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Monday, July 26, 2010

Ebay and Nearly Finished

If you don't have Google alerts set up for your author name and titles, I recommend you do so. You'd be surprised at what turns up in your inbox. Today, I got an alert about a listing for my book on Ebay. Nothing new about that. It's been there nearly continuously for a couple of years--and at ridiculous prices. And the books are always listed as new, which makes me wonder where the sellers are getting them and if any portion of that filters down to me. I doubt it. I also highly doubt they ever sell any because of the prices. Anyway, the Ebay alert for today was a little different because the seller is in Australia. Yep. Someone in Aussie land has my book listed for sale, in brand new condition. What the heck! The price is $24.49, which equals $22.01 American, plus mailing charges. I've seen it listed for as much as $36. Here's the listing, if you want to take a look.

Okay. Enough of that.

Since RWA's national conference starts in a couple of days, I figure the blogosphere will be even deader than it is already until the weekend or later--unless some kind souls decide to blog about the goings on from their hotel rooms. I'm not going to Orlando but I am going offline for the rest of the week to finish up a manuscript that should have been finished a couple of weeks ago. I'm so close to the end, all I need is a big push to put it to bed. So, that's the plan.

To those of you going to conference, have fun and stay safe.

Happy writing!
Devon 

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sex Sells EVERYthing

Have you seen this? Part of me thinks it's cute as heck. The other part of me feels it's an abomination. What do you think?



Devon

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Into The Weeds

As an avid reader, there's something that's been bugging me for quite a while. So I have to ask, how many times has this happened to you? You're reading an absolutely delicious book by one of your favorite authors. You're three-quarters of the way through it and, so far, it's been nothing but pure escapist joy. And then, and then... somewhere between the black moment and the resolution, the author drags you so far off into the weeds you begin to lose sight of why the book was so fabulous up to this point. And instead of ending with a bang or such a heart-wrenching scene you're forced to sit the box of tissues on the table next to you, it limps along to an uninspired conclusion that leaves you with the feeling you've been cheated somehow.

I have two theories about why this might happen.

a.) The author is a pantser and has no earthly idea how she is going to resolve the story, so she meanders around until the problem resolves itself. Or...

b.) The author pens the black moment, then realizes she could wrap it up in one more chapter. But wait! She's still 20 thousand words shy of her projected word count, so she shoves the hero and heroine into the weed patch and lets them grope around aimlessly--sometimes even doing things that run contrary to what we've learned about their character--until the necessary wordage has been achieved, at which time she thrusts them back together and resolves the thing.

Thankfully, most authors are not guilty of this. But there are a handful who come to my mind who are repeat offenders. One in particular is such a fabulous writer, I'm always heartbroken when she strays off the path. And I have to wonder how she stays on the bestseller lists.

Question--can you tell which of your favorite authors (no names, please) are plotters and which are pantsers just by reading their books?

Happy reading, and watch out for those weeds!

Devon

Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday Firsts

Since a lot of bloggers have a Friday "thing" they do, I thought I'd start my own and call it Friday Firsts. Every Friday (Lord willin' and the creek don't rise), I'll list three random books from my keeper shelves along with the very first line in each book. We've all heard about the importance of first lines so the point of this is to see if the first lines of our favorite books are attention grabbers, or not. Here goes.


Stranger In My Arms by Lisa Kleypas - 1998

"Lady Hawksworth, your husband is not dead."


(This is my all-time favorite Kleypas. Don't ask me why. I think it reminded me of A Rose in Winter, for some reason.)





Allie's Moon by Alexis Harrington - 2000

Althea Ford needed a man and she'd walked all the way to town to find one.


(The appeal of this one was that the hero was the town drunk. The heroine dragged him up by the scruff of his neck and reformed him. Very Americana-ish.)








The Outsider by Penelope Williamson - 1996

He came into their lives during the last ragged days of a Montana winter.


(This is the best portrait of a gunslinger ever written in a romance novel, in my opinion. I wish Ms. Williamson still wrote historicals, but she changed her name and went to mystery suspense. Too bad.)



