Friday, August 31, 2012

Back in the Saddle

I am happy to report that I got through my malaise and started writing again. "A Convenient Misfortune" started calling out to me and so I gave in. For those of you keeping score, it is my American Revolution novel set in Charleston, South Carolina.

I was very lucky to attend college in Charleston and those formative years were great for writing. I often would spend Sunday afternoons riding past two hundred year old houses, getting inspired, and writing in my head.

Charleston is a lovely city--you must visit if you ever have the chance. I highly recommend going in the off season though; it can be a zoo during the warmer months. And the weather is not that great--it's a giant walk-in sauna. It's a very European city; I'd say that it is one of the most European in the US (next to New Orleans). Settled in late 1600s, Charles Town was named for King Charles II. As a royal colony, it had "Lords Proprietors" who managed it. Vast plantations were established outside of the original walled city and many grew rich as a result. Settlers came from the West Indies to further build their fortunes, while French Hugenots fled France and found religious refuge in the colony.

With such illustrious connections to Britain, you can imagine the divide that occurred during the American Revolution. Many of Charles Town's most prominent citizens sided with their mother country, but a good portion also became Patriots. Arthur Middleton, the vastly wealthy owner of Middleton Place plantation signed the Declaration of Independence, while prominent attorney John Rutledge and his brother Edward (who signed the Declaration as well) attended the Continental Congresses.

For all intents and purposes, the war wasn't visited upon the residents of Charles Town until 1780 when the British invaded and occupied the city. General Henry Clinton took up residence at Drayton Hall and quickly set to work rounding up those Patriots who were considered difficult. Arthur Middleton and Edward Rutledge were exiled to a prison ship in St. Augustine, Florida, while Issac Hayne, leader of a rebel brigade, was executed for violating the terms of his earlier parole.

Such a rich history is a boon to any novel and I'm lucky to be intimately acquainted with it. "A Convenient Misfortune" opens in April 1775. The heroine, Arabella Westbury, arrives in Charles Town alone. Her father was appointed as the assistant minister to St. Michael's Church, but unfortunately he dies on the voyage. Now an orphan, Arabella must make her way in the world on her own. She finds it difficult to live in a society with divided loyalties, but she eventually secures a position as a governess to Marianne Bennett, the youngest sister of one of Charles Town's most eligible bachelors. Murder and mayhem follow. Just kidding. High drama and hijinks ensue. Yes, that's better.

"A Covenient Misfortune" is long overdue to be finished. I started working on it during my senior year in high school and then throughout my college years. I've taken turns at revising and re-writing it in between working on "Rebel Heart" but this is the first time that I have focused entirely on it. I've actually started re-writing it completely. It has a good, finished (mostly) story line, but my writing style has changed over the years. So I just decided to start from the top and see where it takes me.

I'm looking forward to sharing more with you as the time passes. There is more information about this novel under the "Works in Progress" tab.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Success By Any Other Name....

Well the results are in and I am pleased as punch to say that during the free promo this weekend, 1917 copies of "Rebel Heart" were downloaded. Yes, I will admit that I calculated all the money that I technically "lost" by making the book free, but at the end of the day, I'm still thrilled by the idea that 1917 people have my book in their hands. If you were one of those people, I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you for your support. Please (don't make me beg) take a few minutes to review the book on Amazon or Goodreads once you have finished it. Despite author meltdowns and sock-puppets, I still believe a review counts for a lot. Plus I would like to know my reading public's thoughts. There's always room for improvement (unless of course you thought it was perfect...definitely feel free to share that!)

With what I think was a fairly successful launch behind me, I cracked open "Rebellion" to see where I stood. I don't know if it is the bad mood I've been in or what, but I was very disenchanted with the whole thing. I hate when that happens! Nothing seemed to read correctly or the characters annoyed me or something was just.not.right. And even though I started plotting out a potential sequel to 'Rebel Heart' yesterday, I'm not feeling completely sold on going in that direction either.

This could easily be a photo of me. I was blond as a kid
and often prone to pensive stare-offs

So what do I do? Do I take a few days to ponder something wholly new? There's always a late Victorian novel or even though "Rebel Heart" didn't find a home in the English Civil War, it's still a good time period. I still have a Revolutionary War novel that is in various stages of completion.
What do you do when nothing seems write right?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Are Online Reviews Really Worth It?

Any self-published author understands the importance of reviews. I am particularly cognizant of this now that I've got "Rebel Heart" up for sale again. Earlier this morning I was thinking over a conversation that I had with another author regarding the importance of reviews. He mentioned that it was a little bit distressing when readers don't take the time to review your work after you've spent so much time writing and editing it. I tend to agree with this sentiment. It might take a few minutes at best to jot down a few lines and rate a book on Amazon or Goodreads. I try to do it now for everything I read just because I understand the importance of the exercise. But it also occurred to me that many of us self-published authors have to do free promos in order to our book out there and in the end, some folks just won't take the time to review something that they got for free. There's no sense of ownership there. No sense of outrage if you read the book and hated it but because you didn't pay for it, everything's copacetic. Or similarly, no sense of wanting to pass along a glowing report because money wasn't well spent.

But maybe no reviews is a positive thing as the flip side for every author, whether self-published or traditionally published, is being able to handle the bad reviews. Every few months or so, the Internet starts buzzing about another author implosion. By that I mean an author reads a few bad reviews and feels compelled to either post rebuttals to those reviews or raise an army of supporters to attack the writers of the bad reviews. The latest in the long list of offenders is NYT bestselling author Emily Giffin. She's the author of the wildly successful books "Something Borrowed" and "Something Blue", as well as several others. When I was hitting the Chick-Lit circuit pretty hard, I read both books and enjoyed them. They were better than some of the ones that I read during the same time period.

