Monday, August 30, 2010

My website--the real story

Much to my surprise, my website has been all over the internet in recent weeks. It was on Smart Bitches and Dear Author, and later showed up on Barbara Vey's blog and at The Chatelaines, to name just two.

I want to clear up one misconception right away: the website was NOT designed as a publicity stunt. I'm not complaining about the fact it worked out that way, but it wasn't intentional, not even a tiny bit. The day it went viral on Smart Bitches and Dear Author, I was out in the middle of the woods, literally. We were on vacation and had taken a side trip to Mount St Helens. I had no clue anything was going on till Mr. Fraser's cousin tweeted us about it. And I promise you, if I was going to stage a deliberate publicity stunt, I would not do it on a day I planned to spend driving through Gifford Pinchot National Forest!

The second misconception I've seen is that I asked my husband to design my website to save money and that he doesn't know what he's doing. Also not the case. He's a professional web developer who's been working in the industry since 1999. I'm not going to link to any of his other sites to preserve at least a thin veneer of privacy between my writing and day job identities, but suffice it to say he's very good at what he does. He's a regular conference speaker and he's taught a university-level web dev class. So the mid-90's look of the current site was a deliberate stylistic choice on his part.

So. As for how the website came into being, well, 2010 has been a year of good things for the Fraser family, only they all decided to happen at once. If you'd told me on January 1 that Mr. Fraser was going to have an opportunity to teach a college class on top of his full-time job, thereby enhancing his resume and bringing in some extra money, that we were going to finally buy a house after a decade of renting, and that I was going to sell a book, I would've said that was a wonderful year. And it has been. It's just that the way it went down turned out kind of insane.

When Mr. Fraser got the chance to teach the class, he asked if I could take on more of the housework and childcare than usual since he'd be working such long hours. I was fine with that because it was just for one quarter and because I was between things in my writing. The added responsibility gave me an excuse to step back for a few months, send out queries, and just poke at some of my new writing ideas to see what felt right before committing.

Everything was going fairly smoothly until I found The House while idly visiting open houses one Sunday afternoon. All our plans to wait on serious house shopping till after the class ended went out the window because we--and admittedly I was the leading half of the "we" on this one--didn't want to risk this being the only case of the right house for the right price in the perfect neighborhood. So we made an offer, it was accepted, and suddenly we were both having to work hard at moving prep on top of the extra workload from Mr. Fraser's class.

Then Carina accepted The Sergeant's Lady, and I was thrown into an immediate whirlwind of edits to prepare for my August release date. On top of everything with the house and Mr. Fraser's class.

It was wonderful, and I'm thrilled that every piece of it happened, but it was INSANE. We had a good three months of more than two people can reasonably manage. And at the very end of it, I had the opportunity to list The Sergeant's Lady in a newsletter with upcoming releases and my online contact info.

The smart thing would've been to just leave my as-yet nonexistent website out of it and put my perfectly good blog there instead. But instead of being smart I asked Mr. Fraser could he please, please, pretty-please just put up a tiny, basic website, and we'd get the real thing up by my release date. He agreed, albeit reluctantly. But then the last pieces of our move and getting in the grades for his class took longer than we expected. Suddenly it was 11 PM the night before this newsletter was supposed to go out and my husband was putting together the website. He showed it to me, half expecting me to have a meltdown, and instead I laughed and laughed, because it was so HIM and so US and so in keeping with the madness of the two months we'd just made it through.

And I thought that would be that, because surely in the six weeks or so we still had before my release date, between the two of us we'd have time to get my new site up. But it didn't happen. I think once we got past the sheer insanity of our spring, we just kind of crashed for the summer. We needed the break even if we hadn't intended to take it.

So the site stayed on longer than we expected or intended, and we became accidental marketers. I'm glad for the attention, but I wanted to tell the real story of what happened. And in another week or two, I'll finally have a real website to show off!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Trying to catch my breath

It's been a crazy week, but more because of the day job than anything to do with my book, to tell the truth. Next week should be more settled, thankfully. I have a job that's fairly peaceful about 75% of the time but goes chaotic at often unpredictable intervals, and this happened to be one of the out-of-control weeks.

