Saturday, January 30, 2010

Truth or Dare by Leigh Ellwood, free this weekend only!

Today and tomorrow only, through midnight January 31 MST, you can get the inaugural novel in Leigh Ellwood's award winning Dareville series, Truth or Dare, for FREE. It's Leigh's contribution to the big weekend AllRomance 50% off sale. Stock up on the rest of Leigh's backlist and use code SBTBARe1 at checkout to save big and fill up your Kindle with the best eBooks around!

Be on the lookout for the Dareville story, Dare and Dare Alike, coming soon!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

MWA (Married White Author) seeks Double-P (Personal Penguin)

My daughter has this book called Your Personal Penguin which she adores. As with other books she owns, I'm sure I've read it to her a million times, so often I could recite it in my sleep. Only lately, though, the theme of the book has truly hit home. I'm writing more now than I have in months, and recently I have revived my mystery chops and am presently one-third of the way into my first Lively-authored novel in five years. I want to make this one count, obviously, but since I've spent so much time out of the genre it is important that I get everything right.

Many of the authors I edit have beta readers: product evaluators, in a sense. The author writes something new, the betas read and critique. This works, that doesn't, the dialogue needs help, this character is disgusting. I imagine that notion is very helpful, and I'm intrigued to hear that a number of beta readers aren't authors themselves - they represent the people who buy the books, who do the reading and ultimately determine which authors will sell well in the future by continuing to support them. Over my short career I've been blessed to receive letters from readers saying that I am an auto-buy: I put out a story, they buy it. That's probably the best compliment I could ever receive, that a reader trusts my ability so much that they are willing to invest in my work that way.

As I reach for this new brass ring, however, I've thought to approach potential beta readers, but here's the rub: I'm looking for a mystery reader at this point in time. This work I have coming features sexual content, but it is neither erotic nor homosexually inclined. My primary readership is for the M/M stuff (which I won't stop doing, so you know), and if this goes well I may just put out a call, since I plan longer manlove work and could use the feedback. Right now, though, my personal penguin must be a mystery lover, and very patient since the progress is slooooow.

So are you out there, my personal penguin? Put on your houndstooth cap and stop by for a spell.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Through the Sliding Glass

What I am pondering now, I don't think is a life or death decision. It strikes me as one of those "sliding doors" moments, where you try to think out the consequences of taking two different directions based on one choice. In my case, it involves my career in writing/publishing. This May there are two events happening around the same time. One is a SFF fan conference with focus on readership - I attended last year and spoke on a few panels. I can't say my readership had been affected as a result since I don't write a lot of sci-fi and related genres. Then, however, I went as a publisher.

The second event is BookExpo, the largest publishing trade event in the US. I've been twice, and it's Halloween for book lovers. Free stuff, "star" sightings, and people who love and deal in books. I missed last year due to lack of funds, but with the rise of eBooks and proprietary readers and apps, I'm interested to see its effect (if any) on this year's event. Also, I'm shooting for an opportunity to speak with people about subsidiary rights, particularly the foreign market which appears to be popular among certain genres.

So here's the moment of truth: do I attend a fan convention and mingle with people who buy books for leisure, or do I attend the industry event and shout to be heard? Cost is not really the issue here - I think I'd spend the same amount in lodging and transportation regardless of where I went. What I need to decide here is which move is best for me to make, and will I benefit from my decision. Having attended both events previously, I can pretty much guess how the sliding door scenario is going to work. When it comes down to the wire, I supposed I should take these points into consideration:
  • I have a vested interest in increasing sales of all my titles, regardless of where they were published
  • I am mainly writing erotica now, but last night made a concerted effort to revisit my mystery WIP
  • My future will likely involve more writing in mystery and urban fantasy genres
I suppose I've already made my decision. Now on to Step 2.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Thrust and Parry (Not as Dirty as You Suspect)

Yes, I hope you can sit comfortably for yet another post on eBook piracy. Although this isn't a lecture on why you shouldn't do it, but rather an observation of events.

Seems lately I'm seeing more reports of pirated books hitting the usual servers and haunts. One author I know reported that her book had hit the circuit within hours of release. Another just mentioned on Twitter this morning that requests are coming in for certain titles in the ARe 28 Days of Heart promotion. I find that last one disheartening, considering the authors of those titles are turning their royalties over to a charity. One would think in this time when people are banding together to assist with Haitian relief that somebody would consider buying such a book that helps a cause. That I have a title in that group makes me all the more uncomfortable. If anybody is going to pirate my work, please consider buying GPS instead. I lost both of my grandfathers to heart disease, it is an illness that touches so many. ARe is doing good here.

