Fiction Writing and Other Oddities

Friday, May 30, 2008

Humbly Grateful

This evening, I was sitting on the front porch relaxing after work and watching the hummingbirds at our feeder, and I thought, wow, I really have a lot to be grateful for.  Our plum trees are loaded with fruit and my husband and I spent twenty minutes stuffing our faces with ripe, sweet plums that just burst with flavor with you took that first bite.  We picked a large bag to take to our neighbors and with the glorious was just one of the most perfect evenings I've had.

And then, I came inside and went to the computer, and low-and-behold, I found that my newly released book:  I BID ONE AMERICAN has risen into the top ten bestsellers at The Wild Rose Press!

What a fantastic way to start the weekend.  I am humbled and honored that so many people have purchased my book, particularly since it is only out as an e-book at the moment.  E-books are funny creatures--they are sort of on the bleeding edge of technology, so it truly is an honor when someone spends their cash to purchase your book.

So...Thank you SO MUCH—I'm very grateful. I hope at least some of this interest is in response to the wonderful reviews I BID ONE AMERICAN has received over the last two weeks. I am particularly impressed by review sites such as BookUtopia's blog, Long and Short Reviews, and The Romance Studio.  If anyone gets a chance to check out them out, I highly recommend these review sites.

For those of you who are intrigued by the title of I BID ONE AMERICAN, it's a Regency romantic mystery and here is the "back of the book" blurb:

An American heiress nobody wants; a duke every woman desires; and a murder no one expects.

When Nathaniel, Duke of Peckham, meets Charlotte, he's suspicious of her indifference. Too many women have sought—and failed—to catch him. Happily, Charlotte is more interested in dead pharaohs than English dukes and laughs at both him and his suspicions.

Her fragile defenses crumble, however, when a debutante seeking to entrap Nathaniel gets murdered. All too soon, his reputation as a misogynist makes him a suspect, and Charlotte impulsively comes to his aide.

Unfortunately, both are unaware that a highwayman interested in rich heiresses is following Charlotte. And that another debutante lies dead in Nathaniel's carriage.

Some nights just don't go as planned.


---Thanks again and have a fabulous weekend!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Fun and Inspiration

As usual, I was without a camera when I really needed one this past weekend.  My husband and I spent a wonderful Memorial day holiday at our tiny cottage.  Just for grins and giggles, we took the dogs and went out in the boat on Saturday evening, a few hours before sunset.  It was absolutely gorgeous.  Perfect, cool weather and no cell phones!  My husband proposed the idea because he thought red drum would be nice to have for Sunday dinner.

Anyway, I spotted some weird goings-on in the shallow water near a small island.  Fins and such all roiling up the water.  At first, I thought it was either a porpoise or shark messing around because the fins had that "fleshy" look about them.  But my husband said, "Red drum do that," and decided to do a little casting.

He got out of the boat and waded to the island, cast once and caught something...something big.  Really big.  He wasn't sure exactly what--which made me nervous since he's a wildlife biologist, and I pretty well expect him to know everything.  (I, at one time, majored in biology, also, and know a few things, but I haven't near the memory he has, so I generally rely on him.) 

"It's a skate!" he yelled back, after a few minutes of struggling.  "Come on and give me a hand."

I was none too sure it actually was a skate and not small shark, or that there weren't small sharks swimming around waiting for my bright pink crocs to hit the water, but what the heck.  You only live once, right?  I told the doggies to stay in the boat and with the waves slapping me in the chin, I waded over to the island.

Then he hands me the fishing pole and tells me he needs a break.  So I worked the fish for a while and dang if it wasn't a monster determined to head on out into the big blue ocean.  But after a while, we finally got it into the shallow water and sure enough, it was a huge skate!  I was amazed!  I had never seen one before, and it was absolutely the most gorgeous critter I've seen.

