The Romance Studio's nominees for the 2010 CAPAs (go here for details) have been announced, and I have been informed that my book Blood Money is among two nominees from Mundania Press in the Romantic Suspense category. Congratulations to my fellow Mundania nominee, Susan DiPlacido (House Money), and to all the other nominees. I am surprised and honored to have been nominated. Many thanks to The Romance Studio!


So You Want To Write A Novel

If you're a writer and you haven't seen this video yet, go watch it. Now. I'll wait.
So You Want To Write A Novel

It's amazing how many writing misconceptions got squeezed into 4:38.

I've got in mind another word-art post, but it's not fully formed yet, so I'll get it out here when it's ready.

I'm also thinking of having a drawing for copies of Rio Star, but don't have all the details worked out yet. Also coming soon.


Minor update

Rio Star trade paperback is now showing on Amazon.com as available for ordering, in case you were interested.


Of La Nina winters and fire hazards

They're telling us that we could have a moderate to strong La Nina weather pattern this winter, which is something of a mixed blessing. I hate the cold, so the warmer temperatures the southern US sees during La Nina are a welcome thing, but the drier weather could be problematic, especially since we're already in a moderate drought. High wind days are already cause for the weather service to issue fire weather statements. We may be seeing wildfires in Oklahoma and Texas again this winter. I hope not, but it happens in drought years.

Sometime today, we're supposed to be getting the season 5 set of Doctor Who (season 5 as in the most recent series, not the original one). Matt Smith makes a wonderful Doctor. Amy is one of the better companions (she's right up there with Sarah Jane and Donna, as far as I'm concerned). River Song is intriguing, and the fact that she and the Doctor seem to be moving in opposite directions through each other's timelines is really interesting, or at least they're meeting out of order, but so far River's the one who knows all about the Doctor, and he's just learning about her. I'll be interested to see where they take this in next year's episodes.

Rio Star is just beginning to show up in other venues. There's a listing for the trade paperback on Amazon now, but it's showing as temporarily out of stock. At least it's listed. There's a copy of the original edition (from WCP) on Amazon, listed at the appallingly high price of $274.14. I would be flattered that anyone thinks my books might be worth that much, but there's just a wee bit of insanity in believing that they really are. Especially when you can buy a brand new copy from my new publisher at $12.95, or an ebook for $4.99. The ebook has also shown up in an online store in the Netherlands, so it should begin showing up in various venues before very much longer.

I'm dealing with the aftermath of the yearly virus, which seems to run rampant through the local population beginning around the time everyone has to close up their houses and turn on the heat. Yucky stuff. Two days of constant drainage and coughing, followed by days of coughing up everything that drained into your lungs during the first two days. There's a secondary infection that goes with it, but it seems to be less of a problem if I just avoid eating anything with a lot of dairy in it. In a way, it's oddly appropriate, since the fourth book in the series (which I'm working on now) begins with Patty standing-in for her aunt somewhere due to her aunt having the flu. Not that I'm telling you anything that you don't find out in the first page or so. And Micheal will be in it. If you've ever lamented the fact that Patty's first three adventures don't include an awful lot of her husband, this will hopefully make you happy.

The first review for Rio Star has come in from the Romance Studio. Hmm. Okay, it's not the first review, since I got the review from Romantic Times a while ago. The RT reviewer was apparently not a fan of horse racing. Ah well, can't please everyone.


The Well-Dressed Word--Some thoughts on the use of modifiers

There comes a time in nearly every writer’s life when one realizes that one may, in fact, be committing the literary equivalent of a fashion faux pas.

That moment occurred for me somewhere between twelve and fifteen years ago—the timing is hazy, but the event is still clear. A manuscript I had sent out that was very much not-ready-for-prime-time returned with a note scribbled on the front page. Someone had taken the time to point out to me that the manuscript was over-written.

It was probably one of the most important critiques I’ve ever gotten, and led to me taking my craft a lot more seriously.

So what does it mean to over-write something? For this, I’m going to draw on a visual metaphor, that of the best- and worst-dressed lists that always pop up around Oscar time every year.

If there’s one commonality between the dresses that make up the best-dressed list, it’s that most of them are less complicated than you’d expect them to be. In many cases, they’re closely fitted between shoulder and hip, following the contours of the body beneath without being tastelessly tight. Embellishments are carefully placed, so as to add to the beauty of the whole without overpowering it.

