Writers tend to adore their characters, and I am no different. While Vlad's story incubates in my head, he and the other characters from my "Mary Anne Graham" Forever Series (A Faerie Fated Forever, A Golden Forever, A Sixth Sense of Forever and a Magical Forever) have not languished. They appear regularly in my Olivia Outlaw Isle of Bliss Books (Sultans Toy - Captured, Claimed, Coupled & Consumed; Carnal Collateral - The Devil's Deal, Devil's Demand, Devil's Delight; and Seducing The Guardian - Tempting Duty and Scandalizing Duty - so far).

I'm working on "Enticing Duty" for the Seducing The Guardian series. It occurred to me that fans of my forever characters might not be aware that they can catch up with them in my Olivia Outlaw books. The socially elite of London's Ton are a lot like locals in Myrtle Beach - a small town hidden within a bigger city. So, it's only natural that the Forever folks would interact with the Blissful Beaus, right? Of course it is!!

So, if you're a fan of the "Mary Anne Graham" Forever historicals, consider picking up the Olivia Outlaw erotic romances. They're all available at Amazon.

I just started Book 3 of the story of Adam & Evan (My "Seducing The Guardian" Olivia Outlaw Series). This one - at least so far - is titled: "Enticing Duty." I finished Book Two and published it almost 10 days ago, but Book Three lurked in the barely begun stage for days. Why? Because starting a book is hard. It wouldn't be nearly as hard if I were a planner.

See, writers of fiction are commonly divided into two species: planners and pantsers. Planners will have a full outline of a book completed before they write the first word. I admire them greatly and can only imagine how organized their lives must be. I bet they have neat underwear drawers and matched socks - if such thinks actually exist. (They seem more like unicorns to me!) Other writers are "pantsers" and they just set down and start typing. These folks are reckless daredevils who will make a dish out of tofu and turnips because it's what they have - and then serve it to their husbands for dinner. There's another category of writers that people don't talk about. These are the insane folks keep a stuffed duck named Woodrow beside their laptop. Yes, you guessed it - I'm in that group. We won't start a book until our characters start telling us their story.

What should we call the writers like me? (Okay, okay - hush out their in the peanut gallery. I will NOT put those words in my blog.) I think the best category would be: Writers directed by the voices in their heads. Because these folks - me, myself and I included - can not write until our characters are good and darned ready to reveal their tales. Sometimes, they do it in drips and drops. Other times, they talk so fast that my fingers can't keep up. But either way, if I get ahead of them or ignore them, the story won't flow. If I misunderstand and take a slightly wrong turn, sometimes the characters sulk and won't talk to me for a while. (Vlad, from my "Forever" - Mary Anne Graham - series has been sulking lately. I think I understand the overall arc of his story, but I got the angle wrong in the beginning. Soon, he'll forgive me and talk to me again, and I can make some progress on that one).

Adam of Seducing the Guardian hasn't been sulking. He and I both knew where part 3 of his story would start because he mentioned it at the end of part 2. Well, we knew the emotional direction and general tone of part 3, but only Adam knew what happened to make Evan re-appear in such a dramatic fashion. Today, Adam finally decided to share --- and we're off, finally beginning. It'll be a while yet before we get to the other hard part - the ending. Just yet, I don't even know if Book 3 will end Adam and Evan's story or if they may have another book to go.

Endings are hard for a lot of reasons. It's like the day before the last day of a vacation you've really enjoyed. Just the thought that it ends the next day can send you off to book another day or two - that you probably don't need and can't afford. But those extra days are easier than facing the end, aren't they? But when you get to the end, you start on the beginning of your journey home. You know what happens then, right? You're anxious to get home. You remember that you love your home and your life and you can't wait to get back to it. That's the moment, the emotional space, that the whole trip has been about.

