Leaving the backlist behind

Over the past week—especially since Wednesday when I discovered my dog had chewed through my computer cord—I have been working on getting the last three of my self-published books online at Smashwords. Smashwords will make these books available in multiple formats at multiple outlets, so that you aren’t just limited to Kindle if you wish to read in ebook format. In a few days, every one of my books will be available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Kobo, iBooks—you name it, I’ll be there. Every format.

Revisiting my backlist became less of a chore than I’d imagined it would be. I actually found myself giving my last three books (Weeds and Flowers, Ducks in a Row, and Saturday Love) a thorough proofreading…and enjoying it. I haven’t read those books in ages.

Weeds and Flowers isn’t even a romance like I write now. More of a coming-of-age story that was written in a sort of patchwork quilt way—bits and pieces that I stitched together to make a novel. Appropriately, it was actually probably the first novel I wrote, though not the first one published. I had forgotten how much that book meant to me, though. It’s the only one—so far—that has something in it that actually happened, not actually to me, but to people around me. Re-reading it was like reliving some of my own childhood, even if I was more watching than experiencing at the time.

As for the other two, Ducks was the most difficult book I’ve written thematically. I think of it as sort of an anatomy of both a marriage and an affair. I actually still dislike the heroine, though she did grow a lot during the course of the book. And I fell in love with one of the male characters. So much so that he ended up getting his own book, Saturday Love, because I just couldn’t leave him hanging like he was at the end of Ducks. Regardless of my feelings for the characters, however, re-reading those books was like visiting with family I hadn’t seen in a while. And it revived a past resolve to write a third book in that series. If I can ever get past the two or three other projects I have waiting for me now.

But for now, I am returning to work on Dickens Magic, my next in the Sleight of Hand series and my first ever attempt at a holiday-themed book. I’d reached a sort of roadblock on that one. I couldn’t quite figure a believable way to drive a wedge between the hero and heroine but over the course of the week, I had a brainstorm. I plan to give myself two more weeks to finish the first draft of Dickens Magic, then I have another start on a not-magic-related book and at some point I have to get to work on Magic at Sea… 

But maybe that would wait. Maybe I could start my third book about the Hubbard family, Agape Mou (Greek for “My Love”). There’s a reason it’s Greek. If you read Ducks and Saturday Love, you’ll understand. I have plans for a very good-looking Greek hero for that one, but his ties to the Hubbard family are very complicated and bound to result in some drama. Especially when he gets involved with the daughter of the family…

Oh crap. If I’m not careful my imagination will get stuck in sunny Greek vineyards instead of a theater all decorated for Christmas. Better get back to work! Herete, my friends.

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Happy Friday the 13th: A dog, a backlist and computer woes

This Friday the 13th I’m counting my blessings.

I’m fortunate that I have a dog that I love dearly.

I’m fortunate that I have a backlist with 13 novels that I can offer for free on Smashwords Summer Sale (coupon code SS100).

I’m fortunate that I have an iPad. It gives me something to work on while I’m waiting for a replacement power cord for my MacBook Pro that my dog chewed. That severely limits my productivity. It’s very difficult to upload a manuscript from an iPad to Smashwords. Most of my files are in Dropbox, fortunately, so I can access them, but it’s not what I’m used to. So I managed to upload Ducks in a Row, but yesterday I contented myself with thoroughly proofreading Saturday Love, thinking any minute UPS would arrive with the computer cord replacement I’d paid extra to have delivered overnight. 

They didn’t come.

I checked the tracking last night. My cord never made it past the UPS facility 30 miles away. It said something about the house number being incorrect, which is, of course, bull, since I’ve had plenty of things delivered from Apple with no problem. And they always use the same address. UPS, you’ve now taken the place of my dog in this screwed up saga of my week. Which is probably a good thing.

I still love her.

 

romance, dog, love

Can you blame me?

 
So, anyway, look for Saturday Love to be online (without the two typos I found) later today, hopefully. In the meantime, you can obtain every book in my armada in the electronic format of your choice on Smashwords for $2.99. (That’s for Becoming Magic, which I just published, so you know…) That’s fourteen books once I get Saturday Love done. Come on, that’s pretty good. Go. Download. 

