Archive for My Books

My Books

Status Update

I did finish my draft on Friday (yay!), and my brain immediately started work on another story. I’d had an idea fragment I scribbled down a couple of years ago, and it popped up and started fleshing itself out. So I may make a stab at writing a draft of it just to get it out of my head before I jump back and start revising the previous book. So, for those keeping score at home, here’s what’s in the works:

Enchanted, Inc. Book 9 — with the copyeditor. I’m hoping to release early next year, but there are some other things I need to get lined up first, like cover art, cover design, seeing if I can get it sold to Audible and coordinate the release, etc.
The new Audible book — that’s the draft I just finished. It will be coming out as an Audible Original sometime next year and will be exclusively on audio for a year. Then we’ll see what else happens with it.
Rebels 4 — I plan to dive into writing this early next year when I have the Audible book completely done and turned in. I’ve done some preliminary research and have some vague plot ideas that I need to flesh out.
Fairy Tale 4 — I would like to do more in this series, but I haven’t put much thought into it in a while. It’s started stirring, so maybe I’ll get to it sometime next year.

Then I have ideas for at least four other things in various phases of development.

But, hey, if I can maintain the kind of pace I had last week, I might get all this stuff done.

My Books

15 Years of Enchantment

I realized yesterday that it was around this time fifteen years ago that I started writing the first Enchanted, Inc. book. I’m not sure of the exact date, but I know it was early October.

I’d had the first spark of idea in early 2002 but didn’t do anything with it because I was focused on some other projects and wasn’t sure there was a market for it because I’d never seen anything like it. I hadn’t seen much fantasy in a contemporary setting, and the early bits of “urban fantasy” that had come out were much darker and more serious. “Chick lit” was a hot market, but I hadn’t yet seen any with fantasy or paranormal elements.

Then I had a conversation with an editor at a conference in the summer of 2003, and she was enthusiastic about the idea. I had something else to work on first that I’d promised to another editor (that ended up going nowhere).

In early September, I started doing research, and I added a side trip to New York to a trip I was taking in late September so I could do location research. After I got home, I spent a few days doing a bit more development of the plot and characters, and then in early October, I started writing.

That means I’ve been living in that “universe” off and on for more than 15 years. I’ve known Katie and Owen longer than I have most of my current friends (whom I met after that first book was published).

And yet, the characters have barely made it through two years. I’ve been trying to stay on the same timeline with them, so I’m at the point where those books almost count as historical fiction.

The ninth book went off to the copyeditor this week. I’m not going to say “never” since I never know when an idea will strike me, but I think that’s going to be the last full-length book in this series. I may do some short pieces set in that universe. If I get another idea, I will probably make it the start of a new series and do a big time jump. But I think nine books and fifteen years is a good run for a series, and I’d rather not get to a point where I’m bored with it.

Of course, now that I’ve said that, I’ll probably get hit with an idea that will distract me from the book I’m supposed to be writing.

writing, My Books

Origins of A Fairy Tale

When talking about summer being my planning time, I realized that I forgot to tell the origin story of my Fairy Tale series. That poor series is my forgotten stepchild. It sells okay, but makes up for that with being in audio and being published in Japan. I just tend to think of it as less successful because it gets about zero buzz. I seldom see people gushing about it online the way I do my other series. And it’s really, really hard to write, for some reason. I never seem to know what one of those books is going to be about until I’ve written a draft — and that’s after doing a fairly detailed plot outline. Entire characters and storylines appear out of nowhere to mess things up. I do plan/hope to write more books in this series, but they’re lower on my priority list at the moment.

A Fairy Tale

I started planning this series in the summer of 2009, so it fits my summer planning/research pattern. I’d had a proposal for a new fantasy series making the rounds earlier in the year, and the rejections I got were along the lines of “we were hoping for something more like Enchanted, Inc.” I had this vague mental image of a woman walking a bulldog down a city street and disappearing into the mist, and I had a character who’d been living in my head since I was in college who had never been quite right for any story I’d written. I’d also done a lot of research into fairy folklore for another project that hadn’t gone anywhere. All those things came crashing together when I woke up in the middle of the night with what ended up becoming Sophie’s first scene in the book, and I realized this could be my “more like Enchanted, Inc.” project. It had some things in common — the small-town Southern girl heroine thrust into a magical world — but was different enough that it wasn’t like I was just writing the same thing over and over again.

