Wednesday, January 29, 2014


Happy Wednesday. Personally, I’m still recovering from the knee-replacement surgery. In between trips to the physical therapist and the three-times-a-day “ice machine” on the leg treatment, I try to add pages to my WIP.

Last week, however, was mostly spent proofreading my latest romance novel, a romantic-suspense I call FINDING AMY. I’m publishing it through Criterion House, the small publisher who handled my backlist titles, ONCE MORE WITH FEELING and STRANGER IN PARADISE (both originally published by Kensington) and a couple of first-list books, NORTH BY NORTHEAST, which, IMHO, trad publishers weren’t savvy enough to acquire (but went on to win the San Diego Book Award) and FREE FALL.

The blogs I follow, The Passive Voice, Joe Konrath’s A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing, Anne R. Allen, Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith, have all convinced me to go Indie from now on. I spent years trying to get (and sometimes getting) a traditional publishing contract and was often disappointed with the results.

I’ve also used small publishers, but they offer no advances, and, judging by my royalty statements (although they paid 40% of net instead of 25%) didn’t do much promotion, if any. One small house charged $6.50 for my e-book, which I think is too much for a 200-page romance novel (I prefer $2.99, although FINDING AMY will be $3.99 because it’s a much longer book). And the covers, with one exception, were (if not as bad as those on LOUSY BOOK COVERS) at least amateurish.

I don’t know the publishing date yet. In fact, we still have to design a cover. I hired an artist for the cover of FREE FALL, but my husband is not only a whiz at formatting for both print and e-books, but is a graphic artist and has done dozens of posters, flyers and covers for local organizations. As for editing, I was a proofreader for a national magazine in Chicago and have critiqued and edited many books in more recent years.

Last Sunday I wrote a Guest Post for Bob Richards’ blog: Check it out for, among other things, two hilarious scenes from the film, WHEN HARRY MET SALLY. Husband, father, grandfather and chess champion, Bob writes romance novels and is a member of RWA and its San Diego chapter. He’s already had one book published, and I predict good sales as more readers find him.

The Passive Voice
Anne R. Allen
Joe Konrath
Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Dean Wesley Smith

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


These days, authors are falling into three categories depending on how they offer, and subsequently publish, their books. In the bad old days, there was one way only: traditional publishers of the New York variety, plus a few small companies (offering no advances) which sprang up with the invention of POD (Print on Demand). Finally, Amazon not only presented the Kindle e-reader, but also allowed any writer to be published by them independently at virtually no cost.

So then there were two avenues: Trad or Indie. And now there’s a third, the Hybrid, consisting of authors who publish both Traditionally and Independently. Although this third group is, early reports show, making more money than the other two, my post today isn’t about which track you, as an author, should pursue. It’s about a long-overdue dialogue between the two sides.

If you follow a few popular blogs, you already know about what happened last week: a marathon post between Steven Zacharius, CEO of Kensington Publishing and Joe Konrath, an Indie proponent, who has earned millions of dollars from his books by switching from traditional publishers to go it alone.

To bring you at least slightly up to date on how this happened, it seems a woman novelist posted an article about her earnings, which led to Mr. Zacharius writing an article about the pitfalls of self-publishing. At this point, Joe Konrath stepped in to answer the CEO’s questions and ask a few of his own. (“A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing”) The points raised in this exchange were enlightening to say the least.

After three generations and forty years of traditional publishing in his family-owned company’s operations, the Kensington CEO cannot, or so far, will not, understand why authors turn down Trad contracts in favor of DIY. I give him credit for trying and, possibly breaking the ice in a relationship that should be more partnership than it has been since book publishing began.

For instance, were you aware that before we adopted Copyright laws, Charles Dickens came to the U.S. to protest the “pirating” by American publishers of books published in Europe? They simply boarded a ship in New York, bought copyrighted books, returned home and then reproduced them here and paid the authors nothing.

Yes, we’re now protected by Copyright, but Trad contracts are still heavily weighted in favor of publishers, not writers who actually produced the product. Harlequin’s rating dropped from ten to one when the lawsuit against them revealed they "screwed" (the judge’s word) the authors by taking away in a later contract clause what authors were given in an earlier clause.

My favorite part of the dialogue between Zacharius and Konrath was when the publisher said they couldn’t pay authors royalties more often than four times a year because of the time required to deal with “thousands of books and hundreds of authors.” Konrath’s reply was one line:

“Amazon handles hundreds of thousands of books and pays monthly.”

I’m an optimist, so I think something good will come of this. If not Kensington, then some other “big” publisher will wake up to the present and realize that without change, they have no future.

Joe Konrath
The Passive Voice

Thursday, January 16, 2014


Well, here it is Wednesday again, and I must update my Blog.

“Excuse me. Today is Thursday, not Wednesday.”

OMG! Someone stole a day from me. How could that happen?

“I think you misplaced it. Probably when you went to the Physical Therapist. PT stands for Patient Torture, right?”