What caught my eye yesterday was a bold post from Stella Price. I've known Stella for years - we've signed together and worked the same events, and I haven't seen a person more passionate about her writing and her readers. If you saw her at Authors After Dark, you saw that she knew her readers' names and genuinely appreciated their support. Every author should be so fortunate to have that kind of following.

According to her post, she has another following that bothers her. In response to the pirating of her works, she is going to work toward making it more difficult for future works to be poached. She will limited the formats of her eBooks, so unless you have a device like Kindle, you won't be able to just download a PDF and read it anywhere. It's a brave move, and I'm curious to see how well it works. It's been established, though, that an author doesn't necessarily have to be e- to be pirated (witness the copies of Harry Potter files floating around - yes, people are actually scanning thick books into PDFs to distribute!). Will Stella's decision lessen the impact of piracy in her career? Time will tell. If there is a significant decrease, will it effect her sales?  Would other publishers follow suit?

We shall see.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

New Dareville Short for Sale!

Now available, another chapter in the sexy fun adventures in Dareville, Handle with Dare!

Thinking a night of self-pity soaked in vodka will bring her out of her funk, Marlene parks on a barstool at Dareville’s favorite hangout. She enjoys watching Jeff, the handsome younger bartender, but when he offers more than a sympathetic ear she’s hesitant. Marlene doesn’t consider herself a “cougar,” yet one look at Jeff’s lean body has her wanting to test her claws. (Explicit sex, HFN ending, "cougar" erotica)

Handle with Dare is only 99 cents and available at:

Kindle, My Bookstore and More, and other outlets forthcoming. For those of you already familiar with the Dareville stories, you'll remember Marlene as the antagonist from Daring Young Man and The Dares That Bind. I don't get a lot of feedback about Marlene from those stories, and I'm taking it as a good sign. Reading them now, I do recall how I had made her character a bit bitter and, dare I say, bitchy. Of course, consider the history given her - a middle-aged woman dumped by her husband for a younger woman, she has trouble finding dates at any age. That's why I gave her this story - I'd always liked her, and one never knows that I might relate to her one day. Oy.

Anyway, Handle has somewhat of an interesting history. I started it a long time ago in response to a call for stories for an anthology of "cougar" erotic fiction. As Dareville is as diverse a town as the stories I offer, I knew I wanted to try at least one May/December story with an older woman (DYM is the reverse). I had one idea of introducing the mother of one of my principles, either Ellie's or Sue's mom, but that story sort of flaked away - I may revisit it one day. Since Marlene was already an established character in need of a makeover, I chose her as the lead.

Well, life got in the way, and the story was only half completed when the deadline for the anthology passed. So I set the story aside and took care of life. Recently, with some free time I was able to polish and finish the story, and here it is!

I'm interested to see how well it does. My last few releases have been same-sex erotic stories, gay and lesbian. This is the first hetero story I've done in a while, too, that doesn't feature a menage of some sort. Maybe in the sequel...

Saturday, January 16, 2010

28 Days of Heart

Look for GPS on sale on February 21!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Winter Musings

I'm contemplating once again a trip to Chicago for the Love is Murder conference, which is usually held on Valentine's weekend. Last year I was supposed to attend but the plans fell through. This year, so late in the game, it's likely not to happen unless I went as a spectator rather than a featured author. The goal for 2010-11 is to do more with mystery conferences.

Of course, that's dependent on the progress I make in my mystery novel. I'm still stuck on 20K words, but once I finish a few shorts I can work on it again in earnest. In the meantime, my sister is in the area, recently traded in her Toyota Corolla for something bigger to accommodate the family, so at least I'll have transportation in the city. I'm skittish, however, about driving a relative's car for fear of damage. I imagine if something happened I'd be looking more for a Chicago auto repair place than local attractions. I have been to Navy Pier, however, and enjoyed it. I'd like to go back, if only to get my picture taken with the Bob Newhart statue. :-)

Anyway, relevant to the mention of shorts I do have Handle With Dare finished and ready to launch in a few days. The writing has come easier lately now that the house is warm again. We don't have to worry about water pump or water heater problems here since my husband took care of the winter plumbing. I'll just be glad for spring to get here so I don't have to wear socks to bed anymore!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Rethinking the Road Ahead

When you write in certain genres, it will benefit your career to attend at least one or two of the big conferences each year. Where romance is concerned, those are Romantic Times and RWA, provided you are a member. My RWA membership comes up for renewal this year - it will be the second full year of membership for me, and in truth I don't see what, if anything, it's done for me. Through the chapters I joined I've had access to mailing loops and minor news, which is nice. However, I take a look at what I accomplished last year compared to what RWA represents, and I don't see a fit.