I was a bit discouraged about my career at that time, and I decided to make that summer into a boot camp of sorts, devoting a lot of time to reading books on writing craft, working on my writing, and really digging deep into developing this story. Meanwhile, I was researching various aspects of it — reading memoirs of cops to get into the head of one of the characters, reading books about southern women, reading more stuff about fairies and the psychological underpinnings of fairy tales.

In late August, I took a trip to New York to research the settings, and when I got home, I started writing. It actually took me a few years to finish that book because first I got sidetracked by Rebel Mechanics, and then the Japanese publisher asked me for another Enchanted, Inc. book. Between projects, I’d go back to this book and try to rework the ending until I got it right. Alas, when it finally went on the market, the editors didn’t know what to make of it. I was told it was too “romancey,” which is funny because there isn’t actually any romance in it. Characters have feelings, but don’t act on them. I guess they thought that since there were two cases of women meeting men early in the book, it was going to be a romance. If they rejected it for being too romancey for fantasy, they obviously didn’t actually read the whole book. By that time, I’d started self-publishing the Enchanted, Inc. books, so I decided to publish it myself. I guess maybe the publishers were right that there wasn’t a market for those books, but I still love them, as challenging as they are to write.

Now that the situation has been established, I’ve been thinking of transitioning the series to be more of a paranormal cozy mystery series, where Michael gets cases he needs to bring Sophie in on. It would be less about big stuff going on in the fairy world and more about these characters functioning between two worlds as their relationships slowly develop. But I have a few other things I want to get written first.

My Books

Diving into Rebellion

While I’m getting nostalgic about what got me started writing various books, I realized that I started working on Rebel Mechanics around this time eight years ago.

Rebel Mechanics cover

I’d been working on the book that became A Fairy Tale, and I was unhappy with it. I had a vision for it and couldn’t quite make that vision work. Meanwhile, I had this other idea that I thought might be more marketable — a steampunk adventure story. I’d been making myself not work on the Shiny New Idea, but thought that maybe what I needed was a break to help me figure out what I needed to do with A Fairy Tale.

That summer, I was also dealing with some medical stuff. I had a frozen shoulder, which involves tissue encapsulating the joint so that you can’t move it. It’s tricky because it starts with pain in the shoulder, and the natural impulse is to rest that shoulder so it can heal, but resting is what allows it to freeze. I’d reached a point where I could barely lift my left arm when I finally admitted I needed help, and the prescription was physical therapy. It was tough physical therapy that involved not only exercises but also the therapist stretching and manipulating that arm to loosen the tissue. And there was a lot of pain. It’s hard to be really creative when you’re tired and in that much pain, and since I knew I’d have to do a lot of research to write that steampunk book, I decided to devote the time to doing research.

So, that was my summer of heavy-duty reading. I read more than fifty books to research Rebel Mechanics. I read non-fiction books about New York’s history during the Gilded Age, American history, other revolutions, steam power, trains, airships, houses in that era, clothing in that era. I read memoirs of people who lived in that era and biographies of key figures. I also read a lot of related fiction — other steampunk books, science fiction written during that era (H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Robert Louis Stevenson), novels written during that era or about that era by people who lived in that era. I re-read Jane Eyre (since I was doing the governess thing), read The Scarlet Pimpernel (since that related to Henry’s story), read a lot of Edith Wharton (about Gilded Age society).

All the while, I was piling up notes and ideas that I shaped into characters and a plot. It was a summer of wallowing in Victoriana, and I now remember it fondly, in spite of the pain.

I did eventually get full use of that shoulder back and regained my strength in that arm. I’m not quite as flexible as I was before, but I’m trying to work on that.