You’re right. No wonder I erased the day from my mind.

“But facts are facts, and writers need to get them right.”

I agree, which reminds me of a novel I read recently in which the author wrote about hot air ballooning in California’s Napa Valley and got it all wrong. In the story, the hero picks up the heroine in her San Francisco apartment about ten or eleven in the morning, they drive to Napa Valley (“60 some miles north”) find a place in a balloon gondola (“They only hold seven people.”) fly for an hour, then go somewhere for lunch. Totally impossible.

“And you know this how?”

Because my DH and I did it. We Googled “Ballooning in the Napa Valley,” registered in advance, went to the site at six in the morning while the balloons inflated and joined five others in the basket for a forty-minute flight. Doesn’t the author know Google? 

In fact, I put that very scene in my latest novel, FREE FALL, which is mainly about skydiving. Since I was married briefly to a skydiver, most of that is authentic too.

“So you’re saying all ballooning is done in the morning?”

Not at all, not even all over California. It depends on two things, wind conditions and air temperature. Here in the desert, where I live now, ballooning is done only on winter afternoons, because summer temperatures are higher than the air they could pump into the balloon. No hot air, no rise. A few years ago, a balloon flew over our house and landed behind our backyard.

“Thanks for the information. Have a nice day. Thursday.”

You too. Thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014


When I received a postcard from my writing buddy who is spending a long Christmas holiday with her husband in Hawaii, I was jealous momentarily. It reminded me of the twenty years we owned two condos in a lovely resort on Maui and went there twice a year. Sometimes I had to turn down an invitation to do something or go somewhere with the excuse, “I have to go to Maui.”

This often met with a somewhat sarcastic, “You HAVE to go to Maui?” Yet it was true. When you own property and, especially if you rent it out to others, as we did, it’s important to show up often to make sure the cleaning people are doing a good job and replace any items the guests need. Since selling those condos, we haven’t been back as often, but the sights and sounds and the interesting people we met found their way into my romance novel, STRANGER IN PARADISE, so I can relive them. Originally published by Kensington, I got my rights back, and it’s now an e-book.

Also, during the holidays, we went to San Francisco to visit friends and relatives and I was able to view a documentary on the local PBS station. It was titled, “The Iceberg that Sank the Titanic,” and described how icebergs are formed near Greenland and then, perhaps thousands of years later, break off and begin a long journey into the shipping lanes of the Atlantic.

I was interested in it, not only because of my novel COLD APRIL, about the famous ship, but because the small publisher who has published a few of my books, also published a Titanic book titled DANGEROUS AFFAIRS by Gardner Brooks. I had read the book and knew that the author began with a short Prologue about how a single snowflake, joining with trillions of others, caused a piece of a glacier near Greenland to break off from the rest and begin a journey into the history books in 1912.

Like my own novel about the famous ship, copies of DANGEROUS AFFAIRS continue to sell despite the hundredth anniversary of its sinking having occurred more than two years ago. Although I didn’t expect it, I can certainly understand readers’ continued fascination with a story that was too incredible to be believed. The largest ship in the world, on its maiden voyage, filled with some of the wealthiest people of the time, strikes an iceberg and sinks in less than four hours, taking more than 1500 lives. Epic!

But, this being January, when it comes to thinking about either a freezing Atlantic Ocean or the warm Pacific surrounding Hawaii, I’ll pick the Pacific. Now I just need my knee to heal so I can book a flight.


Wednesday, January 1, 2014


Looking back at 2013, it was the year I finally made a little money through self-publishing. I know. I know. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of authors are saying that now, and I’m still a little fish in this big pond, but, after years of the low income and high expenses of my writing career, it’s nice to have enough left over to, possibly, interest the IRS.

Does that qualify me to write a book about how I did it? No. But it would seem lots of other writers are making more money from selling their “how to” books than the fiction or non-fiction they published. It’s always been that way. Back when I was learning about the stock market, I soon realized those who wrote about how to make money were making their own from the “how to” books rather than the returns from their investment advice. But that’s okay. My investment club did very well, and I did write a book. But not a "how to." It was the romance novel ONCE MORE WITH FEELING  and one of the checks I cashed in 2013 was for Japanese rights to that book.

I’ve bought and read at least eight books this past year on how to write, market and sell novels, and I’m through doing that. My advice on the subject is to choose books written by authors who actually have impressive credentials. Even then, take their advice with a pinch of salt, because what works for one writer, or genre, won’t necessarily work for another.

The one tip that does seem to work is, “write lots of books,” because this year my total of romance novels listed on Amazon grew to eight, and, recently, a sale of one of my books led to sale of another. Or two. Sure, I’d love to make the kind of money Hugh Howey, Colleen Hoover and E.L. James make, but I’m happy to be in the company of those who are finally in the black, earn enough to pay a few bills and enjoy an occasional dinner at a posh restaurant. Such as tonight.

So thanks Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith for your words of wisdom. I’ll be following it in 2014 and hope to have, as the song says, “A Very Good Year.”