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Pre-Order the Faebourne Paperback!

You can now pre-order the paperback version of Faebourne! Release date is November 12. I’ve yet to receive my proof copy, so I can’t vouch for quality at the moment, but as soon as my copy arrives, I will post pictures.

Oh, here is the B&N link if you’re not into Amazon. In fact, you should be able to request it from any store, so long as you have the title and author name. So head over to your local indie store and ask them to pre-order it for you! I soooo love little bookshops! 😍

Sneak Peek

Want to see what I’m working on now? You can read the first chapter (subject to change during editing) here.

Note that it’s not another historical romance, though I will write more of those, too. This one is contemporary, and it’s an adaptation of my television pilot. Sort of a mix of Joss Whedon, Grimm, and The X-Files. Let me know what you think!

Faebourne Is Here!

At least, the ebook is! You can get it on Amazon for just 99 cents for a limited time—and FREE if you have Kindle Unlimited.

Duncan Oliver was in every respect an unremarkable gentleman.

When mild-mannered Duncan Oliver is abducted by the Milne brothers and taken to their legendary home of Faebourne, his unexciting life becomes much more interesting. Adelia Milne has been cursed, and Duncan is her chosen champion to break the spell. Duncan may not be a hero, but he is a gentleman, and he refuses to leave a lady in distress. He becomes determined to take on the quest on Miss Milne’s behalf.

Meanwhile, an unlikely rescue team forms in the pairing of Duncan’s best friend George and valet Davies. As they set out for Faebourne—and also perchance to learn more about Davies’ obscured family history—what begins as an unequal partnership quickly blooms into friendship… and possibly something more.

Faebourne Update

For anyone waiting for it, Faebourne is now in formatting. With luck, the ebook will be out next week. The paperback is slated for November, and I hope to meet that deadline.

I’m going to once again advise readers that Faebourne does include a homosexual romantic subplot. So if you love Regency romances but are uncomfortable with gay characters, this one may not be for you. The book has a fairly typical heterosexual romance as well, but I think the m/m plot is given a bit more lens, mostly because George and Davies were just so much fun to write.

The book is still chaste and in keeping with the mores of the era. There is only one kiss, which comes at the end (sort of like Disney? except . . . gay?).

Some of you are looking at me (the screen) like this right now:

The more I write, the more I’m learning that my secondary characters are often a lot more fun and interesting than the main ones. You’d probably say, “Well, then make the secondary characters the main characters,” but it’s actually not that easy. If you watch a television show that has this great peripheral character . . . Well, I’ve noticed that sometimes, when the show starts to give more time and attention to those characters they become less fun and charming. I suppose what I mean is, some things (and people) are best in small doses. I don’t know if that’s true of my secondary characters. As it is, I didn’t originally plan to have much of George and Davies in the book at all, and then they just elbowed their way in. I hope readers enjoy them as much as I do.

And, of course, I hope readers enjoy the book as a whole, too!

Proof of Skill

Today I read an offhanded remark on a site that said something along the lines of (paraphrasing): “Well, they’ve only ever self-published, which is fine, but it’s no proof of their skill as a writer.”

Hmm.

It made me wonder: How do we measure “proof of skill” for writers?

My guess is that we mostly measure authors by their sales, simply because that’s the easiest way. It’s quantifiable and concrete. And since publishing is a business, certainly sales matter. “Oh, So-and-So sold a bazillion copies of Bookity Book? Must be a great author!”

But there are plenty of books that sell a lot of copies that aren’t all that great. I mean, it’s subjective, of course, but just as many people seem to hate Twilight and Fifty Shades as love them. So sales aren’t necessarily proof of quality. They’re really more proof of appealing to a large (I won’t say lowest) common denominator.

How else might we figure proof of a writer’s mad skillz?

Less quantifiable is “buzz.” Which is to say, how much are you hearing about a particular book or author? (And, really, how much good are you hearing about it/them?) If many people are talking about a book, there are usually two reasons: it’s amazing or it’s offensive. It can, I suppose, even be both(?)…

So does word of mouth = proof of skill? Well, it = proof of marketing skill at least. But again, there are plenty of hyped-up books that end up being big disappointments and just as many hidden jewels gathering dust on shelves, and whatever ebooks do when they’re ignored.

