Yes!!

September 15, 2014

So I uploaded Without Words to Amazon for pre-order a few hours ago, and it already has a product page here.

If you pre-order, the book will be delivered to your Kindle or Kindle App on September 30th. There are a few things you should know about that.

First, I set the pre-order price at $2.99. I hope that will give those of you who read all my books, review, spread the word, etc., a small discount, because I intend to raise the price to $4.99 as soon as the book is unlocked from its pre-order status.

Second, the book is in the Kindle Unlimited program, which means after September 30th if you subscribe to the Kindle Unlimited program (and everyone gets one month free) you can borrow the book for free.

The paperback will be out in early October.

I look forward to hearing from everyone as to how you like Bret and Hassie’s story.

~ Ellen


Revisions, Decisions, and an Excerpt

August 28, 2014

The most recent comment to one of my posts about Without Words made me realize it’s been a while since I gave an update, so here it is—I’m working on revisions right now. Originally I thought, oh, that’s not much, I’ll just zip through those, but that’s not how it’s working out. I’m really banging my head against it this time, and it’s just not going fast.

In the meantime, Amazon has given indies like me the ability to put books up for pre-order. I’m going to do that, but Amazon is being careful to ensure we’ll really come across when we say. So I could load the draft of Words right now (uploading a draft is required) and set a pre-order date. However, since I’m not exactly speeding through these revisions and can’t predict how much longer they will take, I’m unwilling to do that now. Once the book is loaded and a date set for release, I would have to upload the final version ten days before the release date I set. The penalty for not doing this is being shut out of the pre-order system for a year—and of course disappointing everyone waiting for the book and looking like someone who can’t meet her own deadline.

I feel far more confident that once the revisions are done I can estimate time for proofreading and formatting with some accuracy, so what I’m going to do is set Words for pre-order once the revisions are done.

Pre-order isn’t the only new program that’s come from Amazon recently. I’m sure most readers, at least in the U.S., have heard about the Kindle Unlimited program. This is Amazon’s subscription service. For $10 a month readers (U.S. only at the moment) can borrow Kindle books at no additional cost, up to ten at a time. After ten, you have to return one to borrow another.

When I first heard of this, I thought pfft, I doubt most of the authors I follow are going to put their books in the program. However, we each get to sign up for one free month, and something or other induced me to go ahead and do that. For the most part the books available in the program are indie and older traditionally published books, but I have seen several books I’ve bought in the past (one mystery series where I bought every one), and the fact is I went on a KU spree while I was waiting for the last of my beta readers to report, and I’ve already far exceeded the number of books I’d need to borrow to justify the $10 monthly cost.

What I did was download anything that looked even vaguely reasonable. Of course that gave me a low success rate, and I actually read only about 10% of what I tried. Still, before I got tied up with these revisions, I read at least a dozen books from the program. So my attitude has changed a little.

The downside of the program for an author like me is that to put a book in KU, the book must be exclusive with Amazon. That means yes to paperbacks and Kindle digital books but no to everything else. A glance at my records for the four and a half years I’ve been doing this shows less than 4% of my sales are through distributors other than Amazon.

So what does that mean? It means I’m going to put Words in the program. There are Kindle apps for pretty much every device made, and I really don’t think doing this will exclude many people. For a Nook or Kobo reader who absolutely needs the book in the epub format, there are ways to convert a Kindle book to epub.

So that’s my update on revisions and decisions. As to an excerpt, this is from one of my favorite scenes in Words (which may get tweaked a little during proofreading, but isn’t going to have any major revisions):

Hassie wiped her wet eyes and runny nose on the sleeve of the purple dress, unwilling to look at Bret again. She let go of his arm and tried to put some space between them. Tried. His hand clamped around her upper arm like a vise. “Let’s go.”

Too afraid to resist, she let him propel her out of the street, up on the walk, past groups of curious bystanders. The pain in her side had subsided. Her throat and chest still burned, although her heart and lungs had slowed. Fear and humiliation burned worst of all, fear of what he was going to do, fear of what he thought. Humiliation over her situation, her failure.

The sight of the hotel changed her mind about resisting. She jerked and pulled against Bret’s hold, desperate not to set foot in the hotel again. He ignored her, all but lifting her off her feet by the arm. Unable to bring herself to fight him the way she had fought the Restons and Zachary, she gave in.

He threw the door open so violently it crashed into the wall, cracking the etched glass panel that had graced the top half. Across the silent lobby, up to the shining mahogany desk.