If there’s a commonality between the dresses on the worst-dressed list, it’s that they tend to be dominated by other things. Mounds of ruffles, overly-puffed sleeves, bows that are big enough to tie up a cargo ship, cut-outs and deep necklines that make you wonder how the woman in them stays just this side of a wardrobe malfunction. The embellishments shout ‘look at me, aren’t I clever, aren’t I daring’, putting the woman in the embarrassing situation of having to admit that perhaps her taste in clothes needs some refining.

Modifiers can be compared to the embellishments on a dress. Your use of them can put you either on the best-dressed or the worst-dressed list, and which one is which may not be what you’re expecting.

Just as fashions differ a bit from country to country, to a certain extent, the use of modifiers, the adjectives and adverbs that enhance your nouns and verbs, will be determined by what is the accepted norm in whatever genre you write in. (And if you’re not reading in your chosen genre to find these things out, why aren’t you?) Science fiction/Fantasy requires a lot more description because the worlds in which the stories are set are not the one we live in. Romance has its own set of modifiers. Mystery/Crime fiction is often tightly written, the modifiers few and well chosen in order to facilitate a fast read. Literary fiction tends to be very word-conscious, and certainly has its share of verbal peacockery.

One thing that’s true in all genres, though, is that there comes a point where the modifiers stop adding beauty and become an author’s way of shouting, ‘Look at me, aren’t I the clever one? Aren’t you impressed with my vocabulary?’ Unless you are writing for a very particular audience, the answer to that would be a resounding, ‘No.’

Like the overly puffy sleeves, the excess ruffles, and the bows that are so big that you risk putting someone’s eye out with the corners every time you turn around, flowery language can do more to obscure the natural beauty of your prose than enhance it. If you notice in your work that every noun and every verb carries a modifier or two, you’re over-writing. If you can go through and cut most of your adverbs and adjectives without making the meanings of your sentences unclear, you’ve been over-writing. If you run a search for ‘ly’ words and end up with your manuscript swimming in blue highlights, you’ve over-written. (Some people advocate not using adverbs at all, but there are extremists in every group.)

Embellishments used sparingly can make a dress with simple, classic lines into something elegant and memorable. Embellishments used to excess turn that same dress into a framework for hanging embellishments on. How can you tell which is which?

The fact is, as writers, we’re in love with words and what we can do with them. Especially in our early stages, we’re excited about those bows and ruffles and can be blind to the fact that we’re over-using them. This is where having a critique group or at least a critique partner can be very useful. Not everyone is going to agree on what’s too much in the modifier department, but if you find that everyone is remarking on the same things, it would be a good idea to look at those things to see what needs changing. In the end, it always comes back to what’s best for the story. We may love the way we phrased something, but if our words are drawing attention to themselves rather than moving the story along, we may have to ‘kill our darlings’ for the sake of the whole.

And don’t forget that reading is one of the best ways to understand what works and what doesn’t. Read what the best writers in your genre have to offer. If you read something that’s not so good, you can learn from that as well by trying to pinpoint why the prose isn’t working for you.

Just like those designer dresses that make the best-dressed lists, prose that is elegant and memorable is both deceptively simple and difficult to achieve. Both require observation of what others have done, and practice until the final product is sleek and embellished in just the right way to bring out its beauty. People may never ‘see’ the work you put in, but they will remember the final product.


Rio Star is now in print

Rio Star, the second book in the Patty O'Donnell Mysteries series, has been released by Mundania Press, as of last night. Currently it's only available from Mundania, but should be up at Amazon pretty soon, and then from other outlets in the next month or so.


Envy in the writing world

There's a wonderful post over at Pimp My Novel about that nasty little thing called envy and how it affects relationships among writers. It's one of those things you don't really expect to happen, but it does, and it's nice to be aware of it before it rears up and whacks you in the face, whether you find yourself being envious or on the receiving end of the envy.

Inevitable Envy

The website rewrite is coming along nicely. In fact, I've got it mostly online now. There are a few pages where information has yet to be added, but most of it's there and ready to go. Feel free to check it out here.


Sauna days

If you know where to find the National Weather Service watches and warnings map, take a look at that big ugly orange spot spread out over the center of the US. We're in the middle of that. Tomorrow's supposed to be another 100 degree day. With all this humidity, the idea that you could gain the same sauna experience sitting on your front porch that you could get in a high-priced health club is not all that far-fetched.

I actually feel more sorry for the folks further south, where they live along the Arkansas River. The radar the other day showed not just the normal humidity in the air, it showed the humidity added by water evaporating from the river, in a green line that followed the course of the river. A 107 degree day with that sort of humidity must feel abysmal. Quite a bit more sauna-like than I particularly want to experience.