It also took me a few years to sell the book. I originally planned for it to be an adult fantasy novel, but the adult publishers weren’t interested, mostly because a lot of them saw it as a romance and even suggested it be sent to the romance houses (never mind that the romance was quite chaste), or else they said they’d already bought a steampunk book. I tried reading some romances that might be along the same lines (multiple books telling the story of the same couple), but I started thinking it would work better as young adult since my characters were so young, so I read a bunch of YA before deciding to rewrite it as YA. That took me another six months or so, and then it took nearly a year to sell. It was five years from the time I started researching it before it was actually published.

My Books

Back to the Beginning

I’d have to look at a calendar to find the exact day, but we’re approaching the 15-year anniversary of when I started actually working on the first Enchanted, Inc. book.

Enchanted, Inc.I’d had the idea about a year and a half earlier, but I really wasn’t sure what to do with it because there was nothing quite like it in the market. It was “girlier” than most fantasy and was in a contemporary setting, which was quite rare at the time, but it wasn’t really romance. Every so often I’d play with the idea and add to it, but I was focusing on writing other things.

Then at some point in July, I was at a conference, and there was a party to launch a new fantasy imprint from Harlequin that was going to be more female-focused. The pre-launch guidelines said they were looking for traditional fantasy, which meant that even if it might be a good fit for the “girly” side of my book, they probably wouldn’t be interested.

But at the party, one of the editors wandered over to me and asked if I had any questions. I asked if they’d ever consider contemporary settings. She said they might and asked if I had something. I started telling her about this idea I had. She seemed quite interested (one of my friends who was nearby said her nostrils flared) and kept asking me questions. By this time, I’d run out of what I’d already developed and was making things up on the spot. She handed me her business card and said she’d love to see it. I told her that I’d just told her all I had. I hadn’t written any of it yet. She said, “Then why are you standing around here? Go write!”

And that was why I decided to try writing that crazy idea I had.

That editor actually ended up rejecting it, but I might not have started writing it if she hadn’t shown interest.

I never did really find the right market for it. It ended up being published as “chick lit” because that was what was really hot in the market at the time. It was up between two publishers, one that was going to publish it as chick lit/women’s fiction and a fantasy publisher, but the fantasy publisher couldn’t get the auction bid together. The chick lit market utterly tanked a couple of years later, and the books being promoted as women’s fiction and sometimes paranormal romance meant that fantasy readers didn’t really find them unless they heard word of mouth. I’ve often wondered what would have happened if the other publisher had been able to pull things together, since female-focused urban fantasy became huge not long after that. I’d have been on the leading edge of a trend instead of the trailing edge.

But that’s water under the bridge, and that book has done well for me. It’s still selling steadily and most of my income comes from that series. I’m thinking book 9 will be the end, aside from shorter pieces, because nine books is a pretty long series and I’m ready to try other things. But I also love those characters, so you never know.

My Books

Fun with Books

One thing that’s been really fun about dipping my toe into the world of YA books and publishing is seeing the innovative things librarians and teachers are doing with books to encourage kids to read — and to read for fun.

I’ve always been a big reader because I come from a family of readers. I was reading and loving books before I even started school, so I already knew books could be fun, and that’s a good thing because it almost seemed like the mission of school was to make you hate books. There were some exceptions like my fourth-grade teacher, who read fun books to us after recess every day, but the books you’re usually assigned to read tend to be dreary things about death and injustice. If you didn’t already know that there were other, more fun books out there, you’d think books were boring and depressing.

It seems that there’s an effort now to change that, with librarians coming up with lists of books to recommend to kids to read for fun, and it’s been a huge honor to be included on some of those lists, since that’s one of the reasons I write, so that people will have fun things to read. Because of my book being included on lists and in programs like that, I get to hear of other things librarians and schools are coming up with, like a quiz bowl-like program of trivia contests based on books on the list.

And then there’s this one I just learned about yesterday: escape rooms based on books chosen by kids. I’d love to know what the Rebel Mechanics escape room was like, and now I’m pondering how to work that kind of scenario into a book. Where might Henry and Verity get trapped and have to work their way out?

I really should come up with some supplemental educational materials to go with that book, such as what books I read to research it and what actual historical events I wove into the story, just in a different time and place.

