Status Update – RITA Finalists!

Mar 24, 2017

I intend to read all of the historicals, starting with these guys

Yay! The finalists for the 2017 RITA Awards were announced on Tuesday! And for those who don’t know that that is, it’s the industry award for romance novels…like the Oscars of Romance. Also FYI, the finalists are chosen by romance-writing peers who read a selection of novels in multiple genres and score them based on a series of guidelines. And to take it back one step further, those novels are submitted by traditionally published and indie authors, with a contest cap of, I think it was 2000 books this year. So after everyone reading and judging all of those 2000 books in a variety of categories, we now have finalists!

Click here for the complete list of finalists in all categories courtesy of the RT Book Reviews blog.

But today I want to talk about the finalists in the two Historical Romance categories, because when it comes to Historical Romance, I think the industry/category has some serious problems.

First, though, let’s celebrate these magnificent authors who made the finals!!!!

Historical Romance: Long

Dukes Prefer Blondes by Loretta Chase

How I Married a Marquess by Anna Harrington

No Mistress of Mine by Laura Lee Guhrke

Susana and the Scot by Sabrina York

 

Historical Romance: Short

Do You Want to Start a Scandal by Tessa Dare

Duke of Sin by Elizabeth Hoyt

A Duke to Remember by Kelly Bowen

Left at the Altar by Margaret Brownley

The Study of Seduction by Sabrina Jeffries

Taming the Highlander by May McGoldrick

 

A round of applause for all of these authors!

Bonus points to whoever came up with Tessa Dare’s title, because every time I see it, I get that song stuck in my head.

And now, let’s talk about what’s wrong with this picture. First of all, I hope you clicked on that link to the RT blog to see all of the finalists in all categories. See how many of them some of those categories have? Up to 10 per category! But notice how many there are for both historical categories combined? Only 10. And notice something else? Of those ten finalists, five of them have made the finals many, many times, year after year. That’s half of the finalists in the category popping up perennially.

So why do I feel like that’s just dead wrong? As my friend Caroline Lee said when we were discussing this, doesn’t that just mean that those authors are the best in the field, especially if they’re finalists almost every year?

Yes. Absolutely.

And that’s the problem.

As I said to Caroline, where is the new blood? Where are the hot young authors in the genre? If the same excellent authors are reaching the finals every year with relatively few first-time finalists in either of the historical categories, what does that say about the health of the genre as a whole?

Personally, I think it means two things. First, it’s just a fact that Historical Romance has been on a downward trend for a while. It doesn’t sell as well as it used to. Even my historical novels—which make up about 70% of my total catalog—don’t sell as well as the contemporary novels I have out there. And I think that becomes a problem when people are judging the books. Overall, they’re scoring them lower, because they’re just not that in to historical romance.

Okay, that’s fair enough. You can’t expect someone to get super excited over books that aren’t their cup of tea. But the other problem I have—and it’s not just this year, it’s every year—is that the number of non-Regency novels that make the finals are…well, there are two this year—one Scottish and one Western. And this is not just a problem with contests, it’s a problem with the industry.

Let me explain… Regency Romance takes up a gigantic percentage of the historical romance market right now. HUGE. But there are so many more eras and locations of history with rich, fabulous stories to be told. So with all of the vibrant history out there, why so much Regency and so little of everything else? Because traditional publishing claims that any historicals other than Regency don’t sell. But the vast majority of what they publish is Regency. So how can they sell something that they don’t publish or claim that volumes of ignored history won’t sell when there are so few case studies of non-Regency books out there?

Okay, I’ll admit that Elizabeth Hoyt is one of my very favorite novelists!

