Wednesday, September 28, 2022

The best laid plans

Often end up going very far sideways. 

Back in the Before Times, in late 2019, my husband and I scheduled a trip to Edinburgh for late March, 2020. We all know what happened next. 

 In May of this year, I tried to see when our airline credit would lapse, and was informed that it already had - but if I booked then, I could use it. So we quick-planned a trip to Dublin, which was the only thing close to being in budget since gasoline, Airbnbs, and everything else has gotten more expensive. 

Less than 2 months out from the trip, our Airbnb canceled on us. She had a valid reason, but trying to find another affordable stay on such short notice wasn't easy. We ended up going with a hotel, because if I wasn't going to have a kitchen, I wasn't going to share a toilet with a stranger, not at the same price. 

This past Friday, we got a phone call that my husband's mother had just been taken to the hospital with renal failure and possible pneumonia. She's been in a nursing home since right before Covid, and her dementia has really taken a turn for the worse because of all the isolation. We drove to New Jersey, waited while she had a procedure done to insert tubes into her kidneys, and then sat with her in the ICU. We went back again on Saturday and Sunday, and even though she's improving - they moved her out of the ICU this morning - neither of us feel good about leaving the country when she's in this state. 

It's difficult enough worrying about her when long distance only means crossing the river and driving 50 miles. Walking around a foreign country and trying to enjoy a vacation while one part of your brain is waiting for the phone to ring is just not a prescription for a successful trip. So we're staying home. My husband will still take the time off from work that he had scheduled, and we'll do a few things around the house, obviously drive over again to visit, and, selfishly, I will now have time to do the pre-publication stuff that I was supposed to have done on the Friday through Sunday while we were at the hospital. 

Although it wasn't the best planned vacation, it's a disappointment. But we've talked it over, in a non-ghoulish way, and have decided because of her age and frailty that we're just going to hold off on long trips for the time being. When it's safe to travel again - and I mean safe in every possible way - we'll go to Paris. That was where we'd wanted to go post-Covid anyway, but the fare was too damn high. By then, we'll have earned it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Lightbulb moment

I don't know anything about brain science, and if I tried to learn, my eyes would probably glaze over. Which is not to say I don't respect the hell out of how our brains work, and I think some of it will never be figured out by science, no matter how hard they try. 

I'm working on the second book in my 1930 series, and it's been going well. The plot line involving Ava, my primary main character, is basically complete, even if I haven't written all of it. For Claire, the secondary main character, I can't say the same. I know how she starts and I know where she ends. But until recently, I had no idea how to bridge that gap. 

The other day, I forgot to have my morning coffee. Then I forgot to have it in the afternoon, and by the time I made a pot for after dinner, I knew it would either have no effect or it would keep me up all night. I was good with either. 

It seemed like it wasn't going to work. I went to bed at midnight, my normal time, got into bed, closed my eyes, and the answer to all those plot questions slammed into the front of my head with the force of a speeding car. I got a full explanation of what goes wrong, who's involved, who's behind it, the reactions of the key characters, and how it leads to the ending I already had in mind. 

None of this had (knowingly) existed in my brain up until that point. 

I didn't want to get up. I laid there for a good half hour, telling myself the story, repeating the best phrases, hoping I would remember it come morning. And then I remembered - I never remember that stuff come morning. So I got up, went downstairs and turned on the lights, and wrote eight pages of notes.

Then, of course, I was too wide awake to go back to sleep, but it was nearly two. So I flopped on the loveseat downstairs, and turned on an author interview podcast whose host has a very soothing voice. When I'm up and walking, I enjoy the interviews. When I can't sleep, she takes me out in minutes. 
And it worked. I slept until five, when the birds started to sing. Then I went back to bed for two more hours. When I got up, I was afraid to look at my notes, for fear they weren't as brilliant as I thought, but they were good. Not brilliant, maybe, but solidly plotted, and now that I know what's coming I have no qualms about writing this midsection of the book.

Writing isn't the problem. Filling in those occasional blanks is the problem.

And if someone can explain how my brain can deliver a fully plotted section of story out of the blue, complete with dialogue, I'd really appreciate it.

Also, could it maybe choose a more convenient time of day?

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Better than coffee

I know my entries lately have been all 1930s, all the time, but my abiding love for the Tudor period hasn't flagged, just gone a bit dormant. 

Until this morning, when I awoke to the news that Lady, in Waiting had won gold in the Tudors and Stuarts category of the Coffee Pot Book Club Book of the Year awards!

That'll get me moving in the morning.

I'm particularly happy about this because it's the third book in the series, and now all of them have placed in the CPBC awards - Songbird got Book of the Year in 2020, and A Wider World got an honorable mention (or honourable, since it's a British site) in 2021. Three for three, and it feels pretty darn good.

 

Friday, September 2, 2022

August Roundup

August feels like it's been all new book, all the time.

Probably because it has been. 

I did a few final edits to the Coming Apart ebook file and got it uploaded and ready for pre-order. (The paperback file is still waiting for one advance review to come in, for the inside front page - if I don't get it by Labor Day and/or one reminder, I'll do without). 

Many marketing graphics were made, many marketing tweets and FB posts were scheduled. 

I sent out a newsletter alerting subscribers to the pre-order on August 18. (Are you a subscriber? You'll not only have access to even more of my ramblings, you'll get a FREE prequel novella to Coming Apart which gives even more insight to the characters. Sign up here.)

