Monday, June 30, 2008


For the latest novella in the Dareville series, I went with simple. The book is about chocolate and sex, and what better way to bring that combination together with something pretty hot, like the above photo? I don't have any further details on the story yet, other than it was intended to be a HeatSheet to round out an upcoming BBW anthology with Sammie Jo Moresca, Victoria Blisse, and Meg Winston, but the darn thing keeps growing. At best, it will be novella length and will follow the timeline just after events in Dare to Dream. All new characters in this one, too, for the most part. At least, they will seem new - a few supporters here feature in Dare to Dream, and Lauren Marbury (Daring Young Man) makes a cameo, otherwise it's a new couple. That doesn't mean, however, you've seen the last of old friends like the Briscoes and Garristons. They'll keep coming...back.

Anyway, here's the blurb:

When it comes to chocolate, Tish Richmond delivers the goods. Her home business, Tish's Dishes, is booming, and a new contract with Dareville's popular grocery store allows her the opportunity to expand her reach. Happy as she should be for the exposure, Tish longs to stop her waistline from expanding further so love can reach her.

Gorgeous Vinnie comes to Dareville to work for his uncle's limousine company. One look at Tish and he's struck by the sexy, voluptuous entrepreneur. Can he convince Tish that the size of her dishes don't matter to him, and will she let him satisfy his sweet tooth?

Free Beer and BJ With Purchase

Got your attention now? Would you actually buy?

This blog post almost made me cry, because I can totally relate to it. Authors have come to me for advice for years about book promotion and what works (and fails), and there are times I feel at a loss because I am still looking for the magic combination myself. Now, when I search I must think of 100+ other authors and not just myself, but in reading Sammie's post I saw many familar tactics, and outcomes.

When Little Flowers and the Ronnie Lord mysteries were out, I did everything within my meager budget. Chats and promo loop mails, giveaways, postcards, etc. I sent books out and nobody reviewed them. The first publisher for Little Flowers was absolutely useless - I feel I can say that now - having warned me it looked unprofessional for an author to self-promote, then chiding me for doing nothing when the book failed.

I contacted Catholic media and mailing lists. I was the moderator of a large list of Catholic writers, all of whom cheered on the need for More. Good. Catholic. Fiction! We want these books! Couple hundred people on this many bought my book? Heh.

Once in a while a reporter would call for an interview, I'd respond, then I'd never hear back. I would nudge, to no answer, so I stopped before I started looking like a stalker. I sent a book to EWTN in hopes of getting on their Bookmark program, then was told they didn't do fiction. But they thanked me for the free book, which was placed in their private library to be read by nuns who never leave the property. Nice, if you just want that one book read. From a marketing standpoint, it would have made more sense to flush the book down the toilet and hope the pages spread out far and wide to attract attention.

Oh, and a few months later Bookmark featured a novelist. Sheesh.

I noticed in small press / eBook-dom that steamy was the way to go. I wrote steamy, doing moderately well at it based on various levels of promotion. Now some of the people who cheered on my Good. Catholic. Fiction! are upset with my change in writing habits. Well, where were all you people when the first books were for sale? Some still are for sale, and you're not buying. I won't argue theology here, and some might challenge that I'm better off giving away my talents for free for the good of His name, but free doesn't feed my child!

Even with the steamier stuff, I find there are hills to climb. As a publisher, I'm one of the privileged few who has access to our sales information (no, I'm not sharing). I watch for trends, see what our readers are buying, and try to use that data to steer the house in the right direction so that sales may rise. Once in a while I'll notice a book doing exceptionally well, and I'll ask the author for the magic combination:

"Sales are great! What are you doing to promote your book? I'd like to pass it along."

"Oh, gosh. I haven't had time to promote, I just sent an e-mail to my friends and family."

Yes, this actually happened. I can only conclude this author is friends with Delaware.

So imagine the frustration of hearing this. After you have spent all this money and invested time better spent writing promoting a book that nobody is buying, you hear another just sat back and watched sales climb, what do you do? Well, first you stop crying, I suppose. Then you ask yourself, should I spend more money? Should I do more conferences and chats and mailings and dance on street corners until the cops carry me away? Or should I just keep plugging away?

My vote is on the last option. Write the next book, and the next one, and the next one. Mix the genres up a bit and find the right one that resonates with readers. You might you can attract people to one book, then cross them over to your others. You can spend a small fortune on promotion, but ultimately it will be word of mouth that saves or sinks you. That, and focus. Find ONE primary avenue of promotion - a blog, a social network, whatever - and make that your second home. You may find if you stick to it long enough, you will build a following for yourself and your books.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Now Batting...Number 69...

I've put in some extra hours at the Phaze office doing promo work, covering all the promo loops and sending out review books. We have a great lineup this week for sale: two sequels, a contemporary by a known name in erotica, and an engaging historical short.

Hot interracial, sensual contemporary, and passionate historicals come to Phaze for an exciting week of new print and eBook releases!

Follow Phaze on Twitter today at to keep up with erotic romance news and special discounts.

Now available in eBook:

A Taste of Love: Richard - Marie Rochelle

Part Two of The Drace Brothers! Dawn Summers has been in love with the sexy drawl of Richard Drace since she laid eyes on him three years ago. However, after the horrible incident in his office she finally realizes Richard is never going to return her feelings. She leaves in a fit of anger, declaring to never set foot in his presence again…until he seeks her out to help save his failing business. Richard Drace isn't known for saying the words "I'm Sorry," but he'll do anything and everything in his power to get Dawn back into his life. He promises himself that he will be the man Dawn wants and needs. Yet, he has encountered a road block he wasn't expecting. Dawn is no longer in love with him. Is it too late for him to win Dawn back and make her realize that she has shown him his first taste of love?

