Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Event Is What You Make Of It

I could tell you stories.

I could tell you about my first booksigning as Leigh Ellwood, how I sold ten books in a three-hour gig at an adult bookstore with two author friends. We learned to schedule gigs like that during military pay day weekend, when their business spiked.

I could tell you about the first time I signed at the Philadelphia Book Festival with my romance books on display. A balloon animal guy from the nearby kids museum, called the Please Touch Museum, came up to look. He told us, "Well, I don't promote that kind of touching." Later on a woman came up and scolded us for having candy at our booth, and accused us of luring children with it. Uh, what? o.O

Lady, I ended up eating most of it. I also sold a lot of books that year.

Oh, and the time I split a booth at BEA with Laura Baumbach, Ally Blue, and some other MM authors. Laura had a huge, sexy banner of a guy (man parts strategically shadowed) with her MLR Press logo. A BEA person came up and said, "We're getting complaints about your banner." We pointed to the indie author across us - his banner displayed the thonged backside of a woman. We had to stare at those gigantic ass cheeks all weekend. Did anybody complain about that signage? No.

Laura got to keep her banner up.

I could tell you about my first time at the Rainbow Book Fair in NYC, when I had M-Squared on display. A guy saw the cover and freaked out because he hated hated hated snakes. I told him there were no snakes in the book, but he didn't care. I even offered to tape over the cover if he still wanted to buy the book. No sale.

I have stories with frustrating and not-so-happy endings, too.

There's the time I went to a group signing in Maryland, done in conjunction with a seafood festival. The people organizing it put us in a downtown bookstore, while everybody on the planet was at the actual seafood festival a mile away. I thought we would be set up there, you know, where the people were? I learned from that experience to investigate the venue and setup before agreeing to travel out of state to an event. I sat in a customer-empty bookstore for six hours and didn't eat a single fried clam.

There's the time I attended a book fair closer to home and the organizers had me share a table with an author who didn't write in my genre. I had just set up my side of the table when he lumbered up and SLAMMED down this big-ass trifold display that knocked over all my stuff and effectively blocked my books from one angle. He didn't smile, didn't say two words to me the entire time until the end, when he looked my way and sneered, "This place is f*cking dead."

For the record, I am nice. I am not the most extroverted person in the world, and at time busy events are hard for me. I do them because I want to come out and be social. If you are an introvert, you know the challenge. Anyway, from that experience I learned to pay for a full table unless I personally knew the author who wanted to split one, and we would create a nice display.

I attended a large book festival in New Jersey four years in a row. First year I sold out, second year I sold zip, third year I sold well, four year I sold zip. Same city, same event, same weekend, same approximate location of my booth. I have to assume the same people attended, and I brought different books each year. I smiled and tried to engage people every year. I can't tell you why the results varied. Maybe all the people who bought books the first year hated them. If they did, they didn't come back to tell me or overturn my table.

Why all the stories? I understand some indie author events are getting shit these days, with people claiming they are rip-offs. I can't vouch for every single event organizer, but I share my experience. To be specific:

I have attended several Romance Ink events (one TNEE and several AADs) and saw multitudes of readers at each and every one. Now, I may not have sold out of books at each event, but the event is what the author makes of it. A good organizer gets the venue and the table for you, and you close the deal with the readers. It would be nice one day to be in a position where I can post on Twitter "Hey, I'll be here," and people will actually show up because I said that.

Pictures posted on the Internet tell stories, but often it's the one the person posting wants to convey. Anybody can upload a picture of an empty ballroom with a lone author fiddling at her table - it doesn't mean the event was an overall failure. You're looking at two seconds of a multi-hour gig, what else happened? Are you looking at the picture in the proper context or is somebody telling you what to see? If you have concerns about a signing or con, talk to people who were there, then talk to more people. Remember that results will always vary.

Will I attend a signing again? I never say never. With the kidlet growing up and doing weekend things, it will be harder to do. I wouldn't mind regular readings close to home, though. I've scouted several possible locations to hold reading salons around town. I know there are plenty of writers in the area, just need to put it together.