Bret smashed the silver bell with the butt of his pistol so hard the bell fell apart with a sad little ting. Undeterred, he used the gun like a hammer on the polished surface of the desk. Hassie flinched at the sounds as one deep gouge after another marred the wood.

Mr. Reston emerged through the door to the owners’ private quarters, his usual smile fading fast when he saw who stood at the desk. He reached for the door behind him as if to flee back through.

“Not unless you want to lose a hand,” Bret said. “Get out here, and get your wife.”

Pasty-faced and trembling, Reston called his wife and moved behind the desk when ordered.

At the sight of Bret, Mrs. Reston’s face hardened, but she smiled. “Good afternoon, Mr. Sterling, we thought you left town.”

“I bet you did. You round up everything Mrs. Petty brought to this place and get it out here. Now.”

Defiance and anger flashed across the woman’s face. “I understand you’re upset, but we did exactly what we promised. Hassie did not work out here. Guests were already complaining about dealing with a du—mute. Sally Nichols offered to take her, and a job with Sally would be much more suitable.”

“How much did you sell her for?”

“Don’t be ridiculous. We didn’t sell….”

“One hundred dollars,” Hassie said, knowing no one would understand the words, but hoping like her mother, Bret could understand the rhythm of an expected phrase.

“Hear that,” Mrs. Reston said self-righteously. “No one could understand that. She sounds like an animal. If we’d heard that before we hired her, we wouldn’t have done it. You left. We did the best we could.”

“I understood. You sold her for a lousy hundred dollars. Now you get her things.”

“We don’t have anything of hers. She didn’t have anything worth a nickel. Go talk to Sally.”

The glass globe on the lamp on the wall to the right of the desk exploded. The sound of the gunshot hurt Hassie’s ears so much she covered them, even though it was too late. Glass showered down over Mrs. Reston. Mr. Reston squealed and disappeared behind the desk.

Mrs. Reston twisted around to look at the ruined lamp, the scratches on her cheek disappearing amid the bright red that suffused her face. “Do you have any idea how much those lamps cost? We had them shipped from New York City.”

The lamp to the left of the desk exploded. Another squeal sounded from under the desk.

“Run to the brothel if you have to. If you don’t get her things and get them fast, you’re going to need a whole new hotel shipped from New York City.”

Still angry but a lot less defiant, Mrs. Reston crunched across the broken glass back to their rooms.

Bret banged the pistol on the desk again. “Get up here, Reston.”

Mr. Reston’s hands appeared first, gripping the edge of the desk, then the top of his head, then his wide eyes. One eye had a bruise developing underneath, a nice complement to the scratches on his wife. The sight gave Hassie considerable satisfaction.

“Please,” Reston whispered. “Please, I didn’t want, don’t want….”

“I don’t give a damn what you want. Mrs. Petty had almost forty dollars this morning. We’ll round it off and call it forty. I want it back. Now.”

Reston stood all the way up and turned as if to follow his wife back to their rooms.

“No,” Bret said. “You get it out of that drawer right there in the desk.”

“I don’t have forty there.”

“Find it.”

Mr. Reston fumbled with his keys, opened the drawer and counted out thirty dollars. He dug in his pockets and added a ten dollar gold coin. Bret finally let go of Hassie’s arm, scooped the money up, and shoved it in a pocket.

Mrs. Reston returned with Hassie’s carpetbag and thumped it down on the ruined desktop. “There. That’s all we have. I tore some of her clothes for rags and threw the rest in the burn barrel. I’m sure Sally did the same.”

Bret pulled the bag toward Hassie. “Check and see if anything else is missing.”

Hassie opened the bag. Her Bible, hairbrush, and comb didn’t even cover the bottom. She looked up, tempted to tell Bret everything was there just to calm him down and get him to leave. Except the things missing were Mama’s things, the ones Hassie most treasured, and Mrs. Reston had a smug look on her face as if she knew a dummy wouldn’t, couldn’t complain.

Stretching to reach, Hassie grabbed the register from the other side of the desk and the pen from the inkwell tray. She uncapped the ink, dipped the pen, and wrote. Bret read aloud. “Embroidered tablecloth, gold locket on chain, gold ring.”

Mrs. Reston disappeared before he finished the last word and reappeared seconds later with the cloth in one hand. She raised the clenched fist of the other hand.

“Don’t,” Bret said. “If you throw anything, you’ll be down on your knees picking it up.”

The tablecloth landed soundlessly on the desktop. The jewelry rattled. Hassie shook out the cloth, checked both sides, refolded it, and tucked it in her bag with the necklace and ring.

