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!

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.

 

Thoughts and Reviews

I do a lot of thinking. Some might say too much. I’ve been thinking a lot recently in light of the Time’s Up movement in Hollywood and around the nation about how my genre of writing needs to evolve—if at all.

I’m a romantic who’s been blessed in the love and family department. It’s not always easy to see life from the viewpoint of the victimized when you live in a safe bubble. I’ve never really needed to be feminist, though I’ve had my own small #metoo moments. Still, I’ve been wondering…how do I as a romance writer make this situation better? How can I write about the flirtation and romance between men and women when so much negativity is associated with such flirtation and romance crossing a line into something much darker?

I’ve always tried to write strong female characters and caring male characters, but I’ve never considered how their romantic interactions could read to someone who has been victimized. Consider the pirate scene in Movie Magic, for instance. Or the scene in Secrets of the Lotus where the rich guy just chooses a woman at random to kiss at midnight on New Year’s Eve. In Winter Solstice, the two main characters are co-workers. Island Magic is basically about a kidnapping—a good-natured and necessary one, but still. In almost every one of my books, looking back, there is something that might be frowned upon by a feminist or trigger a victim. The only one of my books with a real feminist as a heroine is Escape Magic, which I wrote in response to my disgust over 50 Shades of Grey.

I haven’t solved this romance/feminism quandary, by the way. I’m keeping it in mind in my writing, however, so it’s most likely going to show up eventually.

On to better news. Today, in spite of its possible problematic elements, Movie Magic received TWO great reviews. See below for details and stop by to give my reviewers some love and for your last chance to enter to win a $50 Amazon gift card:

“A sudden storm brings the characters together, and very much like the Shakespearean play, “The Tempest”, the characters are introduced and the story unfolds against a background of nature, the elements, and magic. Movie Magic is a charming romance!” —Jennifer Macaire

“…for the most part I really did enjoy Mrs. Flye’s writing style as she was superior on detail.  She carefully thought-out certain passages that when I read them I wasn’t reading them – I was seeing them!  Perhaps like my own little movie magic occurring!” —Fabulous and Brunette

In honor of National Book Lovers’ Day

It’s National Book Lovers’ Day, and I’m obviously a book lover. Whether I’m writing them, reading them, editing them or cataloguing them, nothing, in my opinion, is better than a book. I love giving books to people, I love finding books for people and I love, love, love when someone gives me a book. There is no better gift.

When I wrote Out of Time, I wanted to express some of the gratitude I feel for those who helped foster my love of reading and books in my acknowledgements. On this day of all days, it feels appropriate to share that here. I hope some of the people who I mention might see them and know how much they meant to me. I hope others who read these acknowledgements will think of those who’ve helped put books in their hands at one point or another. And mostly, I hope we’ll all think about how we might get more books into more hands in the future. Because if you create a book lover, you’ve done the world a huge favor.

From Acknowledgements, Out of Time:

I always want to say something splendid in the acknowledgements of my books. It’s kind of like writing a note in a birthday card, though. If you’re not careful, you’ll write yourself into a corner, but you just have to keep going…

As usual, I want to thank the friends and family who support me and believe in me. My parents and in-laws and brothers and, especially, my husband, Chris and children, Josh, Ben and Jessi (to whom this book is dedicated). And the members of The (most) Flye Street Team. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Strangely, however, with this book, I feel I need to add a thank you to some other people who don’t know me, some of whom are dead now. Maybe it’s because this book, which is so different from others I have written, comes closer to what I feel I was always intended to write. A fantasy that sort of reflects my belief that there’s way more poetry in our prosaic world than at first meets the eye. So a special note of appreciation to the following seems in order.

Thank you to the owners of Highland Books and The Book Nook, where I spent many hours reading science fiction and fantasy books I couldn’t afford to buy when I was a kid. I know you saw me in the corner of your store, but you never once asked me, “Are you going to buy that book?”