After I finish writing.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Monday Muddle: Men & Mayhem

This week I have released Men And Mayhem, seven stories in a box set that will sell for an introductory 99 cents through mid-July.

Buy: ARe ~ AMZ ~ KOBO ~ SMASH (BN & ITUNES Soon)

This collection brings together stories that have been previously published through various houses. All are M/M with some degree of paranormal or fantastical elements:

  • Enter Sandman – Formerly with Phaze Books, 3k words added
  • Fox’s Holiday – Currently available in Coming Together: For the Holidays
  • GPS – Formerly with All Romance eBooks' 28 Days of Heart
  • Heal Me – Formerly with Phaze Books as The Healing, revised heavily
  • Jack – Formerly with Phaze Books in two parts (Jack of Diamonds, Jack of Hearts), revised heavily and also available in Coming Together Pro Bono
  • Simon Says… – Currently available in Spank or Treat 2014
  • Why Why Zed? – Formerly with Phaze Books
When I received the rights back to some of these stories, I sat on them for a while and thought about what to do with them. Do I re-release them as is, try to lengthen them, or just shelve them indefinitely? After much consideration, I decided not to revisit older stories for major revamping, not when I have so many unfinished projects and ideas I want to see to completion. Tempted as I am to rewrite the past, I need to focus on the future.

I find lately I am less inclined to publish shorts on their own. Readers want longer works, and while I can price a short story at 99 cents it doesn't seem like much of a bargain compared to novels available at the same price. Combined, these seven stories revised come to 57,000 words. That's a good number for a collection, so here it is. The stories have been re-edited and in some cases retooled.

I will continue to write short - I enjoy writing them - but going forward I will endeavor to write shorts for submission calls. As I regain rights to stories still out there, I'll be grouping them into collections. Every self-published effort going forward will log in at 20,000 words minimum either as a full story or a collection of shorts. 

Coming up next, Part 2 of my M/M contemporary, Sly Fox, in Sexy To Go, Volume 5. This half is hotter than the first, and will anchor more stories set on Sylvester Street. 

For the June collection, I haven't decided on the story, so I suppose we'll all be surprised come the end of next month. :-)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

2015 Reading Challenges: The Damage So Far

Why did I decide to take on three different reading challenges in one year? I am closet masochist; that's the only answer making sense.

The good news is, I'm only two books away from finishing the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge. I need only to finish a book published before 1850 (reading George Sand's Indiana now) and a book that won the National Book Award, Pulitzer, or Booker in the last ten years. I have Just Kids by Patti Smith standing by. What I've read for this, I counted applicable books toward the PopSugar Reading Challenge, which is longer. Here's what is left of that:
  • Book over 500 pages - I have a few candidates, most likely the Game of Thrones sequel.
  • Classic Romance - I have The Flame and the Flower in my reader
  • Pulitzer Prize-winning book - I'm waiting for All the Light We Cannot See  to free up at the library
  • Book my mom loves - My mom reads a lot of Robin Cook and Patricia Cornwell. Will flip a coin.
  • Book more than 100 years old - This will be Indiana
  • Book I was supposed to read in school but didn't - Hard to say. I mostly read the assigned books, but tended to skip around a lot. I will probably pick The Chosen since I felt bad for never finishing it for my assignment.
  • Book with antonyms in the title - I have North and South in my reader.
  • Book that came out the year I was born - Lots to choose from, but leaning toward Angle of Repose
  • Trilogy -  Do trilogies still exist? Everything's a series now. The obvious suspects I've already read. There's still the Dragon Tattoo books, though.
  • Book from my childhood - There is one I want to read again, called Roller Skates.
  • Book set in high school - Already read SE Hinton and Wonder. Maybe a Sweet Valley High I never got around to reading.
  • Book I own but have never read - Plenty of those around.
  • Book set during Christmas - The seasonal romances will be out this fall. I'm sure to find one attached to a series I read.
  • Book written by author with my initials - I'm going by my real name here, and there is nothing out there. :P
  • Play - Logic says Shakespeare, but I'd like to read something more contemporary.
  • Banned book - This could also be Indiana. We will see.
Then I set up a personal challenge, called Here There and Everywhere, where I sought to expand my romance palate. I created a flexible list for fifteen titles.