Does being picked up by an agent and then a big publisher mean you’ve got amazing writing skills? Based on the comment that started this post, that still seems to be the gold standard. Even as we continue to say that self-published books are often just as good, and sometimes better, in quality, that they’re often more original because of the authors’ creative freedom . . . Deep down there’s still a sense of a need for gatekeepers to validate a book or author, an idea that books need to be “good enough” for an agent or major publisher, and books that were self-published clearly aren’t or weren’t. Never mind that self-publishing is no longer a last resort for many authors; they’ve learned they make more money and save a lot of time by doing it themselves. The stigma, alas, remains.

And I must say, of big-house books I’ve read lately, I’ve noticed a lack in editing quality in many of them. Now, I don’t know if that’s down to the authors or the editors involved in those books—I suspect many of the books were hurried out without enough proofing—but I’m just saying: having an agent and a big publisher doesn’t, in my view, immediately mean an author has skill. It could mean they had a connection to someone in the industry. It could mean they had a good idea that, even half-baked, the agent or publisher thought he/she/it could sell. It could even mean—yes, I’m going to say it—that they’re the token [insert diversity here] that the agency or publisher was looking for so they could feel good about themselves. I’m sorry, but I’ve worked in publishing, and I’ve seen it happen.

This isn’t to put actual, skilled writers down. This is just to say that the way we decide whether an author is “skilled” is . . . Biased a lot of the time. Subjective to each person’s preferences. There are a lot of factors involved. Being self-published versus agented and published by a big house—that’s not a definitive guideline as to an author’s skill.

The final facet of an author’s skill might be their actual craft, from the foundations of punctuation and spelling to the more lofty question of how they use words to build a story. BUT, again, not all of a writer’s ability can be determined this way. After all, a good self-published author probably hired an editor and proofreader. So maybe the author can’t spell and doesn’t know a comma from a semicolon but found someone to fix that problem. Maybe the story had huge plot holes that a development editor helped fill in. On the flip side, maybe the editor at that big publishing house was tired that day and missed a few things.

The key thing that set me off on writing this was the very casual dismissal of self-publishing I felt underlying the comment I paraphrased above. Not just because I’ve self-published a number of my books, but because to say something like that and not maybe define your personal criteria for “skills” feels a bit like a fly-by. Every reader has a checklist, whether they’re aware of it or not, of what they will and won’t tolerate in a book. They consider the authors who tick all their “yes” boxes to be “skilled” and authors who don’t, or who actively tick their “no” boxes, to be hacks. I’d like to think that most readers are open to self-published works so long as those books tick enough of their “yes” boxes, but I’ve seen readers in online groups have that as a “no” box: NO SELF-PUBLISHED BOOKS. Sad but true. They cite poor experiences with self-published books as the reason for their prejudice, but have they loved every traditionally published book they’ve ever read? I doubt it, and yet they don’t boycott those.

I won’t claim to have answered the question of how to discern a writer’s skill. There are too many moving parts, and I think the largest part is that we won’t even all agree on which authors are skilled to begin with. What some readers treasure, others despise. What some consider classics, others consider trash.

How do you decide whether an author has skills? What’s on your reading checklist?

What Makes a Writer?

I got asked this the other day, and to me it seems like a simple question, but it also feels worth exploring.

By basic definition, a “writer” is someone who writes. There are no other criteria. One doesn’t have to be published, or well known, or have an agent, or have done a book tour. You don’t have to write fiction, or poetry, or anything for public consumption; if you keep a journal, for example, it still counts. So long as you write, you’re a writer.

So long as you write. If you stop writing, you are no longer a writer.

Hang on, hang on, I can hear you screaming. But “writer” implies activity. As a noun, it still suggests an active verb. If you used to write but don’t any more, I’d say you’re a “written.” But that sounds weird, so maybe you’re just an ex-writer.

Jesus, don’t kill the messenger. Okay, yes, once you’ve written something, the words become immortal. (Heh heh. See what I did there?) Even if no one else ever sees them. Even if you erase them. Once they exist—or have existed—you’ve become a writer. And since the words last forever (in a sense), don’t you keep that title of “writer” forever too?