My Books

The World of Rebel Mechanics

Since I’m losing my cable on Thursday, I’ve been frantically trying to watch all the stuff I’ve recorded on my DVR. When something came on that I thought might make good reference material for a book I might work on, I recorded it, and I was planning to watch those things when time came around to work on that book. But now I’m having to watch all of it and take notes, and hope I can still remember it all when it comes time to write that book (or hope I can get some of those programs through other means, like through the library or some streaming service).

And, wouldn’t you know, tonight something that would make an excellent reference for a Rebels book is going to be on PBS, and recording it would do me no good since I have to get rid of the recorder in a couple of days. So I guess I’ll be watching and taking notes.

The program is an American Experience episode about the Gilded Age, which is the period in which the Rebels books are set. I chose that period to base my steampunk world on because of all the things that it looks like this program will highlight. There was a massive inequality of resources, with a few extremely rich people, a small middle class, and a vast number of people barely getting by and pretty much being held back by the extremely rich people who owned most of the factories and other means of employment and who kept wages so ridiculously low that their employees didn’t stand a chance. Poor people lived in terrible slums that were breeding grounds for diseases while rich people owned mansions on Fifth Avenue and spent millions of dollars throwing parties. It’s actually kind of a miracle that there wasn’t a revolution during that time, since the number of poor people vastly outnumbered the wealthy.

I thought that made it a good setting for a book that moved the American Revolution to a later time. In my world, it’s magic that gives the upper class a monopoly on power and production, and the revolution is as much against the British Empire as it is against the economic inequality, but all of it comes into play.

I don’t know if I’ll learn that much from watching this show, since I did a ton of research before writing these books, but if you want some good visuals to go with the books and some broader info about the world that inspired the books — or if you’re a teacher or librarian wanting to work these books into your curriculum — this would be worth a watch tonight (and they usually have these episodes available on the PBS web site for a week or two).

My Books

The Story Behind the Holiday Story

Holiday movie season is now in full swing, which means I feel a lot less inappropriate about promoting my holiday novella, though I haven’t actually started watching the holiday movies yet. My DVR is filling up, though, so there will have to be a binge at some point.

So, anyway, I have a holiday novella that’s on sale now. You can get more info and the sales links here.

Twice Upon a Christmas cover

Hallmark gets all the press for these now, and it’s become such a thing for them that they start showing non-stop Christmas movies before Thanksgiving and even show some during the summer, but even before they made themselves the Christmas movie channel, there were others doing it (and doing it better).

The first one I can recall that fit the mold of “romantic comedy set at Christmas” rather than the kinds of movies that are more directly about Christmas — the Santa Claus movies, various versions of A Christmas Carol, etc. — was on the Family Channel (which has gone through a lot of names and owners over the years and is now known as Freeform) during the 90s. It was called The Christmas List and starred Mimi Rogers as a department store perfume counter employee who, on a whim, made a list of silly things she wanted for Christmas, as though she was writing a letter to Santa. One of her co-workers snatched it away from her and put it in the mailbox for letters to Santa — and then all her wishes started coming true in strange ways. One of the wishes coming true made her path cross a widowed doctor with a kid. I really loved this movie. It had all the pretty Christmas setting stuff, and the plot did tie into the holiday, but it had a lot of thought-provoking stuff in it, like how we sometimes don’t do a lot to go after the things we want. That was what was interesting, how getting some of her wishes gave her the courage to start taking steps on her own. Unfortunately, I don’t think this movie has ever been released on DVD, but it sometimes shows up on TV during the holidays (but beware: there’s an inferior Hallmark movie with the same title), and at one point it was on YouTube (I don’t know if it still is).

Then Lifetime got into the game, and they did a bunch of these — fairly low-budget, mostly filmed in Canada (so you recognize all those actors from various science fiction shows). I think the Lifetime ones tend to be more urban, compared to Hallmark’s glorification of small towns. Now Lifetime seems to have backed off somewhat and ceded the territory to Hallmark. Freeform’s barely in the game (though my favorite movies all seem to have been on whatever incarnation of that channel).