Brushes - M. Christian

In eBook and Print! To the world he's a genius, a master of color, form, and shape, a brilliant talent who stormed the art world and shook its pillars with his talent.

But who is he really? Who is Escobar?

Brushes is an erotically charged portrait of a master artist, a stroke-by-stroke look at who Escobar may or may not be through the lives of his wife, his manager, model, the forger, his brother and others in intricately interconnected chapters.

May or may not be … for with each tale the people around Escobar instead reveal more about themselves than the artist through their prejudices, their envies and resentments, their fears, and their erotically charged fantasies.

Escobar, after all, like his art, is open to interpretation...and misinterpretation.

An Arrangement Among Gentlemen - Jennifer Mueller

Left with just enough to make the trip after her father dies Olivia travels across a dangerous ocean during WW1 to marry a man she never met. Even worse, Cort was never told until the morning they went to go pick her up at the train station that an arrangement has been made. Now the entire family seems to be trying to keep her from even talking to the man they want her to marry while a younger brother just wants her for himself. All that changes when a blizzard traps them together with no family to interfere. With a childhood accident leaving Olivia to walk with a cane she finds Cort has no problems with her scars but his own black past. Then it's time for them to make an arrangement of their own.

The Collettes: Luna - Dahlia Rose

Part Two of The Collettes Saga.

The Saga of the vampire sisters continues. Sola completed her quest for the first part of the Lazarus amulet with success. Now it is Luna Collette's turn to find her part of destiny. Her ally comes in the form of the daughter of their enemy, Creve.

Georgina Matthews, aptly nicknamed George, is a spitfire and vampire hunter who now she seeks revenge for the death of her father. When these two women meet, more than sparks of anger fly, but an attraction forms that they cannot deny. Will Luna be able to convince George that her life is meshed with the undead to save mankind? Will George be able to become something she has been taught to hate? A creature of the night, a hunter, and a drinker of blood.

The Duke's Husband - Mychael Black and Shayne Carmichael

Now in print! Jay Wharton and Devon Brooks meet and fall in love in merry ole England. Only everything isn't so merry. Jay is the Duke of Wharton, and his mother doesn't care for his relationship with Devon. The Duchess' schemes drive Devon from England back to the United States. Unwilling to let Devon go, Jay follows him to the States and proposes to him. Devon agrees to marry him, and they are wed in a beautiful ceremony in Canada. What should be the start of a new life together slowly begins to take on a nightmarish quality. Is the love they have for each other strong enough to withstand the trials?

Friday, June 27, 2008

Caveats and Confetti


So we're coming home from lunch and hubby turns to me and asks, "What are you buying from Passport Tofu for $15 each month?"

My husband is like that. One minute everything will be fine and the next he's instilled panic in my heart. He's type of person who, as you are lying together in bed on the cusp of sleep, will nudge you awake and ask what you did with that fifty dollars profit from the garage sale that he gave you for safekeeping.

I had no idea what Passport Tofu was, or that I was shelling out monthly payments for it. He informs me for the past several months this charge has showed on our checking statement. Past. Several. Months. And he's now asking about it ("Well, you travel a lot, thought it was for Phaze, yada yada.").

Turns out, at a time I can't recall now, I must have placed an order with VistaPrint for postcards with the bank card (which I normally don't do - I never use that card online, but remember we're going back eight months here) and somehow opted-in (or was tricked into opting in) to a Passport For Fun membership. This allegedly is an Entertainment Book type deal where you're supposed to get discounts on fun parks and restaurants and whatnot, only I never received a Passport to Fun. Not even a Passport to Mediocrity. So, a phone call later, I canceled a membership I didn't realize I'd joined. All this after having just placed a VistaPrint order the same morning.

I do take some responsibility for this goof, but I shake my head a bit that hubby let it go for so long without saying anything. You realize how much tofu that is a month? We have no tofu in the house, he didn't find that odd? I mention this here because I know authors use VP a lot for their promo materials. Just let this be a note to you all, be vigilant when you order so you don't accidentally opt-in to something that starts draining your accounts.

Sowing Seeds or Throwing Confetti?

I try to steer clear of the eBook gossip, because I definitely do not need to be a participant. I'm reminded of Judy Blume's book Blubber, where Jill easily goes along with the mob mentality and their gleeful hatchet jobs on poor Linda...until the tables turn. Yes, it's all fun until somebody loses an eye, and I need both of mine. They are handy to have, anyway, when you are keeping an eye out for yourself and your house.

Well, it's difficult to distance yourself completely. I learned from a message board about shenanigans involving an ePub of questionable standing, and curiosity got the better of me. On a popular romance blog, I spotted a remarked by a bestselling print author, questioning why it seems predominantly electronically published authors appear to be with so many ePubs at once. It's a good question. In the music industry for example, musicians tend to stay with one label...maybe you might see reissues of old stuff through a place like Rhino Records, otherwise groups are associated with one place until they leave. Why not, the comment posed, keep the bulk of your work in one place and establish yourself as prime author there rather than spread yourself like peanut butter on bread?

Perhaps with an established print romance author, you might find they keep books with one or two houses. Maybe they offer category stories at Harlequin and longer works somewhere else, like Avon or Kensington. Spot check some eBook authors, and you could find they have pretty much covered the spread. Is it a wise move? Hard to say, but if I had to provide an answer I would offer the following theory:

Safety in numbers.

