Sunday, October 30, 2016

Setting As Character

I just received a lovely review of my soon-to-be-released novella, Love's In The Cards. Here's the part I liked best and the subject of this post: "However, in my opinion, the biggest star of the book is the setting of a gift card shop--a perfect example of setting as character. I was entranced by the ins and outs of a part of American holidays that is so often used but overlooked."

Every author takes workshops during his or her career, and one of the things we keep being reminded of is setting. Margie Lawson is of the opinion that every scene deserves a description of the location where the scene takes place to orient the reader. Here's what Stephen King says on the subject from his book On Writing:
"Thin description leaves the reader feeling bewildered and nearsighted. Overdescription buries him or her in details and images. The trick is to find a happy medium. It’s also important to know what to describe and what can be left alone while you get on with your main job, which is telling a story."

Love's In The Cards is a Wild Rose Press release and is based in the already well-established small town of Lobster Cove, ME. It's been one of their most popular lines for years and anyone writing for the line is presented with a map of the town and a description of the businesses there and expected to weave them into the story. My particular story is about two sisters who own The Treasure Chest, the local greeting card and gift shop. I worked for a year in a shop just like the one I described while I lived in Virginia, even down to the life-sized nutcrackers that got hauled out to the front of the store every morning and taken in at night. Based on the review I got, I did a decent job of describing the shop and how it was run.

I guess I learned something from both Margie and Mr. King.

Here's an excerpt from Love's In The Cards:

Penny sighed softly. Abbey made sense. They had to do everything possible to compete with the other shops, all chasing the same tourist dollars. Even if doing so meant having six-foot-tall nutcrackers flanking the door for the next six weeks. Penny’s eyes smarted with sudden tears, but she blinked them away quickly, telling herself the moisture merely came from a reaction to the cold weather. “I think we need new names for these boys, especially after last year’s debacle. I now have two reasons to despise the season.”
As she wiggled her nutcracker to his final position on one side of the entrance to their shop, Abbey grunted. “This is our make-or-break season, so your attitude has to shape up, Penny. I had hoped a year would give you enough time to get over last Christmas’s aborted wedding.”
Penny jerked her big statue a bit too hard to the left before she squared him with the frame. She bit her lip at the chastisement as she glanced at Abbey. Anyone could tell they were from the same family, with their dark hair, blue eyes, and slender builds. Often, they were mistaken for twins, even though Abbey had been born two years earlier. The only noticeable difference was Penny could sing in key, but Abbey had a tin ear.
“Even though I’m over both Max and Ricky, their betrayals still hurt. And the fact they both screwed up my Christmases makes me hate the season.”
“Well, if getting your head back on straight this year means we rename Hans and Gunther, let’s do so. What’d you have in mind?”
Penny squinted up at the lifelike plastic statues towering over them. “I don’t mind Hans, but I’ll name mine Solo, since that’s what I am.”

Abbey grinned and wrapped an arm around Penny. “Well then, may the force be with us as we head into our peak season. The weather’s finally turned cold, perfect for putting folks into the holiday gift-buying mood. Let’s get inside. I’ve got something exciting to show you.”
Love's In The Cards releases December 7, but you can pre-order it now:

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.