Bangin’ Keys on the Hoopty ‘Puter

My laptop is now in the tender care of Gothicdweller’s hubby, Mike, at Fast Systems computer repair in Picayune. I say tender care because my idea of fixing it was the driving urge to take a ball peen hammer to it out of frustration. Mike told me to put the hammer away. He has the patience of Job. He explained slowly and carefully, as if for the simple-minded (or in my case red-headed temper fit inclined), for the thousandth-time-over, no matter how much devastation I wreak on it, the hard drive will still be intact and the hard drive contains the problem.

So while Mike’s fixing mine I’m using my hubby’s antique laptop hoopty computer. He loves the thing, even if he uses the excuse he keeps it ‘so the grandkids will stay off the one I write on’. The truth is he hates change. Thank heavens, or I’d probably have been traded in eons ago!

It’s old (antique), slow (I can do housework —shucks!— while waiting for it to go from site to site), makes noises (truly obscene whines and groans) and weighs a ton. How heavy? Imagine working with a twenty pound granite slab in your lap. Of course, I get exercise pretty regularly when using it. I have to get up and jog in place to restore circulation to my legs from the thigh down from time to time.

I really shouldn’t complain, because at least I can still work while waiting for mine. The thing actually has– Hallelujah! –a USB port for my memory stick. Mike breathed enough temporary life into mine to recover a requested story I was working on. I make a practice of saving everything to an outside source, with only the collective first three or four chapters of each MS set to submit on my actual laptop, but Murphy’s Law decreed the only one I needed hadn’t been backed up before shutting down.

All the laughing hoopty talk we did prompted a memory. The kids, all now grown, knew a fantastic young man in Jr. High and Highschool who drove an old brown Ford LTD Station Wagon. I mean really old, even back then. It was huge as older versions of Station Wagons tended to be, so big it looked like a land-locked yacht rolling up and down the dirt roads around here. The paint was a chalky memory of its original color. Except for the darker places where a few tenacious pieces of chrome had taken their time falling off. But he’d proudly christened it “My Hoopty” down both sides in bold white letters. Other students drove everything from jacked-up, mud-tired four-wheel-drive pickup trucks, sports cars, hand-me-down parent sedans, even a Beamer. He was teased unmercifully by classmates about his poo-poo rider.

But at least once, every single one of them had to call “My Hoopty” for a ride because their ‘better’ vehicle had broken down. Turns out this kid was a master mechanic. And it was a good thing he never held a grudge. The guys in the bad boy pickups went mud riding? My Hoopty would have mud piled atop the front bumper where it’d plowed its way in to help drag a few trucks from bogs, or replace ruined universal joints at the front of a drive shaft. When the new fangled electronic systems went haywire on the new sedans, good old My Hoopty with its trusty points and plugs showed up to get them rolling again. Even my youngest daughter’s low slung Nissan sports car needed a rescue at three in the morning. Of course, she’d managed to skid sideways through three front yards on Hwy. 603, after dodging a deer doing ninety. Her, not the deer. (Yes, I convinced her she needed a truck. A full size one. More metal surrounding her in case she decided to go gunning for lawn ornaments again.) I have a picture, too, somewhere in an album, a shot I almost didn’t get. Too many tears in my eyes from laughing at the image of My Hoopty’s oversized pointed hood parting traffic like the prow of a ship parting waves, dragging a smart navy blue Beamer with sparkling little wheels on a tow strap behind it.

Guess that means I need to quit poking fun at hubby’s Hoopty ‘Puter. Especially since it’s still running and mine isn’t. Seems the old hoopties keep going no matter what. I’m going to ask that you excuse me for now. My legs are numb again, and I need to set an alarm for six this evening before I forget.

I’m sure I’ll have to start the upload at that time tonight for this to post at 12:01 Friday!

Happy Hoopty-ing, folks! I’m sure enjoying (?) my current experience!

