Sadly, Becoming Magic is NOT up in the Kindle store in spite of everything having been done right by me. I’ve sent them a message and hopefully it’ll be fixed within 24 hours. In the meantime, I’m sending everyone to Smashwords who have a lovely big sale going on in which ALL of my other books have a 100% off coupon (SS100) for the month of July only. And Becoming Magic is only $2.99, so you could catch up on all the Sleight of Hand books for the single price of $2.99—who wouldn’t want to do that? Check it out here: Smashwords Summer Sale!
This is the time of year I look back on what I’ve accomplished and wonder—yet again—why do I bother writing romance novels?
My readers number in the dozens. And most of those are friends. (Wonderful friends!)
I could probably have a very successful career as a journalist or a librarian if I dropped the novelist pretense. (I do have degrees for both.)
If I give up writing romance novels I’d have lots more time for other stuff. Fun stuff. Like kite flying. Or boating. Or acting. (Did you catch that I was in a local production of A Christmas Carol?)
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And yet…the truth of the matter is, I don’t really write for readers. I write for me. I even publish for me because I like seeing my writing in book form. It’s satisfying in a weird, probably narcissistic way. But it’d be great to have more readers. It’d even be great to make a living at this thing. To be a best-selling author with Hollywood fighting to turn my books into movies. To be able to donate money to charities and take care of my family and set my parents up in a nice house, preferably closer or at least be able to get to see them more—all that is the dream.
However, as I close out my seventh year as a novelist with thirteen romance novels under my belt, I am faced with the near certainty that that’s not likely to happen.
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Let’s face it, the days of the reclusive novelist who can sit at home and write and send their work out to the publishing world to sell are over. Everyone writes books these days. Actors, politicians, psychiatrists, musicians, librarians, bloggers, YouTubers—I could go on, but you get the picture.
The pipes are literally clogged with all the books all these non-writers are writing. How on earth is little ol’ non-flashy me gonna attract attention to my independently published romances with all those flashy covers “written” by all the flashy personalities taking up all that shelf space?
Gotta try, though, don’t I? (Email list sign up here.)
So, I’m turning over a new leaf in the new year. I’m working out an actual marketing plan and exploring other avenues for publishing. I’m looking at what’s worked and what hasn’t and what I’ve never tried before. And I’m kicking it all off with a newsletter that launches on January 1. If you want to keep up with what’s happening with me, you might want to sign up. Here’s a link to do that: Email list sign up.
Oh, and even if you don’t really care what’s happening with me and my career, you might want to sign up anyway since I’m giving away a $50 Amazon gift card to one lucky subscriber. Want that sign up link again? Here you go.
Studies show that buying local is important to local economies, right? More of the money you spend returns to your own local economy. Did you know buying from an independent local author has the same benefits?
Authors published by large publishing companies get much less of the profits from sales of their books. Therefore, the majority of the money you spend on a bestseller in the bookstore goes national, not local. However, if you buy a book that is independently published or published by a small press, the author gets much more of their proceeds. Therefore, more of that money returns to your local economy, growing local businesses and
True, you may only be able to find independently published books at online retailers, meaning part of your money goes to support those retailers. However, this pales in comparison to the portion of money that goes to traditional publishers. The average traditionally published authors makes, on average, a ten percent royalty, but this is on net profit, so any discounts or overhead are taken out of the proceeds before the author gets a check. So an eight dollar book does not make the author eighty cents per book sold.
By contrast, independently published authors (read self-published here), can make up to a seventy percent royalty on a book. Usually independently published books sold in ebook format online are priced much lower than traditionally published ebooks (mine range from free to $2.99). Paperbacks can be more expensive because, at the moment, they are print-on-demand, which means there are no warehouses full of my books anywhere. I keep a few on hand for promotional purposes, but basically, if you order a physical copy of my book, somewhere a press fires up and prints it off.
It’s kind of cool to think of that.
In truth, though, you as a consumer have the chance to change the way books are made. You can go into a bookstore and suggest that they carry my books. The bookstore could then contact me and we could haggle out a price, which would result in me shipping them a few copies of my books, which would then share brick-and-mortar shelf space with traditionally published books. In most cases, larger chains are less likely to do this than the independent book stores which are, sadly, becoming fewer in number.
Consumers can change that, too.
So, buy local. Chances are good that no matter what subject matter or genre interests you, there’s a local author who’s got it covered. Please feel free to list your favorite independent author’s website in the comments.