To her surprise, Bret broke his gun in two and replaced the empty shells with fresh rounds. “Six is better than four,” he said, his voice almost normal. “Let’s go.”

~Ellen

 


Draft Cover and Blurb for Without Words

July 29, 2014

I think I’ve explained in that past that I can’t do a final cover for a book until all revisions and proofing are done and the formatting for the paperback is done since the number of pages in the paperback affects the size of the cover. However, I’ve been playing around with images trying to find something I think will work for Without Words, and the cover below is what I’ve come up with so far.

As usual, there are surprises. Merging the two stock photos I decided on is harder than I expected—and the photo of the guy on the horse that looked like a silhouette with only traces of this and that to show it was actually a photo when I downloaded the small free version and looked at it on my desktop is very much a photo with details of the guy showing when seen in a larger size and better resolution on my laptop. I probably can darken the image before using it if I decide to, but for right now have left it.

So here is the draft cover:

Without Words coverI also have a draft of the story summary now:

Bounty hunter Bret Sterling kills Rufus Petty, thief and murderer, less than ten feet away from a frightened, half-starved woman. Rufus should have surrendered. The woman should have kin to help her. But Rufus went down shooting, and the woman has no one. Bret figures by the time he finds a safe place to leave Hassie Petty, he’ll earn the five hundred dollar reward several times over.

Hassie doesn’t mourn Rufus, but the loss of the ten dollars he promised her for supplies is a different matter. The bounty hunter gives her nothing, takes everything, ties the body on one horse and orders her on another. Afraid if she defies him, he’ll tie her down tighter than Rufus, Hassie mounts up and follows the icy-eyed killer.

Mismatched in every way, the sterling man and petty woman travel the West together, hunting thieves, deserters, and murderers. Wary traveling companions, friends and partners, lovers, Bret and Hassie must decide what they want, what they need, and the price they’re willing to pay for love.

The final draft is out to beta readers right now, so it will depend on what I get back from them and how extensive revisions are how soon everything can be done and the book published, but I’m getting close.

~ Ellen


Progress Report

July 10, 2014

Thought some of you might be interested to know I’m working away on Without Words (that’s undoubtedly going to be the final title, as I’m getting fond of it). In fact, if things had gone as planned, I’d be through the first draft now, but I’ve had a surprise.

You see I use Scrivener (see screen shot in last post) for a very basic, rough outline of a story before I write a word. I don’t follow the outline exactly. Things change as I go along and have additional, more/better ideas, but the outline helps me tell a reasonably coherent story, and it also helps me know I have a novel-length story.

So I started Without Words, and my outline had 25 chapters, which as I remember, without going back and looking, is about what Bad Man and Light had, and I expected a book along the lines of 8o-85,000 words. Right now I’m past 91,000 words, and I have four and a half chapters to go. So unless editing really reduces things, I’m going to have a novel in the 100,000-word range again, and that surprises me.

You see, here are the word counts for my existing romances:

          Eyes                   117,000
          Sing                    138,000
          Dancing               95,000
          Bad Man              85,000
          Light                    84,000

Of course different stories can be longer or shorter, but I really thought the reason Eyes and Sing are so much longer is that they were the first books I wrote, and with more experience, I was “tightening” my writing (this is held out as A Good Thing by writing gods and goddesses; writers are advised to tighten things all the time) and so subsequent books were shorter.

Either I’m loosening again or I never tightened to start with and Words is just a longer story—or something. Right from the beginning, bits I had outlined as taking one chapter turned into two or in one case three. Right now I have 40 chapters (and an Afterword) in my Scrivener binder, and for all I know that will turn into 41.

So that’s where I am. The end is nigh, but not as nigh as I expected.

~ Ellen


You Won’t Believe What I Did!

June 23, 2014

As those of you who follow here know, I have a terrible time with sex scenes. You’ve seen me post before how I need to have a couple of beers, be alone in the house, have it dark and quiet, etc., before I can even pretend to get started and that doesn’t go into the many methods of procrastination I’ve developed for after all my conditions are met.

So, even though I know you are readers, not writers (mostly), and don’t want to hear about the nuts and bolts of writing, I can’t help but share my latest triumph. Starting with Beautiful Bad Man, I switched from writing in an ordinary word processing program to Scrivener, which is a program designed specifically for writers.

I kept reading about Scrivener on Kboards and was curious already, and then I realized the revisions I had to make in Dancing on Coals after hearing back from beta readers would have been much, much easier in Scrivener. So I put Rachel’s Eyes in the program, played around with it a little, and switched.