Badurday-October 9, 2010- Liam Cormac

Liam - a little older but still with the devilish look

I already know I’m in trouble with Sayde Grace. She won’t be able to resist  making fun of me for this Badurday post. She loves to tease me about my inspiration!  Badurday was the first weekly feature of this blog when we set it up in August 2009. I chose the idea of Badurday because of another website I love that has Caturday where funny cat pictures are posted on Saturdays. My plan was to feature bad boys of  film and books on every Saturday. I had another bloke in mind for this week but when I got some good news this week, I decided to post my own bad boy of fiction today. And the inspiration for him.

Let me start at the beginning. Last year was the first year I had heard of NaNoWriMo. November is National Novel Writing month and the challenge is to write 50,000 words during the month of November. http://www.nanowrimo.org/  Several friends and I decided we wanted to play. I had no plan for a story idea.  About three weeks before November 1, 2009, I woke up to a man in my head. He said, “my name is Liam Cormac and you’re gonna tell my story.” Well,  Okaaayy…

So, about two days after that, I came up with his story- or he told me his story, I should say.  A historical- gasp, no. Please no, Liam. I never wanted to write a historical. Don’t get me wrong, I am a history hound. Love, love, love it. BUT I’m scared to death of the history  police. Terrified. Quake in the boots frightened. What if I got a phrase wrong? What if I had a character use something that hadn’t been invented yet? There was much to fear.  AND, surprisingly, as I wrote it,  my feeble brain kicked in and the mistakes I almost made, I caught in time.  Three almost mistakes come to mind. One: Liam told me he was on the RMS Queen Mary. Well, no, dude, you weren’t- your story occured in 1920. The Queen Mary sailed from 1936-1967- so, I had to find another Cunard Line ship. I found the RMS Mauretania had the perfect time line and it also had a history I needed as a troop ship during WWI.  Two:  My heroine, Peg, is a lounge singer. I wanted her to sing Stardust. Then I remembered it was composed in 1927 – so, nope. She couldn’t sing it. Pity as I love the song. Three: I got them to the USA on the ship and was going to get her a job in a bar in New York. Until I remembered that Prohibition came into law in 1919. Oh, dear, what to do? The answer came, Peg made her way to Chicago and went to work in a speakeasy (and yeah, I know they had them in NYC as well, but Chicago was so much more gangster friendly- if there is such a thing).  So, the fact that I’ve always been intrigued by the 1920s and that era came in handy.  The old subconscious saved my butt.

So, I wrote my historical romance called Redemption for the Devil for NaNoWriMo. It was a wild ride and I had a blast. Actually wrote 51,000 words in 21 days. Had to finish early as we were traveling to see #1 son in Boca Raton where he’s in college. We were spending Thanksgiving weekend there. I knew I wouldn’t get any writing done so I pushed on and finished early.  Once I was done, I let it simmer for a while and edited it only slightly. I didn’t over do the history as I didn’t want it to seem too dull.

I submitted it to Samhain Publishing after our GCCRWA conference in March 2010.  It was ultimately rejected in June, 2010.  I then submitted it to Desert Breeze Publishing in early July, 2010.  I also had a request for it at National RWA Conference but before I could send it to that editor, the acquisitions editor at Desert Breeze emailed me in early August and said she liked it but wasn’t prepared to offer a contract. She stated that I needed to draw the reader more into the era.  She asked me to add more historical detail and resubmit.  So, shows what I know. I thought too much detail wasn’t good.  I spent September revising and adding 25,000 words to it. The basic story remained the same- I just added way more detail.  Sent it back to her on September 25, 2010.

So, the grand news is that she emailed me on the 5th of October. Among other things, she said, “Bravo! I feel much more engaged and the details are brighter and livelier.”  She offered me a contract and I accepted it. The book will be released in July 2011.

Liam, my Irish devil, told me I’d tell his story and I have. I’m proud to say that I love him almost as much as Peg does and I’m hoping the readers will, too. And pray that the historical police don’t get me.

Here’s my inspiration for how Liam looks. He can sneer with the best of them. And yes, even though I captioned the pictures as Liam, I know what this man’s mamma named him for real.

How Liam looks- the proper hair length

Liam in modern clothes

Angela James & Southern Magic

A Summary of Presentation by Angela James, Executive Director of Carina Press, at the Southern Magic RWA Chapter meeting in the Homewood Library.