Three years ago, Ursula K. Le Guin gave an impassioned speech in which she basically implored writers to write what they wanted to write and not what the publishing industry told them to write. She asked that literature in all forms return to being considered an art form. “Books aren’t just commodities,” she said.
I’ve often wondered if I would sell out if someone offered me the opportunity to sign with a big publisher that would basically guarantee my book would be a bestseller with an awesome marketing plan and everything all taken care of—but I had to write a book the publisher wanted with the plot all spelled out for me. Would I do it? Would I sell out? Would I turn out a plastic fiction book with no soul and no art just to gain readers?
I can’t answer that question. I fear I might. It’d probably be easy enough to write if I didn’t have to come up with the plot myself. And I have a respectable backlist now. Surely I should consider that in the equation. If I gained lots of readers with my plastic fiction—readers who enjoyed my style of writing and who would then consume my other books—wouldn’t it be worth it? But then, too, I’d be feeding the plastic fiction industry that has taken over the publishing world and made it more difficult for writers to be the artists they are meant to be.
Not sure you know what I mean by plastic fiction? Oh yes, you do. It’s especially prevalent in my chosen genre at the moment. For a while it was vampire romances (which has now morphed to include werewolves and shapeshifters and lots of other paranormals). I’m not saying these are all bad. I’ve even read a few that are exceptionally good. But those can be hard to find. And then there’s the fifty-shades phenomenon that is reflected in everything from content (way more explicit than just a few years ago) to covers (haven’t you noticed the trend to monochromatic still life since Christian Grey’s silk tie?).
I think the surge in independent publishing has been a reaction to writers trying to avoid the plastic fiction publishing industry. I’m proud to be a part of that surge. I love what I write, and I love publishing my little bits of art. They aren’t the highest quality—maybe they’re made of aluminum instead of gold or silver—but they aren’t plastic, either. I know this because they come from my heart and contain bits of my soul.
In January I made the usual New Year’s resolutions: eat healthier, exercise more, etc. But I also made a resolution I had never made before. Fight fear.
Fear has held me back my entire life. I’m a timid person by nature, though I’ve overcome much of that through the love of my family. Yet still, I have more than my share of phobias. Spiders, stage fright, dentists (that’s a big one).
I haven’t overcome these phobias, but I have forced myself to face them. Just last week I smashed a spider that had my daughter cornered. In a gesture at fighting off my general timidity, I recently took the opportunity to travel with my son to Germany. And I tried out for and got a bit part in our local theater’s production of “A Christmas Carol”. So, yeah, I’m working on it.
And this morning, I went to the dentist for the first time in…a while. My teeth are still sore. Like everything, I began to draw a parallel between sore teeth and publishing a book.
When you write a novel, you bare a part of your soul, and the more covering you can pull away (just like the dental hygienist did to my teeth this morning), the better your writing will be. And just like my teeth, which are now sore and more exposed to temperature changes, so the writer’s soul becomes exposed to critics.
The temptation is to keep part of the soul covered. A thin veil. Remove yourself from the story and tell yourself it’s the characters’ story you’re telling. And while this is true to a point, the truth is, the writer is in every story she tells. And once that story is published, the writer is exposed. Perhaps this is why Emily Dickinson published less than a dozen poems in her lifetime. So much of her soul exposed through her poems might have been too much for her to bear.
So publishing is a leap of faith in our own work and our own souls. It might be ignored or disliked or even loved, but it’s bound to be painful in one way or another. With that thought in mind, I present a taste of my soul in the form of an excerpt from Movie Magic:
“What’ll it be, Cowboy?” Her eyes flickered over him in a just slightly less than shameless fashion.
“What would you recommend, Gypsy?”
The woman looked pleased that he remembered her name. “Depends. Are you just here to drink tonight, Walt, or are you eating?”
“You know I’m not going to pass up the burgers.” He leaned on the bar. “We want beer. Maybe one of those pepper beers you guys are so proud of.”
The woman raised her eyebrows and looked at Sabrina. She nodded, her appraisal obviously satisfactory. “Two ghost brews coming up.” She reached beneath the counter and with a flick of her wrist produced two bottles with a label bearing a picture of an ethereal white spirit sporting a pirate hat. She stopped short of handing it to them. “They’re on the house if you do that trick again.”
“Which trick?” Walt raised his eyebrows, trying to look innocent.
“You know which trick.” She uncapped the beer and set it in front of him.
He glanced at the beer, then back to her. “You got a glass?”
“Better than that. I’ve got a bottle of cheap beer back here. You don’t even have to waste yours.”