And if you have a dog, keep an eye on your computer cord!

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Reviving the Backlist: 13 Novels are waiting for you!

Yesterday while pondering whether or not I could be considered a “Southern” writer and not just a writer from the South, I started thinking about my backlist. I realized three of them were still only available on Amazon because I created book covers for them using KDP. But creating simple ebook covers is easier than ever now, so I looked up an online book cover creator and got to work.

I’m happy to say I now have book covers for all three and one of them—Weeds and Flowers—is now available (along with most of my backlist) for free on Smashwords with the coupon code SS100. Ducks in a Row is in process today and I’ll work on Saturday Love as soon as Ducks is ready. I’m excited about getting Ducks out there to a wider audience. It was what I call “critically acclaimed” having earned the following comments from reviewers on Amazon:

  • “I highly recommend this unsettling book.”
  • “A beautiful story about love, choice, redemption, and family.”
  • “One of the best books I have read this year, very thought provoking.”
  • “…a very beautiful but painful story…”

Saturday Love is actually the sequel to Ducks because I felt I left too much untold at the end of Ducks. At any rate, I’m thrilled more people will soon see these and maybe add them to their to-be-read pile. For now, here are the covers of all three:

Weeds and Flowers

Ducks in a Row

Saturday Love

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Q: Am I a Southern Writer? A: Maybe.

honeysuckle-rose.jpgEvery morning I read three things. Politics, sports and anything about writing and literature. This morning I happened to see an excellent article in The New York Times called “What Is a Southern Writer, Anyway?” by Margaret Renkl. Renkl wondered if Southern writing could survive the modern age—”mass media and Walmart”. I had to agree, I wondered if she was right.

Growing up in the North Carolina mountains, I saw a lot of Southern tropes and missed out on others. We had snow when I was a girl, and even the summers were not unbearable. Fresh mountain breezes made the 80-plus degree heat quite bearable and no one had air conditioning. We sat on front porches in the evenings, but my mother didn’t allow smoking (or any kind of tobacco) or drinking. Ever. Ahead of her time, she’d witnessed the destructive effects of both.

Most of my childhood, we had one car which my father used to get out and back to work at the DuPont plant where he moved up from mechanic to shift supervisor. We rode bikes and walked to get places when he was gone until he bought my mother a little Pinto to take us to school in. I remember riding back from the grocery store on my bike, balancing a gallon of milk between the handlebars.

And yes, there was the ugly part. I wrote about that in my book Weeds and Flowers. Shades of prejudice, rumors of Klan meetings, memories of burning crosses and hangings. There were ugly weeds in our Southern flower garden, but we only saw hints of them.

Renkl concludes in her article that, “Maybe being a Southern writer is only a matter of loving a damaged and damaging place, of loving its flawed and beautiful people, so much that you have to stay there, observing and recording and believing, against all odds, that one day it will finally live up to the promise of its own good heart.”

If that be the case, then I am a Southern writer although I don’t always write Southern literature. Every single one of my books has some tie to North Carolina, though, and most of them take place at least partly in my state. However, of all my books, I would only consider two of them to actually be somewhat Southern literature. Weeds and Flowers, of course, but also—if a romance can be Southern literature—Tracks in the Sand. (For the record, Tracks in the Sand is free in the Smashwords Summer Sale with code SS100.)

So although I grew up in a little town that became a tourist attraction with a booming economy and now live in another small NC town, I see the faults of small southern living. I love my state and always have. The two years I lived in other states (Maryland and Virginia) were miserable times for me. North Carolina is home, and home, after all, is what both Southern and romance writers write about.

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A New Kind of Romance: Changing the soul of romance literature

I just read a wonderful article in The New York Times by Alexandra Alter called “The Changing Face of Romance Novels”. The article addressed how romance novels are slowly changing to more accurately reflect the growing diversity in our world. However, Alter points out that many of the more diverse authors who write diverse romance must turn to alternative publishing outlets to get their books to readers as traditional publishing does not embrace change—at least not right away.