This is why Indie Historical Romance writers have become so valuable to the industry. We write the stories that no one else will publish. And guess what? They sell. Not as well as contemporary romance, mind you, but they put kibble in my cats’ dishes. So if we have proof that other historical eras do, in fact, sell, why isn’t the traditional publishing industry putting more effort into publishing them (and I won’t say they don’t publish anything non-Regency at all—they do, just not very much). Furthermore, and this is more of a question based on reality, have readers been trained to only consider Regency and to block out any other historical eras? (Except maybe Scottish, which is also mildly popular, but honestly, I’m not a fan)

This brings me around to my other question/concern/problem with the industry and readers and awards these days. Is it possible that Historical Romance is seeing such a huge downswing because readers are dead tired of dukes? Is the genre as a whole failing to attract new readers because those readers are SO over Regency, but that’s the bulk of the entire category these days? Is it not possible that the category as a whole could get a huge boost if publishers and contests alike pushed more Western, Medieval, later Victorian, 20th Century, Non-European titles? I’d give my eye teeth to read a romance novel set around the founding of Australia, for example. I’ve ALWAYS wanted to read a series like that. Or what about a romance or two set during WWI? Hasn’t Downton Abbey proven that the material there is rich and crowd-pleasing? What about romances that explore the history of People of Color? I definitely want to read those!

Why don’t we see more variety in Historical Romance?

… That’s basically what it’s all about.

Release Day – His Magical Bride

Mar 20, 2017

It’s release day for Book 10 in The Brides of Paradise Ranch series, His Magical Bride (or Talia: The Magical Bride, if you like the sweet version). I could sit here all day telling you about it, but why not get started reading Chapter One instead?

Haskell, Wyoming – 1877

Sheriff Trey Knighton had entertained some bad ideas in his day. Running away from the orphanage where he’d landed after cholera wiped out his family was one. Taking up with the Skunk Boys of Missouri was another. There were days when he felt like accepting the post of sheriff of Haskell, Wyoming was a bad idea too, but only when his jail cell was filled to bursting with men who’d drunk too much over at Sam’s saloon, The Silver Dollar.

On second thought, turning straight, coming clean, and taking the job in Haskell was the best decision he’d ever made, drunks harassing him on Saturday nights or not. But letting Howard Haskell twist his arm and convince him to send away for a mail-order bride? Definitely not one of his brighter ideas.

“I’m so excited,” Eden Chance told her friends, bouncing as much as her toddler, Winslow. At that moment, he and Wendy and Travis Montrose’s baby, Emanuel, were sitting in a buggy together, laughing and clapping over something that had the two little critters in hysterics.

“Lord knows how happy I am to have my friend Talia nearby again,” Wendy agreed.

“She always was such a sweet little thing,” Corva Haskell added, rocking a buggy of her own. Corva had two babies now, not just one, Howard Franklin Haskell and now a girl, Elizabeth, or Bitsy as people had started to call the poor thing.

Rounding out their group was Elspeth Strong, who hadn’t had any children of her own since coming out last year to marry Athos, the stationmaster. That hardly mattered, seeing as Athos already had eight of the little boogers. Five-year-old Thomas held Elspeth’s hand as he watched Winslow and Emanuel, giggling along with them.

Heck, Trey was surprised the ladies hadn’t decorated the train station with bunting and rosettes. They were treating the whole thing like a big party. True, all four of them had known his bride-to-be during their time at Hurst Home. Trey kicked the boards of the train platform and winced. He should probably take their involvement in welcoming Talia Lambert as an endorsement of her character. It should reassure him, help him to feel confident in his decision to be a husband. But land sakes, domesticity sure did make a man shake in his boots when he came face to face with it.

“No, no, Howard.” Corva jerked forward as her boy—nearly two now—stood in the buggy and tried to lean over the side.

“Down!” he declared, pointing at the ground.

“Don’t step on your sister,” Corva told him in turn. Bitsy let out an almighty wail, and kept screaming. Trey blanched.

“Let him run around a little,” Virginia Piedmont, baby Howard’s great-aunt, told Corva. “We’ll all keep an eye on him.”

“Well, if you think it’s safe,” Corva said, lifting the boy out of the buggy and setting him on his feet on the train platform.

“Of course, it’s safe.” Virginia dismissed her concerns with a wave.

To prove her wrong, little Howard tore straight for the tracks. Corva was too busy picking up and settling her girl to chase after Howard. Trey was closest, so he swept in and lifted the boy into the air before he could tumble off the platform and onto the tracks.