When I decided to write my own holiday movie, I think it was before I got Hallmark on my cable system, so I was going more on the Lifetime/Family model, which is a little urban and maybe a bit edgier while still counting as “sweet.” I’m not sure Hallmark would have wanted this story, but it would have been a perfect fit for Lifetime or Family back in the day. I tried to stick with the formula of what I saw. The plot was loosely based on a familiar story or movie — in this case, the Sliding Doors story of seeing the different paths life could take based on a seemingly minor difference. I mixed it up by having the heroine aware of both lives and able to use what she learned in one life in the other, with her alternating days. There was a lesson to be learned. I chose music for the less secure potential life because I noticed that they frequently cast former teen actresses whose careers didn’t quite take off when they transitioned to adulthood in these things, and a lot of these actresses come from the Disney sitcom factory, where they’re required to also do some kind of singing. I figured the role would be appealing to an actress with singing talent. Plus, that was around the time the first Pitch Perfect movie was really big, so there was more awareness of a capella singing, and I thought that would resonate. There was even a chance of doing a spin-off single to be released for radio airplay if the lead actress had any background there. There’s a group around here that specializes in Christmas caroling in Victorian attire and is booked solid during this time of year. I’ve heard some of their stories about having to get to events in hoopskirts, and I thought that would give the seasonal tie while also providing some fun visuals. Meanwhile, I noticed that there was always a role for an “elder statesman” type actor, usually someone who was really big in a sitcom during the 80s and whose career has leveled off since then, so I wrote that kind of role (basically, you can imagine that Tilly in my story is played by Shelley Long).

Unfortunately, right around the time I finished writing my screenplay, Hallmark really took off with these movies and the other networks mostly gave up, producing only one or two new ones a year. I wasn’t sure mine was a good fit for Hallmark — they haven’t used music as much as the other networks have, it’s in an urban setting, and it’s implied that the hero and heroine do more than kiss before the end. I also wasn’t sure I wanted to try writing more of those, and there wouldn’t be much point of trying to go through the effort of finding a screenwriting agent and dealing with Hollywood for one TV movie script. And so, when I re-read it last year and found that I still really liked it, I decided to turn it into a novella. I’m always looking for something like that to read around the holiday season, and I figured others might like that, as well. Short pieces are good when you’re so busy. It’s something you can sit down and read in one sitting.

While I do enjoy these movies, I have to admit that most of the parodies I’ve seen are pretty accurate. There’s this early draft of a Hallmark movie script. And someone I know created a randomized holiday movie plot generator.

It was fun to write this. I haven’t seen how well it’s selling, so I don’t know if it would be worthwhile to write another one, but it might be something fun to do as a “break” while my house is still decorated for the holidays.

My Books

Christmas at Halloween

Happy Halloween! I’m not really doing much for the holiday because I’m leaving on a trip in a couple of days and I have so much to do. I do have some candy and some little toys I can give out, but as it’s supposed to be cold and rainy during Trick-or-Treat time, my porch light is burned out and I haven’t gotten around to replacing it, and I never get trick-or-treaters because you can’t see my front door from the street, I suspect the candy will be all mine.

I’m actually already thinking ahead to another holiday, since a week from today, my first Christmas-set romantic comedy novella will be released. I know it seems early, since I refuse to do Christmas stuff before Thanksgiving, but hey, Hallmark has already started their non-stop Christmas programming. I figure by releasing after Halloween, that gives people time to become aware of this book in time to read it during the season. It’s an e-book only (but you can find apps to let you read all the major e-book formats on your computer) because it’s really too short for a print book.

Long-time blog followers may remember when I tried to write a script for a holiday movie a couple of years ago. I think it was a pretty good script, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to go through everything it would take to find a screenplay agent and sell it, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to do more of them. Since I loved the story so much, I rewrote it in prose form, and now it’s a holiday novella. If you like the Hallmark Christmas movies — or, really, more the Lifetime, ION, or what used to be the Family Channel movies, since it’s got more magic than you tend to get with Hallmark — then you might like this. It’s short enough to read in one or two sittings, so it’s perfect for that busy time of year when you have just a moment to yourself to curl up with a cup of hot cocoa, turn on the Christmas lights, put on some seasonal music, and relax with a fun book.