Hubby carefully unhooked the thing after we both stared at the long--very long--tail thinking about Steve Irwin and wondering if there was any possibility we were wrong in thinking it was a completely harmless skate.  But hubby got the hook out and pushed it back into the briny deep as the sky turned a deep apricot around us.  We watched it for a while and then happily waded back to the boat.

It was the experience of a lifetime.  And of course, I had no camera.

So that's partially how we spent our holiday. 

I also took the time to write the rough draft of a short story I'm going to be cleaning up this week to submit to The Wild Rose Press.

My publisher is so cool--they will publish works of fiction including short stories, novellas, and regular length novels.  You don't know how rare that is and what a fantastic boon it is for writers to have a publisher who will take short stories and novellas.

I've always wanted to try my hand at shorties (and get your mind out of the gutter).  Hoping that my editor would be interested, I wrote a very short story set in the Regency period in London.  I just hope the one I've written is going to be...acceptable to her.

Because I've been known to write very unsympathetic characters, or so I'm told, and my heroine is definitely on the snarky side.  But you see, I've always preferred the ornery folks that no one else much cares for.  My favorite teacher was hated and feared by all the other students--and I really never understood why.  I loved her.  She expected a lot of you and didn't take any crap, but she had a wicked, sarcastic sense of humor.

And in my reading habits, I very much prefer the mean characters that "only a mother could love--and only if she's drinking...heavily."

In my family, if someone insults you, it means they love you.  It's only when they speak very nicely to you that you know you're in deep poo-poo.  So I get all kind of warm and fuzzy when people say snarky things to me.  If my husband calls me a dim-wit, I get the urge to throw him on the bed...and you get the picture.

Unfortunately, this carries over into my writing, although I've really tried to control it.  But you see, I don't much care for the sweet, nice characters.  I've been known to not finish books with nice, sweet heroines (reading or writing them).  Give me the mean ones with the big mouths and I'm happy...

So I'm not sure but what my editor will read my story and come back with... "Ummm, Amy, your heroine is a little unsympathetic don't you think?  A little...mean?"

"Well, yes.  That's why I like her."

Anyway, I've got to get back to work.  I have a snarky Regency short story to polish.

Sweet dreams, everyone, and I hope you enjoyed your weekend!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

e-Books: Am I crazy or What?

e-Books...hate them or love them, I've come to the conclusion that they are the future and the future is now.  Oh, sure, I hear a lot of remarks like, "There is something about holding a real book and turning the pages..." or "I don't like to read a book sitting at the computer."  I'm with you on that last one, believe me.  As a computer specialist by day and writer by night, I sit way too long at the computer as it is.  I do not want to sit at one to read a book.

And yet...  I think the pundits that don't see e-books taking over the publishing world are being too conservative in their fortune telling.  I think the death of physical books may be imminent.  It only needs a few more things to fall into place....  And yes, I'll talk about that in a minute.  First, I want to explain what I've seen in my own life that has led me to believe none of us has really gone quite far enough in our predictions.

You see, I suffer from lack of room.  Both my husband and I read--and not only read, but collect out-of-print volumes.  So now, I don't have any more room for "real books," if you consider real books to be those things printed on paper.  We are literally drowning in paper in my house, and I can't take it any more.

I look at my books and what I see are dust catchers full of mites and allergens contributing to the general clutter and over-whelming-ness (is that a word?) of my life.  But I can't give them away because my favorite books are not available in any other format.  Most are not even sold anymore.  If I get rid of them, I'll never be able to read them again.  And I do re-read them.

So I have to keep them.  I don't want to, but at the moment, I have no choice.  But I see change and relief on the horizon.  And I see my behavior already beginning to shift in a new direction. Over the last three years, I've stopped buying computer books because I prefer to have two computers at work:  one to do my work and one for research.  I'd rather google a question than have to look for something in a book.  I leave the information up on the screen of my "research" computer to refer to while I work on my other computer.  I've even stopped printing things out.  If I want to "keep" a resource that I think may disappear off the web, then I download a copy and save it on my system.  All it takes is a little file space, and it doesn't even collect dust.  (Okay, my computer collects dust, but I'm over that, now.)

