Friday, October 28, 2011

October Top Spot


What was your favorite read this month? What was your Top Spot?

Top Spot is a new monthly blog meme hosted by the Skype Sisters. Every month we will get together to share our favorite read from that month and we would love for you join us! This meme will take place over the last weekend of every month, giving us all a chance to gush over the great reads we've encountered and bring an awesome ending to the current month. The Top Spot book can be anything you've read, whether it's old or new, an ARC or a finished copy. All October reads counts!

I know I’m not a book blogger/reviewer, but I am an avid reader, and go through about ten books a month, give or take, so I thought this would be a fun meme to participate in. It's hard to pick just one favorite, but the book I most recently finished has to take my Top Spot. I’ll probably get through one more this month, but it would have to be pretty outstanding to make me reconsider my winner.

Die For Me by Amy Plum

In the City of Lights, two star-crossed lovers battle a fate that is destined to tear them apart again and again for eternity.

When Kate Mercier's parents die in a tragic car accident, she leaves her life--and memories--behind to live with her grandparents in Paris. For Kate, the only way to survive her pain is escaping into the world of books and Parisian art. Until she meets Vincent.

Mysterious, charming, and devastatingly handsome, Vincent threatens to melt the ice around Kate's guarded heart with just his smile. As she begins to fall in love with Vincent, Kate discovers that he's a revenant--an undead being whose fate forces him to sacrifice himself over and over again to save the lives of others. Vincent and those like him are bound in a centuries-old war against a group of evil revenants who exist only to murder and betray. Kate soon realizes that if she follows her heart, she may never be safe again.

I have to be honest: this book had me at Paris. It’s my absolute favorite city, so as soon as I saw that it was the setting for a new paranormal romance series, I was sold. It didn’t disappoint, either. The setting was well-written and evocative, and had me yearning to return at every new description. And while I love vampires, it was refreshing to read a paranormal series with a different “monster,”  one I don’t think I’ve seen done anywhere quite like this. Revenants are essentially zombies, but they’re not the brain-eating Walking Dead kind most would imagine. These are men and women (well, it’s YA, so boys and girls) who died sacrificing their lives for someone else, and have been rewarded with immortality and the compulsion to continue to save innocent lives.

Our hero, Vincent, is one of these revenants. He’s gorgeous and charming and pretty much the perfect hero. Some might say a little too perfect, but I don’t really mind that in romance fiction. The heroine, Kate, is a human girl who just lost her parents and is dealing with the grief while living with her older sister and grandparents in Paris. I’ve seen some criticism of Kate, saying she’s too much like Bella from Twilight, but while she could be moody, I didn’t fault her for it: she just lost her parents! I was never once annoyed by her, and that’s something I can’t say about Bella. I liked her, found her spunky and funny, and truly enjoyed the romance that blossomed between her and Vincent. Some of the plot was a little predictable (mainly the bad guy, who was obvious from the beginning, and whose endgame I figured out before the characters did), but all in all I enjoyed the book immensely and am eagerly awaiting the next in the series.

As a side note: I’m insanely jealous of the author after reading her bio. Lived in Paris? Now lives in the Loire Valley? Handsome French Husband? Where do I sign up?!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Titanic Tuesdays: William Harbeck

Every now and then in these Titanic Tuesdays posts, I'd like to highlight a particular passenger I included in Destined. Most were only used as background characters: a name mentioned here or there, but not much else. But one of the main secondary characters I used was William H. Harbeck. He was an acquaintance of Noelle's roommate, Henriette Yrois, though their relationship was somewhat of a mystery. In order to stay as true as possible to the real person, I carried that mystery over into Destined, choosing not to define them as romantically involved.

Some of this will be a spoiler for the book, but I will clearly mark where the spoilery section begins, so you can stop reading if you have not yet read Destined and wish to avoid learning William's fate.

When I was looking for a roommate for Noelle, I wanted to be sure I chose someone that would be interesting as well as have no direct living relatives today. Since I cannot know what a person in 1912 was really like, chances are pretty good my version of them won't be very accurate. The last thing I want is to inadvertently offend someone's descendants, so to be safe, I looked for people that wouldn't have any immediate family left. In Henriette's case, there is so little known about her, I really can't be sure she has no one living now: I can only make educated assumptions that she does not. As for William, more is known about him, and I was able to peek into his family tree. Genealogy is an interest of mine, and I enjoy researching people’s ancestry.

