“I will put you in charge of more…”

 

Fear hides the talent...
In Jesus’ parable (Matthew 25), only one man responds with suspicion, distrust, and fear. He buries his talent…

Do you remember Jesus’ Parable of the Talents? One guy is given two talents to invest, another guy five, and a third guy, one. The first two get right to the business of trading, and each doubles his investment.

Needless to say, their master is pleased. He says the same thing to each of the first two guys: “Well done, good and faithful servant. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.”

Wait, what? The master gives them more responsibility? Isn’t the reward for a job well done a vacation? On some tropical beach for, like, a month or something? Not in God’s economy.

If I am faithful in small tasks, I can be trusted with larger, more important projects. And don’t miss this: there is joy in the growth of responsibility. Joy for a job well done; who would have thought?  The guy who buries his talent faces big trouble. Even what he has–the one talent–the master takes away.

When I don’t see immediate results, I am quick to identify with the buried-talent guy. I invest time; I grind away at a writing project. The words don’t spill onto the page perfectly polished and publication-ready. Then I sigh and tell myself I’ve done nothing.  My discouragement leads me to assume that I’ve been lazy. Um, no.

Just because something is difficult doesn’t mean I’ve buried the talent. Many projects take time, especially writing projects. My reward won’t be an extended vacation, either. But is kicking back truly what I want? If I am planning to grow as an author, isn’t greater opportunity the better thing?

This week I acquired my publication rights for the Mercy’s Embrace trilogy. Talk about a change in summer plans! I am both scared and elated. I have the opportunity to release these books–with new covers and a new, more romantic ending–under my own auspices. It’s the Parable of the Talents, but for real in my life.

Here’s the thing: I know how to do this. I know exactly how to release a book: Format it. Get a great cover made. Promote it as an indie author. Only now I will do the same with three more.

There’s a lot of joy around here, let me tell you. There is also a lot of typing. My original files, sent seven years ago to the publisher, crashed with an ancient laptop of mine. The cover art and manuscript files customarily remain with the original publisher; I won’t be asking for them. So I am typing my own books.

First I tried to pirate them off Kindle For PC–for real, I did–but that didn’t work out. Amazon is wise to such attempts, and a scary notice popped up on my screen. Ah well. Two chapters’ worth of copy-and-paste (per book) is better than nothing.

Typing has turned out to be the best thing ever because, dang, the Mercy’s books are well written. They’re really good. How could I have forgotten that? Plus, because these will be second editions, changes can be made. I can tighten up a few things. Add the kind of ending readers are longing for. Make these good books even better.

“Enter into the joy of your master,” Jesus says in the parable. Isn’t this the truth! More responsibility? Bring it.

DBAON-thumbnailHey, there’s a giveaway going on this week and a sale.  To celebrate my birthday, the Kindle edition of Darcy By Any Other Name is reduced to $3.99 through August 10th. Come read Meredith’s wonderful review and enter by posting a comment.

And now, back to typing…

Laura Hile (1)

Let Freedom Ring

 "Bridgetown" Photo: Gerrit Quast (Creative Commons Flickr)
Downtown “Bridgetown” Photo: Gerrit Quast (Creative Commons Flickr)

Tonight we will be heading downtown for fireworks. That’s what you get when your kids are in their adventuresome 20s. Scorning inconvenience, they want to go out and do stuff.

Freedom gives us this right. As citizens, we can peaceably assemble in public places. Although this is Portland, so weirdness will be present too. I’ll keep on the watch for the Unipiper. (That’s him below, yeah, in the Darth Vader mask playing flaming bagpipes.)

I also have the right to own property, to protect my family, and to freely share my thoughts. I can publish books, too, and send them out into the wide world. It’s an amazing freedom, one I hadn’t thought much about until this spring when I did exactly that.

Photo: Southwest Bible Church
Photo: SW Bible Church

And today I walked to church for morning prayer and coffee.  We sat down together like we do every weekday and prayed openly–in a lighted room in front of enormous plate glass windows. Freely, without fear of interference. (Except the sleepy kind. Coffee helps with that.)