I've relaunched backlist mystery titles, and original erotic shorts. It would seem an organization as this would be more helpful if I had a full-length romance to pitch. I don't even have a partial worth seeing. So, in the interest of preserving funds, I will let that go come renewal. In the future, if I feel it necessary, I'll rejoin, but for now I'll hang onto that money. Much of what I have is hard to grasp as it is.

Which brings to me travel. I do have a tour of sorts lined up, but for many of the dates nothing is official. The three definites for 2010 are MarsCon this weekend, RT in April, and Authors After Dark in September. The Philly Book Fair, Balticon, and others are still up in the air, and depending on what I have going on they may not happen for me. Philly can only go through if other authors are willing to go in on a table - haven't heard anything yet. Balticon - while I had been approached to sit on a panel again I haven't been offered anything officially. If I am, I'll make the trip, it's a nice event. If not, I'll opt for Book Expo as a casual observer, it's the week before.

Bouchercon in San Fran...that was a pipe dream from the word go, anyway. Something spectacular has to happen for me to make that. St. Louis in 2011 may work.

Collingswood in October...I enjoyed the last two events, but economically it's not a moneymaker for me. I have to weigh the expense of going with the prospect of seeing a return, and so far I haven't seen it. With budgets tightening this year, I imagine everybody is thinking the same thing...can I afford to do this, go here, buy that? I like MarsCon because it's close by, RT because it's the main event in my business, and Authors After Dark because I know it will grow into something great - it's a reader's con, and that's my target.

So we'll see. Might be good to stay at home longer this year. Got laundry to do.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The End of Things

I'm ashamed to admit I sort of lost my cool. While browsing a message board I frequent I came across a thread on the theory that music will decline in the future. Not so much the creation of music, but the manner in which it's distributed. With the advent of iTunes and MP3s, does this time signal the death of the album? Back in the 70s and the golden age of epic vinyl concept albums we were treated to masterpieces by the Who (Tommy), Rush (2112), and Pink Floyd (The Wall). Each song connected with the others in some way. You can listen to the songs of Styx's Paradise Theater individually, for example, and enjoy them for what they are. Listen to the entire album in one sitting, and it's truly a remarkable experience - it's a story.

With people now able to cherry pick for their iPods, will we see that level of storytelling again? Hard to say. I had noted on the message board that we're sort of seeing the demise of the album in theory. This year, Weird Al Yankovic released a number of singles and low budget videos before collecting them in an EP - the logic being that this method of production allows him to create more timely parodies without having to wait forever for an album release and, consequently, seeing the jokes lose impact. I tend to think that as we move toward this culture of short-attention offerings - YouTube clips, digital downloads - we'll see things like concept albums become true anachronisms.

Anyway, what had angered me about the thread was the off-handed comment (and I realize now it wasn't meant to offend) about books going digital. The poster remarked that reading off a computer didn't compare to reading a real book. Now, had he not bolded real I might not have noticed. But, I ended up having my flashback to the Catholic Writers Festival in Steubenville. I've told the story before, about the girl who sniffed at my eBook display and said, "No, a REAL book is pages, and blah blah blah," and everytime I tell this story it ends differently. Today, I think I'll leave her hanging by her underwear at the top of a flagpole somewhere.

In my mind, a real book has a plot and characterization, description and dialogue. Some might argue, too, that a book needs an ISBN number to be classified as a real book - I'd hazard a guess that the ISBN people are behind that one. Given the opportunities for small presses and self-published authors, I don't even think that's necessary, but I would advise taking the time to prepare a story before presenting it to the world.

In the traditional publishing realm, there are restrictions. Some publishers won't look at a book that doesn't meet a specific minimum word count, and some won't consider mashups of genres. Some won't talk to you unless it's through an agent, and others may impose a variety of things on you when you sign with them. With smaller presses who focus on digital publishing, you might find more wiggle room with regards to length and genre. Many won't offer advances, but royalty percentages are a bit higher, and some have been known to accommodate authors' needs. At Phaze Books, we've allowed authors to design their own covers. Does Harlequin do that?

With a print book, you can order via an online store or go out to Borders and buy it. With an eBook, you can download immediately to your iTouch or Kindle anytime of day - midnight after stores are closed. With a reader you can hold several books on one device, and with some devices you can adjust font size. Can't do that with a print book.

