Special ebook promo through Monday!
Some of you are familiar with my longtime blog, The Three Rs: Rants, Raves and (Occasional) Reflections. I also have a new one, an ongoing serial featuring the characters from most of my past novels. Ever read (or write) a book and wonder what happened to the characters in the years that followed “The End?” I did. And I decided to do something about it. I hope you’ll check out An Army of Angels while I decide what direction–if any–this blog will take. Word Press isn’t as easy to use as it used to be!
“Compromise when you can.When you can’t, don’t. Even if everyone is telling you that something wrong is something right, even if the whole world is telling you to move, plant yourself like a tree, look them in the eye and say ‘No. You move.'”
–from Captain America: Civil War
In the past few days, a problem arose that I believe has been resolved–but it reminded me of another problem my agent and I faced years ago with one of my former publishers.
Early in my career, I realized the publisher’s marketing chimps were trying to turn me into a Sidney Sheldon clone. I was a big Sheldon fan, so on one level, I was flattered. But as a writer trying to establish my own professional identity, I knew being a clone of anybody was not a good idea. I dug in my heels and resisted. There were a lot of arguments. I objected to the Sheldon knock-off titles: The Other Side of Midnight and Rage of Angels (I got Angels at Midnight)…Windmills of the Gods (they chose Dance of the Gods)…The Sands of Time (A Time for Legends). They decided to re-title Solitaire—Players of the Game (as in Sheldon’s Master of the Game).
I’d had enough. I did a lot of shouting, while Maria went about searching for the means to stop them. She found it in my contracts. Back then, I was quite prolific. As it happened, I had delivered manuscripts months ahead of schedule–and once those manuscripts were accepted, the clock was ticking. They had, according to my contracts, a limited amount of time to publish the books. I was a second position lead title author with the promotional budget that goes with that position, so they would only publish one book a year.
That left the publisher with three options: publish the books within a few months of each other, an expensive option; lose the books and the sizeable advances paid for them, also an expensive option; or give us what we wanted and get an extension to publish. Maria made it clear to them that if they didn’t back down on the title, I wouldn’t sign the extension.
As you can see, the title wasn’t changed.
When I delivered the manuscript for book #5, I gave it a title that sent a clear, if sarcastic message: A Cold Day in Hell. They pointed out that it wouldn’t play well in the Bible Belt, so I submitted the actual title I’d chosen for it: Luck of the Draw.
I sent them a message, and they sent me one–a really crappy cover. Oh, well. At least it didn’t have jewelry on it!
…you might like my 1990 novel, The Unicorn’s Daughter, originally published by Berkley Books as A Time for Legends, reissued last year by Creativia. Cover by Collin. The ebook is only $.99 now through August 31st!
From Publishers Weekly
My new author page on my publisher’s website is now up. Check it out at Creativia.org!
Hope that didn’t make you make a quick exit!
Today, I have a special promotion for The Unicorn’s Daughter. The Kindle edition is available now through March 6th for $.99. And I’ve just posted an excerpt of the first draft of the sequel, The Ides of March, at Write On by Kindle, if you’re interested in seeing what Jaime’s been up to since 1986….
When we signed with Creativia, I told Collin I was seriously considering complete rewrites for most of my backlist books. They were written and published in the late ’80s and ’90s (1988-1997, to be specific) and were outdated. I even mentioned the possibility to our publisher, Miika Hannila.
Then, I gave the books a good, hard look. Did I really want to invest that kind of time and effort when I could be writing new books? No. I didn’t.
I knew I wasn’t going to rewrite The Unicorn’s Daughter. It was my favorite of all of my backlist books. I recalled how much I’d enjoyed writing it, especially those last few chapters, intertwining Jaime’s search for her father with the US air strike against Libya. It had become relevant again, with all that’s currently happening in the Middle East. It would be the basis for a series, if I could kick my brain into gear and actually write it.
But what about the rest of the books? How could I interest readers in twenty-year-old novels? It took me a while to realize I already had the answer.
I had contemplated a series of “Where Are They Now?” blog posts about each of the main characters, catching up on the events in their lives since their books ended. I already knew what had become of them–why not weave their current stories into my works in progress? It could work….
This is one of the best things about not being under contract to a conventional publisher, specifically a Big Six (or is it Big Five now?) publisher. Nothing is ever chiseled in stone. We as authors are in the driver’s seat. If something’s not working, we can change direction, plot a new course.
These characters’ lives have changed dramatically in the past two decades. All were affected in one way or another by world events and personal crises. I might still write those intended blog posts–but now my characters will also live on in new novels. Their author has undergone some major changes…and so have they.
All my life, people have told me how smart I am. When I was having trouble in school, Mom asked my guidance counselor if I had a learning disability. “Not at all,” he assured her. “She could make straight As if she made the effort. Your daughter is bored. She’s smart and she has a photographic memory. She picks up things much faster than her classmates, and gets restless when the teachers have to spend the time normally needed for the kids to learn. Because she’s bored, she cuts class and acts out.”