The article got me thinking. More diversity is a wonderful thing. More accurately reflecting the world we live in is invaluable. And yet, that doesn’t address what I see as the core problem in my genre the way my new kind of romance will. You see, though the face of literature definitely needs to change with changing times and audiences, the soul of romance must be addressed as well.

Gustave Flaubert said, “The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.” If the romance genre continues to explore the darker desires and pitfalls of humanity, is that what we romance authors believe love is all about? Is that what the publishing industry believes?

Isn’t it our duty as artists to illuminate the brighter side of love?

Yes, sex sells. It always has and always will. It sells books and clothes and cars. It sells candy and music. The publishing industry needs to take note, however, that you can’t just give the romance genre a facelift (even if it does need one). In today’s world, however, it is more important than ever to show through the romance genre that sexy does not need to include what women don’t want in their lives—whether that is controlling heroes, discrimination, assault or harassment of any sort.

 

 

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Take the Plunge: See beyond the stigma of “self-published”

man standing on brown rock cliff in front of waterfalls photography

How to convince a reader to take that leap of faith into your book? Photo by Oliver Sju00f6stru00f6m on Pexels.com

I get it. I’m old enough to remember vanity presses. I remember the indie-publishing phenomenon of The Christmas BoxRemember how quickly indie publishing grew after Richard Paul Evans’s little treasure was discovered by mainstream publishing? Vanity presses became independent presses and developed into KDP and Smashwords, providing a voice for authors who either can’t make it through the gatekeepers of traditional presses or, like me (I like to think, anyway), lost patience with the hoops you must jump through.

I’ve had three books published by two different traditional publishers. In all three cases, I enjoyed the experience of having professional cover designers, editors and book designers. It was invigorating working on a deadline. But at both publishers, my editors eventually left, putting me back at square one of trying to sell my book to another editor.

I’d rather sell it to you, my readers. But finding you is another process. Gaining your faith is yet another. I’ve been doing this for eight years now. My first book, Secrets of the Lotus, was published by Lyrical Press (now the digital first arm of Kensington Press) on July 5, 2010. I started this blog around then, too. Eight years, fourteen books, and countless blog posts later, I’ve got a few devoted readers. They’re the ones who’ll take the plunge no matter what I put out.

So I better make it good.

I think I’ve managed to improve both my writing and my publishing skills. I edit my own work now, but I have worked with enough professional editors so I have pretty good idea of how to find the holes in my own plots. I put all my manuscripts through a thorough proofreading at least twice by me and I have some beta readers who’ll look over drafts for me, too. I’ve learned a lot about the formatting of both ebooks and print. My self-published books look good now. Clean and pretty with clearly delineated breaks and chapters. And my covers are almost always professionally designed.

Now, I’m working on the marketing. That’s the really tough part. That’s the final push every author—traditional or self—must somehow summon to convince a reader that their book is worth reading. That’s why we query book reviewers and write blogs, why we spend hours writing guest posts for online book tours and tend to all our social media sites from Facebook and Twitter to Instagram and Goodreads.

It’s all to push you, dear reader, over the edge of a cliff and into the world of our writing.

Go ahead. Jump. If you don’t, you might miss out on the next self-publishing phenomenon.

 

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The importance of secondary characters in Becoming Magic

It’s a common misconception that a romance has two characters: hero and heroine. Unless you literally strand those two characters on a deserted island, you must create characters who figure into their daily lives. And unless they work and live in the same place, those secondary characters are going to be different.

I always strive to have secondary characters serve a purpose. I feel like old friends or family members can help reveal something about the main characters’ backstories or character traits that we didn’t already know. For this reason, I brought in Connor’s brother Jeff, the handsome pilot of Connor’s private plane, and Mira, Carole’s cute if a little immature college student sister. I feel like Mira probably serves more of a purpose to the storyline since she’s at first jealous of Carole’s relationship with Connor and later appalled that her sister would leave him. Check out these two short excerpts that illustrate the ways these two characters serve their purpose. First Jeff:

“Forgive my brother, ma’am. Jeff Wallace. The older sibling of the Wallace clan.”