Of course, Trey didn’t know the first thing about how to hold a baby. He clamped the squirmy thing around his middle and held him at arm’s length. The boy kicked and screamed, whether in shock at being picked up by a stranger or in rage over being stopped on his way to certain death, Trey had no idea.

“Here, I’ll take him,” Virginia said.

“Please do.” Trey handed the boy over.

Little Howard continued to squirm in Virginia’s arms, but Virginia hardly blinked. She carried the boy to the back of the platform, set him down, and interested him in a pile of rocks right beside the stairs. The other two toddler boys sure as heck noticed their buddy’s freedom and began to fuss and wail to be let down too. Wendy and Eden were still chattering away in a tone of voice that rendered everything they said as incomprehensible background noise in Trey’s ears. They didn’t seem to miss a beat as they lifted their babies from the buggy and set them down on the platform.

The two toddlers proceeded to chase each other around the buggy, tripping a few times and occasionally hiding in their mothers’ skirts.

“I can’t wait to introduce Talia to Emma and Dean Meyers,” Eden said, managing to catch and steer her boy away from a nail sticking out of the platform without missing a beat in the conversation.

“Of course,” Wendy gasped. “With all her nursing experience, I’m sure Dr. Meyers could use Talia’s help in his clinic.”

“She might even be willing to travel out to the Indian camps with him,” Elspeth suggested.

“Can I go to the Indian camps, Mama?” Thomas asked her.

Elspeth laughed and ruffled his hair. “No, dear.”

“Why not?” Thomas frowned.

“It’s far too dangerous for a little boy.”

“I’m not little, I’m five now.” Thomas stomped his foot.

“But it’s still too dangerous.”

“But I’m brave.”

“And young.”

“It’s not fair,” Thomas shouted.

Trey flinched. Yep, this was definitely a terrible, terrible idea. Why hadn’t he considered it all before? A bride meant a wife, and a wife meant a family. And the only thing more terrifying than having a family, in his experience, was losing one.

A chuckle at Trey’s side drew his attention away from the whirlwind of children. “That right there is why I’ve avoided this whole mail-order bride craze,” Sam Standish, one of Trey’s closest friends, said.

The women weren’t the only ones who had come to meet Talia Lambert at the station. Trey’s friends had come to show their support too, although he didn’t know how supportive it was for Sam and George Pickering to stand there snickering behind their hands.

“Come on,” George argued. “It’s a wonderful thing for a man to have a family.”

“Says the man who only just got married,” Sam argued.

“That only means I’m a new convert to the beauty and wonder of marriage,” George said.

“Yeah, see if you’re still saying that in six months when your baby gets here,” Sam tossed back.

George shrugged. “I welcome my and Holly’s child. Because I, for one, am ready for the challenge of fatherhood.”

Trey swallowed. “Well, I’m not,” he muttered. “Why did I ever let myself get talked into this?”

His friends stared at him in surprise.

“You can’t be having second thoughts now,” George said.

“Second thoughts?” Virginia straightened from where she was playing with Howard at the other end of the platform. “Don’t you tell me you’re having second thoughts about sending for a wife, Trey Knighton.”

“How on earth did she hear me all the way over there?” Trey murmured, even quieter.

“Women are like that,” Sam said with a snigger. “You say something they don’t like and they’ll hear it from two territories away.”

Sam was right. All five of the women on the other side of the platform glared at him as though he’d declared he was done with not only their friend Talia, but the entire female of the species.

“So help me God, Sheriff Knighton,” Eden launched into him. “If you turn Talia away when she gets off that train, I will personally make sure whoever does your laundry washes your sheets with nettles from here on out.”

“How could you even think of not marrying her?” Wendy questioned, hands on her hips. Her stance only emphasized the bump of her and Travis’s next baby, which didn’t help the argument, in Trey’s eyes, at all.

Elspeth only shook her head, and Corva was too busy settling her wailing infant to add to the admonishment.

Trey held up his hands. “I’m not backing out of anything,” he said, though a large part of him wished he could.