Happy writing and reading! And have a great weekend!
Devon

Monday, July 19, 2010

What's The Plan?

Many of us go along for years, writing, learning all we can to improve our craft, and dreaming of the day we hold a book in our hands with our name on it. But even after we've done the best work we can do and that magic moment comes and the contract has been signed, how many of us are truly ready to be published?

I will be the first to admit that I was not prepared for what happens after the contract is signed.

First of all, I had to come up with a web site. Since I didn't have any excess money lying around and hubby had just lost his job, I sat here one night until the wee hours and pored over lists of hosting sites, looking for the best deal and one that was user friendly for a non-techie like me. Namely, one that required absolutely no knowledge of html. Once I settled on a host, I quickly went to work and threw together a site. It was not pretty though, at the time, I remember thinking it was the greatest thing since peanut butter. This speaks to my state of mind during this time of unbelievable, rapturous joy brought on by the fact that I was getting published at long last--I was not rational. Not even close. I've since relocated to a better host that uses the absolutely genius Intuit software, which is a vast improvement.

Second, be prepared to edit your precious darling. I had no problem dealing with this one, but I feel it's worth mentioning because I am aware of a few individuals who freaked out when their editors sent back their manuscripts with the first round edits on them. Just be aware that, unless you self-publish (and I don't recommend it), you will more than likely be asked to change a few things. Maybe even a lot of things.  

Third, I needed a marketing plan. How the heck was I supposed to get the word out to promote my book once it was released? Chats, blogs, and loops, oh my! Until my first live chat, I'd always considered myself to be somewhat of an articulate person--at least on paper. Ha! My most embarrassing moment came when I took part in a live chat with complete strangers. The first question the moderator asked was, "What's your book about?" Simple question, right? I mean, I wrote the darn book and I, of all people, should have known the answer to the question. But, guess what. I froze. Froze! I stumbled and fumbled so badly, the mod ended up passing it over completely and moved on to something easier like, "What is your hero's name?" I wanted to dig a hole and crawl into it. Lesson learned-- be ready to encapsulate your entire story in a line or two at the drop of a hat. Figure it out, write it down. Write it on the back of your hand, if that's what it takes.

Once your book hits the shelves, virtual or otherwise, be prepared to answer questions. About your story. About your writing process and your inspirations. Any halting or fumbling about for words is not acceptable. People start to give you strange looks if you do this. An air of self-confidence is a must when trying to promote yourself. Too bad so many of us writers become tongue-tied when you drag us from behind the keyboard and actually force us to speak.

Fourth point--and this is a biggie--once you publish your first book, readers expect more. Gasp! For most of us, this is a no-brainer. But for some--like me--we spend so much time writing, revising, polishing, and shopping that manuscript around NY that it never even occurs to us that at some point we need to move on and do it all over again with something new. I can tell you from experience that the question most frequently asked of a new author is, "When's your next book coming out?" It's a real wake up call, especially if you have nothing but a bunch of half-baked partials waiting in the wings. My advice to anyone who seriously aims for a career at this writing stuff is, don't publish unless you are prepared to publish again, and again. Otherwise you end up with a long, long stretch of nothing where you're trying to figure out what the heck your next move should be. Lesson learned (from my perspective, anyway)--don't submit unless you're prepared to cover your butt with solid follow-up material.

One final thing I want to mention. All of the above can happen at dizzying speed if you publish with an electronic press. In my case, I went from contract offer to book release in the space of two months. If that sounds like plenty time to make the adjustment and deal with all the details inherent with going from unpublished to published, trust me, it isn't. My biggest mistake was accepting an offer to edit when I'd barely finished signing the contract for my own book. The whole publishing experience kind of passed me by because I was up to my ears in queries and other people's manuscripts.

On the bright side, I've learned some really good lessons which--hopefully--left me better prepared for the future. It took a while, but I'm now looking forward and dreaming those big dreams again of tossing my hat into the publishing ring. And ain't it about time!