For a writer, the moments after the end are about the next beginning. And I'll love it. I will love my new characters or revisiting someone from a past story who needs his or her tale told. But to get there, I have to end this story - and endings are emotionally draining and just hard. Just as a character has to tell you where to put him to start, he must tell you where to put him at the end. Since my books tending to have big, over the top, emotional rock-'em, sock-'em endings, it means I'm going to have to let my hero go to the end of his rope and past it, to the point where the knot he's tied is starting to unravel. Of course, then comes the good part, the happier ever after part. It's why I write, just like that "I can't wait to get back home" feeling is why I take a vacation. None of that makes endings easier.

Right now Adam and Evan's new tale is past the starting line and the end is nowhere in sight. It's the sweet spot of writing and - if I do it right and don't let the story I want to tell get in the way of the story my characters want told - then it'll be the sweet spot for my readers too.

If y'all love the Isle of Bliss as much as I do, then you'll be quite quackers to hear that part 2 of Adam and Evan's story is now for sale at Amazon.  If you read part 1, then you know that Adam and Evan have much more going on that any Guardian and Ward should.  Since this ward is also the Prince Regent's Godson, Adam's breach of duty risks much more than his honor.  It might even cost him his life.

If you haven't read Part 1 yet, do pick it up first.  And check out all my Olivia Outlaw titles.  I'm trying them at a new, lower price, but like all good things, it won't last long.  If you're a bargain hunter then you might want to pick up all the Olivia Outlaw titles now before I regain my sanity and raise the prices again.

I see you smirking out there.  Yes, I do have occasional periods of sanity.  Not often, mind you, but it does happen!!  It's not predictable, and I usually manage to cast off the chains of reality sooner rather than later, but while I'm sane, I'm apt to do terrifyingly normal things.  I'm thinking that raising the Olivia Outlaw prices might be amongst them.  So, grab them before the Demons of Sanity snatch me back!

The weather is getting warmer, and it's a great time to journey back to the Isle of Bliss.

I was never published by Samhain Publishing, but was saddened by news of its decision to close.   Samhain published romance and one of the things I love about romance is it usually sells even when nothing else does.  My recent experience has already made me question that, so I searched the news stories to learn what the publisher said about the brand's decision to cease operations.  Their reason confirmed my experience with the current state of e-publishing, which is this:  Amazon is the only game in town.

Yes, I realize other vendors do business nominally, including Apple.  That fact led me to leave the Kindle Select program when my books aged out - around February 9th.  I left them for sale on Amazon, of course, but also distributed through Draft2Digital.  Sales have been abysmal within the exact definition of that word - "extremely or hopelessly bad."  That's bad for my finances, especially at a time when hubby and I are "all in" and trying to save up to purchase an RV type camping trailer for hubby's home away from home.  It will save him 5 hours of driving a day, which is an insane commute to work.  My leaving Select to increase sales has hurt our effort, and we can't take the hit for much longer.

I was already wavering on whether to stay with wide distribution or go back to Select, when I read about the death of Samhain.  The owner of the brand, Christina Brashear, wrote a letter explaining the decision.  It blames steadily declining sales and specifically notes the following:

We’ve tried to renegotiate terms with Amazon in order to buy better placement within their site and perhaps regain some of the lost traction from the early days but have been met with silence. Other retail sites are trying, but the sales have never risen to the level of Amazon and are declining as well.

Amazon has been busy building its Kindle Unlimited service, and, I expect, would lack the financial stake to motivate it to highlight the Samhain books.  But, basically what we have here is a publisher  saying that so much of its sales base was through Amazon that even a boost from other retailers couldn't sustain its business.  Why? Because the other retailers are struggling with sales too.

Authors need to stay wide to keep the market healthy, but the market can't stay healthy if customers only shop from one site.  If every single citizen of Town America buys groceries at Shop All,  soon, the grocery stores who are not Shop All will go out of business.  Then Shop All becomes the only game in town.  If Amazon is not at that point already, it's very, very close.

I'll likely leave my books wide for a few more days, and if sales do not improve, I'll take them out of wide distribution and enroll them in Select and go back to being exclusive to Amazon.  If customers don't vote otherwise with their dollars, then Amazon will own the entire market.  And Amazon is a great site.  I shop there a lot.  Heck, I'm a Prime member.  But the market does best when it stays varied, because that allows customers to control the market.  When there is only a single vendor, then that vendor controls the customers.