In the hospital following my first head injury, my doctor came into my room one day and announced, “I have a surprise for you. You’re going to college.”
“I have a surprise for you,” I told him. “I didn’t finish high school.” All the effort I’d put into going over the wall, and here was this guy wanting to send me back? No way!
These days, there are courses to be taken before taking the GED exam. I never took any classes, just the exam. It wasn’t that difficult.
I left St. Louis University with one year to go to get my degree. Why? Bored again. I just don’t do well in a classroom environment. I see Collin taking his courses online and wish I’d had that option. I might have actually finished what I started.
I’ve never felt all that smart. I’ve certainly made some stupid decisions in my life. But then, intelligence and common sense don’t always go hand-in-hand. Dad used to say smart people know they don’t have all the answers, while idiots are too stupid to know they don’t know everything. Sometimes, emotion overrides intelligence. Sometimes, pride gets in the way. Pride can be a dangerous thing. I speak from experience there.
I’ve been a writer–professionally–for thirty years now. I’ve written sixteen published novels. By this time, I should know the drill, right? Write, rewrite, revise, edit, proofread–I’d done it all with each book. Since signing with Creativia, we’ve already prepared two of my books for re-publication. Yet when I received the proofread copy of The Unicorn’s Daughter a few days ago, as I went over it, I was surprised to find so many words in red. Why were they in red? Was something wrong with the file?
I quickly emailed my publisher. As I waited for his response, it was pointed out to me that the red words are words that had been changed. They were in red so I could find them!
I’ve been doing well on the new medication, but I’m not completely seizure-free yet. Sleep deprivation is a real seizure trigger. After a seizure, I’m often confused for a little while. I had gone over the proof copy after a seizure, knowing I should wait. As a result, I didn’t recognize the red words for what they were.
I get to show a bit of motherly pride today! It’s a bit after the fact, but my super-talented son Collin (who does ALL of my covers) has had two of his cover designs make the semi-finals of the Authors Database 2013 Book Cover Contest! One of them is the cover for my re-released novel The Unicorn’s Daughter. The other is the cover he designed for my friend and fellow author Eve Gaal’s delightful romance, Penniless Hearts.
Just a week ago, I was contemplating my retirement. I had dropped the ball with regard to marketing my books (I hadn’t even checked my Amazon pages in a while—I just discovered I have some new reviews! Yay!). I hadn’t written anything in weeks. I wasn’t sure I could write anything. I wanted to…it just wasn’t there, and I didn’t know how to fix the problem.
I did know the source of the problem: this old gray mare ain’t what she used to be. My focus is nowhere near what it once was. Just a year ago, my characters were living their lives inside my head 24/7. It was crowded in there, but I didn’t mind. Now, nobody’s home. Not even me, most of the time. Not only was I not writing, I wasn’t doing much of anything else, either…the housework, laundry and cooking weren’t always getting done. More than once, I’d end up scrambling to get Collin something to eat or wash his clothes before he had to leave for work.
Because I was online—sometimes five or six hours a day. By the time I got offline, I would be so drained mentally, I was no good for anything but sleeping or sitting in front of the TV. It should have been a no-brainer, right? Just cut back on the online time. I’m no internet junkie. I’m perfectly happy with a couple of hours online a day. But in my own defense, this has been discussed among my friends and fellow authors at Facebook on more than one occasion. Too much time spent social networking is cutting into a number of authors’ writing time. It’s an epidemic! Nobody intends to do it. It just happens. You start chatting with friends and the time gets away on you.
I’ve cut back because I have to, if I want to ever publish another book. No more email, Facebook, etc. after lunch.
But that’s only half the problem. Now to decide the direction I want to take. Do I still want to write fiction? Yes. But I’m not sure it’s in the cards. The projects currently in the works have been in limbo for a while. The nonfiction project, on the other hand, is flying along.
I’m not sure I want to bother with print editions in the future. They’re a pain to create and earn very little. In my opinion, they’re too expensive, anyway. I might sell half a dozen copies (total) of each novel—and those are usually to my friend Carolyn, who brings them to me for signing as soon as she receives them. My friend Shelly Arkon does well with paperbacks. I don’t. Ebooks are where I make my profits…so doesn’t it make sense to put all of my focus there?
I had a brief discussion with fellow author Rosanne Dingli on Facebook the other day. Amazon doesn’t allow us to separate our own books from used copies of our backlist books being sold from third-party vendors—for which we get no royalties. I’ve considered switching to a pseudonym so when anyone clicks on the page for my current books, those third-party offerings aren’t there to usurp my profits!
Before I close…The Unicorn’s Daughter is still available for free at Smashwords today and tomorrow. Just use coupon code SP26W!