Going wide… it’s not just for waistlines any more


Who needs breathing anyway? [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I had The English Lieutenant’s Lady in Kindle Unlimited on Amazon, but now I’m putting my story out on other channels. Kobo, iTunes, Barnes & Noble, Overdrive. It’s available all over the place.

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I’m plugging away with my latest manuscript, the one that hit me over the head on November 1st. I’m in the middle of smoothing out the rough draft, and it feels like I’m not making any progress at all. But I’ve noticed that progress is sneaky. One day I’ll look up and notice that I’ve actually gotten through the worst of it.

This is not that day, alas. But one day soon, hopefully, I’ll be through this patch.

Romance FAQ

I participated in a chat on Romance today at the Hillsboro Public Library.  (And my thanks to the wonderful staff and volunteers who made the Local Authors’ Fair such a success!)

Here’s the FAQ that I put together for the Romance chat:

How much can I make writing romance novels?*

Where can I go to learn more about writing romance?

Recommended books on the craft of writing

Podcasts about writing in general

YouTube videos about writing

*Because that’s invariably the first question I’m asked.

A dark and stormy life

Rembrandt Christ in the Storm on the Lake of Galilee

The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.
-Vincent Van Gogh

Sometimes, we have to go through storms. I have to remind myself that storms and upheavals are a necessary part of life.

One thing I’ve learned over this process of changing from a hermit to a published author is that you can feel as if you’re on a ship in the middle of a storm. The waves toss you up and then you plunge down into a maelstrom. Over and over again.

Not much to be done about it, apart from stocking up on Dramamine. Just something to be aware of. The alternative is going back into my hermit cave and quitting. That might be more comfortable, but I don’t think it would be nearly as interesting a life.

I’ve spent most of my adult life trying to protect myself from exactly this situation. And you can’t do it ! There’s no home safe enough, there’s no country nice enough, there’s no relationship secure enough; you’re just setting yourself up for an even bigger fall and having an incredibly boring time in the process.
French Kiss

Who edits the editors?

I’ve been looking at lists of editors who work on self published projects. One of the glories of self publishing is that anyone can do it. One of the worst things about self publishing is… anyone can do it. Apparently, this also holds true for editing.

Vermeer Lady Maidservant Holding LetterThe first editor I saw on the list had a website, so I went to check it out. The Welcome page was the first page the reader was taken to. It only had two links. Both were broken.

When I went back to the site where the editor had listed her services, I saw comments pointing out that the links were broken. They had been left months before. Not a sign of an editor who cared about details, even for her own business. I realize the editor might be too busy to fix problems like that, but it makes her look careless about the details. Not something that would make me want to work with her.

Another editor’s website looked presentable, except again there was a problem with the details. She wrote things like, “I provide two types of edits.” And then she listed all three of them: 1) X type of edit 2) Y type of edit 3) Z type of edit.

I understand no one can be expected to edit themselves and do a perfect job. But surely an editor should know this too, and to take it into account when creating a website that is almost the only thing I have to judge them by.

Update: the path to publication

Demon Roller CoasterI’m not sure if it’s a path, exactly. More of a rollercoaster. Long, arduous climbs up to an exciting peak and then plunging down again. Sometimes feeling as if I’ve been turned upside-down.
His Forgotten Fiancée has jumped through all the production hoops like a champion. Almost ready.
The last few months before publication will involve:

  • Blog posts with excerpts from the story
  • The cover being revealed (!!!)
  • A digital sample of the book available for you to download

At some point, a box is going to show up on my doorstep with actual physical copies of a book that I wrote. Incredible thought. I will post a picture here as Proof That I Wrote A Book. (I’m still trying to convince my subconscious that yes, I am a real writer.) Then I will be able to send out review copies, host a giveaway on Goodreads, etc.

Nothing but good times ahead! Or at least very interesting times 🙂

The first anniversary of this blog

Grasset-aoutIt’s been a year.

One year to the day from that August morning when I was sitting here at my desk typing away and heard my phone ring. I saw it was a NY area code, and I assumed that it was another recruiter trying to interest me in a temp job at Intel. I almost didn’t answer. But I did, and I got to talk to my kind editor, who said that she wanted to buy my book.

I don’t remember what I said, exactly, but I remember quite clearly thinking how unreal it felt to hear an editor say that she wanted to buy something I’d written. After we’d hung up, one of the first thoughts that crossed my  mind was that if I’d let the call go to voicemail, I’d be able to play the message back. And maybe then I’d believe it.

It took months before I began to accept the possibility that there might actually be a published book in my future. But that distant possibility is starting to get closer and closer… and I’m starting to believe I might actually see a finished book in my hands.


Editing between the lines

Takiyasha the Witch and the Skeleton Spectre

The specter of a Line Edit looming over a defenseless author

At first glance, [Line Edits] can be daunting enough to scare the pink off a pig.
-Amy Woods

Line Edits can be
a barrel of laughs

The process can damage your self esteem — if you let it. So I am not going to let it.

It is humbling to have an editor asks what a sentence meant. Especially when I re-read it and wonder too. I am sure that the sentence made perfect sense when I wrote it.

I feel like Robert Browning in The Barretts of Wimpole Street, in the scene where Elizabeth Barrett asked him what one of his poems meant.