Take a look at this list:

Mardi Gras Publishing
Venus Press
Dark Eden Press
Silk's Vault Publishing
Chippewa Publishing
Aphrodite's Apples
Aphrodite Unlaced
Tiger Publications
Coyote Moon Publications
Heatwave Romance
Stardust Press

All of the above small or eBook presses closed in the last 2-3 years. If you had the bulk of your material with one or more of the above, chances are you were left scrambling to find new homes for your books. Then you hear about the 3-4 other ePubs that have gained bad reputations. You check out other prospects, you ask for referrals from other authors and they may tell you to try:

Harlequin Spice
Red eSage
Ellora's Cave
Samhain Publishing
Liquid Silver Books
Phaze (Laugh all you want, we're still here. You may want to make a screenshot of that last sentence.)
Red Rose Publishing
Wild Rose Press

So you investigate, query, and maybe you learn going into a new press isn't so easy when you have nothing new. I can't speak for all of the above, but there are ePubs who have closed submissions to reprints UNLESS they are from an in-house author. So you write something new and get into a new house, then cross your fingers that they'll let you bring in some older furniture.

As you wait for the moving van, you think to yourself, Wait a minute, what if THIS place shuts down? Then what? So you write another new work, place it with another house - now you have anchors on which to rely in case of a storm, and one rope gives way. That some authors may be weighed down with three or four ropes is their choice - they find security in having a number of choices to place work, if the houses will have it.

Look at me. I am placed with several places, each for a different reason:

Mundania Press - I went there because I satisfied their word length for my mystery, and I didn't wish to place it with another press I was with at the time.

Samhain Publishing - I went there when they were newer, and before I became a publisher, hoping to establish a long-term relationship there, and because they also considered non-erotic work. Hasn't quite worked yet, but I do intend to send them more work for consideration.

Phaze - I was there from the beginning, and chose them over Heatwave (lucky me) because of their association with Mundania, where I had an established relationship.

Liquid Silver Books - They came on the recommendation of a fellow author. Had I not become a publisher, I would have worked to continue that relationship. I still do my best to promote the work I have with them.

Now some authors may argue that spreading work among many houses helps to attract a larger readership. If I place work with House A, then House B, maybe I can get the A readers to buy my B books, and vice versa. This may work with some authors. I can't say for certain it's worked for me. I do a bang-up job with two of my presses, and not so well with the others. Of course, my erotic romance is well-divided into the Dareville work and the M/M, both of which are my bread and butter. My standalones don't do as well, but I do enjoy writing them.

My situation is different from other authors, of course. But I think one reason some authors place work with several houses is because the Big Bad Wolf can't blow them all down at the same time. I wish it didn't have to be this way, hopefully there will come a time where the small ePress finds the stability it needs to gain respect in the industry.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Today's Chocolate

So I caved and cracked this open. It's been a rough past hour, all will be revealed soon.

How could I not want to immediately try something so unique and exotic? Yet, for the name and presentation, this thick, sectioned bar comes packaged in simple plastic. The bar I have is pretty much the same as pictured on the Knipschildt site, with the burnt orange cross seeping across the dark cacao. Breaking one row reveals a stiff yet still gooey ribbon of caramel filling. The first nibble brought forth the sharp sour tang of the salt - I should have bit deeper for a better inaugural taste. Further exploration gave the impression that the bar has hollow points, or is "assembled" and not quite meshed together when the caramel filling is added. The salt permeated most of the bar I tried, overpowering the caramel and chocolate at points. If you like savory flavors with your chocolate, this is a good bar for you.

With Friends Like These, Who Needs Drug Dealers?

Got the ultimate writer's care package from a friend today - a box of chocolate. Yes, it might appear I've been slacking in my regular chocolate reviews, but I've really been trying to whittle down what's open before I break into more stuff. The stash remains plentiful, and the aroma of cacao makes for a nice calming scent during the workday. But I just might have to dip into something from this latest delivery.

Here's what I got today:

Chocopologie Bar - Burnt Caramel and Hawaiian Sea Salt (71% dark, single origin Ecuador) - might have to try this one today

Santander - 65% dark, single origin Columbia

Nestle Carlos V - milk bar, guessing this is solid - this is a Mexican chocolate, but I'll soon find out if it has that cinnamon kick I'm used to trying in candy from that region

Frey Supreme Citron and Poivre - dark with lemon and black pepper
Vosges Black Pearl - 55% dark, with wasabi, ginger, black sesame seeds - this one I've sampled before and I loved loved loved it
Last but not least, the Eve Kitten Chocolate and Rose Petal bar from Knipschildt, looking like something on a Phaze book cover. Seems almost appropriate for an erotic romance author to receive such a treat. Might have to buy more as giveaways one day.
So stay tuned later on to see which delight will get me through the afternoon.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

What's that sound, everybody look what's "coming" 'round

It's been so difficult to keep a lid on this news, but as it appears we are near the home stretch I think it's safe to announce my transition from author to voice talent. That's right, the first of the Phaze Audiobook releases are pending, and both titles are mine! No release date is set, as the audio is currently in post-production, but soon you will have the chance to download or buy on CD your very own copies of Jack of Hearts and Double Dare!

Isn't this an awesome cover, too? I love the "rabbit jack"! We're just in the beginning stages with it, but with success we hope to see more titles recorded for sale. The first two are shorts, but I believe both come in just under an hour recording-wise. As I understand it, the first Mundania Press audiobook clocked in at ten hours! Of course, it would be wonderful to see some Phaze novel-length works available in this format, too. I imagine unabridged versions will be equally lengthy. Still, we need a minimum of titles to get into (and they do sell erotic romance and erotica), so we'll see how it's received.

As audio rights to all Phaze books belong to their respective authors, I couldn't tell you what will come next. Jack of Diamonds will likely be my next venture if the first book does well, and after that I'd like to tackle Truth or Dare maybe Why, Why, Zed? to offer something current. I'm looking for a new mic for my "studio", one that will lessen those sharp inflections - popping Ps and such.