“What if it doesn’t work?” He looked anxious.
Sabrina laughed and Gypsy grinned at her. “I like this one. She’s got faith.”
“I kind of like her too.” Walt’s sideways grin warmed Sabrina and she couldn’t help smiling back. Walt tapped the bar. “Bring it on, Gypsy. I’m up to any challenge tonight.”
Gypsy let out a whoop that attracted the attention of everyone in the bar area. By the time she’d set the bottle of beer and a glass in front of Walt, the other patrons were crowding around. Sabrina enjoyed her front row seat as she watched Walt pick up the bottle, unscrew the top and take a swig. Then he upended the bottle on the bar with a flourish, somehow not spilling a drop. The crowd oohed appreciatively, then waited as Walt placed a coaster on the bottom of the upended bottle, flipped it back over the right way, then upended it again over the glass. When nothing happened, he pretended to be confused, peered inside for a second while Sabrina and probably the rest of the crowd held their breath, then held it over the glass again, removed the coaster and tapped the bottom of the bottle, producing a gush of beer into the mug. Walt handed the mug to Gypsy with a bow while everyone applauded.
Seriously, in today’s world, why would you NOT want to believe in magic? When I started writing the Sleight of Hand series, I knew very little about the stage magicians I was writing about. I found magic entertaining and fun and I always had, so I figured why not write about it? I tried it and the result has been incredibly entertaining for me.
My fourth book in the series, Movie Magic, will be out October 31. I’m planning a day of festivities for its release, but I love this series so much, I decided I should re-introduce my magicians here.
So I started with Close Up Magic. Andre Hawke is the magician hero in this one, and he’s your typical tall, dark and sexy with a family he’s devoted to and protective of. He’s already got a lot going on in his life when Stacey Matthewson, a talented entertainment reporter with a checkered past, shows up. How does he deal with her? With a little magic, of course.
Excerpt: Her chest felt tight and she found it hard to breathe. Was he going to kiss her? Dear God, she felt paralyzed. Was this really just desire or did he actually know enough magic to hold her immobile while he considered whether or not to kiss her? Or did she want his kiss so bad she was willing to sacrifice what was left of her career to get it?
She cleared her throat and fought her way out of whatever spell he’d cast. “I, um, do have another reason—” She reached into her purse.
“Save it.” He dropped her hand. “I don’t talk to the press before shows.”
She couldn’t disguise her astonishment. “How do you know I’m a reporter?”
“Fresh off the plane. I recognize the smell of the soap. Congratulations, you’re the first. This evening, anyway.” He glanced at his watch. “I’m not expecting any more for at least a couple hours.” His glare was sharp. “They probably won’t catch me until after the show.”
Keep in mind that throughout the writing of Close Up Magic, I refused to look up how magic tricks were done. I didn’t want to know. I made up my own magic tricks for the books and tried to imagine ways they could be done, but I didn’t want to spoil the magic for myself.
When I started writing Escape Magic, I figured I better change that. Escape magic is very different from close up magic in that the performer relies on a lot of physical strength and dexterity to accomplish their tricks. I’d been challenged to make one of my magicians a female, and, to my surprise, escape magic lends itself very well to female performers. When I started researching the subject, I was surprised at how many women escape artists there actually are. This led me to create Lady Lydia, a friend of Andre who becomes the love interest of Andre’s brother Tony.
Excerpt: Lydia was not easy to find. He finally located her in a knot of cheering male magicians. She was seated on a table with her legs crossed and her arms bound behind her. A handsome, dark complected man teased her with a wine glass. “C’mon, Lady Lydia! Get loose and it’s all yours.”
Lydia pretended to have trouble with the knot. “Oh, you might just have me with this one.”
The dark man smiled a little lasciviously and leaned on the table so his body half covered hers. “Oh, I really hope so. But give it a try anyway.”
Lydia remained perfectly calm. Tony knew she’d probably already worked her way out of the knot, or at least knew how to, but she gave no indication of it. “How on earth could I possibly—oops!” She held up her hands with the rope dangling from one and gave him a little push away from her. “Did you lose something, Samir?”
“Just his pride.” Tony recognized the little toadlike man who spoke as Phil, an illusionist. He frowned, searching his mind. Had Phil even been invited? Before he could speak, Phil made a beckoning motion. “Everybody pay up.”
“Not the right venue, Phil.” Tony stepped forward as Lydia took the wine from the handsome magician’s fingers. Tony noticed a line of empty wine glasses on the table next to her. It wasn’t the first bet, then. His resolution to put a stop to the illicit activities strengthened into an almost protective resolve. “Lydia.”