William H. Harbeck was born somewhere between 1865 and 1868 in Ohio. I was never able to find his official birth record, so can only go by census records and his death certificate. On the 1880 census, his age is listed as 14 (making him born around 1866). He was on two censuses in 1900, one in Ohio with his family, where his birth is given as Sept. 1863 (I believe incorrectly, as this is also his wife's birth month/date) and one in Colorado, where he was working for a newspaper and living alone, where his birth is given as December 1866. He is again on two censuses in 1910: one in Ohio, where his age is listed as 45 (birth year around 1865), and another in Seattle where he's listed as 42 (born 1868), living with his wife, Kate (whose recorded age is 9 years too young). We know that William lived in Seattle in the early part of the 1900s, because he had a film studio there, and some sources have said Kate moved with him. It's possible that he had two homes around that time: one in Seattle for his business, and one in Ohio with his family. Kate may have moved back and forth, as their adult sons are only listed on the Ohio census (where Kate is also listed, this time with the correct age). Both his death certificate and tombstone give his birth year as 1868. It’s a mystery, but as age questions go, I’ve seen stranger: one of my own ancestors was born in 1819, yet was always recorded as born in 1830 on census records when his wife (who was born in 1836) was alive. Once she had passed away, his birth year goes back to 1819. All I can figure is he lied to his wife about his true age, as she was most likely the one answering the census taker’s questions.

What I was able to find about William's early life is very little. His father was John S. Harbeck, born May 19, 1836 in New York, the son of John S Harbeck and Jane Shaw. William's mother was Margaret Milligan, daughter of William Milligan and Rebecca Beckford. She was born around 1842 in Ohio. The Harbecks moved from New York to Ohio sometime between 1840 and 1850. As far as I have found, William was an only child. His mother, Margaret, died December 4, 1885 in Toledo. His father, John, was a Private in the Civil War, and remarried around 1890 to a woman named Ida. John & Ida moved to Long Beach, California, where John died in 1959 and Ida in 1950. I can only assume the Harbecks are of German descent, but as far back as I've been able to go in their ancestry, they have all been born in the US. There is another branch of Harbecks living at that time in New York, also named John & William: those Harbecks were wealthy men, successful stockbrokers who owned a chain of stores and manufactured staves (not sure what that is, but our John Harbeck in Ohio was a "stave sealer" on one census. A stove, maybe?). I was not able to determine if the wealthy NY Harbecks were related to those in Ohio.

William Harbeck married Catherine (Kate) Stetter on February 16, 1886 in Lucas, Ohio. Kate was the daughter of German parents, George Stetter (1838-1911) and Catherine Braun (1841-1915). Together they had two sons, John Samuel, born April 27, 1887, and Stanley, born February 23, 1892.

William started out in publishing, moving out to Anaconda, Colorado to be the editor for their local newspaper sometime in the 1890s. (Around this time, the wealthy NY Harbecks had a summer home in Colorado. More evidence they were related?) Sometime between 1900 and 1910, he moved to Seattle and started his filmmaking business, and in 1906, he was supposedly the first cinematographer to film the aftermath of the San Francisco earthquake. He then went to work in Yellowstone Park, filming various scenery for a series of films put out by the Selig Company entitled Scenes in Yellowstone Park: the Land of Geysers. He did more filming in the West, in Oregon, Idaho, Utah and Colorado, filming, in his words "mainly railroad scenery." He then went to Mexico to do more railroad filming, and in May 1907, set off for British Colombia to film the Canadian Pacific Railway. By 1909 he had become the CPR's official photographer. One film he shot in Victoria, BC in 1907, Victoria and Vancouver Street and Harbour Scenes, is available to watch online here: It’s kind of fascinating. He also filmed a light comedy feature called The Ship’s Husband, about a pair of couple who accidentally swap partners while on one of the CPR’s ferries. (How does one accidentally swap spouses, anyway?)