Anyway, on the book front, yesterday I posted at Rose Lerner's place about historical crushes. I've already given away the free book for that stop, but you're still welcome to stop by and comment, of course!

Today I have excerpts up at two sites: The Season and Unusual Historicals. Two different excerpts, and both different from the one I posted at the Carina blog on Tuesday, so if you're exploring my work to decide whether or not to buy, you might want to visit both. :-)

Tomorrow I'm at Once Written, Twice Shy, talking about the challenges facing introverts when they have to come out of their writing cave and work with their publishing team, and Sunday I'll be back at Unusual Historicals and also at Risky Regencies, with giveaways at all three sites.

On the reviews front, well, they continue to trickle in. I'm particularly happy with the B I got at Dear Author and my 9-star Top Pick from The Season.

At some point I need to write about my website and how it came to be, but that's just not going to happen for another few days. On top of the work madness, we have out of town company and a party planned, so it's all I can do to breathe, work on my CURRENT manuscript, and keep up with my blogging obligations.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Today on the blog tour

Today I'm at my publisher's blog, and by the end of the day I should have three posts up, talking about my influences as a writer and including an excerpt from The Sergeant's Lady. The first post is already up, reflecting on my adolescent love of Sunfire YA historicals and traditional Regency romances and the degree to which The Sergeant's Lady is a combination of the two, with sex scenes. No giveaway today, but please stop by and say hi anyway!

I'm going to post more about what it's like to go through my debut week as an author, but I think I'm going to wait till I've had time to reflect on the experience a bit more. It's oddly like your wedding day, in that it's something you dream of for a long time before it actually happens and you expect to be walking on air, but when it gets there it's awesome, but nothing like what you expected, and your mind tends to glom onto the most trivial things instead of the fact you're Actually Finally Getting Married. When I look back at my wedding day, I remember being tired (I was diagnosed with mono maybe two weeks later--I got chicken pox at 18 and mono at 28, and I hope I continue the pattern of getting diseases ten years past the usual time, 'cuz I'll live longer that way), the logistics of moving in a big dress, the problems with the caterer, and so on. All the romantic high points were before or after that day. When I look back at this week...well, I'll let you know once I'm actually looking back!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Release day!

My release day is here at last, and The Sergeant's Lady is available just about anywhere e-books are sold.

I'd have more to say, but I woke up this morning to a dead battery in the car we didn't take on vacation, so my schedule for the day has gone catawumpus. Sigh. The glamorous life of the writer.

Today I'm guest blogging at Magical Musings and will be giving away a free download of my novel to one commenter. Please stop by!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Back from vacation...

Mr. Fraser, Miss Fraser, and I have just returned home from five days spent first at a water park and then on the Oregon Coast. On Wednesday, when my website was being discussed on Smart Bitches and Dear Author, we were on the road between the water park and the coast, with a side trip to Mount St Helens--which, incidentally, is way out in the woods, rendering my iPhone useless for hours on end. It's a bit disconcerting to have one's 15 minutes of internet "fame" take place while one is offline, I must say!

On the way home today we passed through Portland, so of course we stopped at Powell's, the most awesome bookstore in the world. The downtown flagship store covers a full city block, and I've spent the better part of a full day there on previous trips. Since Miss Fraser is an impatient 6-year-old, we couldn't stay that long, but I managed thirty minutes or so in the Britain and France shelves of the history section and came out with the following haul:

The English: A Social History, 1066-1945, by Christopher Hibbert
Governess: The Lives and Times of the Real Jane Eyres, by Ruth Brandon
White Mughals: Love and Betrayal in Eighteenth-Century India, by William Dalrymple
Wellington and the Arbuthnots, by E.A. Smith
In Flight with the Eagle: A Guide to Napoleon's Elite, by Raymond Horricks
Dawning of the Raj: The Life and Trials of Warren Hastings, by Jeremy Bernstein
Women in English Society 1500-1800, by Mary Prior
The Customs and Ceremonies of Britain, by Charles Kightly

The India, Wellington, and Napoleon books are research for specific future novels. The others just looked interesting.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Almost there...

