The wait is over! You can now pre-order my Regency romance Brynnde on Amazon! Click here to pre-order for just 99 cents, and Brynnde will be automatically delivered on February 9th. The price goes up to $2.99 after release, so pre-order and save!

About the Novel:

Brynnde Archambault needs to find someone to marry, else she’ll be stuck with dull Mr. Dallweather. The answer to her problem arrives in the form of handsome and witty Viscount Burbridge, but just when everything seems to be going smoothly, scandal strikes and the engagement ends.

Meanwhile, Brynnde has no trouble matchmaking her friends and even her own brother. But while she breezily finds suitors for everyone else, for her time is running out. Must she resign herself to becoming Mrs. Dallweather? Or will Brynnde yet succeed in making a match for herself?

Brynnde is a light, bubbly, and sweet Regency romance in the vintage style of Zebra and Signet.

I’ve bitten the bullet and am now inviting auditions for an audiobook version of my Sherlock Holmes stories. All three stories will be collected into one audiobook. I’m super excited; it’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time.

If you’re a narrator, you can find the project on ACX. I anticipate it being up for a few more days, though I’ve already received some wonderful submissions. I can hardly contain myself!

Every year at New Year’s I set goals rather than making resolutions. I make sure the goals are concrete and/or quantifiable. That way it’s clear when I have or haven’t met them.

But how to formulate those goals? Any writer or artist must decide for him- or herself what “success” means. It’s a personal thing, which I think we struggle with in a day and age where everything and everyone around us wants to tell us when we’ve succeeded—or failed. (This is the basic theme of my screenplay 20 August, btw.) At the end of the day, though, it doesn’t matter what others think. It only matters that you’re satisfied with how things turn out.

I try to set reasonable, attainable goals. Things that I can take clear steps toward. And I’m specific. Instead of saying, “write a book,” my goal will be “finish This Particular Book.” Instead of “find an agent” it’s “find an agent for This Particular Book.” Being specific helps keep me focused.

A lot of authors will set a goal like: sell a lot of books. Well, but what is “a lot”? Again, I try to be specific. My goal is to sell an average of two books a day. That feels attainable, and once I’ve hit that mark I can set a new goal to reach. Alternatively, I might set a goal of making a certain amount of money each month or annually.

It circles back to the success question. “What will it take for me to consider myself successful?” I ask myself this often because the answer can change over time. There’s always a new goalpost. And that’s fine, that keeps me going. Selling two books a day will make me feel successful. Being nominated for an award or recognized in some way for my work. Having one of my scripts go into production. I count all these as elements of success.

Perhaps SUCCESS is made up of many little successes. Or it is for me anyway. Success is something that is built, not something that happens. It’s the payoff for hard work.

It’s tough to be patient sometimes while building that success. We want it to happen now and wonder when all our work will finally be enough. From the outside looking in, it can often seem like everyone else is so successful and somehow we’ve missed the boat. It’s easy to feel defeated, like all our work is fruitless.

This is why it’s so important to keep our eyes on our own goals and work toward them. “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I don’t know who actually said that, but it’s so true. We must define success for ourselves as a personal thing and then not worry about how well everyone else is doing.

1. Define what success means to you
2. Set concrete, quantifiable goals that will help you be successful by your own definition
3. Repeat

What does success mean to you? What goals have you set and how do you go about meeting them?

Here’s a random fact about me: I hate the smell of certain cereals. Honey Nut Cheerios, Lucky Charms, basically oat cereals—I can’t stand the way they smell. I’m fine with the fruity cereals like Froot Loops, I guess because the fruit smell covers the oat smell? Corn Pops or Flakes and those kinds of cereals don’t bother me either. Just those oat/bran cereals. Yuck.

Anyway, this has been your random author fact of the day.