Being inside in front of the fans puts me in a good position to work on my website, though. The rebuild is coming along all right. It's the first time I've done the coding by hand, and I'm enjoying the process. It should be a vast improvement over the website I've got now. I'll tear down the old one and upload the new once it's finished and ready to go. I'm planning on adding brief explanations of how the various books came to be written, as well as short biographies for Patty and her family, and other characters where warranted.

Rio Star has been through the galley stage, and has been sent for at least one review. I've got cover art for Reef Runner, but I'm not sure it's the final version yet, so I'm not posting it for now. I have a writing post in mind on the use of modifiers, but I'm still gathering my thoughts on it.

Speaking of writing posts, head on over to Hey, There's A Dead Guy In The Living Room for one of those posts that you wish every novice writer would read.

Enough for now. Oh, by the way, if you've read Blood Money and enjoyed it, please consider leaving a review at Amazon, or at Barnes & Noble, or both, if you're feeling really generous. :)



Turn me over, I think I'm done on that side

Welcome to the post where I whine about how hot it is.

Okay, yeah, I know, it's hot everywhere. But this is my blog.

It's 93 degrees, and although the weather site says the humidity is 47%, it sure feels like it's higher. The national weather service site shows excessive heat warnings curling around the area where I live, with areas of heat advisory all around the sides where the excessive heat warning isn't. We're in an island of space that's just hot, but not so hot they felt they had to tell us about it. There's also a high pressure area over us, and watching the radar images shows weather swirling in a clockwise direction around us, but we're doing well if we get even a few sprinkles out of all those afternoon pop-up storms we keep getting told about.

It's only June 21. This is a weather pattern that usually pops up in July and August. I'm not looking forward to the next few months.

On another blog (apologies, I don't remember whose it was), I found a link that led to Author!Author!, a blog that deals a lot with issues involved in writing and publishing. The current series of posts is on what she calls "Frankenstein Manuscripts", and is well worth the time it takes to read through them. It deals a lot with what mistakes aspiring authors make that get their manuscripts rejected by literary agencies and editors. (No, it's not about the horror genre, although some of the errors she writes about are horrors themselves.)

Editing has been completed on Rio Star. There is still the galley stage to get through, but I don't expect that to be very difficult, unless something goes very, very wrong somewhere.

I've also been collecting more places where my first book is available for order. Eventually I get them added to the list at the top of the page. When I'm not melting from the heat. And don't forget that you can order a copy in at brick and mortar bookstores. It takes a little longer to get that way, but if you're concerned about doing business online, it's probably your best bet.

If you've visited my website, you'll have noticed that it's a) somewhat plain, and b) not necessarily all that well organized. I've got plans for it, but it will take a bit of work to get it where I want it. I'll post and let you know once I've got the new stuff up and running--in the meantime, the old is still there and works fine.

It's been more than a year now since my ankle was broken. It's healed, sometimes a bit sore, and although I have quite a bit of the flexibility in it that I'd had prior to the break, it's still lacking a bit when it comes to stairs. Going up them is fine. Coming down them...the joint doesn't bend quite as much as needed, which makes it a little awkward. I usually end up with a sore ankle for the rest of the day. I also have a remnant discoloration of my lower shin from the strap the doctors used to cut off the blood flow/hold my leg in place during the surgery. I tend to retain remnant discolorations in the layers under the skin from very heavy bruising on my legs. It's not dark or anything, but it will probably be there for another year or so.

I hope, wherever you are, that you're enjoying air conditioning and something cold to drink. Be safe in the heat.



And now, Rio Star's new cover

Got the new cover for Rio Star. The artist kept the girl and the fonts from the Blood Money cover to help connect the series. I think (at least I hope) the top image is supposed to be Buenos Aires, and the bottom is, of course, a horse race in progress.

We're in the process of editing the book. So far it's been pretty painless, but again, this is the second publisher for these books, so most of the rough edges have already been knocked off.

More later~~


Of sales, and other things

So, after nearly two months since my book's release, how are the sales?

The only answer I can give at this point is, I don't know.

My publisher does report royalties on a monthly basis--but they have to wait for the sales venues to send them their account statements and the money before they can report the sales and pay royalties, which can sometimes take a while, especially with places like the brick and mortar chain stores, which are known to take months to get around to sending reports and money.

