Cover Travails

August 21, 2016

Even though I said I wouldn’t bore you with the story of my many frustrations in getting this book out, it occurs to me some of you might find the cover saga amusing. It’s one of those that’s not at all funny to the person involved at the time, but becomes so in retrospect. Now that it’s over, I do see the humor of it, although I’m still doing a little teeth gritting when I smile.

As you probably know, images for book covers have to be ones I can get the right to use. When people just Google images and post them in blogs, maybe they get away with it, but it’s a violation of copyright law. You should acquire the right to do it from the creator before using anything like that. As a writer, I’m not going to violate anyone else’s copyright on principle, and for book covers it would be asking for trouble.

So I searched and searched for something I could use for this cover on the royalty-free image sites and didn’t find much. After hours and hours, I came up with half a dozen sunsets over scenery that maybe could work but that I had doubts about. The sites that sell images let you download small, low-resolution versions of their images with watermarks over them.

One big problem was the car. I wanted the image of the Franklin in there, and I could only get a side view of the Franklin. Some images would have worked, but they needed a front-end coming-at-you or angled auto in them, and I didn’t have one. So finally I found something, bought the image – and lo and behold in full size and resolution the people in it were not just modern – I knew that and that I would have to put a long skirt on her – but you could see details in the image like their clothing and bare skin where it wouldn’t be bare in 1905.

So I spent more hours making them real silhouettes, putting a skirt on her, etc. Then I fiddled with getting the car in there forever and a half and finally produced a book cover.

And I hated it.

Maybe that’s too strong. I didn’t like it. I never liked the colors. My guess is someone used a strong filter to alter the original scene in the first place. The field the couple stood in was dark red, almost maroon, and the sky was orange but a flat orange without clouds. It was the combination of those colors mostly that put me off. No matter how much I told myself it would do, I just didn’t like it, and after covers I liked a lot and felt good about for Beautiful Bad Man,  Into the Light and Without Words….

In the meantime, I knew and have known for a long time the desktop computer I used for things like this was on its way out. I had recently spent a couple of days transferring almost everything on it to a new box. However, when I say “almost” it’s because the old one was running Windows XP and had a couple of programs on it that won’t run on more modern systems. One of those I reluctantly gave up on and the other – the other is the one I’ve always used for covers.

So the old PC was set up in a corner so I could use that one program – and it died right before I finished the cover I didn’t like. Eeek! Yack! I’d already found that some people have made that program run on more modern systems, but I was ready to buy a used machine with XP or have XP put on it just to use that program, but of course I’ve never been able to find the installation disc for this old “orphan” program. I think it came with something else I decided I didn’t need and tossed long ago.

I found the program for sale on eBay and immediately ordered it. Then I got an email from the seller telling me she’d ship my order of Family Tree the next day. I emailed back frantically, no, no that’s not what I want and got no answer. So I bought it again from another seller. That seller, bless her, sent the right thing and sent it forthwith. (I did get Family Tree and eventually a refund from the first seller, and she’s lucky I haven’t left buyer feedback.)

So I did get the software and can make it work, sort of. I have to reboot the PC each time I want to use it, tell it about needing Windows XP compatibility each time, etc., but it will load and work.

Back to square one, I cut those silhouettes out of the scenery I’d come to hate and had them on their own. And I searched and searched and found the background you see in the cover I posted for A Grand Race, but my silhouettes didn’t look quite right, at least to me, so I sculpted and sculpted. And of course there’s no road ready to receive the car, so I wiggled it and did this and that and finally settled for what you see.

So cover was all done and I loaded it on my laptop – and it was ugly. On the desktop I wasn’t in love with the colors, but they were realistic of a certain kind of storm and okay, but on the laptop, too yellow, too tan, ugly.

Back to the old software, back to the sunset scene, fiddle with the color, add the silhouette of the people, add the car, add the text.

I’m not sure if I like it or if I’ve merely collapsed in relief.

Then there’s my new formatting software, which is wonderful, I’d love to hear what you all think when you get the book, but it also came with a few surprises.

