Sunday, October 09, 2016

What's Next?

A few weeks ago I wrote about my business decision to separate from Ellora's Cave and concentrate on self-publishing. Unfortunately, my fears proved founded. This week Ellora's Cave made the move to close its doors. As of December 31st, it will cease to exist.

Like many authors, I am, by nature, a solitary creature. An introvert, life is most comfortable when I'm home, surrounded by family and friends. The people at EC became friends of the second circle - Tina/Jaid, Patty, Raelene at first. Martha, Jenia, Rodney, CJ next. Going to the Romanticon conventions I met the authors who would become my Scribe sisters, both past and present: Lynn, Tara, Ruby, Cait, Ari, Tielle, Nikki, Jennifer, Titania. I sat beside Ann at booksignings and rubbed elbows with Lora, Cris, Wendy, Ashley, many authors there isn't space to name them all.

The past twelve years have been a most remarkable time because of my association with all these wonderful people.

Of course, all this begs the question: What next? I loved it when President Bartlett (West Wing) would ask that question. There is a finality to it that puts to rest the past while at the same time looks forward to the next challenge.

The answer? Well, that I'm still working on.

Self-publishing is one avenue, although it's gotten nearly impossible to get noticed with the flood of authors who have gone that route. Changing algorithms on many sites don't make it any easier and one (I'm looking at you, Amazon) wants authors to publish exclusively on their site in order to get any promotion or good algorithm. I'll go on the record here as to why I'm not exclusive anywhere: 1) It isn't fair to readers. Not everyone in the world reads their ebooks on a Kindle - and 2) I cannot support a monopoly. Amazon wants to be everything to everyone and, while that might be good for them, it isn't good for buyers to have only one place to shop.

Look for a new publisher is another option and one I've explored - and may continue to try. It's the publicity and distribution part I need. As it stands now, my books do not bring in new readers - and old readers already have all my books. As I prepare to re-release all my old titles, how do I get new readers to find them?

Of course, I could just walk away. Stop writing altogether. It's crossed my mind. Life would be simpler to move back into the world as "just" a reader - a consumer rather than a creator (to be honest, I've never stopped being a reader. Do you know how many good books there are out there????). I've tried that on for size this past six weeks. Haven't written a new story or met any new characters. I totally forgot to promote my First Friday Fiction yesterday. Why? Other pieces of my life have moved onto my calendar and I forgot.

So not writing would be a very easy transition to make. When I'm ninety, I can look back on my life and say, "I was a mid-list author in a small publishing company once." It's a good accomplishment and one I'd be happy with.

But it is also an option I won't take just yet. There are still stories to be told, characters who understand I just need some time to recharge before they'll be at me again, pestering, complaining, whining until I write them into existence. Besides which, I'm going to be at the Fall in Love with New England conference this week. It's a brand-new convention and I'm excited to be in on the ground floor. New readers to meet - new authors to explore, new adventures to experience.

But after that? 

I ain't got no clue. But you can bet it'll be an adventure. Life always is!

Play safe,

PS. I'll leave the Free Fiction Friday up until midnight tonight since I forgot to remind everyone. Read it while you can!

Monday, October 03, 2016

"How Am I Supposed to do That Again?"

As many long-time readers know, in my "spare" time, I teach Freshmen Composition at a local community college. Each semester I have my students choose an issue they want to chase down. They need to pick something that will keep their interest for the entire sixteen weeks since they'll be writing three major papers (and several smaller ones) on the issue. Often I choose an issue to explore as well.

Why? Not only do my papers serve as models to show them (with both good and not-so-good writing included - there's a huge emphasis on reflection in the course, so this gives them an opportunity to see what rewriting means), but it gives me an opportunity to do some formalized research into an area that interests me.

To that end, here is my first paper, a reflective essay on my issue for the year: the elderly and technology:

"How Am I Supposed to do That Again?"