Since Blood Money released in the second half of the month of March, and wasn't available through most online sales venues until the middle of April...well, if there were sales during that first thirty-day period, I'll be happy. But I probably won't begin to find out about them until the next month or so.

And since the vast majority of my publisher's sales do come through ebook downloads, there's no easy way of tracking them. I'm not complaining. This is just the nature of the business. And with the advent of e-reading devices that people actually want to use, the market is growing, and those publishers who are already established have a nice advantage, because readers already know they put out a good product.

One potentially encouraging sign is that my book debuted on Fictionwise a little over two weeks ago. At the beginning of its second week there, it was listed as the #5 best seller in the Mystery/Crime category. At the beginning of its third week there, it's still listed at #5, which I hope means it's selling enough copies to stay up near the top of this list, where people dropping in to look for something new to read will spot it. (With my previous publisher, the book was listed in Suspense/Thriller, and it never got all that high on the list. It was a real joy to see it at #5.) In any case, this sort of thing is pretty ephemeral. I'm going to enjoy it while it's there.

(Fictionwise is owned by Barnes & Noble, who bought them a few years ago in a bit of farsightedness. The number of formats my book is available in makes my head spin. You'll just have to look to see what's there, if you're looking for a specific format.)

I've been collecting listings for places where my book is available for order. You should be able to order in at most bookstores, but if you don't want to wait for them to get a copy in, you can order directly from one of the online retailers which I'll list in the page at the top of the blog, or you can download the ebook from one of the other retailers, which is even faster.

Enough for now~~~


New interview, with a sprinkling of green

The green actually refers to the layer of pollen that covers everything outside just now, as spring desperately tries to cram itself in before summer gets here.

But the green could also refer to Irish noir author Declan Burke, who was kind enough to conduct a brief Q&A with me, the results of which are now up at his blog, Crime Always Pays.

If you like screwball noir, you can find Declan's books here.

Many thanks, Dec.



Disappearing images

Okay, I don't know why the pictures all disappeared off my blog. I'm getting all sorts of invalid url notices when I check them, which is weird because they worked fine for quite some time prior to this, and were all associated with Blogger.

Hopefully it'll get worked out soon. In the meantime, you can find all images on my website.

Added two buy links in the sidebar--one goes to my publisher's website, Mundania Press, and the other goes to the buy page on Amazon.com. At this point, there's no artwork on the Amazon page. Hopefully that will get corrected soon.


"Blood Money" is now available

That almost sounds ominous, doesn't it?

As of today, Blood Money, the first novel in the Patty O'Donnell series, is up for sale on the Mundania homepage. It's available in Trade Paperback for $11.95, and in PDF, HTML, MobiPocket, MS Reader, and Epub formats for $4.99.

Need a teaser?

Here's the cover blurb:

When Patty O’Donnell married her Irish sweetheart and moved from America to her husband’s small home town on the Irish seacoast, the most dangerous things she had to deal with were the half-ton racehorses in her father-in-law’s stables. But when she and her husband return from a late night out to find their house being searched, she discovers there are far worse things lurking in her bucolic surroundings than temperamental Thoroughbreds.

The teenage son of a late family friend brings proof of a long forgotten debt owed by the O’Donnells, part of a cargo lost in a shipwreck over a century and a half ago. He wants the cargo salvaged, and quickly, so he can help his mother free herself from her abusive second husband. The O’Donnells are willing, but the search and salvage mission puts them square in the sights of modern-day pirates, who want the salvage for themselves.

Suddenly, Patty finds herself hunted and in a fight for her life, where yielding to panic means a swift and ugly death.

And here's a portion of the first chapter:

The thief had been hiding in our house for nearly a week before anyone realized he was there. Oh, there’d been small signs, of course, if we’d known what we were looking at. A missing flashlight, food that didn’t stretch as far as expected, sweaters and jeans of Mícheál’s that disappeared for a day or two before turning up dirty in the wash. Small, careful thefts that looked more like carelessness than what they actually were. That, coupled with the fact that he’d chosen as his hiding place a spot no one but family should have known about, kept him safe from detection much longer than even he probably expected.

It was only because we’d returned home just after midnight that we noticed the light in a window on the top floor. The night was overcast and moonless, and the light shone out of the dark bulk of Aill Tearmann like a dim beacon. Mícheál switched off the headlights and braked the Range Rover to a stop on the crest of the hill, studying the window as the light grew dimmer and brighter by turns.

“Someone’s in the house.”