ROBERT BROWNING: Well, Miss Barrett, when that passage was written only God and Robert Browning understood it. Now, only God understands it.

For a Harlequin author, this is the last chance to make any changes to the story. The final opportunity to see any typos or major errors. Even though by this point the manuscript has had several eyes looking at it, I need to go through one last time. Deb Kastner recommends sending the doc to a Kindle, since it’s easier to spot errors when they’re in a different setting.

mugI always think I’ve caught all the typos before I send the story off. Always. And still the pesky things crop up when I’m not looking. In the normal course of things, I do not believe in gremlins. When it comes to typos or other errors in my cherished manuscript, however, they are clearly the only answer.

Writing a bio: who am I and why should you care?

Annie Allen wrote a good post about how to write an author’s bio.
Abraham Janssens (attr) Sight

That got me thinking about how I should write my own bio. I had to supply one for Harlequin. It not only gets posted up on Amazon, but it also is included in the back of the book and on the Harlequin website.

An author’s bio is not a résumé. It’s a quick burst of info that tells the reader about you not only by what details you include but how you write the bio. It needs to be short, lively, and interesting.

The trouble is, I find it so much easier to talk about someone else than to talk about myself. Imaginary people are so much more interesting. And does Evelyn Hill like talking about herself in the third person? No, Evelyn Hill does not. But that is the standard format for a bio.

For Harlequin’s purposes, the whole bio has to be no more than 500 characters, including all words, spaces, and formatting. That’s dancing on the head of a pin territory. You don’t have much space to express yourself, so every single word has to have a good reason to be there.

I tried a couple of different versions.

Version 1 (too horse oriented and a whopping 585 characters)

According to family tradition, Evelyn Hill is descended from a long line of Texas horse thieves. (But when your family is not only Texan, but Irish, tall tales come with the territory.) This might explain why she grew up reading stories about horses, writing stories about horses, and when possible, even riding horses. Once she grew up, the stories naturally featured a handsome cowboy as well. Or a handsome knight. Or a handsome spy. Or even a handsome lawyer. She’s broadminded.

She lives at the end of the Oregon Trail, where she gets to do all her historical research in person.

Version 2

According to family tradition, Evelyn Hill is descended from a long line of Texas horse thieves. (But when your family is not only Texan, but Irish, tall tales come with the territory.) This might explain why she devoted much of her childhood to writing stories about horses. Once she grew up, the stories naturally featured a tall, handsome cowboy as well.

She lives at the end of the Oregon Trail, where she gets to do all her historical research in person.

At 461 characters, this one might be too sparse, but it fits the space and hopefully sets the right tone. I’ve written a western, so horses and cowboys come with the territory. I like it when a bio tells you something of the geographic location of the author.  I think this might work. What think you?

Here’s an additional link. It recommends writing a different bio for different environments: author-author-writing-your-bio

Why doesn’t it feel real?

Gertrude Kay Alice in wonderland caucusHarlequin includes a Dear Reader letter with its books, a letter from the author specifically for that book’s readers.

It’s a nice touch, I think. At the end of a story, you get to hear from the person who wrote it. Makes you feel as if you’ve shared the experience with them.

The Dear Reader letter is always interesting to read, as it often provides insight into the author’s inspiration for wanting to write that particular story. – SYTYCW.

For some reason, I’d forgotten to take the Dear Reader letter into account. Even though I’ve read them in all the Harlequin Love Inspired books that I have, it hadn’t clicked that I would need to provide one. Dear Reader letters are written by real writers.

My subconscious is stubborn. It doesn’t believe I’m a real writer.

Me: But — but– they sent me a contract, they sent me an advance, they gave the book a publication date. What more proof do you need?
Subconscious: I don’t believe it. You’re not a real writer.

I don’t know what it’s going to take to convince my subconscious that this really is going to happen. A book that I wrote is going to be published.

I’ve put together a Dear Reader letter for His Forgotten Fiancée. One more stop on the road to publication. I don’t think my subconscious is going to believe until I hold an actual book in my hands. Maybe not even then. I have a very stubborn subconscious.

Have a belief in yourself that is bigger than anyone’s disbelief.

-August Wilson

Just the art facts, ma’am

I thought one of the benefits of selling a manuscript through a contest was that the manuscript had sold based on the story itself. I was patting myself on the back for not having to write the dreaded query letter.


If you publish traditionally, you still have to explain the story to the people who are going to sell it. The people who design the cover need to know what themes are in the story. The distributors want to know what angles the story has that makes it stand out from all the other books that are coming out that month. The reviewers need to know why anyone should pick it up and read it in the first place. Your story, your word baby that you labored over with sweat and prayers, is special to you. Why should anyone else care? Well, it’s your job to tell them. Or, in this case, my job.

On the plus side, this is an opportunity for me to influence the process. For example, for the cover I was asked to write a brief description of three different scenes: the mood, the setting, how the characters were dressed and how I pictured them. I hear stories about other publishers, about authors who feel like they have no say in what the final product will look like. I think it reflects well on Harlequin that they ask for input.

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I love Pinterest. I don’t know what authors did before the Internet. I can just point and say “There. That’s what Matthew looks like. That’s Liza’s claim. There’s Elijah, looking adorable.”

I still hate writing blurbs. And synopses. And catchy catch phrases. These are skills that I need to work on. But I’m getting better!