In 1910 he was becoming well-known as a filmmaker, and was invited to London to screen his films. (Fun fact: he sailed on the Lusitania, another later-doomed ocean liner.) He returned to Europe a few more times, made some contacts there, did more filming in Canada, and eventually finished up his contract with the CPR in 1911. At that point he went to Alaska to film, and around this time Meyer Guggenheim and J.P. Morgan bought up claims for large tracts of land in the territory. While this film was meant to be a scenic tourist film, it apparently raised some political issues as well. In 1912, he was advertising his next project as "Watch for Harbeck's latest motion pictures exposing the Guggenheim interests in Alaska and the Controller Bay grab. Films that will worry Congress and startle the whole United States and probably change the present political map."

As we now know, Benjamin Guggenheim (Meyer's son), was one of the passengers on the Titanic, and went down with the ship. One wonders if the two men ever met up on board. Given Harbeck's apparent criticism of the Guggenheim family business practices, this could have made for some awkward encounters. It was probably for the best that the two men were travelling in different classes. (Another fun fact: the White Star Line was owned by J.P. Morgan, who was supposed to be on her maiden voyage as well, but canceled when he became ill.)

William returned to Europe in early 1912, where he spent a few months traveling around, filming in London, Brussels, Paris and Berlin. On April 1st, he wrote to Kate back home to tell her he would be returning to the US on the Titanic, and would be staying at a hotel in New York City. Some say he was contracted by the White Star Line to film the Titanic's maiden voyage, but no one seems to know for sure. His wife claimed he had filmed the departure at Southampton and was to film scenes on board throughout the voyage, then be taken off the ship in New Jersey and brought to the dock in New York ahead of the ship to film her arrival.


Of course, any film William shot while on board went down with his equipment. The last communication he seems to have sent was a letter mailed from the ship, dated April 10th, to Will Day, one of his business partners back in the United States. The letter discussed some equipment he left behind for him and was signed: "Best wishes from Mrs. Harbeck and Yours Truly." Of course, Mrs. Harbeck (Kate) was at home in Toledo at this time, but passing along good wishes from her even if she wasn't with him wouldn't be unusual. The unusual part came when a trade journal reported his arrival in Britain in March 1912 with: "Mr. W.H. Harbeck (accompanied by his wife), motion picture photographer to Canadian Pacific Railroad, arrived from America last week." The same journal repeated this again when he returned to New York on the Titanic. It looks like he was travelling with a mistress who was posing as his wife. Henriette Yrois?

William and Henriette bought their tickets individually, but the ticket numbers were consecutive, suggesting they were purchased at the same time.  "Last place of abode" for both was given as London. As I said in my research notes, Lawrence Beesley mentioned seeing them together often in the library, as well as watching William (with "his wife") eagerly filming the Titanic's near-collision with the New York as it pulled away from the Southampton dock. More evidence of their traveling together: when William's body was found, among his possessions was a "lady's bag" (more on that below).

After the sinking, another drama unfolded as an unknown woman from Seattle calling herself "Mrs. Brownie Harbeck" tried to claim William's personal effects from Halifax. A series of letters from both her, Kate and his son, John, are available online for any who wish to read them. (At the Nova Scotia Virtual RMS Titanic Archives) One of the letters from "Brownie" was written on stationery from Harbeck's film company, and identifies the purse found with William’s body as Henriette’s. Apparently, he had a business partner there named Katherine George, and some think the letters may be from her and that she was another mistress. But as with the rest of the Harbeck mysteries, no one really knows.

William's real wife, Kate, never remarried, and passed away in Toledo on May 18, 1940, at the age of 76. Their two sons also never married. John Samuel Harbeck died in Toledo on May 21, 1917 at the age of 30, from pericarditis (inflammation in the sac surrounding the heart). His death certificate notes his occupation as journalism (followed in Dad's footsteps?). Their other son, Stanley, died at age 55 on July 22, 1947. He was also single, and died of cirrhosis of the liver. His death certificate notes his occupation as retired, while on his WWII draft card, he’s noted as unemployed and is living with his aunt, Emma Stetter (Kate's sister who also never married).

Well, that’s my accounting of William Harbeck and his family. I keep meaning to make these posts shorter, but that never seems to work out. I can’t seem to help myself: I’m long-winded.