Thank you to the ladies of the Transylvania County Library where I “worked” on Saturdays during my teenage years. I know you know I spent a good amount of my shelving time browsing the books, but you never complained.

Thank you to the innumerable science fiction and fantasy authors who have provided me with hours of enjoyable reading. You don’t know me, but I have lived in your worlds, whether it be Pern or Narnia or Middle-Earth…

And thank you to you, my readers. Whether you’re hiding in a corner of a book store or browsing the shelves of a library, or reading on your e-reader, I hope my book can take you somewhere beyond the reality of normality.

Let’s be honest: We can’t blame E.L. James.

So, E.L. James decides to try to do what many authors do. In an attempt at promoting her new book Grey, James went live on Twitter, allowing other Tweeters to ask her questions using #AskELJames. What ensued was…troubling. Tweeters used the opportunity to criticize James’s writing and to accuse her of everything from glorifying abuse to setting back women’s rights a good fifty years.

Now, I’m not a fan of 50 Shades. I read the first one, or at least started it, after hearing a great deal of buzz about it. I ended up skipping through a good bit of it, and when I reached the end, I was actually disappointed to learn that there were two sequels. I’m no fan of E.L. James, but I don’t blame her, and I certainly would never have participated in the monstrous activity that took place on Twitter.

E.L. James is a writer. Maybe not a great one, but she did write, as of last count, four enormously popular books. Is it her fault that a publisher chose to publish her books, a gazillion people chose to buy and read them, and a movie producer chose to make a movie—which another gazillion people went to see? Not really.

So who is there left to blame if the author is out of bounds? The publisher for pulling 50 Shades out of the slush pile and giving it the type of promotion that most authors can only dream of? Maybe, but publishers are, in the end, just salesmen. They see a need in the market and they try to be the first to fill it.

The troubling thing about the whole 50 Shades phenomenon is that, at the end of the day, there was a market for the book. In spite of its disturbing thematic material. In spite of its sub-par writing. In spite of the fact that “those type” of books (which have been around for many, many years) were once hidden at the back of the bookstore, not prominently displayed at the front door to greet me and my children when we go in looking for summer reading.

So don’t blame E.L. James for writing what a large part of our society now wants to read. Writers write. Publishers publish. Readers buy the books.

Sleight of Hand Continues: A brief intro to Rachel and Logan from Island Magic!

In just thirteen days, the magic starts again! Island Magic, the third novel in my Sleight of Hand series, releases on October 31. I’m a little excited about this, and not just because the covers (designed by the amazing Farah Evers), look great together:

CloseUpMagicEbookRevEscape MagicEbookIsland Magic eBook

For those who don’t know, I started the Sleight of Hand series a couple of years ago with the release of Close Up Magic. Close Up Magic tells the story of handsome and successful magician Andre Hawke and Stacey Matthews, the scandal reporter looking for a scoop of gossip about Andre and his drug-addicted brother, Tony. Needless to say, attraction leads to passion which leads to complications, and, finally, a satisfyingly magical conclusion. I continued the series a year later with the novella Escape Magic, the story of a cleaner and stronger Tony, who finds himself challenged by an old friend, the inimitable escape magician Lady Lydia. I called this my “anti-50 Shades” bondage romance because, well, Lydia is an escape magician. Makes sense she’d be into that kind of thing, though she’s such a strong heroine, she’s more than capable of turning the tables on any partner who might try it with her.

Island Magic is a bit of a departure for me in that it doesn’t involve a practicing magician. The hero, Ian Logan, retired from the magical life after the death of his wife, which he blames himself for. He’s happy in his retirement until Rachel Duvall, his wife’s best friend, arrives at his island resort, freshly divorced and evidently determined to party her way down a self-destructive path of men, drugs and drink. Logan wants to help her, but first he has to deal with his own attraction to the sexy goddess he barely recognizes.