In the recent publishing war, it appears that Amazon is the one tin soldier who survives the battle and rides away.

 

I have been re-reading a great romance series, Elizabeth Lowell's "Only" books. I just finished Reno's story and am about to start my favorite book in that series, Whip's story -- "Only Love." (Who doesn't enjoy reading about a yondering man finding that home is a person rather than a place?) If you haven't read the series, you really, really should. I'm not in any way being critical of Ms. Lowell when I say -- the end of the book I just read annoyed the heck out of me.  Why?  Because "the end" of the book wasn't the end, not at all.

Three chapters of a completely unrelated and much newer book were crammed in after "the end."  That doesn't bother me in a paper book, but it bothers the quackers out of me in an e-book.  I can close a paper book, but I like to flip to the end of an e-book.  I could go to the digital controls and do it, but I like to flip until I get to 100%.  Is that insane of me?  Okay, we won't debate the generally tenuous state of my mental health.  Even if it IS insane of me, I still find it annoying.

It reminds me of the end caps at the supermarket where they place all the stuff they're trying to force you to buy.  Even if a product I like is there, I won't buy it.  If I'm shopping for cereal and a brand I like is on the end cap, I'll stroll down there and buy another one.  Pushing products on people sometimes has the opposite result.  It can drive buyers away.

If you're going to put a promo at the end of an e-book, it should be for a related book. Wal-mart doesn't put clothes or shoes at the end of the canned vegetable aisle, but publishers think they know better.  They don't.  They really don't.  I love Ms. Lowell's "Only" series, but I'm not a fan of the one being pushed at the end of the e-book I just read.  Now, I'll make a point not to read it.

If publishers want to promote an entirely different book at the end of an e-book, then have the author write a note to her readers explaining why she thinks readers of this book would enjoy the other series.  At the end of the note, the author should put a link to her webpage where readers can find out more about the other series and click buy links.  That promotes the other work without annoying readers.

When a reader reaches "the end," she believes that she has experienced the "happily ever after" and her journey is over. At the end of a trip, no one wants to take a long detour.  A brief note from the author thanking the reader her for her time and suggesting another book could be forgiven. Cramming a three chapter end cap after "the end" is an imposition that goes a step too far.  After "the end" e-books should allow readers the time and space to reflect on the journey just taken. If they've enjoyed the trip the readers are likely to seek out the author's other work.

"The end" of an e-book should be the end of an e-book.

Hi to all demented duck-loving QA, MAG & OO fans!  I have emerged from the corner of oblivion where I've been lurking lately.  I'd taken everything off of everywhere to join Amazon's Kindle Unlimited program.  Participation requires that books be exclusive to Amazon.  Why would I do that, you ask?

It's all about the Benjamins.  Sales had slowed everywhere, so I stowed my principals and hid under the wings of Mother Amazon.  It was quiet and comfy... too quiet.  There were no highs or lows, just getting paid about 1/4 of a penny for every page read.  A pittance, you say?  Yes, it was.

I've now come out of hiding, and all of my titles as Mary Anne Graham or Olivia Outlaw are or are about to be available everywhere, save for a bundle or two.  I'll get all of those up, eventually, but for now, all the single titles are out there, boldly going where no KU Select book can go.... For how long, you ask?

For as long as you buy them.  So, faithful Quackers... please, go to Apple, B&N, KOBO, or your favorite e-tailer, and pick up my books.  I'll ride the wave of freedom for as long as the budget allows. If you want me and other writers to keep our work widely available, you need to support our work.  Amazon won't conquer the literary universe if you help writers earn enough to keep their writing as free as their thoughts!!

Once upon a time, the Royals ruled the Publishing Kingdom.  They employed Agents to deal directly with the Creator Minions who produced the books that built the castle, for the Minions were heathen beasts, unworthy of the Royals consideration.  The trained Agents brought the Royals only that which the Royals deemed worthy - manuscripts that met traditional guidelines of acceptability.  Stability was vital to the Kingdom.