Happy writing!
Devon

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

I try not to, but often I find myself dwelling on the changes that have taken place in the romance writing industry in recent years. Back when I first started seriously pursuing writing, we had never heard of an e-publisher. The RWA chapter I belonged to wasn't on Yahoogroups. The internet wasn't the end-all of communication and information it is now. Man, how times have changed. 

The question is, have they changed for better or worse? I guess the answer depends on who you ask.

Let's look at the negatives first, because I'd rather wrap this up on a positive note.

The economy is a big factor. Mass market sales are down. Therefore, advances are down. The authors who've been at this for a while are forced to write more and more to make the same money they were pulling in a few years ago. Midlist authors and those even farther down the ladder are being dropped like hot potatoes. Many are resorting to alternate avenues of publishing--small press, electronic, and even self-publishing. It's become commonplace to me now to run across authors who used to publish with the big, mass market publishers and find them on the lists of the small electronic/pod publishers. What many wouldn't even have considered doing a few short years ago has become the norm. (and we all thought this e-publishing stuff would never catch on) With more and more authors publishing with the small electronic presses, the competition for sales has grown fierce, and the contracts with the big boys in New York are more coveted than ever and increasingly harder to get.

Sounds pretty bleak, doesn't it? By all accounts I've seen and heard, the entire industry is in a tailspin. I'm curious to see how it all ends up, and yet I'm almost afraid to watch.

Okay. I said I'd end this with the good news, so here it is, for what it's worth. With the influx of all these electronic and/or print on demand publishers, nearly all of us can now be published. Yippee. Right? Well, the downside is that the money is nothing to brag about. There are quite a few exceptions, of course, but on average the electronic and print on demand published author will spend more on trying to promote her book than she will earn in royalties. Maybe the numbers will improve with more time and a few more e-readers. Most of the authors I know have built themselves a list. The more books they have out, the more money they make. One of the pluses of being e- and pod published is longevity. Your book stays on the market until you or your publisher decides to take it off, which means the royalties do add up over time. My own experience has been that after more than three years on the market, my sales are pretty much the same now as they were when my book was first published. After the initial friendship sales, it's now all casual traffic looking for the kind of book I've written, and when I go looking, I'm always amazed at the number of places on the internet where my book is listed for sale.  How much you make depends greatly on the genre you write and the degree to which you can spread the word around. It also doesn't hurt to have an entire army of family and friends who are willing to help drum up sales.

I'm interested in hearing your opinions. Is this wild west, anything goes era of publishing we've embarked on good times? Or is it the pits? Give me your perspective.

Devon

Thursday, July 15, 2010

This And That

I've lost a couple of writing days because of family obligations but I really can't complain because they are so few and far between.

I received the Pat Rice book, finally. If you're in the mood for a different kind of Regency Historical--or you always wanted to read about an earl put to the task of hoeing rhubarb--I highly recommend. I'm not very far into the story, but I'm enjoying it.

If you're wondering about the photo of Valentino, I posted it because it ties to a bit of info I want to share. If you write historicals, I recommend you put a shortcut to the Online Etymology Dictionary on your desktop. I've had it on mine for years and it's been invaluable. Any time I'm in doubt about a word, I simply click over and the ED tells me when the word came into use. It's great for checking up on those pesky, distracting anachronisms. For instance--if you see the word "sexy " used to describe someone as being sexually attractive in a story set before 1923, that's an anachronism. The word was first used in that context to describe Rudolph Valentino. Interesting.

I was very sorry to read about Dorchester being uninvited to the RWA conference, which takes place in just a couple of weeks. They're having financial problems and have failed to meet their contractual obligations--which I translate as, they haven't been paying their authors as promised. Hope they are able to get solvent soon. I would hate to see them go under. In many ways, they've been a pioneer in the romance industry for a lot of years.

Devon

Monday, July 12, 2010

Gone In A Flash

Methinks my tired typist picture is a little dated with that dinosaur of a monitor. It's been a while since I've dragged the old girl out and when I inserted her into the post, the image of that big, thick monitor jumped out at me. Oh, well.

