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Books I’ll Probably Never Read Tag

This one is making the rounds, so I’m not 100% sure who to credit for it… Whoever you are, thanks for the blog prompt!

1. A really hyped book you’re not interested in reading.

Just about anything by Kristin Hannah, really. Or Liane Moriarty. I tried one of hers once and could not get into it. There’s something about literary women’s fiction that puts me off. I can’t identify with the characters at all.

2. A series you won’t start/be finishing.

Everything I’ve read about the Court of Thorns and Roses books is just a no for me. I also tried reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and couldn’t get into it, so I won’t continue on that one. Same with the Game of Thrones books. (Yes, okay, A Song of Ice and Fire.)

3. A classic that you’re just not interested in.

Just about anything by Charles Dickens. We had to read Great Expectations in school, and it was excruciating. Though not as bad as Les Misérables. So I won’t read any more Victor Hugo either.

4. Any genres you never read.

I don’t read erotica. Not my thing. Not into westerns or hard sci-fi either.

5. A book on your shelves you’ll probably never actually read.

I’ve had Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell on my shelf for a long, long time. Watched and loved the television adaptation but will probably never actually heft the book to read it.

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.

Facts About Faebourne

I was planning to do this as a video, but I still haven’t figured out how to make *good* videos, so I’ll just post this instead for now. May yet to a video later.

The ebook version of Faebourne is out now, and the paperback will be out in a couple more weeks. However, I’ve had a few questions come in, so I thought I’d answer them. SPOILERS FOLLOW

Fun Fact: Davies was originally named Michaels. This was before I decided to write chapters from George’s and Davies’ points of view. At first, the novel was going to be all Duncan. But then I thought it might be fun to follow George and [then] Michaels as they went to “rescue” Duncan. As I began writing those chapters, it became increasingly clear that George and Michaels were falling in love. Well, I couldn’t have George + Michaels. And George is such a George, so Michaels had to give up his name. I think it fits him just as well.

Fun Fact: When I started writing, I thought Edward was the gay one and anticipated Edward and George getting together. The characters clearly had other ideas.

Fun Fact: Without realizing it until the book was finished, I gave the Milne siblings the same first initials as my three children.

Q: If the mirror shows a person’s true self, what did Aloysius see when he looked in it?

Oooh. Good question! I honestly don’t know, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t just a fox. In fact, I also suspect Richard saw something slightly different from his usual reflection, and I wonder if that might be one of the reasons he broke the mirror? I’d love to hear readers’ speculations on this.

Q: You know that Lord Montcliffe couldn’t just give the title to his nephew, right?

Yes, and I’m sorry I wasn’t a bit clearer in the text. Davies would inherit the title whether he wanted it or not, but he could refuse to use it. And Lord Montcliffe could will his money and other property to his nephew if he wanted to disinherit Davies to any degree. Meanwhile, the nephew’s assumption is that he is heir presumptive because he (like most everyone else connected to Lord Montcliffe) did not know of Davies’ existence.

Q: Will they ever go back to Faebourne?

I sort of have this idea that at some point Faebourne will become George and Davies’ hideaway. When Davies is eventually pressed into marriage and/or when good will turns against their relationship and it can no longer be overlooked. As for the Milnes, none of them seem all that attached to the family home.

Q: But what happened to Aloysius?!

So much love for Aloysius! He went with Adelia and Duncan, of course. He’s Adelia’s guardian/familiar, after all. And probably wiser than Richard.

Q: No romance for Richard?

Honestly, he’s not interested. He’s asexual.

Q: What’s with Edward’s “kaleidoscope” eyes?

Well, remember that the Milnes do have fairy blood in their family line. Odd traits are bound to surface now and then. And no, I wasn’t riffing on The Beatles.

So those were the questions readers had (so far). If you read Faebourne and have questions about it, feel free to ask and I’ll do my best to answer!

The Cocoons Are Opening

That title sounds a lot creepier than I intended. What I mean is that the butterflies are starting to emerge. The ones in my stomach. Because my presentation at the local library looms on the horizon.

I generally don’t mind speaking engagements, though I often prefer to be on a panel than be a sole presenter. Mostly I worry that the attendees will feel like I’m lecturing, that I’ll bore them, or that they won’t get what they came for—namely, that I’ll disappoint them. I suppose that’s a normal concern to have. (Is it? Please tell me it is!)

I outlined my talk months ago and had the PowerPoint partially done. Today I finished it, so I do feel more prepared now. It’s all information I’ve given at other venues in other ways, so this compilation is not entirely new, which means I’m comfortable with my familiarity with the material. That helps.

But the audience will be new to me. I think some of my writing group are planning to attend, and I don’t know whether that makes me feel better or more nervous.

All I can do is my best, I suppose. Hopefully, if all goes well, I’ll be asked to speak at other venues too. I’ve done a few small writing conferences, but I’d like to do more.

Have you ever had to give a presentation? Do you get nervous? Any tips or tricks to keep the butterflies at bay? (No, the naked audience thing doesn’t really work for me.)

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?