~ Ellen


Finally… and changes

August 20, 2016

Well, after more aggravation and frustration than I’m willing to bore you with over things totally unrelated to the story, things like cover and formatting, I finally have files ready to upload to Amazon, and unless something else happens, will get to a wifi connection and do it Monday. Ebook only, paperback will lag behind a bit.

The changes are to the cover and blurb. Some of you mentioned liking the title of The Journal, and I liked it myself. In the end, however, I changed it for several reasons, none of which would have been enough by itself, but all of which cumulatively convinced me.

For better or worse, I also changed the blurb. So here they are, cover and blurb for what is now A Grand Race.

Caroline Tindell arrives in St. Louis for the thousand-mile 1905 Great Plains Automobile Race expecting a comfortable ride in her cousin’s Pierce Great Arrow. Instead, she endures an unsettling encounter with the rogue who broke her heart six years ago, a seat in the back of the automobile with the luggage, and long moments of terror when the speeding Arrow plunges off the road.

Jamie Lenahan’s brief conversation with Caroline before the start of the race evokes regret and painful memories. The way she left him years ago didn’t surprise him. The effect she still has on him does. At least since her cousin roared off among the pacesetters, Caroline will be safely out of sight, if not out of mind, for the rest of the race.

Caroline is not out of sight, however. There she is, sitting stranded by the side of the road. What can a man do except stop and offer her a ride?

Medium Kindle Cover

~Ellen


Excerpt from what is still “The Journal” at the moment

July 17, 2016

I hope no one is giving up. The end is nigh as they say. I’m almost done with revisions and ready to start proofreading (ugh), although I confess my few searches for images for a cover haven’t yielded anything vaguely encouraging.

So I thought I’d post an excerpt now, just in case anyone finds it encouraging.

Jamie paid for his purchases and pushed out through the door, jerking to a halt on the walk at the sight of the empty street. He had left the Franklin parked right there, Caro in the passenger’s seat.

Heart pounding, stomach sinking, Jamie cursed under his breath. When he caught up with her, he’d make her the sorriest automobile thief who ever lived.

If he caught up with her. How long had he been inside? How the hell had she started the Franklin on her own? Had she just been lucky, or did she know to retard the spark and how to use the crank safely? Could she have figured it out from watching him yesterday and this morning, or was Cousin Percy stupid enough to give a woman lessons on how to start an automobile? If so, Percy ought to be shot.

A horse and rider appeared at one end of town, the horse far too calm to have been passed recently by an automobile thief fleeing justice. In the other direction, the road stretched empty for at least a mile before disappearing over a hill.

“Looking for your wife?”

Jamie whirled to see a skinny old fellow with both front teeth missing grinning at him from the doorway of the next building.

“She’s not….” He thought better of the denial. “Yes, I am.”

“She asked me where a person could get a bath here in town. I never figured she was asking for herself, a lady and all, so I told her the barber shop, and darned if she didn’t crank that thing up and drive off before I could tell her a lady couldn’t bathe there. I always thought that handle thing went in the front, but she shoved it in the side and yanked on it like man, got the thing going and drove right off.”

Now was not the time to be telling a bystander about the unique features of the Franklin’s engine. “Did you see where she went?” Jamie asked, suppressing an urge to grab the fellow by the collar and shake answers out of him faster.

“Well, she slowed down in front of the barber’s, but I guess she realized it wouldn’t do because she kept going around the end of the road.”

“Around the end of the road?”

“Yep, went right around behind the Adams place and disappeared. You know there ought to be a law against those things. Some of them came roaring through here yesterday….”

Jamie threw thanks over his shoulder and didn’t wait to hear about what ought to be the law or what had happened yesterday. At the far end of town, a red and white striped pole marked the barber’s shop. He headed there with long, angry strides.

The barber and two customers stood staring at a closed door at the side of the shop in a tableau of outrage. Their heads swiveled to Jamie as he shoved in through the front door and out through the back without pausing.

The Franklin sat parked mere feet from the back door, dark green paint gleaming in the morning sun, engine off and quiet. Jamie dropped his box of groceries on the seat and leaned against the side, dragging in one deep breath after another to calm himself. He was still going to wring her neck.

