IWSG: April 2019

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.

As I type this, we’re facing a weekend of moving house. That pretty much has all my energy and attention at the moment. But I did start working on a really old piece of writing that I dug up, and I’m enjoying that. I don’t intend to publishing (I don’t think); for the first time in a long time I’m just writing for me, for the pleasure of it.

I recently made a decision to quit pursuing an agent or publishers. And I may not self-publish anymore either, simply because the trials are too great: fighting piracy, trying to market, and all for so very little return. I know many self-published authors are supposedly raking it in (those are the stories one hears about, though I doubt they’re the norm), so I don’t know if I’m just bad at writing or don’t write what people want to read. Either way, I’ve mostly ceased to enjoy it. But this older piece… I’m having fun playing with it. So I’ll keep doing that for as long as it amuses me.

Question of the Month: If you could use a wish to help you write just one scene/chapter of your book, which one would it be?

I don’t know. I guess I won’t know until I reach that point. Once I got stuck, that’s when I’d want to put that wish to use.

The Romance is Gone

First off, sorry for being absent. I had surgery and now I’m in the throes of a house move. That doesn’t leave a lot of time for writing or blogging. And the truth is, I don’t feel much like writing these days. Despite having a number of projects on hand, nothing is speaking to me.

Or should I say no one is speaking to me?

I was trying to get to the bottom of why I’m not feeling the urge to write. In the past, I’ve had times when I don’t feel like writing, but the pressure builds up in me until I can’t not write. But this feels different. I’m oddly content, even though I’m not writing.

And I have all these WIP, filled with pretty solid stories and characters, but…

Ah. BUT.

I like a lot of my current characters. But I don’t love them. And that, I’ve discovered, is what I really need in order to feel pushed to write. I have to be totally, head-over-heels in love with my characters. (Or at least one of them.) And right now I’m not. I’m the author equivalent of single.

So what I need is a new romance with someone fictional. Until I find him or her, though, it appears I won’t feel that drive to write. Oh, I could try to force it, but we all know that love really can’t be manufactured. That’s true in fiction as much as in real life.

The right one will come along… Eventually…

Why I’ve Given Up

I will no longer pursue landing an agent. I no longer have hopes and dreams of a traditional publishing deal. I’m not even sure I’ll do much more writing, despite having many projects in various stages of completion.

There comes a time when, if your work is not valued, there seems to be little to no reason to continue. If I had the drive… I used to, but I don’t any more. I don’t feel compelled to write, and I think good writers should feel that way. They should have to write. They should be unable to stop themselves from writing. And they should do it for themselves rather than for readers. I know that we’re told to consider our audience, write what they want to read, but I honestly believe it’s better to write the thing you want to write. That will be the thing that is genuine and has power. Readers can feel it, and they respond to it.

I’ve had a lot of good feedback from agents who tell me that I’m a great writer. Unfortunately for me, I don’t write the kinds of things these agents can sell. I’ve heard many variations on, “Try me with something else.” But all my somethings else are equally unsalable.

In turn, I’ve found modest success in self-published work, but it’s very difficult to rise above the noise. There’s just so much out there, and I’m a bit exhausted with it all. Again, if I had really strong feelings about my work—if I felt I had to write or die—then it wouldn’t matter. I’d write regardless. And I used to feel that way. But something has changed. I just don’t know what.

I will try to finish Hamlette, which I’m posting on Wattpad (see the post below this one). And maybe I’ll get back to various other projects too… someday… But for now I’m calling it quits. I can’t seem to please anyone with my work, not even myself, and that seems like a good reason to pump the brakes.

Brynnde Coming in Paperback!

Better late than never! Soon you’ll finally be able to pick up Brynnde in paperback! I received the print proof yesterday, and it looks lovely. Brynnde + Faebourne = beautiful additions to any collection.

As for my current WIP, we have a lengthened list of potential titles:

  • Mortleigh
  • The Widow’s Tutor
  • Grey Mourning
  • Love Lessons
  • Love in Lavender
  • Mina’s Mentor
  • The Widow and the Scholar
  • An Enlightened Heart
  • Tutor for a Tattered Heart

Which is your favorite? Any other suggestions?

Title TBA

So I’m working on a new Regency romance novel. This one is about a young widow and the tutor she hires for her son. And I’d like to find a title for it because things seem to flow more easily once I know the title of my manuscript. Right now it’s simply called “tutor” in my files.

My two other Regency novels have single-word titles: Brynnde and Faebourne. How important is it to stick with that convention, I wonder? Some of my critique partners pointed out that neither of those titles say much about the books themselves, and that many historical romance titles are pretty descriptive, as in (I’m making up examples, though for all I know they actually exist): The Duke and the Milkmaid or Romancing the Rake or whatever. Truth is, though, I don’t love those kinds of titles. Hmm.

So here are some options that have been floated around this WIP. I’ll tell you that the tutor’s name is Samuel and the widow’s name is Mina Mortleigh (the estate’s name is also Mortleigh).

  • Mortleigh <— in keeping with the single-word titles
  • Mina’s Mentor
  • The Widow’s Tutor
  • Love Lessons
  • An Enlightened Heart
  • The Viscountess and the Scholar
  • The Widow and the Scholar

And so on and so forth in that vein.

So what do you think? Do you like any of these? Other suggestions?

BTW, Brynnde will finally be available in paperback next month! Pre-orders will be up soon, so stay tuned!

Whatever Happened To…

Now and then I get questions about sequels to some of my works. So I thought it might be handy to answer a lot of them in one post.

Whatever Happened…

after “The Mystery of the Last Line”?

