Thursday, October 30, 2008

Galley Time

The lifecycle of a novel is a long one. First I submit a proposal to my editor. This usually consists of three chapters and a synopsis. If she likes what she sees, she makes my agent an offer. They haggle a bit and finally everything is agreed upon.And we're off to the races.

I may or may not adhere to my original synopsis and in the case of VEXING THE VISCOUNT, this story didn't even have a title. It was the option book in a 2 book contract, so I had free rein for the story. That's both liberating and terrifying. Even before my editor reads the story, she writes the back cover blurb and gets the art department working on the cover. I have some imput at this point, but no veto power. I'm writing like a demon, fear nipping my heels. I might finish the entire novel and turn it in, only to have my editor hate it. (She didn't, thank heaven! In fact, she loves VEXING more than my PIRATE book)

Once I turn the manuscript in (about 9 months prior to publication) my editor takes a crack at it, suggesting revisions while the manuscript is also shopped out to a copy editor who minds all my P's and Q's. I take a look at the revisions and my editor and I negotiate changes. This part of the process is exciting. The book begins to sparkle like a gem.

Then the revised manuscript is turned over to an editorial assistant who formats it into its final form, called a galley. In a galley, the book is printed two pages to a sheet of paper in the same size font as the book will appear. The galley for VEXING THE VISCOUNT arrived in the mail today. This is my last chance to make changes in the manuscript, but there's a caveat. At this point, the book's already been typeset. Every change costs money so there is no re-writing now. If there's a typo or a mistake that will alter the meaning of the sentence, I can make a change, but I need to be judicious about it. YOu may wonder why some books have errors in them. This is why.

Sometimes, things pop up in galleys that weren't in my original manuscript. Sometimes entire sentences. They stand out to me like a cuckoo's egg. I have no idea who added them--an eager-beaver copy editor? Who knows? There are plenty of cooks working on this soup. I try to have the "not mine's" struck out.

So next week, I'll be re-reading VEXING THE VISCOUNT for the last time before I fling it to the world. Wish me luck!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A Lady's Secret by Jo Beverley

I just finished reading Jo Beverley's A LADY'S SECRET and found it enchanting. If you've read any of her Malloren stories, you'll be glad to be swept back into that world. The premise of a nun and a rake reeks a bit of medieval pornography, but Ms. Beverley would never be so common. Her characters are definitely passionate, but they are also well-rounded human beings with devotion to their faith and family, as well as each other.

As always, her stories are chockful of witty repartee and a true sense of history. Her tales are not just costume pieces--modern romances that include grappling with stays and hoops. No, she has a grasp of what life was like in the Georgian era and she presents it unapologetically. For example, her heroine sleeps in a common bedroom with strangers as she travels incognita. Jo seems to have a direct line into the Georgian subconscious and knows how they think, how they speak, and what's important to them.

Another treat after reading A LADY'S SECRET was the Author's Note. Jo Beverly shares how she crafts her stories. She writes with a sense of discovery, like a child unwrapping a present. Yet the gift is for us, her readers.

Thank you, Jo, for another delight.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Vexing the Viscount Available for Pre-Order!

I'm so excited! I've been watching every day and today for the first time, VEXING THE VISCOUNT is available for pre-order on Amazon. This is important for several reasons. While pre-orders don't help a book hit a best-seller list, they do influence how many copies of a title the brick and mortar stores decide to stock. If pre-orders are strong, a book can even go back for a 2nd printing before it's been released the first time.

Publishing is a new game for me and I still feel like a neophyte, even though this is my 6th release. As I understand it, hitting a best-selling list is NOT decided by the total number of books sold. It's determined by the velocity with which the title flies out of a certain number of pre-determined bookstores (sort of like Nielson rating households for books).

Which bookstores? That's way above my paygrade, but even hitting Bookscan (which tracks more outlets) with a respectable sell rate will get a book noticed. And marketed more heavily.

So when I want to support an author, I do two things. First, I pre-order their upcoming book. This will help her/his "buy-in" and I'll usually get my copy a week or more before it actually shows up in the stores. Then I buy a second copy to share with a friend as close to the release date of the book as I possibly can. This one definitely counts on Bookscan and may help my friend hit a bestseller list!

And it keeps my TBR pile fat and happy and filled with the kind of books I want to read.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Visiting the MotherShip

Countdown to my next release

I've been writing for Leisure Books since May 2006, but yesterday was my first trip to Dorchester Publishing's office. In the heart of Manhattan, the throbbing heart of this wonderful company is housed in a classically beautiful building with historic literary ties. Penguin was there at one time and the suite of offices Dorchester occupies now used to be home to Altantic Monthly.

I got to meet the office staff and it's always a treat to see my editor, Leah Hultenschmidt and marketing guru, Erin Galloway. Usually, I connect with them at national conferences. This was my first chance to see them in their natural element.

Much is made of the dreaded "slush pile," the place where unsolicited manuscripts languish in obscurity. Leah's pile is small and well-managed. She obviously works through hers, makes her decisions and moves on. (Her husband, who is a horror/thriller/western editor for Dorchester is another subject altogether. His slush pile is the stuff of nightmares--chest-high stacks of manuscripts ring his office. Leah assures me he doesn't get away with stuff like that at home!)

The staff is working half a year or more ahead. My next release VEXING THE VISCOUNT (March 2009) is already off the schedule board because it's "in the can." However, the Christmas anthology I'm doing with Jennifer Ashley and Alissa Johnson is in full swing. (Check out my Em Recommends page for an interview with Alissa about her new release.) Which means I'd better head for home and get busy writing my portion!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Wearing a Scarlet R

It doesn't happen often, but sometimes I run into somebody who discovers I write romance and instantly decides they need to engage me in a discussion about whether romance is female pornography. This person has always already decided that it is without ever once cracking the cover of a romance novel.