Most research for this taken from The Titanic and Silent Cinema as well as genealogy research on and Family Search.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Titanic Tuesdays: Edwardian Fashion


Time for my second Titanic Tuesday post. I’m not sure how long I’ll keep these up: I’m bound to run out of interesting topics at some point. But as long as I have something to talk about, I’ll try to keep it a weekly feature.

Fashion in 1912 was vastly different than what we’re familiar with today. It’s fascinating to see just how much has changed in only 100 years, both in dress itself and etiquette. After researching it for Destined, I can say that, while the dresses back then were pretty, I’m very glad I live in the 21st century!

Sailing on a ship like the Titanic was a big deal, and everyone brought their A game when it came to their wardrobe. Many of the wealthier passengers were returning from Paris, where the latest fashions of the season had recently been unveiled. It’s safe to assume much shopping transpired while there, and the voyage was doubling as a kind of fashion show for many to show off their newest purchases. Moreso in the First Class, of course, but in Destined I chose to give Noelle a fashionable wardrobe as well. She was, after all, French, and her roommate was a French model, so between the two of them they would have been fairly well-dressed, even if their clothing wasn’t the most expensive or cutting-edge.

Etiquette of the time required that clothing was changed often: a new outfit for every meal or other major occasion. Most passengers would have worn at least 3 outfits a day. Breakfast attire for women was more casual, usually a tea gown that was made of loose-fitting chiffon, long sleeves and a low neck. And, most importantly, it often had no waist and didn’t require a corset. Dresses were always long: the sight of a lady’s ankle in 1912 was considered shocking. Later in the day, dresses became more fitted, with narrow, sometimes high (empire) waists, narrow skirt (called a hobble skirt) and high, round bust. Some hobble skirts were so tight at the ankles that the wearer would have to take shorter steps than normal in order to walk. Why this was considered such high fashion is still beyond me. Fabric used most often was linen, wool and silk, with silk or taffeta underskirts, and dresses were often accented with beading, ribbon or embroidery.

Common accessories included large hats (sometimes adorned with dyed feathers), long gloves, silk stockings and parasols. Jewelry was also worn, but diamonds were considered vulgar on young women. Hair was nearly always worn up, held in place with long, sharp pins, often under a large hat. Once a young woman was mature enough to be marriageable, she wore her hair up at all times. Wearing it down, unless you were still a young girl, was the sign of a promiscuous woman, and was not done. (I deviated from this once for Apolline, but as a 21st century woman, she didn’t know any better.)

For the men, dress was a little simpler. They wore suits that varied in formality depending on the occasion. Like women, morning dress was more casual, but was still a full suit with lounge coat, matching vest and tie. Bowler hats were worn if going outdoors. For dinner, tuxedos with white ties were worn.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

First edit done!

My first major edit of Bloodstone, my Urban Fantasy novel (and first in a series) is finally done. I did some major cuts, got rid of a character that I’ll save for Book Two, and trimmed some other fat. What started out as nearly 175,000 words is now down to just shy of 141,000. 34,000 is a nice chuck, and a good start. There’s still some bloated chapters in the middle that need work, so I’m hoping once I go back through and work on them, I can get closer to my goal of 100k-120k. That’s a much more traditional length for an Urban Fantasy novel by a non-established author.

I really like this book, and am excited to write the series, but now is where the worries kick in: will people think it’s too similar to other UF series? I don’t think it is, but it’s pretty difficult to write a book about vampires and vampire slayers without there being some similarities here and there. The general conventions of the genre make it impossible to avoid. I keep telling myself that I have a twist no one else (that I’ve read) has used, and that alone makes it different enough. I’m too paranoid by nature not to worry. Since I first wrote it in 2001, the vampire genre has exploded, and there are a LOT more out there to be compared to. Eek!