Now all I need to do is remember all my college German for translation and I'm really in business!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Sh*t, p*ss, f*ck, c*nt, c*cks*cker, motherf*cker, and t*ts

I loved George Carlin's earlier work. Hearing him lament about finding a place for his stuff or complaining about never getting laid on Thanksgiving (too many coats on the bed, though an erotic romance author would find a way around that) always made me laugh. I likened it to listening to a favorite uncle retelling favorite stories over dinner, and though there was a lot George espoused with which I didn't agree (religion and his apparent disdain for Steely Dan, for two), I enjoyed living in his time, short though it was. He always seemed the type to me that couldn't die, but he did anyway. George didn't believe in God or an afterlife, and no doubt many a pastor is preparing a sermon admonishing him to flames, but I remain optimistic. I tend to waffle between my born faith and agnosticism, but there are days I can't imagine that everything we do now will just end and go black.

I saw Carlin live once at the Florida Theater. Had to have been 15 years ago, because the hubby and I were still dating. The teenager sitting next to M was stoned out of his gourd, heckled the opening act, and passed out the second George came on stage. He remained unconscious until the end when M poked him to move as we were leaving. The kid wakes up and says to us, "That was fucking awesome!" I swear this is a true story, and maybe at some unconscious level the kid really was enjoying himself. Fitting it should happen at a Carlin show as opposed to, say, Carrot Top.

Anyway, wherever you are, George, thanks for the laughs. I hope you are wrong about the afterlife because I wouldn't mind another forecast from the Hippy Dippy Weather Man again. I find it especially interesting to find this Edgar Cayce quote in my inbox this morning:

It is not what one says that counts, but what one is! - Edgar Cayce Reading 524-2

Some people hear the name George Carlin and think about the things he said - his shortening of the Ten Commandments to two, his peculiar habit of saving fingernails and "lip crud" just in case, his aversion to weird sounding foods. Others think about who he was - the man who zigged and challenged courts with freedom of speech issues. He didn't always win, but he made us think. As a writer, I owe men like George a great debt, and not just because I write explicit stories. I also write non-erotica of a religious bent, and can enjoy the right to do so. Just as readers have the right to buy what they wish to read. George may not have been the first person to champion freedom of speech, but he certainly made the fight more interesting.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Getting Sapphistocated, Hopping Heads, Bodice Ripping

I You Can't Get No Plenty Of Sapphistocation

As a writer, when do you decide to put one genre to rest in favor of another? Four years ago, I set aside my mystery aspirations to concentrate on erotic romance and discovered a niche in two places - M/M fiction targeted at women, and my Dareville series. Both have greatly outperformed my mysteries in terms of sales, yet recent events seem to signal to me that mystery will make a return to my life in greater strength. I am pondering now if this analogy can be applied to publishing as a whole.

Where I am now, there is very little genre-wise we will not consider, yet (like many publishers, I'm sure) we have genres that sell better than others. Some books in a particular genre may skyrocket with little to no promotional effort, while others may be heavily marketed and see disappointing numbers. I like to root for the underdog, however, and try to do my best to help everybody under our roof. For some, it's meant nominating them for specific awards (sometimes covering the entry fees) or taking out targeted ads in magazines and specialty publications. As June is Gay and Lesbian History Month, or somesuch, it seems an appropriate time to talk about something we're planning for early 2009.

Phaze has a number of F/F erotica and erotic romance titles available. Strong stories by some great authors, and while we have an incredible audience for other genres I would love to promote this one as well. I've heard around blogdom that F/F is a hard sell in eBook. Theories abound, but I won't delve into that right now. It can be tricky to discuss, considering we've had books out with F/F scenes that do rather well. Everything in moderation, I suppose. Instead, I'll announce the pending release of Sapphistocated, a collection of romantic stories for people who enjoy passion between women. I won't reveal the authors just yet as it is a work in progress, but they are names you may recognize - excellent writers all. As we continue to gain exposure offline it will be nice to have a greater diversity of titles: sci-fi / fantasy for DragonCon, interracial and African-American for Romance Slam Jam, and gay and lesbian for Saints and Sinners.

Throbbing Pens of Steel

And now for an interesting segue: Danielle Steel penned somewhat of an F/F scene (not a consensual one) in her book, Malice. Steel has written a bazillion books, of which I have read about thirty. I wouldn't consider myself a Steel fan - I mainly began reading her as I contemplated writing romance, and figured I should do some research to learn her appeal. I've talked to other Steel readers, who have maintained her style and formula isn't far removed with each new book. The story may span years or decades, or perhaps a much shorter time. The heroine is either a woman of privilege about to lose it all, or a woman with nothing from the start who gains much (either tangibly or emotionally).

Just about every book I've read of hers, with the exception of the first-person The Klone and I, is peppered with so much head-hopping you have to wonder if the characters can hear each other think after the first five pages. Steel also has a gift for grandiose summarizing, and shoveling too much exposition within the first chapter of a book, often when it really isn't necessary. In Secrets, one of her main characters is a movie star with a shady past. We learn all about her stint in the porn industry, and as I read I'm wondering how it will come back to bite her in the ass. It never does. So why tell us? If there's anything I've learned from my teachers, it is not to reveal what isn't really important. We're not going to care about the real estate holdings in Europe if the character never gets there, m'kay?