On Monday morning I'll wake up--that's assuming I sleep at all Sunday night!--and check my Kindle. If nothing goes wrong (or, as we used to say in Alabama, if the Good Lord's willing and the creek don't rise), The Sergeant's Lady will be waiting there for me. My very own book, out there for all the world to read.

It's been a long journey, one that started as a marathon and ended as a sprint. I started writing seriously in 2001, nine years ago. In my naive optimism--or maybe newbie arrogance would be a more accurate term--I never dreamed that it would take me nearly a decade to sell. And there were times in the past year or two where I wondered if I was deluding myself by thinking that I had any kind of writing gift worth cultivating. I even thought about quitting...for maybe a few hours. That's all it took to realize that even if no one wanted to read my stories, I still wanted to tell them.

The sprint started once Carina offered to buy the book. That was in April. Less than five months ago. In that brief time I've been through three or four rounds of edits, deciphered a contract, provided input on cover art and copy, planned a blog tour, built a web presence for myself (at least the beginnings of one--my website itself, the one talked about on Smart Bitches and Dear Author this week, is very much a work in progress and will hopefully be replaced by the real thing in the next couple weeks), and attended a major conference as an author with a First Sale ribbon on my badge and a book to publicize. All while moving to a new house and living my life as a married mother with a full time day job. It's been dizzying at times. Wonderful, though. Nothing like having your dream come true after almost giving up all hope that it's possible!

And the journey continues. Carina has accepted my second Regency historical romance, A Marriage of Inconvenience, exact date TBD but probably March or April 2011. Watch this space for further details...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Blogroll Updated

I've added a few new sites to my blogroll for your reading pleasure.

Fellow research geeks, especially those of the Georgian/Regency/Victorian stripe should check out Number One London. Though I swear if Kristine Hughes and I ever meet, we're going to come to blows over the Duke of Wellington. You know, over who gets first dibs on him once time travel is invented...

Debuts and Reviews is by my fellow Carina author Tia Nevitt. I like her thoughtful approach to reviewing and her focus on debut authors.

Romance Bandits is a chatty, high traffic group blog that encourages reader participation.

Janet Reid is not my agent, but you can be sure if I ever write something she represents while I'm still unagented, she'll be the very first person I query. I love her blend of snark and industry wisdom.

If I ever need a break from the Napoleonic Era, the first place I'm going to go is 5th century BCE Greece. I love the Greco-Persian wars and Periclean Athens. Gary Corby is already there with his soon-to-debut mystery series.

And last but not least, there's my publisher's own blog. Follow for news on all their new releases, what they're looking for in submissions, etc.

Monday, August 16, 2010

One week to release date, and my first few reviews

Just one week till release date now, and I'm starting to get reviews. So far, they've all been good, and I've got my fingers crossed the pattern will hold.

Night Owl Reviews made it a Top Pick.

The Bookkeeper enjoyed it even though it's not one of her usual genres.

The Reading Reviewer thought it was delicious!

And I'm delighted to announce my book is finally up for pre-order at Barnes & Noble. Given that I've had several readers specifically ask about reading it on their Nooks, I was starting to bite my nails. Now I'll just have to find something else to bite my nails over--which just before release week isn't hard at all!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Office update and first guest blog

Yesterday I guest blogged at History Hoydens, talking mostly about my research process. And I learned that I'm going to have to be very diligent during my blog tour if I'm going to get any work or writing done, instead of, you know, just obsessively checking the blogs every 15 minutes to see if there are new comments.

Speaking of writing, my office is coming along. I don't have my desk set up yet, nor my Inspiring Images up on the wall, but the walls are painted and I'm starting to unpack my books. Behold!

The darker wall is Okra, the lighter one Oolong Tea. Those are my research books, about half unpacked--lots of military history, with a heavy focus on Napoleon and Wellington and their campaigns, plus a goodly amount of general Regency sources and stray books on subjects unrelated to the 18th or 19th century that I might write about if I ever get tired of mining the Napoleonic Wars. Want to know how ladies wore their hair in 1818, or who-all Wellington wrote to right after Waterloo (his letters from that period were unusually full of exclamation points!!! to the degree that I asked him if he were 46 or 16!!), or how the Athenians tricked the Persians into engaging their fleet at Salamis? I've got you covered.