Portland's own Unipiper (Photo: Twitter)
Here he is, Portland’s own Unipiper (Photo: Twitter)

In these troubled times, we dare not take our freedoms for granted. I can take no credit for them; I stand on the shoulders of my forefathers and fellow citizens, who scorned Liberty’s cost and dared to make a stand.

Freedom from tyranny is worth celebrating. Happy 4th of July!

Laura Hile (1)

This was also posted at Jane Started It!, a blog I share with my writing pals.

Maybe it’s not a “beach read”?

So I’ve been promoting Darcy By Any Other Name as a “beach read.” You know, the perfect book for a vacation. But maybe I’m wrong.

Photo: Fuzzy Gerdes (Creative Commons Flickr)
Ahhh! Summertime perfection. Photo: Fuzzy Gerdes (Creative Commons Flickr)
Photo: Rita
Photo: Rita Deodato

Last week a reader shared a “book selfie” on Facebook. Oh, the places my books go. How I love seeing them! Darcy, can’t I squeeze through the Kindle and come along with you?

The thing is, Rita’s beach is perfectly lovely. No way would I want to be reading a book there, not while the sun and surf are calling!

I saw Rita’s photo on my phone, right in the middle of a road trip. (A coffee break at a noisy McDonald’s, to be precise.) I tell you what, during my travels I saw a few places where I’d prefer to be reading. “Beauty spots” where fictional escape is more than a preference, it’s a necessity.

So should I call my new book an “escape-the-skeezy-motel” read? Would that that prompt you to buy?

Pallet-and-tarp decor
Don’t you just love the pallet-and-tarp “garden” decor?  Longbourn and Netherfield, here I come!
A parking-lot palace
A genuine “parking-lot palace,” convenient to the freeway(s). Open the book, block out the noise.
So do we, Darcy.
So do we, Darcy. So do we.

Laura Hile (1)

Documented “Teacher Burn”!

Apparently I am quite the source for ‘shoe-leather’ wisdom. You know, the practical, real-life kind.

On this, our final day of school, Laurie, one of my 7th grade students, presented me with a framed commemoration of our year together. Alas, each of these gems has come rolling out of my mouth. Repeatedly.

I never meant to sound so snarkily erudite, but Laurie nailed it.

20160608_141902

  • I’ll put you out like the cat.
  • Save it for the talent show.
  • Don’t wake up the sleeping dog.
  • Pleasure doing business with you.
  • Grow a filter.
  • Suffer in silence.
  • Clear as mud?
  • Keep your mouth closed and squeeze it out through your eyeballs [a belch].
  • Life is hard, and then you die.
  • Get that lip back in your face.
  • ‘Stoopid’ is a choice.
  • I hope you enjoyed your childhood… because it’s over.
This year's 7th grade class at our formal dinner
Yesterday’s 7th grade formal dinner
They survived the year! Well... almost.
They survived the year with me! Well… kind of.

Laura Hile (1)

Class photos: Rose Stubblefield

A book’s success is like surfing

Photo: Miguel Navaza (Creative Commons Flickr)
Years of practice (and failure) built this surfer’s graceful skill. Photo: Miguel Navaza (Creative Commons Flickr)

I’ve released a new book, and the process kind of reminds me of surfing. Okay, body surfing. I was never brave enough–or coordinated enough!–to try it with a board. Tanning on the beach? Forget that. Why lie in the sun when you can spend the afternoon catching waves? Many summer days at Santa Monica and Malibu taught me a thing or two.

Surfing is about position, skill, and timing. This means hours in the water, being ready, watching wave after wave. Learning how to know a promising wave from a dud. Being willing to swim like crazy to catch the awesome one. You can’t be lazy as a surfer.

Position would be the intriguing story premise and the cover. These are what put me in the water, and each one represents a risk. I wasn’t sure how the ‘magical reality’ element of the body swap would fly. And that sweet cover was spendy–but worth every cent.

Skill? I’ve been writing for 17 years. If Darcy By Any Other Name is an instant success, know that I’ve been rolled under by plenty of waves. (Yeah, the wipeout thing.) I’ve learned to escape the worst by diving under, but multiple thousands of clunky words lie at my back. Then too, I teach fiction writing to high school students. What I’ve learned in helping them improve is a lot.