Rachel is the single most unlikely heroine I’ve ever written, but I absolutely love her. It was hard to get her just right. The things she does aren’t things I could ever imagine doing, so at first I had a hard time relating to her. I had to achieve a balance in her personality that somehow made her worth redeeming, and it was very difficult! Have a look at this excerpt to get a taste of what Rachel appears to be at the beginning of the book:

Three floors down from Rachel’s window handsome, tanned men dressed in white moved around the pool, setting up chairs, sweeping away small bits of trash, piling clean white towels on bamboo stands. Rachel watched their smooth movements with all the admiration she would feel for a ballet. They were coordinated, efficient, pleasant to observe.

They reminded her a little of the cast members she’d seen at Disney World when she was last there. The memory brought a jab of pain sharp enough to penetrate the morning fog. She’d been so full of hope then. So sure it wouldn’t be the last time she believed in magic.

The bedsheets rustled and a tousled dark head emerged. The handsome college kid grinned at her, teeth white against his olive skin. Where was he from again? Spain? She struggled to remember at least that much. His name was out of the question. She never remembered names. How old was he, anyway? She hoped at least twenty-one. She didn’t want to think she’d spent a passionate night in the arms of anyone technically young enough to be her son. He’s still too young for a thirtysomething divorcee. Her years weighed on her for a second before she shook them off impatiently.

He held out a hand. “Come back to bed.”

The invitation was eloquently stated and absurdly inviting to have been uttered by someone so young. However old he was, he certainly had experience in the area of making love. And he had the face and body of a fallen angel. Curly, jet-black hair, brown eyes, lush lips. His bare skin smooth and his muscles rock hard… She shook herself out of the memory, making her voice cold on purpose. “You need to go.”

He laughed and rolled over onto his back, stretching. “You don’t mean that, mi reyna.”

My Queen. Spanish. She’d at least remembered that right. Rachel felt ludicrously relieved, which firmed up her determination. She needed to get this kid, ah hell, this boy out of her room before she fell back into bed with him. Drunk sex was one thing—the only thing she could afford. Making love sober the morning after was another. She turned away. “It’s late. I have things to do.”

He was silent. She’d hurt him. She closed her eyes. It was better this way. If he fell into the dark hole of her heart, he’d never survive it. She turned, finding his clothes in a pile on the floor. She picked them up and tossed them to him. “Here you go. You’ve got a room here, right? Go take a shower.” She let herself smile gently at him. “Look, I don’t mean to hurt you. Last night was…mmm.” She laughed a little. “You’re very good. But you’re barely old enough for me. Take my advice and stick with girls for now. Give yourself another ten years before you try with a woman my age. At least by then you’ll be interesting.”

I think you get the idea that Rachel has a long way to go from here. Fortunately, she has Logan to help her on the journey, and he’s a hero who’s more than up to the task. Don’t believe me? Here’s a little excerpt to introduce you:

Logan held the burning cigarette between his thumb and forefinger, even though he wasn’t a smoker. He could go days without smoking and never even think about it. Smoking, like most everything else in his life, was an affectation.

Except this place. This is real. Isla Foriscura, his little haven in the middle of the Caribbean, was the only thing real about him anymore. The rest was illusion. The lustful looks of the women, the nights he spent drinking a little too much trying to forget, the mornings when he could very easily have stayed in bed. None of that was real.

She was real. Rachel. She was really here, but it wasn’t really her. He frowned at the cigarette, aware that the others had finished the job he’d started with them, but not ready to move yet. He turned the problem of Rachel over and over in his mind. I stopped believing in magic a long time ago.

That wasn’t the Rachel he remembered, not that he knew her except for Nora’s description: beautiful, carefree, loving and loveable. She’d sent him an invitation to her wedding a few years ago, but he hadn’t gone. He’d sent her a lovely crystal vase instead with a card wishing her well. Who was the guy? Keith? Ken? It didn’t matter. Obviously he was out of the picture and he’d taken most of the woman Nora had loved with him.