A lot of readers found this story open-ended. I never intended to write a sequel, though after so many readers seemed to want more explanation, I did toy with the idea. I even started one, but I just couldn’t find the thread, so I abandoned it.

to the K-Pro sequel?

It was going to be called Ms. Fortune, which is a title I still really love. I had it all planned and even showcased it one year for the A—Z postings they do every April. But the first book didn’t do so great (and truthfully, if I had the energy I’d go re-edit it), so I didn’t end up investing any time in writing the second book.

to Peter Stoller?

That’s another one I started a couple sequels to but never finished. You’ll find a lot of that on this list, and that’s because [most] writers go where the readers are. If as an author I never hear from people who want more—and certainly if a book doesn’t sell—then I (like many authors) often won’t pursue that series or character.

If you’re wondering what happened to Peter specifically, though… I don’t know. I’d have to write the books to find out.

to The Great Divide and A More Perfect Union (the Changers sequels)?

Same story: yes, it was originally meant to be a trilogy. But the book sales were middling and the publisher never asked for more. Meanwhile, this was around the time I published Brynnde, which has been my best-selling book. So I redirected my time and energy in that direction.

to Hamlette?

Ah, the sad truth there is that I queried for over a year and had no takers. Some of the feedback left me really doubtful about the book’s viability. So I don’t know what I’ll do with it. I’ve rewritten it a number of times, but I can’t seem to get it right (at least not according to agents; CPs and betas enjoyed it). Sigh.

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!

M/M Regency Romance

When I started writing Faebourne, I had a definite plan. It would be the typical Regency romance except that the male protagonist (Duncan) would be the one who needed rescuing from the very odd Milne family. That’s still in many ways the fundamental starting point for the plot. However, the planned romance between Duncan and Adelia Milne, well . . . It’s there, but not in as much force as another romance that has taken center stage in the book.

After Duncan’s abduction, his valet Davies and best friend George go in search of him. In the original manuscript, we didn’t even have any chapters from their points of view—it was all Duncan, all the time. But I decided that it wasn’t as interesting to have Davies and George just show up at Faebourne. Better to follow their little journey. And as their characters grew, they, erm . . . They fell in love.

Now, this leaves me in a conundrum of sorts. A number of people who read sweet, clean, historical romances do so because their religious views don’t allow for anything more, er, graphic. It’s the reason I grew up reading Regencies, and though I’ve since left my sheltered childhood, I still greatly enjoy these kinds of books. (And I still don’t read steamy romances.) Those same religious views often frown on homosexual relationships. So I’m a bit afraid that Davies + George will offend a number of potential readers. I’m afraid I’ll get bad reviews because of it. Which is why I’m trying very hard to make sure readers know BEFORE they buy the book. That way, if it’s not their cup of tea per se, they can steer clear.

I did seriously consider going back and taking the relationship out. But honestly, it’s one of the best things in the book (in my authorial opinion). It’s a darling I can’t quite bring myself to murder.

Readers familiar with the broader spectrum of my work won’t be surprised to find a gay couple in Faebourne. But those who have only read Brynnde, which is far more heteronormative and hews to the traditional aspects of the genre, may be caught off guard.

SO. Be aware and spread the word: the “romance” in Faebourne: A Regency Romance is—at least in one of the two couples showcased (and the couple whose romance is most focused on)—a gay one. Don’t read it if you think that will bother you.

IWSG: Publishing Paths

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.

This month I’m insecure about the fact I entered Pitch Wars for the first time ever and have so far not received any requests for more pages. Between that and the fact that I keep being told by agents I’ve queried that my writing is “really good,” “engaging,” “flows well” . . . yet somehow no one wants to represent or publish it . . . I don’t know what to think or do. Which leads somewhat indirectly to this month’s question:

What publishing path are you considering/did you take, and why?

As of now, I have eight books on the market. Two were published by small publishers, the others I self-published. I’ll be self-publishing Faebourne too.

For some manuscripts, I do try to get an agent. If I think the book might be commercial enough, I do an extensive round of querying. If, however, I know it’s too niche, or if it’s something I know I can sell on my own (like Sherlock Holmes or Regency romance), I self-publish.

I guess a part of me still hopes to someday be published by a bigger house. I don’t know why. A lingering desire for legitimacy? For someone to say I’m good enough? Hence the most recent heartbreaking year of queries. For this particular manuscript I’ve sent out 134 queries, and at the moment I’m waiting for answers on 3 of them. The rest were rejections or no responses. And now I’m hoping maybe, just maybe, a Pitch Wars mentor might see something good in my work. But that appears to be a no as well.

It’s tough to stay confident in your writing when no one else seems to believe it’s worth their time or effort.

Yet my Sherlock Holmes books and Brynnde sell well. So at least a few people like and read my work. And I have hopes Faebourne will follow in Brynnde‘s footsteps. All signs point to me continuing to self-publish because I come out ahead on those books. (Mostly due to my husband who handles the marketing.)

In short, my publishing path is something I determine on a book-by-book basis. If I think there’s a chance an agent might like the manuscript, I do some querying. Otherwise, I self-publish. I don’t really bother with the smaller publishers any more because I haven’t had much luck with them. I’m better off having full control of my ability to price and market, and in determining which format(s) to produce, etc. I’m sure there are some great small publishers out there that actually do market and won’t just churn out a ton of books and hope they sell, but I’ve ceased looking for them. If a publisher wants me to do the marketing for them, well, I might as well put the book out myself and keep more of the profits.

So this manuscript I’m shopping, well . . . First I have to get Faebourne out, and then I’ll decide what to do with it. Scrap it. Overhaul it. Or eventually put my faith in it and self-publish. Its fate remains to be determined.