Aside from the new book, I worked on an editing job, wrote about 20k words on the new WIP (sequel to Coming Apart, because the sisters weren't done talking to me), and made an attempt at recording the audiobook for Lady, in Waiting. I think it will work, with a bit more practice, but I'm going to hold on the project until cooler weather - it's pointless to try to record anything during lawn care season; I'd have to stay up until all hours to get peace and quiet.

I've also been experimenting with advertising on Amazon, and I think I'm finally getting the hang. I tweaked some ads and the other day I set up ads in Australia and Canada. I get very few sales there - I've had more sales in Germany than I've had over our northern border.

I also prepared for and had a podcast interview - Authors Over 50 - which will air sometime in late September. I'll share a link when it comes out. It was a really fun interview, some about the book but mostly about the experience of starting a new career over 50, what took so long to write that first book, etc. I really enjoyed it!

Lastly, a fun bit. (Well, it's all fun, really - I have a weird sense of what's fun). The other Saturday I attended a Zoom social of historical fiction writers. We met on Twitter under the tag #HFChitChat, and while there's a fairly steady conversation going online, it was nice to get together and see each other's faces. Several of us have books out recently or coming soon, and we got to prop each other up, soothe nerves, and cheerlead for each other. 

It takes a village to make a book these days.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Women's history

Most of the histories we read are about men. There are women, of course - all those men had to marry and someone had to bear their children to continue the family line - but much of history is silent on women beyond those roles.

That's the history I grew up reading

The history I grew up hearing was told by women about women, centering them and their daughters and sisters and mothers. 

Men - feckless husbands, charming but disappointing sons, some simply dead before their time - were peripheral to the stories I was told.

My grandmother Madeline - Maddy or Nan - had two husbands (divorced, separated) and three children (Margaret, Violet, and Harl, my grandfather - who managed to be simultaneously charming, feckless, and disappointing, and he died young).

Margaret had two husbands (and two divorces) and one child, Betty. 

Betty had one husband (magicked away from his wife, Margaret's neighbor and friend) and no children.

Violet had one husband (well managed, predeceased her) and no children. They would have interfered with her social activities and her clean house.

Harl had two wives (Jenny, my grandmother, who died by suicide with a laundry list of reasons and diagnoses, including the fact that her husband brought his mistress home for Sunday dinner, and Freda, the mistress, who brought two children from her first marriage) and three children: my mother, Genevieve Madeline (Gene) - after her grandmothers - by his first wife, and Richard (Dicky) and Minerva (Micky) by his second wife. Although Micky wasn't his, and he probably knew it and respected a solid revenge plot.

Gene had three husbands (divorced, died, predeceased) and one child. Me.

I was raised to consider husbands as pleasant, useful, and often short-lived additions to the family. Is it any wonder I waited until 46 to get married?

But the surprise ending of this history is my own surprise. That husbands are pleasant, useful, and hopefully stick around for a good long time, because I happen to like mine very much.

 

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Coming Apart Now Available for Pre-Order


So Coming Apart is now available for pre-order from this link. The book will release on October 18, 2022, and if you've pre-ordered, it will arrive on your Kindle at midnight. As an added inducement (isn't that a nice way of saying bribe?), the book is priced at $3.99 for the first month of the pre-order, so all you bargain shoppers can save a little and get a lot.

In case I haven't mentioned it before, here's the blurb:
A woman who's lost everything. Her sister, who has everything. And a baby who means everything - to both of them.

Ava has always been poor, so she doesn't think the Great Depression will change anything. But when her mother dies and her coal miner husband loses his job, Ava's certainty falters. The last thing she needs is a letter from her estranged sister, asking for the impossible. 

Claire has everything she could ever want, except the child she promised her husband. When her sister's life falls apart, she reaches out to help - and finds the missing piece of her own marriage.

With everything at stake, Ava must choose: give up one child to save the rest or keep the family together and risk losing it all?
At this point, it's Amazon exclusive, and the ebook will stay that way for a while. I've been curious about Kindle Unlimited but never tried it before, and it seems easier to set it up from scratch instead of withdrawing the book from sale on all the other platforms to do it.

I hope you'll consider ordering Coming Apart. I'm so proud of this book - there's a ton of my heart in it, and a not inconsiderable amount of my friends and family's stories, as well. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

It's almost here!

The pre-order, that is. Not the book.

For those who haven't read From this Day Forward yet, for whatever reason - time, fear-of-mailing-list spam (I promise, after the first few signup confirmation emails, it's once-a-month and special occasion only), I offer this final inducement.

This is the beginning of the sisters' story, told from Ava's point of view. Claire gets her own shot at telling the tale later on.

***

Scranton is no more than ten miles from Scovill Run, but it is a different world from the filthy coal town that has been my home—and my sister’s—for our entire lives.

But no longer. Claire left home almost a year ago to take a job in Scranton, and if I’d been honest with myself, I would have admitted that I knew she was never coming back even then. She had always wanted to escape and now she’s managed it. Harry Warriner will be able to give her all the things she’s never had and always wanted.

“You understand, don’t you?” she’d asked, last time she came home. “He can give me so much.”

“What do you need?” Claire had always pined for the things girls like us had no business knowing about, much less wanting.

“Well, things...” She chewed her lip, her pretty face all puckered with worry that I didn’t understand. “Don’t be like that, Ava. It’s different for you. You have Daniel.”

She was right. I did have Daniel—or I would, when the war ended and the army sent him home from France. I’d always had Daniel, but he would never give me the kind of things Harry could give Claire before their first anniversary.