As my mother-in-law, Nina, aged into her late seventies, she focused on two pastimes: reading romance novels and watching her crime shows on television. Because she was legally blind in one eye, she never got a driver's license. After her husband died, she became dependent on others for rides to the grocery store or to visit family. Hence, reading and watching TV became her escapes from loneliness.
Nina made the jump to the digital age of reading quite late in life. Dave, her eldest son, gave her a Kindle because her fading eyesight made reading the paperbacks she so carefully cataloged difficult to read. She loved it! She could make the font any size she wanted, so she cranked it up to a half-dozen words a page and read to her heart's content.
She couldn't figure out, however, how to buy books or how to download them from the library. Every week Dave would come visit, download a week's worth of books for her (seven of them, at least. She read a book a day) and she was set. Reading off the device was easy, downloading content? Not so much.
The television also became an issue for her. Gone were the days when there were only three channels and a knob to move between them. With the coming of cable, she had a hundred choices - and didn't watch 97% of them. The original three channels held most of the programming she wanted to see. But, because of that pesky lack of eyesight, she often pushed the wrong button on the remote and, instead of changing the channel, changed the setup from "TV" to "DVD" - and no matter how many times she was shown - she couldn't change it back.
Nina isn't alone in her inability to fully use today's technological advances. According to the Pew Research Center, 41% of Americans over the age of sixty-five do not use the Internet for any purpose. While many reasons were given, 8% stated it "was too hard to use" (Anderson and Perrin).
Why is it, though, that so many of those past a certain age have trouble handling the changes in technology? The Silent Generation (born between 1928 and 1945) grew up with vacuum tube radios and witnessed the birth of television (Fry)  . They oversaw the change in technology from those clunky tubes to printed circuit boards and solid state. Phones went from party lines to private ones and cars went from manual to automatic transmissions. They witnessed, participated in and heck, invented most of these technologies. So why so much trouble downloading a new book onto a Kindle?
Because change is hard. Moving out of our familiar paths causes stress and high levels of anxiety. According to Alvin Toffler, "change is the process by which the future invades our lives (Toffler, 1). The very word he uses, "invades", conjures up all sorts of scary images - we can feel our blood pressure rising just thinking about change.
Of course, the future can invade our lives in ways other than learning to use a new technology. Fast food franchises have become an ubiquitous part of our lives - it seems every small city has their collection. Towanda, Pennsylvania's first fast food restaurant was a Burger King built sometime in the 1970's, It wasn't fancy, but it was fast and the novelty of getting one's order of a burger and fries in mere minutes was something worth seeing.
In 1980 I became engaged to the man who would later become my husband. As a matter of course, I took Steven to Towanda to meet my Uncle Francis - a bachelor uncle who still lived in the family home on State Street. The Frawley family always considered itself lace-curtain Irish, which is to say they were English wannabes. Decorum was maintained - no matter what the circumstance. Conversation was never about trivial matters and small talk unimportant. Once the niceties are uttered ("How are you?" "I'm well, how are you?"), silence descended and the people gathered simply "set a spell" before parting ways.
I'm no longer sure who broached the subject of the midday meal first, but I do know it was my uncle who suggested trying out "that new restaurant over in North Towanda."
When questioned about the "new restaurant", he couldn't quite remember the name of it, but remembered it sells hamburgers. "King, something," he tells us.
Burger King. That new restaurant that's already been there for half a decade, at least. But then, Uncle Francis is in his early 70's, so I suppose a five-year span is a drop in the bucket to him.
He drives (another story entirely!) and parks beside the door to Burger King. The three of us troop in, my husband and I already knowing what we want from past visits to other versions of the franchise. But this is Uncle Francis' first time, so we expect him to head to the counter and read the menu hanging above.
Except he doesn't. He stands looking at the tables and booths as if waiting for something. It takes us a moment to realize he expects a waitress to seat us. My husband and I exchange a look and Steven points to the menu board. "We order here and then take it to a seat," he explains.
Casting a dubious look at what, to him, is a mass of written chaos, he finally presses at twenty-dollar bill into Steven's hand. "I'd like a cup of coffee and a hamburger." He turns to me and says, "Where do I sit?"
Hiding our indulgent grins at his discomfiture in a simple fast food place, Steven goes to order and I take him to a table. I gather napkins and ketchup for the fries and "set the table" as if this were the type of restaurant he's more familiar with. Steven returns with our food and we eat the same way we sat in the house - in silence.
Our visit that day lasts several hours and on the way home, we're both in agreement: Uncle Francis hated his trip to the "new restaurant." So you can imagine our surprise when, several months later, we make a return visit and the first thing he asks us (after the pleasantries, of course) is, "Are you going to take me to Burger King again? I really liked that hamburger."
Upon questioning, we discover he hadn't been since our last visit. Why? The ordering was too overwhelming. He'd found a new way that was too much for him. As Toffler would say, he'd reached his Future Shock moment.
And what is that? Future Shock is the stress or disorientation that occurs as a result to too much change too fast (Toffler, 2). For my mother-in-law, that was trying to download new books onto her Kindle or to keep the TV on the right setting. For my uncle, it was the newfangled restaurant, Burger King. For both, the future had invaded their lives and upended their abilities to handle what, to the younger generation, were simple tasks that we took for granted everyone knew how to do.