“Good,” Eden, Wendy, and Elspeth answered at the same time.

“He couldn’t back out of it if he wanted to,” Virginia added. “Talia’s already on her way, and Trey knows as well as anyone what kind of life you girls from Hurst Home have known. He wouldn’t be snake enough to turn away a woman who has already had a hard time of it.”

The others nodded. Guilt gnawed at Trey’s gut. They were right, of course. He wasn’t low enough to send any woman back to an unfortunate life. But that didn’t mean he had to dive into marriage whole hog once Miss Lambert got there. Men and women had all sorts of marriages, ones that ended up with a parcel of kids and ones that involved separate rooms and separate lives.

“You would never catch me sending away for a bride,” Sam said.

At last, something Trey could latch onto that wouldn’t end with him getting in trouble. He turned to Sam. “You would too, and you know it.”

“Nuh-uh,” Sam protested. “I run a saloon. That’s no place for a good woman.”

“He never said you would marry a ‘good’ woman,” George chortled.

Sam sent a mock frown George’s way. “You sayin’ I should get hitched to one of Bonnie’s girls?”

George lost his smirk. Any mention of Bonnie’s girls inevitably touched a nerve with him, seeing as he and Bonnie were friends from way back. He’d unknowingly given Bonnie the money she’d used to start her cat-house too, although Trey knew as well as anyone in town—probably better—how Bonnie used her place to rescue the unrescuable, educate them, and send them on to new and better lives.

“Sam—” Trey thumped a hand on Sam’s shoulder. “—the day will come when you’ll find yourself wanting the comforts of a wife.”

Sam raised a brow. “What, like you do?”

Trey let his hand drop to his side. Sam had a point.

 

And where can you buy this awesome book, you ask? Why, right here:

His Magical Bride (Spicy Version)

Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XQP4WKB

B&N – Coming Soon

iBooks – https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/his-magical-bride/id1217027807

Kobo – https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/his-magical-bride

Google Play – https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Merry_Farmer_His_Magical_Bride

(Spicy version is not and, alas, will not be available in KU, because it’s available everywhere else)

 

Talia: The Magical Bride (Sweet Version)

Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XQPCW7Y

(Only the sweet version is available in KU)

Status Update – Persistence

Mar 17, 2017

Woo hoo!

This one partially goes out to my fellow writers, but I hope a lot of what I’m about to share can help everyone in navigating the sometimes choppy waters of life. Because I had a REALLY good day yesterday, personally and professionally, and I owe it all to one thing: Persistence.

So career-wise, I had my very first 99 cent BookBub promo on one of the books from my Brides of Paradise Ranch series, His Remarkable Bride. I wrote this book back in June of last year, but I have to say, it’s one of my favorite things that I’ve written. I had a lot of fun writing a portly hero with a heart of gold, his eight children, and the Englishwoman and former governess who travels west as a mail-order bride to marry him, mostly so she can wrangle his children. Hilarity and heartbreak ensue. Who would have thought that a non-traditionally handsome, non-alpha male hero would capture so many hearts?

But let’s go back and focus on the BookBub part of this whole equation. Readers, if you haven’t signed up for BookBub’s daily deals emails, you’re missing out. Because they send out a LOT of great stuff! And authors, yeah, I know. One reason those BookBub emails are so great is because they have a VERY stringent process for choosing which books to promote. They only accept a tiny fraction of books that are submitted. And it drives authors to despair. Because some of us submit over and over and over and get rejection after rejection.

Believe it or not, I was one of those rejected authors. True, I haven’t had trouble getting freebie BookBub promos, and I have a theory about that which I’ll share some other time. But up until yesterday, after about five years of trying, I’d never had a 99 cent deal. Okay, granted, I didn’t try super hard to get one up until the last year or so because my marketing strategy relied more on freebies. But I was turned down plenty of times before being accepted.

And when I was, it wasn’t for the category I applied for. They wanted to put me in a new category. I had to take a chance…and it paid off! I was on most retailer’s Top 100 charts, including #34 on Amazon, when I woke up this morning! But it didn’t just happen easy-peasy, lickety-split. Not only did getting to that spot involve a lot of persistence when it came to submitting for the BookBub deal, dude, His Remarkable Bride is, like, the 35th book I’ve published or something.