What I’m aiming for is to have it finished and released by January, to cash in on all the post-Christmas ebook purchases, but that may be wishful thinking. I started getting Destined ready for publication in April and wasn’t ready to release it until the end of August. Granted, I had things pop up in my life that delayed me, and I wasn’t working full-tilt on it all the time, but still, trying to release Bloodstone in half the time might be too ambitious. The formatting will be easier this time around, now that I’ve done it before, and I don’t need to do all the self-publishing research I did last time. I don’t need to design the website or set up Facebook and Twitter and GoodReads and whatnot: that’s all there now. So maybe, maybe, I can do it. I’m not going to rush it, though. If I can’t get it out in time, then I can’t. It’s all going to depend on how many editing passes it takes to be happy with the final result, and how long it takes other readers to do their own proofreads and edits. And since my main editor just had a baby, she’s going to be pretty busy. :)

My other option is to take my time with Bloodstone and work on releasing the shorter mystery novel instead. (The Janet Evanovich-meets-Medium one I mentioned in my “What’s Next?” post a week or so ago. I changed my mind about shoehorning a new character into it: it’s not going to work.) I still have concerns that it’s too short, but cozy mysteries are generally shorter than other novels, so maybe I’m fretting over nothing.  And that book takes place over the holidays (it starts on Thanksgiving and spans a few weeks after), so the timing there would be good. Something to think about. It’s much more polished than Bloodstone is right now, so it wouldn’t take as long to get ready. If only I had a damn title. The working title was H(a)unted, but that’s too weird. (It’s a combination of hunted and haunted, both of which apply to the plot.) Since my first book is called Destined and the UF is Bloodstone, I feel like I need to get away from one-word titles. I need something catchy and unique, that lends itself to the possibility of being a series later. *sigh* I hate titles.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Titanic Tuesdays: Second Class

I was thinking this weekend that I need to come up with some sort of regular blog thing that will keep people not only interested in my blog, but maybe gain new reader interest in Destined. I’ve been getting some really good feedback on the “Research Notes” section at the end of the book, where I go into more detail about the historical figures featured in the story, so I thought why not make it a weekly blog feature as well?

So, I introduce: Titanic Tuesdays!

Unless I note it in the subject line, there will be no spoilers in these posts, so those who haven’t yet read Destined won’t have to worry about it being ruined. (Aside from the major and obvious spoiler that the ship sinks. I think everyone pretty much knows that part by now, right?) So while I might choose to highlight a particular passenger that gets mentioned in the book, I will be careful not to spoil their ultimate fate, and won’t include anything about the fictional characters unless it’s a passing mention that won’t tell anything important. I hate to be spoiled myself, so I’m going to be extra careful not to do so here.

One of the aspects of Destined that I feel is unique to most Titanic-set novels is that I chose to put my characters, for the most part, in Second Class. I’ve always been fascinated with this often-ignored section of the ship. So much attention is put on the rich and glamorous First Class, and the less-fortune Third Class. Even the 1997 movie only showed the First and Third classes. I’ll admit, they’re more dramatic, but what of the Second Class? These were the people who today might be considered the middle class: regular people who are neither rich nor poor. But they were still people, with lives and personalities and stories of their own. I wanted to tell some of those stories.

It’s mentioned in many a book about the ship that the Second Class areas of Titanic were nearly equal in luxury and appointments to the First Class areas of many other ships. The cost of a Second Class ticket for Titanic averaged about £13 per person. In today’s currency, that would be about £1158.05, or $1814.20!  And while that seems shocking at first, think about how much a transatlantic cruise would cost today. For a mid-range cabin, you’d probably pay about the same, though I suspect today’s ocean liners have better amenities. ;)

In 1912, however, the amenities of the Titanic, in all classes, were second to none. The White Star Line pulled out all the stops. Still, the Second Class held relatively little space on the grand ship. Their cabins took up a small section of D, E and F decks (with a section of G Deck set aside as optional 2nd or 3rd class). They had dedicated promenade space at the end of the Boat Deck and B Deck (First Class had all of A Deck to themselves) and a covered/enclosed promenade space near the end of C Deck. They had a library/lounge, smoking room (used by the men only), dining room and a barber shop. You can get an idea from the photo below how the ship was divided up, class-wise. First Class got the majority of the space (in fact, on decks B-D, their area extended even farther forward). You might also notice how the very front of the ship is designated to officers and crew. That famous “king of the world” scene? Wouldn’t have happened. Passengers weren’t allowed on the forecastle deck, or even the front-most portion of the Boat Deck. Those areas were officers only. But sometimes dramatic license needs to be taken. Heck, I did it myself in Destined, when I let some of my characters go up to the Officers’ Promenade on the Boat Deck. The beauty of fiction, folks. I tried to be as historically accurate as possible, but there are times when breaking those rules a little makes for a more interesting story.