Miners didn’t spend money on gifts for their wives, no matter how much they loved them. If they had any left over by the time the bills were paid, it was put aside for hard times: leaky roofs, unexpected shutdowns, doctor bills. Kids.

As we rumble along roads that have never seen such an elegant vehicle, I think of my perfect baby boy, who does not know his father. My husband has never seen his son because I can’t afford to have a photograph taken, not when the only earner in the family is overseas and it’s just me and Mama, sewing and cleaning and taking in laundry until he returns.

Daniel’s army pay is all right, but I would rather have my man at my side, particularly when Mama and I get out of this big car and have to pretend we know how to be with people like Harry Warriner’s family. Rich people who think nothing of sending a car to pick up the bride’s mother and sister from their falling-down house.

I don’t know how Mama feels. She sits beside me on the plush seat, her knotted hands folded on her knee, nodding gently in time to music only she can hear. Claire wasn’t her favorite—Mama never played favorites—but as the youngest, my sister had privileges the rest of us never had. Getting to finish school, for example. I would have liked to have gone to high school, but that was the year our father died and Mama needed my help.

By the time Claire turned fourteen, things were a little better. There was never any question that she wouldn’t go to the high school in the next town over, and then try to make something of herself.

“I always knew she was destined for more. She’ll end up fine, you watch.” Her voice bears a hint of a lilt, forty years after she left Galway.

“Do you think it will change her?” I ask.

 “Of course, it will.” Mama turns to me. “But that’s what she’s always wanted, to be someone else.”

I nod and resume my silence, but her words irk me. I never had the opportunity to be anyone else. Certainly, no one ever asked if I wanted to be more than a miner’s wife, constantly worried about money, about my children, about whether or not my husband would come home from work.

Things must have been pretty bad in Ireland if my mother considered this an improvement.

The biggest difference in our situations is our husbands. I’ve known Daniel forever. He grew up across the road in a house just like mine, with parents just like mine. With tragedy just like mine. It was inevitable, and neither of us ever wanted to fight it. My father had his good points, but he grew harder and angrier with age, and he liked the bottle. Our home was never quiet, and none of us ever felt completely safe.

There is anger in Daniel, too, but not the kind that would ever turn toward his family. And both of us were so marked by our fathers’ love of liquor that we agreed we would never have it in our home.

Being in a place like France, there must be drink everywhere. I wonder if he still doesn’t drink, or if fighting has changed him. I can’t imagine his life over there; it was unimaginable enough in the mines, which have always terrified me.

A horn honks and I look up to see another car, too close to ours. While I’ve been woolgathering, dreaming of Daniel, we’ve arrived. The streets are rough but soon we turn onto a wide avenue that runs straight for blocks. We slow at a corner to let a streetcar pass and for a moment I think we have reached the hotel, but it is the train station, which is bigger than any place I’ve ever been, a five-story building with a clock face set above enormous pillars.

“This is the Searle Hotel, ladies,” the driver says from the front seat, as he pulls to the curb.

Ladies! I wonder how much they had to pay him to call us that.

“There’s Claire, waiting for us.” Mama straightens her hat and tugs on gloves that normally are worn only on Sundays. “Doesn’t she look pretty!”

“Claire always looks pretty.” Slighter than me, blonder than me, she is dressed in a dark blue suit with a froth of ruffles at the neck. Her pale hair is no longer in its familiar Gibson girl style but worn in a smooth band across her head, with the rest coiled in a complicated knot below the brim of her hat. She looks like something from a magazine.

If she’s changed this much before she’s married, moving to Philadelphia will take her from us completely.

***

And there you have it - the beginning of their time together, and the beginning of their separation. Read more by signing up here.


Wednesday, August 10, 2022

A matter of mindset

There's a lot to being a self-published author beyond the obvious writing and publishing aspects. Not all of it was even obvious to me when I started, and I'm sure there are still many surprises waiting down the line. 

One hurdle I've just hopefully overcome recently is my ability to convince myself that I need to learn how to do something completely before attempting it. Part of that is because I am a fiend for input. I love to learn new things and to read about all the different ways those new things can be done. 

But the problem there is that you can read and read and read, and never do. 

On the flip side, sometimes I decide to try something without knowing anything about it, and it either works - at which point I discount what I've done - or it flames out spectacularly, and I don't do it again. 

As an example, advertising. I've tried Facebook ads. They spend my money, and I've never gotten any sales from them. At the end of April, after speaking with a friend, I decided to try Amazon ads. There are a ton of books and courses on how to do this, but I just went to my publishing dashboard, clicked marketing, and set automatic targeted ads for Songbird on Amazon US, UK, Canada, and Australia. Automatic targeting means you let Amazon choose the people who see the ad. 

The US ad made a few sales. Canada and Australia never even got shown to people. And the UK? That did really well. 

So I recently decided to take a highly regarded free course on Amazon ads. The first three days talked about easier ad forms: automatic, keyword, and category ads. I understood them, I made my test ads, and I sat back to wait. Days four and five, however, were about deep category and keyword research, data scraping, and the dreaded spreadsheet, a word which, after 30 years of office work, still makes my brain cramp. I was done. 

But I did three days of the work and produced 15 ads from that, some of which are starting to show results. So the work I need to do on myself is to realize that while I didn't finish the course, that does not discount the work that I did do, and the work that I have done that got me to the point of taking the course. It happens 2-3 times a year, so the next time it comes around I'll sign up again and see if I can face that final section. But I have to realize that sometimes doing the thing is more important been learning about the thing. If I had made it through all five days, there's a good chance I would still be a puddle on the floor of my office, not capable yet of doing any of the class work. Much less any writing. 

