since the first option means going an entire year with no income from this series and then having a considerable outlay of cash to get the four books ready next year, Option One is not feasible. That leaves me with Option Two. Readers don't look twice at who the publisher is, unless they are also an author, so I decided to pursue my second choice. Instead of abandoning Losing Lily, the second book in the series, I put the finishing touches on the manuscript and got it ready to head out into the world. Simon & Schuster had given me a due date of April 15, so I kept myself on track, even during my convoluted move to North Carolina. I finished the final edits on it this past week, so all I need do is read through it once more before sending it off to the interested publisher, who has vision enough to not care if they don't have the rights to Book One. A good series is a good series, regardless of who produces it. So Losing Lily and her beloved maze, not to mention her beloved Scotsman, may see the light of day yet. And I feel like I've been through the publishing gauntlet, trying to find a new home for the series.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

View Out My Window

As most of you are aware, I've recently relocated from cold, snowy Ohio to the warmth of North Carolina. Although the natives have been telling me I've brought the cold and snow with me, since this is the worst winter North Carolinians have seen in years. But it was warm enough the other day for the golf course behind my house to be populated with men and ladies who were enjoying some fun.

My office looks out onto the 11th hole of the local course and the other day I stood and watched a man as he practiced his putts on the green. The course wasn't busy, so he spent about ten minutes there, dropping his ball from various parts of the green and trying to stroke it into the hole. It occurred to me that my writing takes a similar course. I have to try several different approaches to the opening of any story, to the plot line, to the ending, before I get it right. And even then, it may veer off into a sand trap or a water hazard if I'm not careful.

As I sat in my new office and watched the parade of golfers whizzing by in their carts, I realized the similarities between golf and writing a novel. Many rounds of golf are played by individuals with various levels of expertise, but only a handful ever become great. Likewise, many books are published each year by authors with varying levels of competence with their craft, but only a few rise to the top. You're likely to spend more on both golf and writing than you'll ever realize in profit, but it's the elusive thrill of a hole-in-one or making the New York Times bestseller list that propels each of us forward. 

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.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Up Is The Only Option

I'll admit, it's been over 30 years since I've searched for a rental apartment. I should have guessed the old rules went out the window years ago. Now, in order to qualify for a place, you have to have 3x the income as what your rent payment would be. What planet are these folks living on?

I've had to do some fancy footwork
and be rejected already twice in order to put my house in order. It puzzles me that you can have hundreds of thousands in the bank (not that I do) but if you don't fit the formula for debt to income ratio, you can't play. It's been an eye-opening experience.

I'm headed back to NC next week from my base in VA, where I'll try once again to find an apartment that feels like a home and will not mind my little dog.

It's kind of like writing a synopsis before you write a story. You can have the best plot line figured out in your head, put it down on paper and it all makes sense, but when you actually start writing the story, things happen to twist your plot line around. You're left dangling until you can figure it out. Which is what I'm trying to do right now. My only option is to go up from here.