The Wedge of the San Rafael

The Wedge of the San Rafael
Someone has to live here, in the middle of desert beauty. Might as well be the Kellys.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

I hereby resolve...

I should resolve to be more prompt with blogs, but I have to tell you that's not going to happen. I'm still not convinced that anyone particularly cares what I do, so I face 2013 with the same amount of skepticism I ended with in 2012.

Some fun things did happen before Christmas. I grudgingly agreed to do a few booksignings at some Seagull store, and I did have a good time, or what passes for a good time at a booksigning. I'm well aware that most royalties for authors, at least authors of fiction, are generated through ebook sales. With that in mind, what's the point of booksignings? The "grudgingly" part comes because we're never quite sure about the weather in the canyon between Carbon County and the rest of Utah. It can be the white knuckle express.

And yet. On December 22, I had a lovely encounter with two readers, Amy the mother and Dondy the daughter, whom I had met at a fun bookclub meeting last summer in Mapleton, Utah. They like to read, and they both enjoyed My Loving Vigil Keeping, to the point of wanting to visit Scofield Cemetery in the spring, when the snow is eventually gone.

Dondy did say she probably won't make the trip, because she's expecting twins in spring.  She's having a girl and a boy, and here's the part that we laughed over: She's almost convinced her husband that the boy should be named Owen, after the hero in Vigil Keeping. I was tickled. I'll have to ask her if I can attend her son and daughter's blessing.  She said she wasn't making any headway on getting her husband to agree to Angharad for their daughter, though.

Amy and Dondy stayed and chatted a while and we all had fun. Heavens, I hated to see them leave, because not only are they charming, but they were calling over browsers in the bookstore and telling them to buy my books! I told them I'll have to take them on all booksignings.

I'm about halfway done with Safe Passage, a novel set in 1912, after the Mormons have been ejected from their Mexican colonies by the Mexican Revolution. Our hero has to return and find his wife. Safe Passage is the working title, but could change.

For those of you who are interested, Signet has released The Lady's Companion as an ebook. This was my second Rita Award-winner, and a bit of a ground breaker. My Signet editor claimed it was one of the few books where the heroine "slides" and finds her true love in the bailiff on the estate where she is functioning rather poorly as a lady's companion to the widow of a Peninsular War hero. According to my editor, what usually happened was the lady would discover that her lover was really a duke or marquis in disguise, and not a lowly bailiff. Nope. I never mess around like that. David Wiggins is a bailiff. He was a thief, a rascal, a bastard, a sergeant major reformed by the aforementioned widow.

And if you're still interested, CamelPress in Seattle has just reissued Miss Whittier Makes a List, another moldy-oldy Signet. This is reissued as paperback and ebook. Hannah is a Quaker miss, bound for Charlestown, South Carolina, from Nantucket. When her ship is blown out of the water by a French privateer she becomes the unwilling guest of the Royal Navy.

Here's the funny thing about Miss Whittier: I wrote in in 19th century Quaker-speak, of course, which some well-intentioned but boneheaded copy editor turned into Elizabethan English. I spent a lot of time changing it back to Quaker-speak and convincing Signet that really knew what I was doing.

Well. When I finish Safe Passage by the end of January, I'll return to the high seas for another Harlequin Historical. Not sure what the title is yet, and the plot is barely there, but I'll have fun, and hopefully you will, too, if you're not opposed to reading a more va-va-voom book. After that, I'm off to the Double Cross again in the royal colony of New Mexico. I do get around.

Happy New Year to all of you. I'll try to resurface in a couple of weeks, and I will try to be more prompt with answering comments.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Just a very little

If any of you are in/near Salt Lake City on Saturday, December 8, I'm having a booksigning at the Seagull Bookstore in Fashion Place Mall. I'm going to have a drawing for some of my hand creams. I'll probably bring along a jar of Christmas Splendor, and maybe one of Beau Brummel. The Beau's hand cream seemed appropriate for the Regency era, of course. I think it smells a bit like London men's clubs.

I started making soap, hand lotion and hand  cream this fall, and boy howdy, is it great stuff. Bath & Body Works isn't getting another dime from me. I emailed a friend about it, and she's getting a jar of Bay Rum hand cream for her Sam. It's Mr. Otto's favorite, as well as any number of my nautical guys. Maybe cuz I like it. My soap is still pretty homely, but it lathers well, and does the job.

I have another booksigning in Helper, Utah, on December 15, at the Western Mining and Railroad Museum, from noon to 3 p.m. The museum will be selling My Loving Vigil Keeping, since it's about coal mining. Then on Saturday, December 22, at the Seagull Bookstore in Sprngville, Utah, from 11-2, I'll have another booksigning. That will round out 2012. January will see - sort of - me getting cataract surgery, and there are three bookclubs where I'll be speaking, too.

