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!
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.
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.
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.
There 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.
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.
Hat tip to A visit from St. Nicholas by Clement Clarke Moore
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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!
People 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 Namenailed 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!
Excerpt is from Darcy By Any Other Name by Laura Hile, copyright 2016
Celebrating the A to Z Blogging Challenge with quotations on the writing life.
You can fix anything but a blank page.
The rough draft is like the ugly duckling, not the goose that laid the golden egg. Nurture your draft, work with it, revise it. Allow it to grow into the novel it deserves to be. You might surprise yourself with what it becomes.
Photo: Bill Smith (Creative Commons Flickr). Image is link.
Grasping at straws for a meaningful Y word here. But “Why not?” is a question I ask whenever my story gets stuck.
Not IF it gets stuck, but WHEN. Sooner or later every plot bogs down (like the unhappy jeep pictured below), usually in the middle. It’s too easy to write yourself into a corner and/or run out of ideas.
Bring on the free write! This is a technique I use with students. Write freely in a notebook–yes, by hand–for ten minutes–yes, with a timer. No stopping, no editing–just words. Nonsense sentences at first, or whining words, or a list. But after three or four minutes, the creative mind kicks into gear. It’s remarkable. Ideas come bubbling up, especially lines of dialog. Before you know it, you’re off and running with a story solution. Move to the keyboard and start typing.
“Why not?” is something I’ve learned to ask of the most unlikely ideas. For instance, list things that could not happen to your lead, things he or she just wouldn’t do. Can you tweak one of them, twisting it around, finding a way to make a version of it work?
Pixar’s Emma Coats’ 22 Rules of Phenomenal Storytelling to the rescue! If you write, I’m betting you’ve seen this helpful list somewhere around the blogosphere. Heck, I blogged about it for NaNoWriMo a while back. Here’s an infographic from that post (scroll down).
My bail-out favorites on Coats’ list are Nos. 6, 9, 10, and 12. And then there’s No. 7 (get the ending working up front). Yeah, that. For me, the ending is always the most challenging.
Anyway, here’s a “Why not?” example from Darcy By Any Other Name. Darcy-as-Collins needs an ally among the Bennets, you know, for story purposes. Elizabeth has her sister, Jane, but who would side with the odious “Mr. Collins”? Everyone hates him! So I asked my “Why not” question, and an unlikely candidate stepped up.
This scene from Chapter 7 is rather long; I apologize. I want to show how I use a somewhat predictable concept and humanize it in such a way that it is believable and works. Darcy-as-Collins IS a different man. Elizabeth Bennet might not see that yet, but someone else does and instinctively responds.
Being present at dinner was not as easy as it appeared. Darcy must deal with Hill, who made him sit on the bed as she removed both his coat and neck cloth.
“Menfolk,” she muttered. “You’ve no sense, none at all. But it’s not my place to say, is it?” She crossed to the wardrobe and removed Mr. Collins’ clean nightshirt. “Put this on, and without a lot of talk, if you please.”
Darcy could tell she was in no mood for being crossed. He took the garment.
“Remove the shoes and stockings,” Hill went on, as if speaking to a little boy. “You had no business going downstairs today, and even less jaunting off to Netherfield.”
Darcy was about to blame Jones and his aunt, but the look on Hill’s face silenced him. This woman was paid to listen to Mrs. Bennet’s excuses, not his.
“And now,” said she, putting her hands on her hips, “your head hurts like thunder, doesn’t it?”
“Yes, ma’am,” said Darcy meekly. He fumbled with the buttons on his waistcoat.
“Here, now,” said Hill, and she made a move to assist him.
Darcy pulled away. “I can do this,” he said. But his fingers felt thick and awkward.
Hill pushed his hands aside and helped him. She unfastened the top button of his shirt, too. Removing the night shirt from his resistless grasp, she said, “You might as well lie down as you are. It won’t make much difference if you sleep in your shirt and breeches.”
Darcy was happy to comply. She was right; he was worn to the bone. He lay back against the pillows and closed his eyes.
“There now, Mr. Collins.” Hill’s voice was soothing instead of scolding. “A bit of sleep will do you good.”
He could not sleep! Darcy raised his head to eye the wardrobe. “My evening clothes,” he said. “For dinner. Where are they?”
“You will have your dinner brought on a tray, young man, and no mistake.” Clucking and fussing, Hill drew the blankets up to Darcy’s chin. “You are not well enough to come down tonight. The idea!”
“But,” protested Darcy. “Wickham.”
There was a pause. “What did you say?” demanded Hill.
Darcy lay back against the pillows. “That devil Wickham,” he said. “He’s coming to dinner tonight.”
“Aye, he is. What’s it to you?” Her tone accused Darcy of jealousy.
Darcy ignored this. “I must be at table,” he said. “Miss Elizabeth does not realize…”
He paused to steal a look at Hill. Her hands were on her hips again. “Miss Elizabeth does not realize what?”
“That Wickham is a scoundrel. She has no way of knowing it.”
Hill sat down on the end of the bed, and Darcy heard her give a long sigh.
“Something’s not right,” she said at last. “I feel it in my bones. The Mistress, bless her, has no notion of what’s what, and the Master indulges the girls.Again and again these officers come to the house. They’re harmless for the most part, amusing the girls with high spirits and dancing. But that Mr. Wickham? He’s not their sort.” Frowning, Hill lapsed into silence.
“He speaks well enough,” she admitted at last, “but he’s not one of them.”
Darcy worked his good hand free of the blanket. “I must be at table,” he told her.
But Hill did not appear to hear. “Calculating!” she burst out. “That’s what he is! A smooth smile and smooth speeches. And up to no good, if you ask me.”
“Very much up to no good,” said Darcy.