Case in point: MSNBC has presented online an excerpt of Steel's newest beach read, Rogue. You can read part of the first chapter, if you can stand it. My screen is dripping with red ink now. I'm sorry, Danielle. I know you have more money than I do, and more readers, and more books in print, and more ex-husbands, and more exploited subsidiary rights and more foreign translations...but what is up, chica? If this had come to me for submission, I'd have sent it back. As another author remarked on a writing board, this first chapter is an incredible info dump. It is important we know every single detail of the model about to skydive, right when she's about to do it? If you give away so much information now, what's in the next 300 or so pages? Maybe it will be important to readers where the model's boyfriend got his degree, but minutae like that can be fed to us over the course of dinner, not as we're shedding our coats in the foyer.

I won't completely rag on Danielle here, though. After all, she did keep me interested for 30 books, and not even Sue Grafton has managed that yet. To Steel's credit, I do think her settings are meticulously researched, and her bibliography as a whole presents a very diverse landscape of characters and eras - an unfamiliar reader may peg her as solely a contemporary writer, when actually she has penned numerous historical works (if you consider the early 20th century historical), and has even dabbled in interracial romance (Ransom featured an Asian hero and a white heroine, while Silent Honor featured a Japanese heroine and a white hero). I liked The Ghost and No Greater Love, and I may go back and check out some earlier works. But, please, Danielle, at least ease up on the head-hopping POV shifts. I'm dizzy.

Rent a Bodice, Read a Book

That's "rent" as in to tear, old-timey term.
I bring up the new Steel book because MSNBC has an accompanying poll, asking people if they read romance. Rather than just offer pat yes or no options, they decided to be cute. The answers are absolutes. To vote yes, you admit that "Yes, yes, yes! Bodice-rippers are my ultimate escape," (can you picture some chica flailing wildly with this affirmation?) while no means "No way. I don't touch those books." As in, icky poo!
This is what has a number of my peers up in arms. I must side with their opinions on the wording of the poll, too. Had MSNBC revealed a preview of a James Ellroy thriller, would the "Do you read mystery" poll feature options like:

Yes, yes, yes! Just call me Doublemint because I'm a gumshoe at heart.

No way. Who cares whodunnit? Mystery don't do it for me.

Meh. I'll wait for M. Night Shamalamadingdong to make the movie.

Romance books tend to receive a bad rap as escapist pap with little literary value. Never mind that you may find a number of romance books that address social issues - like those by Danielle Steel. She may never win a Pulitzer, but some topics she presents are food for thought. Even in some of the works Phaze publishes, there are issues and conflict. Granted, I can't say that's the reason why we sell books, but I will submit that some people do actually read the articles in Playboy, so what romance authors have to offer is as entertaining and culturally significant as anything Gore Vidal ever gave us.

Gore Vidal, by the way, gave us Myra Breckinridge, which was adapted into a horrible, horrible movie (YouTube it). Adaptations of Steel novels fare much better in quality. Happy reading.

We are all going to die.

Have a nice day.

Seriously, I'll try not to make this a depressing post, just one to help put things into perspective for those of you who might have been feeling down lately. Last night one of our science channels ran a "mockumentary" on the state of the world after a comet / tsunami / polar ice cap disaster, complete with the three-part harmony and Buck Turgidson hoarding bikini girls into one of our deeper mine shafts (Google it). I like a good horror story, but I hate watching those things, because you know you are powerless to prevent something so cataclysmic. Then you really start to wonder how much the government is hiding from you, whether they know via NASA if something big and round is hurtling through space to pound us, and then you waste valuable time blogging your fears rather than living your life.

Somebody forwarded this video to me. It shows all the major planets and a few select celestial bodies to scale, side by side. I post this in particular to my author friends who might have experienced recent setbacks, be it a snarky critique of a book or cover art, an unkind rejection from a publisher, or any of the garden variety comments from readers and bypassers that, while probably not intended to be mean, sure sounded that way.

Did you see it? Earth is but a pinprick in the universe. Consider, too, that we are pinpricks on the Earth. You might feel insignificant by watching the video, but you know what? So are all your detractors.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Today's Chocolate

Today's chocolate is the last of my Ritter miniatures, the Joghurt (yogurt?). This is a milk square with a white filling, which we can presume to be the joghurt. It almost hurt to eat it. This was a disappointment, I must admit. The chocolate was good, but the filling tasted almost sour, and it's left an unpleasant aftertaste for me. The texture might lead you to think this is a marzipan filling, but I'm not getting that at all with this confection. I don't think this is one I'll revisit.

Save Gas, Buy an eBook

In Charlottesville we saw gas as high as $4 a gallon, where around here it's hovering around the $3.89 average. It would normally take only ten minutes to commute to work if I didn't have to make a twenty-minute detour to pre-school first. The money spent on gas doesn't leave us much for leisurely pursuits. Yes, you've heard me go on and on about the wine we're buying, but I can assure you it's all for medicinal purposes. With the state of the world as it is, we need something to help us forget about it for a while.

And I can't even enjoy the wine on my front deck for all the smoke that's coming up from North Carolina and the Great Dismal Swamp, or from whatever's on fire this week. But that's another complaint for another blog. We're here today to talk about how buying eBooks saves gas.

In short, it's quite simple: buy the eBooks from the comfort of your own home, and you save a trip to the bookstore. An entertaining read can be had for the four dollars you'd otherwise put in your gas tank, and most websites provide an equally attractive virtual shelf for browsing. Right now we are still in the process of getting book excerpts up for everybody to read. The Phaze shelf at Fictionwise features excerpts of all our books, but you can also check out Phaze Excerpts for new additions.