ANGELA JAMES discussed the digital-first publication industry in general and Carina Press specifically. Several authors familiar with the industry contributed, including Moira Rogers who is a multi-published author with Samhain. Thanks to everyone for generously sharing so much and to our sister chapter, Southern Magic RWA, for the invitation to attend and for being such gracious hosts. (Note: Some questions asked at the end were incorporated into the body of the presentation.)

     Carina is an imprint of Harlequin and benefits from the international exposure, the Harlequin staff, and their connection with Audiobooks. Carina also has a relationship with Amazon.com. Carina focuses on romance but also mysteries, thrillers, historical fiction, women’s fiction, and erotica. The Carina brand is different from Harlequin. It can, for example, publish books about Chinese brides in 19th century San Francisco, steam punk, and M/M historicals.
     GENRES: Erotica remains one of the popular digitally published genres. Paranormals are also popular despite the glut. The market for short stories (15,000 words) is up. Series are accepted but mention that it is a series. Previously published books are accepted, if the rights have reverted to the author. Inspirational and Young Adult are for specific target audiences and are not accepted. Nonfiction (including cookbooks) and women’s fiction do not do well.
    SUBMISSIONS: Response time is about four weeks compared to 12-14 weeks with print pubs. Send the whole manuscript. Ms. James inputs queries into a database and assigns the manuscripts to free-lance editors. Multiple submissions are allowed. Simultaneous submissions are OK but let her know if you contract with another publisher. 

   PUBLICATIONS:  After the initial launch in June, Carina will release 1-3 books each week.

     Digital first publishers initially focused on readers of nontraditional books. Examples included Ellora’s Cave and Liquid Silver Books. General advantages included convenience, accessibility, costs, and other content available.
     ADVANTAGES of digital-first publishing to the author include: (1) faster response to submissions; (2) faster to market; (3) paid more quickly; (4) no reserve on digital sales; (5) flexibility of length; (6) genre out of favor accepted (there’s always someone looking for it.); (7) increased intimacy working with editor (more one-on-one time.); (8) advice on career; (9) free lance editors involved on covers and editorial; (10) more accessible staff; (11) can work with agent or not (especially with Harlequin) (12) marketing and promotion (training with social media, postcards and % off codes; widgets with links to blog posts, books, live authors and authors put up every two weeks; members of Harlequin Community and RT blog.) (13) acquires one book at a time – not required to sign option and (14) able to fill in gaps between print publications and try out other genres. (15) Carina places no limit on author copies and Samhain allows ten copies and additional purchase of author copies. (Author suggestion: can create CD to include in gift baskets and giveaways.)
     DISADVANTAGES of digital-first publishing to the author include: (1) bulk of sales in print (95-98% of market) (2) contracts can provide option for additional books.

     THE MONEY: Some variations because publishers work to keep successful authors.  Carina books are available from the Carina site and Amazon digital. Authors receive 30% of the Amazon digital price vs from 4% to 7 or 8% in print. Authors can earn from $15 to $15,000 per book, depending on the quality of the digital first publisher.

Note: Went WAY over my post limit. For Ms. James’ comments on DRM, E-readers, finding reputable publishers, the lifetime of books, and writing under other names visit the Behind the Scenes page on my website, ritavanfleet.com.  Next Moonday, we’ll check out our first Anti-Heroic Hunk, King John Lackland of England. You won’t believe some of the stories about him. RitaVF

Countdown to the Conference Interview with Samhain Editor Lindsey Faber

 Hello everyone! This is our last agent/editor interview before Silken Sands Writers Conference begins this weekend. I’m excited and nervous all at the same time. Its going to fun but man I’m getting shaky about my material. But with editors as nice and intersting as our editor today I can’t be too nervous. So to everyone else here is Ms. Faber’s interview:

                Sayde: Tell us what you think is hot and what’s not. 

                Ms. Faber: Oh, man. This is the question most agents and editors dread, because it’s so difficult to answer. Especially for the digital market, in which audiences tend to read widely and voraciously, with less interest in genre than in authors who can tell a great story. The digital world also tends to be a little more fast-paced, so we never know what trend is just around the corner.