“Are you sure it’s not your dad?” I ducked my head a little lower to look at the huge family home. It was five stories, and sat with its back against the steep slope of the cliff behind it. The front of each story was set back ten feet from the one below it, so the whole looked like a stairway for giants. The kitchen occupied a separate, small rectangular building to the left, and to the right, attached by walkways at the second, third, and fourth stories, was a round tower, its top floor a full two stories above the top of the house to give its upper room a clear view of the ocean on the other side of the cliff. There were no other lights.

“My father wouldn’t be using a torch,” my husband pointed out. “And I can’t imagine why he would be on the top floor at midnight.”

I glanced at him sidelong. The light from the dashboard played over the strong, masculine lines of his handsome face but revealed little of what he was thinking.

“So what do you intend to do?”

He frowned thoughtfully before shutting off the engine. “First, we have to get down there without letting whomever that is know we’re coming.”

Shifting into neutral, he took his foot off the brake and let us roll down the hill. The pop and crunch of gravel under the tires was loud inside the silent, closed car. The vehicle picked up speed and rolled across the bottom of the bowl-shaped hollow leading up to the house. It lost momentum and rolled to a stop within a hundred yards of the front door.

“We’ll have to walk from here.” He switched off the ignition. The dash light went out, turning my spouse’s solid form into darkness and shadows. Reaching for the dome light, he switched it to the off position. He opened his door and stepped out onto the gravel, turning back to duck his head and look in at me.

“Are you coming, or would you rather wait here?”

“Are you kidding?” I popped my door open.

“Don’t slam it,” he warned in a hiss, following his own orders by carefully pushing his door shut. I followed suit. A cold breeze off the ocean competed with the knowledge some stranger was sneaking around in our home to send tingles crawling across my skin.

The light in the window had disappeared. Mícheál paused, watching, until it reappeared in the next window over.

“He’s searching the rooms.” He instinctively kept his voice low even though we both knew the intruder couldn’t hear us. “Come on.”

I wasn’t exactly dressed for creeping through the dark. We’d just come back from celebrating our fourth wedding anniversary with dinner and a show, and I was wearing impractical high heels and a tight skirt. I wobbled precariously across the gravel to the grassy verge, stepped out of the shoes, and bent carefully to pick them up. There was no telling what I might step on out here, but it was bound to be less damaging than falling and breaking my ankle.

The grass was cool beneath my feet. Mícheál caught my hand and led me toward an enclosed walkway between the house and the kitchen. The kitchen windows were pitch black—Máire, our housekeeper, had long since gone home for the night.

The air held the chill of an Irish spring. The strong breeze off the Atlantic tugged at my hair and easily found its way under my clothes, making me envious of Mícheál in his wool suit. We entered the walkway through a door close to the house, escaping the wind. He turned right along the walkway and entered the house through the side door, which as far as I knew had never been locked in recent memory. After tonight, that was probably going to change, I thought, following him inside.

The air was warmer, and smelled of furniture polish and wood smoke. Mícheál paused, listening, while our eyes adjusted to the denser darkness. Ahead of us was the parlor, curtained and empty, while to our left, along a passage where coats could be hung, was the dining room. There were quiet popping noises from that direction.

Still holding my hand, Mícheál led me up the passage. The dining room was faintly lit by the dim, sullen glow of a dying fire on the ornate hearth. Mícheál gave the room a quick glance before leading me past the heavy oak dining table and chairs, content that there was no one lurking in the shadows.

Double sliding doors, always open, led to the great hall, a cavernous two-story room with a grand staircase and galleries on the upper level. The polished marble floor gleamed softly. The great hall was comparatively brighter due to the long ranks of tall windows flanking the front doors.

There was no place here an accomplice could easily hide. We mounted the broad staircase at the back of the room, following its right wing up to the gallery and the entrance to the library.

The hearth in the library also held the glowing embers of a fire. I suspected Séamas and Aunt Liz probably had been up until quite recently. We passed silently across the carpeted floor, through the adjoining study, and out into the back hall, which was lit only with a tiny nightlight. I looked back at the study, where one of the house phones sat on the desk.

“We really ought to call the police,” I whispered.

“I’ll get Séamas up.” Mícheál gave my hand a squeeze. “We’ll be all right.”

We climbed the stairs close to the back wall, where the treads were less likely to creak. At the third floor landing, he pointed me toward our bedroom door.

“Wait there,” he whispered, his mouth so close to my ear that his breath caused the small hairs beside it to stir.