Except they didn't. The older generation has a difficult time in adapting to the fast pace of today's technological upgrades. Someday, I'll be the one stuck, unable to move past my own Future Shock moment and my children will exchange indulgent glances behind my back. I just hope they have patience for me every time I utter the words I heard so often from Nina: "How am I supposed to do that again?"

Works Cited

Anderson, Monica, and Andrew Perrin. "13% of Americans Don’t Use the Internet. Who Are          They?" Pew Research Center RSS. Pew Research Center, 07 Sept. 2016. Web. 22 Sept. 2016.

Fry, Richard. "Millennials Overtake Baby Boomers as America's Largest Generation." Pew Research Center RSS. Pew Research Center, 25 Apr. 2016. Web. 22 Sept. 2016.

Toffler, Alvin. "Introduction." Future Shock. New York: Bantam, 1970. 1-2. Print.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Promise for Now Available Again!

PROMISE FOR NOW, formerly a Quickie with Ellora's Cave Publishing, is once again available for purchase. Yay!

I had fun writing this one (okay, so I have fun writing them all. Otherwise, what would be the point?). Brian and Carol, the two protagonists are not based on any particular person, but their houses are. I have friends who used to live in the suburbs and, when visiting them one day, this story popped into my head. Inspiration can come from anywhere!

Click on the picture or use this link to read an excerpt or to purchase. Available in all formats!

Play safe,

PS. The rights of several of my books previously published by EC have returned to me. My goal is to republish one a month. Watch for a boxed set in November!  ~ Diana

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The obituary I should've written

My uncle died a week ago. I wrote the following because what I wrote for the paper was a bare summary. He deserves to have more of his story told.

For the past two and a half years I have been caretaker of my bachelor uncle. As a child, he was my favorite Frawley uncle because he paid attention to us kids. He listened to our five-year-old ramblings and talked to us as if we had something to contribute. He was full of fascinating facts about history and he lived in faraway New York City. He went to the World's Fair in 1964, taking pictures of the people and structures with his stereo-optic camera that created 3D slides. He loved technology and grew up with the changeover from vacuum tubes to solid state to microchips.

He moved back home because the technology changed, gave my my first touch-typing book and presented me with an album of Patty Duke songs, signed by her when he fixed her Dictaphone. To give his brothers and sisters a break, he would take us kids to the movies - in packs. We saw The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, The Barefoot Executive (yes, that's where I fell in love with Kurt Russell), and Camelot - the first movie I ever cried at. How could I not? When Lancelot brings his opponent back to life? Tears!

He moved away when my grandparents moved to Florida; the house in Rochester was torn down to make way for the expanded bus barns (the expansion destroyed a neighborhood) and most of us kids lost touch with him. Myself included. Even when he was downsized and he moved closer, we didn't see him except for holidays.

You see, as I grew older, I realized my uncle marched to the proverbial different drummer. Many considered him odd because he kept to himself, didn't make friends easily, would blurt out odd historical facts at random silences in the conversation. Only in these last years did I realize, after years of teaching in the classroom, that my uncle, if he were in school today, would be diagnosed as somewhere on the autism spectrum - probably with Asperger's.

Because he lived alone, it was a while before the family realized he was in difficulty. Financially he'd been scammed out of tens of thousands of dollars, his health wasn't good because he didn't remember to take his medicines, and dementia had started its nasty creep. Living alone was no longer an option.

Geographically, I was the logical choice to take over his care. Besides which, I can be pretty bossy when needed (years of classroom management!). My husband and I talked it over and decided together that taking on his care was something we needed to do.

So we did. Uncle Larry told me the same story every time we passed over the Erie Canal - about the Towanda Canal that was built partly in response to Clinton's Ditch. He told me about Stephen Foster living in Towanda on more than one occasion. I didn't mind. Telling these stories helped him focus and were important to him. He was a staunch Republican and had fun goading me (a middle-of-the-road Democrat) with his conservative views. He followed the presidential race right up until the last two months of his life, when the dementia took over more often than not.

That part was hardest. The dementia. My husband and I took a trip to Ireland and Scotland and, the day we were traveling home, Uncle Larry was sent to the hospital with a raging UTI. He never really recovered after that. Thankfully, a nursing home in the next town over had a bed in their dementia ward and could take him in. The locked ward meant he wouldn't ramble away on us and his medical needs would be taken care of since he needed more care than his assisted living place (or I) could give.