                But here are a few thoughts on the digital market based on what we’re seeing at Samhain. I think the erotic market is becoming saturated, and though there’s still room to break out really great authors, we’re past the days of seeing anything with an erotic label sell like hotcakes. Probably the biggest rising trend in digital is gay romance, in part because it’s not a subgenre offered by more mainstream publishers.

                Traditionally, digital has been strongly associated with erotic and other niche genres, but I think there’s growing opportunity for writers of non-erotic, more mainstream romance. As devices like the Kindle and the Nook bring a larger audience to ebooks, there’s an increasing number of readers with more traditional tastes, looking for the kind of books they’re used to finding at brick-and-mortar bookstores. Books that have formerly been a hard sell to our core digital audience are finding popularity with the new readers who are discovering ebooks, as well as the readers who find our books in print.

                Paranormal and urban fantasy continue to be popular sellers. Our readers love shifters, but there’s still room for vampires and other paranormal characters as long as the story is fresh. Contemporary is also one of our most popular genres for all heat levels. But Samhain is also eager to expand our offerings and build a larger audience for genres we haven’t been as well known for, such as historical and interracial, and the editors have expressed a particular interest in receiving more futuristic, science fiction, and space opera.

                Sayde: What types of work are you most interested in seeing at the 2010 Silken Sands Conference?

                Ms. Faber: Samhain is currently open to all subgenres of romance and erotica, as well as fantasy, urban fantasy, and science fiction with strong romantic elements. We accept submissions of 12,000 words and above and welcome all heat levels, from just kisses to no-holds-barred erotica.

Personally, I live by the Samhain motto, “It’s all about the story”, so I hope authors will pitch me great stories featuring compelling, realistic characters. I have varied reading tastes and edit a little of everything, so I’m open to any genre and heat level. I love to find things that are a little off-trend, different from what might be offered by a larger publisher, such as unusual settings, less popular historical time periods time periods, and non-traditional character types. I’m currently on the lookout for a good historical western, but I’d love something even more unusual, like pirates. I always love to see more paranormal and urban fantasy, and I’m dying to do superheroes. I have a lot of contemporary on my plate at the moment, but I’m always open to more and would particularly like to have more short (novella or category length) non-erotic contemporaries. And I have a growing interest in futurists and science fiction. But again, my interests turn less to genres than to stories. Some of my favorites are reunited couples, friends to lovers, mistaken identity, or stories that keep the characters on the move—in any genre.

                                Sayde: This question goes back to the “writer rumors”, but so many times I’ve heard that agents/editors will throw out a manuscript if they see grammatical errors. Personally, this is a huge one for me as I am grammatically challenged.  Many times authors will edit and edit then send to a contest and have their manuscript ripped to shreds because they used “ing”, “ly” or “was” to much for the judges liking. Do you look for these issues when reading requested material or is it more about the story?

        Ms. Faber: One of the most important skills for an editor is the ability to take off her editing hat and read the way a reader would. When I read submissions, this is what I’m trying to do. I’m not watching for correct hyphen usage or tallying up the number of misplaced modifiers—I’m trying to lose myself in the story. It’s my job to help authors tighten their writing, so I’m not going to be intimidated by a few awkward sentences or some excess adverbs—this is common for many beginning authors and even some who are more experienced.

That said, poor grammar can weaken an author’s style, and numerous errors will pull a reader out of the story. Authors should want to put their best foot forward with any submission, and that means turning in a manuscript that’s as well-written and error-free as possible. For authors who struggle with grammar and typos, I recommend finding a reliable critique partner or beta reader before submitting.

Sayde: What is your opinion on emarket vs. traditional print? I know this is a hot topic and we all appreciate whatever comments you can give us.

        Ms. Faber: I feel authors shouldn’t have to look at the digital versus print question as though it’s an either-or decision. The industry is rapidly moving toward a future where we won’t be talking about digital publishing or print publishing—just publishing. Print publishers are working to expand their digital presence, and many of the larger epublishers have print programs as well.