Frowning, I did as he instructed. This went against everything I’d ever been taught about dealing with intruders. He crossed the floor, freezing when a misplaced step caused a board to pop underfoot. After a few seconds he moved forward, opened his father’s door, and slid inside.

The air seemed chillier. I hovered indecisively by our door, shoes in hand, and considered changing clothes. Before I could make up my mind, Mícheál was back in the hallway. Séamas followed in hastily donned slacks and sweater, his feet bare. Even without his shoes, my father-in-law was a burly six-foot-four. I would have hated to be the thief who suddenly saw him coming out of the dark. The pair passed me without a word and started up the next flight of steps.

My uneasiness grew. They had no way of knowing if the intruder was armed. Suppose whoever it was decided to shoot first and read about it in tomorrow’s paper? We should have called the police and let them handle it.

The broad plank floor of the third story hall stretched away in front of me, warming slowly under my bare feet. A small nightlight in a wall socket provided illumination for midnight bathroom visits. Besides the master bedroom and the bedroom Mícheál and I shared, this floor also contained an upper extension of the library, and a sunroom along the front of the house, which Aunt Liz had converted into her own bedroom.

I considered her door for a moment, thinking about getting her up. She would be seriously peeved if something exciting happened and we let her sleep through it. Besides, I really wasn’t all that keen on waiting alone.

I’d just started across the hall to her room when the shouting began upstairs. There was a thud that shook the floor two stories up, followed by a stampede of footsteps. My stomach knotted, and a chill raced across my skin. No shooting, so far, but that didn’t mean there wouldn’t be.

Aunt Liz’s door opened. A dim blue light spilled into the hallway, telling me she’d been up working on her latest novel. She stepped out into the hall, her black curls tousled and her emerald eyes wide as she belted her robe tightly around her slim waist.

“What on earth?” She threw the ceiling a questioning look.

“Mícheál and I spotted a light upstairs when we got here. He and Séamas went to investigate.”

She advanced to the foot of the stairs, looking up them.

“Sounds like they’ve flushed their quarry.” She cocked her head. “Hang on. I think they’re coming this way. Get ready.”

She stepped to one side of the stairs, blending into the shadows in her dark robe. I scooted back out of the way. I had no intention of blocking someone who was likely bigger and heavier than me and would squash me flat on his way by.

Footsteps pounded across the ceiling above us, reaching the top of the stairs. A dark figure descended them at speed, faster than I would ever have attempted them even with the hall fully lighted. As he reached the bottom, Aunt Liz blithely thrust out a leg, hooked the intruder’s ankle, and sent him sprawling across the plank floor.

To read the entire first chapter, go here.


And it's now...spring?

There are, at present, clumps of snow falling from the sky. And by that, I don't mean just the snowflakes that have clumped together as they've fallen to earth. I'm also talking about the clumps that are falling off the tree limbs, which I can see through the back window of the house.

It's snowed pretty heavily since around 3:30pm yesterday. There's probably about 8 inches or more of snow on the ground. The cars are humps of white on wheels. Tree limbs are little narrow bands of dark with thick bands of white on them. The wind is picking up some, so the snow is getting jostled off the thinner limbs. Tomorrow, the temperature is supposed to be up around 50F, which means this won't last long, but for the moment we're housebound.

This wouldn't be a problem, since we've got plenty of food and the electricity hasn't gone out, except the kiddo has picked up the yearly virus and is running the usual 100 temperature. Usually I'd give him Gatorade to drink, but the only thing I've got in the house vaguely like Gatorade is a bottle of orange Vitamin Water, which he won't drink because he thinks it smells and tastes the way old people's houses smell (uh, don't ask me. I can't figure that one out, either). Since he'll probably do little more than sleep today, I figure I'll just keep checking on him to make sure he gets enough water, and worry about the Gatorade tomorrow once the roads have cleared.

As of a moment ago, my book still wasn't listed as available for sale on my publisher's website. Still sitting on my hands, for the moment. Blogger has added a pages feature, like the one Wordpress has, so I'll probably try to get a teaser up for Blood Money on one of the pages. Keep an eye out for it.

Out for now~~~


Publication day, plus one


Officially, yesterday was the day my book was to go on sale. As of a moment ago, it wasn't yet up on the Mundania homepage, so that makes it not yet officially for sale, but I'm expecting that to change soon. Patient authors realize things go wrong, and that real life gets in the way sometimes. Patience isn't always easy, of course. But I'm trying.

Stay tuned. It should be soon.