I only use probably 5% of the program’s features, but I learn another one every time I need it, and I’m quite happy. Now remember about my plodding linear mind. I write by outlining a story I’ve developed in my mind. Not a formal or very detailed outline, but enough to make a skeleton that among other things proves I do have a story—beginning, middle, end—that will make a novel. In cases like the short story, Rachel’s Eyes, or the novella, Luke’s Eyes, just the outline shows that they aren’t novels. I always have some idea what I’m getting into—or not.

I have from time to time seen other writers say they “write out of order.” Some scene or another appeals to them right at that moment, so they write it, even though it comes much later, and they then have to fit it in. When I first heard of this, naturally I was appalled. How could anyone do such a thing? Well, I found out.

Below is a screenshot of what Scrivener looks like taken from what I did with Beautiful Bad Man. The colors are customizable and are mine. I had to take this from my desktop because that’s where I had the graphics program to turn it into a jpg, and it looks a little different on the laptop I use for writing, but it’s essentially the same.

ScrivenerOn the left is what’s called the Binder. You can build the skeleton of your work any way you please there. For me that’s chapters that serve as folders that only have subfolders in them that are scenes. The scenes have the text, and I have them color coded so the hero’s POV scenes are blue and the heroines’s pink (unimaginatively traditional, I know).

The Binder allows showing just the chapters or expanding the chapters to show the scenes. So I expanded a couple chapters in the screenshot to give you an idea. The truly lovely thing is I can move things around, add, and delete chapters and scenes, change them. Anything I want, and doing that easily in the Binder does it in the manuscript.

What you can’t see because the shot cuts them off are more folders for characters’ names and profiles, research, timeline, etc. So everything necessary for the book is in one place (I used to have printed out lists of characters, my outline, timeline and sometimes bits of research, scribbled all over).

So here I am, plodding along in my usual linear fashion in Without Words. Several chapters ahead of where I was I had a chapter labeled “Consummation,” and two scenes in that folder, one labeled, “Hassie Says Yes,” and one labeled, “Sex.” So I had an idea for the sex scene, and instead of making a note about it (you can see the area for notes on the lower right) and continuing along, I stopped and wrote the sex scene! Without beer! With the lights on!

I’m not sure what it means, and it’s true that when I got to that point in my linear fashion, I did have to revise to make things fit in with what went on before more smoothly, but getting to that point and having that scene done was such a good feeling! Wish I could say the same for the one I’m coming up on now.

The screenshot may look terribly busy, but for some reason that doesn’t bother me. There is a distraction-free mode one can get to with a keystroke that eliminates everything on the screen but the draft in the center section, but I never seem to use it. I like seeing the Binder on the left and knowing where I am. I like seeing the note card in the upper right that shows what I put in my outline and having the place for notes on the lower right.

So there you are, I had a non-linear moment.

~ Ellen


Green Romance

May 12, 2014

Thanks everyone who voted in the AAR Frontier/Western poll. I confess seeing Eyes on that list would not have surprised me. Eyes and Dancing would have a little but not a lot. The results they posted did surprise me a lot.

The books I voted for did pretty well. Two of my ten I knew had no hope of making the list, but I couldn’t resist voting for them anyway. Of the other eight, I think four made it to the Top Ten and three were in the next ten, so I was only disappointed over one. And before you ask, Jo Goodman’s The Last Renegade.

Right now AAR is updating their Special Title listings, and I couldn’t help but see right on their home page the six of these that they’re doing now:

(1) Green Romances; (2) Friendships; (3) Two-Hanky Reads; (4) Best Enemies; (5) The Limelight; and (6) Cross-Dressing & In Disguise.

I think I’ve mentioned here before the friend who says I have a plodding linear mind (and doesn’t mean it as an insult; his mind works the same way). My mind is also pretty literal, so if you want a snicker, I’ll admit I saw this and thought Green Romance?  What the heck is a green romance?

In the horse world where I spent so many years, a green horse is one that’s just broke. At horse shows they have classes for Green Hunters, and green is specifically defined by limits on amount of experience. So that’s where my mind went first. Virgin hero and heroine?

Then again, being of Irish descent, I think of green as having to do with Irish, and the heroine in Without Words is Irish in a time of considerable anti-Irish prejudice. So Irish romance? Didn’t seem likely.

Finally I hit on environmentally themed romance, and yup, that’s it.