Life in Second Class was still pretty good, despite having such a small area to call their own. The few common areas they had were nicely-appointed and, as mentioned before, on par with the First Class rooms on other ships. On B Deck, they had a Smoking Room where the men would gather after dinner for drinks and cards and other manly pursuits. It was very masculine, with oak paneling on the walls and oak furniture upholstered with dark green Moroccan leather. The floors were tiled in patterned linoleum.

Since the Smoking Room was a "men only" area, that left only the Library/Lounge for the women, located just below it on C Deck. Both men and women congregated here daily to relax, write letters, play cards and watch the 2nd class children play on the covered promenade outside the windows. This large room was lighter than the Smoking Room, paneled in sycamore with mahogany furniture. The chairs were upholstered in a (possibly green) tapestry, the floors were were covered in a rich Wilton (possibly brown) carpet, green silk curtains framed the windows, and there was a large, glass-fronted bookcase at one end of the room containing what was described as an impressive collection of books.

The other major area for Second Class passengers was the dining room. It spanned the entire width of the ship near the aft end of D Deck. Furniture was mahogany, with long tables and swivel chairs upholstered in red leather, both bolted to the floor in case of bad weather. Walls were paneled in carved oak, the floor was tiled in patterned linoleum, and there was a sideboard at one end with a piano. On Sunday, April 14th, church services were held here in the morning, and after dinner, passengers gathered around the piano for a hymn sing. Second Class meals were prepared in the same kitchens (galleys) that prepared those for the First Class, and reports are that they ate nearly as well.

While First Class had 3 elevators at their disposal, Second Class only had one (Third Class had none), so the stairs were most likely their main method of access. Railings were light oak, carpet was red, and each landing held some seating for those who wished to rest. There were two sets of these staircases. The forward stairs, in the front portion of the Second Class section of the ship, ran from the Boat Deck down to F Deck, and had the elevator between the two flights. The aft stairs, set at the back end of the Second Class section of the ship, didn't start until B Deck and went down to G Deck.

Outdoor space for the Second Class was plentiful, more than they would have had on other ships. In addition to the Boat Deck and B Deck promenades, they also had a covered/enclosed space outside the library on C Deck. If the weather was good, passengers would gather out on these promenades and chat, play games, or people watch. They could have drinks brought out to them here as well, since their class didn't have a café. (Delivery could also be made to the library if they so chose.)

The cabins in Second Class ranged in luxury, some being almost as nice as First Class, others being nearly as stripped down as Third. But most seem to fall into the range of the cabin I assigned Noelle and Henriette. The photo to the left, most likely taken on her sister ship, Olympic, is the closest to what I imagine cabin E-103 would be. Like the library, furniture was mahogany. Each room had a fold-down wash basin with running water: both fresh and salt. Floors were usually tiled in linoleum, and each had an electric bell to ring the steward and heaters for cold nights. Cabin walls were enameled in white, and many of the surviving passengers would note that they could still smell the fresh paint. Below is an illustration of what a Second Class cabin might look like, taken from a postcard of the time. Just take out the lady and her little girl and put Noelle in her place, and you have the opening scene of Chapter 3. :)

There are some lovely, detailed deck plans on the Discovery Channel website by Bruce Beveridge, that were an invaluable resource to me when I was editing the book. The segment below is a close-up of the section of E Deck where Noelle's cabin is located. It gives a good idea of how her particular room (E-103) would have been laid out, and gives an idea of where some other things are located: the stairs, the ladies bathrooms, the room where the musicians stayed, etc. Also notice cabins E-100 and E-101, across the hall. One of these was where Edwina Troutt, Susan Webber and Nora Keane stayed. Most accounts say their cabin was E-101, but there is a story told that when Edwina was trying to hurry her roommates along in getting dressed, she got frustrated when Nora was taking too much time trying to puton her corset. In one version of the story, it is said that she grabbed the corset and threw it down the narrow passageway leading to their porthole. Other accounts say she threw it out the door. If the porthole version is correct, then their room would have to have been either E-103 or E-100, not E-101.