Learning how our minds work, how to deal with them, and occasionally how to give ourselves grace, is harder than you'd expect.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

July Roundup

Well, this was a fun one. Lots got done, and I even remembered to keep track of most of it.

I formatted and uploaded the ebook files for The Tudor Court omnibus, which I hadn't planned to do so soon.

I started recording the audiobook for Lady, in Waiting. Very slowly, as I wasn't sure at first that it would work, but I'm feeling more positive with a bit more practice. It'll be slow going, though - a chapter, then editing, then uploading. Rinse and repeat. I'm fitting it in between other tasks.

Advance reviews for Coming Apart are coming in - the book will be available for pre-order on August 18, although it's already uploaded and ready to go. I would just pull the trigger early, but I've got a plan here, and I'm trying to stick to it.

Work is going well on the sequel. I'm at about 50k words on Coming Closer, which is nearly the halfway point for a draft for me. I tend to run out of words at about 120k, then edit it down to something a little leaner. 

I also took a course this month on Amazon advertising. Now that I have three books listed, there are more organic sales than there were with just one or two, but advertising is a good thing, done right. I had already had some luck with an automatic ad (Amazon choosing who sees it) in the UK, but my US ads weren't working. This helped, so now I'm just waiting to see how it goes.

By this time next month, I'll be celebrating the launch of Coming Apart's pre-order, and I'll hopefully have some other news.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Up the creek, no paddles necessary

 

One of the many benefits of living where we do is access to nature. I found green spaces when we lived in West Philly - I spent a lot of time in Woodland Cemetery - but out here, there are more options, even closer to home.

This past week or so has been unbearably hot. It's been pretty much the same everywhere, so I'm only complaining so much, and it's our choice that we don't have AC (except in my husband's office, which faces west and gets all the afternoon sun). 

When my blood begins to simmer and working at home becomes difficult, I head down the street, along a cut-through maintained by the borough, down a slope occupied equally by poison ivy and foxes, and end up at a small branch of Darby Creek, which is usually deserted during the day. 

I take off my shoes, climb out to a big rock in the middle of the creek, and plant myself with my phone or my Kindle, and stay until the mosquitoes discover my presence. I actually managed to get a lot written - dictated - the other day, so I was still working, just remotely. It takes my temperature down by at least ten degrees, and unless I take the long way home, I'm still cool when I get in.

Summer has never been my favorite season. I think it gets sold to us as something wonderful when we're kids, because we're off school and fun things happen then, but I was always the weird kid who got excited for September, and school supplies. My heart still beats faster when I see notebooks.

What about you? Are you keeping cool in this heat wave, or are you lucky enough to be someplace where it isn't swamplike?

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

The books that made me

It made me happy when Meg Ryan talked
about the Shoes books in "You've Got Mail"
There's a thing going around on social media right now, with writers (and readers) posting about "the books that made them," or the books that basically raised us.

I was a voracious reader as a kid, lugging home as many books from our weekly library trips as I could carry, and buying - when I could find them - copies of my favorites for my own library. I amassed a ridiculous number of books for a kid, and when this conversation cropped up, I dug around and realized just how many I still had.

The books here are grouped either by series (Little House, Betsy-Tacy, Borrowers, Elizabeth Enright) or by vague themes identifiable only by me. 

Most were notable in one way or another in my development as a reader, writer, or human.

What were the books that made you? How many of these have you read?


As a kid, I loved dollhouses, so the
idea of miniature people? Yes, please.

I read these more than a few times. I would
have replaced them, but they discontinued
the original yellow covers.

Loved these - the first 4 were family
stories, the Gone Away books were too,
but they were also about old houses and 
odd people. Great illustrations.

The random collection. I read Flambards from the 
library, but bought the TV tie-in in the 80s.
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is
just as good now as it was as a kid.

I grew up with the Betsy books. There were
a half dozen for little kids, then the
high school and after books. Betsy and
the Great World
made me want to travel.


Wednesday, July 13, 2022

And it's done!

So am I, by the way, but I'll recover.

One of the most difficult things about publishing - not writing, but publishing - is having to learn to do things in Word that I never had to learn in 30 years of working as a legal secretary.

I probably should have learned how to use styles and to turn page numbering off and on at will, several times in a document, but I didn't. And now I regret that.

The hardest part about getting the omnibus files ready for upload was actually reformatting the song lyrics and letters so that they would appear properly in the ebook format. Not that they weren't properly formatted before, but I wanted them to look better and I finally found a tutorial that gave me what I wanted. 

So, of course, at 3:00 a.m. last Thursday, I got out of bed and came downstairs and reformatted all those block quotes, because the idea of them being wrong would not allow me to sleep.

All this to say, the omnibus is done. The Tudor Court - The Complete First Trilogy (plus a bonus Tom and Bess short story) is now available for a brief pre-order, delivered straight to your device on Friday, July 15. For the seriously discounted price of $7.99.

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

A little something extra

Well, this was unexpected. 

Lady, in Waiting, the third book in my Tudor Court series, came out in February. While I do intend to go back to this series at some point - after I finish with the 1930s - three books are sufficient to make an omnibus collection, and that's what I'm currently working on.

It was on my eventual list of things to do, but one of the writing groups I belong to on Facebook made the point that the readers who buy box sets are different from the readers who buy one book at a time. They're also often the bargain shoppers - three books for the price of two? They're on it.