And, Ged willing, should the price of gas come down, think of all the money you saved, which can go toward more eBooks.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Weekend Fun; New Phaze of the Moon on Monday

In Vino Veritas

We had a grand Father's Day this weekend in Charlottesville. Scored a nice Internet rate on a small hotel - Hubby enjoyed his epic bike ride, then off to tour a few wineries we had not before visited:

BarrenRidge Vineyards: in Augusta County - newly opened to the public, it sits on a hill overlooking a former apple orchard now strung with vines, and a small church and cemetery. Half the fun of wine touring is driving to these places, because you never know where the roads will take you. You'll weave through residential neighborhoods, sparse farms, rolling on dirt roads and wondering if you took a wrong turn. Then suddenly on the horizon is a gorgeous converted farmhouse or chalet, busy with people.

BarrenRidge had only four to sample, and we picked up the 2007 Vidal Blanc, which is a light quaffer. Their 2006 Rose has a bolder taste than most we've sampled this year, not all like the stuff in the jug my father used to buy. :) Can't wait to go back in the fall for the new reds.

Pollak Vineyards: another newly opened winery, close to Charlottesville. Gorgeous new building sitting in the middle of a vast valley, peppy jazz sounding from speakers. We tried two Chardonnays - one oak, one stainless steel - and bought the latter. We aren't Chard drinkers, either, so you know this one impressed us enough to buy. Bought a nice, bold Cab Franc as well that will do well with dinner one night.

Oakencroft Vineyards: an established Virginia winery, we learned they are closing this year after 25 years so the owner can retire. Not sure when we'd be back, so we hopped over there and enjoyed several vintages, taking home the dessert wine and a Cab Sav. The winery sits on a large lake populated with all sorts of honking geese. Little One had a time chasing them around the perimeter.

Have to admit, Hubby and I shared an "Under the Tuscan Sun" moment there, just wondering aloud how much a winery would cost. We have land in West Virginia, and had mulled the idea for a while...really, is it that much work.

Oh, yes.

New Moon on Monday

It's another great week for releases at Phaze. Readers have been waiting for All the Fixin' to come to print, and now it's available for pre-order. We are developing quite a following with interracial romance, and Marie Rochelle is among the many authors responsible for that success. I/R fans will be happy to know, too, Marie's next book with us, My Deepest Love: Zack, is also due in print.

I'm especially excited for Lost and Found, which is a nicely done romance amid the tense drama of anti-war sentiment. It could easily be a television movie with the way the relationships play out in the story. Marc is an excellent writer and I'm really hoping the audience finds this work. Concubine, I've blogged about here many times before. We're taking a trip home to earlier chick lit erotic roots with this one. A Fall From Grace is a lush historical fantasy, knight in (and out of) shining armor. The remainder of the month looks to be amazing with the Phaze debut of a hot erotica author, an amazing print BDSM collection, and more fantastic stories.

Friday, June 13, 2008

That wicked, wicked wiki

Phaze used to have its own wiki. It was a cool thing to have in the beginning, because it gave authors another searchable avenue for promotion. The only problem was the novelty of it wore off quickly, and soon it became severely outdated. When an author would leave nobody would go in there to remove the information, then spammers figured out how to get in and we'd find links to buy cheap toner, so when I took over I just had Dan blast it into space. I figured our listing at RomanceWiki would suffice. Even that needs updating, however.

Well, I've started my own wiki through PBWiki, but only for my Dareville stuff. The Dareville Wiki is still under construction, but eventually it will become a directory of sorts for readers and fans. To be honest, it was almost necessary. It's getting to the point where I need a scorecard and a calendar to keep track of names and settings and dates, and having this wiki is more of a service to me than people coming into the series to read. One author I know uses Family Tree Maker to keep track of characters, which is ingeneous. I wish I had thought of that when I was writing the Ronnie Lord mysteries. I may have to find a cheap copy somewhere for this use.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Open Windows

It would appear a new house called Parus Press is stepping in to take over Tiger Publications. That's what I gather from the blog post, but I'm guessing not every book will be acquired. Here's hoping we'll see Parus in springtime.

Bookshare distributes books to people with diabilities, primarily the sight impaired. I'm contemplating giving them permission to use the Ash Lake books as they see fit - it would be neat to have Braille versions out there. I'm informed they accept steamy stuff, too, and I own the Braille rights to the Leigh Ellwood books, so there's another avenue of promotion.

Thanks to a friend's help, I can now use the speech recognition software on my laptop, so that will make transcribing Dare To Dream easier. Only thing is, it doesn't recognize naughty words. You should see the results when you cuss into the mic. Shift. Cliff. Heh.

Speaking of speaking, I expect to finish the audio version of Jack of Hearts by month's end. I'm really excited about this project. If it takes off, I'll work on Jack of Diamonds, then Jilted, since they are both short. Eventually I'd like to have my longer works done.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

eBook and Small Press House Closures: What We Can Learn

Seems we're running out of fingers on which to count this year's eBook publisher closings. Right off the top of my head, I can count Dark Eden Press, Lady Aibell/Chippewa, Aphrodite's Apples, and possibly Silk's Vault - who seems to have committed the egregious act of bugging out in the middle of the night without telling anybody. Believe you me, an online cart shouldn't be down for maintenance for a few days, much less more than a month. I had to go through that hell recently, and it's not fun.

There are other pubs, I understand, that didn't make it off the ground, and still others I'd mention but I can't remember if they shut down in 2007, which gave us a rather full graveyard as well.