I cannot believe I'm the only one who has seen the speed and advantage of doing an online search. 

And there are so few things I need to make me completely convert over to e-books:

 An e-book reader (they exist, but are too expensive at the moment.)

 An online library un-associated with a specific e-book reader or e-book vendor (I'll explain more about this idea in a minute)

 e-Book versions of the books I just can't live without.  (No--not great literature, more like old Gothics from the 70's, 80's and early 90's)

That's all.  I told you it wouldn't be a big deal to make me into a complete c-book fanatic.

There are already e-book readers out there and they are pretty good.  I like Amazon's Kindle at the moment because of the download-while-I'm-in-the-airport capabilities, but heck, any will do.  Except...I really wish they had color screens.  I don't know why, but it really bugs me that they are only B&W at the moment.  This whole point, though, is really only a tech-weenie, propeller-head issue and is pretty much already solved.

The second point is really the crux of the matter, from my perspective.  I want a place to store my books until I die.  A place free from association with any specific vendor like Amazon, because I'm always paranoid that twenty years from now, they will be out of business.  And many of these silly publishers/vendors use digital rights management (DRM) which is a fancy way of saying they're trying to make sure you can't back up/trade/resell the item you bought, whether it is music or a book.  I loathe and despise DRM, but could live with it if I had a library where I could back up all my e-books forever and ever, amen, without worrying about a specific vendor going out of business and losing my investment in books purchased from them.

I don't think I'm the only one who has thought of such a thing, so I'm hoping to see news of it in some tech-weenie rag any day now.

The last point...well, I'm not sure anyone is going to go back and create e-book versions of Virginia Coffman's Moura books, so I may have to keep a few old volumes around for kicks.

Now...I think I will finish this blog with some interesting (at least to me) speculation about the impact of this trend.  Because there is no doubt it will have a huge impact.

Think about it.  If we go to e-books, suddenly, the playing field for authors gets a lot more "even".  Bookstores will dwindle--if not vanish.

The market will change.  How you buy books will change.  No more browsing shelves--you'll browse the Internet instead.  If a book catches your fancy, well, you'll buy it.  And the way books are advertised and marketed will change dramatically.

Right now, if you're not with a big, NY House, you may struggle to get your books into libraries and on shelves in bookstores.  If you're with a small house like me, you probably won't get into any book stores or libraries unless you give away free copies to individual librarians.  Forget the bookstores altogether unless they are independent bookstores and will purchase on consignment.

But if everyone is selling through an online store, then all authors are carried and it becomes more about:  popularity, word-of-mouth, and advertising.  The more popular books will get to the top of the e-book store's Have you tried this? list they suggest to readers.  It may dramatically change the ability of a new author to gain an audience.  We all get a better chance, although big publishers will still have the edge on obtaining advertising and better spots on "recommended" lists.

None-the-less, it boggles the mind.

This is a huge subject, and I've rather glossed over much of it, but I find it fascinating to watch the changes.  In point of fact, I can't wait for this particular change, because I'd love to replace my old, crumbling "The Vicar of Moura" with a dust-free e-book version.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

May Favorite Line Contest

Feel like entering a contest? It's not hard, so come on, give it a try. To celebrate the publication of my new Regency romantic mystery, I BID ONE AMERICAN, I'm sponsoring a contest. All you have to do is send an e-mail to: containing your favorite line from one of my books. That's it. The contest ends May 31, 2008, so start thinking about it.

The winner will be picked randomly from all the entries received. Actually, the grand prize winner and a runner-up. The prizes will be nice, useful things like coffee mugs, tee-shirts, and the like. Sadly, due to the high costs of shipping things out of the country, I'm offering different prizes for folks outside the U.S.A. If you enter and win, but live outside the U.S.A. you can have your choice of being mentioned in the dedication of my next book, or having your name given to one of the major characters in my next book! You could be famous!

And if it turns out that you live in the U.S.A. but would prefer to have your name used for one of my characters—no problem. Happy to oblige.