Now it's back to Safe Passage, where Ammon Hancock is having the darnedest time finding his wife.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

It's war

Oh my word, editors are even more corn-fusing than readers. Let me walk you through my encounter with an editor at Penguin Random House yesterday. (Signet is a Penguin imprint.)

a few years ago, Signet asked me to return my copywrites for those 16 traditional Regencies I wrote for them years ago, to reissue now as ebooks. I have been parceling them out to three publishers – Cedar Fort, Camel Press in Seattle, and back to Signet. Signet has reissued several of these now, and they look fine.

The dilemma is The Wedding Journey, a novel set in 1812 Spain when Marching Hospital #8 (think MASH unit) is trying to make it to safety behind the lines of Torres Vedras in Portugal. It’s a tough little story, with  appealing characters. Research was fun beyond belief, but a challenge, because it's hard to find good stuff about combat medicine in the Napoleonic Wars.

In late November, my Signet editor (she’ll remain nameless) sent me a proposed cover copy for the ebook of The Wedding Journey. It’s lovely – a handsome barouche with wedding flowers all over it. The only problem is that it reflects absolutely nothing that happens in the novel. Nothing. Zilch. Nada.

Here was her first email on Nov. 20: “I’m attaching the cover we’ve created for THE WEDDING JOURNEY here!”

My reply: “Well, it’s pretty, but has absolutely nothing to do with the book, set in Spain when the army is retreating and evacuating a mobile hospital. Could you try again?”

Her reply the name day: “It is a fine line because there isn’t really art that will show those particulars of the plot. Do you think that something less fancy like a bouquet of flowers would work better?

My reply: “I would probably put a wedding bouquet on a cannon. That would give a better idea of the novel.”

Fast forward now to November 27. From my editor:
“I’ve discussed this with our editorial director and we both feel that the cover is a nice mix of the wedding theme and the war elements of the story. How else can we portray that kind of detail without making an ugly cover? And I prefer this very striking cover to the landscape covers which are getting generic for the Regencies at this point.

Additionally, I want to remind you that you and I worked very hard to completely rewrite The Wedding Journey copy [she’s referring to the original back cover blurb] so it accurately reflects the storyline – which the original copy mostly glossed over. When we have the accurate copy available on the etailer page with this striking cover, I think it presents a very intriguing package for readers. Do you agree?

Please let me know your thoughts!”

By now, I see what’s going on. They have no intention of changing that cover, but they want me to be happy, happy with it. I mean, I have to be happy. Jeez Louise.

My reply: “It doesn’t matter what I think, because obviously no one’s going to change that cover. It’s lovely for a wedding in the British countryside, but not for what the book is about. I just don’t care anymore.”

And I didn’t. I know when I’m licked.

Her response:
“Hi Carla,

We absolutely want you to be happy with your cover. Is there a time tomorrow you’re free to chat so I can get a better idea of what you’d like?

Realistically, I don’t think we’ll be able to find the art for something like a cannon with flowers on it or the army tent background that I know you had originally suggested. But we can talk through some other scenes.  [She invited me to look at other covers they had done for ebooks, and I dutifully did.] Let me know if there is a good time and number to reach you!”

Numb by now, I gave her a good time to call me and my number. This morning, I figured out a perfect solution: just use two silhouettes of a man and a woman looking at each other. Just the heads. I nosed around on the Interwebs and found exactly what she can use.

This is the email I sent this morning:
“Jesse, here’s your dilemma: I looked through that blurb copy, which now actually gives away a bit too much about The Wedding Journey, but which is better than the original. If you insist on keeping your drawing of a barouche and flowers, which never once appear in the novel, it also doesn’t match in any way the new, improved copy. Believe me, I understand the issue here: no one can spend any money on these covers. Here’s a workable solution and one that surely the art editor can find by just looking around on the Internet. I did it this morning. Use two silhouettes, one a man with slightly curly hair (I found of those), and a woman. Silhouettes were all the rage in Regency England. Just use two silhouettes. That gets us around the barouche and flowers which have absolutely no place in the novel, and the back cover, which talks about war in Spain. Two silhouettes. And if you can’t find two silhouettes, then one silhouette of a woman. Simple.”

I didn’t hold out much hope, but I think I’ve been proved wrong. Here’s the email I got later this morning:

“Thanks so much for your feedback. We think we’ve incorporated your suggestions into these new concepts, while still keeping the overall look that our Art and Marketing departments have created to brand the Regency releases. We want them clearly visually branded as Signet Regencies with this art style, which is why design options are so limited. I’m attaching the original artwork and two options more in the tone of the story. I think the second incorporates your silhouette request really strongly, and both steer clear of traditional bridal flowers or themes. Let me know what you think?”

I think they’ve done it. The open road and the lowering clouds really fit the book. Generically, the landscape could easily be Spain. I honestly did not think Signet would try to find a solution. It’s nice to be proved wrong. I emailed back and told her that the open road and lowering clouds really fit the tone of the novel.
So, dear readers, if you have a hankering to be published in the national and international publishing world, do be careful what you wish for. Dealing with editors who are convinced and won’t bend are as numbing as some readers who are wicked mean. But now and then, there’s a glimmer that they really do want me to be (ahem) happy. And I am. They could just as easily have left that #^&^% barouche and flowers on a Spanish battlefield.