Fingers plucked at his sleeve. “You have to come get her out of there,” the barber said. “I’ve already lost most of my morning customers. I can’t have a female in my shop.”

Jamie glared.

“A lady, I mean. She a beautiful lady, your missus, but I can’t have her taking a bath in there. You can see that, can’t you?”

Yes, he could see that. Jamie followed the barber back inside. The two men still staring at the door as if hypnotized came out of their trance when Jamie shoved between them and the door. They mumbled how they’d be back later and raced each other out of the shop.

“See?” the barber said, pointing at the retreating backs. “See? Mornings are when I do most of my business, and I’m losing them all.”

Jamie tried the door. Locked, thank God. “Caro, this is a barbershop, men only. Come out of there.”

“I’m already in the tub. I’d be done by now, but I had to scrub it out. I can’t believe what pigs you men are.” She all but sang the words. Splashing sounds followed.

Jamie ground his teeth. Neck wringing was too good for her. “If you don’t come out of there right now, I’m going to drive off and leave you.”

The barber gasped.

“No, you won’t. You’re not in a hurry, remember? In fact you have time for a shave while you’re waiting and then you can use this nice clean tub after me.”

More splashing sounds, humming. Jamie fought his returning sense of humor, lost the battle, and laughed.

“How about a shave, then,” he said to the barber. “You can calculate how much business you really lost, and I’ll pay.”

The promise to pay mollified the man somewhat, but he was still indignant. “She just marched in here, wouldn’t take no for an answer, and locked herself in. You really need to control your wife better.”

Jamie sat in the barber’s chair and leaned back, still chuckling. “You’re right, you are. I need to work on that.”

Probably no one would be surprised to find out I’m in love with Jamie at the moment.

~Ellen


Progress Report

June 26, 2016

I thought those of you hanging in there would like a progress report. The Journal is finished and is out to beta readers now. After that, of course, there will be revisions and the tedious stuff like proofreading, but the end is nigh as they say. I am going to do a paper version of this and it should be about 150-160 pages formatted like the other books (48,000 words).

Tonight I worked on a blurb, and after about a hundred false starts finally have something that strikes me as halfway decent. As you know, the blurb is supposed to make you want to read it, so if it doesn’t have that effect on you, it isn’t working. Let me know.

If anyone had warned Caroline Tindell she would come face to face with Jamie Lenahan at the start of the 1905 Great Plains Automobile Race, she would have stayed home. “I loved him with all my nineteen-year-old heart,” she admits, but that was six years ago, before the shallow, coldhearted rogue broke that heart.

Jamie expects the Great Plains Race to be day after day of bad roads, dust, and difficulty. Miss Caroline Tindell should not be the biggest difficulty, but there she is, marooned at the side of the road after an automobile wreck.

What should a man haunted by the memory of a girl who didn’t love him enough do? What should a woman who never got over loving a man who didn’t return that love do?

Caroline and Jamie have a thousand miles to find out.

Now onward to a cover.

~ Ellen


Hello, again

June 1, 2016

Well, I’ve been MIA again for a long while, haven’t I?

What inspired me to post today is an email from Regan Walker. She is featuring Dancing on Coals on her blog today, and her review is really exceptionally nice. Check it out:

http://reganromancereview.blogspot.com/2016/06/new-review-ellen-oconnells-dancing-on.html

Regan also reports she is getting 14,000 visits to her blog site a month now, which is fantastic. Also don’t forget Regan writes romance herself – Georgian, Regency and Medieval – so you may want to check those out too.

As to my news, such as it is, the good is I have been writing, working on the Jamie Lenahan/Caroline Tindell story. The bad news is, of course, that I’ve been doing it slowly, very slowly.

At least until recently when I seem to actually be in gear, which one can hope means I’m over the blahs. There is, of course, always the chance that I just have close-to-the-end-hurry-and-get-it done-itis. That’s not to say the story will be out next week or anything. Even after I’m done, there’s more research to this one than I realized when I started, and I’ve just skipped over and left it for the end in some places. Also, beta reads, editing, proofing, but I’m finally close.