The Royals dwelt in their Castle and grew rich from the hard-earned coins of Captive Citizens who could buy only the books printed by the Royals.  The Citizen Readers did not protest their captivity, for they lived in ignorance of their state.  The choices they had were all they knew, and they knew nothing of the multitude of rejected work that could have enlarged their world, showing them the world outside the Kingdom walls.  And then came The Change.

Portable tablets appeared, bringing them communication and entertainment of their choosing, consumable when and where and how they chose. And enterprising groups of Citizens formed businesses and went amongst the rejected Creator Citizens, urging them to publish their work without Royal approval and distribute it to the Citizen Readers through the businesses giving the tablets all the choices the Citizens were coming to expect and adore.

At first the Royals scoffed.  The Creator Citizens work was not screened and pruned by the Agents.  Work that violated every traditional rule was soon released in frantic freedom.  But it meant nothing, the Royals knew, for the Citizens wanted only that which came from the Royals.  And for a time, that remained true.  But the enterprising Business and Creator Citizens produced their independent work without the burden of paying for the Castle, so they priced it within the means of the Reader Citizens.

Soon, the Royals had to release their books for the tablets, because the Reader Citizens demanded that their libraries be as portable as their music and their videos. For a time, the Business Citizens only allowed the Royals to publish on the tablets if the Royals priced their work within the means of the Reader Citizens.  This threw open the gates of the world to the Reader Citizens, but the dangerous winds of equality began to blow, shaking and finally shattering the Castle walls.

And the Royals saw that this was not good.  Along with their Castle, they were losing dominion over the Kingdom. Order must be restored. The Creator Citizens must be brought back to heel, trained again to beg for the scraps tossed to them from the Castle.  And the Reader Citizens must be dragged back inside the Kingdom gates, allowed to think and experience only that approved by the Royals. But how could a freed populace be enslaved again?

The Royals must begin by battling the Tablet rebels.  Business Citizens that supplied books to the rebels were issued a new edict - allow the Royals to price their work as they chose or lose the right to publish all Royal-approved work.  This edict terrified the Business Citizens, for amongst the Reader Citizens were many addicted to the work of Royally-approved Creators and if they lost access to their work then they risked losing the coins of the addicted Citizen Readers.  The trembling Business Citizens bowed to the Royals and accepted the edict.

All across the Tablets, the prices of Royally-approved work rose and rose and rose. The Royals knew that soon, the Reader Citizens would realize they were paying more for the convenience of having books on their Tablets than they'd paid for buying the books in traditional form.  Surely they would then return to buying traditional books, and the revolution would die.

Today, the Publishing Kingdom stands at the point of decision.  Are the Royals right? Will Reader Citizens pick up their chains and shackle themselves, returning to the slavery  of selecting from only the few books they are allowed to consider?

The Royals scheme to re-build their Castle could be destroyed by Business Citizens named Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble and Apple, if those Business Citizens were brave enough and bold enough to refuse to carry Royal work priced above a reasonable value.  The Royals believe that Businesses are too cowed to refuse to carry their work and that Readers do not value their freedom or their independence.

What do I believe?  I believe that there is enough AMAZING independent work to feed the appetite of every reader.  I also believe that if the revolution continues, the still-enslaved Royal authors will break their chains, and release their work independently.

I believe that free thought and free expression are important enough and powerful enough to overcome any scheme the Royals may concoct.

Editor's Note:  My new project is writing for "Constant Content."  I wrote this and submitted it, but it was rejected as "newsy" or "dated" content.  Well, my blog is the PERFECT place for this content!  Y'all will have to let me know how it goes -- I won't be watching Grey's, but I have been watching, with great interest, the FRANTIC promo for the upcoming season.........

*****

McDreamy died. Did ABC’s Thursday night lineup die with him?

McDreamy was the nickname of a doctor on Grey’s Anatomy, a TV show on ABC. Shonda Rhimes created it and then she created Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder. The trio forms ABC’s blockbuster Thursday night prime time lineup. McDreamy, Dr. Derek Shepherd, was the romantic lead on the show, opposite Dr. Meredith Grey, the female lead, played by Patrick Dempsey and Ellen Pompeo. After a feud that made headlines, Derek Shepherd died on the April 23rd episode. 67% of the show’s fans say the show died with him, according to a poll cited by The Daily Gazette.

