Tuesday, November 29, 2011


I’ve joined the Indie Publishing revolution and am very excited about it. In fact I have put three books up on Amazon within this month and Smashwords has sold two copies already.

Of course, most of my books have been available as e-books from their various publishers for a few years already, and usually my royalty statements show more e-book sales than trade paper. But this time I’ve done it myself (well, hubby did it actually, but I’m technologically illiterate, dontcha know).

The books Smashwords has sold are NORTH BY NORTHEAST and THE GREEN BOUGH, both for $2.99. Today he put up ONCE MORE WITH FEELING, and I priced it at 99 cents to see what would happen. Didn’t I read that some guy had sold a million copies of his 99-cent book? Plus the local newspaper book page listed two 99-cent books on their best seller list recently (and they were not by famous writers like Stephen King or Sue Grafton).

ONCE MORE WITH FEELING is the second romance novel I wrote, way back in the early 1980s and was published by Kensington for their short-lived Precious Gems line. It was set in San Francisco, where I was living at the time. Two of the characters in the book are 85-year-old twin aunts of the hero, and on two different occasions I was told by readers that they knew those ladies and wondered how I came to know them. The truth was I didn’t. I thought I had invented them. Small world, isn’t it?

Because my hubby did it for me, I can’t boast about how easy it is to self-publish like this, although many other authors have said so. However, reading the blogs of Anne R. Allen, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Dean Wesley Smith, and J.A. Konrath convinced me this is the wave of the future and I hope to be there.

Besides, I have my own horror stories about publishers who literally held my books for years: one for 26 months and another for 35 months before returning them. Another published my book but went out of business before paying me. Still another wanted the rights for the life of the copyright. I didn’t sign with them: I may be technically challenged, but I’m not stupid. I also rejected a contract that offered me a “generous” ten percent discount on any of my own books I might buy. And one which charged writers $35 to enter their annual contest. One publisher--a woman--claimed to be suddenly hospitalized and asked her authors to please buy a bunch of books so she could pay that month’s bills. (I fell for that one; found out later she did it every year.) One male publisher wanted to put his name on my book as co-author. (Oh no, that was an agent.) But my agent stories will have to wait for another day and another blog.

Hey, writers, does any of that sound familiar? Have you had your own problems with publishers? I’d love to hear about them, and maybe we can laugh through our tears together.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Since most romance readers (and writers) are women, I think it’s safe to blog this week about something I did a few weeks ago, which all women do. I went shopping for a shirt. Well, actually I tried to buy a shirt, a “top” to go with the black pants I would wear in the musical COME TO THE CABARET in which I appeared last month. The shirt was to be a solid color, besides, and I had only one such top, which I wore in a previous musical.

I occasionally shop at Draper and Damon’s, but have done less recently due to (1) their sizes run large, requiring me to buy Petite-Extra Small, whereas I normally wear a plain “Small,” and (2) they always sell out of PXS sizes before I get there. However, I also receive their catalog so a sales person told me that, if I see a shirt I like in the catalog, I should order it or come into the store immediately.

So, needing one for the musical, I opened the D&D catalog the moment it arrived and saw a red shirt that I thought would do. It was priced at $39.95 and the catalog had a sticker on the front for $5 off any item costing $40 or more.

You guessed it already, didn’t you? I went to the store that very day (after phoning to be sure they had one in my size and color) and tried it on. It was still a wee bit large, but (as I’ve done before) I decided a wash in hot water and dry in a hot dryer would probably shrink it just enough. At the checkout desk I asked for the discount and was told the computer wouldn’t allow it. I suggested that, for a difference of five cents, they could give me the discount anyway, but the clerk insisted she couldn’t.

“I have to follow the rules.”

I replied, “That seems unfair. When you price an item five cents below the amount that’s eligible for a discount, it appears you have no intention of actually giving the discount to the customer.”

“I don’t make the rules,” she said.

“Then speak to someone who does make the rules, because this one has just cost you a customer.” And I walked out empty-handed.