What happened to you, Rachel?

And then there was this day. His birthday. Nora always made a big deal out of birthdays. Probably why Logan hadn’t celebrated his since her death. He looked down at the cigarette in his fingers and wound it through them, watching it with interest as it moved, seemingly of its own accord, although he knew it was little flexes of the muscles he’d developed over his years performing sleight of hand magic tricks.

Tricks. The word gave him a sour taste in his mouth. It was all tricks. He tossed the cigarette on the tiles and stepped on it as he stood. He could sit there all day brooding or he could get up and live. He’d always known those were his choices, and he’d chosen life a long time before.

Intrigued yet? In case you’re wondering, Tony, Stacey, Andre and Lady Lydia all make appearances in Island Magic, and you find out where their paths have led them. So if you want to catch up on the story before Island Magic‘s official release on October 31 in print and on Kindle, you can find their books on Amazon. Both are available for the bargain price of 99 cents! Island Magic is available for pre-order for $2.99 for Kindle now.

SATURDAY LOVE excerpt:

In just three days, SATURDAY LOVE will be available for Kindle and in paperback for your enjoyment. In the meantime, however, I thought I’d give you a little taste of what Saturday love is like from my heroine Accalia’s point of view:

On Wednesday afternoon, she visited her friend Cyra, who’d recently had a baby. Other than Myron, Cyra was the only childhood friend she’d kept in touch with over the years.

Cyra greeted her enthusiastically at the door, pulling her inside to admire the baby, who slept in a bassinet in the sunny living room. Accalia stood for several minutes studying the tiny peaceful face framed by dark hair. What was it about babies, anyway? The tiniest, most demanding creatures in the world, but mothers would do anything to protect and serve them. She could see it already in Cyra. And if she stood still long enough and looked deep enough into her own heart, she could feel a longing to experience that servitude herself.

“She’s so beautiful, isn’t she?” Cyra nudged her friend and handed her a mug of hot, strong coffee.

“She truly is, Cyra. And you and Pavlos are doing well?” Accalia smiled at her friend.

Cyra beckoned her over to the couch. She sat with a sigh of contentment. “We’re exhausted. But Pavlos is a wonderful father. He gets up with me every night when she cries. I tell him ‘go back to bed, Pavlos, you have to be up early,’ but he does it anyway.” Her expression turned tender. “I married such a wonderful man.”

Accalia thought of Elene’s advice about marriage and friendship. If she hadn’t fallen in love with Will, if she’d given her marriage with Myron a chance, would she end up feeling such tenderness for him after the birth of their first child? When she tried to imagine the development of such feelings, however, her mind turned to Will.

As if she were reading her friend’s mind, Cyra gave her a mischievous smile. “When will you and Myron try the baby thing, anyway?”

Feeling her face grow red, Accalia took a sip of the hot coffee, which unfortunately did nothing to alleviate the heat in her face. She set it aside. “I—we don’t have any plans right now.” Especially since we’re not sleeping together. Loyalty to her friend Myron wouldn’t allow her to make such confessions—even to Cyra—however. She couldn’t risk embarrassing him that way. Still curious, she looked for another way to ask her friend about married life after the first passion had faded. “Now just isn’t the time. I’m returning to America soon. And…I worry. What if things…change?”

“Change?” Cyra snorted and shook her head. “Oh yes, it changes. Pavlos and I—well, once upon a time we couldn’t keep our hands off each other. And little Chloe is the result of that, I guess. I can see why you’d be worried about it.” She grinned, then reached over and took Accalia’s hand. “But even though most nights we’re too exhausted to do anything but fall asleep on the couch, we do it together. And I think if you have that relationship to base your marriage on, it’ll survive even the fatigue of a new baby. Besides, even now there are…moments.” She smiled a tiny private smile, then gave Accalia’s hand a squeeze. “Marriage is work, isn’t it?”

Accalia bit her lip and nodded. It’s work I’m not very good at.