TV actors get written off and their characters die, but McDreamy is different. On March 27, 2005, the first scene of Grey’s showed the morning after between two strangers who hooked up the night before at a bar. Those strangers were Derek and Meredith, famously known as MerDer.  Their romance launched and anchored the show until Dempsey’s character met an undignified end. McDreamy backed across a highway and grabbed his cell phone. A speeding semi struck his car.

Fans took it as a betrayal by Rhimes. Loyal viewers followed the romance through his divorce, her drowning, explosions, gunshots, separations, and reconciliations. After the couple, at long last, wed in a sticky note ceremony, Rhimes promised a happily ever after. She kept the promise until trouble developed. Rumors of Dempsey having an affair with an intern followed his separation from his wife. Other gossip claimed Dempsey’s behavior on set had alienated everyone. Rhimes kept him out of many episodes last Season after sending Dr. Shepherd to Washington. She brought him back long enough to kill him.

Fans protested Derek being killed instead of sent back to Washington or to Zurich where Cristina (played by the departed Sandra Oh) runs a high tech medical clinic and lab. The manner of death disturbed them since the traffic accident was a swipe at Dempsey whose involvement in auto racing is well known. Fans denounced the lack of a real memorial. Former colleagues not attending Derek’s funeral diminished his death in the eyes of viewers. Fans concluded that Rhimes showed little regard for McDreamy and less regard for them. 67% of them vowed not to watch again.

Vanity Fair quoted Rhimes calling McDreamy “incredibly important” and an example of what “young women should demand from modern love.”  But Rhimes emphasized that “the carousel never stops turning.”  Fans didn’t find it a fitting memorial, but it sufficed for Rhimes until polls showed that the carousel stopped for many viewers. ABC President Paul Lee said that Rhimes decided Dempsey’s death “was the way to go.” The Season premiere approaches with the network laying blame at her door, so Rhimes developed a two-pronged strategy: rewriting history and paying late tribute.

Although Dempsey’s contract, like Pompeo’s, extended through the upcoming Season, Rhimes ended Dempsey’s run early. In the Entertainment Weekly exclusive posted the evening of the death episode, April 23rd, Dempsey said he was “surprised” at how the story unfolded and didn’t find out he’d be written out and killed off until February or March. In a piece posted August 7th, The Daily Gazette quotes Rhimes that Dempsey wanted to leave after 11 seasons so, “For God’s sake, let the man go.”

Rhimes eulogizes McDreamy on the Season 11 DVD set for release on August 18th. E News spoke with Rhimes who said the choice came down to death or leaving Meredith “high and dry.”  If Derek left, Rhimes said, it meant that “the love was not true, the thing we had said for 11 years was a lie, and McDreamy was not McDreamy.”  Rhimes did not discuss the mutual contract terms designed to allow McDreamy and Meredith to leave together.

According to the poll, 67% of former viewers will not watch Meredith’s solo journey.  That number has execs casting blame and the show runner writing a new script. Time will tell whether Ms. Rhimes’ fans continue to “Thank God It’s Thursday” or turn to another channel. All 3 of Rhimes’ shows – Grey’s, Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder – premiere on ABC on September 24th.

 

Do you KU?

If you do, whether as a reader or a writer, then I bet you've heard of the best thing since dark roast coffee - KENP.  It stands for Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count and it's the way Amazon now measures page reads by Kindle Unlimited Subscribers. Beginning July 1st, writers with books enrolled in Amazon's Kindle Unlimited program will not be paid per borrow, they'll be paid per page read, meaning, per page as pages are counted by Amazon. It's created a whole new obsession for writers.

Beginning in the wee hours of July 1st, KU authors were huddled over their keyboards with their screen locked on the Amazon KDP reports page, clicking one key, just one key.  Y'all know what that was, right?  Refresh... refresh... refresh.