It’s a tricky question. But, you know, if you quit a job as a banker, do you still call yourself a banker? Some people might, but they usually do it out of a sense of shame and a need to be something. So if they have no new job, they may say, “I’m a banker,” even if they aren’t one any more. But if they’ve moved on to some other job, or if they’ve gone back to school, they’ll fill in the blank with that information. “I’m a cat wrangler,” or, “I’m a student.”

If you quit writing, you aren’t a writer. Just as that ex-banker might say, “I used to be a banker,” you could say, “I used to write.” But calling yourself a writer if you no longer write is a bit of a lie, to yourself as well as others.

This is more, I think, than the poser of the question wanted to know. The truth is, when we hear someone say they’re a writer or author, we immediately want to know what they’ve written because we make a set of assumptions. We assume they wouldn’t call themselves a writer unless they’ve at least published something. Sometimes we assume they wouldn’t call themselves a writer unless they’ve published a “real” book put out by a major publisher. It’s a shame that writers must contend with these assumptions. I hate, when I tell someone I’m a writer, and they ask, “Oh? Anything I would have heard of?” As if, if they haven’t heard of me or my books, my work must not be any good. Going back to the banker, if I were to arch my brow and ask, “Any bank I would have heard of?” that would be quite rude, I think. But somehow it is deemed okay to treat writers this way.

If you’re looking for validation—for permission to call yourself a writer—ask yourself why. I wrote for years, was even published in a few magazines and journals, before I allowed myself to answer, “What do you do?” with “I’m a writer.” And even then, it was only after I’d left my job in publishing that I adopted the title. Even though I’d been a writer for a long time. Leaving my day job was like being stripped bare, and “writer” was a scrap of fabric I could use to cover my nakedness. In our society, people who don’t work or produce in some way are considered worthless. “I’m a writer,” was my way of trying to prove I had societal value.

But calling myself a writer or author feels right now. It is what I do. Besides mother and wife and daughter and PTA board member, I’m a writer. I’ve embraced that. And it doesn’t matter any more whether anyone else sees value in it or likes my work. (Though I feel good when they do.) I write for me, because I enjoy it.

So. Are you a writer? If so, why? Let me know in the comments.

IWSG: October 2018

It’s time again for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Posts go up the first Wednesday of each month. Read more posts and/or join in here.

I’m a mess these days when it comes to writing. I go from being hopeful and optimistic to plunging into the depths of despair and being sure no one will ever want to read my work.

By the way, look at the post below this one to enter to win a copy of my forthcoming book Faebourne. You can also read the first chapter via “Sample Chapters” on the sidebar.

Question of the Month: How do major life events affect your writing? Has writing ever helped you through something?

Major life events usually disrupt my writing. Even minor life events can do that. This past summer, not only were the kids home but my husband was on sabbatical. We did some traveling and a lot of outings, which was a lot of fun. We made wonderful memories. But I got almost no writing done for three months.

As for writing helping me through things, sure. I sometimes write in a stream-of-consciousness way in order to figure out how I feel or what I think about something. It’s a good way to drill down and get to the roots of problems or ideas.

Win a Copy of Faebourne!

This is completely random, and the two things are utterly unrelated, but last night I was futzing around on Spotify and adding some songs to my library. I realized I had no Elton John. Not that I’m some huge EJ fan, but there are a number of songs of his that I like, and two in particular. So I thought it might be fun for readers to guess what they might be. The first people to guess correctly will win a copy of Faebourne when it comes out on November 12.

Rules:

1. To enter, simply guess which Elton John song is my favorite.

2. You may only guess one song per comment. Up to three guesses per person.

3. Your guess must be posted in the comments here, on this post.

4. There are TWO winning answers, so two people will win.

5. Sorry, family and close friends, you are ineligible to enter. (“Close friends” does not include Internet friends and acquaintances.)

6. Contest will go until both songs have been correctly guessed OR until October 26, whichever comes first.

Spotify is not a sponsor of this contest, nor does it have any connection of any kind to said contest.