And timing is about being in the right place at the right moment. There are more Austen readers now than ever before. No readers, no wave!

Photo: Swell Surf Camp (Creative Commons Flickr)
Photo: Swell Surf Camp (Creative Commons Flickr)

Surfing, like writing, only appears solitary. The photo at the top of this page shows a lone surfer, but I’m betting he wasn’t the only one in the water that day. Bobbing heads beyond the line of surf are not attractive, so they’re cropped out. Deal is, no one surfs alone. No one writes a book alone–or should.

The fellowship of like minds is crucial. As with surfing, skills are developed alone but there is safety in companionship. In the water and out, surfers hang together and talk. If writing greats C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien needed a support group, so do I.

Darcy By Any Other Name
Darcy By Any Other Name

Sales numbers continue to roll in, and not because of me. News about Darcy is being spread by people like you, my social media friends. A hectic school schedule has allowed me little time to compose ads or tweet or anything. I’ve put up a few posts on Facebook, and you have been sharing them.  I am beyond grateful.

You know you want this book, right? So enter to win it! There’s a giveaway going on right now at Just Jane 1813. It’s easy, simply post a reply by May 29, 2016.

Laura Hile (1)

This article was originally posted at Jane Started It!

“When what to my wondering eyes did appear…”

My son Ben, age 11
M-o-m, what? My Ben, age 11

This is my Ben, and when he sees this photo he’ll be rolling his eyes. And saying, “M-o-m,” as only a grown son can. This selfie was taken with his first digital camera. At age eleven, boys don’t care what they look like. That stupefied pose is deliberate.

Thing is, his expression mirrors how I’ve felt all week. When Darcy By Any Other Name was released on Kindle last Saturday, I could not wrap my brain around it. I’d been peering at the screen since 4:00 a.m, hunting for any last lingering typos in the manuscript, the kind spellcheckers cannot find. And reading instructions and filling in detailed information. Tax stuff and bank account numbers and prices–the kind of work that requires thinking.

You know when your eyes are strained to the dried-cement stage? Yeah, that. After twelve hours of fearful work–click the wrong thing and die! –I pushed the “Save and Publish” button, and my quiet world exploded.

Darcy By Any Other Name - Ebook SmallThere was my ebook–my own indie-published ebook–on Amazon. I’ve had three books traditionally published, but this was different. Everything is up to me! So I put up an almost laughable post at Facebook with the cover and a text link. Nothing swank or professional or even polished. Almost immediately people began buying.

People began BUYING my book!  Paying money for it, and then reading it. I know because reviews began to appear. Amazing reviews, thoughtful and well-written, from intelligent women. Tackling this book is no small feat (662 paper pages), even for a lightning reader like me.

How are people hearing about it? My social media friends. I have been too busy with a frantic school schedule to compose ads or tweets or anything. Facebook friends and Beyond Austen followers and lovers of Austen fiction have come to my rescue. Chautona’s blog review appeared Sunday night. Just Jane 1813’s review came up this morning. People I don’t even know are expressing excitement and are sharing my announcement post.

Ebooks continue to fly off the shelf. Here, I’ll show you.

The downward trend represents today's numbers--so far. The line continues to rise.
The downward trend represents today’s numbers–so far. That line continues to rise.

It’s crazy. Money is coming IN instead of going out–a glorious change in this household. People say that Facebook is impersonal, but I have not found it so. One day the sales wave will crest and flatten out. But thanks to my social media friends, today is not that day.

Hey, there’s an ebook giveaway running at Just Jane 1813. To enter, post a reply before midnight, May 29, 2016.

And if you’d rather not wait? Here’s the link to Amazon. Because the experts say I’m supposed to ask for the sale.

Laura Hile (1)

Hat tip to A visit from St. Nicholas by Clement Clarke Moore

It’s here: Darcy By Any Other Name

Hang on to your hat! A freak lightning strike exchanges Mr. Darcy and Mr. Collins.
Mr. Darcy, stuck in Collins’ body? And living as a guest in Elizabeth’s Bennet’s house? What a hoot!