The hardest part? Was going to see him there and seeing the blank look on his face when I visited. He didn't know who I was. If I could've appeared to him as the eleven-year-old he took to the movies, I think we would've been okay. But I've gray in my hair now and age has thickened my frame. There was no recognition in his eyes. He would never again tell me about the Towanda Canal or remind me that Stephen Foster spent time there. Our days of baiting each other about politics were done.

The ending of a life lived long is always bittersweet. Bitter because the person is gone from our lives and we are the poorer for it. Sweet because their pain has ended and their soul has moved on. Lawrence Frawley, Jr. died on September 4, 2016 and we buried him this past Friday. May he rest in peace.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

New releases!

They're here!

Yes, I used the plural. Why? Read on...

As long-time readers, you know the Sizzling Scribes created the fictional town of Port Clef, Connecticut and then we wrote several stories set there. Each book has, at its core, the two wonderful ladies who run The Sweet Spot, the town's bakery/confectionery shop. My contribution to this series was Tied to Home, a novella where we meet Matt and Wiste, two used-to-be lovers who find each other again.

Upon a re-read of that novella, however, I discovered that Wiste's best friend, Emily, got short shrift. She appeared at the beginning of the book, then dropped out and is never heard from again. Poor Em! To make it up to her, I asked her to tell me her story - and she spoke volumes! In Tied in Knots we get to see, not only how things turned out for Matt and Wiste, but we get to meet Dr. Luke Fitzgerald, a hunky relationship counselor who very much needs Emily's massage therapy.

Because the two books are related, Tied to Home needed a new cover. Many kudos to Lynn LaFleur for designing all three covers.

Three covers? But, Diana! You've only mentioned two books so far!

Oh! Did I forget to mention you can purchase these books bundled together? Since one is a sequel to the other, it made sense (to me, anyway) to offer both books in a bundle in both ebook and print formats. 

That's right! If you'd like a copy of these two books for your bookshelf, you can get them in a single print volume! Of course, you can also get the bundled set in ebook form as well. :)

So, a new cover on Tied to Home, a new release in Tied in Knots, and a bundled set that's available in both ebook and print. Whee!

PLEASE! Once you've read either (or both - or all!) the books, return to the site where you purchased it and leave a review. Good or bad. Reviews help authors get seen. 

Play safe!


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

New release update

The current work-in-progress is coming along quite nicely and I thought you might like to see the cover. Lynn LaFleur designed both the cover for TIED IN KNOTS.

The story is set in Port Clef, Connecticut, the fictional seaside town created by the Sizzling Scribes. We had a lot of fun creating the town and the characters who reside there. Several of us have written books set in Port Clef. The Sweet Spot series is named after a bake shop/candy store in town that everyone loves. Or perhaps, it's more accurate to say, everyone loves the Jacqui and Jill, the co-owners. More than one life has been changed by those two ladies!

And that includes Dr. Luke Fitzgerald, a relationship counselor new to Port Clef and Emily Eaves, a Port Clef native. When the good doctor pulls a muscle in his neck, his receptionist recommends a good massage therapist she knows - Emily. 

Except Emily has a past. A past named Stan, who is determined to pick things up with her where they left off. And he won't take no for an answer.

You may remember Emily from her brief appearance in TIED TO HOME. I've always thought she got short shrift in that book. To make it up to her, she now has a story of her own - and you can read an excerpt from the book here!

Since Tied in Knots is the sequel to Tied to Home, I asked Lynn to make a new cover for the first book - and I love how she "tied" them both together. Sunsets, love, could you go wrong?

TIED IN KNOTS releases August 30th. For my newsletter subscribers, watch for discounts for both these books in the next issue. If you're not yet a subscriber, use the link at the top of the page to sign up. Seekers get goodies! :)

Both books will be available in a boxed set as well as in print. All formats will be available on August 30th (God willin' an' the crick don' rise).

Saturday, July 23, 2016

A difficult post to make

Just did the totals for a friend who asked. Did you realize I have 14 titles with Ellora's Cave Publishing, 9 self-published titles and 4 more soon-to-be self published titles. As Mystic Shade I have 6 titles out and as CF Duprey, I have one Civil War historical. That makes 34 titles in twelve years as a published writer.

That was written one year ago today. Today’s stats are different. Today I have only five titles still with Ellora’s Cave, 13 self-published titles and 8 titles as Mystic shade. That makes 26 titles currently in publication.

You’ll notice the lower number of Ellora’s Cave titles. I’ve been struggling with going public about this for the past several months but have decided I need to let my readers know what’s happening.