It’s easy to get down in the mouth when we see other people in our same field or with our same life circumstances succeeding in ways we want to but haven’t, whether that’s getting a BookBub promo, getting a promotion, or getting pregnant after dealing with infertility. I know that I am particularly susceptible to jealousy, and it’s something I’ve had to work on HARD for most of my life. But this is a story not just of persisting in applying for one particular promo. I feel like my entire career so far, my entire life, has been about persisting in improving my writing and making it as technically good, original, and emotional as possible. It’s been about persisting when I felt trapped in a corporate job with no way of getting out. It’s been persisting when I didn’t think I was going to have enough money to pay bills. And I’m sure I’ll have to continue to persist. My heart tells me that I might have to persist enough to fight to keep this life I love so much as external forces (like that money thing) try to chip away at it.

This is what really matters

Persistence is key! If you give up on your dreams at any point, not only is that a sadness, it becomes that much harder to jump back onto the tack of pursuing them once you feel inspired again. In a way, persistence is the antithesis of inspiration. Inspiration is a glorious high, but persistence is a plodding, sometimes miserable and unrewarding, daily task that you have to do, whether you feel like it or not. But I have an image that always comes to mind when I don’t feel like writing or marketing or doing anything besides lying on my couch covered in cats, playing games on my iPad. And of all things, it’s a football analogy. You have to move the ball forward. Every day, even if it’s just a single yard, you have to move the ball forward.

And as far as my personal life goes, it was an awesome day yesterday because I got to hang out with this guy all morning! It’s an even more awesome day when I get to hang out with him and his sister, but oh, my heart! My career could have fallen apart yesterday and I still would have counted it a great day because of him (and his mommy). Because that’s what’s really important in life.

Status Update – Status Quo

Mar 15, 2017

Yeah, I’ve been really lazy about updating my blog lately. After I made such a big noise about wanting to post more often here so I can avoid the turmoil of FB. Well, the only excuse I can give is that nothing really exciting has been going on in my world. And you know, sometimes it’s nice when there’s just nothing to report.

Except maybe that snowstorm yesterday. We were forecast to get 12-16 inches. In the end, I think we got about 5 inches of snow with about a quarter inch of ice on top of that. I’m lucky that I didn’t lose power, but I did wake up in the middle of the night last night (which is normal) and couldn’t get back to sleep because I was worried about whether my car is frozen into its parking place, and the fact that I don’t have a shovel to dig it out. But looking out the window this morning, it looks like a couple cars that were in other parking spots had no trouble driving over the snow that was plowed against the backs of all of our cars.

See, that’s about as exciting as things have been lately. But for me, that’s actually a grand improvement. I think I’ve mentioned before that this has been a tough winter for me and my stress level. But in the last week or so, things have been looking up. I’ll admit, I started taking a bit of St. John’s Wart, which may or may be what’s contributing to the upward tick.

Kitten therapy or just having this grumpy old man yell at me to snap out of it?

Side Note: Back in the 90s, I worked for an herbalist at his health food store, and I learned a LOT about alternative medicine. I’m incredibly sensitive to pharmacology, if that’s the right way to say it, probably because Mom never gave us a lot of medicine when we were growing up. Not even aspirin. But then, we were really healthy and didn’t need it. Nowadays, I find that holistic medicine works just fine for me, even though it does nothing for other people. As my old boss taught me, that could be because my system hasn’t adapted to allopathic drugs. It could also be because he taught me which brands and preparations actually work and which are glorified grass clippings in capsules. The answer, by the way, is that liquid herbal preparations are a billion times more effective than capsules, and the brands Gaia Herbs and Herbalists & Alchemists are pretty much the most reliable brands on the markets.