Twice Upon a Christmas cover

The story is kind of a holiday spin on the Sliding Doors concept of exploring two possible life paths, only in this case, the heroine is aware that she’s experiencing both possibilities, so she can take what she learns in one life and use it in the other. Eventually, though, living every day twice gets confusing and frustrating, especially when that means she’s spending half her time away from someone she’s come to care about. Twice Upon a Christmas is now available for pre-order. You can buy now and have it ready for when you’re ready to get into the holiday spirit. You can get more info and links for buying it on the book’s page.

And if this one turns out to be a success, maybe I’ll write another one for next year. I already have an idea … And if I do more of these, I may put them together in a collection in print.

My Books

Once Upon A Fairy Tale

I’ve found myself taking a journey down memory lane the last few days, thinking about the origins of my least-appreciated series, the Fairy Tale books. It was at about this time in 2009 that I took my research trip to New York to prepare to write the first book. I guess I started thinking about that this week because there was all the talk in the news about a tropical storm approaching (now it’s a hurricane), and a tropical storm hit New York while I was there. The first day of my trip was gorgeous — warm and sunny. I spent the afternoon wandering Central Park. It rained the rest of the time I was there, something that found its way into the book. I didn’t mind so much because I love rain, but it did get heavy at times, and one downside of rain is that it doesn’t offer many opportunities to sit down and rest while you’re outside, unless you want to sit in a puddle on a wet bench, so my feet and legs were killing me by the end of the day.

A Fairy Tale

I do hope to write more books in that series. I know some character arcs I want to do, but I’m not quite yet clear on a big-picture plot, and since those books make the least amount of money for me, and they take me a lot longer to write, they’re lower on my priority list.

Still, I really do love them. I think part of the reason that they’re hard to write is that they come from a dreamlike place in my brain, and that makes translating them into words difficult. The character of Sophie came to me in a dream around the time I was right out of college. She had a different name (the name she had in the dream ended up being the name of a main character in a TV series that I saw not long before I started writing the book, so I had to rename her), and she didn’t have all her traits, like being a dancer or having an unusual heritage, but the personality was what was in the dream. I’d been auditioning that character for a leading role in every story idea I came up with, but she wasn’t quite right until I had another dream of a woman in a floaty floral dress walking a bulldog down a city street and disappearing into the mist. This woman was the character who’d been living in my head all that time, and I wanted to figure out the circumstances of where she went and what was going on. I woke up in the middle of the night one night and wrote down the scene in which Sophie wakes up, realizing that something has happened to her sister and she needs to go to her aid (before I knew what happened to her sister). Another night, I woke up and wrote down an early phase of what would be the back-cover copy. The book changed a lot after that, but the central concept was a Southern belle queen bee type taking on a fairy queen. From there, I started researching fairy folklore and related literature. There was the Tam Lin story about rescuing a lover from the fairies, but I also loved the Christina Rossetti poem “Goblin Market,” which was about sisters. That’s probably what influenced that midnight waking scene about having to rescue a sister. Other story fragments, like the elderly sisters with a shop, attached themselves to that image, and then it took me ages to tease the plot out of all these pieces.

Before I took that trip to New York, I already knew about the dual worlds, but the weather helped me with that because it really was like two different worlds, the park I saw my first day when it was warm and sunny and the park I saw the second day when it was dark and pouring rain. The colors were different. The first day, the park was full of people, and later it was almost deserted. The sounds were different. I noticed the lampposts, since the lamps were all lit, and that made me notice things around the lampposts that I hadn’t seen on a sunny day.

I think I was in the middle of writing the book when I first heard a song that I felt perfectly described Sophie, and I took a detail from the song to add to the character — the mismatched eyes, which ended up being a perfect metaphor for her nature. The song is actually supposed to be anthropomorphizing the month of August, on the cusp between summer and autumn (well, in northern Europe — here, it’s the height of summer), but it still seems to fit this mercurial character.

Hmm, I may have to bump up brainstorming another book on my priority list because I’ve realized how much I miss these characters.