Carole’s jaw dropped. “Oh. Well, that explains some stuff, then.” She felt like an idiot. The two men were very similar in height, build and features. She glanced at Connor. “You might have mentioned that your brother was the pilot.”

“Sorry.” Connor didn’t look at all sorry. “You just seemed so certain of yourself, I didn’t want to disappoint you.” He smiled a little wickedly. “I mean, it’s a shame to disabuse you of the notion that I lose touch with who and what I am whenever I’m offered a bit of Hollywood hospitality.” He turned to his brother. “Sorry, bro. She drank your champagne. You got another glass?”

Carole’s face felt aflame with embarrassment. “Oh my God. I’m so sorry. I—”

“He’s messing with you.” Jeff punched his brother in the arm. “Cut it out.” He turned back to Carole. “I never drink when I fly. Of course the champagne was meant for you. He called ahead to arrange it.”

And now Mira:

Mira stood in the doorway. “Better take some jeans and sweaters too. Just in case Connor takes you hiking. I hear he likes to hike.” She spoke casually, but Carole detected a glitter in her eyes. Was that really envy? As long as she could remember, Mira had been the prettier one, the more glam one, the one everyone loved without effort. Carole was smart and decent enough looking, but her little sister outshone her at every turn.

Carole frowned. “What’s up?”

“What do you mean, what’s up?” Mira didn’t meet her eyes.

“I mean you sound all jealous or something. Like I stole your boyfriend. This is work, Mira.”

“Ugh!” Mira threw her hands into the air. “I’m sorry. I just…maybe in a way you are stealing my boyfriend.”

“I was not aware of this thing between you and Connor Wallace,” Carole said solemnly.

Mira’s lips twitched. “Don’t laugh. You go to L.A. and be spotted on Connor Wallace’s arm, you’re stealing a lot of girls’ boyfriend. Because it’ll mean he’s off the market.”

“Why on earth would it mean that? He’s dated lots of women.”

“Because you’re the kind of girl a guy dates when he’s ready to settle down.”

Of course, my Sleight of Hand books wouldn’t be complete without an appearance from one of my other magical couples. In this case, Walt and Sabrina from Movie Magic are (slight spoiler alert if you haven’t read their story yet) planning their wedding and working on Connor’s documentary about becoming a magician. In a way, they serve almost parental roles for Carole, who has been Walt’s assistant since high school. Here’s just a taste of what they’re doing in the book:

Connor pulled out the linking rings, ready to manipulate them, and paused, his eyes on the engagement ring. “Well, that’s not right.” He pretended to try to get the ring off only to have it caught between two rings. He looked up. “Did somebody lose this?”

The audience tittered, but it had a surprised, anticipatory sound to it. Connor worked the rings again, managing only to get the engagement ring looped over three. He worked until he had managed to get it off all but one. “Finally.” He set the others aside. “I think this ring will only be released into the hands of its rightful owner.” He tossed it up into the air and caught it, the ring still in place. He glanced around, turning to Carole. “Is this yours?” He tossed it to her.

She caught it with pride, holding it up to display the diamond still hanging on.

“It would appear not.” Connor held out a hand and she threw it back, watching as he caught it expertly. He appeared to think. “I have an idea. Maybe I need another magician’s help with this one.” He swung around to Walt and threw the ring to him.

Walt caught it, tossing it back in one fluid motion, then turning to drop to one knee in front of Sabrina. He held up the diamond ring. “No magic is equal to what you’ve done to me. Say you’ll stay in my life forever.”

Tears spilled over onto Sabrina’s cheeks, amazing Carole. She’d never seen Sabrina cry before. But as she held out her hand to let him place the ring on her finger, she could only nod, wordless and obviously happy.

In a very real way, this book—and the whole Sleight of Hand series is about family. It’s a very large family made up of lots of smaller families, but they’re all bound together by a love of magic and each other. And a belief that love is a magic all its own.

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