(2) and (3) were easy, although (2) was a little more expansive than I expected. (4) is narrower than I expected if I got it right in my quick read. No feuding families, the H/h need to hate each other. I’ve started a lot like that, but I haven’t finished many.

(5) is pfft for me. I somehow missed the gene that makes people want to read about celebrities. If I see a favorite author has written a book featuring someone supposedly famous, that’s a book I skip.

(6)? Now instead of snickering, you can laugh out loud. I read only the “Cross-Dressing” part and didn’t notice the “& In Disguise” part, and I’m thinking, boy, they’ve been reviewing a lot of gay romance lately, but a whole category for cross-dressers?

See? Plodding linear, literal mind.

~ Ellen


Call to Action and Mini-Vent

April 16, 2014

Anyone who follows here or knows me knows how fond I am of AAR—All About Romance. I know it’s a site that reviews books, and when Sing My Name was first out no one there said, “Okay, let’s do Ellen O’Connell a big favor and review one of her books.” The book got reviewed in the usual course of what they usually do.

However, right at that time I was getting a lot of flack from the anti-indie crowd over things I didn’t do, and the fact is there’s no way to defend against that kind of thing. At one point I seriously considered giving up writing. So that DIK review was a tremendous and timely morale booster. I’ve heard it’s the first time they ever reviewed an indie book, and if that’s true, it just makes it better. I never submitted the book for review or asked them to review it (I did submit a request for Dancing and also one for Bad Man, although they haven’t reviewed Bad Man to date).

I also have good feelings because a lot of the AAR posters in their forums say nice things about my books, and the ones who don’t like them have the grace to be civil about it.

So… all that said. AAR is now doing a mini-poll to update their list of readers’ favorite “Frontier/Western Romances.” My initial reaction was how cool, wouldn’t it be great if one of my books made such a list.

Stop. Please read on. I am not about to suggest anyone hie to the site and vote for my books.

What I am about to do is vent a little. The list has not been updated since 2007, and this is the list of “Favorite Frontier/Western Romance” from 2007:

1. The Touch of Fire, Linda Howard
2. Only His, Elizabeth Lowell
3. Ride the Fire, Pamela Clare
4. Annie’s Song, Catherine Anderson
5. A Breath of Snow and Ashes, Diana Gabaldon
6. Prince Charming, Julie Garwood
7. Dream Fever, Katherine Sutcliffe
8. The Outsider, Penelope Williamson
9. Drums of Autumn, Diana Gabaldon
10. Texas Destiny, Lorraine Heath

Okay, I’ll confess right now I’m in that small minority of readers of the world who didn’t like Outlander. If I ever saw Jamie as heroic, and I don’t think I did, the description of red fuzz on his butt finished me off. I stopped reading not long after the beating. After that I skimmed a bit toward the end figuring to see how it ended and be done with it and hit right on a torture scene that absolutely gave me the creeps and that’s only with reading enough of it to get an appalled idea of what was going on. Talk about over my personal line for violence. (That’s not a review, folks. I didn’t read enough to review it. What I did read was long enough ago I may not be remembering clearly—maybe that red fuzz was on his thighs.)

It’s my understanding that Gabaldon herself does not consider her books romances. In the AAR comments on the 2007 poll, they say: “Technically Gabaldon’s book was neither a Frontier/Western Historical nor a Romance….” Okay, so why is it there? If a bunch of readers voted for a Regency on that “Western” list would the Regency get a place?

So where is Maggie Osborne? Where is LaVyrle Spencer? Where are others who wrote classic Westerns? Either not there at all or pushed down out of the Top Ten by books that are kinda sorta.

Maybe no one else in the world would look at that 2007 list and get as cranky as I did, but the fact is I did. And it’s now been several days since I first saw it, I’ve mulled it over, and I’m still cranky about it.

So this post is to urge you all to go vote. Surely readers who actually like Westerns can come up with ten real Westerns, and if enough people who do like real Westerns vote, the 2014 list will include nothing but.

~Ellen

P.S. I have not read Katherine Sutcliffe’s Dream Fever, which is mentioned as being set in New Zealand, but I don’t think just a non-U.S. setting keeps a book from qualifying as “Frontier.” If Quigley Down Under (Australia) were a book instead of a movie, it would in my opinion be one of the best Westerns ever. Then again, who knows, maybe that’s Tom Selleck-itis. One of my own favorites is Candice Proctor’s Whispers of Heaven (Tasmania) although the fact it’s hideously overpriced and not available for Kindle cools my enthusiasm somewhat although I know it’s the publisher, not the author that’s to blame (I had to get it from the library).

 


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