Tag Archives: publishing

Being An Author, Good and Bad

    I was living in Las Vegas, Nevada, getting ready for work when I received THE CALL from my New York agent. Ballantine wanted to buy my book. After years of trying, I made my first sale. That moment was one of the memorable in my life, right up there with the birth of my two children (not quite, but almost).    

Wagon Train Cinderella
Wagon Train Cinderella pre-order now on Amazon

From that heady moment in 1997, I continued writing. I never became Danielle Steel or Norah Roberts, but I sold a lot of books and developed a following of fans who liked my work. That’s the good part. The not-so-good part was, my worries weren’t over. Was that first book just a one-time fluke? Even after publishing the second, third, fourth, etc., there was always that little doubt I would ever publish again. You never know, especially in this crazy, ever-changing world of publishing.
    I also discovered being a successful author equates to lots of hard work. It’s not all that glamorous. Before I got published, I would have sold my soul for a two- or three-book contract with Signet. When it actually happened, I discovered the downside.

Looking for Lucky
Looking for Lucky, the suspenseful story of a lost dog

Everyone’s out having fun, and (sob!) there I am, chained to my computer, trying to make my deadline.
    Sales and readers opinions make up the most traumatizing part of being an author. This torturous facet of writing comes in several forms. What author doesn’t check her book rankings on Amazon? The lower the ranking, the more we check. If it drops below one hundred, (Oh, the excitement!) it changes hourly, so we’re wasting half our day watching those magical numbers go up and, hopefully, down. I’ve told myself to stop checking, but I can’t. It’s like telling myself to stop after one potato chip. Cannot be done.
    The Amazon Select program occasionally causes me grief. Since I sell some of my old Regencies myself, I’m constantly checking the sales figures. How many sold, how many returned! It doesn’t happen often, but when I see a mark in the “returned” column, I agonize. OMG! WHO SAW FIT TO RETURN MY BOOK AND WHY? I have no way of knowing. Best scenario:  the buyer clicked the “buy” button by mistake. Worst scenario:  Book was so terrible, reader wanted money back.
    Reader reviews are the most traumatizing of all. I’ve received a lot of them. The good ones warm my heart. I even appreciate the not-so-good ones, too, if they’re well-written and thoughtful. But occasionally, I, or one of my writing friends, receive a nasty, stinging review full of vitriol. We writers are sensitive souls, so those awful reviews can be devastating. A friend of mine gave up writing for two years because of one, and this was for a well-written book that had received nothing but raves. Thank goodness, there aren’t many mean-spirited readers in this world. Here’s a message to those who are: If you’ve had a bad day, please don’t take it out on some poor writer who poured her heart and soul into the book you’re about to trash.
    Don’t get me wrong, I love being a writer. I love the thought that people are reading (and hopefully enjoying) my books, not only in the U.S.A. but around the world. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Never an ugly romantic heroine!

London Belle JPEG June 9
Lady Jane had an unusual hobby

     One of the perks of being an author is we’ve got complete control over our characters and can make them anything we want.  When I start a new book, creating my romantic heroine is a labor of love. She can be shy and quiet, brash and talkative, blonde, brunette, whatever. It’s up to me.
    When I first started writing, all my heroines were drop dead gorgeous. Deep-set blue eyes with thick fringe of lashes—perky little nose—perfect, pearly white teeth—swan-like neck—cascade of blonde wavy hair flowing down her back…etc. Then I went to a writers’ conference where I learned readers don’t relate to a too-beautiful heroine. I should make her more average looking, maybe give her an unattractive feature or two, like a less-than-straight nose or a few extra pounds. I tried to take this advice but failed
miserably. Why create an ugly heroine when I can create a beautiful one? Okay, I’ve toned her down a bit. At the start of the
story, Callie Whitaker, my heroine in Wagon Train Cinderella, is an ugly duckling. Later on, she transforms into an attractive woman, but I don’t overdo it.  Even so, I can’t bring myself to give her any flaws, like I refuse to put a bump in her perfectly straight little nose.    

Wagon Train Cinderella
Callie was an ugly duckling but look at her now!
Dealy Gamble JPEG
Kristi was fighting her way up the corporate ladder