"How can you write THOSE kind of novels?" or "When are you going to write a REAL book?" By THOSE kind, I'm sure the person meant books with explicit sex in them. Ah! You mean like John Updike? Toni Morrison? Norman Mailer and Virginia Wolffe?

This person seemed to want to convince me that reading romance is an addictive activity. Well, as someone who wants to sell a few books, I certainly hope so! There are lots of addictive behaviors that are harmful, but reading about love that lasts doesn't seem to have any detrimental effects. When I tried to explain the studies that had been conducted that show romance readers report more satisfaction with their relationships than those who don't read romance, he didn't want to hear it.

I came away from the exchange feeling as if I should sew a scarlet R on my lapel or something. Then I got on the Boston T to make my way home and lo and behold, there was a man reading a romance novel in public, bold as brass. It even had a pink cover (now there's a man who's secure in his masculinity!) It did my heart good to see it. Whatever pleasure he receives from reading "female porn," I hope he gets a double portion.

The cover at the top of this post is the German translation of ERINSONG by Diana Groe (my serious alter-ego). Sure doesn't look like porn, does it? I'm thrilled that my work has been translated into German, Dutch, Italian and Russian. Visit my website to see all my international covers.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

"Potter's not selling. Potter's buying . . ."

In these uncertain economic times, Jimmy Stewart's even voice is sounding in my head. As I watched the stock martket careen downward yesterday, the scene from IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE where George Bailey single-handedly stops a panic at the Bailey Building and Loan scrolled through my head. George told the folk who were clamoring for their money that Mr. Potter (the richest man in town) was picking up some bargains in the stock market crash because he wasn't panicky. I practiced not panicking. It helped stop the image of our 401K circling the toilet.

Then I remembered that even the 1929 plunge wasn't the first time the markets took a crippling tumble. I used just such a financial debacle for the backstory premise of VEXING THE VISCOUNT (coming March 2009). It was known as "The South Sea Bubble." In my story, the disastrous South Sea Bubble devastated my hero’s father when he lost his entire fortune. Lucian's goal is to win it all back by finding a lost Roman treasure.

I studied this historic stock swindle as part of my research for VEXING THE VISCOUNT. The scandal has been dubbed the ‘Enron of England.’ It all began with the Crown granting the South Sea Company exclusive rights to trade with South America. Shares in the South Sea Company soared to such ridiculous heights in the summer of 1720, it inspired shysters everywhere to urge investment in their schemes. One newly-formed enterprise advertised itself as "a company for carrying out an undertaking of great advantage, but nobody to know what it is." The market surged with the rising tide of unfounded speculation.

When the South Sea Company floundered, the government restructured its debt and the house of cards continued to grow, even though not a single ship ever set sail toward the burgeoning South American market. When the company finally collapsed and defaulted, the entire market crashed with it. However, since the principle cargo the Company intended to market to the New World was slaves from Africa, I can’t help but feel the cosmic justice of total financial ruin was fitting.

I guess what I'm trying to say is--try not to worry. Things have a way of finding the center. Financial empires have risen and fallen before. The British economy survived the South Sea Bubble. We survived the Crash of '29. We will survive this.

If you need a laugh to help take your mind off pushing back your target retirement, pop over to my Pirate Name Contest and vote for your favorite. You're guaranteed a chuckle and you just might win your choice of my backlist! Enjoy!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Go Get Your Boobs Squished!

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. This is an issue that's important to me. My mother is a cancer survivor. She was diagnosed in 1999, the year Walter Payton was dying for lack of a liver donor. I'll never forget the way my mother called out as they wheeled her to surgery, "If anything happens, give my liver to that football player!"

It's her nature to put the best face on things, so we all tried to keep a positive attitude along with her. We didn't allow ourselves to cry until the results came back after surgery, showing her lymph nodes were clean. Then we all bawled like babies, even my tough-guy Dad.
It appeared the cancer had been caught early, but just to make certain, the doctors prescribed a full regime of both chemo and radiation. My mother used hair loss as an excuse to buy 9 wigs of different styles and colors. You've got to understand. My mother is the coolest, most fashion-saavy of women. My daughters actually borrowed shoes from their grandma to wear to their proms. Cancer wouldn't be allowed to put a damper on my mom's sense of style.
But chemo is a long dark hallway and the light at the end is so dim at times, no one can see it. Sometimes, her white count sank so low, the treatment had to be postponed and extended. She needed to be reminded that there was life after the Big C.
So we planned a victory celebration for when she was done. What do you do when you've beaten something? Why, you go to Disney World! My mom's cancer was diagnosed in late January 1999. By December, she was done with the chemo and radiation and regaining her strength. So we headed for MickeyLand in time to enjoy the Millenium Celebration! Mom's been cancer-free since 2000.
The picture of my mom and dad at the top of this post is from the Alaskan cruise we took last year. Doesn't she look wonderful? She's a big proponent of regular screening. They'd planned to head for Arizona for the winter in '99, but she wanted to wait until after Christmas and her January mammogram before she and dad headed south. She'd never had a speck of cancer on her previous mammograms, so this was a particularly fast-growing little bug. If she'd blown off her routine mammogram, the cancer might have packed its bags and spread before it was caught. Early detection makes all the difference.
I've got an appointment with my doctor this afternoon and I'm scheduling my yearly mammogram. I know its a miserable experience--one I'm satisfied would be redesigned if the test required men to have tender parts of their anatomy subjected to flattening--but it's the best tool we have for early detection of a disease that kills too many women each year.
So, girlfriends, go get your boobs squished. It beats the alternative all to pieces.