This has not been my night.

Now that I'm in full-blown writing mode, I've become obsessed with saving my work. Each day, I'm making good progress and the thought of possibly losing it all to the "evil computer" makes me a little crazy. Over the years, I've lost so much in computer crashes and fried disk drives, it's no wonder I'm paranoid.

I've been writing on the laptop and saving to a flash drive. Then, tonight, I figured--just to be on the safe side--I'd put a copy of the ms. on the big desktop. So, I did that. Then I decided maybe I'd better copy the ms. to my other flash drives as well. Cause you never know, and I read somewhere that flash drives sometimes get corrupted. So I go looking for my other two flash drives and I find only one. The nice big one that has several gigs of storage space is missing. I can't find it anywhere. It has all my pictures on it. But I refuse to panic. For now.

I took several calming breaths and clicked over to Amazon to check on the Pat Rice book I ordered. Last time I checked, which was Saturday, it was sitting in Lexington, so it should have been here today, but I didn't get it. Well, according to the tracking record, it was delivered today. Well, no, it wasn't. And just to make doubly sure, I turned on all the outside lights, looked all around inside the garage, then went outside and looked on the doorstep of every entrance to the house. Nothing. Not that I really expected to find it. Every time I order a book, they wedge the Amazon box into the mailbox so tight it usually ends up ripping before I manage to get it out. I've never had anything get lost before, but if it doesn't turn up tomorrow, I guess I'll be calling the post office.

Tomorrow, I'm taking my daughter for a much-needed outing. We're going to visit my aunt. My cousin is there for a couple of days and we don't get to see each other often, so it should be fun. I could use the break.

Devon

Friday, July 9, 2010

As The Sun Sinks In The West...

In case you were wondering why I've gotten rid of the dark, earthy colors and my wild west banner and changed to a softer --hopefully-- more romantic, generic look, it's because for some time now I've been moving away from the westerns. Not to say that I've completely given up on them, by any means. But I have been writing in other genres, kind of the way I did when I first joined RWA more than 15 years ago.

Given the current publishing climate--and because I have no desire at this time to write either erotica or inspirational, which is most of the westerns published nowdays--I finally decided maybe it isn't such a good idea to pigeonhole myself as strictly a western author. Yeah, I know, I'm slow, but I finally did break over. It really wasn't a conscious decision. After being away from the keyboard for a good while, story ideas started coming to me again (after a looong dry spell). Funny thing is, the new ideas weren't westerns. So I decided to stop being stubborn and just go with the flow. And that's what I've been doing and I'm enjoying the writing process more than I have in a very long time.

I could write an entire post on the reasons why I stuck strictly to the westerns for as long as I did, and maybe I will, sometime or other. As I said, I've not given up on westerns completely. I love them too much for that. And there are at least two manuscripts that are begging me to finish them, so I intend to. Eventually. Who knows, maybe someday traditional westerns will become popular again, but I'm not holding my breath any longer. For now, I intend to write what speaks to me at the moment, regardless of genre.

The changes I've made to the blog I also plan to do on my web site. But I keep putting that off because changing out the template on an entire web site is no small undertaking and I'm dreading it. Just so you know, even though I got rid of the banner and the cowboys, I simply could not let go of the little red horse. So I moved him to the very bottom of the blog. He's inconspicuous there, but I can still scroll down and see him whenever I want. He's there now, running his little heart out.

Happy writing!
Devon

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Wycked

This afternoon I ordered Patricia Rice's latest book, The Wicked Wyckerly. Love the title, but I've always been a sucker for alliteration. I can't wait to read this. I decided to order after reading an excerpt and an interview Pat gave to RT. I admit, it's been a while since I've read one of Pat's books, but this is a traditional Regency without any paranormal elements and it sounds wicked good.