Do we authors model the physical appearance of our heroines after themselves? I’d like to think I don’t, but come to think of it, I’ve never had a short heroine. She’s always tall and slender. Gee, do you suppose the fact that I’m 5’8” have anything to do with it? As for the slender part, there was a time when I… Hmm, don’t think I’ll go there.
    Every heroine should have a goal. She should want something badly. If she’s completely content with her life and doesn’t want a thing, then where’s the story? Authors of contemporary novels have an easy time defining their heroine’s goal. In this post- women’s liberation world, a woman can aspire to being anything from a nursery school teacher to brain surgeon, race driver, astronaut—anything she wants. In my contemporary mystery, Deadly Gamble, my heroine holds a mid-management job. Her big goal in life is to fight her way up the corporate ladder to get to the top.
    If some kind of physical danger exists in an historical novel, the heroine’s goal is an easy one. In Wagon Train Cinderella, my heroine travels in a wagon train to California in 1851. Her built-in goal is to get there alive without being scalped by Indians, bit by a snake, trampled in a buffalo stampede, etc.
   But lacking deadly threats and mishaps, historical novels present the biggest challenge. Women in Regency England, where my early novels took place, had limited choices, to say the least. Regardless of class, the only accepted goal for every woman was marriage and motherhood. If a woman of the aristocracy remained single, she became that most pitiful of creatures, an “ape leader,” doomed to live out her life as the useless dependent relative who couldn’t find a husband. A woman in the lower classes didn’t fare much better. She could be a governess, servant, or possibly run some kind of establishment. In Lady Semple’s Secret, Meg, my crippled heroine, worked as a lowly servant but had her dream. “Some day I shall keep apartments for gentlefolk some place by the sea, possibly Brighton. Then I shall read all I please—collect books—sketch—write poetry—travel to Paris, Venice, everywhere.”
    Coupled with a goal, a heroine needs a special interest. Otherwise, she’s just plain boring. Contemporary heroines can bowl—ski—line-dance—take up gourmet cooking—the choices are endless. Not so back in Regency England where a lady was limited to playing the pianoforte, painting with water colors, embroidering, and that’s about it. Anything else was considered most unseemly. After writing several Regencies, by the time I wrote The London Belle,  I was desperate to find a new, unique interest for aristocratic Jane, my heroine. I came up with something I feared would never fly. Jane’s passionate, secret interest was rescuing ancient manuscripts inscribed by Cistercian monks in the eleventh and twelfth centuries and translating them from their original Greek or Latin.
    OMG! Who would believe such a thing? Did I stretch too far? It turned out okay. Never in reviews and comments from my readers, did anyone ever observe that no pretty young woman in her right mind would just love translating ancient Cistercian manuscripts.  Which only goes to show, readers are ready and willing to suspend belief if the author makes the story believable, which in the case of Jane, apparently I did.
    It doesn’t hurt to think outside the box a little when creating a new heroine. If she’s fascinating, chances are the book will be, too. That’s what I always aim for.
 Here are some of my books. I invite you to take a look at:
Wagon Train Cinderella, Amazon 

Wagon Train Cinderella for Nook 
Deadly Gamble
The Last of Lady Lansdown has won an IPPY gold award in the Romance category.
Looking for Lucky  is the suspenseful, heart-warming story of a lost dog

See all my books at my Amazon Author Page 

The Not-so-olden Days of Publishing

Lady Semple's Secret
Lady Semple’s Secret

    I published my first book in 1997.  It doesn’t seem so long ago, but in publishing terms, 1997 was back in the stone age. My, how times have changed. Before then, when my book was nearing completion, I’d mail out a few queries, both to agents and editors.  Occasionally I’d receive a reply with those magic words, “I’d like to see the complete manuscript.” Oh, the excitement! I would print out the book, never without some sort of foul-up with the page numbering (I used Word Perfect back then). Then I’d get the package together: manuscript, synopsis, cover letter, return postage. Haul the package to the post office and mail—no small expense for a struggling writer. Then wait. And wait. And wait some more. Months later, the rejection letter.
“Although I liked certain elements in your story…”
“Unfortunately we recently published a book with a similar plot…”

“Interesting plot but cardboard characters…” (Ouch!)

    Finally I found an agent who said she’d like to represent me. Another wait, and then “The Call,” that wonderful moment when the agent phoned with the news she’d sold Lady Semple’s Secret to Ballantine. Soon after, the Ballantine editor sent me the manuscript with lots of little yellow Post-Its sticking out the side. My heart sunk. It looked like I’d have to rewrite the book, but most of the Post-Its had to do with comments and questions, and very few typos or requested changes. I revised the manuscript, sent it back, and that was it. I had nothing more to do except revel in the glow of being a published author and wait for the book release.
Thank goodness, those costly days of printing and mailing a manuscript are long gone. I wonder if our newer writers appreciate being able to send a manuscript to an agent with one quick click. The Post-Its are now replaced with MS Word tracking, so that editing is so much faster and more thorough. (Not that you’ll find many writers who love tracking, including me, but it’s a good tool, nonetheless.) And then there’s the marketing. If you’ve written a good book, that’s only half the battle. Facebook—Twitter—my own website and blog—Linked—and a lot more. Do a Cover Reveal. Do a One Day Book Blast. Oh, for the good old days! But no, wait. The good old days mean having to lug my manuscript package to the post office, pay double postage, then wait eons  for the mail. So, no, I’ll take this electronic age any day, and excuse me while go do my Blog.