She glanced at Tony as she sipped the wine. “What? You want to go next?” She dangled the rope in front of him. At his disbelieving look, she laughed. “Sorry, don’t have any cuffs. You have to bring your own.”
Of course, after all that partying in Las Vegas, I was ready for a change of scenery with my next book. That resulted in Island Magic and its reclusive magician hero Ian Logan. Logan is in a sort of self-imposed exile from magic, but when he encounters an old friend in trouble—sexy and damaged divorcee Rachel Duvall—Logan just can’t help but slip back into his magic ways to help her heal.
“I’ll tell you a secret.” He brushed her hair back and leaned over, his lips close to her ear. “Real magicians never have to prepare—as far as you know.”
A pleasant shiver went through her. A vague memory stirred. Her mother in the kitchen preparing for a dinner party. A good hostess has all her preparation done before the party so it looks like she gets to enjoy everything as much as her guests. She pushed the memory away, knowing it would lead to others where she was the perfect hostess with everything prepared ahead of time. She’d already broken her vow never to cry again once that day. She steeled herself against doing it again.
Lifting her chin, she stepped past him onto the deck. Her hands gripped the white-painted wrought iron railing. His body was solid and warm behind her, but she clung to the cold metal rail as if to keep herself from flying up into the stars. She felt almost certain whatever he was about to do—whatever she was about to see—would surely turn her world upside down.
The tropical sun had set long before. She wondered what time it actually was but didn’t really care enough to find out. Diamonds peppered the velvety black sky, and he wanted her to pick one. She lifted her hand and pointed. “That one.”
He rested his chin on her shoulder, bending his legs so his tall frame molded against hers. She watched his hand the entire time as he reached past her arm, closed his long fingers and brought them back to the glass, releasing the light into the bowl of the wineglass. She stared in wonder at the blue light.
“Did you see a trick?” He smiled at her, offering her the glass, his hand still firmly on top of it.
Finally, we come to Movie Magic. This may be my favorite of the Sleight of Hand books so far. I love the heroine, Sabrina Parker. She’s a plucky, ambitious woman in the Hollywood special effects business. She’s befriended all the other magicians we’ve met so far, using their expertise to create effects for movies that go beyond CGI. But when she needs help on a very special movie, her old friends fail her. They’ve all got projects of their own. What’s a girl to do? Our girl finds Walt Bryson, a sexy, talented children’s magician who lives on the coast of North Carolina. And magic ensues. Magic that involves everything from pirates and Carolina Beaches to the Magic Castle of Hollywood.
She missed the pleasant buzz from the rum. The coffee cleared things up for her too much. Half of her really wanted nothing more than to drink rum and make out with him on this couch in the late afternoon sun while the deck below them bustled with waiters and the other pirates cleaning up from the afternoon. She really wanted to give in to some crazy impulse. She glared at the innocent cup of coffee. “I miss the rum.”
He laughed softly, brushing her hair back from her face, his fingers tangling briefly in the soft curls. “So do I.” His gaze flickered to her lips and she knew in that moment that she wouldn’t need the rum buzz to kiss him. Oh please, just kiss me already. The thought whispered in her heart, and all she could see for a breathless moment was his lips.
He brushed his thumb over her lips, so tenderly her belly filled with a melting fire. But then he backed away with a reluctant smile. “But maybe we don’t need rum, huh?”
All of my Sleight of Hand books are available at Smashwords, Amazon, iTunes, Barnes & Noble and many more of your favorite online book retailers. Pick up one and be ready to believe!
It’s always interesting to me when people I’ve known for years say, “Oh, you’re a writer?” It’s such an essential part of who I am. But I’m very, very bad at telling people about it, because it’s also a very personal part of who I am. I always sort of hoped that I’d one day have a best-seller and the New York Times would out me, but that doesn’t really seem to be happening, so…
I write romantic fiction of several different genres. I’ve written a coming-of-age romantic mystery (i.e. Weeds and Flowers), contemporary romances (i.e. my Sleight of Hand series) and romantic fantasy (i.e. my Synchronicity series—see below). Three of my books were traditionally published (Secrets of the Lotus and Winter Solstice by Lyrical Press and Where the Heart Lies by Carina Press). I am also the proud author of a book that’s been called “unsettling” and “thought-provoking” (Ducks in a Row).
And there you have it. That’s me. I’ve outed myself. There’s a little bit of me in every book I write. I am a writer.