Did I do the right thing? I think so. I grew up believing “The customer is always right,” and it seems bad business to me to treat a customer so shabbily for a matter of five cents. Have you ever walked away from a deal you thought was unfair?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


I’ve just read the first three pages of a novel (Amazon and some publishers let you look inside a book before deciding to buy it) which shall remain nameless. The British author is a man whose well-known mother wrote a book years ago that I loved. The mother should have edited her son’s book before he sent it out, but apparently her celebrity was enough to overcome his poor writing skills.

Okay, it's just my opinion, but the things I found in less than a thousand words at the beginning of the story, have been listed dozens of times in writing articles and books on “what not to do.”

To begin with, he starts with the weather. From what I’ve read, that cliche died with Bulwer-Lytton’s “It was a dark and stormy night.”

Item number two. We’re told, “Don’t describe your point-of-view character.” Yet, right there in the first paragraph are sentences with the viewpoint character finding “...tears on her rosy cheeks...” followed by, “...nipping at her brown eyes...” and “...hat pulled over her short hennaed hair.” Like she knows her cheeks are rosy, or thinks about the color of her eyes and what she does to her hair at that moment? Give me a break.

But there’s more. Being the first page of the first chapter, there’s only space for two more paragraphs and then we’re on page two, where the author writes: “...she asked concernedly.” What? The author thinks her question, “What’s the matter?” doesn’t show her concern, and he has to point that out to the reader?

The top of page three contains the following:

“...shook her head incredulously.”

“...he glared contemptuously at her.”

Pardon me, but didn’t I learn not to use such adverbs, but to let the dialogue and action convey the attitude of the characters?

Is it any wonder I stopped reading at that point? Why didn’t the editor stop there too and throw the book in the “Return to sender” basket? Because his mother is So-and-So, that’s why. But couldn’t they at least have cleaned up the prose?

What’s worse is that this novel was published by one of the Big Six traditional publishing houses in the U.S. What hope is there for me or the rest of us who follow the rules? Apparently, if you know the right person, the rules don’t apply. Like it wasn’t hard enough already to get published.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Last week, I made the mistake of ranting about bad punctuation to a group of fellow writers. I was, rightly, reminded that e-mails are often written hastily and not proofread, so I should have allowed for that. I later realized that I was probably cranky because I was facing another surgery due to skin cancer on my face. I apologized, and my friends kindly accepted it.

However, some friends commented that ranting has its good points, so--in the interest of getting a few things off my chest, as it were--I decided to rant a little more today.

Daylight Savings Time (DST)

This week we changed from Daylight Savings back to Standard Time, and I think I’m not the only person who hates that. It apparently seemed like a good idea when it was proposed in 1895, but scientists now tell us it’s not good for our health to mess with bodily rhythms and interfere with our sleep. We’re not the only country which does this. Some countries have never used DST, and some have tried it and stopped. Even here in the U.S., not every state changes the time twice a year. I believe Arizona and Hawaii don’t, plus one county in Indiana.

Once, traveling in Europe, I ran into a two-hour change, which was really mind-boggling. As I boarded a tour bus in the early-morning darkness, the man in front of me commented, “I didn’t know I was going to see so many sunrises.” (True story, but I put that in my inspirational romance, ROMAN HOLIDAY.)

That aside, who likes having to adjust our wristwatches and every clock in the house? To say nothing of our computers, TV sets and recording devices. Some years ago manufacturers of VCRs added a built-in automatic switch, but then the government changed the effective dates, producing an even worse foul-up. If Congress were really smart, they’d fix things that bug us, instead of starting wars.

Delivery Room Visitors

Dear Abby’s column--in which a mother-in-law complained about not being wanted in the delivery room at her grandchild’s birth--inspired this rant.

I admit I’m old, but when did the practice of inviting people to watch a woman give birth begin? I bore three children, and only the doctor and nurse got to see me sweating and straining and half-naked. That is not a look I want to be remembered for. Why can’t the relatives wait a few minutes, let the poor mother have some privacy and “ooh and aah” when Mom has her hair combed and the baby is cleaned up and cuddly?

Enough for today. Maybe I should take a cold shower. But feel free to comment, even disagree with me. I don’t have a monopoly on ranting.