The beginning of a new Regency romance titled Faebourne:

Duncan Oliver was in every respect an unremarkable gentleman. He was not tall, though also not any shorter than would be deemed respectable. He was not rich, though again not particularly in want. And though he rode well, he was not especially keen on sports or gaming. To summarize, Duncan Oliver was the kind of man easily overlooked by the world. To this he had become accustomed and resigned.

And so the day someone finally did notice him became the day his life changed.

This one is Regency with a touch of magic.

I’ve heard a lot of chatter about “the media” lately, mostly aimed at the news outlets as they attempt to cover the new presidency. Yes, the news can be biased. But it also acts as a kind of filter, an interpreter for the masses. And we need that.

Imagine you’re deaf. Someone is saying something really important, and you need to know what it is and perhaps also what it means. An interpreter steps forward and begins to sign. Relief! Sometimes the signs they choose are a little off from what’s being said because there is more than one way to sign something—it’s all about context and connotation. Sometimes the interpreter signs something in a way that makes you think, Huh. I would have used this sign instead, but I get what they mean. Better to have an interpreter than no one at all.

“But I can read lips!” you say. Okay, good for you. But how fast can you read them? And can you understand everything that is being said?

I suppose if I wanted to devote the time and energy, I could do a ton of research and slowly learn to interpret everything the president and Congress does for myself. Just like if I wanted to get a degree in theology I could interpret holy texts for myself and disregard the millennia of knowledge of others. But in the process of getting that degree, I would have to take all that knowledge into account anyway. That would actually be part of the learning process. There is no unfiltered, unbiased, raw data. It doesn’t exist.

We don’t all of us have time to hunt down every fact, every historical precedent, etc. That’s what journalists are for. The things the White House and Congress might hope we’ll overlook—the media won’t, and they’ll let us know what’s happening. And yeah, they may “spin” it, but better to know what is happening than not. We can see through spin, but we can’t see through the obfuscating smoke that the government is attempting to cloud things with.

  1. Irene – a “strong” woman with a shady past who ultimately needs to be rescued by the hero
  2. Mary – a “strong” woman with a shady past who ultimately needs to be rescued by the hero (but isn’t)
  3. Eurus – a “strong” woman with a shady past who ultimately needs to be rescued by the hero
  4. Molly – a weak woman whose attempts to assert herself are unconvincing and unsuccessful, and who pines for the hero and allows him to manipulate her repeatedly
  5. Mrs. Hudson – a strong [older] woman played for comic relief

Digital Book World is happening now (wish I were there), and one topic up for discussion is whether more people would visit bookstores if the stores also had booze? You know, cuz the café thing has worn thin.

I think bookstores have to do something to get people in. Now that people get their books off Amazon, the bookstores need to offer something else to tempt people, something that will get them off their couches and into the physical stores. Author events seem to draw middling crowds at best, depending on the author(s). In fact, I’ve already been told that if I’m going to do an author event, I should plan to have food and drinks too. Just being an author is no longer enough. Author + Something Else (a class/workshop, a dinner party, whatever) is the way to go.

Or maybe just dump the author entirely and open a bookstore restaurant. I don’t know. That seems to be the way these things are trending. The books take up less and less space as more room is needed for, as the article linked above mentions, dance classes and the like.

Look, I love bookstores. I want them to stay in business. And like we authors, they’re doing what they have to do to stay afloat. Even if it means on a wave of wine.

So tell me: what events or perks should bookstores offer? What would it take to get you out of the house and to the bookstore rather than the convenience of ordering online?

So the biggest complaint about my Sherlock Holmes story “The Mystery of the Last Line” is that it has an ambiguous ending. I wrote the story in 1999 as part of my application to grad school (and yes, I was accepted). At the time, I sort of meant the reader to infer a lot of things. But I guess perhaps, despite my goal, I was not clear enough. So, with that in mind, I’ve started a direct sequel to “Last Line.” Here’s a wee bit of it:

It was some weeks after our return from exile at Holmesweald before I was able to take steps toward learning more about the various situations that conspired to make Sherlock Holmes the man he would become . . .