The digital market is growing exponentially, and I think it has something to offer almost any author, no matter where she is in her career. It offers a less intimidating, more personal environment to writers starting out, or a chance to build and audience and a platform before approaching a larger publisher. For established authors, it can offer more creative freedom—the chance to write a short story or novella or try out a new genre. It’s also becoming a popular way to make old, out-of-print books accessible to newer fans. And for some authors, it can be a career in and of itself—some authors make excellent money off their ebooks.

        I wouldn’t be at Samhain if I didn’t believe digital was the future, but the truth is it’s still a distant future. Ebook sales currently make up only 3-5% of all book sales, and while the market is growing quickly, we’re still years away from ebooks becoming the preferred format. The best way to reach the largest audience is still through print, and as such, Samhain has developed an extensive print program. Our print titles are distributed through Ingram and can be found on the shelves of numerous brick-and-mortar bookstores, including Barnes & Noble and Borders. To date, our print sales for 2010 are up 68% over last year, and we’re exploring many options to expand our print reach. We’ll continue to be a leader in digital, but we want to reach readers no matter how they choose to read, and be a publisher of stories, not of formats.

Sayde: I know that when I am researching an agent or editor, I Google them,  check their Facebook page, and tweet them. I read their posts and blogs.  I try to see if their tastes would lean toward my writing style or not. And I try to get a feel for their personality to see if we might “mesh well” if the opportunity ever arose. If you have a manuscript on your desk, do you ever check the same accounts for that author?  Do you ever check to see what he/she is posting? If so, have you been influenced by what you’ve learned?

Ms. Faber: I often check to see if the author has a website. Author promotion is increasingly important, especially in the digital market, and authors who are already building a name for themselves have a leg up. Plus, a website can give me more information about an author’s publishing history and goals than I’ll get from the query letter. If there’s a link to a blog, I might check that too—for more details on what’s going on in the author’s career or just out of natural curiosity. I rarely look further into social networking, though I’m reasonably active on Twitter and lurk around a lot of popular blogs and message boards, so I have received submissions from (and even signed) writers whose names I was familiar with.

As I said, checking out websites is mostly about information-gathering, so I don’t have any particular expectations, though I’m always glad to see a site that’s clear, professional, and easy to navigate—features I think are more important than a flashy or expensive design. If anything, I find these visits tend to reinforce my interest—if I’ve really connected with an author’s voice enough to check her site, there’s a good chance we share a similar sensibility and I can expect to enjoy her approach to her website and blog as well.

But authors should keep in mind that unprofessional behavior—posting rejection letters or other private correspondence, badmouthing others, sharing the intimate details of your sex life or continually ranting about politics—is a real turn off to editors. Readers, especially the digital audience, tend to be in tune to the online romance community, and it’s going to be difficult to build an author who does nothing but offend her audience. As an editor, I don’t want to take on an author I’ll have to rein in, who lacks business savvy or who I fear will be difficult to work with. Unprofessional behavior of any kind is a huge red flag.

Sayde: If an author has queried you and you’ve rejected that query/partial and the author emails you asking for details on why you’ve rejected their ms, what is your process here? Do you give specific reasons on why the manuscript may not have been for you?

Ms. Faber: Samhain uses a standard form rejection letter. I know how eager authors are for feedback and helping authors is my favorite part of this job, but the sad truth is that I just don’t have the time to respond personally to every submission. I can send a form rejection in a matter of seconds, but writing a truly helpful rejection can take hours. It requires a much deeper analysis of the book, the ability to articulate the specific problems, and the time to compose a constructive response.

I occasionally write personalized rejections—when I have the time and something constructive and encouraging to say to the author—but if I don’t respond personally in the original rejection, I won’t when asked for further details (and I have a form response for those emails, too). It’s not personal, and it doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like to see more of the author’s work; it just means I wasn’t able to pinpoint a way to make the story better that I could express quickly and concisely.

Sayde: As a final wrap up could you tell us some of your pet peeves in the industry? Or is there anything happening in the industry you’d care to comment on or discuss?  We’d love to hear some of your views and opinions on the state of the craft and the market.