So…good luck!

Phew, this promotional stuff is killer, and I'm really lousy at it. I'd much rather sit in a cave, write all day, and watch the bats.

Oh, and here's a little something to brighten your day. I've uploaded a video to YouTube of our dog, Molly, and a garden hose. All I can say is: I'm really hoping scientists prove that insanity is hereditary and not environmental because of what this says about us if it is nurture versus nature. I've always been a big fan of the genetic basis for behavior, anyway, even before we noticed Miss Molly's sudden bursts of complete insanity.

On the bright side, her mental imbalance seems relatively harmless except when she's trying to be helpful, picks up the nozzle of the hose and points it at me. When I try to escape, she thinks it's great fun to chase me, trying to offer me the hose so I will squirt her—all the while she is spraying me with the icy water. I don't think she realizes that humans don't have that nice hide covered with curly hair she has.

Writing-wise, I'm torn between finishing a Regency novella and redoing the first few chapters of Love, the Critic. Truth be told, I'd prefer to work on Love, the Critic and maybe that's what is stalling me on the novella. The novella has a deadline, though, and Love doesn't. These are the times that try writers' souls. Decisions, decisions, decisions.

That's it. I have to get back to work. I'm going to work on Love, the Critic, just because I feel like it. At least I'll be writing something.

Have a great week!


Friday, May 09, 2008

Squeals of Joy

My new Regency romantic mystery, I BID ONE AMERICAN, is finally out today! Yippee! I keep trying to tell myself not to get too excited, but I can't help it. There is just something so satisfying and thrilling to see your new book up on your publisher's website.

I BID ONE AMERICAN is especially dear to me because it earmed me my agent and my publisher, The Wild Rose Press. And my publisher gave me hardly any edits at all! I'm still in a daze about that. Right up until today when I saw it on their website, I kept expecting the other shoe to drop and my editor to call me and say, "Well, Amy, there's just this one thing we really, really need to change..."

This first edition is an e-book and is available from almost any e-book store on the Internet. I haven't swooped through all the stores yet to see if they do, indeed, have a copy, but if they don't, they will shortly. So you should be able to find it at FictionWise, All Romance e-Books and even through the Amazon Kindle store. Although, of course, since it was just released, it may not show up at those other places for a few days.

Right now, it's available from The Wild Rose Press, and I'm tickled pink.

Enough already, you must be gagging by now, but really, I can't tell you what a feeling of accomplishment it is to see your book finally available to share with others. It's humbling, nerve-wracking, and exciting. You want people to love it--you want to entertain and make folks laugh--but most of all, you want to communicate with others. Make a connection.

I don't think most folks realize how much writers reveal of their vulnerable, inner self with each book they write. It is a little part of them.

So I humbly hope folks really will enjoy I BID ONE AMERICAN and share my love for the Regency period and the cozy mystery genre.

Happy reading!

Oh, my gosh, I almost forgot! Check out my web page at for information on my May 2008 contest. You never know—you might win! Good luck…


Tuesday, May 06, 2008

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Instead of writing the Regency novella I'm supposed to be working on (theoretically for a Christmas book), I'm sitting here messing around with photos from my garden. I kept thinking all last month that I ought to take some pictures when the roses were really in full bloom, however, I didn't do so. I took pictures of our puppy, Molly, instead. She's a Chesapeake Bay Retriever and a real handful. I feel sorry for poor old Rowdy, our chocolate Lab, because he puts up with a lot of her nonsense. But he's good with her and when she gets too aggravating, we let him inside to relax for a while.

Hard to believe it's already May and the "first flush of spring" is pretty much history for 2008. Around here, you've got to get your peas and cool weather crops like lettuce, cabbage, and radishes planted in January or February. I blew that this year—didn't make the time table, but I tried to make up for it by planting tomatoes and pepper plants last month. Unfortunately, our few remaining chickens found the fresh, nice plants pretty tasty, so I'll have to start over again. Sometime soon, too. I also sort of missed the whole "rose bush ordering" deadline as well and it will be too hot to do any planting in about three weeks.