For those who came in late, here's what my walls used to look like. Big improvement, no?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Blog Tour!

I'm about to embark upon The Sergeant's Lady Blog Tour 2010! It's a bit like a physical book tour, only without the travel to glamorous destinations, but also without the room service food or the sitting forlornly at a bookstore table hoping the next person who walks up will actually buy my book instead of just asking for directions to the restroom or where the Stieg Larsson books are shelved.

I'll be visiting various blogs and posting what I hope will be amusing and/or informative anecdotes about me, my book, and my writing process. At almost every stop I'll be giving away a free download of The Sergeant's Lady or an Amazon gift certificate to one lucky commenter, so do check the calendar on the sidebar and stop by for your chance to win!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Did I mention that this industry is in flux?

Romance publisher Dorchester is dropping its traditional mass market paperback program and switching to e-book with at least some trade paperback and/or print-on-demand presence.

What I'm hearing from their authors (two of whom are my critique partners Rose Lerner and Alyssa Everett) doesn't quite match the PW story linked above. It sounds as if, at least for now, ALL previously scheduled releases will be released as ebooks on or around their originally planned date, with trade paperback editions coming out six months later.

Ebooks are the future--I don't think anyone doubts that anymore--and at least for popular fiction, the future has arrived. Whether the new business model will work out for Dorchester in particular...well, time will tell. They're moving into it as a struggling company with cash flow issues. I hope they succeed, for the sake of all my friends and critique partners who have contracts with them.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

An industry in flux

Everyone knows the publishing industry is a bit chaotic just now. Barnes & Noble is up for sale and e-books are growing at a rapid clip. (But don't ask ME just how fast, or which is in the stronger position out of Apple and Amazon, or even how viable the market is for non-erotic romance e-books like, oh, mine--do I look like I have a crystal ball?)

Fantasy author Jim Hines has a post up addressing some of these changes from a writer's point of view by describing how much has changed about the submissions process since he started writing in 1995. I've only been writing seriously since 2001 and didn't start seeking publication till 2003, so I can report that querying is different than it was even five years ago. Then I sent a lot of paper queries and even manuscripts. Now the vast, VAST majority of editors and agents prefer electronic submissions. A few still ask for paper. Should you bother with them? Speaking for myself, I'll send a paper query to an agent if said agent has a solid web presence and seems tech-savvy, because they're probably avoiding email queries to cut down on the flood of submissions. But if I think there's even the slightest possibility they just don't want to accept change, forgeddaboudit.

I was delighted to switch from Courier to TNR and to replace underlining with italics, but there's no way I'm ever going to break my high school typing class habit of putting two spaces after a period that I learned back in 1989. So I do a find-and-replace just before submitting.

In general, things are changing fast, and while I expect the industry to eventually settle into a New Normal of some kind, it'll take awhile. Don't assume the way you've always done things is still industry standard, especially on things like paper vs. electronic, how to measure word count, preferred fonts, etc. Check your targeted agent or publisher's guidelines and adjust accordingly.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Back from RWA

I didn't blog last week because I was at the RWA conference in Orlando. I'd intended to update from there, but I was busy, and while the hotel was lovely overall, suffice it to say the wifi wasn't the greatest.

I met some great people and attended some informative workshops, but The Moment for me was having my name checked off on the official invite list and walking into the festive and lavish Harlequin party on Friday night. I'm still three weeks from my release date, but at that moment I felt like I'd Arrived-with-a-capital-A. To quote Bull Durham (because it's the most quotable movie ever), "Yeah, I was in the show. I was in the show for 21 days once - the 21 greatest days of my life. You know, you never handle your luggage in the show, somebody else carries your bags. It was great. You hit white balls for batting practice, the ballparks are like cathedrals, the hotels all have room service, and the women all have long legs and brains."

Hopefully I'll manage a long stay in the publishing world's show...but I don't think anything ever beats that first moment. First kisses are thrilling even when you bump noses and teeth, I got more of a rush from finishing my first manuscript, flawed mess that it was, than any of the ones I've completed since, and I doubt I'll get as excited if I make it to my 20th publisher party even if by then I'm a star.