Romance Authors Everybody (But Me) Reads

1. One Nora Roberts romance
2. One J.R. Ward romance (The Bourbon Kings)
3. One Jude Deveraux romance
4. One Sherrilyn Kenyon romance
5. One Sandra Brown romance

Genres/Tropes I Don't Normally Read

1. One Motorcycle Club novel (Reaper's Property by Joanna Wylde)
2. One Scottish Highlander romance
3. One M/M novel with BDSM elements Somebody to Love by Shannon West FINISHED 4/15/15
4. One MFM menage novel
5. One New Adult romance To Overthrow Evil by Sam Crescent FINISHED 5/5/15

Romance Authors, Diversity Edition
To be named as I choose them.

1. Black Soul by Kiru Taye FINISHED 5/6/15
2. The Dowry Bride by Shobhan Bantwal FINISHED 3/13/15
3. A Dance With Danger by Jeannie Lin FINISHED 4/28/15
4. The Look of Love by Crystal Bright FINISHED 5/1/15
5. Bound With Love by Megan Mulry FINISHED 5/17/15

Still looking for the menage and Highlander stories. Suggestions always welcome.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Monday Muddle: Projects and Parties

Sorry to say I have to give the RT Convention a pass this year. Events happening during the school year have always been a challenge, and I hate to miss anything happening in Dallas. I enjoyed attending RT when it was in Houston and I wish I'd taken more time to see the city. I've been to Dallas before when my sister lived there and would love to go back.

While all the RT authors are having fun deep in the heart of Texas, I'll be part of the TRS Staying Home Party. It's free, and I and other authors are giving away stuff. Hope you come by.

I tend to let readers choose from my back and front list. So if you win one of my drawings you could pick up Sexy To Go, Volume 4.

Buy Now: ARe / AMZ / BN / KOBO /ITUNES 

I'm about halfway into the second part of "Sly Fox", which will be in Volume 5. Once both stories are finished, I'll move on with Sexy To Go to include stories under my other name. Speaking of, I have a new release, a sweeter romance.
Geek Meet Girl is now available for 99 cents. I wrote this a while ago after attending a con. It's a departure from my Leigh stuff, and going forward I hope to find a balance with both author names. I have a few ideas in the fire and look forward to a summer of writing.

Geek Meets Girl, Buy Now: ARe ~ AMZ ~ BN ~ KOBO ~ ITUNES ~ SMASH

A Time Lord, a Trekker, and a Ghostbuster walk into a science fiction convention. One finds love, one finds trouble, one finds both.

Grace is excited to attend her first event, while con veteran Mick enjoys tweaking her in a debate over whether or not Quantum Leap is superior to Doctor Who. Meanwhile, Mick’s roommate has designs on Grace to win a bet which has nothing to do fandoms.

Mick trades in his redshirt for shining armor, but can he win Grace’s heart first?


I've done some reading, not much in the way of romance. I got on a 70s music kick with a memoir by Dennis Bryon, who was the drummer for the Bee Gees' band during their Saturday Night Fever peak. You Should Be Dancing (Pre-Order AMZ / BN) is a fun book and one you might enjoy if you're into the 70s and a Bee Gees fan. It's not really sensationalist, but informative if you want to know what it's like to be a studio and touring musician. In some ways it's a cautionary tale - one can make a decent living as a musician, but unless you have a financial plan be careful you don't find yourself in dire straits.

The Last Party (ARe / AMZ / BN / KOBO /ITUNES) by Anthony Haden-Guest covers the brief history of Studio 54 and New York nightlife in the late 70s. It moves slower than the other book and is dry in patches, a surprise considering the topic. You go in expecting sordid tales of this rock star snorting coke off some movie star's bum, and you get tastes of gossip, but for the most part you read about the people who ran these clubs and their illegal activities. 

This Mother's Day I got a nice Amazon credit added to my account, so I'll be looking for more romances to try. Feel free to suggest some.