Recently, word trickled down about Aphrodite Unlaced (I'd not heard of them before, and actually confused them for Aphrodite's Apples when I read the news) and Tiger Publications closing shop. Now Tiger...I'm not sure if they offered eBook options, but I knew a number of eBook authors with pending Tiger contracts. It's my hope these works do not get tied up in bankruptcy hearings and that the authors will retain their rights soon. Of course, I'm never happy to hear of a small house, e- or otherwise, closing. In order for readers, writers, booksellers and critics to see the legitimacy of this media, we have to prove our longevity, tenacity, and potential for success. In the last two years, eBook houses have closed for a variety of reasons:

  • Failing health of the owner (this was true in at least two cases)
  • Decision by the owner to close, coupled with inability to sell business (I think this happened in one case)
  • Poor management, giving rise to lack of confidence/sales

Sadly, the third one is more prevalent. As with any other business, an eBook publishing venture is doomed to fail if the owner doesn't have the business' best interests at heart. I'm not saying that was the case for every unhappy ending we've seen in the last decade, but when the ugliness between authors and publishers takes to Blogdom the end result can rival any cat fight on Dynasty (Born after 1986? Google it.) I've also heard it said one has to wonder about an eBook house where the owner is also an author, and a good number of releases are by said author/owner.

Sometimes, I have to bite my tongue, because you know what would come next: Hey, aren't you running Phaze?

I am, but I don't own Phaze Books, Mundania Press does. I don't own Mundania Press, either. Other people do. I assumed the role of publisher because the previous publisher left. Had I not taken over, there's a good chance we'd all be talking about Phaze in the past tense as well. I'm not saying this to brag, it's just how I see it.

All those titles I have with Phaze? The majority of them came out or were in the process of coming out before I took over. Some of them are reprints, brought over from publishers that did bug out. When I took over in 2006, I managed two shorts for two Phaze heatsheet lines. I had planned a fourth Dareville novel, a sequel to Taste This for Samhain and a sequel to Love's DoMINion for Liquid Silver. Two years later, I got the first item done. Many plans I had for my writing were set aside, because I had the best interests of Phaze and her authors at heart. Again, not bragging. That's just how it is. Right now, I plan to write Dareville stories exclusively for Phaze and work on getting other works to other places.

So you can see why I am especially upset to read of closures, more so to read of complaints of how a house is allegedly screwing over authors. But then we read about new houses opening, and people roll their eyes, probably thinking, Here we go again. Authors flock to a new house in hopes of expedited releases - because a new house needs product. Do they investigate the house fully first? I should hope so.

Am I saying every new house is doomed to fail? No. It's obviously not the case. I heard Total E-Bound reached its first anniversary, and that many authors are happy with them. That's great. I hope the good vibes continue. Samhain Publishing was new at one point, too, and they've done very well. Of course, of the newer ePubs to rise in the last few years I'll caution to say they had the most experienced people working behind the scenes.

Some might joke that an ePub forms in the wake of a "let's put on show" mentality, and that could be the case for some, but I like to remain an optimist where this media is concerned. Doors close and doors open, but authors...please, before you cross any thresholds check to see if there's a bucket of water teetering on the top ledge.
  • Research the publisher. How long have they been around? What is their mission statement? How do they plan to format, market, and distribute? Who is running the show? How are they qualified to do it?
  • Read the contract. How much will you get? What rights are yours, and what is theirs? Is there any wiggle room for you in case things go south?
  • Look at the Web site. Professional or train wreck?
  • Talk to authors. Are they happy? Are they miserable? Why? Talk to many authors as well. Ten queries will get you eleven responses. Look at every angle before you decide.

As I said, doors open and close in this business. It may look ludicrous to some, considering in the print world you don't see this much turnover. Maybe the Internet magnifies it somewhat. We've lost a few names this year, but more have arrived. Blade Publishing, Shadowfire Press, and Crescent Moon Press are just three names I've heard pop up. I know little about them and therefore cannot endorse them, but I do hope for the future of eBooks that they are all successful.

Did any of this make sense? Bottom line for authors: be patient. Don't feel rushed to have a book published that you'll sign the first thing slipped into your inbox. Would-be publishers: have a plan, know what you're doing, and have a backup in case what you want doesn't happen. Let's show New York we're aren't still in high school.

    Tuesday, June 10, 2008

    Today's Chocolate

    I felt entitled to try something new today. Last night I was sick as a dog - a 24-hour bug that left me burning up and immobile. I have no idea what caused it, it might have been a bad meal, though I haven't had any tomatoes of late. I imagine if I caught the salmonella, though, I wouldn't be typing now.

    I opened the Starbuck's Mocha Dark chocolate bar for a taste. I don't know the cacao percentage, but the coffee used is the Starbuck's Guatemala Casi Cielo, which offers a pungent aroma and flavor to this bar. Each bite is grainy with the ground beans, but it doesn't wholly distract from sharp tang of the chocolate. The actual bar design is attractive, with embedded cacao beans, plants, and curvy lines. It does make it a challenge to measure pieces of the bar, but I broke off the smallest ones for this afternoon. If the rest of the day passes without my getting sick, I'll consider it a great one indeed.

    Because I lost a day feeling like crud, I'll touch more on recent Phaze stuff and a long post I've planned on eBook publishing in the near future.

    Wednesday, June 4, 2008

    Covers, We Have Covers...

    We have come a long way with our cover art. When Phaze launched in late 2004, we had only one artist to meet our cover art needs. She did a bang-up job on our earlier titles like Fairy Godlover and the original Three Days in New York City concept - the large apple logo, which changed to the current cover when the second edition came out. When she left two years later, though, we were left scrambling for replacements. A big deal, since cover art plays a large role in selling a book, and we weren't about to resort to stick figures.

    I took on a few projects with what knowledge of Photoshop I had (until then I'd been making cutesy photos for contests), while others in the house with expertise did the same. Eventually and thankfully we found Debi Lewis, who assumed the position of the head of our Art Department, which contracts a number of designers. You could say this marked the beginning of our shift from the CGI style that earns quite a share of derision from cover snarkers (some is justified, I will say, especially for a few of my books) to the use of photography that earns a bigger share of derision from cover snarkers, since most ePubs tend to dip into the same pool.