“He’s too agreeable! But he watches them, oh he does. And the Bennets know nothing—nothing! —of the ways of conniving men. The Mistress believes any tale told her, and that Mr. Wickham has been telling her plenty. When a man has something to hide,” she added, “he talks on and on.”
Hill turned a speculative gaze on Darcy. “Perhaps there’s more to you than meets the eye, Mr. Collins. But you are not,” she added, “up to sitting at table tonight.”
Darcy hated to admit that Hill was right, and yet what could he do? He tipped his head to one side, rather like his late father’s favorite spaniel. “What do you say to after-dinner coffee, Mrs. Hill?” he offered, smiling appealingly. “In the drawing room? You could put me on the sofa before the others come in.”
He paused, studying her expression. “By the fire with a lap blanket,” he added. “And with a mug of hot milk.”
Mr. Collins was not handsome, but Darcy discovered that he could be charming. Mrs. Hill rose to her feet. “Hot milk!” she scoffed. “As if I do not have enough to do.”
But she did not refuse, Darcy noted. And she took with her his spare shirt, frock coat, and breeches to press. When the door closed behind her, Darcy allowed himself to smile. He had made his first ally.
Tomorrow is the final challenge day. Thank you for hanging in there with me.
Celebrating the A to Z Blogging Challenge with quotations on the writing life.
Two questions form the foundation of all novels: ‘What if?’ and ‘What next?’ (a third question, ‘What now?’ is the one an author asks himself every 10 minutes or so; but it’s more a cry than a question.) Every novel begins with the speculative question, What if X happened? That’s how you start.
Another leftover post from last year. I don’t ask as many “What If” questions about real life these days. I focus instead on what I can be thankful for.
Photo: Thomas Leth-Olsen (Creative Commons Flickr). Image is link.
With each book you write, you take your best shot. What you release into the wide world represents the best you can do. That’s the glory and the heartbreak of writing.
Your book deserves to live. Bring it out of your imagination and share. What if your favorite author had given in to self-doubt and had never put pen to paper? Never came up with the fortitude to publish?
Ah, but Indie publishing tempts the writer to toss words onto the page and call them good. For me, the difficult first draft is only the first step. Then comes the rewrite, the process in which I tune up the story and make the words sing. Here, I’ll show you.
Below is a rough first version of an exchange in Chapter 1. Is it good enough? Not really. There are flashes of fun and snark, but there’s a lot of “telling” too. The cadence isn’t snappy enough, and I’m covering way too much story ground, especially in the first paragraph. Not much description, is there? Yeah, description is my weak point.
He was a young man, but was well on his way to stolid middle age. Without invitation or encouragement he’d babbled on about Rosings and the august favor of Lady Catherine de Bourgh—as if this were a recommendation! Darcy did not know which was worse: the flow of insincere compliments, the nervous smile, or the way his plump hands twisted together as he conversed. No, there was something better. His clumsy attempts at dancing with Miss Elizabeth. Darcy’s lips curved into an unholy smile. That display was not something he’d soon forget.
Darcy increased his pace, making for the stone Folly in the center of the garden. Perhaps he could lose Collins in the shadows. There was no question that the man would take a hint and leave him alone.
Sure enough, the man came on; Darcy could hear his short-legged mincing trot. “Oh, Mr Dar-cy,” he shrilled. “Forgive the intrusion, but–“
Something about the man’s voice told Darcy he was cold and uncomfortable. So much the better. Darcy came to a halt beneath the arch and waited. He offered no word of greeting to the man. The wind was picking up; fallen leaves swirled in and around the Folly’s arch.
“I am reluctant to intrude,” Collins wheezed out, for he was breathing heavily.
Reluctant? The man had crossed the garden at a run! Was he now pretending the encounter was accidental? Not only was he impertinent, but also a liar. Darcy folded his arms across his chest.
Here is the finished version from Chapter 1 of Darcy By Any Other Name. The beginning paragraph that covered too much? That was expanded into the first half of the chapter.
The crunch of footsteps on gravel caught Darcy’s attention; had someone followed him? He turned and saw the white of a clerical cravat. Indeed, he could hear Collins’ reedy voice calling his name.
Darcy increased his pace and crossed the lawn, heading for the stone Folly. Perhaps he could lose Collins in the shadows? There was no question that the man would take a hint and go away.
Sure enough, on Collins came; Darcy could hear his mincing trot. “Oh, Mr. Dar-cy,” he shrilled. “Forgive the intrusion, but—”
The chill air held the promise of rain, and something in Collins’ tone told Darcy that he was cold and uncomfortable. So much the better! Darcy came to a halt beneath one of the Folly’s arches and waited. The wind was picking up; fallen leaves swirled around his feet. Yes, a storm was definitely blowing in.
“I am reluctant to intrude,” Mr. Collins wheezed out, for he was breathing heavily. “Most—reluctant.”
The man had crossed the garden at a run! Was he now pretending this encounter was accidental? Not only was Collins impertinent, but he was also a liar. Darcy folded his arms across his chest.
And Elizabeth thought him condescending? Top-lofty? Impossible to please? Would that she could see his patience and forbearance! For her sake, Darcy would not give Collins the reply his arrogance deserved.
The man gazed at Darcy with a confiding smile. “I cannot think why, but I neglected to inquire earlier,” he said, and paused mid-sentence.
Darcy knew precisely why: because the man was an idiot!
“Is there a message, good sir, that you would like me to convey to your esteemed aunt? I return to Hunsford on the coming Saturday.”
Surely this was the slenderest pretext for conversation! It now occurred to Darcy that the man might be seeking a loan.
Tomorrow’s post? Y is for … hm’m. Haven’t figured that out quite yet! Thanks for reading.