So that's what I've been up to over the long weekend - compiling all three manuscripts into one, swearing a blue streak at Word (and myself) because the styles for the three books don't match and I had to remove all the formatting and put it back to get the table of contents to work. You wouldn't think I'd been a legal secretary for 30 years, turning Word inside out and making it do my bidding. I've never been a fan of styles, and I'm still not, but I am a fan of only having to format my ebooks once, so this work will be worth it in the end.

And before the end of July, The Tudor Court - The Complete First Trilogy, will be available for purchase.

And I will be a small puddle on the floor, scrabbling to reach the keyboard to get back to work.

Saturday, July 2, 2022

June Roundup

June has been another month where I feel like I've done nothing but chase my tail - which is why this roundup post is so useful for me.

What I think I've done all month - a little writing, a little editing. Far too much time on social media. A craft show where I sold a few books. Other stuff?

Looking at my planner, what I've actually done is: 

Mastered and uploaded the audiobook files for A Wider World, which is/will soon be available on all retail sites and for purchase by library systems. 

Organized a one-day discount for Songbird, which netted some nice sales and will hopefully bring readthrough for the rest of the series. 

Worked with my designer to come up with a cover for the Tudor Court box set, which will be an ebook only compilation of the first three books of the series. For people who haven't purchased yet, it will be priced at $9.99; in other words, three books for the price of two. I'm not doing a paperback; it's just too chunky.

Light editing on Songbird's text file so that it flows better with A Wider World and Lady, in Waiting. I haven't changed the book at all, but its chapters were very long as compared to the other two, so I split them to make the reading experience more consistent.

A farmers market/craft show in my town, where I sold 5 books, including a copy of A Wider World to an elderly neighbor who texted me from her doctor's office and told me that she'd just finished Songbird and I'd made her cry in public.



Monday, June 27, 2022

Who doesn't like free samples?

 


When I got my rights back from my publisher in November, 2021, the edited audio files for A Wider World were also returned. I had done the original edits when the audiobook was recorded, but it still needed mastering so it could be uploaded to ACX (the company behind Audible) and Findaway Voices (the other big audiobook company, which supplies every vendor except Audible). 

I meant to tackle those files before now. I did. But I didn't.

I thought mastering them would be too hard, and I bookmarked blog posts and YouTube videos about how to master audio files but never got around to watching/reading them.

Then, about a week and a half ago, I got annoyed with myself. This is not only a book that I love, and an audiobook that the actor and I worked very hard to produce, but it's a viable source of income that I've just allowed to sit on my computer for months. 

Enough, already.

I won't say it was easy, but it also wasn't anywhere as difficult as I expected. ACX has very specific standards for upload quality, but if something's wrong, they're also very specific about what it is and how to fix it. I did the entire book in four days, got it uploaded, and it cleared quality control in a day. Now it's up on Audible and Findaway is distributing it to all the other vendors as I write this (it's not so much that they take their time, but each separate vendor takes its time, and it's cumulative).

I've attached an audio sample here of the first chapter. Let me know what you think, and if it would intrigue you enough to listen to more!

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Don't rain on my parade

Yes, I still sew and do craft shows! It's just not as big a part of my life as it used to be.

Last Saturday, I had the privilege of vending at a local Pride Fest. The day started out chilly and rainy, and I almost canceled because I hate having to pull all my work into the center of the tent so it doesn't get wet, but I sucked it up and set up anyway.

And I had a blast. Usually, when I'm located near the stage at an event, I want to crawl under my table, but this festival had the best music and I had a stellar view of the drag show which concluded the festival.

I've been lucky to find a lot of rainbow fabric at thrift stores lately, so I had a nice selection of merchandise and business was pretty good, but the day was as much about people watching for me as selling. It was such a positive, uplifting event - it made my heart happy to see so many people feeling safe to be themselves and walking proudly with the people they love, displaying a veritable rainbow of different Pride flags.

And the little kids especially loved the drag queens. How could they resist the hair, the makeup, the colors? The joy? I haven't seen that many happy kids since Santa wrote a fire engine through town throwing candy canes.

The weather cleared in time for the show. As the emcee said, "we wouldn't allow it to rain on our parade." 

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

From This Day Forward

 

Just a reminder that From This Day Forward is available to newsletter subscribers. 

Subscribe here to get acquainted with Ava and Claire, and have some important back story to read Coming Apart.

Miss the link? It's here!

Monday, June 6, 2022

The Value of Libraries

 

This is the Lawncrest branch of the Philadelphia Free Library.

This was my childhood happy place. We went every other week, up until junior high school, when we moved to an area with a less interesting library. Tragic, but I was also old enough to be able to buy books and my school had a good library, so I survived.

Kids had the same borrowing rules as adults: twelve books at a time. Twelve was never enough, so I nagged my mom until she let me have six of her borrows. Once I got older, I made it easy for the librarian and borrowed a dozen books from the kids' library and six from the adults. 

Mom didn't care what I read, so long as I was reading, and the older I get, the more I appreciate that. I read some horribly inappropriate things - some of which have stayed with me to this day - but overall, it was a good thing.

But, I digress. Libraries are good things. And they're one of the last places on earth where we can go and not be expected to spend money. It's rare, that is. Unless you want to make copies, they don't want your money.

Do you frequent your local library? Have you ever asked your library to order a book you wanted to read? Did you know that all of my books - ebooks and paperbacks - are available for your library to order? 