In this book, Pat has taken the usual fare for Regency Historicals and set it on its ear. This one is about impoverished nobility. Yikes! You mean there were nobles during the Regency period who weren't stinking rich? I say, bring it on, this will be a breath of fresh air. It's the first in a series about younger sons who will not inherit. Pat also has a wicked sense of humor, which I've always loved about her, and from the excerpt I read, she's given it free rein in this latest book.

Speaking of a wicked sense of humor... this is a switch in subject, but I can't go without sharing my hubby's latest jab. He owns a small retail business and today a male customer asked if he sells "smart water." My husband said, "No, I've never heard of it. But if I had some, I'd hand out samples." Ah, I love that man. ;o)

Devon

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

From One Writer To Another...


Even with a huge organization like RWA, local state chapters, critique groups, and online networking sites, writing is still a solitary pursuit. When it comes right down to it, it's just us and the blank computer screen and what happens when the two of us interact that will make or break us as writers. That said, I don't think any of us could make it through all the bumps and low points we encounter along the journey without the support, encouragement, and sometimes well-deserved butt kicking from some special person or persons who are always there to talk us through when we hit a wall and start to panic. You know, that person you call to celebrate a request... or commiserate over a rejection. Yeah, that person. In most cases, that someone is another writer we met somewhere along the way. All I can say is, thank God for other writers who understand the industry speak and know exactly what we are feeling when the worst and the best happen. So, this is a shout out to writers everywhere. Just wanted to say, thank you for being there.

Devon

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Independence Day

Happy 4th of July, everyone. In honor of our nation's independence, I'd like to pay tribute to a great American hero who helped preserve that independence and became the most decorated American soldier of World War II. Audie Murphy, soldier, actor, and veteran's advocate. Gone, far too young, but not forgotten.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

That Was Then

Several years ago, I read a feature article in a magazine about author Pat Conroy. It's been in the back of my mind all this time because his writing process for some of his early books was so amazing. I'm sure the article comes to mind because one of the things he did was keep a word list. Any word he came across or heard in conversation and liked, he added to his list and found a way to incorporate it into his writing. I've started doing this with words that I see and hear all the time, but don't normally use. When I come across them, I write them down in a notebook, then look up the precise meanings and write those down, too. I keep the list handy and, while I'm writing, I occasionally take a look to see if I can use any of the words in my manuscript. In this way, I feel I'm broadening my vocabulary. After all, what is a writer without an extensive arsenal of words?

But back to Pat Conroy. At the time the article was written, he had secluded himself in a scenic old lighthouse on the Carolina coast to write a manuscript. He stayed there, alone, and did nothing but write until the manuscript was finished. His food, drink, and other necessities were delivered to his doorstep by friends so he didn't have to leave his writing zone.

Here's the really amazing part. His writing process was simply to write. And write, and write. The initial drafts for the books titled Prince of Tides and Beach Music ended up at something just over 2,000 pages each. He wrote the scenes as they came to him, and in no particular order. By his own admission, he ended up with a mess of manuscript that he couldn't make heads or tails of. It was his editor, Nan Talese, who took those gi-normous manuscripts, pored through them page by page, slashing whole sections and rearranging, until they became the books that eventually went on to become bestsellers. How incredible is that?

It makes me wonder. In today's publishing climate, where editors want everything as close to perfection as possible on submission--so there's a minimum of editing--how far would Pat Conroy's ponderous manuscripts have gotten? Probably about as far as my first manuscript, which ran just slightly over 700 pages--a wee pittance compared to Mr. Conroy's tomes. Green as spring grass, I queried that monster to agents. I received a note from one, who shall remain nameless (because he's still agenting today), that was absolutely priceless. He said, and I quote: "Are you kidding me with this?" But back to Mr. Conroy. I'm going to take the optimistic high road and say that I'm sure he would have worked through the whole culling and editing process himself, eventually. Those books would still have been published and gone on to become bestsellers. But how much longer would the road to publication have taken?

I thought Mr. Conroy's story was interesting and I think it serves as a good example of how much the publishing industry has changed in recent years. I have to wonder, though, if there are any authors in this day and time who still receive that kind of special treatment from their publishers.

Devon