But anyhow, the reason I mention this is because I’ve heard a lot of storied from friends of mine who have been having serious problems with depression this year. Like, VERY serious. It makes me grateful that my anxiety and depression is just annoying, and that I can handle it with herbs and kittens. My heart really goes out to those friends. And it makes me grateful that I’ve had nothing to report for a while. Sometimes smooth sailing and calm seas can be just what the doctor ordered.

Weekend Excerpt – His Magical Bride/Talia: The Magical Bride

Mar 12, 2017

Well, I may have been a little lazy these past few days (everyone deserves some lazy now and then), but I’ve been busy behind the scenes! I have the first draft of His Magical Bride (steamy)/Talia: The Magical Bride (sweet), Book 10 of The Brides of Paradise Ranch out at the editors right now. It’ll be out in just one week! Woo hoo! Here’s a bit to whet you’re appetite…

Their whole crew started along Elizabeth Street toward the church. As soon as Trey was ten feet past the hotel, he felt as though he’d been hit by a wave of panic. It was really happening. He was really about to go and get himself hitched.

“Uh, Miss Lambert.” He stopped, reaching as gently as he could for Miss Lambert’s elbow to stop her as well.

She did stop. So did all of her friends. Trey was near to making a run for it, until she told her friends, “You go on ahead.”

The ladies nodded and hummed and gave them both knowing looks. At least they continued on without a fuss. Trey waited until they were a good, long distance away before taking a breath.

“You can call me Talia,” Miss Lambert said. “Since we’re about to be married and all.”

“Yeah, about that.” Trey rubbed a hand over the lower half of his face. Talia’s gentle smile faded. “See, the thing is, if I’m being honest, I’m kinda having, well, second thoughts about this whole marriage thing.”

Talia suddenly looked as tired as a young woman who’d ridden miles in the back of a peddler’s wagon would look. “I see.” She lowered her eyes.

Trey’s chest started to ache in a peculiar way that he wasn’t used to. “I’m not saying that I won’t marry you,” he rushed to tell her.

“You’re not?” She looked up at him with so much hope in her eyes that a lump formed in Trey’s throat.

“No, ma’am. I made a promise. And I know what kind of life it was you left behind.” He knew he was echoing everything Virginia had said to him at the train station, but the woman had spoken the truth. “I will most certainly marry you, it’s just…” He let his sentence trail away and let out a helpless breath through his nose. “It’s just that I’m thinking I might not be ready for all the things that come along with a real marriage.”

“Oh?” She blinked fast, her brow knitting in confusion.

“You know, things like children and intimacy and…and children.”

Talia’s face brightened inexplicably. “Oh, I see.” She was back to smiling again, although Trey had no idea why, considering everything he’d just said. “You want to have a marriage in name only to start with. Until we get to know each other better.”

Was that what he’d asked for? “Uh, yeah,” he answered.

Talia’s smile grew so big that she laughed lightly before saying, “I’m perfectly fine with that arrangement. It’s a sensible one. I always did wonder how a woman could jump into every aspect of marriage so suddenly when her whole world has changed.”

She’d taken all that from what he said? “I’m glad we see eye to eye on this.”

“We do. And thank you, Trey.” She reached out, and it was several seconds before Trey realized she wanted him to hold her hand.

Still feeling a half-step behind, he took her hand, and together they headed on to where the others were just approaching the church.

Trey had stood by George during his wedding, and he’d attended the weddings of more than a few of his friends in the last few years, but he had no idea how fast a marriage ceremony could feel when you were the one standing at the front of the church with a woman.

“Do you, Trey Alexander Knighton take this woman, Talia Lambert, to be your lawfully wedded wife?”

Trey almost answered, “Huh?” when George asked the question, a teasing twinkle in his eyes, but he managed to squeeze out, “I do,” without looking like too much of a numbskull.

“And do you, Talia Lambert, take this man, Trey Alexander Knighton, to be your lawfully wedded husband, to love, honor, and obey, in sickness and in health, until death do you part?”

“I do,” Talia answered with more certainty than Trey would ever be able to manage. She smiled up at him too with a look that said she was confident she’d done the right thing. How did she manage that?

“Then by the power invested in me by God and the Territory of Wyoming, I now pronounce you husband and wife.”