You can just ask your local librarian to order anything you want to read. Just give them the title and my name and they can look it up and order from their catalog. Often with ebooks, libraries don't even have to buy them, they can just make them available through library services like Hoopla or Libby and as the author, I will make a percentage every time the book is checked out. Win/win, right?

So that's it - that's how you can support authors you like without having to spend personal cash, which, we all know, is getting tighter and tighter these days. You might spend your book budget on gas for the car, so why not drive it to the library?

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Coming Apart: Free Prequel


A few days ago, I showed off the covet for Coming Apart. Thank you for the messages and comments - I'm absolutely in love with it and I'm glad you like it - and are looking forward to reading the pages inside that cover.

What I've got for you today is the blurb for the book, introducing my two sisters and their situations in life.

Pre-orders for the book won't be up until August or September (I usually do a 30-day pre-order, but I could be convinced to lengthen it if you want to order in August), but you can read a free prequel novella right now if you sign up for my mailing list.

From This Day Forward is set a dozen years prior to Coming Apart, and it tells the story of Claire's wedding and the beginning of the break in the sisters' relationship.

If you subscribe, I promise not to spam you, and I will never share your email address. I check in generally on the 30th of each month, and occasionally I'll pop in at the middle of the month if there's big news or a sale that I think you should know about.

When you sign up here, you'll receive an email welcoming you to the list and giving you a link to BookFunnel, which is the website that holds the files. They're an excellent site and can walk you through the download process to your Kindle or other device if you haven't done it before.

If you're already a subscriber, your last newsletter had that same link and you can head on over to download From This Day Forward.

It's a gift to my readers, and a promise of more story to come. Enjoy!

Friday, June 3, 2022

May Roundup

 

Well, May 2022 has been my best sales month ever that didn't include a new book being released, so I'm a little over the moon.

This month has been a busy one, too. I did final tweaks on Coming Apart, and worked with my cover designer to complete covers for all three books in the series (you've just seen the first one). 

I also wrote and edited a prequel novella for Coming Apart, which is intended as a free gift for newsletter subscribers - of which I hope you are one. 

You're not? Subscribe here and get your freebie.

I've also been doing a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff, working on the website, planning the October launch for Coming Apart, formatting the paperback files, and ordering advance paperback copies for a few reviewers.

There's also been much scheduling of social media to promote the newsletter/prequel and the cover reveal. I'm writing book two of the series, Coming Closer, and making notes about the third book because my characters won't shut up. They should, but they won't.

Another fun thing - nerve-wracking, but actually kind of fun - is that I've started pitching book podcasts to talk about either the Tudor Court books or the upcoming ones. Fingers crossed it comes to something. I've done a few podcasts before and I find them really fun once I relax and remind myself that listeners actually want you to do well. It's not junior high, where everyone in class is secretly hoping you fall on your face during public speaking so that they feel better about themselves.

Lastly, I've been working with a graphically-inclined neighbor to tweak the covers for the Tudor Court books so that I now have hardcovers listed on Amazon. I'm sure I won't sell a ton of them, but since I had to buy those 100 ISBN numbers, I'm going to use them with reckless abandon.

Thursday, June 2, 2022

Cover Reveal: Coming Apart


Here it is! 

I was trying to hold off sharing this for a while longer, but I've been talking about this book for so long, that I just can't. And I love this cover too much to keep it to myself.

Coming Apart is the first book in my Sisters series, of which there will be at least three books. That's what they've informed me, so far, anyway.

When I first talked to the cover designer, I said I wanted something that looked like an old photo album, the kind with black paper and stick-on corners. Alas, the designer is too young to be familiar with such things, but the direction she went in, which I think of more as a scrapbook, is even better. I love the pressed flowers, the tape on the corners, the creasing of the paper under the photo.

And the PHOTO. That's my great-aunt Margaret, holding my Uncle Dick, her brother's second-youngest child. It's perfect. We were originally looking at vintage stock photos of babies or women holding babies when I realized that I had albums of photos to which I hold exclusive rights.


Albums full of photos. So what did I do? I went through them all, after I'd picked out the cover photo for this book, and chose photos for books two and three. I don't know everything about those books yet, and won't really know until after the first drafts are done, but I know the titles and the overall theme of each book, and that was enough.

Also, my cover designer in this case is also a writer, and she's doing well enough with words these days that she's retiring from custom cover designs and I wanted to get these done before I lost access to her. (She'll still be available for tweaks when the books are finished, but I didn't want to risk not getting a matched set, not when I loved the first cover so much). 

I'll be back soon to share the back cover blurb and an opportunity to get a free prequel novella to Coming Apart.


Monday, May 16, 2022

Thoughts on publishing


Publishing is subjective.

Maybe you've heard that, maybe you haven't. If you're not a writer who's attempted traditional publishing, you may not comprehend those words the same way.

I was cleaning out my email the other day and ventured into a folder called Query 2015. If it was a physical folder, it would be very dusty. I might have even recycled it by now. I don't think I've opened it since late 2015, when I got an agent for Songbird (which at that time was called The King's Creatures).

I sent out well over 100 queries. I'd say 75% of those queries never even got responses. Another 15% said no. The remaining agents requested samples - anything from 5 to 50 pages. 

If those pages grabbed them, they would have requested more. Only one did, and I'll talk about that later.

But the rejections for Songbird were so inconsistent it was hard to figure out my next steps. 

"Good plot, Couldn't get into the characters."

"Strong characterization, but lacking in plot."

"The Tudors as an era are played out and tired. Can this story be set in another period?"

"The Tudor field is overcrowded. Can you write this in another era?"