The plan, you may remember, was to write a novella to send to the mailing list and publish Luke’s Eyes. Alas, as usual I’ve screwed up my own plans. I have at least 3 scenes left to write, and this “novella” is venturing into short novel territory. I think I’ve set out here before how writers and publishers divide things by word count:

Short Story – 1,000 – 7,500 words
Novellette – 7,500 – 20,000 words
Novella – 20,000 – 40,000 words
Novel – 40,000 -110,000

Of course hardly anyone has ever heard of a novellette, and what most writers do is ignore the category and add it to short story. So anything up to 20,000 words is labeled short story (except for some indies, who happily label their 10,000 word stories as novels, but that’s ignorance or perhaps deliberate ignorance on behalf of aggressive marketing).

There’s also a lot of debate over where it’s reasonable to start calling something a novel. I think that 40,000 is low. Some change that to 50,000, and I’d put it more like 60,000. Anyway, this new story of mine has just crossed the 40,000 mark, and I plan to keep calling it a novella.

For those of you that only want to hear about pages, this novella is going to end up at about half the page count of Beautiful Bad Man and Into the Light, so it would be 140-150 pages.

I don’t have a title yet. The first one that occurred to me was Race With A Rogue, which made me laugh because it sounds like a Regency. Right now I’m torn between The Truce and The Journal, both of which are apropos.

I don’t have a blurb yet, but the basic premise is that Jamie Lenahan and his brother-in-law Nolan Burke, who you may remember started the Hubbell Automobile Company in Into the Light, have agreed to drive a 1,000-mile automobile race for a wealthy collector. When Nolan falls ill the day before they are to leave, Jamie sets out alone. To his surprise and hers, who does he see at the start but Miss Caroline Tindell, the girl her family sent to Europe to end her affair with him some years before. Also the girl he lied to his best friend about and said he was never serious and knew she wasn’t either.

So most of the story is the race, but it ends up in Hubbell, Kansas, where the Van Cleves and Suttons pop up again for a scene or two.

Check out Regan’s blog, why don’t you?

~Ellen

 


Lesson Learned—Names

November 27, 2015

One thing I’m learning in writing sequels and follow-ons to previous works is that I wasn’t careful enough with names. The lesson stings because from the time I started, my method of dealing with names was carefully thought out—and supposed to keep me out of name trouble. As a reader there are three name problems that bother me:

First, I have trouble with character names that are very similar. For instance, when there are secondary characters with names like Benton and Benteen, I end up not even trying to remember which is which and thoroughly annoyed at the author. It helps if the characters are opposite sex, but that doesn’t change my belief John and Joan should never appear in the same story unless one is just a walk on.

Second, if Chauncy Wilson is referred to as Chauncy from the time he’s introduced and then all of a sudden there’s a reference to Wilson, I often have trouble figuring out who the heck Wilson is. In Regencies where a character is referred to by his first name, family name, title, and sometimes even something else it can be even worse.

Third, names I can’t pronounce are a constant little sore spot all through a book. In spite of the fact I settle on my own pronunciation, knowing I’ve made it up and am undoubtedly wrong bothers me. I’m sure I did that to readers myself in Dancing on Coals, but I couldn’t figure a way around it other than giving Apaches Anglicized names they never had.

All in all I felt pretty proud of myself for doing better than many writers with names. I even make one chart with letters of the alphabet for first names and another for last names and do my best to make sure at least my primary characters don’t have names that even start with the same letter.

Then I started doing outlines for some of these follow-up stories and was surprised and not very happy at what I found. The novella I’m working on features Jamie Lenahan and Caroline Tindell from Into the Light. If I ever come up with a story from Without Words, Caroline Sterling will be the heroine. If you asked me if Caroline is one of my favorite female names, I’d say no because it isn’t. So how did that happen? The next novel will be Jaime Rodriguez from Sing My Name—you know, a character with a name that looks a lot like Jamie as in Lenahan, even if the Spanish pronunciation isn’t that similar.