We do have a few roses, though, and I've come to treasure those bushes that will grow with benign neglect. My garden has dwindled down from around 140 roses to around 100. I'm through with all the sprays and nitpicking. I stopped showing roses in favor of working more on my writing, so I'm not so concerned about growing the perfect rose. Now, my garden consists mostly of Old Garden roses (roses hybridized before 1900) and a few other very hardy types that can withstand the rigors of a garden in the humid, hot southeast.

As you may have guessed from my book 'SMUGGLED ROSE', I sort of like roses. The idea for the book arose from my research into roses and varieties that might do well around here. My research took me down some fairly dark alleys, and I discovered some fascinating history, particularly concerning the Empress Josephine and her gardens at Malmaison in the early part of the 19th century (the Regency period in England). The Empress had problems with folks rampaging through her gardens at night and stealing roses, so she had to engage guards. 'SMUGGLED ROSE' grew out of the notion that some of those stolen roses might have been smuggled to rose enthusiasts in England. After all, if fistfights could break out in Regency London when a limited stock of some new rose was put on auction, then more than one person in England was fairly interested in roses and more than a little eager to get the latest variety.

Hence, Margaret, my lady rose smuggler, was born. My latest book, 'I BID ONE AMERICAN', doesn't have much in the way of gardening, but I'm sure gardens and specifically roses will work their way back into future stories. I can't hardly help myself.

In my garden, 'Knockout' is one of the few modern, shrub-type roses that actually lived up to its reputation for being hardy and prolific. It has been covered with fragrant blooms for a couple of weeks, and I haven't sprayed a drop. In fact, now that I think about it, I believe I also forgot to feed most of my roses, including 'Knockout', last year. So that rose is giving its all and then some. A few of David Austin's English roses do well here, too, although I tend to buy the ones that are listed as "tender" or have the old Tea and/or Noisettes in their family tree because those do best here. David Austin may despise the old Teas and Noisettes, but they are the backbone of my garden because they can withstand the climate and flourish without any effort on my part, whatsoever. You gotta love a rose like 'Reve d'Or' which will attempt to take over the world without even the slightest encouragement. It broke down three metal arches and we finally had to cut the darn rose back and put up a huge wooden support system. It has now completely covered that once more and is home to several bird nests. So far, it hasn't been able to break up the wooden beams, but it's not for want of trying.

Most of the time, however, I find that rose advertising tends to be somewhat optimistic about the health of most roses. And what grows in one person's garden, often fails for others.

For example, I love 'Souvenir de la Malmaison' which is a Bourbon rose hybridized around 1842. It has lovely, fragrant, pale pink blooms that look like Hybrid Tea blooms, but it's a lot healthier. At least for me. I've never sprayed or fertilized the darn bush and it keeps pumping out those blooms in a big spring flush, another huge flush in the fall, and sporadic blooms throughout the killing heat of summer. However, I recommended this rose to friends who grow roses near Wilmington and they have not had very good luck with it. But their soil is sandy and mine is clay. They can grow Hybrid Teas and I cannot. For the most part, Hybrid Teas die within a few months of planting here. So…your mileage may vary.

A few other bushes that seem to do well for more people than just me are the Old Garden roses in the Hybrid Perpetual class. This class was sort of a precursor to the Hybrid Tea, but I find them much, MUCH healthier. In fact, they are pretty much in constant bloom, have a wonderful rich rose fragrance, and seem almost entirely disease free. Varieties I grow include: 'Sydonie' and 'Marchesa Boccella'. Another class that is very healthy is the Portland and I absolutely adore 'Yolande d'Aragon'. (And yeah, if you click on the links--those are all pictures I took of my roses...not to brag or anything... *grin*.)

Didn't mean to spend the entire blog on gardening, but it's been on my mind lately.

Wishing you lovely weather and a nice layer of dirt under your fingernails!