"I can't see the settings or costumes. Would be willing to read if you rewrite it in more of a Philippa Gregory style."

"Too much description for my taste."

Is it any wonder that I put it away until fall 2018, because I just couldn't think about it anymore without my head exploding?

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Coming Apart: Coal Towns

 

Scovill Run, the town where my main character and her family live and work, is fictional, but it's based on many towns encountered in my research, towns either overtaken by the dirty business of mining, or spring or of nowhere to support a mine.

The towns were almost wholly owned by the mining companies. There were no other jobs tolerated outside mine work. Men who refused to go underground had to leave to find work. Houses were tied, so a family never really owned their home, it even rented it properly. No rent was paid; part of a miner's salary was out toward the rent. The rest was deposited at the company store, where all provisions had to be purchased, often at prices higher than found outside the town. But since miners were paid in scrip, not cash, transportation was not the only problem.

On the outside, a coal patch town might look like any other. There were houses, churches, and a shop with a post office. A community center where events took place, movies were shown and elections were held.

But the government of the town, such as it was, was in the hands of the coal company. They had their own private police force, the Coal and Iron Police, which terrorized families all over Pennsylvania. They dealt with efforts at unionizing with an iron hand, and if they went overboard on their administration of justice, there was no recourse. The CIP was disbanded in 1931, but they had almost complete control from the Civil War up until that point.

Education in a coal town was minimal, going only through the eighth grade. Most boys left school before then, to work in the mines. By the time my book starts, it is illegal to hire a boy under the age of fourteen, but of course it still happened, and it was at least an improvement on the days when boys started on the breaker, sorting coal, at the age of five or six.

By the time the Depression was in full swing, the demand for coal had begin to slack - oil was the coming thing, and many household in the cities were changing over to oil heat. Still, coal was necessary for industry, and the mines kept operating, but often the miners' hours were reduced to a point just above poverty, and, dependent on the company for food and housing, and deprived of education and any opportunity of other work, they had few options.

Monday, May 2, 2022

April Roundup

 

Where does the time go? That's what I want to know.

It feels like I've been constantly busy, but when I sit down to write these posts, I look back and wonder what exactly all that busy has been.

This month, I finished (again) final edits on Coming Apart. I sent out multiple requests for endorsements from authors - those lovely complimentary words you find on book covers - and actually got a few in response. Still waiting on a few others.

In case you've ever wondered, there are three responses to any request: yes, no, and no response. No response is by far the most common.

I've also been working away on the sequel to Coming Apart, and a prequel novella which I want to use as a newsletter sign-up. (If you're already a newsletter subscriber, don't worry - I'll announce it there and insert the download link. If you're not already a newsletter subscriber, why not? I won't spam you or give away your email address - you're trusting me, and I'm well aware of the responsibility involved - and I'll only email once a month unless I've got a book coming out or some special announcement.

Like a prequel novella. So sign up here, if you're so inclined.

I've also been working on some edits for other writers, which is not only a good way to give back to a community I love, but also brings in income and teaches me to be a better writer. Editing someone else's work without changing their voice is hard. 

Last but not least, I've been figuring out behind-the-scenes stuff like putting A+ content on Amazon (those are the pretty graphics you see on some book listings, an option formerly only given to traditional publishers - see example) and I'm working on a launch plan for Coming Apart. I know it's not until October, but this one is a bit of a departure in the audience - more women's fiction than historical, though it's both - and I want to get this right.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Coming Apart: The Houses


There are three houses in Coming Apart, and they all mean different things. 

The first is Ava's house in Scovill Run, the coal town in upstate Pennsylvania where she has lived her entire life. Scovill Run is fictional, but based on many coal towns in my research, all of which grew up around the mine, and none of which were particularly nice places to live.

Ava's house is one half of a twin. There are two bedrooms upstairs, and a sitting room and kitchen downstairs. There is no electricity, and water is supplied by a shared pump in the yard. The other plumbing needs are taken care of by an outhouse. Most of the heat in the house comes from a wood stove in the kitchen; there is a coal stove in the front room, but it is only used on special occasions, because coal is expensive and the men who mine it can't often afford it.

Claire lives in Philadelphia, in one of my favorite houses on Delancey Place. All the houses on the street are either brownstone or brick, three and four stories. They were the houses of the wealthy then, and for the most part, that block continues to be single-family homes. The house I chose for Claire stands out because of its round front. I've always liked it, and jumped at the chance to let her live there. 

Not only that, it was up for sale several years ago, so I have a pretty good idea of the interior layout.

There is a third house in the book, which will only be explained in oblique terms because of spoilers, but it is a house I actually lived in during the late 1980s. It's also in Philadelphia, several blocks south of Claire's house, and was built before the Civil War to house mill workers. 

It's what Philadelphia calls a trinity house (Father, son & holy ghost), with one room on each floor. The entire house was no bigger than a standard two bedroom apartment. But it was pretty cool, living in a place that old, and knowing that the underground railroad had used several of the houses on the block as shelters for runaway slaves making their way to freedom.

I have pretty clear memories of this house, but again, it also was up for sale a few years ago and the renovations that were done after my time there as a renter were pretty significant. They couldn't make it bigger, but they made it nicer. One of the few things that's still the same is the clawfoot tub in the third floor bathroom, which my roommate had painted gold on the outside. Thirty years later, it's still gold.

I wonder what my characters would have thought of a gold bathtub?

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Coming Apart: The Husbands

Daniel Kimber and Harry Warriner are as unalike as their wives.