Ellora’s Cave Publishing gave me my start as a published author. They took a chance on me, gave me an editor, and my career as a published author was born. In those early days, the first decade of a new century, optimism reigned. Erotic romance was hot and I sold well. Well enough that the sales encouraged me to keep writing. Hence the 34 titles mentioned above.

EC has had its share of public scandals and there have been a few missteps along the way, but it has always done me right. It’s a small press, so I got to know the women who ran the company and that was important to me. But more than once I heard the sage advice from several of those women, “Remember, EC is a company and, in the end, it will make decisions for the best of the company. You’re an author, make decisions best for you.”

Being an author means taking control of your writing, it means making the best decision for each manuscript regardless of sentimental attachment. And so, when Table for Four’s contract was up with EC, I chose to try this new venture at Amazon and Smashwords and self-publish it. That action was just the one needed to give an older title a good boost. It sold well in the first year and continues to sell a couple of copies every month.

This had been a successful experiment, so when Learning Curve also ran out of contract, based on my increase in sales for Table for Four, I chose to also take the rights back for that book and self-publish it. It also did well, although recent sales have tapered off.

Publishing is like any other business. You have to constantly stay abreast of trends and Ellora’s Cave tried to do so. They accepted other genre, tried an appeal to a different audience, held conventions for readers and authors to meet. Unfortunately, none of these things worked as well as hoped.

How do I know that? Because Ellora’s Cave stopped paying royalties.

Yes, you read that right. EC is still selling books, but not paying authors the royalties they are contracted for. The last month I received monies for was June 2015.

What does that mean? It means, for the past year Ellora’s Cave has sold my books and not paid me for them. Not one penny.

I’ve been patient. My optimism has buoyed me all this year. Every week I think, “This will be the week they pay me my back pay.” I check my sales on Novelrank (which tells me how many of my books have sold on Amazon) and I see that my books are still selling – but I’m not seeing any money from the sale of my books that Ellora’s Cave holds.

So I made the decision last week to take all my Ellora’s Cave books off my website. I cannot, in good conscience, continue to promote books that enrich others while my income has taken a huge hit. Ellora’s Cave is making decisions that are good for its business; I must make decisions that are good for mine.

This past week Ellora’s Cave sent me a reversion of rights notice for five of my titles. Three I’d asked for, the other two I did not. As of July 30th, those titles will revert to me. These, along with three others that reverted to me earlier in the spring (two of which I asked for, one of which I did not), are currently regarded as “out of print.”

That means, of those 34 titles I’ve written, only 26 of them are currently available for purchase. Ellora’s Cave still owns the rights to five of my titles, but I will no longer mention them by name. I expect I will not ever get a check from Ellora’s Cave again. My optimism has run out. I doubt I will ever get the back pay I am owed and I suspect the company I loved will soon be out of business.

It’s a Catch-22, really. To tell you to not buy my Ellora’s Cave books. If you don’t buy them, they’ll never have the money to pay me. But if you do buy them, well, the money is going to someone else. It’s the reason I have been silent for so long. I do not want to put them out of business, but, as that sage advice said, I have to make decisions based on what’s best for my business.

Over the next year, I will take time to reformat, re-edit, re-cover the eight titles that are currently out of print. My plan is to re-release one a month as self-published books. Promise for Now will release in September, Stitches in Time (featuring new content based on my recent trip to Ireland!) will release in October. A boxed set of books I’ve written with a winter theme will be released in November and will include one of the titles EC just gave me back as well as other previously published stories.

As for new work? Tied in Knots, the sequel to Tied to Home is nearly done. I’ve seen the cover and love it. My goal is to self-publish it before the end of August, so keep your eyes out!

I said in the beginning that this was a difficult post to write. Actually, it was the decision to go public about no longer promoting my Ellora’s Cave titles that was the hard part. EC took a chance on me, gave me a career, and I will not diss them because of it. Choosing to not promote the five books still with them is a decision based solely on my need to be paid for the work I have done.

This post is one of the few I will both write as a newsletter and then repost to my blog and to Facebook. I wish Ellora’s Cave well and truly hope they find their way out of the morass and back into the limelight. And not just so I get paid, but because these women have put their blood, sweat and tears into a business venture that requires constant change. They’ve launched the careers of dozens of authors and I thank them for it.

Thank you for listening and watch for the re-release of the following titles over the next year (all are currently out of print):

Secret Submission
Submission Revealed
Cabin Fever
Writers Unblocked
Promise for Now (coming in September)
Stitches in Time (coming in October)
Devil in Winter (coming in November’s boxed set)

As always, play safe.