Darcy By Any Other Name, my first indie publication, was released today. I ought to be celebrating–and I am–if staring at the screen in shock and wonder qualifies.

Amazon slapped the Kindle edition up for sale in something like twenty minutes, instead of the promised 12 hours. There is no ranking, but the “Look Inside” feature works. The book is LIVE, and you can see it here.

The publication date is the real stunner: May 13, 2016. Yesterday’s date, although I don’t know what caused that. Yesterday just happened to be Friday the 13th. Otherwise known as “Freaky Friday.”

So my Pride and Prejudice ‘body swap’ romance–itself a Freaky Friday tale–has that particular date. Will anyone notice or even care? Nope. But I know, and I’m smiling.

And now you can smile too. Darcy By Any Other Name is pretty much the perfect beach read, just in time for summer. Like my other novels, it’s an ensemble piece, featuring all your friends (and foes) from Pride and Prejudice.

It’s a book I thought I’d never write because, you know, every variation of Pride and Prejudice has been told. Ah, but that was before I came up with the swap idea. Such a hoot.

The print edition will be available presently. The price for that is dictated by length–all 662 pages. If I were you, I’d buy the ebook. It’s way cheaper.

Laura Hile (1)

Guest Sons

Facebook has added a “Thankful” button to its gallery of Likes.  It’s Mother’s Day, and the timing is perfect. I could click that thing all day long. My mom has overcome a series of serious illnesses and is doing well, and so are my sons.

But I am also thankful for Guest Sons. I have a number of them, boys who came into my life after school and on weekends. Who played video games and swam in the community pool and ate whatever I served (pizza or lasagna or shepherd’s pie). They belched and cracked jokes and laughed. Oh, how they laughed.

From Nathan's era, here are Guest Sons Nathan, Tyler, Luke, and Sean
Here is Nathan with “Guest Sons” Tyler, Luke, and Sean. Their beloved choir director made them form a quartet, and then he coached them. They sounded great!.

“Mom, you should make shepherd’s pie for Stephen.” I heard this several years ago, when Nathan’s pal Stephen was on leave from the Navy. “He loves your cooking,” Nathan added. Excuse me, my cooking? I am a utility cook, flinging out meals on a skinflint budget. Surely Stephen was mistaken!  But I got busy in the kitchen just the same.

Michael with Will
Michael with “Guest Son” Will
(Photo: Sue Blackwell)

It’s not that these Guest Sons were ungrateful–no hungry teen ever is. It’s just that I never realized how much they enjoyed hanging out at our place. Nothing special was offered. The boys’ shared bedroom was cramped at best–especially with all those scrounged TVs in there. Through the closed door I could hear hooting and hollering as they played Super Smash Brothers Melee for hours.

Hospitality, not entertainment, was all I had to offer. An open door. And in they came. Now I miss having them around.

Ben (center, flanked by brothers) and Guest Sons Sam, Tyler, Ryan, and Brent
Ben (center, flanked by brothers Nathan and Michael) and “Guest Sons” Sam, Tyler, Ryan, and Brent (Alexandra Grace Photography)

What I gave to them was Guy Time. Apparently that was what they needed most. This scene, from Susan Elizabeth Phillips‘ Match Me If You Can, captures the feel of those days at our apartment. Yeah, she gets it.

When did my house turn into a hangout for every grossly overpaid, terminally pampered professional football player in northern Illinois?”

“We like it here,” Jason said. “It reminds us of home.”

“Plus, no women around.” Leandro Collins, the Bears’ first-string tight end emerged from the office munching on a bag of chips. “There’s times when you need a rest from the ladies.”

Annabelle shot out her arm and smacked him in the side of the head. “Don’t forget who you’re talking to.”

Leandro had a short fuse, and he’d been known to take out a ref here and there when he didn’t like a call, but the tight end merely rubbed the side of his head and grimaced. “Just like my mama.”

“Mine, too,” Tremaine said with happy nod.

Annabelle spun on Heath. “Their mother! I’m thirty-one years old, and I remind them of their mothers.”

“You act like my mother,” Sean pointed out, unwisely as it transpired, because he got a swat in the head next.