Whether or not digital sounds a death knell for print is debatable. You can still buy vinyl records, and in some cases they continue to be produced. Other formats - the 8-track, the reel to reel - are about extinct, but I don't think print will go that way. You'll always find people who prefer the feel of a physical book in hand, but don't tell me that just because my stories are primarily digital (and more accessible) that they aren't real.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Christmas Memories: Which Ones to Preserve?

Last month we recorded a number of Christmas videos of our little girl's pageant. It was a typical Christan school program, with all the grades singing a few carols followed by a short Nativity. Little One, originally assigned to be an angel, decided she'd rather be a shepherd. Good, I thought. Score one for feminism, as all the boys had been assigned as such. Of course, her girly nature won out. She saw the angel costumes, compared to the drab beiges of the shepherds, and changed her mind. I would not have minded so much if she had only smiled during the videos we took.

Which begs the question: does one save all memories and Christmas pictures? If ever we, as kids, decided to spoil a moment Dad would take pictures anyway and threaten to use them later. "Everybody will see you grumpy," he'd said, and I have to admit I'm saving everything as well. To be certain, we have some nice photos of the family in front of the tree, everybody all smiles. So it won't appear as though 2009 was all about tension. We'll continue the Christmas sharing of photos and videos online - I have some shots set up on my social profiles for family to enjoy. It's a nice way of bringing the family together in one respect.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Can you turn private pain into personal joy?

I don't normally get preachy, and if you know me you're aware that I am completely out of touch when it comes to current celebrity trends. I don't know who the Kardashians are or why they're popular, and at the supermarket I'll glance at People and US and won't recognize any faces on the covers. Real housewives of Atlanta? Forget it - the only famous people I'm aware of in Atlanta are the Braves.

So today when I checked the news feeds to assist a client (local plastic surgeon) with their social media presence I found links to news about Casey Johnson's untimely passing. Apparently she is a socialite of the Kardashian pecking order - in possession of a household name yet known only by these people who follow the gossip vines of the idle rich. Her death happened suddenly and sadly - the cause unknown yet widely speculated - and has resulted in a literal Twitter catfight between her girlfriend Tila Tequila (never heard of her before) and Perez Hilton (found out who he was thanks to Robin Slick's Bitten to the Core).

It is this article, however, that truly struck me. This young woman was born into wealth, living off the fruits of the Johnson and Johnson brand, wanted for nothing, and was absolutely miserable. Consider this quote:

"It’s so boring to do nothing. Believe me, I’ve tried it. It’s, like, how many days a week can you actually go shopping? You get burned out. And you feel like sh*t. You think, What have I ever done to alter this world? What will people say? ‘Oh, she had a lot of shoes’?"

My husband and I once in a while will discuss issues like this. In Miami, about twenty years ago, he worked as a personal trainer for women just like Casey Johnson. They were trust fund babies and socialite wives of rum barons, and when they weren't supervising the nannies they were shopping, planning charity galas, and going to his gym to work out. That last item, they considered a necessity: if one wants to remain a socialite wife, one has to keep up appearances lest be traded for a younger model. It's cynical of me to think that way, but can you really say it doesn't happen?

Guess what? Some of those women hubby knew were miserable as well. Hubby will tell me, "If I had their kind of money, I'd do something with it. How could anybody be unhappy with so many choices in front of them?"

I've never had a lot of money. I don't care to be a zillionaire, but I wouldn't mind having enough to be comfortable and to write for myself full time. Looking at Casey's quote, it seemed she believed all she could was go shopping. Me? With that kind of money I'd go to Japan, hike the Appalachians, start a foundation awarding grants to writers, go back for my Master's. I'd live a life of opportunity that I dictate rather than perpetuate an image to please the media. We can poke fun of Paris Hilton all we want, and while I don't count myself as a fan I think she deserves some credit. She's pursued acting, she's launched a clothing line, she's done some constructive things. The Catholic in me wants to tell her to write some checks to feed the poor, and she may be doing it for all I know, so I'll leave it at that. (I do write checks myself, in case you wonder.)

I can't speak for Casey Johnson, I don't know if she did charity work, and I can't tell you what she wanted, but I can say how amazed I am at these pictures of her I see. She was 30, eight years younger than me, yet looked so much older. Thirty is young, young! One shouldn't look so haggard and tired unless you're working hard labor, which she obviously hadn't. What went wrong? I suppose we won't get any clues until medical reports are made public. I only hope now Casey has found an end to her misery.

If we can learn anything from this, we should all take a look at our lives and determine what makes us unhappy and what can be done to reverse that. If what makes you happy doesn't net you a lot of cash, does it really matter? If you have a lot of cash, can you find the balance that prevents boredom, and ultimate depression?

If I ever receive a lot of cash, I'll let you know.