After suffering the illness that came with withdrawal from his reliance on cocaine, he rebounded to his energetic self, immersing himself in every little case and crisis that came his way. I only dreaded the idea there might yet come a day without anything to occupy him. Would he relapse into his former habit?

I resolved not to allow it, but in so doing firmly believed I would need to get to the core of things if I was to stop it from happening. While at Holmesweald I had learned more than Holmes himself would have liked me to know, and I had no desire to make him uncomfortable—or angry. But my concern for him ran deeper than my fear of his reaction. He might condemn me for sentimentality, but that was a small enough price for securing his health and preserving that extraordinary mind.

It was this determination on my part that drove me to act in the manner I will now set forth. I only ask that you, dear readers, remember that my intentions were all for the best. My behavior, in retrospect, was unconscionable but prompted entirely by care for my friend.

It’s in human nature, I think, to want to avoid criticism. We want to please. And in careers where pleasing others is the ultimate goal—where one’s livelihood is based on pleasing the greatest possible number of people—criticism can feel all the harsher and sometimes seemingly fatal.

Writers, for example, want and need readers. So they want to please that potential audience. Sometimes they do, and sometimes the readers make it very clear where the author has fallen down on the job.

The key is to remember you really can’t please everyone. There’s just no way. Unfortunately, those who are displeased are often more vocal than those who are perfectly content with your work. (Of course, if more than a few people are unhappy with whatever you’ve done, you probably need to revisit it.)

But here’s the next important thing when facing criticism: Don’t respond.

It seems there are usually two ways artists of whatever kind are likely to react to criticism. They either (a) argue their side, or (b) try to do what they think the critics want.

I’m here to tell you not to do either of these things.

If you argue against your critics, you come off as arrogant and unlikable. If you are perceived as arrogant and unlikable, you make yourself a greater target for criticism while simultaneously risking your core fan base who might be turned off by your behavior. Be gracious, always. Be willing to admit when the critics might be right (yes, they sometimes are), or if you don’t think they are, thank them anyway for their input, or else remain dignifiedly silent. Then walk away.

The flip side of sparking out against your critics is to try and please them. In a day and age where there are so many ways to be aware of what others think—not just magazines now, but social media—an insecure artist may gather up all the bits and pieces of his or her failure and try to make amends by doing ALL THE THINGS the critics say they should do. In short, they try to write to spec. But in the process they invariably lose the flow and joy that was the origination of their art. They start to worry about doing it “wrong” or whether people will like it. They cease to enjoy the work, and that shows in the final product. The end result is something stilted and unnatural.

Fear of criticism should never be allowed to color the work.

You know how they say “dance like no one is watching.” It’s true for every art. Write like no one will read it, like it’s only for you and your characters. My best moments on stage occurred when I forgot the audience was there and just felt the role. Paint until you’re satisfied with the picture because in the end only your opinion will matter. Yes, it’s true. In the end, you must be satisfied with your work. If others like it, that’s just icing. And gratification seldom if ever comes from catering to the reader or viewer. Oh, you might make more money that way! If money is your only goal, by all means, crank out whatever formulaic thing is hot these days. Otherwise, I advise against it.

I, for one, consider The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller to be my best work. At the very least, it’s the one I put the most love and craft into. I’ve been told by many others, however, that my Sherlock Holmes stories are best. And at least two people have told me, no, Manifesting Destiny is the best thing I’ve ever written. What’s a writer to do? Well, I certainly do take all this into consideration. But my own heart counts for more than the outer clamor. So while I know from a logical point of view I should write more Sherlock Holmes in order to make more money, I find myself flowing with my inspiration and writing . . . Whatever I feel like.

(BTW, I have at least *started* a new Sherlock Holmes story. Just don’t know when I’ll finish it.)

I’m not going to say, “Don’t listen to your critics.” Feedback is important. But you need to learn to weigh it appropriately. And you shouldn’t let it drive your art.