So live and learn. I probably should have some kind of list of all the names I’ve ever used, but going back now to develop one holds no appeal. I no longer feel smug about noticing Louis L’Amour’s tendency to slap some form of Angela (Ange, Angie) on his female characters. After all, I’d never be that careless with names. Ha.

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and is lucky enough to have Friday off and enjoy a super long weekend.

~Ellen

P.S. No, I didn’t “win” NaNoWriMo, but it did inspire me to do some writing, so that’s a personal win.


Confession, Changes, and…a Ghost

November 1, 2015

Confession. Like most people, I really hate admitting I’ve gotten myself into a sorry mess, but it’s high time to confess here that I have. This has been a rough year for me for reasons I’m not going to go into except for one at the end of this post. Suffice it to say that every time I even thought about writing anything, much less anything romantic, my mind veered off in another direction as if greased.

Strangely, that attitude didn’t affect story ideas. All my life I’ve daydreamed stories as a way of self-entertainment, or maybe escapism, which would explain why it didn’t stop this year. Eventually my mind started hopping like a flea from one idea to another and at that point, I outlined some of them.

For me, however, the hard part of writing is the first draft, and I had the very opposite of an urge to actually settle down and write any of those stories I outlined.

So—I’m not going to have a new book this year. I had to admit that to myself some months ago, but a tiny stirring of the urge to write has finally come to life, and in the interest of getting something done this year, I started on one of my follow-on novella ideas. This one is the story of Jamie Lenahan and Caroline Tindell from Into the Light.

This is an embarrassing admission in another way because I once told a reader who emailed me, that, no, I’d never write a story for Jamie. Those of you who have gone back and forth with me since we started on the thread in the Amazon Romance forum back in 2010 probably already know my successful prediction rate is 0.

If I say a book will be done in June, it’s probably not going to be done until at least September. If I say I won’t write that, odds are, yes, sooner or later I will. I remember telling readers I saw no more stories in the Eyes characters. Now, in addition to Rachel’s Eyes and Luke’s Eyes, I have outlines for 3 more. I remember telling someone I considered Robert Wells irredeemable, and I’d never write his story, but his story is now one of those 3.

If you’re thinking you’ll never believe a word I say about writing, that’s probably smart of you. I really do try not to make predictions because I know my own pathetic record. It’s like a sense of direction—I simply don’t have one and can get lost in my own backyard.

My last confession is that I still have a bit of hop-around-itis going on. So here I am working on the romance novella, and I also signed up for NaNoWriMo. That stands for National Novel Writing Month (I think), and you sign up and commit to writing 50,000 words in a month. Hoping to bring out my dormant competitive streak, I signed up and committed to writing 50,000 words in November—of Rottweiler Railroad. Wish me luck. I’m going to need it.

With that warning, on to Changes. One of my many failed predictions or stances or whatever you want to call it is that I’d never publish anything short again and would save shorter works to put out in a collection. Everyone on my mailing list received a download link for the novella Luke’s Eyes when it was first finished, and I’ve continued sending the link to new subscribers. My intention was that when I had something new I’d switch and send that instead and keep LE for a collection of Eyes follow-ons.

For several reasons I’ve changed my mind. Once this new novella is finished, I’m going to switch the mailing list to it and publish Luke’s Eyes. And from now on I’m not going to ever leave one story going to the mailing list for so long before publishing it. If you are now smiling to yourself and thinking, hmm, that’s a prediction, and I bet she never does it, well, we’ll see. Sooner or later I have to break my losing streak.

Finally, my ghost. She lurks in my heart, in my head, in my house. In eleven and a half years there was never one day I didn’t think, I am so lucky to have this dog.

8-week head

Eight weeks old, the puppy I flew to Michigan for. When I got home, I told a friend, “I am besotted with this puppy.”

 

Schara-7-5-05

Two years old. About this time I started referring to her as The Most Beautiful Rottweiler in the World. I was joking, of course—at least I wanted anyone who heard me to think so.

With cart

Five years old, first High in Test carting performance. I never got over the awe that she would do such things for me.

ghost

My ghost.

Wildhaven’s Schara Gambit

August 14, 2003—April 23, 2015