    Much as I would love to visit a stable of waiting cover models ready to disrobe for my camera, we're not there yet. We're close - we do have a nice collection of original pictures of the Phaze Phenom and Fox for our staff of artists to utilize, but until hubby and I lose fifty pounds and get rid of the gray you're going to see hot iStock chicks and hunks for a little while longer.

    We just plan to make them look more original.

    So here's a taste of what we have going on in cover art right now.

    Twice Born - L.E. Bryce

    One of the first covers I did for Phaze was L.E.'s Dead to the World. That was a challenge, because before then we had never pubbed a book like Dead before. This was a homoerotic epic, set in a unique Arabian Nights-style backdrop, a complex world of L.E.'s creation. It was really a story in need of original artwork, but we were limited in our resources. The task fell to me to do it, and the end result was more than satisfactory. Dead's cover won last year's GLBT Ariana Award for cover art. With Twice Born, the sequel, we went with a similar theme which I think works well.

    The Water Lovers of Sirilon - L.E. Bryce

    Now this cover I really like! This summer we are releasing three of L.E.'s novellas in the Water Lovers series (Ki'iri, Becoming, and Still Life), which also includes Dead and Twice. Debi Lewis did this cover, which is going to look incredible when it's printed.

    More to come!

    Tuesday, June 3, 2008

    A Ring and a Date

    ...give or take a ring. I am pleased to announce that Why, Why, Zed? has a launch date of 7/7. Lucky number for me, I'm hoping. This will mark my first original release in nearly a year! Take note those of you authors looking to get into the eBook business as owner/author/chief bottle washer - you'll find your time becomes severely segmented, with only a sliver of pie reserved for yourself. And I don't even own an eBook company! I did once before, and once is enough for me.

    Anyway, here is the blurb for YYZ, as I affectionately call it:

    A cryptic phone call to Cameron "Zed" Zedmore's cell reveals a plot to steal away Zed's live-in love, Nick. Devestating the thought of infidelity is, Zed realizes he can't blame Nick for being tempted to stray, as Zed's work has kept him in the lab, and out of their bed, for long hours.

    Nick loves Zed, but isn't crazy about being a "house husband" anymore. He has needs Zed won't meet, and when another friend offers help in that department, Nick is tempted to accept. But then Zed comes home early...

    Reading the blurb might lead one to think this is going to end in some kind of kinky menage. I have nothing against the kink, but this is actually one committed couple, HEA, with a surprise twist! Ooooooh! Well, it's finally in edits now, and I hope the manlove readers like it. It's HeatSheet size, so two bucks for a bang.

    Monday, June 2, 2008

    Yesterday and Today's Chocolate

    Yesterday we made the trek through the tunnel to Trader's Joes, one of my favorite grocery stores. Unique, organic, can find it there, but you can't find a Trader Joe's near me. Rumors have abounded for years about putting one in our area, but I'm beginning to think it's the work of a sadist who's sending out these press releases.

    While there, though I said I'd curb on buying chocolate until I whittled down the stash, I did get a bar of Trader Joe's brand organic Super Dark (73%), which was pretty good. I had only a square with Last Night's wine, the flavorful Cardinal Point Quattro - a blend of four whites that I'm definitely picking on the next trip to C'Ville. As memory serves, it didn't seem as rich as the bit of Equal Exchange Very Dark (71%) I'm having right now. This chocolate feels smoother going down and less tangy - the TJ bar is at home, so I'll need to compare labels to see if I can pinpoint the difference. EE claims origins in Peru and the Dominican Republic, not sure where the fairly traded TJ bars hail.

    Come Together...Right Now...

    The long-awaited Coming Together With Pride is finally here, in e and print from Phaze Books. I don't have a piece in this volume, but I've previewed it and have to say it's one of the best yet. An amazing collection - not all stories are GLBT, but are connected through common themes of love and devotion. It's a great book to buy for a great cause.

    It's a phenomenal week for Phaze releases (I think all weeks are phenomenal, but that's just me. I hope it's not only me, though.) The second Pentacles of Magick book by Eliza Gayle is out. The Burning is a steamy follow-up to The Bonding, the focus being on the second of the sexy Scott brothers - male witches in search of their true mates. If you haven't gotten into this series yet, get in on the ground floor with The Bonding first, then hold on tight for The Healing (I like that title for some reason. Hee.)

    Mychael and Shayne have a new one with us, too, Through the Dark. It's a different direction for the duo - this one being an Elizabethan-era set werewolf novella, wholly M/M and really hot. I think, too, there is a sequel in the works - we'll see if we can get one out them anyway! Last but not least, Jamie Hill adds to our geography with a Seattle story for Phaze Urban, Giving Chase. Lots of manlove and angst. A great companion to the other Urbans that are out now, if you want to start a collection.

    And yes, if you're curious, there are some het Urban stories in the works. Windy City Love Affair (Chicago) by Jane Leopold Quinn is coming, as is In Control (Dublin) by Ava Rose Johnson. Christine London is working on Before We Say Goodbye (London), too. As for my Why, Why Zed?...I hope to have it finished tonight!

    I had a great booksigning experience Saturday at the Norfolk Barnes and Noble with Bridget/Crystal and Monique/Yvette. We each did very well, and I sold out of Pithed! That's never happened to me before, I'm still riding the high. The erotic all around didn't move so well that day, though Bridget sold lots of Fascination Street during her last gig there. Maybe next time it will be different. I think it's a sign I need to write more mystery, and I do plan to remedy that.