In honor of that admiration, I ended up following her on Facebook. Since I liked her under my writing fan page, I don't get her updates as frequently because I have a tendency to forget about that news feed. I accidentally ended up reading this morning about how she made some comments regarding the fact that she was disappointed about her latest book only making it to #2 on the NYT Bestseller List. I can't find her original comments, but apparently some people got very upset about her "whining" when there are so many out there that who would kill to even be on the NYT Bestseller List. These people ended up making some comments (in their reviews of her latest novel) about how they found her to be ungrateful and weren't sure if they wanted to read more of her books. Whereupon her husband started a comment battle on the worst of the reviews and called someone "psycho" and it pretty much went down hill from there. Now the review is peppered with deleted comments (by Amazon and the author) and the fall out is still going on Facebook.

This is certainly not the most egregious of author melt-downs (Alice Hoffman had a pretty bad one), but it raises the question: are reviews really worth it? I don't know the answer to that question. But I do know that the vast majority of the world's population probably doesn't take criticism well, and then a good portion of that majority would be tempted to defend themselves. Free speech is a great thing, some would say the cornerstone of America, but is it too much? To some extent, yes. It assumes that people are inherently good. But in reality, people go too far; as I have had said on this blog and probably on my Facebook, people should be respectful, even when they dislike something. But unfortunately, the Internet has provided a medium for even the most passive aggressive, deeply angry person to take our their frustrations, whether the target deserves it or not.

I think where Ms. Giffin erred was in stirring up the Facebook world by mentioning what her husband had done. I think this shows a grave lack of unprofessionalism or perhaps a misplaced trust in her fans and followers. Had she not said anything, the furor probably would have died down. It will be a hard lesson learned, I'm sure. But just looking down the long line of posts from Ms. Giffin, it seems like she is a decent person. I noticed that she was giving away copies of her latest novels to deserving people as a part of a pay it forward project. I hope that her seemingly good nature will eventually repair the damage. In the end, it seems like this incident was a series of unfortunate judgment calls. We're all human, unfortunately.

So what do you think? Are reviews really worth it? Should Amazon and Goodreads take better care to not allow slanderous or overly aggressive reviews be posted? Or should be just resign ourselves to the fact that mean people are an unfortunate symptom of our culture?


After further research, it appears that there is a little more to the story. I believe the original, offending review wasn't very offensive at all. Sadly, I think this was a situation of one person confessing their disappointment in the new novel and then being hacked to bits as a result. Not cool. And then another reviewer was raked over the coals because she downgraded her original review based on the hullabaloo. I don't think I would have done that, but the poor girl apparently ended up receiving nasty phone calls and e-mails tell her to go off herself. Really folks? Is there not a shred of maturity left? As of yet, there has been no official apology from Ms. Giffin--just a lot of "can we change the subject please?" I think she may benefit from a Facebook vacation at this point because she's dug a pretty deep hole for herself. And if Ms. Giffin cannot handle one rather tepid review I think about poor E.L. James and the amount of criticism she has received for "50 Shades of Grey" and yet not a peep out of her. Of course, she's laughing her way to the bank at night, so I imagine that fact may provide some comfort.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

"Rebel Heart" is Back!

Good morning, folks!

I'm pleased to announce that "Rebel Heart" is back up for sale on Amazon. I did decide to do KDP Select only this time around, so it will be 90 days before I can get it published to other platforms. To celebrate the re-release, "Rebel Heart" will be available for FREE this Friday, August 24th and Saturday, August 25th. So mark your calendars for those dates or if you prefer, help a starving novelist out and go ahead and purchase the book. OK, so I may not be starving thanks to the day job, but you get the picture.

I did get my very first review from the Romantic Historical Fiction Blog last week. Four out of five stars, so very exciting! I'm currently getting the novel out to other reviewers so I will post about those as they come in. And don't forget, if you read "Rebel Heart" please take the time to review it on Amazon or on Goodreads. It's very important for those of us who self-publish. And remember, if you have criticism, please be constructive and respectful about it. Perhaps it's just me, but any author, skilled or no, takes the time to put themselves out there, and at the very least, their time and effort should be recognized even if their execution is off. **steps off soap box**

How about you guys? Are you preparing to publish anything or are you just trying to get through these dog days of summer?

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Little of Bit of Light Reading for a Monday Morning

I don't have any earth shattering updates or anything, so I thought to share the "100 Novels Everyone Must Read" article that recently appeared in The Telegraph. I am somewhat ashamed to admit that I have only read 8 (OK...8 1/2) of the listed 100 books. I obviously have no head for the classics. Or rather I think my reading interests lie solely in historical fiction, so if a book doesn't fall into that category, then it's just out of luck.

Original cover page for "Anna Karenina"
So what about you? How many have you read? What do you think keeps you from reading these supposed classics?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

"Rebel Heart" and Other Updates

Just a quick update for all of you, my very lovely readers. I have taken "Rebel Heart" off sale temporarily. Several typos were brought to my attention and so I wanted to correct those before offering the novel for sale again. I hope to have it back up this week, but this time, I am using Kindle Select. So for the first three months, it will only be available to Kindle users. Once that time period is up, I will be publishing to Barnes and Noble for all of you Nook users, and possibly Smashwords again. Thanks for your patience with me. I want to have the best product to offer you all.

In other news, I have been accepted as a reviewer for the Historical Novel Society. I believe my first review will be up in November. I'm super excited about this opportunity. I've also learned that their 2013 conference will be in St. Petersburg, Florida, so I'm hoping to attend next June. I'm also hoping to attend the Romance Writers of America conference next year since it is in Atlanta--which is an easy three hour drive for me.

So what about you all? Any news or updates you would like to share? Are you planning on attending any conferences this year or next?