That’s about it for the Second Class portion of Titanic. Some of these areas figure more prominently in Destined than others, and while I do try to describe them in the book, it’s never the same as seeing an actual photo. Most of the images used here are photos taken on the Olympic, since very few photographs were taken of the Titanic. The two ships were nearly identical, however, so they can be considered relatively accurate. My various research sources can be found on my online bibliography. Some photos can also be credited to the Ulser Folk & Transport Museum.

As usual, I seem to have gotten a little long-winded. I promise to try to keep future Titanic Tuesdays more concise. :)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

What next?

Long time, no blog. Last week was hell at the day job, so I didn’t have as much free time to blog or do much of anything else online. We had a nasty lightning strike at work (the joy of living in Florida) that fried our phone lines, killed our network server and generally wreaked havoc with everything else. As the closest thing to an IT person they have, it somehow landed on me to oversee a lot of the repairs, and as such I was stuck at the office more than usual. Good for the paycheck, bad for the writing career. But it seems to finally be winding down now, so I’m trying to get back in the groove of things.

Now that Destined has been out for a little over a month, I’m starting to think about what book to work on next. I know I still need to keep up with the marketing and promotion, because let’s face it, sales aren’t stellar yet. I get a couple a week on Kindle, a couple a month in paperback and Nook, and have no idea yet what my sales via Smashwords (iBooks, Sony, etc.) are. It’s still not on Kobo because of some backlog they have, which means anyone with a Kobo reader is stuck either waiting indefinitely or buying the ePub directly from Smashwords and uploading it manually to their reader. Not optimal, but I guess it’s better than not being able to get the book at all?

Anyway, I realize that sales take time. Getting the word out about a new book without a marketing department backing you up is tough. I don’t have the budget for splashy ads everywhere, so I’m relying mostly on reviews, which are good so far, but not yet plentiful. I can be patient, though, and wait. My Facebook page, which was stuck at 24 likes a few weeks ago, has now jumped to 186 and counting, thanks to an ad I placed there. Now if only likes would translate to sales, I’d be a happy girl. Patience…

So, while I work on my patience (never my strong suit, sadly), I’m turning my thoughts to the next best marketing tool: releasing more books. I have two completed novels still unreleased, one that’s almost completed, and a couple that are barely started. (One of which is a sequel to a completed book.) One of the completed books is going to be next up, but I have yet to decide which.

The first, which I was originally sure was going to be Book #2 for me, is a light mystery: think Janet Evanovich meets Medium. It’s funny with a dash of romance, and may even become a series. I was nearly done with my first editing pass, however, when I decided I really wanted to add another character to it. The main character needed a best friend to talk to, and up until now all she’d had was her parents and sister. Adding a brand-new person into an already-finished book isn’t going to be a quick fix, so I think I got a little frustrated by that. Another issue I have with the book (still untitled because I suck at coming up with those) is that it’s too short. Though I suppose for a mystery, 65,000 words isn’t that short, but Destined was about 89,000, and anything shorter than that just doesn’t feel long enough to me. Adding in the new friend will give me extra words, so that should help some. We’ll see what happens.

Unfortunately, while I was starting the add-a-friend project, my attention began to wander from it to my other completed book, Bloodstone, which is the first in an Urban Fantasy series and has the opposite problem: it’s too freaking LONG. At one point, it was over 200,000 words. It’s actually my first novel, written about a year before Destined, which is probably why it’s so bloated. Years ago I managed to cut it down some, but it’s still over 170,000. It needs some serious hacking and slashing before it’s publishable (I’d like to get it down to 100k). The only thing that’s going to get it cut down to that degree is removing an entire storyline, and that’s not going to be easy. That said, right now it’s the book that I’m more excited about editing, so that’s where my attention has been focused. I was doing pretty good until I got to the first candidate for major cuttage: a love interest that could easily wait until a later book to be introduced, or never introduced at all. He’s not the main guy in the story, so his presence creates a kind of triangle, which is pretty overdone lately, so it might be best to chop him out for good. Logically, I know if I do this, I can shave down the word count significantly and possibly even make the story better. Problem is, writing isn’t always logical. You get attached, and I’m finding it hard to cut him out. For now, I’m going to read ahead and see if there’s anything else that could go instead, despite knowing deep down that he’s my best option. He isn’t central to this book’s plot, and in the end he might even be a detriment to it, adding one too many storylines for people to keep track of. Cutting him makes sense. I just wish it weren’t so hard.