Sunday, June 27, 2021

New To Me Authors

 Here's the way it's supposed to work: A book is offered up for free or 99 cents in the hopes the reader will love it so much they'll go back to Amazon and purchase other books by the author. This is supposed to work best in the cases where the author is brand new to the reader. Or so I've been told...

This particular marketing technique has been preached by publishing industry experts since the invention of e-books. On occasion, I've tried it myself with my own books, with limited success. But recently, I read the blurb for a free book that was just what I needed at the time–a raunchy, laugh-out-loud contemporary set in Vegas. The author was someone I didn't know but at the discounted price I thought, nothing ventured, etc. The book was everything it advertised itself to be, and I got a warm buzz from having read it. Not wishing to be done with raunchy contemporary comedies, I picked up another of the author's books that was offered up for free. Not as good as the first one, but still mildly entertaining. I went for broke on the third one, paying actual money for it. Maybe it wasn't as funny because I actually coughed up money for it? Whatever the reason, I was disappointed. 

Hoping against hope that I could find another book by this author that would rival the first, I scrolled through the list of other options by this person. Much to my surprise, Amazon told me I had purchased one of this author's books in 2019! I ran to my Kindle, and lo and behold, this was not a new-to-me author after all. I'm now reading the book I bought two years ago. Still not as good as Vegas. But then again, destination wedding books have never been my preferred choice. 

So, does the marketing strategy actually work? Well, I'm in the middle of the fourth book by this author, two of which I actually spent money on, and only one of which I'd read again. Unless the author can capture the magic she had in the first book I read, I won't spend any more money on her. If someone asks for my opinion on her, I'll give them my honest answer: Sometimes the magic only happens once. 

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Reentering Life

The effects of the pandemic are far-reaching, even if you've never come close to the actual illness itself. People have changed the way they work, the way they live, and all of it was unscripted. We figured it out as we went. 

My work as a writer helped me be a step ahead of the rest of the work force, since I was used to working from home, by myself, and communicating via computer and phone. But for a lot of Americans, that scenario became, overnight, the way business was done. Zoom meetings replaced actual face-to-face contact. People gradually began to lose social skills. 

Thankfully, a large percentage of America is now vaccinated, and the infection rate has slowed to a crawl. America is now reopening, a little at a time. I took advantage of this rebirth by doing something I hadn't been able to do in over a year. 

I went to the movies. 

I didn't quite know what to expect. It was a much anticipated movie and, even though it was a Friday matinee, I thought there would be a crowd of folks clamoring for a seat. But it seems Covid has made everyone cautious. Only about a third of the seats ended up being occupied, and we sat a respectable distance from one another. Covid has changed the way we interact with one another. 

As a romance writer, I can't help but wonder if this shift in the way we respond to each other will affect story lines in the next couple of years. Even without a mask, we're still guarded. Will it crop up in our creative endeavors as well? 

What do you think?

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Book Boyfriends

Every female reader of romance novels has at one time or another, developed a crush on one of the dashing heroes in the books they pick up. Do you remember your heart pounding over one of Julia Quinn's Bridgerton brothers? How about Jamie Fraser in Outlander? Or, if you're like me and go way back, how about Nicholas Stafford from Jude Deveraux's A Knight in Shining Armor?

It's one thing to develop a crush on the hero when you're reading the book–that means the author has done her job well. But it's quite another thing when the author develops the crush on the hero she's writing about. 

Here's my tale...

For the last several years I've been ghostwriting a series of books for someone else. I turn in the story and it gets published under another name. I hold no rights to it and can never claim I had anything to do with it. This has been a nice setup so far. I get paid for my work up front, and I don't have to spend any of that money promoting the book, or take time away from my writing to try to push sales of said book. For my latest endeavor, I needed to develop a hero who had survived the Civil War. 

My first idea was to have my hero be a spy for the newly-formed Pinkerton Agency. However, every able-bodied man in his 20s or 30s would have been expected to fight unless he had some kind of disability. What kind of disability could I create for the man to keep him from the battlefield so he could do his spy business, but also would have appeal to the ladies? After pondering this for several days, I invented Eye-Patch Guy. Since I'd worn an eye patch as a child as a cure for amblyopia, I was drawn to my invented hero. Which got me to thinking about other men over the years who wore eye patches. Sammy Davis, Jr. came to mind, as did Dan Crenshaw, now serving in Congress. Yes, men with eye-patches were sexy, at least to me. The more I thought about creating this man's story and then giving him away, the more I realized I couldn't do so. 

What to do? 

I couldn't abandon Eye-Patch Guy. So, I created another Civil War hero for my ghostwriting tale, and he's coming along nicely. I'm holding on to the one who makes my heart flutter. I'll write his story and publish it under my own name. Whether I get paid for writing it is not important at this point. What is important is I'll be able to point to him with pride. 

Once I give him a name other than Eye-Patch Guy. And come up with a heroine worthy of him. 

Any ideas?

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Stepping Back In Time

Part of my fascination with historical fiction is so I can take trips to historical American destinations and claim I'm doing "business" rather than just goofing off. Such was the case last week, on Memorial Day. While most Americans were gathered round the grill or waving flags at a parade honoring those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, I was honoring our past by visiting one of only two remaining covered bridges in North Carolina.


The Pisgah Bridge was built in 1911 by J. J. Welch. Cost to build this chunk of Americana was a whopping $40. It is 54 feet in length and is a one-lane bridge. I tried to ignore the graffiti that mars the walls of the bridge and focus on the design instead. 

It spans a lovely little river, and there's a scenic trail that goes from one side of the river to the other, via a foot bridge. This gem from the past is only about an hour from my home, yet it took me three years to get here. Worth every mile. Now, when my hero or heroine need to cross a wooden bridge, I'll remember the sound my feet made as I walked from one side to the other. 

I'll be able to describe the muddiness of the water and the silence of the surrounding forest. (I'll leave out the high-pitched screams of the children who were also at the bridge.)

The other bridge is part of the Appalachian Trail, on the far western side of the state. I'll have to get to it someday. Right now, the little Pisgah Bridge is enough. 

How about you? Where do you go to search for inspiration?