Daniel Kimber is a miner. That's all he's ever done, and all he wants to do. But the Depression and the Scovill Mining Company's attitude toward union organizing means his job is always at risk. He started in the mines at the age of ten, and to him it's a big deal that his eldest son stayed in school until twelve before going to work. Daniel worships his wife for her strength and ability to manage their family on next to nothing. He's never looked at another woman - they met in grade school and paired off almost immediately. .

My choice for Daniel is Colin Farrell in a more scruffy moment. Daniel doesn't actual have a mustache, but there's something in the bleakness of his expression here that works for me.


The only son of a wealthy businessman, Harry Warriner made it to nearly forty before acquiring a young wife who met none of his mother's exacting standards. He knows his place in Philadelphia society, but it isn't what he would have chosen for himself, if he'd had a choice. Marrying Claire is his one rebellion, but he doesn't always see how difficult it has been for her to fit into his life.

Harry, at the start of the book, is fifty years old, with a precise trimmed mustache and spectacles. He can't see two feet without them. His upbringing has made him very restrained, but he does love Claire and wishes he knew how to make her happy.


Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Coming Apart: The Sisters

Coming Apart has two main characters, sisters Ava Kimber and Claire Warriner.

Both were born in a fictional upstate Pennsylvania coal town of Scovill Run, a small town entirely owned and operated by the Scovill Mining Company. Their mother, Lillie, was an Irish immigrant; their father was a Polish coal miner. Ava and Claire are children numbers four and six of Lillie Kovalevski's seven children.

Three years older than her sister, Ava married young, to her childhood sweetheart, and duplicated her mother's life of hard work, grinding poverty, and frequent pregnancies. She is often angry and always exhausted, but she wouldn't trade her hardships for her sister's blessings.




Claire graduated high school, got a job in Scranton, and managed to snag herself a wealthy husband. She moved to Philadelphia and has rarely been seen since by the family she left behind. 

Not surprisingly, Ava holds a bit of a grudge that her sister has more or less abandoned them, but she's also too proud to accept any help that would be offered, because she's managing just fine, thank you very much.

Claire may be thirty years old and wealthy beyond anything her family can conceive, but she's not happy. If she could only give her husband a son, maybe her mother-in-law would stop bullying her, and maybe she wouldn't be too embarrassed by her background to go home and visit the sister she misses desperately.

Both these photos were found while wandering the internet. Claire is pale and blonde and perfect; she has little else to do but keep herself looking that way. I found the inspiration photo for Ava when researching 1930s hairstyles. It's the only thing that's not accurate - Ava hasn't cut her hair, but the "I tolerate no nonsense" expression on her face is completely Ava.

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

What comes next: Coming Apart!

I'm really excited about the next book. I know, I'm excited about every book, but that's because every time I write one it makes more space in my head. It gets crowded in there. 

This is the one that in the 1930s, during the Great Depression. The original title was My Sister's Child, but I changed it because there is a psychological thriller out there with the same title, about a woman who kills her sister and takes her baby, and even though they are very different genres, it's a recently published book and I didn't want to use the same title. 

So now it's called Coming Apart. One of my favorite things is that I am able to use a family photo (my great-aunt Margaret and Uncle Dick) for the cover. Even though the title has changed, the ambiguous photo of woman and child - which sister's child is he? - will be the same. I can't wait to show the cover design, but I'm waiting until we have a final page count, so my designer can change the title and also do the full wrap cover for the paperback.

While still historical, this book has no real historical figures in it, and so, in the weeks and months leading up to publication, I'll be sharing character bios, location information, and some of the fascinating Depression-era history I've uncovered while writing. 

Stay tuned!

Saturday, April 2, 2022

March Roundup

 

How have we finished the first quarter of the year already? It still feels like February. Hell, some days it still feels like 2020.

All things considered, though, it's been a productive period. I had three things written on the white board by my desk for January-March, and I crossed them all off:

Publish Lady, in Waiting ✔
Final draft Coming Apart ✔
Send ARCs and endorsement requests for Coming Apart

Coming Apart, by the way, is the new title for My Sister's Child. I changed it because there's a thriller by the same name where a woman kills her sister so she can have her baby, and I know that the genres are totally different, but that wasn't a confusion issue I wanted to risk.

One thing that was on my list for the first quarter as a possibility was researching whether or not to do hard covers of my Tudor Court trilogy. I still haven't decided. I can't tell you the last time I purchased a hard cover book that wasn't for research purposes, and I'm not sure if the sales would be worth the effort involved. On the other hand, I've already purchased the ISBNs, so maybe I'll just wait until I have some extra money to throw to my cover designer to adapt the covers (of course they're just slightly different dimensions so I can't use what I have).

The third item on my list of achievements there was a nerve-wracking one. ARCs (advance reader copies) get send out to early reviewers and authors who might consider reading and endorsing the book. Endorsements go on either the front or back cover, or sometimes on what's called a "praise page" just inside the cover. I sent to a few indie authors whose work I like, and also to a few traditionally published, including a few writers who I know are out of my league. I haven't heard from most of those yet, but hope springs eternal.

My goals for April include sending out more ARCs and requests, formatting Coming Apart's paperback so I can get a final page count so I can in turn reach out to the designer to finish the full wrap cover (page count is necessary so that the cover fits properly, and Amazon and the other printing sites are very specific about their wants). 

I'm also accidentally working on the sequel to Coming Apart, because I was no sooner finished the book than the characters woke me up and told me they weren't done with me yet.