13 Days to publication

Or in other words, my book, Blood Money, comes out on the 16th.

I will have to check as to format availability and all, since the two books my publisher released at the first of the month show up on their website as available in trade paperback but not yet as available in ebook, so I'm not sure exactly when the ebook will be out. I'm now up in the coming soon section on the Mundania website, though, and as far as I know, the trade paperback version will be $12.95, with the pdf ebook at $4.99. Don't know when it will be available in Kindle format--apparently Amazon picks and chooses which ones it will make available for the Kindle, and when, so it's up to them when it happens.

Blood Money got a nice 4 star review from Romantic Times. Cindy Himler wrote, "Smith’s suspenseful novel has likable characters and interesting locations. Readers will find themselves settling in for a good time." Can't complain about that. And since Elizabeth Peters' new one also got a 4 star review, I feel like I'm in pretty good company. (Can't wait to read hers--Elizabeth Peters is one of my favorite authors, and one of the big influences on my own writing.)

More to come, as the time gets closer...


Dick Francis

So many writers have died in recent months that one hardly seems to be able to check the news without seeing notice of another one, and now comes news that Dick Francis, champion steeplechase jockey and award-winning novelist, has died at age 89.

Mr. Francis was one of the major influences during my early days as a writer. He is, in fact, the reason my heroine, Patty, is married to an amateur steeplechase jockey, and works as an assistant trainer in her father-in-law's stables. Mr. Francis' novels were centered around the world of steeplechase racing, but were much, much more than stories about the sport of kings. His heroes always strove to do the right thing, even in the face of nearly impossible odds, and in the end, good always overcame evil. That's something you don't see a lot anymore.

According to the post at Sarah Weinman's blog, there's one more novel coming, Crossfire, scheduled for release on August 24. Sarah's blog also has a collection of links to obituaries and articles about Mr. Francis.

He will certainly be missed.


Amazon in the spotlight of...erm...glory isn't quite the word

Over the weekend, Amazon pulled a move that amounts to a tremendous hissy-fit.

Friday, Amazon pulled the buy button on all of publisher Macmillan's books, both paper and e-book. This bit of muscle-flexing was intended to frighten Macmillan into falling in line with its pricing structure for e-versions of brand-new, best-selling hardbacks.

If you missed the kerfuffle, I suggest you might want to visit John Scalzi's blog for a recap. On Scalzi's blog, the links are marked by underlines of tiny dots rather than being highlighted in a different color. Be sure to follow the links to get a fuller understanding. Also, in the comments trail was a link to an author's blog explaining how all this looks to authors. It's an interesting read.

I have to admit that I'm leaning more toward the publisher's side of this disagreement than Amazon's. Neither side is doing what it's doing for altruistic reasons, regardless of Amazon's claims that it's doing it to keep prices down for customers. They're selling the e-versions of new bestselling hardbacks at a loss simply to entice people to invest hundreds of dollars in their Kindle e-reader. Don't let them convince you otherwise.

On Macmillan's side, they're looking at the bigger picture. Amazon's pricing ploys endanger the higher-priced hardback sales, which is where the company makes back most of the cost of producing the books. (If your information on what it costs to produce a book, from acquisitions through release, comes from rumors and innuendo, I suggest you do some more research. It's mind-boggling what it actually costs.) Their reasoning is that the dramatically lower price Amazon wants to charge for e-copies will undercut the hardback sales to the point where they cannot earn back the cost of production.

Additionally, they're concerned about keeping the chain of sales venues open, which includes not just Amazon, but big box stores and independents, who cannot compete with Amazon in the long-term, since Amazon's overhead is much lower than a physical store's operating costs. It means Amazon can sell at a much lower price and still make a profit. That's often cited as a reason when independent bookstores close, which they're doing at an accelerating rate. Even the big boxes are feeling the impact.

Having grown up in Wal-Mart's back yard (we're a 30 minute drive from Wal-Mart's corporate headquarters), I tend to have more sympathy for the publisher than I do for Amazon, because I see what Amazon is doing as pulling a Wal-Mart. The problem with the Wal-Mart model is that it kills all competition as quickly and ruthlessly as it can, while at the same time destroying some of its suppliers by demanding products at a lower cost than the suppliers pay to produce them. You can find details of their practices online--just Google. I'm not going into them here. Wal-Mart wants to be the be-all and end-all in the retail market, and Amazon's showing signs of wanting to be the online Wal-Mart.