Ms. Faber: One of the hot topics in digital is the prevalence of piracy and the use of DRM (Digital Rights Management) to control it. I have a lot to say on the subject—including some pet peeves—that I’ll be happy to discuss at the agent/editor panel, at the workshop I’m participating in, or any other time you happen to catch me at the conference. Not to leave you hanging, but I have to save something to say this weekend. 😉 Thanks for a thoughtful interview!

Countdown to Conference Interview Two, Author Cat Johnson’s Cowboys

SAYDE:  Hello everyone. I’m so sorry to be posting this midday but I was sick this morning and still not feeling well so bear with me. Today we have as our guest blogger author Cat Johnson. If you’ve never read any of her erotic romances, get prepared to go get them because they are GREAT. I just can’t say enough wonderful things about the characters Cat  created and brought to life in her books, so I’ll let her tell you more about them.

CAT JOHNSON:

MORE ABOUT THE COWBOY BOOKS
Here is a confession… I fear I may be a bit of a cougar. This suspicion came to light when I met online and started working closely with a bull rider twenty years my junior who helped me write my cowboy books.
It’s not my fault, really. I mean younger men are hot. Have you looked at them? If so, then you have to agree. Sure, you may have to do things like explain to a younger man who The Who was during the Superbowl halftime show. And maybe they were born during the year you graduated college, putting them firmly in the “yes, I could have birthed him” category. But again, I remind you of the tight stomachs, the stamina (you know, in case you’re jogging with them), and of course, an eagerness to please you just don’t find in older men.
 

Do my not-so-secret cougar tendencies creep up in my writing? You bet they do. The older heroine/younger bull riders theme in my cowboy threesome Unridden (Studs in Spurs, Book 1) http://mybookstoreandmore.com/shop/product.da/unridden-sp is evidence of that. Also the frequent reappearance in both books 1 and 2 in the series of the young rookie bull rider Chase who likes older women is further testament that although I don’t have the liberty of acting on my cougar nature, I enjoy it immensely in my fantasy world.
 

Okay, maybe I do flirt a little bit with my cowboy consultant. And yes, I’ll admit the character of Chase is totally based upon my cowboy, who thank God had another birthday. So now, thanks to the wonders of mathematics, is no longer exactly half my age the way he was the year I first met him. But aside from that, I must satisfy my inner cougar with my writing.
Yes, I’m not done with Chase (or my cowboy) yet. There are a few of his personal experiences written into BUCKED http://new.mybookstoreandmore.com/shop/product.da/bucked which spent its fifth day in the number one slot at MBaM today! And I just this week started writing Chase’s story for Studs in Spurs Book 3. I only hope I can make the fictional cowboy live up to his inspiration. 

 

SAYDE GRACE:   I’d like to add that my favorite of Cat’s books is Roughstock. I love the blend of emotion and desire she weaved within the characters in that book. All of her books have great emotional depth but for my personal tastes Roughstock is my pick.  But all who read this and leave a comment I will put your name in a drawing and Saturday morning I’ll draw for a winner to recieve a gift certificate to buy one of  Cat’s terrific books. Bucked was just released and after reading it I can say without a doubt she’s done it again! Don’t forget to leave your comments and next week we have agent Joyce Holland from the D4EO Literary Agency as well as author Amber Leigh Williams.

So take a look at Cat’s books and enter to win one!

                                                                                                                                         

 

 

 

                                                                                     

 

 

Sex Sales, Yes or No???

Hello everyone! Wow, it’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted and I’m ashamed to admit that! But on a positive note, I have many good reasons to why I haven’t been able to post.  My recent absence was caused because I received a few requests for two of my manuscripts. After I got those three requests done I sent out “feelers” to other publishing houses. All I can say is WOW!

In the last two weeks I’ve sent my erotic romance to Samhain, Ellora’s Cave, Loose ID, Kensington, and Scarlet Rose. Today I am proud to say that each publishing house has either a partial or full of Ride Em’ Cowgirl which is the first of my three book series entitle “Built Cowgirl Tough”.

So after querying three manuscripts which ranged from romantic suspense to paranormal suspense I’m finally starting to see success with my writing. Does this mean everything before this book was junk or simply that sex sales? Tell me your opinions?

Happy Holidays to everyone and I had a fantastic time at the party.

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