Do you have Guest Sons and Guest Daughters? Know that you are loved by them as well. Happy Mother’s Day!

Laura Hile (1)

Wedding photo: Alexandra Grace Photography
This article was originally posted at Jane Started It!

Elements of Romantic Comedy: SaleZ

What a way to end the A to Z Challenge, by talking about money! And yet selling books is part of the equation. Readers are always on the hunt for new titles–and authors–to love. They are! Don’t lose heart, writing friend.

Photo: Marco (Creative Commons Flickr)
Readers are incredibly loyal. If they love your work, they’ll buy up your backlist. Really. Photo: Marco (Creative Commons Flickr)

This is the age of the story. I mean, look around. People are addicted to Netflix and Hulu, binge-watching an entire series in one weekend. Even using their phones, which I think is crazy. How can they see? Then again, these are twenty and thirty-somethings with young eyes.

Get in on this craze, because readers do the same with books. Feed them! Keep that idea factory running.

Nothing sells older titles like a new book, right? And eBooks? Those are instant-gratification mind candy! One click, and… let the reading begin!

DBAON-thumbnailPeople do judge a book by its cover. A book purchase is impulsive, driven by curiosity and emotion. I think the cover designer for Darcy By Any Other Name nailed the intrigue of the body-swap. The publisher’s designer for my Mercy’s Embrace  series? Not so much.

Speaking of Darcy, choosing which passage to share each day has presented a quandary. I cannot betray what happens at the end, or in the middle, or, well…anything! So let’s finish the A to Z Challenge with a no-spoilers smile. From Chapter 30, here is Collins-as-Darcy in all his bumbling glory. Dear me, with Collins at the helm, the handsome “Mr. Darcy” is fast losing ground.

The evening wore on. It was Miss Bingley’s stated intent to accustom him to fashionable hours, such as he would find in London. What brutes Londoners were! Supper had been abominably late—even Mr. Bingley had complained—and then they must play cards and converse and listen as Miss Bingley played the pianoforte until the small hours.

But Collins’ tedious evening was brightened by the contents of Netherfield’s wine cellar, in particular a decanter of beautifully-aged cognac. Such a lovely, golden amber it was, served in special glasses to warm it. Bingley sipped his. Collins, who had never before tasted brandy, tried to follow suit but could not. It was simply too delicious. Mellowed and warmed, he found himself humming a tune as he refilled his glass.

Not that he’d had the funds in those pinched university days for as much as a pint of beer. But from the mists of memory an old drinking song bubbled up.

With women and wine I defy ev’ry care,” Collins sang. “For life without these is a bubble of air.”

He drained the glass, marveling at the delicate flavor of the brandy. He stole a glance at Miss Bingley. She was looking both surprised and disgusted. Wonderful! Smiling, he continued humming. “A bubble of air.

Charles Bingley began to laugh. “Upon my word, Darcy,” he said.

Again Collins reached for the decanter. Wasn’t it odd that a song he’d never sung came so easily to his lips? This time Charles Bingley sang with him.

“Each helping the other in pleasure I roll,
And a new flow of spirits enlivens my soul—

“Really, Charles,” said Caroline Bingley, “you shouldn’t encourage him. We have enough to put up with in Mr. Hurst.” And she tugged on the bell pull.

Collins shared a grin with Charles Bingley.

Sometime later Holdsworth appeared, as neat as a pin, wearing his usual wooden expression. Apparently the man’s intention was to escort him to his bedchamber.

“Good night, Miss Bingley,” Collins called, as he was led from the drawing room. He was soon grateful for Holdsworth’s arm, for he staggered as they climbed the staircase together. Bingley followed.

For life without cognac is a bubble of air,” Collins sang. “A bubble of air.

Yes, a merry song. For some reason Holdsworth did not enjoy it.

Again, thank you for joining me for this challenge. It’s work, pumping out twenty-six posts in a single month, but it’s been enlightening and affirming. I expect the artwork for the print cover soon, and then we’ll be off and running. Check here for details!

Laura Hile (1)

Excerpt is from Darcy By Any Other Name by Laura Hile, copyright 2016