Yes, my creditors and I are most interested in seeing those page reads rack up.  We don't know what the Zon will pay per page. It will be a rolling target like the old pay per borrow system.  But what we do know is that our payout will be based on pages read. So, like I said, the goons... err, bill collectors... and I have a very vested interest in seeing those KENP numbers rise.  But I've got a secret that I keep from the goons. I'm gonna share it with you, but you've got to promise not to tell them, okay?

I'm really most excited by the new KENP system because now I can see that readers are READING my books.  It's why I write, after all.  I can tell my stories to myself in my head where I see them play out on my inner movie screen.  And after I get to the happy ending of one tale, I can begin to tell myself another. I think we all do that, to some extent, don't we?  Perhaps not, and it's uniquely a "writer's thing." I wouldn't know for sure, having only ever lived in my head. But I choose to believe that many people create stories for their own inner consumption.  What makes a writer is that some of the inner tale tellers aren't satisfied unless they share their stories with other people.

I'm one of those people driven by a rather terrifying need to share my stories. And it is terrifying.  Although the wee, small sane part of me knows that not everyone shares my devotion to over-the-top love stories that are bigger than life, the bad reviews (all writers get them) used to hurt a lot.  The only way to survive the process, for me, has been to stop reading reviews altogether. Oh, I'm not perfect, so once in a while I'll take a quick, quick glance at the top two or three reviews on my "Mary Anne Graham" and "Olivia Outlaw" author central pages at Amazon, but by and large, I've learned not to do that.

KENP gives me the carrot without the stick. I can check and see the pages read adding up and feel a bright, shiny, inner glow.  And I can do it without dreading the people too sane to enjoy a crazy duck lady's stories.  It's all the good with none of the bad and there are very, very few things in life like that.  The only problem with KENP is that it's addictive - surely getting that wild rush from seeing that readers are reading my stories beats any drug ever manufactured legally or illegally. So yes, I admit it --  I'm Kookoo for KENP.

As addictions go, it's not a bad one to have.  This one makes me some money and gives me some happiness.  There's only one thing that would make KENP even better and that's seeing the numbers rise higher, and higher and higher.  It would let me know that more and more and more people are reading my work.

If you're a Kindle Unlimited (KU) subscriber - and really, everyone should be - then here's your new mission --- READ.  Yes, read more.  Read a lot.  Read every page ever written by Mary Anne Graham and Olivia Outlaw.  And once you have, then you Tweet and Facebook and blog about how everyone else should do the same.

It's time for KU subscribers to realize what VERY IMPORTANT PEOPLE they are and to understand that they need to cease doing all the things limiting their reading.  I mean, if you're a Big Enough VIP to be a KU Subscriber then you have more important things to do than go to work, go to school, study, cook meals, clean your house or do laundry.

If you're a KU Subscriber then you're a READER and readers should be READING.  Just print off a copy of this blog post and give it to your boss, your spouse, your kids, your boyfriend or girlfriend or your professor.  They'll understand that you're a reader who has found his or her destiny.

And I only have one thing left to say to you.  Why are you still here?  Go - read, read... and then, read some more.

This week, Scribd announced that it is slashing content available to subscribers by cutting an "undisclosed" number of romance and erotica novels. One of Scribd's publishing partners, Smashwords, announced that 80-90% of its romance and erotica novels will but cut.  Smashwords CEO, Mark Coker, noted that the longer, higher priced works in the genres are most likely to feel the ax.  The problem with the books, apparently, is that romance and erotica readers are too prolific.

Wait - aren't ebook subscription services supposed to be an "all you can read" platform? Most of the romance fans likely joined Scribd so that they could read prolifically.   Changing the available content is a change to the terms that is unfair to Scribd's customers. It is a business betrayal where Scribd may discover that loyalty is better for the bottom line than their number crunchers accounted for.

In making this change, whether they realized it or not, Scribd was inviting their customers to stop doing business.  And I expect that customers will take Scribd up on its invitation to exit.

In the coming days, the same song should be playing in the heads of Scribd and Amazon execs, though only the latter will find it so catchy they end up humming it.

The song?  Heigh ho, heigh ho, it's off to Amazon we go.....