Amazon may well have succeeded in throwing its weight around on this issue, if not for the arrival of the Apple iPad, which, among other things, will supply a ebook platform that supports the new ePub format. Apple's iBook store will offer more publisher-friendly pricing, so Macmillan already had somewhere else they could take their books to. This, in addition to the fact that consumers who tried to buy Macmillan-published books on Amazon over the weekend were quick to go to places like Barnes & Noble's online store instead (this according to a report I read that tracked rankings of Macmillan books on both Amazon and B&N). Macmillan had a bit of muscle to flex as well.

Yanking Macmillan's listings was not a wise move. Amazon does not have the stranglehold on the market that it perhaps thought it did.

As a personal disclaimer, I am not a Macmillan author, and do not expect to become one. My publisher's books list at $4.99 for ebooks, and variably, according to length and whether they're trade paperback or hardback, for the printed copies. But this touches all publishers, and by extension, all authors, because by not allowing Amazon to dictate pricing to levels that threaten publishers' ability to produce books and stay financially afloat, it gives all of us a chance to continue doing what we love, rather than becoming the suppliers that Ama-Mart put out of business.

Life gets interesting sometimes, doesn't it?


Snowy, snowy day

This, my friends, is what a winter storm for us usually entails. Lots of fluffy white stuff, maybe a bit of ice to make the tree limbs look all sparkly, white roads that quickly turn to slush as employees without a choice make their way to and from work. Not to mention the requisite cars in ditches. There will always be someone out there who thinks they can outsmart or outmuscle the snow. It usually doesn't end as well as they'd like.

Fortunately, that's what we got out of this storm. Or rather, it's what we're in the process of getting, since the snow isn't supposed to end until sometime around midnight for us. If you'd like to see what the weather's like where I live, go here. This is out of the Tulsa forecasting office of the National Weather Service, so you're getting it without all the slightly hysterical hype that you often get from TV weather presenters. Also, by following the appropriate links, you can get to the nearest forecast office for your area.


Last day before the storm

Hmm. It appears that I was incorrect when I put the last big ice storm at the end of December 2008. Today is supposedly the one-year anniversary of the storm, which I guess is rather fitting, since we have another one coming in late tonight/early tomorrow. Possible accumulation of up to an inch of ice, plus 1-5 inches of sleet and snow. We've got candles and food for days without power, but I'm hoping it won't come to having the power knocked out. I have books to read, and pen and paper to scribble the latest story on, just in case.

Speaking of books, I gave up on the Ariana Franklin books. They're quite a bit darker than I really wanted to read.

Just finished reading Fatally Flaky, by Diane Mott Davidson. Also read Heat Wave, by "Richard Castle", and See Delphi and Die, by Lindsey Davis. Currently reading Whose Body?, by Dorothy L Sayers. I hate to admit it, but I tried to read this book before and totally couldn't get in to it. If I'd based my entire view of the series on that one book, I'd never have discovered the wonderful stories she told later. The "Richard Castle" book is a lot like an episode of the TV show, except where it isn't. If you've seen the show, you'll know where it's different when you read the book. I'll probably buy more of Lindsey Davis' work, since I enjoyed her book, which is set in the Roman era. As for Fatally Flaky...I think Goldie Shultz has finally truly hit TSTL status. I hate saying that, because I really have enjoyed previous outings.

I'm pretty sure at this point that Patty will be going solo in the new story. I'm still intending to have one with Patty's husband, Micheal, playing more than a mostly-offstage role, but it will be one with horses in it.

I've got some writing posts percolating through my brain at the moment. Hopefully I'll get them written soon.

Stay warm and dry, if possible...



I do tend to mention what books I'm currently reading, if I happen to be reading anything, so I feel the need to drop in a word of warning with regard to one I mentioned in my last post, Mistress of the Art of Death.

The main character in the book is a young woman trained as a doctor in Salerno, Sicily, and also trained to examine the dead to determine cause of death. In other words, a Medieval forensic scientist. In the course of the story, she has to examine the decaying remains of three murdered children, and the bones of a fourth (I'm not giving away anything you don't find out early in the story), and the descriptions of the violence inflicted on those children would be enough to bother a number of people I know. If you're at all sensitive, you might want to give some thought to whether you want to read this or not.

Downloaded two books for future reading: Holmes on the Range, by Steve Hockensmith , and This Dame's for Hire, by Sandra Scoppettone. I think I tried to read the Scoppettone before, but wasn't in the mood for the 1940s setting at the time. We'll see how it goes this time.

Out for now~~~